Chapt 19:The World According to Carter, Pt. IX-XIV
See Chapt. 1 for disclaimers, warnings, timelines.
Secrets: A Father Goose Tale
A BTVS-SG1 Crossover
Chapt 19: The World According to Carter, Pt. IX-XIV -
Part IX: Major Carter and the Man who Floated.
The blood had been washed away, leaving only slight reddish hue in the last swirls of water still slowly disappearing into the drain.
The injured girl was on her back on a table, the broken arm had been straightened and wrapped in sort of translucent blue gel. Three long gashes ripped through the lightly freckled skin from right shoulder to left hip, almost as if a giant razor sharp claw …
The thought dribbled to a stop in Sam’s mind. It wasn’t “as if,”
was it, she thought. She’d seen the pictures, heard the girls’ stories. Magic she still resisted, but monsters…. She could believe in monsters. Would when she saw them. In the mean time, in this case, possibly, just possibly, a large bear….
But that was hardly the issue at the moment. The girl looked so fragile, so pale and small, though Sam calculated she was actually taller than average, with an athletic build. But that didn’t count for much when your abdomen was an anatomy lessen, white bone of ribs, sectioned muscle and a bit of intestine on display.
Perhaps that inherent power that Sam had learned to see and envy in Faith and Buffy and the others was still there, perhaps it was what kept her alive… but the sense of indomitable strength was gone.
The thought blossomed in her mind, Jack mustn’t see this. Not that he hadn’t seen his share of wounded and worse in his time, but he didn’t need this image in his head, this girl who could so easily be Renee, who could so easily be dead.
Standing out in the courtyard with Dawn it had occurred that Sam that she was trained and had some experience in battlefield medicine, that maybe she could do something besides stand around marveling at how calm everybody was. She’d gone to the infirmary, pushed the door open, said,
“I don’t mean to intrude but I do have some training and experience in field medicine, perhaps I could help…”
Someone had handed her a surgical mask, took her elbow and pulled her gently inside, leading her back into a brightly lit, well-supplied operation room, eased her back against one wall and motioned for her, more or less, to watch and stay out of the way.
So she watched. Derevko was over-seeing an IV that was draining fresh blood into the undamaged arm. A young woman, brown hair pulled in a tight bun, wearing a blood-smeared linen suit was leaning over the girls face, talking to her in clipped British tones,
“Hush, now, just breathe for me, Aline, slow and steady, they’ll be fine, Xander’s gone to help them, with Faith and Buffy…”
The girl mumbled something in response…. the British woman continued,
“Yes, Buffy herself, so don’t you worry, you just breathe for me and let us fix you up, and you can spend the next few days laying around while some of Irina’s pretty boys feed you chocolate, no, don’t talk, just breathe for me…. Slow and steady, good girl…”
And leaning over the wounded torso a slim man wearing what seemed to Sam to be ornate pajamas, his surgical mask comically fighting a losing battle to contain his wild beard… in one gloved hand he held a small porcelain jar with a laser-printed label, Sam could make out the emblem of what looked like a stylized Weeping Willow tree. In his other hand he held a wooden spoon which he used to ladle a light gray-green powder from the jar into the open wounds, making sure all the ripped flesh was covered, very gently pushing a bit to make sure the powder filtered down into the opening in the abdominal cavity.
That task completed the man capped and set the jar aside, stood still a moment, shook out his shoulders like a gymnast preparing for an event. He then moved his hands through a short series of vaguely prayer-like movements, ending with his hands cupped together front of his abdomen. He was still, again … and then slowly he raised one foot, twisted his leg and uncupping his hands to grasp his ankle he pressed his foot against his thigh. For another moment he stood still, except for a bit of wavering, looking rather like an ungainly stork…. and then he steadied. And pulled the other leg up and settled it on the other thigh….The hell!?
Sam thought, and, barely, restrained the urge to step forward and reach down beneath, behind and above him to feel for supports. But this was not the time, nor the place, she held and simply watched as for a short time it was as if he was balancing on an invisible barrel. He steadied. He reached out his hands and floated forward until his palms were over the wounded girl. And he began to chant.
Sam watched, half expecting the wound to heal, to perhaps suddenly glow with a magical light and simply knit back to together like film run backward… but nothing happened. And nothing, more nothing, the chanting continued, growing slowly but steadily louder…..
The powder began of silently foam, soapy bubbles formed, expanded, then slowly, receded and faded, leaving the open wounds and the skin around them glowing ever-so-slightly, Sam heard the wounded girl sigh.
The chanting stopped, the man floated back away from the table, started to ease one foot free and suddenly fell like a stone, landing hard on the floor with a thump and a grunt.
“Ah, crap,” the man said in very American tones. “Also, Ouch.”
The British woman snorted in amusement. The man stood back up and leaned on the table, he was shaking just a little and looked pale. He inspected the wounds, nodding with satisfaction, he took a deep breath and the shaking faded.
“Doc Martinez?” he asked.
“Any minute now,” Derevko answered
Sam leaned back against the wall. The foaming powder was easily explained, simple chemical reaction, a bit of phosphorescent dye … a moment’s thought brought her at least two ways the levitation could have been faked…. But no reasons why it would be.
Sam looked at girl again, the wounds still horrific, the fragility still evident and yet, there was a subtle ease … the powder had done more than foam and look pretty.
There were voices outside then, the door opened and a Cuban man stepped in, flanked by a pair of thirtyish women, one of whom was carrying an old fashioned black leather doctor’s bag. The man leaned over to take a quick look at the wounds and began barking orders in Spanish.
Sam felt someone take hold of her arm, she looked up and saw that it was Derevko,
“Major, let me buy you a drink,” the Russian woman said in her ear and Sam let herself be led outside.
Part X: Samantha Carter and the Woman Who Whispered in Her Ear
Jack came rushing up to them as they emerged into the common room,
“Oh, good, Carter, there you are,” he said, “what the hell is going on? They were cleaning up blood with a mop out there and all anyone will tell me is not to worry, it’s all under control, but if …”
And then, to Sam’s amazement, and, clearly, Jack’s, whose eyes widened comically, Derevko reached up and pressed two fingers to his lips and shushed him,
“Don’t worry, Colonel,” she purred, “everything is under control… ” she smiled, her hand moved up over his brow to smooth back a loose curl of dark gray hair that had fallen forward, then lingered on his cheek a moment before sliding down over his shoulder to nestle under his arm. She started walking then, leaving a half-stunned and half-infuriated Sam to trail after as Derevko led Jack outside, explaining as they walked, slayer injured in the line of duty elsewhere had been teleported here for medical help, the doctor is with her now. Harris, Faith, Buffy and Caridad have gone off to finish the job and rescue the girl’s watcher and partner … they would call for more help if they needed it. Standard Operating Procedure.
“I appreciate your concern, Colonel, I really do. And I’m sure your Doctor Fraiser is first class, but really, there’s nothing she could do that isn’t already being done.”
Carter saw Jack look back, questioning, and she’d been forced to answer,
“She’s right, they seem … very well prepared, Jack.”
“So, what you’re saying is, everything is under control and I don’t need to worry?” Jack said.
“Very well put, Colonel,” Derevko smiled.
“Well, you could have just said,” Jack complained.
They’d reached the beverage section of the waiting buffet, a table filled mostly with bottles of juice and cans of soda on ice, but included a few bottles of rum, some champagne splits and a selection of local beers. Derevko reached down and selected a Bucanero Fuerte.
Sam watched Jack watch Derevko caress the bottle with a small towel, cleaning off the all bits of clinging ice, deftly pop the top off with an opener hidden in her palm, then hand Jack the lightly foaming beer. Sam was a little surprised it wasn’t steaming.
“Now run along, Colonel,” Derevko said, “Now that we know Aline will live I’m sure Renee will want to pick up where you left off…”
“But maybe I’d rather …”
“You can’t stay here, the Major and I want to have a talk…..”
“Oh, what about?”
“You, of course.”
“Oh… great.” He shot Sam a pleading look, but just at the moment Sam was not in the mood to have mercy and rescue him, she just smiled and let him turn and wander away, taking a pull at the beer.
Sam turned back and saw Derevko looking at her, face ever-so-slightly apologetic, “I’m sorry, Major, I couldn’t resist. Force of habit. And such a tempting target. You’re a lucky woman. So, daiquiri?”
Still a step behind in the conversation Sam nodded mutely. Across the courtyard she watched the man in the white suit emerge from the common room, step up onto the small stage,
“She’s alive,” he announced quietly. “She needs to rest and heal, but Doctor Martinez has informed me that he expects a full recovery.”
There was no applause or cheers but Sam could feel the tension break, heard voices start up again. The girls who had gathered together began to spread out, a couple slipped into the pool although the ballgame did not resume. Sam saw more than one of the girls give the laden tables a longing glance, but as yet no one moved toward the stacked plates.
Sam found herself watching Derevko deftly carving a lime and distributing the slices between two full tumblers. She’s handy, Sam thought, with a knife.
They sat at a table in a shadowy corner of the courtyard. Derevko pushed one of the glasses over to Sam, along with a small bowl of powdered sugar.
“I like mine a little tart,” Derevko said with a slight smile, “no offense taken if you want to sweeten it a little.”
Sam took a sip, felt the warm glow of the rum sliding down her throat, spreading back up her spine. Across the table Derevko took a sip of her own drink, said,
“Xander seems to think you are in madly love with him… The Colonel, I mean, of course.”
Sam felt her hackles rise, even under the circumstances this was getting way too personal too quickly, she spoke formally,
“Colonel O’Neill is my superior officer …”
“Oh, pff,” Irina said, waving a hand idly, dismissing a triviality, Sam felt banked irritation flare into anger.
“No, “ she snapped. “No it’s not ‘Oh, pff.’
It’s a regulation, an important one. Women in the service need its protection.”
“Oh? Do you feel that Colonel O’Neill is harassing you, Major? Using his position to extort sexual favors?”
“No, of course not, he would never…”
“Then it really doesn’t apply to you, does it, Major?”
“It’s still a rule. How can I expect others to obey the regulations if I don’t?”
“Ah, obedience for the sake of obedience, Major? Rules more important than people? Conformity more important than love?”
“Yes. No. Yes.
Perhaps some sacrifices need to be made. A few individuals may have to restrain their … urges, but in the long run….”
Derevko reach out, touch Sam’s wrist and she stopped.
“If you say ‘for the greater good’ I shall weep,” the older woman said. She was leaning forward, peering at Sam’s face, Sam felt the dark eyes on hers, lingering, seeing, Sam felt suddenly, far too much. And then Derevko was leaning back, laughing softly. “Of course our Mr. Harris is notorious for misjudging female affections.” She paused a moment, brushed her long black hair back from her forehead and cocked her head to the side a little, added, “But he’s not entirely
wrong this time, is he? He’s just … not seeing the whole picture. And it’s not just about regulations, is it?”
“Not,” Sam said stiffly, “that it’s any of your business, I admire and respect Colonel O’Neill….”
“Of course,” Irina said, then held up her hands … “And you’re right, none of my business. But you don’t expect that to stop us girls from having a good gossip, do you? Faith’s quite appalled, you know.”
is appalled?” Sam couldn’t help asking.“Going off to other planets with three prime beefsticks and not getting’ groiny with any of them? Chick’s wack. I’d understand if she was into split-tails, but that ain’t her thing … despite the haircut. Major Sam has major daddy issues, yeah?“
Sam grinned in spite of herself, amused at Derevko’s dead-on imitation of the Dark Slayer’s rasp, even as it took an effort of will not to raise a hand check her hair. And to just let the “daddy issues” slide.
“Still,” Derevko continued in her own voice, “it does… seem a pity. To be able to have such adventures, to travel and work together in the prime of your life, and not end the day in each other’s arms. To sleep together beneath alien skies and not make love… surely it leaves an…. emptiness? A sense of something incomplete? But no doubt I am projecting. I have a Jack, too….”
The older woman turned away, her face softened, the piercing eyes turned wistful, Sam felt her anger fading.
“We have…. survived, Jack and I,” Derevko continued softly, “but we lost so much time… so much passion and effort expended on … illusions. I hate to see others waste opportunities I would kill for… if we could have just stepped though a portal to a new world, once upon a time..….“ she paused, seemed to shrug off the moment, her eyes focused again, she smiled.
“Forgive me, Major, I am taking liberties. But I am afraid the older I grow the less patience I have for polite trivialities. Tell me, how are you coping with your new demon-haunted world?”
“Magic. I am not a scientist at your level, of course, Major, but for a long time I did live in the bright electric lights on the cutting edge of modern technology…. And while my work kept bringing me in contact with the magical world, it took a pretty vivid experience to make me a believer. Demons came as something of a shock. It took me some time to fully accept the existence of witches and slayers. True mystic power. … you’ve only had a few days … I’m sure your mind is full of theoretical attempts to reconcile slayer strength and exploding vampires with the physical laws of the universe as you know them…”
“You think I should just … accept it? At face value?” Sam answered, welcoming the conversations’ turn away from her love life or lack thereof.
“No, not at all… quite the opposite. But surely you’ve seen too much by now to simply dismiss it either. I’ll be terribly disappointed if you’re not at least curious. In fact, I must admit when I read your file I felt a slight surge of hope. If anyone can find a scientific explanation for magic, it’s you, Major,” Derevko said earnestly.
“You’re not happy with the ‘magical world’?” Sam said.
Irina smiled, “I admit, I would like it more if I was an adept…. Technology can be mastered by anyone with patience and persistence, magic….is different. Understand, Major, I doubt you will succeed. But I am certainly curious about your ideas. …”
Classic soft interrogation, Sam thought, first a bit of poking around a sensitive personal area, then shifting to a more comfortable target subject, leavened with a bit of flattery…. But why? she wondered. It’s not as if I actually know anything they don’t …. Surely I have more to gain from this exchange than she does … Or maybe she’s genuine, a women of her intellect surrounded by children, perhaps she simply longs for intelligent conversation.
Sam knew she did.
“Perhaps when this is all over we can find some time to compare notes,” Derevko said, and Sam realized she was looking past her.
Sam turned and saw the girls had all turned to face the pentagram carpet and the man in the white who now stood beside it, waiting, the warm night air suddenly filled with expectation.
They appeared then, a young women smeared with dark red blood and some sort of blue ichor, supporting a middle aged man of Indian or Pakistani descent, the right side of whose face was a massive purple bruise and whose left arm dangled loosely, he raised his head and looked at the man in the white suit, said.
“She’ll live,” Giles answered, “she’s going to be fine.”
The man smiled then and his knees went loose and the girl let him down gently, knelt and held him as he sobbed openly with relief.
Giles waved an arm then and two girls with the stretcher appeared and took the watcher and a third girl brought a wheel chair for the returned slayer who, wiping ineffectually at her own tear-stained cheeks tried to decline,
“I’m okay. I don’t need the chair, I’m fine.”
“You won’t be if Dayami catches you tracking demon blood through the house,” the wheelchair girl answered and the blue-smeared slayer smiled and meekly accepted the ride.
And then the rescuers appeared, Xander, Faith, Buffy and Caridad turned as one to Giles who gave them the same good news, Aline would live. And then there was brief pause and then laughter and someone called out,
“So what was it then, a giant evil Smurf?”
“Faith,” Buffy said, “you did this on purpose, didn’t you?”
“Would’ve if I could’ve B, but I got it just as bad as you did,” Faith answered. “So did Cari.”
All three slayers were covered from head to foot in pale blue … gunk, Sam decided was the technical term. Only Harris had escaped the deluge, only the blue gunk smeared on the blade of his axe testified to his participation in the battle Sam suddenly wished very much she could have seen.
As Buffy wiped at her eyes and shook her hands in disgust and looked around, a voice rang out,
“Buffy Anne Summers! Don’t you even think of jumping in that pool!” Dayami stood in the doorway of the common room, wiping her hands on her apron. “Ocean. Now. Go. All of you.”
“Yeah, c’mon you guys, you’re making a mess here,” Harris said. And then added, “Oh shit,” as the three besmeared slayers turned as one to face him. He began backing away, trying desperately to unbutton his shirt, “No, wait, Faith, Buff, I like this shirt…” and tossing it away just in time, Sam caught just a glimpse of the scarred torso before he disappeared in the scrum of laughing blue slayers. And then he was up on their shoulders being carried at speed toward the water and the girls were making bets on the distance and height his flight out into the Caribbean would achieve.
Sam felt a slight twitch of envy. Demon blood or not they were clearly having fun. SG1, as a general rule, did not have a big group hug and go skinny dipping after a mission. Sometimes they shook hands. Or met later for a beer. But mostly they went to Fraiser’s office and got jabbed with needles and then wrote reports. Maybe, Sam thought, just maybe the big group hug would be better.
Derevko spoke in her ear, “You do know he’s yours if you want him, don’t you? Faith says so and she may be a bit crude but when it comes to these things she is something of a savant.
Besides, it’s not hard to see, old courtesans may turn his head for a moment, these nubile young things catch his eye, but his gaze always returns to you. But as you said, he’s your superior officer and a man of honor….He’ll never make the first move, he’ll even put up a bit of token resistance … but if you take the lead… a little walk on the beach and maybe a glimpse of that red bikini, lean in and let him feel the pounding truth of your heart and tell him you want him as much as he wants you…. He wouldn’t stand a chance….. “
“Okay, chicas y hombres viejos,”
Dayami was calling out, “Aline is alive and Xander is back safe. Time to eat before it’s gets cold.”
“If you’ll excuse me, Major, duty calls,” Derevko said, then paused, added, “You’re a polite sort of person, aren’t you? You never eat the first piece of cake or the last piece of bacon, you’re going to need help at your first slayer buffet… “
“Ummm, I’m not that polite….” Sam started but Derevko had stepped away, called out, “George, George, over here….”
For a moment Sam was lost in thought, trapped by Irina’s imagery, thinking of the times she found Jack’s eyes on her, his gaze always returns to you
, thinking of the way her heart had leaped just a little at the phrase, thought of what it would be like, walking on the beach with Jack, feeling the sand on her feet sans
boots , imagined the warmth and strength of his arm around her shoulders, imagined herself for once letting go of all the reasons to say no…
And then Derevko’s voice broke in, making introductions.
Chagrined, Sam had to grin, hoist, as it were, on her own petard. She had seen the look many times, on the faces of people called to meet ‘Sam’ and doing the little double-take when they realized her gender, now she could feel the same look on her own face as she realized ‘George’ was a young woman, perhaps a few years Sam’s junior but still older than the slayers. She was oddly dressed in light linen dress pants and a paisley bikini top.
Travers, but please, call me George,” the young woman said, smiling, her grip firm as they shook, “I’m very pleased to meet you, Major. I suspect we have a lot in common besides fathers who wanted sons.”
The British accent made the connection for her, she had been the woman in the OR, the top half of suit gone because it had been bloodied, the tight bun had exploded into a mass of ringlets, the surgical mask removed to reveal a firm chin a mischievous smile.
“Pleased to meet you, George,” she said, “please call me Sam.”
George turned and introduced a slim, rather wildly bearded man as ‘Dwayne,’ obviously the man with the powder in the OR.
“He’s an evangelical vegetarian,” George added. “You can shoot him if he gets too annoying, but somehow having him around makes the meat taste better…”
“Major, very pleased,” Dwayne said, “don’t worry, I shall restrain my missionary urges and let you masticate dead flesh in peace. Just this once…. And on that subject I suggest we get started … don’t be shy about the food, I know it looks like a big spread but there are over twenty slayers here. Think locusts. Big ones…. ”
Part XI: Hell is for Aliens: Sam Sings Benatar. Or Not.
Eventually Sam slipped away. The food had been good and the first bite had revealed to her just how hungry she was and she had eaten perhaps just a little more than she should have. Besides, having mouth full had been a good excuse for not answering questions.
There had been a crowd at first, George staying at her side and handling introductions, finessing the crush into a slow parade of inquisitive faces as the rest of the watchers and slayers came by to shake hands and peer at her and ask questions she couldn’t answer.
“So, did you really have one of those things in your head, what’s that like?”
Even if it hadn’t been classified, how could she even begin to explain Jolinar to a girl who probably hadn’t finished high school yet?
The watchers on the whole were more subtle, restrained, clearly the word had been passed that she wouldn’t answer questions about SGC or planetary travel, so they asked how she liked Cuba, had she enjoyed Haiti, what did she think the chances were of finding a way to separate a goa’uld from its host without killing the host.
“Hey, fair game. We found the goa’uld on our own,” George explained.
“I’d answer that if I could,” Sam said. “Sometimes I don’t know means I don’t know…”
She’d asked questions of her own, where did the watchers come from, why had they become watchers ….. and found they were academics, mostly, some professionals, a doctor, a nurse, even a lawyer … a few were there out of family tradition but most had stumbled onto the demonic world through their work and been recruited…
“You think you are qualified to take the lead in a war against the goa’uld because your Ancient Greek is flawless?” Sam wanted to ask, “I know the girls are strong and fast but you really think you’re qualified to train them, properly prepare them for an attack against a squad of fully armed jaffa because you know every herb on the planet and bake a mean carrot cake?”
But, with a little effort, she held her tongue. She ate another piece of jerked chicken and listened to the talk around her.
Jack had re-appeared, Daniel, then Teal’c, again she’d tried to signal her desire for a SG1 meeting, but too soon they had been surrounded by their own rings of inquisitive faces and Sam let it go. She could wait. An hour. Maybe two.
Sam slipped away. She found a bathroom and washed her face, took a few deep breaths, then went out and discovered a part of the house she hadn’t yet explored, the basement. Only the red emergency lights were on, casting an eerie glow over the weight machines, the wooden wing chun dummies and the racks of edged weapons and the goa’uld stirring in its cage.
Sam sat on the steps and indulged herself in a moment of melancholy. It seemed so symbolic somehow, upstairs laughter and feasting, below it all, darkness, violence and monsters.
She missed the SGC. She missed her computers and the brightly lit halls and the way everybody moved about their business in an orderly fashion. She missed Hammond growling orders and setting deadlines and glaring at Jack’s excuses for why his reports weren’t finished. She missed Jack hanging around her office, trying to find some excuse for not writing his report.
The door opened behind her, she glanced up, hoping it was Jack, but the white suit quickly disabused her. Rupert Giles came down the steps and slowly settled himself down beside her, handed her cool green bottle, opened one for himself.
“Ginger beer,” he said, “good for the digestion. Especially when one has over-indulged a little as I’m afraid one is wont to do when Dayami sets the table.” He took a small sip and sighed, held out his hand. Given the weariness in his eyes and the gray in his hair Sam found his grip surprisingly firm. “Rupert Giles,” he said. “I’m sorry we haven’t had a chance to talk yet, Major. If I may be so forward, you seem troubled… Perhaps I can be of some assistance…?”
“Sir,” Sam said, gesturing toward the goa’uld in its cage. “We’re not alone.”
“Point taken. Half a mo’.” He reached inside his jacket and withdrew a slim notebook and began flipping through the pages, then paused, said, “Ah, here we go.” Then he muttered a guttural triplet in a language Sam neither understood nor recognized, then snapped his fingers. There was brief flicker of green light and then a pale green glow settled over the cage.
“It won’t hear a thing,” Giles assured her, “now where were we…”
She looked back the goa’uld who did indeed seem to be looking around, puzzled, rubbing at it’s ears. Whatthehell, Sam thought and plunged ahead. “You were offering assistance.”
“Of course. What can I do..?”
“You can tell us what you know about goa’uld on Earth and let us go do our jobs.”
“Ah. Anything else?”
“I wouldn’t be adverse to taking some slayers back with us as recruits. We’d give them proper training with modern weaponry….”
“Any of the girls or just the Americans?”
“Well Americans would certainly expedite the paperwork. But it would not be a requirement. Only that they be eighteen… There would be a psych eval and background checks of course before we took them into the SGC, but I’m sure that would be a formality…”
“Of course.” Giles set down his green bottle, took off his glasses and gave them a polish. “How can I put this politely?” he said. “No. No way. Not bloody likely. Over my dead body.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of, sir. You’re amateurs, sir.” She saw his face harden. “Okay, gifted amateurs. Maybe when it comes to … vampires, and….. giant evil Smurfs, you’re the professionals. But as far as I can tell, vampires are just random predators, admittedly powerful, but not organized … the goa’uld are different. You’ve picked off a few isolated individuals but you haven’t faced a fully armed fighting force. And if they have a ship hidden somewhere…. “
“Exactly why you’re here now, Major.”
Sam sagged. She’d tried. She tried again… “But, sir, even so, we don’t have time to waste…”
“Actually, we do Major. I’ll have to ask you to just trust me on that. Nevertheless, there is time. In fact, timing is absolutely essential. Just as bad to be too early as to be too late. And now,” he cocked his head, listening for moment, “I think they’re playing our song.” He stood then, reached down and Sam took his hand, let him help her to her feet.
“You’re really going to make us sing?”
“’Fraid so. Tradition thing. Major, if you’ll indulge an old man’s well meaning advice... There was a time in my life, mercifully brief I like to think, when I too would have described a feast and a party as a waste to time. I am wiser now. ... Allow me?” He crooked his elbow and she took his arm, let him lead her back up the stairs.
“Rupert,” she said as they stepped out into the hall.
“Where’s the Red Witch?”
He turned to look at her, some of the age left his face as he smiled his, Sam had to admit, quite charming smile, “Janet said you were the observant one,” he said and led her outside, where he excused himself to go join the band that had set up on the small stage. Most of the tables had gone, the chairs had been rearranged into a ragged semi-circle.
Sam heard a voice calling her name, looked around and saw Buffy, who had replaced her blood smeared swimsuit with an orange halter top and white capris, waving at her. Sam crossed to take the front row seat the slayer prime had saved her. She saw Daniel sitting with Dawn a few seats down, Teal’c was in one corner with Andrew and Jack … Jun and Renee mysteriously absent. There was a brief lull as the band finished tuning, then Giles set his guitar aside and stood, waved for silence. He praised the courage of Aline, her watcher and her partner, Gerde, and called for a moment of silence in thanks for Aline’s recovery. It wasn’t a prayer, exactly. There was in point of fact a somewhat truculent tone to Giles’ words as he spoke to, as he named It/Them, The Powers That Be, a tone that implied that it was a good thing for Their sake that Aline was okay. No wonder he wasn’t afraid of the goa’uld, Sam thought, they’d been foolish enough to pose as mere Gods.
Then Giles called for Dayami to stand, led a round of applause for the cook, called for Irina to stand, round of applause for the hostess, Sam was struck for the four-hundredth time by the mixture of the mundane and strange that marked the slayers’ lives.
Giles called for SG1 to stand then, thanked them for their patience and their being such good sports about the karaoke traditions of Camp Kendra, round of applause …. If only Hammond could see us now, Sam thought.
And then he thanked Lorne for coming, and handed off the microphone to the green man who came bounding up on stage, looked around and grinned and called them “campers,” and broke into what was clearly a professional’s patter,
“Thank you, Rupert, it’s my pleasure to be here in beautiful Havana, and when you are in a certain places there are some songs that just have to be sung,” and he sang, his voice riding just high enough to be heard of above the torches flickering in the light breeze,
“Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma
Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma”
“Now before we put our flyboy friends through their paces lets give them chance to warm up a little, so if you’ll all join me in the chorus….” Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera,
Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera
It took a couple passes, but soon the green man had his crowd singing in unison… Sam felt Buffy bump her shoulder and realized they were swaying with the rhythm, and found she could hold out no longer and joined in, Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera,
Guantanamera, guajira Guantan-a-mer-a
And then, “in honor of their destination” Lorne took them through “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” In the Jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight,
Then for a while the whole group was locked into the chorus, A wimoweh, a-wimoweh a-wimoweh, a wimoweh
A wimoweh, a-wimoweh a-wimoweh, a wimoweh
With Lorne’s voice taking the high wail, sailing around them, like a lonely banshee …. And then there were one, two, half a dozen girls up on the stage, gyrating to the beat, rubbing their heads and patting their bellies, spinning around and patting their out-thrust asses, doing their Stanley’s to Lorne’s Pat, or possibly the other way around…Earth,
Sam told herself. Still on Earth.
Until finally the whole scene dissolved in laughter, and Renee and Jun appeared, pushing the dancers off the stage ….
Sam saw that the two girls had made costumes of a sort … dressed in mini-skirts and halters they’d apparently made from tin foil …. And sporting little headsets apparently made of the same material.
“Well, now,” Lorne said, “Someone’s an eager little beaver tonight, isn’t she? I’m afraid that’s your cue, Colonel….”
There was a pause during which Renee’s voice could be heard, to general laughter,
“Don’t make me come and get you.”
Sam braced herself, preparing to fight the cringe… but when Jack mounted the stage he was mercifully free of tin foil accessories … Jack looked around, and found her, caught her eye and winked…
Lorne presented him with a microphone and slipped away, leaving Renee to signal the band which she did with dramatic flair and stood waiting eagerly….. befuddlement slowly sliding across her face as the early notes of ”Rocketman” slid sweetly from Gile’s guitar. The young slayer stamped her foot suddenly and whirled and said,
“No, not that one you….” And stopping when she saw that Giles and Javier were grinning at her, Javier ran through “Pop Goes the Weasel” at lightning speed, then Giles began to strum out a steadier rhythm and Javier and the rest of the band took up the tune and the second time around a pouting Renee and grinning Jun Lee caught the cue and began to sing, their voices light, sweet, Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
Beside her Sam felt Buffy tense, heard her whisper, “Those little idiots…”
Sam felt herself grow tense, trying to remember if she’d ever heard the Colonel sing… this was stupid, she thought, of all the things they’d faced, a little embarrassment over karaoke didn’t even register …. Except suddenly it mattered very much to her that Jack not be made to look foolish …..
He came in on his turn, Sam could vaguely hear Javier tapping out the cue on his soundboard and Jack came in on time, This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
He was… not bad, Sam thought with relief. A little flat perhaps, but creditable. And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much... she knows
Sam heard Buffy hiss again … then Renee and Jun Lee came in,Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit's dead, there's something wrong
And then the song winding down as Jack finished, Here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do.
And Lorne was on the stage again, leading the applause, Sam felt Buffy’s hand on her arm,
“I’m sorry, Sam,” the slayer said, “Renee’s a sweet kid but sometimes she has the sensitivity of a starving Fyarl ….” And then Buffy was gone, making a beeline for where Renee and Jun were coming off the stage.
“What?” Sam wondered, then thought back and smiled, recognizing that a song about a ship lost in space was probably not the most politic choice under the circumstances. Still she doubted Jack had even noticed any more than she had. It was just a song. She heard a faint squeak and a ripple of laughter and Sam glanced up in time to see Buffy take Renee and Jun Lee each by an ear and drag them out of sight….
And then her attention was drawn back to the stage where Daniel was stepping forward with Dawn taking up a position off to one side, Lorne handed off the microphone and Daniel nodded at the band who began the familiar tune, Daniel, Sam realized, could actually sing. Of course he could, she thought. He sang, What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key
Dawn joined him on the second verse, the pair alternating lines
What do I do when my love is away
Does it worry you to be alone?
How do I feel by the end of the day
Are you sad because you're on your own?
Glancing across Sam saw that Buffy had returned and was standing next to Jack now, smiling, watching her sister on the stage, a ripple of laughter as they sang,
Would you believe in a love at first sight
Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time
And then Lorne was joining them for the final chorus,
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends
The green man led the applause again, though to Sam he seemed … paler. She saw his hands shaking a little, she saw Xander start to rise only to be waved away as Lorne took a deep breath and shook off whatever was bothering him…
And then Andrew and Teal’c were coming forward, Andrew with his pan pipes in hand, Teal’c with his face set to extremely stoic. Andrew began to play, the notes weak at first, but growing stronger, the drum kicked in, lightly beating out the rhythm, the violin joined, then the guitars filling in, the audience fell silent, Sam could swear she felt a sudden cool breeze, heard not the surf but the trickle of running water in a mountain stream, the light shifted… the scene grew up around them, craggy peaks, green grass and scraggly trees and the shadow of a passing giant bird … and Teal’c began to sing, his voice deep and steady, like an echo in the valley, I'd rather be a sparrow than a snail.
Yes I would.
If I could,
I surely would.
I'd rather be a hammer than a nail.
Yes I would.
If I only could,
I surely would.
The scene held them all silent as Teal’c moved steadily on the final chorus, Away, I'd rather sail away
Like a swan that's here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world
Its saddest sound,
Its saddest sound.
And the song faded and the mountain scene sank away and they were back on the beach and Lorne didn’t need to lead the applause. A widely grinning Andrew followed as Teal’c stepped down off the stage to sit beside Sam and lightly touch her shoulder in encouragement.
And then Lorne was stepping down, holding out one hand to help her up on the stage, a gesture she wouldn’t usually appreciate but in this moment it seemed churlish to refuse. And then she was on the stage.
Denial was not a common feature of Sam’s character, but in this one case she had managed to convince herself that this moment would never come, that it was something too trivial to worry about. Yet here she was, staring out at a small sea of expectant faces… friendly faces, as Buffy had promised, no cat calls, no one snickered as she stood frozen, searching her mind for something to sing, something besides “Up in the air, Junior Birdmen,” which kept cycling though her head. Friendly, but expectant …. Maybe, she thought hopefully, there will be a sudden jaffa attack … right … about ….. now. ….
Her mind was blank. Her heart was fluttering. This was stupid. This was nothing. She could do this.
She felt a hand touch her arm, heard Lorne’s voice beside her, softly, “It’s okay, Samantha,” he said, “you can do it just for me, a couple lines of row row your boat
is all I need, no one else needs to hear..…
She pulled away. She was not Samantha. She was Major Sam Carter, Ph.D. and she did not fail. At anything. She remembered a song. A song she knew by heart.
She glanced back at the band, felt Javier meet her eyes, heard him whisper,
“It is okay, you sing, we follow.”
She took a breath and closed her eyes and sang, as firmly and steadily as she could, though there was quaver there she couldn’t quite control. O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
She heard the band coming in behind her, muted but there, letting her lead, For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain
She heard the other voices joining in then, she heard Jack’s. And Daniel’s. And Dawn’s. And Giles from behind her…. And Lorne.America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And others. Buffy, she thought, more, a swell, the thought flitted through her mind, Harris is really off-key, And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea
The band played through and came back again, Sam opened her eyes and saw the words to the second verse floating in the air before her, and a second version facing outward beyond that for the others to read, she took a breath and sang, and they followed, stumbling a bit over the unfamiliar words, O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
Lorne spoke in her ear, “I think the first verse once more, don’t you, cupcake?” and she nodded and the band came round, and she sang, and she had them all then, on their feet, their voices swelling in the warm moist air, finishing triumphant, And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
To warm laughter and applause and the odd gleeful whoop Sam stepped down, someone put a cool glass in her hand and this time she drank half the mojito in single gulp and found Jack beside her, he touched her shoulder for a moment,
“Nicely done, Carter,” he said and she felt all warm and fuzzy inside and told herself it was the rum.
The scene was shifting again, the band was playing a Bob Marley medley as most of the chairs and tables were folded and put aside, she saw Derevko consulting with Giles a moment, then nodding, saw Giles and Harris and Lorne sitting together, Giles and Harris listening as the green man sipped from a pink drink and spoke.
Then Dereveko was on the stage banging a gong until she had silence,
“Fifteen minute warning, ladies,” she called out.
Fifteen minutes until what?” Jack said,
“’Til we let the boys in,” Buffy said, coming to join Jack and Sam, bringing Renee and Jun Lee in tow. “These young ladies have something to say to you, Jack.”
“We just thought it was cool song for you,” Renee said, “but if it brought any bad memories or anything we’re sorry.”
“Really sorry,” Jun said.
“It’s okay. Really, “ Jack added, then leaning toward Buffy, repeated, “really.”
“So we’re cool then?” Renee said.
“Good. But you still owe me seven dollars.”
“I do not,” Jack shouted after the two girls as they ran away giggling.
Dawn came up then, said, “Giles would like to see you guys in the library.”
“That was actually kind of fun,” Harris was saying as SG1 entered the library. “We should maybe make it a real tradition.”
“Make what a real tradition?” Jack asked.
“Umm, karaoke night,” Harris said, smiling.
“So all that stuff about first time visitor must sing was just…”
“A bit of a ruse to smooth the passage, I’m afraid,” Giles answered.
“Bastards,” Jack said. “Okay, why? Just an excuse to make us look silly?”
“No, that’s just bonus,” Harris smiled. “We have a real reason. You’ve all just passed your pysch evals and background checks.“
“Lorne,” Daniel said.
“What?” Jack said. “The green guy? What’s he got to do with us?”
“Lorne is an anagogic demon,” Giles said.
“So, the green guy,” Jack said. “What’s he got to do with us?”
“He can read auras, get a sense of your future, make sure you really are who you say you are. But he can only do it when you’re singing. Hence…”
“The singing. Gotchya. So, we’re gonna win this thing, huh? I mean, he’s sees the future and you all seem pretty happy, so, future looking bright, right?”
“It’s not quite that simple, I’m afraid. But we now know for certain that none of you are cleverly hidden goa’uld spies, none of you is planning a fiendish doublecross of the type we wouldn’t be expecting…..and none of you is carrying a cloud of immediately impending personal doom that could threaten our joint venture. So the future is … promising. One other thing…”
“Lorne is a friend,” Harris said, “but he’s not our puppet. He did this as a favor and because he’s fond of this planet. But he didn’t tell us anything beyond what we needed to know. But he’ll talk to you, it’s what he does. He ‘puts people on their path’ is how he describes it. He’ll be around for awhile, but he has his own business to attend to so I’d consult him sooner rather than later. It’s usually pretty cryptic stuff that only makes sense at the last minute, but sometimes that last minute counts. He particularly wants to talk to you, Daniel. Though he did say he would appreciate it if you wouldn’t so much as hum for the next year or two….”
Giles stood then, “I think that’s enough business for today. It’s a party. There’ll be dancing, more food, more booze, tall tales about the demon that got away, and, I’m given to understand, skinny dipping in wee hours for those with the interest and the stamina. In the morning we’ll talk goa’uld and make plans.”
“We’ll be ready at dawn,” Teal’c said.
“No, we won’t,” Jack said. “About ten?” he asked Harris.
“About ten. Over coffee and fried plantains and Dayami’s special hangover cure. …. You guys’ll want to talk. See you downstairs in a few with your party hats on.” Harris and Giles filed out, closed the door behind them
So, Sam thought, finally, just us. They sat silent for a moment, looking at each other.
“Well, it could have been worse,” Jack said. “Someone
…. gave the Renee the idea that I should sing the Drunken Scotsman ….. Daniel?
” he accused.
“Nope. Wasn’t me. I’m sorry to say.”
“Well, fortunately they couldn’t find a kilt … Carter?
” he accused.
“No, sir, not me. I don’t even know the song, sir.”
“You need to get out more, Carter.”
“Well, in any case I’d say we’ve all had a narrow escape …. “ He paused, shook his head, looked around. “You don’t think Harris…
nah. Oh well. I don’t know about you guys,” Jack said, “but I could do bad things to a beer right now.”
“God yes,” Daniel said.
So, what was there to say, really? The witch is missing.
And Jack would say. “The witch is missing. So?” and she would say… I don’t know. The witch is missing. They don’t talk about it. It must mean something ….
“So, we’ll ask them in the morning,” Jack would say…. “Anything else?”
There was another thing she could say. She could say, “Jack, want to take a walk on the beach?”
“I think I’ll stick to the mojitos,” Sam said.
“Miss Faith said something about ‘primo genuine Montecristos’ …”
“Meeting adjourned,” Jack said.
Part XII: Samantha Carter and the Vanishing Circle
Sam wished Janet was there. They could have caught each other’s eye and shook their heads and pretended they weren’t even the least bit envious as Faith came sashaying by. Not so much of the body as of the sheer freedom and confidence with which she moved.
The dark slayer had, Sam noted, dressed for the party. She’d replaced the demon blood smeared minimal black bikini with … a minimal black bikini. In addition she’d covered up with silver anklets, a coin chain around her waist, cobra-shaped arm cuffs on her biceps and a garnet necklace that shimmered and glowed in the red light of the fires as it dangled in the dark valley of her cleavage as she leaned forward over the table, offering the box of cigars.
“Rolled on the thighs of teen-age virgins,” she promised with a happy leer.
“O’Neill…” Teal’c started as Faith answered someone’s call and moved on.
“You want to take this one, Daniel?” Jack said.
“No, thank you, Jack,” Daniel said. “You go ahead…. Or perhaps Sam…”
Still, even sans
Janet, it was nice, the four of them, seated at the table, having a drink at the end of the day, Jack and Daniel trying to explain to Teal’c that, despite Faith’s assertion to the contrary, the cigars had not actually been rolled on the thighs of teenage virgins and why it would be seen as a good thing to smoke a cigar rolled on thighs of a virgin even if it was probably, in truth, better that they weren’t.
And Teal’c all the time with a look in his eye that made Sam wonder sometimes if he didn’t understand perfectly well but enjoyed watching Jack and Daniel struggle to explain the Tau-ri’s less dignified predilections in decorous terms.
Harris stopped by, with George and Dwayne and they chatted for awhile. There was an easiness now that hadn’t been there before.
Because they had passed the demon test, Sam thought. They hacked our computers and read our files but they trust us now because we sang for the demon.
Jack asked Harris about the scar on his leg and actually got an answer, a clearly understated tale of an encounter with a Kalashnikov in the Ugandan bush. Jack in turn told a couple suitably edited war stories of his own, and Dwayne topped them both with the tale of the night he got lost in deepest darkest LA armed with only an expired bus pass, a pocket-knife and sprig of heather.
There were more people there now, most of the new additions were male. A few were boyfriends, George explained when Sam asked, but most were from “Irina’s List,” boys and young men from the neighborhood, from embassy row, from the university… who had passed Derevko’s idiosyncratic background checks. Only the best and the brightest, George said with a smile, Irina’s a bit of a snob that way. She has these tests….
“And just who is she, exactly?” Sam asked and George laughed. “Yeah, yeah,” Sam said, “I’m happier not knowing. I’m really not that happy about that, George.”
“Happiness is relative, Sam,” George said. “Let me put it this way, just be glad she’s on our side.”
Harris waved and one of the girls brought them another round and then they were laughing and singing along as Giles was dragged back onstage to belt out Tull’s “Too Old to Rock’N’Roll’ with Javier and the band.
There were calls for Dayami then, a show of reluctance and then she was on the little stage and standing still and Javier began to play. The party grew quiet, conversations stilled. The guitar filled the empty spaces, there was a base of flamenco in the tone, a little of the island in the rhythm, Javier’s fingers danced on the frets, playing notes between notes while the beat stayed steady, dramatic, Dayami’s eyes were closed, her body in stasis… waiting, waiting, waiting. And then from the hips she began to move, slight shifts, shimmering up through her body, barely visible but there. And then came the harsh counter rhythms of her heels on the wood as she spoke back to the guitar … and then the conversation began in earnest, Dayami swirling in a tight circle, her hands moving in graceful curls and sweeps around her spinning body, as her heels stamped on. There was a chase, the heels ran away and the guitar followed after, caught her, there was struggle and seduction, the heels sought their own rhythm only to be seduced back to the guitar’s beat, while the melody capered around her, whispering sweetly … finally there was submission, Dayami danced on, her husband’s creature, the sinuous spins and poses of her dance following the guitars every whim, heels clattered in perfect sync with Javier’s base strum, then with a dramatic crescendo it was over and Dayami seemed to come out of a daze, she turned to smile shyly at her husband and then she was hurrying off of the stage to the cheers and whistles that were caught off guard and came late.
The mood had changed, voices were softer as conversations started up again, laughter subdued, the band took up their instruments, caressing the strings they had strummed before, and Dawn came and took Daniel away. He’d started to put his cigar out but Dawn had stopped him, saying, “Don’t waste it. Besides I like the smell of the real cubans…”
And then Buffy had come, there’d been a slight pause, Sam had realized that Buffy was silently asking her permission and she’d nodded and Buffy had asked Jack to dance.
“Can I keep my cigar?” Jack had asked.
“No! Gross,” Buffy had said, her face wrinkled in disgust.
“Can I dance with your sister?” Jack had said. But he’d left the cigar and gone with Buffy and hadn’t returned.
Faith came for Harris, George and Dwayne whose bickering was clearly on threshold of turning into foreplay excused themselves to join the growing number of couples swaying together around the stage. Sam realized her eyes were following Buffy and Jack and she pulled them away.
She heard Derevko’s voice again, “He’s yours if you want him, you know that, don’t you?”
Yes, she knew. She could go over there, tap the slayer on the shoulder and move in… and if not now, when? Here in this place where even the laws physics somehow didn’t apply…..
Then Andrew came to talk with Teal’c and Sam downed the rest of her rum and stood and went to see the green demon and get her fortune told.
Part XIII: Colonel Cupcake and the Cold Hard Truth
She found him standing at the edge of the firelight, facing the dark night sky, he spoke as she approached, silent on the sand…
“Ah, Colonel Cupcake, I’ve been waiting,” he said.
Big deal, Sam thought, so he saw me coming….
“Not for long, I hope,” Sam said. “And it’s Major …. cupcake.”
“For now,” the demon said, turning to face her with a smile. “So, mon petit gâteau,
I suppose if I started talking about the lost city of Atlantis, galaxy traveling pseudo-priests who suck life force like vampires drink blood, and fire-breathing dragons guarding ancient super weapons you’ll dismiss me as a mountebank and fabulist?”
“Yep,” Sam said. She realized she had a bit of buzz on. That last gulp of the mojito had kind of caught her by surprise.
The green man nodded. “That’s just as well, I suppose. I admit I don’t think anything I have to say on those subjects would be of much practical use. But that’s not what you want to know, is it?”
“And you don’t really believe in aura reading demons no matter how red their horns or fabulous their suits, do you?”
“No. I mean… I know other dimensions exist. I’ve seen … aliens much stranger than you. And time travel is possible… ” Sam paused … perhaps the vibrations, the sound waves from the singing synchronized, creating patterns in a plane invisible to humans but some how perceived by ….
“Don’t look at me, poptart, I
don’t know how
it works. Besides, it doesn’t take a psychic to see the real issue here. To see what he wants. Or what he needs.”
“What? Oh. Jack. No, it doesn’t.”
“So it doesn’t matter if the green demon sees Samantha O’Neill-Carter ….
“Of course …waddling around the house pregnant with her second sprog. The question, cinnamon bun, is, do you?”
“It doesn’t have to go that far. We could just….”
“Be lovers for awhile?” the demon said. “Could you?”
She felt the wetness on her chin, reached up and realized she was weeping. She felt the words boiling up, all the silent conversations she’d held with herself after those moments when she and Jack had come close, all the reasons it wouldn’t work….
The one time fling on the beach … that wasn’t her. Not with Jack. That would only make it worse.
They would have to be discrete … of course Teal’c and Daniel would know and not report them, even Hammond though he might bluster and frown would turn a blind eye, the whole of SGC for that matter would protect their own. Provided they kept up appearances, played their roles on base. But that would be poison to her, to live a lie. Oh she could keep secrets from the outside world, play a role, but on the base, at the a heart and core of her existence, to live a lie …. It would be poison. To break a rule she believed in just because it suited her personal needs…. It would be hard to face the mirror. Impossible to discipline a subordinate who did the same. And Jack breaking the same rule, even if it was for her, she would lose… just a little respect …They would live in fear of the NID finding out. Her office would no longer be her safe place, her true home… She would start to resent him for it. In time, even hate….
And there was the other thing, the cold hard truth at the bottom, if it came down to it, if she had to choose the Gate or Jack …. She chose the Gate. Jack would …. understand. But he would know.
And Jack was …. getting old. Well, so was she, at the same rate. But Jack had that big head start. Sam could do the math. His time in SG1 was drawing to a close… in the end he would stay at home and she would go on. He would take the promotion and the desk job he’d hate, but he’d take it so he could watch her six in the land of bureaucrats. He would grow older still, and more alone than ever. She would never learn to fish.
“Ah, cupcake,” the demon said and she looked into the red eyes and knew she didn’t have to say a thing out loud… He held out his arms and she sank into his embrace, let him hold her ‘til she felt the tears stop and the ducts dry and it was over. If not tonight, then…. Never. So be it.
“No one has it all, you know, my torte.” The demon said softly. “Faith may seem the sex goddess, free and easy, full of power. But there’s a little girl in there so deeply wounded she’ll never fully recover. And she needs Harris to keep her alive, needs him in a way you’ll never need the Colonel or any man. Buffy is in a good place now, I think, a place of peace, but she went to hell and heaven and back again to get there. She’s had the big love and the bad love and lost them both and now she likes to wear pretty things and eat good food and dance with interesting and handsome men, and to occasionally go out and kill a beast. But she’s even less certain than you are that she’ll ever love again.”
“I thought you were supposed to keep everybody’s aura private,” Sam said.
“Oh this isn’t psychic, creampuff, this is just gossip and what I see with my big red eyes. But you get my drift?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sam said, “I should wear my combat boots with pride.”
“Something like that, yes.”
“You’re a very kind… demon,” Sam said. She shifted against his chest, reluctant to let go. “Do you … I can’t hear a heartbeat,” she said.
“You’re not listening in right place.”
She eased back, looked at his face.
“Do I want to…”
She stretched up then and kissed his cheek and he released her. She took a couple steps away then turned back.
“A dragon? Really?”
“I just call’em as I see’em, cupcake.”
Sam turned, took a couple more steps, turned back.
“How do you do that?”
“If anyone else called me ‘cupcake’ and ‘poptart’ they’d be spitting teeth. But when you do it I don’t even get mad ….. “
The demon grinned, spread his arms in a shrug and said, “Magic.”
xxxxxxxxx Part XIV: Major Carter and the Whirligig of Fun
Sam wound her way back through the dancers, catching snippets of conversation as she passed, “Dwayne, is that your hand on my ass?”
“I certainly hope so.”
“I don’t know Dwayne. I don’t think it would work. I can’t see leaving Cleveland and I know you love LA….”
“I’m copping a feel, you carnivorous twit, not proposing marriage.”
“Oh. Oh! Just what are you proposing, then?”
“Wild monkey tomorrow-we-might-be-dead Caribbean beach sex.”
“I see. Can vegetarians do that?”
“Yes. We invented it.”
“Oh. Well. Okay then.”
And…. “Is Buffy still dancing with the Colonel?”
“Well, you know she likes them old.”
“He is a little young for her, isn’t he?”
And …. “Do you think women are different where he comes from…? Or maybe he just doesn’t like them?”
“Andrew says it’s not that. Andrew says he has a family but they’re on another planet now… maybe he’s just loyal…”
“Maybe you’re just not as hot as you think you are…”
“Eff you. I asked him if he’d spar with us in the morning. He said he would.”
She found Teal’c still sitting at the table, methodically puffing on the last remains of his cigar.
“Where’s Andrew?” she asked and Teal’c pointed, she peered at the dancers for a minute and found the slim young man dancing … with another slim young man.
“Oh,” she said. “Oh.
Did you know?”
“It is not unknown among the jaffa,” T’ealc said.
“Oh,” Sam said. “So all that time he was just…. Hitting on you…?”
“No,” Teal’c said. “I am an alien. For Andrew that’s far more interesting and important than sex.“
Sam closed her eyes. The world according to Andrew the Wise, she thought. Perhaps I should reconsider. She opened her eyes and looked around.
All the beautiful bodies moving together in the warm light… Sam saw the pagan ritual again, but through a different lens, not so sinister as sensual, a celebration of life. Who knew better than she the vastness of the indifferent universe that reduced individual humans to mere molecules or less in the grand scheme. … She saw Dawn leading Daniel into the house. Soon for them the cold universe would be, just for a while, a small and friendly, warm and cozy place.
It didn’t have to be Jack, she thought. The body has it needs. There are some good looking young men here. Wild monkey tomorrow-we-might-be-dead Caribbean beach sex.
Why not? As long as it wasn’t Jack, it wasn’t against the rules. If she was a man it would even be expected. No one in the Air Force would think the less of Jack if he slept with Buffy, quite the opposite in fact. Good for the gander, good for the goose…. No doubt Derevko could set her up with a suitable performer…..
A moment later she cringed and decided to blame that thought on the rum and the drums.
There was a stir then, they heard distant engines, a small plane, a flicker of movement in the night, heard someone shout,
“Show-offs!” and laugh.
Sam looked up and saw the dark canopies silhouetted against the stars, whoever they were they were either crazy or very very good. She saw Derevko go striding by, her face alight, eyes bright like a birthday girl who’s spotted the pony.
The parachutists came in at a low angle, aiming for the edge of the light, only to be caught by a quartet of giggling slayers who carried them to the pool and out over the water, only to pull them back at the last minute amidst much shouting and laughter.
Not in the mood for more introductions Sam slipped away, into the house, found her assigned room and tried to rest. Tomorrow, she reflected, promised to be an important day. It would be good to be rested. But she couldn’t sleep. The other two beds were loudly empty and kept drawing her thoughts in unproductive directions.
She rose, went down to the infirmary, slipped into the darkened OR. She searched for any sign of a wire harness, of a hidden support, of any mechanical way of faking Dwayne’s levitation. And she found, what in her heart she’d known she’d find. Nothing. Derevko had been right about one thing at least. She’d seen to much to simply dismiss it anymore. She needed ... information.
She knew where they kept it.
From the occult shelves she selected Basic Witchcraft, The Beginner’s Guide to Spellcasting, Complete Idiot's Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft (2nd Edition), Full Contact Magick: A Book of Shadows for the Wiccan Warrior.
She crossed the room to the other shelf and took down more familiar reference texts on Organic Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Neurology….
Okay. So Magic existed. But that didn’t mean Magic was Magic.
Start with the basics. Matter. Energy.
The combustion engine. Matter into energy. No magic there. But consider the immense amount of energy stored in matter…. Twenty miles to the gallon may not seem such a big deal as you put your money in the pump. But get out and walk with a gallon can of gas and spread it over twenty miles and suddenly it’s a truly impressive feat. The energy to hold a man in mid-air for a few minutes…. Less than miniscule by comparison. There was more power in the fumes you breathed as you filled your tank.
These … witches had apparently discovered some techniques to transform matter into energy without apparent mechanical contrivances. And they were able to manipulate that energy to do work. Dwayne had been … drained by his effort. They were not making something from nothing, there was transformation, a catalyst.
Perhaps the witches themselves didn’t understand how they did it, only that they could, as people with no mechanical knowledge can still drive cars.
Sam was going under the hood.
Sam laid the books out on the table and turned one of the workstations on. The 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?”
“Yes,” Sam said aloud.
She tried tic-tac-toe and got nowhere. She tried global thermonuclear war and got what looked like an interesting game but no access. She tried chess … and soon realized that even if winning got her in it would take far too long… She tried every trick she knew to bypass the welcome screen and game menu and got nowhere.
A thought struck her. She typed p-l-e-a-s-e and got:
1. Local Workstation Access
2. Workstation and Internet Access
3. Total Access to Internet, Local network, Server and All Our Files
4. Milk and Cookies.
Sam hit 3 and got, Kidding
, and the menu came back.
Sam clicked on 2 and found herself with a desktop, program icons on Kittens and Puppies wallpaper, she brought up a browser and found she was online. Out of curiosity she turned on a second workstation, typed please and chose number 1, and indeed she got just a desktop without internet. For the hell of it she turned on a third workstation and chose number 4, but nothing happened.
She turned on a couple more workstations, opened search engines on each and began to search, for all there was to know about Rosenberg Willow Witch Red, Chemical composition newt eye, history haiti voodoo baron origin…..
There was quiet tap on the door, and then it opened, and Dayami came in with a tray containing a plate of cookies, a glass and ceramic pitcher that contained, of course, cold milk.
The Cuban woman set the tray down and looked for a moment at Sam’s research and smiled, albeit a bit sadly.
“Don’t worry,” she said softly. “No advice from me…” She smiled. “Tia
Laline says to tell you she understands and no hard feelings. And when you’ve come to your senses, you come see her. You tell her about distant planets and she will teach you how to levitate pencils and make the dishes wash themselves. She says when you understand that the rest will be easy. And now, Major, as the only sane person in this house, I’m going to bed. If you want anything in the kitchen, please help yourself. Good night.”
“Goodnight,” Sam said and turned back to her reading.
After a while she absently reached out and took a cookie.
With the door closed the room was warm, the heat of the computers combined with the tropic humidity and lack of air flow, Sam found her shirt sticking to her back, her thighs itchy with the heat. She remembered she was still wearing the red bikini underneath and thought, whatthehell and stripped down, dried herself off with her shirt and got back to work.
She had long ago lost track of time when she heard the door open, heard voices, heard her name and she looked up to see Jack standing in the doorway, shaking his head,
“Carter, Carter, Carter,” he said. He paused a moment, looking at her, then there were other voices, movement behind him in the hall, he roused himself, shook his head, said,
“So, it seems Faith knows this place where they serve a great after-party spread, fresh fruit and fresh-baked pastries, coffee just out of the roaster, secret recipe hangover cures..… It’s completely illegal, you have to go in the back way and know the secret password and everything. It’ll be cool.”
Buffy appeared then, standing at his side, “Yes, Sam, you should come,” she said. And Sam was almost sure she meant it. And then Renee inserted herself between them, grinning,
“Yeah, you don’t want to miss the big moment,” she said, “Jack’s going to buy me a pie.”
“Am not. And isn’t it past your bedtime?”
“You’re funny, Jack,” Renee said.
“And it’s okay, Carter,” Jack added, leering just a little, “You can come as you are.”
“Thanks,” she said, “but I’m kind of in the middle of something….”
“C’mon Carter, it’ll be fun,” Jack said, lightly, but there was a little something more in his voice…. Sam felt the tears start and blinked, held them back. She met his gaze, held it steady, spoke … gently.
“I am having fun, Colonel,” she said. Jack stared back for moment, then nodded … and to her immense relief shot her a wry smile before he turned away.
He left the door open when they moved off, Sam went to shut it, arriving in the doorway in time to see them, Jack and Buffy, Renee and Jun Lee, nuclear-family-for-a-night, Harris and Faith waiting for them at the top of the stairs.
It was what he needed, family, friends, kids, if not his own then someone else’s, but youth, attention demanding youth to pull him out into the world….
Things she couldn’t give him. Wouldn’t give him. Could only take from him, standing in the way of the woman who could.
Derevko was right, there was an emptiness, an incompleteness. … but so be it. There was honor instead. There was purpose.
No one had it all.
Sam closed the door, went back to the books and the computers. She turned on another workstation, opened another search, hesitated just a moment, then typed, Atlantis city lost.