DISCLAIMER: The story, and characters and anything and everything else concerning SG: SG1 belong to MGM, Gekko, Secret Productions etc, they are so not mine and no money is being made from this and no copyright infringement is intended.
SPOILER: Brief mention of "Unnatural Selection" (season 6)

Sugar & Spice 3
Still Water, Sweet Water
By Celievamp

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

I have not said my prayers since Mom died. I can't remember the last time I prayed. A real for the good of god thankfulness prayer rather than the quick oh god get me out of this mess kind of prayer. Lots of those flying around today. When your main line of work is bringing down false gods and seeing how our religious beliefs were created and twisted by an alien race intent only on subjugation it does give you pause for thought. The more I learn about the Go'auld, the less I believe in gods. Those brief hours when I was Seth's acolyte soured my stomach of all forms of organised religion for good. Still, today I prayed. Sometimes we walk into something so horrific that it's the only thing we can do, call on a higher power, our better angels.

I prayed today. I prayed to get home, to get back to Janet. I prayed to escape the desolation of a dead world. It was not a natural disaster but the meddling of the intelligent species that had caused it. An object lesson for meddlers like me.

I have blown up a star. I have done things no human should have done or should have the power to do. And then I come home to Janet, to my centre. I owe her so much, I try to show her, to make her happy. Sometimes I worry why that is such hard work for me to do.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

The cloth passed gently over my back, the warm scented water easing the aches from my overstressed body.

It was supposed to be a standard recon, but we never could have realised how hard it would be - three grueling days trekking across a world destroyed by a weapon we did not want to comprehend. I can still feel the dust clogging my pores. I had two showers on base and now a bath and I still feel unclean. It will take time.

We told Hammond the truth about what we found but our official report will be completely different. Hammond agrees with our decision. There are some weapons that are just too terrible to contemplate. God help us all, indeed, if NID got wind of what we found.

The address is locked out of the gate. We also informed the Tokra – in the hope that it will encourage them to be more proactive with us about such things. Twenty twenty hindsight is a pain in the butt – according to O'Neill anyway.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

Still waters. Sweet waters. Mom would be ashamed of me that I can't remember which is the right one. I must look it up when I get home. If we get home. Quinn and O'Neill both keep asking me if this stuff could be contagious in any way. God knows how much we'd already breathed in. It's as fine as talc.

We were all soon caked in dust. The heat grew steadily more oppressive, the silence made us all uneasy. The four of us seemed to be the only living things in this landscape. I stopped every couple of hundred yards to take another set of samples but everything looked the same. Total, instant devastation. Whatever had caused this had been instant, not gradual. There was no moisture at all. The sky was heavy with thick cloud cover, a leaden opalescent grey that looked like it was about to pour down, but the air was dry. There was no wind. It had not rained here in a long time. The dust is smooth and featureless except where our feet set in rising in little clouds that settle down. Within a few minutes our tracks are dimples in the thick dust. Within an hour it will be difficult to tell whether anyone has ever walked here. It reminds me of a place I've tried very hard to forget these last months. The planet where we trapped the replicators. The planet where I betrayed Fifth to eternity.

He restoreth my soul:

"Do you want me to wash your hair for you?"

"Mmmm." I'm too tired for actual words. My eyes are closed. Her touch is gentle but sure, pushing me under the water, holding me there as she runs her fingers through my hair. I am floating weightless, thoughtless. I could stay here for ever…

We were walking through what had once been a forest but had been somehow petrified, the wood completely mineralized. There was no sign of any animal or bird life. But the UAV had picked up signs of civilization a few miles from the Stargate. Hopefully we would find some answers there.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name' sake.

We made it out of the other side of the forest and as it was heading towards dusk, O'Neill decided to make camp for the night and press on again in the morning. There was nothing to light a campfire with so we broke out one of the stoves and heated up the ration packs on that. It was so quiet that I think our minds started to provide us with noises just to give us something to think about. Teal'C in particular seemed spooked. He kept getting up and doing a circuit around the perimeter. Jonas was making notes in his journal and started whistling softly to himself. O'Neill nearly shot him before he realised what the noise was.

I drew last watch. Teal'C was on first. It was difficult to get comfortable. My mind would not rest. I tried all my usual tricks to get past the insomnia, calculating Pi, reciting periodic tables. Even thinking about Janet, imagining her giving me a massage did not work. At last I got up and sat with Teal'C. I let him go and kel-nor-eem. He looked a lot more frazzled than he usually did. All he would say was that Junior was unusually restless.

We were all up before dawn, just waiting for it to get light so we could move on, get this over and done with. A few hundred yards further on we hit what looked like a roadway. There were strange statues on the road, carts drawn by horses or more usually oxen, laden with goods, looking for all the world like they were heading to market. The statues of people showed us that whoever the inhabitants had been, they were humanoid. It was all so lifelike.

I can't believe it took us so long to figure it out.

Yea, Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

The gates to the town were open, a figure of a guard at attention by the side of the gate. Strangely he was looking inward rather than outward. We still hadn't seen a living creature, just more and more statues. The closer we got to the Temple structure, the more chaotic the scene seemed to be.

At last we made it to the Temple, only to find that it was in the middle of a low roofed complex of buildings that had at one time been populated and in a sense still were. Still figures alone or in what looked like family groups, many with expressions of fear on their faces, their heads all turned to look back towards the Temple. Whatever had happened here, that was the centre of it.

"These ARE statues?" O'Neill asked.

"I don't think so. Statues generally don't have fingerprints. Or eyelashes. Or tears frozen on their cheeks," Jonas said softly, crouching down to examine the face of a young boy.

"I think whatever happened to the forest happened here as well," I said. "The transformation of organic matter into inorganic matter. Like the figures at Pompeii. But it happened instantly."

"Barbarella," Teal'C said suddenly.

I recognized the reference and almost managed a smile. O'Neill's education of Teal'C into American culture was continuing. The scenes set in the maze with people melting out of stone had struck a chord with me as well.

"Perhaps we are looking at the effects of a weapon of some kind," Teal'C said, clearly uneasy with the revelations that these had once been living breathing beings. "Though I know of no Go'auld technology that could do this."

I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;

<I broke the surface of the water, my tears mingling with the water on my cheeks. Jan smooths my wet hair back from my face, poured shampoo into the palm of her hand and began to gently work it through my hair. Her touch is so soothing, relaxing, beginning to chase away my demons.>

As we got closer to the Temple, the effects of the 'weapon' got stranger. Bodies seemed to have melted into walls, paving flags. A face in an open mouth scream and a hand, fingers clawed emerged from the wall of a building. Someone who had perhaps tripped and fallen in their haste to get away was half-buried in the paving stones, seamlessly joined, face and one arm up to the elbow sunk into the stone as if it had been wet cement. A woman carrying a young child was now a grotesque as the two forms had fused into one, one of the child's legs growing out of her spine, the two heads fused together. We were all profoundly affected by what we were witnessing.

I know Janet wants to ask me about the mission. But I can't tell her anything more than the bare facts that were in our report. Not yet. I can't put it into words, the desolation, the silence. I am so tired, but I don't know if I dare sleep. I will see them again, walk through them again.

The scientist in me wants to know what it felt like, to turn to stone. Did everything just stop or did thought, consciousness continue just a little while longer. Thought is said to be faster than light. I remember watching a film a year or so ago with Daniel. It was Japanese, about a place where people went when they died, a sort of purgatory or waiting room where they had to decide what the one memory was that they wanted to take with them into the afterlife. Are the people on that planet truly gone or is there still a sort of consciousness frozen at the moment of death, endlessly reliving that moment. Perhaps that is what we sensed, what made us so uneasy.

I shiver. Suddenly Fifth is with me again, the only figure in the sterile landscape that was his subconscious. His dark eyes are brooding. Though I grieve for him I never want to see him again. How does he remember me, his betrayer? Is that the memory he endlessly relives, of me smiling up at me as I lie to his face, setting the clock as O'Neill instructed to trap him in that place forever.

If I died now, what memory would I take with me?

Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

We got to the Temple. O'Neill, Jonas and I went inside. Teal'C said he would remain on watch. There were two distinct factions in the Temple. One man stood on a dais in the centre of the room. His arms were raised above his head. In his hands he held what looked like a test tube, the stopper pulled out. Everyone around him looked as if they were screaming. But he was laughing.

We got out of there as fast as we could. Whether it was an experiment that went catastrophically wrong or a terrorist action of some kind that had misfired we did not want to know. We didn't camp that night, we just kept walking. We didn't even talk. The silence was too deep, too dark. We got back to the gate and dialed home. We warned Hammond that we might be a biohazard and they had containment ready for us as we stepped back through.

We will all dream about it, I know. What if we brought it back through the Gate with us? Janet's team did their tests and apart from slight dehydration we were all fine. I fell asleep in the infirmary and dreamt that the SGC was infected, cold grey stone spreading out from the gate, transforming everything it touched. I dreamt that I tried to find Janet and when I reached out to touch her, to hold her and keep her safe, I felt her grow cold in my arms and when I looked at her she was stone, everything was stone and I was screaming. I feel myself shudder again as I remember.

Janet brushes my wet hair from my face, kisses the tears from my cheeks. "We tested all of you when you came through the Gate, remember. The dust was completely inert. You're no threat to the base, to me, to anyone. You're fine. You're going to be fine."

I let her soothe me, let the gentle balm of her presence ease me. I am home. I am safe in the arms of my love.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;

I have my memory.

Janet and me on the deck at the cabin by the lake, the first summer we were together. It is hot, the sky the brassy blue that presages heat lightening. Our feet are dangling in the water – at least mine are. Janet is complaining that hers don't quite reach, so she can only dip her toes. I was channeling Jack at the time and made a smart ass comment and laughed at her and she pushed me and I start to slide in. I grab for her and we both go in. It is not the most elegant of entries. One or both of us must have screamed and Cassie came running to see what was wrong. By the time she reached us, we were both creased with laughter, soaking wet and covered in weed, slime and mud. And we reeked. It took a long swim in deeper water and a couple of very long, very… intimate showers to get rid of the smell.

Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.

"Hey flygirl, you okay?"

I open my eyes, give her my best smile and watch her melt. I lift my hand and rest it on the back of her neck, gently encouraging her to lean over me just a little more. Our lips meet. I kiss her as if it's the first time, the last time. I want her to know just how much she means to me. "I am now," I said.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

She wraps me in a warm, soft towel gently dries my skin and then leads me to her bed. Our bed. Her touch is tender promising many delights if I wish it. She brushes my hair then runs her hands over my neck and shoulders. Her clever fingers tease the tensions from my body. I am turning from stone to water as she shapes my flesh, remakes me, takes away the fear and the pain. She guards my sleep against the nightmares.

and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

The End

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