They get the radio call in the middle of the night. Their accommodation, a large tent where they spread out in circle, only seconds before had been filled with the comforting and familiar sounds of Cam, Teal’c and Vala’s snores. Then, just as Sam turns over to lie on her stomach and Daniel sniffs in his sleep, Mitchell’s radio goes off.
In a split second Cam is up in his sleeping bag, Teal’c and Sam following him, with Vala and Daniel blinking awake just in time to witness Mitchell shouting into his radio for Walter. The static is deafening – everything, every sound of that slow white noise, and like a hammer pounding nail to their ears – and then Walter’s voice comes in, clean, sharp, like a knife cutting through them all. His voice punctuated by the static and the yells (the chaos) in the background, but even with all the background noise they can’t miss the undertone in his words. Death. Resignation. And an ending.
There's been an attack… Earth… the Alpha Site… enact…protocol DS - Delta-X5.
And he cuts out. Those are Walter’s last words to SG-1, a strung up sentence of doom.
Mitchell and Sam freeze, eyes snapping to each other, knowing what comes after that protocol is activated. Next to them Teal’c’s back straightens, a silent foreboding overcoming his stance and not even Daniel is able to get the words out, so it’s Vala that asks the question none of them want to even consider.
“Does that mean…” she can’t even finish the sentence, because while she might not know all the military protocol and codes, she knows enough. She knows this team which has grown into her family, and she can read what’s in their eyes too easily.
Still, Daniel answers, seeing the affirmative in Sam’s eyes, “They’re blowing the Gate.”
Vala’s eyes widen at the confirmation and as soon as the words leave Daniel everything starts moving too fast.
Cameron is yelling through the radio, trying in vain (— no, please not in vain) to get more information about why, to get through to Stargate Command to know it’s still there, to get through to Walter to make sure he’s still in the control room, to make sure there’s a control room to get through to. His answer is more static and they move faster. Whenever Cameron’s not trying to get through, Sam is, and when Sam isn’t, they all are. They’re all moving too fast, grabbing everything they can in their haste, and then they’re letting Daniel give a rushed explanation to their host as they make their run for the Gate.
Five minutes too long later, they make it and pause. They all look at Daniel as he automatically begins dialling and it’s as if the switch has been flipped because suddenly every second takes too long. Next to Daniel, Vala is staring at the gate as if her eyes on it will speed up the process.
As he presses the final symbol on the DHD the team all give one last to each other before resting their eyes towards the gate.
It doesn’t establish a connection.
And the breath they all hold gets stuck in their throats.
For the next ten minutes they stand there, Daniel pressing each symbol needed to dial Earth with increasing desperation and resignation each time he finishes a sequence and the gate still doesn’t dial. Sam double checks everything, the DHD, the Stargate, the DHD again, but they all know nothing is malfunctioning. Sam still doubles checks it all, and Daniel keeps dialling. None of them want to admit what has happened (please no, it has to be a malfunction on Earth’s end). What they know is not waiting for them on the other side and as gate stutters out again Cameron lays his hand on Daniel’s shoulder.
“Dial the Alpha Site.” His voice is unrecognisable, raw at the edges and none of them can tell if it’s an order or a request.
Daniel’s eyes are unfocused and when he looks at Cameron for a second he doesn’t seem to capture Cam’s words. Vala starts to step forward when the meaning behind the words clicks together in Daniel’s mind and she stays where she is. He nods and turns to dial only to find that Teal’c is already there, saving him the job. Vala slides up to his side then, touching his elbow as he stares at each symbol Teal’c is pressing.
Daniel and Teal’c's eyes meet over the last symbol, and Daniel sends a silent thank you and apology to the other man. Teal’c doesn’t nod or smile, but Vala can see Teal'c gets what Daniel can’t say and presses the last symbol to dial the Alpha Site. (Thank you, Muscles.)
This time the gate does connect, but instead of feeling relief, all they can feel is dread, because this only means that there was no gate to dial to anymore on Earth. Cameron takes the first step forward to the event horizon and the rest of them follow. All of them know that no matter what they find — answers, questions — none of it will be good.
Stepping out they see a massacre. And for a second Cam thinks they must have dialled the wrong gate.
It’s not the Alpha Site. It can’t be. There’s nothing but death in this place. The burn marks of weapon’s fire and staff weapons are littering the ground like pock marks on a weathered face and there’s a lingering smell of copper in the air that they all recognise as blood, so there’s no need to ask about it.
They take the first step together, a unit, and then fan out looking for clues, survivors, hope, answers. Anything. Anything to explain what has happened here and what they’re now fearing more and more might have happened on Earth.
It’s more than obvious as they start recognising more and more of the fallen bodies that nobody made it through whatever happened here. Then Sam calls him over. Cam rushes past the maze of blood and people he knows - Teal’c is covering what looks one of the Marines from SG-4; Simmons, the one with the three year old — and he makes his way to Sam, focusing on what he can fix and not on everything else.
It doesn’t help when he realises that Sam wasn’t calling him to show him something, but someone.
Reynolds is on the ground on his side, a nasty staff blast at his side (remembers: Sam, the village, her password, fishing) and Cam falls to his knees to quick, pain filtering quickly up his thighs, and then almost chokes on his tongue, because Reynolds is alive and dying at the same time.
He can hear Teal’c, Jackson, and Vala rush over. He can hear Sam talking to Reynolds and trying to dress his wound at the same time. When she tells him to press his hands down on the gauze, Cam does. Reynolds blinks up as Sam injects a morphine shot — a mercy shot — and Cam stares into the man’s eyes, feeling like a new recruit in the Academy in the face of what he sees in Reynolds' eyes.
Sam is trying to save the man, Teal’c has knelt next to them to help, but Cam can’t look away from Reynolds' face. There is no comfort to be had. They all know how this going to end. But they need to know how this started.
“What happened here, Colonel?” Cam hates his voice, the command, the order, but it’s what Reynolds will respond to if he’s in shock.
“The Prior and the ships came out of nowhere. No warning. We were here. The mountain, they…” Reynolds’ eyes slip shut, heart slowing, stopping, and Cam looks over the man’s body to Sam. Her eyes are watery, but she only blinks, pulls the EP pen out and stabs the man with it (Cam can hear Jackson begin a protest too late). Reynolds’ eyes snap open, his body bending and both he and Sam try to keep him still.
“What happened at the mountain, Al?” Sam asks, moving over to look at the dying man’s face.
“They tried to warn… to send teams… too late… it was over… the gate… gone.” This time when Reynolds’ eyes close, nobody does anything but try and make the man comfortable. They wait for the next fifteen minutes until his heart finally stops.
“It had to be the Earth gate that Reynolds was talking about,” Daniel says as they finish burying the bodies, the sun setting over the Alpha Site’s gate. (In Judaism it is traditional to bury the dead before sunset the day after the death. In Egypt they would mummify the corpses and bury them with prized possessions, the Vikings would later follow the tradition of burying their dead with their possessions and burn the bodies on boats or stones would be placed around the bodies in the shape of boats.) Mitchell had said a few words, recited the Our Father, Teal’c had said a Jaffa prayer, and he, Sam and Vala had said nothing, but Sam crossed herself when Mitchell was done and Vala touched her chest when Teal’c was. He had said nothing.
Sam sits next to him, nodding, “Not exactly good news.”
Daniel sighs, “Yeah.”
On his other side Vala hands her water to Teal’c, “What are we going to do now?”
Mitchell and Sam look at each other and at once Sam stands up, “No, Cam.”
“We need to find out what happen, Sam!”
“It’s a risk.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t want know what happened? Everything-”
“Our orders are clear on this.” Sam argues back and not for once Daniel can see what people meant about how he and Jack were, mean about how he and Vala are. Still, it doesn’t mean he has to like it.
“What orders?” He asks, glancing over at Teal’c and Vala. Teal’c, he suspects, already knows, but doesn’t let anything show. Vala on the other hand shrugs, letting him know he’s not alone in the confusion.
Sam turns back to him, sighing, eyes sliding over to Mitchell, “It’s a contingency plan if the gate is destroyed and the Alpha Site too. Allies we go to. But with all that’s been going on lately those are few and far between nowadays, so ever since Atlantis became more easily accessible, the plan's been changed to head to the Pegasus Galaxy.” She sits back down, the tension in her shoulders seeming to weigh down all her body. Looking back up at Mitchell, she repeats, “They were our orders, Cam.”
Across from them, Mitchell curses, but Daniel saw the reaction to orders and he knows that like Sam, Mitchell will carry out his duty. He may not like it. Daniel’s not sure he even likes it, running to Atlantis, but it’s the only plan they've got. The only one that might work.
Teal’c then breaks the silence that has fallen on them. “And how will we be reaching the Pegasus Galaxy?”
Sam’s head snaps to Teal’c and the fact that she hasn’t even thought about that lets Daniel knows just how in shock she still is. Thankfully Vala reaches over and pats Sam’s knee with a small, comforting smile.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of the transportation.” She stands, looking over the grave site the Alpha Site has become and smudges some dirt off her cheek. “But we should leave now.”
They reach the planet by Stargate easily enough, and Vala guides them down the dirty streets that lead them to an old tavern where she motions for them to wait outside, announcing she’s only taking Teal’c inside while waving towards their BDUs. SG teams already have quite the reputation around the galaxy, a reputation made mostly by this team, and it would be best if they didn’t get into any trouble right now.
“Vala, you sure about this?” Daniel asks, looking over the bar and not feeling all that confident with what he’s seeing of the surroundings.
“I’m sure it will be fine, Daniel.” Sam wrinkles her nose at the man stumbling out and throwing up not two feet away from them, but nods at Vala’s words.
Vala taps Daniel’s cheek gently, smiling over to Sam. “See? It will be fine. Plus, I’m taking Muscles as insurance, aren’t I?”
Teal’c inclines his heads, holstering his guns and handing his extra clips to Cameron. “Indeed you are, Vala Mal Doran.”
“See,” Vala turns to Teal’c, tugging her pigtails out, and ripping some cleavage into her vest top and slipping her handgun by the small of her back. “I’ll be perfectly fine. Just going to get us some naquadah to trade, clothes, a room and hopefully a ship.”
Cameron looks more convinced than Daniel, but it’s obvious he doesn’t want to be kept outside. “Are you sure about this?”
Vala shrugs, “If anything, I can guarantee the room and clothes. The rest we can get later.”
Daniel meets her eyes, eyebrow raising, “And does that mean steal?”
Vala shoves her tactical vest and jacket into his arms, “Yes.” Nodding to Teal’c, she moves towards the tavern’s entrance, Teal’c at her side.
“Frye, love, missed me?” Vala grins, confident and happy. (Never let them see you sweat, Vala. Okay, Dad. And smile, you have a great smile and it can work to your advantage if you work it right. Yes, Dad.)
“Well, if it isn’t Vala Mal Doran?” The gun pointed at her doesn’t phase her, partly because this is Frye’s normal reaction to her and partly because Muscles has one pointed at Frye. The man, and owner of the tavern, looks between Vala and Teal’c, smirking, “Finally got yourself somebody to look out for that skinny ass?” Frye drops his gun, slipping it back to home under the bar.
“And I've got three more out front,” Vala smiles, “Now, about my old room and things?”
Outside, Sam keeps looking back towards the tavern’s door, waiting for Vala and Teal’c to come out. She’s trying to focus on the plan right now. Get to Atlantis. Find answers. Every other thought is dangerous and could very well get them all killed, but she knows she’s not the only one thinking it.
When she argued Cam’s idea to head back to Earth, she meant her words. It was too dangerous right now. They didn’t know enough and the plan should Earth ever have the need to blow the gate was always head to Atlantis, if Atlantis is standing. And the city is. If it wasn’t it’d be a different story, but Atlantis is there, waiting for them like a beacon of shining hope they’re counting on. But the journey to the Pegasus Galaxy is no short trip and they have no ship, something that they might be fixing if Vala’s contacts pan out. Sam already knows that she’ll have to work on whatever engine they’ll get, she trusts Vala’s word that the woman can get them a space worthy ship, but a space worthy ship that can make the trip to the Pegasus Galaxy - a trip that normally takes four weeks on a X-303 - well, that’s another story.
Thinking about how to change the hyperdrive on an Al’kesh, a Ha’tak, or even hook one up to a cargo ship, Sam barely registers Vala and Teal’c walking out. Cam nudges hers and she blinks, falling into step with him and Daniel as they make their way to Vala.
“How’d it go?” Daniel asks when they’re close enough.
“We have a room for tonight and there should be some clothes there. We’ll get the ship tomorrow.”
“Do you know what kinda of ship it will be?” Sam asks.
“We'll be picking between a Al’kesh or Ha’tak — cargo ships are rather small for such a trip, right?” Vala leads them to the building behind the tavern and shows them where they’ll be staying.
“I, too, would not recommend such close quarters for such a lengthy period of time.” Teal’c says, checking the alley way as they head inside the room.
“Agreed.” Daniel nods, stepping inside the door that Vala just opened.
As soon as the door closes and it’s only the five of them in the medium size room Vala got them, Cam turns to Vala. “So, exactly where are we getting this ship from?”
“From our favourite friends, Cameron. The Lucian Alliance,” Vala drops to the one bed in the room, a grim smirk twisting her lips, “Well, what’s left of them.”
While Cam curses the news, Sam drops onto the bed next to Vala, pulling out her data pad, working on the plans for what she’ll need to fix the hyperdrives.
The next morning they wake up from not having really slept. Teal’c watches as Samantha Carter blinks at the rising sun from the table she had been working at. She had moved there at some point before midnight, letting Daniel Jackson take her place on the bed.
On the floor at the foot of the bed, Cameron Mitchell sits up rolling his neck and Teal’c can hear the crack. The man, like of the rest of them, hasn’t really slept. They spent the night sitting and occasionally closing their eyes at odd intervals, listening to one another’s sounds.
(Vala Mal Doran snores, Daniel Jackson mumbles words in Arabic, Cameron Mitchell doesn’t move, but every once in a while his body tenses like it’s expecting to be hit, and Samantha Carter blinks her eyes, never really having fallen asleep.)
After Samantha Carter left the bed for the small desk in the room, the sounds of her working, her fingers hitting the data pad's keys mingled with their quiet conversation about planning what has to be done today. Around 0200 they all knew what the plan was to be, and what the back-up plan was to be too and then a slight hush fell over the room again.
Teal’c watched as his friends caught snatches of sleep. Cameron Mitchell leaning against the foot of the bed and closing his eyes, hand on his side arm the whole night; above him, Vala Mal Doran had rested herself with her head closest to him and facing where Samantha Carter was sitting, offering someone to talk to and some help, respectively. She lasted about an hour longer that Cameron Mitchell, curling herself around a pillow close to Daniel Jackson’s thigh. Daniel Jackson stayed quite for the most part. Teal’c could see him contemplating everything that had happened, their eyes meeting on several occasion, the same names passing through their eyes. He had offered the bed to Samantha Carter around the same time Vala Mal Doran’s eyes closed, but Samantha Carter denied the offer with a wave, continuing her work. Like their blonde friend Daniel Jackson only slipped into sleep only a couple hours ago, sliding down from his sitting position the bed and letting his hand drift into Vala Mal Doran’s dark curls.
Teal’c himself needed the last hour of rest he acquired by kelnoreeming and now stands watching the sun rise over this city.
He looks over to his team (family, Ry’ac, Bra’tac, but first this) and announces the morning. Vala Mal Doran climbs over Daniel Jackson and nods, heading towards the toilet, grabbing one of the bags from the night before.
By the time she comes out, she’s dressed in leather pants and her same ripped vest top.
“Suit up, people.” She grins, “We have a ship to steal.”
Samantha Carter wonders if all the pants are that tight as Daniel Jackson mumbles something about coffee.
Teal’c savours this brief moment of normalcy, because as soon as they leave this room, everything changes back. Not that it has changed at all.
“Sam!” Daniel calls out as he fires at the Lucian Alliance guard shooting at them.
“I've almost got the override sequence for the docking bay,” she answers back from her position just inside the control room where her fingers are quickly moving across the keys on data pad that will give them the ship they’re, as Vala would say, commandeering. Teal’c’s already by the entrance, ready to go in while Daniel is busy making sure Sam can finish the overriding the commands that the Lucian Alliance have put on the ship and silently cursing Vala for this little plan. They really have to have a talk about her version of “in and out” and “easy”.
“Daniel, I got it!” Sam rushes up to him, tucking her data pad into her flak vest and pulls her radio out to inform Teal’c of the news.
“Teal’c, we’re ready to leave.”
“Copy that, Colonel Carter.” Daniel hears over Sam’s radio.
Sighing, Daniel looks out the room to see if it was clear. “Okay, now we just have to get out of here.”
About five Lucian guards are heading their way.
“How many?” Sam asks when he turns back to her.
“Vala has an interesting definition of 'easy'.” She checks her mag on her P-90 before moving to the other side of the door, getting ready to cover him.
“Vala has an interesting definition of everything.” Daniel nods to Sam and they move out.
Rushing down the facility’s halls, Vala makes the mental note that if this whole plan to Make It To Atlantis doesn’t work, the team has the makings a proper thieving crew. As she reaches the flight deck of the Al’kesh, she calls Daniel on the radio and less than a second later she can feel Samantha lifting the ship off the ground, the docking door closing behind her.
Daniel should be up with Teal’c and Samantha now. Cameron is rushing through the ship next to her, holding his own P-90 and Lucian gun still at his side. As far as she knows nobody is injured and the ship is mostly in one piece.
The Lucian shipyard, a former Goa’uld ship-building and naquadah refining facility, had been embarrassingly easy to break into. Even with all the bounties on her, Cameron and the others still standing despite Ventrell's takeover, they can’t be too careful - especially since from the looks of things their list of allies is diminishing.
Getting the ship had been easy enough and Samantha had done a superb job with getting it under their control. But getting the ship hadn’t been what had worried Vala at all. What truly worries Vala, as she and Cameron hear Samantha announce she was engaging the hyperdrive and getting out of this sector of space, is what’s to come now. She knows how long a trip to Atlantis takes and that’s a long time to live with questions.
“Hey, Princess, you okay?” Cameron nudges her as they reach the Al’kesh’s bridge.
She smiles, “Of course, now this is when the fun starts.”
Cameron gives her look, and she wonders if he’s aware how hard this is going get, but only says, “We have a world to save.”
“Yeah,” Vala follows him in, watching as he heads over to Samantha to probably talk about what will be their next step. Teal’c is sitting in the pilot’s seat, facing forward, but aware of all of them. She walks up to Daniel and presses her upper arm against his.
He looks over to her and then glances to where Samantha is filling Cameron in on the ship’s location in comparison to the Pegasus Galaxy. Samantha probably filled Daniel and Teal’c in already as they were taking off and Vala doesn’t mind not knowing at the moment. She and Samantha will talk later — it’s not that big of a ship and from what she remembers the trip isn’t exactly short.
Daniel speaks, breaking her musings, “We have a long trip.” He pauses looking at her, but Vala gets the feeling he wants to say something else so she doesn’t speak. She’s right.
“Is this how it felt? Moving without a place to land? Without a destination?”
Vala has to swallow the knot that grows in her throat before she answers. “We have a destination, Daniel.”
He only looks back towards the windows that show nothing but hyperspace.
Had they been taking bets like they used to do back in the— back hom— before, Cam would have never thought that the first fight of the trip was going to between him and Sam. They had all been betting it would be Jackson and Vala.
He hadn’t mean to start it, he wants to clear that up right away when Jackson and Vala confront him about it later, he had just meant to suggest they have a ship. They have a ship now, and what would it take for them to check out the situation on Earth? The situation they haven’t heard anything about, but Vala keeps getting cryptic information from certain “associates”. She reassures them they can’t trust the word of these people right before she contacts them, but they’re all singing the same tune. Or near enough the same tune, and it’s making Cam all sorts of antsy. So he proposes the idea for a detour to Earth to take a look at the situation. Sam looks at him with those baby blues and he can see the fight that’s happening in them. She wants to go and look, but they have their orders. Walter’s words are etched in their brains.
DS - Alpha-Delta-X5. DS - Alpha-Delta-X5. DS - Alpha-Delta-X5.
Self Destruct. Self Destruct. Self Destruct.
And Cam can’t think of anything else. There’s the slight possibility that they didn’t go through with it, but they dialled the Gate and it didn’t connect and when they dropped out of hyperspace to get some supplies, they tried again and nothing happened. Again. So when he goes into the Al’kesh’s engine room where Sam has cloistered herself in, making sure the engine is running at capacity and sucking out every ounce of energy and power from them that she can, he really didn’t mean to start the fight. But it happens anyway.
“Hey Sam, look, did Vala tell you what her buddies told us?” He slides into one of the stools she has set up in the room.
“Yeah, she mentioned it.” She pulls her head out one of the crystals trays and licks her lips, resting against the bulkhead for a second. “It doesn’t sound good.”
“Yeah… it doesn’t,” he nods and watches as she fiddles with her lucky screwdriver, the one she always keeps in one her pockets. The words slip out. “We should check it out, you know?” The second they come out he regrets them. He knows that Sam wants to know what’s going on as bad as he does, but she has— they have orders and he knows how much it’s absolutely killing her to keep to them.
They don’t ever talk about it in the group, but it’s there, the unspoken rule that he and Sam are decision makers. The final vote, at least on most things, lies between the two of them. It’s not out of entitlement, it’s out of rank and the fact that they’re a military team. An exploratory military team, sure, but lately the latter part of that description seems to be taking precedent. They don’t always like it. And what it entails at times. (Jackson sure doesn't, but the man doesn’t seem to argue the fact anymore. At least from what he’s heard of the early days of SG-1. Teal’c doesn’t like it either, but he’s been a warrior for longer than Cam’s been alive and understands it. Vala. Well, Vala, he isn’t always sure about, but he can tell that as natural as a gun looks in her hands, she rather have a lock pick.)
But they have their duty to do. And that's more than a job. They know what’s at risk if they don’t do it right.
“Cam. Don’t.” Sam doesn’t move to face him again, but he notices that her fingers have stopped and are now hovering over the crystals.
“We have the opportunity, Sam.” He tries.
“Just because we have the opportunity doesn’t mean we should take it. We have orders and we have to be smart about it. The Al’kesh wasn’t built for a five week journey to another galaxy. I’ve checked the engine and just as long as we drop out of hyperspace for some supplies we’ll make it.” Sam is confident, but Cam knows; knows Sam well enough, that he’s aware that half of that confidence is denial and pure will. He’s proud of her because of that. Really, he is.
“And the radio bursts we’ve been sending?”
“No answers, Cam. We don’t know what to expect, we could be flying into a trap, into a situation we’re not remotely ready for.”
“The ship has weapons, Sam.”
“Not strong enough. And if there’s more than one ship? We’d be sitting ducks.”
“Vala had a friend with a cargo ship that had this pulse thing.”
“I know, but do you know how long it would take me to rig one for this ship? And to get this ship battle ready? It would take longer than it would take us to get to Pegasus, Cam.” She sighs, “I hate that we don’t know. I hate that everything we’ve heard is cryptic bullshit. All I know for sure is that the plan was to get to Atlantis and that’s what we’re going to.”
“And if Atlantis is gone?” Cam hates the words as they come out, but he hates the look he’s placed on Sam’s face more. Immediately he tries to backtrack, “Sam, baby… I didn’t mean…”
“Don’t, Cameron. Just leave.” She looks heartbroken and her eyes are getting wetter by the second.
He does. At the door he hears Sam’s voice, cracking and raw, “It can’t—won't be gone.”
“Okay.” He leaves the room feeling like a complete ass, because he doesn’t want Atlantis to be gone either, he just can’t stand doing nothing.
They haven't spoken for days and meal times are tense. Tonight Sam drops away back to the engine room; Vala moves Sam’s half-eaten rations to her plate and follows her out.
An Al’kesh engine room is warmer than the ones on the X-303s Sam would love it if it wasn’t for the fact that she hates it so damn much. She looks at the warm browns and golds and feels an anger she can't place on them. So she punches a wall.
She hears Vala’s gasp and realises only now that Vala has followed her. She turns to Vala, feeling her cheeks turn red in embarrassment and shame at her actions, mumbling meaningless word that are supposed to reassure, but Vala in true fashion ignores her and gently grabs the hand she had punched the wall with. Sam tries to say something, to pull away from the other woman, but Vala has a pretty strong grip on her hand as she examines it gently. Sam feels Vala’s thin fingers move over her hand, checking for broken bones and bruises. And it’s when Vala's thumb brushes over her middle knuckle that Sam realises that it’s the first time any one of them has touched the other in comfort. It’s been denial and belief until now, but she’s too tired to hold on to either. The choked breath that escapes her makes Vala stop.
“Samantha?” She’s worried, Sam notes, quickly followed by the fact Vala normally hides her worry well.
“What if we don’t make it, Vala? The ship—”
“We will make it, Sam.” Vala smiles, Sam’s aware of how much of it is purely for her but just lets her friend comfort her with well meant lies (and maybe truth). “And I’m here to help you get anything you need. Anything this ship needs to make it to Atlantis and we don’t have, just let me know and I’ll get for you.”
“You shouldn’t steal, Vala.” Sam has to grin, because only a promise of theft from Vala can be a good thing.
“Who said anything about stealing? I’m merely borrowing.”
“With the intention to return?”
“That’s another story. Come on, let’s get that hand taken care of.” Vala wraps her arm around Sam’s shoulders and leads out of the engine room. That night Sam doesn’t make it back to the engine room, Vala’s version of taking care of things involved an alcoholic drink she took from the last world they picked up supplies from.
Sam wakes up hours later with a headache, but a smile.
Daniel sits in the Al’kesh bridge with Teal’c, neither speaking, both just sitting in silent contemplation and watching as the stream of subspace passed them by. He barely registers when Vala enters the room and moves towards Teal’c, resting one soft hand on the man’s large shoulder. Teal’c only looks up and nods before moving from his position and leaving the room. Daniel still doesn’t move at all. He can hear as Vala sits where Teal’c had just been and out of the corner of his eyes watches as she shifts in her seat.
“Sam and Mitchell?”
Vala doesn’t turn towards him. “Still not speaking. I suspect Cameron will apologise soon, though.”
“Had a talk with him?”
She still doesn’t turn to him, but he can see her smile, “No, it’s Muscles' turn.”
He chuckles, the sounds feeling wrong in his mouth so he doesn’t say anything else. Vala doesn’t prompt him.
It takes about ten more minutes (not that he’s counting) for her to speak. “I thought it’d be us, didn’t you?”
“Us?” He moves in his seat to face her, noticing how she still hasn’t faced him, watching the blue out of the windows.
“Fighting. I thought it would be us, but we haven’t had one fight. We’ve barely spoken, really spoken, I mean.” There's a twitch at the corner of her lips, but he can't tell if it's meant to grow into a frown or a smile.
Daniel sighs. It’s true that ever since they’ve acquired the ship he and Vala haven’t really talked to each other. Small conversations, but they haven’t shared the same space for longer than the thirty minutes that they have for dinner with the team in, usually at 2100, if they all manage to make it. (Late dinners became more and more common in the 1700s, due to new developments in culture and technology. Before the 1800s the main meal of the day was dinner. In the Middle Ages, great nobles ate the most formal dinner, around noon or one pm. Their dinner was more than a meal; it was an ostentatious display, a statement of wealth and power, with dozens of servants attending in a ritualised performance. Most nobles and lords ate supper between four and six pm. Now, dinner is eaten any time from noon to midnight, and most people never have a supper anymore. Meals are as fluid and changeable as the rest of our lives. Some times there is no fluidity at all.)
“I wasn’t looking for an apology, Daniel.”
“I know. I’m still sorry. It wasn’t about you. I guess… I guess, I just don’t—”
“Daniel,” she interrupts and now only turns to face him, “it’s not supposed to get easier.” For a second their eyes meet and Daniel experiences one of those rare moments where Vala is trying to show him sometimes, where she’s letting herself open up to him more than she’s comfortable with. He thinks he gets it, some days more than others he thinks he gets it. “I got you something when me, Muscles, and Cameron when down to get supplies. I left it in my room.” And like that the moment is gone, but he feels it today, that he got it. Maybe.
“Oh?” He says, because there’s nothing else that’s safe.
“A text, in a minor Goa’uld dialect. Thought you might want something to keep you busy.”
Daniel blinks, surprised that she thought that he might get bored waiting on ship for Atlantis’ horizon, but he smiles. It's not like he brought anything but the clothes on his back with him. “Thank you.” He waits a beat. “Did you steal it?”
Vala laughs and it warms him in the pit of his stomach, “Well, I couldn’t very well waste our naquadah on frivolous things, now could I?”
“You shouldn’t have.” He sighs.
“Daniel, lets not fight.”
“I was just saying, you shouldn’t have risked yourself.”
“I wanted to.” She leans her head on the chair and smiles at him, “It was nothing.” He mimics the gestures and they sit once again in silence.
Teal’c finds Colonel Mitchell on the gilder fight deck where the man’s been hiding ever since his and Colonel Carter’s fight. Its empty, the wide room filled with the ghosts of the Jaffa that have been sent to die from here and Cameron Mitchell’s own that have attached themselves to the man ever since that crisp morning. Teal’c can easily see the tension straining around the edges of Colonel Mitchell’s shoulder, a heavy weight he cannot seem to let anyone carry for him. Teal’c recognises it. He had seen it for many years on O’Neill in many moments, but O’Neill had let it settle on him and then carried it like an armour, a weapon. Colonel Mitchell keeps batting it away unaware of what it really is. The burden of command is still new to the young man, and the weight it lends sometimes too heavy.
“Colonel Mitchell,” he walks towards the man, nodding when Colonel Mitchell turns to him in surprise.
“Teal’c! Is it my turn on the bridge?” He stops the pacing that he was doing, but rocks back on forth on his feet for a second. Teal’c hides a smile.
“It is not, Colonel Mitchell. I have come to find you to see if you are well.”
Colonel Mitchell shakes his head, “Oh. Yeah, I’m fine. I’m—” he sighs, “Sam’s still pissed at me, isn’t she?”
Teal’c only inclines his head a fraction on an inch, “Colonel Carter will be fine. She understands what you are feeling.”
“She does, Colonel Mitchell. We all do.”
The other man paces for a few seconds in front of Teal’c then deflates and leans against the closest wall, running his hand over his face and hair. Teal’c is aware he is watching Cameron Mitchell trying to hold it together. And the man is holding on by an inch. Crossing the small distance between them, Teal’c goes to lay a hand over Cam’s shoulder.
Cameron Mitchell takes his hands from where they are covering his face and for a second, from the look Teal’c reads in blue eyes, Teal’c thinks that the man is asking for absolution. Teal’c can only offer comfort.
“I do understand, Colonel Mitchell. We have not been able to contact the Jaffa either.” Closing his eyes for a second, Teal’c lowers his own walls and lets the faces drift through his mind. Drey’auc, Rya'c, Bra’tac, O’Neill, General Hammond, Ishta, the team - Daniel Jackson, Samantha Carter, Vala Mal Doran, and the man standing in front of him. Faces that have made up the bulk of his life. Faces that he will keep fighting for.
In front of him Cameron Mitchell sighs and Teal’c opens his eyes again.
“Oh man, Teal’c. I’m sorry, I just — I don’t even know what I’m feeling. Its like I’m trying to grab a hold of something and there’s nothing but air. I don’t know what I’m looking to find.”
Teal’c nods. He remembers the feeling. Years of duty to gods that imprisoned his people. He remembers that O’Neill was the one to give him something to grab hold of – hope. Cameron Mitchell isn’t finding hope. Yet.
“Answers, Colonel Mitchell. That is what we are all looking to find.”
“And Atlantis has them.” The smile Cameron Mitchell gives him is a shaky one, but it is better than the angry fear that has been residing in the man’s eyes until now.
“We can only hope.”