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Aberrant: Stargate Universe - Mud Hut [Fin]


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[A couple missions before the ambush and subsequent events leading to the game.]

This was one dismal planet. Not much for Dana to do - one sort of cliff dwelling. No real artifacts, only the suggestion there had been a camp on a small rocky shelf. Hadley and Vinny had scouted the barren terrain, then stood guard, but looked bored and annoyed. Mat took some requisite soil samples. But the bulk of the time he was engaged in turning the MALP into an observatory to monitor a star, about 2 light years away, that promised to go supernova within the year.

The question of the day was why was there was a Stargate here. There seemed to be no naquada, no population, no artifacts, not much plant life - no redeeming value, only the proximity to this upcoming celestial event.

They were just about ready to leave when the weather turned threatening. Black roiling clouds were piling up in the sky as Eckhart dialed home. The rain started to fall as Hadley ordered the team to go as he sent the code. Rea and Hadley proceeded through the wormhole as the sky opened. The MALP, that had carried the bulky telescope and recording and transmitting equipment to the planet, was positioned to transmit information back through the Stargate. Eckhart was navigating the FRED, packed with equipment and supplies, around the MALP, when it started to slid in the greasy mud. As Eckhart leaned forward to give it a push as a lightning bolt slammed into it, hurling her backward, causing her to strike her head as she plowed into the sodden ground. Vinny hurried to her side while more lightening strikes peppered the hill. He grabbed her by her vest and attempted to drag her through the Stargate. He thought at first it was just because of the torrential downpour that he could not see the undulating blue surface but then realized that the connection had been broken. No problem he thought - just redial. It didn't work. He loudly cursed the DHD and the weather as he tried again and again. Although it didn't seem possible, the rain and lightning were getting worst and the temperature was beginning to drop. He needed to find some shelter. Under the rock shelf that had briefly held some interest there was a small nitch that he and Eckhart might fit into. He would have liked to climb into the gallery but the rain was turning sleety and Eckhart was just a little out of it.

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They climbed down the slope and over to the small shallow cave. Vinny took off his backpack and threw it to the back of the depression and then took off Dana's and put it to the left side of the hole. He sat down on the rock that formed the bottom surface and then pulled Dana down between his legs. Using his feet he pushed himself backward and hauled her in with him. He then pulled a thermal blanket from one of the packs and tucked it around the front of her while he dug around for a flashlight and the first aid kit. He found a large knot but no cut on her head, so after pulling out some aspirins, he exchanged the first aid kit for an MRE and a canteen.

He tried to make light of their predicament, telling Eckhart what a cozy place they had for a romantic dinner; but although conscious, she was not very responsive. She took the aspirins, ate some of the self warming MRE and after drinking some water, lay her head on Vinny's chest and slept.

This was really fucked. Eckhart normally would have formulated the reason the gate wasn't working and definitely would have objected to the seating arrangements. At least she wasn't squirming around, he had enough problems. They were both soaked to the skin, sitting on an icy rock, on a god forsaken lifeless planet, billions of miles from home and the water was rising. He was hoping that he hadn't made a mistake seeking shelter here. The image of a flash flood kept flickering through his mind. Maybe he should attempt the rock ledge. Access was only by some hand and foot holds in the rocks and he didn't think he could get a groggy Eckhart up there. So he guessed he would stay put, sunrise was just six hours away. Well, it would be sunrise if it ever stopped raining. His butt felt frozen to the ground, and he was sure that he could pour water out of his boots. Eckhart was shivering in her sleep. The only spot that felt warm was where she lay in his arms.

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Vinny gently nudged Dana awake when the rain started coming down in sheets and seeping into their small shelter. She awoke more like herself and agreed with his assessment of their predicament and the decision to head for higher ground. He slide out and went up to the ledge first with the backpacks. The next trip was for Dana and he followed her closely hoping that she was steady enough for the ascent. Once they made it up, Vinny told Eckhart to rifle through the packs and try to find some dry clothing and see if there was anything else they could use while he went to loot their gear. On the last trip, he ran back to the FRED and grabbed whatever useful supplies he could find and climbed up with them. To his amazement and delight he found the sleeping bags from the FRED were vacuum packed in plastic and, best yet, dry.

The only dry pieces of clothing Eckhart could find were a T-shirt and a pair of sweat pants with one rather damp knee, so she stripped down and threw it on and wrapped herself in the thermal blanket. Finding a tin of sterno and some packets of hot cocoa she dug around for some tin cups. Vinny unfurled the sleeping bags and laid them side by side on the narrow ledge and used the backpacks for a windbreak. While Eckhart heated the cocoa, Vinny started to try to shuck his clothes. His shaking fingers and iced boot laces made this process next to impossible. Eckhart handed him the hot cup and proceeded to untie laces and unbutton his jacket and shirt. With the warmth of the drink thawing his fingers and the heat of the liquid coursing through his system he finished undressing. While Vin dressed in the sweat pants still warm from Dana's body, she zipped the two bags together. Once done, they both crawled in and huddled together. Some days that was as good as it got - a cup of warm cocoa, (even if the marshmallows tasted like pencil erasers), and some shared body heat.

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They tried to sleep. Well, first they tried to defrost. That proved to be a tad problematic. A lot was running through both their minds. On P67-3EW they had their uniforms and jackets on and still had the problem of the side arm. Well it was so damn cold and he was hurt - it actually was his side arm. She knew the effect she was having on him, damn she should, she was on top of him. Oh and then he was on top of her. But what about the day she walked into the briefing room for the first time, she had every last one of those men at attention and she knew it. And what about the time she kicked that Jaffa's ass? That definitely was a turn on for Vinny. Then there was that time in PXR-22T, at night Eckhart slept between Hadley and Vinny. Hadley slept with his eyes open and it kind of creeped her out at the time so she cozied up to Vinny - now then she knew that he didn't have a weapon, so he couldn't use the lame side arm excuse. And when they were camping with that alien circus...and they could go on and on.

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They lay face to face and she held his icy hands in hers between her breasts. No, this was not going to work, and anyway the rain occasionally splattered on the edge of the ledge. They inched closer to the rock wall hauling the sleeping bags with them and they tried to sleep spooned, with Vin protecting her back from the storm.

He woke hours later, warmer, but acutely aware that her shirt had ridden up and his right hand was on...hmmm... was it her thigh or her hip and his thumb sliding down that path to the golden triangle. Stop Vinny - roll over now and just be thankful you're not stuck here with Hadley.

Next time he woke his back was toasty; it was draped in Eckhart, breasts firmly pressed to his back and one of her legs between his, hands on his chest gently held in place by his own. But his feet were frozen. He thought of all the places on a warm Eckhart he like to put them, even thought about just bending his knees and bringing them on the backs of her legs. He doubted that he was that flexible and if an icy toe caused her to jerk too violently he would be incapacitated for a month. That woman was strong and that knee was well placed. He wondered if it were he she was embracing, or was she dreaming about that fucking Captain with his dumbass jet and idiotic smile, that self-ingratiating bastard. He despised that slimy airhead.

Get a grip Vinny. He stretched out his legs to slide her leg out, just too much temptation. And there at the bottom of the sleeping bag - it felt like a balled up pair of socks. He reached down scooped them up and put them on. This roused Eckhart who wanted to know what the hell he was doing. When he admitted to finding the socks she looked absolutely envious. "My feet are soooo cold and you have pants." He gave her the socks and tried to pull the pant legs over his icy toes. That brought them a tad low on his hips but you can't have everything and the socks did manage to go up to her knees. "Vin, do you think the Major and Rea made it through?"

"No doubts, Eckhart." Although he always had a few fleeting ones.

"We'll get through tomorrow."

"Yeah. Try to get some sleep."

"My ass is frostbitten."

"Turn over." And he held her trying not to get too close and personal - there was the side arm problem. The wind and the rain calmed and they slept.

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All morning they worked on the hill in damp uniforms. The gate opened and sparked and shut. Then it would open with a surface reminiscent of yesterday's storm. They tried communicating with SGC and only received static interlaced with an occasional word. Eckhart surmised that the erupting star was causing interference and they both deemed it too dangerous to go through the gate themselves. They opened the gate again and when the static seemed at a minimum they tried to send one of the boxes of spare parts through. It appeared at first as though they were successful then metal shards flew in all directions. Vinny dove onto Eckhart and knocked her from the path of most of the flying debris. When they got up to assess the damages, after Eckhart could breathe again, Eckhart found that a metal fragment had sliced the top of her boot and four or five inches of her calf. It was rather superficial thanks to Vinny's quick action. Also due to the quick action, his neck was peppered with burns and he had a metal fragment in his left scapula.

Vinny performed rudimentary first aid, applying butterfly bandages to Eckhart's leg, but because of the location and bleeding they didn't seem adequate. So he decided to put in some stitches, after all how hard could it be? He could do this. Needless to say Dr. Frasier's job was not in jeopardy and Dana would have a great scar.

He tried to get the piece of metal out of his back himself and would have said nothing to Dana, but as she was putting her boot back on she saw him struggling to reach up behind his back and at first, thought that he just a an itch he couldn't scratch (well wasn't that the truth but not his main focus at this moment.) Having discovered the real issue, she sat Vinny down and tried to vacate the shard. She couldn't get a good purchase on it with her fingers and had to resort to pliers to pull it out of his back. This was turning out to NOT be a good day. The one thing they tried blew up in their face, the gate did not work, they were still unsure about the fate of their teammates, they were still dressed in damp clothes, the weather was cool, their supply of food, yummy MRE's, was dismally low and this planet just sucked. Oh yeah there was a star in the neighborhood that was getting ready to explode.

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Night number two was much like night one and day three like day two. Ah, but day four, the sun finally came out and their clothes dried and hardened on their bodies. All of course except for armpit and crotches and anywhere there was multiple layers of cloth. They were warmer, but just as miserable and getting quite aromatic. Eckhart continued to work on the problem of interference of the soon to nova star and Vinny got out of her hair by preparing a decent camp. His theory was; as soon as he had a clean, well organized and adequately supplied camp, Eckhart would get the Stargate working and they would no longer need it. So he set to work, planned the site, located a supply of fresh clean water, dug a latrine, inventoried their supplies, gathered firewood. There was a small lake, maybe a big pond, near the rock ledge and here Vinny swam and washed out his BDU's. He put on the sweat pants he had worn at night and hung his uniform on some branches in the sun to dry. Tomorrow if they were still there he would encourage Eckhart to do the same. He would have let ladies go first, but in this instance Eckhart tended to smell better than he did after a few days without a shower and clean clothes.

When they got together for dinner Eckhart was feeling frustrated by the lack of progress and feeling uncomfortable in her BDU's that had been drying on her all day long. Vinny, although a little rumpled was looking good, clean, freshly shaved and smelling like a four year old fresh from the tub. If Eckhart felt grungy before she felt absolutely filthy now. She was sure if there were flies on this planet they would be swarming about her. When Vinny told her about the bathing facilities - the pond - she was off like a shot. She laid claim to the extra t-shirt (Vinny had washed it) and the sweat pants (she didn't care what he slept in, if anything). She bathed, washed her hair and washed her clothes. Then donned the extra clothes and returned for a sumptuous repast of "it tastes like chicken".

They discussed their plight well into the night. They conclude that they would have to build a shelter, rig perimeter monitors and secure a source of energy. During the day Dana had made some contact with the SGC. She was relieved to learn that Major Hadley and Sergeant Rea had arrived safely. The SGC , apprised of their difficulties, would try to send supplies to the stark planet to tide them over until they could affect a safe return. The allies of Earth would be informed of their predicament and the SGC would ascertain the location of ships that might be sent to their rescue.

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The next day Eckhart spent in observation of the pulsing star and also gathering information regarding the season and length of year of the planet they were on. She had most of this information in a cursory form at the pre-mission briefing but needed more extensive information to help plan their extended stay. At least they had deduced that it was spring and would be getting warmer, but just how warm was the question, and when would the weather again turn cold and just how cold. Their first taste of freak spring storm was colder than comfortable. An extended period of that or colder could prove disastrous. It seemed to Eckhart that the length of each season was much shorter than Earth, a duration of 50 days rather than 90 days. This gave them not much time to prepare. Perhaps help would arrive first, but they learned not to depend on their allies but rather on themselves.

The next day provided supplies. Eckhart informed Vinny of the timing of the intended shipment and they took cover behind the FRED as soon as the gate opened. One crate arrived effortlessly and Vinny moved it off to the side the next three crates arrived as if shot from a gun, and the last, weird malformed particles that even the ever inquisitive Vin was loath to touch. They spent the next few hours picking up and sorting macaronis from underwear hoping there would be enough of both to get them through the next period of increased solar activity.

General Hammond had given orders to open communications with Earth's allies to determine if there was a ship in the vicinity of PX5-876. He wanted his officers back. The only one of this illustrious group he knew that he could rely on was Jacob Carter. But needless to say, the Tok'ra were stonewalling him, perhaps both of them, who knew. Hammond knew Lieutenant Eckhart and Wright were resourceful; perhaps they could live off the land as it were, or find a settlement to bunk in with for the long haul. But this was all bullshit, he wanted his officers here, he needed his officers here for the task at hand, to protect the Earth, not play at some extended camping trip. Both Major Hadley and Sergeant Rea had volunteered to return with supplies but he determined that this was not worth the risk.

Every day there was an attempt to make contact with PX5-876 but static was the usual result. One day in six there was an almost normal wormhole established with an opportunity to communicate and resupply, at least for an hour or two. But almost was the operant word. The snap and crackle of static was ever present and the unexpected termination of the wormhole was a common occurrence. The cycle of this portal was ever changing so that timing seemed to be sliding to less frequent contact of a shorter duration. On the positive side, the astrophysicists were ecstatic about the information they had received regarding the impending supernova. They complained bitterly about the degraded signal but an irate Hammond told them they had better be grateful they weren't the ones on that planet observing first hand.

Reynolds, Dixon, Feretti, Giff and his other fine officers certainly held the line and were there for him to rely upon, but leaving Vinny and Eckhart on that rock was bad for morale. But beside that, it was just plain wrong. He would not abandon his people.

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Building the shelter became their top priority. Vinny and Dana spent the nights planning the layout of the wall that would brick up the cave-like rock shelf. They had already divided the space using a wall of packing containers. This gave the ready access to supplies, kept these supplies safe from the elements and provided them with a small private area that was the bathroom during the occasional thunder storms that sluiced flash floods through the ground below and for the future during the trials of winter. The pueblo-like plan provided for a doorway like access to the handholds on the cliff face, a fireplace and a small window on either end of the wall. The windows were the size of the Styrofoam inserts of the packing containers. This way the packing containers top could be used as a shutter and the Styrofoam would be inserted to seal off the window when the weather turned frigid. The door allowed for them and the containers access into their shelter.

Vinny requested a block and tackle to hoist the crates up to the shelter as opposed to carrying the supplies piecemeal in his backpack. The fireplace, they hoped, would provide some comfort - a source of warmth and a place to cook what little food they had. Vinny first attempted to find rocks uniform enough to build a wall. This proved untenable. Bricks were the next option. He dug a pit and mixed the mud with his feet. As his first attempts dried they returned to dust. He searched the area for a clay deposit and there he dug a second pit. Just the right mixture of clay and mud was a hard won secret. He formed bricks of uniform size and left them to dry. When they were completely dry he carried them back to camp and up to the rock shelf. The weather was a major constraint on his activities. Sunny dry days were perfect for drying, but reduced him to a sweat-soaked, sunburnt soul while mixing the mud or carrying the heavy bricks.

When he had amassed a few hundred bricks at the cliff face he began to lay the first course. And again the weather threatened to destroy his hard work. He had asked for, and amazingly received sheets of plastic used in construction as a vapor barrier. He used this to protect the wall he was building from the occasional downpour and eventually it would be melted on to the bricks to form a sort of glaze. So every day without rain was a day in the mud pit, a day shaping the bricks and a day carrying them the half mile or so back to camp. He asked Eckhart to calculate just how many he needed, since he had no desire to make even one extra. The number she came up with seemed astronomical. After laying the initial courses he hoped that she was right and that was all he would need. He laid course after course of brick. There was no word on a rescue vessel and no hope that the erratic workings of the Stargate would provide them a safe passage home. This was becoming their home, this barren rock.

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He was up to his calves in mud. Now he knew just how the children of Israel felt like making bricks without any straw, more or less. He was making his version of adobe brick, mixing the mud with his feet then forming the bricks and allowing them to air dry. Occasionally a storm would destroy a week's work but Eckhart was doing a bang up job of weather forecasting and saved him much frustration, never mind back-breaking work. Matter of fact, Eckhart's weather acumen was why he was making so damn many bricks. It was going to get cold, damn cold, freeze your fuckin' balls off cold, and he had to get hopping if they were going to be prepared. Well, he thought as he stomped through the slick concoction, do we freeze first or starve first. Already did that freeze to death shit and once was more than enough. Starving didn't look like much fun, but at this point they were both well on their way there.

The radio in his discarded clothing crackled to life.

"Vin, meet you at camp ASAP."

His heart thudded in his chest, on top of everything else; trouble. He slogged out of the mud pit pulled on his vest and grabbed his P90 and stealthily approached the camp. The radio crackled to life again . "Where are you? You've got to see what they sent us."

Then he smelt it - food. Maybe all the MRE's tasted like chicken even the Mac and cheese but none were what you would call aromatic, this was the real deal. When he came out of cover she looked at him and smiled so brightly that the fear for her safety that had flooded his system dissipated and blessed relief and joy and oh yeah, hunger, replaced that flicker of anger.

Dana looked at Vinny and tried not to laugh. He was filthy. Just had pants on and those rolled over his knees. He was solid mud from knees down and streaks of mud everywhere...absolutely everywhere else, vest on top and P90 in his hand. His expression changed from fight mode, to a flicker of anger, to relief, to hmmm, was he drooling?

In her hand was a container from a supermarket with a roasted chicken in it. She popped it open and offered it to him. They both looked at his mud encrusted hands and she tore off a piece and put it in his mouth. He felt as though he were having a religious experience. He wanted to wash but couldn't tear himself away from the food, real food and Eckhart's delicate fingers on his lips and sometimes in his mouth. The hell hole became heaven for a few moments. She alternated pieces for him and pieces for her. He savored every morsel and every touch. They groaned with the simple pleasure of good food and laughter for the joy it gave them. They were so unused to a large meal that before long, they were sated.

Vinny left the new cache of food to bathe. He returned clean and dressed to inspect the rest of their treasure. The was a nice, fat, round, bakery-made cake with thick rich chocolate frosting on it. Vinny popped open the plastic lid and asked Eckhart if she wanted a piece.

"Oh yeah - but I'm soo full."

Before she finished speaking he had dipped two fingers in the frosting and they were on their way to his mouth. She grabbed his hand and plunged his fingers in her mouth. He thought eating the chicken was erotic, but this nearly did him in. She sucked and licked each finger clean. He couldn't help himself, he asked, "Was it as good for you as it was for me?"

Her eyebrows flew upward, then she chuckled. "Mmmm...chocolate fudge with the distinct aftertaste of adobe."

He helped her carry their bounty to the rock shelf and then went off to carry back some bricks and cool off. But the feel of her touch lingered.

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Among the items Vinny found in an intact container was an MP3 player and some memory sticks. Fuckin' awesome! - music! It was so silent - only the wind, the noises they made and the rare sound of her laughter. He slapped those ear buds in and surfed till he found something familiar. Actually, almost anything that reminded him of Earth would be welcome. He wondered if Mat had mixed these tunes, cause eclectic was the only way he could describe them.

He took the player with him as he went off to make more bricks. It lifted his spirits and made the back breaking drudgery more bearable. He listened to the Anvil chorus and the Mars Volta's "Bunuel Home", Placido Domingo singing "Nessun Dorma" and Jimi Hendrix', "If Six Were Nine". He had taken off all the clothes that still left him decent while he mixed the mud, but still was totally filthy by the time the bricks were formed and the last week's creations were stacked and ready to by carted back to their cliff shelf.

The sun would be setting in an hour, so he checked in with Eckhart, who was toiling futilely on the gate problem, as he walked back to the lake side. He had gotten a fresh set of BDU's, then gathered all the dirty clothes, mostly his, stripped down and went for a swim. When he felt clean, at last, he got dressed and started to scrub the clothes. Maybe he'd get out the reddish brown soil from under his nails and the cracks in his skin. Finding that music made his tasks easier, he reattached the MP3 player and scrubbed while the music blasted in his ears.

He listening to a song called "Mad World" and it turned his heart with sadness and thoughts of home. He wondered about his brother, what kind of young man he would have become and if they still would have remained friends. Would his brother reject him and everything he stood for because he never sought him out? He should have waited, shouldn't have given up. Can't do that here, can't give up; help will come. Fuck, he needed some happier music or he might just drown himself in the wash water.

The music selection took a turn to modern rock and Vinny cranked it up to help improve his mood. It was so loud in fact he didn't hear Dana return to camp and sit behind him on a rock enjoying the sight of him washing clothes and occasionally singing along. When he realized that someone or something was behind him, he rocketed a wet T-shirt, the only weapon handy, at her. She fell off the rock laughing out loud. He flipped the MP3 player to the small external speaker and she heard "Your Pretty Good Looking for a Girl". They finished up the laundry together to the White Stripes, rinsing to "Dead Leaves", hanging the clothes on the bushes to "You've Got Her in Your Pocket". He wanted to take her in his arms and dance with her as they walked back to "We Are Going to be Friends". As he listened to "I'm Finding It Harder to be a Gentleman Every Day" he let the moment pass and struggled to get "Lieutenant" out of his mouth when he spoke to her. `Help will come, we are on mission, I am her teammate' - it became his mantra.

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Rations were low. The last three attempts at resupply had been utter failures. And even if rations were plentiful, the MRE's were so monotonous that they craved a little variety in their diet. So they began to explore the few areas of vegetation in hopes of finding something, actually anything eatable. Eckhart stumbled upon some leaves reminiscent of romaine or maybe spinach. They discussed it, Vinny recalling the trip to paradise he and Hadley took, so Eckhart took only a small bit. The taste was vile and the leaf never got passed by tongue and teeth, but still managed to give her a night of gastric discomfort. The urge to experiment left them for a few days until a bush filled with blue berries lured Vinny. He picked a handful and showed them to Eckhart, who suggested he only start with one.

"One, you could fuckin' barely even taste one."

So, she told him how she had felt that night, "How about one now and save the rest for dessert."

He ceded to her better judgment. He selected the largest berry about half the size of your average grape and popped it in his mouth. Tentatively he bit into it. It actually didn't taste too bad, not as good as an Earth blueberry but not bad.

His stomach didn't start bothering him until dinner. He thought that his imagination was playing tricks on him. Normally after a day of hard labor he was starved, even with the prospect of eating MRE's, but tonight he felt somewhat uneasy. Eckhart noticed his lack of enthusiasm but just rack it up to the tastelessness of their fare and the prospect of real food - those plump berries.

They turned in shortly after cleaning up. Vinny didn't feel bad, just uneasy enough not to eat any more of the berries and dissuaded Eckhart from trying any.

"Tomorrow," he said as he felt some rumbling in his lower tract, "let's see if that shit stays put tonight."

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Around one or two in the morning Vinny bolted out of his sleeping bag and wasted no time getting to the latrine. No time to waste, no boots, no pants, no time to spare. Something wanted out and wanted out NOW. After a good half hour he felt confident enough to return to his bunk. His inners were a little calmer and he tried to get some rest. An hour or so later the same hurry call came, this time it left him feeling rather spent by the time he made his way back to his sleeping bag. The third and fourth time this happened he was weak and dizzy from the experience. The fifth time, at about sunrise, he told Eckhart (in so many words) not, under any circumstances, to eat those berries.

He managed to drink half a cup of coffee and trudged off to his brick yard. Eckhart thought that perhaps he should spend the day in easier pursuits.

"If we don't get a decent box built we may fuckin' freeze before we starve."

She knew he was right. From her observations she knew winter was on its way and the taste of it that they had had when they arrived was nowhere near the worst of it. When she returned to camp at lunch time she found him sitting down with his back against the rock face. He looked dazed. She squatted down next to him and saw that his clothes were soaked with sweat. She offered him a sip of water and his hand trembled so that she had to help him get it to his lips. She ran up to the rock shelf to get the sleeping bags and root though one of the few containers that arrived whole this morning. When she climbed back down with the supplies she found that he had attempted to crawl to the latrine. He had only made it a few yards, when on all fours he brought back up the sip of water and what seemed to him like the lining of his stomach. Eckhart was reading the directions of the epipen of Compazine on the fly. She leaned over him and told him she needed some thigh and proceeded to undo his pants. He looked over his shoulder at her and said. "This is hardly the time to get fuckin' romantic, Eckhart."

If it hadn't been the exhausted sweat soaked man about to nose dive into a puddle of his own vomit, she might have laughed. After she injected him he tugged up his pants while she unfurled one of the sleeping bags. She helped him over to it and pulled the sweat and vomit splattered t-shirt off of him. No sooner did he lie down than he asked her for help to get up.


"I'll get a bucket..."

"No. Now."

She helped him up and helped him stagger to the latrine with one of his hands over her shoulder and one hand holding up his pants. When he sought privacy she got a shovel and went to cover the mess in their front yard. It wasn't too bad and a shovel full of dirt would make it disappear. This little clean up detail would also distract her too from Vinny, who was in very obvious gastric distress from all directions. She looked down and realized that there were streaks of blood in that regurgitated sip of water. She flung the dirt on it and prayed that the Compazine would take effect.

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Vinny hadn't known which end to aim in the latrine. He was sure there wasn't a speck left inside of him but that didn't seem to stop his gut from trying desperately to empty. Just to make life complete, there was a pain behind his left eye that while dull this morning was starting to grow in intensity, starting to throb. He knew that exsanguinate meant to bleed to death, he wondered if there was a word for shitting yourself to death. Rea would know. Then things started to calm down, maybe he was finally empty -no contents in his stomach, no contents in his intestines, probably no stomach or intestines either. Or maybe the injection worked or maybe he would be dead soon. Somehow he didn't care, now that his gut stop churning, all he could think about was the god awful pain in his head. He dragged himself to the lakeside and knelt by the water's edge to wash away the sweat and stench that covered him. Eckhart appeared at his side with a wash cloth and towel. In a rather intimate act she washed what she could and offered him a canteen of fresh water to rinse out his mouth. He asked for a minute and stripped off the rest of his clothes and washed and wrapped the towel around himself.

The previously sweating man began to feel as though someone had poured ice water into his veins. By the time they made it back to the sleeping bag he was shaking with chills. She helped him into the fresh skivvies, t-shirt and sweat pants that she had laid out for him. He told Eckhart that he thought the Compazine had taken effect but his head hurt so much he thought that he was having a stroke. If he died he didn't care if she rolled him into the latrine and threw a few rocks on him.

She fumed at him. "You will not leave me alone on this rat hole."

He smiled. It turned into a gasp as the pain in his head shot from eye to sinuses to molars. Eckhart put her hand to his temple and the shivering man held her cool fingers against his burning head. Realizing that he probably couldn't keep down any pain meds, Eckhart left him to rummage around in the first aid kit for some morphine. If Vinny said it was bad - it had to be awful. She also slipped into a fresh set of cloths herself. Not much point hovering over a sick man reeking of his vomit.

At this point Eckhart was not sure if this was proper medical procedure, she just hoped that the morphine she was about to give him wouldn't kill him. There was no way to consult Janet so she gave him as little as possible hoping to at least take the edge off the pain so he could rest. She was afraid too that if she gave him too much and he were lying down if he brought up more stomach acid he could aspirate. She injected him with the morphine and was wary when he didn't object. She put the still rolled sleeping bag behind her back against the rock wall, wrapped a thermal blanket around her shoulders and coaxed Vinny to move forward so that his head lay on her shoulder. She pulled up the sleeping bag he was on to cover his lower half and wrapped his chest with her arms and the thermal blanket. She had at hand, her med supplies and a canteen and a few power bars. She had no intentions of leaving him.

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His chills gradually stilled and he seemed to fall into a very deep sleep and she soon followed. The next morning she woke amid a rather arousing dream only to realize that Vinny, too, seemed to be dreaming. He was rubbing his face against her left breast.

In a haze due to the meds and sleep, Vinny found himself back on site in Kuwait, where he was usually too hot and always a little hungry. But he did have Liv or rather they had each other, remembering and not quite remembering, just knowing that they had loved one another in the foggy, drugged memory of the week. And it was great to be together, her slipping into his bed at night, trembling at her touch, shivering in delight and expectation as her hands drew him closer and deeper.

Dana felt him shiver and drew the blanket tighter around him.

When his hand came up to caress her breast she started, grabbed his hand and called to him. He was totally unaware of his actions, only muttered softly, "Granola."

"Vinny. Feeling better?"

"Fine...fuckin' fine"

She disentangled herself and shoved the rolled bag under his head. He hugged it like he was holding a woman and seemed to fall back asleep.

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For the next week it took an effort for him to eat. The sight and smell of food held no allure for him but he knew that if he didn't eat, he couldn't work and if he didn't finish the shelter, they would both die. When he had admitted that he would rather die than loose Eckhart, he didn't just mean some spectacular display of devotion. No, he was just an ordinary man; he was willing to work himself to death for her.

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The week started off as many had that summer, hot and dry. So when the rain started to fall they were initially delighted. It seemed to herald the change of season and they hoped for cooler weather. But the gentle rain turned to downpours, driving relentless rain along with the evening's chill into the damp, three-quarter built shelter. After a day or two there wasn't much to do in the camp. The stores were inventoried, organized and reorganized. The light was poor for reading and the batteries were too low to waste for light or music. Since the nights were cool, Eckhart seemed to snuggle closer and closer to the lieutenant. While this had its decided advantages, it also brought an added layer of frustration to his life he just didn't need. He found himself becoming more and more withdrawn and annoyed with everything in general. No longer the genial Vinny, he became the sullen bastard most people at the SGC gave a wide berth to.

In the driving rain Vinny accompanied Eckhart to the Stargate for the scheduled conference call and resupply. But the gate only sputtered and failed to lock. Consequently the only thing they got for their effort was wet. And not just wet but soaked to the skin. When they returned to the rock shelf Eckhart proceeded to strip off her wet gear and then wet clothing. Vinny's mantra was losing its potency although he was not losing his. He had been moaning about their wasted morning, he barked at her to show some decorum and said he was going to take a walk. He said he needed some air.

He had been listening to the MP3 player the other day. Fuck, that must have been 5 or 6 days ago now. There was, it seemed, every damn cover to "Knocking on Heavens Door" ever recorded. What the hell was that about? Talk about depressing. He probably should have been listening to it during the berry incident.

Then there were all the covers to "In the Pines" and here they sat without one fucking tree. Well that wasn't true either. They were just a damn long way away making it a royal pain in the ass to lug back firewood. But he couldn't get the song out of his head. Some were kind of cheerful but he didn't like those as much as the versions by Kurt Cobain and Leadbelly. 'In the pines, in the pines where the sun don't ever shine.' Fucking tell me about it. He was feeling about as rotten as the weather and the song.

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Dana was totally confused. They had given one another privacy by just not looking. She trusted him implicitly. And she had no idea why he was in such a rotten mood. Sure it had been raining for over five days straight, and food stores were again low, and they failed to connect with the SGC, and there was no word on Jacob and the transport home, and they were alone on this God forsaken, barren, poisonous rock with just each other, their feelings and the regulations and duty and honor. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Now she was depressed, angry and close to tears. And she'd be damned if she'd cry. She enjoyed sleeping close to him but had noticed him inching away from her. Morning breath, or too much temptation? Oh well, maybe he'd be better if he got some time to himself. He had been grousing about the food supply and last time that happened he just about stopped eating to make sure she had enough. He had promised that she would see home again and had added "in this lifetime". Would he do something drastic? No he wasn't the type. She tried to push away the things that Hadley had told her about, the stuff about his family.

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He had been out in the rain for hours now and it was getting late. Dana prepared the evening meal but still he failed to return. She swallowed a few mouthfuls but had no appetite. All she could think of was `Is he angry with me?', `Is he hurt?', `Will he come back?' She geared up and went in search of the Lieutenant. And there she found him, just sitting in the rain on a rock kicking at the stones at his feet. She knew he was aware that she was there but he said nothing. She figured it was up to her since she had no desire to stand there all night in the now drizzle.

"Vin, sorry if I did something."

He looked at the ground, then at her for a beat or two and blew out a world weary sigh.

"Dana, sorry for acting like an ass."

"There's some dinner ready. We can't afford to waste the food."

"Go back and eat."

She trekked back to the camp, at least he wasn't hurt. Strike that. He was hurting but what could she do but wait for his mood to swing around. Maybe his good nature would return with the sun. Meanwhile she would try to keep up her spirits, Jacob would eventually arrive and they would go home. And then, and then, oh yeah, then she would get off Vinny's team. And then what - never speak to the SOB again or jump him the first chance she got?

Vinny returned in the middle of the night leaving puddles where he stepped, shivering with the cold. He stripped down and threw on some dry clothes. He pulled his sleeping bag to the edge by the door off by himself or as far as one could get in the tiny room. Eckhart, although she did not stir, was quite aware of his actions. She was quite amazed how much it hurt her.

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The days were getting progressively shorter and colder. She had spent the morning at the Stargate interpreting MALP readings, adjusting instruments and making calculations on the seasonal cycle of the planet. In the afternoon she helped carry bricks. Since she had to calculate the exact moment of sunset she went back to her instruments and then to their camp to prepare the evening meal. Vinny labored without rest; he had to make up for all the time lost and the work destroyed by the rain. For weeks now he had been working day, long into the evening, until he could no longer see. She heard him return, heard the splashing of the water as he washed off the mud, she heard him climb up the rock face and sink into the sleeping bags.

"Eat something. It's not great but it's hot."

But when she turned to look he was sound asleep.

She let him rest for half an hour but knew that all this physical labor and lack of adequate food had taken a toll on him. His body, although always trim, now was mostly skin and bone. The muscles that he needed to build the shelter were in danger of being absorbed by a body starved for nutrition. She woke him and saw by his hands clutching his back and soft moan as he tried to rise that he was hurting. While he ate she mentioned that Doc Frasier had sent a medicated cream for sore muscles and suggested that she rub some on his back.

"Can do that myself Eckhart."

But like most men he couldn't seem to reach half his back. She suggested that he take off his shirt and lie down on the sleeping bag. She massaged the lotion into his sore and knotted muscles. The groans of pleasure were her reward and so began a nightly ritual, a short nap, dinner and a massage that put him right back to sleep.

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After a few nights, (all his former resolve going straight to hell,) without prompting he took off shirt and pants, laid down on the sleeping bag, and she would massage weary calves and thighs, then sitting astride his hips rubbed the small of his back, up the center, shoulder blades, upper arms and ended with the back of his neck and shoulders. Whatever elicited the most groans of pleasure got the most attention.

There were nights when the touch of him elicited sparks in her she didn't know how to handle. His scent, his bare skin, the touching, the rhythmic rubbing, it overwhelmed her. She knew that she should stop but the pleasure she received was one of the few joys left to her. All else was cold and hunger and loneliness. She massaged until he fell asleep and then she shed all of her clothes before sliding in alongside him, absorbing his warmth as she slept.

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The morning was frigid. As he woke he became aware that under his hand was the velvety softness of bare skin. As usual they had found one another in the chill of the night and she was cuddled in his arms. She awoke to his brown eyes searching her face for understanding, for permission, for desire. He lifted her hand and kissed the inside of her arm, from wrist to elbow, then placed her arm back under the covers to keep her warm. He leaned over her. He kissed her shoulder to the neck then up her neck to behind her ear. ..

He excused himself and got up and left. She was so confused - did he change his mind, was he giving her an out to change her's, was that all he wanted?

He needed to relieve himself, at least that was the excuse to himself. He was so confused. No, that wasn't right, he knew what was what and this was so not right. How did he let it get this far. They were on mission, on a goddamned fucking mission. They were off world and he had let things get out of hand. It was his duty, his job as an officer... that's right, he reminded himself, officer and a gentleman and he was seducing her, allowing himself to be seduced by their proximity, their situation, his failure as an officer and a professional. He wasn't a goddamned teenager, he could control himself. They weren't abandoned, they were just in a tight spot and were awaiting rescue. But what if? What if they would die here, no one to find their bones, just some cheesy wreath sent through the gate, a few muttered words and life goes on. Who would really give a shit, who would know if they took some comfort in one another? He would know and she would, and maybe that's all that really counted.

He went for an early morning swim and resolved to zip up the sleeping bags separately. What was that called - the near occasion of sin -well he had to stop it and apologize. Probably apologize in advance. Somehow he knew that he would be in a foul mood for days to come, or subdued and withdrawn. Jacob, where the fuck are you?

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She felt so embarrassed. Had she been rejected, had he come to his senses, had he been distracted by something, anything else? Her self confidence was at an all time low. She felt unloved and unlovable. Maybe he thought of David, thought that she wasn't free, but she had cut that loser free months ago. She had been too ashamed to let anyone know. No, she knew what this was all about; it was pure Vinny, a man of honor. And that, in fact, was the man she loved. So they would survive. But when they got home they would have to have a conversation, an honest one. One were they could plot their future, if there was one.

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"Are you asleep?"

The barely whispered words echoed through the room. She knew that he was awake. It was one of those senses that had developed in the close contact over several years of off world trips. There were some things that she needed to say and the darkness of the night provided a shield from his eyes while the intimacy of them lying in sleeping bags so close to one another provided the necessary forum.

"I need to apologize for my behavior this morning."

"Don't you think I should be the one fuckin' apologizin'?"

"Didn't mean to put you in that position...it's just..."

He could hear the pain in her voice and wanted desperately to respond to ease not only her loneliness but his as well.

"You'll be home soon. Shit, Jacob will be here in, what - can't be more than a month. You'll be home with David (the name burned his tongue)."

"We haven't heard from the SGC in weeks. What if it's not us; what if something is wrong on their end? Maybe it will take weeks or months to fix the gate, about the time we starve to death."


She cut him off

"Jacob - how do you even know that he is even coming?"

He tried to soothe her, hearing the desperation and anxiety in her voice,

"Look Eckhart you've got to have faith. They won't forget about us not Hadley, not Rea, not Hammond, not Jacob and not David."

"David... there's no David."

"Come on, heard the humming, actually saw the guy (mother fucking son of a bitch)."

"No, there's no David. It was over before this mission."

"You'll see, you'll be able to patch shit up when you get home."

"You don't understand, I never want to see him again."

Something about her voice gave him a chill and he reached out to her.

"Didn't hurt you...fuckin' kill the son of a bitch."

She laughed.

"Like to see him try. No, it just didn't work out."

Oh fuck, he didn't want to hear any details.

"What about Hammond, the guys..."

"The gate could have exploded, or captured or run out of money." She voice sounded a little edgy.

"Jacob..." He kept giving her options and she kept shooting them down

"He might not know. You know the Tok'ra"

"He'd know, Dana."

"We don't even know if he's alive or if he is, if he can get transportation."

"Dana, he'll come."

"Just one man in the whole universe, kind of puts a lot on his shoulders."

He could hear the trembling in her voice, trying to hold in the sobs. He pulled her into his arms, sleeping bag and all.


She nestled into his proffered shoulder trying to believe, trying to pull herself together.

"You know, Eckhart you're going to have to do this for me too."

"You get down?"

"Big time. Ask Hadley."

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Vinny was feeling insecure. The wind was howling and he was afraid that damn wall that he had finally finished would come crashing down around them. He was afraid that the food supply would not be adequate, that it would get so cold that they couldn't thaw enough drinking water never mind freeze to death. He was afraid that due to his inability to manage everything, even the things beyond his control that he would fail Eckhart, fail his team, fail Hammond, fail himself. It must have been that god damn bag pipe music he had been listening to. Some of it was war like, and he rather liked that, but the sad stuff, it tore at his soul. He was afraid, too, that he'd never get the chance at a normal life. Well that was a joke, here he was on a planet god knows how many light years from Earth and he was wondering about a normal life. You know the kind, 2 kids and a wife that tolerates you, and a dog that worships the ground you walk on.

He had trouble sleeping. With all the physical problems this planet presented and the mental torment to boot there was the torment of having her so close and yet inaccessible. She was on his team. If he could ignore the regs. would she? But aside from that there was David, maybe. Son of a bitch, how did life get so fucking complicated? Vinny had no right to even desire her, so he set his mind to other things. This brought him back to the howling wind and the wall he broke his back to build.

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Eckhart was feeling insecure. The howling wind had unnerved her. She was feeling insecure as a soldier and as a woman. She thought about her inability to compensate for the impending Supernova and safely engage the gate, and consequently about her hand in the preparations for their stay here. She went over the calculations of the day length, the seasonal variation, the humidity and precipitation expectations, the temperature fluctuations and the myriad of factors that she could only guess at. If she had screwed up, she and Vinny could be sitting in their graves right now waiting to die.

She thought about the first time she and Vinny faced that prospect and how he sent her off with all the supplies to make her way to safety while he lay dying. It brought tears to her eyes and feelings of utterly hopeless in this situation. She wondered if they we doomed to survive here on their own, would he fine her desirable. Sure there had been lots of flirting and even some major sparkage but what did he feel now. She had cast him aside for David. But she knew David was no Vinny, couldn't hold a candle to him. In her floundering to get a life she hurt him. But was it love, was it reciprocated? Was it the real thing? Could she salvage it or was it too late? Could he forgive or forget David? She had seen Vinny carry a grudge and maybe David would be the unforgivable sin. And even if he forgave and forgot, they were still here. Would they both die here, so close to one another and yet so far. Held together and apart by duty and honor. She started to sob. Why couldn't she hold it together? When had she become this emotional basket case? She was an officer in the Air Force, a god damn Lieutenant - what was with the damn tears?

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Vinny, who had been tossing and turning, tried to ignore her. Not in an uncaring way but trying to give her some privacy, he thought her mind was traveling along the same path of fear and insecurities his had this night. The harder she tried to hold it in the fiercer it welled within her. And after a racking sob he turned over and drew her to him, and held her.

"Everything will be alright. We'll get out of this. You have to believe"

He was trying desperately to believe this himself.

She had heard those words before.

"Jacob will come. He might leave my sorry ass behind, but not you. You know you can count on him."

He held her until the hopelessness passed and the promise of rescue and their survival seemed like a definite possibility. The warmth of his arms and the nearness of his body gave her hope for their future even if this was their final home. She knew even if he didn't forgive her indiscretion with David when push came to shove she could always count on Vinny.

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The warmth of her in his arms gave him hope for the future. If only she could get past David and let him have a chance. But why should he expect her to give up a life in the here and now (well maybe not exactly here or now) for some hope of a future for them. Wouldn't it be fucking sweet if when they got back Anubis and all his buddies were pushing up daisies? He could leave SGC, throw her over his shoulder and head to Mexico.

The very thought of Eckhart allowing the caveman routine made him laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"Do you want to go to Mexico?"

"You have no idea."

"No. I mean fuck it all and go..."

"With you?"

"Yeah, who'd ya think?"

"What about Anubis?"

"Fuck, Eckhart, that's fuckin' stiff competition."

"You know what I mean."

"Don't you think they've kicked his sorry ass yet?"

"Probably waiting for you, Vin"

"You didn't answer my question."

"When this mess is over."

"What if it's never over?"

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Winter was hard on them. Some days the bright blue sky and brilliant sunshine made the snow glitter like it was encrusted with diamonds. Other days were bitter with swirling snow or worst yet sleet. On those days, Vinny and Eckhart dare not venture out of the shelter. There were days when they didn't shed one article of clothing, not hat or gloves, not parka or boots, unless the call of nature came and forced the issue. Bathing had become a rare event and Eckhart longed for a good long soak. If not to get clean then perhaps to get warm. Vinny even dreamed about a steaming shower, of course, it was his dream and he wasn't alone and there was rather a lot of creative lathering.

During one particularly long stretch of weather induced inactivity Vinny got out the large tub, probably sent through the gate for laundry, and started melting snow and boiling the water. He also burned more wood than they had rationed but how else could he give Eckhart the present of a hot bath in a freezing room? As the last bucket boiled, the tub was cooling rapidly to a comfortable temperature. With a little encouragement, Vinny warmed water to rinse her hair and body. Fresh clean clothing had never more felt like such a luxury. While she was dressing Vinny stripped down and slipped into the cooling water. Eckhart, returning the kindness, warmed water to rinse the shivering soapy man.

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The tel'tac landed. They stood watching as if it were a dream, afraid to believe it was really there right in front of their eyes. That lasted for two maybe three heartbeats. Then the flood of emotions came. Home, they were really going home.

They had been preparing for over two weeks. The star, for some inexplicable reason, had calmed so that communications were slightly less frustrating than usual and the information that Jacob was on his way had been relayed.

Finally, finally word got through, they were going home. What a bittersweet moment. They were so happy, so elated that they were not forgotten, not an afterthought. But what of this? This home they had created on this barren rock. This small spot all their own. When they heard Hammond telling them to expect Jacob, tears sprang to her eyes and Vinny threw an arm around her shoulder and squeezed so hard she would have bruises. But when they walked back to camp with the supplies a certain melancholy creeped in.

Eckhart feared that this planet that held them prisoner would trap Jacob as well. Vinny was afraid by some perverse chance of fate that a tel'tac full of Jaffa would arrive moments before Jacob, and there they would be the welcoming party for their own demise. So, from cover they watched Jacob emerge and then ran through the snow to embrace him. And in a simple act everything changed, and everything was restored.

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