Where the hell was she? Her plane should have landed ten minutes ago… ok, yes, he was obsessing but when one of his kids were missing, Colonel Jack O'Neill couldn't find it in himself to give a damn. The only, ONLY, thing that mattered to him was getting back their wayward astrophysicist.
Everything else could go to hell for all he cared.
This was the last time he was EVER lending out one of his kids. How many times was this, that either Carter or Daniel, had gone missing or were hurt when they were with other Stargate teams? God, he had lost count.
This was the last time.
He was getting too old to have to chase after his kids every damn time they got a little carried away with a new discovery. Usually it was Daniel who found himself in hot water, but this time it was his 2IC, Major Samantha Carter.
All because of a Naquadria mine.
You'd think it was a gold mine the way Carter had gone on, and on, and on about it. Yeah, ok, the alien mineral was extremely powerful, but the planet had been meteorologically unstable. Trying to mine there was insane.
Was it a surprise that Carter and SG-37 had disappeared after one of the frequent storms?
Now they were god knows where, stuck, with only a limited amount of food and no communications. Two S&R teams had gone through to P3X-697 to find them but they got their ass kicked by a sand storm. They walked around for a day and a half before they realized they had gotten nowhere. The planet was like walking into a damn assortment of natural disasters.
Daniel and Teal'c were beside themselves with worry. Well, Daniel was beside himself with worry, Teal'c was just raising his eyebrows more frequently. They both wanted the missing member of SG-1 home.
So did Jack.
Which was why he had called Lieutenant Rosenberg back to base. When Carter and SG-37 were declared missing both Daniel and Teal'c requested Rosenberg to be called in for the Search and Rescue, but because she was in LA on leave, the request was denied. They had been pissed. Jack couldn't blame them. Rosenberg's record for Search and Rescue was almost impeccable. Like in training, the Lieutenant had a natural talent for finding things.
In Search and Rescue she excelled.
Jack hadn't seen her in action, since their off-world training, but according to a few people who had the pleasure - she had improved. A LOT. No one could quite explain why Rosenberg could find things when others couldn't, but then they didn't really care. She found them, and with SR-1, the unit Rosenberg belonged to, they would get them out and they would be safe.
Not always, sometimes there were casualties, but SR-1 were good at what they did.
Who cared why? Lives were saved. The rest didn't matter.
Rosenberg was making a hell of a name for herself. The kid didn't even realize it. The Lieutenant was in complete ignorance of the attention she was getting. Rosenberg was focused solely on her job, and her team. Anything else outside of that took second place. Jack admired that, so did the General…
Which was why Rosenberg had her own lab.
Search and Rescues either stayed around the base until they were needed, or sometimes went on missions with other teams. They didn't need their own offices. They could go weeks without an assignment, so usually they just trained recruits, flew, or anything that kept them active.
Rosenberg didn't. She was S&R constantly, only ever taking a break to train new recruits. When she was on base, she was in her lab studying maps of planets, solar systems, anything that could give her an edge on a potential rescue. Hell, she was even working with Carter on a new UVA program that took a detailed map of a planet that would aide the S&R teams.
The kid was as bad as Carter and Daniel…
Which probably explained why she was in such high demand. Carter and Daniel were the best in their fields, Rosenberg was the best in hers. Jack had no idea why and didn't care.
Jack wanted Carter back safe and sound… so he could kill her.
And so Teal'c and Daniel wouldn't kill him.
They were both pissed that he had backed the General's decision not to bring Rosenberg in. Rosenberg was like any new SGC personnel - eager to please. She would burn herself out if she didn't rest, plus, Jack had been privy to information Daniel and Teal'c weren't. The Lieutenant's last mission had been pretty bad, a full on battle was a squadron of Jaffa - Rosenberg's first major skirmish.
Major Kawalsky, her CO, said she handled herself well but the General wanted to give her a breather, so she was given two weeks down time.
At least she managed to get a full week's break before he called her back in.
Still, if anything happened to Carter, Daniel and Teal'c would never forgive him. They had wasted two days with the other teams.
Now they would have to wait for Rosenberg to prepare for the mission before they could go through the gate again. Right now maps of P3X-697 were being put into her lab and the General had given her a carte blanche on anything she needed for the mission.
The brass were eager for Carter to be found too.
Not because they thought highly of the astrophysicist, but because Sam knew the location of the Naquadria mine… they didn't give a damn if Carter lived or died, they cared about the damn Naquadria. For them, Rosenberg wasn't finding Carter, but a bounty of the powerful mineral.
There were going to be a lot of eyes on the Lieutenant during this mission.
The Lieutenant had no idea just how far the brass were willing to go for the mine, or how far Jack, himself, was willing to go to get Carter back. Daniel and Teal'c were the same. They were desperate to get Sam back.
Jack kind of felt sorry for the kid, if she fucked this up, there would be hell to pay. A lot of pressure to put on someone who had only been in the project for seven months. Even more pressure when her team, SR-1, was on another mission with the Tok'ra.
Rosenberg was on her own with this one.
SR-1 were going to be pissed when they found out. They were protective of the Lieutenant. Major Kawalsky, Captain Hayes, and Lieutenant Grogan all watched out for Rosenberg when she was on base. Not because Rosenberg couldn't take care of herself, but because she was kind… oblivious.
She had no idea about the rumors circling the base about her.
The latest was that she was psychic. Someone had joked about it in the infirmary after she found them, and it had spread like wildfire. SR-1 were fuming when it came out, Hayes especially, which only inflamed the rumors. Jack didn't give a damn if she was a psychic, a clairvoyant, or a damn witch.
She could be anything she wanted as long they got Carter back.
Willow leaned against the elevator wall as it made its way down to level 28.
This was the time she hated most. Right after she was called in. It was not knowing who, what, where, and how that drove Willow to distraction. Once she knew who was missing, she could handle it, plan… but until then she could only worry.
Today she had even more to worry about because one of the teams currently off-world was SR-1.
If they were the one's missing, she'd kill them.
SR-1 were three of the four people Willow cared deeply about at the SGC. Their job made it impossible for the four of them not to bond. Risking your life with the same people time and time again… you got attached. The Air Force frowned upon it, but it was something you couldn't avoid.
Willow couldn't imagine walking through the Stargate without Major Kawalsky, Captain Hayes, and Lieutenant Grogan on her six. The thought filled her with fear to be honest… not just because she didn't the other teams weren't as good, but because Willow knew that SR-1 were loyal to themselves.
Translation; the guys knew when to look away and not ask questions.
The first three missions together had been difficult. Willow's reputation from training had gained her a position with SR-1, her `talent' for finding things was well documented. Working with SR-1 really brought reality down on her. Using her magic in front of the team was easy enough. All she did was close her eyes and let her magic do the walking, and she'd find someone.
The problem actually came from explaining to her team HOW she knew where people were.
Or if, for some reason, her magic suddenly led her in a different direction. The question `How do you know, Lieutenant?' was one Willow had really come to hate.
It was only on the fourth mission that things changed. Hayes had been captured by the same locals that had taken SG-2. Time had been of the essence so Willow had no choice but to beg Major Kawalsky to let her lead them to Hayes and the missing Stargate team.
When Kawalsky asked how she knew where they were, her reply had been - instinct.
Kawalsky took a risk and trusted her.
Since that day, Kawalsky, Hayes, and Grogan followed her without question. They never asked, and she never told. It was kind of an unspoken agreement with them all. They thought she was psychic or something, but they never said anything.
Not even to Colonel O'Neill or the General.
And for that Willow loved them.
They minimized the risk of using her magic. It wasn't smart, she knew that. In fact, it was pretty stupid to use her magic in her job, but Willow thought the benefits outweighed the risks. The risks were more than worth it, if it meant the difference between living and dying.
Her magic saved a lot of lives.
Willow would never be able to live with herself if someone died just because she didn't want to be discovered, or because she hated the mystical force inside her. There was so much death in her life already, Willow couldn't be responsible for any more.
She only ever used it for searching for people, so there was no other risks of exposure. Honestly? Willow wasn't even interested in exploring the depth of her power. She didn't care how powerful she had become. Willow remembered very little of the magic she learned
back in Sunnydale and she had no desire to relearn any of it.
If her magic hadn't found a way out of her by locating people, Willow wouldn't be using it at all.
She had lucked out with SR-1. Not only did they look away at the right moment and not ask questions, but they also covered for her when the attention got a little intense.
Hayes had taken the credit for at least three rescues to avoid drawing excessive attention to her.
Would another team back her up like that? She doubted it. Like any work place, there was some overtly competitive people at the SGC, only one or two but Willow knew if she was every sent out with their team, everything she did would be relayed - verbatim.
Though, if SR-1 were the reason she had been recalled, then Willow would expose her `instinct' to the entire SGC if it would help them…
Or if it was Dr Jackson who was missing.
He was the forth person who Willow cared about. Though, her relationship with Dr Jackson, if you could call it that, was somewhat different to the one she had with her team.
Everything about her and Dr Jackson was confusing.
HE was confusing.
Willow wasn't really sure exactly where she stood with him. It wasn't until she had started at the SGC that she realized just how important Dr Jackson was.
He was a legend on the base.
The entire team SG-1 was.
Willow had been mortified when she read the mission report from the team's various missions. She couldn't believe that out of everyone on the base, Willow had lost it with him. The man wasn't just an archaeologist. The missions he had been on, the lives he had saved…
It was astounding.
And it scared her to death. For months Willow waited for Dr Jackson to shatter her world by revealing what happened that night, at his apartment, but he never did. Dr Jackson kept her secret.
In fact, he acted as though he didn't know her when they were on base or with a lot of personnel.
Which, when she thought about it, he didn't. The last time the two of them had spoken, at length, was seven months ago when he picked her up from the airport after her first visit with the AI team.
He had gone off-world the next day.
They were both extremely busy with their teams, most of the time they weren't even on the planet at the same time, so seeing each other outside work was almost impossible. But that didn't mean he wasn't a part of her life. Which was where the confusion came in. She and Dr Jackson didn't speak except to say hello, but he was always there for her when he could be… in a confusing and subtle way.
No one noticed just how much he was there for her.
Sometimes it was a look, a smile, or even a nod. The man could communicate anvils with a simple gesture. When Dr Jackson was on base, he would always be there when she went on a mission or when she came back. Always there.
And when she was hurt, he'd sit by her bed while she slept.
She was the same with him. Not so much when he left on missions, but whenever he was hurt. Willow found herself sitting by his bed in the middle of the night. Dr Jackson never knew…
It felt like they had this entire relationship that consisted of not talking.
Willow knew Dr Jackson was following her progress at the SGC at a discreet distance. He knew how important her career was for her, and did what he could to not start rumors about the two of them, which would damage her reputation before she even set her foundations here.
Dr Jackson meant a lot to her, mostly because he had caught her when she had fallen, when she had been lost.
Willow wanted to return the favour, any way she could, except by rescuing him. She didn't want to ever have to rescue him, the thought scared her more than she was willing to admit. She was frightened she'd choke. Not only that, his friends and team, SG-1, intimidated the hell out of her.
Just being in the same room as SG-1 caused her to freak.
Not so much Major Carter, but Colonel O'Neill, Teal'c, and Dr Jackson.
If anyone would see through her façade, it would be them. SG-1 were the elite, premier, team of the Stargate and you didn't get that way by turning a blind eye. Plus, they had seen some pretty intense shit over the years, different races of aliens who had abilities, strangely enough, similar to hers.
Willow didn't want them to spot anything different about her.
But on another level, she didn't want anything to happen to Dr Jackson either.
Her life was so complicated.
So many secrets.
Still, if Dr Jackson was missing, she wanted to be the one to look for him. She would find him, not to say the other teams wouldn't, it was just she would find him faster.
Actually, when she thought about it, it was strange that SR-1 hadn't yet rescued SG-1. SG-1 was also known for getting into deep shit on a regular basis. Usually they got themselves out, but for a team THAT prone to danger, it was a little odd that they hadn't had to save their asses.
Please, god, don't let today be that day.
The doors to the elevators slid open. Well, at least the torturous wait was over. A quick briefing with General Hammond and whatever team she was assigned with, hopefully SR-1, and she'd be on her way.
When she arrived from the airport, Willow had been told to report directly to the General, instead of going to her lab. The order had her a little worried, usually when she was called in, she skipped the briefing in an attempt to save time. Kawalsky or Hayes usually told her what she needed to know.
The fact she was told the General was expecting her, kind of made it obvious that her team wasn't here.
Or maybe they were on their way back from their mission with the Tok'ra. Not likely, but a girl could dream right? Willow stopped just outside the briefing room door and returned the salute the airman gave her.
Please, god, don't let it be her team or Dr Jackson missing.
Taking a deep breath, Willow opened the door, instantly regretting it. She should have knocked, or done something. "I'm sorry, General," Willow snapped to attention and saluted the General. "I was told to see you as soon as I arrived on base."
Her eyes went to the four men sitting at the briefing table with the General. Colonel O'Neill, Dr Jackson, Teal'c, and their Pentagon liaison Major Paul `Disaster' Davis.
Willow saluted Colonel O'Neill and Major Davis. "Sirs, I apologize for interrupting your briefing."
She felt like a right ass.
Especially since Dr Jackson was here.
Why was he always around when she did something stupid?
"Actually, Lieutenant, you're right on time. Why don't you take a seat?" the General told her.
Take a seat? What did he mean? "Sir?"
"Lieutenant, sit," Colonel O'Neill ordered her.
Willow took the empty seat next to Teal'c. "General, SR-1, they're…"
She couldn't even say the words.
"They're not missing," the General told her.
Thank you, God!
Actually, she had both her wishes granted. Which begged the question, why was she in a briefing with SG-1 and Disaster Davis? Hang on… SG-1 was missing a member…
Willow was aware of everyone's eyes on her as the General explained the who, what, where, and how. She knew what they were doing, they were trying to gauge her opinion on the mission by her expression.
Years of training enabled Willow to keep her expression completely blank.
Plus, it was hard to judge a rescue mission without all the cards being on the table. Willow refused to let Dr Jackson, Teal'c, and Colonel O'Neill to see exactly what she thought of what she was hearing so far.
It didn't look good.
That's not to say the mission was a lost cause, far from it, all it meant was that it wouldn't be easy. From a S&R standpoint, the fact that two and a half days had passed since Major Carter, and SG-37, went missing was bad news. The longer the person was missing, the harder it would be to find them. But that wasn't what had Willow worried most. What worried her was that the planet was an array of elemental forces which would severely hamper their rescue attempt, and make survival of the missing a lot harder.
SR-2 and 4 had gone through the gate to locate them and had come back unsuccessful. SR-2 and 4 were excellent at what they did, the fact that they hadn't been able to get anywhere in two days - not a good sign.
While Willow had her instinct… it was getting to them before it was too late that had her troubled. Willow would be able to lead them in the right direction, but if they were bombarded with storms… Willow would be lucky if they didn't spend the entire time looking for each other.
Things really didn't look good.
There were other things that would go against them as well. If Major Carter, and SG-37, were dead. Willow wouldn't be able to locate them as easily. Her magic used the essence of a person to locate them, it wasn't a fine art or anything, but Willow had learned the hard way that if the person was dead, the only way they'd find them was by luck.
That was why Willow studied their destinations so hard. It was silly, but Willow hated leaving anyone behind, alive or not. So when her magic couldn't find someone, she did it the hard way.
This mission was going to be difficult.
It was going to be even more difficult with so many people breathing down her neck. It made her a little, er, a lot nervous to be here with SG-1 and Disaster Davis. She could already feel mounting pressure build and that was just from trying to ignore their gazes.
Anyone would be nervous. SG-1 were the best, the elite - legends. This was the first time Willow had been in a room with them like this. Willow had worked with Major Carter, but she had been more in awe of Major Carter than anything. Her mind was - well, being with the Major made Willow feel so inferior. She was brilliant but nice as well.
Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c were just plain scary. Dr Jackson was… well, her opinion of him was based on a personal basis, not professional. She was, however, intimidated by his intelligence.
They must be going out of their minds with worry. She would if it were her team member missing. SG-1 was the closest unit in the SGC.
Willow would go as far to say they were even closer than SR-1. The premier team had been together since the program had been reinstated. Dr Jackson and Colonel O'Neill went back even further, but the entire team, SG-1 was the longest team to ever remain intact.
Colonel O'Neill even called them his kids.
They were kind of like the three musketeers. All for one and one for all. If one was in trouble… they'd all dive into the fray. Now one of them was missing.
And it didn't look good.
When the hell was SR-1 getting here? Willow hazard a guess that this was why she was being briefed. SR-1 were probably on their way back from their Tok'ra mission. That meant she'd have to be ready with her assessment by the time they arrived.
It was procedure for all S&R rescues to be assessed before a team was sent through. As a rule, Willow, because of her instincts, was the assessor for SR-1. The assessor decided if a rescue was possible. So far Willow had signed off on every mission, though the last mission Willow had dropped the ball.
They had been successful but it had been close and bloody. The mission scared the fuck out of her, if anything had happened to her team… Willow would have lost it.
As it was, the aftermath hadn't been pretty. Willow slept for sixty hours straight when she got to LA and, when she woke up, she had been less than receptive to Giles and Angel's probing questions. She had been freaked when she left the base and Angel was able to smell her fear and anxiety.
Yep, when she went back to LA she was going to be hounded by four very worried friends.
If she went back.
There was always an if now. Every time she went through the gate, there was a chance she wasn't coming back. This mission held the same risks. From what the General was describing, the planet was completely unsafe. Why did they send a team through to a planet like that? It was inhabitable. How did they expect to mine there? Naquadria was not worth human lives.
Willow would need to speak to the other SR teams before making the assessment. Pentagon, SG-1, aside, Willow was not risking people on a planet that was that dangerous.
Willow sighed, nothing was ever easy. No matter what she decided, people would be at… why was everyone staring at her? Wow, that was professional of her. She completely zoned out on everyone… right in front of the General.
Nice move, Rosenberg.
"I'm sorry, Sir," Willow apologized.
The General raised an eyebrow. "Something concerning you, Lieutenant?"
"Nothing I'd like to discuss now, Sir. It's a little too early for me to…"
"Lieutenant," the tone Colonel O'Neill used sparked fear in her, "if you have a problem, spit it out now. Carter is trapped on that hell hole, we don't have time for damn protocol. Let's cut the bullshit. What's bothering you?"
The man intimidated the shit out of her. Willow had heard about the O'Neill temper, but never had she been on the brunt of it - in front of an audience. She understood the reason behind his anger but that didn't make it any easier. Willow would be the same. Wasting time before S&R bothered her too, but in this case, she thought it was necessary.
"Jack!" Dr Jackson snapped at the Colonel. "You're not helping."
Ookay. Colonel O'Neill chews her out for not speaking her mind, and Dr Jackson defends her.
Colonel O'Neill ignored him, his attention focused completely on her. "Lieutenant, is something concerning you?"
"A few things, Sir," Willow maintained eye contact, rather difficulty. His gaze was as intimidating as his tone. God, she didn't know where to start. "To be honest, Sir, the entire mission is concerning me. I'm not sure what SR-1 can do that SR-2 and 4 haven't. The planet is extremely hazardous. Even if we manage to find them, getting back to the gate is going to be difficult."
"We're aware of the difficulty of the mission, Lieutenant," O'Neill informed her. "That's why we've called you in."
Um… excuse me? "Sir?"
It wasn't the Colonel who answered, but Major Davis, "Lieutenant, you're the best we have in Search and Rescue. We're hoping that your natural talents will succeed where SR-2 and SR-4 failed."
He flipped open the manila file in front of him. "You record is next to perfect. There have been two missions where you've gone in after other SR teams and succeeded where they failed."
Oh… oh shit. Maybe SR-1 hadn't covered for her as well as she thought. Damn! "Not me, Sir. SR-1. We went in and succeeded." What she wouldn't give for them to be with her right now. They would be backing her up in a heartbeat.
Willow was really beginning to hate that word.
"According to the mission reports, ninety percent of the time it’s been you who was responsible for finding the locations of various SG teams," Davis looked down at the notes. "Your last mission for example…"
O'Neill cut him off. "Davis, we're all aware what happened on the last mission. We don't need a reminder. Rosenberg, this is how it is. SR-1 have the best success rate for locating people, you're the only member of SR-1 currently on-world so you're it."
She was it? What did he mean by that?
"Rosenberg, do you think you can find Major Carter and SG-37?" the General asked her outright.
Could she find them, yes. "I would need all mission reports, MALP telemetry, and maps of the planet, but yes, I think I can find them."
"Thank god!" Dr Jackson exclaimed.
"Anything you need, Lieutenant, it's yours. You've been given a carte blanche for this mission. It's extremely important to all parties involved that you succeed." The General told her.
Oh good, no pressure. "When will SR-1 be returning from the Tok'ra?" she wanted to know.
Everyone stared at her.
"They're not," Hammond informed her. "They're in the middle of the mission, we can't recall them without exposing their positions."
"SG-1 will be accompanying you on this mission."
Whoa! Hold up! Stop everything!
No… oh no. No way in hell. Nope. Not a chance. Were they kidding? They weren't assigning her to SG-1!!!
Please god, no. Not that, anything but that.
Her face must have betrayed her, because O'Neill glared. "You have a problem with that, Lieutenant?"
Hell yes! "General Hammond," she turned to the commander of the base. "With all due respect, SG-1 is a combat unit. Wouldn't it be better assigning me to one of the other SR units?"
"I'm aware of that, but SG-1 have requested to accompany you and I have no objection."
"Sir," she wasn't going down without a fight. "I know of SG-1 reputation and I'm not saying they would slow a rescue mission down, it's just, they're a little close it…"
So very much not the thing to say.
O'Neill looked ready to take a swing at her. "So if your team was missing, you wouldn't be the first person through the gate?"
Yeah, throw logic at her. "Point taken, Sir. I honestly mean no disrespect but this mission is a rescue and SG-1 primary function is a field unit. They're not aware of the new techniques that we use in S&R. Colonel O'Neill may inadvertently give me an order that would slow us down."
She was digging her own grave here.
Willow could think of nothing worse than being assigned to SG-1. They intimidated her too much, she'd choke. The pressure… no, this mission was going to be difficult enough without being apart of SG-1.
Colonel O'Neill was the second in command of this base, he was going to make her life a living hell because of this. Not to mention Dr Jackson being angry at her, and then Teal'c… oh god… Willow risked a glance at the Colonel.
Why did he look so smug?
"Lieutenant, I don't think you heard the General correctly," he even sounded smug. "We're being assigned to you, not the other way around."
The General nodded. "I'm not sure you realize just how important this mission is."
No, but she was beginning to get it.
"The President is extremely eager to find the location of the SGC team and the Naquadria mine," Davis said his piece. "The amount of Naquadria on the planet will give us the opportunity to develop technology that will help us defeat the Goa'uld. The Deathgliders you fly, Lieutenant, are possible only because of the Naquadria."
Ah… she really didn't give a rat’s ass about the Naquadria mine.
"What are you saying, Sir?"
Did she really want to know?
"You'll be given everything you need in order to succeed on this mission. As I said before, anything you require will be available without question." Hammond stated.
He continued. "As Colonel O'Neill and Major Davis pointed out, you're the best we have in Search and Rescue. Your fears about the suitability of assigning SG-1 to the mission are viable, and if SG-1 were leading the mission, then I would take your concerns under consideration. These are extreme circumstances, and the Pentagon has agreed with Colonel O'Neill's recommendation."
Her heart stopped.
"You will still have to report to Colonel O'Neill but unless a combat situation occurs, you will be in command of the mission."
She had been wrong.
So, so, very wrong.
There was one thing worse than being assigned to SG-1 for this mission.
And that was it.
Her lab seemed small with Colonel O'Neill in it, or maybe it felt small. Since graduating, Willow dreamed of having her own command. This wasn't exactly what she had in mind. In fact, this was as far
from it as you could get. In her dreams at no time was Colonel O'Neill in her team.
How do you command the Second in Command of the entire fucking base?
With great caution.
Willow had underestimated the importance of the mission. Giving her command over the mission was against the rules. She was a Lieutenant, commands went to Majors and Colonels. How desperate were
From the looks of Colonel O'Neill, they were pretty darn desperate.
This was worse than she thought.
She didn't know how to do this. In training she had a command, but a
command in training was nothing like this.
Willow was responsible for these peoples lives and those she had to
save. Eight people. Eight people that had families, friends, and
lovers. Despite the General's comment about still having to report
to Colonel O'Neill, she was the one responsible for the mission.
Worst part? SG-1 alone were not enough people to pull off this
mission. She needed at least another team.
If she fucked up, people would die.
This was the real thing. Whenever she was with SR-1, Kawalsky had
the responsibility. He often followed her advice but HE made the
choice. Willow just led the way….
How did Buffy and Faith do it? The realisation of the kind of
responsibility Buffy and Faith had slammed into her. They had a lot
more people relying on them. Willow had eight, but they had the
Willow's heart pounded furiously.
It wasn't just the mission that scared her. She was also going
through the gate with a team she didn't know, or trust. Ok, that
wasn't entire true. She trusted Dr Jackson, but not Colonel O'Neill
and Teal'c. She didn't know if they would follow her command.
It was easy to say they would, but when it came down to that moment
when she needed them to act without question - would they? If
Colonel O'Neill contradicted an order, who would they obey? Her or
Not to mention the close eye they were going to keep on her. How was
she going to explain her instincts to them - especially now that they
seemed to know about her talent.
She'd be damned if she was going to throw the mission though. Willow
hated the magic inside of her. With the exception of Faith, Angel,
and now Cordy, Willow hated everything from that world. She hated
the reminder of where she had come from, but the magic saved lives
and because of that, she'd use it. Even in plain sight.
Willow prayed that SG-1 would buy her bullshit through the mission.
She still couldn't believe she was here, working, with SG-1. It was
her worst nightmare come true. Some officers would see it as a
career opportunity, but Willow didn't.
And not just because of her magic.
They scared the crap out of her.
Willow hadn't expected them to be quite so… there. During the last
two hours, since the briefing, they had been with her EVERY step of
the way. She wasn't able to do a single thing without one, if not
all, men with her. The only reprieve she had was when she went to
the ladies room.
They waited outside.
Now she and Colonel O'Neill were in her office while Dr Jackson and
Teal'c were off getting supplies they needed for the mission.
O'Neill hardly spoke to her, instead, he would just watch her, like
before, trying to gauge her opinion of this mission.
Honestly? Willow would rather walk into a Goa'uld stronghold.
They would have more chance of success.
She studied the map in front of her. Whoever gave the ok for the
original mission really needed their head read. Looking at the maps,
Willow couldn't understand how it went through…
But then, whoever assessed this planet weren't looking at maps, but a
large Naquadria mine. The maps weren't complete by any means, when
they sent a UAV through to survey the planet, it had been struck down
in mid-flight by lightening, but the information they received was
enough to give Willow the basic idea of the planet.
Your first impression of the planet, you would think it was a
desert. There was nothing but sand for miles, but it wasn't a
It was a beach.
A really big huge beach that spanned for miles.
The SR-4 had come across the water while walking around in circles
because of the sandstorm.
Willow almost wished it was a desert.
Desert meant sand storms, thunderstorms, maybe a few hurricanes, and
of course the semi-frequent earthquakes the planet had.
Beaches, water… whole different ball game.
Along with the beach, miles inland - if you could actually find
inland - there was a dense forest. A dense tropical forest at the
base of the small mountains. The good news was - that was where the
mine was most likely located, therefore Carter and SG-37 would be
there. Bad news…
The tropics didn't have just hurricanes.
They had cyclones.
And the earthquakes… well, if one hit underwater…
Can anyone say Tsunami?
There was one thing though - Willow hadn't seen any signs of
That was the only natural disaster Willow felt was missing, but then,
the maps were incomplete. What was the bet there was a little
volcano just waiting for them to walk through the gate.
Ok, that was unlikely.
"Lieutenant? Something wrong?"
Would it matter if there was? It made no difference what she thought
or said. Especially to Colonel O'Neill. Damn it! Willow didn't
want to be responsible for this mission. How was she supposed to
work with a team like SG-1? She couldn't even talk to the Colonel.
She'd give anything for Kawalsky to be here.
Kawalsky had stood with her, just like O'Neill was, and never once
had she felt this… this… oppressed. How was it Kawalsky and O'Neill
were so close? They hung out constantly off world, Dr Jackson too…
Willow just couldn't see anything other than a big bully when she
looked at O'Neill.
O'Neill raised a disbelieving brow. "Lieutenant, take a seat."
Damn. She knew this was going to happen. He was going to start in
on her again about holding back. But really, what was the use of
sharing the hopelessness with everyone? They didn't need her to tell
them that they were fucked.
She was leading Colonel O'Neill, Teal'c, and Dr Jackson quite
possibly to their deaths.
Willow sat down on the nearest seat.
"How bad is it, really?"
Oh. Um. She hadn't expected that question or O'Neill's tone to be
so polite. His eyes didn't even have that harsh look. In fact… he
looked… nervous? Worried?
She took a deep breath. "Bad. The more I see of the planet, the
worse our chances become. Sir, I've never seen anything like this
before. The planet is so volatile, even if we manage to find our
missing people in time, the chances of all of us making it back… Sir,
I don't think we can do it."
"Lieutenant, we're not leaving our people behind."
She nodded. "My guess is that they've made their way to the forest
which is about seven miles north of the gate, as soon as we hit the
forest, we're back to square one. It's dense, and tropical. The
MALP picked up no life forms, but if they're anything like
rainforests on Earth, we're going to have an array of animals that
won't be picked up on the MALP. Not to mention the fact that the
constant storms will make manoeuvring difficult."
O'Neill grimaced. "Bottom line it for me, Lieutenant?"
"Well Sir, let me put it this way. I wouldn't walk through the gate
without making sure all my affairs were in order."
Gee, wasn't she Ms Positive.
"It's going to take a something pretty damn spectacular for us to
pull this off."
Why was he looking her like that?
He leaned back against the chair. "You've been known to pull some
spectacular rescues in the past, isn't that correct Lieutenant?"
Oh… oh shit! Would someone please sew up her mouth! It was evil!
An evil mouth hell bent on getting her in shit. "No, Sir. SR-1
"Lieutenant, didn't I tell you to cut the bullshit already? I've
read the reports, I've spoken to some of the people you've saved.
What you do is little short of spectacular. How exactly are you able
to find these people, Lieutenant? I asked Kawalsky once, but he was
a little vague." O'Neill looked at her expectantly.
Willow opened and closed her mouth a few times.
O'Neill got up, walked to the door, closed it, then sat back down.
NOW she was scared.
Why did O'Neill close the door?
"Lieutenant, this is off the record? Understand?"
Seven words that just stop your heart dead. She had been wrong.
Shit. They hadn't hid her talent at all. This mission, the closed
door, everyone knew what she did wasn't normal. The only thing that
had stopped her from being outed was SR-1.
Their loyalty to her.
But now she was with another team who had no loyalty to her. Colonel
O'Neill didn't really seem to like her, she was just a Lieutenant.
Yet, was she going to throw the mission? Was she going to let Carter
and SG-37 die because it would expose her?
Willow would never live with herself if she someone died because of
her. Willow just hoped she would be able to talk her way out of it…
and if that didn't work…
Then she would deal with it when that happened.
She had to look herself in the mirror everyday, her career wasn't
worth her soul.
"Lieutenant, what ever it takes - do it. Getting Carter and SG-37
back is the ONLY thing that I care about. Everything else can go to
hell. The Naquadria mine… it's not important. I know you're under
pressure from us, the brass, but relax. SG-1 is with you, not
Ookay. She got that. Nothing that really should be kept off the
He studied her through narrowed eyes. "In my years as an officer,
I've never seen someone with your kind of success rate, and although
I'm curious, I won't ask if you don't want to tell me."
Um.. what was he saying?
"Bottom line, I don't care if you find people by spinning around in a
circle and randomly picking a direction. As long as you find,
Carter, it doesn't matter. We won't ask questions."
"Sir, I'm not sure I understand?"
"Kawalsky has never been vague with me. He and I go way back, we
were Special Forces together. We've got the highest clearance.
There isn't anything he can't tell me. Yet, when I ask about you, he
clams up. He's vague when it come to describing just how you locate
people… is there a reason why he's covering for you?"
"Sir, I have no idea what you're talking about?" Willow inwardly
groaned. Even she didn't believe that.
He sighed. "Relax Lieutenant, being psychic isn't a federal offence."
"Sir, I'm not psychic. What I do is based on the study of
information I receive about the planet and gut inst…"
"Whatever, just… chill? Christ, you're worst than Daniel!" O'Neill
dismissed her explanation. "What I'm saying, Lieutenant, is that I
don't care if you dance naked under the full moon, chant in a damn
language no one can understand - whatever you do won't reach any
reports, if that's what you're worried about. Just find Carter and
we'll cover your six. Am I clear?"
"Jack, what are you talking about?" Daniel blinked in confusion. "You want us to keep Willow’s techniques out of the report?"
Why? Why would Jack ask that? Oh god! Was Willow going to do something dangerous to save Sam? Daniel began to doubt his decision to ask for Willow to lead the rescue... she was the best and Sam needed her... Daniel didn’t want to waste time with anyone else.
No one else came even close to her record.
He should know - he followed her progress at the SGC closely. Daniel was aware of almost every mission Willow had been on. He knew the medical injuries she sustained over the last seven months, he knew how many hours a week she worked, he knew how often she went to LA, he also knew Willow kept somewhat lesser tabs on him as well.
The term Charles Kawalsky used, when he confronted Daniel about his interest in his Lieutenant, was stalker.
Kawalsky said he was kidding but sometimes Daniel wondered.
Willow wasn’t even aware how much he knew about her. She sometimes saw him watching her as she went through the gate, but she didn’t know that whenever he was off world he would have Janet look out for her, or that he read the mission reports on most of the missions she went on.
Except the last mission but he was going to get to that as soon as this mission was over.
After they found Sam.
Jack’s instructions to look away from Willow bothered him. Did this have something to do with the rumours about Willow? Daniel ignored all of them. If you listened to every rumour on base Jack would be having a torrid affair with Sam and quite possibly Daniel, Willow would be sleeping with Kawalsky and Hayes and oh yeah, Willow would be psychic.
She wasn’t psychic.
He knew that. Why? Because if she was psychic - wouldn’t she have seen the massacre in Sunnydale coming? No. She wasn’t psychic. Psychics don’t have more maps that the American Geological Survey and work almost twenty hours a day.
Willow was incredibly thorough when she went on a mission. She didn’t leave anything to chance and she covered every possibility.
Her talent was uncanny - he could admit that but he didn’t think she was psychic.
"Daniel, don’t ask questions... just do it," Jack turned to Teal’c. "That goes for you too big guy. The kid has enough pressure without us breathing down her neck."
Teal’c gave a solemn nod.
Daniel sighed. He felt guilty for the pressure Willow was under. He and Teal’c badgered the General to get Willow called in the second Sam was listed as missing. Daniel still couldn’t understand why the General and Jack waited so long before calling her in.
Sam could be back by now.
Daniel leaned down and continued to lace his boots. It was almost time to go... Willow informed Jack an few hours ago of their departure time - which was in ten minutes. God... ten minutes, it seemed like forever. Daniel couldn’t take his eyes off his watch. He just wanted to get out there and save Sam and SG-37. Both Jack and Teal’c were also going through the last stages of preparing for the mission.
They were in the locker room waiting for Willow to join them.
"Jack..." Daniel tried again to get a straight answer from his best friend but was silenced with a look. Idly, he wondered how Jack would feel if he knew Daniel had a relationship, of sorts, with Willow. Kawalsky and Janet were the only ones on the base who knew of Daniel’s interest in Willow.
Interest... kind of not the right term to use. Connection? That was a more apt term as the connection between them flowed both ways. Daniel knew of at least one time when Willow sat by his bed after he had been injured.
He never mentioned it to her... which wasn’t surprising because he didn’t talk to her.
She was career military and he wasn’t sure how she’d feel if the rumours about them become excessively fierce, so he kept his distance. He let her know he was there for her but he never took it any further. He knew deep inside that Willow would come to him if she needed him... if she found herself tethering on the edge like the first night they met.
Was that why Willow argued so much for them not to go on the mission? Did she feel awkward about having him on her team? She probably felt awkward about having someone in her team who had seen her at her worst.
Maybe he should have tried to talk to her before now and asked. He would have stepped down if he knew Willow... ok, he wouldn’t have stepped down but he would’ve done something to try to make her feel better.
He couldn’t let the rescue team to go through without him.
This was the last opportunity to save Sam and SG-37. If they failed now - Sam and SG-37 would die waiting for someone to rescue them.
He couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t go through and at least try to save her. God, he’d never forgive Jack if Sam wasn’t alive. Two days they wasted. God damn it, why didn’t they call her? This were their people they were talking....
She was here! Thank god!
Willow walked into the locker room carrying an array of equipment. Daniel and Teal’c both went to her, lightening her burden. Willow met his eyes for a split second and she smiled. Once again he was astounded how much one look from Willow could mean - and that he understood it.
Seven months of sharing glances and smiles, it wasn’t all that surprising he could read her.
She was giving him her sympathies... she was sorry that Sam was missing. Guilt surged through him again. Willow knew all about losing friends - would this be a reminder for her? That was it, he was going to talk to her before they went to the gateroom.
They couldn’t afford to go through the gate distracted and Daniel didn’t want to distract her.
She had to save their missing people.
"Lieutenant, are we ready to go?" Jack asked, eyeing the equipment, Daniel and Teal’c were now holding, warily.
Willow nodded. "Yes, Sir. I’d just like to go over our mission plan before we go through the gate."
Mission plan? They were going to find Sam... that was the plan.
"We’re going to split into groups of two," Willow continued without ceremony.
"Is that wise, Lieutenant?" Jack asked. "I don’t want to spend days searching for our own time if we lose each other."
Willow gave him a tight smile. "We’ll still be working as a unit but we’ll be paired up - a buddy system. It’s insurance, Sir. In case someone gets hurt. I want us all to remain in eye contact with each other but our partners will remain in touching distance."
Oh? Was this because Willow didn’t trust them to do this mission? She walked over to Teal’c and took four belts he took from her moments ago. What was she doing?
"These belts are similar to mountaineering belts," she handed one to each of them. "Siler and I modified them so we could use them here. Ideally I would have liked the four of us to be linked to each other but after some tests we realised that we’d lose manoeuvrability and time so we’re split in two."
Willow gave him another smile when she took the two lots of rope he held.
"We’ll be connected to our partners by a rope to insure we won’t lose them in a sand storm," she picked up four radios. "Major Carter was working on these for me as a side project. These radios have a stronger signal than most. We based them on the Tok’ra communication devices, they were only at the testing stage but I’m confident they’ll work. If not, we have our regular radios to fall back on."
Daniel put on his belt and clipped the radio to his pack.
"When we get through the gate, we’re going to head inland to the forest. I’m guessing that is most likely where they will be, but I’m not certain. Once we hit the forest it’s imperative that you keep in eye contact with me at all times. If you lose sight of me, radio me every five minutes until I find you. If you get lost because of a storm remain wherever you land. Don’t try to find us, I’ll find you. And if your partner is hurt, stay with them. The four of us are coming back alive."
Daniel was in awe. She was magnificent.
"We’ll have enough food and water for seven days, longer if you ration them well enough. All of your packs have medical supplies. If we find SG-37 and Major Carter, and some of them are hurt, we’ll mark our location and call for back up. Any questions?"
"None, Lieutenant." Jack looked as impressed as Daniel felt.
Even Teal’c was impressed - though it was kind of hard to tell.
"Colonel O’Neill, Teal’c, you’ll form one team. Dr Jackson, you will be with me. Dr Jackson and I will take point. We depart in five minutes."
Jack raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Any particular reason for your choices, Lieutenant?"
Daniel just gaped. Willow had picked to team with him? Why? Jack or Teal’c would have been a better choice. Out of the four of them, Jack and Teal’c were the strongest physically. Even Daniel could see the oddness of her decision.
There was one team distinctly weaker than the other.
Willow walked over to him and began fastening the rope to him and then herself. "Yes, Sir. Dr Jackson is the fastest and most agile of the team. I need someone who can move with me. Teal’c is too big and your knees might disadvantage."
Sounded good in theory, but he didn’t buy it.
Daniel still thought she wanted him because she could keep a better eye on him if they were together. Jack nodded, satisfied with the reply, then fastened the rope between him and Teal’c. Daniel on the other hand was anything but happy.
He didn’t want to slow Willow down or endanger Sam and SG-37.
Daniel waited until Teal’c and Jack left the locker room before putting his hand on Willow’s arm. The Lieutenant didn’t seem at all surprised by the action. "Lieutenant, if my being on this team is a problem then I’ll..." he couldn’t even say the words he wanted to. He couldn’t stay behind. "Jack and Teal’c are as fast as me..."
Willow cut him off with the shake of her head. "Dr Jackson, I don’t have a problem with you on the team. I have a problem with the entire team, but not you," she confessed. "My decision to team with you isn’t because I think you’ll be a problem."
Really? "Then why?"
"Permission to speak freely, Sir?" Willow asked.
The question made Daniel wince. Sir? After everything... she still called him Sir? "Of course."
"The reason I teamed with you is because, out of SG-1, you're the one I trust the most."
With that, Willow led him out of the room.
"Great vacation spot," the Colonel commented as soon as they stepped onto the planet.
Willow just had to take Faith and Cordy here one day. They would love it. Beautiful ocean completely obscured by sand and a lovely dense forest... completely obscured by sand. Wind and sand such a wonderful combination - Daniel must be feeling right at home here.
Kawalsky told her once about Abydos, the very first mission through the Stargate, and Daniel’s home for a year. The place always had sand storms. Think Egypt.
"Ok, Lieutenant... you’re on," the Colonel voice came over the radio.
That was it. Lieutenant you’re on? So far this mission was turning out just like she feared. SG-1 were all staring at her waiting for her to give them a signal. The signal she wanted to give them was for them to go back - this mission was almost impossible. They couldn’t even talk regularly here, the wind was simply too loud for them to communicate any way except over the radio that hooked over their ears. Regular radio’s were impossible as well - all of them were wearing protective head gear that protected them from suffocation from the sand. The head gear also had a small Tok’ra designed breathing apparatus attached. Willow hadn’t left things to chance.
So, she was on huh? Swell.
If SR-1 were here Kawalsky, Hayes, and Grogan would be securing the perimeter, while she let her instinct do the walking, but somehow she didn’t think that would happen here. For one, they would get lost if they moved too far, visibility was only a few feet, and the second reason was because Daniel was almost standing ON her.
The rope gave them a little bit of room to manoeuvre but Daniel, er, Dr Jackson, seemed to be taking her instruction for ‘touching’ distance quite literal.
That pleased her.
He followed orders.
"We head to the forest," she told them. "It’s a few miles that way."
The winds were going to delay them, Willow realised as she and Dr Jackson took point. Willow could see how SR-2 and 4 walked in circles... it was impossible to gauge a sense of direction here. They were going to be hard pressed to pull this off. Not to be a pessimist but how the hell were they supposed to get back? It would take them at least three, maybe four, hours to reach the forest at a forced march.
How were they supposed to carry the injured?
Willow should have asked for more back up but she hadn’t because she didn’t want to endanger more people. She glanced quickly behind her and swore. Colonel O’Neill and Teal’c were right behind her, and Dr Jackson, but the Stargate was completely gone.
Well, not gone, just hidden by sand.
Willow turned her attention to in front of her and kept moving in the same direction. The visibility was crap but if they were careful they might be able to avoid any debri from cyclones or another storms. Why didn’t Colonel Atkins turn around when he saw the violence of this planet? Were his orders to find the naquardria that strict?
Food for thought? Perh...
She slowed her pace to almost a holt when she noticed the density of the sand in front of her. Mostly when you looked the sand around them it was a light beige... you couldn’t see, but it was light, sort of glary. The sand in front of her was dark and moving - bloody hell!
"Get down!" Willow screamed over the radio and went for Dr Jackson but it was too late.
The gale of wind and sand sent her and Dr Jackson almost flying.
The sand surrounded them, enclosing them in near blackness.
Willow continued to be pushed along by the wind. She tried to reach for Dr Jackson but the wind kept on propelling her in almost every direction. Shit! The winds were almost the equivalent of a small hurricane, thank god she thought to connect them with rope. Jesus! Willow felt the rope pull, Dr Jackson was trying to pull her to him but... damn. The wind was just too strong and she couldn’t see Dr Jackson or...
Colonel O’Neill! Teal’c!
They just had to hold on until -
OW! OW! OW!
Willow hit the ground with a thud. Dr Jackson had given up trying to pull her and did a run and tackle, at least she guessed that was how he managed to get them both to the ground.
He moved so that his body was completely covering her.
"Are you all right?" his voice breathless voice came over the radio.
"Still in one piece," she replied. "You?"
"I’m ok," he assured her, then his voice was panicked. "Jack and Teal’c! I lost sight of them."
Um, kind of an understatement. They had lost sight of EVERYTHING! Willow was having a hard time making out Dr Jackson silhouette. Willow tried to raise them both over the radio but the sandstorm was blocking their signals - not even the Tok’ra radio worked. Great. "We have to wait for the storm to pass before we can find them. We’ll stay here until then."
Not that they could really go anywhere.
Willow really hated being right.
Neither one of them spoke after that. It was kind of awkward. Not that they hadn’t had their share of awkward already. Memories of Daniel carrying her naked into his bedroom came to mind - that was a moment in her life she would like to forget.
Well, it could be worse. It could be Colonel O’Neill on top of her right now, or Teal’c... god, lucky she hadn’t chosen Teal’c for a partner, he would have crushed her.
The thought caused her to giggle.
"Sorry, Sir. I was just thanking my lucky stars it was you, not Teal’c, here right now."
A chuckle sounded over the radio. "I was thinking the same thing." There was silence, then, "I’m not hurting you am I? Your pack..."
It was uncomfortable, she had to grant him that, but it wasn’t painful. "It’s all right, Sir. Hopefully the storm will stop soon," and that they didn’t get buried in sand, Willow silently added. The wind was still blowing furiously around them but it was lessening.
Was that because the storm was stopping or the sand was building up around them?
"Do you think Jack and Teal’c are all right?" Dr Jackson wanted to know. "You couldn’t raise them over the radio."
He was scared for his friends.
"They’re fine, Sir. It’s more likely the storm is stopping the signal or they’re buried. The breathing apparatus will give us oxygen for twenty four hours before it runs out so even if they get buried, we’ll be able to find them." Hmm... as far as reassuring statements went, that one sucked.
"Buried?" he repeated. "Oh god!"
Well done, Lieutenant. Way to inspire confidence and hope. That was doing her the people who trained her proud. "We’ll find them, Daniel." Even though she couldn’t see his face, she knew he was looking down at her. "I have an instinct for this kind of thing."
"So I’ve heard," he replied, she could hear the smile in his voice.
Heard? Oh come on! He checked up on her! He so knew.
They didn’t speak again after that but instead of the awkwardness she felt before she was more relaxed. Dr Jackson’s hold was no longer a deathgrip but more of an embrace. Not that he was hugging her, he was protecting her from the elements - which he could do any time he wanted... kidding. She was kidding.
She wasn’t sure how long they were on the ground for but when the winds finally were reduced to a low roar, her back was screaming in protest.
"I think it’s over," Dr Jackson said as he moved off her.
Well, one good thing, they weren’t completely buried. There was layer of sand that covered them but it was nothing as bad as Willow feared. Dr Jackson got to his feet first then held a his hand out and helped her to her feet.
The dense sand was gone and they were back to the original visibility they began with.
"Colonel O’Neill? Come in?" Willow attempted to raise their missing team mates on the radio.
Dr Jackson looked at her worriedly. "Jack, come in?" he tried again after Willow failed. "They’re not answering."
Shit. "It doesn’t mean anything, Sir. Their transmitter could have been damaged by the storm or they’re still covered by sand."
To her surprise, he swore. "Damn it, we’re supposed to be saving Sam, not each other!"
"We’ll find them, Sir. I just... can you give me a minute? I need to think."
Dr Jackson looked immediately repentant. "I’m sorry, I didn’t..."
"It’s all right," Willow promised. "Just give me a minute?"
Willow stepped as far away from Dr Jackson as the rope permitted. She let her eyes roam over the area. Not only had they lost Colonel O’Neill and Teal’c but their direction as well. Willow had no idea which way the forest was. Everything just looked beige.
They could be anywhere.
She let her hands fall to her sides, faced her palms forward, and closed her eyes. There was no real ritual for how she did this. All it took was a thought, a command really, and the magic flowed out of her in a rush. Willow felt it connect to the planet, running along the earth in search for what it she wanted the most.
In her minds eye she received images - actually impressions - of everything her magic touched. She couldn’t understand them, not consciously, but her subconscious could and when she felt a pull, she knew she had found something.
Over in a north west direction - half a click, maybe less.
Willow opened eyes. "This way," she pointed towards the direction she felt the pull. Once the connection was made, it would remain until she found them.
Dr Jackson, just like she feared, hesitated. "How do you know?"
Willow turned to look at him. His was looking at her with confusion and curiosity. Had he felt her magic or was it because of the certainty in her voice? Willow wished her team was here.
Kawalsky would just say ‘lead the way, McDuff’.
Hayes would follow without question.
Grogan would call her a smart ass.
Willow shrugged after a moment. What could she say?
Daniel followed Willow as she made her way through the sand and wind. She was heading north-west at what Daniel could only describe as a near run. Not once in the last twenty minutes, since they began their journey, did she hesitate.
Not once did she change direction.
It was like she knew exactly where she was going.
How was that possible? Daniel couldn’t even tell which direction the Stargate was... they could be right at the waters edge for he knew, yet Willow moved forward with complete determination. He wanted to ask her if she actually knew where they were going, but Jack’s words came back to him every time he opened his mouth.
‘Don’t ask, just do it’
Jack was known to bend the rules for his command. It had saved SG-1 more than once - did Jack know something about Willow that he didn’t? Was Willow actually psychic? There was nothing in her file. Surely if Willow was psychic someone would have said something by now? SR-1 would have seen something, Kawalsky...
Was very protective of Willow.
All of SR-1 were, just like SG-1 were protective of Sam.
Was that the reason? Daniel always thought it was because Willow was so young and simply brought that nature out in people. Kawalsky called her his little sister when he came to Daniel’s office to find out what his ‘intentions’ were. Daniel, himself, felt extremely protective of Willow - in a non-stalker way.
Was there more to Willow than what he first thought?
Well, yes. He always thought there was more to Willow than met the eye. She was a survivor. She impressed him more than anyone he had met in a long time. She was strong, intelligent, beauti..., um, intelligent, a brilliant officer and well respected by her peers.
Not so much her peers, but the people she rescued.
"You ok back there, Sir?" Willow’s voice came over the radio. "Did you want me to slow the pace?"
Actually, yes, he wouldn’t mind slowing down but he couldn’t. Jack and Teal’c might be hurt. "I’m fine, Lieutenant," then a thought came to him. "You don’t think we’ll miss them do you, travelling at this pace do you?"
Willow step faltered at the question. "No, Sir. I don’t think we’ll miss them."
She sounded so sure. So certain. Not being able to ask HOW she knew was killing him. "You don’t think they’ll come looking for us do you?"
Willow slowed her pace and turned to look at him. "I gave them specific orders to remain where they were if they were separated from us."
"What if they think we’re injured or something?" Daniel argued.
"Then they’ll give us more than twenty minutes before coming to look for us," she touched his arm gently. "Dr Jackson, trust me. I know what I’m doing. We’ll find them, you just have to hold on a little longer."
A little longer? "Willow," he couldn’t NOT ask. "How can you be so sure?"
She sighed. "Because I gave them a direct order. This is my command and if they disobeyed my order, I’ll be kicking their asses back to through the Stargate."
That’s wasn’t what he was asking and she knew...
"I’d like to see you try that, Lieutenant."
Oh god! Jack! "Jack? Are you all right?" Daniel’s shock at hearing Jack’s voice, over the radio, was overrun by concern for his two friends.
"We’re both fine, just sitting on our asses which Lieutenant Rosenberg won’t be kicking back through the Stargate," he told him.
Willow step faltered once again, then she spoke. "Just hold your position, Sir. Dr Jackson and I will find you shortly."
Thank god they were both all right... now all they had to do was find them. It still wasn’t going to be easy... or would it? Daniel was stunned Willow had led them this far. The odds of Willow finding them in these conditions and in such a short time was next to impossible.
No matter how good she was.
He followed Willow as she continued heading towards where, Daniel was now certain, Jack and Teal’c would be. He remained quiet now that Teal’c and Jack could hear their conversation. Jack would ‘yadda’ any questions he asked.
He had millions of them.
He just didn’t know how to ask them without... Daniel stopped dead in his tracks.
They found them.
Jack stood up from where he was sitting and brushed the sand off his BDU’s. They found them in, Daniel looked at his watch, twenty eight minutes and forty seconds. There was no explanation Daniel could come up with except that Willow really was psychic.
"You made pretty good time, Lieutenant," Jack commented. "You both all right?"
Willow nodded. "Yes, Sir. Are you and Teal’c all right?"
Daniel could see the curiosity in Jack’s eyes. Not even Jack would be able to overlook the speed in which they had been located. The sand storm, while a lot less dangerous as before, was still going. Visibility hadn’t improved - it just shouldn’t have been possible.
"We’re fine, Lieutenant, now that our asses are out of danger," he gave her a pointed look.
Willow squirmed and looked at her watch and muttered a quiet ‘Sorry, Sir’ then took a step away from him and started looking around the area - just like she had before they went to find Jack. Daniel wanted to ask her what she was doing, or what she could see, but he didn’t. His mind was too busy thinking about the implications of Willow’s success here.
Willow had found Jack and Teal’c in record time. That meant she could find Sam and SG-37. His hopes soared at the realisation. For the first time he really, REALLY, believed Sam could be found. Not just wishful thinking but actual belief.
If Willow found Sam - he’d buy her dinner every night for the next six months.
Jack and Teal’c were both watching Willow as well as she gazed out into the, um, sand. He noticed that her stance was exactly the same as before. What was she doing? To his surprise no one asked any questions - not even Jack.
Finally, Willow turned around to face the three of them. He could see through the visor covering her face that she seemed slightly nervous. "We should head in that direction until nightfall," she looked to the sky. "Then we’ll set up camp. The days are shorter here and I don’t want to get caught out here at night."
Daniel had no doubt at all...
Willow was leading them to Sam.
Home sweet… ok, this wasn’t home but it was a damn sight better than a Goa’uld mothership. Mission over and a week of downtime before SR-1 would be reunited. They just had to get through the briefing with the Tok’ra then they could go back to the base.
Major Charles Kawalsky never wanted to go through the gate without their forth again.
The mission had been hell without her… oh who was he kidding! He hated going through the gate without her on their six… knowing she was there with them gave them all a sense of security. Nothing like knowing if you got lost a certain redhead would find you in no time. It wasn’t just that, realistically, if their girl had been with them they would have finished the damn mission two days after they got here – but then the Tok’ra would be onto their little secret.
No one but SR-1 was allowed to know just how talented their girl was.
It was a pact the three of them, himself, Hayes, and Grogan, made one night after ‘the mission’. The mission they realised that Rosenberg was more than what she appeared. Rosenberg had no idea they actually got together, at Kawalsky’s house, and she would never find out. The three of them discussed Rosenberg at length. Kawalsky had her file, both from the Academy and the SGC, and they went through everything with a fine tooth comb.
After a few hours of discussion they decided to back her up.
They lied on almost every mission report.
Kawalsky had no problem with that. His loyalty was not only to the Air Force, but to the people he worked with. He had lied on mission reports before; Daniel Jackson staying behind on Abydos was one lie he had kept. The brass didn’t need to know everything… Dr J wasn’t harming anyone by staying behind and he had his wife.
Rosenberg was the same. She wasn’t harming anyone, quite the opposite. If Rosenberg was kept from doing her job because of…her talents, it would hurt the SGC. Willow had led them to save a lot of people and some of them his close friends. Major Lou Ferretti was one. SG-2 was their most rescued team.
Lou was the only one who came close to finding out the truth but, because Rosenberg saved his life, he kept quiet as did his team. Lou even went as far as asking him if Rosenberg would be interested in a transfer to SG-2.
No way were they giving up their girl… their girl. Rosenberg would rip him a new one if she knew heard him call her that but… she brought out their protective instincts. Not out in the field, Kawalsky knew for a fact she could handle the worst mission – the last mission was enough to squash anyone’s doubts about her. She was a top soldier and a hell of a pilot, a little daring, but still good. Rosenberg held her own better than most…
No, their protectiveness came alive when she was most vulnerable.
Back on base.
The kid was good at what she did but sucked when it came to relating to people. Oh, she was a lot better than she was when she started, but her past messed her up pretty bad. Hell, it would mess up most people and you saw it when she wasn’t working.
She kept so much to herself. It was only in the last two months that she began talking about her friends in LA. She didn’t tell them much but he knew they were from Sunnydale and survived like she did. As far as Kawalsky knew SR-1, and her friends in LA, were the only friends she had.
Rosenberg didn’t talk about Jackson so he guessed the archaeologist wasn’t a friend of hers.
Dr J taking an interest in Rosenberg surprised and worried him. Covering for Rosenberg was a full time job, keeping her from probing questions was tough enough, Dr J was too smart to fall for any bullshit they gave them… so was Jack – which was why he was always vague about Rosenberg.
They weren’t going to expose Rosenberg for anyone.
"Kawalsky," Hayes stormed towards him. "I just finished talking with Jacob Carter."
From the look on Hayes’ face Kawalsky knew it wasn’t good, though with Hayes it was sometimes hard to tell. The guy was tense. Really tense. "A problem?"
He nodded. "He got a message about an hour ago from the SGC, Major Carter and SG-37 are missing."
Shit! "Find Grogan we’ll head through the gate and call Rosenberg. You’ve got her number in LA right? We can be moving within an…. What?"
"They sent a team through the gate six hours ago. SG-1, Sir."
Oh for the love of god! Why send a field unit? "Great, we’ll go through find Carter and SG…" What now? "Hayes, just spit it out."
"They sent SG-1 through the gate with Rosenberg, Sir."
Excuse me? "They did what?"
Hayes gave him a somber look. "According to the intelligence he received, Rosenberg is leading the rescue mission through the gate. They assigned her SG-1."
"Find Grogan. NOW!"
** ** **
"Oh my god…"
Right there with ya, Space Monkey.
To be fair, Rosenberg looked as shocked as the rest of them, actually, even more so. Guess the Lieutenant didn’t expect to get lucky this fast. Jack was… Christ, he was blown away.
It had taken them five hours to locate the forest and another hour to find a clearing large enough for them to set up camp for the night. Jack didn’t care where they spent the night, just as long as it was deep enough into the forest for them to sleep without wearing the damn masks – and keep them far away from the sandstorms.
She more than delivered.
Not only had she found the forest, a large clearing far enough to spare them from the blowing sand, she also found evidence of SG-37. Well, technically Teal’c found it but Rosenberg who brought them here. Rosenberg had led them to the exact same spot that Carter and SG-37 had camped.
Oh my god was right.
Rosenberg took the broken radio from Teal’c. "Sirs, don’t get your hopes up. The camp site looks days old… they probably stayed here on their way to find the mine."
She was kidding? Right? She HAD to be kidding? Don’t get their hopes…
"Can you feel anything?" Daniel asked.
Um… what did he just say?
The archaeologist blushed at the confused look both he and Rosenberg gave him. "Oh… sorry. Some psychics or clairvoyants can tell if someone is alive or where they are by touching something they owned."
Rosenberg gaped at him. "Dr Jackson, I’m not a… it’s just luck. It doesn’t mean anything, we’re no closing to finding Major Carter and SG-37. They could have been the first night they were here. They still could be anywhere on this…"
"Rosenberg!" Jack cut her off. "It doesn’t mean anything? Lieutenant, you managed to achieve in six hours what TWO Search and Rescue teams couldn’t in forty eight. You’re right, this doesn’t tell us where they are but it tells us we’re on the right track. Now, answer Dr Jackson’s question."
Ok, that was a little harsher than he wanted it to be but… Christ, they had been here which means they were on the right track. Six damn hours. How? How the hell did she do it?
"I’m not psychic, Sir."
Damn. The kid looked terrified. Was she worried they would report this to Hammond? He already told her he didn’t care what she did, and he didn’t. Really. Ok, he was a little curious but if not asking questions made her work better then that’s what they would do.
He didn’t care she was psychic.
Jack just wanted Sam back.
"Daniel, Teal’c, officially, it was Teal’c and I who found the clearing. Rosenberg, you and Daniel were searching the area in the east," Jack told them. "Now, Rosenberg, do you feel anything?"
Great, now she was doing her impersonation of a fish. "Um.. um…"
Oh for crying out loud! "Are they alive?"
"I can’t…" she closed her eyes. "I don’t know how many are alive, Sir. I just know that someone is."
"Do you know where they are?"
A nervous swallow.
"Willow, please," Daniel begged. "We’re not going to put this in the mission report… it’s all right. Please. Sam needs us."
Since when did Daniel call Rosenberg by her first name?
"I know the general direction, that’s all."
One simply question.
That was all it took for everything to go wrong. How was it possible that one, no doubt innocent, question could mess things up so badly? If ONLY Dr Jackson hadn’t asked it, she might have been able to get away with convincing the Colonel finding this site had been a fluke.
Maybe not, but at least she had a better chance.
Not anymore. There was no chance in hell he would believe her if she tried to deny it. Come on! He ordered his team to lie so she would answer the question. Yeah, convincing O’Neill she wasn’t psychic would be real easy.
God damn it!
One damn question!
Knowing and suspecting were two different things.
That one question complicated the entire mission. Everything she did now would be watched. Like right now, eating her MRE, which by the way did NOT taste like chicken, all of them were looking at her in a kind of ‘freak’ way.
Something she used to get at high school – never in the Air Force.
Willow felt her heart break. What did all of this mean? They were going to ask more questions. How could they not? One of their team was missing and she had the answers, not very good ones, but more than anyone else.
It had taken a direct order on her behalf to get them to set up camp. The three men, knowing that Willow knew the way, wanted to keep going until night fall but she vetoed that. She was tired, feeling a little hungry, and scared. There was no guarantee that they would find another site like this and Willow didn’t want them to talk to her.
Ordering them to set up camp kept them busy.
They didn’t ask questions but they did stare.
Willow felt their eyes on her wherever she went. Especially Dr Jackson’s. She didn’t know if he wanted to ask more questions about Major Carter or talk about the can of worms he unwittingly opened but she managed to avoid it. She didn’t want to talk.
Talk led to questions.
Questions that O’Neill promised wouldn’t be asked.
What happened to his word? He said she could dance under the moon naked and he wouldn’t care. All that mattered was getting Carter and SG-37 back, and that’s exactly what she was doing, yet he was the one who forced her to answer the questions.
Was this the end of her career?
Letting people believe she was psychic was dangerous. Willow had someone ask her once and she had always denied it. It did give her a plausible reason for finding people but it also had a downfall.
She wasn’t psychic.
She didn’t know anything about psychics or clairvoyants… she didn’t want to know. Hell, she didn’t even want her power. How was she going to bluff her way out of this one? What if she said the wrong thing and someone worked it out… or if someone else found out she was psychic and she was kicked out of the SGC because they believed all of her success was because of her power.
Her magic helped find people but it didn’t save them. Their last mission was testament to that. She located the missing team in a Goa’uld stronghold. Leading the way hadn’t cut it on that one. Killing a squadron of Jaffa was what it took and even then they barely got out alive.
She still shuddered to think about it. No. Finding the people was the easy part. Even here, she had a vague, extremely vague, link to Major Carter and SG-37. There was no guarantee that she would find them in time. Especially if they were hit by a storm.
Willow still had doubts they were going to get out of here alive.
Even more doubts about finding the missing team. The link she had to them was the weakest she one she had ever felt. That bothered her. There were reasons for it but until she followed it a little more, she didn’t want to make any decisions.
That was another reason she didn’t want them to ask any questions.
This messed things up so badly. God, Willow couldn’t begin to fathom the repercussions of this. Three people thought she was psychic. How long before the entire base did? Would they relieve her of her duties? Would the people who had come to respect her lose no longer do so because she had an advantage over them?
What would her team say?
God, if O’Neill didn’t kill them for keeping this a secret, not that SR-1 actually knew she was psychic. They probably thought it though. What if she didn’t find Major Carter? Would the agreement still hold? Was it worth any weight anyway? ‘No questions’ hadn’t lasted very long.
Giles would have a coronary if he found out about…
"So, Lieutenant, what’s our plan for tomorrow?" the Colonel asked the seemingly innocent question.
Willow, not surprisingly, was hesitant to answer. Answering a question was what got her into this in the first place. If she answered this one, was she leaving herself open to more questions? "We’ll head out at first light."
O’Neill looked at her confused. "That’s it?"
What? Did they think just because she knew the general direction that they would find them tomorrow? Willow wished it was that easy. They could be over the other side of the planet for all she knew. Willow could sense a person anywhere.
Distance didn’t make a difference – what did make a difference was that she couldn’t tell the distance when usually she could.
Stronger links than this one had been over a thousand kilometers away. "Yes, Sir. They still could be a few days walk from us, Sir."
"You can’t tell?" Dr Jackson asked, slightly worried.
She felt a stab of guilt for her self pity. Here she was feeling sorry for herself when the men sitting across from her only wanted to find their friend. Maybe they were sincere… Kawalsky was best friends with O’Neill and good friends with Dr Jackson, that meant something.
Kawalsky trusted them.
Then… so would she.
Willow always said she’d put whoever needed her before her power and she meant every word. The supernatural world had taken so much from her. Everytime she found someone it was like taking something back from it, using it to make up for taking Buffy, Xander, Oz, and her parents away from her.
If they betrayed her then so be it.
More than that, she owed Dr Jackson. He hadn’t betrayed her confidence before. He was possibly the least selfish man she had ever met.
"No, Sir, but that doesn’t mean anything. There is so much activity on this planet, storms, that it might be blocking any links I form," Willow replied, lying slightly. She didn’t want to worry them. Willow just hoped Dr Jackson didn’t remember her finding O’Neill so quickly. That would almost contradict her statement.
"Have you ever been wrong, Rosenberg?" O’Neill asked.
"You ever found the wrong person?"
Willow shook her head. "No, the only reason I can’t find a person is because they’re…" Oh nice! Real good. Tell them that Rosenberg, give them all the confidence in the world.
Dr Jackson frowned. "They’re what?"
"I can’t find a person using my talent if they’re dead. I can find other things that aren’t alive but if they’re living, they have to be living for me to find them," she explained.
"But you can feel a link with SG-37?"
She nodded. "Yes, Sir. Once I establish a link I’ll stay, um, connected until I find them but it doesn’t give my any information that would help us. It doesn’t guarantee success. It helps, improves our chances, but it’s not… it doesn’t save everyone."
Her mind went back to graduation. There was a small part of her that blamed herself for everything that happened. Angel told her it was survivors guilt… but a part of her would always wonder if maybe she had chosen to do a spell during the battle against the Mayor, things might have happened differently.
"You have a pretty good track record, Lieutenant," the Colonel reminded her.
Willow smiled wistfully. "It’s not the people you save you remember the most, it’s the people you didn’t. The people who died because you weren’t fast enough or you didn’t know the terrain of the planet well enough. My talent is only part of the reason SR-1 is so successful. The maps in my office aren’t for decoration, UAV and MALP telemetry I always ask for isn’t just so people think I’m not psychic. Without that, we’d never get anywhere. I don’t rely on my ma… talent because I don’t trust it. It’s never been wrong but I don’t want to be caught the day it finally is. I rely on what I know up here before I follow my instinct. My instinct doesn’t help me if someone is dying or a squadron of Jaffa are blocking my way. Every time I step through the gate I know there are people whose lives depend on my success and because of that I do whatever it takes to succeed. I use my ability because I have to, not because I want to."
"You don’t want to use it?" Dr Jackson asked quietly, almost as though he were afraid of the answer.
"Why is that, Lieutenant?"
"Like I said, Sir. It doesn’t save everyone."
O’Neill’s next question was drowned about by a deafening clap of thunder.
Willow’s eyes immediately went to the sky which was obscured by the tree canopy. Along with the it being night time, and possibly overcast, it was hard to see… There! A flash of lightening! Willow winced as another clap of thunder sounded, louder than the last one.
Willow felt all eyes on her but she didn’t take her eyes off the sky.
She could only think of one word to describe what she was seeing and hearing.
"Willow?" Daniel called her name again but, like the last two times, she ignored him.
Her eyes were fixed firmly on the sky and it appeared nothing was going to drag her attention away from it. Daniel couldn’t help it. It was more a reflex, he let his eyes go upwards and gasped as he saw lightening flash against the sky.
Now he knew what had her attention.
This planet had a variety of storms. Scientifically Daniel didn’t think you could have such a vast variety storms in such a small area but this was an alien planet after all, rules that they applied to meteorology on Earth didn’t apply here.
Daniel turned his attention back to the redhead. She was still watching the storm through the top of the trees. Slowly, very slowly, she got to her feet. The entire time her eyes on the sky.
Jack shot him a questioning look but Daniel just shrugged. He didn’t understand why Willow was ignoring them or why she was so fascinated with this storm… but he had to admit. He was fascinated by her and regretted having been interrupted by the storm.
Willow was psychic, she had admitted as much. If Daniel didn’t know so much about her life already, he would have been curious about what she meant with her words. But, fact was, he did know a lot about Willow. Her words ‘it doesn’t save everyone’ told him everything.
She wasn’t talking about a search and rescue mission.
He had seen the guilt in her eyes when she spoke about her talent, and the hatred. If the two of them hadn’t spent the past couple of months sharing looks and smiles, he wouldn’t have known what it meant but he knew Willow’s hatred for her talent had something to do with her life back in Sunnydale.
No wonder she didn’t want to talk about it.
He had been kicking himself ever since he asked that first question. He should have kept his mouth shut, Jack said not to ask questions but he couldn’t help himself. Sam had been here. They were on the right track. He had been so excited that they actually found a sign that his friend, and SG-37, had been here he forgot about the order and asked anyway.
Willow’s face when he asked it… god, he shouldn’t have said anything. She was so shocked and scared. He didn’t EVER want to be the cause of Willow’s fear but he had been. He wanted to apologise to her, tell her he didn’t mean to but she managed to avoid any conversation.
So how did he make it up to her?
By asking more questions. He didn’t expect her to answer but she did and now he wondered if he had somehow effected their relationship by accidentally ‘outing’ her. He was surprised Jack hadn’t told him to shut up. His best friend didn’t have a problem telling him to shut up when he opened his mouth at the wrong time.
Why didn’t he step in and tell Willow not to answer, instead of ordering her to?
Because he was as curious about her as he was.
"Lieutenant!" Jack called to her, more harshly this time.
She was just staring at the sky…no, she wasn’t. The wind blew the fire in such a direction that it lit up her face. She wasn’t staring at the sky.
Her eyes were closed.
What was she doing? Oh god! Had she lost the link to Sam because of the storm? No, that wasn’t it. She said once the link was formed it stayed. If she wasn’t searching for Sam then why were her eyes closed? Daniel glanced over to Jack and Teal’c. They were both standing now, like he was, staring at Willow.
Suddenly Willow began untying the rope that connected the two of them together. "Storm’s right above us," she told them. "We’ve got to get to safe territory. Pack up camp, put out the fire. I want to be out of here in less than five, Gentlemen. Whatever isn’t packed stays behind. Move it, now, that’s an order."
Daniel watched as Willow disappeared into their tent then emerged less than thirty seconds later dragging out their bags and rummaging through her own. She pulled out a variety of items including a long rope, night vision goggles, and a dagger.
As though feeling his eyes on her, she turned to look at him. "I gave you an order, Dr Jackson."
Daniel nodded, turned to help Jack, only to be stopped by Willow’s voice.
"Dr Jackson, I want you to think of every alien race you’ve encountered that has the ability to effect the elements, including alien technology."
Oh god… what?
"Rosenberg?" Jack stopped what he was doing, when he heard the order. "The MALP telemetry showed no life forms."
"Just covering all the bases, Sir."
** ** **
Captain Christian Hayes was having a little trouble holding his tongue.
He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. They sent Rosenberg through to a damn planet with an inexperienced rescue team! He didn’t give a hoot who the team was. You didn’t sent an inexperienced team through to that planet… hell, you shouldn’t sent an experienced team through to that hell hole.
Christ! What the hell were they thinking? Oh, he knew what they were thinking… Naquadria. That’s all they cared about. They sent Rosenberg through the gate to find the team in the hopes that the location of the mine would return with her.
He wasn’t naïve. He knew what the ante was.
So did Kawalsky and Grogan.
All three of them were pissed as hell and the more Hammond explained the situation, the more pissed they became. Grogan looked ready to start yelling while Kawalsky looked livid. Not only had they sent their girl through the gate – but four of his closest friends were there as well.
Kawalsky had more to lose than anyone.
If anything happened to Rosenberg, Hayes was going to kill whoever was responsible. They should have insisted that she go with them on the Tok’ra mission but she had been a little freaked about the last mission.
Firefights were never pretty, especially with Jaffa. The Jaffa were people too, slaves. Rosenberg had a problem with that, so did he but they had to kill to survive. Christian believed Rosenberg had seen enough death in her life… more than enough. She lived in Sunnydale.
That said everything.
The place, before it was totaled by the ‘massacre’ had the highest death rate than any other city in the United States. Rosenberg had seen some of that, he had no doubt. He knew all about Sunnydale.
Christian had gone to Sunnydale High twelve years before Rosenberg did.
He knew whatever happened at the Graduation in 99 was not a ‘massacre’ like they described on the news. Vampire? Demon? He wasn’t sure and he sure as hell didn’t want to know. He knew about the night life there, made it a point to learn as much as he could after his close call. The place was, had been, crawling with it. Growing up there was a different sort of hell, well, it had been for Christian. He lost two of closest friends, one night, coming home from the Bronze.
Christian had been the only one who survived.
The scar on his neck from his bite was a constant reminder of that night. He was the first one bitten but the only one that survived. His friends had grabbed the vampire off him before it killed him, only to die for their heroic acts.
It was why he was here, working at the SGC. His friends died to protect him, to save him, so Hayes dedicated his life to protecting people. He felt it was the only way to honour what his friends did for him. He joined the Academy straight after school, went to the Gulf, then was transferred here six years ago.
Rosenberg had no idea he knew and the last thing he wanted to do was say so. It was why he kept such an eye on the kid. She had lived through hell, like he had, and made a life for herself. She didn’t need to know he knew about life there. Did Rosenberg know about vampires before graduation or was that how she found out? He guessed that maybe she knew before, after all, she could do things no one else could.
What was she? A psychic or a witch? Hayes wasn’t sure which and it didn’t matter. She was responsible for saving more lives than she would ever take credit for. She was responsible for saving his life and Hayes would never forget that.
Like his friends in high school, Rosenberg had put her life at risk to save him.
For that he would tell whatever lie was needed to keep her secret.
He just hoped Rosenberg found a way to keep it her secret.
How the hell was she going to do that with SG-1 breathing down her neck?
** ** **
Rosenberg attached the rope to his belt, seemingly not bothered at all by the pelting rain. Jack, once again, was impressed by the kid. A full blown storm was going on around them and not once did he see her lose her cool.
Rosenberg was completely focused on keeping them alive.
The kid was going to get a commendation for this.
Not just for how she was handling this latest storm but for the sand storms as well. Jack frowned, it only occurred to him but Rosenberg seemed more comfortable in a crisis than she did when they weren’t trying to keep their asses out of the fire.
When he first realised that the kid was really psychic, he figured that the success she had was because of that, but seeing her here… he was wrong. He respected what she said. Knowing where they are doesn’t mean they’ll find them. There was a chance they wouldn’t make it there in time.
Jack was beginning to think that they would never find them, not if they kept getting hit by storms like this.
Jack could see how Rosenberg was thinking there was something more to this. Two storms head on in a matter of hours… it was kind of suspicious but he put it down to bad luck. The MALP had shown no life forms… still, he respected her covering all the bases.
Rosenberg stepped away when the rope was finally fixed to his belt. They were no longer separated into two separate teams but one team. It was night, pouring rain, and the wind was enough to knock you over.
Rosenberg didn’t want to risk them being apart.
"Ok, Sirs, here is how it goes. We’re going to try to locate a safer place to ride out the storms. We’ll go at a forced march, try to get as much distance from the storm as we can. Any questions?"
None from him.
"Then lets move."
Jack really liked this kid.
Two strong arms wrapped around her, pulling her out of the way of the flying debri. Willow leaned against Daniel for a moment, allowing him to support her while her body screamed at the abuse she was heaping on it.
That was the second time, in the last ten minutes, Daniel had seen something she hadn’t. She was tired and, no matter how hard she tried, it was beginning to show. They had been walking for so long and having to move through the storm was taking a toll on everyone. Every muscle ached. Her head was pounding furiously from the constant thunder and that was just for starters!
Three hours of looking for shelter had given her an insight she really didn’t want right now.
There was no shelter and this storm was NOT going away.
The Colonel was limping, Teal’c was helping O’Neill whenever his knees gave out, and Daniel was pulling her ass out of the fray whenever something flew at her. Forests and storms really didn’t go well together. Especially with winds like this.
Things were beginning to look bleak.
No shelter and no reprieve from the storm.
Just walking through the forest was difficult. The ground was unstable, debri had fallen, and was falling, at a constant rate, lightening was a continuous threat, and the wind was blowing against them. The force march she had ordered was out of the question. No one could walk at any fast pace through this wind, the resistance made it felt like you were walking through a wall of water.
Her team needed rest and she needed to find out what the HELL was going on!
Shelter! She needed to find shelter!
"Willow," Daniel screamed over the wind and thunder. "Are you all right?"
Willow nodded and reluctantly pulled away from Daniel, er, Dr Jackson. The fact that he didn’t mind when she leaned on him hadn’t been lost on her. He was as tired as the rest of them but he didn’t complain when she needed a moment to rest. That meant a lot.
It reinforced her belief that he was someone who she could trust no matter what. "I’m fine, Sir," she screamed back.
Oh yeah! That went SO well with her headache. Not only were they in deep shit, communication was next to impossible. The radio’s were useless with the thunder booming every five damn seconds. Screaming was the only options and even then you had to wait for a two second window of silence.
Now, more than ever, Willow was convinced that they were not alone.
No way in hell SG-37 could have made it this far and not have turned back. SR-2 and 4 walked around in circles when they were here, the only reason SG-1 wasn’t was because of her link with the MIA team. How did they get this far without something happening?
It was likely when they hit the forest a huge storm hit, the broken radio could be explained that way, but she doubted it. There was something a little too precise about the way things were happening. They hadn’t been here long when the first storm hit and now this one? Or should she say ones? No one storm could last this long… at least she didn’t think so. The most likely scenario was that this was a group of storms. From the ferocity of them she guessed they were forming out at sea, coming inland, then heading out again.
This situation was not going to get better any time soon.
Right now she wished she could use her magic to find somewhere that was relatively safe. Exhaustion was becoming an even bigger danger than whatever the hell was out here. Soon, they wouldn’t be able to keep going and then they’d be screwed.
If any of them got hurt it would be her responsibility.
That was not going to happen.
The Colonel and Teal’c moved up beside Daniel and the Colonel gave her a questioning look. Guess he had seen her lean against Dan… Dr Jackson too. Brilliant. One thing Willow hated more than anything was showing a sign of weakness to her superiors. Letting Dr Jackson see her weak no longer bothered her as much as it should but Teal’c and O’Neill? The thought of them seeing her tired made her headache even worse.
Truth be told… She wanted to impress them. Oh, she didn’t like them being here, she’d prefer SR-1 over them but Colonel O’Neill was the 2IC of the command and Teal’c was a hell of a warrior – what person wouldn’t want to impress them? She’d prefer O’Neill to notice her skill as a leader as opposed to her skill as a ‘psychic’ but her luck wasn’t turning out that way. Even now her luck wasn’t going too well, he had noticed her lounging against his close friend.
Great! Now he thought she was a friend lounging psychic!
"Lieute…" the Colonel’s shout was drowned out by thunder.
Couldn’t the guy just call her Willow? It really was a lot shorter, she wouldn’t even mind if he called her Red. Grogan did all the time.
The Colonel waited until the thunder ended before trying again, "How much longer do you…"
She knew what he was asking. How much longer did she think it would be until they found shelter? She didn’t know. Ideally Willow wanted something like a cave but that was turning out to be a little unlikely. Anything would be good right now. She was desperate, anything that would shield…
There! Willow’s heart leapt out of her chest. A massive fallen log just east of them. Willow narrowed her eyes and studied it in the light provided by the lightening. It was massive, big enough to shield them from the worst of the elements. They could tie a tarp to it, put a tarp on the ground…
It would do in a pinch.
It looked like it had been struck by lightening.
"Rosenberg!" Teal’c called to her.
What? Oh yeah! He had seen it too and, damn it, he was practically carrying the Colonel. Everyone with ears knew about the Colonel’s knees. When the Colonel was injured EVERYONE knew about it. The man had better lungs than Cordy. Constant years of abuse had weakened his knees, the sandstorm, and the three falls he endured from this storm, must have made them a lot worse than they would have been.
"Stay here!" she shouted to him, "Daniel and I will…"
Why bother trying to talk?
Willow wanted to scream in frustration and fatigue. She motioned to Daniel to untie himself and she did the same. Daniel understood immediately what she wanted and the two of them set up a makeshift shelter against the log. It wasn’t much, it just kept them dry. The log took most of the abuse from the storm, leaving them with only the some wind, lightening, and thunder.
It was enough to let them sleep.
At least she hoped it was.
Once they were inside Willow wasted no time. Sleep was the only thing that mattered right now. Thank god Teal’c offered to take the first watch, she really didn’t think she would be able to keep her eyes open. A quick glance at the two men lying next to her told her she wasn’t the only one. The Colonel was on the other side of Daniel, next to Teal’c and Daniel was right next to her.
Both of them with their eyes closed.
Nodding once to Teal’c, Willow leaned against the log and closed her eyes. To her surprise, sleep was slow in coming. The storm around them and the fear of their shelter blowing away had her mind on edge, even though her body was screaming for rest. The shelter should hold. The limbs the tarp was tied to were thick. She had been thorough. Teal’c was keeping watch, there was nothing to worry about.
Except whatever the hell was out there.
Sleeping on a rescue mission was always difficult, plus, she was still having nightmares about the last mission. The last thing she needed was to wake everyone up screaming like she had in LA. LA… she wondered how many messages Angel and Giles had left on her machine at home. They were worried about her… really worried and why was she thinking this now?
Because if she didn’t think about the stupid stuff she’d be thinking about the big stuff.
Willow cleared her mind and that was when it happened. She didn’t know if it was conscious or subconscious but she was too tired to do anything about the arm that slipped around her waist and pulled her close.
Leaning against the archaeologist, Willow let sleep claim her.
"So Daniel, did you come up with that list Rosenberg asked for?"
Jack guessed that dawn was maybe an hour away. The four of them were still under the shelter waiting for the last of the rain to taper off. Everything around them was slush. Jack was amazed the tarp they were on wasn’t riding down the slight incline.
The entire place was mud.
Trees had fallen through the night and well… it was trashed. Exactly what you would picture the aftermath of a storm to look like.
And his knees were killing him.
Not even sunrise and it was already turning out to be a good day.
He was getting to old for this shit. He was pushing fifty and his knees, for the zillionth time, had given out on him. Jack hadn’t said anything yet but he was a little concerned about being able to walk. Four times he fell last night because of the damn ground and the last time had been the worst. He was sure he heard something pop but when he check them out they looked in place.
Daniel nodded, sitting up slightly. "I could only think of two encounters. The first was on Madrona," he began. "They used a device called the Touchstone to alter their climate to what they needed."
"PX7-941," Rosenberg stated. "I remember reading the mission report. It was stolen by some black ops and was on Earth for a short duration."
Rosenberg read the mission report?
The kid really needed to get a life.
"Do you think such a device could be used in this circumstance?" Teal’c asked.
Rosenberg shook her head. "I don’t think so."
Ah… care to elaborate on that one?
"Why not?" Daniel asked.
"The storms are too precise. If someone is controlling the elements and are sending the storms, then the device wouldn’t work. I don’t think it’s precise enough to send a storm to a particular location and isolate it."
Wait! Hold up! "Rosenberg, you think someone is sending these storms to us deliberately?" he shook his head. "The MALP showed no life readings AND this planet was like this before we got here."
"That’s true, Sir but you have to keep in mind that the MALP looks for certain criteria to determine whether or not there are life forms present. This planet is extremely volatile and it could shield some life forms from being detected."
Great. Carter the second. "Lieutenant, do you have any evidence to support your theory? You said yourself that the planet was volatile… we KNEW that before we came here. Just because we were hit with two storms doesn’t mean someone is pulling the strings."
"How did they make it this far?"
"Major Carter and SG-37, Sir. SR-2 and 4 are extremely experienced teams. They know how to track and how to handle this most difficult situation. They walked in circles for days. We’ve been separated once already and if I didn’t have my… talent, we wouldn’t have made it this far."
Daniel gaped at the redhead. "She has a point, Jack. How did Sam make it this far?"
No. She had a VERY good point. Atkins was the commander of SG-37. He was a good man, smart, put his team first. No way in hell he would continue a mission like this. No one in their right mind would.
"Ok, let’s pretend for a second someone is playing god… Daniel, you got anyone else?"
He cleared his throat. "Oma."
Mother Nature herself.
"Oma Desala? One of The Others… or the ascendants… aren’t they benevolent beings?"
Ok. How the HELL did this kid know so much? "What did you do, Rosenberg? Read every mission report we’ve ever written?" Oh for crying out loud! That was EXACTLY what she had done. When they got back to earth, he was ordering her to get a life.
At least Daniel looked as surprised as the rest of them. "Ah, yes. Oma Desala is a benevolent being. They were once human and they ascended to a higher plane of existence. She was banished because she helped people ascend…they’re not allowed to interfere in the evolution of people, um, below them. I doubt someone like Oma would be responsible for this though."
"No one else?" she asked, hopefully.
Guess she didn’t think Oma was responsible for this either. Jack didn’t either… he had seen Oma in action. If one of them were here, they’d be dead instead wet, cold, and miserable.
Daniel shook his head.
Rosenberg closed her eyes and leaned her head against the log.
"What about you, Rosenberg. Any ideas?" It was a fair question. She probably read EVERY mission report on the damn base.
"None, Sir. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m thinking about this way too much. It could be just a coincidence that we were hit by two storms."
She didn’t sound too convinced of that. Jack sighed. Why did he always have to get the thinkers in his team? At least there was one good thing about Rosenberg – she didn’t lecture like Carter or Daniel.
"We should head out. It’s going to be a little slow moving until the ground dries out a and I’d like to get as much ground covered as possible today," Rosenberg announced, getting to her feet. "We’ll go back two teams of two. Daniel and I will take point."
"Can you still sense them?" Daniel wanted to know.
Yeah, that was a pretty good question.
"Yes Sir, the link isn’t any worse than yesterday. Hopefully I’ll get a stronger link the closer we get to them."
Swell. That meant a day of walking in the mud. Just what his knees were hoping for… still, he didn’t mind, he’d walk a millions miles if it would get Carter back. "Hey, T-man, mind giving me a hand here?"
The Jaffa stood up and extended his hand, his face as expressive as ever.
Jack braced himself as Teal’c pulled him to his feet and screamed in agony as his knees gave way the instant he was upright.
"Jack! Are you all right?"
"O’Neill? Are you injured?" Teal’c demanded.
Jesus! Jack bit his lip to keep from crying out in pain. Not now! Please not now! No, no, no, no. This couldn’t be happening. This could NOT be happening. "Teal’c," he grated out his friend’s name. "Help me up."
Daniel put a hand on his arm in protest. "Jack, don’t. You’re injured."
And Carter was missing. He would walk even if it killed him.
Teal’c offered his hand once more and Jack let out a string of curses as his knees gave out in protest to the abuse. The walking, the falls, the ground… all of the above had done his knees in. God damn it.
He was stuck.
The only he would be able to continue on this mission is if Teal’c carried him.
"I gave you an order, Lieutenant," the Colonel yelled through gritted teeth. "You, Daniel, and Teal’c are going to find Carter and SG-37 then pick me up on the way back. No arguments, no compromise. Am I clear?"
Crystal. "No, Sir."
Willow sat down on the ground next to the Colonel and opened her bag. The sun had risen and the two of them had been arguing for over half an hour. Willow was pretty much betting any chance of promotion in the next, say hundred years, was out of the question.
She was defying a direct order, several actually.
And pissing off a Colonel who was in a great deal of pain.
Death wish? Probably. Did she really care? No. Why? Because there was no way in this world she was leaving Colonel O’Neill behind to fend for himself. Even Teal’c and Daniel protested against the order. For one thing, it was just stupid. He couldn’t walk, all he needed was a storm, or a flash flood and he would be dead.
That wasn’t even taking into consideration that someone could be behind this.
It wasn’t even like she was telling him they had to go back to Earth, she just didn’t want the Colonel here alone. Willow had ordered Teal’c stay behind and the Colonel pretty much told her what she could do with her order. Teal’c was the Colonel’s partner, she explained at the beginning that no one can go anywhere without their partner… so Teal’c had to stay while she and Dr Jackson searched for the missing team.
Yep, cleaning toilets was on the horizon.
Still, it wasn’t enough to stop her. Willow had more than enough experience with this kind of thing, all of SR-1 had. Hardly a mission went by when someone didn’t try to give up.
Giving up was easy – fighting was hard.
In a way the Colonel was giving up. He knew his chances of survival on his own were next to nothing. He was giving up so Major Carter could live. If they left him here, Willow knew he would die.
So, Willow did what she always did whenever someone got all self sacrificy on her. She made herself at home right next to them and refused to move. God, she couldn’t even remember the amount of times someone had said the words ‘Go on… I can’t go any further’ or ‘Save the others’.
Willow didn’t believe in leaving anyone behind to die.
For any reason.
She now made it a habit to find out as much about the team she was searching for, for this very reason. It was amazing how quickly a man can move when you mention to them that their daughter, or son, deserved to have their father alive for their third birthday. It was blackmail, pure and simple, but it got the job done.
Willow hated self sacrificing shit. No man’s life was worth any more than another.
You gave up when you stopped breathing – not a minute before. It was a philosophy she had taken on after that night with Dr Jackson and after she met her team. It was the military in her. Never say die and all that shit. Just because things were looking bad didn’t mean they weren’t going to come out of this.
Though, right now, the Colonel probably didn’t care about that. To him he was doing the right thing. Willow had read countless mission reports. He put his team before himself and while what he was doing wasn’t exactly self sacrificing – he was dooming himself to death.
All she wanted was a compromise. She would leave him and Teal’c behind here, the two of them would set up a camp, while she and Dr Jackson looked for SG-37. What was so hard about that? Why was he so surprised? He would have known her mission history, her actions here weren’t out of character. She had been clear. Where your partner goes, you go. She wasn’t going to make any concessions on that, so he could threaten her with as many court marshals as he liked.
They weren’t moving.
Willow gave him another half an hour before exploded and she was demoted.
Willow saw his point, though. If someone was injured, or several someones, having Teal’c along would be a benefit. He was the strongest and he was a good fighter, she agreed with that. Except that Willow saw the big picture.
As far as she was concerned… they were two men down.
No matter what happened the Colonel was NOT staying here on his own, so even if half or even all of SG-37 were injured, they still wouldn’t have enough manpower to get everyone to the gate. Only two could locate SG-37 and, taking that into consideration, Teal’c strength wouldn’t be enough. See! Big picture. Dr Jackson wasn’t as strong but he did have some advantages. He was fast, which meant the two of them could make better time, and out of all of them, he had the most medical skills. BIG plus.
Her plan was them to get to MIA team, as fast as possible, and if anyone was injured they would assess whether they had to go back to the gate for help. Willow knew from the beginning that there was a possibility they would have to go back for help. There were only four to a team, if all of SG-37 were down, they couldn’t have gotten back anyhow.
Why couldn’t the Colonel see it her way? She explained all of this to him but nope, he couldn’t see anything accept that he was a burden. He wasn’t. He was injured but not a burden but he couldn’t see that, no matter how much she tried to tell him that.
Man, was she insane or what? Willow was wondering if she was going to be demoted back to first Lieutenant by the end of this.
"O’Neill," Teal’c broke the stand off between them. "Lieutenant Rosenberg is indeed correct. Even if I were to go with Daniel Jackson and Lieutenant Rosenberg, we would not be able to carry all of the injured. We will need assistance if we are to return everyone to Earth."
"Sir," Willow pleaded with him again. "Dan… Dr Jackson and I will make better time and if something goes wrong then you and Teal’c can go back to the gate and bring reinforcements."
Daniel nodded emphatically.
It wasn’t a fool proof plan. Willow knew that but she wasn’t going to budge from having Dr Jackson as her partner. They were disadvantages either way. This wasn’t the type of situation where there were any clear decisions. She had weighed both options. Leaving Teal’c here was for the best, not only could he carry the Colonel to the gate for help, but if they were attacked while waiting for them, Teal’c would move him a lot easier than Dr Jackson would.
Moving fast meant staying alive.
"Sir, I don’t want to pull rank on you but I will," she bristled at his incredulous expression. "I was giving full command of this unit until it became a combat situation. Since my theory about other life forms is completely unproven, it’s not a combat situation so I’m still in charge," and wondering what the weather was like in Antarctica, "I’m ordering that Teal’c stays behind with you. If you still refuse, we’ll return to Earth."
Insert death march here.
Oh yeah, she was so gone.
The look he was giving her was deadly.
Mentally she held her hands up in defeat. No matter what she did, she was going to lose so she may as well go out with a bang. Willow turned to Teal’c and Dr Jackson. "Dr Jackson, pack up everything we’ll need for a two day trek and leave the rest behind, we’ll be leaving here within the hour. Teal’c, Colonel, you’ll need to find better shelter as soon as possible. We’re bound to get another storm some time today and this isn’t really a safe place. Once you find somewhere, stay there. I’ll connect with you both as soon as I’ve found SG-37."
Teal’c nodded, the Colonel glared.
"The best kind of shelter would be one of the naquardia mines. If you find one, stay near the mouth of the cave, in case there are any earthquakes," she told them. "We have enough provisions for four days. If Dr Jackson and I aren’t back in two, I want you to head back to the gate if you can and get help. Limit your travelling to the day, if you see anything that is remotely suspicious I want you to fire one flare in the air. I packed two flare guns. We’ll take one and I’ll leave one with you."
"Anything else Lieutenant?" O’Neill asked her.
His voice was calm.
Made her kind of nervous.
She sighed at his expression. "Sir, I wouldn’t do anything to endanger the anyone. I know what I’m doing. This is the best way."
No response, just more glaring.
Willow prayed she didn’t screw this up.
If she did…
She was dead.
"Sir, if you could please just sit still."
No! Daniel did NOT want to sit still. Not only was this humiliating but they were wasting time. It was just a stupid scratch, he really didn’t see the big deal but Willow did. The first aid kit was spread around her and she was absolutely determined to make sure his scratch wasn’t anything more than a scratch.
He felt so stupid.
AND humiliated… can’t forget humiliated.
He hadn’t been paying attention, his mind had been so caught up in worrying about Sam that he hadn’t seen the tree branch. It wasn’t like this was the first time he had done something like this. He was a little accident prone when his mind was so focused, though, usually it was when he was working on some artifact or alien translation.
If Jack had been here, he would have just rolled his eyes and kept going.
But Jack wasn’t here and Willow was.
Why did this feel more humiliating with Willow than with Jack or Sam here? Willow hadn’t laughed, she hadn’t gone mad at him, she had fussed over him. Not in the ‘you incompetent idiot’ way but in a… well, in a Willow way.
Right now she was cleaning the scratch on his cheek while he was internally fuming. He cursed himself for not being more careful, it was just… god! They had been walking for hours and there hadn’t been a sign. Not one! He knew that finding Sam wouldn’t be instantaneous but, damn it, he didn’t think it would be this long… or feel this long. It was driving him to distraction and walking into a tree branch hadn’t helped at all.
He was tired, a little hungry, worried, and frustrated as hell.
"It’s a bit deep," Willow commented as she cleaned the scratch. "Must hurt like a bitch."
The comment caused Daniel to smile which, for the record, was a HUGE mistake. It did hurt like a bitch and hearing Willow talk like that reminded him how military she really was. Daniel could see a lot of Sam in her, someone who was smart, beautiful, and career minded but he could see something else in her.
He could see a lot of Jack in her.
The way she stood up to the man in question was, without a doubt, incredibly brave. Jack was impossible when he was in pain, not to mention when one of his team in danger. The fact she didn’t back down was testament to how seriously she took her job. She was a Lieutenant… not a Major. Sam stood up to Jack too but they had been working together years and she was only a couple of ranks below him.
The signs of true leadership.
Actually, watching Willow he wondered if Jack wasn’t going to try to poach her from Search and Rescue for when he eventually retired. Ferretti already tried. When SG-2 were looking for a new fourth, Lou had gone to the General and officially requested Willow as a potential. She was a good soldier and working with her gave him an insight he didn’t get from simply reading her reports.
Willow was born for this.
He just hoped this mission didn’t ruin it for her.
Daniel knew that if something happened to Sam, Jack would not only blame himself but Willow as well. She risked an awful lot going against Jack… he could make her life a living hell if he wanted to. Yet she stood up to him… just like Jack stood up to people. Jack really couldn’t do anything to Willow, not when you really thought about it. How many times had Jack defied orders? Quite a few and that was just in the time Daniel had known him.
Jack was known for ignoring the rules when people are in danger.
Why was Daniel getting the feeling Willow would do the same?
"I’ve cleaned it as much as I can," Willow’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts. "I don’t think it’ll scar."
He nodded his thanks and began to get to his feet. They would still be able to get a few hours walking in before lunch. Daniel didn’t mind eating late, actually, he could probably skip lunch all together. He hadn’t even gotten half way upright when Willow’s hand clamped on his arm and pulled him back down.
"Since we’re already here, we may as well stop for lunch," her voice made it sound like a suggestion but the look in her eye belied that. It wasn’t a question but an order.
Daniel saw something on her face that told him that resistance was futile. His frustration reared its ugly head, yet again. How much time was he forcing them to lose? Ok, it only took ten minutes to clean the wound but now they were stopping for lunch. What if a storm hit before they got started again? What if…
"Here you go, Dr Jackson," Willow held out an MRE to him.
Shit. He hadn’t even notice her get it out… and, um, Willow had noticed him not noticing. Great. He recognised the look in her eye. It was the same one Jack got whenever he was about to interrogate him.
The frustration was gone and humiliation was creeping back in.
Nothing like making a fool of yourself in front of your… Willow.
What was she to him, exactly? Friend? Not quite, he knew hardly anything about her. Crush? Not the right word. Love interest? Not really sure on that front either. He cared for her a lot but that was when things went all hazy.
"I’m ok," he said in the hopes of avoiding the interrogation. "I just didn’t see the branch."
She knew! God! Where the hell was his mind today! Of course she knew he was distracted. Aside from doing this for a living, their relationship was based on reading each other without talking. She would have seen his distraction.
What was the use in denying this? This was Willow after all. The woman he had spent the last seven months NOT talking to but saying more to her than anyone else. "A little," he admitted.
About? What else would he be distracted about? He could hardly think of anything else but Sam… and Willow. His mind, whenever it wasn’t on Sam, was on Willow… if he was REALLY honest with himself. Didn’t he spend the last minute going over what she was to him? Yes, Willow was distracting him slightly, not enough to cause a problem but something that had to be admitted – if only to himself.
"Sam, Jack… I thought we would have found something else by now. I… it’s driving me insane, not knowing where Sam is. If she’s alive. I keep thinking that when we find her she’ll be dead and we’ll be too late."
Right now, Daniel would have begged for a any reassurance Willow could give him but there were none. Everything he said could be true and Willow didn’t deny it. He felt his hopes fade.
"Do you think she’s alive?" he asked the question that had been plaguing him.
"I wish I could answer that, Sir, but I can’t. The link doesn’t work that way. Someone is alive so that’s something at least," Willow told him.
"Do you know how close we are?"
Willow shook her head. "The link is stronger, slightly stronger so we’re getting closer. We’ll get to them, I promise you, Sir. It might take some time, but we’ll get to them."
"You sound so sure."
"I’m stubborn," Willow confessed. "When I’m on a mission I don’t like to fail. If I can find someone, I’ll do whatever it takes to do so. Everything else can go to hell. I pretty much forget all things but the people I’m looking for."
That was good, what they needed but wasn’t that tiring for Willow? He had seen her a few times after missions. She always looked exhausted, a couple of times Janet kept her in overnight to make sure she rested. Even now she looked tired.
"I’m fine, Sir."
Were his thoughts that obvious… to Willow maybe. "Willow, you can call me Daniel."
Why was calling him Daniel so difficult for Willow? He didn’t understand. Last night he thought Willow had finally stopped thinking of him as her superior and was thinking of him as an equal. She had called him Daniel when she was talking to Teal’c but this morning she was back to calling him ‘Sir’ and ‘Dr Jackson’. It really was beginning to annoy him.
Strangers called him Dr Jackson, people on base who didn’t know him called him Sir but Willow did know him. She was his… Willow. They had a connection, and a short history – surely she could trust him enough to call him Daniel? They were alone here, no one would comment on it because no one would hear her.
"I’d prefer if you would call me, Daniel," he told her.
She sighed. "I just got past thinking of you as Dr Jackson, I don’t know if I’m ready to…"
"You thought of me as Dr Jackson?"
Willow blushed furiously. "You know, when I thought of you in my head I’d call you Dr Jackson."
Ok, that was disheartening.
"I don’t think calling you Daniel would be wise, Sir. I don’t think Colonel O’Neill would take it too well, I’m not really in his good books at the moment."
Oh yeah… Daniel grimaced. "About Jack, Willow… if he asks you why I was holding you last night it was because you were cold."
It was his turn to blush.
Humiliation was the theme of the day.
Willow’s face paled. "He… he…"
"He found us when he woke me for my watch," Daniel had forgotten about it all completely with all the drama. "It’s not really a big deal. When I told him it was because you were cold he forgot about it. He went back to worrying about Sam and the storm. He believed me. If he thought something was going on between us, he would have said something to you when you were arguing. He didn’t. It’s not uncommon for people to hold each other to conserve warmth, Sam and Jack did it in Antarctica."
Problem was, that wasn’t why he held her.
He didn’t really know why.
After a long minute, Willow nodded. "Why, um, did you hold me last night, Sir?"
Sir? Shit. "When you ask me like that, you make it sounds like I was taking advantage of you."
Oh god… was he? Willow considered him her superior officer even when he didn’t! To Willow, he had a position of power over her. Oh god! It never occurred to him that Willow might take that the wrong way. It could even been construed as sexual harassment. He didn’t ask. He just took. Oh no!
"I wasn’t… was I?"
Willow’s laughter rang through the forest.
What was so funny?
"I don’t know what’s funnier. That you thought I would think that or that you actually think you could take advantage of me," she erupted with laughter again.
Um… should he be offended?
"I’m Special Forces trained, Sir. I’d have kicked your ass in an instant if I thought you were taking advantage of me. I don’t think it’s possible for you to take advantage of me," she frowned. "That didn’t come out right. What I mean is… it’s just not you to take advantage of people. I’ve read every mission report of SG-1. You’re kind, compassionate … you don’t hurt people. You help them. Besides…"
"If you were going to take advantage of me, you could have done it long before now. You have enough on me that could get me kicked out of the SGC. If you were a lesser man, you could have used that against me… or you could have taken advantage of me when you were carrying me out of your shower. I trust you implicitly. Not once did I ever think you were taking advantage of me and not once have I done anything because of fear of exposure. I’ve tried to impress you, I’ve also been embarrassed, horrified, that I was so weak in front of you but I’ve never feared you."
Daniel couldn’t swallow the lump that had formed in his throat.
He never realised how vulnerable Willow would feel. It didn’t occur to him that Willow wanted to impress him or that she would think he thought she was weak. "Willow, I’ve never thought of you as weak. You’re not weak. If I had any doubts about you, I would have gone to Jack, I wouldn’t have tried to convince you to stay with the SGC."
"I know you don’t think that… I think that. Two different things. I know I’m not weak anymore but… until I met you I…"
Until they met she what?
"Until I met you I had been hiding. You forced me to see things differently. My friends don’t even know how much they have to thank you for. I would never have gone back to LA if you hadn’t pushed, I would have quit the SGC, gone to Special Forces… I would have missed out on this. I would have been living a lie."
Daniel blinked away the tears that were forming in his eyes.
What was it about this woman that touched him so much? Her words went straight to his heart. He fought the desire to pull her into his arms.
"So, in answer to your question. No, Daniel, you weren’t taking advantage of me."
Jesus! How could her saying his name make him feel like this? His heart exploded out of his chest. Ok… maybe now he understood why she didn’t call him Daniel. It was so personal, intimate.
She answered his question – it was only fair to answer hers.
"I held you because I needed to," his voice was thick with emotion.
He waited for her to ask him to explain but she didn’t.
She simply nodded in understanding.
The sound of thunder in the distance broke the moment.
Willow looked to the sky and frowned. "It’s not close," she commented. "We should start out again. Unless you want to rest some more?"
No. The twenty minutes they spent here were enough. "We don’t know how long before the storm hits. We should try to get as far as we can."
There was a slight stab of disappointment at hearing her call him Sir again.
Willow must have seen it because she put her hand on his shoulder. "Off duty."
"I’ll call you Daniel when we’re off duty and Dr Jackson every other time. Ok?"
More than ok. "That’s a…" his voice trailed off when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. He stared in the direction he had seen the movement but there was nothing there.
"I thought I saw something," he shook his head. "It must have been the wind."
Instantly Willow let go of his arm. "What did you see?"
"Nothing," he assured her. "Just the small trees moving over there. It was the wind. A storm is coming, it’s nothing."
Willow’s eyes narrowed and she stared in the direction of the trees. He knew she thought there was something else here but... if something was there wouldn't they have attacked?
Thunder boomed again, closer.
"Let’s go, Sir," Willow said finally looking away.
It wasn’t until they were well away from the trees that he realised Willow had her dagger out.
"Anything?" Jack asked, wincing in pain as he tried to get comfortable.
"It appears that we are the only people in this mine, O’Neill," Teal’c told him.
Well that was something at least. He gazed outside as the rain pelted down. Ok, so Rosenberg had been right. The storm started only moments ago but it was another repeat of last night. It was bad. If he and Teal’c hadn’t found the mine, they’d be swimming right now.
Rosenberg had been right but it didn’t make him feel any better. He felt so damn helpless. He hated it. Hated that he had to have a babysitter, hated that someone young enough to be his kid had ordered him like HE was the Lieutenant.
It was time to retire from the field.
No way in hell he was putting his team in danger like this again. If anything happened to Carter, he’d be responsible. Christ. He could not freaking believe this was happening! He had been dreading this day for so long. He hated it so damn much!
He wanted to scream with frustration.
Instead he turned to the storm raging just outside the cave. He wondered how far Rosenberg and Daniel got before it hit. Were they still walking or were they taking shelter? Knowing Rosenberg, they were still going. The kid was a stubborn shit when she wanted to be. Ferretti told him all about her behaviour during the last mission.
Rosenberg didn’t have a problem telling her superiors what to do when it saved their lives. She had saved Ferretti by sheer determination. Just like she had saved his life. Yep, if he were out there right now, he’d be dead. The storm was getting worse by the minute…
The storm was worse than last night… no. He was listening to Rosenberg too much. Just because there was another storm meant nothing. It was a coincidence. A worse storm did not mean that something was out there playing god.
With a sigh he watched the light up the dark mine. For the afternoon, it was sure as hell dark in here. The fact that it was dark inside and out told him the storm that was hitting them was bad. Nothing worse than having day look like night.
Jack didn’t want to admit it, but he was beginning to lose hope. It was probably his self-pity talking but things were going so damn wrong. For once, just ONCE, couldn’t they catch a break? He was sick of trees, rain, storms and lightening.
He was sick of feeling so damn helpless.
Looking outside he watched the darkened woods light up like a Christmas tree. Great. An electrical storm as well as a thunderstorm, just what they needed.
** ** **
Willow expertly jumped over the log, Dr Jackson mirroring the action a fraction of a second after her. They were running. The storm was coming up fast behind them but was yet to hit them head on. They were trying to get as much distance between them as they could.
She was still kicking herself.
There was a reason fraternizing was against the rules. She got distracted. She let her emotions distract her and Daniel had seen something.
Not Daniel. Dr Jackson. God damn it. O’Neill would have her ass in a sling if he found out she let her guard down because Dr Jackson was her… whatever. Shit. Shit. Now the two of them were running and the storm was only part of the reason.
Something was here.
She wasn’t talking hypothetically either.
She could feel it. Power. THAT was why she was running. Whatever was powering the storm was nearby and she needed to keep ahead of it. The storms were deterrents keeping them from their goal… but what goal? SG-37 or the Naquadria? What kind of power did they have?
Oh shit… OH SHIT!
Controlling the elements was something only extremely powerful being could do.
Witches could control elements to a certain degree. These guys weren’t witches. Willow didn’t doubt that for a second. Her fear wasn’t because she thought they were witches…
It was because she had been one… once.
Giles said her power was still there, raw, untamed, simmering beneath the surface, waiting for release.
Would they sense it?
No. They wouldn’t sense it. She had come across aliens before, none of them had sensed her power. She was worrying for nothing… god, the SGC had made a mistake giving her command. She wasn’t ready. She’d hadn’t even been out of the Academy for three years yet. Shit. She was in over her head.
O’Neill would never have let his guard down like she did.
She screwed up.
They couldn’t keep running like this. Dr Jackson was keeping up but to do this indefinitely… impossible. Willow headed straight for a cluster of trees a hundred meters in front of them. The link she felt with the missing was getting weaker – as though something was blocking it.
For some reason, the fact that it was getting weaker, made Willow believe that she was getting closer.
Actually there was no real reason why she felt this… just instinct.
Willow burst through the trees and stopped dead. Dr Jackson slammed into her, nearly knocking her to the ground. The only thing keeping her upright were arms. She just hoped she had enough footing not to fall when he…
Willow stumbled slightly but didn’t fall when Dr Jackson released her so suddenly.
If she were a vampire – she’d be hearing Dr Jackson’s heart beating fifty zillion beats per minute… and she’d be smelling her fear.
She really hated being right.
It would have been nice to look like a paranoid twit but that just wasn’t meant to be.
They were standing in the middle of a small clearing. Around the clearing was a circle of rocks, beyond the rocks were trees, and beyond the trees was a cave. The cave, or possibly mine, was obscured from their view by a bush… but that wasn’t what had her heart going a mile a minute.
The three beings standing in front of her were giving her the wiggins.
Willow swallowed nervously as the three beings took a step closer to her and Dr Jackson. Ok, they had two choices – fight or flight. She was armed - she had her P90 and dagger while Dr Jackson had a sidearm. They could both fight hand to hand combat, So fighting wasn’t out of the question but…
These guys had power.
A lot of it.
If they were armed, she’d be feeling a little happier. She could fight with her hands, with machine guns, and various other weapons but these guys didn’t look like the gun fighting type. Nope, one guess as to what they fought with? Shit. What were these things? If they fought with power, the elements, the two of them were in a lot of trouble. She didn’t know how to fight with magic. The most she could do was levitate something but that was it. Willow couldn’t remember any spells.
She didn’t want to.
Oh god! Oh god! Oh god!
They were in deep, deep shit.
Dr Jackson cleared his throat. "Um… hello. We’re peaceful explorers from the planet Earth. I’m Dr Daniel Jackson, this is Lieutenant Willow Rosenberg. We’re looking for some friends of ours… we mean you no harm."
Way to go, Dr Jackson.
Let’s greet the scary monsters.
Ok, she was having a Sunnydale flashback.
They were aliens, not monsters. A-L-I-E-N-S.
Not that was much better than monsters at the moment.
Willow didn’t even hold a small hope that these guys were nice aliens who just misunderstood them. The power radiating off them wasn’t the good kind, it didn’t really instill a warm and fuzzy feeling in her, instead, it chilled her right down to her soul.
The beings looked about seven, maybe eight, feet tall. They looked like people but… not. Their skin was almost a powder colour, ugly as hell, their hair was either extremely fine or non-existent, and they were covered in silver robes. They weren’t physically imposing, that wasn’t what was freaking her out.
Nope, the freak out came from the power that radiated off them.
And their black eyes.
Big, creepy, colourless eyes that seemed to look right into her.
Actually… they were all looking at her.
Bad. Very, very bad.
Things were really looking up for them.
Ok, Rosenberg. You’re in charge, now make like a good officer and sweet talk your way out of this. "Hello." That’s it Rosenberg, big smile, don’t show teeth, try not to look threatening. Threatening? She was pretty sure she’d be lucky not to look terrified. "We’re looking for five people. You might have seen them around here..."
She took a single step forward.
NO! Willow bit off a scream as a wave of power washed over and around her. The power was so strong, so dark, it reminded her of… NO! NO!
Willow dropped to her knees.
Lightening flashed around them.
** ** **
Oh god! "Willow!" Daniel cried out to her as she dropped to her knees in response to some invisible attack.
The three aliens were watching her writhe in pain.
What the HELL were they doing to her? Lightening flashed but it didn’t distract him from what was happening to Willow. They were doing something. God! Why? She didn’t do anything! She just asked a question! What kind of aliens were they? Daniel didn’t know what else to do, he drew his sidearm and pointed it at the alien closest to him.
"Stop it!" he demanded, furiously. "Whatever you’re doing let…"
The rest of his demand was lost as something slammed into him, throwing into a nearby tree, taking Willow with him – shattering whatever hold they had on her. Pain shot through him as his head connected, rather loudly, with the tree.
He groaned as Willow’s body landed on top of his.
Willow? Oh thank god! She was ok!
Daniel was struck by a wave of nausea and pain when he tried to move. Ok. Moving not so good. He didn’t understand… he didn’t see anything move. The aliens never moved. Had they been able to hurt him with their minds?
Christ, Jackson… of course they could. If Willow was right and they could control the elements, what was stopping them from using their minds to throw archaeologists against trees? Oh god, Daniel tried to open his eyes but it hurt too much.
They weren’t going to survive this.
They weren’t going to save Sam.
If she was even alive.
"Daniel, open your god damn eyes. That’s an order!"
She was scared, he could hear the fear in her voice, that was enough to fight the pain and open his eyes. Willow was sitting above him, her face betraying her emotions.
"Thank god," Willow’s relief was palpable. "Sir, we don’t have a lot of time."
Daniel glanced just past Willow, wincing at the pain the simple task caused. The three aliens standing where Daniel remembered seeing them last. Watching them, well, at least he thought they were watching, them.
What the hell were they? And what the hell was Willow doing? She was cutting the rope that tied them together! Why was she cutting the rope? Her hands were shaking, she was so scared. Why was she cutting the rope?
"You have to go for help."
Ow! Ow! Daniel grimaced in pain. Sitting up suddenly wasn’t a good idea. Help? HE was supposed to go for help? Daniel didn’t think he was going to be able to walk. Wait! His gun! Where was his…
"There’s a cave just beyond those trees, that’s where they’re keeping SG-37. Go to the cave, get them out, get me back up."
Get her… wait a minute! "Willow!" Argh! Not so loud. "What are you going to do?"
"Distract them," Willow’s face was pale. "Dr Jackson. Go. NOW. Crawl if you have to. I don’t give a damn. GET HELP. That’s an order."
No! He wasn’t leaving her.
"I’ll distract them long enough. Just get me help. I can’t take them without help. Please, Daniel. Do it, don’t argue. Trust me. Please."
He couldn’t leave her. No, it was suicide… but what good would staying do? He didn’t even have his weapons. Wait… Willow didn’t have her weapon either! She must have lost her P90 when she was pulled by the rope when he was hit. It was a few feet away, too far away for Willow to get to before the aliens could get her.
"Just do it, Jackson," Willow told him, pushing him towards the bushes behind him. "Crawl, slide… just get there, get them free and get help. Please."
And then she was gone.
Distracting the aliens.
Willow gripped the dagger in her hand and threw it at one of the aliens. It was a good shot, dead hit… if only the alien hadn’t disappeared from the spot before it struck it. Damn it! How? How did it do that? Daniel gasped as the alien reappeared seconds later.
Willow wasn’t going to win.
Their retaliation was fast, throwing Willow the same way they threw him but, luckily, she hit the ground and not a tree. She was screaming, but not in pain. She was screaming at him to go. Daniel crawled into the forest, heading in the direction Willow told him to go.
Unable to help himself, Daniel looked back one more time.
Willow was still lying on the ground, five feet from where her P90 was. Daniel looked on as Willow held her hand out towards the P90… and it… WHAT? How was that possible?
He watched as the P90 moved five feet, straight into her hand.
On its own.
Willow’s eyes met his for a fraction of a second then she opened fire.
Daniel ignored the pain and crawled.
** ** **
Shit! Shit! He was supposed to be gone! Willow fired her P90, knowing it had no real effect but taking a small comfort in it. She was panicking. Partly about Daniel seeing her use magic and partly because these guys were doing a disappearing act and reappearing whenever the danger had passed.
The bullets were hitting thin air.
Slippery little suckers.
Willow ceased fire and rolled across the ground, getting as far away from them as possible. Daniel was no longer in sight and she was terrified.
The aliens were moving towards her.
Aliens? Were they aliens? Willow wasn’t so sure and THAT was the reason behind her terror.
Their power wasn’t the alien kind…
They were walking slower than damn snails. So calm, so freaking powerful. They knew she was helpless against them. All of them were. That was why they were doing the drama walk and why Daniel had gotten away. These sons of bitches knew they didn’t have to worry about them getting far.
But why appear now? Why not when they first arrived on the planet?
Because they had found SG-37.
The power play must have distracted them from whatever wards they were using, that stopped her sensing SG-37, because now she could feel the link. Strong. They were inside that cave. She could feel it. They were alive.
Another thing was bothering Willow.
Why did they let Daniel get away? Why did they hurt her when she spoke and not Daniel? Why were they coming after her? Did they consider her a bigger threat…
They could sense her power.
They were going to kill her because they must be able to feel the raw power she held.
No! No! She could NOT believe this! God! This wasn’t happening it wasn’t happening. Panic filled her. The one thing she hated more than anything was the one thing they were after. She couldn’t use her magic. No! What could she do? Give up. No, they’d win, they’d get her power. What would they do with it? What about her colleagues? What were they going to do with them?
Stop! Stop! Damn it! She had to pull herself together. Ok. She was a witch once, she could fight these things. Demons, aliens, warlocks… what was the difference? They were the same. They were the same. Fight. She had to fight.
She didn’t give up until she stopped breathing. THAT was her adage.
Buffy and Xander would roll over in their graves if they knew she had given up because she didn’t want to use her power.
She had to fight…
They wanted her power.
Ok then, they could have as much of it as they liked.
Willow closed her eyes and prayed this would work. She didn’t want to do this. It was stupid, and possibly career ending but she always swore she would use whatever she could to save people. Willow couldn’t let these people die because she was afraid of, and hated, her magic. She had to try, killing these things with conventional weapons wouldn’t work, she would have to try magic. Shit. She didn’t want to, she didn’t know how! She didn’t know any spells! All she had was her will, her sheer determination to save her colleagues, to save Daniel. Giles said her power was looking for an excuse to escape, all it needed was for her to let it.
What better excuse was there than this?
Oh. My. God.
This… this was too much. Willow braced herself as the magic exploded from her. Only seconds had passed since she let her magic free and that was enough time for her to realise what she had done. God! Of all of stupid, dangerous… STUPID things.
She was wrong.
This wasn’t the way to do this.
It was a BIG mistake.
What was she thinking? In what universe did she think she would have what it took to handle this? Giles and Angel had warned her about this… they told her so many times, her magic had grown to dangerous proportions and she couldn’t ignore it forever. Her magic leaked out for crying out loud! Deep down she knew this, she just didn’t want to face it. Didn’t want to know.
She had power.
A lot of it.
And no way of controlling it.
Why the hell didn’t she listen?
Shit! Shit! Shit!
Willow watched helplessly as the wind swirled around her. This terrified her. It wasn’t knowing she had no chance of commanding her power, that had her so scared she could barely move, it was the memories that came with it. The second she felt it rush out of her she was reminded of Sunnydale… it was hitting a little too close to home, and she couldn’t shake the feeling these guys weren’t aliens. Their power had a darkness to it. No! No! She couldn’t let herself think about that now. She couldn’t let herself feel fear… too much was relying on her. She had to stay calm. Not panic… just because her magic was throwing rocks around the clearing didn’t mean anything.
And the gale force winds that were blowing around her… no big deal.
She was pretty sure the lightening had been her three friends…
Just like ho…
No! This wasn’t Sunnydale! She could handle this. She was TRAINED to handle this. The magic was throwing her off, freaking her out. It was unmanageable and now she not only had to face the three amigos but she had to stop her magic before it got worse. How? How was she…
Calm! She had to stay calm!
Suck it up, Rosenberg, and fix it.
Willow dropped to the ground as something whizzed past her head. She looked up to see the three aliens advancing on her.
Ok. Aliens first, magic second.
She got to her feet, and that’s when she felt it.
Willow held herself in place, her hands out in front of her. Wow… it was kind of working. The aliens were trying to flood her with power but she managed to divert it. Willow winced as the nearby tree shook violently from the energy blast.
She had meant to stop it… like dead in its tracks, not send it to some poor defenseless tree.
The aliens were still coming and she didn’t know how to stop them physically. Three against one weren’t the best odds, especially when they knew what they were doing.
Her magic was causing complete chaos. It had never been this bad on Earth, surely she should be able to direct her power better than this? Deflecting their energy had been a fluke and it drained her physically. No, something was interfering with it. The aliens? Probably.
The way she figured it, she would either burn out or hit herself in the head with one of the stones…
Shit! Willow cried out as one of the aliens lunged for her. No! She couldn’t let it touch her. No! Get the hell away from her!
The alien went soaring across the clearing.
The other two stood, stunned.
Yes! Score one for the Tau’ri!
No idea how she did it, but it gave her the distraction she needed. Willow prayed any god or goddess that was listening. Desperate times called for desperate measures. She needed these babies in a corporeal state, right now. No disappearing act…
She needed a chance to kill them kill them without magic. Willow didn’t know what would happen if she tried to kill them that way… she’d probably blow the whole planet. It was too volatile.
Oh to hell with it. She turned her back on the gods and goddesses long ago. They weren’t going to help her now… only she could help herself.
The gods abandoned her when they let Buffy die.
Why would they care if she did?
Maybe she could somehow anchor them here. Focusing her will, Willow spun around and kicked the alien, to her left, in the jaw.
Willow gaped as it fell to the ground.
She hit it.
Her magic worked.
That was just scary.
** ** **
"Sam!" Please! Please be alive!
He hovered at the mouth of the mine, using the wall to keep himself upright. He wasn’t going in there, not until he knew he wasn’t going to be killed by one of the aliens. All of Jack’s lectures did teach him something.
Oh god! She wasn’t answering.
"Sam!" he tried again.
Ok, if Sam didn’t answer then he’d go back and help Willow… and do what exactly? Throw up on the aliens? Yeah, a real deterrent, that would…
** ** **
Willow slowly got up from the ground.
Oh yeah, these guys weren’t beginning to look more and more like something the hellmouth would spit out.
At least things were looking up. They weren’t doing their disappearing act any more and her magic was beginning to work for her… in a round about kind of way. She wasn’t controlling it but she was using it to base her attack. Whenever they tried to flood her with magic, her magic seemed to react to it, it made their power less forceful. Kind of like a chemical reaction which affected everyone but it bought her a blessed distraction.
She had gotten in two good hit to alien number one, two had been thrown the first time, and number three was just pissed.
Made her all kinds of happy.
For a while at least.
She needed an edge… no. What she needed was a weapon. She needed a… her dagger. She would prefer her P90 but she had lost it somewhere when her magic went nuts. Willow ducked another blow and scanned the nearby area for it. There! Ok, she just had to focus.
Willow held her hand and willed it to come to her.
Instead of going to her, the dagger flew off the ground and imbedded itself in the chest of alien number three.
Ok… no more summoning things telekinetically.
Lucky it didn’t come flying at her.
** ** **
"Dr Jackson, how badly are you hurt?" Lieutenant Colonel Atkins wanted to know.
The doctor shook his head. "Don’t wait for me, I’ll slow you down."
Atkins nodded, not bothering to argue with him. He still couldn’t believe what Dr J had told them. Rosenberg was fighting the damn aliens. Christ, she had balls. "Carter, you stay here with Dr Jackson. The rest of you are with me."
Atkins hated the thought of leading his team to their death, but Rosenberg was out there and waiting for back up. He ran his hand over his P90. When the aliens locked them in here, they hadn’t bothered to disarm them.
Why would they bother?
The S.O.B’s could disappeared before the bullet reached them.
** ** **
Willow didn’t know how much longer she would be able to fight for. Killing the other two aliens was proving to be a little more difficult than she thought.
She was tired and injured.
Willow was fairly certain her shoulder was dislocated. The remaining aliens were only slightly hurt but very pissed. Things weren’t going to plan and they were getting desperate. Their magic had lost its affect and she was being a little bitch by not dying.
The two aliens circled her, slowly.
They knew she was tiring.
Her body was screaming from abuse. It was the magic that did it to her. Her endurance level was high, she shouldn’t be tiring like this but she wasn’t used to magic. Damn. Now was not the best time to run out of gas. Whatever she was doing to keep these guys here, and not disappearing, was draining her. Very fast. Or maybe it just the magic period. It was using so much energy.
The two aliens moved as one.
Willow dodged the first one, barely escaping its grasp, the second one actually reached her but got a dagger to the gut for their trouble.
She let out a surprised cry when something slammed into her, knocking her back several steps. No! She was losing the anchor she had to them… it would only be minutes before her magic ran out all together. The other alien was still upright… coming for her and she could feel the magic building. Shit! She didn’t have enough left to fight.
Their next hit would break through her power.
She was going to…
"ROSENBERG GET DOWN!"
Willow fell unceremoniously to the ground and covered her head with her arms. The gunfire sounded like music to her ears and for the second time that day she prayed. Prayed that they had been quick enough, that her power hadn’t given in too soon and lost the anchor. If was even her anchoring… maybe it was a side effect from interfering with her magic… making it crazier than it should have been.
The shriek from either side of her told her what she needed to know.
The power from the aliens, and her own, dissipated as soon as the aliens were hit. Thank god! It was gone! Well, not gone back inside her but… OW! Every muscle screamed in agony – it was like the magic had been sustaining her, keeping her going and now that it was gone…
She didn’t move.
Actually, Willow didn’t think she could. Not even the sound of approaching footsteps was enough to move her from her nice little spot on the ground. Oh god… she was NEVER touching magic again!
She felt a hand on her arm but didn’t move. It hurt too much to move. The hand moved from her arm to her neck.
They were checking her pulse.
THAT made her move.
"I’m all right," Willow managed to get out, wincing at the pain moving caused her.
"Rosenberg, do you think you can stand?"
They wanted to leave.
Willow would endure all the pain in the world if it meant getting out of here.
She didn’t want to spend a minute longer here than she had to.
God she hoped the guys were strong enough to carry her.
"Are there any more of these weathermen?" Jack wanted to know.
Actually, what he wanted to know was how Rosenberg managed to pull off mission freaking impossible and how much did he need to change his official report?
Jack had no doubt, there was more to this story than what Carter and Daniel told him.
Everything made sense in theory. The weathermen, as Jack liked to call them, ambushed SG-37 when they were taking samples in the Naquadriah mine and pretty much kicked their ass. They were stuck in some god forsaken mine until Rosenberg and Daniel showed up.
See, this was where he was having a little difficulty.
Rosenberg and Daniel.
These things managed to kick the ass of FIVE SGC personnel. Ok, most of them were eggheads but they were still trained in combat. There were three combat personnel and two scientists. Actually, it was two and a half if you considered Carter, she was part egghead part soldier. All of them were armed. Five of against three and they lost.
Rosenberg and Daniel went against them and they both managed to get away. One combat personnel and one geek. Yeah, they were a hurt. Daniel was sporting a lump on the back of his head the size of Earth, while Rosenberg had a dislocated shoulder and a sprained wrist.
What was wrong with this picture?
They were leaving something out. From what Daniel said, both of them had been attacked by the weathermen. Rosenberg, when she tried to talk to them and Daniel when he drew his sidearm on them. His attack interrupted the attack on Willow… but that still didn’t explain how the hell they managed to pull it off.
Daniel was able to get back up while Rosenberg kept them busy.
Why the hell didn’t one of them go after Daniel? He was injured! Easy pickings! Why were they so worried about Rosenberg? Was it because she was psychic? Hmm… maybe.
That didn’t sit well with him either.
She was psychic. She could find people… big deal. She wasn’t any more of a threat than Daniel was… well, maybe a slightly bigger threat.
Rosenberg had a bigger gun and she could kick ass better.
"It’s hard to tell, Sir," Carter replied. "We only ever saw three of them but that’s no guarantee there aren’t any others. This planet is meteorologically unstable on its own, the aliens were using it to their advantage as a deterrent to stop other races from trying to take it over. There could thousands of them."
Well there’s a lovely thought. Thank you, Carter.
Except that wasn’t who he was directing the question at. It was Rosenberg’s answer he wanted the most. Not that he didn’t think Carter knew what she was talking about… it was just that Rosenberg had an edge over the astrophysicist.
She was psychic.
Her green eyes met his from the opposite side of the mine and she shook her head slightly.
No? Christ he hoped she was right. He had his doubts there were any others. If there had been, they would have been under attack by now.
Most aliens got pissed when you kicked their ass.
Jack doubted their relatives were just going to sit by and let them walk out of here without a little payback. The walk back from the clearing to here had taken them seven hours… plenty of chance to take them out.
Nope, he had to agree with Rosenberg.
Still, that didn’t mean he wanted to stay here for a few days but he didn’t want to go back to the gate in the dark unless they had to. SG-37 were wiped out, Daniel and Rosenberg… well, Jack had seen corpses that looked better than those two. They couldn’t make it to the gate in the condition they were in now.
"Ok," Jack said finally. "We’ll wait till dawn before we head back to the gate. Atkins, I want you to take your team set up a perimeter, not too big. I want some warning if these guys are going to sneak up on us. When you’re done, get something to eat then get to sleep. We’ll take watch in teams of two. Carter, Teal’c you’ve got the first shift."
Better to be safe than sorry. Jack didn’t want to take a chance of being surprised and there was another reason for wanting SG-37, Carter and Teal’c out of here.
He wanted to talk off the record.
Jack waited till they were alone before he turned to the two of them. "Daniel, Rosenberg, want to tell me what actually happened out there?"
Yep. Just like he suspected. They were holding something back. Daniel was just not good at keeping things from him. Jack had a talent of reading Daniel like a book and he knew he was leaving out the interesting parts but…
Jack looked from Daniel to Rosenberg back to Daniel again.
Daniel wasn’t just leaving things out… he was protecting her.
That was… interesting.
The mine was only lit with a small fire at the mouth, so maybe he misunderstood the look Daniel gave Rosenberg. Rosenberg didn’t even see it, she was too busy staring at the fire. Jack frowned. Why was Daniel protecting her? From him? Jack had already assured the kid he would keep things off the record.
Rosenberg sighed then finally answered, "Everything happened just as Dan… Dr Jackson said, except he wasn’t specific on the type of attack."
Dan? Was Rosenberg going to call him Daniel? "What type of attack?"
She hesitated. "They attacked me psychically, Sir."
"I think that’s why they came after me and ignored Dr Jackson. They sensed that I was different than the others. Out of everyone, I was able to do things with my mind that the others couldn’t. They probably even saw me lead you through the storms."
"So they made you the leader? Take out the leader and the rest will fall."
Rosenberg shook her head. "More like take out the one who was a remote threat to them. They might not have been able to determine what my talents were. They went for me because I was different."
"This psychic attack… what was it exactly? They were tele-something weren’t they? Daniel said they could move things with their mind."
Rosenberg stiffened. "More the something than telekinetic. Basically, they were trying to kill me with their minds."
Hang on! "So that meant they could have been IN your mind? Could they have read your mind?" Was Rosenberg compromised?
"Not during the attack. If they wanted to read my mind, they could have done it without me knowing. That attack was meant to kill me. If Dr Jackson hadn’t drawn his weapon, they would have. When Dr Jackson interrupted the attack, I think it weakened them. Not straight away but after I was engaged in combat for some time, they began to lose their ability to disappear. That’s how we were able to kill them."
That made sense. "Are you sure they didn’t do anything to you when they attacked your mind? They didn’t compromise you in any way? You don’t feel different? Sick?"
She thought for a minute before answering. "I’m exhausted, the attack and the battle drained me but aside from that I’m fine," her eyes went to Daniel for a second then back to him. "The aliens didn’t do anything to my mind, they didn’t compromise me. They didn’t give me anything or change anything about me."
"Are you sure?" Daniel asked, concerned.
Maybe that’s why Daniel was being all protective. He was worried they did something to her.
"I’m sure, Sir. If the alien accessed our thoughts and memories, they would have done it to all of us without knowing. There is a chance I could have felt it but I’m the only one that would have. It’s more than likely that all of us were compromised at one time or another."
Great. That meant lots of tests with the Doc.
"So, is that everything?"
"Yes, Sir. That’s all I can think of. The fight between myself and the aliens was a standard, hand to hand combat battle with me being airborne a few times. I’m lucky to be alive, Sir. If SG-37 hadn’t come along when they did…"
"But they did. Don’t think about it anymore," he told her. He wouldn’t be surprised if the kid had a few nightmares over this, back to back missions from hell. "How about you, Daniel? Anything to add?"
Daniel shook his head. "No, that’s all. They attacked Willow, I was thrown against the tree then went for help. That’s everything."
"Ok, Rosenberg, I want you to get some sleep. Daniel… try not to fall asleep. The doc would kill me if you have a concussion. "
Rosenberg’s condition wouldn’t improve that much with a few hours sleep but the walk back to the gate would take them at least seven or eight hours… maybe more.
They were going to need every ounce of strength they had.
** ** **
Off world activation?
The three members of SR-1bolted out of Rosenberg’s lab, towards the embarkation room. It was like this every time someone came back now. As soon as they heard the words the three of them would be hoping it was Rosenberg returning.
She had been away almost forty eight hours.
Not a long time for a rescue mission but too long for their girl to be away from them.
People were beginning to get used to the three of them running through the corridors. He hardly had to shout out for them to get out of the way anymore. Anyone who was stupid enough to get in their way was on their own as far as he was concerned.
No way was he going to not be there when Rosenberg got back.
Hayes and Grogan were the same.
SR-1 hadn’t left the base since they returned from the Tok’ra mission.
Kawalsky was the first of them to reach the embarkation room. As always, it was full of people. Hammond, the tech’s, Davis, Doc and Jacob… all of them waiting for their people to come back.
Not only did they send the best SGC team through the gate, they sent through their best S&R man, er, woman as well.
He didn’t want to think of the implications if SG-1 was killed.
If Rosenberg was killed, he didn’t know how he would take it.
She was their girl.
"Receive IDC, Sir," the tech announced.
Come on! Come on!
"It’s SG-1, Sir."
"Medical team to the embarkation room," Hammond shouted over the PA.
Kawalsky was already down the steps and heading into the embarkation room when he heard the General order. Grogan and Hayes were next to him, looking probably as scared as he felt. They didn’t like the thought of Rosenberg being anywhere without them to watch out for her.
There was also the secret that they wanted to protect to worry about.
He had to find out the kind of trouble she was in. Sometimes she wasn’t the most subtle person when it came to S&R. She didn’t go to much effort to hide her ‘instinct’ when it came to desperate situations. If Rosenberg’s secret was out he was going to try to talk Jack into not making it official.
The wormhole engaged and now they only had to wait a few minutes, which really felt like a lifetime. Shit, now he knew how the other half lived. He preferred to be on the other side of the… Carter!
Shit! She did it.
Come on, Rosenberg! Where are you? Please, please let her all right.
"Major Carter!" Hammond greeted her as the medics swarmed around her.
"We’re all ok, Sir. Daniel, the Colonel, and Rosenberg are injured but we’re all ok."
What? Rosenberg was injured?
Baxter and Atkins were the next to through the gate, the Colonel between them. Damn, looked like the Colonel's knees went out again. Dr J was next, Peters and Finch all but carrying him. That just left two people. God damn it, would they just hurry! There!
The three of them raced to Teal’c, as the gate disengaged, helping them ease Rosenberg from her spot over his shoulder. Being carried through the gate was not a good sign.
"Rosenberg?" Kawalsky moved out of the way for the medics to reach her.
Her eyes fluttered opened and a smile lit up her face. "Sir, Hayes, Grogan… how’s it going?"
Their girl was alive.
"Hey Danny, got a sec?" Jack called from the doorway.
A sec? God, he had more than a second. Daniel was counting down the hours until SG-1 and 37 were cleared to go off the base. If the latest tests came back clear, they would all be free to go this afternoon. Daniel couldn’t wait, he was going a little insane. Usually he didn’t mind being kept on base, which sounded a little bizarre when you thought about it. Whenever he was stuck on base he would use the time to finish translations, go over readings, catch up on reports… but this time it was different.
He didn’t know why… no, he did know why.
It was driving him insane being this close to Willow and not being able to talk to her. He had tried. Every day, since they returned four days ago, he had gone to the infirmary to check up on her. The first three days Willow had slept. Really slept, only waking to go to the bathroom. Yesterday she woke up for longer than a five minute period but Daniel hadn’t had the chance to see her.
SR-1 hadn’t left her side. They were taking shifts sitting by her bedside.
Daniel took back every mother hen comment he ever said to Jack.
SR-1 brought new meaning to the term.
Not only were they keeping a very close eye on her but they were making sure all bases were covered. SR-1 was rivaling their status as the closest unit. Kawalsky had even asked him about what he told Hammond in their debriefing.
He hadn’t been threatening exactly… but Daniel got the impression that Kawalsky would be more than a little pissed if Willow had been exposed. They were trying to protect her… so were SG-1. Teal’c, Jack and himself had given carefully edited reports about what happened, even SG-37 didn’t say anything about her leading them to Jack so quickly and that was without any prompting.
It was like some unspoken law that when Willow saved you, you saved her.
Was there a single team on base that didn’t think Willow was psychic? Now that he was back home, Daniel took the opportunity to listen to people. Daniel didn’t realise how many people were worried about Willow… most of them being people Willow rescued in one way or another.
Daniel had to wonder how many other teams covered for her as well? SG-2 was the most rescued team by SR-1, they would have seen something for sure, yet Lou and his team never said a word that would set off any alarm bells.
No one wanted to say anything that would get Willow pulled from the program. Most people had begun to believe the rumours, about Willow being psychic, and it gave them a little more assurance that they would be rescued if she was there.
"Sure Jack, come on in." Daniel winced as he watched his friend maneuver across the room on the crutches. "How are you?"
Jack shot him a ‘what do you think?’ look before sitting down. "I have to stay off my knees for a few weeks, the doc said they should be all right though. No operation."
Thank god. "Was there something you wanted to talk to about?" Daniel was a little worried to be honest. Jack didn’t usually ask to sit down and talk. It wasn’t his style. Jack usually walked in and annoyed him until he agreed to go for coffee or something.
His friend sighed then nodded.
NOW he was really worried. "Jack what is it? Is Sam all right? Janet said she was fine."
"Carter is fine."
Oh god, was it Willow?
"I just finished talking with Teal’c and Carter. I’m getting too old for this, Daniel."
Um… Daniel didn’t like where this was going.
Jack looked miserable. "The mission to 697 was my last official mission as the leader of SG-1. It’s over, Daniel. I’m retiring from the field."
What? Oh god! He knew this was coming but… now that it was here he was blown away. Jack was retiring. "Jack, I… don’t know what to say."
Jack snorted. "You’ll forgive me if I’m finding that a little hard to believe, Daniel."
He smiled in spite of himself. "Are you sure you want to retire Jack? Are your knees that bad?"
"Can’t risk my knees going when we’re running from the Goa’uld. It’s been almost ten years since they recalled me to active duty. I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did."
Daniel wasn’t. "What are you going to do now?"
A ghost of a smile played on Jack’s lips. "I’m getting my stars, Daniel."
His stars? What was he… What? Wow! "Jack congratulations!" he was out of his seat and shaking Jack’s hand furiously. He couldn’t believe it. "What does that mean? Well aside from being a General?"
"Hammond has been hounding me to retire from the field for the last couple of years. He wants to spend more time with his granddaughters and he’s been waiting for me to get sick of the field. When he goes, I’ll be taking his job. Guess saving the world all those times really paid off. In two months I’ll get my stars and be the new commander of the SGC."
Daniel was floored. "Jack, wow… congratulations…"
Jack was retiring from the field and the General was retiring all together. So many changed but… well, not to be selfish but… "What’s going to happen to SG-1?"
The last time Jack ‘retired’, the command of SG-1 had been given to Colonel Makepeace. Daniel had been outraged that Sam hadn’t been given the command, and, he was going to be again, if the General and Jack didn’t give it to Sam this time.
She had saved the world as many times as Jack. Sam deserved SG-1. She had been a Major for almost seven years, she could do this.
"Carter’s getting it. She doesn’t know it yet so just keep it between us," he grinned. "Her promotion to Lieutenant Colonel has just been granted."
Daniel was so excited he was about to burst.
Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter.
"We’re going to need a forth," Daniel stated, when he calmed down slightly. "I always said that I’d retire from the field when you did but…"
He couldn’t do that now, not to Sam.
"That’s what I’m here to talk to you about. Hammond and I have our eye on someone for SG-1. Teal’c and Carter have already agreed and I wanted to make sure you have no objections. Teal’c actually asked for her before I said anything."
Her? Oh yeah, Daniel knew exactly who Jack was talking about.
"How would you feel if we offered the position to Lieutenant Rosenberg?"
Proud, excited, a little sad. Finding a replacement for SG-1 had always been difficult. They could never find anyone that fit in. When Jack retired, they had been miserable with Makepeace. When Daniel left SG-1 had been miserable to Robert Rothman, for everyone to actually want the same person on the team really said something.
But that wasn’t why he was sad.
His feelings for Willow were a little more than professional and… well, he wasn’t sure how Willow felt about him but if Willow took the position in SG-1, there would be no chance of anything developing between them outside of work. You couldn’t be romantically involved with someone in your unit.
Still, it wasn’t enough for him to stand in her way.
Willow was career military, he wouldn’t jeopardize that.
It wasn’t like they had anything to lose in the first place. They liked each other, that was all. There was no guarantees that anything would have happened. They had a connection, not a relationship.
"Willow would be an asset to SG-1," he replied, truthfully. "But will she agree? I mean, she’s pretty happy with SR-1 and not just that. She saves a lot of people, Jack. Can we honestly take her away from S&R knowing that if she’s not there people would die?"
"Rosenberg deserves this. She’s good at S&R, Daniel, I won’t disagree but she’s got what it takes to go all the way. She has leader potential. You saw how she handed 697," Jack argued. "We’ve saved the world how many times? Rosenberg can still save lives but in a different way. Kawalsky has agreed let her make her own decision, he knows this will be good for her career. This is a big opportunity, she’s already on her way to Captain, taking this assignment would mean she’d get there even quicker."
Jack had a point.
"You two seemed to hit it off on 697. You think she’s got what it takes for this? Be honest, Daniel."
"She was born for it."
"My thoughts exactly. She’s being released from the infirmary this afternoon. Hammond and I are going to offer her the position before she goes on leave."
** ** **
"Willow," Dr Fraiser greeted her with a smile. "All of your tests have come back clear. You’re free to go."
Willow and Grogan high fived each other.
She could NOT wait to get out of this bed.
"But you’re going to have to take it easy for the next week. I want you to get plenty of rest, so that means if you’re going to LA, you can’t go out partying each night. If you ever come into my infirmary like this again, you’re going to have a lot to answer for."
Willow nodded earnestly. "I’m actually staying in Colorado, Dr Fraiser."
Fraiser nodded. "What I said still goes though. Plenty of rest."
"Don’t worry, Doc," Kawalsky assured her, as he entered the infirmary. "We’ll take good care of our girl."
Willow beamed at her superior officer. Not only was he her S.O. but he was her ride home… wait. Did he say our girl?
"I’ll make sure Rosenberg and Grogan stay out of trouble," he told the Doc, ignoring their outrage. "When you order Rosenberg to take it easy, you have to make sure Grogan knows it too. He has a habit of getting Rosenberg in trouble."
"Me? Me? Oh no… it wasn’t me who wanted to learn how to thread the needle. THAT was Rosenberg. Rosenberg gets ME into trouble. It wasn’t my idea to start a dirt bike race down the mountain, remember that?" Grogan glared at her but there was a smile in his eyes.
Yeah, she remembered. It had been a blast.
And for the record, she had only wanted to thread the needed, it wasn’t like they could actually do it. Kawalsky had ban them from trying the old Jaffa tradition of flying a deathglider through a Stargate wormhole.
Willow wouldn’t have done it.
Ok, she might not have done it.
When it came to flying, she wasn’t afraid to try anything.
Janet glared at both of them. "Just take it easy, no dirt bike races, no flying… for at least one week. Actually, make that two for the riding. Have a nice vacation, Lieutenant."
Willow jumped off the bed. "You ready to go, Sir?"
"I’m ready but you need to see Hammond and Colonel O’Neill before we can get out of here."
Wait? She did? "I already gave in my report sir." Shit! "Is there something wrong?"
Kawalsky shook his head and led her out of the infirmary. "They just wanted to talk to you about a few things... you're not in any trouble."
And Kawalsky wasn’t happy.
Willow hadn’t noticed it when he first showed up but now she could see it. He was upset and pissed. Oh shit. Did Hammond find out about her? "Sir, they haven’t…"
"It’s not that. You’re not in any trouble, Rosenberg. Go see Hammond then I’ll drop you at home. I'll meet you in your lab."
With that Kawalsky turned and walked in the other direction.
Oh yeah, whatever was wrong, it wasn’t good.
Willow walked a few feet before she stopped and turned around. "Major Kawalsky!"
He spun around at the sound of his name.
Willow looked down at the various books that littered Daniel’s coffee table. It half made her smile, half made her heart ache. Daniel was reading up on telekinesis. Was this why he asked her over for dinner? To discuss her abilities? Or was it to talk about her decision about SG-1?
Why were things so scary with Daniel?
Scary was the word for it because she spent the last four hours terrified of what might happen tonight. Funnily enough, none of the fear had to do with her career. She hadn’t been lying back on 697, when she told him she trusted him implicitly. The more time she spent with Daniel, the more she trusted him. God, the man bought books to understand her better. How could she not trust him?
Her fear, though, was of Daniel.
Not Dr Jackson, superior officer, but Daniel the man.
He was a mixture of things to Willow. In one way he was a rock, someone she knew she could trust to support her when things went bad, in another way he was someone who had the potential to destroy her world. The fact that they barely knew each other frightened her.
More than, actually. Seriously, whatever connection they had with each other was pretty scary. It formed that night when she had broken down in this very apartment… seven months later it was ten times as strong. She wasn’t ready for this. She didn’t want to admit to him that she care for him. She was having a little trouble admitting it to herself. She didn’t understand her feelings and he confused her.
Everything about Daniel was scary, confusing, and intense.
How was she going to explain to him the reasons she refused SG-1?
Her ‘telekinesis’ hadn’t even figured into her decision. As soon as the Colonel explained he was retiring she knew what he was asking. Willow knew half a dozen guys who would give their right arm to be a member of SG-1, she’d be lying if she didn’t say that a part of her wanted to say yes.
A part of her did want to say yes.
But she couldn’t… because of Daniel.
Idly she picked up one of the books while she wait for Daniel to check on their dinner and bring in her drink. Telekinesis. God! Yet another lie her powers were forcing her to commit. Damn it. If only she hadn’t used magic… if only Daniel hadn’t seen her. So many if only’s.
"I, um, left it out of my mission report," Daniel said from behind her. "I didn’t tell anyone you were telekinetic."
God! This was so awkward! It was so much harder being here than it was on the base. It was amazing the difference a pair of jeans and a blue shirt made. It threw her off and she didn’t like it. Things were so strange now, even out in the field discussing this had been easier.
But Daniel wanted to discuss it – she owned him that.
She just didn’t know what to tell him.
"I’m, um, not really," Willow said finally. "I can do things but I’m not what you call Telekinetic. The P90 was the largest thing I’ve moved… I think in ever. I don’t even think I could do it now if I wanted to. It only works when I’m feeling extreme emotions."
For someone who didn’t know what to say she did pretty good.
"So you don’t have any actual control over it?" Daniel handed her a beer and motioned for her to sit down on the lounge opposite him.
"I haven’t tried to control it in a long time and I really don’t want to," she told him. "It’s something I can do, that’s all. The names… they only confuse it. I’m not telekinetic or psychic."
Daniel frowned. "You don’t want to control it? Or at least try to?"
Willow shook her head. "That was the first time I’ve ever done it on a mission and I wouldn’t have done it if I had a choice."
"How long have you been able to do it? If it’s something that’s only developed over the last few months, Willow, we’ll have to go to Janet. You might have been…"
Compromised? She was compromised the second she met Buffy Summers… not that Willow regretted it. Meeting Buffy was one of the defining moments in her life, as loving Oz had been. Xander was the most defining person in her life. She didn’t regret it any of it.
She hated parts of it though, she couldn’t deny that.
"I started experimenting at the end of my junior year, that’s when I noticed I could do thing. In my senior year I could levitate pencils, then we graduated. I kind of buried it after everything that happened. My other ability only started when I was at the Academy."
When she had been terrified of failing.
"Can you do anything else?" Daniel wanted to know. "Telepathy? Do you have a precognitive ability?"
Just how much had he been reading? "No to both. All I can do is move guns, daggers, and pencils. I find people too, of course."
Willow was fairly sure she hadn’t been responsible for any lightening on the planet.
"697," she explained. "I lost my dagger and I kind of tried to get it to come to me but it went to the bad guy instead. He caught it in his chest."
Daniel paled considerably.
That was how she felt about it.
"Willow, if that’s the reason why you turned down SG-1… you didn’t have to. Unless you see it becoming a problem, I won’t tell anyone. I talked to Jack this afternoon, he’s not giving up on you yet. Teal’c is kind of upset that you said no, so they’re going to give you some time to think about it. If you’re scared you’ll be exposed if you join SG-1, I’ll protect you as much as I can."
Willow’s heart skipped a beat.
He was offering to cover for her… more than he already had.
That wasn’t the only thing in his comment that caught her attention. Colonel O’Neill wasn’t giving up? Shit. He could have ordered her to join SG-1… why give her the option? Because at least a dozen people would be pissed if she was taken of S&R, at least that was what Kawalsky told her.
Kawalsky who was taking the entire team to dinner tomorrow night, at the most expensive restaurant in Colorado Springs, because she had decided to stay with SR-1.
To say he was happy with her decision would be an understatement.
"Was that the reason you turned Jack down, the telekinesis I mean?"
Willow shook her head.
He looked at her expectantly.
When she wasn’t forthcoming he pressed, "Jack said you could make Captain faster if you joined SG-1, I agree. I know you’re career means a lot to you, Willow. I don’t understand why you said no."
O’Neill said the same thing to her, well, except the ‘I don’t understand why you said no’ part. "There isn’t a single reason, a combination really. I didn’t want to leave SR-1 and…" she faltered. "And I can’t work with you."
Daniel gaped at her.
"You can’t work… Willow, I … um… if I’ve done anything that has made you uncomfortable, I’m sorry. It was never my intention…"
She couldn’t let him think this was his fault.
This was Daniel. He deserved so much more than that.
"I care for you, Sir," she blurted out before she talked herself out of it.
Oh for the love of god! She confessed that she cared for him and she called him SIR!?! How messed up was that?
It was having the exact effect Willow had hoped it wouldn’t. Daniel was staring at her, mouth open, lost for words.
"I can’t join SG-1 because of my feelings for you," she hurried on to explain. "I’m not saying that I’m in love with you, because I’m not. I don’t even know how I feel about you, we really don’t know each other so I can’t say that there is anything between us or any chance but I care for you more than a teammate should." Breathe, she had to breathe, "Back on 697 we were being watched and I missed it because I was distracted by you. I let my emotions get in the way and both of us could have been hurt because it. I could have compromised the entire mission, I can’t risk that happening again."
And here she thought she had gotten over her babbling.
She couldn’t stand the silence. "I don’t expect you to reciprocate, Sir and I apologise if I’ve made things awkward between us, nevertheless, you deserved the truth. I appreciate the effort you’ve gone to but I can’t be assigned to the same unit as you. I don’t trust that I could keep my feelings from influencing any decisions. Not when it’s you," shut up, Rosenberg, SHUT UP! "You don’t have to worry, Sir, they are my feelings and my problem, I’ll be able to keep them under control. It won’t be a problem."
Please say something!
I do? I do what? I do want to report the insane Lieutenant to the General? I do feel awkward? I do worry? What? He couldn’t just say that and not follow it up with, say… something like an explanation? "You do what, Sir?"
The entire world stopped.
That’s what it felt like.
That one word had blown everything out of the water. He reciprocated. Why was she surprised? He held her on 697 because he wanted to, they had their connection. So why did this feel like this was a bad thing? She suddenly wanted him to say he didn’t reciprocate.
It would be a lot easier if he did.
Daniel cleared his throat, his eyes unable to meet hers. "I care for you too."
Oh… oh… oh shit! "Sir, when I say I care for you…"
"I know," he reached over the table and tried to take her hand.
Willow flinched, moving her hand away before he could touch it. "What do you know?"
Was it too late to take this all back? She hadn’t meant to start anything… she didn’t want to. She just wanted to tell him why she said no. Why she was staying in S&R.
"You haven’t called me Daniel once in the last ten minutes so I know. You care for me but you’re not ready. I understand," he stood up. "Dinner is just about done. Did you want wine with dinner?"
He just can’t change subjects like that!
"Willow, I care for you and that means I will never do anything to hurt you if I can help it. Anyone can see you’re not ready for whatever is happening between us. The terror in your eyes is dead give away," Daniel gave her a warm smile. "It’s all right. I don’t mind waiting."
He doesn’t mind waiting?
"We’ll take this as slowly as you want to or we don’t have to pursue it at all. It’s up to you."
Snail pace too slow? No, that was too fast. How about micro-snail pace?
"Thank you, Sir…" she cringed. "Daniel. Thank you, Daniel."
Silence, then, "Wine would be nice."
"I have scotch too."
She smiled. "A man after my own heart."
** ** **
"Yo! Angel!" Charles Gunn walked into the hotel, scanning the room for the vampire.
Send him out on a private job and the man isn’t even here when he gets back! Gunn threw his jacket onto the lounge and walked into Angel’s office. He picked up the photo of the woman who was the cause for his trouble.
He wondered if she had any idea what a spin she had Angel in.
The vampire was obsessed with her and, when you look at his history, it wasn’t really a good thing. Gunn wouldn’t have even touched this job if Giles hadn’t assured him that Angel wasn’t obsessed with Willow in a stalker kind of way.
He was obsessed with her in a ‘have to protect her at all costs’ kind of way.
Which was understandable.
Gunn would be protecting his people too if they had been through half the shit the five of them had been. Still, he was beginning to wonder if Angel’s obsession was going to land him in trouble. The girl worked for a classified project… trying to dig up the dirt on it was hard. It was almost impossi…
"Gunn?" Angel greeted him. "Did you find anything?"
Nice. "I’m fine, Angel, how are you?"
Guy really needed to loosen up. "Not much. She works at the Cheyenne Mountain base, top secret project. Deep Space Telemetry, she told you that right?"
"Either no one knows about this or they’re not talking. Human or otherwise. I used every contact that I could rely on and everyone was coming up blank. I got no facts, Angel. Nothing concrete. The most I’ve got is a guy who works at a local bar in Colorado, even he’s doesn’t know anything, just what he’s seen."
"What has he seen?"
"Some of his regulars are Marines and Air Force officers based at the mountain."
"Yep. None of them are the talking type so whatever they do at the mountain, they don’t talk about it off base," Gunn told him. "What he did tell me was that your friend is a regular there as well. She doesn’t go there much any more but she used to when she was in training. There’s been a couple of fights in the bar and the soldiers pretty much wiped out the opposition. They’re all combat trained."
"That’s it? That’s all you’ve got?"
He rolled his eyes. "Think about it. Deep Space Telemetry… why would they need combat trained soldiers? You’d need scientists, not people who could beat the shit out of you without breaking a sweat. Angel, you’re talking about a top secret project… getting people to talk about it won’t be easy. Not if you don’t want to get caught," Gunn pointed out. "You know she’s going to be angry if she ever hears about this, she likes the Air Force. She can leave any time she wants to, man. You don’t know that’s she’s into something bad."
"Gunn, you don’t wake up screaming if it’s not something bad. You didn’t see her… she was terrified. Keep looking, but be careful and take Faith with you. Giles is working on the language Willow was yelling out in her nightmare, so you two are on your own."
Gunn nodded. "Cordy find out if that name she said belonged to a demon?"
"She came up blank, so whatever a Jaffa is, I don’t think it’s a demon."
Search And Rescue: Heroics