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Learning How To Fly Chapter 6

Chapter Six


*


Chapter 6

*

“Come on, Doc,” Dean harassed McKay. “Bet against me.”

“Money only. I am never betting information against you, ever again.” His glower made Dean wince. The man was a horrific nag as it was and Dean had hamstrung him.

“But information’s more fun with you. You can buy and sell me several times over. It doesn’t mean as much.”

“If you’re so sure with yourself, put a month’s of your pay on the line,” McKay challenged.

“You suck,” Dean grumbled.

“How very mature. Do we have a deal?”

Dean sighed and shook his head for show. Pacosky ducked his head away to hide a smile. “Can I at least get better odds?”

McKay sighed gustily. He might have thought he was hustling Dean instead of the other way around. “Fine. If you win, if you can tell which seals expel energy and can put them in the correct order, I’ll pay you a month of my pay and if I win and you can’t make your hoodoo work, you only have to pay me a month of your pay.”

Dean pretended to think it through. “Deal. Shake?”

McKay sneered at Dean’s grease-covered hand. It wasn’t Dean’s fault that he had been pulled away from his real job to conduct McKay’s experiment. “Next thing I’ll know, you’ll want to spit on our hands or the floor.”

Dean grinned. “I know of one culture that an exchange of spit is needed for a contract signature.”

“An exchange of spit?” Teyla asked. “As in a kiss?”

“Yep. Wanna kiss me, McKay?”

McKay sneered. “The real question is: do you want to kiss me? I’ve overheard enough conversations to know that you are experienced and tend to favor the female gender.”

“Okay, you win,” Dean capitulated.

“Not yet, but I soon will.”

The experiment was easy enough to set up. All of the grunts and a good number of the scientists had learned the proper procedure for drawing out a Seal and once they learned that they were required to practice on their own time. McKay just had to put out word throughout Atlantis that everyone had to turn in a practice sheet to his lab by 0900 today, signed on the back. He had quite the stack. From across the room, Dean could feel a couple live ones. He was proud of his students.

McKay glared again. “Is Zelenka an unbiased judge?”

Dean shrugged. “That’ll work for me. Mix them up, Judge,” he called out to the doctor.

Zelenka muttered in Czechoslovakian and rolled his eyes. He did mix up the paper quite well and then slid them down the length of the table. The sheets scattered, some falling to the ground. Dean bounced forward. “Nothing, nothing, nothing.” He only needed to put a finger on a paper to know whether or not there was energy. Anything without, he stacked in a corner. “Nothing, nothing, nothing,” he continued. Why didn’t this work for most people? He touched a live one. To his surprise, he knew that feel. “That’s Pacosky’s. Nothing, nothing, nothing,” and on he went. Dean shifted his feet to reach across the table and stopped. He looked down to the paper beneath his combat boot.

“Huh.” Dean bent over to pick it up and paused. “This is little Sue Collins, isn’t it?” The nurse stuck out in his memory because she was a she and Collins was one of the few of the medical personnel who had gone out of their way to attend one of Dean’s classes. Most hadn’t bothered. Dean thought that there was a chance that Collins had experienced something supernatural back on Earth but she was being very tight-lipped about it. She was also immune to the Winchester charm. A pity, with her soft brown eyes and pretty ebony skin, Dean would have liked to get to know her better.

Dean checked the name on the back and sure enough, ‘Collins’ was easy to decipher. While he was down there, Dean picked up the rest of the Seals that had fallen. All but Collins’ went into the ‘Nothing’ pile. Collins’ was placed next to Pacosky’s. Dean returned his attention to the rest of the table. He almost declared it all ‘Nothing’ but felt another faint buzz under his skin. One of the Seals was alive down there. Dean just had to find it. Ten minutes and hundreds of papers later, Dean pulled out the right Seal. He glared at it and tried to remember which of his students was showing the most promise.

“It’s female,” he mused. He saw a stillness out of the corner of his eye. Someone knew their own Seal. Naming the artist for each Seal wasn’t part of the bet, but Dean liked how it unnerved the brass. He turned his head in the direction of the stillness. Colonel Sheppard was standing there. Dean didn’t focus his eyes directly on his CO, but did address him. “This is the last one,” he said as he slid his eyes past Sheppard onto his team. “Congratulations, Teyla, your Seal is starting to have some power.”

Teyla smiled softly and nodded regally.

Dean put Teyla’s Seal at the end of the line. He did sneak a glance to make sure he was right first –he was. “Pacosky’s than Collins’ than Teyla’s,” he announced. “Do you concur, Dr. McKay?”

McKay was nearly growling as he waved his detector wand over papers. He recalibrated it and tried again.

“Rodney,” Sheppard called. “Is Sergeant Winchester correct?”

“Yes,” McKay hissed. “The rest of them are nothing more than trash.”

Dean grinned and rocked back on his heels. “I guess I won the bet, huh, McKay?”

McKay just pointed a finger at him. “I will figure this out,” he promised before stomping away. There were times when Dean felt sorry for the scientists and how they tried to make sense of the supernatural. Then Zelenka clapped him on the back and congratulated him and this was not one of those times.

*

Dean walked into the Marine recreation area for his nightly teaching lesson and nearly walked right back out. All of the brass was in there. Or almost all of them as he didn’t see Beckett or McKay, thank God. Anyone else with the least bit of responsibility sat in the chairs normally reserved for Dean’s students. Any grunts that had planned on attending this session took one look at the E-7 and E-8 sergeants and commissioned officers, not to mention Colonel Sheppard and Dr. Weir, and backed out. Dean wished he could join them. Staff Sergeant Ohlman was a friendly face, as were Teyla and Ronon. Major Lorne sat next to the door and Dean was sure that the officer would have several people coming to talk to him during the teaching hour.

Dean set aside the cookies that he had brought with him as was his habit. He passed out the paper, compasses and markers and proceeded to show them how to draw a Seal of Solomon. Everyone came up with their own mnemonic device, so Dean didn’t bother to share the one he had developed when he had been seven. He left the first example on the white board and right next to it, started the second one. Everyone was supposed to follow along. No one got it right the first time, so Dean didn’t bother looking at the results. He just told everyone to turn over their paper and follow along a second time. For the third time, he asked Teyla to come up to the white board and draw the Seal out for everyone. While the power she generated was small, her technique of the Seal was flawless every time.

With Teyla up front, Dean could walk through the desks and pick out flaws before they became bad habits of the draw-ers (because there was no way in hell he could refer to most of them as artists). For the most part, the class didn’t differ much from a class of grunts. Dean did a lot of ‘sir’-ing and ‘ma’am’-ing and described the sigils in less foul terms than normal. He had a red marker that he used on his students’ papers. Despite all of his interruptions, Major Lorne was the student closest to getting the Seal technically perfect in this group.

Dean had Teyla erase the Seal she drew and start again. Barely three sigils in and Dean could feel the power emanating from Staff Sergeant Ohlman. With his next pass through the desks, Dean snagged half of his cookies and left them on Ohlman’s desk.

When Ohlman looked up with surprise, Dean shrugged, “You’re going to need them, sir.” Ohlman nodded his thanks and got back to work.

“Any one else?” Colonel Sheppard asked hopefully.

“No, sir.”

Like most of the grunts, the vast majority of Dean’s class was skeptical of the Seal and its energy signature. It wasn’t worth Dean’s time to convince them that it could work if they wanted it hard enough. He had been ordered to teach the method, so that was what he was doing.

He really needed to ask when he could stop teaching. Could it be when everyone on Atlantis knew how to draw the Seal correctly? If so, Dean was nearly there.

Dean would ask in a week. Things should be calm by then. The Seal would be old news and not the latest vain method to defeating the wraith.

*

“Weir, I’m sending you another little gift with this shipment,” O’Neill announced. This was one of the rare times when the SGC initiated the trans-galactic wormhole. O’Neill was packing the thirty-eight minutes with as much information and supplies as he could.

Elizabeth heard the grin in the general’s voice. “More champagne?”

O’Neill chuckled, “Nope. This is closer to rotgut. And there’s a no return policy on this shipment.”

Elizabeth paused, suddenly wary. O’Neill was unpredictable at times. Was this a heads up for some new surprise? “What…?”

“SGC out,” O’Neill ended the radio connection. The man was getting entirely too much enjoyment out of the errand Winchester had sent him on.

What was going on? The MALP’s that McKay had wheedled out the SGC had all stopped outside of Winchester’s Seal without hesitation or problems. McKay had been insistent that if Winchester was getting supplies, the SGC might as well send the MALP’s to carry the burden. No one had argued with his logic. Atlantis had also gained several personnel on this trip.

Elizabeth activated her radio. “Weir to Winchester.”

“Winchester here,” the Marine immediately answered.

“O’Neill has sent your requisitions from Earth but added something extra. We need to find it.”

“Yes’m. Reporting to the Gateroom.”

McKay had been haunting the Gateroom with the excuse that he was waiting for his supplies and scientists, but now he ignored them to snoop through Winchester’s. The standard Marine cases were glanced over, those held the items that Winchester could order through normal routes. It was the three leather bound trunks that interested McKay.

A voice rang out before McKay could touch one. “Those are booby-trapped like only an explosives expert can.”

McKay took the warning to heart. “Not very trusting are you? You’ll have to open them yourself, right now.”

Winchester grinned at him. “Nope.” He merely tapped the padlock with his middle finger and all could see the quick ripple of gold flicker across the surface. “That one’s good.” He tapped the other padlocks and got the same gold ripple each time. Winchester moved on to the Marine cases and opened them for general perusal.

The first one was filled with odds and ends that matched with the shipping invoice, as did the second.

Son of a bitch!” Winchester’s emphatic curse echoed throughout the gateroom. He let the lid of the third case drop off the bottom and clatter to the floor. Inside, Elizabeth could see a male body. “What was he thinking?” Winchester wondered out loud.

Why was the man there? Elizabeth was pretty sure that Jack could easily hide a corpse without utilizing Atlantis. “O’Neill said that he was sending us a gift… of rotgut.”

Winchester checked the man’s pulse and chuckled a bit.

Elizabeth tapped her radio. “Medical team to the gateroom.”

Winchester unattached all the cords that connected that particular case to the MALP. “Don’t bother. Actually, you should take notes, ‘cause women can get Ash to do things that guys can’t. Considers himself quite the ladies’ man.” Winchester shook the case with the man inside. “ASH!”

The man twitched but didn’t awake. Winchester shoved the case onto the floor. “Ash! Move your ass!”

“You could give him a concussion.” Elizabeth was flabbergasted at the rough treatment. What surprised her even more was the fact that the body was vertical… standing actually.

“Dean!” the man greeted Winchester with a gregarious smile that winced into a frown. “We must have had one hell of a welcome home party, I’m suffering here. I don’t remember a thing. Didja bring me home some good weed? More importantly, did I smoke it all?”

“General Jack O’Neill was at the party,” Winchester said patiently.

“Who?” Elizabeth could see when the name connected. Ash started looking around, growing more disturbed and disjointed every second. “Hell. Oh, hell. I told him that I could keep my mouth shut, I really can.”

“You really can’t,” Winchester argued. “What did you figure out?”

“Nothing?” Ash asked.

“Ash,” Winchester warned.

“I didn’t ask to be kidnapped in the name of homeland security.” The man was getting a bit defensive.

“O’Neill is in charge of Homeworld security. What did you tell him?”

Ash looked around, focusing and smiling at Elizabeth for a moment before flitting to the next female he could see. “I’m up shit creek?” he guessed.

“You’re swimming in it,” Winchester countered. “What did you tell him?”

“That… ah… there’s a lot of… ah… people who don’t want you having a government sponsored laboratory. And that they have ears everywhere.” He spotted the seal Winchester had painted and pointed. “Dude! I’ve never seen one stronger. What are you fighting out here? Where is here?”

Winchester pushed Ash toward Carson. “You need to get a physical and then I’ll answer all you questions.” As Ash looked like he was about to complain, Winchester said, “And they’ll let you sleep. Maybe help with the hangover a bit.”

Carson herded the rather confused man toward one of the gurneys. Winchester snagged the doctor’s arm and murmured something while Ash’s back was turned. Everyone watched as Carson directed his team and his new patient away.

“What did you tell Carson?” Elizabeth asked when the stranger had cleared the room and Winchester had returned to cataloging his equipment for his lab.

“Not to let Ash anywhere near a computer keyboard.”

“He’s good?”

“Very. He’s a hacker. He might have been as good as McKay at one time before all the drinking and drugs,” Winchester said candidly.

“Oh, Please,” McKay griped. “I have never, nor ever will be that dumb. And since when did Atlantis become a penal colony?”

“I thought it was a utopia,” Winchester countered.

“Everyone here has to pull their weight, not be passed out in the garden.”

Winchester’s eyes dropped to Rodney’s waist in an annoying manner. Rodney automatically sucked in his gut. “I pull everyone’s weight around here, keeping all of you alive.”

Winchester did address Elizabeth now. “You will definitely want to put him in my room. I’ll try to keep him busy and out of everyone’s way. He’ll get into trouble if he… ah… is not kept occupied.”

“You better come up with some ways to keep him busy, sergeant,” Elizabeth said. “I’m not letting him out of Atlantis. If he causes the least amount of trouble, I’m throwing him into the brig.” She was going to have words with Jack O’Neill the first time they were on a secure line.

“Understood, ma’am.”

*

With Weir’s declaration ringing in his ears, it didn’t take Dean long until he had conned Ash and Sheppard into letting Ash teach the Seal to everyone who hadn’t had a chance to learn yet. Ash knew how to draw the Seal and somehow, he knew when one was working or not. The Marines either loved him or hated him. Most just laughed at him. The scientists despised him, but found themselves losing arguments whenever they attack his science. The best part of the Seal classes was that Ash could be partly smashed for them and still teach.

That much alcohol made Ash a lot easier to deal with. Dean had no idea how Ash had managed to find every single supplier of all regulated substances on Atlantis within one week. He just accepted it as part of Ash’s supernatural ability and went on.

He did enjoy the time that Ash’s teaching freed up for him. He had more time to plan his new explosives.

*

With Ash occupied, Dean had a chance to go through all of his trunks and inventory the contents. He was thrilled to see that Missouri had added a care package to the ‘supernatural’ trunks. Homemade chocolate cookies with Reese’s Pieces in them. Yum.

She also had received his e-mail list of every home address of Sue Collins’ life and had matched one of the addresses to a series of newspaper articles. The oldest article had been published in 1902 in Baltimore, Maryland. A little girl had wandered up into the house attic and had locked herself in a trunk and had died of dehydration before anyone could find her. In 1930, another little girl had disappeared into the same attic and had died. In 1943 and 1967, a little boy had been the victim. The last article was published in 1988. Stephen Collins had disappeared for a full day and had been eventually found, alive, in the family attic by his big sister, Suzanna.

To an experienced Hunter like Dean, the supernatural story was easy to follow. If he hadn’t, Missouri had added a hand-written note indicating that Isaac and Tamara had taken care of the job. Dean did a little mental arithmetic and figured out that the then newlywed’s newborn son had been smothered by a hospital ghost only a year before. Dean wondered if having a successful case so soon and so similar to their own had made the married pair among the most stable of all the Hunters out there.

Dean stashed the files someplace safe. He would only confront Sue Collins if the opportunity came up. He almost wished that it was his case. He hadn’t had a chance to salt and burn a corpse in ages. Hell, he was getting a little nostalgic about digging up a grave and he knew damn well it was a lot of work.

*

Teyla was waiting for Dean in the jumper bay. She was standing next to his assigned puddlejumper with the extra shielding dressed in her native clothes. He hadn’t had much contact with her outside of his Seal-drawing classes. She was progressing exceptionally well, but he didn’t understand why she was here now.

She smiled at him. “Dean, may I accompany you to the mainland?”

She wanted to visit her folks. He could understand that. “Why not?”

Teyla nodded. “Thank you. I would be honored if I could show you your new lab. My people have worked hard to accommodate your specifications.”

It would be Dean’s first time in his lab and Jumper 18 was packed full of his crates. “Do you need help climbing over?” he asked her.

She smiled her ‘no’ and slid through the tight walkway and into the co-pilot’s chair easily. Dean double checked everything. Once he was absolutely sure that he hadn’t forgotten one iota of his training, he tapped his eagwig. “Winchester to Tower. Permission for Jumper 18 for lift off. Over.”

“Permission granted Jumper 18,” Chuck responded as he did every time before. “Over.”

“Over and out.” Dean tried not to be nervous about not having a gene-carrier in a passengers’ seat. This would be his first solo flight. He lifted off. Atlantis grabbed hold of the jumper with a jerk. It seemed like no matter how much he practiced, he couldn’t make that exchange smooth. Atlantis released control once they were hovering above the city. Dean turned the jumper toward shore and flew. Going in a straight line even though there was no blacktop beneath him was an easy task. Dean stayed close to the surface of the water. It felt more like driving from his perspective. Teyla was an easy and calming passenger. The only thing that would make this better would be some tunes.

The jumper started humming AC/DC. Dean instantly relaxed. Teyla didn’t speak of the strange music, though Dean was sure she noticed. The village slid onto the jumper’s screen display. In no time, Dean was landing on the far side of the huts. The landing jolted both Dean and Teyla. Damnit, Dean was going to get better at that.

“Thank you,” Teyla said. She walked out of the jumper first.

Dean stood beside her and waited. He had seen construction on the north side of the village. “When do you want me to pick you up?” he asked instead.

“After dusk. Perhaps 2200hrs?”

“That sounds good to me.”

Dean waited. “Is there something you’d like to show me?”

Teyla looked down. “Perhaps, if you have time. The Seal is only in its beginning stages.”

“Lead the way, m’lady.”

Teyla walked to the other end of the village with purpose. Dean followed, keeping an eye out for any hostiles. Chances were slim in Teyla’s home but Dean was still alive because he was a suspicious bastard. They stopped on the edge of the stone circle. The Seal was placed on the path nearest to the stargate. Logically, the wraith would have to pass over it before attacking the village, unless it was an entire hive ship attacking. Then the villagers would be SOL.

Still… “The whole village worked on this?” Dean was impressed with the size and solidarity of the Seal. Even incomplete, he could feel the power rising. He had never heard of such an undertaking, unless one considered Samuel Colt’s railroad pentagon. He hadn’t felt any power during the fly over, but maybe the shielding on 18 kept out more than just explosions.

“How did you know? Nearly every adult assisted. I know that even my Seals will not hold a wraith at this point and I, not you, am teaching my people, but we could not wait. Anything that we can do to protect ourselves must be started immediately.”

“You want my advice?”

“Please.”

“Have every man, woman and child in the village add a stone to the outer circle at the very least. The more each individual adds to the whole will strengthen it, but the kids must be involved. As young as you can possibly go, the old people too. If they are all involved, that thing will protect them their whole life.”

Teyla brightened. “So our Seal will work?”

“Lady, if you keep on that track, it will last longer than the Seal I put in front of the Gate. Of course the fun part will be burying the whole thing in the proper order and depth.”

Teyla relaxed. “That is very good news. I will inform my village. We ask that in exchange for a meal on your every visit for as long as you are on Atlantis, that you will oversee the installation.”

“I’ve heard good things about your food,” Dean said.

“I have spoken to Dr. Beckett,” Teyla continued. “He believes that your body needs all the added sugar that you can possibly get. If you radio ahead, we will be sure to have a dessert as well.”

Dean knew how high a commodity sugar was in the Pegasus galaxy. For these people, it was a fair trade. “Agreed.”

*

Dean’s days were busy. He still had the night shift patrolling the city and he had to sleep sometime. He filled up his computer with all the crazy ideas that had come to him while studying for this mission. He enjoyed the different programs McKay had seen fit to leave on his computer. He had never been this organized before. He transferred his previous inventions’ research onto the computer and improved on all of them.

He had new ideas too. He really wanted to retrofit a jumper into a weapon. When he wasn’t in his lab or distracting Ash, he was figuring out a way to make it work. He had to read through all the various research papers from the science department and that was a trial to him. Their papers were so boring even on the non-boring stuff.

Teyla and her village’s Seal was always a good distraction from the papers. The best part was that Dean just had to give orders and the villagers would carry them out. The Seal was coming along nicely and they had buried two layers already. Dean knew that the Seal was close to completion, but he was surprised when Teyla approached him about a ceremony where every member of the village bring a rock to place on the outer circle and then a celebration and feast afterwards. Dean was always up for a party and readily agreed. If he could have figured out a way to bring Ash to the party, he would have. Unfortunately, Weir was holding fast to her rule about Ash staying only in the non-restricted areas of Atlantis.

According to Dean’s report, he was just going out to his explosives lab on the day of the party. It was supposed to be a normal outing. He knew that Teyla would never turn him in. When he arrived, he could feel the currents of both sadness and celebration. He nudged one of the children who came to greet him. “Is something wrong?”

The boy nodded slowly. “Lasi went into labor yesterday when she was carrying her rock to the Seal. The baby girl didn’t make it. I don’t know why they didn’t ask for an Atlantis doctor. We found out this morning. After the celebration, we’ll bury little Veyna.”

“Oh.” There wasn’t much Dean could say about that. He sent the kids away when he caught up to Teyla. “Is everyone going to be able to participate in the final part?”

“Yes.” Teyla searched Dean’s face. “Do not mourn for Veyna, Dean. Her mother was sure that the baby was not well. Veyna had not moved in days and was weeks early.”

This was a hard land and a tough people. Dean tried to smile and then moved on. He glanced at the setting sun. “We should start.”

“We are waiting for you.”

Dean nodded and then strode to the ‘top’ of the Seal embedded in the ground. All eyes were on him. He had to admire the craftsmanship that went into the Seal. “You guys did good. Let’s finish this. Start here and everyone add a rock or three to the outer circle. Just whatever you can comfortably carry. Teyla, you first. Kannan, you last.”

Teyla stepped forward with her rock on her hip. She laid it on the circle and then stepped back. One by one, family by family, every member of the village stepped forward and put a rock on the Seal. Dean had to smile at the little boys that had filled every pocket full of rocks. They had to dig out handful after handful. The little rocks filled in the cracks between the bigger rocks. One old man who had been waiting surged ahead in line. He dropped his rock on the Seal and stepped back. Dean was surprised at the rudeness until he realized that the old man was breathing funny.

“I’ll take him to Atlantis if he wants,” he murmured to Teyla.

Teyla nodded and slipped off to investigate. She returned shaking her head. The old man was already dead.

Dean presided over the finishing touches of the Seal thinking: Two dead, both of natural causes. One at the end of his life and one just beginning hers. The ying and yang didn’t get much more black and white.

Dean grabbed Teyla’s elbow and pulled her back from the crowd around the cooling corpse. “I’ve got an idea to make the Seal stronger but don’t get offended and you can never tell anyone at Atlantis.”

Teyla glanced back at the old man. “What is it?”

“I drain the blood from that guy and from the stillborn and pour it on top.” It was messy and dangerous for a multitude of reasons but Dean had to offer the chance to the village. They already put so much into the Seal, might as well go whole hog.

Teyla stared at him in disbelief.

“Never mind, I never said anything.”

“No. Give me a moment.” She looked down and breathed in and out. The old man had insisted on helping bring a stone even though he knew that it would be exhausting. Knowing the kind of people in the village, the old man might have even known that it would kill him. “You promise that it would strengthen the Seal.”

“No doubt about it. I put my blood into my paint mixture.”

Teyla nodded and then nodded again. “McKay assumed that was a mistake. An accident. I didn’t realize... I will discuss it with Kannan.”

“There’s more.”

Teyla looked a bit wary and bewildered. “What is it?”

“If you bury the bodies where I say and bury two more Seals –they only have to be one layer each- exactly where I say, you might –just might- get a complete circle of protection around the village out of it. I’m stretching here, but the theory is sound.”

“I would have to discuss this with the families.”

“Do it quick and make sure you stress that none of this can even be whispered to the people of Atlantis. They wouldn’t understand. They would think that I’m crazy and that would undo most of my Seals and…” he trailed off helplessly.

Teyla land a hand on Dean’s arm. “I promise that whatever our decision, the suggestion will not be mentioned to the people of Atlantis.”

Dean trusted Teyla’s word. He waited impatiently for the village to come to an agreement. He went for a walk to avoid the curious and horrified looks. He needed to get the villagers some iron to connect the dots. Iron wire from his experiments would help until he could get some serious metal in place. He wished he could discuss this with Bobby. The older hunter would love to hear about the strength of a village Seal. Teyla found him looking up at a tree and thinking about the logistics.

She approached him solemnly. “My people have agreed. You may harvest the blood of Nedden and Veyna for the Seal.”

Dean nodded. “Do you have someplace where I can do it and a something I can put it in?”

“You may use Nedden’s home. Veyna’s parents have offered a jar for use and burial.”

“Which one is Nedden’s?”

Teyla pointed it out. Dean walked slowly to the indicated hut and then inside. Like the rest of Teyla’s people, Nedden had been poor and proud. Kannan and the other men of the village carried in Nedden’s body. Dean directed them to place him on the wooden table and then ushered them out. They didn’t need to see this. He tried to arrange the body into something that looked comfortable. Then he tied the body in place. Next, he started piling stuff under the table legs at Nedden’s feet. He was trying to tilt the table to make all the blood rush to his head.

A knock at the door.

Dean answered it to find Teyla talking softly to a man and a woman. The woman was holding a cloth-wrapped bundle. The man was holding a clay jar. Dean held his hands out for the jar. The man handed it over without a word. Dean took it inside and then returned for the baby. The woman was crying softly.

“I’m sorry,” Dean told her.

Lasi shook her head. “It is a good thing to die and to be able to protect your family.” She handed him the tiny bundle.

Dean was gentle with the bundle as he carried her inside.

Teyla followed. “Do you need assistance?”

“No.” He was carefully unwrapping the little girl. She had been so tiny. The good news was that Lasi must have been holding the baby since she had died. All of her blood had settled in her butt. Dean took hold of his silver knife from his wrist and very carefully opened the veins and arteries in the little one’s back. He held her over the jar until the blood stopped dripping. Then he wrapped the baby back up.

He handed the baby to Teyla. “What you are going to do is bury the bodies at either side of the Seal. You need to make them equidistant from the Seal, so that with the two extra Seals, they’ll surround the village. You’re making a pentagon. Understand?”

“Yes. Three Seals and the two bodies would be at the five points around the village.”

“Right.” Dean moved the jar. It was now underneath Nedden’s head. He used his silver knife again to slit the carotid arteries. He stepped back and watched the blood drain out of the frail old man. He found himself murmuring blessings from various Earth religions. He noticed Teyla when she returned empty-handed. She must have handed the baby off to her family. “You have a special prayer for a natural death, right?”

“Yes. A song.”

“Sing it now, please.”

Teyla stood by Dean’s side and sang. She had a beautiful voice. Teyla’s song finished before the body was empty of blood.

At last, Nedden had been drained. Teyla prepared the body in the way in her people as Dean returned all the items he had used to its place in Nedden’s house.

“Ready?” Dean asked.

“Yes.”

“Let’s do this.” Dean walked to the top of the Seal and started pouring slowly. He treated it with the same respect that he would give to gunpowder. Finally, Dean poured the last of the blood on the stone, completing the circle. He had judged correctly and had made it all the way around. It was one continuous circle of blood. He looked up at a worried Teyla. “Don’t worry. Your village made this Seal of Solomon out of stone and blood, life and sweat, young and old. It will protect the village.”

Then out of nowhere a wave of power, no, it was a tsunami that crashed over Dean.

He knew no more.

*

Dean woke up to beeping machines and the infirmary of Atlantis. “Ah hell,” he muttered. This was too familiar. He didn’t even do most of the work for Seal in the village.

“Dr. Beckett,” Teyla called. “Sergeant Winchester is awakening.”

“Right on schedule. Sergeant,” Dean heard in a Scottish accent, “Dean, please open your eyes, lad.”

Dean took a deep breath and told his eyelids to open up damnit. They did and thankfully, Beckett had dimmed the lights. It didn’t hurt too much. Teyla and Beckett were hovering. Ohlman and Pacosky were also within sight. “Hey.”

“Do you remember what happened, lad,” Beckett asked.

“Seal at the village.”

“Yes.” Beckett instantly turned grim. “After what happened at the Gate you should have known to have a medical team on stand-by and…”

“And a science team,” McKay said from Dean’s right. “Atlantis picked up the energy readings all the way from the mainland, but there’s not enough. We could have gathered vital data.”

“Rodney,” Beckett chided. “If you upset my patient, you will not be allowed in the infirmary.”

“Fine,” McKay bit out. “I’m leaving. I’ll chew you out later, Winchester.”

“Looking forward to it,” Dean muttered. “So Doc. When can I get out of here? And when can I lose the needles?” He waved at the IV line. He shifted up in bed and realized that he also had a catheter in. Damnit.

Beckett gave him a knowing look. “You’ve been unconscious for a while. We’ve been feeding you a nutrient solution and electrolytes as fast as we can and your body has been processing them faster. We had a feeding tube to your stomach until an hour ago.”

His throat did seem dry and rough. Teyla handed Dean some water with a straw in it and to his horror, he couldn’t hold the cup. His hands were weak and shaky. Teyla didn’t blink, but held the cup for him. He swallowed his pride and took a couple sips.

“Get comfortable, Sergeant,” Beckett said. “You will be here for a while.”

“Can I at least lose the tubes,” Dean whined.

“Tomorrow, if your vitals improve enough.”

“Doc.”

“No, Sergeant.” Beckett’s voice and posture promised no compromise. Damnit. The doc glanced around. “Visiting hours are over in thirty minutes. And no upsetting my patient.” He got enough murmurs of agreement to be satisfied before wandering off.

Dean rubbed his forehead. His headache was developing with lightening speed. He glanced around and noticed a very grim Sheppard on the edge of the group. He turned back to Teyla. “How long was I out?”

“Four days.”

Dean winced. His head hurt like the dickens. “Whoops.”

“We could see the power.” Teyla stood. “I will ask Doctor Beckett for some pain reliever.”

Dean tried to grab her arm. He missed but she stopped anyway. “It’s not your fault, Teyla.” He didn’t want her nursing him out of guilt.

Teyla stood straight and met his eyes honestly. Dean didn’t see pity. He did see worry and self-blame. “At least some of the fault belongs to me, Dean Winchester. I have been briefed on the relationship between your health and the seals and yet, I suggested that we hold the celebration feast after completion, not as a meal before.” She hurried away.

Sheppard, Ohlman and Pacosky came closer. Dean glanced from Sheppard to Ohlman to Pacosky and then back to Sheppard. “Sirs.”

“I know Teyla,” Sheppard started out, “and I’ve seen the Seal. She would have wanted every advantage for her people. I know that she roped you into it, but that Seal has been in the works for a long while and yet no one on Atlantis even knew it was happening.”

Dean had no defense for that one. “Yes, sir?”

Sheppard rolled his eyes. “Did it even occur to you that you might pass out again?”

“No, sir,” Dean could say honestly. “I was barely involved until the end. More of a supervisor than anything else.”

“Well, from now on, you are not allowed to even supervise a Seal installation without informing both your CO and the medical team. According to new orders that will be distributed today, anyone with the least bit of affinity for creating the Seals will do so under supervision. I don’t care if the others do it in the rec hall, but no one is going to even practice alone. Is that clear?”

“Crystal clear, sir.”

Sheppard huffed. “Good.” He huffed again. “I’m sure that McKay will have lots more to say to you. Just get better soon, Marine. Beckett won’t like it if you start holding classes in here. Well, your regular classes. We all agreed that since his teams don’t have enough time to come to your classes, that they’ll learn from you while you’re in here.”

“Yes, sir.” Dean was going to be dreaming of that stupid Seal forever. He’ll be better at it than Bobby before this tour was over.

“Good. Get better, Winchester. Soon.”

“Yes sir.”

Sheppard finally left and only Ohlman and Pacosky –and Teyla back with meds- remained. Dean tossed back the pain reliever pills and hoped that the doc had enough mercy to give him the good stuff. Finally he faced his team. “Sir, I really had no idea that anything like this could happen. I thought all the power was already in the Seal.”

Ohlman pointed at him. “Winchester, just follow the new orders.”

“Yes sir.” Dean was relieved to get off lightly.

Ohlman left. Dean only had to face his friend. Then he made a realization. “Where’s Ash?” he asked warily.

“Brig,” Pacosky answered shortly as he sat in the chair opposite Tayla.

Dean rubbed his face. “Ah hell. How much damage did he do?”

“Do you want to hear about the strung out dance in the mess in his tighty-whities? He threw a punch at Lorne, by the way. Just after he tried to kiss the major. Or do you want to know about the 3-D Asgard orgy that became everyone’s screensaver while you were laying down on the job?”

Dean huffed a laugh. He had known about the Asgard program but had managed to sabotage it several times so that Ash wouldn’t spread it around. He also knew where Ash had gotten the weed from. Dean had previously monitored that use as well. “Hell. How mad is Weir?”

“I do believe that her ire is focused on General O’Neill,” Teyla said.

“She also had a discussion with Biology about controlled substances and professionalism,” Pacosky added. “Ash is drying out cold turkey under the careful eye of a medical team.”

“Hell.” He rubbed his eyes and realized just how tired he was.

Teyla’s gentle hands pushed him back. “Visiting hours are over. You should sleep.”

“Wait. Wait.” Dean’s mind fought to surface. There was something important he needed to… what did he need to do?

“Rest Dean Winchester,” Teyla said softly. “Construction of the protection for my people and my village continues exactly as you instructed. We all await your approval to our work, Shaman. We have postponed the feast until you could attend.”

Shaman? “Shaman? Cryin’ out loud!” Some of O’Neill’s favorite phrases had snuck into Dean’s vocabulary without him realizing it. “You’re kidding me.”

“Rest Dean Winchester,” Teyla repeated her order.

The meds and Dean’s own body demanded that he obey. At least no one in Atlantis knew about the blood. Dean rested. Teyla and Pacosky would keep watch.

*

Dean’s days and nights in the infirmary were both a blur and boring. One notable event was when Major Lorne stopped by with a stack of blank paper for the nurses and doctors to practice drawing the Seal.

Knowing that the major was the lone Luddite on Atlantis, Dean was sincere with his, “Thank you, major.” Lorne was the only one ordering paper from Earth and now Dean was stealing more from him.

Lorne waved it away and eyed him. “You look better. Teyla was frantic when she reported that you went down.”

Dean didn’t wince but he wanted to. “That had not been the plan, sir.”

Lorne pulled up a chair. “I need you to come up with a plan to ride herd on Ash.”

Dean blinked. “You want to ride herd on Ash?”

“No. I don’t want to ride herd. I want less to have to dodge a messy kiss from the man. For being as wasted as he was, he threw a good punch.”

“That’s Ash. He must think you’re pretty, sir. Normally he limits his harassment the opposite sex.”

Lorne frowned. He hoped that it was the drugs talking and not the sergeant. Unfortunately, it sounded like jarhead humor to him. “Ash gets out of the brig tomorrow. I want a schedule for him by then. That’s my price for my paper.”

“Yes, sir.”

*

At 0600, Lorne walked into the infirmary. He wasn’t expecting much, but any help the sergeant could give him would be appreciated. If Winchester didn’t have anything written now, Lorne wouldn’t be able to swing by the infirmary until 1330. Ash was allowed out of the brig and into Lorne’s care at 0800. That made for a very long day. To his surprise, Winchester roused as soon as Lorne stepped near.

“Sergeant,” he called softly. “You should be resting.”

“’M fine,” the sergeant muttered. Blindly, he reached for the table on his other side. His hand connected with paper. He grabbed three sheets and handed them to Lorne.

Lorne accepted it gratefully. He was surprised that it was less of a schedule and more of a decision tree. If Ash said or did such-n-that, than Lorne could leave him at the pool table. If Ash said this or that, Lorne was advised not to let Ash out of sight and no more than ten feet away at all times. Winchester had appropriate rewards and punishments detailed for more eventualities that Lorne had considered. Winchester had surprised him again. For once in his life, he had interpreted the spirit of law instead of the letter of the law. Lorne would reap the benefits. This would help Lorne more than any schedule.

“Should work,” Winchester muttered.

“Yes,” Lorne agreed. “If this as complete as I imagine, you will make a great gunny or officer some day. A battalion of Marines should be cakewalk compared to Ash.” Lorne met Winchester’s horrified face with serious eyes. The man didn’t want command and it was obvious.

“Sir? Me? An officer?”

Lorne nodded once. “Have good dreams, Sergeant.”

“I think you’re trying to give me nightmares.”

“I think all those meds are messing with your head,” Lorne countered. He turned on his heel and walked away. Lorne didn’t let his smile slip out until he was two hallways away.

*

Out of boredom, Dean bugged the medical staff into learning the Seal as he was instructed, to the point where they sent Sue Collins his way just to get him to stop. Dean didn’t mind. He had been trying to corner her for a while. He had sent the still guilty-feeling Teyla to his bunk for the files. Since he had Collins at his mercy, he started out strong. He attached the first and the last of the newspaper articles that Missouri sent him to his paperwork at the end of the bed. He watched Collins turn white when she realized what she had been reading when she picked up his chart.

“So you wanna talk about it to the one person on this expedition who will believe you?” he asked her.

“How did you find out?” she asked in return.

“I had a suspicion that something like this had to happen to you for your Seal to work. You had to tell the SGC everything to get in. I just had to match your home addresses to notable jobs. Isaac and Tamara are good people.”

Collins finally sat down in the chair by his bed. “Isaac and Tamara? Are those their names? I never saw them, just talked to them on the phone. I knew that they were a man and a woman. The woman –Tamara- had to calm me down.”

“When your baby brother went missing,” Dean filled in the blank. “It was a ghost, wasn’t it?”

Collins nodded. “I knew about the ghost in the attic and she gave me the creeps, but I wouldn’t let Stephen go up there without me. I had been trying to find someone to help me for months and you remember how research was before the internet.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Finding jobs was all about being in the right place at the right time and catching it in the local newspaper. Or someone giving you a heads up. Library stacks and back issue newspapers were horrible to comb through.”

“I guess so,” she agreed. “I thought that it was just luck on my end. I would take my allowance money to the payphone down at the corner and make phone calls to the mystics in the phonebook until someone took me seriously. Then some man told me to try Isaac and Tamara and gave me their number. I called them and they promised to look into it. That weekend, Rissi White was having her thirteenth birthday party, a sleepover. I made Stephen promise to stay out of the attic and considered all my bases covered.”

Dean knew the next part of the story. He was shaking his head as he said, “Little brother went into the attic.”

“Yes.” Collins could keep most of her fear off her face, but a whisper of it still shook her. “Stephen had been missing for eighteen hours before anyone even told me. My parents had been in communication with Mr. and Mrs. White. They knew I was safe and they didn’t have to worry about me running off to find Stephen.”

“Which you did as soon as you found out.”

“My parents and the cops had already searched the entire attic and hadn’t found a thing. I called up Tamara and I was hysterical. I’m not even sure what I told her. She promised me that they were on the job. She told me to go back up to the attic in two hours and if I saw anything or if my brother didn’t return, to call her back.”

“So did you get to see the ghost go poof?”

“You are enjoying this way too much,” Collins said disdainfully. It was, after all, the most traumatic experience of her childhood.

Dean tried to get her to accept it the only way he knew. “Dude! Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a case? Let alone a case where no one got seriously hurt? That’s practically a storybook ending in my world.”

Collins blinked and smiled sweetly. “So you ending up in the care of medical professionals is nothing new?”

“I didn’t say that!” Dean blustered a bit before asking again. “Did you get to see the ghost go poof?”

Collins nodded. “That was more frightening than reassuring. A quick search revealed my brother afterward. He was unconscious. I had to call the cops to get a hold of my parents. Everyone was out searching for Stephen in the neighborhood. My parents arrived just as the ambulance did. We spent the next few days in the hospital waiting for Stephen to get better and saying ‘I don’t know’ to the cops.”

Dean grinned. “Why do you think I’ve been so vague about the Seal to… I don’t know… everyone?”

“I hadn’t connected that event to my ability to make a Seal work.”

“I think that I am the supernatural event to my team that makes them able to work a Seal,” Dean said, “but I didn’t have any such reason for your ability.”

Collins smirked, “You do seem to have a habit of being in the center of unexplainable, traumatic events.”

Dean shrugged and Collins noticed how tired he was. “Lean back,” she ordered. “Get some rest.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he muttered and obeyed.

Collins was pulling the privacy curtain around and then paused. “Sergeant?”

“Yes’m?”

“Could you help me convey my thanks to Isaac and Tarama?”

“Sure, no problem.”

“Thank you. We’ll speak of it later.”

“Yes’m.” Dean slept and dreamt of digging up a grave and salting and burning the body. It was a pretty good dream, as both Sam and Dad were in it and not sniping at each other and nobody got hurt. Like Dean had told Sue Collins: practically a storybook ending.

*

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
amanofmydreams
May. 21st, 2010 08:02 am (UTC)
awww a bedtime story, very sweet. I enjoyed this one like everyone before it. I find my jaw hurting from smiling and laughing so much.

I could go into great detail again but really I want to get to the next chapter. :P
Bra Paulov
Feb. 2nd, 2017 05:33 am (UTC)
I like this story but there is one thing. Czechoslovakian language doesnt exist. There is Czech language and Slovakian language but not czechoslovakian
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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