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Secrets: A Father Goose Tale

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This story is No. 3 in the series "Father Goose Tales". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Just a happy little story about culture clashes, deceit, trickery, dancing girls, snakes, toads, witches and the law of unintended consequences. With beheadings. Featuring Xander, Faith and company, and the friendly folks of SG1.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > General > General: SG-1litmouseFR1822125,49671613191,8872 Apr 0717 Jan 08No

Chapt 20: Food for Thought

A/N: See Chapt. 1 for disclaimers, warnings, timelines.

Sorry this is coming so slowly. I have every hope that as I move past the holiday season in RL and into the relatively action-packed homestretch here the cliff….er, chapters will come at a much faster pace…..

Also, thanks very much for all of the COA nominations. I am quite genuinely honored.

Best, Litmouse

Secrets: A Father Goose Tale
A BTVS-SG1 Crossover

Chapt 20: Food for thought

Island of the Left-Handed Serpent, Lake Victoria, Tanzania

Geb flung out her right hand in a dramatic gesture and declaimed a few phrases in the old language for effect. She watched the island’s surface begin to ripple and for a moment she allowed herself to imagine it was her power, her gesture that had brought the dark army forth.

Behind her there were cries of surprise and fear from the people gathered on the shore. Geb whirled and shouted, still in the old language, but her meaning still clear, “Be still!”

She stood a moment, peering through the slits in the long thin wooden mask she’d donned for the occasion, staring out at the pathetic assembly of fishermen and villagers that the gibbering idiot of a temple keeper had gathered to witness her miracles.

Ah well, she thought, it was just the beginning.

She turned back, took a heroic wide-legged, hands on hips, shoulders-back stance, and watched as the ants swarmed over the hillside, cleaning the temple steps until they gleamed white as bone, and the doors until they glittered gold as gold, then moving on to denude the land on either side of the steps for perhaps a quarter mile.

Geb looked down to where the witch sat cross-legged, hovering just a few inches above the soil, her slight body in it’s white robes hidden by the wooden platform that Geb bestrode.

“Well?” Geb hissed.

“As you wish it, so it shall be,” the witch said softly, as if stating the obvious.

Well, yes, and so it should be, Geb thought. And yet….. and yet the witch annoyed her sometimes. Oh, she could turn a nice phrase, but the redhead had no sense of drama. It took more than power to be a God, Geb knew. It took timing. A sense of the grand. To be sure, the witch’s self-effacement and matter-of-fact obedience worked in Geb’s favor but still …. Irritating. No appreciation for an artist at work. No one to share the moment with.

There was an eerie quiet as the ants grew still and quiet…. waiting.

Geb stood high on her toes, reached out her arms and declaimed again, waving her hands as if gathering the ants to her bosom… and the ant army sank away into the dark soil…. Geb waited, counted to ten, twenty, then thrust her arms out with a shout as large and as loud as she could make it, which in this hok’taur body was large and loud indeed. Beneath her she heard the witch whispering. Geb looked down and saw that she was leaning forward now, her hands disappearing wrist-deep into the earth itself.

There was a crackling as the plants began to grow, first the grass, covering the hillside with a soft green lawn, then the berry bushes and fruit trees, just as it had been in the Turkish valley except much faster…. A hillside not nearly as impressive as a whole valley ... but again Geb consoled herself, just a beginning.

The growth began to slow as the fruit appeared, began to ripen. Geb glanced down, for a moment it seemed as if the witch was stuck, as if the earth would not release her hands, might even pull her in… Geb tensed, thinking to attack, although not at all sure how, dig, she supposed… and then she thought perhaps she had imagined the entire struggle, the tension, for the witch was sitting serene again, hands in her lap, clean and pale as ever. And then she sagged and lolled to one side, apparently wearied by her efforts. Geb smiled. Things were going well.

She ordered the jaffa assigned to the witch to put her in her palanquin and stand ready. She turned and faced her small retinue, the two goa’uld she’d selected as lieutenants and some twenty jaffa …. Geb refused even her in her own mind to refer to these untrained thugs as warriors… she let her eyes wander over the still astonished and gaping villagers. They seemed at first glance a ragged bunch but Geb could pick out a few worthy prospects… a few good meals, some training, a properly implanted larva ... Geb would make her own warriors.

Geb gave her instructions for the two goa’uld to set up and maintain defensive positions around the temple entrance… she saw the disappointment flicker in their faces, and smiled behind her mask. Of course they wanted to enter the ancient temple with her, of course they did. They were the bravest, and therefore least loyal of the goa’uld Geb had left alive, so Geb kept them close. But not too close, whether the temple was to yield treasure or ruins was to be Geb’s secret for now.

Geb waited on the platform until the jaffa were in place, then she leapt lightly down to the grass and crossed to the largest of the nearby mango trees and climbed easily up to retrieve a ripe fruit. She dropped down and strode forward, watching the temple keeper’s eyes go wide with fear and hope as she approached him. She pulled a dagger from its scabbard her on thigh, twirled the blade then sliced the mango in quarters and presented it to the startled man. After a moment’s hesitation he took the fruit and, obeying her insistent gesture, ate, and wisely pronounced it good with great enthusiasm.

Geb stepped back and gestured grandly toward the hillside cornucopia, motioned again, then once more and finally the dam broke and the villagers surged forward and began to eat.

Geb turned and strode over to the white steps, about-faced and motioned for the palanquin laden jaffa to bring the witch, then Geb marched up the steps to the golden doors and went inside.

Though she had never been there before Geb knew the place, ancestral memory rising out of the depths to remind and guide her…. Geb paused, closed her eyes, gave herself time to adjust, these memories were coming a long long way. She opened her eyes, turned and looked back, down the steps, out across the glittering waters of the immense lake, remembering the clumsy landing, the ship, damaged in the fight with Ra seeking refuge, a hiding place in the vast waters.

Remembering the attempt to rebuild, the desperate attempts to find hosts among the wily and suspicious natives, the lack of resources to be looted from a society whose technology had not progressed beyond the wooden spear in a climate where every day was a war of survival ….

Geb shook herself free of the reverie. Who needed to remember the long years of suffering and misery, the hiding, the slow rebuilding until at long last they had ventured forth …. To find Ra, to make peace, to beg to be allowed back into the kingdom…. Only to find that Ra had hidden the Gate and flown away, taken the great ships and last ranks of jaffa and slaves and simply fled, and left the Tau’ri to thrive …. Leaving Geb’s line to dwindle, to hide away in the corners and merely survive.

No more. Geb would do more than survive. Geb would rule.

Geb removed the mask and set it aside, then crossed to the palanquin and leaned in through the curtains to peer down at the witch who struggled to rise from her pillows. Geb reached down, put her hand on the witch’s chest and gently pressed her back down.

“No, no, little one,” she said, “you seem weary, rest. We have done great works this day ….

“Yes, my lord,” the witch smiled happily.

“….and tomorrow…. Well, we shall not work so hard, my Willow, but nevertheless, I promise, it will be a memorable day.”

“All my days with you are enshrined in memory, my goddess.”

“Yes. Of course. Nevertheless…” Geb let the thought trail away. Sometimes it was lonely work, being a God.

Geb ordered the attending jaffa to bring the witch food and drink, then turned and strode down the hall. In the depths of the rock she found the hidden lever and she pulled and the door creaked a moment, then slid open, emitting the stench of long dead air. Geb stepped inside and opened a panel, pushed buttons, heard the distant engines wake, heard the fans turn, felt the first slight breeze. She pressed another button and internal halls began to glow as the lights came on. So far, so good.

Geb waited, impatient, held back only by the slow clearing of the air, watching the indicator on the panel.

Staff weapons would be good. Death gliders in working order would be good. But not necessary. Only one thing was necessary. One surviving remnant of the old ones.

The air quality light turned positive and Geb waited no longer and ran forward, jogging eagerly in place as she waited for door after to door to slowly slide open as she moved down and around the labyrinth until finally she had reached the heart of the matter, the inner inner chamber where the three sarcophagi lay waiting beneath a thick layer of dust. Geb ran to the central casket, went to the head and slid the small hidden panel back to read the indicators and shouted with triumph, then sagged with relief. She lived, Tefnut lived.

More to the point, Queen Tefnut still lived.

Camp Kendra, Havana, Cuba

It was a warm night on Abydos. The night watchmen had let the fire dwindle to coals. Daniel Jackson shifted a little. At his side Sha’re whimpered softly and shifted with him. Daniel Jackson smiled, pressed his face into her long hair and drowsed happily.

Then gradually the sounds penetrated, shouts, the clatter and clang of wood on wood and metal on metal, clashing, fighting…. Attack.

Daniel sat up, struggled to come awake, something was wrong with the sky, so dark, no stars, no stars at all….

“’S’okay, Dan’l, slayers spar mornin’ ver’ ver’ early, jus’ mad slayers….” Sha’re mumbled softly, “come bed. Back.”

Her arm came up, found his neck and pulled gently and for a moment he was tempted, to sink back down into warm peace and let the feeling go…

“Slayers?” he said. “What?”

And then suddenly he was awake, he knew that the smell of burned wood came not from an Abydos campfire but from the pile of sawdust in the corner of Harris’ basement workroom.

And Sha’re was dead. The loss hit him like a mule-kick to the sternum, left him breathless.

He felt a soft hand on his face, a gentle voice whisper, “Dan’l? Are you okay, baby?”

“Yes,” he managed to answer, “just a … dream.” He let her pull him back down, let her hold him. She had prepared the room, pushed the table saw and lathe to the side to make room for a mattress, pillows, blankets. Candles. Condoms in small candy bowl.

“No one will bother us here,” she’d told him. The room, Dawn explained, had been Irina’s gift to Harris, the space, all the latest in carpenter’s toys. Rumor had it she’d had a couple girls break some furniture just for him to fix.

“Sometimes I wonder about Irina,” Dawn had said. “She does such nice, thoughtful things, no strings attached. … and yet you always wonder why. Does she just want to be liked? Is she being nice just because she can…. or does she have a five year plan to take control … oops, now I’ve said too much. We haven’t even got to the pillow part yet and I’m giving up secrets. Are you a honeytrap, Daniel Jackson, have I fallen into your clutches?”

“You have now,” he’d said, reaching for her…..

He lay still, listening to the steady thumping of her heart. He wondered if he’d dreamed of Sha’re out of guilt. Or because Dawn reminded him, not so much of Sha’re, two women could hardly be less alike, reminded him of what it felt like, being at ease with a woman. Being in love. He drowsed happily, let sleep take him again.

He woke the second time as she rolled him on his back, and crawled on top to kiss his closed eyes.

“Rise and shine, Dr. Jackson,” she whispered, “or just rise, that’ll do..”

The cool touch of the prophylactic as she applied it nearly unmanned him for a moment, the reminder of impermanence, of the external world that love never really could defeat, of the world where children were not wanted and loved children died, where a wasting death could lay in wait in the act of warmest affection….

But her lips were on his, her body filling his senses and, as is so often the case, nature overcame philosophy, and he rose to the occasion. In the night they had been passionate, playful, athletic, exploratory… now they were gentle and melancholy. Such sweet sorrow, Daniel thought.

After, she wept for a short time, her faced pressed on his, her tears running down his cheek…. And then she was sitting up, wiping her face, busying herself with tidying the room, folding the blankets, gathering bits of lost clothing …. She had a robe for herself and draw-string pants and tee-shirt for him.

At the door she took his hand and he saw to his surprise that she was blushing.

“Um,” she said, “sorry about this. I guess… I didn’t quite think this room thing all the way through.”

“Sorry about what….” Daniel said and then Dawn opened the door and half a dozen grinning slayers and Teal’c turned from their mock battles to ogle the pair in the doorway.

“So Dawnie, get the urge to do a little morning wood work, didja?”

“Good morning, Faith,“ Dawn said. “This,” she said to Daniel.

“Oh,” Daniel said.

Daniel paused outside the bedroom door. This could be awkward. If Buffy was there… Or Sam.… Or both. Daniel grinned at the thought, then shook his head.

Ah, hell, Daniel thought, we’re all adults here. He poked his head into the room and was relieved to see Jack was there, lying on his back, asleep. Alone. Daniel eased inside and pulled the door softly shut. He paused a moment, looking down at the older man. Some people seem younger in sleep, the tension eased from their faces. Jack was just the opposite, without his consciousness present to animate the flesh the toll the years and missions had taken showed in his face, drawing deep lines around his eyes, down his cheeks.

Daniel counted to three.

“Yes, Daniel?” Jack said, eyes still firmly closed. “Did you want something?”

“No,” Daniel lied. He wanted… he didn’t know what.

He wanted to stay with her. To make that break as he had done before, staying on Abydos. He wanted to steal all of Harris’ cool tools and learn to use them, he wanted to live with her on an old town Havana side street, making elegant furniture for a living, spending the evenings sipping rum, holding hands and listening to demon guitarists play songs of love.

He wanted to take her through the Gate and picnic on the ruins of P3R-891, to recite ‘Ozymandias’ to her framed against the setting double-sun and the twisted, bent and fallen spires.

He wanted to lay in bed in his home in Colorado, drinking coffee and reading the Sunday funnies and listening to her rage at the headlines….

“But I’m right,” she’d said, in the night, “you know I am.”

“Or course you are,” he‘d said. “It just doesn’t matter. You can save the world,” he’d told her, “you can’t change it.”

“I know,” she’d answered, sighing, “I know that here,” she’d touched her forehead, “but here,” she’d held her hand over her heart.

I know, he’d wanted to say, I remember when I felt that way.

He wanted… to think about something else for awhile.

“I hear tell you were tripping the light fantastic last night, Jack,” Daniel said. “Cutting the rug like fine Toledo steel.”

“In English, Daniel.”

“I gather you’re quite the dancer,” Daniel said.

“Who said that?”

“The girls in the dojo. Faith says you give good waltz. And teaching Buffy to tango... I’m sorry I missed that. Who knew you had such hidden talents?”

“So I know a few moves. Back in the day, young Daniel, that was just part of being an officer and a gentleman.”

Daniel crossed the room, found his freshly laundered and folded clothes in a bureau by the second bed. He made his selections, headed for the shower, then paused in the doorway.

“Colonel ‘Dancin’ Jack’ O’Neill. Has a nice ring to it. Or maybe Jack ‘Twinkletoes’ O’Neill….”


“Yes Jack?”

“We’re heading for malaria country, Daniel. That means somewhere where life is cheap. I figure before this is over, I’ll have lots of opportunities to make you disappear. Like magic. Just…. food for thought.“

Post shower Daniel obeyed Dawn’s instruction and headed for the dining room. There was a sign posted on the door: No Slayers Allowed Before --- and the cardboard clock was set to 10 a.m.

He pushed the door open and poked his head in, breathed in the enchanting odors of coffee, bacon, eggs…. Rupert Giles glanced up from his newspaper and motioned for him to come in, waved at the steaming sideboard, said,

“Help yourself, Dr. Jackson,” and returned to his paper

Daniel filled a plate with eggs, orange slices, fried plantain and a small pork chop, poured a cup of coffee from the thermos jar and turned to contemplate the long table currently occupied only by Giles and a very pale dark haired girl who was half-laying on the table, idly flipping the pages of a graphic novel and staring moodily into a small bowl of café con leche.

Awkward, Daniel thought. But can’t be helped, it would be rude to hide down here at the end. He took a breath and moved down to take the seat across and one to left of Dawn’s surrogate father. He glanced at the bespectacled man who seemed fully engrossed in an article.

Daniel sipped the coffee, ate a plantain. Glanced at Giles.

“Dr. Jackson,“ Giles said after awhile, “We are under the same roof as her rather over-protective big sister who has extremely good hearing, an affinity for edged weapons and the strength to bench press Liechtenstein when angered … the fact that all your limbs and sundry appendages remain intact tells me that Dawn herself has made no complaint against you and that is all I need to know. More, actually. Unless you’ve proposed…. You haven’t have you? Not planning to ask my blessing first or some such?”

“Erm, no, sir.”

“Splendid. Then I would take it as a great favor if you would stop sneaking glances at me as if you expected me to suddenly start spittin’ terbacky and beatin’ you about the head and shoulders with a whip.”

“Yes, sir,” Daniel laughed. “I’ll try, sir. So,” he added, “Why the “No Slayers before ten” sign?”

“First, they eat all the bacon, second, they tend to be unduly cheerful after a late night. Full of energy. Some have been known to be perky.”

Daniel’s eyes moved down to the dark haired girl.

“Well, there’s always an exception,” Giles said. “Dr. Jackson, meet Absinthe, the Slayer of the Mournful Countenance. Very fraught, being a Goth slayer, fraught with irony and other very fraught things….

“Are you making fun of me, Uncle Rupie?” the girl said.

“Yes, and if you call me Uncle Rupie again I’ll tell the doctor your real name….”

“It’s Medea,” the girl said.

“Medea?” Daniel said. “Really?”

“Yes, really,” the girl pouted.

“The poor girl had such a problem,” Giles said, dryly. “Any time she wanted to go to her club she had to sneak out, ‘cause if her mother caught her she’d want to go with…”

“’S’not funny,” the girl said. “Woman’s mad.”

“She misses her mum,” Giles said.

“Don’t,” Absinthe said. “Miss the club. I was happy there. Had friends. People who understood.”

“It was run by vampires,” Giles said.

“Just two. Albert and Annie. And they never killed anybody.”

“They killed a few,” Giles said gently.

“So you say,” the girl said, but her denial lacked conviction. “We used to take turns, go in the back, give’em a quick suck. It was cool. And hot. Make you feel dizzy for a while, but you got free drinks and food after…”

“And a big orange band-aid,” Giles said, “It was a status thing. Only the coolest people got to go in the back.”

“Yeah, well,” the girl shrugged, stared into her coffee.

“And then one day…” Giles prompted.

“And then one day when it was my turn to go back I had this sudden overwhelming urge to break a chair in pieces and ram the legs into Annie and Albert’s hearts. And now the club’s gone and none of my friends’ll speak to me and I have to hang out with twits who want to get up at the crack of dawn to run on the beach or hit each other with sticks, or ancient half-blind old people who make fun of me. And I have to kill disgusting monsters and snake things all day. My life sucks.”

“You see,” Giles said, “fraught, very fraught.

“I see,” Daniel said, keeping his tone carefully neutral. It was clear the girl enjoyed being teased by Giles, not so clear how she’d react if she sensed Daniel was mocking her.

Daniel listened as the repartee went on a little longer, saw and heard the girl’s raw need for attention, affection, watched as the elder Watcher deftly, calmly filled those needs, listening to her complaints without a hint of impatience, letting her tease him, gently teasing back … Daniel couldn’t say what it was exactly, some easing of the jaw, perhaps, or smoothing of her brow but he could see it in her face when she had what she needed… and then she was gulping down the rest of her coffee and bounding out, pretending to be suddenly bored with ‘ancient old people.’

Daniel felt the older man’s eyes on him again, looked up and saw that Giles was watching him with a slight smile.

“She’s a sweet girl, really,” Giles said. “Works hard. She needs a Watcher of her own. They all do, but some girls handle sharing better than others. We just don’t have enough qualified Watchers to go around yet. As a profession it requires an odd sort of skill set. One needs to be part scholar, part gladiator, part psychologist, part parent. It’s quite dangerous work as well, and the financial rewards are, shall we say, limited. But very rewarding in other ways, I assure you. Of course, I’m sure your current work is quite fulfilling…”

“I …. like to think I serve a purpose, yes,” Daniel answered.

He thought of the demon, green brow furrowed in concern, red eyes gentle with compassion,

“Your path divides, my friend, a turning point looms. Neither road will be easy, but one is, let me tell you, way cosmic with extra cosmic sauce. Made my back teeth hurt. Choose carefully, peach pie, choose very carefully.”

“Of course you do,” Giles said. “Still, if you ever feel like making a change…,” then, to forestall Daniel’s automatic no, added, “No, no need to say anything now. Just… food for thought, Dr. Jackson, just food for thought.”

“For Goddess sake, Sam, have mercy,” a female voice said just outside the dining room door. “Listen. There is a certain immutable order to the universe. First, coffee, second, seminar on metaphysics and the nature of magic.”

“You know,” a second, male voice said, “that’s not actually an immutable law, because time and space are active variables, quite often the order of the universe is, first, beer, and second, seminar on metaphysics and the nature of magic… that’s when the true breakthroughs are made …. ha, missed me…”

“Oh, go make muesli or whatever you … you … morning person, ” the first voice said bitterly.

The door opened then and Daniel saw a severely coiffed young woman in a linen suit he vaguely remembered being introduced to the night before enter and make a beeline for the coffee. Carter followed on her heels. Dressed in pressed and starched khaki slacks and matching blouse, she might have been back at the SGC. Daniel felt a twinge of guilt when he saw her face, the dark circles under her eyes … okay, so there was nothing new about that, back on the base Carter burned the midnight oil almost as often as Daniel did…. And rarely had the sense to sleep in afterwards as Daniel usually managed…

But this was more than simple sleep deprivation, there was something… haunted in her eyes. Daniel felt a double twinge. He had been so wrapped up in this whole new demon-filled history, and of course with Dawn, he’d not paid much attention to Sam lately. But of course Sam would be having the hardest time struggling with this new world. Jack just rolled with events, for Teal’c this was just more Tau’ri weirdness, but Sam…

Or, it suddenly struck him, maybe Sam hadn’t enjoyed the whole Jack teaches Buffy to tango thing as much as Faith had…. Daniel had decided long ago the wisest course was just to stay the hell out of whatever it was that was always going on between Jack and Sam but maybe the time had come to …something.

Daniel decided the first chance he got he’d take her aside, give her a chance to vent at least. As a good friend should have done long before this, he chastised himself….

He watched the two women fastidiously fill breakfast plates, pour coffee and take seats opposite one another, Sam next to Daniel, the other woman… George, he remembered, on Giles’ side of the table.

George, eyes closed, took a long, slow luxurious drink from her coffee, then said,

“Good morning, Dr. Jackson, Giles,” and was answered in kind.

Sam said, “So, why the carpet with the pentagram?”

George sighed, took another sip of her coffee, then answered. “There are two … fundamental components of teleporting. There is the transition, the, for lack of a better term, the actual travel … that part requires more power than skill. Secondly, there is the, again, for lack of a better term, the aim. The adept doing a ‘porting has to make a mental construct of the target… it’s much easier, for example to teleport to a familiar place than to a new one. You recall when we sent you the coolers with the food and the goa’uld?”

“Of course.”

“In that case because Xander was at the target and because Thiago knows Xander, he was able to key off him and ‘port the coolers and be pretty certain they wouldn’t end up in the wall. Still, that sort of thing still requires a fairly high level of skill and power. The pentagram carpet … opens a portal and acts as a sort of homing beacon. It’s makes the aiming part of ‘porting much easier. Which allows less skilled wiccas to do the sending… Which is handy when we’re having a gathering like this. And of course, useful in emergencies….”

“Then why not have it …..”

“Open all the time? Because any time you open a portal, you can never know for sure what is going to try to enter it. There’s not many things but would dare enter a portal opened with slayer’s blood, but that doesn’t mean you’d want to leave one unattended or open indefinitely. Feel free to jump in here any time, Giles.”

“You’re doing fine, George.”

“Okay,” Sam said. “I can sort of follow that. Sort of a … local version of wormholes. But what does the slayer’s blood have to do with it? How does…. lighting candles and chanting….”

“Sam, Sam,” the younger watcher held up her hands, “I keep trying to tell you, the ‘What?’ questions, I can answer some of them, I can give the where and the when, but the how and the why of magic… You need to talk to a truly skilled, experienced practitioner… Thiago, or Tia Laline or Will…” she paused.

“It’s okay, George,” Giles said, “we’re giving them the full briefing after breakfast.”

“Or Willow, for example.…. But I can tell you from bitter experience … you won’t get the same answer from any of them. If you want three opinions on magic ask two wiccas… Magic is not uniform. Some say it is a living entity, a being of energy that responds to spells and chants the way ants respond to certain smells and chemicals….. Others say the spells and rituals are simply a way of focusing the adept’s mental energies. Personally I think there is something to that, I’ve noticed the more powerful the wicca the less they rely on ritual … but none abandon it altogether. You’ll be told they’re both right, and both wrong. Some say there are… beings who grant favors and all magic is negotiation. I could go on. Trust me, Sam, it’s not simply another branch of physics…. “

“But there must be some consistency,” Sam insisted. “In your books there are detailed recipes that have been handed down for generations, there must be some reason to use eye of newt instead of …. say, pigeon….”

The door opened then and three more Watchers came in, including the injured slayer’s overseer, Raheem, his face bandaged and his arm in a sling, and for a time Sam had to wait impatiently as the conversation shifted to Aline’s recovery. But Sam pounced at the first lull and soon found herself in the middle of a four way argument centered on the magical properties of eyes in general, newts in particular, bird versus amphibian versus rodent …an argument which soon expanded in several directions as more Watchers entered, filled their plates and joined the fray.

After awhile Daniel pretended to drop his fork and bent down, glancing under the table to reassure himself that Sam had not brought her sidearm.

Giles, Daniel noticed with respect, had managed to disassociate himself from the debate and had peacefully returned to his paper.

Daniel smiled and let the arguing voices wash over him and indulged in a moment of pleasant nostalgia …. He remembered meals like this, full of laughter and debate, at his parent’s table when they had colleagues over, on digs when he was student….

Jack and Harris arrived together, laughing, their faces slightly flushed.

“It’s the pepper, isn’t it?” Jack following Harris to the sideboard.

“Nah,” Harris answered, “the pepper’s just to cover the taste of the active ingredient.”

“Taste of …. I don’t want to know, do I?”

“The pureed rat’s liver.”

“For cryin’ out loud, what part of I don’t want to know didn’t you understand?”

“It’s not rat liver,” someone said and the table debate shifted to the mysterious contents of Tia Laline’s hangover cure.

Dawn arrived and fixed herself a plate and sat beside him, then bounced up to grab the thermos and top up his coffee, her hand lingering on his back as she bent to pour, her scent, fresh and soapy from her shower but still her, sent a frisson down his back.

This was a special occasion, he reminded himself, not a typical day in a Watcher’s life. Still …. His cluttered office back in the dank bowels of a cold mountain had recently lost a lot of its appeal.

He caught up with Sam as she neared the library, he took her elbow and guided her out onto one of the little balconies over-looking the pool.

“Yes, Daniel?” she asked, looking up at him, eyebrows cocked.

“Just wanted check in, see how you were, before the big reveal. Just in case we suddenly get busy.”

“I’m fine, Daniel,” she lied, and Daniel felt yet another guilty twinge.

“I know I’ve been a bit distracted lately…”

“Oh, really? I hadn’t noticed,” Sam said dryly and Daniel smiled and pushed on.

“But I couldn’t help noticing your sudden … interest in magic. Did something happen last night?”

“No. Nothing I particular… I just… I guess I just came to point where I had to accept that I’d seen too many things that couldn’t be explained by some hidden machine. There’s power here, Daniel, some kind of underlying force that they manage to control….’ She trailed off.

He resisted the urge to reach out and caress her cheek, smooth the dark circles under her eyes… instead he spoke softly, said, “So you skipped out of the party and spent all night in the library.”

“Yeah,” she said, looking away, mumbled, “for all the good it did me.” Then added bitterly, “It’s all a big mass of contradictions and arguments and ninety percent of the primary sources are in languages I don’t understand… and then this morning….. at first I thought they were jerking me around…. And then… I don’t think they even know how they do it, how am I supposed…. “ she trailed off, took deep breath, calmed herself.

“Well, not in one night, Sam,” Daniel said, putting his hand on her shoulder, feeling the tension like an electric current in her muscles. “People have been studying the occult for thousands of years, you can’t expect the find the holy grail the first night you turn your mind to it. You might get a little more coherent help if you talked to them one on one. You could talk to Dawn, she knows a lot of the history, she might be able to give you some insights….”

“You really think she’ll share secrets with a fascist imperial warmonger like me?"

“I don’t think she’s ever suggested you’re a fascist, Sam,” Daniel said with a smile. Then added, “You might be surprised Sam, she’s not that anti-imperialist. In fact she believes the we, meaning America, had a chance to create an empire through economic power, a relatively benign hegemony … but that our corrupt and venal leadership wasted the window of opportunity, worse than wasted … it’s not that she dislikes America, Sam, it’s that she’s disappointed… You know the Great Man Theory of history, Dawn has what she calls the Venal Man Theory….“ he realized Sam was grinning at him and trailed off.

“So,” Sam said, “this ‘distraction’ of yours, it’s going well, then?"

Daniel turned and leaned on the railing, squinting in the sunlight. A couple of girls were swimming laps, a threesome lingered in the jacuzzi, laughing.

“It’s not just that, Sam. With all that’s happened, with goa’uld and black holes and replicators and whatever we’re going to find next time we go through the Gate, I’ve just been grateful that the Earth is still here when we get back. I haven’t felt the need to inspect it too closely. I mean, I buy Fair Trade coffee, but to be honest, I’m not exactly sure why. It’s good to be reminded that just because it hasn’t blown up doesn’t mean all’s well with the world….” He sighed, hung his head a moment, then looked over at Sam, smiling wryly, “But yeah, I think I’m well past the ‘distraction’ stage.”

He looked into the middle distance for moment, then pulled his attention back to the scene below. He watched Derevko, sitting over late breakfast things at one of the poolside tables, playing footsie like a schoolgirl with a rather stuffy looking older man who was trying to read a newspaper. “Giles offered me a job this morning,” Daniel said.

“What?” Sam said.

“Well, not in so many words, but that was gist.”


“And what?”

“Are you going to take it?”

“Take what?”

“This … job?”

“Oh. It’s tempting, Sam,” he said, “You have no idea how tempting. On the other hand this morning Jack offered to kill me and hide my body in a swamp, so you know, tough decision.”

“Maybe you should,” Sam said. “You look happy, Daniel, happier than you’ve been in a long time. I mean technically you’re a civilian, you’re free… and Lord knows you’ve earned a bit of happiness…. I think they’re ready in the library now,” she added and turned on her heel and strode away, leaving Daniel gaping.

Ah, crap, he thought. That wasn’t quite the conversation he’d meant to have. Oh well, he shrugged, he’d try again later. He followed after, wondering if Sam actually thought he had been considering leaving SG1 because he hadn’t really, beyond a bit of idle daydreaming. But … maybe she had a point. As he followed after her he heard laughter out by the pool.

“Oh for crying out loud,” Jack said.

They were in the library, SG1 and the Scoobies at the main table, with a few of the watchers and a couple of the older slayers finding seats in a rough semi-circle around them. They were silent, all reading through the short dossier Dawn had handed out to each participant.

“Oh for crying out loud,” Jack said.

Daniel looked over at Dawn, she met his eyes, shrugged apologetically. She’d told him that there were a lot of things she hadn’t told him, information that Giles and Harris wanted held back and her loyalty was to them first …. Of course. Still, this was a lot not to have told him.

On the other hand, if she had told him, he would have had to tell Jack… so it was just as well. Still, a little disconcerting. A reminder that beneath the mischievous co-ed exterior was an experienced player in a very high stakes game…

He flipped through the dossier again, shaking his head. All this time, they’d been here…..

“Oh for crying out loud,” Jack said again, tossed his copy on the table and glared around, trying to decide who to focus his anger on, Harris or Giles and finally settling on Harris.

“Hell of a long shot,” Jack said.

“The longest,” Harris said.

“You do understand the risk you’re taking, if that island is a disguised mothership in working condition ….”

“Well, we didn’t ‘til about a week ago,” Harris said, “but yeah, we get it now. Big planet-go-bye-bye ga-blooey. We understand.”

“Or if this Red Witch of yours is half as powerful as you say…..”

“She is, Jack.”

“Then you know we should take the whole place out. Right now. Yesterday. While we still can.”

“Yeah. Well. Sometimes we risk our lives to save the world. Sometimes we risk the world to save our lives. Now look me in the eye, Jack, and tell me, if it were, say Carter and Jackson alone on snake island, tell me you wouldn’t take the long shot if you had a chance to save them.”

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