The Same Coin
AN: Many thanks, to all of you who stuck out this long delay. Your comments, favorites and other notifications kept me thinking about this story. I don't honestly know what happened to me, but writing is no longer something I can do without thought, it sort of feels like that part of my brain is closed. But the encouragement I received from knowing people were still reading, enjoying and hoping for the ending, kept me coming back to this final chapter.
I hope you enjoy!
This chapter is dedicated to pywacket3ps, had it not been for your nudging this story might never have been finished! Your last message to me got me to refocus my attention to this final chapter and I actually found that writing became a little more like it used to be. Thank you so much!
Thanks to Shuffles for the beta!
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters from Supernatural or Stargate SG-1
Dean stood for a minute watching Tiriaq lead the way further inland away from the last cluster of tepees; the Chief walked at his right, Daniel on his left. If Sam had any concerns for Tiriaq's plan of putting the demon to rest rather than sending it back to hell the way they'd been trained; it didn't show. Dean wondered briefly if the Shaman's methods would ultimately amount to the same thing in the end; somehow he doubted it.
Having grown up far more intimately with the nightmare that had sent John Winchester on his crusade, Dean was reluctant—unlike Sam—to see these things in shades of grey. If it preyed on humans, it needed to be put down. He needed it to be that simple, nothing else in the world was; second guessing cost lives.
"We going to have a problem?" O'Neill asked as he came up beside Dean. The expression on his face indicated he thought it was more likely the 'problem' would be coming from Dean rather than the demon.
Dean kept his eyes on Sam who was now deep in conversation with Daniel and Tiriaq. Despite Sam's clear enthusiasm at this once in a lifetime opportunity, the younger Winchester was still maintaining a firm grip on the lid of the case; not allowing himself to lose sight of the danger.
Dean considered Jack's question, casting a sidelong glance in the colonel's direction. Not being the one in control of this 'cleansing' Dean couldn't really list all the possible ways it could go wrong. Finally he decided on an answer. "I believe Tiriaq wouldn't knowingly risk the lives of his people," he said and honestly meant it.
"Oh good!" the colonel drawled, "There clearlywasn't a 'but' coming in that sentence."
Ignoring Jack's blatant sarcasm, Dean merely mouthed the word before finishing. "Hunting's black and white, if it kills and they all do." For an instant Dean's mind snapped back to Red Lodge, Montana, and Gordon Walker; but he shoved it aside. One anomaly—as much as it got Sam thinking, questioning and generally angsting more than normal, which was saying something—couldn't change the rhetoric that had been the harsh and bloody truth of Dean's life since the age of four. Shrugging the thought aside he all but spat the rest. "If it hunts humans, you put it down!"
"Are there not exceptions to most rules Dean Winchester?" Teal'c asked, obviously listening to the conversation though his eyes never strayed from their continuing sweep of the camp and surrounding plains.
"Hunt long enough and you see just how little good is actually out there," Dean growled tiredly; sliding his right hand across his chest to support his elbow, easing a little of the pain knotted in the shoulder. For a moment Dean took in his surroundings; what had been thick forest around the gate had given way to the ocean, while further out the land was windswept plains, great boulders breaking the otherwise smooth ground.
Dean became increasingly aware of Colonel O'Neill's eyes boring into him. A brief glance through the corner of his eye told Dean Jack was pointedly waiting for something.
"What?" the word slipped from his mouth without his permission.
"Will. There. Be. A. Problem?" Jack asked again.
"You want some sort of promise?" Dean asked incredulously; the barest of nods from Jack was his answer and an obvious indication that O'Neill was spending far too much time around Teal'c. "Not like we have a choice with the blood seal protecting the box."
Jack nodded; on the outside at least accepting that answer. Though the colonel continued to regard Dean pointedly; that O'Neill could do this without actually looking at him reminded Dean sharply of his father. He huffed a quick cough to loosen the lump that tried to choke him whenever he thought of John and looked back to his brother. He was surprised to find Sam looking back at him expression concerned.
Dean rolled his eyes when his brother excused himself from the conversation and slowed his pace until he fell in beside the older Winchester. "Why's Jack giving you the evil eye?" he asked, ducking his head slightly so he could speak without being overheard.
Dean shrugged his good shoulder. "No idea," he deflected, "you been taking notes?" he nodded to the group not far ahead of them. They were walking a well worn path, marked on occasion by a purposefully placed mound of stones. They reminded Dean of graves.
"It's amazing!" Sam said with a wide smile. "In nearly a thousand years their culture and life style hasn't changed."
"What was your first clue genius?" he scoffed, making an exaggerated visual sweep of their surroundings.
"Ha-ha," it dripped with sarcasm.
"Still," Dean continued more seriously, "with that much time you'd think they'd be a little more advanced."
"You're looking at it wrong Dean," Sam began in his lecturing voice. "We're looking at a people that minus outside influences is happy to remain as is. It works for them."
Dean nodded in agreement, wondering just how many cultures on Earth would have happily remained as they were, had industrialization not been forced upon them. "Do you know where Tiriaq is taking us?" he asked, redirecting the conversation.
"To the sacred land of his ancestors," Sam answered. "How're you holding up?"
The older Winchester flexed his left hand and stretched his neck away from that shoulder; neither did anything to lessen the pain throbbing on that side of his body. "I'll be fine Sam," he assured, very much looking forward to when this hunt was finally done; he could use a stiff drink and a full nights sleep.
Ahead Dean noticed a plume of smoke rising from a dip in the land, large boulders almost completely surrounding it and obscuring what lay beyond. Tiriaq stood to the side of a gap in the stone, that the Chief, Daniel and Carter had just walked through. The Shaman's gaze locked onto Dean, a slight smile turning the corners of his lips. "Come, Dean Winchester," he intoned formally.
Silvery smoke pungent with the sharp scent of burning herbs filled the ancient looking structure Tiriaq led them into. The earth floor was well packed and worn almost completely smooth from years of ceremonies and sacred rituals. At the very center a ring of small stones enclosed the glowing embers of a meticulously tended fire. A young man who looked remarkably like his father Tiriaq, knelt next to the coals sprinkling a mixture of dried herbs over the heat.
The chief sat directly across from the door, which was little more than an opening in the rock covered by an animal skin. Tiriaq took his place at the head of the structure to the left of the door and motioned for Dean to sit directly across the fire from him. Sam was forced to duck low in order to avoid disturbing the dream catchers which hung from the roughhewn ceiling along with other sacred items he didn't readily have a name for.
Taking his place on Dean's left side, Sam watched his brother closely. Though Dean's pride would have him deny it, it wasn't hard for the younger Winchester to see just how much pain his brother was in. Sam's own excitement to witness this cleansing ritual firsthand was quickly tempered by his wish to see Dean resting.
Sam's hand rested heavily on the hard shelled case containing the Kigatilik as he slipped the strap from his shoulder placing it in front of his folded legs. Tiriaq spoke to his son in soft tones, accepting from his hands an earthen bowl and flint knife, before turning his attention back to Dean.
The Shaman drew a slow breath before beginning to chant in a deep musical way.
"Awonawilona. Creator of All," Daniel quietly translated as Tiriaq continued to sing shaking an old rattle over the smoking embers. "I call to you. Lend me strength. Gray One. Spirit of the Mountain. I call to you. Lend me your power. Enter this place and heal its wounded heart. Mend its soul. Call to your brother. I trust him to you."
Placing the rattle reverently before the fire Tiriaq tossed a handful of herbs over the fire causing it to spark briefly to life. "Breathe deeply of this sacred flame," he intoned in English, eyes locked onto Dean.
Dean's wince was almost perfectly concealed as he did as the Shaman asked.
Tiriaq took up the flint knife and flipped back his sleeve, without a moment's hesitation the Shaman took the razor edge to the outside of his forearm drawing a thin line of blood which he allowed to collect within the bowl.
After several silent moments Tiriaq placed the bowl within Dean's reach and handed him the knife. This part of the ritual required no translation for the hunters. Dean accepted the blade pushing back his own sleeve to expose his left arm. With a deft movement Dean sliced his own skin allowing his blood to mix with that of Tiriaq's.
"Here," it was Carter who handed Sam a field dressing that the younger Winchester quickly applied to his brother's arm as the Shaman took back the bowl swirling the blood over the embers.
"Sam," Tiriaq spoke solemnly, "Give to me the Mahaha."
Sam knew this moment was coming, had felt more secure in allowing the Shaman access to the box than his brother had. Now in the moment he couldn't help a feeling of hesitation.
"Please Sam," the Shaman said, reaching out his hand. "Trust in the power of my ancestors."
The hunter nodded. "Right," Snapping open the case Sam reached into the salt for the small box.
He passed the artifact across to the Shaman who took it, placing it almost reverently into the bowl of blood. And just like that a gust of wind formed out of thin air, blasting through the stone structure causing the small flames of the dying fire to dance to life once again.
Silence reined for a moment. "Wait...that's it?" Jack asked sounding thoroughly unimpressed.
"That was just the blood seal," Dean growled, eyes never ceasing their wary observation of the small artifact.
"Indeed O'Neill," Tiriaq responded before he placed the bloodied box into the embers of the fire. With another slow intake of breath the Shaman began to chant once again.
"I call on you Kigatilik, Son of the People of the Claw." Daniel once again translated, "I call on you to come Tornat Mahaha. I call you to me to return to your place of peace. Your duty is complete. Hear my power."
Tiriaq cast another handful of herbs into the embers and this time the fire roared to life, the shadow of the demon standing in stark relief against the flames. Dean lunged back arms coming up to defend his face against the heat. Sam reached out quickly to keep his brother from toppling back and further injuring his already sore ribs. In his peripherals Sam saw Jack and Samantha raise their guns while Teal'c readied his staff, SG-1 quickly switching to high alert; though their weapons would do nothing if the demon managed to break free.
The Kigatilik roared once, a sound that might have been one of defiance before the flames vanished as quickly as they'd appeared, leaving silence in their wake.
"Now it's done?" the Colonel asked, his voice sounding hopeful, though he still had his weapon at the ready. "That certainly looked more done…ish…" he trailed off in face of the continued silence.
"Yes O'Neill," Tiriaq nodded, releasing a sigh as though exhausted, "it is done."
The klaxon greeted Dean as he stepped through the Stargate back to Earth; that thought already felt a little less odd. His right boot struck the metal grating of the ramp without missing a beat as he followed Jack and Carter down. Sam hovered close by refusing to believe when Dean said he was fine; sore, definitely but not about to keel over at any minute.
"Welcome back SG-1," Hammond greeted from the control room, "Debrief at 22:00 hours."
Dean glanced down at his watch with surprise, having to remind himself of the difference in time from when they left to the early morning they'd arrived at off-world.
O'Neill offered the General a loose two fingers salute before turning to face the Winchesters. "Carter, take the boys to the infirmary for their post mission check," he ordered before disappearing down the hall towards the control room.
Dean didn't try to suppress a sigh. "Seriously?" he blurted out only to receive a pointed nudge from his brother.
"It's standard procedure," the Captain informed, motioning for them to follow.
"It won't kill you to let the doctor take a look at you," Sam spoke into Dean's ear in a decidedly bossy tone.
"Will you quit worrying once she does?" he shot back.
Sam's brow knitted together in a look of concern; that coupled with his silence said everything.
The older Winchester shook his head, silently grinding his teeth when that pulled at his already aching stitches. Not that he was ever going to admit this to Sam but he could really use a break. Maybe now that this hunt was done he could find a little rest, though that presented a new host of problems.
"So what do you think'll happen now?" Dean asked his brother quietly, eyeing the Captain's back with a budding sense of distrust.
Sam followed his brother's eyes. "We did sign the nondisclosure agreements…" he began, sounding unsure.
Dean bit down on the urge to laugh. "You really think they'll trust that that's enough?"
"Don't get ahead of yourself Dean," Sam said tersely, "We did just save them."
"And people with less authority have been so 'grateful' and 'understanding' in the past," he replied dryly.
Sam scowled but didn't have a chance to respond as they reached the elevator that would take them up to the infirmary.
O'Neill jogged up the steps to the briefing room, making a beeline for the General's office. "Colonel, you're early," Hammond greeted, though he didn't sound surprised. "I take it the mission was a success."
"General," Jack nodded before jumping right to the point. "Is everything in place?"
Hammond turned his chair to face Jack more fully and nodded his head. "I had Walter see to it personally. Take them to the northeast corner and make sure they understand we'll be watching in case they feel the need to start spreading rumors."
"Consider it done," he said with a pleased curve to his lips. The General waved him off and Jack quickly turned on his heels striding to the elevator.
Colonel O'Neill found the Winchesters exactly where he'd sent them, in the infirmary. Dean was still seated on one of the beds allowing Doctor Fraser to check on the fresh cut on his forearm, while his giant of a brother stood sentry behind him. "How is he Doc?"
"He's fine," Dean answered with a sigh.
"He'll be sore for a couple of weeks," Janet said with a sympathetic smile as she finished binding the new bandage onto Dean's forearm.
Jack was truly glad to hear it, though he doubted it showed. "If you're done with them, they need to be debriefed."
The Winchesters exchanged a subtle look at that. Clearly they'd been wondering too what was going to happen with them now that the demon had been taken care of.
"They're all yours," the doctor said while pulling off her gloves.
"Alright kids, follow me," Jack smirked at the disconcerted look Dean tried to conceal as he hopped down from the bed.
Once in the hall Dean stepped right up to O'Neill. "What happens now?" he all but demanded.
"Now, you follow me," he returned firmly, watching as the younger man straightened perceptibly in response to the order in Jack's tone. Inside the elevator Jack selected the first floor and turned to face the brothers who were watching him with matching wary expressions.
"General Hammond expresses his thanks for your help with the demon." The Colonel began, eyeing the hunters and remembering that only days before he'd been ready to commit the pair of them to some far off corner of the world or high security mental facility. "That said, what you've seen here is top secret."
Dean drew a breath at that, clearly preparing for the worst.
"We take nondisclosure agreements seriously," he continued. "But if that isn't enough to keep you from talking about what you saw here, remember this. We know all about your criminal records and have access to alien tech that'd make tracking you down for the 'proper' authorities easier than getting more of that salt you seem to like so much." Jack fought to keep his face neutral, if not a little stern; a lie the boys couldn't prove wouldn't hurt anyone in a situation like this.
"You're letting us go?" it was Sam who asked it, surprised but obviously pleased.
Jack did smirk then. "Honestly I'm happier knowing you're out there taking care of this shit."
"Back atcha," Dean grinned.
Thanks for reading!
Author's Note: Little did I know when I'd started writing this story just how much I was tying my hands by having Samantha a Captain. I'd only just started watching SG-1 when this idea smacked me in the face, and had no idea that she would be promoted to Major so quickly. I can't count the number of times I found myself written into the preverbal corner when I'd remember a mission from SG-1 that would help move things along…unfortunately all those missions happened with Major Carter.
I did briefly consider going back and changing her rank to give myself extra material on the Stargate side. However that felt a little like cheating, not to mention the fact that it could throw off the entire feel of the story.
Still there was one scene that suddenly hit me and wouldn't leave me alone, not even after more than a year. So, to thank all of you, for your epic patience with me, occasional poking/reminders of your interest and especially your kind words! I'm including this scene here.
Thank you all so much! I hope you enjoy!
Aren't You Tempted?
Daniel stepped off the elevator and wandered the halls of the SGC, blue eyes mostly focused on the notebook held open in his hands as he used his peripheral vision to avoid the nightshift staff he came upon. He'd lost track of time during his research, which was by no means an uncommon occurrence in his line of work. But it had been happening with more frequency since meeting the Winchesters.
Despite the overwhelming amounts of data which poured in from the various SG teams, Daniel felt drawn to Earth where his eyes had been opened to the possibility that so much of what he considered to be myth and legend, was in fact truth. Pouring over the Winchesters' journal had been a surreal experience and had he not seen a demon with his own eyes, Daniel knew he'd have brushed it all aside as the ravings of a madman.
Looking up from his reading, Daniel was surprised to find he'd stopped in front of the Officer's mess. Fighting back a yawn, he couldn't agree more with his subconscious; a cup of coffee was definitely in order. Pushing aside one of the swinging doors the archeologist walked in only to see Dean Winchester seated at one of the far tables.
If the hunter had noticed he was no longer alone, he gave no sign of it; his attention seeming completely focused on the file spread out in front of him. Daniel watched the man unobtrusively as he poured his cup of coffee. There was something about the set of Dean's shoulders as he leaned against the table that had Daniel walking over before he'd actually made a conscious decision to do so.
"You're up late," he said by way of greeting, as he slipped into the chair opposite the hunter.
Dean smirked. "Hunting doesn't exactly keep regular hours."
The archeologist nodded in understanding. "People can be awfully judgmental about burning bones," he said dryly.
"But they also don't like being killed by ghosts," Dean added with a shake of his head.
"You just can't win," Daniel agreed.
Silence stretched between them for a beat. "What's your excuse?" the hunter asked leaning back in his chair.
Daniel dropped his notebook on the table. "Research. You and your brother have given me a lot to think about."
Dean chuckled dryly. "We live to educate." The hunter sat forward then, gathering the loose papers in front of him as if just remembering they were there.
"P3R-233?" Daniel read aloud curiously. "Where'd you get that?"
"Stumbled across it," Dean deflected, clearing his throat. "Says here you went through it," he continued after a second, "what was it like? If you ask me one reality is more than enough."
There was something in Dean's voice that Daniel couldn't quite put his finger on, but he didn't think the hunter was as disinterested as he appeared. The Quantum Mirror, Daniel considered for a second before responding. "It's surreal," he said simply.
Dean's eyes were heavy on Daniel as the archeologist sipped at his coffee. He knew there was something more Winchester wanted to ask and decided to wait him out.
Glancing away Dean cleared his throat. "Have you ever been tempted?"
"To use the mirror?" Daniel clarified.
"Yeah," the hunter nodded, eyes meeting the archeologist's. "Find your wife?"
Daniel swallowed down the lump that instantly formed in his throat and considered the question; remembering how he had looked into the faces of his closest friends and saw nothing but strangers deep in their eyes. Daniel drew a slow breath not liking what he was about to say. "She wouldn't really be my Sha're." Still he wasn't positive that would really stop him, but the point itself was moot with the Mirror under lock and key.
Dean nodded slowly, looking anywhere but at Daniel. "Can't decide which is worse," he began voice rough. "That they're out there alive and out of reach, or that there's an infinite number of worse lives they're living."
Daniel wanted to offer the hunter something that wouldn't simply be empty platitudes. But what was there to say to that? 'I'm sure they aren't all bad'? That would imply this reality was and only succeed in driving home the distance Dean felt between himself and the family he'd lost.