Notes: An AU for both series, branching out from canon after "Looking Death in the Eye" for Xena and after "Heroes" for Stargate SG-1. I know Ares left them on Mount Etna at the end of "Looking Death in the Eye," but... to make it work, let's say he went a little farther south...
Disclaimer: None of the characters described here belong to me.
Spoilers: StargateSG-1: Frozen, Heroes, Lost City, New Order. Stargate Atlantis: Rising. Xena: Ides of March, Looking Death in the Eye.
Samantha Carter hardly believed how much the chamber had changed since the team had discovered it. After cleaning up after the battle, the US government had moved swiftly to establish a base there to examine the toys the Ancients had left behind. Elizabeth Weir was going to be reassigned as soon as a replacement could be found to take her place at the SGC. In the meantime, an international contingent of scientists was setting up labs in the small outpost.
Sam rode the elevator down, wishing they had just installed a ring device at both ends of the tunnel. Quick, easy, no rattling chains to make you fear the entire car was about to crash to the ground below. She was fine with heights; it was rickety elevators she had a problem with. Most of her two weeks leave had been used up getting clearance and traveling to the Antarctic base. Now that she was here, it hardly seemed real.
She allowed herself a brief pause as she passed the coffin Colonel O'Neill was entombed in. He stared out at her, frozen in place and seemingly entreating her to find a way to save him. Soon, Sir, she promised, although she had no idea how she would make good on that promise.
Pushing aside her guilt, she continued through the corridors in search of the infirmary. She rounded a corner and nearly ran into a man focused on his Palm Pilot. He stepped to the side, not bothering to look up, and gestured for her to keep going. "You've been cleared for this mission, so I'm going to assume you were, at one point, taught how to walk."
She didn't question her luck and hurried on by, grateful Rodney McKay hadn't realized it was her. The man was like a cockroach, only far more annoying. She shuddered and finally spotted a set of swinging doors marked with a makeshift "Infirmary" sign. She pushed through and scanned the small lab.
There were two beds near the doors and a sea of medical testing equipment along the back wall. A far cry from the SGC facilities, but the purpose of this infirmary was to examine possible contaminants in the ice. The outpost was near where they had found the diseased Ancient woman two years ago and the people in charge didn't want another plague on their hands.
Just as Sam was starting to lose hope, she heard the quiet squeak of wheels. She smiled and moved to one side, hiding herself behind one of the bed's privacy curtains.
Janet Fraiser wheeled herself out of her office and stopped next to the table. She unloaded the clipboard and stack of files from her lap and put them on the table. Sam peeked and smiled. Janet was wearing what seemed to be the standard uniform for the base; a puffy North Face coat, a pale blue turtleneck and thin, black gloves. Sam recognized the gloves as the gift she'd given Janet when she shipped out and was touched to see her wearing them.
She waited until Janet had turned her back before slipping out of her hiding place. She tiptoed up and was about to pounce when Janet suddenly spun her chair around.
They both yelped, Janet's voice rising higher than Sam's. The doctor brought a hand to her chest and got over her shock quickly. Her eyes widened and she said, "Sam!"
Sam grinned. "You ruined my surprise."
Janet held her arms out and Sam bent down for a hug. Janet kissed Sam's cheek and then quickly added a peck to the lips. Janet clutched Sam's hands in her own and rubbed the knuckles. It had been six weeks since they'd seen one another. It wasn't an unprecedented separation, but they certainly weren't getting easier at surviving them. "What are you doing here?" Janet asked.
"I got two weeks leave from the SGC. I decided to spend it down here, with you."
"Cassie?" Janet asked. She had last seen her adopted daughter almost two months ago. Despite Cassandra's desire to live in Antarctica with her mom, Janet had insisted school came first. She was starting to question that logic. It was lonely in the frozen tundra.
"She's doing well," Sam said. She looked at the door and walked behind Janet. She took the handles of her wheelchair. She guided Janet back to her office and, safely behind a closed door, perched herself on Janet's lap. Janet rested her hands on Sam's waist and Sam put her arms around Janet's shoulders. She bent down and gave her an appropriate welcome kiss.
"I've missed you," Janet said against Sam's cheek.
Sam didn't say anything. She turned her head and inhaled Janet's scent. She smelled like bananas, her favorite snack food, and Sam had missed the smell around the house ever since she'd left.
Janet smiled. "How do I smell?"
"Yummy," Sam murmured.
It was moments like this that Sam could almost forget that Janet was paralyzed. The staff blast that had hit her in the back had destroyed her spine and left her paralyzed from her mid-section down. The doctors who'd operated had assured General Hammond it could have been much, much worse, but Sam wasn't hearing it. Janet, the doctor who'd grown up with dreams of being a dancer, sentenced to life in a chair. Janet whose guilty pleasure was a pedicure and a foot massage would never feel anything below her rib cage ever again.
"Hey," Janet whispered. The long silence had been enough to tell her what Sam was thinking about. "I'm doing the therapy. Mental with Dr. McKenzie, physical with Colonel Mitchell. I'm doing fine. I can even feel a little bit below my waist now."
"You can?" Sam said. She moved her hand to Janet's stomach. Janet closed her eyes and Sam poked the flesh. Janet counted each time Sam's fingernail pressed against her skin, finally stopping halfway down her hip. Sam withdrew her hand; she still wasn't used to touching Janet and not getting a reaction. It scared her. They could still make love, but she was worried about hurting her and neither of them knowing it. She looked up at Janet's face. Her eyes were bright, if a little worried. She touched Janet's cheek and said, "I wish it had been me."
"I don't," Janet snapped. "Don't say that."
"Sam? Shut up."
Sam closed her mouth. They'd had this argument right after the accident and again when Janet volunteered for the Antarctic mission. She was basically useless at the emergency room the SGC called an infirmary. Here, she would be useful and she could put her skills to use. The down side was the more than half a planet between her and the two women she loved more than life itself.
"Cassie will be out of school for the summer in a couple weeks," Sam said, this time reading Janet's mind. "I'll pull some strings and see if she can come down here. Summer internship kind of thing."
"I'd really like that," Janet said. She angled her wheelchair across the room and said, "Uh, as much as I'd like to give you a ride..."
Sam hopped up and said, "Where are we going?"
"I'm going to show you my quarters."
Sam walked behind Janet and took hold of the handles again. "Oh? Are they fascinating?"
"Not particularly," Janet said with a grin. "Big bed, though."
Sam had to restrain herself from racing Janet down the corridor.
The intercom made Sam jump. Her head was resting on Janet's chest, their legs intertwined beneath the blankets. "Dr. Janet Fraiser to the infirmary. Dr. Janet Fraiser, please report to the infirmary immediately."
Janet muttered a curse and she and Sam, with the speed ingrained in them from years in the military, began throwing on their clothes. Sam was still in her bra, her trousers unfastened, when she knelt in front of Janet and helped her pull her boots on. Janet whispered a thank-you and hugged Sam's neck. Sam put her hands under Janet's thighs and lifted her. She twisted and lowered Janet into the wheelchair. "Go on," Sam said, taking a moment to gather Janet's loose, wild hair into a ponytail. "I'll catch up."
Janet wheeled herself from the room while Sam finished dressing. By the time she arrived in the chaotic infirmary, Janet had apparently been brought up to speed on what was happening. She was positioned between the two empty beds and barking orders at the orderlies who were putting together a medical bag. "What's going on?" Sam asked.
The orderlies ran past her and Janet spun on her wheels. "We have another Ayiana. Push me." Sam ran behind Janet's chair and grabbed the handles. She bowed her head like a marathon runner waiting for the starting gun and shoved Janet forward. They barreled through the halls, catching up and surpassing the orderlies as Janet shouted directions to Sam.
The hallway ended abruptly, sheets of plastic hung up and temporary walls erected to keep the cold out. The construction team had been expanding the outpost to accommodate the size of the SGC expedition and their work seemed to have been halted. Sam skidded to a halt and put a hand on Janet's shoulder to keep her from tumbling out of the chair. The orderlies arrived seconds later with their medical bags.
Dr. Elizabeth Weir, who'd flown down from Colorado with Sam, turned her sleep-weary eyes on the new arrivals. "Doctor. Major."
"I heard we found another Ancient in the ice?" Janet asked.
Weir shook her head and glanced at Sam. "It doesn't appear so. The construction team was excavating a tunnel using Tok'ra crystals when they broke into a cavern. This way, ladies."
"Uh, Doctor," Sam said. She gestured at the ground. The construction team had left the ground chewed up, speed bumps of ice rising and falling like miniature mountains. "Janet's wheelchair won't make it over that."
Sam bent down and hooked her hands under Janet's knees. "Do you mind?" Sam asked quietly enough that Weir couldn't overhear.
"Not if you don't," Janet said. She put her arm around Sam's shoulders and let herself be lifted. Sam settled Janet's weight in her arms and followed Weir down the corridor. The orderlies brought up the rear.
Weir pulled a medical mask from her pocket and turned to them. "Shouldn't you be wearing masks?"
"If the virus is present, we're all infected already," Janet said.
Weir's hand hesitated with the mask over her face. She decided it was useless and returned it to her pocket. She pushed the plastic sheeting out of the way and led Sam, Janet and the orderlies into the cavern.
Two blocks of ice stood side-by-side. Between them, a sword and some sort of discus rose out of the ice like a memorial. Sam frowned and walked Janet closer to the caskets. "This is like the stasis chamber Colonel O'Neill is in," she said.
"No," Janet said. She reached out and brushed her fingers over the ice. "This is really ice. It's... it's a frozen casket."
Sam looked at the bodies within. One of them seemed to be wearing armor. "Do you think she's one of the Hak'tyl?" Sam asked.
"No," Janet said immediately. "The Hak'tyl Jaffa are relatively new. These caskets... these are centuries old. Maybe older than Ayiana."
"Wow," Sam said.
"We need to get these bodies out of the ice. Get the construction team to move them to the examination room. Dr. Weir, the last time we found one of these bodies..."
"Dr. Michaels left information about the set-up," Weir nodded. "We'll get them thawed out and moved to the infirmary as soon as possible."
"Okay," Janet said. "Nothing else I can do here until we get them thawed... Sam, take me back to my chair."
Weir followed them back to the corridor where they had left Janet's chair. Sam placed Janet in the seat with barely-perceptible relief; Sam was in shape, but carrying someone that far than long would take its toll on anyone. Janet stroked Sam's bicep as she straightened and turned to Weir. "Contact me as soon as they're ready to be moved, please?"
"Of course, Doctor," Weir said.
Janet gripped her wheels and turned herself around, propelling herself down the corridor. Sam kept up with her. "Do you want to be pushed?"
"No," Janet said. She bit her lip and said, "And... Sam, please don't be offended, but I don't need to be pushed everywhere. I'm getting good at driving this thing."
Sam bowed her head. "Sorry. I just feel like I should help you."
"And that's why I need to move myself sometimes," Janet said. "It's embarrassing to have to be pushed or carried."
"I know you didn't mean it," Janet said. "I love you for being there to hold me or push me."
Sam smiled and walked beside Janet through the corridors back to the infirmary. Janet stopped in front of the doors and waited for Sam to hold them open for her. Sam smiled down at her. "Thought you didn't want special treatment?"
"I may be in a wheelchair, but I'm still a lady," Janet smirked. Sam laughed and followed her in. "I need to get this place prepped for two patients."
"Tell me what you need me to do."
Janet smiled and said, "Strip these beds. There are some clean sheets in that cupboard..."
By the time the ice caskets were thawed, the entire base was awake and gossiping about the discovery. Janet declared the infirmary off-limits due to fears that the virus might be present. She maintained that it didn't matter if people were in the infirmary or not, they would still be infected if the virus was there. But the quarantine made sure there were no rubberneckers getting in her way at the wrong time.
When the caskets had been thawed enough to be moved easily through the corridors, Weir ordered them to be transferred to the infirmary. Janet and Sam were waiting as the body-sized chunks of ice were placed on the beds. The scientists who had been observing the thawing brought in the heat lamps and placed them around the beds. Janet wheeled over to one and looked through the thick sheet of ice.
This woman was blonde, not dressed like her companion. Janet brushed the frost away and said, "Sam? I want to take a tissue sample. Could you...?" She turned and saw Sam had a drill in her hand. "Thank you." She drilled a hole in the ice and slipped a tool inside. She worked quickly, efficiently, and withdrew the tool with enough to do a tissue sample. She handed it to Sam and wheeled her way to the next bed. This woman, even through the frost, looked enough like a Jaffa for Janet to be wary. But the armor was all wrong and there didn't appear to be any markings on her forehead. She took a second tissue sample and said, "I'll run the tests on these while I'm waiting for the ice to melt."
Weir nodded. "Keep me informed, Doctor."
Sam helped Janet as much as she could and kept an eye on their patients. Around noon, they took a break for lunch at ate in Janet's office. Janet poked through her salad and said, "Sorry about this. You finally get time off and you have to spend it..."
"With you?" Sam said. She smiled and said, "You know me. I'd rather be at work that pacing around my living room. At least here I get to see you."
Janet smiled. She was about to suggest they retire to her quarters for a longer, more sensual lunch break when the door to her office opened. "Doctor. One of the... uh, blocks, is beginning to crack."
Sam stood and held the door open for Janet's chair. They hurried to the infirmary and found the armored woman's casket was beginning to disappear. "It would be her first," Sam said. The airmen who'd been stationed outside moved through the doors, weapons at the ready. Whoever this woman was, she'd had a sword as a headstone and seemed to be wearing armor. They weren't going to take any chances.
Janet wheeled up to the bed and found the woman's left arm was freed. She touched the flesh and shook her head. "This is unbelievable. She should be dead. The cells should've..."
"Well, she's an Ancient, isn't she?" Sam asked. "They have healing ability. Ayiana survived being frozen."
Janet nodded and said, "I don't know if this woman is Ancient, though. Her blood work was all wrong. And she didn't have the ATA gene."
Sam glanced at the other woman, the blonde still entombed in ice. Maybe she was a Goa'uld and this brunette was her Jaffa guard? She wished Daniel were here to decipher the designs on the brunette's chest plate. Janet and the orderlies swarmed the body, intubating her when her mouth was cleared of ice. "We've got a heartbeat," Janet said. There was still wonder in her voice, even after all she'd seen.
The woman on the bed opened her eyes and scanned the room, frantic.
"Easy," Janet said. "Easy. We're here to help you."
The woman coughed against the tube and Janet said, "I'm retracting..." She caught Sam's eyes and said, "She's breathing on her own. Thirty seconds after being frozen solid."
"Still convinced she's not an Ancient?"
Janet shrugged and looked back down at the woman.
"Where...?" the woman rasped. Her voice was trembling from the cold.
Janet put an arm on her shoulder. "It's all right. We're not going to hurt you. My name is Dr. Janet Fraiser."
"Gabrielle?" the woman asked.
Sam glanced over her shoulder at the other body. "We found her next to you. We think she'll be fine as soon as she's thawed."
"Ares... isn't, ah, isn't here," Janet said.
The woman sat up, shivering. Her legs were still entombed and her skin was light blue.
"Hey! You're not well enough yet to sit up. Sam..." Sam eased the woman back down to the mattress. Her dark eyes were spanning the room, taking in the beeping machinery and the bright computer screens monitoring her health.
"Where am I?" the woman demanded.
"You're in a facility in Antarctica," Sam said. "We found you and your friend frozen in the ice. I think you've been there for a... a good long time."
"Where is Eve?"
Sam blinked. "There were only two of you there. Who is Eve?"
"Octavius was supposed to bring her to us. Where's Eve?"
"Boy, I wish Daniel were here," Sam muttered. "Um, who is Eve?"
"My daughter," the woman said, the beginnings of panic rising in her eyes.
Sam and Janet both turned towards the new voice. The blonde was beginning to stir. Janet wheeled over while Sam stayed with the brunette. "Is that you?" she asked. "Are you Xena?"
The woman nodded. She swallowed hard and said, "How long... have we been frozen?"
"I don't know," Sam said. "Who is Octavius? The man who was supposed to bring your daughter to you?"
"Caesar's adopted son."
"Julius Caesar?" Sam said.
Sam looked at Janet, eyes wide. "Um, Janet? These ladies have been frozen for a hell of a long time."
"Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus," Daniel said. "He was Caesar's great-nephew, but was adopted as his son. He eventually grew to become Emperor after Caesar's death. He was the first Roman Emperor, drawing the line between Caesar's Republic and the Roman Empire. He was responsible for giving Rome an era of peace and prosperity. Pax Romana."
"Daniel," Sam said, grateful his head was bowed away from the camera and he didn't see her eyes roll.
"Ah, right," he said. He flipped through some more pages and said, "Born 63 BC, died... AD 14."
That was incomprehensible to Sam. She stared at the screen for a moment and then shook her head, as if to clear cobwebs. "AD 14? Daniel, this woman was talking about him as if she expected him to walk through the door any second."
"Well, then... I'd say they'd been frozen for at least two thousand years."
Sam slumped back in her chair.
"Quite a wake-up call."
Sam scoffed and nodded. "Okay, Daniel. Thanks. And you're sure that the symbols on the Xena woman's breastplate aren't Goa'uld?"
"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "It could be Greek, I suppose. It would fit with them wanting to see Octavius."
"Okay. I'll keep you apprised."
"Appreciate it," he said. "How, uh... how is Janet?"
Sam smiled. "She's great. I'll tell her you asked."
"Give her my best."
Sam turned off the webcam and pushed away from the desk. Two thousand years. Xena and this woman, Gabrielle, had been frozen for two millennia. How could anyone begin to cope with that?
Xena and Gabrielle were given a thorough physical by Dr. Beckett and his team. When they were finished, they were given BDUs and escorted to quarters where they could sit and wait to speak to the expedition leader. Xena initially fought when they tried to separate her and Gabrielle, but the bard had insisted it was for the best. "It's their way, Xena," she said, eyeing the strange weapons their escorts carried. "It'll be fine."
Xena relented and let herself be ushered into a room. She eyed the paintings on the wall, the small bed with a simple gray blanket. "Well," she muttered. "I guess I've slept in worse." She turned to her escort, a small, brunette woman with a harsh face. She could've been an Amazon. "Where is this place? Why is it so cold?"
Xena frowned. "What is that?"
A flicker of confusion behind the dark eyes. "The... southernmost continent on the planet, ma'am. The South Pole."
"Huh," Xena said. She walked to the bed and frowned at it. She turned on her heel. "My chakram." A blank stare from the guard. Xena drew a circle with her fingers. "My weapon. Where is it?"
"I wouldn't know, ma'am. Any weapons you may have been carrying were surely confiscated."
Xena grimaced and walked to the bed. "So how long am I supposed to stay here?"
The soldier started to open her mouth, but a new voice from the doorway saved her. "Until I give you clearance to leave."
"Dr. Weir," the soldier said.
"Thank you, Major Polniaczek." The soldier left and the woman, obviously the leader of the expedition, closed the door behind her. She offered a weak smile. "Hello. I'm Dr. Elizabeth Weir."
Xena stood. "When can I go?"
"I'm afraid it's not quite so simple as that, Miss Xena..."
"It's just Xena."
Weir hesitated and then nodded. "Yes... well. We're in a bit of a unique situation. You see, the public is unaware the Stargate exists. As such, expeditions and missions such as this are of the utmost secrecy." Xena arched an eyebrow. "You've been frozen for nearly two thousand years."
Xena's brow curled with confusion. "What?"
"We've used your mention of Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, or Octavius as you called him, to determine you and your friend were frozen sometime before AD 14. The year is now 2004. AD," she added, almost as an afterthought.
"We'll have to look into some of our resources, but... Ares isn't an important power any longer."
"Who is the god of war?"
"Humanity no longer worships false gods," Weir said. "In the past few years, we've learned remarkable things about the pantheon of gods you... th-the people of your era used to worship."
"What kind of things?"
"The power they wielded was nothing more than advanced technology. They were nothing more than parasitic aliens using humans as hosts."
Xena searched the floor. "No. You've never seen a god."
"Not personally, but... I do know people who had killed a god or two in their time."
Xena recalled the Fates' prophesy that her daughter would be the Bringer of Twilight to the Olympic gods. She stood and said, "I want to speak to the god-killer."
"I'll... I'll see if it can be arranged."
"And leaving this place?"
Weir clasped her hands behind her back. "To be honest, M... Xena... where would you go? What would you do? I'm sorry to be blunt, but the world you knew is a historic ruin. There are new political powers to contend with. At the moment, we're not even sure what nationality you are. So you'll forgive us if this takes a little time to work out the kinks."
Xena reluctantly sat on the edge of the bed and folded her hands between her knees.
Janet wheeled into her office, where Sam was surfing the net. "Find anything?"
"Nothing on a woman named Eve during Octavius' reign. There is an Empress named Livia that seems to be about the right age, but... if this is Xena's daughter, she may be better off not remembering her."
Janet wheeled around the desk and rested her chin on Sam's shoulder. "Champion of Rome. That sounds like a good title."
"She slaughtered people," Sam said, scrolling down. "Massacred innocent people by the hundreds in the name of Rome."
"God," Janet shuddered.
"Huh," Sam said. "There was a cult of people following the word of a man named Eli. Livia was sent out to slaughter them, as they were in danger of usurping the Emperor's power. She was..." She grimaced. "There's, um... talk of crucifixion. And then it just... stopped. People in her army said she had an epiphany in a small country church where she claimed to have been touched by Eli. From that day on she... called herself Eve."
"Sounds like our girl."
There was a knock on the door and Janet lifted her head from Janet's shoulder. "Come in."
Dr. Weir stepped inside. "Major. One of our guests would like to speak with you."
"Apparently, she has a keen interest in... in god-killing."
Sam raised an eyebrow.
Sam knocked on the door and waited until the woman within invited her. She offered a smile and closed the door behind her. "Xena, right?"
"Just Xena. Not Miss, not Missus... the world has gone crazy with... titles..."
Sam smiled. "Well, you can just call me Sam, if you'd prefer."
"You're the god-killer?"
"You could say that."
Xena looked her up and down and didn't seem terribly impressed. "My daughter, Eve, was supposed to bring about the Twilight of the Olympic gods."
"Oh," Sam said. She hesitated and said, "Since the time you were... frozen, we've discovered that the people you think of as gods were merely powerful aliens. We've progressed as a race to a point where defeating them is a matter of superior firepower and tactics."
"Really," Xena said.
Sam nodded. "They used their advanced technology to subjugate their followers for centuries."
Xena still didn't look entirely impressed. Sam walked to the bed where Xena had left the newspaper someone had given her to prove it really was the year 2004. She picked it up and scanned the headlines. "It's not all doom and gloom," she assured her.
"Americans," Xena said. She turned around and said, "What about the Romans?"
Sam cleared her throat. "I really wish Daniel were here," she said for the millionth time. It wasn't fair; Daniel had focused on history and ancient studies and he was forced to become a soldier. She'd spent her time on science and military training and here she was being asked to play historian. She sighed and said, "I'm not exactly clear on the details, but the Roman Empire has been gone for a long, long time."
"When can I see Gabrielle?"
"I can go check on that right now. You have to understand, it's just..."
"Security measures," Xena said.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," she promised as she left the quarters.
Xena walked back to the bed and picked up the newspaper. The names of the people were, naturally, completely unknown to her. But the countries and world powers also seemed brand-new. She felt relieved when she found mention of Britain, which she assumed was an evolution of Brittania, and then an Egyptian diplomat mentioned in a handful of articles. This world, while entirely new, wouldn't be completely unknown to her, at least.
Gabrielle looked up at the knock and hesitantly stood up. "Come in."
The door opened and the chair-bound doctor smiled in. "Hi. May I come in?"
"Do I have a choice?" Gabrielle asked.
Gabrielle gestured. "My cell is your cell."
Janet wheeled herself in and pushed the door closed. "I thought you might like to know that you and your friend have both tested negative for viruses. We've given you some antibiotics to take care of some new viruses you would be susceptible to, so that shouldn't be an issue."
There was a second knock and Gabrielle glanced at Janet. "Come in?"
The blonde woman from earlier stuck her head in. Gabrielle was saved from trying to remember her name when Janet said. "Sam?"
"The, ah... other woman..."
"Xena?" Gabrielle said. "Is she all right?"
"She's fine," Sam assured her. "She just wants to speak with Gabrielle."
Janet hesitated, but looked down at her chart. "Well, I don't see any reason to deny that." To Gabrielle, she said, "Your conversation will probably be monitored. Just for..."
"Security," Gabrielle said. "Yeah, I've heard that song before since we woke up."
Sam and Janet exchanged a silent look and Sam stepped behind the doctor's chair. Gabrielle frowned, wondering what had passed between them in that moment. All she was sure about was that these two women were more than just coworkers. She followed them out the door and down the corridor to where Xena was being kept. Sam nodded to the guard on-duty and she let them in.
Xena was on her feet as soon as the door opened and her eyes widened when she saw who was coming. "Gabrielle," she said. She brushed by Sam and Janet and embraced the blonde. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," Gabrielle said.
Xena lowered her voice, keeping up the pretense of the hug. "Have you seen any way out of here?"
"No. I think it's pretty remote, so the odds of slipping away are..."
"We can hear you, you know," Sam said.
Xena frowned and stepped back.
Janet withdrew a map from the pouch of her coat and unfolded it. "I thought you might want to get an idea of where we are. This red circle is the ground-level of this base. We're currently about five or six stories below the surface. If you managed to get to the surface and leave the facility, there's nothing but ice for miles in every direction. You'd never survive."
"Even if you could," Sam picked up, "there's nowhere to go but to the coast. Then your only chance is to swim to Australia or South America, depending on which way you went."
Xena took the map and frowned at the legend in the corner. The world looked so odd, but she recognized the small section that had once been her home. She shook her head and handed the map back. "So what now?" she asked.
"Are we prisoners?" Gabrielle asked.
"It's not as simple as that," Sam said. "We have no reason to hold you against your will, but it would be best if you remained where we could protect you. It's not the same world you're used to."
"So you keep telling us," Xena muttered. "The question is do we stay here forever? Do you have some plan for us?"
Sam sighed and folded the map. "We've never faced this kind of situation before," she said. "It's going to take a lot of time before the people in charge are comfortable enough with you to let you move around freely."
"We can arrange to have some food brought to you," Janet offered. "Whatever you feel like."
"I'm not hungry," Xena muttered. She glanced at Gabrielle and her expression softened slightly. "But you could bring us something, if you like. Chicken?"
Janet nodded. "We can do chicken."
Sam said, "At the very least, we could bring you some MREs; they taste like chicken anyway." Xena and Gabrielle gave her blank stares and Sam's smile faded. "Ah... little joke."
Xena's nose twitched.
"We'll get that for you right away."
"Can Gabrielle stay here?" Xena asked.
Sam hesitated, but Janet nodded. "Of course. The guard will be right outside if you need anything." Janet turned her chair around and wheeled herself to the door.
Sam opened it for her, glanced over her shoulder at Xena and Gabrielle and then followed her out into the corridor. "Are you sure that's a good idea?" she asked quietly. "Until we know if they have an agenda or if they're even on our side..."
"They're not plotting our destruction, Sam," Janet said. "Did you see that look between them when I mentioned food?"
Sam frowned. "Yeah."
"Xena isn't hungry. Gabrielle is."
"But Xena was the one who asked for the food."
"Because Gabrielle is hungry."
Sam shook her head. "So they're... symbiotic?"
Janet laughed out loud and stopped rolling. She grabbed Sam's hand and squeezed. "Sweety? You're brilliant, but sometimes you can be very dense."
Xena opened the door and eyed the guard for a moment. It was the same one from earlier. Pole-na-chick. They exchanged a nod and Xena closed the door. "I don't think we're going to get past her. I'm not sure what that black box in her hands does, but I'm willing to bet it's dangerous."
"You don't have a box," Gabrielle said, scanning the room.
"A box. There was a box in the room they gave me. I pressed a button and it came to life. Colorless images, music... it was creepy."
Xena thanked her lucky stars she'd been spared whatever the box was. She tugged at the green jacket and black t-shirt they had given her, aching for the familiar weight of her armor. She looked at Gabrielle, who was dressed identically, and put a hand on her shoulder. "Have they harmed you at all?"
"No. Have they told you anything about Eve?"
Xena shook her head. "They told me it had been 2,000 years since Octavius ruled Rome."
Gabrielle blinked. "Two thousand years? Celeste's tears were supposed to..."
"I don't think Celeste's tears are to blame for this," Xena said. "Something else happened. Ares was there when we went over the cliff. I think he did something."
"Octavius kept her," Xena guessed. "I'm sure the gods were fooled. If Ares was convinced enough to entomb us, then Eve was safe. I have to believe that."
Gabrielle put her hand on top of Xena's and squeezed.
There was a knock on the door and Major Polniaczek entered without waiting for them to respond. Xena slipped her hand from Gabrielle's shoulder and stared at the cart the woman rolled in. There were two plates and a carafe of orange liquid on top of it. As soon as it was close enough, Xena inhaled and stepped forward cautiously. "What is it?"
"Chicken a la king," the major said. She straightened her back and clasped her hands behind her back. "Although here, it's mostly like... chicken-type product."
Xena picked up one of the planks of meat and sniffed it. There was gravy, and it dripped over her fingers and onto the cuff of her jacket. She took a bite and chewed carefully. She held the lump in her mouth and looked at Polniaczek. "This is chicken? When was it killed?"
"Killed?" Polniaczek said. "I... have no idea, ma'am. It's hard to get fresh food here."
Xena reluctantly swallowed her mouthful. "So where did this come from?"
"Some farm. It was frozen and sent here. You'd have to ask the kitchen for more information than that. I'm not a chicken expert, ma'am."
"Yeah," Xena said. "Apparently your cook isn't, either." She tossed the half-eaten chicken down on the plate and said, "Thanks."
The major nodded and headed for the door. She paused before she returned to the hallway and then turned around to face them. "You don't have to worry, ma'ams." They frowned at her. She gestured at Gabrielle's shoulder. Apparently she had seen the touch when she had entered the room. "The, um... military may frown on certain relationships, but you don't have to worry about me saying anything."
"That's good to know," Xena said.
"What's her name?" Gabrielle asked.
Gabrielle shrugged and looked down at the food. Despite Xena's criticism, she was willing to give it a shot. It did smell delicious. "I'm assuming you're okay with it because... well..."
"Blair," Polniaczek said with a smile.
Gabrielle returned the smile and picked up her fork as the major left. Xena watched her and said, "How did you know?"
"I can always tell," Gabrielle said as she began slicing her chicken with the side of her fork.
"Not always," Xena said with a half-smile.
Gabrielle blushed and poked a sliced mushroom with her fork. She lifted it to her nose, sniffed and then took a bite. "Kind of rubbery," she declared. "And yes, most of the time, I can tell. I could tell with that blonde and the doctor right away."
"The blonde and the doctor?" Xena said.
Xena dropped onto the edge of the bed and watched Gabrielle explore their food. "Huh," she said. "You'll have to teach me how you do that sometime."
With help from Carter and Fraiser, Xena and Gabrielle arranged to spend the night in the same quarters. Polniaczek assured the doctor and major that she would keep mum about the arrangement. Xena waited until the base felt asleep and squeezed Gabrielle's arm where it lay across her stomach. Gabrielle stirred and sat up in the bed. "Ready?" she asked.
Gabrielle nodded. They slipped out from under the covers and put their boots back on. They had stayed in the pants and t-shirt of the BDUs to facilitate their leaving. Gabrielle looked over her shoulder to make sure Xena was ready and walked to the door. She opened it and peered into the corridor. Polniaczek straightened as Gabrielle approached. "Problem, ma'am?"
"It's my friend," Gabrielle said, trying to sound panicked. "She's not breathing. I-I think it's that virus the doctor mentioned earlier."
Polniaczek rushed into the dark room without a second thought. Gabrielle winced at taking advantage of the woman, but she really had no other choice. They weren't going to sit around and wait for this military to decide what to do with them. The last time a military might held her fate in their hands, she ended up hanging on a cross. And she knew Xena wouldn't sit around and let it happen to her again.
She followed Polniaczek into the room in time to see Xena drop the tray from behind the door. It impacted the back of the major's head and she went down hard to one knee. "God," Polniaczek muttered. "What the hell...?" Xena wrapped an arm around the soldier's neck and held it until the body went limp. Polniaczek went down hard.
Gabrielle lifted the major's legs and Xena took her arms. They carried her to the bed and covered her with the blankets. Xena picked up Polniaczek's weapon and pulled her jacket tight around her. "Okay," she whispered. "Let's go."
They slipped out of the room, giving quick looks to either side to make sure they weren't going to be observed. The base was a maze, but Xena managed to find her way easily to the main section of the complex. She walked around the perimeter of the room, looking for an exit, when Gabrielle gasped and put a hand on Xena's shoulder. "Look."
Xena followed her finger. There was a man frozen in a block of ice, seemingly staring at them. "Maybe a security system?" Xena suggested.
"We should be very... careful," Gabrielle said.
Xena nodded. She continued forward until they reached a metal cage. She craned her neck up and saw wires and cords stretching up into the distance. "Didn't Major Carter say we were underground?"
"Maybe this is the way up."
They managed to get the door open and stepped inside. There were several large buttons on a console next to the door and Xena frowned at them. Up arrow. Seemed obvious. She pressed it and the cage shuddered to life. Gabrielle gripped Xena's arm and looked around, watching for signs the cage was going to fall apart or that they were about to end up like that guy in the coffin. They'd spent two thousand years in one of those ice-caskets. It was enough for her, thank you very much.
A few minutes later, the cage deposited them at a second base. A man in BDUs walked by and glanced at them, but didn't seem concerned with their presence. Xena motioned Gabrielle forward and they made their way across the room to a door marked with strange symbols. There was a window at eye level and she peeked through. Rows of black, bug-like objects sat in the concrete bunker beyond. The opposite wall was a steel sheet.
"I think this is their transportation," Xena said. She tried the knob and found it unlocked.
As they went into the garage, Gabrielle whispered, "Do you know how to operate one of these things?"
Xena looked at the myriad of dials and buttons and switches that lay between the handlebars. "How hard could it be?" She was about to mount one of the bizarre transports when something crashed in the back of the room. Xena grabbed Gabrielle and tugged her to the back wall, hiding behind a rack of snowsuits as the man strode forward.
He was fiddling with something with both hands, oblivious to the fact he wasn't alone anymore. Xena made a motion for Gabrielle to stay where she was and slipped from hiding. She slid across the floor until she was right behind the man and jabbed her fingers into either side of his neck. He grunted and went down to one knee. She put her hands on his shoulders and said, "I've just cut off the flow of blood to your brain. You'll be dead in five seconds unless you help us."
"Sounds... like a lack of options," the man managed to say.
"Will you help us?"
"Wouldn't really be smart to say no, would it?" he said. Xena jabbed him again and he coughed, rubbed at his neck and stood up. He turned to face them and said, "What can I help you nice escapees with?"
"We want out of here," Gabrielle said.
"Good luck," the man said. "You got a bunch of ice, then a bunch of water to get past before you're anywhere even resembling civilization."
"As far as you can take us," Xena said.
He sighed. "All right. Your funeral." He threw his leg over the seat of one of the snowmobiles and sat down. "I can take you as far as the coast in my chopper, I suppose. Put on one of those snowsuits if you don't wanna freeze to death." He gestured at the wall and said, "You. Blonde. Hit that button."
Gabrielle did as he asked and the huge metal door began sliding up. Snow and cold immediately hit the women like a slap in the face and they recoiled. Xena had flashbacks to Mount Amaro. She pushed the thoughts aside and put on the bulky suit. Gabrielle did the same and mounted the snowmobile behind their captive. "I'm John, by the way," he said over his shoulder. "John Sheppard. I'll get back to you on the rank once I'm court-martialed for this."
"Xena. Gabrielle," Xena said.
"Nice to meet you ladies." He pulled the goggles down over his eyes and flicked a switch. The machine beneath them roared to life and Xena and Gabrielle both jumped at the sound. "Hang on!" Sheppard said over the commotion. He pushed his foot across the floor and the snowmobile surged forward.
"Janet, wake up."
Janet sat up and twisted to watch Sam hurriedly dress. "What's going on?"
"Major Polniaczek was found unconscious in the Xena's quarters. She and Gabrielle made a break for it."
"Shit," Janet muttered. She pushed the covers aside and pulled her chair closer. Sam was wearing her trousers and shirt, but she came over and helped Janet maneuver into her chair. "I can get dressed," Janet assured her. "You go ahead. Go!"
Sam finished dressing and grabbed her weapon from its holster. She gave Janet one last look before she left the room. Janet pulled open her dresser and angrily yanked out a pair of slacks. Sam never would have said it out loud, and Janet loved her for that, but the "I told you so" was evident in that last look.
Elizabeth Weir caught up with Sam halfway to the elevator. "How did they both manage to escape?" she demanded.
"They were in the same room," Sam said, not looking the other woman in the eye. "Dr. Fraiser thought it would be all right."
"Oh, did she?"
"I backed her up," Sam said quickly. "I'm military, Janet isn't anymore. If you want to blame someone, blame me."
Weir said, "Oh, I plan to, Major."
Sam grimaced and jabbed the call button for the elevator. Weir's radio crackled and a voice said, "This is Major John Sheppard to the SGC outpost. Come in, please."
"Major, stay off of this frequency."
"Love to, but first, I thought you might like to know where your escaped prisoners are."
Weir and Sam looked at one another. "You have them?"
"More like they have me. We're in a chopper and they want me to fly them to the coast."
"To do what?" Sam asked. "Freeze to death?"
Sheppard said, "They don't seem to have much of a plan. I'm pretty sure they'll be willing to sacrifice me if I don't get this chopper off the ground, so I'd really like clearance to do that."
Weir hesitated and then pulled out another radio. She dialed to the right frequency and called someone in the compound above them. "This is Dr. Elizabeth Weir. I want you to give Major Sheppard clearance immediately."
The elevator finally arrived and the women stepped inside. The radio crackled again and someone from the monitoring station on the surface said, "Dr. Weir. NORAD picked up a ship entering orbit over Antarctica."
Weir sighed. "Great. What now?"
Sheppard placed the helicopter gently on the snow, as close as he was willing to get to the edge of the continent. Xena and Gabrielle climbed out of the helicopter and faced the choppy, ice-cold water. Sheppard stood a few feet behind them. "Like I said. End of the line."
Xena hugged herself and stared. She wasn't willing to believe this was it. They'd come too far to turn around now and go back to the cell. She turned to face Sheppard... and he disappeared in a flash of white light.
It took her a moment to realize it was her who had disappeared and not Major Sheppard. She spun around and saw Gabrielle, her skin almost white from the cold. The snow on their coats was already beginning to melt in the warmth of the room where they now stood. The walls were decorated in a familiar over-the-top design. "Oh, damn," Xena growled.
"Now, is that any way to thank your rescuer?"
Ares walked through the door, flanked by two beefy men in armor. The black man to Ares' left said, "Shall I take them to the brig, my Lord?"
"Nah, nah," Ares said, waving the man off with a wave of his hand. He grinned and held his hands out to Xena. "You look good!" He glanced at Gabrielle. "You too, kid. You're going to have to tell me how you managed that... two thousand years. A lot had changed." He gestured at the walls and said, "Obviously."
"How'd you know we were free?" Gabrielle asked.
"Please," Ares chuckled. "I may not hang around Earth that much anymore, but I do keep my, ah... toes in the water? I've got a few out-of-the-way temples, a couple of devoted followers in the unincorporated areas of the planet. And, let's just say it: I'm fond of the place. I know when people are in a temple worshipping me, I know when they're sacrificing something to me - which, by the way, hasn't been a very lucrative sideline these past few centuries.
"But most importantly, I arranged to be notified if anything ever happened to that lovely little ice cavern I set up for you. I just thought there'd been a cave-in. I never dreamed you'd be awake. Quite a surprise, I gotta say."
"You stole my life," Xena snarled. "My daughter."
Ares shrugged. "Can I help it if you didn't let me in on your little plan? I did what I thought was best! You know how many people would have loved to have your stuffed corpse in their trophy room?"
Xena rolled her shoulders. Ares sighed. "Are we really going to do this? We have so much catching up to do!"
Xena grinned and her eyes flashed with excitement. "Then let's catch up. Ay-i-i-i-i-i!" She leapt into the air toward him.
Ares' Jaffa tensed, but he waved them off as Xena swung her boot at his face. He fell into the kick and stroked his jaw where she'd connected. He winked at the Jaffa and said, "Stay back. I've been waiting two thousand years for this." He grabbed his First Prime's staff weapon and gripped it between both hands. He swung it at Xena and she ducked underneath it.
Gabrielle kicked one of the distracted Jaffa and stole his staff weapon. She swung it in a wide circle with one hand as she rounded behind Ares.
Ares laughed and shook his head.
"God, it's good to have you girls back!"
Janet sat on the tarmac, watching the night sky. Sam left the garage, shuddered, and pulled the halves of her coat together. She stopped next to Janet's chair and handed her a cup of cocoa. Janet smiled and took it, sipping the deliciously hot drink before looking up at the sky again.
"The ship left orbit right after Xena and Gabrielle were beamed up."
"You don't think they were Goa'uld, do you?" Janet asked.
"No. Xena mentioned Ares, but... it didn't sound like they were friends."
Janet hesitated. "Has Elizabeth said anything about my punishment?"
Sam shook her head. "I'm sure there will be an official reprimand. It'll probably go on your record."
Janet nodded. "I'm glad I'm not in the military. I might have been facing a court-martial for this. I'm really glad Elizabeth is the one in charge of deciding what to do with me."
"Why?" Sam scoffed.
"I know you two have your... differences of opinion." She took Sam's hand and squeezed. "But she's a good leader, Sam. The few times I've worked with her down here, she's smart. She'll be good for the SGC if you give her a chance."
Sam sighed and nodded. She looked at the sky, a velvet sheet draped over the ragged mountains on the horizon. "You know," she said, hesitating to tell Janet of the research she'd been doing. "When I was in fifth grade, my class had to do a genealogy project. I didn't go very far, but I remembered having fun looking back over my family history."
"Mm-hmm?" Janet said.
Sam sipped her cocoa. "My Dad said something back then and I didn't remember it until after Xena and Gabrielle, ah... left. I thought he was just joking or exaggerating, the way people do about their lineage."
"My Daddy claimed we were related to Sam Houston." Sam quirked her brow. "Texan thing. Go on."
Sam said, "Well, anyway. He said we were related to Julius Caesar."
Janet raised her eyebrows. "Julius Caesar or... maybe his adopted son?"
"I'm not saying for sure, but... I'm having Daniel check it out."
"You're thinking Xena could be your great... great... great..." She counted on her fingers and quickly gave up, "Great to the nth degree grandmother.
Sam shrugged. "Stranger things have happened, you know. And besides... she said her daughter was supposed to be some kind of god-killer. It's why she wanted to talk to me."
"Maybe god-killing runs in the blood."
Sam smiled and looked up at the sky.
Janet shivered slightly and said, "Want a ride back to our quarters?"
Sam smiled and said, "In a minute. I was kind of hoping the aurora australis would start soon..."
Janet patted her thigh and Sam, after a glance over her shoulder, settled down on Janet's lap. "Ahh," Janet hissed.
Sam said, "Oh, sorry." She shifted her hips and then froze. She looked into Janet's eyes and said, "Ahh?"
"Ahh," Janet smiled.
Sam pressed her hip into Janet's thigh.
"Ow," Janet said.
Sam cupped Janet's face and whispered, "How much? How long?"
"Just a little bit. And a couple of days."
"It's progress," Sam said with a grin.
"It's progress," Janet agreed.
Something green flickered in Janet's brown eyes and they both turned their heads to the sky. The aurora was dancing overhead between the clouds and stars. Sam squeezed Janet's hand. Wherever Xena and Gabrielle had ended up, Sam hoped they were finally at peace.
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