Title: To Storm Or Fire
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: Stargate SG-1/PJO. "It's been a long time since Oceanus last touched these shores," the stranger said. 2700 words.
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Spoilers: Stargate SG-1 post-series and post-SGA; also post-series for Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Notes: For starshinedown, who requested: "SG-1/PJO, Daniel Jackson, 'The gods are real?'" Title is from a quote near the end of The Last Olympian.
The voice, when it spoke, was unexpected-- but somehow also not a surprise. As calm and inevitable as the fair sea rolling slowly toward the sunset-gilded horizon, it drew Daniel out of his reverie, quietly demanding his attention.
"It's been a long time since Oceanus last touched these shores," the stranger said.
Daniel blinked, turning from the view off Atlantis' west-most facing pier to study the face of the man who had suddenly appeared next to him. The intruder's features were as unfamiliar as his voice-- definitely not attached to any of the top secret alien city's assigned residents-- but not quite foreign, either: like a figure out of forgotten dream or time-dulled memory. His gaze was sea-colored, curious, and intent, as weighty as the air on a humid summer afternoon, bracketed by faint smile lines in a deeply tanned, darkly bearded face. In contrast to Daniel's SGC uniform, the favored dress of military and civilian inhabitants of the city alike, he was wearing khaki Bermuda shorts and a colorfully decorated Hawaiian shirt. It was as though he'd just stepped off a California beach... the nearest of which was several miles away in the opposite direction.
"Before my time," the man continued under Daniel's startled stare, kneeling smoothly to trace a reverent hand over the timeworn Ancient metal beneath their feet. "Before my father's, as well. Sometimes we gods forget that the flame of civilization existed before we did, under alien stars, and will continue to exist when we have long been forgotten. It's good for us to be reminded."
A sense of foreboding raised the fine hairs on Daniel's arms. There had been no flash of transportation to herald the stranger's arrival; no swoosh as the door onto the balcony opened, as there should have been had the man approached him in any ordinary way. That could mean only one thing, and Daniel's peaceful mood, relic of the unexceptional day and the majestic play of wave and color before him, curdled into something uglier at the realization. It was hardly the first time an ageless and inexplicable visitor had alighted on his figurative windowsill, but he'd learned the hard way not to trust in advanced beings' apparent benevolence. Especially ones that claimed such a title.
"Isn't the term gods a little strong for your kind?" he asked, tartly. How many varieties of superpowered beings were out there, anyway, just lurking in wait for Humanity to trip over? "I thought we'd just finished settling that question. For the second time."
"For my kind?" the man asked, raising his eyebrows as he rose to his feet again. The corner of his mouth curled a little in amusement. "For your kind, perhaps-- either of your kinds-- but, no. I meant it quite literally."
The furrow between Daniel's brows deepened, and he casually reached toward his ear to click his radio on. The Atlantis model was much handier than the old, bulky SGC type, but he had to reach a lot farther to touch it, and he knew the move hadn't escaped his visitor's attention. "You're not one of the Ascended, are you," he asked, watching the other for any sudden move-- not that he expected to be able to defend himself, but at least he would be able to transmit a warning to the others.
"That won't be necessary," the man said, waving a hand in the direction of Daniel's ear. As he moved, a sudden slap of water against the solid walls of the pier threw a curtain of water droplets up between him and the setting sun; and in that moment, limned in liquid bronze light, the intruder seemed even more alien than before. A vague shimmer, trident-shaped, wavered in the image of his upheld hand; the loud shirt, viewed through the spray, seemed almost to shift into a Greek chitoniskos under a garland of bright flowers.
The click of Daniel's radio shutting off was almost anticlimactic after that, and he swallowed uneasily as the apparition faded back into its previous, slightly more ordinary appearance.
"Poseidon," he said, mouth dry, as he realized who his visitor must be.
He shouldn't have been surprised. The Egyptian and Norse pantheons had both been lifted wholesale from the stars, after all; why not the Greeks as well? The Tau'ri had encountered many Goa'uld with such names in their explorations, but those could easily have been borrowed or assumed, as lesser, unknown Goa'uld reached for a name their new slaves would recognize and worship.
"You remember, then?" the mythological Greek figure replied, with a surprised lift of dark eyebrows.
Daniel shook his head, a familiar surge of frustration rising in his throat. No wonder Poseidon had approached him so casually, if they'd met during his 'lost' year. It had been five years since Daniel's disillusionment with the Ascended policy of passive observation had driven him to act, and the Others had punished him by restoring him to human form and wiping his memories. He'd recalled most of his mortal experiences once his friends had found him, but only scattered scraps of those missing months had ever returned-- a violation that had colored every moment of his life since, in one way or another. If some ancient Hellenic variant of the Alterans had featured in them, he would never know it.
"No. But it seemed pretty obvious, considering," he said, gesturing from the man's choice of outfit to the sweep of ocean before them.
"Ah," Poseidon commented, a grave expression settling over his features. "The past few years have been difficult for you," he said, "and I fear neither Ra's kindred nor Myrddin's have made your labors any easier. But then, it is often so for those chosen by destiny."
"Destiny?" Daniel replied, sharply. "I'm afraid I have yet to meet anyone using that name. Though considering your presence, I'll have to keep an eye out for the Moirae in future."
Poseidon's lips curved slightly at that. "They will certainly keep one out for you in return," he said, then sighed, amusement fading into something Daniel might almost have called compassion, if he had believed any 'superior' race capable of that emotion any longer. "I acknowledge your trials, but I didn't come to offer you pity or sympathy for them," he added.
"Then what did you come here to offer?" Daniel asked. "Or request?" He shook his head to ward off the expected response before it could be uttered. "Don't insult my intelligence by suggesting you only stopped by to chat; if that were the case, you would have come to visit me a long time ago."
"Peace, my friend," Poseidon chuckled, though he did not deny the accusation. Then he held out a callused hand. "We'll get to that in a minute. First, let me reintroduce myself."
Daniel glanced at it warily, but saw nothing unusual other than the scarring left behind by hard work, a curious aberration among the advanced races of his acquaintance. He was tempted to ask why the gesture when the supposed god obviously remembered him, but could see no harm in humoring him-- none that Daniel was not already risking simply by standing next to him, anyway. He reached back, clasping firm, surprisingly warm fingers in his own.
That was the last coherent thought he had for several seconds. A wash of tingling energy raced up his arm from the place where their hands touched, a sense of immense presence that something buried deeply within him recognized. Memories stirred in the walled-off depths of his mind, buried too deeply to catch more than a glimpse of-- but enough to send a bolt of awe and terror spurring adrenaline through his system.
"The gods are real," he murmured, stunned, as he pulled his hand abruptly back again. For some value of real, anyway: autonomous, self-willed embodiments of intangible concepts, rising and falling along with the collective unconscious faith of the entire human race. Given power and agency by the combined mercurial might of Western civilization-- and the real reason the Others had so persistently refused to assist the 'inferior' races.
Poseidon nodded. "Yes," he said gravely, answering Daniel's unspoken words as well as those voiced aloud. "Whatever else you have been, Dr. Jackson, you have always been clear sighted."
Human belief had created them, Daniel remembered, staring into Poseidon's changeable green eyes.
Human belief maintained them, though they were possessed of individual will.
But most of all-- Alteran belief had never had that level of creative capacity.
"Where have you been?" he cried, abruptly more furious than he'd managed to muster in years. It was almost worse than if Poseidon had simply been a member of a new subspecies of Alteran; the Greek pantheon was native to Terra and could claim none of the same excuses for inaction that the Ascended did, if the mythological record held any resemblance at all to actual historical events. "If you've been here all this time-- why the hell haven't you been helping us? Don't you know how many times the world's nearly ended in the last ten years?"
Poseidon's expression went remote at that: as difficult to read as the sea he ruled. "We are tied to this world, to its lands and its peoples," he replied. "The majority of your battles have taken place under other suns, while our own troubles brought Olympus to the brink of near-disaster. I excused the insult the last time we had this argument due to your ignorance, and I suppose I must again, but if you understand nothing else, know this: the parallel timing of our conflicts was not a coincidence."
Daniel paused at that, though not at the mention of insult, which had about as much quelling effect on him as Ba'al's rants or Morgan Le Fay's attempts to wriggle out of an explanation: that is, to say, none. He'd spent far too long in the Jack O'Neill school of diplomacy and 'snake-baiting' to genuflect to anything claiming to be his better, regardless of how far out of his depth he actually was. The notion of parallel conflicts had caught his attention, though, considering how unexpectedly turbulent the natural world had been over the last decade or so.
"You believe someone was interfering with your-- with Olympus?" he asked, cautiously.
Poseidon nodded. "Those you call the Ascended have long feared us," he agreed, "and what our existence means for the future of humanity."
Conclusions ticked over in the back of Daniel's brain at that, sparking trails of thought to follow up on later: the deduction that the Alterans must not have any gods of their own, at least none that they truly worshiped after so many millennia; how that might relate to the increasing stagnancy of their corporeal society in its last years and its obsessive pursuit of ascension; the advantage that a race capable of both science and generative faith might have over one with only the former, given time to develop; how the Alterans' worldview might compare to that of the Asgard, whose rush to suicide had profoundly dismayed him; and more, enough to make his fingers itch for pen and notebook.
"All those pretty words about free will...." he mused aloud. "Not to mention that their own refugees' influence on our early societies led to Western civilization in the first place. But I suppose you must have looked something like the Ori to them, beings empowered by the worship of lesser species."
Poseidon's lip curled in contempt at that, and another wave crashed high behind him, significantly ruddier than the last as the sun slipped further below the horizon. "The Ori were parasites; and their Alteran counterparts, cowards. The last of them fled this world as our power rose, and few ever returned. If you want to discuss that in more detail, though, ask Zeus, who dealt with them, or Hermes, our messenger. For me, it's enough that they're gone-- and that even the little help they have offered you in recent years is over and done with now, as all your allies among them have departed."
Oma Desala. Moros, also called Myrddin. Ganos Lal, she whom history remembered best as Morgan Le Fay. Janus, perhaps. Locked in eternal combat, dead, mutually destroyed by Adria, and gone. Daniel couldn't argue the point, though he itched to ask more questions about the dealings Poseidon had mentioned. He choked them back, though, as there was a much more important issue at hand.
"Which leaves you," he said, cautiously. "And brings me back to my question-- does this mean you're offering help? And what do you want from us in return?"
Poseidon crossed his arms, gaze leaving Daniel's face at last as he stared out at the darkening sea. "An exchange," he said, attention fixed on some distant point. "Now that our war with Kronos is over, many of the survivors among our children, especially those in their late teens and early twenties, are having difficulty adjusting to regular life. They have... talents, that you might find useful, and a mindset already adapted to world-shattering secrets and alien dangers. When this city departs this world again, you will be its chief; and I know enough of you to know you would treat them as any other member of your expedition, despite their heritage."
Daniel digested that for a moment, then repeated the gist of it back for clarification's sake. "Let me get this straight-- you want to send us your children?"
"Seven of them, perhaps," Poseidon said, turning back to study him again.
"I meant-- your children, specifically," Daniel prodded him, struck by a sense of vertigo as his perceptions underwent a profound shift for the second time in the same conversation.
He'd found the Greek myths fascinating primarily because the deities it depicted were so very human, reflecting and exemplifying every aspect of their worshippers. The negative side of that was hard to ignore, considering all the stories about their capriciousness: the feuds, the undeserved punishments, the rapes, the children left abandoned to resentful human families. But for every bad story that made the press, then as now, there always more positive stories left untold. Of course the gods would reflect the upside of humanity as well: which would have to occasionally include positive parental behavior.
Poseidon was worried.
It humanized the deity again in Daniel's eyes, bringing back the sense of perspective that had been thrown badly off kilter by the unexpected meeting. So, okay: the gods were real. So what? One more thing to accept, and move on.
"One," the god admitted, sighing. "My son, Perseus. He's eighteen this year; it was his decision that preserved Olympus, but he chose mortality and responsibility as his reward, as you did. I would see him both challenged and satisfied in his future choices outside our realm of influence, not forever defined by his early heroics as was his cousin and namesake."
Daniel considered that, thinking over the implications with a freshly unclouded mind. Treat them like a newly discovered group of hok'taur; treat them like any other foreign specialists applying to join the expedition. It was possible, especially on Atlantis-- especially once the city was beyond the reach of parents bound to the Earth.
"I'll consider it," he said, "with a few concessions...."
A brief flash of lighting lit the sky as Daniel spoke; Poseidon tipped his head back and shook his head at the sky, then gestured to the gleaming, starlit rise of the city behind them. "Shall we continue this conversation inside?"
Storm-bringer, Earth-shaker; dangerous enemy; potential ally: a father concerned for his son.
There was a lot of risk involved to the program in what Poseidon had suggested; Daniel knew exactly what Jack would say when he told him about this encounter. But Daniel had never met a risk he wasn't willing to take, not when the benefit to humanity could be so significant. And it didn't hurt that for the first time since the end of the Ori war, he felt fire in his veins when he thought about the future.
Forever defined by his early heroics, he chided himself. And yet.
He took a deep breath and made his decision.