[ Chapter 1: The Storm Hits | Chapter 2: Finding Shelter | Chapter 3: Safe - but Trapped | Chapter 4: The Valley | Chapter 5: Looking for Food | Chapter 6: Enjoying Each Others Company | Chapter 7: Dreams | Chapter 8: Side Effects | Chapter 9: A Way Out | Chapter 10: Going Home ]

Summary: The Valley turns out to have a mild and pleasant climate, and it is fairly easy to find food as well.

They followed the stream as the walked into the valley. The grass was fairly high in many places, so they mostly kept to the areas with sand or stone. They had not walked far before they found the source of the sulphurous smell - the water from a hot spring gushed from an opening in the mountain wall, and the water pooled in a small lake, eventually purling away in a shallow brook.

"That looks wonderful!" Sam said, looking at the lake, and the soft sand on one side of it. Black sand - which given the probable volcanic origin of the hot spring, was hardly surprising. "I hope it's not too hot to bathe in." She added, with some trepidation.

"There is no actual steam coming from the location where it exits the mountain, so I would assume it runs for some distance inside it, before flowing to the outside. We should be careful, of course." Martouf observed, as they approached the lake. He kneeled beside it, and immediately realized the water was nowhere near warm enough to harm them. He stuck his hand into the water. "It is pleasant, perhaps a little below body temperature."

"Great!" Sam smiled, looking around the place. "I still have two MREs. What do you say we eat those, and then take a bath before going any further?"

"That sounds like a good idea."

They sat down on the soft sand, and ripped open the MREs. The sun was shining, and it was pleasantly warm. The insects were buzzing in the flowers nearby, and birds were singing.

"This is almost like a vacation," Sam said, as she began eating her food. "Just... this is maybe not the best food." She grinned.

"It is... edible." Martouf smiled his most charming smile at her. "But the surroundings are beautiful and peaceful - and the company is very pleasant."

"Thank you. I enjoy spending time with you, too. It's nice to not only meet when there's some sort of crisis." Sam sighed. "The others must be worried for us. I'll give the radio another try."

"You have not received any signal, though. Would that not be the case, if the others were sending? The radio is activated, is it not?"

"Yes..." Sam admitted. "Still, it's worth a try..."

"Couldn't the mountain block the transmission?"

"They very well could - and most likely are, unfortunately. We'll just have to try to find a way to get to a higher altitude." She gazed at the mountains. "The sides look much too steep to climb without special equipment, though. We'll have to wait and see, and hope we find a place where it's easier."

Martouf quickly undressed, then stepped out into the water. Sam admired his gorgeous body - while pretending not to look - then followed suit. He had, after all, already seen her naked.

"The water is really pleasant," Sam said, running her hands through the water. The lake was not deep, the water reaching to just under her arms where it was deepest. The bottom was gravel and sand, with a small amount of aquatic plants here and there. "It's strange - it doesn't look like there's any fish.

"The water is probably too hot, and there is also little for them to eat." He scooped up some water and tasted it. "Lantash says there are quite a lot of minerals in the water, and that it does not taste good, but nothing that would be dangerous for us, even if we drank it."

"Well, that's good." Sam smiled, closing her eyes as she lay on her back, and just managed to float in the warm water, most of her body remaining a little under the surface. She took a deep breath. "This is wonderful!"

They had taken the opportunity to wash the mud from their clothing, then placed it on warm rocks nearby, to let it dry.

After relaxing and playing in the water for a long time, they got up and lay on the beach, allowing the sun to dry them. They had talked a little, then fallen asleep in the pleasant warmth. There did not seem to be any danger here, and they were still tired from the previous day's ordeal.

Sam awoke, and for a few moments she just enjoyed the heat from the sun, and the light wind which now and then blew over her, and which meant it did not get too hot.

She thought about everything that had happened lately. Yesterday it had looked very bleak, and for a while she had feared Martouf and Lantash would die. She had felt a strong fear, dread, at that, and even now, just thinking about it, made her heart ache.

She was currently stranded here with them, and it was more than obvious they were interested in her. True, she had suspected that for some time - they were not exactly subtle.

She sighed softly. The feelings she had inherited from Jolinar made it difficult to know how she truly felt for Martouf and Lantash. Whenever she looked at them - or thought of them - she felt a strong love. Her heart beat faster from just being near them. Had it been that way ever since she met them? Was that due to Jolinar? She tried to remember. She thought it had grown more intense, more all-encompassing. On the other hand, she did not usually feel like this. About anyone.

So... whatever she felt, was probably at least initiated by Jolinar's emotions, even if she more than suspected her own feelings had grown from them. Would she have fallen for Martouf - and Lantash - on her own? Maybe. Probably. They had many traits she admired, they were kind and intelligent - and also very attractive. She could very well have fallen for them on her own.

Of course, the question was whether it even mattered where the feelings originated. She felt them, so that meant they were hers, did it not? And there was no question that she loved them, not when she thought back to the heart-wrenching moment when she thought she had lost them... or when she thought about how much she had enjoyed playing with them in the water... or just talking with them.

Perhaps she should take this opportunity to get to know them better - and find out if she wanted a relationship with them. If they wanted that too, of course. She suddenly became worried they might only be interested in her because she carried what was left of their mate, Jolinar.

She realized she felt a presence - the naquadah signature from Lantash, of course, but she had gotten used to feeling that in the time they had spent closely together. She opened her eyes, and saw Martouf/Lantash was sitting up nearby, looking at her.

"Hello." She smiled at him, focusing on his face and again feeling more than a bit self-conscious, since she was naked - as was he. Yes, they had seen each other in the nude a few times now, but somehow it was different than when they had played naked in the water. "You're awake."

He nodded, smiling back at her. "Yes, we woke up a short while ago, but we did not want to wake you."

"Thanks," Sam said. "Ah, we should probably check if our clothes are dry - it'll probably be evening soon."

Martouf gazed at the sky, judging the height of the sun. "It is, perhaps, some three hours past midday. The sun will set in maybe another five hours. Ample time." He did not say for what, and when he saw her blush, he smiled a little and got up. "I shall examine our clothing." He walked over to the nearby rocks, where the clothes were spread out.

Sam openly stared at his butt. It looked nice and firm... strong. She imagined touching it, holding on to it as he lay on top of her, thrusting...

She forced her thoughts away from that subject, and cleared her throat. "Are our clothes dry?"

"Not completely - and our jackets not at all," he told her.

"Okay. Well, it's nice and warm - it'll dry as we walk, and we don't need to put on the jackets yet."

"The fish in the brook are all tiny - at least all the ones I've seen. We should try to capture one of those rabbits we saw instead," Sam said.

"I agree. We should make several snares, so as to increase the likelihood that one of them will catch a something," Lantash observed. "Let's go back to one of the places where we saw rabbits."

"Yes." Sam was going through her backpack, finding the fishing line in her emergency survival kit. "We can use this for making the snares, right? There's about 50 feet of thin line, and 25 feet of a thicker one. Both are very strong." She handed him the lines.

"These will work very well. I am pleased you had those. Otherwise, we would have had to make a cord from braided or wrapped inner tree barks, or from sinuous plants, like nettles or grasses, perhaps. The fishing line is long enough for several snares - when catching rabbits, we do not need a very long piece for each snare, only something like 20-24 inches," Lantash explained.

They walked back to the nearest place where they had seen rabbits. As they walked, Lantash started collecting sticks to keep the trap suspended in the right place.

When they reached the place they were going to set the traps, Lantash showed Sam how the snare was made and set up, so it would spring when the rabbit came hopping along into it. He then used a small tree to put the snare under tension. When it was sprung, the snare would catch the rabbit around the neck, and strangle it, as it was lifted clear of the ground.

Sam only had to see it made once, before she could quickly copy it, and they made several snares before being satisfied.

They left the area, so the rabbits would return to forage. This would most likely happen around dusk. By then, Sam and Martouf/Lantash would go back to check their traps. Until that time, they continued exploring the valley, and picked fruit and berries to eat.

"It looks as if there is an opening in the mountain side over there." Martouf observed. "Do you see it? Not far from where that small stream turns and goes almost straight towards us."

"Yes, I see it," Sam said.

"We should determine if it leads to a tunnel system like the one we entered through. If so, it might be a way out... and if not, it could be a safe place to spend the night."

"I agree. Let's go check."

They found their way through the high grass, and soon reached the opening in the mountain. The flashlight no longer had power, so they lit a dry branch and used it as torch.

Martouf entered first - the torch in one hand, and his knife in the other. Sam followed, also holding her knife at the ready. However, there were no large predators, or any other dangerous animals hiding in there. The cave was fairly deep, and would make for excellent shelter, but it was soon obvious that there was no tunnel system leading from the cave, through the mountain. It was a cave, and nothing else.

"There is soft sand on part of the floor. If we collect some dry grass, we should be able to sleep comfortably here," Martouf said.

Sam nodded. "It sounds nice - let's get started, so I know I have a soft bed waiting for me!"

"There is even a small stream just outside, so it should not be a problem getting fresh water."

"I agree. It's a very good place. Now... if we're just lucky and have caught a rabbit or something similar so we can get something nice to eat, this isn't turning out so bad at all."

Chapter 6: Enjoying Each Others Company