Rating: PG-13, Gen. Well, probably.
Characters: Sam, Cam, Daniel, Other Character
Thanks: A big thank you to Cleothemuse for the terrific beta.
Arms crossed, Cam leaned toward Sam and grinned. “She’s green.”
“They’re all green, Cam.”
“Yeah, but… wow… She’s…”
Sam looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “Your ‘Kirk’ is showing. And she’s not a dancing girl.”
“Hey, nothin’ wrong with appreciating beauty where you find it! Not that it matters. If anyone’s gonna be Kirk, it’s Jackson.” He waved an arm toward Daniel, who sat with the town's record keeper, talking animatedly. Despite her official-sounding title, Manuia was more of a historian than a bureaucrat. “They’ve been going on like that since we got to this little shindig.”
Sam felt her eyebrows rise. “Yes, talking. So suggestive.”
She watched Daniel talk to Manuia. He was leaning toward her, a piece of fish in his hand, alternately eating it and waving his hands in a way that made Sam think he was asking questions—about the fish, about the villagers. He was smiling, too, a smile that went right to his eyes.
How long had it been since she’d seen him this relaxed? Enjoying himself so thoroughly? A long time, far too long. Maybe it was because this was a place where no Goa’uld had been in millennia, where no Ori Prior had spread disease and Origin. Maybe it was just because this was such a very warm and lovely place, lush and tropical, and the last two years had been so terribly ugly…
Sam shook her head, declining the platter of fruit and fish a young woman offered her. There was a naturally-occurring chemical compound in the local water supply which passed through the food chain, giving the Lelei a light-but-noticeable greenish skin tone that somehow avoided looking sickly. While both SGC and local biologists had assured SG-1 it was harmless and became evident only after cumulative exposure, Sam was limiting her intake. She was speaking at a conference next week, and green skin would be hard to explain.
Cam had no such qualms. Taking a piece of fruit, he smiled at the girl and nodded his thanks. Juice ran down his chin as he bit into something that looked like a very green pear, and he wiped at the stickiness with the back of a hand. “They’re all dancers, just dancers with knives. Not quite the same effect, I admit. Dancing’s not usually this deadly.” He waved the fruit at her. “You’re missing out, Sam. This is really good. Totally worth a little green.”
Looking through the crowd for the rest of their team, she saw Vala flirting outrageously with no less than six good-looking men. On many planets, Sam might have been worried about her teammate's behavior causing trouble, but this was a very easygoing culture. The Lelei found the relative prudishness of the SG-teams absolutely hysterical, or so she had been told. Vala fit right in.
This was SG-1’s first visit. During the war with the Ori, the flagship team hadn’t had time for visits to peaceful worlds with no weaponry, and the Ori had never come to this small system. The only visitors from the SGC had been science teams, here to study the native flora. So far, several plants had shown great promise for medical applications.
She spotted Teal'c watching a group of male and female knife dancers, who were showing off their skills only a few yards away from the gathered crowd of villagers. He clearly admired their dexterity, as did she. This was their entertainment, both a form of dance and a martial art. They tossed knives back and forth between them and high into the air—more knives than Sam could keep track of at the speed they were flying. The participants turned their bodies and changed places with one another in a complex and dangerous pattern. It was riveting: they were definitely dancers, and it was definitely deadly.
Sam glanced at Cam, and he nodded toward Daniel.
Manuia was standing now, reaching a hand down to Daniel. He had a confused smile on his face, but he took her hand, rose, and allowed her to lead him away from the celebration.
Cam grinned “What did I tell you? Kirk. A really polite Kirk, but there ya go.”
“He… I don’t think Daniel would appreciate that comparison.”
The grin dropped away and his forehead wrinkled, eyebrows rising. “Hey, kidding, here! Don’t you think I’m glad to see him having a good time?”
“Sorry. I guess I just—”
“Look, I get it, okay? You don’t want me to say something stupid and make him feel like he shouldn’t have any fun, because Jackson spends most of his time actin’ like the universe wants him serious.” He gave her another grin. “See? Not as dumb as I look.”
She smiled back at him. “As you look? Of course you aren’t.”
“Very funny, Sam.” He took another bite of fruit.
The day seemed to go by very quickly. These were friendly, outgoing people, and as much as Sam tended to hang back at gatherings like this one, they simply wouldn’t let her. Everyone was having a wonderful time, and she was no exception.
Cam was making the rounds, his Southern charm on full display, talking to each and every person. If he spent a little longer with good-looking women, had a few more smiles, well, it wasn’t that noticeable, and it wasn’t within these people’s culture to take something like that amiss.
Besides, Vala wasn’t being anywhere near as subtle, and they found her positively charming.
Teal’c made no rounds. He sat in a central location and let the curious villagers come to him. He was soon surrounded by a group of children, and allowed one particularly inquisitive boy to reach out a small finger to touch the gold tattoo on his forehead.
It was such a change from their lives only a few months ago that it seemed unreal. Sam had to remind herself that it was okay to let down her guard a little, okay to enjoy the day. Daniel wasn’t the only one who seemed to have some trouble remembering how to do that.
When the sun neared the horizon, Cam caught her eye and tapped his watch.
Daniel still hadn’t returned. She felt a brief twinge of unease, a nervous flutter in her stomach, but she tried to shake it off. This wasn’t a Goa’uld-controlled world where something as normally harmless as eating cake could prove deadly. It wasn’t a society where anyone was trying to take advantage of one of them, frame them for a crime. The Ori were gone, were never here on this beautiful planet. It wasn’t a place where…
This was Daniel.
Cam came over to join her. “Teal’c and Vala are getting the baskets of plants to take back to the biology guys. Well, Vala’s friendly fellas are getting the baskets, just for the sheer joy of her company, and Teal’c’s making sure she doesn’t bring any of ‘em home. Let’s go find our wandering archeologist.”
They went up the overgrown path they’d seen Daniel and Manuia take, eventually arriving at a small hut. Sam was about to knock on the door when she heard a burst of laughter from behind the building—Daniel, not Manuia. Cam grinned. “I find myself mighty curious about what Jackson finds that amusing.” He headed around the side of the hut, stopping so abruptly that Sam almost ran into his back. She stepped around him, and then held just as still, hardly daring to breathe.
Daniel was throwing knives. Not just throwing them, but moving in simple dance steps at the same time. He and Manuia spun and circled around each other, sometimes juggling four knives between them, sometimes catching their own tosses. He was nowhere near as graceful as Manuia, but he wasn’t dead and he still had all his fingers.
Neither Cam nor Sam made a sound. They didn’t move, not daring to do anything that might cause a break in the rhythm, a knife thrown off time, or into the wrong place. But it happened anyway.
A knife left Daniel’s hand just a little too late, and with a bit of a wobble. It spun too slowly, and Sam could see that when it came back to Daniel, it would be blade first.
She heard Cam bite back a curse.
Dropping to one knee, Daniel caught the knife just above the ground when the handle turned toward him. Still holding the first knife, he jumped up to catch a second that was spinning downward. He laughed again.
Cam turned to Sam. “That’s what makes Jackson really laugh? Almost killing himself?”
Manuia caught the other two knives out of the air. “That was very good, Tanielu! When you can make a catch such as that, and are able throw the knives again in proper rhythm, you will be ready to learn more.”
He gave her a wide smile, the one he didn’t use very often, and turned to Sam and Cam. “Hi…” His eyebrows rose. “Hey, you don’t need to look so worried; these are children’s knives: just sharp enough to let you know when you’ve caught the wrong end. Manuia was showing me how they teach them…”
Cam’s eyes squinted shut. “Kid’s toys. Like marbles, huh?” He looked at Daniel, shook his head, and moved forward to hand Daniel his pack. “Sorry to interrupt the lesson, but it’s time to head back to the SGC.”
“Already?” Daniel looked at his watch. “Oh. Yeah, I guess it is.” He returned to Manuia and held out the knives. “Thank you, Manuia. That was… I’m very glad you had time to teach me.”
Laying her hand on his wrist, Manuia shook her head. “No, Tanielu. You will keep these.” She took the knives, and along with the two she held, wrapped them in a piece of fabric that had been tucked into the waistband of her garment. “You must practice, and when you return, I will give you a new set. Sharp.” Her smile was wide and bright. “But only if you have practiced enough.” She put the bundle in his hands.
Sam had a feeling they were intruding somehow and walked back to the building to wait, where Cam joined her. “Great. Sharper knives. Just what we need—an archeologist with no fingers.”
Glancing at him, she lifted her eyebrows. “At least he’d still be able to translate.”
“Unless he puts out his eyes.”
“Ugh. Don’t even say that!” She looked at Daniel, who was talking to Manuia quietly. “He was pretty good.”
Cam nodded. “Yep. Especially for only working on it for a day. Don’t think I’ll say anything, though. I’m not sure I want to encourage him. It’d be pretty weird if he decided to start throwing knives instead of using guns.”
Laughing, Sam shook her head. “He wouldn’t do that. No sense giving the enemy a weapon to throw back at you.”
“Well, there’s that.”
Daniel put a hand on Manuia’s shoulder then turned away, picked up his pack, and crossed the clearing to join his teammates.
As they walked back down the path, Cam looked over his shoulder. “I dunno, Jackson... Woman like that leads you off into the woods, and you spend the whole day throwing knives? Seems a little slow on the uptake.”
Shaking his head, Daniel didn’t respond. He put down the pack and held up the fabric-wrapped knives. “You go ahead. I just want to put these in my pack. I’ll catch up in a minute.”
Daniel watched his teammates disappear between the trees while unfastening the top of the pack. He looked down at the brightly colored bundle in his hands and ran a finger lightly over the fabric, a slow smile spreading across his face. Placing the knives in his pack with care, he clipped the straps into place and jogged down the path toward the village.
He was still smiling.