From djenie; This began as a one-shot short, but I discovered it couldn't be told in one sitting! It's rated M . It's pretty "descriptive", although I've tried to be tasteful-I guess that's the word I want. I don't care for coarsely explicit writing, and hope this comes nowhere near that. This first chapter is tame, though.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy!
They step through the gate and into one of the most breathtaking vistas any of them has ever seen.
The gate stands in a large high meadow that slopes away gently in front of them. The air here has that sweet welcome warmth that speaks of summer in northern latitudes, and it smells of grass and pine and wildflowers. There are a hundred shades of green, ranging from the near-black of the great evergreens behind the gate to the myriad hues of thick, ankle-deep grass all around. Oak- and maple-like deciduous trees cover the hills that stretch endlessly away and below the meadow. The ground all around is dotted with flowers—blue and white and orange and yellow, daisies and lupines and paintbrush.
A range of snow-covered mountains rises in the far distance, dominated by one massive peak so gigantic it soars above the rest, and even from here seems near enough to reach out and touch. The sun, redder and larger than Sol, is low on their left in an explosion of orange and reds and golds, which are all reflected off the snow-clad behemoth before them. It is perhaps an hour until sunset.
Reigning above it all is the spectacular vision rising in the sky opposite the setting sun—the most incredible aurora-like formation imaginable, a huge crescent of pink and yellow and green, like the curl of an enormous wave; and nestled in the depth of the curl is a great blue star, immensely bright, a hundred times brighter than Earth's moon at its fullest, so bright, it is certain the planet will not see darkness tonight.
"Wow," Daniel breathes, not sure where to look, his gaze moving from one spectacular sight to the next.
Teal'c speaks a guttural word in his own language, then into English, "Paradise."
"Eden," Sam adds, awestruck.
"Yeah—well, I don't see any apple trees!" Jack blurts irreverently. The other three turn to send him exasperated looks, and he raises a hand to fend them off. "Okay, it's gorgeous, I admit it. But what the heck is that?" He waves the hand toward the blue star and its magnificent curl of color.
Sam takes one of her scanners from her pack and spends a few minutes getting readings, then inputting data, and consults the results. "That's Zeta Ophiuchi, sir," she informs him.
Jack's eyebrows climb. "Zeta Oph? Really? It sure doesn't look like that from Earth."
Daniel gives him a surprised look. "You know the star's name?"
"Hey! Amateur astronomer here, Danny boy," Jack replies indignantly.
"We're probably 250 light years closer to it here, sir," Sam says.
"Yeah," Jack agrees—he gets that. "But what's that…" His arm traces the crescent of colors.
"That'd be its shock wave, sir," Sam says, and then continues when he gives her a look that clearly says Huh? "Zeta Oph is traveling through space at about 24 kilometers per second. That's quite a bit faster than the velocity of objects in the surrounding space. It was probably one of a binary system, and was thrown away when its partner star went nova. It's pushing massive amounts of interstellar dust ahead of it—like the bow wave that a speedboat pushes through the water. Astronomers call it a runaway star."
They all stare upward for a few moments.
"Huh," Jack says at last. "Why the color, though? I thought interstellar dust was just—well, dusty colored."
Sam suppresses a smile. "Reflected light, sir. Ever see dust motes glittering in the sun? Like that… sort of." Her explanation is unscientific, but she's not worried; he doesn't usually care. "Anyway, that's a good question. I'm not sure of the answer—maybe something in the atmosphere filters for infrared… I'll have to think about that one, sir." She busies herself with the scanner again.
"Not now, Carter." He brushes it off. "We need to get started on the planet survey. I'm guessing we'll have enough light even after the sun sets?"
"I think so," she says. "Zeta Oph is something like 70,000 times brighter than the sun, so we shouldn't be in the dark."
Daniel has sneezed a couple of times since they came through the gate, and now has one of those multiple fits of sneezing that he gets if he forgets his allergy meds. He waves away the others' concern, assuring them that he did take his pills. "Is the star always in the night sky?" he asks when he recovers.
"No," Sam says. "This time of year the planet is almost exactly between its sun and Zeta Oph. Which means when its orbit takes it on the opposite side of the sun, Zeta would be in the day sky."
"Enough science talk! Let's get going," Jack interrupts. "Daniel, you and T go west…" he points toward the sunset. "Carter and I will go east. Radio contact every hour. We'll head back here in…oh, four hours, and make camp by the gate and then continue tomorrow. We're looking for anything interesting."
Everyone is in agreement, and they start out in opposite directions. Jack and Sam can hear Daniel sneezing again as they head across the meadow.
The land slopes down as they reach the edge of the forest and they make their way through the trees. Sam is holding her scanner and taking constant readings, but she seems to be looking around and enjoying her walk more than observing the screen. Even Jack thinks about how quiet and peaceful it is here. And how beautiful. He's surprised to realize that he is feeling relaxed, not as on edge as he usually is on a new planet, and he makes an effort to keep his eyes and ears sharp. But he is soon lulled again by the peace and silence…
After a while Sam stops beside a large evergreen, and leans her P-90 against its trunk. She looks around lazily and stretches a little. Jack stops and looks back at her, then ambles back to her side. "Find something, Major?"
"What…?" She startles a bit, looks at her scanner guiltily. "No. Not really. Sorry. I guess I was woolgathering. It's just so peaceful…" She straightens abruptly, recalling her assignment. "Nothing useful yet, sir. There are large deposits of common minerals in these mountains, iron, copper, even silver. No naquadah, though."
"Woolgathering," Jack says thoughtfully. "In other words, daydreaming. What does that have to do with wool, I wonder?"
She smiles. "I don't know, sir. I guess we can look it up when we get home."
"Maybe I'll do that, Major," he says. "In the meantime…," he swings lazily around and points vaguely east, "…we're going thataway…" She follows him when he begins walking again, forgetting her weapon against the tree.
The trees continue for perhaps another 2 kilometers. Over the last 45 minutes they have traveled downhill, at a leisurely, and a bit meandering pace, into a shallow wooded valley, and are now climbing again; they emerge into another meadow similar to the one where the gate is. This one is not quite as large; it is also filled with wildflowers, and has a gorgeous view of the mountains, and the great curl of color in the eastern sky. The sun is nearly set now, and the star is higher; colors have deepened, and become richer as the sunlight fades, the star's bluish light sharpening the edges of objects, but visibility is lessened only a little. The sun will be gone in fifteen minutes or so, but Sam has no concern for their ability to see where they are going.
They continue over the top of the meadow, and then pause. Below them is a small lake, the clear water reflecting the colors in the sky. They both stare for a few moments, just enjoying.
"Looks like a good place to rest, down there by the water, Carter," Jack says. "We've walked far enough for a while." She follows him as he starts down the slope.
They reach the edge of the lake, and Jack stops and puts down his P-90. Sam sees, realizes she has left hers somewhere, frowns for an instant, and then dismisses the thought as unimportant. Much more appealing is the idea of simply relaxing in the beauty of this place. Jack is removing his cap, sidearm and vest and he drops them on the ground. She thinks that looks like a great idea and does the same. Then, on impulse, she sits down and removes her boots and socks. She scoots to the edge of the water, and cautiously puts a foot in. It is cold, but feels nice, so she rolls up her pant legs and thrusts in both feet. "Mmmmm…" she says.
"Feel good, Carter?" Jack is sitting just behind her left shoulder, taking off his own boots and socks. "Warm enough to swim in?"
"Not really. But it does feel good on hot feet."
He slides down and sits beside her, putting his feet in next to hers. "Brrrr," he says, but eases them in further.
They sit for a while. The sun goes down in a final burst of fiery color. Zeta Oph and its wave now dominate the sky. Sam lies back into the grass to look upward. Zeta is so bright she needs to squint a little. Jack flops back beside her.
"How beautiful!" Sam says softly after a few moments.
"Yeah," he agrees. He turns his head from side to side. "Looks kind of like a leaping dolphin, don'cha think?"
She squints harder, and after a bit of concentration can see what he means. After a while she realizes she is close to dozing off, and her feet are starting to get chilly. Reluctantly, she draws them out of the water, and sits up.
"Goin' somewhere, Sam?" Jack asks languidly.
"Uh-uh. Just don't want to fall asleep." She hardly notices his use of her first name.
"Would be easy to do, wouldn't it?"
"Mm-hm." She sits a while longer in the quiet, mesmerized by the shock wave's reflection in the water. One of her scanners beeps and momentarily she recalls what they are supposed to be doing. She should get the scanner from her vest. "Maybe we should get moving," she suggests. There is no answer, and she looks over and sees that his eyes are shut. "Jack, are you awake?" She has forgotten the scanner.
"Yep, barely," he murmurs. He turns his head and looks up at her. "You look very beautiful tonight, Sam." His voice is barely audible.
She vaguely realizes that she should be disturbed by his saying that, but she's not. In fact, his words send a ripple of pleasure through her body. "Thank you," she whispers. "You look pretty good yourself."
He sits up and pulls his feet out of the water, and they look at one another for a time. He thinks, Thera. And closes his eyes. Not Sam, she is Thera. And he is Jonah. He shakes his head; where did that come from?
"Something wrong?" she asks, shivering a little, aware that she has been daydreaming again. Looking at his face, she has pictured him unshaven, in rough workman's clothes. And he looks really good that way. He has his arms around her and they are lying together...
Jack shakes his head and answers her question. "Nope. Everything's fine." But it's not, and he knows it. Something is definitely… not wrong, exactly, but different. It's just so hard to concentrate... And the thought slips away, and he is staring at her, still entranced by her beauty. "God, you're so lovely…" he says softly.
Reaching out, he lays his hand on hers, and she pulls in her breath with startled pleasure and turns her hand so their fingers can entangle. He raises their joined hands to his mouth, and kisses the back of hers, and sees her eyes drift shut. He tugs gently, and she comes toward him and they lean together until their lips are nearly touching…and then they are touching…and then they are parted and straining greedily to each other…
They are shockingly interrupted by the signal from Jack's radio, and Teal'c's voice calling O'Neill. For a moment he is very confused. Who is he calling? Who is O'Neill? Where is the radio? He fumbles his clothing, then sees his vest on the ground, and realizes the voice is coming from there.
Jack scrambles to his feet and goes over and picks up the vest with the radio attached, thumbs the button. "T?"
"O'Neill. Is everything all right with you?"
Jack looks over at Sam, who looks stunned, and is staring at him with wide glazed eyes. "Ah, sure. What's up? Where are you?"
"We are on our way back to the gate, O'Neill. DanielJackson has been taken ill. An allergic reaction to something, he believes." In the background, Jack can hear coughing and sounds that seem as if someone is in distress.
"Oh," he says to Teal'c, not sure how to reply. "Okay."
"I will take him back to the SGC. We are very near the gate now. We will not wait for you."
"Oh. No…no, don't wait. Go. Do what you have to do." Jonah's confusion is growing. Where were they going? Who is Daniel? What is happening? He looks at Thera. She appears as confused and lost as he is.
"Will you stay on the planet to continue the survey, O'Neill?" Teal'c asks.
"Uh…uh." Jack is still staring at Sam; she is getting to her feet. "I think… umm, we'll follow you shortly…" He reaches out a hand toward her.
"Very good, O'Neill. We are at the gate. We will see you soon."
Thera is nodding at him, so Jonah feels as if he has given the right answers. "Later." He presses the off button on the radio. She is standing near the water now looking bewildered. "I wonder what that was all about?" he says, shaking his head, trying to clear it.
"I don't know, Jonah," she says uncertainly. "I…I mean…" All at once she is very dizzy, and the ground tilts beneath her. "Oh…" She takes a step toward him, and finds he is very far away, and then he is gone, and everything goes black.
"Thera!" Jonah sees her start to fall, and reaches for her, but he is suddenly overcome with vertigo, and is falling, even as he nearly touches her. Falling…