First Prime Christmas
There weren’t many Christmas decorations in the Gate room; most of them were in the mess hall, or the common rec areas. But there was some garland wrapped around the handrails for the gate ramp, and an angel cut-out pasted on the door to the control room. There was also a real life angel down by the gate.
“Please don’t do that, Mr, uh, sir, Mr. Angel, sir,” Walter called out gingerly through the microphone. The angel, or Castiel, Walter thought in his mind, although he’d never actually call him that, was playing with the gate again.
He’d been there for over an hour, touching the metal, running his hands over the cartouches, observing, a little too close for comfort, the two times a wormhole formed as teams off-world dialed in.
The angel glanced up at Walter but ignored his request.
Walter sighed and dialed Colonel O’Neill’s number. He hated to bother the colonel on a good day, and this wasn’t a good day. Daniel Jackson had gone off-world without him and that always put the colonel in a bad mood.
An irritated “What?” came over the phone.
“Uh, sir, the angel is here and I don’t know what he wants.”
There was a deep sigh. “Our angel? Castiel?”
“Yes, sir.” As if there might be another angel.
“I thought he went with Daniel?”
“No, sir.” Walter wasn’t surprised that Jack thought that. After all, Dean Winchester had gone with Daniel, and where Dean went, the angel tended to follow. But this time the angel had chosen not to go. Walter wondered if Daniel had perhaps allowed the colonel to assume Castiel would be going, as Dean was a part of the team.
“I’ll be right there.” The colonel hung up.
Walter replaced the phone and stared down at the angel who was now standing directly in front of the gate. All he could do was hope that no one dialed in, putting him in a position where he had to make a choice of yelling at the angel, keeping the shield up and possibly killing someone trying to return, or deal with whatever happened if a wormhole opened on an angel. Walter just wanted Colonel O’Neill to get here and let him deal with it.
That was when, of course, the gate started to dial. He pushed the speaker button again, “Please, Mr. Angel, you need to move to the side.”
He continued to stand there.
If it was Walter’s nature, he’d let out the same curse the colonel had.
He glanced at his schedule and noticed that it was time for Team 12 to check in. Three chevrons were engaged, and there went number four. “Mr. Angel, sir, you have to move.”
Walter heaved a tremendous sigh of relief when the door to the control room opened and Colonel O’Neill entered. Chevron five engaged.
“Castiel, move!” O’Neill bellowed through the microphone.
“It will not harm me,” the angel said calmly.
“Damn it,” O’Neill said, then, “put the shield up.”
Walter did as instructed and said, “It should be Team 12 checking in.”
The colonel nodded, then left the room and moved quickly down the stairs to the Gate room. “I’ve got people out there, Castiel,” O’Neill told the angel in a tone Walter found very daring.
“This seems very familiar to me,” was all Castiel said, his head cocked to the side in what Walter privately called his bird move.
O’Neill made an attempt to pull Castiel, and Walter’s eyes bugged out when all that happened was something out of a Three Stooge’s act, where the colonel almost went flying, and the angel stayed exactly where he was.
“I need to get closer,” the angel said. “It is important I understand this system.”
“Please, please move to the side, so I can talk to my team and make sure they are not in trouble.”
“They are not,” Castiel said.
“How about Daniel? Is he okay?”
Walter could see the slight relaxation of the colonel’s shoulders. “Will you please move?”
“Open the shield,” O’Neill called up.
Walter obeyed. The wormhole had already established behind the shield, so it was a matter of seconds to check in and find out that everything with Team 12 was fine. Walter glanced down at the colonel only to find him staring at the empty spot where the angel had been a moment before.
O’Neill rolled his eyes and strolled back up. “Everything okay?”
“McKendrick have anything to say?”
“No, sir. Just that everything is going smoothly.”
“Who’s next to check-in?”
“Team 18, in five minutes.”
O’Neill nodded and then sat, making himself comfortable. “I’ll wait.”
Walter knew that Team 18, with Major Mitchell in charge, was trying to appropriate a spaceship. Walter wasn’t supposed to know that, but he was good at listening. He watched as the colonel started attaching paper clips to each other.
In exactly five minutes, the gate lit up.
“Huh,” O’Neill said. “He’s usually late.”
It was true. Both Major Mitchell and Major Sheppard tended to run late for check-ins.
The chevrons slowly engaged until the seventh clunked into place. The second before the expected kerwhoosh of the wormhole, Castiel was suddenly standing on the platform and the wave of the wormhole completely engulfed him.
O’Neill was on his feet, yelling, “What the flying fuck?”
And then the wormhole disappeared, leaving an empty ring and no angel.
“Tell me that didn’t just happen,” the colonel demanded.
Walter bit his bottom lip. “Is he dead?” Walter had, unfortunately, been present, twice, when the wormhole wave had hit someone. The remains had been ugly.
O’Neill ran down the stairs. “Castiel!” he yelled, looking all around. “Are you here? Fuck me. Castiel!”
Teal’c felt the earth rumble beneath him, and he listened intently. “Daniel Jackson,” he called out.
His mate glanced back at him from where he was walking with Paul Costello. Daniel’s eyebrows rose in question.
“What the hell was that?” Dr. McKay snapped out. He stumbled a little, grabbing onto Major Sheppard’s arm.
“I believe this world is not stable,” Teal’c said, moving closer to Daniel. By all reports, it was supposed to be a stable world. Fields of grass, with occasional brown swatches, stretched out in every direction. There were mountains in the far distance, the ground reaching up to them in slowly ever-growing hills.
McKay had his laptop out and was pushing buttons and frowning.
“What is it?” Sheppard asked him, his casual tone belied by the sharp look in his eyes.
“I think we should take a rain check,” Paul said, accepting Teal’c’s assessment. “We can always come back later.”
“It’s just a tremor,” Daniel objected. “The scans Claude brought back of the ruins he found here were breathtaking, and I need to see them for myself.”
Eric Sandler was looking in the direction toward the gate which was two plus klicks behind them. “I’d rather play it safe.”
Dean Winchester was watching all of them, and Teal’c was counting on him if Daniel got too recalcitrant. Dean shot him a glance as if reading his mind, and gave him a little nod.
“We should definitely go,” McKay said, his hand waving them in the direction of the gate. “Now!” He was still studying the readout on his laptop even as he began moving.
Daniel’s eyebrow’s furrowed and his lips tightened and Teal’c, recognizing his stubborn expression, strode toward him, planning on dragging him back to the gate if necessary, Winchester on his mate’s other side. As he walked, the earth directly under his feet heaved up under him, and he struggled to keep his balance.
“Holy crap,” Sheppard yelled as the world went insane.
Teal’c had never seen anything like it. He’d been on worlds during earthquakes, and seen the devastating results of many more, but this planet, this place where they stood, was something out of a nightmare.
The earth split in two, cutting their party in half, Daniel, Sheppard, Dean, and Costello on one side, and Teal’c, McKay, and Eric Sandler on the other. Teal’c stole a look down and the depth of it seemed endless, as if the entire planet were about to fracture apart.
One hundred meters away, earth thrust out of the crack making the fissure wider. It caused the land to undulate wildly as if they were trying to stand on one of the rubber floating rafts O’Neill used occasionally at his cabin on the lake.
“Daniel!” Teal’c yelled, measuring the distance between his side of the rift and theirs, determining if he could jump it.
“Don’t,” Daniel cried out. “It’s too far.”
The ground cracked again, separating the party even further. Now Teal’c and McKay stood alone, while the bit of earth Sandler was standing on sank abruptly underneath him, dropping him fifteen feet below, dirt from the higher elevations falling on him. He let out a scream of pain and then was silent.
Teal’c heard McKay yell desperately for Sheppard at the same time Dean hollered after Costello. Teal’c yanked off his backpack, searching for rope. “McKay,” he yelled, “do you have more rope?”
“What?” McKay screamed. “What?”
“Rope!” Teal’c was screaming too, the noise overwhelming, as primal forces tore the land apart in front of him. It sounded as if a freight train were bearing down on them, and the analogy was frighteningly apt, as not twenty meters from him the split earth clashed together with a sound like thunder. He grabbed his rope and then yanked on McKay. He held up the rope and then pointed at Rodney’s backpack. “Do you have rope?”
McKay shook his head, his eyes wide and panicked. He held up his laptop as if to signify that his backpack held more of the same.
Teal’c did not want to leave Eric Sandler unassisted, but Teal’c had no choice but to aid Daniel. His choice would always be to protect Daniel. Teal’c searched for him through the flying dust and debris, yelling his name. Visibility was decreasing rapidly and he could barely make out anybody’s form. It was difficult to keep his eyes open against the stinging detritus of the planet’s upheaval.
“Throw it to your two,” he thought he heard someone yell.
Trusting in that voice, thinking it was Winchester, he tossed the rope, only to have it fly right back in his face. He tried it again, and again, praying for a moment’s surcease in the tumultuous wind, and finally it came. The rope flew out and someone grabbed it.
Teal’c fell to his knees as the earth bucked under him again, and he heard someone scream out in pain. He glanced at McKay, disgusted momentarily with him when he looked to be on his knees, overcome, but then he saw the man’s jacket was off, and he was holding it over the side, yelling at Sandler to grab it.
Cursing the fact that he was a Jaffa, and therefore unable to be a host for a Companion, and therefore unable to speak to Daniel, or to anyone for that matter, Teal’c got to his feet again and inched in the direction of the rope, tapping gingerly in front of him, knowing there was a huge crevasse straight ahead.
There was another scream to the right of him, and another pained shout straight ahead. In fear and desperation, he yanked at the rope, hoping it didn’t pull Daniel into the crevasse. If it did, Teal’c would pull him out, and he braced himself for the inevitable drag. The rope went momentarily lax and then tight, pulling him a few inches he wasn’t sure he could spare. He sank to one knee on purpose this time and began to lift the burden on the end of the rope, hand over hand, his shoulder muscles bunching and unbunching, burning.
Finally something came into view and, after a moment’s disorientation, he realized it was a booted foot. Needing it to be Daniel, and afraid he was hurt because he wasn’t assisting with his own rescue, rather staying a dead-weight, Teal’c pulled harder. After a few moments, he realized with a heart-jarring thump of despair, that it was Dean Winchester.
Dean was screaming at him, and Teal’c tried to focus on his words, even as he continued to pull him in, wondering if his arms were broken as he continued to offer no assistance. That was when he realized that Dean was yelling, “I’ve got him! I’ve got him!” and Teal’c saw that Dean’s arms were wrapped around someone else. Teal’c used all his strength to pull both men up and to him.
He just made out Daniel’s face, bloody and bruised, when he suddenly found himself flat on his back, boulders tumbling around him, even as his legs were shunted aside for another thrusting up of rock accompanied with a boom like thunder.
The rope was still tied around his waist and he hung on to it for all he was worth, dodging rocks, ignoring the pain when he was hit, putting all that he was to finding a moment’s stability so he could resume pulling and retrieve Daniel. Then the rope went slack, the earth tilted again, something crashed into his head, and Teal’c slammed to the ground unconscious.
“Colonel?” Hammond snapped out. “What’s going on?”
Jack looked up at Hammond who was now standing at the bottom of the ramp.
“I think we just killed Castiel.” Jack couldn’t believe it. From one second to the next. “Stupid fucking angel.” He glanced at Hammond. “Sorry, sir. Walter, cue the tape,” Jack called. Easier, in some ways to watch it again, rather than explain. They both trooped back up to the control room, and Walter played the last five minutes.
Hammond looked as flabbergasted as Jack felt. “Surely he can’t actually be dead.”
Jack wildly gestured at the very empty Gate room. “Where is he?” Then, he said to Walter, “Dial up to wherever Team 18 is.”
Walter tried, but nothing happened. He tried again. Nothing.
“Great,” Jack said. “We killed an angel and our gate at the same time. Call Carter and have her run diagnostics. See if she can tell what happened.”
Walter hurried to obey. “Do you think he might still be alive?” Hammond asked.
“I have no freaking idea,” Jack said. “Call for him,” he told Tana’oa.
Tana’oa seemed to startle out of whatever dazed headspace he was in, and began to silently call for Castiel. Castiel seemed to respond more quickly to the Companions than he did to people, Dean being the only exception.
Carter came running in, and Walter moved aside giving her room.
Jack gave her five minutes. “Well?”
“I don’t know what to tell you. There’s nothing in the buffer. In fact, there’s nothing at all. The system’s down entirely.”
“How many teams are off-world?” Hammond asked Walter.
“Six. Team 5, 7, 12, 18, and Dr. Jackson’s team.”
Hammond shot Jack a very worried look.
Jack was worried sick enough for all of them. “Keep working on it,” he told Carter. “God damn it.”
As Teal’c slowly returned to consciousness, he was swamped with pain. It was only physical at first, until he recalled the events leading to him blacking out. Then, the physical pain was eclipsed by the agony of having possibly lost Daniel.
He opened his eyes and attempted to sit up. His inability to use both legs as leverage caused him to glance down at his feet and he saw a large rock, easily two feet across resting on one of his ankles. The ankle was clearly broken, possibly shattered. He could see bone from where he lay. He managed to partially sit up. Teal’c did his best to look all around him, but his tethered ankle limited his range of motion. “Daniel Jackson!” he bellowed.
The land around him was radically changed. It reminded him of the trip Colonel O’Neill took them on to Yellowstone National Park. Teal’c recalled the green prairies where the bison ranged, only to turn a corner and find alien landscapes filled with pits of mud bubbling over with intense heat, and hot steaming pools, the clear rock beneath stained blue and yellow from the sulfur.
The rolling hills that had been before him just minutes before had been replaced by crags of rock, the flat lands were now pocketed with crevasses only broken up by pools of dark mud. It was desolate, made more so by the desperate fear that Teal’c alone lived through the tumultuous terraforming they had all experienced.
“Daniel Jackson!” he yelled again. Angry now at his inability to move, Teal’c used his other leg to press against the rock and then, bracing himself, he pushed as hard as he could. He breathed through the scream aching to escape his lips. The rock shifted, doing little more than mashing the remains of his ankle. It was difficult to get any effective leverage, but he managed to swivel enough that he could get his hands on the rock. He marshaled every ounce of his strength and heaved against the rock, not letting up, pushing out breath like a bellows, his muscles knotted and cramped, but he would not give up, and finally the rock moved and shifted off his ankle.
He gave his ankle a cursory look, knowing he had nothing with which to treat it. He looked for his backpack, thinking to at least splint it to make locomotion easier, but his pack was nowhere to be found; he remembered taking it off to retrieve the rope inside. Ignoring the pain, he rolled until he was facing the other direction and saw more of the same. But now, he saw two bodies lying lifeless in his line of vision.
The one closest to him was Dr. McKay. “Dr. McKay,” he spoke, then coughed, his throat raw. Teal’c inched himself toward the man, continuing to call his name. Finally he reached him and placed his fingers on his neck, at his pulse point, and tried to silence his breathing so he could concentrate. At first he felt nothing, but then he could feel a steady beat. “Dr. McKay,” he said again, moving his hand to the man’s shoulder and briskly shaking him. Time was of the essence, and he did not have the luxury of ascertaining a potential spine injury. Either McKay was fine, or he was not.
McKay waved an irritable hand at him and then he was wide awake, sitting up, eyes focused on Teal’c, saying, “Where’s Sheppard?”
“I do not know. I have just regained consciousness myself.” He pointed toward the other body. It was as covered with brown dust as he and McKay were and he could not be sure who it was, other than the fact that he knew it was not Daniel. He would know Daniel’s body in any circumstance. That was when Teal’c noticed that the rope was still tied around his waist. He picked up the end and saw that it had been sheared off. He refused to allow his mind to wonder at what could have done that, and what its effects would have been on a fragile human body.
Staggering to his feet, McKay stumbled, but then began to make his unwieldy way toward the other body. Teal’c could hear him muttering, “Please, please, please,” the entire time. When he arrived at the body, McKay slumped to his knees. “It’s Paul Costello.” Teal’c could hear the despair in his voice, and it made him briefly wonder about the relationship between Major John Sheppard and Dr. McKay. He could not imagine a more unlikely pair.
“Is he alive?” If Paul were alive, he could at least tell them if the others were and where they were located. Perhaps even now they were buried alive, slowly running out of air, or out of their Companions’ ability to keep them alive. Without the knowledge of where they were buried, they could spend days fruitlessly digging. Not that Teal’c wouldn’t do it. He would not give up; he could not.
“I don’t know,” McKay called back. “I can’t feel a pulse, but that doesn’t mean that his thing isn’t working on him, right?” Teal’c watched as McKay pried open an eyelid and even Teal’c could see the glow from here. “Ah,” McKay yelped, wincing back, letting the eyelid fall. “See? Not dead yet. Or at least his Companion is still alive.”
Teal’c began to crawl over to them both. “He must tell us where the others are,” Teal’c told McKay.
McKay prodded Paul’s body. “Hey, you, in there. You Goa’uld thing. Are you there?”
“They are called Companions,” Teal’c told him, “and his is named Mithras.” Teal’c’s ankle burned like fire, but he kept moving until he was next to Paul. “Mithras, can you hear me? Where is Daniel Jackson? I must dig for him and do not know where to start.”
Paul’s eyes opened, the golden gaze of a Companion staring at Teal’c.
“Mithras,” Teal’c demanded. “Where is Daniel Jackson? Is he alive?”
Teal’c almost couldn’t breathe for the inundation of relief, followed very quickly by panic. “Where is he?”
“I cannot…” Mithras’ eyes dimmed. “I am afraid my host is dying.”
“Tell me where Daniel Jackson is, and I will leave you to heal him. Please,” Teal’c begged. “Do not let him die.”
Mithras’ eyes closed and then reopened. “He is wounded. Junior is afraid. Zeus is afraid.”
Teal’c hoped that meant Dean Winchester was also alive, but he couldn’t afford to care. “Mithras. Every second counts. Tell me.”
This time when Mithras closed his eyes, his forehead furrowed as if in thought, and Teal’c waited impatiently, leashing his urge to beat the answer out of the body lying in front of him.
“Ten meters directly behind me.”
That was all Teal’c needed, and he began to crawl in that direction.
“Where’s Sheppard,” McKay demanded from Mithras. “Is he alive?”
“I cannot tell. Flutie does not respond, nor does Satrughna.”
“What does that mean?” McKay asked shrilly. “Does that mean he’s dead? He can’t be dead. Sheppard?” Teal’c heard McKay get to his feet. “Sheppard? Where the hell are you?”
“You must go back to the gate and get assistance,” Teal’c said.
“You must go back to the gate. I am unable to run that far.”
“And you think I can run that far?” McKay asked in an incredulous tone.
Teal’c swiveled around and glared at the man. “This is not a request. We will all die without assistance. My ankle is beyond repair. The only hope of rescuing the men buried underneath the earth is with sensors and proper equipment. Every moment you stand there arguing, they could be dying.”
McKay opened his mouth as if to argue. Teal’c, if he’d still been armed, would have been tempted to shoot the man. Something of that must have shown on his face because McKay put his hand up. “Okay, I’m going.” He glanced anxiously at the ruins around him. “Don’t you dare be dead, Sheppard,” he yelled. He scooped up his backpack that had somehow survived the cataclysm.
“Take your GDO and leave me your pack,” Teal’c ordered.
McKay opened a flap and withdrew a power bar and a canteen. “What?” he asked defensively as Teal’c shot him a disdainful look. “I need to replenish myself if I’m going to run to the gate and back.”
Teal’c glowered at him, and McKay moved to hand him the pack and then took off at a trot toward the gate.
“He is not responding,” Tana’oa said to Jack. “Although he has rarely spoken to me before, so even if he were hearing me, he might not answer. You are more his friend than I.”
“Is there any way he could have survived?” Jack said to Carter.
“I don’t know how,” she said. “But he’s an angel or at least something as powerful as. All I know is that the backwash of the event horizon has taken out naquada generators and a nuclear reactor. Nothing remains after it gets hit by that.”
“Fuck,” Jack said. “Get Sam Winchester down here.” Walter started to track him down while Jack exchanged another look with Hammond. “Any ideas?”
“No,” Hammond said. “Without the gate we can’t contact any of our allies to help us to at least retrieve our teams. We can’t even ascertain if the gate is just down on our end, or if Castiel somehow managed to affect the entire system.”
“Won’t that make us popular,” Jack muttered.
Someone came running into the room. “What happened?” Sam Winchester said.
“That’s what we’d like to know,” Jack responded. “See if you can call Castiel.”
“Just do it.”
Sam frowned but he yelled, “Castiel!”
Everyone glanced at each other as the seconds passed.
“He doesn’t always come when I call,” Sam said. “Dean’s the only one…”
“Yeah,” Jack said. “I get that.”
“Where’s Dean?” Sam insisted.
“Still off-planet. Castiel jumped in front of an opening wormhole, and now he’s gone, and the gate’s kaput.”
“You guys killed Castiel?” Sam yelled.
“No, we didn’t kill Castiel,” Jack yelled right back. “He jumped in front of it. Kept saying it was important, that he needed to understand it better.”
“Fuck,” Sam said.
“Amen,” Jack agreed.
Sam grimaced then looked uncomfortable. “I can try and call a different angel. He might be able to tell where Castiel is.”
“You don’t look thrilled by that idea,” Jack pointed out.
“Yeah, well, angels are dicks,” Sam said. “Cas being the lone exception. Most of the time.”
“Let’s hold off on that,” Hammond said. “I’m not sure we need other beings like Castiel dropping by for a visit.”
Sam looked relieved, and Jack cursed under his breath.
“I do think one of them would have showed up if Castiel was dead,” Sam said, after a moment. “They all sort of liked him, even if they had a funny way of showing it.”
“That’s a reassuring thought,” Hammond said. “I’d feel better if he’d show up, though.”
Sam nodded. “We can’t get anyone back, then, can we?”
Jack shook his head. At that, the gate shook the way it did when it was about to engage. “Carter?” Jack called out.
“I think someone’s trying to dial in.”
“I figured that part out,” Jack said.
The gate appeared to be straining to do something, but not even one chevron engaged, and then sparks flew out of the sides of it, the gate began to sizzle, and then it went silent.
Just for a brief moment, though, Jack thought he sensed something.
“Did you feel that?” Sam asked worriedly. “Was that Zeus?”
Tana’oa took over and said, “I believe it was Junior. They are in trouble. I believe Daniel Jackson is wounded.”
“So is Dean,” Sam said. “I could feel it, just for a second.
Jack looked at their useless gate and just said, “Fuck,” again. Right now, that was the word that summed everything up.
Teal’c had found little of use in McKay’s pack but had found some electrical device that did not appear to be working. Using it, and Teal’c’s vest that he ripped apart, he managed to devise a barely adequate splint for his ankle. There was nothing to use to dig with other than McKay’s extra laptop, but Teal’c thought McKay might find some use for it, so he let it be. Instead, he used his hands, digging furiously at the area Mithras had told him to dig.
The dirt was muddy, and Teal’c helplessly watched as half of what he dug out seemed to slide back in. He persevered, though, and ignored the seemingly endless task of making headway, the blistering pain from his ankle, and the despair that was taking over. He would not lose Daniel. He kept repeating it over and over again. He would not lose Daniel Jackson. Not when it was within his power to find him, to save him.
He heard feet trudging his way. “Is help on its way?”
“No, it’s not,” McKay said, sounding completely panicked. “The gate isn’t working.”
Teal’c took a precious second to look at McKay. “Try again.”
“It won’t work. And before you ask me if I’m sure, yes, I’m sure. I work on the gate, I know how it works, I’m one of the main gate engineers, so if I say the freaking gate isn’t working, then I know what I’m talking about. I checked the DHD, the crystals, everything. It won’t work. I tried twenty times. I tried other planets, I tried the alpha site, I even tried an eight symbol address figuring that was something Sheppard would do, and it won’t work.” McKay’s voice had gotten louder and louder until by the end, he was screaming at Teal’c. “Do you get how fucked we are?”
“Yes,” Teal’c said. “Help me dig.” He turned back to the task at hand.
“They are under the soil. We will find them.”
“Us? You and me? You with a broken ankle, and me without even a shovel?”
Teal’c ignored him. He couldn’t afford to waste energy on a fruitless argument. “Dig or be quiet.”
There was a long pause behind him.
Teal’c kept digging.
Then there were footsteps and McKay stomped over to where Teal’c was and started to dig. After a few minutes, McKay grunted. “Stop. This is getting us nowhere.”
“I will not stop,” Teal’c growled.
“No, no, I didn’t mean that. We need to create retaining walls somehow or this is all going to cave in.” He stood and Teal’c kept digging. After a while, McKay came back and rocks fell and scattered nearby. Teal’c kept digging, but after a while he saw that the mud wasn’t sliding back in as much and he took a moment to see that McKay had wedged in rocks into the mud, tightly packing it. “I need more rocks.”
Teal’c kept digging. He’d already lost one fingernail and his hands ached.
He could hear McKay patting more rocks into place.
“What’s that?” McKay asked.
“That.” McKay was pointing to the right and behind of Teal’c knee.
Teal’c heart leapt in his chest. It was the other end of the rope. He shifted and began to frantically dig, revealing the rope slow inch by slow inch, McKay working around him, removing the dirt, doing his best to keep it from sliding back in.
“Jesus,” McKay said tiredly. “Even if we find Jackson and Winchester, how are we going to find John and that other guy?”
“I do not know.” Teal’c also didn’t care. Or he couldn’t allow himself to care. Once he found Daniel, then he would see to the others.
“What are the odds? You and I are the only ones who can’t talk to the Companions and we’re the only ones standing. Just my luck.”
That got Teal’c’s attention. “You wish to find Major John Sheppard?”
“Points for the world’s stupidest question.”
Teal’c gave a private prayer of thanksgiving for Daniel’s habit of using Teal’c’s pouch as a repository for any number of Companions on any given day. He routinely carried Askleios and Anbay except for when they wanted to play in the tank, but he carried others as well. And, right now, he was carrying a Companion that was almost mature. Maybe mature enough. “There is a way.” He glanced at McKay.
“How?” McKay asked, eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“I carry a Companion that is possibly mature enough to take a host.”
Teal’c watched as comprehension dawned. “No,” McKay said, backing away. “No way.”
“Then some of these men will surely die, including John Sheppard.” Teal’c knew he was being cruel, and that Daniel Jackson would not approve, but he didn’t care. He went back to his digging.
There was only silence from McKay.
After a while, Teal’c heard some clicking. He glanced over and saw that McKay was working on his laptop. The look he sent the man’s way had him scrambling backwards. “Wait, wait,” McKay said. “I might be able to figure out a way to sense anyone alive.”
“Are you prepared to dig?”
Teal’c scoffed. “Obviously you care little for Major John Sheppard.”
“That’s not true,” McKay protested. “I do care.”
“You do not show it.”
“Because I don’t want to let an alien crawl inside my brain? And without even that crazy angel to just put him there?” McKay frowned. “Wait a minute. Where is the angel? I thought it showed up anytime Winchester got a hangnail.”
“I do not know,” Teal’c said. “And it does not matter. The only people here to help are you and I, and you are doing nothing.”
McKay moved back to Paul. “Captain!” McKay said. “Wake up!” He peeled one of his eyes open. “You in there?” When nothing happened, McKay looked around. “How can any of them be alive? The earth swallowed them whole.”
Teal’c kept digging. Surely the rope wasn’t this long. Surely there would be a body at the end of it, someone alive. Daniel.
“Wasn’t Sheppard over here somewhere?” McKay called out, and Teal’c could hear his wandering footsteps. “I don’t want one of those things in my brain,” he told Teal’c.
Teal’c ignored him.
McKay continued to walk around. “Yes, I’m sure he was over here somewhere. Sheppard! Can you hear me?”
Teal’c stopped for a moment, just in case. The earth shifted by his knees and he stared at it. He had made no movement. “Daniel Jackson?” There, it happened again. “Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c bellowed, digging ferociously. “McKay, come help me!”
“Oh, my God,” McKay said. “John? He’s here. I can see him! John?” Teal’c heard scrabbling noises and, while never stopping the movement of his hands, stole a brief look. McKay was digging, too. He wanted to tell McKay to help him, to lend his efforts so they could free at least one host with a Companion, that they would then be of help in finding the others, adding their strength to the task. But, truthfully, Teal’c had no way of knowing if anyone unearthed would be of any assistance. Paul Costello hadn’t even been buried, and he was near death.
“Fuck it,” McKay said, stalking over to Teal’c. “Give me the damn thing.”
“Excuse me?” Teal’c said, for a moment, not understanding.
“The thing. The Goa’uld, and I cannot believe I’m doing this. Sheppard,” he yelled, “you are going to owe me so much!”
Now that McKay wanted the Companion, Teal’c felt himself momentarily reluctant. What if the Companion wasn’t interested in McKay? What if the Companion didn’t like its new irascible host? Just as quickly, the reluctance passed. It could be removed. Surely Castiel, once he appeared, could remove it and offer it to a more amenable host. He stopped digging, hating to take even a few seconds away from his toil, but he did, and he pulled the mostly mature Companion from his womb. “Here,” he said, holding it out to McKay.
McKay recoiled from it. But, then, gingerly, he put out his hand and took it from Teal’c.
“How do you know Sheppard is alive?”
“He’s right there in a mud pit over there. His glowy eyes were looking right at me. He’s stuck under some huge freaking rock.” McKay was staring at the Companion. “Why isn’t it going in me?”
“Perhaps you need to invite it,” Teal’c suggested. Then again, without another host around, maybe communication wasn’t going to happen at all. This Companion had no way of knowing that McKay was a willing host. He tried to speak to Anbay and Asklepios, thinking comforting thoughts for them to share with the Companion McKay was holding.
“Here,” McKay ordered. “Get in there.”
Teal’c watched with widened eyes as McKay tried to push the Companion into the back of his neck. Then, deciding he’d already spent too long on this sideshow, he went back to digging, reaching his fingers in alongside the rope, knowing he could only be centimeters away.
The gate shook, and Jack eyed it with suspicion. He had no idea what a naquada gate system did with an angel inside of it. For all he knew it could blow up into a quadrillion pieces and take most of the Earth with it.
“What can we do? We have to do something,” Sam Winchester insisted.
“Feel free to share any ideas with the class,” Jack told him. “Including telling us if there’s going to be some sort of divine retribution for killing an angel.” Castiel had nicely told Jack that he wasn’t going to hell when he died but that might have just changed.
“We didn’t kill him,” Hammond said sternly. “He chose to walk in front of the vortex.”
“Castiel’s been dead before,” Sam said. “And he was brought back to life.”
“Maybe whoever does that, can bring our gate system back to life,” Jack said, choosing to mostly ignore what Sam said. This whole angels and demons and everything else still rested in a very uncomfortable spot in his brain. “Carter, anything?”
“Is it just out of juice? Do we need to funnel energy from the National Network to it to get it to work? What’s wrong with it?”
“I wish I could tell you. The computers aren’t even registering the gate as there. I’ve put in a call to Abhay to take a look.”
“There must be something there, Major Carter,” Hammond said. “Someone just tried to dial in and the gate reacted.”
Abhay ran into the control room, and he and Carter began geek-talking to each other. Despite the fact that Carter couldn’t stand him, it was too bad McKay was off-world. Somehow, maybe because he pissed her off so much, McKay somehow brought even more genius out of Carter than usual, if only to prove the man wrong.
“I’m gonna yell for a moment, sir,” Jack told Hammond. “Thor!” He waited for a long moment then tried again. “Thor!” Nothing.
“It was worth a shot,” Hammond told him. “Major, what about the device Daniel Jackson used to summon the Nox to help the Tollan? Do we still have that?”
“They took it with them, sir,” Carter said. “But…” She got a thinky look on her face.
“I like the sound of that but,” Jack interrupted her. “Go make one, or something like it. We need to communicate with someone. We can’t leave our teams out there.” Jack wasn’t even going to think about the fact that, unless Tana’oa had had a brief hallucination…“I did not,” Tana’oa insisted, then Daniel was hurt, and Jack couldn’t get to him.
“Teal’c is with him,” Tana’oa said, trying to be encouraging.
“Not good enough,” Jack said to Tana’oa in the privacy of his own brain.
“So is Paul Costello, Eric Sandler, John Sheppard, Dean Winchester, and Rodney McKay,” Tana’oa tried.
That was an impressive list, both of genius, strength, and cunning. Jack blew out a breath. There was nothing he could do about it anyway. Freaking angel.
There was the sound of running feet and then Teal’c heard McKay holler, “Flutie, tell this moron to get inside of me!” Then there was a shriek of pain, and an “Ow, that hurt.”
Teal’c’s hand brushed against fabric.
“Stop,” McKay yelled. “Teal’c, you, stop!”
“I cannot,” Teal’c said. “I have reached someone.”
“I know. That’s Dean Winchester. But Zeus says to stop. You are dangerously close to digging through to the one rock that’s keeping them both from falling to their death. If you dig any further, the rock will fall and take them with it. There is a very deep crevasse underneath them.”
“Them?” Teal’c asked with desperate hope.
“Yes, them. They’re both still alive, but only just. Zeus says Dean’s been holding on to Daniel this entire time and that Daniel is hanging over the crevasse.”
Teal’c removed his hands, even as his heart leapt for joy at this further confirmation that Daniel was alive, despite the ongoing danger. “What should I do?” He could hear digging and scraping, assumed it was McKay going after Sheppard. “McKay!”
“I’m thinking,” McKay bit back. “Flutie, is John even conscious?”
There was a croaking noise and then someone began a painful spate of coughing and vomiting.
“Okay, that’s disgusting,” McKay complained.
“Go,” Teal’c heard Flutie rasp out, followed by another cough that sounded as if it were ripping his lungs apart.
McKay joined Teal’c and then paced off two meters to Teal’c’s right. “Dig here. You’ll reach Dean here and he has a more solid hold at this spot. Just don’t grab for anything until I tell you.” At that point, McKay started to help dig, directing Teal’c as they scooped mud away. McKay grabbed some of the smaller rocks he’d used before and began the same process to help keep the mud away.
Teal’c saw fingers, and he gently pushed the mud away. “McKay.”
“All right.” McKay closed his eyes. “You dig a little deeper and grab Dean’s wrist. I’ll go after Jackson.”
Teal’c didn’t like that idea. “I will go after Daniel Jackson.”
“Fine,” McKay said sharply. He took over Teal’c’s spot. “Just do what I say. Dean is like this,” and McKay demonstrated by stretching his body out, until it appeared he was spread-eagled, except standing up, one hand up above his head. “This is the hand you were just touching. “This toe is on the rock you were digging around. This toe is in some crack on one side of the crevasse. This arm is wrapped around Daniel Jackson.”
Teal’c blanched at how precarious their situation still was.
“Dig there,” McKay pointed.
Teal’c backed up until McKay nodded.
“Dig there until you hit space. From there you should be able to see Jackson. Just be careful that you don’t fall.
“I’ll make sure he doesn’t fall,” Flutie said.
Teal’c glanced up at him. Sheppard was dark brown from head to foot, covered with mud and dirt, and looked one step away from death. His breathing was labored and, even through the dirt, Teal’c could see his lips were blue. He should probably tell Sheppard to sit down, but he wasn’t going to refuse help.
Sheppard leant down to pull some rope out of his backpack that he’d managed to hold on to. He began to vomit again, a thick brown liquid spotted with dirt pouring from Sheppard’s mouth. McKay, mincing around the vomitus with a grimace, tied the rope around Teal’c’s waist and then tied the other end to Sheppard.
McKay gave the man a dubious look, and said, “I’m not sure how much good you’re going to be, Sheppard.”
Deciding to trust Flutie’s strength, if not Sheppard’s will, Teal’c recommenced digging, and McKay joined him.
“I’ve got Dean,” McKay announced.
Teal’c had an errant thought, wondering if McKay would be able to remember people’s names now, courtesy of his Companion, or his Companion, over time, assuming he chose to stay, would become as rude as his host. His hand punched through the earth to space underneath. He cautiously dug more away, opening the hole, looking anxiously for his mate. The dust beneath had not settled and it made it very difficult to see, but Teal’c slowly began to make out the shape of legs and then a torso. He was too far away to grab him, so he inched closer.
“Don’t do that,” McKay said. “Swing around and dig from this end. Otherwise you’ll have too much of your weight over the open hole.”
Obeying, Teal’c moved and pushed the earth away from the other side. He was much closer and he leaned in and grabbed at Daniel’s vest. “Sheppard, you have me?”
“I do,” came a garbled and gravelly response, followed by another cough and spitting.
Teal’c reached in with his other hand and got a secure hold on Daniel’s belt and re-secured his hold on his vest. “I have Daniel.”
“And I have Dean,” McKay said. “Dean, let Daniel go and then hang on.”
There was a moment’s hesitation, and Teal’c suspected Dean’s arm was frozen in place, his fear of losing Daniel having immobilized the arm. Then, Daniel swung free and, with a huge heave, Teal’c pulled back as Sheppard yanked on him. Seconds later, Daniel was out and lying on top of Teal’c.
He wasn’t moving or breathing. Teal’c laid him on his side, using his finger to sweep the dirt out of his mouth. Sheppard staggered a little, but together they moved Daniel away from the open hole in the ground, and Teal’c asked him, “Should I perform CPR? Does he need to be resuscitated?”
Sheppard just nodded grimly.
That was all Teal’c needed to know. He checked Daniel’s mouth out again and began CPR.
He could hear a commotion behind him, assumed it was McKay getting Dean out. There was still Eric Sandler unaccounted for, but all that mattered now was ensuring Daniel’s survival.
“What was that?” Jack asked. He was sitting on the ramp with nothing to do. The brainiacs were trying to build a gizmo that would do something, and Hammond was talking to the President. That left him and Sam Winchester gloomily waiting.
“What?” Sam asked.
Jack put a hand to the ramp. “I felt a vibration.” He felt it again. “Walter?” Carter was in her lab with Abhay.
“The computer’s registering something, but I’m not sure what,” Walter said. “Let me call Major Carter.”
The gate suddenly lit up. “Oh, yeah,” Jack said. “That’s what I’m talking about.” He waited impatiently until the Geek Squad showed up.
After a minute, Carter said, “I don’t understand it, but it appears to be functioning properly.”
“Castiel!” Jack yelled out.
“You try,” Jack told Sam.
Jack did not want to be the one who told Dean that his angel was maybe dead.
“Dial the planet Daniel’s on,” Jack asked, with a look at Hammond to see if he disagreed. Hammond just nodded. Adding to Sam Winchester, he said, “As soon as the gate’s open, try to talk to Zeus. We’ve found that as long as they’re within a few klicks of the gate, the Companions can talk through the gate.” Jack would be aiming for Junior.
Walter fed the address into the system and, as if it had never gone down, the gate engaged chevron after chevron. Jack watched the gate with satisfaction as the seventh chevron locked into place and the wormhole nicely kerwooshed.
Jack’s brain was suddenly full of Flutie demanding assistance. “Whoa,” Jack said, taking a step back at the Companion’s insistent voice. “Sounds like everyone’s hurt. Permission to take a team through?” he asked Hammond.
“What’s the situation?”
“Earthquake or something like that,” Jack said. “Daniel, Paul, and Eric are hurt badly. Teal’c’s ankle is broken, Sheppard’s lungs are a mess, at least according to Flutie, and Dean’s torn all the muscles on his shoulder and back. McKay’s the only one who isn’t hurt.” His eyebrows went up. “Except he now has a Companion.”
Hammond’s eyebrows went up. McKay had been vociferously vocal about never taking a Companion.
“Flutie says it was to save Sheppard’s life,” Jack added. That seemed excessive; he hadn’t realized they were close enough to do the crazy shit he and Daniel did to save each other’s lives.
“Is the planet stable now?” Hammond asked, even as he called for several rescue teams as well as a medical team to gear up for an immediate mission.
“Yes,” Jack said, half his concentration on Hammond, and half on the conversation going on between Tana’oa, Flutie, Zeus, and occasionally a quip or two from what must be McKay’s Companion. He sounded as sarcastic as McKay. A match made in heaven. No Junior, though, and that was worrisome.
“I’m coming with you,” Sam Winchester said, as if expecting to be told he couldn’t.
“Okay with me,” Jack said. Sam was a big guy and used to thinking on his feet. Brian and Jeff came running, vests in hand. “Paul and Eric?”
“We just know they’re hurt,” Jack said. “Neither of them is conscious and other than a brief chat with Mithras a while ago, the symbiotes aren’t talking either.”
They soberly geared up, as the room filled with way more than the requested personnel. Flutie’s news about Daniel and the rest of the team had clearly made its way like wildfire through the mountain. He saw wheelchairs and gurneys being pushed into the room and he frowned at Janet.
“They’re less than two klicks from the gate. It will be easier on them if we can wheel them back, rather than on some travois or carrying them,” Janet said briskly, zipping up her own vest, and giving crisp instructions to her team.
Jack couldn’t argue with that, so he counted heads: him, Carter, Sam Winchester, his half of SG-3, SG-4, Janet and a huge team of nurses and doctors. Then there was SG9, equipped with shovels and what looked like a jackhammer. One of them glanced at Jack and said, “Eric Sandler’s still mostly buried.” His eyes glowed for a second letting Jack know how he had procured that information.
“Dean wants to know where Castiel is,” Sam said with a wince that slid into anger. “Fucking Castiel. He always does this, vanishes just when Dean needs him.”
“I’m not sure Castiel meant to not be here. He’s been pretty good about always coming through when Dean needs him, at least since I’ve known him,” Jack pointed out. Not that the angel needed a defender, but it was the truth.
“What do I tell him?” Sam asked.
“You think I know?” Jack asked. “You’re his brother.”
“I know, but he’s more like you than me.”
Jack was okay with that. He liked Dean. “Don’t bullshit him. He’ll know. Besides, didn’t you say that other angels would have shown up if he really was dead?”
Sam shrugged. “It doesn’t mean they’d check in with me.”
“He’s calling for Castiel,” Tana’oa told Jack.
Jack sighed. This was going to be a train wreck. He motioned to the teams to go through the gate, starting with Jeff and Brian. Jack eavesdropped as Sam, through Jess, told Dean that Castiel was missing.
Dean must have heard the implied: maybe gone, because he really started hollering for Castiel then, Zeus following suit.
Jack was the last person through, and he let out an impressed whistle when he saw the planet. He’d seen pictures of this place from the first visit, and it looked completely different now. At least it did in the direction he was facing, toward where his friends and co-workers were. Behind him, where the gate stood, and past it, was still a vast prairie of green grass and rolling hills. The geologists would have a heyday with this.
Then they were all racing through the newly twisted earth and, in fifteen minutes, Janet was directing her staff, instantly triaging everyone into a continuum of almost dead to alive and walking. What Jack saw was a nightmare. Teal’c had been doing CPR on Daniel, which two medics took over, leaving Teal’c heaving for breath at his side, his hand never leaving Daniel’s body, even as he was brushed aside.
Sheppard was one step away from needing CPR, his color was ashen, lips blue, and Flutie’s desperate worry shone out of his eyes. McKay was by his side, haranguing him to keep breathing, damn it, and take another breath, now!
Paul Costello was already being placed on a gurney and two of Janet’s staff were assessing him, even as two others were wheeling him back toward the gate taking a somewhat erratic route to avoid the broken earth.
Several people began digging out Eric Sandler, as the bottom half of him was still buried. Janet put him on oxygen, looking very grim. One of the nurses with her was a host, and she was doing her best to speak to Eric’s Companion, Sat-something. Satrap. Something.
“Satrughna,” Tana’oa told him helpfully.
“Is he alive?” Eric looked dead. Paul looked close to death. Sheppard was the walking dead, and Daniel had a breathing tube down his throat and someone was bagging him.
Dean was talking to Sam, his hand clutching his shoulder, and Jack recognized that pretending-he-wasn’t-in-agony look on his face. Jack could tell just from looking at Dean, that his left arm wasn’t hanging right, and he looked twisted somehow.
“What do you mean?” Dean said. “He wouldn’t do that.”
“He did do it,” Sam argued. “I saw the tape. He stepped right in front of it, and he vanished and it blew all the power to the gate for about thirty minutes.”
“He can’t be dead.”
Sam looked like he wanted to argue, almost as if to prepare Dean for the worst, but he only shrugged. Maybe he realized he wasn’t doing Dean any favors. From the expression on his face, Dean was still standing, but he looked gutted.
Jack made sure every team was doing what they needed to be doing and kept a steady stream of people heading back to the gate. The sooner they were all back at the mountain, the happier he’d be. Daniel was already on his way, Teal’c next to him. Sheppard was in a wheelchair, McKay bitching at him, as Barry from SG-4 pushed him steadily gate-ward.
Jack listened to Sam try to talk Dean into getting in a wheelchair. Dean was stubbornly shaking his head.
“Get in the damn chair,” Jack bellowed at him. “We need everyone back at the mountain.”
Dean glared at him, but he did as ordered and Sam, after sending an appreciative glance his way, followed the parade.
That left Eric, and Jack moved to help where he could as they dragged Eric’s body from the ground. Jack grimaced at his shattered lower body. It looked like his pelvis and every bone in his legs were broken beyond repair. It was like he’d been pulverized. Jack had no idea if Satrughna could heal this; he was pretty sure Janet couldn’t. Jack wasn’t entirely sure how Eric was even alive.
They carefully placed Eric on a gurney, even as Janet tried to shove something down his throat. “What is that?” Jack asked. It didn’t look like an endotracheal tube.
“I need to try to lavage some of this dirt out of him,” Janet said, pulling the tube back out covered with muddy sludge. “He can’t breathe.”
Jack couldn’t help with that. Fuck.
“Let’s take him back,” Janet said. “I need stronger suction to get this out of him.”
“Is he alive?”
“I have no idea,” Janet said. “But until a Companion tells me he’s dead, we’re not giving up.” She waved her hand energetically at the soldiers nearby. “Take him. Move!”
They moved, and Janet and Jack followed the line of injured personnel back to the gate. Jack felt a tremble under his feet. “Holy shit,” he said, and then he hollered, “Move! Now!”
The earth shifted, and Jack grabbed Janet’s arm and ran like the devil was after him.
Jack wanted to punch someone. Anyone. Christmas was shaping up to be one big suckfest. Janet had even shut off the festive lights that had adorned sickbay before Daniel and the gang had gone one-on-one with a planet and lost.
Everyone who could be healed, had been. Dean was fine, his muscles and ligaments mended through the auspices of a healing device. Teal’c’s ankle was back in one piece thanks to a combination of surgery and the healing devices, although getting him away from Daniel in order to have surgery had involved direct orders and the threat of being tranquilized.
Paul Costello was walking and talking, but he wasn’t saying much as Eric was post-op surgery number five with no end in sight of future procedures. The healing devices couldn’t mend bone that had been crushed into dust, and it was slowly being replaced with rods and pins. Even with a Companion he might not ever be back to normal.
Sheppard was fine as well, but looking as unhappy as Jack. In fact, the whole mountain was too quiet, desperate whispers and worried looks being exchanged between everyone. The problem was Daniel. He had never regained consciousness, and Junior wasn’t talking. A ventilator was doing his breathing, and drugs were keeping his heart functioning. But for all Jack knew, Daniel was a dead man.
Teal’c hadn’t left his side, his larger hand holding Daniel’s, his pained eyes never leaving his mate’s. The Companions in the tank were all sunk to the bottom, pressing close to the glass, as if they might somehow reach Daniel that way.
Dean spent most of his time in sickbay as well, keeping track of Eric and Daniel, but while his body was healed, something in him was still broken. Sam came down every now and then to check on him, but Sam wasn’t who Dean wanted. Dean had watched the video of Castiel, face tight, eyes deadened as the vortex swallowed the angel up, blowing the gate system to hell. He’d barely said a word since then.
Yeah, Christmas was going to suck.
Sheppard went looking for McKay. Since they’d been back, the scientist had made himself scarce, and Sheppard had some things he needed to say to the man. He checked the labs, McKay’s quarters, even the armory, but he was nowhere to be found.
“Where the hell is he?” Sheppard asked Flutie.
“By the tank.”
Sheppard shot his Companion a flash of annoyance. “Why didn’t you tell me? You know I’ve been looking for him.”
“He just got there,” Flutie said defensively. “I couldn’t feel his Companion until just now.”
“I don’t know. His Companion doesn’t say much.”
Sheppard had been afraid of this. “Is he unhappy?”
“Or Rodney. Either.” Sheppard knew McKay had taken on a symbiote to save his life and he was afraid Rodney had been avoiding him because he hated it and now, without Castiel around, Rodney was sort of stuck. Flutie had no answer for him, so John jogged back toward the infirmary. On the way he asked, “Any news from Junior?”
“No,” Flutie said morosely. Then, quietly, as if anyone could overhear him when he spoke in the privacy of John’s mind, “Do you think he’s dead?”
Flutie’s horror at that thought, even as he expressed it, came across as a painful zinging sensation in John’s chest. “No,” John said, “he can’t be.” Although he could be, and that was the problem. Except Junior had been alive on the planet; he’d spoken to Zeus. He’d asked for help, and John had passed that message along to Teal'c, and Teal’c had started CPR in response to it. And now Daniel was better physically. Junior didn’t have to actually keep him alive as the machines were doing that, so surely he had to be okay, right?
John entered the infirmary and saw McKay at the tank, studying the symbiotes within. “Hey,” John said.
McKay shot him a startled look, but then said, “Hey,” in return.
“So,” John said.
McKay went back to studying the tank.
“They look different, don’t they, once you get one in your head?” John said.
“I thought they were the most repulsive things I ever saw,” McKay agreed.
“Still pretty repulsive,” McKay said, with a small slanted smirk on his face.
John snorted out a short laugh. “Thanks, by the way.”
McKay waved him off. “I couldn’t just let you die. And as it turns out, Winchester and Jackson would have died, too, if I hadn’t done what I did.” He looked smug.
“How are you two getting along?”
McKay’s eyebrows went up in question.
John tapped his head.
Not exactly the enthusiastic response John had been looking for. Cameron Mitchell chose that moment to enter the infirmary; they were all taking turns, and John sent him a half salute. When he turned back to speak further to McKay, the man was gone. “Damn it.”
Teal’c looked up when a hand landed on his shoulder. It was Dean Winchester. Teal’c gave him a nod, and turned back to Daniel.
“I’m sorry,” Dean said.
“Without you, Daniel would certainly be dead.”
“I know, I’m just sorry, man. This sucks.”
Teal’c had no argument to that. “I am also sorry to hear about Castiel.”
Dean looked away, lips tightening. “He probably would have left sooner or later anyway. Not like hanging around with me was all he was gonna do.”
“I do not believe that,” Teal’c told him. "I believe he was committed to staying with you. That was evident to anyone who saw you together.”
Dean shrugged. “Not like it matters anymore. Stupid freaking angel.”
The sadness in Dean’s eyes put a lie to his casual words, and Teal’c suspected the pain in Winchester’s life rivaled Teal’c’s own. He was not sure Dean would recover from this, much as Teal’c would not recover if Daniel died. He met Dean’s eyes, wanting to make sure the man saw that Teal’c understood, that they both grieved deeply.
Jack glanced at his watch and decided it was time to go back to the infirmary. After two days of infirmary duty, he’d had to get back to work, or at least pretend he was working. Hammond was allowing them all some latitude, but Jack was his second in command and that job came with certain responsibilities that didn’t stop just because you wanted them to.
He still went by regularly, watching as they tried the healing device on Daniel several times a day. The last time, he was sure he’d seen a glimmer of Junior, but the flash, if there’d even been one, had gone too soon to be sure.
Eric was doing his best to keep a stiff upper lip, but he was in pain no matter how hard Satrap tried to help.
Sam Winchester had told Jeff, who’d told Paul, who’d told Jack, that Dean hadn’t stopped yelling for Castiel. It had been three days since the incident with the wormhole, though, and Jack didn’t think the angel was coming back. Jack couldn’t believe Castiel would stay away when Dean was clearly in such anguish about it.
He walked into the infirmary and saw Teal’c at Daniel’s side, his head bowed. He looked like he was praying, but Jack suspected he was catching a nap. Even Jaffa needed to sleep sometime, at least they did if they weren’t meditating, and Teal’c hadn’t left Daniel’s side except for his surgery or when nature’s call couldn’t be denied.
Paul was by Eric’s bed and Jack moved over to him. “Anything?” Anything meaning angels popping in, healing devices working, shattered bones rebuilding, even a good joke. Jack would take whatever he could get.
Paul shook his head. “Same.”
Jack was sick of the same.
“How’s Sara?” Paul asked.
That was good news, Jack thought with a small grin. “She’s good. She hates that she’s getting fat, but I love it.”
Paul grinned back.
“O’Neill,” came Teal’c’s voice.
Jack walked to him. “I’ll take over for a few minutes. Go shower and eat something. Do some Kel-no-reeming.”
“I do not require…”
“Go,” Jack ordered, hoping Teal’c would obey.
Teal’c looked like he wanted to argue, but he nodded his head. “I shall return shortly.”
“I’m sure you will.”
Teal’c surrendered Daniel’s hand and stood up, stiffly, for a Jaffa. He sent Jack a stern look as if to tell him that if Daniel were in worse shape when he returned, heads would roll.
Jack sat down and took Daniel’s hand. “I got this. Go.”
There was a moment’s hesitation, but Teal’c went.
“So,” Jack said to Daniel. “You always have to do things better than anyone else. Always gotta be the showoff. Everyone else is at least talking, but not you. Oh, no.” He sincerely hoped the sarcasm would force Daniel to come back at him with some snappy rejoinder. Janet wandered by and Jack asked, “So explain to me why he’s not waking up? If there’s not anything actually physically wrong with him, why’s this happening?”
“All I can come up with is that he was dead for long enough that it’s taking them a while to recover.”
“But they will recover?”
“Colonel, much of all of this, the Companions, what they can do, is still a mystery. Daniel’s body is alive, he does show brain activity, but he’d suffocated on all the dirt he’d breathed in. Teal’c did a valiant attempt at CPR, but not much air, if any, could have gotten in. He kept his heart going, which is the most important thing, but it doesn’t compensate for the lack of oxygen for as long as Daniel went without. I can’t promise you he’ll recover, or is he wakes up that he’ll be all there. I wish I could.”
It all sounded like bullshit to Jack, and he felt a surge of anger at Castiel that the angel had done something so stupid. He’d be able to fix Daniel with a snap of his fingers. As he sat there, Claude briefly dropped by, touching Daniel’s arm and then speaking for a minute or two to Eric and Paul. Then Sara came in and gave Jack a quick hug and kissed Daniel on the forehead. He put his hand on her belly and, using Tana’oa’s talents, listened to his child swishing around, its barely audible heartbeat a steady cadence. They didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, and had decided they’d just wait and see.
“I think it is a girl,” Tana’oa said.
“Do you know that, or are you guessing?”
“Tana’oa thinks it’s a girl,” Jack told Sara.
“Most of the Companions seem to think it’s a girl,” Sara said with a smile. “I’m not sure if that’s because it is, or if that’s what they want.”
“Why would they care?” Jack asked.
“If it’s a girl, we can name her Cindy Lou Who,” Tana’oa said.
“He wants us to name her Cindy Lou Who,” Jack smirked at Sara.
“Tell Tana’oa forget it,” she said dryly. “No Dr. Seuss characters for my baby’s name.”
Tana’oa sighed. “Talk her into it, Jack.”
“No thank you, I don’t like sleeping on the couch.”
Sheppard and McKay walked in next. “Hey, McKay,” Jack said, “come over here.”
McKay grimaced but came over.
“Have you named your Companion yet?”
“I told him to name it…” John started.
“I’m not naming him after a football player,” Rodney interrupted, glaring at him.
“Tana’oa wants to name my daughter, assuming it is a daughter, Cindy Lou Who,” Jack told him.
“Who’s Cindy Lou Who?” Rodney asked.
John slapped his forehead. “Rodney, how can you not know who Cindy Lou Who is?”
Rodney furrowed his brow. “What? Is she a cheerleader? That’s a ridiculously stupid name.”
“The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?” John prompted.
“The one with the dog?” Rodney asked.
“What dog?” Jack asked.
“The dog that pulls the sleigh,” Rodney said. “That’s from the Grinch, right?”
John looked relieved. “At least you’ve heard of it. I thought I’d have to feel sorry for you.”
Rodney looked horrified at the thought. “Because of a cartoon? Please. If you want to feel sorry for me, feel sorry that I have to work with cretins.”
John rolled his eyes.
Janet was suddenly there looming, despite her short stature. Jack had no idea how she did that. Fortunately, she was directing her gimlet stare at Rodney. “Are you and your Companion okay? I know you really didn’t want one.”
“He took it to save my life,” John said with a smug grin, bouncing on his toes.
Rodney blushed a little, which Jack actually found a little endearing. Maybe John Sheppard was helping to turn McKay into a real boy. Lord knows, nothing else had.
“Doctor?” Janet pressed. “I know you don’t have many options, but if you’re unhappy, we could contact the Tok’ra.”
Rodney took a step away from her and into John. John put his hand on Rodney’s shoulder as if in support. “No, I’m okay,” Rodney told Janet.
McKay nodded. Jack suppressed a grin. Like all the Companions, Jack was sure once he’d gotten inside McKay, there’d been an instant bonding, and no way was McKay letting go of him.
“What’s his name?” Jack asked.
“I don’t know yet,” Rodney said. “It has to be perfect.”
“Herschel Walker,” John threw out.
“Good one,” Jack said. “How about Vince Young?”
Rodney shot them both venomous looks and stalked out of the infirmary.
Sheppard grinned at Jack, and Jack grinned back. Then Jack looked at Daniel and the smile slowly slid off his face. He heard Sheppard walk away, and after a while, Teal’c came back. Jack surrendered his seat without a word, patted Teal’c’s shoulder, and left.
“Hey,” Jack asked Dean. He found him up on top of the mountain, outside the emergency exit. “How you holding up?”
Dean was leaning against a tree, hands in his pockets. He shrugged. He bit at his top lip then stopped, as if he were giving himself away.
“I’m sorry,” Jack said. “Not that it does any good.”
Dean nodded at him, but still didn’t say anything.
“And I know this is way too soon for you to hear this, but just in case you’re starting to think stupid things, like do we still want you without your angel, the answer is yes.”
There hadn’t been much teaching going on in the gym. Jack guessed that Dean was a little too angry, and maybe afraid he’d hurt someone.
Dean’s lips trembled a little, and he angrily wiped at his eyes.
Jack felt a moment’s pity for the kid, at how, despite his best efforts, his heart was always right out there for anyone to see.
“It’s just,” Dean began. He turned partly away from Jack and shook his head.
“It’s just what?”
“After my mom died, it was just me and Sam and Dad, and it was okay. I mean it was hard, but it was okay.”
Jack had heard some of the tales, and thought hard was a vast understatement, but he waited to see where Dean was going with this.
“Then Sam left to go to college, and Dad started doing hunts on his own, and so I hunted on my own, too.” He shrugged again, let out a self-conscious laugh, “Not much else for me to do. It was all I knew, you know?”
“I hated it. Not the hunting, I loved that. But I hated being on my own. I hated Sam for leaving, and I hated my Dad for, well, for a lot of things, but I would have taken them back in a minute.” He stopped talking, and Jack wondered if that was all he was going to get. Then, a few minutes later, Dean started again. “Me and Sam were really tight when we were kids. And then when we started hunting again and it was just him and me, for a while it was great. But then the shit hit the fan and things started to fall apart.”
Jack snorted at that understatement.
“It’s just that,” Dean said, his voice thick, “Cas was mine, you know? He was mine, and now he’s fucking gone. I don’t know what to do.” He wiped more tears away. “Merry fucking Christmas.”
Jack wished he could go and give the guy a hug, but he suspected Dean would push him away. He’d probably hate himself later for even giving Jack this much.
“And I know I’ve got Zeus, and everyone here, and that’s already more than I’ve ever had in my whole life, but he was Cas. He was unbelievable, he was this being of such power and righteousness, and he thought I was worth saving. He believed in me.” He let out a shaky laugh, and Jack, through Tana’oa, could hear Zeus reassuring Dean that he was worth saving, that he was wonderful. Dean pointed at his head. “Nice cheering section.”
“Tell me about it,” Jack said. “Dean, I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, I know.” Dean sniffed, wiping his nose on his sleeve. “Sorry. It’s just, it never stays good, you know? It always goes bad.”
Jack had nothing consoling to say in response to that.
“Sorry about Daniel,” Dean said. “I tried to save him.”
“You did save him. You practically tore your body in half hanging on to him. And thanks for that, by the way.”
Dean nodded. “I figured Teal’c would kill me if I let go of him.”
Jack let out a short laugh. “Somehow I think there was more to it than that.”
Dean blew out a breath, wiped his face one more time. “Guess I should go in. Zeus says Sam’s looking for me.”
“He’ll probably want to hug you,” Jack gently teased him, wanting to lighten the mood, to help Dean pull himself together.
Rolling his eyes, Dean said, “He’s even worse now that he’s got Jess. Jess is a total chick-flick-Companion.”
Tana’oa laughed inside of Jack, agreeing with Dean’s assessment. Jack snorted. “I’ll go in with you. It’s time for me to check on Daniel.”
Together, they entered the mountain.
Teal’c was tired. He wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but he needed to sleep. Even more, he needed to meditate. He was grateful for the times O’Neill ordered him out, but it wasn’t sufficient. At some point soon, Teal’c would need to leave Daniel for long enough to regain his balance. Even the thought of that was painful. He couldn’t bear not to be the one with him when he reopened his eyes. Teal’c had to know the instant it happened, and he was not willing to believe it wouldn’t happen. Daniel would not leave him.
He glanced at the bedside table next to the bed Daniel was lying on. People had started bringing gifts, gaily wrapped presents, festooned with ribbons and bows. They looked like offerings to false gods. Teal’c knew they represented people’s hopes and prayers for Daniel, but they mocked him, reminded him of his own gifts for Daniel that lay in their quarters, ones that Daniel might never open.
A light bulb above him blew out with a spray of sparks. He glanced sharply up, trying to assess if Daniel might be in danger. The Christmas lights trimming the windows blinked on in a crazy pattern before going off again.
“What’s happening?” Janet snapped out. “Who’s doing that?” She looked for a likely culprit, but it was late, and the only people in the infirmary were Daniel and Teal’c, Eric Sandler, the tank of Companions, and the infirmary staff.
A rumble of thunder filled the room and all the lights turned on in a display that hurt Teal’c’s eyes. Then, in a flash, Castiel was standing there, turning, speaking hurriedly, “Where is Dean? He is hurt, I heard him calling for me.”
Hope burst through Teal’c, and he sprang to his feet. “He is no longer hurt. You must heal Daniel Jackson.”
“I must find Dean,” Castiel said.
Teal’c reached over Daniel and grabbed Castiel’s arm, as if he could keep the angel there if he chose to leave. “Dean has already been summoned. Please, heal Daniel Jackson.” Teal’c knew the Companions would have spread the word instantly.
Castiel looked down at Daniel. “What happened?”
“It does not matter,” Teal’c said. “You can heal him.”
Castiel put his hand on Daniel’s chest. From one second to the next Daniel’s eyes were open and he was coughing around the endotracheal tube in his throat. Janet was instantly there, talking to Daniel, removing the tube, disconnecting the ventilator.
And just like that, Daniel was whole, and Teal’c had his arms wrapped around his mate, listening to Daniel’s bewildered words, a mixture of comfort to Teal’c, and confusion about what was going on. Teal’c would answer all those questions to Daniel’s satisfaction, but right now, all he wanted to do was hold him.
Thank God, thank God, thank God, was all Jack could think as he caught up with Dean who was flat out running to the infirmary. There was no need to ask him if he’d heard; it was written all over his joyous face. Then, right on the heels of the news that Castiel had appeared, apparently unhurt, was the jubilant news from Junior that Daniel was fine, that Castiel had healed him.
Dean shot him a wild grin, and the two of them ran faster. Dean hit the infirmary door a second before Jack and, once through the door, he came to a complete stop. Castiel was standing there, staring at Dean as if he was the second coming.
Eric was behind him, standing on his own two feet, two metal bars in his hand, smaller metal pieces surrounding him on the floor, a shit-eating grin on his face.
It only took a second, but then Dean was moving again, and he kept going until he was hugging the stuffing out of his angel. “Jesus, Cas, I thought you were dead.”
Castiel’s arms slowly wrapped around Dean, and he closed his eyes and held Dean back just as tightly.
Jack eyed the entire affair with immense satisfaction as the room began to fill up as the news hit the mountain. They crammed in, SG-3 surrounding Eric, clapping him on the shoulder hard enough to make him stumble, but he didn’t care. He just showed off all the metal rods and pins that Castiel had yanked out of him after recreating his bones.
Daniel was focused on Teal’c who still looked a wreck. Carter was sitting on the end of Daniel’s bed, one hand on his feet, while Sean, Claude, and Paul, splitting his time between Eric and Daniel, hovered close by.
Dean and Castiel were still hugging and everyone was leaving them alone. Even Sam Winchester, who was leaning against the wall with a relieved smile on his face.
Hammond appeared and Jack met him by the door, bringing the general up to date. Hammond looked as pleased as Jack felt. He took a step toward the angel but stopped. There was something about the two of them, Dean and Castiel, that brooked no interruptions. Like something sacred was going on. Like there might be smiting if Castiel had to move away.
Finally Dean pulled away about an inch and simply stared at Castiel. Castiel stared back. That’s all they did: stare at one another. This, Jack thought, would be the perfect time for a kiss. If they were the kissing kind. They didn’t kiss but, from one second to the next, they vanished.
As if their disappearance broke some sort of spell, the infirmary broke out into cheers and hollering, and a general melee of glad tidings of joy. Jack decided it was going to be a very merry Christmas after all.
Teal’c knew they were expected at Jack and Sara’s, but he was in no hurry to move. He lay on Daniel, both of them still panting after their love-making.
Daniel ran his fingers over Teal’c’s gold tattoo. “Have I said thank you, yet?”
“There is no need.”
“I know, but Jack said you never left my side.”
Teal’c ran his hand down Daniel’s side. “Where else would I go?”
Daniel slowly kissed Teal’c, their tongues leisurely mating, enjoying the connection, Teal’c exulting in the fact that this had not been taken from him.
“I’m sorry I scared you,” Daniel said.
“It is no longer of concern. You are healed. You are here with me. I wish to think of it no longer.” Teal’c pulled Daniel closer. It had been too close this time. “I am grateful Castiel reappeared.”
“So was Dean,” Daniel said with a grin.
“He was most grieved by his loss.” As were they all, Teal’c thought, as without him, Daniel might not have survived.
“If they weren’t together before this, I bet they are now.”
“Sam Winchester has informed me that Dean Winchester and Castiel often stare at each other for long periods of time with serious intent. He says he has often observed it.”
Daniel let out a quiet “hmm”, and then, after a long moment, said, “I wish I could have seen the ruins before the planet went insane.”
“You will get over it,” Teal’c said sternly.
Daniel frowned at him. “Once the planet is…”
“No,” Teal’c interrupted.
“Even if Castiel goes?”
“Perhaps if Castiel goes,” Teal’c hedged. “And I will be tying a rope around you and attaching the other end to me.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “It was hardly my fault the planet decided to terraform itself just when I was there.”
“You always say it is not your fault, and yet these things always happen to you.”
Leaning down, Daniel kissed Teal’c again. “I’m sorry. I know you had the worst of it, sitting there. I hate being the one sitting at the bedside, waiting.”
Teal’c had hated it, too. “I do not like to think of losing you.” It was still too soon to let it go, no matter how pragmatic Teal’c liked to be.
“I really am sorry, although it really wasn’t my fault.”
Teal’c might, later, be willing to concede the point. “We must get up and get dressed if we wish to be on time.”
Daniel snuggled in, licking Teal’c’s nipple. “I think we could be late.”
Teal’c was very willing to concede that point.
Rodney let out a yell as Castiel suddenly appeared in front of him. John bit back a smile, although he’d been startled, too. After all, they were in John’s quarters, and it wasn’t a place Castiel frequented. Ever.
“Do you wish to keep your Companion?” Castiel asked Rodney.
“What? Yes. Yes, it’s…we’re fine. Really.” Rodney backed up into John.
Castiel cocked his head to the side and John wondered if he was checking in with Rodney’s symbiote, whom he had yet to name.
Both John and Rodney stared at the angel, wondering what else he might want.
“Thank you,” Castiel said to Rodney.
“For helping to save Dean Winchester. I owe you a debt of gratitude.” With that he disappeared.
Rodney gaped at the empty space in front of him. “That’s a good thing, right? Having an angel owe me? Not that I necessarily believe he’s an angel, but whatever, that can’t be too bad, right?” Rodney didn’t look convinced.
“What do you think he’s going to do to you?” John asked with a small grin. “He was thanking you.”
“I know, but he made it sound so official. I don’t know if I want him trying to figure out how to pay me back. What if he does something insane?”
“I don’t know. Like change physics, or, I don’t know, bring someone back from the dead I really could live without?”
John rolled his eyes. “If he does something for you, it will be something you want, Rodney.”
“But you know how I talk, how I think. What if he checks in at some random moment when I’m wishing for something ridiculous? Do you realize the type of power he has? He brings people back from the dead. I don’t think that can be said enough.”
“We’re not sure Daniel was actually dead,” John pointed out.
“He rebuilt Eric’s body.”
“I think it’s funny how you’re remembering everyone’s names now.”
“Only the ones with Companions,” Rodney said grumpily.
“Speaking of Companions,” John said. “What are you going to name him?”
Rodney checked his watch. “Aren’t we supposed to be at Colonel O’Neill’s house right about now?”
John nodded. He had been surprised to get an invitation to a dinner, him and Rodney, but he’d been glad enough to accept. He liked O’Neill and thought he was the best commanding officer he’d ever served under. He was a total nutjob, which worked when everything about the job was nuts. “We have a few minutes.”
Rodney frowned. “Euler.”
“Euler? The mathematician? The guy who introduced the use of the exponential function and logarithms in analytic proofs?”
Rodney looked uncomfortable but he nodded.
“What’s the matter? You named him. If you don’t like the name, change it.”
“It is not the name he is uncomfortable with,” Euler said, his eyes glowing. “It is the fact that he chose a mathematician’s name for you, because he thinks your mad math skills are hot.”
Rodney turned red and started to sputter.
John started to laugh. “Oh, Euler, I think you and I are going to get along great.”
“He’s totally misrepresenting me,” Rodney protested.
“You think I’m hot?” John said, preening.
“Totally. Misrepresenting. Me. I admire your mathematical mind.”
“Right. You think I’m hot.”
Rodney turned even more red.
“That’s okay,” John consoled him. “I think you’re hot, too.”
That stopped Rodney short, and he stared at John. “What?”
“You heard me.”
“Me?” Rodney looked utterly confused, and John thought it was adorable. “Me?” Then he frowned. “Is this a joke?”
John leaned in and kissed Rodney. Just a peck on the lips, but he figured it would show intent.
Rodney blinked at him. Then he licked his lips.
John held back a groan. This was such bad timing. “We really do need to go.”
“What? No. Wait!”
“O’Neill sort of ordered me, us, to attend.”
“You kissed me!”
“Did you mind?” He knew Rodney didn’t. Euler was a total gossip and he was telling Flutie all about Rodney’s rubbery knees and fluttery stomach. John was going to love Euler. “Doesn’t matter whether you did or not,” John told him. “I’m doing that again later.”
“You are? Really?”
John grinned and opened his door. “Come on. I hear O’Neill grills a good steak.” He prodded a temporarily speechless Rodney out the door.
“Are you hurt?” Castiel asked Dean urgently, his hand touching Dean’s shoulder.
“No, I’m fine,” Dean said, annoyed and exultant at the same time. “Jesus, Cas, I thought you were dead. They told me you were dead.” He glanced quickly around, saw that he had absolutely no idea where they were. They were alone, and that worked for Dean.
“I heard you cry out for me,” Castiel said. “I couldn’t get to you. I heard your muscles tear, felt your pain.”
It finally sank in that Castiel was really upset. “Hey, hey, Cas, I’m fine. See?” Dean moved his arm around. “Nothing’s broken or torn.”
Castiel still looked guilty.
“Where did you go? Why did you do that? You’ve been gone for days.”
“Days?” Castiel said, looking honestly startled, which weirded Dean out more than everything else.
“Yeah, days. Did you hear me that that I thought you were dead?” Dean wanted to hug Cas again, but he figured he’d already used his hug quotas if he wanted to hang on to his manhood.
“I had no idea,” Castiel said. He touched Dean’s shoulder again, the one that had torn to pieces as he’d hung on to Daniel Jackson with everything he had. It was not the shoulder with the angel’s handprint on it. He was glad about that; he hadn’t been sure if the healing device would have gotten rid of it and he’d grown sort of attached.
“You were hurt.” Castiel couldn’t seem to move past that point.
“Yeah, Cas, I was. We all were. But we’re fine now. Daniel and Eric were the last, and you just fixed them, so we’re all good.”
“I am sorry I could not get to you.”
“I’m beginning to get that. Really. But while we’re on the subject, where were you that you could hear me but not get to me?”
Castiel thought for a long time, and Dean let him, using the time to drink his fill of the angel. Not dead. Despite what he’d told Jack, he’d gotten a happy ending this time. “I do not exactly know. I was everywhere and nowhere.”
Dean’s eyebrows went up. “Is that supposed to make sense?”
“I could hear you calling me, I could hear Zeus and Junior and the other Companions as well. I could see that I had done some damage to the gate system, but I could not intervene. It was as if I was omniscient but powerless.”
“Yeah, that’s not freaky at all.”
“I am truly sorry I could not come to your aid or to assist the others. I was foolish to try such an experiment without more data.”
Dean thought about that for a moment. He thought about being angry, but he just couldn’t muster it up in the face of Castiel being alive. “Look. Daniel will be okay with it as long as you can get him to those ruins of his. Jack won’t care because he got everyone back. Eric’s so happy to be walking again, he won’t care. Teal’c’s so glad Daniel’s okay, he won’t care. And Sheppard and McKay, well, they’re walking around with little hearts in their eyes that we’re all pretending we can’t see, so they sure as hell don’t care. We’re good.”
Castiel didn’t look like he had any intention of letting himself off the hook that easily.
“How’d you get back?” Dean asked.
“I finally understood how the gate system works. Once I did that, I was able to free myself.” He took a step toward Dean. “I will not do it again.”
Dean thought about stepping back. He thought about reminding Castiel about his space issues. He thought about hugging the angel again. Instead, without thinking, he pressed his lips to Castiel’s and said, “You better not.” Then he took a step back.
Castiel followed him. “I will not,” he promised, and then kissed Dean back, just as quickly, as if sealing a deal. Before Dean could figure out what the kisses meant, Castiel said, “Colonel O’Neill asked us to be at his house now.” He put his fingers to Dean’s forehead, and they were standing in O’Neill’s backyard.
Dean frowned at Cas. “We’re not done with this conversation.” Not that he was a supporter of talking, per se, but Dean thought it might be important to find out what those kisses meant. Maybe nothing. Maybe Cas thought it was how earthlings shook on gentlemen’s agreements. Then again, Dean stared at the angel, at how his eyes seemed to be twinkling with his lips turned up in the barest of smiles, maybe Castiel meant a whole lot of something with that kiss of his. Maybe it was Dean who’d have to decide what he meant, and what he wanted. “Don’t go far,” Dean told Cas firmly, one hand wrapped tightly around the angel’s forearm.
There was a little more of a smile on Cas’s face now, and Dean found himself smiling back, wishing they were alone again.
“Cas!” Sam said, calling from the sliding glass door. “Glad you’re alive, dude.”
“Thank you,” Castiel said seriously. “As am I.”
Jack tapped his glass for everyone’s attention. “Everyone shut up!” he yelled out. “I have something to say.”
It took a few moments, but then everyone quieted down and focused in on Jack.
“This was shaping up to be one of the worst Christmases ever, but thanks to a bunch of you, it’s one of the best. So, I just want to go on record as saying thanks. Thanks to Teal’c for never giving up, for Dean Winchester for one hell of a good grip, for McKay for taking on a Companion, and thanks to Castiel for showing up in time to fix the ones we couldn’t.”
Castiel gave a brief nod and then glanced at Dean as if to see if he should do anything else. Jack tried to see if either the angel or Dean looked like they’d been making out behind the barn, but he didn’t see it. McKay and Sheppard, on the other hand, needed some lessons in subtlety. Not that they were engaged in PDAs but they were giggling like a couple of school kids. Sara had already told him she thought it was cute. Jack tried to explain DADT to her, but she blew a raspberry at him.
“I think they’re cute, too,” Tana’oa said. “And Zeus says that Dean kissed Castiel, and Castiel kissed him back!”
Jack snorted out a laugh and then caught Dean’s eye. He looked highly aggrieved, like he’d heard Zeus spilling the beans. Jack grinned at him, and then smirked as Tana’oa promised Zeus and Dean he wouldn’t tell anyone else. Cross his heart and hope to die.
He could see Dean’s mouth form the word “Fuck”, but then Dean grinned back, rolling his eyes and shaking his head.
Jack noticed that Castiel was never more than two inches away from Dean the entire night. Even Sheppard and McKay occasionally allowed a few feet between them.
“I’m so glad he came back,” Sara said, wrapping her arms around Jack.
“Me, too.” For a lot of reasons, Daniel chief among them, but also for Dean because that little speech of his on the mountain top had broken Jack’s heart.
“Do you think he’d be able to tell me if our baby is healthy?” Sara asked.
“Hey, Castiel, come here,” Jack bellowed. It was amazing how quick you could get used to having an angel around.
Castiel, with Dean hovering, approached. He nodded gravely to Sara. “You wish to know if your baby is healthy?”
She looked astonished by this, but Dean just smirked. She nodded.
Putting out his hand, he asked for her permission, and she placed his hand on her expanded belly. He listened for a moment and then removed his hand. “They’re fine.”
“What?” Jack said. “What?”
“The babies. They are fine.”
Sara clasped her hands over her belly. “Babies?” She glanced down at herself. “Two?”
“One is hiding behind the other, but yes, there are two. And they are fine. They feel loved.”
Sara’s eyes filled with tears. “That’s the most wonderful thing you could have said.”
Dean beamed like he’d been the one to say it.
“Twins?” Jack asked, feeling faint.
“What’s wrong?” Daniel asked, suddenly standing by Jack’s side.
“We’re having twins!” Sara exclaimed.
Daniel smiled at them both. “Congratulations! Twins!” He laughed at Jack. “Are you going to pass out?”
“I’m thinking about it.”
“I think it’s marvelous news,” Daniel said to him.
“As long as you stay around,” Jack muttered at him.
“That was not my fault,” Daniel said in exasperation.
Jack knew it wasn’t, but it still didn’t mean that Daniel hadn’t almost died again.
Junior’s eyes flashed at him in annoyance.
“Sorry,” Jack told him. “Forget I even thought that.” Then he smiled, pulling Sara in close. “You ready for this?”
Sara glanced around the room, at the amazing assortment of people in their home, from aliens to angels, and she smiled in return, leaning in and kissing him with a loud smack. “We’ll have two babies next Christmas.”
“Can anyone say spoiled brats?” Paul Costello asked.
Everyone burst into laughter, imagining the lavish attention these babies would receive.
“Hey,” someone yelled. “Winchester, you’re standing under some mistletoe.”
Jack grinned as Dean looked up to find that he was, indeed, standing under some mistletoe. He laughed out loud when Dean Winchester actually blushed.
“I do not understand,” Castiel said.
“Just ignore them,” Dean told him.
“You’re supposed to kiss if you’re under the mistletoe,” Paul Costello said helpfully. “And hey, Sheppard, you’re under some, too.”
“All I can say,” Jack told the group, “is whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, and consider this house Vegas.”
Sheppard let out a whoop and dipped McKay, planting a loud wet kiss on the man’s cheek. McKay spluttered, wiping off his cheek, shooting daggers at Sheppard.
Dean and Castiel were talking quietly, Castiel looking very confused. Dean finally moved them until they were no longer under the mistletoe, and he flipped Costello the bird. They had moved conveniently close to Jack.
“Why do you kiss under that plant?” Jack heard Castiel say. “It is a parasite, although it has long been used for many purposes in pagan ceremonies.”
“I’ll explain it later,” Dean told him.
Jack wished he could be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
“Because I would not be averse to kissing you again,” Castiel told Dean sincerely.
Dean shot Castiel an incredulous look. “You wouldn’t be averse?”
“Cut him some slack,” Jack said to Dean through Tana’oa.
Dean frowned but stopped whatever he’d been about to say. “Stop being nosy,” he said back to Jack through Zeus.
“Yeah, like that’s gonna happen,” Jack thought back.
“It’s Secret Santa time,” Paul yelled out. “And some of us managed to get presents for our person, not like some slackers who were just lying around in bed.”
Eric threw a roll at Paul who caught it easily, taking a bite.
“What is a secret santa?” Castiel asked Dean.
Paul was the one who answered, saying, “We all picked names out of a hat, and that’s the person you were supposed to buy a present for.”
Dean’s mouth opened up in an “oh,” and he winced. “I forgot. But I had you,” he said to Castiel, “so I’ll give you a present later, okay?”
Jack remembered the clever machinations it took to make sure Dean drew Castiel’s name out of the hat. No one else wanted to tackle buying a Christmas gift for an angel.
Castiel nodded. “I do not recall picking a name from a hat.”
“I picked one for you,” Dean said. “It was Daniel.”
“You already gave me my present,” Daniel told Castiel with a happy smile. “I’m alive and well, so best present ever, thanks.”
There was some general milling around as people who had managed to procure presents gave them out, and the people who didn’t, apologized and got hazed.
“Should I get Daniel another present?” Castiel asked Dean.
“Only if you want to, but he’s right. You sort of gave him a good present already.”
Castiel looked a little worried. “I did not get you or Sam presents.”
Dean shook his head. “You don’t need to. We don’t usually celebrate Christmas. Besides, I kind of got what I want.”
Castiel cocked his head to the side. “What was that?”
Dean whapped Castiel on his chest with the back of his hand. “You. You’re alive.”
Castiel stared intently at Dean, his lips curved up in a gentle smile. Then his eyebrows went up. “I believe I know what I can give to Daniel.” He waved his hand and then he tapped Daniel on the shoulder. “I have put your gift in the back yard.”
Daniel’s eyebrows furrowed then lifted in confusion, but he gamely went to the sliding glass doors that opened to the back yard. “Ah. Huh. What is that exactly?”
“They are the ruins you wished to see.”
“You brought them here?”
Jack saw that little line on Daniel’s forehead that spoke of lectures about leaving artifacts in situ, and he put a hand on Daniel’s arm. “Go to your happy place, Daniel. Besides, it’s not like I was going to let you go anywhere near that planet.”
Daniel frowned at Jack, and then frowned at Castiel, who shot a confused look at Dean. “I thought you said he would be happy if he had access to the ruins,” Castiel said to Dean.
Dean shrugged. “I guess I was wrong. Sorry about that.”
Jack smacked Daniel on the arm. “Say thank you to the angel. You’re harshing his present giving after-glow.”
It took Daniel a few seconds, but he looked at the ruins again and then began to smile. He graciously said, “Thanks, Castiel. I’ve never had my own set of ruins. Although I think Jack might want them someplace else. It might make it hard to have backyard parties when it’s warmer.”
“Does that mean he liked them?” Castiel asked Dean.
“Yeah, Cas, you did good.”
Castiel looked very pleased with himself. “I will be glad to move them to a different location,” Castiel assured Daniel. “And I believe I know what I can give you for Christmas,” he told Dean. “You have spoken often of seeing the Grand Canyon.”
“Whoa,” Dean said, hands up, “do not put that in Colonel O’Neill’s backyard.”
“Perhaps I could take you there,” Castiel said as if he’d actually been thinking about putting the Grand Canyon in Jack’s backyard.
“Maybe tomorrow when the sun’s up,” Dean said. “And maybe Sam can come with us.”
Castiel nodded, looking pensive. “I believe I will like this present giving.”
“You’ve created a monster,” Dean told Paul. “Everyone better watch out. You’ll never know what you’ll end up with in your backyard.”
Jack was a little nervous about his twins, once they were old enough to talk, and they started telling Castiel all the stuff they’d like in their backyard. He imagined coming home to giraffes and elephants and god knows what else.
“Really, I’m good,” Dean was telling Castiel. “I got everything I need.”
“There must be something you would like for Christmas,” Castiel prodded.
“I got Sam, I got my baby locked away safely, Bobby’s got his legs back, I got a great job, and I got you. I’m good. That’s more than I ever thought I’d have. Seriously.”
Castiel was looking pensive again.
“I know,” Dean said. “I could use a great piece of pie. Can you do that? There was this deli in Kansas City, on Decker Street, that made the best apple crumb pie I’ve ever had. Get me some of that.”
Castiel disappeared and then reappeared in a few seconds with a slice of pie.
“Wait a minute,” Jack groused. “You didn’t bring enough for everyone?”
Castiel looked around, and then a dozen pies appeared on one of the counters in Jack’s kitchen.
“Perfect,” Jack and Dean said at the same time.
“I believe I have a present for you that you will appreciate,” Castiel told Jack.
“Nothing could be better than a good slice of pie. I mean besides the Daniel being alive and Eric being healed thing. That was good, too.”
“I think I can create a wormhole between any two gates,” Castiel said.
Jack’s eyebrows went up. “Okay. That’s a pretty good present, too.”
“Without a DHD?” McKay asked, suddenly standing there, listening in.
“Yes,” Castiel said. “I believe I can form it on my own.”
McKay got this look in his eyes that Jack recognized in Carter.
“No,” Sheppard told McKay, obviously recognizing the look as well. “You are not going back to the mountain with Castiel to watch him make wormholes.”
“And you’re not doing it tomorrow either,” Dean told him, “because we’re going to the Grand Canyon.” He leaned in, “And you better remember that he’s not your lackey.” Dean’s look was scary enough to make McKay take a step back.
“Touchy,” McKay groused. But he left the subject alone and looked a little nervously at Dean and Castiel.
Sheppard snickered, nudging at McKay, who shoved back at him.
A sense of well-being suffused Jack as he took in all the kooks currently in his home. Never a dull moment. Ever. May you live in interesting times, Jack thought to himself. A Chinese proverb and curse, but Jack would take it any day over a life without these people in it. He looked for Sara, found her, and strode over to her, giving her a kiss and a hug. “This what you thought you’d be doing this Christmas, last Christmas?” he teased her.
She laughed. “Never in my wildest dreams.”
He hugged her close as he watched Daniel go outside, Teal’c next to him, to play with his ruins, despite the fact it was dark as coal outside. Dean and Castiel were talking about something that was making Dean grin, while Sam gave Dean crap about it. Sheppard and McKay were over by the television looking at the Wii, Carter and Sean were making goo-goo eyes at each other, Paul, Eric, Jeff and Brian were eating pie, and… “Hey,” Jack yelled out, “save some pie for me.”