Reversal, or, Follow the Bouncing Ball

Author's note:

Logically speaking, to follow the second fic I wrote in this milieu, I should have set this story in season 9 or later, but again, I didn't want to deal with a General Jack O'Neill who doesn't go offworld so I'm taking one small, canonical and vital thing from these seasons and putting it into an earlier setting. Please forgive.

Plus, I'm mixing events that happened in the slash version of "Scars 'N' Roses" without this story being slash and going into season 9. Again, pardonnez-moi.

They were coming; he could hear them not far behind him.

Limping, favouring his skinned right knee, he tried to hold back his fear. His breath came in panicked gasps, partly due to his exertions and partly due to his growing terror. His sandal caught on a hidden root and he stumbled, nearly going down again. He managed to keep his footing, grateful he hadn't fallen once again.

Instinctively, he knew freedom was right around the corner. He skidded out of the woods and into the field and there, before him, was the large metallic ring that had drawn him through his dreams. Here the path was smoother, and he ran as fast as fast as his short legs could propel him toward the smaller circular apparatus.

He landed hard against its metal edge and even as he looked at the symbols carved onto it, patterns flitted through his head. He knew some of the patterns were good and felt safe, others shouted danger.

One in particular called to him and he desperately wanted to press that sequence of symbols. But even as his fingers wavered over the first of the pictures, something held him back.

Visuals of a planet with constant dark and light drew him and like in his dreams, he envisaged the pattern that led to that planet. He began pressing the symbols, having to lean across the layered area to reach the uppermost level. His elbow, however, caught one of the symbols, throwing the pattern off.

"No. Nononono." The sound of his voice was odd. High pitched. This was the first time he'd spoken in the three days since´┐Ż

He pressed the master crystal to cancel the process, and paused. "Think. Thinkthinkthink." The people chasing him were close, he could hear them crashing through the woods. A pattern flit through his mind's eye and somehow he knew those symbols were all within his short reach. Without hesitation he pressed all seven in sequence, hit the middle sphere and ran towards the large circle, coming in from an angle so he'd reach the edge just as the water that wasn't water erupted outwards. He kept running as the water fled back into the circle and ran through.

He stumbled as the circle spit him out on the other side. It was dark, the immediate area illuminated only from the glow of the false liquid. He stepped to the side and watched, trembling as he waited anxiously for the ring to shut down. He took a few hesitant steps backwards, wondering if he had the strength to run and hide if his pursuers came through after him. Finally, the circle shut down, leaving him blind in the dark.

He waited long minutes, expecting the ring to light up again. As time passed and his pursuers didn't come through, he concluded that they hadn't gotten a glimpse of the lit symbols.

He was safe.

For now.

With that realization, his left knee began to throb, followed quickly by his right palm and elbow. Blinking back tears, he let himself fall onto his ass, circling his fingers around his bleeding knee. He was cold, he hurt and he was scared. He may be safe now, but he was alone. And he didn't want to be alone. He wanted to go home. Except that he wasn't exactly sure where home was.

His vision adjusted slowly as the faint dawning of sunrise became apparent. He blew onto his scraped knee through the torn pants, then hissed when that just made it hurt even more. Unsure of what to do, he looked around the slowly burgeoning landscape. Off to his right was a large cliff, its mass blocking out the sky. The rest of this world was flat; he thought he could make out a few copses of trees here and there, their tops darker against the slowly brightening sky.

The smaller apparatus was next to the ring; he'd get up and dial the pattern where he knew he could get someone to help him. Or maybe he'd try another pattern; somehow, walking in the dark, looking for help, wasn't quite as appealing anymore.

He'd need to wait until it was light, though. He still couldn't see enough to make out the symbols properly. He curled up onto his side, bringing his uninjured knee to his chest to hold in the warmth. Maybe it'd get warmer when the sun came up?

He shivered. He was tired and hungry. He closed his eyes and the dream that kept running through his head started up again. Pleasure at first, digging in hardened soil, trying to tease something out of the ground.

Then being surrounded by strangers. Feeling alarm followed by fear, followed by pain. Screaming. Not understanding why this was happening. Then more pain, unendurable pain, believing he was going to die. And then thinking he had died, because the pain was gone. As were most of his memories.

And things were different.

The same faces that had surrounded him and hurt him, now smiled down at him. They gave him food and water and clean clothes. More water to clean himself with. Took him through the round thing and to a village, brought him to a couple where money exchanged hands and he suddenly found himself part of a family.

He didn't want a new family. He had one already; he just had to find them.

Tears trickled down his face. He wanted the dream to stop. Because if it could stop, then he'd wake up. And if he woke up, he'd be big again.

- - - - - -

Something poked him in the shoulder. He came awake with a start, the fear and anxiety of the past three days filling him, as it had his every waking moment. He raised his head and looked around fearfully, afraid to see his captors again. Then he remembered; he'd escaped.

The sun had come up while he'd been asleep, but hadn't risen high enough to generate much heat. He was still cold and his knee and palm hurt. Just as he pulled back the torn and bloody material of his pants, exposing the crusted and filthy area, something poked him in the shoulder again. He turned, startled.

He came face to face with a tiny creature. It had the sharp snout of a fox, tiny ears and wide brown eyes. A small, blue tongue came out and flicked towards his cheek. He pulled back nervously as the creature followed, exposing all of its body. To his surprise, it was hovering in mid-air.

Smiling at the odd creature, he reached out a tentative hand. There was a piece of wood stuck painfully deep in his palm, but he ignored it for the moment. The animal wriggled in mid-air, as if undecided. It moved forward smoothly, with no visible means of propulsion. He only had time to touch the small, furry body when hundreds of them came swooping out of the sky, screeching and chittering at him, circling and brushing against him.

He screamed and threw himself flat against the ground, his scraped knee banging painfully as he covered his head with his hands. He could see the shadows of the creatures behind closed eyelids flitting back and forth against the sunshine, and he waited in dread for one of them to come down and bite him. After a long, panicky moment, he lowered his arms enough so that he could peek past. Somehow the number of creatures didn't seem quite so numerous and he realized that there had seemed to be more than he'd originally thought because of the long shadows they cast.

One of the animals was chasing the others away; screeching more loudly than the rest, preventing them from getting close. After a while, most seemed to lose interest and the bossy creat