"We want you to come back," Sam said as Daniel started to walk away. She'd marshaled all her arguments, laid them out one by one, and all the while Daniel had stood silent, impervious to her plea. "We want you to come home."
Daniel stopped and stared at Sam.
"We?" Daniel asked dryly. He gestured around the camp, deserted as always at this time of the morning because everyone busy working on the dig. "Maybe you should define 'we'."
"We didn't think you'd be too happy to have a whole herd of us descending on you so I'm the...appointed representative."
"Herd?" Daniel said with bitter amusement.
"We miss you."
"Ah." Daniel looked at her a moment longer before starting to walk away again.
"Damn it, Daniel," Sam said, her feet following without any conscious decision on her part.
"I can't go back, Sam," Daniel called over his shoulder.
"You can if you want to," Sam insisted. Daniel stopped and turned to confront her.
"You do know what happened on that last mission?" Daniel asked.
"Um...ah, yes," Sam said, uncomfortable with the memory.
"Then you should understand why I can't go back."
"That's not a good enough reason."
"Not good enough?" Daniel asked incredulously. "Jack fucked me and--even worse from his perspective--I fucked Jack. Of course I can't go back."
"You were under the influence of...." Sam said, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
"It doesn't fucking matter!" Daniel shouted. "Nobody cares about that. All they care about is that Colonel O'Neill took it up the ass from Dr. Jackson."
"What about you?"
"What do you care about?" Sam shook her head, frustrated. "Come on, Daniel. You've never given a damn about what anyone thought about you. Why start now?"
"I didn't care. I still don't."
"Then why did you run?"
"I didn't run."
"Oh, please. They hadn't had time to strip the sheets off of your infirmary bed before you'd closed up your apartment and taken off without a word to anyone."
"Jack couldn't handle it."
"He couldn't handle it? You're the one who ran, Daniel. Don't blame the colonel for your...your...."
"My what?" Daniel asked, his voice cold. Sam met his gaze but couldn't say the words. "I didn't run. I...I tried to make it easier for Jack."
"Easier? By leaving him to face it alone?" Sam said angrily. "The two of you were best friends. You couldn't at least try to work it out?"
Daniel's response was a glare that was meant to stop Sam from pursuing the issue any further.
"Look, I understand it must have been...difficult," Sam continued stubbornly. "It must be...I mean for a man to...."
"It wasn't difficult for me."
"I'm bisexual, Sam. Jack was not the first man I'd gotten up close and personal with." Daniel took some petty satisfaction in witnessing Sam's shock. "And I found Jack attractive to boot."
"You of all people should understand that."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sam asked defensively.
"You were attracted to him, too."
"No! Well...but.... What's your point?"
"My point is that I had no problem letting Jack ream my ass," Daniel said, spitting out the deliberate vulgarity. "No problem at all."
"Really?" Sam said. Daniel hesitated. His expression changed, doubt making him look more like the Daniel she knew. "No problem with the fact that it was, in a sense, non-consensual?"
"Yeah, okay--a small problem with that," Daniel said, averting his eyes.
"Daniel, you were probably the only one who really understood what the colonel was feeling because you were feeling the same way. You should've been able to help each other."
"But we weren't feeling the same, Sam. No, I didn't like the fact that our ability to choose had been taken away from us. I hate the fact that we were forced to do things that we would never have done of our own free will. But the fact that it was sex--that didn't bother me. Under other circumstances I would've been happy to...." Daniel bit off his words. "I wouldn't have said no."
"So why couldn't you try to work it out with the colonel?"
"Not possible," Daniel said, his voice going cold again.
"How do you know that if you didn't even try?"
"It wasn't possible," Daniel repeated. "I didn't try.... I left because the sight of me made Jack sick."
"I'm sure that's not true."
"You're sure?" Daniel spat. "You weren't there when Jack told me to keep the hell away from him."
"You weren't there when Jack said if I ever so much as looked funny at him again he'd put my faggot ass out of commission permanently."
"He couldn't have meant it," Sam protested, shocked. "He wouldn't.... Daniel...."
"I disgusted him."
"He was upset. Off balance. You know what a control freak he is."
"Yeah, well, he made it perfectly clear that he didn't want me around to remind him of his loss of control." Daniel shook his head. "As long as Jack's there I can't go back."
"He retired from the field, Daniel."
"What?" Daniel said, genuinely surprised. "When?"
"About four months after...after that mission." Sam shrugged. "He wouldn't say why. Not the real reason anyway. But I think that was the last straw for him. He gutted it out for a while but his heart wasn't in it."
"That just makes me feel so much better," Daniel said, turning to stare determinedly into the distance.
"Daniel," Sam said, stepping closer and laying her hand on his arm. "He blamed the Chalcians, not you."
"Same difference," Daniel said, refusing to look at her.
"Come back," Sam entreated.
"Not even temporarily? As a consultant?"
"What do you have?" Daniel asked. He'd known there had to be more to this than just missing a friend. After all, they'd had a year to look for him.
"We found a site left by the Ancients. A library."
"Not...?" Daniel said quickly.
"No, nothing like that thing that zapped the colonel's brain. This is like that repository on Ernest's planet. The one that had the 'meaning of life' stuff," Sam said. "We've got a couple of people working on the basic translations but...."
"Temporary," Daniel said, emphasizing the word because he felt he was giving into the lure of discovery too easily. "I work on my own, I don't go off world, and I report only to General Hammond."
"Thank you, Carter. Well done."
"What the hell are you doing here?" Daniel asked, gaping in disbelief at the man behind the desk.
"Fine, thanks. You?" Jack said, his sarcasm coming across as a bit forced.
Daniel ignored him and turned on Sam.
"You said he retired."
"I said he retired from the field," Sam said. "Colonel O'Neill is now General O'Neill and he's the C.O. of the SGC."
"You bitch," Daniel snapped.
"Hey!" Jack shouted. He leaned across his desk, ready to grab Daniel and shake some manners into him.
"It's all right, sir," Sam said, putting up a hand to dissuade him.
"No, it's not."
"I'm out of here," Daniel announced.
"You're not going anywhere," Jack countered.
"Yes, I am. Right back to my dig and if anyone from the SGC ever sets foot within one hundred yards of me again I'll shoot them. If either of you sets foot near me...."
"Shut up and listen, Daniel."
"No," Daniel said flatly before leaving the office.
"He can't get anywhere, Carter," Jack said. "He doesn't have official security clearance yet. The sentries will stop him."
"And then what?"
"And then he'll have no choice but to sit down and talk."
"I think maybe you've forgotten how stubborn Daniel can be," Sam said.
"No, I haven't," Jack said, heading for the door. "Why do you think I asked you to go and bring him back?"
"Tell them to let me go," Daniel said with quiet fury as Jack reached the elevator.
"He's with me," Jack told the sentries.
"No, I'm not."
"Only way you're getting out of here, Daniel."
"You can't keep me prisoner," Daniel said.
"Actually, I can," Jack said calmly. "Wouldn't be too hard to erase any trace of your arrival, and if you get to be too much trouble I can always zat you."
"You bastard. You're the one who wanted me gone in the first place."
"Okay, we can have this out right here, right now if that's the way you want it," Jack offered as Daniel eyed the sentries, weighing his options. "Or we can go somewhere and discuss this like adults."
Daniel's jaw clenched but he gestured for Jack to lead on. Jack swiped his ID card and the elevator doors opened almost immediately. They entered the car and immediately moved to opposite sides of the small compartment.
"I see you're still having Sam do your dirty work," Daniel said as the doors closed.
"God, you're a vicious bitch when you're crossed."
"I notice that's not a denial," Daniel said.
"No, it's not. I sent Carter because I knew you'd never listen to me."
"Know what I think?"
"I'm about to find out whether I want to or not, aren't I?" Jack said, closing and locking his front door behind him before heading toward the kitchen.
"I think what bothered you most is that you enjoyed it."
Jack stopped in mid-stride and turned slowly toward Daniel.
"I enjoyed being raped?"
"I didn't rape you!" Daniel insisted, his face going pale. "I didn't.... I would never hurt anyone...you. I wouldn't."
"Daniel," Jack said, his voice as calm as he could make it. The tone pulled Daniel back from the edge of an outburst.
"I didn't," Daniel repeated.
"No," Jack agreed. "You didn't. But it felt that way to me. I didn't ask for that."
"Neither did I."
"Neither of us was ourselves, but it's hard not to think of what we did as being something we did." Jack frowned. "I mean...."
"I know what you mean," Daniel said wearily. "When it happened, I felt normal. I felt like me. It wasn't until later, when I really was me, that I realized how not normal it was."
"I never hated you, Daniel."
Daniel stared at him, challenging the statement.
"Okay, maybe.... It was easier to blame you," Jack admitted. He wandered across the living room and sank into his easy chair. "It was easier to put it all on your head because you were...."
"Queer?" Daniel snapped.
"You were not uncomfortable with the idea in general. You'd done it before," Jack said. "That was my first time."
"Was it good for you?" Daniel muttered mockingly, staring at his shoes.
"What?" Daniel's head snapped up, his eyes fixing on Jack's.
"You heard me," Jack said, immediately defensive. Then he gave himself a shake. "You were right. One of the things that bothered me was that I enjoyed it."
"You bastard," Daniel said, still staring at Jack. "You hypocritical bastard."
"I get it," Jack said, squirming a little under Daniel's angry gaze.
"You...!" Daniel growled as he jumped to his feet and started pacing.
"Why didn't you just tell me? Why did you have to make me feel guilty and...and...." Daniel turned away. "If you'd just told me the truth we could've worked it out."
"I couldn't tell you," Jack insisted.
"I would've understood," Daniel said, turning back to face Jack. "I know that enjoying it didn't mean anything. It was sex. And sex is enjoyable. At least, it is if you do it right. That would've been the end of it as far as I was concerned."
"I'm sorry," Jack said in a low voice. He watched as Daniel collapsed back onto the couch. "It was difficult for me to handle. And, obviously, I didn't do a very good job of it."
Jack waited a moment for Daniel to call him on that gross understatement. But Daniel sat, huddled over.
"Daniel?" Jack frowned. "Hey, you okay?"
"No." Daniel looked up, his breathing rapid. He held up his hands, shaking. "No, I think I've got about a year's worth of shit coming down on me right now and I also think I should go."
"Jesus, Daniel," Jack said. He got quickly to his feet and across the room, stopping just short of touching Daniel. "I didn't realize you were still feeling guilty over all this shit. I swear--I thought you'd just say 'to hell with Jack' and be done with it."
"I tried. I really did," Daniel admitted. He swallowed hard. "I really gotta go."
"Yes way," Daniel said tersely as he got up and grabbed his jacket. He stopped abruptly just in front of the door. "Shit."
"No car. Call me a cab."
"Jack, please, just call me a cab."
"No. You're going to stay here and we're going to talk. Like we should've done a long time ago."
"No, we're not," Daniel said angrily, turning back to face Jack. "I don't want to talk. You've had time to think about this, to come to grips with it. I haven't. I've spent the last year and a half trying to forget. You can't expect me to just sit down and rationally discuss the fact that we raped each other!"
"Daniel," Jack said, his tone soft.
"Call a fucking cab, Jack."
"Gooood morn...Jesus, you look like shit," Jack said when Daniel finally opened the door to his hotel room.
"If you came here to 'Queer Eye' my appearance then you can leave right now," Daniel said, stalking off toward the bathroom.
"Um, no. Actually I brought coffee and Danish," Jack said. He lifted the small bag from the bakery as proof but Daniel had already closed the door to the bathroom. Jack set the sack on the small table at the side of the room and waited. Moments later the toilet flushed and Daniel returned, glaring at Jack through bloodshot eyes.
"Don't you have to be straight to get 'Queer Eye-d'? Because you're...not," Jack said, his voice trailing off uncomfortably.
"No, I'm not," Daniel said, biting off the words precisely as he yanked his wrinkled shirt off and tossed it on the bed. "Now fuck off. But leave the coffee."
"Don't think so," Jack said. He sat at the table and took a Styrofoam cup of coffee and a Danish out of the bag for himself while he watched Daniel pace the room. "Did you get any sleep last night?"
"What business is it of yours?"
"So that would be a 'no' then."
Daniel let out an exhausted sigh and finally sat down across the table from Jack. He took the second cup of coffee and gulped down half. Jack gave the caffeine a few minutes to work before attempting conversation again.
"No," Daniel said flatly. "And what right do you have to stick your nose into my life?"
"The right of a friend." Jack winced at Daniel's angry look. "We were friends, Daniel."
"Past tense," Daniel muttered, sipping at his coffee. "But we fucked it up. Literally."
"Daniel, the only reason I'm not kicking your ass for being an ass is that I realize that I did kind of drag you back into this without any warning."
"Big of you," Daniel said scathingly as he grabbed the sack and felt around for the other pastry.
"Were you always this pissy? Or is this a new and improved Dr. Jackson?"
"You always brought out the worst in me," Daniel said.
"Good to know some things never change."
"Why am I here?" Daniel asked.
"I'm going to assume you're not asking that in the metaphorical sense, because you know me and philosophy."
"Only too well," Daniel agreed.
"So in the less lofty sense...two reasons really," Jack said. "One personal, one professional."
"Better give me the professional one first."
"We want you back at the SGC."
"We need you."
"Nobody needs me, Jack."
Jack had to stop and think, unsure if Daniel was just being an ass, or if he really believed that no one needed, or wanted him.
"I had it backwards, you know," Daniel said wryly. "I thought Sam came after me because you really did have a difficult translation. But instead, the translation was merely the excuse you used to lure me back. And I'm not sure whether to be flattered or insulted."
"We do need your help," Jack said. "We can get other archaeologists and linguists--not as good as you--but we can get them. But it takes them too long to find the point, Daniel. Yes, they get there eventually, but you know better than anyone that we don't always have the luxury of time. We need your brand of lateral thinking."
"All my flaky leaps of faith?" Daniel asked archly.
"That's one way of putting it."
Daniel just shook his head, his eyes closed and his hands wrapped around the Styrofoam coffee cup.
"Go ahead. Hit me with the personal reason," he invited stoically.
"I miss you."
"Excuse me?" Daniel said with a derisive snort.
"I miss you."
"So you drag me out of my new life...."
"Are you happy?"
"What?" Daniel asked, thrown by the question.
"Are you happy in your new life?"
"What difference does that make? Good, bad or indifferent--it's my life, Jack. Not yours, not the SGC's. Mine."
"Would it help if I backed off for a while? Let you think stuff over?"
"Stuff?" Daniel asked, sleep deprivation making it impossible for him to keep up as Jack's line of questioning seemed to change directions without warning.
"What happened. And what should've happened."
"No. What would help is if you would fuck off. But send up more coffee on your way out."
"Maybe we should just throw you a big pity party?" Jack sniped, tossing the rest of his Danish on the table in disgust. "Invite everyone who's ever wronged you in any way and have one big orgy of self indulgent 'woe is me'."
"I loved you," Daniel said almost inaudibly.
"What?" Jack asked, uncertain he'd heard correctly.
"You wouldn't...couldn't ever know, and that was okay. You were what you were, and I was...in love with you and that's just the way it was."
"Daniel, I didn't.... I mean we were close, you know. But...."
"We were friends, Jack. And that was important. Very important." Daniel dropped his head into his hands. "I was horrified when I realized...when I realized what I'd done on that planet. And at the same time it hurt to see how horrified you were."
"I kind of fixated on the sex thing," Jack admitted. He tried on a smile. "But I'm over it now."
"Good for you," Daniel said flatly.
"Come back, Daniel. At least give it a try."
"How important is this translation?"
"Important," Jack said. "Remember Anubis?"
"The big bad Goa'uld who apparently came back from the dead," Daniel said, remembering his role as Yu's slave with a distinct lack of fondness.
"That's the one. He's pretty much top dog now, and he's engineered a whole new breed of soldier."
"A new kind of Jaffa?"
"Nope. An army of Goa'uld drones," Jack said. "Gooey Goa'uld."
"We're talking major 'ick' factor here," Jack assured him. "Anyway, they're damn near impossible to kill. The only good thing is that they're very short lived. Three, four weeks tops."
"Why would he do that?" Daniel asked.
"I assume he's in a hurry to get an army in the field and he's more concerned with their power than with their longevity. Jacob said they'd been made with increased heart and lung capacity, but apparently Anubis was a little sloppy with the details."
"Still, it doesn't make sense."
"I know, but it's a snake. Who knows what goes on in their twisted little brains," Jack said. "The bottom line for us is that Anubis is gearing up to take out Earth. We're going to need help, Daniel. And soon."
"And this translation?"
"SG-13 found this...place. Some weird Ancients' place. The linguist who's been working on it so far says there's information about a weapon."
"Big honkin' space gun?" Daniel asked dryly.
"I wish. That we might've been able to figure out," Jack said. "No, whatever this is, it's more than a space gun. And we haven't got a freakin' clue."
"Can I work on it here?"
"I can't just go back, Jack. I can't pretend that everything's hunky dory," Daniel said. "And I really don't know if I'm ready to deal with you and Sam and Teal'c right now."
"Teal'c is back working with Bra'tac, leading the Jaffa rebellion full time. Carter...you may have to work with her. Just depends on what we find out." Jack gave a resigned sigh. "I'll stay out of your hair if that's what you're worried about."
"I will," Jack insisted.
"The translation's that important to you?"
"Having you back is that important."
Jack sat back in Hammond's chair. Funny how he still thought of it as Hammond's chair even though George had taken Jack's promotion as an opportunity to finally retire. He now spent his days playing with his grandkids and writing his memoirs. He'd left Jack the SGC and his chair. And as nice as George's chair was, Jack had days when he was certain that Hammond had gotten the best of that bargain.
Jack let his assistant's words wash over him while part of his brain prioritized the information and another part wondered what was on the lunch menu. Sergeant Cates was a highly organized and efficient man. It annoyed the crap out of Jack on occasion, but it did make his job easier. Jack only needed to respond periodically, asking for clarification or amending an order, whenever Cates uttered a key word.
"And the Pegasus project...."
"Yes?" Jack said, Pegasus being the key word these days.
"I have no idea where Dr. Jackson is at with the translation. He hasn't been what I'd call forthcoming with updates," Cates said sounding a little miffed.
"Trust me," Jack said, allowing himself a small smile. "If.... Make that when Dr. Jackson figures it out, we'll all know."
"Yes, sir," Cates said, unconvinced.
"Sir? If I may?" Sam said, walking into the office without waiting for Sergeant Cates to finish. Jack dismissed Cates with a wave of the hand and moved out from behind his desk.
"Walk with me, Carter. I feel the need for something hot and loaded with caffeine."
"There's a coffee maker in the briefing room," Sam pointed out, falling easily into step with him.
"Yeah, but it doesn't have that same scorched aroma and sludge-like consistency I've come to depend on from the dining hall."
"Late night, sir?" Sam asked.
"Early morning," Jack said, grimacing. He shrugged it off. "What's your status?"
"Personally, I'm fine with early mornings," Sam said, smiling at Jack's scowl. "Professionally, not so fine. We've hit a road block with the artifact and we just can't get past it."
"Keep trying, Carter. You'll get there."
"How's Daniel doing with the translation?"
"Judging by the fact that I haven't heard the thud of innocent bystanders being mowed down by an oblivious archaeologist, I'd say he hasn't got it yet," Jack said.
"Don't you think it's time you went down there and gave Daniel a little nudge?"
"Daniel is only here because he can't resist a good mystery. Especially one that's centuries old and alien to boot. But he only agreed to do it if I stayed out of his way. If I push him he'll take off and we'll never see him again."
"You found him once, sir. You could do it again."
"Could," Jack agreed. "Won't."
"Sir," Sam said in token protest.
"Coming?" Jack said, pushing the commissary door open.
"I've got a road block to hurdle," Sam said with a shake of her head.
"Show it to Daniel."
"The road block. Show it to Daniel."
"Are you sure?" Sam asked.
"You don't think he can help?"
"No, it's...I thought his clearance was restricted."
"So? Who's in charge of this joint anyway?"
"You are...until certain individuals find out that you've violated security protocols."
"Only if I'm wrong, Carter," Jack said. "And I'm not wrong. Not this time."
"You sound very confident."
"Daniel has never let me down."
"Never?" Sam asked.
"Not when it counts."
"Then I'll...go show it to Daniel," Sam said as she turned and walked away.
"Good idea, Carter," Jack called after her.
"Just remember--prison orange is not my color," she tossed over her shoulder.
"All right, SG-11, you're a go. SG-3 will be...."
Jack sat back startled by the sudden and unexpected appearance of his 2IC. Just behind Daniel, whose appearance was equally sudden, but not as unexpected.
"Dismissed," Jack told SG-11 and SG-3 as Daniel set the artifact on the middle of the table, seemingly oblivious to the presence of anyone other than Jack.
"You should've told me about this right from the beginning," Daniel said as the other SGC personnel filed from the room, throwing back curious glances as they went. Daniel tapped the small naquada cube, waiting for Jack to explain why he'd been kept ignorant of this clue.
"Orders," Jack said with a shrug. Daniel glared at him. "So--you figured it out?"
"And it's not what you think it is," Daniel said. He paused, frowning. "And only you would think that's a horse."
"Looks like a horse to me," Jack said, studying the rough lines etched on the side of the three inch cube.
"What is it?"
"I don't know, but that's not really important."
"Carter?" Jack prompted.
"I don't think it's a horse either."
Jack sighed inwardly while turning a glare on his number two man. Woman. Person.
"Daniel doesn't think it's a weapon," Sam said, giving Jack the information she knew he'd really been asking for.
"It's not," Daniel said confidently. "But you will need it to get the weapon to work."
"So...it's what? A battery?" Jack asked skeptically.
"No," Daniel said slowly as he stared at Jack. "Well, in the sense that the weapon won't work without it, I suppose...."
"So where's the weapon?" Jack asked, disappointed but not disheartened by the news.
"I don't know. Yet," Daniel said. "I need to talk to Teal'c."
"Part of the text I was working on reminded me of a Jaffa legend he told me about."
"Legend?" Sam asked.
"A lot of Jaffa legends are based on real events," Daniel said. "Remember Kheb?"
"Not likely to forget that one," Jack said. "Carter--anything to add?"
"I can't get any further on this without more invasive tests," Sam said, nodding at the artifact. "And Daniel seems to think that would be a bad idea."
"Ithink it's a bad idea," Jack said, remembering all the times they'd probed just a little too hard. "Give Jaffa HQ a jingle; see if you can get a message to Teal'c. And I want SG-1 standing by."
"Sir," Sam acknowledged with a firm nod. She started down the stairs to the control room, and Jack turned his attention back to Daniel. Daniel appeared to be looking at the artifact, but in reality his gaze was miles away.
"Just like old times," Jack said hesitantly. Daniel looked over at Jack, his frown deepening. "I mean you and weird alien artifacts...."
"You pretending to be dumb," Daniel said.
"It looks like a horse to me," Jack insisted.
"Yep, just like old times," Daniel said dryly.
"Daniel," Jack said, the serious tone of his voice getting Daniel's attention. "If you and Teal'c can figure this out, would you be willing to go off world?"
"SG-1. And Teal'c, if I can convince him to help."
"I'm the head honcho now; I don't go off world anymore. And would it really be so awful?"
"Tense," Daniel said. "Considering my last mission was...."
"Right," Jack said quickly. "Forget about it. I wasn't thinking."
"No, it's okay. I'll go. If we figure out where to go."
"Good." Jack smiled, relaxing back into his chair. "It'll be a while before we hear back from Teal'c. How about I buy you lunch?"
"Sure. We'll get Carter, too."
"They still serve blue jello?"
"Whenever Carter's on base."
"Daniel Jackson." Teal'c's smile nearly split his face when he saw Daniel standing at the foot of the ramp.
"Hey, Teal'c. How are you?"
"I am well," Teal'c said, grasping Daniel by the forearm. "And most pleased to see you again."
"Me, too," Daniel said, smiling.
"What am I? Chopped liver?" Jack asked, standing just behind Daniel's left shoulder.
"You, O'Neill, are a pain in the mikta," Teal'c said, his courteous nod belying his words.
"Somebody's got to do it," Jack said with an easy shrug.
"For what purpose have I been summoned?"
"Er...that was me. I'm working on an artifact that I think may be tied into a Jaffa legend you once told me about," Daniel explained as they walked up to the briefing room. "It was a story about a people of great power, a people who defeated the Goa'uld. And the thing that sticks in my mind is that it talked about the heart. That the heart and mind and body must work together as one."
"I believe I remember the story to which you are referring," Teal'c said thoughtfully. "But it is not a common legend among the Jaffa."
"No?" Daniel asked as he took a seat across the table from Teal'c.
"Bra'tac told me this story. He heard it from the inhabitants of planet he was charged with exploring."
"Bra'tac was exploring the planet?" Daniel said. "For...?"
"Conquest," Teal'c said. "Apophis made the world part of his empire."
"Okay...so how come the locals didn't fight him off with this super-dooper weapon?" Jack asked.
"I do not know."
"Were the inhabitants human?" Daniel asked Teal'c.
"That was my understanding."
"That's probably your explanation right there," Daniel told them. "The Ancients were long gone and the humans didn't know how to use the weapon. Not to mention the fact that they would've needed the second component even if they had known how to use it."
"Are we going to know how to use it?" Jack asked.
"We won't know until we try."
"Well, Apophis is dead. Definitely dead. So the question is: who's running the planet now?" Jack said.
"I do not know. It was merely a small outpost visited only rarely by Apophis, and never by myself," Teal'c said. "However, Bra'tac may know the current status."
"We'll need the gate address and an assessment of snake strength," Jack said. Teal'c stood up and gave Jack a small, formal bow.
"I will seek Bra'tac's knowledge," he said. "It may be several days before I can return."
"We'll leave the porch light on for you."
"Hey. Come in, make yourself at home," Jack said, holding the door open for Daniel.
"Um...thanks," Daniel said nervously.
"Supper will be ready in about ten minutes," Jack said, walking back into the kitchen. "Grab yourself something to drink while you wait."
"Isn't Sam coming?" Daniel asked, hesitating in the doorway to the kitchen.
"Carter? No. Why?" Jack asked as he pulled a pan of lasagna from the oven.
"I just...I thought...."
"Pete's not the sharing type," Jack explained. "When Carter's on the planet he wants her home for dinner with him."
"Oh, that's right, you don't know about Pete," Jack said, seeing Daniel's puzzled expression. "Pete is Mr. Carter. Well, not officially yet. The wedding's in the spring sometime. You'll have to ask her for the details."
"Great," Daniel muttered. "One more thing I screwed up."
"What are you talking about?" Jack asked while he checked the progress of the garlic bread.
"You and Sam."
"Me and Carter?" Jack asked slowly. He took the bread out of the oven, took off the oven mitts and turned to give Daniel his full attention. "There is no me and Carter."
"Not anymore," Daniel agreed.
"Never was," Jack said emphatically. "I'll admit there was a certain infatuation...on both sides. But it wasn't going to happen." Jack shrugged. "We got over it."
"You're telling me you don't care for Sam?" Daniel said skeptically.
"Of course I do. I adore Carter." Jack waved Daniel into the dining room as he set the food on the table. "But I don't want to marry her. Sure as hell don't want to sleep with her."
"You don't?" Daniel said, disbelief plain on his face.
"Well, there are certain obvious attractions," Jack admitted as he served Daniel and then himself. "But I have this nagging feeling that she'd be thinking the whole time."
"Oh, that would be awful," Daniel said, rolling his eyes.
"It would. She'd tell me how to improve my angle of trajectory or calculate the thrust necessary...." Jack shuddered. "I think that's why I liked being with you."
Daniel's fork clattered as it dropped to his plate.
"You didn't care if it was 'right'. You just wanted to have fun and get off." Jack paused, staring quizzically at Daniel. "Maybe it's a guy thing?"
"Daniel, I've faced up to the fact that sex with you was not awful," Jack said as matter-of-factly as he could. "The circumstances were not to my liking, but what happened between you and me.... That's not something I should ever have felt bad about."
"It's not easy to divorce the...actions from the circumstances," Daniel said.
"Harder for some than for others," Jack said. "But we can get past that."
"When you say 'get past that'...?"
"Move in with me."
"You're paying out the nose for a hotel room. I've got a perfectly good, and unused, spare bedroom."
"If it were a year or two ago, I wouldn't have hesitated to offer, and you wouldn't have hesitated to accept," Jack said.
"Getting past it," Daniel said, nodding.
"I just don't think it's a good idea right now," Daniel said.
"Okay. Well, the offer remains open in case you change your mind."
"You sure about this?" Jack asked, trying to conceal his concern by occupying his hands with the straps on Daniel's pack.
"Yeah," Daniel said.
"Bra'tac said Bastet's Jaffa are at minimal strength. And the MALP didn't show any activity near the gate. Of course, given that we don't know for sure where this weapon might be, that may not mean much."
"I know." Daniel gave Jack a pointed look. "Sam and Teal'c can handle it."
"I know," Jack sighed. "Sorry. I'm just a little uncomfortable with making you go off world again."
"You're not making me--I volunteered. And I can handle it," Daniel said, stepping back so that he could finish fastening his own pack.
"I know." Jack shoved his hands in his pockets before he could start fussing with Daniel's gear again. "When you get back we need to talk."
"About...?" Daniel asked, waving his hand between them.
"There is no...," Daniel said, making the same furtive gesture. He turned and busied himself making sure he'd gotten everything he needed from his locker.
"That's why we need to talk about it."
"Don't mess with me, Jack," Daniel warned, still not looking at him. "If you thought I was pissy before...."
"I'm completely serious."
"Because I think I finally got my head out of my ass and realized a few things."
"About time," Daniel muttered.
"Hey--King of Clueless here," Jack said. "You know that."
"You're not that stupid, Jack. Stop using it as an excuse."
"Unfortunately, it wasn't just an excuse this time," Jack said ruefully.
"Are you serious?" Daniel said, staring at Jack.
"About...?" Jack asked, copying Daniel's gesture. "Yes."
"Okay," Daniel said after a moment of thought.
"Okay, we'll talk," Daniel said. "When I get back."
Daniel studied the new incarnation of SG-1 as he waited for the gate to finish dialing. Sam had taken over command, which hadn't surprised Daniel in the least. Her second was Major Rogers, a former test pilot who, according to Jack, liked to play as hard as he worked. Lieutenant Krejci was new to the SGC but considered to be an up and comer, therefore the posting to SG-1.
The fourth member of the team blushed faintly under Daniel's gaze before offering a small smile. Daniel just smiled and nodded in return. Lieutenant Satterfield still harbored a crush on Daniel, which he found both embarrassing and flattering. Mostly he was proud of her. He'd taken a little time to review some of SG-1's recent mission reports, and Satterfield had proven herself worthy of the assignment to SG-1, both as a soldier and as an archeologist.
"Let's move it out," Sam ordered as the vortex stabilized. "Satterfield, Krejci--you've got our sixes."
"Yes, Ma'am," Satterfield replied crisply as Sam and Rogers headed up the ramp.
Daniel turned his head, glancing up at the control room. Jack stood just behind Sergeant Davis, but gave no particular acknowledgement of Daniel's regard...which was oddly reassuring. Smiling to himself, Daniel walked up the ramp and stepped into the event horizon. The second he stepped through on the other side, a staff weapon blast shot by his head close enough for him to feel its heat.
"Get down!" Sam shouted.
The warning was unnecessary since Daniel had automatically thrown himself to the ground beside the gate at the first sign of danger. As he tore his sidearm from the holster, he watched for Teal'c, knowing he'd been just a few steps behind Daniel. He shouted out his own warning when Teal'c appeared. Teal'c raised his staff weapon in response, but Sam and Rogers had already dispatched the two Jaffa guards.
"Secure the area," Sam shouted at Satterfield and Krejci when they arrived. Sam walked over to one of the fallen Jaffa, nudging him with her foot to make sure he was going to stay fallen.
"Where did these guys come from?" she asked angrily.
"Most likely they were alerted by the arrival of the MALP," Teal'c said, scanning their surroundings for any sign of danger.
"Everyone okay?" Sam asked. Daniel nodded as Sam let out a relieved sigh. "Geez, no wonder General O'Neill went gray."
"Um...." Daniel couldn't help the involuntary glance he gave to Sam's head.
"You don't want to go there," Sam warned.
"No," Daniel agreed quickly. "Not going there. Going in a completely opposite direction in fact."
"Which only proves that you're smarter than the general," Sam said, her smile slightly restrained by the adrenaline pumping through her system.
Sam gave Daniel a pointed look.
"He did," Daniel said with a nod.
"We should not linger here," Teal'c said. "Reinforcements may be on the way."
"Send the MALP back and zat the bodies," Sam ordered. "I don't want to leave any obvious evidence of our presence."
"According to Bra'tac, the structure we most likely seek is in that direction," Teal'c said, using his staff weapon to indicate the way they needed to go.
"Okay. We proceed with the assumption that the Jaffa, at least, are aware of our presence," Sam said. "Teal'c, take point. Rogers--you've got our six."
"This just got a little more complicated, didn't it?" Daniel said to Sam.
"Just like old times, eh?" Sam said with a wry smile.
"Close the blast doors!" Jack shouted as a blast burst through the event horizon. He watched with a clenched jaw as seconds later, Daniel came flying through. He stumbled backward the rest of the way down the ramp, keeping his eyes glued on the gate. Teal'c followed next, cradling a cloth wrapped object in his arms. SG-1, with Carter bringing up the rear, followed in quick succession.
"Having fun?" Jack asked. Now that he could see that the entire team was ruffled and dirty, but intact, he approached them at a more measured pace than he'd taken down the stairs from the control room.
"You bet, sir," Sam said.
"Oh, yeah," Daniel agreed breathlessly. "I'd forgotten how much fun this can be."
"This it?" Jack asked, nodding at the bundle in Teal'c's arms.
"Probably," Daniel said. Jack glared at him. "Definitely. That's definitely it."
Teal'c unwrapped the object, allowing Jack get a good look. It was another cube, this one just over a foot square, and milky white. The surface was entirely covered in intricate carvings.
"Any ideas?" Jack asked Daniel.
"No 'on' switch?"
"Not so's you'd notice," Daniel said, directing Jack's attention back to the box. "Before the Jaffa got too active I managed to make a recording of some inscriptions near the device. I'm hoping they'll shed some light."
"They ID you?" Jack asked Sam.
"Visual. Long range." Sam shrugged. "Enough to know that we're SGC."
"No harm," Jack reassured her. "Bastet has never been particularly interested in us before."
"She is, however, one of Ba'al's subordinates," Teal'c pointed out.
"And Ba'al is far more concerned with stopping Anubis than with us," Jack said.
Daniel looked up from his desk, frown lines creasing his forehead.
"How's it going?"
"It's not," Daniel said, slumping back in his chair and rubbing his eyes.
"Well, I discovered this." Daniel placed two fingers carefully on one side of the device and a small door slid open. With a flourish, he picked up the smaller naquada cube and slid it into the exposed niche. The door slid shut again, concealing the naquada.
"You're not going to tell me that is a battery?" Sam said, a warning tone in her voice.
"Um...well.... I won't tell Jack if you don't," Daniel offered.
"But it's still not a horse, right?"
"Still not a horse," Daniel agreed.
"Good. The general would be unbearable if he started getting everything right," Sam said. She pulled up a chair and sat down, studying the cube. Daniel leaned forward on his elbows, joining her in silent contemplation.
"So...is it doing anything now?" Sam asked.
"I don't think so," Daniel said. "It's not giving off any kind of energy. Or taking in any kind of energy for that matter."
"Want me to run some tests?" Sam offered.
"Thanks, but no. I had Bill Lee go over it while you were tied up in meetings yesterday," Daniel said. "His preliminary report is right there."
"Any ideas?" Sam asked, skimming through Dr. Lee's analysis.
"I'm missing something," Daniel said, shaking his head in frustration. "Obviously."
"So," Sam said, laying the report aside. She tried to sound casual but her gaze was a little too intense. "You and the general, you worked things out?"
"I never blamed Jack for his reaction," Daniel said, glancing up at Sam's face to read her reaction to the statement. "It hurt, but I understood."
"You know he cared too much to ever knowingly do something that would hurt you," Sam said. "He's just...Jack."
"Yeah," Daniel agreed, chuckling. "He's Jack all right."
"So you guys are okay then?"
"We're...getting there." Daniel sat up straight and looked at Sam with an apologetic expression. "Look, I wanted to say I'm sorry."
"For being not very nice to you earlier."
"Don't worry about it," Sam said, shrugging off Daniel's concern. "We're family, right?"
"Um...yes. Of the dysfunctional variety."
"Exactly," Sam said with a grin.
"Daniel." Jack motioned him to the living room.
"Do we have to talk about it?" Daniel complained.
"Yes. So sit down and start talking," Jack ordered.
"He gets a clue for once in his life and now he expects everyone else to get in touch with their feelings," Daniel muttered half seriously.
"Not everyone. Just you," Jack said, refusing to rise to the bait.
Daniel plopped down on the couch, resigned to the fact that he was going to have to talk. To Jack.
"Do you ever wish it had been Teal'c or Sam?" Daniel asked as Jack joined him on the couch.
"That's very definite."
"I've thought about it," Jack admitted. "Carter--that would've been screwed up in so many ways. Yes, it would've been the kind of sex I was used to, but the damage it could've done to our professional as well as personal relationship.... It wouldn't have been pretty."
"And Teal'c?" Daniel asked curiously.
"In some ways he might've been the easiest," Jack said. "We both probably would've pretended that it never happened and never spoken of it again."
"Sounds like the ideal solution for you," Daniel said.
"Yeah, it does. But it wouldn't have been a good solution." Jack slumped back against the cushions. "It would've messed things up no matter how hard we tried to pretend."
"You could've insisted on dealing with it."
"No, I couldn't."
"You did it with me."
"That's your fault."
"My fault? How could it be my fault?" Daniel asked, bewildered by the accusation.
"Because even though you took off to parts unknown, I still heard you saying, 'Jack, we have to talk.' 'Jack, we have to work this out'."
"But I never said that," Daniel pointed out.
"So you can imagine how annoyed I was," Jack said. Daniel couldn't suppress his smile at Jack's indignation. The good humor disappeared rapidly when Jack leaned over and kissed him. Lightly, barely a brushing of the lips, but still a kiss.
"Where did that come from?" Daniel asked warily, studying Jack's face intently for clues.
"Wanted to know if kissing you felt as good as I remember."
"And...it's not bad, but I seem to remember you responding with a little more enthusiasm."
"What are you looking for?" Daniel asked, his expression still guarded. "What do you want?"
"Not entirely sure," Jack admitted. "I know that having you around is important to me. I want you here--annoying me in person. I've also learned that I'm not entirely opposed to the...physical possibilities."
"Sex," Jack said tersely. "But I'm not sure what that means."
"I think it means you're not as thoroughly heterosexual as you once believed," Daniel said dryly.
"No shit, Sherlock."
"What do you want, Jack? You want me to tell you that it's okay to enjoy sex? Of any kind?" Daniel shook his head. "You don't need me for that."
"Except that I do," Jack insisted. "Because even though I can accept that I like more...variety in sex than I'd ever realized, I don't seem to have the desire to do it with anyone but you and I'm not sure what that means."
"Probably nothing more than the fact that I'm the first and only man you've ever had sex with."
"That's not it," Jack said. "I want...you."
"I'm not going to hop in bed so you can explore your latent bisexual tendencies," Daniel said firmly. "There are guys out there who'd be happy to let you experiment--no strings attached--but I'm not one of them."
"Don't be an ass, Daniel," Jack snapped. "I just told you I don't have any interest in anyone else. And I don't mean just the physical part."
"Are we supposed to forget about what happened just like that?"
"No, of course not," Jack said sarcastically. "Having been through hell already, we're now supposed to continue to suffer for some number of years known only to you because the idea of just grabbing on to some happiness conflicts with some weird sub-clause of your personal moral code."
Daniel glared at Jack, his mouth working furiously, silently, as he tried to formulate some appropriate rebuttal. A vehement "Fuck you!" was the best he could manage.
"See! I'm right and you know it," Jack said, jabbing a finger in Daniel's chest.
"Are not!" Daniel retorted.
"No? Then why don't we quit screwing around and get naked?" Jack challenged.
"So this is just because you want me to strip you down and suck your brains out through your dick?"
"Judas Priest, Daniel!" Jack snapped.
"What?" Daniel shot back defensively. "I know you liked it. Liked it a lot."
"Of course I liked it. But anyone can suck me...."
"Anyone?" Daniel asked, his eyes hardening.
"Not Freya," Jack said after giving Daniel a dirty look for interrupting. "There's something going on in that head of hers that I don't even want to know about. But that's not the point."
"What is the point?"
"The point is that what happened before doesn't matter anymore. What matters is now. Stop punishing us for something that's over and done and neither of us had any control over to begin with."
"It's not that simple, Jack."
"Yes, it is!" Jack yelled, exasperated. "Trust me. I know simple."
"Oh, there's a news flash."
"There's nothing wrong with simple. Sometimes simple is downright necessary to cut through all the bullshit. You want this. I want this. Let's just do this." Jack groaned at Daniel's unconvinced expression. "Why are you fighting me on this?"
"Habit?" Daniel said, unwilling to concede that Jack might be right about the reason for his reluctance.
Growling, Jack abandoned words for actions. He grabbed Daniel and pulled him in for a kiss that wasn't the least bit hesitant, or even gentle. He gripped Daniel close to him, thrusting his tongue against Daniel's while he shifted their positions, pushing him down onto the couch. Daniel moaned into Jack's mouth when his weight settled over him. He arched slightly, increasing the pressure on their groins.
"Jesus, Daniel," Jack groaned when he broke off the kiss, gasping for air.
"You want this?" Daniel asked, somewhat breathless himself.
"Yes! Yes, how much more convincing do you need?" Jack demanded. "I want you to suck me. Fuck me. Use me. Abuse me. I don't care. Just do it."
"No. Stop," Daniel said, wedging his hands between their chests.
"Give me one good reason why."
"Because I said no."
"Shit," Jack muttered, lifting off of Daniel and slumping down on the other side of the couch. It took Daniel a few seconds longer to pull his lust addled brain back to rational thought.
"I'm sorry," Daniel said quietly as he sat back up.
"If you don't want it, you don't want it," Jack said, trying to be philosophical in the face of rejection.
"I do. I do want it," Daniel assured him. He gave into the need to adjust himself, grunting as the pressure on his cock eased slightly. "But I can't help feeling that what happened was my fault, and I'm just not comfortable with the idea of a relationship based on...that."
"For crying out loud, Daniel. It wasn't your fault."
"You don't know that. Haven't you ever wondered why they put us together?"
"What do you mean?"
"They didn't put Sam with anyone. They didn't put Teal'c with anyone. Why did they did they make us believe we had a preexisting relationship?"
"I don't know. I also don't know what you could've possibly done that would've caused the situation."
"What if I said...something?"
"I don't know." Daniel ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "Before they messed with our minds we were tortured."
"Yeah, remember that. And you think you told them about your...thing for me as opposed to giving them the gate addresses they wanted?"
"I could have."
"Sounds a little far fetched to me, but even if you did, why would they put us together? Why would they give you something you wanted?"
"Because they knew you didn't want it?" Daniel suggested.
"Possible, I suppose," Jack said without much conviction. "But consider another theory: what if in the process of messing around in our heads they inadvertently let something out. Let our feelings out?"
"But you didn't have those feelings," Daniel pointed out.
"Not consciously," Jack agreed. "But I'm thinking there must have been something there or I wouldn't be sitting here with you now."
"What if you're still being influenced by it?" Daniel asked with a sinking feeling.
"I'm not. Jacob undid the mind whammy."
"He got rid of the block on our memories but what if he didn't eliminate whatever was affecting our feelings for each other?"
"He did. If he hadn't I wouldn't have totally flipped out like I did when I realized that we'd been, you know, doing it on that planet," Jack said. He paused and offered a small smile. "Sorry about that."
"Perfectly understandable reaction," Daniel said, shaking his head.
"Freaking out--yes. Taking it out on you--no. There's nothing understandable about that," Jack said. "The bottom line is that I don't think the Chalcians intended for us to end up together. I think that something already inside us got uncovered. I think we were together because somehow we knew that's the way we're supposed to be."
"That's a tempting explanation."
"What do I have to do to convince you that this is okay?"
"Well, that hard on you were rubbing up against me a minute ago was fairly persuasive," Daniel admitted with a smile.
"But not persuasive enough," Jack said.
"Close. Very close."
"Move in with me," Jack said.
"Jack," Daniel said with a reproving look as he got up from the couch.
"Move in with me," Jack repeated.
"Give me a few days," Daniel said quietly. "Give my brain a chance to catch up to my body."
"Days?" Jack asked, following Daniel to the front door.
Daniel turned, took Jack's face between his hands and kissed him. He meant it to be a promise, a hint of things to come, but they were both still aroused from the earlier, momentary, closeness and Daniel's tongue quickly found itself deep in Jack's mouth. With a groan, Jack raised his hands and wrapped them around Daniel's wrists, pulling away.
"Now that's the way I remember your kisses," Jack said huskily.
"Sorry," Daniel muttered, embarrassed that he'd been so close to losing control again.
"No, don't be. Just because I'm going to have to go jerk off the minute you leave," Jack said glumly. Daniel couldn't prevent the shiver that coursed through his body. Jack gave him a wicked smile. "Wanna watch?"
"Yes. No. Asshole," Daniel grumbled affectionately. He leaned forward, brushing his lips against Jack's, and then he was gone. Jack leaned his head against the door, reaching down to cup his aching genitals.
"It's a damn good thing I know this will be worth it."
"Well?" Daniel asked hopefully when Teal'c entered his office. Teal'c laid down the folder containing Daniel's translation along with all the technical data Sam had managed to collect on the device. He gazed quietly at the two very different looking alien boxes sitting on Daniel's lab table for a moment before answering.
"I do not think I can add anything to your interpretation," Teal'c said with regret.
"I was afraid of that." Daniel offered a weary smile. "Thanks for trying."
"Are you certain that there is a third component?" Teal'c asked.
"Has to be. Heart, mind, and body, remember?" Daniel said. He carefully placed the small naquada cube into its niche inside of the larger, marble one. "The naquada is the power source: the heart. The outer cube, I think, is the mind. Sam says that it's some sort of computer as far as she can tell, so that would make sense."
"And the third part?"
"I have no idea," Daniel admitted reluctantly. "No idea of what it is or where to find it."
"Perhaps we should've remained longer on M9S," Teal'c said.
"I don't think so. Aside from the fact that the Jaffa were about to get the upper hand, I doubt the other part is still there."
"It is the source of the legend, and the home of the weapon," Teal'c pointed out logically.
"Yeah, but one piece ended up light years away from there." Daniel rubbed tiredly at his eyes. "If SG-13 hadn't accidentally found the naquada cube, we might never have known about the weapon. The third part could be anywhere in the galaxy. Anywhere in the universe."
"I cannot see where the third device would be attached."
"On these two sides," Daniel said. Teal'c leaned over to study one side more closely while Daniel did the same on the other.
"If you look at it from an oblique angle you can see subtle depressions worked into the carving and...." Daniel's hand froze in place as it slid along the barely visible depressions.
"Have you discovered something?" Teal'c asked, noting the look of extreme concentration on Daniel's face.
"It can't be," Daniel muttered to himself.
"What cannot be?" Teal'c asked. Before Daniel could answer an alarm brayed through the speakers.
"Is that what I think it is?" Daniel asked, looking up.
"We have gone on alert."
"I was afraid of that."
Daniel threw the alien weapon a lingering look as he followed Teal'c out of his office. The two ran down the stairs, hopping down two and three at a time as they hurried down to level 28. By the time Daniel and Teal'c reached the control room, Jack was leaning over the monitors, his hands braced against the edge of the counter as he watched the display with a grim expression.
"What's going on?" Daniel asked.
"Anubis," Sam said tersely from another monitor on the other side of the room.
"Already?" Daniel asked.
"Apparently," Jack said, his eyes glued to the screen.
"Preliminary report from NASA deep space tracking shows...fifty ships," Sergeant Davis reported. "They're currently spreading out around the planet."
"Damn it." Jack straightened up and looked back at Daniel. "Is that weapon working yet?"
"Not now, Cates," Jack said, still looking at Daniel.
"It's the President, sir."
Jack grimaced but turned and grabbed the receiver.
"O'Neill.... No, sir, we have no idea when they'll begin the actual attack but I suggest you get Air Force One moving now.... I understand completely, but the bottom line is that the only way we can guarantee your safety is to get you off world.... At least come to the SGC. We can monitor and coordinate defensive efforts from here as easily as anywhere. And if it gets as bad as it could.... We'll be ready, sir."
Jack handed the phone back to Cates and tapped Sergeant Davis on the shoulder.
"Notify our off-world teams to RV at the Alpha site. Then open our gate to the Alpha site and keep it open, understood?"
"Yes, sir," Davis said, already dialing.
"And notify the Prometheus to be ready to launch on my command."
"The Prometheus, sir?" Sam said, walking over to join Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c.
"Last resort," Jack told her. He finally returned his attention to Daniel.
"Is there any chance of getting that weapon to work?" Jack asked, a hint of desperation in his voice. Daniel opened his mouth as if to speak, then turned and hurried from the room without further explanation.
"Carter, stay with him," Jack ordered. "Do whatever it takes to get that thing working."
Teal'c led the way to Daniel's office, Sam having to quicken her pace to keep up with Teal'c's long strides. When they entered, they found Daniel leaning over the device, his hands planted flat on the table to either side of it.
"Daniel? Did you figure it out?" Sam asked.
"I think so." Daniel made a small grimace of a smile. "I hope so."
"You have determined the nature of the third component?" Teal'c asked, puzzled though not entirely surprised.
"Where is it?"
"Right here," Daniel said, staring at the device.
"Here?" Sam asked, looking around for something she hadn't seen before. Daniel suddenly looked up at her and Teal'c.
"If this doesn't go well, tell Jack I'm sorry."
Daniel placed his hands on the sides of the device, pressing into the subtle depressions. The previously hard material softened, molded to Daniel's hands.
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said sharply. He and Sam both moved closer, peering at Daniel when he made no response. Daniel's eyes were wide open, but it was obvious he wasn't seeing anything in that room.
Jack hurried back into the control room, now dressed in BDUs. If the SGC was going to be the last bastion against the Goa'uld, then Jack fully intended to be on the front line. Just as soon as he had a weapon.
"Get my sidearm from my desk," Jack ordered.
"Just a sidearm?"
"Well, if you happen to find a big honkin' space gun in there I'll take that, too." Jack didn't bother watching Cates go. The man hadn't known Jack long, but long enough to know better than to take offense at Jack's sarcasm.
"What's our status?" Jack asked Davis.
"The mother ships all seem to be in position over large population centers. We've just started receiving reports that they've begun the attack."
"Damn it. Air Force One?"
"In the air," Davis reported. "They're aware of the positioning of the Goa'uld ships and are altering their flight path accordingly."
"Have there been any attempts at communication?" Jack asked.
"From the Goa'uld? No, sir," Davis said.
"Have we tried contacting them?"
"Do it," Jack ordered. "Do we have a link to Air Force One?"
"Yes, sir," said a tech from the back of the room.
"Notify the President that I intend to try and make contact," Jack said. "If nothing else maybe I can buy us a little time."
"They're not responding, General," Davis reported.
"Doesn't Anubis know the rules?" Jack said angrily. "The Goa'uld always waste time preening and gloating before they attack."
"Sir," Davis said, drawing Jack's attention back to the real time display. Jack clenched his jaw as the monitor showed a hit in Western Europe.
"Paris?" Jack asked.
"Yes, sir," Davis said gravely. He pointed to another spot. "And Toronto."
"Toronto? What the hell did Toronto ever do to the Goa'uld?" Jack snapped, hating the sense of powerlessness he felt watching the Goa'uld attack unopposed.
"I don't think Toronto did anything to provoke the Goa'uld," Davis said seriously.
"That was rhetorical question," Jack said, giving Davis an exasperated look. He turned back to the display, unable to do more than witness the slaughter as several more cities registered attacks. Jack thumped his fist on the counter. "He's going for psychological targets."
"Why not military targets? Or political?" Davis asked.
"Anubis doesn't have anything to fear from our military," Jack said, pained by the admission. "He can sit up there in space and chip away at us until he's thrown the entire planet into chaos and panic."
"But how does he know where to attack?"
"Osiris," Jack said after a moment's thought.
"Sarah Gardner," Davis said with a nod of understanding.
"Yep," Jack said tersely. A moment later he blinked hard when one of the red dots representing the Goa'uld mother ships seemed to disappear. He continued staring, uncertain that he'd really seen anything, until another dot vanished.
"What was that?" Jack demanded.
"I don't know, sir. It could be a failure in the tracking equipment," Davis said, immediately making an attempt to contact NASA directly. Jack watched, stunned, as more of the red dots representing the Goa'uld mother ships slowly vanished from the display.
"Sir, initial reports say that the enemy ships are being enveloped in some kind of bright light. And then they're just...gone."
"How?" Jack asked. Davis shrugged, as at a loss to explain it as Jack. Jack's expression suddenly grew wary. He grabbed the nearest phone, grimacing in impatience when it wasn't answered immediately. "C'mon, c'mon...Teal'c!"
"What did he do?" Jack asked.
"Daniel Jackson has activated the weapon of the Ancients."
"I am uncertain. He has interfaced with the device in some way, and is unresponsive to our questions."
"Sir?" Sam asked softly when Jack entered Daniel's office.
"The fleet's destroyed," Jack said, circling cautiously around the table to Daniel's side.
"All of it?" Teal'c asked.
"He's chasing down a few stragglers trying to hightail it out of here, but yeah--all of it." Jack watched Daniel for a moment. "Has he been like this the whole time?"
"Daniel?" Jack noticed Daniel's arms trembling, the shaking growing more pronounced by the second. As Jack stepped forward to intervene in some way, Daniel's hands flew off the device so forcefully that he staggered back a step.
"Daniel?" Jack called again. Daniel ignored him, all his concentration focused on his fumbling attempt to open the device.
"Get Fraiser down here," Jack told Sam. She immediately reached for the phone on Daniel's desk, keeping her eyes on Daniel.
Teal'c quickly moved to help Daniel, opening the door to the recess where the small naquada cube sat. He removed it, Daniel watching him intently as he did. Teal'c waited for Daniel to indicate if he needed anything else done, but Daniel just stared blankly at him.
"Daniel," Jack said. Daniel's eyes turned to meet his briefly, then his legs buckled and he collapsed. Jack managed to grab him just in time to prevent the floor from putting a serious dent in his skull. "Where's...?"
"Here, sir." Janet was kneeling on the other side of Daniel before Jack had even registered her arrival. "What happened?"
"No freakin' clue," Jack said helplessly.
"Daniel Jackson used the Ancients' weapon," Teal'c said.
"When he was done he went down like a ton of bricks," Jack added.
"He just never learns," Janet muttered to herself. She looked back to the door where the rest of her medical team waited. "Let's get him to the infirmary. I want the works. Labs, x-rays, EEG--you know the drill, people."
Jack helped lift Daniel to the gurney, shaking Carter's hand from his arm. He turned angrily on her when she tried to stop him from following the gurney into the hall.
"Not now, Carter."
"Sorry, sir, but the President's here."
"What?" Jack asked, for the first time noticing the phone in Sam's hand. "Er...right. Have him taken to the briefing room. I'll meet him there."
Jack watched Janet's back as she shepherded the medical team from the room.
"Carter, you're with me. Teal'c...."
"I will remain with Daniel Jackson."
"I want U.S. aid on the way to the affected areas tonight," President Hayes was telling one of his aides when Jack and Sam entered the room.
"Sir." Jack snapped off a textbook salute, Sam echoing his movement from just a step behind.
"Please, General, Colonel--have a seat," Hayes invited. Jack and Sam took seats to the President's left. General Vidrine and a handful of other assorted assistants clustered around the table. Four Secret Service agents exchanged suspicious looks with the S.F.s assigned to guard the briefing room. Jack turned his attention back to Hayes.
"The in-flight movie sucked, but the food wasn't bad," the President said, matching Jack's casual tone.
"General," Vidrine said curtly. "It's our understanding that you were able to make the alien weapon work."
"Yes," Jack said. "Well, Daniel did."
"Dr. Jackson?" Hayes asked. "Well, he certainly deserves credit for some very important research."
"Not just research. Daniel's the one who actually operated the weapon," Sam said.
"A civilian?" Vidrine asked, evidently scandalized by the notion.
"A man. A very smart man who happened to be the only person here who could figure it out in time," Jack said testily.
"Then we are duly grateful for Dr. Jackson's contributions," Hayes said in a placating tone. "And for your prescient decision to bring him back to the Stargate program, General O'Neill."
"Nothing farsighted about that, Mr. President," Jack said. "I was just rectifying the error of Daniel's absence."
"So we've got this Goa'uld thing licked, right?" the President said, sitting back in the chair and regarding Jack and Sam with a serious expression.
"Not exactly," Sam said.
"The man who just took out Anubis and his entire fleet is right now in the infirmary, unconscious," Jack explained.
"Why?" Vidrine asked. "What happened?"
"Our medical team is working on it, but we won't know the whole story until Daniel wakes up," Jack said.
"The fact is, sir, that it is an alien device. It was intended to be used by those aliens, not by humans," Sam said.
"But it obviously can be used by humans," Hayes said. "Albeit at a cost."
"Yes, sir," Sam agreed hesitantly.
"We can always ask for volunteers," Vidrine suggested to the President.
"Whoa, hey," Jack interrupted. "As a former suicide mission volunteer myself--I'd like to suggest waiting until we know more about what happened to Daniel."
"We need to press our advantage," Vidrine said.
"No argument there," Jack said. "But there's no immediate need. We're safe for the moment. Anubis is history and the other System Lords are going to be very careful about messing with Earth given that we just blew the most powerful Goa'uld into oblivion."
"That sounds reasonable," Hayes agreed. "But I'd like you to begin drawing up some preliminary plans, General. It seems to me that this is an opportunity that we can't afford to pass up."
"Yes, sir," Jack said with reluctant agreement. "We'll need to gather some intel from our Jaffa allies. Tok'ra, too, if we can. That, and any information Daniel can give us, should help guide our plan of attack."
"Our biggest problem will be that the Goa'uld are widely scattered," Sam pointed out.
"We'll have to coordinate simultaneous attacks on multiple fronts throughout the galaxy," Jack said. "And we don't even know at the moment whether the weapon can be used that way."
"What about an ambush?" Hayes said. "As you said, the other Goa'uld will surely avoid us--at least for the moment. But if we can lure them into a trap...."
"It's a thought," Jack agreed.
"Keep me apprised. If you can develop a reasonable plan, I'll authorize whatever resources it takes to make it work," Hayes said. He let out a big sigh and sat back in his chair. "And now I have to go and explain to the country--hell, the world--just how it is that aliens not only exist but that not all of them are friendly."
"Gee, wish I could help," Jack said facetiously.
"Actually, General, you could," the President said to Jack's dismay.
"I can't believe you turned the President down," Jack said as he adjusted the volume on the small TV. Other than Daniel the infirmary was empty, so Fraiser had allowed Jack to bring in the TV so that they could watch the press conference. He set the volume to be loud enough to keep the casual observer from overhearing them. "I mean it's the President."
"I had a note from my doctor," Daniel said defensively.
"I know you couldn't go," Jack said. "I'm just not sure why you didn't want to."
"For what? Fifteen minutes of fame? No thanks," Daniel muttered. He gave Jack a dirty look. "And what's your excuse?"
"What's the fun in being the boss if you can't foist the unpleasant jobs off onto your subordinates?" Jack said flippantly. "And I've got important commander type work to do anyway."
"I noticed," Daniel said, looking pointedly at the chair Jack had been sprawling in for almost an hour. He let out a muffled groan as he tried to shift position in bed.
"You need something?"
"No, it's just...." Daniel grimaced again. "Every muscle in my body hurts."
"Fraiser was impressed," Jack said. Daniel gave him a disbelieving look. "Okay, she was pissed, but only because what you'd done to your body was so impressive."
"I didn't do anything to my body," Daniel protested.
"You stuck your hands in that thing. Doc said it was like you'd run three marathons in a row. In extreme temperatures. Without food or water."
"It's not like it was intentional," Daniel muttered.
"And why was it sucking all your energy anyway? I thought the horse box was the battery."
"Well, yes...sort of." Daniel closed his eyes, trying to focus his thoughts. "The 'horse box' is what provides the energy for the weapon. But the two components are essentially inert without the third. It needs a sort of...catalyst."
"The catalyst being a human being?"
"Well, I'd say it was intended to be an Ancient, but the human body seems to work, too."
"Hey, Carter looks good," Jack said, drawing Daniel's attention back to the TV. The camera had panned to reveal Sam, dressed in her class A's, standing beside the President.
"A little nervous," Daniel observed.
"She's fine," Jack said dismissively. "My point is that you could be there right now, with Carter and Teal'c in the Oval Office and.... Whoa. Teal'c really is an impressive son of a bitch, isn't he?"
"I guess we kind of forget; we've gotten used to him," Daniel agreed, watching Teal'c's calm visage on the screen. "Jack?"
"Huh?" Jack said, engrossed in the press conference.
"I don't want to be there. With or without Sam and Teal'c," Daniel said. "I understand that it's necessary, but...we're not done yet."
"Not done?" Jack said, turning to look at Daniel.
"Anubis may be dead, but there are a lot of other Goa'uld out there."
"Sadly all too true. But we're working on it."
"Exactly. We still have a long way to go."
"Yeah, but you could be making every idiot who ever laughed at your theories eat crow right now."
"That would be petty," Daniel said.
"And your point?"
"I don't have to be there to make that happen. The President's doing it for me just by announcing the existence of the Goa'uld," Daniel said, waving at the TV. "That's my proof."
"Yeah?" Jack prompted, sensing there was more.
"And this way I can do my gloating in private while maintaining a magnanimous façade in public," Daniel said. "No one will ever know how petty I can be."
"You already knew." Daniel watched the TV silently for a moment, listening to Sam try to explain wormhole physics to a reporter who'd obviously zoned out the minute Sam said "event horizon."
"Jack, I'm moving in with you," Daniel said softly.
"Oookay," Jack said uncertainly, wondering if that meant he should be cleaning out the spare bedroom.
"With you," Daniel repeated.
"About time," Jack said with relief. "We'll put your stuff in the guest room for appearances' sake. Just in case."
"Tonight, when I get out of here," Daniel said, making a vague gesture at the infirmary.
"I'll go ahead and get your stuff from the hotel," Jack said. He looked at Daniel pensively. "Why now?"
"Because some of the weird sub-clauses in my personal moral code are shit," Daniel said.
"I did tell you that," Jack pointed out.
"Yes. But at the time I hadn't factored in timing and near annihilation of the world by parasitic aliens."
"Near annihilation does have a way of revising a man's sub-clauses," Jack agreed. "So we're going to be okay?"
"We're two middle-aged, planet-saving, intergalactic sluts...so, yeah, I think we'll be okay."
Jack glanced at Daniel, still sleeping, before turning off the TV news report and giving Fraiser his attention.
"Sergeant Cates is looking for you," Janet said, keeping her voice low as she checked Daniel's vitals.
"Not looking very hard," Jack said. Every minute he could afford out of the last couple of hours had been spent in the infirmary.
"He doesn't know you and Daniel," Janet reminded him. "Anyway, I told him I'd send you along to your office."
"All right," Jack said, groaning as he stood and stretched. "I'll be back in a while."
"No need, sir. If Sergeant Cates' frazzled appearance is any indication you'll be plenty busy. Besides, Daniel needs rest."
"Daniel thinks he'll get to go home tonight."
"Dr. Jackson's always been an optimist," Janet said, unmoved by Jack's ploy. "But he's not going anywhere until I'm satisfied he hasn't done himself any permanent harm."
"He won't be happy," Jack warned.
"His 'happiness' isn't my primary concern at the moment," Janet said, giving Jack a pointed look. "His health is."
"He is going to be okay, right?"
"Yes, sir. Which, as much as I hate to admit it, is as much due to luck as to my medical skills."
"You're the best. That's why you're here," Jack said firmly. "It's just that Daniel...he's always got to push that envelope."
"He nearly pushed it too far," Janet said. "Again."
"Just like old times, eh?"
"Yes," Janet said, looking down at her patient with an exasperated expression. "This is all too familiar."
"Bra'tac, glad you could join us," Jack said as he took his seat at the head of the briefing room table the next morning.
"You destroyed Anubis and an entire fleet of mother ships," Bra'tac said, his voice rich with respect and even a little awe.
"Wild horses couldn't keep you away, eh?" Jack said.
"I will explain later," Teal'c said, throwing Jack a reproving look.
"So," Jack said, looking around. Daniel sat to his right. Fraiser and Sam next to him. Teal'c sat to his left with Bra'tac and Major Rogers filling out that side. "The current situation as I see it is that the biggest, most immediate threat to Earth was eliminated with Anubis' death."
"Assuming he is dead," Daniel interjected. The silence that greeted his statement made him look up from his notes. "What? I'm just saying that dead Goa'uld don't always stay dead."
"He's dead," Jack said.
"You're sure?" Daniel asked.
"Oh, well, in that case," Daniel said sarcastically.
"If Anubis is not dead, then he is so severely weakened that he is no longer worthy of consideration," Bra'tac said.
"Thank you," Jack said, nodding at Bra'tac. "Anubis is a non-issue. And the rest of the snakes aren't likely to come looking to take us on anytime soon. There may be some infighting among the System Lords, but they're going to be very wary of us."
"Agreed," Bra'tac said. "Such an impressive victory, and with an unknown weapon, will make the System Lords hesitant to attack the Tau'ri anytime soon."
"Which means that now is the optimal time to act," Jack said. "Strike while the Goa'uld are off balance."
"General, sir?" Janet interrupted.
"Yes?" Jack said slowly.
"As I made clear in my report," Janet began, giving Jack a penetrating look. "The use of the Ancients' weapon is extremely dangerous."
"It's our only option," Sam pointed out.
"I know that. However, Daniel escaped serious, possibly fatal consequences by a narrow margin. His labs still show evidence of the stress this weapon caused his body."
"Temporary stress," Daniel said quickly, doing his best to look healthy and energetic.
"Still, I'm going to insist on certain restrictions."
"I read your suggestions," Jack said, hoping to stop Janet before she could get into the full flow of nay-saying.
"The first being that only individuals in perfect health should be considered," Janet continued as if Jack hadn't spoken. "No chronic medical problems, no current injuries or illnesses. And second--that the amount of time spent interfaced with the device be limited."
"We'll limit the number of targets," Jack agreed. "We knew we'd have to do that."
"Perhaps a Jaffa could operate this device," Bra'tac offered.
"I don't think so, Bra'tac," Sam said. "We know from past experience that Ancient technology is specifically designed to reject Goa'uld."
"But I no longer carry a symbiote," Teal'c said.
"You don't?" Daniel asked, surprised.
"The Tok'ra have created a drug which mimics the symbiote's action as my immune system," Teal'c explained. "I am now completely free of the Goa'uld."
"Wow," Daniel said, looking at Teal'c with amazement. "I really did miss a lot while I was gone."
"The fun just never stops," Jack agreed.
"It's possible that you could operate the weapon, Teal'c, but I don't think we should count on it," Sam said. "We don't know exactly how the technology recognizes a Goa'uld. It may be able to detect subtle differences in your physiology."
"We found the weapon. We'll take the risks, and responsibilities, of using it," Jack said firmly.
"Exactly how are we going to use it?" Major Rogers asked. "I'm assuming there's a finite distance at which this weapon will be effective."
"I think so," Daniel agreed. "I had trouble catching some of the ships that were trying to escape. It felt like I was having to stretch, like I was reaching and barely catching them with my fingertips. That's not a very good explanation--obviously I wasn't physically reaching but that's the way it felt."
"So it's probably safe to say that this was intended as a planetary defense," Sam said. "Not as a long range attack weapon."
"Well, the President suggested an ambush," Jack said.
"A trap," Bra'tac nodded. "We will need exactly the right bait."
"A message from Anubis," Teal'c said.
"Who is dead," Jack said immediately. "Right? We just agreed on that."
"Most likely," Bra'tac agreed. "But we could create the illusion that he still lives."
"Anubis just got his ass kicked," Sam said. "Why would any of the other System Lords care about what he has to say?"
"If Anubis knows the means of his defeat, or perhaps even how to neutralize the threat, all the System Lords would be most interested," Bra'tac said.
"I believe it would be an effective lure," Teal'c said.
"If we use one of those Goa'uld voice things, use Goa'uld technology to encode a message.... It could work," Major Rogers said.
"I believe we will need more than an audio message," Bra'tac said. "Anubis typically used a more sophisticated method of communicating which included a visual image of him."
"Like that vacuum...vocuum thing?" Jack asked.
"Similar," Teal'c said. "This technology is an advancement of the vocuum."
"Do you know how to create one of these messages?" Jack asked Bra'tac.
"I do not have the necessary technology," Bra'tac said. "But I believe the Tok'ra do."
"Well that's all well and good, but how are we going to 'show' Anubis? He's dead," Daniel said. He turned to Jack. "He has to be, right?"
"Absolutely," Jack said, sounding less than convinced.
"One of you will need to pretend to be Anubis," Bra'tac said.
"One who speaks Goa'uld fluently," Teal'c added.
"Why do I always get stuck with these jobs?" Daniel said with a sigh when all eyes immediately turned on him.
"Don't knock it--it means job security," Jack said.
"Lieutenant Satterfield could do it," Sam offered. "She's become reasonably fluent in Goa'uld."
"Her voice is too high pitched," Daniel said with a shake of the head. "Even with the voice modifier she wouldn't sound right. I'll do it."
"You won't have to actually be with the snakes." Jack looked at Bra'tac. "Right?"
"I do not know why the recording could not be made here," Bra'tac agreed.
"Carter, call Dad," Jack said as he closed his mission folder. Sam nodded in response. "In the meantime, I insist that everyone take the next twenty-four hours as a breather. We've all been running on little more than adrenaline. With no imminent threat, I want to make sure everyone is thinking clearly when we make our move." Jack turned to Sam just as she opened her mouth to speak. "Yes, Carter, that means you, too."
The ring of the phone cut right through Daniel's moans. Cursing, Jack climbed out from under the covers.
"No, damn it," Daniel protested, grabbing at Jack's arm to prevent him from abandoning his task.
"Have to," Jack said, reaching for the phone with one hand and Daniel's cock with the other. "Head honcho now, remember?"
Daniel bit back his protest as Jack lifted the receiver.
"O'Neill," Jack barked, trying to keep his eye on Daniel's face. "What? Why?"
"Jack," Daniel said in a loud whisper.
"Well, I believe the President made it clear in his press conference that Dr. Jackson is still recovering," Jack said into the phone. "Yeah, you do that. No, I...what?"
Daniel humped into Jack's fist harder, at first trying to get his attention, then not caring as long as Jack kept his hand where it was. Jack shook his head at Daniel before looking around. He spied the pen and notepad on the bedside table. Regretfully he removed his hand from Daniel's cock, replaced it with Daniel's own right hand, and grabbed the notepad.
"Yeah, yeah, I got it," Jack muttered to the caller as he wrote down the information. "Are Colonel Carter and Teal'c on the base? Okay. And call.... Never mind, I'll do it myself. Yeah, should be there within the hour."
Jack hung up the phone and turned to find Daniel slick with sweat and splattered with semen.
"God damn it," Jack groaned in frustration, tossing the notepad back onto the bedside table. Daniel looked at him from under heavy lids. "Sorry about that."
"Dr. Jackson is recovering?" Daniel mumbled questioningly.
"Reporters," Jack sighed. "You're big news now. And when they couldn't find an address or phone number listed, they started calling the base."
"Don't worry about it. We're getting some heavy duty PR guy assigned to the SGC. You won't be bothered with the press stuff. Not too much."
"Jack," Daniel began in protest. Jack quickly silenced him with a deep kiss.
"We'll be fine," Jack said, getting up and going to the dresser for clean underwear.
"The press will be watching you. Me. All of us. Everything we say, everything we do will be scrutinized."
"Daniel, we keep secrets for a living. I think we can manage to keep this one. The only thing we do that's not allowed, we do in this bedroom. And I don't plan to invite any reporters into the bedroom any time soon." Jack stopped on his way across the room. "Although...."
"Well, I thought I was demonstrating a very high quality blow job...right up until the phone rang that is."
"Not bad," Daniel said slowly. He adopted an earnest and slightly pedantic tone. "However, you didn't have exactly the right angle to generate the optimum amount of torque."
"I could draw you a picture?" Daniel offered.
"Fuck you, Jackson."
"Nope. Can't," Daniel said, turning onto his side and nestling down in the covers. "Still recovering."
"This better be good, Jack." Jacob marched down the gate ramp to a welcoming committee composed of the original SG-1 and Bra'tac.
"Nice to see ya, Jacob," Jack said.
"What are you up to?" Jacob asked. He gave Sam a quick hug, leaving his arm around her shoulders as he turned to Jack.
"You heard about Anubis?" Jack said.
"Oh, yeah. It's pretty much the big news on the intergalactic grapevine these days. Very impressive."
"Well, thanks," Jack said with a sardonic grin. "We're looking to finish the job."
"Finish? Anubis is dead," Jacob said, confused.
"You're sure he's dead?" Jack asked quickly.
"Pretty sure," Jacob said. "Why?"
"Just trying to confirm the kill."
"He hasn't been seen or heard from since the attack," Jacob said. "What little remains of his forces is scattered and doesn't appear to have any coherent leadership. Dead or in hiding--he's not a factor anymore."
"We want to do the same to the rest of the Goa'uld," Daniel said.
"All of them?" Jacob asked incredulously.
"We're aiming for the key players," Jack said.
"Ambitious," Jacob said.
"We hope that if we eliminate the most powerful ones the rest will be weakened and in enough confusion that we can take them out by more conventional means," Sam explained.
"You really came up with a weapon that can completely destroy a fleet of mother ships?" Jacob asked.
"The Ancients actually made it," Daniel said. "We just figured out how to make it work."
"Unfortunately it takes a real bite out of the person who operates it," Jack said. "We'll need to focus our attack on the leaders and sort out their followers later."
"The Jaffa are preparing to strike as soon as the Tau'ri have made their attack," Teal'c said. "It is my belief that many will realize the futility of their path and will choose to join us rather than die in a useless attempt to defend their false god."
"You just never do anything in a small way, do you?" Jacob said to Jack with mock exasperation.
"You only go around once. Or in Daniel's case--three or four times. Might as well go for the gusto." Jack grinned at Daniel's scowl. Jack waved Jacob toward the door. "Come on, let's go get comfortable."
"So what is the plan?" Jacob asked once they were all seated in the briefing room.
"We're going to try to fake a communication from Anubis," Sam said. "Make it sound like he managed to escape, barely, that he knows what we used to defeat him and, more importantly, he has an idea of how to neutralize the weapon."
"We're hoping to lure in the biggest and baddest of the remaining System Lords and take them all out at once," Jack added.
"Not a recorded message, though," Jacob said, nodding thoughtfully. "It'll have to be live."
"Live?" Daniel said, sitting up straighter.
"Ba'al is smarter than your average Goa'uld. He'll smell a trap."
"Ba'al?" Daniel asked.
"He's the most powerful System Lord now that Anubis has been eliminated. If you're serious about doing some significant damage, he has to be your number one target," Jacob said.
"What about Yu?" Daniel asked.
"Yu's mind is clouded, and grows ever more so by the day," Bra'tac told Daniel.
"Really? That's a shame."
"A shame?" Jack said incredulously.
"Well, I don't care to deal with any Goa'uld, but you have to admit--Yu was more rational than most," Daniel said.
"That is no longer true, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "Yu has become erratic and emotional, his actions unpredictable. His Jaffa worship him in name only. They obey Ba'al's orders now."
"Okay," Jack said. "We'll make Ba'al our primary target. We need to decide which of the other Goa'uld we want. Jacob, Bra'tac--we'll need your input on that."
"If you can lure Ba'al in, he'll bring several of the more significant System Lords with him," Jacob said.
"Why?" Sam asked.
"He'll want them to see Anubis acknowledge Ba'al's supremacy among the other System Lords," Jacob said. "He'll want them to witness Anubis' humiliation."
"Wouldn't he just kill Anubis then?" Jack said, knowing the Goa'uld were not gracious winners.
"Possibly," Jacob said.
"The snake is dead, long live the snake," Daniel muttered dryly.
"Make a list of a couple dozen of top contenders," Jack told Jacob, making a check mark on his list.
"You're going to use the same bait with all of them?" Jacob asked.
"Not exactly," Sam said. "We'll deal with Ba'al directly. And if you're right, he'll bring along a number of others. For the rest we're going to find a way to make sure that they 'accidentally' intercept the message. We hope that if they think Ba'al is about to get one very big step up on them, they'll invite themselves to the meeting between Ba'al and Anubis."
"The Tok'ra may be able to help with that," Jacob said thoughtfully. "If we have operatives in the right places, they may be able to assist in 'intercepting' the message."
"Our Jaffa brothers may also be able to assist," Bra'tac said. "We do have some who are loyal to the rebellion, yet still 'serve' their gods."
"Talk to each other," Jack said, waving a hand between Jacob and Bra'tac. "Then talk to me. Next, we also need a planet, preferably uninhabited, to lure Ba'al to."
"P5Y-332," Daniel said abruptly.
"What?" Jack asked.
"The planet where SG-13 originally found part of the weapon," Daniel said.
"The planet with the temple of the Ancients?" Sam asked in disbelief.
"It's an archive, not a temple. And we've already retrieved everything of significance," Daniel said. "But the structure is unmistakably Ancient architecture. It will lend a little authenticity to 'Anubis' claim that he has knowledge of the Ancients' technology."
"Good idea," Jack said, hoping he wasn't insulting Daniel by sounding a little surprised.
"This is all going to have to be coordinated very carefully if there's any hope of succeeding," Jacob warned. "The message, the trap, the secondary attack by the Jaffa: it'll all fall apart unless everyone does their part. You know that the Tok'ra don't have the numbers to take on the System Lords in battle, but we can help. I'm already the designated Tok'ra-Tau'ri liaison so I'll take care of our end."
"Agreed," Bra'tac said. "Teal'c is our finest warrior. He will lead our people in what I hope will be the last great battle for freedom."
"No, old friend," Teal'c said respectfully. "I will join my brothers very soon, but first I will lend my efforts to my Tau'ri friends."
"I appreciate that, Teal'c," Jack said. "You know we're always thrilled to have you on the team, but it isn't necessary."
"It is," Teal'c countered firmly.
Bratac looked at Teal'c, then at Jack.
"So be it," he said. "I, too, will assist the Tau'ri. Rak'nor will lead the first battle."
"A wise choice," Teal'c agreed.
"Okay," Jacob said with a decisive nod. "Let's do it."
"Jacob," Jack called as he hurried down the corridor.
"Jack?" Jacob stopped and turned, puzzled.
"Look, before you take off I needed to ask...." Jack paused. "I noticed Osiris wasn't on the list of targets."
"Osiris?" Jacob asked, involuntarily looking toward the gate room where Daniel and Sam were waiting for him.
"Yeah. You didn't leave her off the list because...because Daniel has history with her, did you?" Jack asked in a low voice. "Because as much as I hate to think about doing that to him, we can't afford to go soft here."
"I know," Jacob said. "And no, I didn't leave her off the list because of Daniel. I left her off because, honestly, I suspect she's already been eliminated."
"Anubis always kept two of his Goa'uld subordinates very close: Osiris and Zipacna," Jacob said.
"Well, Zippy's no great loss."
"Even if Osiris is alive, she'll be in hiding somewhere after losing her patron in such dramatic fashion." Jacob shrugged. "If she surfaces some time in the future, we'll see what we can do about saving Sarah Gardener."
"Thanks," Jack said, clapping Jacob on the shoulder.
"I can't make any promises," Jacob warned.
"I know that. So does Daniel," Jack said. He gave Jacob a gentle push toward the open blast door to the gate room. Sam and Daniel both looked over expectantly as Jacob crossed the room to join them at the foot of the ramp.
"I want them back by ten, Jacob," Jack said as the vortex shot out from the gate before settling into the familiar rippling surface.
"Jack," Jacob sighed with an exasperated shake of his head.
"It's a school night," Jack insisted.
"I already have my homework done," Sam said with a tolerant smile, leading the way up the ramp.
"I bet Daniel doesn't."
"No, but I'm really good at bullshitting the teacher," Daniel called back just before he stepped through the event horizon.
"You ready?" Jacob asked again.
"Almost," Sam muttered. "I'm trying to adjust it so that the signal will bounce off the relay we set up, giving Ba'al a false point of origin. Just in case he decides to get tricky."
"We'll be long gone by the time Ba'al can come after us."
"Probably," Sam said with a small nod. "But not definitely. I want to make sure he goes looking somewhere else first."
"How hard can that be?" Jacob prodded.
"Hard enough. I want to be very sure that neither the incoming nor the outgoing signals will be noticeably distorted," Sam said. "And I can hardly call him up and say, 'Ba'al, baby, mind if I try out this new secret message relay?' now can I?"
"You've been spending too much time with Jack," Jacob said, gazing sternly at Sam.
"Jack doesn't say 'baby'," Daniel said, frowning.
"Pete does," Sam admitted.
"Speaking of whom: how does Pete feel about an alien giving away the bride?" Jacob asked.
"The only person who will be giving me away is my father," Sam said firmly. Then she smiled. "Along with his very close personal friend, Selmac."
"You should know that Selmac doesn't like wearing a tux," Jacob said.
"You don't like wearing a tux and I don't care. You're wearing one," Sam said. She stepped back from her equipment. "There. I think that's it."
"Good," Jacob said. He turned and held out black robes. "You're on, Daniel."
"I really hate this," Daniel muttered. He reluctantly took the robes from Jacob and settled the heavy fabric over himself.
"Just remember--you're doing it to save the planet," Sam said, handing him the mask they hoped would approximate Anubis'.
"Funny how every time I have to do something I don't like someone tells me it's to save the planet," Daniel said. He held up the mask, which was essentially nothing more than a hockey mask. The holographic film applied to the surface made it seem to ripple with light and shadow. "And what is with this?"
"No one knows what Anubis looks like," Jacob said. "He's always heavily cloaked and has some kind of shield masking his face."
"Why?" Daniel asked, reluctantly placing the mask over his own face.
"Don't know. But it's a lucky thing for us," Jacob said. "It's the mask and robes that make it possible for you to impersonate him."
"Lucky me," Daniel agreed dryly.
"Just stand here," Sam said, positioning him against a wall of the teltak. "I'll try to keep the background out of focus, but at least this way whatever Ba'al sees he'll recognize as Goa'uld."
"What if he recognizes it as a cargo ship?" Daniel asked.
"All the better," Jacob said.
"It'll reinforce the idea that Anubis has lost everything. Ba'al will be lulled into a false sense of superiority." Jacob made a small shrug. "At least--we're hoping it's a false sense."
"Very reassuring," Daniel said ironically.
"Ready, Daniel?" Sam asked, standing by to activate the long range transmitter.
"As I'll ever be."
"Welcome back, Teal'c," Jack said, waiting at the bottom of the ramp. "How did it go?"
"I feel hopeful that the Jaffa will rise when the time comes."
"Hopeful? Not certain?"
"Nothing in this life is certain, O'Neill," Teal'c said as he walked down the ramp to Jack.
"That's why we miss you so much, my friend," Jack said, clapping Teal'c on the shoulder. "That bright, shiny optimism."
"The Jaffa leaders we have contacted so far understand that this is a unique opportunity for all races seeking freedom from the Goa'uld," Teal'c said, ignoring Jack's jibe. "They agree that we must take advantage of the situation."
"That's good," Jack said. "Now we just have to hope that the Jaffa who aren't already part of the rebellion will see the light when the time comes."
"Many will die defending their false gods," Teal'c said regretfully. "But it is my belief that many more will join us and be free."
"I'll drink to that."
"What of the Tok'ra?"
"I'm never going to trust a snake," Jack said with a grimace. "Jacob--yes. But the rest of them--forget about it. However, I do trust that they want the Goa'uld dead as much as we do. So...they say they'll help and we're going to hope for the best."
"And Daniel Jackson and Colonel Carter?"
"Not back yet," Jack said, waving a hand at the silent stargate. He shrugged, long accustomed to Daniel's tardiness. "Come on, I'll bring you up to speed while we wait."
"Do it, Danny," Jacob muttered under his breath as he watched Daniel, or 'Anubis', argue with Ba'al.
"Ba'al knows Anubis would never submit," Sam whispered to Jacob.
"Wrong. He'll expect Anubis to acknowledge his reduced position among the System Lords and swear loyalty to Ba'al," Jacob said. "He'll also expect that Anubis won't keep his promise."
"We...agree," Daniel said to Ba'al.
"Good boy," Jacob said with a nod before heading to the cockpit, preparing to fire up the engines so that they could leave the minute Daniel was done.
"Wise choice," Ba'al said, a sneer coming through quite plainly in the tone of his voice. "When and where shall we meet?"
"The coordinates are being transmitted to you now," Daniel said, trusting that Sam really was sending the information. "We will need two days to make the journey."
"On the morning of the third day then," Ba'al said. "Do not disappoint us."
Ba'al's image blinked out and Sam quickly ended their own transmission.
"Well, that was a lesson in humiliation," Daniel said, ripping the mask from his sweaty face. Sam powered down the transmitting equipment and walked over to help Daniel wrestle the heavy robes off.
"If it makes you feel any better, I think he bought it," Sam said when Daniel's head emerged from under the heavy black fabric.
"I hope so," Daniel said, turning to Sam with a worried look. "Otherwise we'll be the ones walking into an ambush."
Jack looked up as Sam tapped politely on his open door. He waved her in and took a moment to organize his thoughts while Sam settled herself in the chair directly opposite him. He placed his hands firmly on the desk and looked straight at her.
"Carter, I'm taking command of SG-1 for this mission."
"Um...okay," Sam said, surprised. And just a little offended.
"And you'll be in command of the SGC in my absence."
"What? Why? I'm certainly capable...." Sam stopped and stared hard at Jack. "You're going to operate the weapon yourself."
"This is something I need to do, Carter. And I need someone one I trust absolutely to hold the fort," Jack said earnestly. "Because if it goes bad out there, it will go bad here in very short order. I need to know that the SGC is in good hands."
"I'm flattered, sir, but you are the best person to command this facility," Sam said. "Daniel...."
"Daniel isn't doing that again," Jack said firmly. "I won't let him. And Fraiser threatened to emasculate him if he even thought about it, so he's not real keen on the idea anyway."
"General, you know what it did to Daniel. It nearly drained the life out of him."
"I'm well aware its effects."
"And not to put too fine a point on it--you're not as young as Daniel," Sam persisted.
"Gee, thanks for the pep talk."
"Maybe it's time for a reality check," Sam said bluntly.
"We're limiting the targets this time," Jack reminded her. "The strain should be less. It should be survivable."
"Why am I here, Carter?"
"In the sense of why are any of us here?" Sam gave herself a little shake at Jack's answering look of disbelief. "No, of course not. Um...why are you here at the SGC?"
"See, Hammond kept telling me that one day, someday, I'd be glad I worked with a genius." Jack's smile took the edge off of his sarcastic words. "I know it's not entirely proper. I should be delegating the dirty work to my subordinates. But I've stayed at the SGC because I was there when the Goa'uld threat began and I want to be part of the end of that threat. This may be our best shot."
"I know that, sir."
"Carter, I need to do this."
Sam studied him for a moment, trying to discover some deeper meaning to Jack's decision. He sat back in his chair and met her gaze with a bland expression. Finally she simply shrugged in surrender.
"If you're saying that I have to be 'pure' to work this thing...."
"Not pure," Daniel said. "Do think I could've made it work if it required purity?"
"No, actually. Now that I know what a dirty minded little...."
"Jack," Daniel said sharply. "This isn't about.... What I mean is that your purpose has to be...righteous."
"I don't get it," Jack admitted.
"Using it to protect or defend is acceptable. Using it to get revenge on your neighbor's cat because it's been using your sandbox isn't."
"The Ancients are cat lovers?" Jack asked with disgust.
"Jack," Daniel groaned in frustration.
"Okay, okay--a certain nobility of purpose is required."
"Yes. At least...I think so." Daniel gave a helpless shrug at Jack's irritated expression. "It didn't come with an owner's manual so yes, I'm guessing here. All I know is that I felt...something when I first put my hands on it. A moment before the device let me fully connect."
"It's hard to explain. I sensed Anubis' ships, but not with my own senses. I 'saw' them, but not with my eyes."
"How did you control the attack?" Jack asked.
"I just sort of...'thought' it. I thought about what I wanted to happen and it...did."
"Very. It's intuitive; you'll know what to do when the time comes." Daniel sighed and sat down on the couch next to Jack. "You don't have to do this."
"Yes, I do."
"What does Sam think?"
"Jack, please, think about this very carefully."
"It's my duty, Daniel."
"Yeah? Well, screw that."
"Besides, I can't let you get all the credit for saving the galaxy," Jack said lightly. "I have a reputation to defend." He watched Daniel nod his reluctant agreement. "Hey--you survived it. So will I."
"Fraiser's going to send some medical gadget so that you and Teal'c can monitor my condition. If things get hinky, you can turn it off or something."
"I don't know if that's possible, Jack. I think the person in the connection is the only one who can end it."
"So that was you pushing it right to the limit against Anubis?"
"I had to."
"And you expect less from me?"
"No. I know better than that," Daniel said. "I just wish you wouldn't."
"Can we come in? Please?" Sam said through clenched teeth. Jack nodded, ignoring the reporters clamoring from his front yard as he pulled Sam and Teal'c through the door.
"Honestly, sir, I'm thinking about living on base until the excitement dies down," Sam said. She went to the window and stared at the reporters parked on the street in front of Jack's house.
"I've considered that myself," Jack admitted. "But the PR yahoo they sent us claims he'll have it under control shortly."
"And you believe him?" Teal'c asked.
"No," Jack said. He dismissed the issue of the reporters with a wave of the hand. "Beer?"
"I require nothing at the moment."
"Where's Pete?" Jack asked when he returned to the living room with two bottles.
"He's working nights this week," Sam said. She closed the blinds before abandoning the window and making herself comfortable on the couch.
"Tell ya what--let's make it an SG-1 night. Just like old times," Jack said. "We'll drink beer, eat pizza, and ignore the rest of the world."
"Sounds good to me," Sam said.
"Teal'c, call Daniel. He's probably still at the SGC. Tell him to pick up a pizza on the way," Jack said, getting up and going back to the kitchen to check his beer supply.
Teal'c reached over and dialed the phone, patiently making his way through the security checks at the mountain.
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said when Daniel answered. "Come to O'Neill's residence immediately. Bring pizza."
"Pepperoni," Sam interjected.
"Pepperoni pizza," Teal'c faithfully relayed to Daniel.
"And beer," Jack called from the kitchen.
"And beer." Teal'c paused, listening. "No, I do not believe there are any other special requests."
"Oh, please," Sam said, fired with righteous indignation. "She's nothing but tits and lips. And she can't act worth a damn."
"Who cares about her acting?" Jack teased.
"She's nothing but eye candy. And it's not even real."
"Exactly. Firm, plump eye candy," Jack said, making a cupping motion with his hands.
"I enjoy tits," Teal'c said thoughtfully.
"Tits are good," Jack agreed with a nod.
"Oh, for God's sake!" Sam snapped.
"Give it up, Sam," Daniel said. He was sprawled out on one end of the sofa, his face red from the effort of trying to hold in his laughter. "You'll never embarrass them. They're both shame-proof."
"Thank God there's one man on this team who isn't a complete throw-back," Sam said, giving Jack and Teal'c a disgusted glare.
"Ha!" Jack snorted. "Daniel puts on a good front but he's as obsessed with sex as the next guy."
"Tell me you're not," Sam pleaded with Daniel.
"Well, I wouldn't say obsessed. Not with tits. Breasts. Can I have another beer?"
"No," Jack told him flatly.
"I'll take one," Sam said.
"You've had enough, too," Jack said.
"Geez, when did you get so uptight?"
The stunned look on Jack's face was the last straw for Daniel as he lost his battle to keep his amusement under control.
"Okay, well that's it for me," Sam said, getting to her feet a little unsteadily. "I'm taking the guest room."
"The couch will suffice for my needs," Teal'c said. He leaned over and pulled Daniel up from his spot on the sofa.
"Now?" Daniel said, startled at being so suddenly displaced.
"Er...okay," Daniel said. He stood awkwardly in the middle of the room, looking around indecisively.
"This way you have a legitimate reason for sleeping with Jack," Sam said, noting his hesitation. Jack and Daniel turned their heads in unison to stare at her. "And don't insult us by pretending you're not sleeping together." Sam snorted. "Not a tit man, my ass."
"Smarter than your average theoretical astrophysicist," Daniel told Jack when Jack turned to him with a worried look.
"Night," Sam called, weaving her way down the hall.
"Good night, Carter," Jack said, still bemused by the abrupt change in the team dynamics. Or...non-change apparently. "Night, Teal'c."
"Pleasant dreams, O'Neill," Teal'c said, stretching out on the couch. "Try to not make too much noise."
"Wh...?" Jack stammered.
"I'll use a gag if necessary," Daniel promised Teal'c.
"Fuck," Jack muttered with a shudder.
"I'm thinking the gag might've been a good idea," Daniel complained mildly as he rubbed at a bite mark on the back of his shoulder.
"It's not like I drew blood or anything," Jack mumbled, placing a sloppy kiss on the reddened skin.
"I'm just saying."
"You okay?" Jack asked.
Jack slid his hand down and around Daniel's body, encountering damp sheets and a limp cock.
"I told you I was fine," Daniel said. Jack's hand cupped him loosely as Jack spooned himself around Daniel's back. Jack let out a contented sigh, letting post coital torpor pull him toward sleep.
"What?" Jack grumbled a few minutes later when he hadn't felt Daniel fully relax. His breath stirred the hairs at the back of Daniel's neck and made him shiver.
Jack raised his head and realized that Daniel was staring at the luminous numbers on his alarm clock.
"In a little more than twenty-four hours we'll be on the mission."
"Yeah," Jack said slowly.
"Do you think this will be the time we finally succeed?" Daniel asked.
"You know--I really try not to think about it," Jack admitted. "I'm afraid to get my hopes up."
"It gets harder every time," Daniel agreed quietly. "Harder to hope. Harder to take the disappointment."
"Well, it'll be the last time for me."
"Really?" Daniel asked, turning his head so that he could see Jack's face.
"I'm getting too old for this planet saving shit," Jack told him. "If we don't do it this time.... I'm done."
"We're all too old for this shit, Jack."
Jack came abruptly awake, but he wasn't sure why he had. A second later an indistinct noise had him rolling out of bed and grabbing for his jeans. He hopped into the pants as he made his into the hall, hoping desperately that Sam wouldn't choose that moment to emerge from the guest room.
Jack entered the kitchen to find Teal'c moving stealthily toward the door that led out to the detached garage. Jack nodded silently to Teal'c and took up a supporting position. Teal'c flung the door open and grabbed the man who'd been lurking outside.
"Son of a bitch!" Jack said, eyeing the man, obviously a reporter, who'd been.... "You're going through my garbage?"
"This is private property," Jack said angrily. "Get lost or I'll have you arrested for trespassing."
"General, you have a duty to speak to the American public," the reporter demanded, struggling to appear professionally competent while practically dangling from Teal'c's hand.
"I have a duty to serve my county on a field of battle," Jack yelled. "I don't have to say a damn word to you. Teal'c."
Teal'c readily, and with great satisfaction, 'escorted' the reporter from the premises. Jack waited at the back door, locking it after Teal'c had returned. By that time Sam and Daniel had dragged themselves into the kitchen, their sleep disturbed by Jack's bellowing.
"Well," Jack said, turning to his team with a smile. "I don't know about anyone else but I'm hungry. Trampling on the fourth estate sure works up an appetite."
"I'll make breakfast," Sam offered.
"No," Jack and Teal'c both said at once.
"I can cook," Sam said with a hurt look.
"No, you can't," Daniel said gently, patting her on the shoulder as he crossed to the coffee maker.
"I just need a little practice," Sam insisted.
"Carter, no one is perfect at everything. Cooking just happens to be the thing that you're the least perfect at," Jack said getting eggs out of the refrigerator. "Why do you care anyway? You've saved the planet, for crying out loud. What difference does it make if you can't boil water?"
"Because it plays into a certain stereotype," Sam complained. "That being intelligent and tough and competent means you can't be a real woman, too."
"What does cooking have to do with being a 'real' woman?" Daniel asked. He was leaning on the counter watching the coffee drip into the pot. Sam sidled up to Daniel and leaned over to kiss his cheek.
"That's exactly why my dad once hoped that I'd marry you," Sam told him.
"Ha!" Jack mocked Daniel. Then his expression changed. "Hey!"
"So if you ever get tired of the general, just let me know," Sam said, nudging Daniel's shoulder.
"What about Pete?" Daniel asked, laughing.
"We'll make it a threesome," Sam said casually.
"I've got it, Dr. Jackson."
Daniel stopped trying to blindly untwist the strap on his pack and allowed Satterfield to straighten it out. He glanced across the gear-up room at Jack who just rolled his eyes and went back to sorting his own gear.
"Thank you, Lieutenant," Daniel said, turning to look at Satterfield.
"No problem, sir," she said with a tense smile.
"You okay?" Daniel asked as she stuffed a couple of extra clips of ammo in her pockets.
"It's Daniel. Or Dr. Jackson if you're more comfortable with a formal title. It really isn't necessary to call me sir."
"Yes, sir," Satterfield said with a nod and a flicker of a smile. "Sorry. I get a little nervous right before a mission."
"I'll be fine once we're there," Satterfield hastened to assure him.
"I don't doubt that," Daniel said kindly. "A little nervousness is perfectly normal. In fact, I'm more worried about the people who aren't a little intimidated by what we're about to do."
"All right," Jack called out from the center of the room. The members of SG-1 and SG-3 immediately stopped chattering and gave their full attention to Jack. "Is everyone ready? Does everyone know their assignment?" Jack took in the answering nods. "Good, because we cannot afford to screw this up. This could be our single best chance to eliminate the Goa'uld. I know you know that. I just want to be sure that everyone is focused 110% on the mission. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," the group chorused.
"Then let's go kick some snaky ass."
Satterfield threw a furtive look at Daniel as the others filed out of the room.
"Jack gets nerves, too," Daniel assured her. "He's just good at hiding it."
"Excuse me?" Jack said right in Daniel's ear, making both him and Satterfield startle.
"I was just telling the Lieutenant that I have the utmost confidence in your leadership abilities," Daniel said, turning around to face Jack.
"You're so full of it, Dr. Jackson. And quit subverting my subordinates," Jack said. He looked at Satterfield who was biting her lip in an effort to hide a grin. He waved her toward the door. "Scoot!"
"Yes, sir," Satterfield, saluting Jack before following the rest of the team from the room.
"I really was affirming my trust in your abilities," Daniel told Jack when the room was empty.
"Right," Jack drawled.
"You ready for this?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah. Let's just get it done."
"Daniel, when we get back, I plan to have the victory celebration to end all victory celebrations," Jack announced.
"Really?" Daniel asked innocently. Jack leaned in and dropped his voice to a bare whisper.
"Forty-eight hours. Completely naked. And about a gallon of lube."
"Oh...um...." Daniel stammered as Jack leered playfully and walked out the door. Daniel shivered. "Okay. That's a...that's a helluva plan."
"Here?" Jack asked, looking around the abandoned archive.
"You said you needed the most protected site we could find," Bra'tac said.
"Yeah, the guy who...connects with this thing is completely vulnerable," Jack explained. "Fortunately when Daniel used it on Anubis he was in the SGC, which was about the safest place on Earth he could've been."
"I'm afraid this is the best we can offer," Bra'tac said. He led Jack, Daniel, Teal'c, and Major Rogers down a stairway at the rear of the building and through a short corridor. A small, bare chamber lay at the end, lit by torches. Two young Jaffa had already brought SG-1's equipment to the room and were standing at the Jaffa equivalent of parade rest. Bra'tac gestured around. "It is far below ground, and we will have the entrance guarded."
"It'll be fine," Daniel said. He crouched down and set the Ancients' weapon, the only equipment Jack hadn't trusted to anyone but himself, Daniel, or Teal'c, in the middle of a thin pallet arranged on the floor.
"You should go," Bra'tac said when Daniel rose. Daniel scowled but retrieved the Anubis robes from his pack.
"Is this really necessary?" Jack asked as Teal'c helped Daniel don the robes.
"Ba'al will not come to the surface until he is certain that 'Anubis' is here."
"Ba'al must leave his ship," Teal'c agreed. "Otherwise there is the possibility that he could elude the attack if his ship can go to hyperspeed in time."
"I know but...."
"Ba'al will scan the surface. He will not be able to detect us here," Bra'tac said, nodding at the underground room. "But he must find 'Anubis'."
"It's okay," Daniel assured Jack. "I only have to stay up there until Ba'al makes contact. He can't do anything to me from his ship, not without risking damage to the archive, and I'll be back down here before the attack begins."
"If you're sure," Jack said.
Daniel switched on the voice altering device. "Do you dare question your god?" he said in his Goa'uld voice, frowning sternly at Jack.
"Get out of here," Jack said, giving him a light smack on the shoulder.
"What's our status?" Sam said, entering the control room.
"SG-1 has arrived at P5Y and rendezvoused with Bra'tac," Sergeant Davis reported.
"Have we established communications with my dad?"
"Yes, Ma'am. It's live here," Davis said, showing Sam.
"Dad?" Sam said, keying in the correct channel.
"He is here," a deep voice replied.
"Hi, Selmac. What's your situation?"
"We are in place and awaiting the arrival of Ba'al," Selmac reported. "The ship is cloaked. We should be able to observe undetected."
"Good. Keep us apprised," Sam said, already checking the various monitors for tactical information.
"Your father wishes me to tell you that while he is not enamored of the idea of a tuxedo, he is willing to wear one. However, he feels he must draw the line at a pink cummerbund."
"I never said it would be pink...." Sam's words trailed off and she found herself smiling. Times like this she remembered why she was nearly as fond of Selmac as she was of her father.
"Selmac? Tell Dad it's either the cummerbund or the open toed pumps." Sam waited a moment, anticipation gleaming in her eyes.
"Cummerbund it is," Selmac finally said.
"Copy that, Selmac. We'll begin radio silence from our end now. Stay safe."
"Ma'am? The Prometheus is standing by."
"Commander? This is the SGC," Sam said, quickly switching to the Prometheus' frequency.
"Colonel Carter. The Prometheus is in position and awaiting orders," Commander Behlke reported.
"Maintain your position. Report on any enemy activity you observe. Do not engage except by my orders. Understood?"
"Yes, Ma'am. However, if I may...?"
"The Prometheus is ready, willing and able to join the battle once it begins."
"I don't doubt that, Commander," Sam said. "But we don't want the general to have to worry about sorting out friendlies while he's trying to operate the weapon. The Prometheus will be used only if our people get into trouble."
"Understood. Prometheus out."
"Colonel Carter?" Davis prompted with an expectant look.
"Now we wait," Sam said with a sigh.
"I really, really hate that," Daniel said, yanking off his robes as he reentered the underground chamber.
"We good to go?" Jack asked.
"We've got three of Ba'al's mother ships in orbit," Major Rogers said. "And Selmac is reporting at least four other ships hiding just beyond sensor range."
"Okay," Jack said, taking a deep breath to settle his nerves.
"Jack," Daniel complained. "You should've gotten the cardiac monitor set up by now."
"I'll be fine," Jack said dismissively.
"As long as we can monitor your condition," Daniel insisted. He waved one of the two young Jaffa forward, telling him to bring the small case containing the monitor. The Jaffa set his case next to the pallet. He hesitated a second before rising in front of Daniel, who craned his head in an attempt to see around the Jaffa so that he could speak to Jack.
"Jack, I think we should...oof!"
"Daniel?" Jack said dumbly, stunned by the sight of the young Jaffa plunging one of those strange blades they used to gut a Jaffa of his snake into Daniel's body. Bra'tac reacted immediately, swinging his staff weapon into the Jaffa's head with a sickening crunch. Daniel grabbed at the hilt of the blade buried in his belly as he dropped to his knees.
"Daniel!" Jack shouted. He dropped to his knees, catching Daniel as he slumped over. Daniel's mouth moved soundlessly; he stared at Jack with shocked eyes. Jack cupped his hand along Daniel's face. "It's gonna be okay. I swear. It'll be okay.... Teal'c!"
"I am here, O'Neill."
"You have to take him back to the SGC," Jack said.
"He cannot," Bra'tac said.
"They are here. Even now the false gods walk the ground above us."
"No," Jack protested.
"He's right, sir," Major Rogers said. "Lieutenant Satterfield is reporting that the Goa'uld started ringing down to the surface a moment ago."
Daniel looked up at Jack. He wanted to reassure him, but he couldn't make the words come. Aside from a bright flare of pain in the middle of his body he felt mostly numb. All his senses seemed deadened. Even Jack's face was fading from view.
"And sir?" Rogers added, turning to look at Jack. "There are even more ships moving into range than we expected."
Jack looked from Bra'tac to Teal'c, wanting reassurance that he knew wasn't within their power to give.
"Jack?" Daniel gasped.
"It'll be okay," Jack said, forcing himself to meet Daniel's eyes. He pushed Teal'c's hand away when the Jaffa reached for the blade. "No, leave it there. Find me something to bandage around it."
"Sir?" Rogers called.
"O'Neill," Bra'tac called sharply when Jack ignored Rogers. Jack clenched his jaws but looked up at Bra'tac. "You must act now, O'Neill, or all will be for nought."
Jack stared angrily at Bra'tac for a moment. With a grimace he looked back down at Daniel, his head still cradled in Jack's arm. His eyes were closed now. Unconscious, dying--in a sense it really didn't matter. Jack knew what he had to do.
"Help him," he told Teal'c, allowing the Jaffa to take Daniel from his arms. Then he crawled the few feet to the pallet. He pulled the 'battery' from his pack and placed it in its niche. With a last quick glance at Daniel, he pressed his hands to the sides of the device.
"Sir? Sir, can you hear me?"
"Fu'wha?" Jack mumbled.
"Well, it's not Shakespeare but it's language. Sort of."
Jack opened his eyes. Janet Fraiser was standing next to the bed, watching Jack intently.
"Do you understand me, sir?"
"Mmm," Jack said, the effort of even that small vocalization exhausting him.
"We're still in the process of getting you sorted out and 'recharged'," Janet said with a small smile. "You're going to be fine, but you did suffer a small amount of heart damage."
"The cardiologist thinks you'll make a full recovery, but we are going to be keeping an especially close watch on you for the time being."
"General?" Sam leaned over, realizing that Jack didn't have the strength to move his head. "Sir, you did it. The ambush was a success; all of the Goa'uld present were eliminated. And the Jaffa are kicking ass throughout the ranks of the System Lords."
"Dan'l," Jack slurred.
"His condition is serious, sir. But he's stable."
"'Kay," Jack said, his eyelids sliding shut.
"So explain to me how I'm the one messing with the alien technology, but you're the one who got hurt?" Jack bitched. He sat propped up by pillows in his infirmary bed and glared at Daniel lying in his.
"Because Fate is a hoary old bitch who gets her kicks from screwing me over," Daniel said. His voice was weak, and any movement sent sharp stabs of pain out from his incision, but he was content just to have Jack picking on him again.
"You have a better explanation?" Daniel asked.
"That Jaffa kid--he thought you were going to be the one to use the weapon," Jack said. "He thought that if he eliminated you his 'god' would be safe."
"But even if he'd been right about me, he had to know that you or Major Rogers or someone else would've done it."
"Seems he didn't have all the necessary intel," Jack said with a grimace. "Teal'c told the Jaffa that they couldn't operate the device, but apparently some of them got the idea that no one but you could do it."
"Well, see, that's what happens when you don't do your research thoroughly," Daniel said with a groan as he tried to shift position in bed.
"So much for a celebratory homecoming," Jack grumbled.
"Hate to break it to you but neither of us is going to be able to manage any hanky panky in the immediate future."
"Oh, I don't know," Daniel said, his eyelids drooping shut in spite of himself. "If you wave it over here I think I could manage to make it happy."
"You probably could at that," Jack chuckled. "But then Fraiser would make it very unhappy so I think I'll wait until we're both home and healthy and very much alone."
"Wuss," Daniel said drowsily.
"Hey, that's hero to you," Jack chided softly.
"Heroic wuss," Daniel corrected in a mumble.
"So?" Jack said impatiently, already half out of his bed.
"Jack," Daniel warned. Sam was sitting on the side of Daniel's bed, holding his hand loosely in hers. Teal'c stood at the foot of Jack's bed, regarding him with amusement.
"Not yet," Janet said with forced patience.
"I'm practically good as new," Jack argued.
"You had a heart attack, sir," Sam said.
"Did not," Jack refuted instantly. "It was a temporary episode of myocardial ischemia. And I'm feeling much better now."
"If everything checks out you can go home in the morning, General," Janet said. "As in to-morr-ow."
"General, call for you," Cates said as he entered the infirmary.
"Oh for crying out loud--I'm on sick leave," Jack said, crawling back under his sheets.
"You said you were as good as new," Teal'c said.
"Practically as good as new. I'm still recuperating."
"It's the President, sir."
"Oh. Well, in that case, let me have it."
Janet held up her fingers, letting Jack know that he had five minutes, President or no President. Jack waved her off impatiently as he took the phone.
"Mr. President, sir..... The Jaffa uprising is succeeding better than we'd even hoped. We've been analyzing the data from the first stage, and Colonel Carter has scheduled a briefing for tomorrow with Teal'c and Jacob to firm up our plans for the second stage.... No, it's not over yet, but I do believe the end is finally in sight.... Just doing my job, sir." Jack paused thoughtfully. "Actually, Mr. President, there is one small favor you could do me. I could use a vacation. In fact, we all could, and as soon as the galaxy calms down a bit, I'd like some assurance that we'll have some uninterrupted down time."
"I will not fish," Teal'c said before turning on his heel and walking quickly to the door.
"I can't. I'm responsible for the SGC until the General is released to active duty," Sam said quickly. She gave Daniel's hand a squeeze before darting after Teal'c.
"No, wait," Daniel called after them. "Don't leave...."
Daniel looked over to see Jack regarding him with a predatory look.
"Can't," Daniel whispered at him. "Recuperating."
"Well, Mr. President, it appears that Dr. Jackson is also in need of recuperation," Jack said with an evil grin. Daniel groaned and buried his head under his pillow. "Yes, sir, that's exactly what I had in mind."
Sam heard Pete close the front door behind him and walk to her study, his shoes tapping briskly against the wood floor.
"You have very weird friends, you know that," Pete said. Sam reached back as Pete held out her mail. He froze, staring at her computer screen where a small figure was falling into the depths of the burial pit screaming, "I'm not dead yet!"
"Um...it was a present from Jack," Sam explained.
"Like I said," Pete said eyeing proof positive of the weirdness of Sam's friends. He leaned over and planted a kiss on her cheek before relinquishing the two postcards he held. "Dinner in or out?"
"Well, I tried to make you that pasta dish you like so much...," Sam said.
"Dinner out then," Pete said. "I'll be ready in ten."
"Thanks," Sam called after him as she turned to read her mail. The first postcard featured a tropical scene. The natural beauty was overshadowed by the somewhat less than natural beauty of a well endowed, bikini clad, surfer girl sprawled wantonly across the card. Shaking her head, Sam flipped the card over to read. Jack's usual scrawl had been squeezed down into cramped little letters so that he could regale her with all his adventures.
"...Elvis #3 had a scary resemblance to Apophis.... ...speedos for God's sake.... ...Don Ho.... ...bobble head hula dancer for Teal'c.... ...Daniel...daiquiris...grass skirt...."
Daniel in a grass skirt? Now that would've almost been worth going on this 'vacation' to see. Smiling, she turned to Daniel's card. It, too, had a scene of lush tropical beaches--minus the surgically enhanced bathing beauty. Sam flipped the card over and began to laugh. On the back Daniel had written one single word:
The end J
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