Lost Legendsby JoaG
"Okay, where do you kids want to start?" Jack adjusted his cap, pulling the brim over his sunglasses to cut the glare of the harsh sunlight. Daniel pulled his boonie hat lower over his forehead, squinting despite his own clip-ons.
Daniel looked over the vast complex of ruins below in the valley, and spotted one that looked promising near the middle of the city's remains. "How about over there? That building looks pretty much intact." He glanced at Jack, then over at Sam and Teal'c.
Sam was busy checking her scanner, which was aimed in the opposite direction of the building Daniel would have liked to investigate.
"Sir, I'm getting readings of that metal alloy the MALP picked up." There was excitement in her voice and she was nearly bouncing on her toes. Daniel smiled. He remembered her enthusiasm over the initial discovery two days ago; he and Jack had laughed over it that night in bed. He caught Jack's gaze and even though he couldn't see Jack's eyes behind his sunglasses, he could tell that Jack was holding back his amusement.
"Fine. Teal'c, you accompany Carter and see if that metal is viable. Daniel and I will go thataway." Jack pointed his thumb over his shoulder towards the area Daniel had indicated. Sam nodded, smiled at Daniel then turned to look for a way down the woody area into the valley below.
Daniel turned away as Jack called out to their teammates to stay in contact. He began pacing the edge of the sparse woods, looking for an easy way down. To his delight, he found what looked like a natural trail, and after glancing back to make sure Jack was following, he started down the valley.
The woods soon led to dry bushes and scrub, the soil dry and arid. The descent wasn't too difficult, but it was steep and they needed to watch their footing. By the time they reached the bottom, Daniel's leg muscles were burning with fatigue. He stopped to catch his breath and looked up. He dreaded the climb back to the Stargate on their return.
"Gonna be fun getting back up." Jack's words reflected his thoughts.
"There might be an easier way up farther on. We can check it out when we come back." Daniel began walking towards the vast, ancient city. He could see the top of the building he'd chosen towering over all the rubble so he figured they wouldn't have too much trouble getting to it. He cast quick glances at the first few structures; as he'd expected, they were all too damaged and exposed to the elements to have yielded anything over all these years. But a couple buildings appeared to have a roof; hopefully something of significance might have been preserved within.
Finally sighting a building that didn't look too badly damaged, Daniel stopped a moment and peered inside. It was empty, debris having blown into the open door and windows. He felt Jack come up close behind him and peer over his shoulder. His breath tickled his ear, and he felt Jack's lips brush against the back of his neck.
"You trying to start something you won't be able to finish until tonight, *Colonel*?" Daniel pressed back against Jack for a moment, enjoying the warmth of Jack's body through his clothes.
"Nah, just reminding you how much I love ya." Jack squeezed his shoulder, then tensed.
"What's wrong?" Daniel turned around, alarmed at Jack's quick change from relaxed state to high alert.
"Thought I heard something." Jack was peering out into the city ruins, his P-90 at the ready.
"I didn't hear anything," Daniel said, then again, he had been too busy concentrating on Jack. This reinforced their personal directive, no overt signs of affection on a mission, which both of them had uncharacteristically broken just now.
"There." Jack turned slightly to the left, his gaze on something Daniel couldn't see.
"I thought I saw something move over there."
"Local wildlife?" Daniel continued to peer into the rubble, but he still couldn't make anything out.
"Not unless the local fauna happens to be the size of a bear."
"No, not really. Too many shadows." He relaxed slightly but Daniel noted he kept his hand on his weapon. "Keep going, just stay alert." Jack keyed his radio and called Teal'c and Carter.
Carter's voice came over their radios.
"Any signs of anything living out there?"
"Negative, sir? Have you seen something?"
"I might have. I'm not sure, but keep your eyes open."
"Was it human, O'Neill?"
"I don't think so. But whatever it was, it looked to be pretty big."
With a sigh at the loss of the earlier relaxed atmosphere, Daniel started back on the trail towards the center of the ruins.
"From the looks of the place, I'd figure it's been abandoned for a few hundred years," Daniel said conversationally, trying to watch where he was stepping while keeping an eye out for something his imagination was telling him could jump out of the shadows at any second. In any case, he kept a hand near his holstered gun.
"Any idea why?"
He shrugged. "War, plague, famine, natural disaster, Goa'uld. Take your pick."
"If they eat people, why not."
"The place is in pretty bad shape."
Daniel stepped over a fallen wall, having to agree with Jack's assessment. There was nothing in this area but broken bits of rocks that had once made up buildings.
"In one sense we're lucky in that there's very little vegetation here, so it hasn't taken over the ruins. And there's been very little rainfall so there'll be little water damage. If anything, there should only be erosion from wind and sand." Daniel waved a hand to encompass everything around them. "I'd guess most of the damage here is from an earthquake."
"Pretty big quake?"
"Or more than one. But I'd need to get a team in here to excavate a few of the buildings to determine if the quake happened before or after the city was abandoned."
"If this place is prone to quakes, I sure as hell wouldn't want to be caught here during one."
The thought made Daniel a little nervous. There was just too much debris and no place to take cover in the event of a tremor.
Great, bears and earthquakes. This supposed walk in the park mission was probably going to turn into one of those where they all ended up running for their lives, back to the Stargate.
It took them over an hour to reach the center of the city. They entered the dark cavernous building with trepidation, although they hadn't seen signs of any living creatures other than small mouse-like rodents and a variety of insects. After going through the several rooms and ascertaining that there was no apparent danger, Daniel set to examining the empty chambers.
It was soon evident that there was nothing in the building to give them a clue of its builders, or the fate of the people.
"Any other place you want to check out?" They stood outside the building while Daniel took out the map he'd made from the UAV's aerial survey.
"This way." Daniel pointed northeast. "There's another likely-looking building that looked like a temple at the edge of the city." They set off, both of them slightly more relaxed since they hadn't seen any sign of whatever had spooked Jack earlier.
Thirty minutes later they reached the city's edge. The building that Daniel had wanted to examine sat at the end of a plateau, near a deep gulley. The land had broken off over the years, falling down into the gulley. He could see the remains of other buildings down below; most likely the result of the earthquakes.
He went to turn to enter the building when something caught his eye. There, halfway down the embankment, was a large pillar with some kind of marking on it.
"Jack, I need to go see that." He pointed, and Jack shook his head.
"Look at the ground, that's too unstable."
Daniel peered at the debris-ridden soil and cautiously placed a foot into it. It was soft, like sand, but looked like clumps of kitty litter. It shifted underfoot, but gave easily into his weight. There was loose shale mixed with the soil, and the pieces of rocks would probably help prevent him from sliding too fast down the hill. It wouldn't be so bad if he took it slowly.
"No, I think it'll be fine." He held onto the building's wall and took another step down. His footing felt solid, so he looked up at Jack and smiled. "Just keep a rope handy, just in case," he joked.
"Maybe you better let me tie the rope to you, *just in case*," Jack argued. He loosened his pack and dug inside, but Daniel shook his head, already having taken another three steps down.
"No, it's fine." He made his cautious descent to the pillar, and began brushing the accumulated dust and dirt from the etched writing.
"This is nothing I've ever seen before," he called excitedly to Jack. "I'm going to videotape it and make a couple of rubbings."
"Skip the rubbings, and make it snappy," Jack called down.
Jack's terse tone had Daniel looking up in surprise. Jack was staring down the slope and Daniel turned to see what had caught his attention.
At first he didn't see it, then what he'd thought was a huge shadow, moved. There were two of them, and they were looking up towards them. Jack had been right, the animals he'd seen weren't only the size of a grizzly bear, they seemed to walk upright. He quickly removed his pack and dug his video camera out.
He took the time to film the two creatures, noting that they looked like large gorillas. He hoped the footage came out - he had to squint in the sunlight and he suspected the image might be over-exposed, and they were fairly far from him so he'd tried to zoom in on them. He just knew the video would be jerky as he had to fight for balance in the constantly shifting sand. Crossing his fingers, he then turned his attention to the stone pillar, starting at one end and slowly filming its length. He wished there was shade; it was difficult to the script out. He moved slowly, trying to keep his shadow on the pillar in order to provide some contrast.
He decided to climb to the other side to see if there was writing there as well. As he hurried, he realized that climbing in the soft, giving soil, was going to be much harder than going downhill. He hurriedly brushed the dirt away and began filming again.
"Son of a bitch. Daniel, get back up here!"
Glancing down, Daniel saw that the creatures were moving towards him. Forgetting the pillar, Daniel grabbed his pack and began climbing up as fast as he could.
The going was awful, and for every three steps he managed to climb, he'd slide down two. He was hampered by the pack he carried under one arm, having managed to dump the camera inside of it. He was trying to grab for handholds but there was nothing to hold onto.
He heard a shot, the sound echoing loudly around him. Daniel glanced down and, from the puff of dust drifting near the creatures, noted Jack had sent a warning shot. The creatures stopped, confused, but obviously not startled by the noise. They had made it almost halfway up the side, seeming more adept at walking in the stuff than Daniel.
Jack raised his gun again and Daniel yelled out, "Don't shoot!" The creatures weren't moving, there was no use injuring one of them if he could just get up there before they started moving once again.
He continued to climb, leg muscles burning as he fought for purchase in the shifting soil. Suddenly he felt himself sliding backwards and as he raised his right leg and kicked it into the soil, he felt something in the back of his leg rip painfully. His leg buckled, and suddenly he was falling.
He heard Jack's shout as he landed in the soft earth. As he continued to slide backwards, he felt the soil shift. His last view was that of Jack also sliding down towards him, when suddenly he found himself buried in the stuff, sliding faster and faster, an avalanche of dust, shale, sand and whatever made up the soil in this land. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't see, he couldn't move as he rolled over and over, helpless to stop himself.
His last thoughts were that he was heading straight towards those creatures when he slammed hard into something. Pain erupted in his head and the darkness took him.
- - - - - -
Jack spit out a mouthful of dust and sand, coughing as some made its way into his lungs. His eyes were burning and tearing, and he couldn't get them to open. He tried to raise a hand to rub them and to his horror, he found he was buried chest deep and couldn't move. The quality of the soil was deceptive, like snow. Light and airy by itself, heavy and unmoveable in vast quantities.
With a bit of a struggle he managed to fish his left hand out. It was with intense relief that he lowered his sunglasses and rubbed at his eyes. Finally able to see despite the tears, he scanned the area below him.
There was no sign of Daniel.
And even worse, there were those creatures, crouching near the pillar Daniel had been filming earlier. And man, were they ever ugly and big. Between eight and ten feet in height, they looked like giant apes. Long dark haired, beady eyed, one of them stared up at Jack, and hooted.
It was then that Jack realized the creatures were digging through the soil. He had a bad feeling, and it suddenly got worse when he saw part of Daniel's BDUs exposed.
"God damn it, get away from him!" Jack roared. He desperately dug through the soil till he managed got hold of his gun. He fumbled one handed with his P-90 and aimed it at the creatures. He pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed. The two below him ignored his cries, and continued to unearth the unmoving body. Images of them having Daniel as their main meal haunted Jack as he struggled to free himself. He used the useless gun to try and shovel the soil away from his body.
Jack managed to get the soil clear of his chest and finally freed his other arm. Working frantically, he had barely managed to unearth himself down to his hips when the larger of the two stood up, Daniel folded over its arm like a rag doll. Jack shouted, cursing and threatening them, forgetting about any danger to himself. It was only when they began climbing towards him that he realized he was in trouble.
They clambered up the steep slope without any of the problems Daniel had had earlier, most likely due to their more substantial weight and size. The one carrying Daniel continued on, and Jack only had time to see that he wasn't conscious. There was a cut on his temple which was bleeding freely, the red of the blood a harsh contrast to the pale, dusty face. Daniel was coughing weakly, and Jack felt a very small part of his fear ease. Daniel was alive, but for how long?
The second creature stopped where Jack's legs were buried and to his surprise, it began digging. He held the gun before him, knowing it to be useless but hoping it recognized the threat anyway.
Its arms were very long, the width of its paddle-like hands nearly eight inches across easily, and it removed huge amounts of soil in each sweep. From this close up, it reminded Jack of everything he had heard and read of Bigfoot. Huge, ape-like creature, intelligent brown eyes, flattened nose... and if he recalled correctly, there had been no reports on Earth about Bigfoot actually deliberately hurting people. He prayed this was true of this pair here. If they were like their Earth counterparts. If they were even of the same species.
They had rescued Daniel, and were now attempting to free him. Why? To help? Or for other motives, like supper, maybe?
The moment Jack could move, he was scrambling away from the creature. He slapped his hand on his leg, searching for his handgun, but it had disappeared. He began moving up the side of the hill to where the other one had disappeared beyond with Daniel. He slipped down a few feet in the soft soil, and felt a hand on his back, stopping his descent. Not wanting to panic, he continued making his way up, trying to keep his distance from the creature.
When he finally made it up to the top, he saw Daniel lying in a crumpled heap, the creature squatting beside him, awkwardly prodding him with the back of its hand. Cautiously Jack approached, and knelt beside Daniel. The creature continued to poke, but Jack ignored it for the time being.
He began examining Daniel, checking for broken bones. He straightened Daniel's body into a more comfortable position after finding nothing but bruises, praying that there were no spinal injuries. Too late now if there were, not with the way that ape had carried Daniel up the hill. He glanced at it, noting how huge it was. Even squatting, it was nearly as tall as Jack.
Daniel was breathing shallowly, giving small, weak coughs every few breaths. His head wound was still bleeding and Jack reached for his canteen, glad that it hadn't been lost in the landslide.
He spotted his backpack several feet away and hurried to get it. He poured water onto Daniel's head wound, rinsing it out as best he could. By now the two creatures had pulled back and were simply watching as Jack took out the first aid kit and disinfected the still-bleeding cut.
Daniel moaned, winced, and stirred.
"Easy, easy," Jack cautioned, placing a hand on Daniel's shoulder. The smaller of the apes leaned forward and copied Jack's motion, rocking Daniel forward slightly despite it's obvious attempt to be gentle. Quickly Jack placed a bandage over the cut above Daniel's temple, just as Daniel raised a hand and feebly tried to wipe his eyes.
"Oh shit," Jack said, remembering how something in the soil had burned and stung his eyes. And he'd had the benefit of his sunglasses; Daniel had lost his glasses and had been buried in the sand for several minutes. He reached for the canteen and pried open one of Daniel's eyes, noting how red they were. Daniel gasped before Jack could rinse out his eyes, and suddenly he began coughing.
Deep, lung-busting coughs, the type that Jack knew would most likely end up with Daniel puking up his last meal if they didn't stop soon. He got Daniel turned onto his side, wiping away the dust-filled saliva that flew from Daniel's mouth as he tried desperately to clear his lungs of the stuff. Daniel struggled weakly, looking for purchase on the rocky ground.
The two Bigfoots made soft moaning sounds, and the smaller one leaned over Daniel as he continued to choke. Jack jostled closer to Daniel, trying not to show fear, and caught one of Daniel's flailing hands.
"It's okay, you're just breathed in some gunk. Try and take small breaths."
Daniel weakly squeezed Jack's fingers as he continued to gag and cough. Finally he managed to get in one lungful of air which came out more as a wheeze than a cough. He let go of Jack's hand and rubbed ineffectively at his eyes.
"Wait, don't rub," Jack said, pulling Daniel's hand down and reaching for the discarded canteen. Bracing Daniel's head back against his thigh, he pulled open one of Daniel's eyes and this time managed to trickle some water into it. Daniel jerked in surprise at the sensation, but blinked quickly, trying to clear the dust and debris from his eyes. Jack turned Daniel's face so he could get to his other eye, then waited.
Daniel tried to rub his eyes again, seeming unable to keep them open. Jack caught Daniel's hands.
"Don't, you'll only make it worse," he admonished. Jack rinsed both eyes out once more, ignoring the small grunts and whistles coming from the creatures. Daniel tensed and twisted his head to the side.
"We've got company. Remember that local wildlife?"
"Jack, I can't see." Daniel's voice was somewhat more high pitched than normal, which Jack knew was a sign of high tension and emotion in Daniel.
"I know. Something in that dirt stings like the devil. Give it a few more minutes." His own eyes were still a little sore and light sensitive, but at least he was able to see.
"But what about the—"
"They saved your life, but I don't think they're gonna hurt us. I think they're just curious at this point." As Jack spoke, the larger of the two disappeared back down the slope, and the other one sidled closer to Daniel. It tentatively fingered his hair, leaning forward to sniff him.
"Jack?" Daniel was tensing up, and his breathing became congested again.
"Don't move. It's just checking you out." After a few seconds the creature straightened up, and Jack took the opportunity to give Daniel some water to drink.
"How are you feeling? What hurts?" Jack held the canteen to Daniel's mouth and Daniel raised a hand blindly and caught Jack's hand. Jack saw the creature sniff and he figured it could smell the water.
Daniel licked his lips then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He then laid his head back down wearily. "My head, my eyes and my thigh."
"You said you couldn't see?"
Daniel forced his eyes open and Jack could see how much the effort hurt him. "Everything's a blur." Daniel wiped the tears that leaked down his cheeks. "It's still burning like mad."
"You were buried under the soil for a few minutes, the stuff got into your eyes and into your lungs. What about your thigh? Did you pull something?"
"Yeah, or tore something."
"Think you can walk?"
"I don't know." Daniel's voice was soft, and full of embarrassment. Jack squeezed his arm, then reached for his radio. He connected the earpiece, not wanting to alarm the Bigfoot with the sound of strange voices coming from him. He didn't know how intelligent they were, but it was no use taking chances.
"Carter, Teal'c. We got a problem."
- - - - - -
Daniel listened to Jack's one-way conversation with their teammates, trying to ignore the familiar pounding in his head and the nausea that indicated concussion. The burning in his eyes wasn't helping his situation any, and he felt he had to fight for every breath he took.
"Son of a bitch." Jack's curse, Daniel was sure, had nothing to do with his giving Sam and Teal'c their location.
"What is it?" Daniel asked, pushing himself onto his elbows while his head threatened to explode.
"Bugger's going through my pack. Shit."
Daniel could hear a scuffling sound and realized it was much closer than he'd imagined it to be. Or preferred it to be.
"What are they?"
"Giant apes, sort of. You've heard of Bigfoot. Sasquatch? Yeti?"
"Yeti live in the Tibetan mountain ranges, they're not quite the same as—"
A loud howling sound echoed around them, eerie as it ululated for the longest time, and then ended in a moan. A responding roar erupted from behind him, answering the call from afar.
Daniel felt the hair on the back of his neck rise as he inched closer to Jack, away from the sounds behind him. He hated not being able to see, and forced his eyes open again, only to slam them shut at the pain caused by the bright sunlight. He felt his chest tighten and he began coughing, his lungs burning from the effort.
He was exhausted and light-headed when the spasm finally stopped, his throat raw and his stomach on the verge of rebelling. The pain in his head was worsening and he heard Jack talking from what seemed like a tunnel, far away.
He felt someone moving him, and his head exploded in a white flash.
- - - - - -
Damn. Damn, damn and double damn. Just when he'd thought they'd be able to sit things out and wait for backup, Daniel went into another coughing spree and passed out. Of course, by then the bigger of the two Bigfoot had come back and decided they were moving camp. He wondered if it had anything to do with the sounds made by another of these animals. Were they running away from them, or towards them? Oh geez, what if there were a herd of these things?
Jack scrambled to keep up with the long, loping strides of the two creatures. The strength the bigger one possessed was unimaginable as it carried Daniel again in that bent over in two position. He prayed they weren't going far and that Daniel would stay unconscious until they stopped.
To his surprise, the creatures didn't head for the city ruins; they made for the wooded area at the outskirts. Of course, they were woodland creatures, more comfortable in the habitat where they could blend into their surroundings. With their dark fur, they probably wouldn't stand out in the shadows unless they moved.
The travelled through the woods for a short time with Jack barely managing to keep up. He radioed Teal'c and Carter, trying to describe where he was, but he wasn't sure himself.
They finally came to a stop and it wasn't until Daniel had been dropped to the ground, albeit fairly gently, and Jack was lifting Daniel's head onto his lap, did he realize he was now amongst the *herd* he had been worried about earlier.
There were about fifteen of the creatures around him, of varying sizes and ages. A few of them were much smaller, which Jack took to be children. He figured he was right as a little one dashed up to the smaller of the two Bigfoot that had rescued Daniel. It was only then did Jack notice the fur-covered breasts, denoting that rescuer as a female.
The small one clambered over its mother, then after the reunion was over, it dropped out of mom's arms to come look at Daniel. It wasn't afraid, and poked him, none too gently. Worried about the Bigfoot reaction but not wishing to let some *kid* torture Daniel, albeit unknowingly, Jack picked up the baby's arm after several jabs and shoved it away. It was strong, much stronger than he'd have imagined, but he did manage to stop it from pounding Daniel's back.
He heard one or two angry rumbles and grunts from some of the creatures behind him, and for a moment he thought he was going to be in for it. Instead, the larger of his two rescuers stood up and whistled deep in its throat. It then squatted beside Jack, and the others settled down. Obviously this was the alpha male of the group.
Daniel stirred, his legs moving restlessly, Jack rubbed Daniel's back, letting him know he wasn't alone.
The male made a soft moaning sound Jack, and gently nudged Jack's arm. Jack looked up at it and realized it was holding his pack out to Jack. He slowly reached for it, and the beast let it go.
But then Jack realized it wasn't his pack, as that one had been emptied of its contents, and this one was full. He opened it and saw Daniel's camera inside. That was what the creature had gone back for.
Good, there was a first aid kit in here, he'd be able to give Daniel some painkillers. He dug in the pack one-handed and pulled out the small box.
"I'm here. Don't open your–"
He broke off as Daniel swore, having done just that. He got a glimpse of bloodshot eyes before Daniel slammed them shut again.
"Why did I do that?" he moaned, bringing the palms of his hands over his face.
"Here, can you swallow these?" Jack pushed the painkillers from the blister pack and put them to Daniel's mouth. He took the canteen and gave Daniel enough water to wash the pills down, then took a few sips himself. He quickly capped the water bottle when his radio came to life in his ear.
"Where are you?" Jack answered.
"We are at the edge of the woods. We have found recent tracks and are about to follow."
"Look, don't come in shooting. There's little ones here and they haven't done anything to hurt us." Yet, he thought to himself. Then again, the big guy here seemed to be a little protective of Daniel.
"What did Teal'c say?" Daniel asked. He pushed himself off the ground and sat up.
Jack gripped his shoulder until he was sure Daniel was steady enough to sit by himself. "They're not far, and they'll be here in a few."
Daniel nodded as he bent his right leg and placed both hands underneath it, rubbing at the back of his thigh.
A few moments later the pack became agitated, staring off towards the way they'd come. Jack turned, and saw Teal'c slowly approaching, with Carter coming from the right. Both had weapons raised, but Teal'c hadn't yet activated his staff weapon, and was holding a zat at the ready.
The pack began to growl and huff, and a few of the older males stood up and moved aggressively towards the approaching two.
"Hold your positions," Jack hissed into the radio. The two immediately obeyed, watching the creatures warily.
"They're not happy about visitors."
One of the males grabbed a large branch and threw it towards Teal'c, narrowly missing him. The Jaffa held his ground, but Jack could see Carter nervously looking around.
Another hissed at Teal'c, showing a mouthful of large, stained teeth, and that was when he realized it was Teal'c they didn't like.
"T, try backing off slowly. Carter, hold position."
"Sir?" She looked at Jack in confusion.
"I think they can sense Junior. Or maybe it's just Teal'c's presence, he's a big guy, after all. Let's just see if they calm down a little with Teal'c stepping away."
"You mean I don't instil fear in the hearts of all these... Bigfoots?"
"Sorry, Daniel, looks like mine is the only heart you affect. Although I think they might be a little... sympathetic to your cause."
"Great, I'm out of it for a few minutes and I get the Florence Nightingale treatment."
"Don't knock it. That hurt puppy act did save your life."
Teal'c was backing up slowly, his zat still aimed towards the creatures, and one by one, they calmed. Carter relaxed slightly, and Jack beckoned her forward. One step at a time, she threaded her way through the herd, who seemed more interested in eating the greenery around them.
She knelt beside them, one hand going to Daniel's face to try and peer at his eyes.
"How are you doing?"
"I'd be better if I could just open my eyes to see what's going on. Where's Teal'c?"
"He's waiting near the edge of the woods." Carter didn't try to force Daniel's eyes open, and for that Jack was grateful. It looked like they hurt like hell. "How's your head? Do you think he's got a concussion?"
This last was addressed to Jack as she turned to glance at him.
"A mild one, at least. What's worrying me is his leg. He pulled something and might not be able to walk on it."
"I can walk," Daniel said with confidence. "You'll just have to steer me in the right direction."
Jack placed a hand around the back of Daniel's neck in a comforting gesture. Hell, if he couldn't walk, they'd carry him the hell out of here. "Question is, will they let us walk out of here?"
"Shall we give it a try?"
Jack nodded at Carter. He grabbed Daniel's pack and took out the power bars that were inside. Maybe a little bribery could go a long way. He held the three soft bars and handed the pack to Carter so she could clip it onto his back. Together, they grabbed Daniel by the arm and hauled him up. He swayed and paled, but after a moment caught his balance. The Bigfoot did nothing threatening, one or two turned to watch, and one moved away from them.
Jack turned to the alpha male, who simply sat there watching. Moving closer, Jack knelt and placed the power bars near the male's feet after unwrapping one. He moved back to hook Daniel's arm around his shoulders while the creature was busy examining the food. "Okay, let's try this slow and easy."
With Daniel limping heavily, they threaded their way slowly through the group. Jack breathed a sigh of relief when they were finally clear of the creatures. He nodded at Teal'c to take point, while Carter watched their sixes.
The going was slow, mainly because of Daniel's blindness, until Teal'c finally got them out of the woods. He led them straight towards the steep hill where the Stargate was. Jack looked up and winced. He remembered the climb down; it was going to be doubly painful for Daniel to climb up. And take ten times longer since they'd have to be telling him where all the hand and foot holds were.
If Jack wasn't mistaken, the path he and Daniel had followed wasn't that far from here. They followed the edge of the woods for a few hundred feet when they came upon the opening. What Jack didn't expect was the alpha male to be waiting there for them.
"What is it?" Daniel asked when they all came to a halt.
"One of the Bigfoot is blocking our way." Carter moved to stand at Daniel's other side, her hand on her gun.
"Why? What's he doing?"
"He's just sitting there." Jack impatiently tapped his fingers on his thigh. This didn't make sense. They'd let them walk out. Why not let them go up?
"But why? Does it want something?"
"It's not doing anything. It's just sitting right in the middle of the trail." Carter looked at Jack, as if questioning what to do next.
"Is there something we have that it wants?"
"I don't know, Daniel? Why don't I just go over there and ask him? Oh wait, I don't speak Sasquatch. And somehow I don't think those hoots and grunts they do make up any of the languages that you know."
Daniel ducked his head and Jack immediately regretted his terse reply. He rubbed Daniel's waist where his hand rested in an unspoken apology. It took Daniel a few seconds before raising his head again. Daniel opened his mouth to speak, but Teal'c interrupted.
"Perhaps it does not wish us to ascend here. There may be another trail farther on that it prefers we use."
"Yeah, well, Daniel here isn't in any shape to go traipsing around the countryside on the off chance we find a better trail. Carter, how about you go look a ways and see if there's anything better. Otherwise, we'll just climb up through the brush."
As Carter moved off, Jack led Daniel a little ways from where the Bigfoot sat; just far enough that they could keep an eye on it but hopefully give themselves a few seconds warning if it decided to attack.
It didn't take Carter long, she radioed them only a few minutes later that she'd found another trail.
"There seem to be steps carved into the ground here," she told them when they met up with her. "Although it's still overgrown, it'll be easier for Daniel to climb than anywhere else."
"This must be the original path leading from the city to the Stargate," Teal'c surmised as he moved to Daniel's other side. The steps were wide enough for three to climb side by side, although the two on either side would be brushing leaves and other growth out of the way.
Daniel pressed on gamely, but halfway up, Jack could feel how his whole body shook from the effort. Not to mention how out of breath he sounded.
"Okay, let's take a breather." He tried to get Daniel to turn around so he could sit, but Daniel refused to budge.
"I'm fine, I can keep going." Daniel's voice was reedy, and he bit back a cough.
"Maybe you can, but you're heavy and I'm tired. And if I'm tired, then you must be doubly so. So, sit."
"Really, I go a little farther. We're almost there, aren't we?"
"About halfway." A little more gently, Jack added, "Please, just, sit."
Sighing, Daniel allowed Jack to turn him and help him down onto the steps. Jack sat next to him while Carter sat below, and Teal'c above. Everyone kept a lookout while Daniel leaned heavily against Jack.
"Here," Jack said, offering Daniel the last of his water. He put the canteen into Daniel's hand and watched as the man drank it down. As Daniel pressed his fingers again to the back of his thigh, Carter pushed his fingers aside and tried to feel the injured area for herself.
Daniel hissed as she pressed too hard. Carter immediately softened her touch, massaging the surrounding area gently.
"Sorry. I can feel some swelling, though. You probably did tear something."
Jack thought that Daniel looked exhausted. He put an arm around him and pulled him closer, and Daniel rested his head sideways on Jack's shoulder. He could feel him trembling in either exhaustion or pain, or maybe a combination of both.
"Hold on, we'll be home soon," Jack whispered against the top of Daniel's head.
They sat there for a long time, waiting until Daniel relaxed enough and the shivering stopped. For a while Jack thought Daniel had dozed off, but when Teal'c stood, Daniel pushed himself off of Jack.
"You should drink some more water before we continue." Carter handed Daniel her canteen and helped guide the mouth to his lips. She passed the water around when Daniel had taken his share and Jack gratefully accepted it.
The rest of the way up was harder as Daniel was clearly tired, despite their rest. By the time they reached the top, both Jack and Daniel were ready to collapse.
The moment they stepped out of the shadowed area of the trees and into the bright sunshine, Daniel gasped and turned his head away from the sun. Jack, remembering the sunglasses hanging around his neck, quickly pulled them off and placed them on Daniel's face.
"Better?" Daniel nodded, but Jack could see by the small lines around the side of his face that his eyes were squeezed shut behind the dark lenses.
"Carter, go dial us home."
Jack and Teal'c slowly helped Daniel, who by this time couldn't seem to place any weight on his leg. They walked away from the woods and in a moment, the Stargate was visible.
Jack saw Carter standing several feet from the DHD, looking towards the Stargate. It took him a moment before he realized that the Bigfoot was squatting before the Stargate. Right in the area where the wormhole would explode outwards should the Stargate be activated.
"Damn it," he said under his breath. He led Daniel to the DHD.
"Don't tell me. They're here, too?"
"It's the same one. Isn't it the same one, Teal'c?" He took one of Daniel's hands and placed it on top of the DHD. "Hold onto this."
"Indeed. It appears to be following us."
"Or else it knew where we came from." Daniel added as he hopped closer to his support.
"Wait here," Jack told his team. He rounded the DHD and slowly walked towards the creature. It watched him, as serene as a cat sunning itself on a window ledge.
Jack stopped several feet away and spread his hands open. The creature huffed, then extended an arm forward, and placed something on the ground. It got up and lumbered a few feet away, then squatted, watching.
Jack looked at what it had placed on the ground. There were several fist sized rocks sitting on top of an empty power bar wrapper. Jack moved closer and picked the rocks up. They were surprisingly heavy.
He could hear Daniel whispering to the others, asking what was going on. Teal'c was explaining to him what Jack and the creature were doing.
"Jack, folklore says that the Sasquatch leave small gifts in exchange for food." Jack glanced over at Daniel where he was leaning heavily against the DHD, with Carter holding onto his arm to help support him. "Berries, leaves, rocks, sometimes even puppies or kittens that it might have stolen from somewhere. You gave it food, maybe it's just thanking you for your kindness."
"Right." Jack turned to the Bigfoot, who was still watching Jack. He placed the heavy rocks into his jacket pockets, feeling the weight of them pulling the material down. He patted the rocks. "Thank you."
"Carter, since it's no longer in front of the 'gate, start dialing home." Jack stepped sideways, out of the way of the flux as he heard the sounds of the 'gate rotating. The Bigfoot glanced up, hooted, and began to walk away sedately.
Jack watched as it stopped just at the foot of the woods, turned back to them for a moment, then vanished into the depths of the trees.
"Let's go home." He stood watching the spot where the creature had disappeared until his three teammates had gone through the wormhole. With a hand held against his pocket to prevent the rocks from bumping his leg, he followed them home.
- - - - - -
Jack grimaced at the sounds of obvious pain coming from behind the curtained bed behind him. He wished it could have been avoided, but he knew that irrigating Daniel's eyes was a necessary evil. Not that he envied Doctor Warner the task, but at least the man had a gentle and sure touch.
"Let's have a look at your eyes now, Colonel," Fraiser ordered. "Look over here." Jack just *knew* that the light about to be flashed into his eyes would hurt, but still he forced his eyes to remain open while Fraiser peered into them. It couldn't be half as painful as what Daniel was going through, he told himself as his eyes teared and burned. He heard Warner's soft mutters when Daniel began coughing.
Fraiser's fingers caught Jack's chin and held his head steady and he realized he'd turned to try and look beyond the curtain separating him from Daniel. He sighed, wishing all of this were over with as he waited for his other eye to be flamed with light.
"There's definite irritation," Fraiser said as she pocketed the penlight. She stood back and crossed her arms. "I'd like Dr. Molinari to look at you once he's seen Daniel. I've sent samples of the dust and soil coating your clothes to the lab. I'll rest easier when I get confirmation that they weren't toxic."
"So, I'm free to leave?"
"Yes, but I'd like you to stay on base until Dr. Molinari gets here. And even then, no driving for at least twenty-four hours, and only then if you're not so photo-sensitive."
"What about Daniel?"
She shook her head. "We'll need to keep him here at least a day for observation. We'll want to make sure he doesn't develop pneumonia from the irritants in his lungs."
Daniel coughed harshly, emphasizing her point.
"You don't think—"
"I don't know, Colonel. He's shown considerable improvement since we've administered oxygen. We'll wait and see; if he doesn't do better by tomorrow, Dr. Warner will probably perform a bronchoscopy. And he'll probably need an MRI on that leg injury."
"I can bring him home and keep an eye on him."
"Colonel, Daniel's going to be on crutches for a few days - the last thing we need is for him to be hobbling around the house, blind. Let's at least wait for Dr. Molinari's prognosis."
The curtain was pulled back and Dr. Warner stepped away from Daniel's bed. He smiled at Jack as he passed him, and Fraiser joined him in her office to confer.
Jack got off the bed and walked around it to go stand beside Daniel. He was propped up in the bed, his eyes were bandaged, a nasal canula was affixed beneath his nose and there was some kind of cold pack wrapped around his thigh.
"So," Jack said, leaning against the side of the mattress. "What did Warner say?"
Daniel turned his head towards Jack and his lips curved into a smile. "Said my eyes were irritated but he couldn't see any damage. I tore something in the back of my leg and I might need surgery to repair it, and that my lungs sound better already."
"That's good." Jack coughed. "I mean, your lungs, it's good news. Fraiser said she's worried about complications."
"I just hate not seeing." Daniel yawned, and he tried to stifle it behind the back of his hand.
"Why'd Warner bandage your eyes?"
"Oh." Daniel fingered the white material wrapped around his head. "Actually, when he turned the lights down, I was able to open my eyes and I could see a little bit. *Then* he poked that light into my eyes and..."
"Yeah, I know how it feels. So it's just to protect your eyes from the light?"
Daniel nodded. "He put some drops in them... stung like the devil." He yawned again. "Sorry. He gave me something for the discomfort, but it's making me kinda sleepy."
"I'll let you get some rest, then." When Daniel made to object, Jack added, "I need to go debrief General Hammond, in any case."
"Oh, all right." Daniel yawned again. "Oh, what about you? You okay?"
"I'm fine." Jack rubbed the back of Daniel's fingers, and Daniel turned his hand around and squeezed Jack's in response. "I'll see you later."
- - - - - -
"Good, good, just a few more steps." Jack held the door open as Carter and Teal'c guided Daniel down the driveway, towards him. Jack knew it was going to be tricky getting Daniel down the stairs, crutches and all. But once Daniel was inside, they'd be able to take off the protective bandages from his eyes.
The house was dark, all the curtains drawn in deference to Daniel's continued eye irritation. But at least he could see, albeit his sight was still a little blurry at the moment.
Daniel stopped a foot away from the door. "Where are we?" He reached a hand out, waving it in the air in front of him.
"Just keep going straight ahead." Jack tried to urge Daniel forward, but he wasn't moving.
"It feels like I've been walking along your driveway forever. Are you sure we haven't gone around the house and heading for the back?"
"What? You think I'm steering you the wrong way? Daniel, you trusted me to lead you to the 'gate on an alien—" Jack brought his voice down to a near whisper, despite the lack of neighbours, "planet, but you don't trust me to get you inside the house?"
"The door's right in front of you." Carter stepped forward and touched Daniel's hand. "You're almost there."
Daniel put his hand back onto the crutch. "It's just that, I know where I should be going here, I know what to expect. My sense of direction and perception are all screwed up. But back there, I couldn't visualize anything so I had no problems following.
He took several steps until he made it inside. Jack guided Daniel until he was leaning against the wall. Carter and Teal'c squeezed by him until Jack was able to shut the door.
"Here, let's take these bandages off." Carter quickly unwrapped the gauze until Daniel was carefully blinking in the dim light.
"Okay?" Jack rubbed Daniel's arm, and Daniel nodded. "So, you want to try and make it down to the couch, or would you rather just head straight for bed?"
"Couch. I'm not tired. That is, if you don't mind helping me back up later on?"
"No, 'course not."
The hallway wasn't wide enough for more than two persons to stand side by side so Jack allowed Teal'c to help Daniel down the handful of steps. Jack and Carter followed behind and soon Daniel was sitting comfortably on the couch, his leg propped up on the coffee table.
"Is there anything else I can get you?" Carter sat on the coffee table, leaning forward.
"I'm fine. Thanks for the lift, Sam."
"You're sure? If you need something from your apartment..."
"No, I think I've got everything here for a day or two. If I need something and Jack can't drive yet, I'll give you or Teal'c a call."
"Do not hesitate in asking should you require our assistance. The same goes for you, O'Neill."
"Thanks, T." Jack clapped Teal'c's arm. "So, can I get you two something to drink? Something to eat?"
"Thanks, but we can't stay very long," Carter said, turning to look at Jack. "We have a meeting with Doctor Dennison at eleven."
"Dennison? That name should ring a bell." Jack scratched his head, thinking hard.
"He's SG9's Anthropologist. He was interested in our descriptions of creatures of P9J 443 and the similarities to sightings of Bigfoot here on Earth." Daniel raised a hand and began to rub his eyes, until Jack smacked his arm. He gave Jack a sheepish look and squeezed his eyes shut several times. "Sorry. Itchy."
"Oh. Here." Carter picked up a small bag from the coffee table and handed Daniel a tiny bottle. Daniel tilted his head back and placed some drops into his eyes.
"Which reminds me. Colonel, you know those rocks the Bigfoot gave you just before we went through the Stargate?"
Jack raised an eyebrow and waggled his head in her direction. "Don't tell me they're full of gold or Naquadah."
"Not quite." She grinned. "They're made up of that metal alloy we've been searching for."
"Oh. And? Did the stuff meet up with your expectations?"
"Not really. We had been hoping it would be almost as strong as Trinnium, but it hasn't weathered our tests very well. But we have a few more experiments to run, so..." Carter shrugged. "One never knows."
She stood up, and placed her hands in her jacket pocket. "We need to be going, sir. Like Teal'c said, if there's anything you guys need, just let us know. And if you feel by Thursday you can't see well enough to drive, just let me know and I'll take you both in to the infirmary for your follow ups."
Jack walked them out, then came to join Daniel on the couch.
"You know, Doctor Dennison came to see me this morning in the infirmary. He wasn't very pleased with me." Daniel sighed heavily and leaned his head back.
"He saw the footage I filmed of the Bigfoot when we first saw them and gave me hell for such poor quality filming. He said that the footage taken by amateurs here in the US was clearer than what I took."
"If I remember correctly, the sun was bouncing off the ground – I can see why the footage might not come out very clear."
"Yeah. Seems even what I filmed of the pillar isn't very legible. Anyways, when Dennison heard of our experience with the pack of Bigfoot, he couldn't believe that we hadn't attempted to film more footage." Daniel rubbed his eyes tiredly.
Jack snorted and grabbed Daniel's hand, removing it from his face and laying it down on his thigh. "As I remember it, I was too busy making sure you were still breathing at the time. And you sure as hell couldn't film what you couldn't see." Daniel instead began to massage the back of his leg. Pointing to it with his chin, Jack asked, "Doc say you were supposed to put ice on that?"
Jack got up to go look for the heating pad, thinking Daniel might be in need of some relief about now.
Daniel raised his voice so Jack could hear him as rifled through the back of the closet where he remembered tossing the heating pad after the last time one of them had used it. "Well, if you think about it, we missed a great opportunity to get any kind of information on the Sasquatch. And it leads to speculation as to whether that planet is their home world, or if they were transported there from Earth centuries ago."
He found what he was searching for and bounded down the stairs, back into his living room. He plugged the heating pad in and wrapped it around Daniel's leg. He sat down at the edge of the couch and patted his lap. He grinned when Daniel looked first at his lap, then at Jack.
"I'm betting those creatures know what the Goa'uld are," Jack said as Daniel slid his body along the couch and placed his head and shoulders on Jack's thighs. "It's obvious from their reaction to Teal'c. And hell, the big one knew we were going to the 'gate."
"He was waiting for us at the trail, wasn't he? And he knew you were going to have a hard time to get up that trail so he forced us to move on, and found an easier way up." Jack threaded his fingers through Daniel's hair and slowly began to massage the area around his temple. Daniel heaved a loud sigh, and relaxed into Jack's touch.
- - - - - -
"Hellooo." Daniel placed the receiver under his chin and typed in a few more words.
"Daniel, where are you? The UAV's sending feedback. I thought you wanted to be here to see this."
"What? Already?" Daniel glanced at his watch and swore. "I'll be right there, Sam."
Moving awkwardly on one leg, Daniel rose and reached for his crutches. He made it down to the 28th level as fast as he could hobble there. Jack and Teal'c made room for him as he crowded behind the array of monitors and he balanced on his crutches, watching the scenery being sent back to them.
"... And according to the infra red, the whole area is swarming with them." Sam turned to smile at Daniel before turning her attention back to the controls of the Unmanned Airborne Vehicle. "The Bigfoot are everywhere, Daniel. There are groups of them as far as the UAV can detect."
"So this must be their home world," Teal'c said from behind Daniel.
"Yes, it is. I've found the proof" Everyone turned to look at Daniel. "I've translated most of the writing I filmed back on the planet. Okay, it's not very clear and hard to make out, and I've had to extrapolate a bit of it, but what it does say is that the Goa'uld did take these... Bigfoot, from their home world and brought them to the world of the first ones to attempt various genetic manipulations between what I think are apes, the Sasquatch and humans."
"Oh that's just... gross."
Daniel frowned at Jack before turning back to the monitor. He could see large red blobs on the monitor in what had to be the forested area a few miles from the city ruins. Sam was right, they were everywhere.
"Do you think they built the city, Daniel? I wouldn't have thought they had that much intelligence."
"No, they were more like... pets, to the people who lived there, I guess. They lived in harmony, until the Goa'uld came along and began harvesting the population for hosts. The Bigfoot didn't like the Goa'uld and actually attacked them, something that was unheard of. There's a lot of text missing, I'm guessing it's beneath the pillar... but I think the Goa'uld might have destroyed the city, and not any earthquakes, like we first thought.
"It seems these experiments continued until the Asgard got involved. There's mention of a benevolent race helping the "gentle ones", which is what these people called the Bigfoot."
Daniel glanced around, looking to see if General Hammond might arrive. "Are we going to go back there?"
"Sorry, Hammond pulled the plug on this one." Jack patted Daniel's back, then rubbed back and forth with the pads of his fingers.
"Why? Those creatures aren't going to hurt us. The inhabitants called them gentle!"
"Several thousands years ago, they might have been gentle. Who knows how they've evolved since."
"Carter's right. And they're intelligent. Look at this."
Jack moved to the side and replayed the recordings taken from the MALP still sitting on the dais on the planet before them on the monitors. Daniel hopped over to get a better look. Within less than a minute, one of the large creatures appeared within the MALP's visual range.
"Wow, he's huge," Daniel breathed as he watched the creature stand to the side of the Stargate. It looked like it was waiting expectantly.
"That's the alpha male." Jack came to stand closer to Daniel. "He's the one who saved your life, by the way."
"What's he waiting for? It looks like he knows something's going to come out of the Stargate."
"At a guess, I'd say he's waiting for... us?"
Daniel glanced at Jack to see if he was joking, but nope, Jack was serious. Dead serious.
"You think he's waiting to hurt us the moment we'd come through?" Daniel shivered, the size of the creature's hands were enormous.
Suddenly the UAV shot through the event horizon and the creature jumped back, startled. It watched the small plane as it soared through the air, then turned back to the Stargate.
"No, I don't think it wants to hurt us, it was probably curious, more than anything." Daniel moved off to the real-time visuals from the MALP and realized it was still sitting there, waiting. "But Hammond doesn't like the threat they possess, and he doesn't want to chance angering them and being forced to hurt them. In any case, Carter's tests on the rocks didn't pan out, so there's nothing there worthwhile exploring."
"Nothing worthwhile? What about them?" Daniel waved his hand emphatically towards the camera and nearly overbalanced.
"I know." Jack's hand was on his shoulder again, rubbing. "I know," Jack repeated. Daniel lowered his gaze, not wanting to see the expectant look on the nearly-human face, knowing that it was sitting out there, waiting for nothing.
"So they're not intelligent enough to warrant befriending, there's nothing on the planet worth our time mining, and the fact that we've just solved one of Earth's legends doesn't count for anything, huh?"
"Doctor Dennison put in a plea for a study of the Bigfoot and General Hammond did say he'd permit the use of equipment so we can try and study them from a distance."
"Why wasn't I informed of this meeting, Sam? Jack?" He turned to Jack, starting to get angry.
"For crying out loud, you've only been back two days. The meeting was last Monday. Look, at least Hammond's allowing some study of the creatures."
Daniel sighed. It was true, it wasn't perfect, but he was used to making do with the tidbits sometimes thrown his way. He allowed his weight to fall against Jack for a moment, telling him silently he agreed and appreciated his support. Then he pulled away and moved to stand behind Sam once again. He felt the heat of Jack's body behind him.
"You know," Jack said with that tone of voice that Daniel just *knew* was going to cause him to groan, "we could always go look up these guys' relatives. You know, there are sightings of Bigfoot up here in Colorado - what do you say? Pack your video camera when you're off your crutches, and we can go out into the big beyond?"
"Um, Jack, why do I get the feeling that this might also entail a fishing rod or two?"
"Well, heck, you know me - always be prepared? You can search the woods for spoor of Bigfoot and I'll catch us dinner. It'll be great, camping out and all that."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we 'camp out' every other mission?"
"But that's offworld, Daniel." Jack leaned closer as if he was looking over Daniel's shoulder at the screen. He whispered into Daniel's ear. "This time, it'll be on Earth." Jack's hand 'accidentally' touched Daniel's butt and he felt a frisson of excitement ripple down his back.
Biting back his grin, he made the expected rolling of his eyes at Jack. Daniel thought to all the times they'd wished they could share a sleeping bag offworld and give in to temptation. Camping, together, him and Jack, one sleeping bag, alone in the wilderness. Heck, the things he did for his love.
Author's Comments: Many thanks to Jmas for accepting this story for her E-zine 'Ancients Gate III - Heart and Soul'
If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:
And HUGS and thanks to devra, who once again went above and beyond to look at this fic with an eagle eye, and thanks to the sisters of my heart, who always keep me in check
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