Disclaimer - MGM/Gekko/Double Secret own them.
Spoilers for ‘Ascension’, ‘Between Two Fires’, ‘2001’, ‘Summit’ and ‘Last Stand’. A ‘Last Stand’ episode addition.
Faint murmurs came from the tree ten feet away where Carter and Jacob were talking.
They’d been doing that since they’d arrived here ninety minutes ago. After Jacob had assured them this was a safe distance from the poison in the open air. After Jacob had assured them that the poison was non-persistent and would disperse into safe base compounds within two hours.
They were waiting for three, just in case.
Of course, this wasn’t exactly his favourite hiding place. This planet – like *so* many others – seemed to consist mainly of forests. Trees. Green stuff. They had at least managed to find some higher ground so there was some chance of defending themselves if they came under attack. Teal’c had been in the same position for the last hour and a half, facing the direction they had come from, staff weapon raised.
He must have really good upper arm strength.
O’Neill, however, couldn’t seem to dwell on that subject for very long; instead his mind was drawn to the tree ten feet away and the people talking behind it.
Jerked unpleasantly out of his thoughts, Jack spun towards the younger man. “For crying out loud, Daniel! Why don’t you just *tell* the Jaffa where we’re hiding?”
The murmuring stopped.
Daniel frowned, no doubt surprised at the outburst. “If Elliot’s plan works, there won’t be any Jaffa left alive to find us.”
“If, if,” Jack reiterated. “There’s no point in taking chances, now is there? Just in case they’re *not* as stupid as we hope they are.” Well aware of the fact that he’d stepped over a line – and that two pairs of eyes previously concealed behind a tree *had* to be staring at him – he tugged at his cap. “What did you want?”
Leaning against a tree and under the leaves in a futile attempt to avoid the ever-present drizzle, Daniel shrugged “I was going to ask if you were okay, but I think you answered the question for me already.”
Dammit. Having had enough of the tugging, this time Jack yanked the cap off and sunk down onto a – like everything else – drizzle covered rock. Waving his cap around, he sighed. “What do you want me to say, Daniel? I don’t like it when my people die. Even if it is to try and save us.” He couldn’t even say goodbye to the guy. What could he say? “It was an honour serving with you?” They’d served together for all of two minutes before – once again – another young life was snuffed out.
Only just realising that the drizzle would now have gained a foothold in his previously untouched hair, he shoved the cap back on.
Daniel nodded, speaking softly. “I know.”
“He dies bravely, O’Neill,” Teal’c volunteered, still never moving from his position. “And he dies free.”
“That’s terrific, Teal’c. Really. I’m sure that’ll be of great comfort to him when he pushes that-”
He couldn’t mistake the warning tone in Daniel’s voice for anything else. On any other day, he probably would have ignored it. Today he shut up all together.
The silence remained for the next thirty minutes. Jack stubbornly refused to say anything. Daniel was apparently deep in thought, and Teal’c...never said much anyway. In fact, the only sound aside from the occasional patter of rain and Jack shifting as that rock took its inevitable toll on his butt, was the murmuring that had continued apace since they’d all shut up.
It was Jacob who broke the silence, emerging from the tree; looking a little upset, looking mostly concerned. “Hey,”
“Jacob,” Jack acknowledged, desperate to ask the question but not in such public surroundings.
“I, uh...” Daniel pointed towards the tree Jacob had just come from. “Think I’ll have a chat with Sam.”
Claiming indifference, Jack shrugged then watched as Daniel walked to that tree. He peered around the edge, greeted Carter, then moved to apparently sit next to her, out of Jack’s view.
Still wanting to ask the question but not wanting to appear to eager, Jack stood up and walked around a little, trying to revive his dying butt muscles.
Ow! Pins and needles...
Trying his best to look unconcerned at the answer, Jack stared in the general direction Teal’c was staring at, and tried to convince himself he was watching for the enemy – just as he should have been. “So, uh...how is she?”
Jacob took up Jack’s former position on the rock. “Why don’t you ask her yourself?”
“I’m sure she doesn’t want someone else asking her to share her innermost thoughts.” And offering useless platitudes. When Charlie had died, he’d been forced to endure too many of those “I’m so sorry,” and “If there’s anything I can do,” comments. They’d contributed as much as anything else to the day he ended up in Charlie’s bedroom with a gun in his hand.
Jacob, of course, knew none of this. “She’s...about as you’d expect.”
Well, that told him exactly squat. There were many things he expected from Carter and of course she never failed to deliver, but Jacob’s answer didn’t tell him what he needed to know.
Thankfully, Jacob kept talking.
“I haven’t seen her as often as I’d like lately. I didn’t know about the others.”
Ah, yes. The Others. Wasn’t that a movie?
A strange but not unexpected feeling grew in the pit of his stomach. “Yeah, it has been a crappy year for her.” Licking his lips, still staring into the forest, Jack spoke again. “You know, when we go back to the gate...it’s not gonna be pretty.”
“I know.” A pause. “So does she.”
Jack hadn’t needed the confirmation. Not really. But it was good to hear it just the same. And he couldn’t begrudge her the time she was taking now. Yes, they were on a mission but these were more than extraordinary circumstances, even for them. It wasn’t like they had anything to do but wait, anyway.
Wondering what Jacob had to say this time, Jack approached their next conversation with some sense of unease. “Yeah?”
“Can you do me a favour?”
“Don’t get yourself killed anytime soon, okay?”
Weird question. “Wasn’t planning on it.”
“I’m serious. Don’t get yourself killed. For my daughter’s sake.”
What the hell could he possibly say to that? “Yeah. Sure.” Time for small talk. “It’s a shame we can’t take one of those alkesh’s with us; unfortunately we couldn’t even squeeze one half of one through the gate.” He could imagine the joy Carter would find in taking one of those things apart. No doubt her hair would be mussed, her face streaked with grease or the Goa’uld equivalent.
“The Goa’uld will probably come looking to recover them anyway, even if their troops have been wiped out. It’s technology worth keeping, rather than going to the trouble of building new ones.”
“What about the planet?” He finally looked at the ‘General’.
Jacob shrugged. “There’s no tactical reason to take control of it; that’s one of the reasons it was chosen as a Tok’ra base, and now the Tok’ra have gone, I don’t see why they should bother staying here after they recover their ships...assuming they do, of course.”
The reference to the Tokra reminded Jack of something; something that even he realised should be more important than Carter losing someone she cared about. “Are you all right?” He continued after Jacob lifted his eyebrows, asking the silent question. “About the Tokra thing. I mean...most of them are gone.”
Immediately Jacob closed his eyes and lowered his head. When he lifted his head back up, his eyes opened and promptly glowed.
He spoke with the distinctive voice of Selmak. “We are greatly saddened by the loss of our friends and fellow Tokra. However, the Tokra will continue to survive despite this incident. This is also not the first time either of us has experienced loss. We will grieve, but we will continue the work.”
Selmak relinquished control then, leaving Jacob to continue. “To be honest, I am a little surprised that an attack hasn’t been this successful before.”
Jack frowned. “Why?”
“Just the sheer length of time the Tokra have been fighting the Goa’uld. Two *thousand years*. I guess we were due.”
Leaving that depressingly fatalistic view behind, they spent the rest of the hour talking about subjects of little importance: hockey scores. Jack, of course, insisted it was a worthy subject to discuss.
Sometime after they’d lapsed into one of many depressed silenced, Daniel finally returned to the group looking suspiciously red-eyed.
Jack spent most of the next five minutes studying him dubiously, before Teal’c spoke:
“O’Neill, the time has elapsed.”
Checking his watch Jack saw that his friend was right. “Okay kids. And dad. Let’s head back home.” He could barely find the energy to murmur the words. He did, however, take a moment to study the small group in front of him: Jacob, Daniel and Teal’c. One was a Jaffa, one was in some kind of Japanese Kimono, and the last was dressed like some poorly designed love slave. All were in the middle of a forest, getting rapidly damper with each passing second.
“Only in my life,” He muttered, then turned to find Carter.
She hadn’t moved, and was presumably still behind the tree.
“Carter,” He called, finally walking the ten feet to the tree. “We’re heading out.”
His stomp through the mud ended as he reached the tree and looked around it.
She was on the ground, leaning against the trunk, holding the Tokra data crystal in her hand.
“Hey,” He greeted.
Her head jerked towards him, surprised. It was quite clear that she hadn’t been crying; or if she had she was miraculously good at hiding it. “Sir,”
The foul mood that had persisted for most of the last few hours evaporated. He spoke quietly. “While you were off in wonderland, I was just saying that we’re heading out. It’s time.”
“Oh.” She repeated that several times before staring at nothing for a few seconds. After placing the data crystal in a pocket, Carter rested the palm of her right hand against the tree to help push her body up. However, her feet couldn’t seem to find purchase in the mud, so Jack held out his hand.
Carter paused for a moment before taking the offered hand and pushing herself up.
He wasn’t quite sure how it happened – either he pulled too hard or she pushed too much – but she travelled further than she was supposed to, thudding against him.
And just for a second – just for a second – he held her.
Then he moved away, then she moved away, and they went to join the others, leaving the mud and the tree behind.
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