Standing a few feet away, Daniel watched Jack and Teal'c as they knelt on either side of Sam and checked that she was all right. Looking at the three of them, Daniel realized that the neat, photo-framed version of SG-1 that had always been in the back of his mind -- had changed.
At that moment, Daniel felt as though he were outside a lovely home on a dark, cold wintry night. He was standing on the other side of a wrought-iron fence, gazing up at the house, its windows aglow. Through a large, multi-paned picture window, he could see a smiling Jack, flanked by Sam and Teal'c,
The vision amounted to an epiphany for Daniel: SG-1 was a team of three.
How had he missed that?
Okay, sure, he knew that Jack and Sam had feelings for each other; he'd discovered that over three years ago. He also understood that they were struggling with both the feelings and the regulations that made any relationship impossible. The funny thing was... every time he'd tried to wrap his mind around the idea of Jack and Sam as a couple, it came out wrong, regulations or no regulations. Maybe if they'd seemed more upset by what they couldn't have, or if they'd been more proactive in attaining it, a relationship might have made sense. Not that it had to. After all, did any friendship make less sense than the one he had with Jack?
Which brought him back to the change in SG-1. It was doubtful that the unrealized relationship between Jack and Sam was responsible for it. Not once had their feelings interfered with the team, and he knew damn well that neither Jack nor Sam would ever allow them to. So how had the team come down to three?
Everything had certainly seemed normal. Sure, his and Jack's friendship had seen better days, but while not what it had once been, it was there. His SG-1 family had seemed okay too. Well, until now, until his epiphany.
Actually, his SG-1 family was okay. He just wasn't a part of it.
Hell, now that he thought about it, he'd been on the outside of that house since his return.
But why? And how?
He supposed if were honest with himself - and wasn't he always - he'd have to admit that maybe this whole "outside looking in" phenomenon had started before his ascension. In fact, the feeling, now that he allowed himself to remember, had been the driving force behind accepting Oma's offer. It had seemed the perfect solution. He could make a difference, be needed, and - perhaps -- wanted.
Not that he'd hadn't heard the pained words of his friends when he'd been dying -- he had. He'd heard their regrets and the declarations of love, but he'd also understood that it wasn't enough to hold him back. There was little doubt that their feelings had been born out of the enormity of what he'd done and the horrific manner in which he'd been dying.
In looking back, he also realized that their love had been nothing more than habit. No, maybe that wasn't the right word - and shame on him. Some linguist.
No, not habit. But he'd been part of a foursome that had been together for five years, had been through more in those five years than anyone would expect to experience in a lifetime, so naturally his imminent death struck hard. He'd been a part of the pattern of their lives, a square on the quilt. But by then, maybe the scratchy square. The annoying square.
He must have known the truth, on some instinctive level, because when Oma had shown him what he could do, he'd made his choice.
And he'd learned that he couldn't make a difference unless he broke the rules, and he learned that he wasn't really needed at all. He'd also come face-to-face with his love for Jack -- his all-encompassing love and need for Jack. In facing the truth of that love, he'd become, once again, best friends with regret.
When Jack had been captured by Baal, he'd gone to him in the cell --fresh with his new found love -- and had foolishly asked him to ascend. Jack had turned him down flat and had later asked that Daniel let him die -- something Daniel couldn't even begin to consider. But damn it, once Jack put it out there, once it had been said - begged for - Daniel had been left with no choice but to do what he wasn't supposed to do - namely interfere.
He'd saved Jack.
Oma hadn't been all that surprised. By then, she'd figured him out. She hadn't been shocked when he tried to save Abydos either, and Daniel certainly hadn't been surprised when he'd failed. He'd been full of guilt, but not surprised.
When he'd gone to Oma and requested that he be allowed to move on - to cease to exist - she'd acquiesced, but in a way he'd never have anticipated: She'd allowed him to be reborn. Then, in her infinite wisdom, she'd worked her magic on Jonas, thus bringing SG-1 to Vis Uban.
So here he was, almost a year later, reunited with SG-1, yet - not. Because now he could see that he'd truly never rejoined them.
Hell, maybe SG-1 didn't exist at all anymore. After all, when was the last time they'd gone off-world as a first contact team? Or the last time the four of them had worked together? They'd been busy, true, what with trying to find the Lost City of the Ancients and fighting Anubis and his super soldiers -- but SG-1 as Daniel had once known it? No, it truly no longer existed.
But the essence of SG-1, that did exist - and it didn't include him.
Okay, so change was in the air and the handwriting was on the concrete walls of the SGC. Even, apparently, within the strongholds of their allies as well. But change wasn't confined to the SGC or its allies - it was within each of them.
Teal'c was in love, and Daniel was pretty sure that in the not too distant future, he would choose to leave the SGC in order to be with Ishta and Rya'c, and would finally lead his people to freedom.
For Sam, well, even with Pete very much in her life, it seemed that her feelings for Jack kept her from any real commitment. He hoped the day would come when she'd accept a position that succeeded in removing her from Jack's command, because when that happened, he had no doubt that she'd reach out to Jack... and he'd accept.
But for now, in whatever form SG-1 took, it was just Jack, Teal'c and Sam. As it had been for the year Daniel had been ascended.
Daniel had been, and still was, a peripheral.
He wondered what it had been like for Jonas. Not that Jonas had known any different. To him, SG-1 had been something for him to look at with awe and amazement and, for the majority of his time, had been Jack, Sam, and Teal'c. He'd never been on the inside, so couldn't know what he was missing.
But Daniel had ... and did.
At that moment, watching the three of them, Daniel understood that he was seeing life as it would be for him. He'd exist for those he cared about, would do what he needed to do for them, translate what needed translating, but he'd never truly be a part of them.
Apparently there was a certain symmetry in his life. His first eight years on Earth had been full of wonder, family, and love, the last eight years - similar. Two families, two loves, and wonders unbelievable. But the years in between had been the real years; the true years. And now he knew that they'd represented how he would live out the rest of his life. Perhaps Oma had known this as well. Which begged the question: Why send him back?
Daniel had no answer, but he had one for himself: The "outside looking in" was his penance.
Jack and Teal'c helped Sam to her feet and smiled at each other as Jack reached up and skimmed a hand over Teal'c's hair. Daniel heard Sam's soft laugh, and even though he accepted his place now, he still experienced a sharp pain in his gut.
The three of them joined him as Jack took out the Asgard communication device. Grinning at Sam, he said, "Beam us up, Scotty."
A moment later, they were standing in front of Thor, who bowed his head in Sam's direction. "I do not know who 'Scotty' is, but I am very glad you are alive and well, Major Carter. Welcome to the Daniel Jackson."
Sam looked up at Jack and mouthed, "The Daniel Jackson?" Jack rolled his eyes and shrugged. Daniel couldn't really blame them. He'd been a bit shocked himself since he'd certainly done nothing to warrant a ship being named after him, let alone that it should be Thor's.
Remembering how he'd left the SGC, he smiled and said, "Uhm, guys? When I was plucked out of the briefing room, Doctor Weir was in negotiations with a few Goa'uld system lords. I'm afraid we left her holding a rather tricky bag."
Looking surprised, Jack said, "Oh, she was, was she? Well, isn't that too bad."
"Why on earth would she be negotiating with system lords?" Sam asked.
Daniel shrugged noncommittally.
"Thor, how soon-"
"I will return you now, O'Neill."
Daniel couldn't get over it. Weir got the Arctic site and then Atlantis; Sam; a promotion and command of SG-1; and Jack -- the SGC.
And what do you know, the flagship team really was down to three now. Just not the three Daniel would have expected.
Unfortunately, at least to Daniel's way of thinking, an important part of SG-1 had been lost. Without Jack, what was SG-1 now? Not that it really mattered, because if his thoughts on Teal'c and Sam were right, SG-1 was temporary. But for now, it was all he had, and damn it, he'd make the most of it while giving Jack all the help he could.
P3Y-489. A lovely planet if one didn't count the weather. But right now, they were counting the weather, and the term "thunder storm" was not an adequate description for what was happening. Thunder was something they had on Earth, but on P3Y-489, it was Armageddon. Lightning was a bomb hitting the ground and the strikes were getting closer and the rain itself was lethal.
They were running for their lives because of a rainstorm.
Daniel could barely see through the violent downpour, but he knew that Teal'c and Sam were ahead of him and could just see the outline of the 'Gate up ahead. He was relieved at how close it was, and a moment later, he was feeling even better because he could just discern Teal'c punching in the symbols. The movement of the 'Gate was a wonderful sight even through the pouring rain.
The wormhole opened and Teal'c grabbed Sam's arm. As he pulled her up the short steps, he yelled back at Daniel to hurry. The wind buried his words but Daniel didn't need to hear them to know what he'd said.
A bolt of lightning struck the ground behind Daniel and almost knocked him off his feet but he kept running. He was so close...
He made it up to the 'Gate and dove in seconds after Teal'c and Sam.
Daniel felt something wrong almost immediately. Something... odd. But then he was a swirling mass of molecules... and seconds later, was tossed out of the Stargate like so much junk. He was thrown so hard and far that he completely missed the platform. But instead of the concrete of the SGC, he hit soft grass and rolled... and rolled... and rolled ... and rolled....
Okay, he was not in Kansas. Hell, he wasn't even in the 'Gate room. Where he was, was on his back looking up at a blue sky. He blinked at the puffy white clouds.
Daniel stared at the birds winging their way overhead and knew that while he didn't have a clue where he was, he was pretty sure he knew how he was where he was - wherever that ...was. Daniel rubbed his right eye. Time to back the truck up. Okay - he would bet that the moment he'd gone through the 'Gate - he had gone through a Stargate, right?
Okay, so when he'd gone through, a bolt of lightning must have struck the wormhole, thus splitting the energy stream.
Gee, wasn't it funny how not much of his body was working, but his mind seemed not only okay, but was apparently channeling Sam?
Two minutes later, he almost wished he was still unconscious when he rolled painfully onto his side. He groaned at the effort but still managed - somehow - to get to his feet, swaying, but finally upright. His head was killing him, but as he looked back at the 'Gate, he realized how fortunate he'd been.
The Stargate sat on a high, large, stone foundation with at least twenty steps carved into the rock leading up to it. If he'd hit that rock and rolled down the steps instead flying over them, he'd probably have broken every bone in his body.
Daniel checked his wrist and sighed in relief. He had the GDO. He limped his way to the DHD, which stood at the base of the platform, and began the dialing process. When he pressed down on the center - nothing happened.
"Of course," he muttered. Does a DHD ever work under circumstances like this? Of course not.
He tried again. And again - and again - and again.
He finally stepped away and looked at the damn thing. He'd seen Sam take one apart before and had certainly helped her more times than he could count, but his body was definitely not willing to do what his mind required of it. He moved slowly and carefully to the steps and lowered himself down. Once there, he relaxed back a bit and took stock of not only his surroundings, but himself as well.
Okay, he was sore and bruised, his right hip was screaming bloody murder and his right leg was throbbing from the knee down. He'd probably twisted it "in flight." He rubbed the back of his head gingerly and found a nice-sized knot. Judging by the throbbing over his left eye - yep, another one rising on his left temple. At least there was no broken skin and his headache felt pretty normal -- for him.
He couldn't speak for his vision because, thanks to the fact that his glasses seemed to have gone AWOL, he wasn't seeing all that clearly, but he wasn't seeing double either. He decided that when he felt stronger, he'd go looking them, but for now, he was content to stay put and look blurrily around.
Well, at least it was a pretty place. The grass was thick, and a rich green rarely seen on Earth unless you were in New Zealand. There was a grove of trees a hundred yards to his right and they looked very much like aspens. There was a soft and fairly warm breeze while above him, the sky was a beautiful blue that brought the word "azure" to mind. The clouds he'd seen upon opening his eyes were gone now, and it seemed that if the planet was anything like Earth, it was late afternoon.
He looked to his left, and didn't like the sight that greeted him. Off in the distance sat a beautiful mountain range, but unfortunately the tallest of them had lazy wisps of what appeared to be smoke rising up from it.
He'd landed on a planet with a... volcano.
Would his good luck never end?
He really needed to check the DHD again - as in NOW. He hauled his ass up, which hurt big time thanks to his muscles having already stiffened up. He worked out the kinks - carefully - before taking off his backpack, vest, and jacket, and heading to the DHD.
Once there, he decided to try and dial out ... one more time.
Naturally, it didn't work.
Daniel walked around it until he could see what he thought might be the way inside. He carefully lowered himself to the ground and bit back a groan as he did. With a little work, he got the DHD open.
And immediately wished he hadn't.
He closed his eyes as his stomach plummeted thirteen floors.
He knew damn well what the interior should look like, knew it should be full of crystals, and that there definitely should have been a blue crystal - for receiving, and a red crystal - for sending. This DHD had no red crystal.
He finally opened his eyes and looked over at the 'Gate.
The one-way only Stargate.
People could 'Gate in, but they couldn't 'Gate out.
He couldn't 'Gate out.
"Okay, Jackson, you know the drill," he finally said. "What do I have, and what do I need."
He looked up at the sky and yelled, "I need a FUCKING DHD THAT WORKS!"
Oh, God, he'd just made his headache worse.
He sat back and faced the facts: he wasn't Sam, and he sure as hell wasn't MacGyver. He couldn't take two shoelaces, a tube of toothpaste and the crystal from his watch, do some hocus-pocus and, voila, have a working 'Gate. In his case, he'd just end up with bad breath while walking out of his boots and having no idea of the time of day.
Of course, when you're alone on a planet that you don't know from Adam - time was relative anyway. Actually, Daniel could make it any time of the day he damn well wanted.
He looked at his watch and noted that it was two-thirty. Okay, they'd left the SGC at eight in the morning and gated to a planet that was just seeing the sun go down. They'd made camp, spent the night, and some seventeen hours after leaving the SGC, a horrific storm had come up, which in turn, had sent them running for the 'Gate.
Which meant that his two-thirty was two-thirty in the morning back... home.
Okay, so right now, on this planet, as far as he was concerned, it was two-thirty in the afternoon. So there.
And he was back to what he didn't have.
Enough of the needing Jack already.
If he were going to be honest with himself - wait - been there, said that. Okay, the likely truth was that he'd probably be here for a while.
Okay - maybe -- forever.
Which meant that he needed to plan for the future.
He nodded to himself and was instantly reminded of his headache. On second thought, maybe he'd plan for the future tomorrow. Today, the grove was looking good for the night. So far, the only sign of life he'd seen had been birds, and pretty damn normal looking birds at that, so maybe he'd even have a safe night. No creepy crawlers to keep him up.
Daniel held onto the DHD and used it to lever himself up. Once standing, his natural curiosity asserted itself and, in spite of everything, he wanted to check out the Stargate more than he wanted to set up camp. The DHD had no symbols, carvings or writings on it, but that didn't appear to be the case on the platform that held the Stargate.
Two pillars flanked the 'Gate and he found himself drawn to them first. Not even climbing the twenty steps could bank his need to view them. By the time he'd reached the top, his hip was burning and his leg was on fire, but once an archaeologist, always an archaeologist. He limped over to the column on his right.
Up close, he found it beautiful. The material was solid, not dissimilar to granite, but with a lovely, natural pattern running through it that would have made a sculptor giddy with joy. There were intricate and delicate designs carved into the pillar and he studied them, eyes narrowed in concentration. The designs were simple, yet elegant, and consisted of a trail of what looked like ivy that circled the pillar. Near the top, what looked like a hawk -- or maybe an eagle - soared upward; while just below it, another bird, smaller, but no less beautiful, sat on a branch, seemingly content. The detail on both birds was extraordinary.
Daniel moved around to the other side and froze. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. He finally reached up and slowly traced the language of the Ancients.
"Pass this way only once."
Not only prophetic, but the words confirmed that the Stargate had never been intended to be anything other than what it was: a one-way ride. But why? He studied the pillar, looking for anything that might tell him that it was more than it was. He even pretended for a moment that he was Sam and tapped it in several places. He came to the brilliant conclusion that it was a pillar. He moved to the other one and found similar carvings... and another prophetic saying.
"Judgment has been passed."
Suddenly Daniel felt sick to his stomach. He backed away, his body reacting with muscle spasms.
Judgment has been passed.
Had... had the Ancients done this to him?
He couldn't cope with the thought. And yet - it made sense. A horrible kind of karmic justice.
He swallowed the bile that rose up and, without a backward glance, walked down the stairs. He picked up his pack, jacket, and vest and then moved back out to the grassy area where, several feet away, Sam's pack sat in a green heap. He picked it up and began the short journey to the grove of trees. He was half-way there when he was struck by another thought.
If the SGC, by some miracle beyond his ability to comprehend, were actually able to figure out where he was, and they dialed the 'Gate, and came through - they'd be stuck here just as he was. He turned around and looked back at the 'Gate.
Would Sam be able to get the DHD to work? Could they borrow another DHD's sending crystal? He pictured the interior again... and realized that there was no place to put it. And even if enough equipment could be sent through to rig another DHD, there was no telling what would happen. If this Stargate had been built by the Ancients to be one-way, he had to assume steps were taken to ensure it would remain a one-way 'Gate - no matter what. The Asgard couldn't be counted on to send a ship, and Jacob was God knows where, so the Tokr'a were out. Which again, meant that anyone who came through - was staying for God knew how long. He couldn't allow that. Couldn't risk it for his friends.
But why a DHD at all? Was that part of the joke? Trick the poor schmuck into thinking they had a working DHD and then WHAM? Did it really matter now? He couldn't let anyone else become trapped here.
Daniel dumped the packs and started back. Once there, he opened it again and took out the blue crystal.
No one would be coming through that Stargate.
He supposed this would also keep the Goa'uld from coming through. Although, he suspected this 'Gate was not on the Cartouche and was no address the Goa'uld knew.
He pocketed the crystal and headed back to the packs and the grove of trees.
All right, his tent was up and he'd put together a small campfire. It was time to go through both his and Sam's packs (not to mention all of his pockets) to determine what he had and what he'd need to survive. Thanking God that he'd picked up Sam's pack when outrunning the storm, he pulled them and his vest toward him and began the inventory, beginning with food.
Sam had six days' worth of MRE's, he had the same. Both of them had several power bars, and in Sam's kit, he found two large zip-lock bags of homemade trail mix. He loved her trail mix; so for a few days, he'd be in heaven. He had several Hershey candy bars, a couple of apples, and a few other munchies that would keep him happy for several days. He had both his and Sam's canteen and water-purification tablets, but he was delighted to find that Sam also had one of the BQ collapsible basins. He had both their mess kits and, as he checked out Sam's, he was very glad he'd opted for the larger version. His had the mixing/eating bowl, the utensils, the collapsible drinking cup and cooking pot. He also had the compact, pull-apart grill, thank God. Sam had the regulation canvas mess kit, so that gave him another set of utensils, a frying pan and the lid that did double duty as a serving plate.
Tools, weapons and other necessities were next. Between the two packs, he had four types of flashlights: One Duo-Lite, which converted to a standing lantern when he pulled on the base; his penlight, as well as the regulation SureFire E-1, and finally, Sam's E-2. Between the latter, he had better than a year of light. For his Duo-Lite, he had a pack of extra batteries, so again, a good year if he were careful.
As far as tools went, Sam had the Glock collapsible field spade while he had the collapsible hatchet, his K-bar knife and his Dakota pocket tool, which would give him several implements in one, including a mini-saw. His weapons consisted of his sidearm; fully loaded, and two magazines. Both packs had survival kits, which meant he had two button compasses, night lights, flints and strikers, cutters, matches, pencils, sewing kits, wire saws, whistles, snare wires, more water-purificationtabs, safety pins, and fishing kits.
Okay, health and hygiene. Because Sam was now SG-1's leader, he'd become their official medic so he had the large first aid kit. Inside, he had everything from aspirin to antibiotics; bandages of all sizes and needs; surgical items; a couple of different types of scissors and tweezers. He had several packets (his and Sam's) of the disposable ReadyBath washcloths and two bottles of Purel.In Sam's pack he found several of the ReadyBath shampoo cap packages and he smiled. They'd certainly come in handy, he supposed, but at least now he knew her secret to great looking hair no matter what. He chortled as he continued his inventory.
Deodorant (two), toothpaste (two full tubes), his shaving kit, her make-up kit.
Sam had make-up in the field?
He squinted as he peered in the black bag. When he spotted the Tampons, he shook his head. No, no, this was TMI. He started to close it, but a tube of Chapstick caught his eye. He fished it out. This was a must have. He also found a squeeze bottle of sun block - SPF 30. Very handy.
Okay, how about comfort? Well, he had his and Sam's survival blankets, but he also had the one in his field kit. Two tents and two sleeping bags. He had rope that came with his one combat net (one of Jack's ideas), and the net could be used as a hammock, a fishing net, game trap or a method of keeping his food stores away from animals. And finally, he had his portable CD player, three CD's and one packet of batteries to keep it alive for a while.
He looked at all the items, now spread out around him, and nodded. Yep, that about covered it. There were other small miscellaneous items, but overall - he was pretty pleased with what he had. And of course, he knew what he needed.
And speaking of what he needed - he needed to eat. The sun was lowering and his stomach was telling him it had been far too many hours since he'd fed it. He dug in his supply of MRE's and chose the black bean and rice burrito.
Night had finally fallen and, based on what time the sun had finally set, it appeared that this planet's rotation was similar to Earth's. It had been after eight when the sun finally disappeared behind the mountain range and Daniel's volcano. So far, he'd seen several signs of wildlife, including several small animals that looked remarkably like dark-furred rabbits. He'd spotted quite a few small chittering animals in the trees that could have been squirrels. The bird life was amazing, and once he'd settled in, he'd enjoyed their show. They certainly hadn't been afraid of him. Several different species, all probably identifiable to an avid bird watcher, had landed nearby, twittered at him, and had seemed perfectly comfortable when he'd tossed bits of cracker at them.
Now, several hours later, he sat on his sleeping bag, leg propped up on his pack while the campfire blazed brightly. He had his journal open on his lap and was writing small - very small - in order to conserve space and thus paper.
After my evening meal of a burrito that tasted like rubber chicken, I stripped in order to inspect the damages. My knee is quite swollen so I was right - I twisted it a good one. My hip is another story altogether. The bruise is pretty massive so I figure it was the first thing that came into contact with this planet, which I've dubbed "Jacksonville". And why not? Tomorrow, I'll try and get some walking in, try to find water - this greenery has to be flourishing somehow. I'll also try to find my glasses. Exploring could be kind of tricky otherwise. I'm surprised my spare pair wasn't in my pack. I don't remember the last time I removed them. One of those mysteries of life.
I suspect that Sam has long since figured out what happened, and much like we did when she and Jack were stranded in Antarctica, they've theorized that I'd be in one of the 'Gate planets near Earth. Of course, I know what they don't: I'm not on one of those planets. When we searched them the last time, well, none of them looked anything like this one. And I'll add another wrinkle: The power behind that lightning was like nothing any of us had ever seen and probably sent me farther than they could imagine. I just hope Sam and Teal'c had a better landing within the SGC than we all had the first time this happened.
He stopped writing. He was assuming - at least in his journal -- that it was a freak of nature that had done this and not... the Ancients, although freak and weird storms were just their style. But no matter how it had happened, he suspected that he was somewhere far away and that the 'Gate coordinates in their database would never lead them to search here, not that they could - now.
Daniel let the pen drop from between his fingers.
Funny how it was hitting him - suddenly like this. No, that wasn't right - he'd certainly known and understood before - at least intellectually, but now, at this moment - it was working inside of him, striking every organ, sending out flyers and lighting neon signs in his brain - it was hitting him where it hurt - emotionally.
Daniel rubbed his eyes and rested back against the tree trunk. He really needed to be more hopeful here. Okay, finding him was... unlikely, but there could still be a planet full of people and maybe even another Stargate - somewhere. And if no Stargate, maybe an advanced people with... ships. Hell, it was only his first day, fer crying out loud.
Daniel smiled. Somehow, using one of Jack's catch phrases made the night a bit less lonely. It was ridiculously comforting. He picked up the pen and started writing again.
I've always known how powerful the brain can be, and what the power of suggestion can do to someone. I've only been on this planet for a few hours and, for a moment, I was ready to accept defeat.
Daniel looked at his words and the smile that had been in place since using a Jack-phrase - faded. Because for all the hope in the last two sentences, the truth was that on every level Daniel possessed - this planet felt - virginal. He was a man dedicated to observation and, during his travels through the Stargate, he'd certainly stepped on enough planets to know one that was basically untouched by man. Even on Tonane's world, where the environment was sacred and his people lived as if nature were their family, there were differences that could be felt. Differences in the land, the air, the water and the animals, not counting the forms taken by the Xe'ls.
This planet was ... pristine. The animals had no fear of him, the air was the purest he could remember experiencing, and there was nothing to interfere with the natural color of the sky during the day, or the incredible light show at night.
He closed his journal and tucked it into his pack. He didn't believe that he'd find any people, but he would look. He didn't know what had happened to anyone else sent through this 'Gate, but he'd look for signs even though every instinct told him he was alone.
He was an anthropologist, an archaeologist, and a linguist. The latter wasn't likely to come in handy here, but the first two, plus his training with the Air Force - and Jack - would. Tomorrow, as planned, he'd search for water. He'd also check out the plant life. He knew how to tell the difference between poisonous plants on Earth and the edible kind and he'd pray that the rules would hold true here. White sap, acidic, sour smell - avoid. Watch the birds. They'd lead you to both water and edible food. Same with any game. Tomorrow was a day for observing and learning.
Tonight was for sleep.
His tent was up, but he didn't want to use it. He had no idea about the wild life, but he needed the stars - he needed the presence and sounds of life. The tent was simply too confining. He tossed more twigs on the fire; not for warmth, as the night was pleasant, but for ... comfort, and then angled himself up. He wanted to walk a bit, get his leg loose before lying down. It was painful, but necessary. Favoring both hip and knee, he walked the perimeter of his little world, saw and heard nothing but the noise of the night: an Earth night. He could hear what sounded like an owl only a few yards away, and the sound of crickets was unmistakable. He smiled.
Somehow - a world with crickets had to be okay.
He finally walked back to his bag and sat down. He inflated his pillow (his one "never leave Earth without" item), did a mental checklist and nodded to himself. He'd done all he could to protect the food stores from any late-night scavengers. He slipped his gun within easy reach and pulled out the tube of Ben-Gay that he always kept handy. He applied a liberal coating to his knee and after working it in, he decided to lie down. He put his hands behind his head and, through the canopy of branches, watched the night sky.
He woke up inside his sleeping bag. He might have slept longer but there seemed to be a bird fight just overhead. Daniel groaned in both pain and frustration as he rolled over. He sniffed the air and frowned. Lifting his head, he said, "Okay, whose turn was it to make coffee?"
It hit him.
Daniel dropped his head back down. Took a couple of deep breaths.
No one to make coffee but him.
The good news was that he had coffee to make.
He tossed back the top of the sleeping bag and sat up. He looked around ... and nodded to himself. The camp was undisturbed. Well, as undisturbed as he could see without his glasses.
He'd chosen to sleep in his boxers due to his knee and he looked down now to check it. He grimaced. Definitely still swollen. He touched it gingerly and was relieved that the skin wasn't all that warm to the touch. Just a good wrench. He didn't need to look at his hip - he knew darn well that it would be quite colorful. He got up slowly - warily - his hip and knee protesting loudly. He really needed to relieve himself - which reminded him that he'd need to think about sanitation. Damn, not to mention that his supply of toilet paper wasn't going to last forever. Okay, his and Sam's. He was very grateful to her at that moment. She was a squisher. He never did more than toss a couple of rolls into the top of his pack, but she squished hers in the bottom, which meant that he'd hit the mother lode. She had no less than six rolls, all squished but very usable.
In the near future, when during a very boring moment, he'd count squares, determine how many he'd need on a daily basis and thus how long his stash would last. Might even be the highlight of his day. Smiling at that, he pulled a roll from the top of his bag and headed for a thick stand of trees several yards away. Thanks to his knee and hip, it was slow going, but good exercise.
Coffee, a power bar, some personal grooming, more Ben-Gay, and he was left standing in the middle of his camp trying to decide what to do next. Funny, last night he'd had a plan and now it was as if he couldn't move at all.
Daniel gave an absent shake of his head, walked over to the sleeping bag and sat down. He retrieved his journal, opened it, picked up his pen, and started to write.
So much to do - so much time to do it in. I am finally a man with a lot of time on his hands. No translations, no greet and meet, no "rocks" to study, and no planets to visit. No fish to feed, nor a piano to tune. Earth is on its own in defeating Baal and his inherited super soldiers. The Arctic site will have to do without Daniel Jackson. Oh, wait - they were already doing without. Well, they'd just have to keep on doing -- without. So there. As for you, Doctor Weir, you and your "Team Atlantis" are definitely on your own. But then, you knew that. Didn't need my sorry ass anyway. Didn't want my sorry ass. Well, look at me now. All the time in the world.
Yep, you'll all have to do without Daniel Jackson. I've got other fish to fry (assuming this planet has fish) (and assuming they're edible and not weird bugged-eyed aliens - been there, done that, had the memorial service to prove it) and a planet to explore - one of these days, anyway.
Yep... yep... yep. General O'Neill will have to get along without ... me.
The pen dropped, rolled off the journal and onto the soft grass. Daniel sat quietly and completely unaware that he was no longer writing.
Well, he'd found his glasses. His broken glasses. Daniel patted his pocket and gave an exasperated shake of his head. One lens, the right one, had been shattered, but the left lens was intact. If he really needed to see something, he could use it like a monocle. Daniel grinned at the idea. Okay, back to exploring.
He'd been shaken out of his strange ennui earlier when it had hit him that if this had to happen to someone, it was far better that it be him. Just the idea that it might have been Sam had been enough to cheer him up and get him going with his original plan to explore.
Sam would have left so much behind. So many people who loved her. Her brother, Mark, whom she'd finally managed to build a solid relationship with, and of course, her father, Jacob. Pete would have been destroyed. Daniel also knew how the SGC felt about Sam, and her loss would have been... horrific. And, of course, there was Jack. Daniel really didn't think Jack would have been able to handle the loss of Sam.
Teal'c would have left Rya'c behind, Brayta'c and Ishta. And the hole left in Jack would have been almost as horrible as losing Sam.
For Daniel, there was no one. And this time, his friends would do fine. In fact, it was altogether possible that everyone was tired of his disappearing and dying. This might have been the camel-breaking straw.
"Again? He's gone AGAIN? Well, no wake this time. No siree. You can only have so many funerals for a guy, you know?"
Hell, the SGC would probably be taking pools on him.
"I bet he shows up within... five months."
"I'll take that bet. I say eight months tops and he comes back married to a green alien with three kids."
And he just knew that Ferettii would get in on it.
"I say he comes back in three months - pregnant."
Daniel couldn't help himself - he laughed. Good old Lou.
All right, back to the business at hand. Thanks to his compass, he had north pegged. The volcano was east of him. The Stargate, south. He'd been traveling in a westerly direction for approximately an hour and the foliage was definitely thickening. The birds overhead had increased and he knew he was close to water. He could almost smell it. Leaning on the cane he'd fashioned earlier, he took a moment to rest before continuing toward what he hoped was water.
Ten minutes later, he heard it. Daniel stopped to listen to the beautiful sound of rushing water. Four minutes later, he found it. He broke through the brush to find himself on the edge of a beautiful river. Rocks, foliage, small rapids. He looked upriver and could see where it widened and slowed. He noted that it was much narrower downriver and he could see the water rushing over large rocks and boulders.
He headed up river.
Okay, this was more like it. The river was now moving at a lazy pace with few rocks impeding its progress. For a good ten feet in, the water was shallow and he could see the rocky bottom. Dark shapes moved with the flow and every now and then, the sunlight would capture a bit of scale and illuminate the quicksilver fish.
He had water and he had fish. Daniel pumped his arm up and down twice in triumph.
Then it hit him: He should probably test the water.
Daniel moved to the edge, squatted down and dipped a finger in. He held it to his nose and sniffed. All right, it smelled ... real. Even better than river water at home. He tasted it. Oh, yeah, that was good. Very good. He dipped his cupped hand in and slurped up more. Very, very good. This was, in fact, the freshest water he'd ever tasted.
Virginal. You can't disguise it. Add man and a planet changes. Irrevocably. No matter how gentle man was with the land, no matter how much he revered it - he changed it.
This world was simply untouched - until now.
He finally rose and headed up the slight incline and away from the river. Now he had to find a new home. Not too close, but not so far as to make it a major chore. He searched the ground, sometimes even resorting to the binoculars in order to see more clearly. He needed to ensure that he didn't choose an animal path to the river.
It didn't take long. Worn down grass, foraged greenery, yep, he'd found the animal walk. He immediately moved in an easterly direction away from it and eventually found what appeared to be he perfect spot for a permanent camp. Sheltered by a stand of approximately eight trees that looked like oaks, the site was close enough to the river that he'd still be able to hear it at night, yet wouldn't be bothered by the insects or animals. The animal walk was no danger thanks to the distance, yet was still close enough that when he needed to start thinking about hunting - he'd be in near perfect position.
As for now, it was time for a lunch break. Which was an excuse to rest his knee. He lowered himself to the ground under a large... oak, for lack of a better name... and took out his canteen. Now that water was a sure thing, he drank a bit more liberally than he might have otherwise. He took out one the bags of trail mix and an apple and went to town. He enjoyed every bite of the fruit, knowing full well that he had only one other and when it was gone, he wasn't likely to ever have one again. The temperature was much the same today as it had been yesterday. There weren't a great many blossoming plants and he certainly wasn't bothered by his allergies, so based on the sun's position throughout the day and the length of the day, he'd guess that like on Earth, it was late summer. He took another gulp of water, stuffed the bag of trail mix back into his pack and, using his makeshift cane, levered himself up. He needed to dispose of the apple core while perhaps setting the stage for the apple trees of the future. Probably not a future he'd see, but still....
Daniel looked up at the sky and the clouds that were rapidly moving in. They weren't ominous but they were rain clouds. Time to head back to camp and hope he could beat the rain. He picked up the pace. His day of exploring had netted him a new camp site, water and, to top it off, he'd discovered several bushes that had been full of berries. He'd also found a small stand of trees that looked a helluva lot like walnut trees. He'd been literally astounded by that find. In his pack he carried samples of his discoveries and he prayed they weren't lethal.
Since he'd moved in a fairly circular pattern from the river, getting back to camp took less time than his day's travels and he beat the rain by fifteen minutes. He just managed to get everything inside the tent and climb in himself when it started. The rain wasn't heavy, but it was continual for over an hour. By the time it had slowed to a drizzle, the sun had gone down. Daniel was evidently not sleeping under the stars tonight, nor was he going to have a hot dinner.
By the time the rain was nothing more than a soft, gentle patter on the surface of his tent, Daniel had unzipped the opening enough to enjoy both the fresh air and the smell of new rain. He straightened up the tent, took off his boots and pants, applied more Ben-Gay and thanked whomever that he carried the kind that had no scent. He didn't want anything to interfere with the smell of nature that was currently entering the tent.
With the Duo-Lite next to him, Daniel sat with legs splayed out in front of him. Between them sat two piles; one of fruit and one of nuts. In the fruit pile there were three different kinds of berries. He'd tested the leaves of their plants, smelled the clear sap, but now he needed to do the final test. He broke open one of the small red berries and smeared a bit of it on the inside of his forearm. He did the same with the other two types. For the "walnuts" he could only crack open the shell and take it from there. He did. Inside the first one sat a near perfect walnut. Feeling a heck of lot like Adam accepting the apple from Eve, but not knowing why, he bit into the corner of the meaty nut.
Gosh, it tasted like a walnut too. He was tempted to pop the whole thing in his mouth, but he needed to give it time to either kill him - make him sick - or ... not. He bundled the berries and walnuts up and put them in one Sam's sample baggies. Tomorrow - or sooner - he'd know if he had fruit and nuts.
He grinned. Fruit and nuts. Jack and Daniel. Or Daniel and Jack.
He really hoped there'd be no rash on his arm tomorrow. He wanted those berries. He wasn't worried about the walnuts, he knew those were good - but better safe than sorry.
The rain, a soft pitter-patter on the tent, was very relaxing. Daniel piled the two packs on top of each other and rested back against them. Five minutes later he had to admit that he wasn't built for doing nothing. But there was nothing he could do. He'd already taken care of his knee, he'd eaten, been a good boy and flossed and brushed and now, at seven-fifteen, he was bored out of his skull. He supposed he should be grateful. He knew that the days ahead would be full and he should take this quiet time and let his body heal. Catch up on his sleep. Daniel turned off the Dual-lite, took off his boots but remained on top of his bag. He got out his pillow, inflated it, rested it against the packs, and finally sat back.
In the darkness, he lay still and watched the rain from the open flap -- but his mind was several galaxies away.
Daniel felt ... accomplished. His new camp was up and he'd built a rock pit for his camp fire. He'd also dug the requisite hole on the other side of the grove, and thus several yards from camp, for disposing of his waste. Creating fire was no problem so burning his waste periodically was a done deal. Eventually, he'd design a latrine, but for now, the hole would do. He'd been relieved upon waking to find no rash or reaction of any kind to the fruit or nut, so not only had he dined on his findings, but he'd already collected more. By afternoon, he'd settled in to begin the process of making traps for hunting. Shooting his game wasn't really practical, especially since, for all intents and purposes, he didn't have glasses.
His brain was full of information, most of it rarely tapped, even at the SGC. It was being tapped now. Years of learning about other cultures, not to mention all he'd learned from Jack, was now being put to good use.
He needed to begin to live from the land while he still had his own food supplies.
He'd still seen no signs of anything larger than a rabbit and suspected he was going to be eating quite a lot of fish and rabbit stew. What he needed to find tomorrow were root vegetables. He had fruit, nuts, fish and small game and was feeling pretty damn good.
But if there were larger animals around, animals such as cougars or the like, he'd need more than a tent for protection. Not to mention weather issues. And that meant... building a real shelter.
And when he was more secure with his new ... home ... he'd look at further explorations of the planet. He also wanted to go back to the Stargate. He wasn't sure why he needed to do that, but he... did. Maybe to do nothing more than look at something that meant so much to him. Something that had represented a good chunk of who he was - had been.
The leaves were turning, which cemented Daniel's conclusions regarding the time of year. He'd been on the planet for two full months and, by his reckoning, it was the end of October. The land was turning rich umber, bright golds, and deep burnt reds. The shadows were longer, the days shorter. The winds that came up reminded him of the East coast. Windy Octobers, swirling leaves and winter on the horizon.
His cabin was almost finished and his well was a thing of beauty. Funny how he'd been so worried about fresh water and so glad to find the river, that he'd forgotten all about the need for finding ground water, especially with winter coming. When he'd finally remembered, he'd dragged the information from his brain, and set about building a much more convenient method of procuring the precious liquid.
The first thing on the agenda for his well had been the collection of rocks and boulders of all shapes and sizes. They would serve as his lining. Then he'd put together a ladder because he'd no idea how far down he'd have to dig. He'd chosen a spot about five yards from the cabin, where the grass had been particularly green, and had dug a shallow hole, which he'd allowed to sit for three days. He'd kept it filled with river water however, in order to soften the ground. Once sufficiently softened, he'd started digging. He'd gone down over seven feet before he'd struck water. But it had been a labor intensive project as he'd had to continually line the "well" with the rocks. He'd literally built his well from the "ground" up.
Building the well, finishing his cabin, and hunting and fishing, had taken up every minute of daylight. But the end result was that he now had water, a permanent shelter, and a good store of dried meat and fish. He was still adding to his food stores though, and still experimenting with the plants, since he had no idea what to expect with the approach of winter. All he knew was that he was going to be ready for the worst.
He was as proud of his cabin as he was his well. It was sturdy, safe and he felt the roof would be able to handle a hell of a load of snow. He'd packed the spaces between the wood with his own formula of clay and was pretty sure it would hold the warmth in and keep the cold out. He was especially proud of the chimney and fireplace.
What was really odd was the fact that nary a minute passed that he didn't think of his friends... and of Jack. He worried about them continually. Which always left him shaking his head in wonder.
In his mind, Jack and Sam were together now and he prayed they were as happy as they deserved to be.
And he prayed that Earth was safe.
Still no snow. This was a good thing. Daniel stood in the doorway of his cabin and stared out. This morning, there'd been frost on the ground, but that was it. There'd been a couple of rain storms, with thunder and lightning, but nothing abnormal weather-wise. The night temperatures tended to drop into what he felt were the low forties, with the days moving up into the sixties. Overall, a very livable planet so far, and so similar to Earth that he'd done away with "Jacksonville" and started calling it Terra Two.
His volcano was proving to be no problem - yet, but the idea that it was there was always in the back of his mind.
Daniel walked outside, ready for another day. He needed to finish the "cellar" and make sure it was animal-proof since his food stores would spend the winter there. He also needed to chop more wood to keep building the stack for future inclement weather.
Back in November, he'd discovered that his little world was also inhabited by deer, bob-cats and cougars. The cougars were only now moving down from higher ground but he expected their number to increase if this planet had a real winter.
A couple of nights ago, he'd heard what he'd thought was the howling of a wolf and that had spurred him on to doing all he could to protect his home and food.
Daniel began to work on finishing his food cellar. Later, he'd do some more fishing and, on his way back from the river, he'd pick up some more of the oddly shaped root vegetables that he'd found last month. The root had a nice nutty flavor and added a real kick to his fish and rabbit stews. They were also pretty good raw.
What amazed Daniel was that in almost four months - he'd managed to stay healthy. He was used to seeing life through his myopic filter and, so far, the lack of a pair of good glasses hadn't kept him from hunting or fishing. But then, he'd always been highly adaptable - thanks to life in the foster care system. Not that the foster care system had anything to do with being blind as a bat.
He worked on the cellar for three hours. It would be cool down here, thus preserving his food stores as well as keeping it safe from the animals. When he was finally satisfied with his work, he moved to the final step: the doors. He walked up and out, ducking under the low roof as he did. Once outside, he started on the doors.
Done. Daniel stepped back and surveyed his handiwork. The doors, and their positioning on the top of the cellar, should keep out even the most desperate of animal. Time for some more fishing. He went into his home, cleaned up a bit, got his make-shift gear, put together a lunch of dried fruit and rabbit jerky, and headed for the river.
The walk was pleasant and cool, the birds his usual company. If they'd been comfortable with him in the beginning, they now considered him their own personal playmate. They'd dive in, usually aiming for his hair, chirping loudly when he'd duck. He didn't have to wave them away; they usually flitted about him, almost coming to rest on his shoulders before winging off and trying for his hair again. Oddly enough, by the time he'd get to the river, the birds seemed to understand that it was now business and they'd take off, leaving him in peace.
He took his usual spot on a rock in the sun, pulled his booney down low, and threw in his line.
This was one of his favorite times of his life on Terra Two. The peace and quiet spurred him to carrying on mental conversations with Jack - usually about fishing. It wasn't hard to imagine, not with a fishing pole in his hand. Which would surprise the hell out of Jack.
He knew that they were no longer looking for him, that they hadn't been for months, and he was okay with that. Knew it was inevitable. He was undoubtedly listed as MIA by now, and his home - the first thing he'd ever owned - was gone. Stuff stored again, but less this time because they'd gone through it once - okay, twice - before and he'd bet anything that this time... this time there'd been a sense of finality to it because finding him was so totally out of their control once they'd checked the nearby planets.
At least when he'd ascended, there'd been the thought that he was still "around", albeit in a different form.
Daniel had a tug on the line and a moment later had his first catch of the day. He flicked the pole back and the line arced over his head, the fish landing on the rocks behind him. He unhooked it and strung it up before throwing the line back in. As peace settled again, he went back to thinking - and talking to Jack.
The movement in the bushes caught his attention first but what followed really brought him up short. A whimper.
Frowning, Daniel approached the bushes slowly, head cocked to the right. After another whimper, he put his string of fish down and moved so that he was standing over the bushes. He waited a moment ... and the reeds fluttered. A small black nose was pushed through and Daniel watched it wrinkle up to sniff the air. A second later it was followed by the entire head. Daniel found himself staring down at the strangest looking... dog he'd ever seen.
Two perfectly round brown eyes stared back at him, eyes ringed with black fur. Its ears were round, reminding him of a stuffed teddy bear. Its muzzle was short with white fur and, while odd looking, Daniel thought it was also the cutest thing he'd seen. But it didn't seem to want to come all the way out. He stepped back slowly, then carefully lowered himself to the ground. He crossed his legs, reached into his pocket, and withdrew a bit of his leftover lunch. He unwrapped the dried meat and held it out. The nose wiggled again as it sniffed. Daniel held still. Slowly the animal hedged out on its belly. It crawled the short distance to his hand before rising just enough to sniff the meat before sticking its muzzle into his hand and scarfing up the food. The animal - Daniel was no longer calling it a dog because it was just too odd, was definitely a baby, that much was obvious. Its body was long, its legs short and stubby. Its fur was black and white and, in spite of the fact that it was dirty and somewhat bedraggled, Daniel could tell the fur was thick and even luxurious. This was the first animal he'd seen that was radically different from anything on Earth. He wondered where its family was and hoped he wasn't about to find himself opposite an angry mother.
Clearing his throat for speech, something he hadn't done in ages, he asked, "You have a mad mother somewhere? Is she going to eat me?"
The animal sat up and cocked its head, clearly enthralled by the sound of Daniel's voice. Daniel was pretty enthralled himself having almost forgotten what it was like to talk. He did it some more.
"Still hungry?" He dipped back into the bag and pulled out the last of the meat. Holding it out, he said, "This is it, buddy, so make it last."
The animal sat up and, using his hand as if it were a food bowl, it dipped in and inhaled the meat. Daniel watched it literally lick its lips and marveled at the ears. They looked incredibly soft but it was their roundness that he couldn't get over. He finally tore his gaze away and checked out the tail.
"Wow," he said, surprised. He'd expected to find a tail swishing back and forth and instead found a round... something and it seemed to be twitching. "That's... some tail you've got there, buddy."
The tail twitched again and the next thing Daniel knew, he had an armful of ... whatever.
He was pretty sure he'd just been adopted. Which would be fine as long as there was no angry family pursuing the lost animal. It seemed to have a thing for his face and while it did its best to clean him up, he let his fingers explore the body.
Okay, too thin. Way too thin. The coat did a nice job of hiding that fact. Whatever had happened, this baby had been on its own too long. He held it away from him so that he could look it in the eye. Its pink tongue was still trying to reach him, which caused him to laugh.
"Oh, brother, you're really something. I don't know what that something is, but I'm thinking you're alone in this world, which makes two of us, so I say we team up. How do you feel about that?"
His answer was the pink tongue flicking out. He took that as a yes and, with the animal held in his right arm, he got up, picked up the fish and headed home.
"Okay, here are the ground rules. You pee in here and you sleep out there. Got it?"
The dog, for lack of a better word, was sitting on its haunches and staring up at him. It opened its mouth and out came a sound that Daniel could only call a "whoop".
Only slightly taken aback, he asked, "Was that a yes?"
It whooped again.
"That was definitely a yes." Grinning, he lifted the small animal and walked over to his bed. He sat down, scooted back and resting his back against the wall, said, "Okay, now that you've stuffed yourself and your bladder is full - which we'll take care of shortly - we need to come up with a name." He gazed thoughtfully down at it and suddenly said, "JJ."
The animal lifted its head from his knee and twitched its tail.
"Ah, so you like it. Great. JJ it is." He leaned over and whispered, "Just between you and me... it stands for Jonathan Jack as in Colonel Jonathan 'Jack' O'Neill. Get it? JJ?"
His new companion whooped.
December 25th --
Daniel watched JJ play with his boot laces. He could feel the smile on his face and it felt good. It felt good to talk again as well. And JJ listened. Daniel's smile widened. The puppy was pouncing on the laces as if they were the most vile of lethal snakes but then he'd back off, his butt would go high in the air and he'd lower the front of his body in readiness for pouncing again. His butt would wiggle, round ears would go back... and finally, with a high "whoop", he'd jump. Daniel found himself laughing at the sight, which stopped JJ in his tracks. The head was cocked in interest as JJ concentrated on the sound coming from Daniel's throat.
The dog finally waddled over to Daniel and waited expectantly. Ever obliging, Daniel lifted him onto the bed and watched, amused, as JJ settled in by nestling into a specific fold of Daniel's sleeping bag. A moment later, JJ was sound asleep. Daniel reached over and scratched behind one of JJ's ears and was rewarded with a satisfied snuffle.
Daniel looked around his home and at the "wreath" that hung on the shuttered window; his one concession to the holiday. He supposed he couldn't really call it a concession. He'd wanted something to remind him of the time of year, of the months that had passed. Truth be told, it had actually been kind of fun making the decoration, and equally fun putting his home together. He had a table and bench, a counter that jutted out from the wall and was braced underneath by two pieces of wood, and a bed. None of his furniture was something that anyone else would look twice at, but he was proud of what he'd done.
As he'd built both the cabin and then the furniture, he'd been amazed at what had come out of his brain. Information he'd stored years ago, when studying the early history of the American settler had simply come to the fore. He'd easily remembered the rock foundation under the cabin, how important that was to keeping the dampness away, not to mention making it more difficult for animals to dig in or under. The hatchet had come in handy, but there'd been many a day when he'd wished for a full sized ax instead. He figured it had taken him twice as long to get the logs with the hatchet then if he'd possessed an ax. On the other hand, cutting the notches so the logs could be fitted together had been much easier with the smaller blade. Same with the table and his bed. The slats beneath the sleeping bag would have been quite difficult with only an ax.
He wished Jack could see this place.
That thought wiped the smile from his face. His glanced flicked over to the wreath again and he could imagine the SGC right now. Not that the military went overboard or anything, far from it, but when you faced the unknown everyday; faced death everyday, holidays like Christmas and Chanuka took on a greater significance. He knew there'd be the odd ornament or wreath placed in equally odd spots all over the base. It was just the way it was. And General Jack O'Neill? Oh, yeah, Daniel figured he'd be walking around with a Santa hat atop his head. And if Teal'c were still there - he be making him wear one too.
He hoped they'd be taking care of Cassie, it being her first Christmas without her mother. Without... Janet.
Daniel got up, careful not to disturb JJ, and walked to the front door. He lifted the bar, pulled it open and stepped out, partially closing it behind him. He walked a few feet from the cabin and looked up at the sky. There were no clouds so every star was visible. They blanketed the velvet expanse, twinkling down on him and giving him the same sense of awe the sight always gave him, even after all these months.
But now, now there was a sadness clinging to him in spite of the spectacular view above him. It was amazing that Janet's loss could still do this to him - or maybe not. Janet had been an exceptional human being and her loss had affected the entire base. A true testament to the kind of woman she'd been. The military mindset was such that the loss of one had to be dealt with quickly and then put away. The losses were too many and would overwhelm otherwise. Which is exactly how he'd known how seriously the SGC had been affected by her death. All anyone had to do was look at General Hammond, at his eyes - and they'd have found the same haunted look in Jack's. There'd been a very special relationship between both men and Janet, one that couldn't be easily explained or given words. But then explaining what Janet had meant to all of them wasn't easy either. One thing Daniel knew, had always known, was that Janet represented all that a healer should be. She honored the Hippocratic oath, took it to heart. Friend or foe had made no difference to her because it had been her job to comfort and heal. Whether it be Apophis or Daniel, if they needed her help, she gave it without question.
Hers had been a death they could ill afford. What she'd believed in was what they all needed to be reminded of on a daily basis. She'd been their compass in more ways than one.
A sound behind him alerted him to the fact that his "companion" was up and missing him. He could hear the snuffling and whimpering, so he gave one last look at the sky, touched his fingers to his lips and mouthed, "Love you, Janet," before going inside. JJ was sniffing at the door and trying to pry it open so he had to be careful when he pushed it in. JJ immediately sniffed the ground again and whined, which told Daniel that he was about to go outside again. He picked JJ up and walked back out. When your dog - or whatever - had to go, it had to go. And who was he to complain? After all, JJ always told him.
Daniel stomped into the cabin and immediately over to the fireplace. He dropped his armful of logs into the wood box he'd built last month and then added a couple to the fire. As it blazed up, he pulled off his gloves, dropped them on the bed and warmed his hands in front of the fire. It was the dead of winter, but so far, it hadn't been nearly as bad as it could have been. The snowfall had been light and, since January, had only blanketed his world twice, one of them being now. JJ, who'd followed him out and back in, now sat next to him, also enjoying the warm blaze.
In the last two months, JJ had grown to the size of a German shepherd and had proven to be an excellent friend and guardian. The wolves had come down from the mountains in early January but seemed less than anxious to get too close to his meadow and cabin, especially when JJ let loose with his own strange howl. At that memory, he glanced down at his friend and petted the top of the silky head. He still couldn't get over the fur on JJ. If it had been luxurious as a puppy, it was even more so now that he was a few months older. Maybe it was the good food.
"Okay, I'm ready for dinner, how 'bout you?"
JJ gave out with a little chuffing sound and both turned toward the work counter. Fish stew and berries would be their evening meal. The berries were reconstituting in a wooden bowl of water and later would be warmed briefly over the fire. He just needed to chop up some vegetables to add to the stew and get it on the fire.
His new world had provided well for him, he had to admit.
The evenings were the most difficult for him. While his hands were usually busy, what with mending or working on leather goods -- since his clothes weren't going to last forever -- his mind nearly always betrayed him. It never failed to take him to the SGC where he found himself full of questions about his friends. About Jack. In the small cabin, with the firelight casting shadows on the walls, he truly felt the passing of the time, each day taking him further and further away from any life he'd ever known.
With only the crackling of the wood, and the occasional snuffling of JJ, to keep him company, he often found himself thinking of Catherine and Ernest. Especially Ernest. He'd spent fifty years on P3X-972 and Daniel had been willing to risk the same thing in his pursuit of knowledge. Was this ironic, or what? Although he sincerely doubted that he'd have fifty years on this planet. Hell, he was thirty-six now.
Of course, there was a big difference between him and Ernest. He had a great deal to atone for, whereas Ernest had simply been acting as the scientist he'd been.
And yet - Ernest had suffered considerably more than Daniel was... or would. Ernest had gone through the 'Gate with nothing more than a diver's suit. No supplies, no packs, no food - nothing. And he'd survived for fifty years.
Daniel put down his mending and stood, suddenly needing to move. He walked over and took his jacket from the peg, put it on, pulled his gloves from the pocket, slipped them on, and finally picked up the flashlight and his gun. He started to open the door when he heard a light thump followed by the sound of JJ padding across the small room to stand by his side. He glanced down and said, "Yes, I'm going out, and yes, you can accompany me."
He got the door open, which allowed a blast of cold air in, and together, he and JJ went out. His boots crunched the snow as he moved a few feet from the cabin. The wind had subsided and he noticed that the clouds had been blown away. The sky was its usual brilliance, the full moon turning the white snow into a silver carpet.
JJ trotted several feet away and did his thing up against one of the trees before sniffing the ground and heading back to his side. He couldn't have explained what he was about to do, only that he had to do it.
He knew the way but it took him over an hour in the snow to get there.
It stood in the moonlight, silent and mysterious. Without the shadows of the trees, he actually didn't need the flashlight, so he turned it off. JJ trotted ahead of him, sniffing the ground and finding nothing of danger or interest. Daniel walked up to the DHD and slowly ran his fingers over each and every symbol. As he did, his mind was transported back to the many times he'd had to "Dial us out, Daniel!"
He could hear the sound the DHD made when a symbol was pressed and he could hear the 'Gate turning.
Daniel pulled off one glove and rested his hand on the raised circle in the middle. He could imagine it lighting up under his palm, could hear the wormhole whooshing out before settling back to a magical, mystical, shimmering blue. He loved the kind of... plop sound the wormhole made when someone entered or exited it and he loved the sensation of being a part of the stream. The one thing that had never frightened him had been the knowledge of what was happening to his body when he stepped into the wormhole. He'd found it exhilarating from the get-go. He'd found the entire concept exhilarating.
God, he missed it. He missed it so damn much.
He missed... them.
And the knowledge that they weren't, in all likelihood, missing him, was more painful than he'd allowed himself to feel since finding himself here.
He moved around the DHD and walked up the steps to the Stargate itself. He stood before it, stared up at it - and wondered again why it was here.
Why would the Ancients have a one-way 'Gate?
In all these months, he'd found absolutely no trace of anything other than animals, insects and fish. Damn it, it made no sense.
Of course, he didn't know when it had been put here, or what state the planet had been in at the time. Maybe it was centuries old and the volcano had been active. Maybe it had never even been used because the plague had come first?
And maybe it was only six months old and had been put here... for him.
So he was back to his punishment. His penance for interfering and causing the destruction of Abydos.
No, that didn't make sense. Why let him have almost a year before taking any action? That wasn't the way of the Ancients. They weren't cruel beings. And Abydos would have been destroyed no matter what - he knew that now.
Anubis would have found the Eye of Ra and then done exactly what he'd done, namely test the weapon on Abydos. The only difference was that because he had interfered, Oma had been there to ascend the Abydonians and the SGC had been forewarned.
He reached up and touched the Stargate. Had it been worse for Jack on Edora? Knowing the 'Gate was buried and unreachable? Or was it worse standing and staring at it, like now, knowing it would never light up, never take him home?
Funny how Jack had, in only a little over three months, given up. He knew there were ships that could have taken them to him, knew that they'd known where he was, yet he'd still given up. Even if Sam hadn't figured out a way to get Teal'c through, eventually they'd have been able to get to him.
Not like now.
Not... like now.
He ran his hand over the surface of the Stargate one final time, knowing that he would not return. It was cold to the touch - dead to the touch.
He turned away.
As he walked down the steps, he thought it somehow fitting that he would never know if opening the Stargate had been a good thing that would ultimately benefit - and save - Earth, or if Kinsey had been right - and he'd opened Pandora's box, thus unleashing a cornucopia of horrors on his unsuspecting world.
He grinned then. Hell, no one even remembered he'd been the one to open it now - so good or bad, his name, such as it was, would remain buried in mission reports. Well, unless that documentary was someday seen. But even then, he'd probably be better known as the chump that had ascended to a higher plane of existence, only to be booted out after a year. And maybe as the guy who'd died on a fairly regular basis.
Chuckling, he walked home.
Daniel blew his nose and rubbed his eyes.
Allergies, no. A cold in the fucking nose, yes. Not that he was worried. He had medications galore, thanks to having been incredibly healthy - up to now. He wiped his face, looked down at the spade he'd dropped in order to sneeze, and decided now would be a good time for a cold pill and something hot to drink to wash it down with. He whistled and a few moments later, JJ came bounding out of some bushes to trot over to his side.
"Hey, buddy, find anything interesting?"
JJ gave a shake of his head and chuffed out some air.
"Too bad. Maybe later. I'm going inside for lunch, care to join me?"
JJ"s answer was a delighted "whoop".
Laughing, Daniel headed to the cabin. Even now, after all these months, he still couldn't get over JJ's "bark".
Once inside, he left the door open and walked over to the table where the final items for his already simmering soup lay. Spring had brought forth a wealth of greens and more root vegetables than the first months had even hinted at. Now he dumped a handful of already chopped greens, one that tasted very peppery and flavorful, the other more like onions, into the pot. He added a few of the cherry red berries he'd recently found, liking the flavor it added to his soups and stews. He always felt better after eating them too, so he suspected they had some medicinal quality to them as well.
He'd long since run out of coffee - a day of mourning on his makeshift calendar - but had discovered that a couple of the plants by the river had leaves that made damn fine tea. He'd also done his duty as he knew Jack and Skaara would see it, by making his own version of moonshine.
Daniel set his place on the table, got JJ's plate ready, stirred the soup again, and then moved it to the back of the grill in order to put his water on for heating. Tea really sounded good today.
All of the foods he'd had when arriving were now long gone, but he'd found new foods and, other than missing chocolate - and oddly enough - bread, he was doing damn good. He had fruits in the form of berries; he had several kinds of nuts, greens, vegetables from the ground, and of course, an abundance of fish and game. He still kept his hunting to rabbits even though the winter had brought deer down from the mountains. Maybe - someday in the future - he'd be able to kill a deer, but for now, he was more than content with snaring a rabbit and fishing.
In late March, he'd discovered another root vegetable, wheat colored, that when cooked and mashed, made a remarkably good mushy cereal, especially when sweetened with a few berries. He did miss his waffles though. And maybe... Fruit Loops. And damn it - milk.
What he wouldn't have given for a few chickens and maybe a cow - or even a goat. He supposed it was possible that in future travels he'd find other animals, animals that could be "farmed", and he was looking forward to doing just that. His first months had been spent getting ready for winter, but now that Spring was here... he might just go adventuring.
Why the hell not? See the mountains up close and personal, maybe get a better look at his volcano. And who knows, maybe find a mountain goat or two.
He poured his tea, ladled up his soup and poured enough in JJ's dish to add flavor to the dried fish. He added a bit of the chopped root he'd kept aside to flavor JJ's meal, and set the wooden bowl down. JJ moved quickly to his but then waited. Daniel grinned. Even after all this time, JJ waited for him to sit down so that - he supposed - they could eat together.
Because he didn't have dry kibble, he'd gotten used to feeding JJ three times a day, small meals that usually matched his own. It seemed to be working and it kept JJ from begging, which he could do like no other. Judging by his size, coat and energy - Daniel was doing the right thing by his companion.
He often thought that if not for JJ - he might have gone around the bend. JJ grounded him, talked with him, and yes, even played with him. Since the weather change - back to warm days and cool evenings -- Daniel had been pleasantly surprised to discover how much JJ loved the water. They'd already had a few sessions of playtime in the river, and it seemed JJ's favorite water game was "rescue Daniel'. His second favorite was "find the fish". He'd chase the silvery, slippery things, mouth diving in and always coming up empty. But he never tired of trying.
When chores were finished, he and JJ would take long walks, enjoying the sun and warmth and often discovering new edible plants. He'd yet to find any large birds that might provide eggs and that was disappointing, but he had a lifetime to explore his home.
The soup and tea were just what the doctor had ordered. He chuckled at that as he took a couple of decongestants out of the first aid kit and swallowed them with the last of his tea.
He could have gone back outside - should have - but his bed was calling to him and he had to admit - he was tired. Given that he really wanted to get this cold put away, he decided to give in and take a nap. He closed and barred the door and then dropped down on his bed. JJ looked only slightly surprised, but he was quick to adapt and settled in his usual spot - which even after all this time, and his size, was on the bed with Daniel.
Resting a hand on the top of JJ's head, he murmured, "We'll go fishing later, and maybe, sometime next week or so, we'll go exploring. See that volcano...."
Daniel, JJ next to him, sat on his usual rock, the sun warming both of them. He'd done well with his fishing and was now content to rest and soak up as much of the sun as he could. He had one of his CD's playing, the earphones over his head. God, when his batteries were gone - he would really miss his music.
He closed his eyes and started humming along. A shove against his arm caused him to glance down at his companion. "Yes?"
JJ cocked his head.
"Ah. Humming. That intrigued you, did it? Well, my fine friend, I'm listening to music."
JJ canted his head in the other direction.
"Music? Well, it's... uhm... songs. Instruments, like a piano and violins and horns and... look, like this." He took off the earphones and rested one of them next to JJ's ear.
JJ whooped, shook his head, and promptly sneezed.
"Okay, maybe a live version of music is what you need." He tapped his chin, trying to think of a good song. Finally, he grinned.
"Okay, here's something my mother used to sing. And just between you and me, I think it was a signal for dad." Daniel winked at his companion. "Get my drift?"
When JJ simply stared at him, Daniel coughed and said, "Right. I keep forgetting how ... young... you are. Okay, buddy, here you go." He cleared his throat and started to croon softly.
"I'd like to get you ... on a slow boat to China, all to myself alone. To get you and keep you in my arms evermore. Leave all your lovers weeping on the faraway shore. Out on the briny, with the moon big and shinny, melting your heart of stone. Darling, I'd love to get you... on a slow boat to China... all to myself alone."
JJ whooped again and stood up, his butt wiggling in anticipation.
"O-kay, you evidently like music. I may question your taste in singers, but hey. All right, one more. This is one of Jack's favorites and it's from a Broadway show called 'Man of La Mancha'."
Acting out the role, Daniel began to sing....
"I shall impersonate ... a man. Come, enter into my imagination, and see him: Boney, hollow faced, eyes that burn with the fire of inner vision. He conceives the strangest project ever imagined ...to become a knight errant and sally forth into the world, righting all wrongs!
"Hear me now, oh thou bleak and unbearable world, thou art base and debauched as can be! And a knight with his valors all bravely unfurled... now hurls down his gauntlet to thee!
"I am I, Don Quixote, the Lord of LaMancha, my destiny calls, and I go! And the wild winds of fortune shall carry me onward ... To wither so ever they blow ... Wither so ever they blow ... onward to glory I go!
"I am I, Don Quixote, the Lord of LaMancha, my destiny calls, and I go! And the wild winds of fortune shall carry me onward ... To wither so ever they blow ... Wither so ever they blow ... onward to glory I go!"
The last note faded and it seemed that even the river had gone quiet. He coughed a bit, chuckled, and said, "Yes, well, others could certainly have done it much better."
JJ whooped in response and then shook his head and butted Daniel in the arm again.
"What, you didn't like that? Or you did?" he asked with a smile.
JJ whooped excitedly and nudged him again.
"You can't want more, JJ." At the dog's whoop, Daniel said, "This side of you is new. A masochistic dog? Okay, but remember, it's your funeral, buddy. I think we'll leave Broadway for rock and Elton John."
JJ snuggled in, expression patient and hopeful. Daniel shook his head at the animal and started singing.
"I can't light no more of your darkness, all my pictures seem to fade to black and white... I'm growing tired and time stands still before me, frozen here on the ladder of my life. Too late to save myself from falling, I took a chance and changed your way of life... but you misread my meaning when I met you, closed the door and left me blinded by the light.
"Don't let the sun go down on me... although I search myself, it's always someone else I see. I'd just allow a fragment of your life to wander free, but losing everything is like the sun going down on me.
"I can't find, oh the right romantic line, but see me once and see the way I feel... don't discard me just because you think I mean you harm, but these cuts I have they need love to help them heal...."
Daniel stopped, the lyrics hitting him. He reached out for comfort and wrapped his arm around JJ. "I think... maybe we should head back home now, buddy. But next week - we go exploring."
"So this mythical planet could be another repository?"
Jacob nodded. "All the indicators are there. I admit that we've been unable to completely translate the tablet found on Lotira, but if the coordinates are accurate, we feel it's worth investigating."
Brigadier General Hammond looked to his right, at General O'Neill, who appeared to be doodling on his pad. Hammond cleared his throat and said, "General?"
Without lifting his head, Jack said, "It's a go as far as I'm concerned. Baal is getting too frisky for my liking and if we can find another source of Ancient technology, all the better."
"Dad, is there any chance that Baal knows about this tablet?"
"Highly doubtful, Sam. Lotira isn't a known 'Gate address to the Goa'uld and there was absolutely no sign that a Goa'uld had ever set foot on it. Since finding the tablet, the agents never joined our camp, so if there should be a spy in our midst--"
"Now why would anyone think there might be a spy within the Tokr'a?" Jack asked dryly.
Everyone ignored him.
Hammond looked around the table and finally said, "It would seem we have a joint mission, people."
"Are things any better at all, Sam?"
Her hands stilled and her back stiffened, which brought Jacob to her side instantly. "Sam?"
"Can we... not discuss it, Dad?"
"We're going to be living in pretty close quarters for several days, Sam. Come on, talk to me."
"It's not like you haven't seen the changes for yourself, Dad."
"Honey, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Look at the alliance. Who would have thought that his loss would spur the Jaffa rebellion to once again align itself with the Tokr'a? Or that, for the same reason, the Asgard would join the alliance once the Taur'i were on board? And who would have thought George would be back in command while Jack headed up SG-1 again?" He put a hand on her shoulder and added, "He may be gone, but look what he left behind, Sam."
She whirled around to face her father, her eyes blazing even as they filled. "Left behind? Oh, yeah, I can tell you every minute of every day what he left behind. We go through the motions, Dad, and that's about it." Calming herself and fighting back the sudden flood of tears she could feel building up, she said, "I get up in the morning and go through that Goddamned 'Gate for only one reason - because today might be the day we find him. Nothing else matters. To any of us. And it's worse for ... General O'Neill. The only reason he's leading SG-1 again is so that he can go through the 'Gate and find Daniel."
Sam lost the fight to hold back the tears so she turned her back on him so that he wouldn't see them fall. Angrily brushing them away, she said in a small voice, "This is so different from before, Dad. So different. All I can do is pray that wherever he ended up, there were people there to take care of him, appreciate him and... love him. And that's if he wasn't killed the moment he was thrown out of the Stargate." She paused, sniffled, and said, "I never realized how little we did for him when he was returned to us. How little we appreciated the miracle."
She wiped her nose with the back of her hand, reminding Jacob of the much younger "Sammy whammy". He wanted to take her into his arms, but suddenly she was talking again, her voice tremulous, the tears still falling.
"We never appreciated him, Dad. Never. When we were told a civilian would be put in charge of the SGC... and then it was Weir and she two doctorates, five languages, all this history of mediating, and it struck me - she could be Daniel - and that was it. That was all I thought about it. But Dad, she could never be Daniel, and how could they overlook him and put someone with less than a quarter of his experience, a quarter of his languages, a quarter of his mediation experience... and then Weir was given the Antarctic site and if anyone should have been - it should have been Daniel - and she didn't even want him for the whole Atlantis expedition, and while I'm glad, still, it should have been HIS... she wouldn't even HAVE her damn expedition if not for him, and to add insult to injury, SHE'S given the okay to NEGOTIATE with the GOA'ULD SYSTEM LORDS! I mean, DAD, do you see what I mean here? And not ONCE did any of that penetrate until AFTER he was gone. AFTER. Never once did I ask him how he felt. Never once did I tell him how unfair it was, or that I KNEW it should all have gone to him. NOT ONCE. No support, no commiseration, NOTHING. From ANY of us, Dad. And now... now I'll never have the chance to tell him how incredible I think he is, how much we owe him...."
Her voice finally faltered and she couldn't stop the sob that broke out. After a moment, she raised her head and Jacob could see the heartbreak in her eyes, the total sense of loss and regret, and pain.
"He could be alone somewhere, like Ernest. He could be ... so alone, Daddy."
Jacob Carter finally did the only thing he could - he took his daughter into his arms.
Holding her close, his hand cupping the back of her head, he tried to soothe her.
"I know, honey, I know."
And he did.
Sharing this moment of grief with his daughter, Jacob found himself missing Daniel, and wondering why it always took times like these to prove that one person can make a difference and that when that one individual was gone, the world was a little bit darker.
That without Daniel - the world was a great deal darker.
Jacob was piloting the cargo ship, Jack next to him, eyes focused on the dark space beyond the view window. Jacob was pretty certain that Jack wasn't seeing anything. He glanced over his shoulder and noted that Teal'c, Sam, and Tor'nel were studying the tablet, which meant that he was free to talk. Looking at Jack, he asked, "It's been a rough several months, hasn't it?"
Jacob returned his attention to piloting the craft as he said, "You know, at one time, I thought you and Sam would become - under the right circumstances - a couple. I had a feeling she thought the same thing. Then Daniel ascended and you kind of checked out. Of course, then he came back and once more I figured I was seeing something between my daughter and you. Only now-"
"Only now - Daniel is gone again. Is that what you were going to say, Jacob?"
"That's about it, yes. But this time, I think I've finally figured it out, Jack." Jacob gentled his voice as he added, "And I'm sorry."
Jack tore his gaze from the view in front of him to look at Jacob. "Sorry that Carter and I-"
"No, Jack. Sorry that you never told him. And sorry that you keep realizing the truth when it can't do either of you any good." Jacob met Jack's gaze with his own sympathetic one. "And sorrier than I can ever say for your loss. I would have liked to have seen both you and Daniel happy -- together."
Jack was shocked into speechlessness.
"I can see now that you and Sammy could never have been a couple. You'd have driven her crazy in a week." He smiled softly.
"I resemble that remark," Jack said with a hint of a grin. A moment later his expression went serious again. "Carter and I talked, Jacob. We both know what it was ... and what it wasn't. We're okay."
"I know, I can see that in her. There's a part of her that's in turmoil and on edge because of Daniel, but another part, and I guess for lack of a better word, I'd have to say her feminine side, is finally at peace."
Jack looked away as he said, "She broke up with Pete though."
"I know, she told me." He glanced over his shoulder again, noted how close together Sam and Teal'c were standing, and said, "But she's going to be okay. So is ... Teal'c."
"Losing Ishta hit him hard."
Jacob gave an impatient shake of his head. "You know, for a man who became a general, you're not all that smart."
"Like that's news?"
"Ishta was... Sammy, Jack. Teal'c and Sam are going to be just fine."
Jack frowned at his friend, who jerked a thumb backward. Jack turned in his seat and looked - and saw. "Ah," he finally said.
"Light bulb goes on, eh?"
"Evidently. I guess I've been blind to my teammates lately."
"They understand, Jack. More than you know."
Several minutes went by and finally Jack said, "You're wrong, you know. He's not gone. He's out there and I'll find him."
Daniel paused to catch his breath. He was almost at the top and the air was thinner, but not uncomfortable. He and JJ had been traveling for twelve days and he was almost at his goal. The face of the land had changed, with the trees eventually giving way to dirt and incredible rock formations. The mountains of his world were truly beautiful, but in its way, so was the volcano.
And he'd found mountain goats and he had every intention of capturing a couple on his way down. He turned around to look at the land behind him and leaned on his walking stick.
The view took his breath away. Even without his glasses.
JJ gave a small whoop, indicating his desire to continue the journey. Grinning, Daniel said, "All right, all ready."
They moved on toward the top, and a half an hour later, reached it. Daniel stood on the rim and looked out over the summit crater. It was an incredible sight.
The surface was dotted with steam pockets and everything seemed to be shades of grey and brown. Daniel knelt on one knee and picked up a handful of rock. After the incident on P3X-7763 with the Tollans and their volcano, he'd done some studying up. He fingered the material in his hand and knew it was pyroclastic material. The small rocks were very smooth and shiny, and that puzzled him until he remembered something called "Pele's Tears". He remembered that when lava goes airborne and cools quickly, these shiny rocks were formed. He looked out over the summit and then down at the ground around him. There were all sizes of "Pele's Tears", all shiny and dark, like obsidian. He stood back up and pocketed the "tears".
He liked his volcano. Liked it a lot. It seemed altogether possible that the volcano hadn't been active for ... maybe ... centuries. The wind whipped at the two of them but Daniel couldn't tear his eyes away from the surface. At that moment, he knew that his volcano was how his home had come to be.
And he suspected an incredible power had been behind it. And he wasn't thinking of nature.
"So that's it, then," Sam said as she stood behind her father to stare at the planet that could be the location of another Ancient repository.
"That's it," Jacob answered with a nod.
"It is rather... beautiful, but appears to have only that one land mass. Is that not correct?" Teal'c asked.
Tor'nel, who was manning the console behind the pilot's area, said, "You are correct, Teal'c. While rather large, we are looking at the only land. The rest of the planet is water."
Jacob piloted the ship lower even as they were moving rapidly above the surface of the planet. "Tor'nel, any signs of life?"
"None yet," the Tok'ra said as he studied his instruments. "Animal life, but nothing is registering as more--"
"Is that what I think it is?" Jack interrupted as he stood and leaned forward over the console.
"My God," Sam said. "It's... a Stargate."
"Okay, then, I guess it's what I thought it was." He turned to Jacob. "You sure that tablet didn't have a Stargate address on it somewhere?"
"Positive. Just these coordinates."
"I'm thinking you should set her down, Jake," Jack suggested mildly.
"I'm thinking you're right."
"Wait," Tor'nel said as he did some instrument adjusting. "I've got what could be... a life form other than animal." He looked up and pointed toward the mountain range. "Over there."
Sam looked at Jack and said, "An Ancient? Would that be possible?"
"You're asking me?"
"So what do you want me to do?" Jacob asked. "Bring her down, or head for those mountains?"
"Well, that looks an awful lot like a volcano to me. Is it safe?" Jack asked.
"I am not registering any activity," Tor'nel said.
"Okay, then, let's take a look-see. If we have a real Ancient, one that didn't ascend - we might have more than just a repository," Jack mused. He looked back at Sam and asked, "What are the odds on just one?"
"Sir, there's no way-"
"Are we even sure there is the only one?" Jacob asked.
"We are now," Tor'nel said. "I expanded the search and I'm only receiving this one signature for the entire planet."
Daniel sensed it before he heard it. The back of his neck tingled and he slowly turned around. He scanned the area and shook his head. He was suddenly paranoid? After all these months? He was just about to ignore the feeling when a whooshing sound forced his gaze to the skies. He reacted instantly. He dove for a section of the summit that offered cover. He looked over at where JJ stood, eyes fixed on the sky.
"JJ, over here, now," he commanded. The animal turned quickly and trotted over. Daniel reached out and pulled JJ close to his chest even as he fumbled with the binoculars. He used them to focus in on the ... ship.
He couldn't believe this. A Goa'uld cargo ship - here. Damn it.
Just the idea of it hurt.
He took his gun out.
If it didn't find him ... or his cabin... it might leave, head back to wherever. After all, no hosts or slaves equaled no Goa'uld. He hoped.
Ah, damn, it was coming closer. He wedged himself back, praying the overhang would hide him from view. His arms tightened around JJ.
The sound of the rings brought a groan to his lips. They must have seen him.
Daniel held his breath.
Jack, Sam, Teal'c and Jacob stood in the circle waiting for Tor'nel to activate the rings. A moment later, the familiar "dropping elevator" feeling hit Jack and seconds after that, he was standing on the ridge of a volcano.
"Okay, so where's our Ancient?" he asked even as he was raising his P-90.
"Okay, so where's our Ancient?"
Daniel hadn't heard it in over nine months but there was no way he'd fail to recognize it.
He let JJ go and slowly rose from behind the rocks. "No Ancients here, Jack," he said quietly.
"No Ancients here, Jack."
Jack hadn't heard it in over nine months but there was no way he'd fail to recognize it. He slowly turned around ... and found himself facing ... Daniel.
He also found himself unable to speak, only look. And look. And look.
For what seemed like an eternity, the five people on the ridge of a volcano stared at each other. Jack was eventually the first one to move, to speak. He took a step forward as he said softly, "Your hair."
Daniel brought up one hand to touch it and said, "Barber shops are scarce 'round these here parts."
That seemed to do it. All three members of SG-1 surged forward, and as one unit, took Daniel into their arms.
Jack lifted his head from where it had been buried behind Daniel's right ear and glanced down. "Uhm, Danny, what's that?"
Daniel pulled back a bit and said, "That's my ... that's ... he's ... it's JJ."
Sam and Teal'c finally let go and looked down to see what Jack and Daniel were talking about. Sam immediately said, "He's beautiful, Daniel. But what-"
"I haven't a clue. I found more of them up here in the mountains, but JJ showed no sign of wanting to join them. I can also tell you that the wolves are afraid of him, but the most he's ever done is fruitlessly chase fish, so I'm thinking he's not the violent type." Daniel said the last part with undisguised affection in his voice.
"I hate to break this up, people, but-"
"Hey, Jacob," Daniel said as he noticed Sam's father for the first time.
Jacob grinned from ear to ear as he moved in and pulled Daniel into a hug as he said, "Sorry, that was the only way I could get in here to say my hello."
Daniel laughed, the sound of it bubbling up out of him and spreading to everyone else. Jack had gone down on one knee to pet JJ and now said, "There's a sound I've missed."
Sam, still laughing, managed to say, "Amen, Sir."
None of them could stop looking - taking their fill, but Daniel didn't seem to notice. They were back on board the cargo ship and headed to Daniel's cabin. Tor'nel was astounded to meet the "Great Doctor Daniel Jackson" and couldn't stop saying it. For a reserved Tokr'a - it was very odd. For Daniel, it wasn't just the miracle of being found that had him basically speechless, it was the fact that they'd been looking for him.
His teammates had been looking. After all this time and they'd never stopped. All he could think was that he owed them an apology the size of George Hammond's Texas.
They'd never stopped looking. And Daniel couldn't stop grinning.
"Is that it?" Jacob asked with a nod toward the now visible cabin.
"No, that's JJ's home. Mine is the mansion a little further on," Daniel said, his grin nearly blinding.
"Ah. Well, I'd like to see ... JJ's... home," Jacob said, his grin almost matching Daniel's.
"Me too!" Jack piped in.
"I would be most interested in seeing ... JJ"s home as well," Teal'c said with a fond smile aimed at Daniel.
"Off hand, Dad, I think you should land," Sam said, her eyes never leaving Daniel's face.
"Landing. See? This is me ... landing."
They stood in front of Daniel's cabin, admiring his work and astounded by what he'd accomplished. Jack took off his sunglasses and did a one-eighty before ending up facing the cabin again. He looked over at Daniel and said, "Fucking amazing." He jerked a thumb behind him and said, "We spotted the Stargate from the air - why couldn't you dial home?"
Daniel's right eyebrow rose.
"Oh. Right. Broken, I take it?"
"In a way. Look, let's take this inside and you'll see, okay?"
Daniel looked apologetic as he said, "It's not exactly... I mean, I didn't build it for this many... I mean... it was just me, you know? Sorry about the cramped quarters."
"Don't apologize, DanielJackson. This is quite comfortable."
Smiling gratefully, Daniel said, "Thanks, Teal'c."
"Okay, what about the Stargate?" Jack asked even as he looked around him.
"Ah, yes." Daniel walked over to his bed, pulled his pack out from beneath it, rummaged inside, and finally took out the crystal he taken so many months ago. He held it up for Sam. "Recognize it?"
She took it and said, "Of course. The receiving crystal."
"Yep. And in this case - the only crystal. No sending crystal."
"What, it was broken?" Jack asked as he took the crystal from Sam.
"No, Jack, it was never there. In fact, the inside of the DHD was nothing like any of the DHD's we've seen. It was designed as a one-way Stargate."
Jack rolled the long, blue crystal between his fingers, frowning as he did so. Then it hit him. He looked up and asked with the patient tone always reserved for his archaeologist, "Daniel? Why is the crystal here and not in the DHD where it belongs?"
When Daniel didn't answer, Jack looked over at Sam, who frowned, as puzzled as he was.
"I believe the answer is simple, O'Neill," Teal'c said. "He was not willing to risk the rescue team."
Jack raised an eyebrow, the gesture clearly asking Daniel if that was true. Daniel shrugged. "I had no way of knowing if the 'Gate could be powered some other way, or what would happen if say, Sam, tried. It seemed pretty logical that if the Ancients didn't want to allow anyone to go back through it, well, it wouldn't."
Jack found himself gazing down at the crystal in total disbelief. He finally said, "You risked a chance to be saved in order to ensure that no one else became trapped here?"
Daniel simply shrugged again.
"My God," Sam said within a harsh breath. Jacob moved to her side, and as he put his arm around her, said, "Daniel, I just-"
"Hey," Daniel said with a shaky laugh, "let's not get ahead of ourselves. That lightning bolt was one hell of a shot. The odds of anyone ever dialing this place were literally astronomical." He looked pleadingly at Sam. "You know I'm right, Sam. You know it."
When she didn't answer him, when she continued to stare at him, tears in her eyes, he took the crystal from Jack, put it back, and said, "Hey, I kept the Goa'uld out too, you know? Speaking of which," he was talking fast now, "you guys scared the hell out of me in that Goa'uld cargo ship. I thought I was a goner...."
"I can't believe you did this, Daniel," Sam said as she looked around the cabin. Her father, Jack, Teal'c and To'rel were outside checking out Daniel's handiwork - up close and personal - thus leaving Sam alone with Daniel.
"Why not?" he asked, his tone holding only curiosity.
"I don't know... I ...."
She stopped and looked again at the man before her. He was, oddly enough, so much the same while so different at the same time. He was thinner, but in a wiry kind of way, and he was tan. His hair was lighter from his hours of working in the sun, and of course, longer. Almost as long as when she'd first met him. His eyes seemed to be even bluer and she had no explanation for that at all. He also seemed ... younger. And yet... wiser than anyone she'd ever met.
She finally said, "Of course you did this." There was total acceptance of him in her tone and her reward was that blinding smile again. She reached out and tugged at his shirt until she had him back in her arms.
God, he felt so good. So real. So... here. She could feel the tears coming and stomped down on them. Turning her face into his neck, she said, "I missed you so damn much."
Daniel simply tightened his hold on her.
Jacob watched as Jack and Teal'c led Sam out of the cellar and pulled her toward the well. Jack looked like a kid at Christmas.
"I think you've made Jack's day, Daniel," he said to the man behind him.
Coming up along side Sam's father, Daniel smiled. "They're all kind of surprised, I guess."
Daniel shrugged and said, "What can I say?"
Shaking his head, Jacob said, "When I think of the odds against stumbling upon you, it astounds me. A tablet, a mystical planet, and off we go on a search for a new repository of the Ancients, and instead, we find ... you."
Daniel, who'd been watching Jack explain to Sam about the well, felt his smile fade.
He closed his eyes and gave a small shake of his head. Of course they hadn't been looking for him. Not only not looking for him, but instead of finding what they needed, they'd found him.
"So tell me about this tablet," he finally said.
The door blew open and Jack, Sam and Teal'c entered, Jack talking a mile a minute about the "incredible well and it's absolutely perfect." Jacob put a finger to his lips and pointed at the table, where Daniel -- JJ at his feet -- was hunched over the tablet in front of him. Jacob took Jack's arm and led them all back out again. Closing the door behind him, Jacob said, "He asked about it and once I showed it to him, it was all over. I've never seen anything like it."
"Dad, I can't believe you. We finally find him, he's miraculously alive, he's been alone for nine months, and you let him start-"
"It's what he does, Carter. Did you actually look at him? He was grinning," Jack said.
"This is true, but this is not who he is. Working on that tablet does not represent who he is to us. And yet, that's how it appears," Teal'c said.
Jack frowned at Teal'c's words, sensing something important about Daniel had just been revealed. He raised a hand before Jacob could speak, and said, "All right, let's all just hang on a minute. Teal'c, what the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"He must have believed, as would I, that we have been searching continually - that in fact, we are here because our search for him brought us here. Instead, he discovers that not only were we not searching for him, but that we were, in fact, looking for another repository and only found him-"
"ONLY?" Jack yelled. "Only?"
"This is as it would appear to DanielJackson, O'Neill. So he turns his attention to that which we need - a correct translation of the tablet. There would be natural curiosity, of course. He is a scientist, but he would also feel honor bound to aid us."
The little ball rolling around inside Jack's brain - fell through the correct hole. Bingo.
"I'm going in there." Walking toward the door, he added, "If I'm not back in five minutes, send help."
Daniel sat back, stunned. This was... this was... the odds were... just....
The door burst open and Jack stomped over to the table. He gave Daniel a push and said, "Shove it over, Danny."
Daniel grinned. "Damn, I missed this."
"Me too, now shove it over."
Daniel slid down and Jack swung a leg over and sat next to him. "So, whatcha doin'?"
"Didn't miss that," Daniel said with a grin.
They stared at each other and then started laughing. JJ, who'd been asleep on Daniel's bed, raised his head to look. Deciding that maybe things were more fun at the table, he jumped down and trotted over to Jack. He gave out with a small "whoop".
Jack's laughter died away as he stared at the animal. "Uhm, what was that?"
"He's telling you to shove it over. He wants up."
"Doesn't he know how to bark?"
"That was it."
"Ah. Okay." Jack scooted over until his shoulders were touching Daniel's. JJ promptly jumped up and rested his head on Jack's leg.
"He likes you."
As Jack absently petted JJ, Daniel broke the news about the tablet.
"I'm sorry to be the one to have to give you the news, but this planet isn't a repository, Jack. I don't know who translated it, but they didn't get it quite right."
Jack's hand stilled a moment, but then he continued the petting as he said, "Huh?"
"The tablet?" Daniel waved it at Jack. "It's not about a repository or anything like that. But it was written by an Ancient. His name was Lucor and he was the one who first identified the plague."
"O-kay... go on."
Jack's expression told Daniel that the man was serious. He wanted to hear it. Daniel cleared his throat and said, "As I mentioned before, the Stargate is a one-way 'Gate and believe it or not, this tablet actually confirms that it was designed that way."
Daniel looked away and Jack had a sense of what he'd gone through upon discovering that the 'Gate would never take him home. He felt his throat start to close up and, in an effort to diffuse the emotional moment, said, "This Luc was obviously no Jean-Luc Picardo."
"Lucor and Picard," Daniel said automatically.
"Sounds like a magic act. And I already don't like him. In fact, I hate him."
"Oh, I don't know, he understood people like you."
"People like me?"
Daniel looked up again and grinned. "Yeah, jokers who didn't want to ascend."
"Oh, this I gotta hear."
"There were quite a few who didn't want to ascend, which meant something had to be done for them. The Ancients believed that the plague had been developed and let loose on them by the Goa'uld, but it appeared that some Ancients, while not exhibiting symptoms, had become carriers. This added a wrinkle to Lucor's plan to help the ones who didn't want to ascend, his fear being that they could pass it on to others - like us. The Ancients had spread out over several galaxies, apparently."
Jack looked at the tablet and back at Daniel. "You got all that from this?"
"Yes, Jack. It's all here." Seeing Jack's shock, he asked, "I take it the Tokr'a didn't tell you that part?"
Looking a bit sheepish, Jack said, "Okay, we didn't exactly ... ask, you know? Once we heard that this might be a planet full of Ancient technology, we kind of stopped listening. You know how it is."
At the reminder of why Jack was really here, Daniel looked quickly away again. "Yes, well. Anyway, the leader of the Ancients that didn't want to ascend was a woman named Ilea. She came up with the idea of creating a world for them. Lucor agreed, but with the proviso that once ... here, they would never be able to leave-"
"Because of the carrier thing?"
"And people say you're dumb."
"What do they know?" Jack scoffed.
"Anyway, this world was formed by those who'd already ascended, and the Stargate was set to allow Ancients to 'Gate here, but not leave."
Jack made a face and said, "That sounds cruel and, under the circumstances that brought you here, very cruel."
Daniel shrugged and went on. "Anyway, Ilea needed to get the word out before the move took place but according to this," he tapped the tablet, "no one made it."
"What, they all died first?"
"Or, when faced with imminent death, changed their minds and ascended. It seems that the plague simply took longer to manifest itself for some than others."
"So this world simply sat here... until... you know."
"So no nifty weapons or ... anything, right?"
"I'm afraid not. If any of the Ancients had made it here - the story might have been different. Sorry, Jack." Ignoring the snoring coming from his leg, Jack smiled tenderly and said, "I'm pretty happy with what we found, Daniel. Damn happy. In fact, I personally think we hit the mother lode."
Daniel gave Jack a disbelieving look as he said, "Right. And I'm sure Washington will agree with you -- not. And I notice you haven't said a word about the fact that ascended beings actually created a world."
"I'm no longer surprised by what they do, only by what they constantly refuse to do."
Daniel's face heated up at that, and he quickly got to his feet. "I guess I'll...."
He stopped as he realized there was nothing for him to do. He had guests. He waved a finger at the fireplace and said, "I do a mean fish stew. You guys... you know, hungry?"
Wondering what he'd said wrong, Jack said, "Sure. Fish stew beats MRE's."
"Okay, be right back."
He walked toward the door, and JJ, sensing that he was leaving, deserted Jack in order to follow Daniel. Seeing the eagerness of the animal, Jack asked, "You don't have to go catch them, do you?"
Laughing, Daniel said, "No, just need to hit the cellar. There are five of you. Speaking of which, Jacob should get Tor'nel."
With that, Daniel opened the door and walked outside - and into Jacob, Sam and Teal'c. He smiled and said, "You guys have just been invited for dinner."
"So what happened?" Sam asked as they all sat down around the table.
"No weapons, no nifty gizmos," Jack said, his eyes on the door.
"O'Neill, that is not why you came in here," Teal'c reminded him.
"Hey, you know Daniel. After a brief discussion about JJ, he launched right into what he'd found. And Jacob, you guys really need work on your translation abilities. Maybe in the future you should just give us anything you find and we'll give it to Wonder Man out there."
The door opened at that moment and Daniel walked in, a basket of dried fish, berries and some greens in his hand. Teal'c got up and said, "Will you permit me to assist you, DanielJackson?"
"Sure. Could you take those two buckets and get some water?"
Teal'c nodded, picked up the buckets and walked out. Jack got up and said, "What can I do?"
Daniel looked at him and smirked. "Why don't you set the table? You'll have to hit my pack over there and pull out the mess kits. Speaking of which, your pack certainly made my life much easier in the early weeks, Sam. I was especially grateful for the trail mix. But you know, your mascara did nothing for me."
All heads swiveled in Sam's direction. Jack, pack in hand, said, "Carter?"
Shooting daggers at Daniel, Sam said, "I take the Fifth."
"Damn, that smells good," Jack said as he sniffed the stew Daniel was ladling out.
"I am in complete agreement, O'Neill."
Daniel glanced down and said, "Hang on, JJ, we serve company first in this household."
"Okay, okay, so we've never actually had company, but still, you and I go last, buddy."
Everyone watched the exchange, and it was obvious to Jack that the lonely life Daniel had been living was now truly hitting home for all of them.
Daniel finished serving and finally ladled some stew into a bowl on the floor for JJ, who waited expectantly. Seeing the expressions on the faces of his guests, he smiled and said, "He waits until I start to eat. He likes us to... you know, eat together."
Daniel then went over to the counter and picked up his canteen. He unscrewed the top and poured something into everyone's cup before sitting down on the edge of the bench.
Jack picked up his wooden cup and sniffed. "Whoa. Tell me this isn't what I think it is?"
Jacob quickly picked up his mess kit cup and gave it a sniff before smiling and nudging Tor'nel, who did his own sniffing. Sam and Teal'c both took sips from theirs and Sam immediately started coughing and spluttering. Jacob gave her a gentle pat on the back as he said, "Jack, I'm thinking it's exactly what you think it is."
Daniel grinned and said, "Moonshine."
The meal was over and Jack was putting the mess kit items back in one of the packs, JJ following his every move. Daniel had sent everyone else outside to watch the sunset and now said, "Those kits came in handy tonight."
Jack put the pack back under the bed where he'd found it and nodded. "You went short, though."
Daniel sat down at the table and patted the bench. JJ walked over, jumped up and rested his head against Daniel's arm. "It was hardly a problem drinking out of my canteen or slurping my stew."
"You didn't slurp once. JJ, on the other hand, slurped loudly and with great joy and gusto."
Scratching JJ behind the ear, Daniel said, "He loves my stew."
"I love your stew, too, but did you hear me slurp?"
Daniel found himself chuckling at the strange conversation. He was going to miss it - when they left. "And yes," he thought, "they will leave without me because I'm staying here."
Once said in his mind - he recognized it for the truth. He wasn't going back with them. He didn't know what had happened back at the SGC that had Jack heading into the field, nor did he know why he and Sam weren't together, but he did know that if anything, he was even less of a fit now.
And speaking of going back, Daniel wondered why no one had yet suggested that it was time to leave. He looked at Jack, who seemed to be studying the cabin, and took the opportunity to commit him to memory. Studying Jack with almost the same intensity that Jack was giving the cabin, he realized that his friend was too thin. His uniform did a good job of hiding that fact, but his cheekbones, neck, hands and wrists told another story. For the first time, Daniel really noticed Jack as he was, not as Daniel remembered him.
He swallowed hard and quickly looked down at JJ. What had happened to do this? And dare he ... ask? He cleared his throat and asked, "So... when did Jacob return? And what's been going on back at the SGC?"
"Nothing much. The alliance is back on and the Asgard have joined in, but really, other than that - nothing."
Daniel did an exaggerated dropping of his jaw and was rewarded with a rich laugh from Jack. Daniel stored the sound away. Smiling, he said, "So that's why Jacob is back then. That's very good news for Earth and Sam."
"Yeah, the day he walked through the Stargate was ... well, she needed him badly that day."
The door opened and Teal'c poked his head in. "Should we not be thinking of leaving?"
Jack got up and said, "Daniel? Do you need any help?"
Now that he was faced with the moment, he found he that couldn't speak. He also discovered that he was chickening out. The idea of watching the cargo ship take off - of never seeing Jack again - was weakening his resolve. Jack was removing his cap from his back pocket and slapping it against his thigh, and it was so ... Jack, that Daniel found himself rising to his feet as if to pack.
"Sir, you missed a beautiful sunset," Sam said from behind Teal'c.
Jack looked up at her and smiled, and to Daniel, it was an incredibly beautiful smile and it seemed to be just for Sam, and he found it difficult to breathe, and suddenly JJ was up, his paws on Daniel's legs and he was whimpering, and Jack was turning to look at him, frowning slightly, and before he could stop himself, Daniel said, "They're always beautiful, Sam... and I'm not going back."
The sudden stillness in the room was almost... scary. He knew Sam was staring at him even though he was staring at Jack, and he couldn't stand it. Couldn't stand the oppressive silence that greeted his words, so he said, "I'm comfortable here, and I wasn't... back ... you know, on Earth, and there's no reason to go back, really, so I'm... staying... here. It's home now."
Jack dropped back down on Daniel's bed, looking all the world like every ounce of air had been pumped out of him, which surprised Daniel. But what happened next - shocked the hell out of him.
"O-kay, so if you're staying - I'm staying."
It was a good thing the bench was right behind Daniel - to catch him when his knees buckled.
Sam looked from one to the other and finally jerked a thumb back toward the door as she said, "You know, I think I'll just ... step outside for a moment. Let you two talk."
She proceeded to do just that, pulling Teal'c with her. When the door closed behind them, Daniel said, "You can't stay here, Jack. You have a life, you know?"
"Hell I do. My life ended when you didn't come back through the Stargate. Why the hell do you think I'm here now?"
"You're here because a tablet promised Ancient technology, Jack."
"Wrong, you asshole. I'm here because I had to find you and the only way to do that was to go through the Stargate. Hammond is back in charge of the SGC, although he's also head of World Security-"
"... he just - whatever -- does it out of the SGC now." Jack got up, took the two steps required to bring him to Daniel, and while towering over him, said, "I don't know what weird kind of bee you have in your booney, Daniel, but life has been hell without you. The only way any of us have kept it together was by going through the Stargate and praying that this time, we'd find you. And do you have any idea how pissed I am that you don't KNOW this? Jesus, Daniel, what's wrong with you?"
Daniel's eyes narrowed as he rose to his feet. "What's wrong with me? There's nothing wrong with ME." He rubbed his eyes and shook his head in exasperation. "Jack, look - you guys ... and that whole year and ... now this, and I was the guy on the sidelines and I knew that and it was okay...."
His voice trailed off and he suddenly threw up his hands and said, "I don't know what the hell is wrong with me, Jack. I just know that I can't go back. And I know that sounds weird, but I can't go back to the way it was. I'm not... strong enough, okay?"
"Wait, you'd rather be here - alone - than go back with US? Didn't you HEAR ANYTHING I SAID?"
Daniel winced as Jack yelled almost in his face. He backed up a bit and said, "I heard you, Jack... I heard you."
"No, no, Daniel, you didn't. You couldn't have, because if you'd heard me, you would have heard me state that I gave up the FUCKING SGC TO FIND YOU!"
"They are yelling," Teal'c observed.
"Yeah, it's kind of like old times, isn't it?" Sam said with a grin.
"Is there some reason you people never talk?" Tor'nel asked, clearly perplexed.
"It is a shame, is it not?"
"Teal'c, you're no better. Did any of us say anything important when we found ourselves staring at Daniel up on that volcano?" Jacob asked.
"Did we not hug him, Jacob Carter?"
"We'd have hugged anyone that had gone missing," Jacob said dryly.
"I can think of several people I would not hug if they went missing," Teal'c said, one eyebrow arched.
Tor'nel sighed. "I will never understand the Taur'i or the Jaffa."
With a small frown creasing his forehead, Daniel said, truly puzzled, "Why?"
"Why? WHY? Because you were LOST to us, you ASSHOLE!"
"Okay, okay - I'm ... confused. I'm sensing something here-"
"'Bout damn time. What's your IQ again?"
"Look, I need to know something... I need to know about you and Sam. I need to know if you two... I mean, surely, after all this time, you two finally... didn't you?"
"Did you hit your head when you exited the Stargate, Daniel? I mean, you must have to have become this stupid. What the HELL does Carter have to do with this?"
"Are you joking?" At Jack's stunned look, Daniel crossed his arms and said, "You and Sam are in love with one another. Hello? And please, tell me you've done something about it. I mean, it's not like you're getting any younger, you know?"
"In love with Carter? God, you did hit your head. It's the only explanation." Jack took a step closer to Daniel and said as if it were the most normal thing in the world to say, "I'm not in love with Carter, I'm in love with you, and Carter and Teal'c are," he made little dancing motions with both his index fingers, "you know."
Arms dropping to his side, Daniel took a step closer to Jack. "They are? What about Ishta?" he asked as if missing the "Jack loves Daniel" part.
"Ishta was killed four months ago. But according to Jacob, she was a stand-in for Carter. I don't think I was Teal'c to her, though. And Pete sure as hell wasn't. But then, Carter is a bit of a conundrum, you know?"
Jack sat down on the bed, hiked himself up a bit and rested back against the wall. Daniel, thoughtful expression on his face, joined him. "Wow, I can't believe Ishta is dead. That must have hit Teal'c hard."
"Who could tell?" Jack said with a shrug.
"Jack, come on. Teal'c's an open book."
JJ sat in front of them, head going back and forth.
"An open book? Teal'c? Fer crying out loud, he's so stoic-"
"Jack, even before I ended up here, he was smiling, getting out, letting his hair grow, the works. Hell, all anyone had to do was look at him to see what he was feeling. And you can't say that his eyebrow didn't speak volumes."
"Okay, I'll give you his eyebrow. But otherwise-"
"Did you ever really look into his eyes?"
Jack turned his head enough to look at the man seated next to him. "Daniel, I don't usually go around staring into men's eyes, okay?"
"Well, maybe you should. Teal'c's hold a wealth of information."
Jack leaned sideways so that he could see Daniel a bit easier. He shut one eye, canted his head to the left, then the right, and asked, "What are your eyes telling me right now?"
Daniel looked up at the ceiling, huffed a bit, and said, "Probably that I've been without my glasses for nine months. And maybe that I think you're certifiable."
"No glasses?" Jack snapped his fingers. "I knew something was off." He whistled as he looked around. "How the hell did you do all this without them?"
Daniel shrugged. "I was concerned that I'd end up with a cabin that had a distinct list to the left. But most of the work was pretty up close, so no biggie. My real worry came down to any dangerous animals I might find myself confronting. I have my gun, sure, but trying to defend myself with it when I couldn't see the broadside of a barn didn't give me a whole hell of a lot of confidence, you know? And I didn't have to rely on shooting animals for food since I was able to make a couple of rabbit snares, and of course, there was fishing-"
"HA! Fishing! I knew you'd end up loving it."
Biting back a grin, Daniel said, "Loving it? Hardly. But it was a necessary evil."
"Fishing is NOT a necessary evil, Daniel. It's the secret to life."
Daniel grinned. "Amen to that."
They smiled companionably at each other.
"And certifiable? Me? Get real. You know damn well that you missed me something awful."
Daniel let his gaze roam freely over Jack's face as he said softly, "Only every minute of every day and night."
Jack's expression softened. "Ditto." He reached into his pocket and withdrew... a pair of Daniel's glasses. He held them out, and as a shocked Daniel took them, said, "Those should tell you how much I missed you. I never left home without them."
Daniel slipped them on, blinked several times, and then looked around the room. He immediately took them off. "Damn, this place looks much better without them, Jack."
Laughing, Jack put his hand under Daniel's and pushed up. "Put them back on. I want you to be able to see me clearly."
Chuckling, Daniel slipped them back on and said, "Whoa, this is really weird, Jack. It's like the first time I ever put on a pair. There's that whole... wavy world thing going on." He looked at Jack and grinned. "But you look good enough to eat."
"I think you need a new prescription, Danny boy."
They continued to look at each other, Daniel grinning like a loon, Jack drinking in the sight. Suddenly Jack's eyes went dark and haunted as he said quietly, "I almost did it, Daniel. I almost pulled the trigger. Twice. The only thing that stopped me was the thought that you had to be alive and I'd find you if I'd just keep going through the 'Gate." He chuckled suddenly, and at Daniel's raised eyebrow, said, "The last time I stopped because I heard your voice in my head. You said, and I quote, 'Jack, so help me God, if you do this, and then Sam and Teal'c find me, I'll kill you.' End quote. I got drunk instead."
Daniel was stunned by Jack's words and found himself trying to study the man next to him, as if he could decipher the secret behind Jack's words. When the answer came, he was as shocked as he'd been at the words themselves. "How did I miss this, Jack? I'm usually much better at figuring people out, but you... I ... I-"
Jack picked up Daniel's right hand and laced their fingers as he said, "You're terrific with people and their feelings; you're just not real good about knowing how they feel about you."
Fascinated by the sight of his fingers interlocked with Jack's, Daniel said rather absently, "Yes, I am."
"Give me a break. You think we didn't miss you and I'll bet you've been running around this planet thinking we just went on with our lives-"
Daniel tore his eyes from their hands, cocked his head, and asked, "Didn't you?"
"Well, of course, I mean, yeah, we did. It's not like we had a choice, you know? But the lives we went on with really sucked, Daniel. Big time. We were... lost, directionless. And it was so much worse than when you died - before. I mean, we knew you were... that you weren't... that you were, you know, around. Okay, maybe a shinier version of you, and no big blue eyes or anything, but we knew you were alive - sort of. In a very Zen-like, metaphysical kind of way. Which, let's face it, always did describe you."
Daniel was frowning in concentration. He gave a little shake of his head, as if trying to dislodge something at least the size of a watermelon, and said, "O-kay."
"I'm right, aren't I? About what you felt here about us. I am. I know you. I bet you thought you had it all figured out. Obviously you had Carter and I married, and you probably had Teal'c off with Ishta, right?"
Trying to look completely innocent, Daniel said, "Who, me?"
"You are so transparent."
"If I'm so transparent, what am I thinking right now?"
"Geez, make it a hard one, Daniel. Anyone would know that you're trying to figure out to get in my pants."
Daniel punched Jack in the arm and said, "Besides that, you idiot."
Looking surprised, Jack said, "You mean I was right?"
"Jack, I was always thinking of ways to get into your pants. You're going to have to do better."
Grinning, Jack said, "Sweet. But you know, you could have just asked. Or at the very least, simply helped yourself."
Daniel considered Jack's words, glanced over at the very closed door and back again. "Mmm... just help myself, huh?"
Jack gave Daniel his most endearing shrug.
Without looking away, Daniel said, "JJ, under the table and don't look."
JJ whimpered but walked under the table. He curled up, dropped his head down, and closed his eyes.
"Good boy." Daniel sat up, twisted around a bit, and reached for Jack's belt.
"Hey, wait a minute. I want some... I deserve a little-"
"I'm the one whose been lost for nine months, Jack." He leaned closer. "NINE months. No human companionship, just me, JJ and my-"
Jack held up his hand and wiggled it.
"Exactly. And I ran out of sun block THREE months ago, Jack."
"Thank you. I'm just lucky that in my desperation, the first sappy plant I found wasn't poison ivy, you know?"
"My poor Daniel."
"Your ... Daniel."
Jack brought his hand up and ran two fingers down Daniel's cheek. "Yeah, Danny, you are. And I don't know how I'm going to do it, but I'm going to find a way to join us at the hip. This can't happen again."
"I have a feeling we'll be okay now, Jack. Very... okay."
Jack couldn't hold back any longer. He kissed Daniel. It was slow, deliberate, and perfect. And other than the dog under the table - the peeking dog under the table - it was exactly as Jack had dreamed it would be. They fumbled a bit as they tried to figure out where to put their hands, and how to get comfortable on the narrow bed, because of course, it wasn't just a simple kiss. It graduated - with honors.
And the damn dog - or whatever it really was - was still peeking.
Jack figured he should give it a show.
Jacob was leaning against the well, arms crossed over his chest. Sam was standing close to Teal'c, their arms barely touching, and Tor-nel was watching the cabin. Finally Sam said, "We could just leave them here." At the strange looks, she added quickly, "Just for a couple of days."
"George might have something to say about that, Sammy."
"Not when we tell him why," she reasoned.
"It will be dark soon," Teal'c said.
Sam looked at him.
"We will knock when we can no longer see," Teal'c explained. "They will have had time to complete their ... talk."
"We're calling it 'talk' now, are we?" Jacob asked with a straight face.
"Don't sound so shocked, Sam."
Before she could answer, the door to the cabin opened and Daniel and Jack walked out, JJ on their heels. Four pairs of eyes, primed to find some sign of the "talk", found ... nothing. Other than the two smiles that greeted them. Three if JJ counted.
"Hey, guys," Jack said with a wave.
Jacob pushed himself away from the well and joined Teal'c and Sam. Tor-nel stayed where he was.
"So," Jacob said, in a perfect imitation of Jack.
Jack rolled up and back on his feet and said, "So."
Sam gave an exasperated sigh and, in an effort to get something other than "so" out there, said, "So, Daniel, why did you call him JJ?"
"Yes, well, like he says," Daniel answered as he bent down to pet the animal, "it fit."
A strange look came into Jack's eyes as he gazed down at the animal. Finally he went down on one knee and put his hand under JJ's chin to lift the animal's face up. "Hey, buddy, just between you and me, what does JJ stand for, huh?"
JJ's tongue darted out and his butt wiggled in his effort to get to Jack's face. Daniel cleared his throat and said, "Jack, it's just ... a name."
Jack looked up at him and said, "That stands for?"
Exasperated, Daniel said, "You know damn well what it stands for, General Jonathan 'Jack' O'Neill."
Looking smug and very self-satisfied, Jack kissed the tip of JJ's nose and straightened. "Perfect name for a perfectly beautiful animal. Good choice, Daniel."
"Actually," Daniel frowned and looked skyward, "I named him JJ because of his penchant for -- farting."
Daniel stood in the doorway of his cabin and gave it one final look. It had been his home for nine months, kept him safe and warm, and provided a haven of security. An arm snaked around his waist and he could feel Jack's breath against his neck.
"It's been like a friend, hasn't it?" Jack asked, his lips close to Daniel's ear.
Daniel nodded, too choked up to speak.
"I felt the same way on Edora about a stupid canoe. I spent hours in it, thinking of home. After the first thirty days, I knew I wasn't going home - ever. My time in that damn canoe nearly doubled."
"You had people - you had Laira."
"True. My measly hundred days can't compare to this, but Daniel, when you're not with the one you need, you can be surrounded and be utterly alone." At Daniel's skeptical look, Jack said, "Hey, I read it somewhere."
Daniel grinned, but a moment later it faded. He put a hand on Jack's arm and asked, "Do me a favor, Jack. Keep the exact location of this place out of all the reports, all right? Let me leave it as I found it - or as close as possible to how I found it."
Squeezing his shoulder, Jack said, "Done."
They stepped back, Daniel pulling the door shut. He picked up his pack, whistled for JJ and, as the animal bounded out from behind a tree, he and Jack started to walk toward the cargo ship.
Hand on Daniel's back, Jack said, "But I think we should keep it in mind for both a honeymoon ... and retirement, Danny boy."
"I'm just saying, Sir, you should warn him."
Jack stood next to the DHD on the new Tok'ra home world, Sam next to him. Daniel was underground, doing a meet and greet with the new Tok'ra council, every one of whom seemed impressed by the fact that they were meeting a dead man - a very often dead - dead man.
"I believe Colonel Carter is correct, O'Neill. General Hammond should be given warning. He has endured much in the last nine months. You would also do well to inform him that DanielJackson does not return to us alone."
"Damn, you guys are no fun anymore. I really wanted to pull a 'Someone wants to see you' moment before unveiling both Danny and JJ."
"You are incorrect, O'Neill. We are once again - very fun."
Jack couldn't help his grin. "Damn right."
Sam started the dialing process so that Jack could give Major General George Hammond the incredibly good news that SG-1, his flagship team, in its infinite wisdom and experience - had managed to stumble upon their lost team member.
No one was prepared for Daniel's reaction to the wormhole - to an operating Stargate. He watched avidly as Sam pressed the symbols, and then observed with equal amazement as the Stargate turned and the wormhole whooshed out. Once it had settled, Daniel walked slowly up to the ring and, as he stood silently in front of it, Jack had a sense of déjà vu. Daniel looked so much as he had when they'd first met, that now, watching his apparent wonder in the face of something he hadn't seen in so many months, yet had been so close to - Jack found himself transported back in time.
Daniel raised his hand and lightly touched the wormhole before turning around and grinning. "Last one in is a rotten egg."
SG-1 and JJ stepped out of the wormhole and onto the ramp, Jacob right behind them. All froze at the sight before them.
A huge banner reading "WELCOME BACK DOCTOR JACKSON!" had been strung up over the observation window and the 'Gate room itself was wall-to-wall people. Oddly enough, all eyes were not on the welcome-back kid; they were on JJ, who'd moved ahead of Daniel, and now sat on his haunches in the middle of the ramp, head cocked, tongue lolling.
Daniel, looking a bit ... uncomfortable, moved to JJ's side. With his hand on the top of JJ's head, he said, "Uh, Sir? Sorry about this, but... I couldn't leave him... I mean-"
General Hammond, always quick to adapt to the idiosyncrasies of SG-1, stepped forward. "I understand. And ... its name?"
"His name is ... JJ, Sir."
"JJ? I ... see. And ... what exactly is it?"
"I don't really have an answer to that, Sir. But he won't be any trouble. He's ... house broken."
Hammond looked past Daniel to Jack and said, "That's more than I can say for some members of the SGC. And welcome home, Doctor Jackson. You have been sorely missed." Hammond then stunned Daniel by stepping onto the ramp and enveloping the younger man in a hug.
That was all anyone needed to start the cheering.
"I can't begin to understand what it must have been like for you, Doctor Jackson, but I can say that I'm not surprised at how well you did - alone -- on that planet. I'm proud of you, son."
Daniel - with JJ on the floor at his side -- sat at the briefing table with his team and General Hammond and had just completed his report - albeit nine months delayed. Now, at Hammond's words, he said, "I don't deserve any praise, Sir. The Ancients created that world. It was designed with mild seasons and to provide amply for them. I was pretty lucky."
"The planet wasn't designed for one person alone, Daniel. Our resident geek outdid himself," Jack said, his pride evident.
Daniel simply ducked his head, a gesture that hadn't been seen for years. Jack wasn't sure if that were a good thing ... or not.
Hammond leaned forward and rested his arms on the table as he said, "Well, you'll be happy to know that you still have a home." He looked at Jack. "Correct, General?"
Jack's face turned red as he said, "Er, yes, Gen-George, that's right." He looked at Daniel and mumbled, "I... uhm, see, I... well-"
"O'Neill moved in to your home, DanielJackson."
Daniel's mouth dropped open.
"Oh, don't look like that," Jack groused, supremely embarrassed. "I kept my place and the government has been paying your mortgage. I actually rented my place out. I just wasn't going to ... you know... pack you away again."
Daniel pushed his glasses back up his nose and smiled. "Okay."
"Speaking of homes," Hammond said, "you'd probably like to get to yours. Things like showers are probably top on your list of things to do now."
Daniel leaned toward Jack and whispered, "Is he trying to tell me something?"
Laughing, Jack said, "What did you use for deodorant?"
Daniel hid his mouth behind his hand as he said in a very loud stage whisper, "Deodorant." At Jack's stunned look, he smiled and added, "I had mine and Sam's, which meant I had enough for a year." He looked at Sam and said, "Thanks, by the way, for the unscented stuff."
"Hey, anything I can do, Daniel," Sam said with a grin.
Daniel looked around his lab and shook his head in disbelief. It was spotless and almost exactly as he'd left it. Well, except for the spotless part. He scratched the back of his neck and said, "It looks unreal."
"Yeah, well, blame Teal'c. He kept cleaning it even though I told him that would upset you."
"Ha-ha." He walked over to the table and started... touching things.
Jack watched from where he and JJ were holding up the wall. How many nights, just before leaving for the day, had he come down here to do precisely what Daniel was doing now? Try ... every night. He simply hadn't been able to go home without touching Daniel's things first, even though he was going home to Daniel's house. To Daniel's things. To Daniel's... bed.
Hell, who was he kidding. He hadn't been able to get through a day without coming down here. Suddenly he pushed away from the wall and asked, "Can I have... that other pair?"
Daniel stopped and looked up. "Other pair of what?"
"Your glasses. I don't think... I kind of... need them. In my ... you know... pocket."
Without taking his eyes from Jack, Daniel opened the middle drawer, reached in, scrappled around inside, found them, and walked slowly over to Jack. Eyes still locked on Jack's, he tucked the pair inside Jack's pocket and then pulled him into a hug. He wasn't surprised when Jack seemed to turn to Jell-o. He held him tightly, his hand cupping the back of Jack's head.
He didn't think it was remotely odd either.
They were silent as they walked to the elevator, JJ trotting along side Daniel. Neither Jack nor Daniel noticed the weird looks JJ was getting. At the elevator, Jack ran his card through and a couple of moments later, it opened. They stepped in and faced front. The doors slid shut and they were on their way up. As the elevator climbed, Daniel felt as far removed from the SGC as it was possible to feel while still inside the SGC, and he had a feeling JJ felt the same way, albeit a great deal more curious.
The elevator stopped but before getting into the next one for their final ride, Jack said, "Turn around, Daniel."
Daniel, curious, did as Jack asked. They were in what had become the official "lobby" of the SGC, and as Daniel faced the wall that announced "Stargate Command", he was shocked to find his picture, flanked by two American flags, hanging on the wall. Beneath it was a large plaque. Squinting because his glasses, while better than none, were no longer adequate for his worsening sight, he tried to read the words. Jack, seeing the squint, said, "'Doctor Daniel Jackson - He gave us the stars'."
"Okay," Daniel said after clearing is throat, "that has got to come down."
Smirking, Jack said as pulled Daniel into the elevator, "I told George you'd say that. He said to tell you that it's staying since we never know when you're going to die next."
"He did not," Daniel said as the elevator closed.
"Jack, there is no way General Hammond said that."
"Daniel, I'm telling you, he did."
Daniel gave a small snort as the doors opened and the three of them exited. As Jack signed them out, he said, "Take some advice, Danny. When we get outside, don't turn around and look back. You won't like what you see."
They walked out... and of course, just as Jack had known he would, Daniel turned around.
He cocked his head and then, eyes still on the front of Cheyenne Mountain, reached blindly out and snagged Jack's sleeve. "Jack...."
Jack rocked back on his heels and grinned. "Daniel?"
"They... it's ... where ... how...."
"Well, they took down the part that said 'Cheyenne' and they put up the new part that says 'Jackson'. But of course, first, the President had to sign an order, which he did. The country doesn't exactly know why Cheyenne Mountain was changed to Jackson Mountain, but they do know there's a hero involved."
"Yeah? So why is it called 'Jackson Mountain' then?"
Jack punched him lightly in the arm and said, "Come on, there's no one else it should be named after. And why wait until you really are dead to do all of this? The way I see it, since the world can't know about the program - yet -- this is as good as it's gonna get for now, you know?" Then he gave a little salute to the mountain and added, "Besides, I like it. A lot. I love saying that I'm going to Jackson Mountain. Kind of rolls off the tongue, you know?"
Daniel turned around and started walking to what he hoped was still Jack's truck as he said, "You are so weird, Jack. Lucky for you I've always loved weird."
Jack jogged to catch up with him and JJ as he said, "Naturally you have. Birds of a feather and all that."
The ride home was made with quite a few stops. The first one was at Starbucks where Daniel coerced Jack into buying him a Red Eye, but at Daniel's first sip, Jack was more than pleased to have done so. In fact, it took all his will power not to jump Daniel's bones. Only Daniel could make drinking coffee an orgasmic event.
The next one was the supermarket where, to Daniel's consternation, they had to leave JJ in the truck. Once inside, Daniel made it very clear that Jack would be buying everything from steaks to ice cream, and Oreo cookies to barbecue potato chips. And buy was the key word. It had taken all Jack's energy to keep up with Daniel as he'd zoomed around the market plucking items off the shelves and tossing them over his shoulder and into the cart.
The third stop was the pet store where JJ was allowed to accompany them inside. For an animal who knew nothing about modern conveniences, it was amazing how quickly he made a beeline for dog beds. With a grunt, Jack found himself hefting up a large, soft, and very comfortable plaid bed while Daniel picked up toys, food, snacks and more toys. It was apparent to Jack that JJ was having as much fun in the pet store as Daniel had in the supermarket. Maybe more, thanks to all the attention he'd received. Patrons of the store, as well as employees, were fascinated by JJ and Jack and Daniel were constantly stopped as people asked what he was. Daniel never knew what to say, so Jack simply took over.
"He's a cross between a spaniel and a panda bear," he'd say with a straight face.
When they finally left the store, they left several very puzzled patrons behind, all wondering how a dog and a panda had....
The groceries were put away, as were all of JJ's myriad of supplies. Now Jack and Daniel stood in the living room while JJ went exploring. Folding JJ's new leash in his hands, Daniel said, as he looked around, "I have to tell you... I expected to be sleeping on base right now. This is... this is ... so much more." He faced Jack, who stood next to him, hands now shoved deep in his pockets. "Thanks, Jack. Really."
"What can I say? It kept me sane so I should be thanking you. Although, I now have a back problem to go hand-in-hand with my knee issues, thanks to your bed. You do realize that, in the military, we call that thing in your bedroom a cot, right?"
Setting the leash on his catch-all table near the entry, Daniel said, "It came with the house, Jack, along with most of this stuff. That's why I took it. Didn't have a lot of money, what with coming back from the dead and all."
"Oh, yeah. Everything went to...."
He stopped and coughed uncomfortably at the fact that he'd been about to remind both of them of Janet.
"It's okay, Jack. Thank God Cassie had my savings after ... you know."
They stayed motionless and quiet, both thinking of the dark days following Janet's death. Finally JJ trotted out, obviously finished with his investigation of his new lodgings. He sat down between them, tongue hanging out.
"So," Jack said.
Daniel grinned. "Thank God you never change."
Jack took his hands out of his pockets and walked over to where Daniel stood, JJ thoughtfully moving out of his way. He put a hand behind Daniel's head and said, "In spite of all that you've been through, you haven't changed where it counts, Daniel."
"Sometimes, Jack, I don't even know me anymore," Daniel whispered back.
"I do. I know you." He lowered his head just enough to kiss Daniel softly.
"You do realize that you have a pervert for a ... whatever he is. After tonight, he stays out of the bedroom when we do our thing."
Laughing, Daniel rolled over and pulled the sheet back up. "Our thing, huh? We have a thing, do we?"
Pulling the sheet away from Daniel, thus leaving him gloriously visible, Jack said, "We have a major thing, and that animal, no matter how cute his ears or luxurious his coat, is not going to be a witness to my thing meeting your thing."
"So sing to him."
"You sing to him and he goes out like a light. Then we can do more... things with our things. And for two grown men, both with college educations and degrees, I think these euphemisms are ridiculous. Just sing to him so we can fuck each other's brains out, okay?"
Chuckling, Jack said, "You sing, Daniel. I might cause him to take a crap on the floor."
Smirking, Daniel rolled onto his side and propped his head up with his hand. He reached over with his other hand and started to play with Jack's chest hair as he sang softly, "I'd like to get you... on a slow boat to China, all to myself... alone. To get you and keep you in my arms evermore, leave all your lovers weeping on the faraway shore. Out on the briny... with the moon big and shinny, melting your heart of stone. Darling, I'd love to get you on a slow boat to China, all to myself al-oone...."
Recognizing the song, JJ perked up and began to howl as he rocked back and forth.
Seeing Jack's stunned expression, Daniel lost it completely and doubled over in laughter.
Jack wasn't sure what awakened him, but suddenly he was just that - wide awake. He reached for Daniel ... and found nothing. For a split second, he thought finding Daniel had been a dream, and his heart thudded in his chest - but then a furry head landed on his arm. He turned on the light and found himself staring into JJ's soulful eyes. His heart rate returned to normal as a moment later, he heard the shower.
Daniel was showering - again.
Jack smiled, threw off the covers, patted the - whatever - on the head, and walked into the bathroom. He leaned against the wall and knocked on the shower curtain. "Showering again, are we?"
Daniel poked his head out and said, "I'm not sure what I missed more ... you or this."
"Well, you've had us both twice tonight, so I'd say it's a tie."
"You could join me in here and maybe I could find a way to break the tie," Daniel suggested helpfully.
Jack held up a finger. "Hold that thought." He turned and almost ran out, down the hall, and into the kitchen. He got two glasses of milk and the package of Oreo cookies before hurrying back to the bathroom. He set everything down, tore off his t-shirt and stepped out of his sweat bottoms and boxers. He grabbed a cookie and stuck his arm around the curtain. "Oh, Dannnneeee."
The cookie was grabbed out of his fingers so he quickly picked up one of the glasses. He shoved that through too.
"Okay, I missed you more, Jack," Daniel said as he took the milk. "You are a god. A good god, not a bad god, not a false god. You, my friend, are the real thing."
Jack took a handful of cookies and stepped in the backside of the shower. "I am most definitely the real thing, Daniel."
"There we go with the whole 'thing' again," Daniel said as he leaned over and kissed Jack. When he backed up, he said, "You're getting the cookies wet, by the way."
Jack held two of them out and Daniel took them. With the water pouring down on him, eyes gleaming with happiness, Daniel ate them and drank the milk. Jack watched, the water only partially wetting him down. When Daniel was done, Jack took the glass, pushed the curtain aside and set it on the sink counter. He grabbed two more cookies and the other glass of milk, and handed them to Daniel.
"Wow, you're moving far and away from the shower as the thing I missed most," Daniel said appreciatively.
"You're so easy, Daniel."
"Nine months with only a hand and plant sap will do that to a guy," Daniel said around a mouthful of wet cookie.
When he was done, the second glass joined the first and after rubbing a few crumbs from Daniel's mouth with his thumb, Jack picked up the bar of soap and said, "A shower can't do this for you." He then proceeded to lather Daniel down with gentle and loving hands. He shampooed his hair, massaged his back and shoulders, and after rinsing him off, he put a towel on the floor of the shower, went carefully to his knees, and went to town on Daniel.
Eyes at half-mast, Daniel said, "Jack, first - shower, second. Starbucks' Red Eye, third, and Oreo cookies and milk, fourth."
Jack was on his back, Daniel sprawled across him, head on Jack's chest. Keeping his eyes closed, he played with Daniel's still damp hair and asked, "And the Stargate?"
"It's up there, but it ain't no shower and it certainly isn't you."
Jack chuckled and Daniel felt it beneath his cheek. He smiled sleepily. "I'm going to sleep now, Jack."
"I'll post it to the news."
"You do that."
The bed jiggled and caved and Jack groaned. JJ had decided to join them. Daniel patted Jack's tummy. "Just sing."
Sighing, Jack cleared his throat and started to softly sing....
"The very thought of you... and I forget to do... the little ordinary things that everyone ought to do. I'm living in a kind of daydream, I'm happy as a king, and foolish though it may seem, to me that's everything. "The mere idea of you, the longing here for you. You'll never know how slow the moments go, till I'm near to you. I see your face -- in every flower, your eyes in stars above -- it's just the thought of you, the very thought of you, my love...."
Daniel's and JJ's snoring greeted the end of the song. Eyes still closed, Jack patted Daniel's rump and said, "Welcome home, Danny boy. Welcome home."
As he drifted off to sleep, he gave thought to using JJ's leash ... on Daniel. That way, if Daniel was sent somewhere - Jack would be right behind him, leash in hand.
Yep, he had a plan.
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