Jack and Hammond approached the black and gray wolf slowly and waited at the foot of the ramp. The wolf stood on its' hind legs and then transformed into a silver glad blond haired alien woman. They had met before, Takiya of the planet that had a population of Salish Indians, originally Native Americans who had been transported to the planet by Goa'uld . Takiya was one of many aliens who lived harmoniously with the transplanted Salish and until SG1 had visited the planet had taken the shape of the tribes religious entities. Takiya had come to trust Jack .
"We are honored that You would respond to our message." Hammond smiled and offered a hand to her arm but the woman with the breathing gills horizontal on her face just cocked her head to one side not understanding the polite gesture.
"You are unwell Jack of the Star gate?" she questioned, her attention had immediately been drawn to the emaciated man. Though last time she had seen the man he was wearing a sling from Tonani's trinium arrow, he had appeared healthy even vibrant. This was not the shadow of a man who stood before her. Even dressed for a mission, full weapons and pack. Heappeared even more wan against the contrast of the livery of a warrior.
"The Colonel has been recently undergone some injuries in the course of his duty. He is in need of recovery time and requests to be allowed to visit your planet." Hammond narrated for Jack.
"Can your medical facilities not heal him? " She asked in a neutral tone, there was nothing accusative in the tone.
"It's not all physical." Jack half whispered, there was still no strength in his voice." I need to be away."
Takiya saw it in the face, the hang of the head. Her species had come to understand the emotions and fragility of this human species. "Tonani will be pleased to see the one called Jack again." With that she began to turn towards the gate and Jack stepped up with her.
"Jack, here." Hammond handed Jack a handheld device to use to provide his IDC. " If you need anything son…"
Jack shook his head in understanding and pulled on his black baseball cap. Under the once comforting and familiar weight of his gear he nearly stumbled ash he followed Takiya who was once again in the shape of a wolf.
Daniel and Sam met outside of the conference room, Daniel with his mug of office already half gone. Both looked better from the long rest but their wounds were still obvious, even the one to their hearts concerned with Jack. To their surprise Janet Fraisier was also headed in the same direction. She was in a hurry, head down in concentration. The two members of the SG1 were but a step behind her. General Hammond was already seated at he head of the table. While the man usually had the poker face of Mississippi Riverboat gambler there was a current of muddy emotions stirring up a whirlpool behind his blue eyes.
"Be seated." Hammond said in acknowledgement of the three and continued to stare into his own mug of coffee.
"General?" Sam began to question but was immediately stopped by a raised hand.
"Colonel O'Neill has been given leave to recover. Folks you know as well as I did what and how he was affected the first time he came into the hands of Camazotz. This time without the intercession of the Nox Jack would either be dead or have continued to be infected and possibly turned into… well, whatever."
"Where is he sir?" Janet demanded, " I need to supervise his recovery. The Nox freed him of the nanocytes but even they couldn't heal all of his wounds. "
"Jack has requested time off planet. He has also asked me to keep his location secret even to you. People he needs your support right now and the best way to do that is to leave him alone. He is damaged and only he can find a way to fix himself. There is nothing for you to do Dr. Fraiser, nothing that either of you to can do Major Carter, Dr. Jackson. Until his return SG1 is on stand down. You two are free to work with other teams and or on research projects. Teal'c has contacted us and it will be a few more days before he has the issues resolved. SG3 will return also." Hammond did not give them a chance to interject.
"What about C.J , Captain Nave and Sergeant Blaney they are still back at Px8666?'" Daniel turned the topic away from Jack. " And Umbra we have to take her back there, back home."
"Dr. Jackson you have a go. Bring those three back, I think they have interacted sufficiently with the indigenous personnel." There was a tint of annoyance to the tone of the two star general. Partially it was annoyance with himself, he had nearly forgotten about that little trio.
Takiya walked along with Jack leading him gently toward the village. She could feel the pain with each step, how his body seem to want to just stop, not for a rest but to stop. Stepping out of the woods she heard the familiar sound of a crow caw. Zayles was present to investigate the arrival of the off worlder. The village was already bustling with activity. Smoke rose from lodges and children played and parents and elders laughed at their innocence She drank it in like water from a clear mountain stream. Jack slowed his step and stood for long moments, the fresh air, the lushness of his surrounds seemed to breath a fresh life into him. There was hope for him the wolf thought as she turned back to the woods. The crow, Zayles, took flight and joined her in the mist between trees.
The children saw the strange man, some had not seen his likes before, or since that first time, some remembered how strangers like him had made the mountains shake and the spirits angry. But as children are they ran to tell their elders wanting to alert as well as get permission to inspect the stranger.
Tonani came out of the main lodge followed by three elders. His face lit up when he saw that it Jack. His heart dropped to see the state that Jack was in. The two met up.
"Jack, you look bad." Tonani said with a sad smile and placed a gentle hand on Jack's shoulder.
"Good to see ya too." The smile was forced, pained.
"What are you doing here Jack? Alone too? "
It was almost impossible to admit but the words came over his lips in a frustrated hiss. "I need…" Jack couldn't finish his sentence, instead he just looked into Tonani's eyes almost blankly and shrugged his shoulders.
"Well let's go talk to the elders, maybe we can help you. " Tonani turned back towards the main meeting house. Once inside the elders greeted Jack cordially but whispered among themselves.
A small boy was seated one of the elders playing with a trinket of pure trillium, a sculpture of a what seemed a horse. The boy eyed Jack and crawled off the elders lap. He was perhaps six or seven years old. His black hair was unbraided and somewhat disheveled and he wore only a loin cloth. Approaching Jack he looked up at the strange pale skinned man and into the deep brown eyes. He took Jack's right hand into his little left one and after a few breaths he turned back tot the elders. The words that came from the child's mouth were simple and in his native tongue.
The words seemed to ripple through the elders. They looked at each other nodding and speaking in hushed tones. Jack didn't care , he was so far beyond caring. Tonani, however, understood the words but waited respectfully for the elders to speak.
The boy says your heart / your spirit is broken. We will help you. We must make some preparations. Jack we will help you." The eldest of the elders said he punctuated his pronouncement with a sad smile.
The boy, still holding onto Jack's hand, began to drag him from the meeting house.
"It's okay Jack, go with him. We have some things to get ready. I will come get you. The boy knows what you need right now. "
Jack O'Neill, always had a weak spot for kids, but at this very moment he thought of a bible passage "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a child will lead them. (Isaiah 11:1-2, 6 NIV). Odd at this time that he would think of God, for he believed that God had forsaken him, perhaps, it was the other way around. Interesting for a man who had hope to think about God.
The boy urged Jack along and soon other children began to gather and they were laughing and encouraging him to hurry. They took him away from the village and over the crest of a hill. They stopped and stood quietly but all pointed to the valley below. Jack didn't believe what he was seeing, a sight that he had never thought would be his to view. The immensity of it, the purity of it impacted him and he fell to his bad knees and slumped back. The children seemed to arrange him in a comfortable sitting position. The older ones, perhaps ten and twelve years of age began to remove his gear. Jack did not fight but continued to stare into the valley. Before him moving like a multicolored wave was a herd of horses, it seemed like thousands.
The smallest of the children, a little girl maybe three years old, crawled into Jack's lap and rested her head against his shoulder as her tiny arm slipped around his neck. Her other hand touched his chest, it rested over the scar of his self inflicted wound. The warm of her hand, the feel of a child and the unconditional love that was being offered was like an endorphin rush to the silver warrior. He felt his breathing was easier, deeper and meant something, meant that he was still alive, perhaps even had strength to continue. The children all sat with him, all watching the herd of horses enthralled at the movements and sounds transfixed as if watching a theatrical production. "better than a drive in" Jack thought with his dry humor but the words never escaped his lips, just a absurdity in his twisted mind. They group sat for some time, Jack didn't know how long nor did he care, the interruption was Tonani 's arrival.
"Jack, you like our horses?" Tonani asked but expected no answer. He received only a nod.
"I need to take Jack with me now." Tonani continued the children took the hint and scrambled off Jack's lap or over his shoulders and ran off laughing as a small mob carrying his equipment, and gear with them. .
"The elders agree to help you Jack. Takiya asked that we help too. You got good references Jack. " Tonani's humor was lost on him. " Ever been in a sweat lodge?"
"Sauna." Jack stepped even with Tonani as they walked back towards the village.
The sweat lodge had an ante chamber, two of the elders waited for Jack there. He allowed them to undress him. The only weapon that he had left was the black bladed commando knife strapped to his right thigh. One of the elders took it out and examined it carefully. The elder knew that they could do better and stronger with the Kee that the spirits gave them from the mountain, the very same metal that these strangers had wanted so badly before. But it was a good knife and the weapon of a warrior.
Once he was naked Jack was handed a loin cloth and in the same fashion as Tonani, he put it on.
"So what's a sauna Jack?" Tonani was carefully trying to bring his friend out of his shell. The wise Saliesh knew that he had to proceed very carefully. The wounds Jack had were not merely physical.
"Kinda of the same thing with towels, and more fat men with hairy backs." Jack replied starting to feel some humor returning. This place, this world was so pastoral and so far removed from the SGC and any Goa'uld he was feeling almost safe.
The elders led him into the chamber and sat him down between them. Jack let himself enjoy the feeling, the moist heat easing pains in his body he had forgotten about. Closing his eyes he tried to shut out the sounds of the world and just listen to his heart beat.
and the elders surveyed Jack's body. The Nox had managed to free
Jack of the nanocytes and restore him but not completely. The
wounds to his neck and the self inflicted attempt to kill himself was
still very red and fresh.
it seemed in the dim light of the lodge and through the steam that every wound that Jack had ever received was exposed, even from his most early childhood.. It was the spirits that gave the elders the vision. Their world had been a peaceful one, there were no wars or rival tribes stealing their horses and women. This world was indeed a utopia but only because of Takiya and the other protecting spirits.
Speaking softly in their native tongue, the elders discussed what they would do with Jack to bring him back to health. They would feed him, let him rest, then there would be one more meeting in the sweat lodge before they would send him on a dream ride. They realized that this silver haired warrior had been so defeated that he had lost himself. Only a spirit ride would he find himself, he would ride till he met with himself again.
Within an hour Jack was too exhausted to continue. Tonani took lead him to a lodge , it was Tonani's for now Jack would have a roommate, one that would look out for him, talk to him, explain, answer questions or just sit quietly. For the rest of this day and night Tonani would sit and watch Jack sleep. There were demon's in the dreams and Tonani watched as wounded man fought with each one, sometimes not winning. It was difficult for him to understand this, his world was so peaceful. He had never seen anyone so heart sick. After Jack had settled into what seemed a deep healing sleep Tonani left him for food.
The boy who had taken Jack by the had and lead him to see the herd saw Tonani and ran to him and leapt up into his arms.
"The stranger?" He asked.
"He is called Jack, he comes from the other side of the Standing water."
The boy's eyes grew wide, but he became thoughtful again. " His heart is broken so, evil did this to him. Why did the spirits not help him"
"He was not here for them to protect him. Neka, you ask so many wise questions. You truly will be a shaman when you get older."
"Are the spirits going to help Jack now, Tonani?"
"We will help him get better, first we let him rest, sleep, eat our good food and breath our air, then Neka once his body is healed he will have to heal his soul. This he must do by himself."
"Can he not do that on the side of the standing water he came from?" the boy continued to ask.
"No, he came here for help. His world is very complicated and has lost touch with their spirits not like we have here." Tonani let the boy down. "Go see your mother tell her I am coming over for dinner."
Tonani watched the boy run off, he tried not to let his heart get heavy for Jack but it was difficult. He had never seen such pain before.
Sergeant Blaney was the first to hear the star gate engage and the familiar swoosh that accompanied the as Colonel O'Neill put it, the flushing sideways. He immediately radioed Captain Nave and they agreed to meet up at the gate. It was not something that they both were looking forward to. As much as they had developed a relationship with both the Russno and the Obryi it was the one with the Vampires that had become so dynamic. CJ was smitten with Yurik and he was doing everything he could to persuade her to become his mate. This left Nave and Blaney thinking Angel and Buffy the Vampire slayer thoughts even though they had both had their liaison with two rather delectable female vampires. All of this was going to very hard to explain to Hammond.
It was Hammond who walked through the gate first. Behind him was Daniel, Sam and Umbra.
"Oh crap." Nave muttered and then brought himself to a full attention, his right arm saluting the General. Blaney was a mirror image.
"We are going to have to do some talking." Hammond continued to walk right past them, Umbra now at his side taking over the role of guide.
The vampire felt the touch of her home land beneath her feet and though barely a blade of grass was bent under her step each step was restorative. The evening sky was still only striped with crimson and the sun was well below the horizon. She sensed the arrival of her Father and the human nurse before the others. There was much she had to confess to her father and her people.
"We will accommodate all of you in our assembly hall, the elders of the Rusno will be called for and will be able to join us shortly. " Yurik waved an arm towards the deep woods which hid their underground home.
Hammond was not thrilled and the look he sent in CJ's direction was enough to turn her into a pillar of salt. Once she would have hung her head knowing the admonishment was coming but she had already decided to resign her commission. She was in love with Yurik and it just wouldn't do to go back to the SGC pregnant with a vampires child. That announcement was going to be like landing a 500 pounder in Hammond's lap. It was going to be interesting to have a step daughter a couple of hundred years old.