~ Many times I've been alone and many times I've cried - The Beatles ~
Facades were funny things, Daniel thought as he made his way to his office. They were utilized to mask that which was behind, but if used long enough, often became the truth while that which they hid - became the lie. So it was with him. He'd created a façade for himself, and it was now the truth.
He'd learned, in the first few weeks of his - descension - that no one really wanted to talk about his absence, let alone his life, and that any memories he recalled would have to come without help. People had already stopped asking him what, if anything, he'd remembered because they really didn't want, or need, to know. And Daniel, with or without memories, was still a smart man and could spot the pain recalled memories caused when he saw it. In those first days, if he questioned his friends about his life, he caught the winces and flinches. His life, or the remembering of it, seemed to hold pain for those who'd known him, which didn't say much for the life he'd led. But pain wasn't the only emotion he'd sensed, there'd also been anger - anger aimed at him -- and none so deeply felt as that which sometimes literally flowed from Jack. Sam had a small degree of it, but mostly seemed impatient and otherwise occupied. Even Teal'c didn't seem immune.. Although, in his case, the anger came out in other ways. Teal'c didn't seem to take him seriously anymore... although he listened to him, was, in fact, the only one who did.
He could sympathize with all of them. They didn't want to talk about his life, and hell, he didn't want to remember it - which was a good thing, because even after all these months, he remembered very little.
He remembered practically nothing about his life as an ascended being, or his life as Doctor Daniel Jackson, civilian member of a team called SG-1. If not for the journals, he'd have had no references by which to respond when something from his past came up. A near photographic memory and his ability to read pretty darn fast had helped him catch up with his life, but in doing so, he'd discovered that the last years made a nice novel written by a man he didn't know. He'd sit alone, reading words that supposedly he'd written, but finding nothing to trigger an emotion, let alone a memory. The man whose words he read was - in fact - pathetic.
He'd told Sam that maybe he didn't want to know the man he'd been. He'd been right. He didn't. He didn't like Doctor Daniel Jackson. Doctor Daniel Jackson was a schmuck. A Grade - A schmuck.
And a fool.
So now he was just Daniel Jackson. He didn't take anything too seriously and kept a constant smile on his face. He joked with everyone while managing to keep them at arm's length. Hell, hadn't he risen to new heights of humor in Central America? Had anyone joked more than he, in spite of a body wracked by spasms thanks to too many applied jolts of electricity? He'd been bruised, battered and shot, but hey, he was the "Quip King".
Oddly enough, he still had difficulty with the fact that he'd been positive he was going to die (while wondering what good a rock would do to stop his impending death) when Jack, of all people, had showed up to save the day. Nothing like more guilt heaped on his shoulders because Jack had felt obligated to come after him instead of joining Sam, Teal'c and Jacob on one hell of an incredible mission.
He could still see Jack's face in the 'Gate room as an injured Sam had walked out of the wormhole. The man's expression had been a mixture of relief, worry and... guilt.
A guilt for which Daniel was responsible.
Doctor Jackson had tons of guilt, and it seemed that Daniel Jackson was gathering his own collection. Lucky him. And here he'd tried so hard to separate himself from Doctor Jackson. He'd finally moved out of the mountain and into a small house forty minutes away. A house, not an apartment. A small bungalow, not a large loft. He'd sold all of Doctor Jackson's remaining furniture and purchased cheap but interesting items, including a futon, which had turned out to be surprisingly comfortable. His new home was a pretty nice mixture of ... nothing. It fit Daniel Jackson and was most assuredly not something Doctor Jackson would have found comfortable. At least not judging by the photos he'd seen.
Not that there wasn't something of Doctor Daniel Jackson present in his new home, there was. It was kind of a memorial to the man and it was, appropriately enough, the study. He'd decorated it with an antique and very odd but beautiful roll-top desk and three antique but chunky bookcases, into which he'd carefully placed all of Doctor Jackson's journals, books, magazines and scientific periodicals. He'd balanced the books with photographs of times and places he had no knowledge of, along with several items that Jack had called, "Junk... er, mementos." He'd added the few items SG-1 had saved for him in the room at the SGC and called it quits. Now that he'd finished the journals, he kept the door shut and never went in. If he brought work home, he used the dining room table, where he also had his computer, printer and fax set up. Yep, home, sweet home.
Walking toward his office at the SGC, he wondered why his little bungalow seemed more like home than this place. But of course, the answer was simple. His bungalow belonged to him, to Daniel Jackson. The SGC was part of Doctor Jackson's life. Not his. Oh, he managed to fool everyone, but in all reality, he actually got lost in the damn place - frequently. Silly, but true.
He turned the final corner, stopped at his office door and unlocked it. Walking in, he turned on the lights, took off his jacket and sat down. Like his new home, his office was now a reflection of Daniel Jackson as opposed to Doctor Jackson, thanks to the rearrangement he'd completed several weeks ago. He felt much more comfortable now. He reached into his in-box and pulled out a folder. Opening it, he noted that it was a synopsis of a recent SG-7 mission that involved the discovery of several strange statues, with equally strange writings on them. Doctor Emerson, SG-7's scientist, had gone to great lengths to give Daniel a full file including detailed pictures and a small videocassette. Daniel started with the photographs.
He might not remember anything of Doctor Jackson, but he possessed all his knowledge regarding his chosen field. Amazing.
One week later -
"I can't believe you told them that, sir." Sam stared at her commanding officer and shook her head.
Jack shrugged and took another bite of his omelet. "What can I say? Daniel tried the diplomatic route and they shot him down at every turn. They didn't deserve our help; it's as simple as that."
"But they're Jonas' people, sir."
Jack looked up, his brown eyes narrowing. "So?"
She stirred her coffee, then suddenly grinned. "I don't suppose they had a clue what you meant anyway."
Grinning back at her, he said, "No, I don't suppose 'dicking around' is a common term on their planet."
Jack turned his head as Daniel sat down between him and Carter.
"You're cheerful this morning, Daniel," Sam noted.
Daniel shrugged and dug into his eggs. "So, what's up?" he asked again after swallowing.
"Me," Jack said as he pushed back his chair and stood up, tray in hand. "Catch you later."
Daniel watched him leave. He wasn't surprised since it seemed that wherever Daniel was - Jack tried very hard not be.
He took a bite of bacon, turned to Sam and smiled broadly. "So, tell me all about your adventures in the bowels of Jonas' planet."
~ Why leave me standing here, let me know the way ~
A few weeks later -
"Are you sure about this, Sara?"
Sara looked at Daniel, flicked a red hair from his jacket, and said, "I'm sure. After all that's happened, plus the 'debriefing', I need normal, which I'll find in New York with my sister and her very normal, very loud, and very rambunctious family."
"I see. Makes... sense."
She reached out and took his hand. "Daniel, believe it or not, I really don't remember much, and something tells me that I hope it stays that way, you know?"
What could he say?
"Yeah, I think I know."
"I wish things could be different between us, but we've both changed so much. We're not the same young scientists anymore."
"No... no, we're not."
She looked away from him, her expression thoughtful. "I'd give anything to be able to turn back the clock, to have handled things differently back then. Maybe we wouldn't be standing here now, like this, about to say good-bye yet again."
There was nothing Daniel could say. Thanks to the memory device, he now remembered this one part of his life - oh joy. He smiled gently and said, "You take care of yourself, all right?"
"I will. And thank you." She leaned in and kissed his cheek. "Good-bye, Daniel."
She slid into the back seat of the car that would take her to the airport. Turning in the seat, she waved as the car pulled away. He lifted his hand, then lowered it self-consciously.
He watched until the car was out of sight before walking back into the mountain. He'd almost reached his office when Teal'c came around the corner.
"Daniel, have you heard?"
Daniel wondered where 'DanielJackson' had gone as he said, "I've heard a great many things today, Teal'c, including Jack burping up his pizza at lunch. Was there something special -- more special than a burping Jack -- which I'm supposed to have heard?"
"The Langarans have signed a treaty. It would seem that peace is on the horizon after all. Jonas Quinn is very happy."
Smiling broadly, Daniel said, "That's good news, Teal'c."
"Indeed it is. I am going to let Major Carter know. I will see you later."
Daniel nodded, his smile still in place. When Teal'c disappeared around the corner. The smile, as always, faded. Daniel continued on to his office.
Two weeks later -
Daniel watched Sam as she moved, somewhat stiffly, from the briefing room. Jack followed her, concern radiating from his body. Teal'c glanced over at Daniel, one arched eyebrow asking him if he was all right. Daniel smiled his usual smile. Teal'c cocked his head and asked, "Are you certain you are all right, DanielJackson?"
His own eyebrow rising at the return of "DanielJackson", he nevertheless nodded. "I'm fine, but Sam could use you now. Jack will probably be less than tactful about Jacob's leaving, for who knows how long, but Sam can allow herself emotion when she's with you."
Surprise evident in his expression, Teal'c gave a solemn bow of his head and exited the room, intent on helping Sam in any way he could. Which left Daniel alone.
Chalk up another failure for the great Daniel Jackson.
The alliance between Earth and the Tok'ra - gone. The alliance between the Tok'ra and the rebelling Jaffa - gone. The alliance between Earth, the Tok'ra and the Jaffa - ended, over, kaput. And nothing Daniel had said had made any difference. The fact that Jacob had failed in convincing his peers to remain, or that Teal'c had failed to convince his peers to remain, did nothing to assuage Daniel's guilt.
Hell, wasn't he the great peacekeeper?
And who the fuck decided that anyway?
"Oh, let Daniel do that, it's what he does."
Since when? And clearly, whenever he had done it in the past, he'd done it badly.
God, he was tired. He got up and made his way down to his office. The one thing he'd learned to count on since his return - was work. There always seemed to be enough work for Doctor Daniel Jackson, aka, Daniel Jackson.
Time to get to it.
Four hours later, back stiff, he paused, got up and poured himself a cup of coffee. He took a sip, sat down again, and went back to work. At six, he stopped, got up, changed into his civvies, put on his jacket, turned out the lights and walked out.
He gave a brief thought to checking in on Sam, knowing that it had hit her hard when Jacob had explained that he might not be in touch with her - or them - for quite a while. But he was pretty sure he'd be the last person she'd want to see right now. She had to know how he'd failed to keep the alliance together - and to be honest, he didn't want to see that failure mirrored in her eyes. He decided to skip Sam's lab, opting for just going home.
Passing people in the halls, he nodded, smiled, but since most people were still treating him like some kind of ... freak, he didn't have to talk to anyone. He stopped at the elevator, slid his card down and, when it opened, stepped in and started his journey up and out.
During the drive home, he wondered how the Kelowans - sorry, the Langarans -- were doing now that peace loomed on the horizon. As he considered the question, a strange numbness swept over him and, in defense, he mentally changed the subject.
Traffic was light so he made it home in record time. He parked in his garage and entered his house through the garage entrance , which led into the kitchen. He turned on the light and got a beer out of the fridge, unscrewed the cap and took a swallow. He remembered from one of his private journals that Doctor Jackson didn't like beer - which was too bad, because Daniel Jackson liked it just fine.
He ambled into the living room and turned on the stereo, then went over and lit the fire. He straightened and warmed his hands for a few before turning and facing his living room. Across from him stood an oak library table that he used to hold his mail. On the wall behind it he'd hung an Egyptian-themed decorative mirror that had caught his fancy at one of those huge home stores that were popping up all over the place. He cocked his head, surprised to find himself staring back at him. He was always surprised to find out how much Daniel Jackson looked like Doctor Jackson. He regarded the reflection - and was shocked when the reflection changed. He squinted at it as it shimmered in a fine imitation of the wormhole. He gasped when his reflection was suddenly replaced by men in plastic suits with masks who were working in a lab. Moments later, someone was shooting out an observation window while another individual yelled out, "Doctor Jackson!" He watched, stunned, as Doctor Jackson jumped through the window and crashed to the ground in a hail of glass.
... a burning hand.
A threat disarmed and a soft voice telling Doctor Jackson that he'd been exposed to the equivalent of over 8 to 9 Grays of neutron radiation resulting from direct contact, with full body exposure of over 7 Grays. He could hear his own -- no, Doctor Jackson's voice --- asking how long, and the slow-to-come answer of... 10 to 15 hours.
More recent words invaded his brain as voices engaged in petty arguments while egos bumped heads and arrogance doomed a people because naquadria once again threatened the people of Quinn's world. Friends didn't blink as he was asked to mediate for the Langarans and no one seemed to think there'd be a problem. After all, if no one talked about it - then it had never happened.
The vision in the mirror changed, replaced by Sarah and her cultured, British voice telling him over and over again how sorry she was and how helpless she'd felt as something called Osiris controlled her every move.
Suddenly a beer bottle slammed into the mirror, shattering it -- and the memories contained within -- to a thousand shards. He walked over to gaze down at the destruction, only now... Doctor Daniel Jackson was there, in shiny bits and pieces, laughing up at him.
He stepped on every single shard and ground them relentlessly into the wood floor. The sound of crunching glass underfoot was so satisfying, he began to sweep things from tables onto the floor, to lift lamps and hurl them against walls, to upend furniture, to jam his foot into the back of the upside down couch, to rip pictures from the wall and smash the glass with his fist, to shred couch cushions and pillows, to tear at afghans, to shatter anything that could be shattered. He moved into the small dining room and repeated the process leaving nothing unscathed, not even his computer and other equipment. He moved into the bedroom, pulled down bookshelves, swept everything off his chest of drawers, picked up the lamp on his nightstand and hurled it into the mirrored closet, then did the same with the alarm clock, the books, the pictures on the walls, and even the water glass on his nightstand. He tore the futon apart, ripped into the mattress, and realized he was yelling.
That bit of knowledge acted like a bucket of cold water thrown into his face. Daniel dropped the mattress and swiped a hand over his face. Slowly he walked back into the living room. Something caught his eye - one item - untouched.
Unsteady on his feet, he walked over what was left of his home and picked it up. It was a picture of Jack O'Neill. Holding it to him, he slid down the wall, knees tucked into his chest.
Four days later -
Daniel looked up as Jack walked in. In spite of the fact that he couldn't remember - literally - the last time Jack had been in his office, he plastered on his usual smile and asked, "Everything okay?"
"Yeah. Just wondering what you think of, you know, Pete."
Still smiling, Daniel said, "He's not you, but he's a nice enough guy. Not nearly good enough for her, but hey."
"What do you mean, he's not me?"
"Just an observation."
Jack stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Oh."
Daniel waited - still smiling.
"Oh, okay. Well, got work to do."
Daniel watched as Jack walked out. The smile faded and his heart twitched oddly. Daniel stared at the doorway, but after several seconds, he went back to work.
Six weeks later -
Daniel walked into the house and slammed the door behind him. He closed his eyes and curled his fingers into fists. Damn, why had he destroyed everything all those weeks ago? Now there was nothing that would allow him to vent his anger and guilt. He took in several deep breaths - and caught a whiff of something - powdery. Without opening his eyes, he raised his right hand to his face and sniffed.
Janet. Baby Janet.
He could still smell the small bundle on his hand, could feel the softness, the sweetness....
... and cold flesh, copper-scented blood flowing freely and spreading on the ground beneath - beneath -
He went to his knees, arms wrapped around his middle, rocking back and forth as he chanted over and over again, "Janetjanetjanetjanet...."
Light from the set flickered across his features as Daniel sat on the floor in his corner of the bedroom, two blankets clutched around him. He was staring at the television, but not seeing it. As an action show raced across the screen, he was seeing Janet and the tender spot he now understood she'd held in his life.
He was remembering Janet if nothing else about Doctor Daniel Jackson.
She was dead, killed - instead of him. He'd been inches from her, yet he'd lived and she - hadn't.
He'd died before - and lived - but Janet -- hadn't. No Oma, no rising and leaving nothing behind. For Janet, there'd been only sightless eyes and an empty shell where the individual he'd known and loved liked a sister had once resided.
While someone named "Harm" argued with someone called "Mac", Daniel saw Janet talking calmly to Cassie, reassuring her as she lay in the bowels of the SGC waiting for something to happen and maybe that something was death. He remembered Janet's fierce protectiveness as she fought for Cassie and stared down a Goa'uld. He could see her on a planet inhabited by sexless individuals painted white, concern in her empathetic brown eyes, and he could see her fighting for the life of their enemy, Apophis.
Small, energetic, full of life, loyalty, dedication and love, yet she was dead while he was alive. She should have been the topic of that stupid documentary; it would have meant something then. And he should never have given over that tape. God knew how they'd use it.
He put his head in his hands, dug the heel of his palms into his eyes and groaned, a prisoner to these memories of Janet.
She'd saved them countless times, risked her life on more occasions than a doctor should, and had fought so hard to save him after Kelowna. He'd known long before he'd spiraled down into nothing but pain and blood and choking that Janet would take his death hard. There was nothing more difficult for a physician like Janet Frasier than to lose a patient so helplessly, so horribly. He'd seen it in her eyes, the desire to help him along on his final journey, to make it easier, less painful - but that wasn't Janet Frasier. She honored her oath and understood why it would have been wrong. But she'd been tempted, maybe for the first time in her career.
But then, the method by which he'd been dying had probably been a first for her as well.
Odd how the only memories he now possessed revolved around a woman barely skimming five feet in height. She seemed to represent all that the SGC was about. All the good that they were. And now she was gone.
But he wasn't.
Silent tears tracked down his face.
He finally understood Jack's anger and frustration with him, understood Jack's hatred. As helpless as he now felt, he suspected it had been much the same during his time as an ascended being when faced with Jack's capture by Baal, or Teal'c's and Bra'tac's trials in sharing one symbiote.
He should have been able to save Janet. Somehow he should have known, should have kept her from harm's way. Should have done something.
Two hours later, a barely conscious Daniel stumbled into his kitchen. He took down a bottle of Jack Daniels and a glass, then made his way back into his bedroom. He dropped down onto the floor and his mound of bedding, rested his back against the wall, opened the bottle and poured.
He continued to drink long into the night.
"I'll have the Lumberman's Special, a small orange juice, and a great deal more coffee."
"What kind of toast, sir?"
The waitress nodded, smiled, and after sticking her pencil back in her pocket, headed toward the kitchen.
Daniel ran a hand over his face, over the stubble he'd refused to shave earlier, and smiled wryly. It had been rebellion, pure and simple. The Lumberman's Special was also a type of rebellion - against his hangover and the memories Janet's death had brought forth. He could refuse to admit the hangover existed, but the memories, while more painful than he could imagine, were all that he had left of Janet. The meal, and not shaving, seemed the right thing to do. Just like not changing anything in his house.
He looked around his favorite breakfast diner, at the booths full of families out for a Saturday morning meal after the local soccer game, and thought of Cassie. She was living with Sam now. He ought to check in on her. And... maybe... head to Denver, to Fort Logan. He sipped his coffee, ignoring as he did, his trembling hand.
Daniel entered the gates of Fort Logan. He hadn't needed any map, having been here for the initial burial ceremony. He found Janet's grave without any difficulty, parked, picked up the flowers from the passenger seat, got out, and walked slowly across the small road, up the incline and onto the soft grass. He continued walking until he stood before the grave marker. Because Janet had been posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, her gravesite was located in Memorial Row and easy to see. Daniel laid the bouquet down on the grass in front of the marker, then straightened. He'd tried to cajole Cassie into coming with him, but the young teen simply wasn't ready. Sam might think she was tough, but Cassie hadn't even begun to deal with the death of her "mother". Or had no one noticed Cassie's inability to attend the memorial service at the SGC? All Daniel could hope was that he'd been of some help to her earlier in the day. It had taken every ounce of his self-control not to cry with her when she'd finally broken down and thrown herself into his arms. It had also taken everything he had not to apologize over and over again for being alive where Cassie's mother was not. He'd instinctively known that only one person would have benefited by such an act - namely him. It would only have hurt Cassie more.
He stared at the flowers, all of them Janet's favorites, and whispered, "I'm sorry."
A slight breeze rustled through the trees behind him and he could feel the light spray of water from the fountain in the center of the lake to his right. He turned his face toward the moisture and closed his eyes. It made saying what needed saying - easier.
"It should have been me, Janet. It should have been me. It would have been but you moved down a bit, remember? You moved. And in moving, you put yourself in the line of fire. But you were doing your job, which is more than I can say for myself. I had no business being there, Janet. There was no place for me so I was sent with you. There were two seasoned Marines at your back and one useless archaeologist." He covered his face with his hands as he groaned out, "God, I sound like I'm blaming you for your own death, and I'm not, Janet, I swear it."
Several minutes passed and he finally dropped his hands. Tears ran unchecked down his cheeks as he turned back to face the solemn white marker. "No one to blame but me."
He dropped to his knees, wrapped his arms around his stomach and bent his head into his chest. "No one but me," he whispered.
Three days later -
Face exhausted from a day of smiling, eyes burning from the strain of too much computer work and research, Daniel headed home. Realizing that he didn't have anything to eat and didn't feel like grocery shopping, he stopped at the mini-deli a few blocks from his home, picked up a salad, a six pack of beer and, next door, his cleaning. Once home, he put the salad on the counter and the beer in the fridge, but kept two bottles out. Carrying one beer under his arm, the other in one hand, and the salad in the other, he walked out and into the living room. He made his way over the destroyed furniture and continued into his bedroom. Once there, he neatly avoided the destruction and sat down in the middle of the pile of sheets, blankets and pillows in the corner of his room, grabbed the remote and hit power. His new television turned on, and while watching the news, he ate his salad and drank his beers.
"Perhaps Daniel would like to join us, O'Neill."
Jack paused in his walk to the car. "Daniel?"
"I don't know, Teal'c. He didn't seem to enjoy it all that much last time."
"He enjoyed it as much as I did. And last time was - a long time ago, O'Neill. I would enjoy his company tonight."
Jack got in, and as Teal'c slid in on the passenger side, he said, "All right, I'll drive by his place, see if he's interested. But I'm betting he says no."
"I believe he will say yes."
As Jack drove down the mountain, Teal'c asked, "Do you suppose Daniel's neighbors have given him any problems over what occurred with Osiris?"
"I doubt it. The government can do a mean job of damage control when needed."
"That is good then." There was a lengthy pause, then Teal'c said, "Daniel does not seem a great deal more rested now than when his mind and memories were being violated by Osiris, yet it has been many weeks."
"He looked fine to me today."
As Jack continued to drive, the word 'violated' continued to swim within his mind.
Jack pulled into Daniel's driveway, put the car into park and said, "Well?"
Head cocked, Teal'c said, "You do not wish to ask him?"
"This was your idea, Teal'c. Go on."
Teal'c, hand on the door handle, said, "You do not wish Daniel to join us?"
"Oh, fer crying out... okay, okay, I'll go."
Jack turned off the engine and got out of the car. He walked around the front of the vehicle and up Daniel's walkway to the porch. There were no lights on inside but he thought he could hear the drone of a television set so he knocked.
And knocked again.
Daniel put the beer down and glanced away from the screen. Someone at his door? He thought about not answering in case it was a neighbor again, but when the knocking continued, he sighed and got up. At the front door, he peered through the top panes of glass -- and immediately stepped back - shocked.
Jack was at his front door.
Daniel blinked behind his glasses, looked around the house, and closed his eyes. This was not good.
"Daniel? You in there?"
Okay, he could do this. He turned on the porch light and took the chain off....
Jack could hear... footsteps. Okay, good.
Except... nothing happened.
Jack tapped his foot.
"Daniel? You in there?"
For a moment, nothing happened, then the porch light came on and he heard the chain being slid back. A second later, one blue eye was peering out at him through the barely opened door. The door opened a bit wider and a grinning Daniel said, "Hey, Jack. What's up?"
Jack waited for Daniel to open the door enough to allow him to enter, and when he didn't, he said, somewhat self-consciously, "Teal'c and I are going to have a bite to eat, then check out the jell-o wrestling. Thought you might like to, you know, come along."
"Oh, yeah? Sounds fun. Give me a sec while I change and I'll be right out."
The smile was still broad, the door still barely open. Jack had no choice. "Right, okay. We'll... wait."
Daniel nodded, his smile widened impossibly, then he shut the door.
"Right." Jack shoved his hands in his pockets and walked back to the car. He got in and said, "He's changing."
Daniel walked back into his bedroom, took off his sweat bottoms, put back on his jeans, then grabbed his leather jacket and slipped it on over his white t-shirt. He slipped into his loafers, grabbed his wallet and keys from the pile of blankets, and walked out. In the living room, he thought about righting one of the lamps and turning it on so he wasn't coming into a dark house, which in its current state could be dangerous. Hell, he knew where everything was now, so he opened the front door and walked out, shutting and locking it behind him.
He climbed into the back seat and, smiling, said, "Okay, let's get this show on the road."
Jack looked in his rearview mirror and said, "Nice jacket, Daniel. New?"
"Thanks, and a few weeks old. A gift to myself, " he said easily.
"It looks very nice," Teal'c added.
Jack put the Avalanche into reverse and backed carefully out of the driveway. As he started down the street, he indicated the house across from Daniel's and remarked casually, "I see they fixed the windows."
"Yep. Only took our government a few months," Daniel said dryly.
Daniel sat at one end of the booth, Teal'c next to him and Jack at the other end. He'd skipped dinner and watched as his friends ate their steaks while he explained his earlier salad. He'd had four beers at home and was now on his second at the restaurant. He couldn't remember the last time the three of them had gotten together - as in literally couldn't remember - but he suspected it had been a while.
They talked sports, Teal'c talked about Ishta and his upcoming visit with her, and Jack managed to bring the conversation around to Pete. Teal'c agreed that he too liked the cop and thought he was "good for Major Carter". Daniel watched Jack.
After dinner, Jack paid, telling Teal'c he "owed him", and they walked out and across the street to Randy's, the club famous for their jell-o matches on Friday nights. They were early enough to get a good table close to the action - when the action started. All three ordered beers and settled in.
"How much longer?" Teal'c asked.
"Fifteen minutes, Teal'c. Exactly one minute less than the last time you asked," Jack said with a wink at Daniel.
"You know, I'm wondering how Ishta would take... jell-o wrestling matches. What do you think, Jack?" Daniel asked with his own wink.
Before Jack could answer, Teal'c said, "Ishta would wipe up the ceiling with them."
Jack rolled his eyes and said, "Floor, Teal'c. She would wipe up the floor with them."
"That as well," Teal'c said solemnly.
Jack and Daniel laughed even as Daniel waved the waitress over. When she arrived, he ordered a Scotch and water while Jack, raised eyebrow and all, ordered another beer. Teal'c did the same.
When the waitress left with their orders, Jack said, "Scotch and water? You?"
Daniel shrugged - and grinned.
Jack looked at Teal'c and said, "Looks like our little boy is growing up."
"I believe, O'Neill, he has been 'grown up' as long as I have known him."
Jack rolled his eyes.
Daniel was feeling no pain. In fact, he was feeling pretty damn good. He was actually having a ball watching Teal'c watch the female jell-o wrestlers. He wondered if it had been this fun last time.
The name entered his consciousness, and with it, a memory.
Now he knew why they were here.
Last time, she'd been involved - if you could call it involved - with Orlin. This time, she was involved with Pete.
And Jack had to watch women wrestle in jell-o.
Daniel ordered another drink. A double.
Jack watched Daniel put the alcohol away as if he were drinking water. Something tickled at the back of his brain, but he'd had a few too many beers himself and couldn't capture the elusive thought.
The evening settled into a groove of laughter, cheering, betting, and drinking. Jack covertly watched Daniel, and Teal'c watched them both. When the wrestling ended and Daniel's number twenty-three was declared the winner, Daniel bought a final round for his friends. When the waitress arrived, Jack ordered black coffee for all of them, but Daniel waved him off and said, "Make that three coffees and three brandies, all right?"
"Daniel, you've had enough, don't you think?"
Smile in place, Daniel said, "No."
"I do believe he is drunk, O'Neill. I have never witnessed this before. You, yes; Daniel, no."
Jack looked over at Daniel, who was struggling to put his jacket on, and agreed, "You're right, he's drunk. As the proverbial skunk."
"I believe he could use some help," Teal'c observed.
Jack walked back over to Daniel and said, "Jacket getting away from you there, Danny boy?"
Daniel paused in his efforts to slip his right arm into the jacket sleeve and said, "Stubborn bastard, you know? Although -- I'm not -- you know, quite certain -- if it's my arm - or the jacket."
It didn't escape Jack's notice that Daniel was speaking very slowly and enunciating very carefully. He pulled the collar of the jacket up and fitted Daniel's arm into the sleeve, then pulled it over Daniel's shoulders. He straightened it, tugged it down, and then zipped it up. "Okay, you're set. Come on, let's get you to the car."
"Did you notice -- my girl won. Although -- I should - probably - call - her - a woman."
"I noticed, Daniel. You really know how to pick your jell-o wrestlers."
"Did - I - win - the - last - time?"
"The last time?"
"You - know." Daniel leaned in close and whispered, "Orlin. Last - time - we - did -this. This time - it's - Pete. So - did - I - win - last - time?"
Jack stared at Daniel, stared hard. A myriad of feelings overcame him, confusing feelings as he looked at his... friend. Bleary blue eyes peered back at him as Daniel swayed closer to him and Jack caught him. Lips a few inches from his own, Daniel asked, "Did - I?"
"You don't remember?"
Daniel put his finger to Jack's lips and said, "Ssh, don't - tell - anyone. I don't - remember - hardly anything." He grinned a rather lopsided grin and added, "But it - doesn't matter, does - it? Old Doc Jackson -- is - dead - anyway."
The strange feeling tickled Jack's brain again and he recognized it as worry. Serious worry. Frowning, he guided Daniel to the door as he said, "You won last time too."
"He is humming," Teal'c observed from his spot in the front seat.
"Yes. Nice voice," Jack said dryly.
"I believe there is something seriously wrong with our friend."
"He is still humming."
"Just help me get him to the door, Teal'c."
"What is the tune? Do you recognize it?"
"It's 'There's No Place Like Home'."
Between the two of them, they managed to get Daniel to the front door. Jack dug into Daniel's pockets until he found the keys. Juggling a still humming Daniel, he managed to insert the right key into the lock and push the door open. As they crossed the threshold, Daniel said, "Watch <hiccough> your step, boys."
"What does Daniel mean?" Teal'c asked as they almost dragged him inside.
"How the hell should I... OUCH!"
Jack stumbled as his foot slammed into something. He kicked at it, then banged his knee against something else. "What the hell? Can you reach the light, Teal'c?"
"There does not... seem to be a light, O'Neill."
"Oh, fer crying ... here, you take our drunk while I see if I can find the damn thing."
Teal'c took all of Daniel's weight and waited while Jack picked his way over the wreckage that was Daniel's home. He could hear his friend stumbling as he bumped into things, soft curses quickly following. Finally a light in the kitchen came on and it was enough to guide Teal'c further into the home, something he quickly wished he had not done.
Standing at the entrance into the living room, Daniel dangling from his arms, he said, "I do not understand, O'Neill."
From across the room, Jack looked in shock at the mess. "Neither do I, Teal'c," he whispered.
They both stared at the devastation. There wasn't a single piece of furniture in one piece. Nothing stood upright or intact. There were no pictures left on the walls, nor a single lamp that wasn't broken and lying on the floor. And judging by the way much of it was ground in, and the dust that had accumulated, Daniel's home had been like this for quite some time.
Jack felt the worry of earlier blossom into fear. He could feel the heat on his face, and the moisture in his eyes. He thought of the weeks and months since Daniel's return, of the constant smiles and cheerful countenance, the helpful demeanor, the willingness to do anything he was told, go anywhere....
Suddenly Jack could see Daniel's face as he was asked to serve as the mediator between the three nations of Kelowna. Daniel had never even blinked. He'd simply smiled and said, "Of course."
Why shouldn't he want to help the people who tried to make him a scapegoat after he'd killed himself to save them all?
But Jack's memory didn't end there. How about Daniel's reaction to "You and Doctor Lee. Yes, Doctor, just the two of you. Washington won't support anything more than two seemingly harmless archaeologists...."
And what about the way Daniel had handled being tortured for days? He'd simply picked up a large tree branch for a crutch and cracked a few jokes before later apologizing for the fact that Jack had been forced to come after him when he should have been with "Teal'c, Jacob and... you know, Sam...."
He swallowed the bile that rose in his throat and said, "Hang on, let me check his bedroom."
Teal'c was too shocked to respond.
Jack hurried down the short hall and into the bedroom, where, after turning on the overhead light, he stumbled to a stop.
The bedroom was actually worse, but what brought Jack up short was the pitiful pile of blankets and pillows on the floor in an un-littered corner of the room. He also noticed what was clearly a brand new - the sale sticker still plastered to the side of it his primary clue -- portable television. Jack could see the remnants of Daniel's salad and several empty beer bottles on the floor and realized that this was where Daniel had been when Jack had knocked four hours earlier.
Jack returned to the living room. "Come on, Teal'c, I'm taking him to my place."
"That would be wise, O'Neill."
Jack started to take Daniel's other arm, but Daniel pulled away from both men. Facing them, swaying drunkenly, he grinned and said, "No, no. Home. You - go. I'm - fine."
Jack took a careful step toward Daniel and said, "No, you're not fine, Daniel. And you are coming home with me."
Daniel almost danced away, neatly avoiding the mess on the floor in spite of his inebriated state. "Don't - be - silly. Now shoo, go home."
"Jaaaack, we all know I'm not the person you want at your house." He leaned forward and both Jack and Teal'c rushed toward him in case he fell, but he didn't. He made a shooing motion with his hand and repeated, "Leave, adios, sayonara...."
"Hasta no-no, Daniel. Now come on. Let's go to my place."
Daniel's expression changed so rapidly, both men were shocked. The smile was gone, replaced by a scowl. He was, judging by his words, sobering up.
"I'm staying here. This is my home and it suits me. Perfectly. Feel free to exit that way." He pointed at the front door.
"Daniel, you destroyed your home," Jack said simply, his voice soft and gentle.
Daniel's head lifted a fraction as he said, "So?"
"Please, come home with me?"
"I have no... huh-oh... I think... I think...."
Daniel suddenly went green, put his hand to his mouth, and made a dash for the bathroom. Jack looked at Teal'c, who stared worriedly back at him. Jack nodded and said, "I'll go."
Jack walked into the kitchen and sat down next to Teal'c who immediately pushed a mug of coffee toward him. Eyes on the dark liquid, Jack nodded his thanks.
"That would be... on the floor, then."
Jack shrugged. "He's a stubborn son of a bitch."
"I could carry him to the car, O'Neill. He would rest easier at your place, would he not?"
"Probably, but he'll fight us. For now, we'll go with staying here and try to get him to my place tomorrow. I'll give Carter a call, see if I can get her to put together a crew to get this place cleaned up."
"And tonight? I do not believe DanielJackson should be left alone."
"I'll stay. You take my truck and head back to the Mountain."
"I believe I will stay as well."
Jack glanced up... and smiled. "Thanks, T."
Jack straightened and, satisfied with the job, nodded. He'd finally connected with Carter and told her to grab Ferretti in the morning and meet them at Daniel's. She'd been half asleep at the time, but had agreed without asking too many questions. Now he and Teal'c were righting both the couch and the love seat. They'd found that a few of the cushions were salvageable so planned on making the couches their beds for the night. Of course, he, as the shorter of the two men, was going to be stuck with the smaller couch, but he figured that by sleeping on his side, curled into himself, he'd be all right.
"I have found enough bedding, O'Neill."
Jack took the sheets and blankets offered by Teal'c and began to make his so-called bed. When both were finished, they sat down on their respective couches, neither quite ready for sleep. Looking over his shoulder at the hall that led to Daniel's bedroom, Jack said, "He was pretty sick."
"He drank a great deal."
They were silent again, each deep in his own thoughts. Several minutes later, Jack said quietly, "I'm .. scared."
"As am I, O'Neill. Something is very wrong."
"He said... he said he still didn't remember much." Worried brown eyes met Teal'c's. "He still doesn't remember, Teal'c."
"I believe that as we stopped sharing, he stopped trying."
"He remembered Charlie," Jack said, his voice sounding far away. "I ... he wanted to talk about it, but I shut him out. I just closed my locker and walked away."
"He wanted to speak of Sha're as well, but sensed my discomfort. It's altogether possible that every memory brought pain, to either himself or us, so he simply - stopped."
"So who does that make him now? If he has no memories, or very few, than who the hell is he? How is he functioning?"
"I do not know. I cannot fathom what we have witnessed, O'Neill. He... I simply do not understand."
Jack nodded and swiped a hand over the lower half of his face as he said softly, "I was... mad at him. I've been angry for quite awhile. I think he... knows. He's always so... amenable."
"Perhaps it is time for your anger to be shared."
"How? How do I tell him that I actually hated him? How do I tell him that I came to hate him after Baal?"
"Why would you hate DanielJackson?"
Jack stared up at the ceiling, sighed, and said, "Remember when I mentioned how he... how he came to me when I was Baal's prisoner?" At Teal'c's nod, he went on. "He tried to... he wanted me to let go, to ascend. I refused so he kept me company. At the time, it seemed like so much, but I kept dying and coming back, and Daniel didn't do anything. He had all this power, all these abilities, and he wouldn't - couldn't - get me out of there. I was pathetically grateful later for his company, but then it hit me. Here was this fucking all-knowing, all-powerful being, and he did... nothing. He let Baal torture me over and over and over again."
"Now is not the time to be inscrutable, Teal'c. And I was there."
"And I know that Major Carter, Jonas Quinn and myself were not alone in what we accomplished in trying to free you. I do not believe that we took even one step that was not orchestrated by DanielJackson. I know it was his voice I heard while deep in kel-no-reem. His voice telling me to use Yu. He did what he could - and more. He risked a great deal to aid you. Of that, I am certain."
"Then what about you, Teal'c? Why didn't he just save you and Bra'tac? Why did he allow you to go through that hell?"
"It was my battle, O'Neill, not his. Or perhaps you believe he should have gone through his life as an ascended being doing nothing but saving our ... butts? He was not a god, and no one knew this better than DanielJackson. He was simply on another path, a path with rules to keep individuals like Anubis from using their abilities to destroy and control. DanielJackson is one of the few men of this world who understands that with great power comes great responsibility and even greater restraint." His mouth turned up in a slight smile as he added, "But he did what he could in ways that undoubtedly drove Oma Desala insane and, in the end, cost him everything. His life as an ascended being, his family, his friends, his memory and all that he was. I believe he has suffered more than is warranted, more than any individual should."
Jack walked into Daniel's room and made his cautious way over to the bathroom. He turned on the light, then partially closed the door so that it was muted but giving off enough of a glow that he could see Daniel. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he gazed down at the sleeping man, his brow furrowed.
The only sound in the room was the sound of Daniel's breathing. The precious sound of Daniel's breathing. Jack found his eyes drawn to Daniel's chest, to the constant and pure rise and fall of it. Daniel had somehow pushed the blankets down and they were now pooled around his waist. His right arm was flung over his head causing his tee shirt to ride up slightly, revealing pale skin and a thin, dark shadow of hair that disappeared beneath his boxers. Jack felt his mouth go dry as his eyes seemed to fixate on the dark hair. Suddenly he could see Daniel as he'd been -- on the day of his ascension - in the 'Gate room of Oma's mind. There'd been tears in Daniel's eyes. He could hear Daniel's voice, hear the words... and his own....
"I'm gonna miss you guys."
"Yeah, you too."
"Thank you. For everything."
"So, what? See you around?"
"I don't know."
"Hey. Where are you going?"
"I don't know."
Thank you. For everything.
Jack had been so helpful. There was so much for which Daniel could thank him. Not.
And there'd been tears in Daniel's eyes.
Jack took another step closer to Daniel and whispered, "Why?"
Because... Daniel hadn't wanted to go. He'd wanted ... to stay.
"You didn't get... you weren't... kicked out, were you, Daniel?" he asked softly of the sleeping man.
Answers seemed to flow through him as he gazed down on the man he'd once called his best friend. The answers to all his questions sang in his heart, murmured in his mind, and he knew they were not his own.
Daniel chose to descend - probably due to his inability to help his friends - and he'd chosen to start over - literally. No memory of himself or who he'd been because he hadn't liked that man. He'd never intended on returning to the SGC, but he hadn't planned on SG-1 stumbling upon him during one of their journeys through the 'Gate. Hadn't planned on ever being found. He would, in all likelihood, have remained on "whatever-the-hell-the-name-of-that-planet-was" forever. But SG-1 had stumbled....
There'd been no stumbling.
Jack smiled because the answers were still coming. Daniel's fate had been in Oma's hands from the get-go, only he hadn't known it.
His smile disappeared.
Oma hadn't counted on SG-1 screwing up so badly though. SG-1 and Jack O'Neill.
Stepping closer, but careful not to tread on the edges of the blanket, he whispered, "I understand my anger while you were ascended, but I've been angry for a long time. Why?"
He expected more answers, but they didn't come. He wasn't really surprised because he got it now. What kind of life would it be if the answers always came -- and problems were always solved by someone else -- and lives were never truly in jeopardy?
Daniel had understood that from the beginning.
He studied Daniel's face, and a strange warmth spread throughout his body. He frowned as his stomach started to do flip-flops, the kind he used to get just before going up in a fighter plane. That odd kind of excitement that, when mixed with fear, created a top-notch pilot and soldier. Only Jack was in Daniel's bedroom, or what was left of it, staring down at his friend.
Jack closed his eyes as knowledge slammed into him.
He loved Daniel.
"My God, I love you, Daniel. I - love you."
For several moments he stood quietly, letting the knowledge settle. Finally he stared up at the ceiling and pondered the change that loving Daniel had wrought. Okay, he felt ... the same. Other than loving Daniel, he was still Jack O'Neill - who now loved Daniel.
So no major changes. Same old, same old.
Accept for Daniel, of course. Well, shit. He sort of needed to tell him. On the other hand, why the hell should Daniel care? The news might even make things worse -- if they could get any worse. Jack figured a man who'd torn up his home, who hated himself enough to destroy all his possessions, might not think too much of the fact that Jack loved him.
His stomach was revolting. Daniel cracked open an eye and immediately closed it. He tried again.
There was light somewhere.
He turned his head and spotted the sliver of brightness. Biting his lower lip, he sat up and ran his hand through his hair. Slowly he got to his feet and was forced to close his eyes again while the room spun wildly. When balance seemed restored, he opened them and took the necessary, but unsteady, steps to the door. He just managed to make it to the toilet when his stomach made its disgust known. He went down on his knees, grabbed the sides of the bowl, and let loose.
When he finished, and he knew he was because he felt infinitely better, he sat with his back against the shower door. It was cold and felt good. Eyes closed, he tried to remember what had happened and why he felt so shitty.
Swell, more memories lost. Daniel turned his head to the left, opened one eye, spotted the rack of towels and thanked God they were close. He reached up, pulled them all down, double folded two of them, put them on the floor, then fell sideways until his head landed on the makeshift pillow. He used the other towel as a blanket. With a sigh of relief, he closed his eyes.
Jack rolled over and almost fell off the couch. He caught himself and sat up. Damn, his back and legs hurt. Loveseats were not meant for men his size. He swung his legs over the side and planted his feet on the floor. He checked his watch and groaned. It was only a little after five. Oh, well, he needed to check in on Daniel anyway. He got up, smiled at Teal'c, who was dead to the world - a fact Jack wondered if he'd ever get used to - and headed down the hall to Daniel's room.
Inside, he noted the bathroom door was closed now. Ah, ha. Jack walked over and thought of knocking, but decided against it. He opened it slowly... and froze in his tracks.
Daniel was sound asleep on the floor and covered by a beige bath towel. And the bathroom stank to high heaven. Holding his breath, he walked over, grimaced, and peeked into the toilet bowl. He quickly flushed it. Man, he really was in love. He put the top down on the toilet and sat down. He needed to get sleeping beauty off the floor, but how? Although... Daniel actually looked comfortable. And remarkably peaceful.
"I'm going to regret this in a few hours, Danny, but for you - I'll do it."
He got down on the floor, positioned himself with his back to the shower, lifted Daniel's head - and pillow - and rested them in his lap. He pulled the towel that was serving as a blanket higher around Daniel's neck, then settled back and closed his eyes.
Daniel shifted slightly and frowned in his sleep. Something was... off. He opened his eyes, winced as the light hit sensitive retinas, then tried to turn over....
He was lying in Jack's lap.
On the bathroom floor.
Considering his condition, he managed to get to his feet amazingly fast. He swayed as the blood rushed to his head, then reached out, his hand connecting with the sink. He steadied himself, and had only one thought; get the hell out. Now.
He made it down the hall and out the front door without waking Jack. It was only once out on the sidewalk that he realized he was wearing nothing but his tee shirt and boxers.
The closing door roused Teal'c. He sat up, threw off the covers, and stood. Frowning, he walked over and peered out the windows. He moved quickly to the door, opened it and rushed out.
Okay, where should he go? And how, because, damn it, he certainly couldn't get on a bus like this, not to mention he'd need money, so he really should go back in, grab his wallet and car keys, but that meant maybe waking Jack, and dealing with ... things, so he didn't. Wouldn't. Which left him on his driveway in his boxers and shirt.
So... he'd walk -- somewhere. What werea few miles, in the cold, in nothing but a tee shirt and boxers? It was early so who'd notice?
"Daniel, why are you standing in the driveway wearing nothing but your shirt and under garment?"
Daniel whirled around at the sound of the deep voice and found Teal'c staring at him from the porch.
"What are you... and Jack... why are you... in my home?"
"You vomited and passed out, Daniel. We could not leave you alone, so we remained."
Shit. Daniel closed his eyes in resignation and said, "So you've seen my... place."
"Since we have obviously stayed the night, the answer would be yes, Daniel."
"Could you stop calling me 'Daniel', Teal'c? It sounds... odd... coming from you."
Teal'c cocked his head. "What would prefer that I call you, Daniel?"
"I don't know, just... not... Daniel." He opened his eyes and said, "Don't call me anything, Teal'c. Don't talk to me. Just... go inside, please, and get my wallet and keys."
So much for walking anywhere. He must truly be hung over. "And if you would, maybe my jacket too? I'll just," he pointed in a vague direction, "head to Cheyenne Mountain, okay?"
"I do not think that would be wise," Teal'c said as he stepped off the porch and approached his friend.
Daniel stepped back and held up a hand. "Please, Teal'c?"
"Do you not think it odd that we are both wearing only our sleeping clothing and standing in your driveway?"
"Well, I don't know about Daniel, but I think it's odd, and I'm betting Daniel's neighbors across the street think so too," Jack said from the porch.
"God damn it," Daniel muttered angrily.
"Daniel, I've got coffee on. Why don't you come back inside and we'll all get warm and have some, okay?"
"Perhaps Daniel does not wish you to call him by his given name either, O'Neill."
Jack joined Teal'c, a puzzled frown on his face. "Excuse me?"
"Daniel no longer wishes me to call him 'Daniel'. Perhaps he would like you to stop as well."
Daniel turned around and started walking away. Jack shot a disgusted look at Teal'c and said, "Now see what you've done?" He ran to catch up with Daniel, Teal'c right behind him. Because Daniel kept walking, Jack was forced to run past him, then turn around so that he was jogging backwards. Huffing a bit, he said, "Daniel, I want you to come back to the house right this minute or I'll report this entire incident to General Hammond."
"I quit, so go ahead and report me," Daniel said as he kept walking, eyes fixed on a point over Jack's shoulder.
"You aren't quitting, so just stop, turn around, and let's go back before someone calls the police and reports three nearly naked men running around Colorado Springs."
Blue eyes flicked down, then back up. "You're wearing jeans. You're not even remotely near naked."
"But you and Teal'c are. And trust me, someone will call."
"Daniel, you're starting to make me mad."
"Tell me why I should care?"
"I swear, I'm going to punch your lights out in about one minute, and then Teal'c will carry you back to the house."
Daniel stopped in his tracks. His gaze moved from beyond Jack's shoulder ... to Jack. "Go ahead, hit me. You want to. Maybe you'll finally feel better." He pointed at his chin. "Go ahead, Jack."
The entire conversation would have been funny if not for the sadness in Daniel's voice and eyes. Jack was shocked to the core. Teal'c came up to his side and said, "O'Neill does not wish to harm you, Daniel."
Sad and weary blue eyes moved from Jack to Teal'c. Finally Daniel said, "I need a drink." With that, he turned around and started walking back to the house. Exchanging puzzled looks, both men followed. At least Daniel was going back.
Daniel walked inside and into the kitchen. Once there, he went into the cupboard and took down another bottle of Jack Daniels. He opened it and drank straight from the bottle.
Jack rushed over and grabbed it out of Daniel's hand. "Cut it out, Daniel!"
"Give me that, Jack."
"Look, I don't pretend to know what's going on inside that brain of yours, but you've got to stop this, and now. You're really starting to scare me."
A small smile appeared, and that chilled Jack more than seeing the wreckage of Daniel's home.
"Starting to scare you, Jack? I don't think so." He stepped into Jack's personal space and said, "Can't you be honest just for once? Tell it like it is? You hate me. I know it, Teal'c knows it, Sam knows it, everyone knows it. And it's okay," he shrugged, "I understand. Hell, I even agree with you. You have every right to hate me. I just wish I understood why you and Sam worked so hard to get me to come back with you. I don't get that at all."
He walked past a stunned Jack and an equally surprised Teal'c, then continued down the hall and into the bedroom. He found his jeans, slipped them on, put on his shoes and grabbed his jacket. He felt his pocket and nodded in satisfaction at the feel of his wallet and keys.
Walking down the hall, he realized that it had felt good to say the words, "I quit." Why hadn't he thought of it earlier, thought of it weeks and months ago? He was neither wanted nor needed at the SGC, so why stay? It held nothing for him now and he sure as hell hadn't accomplished anything since his return. Drawing strength from the thought, he said out loud, "I quit."
"Then so do I," Jack said from his position in front of the door. "If you're going to quit, then so will I. I refuse to walk through the 'Gate without you. I did it for a year, hated every minute of it, and won't do it again."
Okay, that wasn't how it was supposed to go, Daniel thought. He scrunched up his face and rubbed his nose. "Jack, we haven't gone through the 'Gate together but a handful of times since my return. What the hell are you talking about?"
"I was... mad... at you. I'm not mad anymore," Jack said lamely.
Daniel took the several necessary steps required to bring him with an inch of Jack, and said, "You're not mad anymore?" When Jack shook his head, Daniel asked, "You're not still mad because I didn't help you when Baal had you? You're not still mad because I let him torture you over and over again? That I let Skaara die? That I failed to stop Anubis when I had the chance? You're not still madder than hell at me because Abydos was destroyed? And how 'bout Janet?" He stepped closer and said, eyes shadowed in pain, "You can't tell me you don't all wish it had been me instead of Janet, or wished that I could have, or thought I should have, done something. You can't tell me that, Jack. And you can't tell me that you've forgiven me for letting Baal do what he did to you, for not stopping the pain and the torture. You're still angry and hurt."
Jack smiled softly. "No, I'm not. Because you did help. You saved me the only way you could. You helped me the only way you could. And Janet died in the line of duty, Daniel, and you did everything you could to save her and you did everything you could to save me."
Daniel leaned in close, and with an almost evil smile, said, "I did nothing, Jack. NOTHING."
"How do you know?"
That brought Daniel up short. Jack went in for the kill.
"How the hell do you know what you did or didn't do, Daniel?"
Daniel's eyes narrowed dangerously, but Jack pressed on.
"You have no memories of your time ascended; hell, you have no memories of your time before you ascended -"
"I remember... some things. I know you let me go and that you didn't even blink an eye. I know that. I know you refused to ascend with me, didn't think you were worthy, in spite of the evidence before you that being worthy was hardly a criteria to ascension," Daniel said, voice low and full of sadness.
"What, you're mad at me because I refused to ascend? Are you crazy?"
"Not mad - well, mad that you thought you had so little worth, but that's neither here nor there."
"You did not answer the primary accusation just given to you by DanielJackson, O'Neill," Teal'c said from somewhere.
Without taking his eyes from Daniel, Jack asked, "What?"
"DanielJackson said that you let him go."
Jack watched in amazement as two dull spots of red appeared on each of Daniel's cheeks.
"Is it true, O'Neill? True that you simply let him go? You did not attempt to keep him with us?"
"He was dying, Teal'c. And we were in this... this empty, shining excuse for the 'Gate room. Oma was there, and Daniel was telling me to let him go, to ask Jacob to stop, and I asked him, I asked him where was he going, and do you know what he said? He said, 'I don't know.' So I said, 'See you around?' and he said, 'I don't know'. He started walking up the ramp, but he was... there were tears in his eyes -"
"But not in yours, Jack," Daniel said easily. "I don't think you were upset. In fact, I think," his voice dropped, "I think... you were relieved, and I'm okay with that. I understand better than you think. But at the time, and I'm just foolish and pathetic enough to admit that I wanted you to put out your hand, hold my arm, and say, 'Stay'. I wanted to hear that one word more than I ever wanted to hear 'We'll keep you, Daniel,' or 'Of course I'm going to adopt you, Daniel, you're my grandson.'"
Jack could have sworn he'd just been sucker punched. He was having difficulty breathing and his vision was blurring. He reached out blindly, connected with Daniel's arm, gripped it hard enough to bruise, and croaked out, "Stay."
The word hovered in the air between them, its meaning unclear to Daniel. He glanced down at Jack's strong hand, at the fingers gripping his arm. He felt confused and at odds. His path had seemed so sure moments before, but now....
A tug on his arm and he was suddenly chest to chest with Jack. He blinked rapidly as Jack said, "I wanted to say it, Daniel. I wanted to say it more than anything, but all these thoughts kept swirling around inside the cavern that houses my brain, and ultimately, it seemed that going with Oma was everything right for you. That you were meant to do it, to move on, and it wasn't my place to hold you back. How could I ask you to stay when we didn't even know how well the healing would go? Jacob wasn't sure what condition he could bring you back to, so how could I ask you to stay?"
"What... what are you saying, Jack?"
There it was. The ultimate question. He let his gaze travel over Daniel's beloved face, unaware that his own expression had softened. Finally he said, "I'm saying that I wanted you to stay then, and I want you to stay now."
"Jack, you don't even know I'm here and when you do notice, it's obvious you wish I weren't," Daniel said as if teaching a child. "You've barely been able to stay in the same room with me for more than a minute or two. You don't speak to me unless I speak first, and then you only say what you need to before you make yourself scarce. Maybe it's because you're in love with Sam, but for some reason, you can't tell her, you can't change what needs to be changed in order to be with her. But you should know that because of that inability, she'll never really settle down, not even with Pete."
Teal'c, who'd been staying back in order to give them some sense of privacy, now stepped forward at seeing the expression on Daniel's face. Pain etched on his own countenance, he asked, "You can't believe that we hate you, DanielJackson."
Without taking his eyes from Jack, Daniel answered, "Hate would be too strong a word for you and Sam. I'm not denying affection, but the friendship we shared before I - before I left - is gone. We're not a team anymore - no, that's wrong - I'm not a member of the team anymore -- and I take full responsibility for that fact. I gave up the right to belong to SG-1 when I ascended, and later when I failed to save Skaara and the rest of my Abydonian family. I understand that. Maybe we've all just been through too much, I don't know. What I do know is that I was a fool to think I could waltz back into your lives and affections, not to mention the team, as if nothing had happened. But I can rectify that now. Will rectify that now."
He gently pulled his arm from Jack's grip and took a couple of steps back. "I've got to get out of here right now because I need to decide what to do with the rest of my life. I'll let General Hammond know on Monday, turn in my resignation then, and remove any personal items from my office."
He walked around Jack, turned slightly as he opened the front door, and said, "Just let this happen, okay? You'll all be happier, trust me."
Daniel headed out then, and right into Sam, who'd been about to ring the bell.
The smile popped up almost without thought. "Hey, Sam. 'Morning. And good-bye. Gotta go. Jack and Teal'c were just leaving." Without waiting for any response, Daniel rushed passed them to head to the garage.
The voice sounded so... needy, and urgent, and needy, that Daniel stopped and dropped his chin to his chest.
"DANIEL, would I risk everything to tell you how I felt if I didn't mean it? Would I?"
Daniel turned around. Jack was standing on the bottom step of the porch, Teal'c behind him, and a confused Sam to the right of Teal'c. Okay, this was way more than he needed. Way more. He felt the corners of his mouth twist up and he knew he was smiling, the same smile he'd been wearing for months. Years, maybe.
"You didn't risk anything, Jack," he finally said.
"Yes, I did, but I'm thinking I need to say it a bit more clearly, so here goes: I love you, Daniel. I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you. Watching you, listening to you, loving you, all of it, forever. If we were back in that cell of Baal's, and you asked me to ascend with you - I would. In a heartbeat. Anything to be with you."
Jack stepped down, took a few steps closer to Daniel, spread his arms out to his side, palms up, and said, "Stay."
This time said with all the love Daniel had ever wanted to hear as brown eyes poured every emotion Jack was feeling... into him.
How could he not remember his life, yet remember how much he needed Jack?
How much he loved Jack.
His legs went weak, and afraid he'd collapse, he walked over to the lawn and sat down. The grass was wet but he didn't care. He crossed his legs Indian style and rested his arms on his thighs. If he could just sit here awhile, not think, or feel, he might just survive.
Maybe if he could sit here for a few hours... or days.
When Daniel sat down on the lawn, Jack decided this was going to take more than a declaration of love. He looked to the side and motioned Teal'c and Sam indoors. They went without a word. Once the front door closed, he moved to the lawn and sat down opposite Daniel. But there was no way he was going to - or could - cross his legs Indian style.
"I'm too old to sit like that, Daniel. Is there some reason you decided to sit on the grass?"
"Compromise," Daniel said easily.
"Ah. Didn't want to come back into the house, but you didn't want to leave either, right?"
"That's about it."
"Daniel, I know I put on a good show of playing the dumb military jock, but we both know the truth, right?"
"Okay, so understanding that I'm really pretty smart, allow me to say that ... you're on the edge of a cliff right now, and what you do next will determine whether you go over, or stay safe. Personally, I'm in the camp that wants you to stay safe."
Daniel rested his cheek in one hand and said thoughtfully, "I felt... alive... when I tore my house apart. It felt good. I was mad at him, but it still felt better than anything I'd felt in ... months."
"Who were you mad at, Daniel?" Jack asked carefully.
"Doctor Jackson. Doctor Daniel Jackson. He was laughing at me, you know?"
"You're... Doctor Daniel Jackson."
Daniel smiled knowingly. "No, I'm just... Daniel Jackson. I don't do much, don't have to."
"Do you like it that way?"
"No. That's why he was laughing at me." Daniel plucked at a piece of grass. "I ... it was like that before, you know?"
"Before I went with Oma. I didn't really do much, wasn't helping anyone, I remember that. I didn't have a voice, don't have one now. Didn't have one when I was growing up either." He glanced up at Jack and asked curiously, "I'm falling apart, aren't I?"
"No, I don't think you are, Daniel. I think you're confused and you're still dealing with the fact that you chose to descend, to lose who you'd been, only to have SG-1 show up in your new backyard. We found you, then we left you behind, metaphorically speaking. We brought you home, and just... went on about our business. You have to admit, it's irony at its best. We profess to never leave anyone behind, and yet, we did exactly that after bringing you home."
Daniel got a faraway look in his eyes, then said, "If I were still ascended, I might have been able to save... Janet. You all know that too, Jack. You know that." He rubbed his temple and muttered, "God, I'm so tired, Jack. Just... so tired."
"Let me take you to my place, all right? You can sleep all you need while knowing that someone who cares, someone who loves you, is watching over you. Would you do that?"
"You don't have to say that, Jack."
"Daniel, if you believe nothing else right now, believe this: I love you. Please let me take you to my place?"
"I'd like to ... sleep."
Jack got to his feet and held out his hand. Daniel stared at it for a moment, then took it and allowed Jack to pull him to his feet. Hand still in Jack's, he let him lead him to Jack's truck. As he got settled inside, Jack said, "I'll be right back, okay? Don't go anywhere... without me, all right?"
"I'm not moving, Jack."
Jack nodded and hurried back inside.
Sam watched the two men on the lawn. Next to her, Teal'c stood silently.
"This is bad, isn't it?" she finally asked.
"I think... we're seeing a curve for the better, Major Carter. Daniel is listening."
She started to correct him, but Jack was leading Daniel to the truck, so she let it go.
"I believe O'Neill is returning," Teal'c said.
Jack entered a few moments later and hurried over to them. "I'm going to get Daniel to my place. He needs sleep badly. How soon will Ferretti be here?"
Sam looked blankly at him for a moment, then said, "Any minute."
"Good, good. Look, Teal'c, you know what needs to be done, so I leave this in your hands, all right?"
"It shall be done, O'Neill."
Jack quickly put on the rest of his clothes, grabbed his keys, then hurried out.
When the door closed, Sam rubbed at her eyes. Her emotions were all over the map, so she did what she did best; she put them away until a time when she could figure this all out. She started to turn around when Teal'c said, "You have not really looked around you yet, Major Carter, so I feel it is my duty to warn you. It is not pretty, but perhaps it will explain much."
Puzzled, Sam faced him, then started to give the room a cursory look. The blood drained from her face as she whispered, "Dear God."
Jack drove faster than was his norm; his concern for Daniel, the reason. His friend was slumped in the front seat, head resting against the window, eyes shut tight. He hadn't said a word since Jack had rejoined him, and that worried Jack as much as Daniel's body language. By the time he pulled into his driveway, he was thinking that maybe Daniel had jumped off that cliff after all.
He shut off the engine and was surprised when Daniel said, "We're here already?"
Sheepish smile in place, Jack said, "I might have broken a few speed laws getting here, Daniel."
"Ah." Daniel fumbled with the seatbelt, got the door opened when it popped off, and quickly got out. He waited as Jack got out, then together they walked up to Jack's front door.
Once inside, Jack didn't even hesitate. He moved Daniel straight down the hall and into his bedroom. Once there, he got Daniel out of the clothes he'd put on such a short time ago, and got him into the bed. Daniel never said a word. Jack leaned over and pulled the blanket up, but caught himself just before he started to tuck it in. He straightened and grinned down at Daniel.
"You probably don't need me to tuck you in, do you?"
Eyes already at half mast, Daniel murmured, "Probably not."
Smiling, Jack said, "You sleep. I'll be here if you need me." He found the courage to brush Daniel's hair back a bit as he added, "You know, Daniel, I plan to never be more than say, a hundred yards from you from now on."
Daniel yawned and said, "That might be going a bit far... hell, your office is more than a hundred yards, and you know you hate going into old buildings or tombs or temples or pyramids with me, should we ever... do that... again, so maybe it should be never more than, say, ten miles?" Daniel yawned again and smiled.
"No can do. Ten miles is unacceptable. And I love going into pyramids and temples and whatever with you, so shut up and go to sleep."
Daniel closed his eyes.
Relieved, Jack turned away and walked out and down into his living room.
Sam took another step into the living room, her eyes scanning the floor, the walls, the broken furniture, pictures and lamps.
"The bedroom is the same, Major Carter. He left only the kitchen and the bathroom unscathed."
She began to pick her way through the room, occasionally bending over and picking up a piece of glass here or a piece of broken knickknack there, and holding them in her hand. Her eyes were wide, reflecting her shock. She stopped a few feet from the entrance to the kitchen and said, "The dust."
"Yes," Teal'c affirmed. "Apparently he did this some time ago."
She glanced down the hall... straightened her shoulders, and started for the bedroom, Teal'c on her heels. At the doorway, she peered in and gasped.
Maybe it was because the room was so small, but the devastation seemed so much worse than the living room. There was nothing that hadn't been destroyed and it all lay on the floor in pieces. The futon had been broken into three partswas in three broken parts, the mattress a shredded mess. The two drawers belonging to the nightstand must have been thrown or smashed into the wall and the nightstand itself was on its side, the victim of what appeared to have been a foot. The wood was splintered in several places and the middle of the stand had been caved in. Pieces of the bookshelves littered the floor, but the books had been stacked carefully in a corner. The photos and other items that had once resided on the shelves were still on the floor, and like everything else, had been destroyed.
Sam's gaze finally landed on a pile of blankets under the window in the nearest corner. There was a bowl and fork on the floor, as well as four empty beer bottles and a small television sitting a few feet away. Something shiny caught her attention and she moved toward the bedding. She nudged a blue blanket away and uncovered the item: >a photograph in a silver frame. Sam knelt down and picked it up.
It was unbroken and she recognized it immediately.
The photo showed the colonel standing in front of a podium. It had to have been taken moments after her promotion and seconds before Thor had taken Jack. Sam felt the moisture of tears and didn't try to stop them when they spilled over.
She was surprised when Teal'c moved to her side and engulfed in his warm embrace. She closed her eyes and held on.
The two of them sat in the kitchen not talking. Sam had stopped crying but her eyes were puffy and red-rimmed. Suddenly she stood and went to the cupboards. She started to open one but then spied the bottle of Jack Daniels on the counter. She got two glasses but at a "harrumph" from Teal'c, put one back. She sat back down, opened the bottle and poured herself a stiff one. Raising her glass, Sam said, "To ... Daniel."
"Why do you toast to DanielJackson?"
Looking at her empty glass, Sam said, "Because... I screwed up, Teal'c."
"I believe we have all 'screwed up', Major Carter."
She poured another drink and said, "I could go with that."
Lou Ferretti, with a couple of his teammates, showed up at ten and by two, Daniel's house had been put to rights. What couldn't be fixed or salvaged, which was almost everything, had been tossed. The carpet and floors had been painstakingly cleaned, with everyone on their knees picking bits of glass, wood and ceramic out of the carpet by hand. There'd been a couple of spots on the living room and bedroom walls that had required repair, which Ferretti, a carpenter at heart, had done. Now he, his teammates, Sam and Teal'c, sat on the floor of the living room, pizza and beer spread out between them.
Amazingly enough, neither Lou nor any of his team had said much upon arriving and seeing the condition of Daniel's home, but now, fortified by three beers, a clearly worried Lou asked, "Is he all right?"
Teal'c dropped the edge of a crust into the pizza box and said enigmatically, "We are hopeful."
"He with the colonel now?"
"He is, and sleeping. I do not believe he has slept much in the last weeks."
Lou reached over and grabbed another beer. As he twisted off the top, he said regretfully, "Not once since his return, have I told him I was glad he was back. In fact, it's been damn uncomfortable around him. I mean, what's a guy supposed to say to someone who's come back from the dead - again?" He paused thoughtfully and finally added, "You know what's really been ... odd, is that for all the not talking to him, he's been so damned cheerful."
"He has been as he thought we wanted him to be. It was easier on all of us," Teal'c said. "He knew we did not wish to talk about it, or to relive the past, so he became someone that eased our way at the expense of who he is."
Lou nodded as he said sadly, "None of us ever said good-bye or acknowledged the fact that the Doc was gone. We never dealt with it. He died for an entire population and we did nothing. I guess it's no surprise that his return would be handled the same way." He took another swallow, wiped his mouth, and added, "Gotta love the military."
"So what do we do about it?" Lieutenant Willard, Corky to his friends, asked.
Sam exchanged knowing looks with Teal'c, then said cryptically, "Right now, we've done our part. We'll have to trust Colonel O'Neill, and hope that we have the chance to put things right with Daniel."
Jack had to take a leak but at the moment, Daniel was using him as a bed. Not that Jack was complaining, but he really needed to go. He should never have crawled into bed with Daniel, but his need had been so great after five hours that he'd succumbed. Besides, never in a million years would Jack have ascribed creeping vine tendencies to Daniel. Whenever they'd shared a tent on a mission, the guy never moved. But now Jack, in his own bed, had slowly been forced to the edge, thanks to Creeping Daniel. Adding insult to injury, he'd been trapped by Danielae reperendum .
Not that he was complaining.
But damn, he had to go.
Okay, Operation Disentangle the Archaeologist, underway.
He started with Daniel's right arm. Lifting it, he set it down on Daniel's leg, which meant he had to move Daniel's leg and arm now. Frowning, he thought it out, then slowly nudged Daniel's leg over until it dropped between their bodies. Now this was progress. He slid his right leg off the bed. Good, now he had one foot on the floor. Maybe at this point, he could just kind of slide....
Of course, he was now on the floor, but he was out of the clutches of the Daniel-vine. Standing, he hobbled to the bathroom, got the seat up and quickly, and wonderfully, relieved himself. He was so happy, he almost sighed. When he was done, he washed his hands, dried them, then flushed. Feeling human again, he walked back into the bedroom. He looked at his alarm clock and was surprised to discover that it was after four. He brought the covers up to Daniel's shoulders and, in spite of feeling silly, leaned down and kissed Daniel's cheek.
Grinning like an idiot, he walked out, his stomach rumbling.
In the kitchen, he made himself a lettuce and tomato sandwich liberally sprinkled with salt and pepper, added some Nacho Doritos and a beer, then sat down to eat. Munching chips, he admitted that just because Daniel was sleeping soundly in his bed didn't mean Daniel was all right. Not by a long shot. Somehow, he had to help Daniel find himself again, find the man he'd locked out in order to... to what? Survive? Survive the apparent indifference of the world to which he'd returned?
Suddenly Jack lost his appetite. He pushed the plate away but drank down the beer. Staring over at his sandwich, he found himself having serious difficulty with accepting the amount of self-hatred required to do what Daniel had done to his house. And there was no doubt that self-hatred had been the root cause, the reason behind the destruction. But what worried Jack even more was the apparent indifference Daniel had shown in the weeks following the demolition of his home. The way he'd simply left it and gone about his business with a smile on his face, yet at the end of the day, returned to that God- awful mess as if it were nothing. Every evening Daniel had taken his food and settled in that corner in the bedroom, in the middle of the pile of bedding on the floor, and watched mindless television until he'd fall asleep.
And not once in all the ensuing weeks had anyone caught a clue that one of their own was in serious trouble. Not once. What the fuck did that say?
It said Daniel was very good at putting forth a façade that his so-called friends would so easily buy.
It said his so-called friends were so screwed up, Daniel had to put on a fucking fake front in order to help them.
But at what cost?
Jack picked up the plate, dumped the sandwich, put the dish in the sink and put the Doritos away. He got another beer and wandered into the living room. Sitting on the couch, he put his legs up on the coffee table and crossed them at the ankles. As he nursed his beer, he tried to figure out how to handle the future.
"No, I need to... go alone, Teal'c"
Teal'c looked at Sam, the street lamp giving him enough light to see her eyes. He nodded solemnly.
She thanked him with her smile and got out of the car. With Daniel's keys in hand, she walked up to the door.
Jack was just about to check on Daniel when the doorbell rang. He veered right, stepped up to the foyer and opened the door. Sam stood on his doorstep, her expression guarded.
"Sir, I'm just dropping off Daniel's keys."
He stepped aside, and as she walked in, he peeked out and said, "Teal'c?"
"In the car, sir."
"Ah." Jack closed the door, sensing that this was the opportunity to talk with his 2IC.
Sam walked down into the living room and paused, suddenly nervous and uncertain. Jack joined her and put his arm on her shoulder. He didn't miss the fact that she stiffened under his touch.
"My little declaration came as quite a surprise, didn't it?" he asked gently.
"You could say that, sir."
"I meant every word. I do love him. I never expected it, was shocked when I realized it, but that doesn't negate it. And I want our Doctor Daniel Jackson back, don't you?"
She nodded but didn't say anything.
"Don't make me try to figure out what you're thinking, Sam."
At the use of her first name, she turned to face him and was startled by how calm he looked. Worry still shadowed his eyes, and she knew she was now a part of that worry, but overall, his body language radiated a strange kind of calm and... happiness. Did loving Daniel do this to him?
Sam took a deep breath and said, "I think... I understand now." Her eyes searched his and she said softly, "We never had a chance, did we?"
His expression softened as he answered, "Come on, Sam. Was it ever what you really wanted? Neither of us had to risk anything."
He waited a moment, watched as his words penetrated, then added with a sly grin, "But maybe now, you have a chance to take that risk?"
Sam thought of Pete, who was probably on his way to Colorado Springs even now... and she smiled. "Yes, maybe I do, sir." She looked at him sheepishly and added, "Jack."
"It's the right move."
Her mind immediately supplied her with a vision of Pete, his gaze taking in her body as she lay beneath him. She could see the warmth and love telegraphing itself to her as clearly as any words.
"I think you're right... Jack." She grinned and added, "So was yours. The right move, I mean." She looked back at the hall that led to Jack's bedroom. "When he wakes up... would you tell him that we... love him?"
"I'll tell him, but I think that you-"
"I plan to, but until then?"
She took Jack's hand and placed Daniel's keys into his palm. As she curled his fingers around them, she said, "Take care of him, Jack. Take care of yourself."
He leaned down and kissed her lightly on the lips, then murmured, "I will. And speaking of taking care - let Pete take care of you, all right?"
She smiled brilliantly. "I will. It'll be nice for a change."
"You deserve it, Sam."
Eyes moist with emotions, she said with a hitch in her voice, "So do you, sir."
Jack understood the return to the use of 'sir' and he nodded as she turned and walked out.
Jack sat on the edge of the bed and watched Daniel sleep. He suspected the sleeping part might go on for quite a while longer, like, days longer. Not that Daniel didn't need it. All he could hope was that this was a healing sleep.
Sixteen hours later -
The pillow smelled incredible. Daniel, hovering in that warm, safe world between sleep and wakefulness, buried his nose deeper into the softness and inhaled. His eyes popped open.
The pillow smelled of Jack.
Why should his pillow have Jack's scent on it? He lifted his head and blinked blearily around him. Not his room and he was not on the floor.
He'd gone through this once already. Hadn't he?
Oh, God, he remembered. All of it.
Daniel threw off the covers and quickly stood. It was dark in the room, but that was because the shades had been drawn. He turned on a light, searched for his clothes... and found them. He quickly dressed, looked with yearning at the bathroom, shook his head, then shrugged and hurried across the room and into the small tiled room. He used the toilet, then without thought, reached under the sink and grabbed a new toothbrush. He got it out of the box, spread a nice amount of paste on it, then started brushing. He was halfway through his ritual when it hit him.
He'd known where Jack kept new toothbrushes.
"Well, I'll be damned," he said with a mouthful of toothpaste.
His movements slowed as the urgent need to leave leaked out of him like air from a punctured tire. He did the rinse and spit thing, then ran a hand over his face and the stubble that now graced it. Should he shave? Hell, yeah. Smiling, he opened the medicine cabinet and sure enough, there was a package of razors. He took them down, opened it, and took one out. The can of shaving cream was on the counter so he set the razor down, turned on the hot water, and soaked a washcloth in it. When it was steaming, he put it over the lower half of his face and left it long enough to soften his stubble. He folded the cloth and picked up the can, then squirted a nice mound onto his palm. He lathered up and thanks to Jack's teachings, did a quick military shave.
When he was done, he patted on Jack's aftershave, turned off the light, and headed out into the living room.
His heart was in his throat, but as he walked, memories of days and nights at Jack's came flooding back. He paused before the spare room, reached out... and slowly opened the door.
Walking in, he wondered how many times in the three years after his return from Abydos he'd slept in here. Countless. And now he was remembering them. He remembered the barbecues, the Super Bowl Sundays, fight nights, poker nights, and the evenings after bad missions when all either man had wanted to do was sit, drink, and not be alone.
He also remembered how those nights had stopped, the invitations drying up. He remembered the distance that had sprung up between them, remembered his inability to figure out why he was suddenly persona non gratis with his best friend.
The bad memories warred with the good as his mind was inundated by all of them.
Sha're giving birth, giving her son -- and as far as he was concerned -- his son, up. Chaka, replicators, appendicitis attack. Zartarc detectors, exploding suns, and a death so painful the memory hurt unbearably.
His life rushed him and finally drove him to his knees. Hands on either side of his head, he began to rock back and forth as he kept up a steady stream of pleading "no's".
Jack turned the burner down to simmer and put the lid back on the chili. He finished cutting up the tomatoes for the salad and threw them into the bowl, then put it in the fridge. Wiping his hands, he headed to the bedroom to check on Daniel. He hoped he was at least stirring, because by now he had to be hungry, even in his sleep. He was probably dreaming about food. Jack smiled as he walked down the hall, envisioning flying chocolate walnut cookies in Daniel's dreams.
A sound from just up ahead froze him in his tracks. It was coming from the spare room and, damn, it sounded like Daniel. Jack almost ran the few additional feet to the open door and seeing Daniel on his knees, moved immediately to his side.
"Memories," Daniel muttered. "Hit me. So many."
Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel, held him close, his hand cupping the back of Daniel's head. They rocked together as more of his life assaulted Daniel.
"Headache," Daniel mumbled.
"Does that mean... are you all right now?"
"Headache," Daniel repeated.
Jack could feel the smile against his neck and said, grinning, "Does this mean we can get up now? My knees are killing me."
Daniel pulled away and, with shaking legs, stood. He held a hand down to Jack.
"You're gonna help me up?"
"You're the one with the bad knees. I only have a headache," Daniel said with a surprisingly shy smile.
Jack took the offered hand and once up, Daniel wobbled over to the bed and sat down. He put his head in his hands and said, "Whoa, that was... weird."
"Considering what you do for a living, weird is relative," Jack said. "Hang on here, I'm going to get you something for the pain. Be right back."
Daniel nodded without looking up. He continued to hold his head. A few moments later, Jack pulled his hand away and put two Tylenol into his palm. Daniel looked up, smiled wanly, and said, "Thanks."
"Water," Jack said as he also handed him a glass.
Daniel tossed the pills back and drank the entire glass of water. He put the glass on the nightstand and dropped back onto the bed, eyes closed. Jack sat down next to him.
"So, you remember stuff now," Jack said lamely.
Daniel opened his eyes and turned his head. "You mean other than the headache?"
Jack smiled fondly and said, "Yeah, other than that."
"Well, now that the memories are real, my journals make a hell of a lot more sense."
They were both silent for several minutes while Jack tried to assimilate the idea that Daniel now had most of his life back. Daniel was trying to sort through the memories while at the same time, wondering if he should ask Jack about their friendship and what had happened to it. His thoughts, and the silence, were interrupted when Jack asked, "I fixed chili, you up to eating something?"
"Your turkey chili?"
"I could... eat."
They both got up and walked silently into the kitchen.
"Have a seat. I'll set the table."
Daniel did as asked and watched as Jack bustled about the kitchen. He put out the salad, the dressing and two beers, some shredded cheddar cheese and a bowl of sour cream, then cut up a loaf of French bread fresh out of the oven and added that to the table. Finally he ladled the chili into bowls, carried them over to the table and, after placing a bowl in front of Daniel, sat down.
"Eat up, Daniel."
"Don't even go there, Daniel."
Smiling, Daniel took a piece of bread, buttered it, then dunked it into the chili. He took a huge bite, hummed his appreciation, then dressed his salad and took a bite of that, followed by a healthy gulp of beer. After swallowing, he said, "Good, Jack. Thanks."
Jack wasn't the least bit amazed when Daniel finished off two bowls of the chili, most of the bread, his salad and Jack's. Sleeping for over twenty-four hours, and getting all, or nearly all, of your memories back, evidently worked up quite an appetite. Clearing the table, he asked, "Save room for dessert?"
Daniel looked up expectantly and Jack couldn't help but laugh. Still chuckling, he answered the unspoken question, "Chocolate-chip mint ice cream."
"The kind with the mint chocolate chips, or the mint green ice cream?"
"The latter, not that I understand the difference."
"It's more fun eating green ice cream."
"Of course," Jack said as he put the dishes into the dishwasher.
He tidied up, then dished up a bowl of ice cream for Daniel and set it in front of him. As he watched him stir the dessert into a syrupy mess, he wondered where the man from the lawn had gone, or if he was still here and Jack was seeing Daniel's ability to be what people needed him to be. That thought sent chills up and down Jack's spine.
He pulled out his chair and sat down, then asked worriedly, "Am I seeing you, or the guy you've been for the last several months?"
Daniel had a spoonful of ice cream halfway to his mouth when Jack asked the question and now his hand hovered in the air. Slowly Daniel put the spoon back into the bowl and looked over at Jack. "I guess," he finally said, "you're seeing both. Right now, I'm trying very hard not to run out of here, not to disappear and never be seen again. Doctor Daniel Jackson and Daniel Jackson are trying to merge, I think, and I'm working hard at sorting through the memories and wondering whether to ask you... certain questions, and if what you said outside was real, or just the words of a good soldier trying to help someone in need. But hey, other than that...."
Slightly taken aback, Jack said, "O-kay... let's start with what I said outside. I meant it, and I'm not that good of a soldier that I'd tell a man I loved him in front of my second-in-command and a Jaffa warrior, not to mention any neighbors who were out to get a kick out of their whacky neighbor. Does that answer that question?"
"I guess so," Daniel said with sheepish grin.
"So what are the other 'certain' questions you wanted to ask?"
Still stirring, Daniel said, "I guess, now that I remember so much... well, I'm wondering what happened... to us. Our friendship. I can picture those early years so clearly, the first years, and we were... good together. Not that we didn't have our arguments and disagreements, which wasn't so surprising given that we're pretty different, but there was a connection between us and somehow we managed to become good friends. Then... sometime after you, Teal'c and Sam came home after helping Thor, nothing was the same. I can remember now how I puzzled over it, tried to figure it out, and finally decided it had something to do with all three of you being... you know, soldiers, and having gone through that experience together, and realizing how far away from all of you I was... and then you and Sam seemed to have something going and - and finally - well, I never realized until then how much I relied on your friendship... and I'm starting to sound pathetic, aren't I? I'm a grown man and yet...."
"Danny, I don't know what happened. I honestly don't. It's altogether possible that I had feelings for you even then, and was doing a nice song and dance in order to avoid them. In fact, that's probably the answer, which doesn't excuse anything, although, I do kind of wish you'd been more... more... you know-"
"No-o, more what?" Daniel asked as he crossed his arms over his chest in a way that was clearly a dare.
"Right. Well, I guess I mean that you're always willing to fight for an idea but you weren't willing to confront me, to find out what the hell was happening. So yeah, I wish you'd been more like the Daniel Jackson who argued for Chaka. The one who tried to get me to think about the Eurondans, and fought for the Gadmeer and the Enkarans. Maybe if you'd applied some of that - feistiness -- to our friendship back then, we'd already be a couple."
Daniel rose and picked up the bowl of ice cream. He stood for a moment, and said, "You know, sometimes I find myself missing the childhood I never had." He walked behind Jack, upended the bowl over Jack's head, and added, "But then I get a chance to be that kid, and everything's all right with my world again, you know?"
Green ice cream dripped from Jack's nose and fell on his lips. He licked it up and said, "Okay, that might not have been the best thing I could have said."
"Ya think?" Daniel asked as he rinsed the dish and put it in the dishwasher.
"Hey, at least I know you're Doctor Daniel Jackson. Daniel Jackson would have just smiled." He licked some more ice cream and scooped a couple of dollops out of his eyes as he added, "On the other hand, Doctor Daniel Jackson would have agreed with me because he has a guilt complex bigger than the state of Texas. Maybe you're right, and you two are merging. I've always wanted to see a split personality merge."
A wet dishcloth landed on his head. He sighed, pulled it off, and began to clean up.
Jack walked out of the bathroom wearing only his jeans and a towel around his neck. He rubbed absently at his wet hair as he walked into the living room. Daniel was on his couch, legs stretched out in front of him, a magazine in his hands. At Jack's entrance, he glanced up and asked, "Minty fresh now, are we?"
"God, I've missed your snarky humor."
"Sure you have, Jack," Daniel said sarcastically.
He sat down next to Daniel and said, "No, really, I have. You've been so damn cheerful."
Daniel shrugged, closed the magazine and slid it onto the table. "So, what now?"
"Well, your house is cleaned up so if you want to go home, not that there's any furniture to go home to, but you're used to that, so if you want to go...."
Daniel rose gracefully and asked, "Where are my keys? And I assume you'll give me a lift?"
"Oh, fer crying out loud, sit the fuck down. You're not going anywhere."
One finely arched eyebrow rose. "Oh, really?"
"Yes, really, and you know it. This is your home - our - home now."
"Gee, have we forgotten 'don't ask, don't tell'?"
"Good point. Okay, so we keep the other house for appearances sake, but still, you're not going anywhere."
Daniel sat down on the end of the coffee table and swiped a hand over his face. He suddenly looked very tired again - and very young. "Okay, I admit it, I'm confused."
Jack leaned forward and put a hand on Daniel's leg. He glanced down and frowned. His hand was on Daniel's leg and it felt - good. Almost as good as holding him in bed. Considering how close his hand was to Daniel's dick - it might even feel better. Daniel cleared his throat and Jack looked up and into blue eyes with a glint of humor shining through. Jack cleared his throat and said, "Yes, well. There's no reason to be confused, Daniel. None. You're you, I'm me, we're here, you're getting your memories back and I love you."
The humor was still there as Daniel asked, "And that's supposed to make it all better? And what if I don't love you? Ever think of that?"
Jack slid his hand up higher and felt the slight tremble of anticipation in Daniel's leg. He glanced up at Daniel and said smugly, "No."
That eyebrow went up again as Daniel said, "Maybe Doctor Daniel Jackson loved you, but Daniel Jackson doesn't, ever think of that? And now that they're merging, you might just get left out in the cold, buddy boy."
He moved his hand up even higher and slid it to the inside of Daniel's thigh. He was pretty sure Daniel bit back a groan. Smiling, he said, "Oh, I don' t think so, Danny boy. I think at the very least, good ol' Doc Jackson loved me and Dan lusted after me, so I'm thinking I'm in clover now."
"High opinion of yourself, Jack?"
"No, high opinion of your good taste in men," Jack said confidently.
"I do have that," Daniel conceded. "Which leaves you out of the equation altogether."
Jack looked down at the bulge in Daniel's jeans and said dryly, "Is that my P-90 or are you just happy to see me?"
"It's your P-90, and what the hell it's doing in my jeans, I'll never know. You need to take much better care of it, Jack."
Jack reached around Daniel, and with a strength that befit an Air Force colonel, he pulled the coffee table closer. Once he was satisfied that Daniel was now close enough, he put his hands on Daniel's hips and pulled him so that his butt was on the edge of the table. With his fingers on Daniel's zipper, he said, "Well, let me take care of it right now. A little spit, a little polishing, and I'll have that-"
Daniel burst out laughing.
"You really know how to kill a mood here, Doctor Jackson."
Controlling himself, with effort, Daniel sputtered out, "Spit... polishing?"
"Daniel," Jack said patiently, "that was an example of inn-u-endo."
Daniel leaned in close and whispered, "No, Jack. That was a metaphor - like this: Why don't we go into your room and examine P-90's to our hearts content?"
Jack frowned. "You sure that wasn't an example of innuendo and not a metaphor?"
Daniel tapped his chin thoughtfully, then brightened as he said, "Jack, I understand you... clean... quite a few ... P-90's around Cheyenne Mountain." He grinned and said, "That's an example of using a metaphor in an innuendo."
Jack unzipped Daniel's jeans and said thoughtfully, "So if I said, 'Doctor Jackson, I understand you let your P-90 into the hands of any male officer above the rank of major', that would be an innuendo and a metaphor?"
"No, Jack," Daniel said as he put his hand over Jack's. "That would be a lie. I only let colonels who lead SG-1 handle my ... sidearm." He smiled and batted his eyelashes.
"Ah, that was a metaphor."
"So let's go into my room and I'll check out your sidearm and you can check out my
"Jack, I've seen you naked - and it's a sidearm. On the other hand, I'm definitely a P-90."
"I think I have a headache," Jack complained.
Holding his jeans up with one hand, Daniel stood up, took Jack's with his other hand, and as Jack got up, said, "Come on, enough with the metaphors, let's just go rut like rabbits."
"Now you're talking, but I think that was another metaphor, Daniel."
"Shut up, Jack."
"I can do that."
Daniel looked into Jack's eyes, thrust down even deeper, watched Jack's whiskey browns close in ecstasy, and accepted that now he was alive.
Jack couldn't remember feeling so satisfied following sex before. His body was still feeling the effects of making love with Daniel and he hoped he'd feel it for quite awhile. He turned his head and looked at Daniel, who was asleep next to him. Rolling onto his side, he propped his head on his hand and took in his fill. How was it he'd never noticed Daniel's beauty before? Or had he, on some weird subliminal level? At the moment, Daniel looked like a teenager, his face smooth and untroubled in sleep. Jack decided that gazing on a sleeping Daniel, hell, a waking Daniel, beat the most beautiful sunset in the world.
Oh, he really had it bad. Which was good.
"What are you thinking?" Jack asked from the bed.
Daniel turned away from the window and said, "I'm thinking we should head over to my place. I need... I need to see it again, you know? And pick up a few things," he finished with a smile meant to reassure Jack.
"You sure?" Jack said doubtfully.
"Yeah, I'm ... pretty sure."
Jack got out of bed and said, "Well, since you're already dressed... give me a few and we'll head out."
Jack and Daniel got out of the truck and were just walking up to Daniel's front door when they were hailed by someone across the street.
"Hey, Doc, how are you today? Everything okay?"
Daniel, key in hand, turned to see Rick Benfield, his neighbor, waving from where he was kneeling in front of his lawn mower. Daniel waved back and said, "Fine, Rick. Just fine."
Benfield stood and wiped his hands on his work jeans. "Glad to see you out and about, Doc. We gotta stick together, you know? Neighbors gotta watch out for neighbors."
Considering that the Benfields had been the first family to offer assistance following his run-in with Osiris, Daniel gave Jack an apologetic shrug, then smiled back at Benfield and said loudly, "Absolutely, Rick. A neighborhood watch kind of thing."
"Exactly." He waved amiably, then went back to his lawn.
Relieved, Daniel opened his door and stepped inside, Jack on his heels. He was just closing the door when Jack's cell phone chirped. Jack reached into his jacket pocket, pulled it out and flipped the cover up as he brought it to his ear.
//"Colonel, how soon can you get to the Mountain?"//
Jack looked at Daniel and gave him a helpless shrug. "I can be there in thirty, sir."
//"My office in thirty-five, Colonel.".//
Jack closed the phone and said, "Come with?"
Daniel looked around, thought of his... study, and shook his head. "You go, but when you're finished, come back and... pick me up?"
He smiled that shy smile again, the one that seemed to be for Jack and no one else, and Jack felt his heart melt all over again. "You sure?"
Daniel nodded. "I'm sure. I need... time, you know? I need to kind of get my head together, organize my memories, that kind of thing. And since Hammond clearly didn't seem to be asking for SG-1... well, this is a perfect opportunity, if you know what I mean?"
"I don't want to leave you, Daniel. I'd rather not break my vow of ten miles, you know?"
Daniel chuckled and said, "Go, Jack. Please?"
Seeing only love in Daniel's eyes, Jack finally nodded. "Okay, but I don't like it. At the ten mile marker, I might go into withdrawals."
He watched the truck disappear around the corner, sighed, and headed back inside. Daniel walked into the kitchen and marveled at how easy it was now that his house had been cleaned up. He gave himself a little shake as he leaned against the counter. Maybe he should have gone with Jack after all. He gazed around his kitchen and tried to remember why he'd walked into this room. A drink, maybe? No, he wasn't thirsty. Okay, so he'd ... check out Doctor Jackson's - his - study. Yeah, that was the ticket. Face the lion's den.
Just outside the door, he stopped - shook his head again - and went inside.
The afternoon sun was coming in the only window in the room, a long window opposite him. Warm, golden rays struck the roll-top desk, bringing the grain of the wood out and giving the desk a healthy glow. The room looked... comfortable, real, and - for once -- welcoming. He walked over to one of the bookcases and let his fingers run over the spines of the books, stopping long enough to touch the odd artifact or photograph.
He sat down at the desk, fingers running along the smooth edge. He let Doctor Jackson take over....
An hour later, he got up, a peace having settled over him like Jack's body after they'd awakened earlier that morning. He looked around him and smiled. This was who he was - and he liked it. This room, the desk, all of it. Even with no memories, he'd instinctively created a room for his soul, a room of all that he had left, but that represented all that he was. He turned toward the window and the warm sun, only to have a shadow obliterate the golden orb.
Lowering his head and peering out, Daniel couldn't believe his eyes. "What the hell?"
In the blue sky above, a death glider was winging its silent way toward his home.
Shocked, Daniel moved closer and watched, stunned, as the glider hovered in the air opposite. It was so close he could actually see the man inside.
Funny, he thought, they probably should have figured on something like this happening after Osiris. But where the hell had Zipacna come from anyway?
The glider closed in on his home.
Daniel stopped thinking and just... moved.
Going out the front would be suicide but maybe he could hide among the trees that ran along the side of his house and behind it. He went out the back door.
He was running across his backyard when the glider fired. His house exploded behind him. A blast of heat, followed by debris, struck him and sent his body hurtling though the air. Oxygen was driven from his lungs and hot pain enveloped him.
His last thought was of Jack.
Sam looked at the timer and growled. It told her that the roast had another twenty-minutes to cook, but damn it, it was too dark, already too dark. Okay... foil. She needed to cover it for the remaining cooking time, right? Right.
"Sam? Need any help in there?"
"Uh, no, no, Pete, everything's just... peachy."
She grimaced when she heard the low laugh. "Behave yourself. I can do this."
Her small portable television was providing background noise while she got out the foil and tried to figure out how to tent the damn roast. Her attention riveted on the details involved in protecting a rump roast, she barely heard the news announcing an explosion in a small residential area just outside of Colorado Springs. It wasn't until a reporter mentioned Aspen Court that she looked up. She blinked, blew a bit of wispy bangs out of her face, and stared at the screen.
"The residents of this quiet and sleepy neighborhood were rudely jostled out of their late Sunday afternoon by what some residents are calling an attack ... from outer space."
The camera moved past the reporter to focus in on a smoldering shell of a home and Sam's heart almost stopped even as the reporter's voice went on.
"At approximately four-thirty this afternoon, a strange object appeared in the skies over Aspen Court Road. The neighbors, curious at first, but not overly worried, moved outside to get a better look...."
Sam reached for her phone.
Jack tossed the folder into his 'out' basket and groaned. Government investigations never failed to generate tons of unwanted and unnecessary paperwork. For this, Hammond had called him in on his Sunday - a Sunday he'd really wanted to spend with Daniel, talking to greater depths... and doing other stuff - to greater depths. He smiled and reached for the phone, but his cell rang first. Believing it was Daniel, he jumped up and plucked it from the pocket of his jacket hanging on the coat rack.
"Hunka-hunka burning love, here."
//"Sir, where are you?"//
His smile faded as Carter's tone gave him immediate warning of something very wrong. "Hammond called me back to the Mountain, why?"
Feeling a knot of fear beginning in his belly, Jack answered, "At his place. He needed some time - I'm picking him up in a few... and again, I ask, why?"
//"Sir, turn on your set. Now."//
Knowing better than to question Carter, he picked up the remote.
//"Channel seven, sir."//
A moment later, he found himself looking at a street that bore a remarkable resemblance to Daniel's.
//"At four-thirty, what looked like an alien ship flew over Aspen Court Road and ... blew up ... a ... house. Sir, it was Daniel's."//
"Where are you?"
//"At home, but Pete and I are walking out the door right now."//
"I'll tell Hammond, make sure he tells Teal'c, and I'll meet you there."
//"He's alive, sir. Daniel... is alive."//
The police had cordoned off a six-block radius around Aspen Court, but thanks to a call from General Hammond, Jack had only to flash his Air Force ID to be allowed through. He'd phoned Hammond from his office, gave him the information, begged him to tell Teal'c, that he had to get to Daniel's house. The General had agreed and told him to get going, that he'd bring Teal'c and they'd be right behind him.
Now he was here -- but seeing the emergency vehicles, and the cloud of smoke drifting high in the sky, he could wish for otherwise. He pulled up behind a fire engine and quickly got out. For a moment, he couldn't move as he found himself staring at the devastation up close and personal.
There was nothing left of Daniel's home.
During the drive to Daniel's, he'd told himself over and over again that, once here, he'd find Daniel's home - and Daniel - safe and sound. That something else had happened, to someone else. But not to Daniel.
He couldn't say that anymore. The truth was staring him in the face.
And he'd left ... Daniel. He'd Goddamned left Daniel - again.
Heart in his throat, he walked slowly across the street. He couldn't seem to stop looking at the destruction even though his emotions were on hold, frozen solid as he looked at the small, smoking pile of rubble that had once been Daniel's home. His mind shut down, other than repeating the same phrase over and over again, "He wasn't home -- he wasn't home -- he wasn't home."
"And the owner?"
"Doctor Daniel Jackson, Officer. A nice guy, quiet, had a bit of trouble several weeks ago, so this is - this is just - unbelievable."
"And you're sure he was home?"
"Oh, yeah. We talked when he arrived with a friend. I watched the other man leave, but the Doc, he stayed inside."
Jack turned his head and spotted the speaker. It was the guy Daniel had called 'Rick'.
Jack moved closer, stepped between the cop and the man. He nodded at Benfield, then took out his ID and showed it to the officer as he said, "I'm Colonel Jack O'Neill. Daniel worked with me. Are you sure he... he was inside? Home?"
Benfield nodded sadly. "I was in the garage when you drove off, then I worked on the side of the house, with my wife's roses. He never left." His eyes shifted back to the rubble as he said, "I'm sorry."
"Are you sure he was inside? Could he have gone to the store, or... anything?"
The man shook his head again. "No, Colonel, I'm afraid not." He pointed to a smaller piece of debris and said, "That's what's left of his... you know... car."
Before Jack could look, Carter pulled up, and just behind her, three dark blue, non-descript cars with the Air Force insignia on the doors. Carter and Pete got out of hers while Teal'c and General Hammond, climbed out of one of the Air Force vehicles. Two other Air Force officers immediately moved toward the police, seeking out the man in charge. The clean up - and cover up -- was beginning.
Jack didn't move, couldn't move, but it only took a few seconds before Carter and Teal'c were by his side and General Hammond in front of him.
"He was, according to witnesses, inside at the time of the ... attack, sir."
Jack watched the same flare of hope that had been in his eyes - die in General Hammond's. He took no satisfaction from seeing it snuffed out. Next to him, he was aware that Pete had put an arm around Carter.
Daniel groaned and tried to turn over. Pain lanced through his back on his left side so he immediately stopped. He groaned again and slowly opened his eyes.
Okay, no ascension, no heaven. He wasn't dead. Or if he was, he'd found someplace new and it was full of dirt. Which was in his mouth. He spat it out, along with some grass, before, somehow, managing to get his right arm under him to give him leverage.
He was up. He blinked in the waning daylight and took in his surroundings. Okay, a lot more dirt.
Gulley. Got it. The force of the explosion had sent him sailing across his backyard and into the gulley that ran behind his home. The fact that it was mostly dirt and sand as opposed to rocks was undoubtedly why he was still alive. And didn't that beat all?
God, he must have a head injury - he was channeling Jack.
He took several deep breaths and slowly got to his feet. When the world settled back down, he glanced up and realized that the gulley was deep, the dirt walls steep. He was going to have to climb out. He winced as he took a step forward, then bit back another groan. His left shoulder and back hurt like a son of a bitch. He reached behind him with his right hand and immediately wished he hadn't. Blood. Apparently he had a hole in his upper back, left side.
Maybe he wouldn't be climbing out. Something got into his eye and he tried to brush it away, but it too turned out to blood. He fingered his left temple gingerly. Yep, a nice cut there too. Probably a concussion. Janet was going to have a field....
No, Janet wasn't.
He closed his eyes and gave out with a small moan that had nothing to do with physical pain. Then just as suddenly, he smiled. Janet was probably cursing a blue streak and using his name in vain quite a bit - wherever she was. He was pretty damn certain she was someplace very good.
Okay, he needed to get out of here because he was bleeding and he needed medical help.
Daniel did the only thing he could think of to do. He yelled.
"I NEED HELP! CAN ANYONE HEAR ME? HELLO?!"
The firemen were now walking through the wreckage looking for hotspots, but most of the neighbors had gone back into their homes, the news crews were gone, as were the police. Words like "Terrorists" and "Terrorists attacks" had been carefully planted among both the residents and the news media by the Air Force, thus replacing the word, "Aliens". Now, only five people remained with the Fire Department, all five lined up on the sidewalk. They watched the firemen comb through the debris and all five knew what the search was about.
Jack couldn't imagine Daniel, didn't want to imagine Daniel, in the mess of charred wood, melted metal and ash. There was simply no way such a man could be reduced to ... Daniel was too... just too everything. He felt movement at his side and turned to look at Teal'c, whose head was cocked as if he were listening intently.
Suddenly Teal'c took off on the run.
Not taking his eyes from his friend, who was now running past the remains of Daniel's home, Jack said, "I don't know, sir, but... I'm going to find out." He took off after his friend.
Sam looked at Pete, who looked back at her. They took off after Jack. Hammond had no choice but to follow.
Holding his left shoulder as if to block the pain, Daniel got ready to yell again. Just as he opened his mouth, a dark shadow blocked out what was left of the sun's darkening rays. As the shape shifted to the right, Daniel sighed in relief.
"You are alive, DanielJackson," came the quiet, almost reverent reply.
"Yes, yes, I am, Teal'c. But I'm also stuck. Could you, maybe, get a... ladder... maybe?"
Just then, another form appeared next to Teal'c and Jack was gazing at him in amazement.
Feeling suddenly silly, Daniel gave a small wave and said, "Oh, hi, Jack."
"Uhm, yep, it's me."
"Teal'c and I have already established that, Jack. I'm also stuck down here and would really... really... really like to get out, you know?"
He shifted his gaze from Jack and found himself looking up at Sam. Next to her, Pete appeared.
"Hey, Pete, good to see you again. We always seem to be meeting at my place and then things blow up."
"I noticed. Can we not do this anymore?" Pete said in an effort to keep it light.
"I'm down with that," Daniel responded with a wry grin.
General Hammond appeared and Daniel began to wonder who'd pop up next.
"Son, are you all right?"
"Fine, sir, just fine. Really would like to get out of here, though."
"I will get a ladder from the firemen,DanielJackson. Do not go anywhere."
Jack stared at him, then said, "Where do you think he'd go, Teal'c?"
"He is alive. He may go anywhere he wishes, O'Neill. But I would suggest he wait until my return."
From his position in the gulley, Daniel frowned. He might be insane after all.
Teal'c disappeared and a moment later, Jack was down on his knees in the dirt, looking over the edge at Daniel. "You're hurt," he stated flatly.
"Probably. Hard to fly some fifty feet in the air, propelled by your home blowing up, without sustaining some type of injury, you know?"
Jack grinned, and Daniel thought it was possibly the most beautiful sight he'd seen in a very long time.
"At least you still have your smart ass, Daniel."
He made a show of trying to twist his head around to look at his ass, but it hurt, so he quit and just nodded, a stupid grin on his face.
"Son, can you tell us what happened?"
"Gee, sir, I thought he just did a pretty good job of that," Jack said, still smiling.
"He probably means a bit more detailed, and since I'm not going anywhere, at Teal'c's orders, well, it was Zipacna, sir. I could see him in the death glider - just before I ran like hell out of my home. Speaking of which?"
"You don't want to know," Jack offered sympathetically.
"Oh. Well, he only finished what I'd started anyway," Daniel said as he put out his hand to brace himself. It connected with the side of the gulley and he closed his eyes.
"Daniel, are you okay?"
"Sure," he said without opening his eyes, the vision of his study haunting him.
He heard a commotion, several new voices, and was forced to look up. Several men in dark blue appeared, Teal'c with them.
"I have returned, DanielJackson. I am very pleased to see that you are still here."
"Uhm, Murray, I don't think these fine men will understand your humor," Jack said as he rose to his feet.
A ladder was lowered and two paramedics immediately climbed down, one carrying a large box. Once on the ground, the taller of the two said, "Doctor Jackson, I presume?"
Daniel, too tired to verbalize, simply nodded.
"We're going to take a quick look at you before we get you up top, just to make sure you're stable, all right?"
"Sure," he whispered. "But Jack will tell you that I'm far from stable."
Smiling, the one with the box said, "Well, this time, we'll be the judge of that, okay? I'm Ben, by the way, and my partner there is Jerry, and please, no Chunky Monkey jokes, okay?"
Smiling wanly, Daniel said, "Wouldn't dream of it, and nice to meet you both."
Seeing that he was fading fast, they made short work of looking him over, paying special attention to his back and head.
"Doctor Jackson, I think you may have part of your house lodged in your left shoulder," the one who'd identified himself as Ben said dryly.
"As long as it's not the dining room, I'm not going to worry."
Both medics laughed softly, then Ben said, "Okay, we're going to get you up top now where we can take a better look. I can tell you right now, you're going to be taking a trip to the hospital."
"Actually," General Hammond said, "you'll be taking him to Cheyenne Mountain. It's already been cleared with your boss."
"Ah, understood, sir."
The two men spent the next few minutes getting Daniel up the ladder with as little strain as possible. The decision to get him out this way was predicated on the fact that the time it would have taken to put together the sling and the apparatus required to pull him out, would have simply taken to long. Between the two paramedics, Daniel was taken up easily and with very little effort on his part.
Once up top, they settled Daniel on the stretcher, on his right side. Jack, looking at the distance between the gulley and where Daniel's house had once stood, said, "Daniel, I think you earned some frequent flyer miles with this one."
Daniel closed his eyes and groaned.
Jack stared at his boots. Next to him, Teal'c had his head back, his eyes closed, and on the other side, Sam sat with Pete.
"Been awhile, hasn't it, gang?"
"Indeed it has."
"Not long enough, sir."
"No," Jack agreed, "not long enough. I could have gone another, oh, say, five years without this repeat performance."
"He is alive, and two hours ago, we believed otherwise," Teal'c reminded.
"Yes," Jack said softly, "there is that."
"We removed a large chunk of metal, we believe it might have been a piece of a window frame, from his shoulder and stitched him up. He was lucky that metal didn't rip through a lung, or worse yet, his heart. He also has a mild concussion and is pretty sore all over, but remarkably, those are his only injuries."
Doctor Warner stood in front of SG-1, and guest, delivering the news. "He'll be in recovery for another hour or so, then we'll move him to a regular bed. You'll be able to see him then, although, I don't expect he'll be very aware."
"Thanks, Doc. We'll stick around."
"Thought you might. I'll have a nurse let you know when he's settled." With that, he returned to his office.
Jack looked at the other three and said, "Carter, why don't you take Pete to the Mess and grab a bite to eat?"
Sam glanced up at Pete, who shrugged, clearly leaving the decision to her. She glanced back at the Infirmary, and finally nodded. "All right, sir. But we'll be back in an hour."
"I think I can hold your seat out here in the hallway for that long."
Smiling, Sam said, "I'm holding you to that, Colonel."
"You need to eat something, Sam."
Sam glanced up from where she was moving lettuce around on her plate. Seeing only concern in Pete's eyes, she smiled warmly. "Thanks, dad."
"Dad? That puts a whole new spin on our relationship, doesn't it?"
Sam made a face and said, "What can I say? You sounded just like... him." Her eyes darkened in sadness as she remembered her last conversation with Jacob.
Pete took her hand and held it tightly. "I'm sorry, Sam."
She shook her head. "No, it's all right." She brushed a few tears away with her other hand and added, "So much has changed, Pete. And most of it ... not for the better. It seemed like such a miracle when we... when we got Daniel back, and yet, something just hasn't been right."
Studying her hand, Pete said thoughtfully, "You must have been angry with him - after he left."
Her head shot up. "What? Angry with Daniel? No, Pete," she disclaimed, clearly upset at the very thought. "How can you even say that? He saved millions, died horribly, how can you say that I was angry?"
"He died, Sam. Anger is always a part of the grieving process. But in this case, you had no concrete answers. Hell, you couldn't even have a funeral so there was no closure. And it had to seem as if... well, as if Daniel had chosen other than ... you, than all of you. How could there not be anger?"
"I understood," she said quietly.
"Did you, Sam? Did you?"
The tears came again, filling her eyes, and she gripped Pete's hand even tighter. "No, God help me, I didn't." She looked up at him, the tears spilling over as she said, "I have been angry. Oh, Pete, I have been. I haven't forgiven him, and to make matters worse, I mean, this isn't the safest job in the world, you know? Somewhere inside, I've been dealing with the idea of losing him again, and I know we, none of us, could handle it again. I know the colonel couldn't."
"You worry a great deal about Colonel O'Neill, don't you?"
Something in his tone caught her attention and she stared hard at him. "What do you mean, Pete?"
"It just seems as if everything always comes back to O'Neill, Sam. I'm beginning to wonder about that."
She could have given Pete a flip answer, or gone defensive, but all she could see was the rubble that was now Daniel's home, and all she could remember were thoughts that Daniel had been part of that rubble That, combined with her new knowledge of the anger she'd carried around for the last several months, gave her a certain sense of honesty.
"Pete, I'm not going to lie to you. There was a time when I might have had... feelings... for Colonel O'Neill. Maybe even a few dreams. But I've come to terms with all of that, thanks to a talk he and I had. I understand the why of how those feelings came about now." She smiled wryly. "It was pretty simple, really. He was... there." At the puzzled look on Pete's face, she blew out a small puff of air and said, "My life was my work, Pete. I spend more time with those three men then with anyone else. In the beginning, Daniel wasn't even a possibility because he was looking for his wife. He was married. It became so natural to think of him as a beloved, if somewhat odd, younger brother."
She grinned at the memory of those first months with SG-1 and their youngest member. "And trust me, he was - very odd, Pete."
She gave a gentle laugh and Pete couldn't help but join in. Finally he asked, "And Teal'c?"
Her laughter changed, turned into something almost - girlish. "Oh, Pete, Teal'c was... I had no idea what to do with him in those first months. Just no idea. But as it turned out, he too was married."
"So that left... O'Neill?"
Her cheeks went slightly pink as she nodded. "He was my commanding officer and someone I came to respect more than I can express. I think I might have had a touch of hero worship, and it didn't take much to move from that kind of admiration to something... more. But now I know he's simply one of my best friends, Pete. A man I will always respect and love, but one that I'm not in love with."
Pete glanced down at their hands and said, his voice low and surprisingly unsure, "So... is there anyone you could be in love... with?"
Pete's head shot up and Sam had to smile as she said, "There's no one I could be in love with, because there's someone I'm already in love with - you doofus."
"Ah, so that would be... me?"
She squeezed his hand. "Yes, Pete, that would be... you. Although... Daniel is a free man now."
Pete grimaced as he said, "Euwww, but that would be like... I mean, with your brother, you know?"
"He's awful cute though... but come to think of it... he isn't free anymore," she said with an enigmatic smile.
Jack figured he'd waited long enough. All he wanted was a look. Just... a look. He got up, ignored Teal'c's raised eyebrow, and stepped into the Infirmary. A nurse glanced up from a chart she was reading and said, "Colonel?"
He decided not to answer her. He simply headed toward the room used for recovering surgical patients.
"Colonel, Doctor Jackson hasn't been moved yet. I'll let you-"
He waved a hand dismissively and continued on. He heard the clink as the metal chart was shut in anger and smiled. He loved thwarting the nursing staff. Of course, Janet would....
His footsteps faltered as memory slammed into him. Air whooshed from his lungs as he stopped all forward movement. If Janet were here, he'd already be seated next to Daniel.
He swiped a hand over his face, then continued on. Jack rounded the corner and there was Daniel.
On his side, asleep, monitors buzzing and beeping softly, the telltale heart/oxygen monitor on his finger.
Emotions so long held in check, burst forth like a broken dam. Gritting his teeth, Jack turned and walked out. He ignored Teal'c when he hit the corridor and kept going until he'd reached his office. Once inside, he locked the door and sat down at his desk.
He was going to have to work through this somehow. By himself. Somehow. Eyes focused on the wall opposite, he reached out blindly, opened his desk drawer and took out a framed photograph. He set it up but still didn't tear his gaze from the far wall. Didn't need to. He knew every inch of the picture.
Grass, blue sky, gentle wisps of clouds, Jack, in the background, chef's hat on, standing at the barbecue, fork in one hand, beer in another. In the foreground, Daniel and Janet. Daniel had a plate of hot dogs in his right hand and was holding the plate up and just out of Janet's reach. The diminutive doctor was actually jumping up in the air, much like a small terrier after a treat. She was laughing, Daniel was laughing, and Jack was yelling to George that his money was on the "Doc".
Troubled brown eyes finally came to rest on the photo. With his finger, he traced first over Daniel, then Janet.
"How do you forgive me, Janet? How do you forgive me for being grateful that Daniel... that Daniel wasn't the one...."
He couldn't say it. And he couldn't forgive himself.
Sam watched Pete drive away and once his truck vanished from view, her smile faded. He'd been sorry to leave her, to not being able to stay and see Daniel, but he was due back at work. It was going to be a long week until his return. She really hoped his application for the Colorado Springs PD panned out. Although, she had other ideas regarding him. Ideas that involved the SGC. She'd dropped more than a few hints and he'd seemed - open to them. Pete was one of the leading experts in emergency procedures in the country. He'd actually developed the Community Emergency Management Program, or CEMP, for his county, which had later been adopted by the entire state and was now used as a model throughout the country. But what made his CEMP so unique was that it was military/civilian specific. He'd put together a plan that united civilian emergency personnel like the police, fire department and hospital agencies with the military. In her opinion, this made Pete quite an asset to the SGC. In more ways than one.
Smiling again, Sam turned around and headed back inside the mountain. She hoped Daniel had been moved... and was awake. She really needed to talk to him.
Sam peeked her head around the curtain... and grinned. Walking in, she said, "Daniel?"
She moved to the side of his bed and sat down. "You look pretty good. Sleepy, but good."
"Feeling no pain."
"Good, good. Do you need anything?" As soon as she said it, she realized what a stupid question it was.
"Nope. But thanks for asking." He started to smile, but it turned into a yawn. "Sorry."
"It's okay. I won't stay. I just wanted to... check in on you, make sure you were all right."
She could have slapped herself. She wasn't saying anything she'd planned.
"Pete gone?" Daniel asked between another yawn.
"Yes, but he'll be back next week."
Daniel's eyes had been drifting shut, but at her words, they opened again. "You sound ... different, Sam. Has something happened? Is everything all right?"
Sam patted Daniel's arm and said, "Everything is fine. Pete and I have just... well, we've kind of come to an understanding, that's all."
"Would that be the good kind of an understanding, or the... bad?"
Smiling almost angelically, Sam said, "The good kind. The very good kind."
Daniel lifted his head slightly and guessed, "So congratulations of some sort are in order?"
"Of some sort," she said with a secretive grin. She rose to her feet, patted his arm again, and added, "I'm going to let you get some sleep, but I'll be back tomorrow, all right?"
Resting his head back down, Daniel smiled his usual smile and said, "Sure, Sam. Night."
"Good night, Daniel."
She turned to leave, then paused, turned back, and almost shyly, dropped a kiss on Daniel's cheek. "See you in the morning, Daniel."
Then she was gone.
Daniel found himself staring at grey walls. He was basically alone in the Infirmary, no other patients for a change. It was quiet, eerily so. Jack hadn't been by to see him, but Teal'c had. He'd only stayed a short time, unwilling to tire Daniel any further. Funny how no one was mentioning... anything. Like, where had Zipacna come from and why hadn't he been detected? But then, had anyone asked about Sarah/Osiris? Where had she come from and how? He didn't think so, at least, not around him.
His thoughts strayed to his house - and his study. All that had been left of him, which meant that he was once again, a man with nothing. With a quirky smile, he considered his current state. Chuckling, he realized that this time, he didn't even have a suitcase. His smile faded.
Everything he hadn't already destroyed - was gone. His car, his wallet, his... study. Wow, talk about wiping Doctor Daniel Jackson off the face of the Earth.
So who existed now? Who was he?
And where was Jack?
Three days later - Washington D.C. -
President Hayes stood before the large windows of the oval office, hands clasped behind his back. He'd just signed the document that would change Stargate Command, perhaps forever. He wasn't proud of his signature on the document, but if had any chance of learning the truth, this was the way. He just hoped that General George Hammond would take him up on his offer to work here in Washington. It was key to his plan to get to the truth behind Kinsey and his campaign to gain control of the Stargate.
He glanced at his watch. By now, George had been informed of the executive decisions, decisions that would change the man's life.
He prayed again that he'd done the right thing.
George put the phone down and sat back in his seat.
This was too much. This was - dear God.
Jack grabbed an apple, took a bite, then stepped down into his living room. He checked his watch and nodded. He was right on schedule. He'd been avoiding Daniel for three days, stopping by only long enough to say hi before claiming that duty called and hurrying out, but not before seeing first worry, than hurt, and finally resignation. Jack wanted nothing more than to take Daniel into his arms, but he couldn't seem to get past the fact that he... that he'd been glad....
Janet, Daniel, Daniel, Janet.
Why had this come up now? He'd nearly lost Daniel to Zipacna and a death glider, hadn't thought of Daniel and Janet in those awful moments before and after Janet's death, yet now - it was all he could think about. How in the hell could he face Daniel knowing this about himself? He sighed heavily and checked his watch again. He had one hour before his briefing with Hammond and it didn't take a genius to figure out the reason for the meeting either. Zipacna, Anubis ... and Daniel.
Damn, he thought, they should have known Daniel would still be in danger. How could they have let this happen? It was sheer luck that Daniel was alive right now. Jack glanced down at the apple. Suddenly it didn't look so good. He walked into the kitchen and tossed it into the trash, then headed toward the front door. He grabbed his jacket and keys and walked out.
Jack entered the briefing room and started to take his seat when General Hammond stepped to his door and waved Jack into his office. Surprised, Jack turned back and followed Hammond inside.
"Take a seat, Jack. Major Carter will be here-"
He got no further as Sam appeared at his other door. "Sir?"
"Come in, Major, take a seat."
With a puzzled look that mirrored Jack's, she sat down next to him just as Jack said, "What's wrong, Sir?"
Hammond sat down and said, "I received a call from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs earlier this morning. The President has put the SGC under the control of a civilian. I've been ordered - no, that's not fair - I've been asked to report to the President by zero eight hundred hours tomorrow. My flight leaves in four hours."
He gave the news time to sink in and watched both his people as they digested it. He wasn't surprised that Jack was the first to speak up.
"Sir, we've been through this before. I'm-"
"It's different this time, Jack. We can't stop it and I'm not sure I want to try - yet. If I'm any good at reading between the lines - and I am -- I think something's up. Right now, I need to trust President Hayes, as hard as that will be, given -- all the circumstances."
Jack's scarred eyebrow rose. "All, sir?"
"There's more." Hammond took a deep breath, exhaled, and said, "The SGC will be shut down for three months - in order to give Doctor Weir, the new head of the SGC - a chance to acquaint herself with the program and to do a proper... 'assessment'. The shut- down takes effect at midnight tonight. And... SG-1 has been dismantled." He didn't stop to get their reactions, just moved hurriedly on. "The action against SG-1 was the straw that told me Kinsey is responsible for this camel's broken back. But the assignments, as given to me, and as having come directly from the President, are what convinced me that Hayes is working on our side. Teal'c's disposition was surprisingly absent from my orders for SG-1 and I've taken that as a strong hint to get Teal'c through the 'Gate before midnight, before the NID can get their hands on him."
He glanced at Sam and said, "Major Carter, you've been reassigned to the Prometheus effective immediately. You're to 'Gate to the Alpha site later today. The Prometheus will pick you up at zero seven hundred hours tomorrow. We both know that if Kinsey had his way, you'd be sent to the Arctic, or someplace equally forbidding. The President, on the other hand, has read your file. He knows the Prometheus would be your only other choice if you couldn't remain with the SGC. As for you, Jack, well, we have further proof that the President and Kinsey aren't anywhere near the same page. You've been given a choice. You can serve as liaison with Doctor Weir for the military aspect of the SGC, or take command of the new Alpha site."
He paused again and watched them both. Sam was trying hard to understand it all, to absorb it. Her eyes were glistening, but she was a good soldier. Her shoulders were squared, her chin high. Jack, on the other hand, was staring hard at the floor, the small vein at his left temple bouncing.
"I assume," Jack finally said, "that retirement is also a choice?" The words were clipped and the only indication, other than vein, of Jack's anger.
"I'm hoping you won't consider that for a while."
"It would be easier not to consider it if I didn't get the feeling you haven't dropped the other shoe yet, sir. It hasn't escaped my notice that you haven't mentioned Daniel."
Brown eyes full of suspicion were staring hard at Hammond and he swallowed down the immediate rise of bile at what he was about to say.
"I think the President sacrificed Daniel. He gave the Prometheus to Major Carter, and two obvious choices for you, Jack. Teal'c was left up to me. But-"
"But Daniel, the man responsible for opening the miracle of the Stargate?"
"He'll be given three choices. One, he can teach at the Academy-"
"Why the hell would Daniel-"
"Jack, listen to me. He can teach the military and civilian scientists being brought into the program, or he can take an assignment to Area 51, or he can... resign."
Jack sat back, suddenly and completely deflated. "Jesus," he whispered.
"Sir, that's... that's criminal. You can't do this to him. No one has lost more than Daniel, sir. My God, he's lost everything because of the SGC, and now he's even lost his home. He has nothing left, General, and this is how his government - how we -- are going to thank him for all he's done?" Carter asked, her blue eyes flashing in anger.
"You're not telling me anything that I'm not painfully aware of, Major. But right now, we need to take care of Teal'c. Doctor Jackson will be in the Infirmary for another day or two, so there's some time to effect a change. It will be number one on my agenda with the President, believe me."
Jack scrubbed a hand over his face. He had served his country faithfully and, he believed, well, over the years. He'd given his country all that he had to give, and more, but at the moment, he hated her.
"Sir, when does this... civilian... take over?"
"I'm due to meet with her and make it official at ten hundred hours this morning." He stood. "I have a great deal to do before then, as do we all, with Teal'c being number one." He glanced at Jack. "Colonel?"
Tone void of any emotion, Jack said, "I'll tell him, sir. And Daniel."
"Sir, what about the work on Anubis' super soldiers? How-"
"You'll take your work with you, Major. That's your priority. You know as well as I do that the lab set up on the Prometheus is outstanding - as it should be since you designed it."
"Yes, sir - I mean, I see, sir."
Teal'c and Jack stood at the foot of the ramp, Teal'c dressed in his Chulakian robes rather than his SGC uniform.
"You will tell DanielJackson-"
"I will, Teal'c. This isn't over, you know. This isn't the end."
"If I did not believe that, O'Neill...."
He let his words trail off, their meaning clear.
Jack nodded and said, "Right. Just remember, you're our eyes and ears out there, old friend. Once you join up with the rebel Jaffa, you'll be representing both them... and us."
"And I am honored to do so."
Behind them, the blue of the wormhole shimmered its invitation and couldn't be ignored any longer.
"I will miss you, O'Neill. You are my brother."
"I'll miss you, Teal'c. More than you'll ever know. Take care of yourself, you hear?"
"I hear very well, O'Neill," Teal'c answered with an enigmatic smile.
Jack rolled his eyes and pulled the Jaffa into his arms. They hugged, holding on for several seconds before Teal'c finally pulled away.
"Colonel O'Neill, it has been an honor serving with you."
"The honor has been mine... Master Teal'c."
Teal'c nodded, bowed at the waist, then turned and walked up the ramp. He paused at the top, cocked his head, then stepped through. A moment later, the wormhole disengaged.
Jack remained in place, staring at the spot where, a moment before, his friend had been standing. He wanted to wake up and find all of the last hours, days, weeks - hell, the last eighteen months - to have been a dream. A bad dream. Except the part where Daniel had come back to them.
At least Teal'c had been able to say his goodbyes to Sam and General Hammond, the latter's salute having brought moisture to Teal'c's eyes and a lump to Jack's throat. The bad news had been that Teal'c had not been able to say his farewell to Daniel. He'd tried, but found the younger man deeply asleep and had been unwilling to wake him. It was the first cowardly thing Jack had ever seen Teal'c do. But he understood. He knew the depth of caring and emotion Teal'c had when it came to Daniel, and saying goodbye was more than Teal'c had been able to handle.
He checked his watch and grimaced. In less than an hour, he would be seeing Hammond off, followed almost immediately by Carter. And he still had to tell ... Daniel.
His eyes narrowed. The one silver lining was, in fact, the President's decision to sacrifice Daniel by leaving him no real choice but to resign. Anyone who knew Daniel, knew that he'd never go to Area 51, and the Academy was definitely out. But even if he chose one of them - he'd be safe. No matter what... Daniel would be safe. Which meant that Jack needed to make damn sure that Hammond didn't change the President's mind. It was cold, it was heartless, and it was ruthless. It was the way of the old O'Neill.
But it would keep Daniel safe. He'd lose him, but he wouldn't ... lose him.
Jack walked back inside Cheyenne Mountain. Okay, saying goodbye to Hammond had been as bad as his farewell to Teal'c. Seeing Doctor Weir in Hammond's office, standing at attention while George introduced them, then accompanying the man as he left his office for the last time - had been the worse yet. And he still had to meet with the woman - in what was now -- her office. But first, Daniel.
It was turning out to be a very bad day.
"Hey, how ya feelin'?"
Daniel glanced up from the magazine he was reading, smiled, and said, "Not bad, overall."
Jack sauntered in, relieved to see Daniel sitting up. Because of the bandages that surrounded his chest and ran up and over his left shoulder, he wore no hospital gown. Pillows were bunched behind him so that even though he was sitting up, most of the pressure was off his upper back. The cut on his temple now had only three butterfly strips and his skin looked healthier, the pallor gone. Overall, Daniel looked damn fine.
Jack pulled up the chair and sat down. He reached for the magazine, checked out the title, scoffed, and said, "I was hoping for Playboy, Daniel."
"Finished it this morning. Doc Warner has it now. We swapped."
Jack let the periodical drop back on the bed and asked, as he studied his friend, "On a scale of one to ten, how's the pain?"
"What pain?" he answered as he indicated the IV.
Jack chuckled, then said, "Teal'c and the General were here earlier, but you were asleep."
"I'm sorry I missed them."
After a couple of strained moments, Daniel's eyes narrowed and he asked, "Jack? Is there something -- going on?"
"Never could pull anything over on you, could I?"
"Often, Jack. But you're not even trying this time." He made a little "gimme" gesture with his hand. "Spill."
"Right. So." He cleared his throat and said, "I guess the only way to say it... is to say it. Kinsey's finally managed to shut us down."
Daniel felt the blood rush from his head and he quickly closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, he said, "Shut us down?"
"Uhm, yeah. And when I say 'us', I mean... SG-1. But it gets better in the worst way. Hammond's been replaced. In fact, he left for Washington an hour ago. A civilian, a Doctor Elizabeth Weir, has been named as his replacement."
Daniel's brow furrowed in thought, then cleared as he said, "I know her. She's a double PH.D, a linguist and a rather famous mediator...."
His voice trailed off as the import of his own words hit him. He might have been describing himself.
Jack plunged back in, his words coming out in a rush. "Sam's been assigned to the Prometheus, Teal'c's with Bra'tac and his son, and me, well, I still have a decision to make."
Daniel could feel thunder pounding in his ear... never a good sign. He swallowed convulsively, but couldn't look at Jack when he finally asked, "Decision?"
"Yeah. I've been offered the chance to stay here and work with this Weir, or I can take over the new Alpha site."
Jack swallowed, prepared himself, hardened his heart, and added, "I'm thinking I'll take the Alpha site."
He didn't dare look at Daniel, using the magazine to keep from doing just that. Daniel's voice as he responded, told Jack everything.
Jack couldn't resist - he snuck a look. Daniel was completely still, expression thoughtful, eyes - shuttered. Then he smiled. The smile of the last several months. Jack thought he'd die at seeing it again, but ultimately, Daniel's safety was more important.
"Teal'c ... well, saying goodbye to him was - hard," he murmured.
"I can... imagine. I'm sorry, Jack. I know what he means to you, what you both mean to each other. It will be equally difficult to see Sam ... off."
"She's going to be all right. More than Teal'c, in a way. He hated the idea of leaving now, with things undone and Anubis looming on the horizon. He hated leaving you - unprotected."
Daniel waved a hand dismissively. "Anubis believes I'm dead now, Jack. Which is exactly why I'm glad you didn't choose to retire. He's coming and I think we're talking days, not weeks or months. Days."
Daniel sounded so damn calm - and prophetic. He was foretelling an attack on Earth, just as he had six years ago, only now, he was calm, those blue eyes of his staring at Jack without any expectation other than the hope that Jack would handle it.
Shaking off the feeling that he was, indeed, looking at a prophet, he said in his best military voice, "Maybe you'd better explain, Daniel?"
"Jack, think about it. He sent Osiris to Earth in order to get me to translate that tablet because he wants those weapons as much for himself as to keep us from getting our hands on them. He knows he failed. But he can't risk the slight chance that I might remember and lead us to the Lost City and everything we need to stop him, so he sends Zippy to finish me off. Me. Some dumb ass, Taur'i archaeologist. Now, as far as he's concerned, I'm dead. The coast is clear. He doesn't have to worry about those troublesome Taur'i finding the Lost City, nor does he need to make it a priority at the moment. What he needs to do is finish us off. And he's out there. Maybe behind a planet, two or three days away, and he's coming now. And Earth will need you, Jack. The SGC, once reality hits Washington, will need you."
"Anyone ever tell you that your bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired?"
"Sorry, but I already lost my... house, I'd really not like to lose Earth, if you know what I mean."
"You're making retirement sound better and better."
Daniel didn't say anything, just continued to stare at him. It suddenly struck him that Daniel hadn't asked about his assignment. Fucking typical.
"I noticed that you haven't made any inquiry into your future with the SGC, Daniel."
Daniel shrugged his right shoulder. "I figure I don't have one," he said, his voice tight. "Maybe I'll retire." A small grin tugged at his lips.
"Oh, right. I don't think so."
"Me either, actually. My entire fortune was blown to smithereens three days ago. I'm thinking - job -- as soon as Warner lets me out of here. In the meantime, you need to call Hammond in Washington, tell him the news, get Teal'c back here, get Sam back here, and do your SG-1 thing. You know, the whole save the world thing, which should not get old, by the --"
"Daniel, I get it."
"Good. So when you get a few moments later in the day - give Hammond a call." He made a flying airplane movement with his hand and added, "Anubis -- on his way -- world go boom."
"Ah, yes, my little linguist. World go boom."
Looking a whole hell of a lot like the Sphinx, Daniel simply blinked at him.
"All right, all right, I'll call him," Jack said in surrender. He ducked his head then, unable to meet Daniel's straightforward gaze, as he added, "But... should we not need to save the world again - you've been offered either a position at Area 51 - or a position at the Academy - teaching."
The silence that greeted his words brought his head up. "Daniel?"
"I heard you."
Jack could feel his pulse in his throat and gut. He knew he needed to say something without giving in, without letting Daniel see the truth, so he offered up a lame, "I'm sorry, Daniel."
The younger man shrugged again, the same 'so what' shrug. "No matter. Like I said, I'll be looking for a job when I get out of here."
Jack watched Daniel swallow, spotted the slight clenching of Daniel's jaw, and brought his gaze up to Daniel's eyes. He wasn't surprised when those same eyes shifted away from him.
"It's okay, Jack. It's... okay. Just call Hammond about Anubis."
Fearing that he'd give in, break down and beg to crawl into Daniel while swearing that he wouldn't let anyone or anything separate them, he rose quickly. "Look, I've got a meeting with Weir in an hour, I need to see Sam off, and if I understand correctly, I have to make a call to Hammond. I'd better head out, but I'll check back later, all right?"
Heading for the door, he said with fake grin, "Nap, goose a nurse or two, and before you know it, I'll be back in your face."
"I can hardly wait."
Daniel rested his head back against the pillows and closed his eyes. Tightly. Anything to keep the moisture from leaking out. It was clearly obvious to him that he was not the same man that had been left with nothing but a battered suitcase all those years ago, nor was he the man he'd been three days ago, before Zipacna's little visit.
He'd been barely ruffled by his apparent lack of anything nine years ago, and three days ago it hadn't mattered because he'd known that he had Jack. But now, today, it hurt. More than he'd ever imagined.
He was pretty sure he knew what had happened, what had changed. Jack had simply come to his senses and if he'd been thinking with his head instead of his heart - and dick -- he should have expected it. Man, he was getting soft.
For some reason, he found himself thinking of his study, and suddenly he had to squeeze his eyes even tighter, but it didn't work. Tears slipped out for a bunch of stuff that had belonged to Doctor Daniel Jackson, for what he'd almost had with Jack, and for the guy he used to be.
He heard Sam's voice and quickly wiped at his face. He opened his eyes, searched for his glasses, found them, and put them on. He hoped the glare from the lenses would hide the redness. A moment later, Sam came around the corner.
"For a minute there, I thought they'd lost you," she said as she pulled the chair Jack had used.
"Still here," he said cheerily.
She settled herself in and then held out a white bag. He smiled and said, "Let me guess: chocolate walnut cookies?"
She blushed and averted her gaze. "Yes. I didn't know what else to bring you. They're still your favorite, aren't they?"
He took the bag, grabbed a cookie, and bit down on it. His subsequent moan of appreciation sufficed as an answer.
She grinned, but it quickly faded. "Has the colonel been in yet?"
Daniel swallowed the bit of cookie and nodded. "He has. And yes, I know you're leaving shortly - for the Prometheus."
"I... I don't really know what to say, Daniel. This hasn't really caught up to me yet. I've said goodbye to Teal'c, to General Hammond... I just don't know what to think."
He reached out with his good hand and took hers. "A part of you has wanted the Prometheus for quite awhile. Now you'll have a chance to see if it's what you really want. Take it, use this opportunity, Sam." He waited a moment, watched as her eyes filled, and finally said, "Have you told Pete?"
She nodded. "He felt much as you do, which is odd. He hasn't known me long, certainly not as long as you, yet he knew."
"He loves you, Sam. Of course he knew."
She gave him a slightly tremulous smile at that and squeezed his hand. "Thank you."
Daniel took in what she was wearing, namely her field uniform, and asked, "What time do you... go?"
"I'm supposed to be in the 'Gate room in twenty."
"I tried to get here earlier, but-"
"That's all right, we probably couldn't handle a protracted goodbye anyway," he answered with a grin.
Her eyes welled with tears again as she said, "I've said... there have been so many goodbyes, Daniel, but they've never... they've never taken...."
"Then that's how we'll view this one, all right? Just like all the others that never went anywhere."
"Deal," she said with an embarrassed sniffle. "You'll take care of the colonel, won't you?"
His grin faded slightly, but bounced back. "Sure."
"And look in on Cassie while I'm ... on duty?"
"Thank you, Daniel. Thank you." She got up, pushed the chair back, then with eyes still full, bent over and kissed his dry lips. "Goodbye, Daniel."
She gave his hair a ruffle, then walked out.
"Bye," he whispered softly.
Jack hurried to Sam's lab, eager to catch her there before she left for the 'Gate room. He almost ran in and wasn't surprised to find several of her technicians busy doing the final packing up of what she'd need to continue her work on taking down the super soldiers. Sam had her back to him so it was Siler who spotted him first. He nodded, then turned to the techs. "Okay, people, let's get this to the 'Gate room."
In less than a minute, Jack was alone with his - ex - 2IC.
She turned from the box she was packing and smiled somewhat self-consciously. "Sir."
"You all ready?"
She nodded, then looked around her lab, ran her fingers through her hair, and said, "I can't believe this is happening, sir. And so quickly."
"I know. Were you able to reach Pete?"
"Yes. He's supposed to be back down here next week, but my schedule means we're putting it off a week."
"Sorry to hear that, Carter. Did you see Daniel?"
Again she nodded and quickly turned away. She fussed for a few minutes, with something that needed no fussing over, and finally took a deep breath and said, "You do realize that right now, at this moment, I'm no longer under your command, right?"
Puzzled, Jack nodded and said, "I don't have a command at the moment, Carter; so yes, I realize that."
"So no regulations keeping us from... anything."
"There's nothing stopping us from doing anything we might want to do, sir."
Jack studied her a moment, then asked, "What about Pete?"
She faced him, chin high. "What if there were no Pete?"
Jack smiled gently. "But there is, isn't there? And it's a very good thing, unless I'm badly mistaken."
"But if there were no Pete?" she asked again, needing to hear the answer.
"We'd still be ... good friends, Carter. Very good friends. You'll always be someone I care about and love."
"But like a friend?"
He nodded. "Like a friend."
When she didn't say anything right away, he asked, "I thought after my little declaration to Daniel, and later, our talk, that we had this settled?"
"I needed one last... to kind of make sure, for myself and Pete." She smiled, a real smile, and added, "I was pretty sure I knew the answer, but I had to ask."
"Is it the answer you wanted to hear... Sam?"
Her smile brightened. "As a matter of fact, it is. So we're good?"
"We're very good."
"Then walk me to the 'Gate room."
"Your wish is my command."
Once again he was standing at the foot of the ramp, ready to say goodbye to someone special. This was not something he wanted to repeat.
As the last of her equipment went through, Sam turned to him and said, "So, this is it."
"Yep." He tilted his head a bit and said, "Seven years ago... I figured you were a mistake. I was wrong, Major Carter. You're one hell of a soldier... and one hell of a woman."
"Thank you, Colonel. Thank you. I... this is hard, sir, but...."
She couldn't say it. Her throat closed up and she had to look away. She blinked back the tears that she'd managed to keep at bay all day and she bit down on her lower lip.
"It's okay, Carter. It's okay."
Major Samantha Carter decided to say what she needed to say, the only way Colonel O'Neill would understand. She stepped back, squared her shoulders, and saluted him.
Jack felt his throat close up as he stood at attention and smartly returned Carter's salute. "You have your orders, Major."
Sam took two steps back, pivoted sharply, and walked up the ramp and through the wormhole.
Elizabeth Weir walked into the Infirmary and turned left. Doctor Daniel Jackson was supposed to be in room A, bed number two. She found both. As she stood at the entrance, she found herself surprised by the man in the bed. She'd yet to read his file, having spent most of her time reading Colonel O'Neill's, then Major Carter's, but she knew who he was, knew about his "wild" theories. Theories that had turned out to be one hundred percent accurate. Which was why she was so surprised. She'd expected a much older man, and one a great deal less... handsome. She took a step into the room and said softly, "Doctor Jackson?"
Daniel opened his eyes to find an attractive blonde standing just inside the room. He recognized her from news photos he'd seen over the years.
Doctor Elizabeth Weir.
"Doctor Weir, I presume?"
She smiled and walked in. Standing at the foot of his bed, she nodded. "I thought I'd check in and see how you're doing."
"I'm fine. I heard a rumor that Doctor Warner will be releasing me later this afternoon, so I must be doing pretty well."
"Ah. That is good news." Looking suddenly uncomfortable, she asked, "Has Colonel O'Neill-"
"He told me."
"Ah, well, then, that makes this easier."
Daniel simply waited.
Elizabeth rubbed at the back of her neck, uncertain how to ask him what she needed to ask. She didn't know what his contributions had been, or why a civilian archaeologist was part of the flagship team known as SG-1, but she did know he, like herself, was a double PH.D and expert linguist. Which still didn't explain why he was part of SG-1. A polite cough from the bed alerted her to the fact that she'd gone missing in action. She mentally chuckled. Already using military terms.
"What kind of job do you intend to do, Doctor Weir?"
The question was asked so simply, she almost gave him a pat answer. Then she looked into those sleepy blue eyes, saw the seriousness, the challenge, and realized that "pat" wouldn't cut it with this man.
"I intend to do the job that's needed, Doctor. Right now, I honestly don't know what that is."
She could tell he was weighing her words, and possibly her as well. She suddenly wanted him to find favor with her. She wanted the scales to tip in her favor.
"Do you know about Anubis?"
She nodded, wondering where this was going.
"He's coming. In days. And no matter what anyone - anyone like Kinsey - might tell you, Earth can't defend itself. We'll lose. Which means either total annihilation or complete slavery. And when I say slavery, you can't begin to imagine what I mean."
"President Hayes told me about this Anubis, but he didn't seem to feel-"
"He doesn't know any than you do. He's only been in office for what, a month? He's barely had time to read the mission reports. He's flying as blind as you, Doctor Weir. But Colonel O'Neill, General Hammond, they're not flying blind. And the SGC is the only chance Earth has. The only chance. Kinsey is single handedly working as a fifth columnist and doesn't even know it."
The words were simply spoken, without censure, blame or condemnation. Doctor Jackson was quite obviously speaking from the heart. There was no challenge in his voice, just honesty. Damn, she really wished now that she'd read his file before coming in here.
"I'll take your words under advisement, Doctor Jackson," she said lamely.
He smiled up at her, a smile that told her he wasn't in the least bit fooled. "I see you've already picked up the political lingo. Good job, Doctor Weir."
She cleared her throat in embarrassment, then said almost defensively, "I was wondering if you'd decided what to do yet?"
"I have. I'm resigning," he said easily. Again, there was no challenge in his voice. He sounded like a man whose decision would mean nothing to anyone.
"I... see. I'm a bit surprised, I admit. But it's your choice, so I'll honor it."
"No reason to do anything different. I'm just an archaeologist, Doctor Weir. One of many."
She nodded and nervously checked her watch. "Well, I'm afraid I must take my leave. I'm due to meet with Colonel O'Neill."
"Listen to him, Doctor. You can trust him to tell you the truth. I've known him for several years and I would follow him into the bowels of Hell." He rubbed his chin and smiled disarmingly. "In fact, I did. And would do it again. I trust no one more; respect no one more. If we can be saved, it will be by him - and the rest of SG-1."
He looked down at his bandaged body and smiled wryly. "Hardly."
She met his gaze, found herself almost willing to fall into those blue eyes, as if they could take her on an undreamed of adventure. Finally she said, "I promise to listen to him, Doctor Jackson. I ... promise."
"Thank you, Doctor Weir. That's all I can ask."
She nodded slightly and took her leave.
Daniel fell back, exhausted. He prayed that some of his words had made it through to her. Elizabeth Weir was an intelligent woman and that would, hopefully, prove to be their saving grace.
He hoped Doctor Warner would let him out today. Not that he had anywhere to go, but he was anxious to start making some kind of move toward reclaiming something of his life. Here in the Infirmary, he was constantly reminded of two things: Janet, and all that he wasn't.
"Colonel O'Neill, please come in."
Jack entered Hammond's - Weir's - office and stopped in front of her desk. He didn't say anything, preferring to let her begin. He didn't have long to wait.
"What can you tell me about Anubis?"
Okay, that shocked the hell out of him. So much so that his answer was honest and immediate.
"He's on his way and if we don't do something - you'll never know what this office would have looked like once you'd redecorated."
Doctor Weir almost choked. "Okay, that was honest."
She got up suddenly and said, "Follow me, Colonel."
She walked out into the briefing room and over to the window. Jack stopped next to her.
"It looks impressive," she commented.
"It looks impressive because it is. It's simply the best thing that ever happened to us, Doctor."
"Doctor Carter... sorry, Major Carter, accomplished something remarkable in opening the Stargate. But I can't help but-"
"Major Carter, for all of her talents, and they're considerable, did not open the Stargate. She and hundreds of others spent two years trying. A special team of archaeologists was finally brought in and also failed."
Curious and admittedly interested, Weir turned to face O'Neill. "If they didn't, and Major Carter didn't... then who did?"
"Daniel Jackson. In seven days. He rested on the eighth."
His joke fell flat as Weir asked, "Doctor Jackson... opened the Stargate?"
"Yes, and I should know. I was there. Remember it like it was yesterday. Skinny guy in his twenties, long hair, messy, needed a haircut. Glasses that he was always pushing up his nose, fatigues about two sizes too big for him, and his arms full of charts. Big smile on his face, couldn't have cared less that he was surrounded by the most important men in the military, or the greatest scientists. He bowled them over. Explained the symbols, how it worked, what it did. I wish you could have seen the wonder on his face when it worked." He smiled with the memory, his expression almost ... dreamy.
"Back then, I didn't recognize the look, but I do today. To him, the miracle of the Stargate was everything. It meant the past, the present, and our future. It meant exploration of the kind that could only be dreamt of for a scientist like Daniel. Even then, he knew it was more than any of the rest of us believed it to be. I think he even knew there were more out there. What he didn't know, that first time through, was all that it would take from him. His wife, his life more times than I care to count, his family on Abydos, and as recently as three days ago, all that he owns in the world. And yet, his wonder never wavered. His belief that this miracle would ultimately prove to be Earth's only savior has kept us all going over the years."
When Doctor Weir said nothing, Jack looked down at her and added, "Funny about his name."
Still in shock at his words, at what had just been revealed to her, she said, "What?"
"His name. Daniel. The prophet. Could anything be more fitting?"
Elizabeth glanced back at the Stargate. Jack waited for her response to his not so subtle question.
"Apparently, he's much more than a mere prophet," she finally said, her voice tinged with awe.
Jack smiled. Kinsey didn't know it yet, but he'd lost.
The nurse helped Daniel into his shirt and, once it had been pulled down, helped get his right arm into the sleeve of his jacket before bringing the left side over his shoulder. She stepped back and smiled.
"There you go, Doctor Jackson. You have the meds, right?"
He lifted the bag and grinned back at her. "I'm set with enough to get me through the next century, Ruth."
She blushed at the use of her first name and asked, "Would you prefer it if I got an airman to wheel you to your temporary quarters?"
"No, thanks. I'm fine, I can walk." He got up slowly, smiled a "see?" smile, gave Ruth a small salute and said, "Thanks."
"Goodbye, Doctor Jackson... and good luck."
Word had spread fast, it seemed.
He nodded and carefully walked out. Once in the corridor, he paused, and decided for a reason he couldn't fathom, to go to Teal'c's room. A few minutes later he stood in front of the door. He put his hand on the knob, fully expecting it to be locked, so was actually surprised when it turned under his hand. He walked in and shut the door behind him.
Most of Teal'c's things were still in place, which really didn't surprise him. Where would he put a CD player, an alarm clock, a television, whale pictures, and cowboy hats? But he was surprised to see Teal'c's array of meditation candles on the floor, in their usual semi-circle, almost as if awaiting Teal'c's return. He turned toward the small dresser and received his second shock. An envelope was taped to the mirror - and on it, in Teal'c's very precise printing, was his name. He peeled it off and, with shaking hands, slipped the paper out. He put the envelope down, unfolded the letter, and began to read.
I found myself unwilling to say goodbye to you today. There have already been too many and I do not believe that this one will last any longer than the others. But a fear entered my stomach and I could not wake you to say the words that might mean I would never see you again.
You have been more than a friend to me, DanielJackson, you have been my 'Kovash'. I suspect you know the meaning of the word. You have been he who has led my heart. You have shown me grace, the true meaning of forgiveness, and offered friendship in times of great trial. You have humbled me with your vision and intelligence, with your willingness to sacrifice for the greater good. You have taught me to follow my heart when all reason would lead me down another path.
You are a warrior, DanielJackson, a warrior the likes of which I have never seen. A warrior of heart, reason, and conscience. I have learned much from you and value your friendship beyond that which you could know.
I believe the fate of Earth rests in your hands, DanielJackson. I know you do not believe this. You do not believe that the answer to defeating Anubis is in your mind and that you need only seek it out, or rather -- be willing to seek it, but I fear that you no longer believe in yourself and will not listen to the truth. I have left my candles and it is my hope that you will use them, and the techniques we have shared over the years, to enter a state that will leave you open to your past, to the way to save Earth ... and all of us.
Be well, my friend... and trust yourself.
Daniel backed up until his legs hit the edge of the bed. He sat down, letter in his hand, eyes unseeing. Several silent minutes passed. Finally, Daniel sighed, rose, and moved to the candles. Using the bed as a brace, he lowered himself down and crossed his legs. A box of matches sat within reach and he picked them up. A few moments later, all the candles were lit.
He didn't believe that Teal'c was correct, but neither did he have the right not to try anything that could help. He rested his arms on his knees, closed his eyes and began to count backward from a hundred....
...light faded, his heart seemed to stop as he was enveloped in a thick, warm darkness that was very welcoming. A breeze brushed his face and he was lifted from the ground as the darkness gave way to ever brightening skies. Daniel was soon soaring over a strange planet that seemed to be a mixture of desert and lush greenery. He was heading toward ... a Stargate. As he flew, the DHD began to light up even though no one stood before it. He squinted at the first symbol, but a dark shape slid between his vision and the DHD.
He blinked and slowed his flight. The tablet seemed to glow, the writings on it standing out in dark relief as words came unbidden....
A ship that isn't.
Power to destroy - all that would be needed....
The color red lit up one symbol on the tablet and Daniel recognized it immediately. Unknowing, his finger dipped into the wet wax of a nearby candle and he quickly drew the symbol on the floor. Another one glowed red, and again, his finger dipped and wrote.
This continued five more times.
When the last symbol had been waxed onto the floor, Daniel's flight began to slow. The blue skies over the strange planet faded to black, the smell of burning candles replaced the clean crisp smell of the outdoors as the sense of weightlessness gave way to a hard floor.
Daniel opened his eyes, blinked several times, then glanced down at his finger. It was covered in wax. Brow creased in confusion, he looked at the ground.
Seven symbols - in wax.
A Stargate address.
The Stargate address.
Feeling faint, Daniel somehow managed to lever himself up and sit on the bed. Breathing heavily, he didn't move, but continued to stare at the waxy symbols. When his heart calmed, and his breathing returned to normal, he got up.
He had to see Jack - immediately.
Jack walked toward his office, still unsure of his next step. As he reached his door, Daniel's voice stopped him from going any further.
Turning, mouth open in surprise, Jack could only gape at his friend. Daniel's left arm was in a blue sling and his jacket had slipped from his shoulder, but he was ignoring it as he hurried toward Jack. His face was flushed and Jack thought if Daniel had a fever, he'd kill Warner for letting him go.
"Daniel, what the hell are you doing out of the Infirmary?"
"I was released," Daniel said dismissively. "Look, something's happened. I know how to stop Anubis."
When Jack said nothing, Daniel said, "Did you hear me? I know how to stop Anubis. You have to get permission for us to go through the 'Gate... now."
"Daniel, you're in no shape to do anything, all right?"
Daniel grabbed Jack's arm and hissed out, "I can lead us to the Lost City, Jack. Do you understand me? I translated the tablet. I know the address, and we have just enough time - I think."
At that moment, the klaxons went off. Both men looked at the other, then Jack moved past Daniel and, on the run, headed for the 'Gate room. Daniel followed as quickly as he was able.
Once in the 'Gate room, Jack skidded to a stop behind several SF's already in defensive positions. The iris was still closed. He glanced up at the control room to see Doctor Weir staring at the 'Gate. Daniel arrived, huffing and puffing, and as he slid in next to Jack, Weir's voice came over the intercom.
"Colonel O'Neill, we're receiving," she turned back to Sergeant Davis, then said, "a signal from... Master... Bra'tac."
"Open the iris!" Jack shouted. A moment later, it slid open.
The watery blue was disturbed as two figures appeared on the ramp.
Bra'tac... and Teal'c.
Grinning from ear to ear, Jack moved between the SF's and almost ran to meet his friend.
"Teal'c, long time, no see!"
"It has only been a few hours, O'Neill," Teal'c said with a grin on his face.
They hugged briefly and were just parting as Doctor Weir joined them and said, "Colonel?"
Jack stepped back and with a proud grin, said, "This is Teal'c of Chulak, and this is Master Bra'tac."
Bra'tac frowned, looked up at the control room, then said, "Hammond of Texas?"
Looking uncomfortable, Jack said, "There have been a few... changes ... recently. This is Doctor Elizabeth Weir, the new head of the SGC."
Elizabeth put out her hand, but quickly dropped it. "I am honored to meet you, Master Bra'tac, and Teal'c. But what-"
"Anubis comes," Teal'c said simply. "He will be here in two days."
Daniel moved to Jack's side but directed his words to Weir. "I need to go through the 'Gate, Doctor Weir. Now. I know where the Lost City is."
"Daniel, so help me-"
"Jack, shut up. What has to be done, can only be done by me... and... you. I need to translate, you'll need to... you'll understand when we get there."
Teal'c smiled at Daniel and said, "You trusted, did you not, DanielJackson?"
Eyes soft with affection, Daniel said, "Yes, I did, Teal'c. And thank you."
"Gentlemen, can we take this upstairs?" Weir suggested... rather strongly.
"Gee, I was just going to say that," Jack said easily.
"It doesn't matter, Doctor Weir. All that matters is that I do know."
Elizabeth looked at Doctor Jackson and could almost believe.
"Doctor Weir, Daniel died almost a year and a half ago after sacrificing his life for the people of another world - and saving SG-1's butts in the process. At the moment of his death, he was ascended by the Ancients. He spent a year as one of them. As one of the Others. He's not been able to remember but a few isolated incidents from that time, but we've hoped, prayed, that he has, in his memory, all that he learned," Jack explained. "If he says he knows where the Lost City is - he does." He leaned forward and placed his arms on the table. "Now I suggest a call be made to President Hayes immediately, Doctor."
"I believe you're correct, Colonel," she said quietly.
Oddly enough, it wasn't Jack and Daniel who went through the 'Gate first, but Bra'tac and Teal'c. Daniel had explained that the ship he'd 'seen' in his vision only held two individuals and that he was pretty sure that the Prometheus would be badly needed to stall for time until he and Jack could do what they needed to do. It was quickly decided that Teal'c and Bra'tac would join Sam on board the Prometheus. Doctor Weir, after a prolonged conversation with the President, agreed that General Hammond's plane would be turned back and that he was the man to take temporary command of the Prometheus while Major Davis would be sent to the SGC to assist Doctor Weir in the movement of supplies, scientists and specialists to the unfinished Alpha site.
Even as Teal'c and Bra'tac stepped through the wormhole, decisions were being made in Washington, and allies were being informed of the impending threat. One decision was pushed to the back burner: the decision whether or not to inform the public. First they would, once again, give the SGC, the Prometheus, and SG-1, an opportunity to save the world.
Three hours after Teal'c and Bra'tac went through the Stargate to the Alpha site, Jack and Daniel stood at the bottom of the ramp, ready to embark upon their journey. The symbols had been put into the computer, the 'Gate had turned, all seven chevrons had locked, and now the blue awaited them.
"Doctor Jackson, Colonel O'Neill, saying good luck seems - somehow - not enough for what you're about to do."
"On the other hand, Doctor Weir, it's highly appropriate," Jack said with a jaunty grin.
Smiling up at him, she said, "Good luck, gentlemen."
Jack picked up his pack, slung it over his shoulder, looked with concern at Daniel, and said, "You ready?"
Daniel nodded, his eyes on the wormhole. Jack gave him a gentle thunk on the side of the head and said, "Daniel?"
"I'm ready, all ready."
"But are you okay?"
Daniel gave an impatient shake of his head and said, "For crying out loud, Jack, it's a
Goddamned suicide mission, stop mothering me."
Jack turned and shot an apologetic look at Doctor Weir. "You'll have to excuse him. He always gets so testy before these suicide missions. You just can't do anything with him, you know?"
"I see. Do a lot of these suicide missions, do you?"
"Alas, yes. Part of the job, don't you know."
"Jack, leave the nice lady alone and let's go."
Jack gave Daniel a little push and said, "Nag, nag, nag...."
Doctor Weir watched the wormhole collapse but found that she couldn't move. In the last few hours, she'd witnessed more to truly explain the Stargate than all the mission reports or briefings ever could. She'd watched three members of SG-1 work together, speak in a language she didn't understand, talk with half finished sentences and incomplete words, yet work like a well-oiled machine. She'd witnessed first hand the love and respect the team engendered by all who worked with them, and she finally had a real glimmer as to what this job was all about.
Saving the world. In so many forms.
She had another hour before General Hammond would arrive, and she'd be forced to watch another walk through the 'Gate. Maybe it was time to read that final file - Doctor Daniel Jackson's file.
Elizabeth closed the thick folder, reached for a Kleenex, and blew her nose. Her eye makeup was undoubtedly a bust now but she didn't give a flying fuck.
She looked at the top of her desk, at the four thick folders sitting side by side and felt as though she'd finally completed a very tricky and difficult puzzle. Wadded up Kleenex in hand, she rested her fist on Doctor Jackson's file, the final piece of the puzzle.
An airman, the one who'd been assigned to her until she could hire her own staff, poked his head around the corner, one eyebrow raised.
"The Vice President is on the phone, ma'am."
"Thank you, Airman."
When he disappeared, she reached for the phone, but didn't connect immediately. She remembered her little run-in with the man back at the White House and his words of caution that had been more of a threat. As she considered the phone and the man at the other end, she couldn't help but wonder why he'd been so adamant about removing SG-1 as the very first act in the civilian takeover of the SGC. She had no doubt now that it had been a mistake, which begged another question: why had the President gone along with it?
She took a deep breath, and was about to punch the button, when the light on the red phone began to blink rapidly. She found herself staring at it, uncertain of what to do. Was she supposed to answer it?
"Doctor Weir, that's the red phone," the painfully young airman said from his spot back at the door. "It's the President, Ma'am."
She'd have to assume that meant she should answer it. "Tell the Vice President that I'll be with him shortly, please?"
He nodded and went back to the desk. Elizabeth answered the red phone.
//"Vice President Kinsey is on his way to Cheyenne Mountain, Doctor Weir. He believes he's going to go through the Stargate to the Alpha site. I would appreciate it if you'd inform him that he can either remain there, at the SGC, which is undoubtedly going to be the first target for Anubis, or he can fly back to Washington and join the Joint Chiefs in the bunker."//
Elizabeth felt her mouth move and imagined she must look remarkably like a fish at the moment. She clamped her lips shut just as the President spoke again.
//"Doctor Weir? Are you there?"//
"Er, yes, Mister President, I'm here. I will do as you ask."
//"Very good. You may need assistance so may I suggest you enlist the aid of General Hammond before he embarks for the Alpha site."//
"Yes, of course, Sir."
//"Very good. Did Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson get off all right?"//
"Yes, Sir, they did."
//"And Doctor Jackson... he's well?"//
"I think he'll be fine, Mister President. He appears to be a very strong man."
//"Yes, I read his file. I take it you've finished it as well?"//
//"I'm beginning to believe that Earth couldn't be in better hands than those two."//
//"Take care of business down there, Doctor Weir."//
She heard the decisive click and lowered the receiver back onto the cradle. Well, things were about to get interesting. Seemed as though Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson wouldn't be the only ones having some fun.
They stepped out of the wormhole and into a desert.
"Well, this is interesting," Jack said as he adjusted his sunglasses. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. Ask me again and I'll shoot you."
"Not if I shoot you first."
"If you did, then when you asked me if I was fine, I'd have to say no."
"You know, I think having a piece of aluminum in your body poisoned your mind. You've gone around the bend, Daniel."
"Good, then I can sue the manufacturers of my windows and buy a new house."
They both stepped down onto the sand and, with a nod from Daniel indicating the direction they should go, Jack said, "You don't need to sue to get a new house. You were insured, right?"
"Last time I looked, Anubis wasn't an acceptable clause for paying out a claim. Fire, sure. Earthquake, naturally, but attacks by Goa'ulds in death gliders? I don't think so."
Jack came to a stop. He took off his sunglasses and looked at Daniel. "Shit. I... I didn't think about that, Daniel. Look, don't worry, I'm sure the government will take care of it, reimburse you-"
"This would be the same government that says I can either teach at the Academy or go to Area 51? Is that the government you're talking about?"
"Fuck. Look, I'll take care of it - somehow. I will. This-"
"Jack, it's going to take us a day to get to the city, and this is a suicide mission, remember? I really don't need to worry about replacing my house."
"Daniel, they're all suicide missions. And worst case scenario - you can live with me."
Rolling his eyes, Daniel started walking again as he said, "That would be the worst case scenario."
"We have our orders, Mister Vice President," Doctor Weir said as she stood resolutely before the man.
"If you think for one minute-"
"I don't know what Doctor Weir thinks but I suspect she and I are on the same page, Sir."
Kinsey spun around to find himself face to face with George Hammond. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Again, sir, that would be orders. General Hammond will be taking command of the Prometheus."
Kinsey's eyes narrowed as he regarded the man before him. "I see. Of course, that has nothing to do with the fact that I'm going through the Stargate to the Alpha site."
Hammond shook his head. "I'm afraid the President was very clear on that particular subject, Mister Vice President. Your - choices - are to either to remain here and assist Doctor Weir, or return immediately to Washington. Choices are wonderful things, aren't they?"
"You'll regret this, Hammond. I'll have you up on charges-"
"Which is it to be?" Hammond asked completely unconcerned.
Shooting both Hammond and Weir a deadly look, Kinsey said, "I'll remain here."
Nodding in satisfaction, Hammond said, "Doctor Weir, if I might have a few moments of your time?"
"Of course, General."
They stepped into her office leaving Kinsey very much out of the loop.
When Weir closed the door, Hammond said, "You'll need to be very careful, Doctor. I understand that the Vice President wasn't alone when he arrived. He had several well-armed men with him. I suspect they're rogue NID."
"So I was informed. Are you seriously suggesting that he'd try something... here?"
Elizabeth gave a small shake of her head. She simply couldn't conceive of the Vice President of the United States of America using force or violence to 'escape' to the Alpha site.
"Doctor Weir, you're not a naïve woman, and by now, I'm sure you've come to realize that nothing with Kinsey is as simple as it might seem."
"I can't argue with you on that, General."
Major Paul Davis looked down at the 'Gate room and smiled. The movement of people and supplies to the Alpha site was progressing well, another flight set to go through in five minutes. He knew it was necessary, but after years of waiting on SG-1 to save the day, he no longer worried that this was permanent. He now looked upon evacuations to the Alpha site as simply another practice session. They were getting damn good at it, too.
He checked his watch. In another thirty minutes, General Hammond would be leaving. Paul wondered how the man felt about commanding what could only be called... a star ship. He grinned. Okay, it wasn't the Starship Enterprise, but hell, it was real. He suspected General George Hammond was tickled pink. For once, the man was going to be where he'd wanted to be so many times in the last seven years - on the front lines, in the heat of battle.
He was undoubtedly one happy soldier.
Paul was about to turn away when Kinsey, surrounded by six men in black with P-90's, entered the 'Gate room. He watched, almost amused, as Kinsey looked up at him, smiled triumphantly, and said, "Open it, Major Davis, or my people will kill everyone in this room."
Paul leaned forward and spoke into the microphone. "I'm afraid not, sir." He watched as several SF's came out from either side of the Stargate and blocked the civilians. Several more came in from both side doors, all with weapons trained on Kinsey and his men.
"We've been expecting something like this, sir," he said mildly. "I must now inform you that you're under arrest for treason against the United States of America."
One of the black-clad men swung his weapon up towards the window and, like an idiot, fired. The bullet bounced harmlessly off the protective glass as an SF took the man out.
"I suggest you order your people to drop their weapons, Kinsey," a dressed-for-battle Hammond said from the side entrance. Next to him stood Doctor Weir.
Kinsey's look of hatred directed at Hammond was immediately transferred into action. He moved somewhat clumsily, but effectively, and grabbed one of the weapons from the man closest to him. He started to bring the weapon up, his intent clear. Hammond immediately moved in front of Weir, pulled his own weapon and said, "Don't try it, Kinsey."
"I'm the fucking Vice President. These soldiers won't shoot me. But I'll take some joy in one final act for my country by destroying you, Hammond. I can't get to SG-1, but I can get to you."
With that, he brought the weapon up higher... and fired.
Hammond shoved Weir hard while at the same time - firing his own weapon. He wasn't alone.
Kinsey's shot hit the far wall, Hammond and Weir safely out of harm's way. A total of eight bullets, Hammond's included, thudded into Kinsey, spinning him first right, then left before his lifeless body hit the floor. A moment later, six weapons were dropped with a clank and clatter as Kinsey's men raised their arms into the air.
Hammond walked slowly over to the body. He took a deep breath... and exhaled. He'd just - killed -- the Vice President of the United States of America.
A hand on his arm brought his gaze up.
"No, General, you just killed a dangerous traitor, " Elizabeth Weir said softly.
Hammond looked at the woman standing at the foot of the ramp. He smiled and said, "I know I'm leaving the SGC in very capable hands, Doctor Weir. Take care of everyone."
Elizabeth felt like saluting, but she didn't. Knowing she was looking at a truly great man, she nodded slightly and said, "I will, Sir. I'll keep your command intact in preparation for your return."
"Make no mistake, Doctor Weir, this is your command." He glanced up at the control window and was shocked to find every member in the room on their feet... and saluting him. Swallowing hard, he returned the salute, then turned and walked through the wormhole.
"How will we know when we're there?"
Daniel looked over at Jack and said, "Uhm, when we get there?"
"But how will we know? In fact, how do you know this is even the right place?"
"I just... do. And the desert will... kind of... you know," he made a gesture with his hands, bringing them closer together, "get more narrow... sort of."
Jack put out a hand and stopped Daniel's forward movement. "Narrow? How does a desert get ... narrow, Daniel?"
"Well, see, one minute you have sand as far as the eye can see, but then you start seeing... you know, the green stuff, and eventually you have less sand, and more
"Let me guess, Daniel: green stuff."
"And you know this how, Daniel?"
"Uhm... well, you know, I kind of... sort of... maybe... possibly-"
"Spit it out, Daniel."
"Saw it - in the same vision as the ship, and the city. You know, in Teal'c's room."
"Ah. Naturally. Okay, so this sand will start to narrow. Cool." He slid his glasses down his nose and regarded the sand in question. He frowned, then tilted his head. "Uhm, Daniel? Does this sand stuff look odd to you?"
"No, other than being a very fine grain."
"Yeah, I noticed that. But I'm talking more about the ... color. Does it look, well, yellow, to you, Daniel?"
Daniel peered at the sand, and finally said, "Not really."
"Daniel, it's clearly yellow. Oh, not a bright yellow, mind you. But maybe an American butter yellow."
Daniel froze. "An American - butter - yellow?"
"Daniel, hello? You know, like there's the ugly yellow of margarine, then there's the very bright yellow of say, Irish butter, and the very bright, but creamy yellow of European butter, and finally, there's the mild, soft, creamier yellow of American butter. The sand is a soft, creamy yellow like that."
Daniel took his sunglasses off. "Who knew you were such a connoisseur of butter. This is mind-boggling. We're on our way to the Lost City of the Ancients so we can kick some half-ascended Goa'uld butt, and you're talking about butter. I'm astounded, and may I say, impressed. Next time I need an expert on butter, I know right where to go."
"Daniel, is this sand yellow or not?"
Daniel gave a small chuffing sound, then glanced down at the sand. He made a show of studying it in minute detail and finally said, "Have you ever baked a cake?"
"Daniel, so help me-"
"You have to cream the butter and sugar together, you know? This sand is yellow like that. Like creamed sugar and butter. What I'm not sure about is whether they used European butter, Irish butter, or American butter. And of course, the sugar probably has something to do with it too. Refined versus raw, Hawaiian versus-"
Jack started walking as he muttered, "I'm gonna kill him. That's all. I'm gonna kill him and hide his body and blame it on Anubis...."
Daniel put his glasses back on and followed.
"You're smirking, aren't you, Daniel?"
Daniel wiped the smirk off his face.
"You're still smirking, but now you're doing it with your eyes."
"Damn, the sand is really narrowing, Daniel."
"Duh. And do you realize that you have included my name in almost every single comment, insult and question? I mean, I don't know if you've noticed or not, but it's just you and me, so when you talk, there's a fifty-fifty chance that you're talking to me."
"What, suddenly I can't use your name?" He smiled. "See? I just uttered an entire sentence without saying your name. Damn, I'm good, Daniel."
Daniel didn't say anything.
"Damn, I just said your name, didn't I, Dan...."
He let his voice trail off, scrunched up his face, and finally said, "I like saying your name, so sue me."
"No, really, I do."
They continued walking. After five minutes, Jack said, "Daniel, do you realize that we're following yellow sand?"
"We're back to the yellow sand again, are we?"
"No, we're talking about the yellow brick road, Daniel. Get it?"
"If we end up at the Emerald City - I'll be impressed. Until then, this is just sand."
"Yellow sand," Jack muttered.
"Okay, break time, Daniel."
"No, we need to keep going."
"Daniel, you're exhausted. We're stopping here, and we're stopping now."
With that, he grabbed Daniel's good arm, thus keeping him from going any further.
"Jack, we have two days tops to do this. We need to keep going. It's not much further and we just had a break."
"Four hours ago, Mister Macho. Give it one hour, okay? My knees are killing me."
He knew that would stop Daniel. Guilt to Daniel was like chocolate to other people. Although chocolate worked on Daniel too. As he watched Daniel drop his pack, he felt only a small tinge of shame at using his knees to get Daniel to rest. It was, after all, for his own good. He watched as Daniel pulled the toss-tent out of their supplies, popped it open and tossed it a few feet away. It immediately took shape and both men moved inside and out of the bright sun.
Jack pulled out his water and took a good drag, Daniel doing the same. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Jack said, "What, exactly, are we going to find? You weren't all that specific in the briefing."
"A city within a city. A rotunda, glass, and inside, the ship and the weapon that will stop Anubis."
"A city within a city?"
Daniel shifted his pack behind him and awkwardly dropped back. He winced as his back connected with the pack, but said, "That's what I said. A city within a city. Want me to say it again?"
"Gosh, no. I get it now. Silly me. A city within a city. Who wouldn't understand that? And the ship, small but powerful? Get us back in time?"
Daniel dropped his booney over his face and said, his voice slightly muffled, "Yes. Easily. And don't ask how I know, I just do."
Jack watched Daniel, disappointed that he couldn't see the younger man's face. Finally he pulled his pack around and did the same as Daniel. Once down, he stared up at the top of the tent and wondered how this would all end.
"Jack, you need some aspirin for the knees?"
"No, Daniel, but thanks."
Jack turned his head to look at his friend. Daniel had sounded... almost sad.
Jack took another swallow of water, then looked over at Daniel, who appeared to be fighting his jacket. It was so reminiscent of the night they'd done the jello wrestling, he almost smiled. "Daniel, you need some help?"
Daniel glanced up and gave him a sheepish look. "Would you mind... I mean, it's a bit too warm to wear, so maybe you'd... I can't, you know, tie it?"
Understanding dawned. Hooking his canteen to his belt, he walked over, helped Daniel out of his jacket, then wrapped it around his waist. He was standing close, head bent, almost touching Daniel's, who was also looking down. He could smell Daniel's sweat, an odor that was not displeasing. He could also feel Daniel's hair as it just brushed his forehead and it took all his self-control to keep his hands steady as he tied the jacket sleeves together. When he was done, he stepped back.
"There, all done. And not a bad idea. I think I'll do the same."
The ploy worked. It got him a few feet away from Daniel. He quickly divested himself of his jacket and tied it around his waist. He slapped his cap back on his head, put on his sunglasses and picked up his pack. "You ready to head out?"
"You have to ask?"
Jack made a little forward motion with his hand and said, "Westward ho, Daniel. Westward ho."
"Okay, but we're going east."
"Details, Daniel. Details."
Picking up his pack, Daniel muttered, "But an important detail, if you ask me."
Two hours later, Jack realized that they'd been climbing. A subtle climb, but still. Up ahead, the yellow sand seemed to stop. He'd bet anything that they were about to crest whatever they were climbing.
"I'm betting we're almost there, Daniel."
"I know. Up there. We should see the city shortly."
They continued plodding through the yellow sand and all Jack could wonder was why the stuff hadn't narrowed yet. Wasn't that supposed to be how they knew they were almost there? Seemed to him it was not only not narrowed, the stuff was getting ... what, thicker? Was it his imagination that his boots were sinking in deeper and that he had to strain to pull them out again?
Probably. Based on the fact that Daniel had surged ahead of him, he'd have to assume it was definitely his imagination.
"Jack, you might want to get up here, pronto."
Startled, Jack realized how far behind Daniel he'd fallen. He hurried to Daniel's side.
"What...." he started to say, but Daniel's pointing finger showed him the "what".
"Holy crap," he said, staring down at the valley of wild flowers that led to, what had to be, the Lost City of the Ancients.
"Daniel, I do believe I'm looking at the ruins of a city ... surrounding a domed... city, and it's green. The city is green. And the sand...."
Jack felt no need to finish his sentence. It was clear as the day was no longer bright that the sand - the yellow sand - had narrowed to the width of a footpath. A yellow footpath.
"It's a yellow sand road, Jack," Daniel finally said - unnecessarily.
The doors slid open and General Hammond, Sam and Teal'c behind him, strode in.
"We have our jobs cut out for us, people, let's move."
The commander of the Prometheus quickly vacated the command seat, not in the least bit insulted that his ship was being taking over, albeit temporarily. This was the fight of a lifetime with aliens the three people in front of him were experts at fighting. No, he didn't mind one bit. Truth be told, he was looking forward to watching General George Hammond and half of SG-1 at work.
President Hayes sat down, drink in hand. He had never felt so helpless in his entire life, and given that he was now Commander-in-Chief, that was saying something. His speech explaining to the world that they would soon be under attack from outer space (all right, he loved saying that part - it was just too - fifties scifi-ish) was ready, as was his explanation of the Stargate. He knew that even if they won -- with no one the wiser surrounding the real events -- he'd give the Stargate speech. On the issue of shining the cold light of day on the Stargate, he and Bob Kinsey had been of like minds - just not for the same reason.
Henry knew instinctively that the miracle of the Stargate, as well as the men and women who kept it happening, deserved to be known. To be recognized. To be understood.
To be honored.
His gaze drifted down to the table in front of him, and the videotape sitting so innocently next to the bottle of Bowmore 1957. The tape was the key to involving the American public in such a way as to blunt the impact of discovering the small fact that they'd been lied to for the last several years. He'd watched it six times, six emotion-packed times, each viewing leaving him, if possible, even more in awe of the Stargate Program.
But the tape in front of him was not, he hoped, the entire show that would be presented. He prayed that a vastly different ending could be added to Emmett Bregman's documentary masterpiece, an ending that documented the most recent "saving of the world" by the SGC. He was very glad he'd sent Bregman to Cheyenne Mountain a few hours ago. The man would definitely have his work cut out for him this time.
He also prayed that the ending would not be spoiled by the small and insignificant death of Vice President Kinsey. Man, he was going to have to do some pretty intricate tap dancing to keep the facts of his death out of the sunlight.
Some things were much better off buried. Dead and buried. And Bob Kinsey, a Goddamned actual traitor, was definitely one of them.
He took another sip of his drink and thought it was ironic that Kinsey would go down as the first victim of an alien attack. Hayes suddenly grinned. There was karmic justice after all. His smile faded. The one thing he would not allow was Kinsey being labeled in any way a hero. Unfortunate victim, sure, he could sell that. But hero? Over his dead body.
The grin returned. He could hear his heartfelt speech now.
//It is with a heavy heart that I come before you today. While myself and the Joint Chiefs elected to remain in Washington and see this attack through to its inevitable conclusion, namely our victory, Vice President Kinsey chose to evacuate through the Stargate to the new Alpha site. Unfortunately, he became the first... and only... victim of the attack by Anubis....//
President Henry Hayes laughed outright. And damn it, that was exactly how he'd do it, too. Just let anyone try and talk him out of it. Just let them try.
"So help me, Daniel, if any Munchkins pop out...."
"This isn't Oz, no matter how much... it just... isn't."
Jack put out a hand and placed it on Daniel's chest, thus stopping his forward movement. "My God, would you look at that."
They'd made it down to the valley and were now only a few yards from their destination. The setting sun was sending wave after wave of color down on the domed city and the glistening spires visible inside were catching the magenta rays, which immediately bounced back onto the dome. It looked all the world as though fireworks were being shot off inside. Jack promptly followed his words with a low whistle. "What do you think will happen when we knock?" he asked, his gaze fixed on the spectacular lighting effects.
"Nothing, there's no one home," Daniel said sensibly.
"You're no fun, Daniel."
Moving away from Jack and toward the city, Daniel said softly, "I know."
A few minutes later, Daniel, surrounded by the ruins of an ancient city that stood tall around the dome, was staring intently at a series of symbols next to what had to be the door. Jack waited patiently, knowing full well that Daniel would be able to get them in. His trust was rewarded a moment later when, after Daniel had depressed three small carved oval-shaped reliefs, the dome collapsed and they were actually inside.
"Gee, and all I expected was a door," Jack said dryly as he followed Daniel deeper into the city. "I assume that you do know where we're going, right?" he asked as Daniel moved resolutely forward.
"I do. We're going ... there," he said, pointing ahead to what looked like the center of the city.
"Oh, okay, just asking," Jack said as he took in the sights around him. At one point, he reached out and touched the side of a building and gave another low whistle. The material was smooth to the touch, cool, and like nothing he'd ever felt before in a building or any other structure. In fact, the entire city was so entirely different from anything he'd thus far encountered, he actually began to think far more highly of the Ancients.
The city was beautiful, but it was more than that. Every building seemed to have been constructed and placed with only one thing in mind: comfort and visual ease. The entire city soothed the eye and mind and Jack found himself relaxing as they walked.
For a suicide mission, this one was shaping up nicely.
The sun had long set but neither man required a flashlight to see their way forward. Thanks to a sky littered with thousands of sparkling stars, and a moon so large Jack felt he could reach up and touch it, they could see the rotunda that marked the center of the city. Jack gazed upward and felt a pang of loss at what the Ancients had been forced to give up when they were hit by the plague that ultimately sent them onto another plane of existence. Somehow he doubted that where they were now - was as beautiful as this night, on this planet.
"We're here, Jack."
They were at the rotunda.
"Inside is everything we came for, everything we need," Daniel said quietly.
"You're telling me a ship is in there?"
Daniel nodded as he touched the palm of his hand to a small square to the right of an archway. There was a slight pinging sound, then Daniel was walking inside, flashlight in hand, its beam playing over the floor and walls. Jack followed.
"What the hell is that?" Jack asked, the beam of his flashlight highlighting a large object in the center of the large room.
"That's our ... ship."
Jack didn't bother to ask how Daniel knew as he walked slowly around the object. Then he grinned. "Daniel, it looks just like the spaceships in those cheesy fifties space movies."
"Yeah, well... it'll serve its purpose," Daniel said enigmatically.
Daniel stumbled at that moment and Jack had to grab him to keep him from falling over.
"Thanks. Guess I got a little dizzy...or something."
"Or something. Look, I'm gonna set up camp and we're going to eat dinner, then sleep. In the morning, we'll do whatever it is you say we need to do, all right?"
"Man, you must really be tired not to argue with me."
It seemed strange to have a camp set up in a building - a dark building, but that was exactly what they had minus a tent, which Jack had eschewed since they were protected from the elements inside the rotunda. Their sleeping bags were spread out and the two small space heaters were doing their job. Jack had the camping stove going and a pan of stew simmering. Daniel was sitting in the middle of his sleeping bag, legs crossed Indian style, eyes fixed on the flickering flames of the small burner that was heating their meal. He looked exhausted, painfully young, and... somehow ...distant. Jack had been struggling with himself for the last six hours as he tried to figure out a way to explain... to somehow receive forgiveness from Daniel, but his struggle had been fruitless. Now as he watched Daniel watch the burner, he asked, "How's the back?"
"Fine," Daniel said without taking his eyes from the blue flickering flames.
Jack reached over and stirred the stew, more for something to do than because it needed stirring. When he sat back, his curiosity got the better of him.
"Daniel, did all of this," he waved his hand at the rotunda, "come in that vision? Or has some of it just kind of... come back to you?"
"It's both, I guess. The vision gave me the address, and the memory of," he glanced up and met Jack's gaze, "being here."
"Being... here? You mean, while you were ascended... you were actually here?"
Daniel nodded miserably. He lowered his head and began to pick at a nail as he said, "I'm sorry, Jack."
Confused, Jack asked, "Sorry? About what?"
"All this time, all the teams looking for the damn city, and it was here," he touched his temple, "all along. If we don't get back in time, if anyone's hurt... or killed, it'll be my fault." He glanced back up and smiled wryly. "But that isn't news, is it?"
The stew splattered up at that moment, and Jack quickly turned his attention to it. He tasted it and nodded. "It's ready. Get your tin, Daniel."
Daniel picked up his bowl and held it out. While Jack scooped the stew into Daniel's tin, he said, "You always were too hard on yourself, Daniel. It's not your fault that Oma and her crew removed the memories of your ascension."
Daniel took his bowl, sniffed appreciatively at it and, as he stuck his spoon in it, said, "That's a nice excuse, Jack, but it doesn't fly all that well."
"Flies as good as a mother ship, if you ask me."
Daniel put his bowl down with a clatter that surprised Jack. It signified either frustration or... anger, and anger was something he hadn't seen in Daniel since his return.
"Jesus, Jack, why are you bothering to lie now, of all times? You have to know that we're not likely to survive this particular mission, can't you say what you really feel? Clear the air and give us a chance to go out as halfway decent friends."
Jack's jaw dropped. His brow creased in consternation as he realized Daniel's words were because of... because he'd... oh, God.
"Daniel, God, Daniel, I-"
With a weary and apologetic sigh, Daniel said, "No, no, forget it, Jack. Just... forget it." Then he leaned forward, tired eyes meeting Jack's distressed ones. "I just have one question, and you don't have to answer it, but I'm hoping you will." He paused, then asked, "What made the difference, Jack?"
Jack had been so sure that Daniel was going to confront him about their relationship that he was shocked by the question finally asked. And he didn't have a clue what Daniel was asking. But hell, Daniel was right about the whole suicide mission thing. All his plans to keep Daniel safe were moot, which made him the stupidest man in the galaxy. Any galaxy.
"Daniel, I'm not sure what you're asking, but about us... about my apparent lack of follow-through, well, it wasn't - isn't -- what you think, I swear it."
Daniel fiddled with his spoon, ignoring the fact that in doing so, he was flicking stew in the air as he said, "How do you know what I think it was?"
"You think I lied to you, don't you?"
Daniel cocked his head. "No, I think you changed your mind. You know, the whole
'morning after, waking up with Daniel Jackson' thing. I'm just curious as to what changed your mind, you know? Was it me? Or maybe the whole mano y mano crap, or maybe regulations, or maybe... you know, me."
"Damn, why do I keep forgetting how insecure you are?"
Daniel frowned. "I'm not insecure."
Jack's eyes nearly bugged out. "Daniel, you're the poster boy for insecure men all over the world."
"That's low, and you're skirting the issue."
"Look, I don't really care why since it isn't likely to come up again, but I do want to know that we're okay, no bullshit between us, you know? I personally think we're saving the world for the last time and I don't want to go out-"
"Daniel, I love you more than you'll ever know. I know I loved Sara, and the thought of her kept me alive when I was a prisoner in Iraq, and I don't mean to do her any disservice now, but what I feel for you goes so far beyond anything I've felt before... it's almost unreal."
Daniel's eyes narrowed as he regarded Jack. He tilted his head right, then left, squeezed his nose, pushed up his glasses, and finally said weakly, "Oh."
"I guess I need to ... confess a few things... I guess."
"Yeah. I ... pulled a rather rotten stunt and you're going to be madder than hell at me, but if you stop to think about it, well, fuck, Daniel, you should have known-"
"Wait, it's my fault? Again?"
"Okay, this is me backing up." Jack made little backwards running motion with two fingers. "Starting over now. So. Zipacna nearly killed you. Hell, for several minutes, we all thought you'd died in your house, okay? Then Hammond breaks the news and Carter and I listen to the options you'll be given. Was I mad? Sure. For about five minutes. Then I realized what it would mean. I knew damn well that you wouldn't teach or go to Area 51, which meant you'd... resign. And that meant no more dying. And I was relieved, ecstatic, joyous. I was ready to kiss Kinsey and the President because in giving you the shaft, they were giving me the opportunity to keep you safe, and keeping you alive seemed a wee bit more important than having you in bed, naked," he looked up at the ceiling, "wonderfully naked, because if I didn't take the opportunity, how long would I have you in my bed naked - won-"
"Wonderfully naked. Yeah, I've got that part, Jack."
"Well, good, because you have to understand what I was giving up. We're talking a big, big," he stretched out his hands, "big sacrifice. You. No longer in my bed. Naked. You get me here, Daniel? That was huge. And I'd only had you in my bed - naked - once. Once, Daniel."
"So making me think you'd changed your mind is, in actuality, a big, huge, sacrifice, right?"
"Letting me walk out of the SGC, believing I'd never see you again, was this big sacrifice-"
"Designed to keep you alive. Yes."
"You do realize how unfair that was?"
"Of course. I was taking the choice away from you. I was-"
Daniel held up a hand. "That goes without saying, and if we do make it out of this, you'll pay, but that's not what I mean. You try to make me feel like shit in order to keep me alive, then you make this," he stretched out his hands, "big, huge sacrifice that results in no longer having me naked in your bed, and what do I do in return? How do I show my love? I take you ... on a suicide mission. Not exactly - balanced, you know?"
Jack, seeing something that looked suspiciously like humor twinkling in the depths of Daniel's eyes, leaned forward. Lips threatening to twitch upward, he said, "Well, that is a good point. On the other hand, here we are, under a moon the size of God knows what, and I'm thinking you could have me - naked - in your sleeping bag. I mean, if you're feeling at all guilty about the disparity between how we show our love."
He waited a beat, then added with what he hoped was a charming shrug, "I'm just saying...."
"You know," Daniel said thoughtfully, "it's a good thing I'm so damn easy going. So accepting. Such a-"
"Sucker?" Jack offered helpfully.
With a look Jack couldn't quite fathom, Daniel said, "Yes, that too. But hey, you only live once...."
His voice trailed off as Jack arched an eyebrow.
"Yes, well. Some of us only live once," Daniel said, his skin flushing an embarrassed red.
Jack reached over and picked up Daniel's bowl of stew. He held it out to him and said, "Eat. You need strength."
Head cocked, Daniel asked, "Why?"
"For me, naked, in your sleeping bag."
Daniel reached for the bowl and asked, "Are we ever going to get this right, Jack?"
As Daniel took the bowl, Jack wrapped his fingers back around Daniel's and the bowl. With their hands poised like that, halfway between them, Jack answered in a soft and tender voice, "Tonight. We have tonight to get it right, Daniel."
Eyes going a dark, smoky blue, Daniel said, "It'll be enough."
Jack gazed up at the moon and thought he could feel the pull in his blood. It made his body tingle, although that could be the result of making love with Daniel. He smiled. Daniel was on his stomach, one hand on Jack's belly, face turned toward Jack, dark lashes kissing his pale skin. The bandage on his back stood out in stark relief, but the relaxed expression on Daniel's face told Jack he was in absolutely no pain. As he took in Daniel's face, he wondered if Daniel had any clue about his looks. Based on how he'd always dressed and the whole haphazard look he'd had going, Jack doubted it. Of course, since his ascension, his wardrobe had changed slightly, as had his hair. Jack reached over and ran his fingers lightly through the soft, choppy spikes and wondered if the hair was an Oma thing. His hair hadn't looked like it did now when Daniel had ascended, but he'd been sporting the current cut when he'd popped up in the elevator. He liked it this way, that was for sure. Liked it a great deal.
His gaze wandered down Daniel's back to the swell of his ass, and Jack smiled. Damn, he did have a beaut. And Jack considered himself to be a connoisseur of asses; both male and female. He'd always thought Carter's was all right, if a bit too high, and Teal'c's was just... too much. He'd always believed that asses should be like women's breasts. Perfect handfuls. Like Daniel's. Just round enough, just high enough, just... enough. Even straight men had to check out Daniel's ass, although he'd scoff if told. And Jack was pretty damn certain that the reason Daniel got more shots in his ass than the rest of them was... yeah, he was damn certain. After all, if he had the choice of giving Daniel a hypo in his arm versus one sweet ass cheek, well, he knew exactly what he'd choose.
Thinking about needles naturally led him to thinking about the Infirmary, which led him to thinking about what he'd yet to tell - confess - to Daniel. And he needed to confess before tomorrow. He put a hand on Daniel's shoulder, leaned down and whispered, "Danny, wake up."
He watched dark lashes flutter against pale skin, then Daniel cracked open one eye.
"I need... there's something I need to talk to you about, okay? It's ... important."
Daniel nodded slowly, and without too much effort or pain, he sat up. Rubbing a hand through his hair, he said, "What is it?"
The combination of concern for Jack, and the kind of inevitable 'what did I do now' tone almost broke Jack's heart. He smiled tenderly and said, "I... there's something else...."
He stopped when he noticed the fine tremor run through Daniel's body. "God, aren't you cold?"
Somewhat taken aback, Daniel shook his head and answered, "Not really."
With an impatient shake of his head, Jack bunched his sleeping bag up against the pillar behind him, scooted over and rested his back against it. He held out a hand and cocked his head. With a slightly bemused expression, Daniel moved over until he was between Jack's legs and supported by his body. Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel's chest and said, "Now you're warm, and I can hold you, which, considering what I'm about to say, is a good thing, because you're probably not going to be too happy in a minute."
Resting his head back against Jack, Daniel said, "You really need to work on another method of delivering bad news."
"It's not... bad news, exactly. More like another confession."
"Oh. Another... confession."
Resting his cheek against Daniel's head, Jack closed his eyes, held on, and said, "When I came to in the Infirmary after - well, you know. Anyway, I was surprised to see Doctor Warner leaning over me and I immediately asked for Janet. I'm not sure why, except-"
"Janet is ours," Daniel said with a slight hitch in his voice.
"Yes, she's - she - was ours. Anyway, I saw it in his eyes long before he got the words out - that she was dead. The panic I experienced at that moment caused all the machines to go haywire-"
"You were... the two of you... together. See?"
Jack could feel the sudden stillness of Daniel's body. He knew if he didn't spit it out now, he'd lose the courage forever.
"I thought you were... that both of you... then Warner said something about you waiting outside along with Carter and Teal'c and this feeling of relief shot through me, and yes, the machines went haywire again. Later, when I found out the circumstances... I was ... oh, God, Daniel, I was grateful that it wasn't you. Do you see?"
He'd kept his eyes closed throughout his recitation and now realized that Daniel was moving and that consequently, he was moving. Daniel's arms were around him. When he felt his head being tucked under Daniel's chin -- he did the only thing he could: he buried his face in Daniel's neck.
"It's all right, Jack. It's all right."
The dam broke. Jack shook with all the emotions of the last weeks, with the losses and near losses. Dry sobs wracked his body as Daniel tightened his hold, soothed him with words that bore no resemblance to any language on Earth, and cupped the back of his head with his hand.
"Janet's ... gone, Daniel, and I'm... God, I'm... so grateful... so very grateful... it wasn't ... you...."
Lips brushed his temple and rested against his ear as Daniel whispered, "But you're not grateful that it was Janet instead of me, Jack. You're only grateful it wasn't me. She understands. She understands."
Jack's tears fell then, and mixed with Daniel's. Daniel continued to hold Jack as they rocked, whispered, soothed and comforted.
And remembered Janet Frasier.
The sun filled the rotunda with a mellow glow, the glass of the building somehow designed to mute the sunlight, thus creating a kind of crystalline beauty inside. Jack stood off to one side as Daniel, looking for all the world like Carter, busied himself with the space ship. It was late afternoon and they'd both been working all day to get the machine to the point where it would fly and support life. Although, in reality, all Jack had done was follow orders, and no, it hadn't skipped his notice that Daniel had thoroughly enjoyed giving them. Now Daniel was in the middle of the one of the final steps, namely readying one of the many system modules for what Daniel said was the power source for the "weapon". Jack had yet to see a power source, but he had faith.
Daniel straightened, rubbed his cheek and chin, pushed up his glasses, and said, "Okay, now we have to find the power source."
"And we look where?"
Daniel indicated that Jack should follow him out and back into the rotunda. Once out, Daniel frowned and pivoted around, eyes searching the walls of the building.
"Daniel? You remembered everything including things you never knew, like how to get a space ship up and running, but you can't remember where the power is?"
"I... I'm sure I...."
He pushed his glasses up again, wiggled his nose, managed to look cuter than anything Jack had ever seen, then said, "Nope."
"Daniel, in spite of the fact that you look cute enough to eat and you somehow remind me of those little creatures in Star Wars-"
"Tell me you don't mean the Ewoks? Just tell me you don't mean-"
"The Ewoks; yes, exactly. Anyway, even though you look that cute, I really think I may have to kill you. I mean, if you're gonna take a guy on a suicide mission, the least you can do is take him on the suicide mission, you know? And the power source for the weapon that makes this a suicide mission would be necessary to continue to consider this a suicide mission and thus would be pretty crucial to that goal."
Confusion written all over his face, Daniel cocked his head and said as if Jack hadn't just said something untranslatable, "Jack, no one wants to fuck Ewoks except other Ewoks. You're not an Ewok. A Wookie, maybe, but not an Ewok."
"So we'll cross-pollinate. Wookies and Ewoks. They both have w's, k's, o's and s's."
Daniel scratched his head. "That made no sense."
"Find the power source, okay?"
"Easier said than-"
Half an hour later, Daniel was still standing in the middle of the rotunda and scratching his head. His resemblance to any Ewok was gone. He now looked like one of the Three Stooges. Jack preferred the Ewoks. No way did he want to make love to any of the Stooges. Just... no way.
Suddenly Daniel cocked his head. Which was followed by a gleam in his eyes. Jack thought it was pretty nifty that he caught the gleam, what with the glare bouncing back at him from Daniel's glasses.
"Daniel, you have that look."
"Yeah, I know. Bet you wish it were the other look."
"Which other look? The 'this is very bad' look, or the-"
"... 'I want Jack to fuck me raw' look...."
"Oh, yeah, that one. You'd win your bet," Jack agreed with a grin.
"Not that you've fucked anything raw," Daniel said rather absentmindedly as he walked over to a pillar. Jack thought the absentmindedness was kind of insulting, and he really didn't want to fuck Daniel raw, but fucking him senseless would be nice. After all, fair was fair, and hadn't he already done that to Jack? Yeahsure, youbetcha.
"Did you notice that the color of this pillar is slightly different than the others?" Daniel asked as he ran his hand gently over the item in question.
"It's pink, Daniel, just like the others."
"No, this is more like pink with whipped cream added. The others are Pepto-Bismol pink, you know?"
"I'm going to regret-"
"Ever bringing up butter to describe sand? Yes, Jack, you are."
Even as he spoke, his fingers were playing with the pillar and, before Jack could come up with a suitable retort, there was a whooshing sound and a panel slid up revealing the proverbial hidden compartment.
"Well, whaddya know? If it isn't the-"
"...old hidden compartment in a pillar gag," Daniel finished for him.
"Yeah. Really, I thought the Ancients would be more-"
Daniel turned around and held up what looked like a rainbow colored Coke bottle. Jack noticed no cap and no Coke. Too bad. He could have used a Coke about now. Looking over the rim of his sunglasses, he said, "Please tell me that's not it."
"This is it."
"Daniel, it looks like a-"
"I know. A cap-less Coke bottle. How come Sam gets all the nifty looking weird-assed alien devices and I get a Coke bottle?"
Lips twitching, Jack shrugged and said, "Just lucky I guess."
With a grimace, Daniel walked over to the space ship. "Come on, time to go."
"Just like that?"
"Didn't we put all our gear inside?"
"Yes, of course, but-"
"Haven't you been standing around waiting for me to find this," he held up the bottle, "with the understanding that when I did, we'd have what we needed to get that," he pointed with the bottle to the ship, "thing off the ground?"
"That would be a yes."
Daniel gave a little waggle of his head that put him back with the Ewoks and away from the Three Stooges, then made a swishing motion with his arm indicating that Jack should precede him. Rolling his eyes, Jack walked up the short ramp, ducked his head, and entered. Daniel strolled up behind him, and once inside, hit the button on his left. The ramp folded up and the door slid shut. Jack felt ridiculous.
"I feel ridiculous, Daniel. This just isn't... I mean, we're talking the Ancients. We're talking really advanced aliens. Yet the best they could come up with - is this?"
"It's not a ship, Jack."
That pronouncement was made as Daniel inserted the 'power source', and Jack used that term very lightly, into the console that took up the center of the ship. Jack, who'd headed for the pilot's seat, froze. He turned. "Not... a ship?"
Daniel closed the lid and said, "Uhm, no. I ... should have told you earlier, but you see, the ship ... is... the weapon. It's a ... bomb, Jack. Kind of. Sort of."
"I'm going to pilot a bomb?"
"Oh. Interesting. I'm beginning to understand the reality behind the concept of," he made little quote marks in the air, "suicide mission, Daniel."
Daniel walked to the opposite wall, pressed something Jack couldn't see, and when the panels rose, he stepped to the side. "Escape pods, Jack."
"Ah. Escape pods. That will go... where?"
"Well, that's why this is a suicide mission."
"Right." Jack took off his pack, placed his P-90 on the floor, then sat down. "Daniel, have I told you that I love you?"
Daniel walked up behind Jack and placed his hands on Jack's shoulders. As he massaged the muscles, he leaned down and whispered, "Not nearly enough, Jack. But I'll take what I can get."
Starting up the ship as Daniel had shown him, and with eyes burning behind the moisture, Jack said, "I love you, Daniel."
Daniel's fingers tightened.
"Mister President, we need to get you to safety-"
"I'll remain here, Admiral. If Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson don't succeed, there won't be a safe place for any of us."
They were in the War Room listening to the first confirmations of Anubis entering their space. The Prometheus was in position to defend and to hold it off in the hope that O'Neill and Jackson would be successful and intercede in time to "save the day" yet again.
President Hayes had no intention of being anywhere else than where he was.
Anubis watched the Earth ship approach. The Taur'i were indeed foolish if they believed that one such ship could stop him. Of course, he'd removed the only chance the Taur'i had by destroying Daniel Jackson, and when he'd destroyed this planet, and he was planning its complete destruction, he'd find the Lost City and all that it contained. The secrets of the Ancients, so long denied him, would be his. All would fall.
His First Prime knelt before him awaiting his orders. Zipacna was in the second
mothership, also awaiting instructions. Anubis could destroy the paltry Taur'i ship with a wave of his hand, but he felt like toying with his prey first. Give them the hope of victory before snatching it from their grasp - as he'd done with Abydos. "Send out the death gliders," he said softly.
"It shall be done, my Lord."
Jack knew how fast they were traveling, but he still couldn't grasp it. This little space ship, circa 1955 Roswell, was one speedy spacecraft. It put anything the Goa'uld had to shame. There was no windshield, per se, only a screen that showed him his position in relationship to his destination. His course was plotted out and, as the pilot, he need only keep the ship to its course and the so-called pedal to the metal. But even as little as it seemed he had to do, it took a light and experienced touch and Jack actually felt like a pilot again. Behind him, Daniel stood, eyes focused on the screen. Their little ship had only one seat, which, considering it had two escape pods, seemed... odd.
"Jack, in about five minutes, your view screen will change. We'll be in range of Anubis and we'll be able to see the real thing."
"I'm not going to ask how you know...."
Daniel turned away, picked up their packs and walked over to the pods.
"Daniel? Whatcha doing?"
"Putting our things... away. We don't know where we'll end up or what we'll need, if we need... anything. If you know what I mean."
"Ah. Gotcha. So you gonna tell me how this is going to go down?"
Daniel popped open each pod, dropped the packs, one in each, and said, "I'm not exactly certain, but ... I think I'll know when the time comes... I think."
"I feel just so much better now, Daniel."
Grinning, Daniel said, "I'm so glad. I live to make you feel better, Jack."
"You know, I caught that about you... last night, as a matter of fact."
Bending at the waist, arm draped over Jack's shoulders, lips barely brushing Jack's ears, Daniel whispered, "And did I make you feel better, Jacko?"
Fingers tightening on the small gear that served as the control for the ship, Jack nodded as all his blood rushed to his nether regions.
"Jack, I didn't hear you," Daniel whispered. He flicked out his tongue and took a delicate swipe at Jack's ear lobe.
"I... uhm... huh-uh...."
With a low, throaty chuckle, Daniel said, "I'll take that as a yes."
Before Jack could do or say anything, the screen in front of him faded away and a panel slid up revealing a window and beyond that blue sky and ... Earth.
Both men glanced up and Jack whistled. "Okay, that was nifty."
Daniel straightened and said, "Something is missing...."
At that moment, a small screen appeared in the right-hand corner of the view window.
"Would that be the missing whatever?"
"That would be it."
"As the pilot, do I get to know what it is?"
Daniel pointed to a small dot on the screen. "That's him. That's Anubis. "We haven't entered Earth's atmosphere yet so we're not close enough to see him. When we enter our atmosphere, that," he pointed at the small screen, "will disappear and you'll have a clear view of his ships."
Jack looked up at Daniel, gave a small shake of his head, and said, "When did you and Carter change places?"
"Ha-ha, Jack. Very funny."
Smiling, Jack looked back at the screen and said, "I assume that when we're looking at the real thing, that will be the time for the pods?"
"I'm thinking... yes."
"Okay. And I should probably not ask how this ship knows that our adversary is that dot, right?"
"You can ask, but there's no one around who can give you an answer."
"I knew that."
Fifteen minutes later, they left the blackness that was space for the incredible blue of their sky. The small screen disappeared, as promised by Daniel, while in front of them, two large motherships floated in the sky over North America. But they weren't alone. Over twenty death gliders were attacking another ship, which in turn, was defending itself and, as Jack and Daniel watched, taking out several of the gliders.
"The Prometheus," Jack said, his voice tinged with worry... and awe.
"You need to position us between it and the motherships, Jack."
While Jack maneuvered the ship forward, Daniel reached down, opened a compartment to the left of Jack and removed what looked like a handset. He gave it to Jack and said, "Contact the Prometheus, tell them to get the hell out of there, and now."
"Just like that? This is going to-"
"It'll work, Jack. Do it and quickly."
Jack affixed the communication device to his temple, pulled the mouthpiece down, then said, "This is the Jack-Daniel Express calling the Prometheus, come in."
Daniel's eyebrows rose as he mouthed, "Jack-Daniel Express?"
Jack shrugged as he repeated, "This is the Jack-Daniel Express, Prometheus, please respond."
Sam nearly jumped from her seat as a voice came over her headset.
//"This is the Jack-Daniel Express calling the Prometheus, come in."//
"General, we're being hailed by ... Colonel O'Neill."
Hammond swiveled in the command chair in order to look at Carter. Seeing the amazement on her face, he cocked his head and said, "Put it on the speaker, Major."
With a flick of a switch, Jack's voice filled the bridge.
//Hell-llo? One more time, guys, this is the Jack-Daniel Express hailing the Prometheus. Please come in.//
"Colonel O'Neill, General Hammond here. I hope you haven't hailed us to simply chat because we're kind of busy at the moment...."
In spite of the battle they were waging with Anubis, no one missed the smile in Hammond's voice.
//Chatting would be nice, Sir, but Daniel would really appreciate it if you'd get the Prometheus the heck out of there, and as quickly as humanly possible."
Before Hammond could answer, Sam said, "Sir, we've picked up another ... ship...."
Nodding, Hammond said, "I think that can be arranged, Colonel O'Neill. You wouldn't be the blip we just picked up, would you?"
//Yes, Sir, that would be us.//
"In that case, we're gone ... and good luck... Jack."
//Thank you, Sir.//
Hammond turned back and said, "You heard the man, let's get the hell out of Dodge, people."
Jack had set them on an intercept course with Anubis and as they slipped in between the two motherships and the Prometheus, Jack said, "She's moving off, Daniel."
From the other side of the ship, Daniel sighed in relief and said, "Jack, I need your help over here."
Jack removed the headset, touched the pink crystal that would ensure they were on the small ship's version of autopilot, and quickly moved to Daniel's side by one of the pods. Daniel had his back to him so Jack put a hand on Daniel's shoulder as he asked, "What do you need me to do?"
Daniel turned and said, "Forgive me, Jack, that's what I need you to do."
Puzzled, Jack said, "Forgive you for wha'--"
Smiling sadly, Daniel hit Jack squarely on the jaw. He caught Jack as he fell forward. Daniel stumbled a bit, then popped open the pod and, with some difficulty, got Jack inside. Bracing Jack's boneless body against the back of the pod with his hand, Daniel placed his left hand on Jack's cheek. "Forgive me for this, Jack. I'm sorry, but I had to do it this way. Only one of us is needed now and I knew you'd insist on staying and that wouldn't keep you alive. I love you, and this isn't me sacrificing, okay? I'm going to do my damnedest to get out of here before it's too late, I promise. But I had to make sure that you... I mean, oh, hell." He leaned in and kissed Jack's slack mouth, brushed his thumb over Jack's bottom lip, then stepped back quickly and watched as the pod closed up.
He moved back to the center console, touched three symbols simultaneously, then pressed a square red crystal directly below the "Coke bottle". When it lit up, he pressed a blue button on his right and Jack's pod dropped out of sight. Daniel then moved to the front of the ship and, as death gliders surrounded the small craft, he nodded in satisfaction. He had to time this just right. If he released Jack's pod from the airlock too soon, a death glider would take him out... and if too late - the death glider wouldn't matter.
After several quiet seconds, time that he assumed Anubis was using to assess the new threat, or lack thereof, the small craft presented, Daniel smiled. It might be a suicide mission, but damn, it was a good one.
A glider took front and center - and fired.
Nothing happened. Daniel smiled again, lifted his hand, wiggled his fingers, and said, "Say goodbye."
Slowly, the small craft began to spin. A light so bright that Daniel had to shield his eyes shot out and the glider that had fired upon the small ship - disappeared.
It was time.
The ship began to spin faster, making it difficult for Daniel to make his way back to the center. When he finally stumbled his way there, he hit another symbol, the one that would release Jack's pod, then made an attempt to reach his own pod. The ship was spinning incredibly fast now, and as it spun, powerful lights shot out, each one taking out a glider.
Daniel fell twice. Got up the first time, crawled the second. He had to close his eyes - or be sick. When he came into contact with his pod, he reached up with a shaking hand, eyes still closed, and fumbled with his fingers in an attempt to find the knob that get the damn thing open.
If it was possible, the ship seemed to increase in speed and, damn, it was suddenly too warm.
He had to find the knob, and he had to find it now.
"Sir, a small object was just ejected from the ... from Colonel O'Neill's ship."
"Can you identify it?"
Sam nodded. "It was an escape pod, Sir."
"Only ... one?"
"Yes, Sir. So far."
Captain Miles interrupted as he pointed to the screen. "Sir, I... they're... they're kicking ass, Sir!"
They were hovering a few miles above Colorado, having 'gotten the hell out of Dodge' as requested and now all eyes turned to the screen in front of them.
"Jesus," General Kirkland said, "how in the hell...."
The space ship that had been piloted by Jack was now more like a Wailing Wheel from a neighborhood fireworks show. It was spinning so fast that it was nothing more than a blur. Radiating out in all directions were powerful laser beams that simply destroyed anything in their path, which in this case, were death gliders.
The crew of the Prometheus watched, stunned, as hordes of death gliders met their end in such an unremarkable manner. They simply disappeared when struck by one of the beams. After several minutes, the blue skies over Colorado were quiet. Two large, dark shapes sat, unmoving, almost as if staring down the smaller spinning craft.
Hammond leaned forward and said, "Tell me another pod was released, Major Carter."
"I can't, Sir," Sam said, her voice low and full of pain.
Staring out the windshield, Hammond murmured, "Let's hope there were two...."
Before anyone could say anything else, the spinning craft began to glow as it spun impossibly faster. It also seemed to be moving closer to the two ships. Suddenly the glow took on a reddish tint as if giving off extreme heat... and seconds later, it blew.
"SHIELDS!" Hammond yelled out.
Sam hit the control that would bring the shield down over the view window even as her gaze flicked to her radar screen. She blinked in disbelief as she caught a small dot emerge from the blip that represented one of the motherships, then her mouth opened as the three blips representing the two motherships and the ship that had been piloted by O'Neill - simply disappeared.
"Major, what happened?" Hammond asked as he swiveled in the command chair.
"They're... gone, Sir. Both ships have been destroyed - as has Colonel O'Neill's ship. When it blew - it took the other two ships with it."
"Tell me another pod-"
"Another pod was released, Sir... but from one of the motherships."
"It would be expected," Teal'c offered from his spot next to Sam.
"But nothing from-"
"No, Sir, but I almost missed the pod from Anubis' ship due to the amount of energy being released by the smaller craft. It's possible-"
"Are you tracking the pods?"
"I've got signature on only one, Sir. We'll have no difficulty pinpointing its landing."
Knowing that hiding the Prometheus or the battle from prying government eyes around the world now would be moot, Hammond swiveled back and said, "Give us the location, Major. Search and rescue time. And if the other pod is Anubis, we need to find him."
Of course, what they'd do with him once they found him would be another question he'd save for the actual event.
The jarring brought Jack fully awake and conscious. He opened his eyes to darkness and a sense of ... free falling. He immediately put out a hand and almost broke his wrist as his hand connected sharply with something hard.
He knew it instantly. He was in an escape pod.
He brought his hand up to his tender jaw, wiggled his mouth and almost smiled. Who knew Doctor Daniel Jackson could pack such a punch? Well, he should have, actually.
Suddenly his direction changed and it felt as if the pod had shifted. Jack no longer had the sensation of standing, but rather, it now seemed he was on his back. And the pod was... slowing down.
A moment later, with a gentle bump, all was still and quiet. Catching his breath, he fumbled in the dark hoping to find some way of getting out....
The pod popped open and he found himself staring up through the branches of trees and into blue sky. He shielded his eyes as he sat up and carefully climbed out. Once on his feet, albeit a bit wobbly, he took a few minutes to look around.
Okay, figures he'd end up surrounded by trees. Yeah, sure, youbetcha. He bent down and retrieved his pack from the pod, found his sunglasses and slipped them on. He glanced upwards and a flash of something dark caught his eye
He watched it float down to the west of him. Slinging his pack on, he began to run.
Anubis climbed out of the escape pod. Standing on the ground of Earth, the ground he'd planned on destroying, he knew his army was gone. Wiped out. His rage and anger brought his hand up and a bolt of lightning shot out. A stand of evergreens disintegrated. He wanted to destroy everything within his sight. He walked several feet away, obliterating anything in his way as he went. A sudden sound from behind him caused him to turn around. He glanced up in time to see something dark rushing toward him. There was no time to do anything, no time to act. It slammed into him and he knew nothing more.
Something was wrong. He was going too fast and he was still upright. Somehow, he'd figured the pod would slow and drift to Earth, providing him with a soft and safe landing, but this was anything but. His pod was spinning as if caught up in some kind of cyclonic air movement and he was once again getting sick to his stomach.
Leave it to him to get a faulty pod. God, he hoped Jack's landing wasn't like this.
He heard the sound of something brushing against the sides of the pod and he really hoped that he wouldn't throw up. There was a sudden lurching feeling, a loud thump, and the pod rocked hard, then he was bouncing....
... and then ... nothing.
And he was going to throw up.
Fortunately, the pod opened and dumped him rather unceremoniously onto the grass. Behind him, the pod stood nearly upright.
He hit the ground on his hands and knees, felt the sharp pain in his back, and like a dog just out of water, shook his head and body. He took several deep breaths to calm himself and stay the pain. His stomach settled and he carefully dropped onto his good side and gazed upward. Blinking, he stared at the serene sky overhead, a sky that showed no scars of the battle that had so recently taken place. He knew it was over, that everything was gone.
He really should get up. He needed to find Jack. He put his good arm under him, and slowly rose to his feet. He swayed a bit, but when the world righted itself, he took a look around him.
Jack was going to love this. Trees. Lots and lots of trees. An entire planet to land on, and instead of balmy beaches, fish-laden rivers, or warm deserts, they'd landed in the middle of a forest. A forest that looked remarkably like Colorado. What were the odds? Astronomical. Ha. Get it? Astronomical.
He turned to get his pack from the pod and nearly stumbled as his gaze connected with where his pod had come to rest. Stomach threatening to revolt, he peered down at the... body.
Black robe spread out on the forest ground and rocks, one arm outstretched, almost pleadingly... but - no head.
Swallowing convulsively, Daniel prepared himself to look further. He took a deep breath and began his search of the ground.
"Fuck," he muttered when he spotted what had to be... the head.
Eyes torn from the grotesque vision, Daniel looked up gratefully at the sound of Jack's voice. "JACK, OVER HERE!"
"Very funny, Daniel," Jack muttered as he broke through the brush to Daniel's right. "I'm supposed to know where 'over here' is?"
Smiling at the sight of an alive and obviously healthy Jack, Daniel said, "Sure. Big military hero, covert ops, leader of the flagship - er, ex leader of the flagship team, SG-1, yeah, I think you should know where 'over here' is when I yell it."
"Moon me and my dick will find you every time," Jack snorted as he limped toward Daniel.
"God, you're a romantic bastard."
"Yeah, well, after I knock your block off for that stunt you pulled - whoa, what the hell is that?" Jack came to a dead stop a few inches from the... head.
"Oh, well, I think it's what's left of Anubis' head, actually." Daniel motioned to his pod and said, "Evidently I came down pretty fast, kind of in a spiral, and he must have been standing here because over there," he pointed in westerly direction, "you can just see his pod and a trail of destruction, probably a leftover from his anger at being defeated and I think I'm going to be sick, and why are you limping?"
Taken slightly back, Jack was in a quandary as to what to respond to: Daniel being sick, his limp, or Anubis. He decided to take a deep breath and tackle all three.
"I'm limping because like the idiot that I am, I fell while trying to find you, which is almost funny, if you think about it, battling Anubis and all, and you're not going to be sick, Daniel, so can that thought right now." He patted Daniel's pod and finished with, "Way to go, and all hail Dorothy."
At the disgusted look on Daniel's face, Jack said, "Er, of course, I meant, 'all hail, Daniel."
"Thank you so much. And I thought Sam was Dorothy in your little SG-1/Oz fantasy?"
Jack limped over to a rock and sat down. As he pulled his pack from his back and got out some water, he said, "Nah. Sam isn't Dorothy. No way."
Daniel ambled over and took the other side of the rock. When Jack was finished with the water, Daniel held out his hand.
"Get your own," Jack groused.
"We used mine last night."
Jack turned very slowly until he could see Daniel's profile. "You got into that pod knowing you didn't have any water?"
Daniel shrugged and said, "To be honest, I didn't think I'd make it to the pod. I couldn't leave until the ship started spinning, and I figured that would make-"
"Wait. You knew you might not get away? You knew the ship would do what?"
Daniel made a spinning motion with his finger as he said, "Yeah. It took out all the gliders, Jack. You should have seen it, it was... amazing. But then it was supposed to spin faster, you know? Heat up and all before taking out the motherships? But hey, I actually made it to the pod, so I missed the whole bang-up finish."
Jack pursed his lips and with a hang-dog expression on his face, said, "Aw, isn't that just too bad?" He then swatted the back of Daniel's head and said fondly, "You twit. And I still have a bone to pick with you. Pulling that stupid stunt and knocking me out. That was... unforgivable, Daniel."
Grinning, Daniel said, "But you'll forgive me."
"Maybe. Under the right circumstances."
"Yeah, yeah. You're hot for my bod; you'll forgive me."
They sat quietly for a few minutes, savoring the beauty of their survival, each other, and the warm, soft afternoon. Finally Daniel, curiosity getting the better of him, asked, "Why isn't Sam, Dorothy?"
"Daniel, just how well do you know the story?"
Ducking his head, Daniel mumbled, "I saw the movie ... a couple of times."
"Okay, so you know it was really one character's journey to find where they belonged. To find... home. Along the way, this person meets the scarebrow, who dreams of having a brain, the Cowardly Lion, who desperately needs courage, and the Tin Man, who wants a heart more than anything. With me so far?"
"Not difficult, Jack."
"Right. Okay, so this whole journey we've been on for the last seven years has really been... now don't laugh, but it's been... your journey, Daniel. You started it, made it possible, and you took us with you." Seeing Daniel raise his hand, Jack hastened to add, "Wait, I'm not finished. In spite of the fact that I lead SG-1, in reality, we follow you. Not in a rule kind of way, but in a heart kind of way. This has been your journey to find a place to belong, where you could make a difference, find a family, accomplish something. All in all, in my book, you're Dorothy.
Daniel let out a breath, tried to digest Jack's words, and when he couldn't, he fell back on the comfort of asking questions.
"Okay, so who's the Tin Man? The Scarecrow? The Cowardly Lion?"
"Oh, man, that's so easy, Daniel. For a smart guy, I'd think the answers would be a no-brainer. Now why don't you think about it for a minute and let's see what you come up with, okay?"
It didn't strike either man as odd that they had no idea where they were, that they were sitting in the middle of the woods following a major battle that had wiped out their number one nemesis, that said nemesis' body... and head... were just a few feet away, and they were discussing The Wizard of Oz and how it pertained to them.
Daniel leaned forward and rested his elbows on his thighs as he pondered the question he'd posed. Finally he sat back, his shoulder resting against Jack. "Okay, the way I see it... you're the Scarecrow. We all know that you really do have a brain, but many people don't understand that under all your gruffness and 'just give it to me in plain English' attitude, you're really always learning. The Scarecrow was also the natural leader. The Tin Man is... oddly enough, Sam. I think she's been looking for her heart for a long time now, and maybe... she's found it with Pete. And finally, the Cowardly Lion."
"You really have this figured out, don't you?" At Daniel's nod, Jack said, "But no way have you figured out the Cowardly Lion, Danny. Just no way."
"Well, it has to be Teal'c, but of all of us, Teal'c connected with the Wizard years ago. He'd been looking for the courage to oppose Apophis for years, and when faced with our Scarecrow, he found it. Of course, some would say that he's been constantly reaching for it in every aspect of his life." Suddenly Daniel turned around to face Jack. "Wait, you may be the Scarecrow, but I'm thinking you're also the Wizard, Jack."
Jack shook his head and brushed a bit of dirt from Daniel's cheek as he said, "No, I'm thinking we haven't met the Wizard yet."
Looking out over the forest, Daniel nodded and said, "Gives us something to look forward to."
"That's what I'm thinking. Wouldn't want our lives to get too boring now that Anubis has lost his head over this whole thing."
Daniel groaned. "That was ... bad, Jack." He got up and stretched out his hand. "Come on, we'd better find civilization - or something."
Hand slipping into Daniel's, Jack nodded and allowed the younger man to pull him up. Once standing, he teetered a bit and Daniel immediately slipped an arm around his waist.
"Lean on me and put your arm around my shoulder, Jack."
"Leaning on you, I can do."
Smiling, they headed off.
Sam held the instrument away from her, eyes glued to the readings. "I've got them." She glanced up and said, a smile on her face, "They'll find us before we find them-"
She got no further as voices raised in song could be heard coming from their left. Hammond, Teal'c and Sam turned toward the sound as moments later, Jack, supported by Daniel, crested the small hill. Both were singing at the top of their voices. Teal'c looked quizzically at Sam, who grinned and said, "It's from The Wizard of Oz. Teal'c glanced back at his friends, trying to catch the words....
"Ding dong, the witch is dead, which old witch, the wicked witch. Ding dong the wicked witch is dead!"
"They have rather pleasing voices, do they not, Major Carter?"
"...so just like Dorothy and her farm house, Daniel and his pod came out of the sky and took old Nubby out," Jack said from his seat on the hospital bed.
A technician in the Infirmary on the Prometheus was taping up his ankle as he spoke and it wasn't easy. As Jack regaled Hammond, Carter and Teal'c with their adventures at the Lost City and on the "space bomb", as he was now calling it, he was swinging his left leg and jiggling his right - the one the tech was desperately trying to tape up.
"Jack, stop moving," Daniel admonished quietly from his perch on the opposite bed.
"Yes, dear," Jack responded with a mischievous grin.
Daniel rolled his eyes as one of Teal'c's eyebrows climbed for the ceiling. Sam's jaw dropped open and Hammond simply made a low throaty sound that seemed like a cross between a groan and a growl.
With shaking hands, the young tech backed up and said, "That should do it, Sir. You'll want to stay off-"
He got no further as Jack immediately hopped off the bed without so much as a wince.
"... or not, Sir." The tech kept right on backing up until he was out of the room.
Shaking his head, Daniel said, "That was unfair, Jack."
Ignoring him, Jack looked at Hammond. "Sir? I don't think our little firefight went unnoticed. Where do we stand?"
"We've been ordered to the Alpha site where I will officially turn command of the Prometheus over to General Kirkland before we head home via the 'Gate. What the President will be doing in the meantime to control the damage, I have no idea. And the damage," he paused slightly, his face flushing an uncomfortable red at the memory of Kinsey's death, "is far greater than you two know."
Kirkland was once again at the helm of the Prometheus while George sat with SG-1 in the commissary of the great ship. Half-empty coffee cups sat in front of each of them, and it was obvious to anyone who looked that all were mentally and physically exhausted. The high that had come with their success had long since worn off, and, in spite of needing sleep, none of them could. Instead, they'd chosen to sit together, taking comfort from the fact that they were all alive and Anubis... wasn't. Hammond had filled them in on what had occurred with Kinsey and, after a shocked silence that had lasted several minutes, Jack had lifted the mood by simply saying, "Gosh, Sir, that's too bad."
The irony of the entire situation hit them then and all five broke out into raucous laughter.
Daniel, tears streaming down his face, had a moment to think that their laughter was a fitting "tribute" to the late Vice President, but he immediately chastised himself for the uncharitable thought. Even so, he didn't stop laughing.
Jack sat on the bunk, his sore leg propped up on his other while he untied his boot. As he slipped it off and dropped it on the floor, he said, "Does anyone but me think it's silly to take the time to go back to the Alpha site from Earth in order to go back to Earth via the 'Gate?"
"Since I'm the only one in this room with you, I'd have to say that no, you're not the only one. Especially since I asked Sam exactly where we came down."
Jack stopped in the middle of untying the other boot in order to look at Daniel and ask, "And?"
Black shirt in hand, Daniel grinned. "We were seven miles from Cheyenne Mountain."
"You're shittin' me?"
Jack leaned back against the bulkhead and said, "Well, I'll be damned."
Still grinning, Daniel folded his shirt and set it on the chair, then he turned his back on Jack, slowly unbuckled his belt, lowered his zipper and carefully lowered his pants and shorts while bending at the waist.
On the other side of the room, Jack perked up. Eyeing the very nice ass facing him, he asked, "Daniel, are you mooning me?"
"Gee, Jack, what does your dick say?"
"At the moment, it's doing its compass thing, Daniel."
The bunks on the Prometheus were not made for two men but, with Jack more or less sprawled over Daniel, room didn't seem to be a problem. Jack was snoring lightly, puffs of air touching Daniel's skin as Daniel stared up at the ceiling. He should be sleeping as soundly as Jack, but in spite of still twitching limbs, he hadn't been able to nod off.
Change was in the air and he suspected he was going to be left out in the cold. At that thought, he glanced down at Jack and smiled softly. Okay, not so cold at all. Whatever happened, however this played out, Daniel Jackson had Jack O'Neill. Of that, he had no doubt. And Sam had Pete. And Teal'c had Ishta and his son, Rya'c. And Cassie... had all of them. If the President decided it was time to tell the world and the world turned against them, they'd have each other because they were a family. They might not be in Kansas anymore, but they were a family.
Hayes sat back in his chair and let out a sigh of relief. His counterparts had finally come to full agreement regarding the Stargate Program. There would be changes but he doubted that Hammond would object too strenuously to them; after all, he was about to become a hero.
He glanced around the war room and the men and women seated with him and noted the relief on their faces as well. War and certain destruction had been averted - again - but this time, this time, the world was going to be told. But in such a way as to hopefully mitigate as much of the fear and panic as possible. The best way to sway the public was to give them... heroes. And in this case, Hayes had them by the handful. He looked over at Paul Everett, his Chief of Staff, and said, "Get me Bregman."
The 'Gate served as a backdrop for the men and women of both the Alpha site and the Prometheus as they said goodbye to General Hammond and SG-1. Colonel Dixon, who, since the events of P3X-666, had been serving as temporary leader for the Alpha site, faced Colonel Hammond and said, "I don't know what's happening on Earth, or what will happen, Sir, but speaking for the Alpha site, we thank you."
"You're thanking the wrong person, Colonel." Hammond indicated Jack and Daniel. "You should be thanking these two."
"No, Sir," Jack said. "I beg to differ. The only person to be thanked is Doctor Jackson. We wouldn't have been successful if not for him."
Colonel Dixon immediately turned to face Daniel and snapped to attention. Hammond, Jack, Sam, Teal'c, the entire crew of the Alpha site and the few crew members of the Prometheus, including General Kirkland, followed suit. As they saluted Daniel, he blinked owlishly behind his glasses while his face flushed hot red. When the salute ended, Hammond, seeing the discomfiture with which Daniel took the honor, said, "Doctor, would you dial us home?"
Relieved to have something to do, he immediately ducked his head in a shy nod before turning to the DHD. He quickly punched in the symbols - completely unaware of his friends grinning behind his back.
Elizabeth looked around her and nodded, satisfied. The 'Gate room was ready. Didn't look half bad either, if she did say so herself. She looked back at the 'Gate itself and realized that in a few minutes, she'd be out of a job - in a way. She grinned. Funny how life can change on a dime.
"Off world 'Gate activation, Doctor Weir!"
She looked up at Walter - damn, she really needed to remember to call him Sergeant Davis - and waited. He suddenly smiled.
"It's General Hammond, Doctor."
"Open the iris, Wal-Sergeant Davis."
Last time she'd be giving that command.
The iris slid away and a moment later the wormhole (that reminded her of her kitchen drain clearing after a clog) burst forth. Another moment... and General Hammond, flanked by Teal'c, Master Bra'tac and Major Carter, walked through. She wasn't surprised when all four stopped dead at their first glimpse of the room, but she was surprised when all four separated, the General and Major Carter lining up along one side of the ramp and Teal'c and Bra'tac on the other. She frowned, puzzled, until the wormhole fluttered and Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson stepped through.
Her frown faded, to be replaced by a smile of understanding. As the men and women of the SGC broke out into applause, cheers, whistles and the assorted "Yoohaws" and "Yeehaws", the four lining the ramp saluted.
Jack came to a standstill as he realized that he and Daniel were being cheered and applauded by the SGC. He glanced to his right and found himself staring into Teal'c's brown eyes, eyes sparkling with both admiration and humor as he watched Daniel shift just enough to place himself behind Jack. Smug grin in place, Jack slid in between Teal'c and Bra'tac, thus leaving Daniel standing out like the sore thumb -- or the hero that he was.
The clapping and cheering increased as Marines, Airmen, civilians and SF's yelled out, "WAY TO GO, DOCTOR J!"
Daniel blushed to the roots of his hair - and beyond.
Jack figured even Daniel's dick was flushing a nice shade of pomegranate. He also figured this was the only recognition Daniel would ever receive for all that he'd done for Earth. It wasn't enough, not nearly enough, but it would have to do. He started pumping his arm up and down and yelling louder than anyone else.
Daniel closed his locker and sat down on the bench. He rubbed his hair with the towel slung around his neck and said, "In relation to?"
Jack flipped around on the bench so he was facing the same direction as Daniel and said, "In relation to being... oh, dead?"
"I feel very good then, because I most certainly expected to be dead."
"Nice surprise, then?"
Daniel rested his elbows on his thighs, looked sideways and slightly up at Jack, and grinned. "Yeah, yeah, it is. You're nicer still."
"Alive and you've got me - oh, yeah, you're soarin'."
They grinned at each other.
Emmett wiped his brow, then leaned in again, his hand on his editor's shoulder. "That's good, that's what I want. Okay, let's see the battle again."
While Pete McDonald readied the other monitor, Bregman mourned the loss of the segment dealing with Doctor Jackson's ascension, but he couldn't argue with the President about now not being the best time to bring that up. The world would have enough difficulty with the Stargate without dealing with issues surrounding heaven, God, angels and ascensions.
"It's ready, Emmett," McDonald informed him. A few moments later, the battle with Anubis, as captured by the Prometheus and NORAD, flickered across the screen. Bregman rubbed his chin and narrowed his eyes. In his mind, he was seeing another vision for his revised documentary - which had to be ready in less than forty-eight hours. Excitement coloring his voice, he said, "Okay, this is what I want you to do...."
Peter Jennings looked up at Alex Wallau, the President of ABC and found himself ... speechless. Alex smiled and said, "In case you're asking yourself if you heard correctly - you did. The President of the United States wants to give you the biggest story of any reporter's career. And while you'll be representing the world and broadcasting on every primary channel, ABC won't be losers, which is why I'm giving you the go ahead. And by the way? Your flight for D.C. leaves in an hour."
Jennings closed his mouth, which had dropped open as Wallau talked. He rubbed the back of his neck and finally asked, "Does this have anything to do with that little light show over Colorado that the government is being so secretive about?"
"What do you think?"
Grinning like a loon, Jennings said, "I think I'm on my way to Washington."
Three days later --
Daniel leaned into Jack and whispered, "Why are we here again?"
Jack, just as puzzled as Daniel, shrugged. "No clue other than orders."
They were in the largest room in Cheyenne Mountain, a room often used as a classroom. It easily held over two hundred people and at the moment was set up theater style, and almost every seat was taken by members, both civilian and military, of the SGC. He, Jack, Sam, Teal'c, and Bra'tac were in the front row, not that that seating was their choice. They'd been led there upon their arrival. The seat next to Jack was obviously being reserved for General Hammond while Major Davis and Doctor Weir were seated on the other side of the empty chair. On a platform in front of them, a large screen had been lowered. Jack nudged Daniel, indicated the screen and said, "I'm hoping for Lawrence of Arabia. You?"
"Lawrence of Arabia? Since when?" Daniel whispered back.
"Since I started having this fantasy about ... Daniel of Arabia."
Daniel snorted and bit back a laugh as he poked Jack none too gently in the ribs.
"What, you're not having fantasies about me?" Jack hissed at him.
"Well, now that you mention it... there is this one fantasy where you show up at my door, flash-"
"I flash you?" Jack said with a wicked leer.
"... your badge at me, which I can't read, so I ask you and you tell me you're a prostate inspector."
Jack was not as successful as Daniel at holding in his laughter and it burst forth loudly enough to cause everyone to stop their whispering and look in his direction. Daniel immediately turned away, stared up at the ceiling, and started to whistle. Doctor Weir leaned forward in her seat in order to see past Major Davis, then tilted her head. Jack was too busy laughing to notice. Nor did he notice the smile that spread across her face, nor the smiles of everyone else. His laughter was so genuine, and so rarely heard, that no one could escape the simply joy of listening to it - or of watching Daniel trying to look as though he weren't the reason for the sound.
Jack might have continued to laugh if General Hammond hadn't entered at that moment. He walked over, sat down, and said, "Care to share, Colonel?"
Daniel stopped whistling but continued to face away from Jack. His eyes were sparkling with humor and Sam gave him a little kick. Meanwhile, Jack was doing his best to contain the rest of his laughter as he sat up and tried to face Hammond. Finally he was able to say, "Sir, it was nothing... you'd be interested in... exactly. Daniel and I were just discussing... alternate career... choices."
That set Daniel off. Which in turn, set Jack off again.
George Hammond observed the two men, watched as Major Carter began to laugh, and as Teal'c joined in. He looked over their bent bodies at Master Bra'tac who gave him a look that clearly said, "Youth is wasted on the young." Hammond nodded sagely even as he tried to stifle his own laughter. A few days ago, the end of everything he'd known seemed inevitable... and now? Now... everything had changed, thanks to the youngest man in the first row who was laughing so hard, tears streamed down his face.
Major Davis, his own expression one of humor, tapped his watch and said, "Sir? The broadcast?"
General Hammond immediately straightened and said, "Right. Colonel, if you and your team could collect yourselves? We have been ordered by the President of the United States to watch a special broadcast which begins in...."
"Five minutes, Sir," Davis provided.
"In five minutes. Colonel?"
Jack wiped his face, pulled Daniel up and back, then managed to say, "Major?"
Sam got a hold of herself, turned to Teal'c and said, "Teal'c?" who immediately allowed his left eyebrow to rise as he said, "Indeed."
Daniel choked back more laughter and made every attempt to "get serious" as Jack did the same. Hammond rolled his eyes and said, "Major, if you'll get the show on the road?"
"Yes, sir." Paul looked back and raised his hand. A moment later, the lights dimmed and the screen was filled with the White House logo.
Hammond then stood and faced the audience behind him. "I'm as much in the dark about what we're to see as all of you, but what I do know is that President Hayes set this up so that we might all witness a special that is, as I understand it, being broadcast live from Washington." He paused, then added, "But before it starts, there is one additional guest who has been invited by the President to be with us today, so, Airman Rogers?"
The back doors were opened by Rogers and Cassie Frasier was escorted in. Two SF's, in full dress uniforms guided her to the front row where Sam, Teal'c and Bra'tac immediately moved down one to allow Cassie to sit between Sam and Daniel. She sat down and Sam quickly took her hand, their fingers interlocking. At that moment, the screen flickered and Davis said, "It's time, Sir."
Hammond nodded, smiled at Cassie, and took his seat. The lights dimmed the rest of the way down and a moment later they were all gazing up at the White House. At the bottom of the large screen were the words, "SPECIAL BROADCAST LIVE FROM THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA."
The picture faded and the audience found themselves in what many recognized as the White House Library. Before anyone could blink, Peter Jennings walked into camera range.
//"Good Evening. I'm Peter Jennings and tonight we're broadcasting live from the White House. A broadcast, I might add, that is being seen all over the world and heard in over fifty languages. I'm here tonight as a precursor to a special Presidential address that will conclude this broadcast. My job tonight is to introduce the world to a special breed of heroes."//
Jennings paused in order to move to a chair next to a set of bookshelves. He sat down, crossed one leg over the other, and as the camera moved in for a close-up.
//"War has been a natural state of affairs for the planet Earth before the first caveman walked upright. At this precise moment, over fifty wars are waging on our planet and that's a conservative number. The United States itself is overtly or covertly involved in at least ten wars including the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and multiple covert operations in Latin America. We have over three hundred and fifty thousand troops deployed world wide. In fact, as a newsman, I often think it would be easier to state which countries the United States does not have troops deployed.
"I don't have to tell you what war costs us all, but let me give you a few important figures. The war between Kashmir, India and Pakistan resulted in over sixty-five thousand deaths while the ongoing war between Ethiopia and Eritrea has cost the lives of over fifty thousand people. Chechyna and Russia have been at war since 1994. Columbia has been at war with itself since 1964 with over forty five thousand men, women and children dead. The Sudan has been at war since 1983 with over one and a half million dead, and over four and a half million displaced. Rival clans in Somalia have been fighting since 1982 with over thirty thousand dead. The government of Algeria has been at war with the Islamic Salvation Front and the Armed Islamic Group since 1991 and over seventy five thousand people have died. The civil war in Afghanistan, which pits the officially recognized government against the Taliban, as been going on since 1970 with over one million dead."//
Jennings finally stopped, allowing the audience to take a breath. Eventually he leaned forward a bit.
//"We are a world at war with ourselves and each other. On the streets of Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Chicago and many other cities in our country, young men and women go to war every day - for territory, acceptance, drugs, money, recognition and power. Since 1980, gang related activities, in Los Angeles alone, have resulted in over ten thousand deaths."//
Jennings rose and stepped to the fireplace, the camera moving with him.
//"The number of Americans that have been lost to war is over two million, yet we do not confine our killing to war. We, the people of planet Earth, have managed to wipe out entire species of wildlife and we're well on our way to destroying the planet we inhabit ---- which is another kind of war."//
He moved from the fireplace and took center stage in the room.
//"Now, what if there were a war that threatened everything we know -- threatened our very existence and the continued existence of Earth? A war that would require all of us working together, united, to defeat the barbarians at the gate? Real barbarians. Could we do it? Could the prejudices of a lifetime be set aside? Could the fears and suspicions, religious barriers and hatreds be buried in order to go to war against an enemy so vile that we can't possibly imagine such an entity? Could we do it?
"And if we could, what might we think if we learned that for the last seven years -- American soldiers have been fighting just such a war for us? For all of us? What would we say to them? Would we hail them as heroes or would our fear of the unknown translate to fear and hatred of those who did the fighting?//
He waited a beat, allowing the viewing public to digest the questions. Finally -
//"Several days ago we reported the following story."
The White House Library faded and was replaced by film of an field reporter standing on a residential street, the still-burning rubble of a home behind him. Daniel gasped, as did Jack, Sam and Cassie. They all watched again as the reporter told of the supposed alien ship coming down out of the sky to destroy a Colorado Springs home. A drawing of the alleged ship appeared on screen before fading out to reveal Peter Jennings once again.
"Three days ago, hundreds of calls flooded our phone lines as people strove to tell us about what appeared to be an 'alien battle' taking place in the skies over Colorado. A multitude of email arrived, many with photos attached, describing the air fight in great detail. Our own ABC affiliate in Colorado Springs captured much of the battle themselves before it ended in a way that left reporters stunned. Were these events real? Did an alien ship really destroy a home in suburbia Colorado Springs? Was there a battle in the skies over Colorado? Or was it something else? Speculation flew hard and fast as the government and the military remaining silent... until tonight.
"Tonight, the world will hear the truth. Tonight, you will hear about that war with the barbarians at our gate, and about the men and women who have spent seven years fighting a battle most of us can't begin to comprehend. But you will also hear how they've spent those years as explorers, the kind many of us have only dreamt of becoming. They have been to the stars and worlds beyond our galaxy, explored cultures that many scientists would give an arm to study. Soldier or scientist, I consider all of them to be great warriors who have protected us from a danger we will only begin to understand tonight. In a few moments, you will have the opportunity to meet some of them."// His expression changed ever so slightly to one that hinted of a challenge.
//"Tonight - you, the people of Earth, will be able to answer the questions I asked earlier.
As for myself, I wonder if can we set our egos aside, set aside the safe and oh so comfortable belief that we are alone in the universe when the truth is told. I guess we're about to find out. What you are about to see is the completed documentary that was begun a few months ago in Colorado Springs within what is known as Cheyenne Mountain. It was a documentary that no one believed would see the light of day for years - if ever - but you're going to see it tonight. It will not always be easy to watch so gather your family around you and be prepared to discuss the documentary with your children when it's over."//
He walked back to the chair and retook his seat.
//"Join me now as we are introduced to the men and women of ... Stargate Command."// During the special, not one word had been said by anyone in the large room within Cheyenne Mountain, but now a buzz began as shocked SGC personnel began to whisper rapidly. For Daniel's part, he couldn't tear his eyes from the screen even as Jack leaned into him and asked, "Are you ready for this, Daniel?"
If the lighting had been better, Jack would have been able to note how pale Daniel had gone. When Daniel didn't answer right away, Jack whispered, "Hey, you okay?"
Eyes still glued to the screen, which was now full of the Colorado mountains as seen from the air, Daniel said, "This isn't happening, Jack. They can't... he asked me about... and dying and coming back, and people can't ... God, Jack, they can't hear that...."
General Hammond, sensing Daniel's distress, leaned forward and, catching Daniel's words, said, "It was taken out, Daniel. When President Hayes called and told me to gather everyone together for this, he gave me only two real pieces of information. He said, 'Tell Doctor Jackson all footage of the discussion regarding his miracle ascension and the fortunate descension that brought him back to us has been cut.'"
Daniel blew out a puff of air and melted back against his chair. "Thank God," he whispered.
On the other side, Sam was undergoing her own brand of nerves as she thought back to all the innuendos regarding her "admiration" of her commanding officer. After Hammond finished reassuring his number one civilian, he turned to Sam and whispered, "Some of your footage was cut as well, Major."
Her relief was as palpable as Daniel's had been.
At that moment, a wave of "Oh's" rose from the men and women of the SGC and those in the front row found their attention returning to the screen -- and the title that loomed large, almost obscuring the entrance to NORAD.
"The Battle for Earth - the story of the Heroes of Stargate Command."
Daniel felt Cassie's hand slip into his and he squeezed it gently even as he gave her a small reassuring smile.
The documentary began.
No one had seen Bregman's masterpiece except the General so the silence that greeted the first few scenes was a testament to Bregman's talent. He'd managed, in a few simple opening shots to convey the overall idea that the audience was seeing a normal military base and operation. Men and women in uniform moving quickly down typical military halls, equipment the average audience could immediately identify as being military: radar screens, maps and tracking systems, briefing rooms, and the tunnel entrance to Cheyenne Mountain, a familiar sight to many Americans.
A voice almost everyone in the room instantly recognized as belonging to Clint Eastwood began to share information about the Cheyenne Mountain complex. The American public was reminded that Cheyenne Mountain now housed seven centers: the Air Defense Operations Center, the Missile Warning Center, the Space Control Center, NORAD (the most well known), the Combined Intelligence Watch Center, the National Warning Facility, the Weather Support Center, and finally, the Space and Warning Systems Center.
The scene changed to an elevator and level numbers as the elevator descended into the bowels of the Mountain -- and finally to a room with which SG-1 was very familiar; General Hammond's briefing room.
The cameraman was obviously standing at the head of the table as the audience could see down the length of it, at the usual folders in place at each seat, and finally the flags at the far wall. Eastwood informed the audience that this was no ordinary briefing room. The camera panned right, to the shielded observation window.
The shield rose dramatically to reveal... the Stargate.
Eastwood then explained that Cheyenne Mountain was also home to Earth's most secret center; Stargate Command. At that point, they cut to Bregman. He was seated in a home both Jack and Daniel immediately recognized as belonging to Catherine. The camera panned away from Bregman and focused on Catherine as the words, 'Doctor Catherine Langford-Littlefield' appeared at the bottom of the screen.
For the next few minutes, Catherine explained how the Stargate had been found. She told of the frustrating years in the forties when the government first tried to unlock its secrets, then to the nineties when the government brought together the greatest minds to once again attempt to unlock the "great ring". She explained how, for two years, a team of archaeologists and physicists spent countless hours of trial and error in their attempt to "turn it on".
Catherine then smiled knowingly at the camera as Bregman asked her how it had finally happened.
//"I'd been following the career of a remarkable young archaeologist and, after a particularly frustrating day that led us exactly nowhere, I found myself thinking of him. His theories on the pyramids were extremely unusual and thus had not found a home in the archaeology community in spite of the soundness of his assumptions. You see, he believed that the great pyramids of Giza had been built earlier than the more acceptable timeline. I also suspect that he believed they were not built by anyone on ... Earth. Of course, he was proved correct but never been allowed to share that with the very community that shunned him."
"How does this relate to the Stargate?"
"Well, it was his ability to think so far outside of the box that you'd need - a Stargate -- to join him, that led me to seek him out in trying to solve our little... puzzle. At that time, he was fluent in over twenty languages and held not one but two doctorates even though he was not yet thirty.-"
"How many languages now, Doctor?"//
The audience watched Catherine's face crinkle delightedly as she grinned.
//"Now? Oh, it must well over thirty - if you count all the variations of ancient -- and believed dead -- languages he's had the opportunity hear and study.
"Anyway, I flew to New York as he was giving a lecture, one that, I might add, left him without an audience as again his theories were met scorn from his fellow archaeologists. I caught him after the lecture series ended and made my offer. One I was certain he wouldn't be able to turn down. At the time, he'd been evicted from his apartment and all his possessions were packed into two pieces of luggage.
"Fortunately for all of us, the young man, Doctor Daniel Jackson, took me up on my offer."//
A picture of Daniel, clearly from his first military I.D. badge, appeared on screen and
Daniel immediately slunk down in his chair and ducked his head. To his relief,
the picture faded out and everyone found themselves in another military office with Bregman. The camera moved to focus on Jack as the bottom of the screen told the world that this was Colonel Jonathan 'Jack' O'Neill..
//"Daniel? Hell, yeah, I remember our first meeting. He'd already made fools out of the so-called 'experts' after taking only seconds to correctly translate some mumbo-jumbo found on the cover stone that had been placed over the Stargate. I wish you could have seen him. A tall straggly kid, all hair and glasses and words that, and I'm not ashamed to admit it, went completely over my head - and the heads of those experts as he destroyed all their preconceived ideas. In seven days, and that's right, you heard me - seven days - he did what no one had been able to do in years; he discovered what the symbols on the Stargate, something he hadn't even seen yet, meant. In seven days, Daniel made 'em all look like fools."// A voice from off screen, Bregman's voice, interrupted Jack.
//"Why were you involved, Colonel?"//
The audience watched Jack scowl, clearly unhappy at having to answer, but then his expression cleared as his chin lifted almost stubbornly.
//"I was put in charge in case they succeeded. Although, to be truthful, no one really expected Daniel to figure out how to open it, let alone that we'd actually travel to the other side. But if the experts did get it open, I was to lead a team through the 'Gate and destroy what might be on the other side. The fear was that what we could travel through, others could use to get to us. Well, Daniel got it open, we went through, and we found a whole hell of a lot more than we'd ever bargained for, I can tell you that."//
Again Bregman's voice interrupted.
//"How did Doctor Jackson figure it out?"//
This time the audience was privy to a rare O'Neill smile. Pure and joyful, it sparkled within the depths of the coffee-colored eyes.
//"That was a real piece of work. It's like two in the morning, he goes for his always-needed cup of java but he's out. He needs to refill the pot with water, so he goes into the hall where a guard is reading the paper. While filling the pot, he glances over at the paper in the guy's hands and sees a small photo of the constellation Orion. Get it? Orion?"
"No, sorry, I don't."
"Don't worry, I doubt anyone else would either, and I'm betting a million other brain trusts could have looked at the exact same picture and NOT have seen what Daniel did, let alone do what Daniel did."
"He connected the dots."// Jack watched himself on the screen and imagined the people in front of their television sets trying to figure out what Daniel had seen in Orion, let alone what 'dots' he'd connected. Jack grinned.
//"You still don't get it, do you?"
"No, Colonel, I'm afraid I don't."'
"When he connected the dots, in this case, the stars, one of the 'Gate symbols was formed. Daniel saw it in his head, knew immediately that the symbols were constellations if you connected all the stars."
"Of course, the so-called experts said it still wouldn't work because he hadn't found the all important seventh symbol-"
"Ah, this would be the part about finding a destination in any three dimensional space-
"Right. You need two points to determine height, two for width, and two for depth-"
"But what about this all important seventh symbol?"
"Funny, that's exactly what everyone asked Daniel. Point of origin. And if you tell Daniel I was able to repeat any of this, in fact, if you tell anyone I was able to repeat this, well, let's just say you'll be getting a first hand look at a black hole."
"Colonel, it's altogether possible that someday, the entire world will be seeing this."
"Hell, I'll be dead by then."
"Okay, so back to the seventh symbol?"
"Yeah, sure. So Daniel describes the seventh symbol and one of the doctors says that it's not on the ring and that gets Daniel's interest pronto. General West-"
"General Hammond's predecessor?"
"You got it. Anyway, he looks at me, and I can see that this wunderkind might be the key to everything, so I nod and West gives the okay for the big shield that's hiding the 'Gate room to be lifted and Daniel gets his first look at the Stargate. I swear, it was like looking at a kid who'd been given the key to F.A.O. Schwartz along with the ownership papers. By the time I got down to the control room, Daniel had identified the seventh symbol, which had been there all the time, in front of them all."// The screen suddenly shifted to the Stargate room where the 'Gate could be seen turning. The camera remained fixed on the 'Gate as a voice intoned, "Fifth chevron locked. Sixth Chevron now locked." And finally, "Seventh chevron locked."
A moment later, the world was able to witness for the first time, the opening of the Stargate.
Watching the documentary, Daniel managed to slide lower and lower in his seat. In spite of no one being able to see him, he knew his face was beet red and all he could think was that damn it, he'd only done what Catherine and Sam probably would have done eventually. No big deal. He was extremely grateful when Bregman started interviewing Sam. He sighed in relief, a sigh loud enough that Jack heard it and, in the dark, reached for his hand.
They were forty minutes into the documentary. SG-1 had been introduced as the first team to be named to the program and the people of Earth had been introduced to their first alien in Teal'c. But so far, the man who'd opened the 'Gate had not appeared other than when his photo had been shown during Catherine's interview. Now, finally, as if Bregman had known that his audience would be chomping at the bit to see the "magic man", the screen was filled with Daniel's office - and Daniel. Across the bottom of the screen, the words "Doctor Daniel Jackson" flashed in white. Whistles and a few 'yoohaws' greeted the lettering, causing Daniel to slide even lower in his seat.
Jack leaned in and whispered, "You slink down any further in that seat of yours and you'll be on the floor, Danny."
"If there's a hole down there, so be it," Daniel hissed back.
Jack chuckled and, in a voice just loud enough for everyone to hear, said "Can I have your autograph, Doctor Dan-ny?"
Laughter and more whistles, along with several "me toos" sounded which only served to put Daniel in an almost prone position, his legs so far out in front of him, he really was close to falling out of his seat.
Bregman's off-camera voice caught everyone's attention again as many leaned forward to listen to the interview they'd been waiting to hear.
//"How do you believe history will view your accomplishments, Doctor Jackson?"
"My accomplishments? Don't you mean the SGC's?"
"You opened the Stargate, Doctor."
"Yes, that. How do you think you'll be seen when all of this comes to light? As a hero, or?"
"I don't think it will come up ...much. An entire team really opened the Stargate, and to be frank, it was opened for the first time over fifty years ago. A very brave young scientist, Ernest Littlefield was the first man to go through it and if anyone should be remembered, it should be him."
"I've heard about that from Doctor Catherine Langford, who-"
"Littlefield. Doctor Catherine Langford-Littlefield."
"Ah, yes. Doctor Lang-Littlefield believes it was luck, that back then they had no idea what they were really doing. You, on the other hand, correctly translated the cover stone, a feat that no one had been able to do, and opened it as it was meant to be opened. So I ask you again, how will you be viewed in the annals of history?"//
The audience watched Daniel pick up a pen and begin to play with it as he pondered a question that he'd clearly never considered. For those who knew Daniel, they also recognized the pen playing as one of his premiere nervous gestures.
//"I ... suspect... I may be... hated? Believed to be evil? I've already been accused of being the male version of Pandora and I don't believe that will change."
"But Pandora got the box-"
"Yes, I know, closed in time to keep hope inside. Funnily enough, there are actually two versions of Pandora's Box. One tells us the box contained all kinds of misery. When Pandora opened the box a plague dispersed and doomed humanity to suffer ruin, insanity, and despair. She hastily closed the box to stop the plague but, pathetically, only Hope remained inside. In the other version the box held all of humanity's glories. When she opened the box progress, knowledge, and exaltation vanished into oblivion, forever lost to humanity."
"Which do you believe, Doctor Jackson?"
"I think the Stargate has nothing to do with Pandora's Box. I believe that ultimately, it will save us all - unite us all - and give us a future that not even Star Trek hinted at. Is there danger inherent with keeping the Stargate open? Undeniably. Just as there is danger inherent in aiming for the moon, Mars, the stars - space flight. Forty years ago we asked ourselves what might we encounter as we put astronauts into space, but ego- wise, we were pretty sure we were alone in the universe. We're not. By any means. That's going to hurt - when the truth is finally told. We like the idea that we're it. The Stargate kind of pulls that rug right out from under us, you know?"
"All right, so there are dangers. What do you have to offer the public that will make the dangers worthwhile?"
"Whoa, you're not asking much, are you?"
"I'm simply anticipating what the American public -- and the world - will wonder and ask and worry about, Doctor."//
The pen action increased on screen and Jack, watching silently, had the overwhelming urge to punch Bregman's lights out for putting this all on Daniel.
//Well, other than the obvious, namely defeating an enemy not even the most imaginative science fiction writer could have developed..."//
The audience watched as Daniel rethought his words. Finally he glanced back up at the camera.
//"You know, I'd like to say that we've found the cure for all the illnesses on Earth, that we found ways to end world hunger and that on P3X-something or other, we found a magic wand that will bring peace to the world, but I can't. I'm afraid that all we've found so far is a new energy source and a few plants that have excellent healing properties. On the other hand, we've discovered more about our own history then we could ever have found, and we found other worlds inhabited by people from Earth who'd been stolen by the Goa'uld and relocated. We've found friends and allies, people of great generosity who welcomed us without question. We also found a wonderful and loyal friend who gave up everything to help us with the outside hope that ultimately his own people would be free of the Goa'uld-"
"That would be the alien, Teal'c, right?"
"To him, we're the aliens, but yes, Teal'c. We also found incredibly advanced civilizations who wisely - or not - have refrained from sharing their technology with us-"
"Excuse me? Why wouldn't they share what they have with us? They must know the battle we face-"
"They do, they also know the battles waged on this very planet - amongst ourselves. We can hardly help anyone if we destroy ourselves first. Humanity somehow manages to find ways to pervert discoveries into weapons of mass destruction on a fairly regular basis. We're a complicated race."//
Daniel was inordinately pleased when Bregman shifted his interest and the documentary to Sam. He could sit up again and enjoy the show as he tried to see it from the prospective of the typical American or anyone else who'd been kept in the dark. It was remarkably easy for him to do and he found himself in awe of the program he'd been involved with for seven years. The sense of the miraculous seemed to be the overpowering theme that ran through his head, and the fact that he'd had even a small part in it was leaving him almost breathless. He could somehow sense excitement building in John and Jane Q Public, and a desire to be a part of the SGC. He could imagine an average Joe sitting forward in his seat, barely blinking, while he watched. He could see the children seated with their parents for the first time in a long time, and finding it hard to believe what they were seeing and hearing. But they wanted to believe.
Daniel somehow knew that the public was mentally reaching out to embrace the Stargate as a way out of the downward spiral the world seemed to be taking. He could only hope they wouldn't be disappointed.
He listened to an oddly shy, yet excited Sam, then a taciturn Teal'c who, after some careful editing and the adding of later footage, appeared a bit more loose and amenable to Bregman's questions.
//"I am honored in my friendship with O'Neill. He is a great warrior and leader, and yes, I knew instinctively that he was the one to aid me in my quest-"
"To free your people?"
"How is that coming, by the way?"//
Jack leaned forward and hissed out, "Oh, for crying out-"
"But he's baiting him...."
"No, he's not. He knows exactly what he's doing. Watch."
Jack gave a Daniel a dirty look and received Daniel's smiling profile in response. He looked back at the screen.
//"We freed them thirty minutes after O'Neill aided me."
"My God, he got Teal'c to smile," Jack hissed to Daniel.
//"Ah, I get it. You're proving to the watching public that you have a sense of humor."
"I learned much from O'Neill."
"Yes, I believe Major Ferretti mentioned a few of the things you've learned from Colonel O'Neill. Something about a whoopee cushion being placed strategically so that a visiting member of Congress would have the joy of sitting on it during an important meeting."
"Ah, yes. O'Neill is very ... imaginative. I believe that is the correct term. He seemed to think the cushion was an appropriate accouterment for that particular individual."
"Yes, I'm sure he did. You know, I've had some difficulty ... pinning Colonel O'Neill down. He's the leader of SG-1, the flagship team of the entire SGC. It's important to hear from him."
"He does not ... approve. I do not believe that I approve."
"What do you think I'm trying to do here?"
"Perhaps you should be telling me?"
"Can't argue with that. I suppose... in the beginning, I didn't have a clue. I had no idea what this was all about or what any of you really did. But now I know and I want to tell the world, in as eloquent a manner as possible, all that you do. I want the world to know all of you. I want to bring you into their homes and help them understand what they owe you-"
"We are owed nothing. We do this of our own free will, do we not? To protect is the most honorable thing one can do."
"Of course. But the public needs to know that you are willing to lay down your life for them, that many have-"
"I believe O'Neill would argue with you. He would tell you, as he once told Master Bra'tac, that the ideal situation is one where you allow your opponent to lay down his life for his cause."//
The audience laughed with Bregman as Jack reached over and gave Teal'c a playful punch in the arm. "Not bad, T. Not bad at all."
Jack felt his heart lurch a bit as Hammond's turn came with Bregman. Talk about eloquence. He reached for Daniel's hand again.
//"What does it feel like, working with these people every day, watching them go through that 'Gate, not knowing what they'll really find on the other side, let alone what condition they might be in when they return - if they return?"
"It's hell, pure and simple. I never fully appreciated the phrase, 'They also serve who stand and wait' but I understand it now. Way too well, if you ask me."
"But you've been through the 'Gate?"
"I have. E Ticket all the way. My respect and awe went up another million notches. I've had a long career in the Air Force, but nothing could have prepared me for this project or the incredible heroism and sacrifice that I've witnessed in the last seven years. I bore witness to the losses, the victories, both joyful and bittersweet. I have felt their frustration when nothing they brought back seemed to satisfy, when the simple act of discovering new worlds and both old and new cultures couldn't fill the need that certain... individuals demanded. This world has been directly saved by the men and women of the SGC on a regular basis, yet it was never enough, never-"
"Some would say the danger would not have existed if the Stargate had not been opened to begin with, General."
"They're wrong. Dangerously wrong. The Stargate is not needed by the Goa'uld to invade Earth. They have already come by ship. We, meaning SG-1, stopped them. Four people with the help of a handful of Jaffa stopped the invasion. An invasion that would have come no matter what. That's what the Goa'uld do. And they'd already been here once, a fact that the powers that be seemed to consistently ignore.
"Many of the worlds we discovered were populated by the descendents of our ancestors, ancestors stolen - and enslaved -- by the Goa'uld. No, the opening of the Stargate saved us. Of that, I'm positive. In fact, I'll go one better. The precise timing of the opening was critical in protecting us. I have no doubt that eventually, somehow, the experts would have found a way. We do that - find ways. But it would have been too late. Eons too late."//
The scene shifted to the briefing room and again, focused on Jack. He was seated at the other end of the table and his expression this time, while not cold, was less than welcoming. Off camera, Bregman could be heard clearing his throat before he spoke. Daniel immediately realized that he was looking at what had been filmed before the previous, more relaxed, interview.
//"Why should we keep the Stargate open?"
"Because it's our only hope."
"That sounds fairly dire, Colonel. After all, we got along just fine before it was opened, why can't-"
"No, actually, we didn't. We're still not doing 'fine'. But maybe, someday, thanks to that thing out there, we can get to fine. Maybe even great."
"How can the Stargate help?"
"I'm not the one you need to ask. You need to talk to Daniel, he can-"
"You mean Doctor Jackson?"
"Yep. He's the man who can explain that which can't always be easily quantified. I can tell you about leading incredibly brave men and women through the 'Gate and onto worlds we have few clues about, and I can tell you about the military mind-set, but that's not what the Stargate is all about. It's about the future and that's where Daniel comes in. He's our resident 'future man', the guy that keeps reminding us of the greater picture here. Yeah, he's your man. He once told me that the SGC may be the single most important human endeavor for the future of mankind and while I didn't get it then, I do now. I can't explain, but I get it."
"Could you try, Colonel? It's important to hear from a man with this 'military' mind set."
"Okay... how 'bout... living history?"
"It's living history. Surely you've heard that the best way to keep from repeating history, is to learn it and remember it?"
"Well, you go through the 'Gate and you're likely to come face-to-face with our living history. Cultures long dead on this planet, alive and well on others. Living lives that often parallel ours but with the kind of differences that can help us today. And on a more practical level, there are hundreds and thousands of worlds out there that are literally a Stargate away. Planets with space, agriculture, and natural resources that are cherished by the inhabitants of those planets.
"Our ancestors left the shores of their worlds to come to what they called the New World. Once here, they eventually left secure lives to travel West. It's who we are. And now? Now we can travel to other planets just by walking through that big giant ring out there."
"You're doing a pretty good job of explaining, Colonel."
"I've been listening to Daniel for years. It's called learning by osmosis."
"What about the dangers? Isn't it true that since the 'Gate opened, Earth has come close to destruction numerous times?"
"Undeniably true. But without it, Earth would no longer exist. The Goa'uld would have come, conquered, destroyed and enslaved just as they've done to hundreds of other worlds. One thing I've learned in the years of 'Gate travel is that there will always be something we have to worry about. If not the Goa'uld, then something else. We need the Stargate. We need allies and we need all that we can learn out there. We need good people walking through the Stargate and good people who must stay behind and keep it operating. We need good people in Washington who understand and have the necessary vision to see all that Stargate travel has to offer this planet."
"Sounds like a recruiting spiel, Colonel."
"I'll leave that to Daniel."//
Once again the scene shifted to the hallways of the SGC where Daniel was apparently talking to Bregman. Daniel pulled a pager from his pocket, his expression telegraphing excitement to the audience.
//"Will you excuse me?"//
People all over the world watched almost breathless as the man they now knew had been responsible for opening of the Stargate, rushed passed Bregman. Knowing all that the audience now knew about the man, they leaned forward in anticipation as Bregman motioned for the camera to follow as they chased after the scientist who was now running pell mell for his office, bumping into personnel as he ran.
Bregman could be heard urging his camera crew on, his own breaths coming in short pants. Eventually, the camera followed Daniel into his office and over to a fax machine.
//Dr. Jackson? What is it? What is it?"
"Sorry, could you just slow down ... what?
"It's the mass fragment I collected from P3X-298. It was covered in the domestic, pre- dynastic period of Egypt here on Earth."
"And what is it ... Could you get a shot of this."//
The camera zoomed in so that the audience could read: 'INTERNAL FAX: Laboratory results'.
//"And ... ah ... what is the significance of that?"
"It's ... OK ... back up, back up ... err ... that's it ... it's fascinating? Why were we running?
"Oh, I just wanted to see if you'd chase me."//
The SGC audience laughed riotously as Daniel showed the world a side of himself rarely seen.
"Bregman is good," Jack whispered to Daniel as they watched what was obviously a piece that had been added recently - an interview with President Henry Hayes. While it was short, it was nevertheless powerful as Hayes managed to convey his awe as well as his understanding of why the Stargate had been kept a secret. Bregman then cut away with a nice segue into "those that stay behind".
Siler and Davis were both interviewed, both adding, unintentionally, some additional levity. But then the scene shifted to the Infirmary - and Janet. She was smiling at the camera, her energy and effervescence a living thing. Bregman's voice asked her a question about the many injuries of SG-1 and the other teams, and she shrugged.
// Yeah, I never know what's next ... you just ... try and keep your head on straight ... then again we also set a lot of broken bones and subscribe a ton of antibiotics so ..."
"But still it sometimes must be overwhelming right?"
"Yeah, you know it's funny, you think all the training, everything we know about medicine ... really it amounts to very little ... I mean often I'm faced with situations that there really is nothing I can do ...."//
Jack blinked back a sharp memory as he thought of her helplessness when dealing with Daniel's radiation exposure. He knew instinctively that she was referring to exactly that incident with her words.
//"Is there an upside?"
"Are you kidding me? I think the reason we all manage to persevere is because we feel that we're on the brink of understanding so much more ... and not just about medicine but about who we are, you know ... and where we came from, what the future has in store, how ... how we fit into the grand scheme of things ...."
"UNSHEDULED OFFWORLD ACTIVATION - REPEAT UNSHEDULED OFFWORLD ACTIVATION!"
"That unscheduled off ... we've heard that before, is that an unusual thing?"
"No, it simply means a recognition code hasn't been received yet... usually."
"And ... what ... what does it mean?"
"Your guess is as good as mine."//
The scene slowly faded as gradually the scenes of a battle came to the forefront, and Earth witnessed their first 'off world' battle with the Goa'uld.
In the front row, Cassie found herself leaning into Daniel. She knew what was coming and she understood why, but she wasn't ready for it. Daniel's arm slipped around her and she was relieved when she felt herself being pulled in close. She didn't want to bury her head in the warmth and protection that was Daniel, but she was glad the offer was there.
The screen came alive as soldiers ran across a field and fired their P-90's. Jaffa were seen firing back with their staff weapons. Images of Peltac's and gliders swooping in on the soldiers of the SGC filled the sky while explosions burst behind and below. The sounds of battle faded as a calm voice overrode the explosions....
//"I'm Dr Janet Fraiser. Can you hear me?"//
The battle scene completely faded away, only the sounds of it as proof that it was still being waged. Cassie found herself staring up at her mother. She gave a small gasp and was grateful when Daniel's arm tightened around her. Below her mother, a wounded man lay on the ground, his face scrunched up in pain as he moaned.
//"Yeah ... hurts so bad! ... I can't move ... can't feel my legs! ... I think it went right thru me!"//
Now Daniel could be heard as his face briefly appeared within view of the camcorder.
// "What's your name?"
"Senior Airman Wells ... Simon Wells ... Am I gonna die?//
Now Janet could be seen as she leaned in and began to examine the young soldier. Her face was a study in determination and caring.
//"Not if I have anything to do with it. OK, we need to roll him over, and stop the bleeding ...OK? Simon, you hanging in there? OK ...easy ... All right on three ... one ... two ... three ...//
Watching Daniel and Janet turn the young soldier over, no one was prepared for the soldier's scream of pain. Cassie buried herself against Daniel but couldn't keep her eyes from the screen. She watched as Daniel forced the young man to look at him as he spoke in a deceptively calm voice.
//"I'm Daniel Jackson-"
"I know, I know ... SG-1."
"OK, you're gonna be fine, just fine...."
"Son of a bitch ... he came out of NOWHERE! Shot me in the back-"
"Let's talk about something else right now, Simon ... What's going on at home right now?"
"My wife ... she's pregnant...."
"Yeah?! This, uh ... this your first? ... congratulations...."//
The audience could see Janet working on the wounded man as Daniel tried to take his mind off the pain, but suddenly another scream interrupts Daniel's words. Janet can be seen touching the man's face gently.
//"That's good! At least you felt that!"//
Before Wells can respond, Daniel's radio crackles and a loud voice interrupts the scene.
//"Colonel O'Neill! Our positions been compromised! We're not gonna be able to hold the 'Gate very long...."//
The battle can be heard through the radio, as well as the shouts of other men. Janet leans closer to Daniel's radio.
//"Colonel! I need more time to stabilize this patient ... he can't be moved yet...."
"You can't help me! Leave me!
"Nobody is going anywhere...."
"I can't believe I'm not gonna see my son!"//
Daniel's bloodied hand can then be seen covering the wound even as his voice is heard trying to calm the man down while Janet works to stabilize him in spite of the fact that it's obvious the battle is drawing closer to their position.
//"Ok, just stay focused, stay focused.... so, it ... it... it's a BOY you're ... gonna have?"
"Tell me the truth ... I'm not gonna make it, right??"//
The audience watches as Janet hands Daniel an IV bag. Their eyes meet and the audience can see Janet's stubbornness. It's clear that she's not going to let the boy die. Daniel can be seen nodding before he answers Wells.
//"You're gonna be fine...."
"Doctor Jackson... please! Please! Just let me tell my wife! Let me tell my wife that-"//
His words are lost as he screams again. The picture is wobbly now as the camera captures Daniel's face in a close up. It's clear that he's picking it up and it's equally clear from his expression that he hadn't realized that it had been on. Trees, sky, the ground, all flash over the screen as Daniel gets ready to help Wells send a message to his wife. It hits briefly on Janet, who can just be seen still working feverishly and talking to the young man.
//"Got it ... breathe, Simon ... It's ok, Simon..."//
The camera is clearly turned toward Simon and Daniel's voice can be heard as Simon's anguished face can now be seen.
//"Ok, you tell her yourself."
"I'm so sorry about this... love you so much... god I just, I just wanted ahhhh ahhhhhhh.god god shut it off. Shut it off, I don't want her to see me die. Please God."//
The camera drops but is still on. While the scene it captures is at a strange angle, Wells and Janet can be clearly seen as she leans over Simon and captures his face between her bloodied hands.
//"Simon, Simon! Look at me you are not going to die ok? I did not come all the way out here for nothing. Now we've stemmed the bleeding. We're gonna get you to a stretcher. We're going to get you home with your family in no time ok? Now you hang in there airman."
Daniel, knowing what was about to come, quickly put his hand on the side of Cassie's head. "Don't look now," he whispered softly.
"No, no, I have to. I have to. For my ... mom."
Daniel closed his eyes, took a deep breath - then opened them. He knew he had to look as well, even though he rarely forgot it.
At that moment, with the camera awkwardly focused on Janet, the sound of a staff blast could be heard, followed by an immediate flash of light shooting past Daniel... and stricking Janet square in the chest with enough force to toss her backward. Wells voice is the next thing the audience can hear.
//"Oh god what happened? Is she hit?"//
The camera isn't moving and all that anyone can see is a part of Wells and ... Janet's lifeless body as Daniel and others continue to yell. Shadows move in and temporarily block the view of Janet and it's clear that others have arrived and are taking Wells.
Daniel appears again, by Janet's side, just as Wells is carried off.
//"Janet!! I need a medic Fraiser's been hit I need a medic! Sierra Gulf Niner ... aghh I need a medic!"//
The scene fades as slowly a picture of the Stargate takes shape. The 'Gate room comes into view and it's clearly some kind of ceremony. A moment later, the audience sees Major Carter standing before a podium.
//"Janet Frasier was an extraordinary person. She was kind and funny and talented. Above all, she was courageous. Try as I might I could not find the words to honor her. To do justice to her life. Thankfully I got some help. While words alone may not be enough, there are some names that might. We often talk about those that give their lives in the service of their country, and while Janet Frasier did just that, it's not what her life was about. The following are the names of the men and women who did not die in the service of their country, but who are, in fact, alive today because of Janet.
"Major Samantha Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson, Colonel Jack O'Neill, Teal'c, Sergeant Connie Smith, Major Ian Hewles, Senior Airman Simon Wells...."//
As Carter continued to read off names, the 'Gate room faded, to be replaced by more battle scenes. World War I and II, the Korean War, the war in Viet Nam and Iraq, and finally - scenes of space battles with ships never before seen, and ground battles between men and women wearing the SGC patch and strange creatures with even stranger weapons. The audience watched, breathless, as SGC soldiers fell, and as the enemy fell - again and again and again. Finally, Clint Eastwood's voice replaced Sam's.
//"Our armed forces have turned the tide of world wars. Young men and women from our great country's four corners have humbled history's worse times. We carve our thanks in stone. We stamp it into metals. We carefully tend to the vast fields where the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom now lie. But more than ever in our history, we must come together as a world and not a single country. We must remember those who have fallen, we must pass their stories of courage to the next generation, but we must also realize that the battleground has changed and that our soldiers, all the soldiers of our world, bleed red blood. We've taken the battle to space, to other worlds, but we're still human and it will take all of us, every man, woman and child on this planet we call Earth, to continue the fight. We must support the men and women of the SGC if we are to preserve life as we know it...."//
The final shot showed a single SG unit made up of four men and two women. They were all down on one knee on the ground of what appeared to be a meadow, but in the background rose the ruins of strange buildings never seen on Earth, and beyond the buildings... two moons hung in the strangely shaded blue and orange-muted sky. Superimposed over the scene, a parade of flags representing every nation on Earth.
It was over.
Peter Jennings once again appeared on the screen.
//"And now, a message from the President of the United States of America."//
Cassie was crying openly by the time President Hayes appeared in the Oval Office -- and she wasn't alone. Sam didn't even bother to wipe the tears from her cheeks and others were sobbing as openly as Cassie. Jack was very aware of the man next to him, thanks to the fact that Daniel had pulled his very warm hand out of Jack's. In spite of the fact that Daniel was still busy comforting Cassie, Jack, who understood Daniel's body language better than his own, knew that Daniel had withdrawn deep into himself. And that was bad.
//"A great secret was kept from us all for many years and I am guilty of keeping the same secret. I do not stand before you as the man who chose to reveal the secret, that decision was taken from me when the battle with the Goa'uld was brought to our skies. A battle that was inevitable. A battle that we won thanks to the SGC and the Stargate and a battle we were prepared to wager thanks to Doctor Daniel Jackson. He, along with Colonel O'Neill, found the weapon needed to defeat the latest threat to our planet.
"I come to you tonight to show my complete, unwavering faith and support in Stargate Command. We have long dreamed of conquering space, discovering new worlds beyond our own and, thanks to the Stargate, we're doing just that. The only difference is that instead of great ships like the ones our imaginative science fiction writers have given us, we're simply walking through a great ring. Not that space ships aren't part of the picture. The recent battle would never have been won without loss of life if not for a 'space ship' we call the Prometheus. As the upcoming weeks unfold, more will be shared regarding the Prometheus and many other wonders that have been a result of the Stargate, so I won't take up valuable air time to discuss them now. What I do want to want to say to the world is more of a plea: Do not fear this miracle. I ask you, beg you, do not turn your backs on the men and women who have fought so bravely, and yes, secretly, to protect us. They have carried a great burden and we now have the opportunity to help shoulder that burden. Imagine how it has been for them all these years. Imagine the difficulty of going home after a day spent on another world, perhaps locked in deadly battle with an alien, yet unable to talk about it to your family?
"They fight for a world that will someday be and I am here today to ask that we begin to form that world now. In the coming days, you will have the opportunity to again meet SG-1 and other members of the SGC. You will have another chance to listen to them, to hear their stories, and it is my hope that we will embrace them.
"I am not alone in my respect of the SGC or in the need we have for keeping it going. The governments of France, England, China, Japan, Russia, Canada, South Africa, Spain, and Mexico agree and the leaders of those countries will follow me in this broadcast as they add their plea to mine. I know the weeks and months ahead will be a time of revelations, discussions and questions, but in the meantime, should we not celebrate this victory? Should we not tell the men and women who have defended us that we are grateful and will never forget them? I pray that the answer is yes.
"I thank you."//
The screen went black, and for a moment, there was no sound in the room other than the occasional sniffling and blowing of noses. Cassie's tears were flowing, but silently as she clung to Daniel, her right hand in Sam's. Sam was still staring at the dark screen, her own eyes brimming over. Jack was stunned and unable to move, to even glance over at Daniel.
Hammond slowly rose and faced his people.
"The rest of the world is, at this moment, listening to their leaders as we just listened to ours. There will be a great many communiqués coming out in the upcoming weeks, and now that we're no longer a secret, yes, we can all expect some changes. One change that became effective today at noon, is that I have been given the command of... the SGC."
He was unable to say anything else as the every single man, woman, and teenager, jumped to their feet to wildly cheer the news. The tears, for many, fell again, but this time they were definitely tears of joy. Finally, his face flushed a deep crimson, Hammond held up his hands and the room quieted.
"I'd like to thank Doctor Elizabeth Weir, who did the SGC proud as its leader. So much so, that she has accepted a newly created position. She is now the official Ambassador of Stargate Command. She will report directly to the President and to me. She will be responsible for all media exposure and more importantly, the melding of this program from an American operation to an International operation."
He turned to her, smiled, and said, "Doctor Weir, would you like to say a few words?"
Only slightly uncertain, she rose and faced the audience. She cleared her throat, then said, "My few days of warming General Hammond's chair served me well. I learned quickly just what this incredible program is all about, and I found myself in awe of all of you. But I think you should know... I was not the President's first choice as your ambassador. Nor am I the best person for the job. But given the fact that Doctor Daniel Jackson refused the President's offer, preferring to remain with SG-1, I accepted. But if Doctor Jackson thinks I won't be constantly hounding him for advice, he's sadly mistaken."
She paused to look at Daniel and the members of the SGC present took the opportunity to again cheer and applaud both of them. When things quieted down, she added, "I suspect that given the number of times SG-1 has saved the Earth, it might be best for all of us if that particular team... remained intact for a bit longer. Don't you all agree?"
It was a brilliant way of letting everyone know that SG-1 was back, the applause serving to confirm it.
It was after ten and yet SG-1, along with Master Bra'tac and Doctor Weir, were seated in the briefing room at Hammond's request. Hammond himself was still in his office - on the red phone. Jack was seated next to Daniel, with Elizabeth Weir to his left. Across from them sat Sam, Teal'c and Bra'tac. None of them had, as yet, said anything and Jack was getting antsy. Finally he couldn't stand it anymore.
"So. We're public," he said with a half smile.
"Seems so, Sir," Sam agreed.
"More than that, Colonel O'Neill, you and your team are famous."
"Or... infamous," Daniel muttered, his head down as he stared into the dark depths of his coffee cup.
"What, you don't think that special, so brilliantly introduced by the trustworthy Peter Jennings, orated by Dirty Harry himself, and closed by the President and other world leaders, is going to convince the public of how great we are?" Jack asked with faux shock.
"Oh, sure... for about ... twelve hours, give or take. Then reality will set in and we'll be the devil incarnate. Or ... something."
"I think you're wrong, if that matters," Elizabeth interjected. "I truly think the world is ready, and more importantly, needs this now. I think, for the most part, you will all be embraced by the world. Maybe too much -- at least for the next few weeks, anyway. The press will undoubtedly be camping out all over the place-"
"That's exactly why I asked you all to meet me here," Hammond interrupted from the door of his office. He moved to his seat but didn't take it. "The press has been kept from the Mountain, based on security, but that's not stopping them from covering the roads and, in some cases, your homes." He looked at both Jack and Sam when he said the last part.
"So Carter and I can expect to find company camping out on our doorsteps when we get home?"
"I'm afraid so. Press conferences have been scheduled for next week," he held up a hand at their expressions, "I know, that's the last thing any of you want, but it's necessary and all four of you know that. But I've given the President just next week. After that, it's back to world hopping for all of us. In the meantime, that's the statement you can give any press that might run you down or congregate in your driveways. Just tell them you'll be answering questions at various press junkets, that in the meantime you thank them for their interest. Then-"
"Slam the door in their faces?" Jack suggested innocently.
"Jack," Hammond said, the uncharacteristic use of his first name a clue to the seriousness of what he was about to say, "let me just say... seven point two billion dollars."
"Ah, right. The lights."
"Exactly. The press are our friends. Now, do I need us all to repeat that several times?"
"I do not believe it would benefit Master Bra'tac to repeat such a phrase," Teal'c offered helpfully.
Hammond stared at him a moment, then looked at Jack. "That was Jaffa humor, wasn't it?"
"Mmm, no sir, that was... Earth humor," Jack replied smugly.
"He has been corrupted by you, Hu-man," Bra'tac said firmly.
"Indeed," Teal'c intoned.
A burst of laughter from Daniel brought smiles to everyone's face. He'd been too quiet but was now laughing heartily. Jack mouthed a thank you to both Teal'c and Bra'tac, who nodded.
"Yes, well," Hammond finally said as Daniel's laughter decreased to chortles, "with that, I think I can send you home. Master Bra'tac, I believe you will be remaining with us until tomorrow?"
"I am, and thank you. I am heartened by all that I have heard in these last days and believe that the Jaffa and the Taur'i can once again ally themselves with each other."
"Thank you, Master Bra'tac, and I think I can now safely say... dismissed."
"You sure you don't want us to-"
"Colonel, I'm a big girl, I can handle the press."
"Besides, if we know Pete, he's already there, waiting for her," Daniel said with a sly grin.
"You obviously do know Pete," Sam said with her own sly grin.
"Right then, see you Monday, Carter, and welcome back."
"Thank you, sir, and welcome back to you too."
"What, no one is saying welcome back to me?" Daniel asked, frowning.
"You never left, Daniel," Sam said with a wagging finger.
"Only because I didn't have time to, and come on, Jack never left either!"
"You're right; I hereby rescind my 'welcome back, Colonel'."
Daniel promptly stuck his tongue out at Jack.
"Next time," Jack warned, "I take it."
Sam's eyes widened as she said, "Can I watch?"
Jack and Daniel stared at her.
"What? Two gorgeous guys? One taking the other one's-"
"Enough, Carter, enough. Go. Be with Pete. Take his tong-"
Sam waved an arm in the general direction of the exit. "Guys, I'm outta here."
"When were you going to tell me about the President's offer, Daniel?"
They were on their way down the mountain, both on the lookout for the media. Daniel turned in his seat and looked at Jack, at the rather stern profile he was currently presenting, and said, "It was... nothing. It had no meaning."
"No meaning? You're finally being recognized for all your accomplishments, offered the job of a lifetime-"
"I have the job of a lifetime, Jack. Do you really believe I'd be happy wrangling with the press and politicians? Is that really what you see me doing?"
"It would keep you alive, Daniel."
"Well, actually, I'd probably kill myself out of boredom. And speaking of secrets, mon General...."
"You can say that again. You made a deal with Hammond."
"He let it slip?"
"Hardly. Liz did the slipping."
"It's true; George and I did strike a kind of deal. He'll stay for one more year and then I'd accept the promotion and command of the SGC."
"Why the year?"
"You know damn well that I'm not... and he is, and this coming year is going to be full of changes, meetings, stuff...."
"Ah, yes, stuff. You're right. You and stuff aren't exactly compatible."
"So for another year, we go through the 'Gate. SG-1, back in business. And then?"
"Then, you and I find a spot on base where you can... you know, relieve your general of a few... kinks."
"Or we just retire to a nice cabin in Minnesota."
"Or there's that."
"In a year."
"In a year."
Sam groaned as she spotted the mass of people congregating in front of her home. Thank God she had a gate around the house or they'd be on her property. On the other hand, there was no place to park. She gave an exasperated shake of her head and drove slowly past her home. Rob Michaels, one of her neighbors, waved her toward his driveway and she nodded. As she approached, the garage door opened and Pete, framed by the dim garage light, stood grinning at her. God, she loved him. He moved aside and, with a grateful nod to Rob, she pulled in and the door slid shut behind her. Pete opened her door when she turned the engine off and took her hand.
"Good people, the Michaels."
Standing and moving into his waiting arms, she nodded. "Good people, the Shannahans."
"You know it, babe."
He cocked his head, grinned impishly, then kissed her. When they parted, he said, "My car is in the alley behind the house. You ready to head over to the hotel?"
Licking her lips, Sam said, "Hotel?"
"I booked us a suite at the Wyndham. Sauna, room service-"
"Is that an insult to my cooking?"
"Breakfast in bed...."
"Lead on, McDuff, lead on," she said, laughing.
The door behind Pete opened, and as light spilled in from the kitchen, Maggie Michaels said, "Come on in, you two. The coast is clear."
Pete took Sam's hand and led her inside. As she entered the warm, cozy kitchen, she hoped the Colonel and Daniel were having her luck.
The minute Jack turned the corner onto his street both men knew there'd be no privacy this night. The media had landed and were currently parked along Jack's side of the street. Bodies swarmed over his lawn and he groaned at the damage to his front yard.
"Damn, they're destroying everything," he muttered.
"Maybe you'd better drive on and head for a hotel, Jack."
"We need clothes, no matter what we do."
"Jack, I don't have clothes... no matter what we do."
The press had spotted his truck and were already moving toward the driveway. Jack swung in even as he was reaching for the garage remote. Unfortunately, the press were gathering in front of the garage door.
"We'll just move fast. We're good at that."
Jack nodded and turned off the ignition. He turned to Daniel and said, "On three?"
Smiling, Daniel nodded.
"One ... two ... three-"
They both opened their doors, jumped out and started to muscle their way past the reporters and cameramen. Alert neighbors came out of their homes as if they'd simply been waiting for the well-known Avalanche to show up. Microphones were stuck into Jack's face as questions were yelled out, one on top of another until it all sounded like gibberish. He spotted Daniel still stuck in front of the passenger door, two bright video camera lights blinding him.
"DOCTOR JACKSON, HOW DOES IT FEEL-"
"WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY IF-"
"IS IT TRUE YOUR WIFE WAS TURNED INTO A-"
Anger mounting, Jack shoved his way toward Daniel as a barrage of questions were shouted at him.
"COLONEL O'NEILL, DO YOU HAVE ANY REGRETS?"
"HOW MANY MEN AND WOMEN HAVE DI-"
"WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO WALK THROUGH-"
He shouldered his way to Daniel, grabbed the younger man's arm and started to pull. Slowly, they pushed their way up the walk as Jack smiled his most charming smile, the one Daniel immediately recognized as his "I'm really a nice guy, so do this or die" smile. Daniel felt a set of keys being shoved into his hand as Jack held up his arm and said loudly, ""Look, guys, you'll have us for a whole week, interviews to everyone, but right now-"
He got no further. His eyes met Daniel's, a flash went off, blinding him, and that was followed by a dull popping sound that Jack recognized immediately. He frowned, even as he blinked, trying to clear his vision of the circles of bright light. Another dull pop, followed by someone's scream, and Jack blinked again as Daniel's hand squeezed his so tightly, it hurt. He focused in on Daniel, saw the stunned amazement on his face, watched as Daniel's lips moved, realized that people were running and yelling and screaming, heard one voice rising above all else, cutting through the hysteria....
"YOU'RE THE DEVIL, DOCTOR JACKSON, THE DEVIL. YOU OPENED THE GATE TO HELL, YOU'VE BLASPHEMED AGAINST GOD AND SHALL BE RETURNED TO HELL!"
... and another voice, soft, pain-filled....
Metal glittering in the lights of the video cameras; a gun, waved high; two men barreling across the lawn and taking the fanatic down; cameras rolling; Daniel's body thudding into his....
Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel, used his hand against Daniel's back to steady them both... and felt the warm thick liquid on his fingers.
Shocked blue eyes met his, the expression on Daniel's face clearly saying, "I'm sorry" even as they both went down, Jack taking all of Daniel's weight, cushioning him as the ground rose up to meet them.
Someone yelled "CALL THE POLICE" just as someone else yelled, "PLEASE GOD, CALL 911" and Jack realized that the second voice had been his.
He placed his hand against Daniel's right cheek, witnessed the blue eyes glazing over, going cloudy and unfocused, and shook his head. "No, no, no, don't go, don't close your eyes, Daniel, don't go, don't leave me, don't leave me, hold on, help's coming, just... hang on, for me, okay? Hang on for-"
Daniel's fingers gripped Jack's shirt as sightless eyes tried to find him and Daniel's mouth moved again. Jack leaned his head down, putting his ear next to lips now turning blue even as small bubbles of pink froth appeared....
"knew ... it...."
Daniel's hand dropped away. His body seemed to convulse, shudder, then grow horribly and impossibly still.
Lifeless body cradled in his arms, Jack rocked back and forth, only dimly aware of the sobs coming from those that surrounded him.
The press were gone, the neighbors locked away behind their doors, the street quiet and dark. The grass and driveway were littered with the evidence of paramedics and their attempts to treat a man who could not be treated. A dark stain that started on cement and trailed off into the dark grass was a testament to that fact.
Listless, Jack sat on his couch, hands in his lap, eyes on the fire blazing in the fireplace. Behind him, Sam and Pete sat at the kitchen table, cups of hot coffee trapped between nervous fingers. In the spare room, Cassie slept the sleep of the damaged. General Hammond and Teal'c sat watch over Jack. It was two in the morning.
The most difficult part of the last three hours, Hammond thought, as he watched the destroyed man next to him, had been getting Jack away from Daniel's body. Convincing him to let Daniel go. Once they'd been able to do that, thanks to Cassie, it had been a struggle to get Jack to leave the hospital. He hadn't wanted anyone to touch Daniel's body, to do to it what needed to be done. He'd yelled that no one was to cut Daniel or damage him, or "do any of that body crap you butchers practice."
Again, it had been Cassie who'd been able to drag Jack out, begging him to come with her, to help her. Once in the parking lot, they'd bundled Jack into the general's car and now, here they all were, helpless to do anything, feeling a pain that couldn't be expressed, and disbelieving of the events of the last few hours.
They'd gone from wild celebration - to this. To death. Daniel's death at the hands of some religious nut. George knuckled his eyes, then gave himself a small shake. He could still hear Jack's dead-toned voice in the car coming back from the hospital, telling them about Daniel, how he'd fallen into Jack, two bullets in his back, how he'd barely been able to speak, and how he'd died in Jack's arms.
George had the feeling none of them would truly and completely recover from this, from this death, this... murder. He felt the burning sensation behind his eyes again so he closed them - just for a moment - but all he could see was Jack, Daniel's lifeless body in his arms.
Why the FUCK did it have to be Daniel? God DAMN it, hadn't he already given enough to everyone? Did he have to give his life AGAIN? And this time, this time, there'd been no save, no Oma, no miracle.
The couch moved and Hammond opened his eyes. Teal'c was standing over Jack and holding out his hand.
"Come, you need to shower, O'Neill... and change. Then rest."
Jack rose slowly, turned, and started for his bedroom. With a look of misery shared with Hammond, Teal'c followed his friend.
Once in the bedroom, Teal'c guided his friend to the bed and helped him undress. As the bloody clothes were handed to him, he took them almost reverently. Finally ready, Jack got up and, without a word or backward glance, walked into the bathroom and closed the door.
Teal'c stood a moment before bending down to pick up O'Neill's shoes and socks. Even they were stained with the blood of DanielJackson. As he straightened, his gaze fell on the mussed bed. He took in the fact that the blankets and sheets were in total disarray - as they might be should the bed have been shared by two - and that there were two pillows on the opposite side - both looking as used as the two on the side nearest Teal'c. He cocked his head. The phone and alarm clock were on the stand closest to Teal'c, but on the other stand - a lone mug sat. Teal'c did not need to investigate. He knew the mug had been used to hold coffee - for DanielJackson.
Teal'c walked around the end of the bed to the other side and rested the palm of his hand on one of the pillows as he closed his eyes.
Three days later -
Jack sat in the limousine, eyes staring straight ahead. He'd managed to keep it together in the last three days, but today - today he wasn't sure he'd make it. Even now, eyes focused on the Caisson ahead of the limo, he was close to losing it. He refused to believe that the flag-draped coffin - he could not believe --that inside -- that inside -- was -- Daniel.
He closed his eyes and folded his fingers into fists. He could... would... do this.
Something landed on his shoulder and he was forced to open his eyes. He glanced down only to find Cassie's head resting on his shoulder. He put his arm around her and glanced to his left and into Teal'c's sad dark eyes. He quickly looked away.
As the limo turned onto Montana Street, a gasp from Carter got Jack's attention. "Carter?"
"The window, Colonel ... look out the window," she said, her voice hitching.
Without any enthusiasm, he turned, as did Cassie. Instead of the usual view, all that could be seen, for as far as the eye could see, were people.
"Dear God, what is it?" General Hammond asked.
"Sam, they... have flowers... and signs," Cassie said, her voice filled with awe.
Hundreds of people lined the street, many crying as the funeral procession drove slowly past. The car turned onto Logan Boulevard and then through the cemetery gates. Cassie turned so that she could look out the back window, and a moment later, said, "They're coming in, Uncle Jack. They're following the cars inside."
Jack went back to staring straight ahead, but he took Cassie's hand.
The limo followed the Caisson for a little over a mile before finally coming to a stop. Two other limousines pulled in behind them while the other vehicles continued on for several more yards before beginning to peel off and park. Two airmen opened the limo doors, then immediately stood at attention.
As Jack exited the car, he glanced to his left and spotted the high tower that held one of the television cameras. Daniel's funeral would be broadcast to the world. His muscles tensed so he looked away and to his left. The President's limousine had just stopped and Jack watched the President exit his car. Jack slipped on his sunglasses and looked up, then nodded. Overhead, military choppers circled, their job to basically keep the air space clear for the next three hours.
Jack knew the President's advisors had tried to talk him out of attending, but Hayes had simply turned a deaf ear. A good many conventions were being blown apart today, not the least of which was the President's appearance, along with the First Lady and the new Vice President.
People began to move toward the mound where the ceremony would take place, a ceremony that, due to the number of attendees, had to be moved from the Academy church to Fort Logan. Jack stayed where he was, leaned down so that Cassie could kiss his cheek, nodded at Pete as he took Cassie's hand, then watched as the two of them headed up toward the rows of chairs.
Teal'c, Sam, and Jacob remained at Jack's side, as did General Hammond. Lou Ferretti walked over, his expression solemn, his eyes dark with grief. No words were spoken. A few moments later, Major Davis joined them. They were seven of the eight pall bearers.
No one spoke, no one could.
A few moments later, the President joined them. He shook hands and shared a brief hug with Hammond. The President also wore sunglasses, but they failed to hide his pale face. His hands, Jack was quick to note, were shaking. Jack thought about offering words of comfort, but somehow couldn't find any.
They watched the people exit the many cars and walk slowly up the slight incline to the seats. Most were SGC personnel and teams, with their families, as well as several members of the new foreign contingency to the SGC, including General Chekov, who looked, oddly enough, devastated. Jack supposed he shouldn't be too surprised. Davis had told him how Daniel had gotten under Chekov's skin in Russia while trying to get the DHD in order to save Teal'c's life.
What was truly amazing, and the only thing Jack had shown an interest in since... Daniel's death, was the fact that seven members of the Tok'ra council had expressed their desires to attend Daniel's funeral. Jacob had finally been found and after hearing the horrifying news, had immediately informed the Tok'ra council of the events leading up to Daniel's death.
Jack coughed into his hand and blinked back hot tears, grateful for the sunglasses that hid them from view. He watched Per'sus, Daleg and the others join Sam and Cassie, then observed the Jaffa group, as led by M'zel and Master Bra'tac, join the Tok'ra and position themselves on the other side of Sam.
Gosh, wasn't it just swell that Daniel only had to fucking die to get the Tok'ra, the Jaffa, and Earth back together again? If only he'd known when he'd been busting his butt and breaking his heart to keep the alliance together, that all he had to do was die; well, hell, he'd have done it back then. Jack clenched his hands into fists and just managed not to pound them into the car behind him.
GODDAMN THEM ALL ... just ... just ... goddamn them all.
The crowds that had lined the street were now, for the most part, inside the military cemetery. They were kept back from the actual site of the ceremony, thanks to a line of SF's and white sawhorse type barriers that had been hastily erected when the personnel from Fort Logan realized what was happening. The Secret Service had again begged the President to excuse himself, telling him that the situation now made it impossible for them to protect him. Hayes had refused. More agents had been dispatched, along with local FBI, SWAT and additional SF's. Men in black, wearing long dark coats and sunglasses , walked the perimeter along with men in uniform, while a ring of black-suited men surrounded those attending the funeral. The television towers held not only cameramen, but Secret Service agents as well.
For all the hundreds of people, the cemetery was strangely silent. There was none of the usual buzz of low talk that came with groups of people gathered together. The only sounds were provided by either nature, in the form of singing birds, or by technology, in the form of tinny sounds crackling out of microphones. There was also the occasional sob, the sound of a nose being blown, and the odd sniffle. Once all the vehicles had been parked and the attendees in place, the military band readied themselves.
The President had authorized that Daniel be buried with all the respect due a great and heroic soldier and that included a military funeral, much like his first "death". Only on a much grander scale. Jack hated it, yet... no one deserved this more. Or would have wanted it less. But then, funerals were for the living, not the dead.
The casket was rolled out from the Caisson, the eight pall bearers in position, with Jack and General Hammond in front. Arms were presented as the Air Force Chaplain ensured that the casket was securely held on the eight shoulders before he saluted. Two buglers and the Air Force band, in this case, three corpsmen with violins, three with bugles, fell in line behind the Chaplain, who began to lead the way up to the mound. The violinists began to play a sweet, sad melody as they marched solemnly forward.
The music was bittersweet and it took all of Jack's strength not to allow his knees to buckle as he and the others followed the musicians, Daniel's casket balanced perfectly on their shoulders. The music preceded them up the hill, music that seemed to fit the soul of the man they were mourning. Jack felt his eyes fill at the thought of Daniel.
//"... Jack, I think this is a map of a vast network of Stargates, Stargates that are - are all over the galaxy."//
Most of the people present had never really known him. They were here because he'd saved Earth, because he was a hero, but they'd never known him. They'd never known his gentleness, humor, or his strength and perseverance. They knew nothing about his life or the horrors that it held, in spite of the abundance of news since his murder. They certainly could never know of his pains and, thus, could never understand how much the eerily beautiful and sorrowful melody sang of Daniel.
//"Uh, I don't think that can be, Doctor."
"I - I don't pretend to know anything about astrophysics, but couldn't the planets change? I mean, uh... drift apart or something like that to throw this map off?"//
But they knew he was a hero, wanted to thank him, and to say goodbye and Jack couldn't fault them for that, but he hated them all anyway. Carter said he shouldn't blame the world for Daniel's death, that only one man was responsible, but he knew better. The world made Roger Wilson, the Reverend Roger Wilson. The world of intolerance, fear and hate made Roger Wilson, and no, Jack would never forgive his world for taking Daniel away.
//"The basic elements are what make up the universe; they are the basic building block...of course! How do you ensure universal communication? You reduce the method of communication to the most basic element common to everyone and everything that exists in the universe! Jack, this is a true universal language."//
Cassie watched as her Uncle Daniel's casket was brought up to the mound, the haunting sounds of violins bringing new tears to her eyes. They overflowed and she did nothing to stop them other than to lift her head higher.
The casket was set gently down on the pedestal as the NCOIC stepped forward to smooth, level, and re-center the American flag before backing away. The music slowly faded as the President stepped back, and Sam, Jacob, Lou, Paul and General Hammond came to attention to salute the casket. After completing the gesture, they took their seats, Sam taking the empty one next to Cassie and Pete while General Hammond and Jacob took the two on the other side of Pete. Lou and Paul moved to stand at attention behind the general.
Teal'c walked up to the tall, thin podium that stood to the right of the flag-covered casket. Hands gripping each side of the podium, he said, "I am not of your world yet I have found that saying farewell to those we love is always difficult. No matter the culture, the people, the race or the planet, those left behind are rarely willing to release their ... loved ... one. Today is no different.
"DanielJackson was my friend, yet, of those few whom I call friend, DanielJackson had the least reason to offer such friendship. I stole his wife and brother-in-law in the name of a false god, and yet, Daniel still offered his friendship. In the ensuing years, he never faltered in that friendship, in spite of the fact that I was eventually forced to take the life of Shar'e, his beloved wife, in order to save him. He never questioned, only forgave and understood." Teal'c swallowed hard, then added, "Forgiveness was a trait of which I knew nothing - but DanielJackson taught it well, taught me to forgive myself."
Teal'c bowed his head for a moment, then cleared his throat before continuing.
"For one who forgave so easily the trespasses of others, I have never understood how he could fail to forgive himself for what he perceived as his own failings and failures." He cleared his throat again. "I have learned much of your world, and remember well when O'Neill showed me my first iceberg. He told me that less than a fourth of the great block could be seen, that most of it hid beneath the surface. I believed then, as I believe now, that he could have been describing DanielJackson. Some would disagree. Some would say that he wore his emotions on his sleeve, that his eyes held all that he was. They would be wrong. I spent many hours in contemplation with DanielJackson. Hours where I felt the need to unburden myself to him, to share the horrors of my days as a Jaffa to Apophis.
"DanielJackson would often use the horrors of his own past to help me understand who and what I had become. When he would leave, often to return to his lab and work in spite of the late hour, I was left to ponder how he could have become the man that he was. He rarely experienced love following the death of his parents, nor did he have a childhood past eight years of age. In those dark hours before dawn, I found myself grateful that however the miracle of DanielJackson came to be, I would be, and am, forever grateful. I do not believe any of us will be the same with his loss."
He bowed his head again, others doing the same. When he lifted his face once again, the tears were visible for all to see. He stepped back and retook his place next to Jack.
President Hayes stepped forward.
"I am not here today as the President of the United States. I am simply someone whose life was saved by Daniel Jackson. Yet I must, at the same time, acknowledge that a decision made in my capacity as President, resulted in the death of Daniel Jackson. I will carry that burden for the rest of my life. I stand here staring at a casket and I realize that I never even had the chance to meet... Daniel. All that I know of the man is contained within the pages of his file, his reports, and the reports of his teammates."
Hayes opened a portfolio. "I would like to read from some of those reports now."
He cleared his throat, put on his reading glasses, and said, "From the report of Colonel Jonathon O'Neill: 'There was only one way to save Teal'c. The arch known as Thor's Hammer had to be destroyed. This was only our ninth mission as a team and we were faced with a decision that could have torn us apart. I knew that I could destroy it without question and felt that Captain Carter could do the same. But our civilian team member was another issue. Thor's Hammer could save Shar'e's life, could remove the symbiote and return her to her husband, to Daniel. I gave him Teal'c's staff weapon. It seemed the necessary thing to do - for the team. He took it, walked out, turned, paused only for the briefest of moments, then destroyed the Hammer. In that instant, I believe I took the first step toward understanding our archaeologist.'"
//"The Hammer works! Do you know what this means?"
"It's the only way out of here, Daniel."
"What this thing can do for Sha're and Skaara?"
"Teal'c's here now...."//
Hayes glanced up and said, "And this from General Hammond's final report on the same mission: 'It was a risk placing Doctor Jackson, a civilian and a scientist, on SG-1. I found myself, upon reading Colonel O'Neil's report, needing to ask Doctor Jackson what went through his head when he was handed the staff weapon. His answer was amazingly simple. He said that he didn't have the right to sentence Teal'c to a life in the labyrinth in place of his wife, that he had every faith in the SGC, and in Colonel O'Neill. They would find Shar'e and Skaara, and a method would be found to save them.'"
//"Thank you, Daniel Jackson."
"Well at least we know it can be done, right?"//
Hayes turned a page. "From a later mission report of Colonel O'Neill: 'We mounted the rescue mission to bring Doctor Jackson back only to discover that he had befriended the very creature that had taken him. He was meant to be a sacrifice, a rite of passage, so to speak, for the young Unas Daniel came to call Chaka. Yet like Androcles and the lion, Daniel won over the beast. Note to self and others: Do not let Daniel hear you call Chaka a beast. In conclusion, it is altogether possible that while we step through the Stargate to learn of other cultures, to find methods of defending ourselves against the Goa'uld and any other threat from beyond our world, we will learn the most from the youngest member of SG-1.'"
//"This started out as some sort of right of passage. I think the alpha male was expecting the younger one to offer me up for some kind of feast. Instead I think the younger one's trying to bring me into his clan."
"We've communicated. We're friends!"
President Hayes took off his reading glasses and closed the portfolio. "I could certainly read more, but somehow, these specific reports seem to say it all. They can't possibly express everything there is to know about Daniel Jackson, but they say enough. We owe Daniel Jackson a debt of gratitude we can never fulfill. It is my prayer that we go forward into the future, a future made possible by the man whose loss we mourn today, with understanding, love and tolerance. The Stargate is open and it will remain open; a legacy to the man who discovered its secrets."
Hayes turned and nodded at Jack, who took his place at the podium. He didn't remove his glasses, but he did take off his hat and tuck it under his arm. For a moment, his gaze rested on his surviving teammates and Cassie. He wanted to smile at them, to reassure them, but he had nothing in him that would allow that. He gave a small cough, and said, "Doctor Daniel Jackson was simply... the greatest man I have ever known. He taught me more than I believed I could be taught, let alone what I believed I needed to be taught. I once called Daniel--"
His voice broke and he was forced to look down, to close his eyes tightly. He felt someone step up next to him, felt a large body brush his and he knew it was Teal'c. A moment later, someone else took their place on his other side, and from the faint scent of gardenias, he knew it was Carter. A shaking hand slipped into his, and to his amazement, Teal'c took his other. He lifted his head and opened his eyes. Voice stronger, he said, "I once called Daniel the heart and soul of the SGC. I was right then and I'm right to say it now. He was, is, and will continue to be... our soul, our guiding light.
//"Ah...home...yeah about that apartment..."
"Oh you didn't!"
"Uh...the day after the memorial service."
"The Colonel, said some really nice things!"
"He-he did. He did?"//
"He was my friend but he was so much more." Jack could not lie now. "I loved Daniel Jackson; I love him now, and I will love him always. He was taken from us at a time when he should have been enjoying life as he was never able to enjoy it before, and we must all take responsibility for taking that from him. All that we can give him now, is this. It's not enough. Not nearly enough. But it's considerably more than he would have wanted or expected because that's the kind of man he was. He never thought of his successes, never recognized them, so we must do it for him."
Jack bowed his head again, took several deep breaths, glanced back up, and said, "I ask you all to remember him. Remember him always... and... love... him."
Jack's voice broke a final time and he could say no more. The Academy Chaplain came up, and slowly, Teal'c and Sam led Jack to his seat. The President took his and the minister began to speak.
Jack didn't hear any of it.
The chaplain finished the ceremony and gave the benediction. General Hammond rose and walked to the podium as the chaplain stepped back. Voice steady but surprisingly low, Hammond said, "Doctor Daniel Jackson was a civilian scientist. He was also one of the greatest soldiers I have ever known ... and the United States agrees. Today, the United States Air Force wishes to show its respect for the man to whom we owe so much, so the Thunderbirds will fly the ... Missing Man formation in honor of ... Doctor Daniel Jackson, explorer, scientist, soldier and ... friend."
The sky was filled with the low rumble of the Thunderbirds as all eyes gazed heavenward. Many of the men and women attending went to attention, as did Jack, Sam, Lou, Major Davis and General Hammond. The F-16 Fighting Falcons flew overhead with grace and majesty. In spite of knowing what was coming, there were several audible gasps and sobs at the beautiful sight above. At the same moment, the buglers stood at attention. At a signal from the Brigadier bugler, they began to play. As the soft strains of Taps filled the quiet air, as misted eyes stared upward, the wingman spiraled off and away, leaving a trail of white in his wake ... and an empty space in the formation.
The loneliness of the sky at that moment almost broke Jack.
The rest of the ceremony was a blur with Jack completely unaware of receiving the folded flag. In all of his life, he'd never felt so alone. And he was surrounded by hundreds.
The truck turned onto the dusty, dirt road and bounced along until the road leveled off. Jack looked to his right and nodded in satisfaction at the quiet beauty of the river. All he needed to do now was find a spot where the river narrowed enough for their purposes. He continued driving alongside the slow moving body of water, and after only a few minutes, pulled the truck onto the grass and parked a few feet from the river's edge.
He, Teal'c and Sam got out and approached the river bank. At this particular spot, the river was its narrowest, only a few feet across. The water barely seemed to be moving and a sweet breeze blew across its surface to the other side.
All three SG-1 team members were dressed casually in jeans, shirts and light jackets, the ceremony of earlier in the day left far behind them. In his hands, Jack carried a small package. He knelt down, pulled a hand-made wooden boat from the bag, then set it on the grass. From his pocket, he drew out a pair of Daniel's glasses. As he watched the slow movement of the river, sunlight dancing on its gentle curves, he said, "I don't know about feathers and scales, Daniel, but I do know your heart was pure. I also know you once said that someday ... someday... you would travel across the river Styx and, on the other side, Sha're would be waiting."
He fingered the glasses in his hand while he rubbed the bridge of his nose with the other. "Daniel, I know it wasn't your choice to leave me, that if you could have stayed, nothing would have been able to stop you, but... but you didn't - stay." Tears coursed down his cheeks. "Someday, I'll make the same journey, and hope to find you waiting for me - you, Shar'e, and Charlie."
He closed his eyes and let his chin rest against his chest. Sam and Teal'c knelt down on either side of him, Sam taking the glasses from his hand. She looked at them for a moment, remembering the last time they'd brought forth the same feelings. But this time, there was no comfort in the possibility that Daniel was not dead, only somewhere she couldn't be. This time, Daniel was truly gone.
She took a deep breath, placed the glasses in the boat, lifted it, and said, "Sir?"
Lifting his head, Jack opened his eyes and took the boat from her hands. He set it in the water, bow facing the opposite bank. As he gave it a small push, Sam said, "Daniel, Cassie found this prayer and said it was ... you."
She closed her eyes as the small boat began its journey across the river, and whispered, "Do not stand by my grave and weep - I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain and I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circling flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand by my grave and cry, I am not there, I did not ... die."
What remained of SG-1 rose to their feet and watched the boat drift toward the far bank. Jack found his eyes watering, his vision blurring. He turned away, unable to watch any longer. He headed for the truck, Sam following.
Teal'c stayed behind a moment. He cocked his head in surprise as the boat turned from the shore... and headed upstream. The breeze had not changed direction. He watched a moment more, then joined his teammates.
"Jack, give me six months. Six months and I'll take this resignation. I'm asking as a friend."
Jack sat slouched in the chair opposite Hammond's desk. He was wearing civvies and looked as though he hadn't shaved since the funeral. As he listened to Hammond's plea, he knew only that he wanted to say no. He didn't want to give Hammond a day, let alone six months.
"Please, Jack. For the SGC. We're in transition here, and we need you. Just six months."
The desperate plea made through to him. He straightened and nodded. Did it really matter, after all? A day, six months, he knew his future. He got slowly to his feet. "Six months, Sir."
Relieved, Hammond nodded. "Thank you, Jack. Thank you."
Three missions later, Jack knew he wouldn't last the remaining four months. His heart wasn't in it. No, his heart was long gone. He glanced over at Teal'c and his son. At least that was something. The newest, albeit temporary, member of SG-1 was Rya'c.
The wormhole steadied and Hammond's voice said, "You have a go, SG-1."
Without looking back, Jack waved a hand as he, Carter, Teal'c and Ry'ac walked up the ramp and through the blue.
Boring. Only word for P3Y-238. Nice trees, lovely countryside, nice natives. Very nice naquada deposits. But still ... boring.
Two hours later, the peaceful - and boring -- countryside of P3Y-238 was shattered. Jack quickly decided that boring could be a very good thing as the advance group of Jaffa belonging to Baal began to fire on them.
Grateful that the natives were safely behind them, Jack ran for the 'Gate, Carter just ahead of him. The objective was to get the Jaffa as far away from the peaceful village as possible, then take them out. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, Jack thought, as he ran, firing over his shoulder and trying to protect Carter and Rya'c. But then, they thought the advance team consisted of only six Jaffa. They'd been wrong. Now they were fighting to stay alive, to get the Stargate, to get backup.
Rya'c was running a few feet back and to the left of Carter. Every few moments, he'd turn and fire as a Jaffa tried to break the treeline. Jack was almost even with Rya'c and he could see that Carter had reached the 'Gate. She was already dialing when Rya'c paused, yelled back at his father and once again raised up his staff weapon. Jack looked over his shoulder, spotted a Jaffa to the left of the teen, and realized that he was taking a bead on the young man. Teal'c stopped and began firing at two of the last three Jaffa. Jack had no doubt they both went down, but Rya'c was oblivious to his own danger so Jack did the only thing he could. He launched himself at the teenager. His shoulder hit the boy's back, sending him flying forward while at the same moment, the last Jaffa fired.
The blast caught Jack mid-chest. He felt the burning pain, the loss of breath, then he was falling... falling... falling....
"Major Carter, we must get him through the 'Gate before more Jaffa arrive."
"Father, he saved my life...."
"I know, son, I know."
Suddenly Jack put out a shaking hand, his eyes glazing over, yet seemingly focused on a spot beyond Teal'c's shoulder. "Daniel? Danny?"
Sam held Jack's head in her lap as Rya'c did his best to cover the horrible wound. He knew instinctively that they would never be able to get Colonel O'Neill to the SGC in time. And now... he was calling for Daniel.
"Sir, please, hang on a little bit longer, all right? We'll get you to the Infirmary and Doctor Warner will-"
"Teal'c, we're losing him, God, we're losing him...."
Jack smiled, reached out a hand, then his eyes closed and took his final breath.
The silence was shattered as behind them, the Stargate turned and the wormhole exploded outward. Teal'c, without lifting his eyes from Jack's face, said, "We are late in reporting. Rya'c, please let them know we need assistance."
Tears streaming down his face, Rya'c nodded and hurried back to the M.A.L.P.
Sam and Teal'c continued to hold their friend, their leader.
The quiet brought his eyes open. Jack looked around him and smiled softly. Wherever the hell he was, it was beautiful.
He turned back to where the Stargate stood, the sun backlighting it and the silhouette of a man. The man moved and Jack found himself staring at a smiling Daniel.
Daniel shrugged his 'Who else?' shrug, then plucked at the cream sweater. "I'm not sure about this whole sweater thing, Jack."
"I probably should have told you that it was one of my favorites," Jack said as he began to walk toward Daniel.
"What, you think that's why I always show up in it? Just because it's a favorite of yours?"
"Yes, and ... why are you here... and where is here?"
"I'm not... exactly certain. I guess I'm kind of here... to pick you up, so to speak."
Jack grinned devilishly. "Pick me up? Wow, who knew."
"I mean... I've been kind of ... in limbo, according to Oma. Not really anywhere until... well, kind of waiting until... well she said I'd be no use to her or anyone without you, so until you... I mean... you know."
"Wait, are you saying I'm about to go all ...glowy and all?"
"Yep. You're looking at becoming the Great Glow Man."
"Gee, Glow Man and his Space Monkey. What a team."
Daniel gave him a rude snort.
Jack glanced around and realized that they were still on P3Y-238, albeit a glowy version of the planet. It also hit him at that precise moment, that he was, had to be, dying. Then he remembered the staff blast. He touched his chest and frowned.
"Are you okay with this, Jack?" Daniel asked, worry heavy in his voice.
Jack looked back up at the beautiful face he never thought he'd see again, and smiled a gentle, loving smile. "I'm very okay, Daniel."
"You're leaving them all behind... Sam and Teal'c and-"
"They'll be fine. SG-1 only had a few more months anyway. George wrangled a promise out of me to hang around for six months while the SGC goes through this whole transitional phase. Sam's getting married in October and Teal'c, well, he and Rya'c have been itching to return to recruiting more Jaffa. There are more than enough Goa'uld left to keep them busy."
"Are you sure? This wasn't anything close to what you wanted... last time."
Jack could hear the self-doubt in Daniel's voice and it suddenly hit him. "You ... wanted me to come with you. You loved me then, didn't you?"
"Hell, no, I just missed your snarkiness. Of course I loved you then, and, yes, I wanted you... needed you... well, you know what I mean."
"I do now."
They stared at each other for a moment, then Jack, realizing that it had been an eternity since he'd been able to touch Daniel, asked, "We are corporeal right now, aren't we?"
At Daniel's nod, Jack moved in. Elbows tucked into his side, head cocked, hands framing Daniel's face, he kissed him with all the longing of a man who'd lost the love of his life... only to find him again.
Several moments later, when Jack finally released Daniel's mouth, they both found themselves out of breath and clinging to each other for support.
"Wow," Daniel breathed next to Jack's ear. "That was ... damn fine."
"Thanks. Been saving it up."
"So now what?"
Daniel ran his finger across Jack's lower lip and said, "Now... I think we go."
"You mean the whole ... glow-man thing?"
Jack looked over his shoulder and frowned. He could see Sam, Teal'c holding him, Rya'c at the Stargate, and he felt a pang of sadness.
Seeing Jack's expression, Daniel slowly stepped back. "You ... don't have to, Jack. You can go ... back. Oma will make sure they get help to you in time."
Eyes still on SG-1, Jack said, "That doesn't seem fair, Daniel. That I should have a choice."
Daniel felt himself choking up, the pain unbearable. He took several more steps away, then gazed upward and mentally begged Oma to let him go - wherever the dead went, and to return Jack to Sam, Teal'c and Rya'c. He felt a tingling sensation making its way through his body. He lifted a hand and wiggled his fingers. He was fading. Sorrow welled up within him and his vision blurred. He blinked back the tears so that he could see Jack, see his beauty.
"Goodbye, Jack. Goodbye," he said, whisper soft.
Jack whirled back around, blinked at what he couldn't possibly be seeing, then said, "Daniel? What the hell?"
"It's okay, I understand. Go back. They're waiting."
"Goddamn you, Daniel. I didn't think it was fair that I had a choice and YOU didn't. Why wasn't someone there for you when that bastard shot you? Why wasn't someone there to tell you that you could go ... come ... back ... to me? Why?"
"I don't ... know, Jack. Some things just ... are. Go back."
"Damn it, I don't WANT to go back, I want to fucking be with you! Now get that cute ass of yours back over here and let's do this."
"I'm serious, Daniel. Deadly serious." Jack started for Daniel as he added softly, "Please?"
Daniel searched Jack's face, and finding the truth in Jack's dark eyes, slowly held out his hand.
Relief flooding through him, Jack took Daniel's hand. "Now what?"
Voice soft, Daniel said, "Now we go through the Stargate."
"Ah. Should have known." He looked over Daniel's shoulder and wasn't surprised to see the 'Gate fully engaged and glowing like ... Daniel. He smiled, tugged Daniel's hand, and said, "Let's go."
They turned around and headed for the Stargate. As they walked up the steps, Jack asked, "You think I'll be able to do this, Daniel?"
"I have the utmost faith in you, Jack." They paused in front of the wormhole. "But you should know that the Others ... well, some of them are taking bets."
"Yeah? How long?"
"The shortest so far is three weeks."
"THREE WEEKS!? That's ... embarrassing. I can handle being a Glowman for way longer than three measly weeks!"
Daniel patted his arm. "I know, Jack. I know."
Jack looked at him suspiciously. "Okay, spill. How long did you put in for?"
"Now, Jack, I told you - I've been in kind of a limbo, remember?"
"Uh, huh. How long?"
"sixdays," Daniel mumbled.
Jack cupped his ear. "Say again?"
"Uhm ... six ... days."
"Oh, ye of little faith."
"I have faith-"
"Six days worth-"
"No, really, I just-"
Still arguing, they walked through the Stargate....
Adam glanced up at the night sky and smiled at the thousands of stars that winked down on him. The evening was still and quiet, his favorite time of the day. He was away from the family, from his parents and siblings, his choice of ranch jobs allowing him this peace, with only the cows to keep him company. Their soft moos soothed him and allowed time to think and dream. Someday, what he'd really like, was, now that it was possible, to travel to the stars, see other worlds beyond his own.
As the cows settled down, he smiled at his silly thoughts. He'd yet to make it to what his grandfather called "the big city", let alone to the stars, and until recently, he'd been more than happy to work the ranch.
At that moment, the herd began to stir, their hooves beating almost relentlessly on the ground. He sat up on his horse and whistled to his dog. Shirpa barked and began to move toward the cattle that had broken off from the herd. Adam kicked at his horse and started after the cows, but suddenly the brightest light he'd ever seen shot down from the dark sky above. It was so bright, he was immediately forced to cover his eyes. Fear froze him in his tracks in spite of the panicked animals around him.
Breaths coming in terrified pants, he spread two fingers in order to peek... and breathed a sigh of relief. The light was gone. He removed his hand and quickly looked around him. All was well.
Except ... there wasn't a cow in sight!
He could hear Shirpa barking and, relieved, he urged the horse forward in an effort to follow the barking. The moon helped and he quickly found the dog at the very spot the bright heavenly beam had seemed to touch down. Shirpa stood at attention, tail rigid, nose sniffing, the object of his dogged focus bringing Adam up with a start. The ground looked as if it had been burned and the pattern was a near perfect circle, but that wasn't nearly as important as what lay in the middle of the circle.
Two men - naked -- wrapped in each other's arms.
He found himself stunned and unable to move as he looked down at the two bodies. This was so far removed from what he'd expected to see -- or find -- as a result of the light that his fear went skittering away. Curiosity took over. He dismounted, walked over, and immediately nudged a knee with his boot.
It moved. He jumped back.
For some reason, the moving knee made him mad. His cattle were spread out over God knew how many acres, he'd been scared out of ten years growth, his father was going to kill him, and the field now had a huge burn in the middle of it! He stomped his boot and began to yell.
His head hurt. Big time. And the yelling wasn't helping. He shifted a bit, and felt smooth skin under his hand. Skin that wasn't his. He opened one eye. He liked the look of the skin but he wished the yelling would stop. He lifted his head and looked around.
The body beneath him moved and he looked down. The profile looked familiar to him. The man under him started to turn over and the lax penis that came into view looked even more familiar - and very beloved.
Jack looked around them, but nothing else seemed even vaguely familiar. He shook his partner and said, "Daniel? I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
"Jack?" Daniel growled as he sat up. He blinked at Jack, then ran a hand over his face. He quickly realized he was lying on the ground -- that Jack was next to him, and that he was naked - that they both were. He closed and eyes and mumbled, "Been here, done this."
"Daniel, in case you missed it, we're not alone."
"No. Can't you hear him yelling?"
"Oh, is that what that sound is?"
"Yes. Can you understand him?"
"He's speaking - Greek. Mostly ... cuss words. And he really is speaking Greek. Not some variation of it or a warped Goa'uld version of it, but the real thing."
"Which means that we're either right back on Earth - or - it's all Greek to me."
"Ha, ha," Jack said as he sat up. "So you really think we're home, as in... no longer... you know," he made a motion with his hand in the air, "all glowy and all?"
Daniel ran a hand through his spiked hair, and said, "I think so, Jack. I think so."
Daniel turned his head and looked up at the irate -- he cocked his head and looked at the guy's get-up -- okay, irate cowboy. He wondered briefly about cowboys and cattle in Greece, then started asking questions in Greek. The cowboy sputtered, then shut up. After a minute, the cowboy took off his hat, scratched his head, and said, "Sorry, I don't actually speak Greek. I just know some cuss words. Sorry. Mind telling me why you two are in the middle of my field?"
It hit Daniel then. They really were on Earth. He turned back to Jack and said with a frown, "I lost the bet, Jack. You managed to make it past six days."
"Yep. Seven and a half days but then," he made a diving motion with his hand, "you crashed and burned. But hey, at least this time I have my memories intact. It would have been very embarrassing to wake up with a naked man I didn't know."
"Been there, done that," Jack said sheepishly.
Daniel rolled his eyes and turned back to the cowboy. "Can you tell us where we are?"
"Sure. You're in Kansas."
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