He'd been thinking of death. Not artifacts or translations. Not the SGC. But death. He could even pinpoint the moment death first entered his mind--
It had been a week after yet another alternate universe trip, courtesy of sun spots. He'd been standing on the ramp, Sam behind him, Teal'c behind her, Jack still talking to General Hammond. He'd looked at the puddle in front of him and thought, "Maybe this time -- my molecules won't re-form. Or better yet, when we return, the iris will close just as I enter the wormhole."
Oddly enough, he hadn't even been startled by such thoughts. He'd simply -- smiled and thought, "Maybe".
As it happened, his body had rearranged itself on the other side, and the iris had remained open on his return. He'd shrugged, gone to the infirmary for the requisite MRI, then to his office -- for -- the usual 'work until coffee no longer keeps me standing.'
But death had been his companion ever since.
He found himself constantly dwelling on the idea of dying. He wondered about it and spent hours counting the near misses and the many hits. By his calculations, he was way past nine. But then, he wasn't a cat. Who knew how many lives Daniel Jackson, the human had? Certainly not him.
So what had he conluded after hours and days of dwelling? Simple: he'd welcome it if it came again.
Hell, truth be told, maybe he even yearned for it. Yearned for the darkness, the peace and quiet -- and maybe -- for absolution?
The truly strange thing about all his musings on his death was that he'd never once thought about any reunion with Sha're. He suspected that would be impossible, that she would surely be in a different place -- a better place. He'd also never considered seeing his parents -- they'd probably be too busy investigating ancient cloud formations. And Kawalsky wouldn't know him if he tripped over him. Well, maybe he'd hand him a box of tissues before he headed out to some heavenly soldier bar, but that was it.
Daniel turned the page of the book he wasn't reading, adjusted his glasses before picking up his pen. He really needed to finish this translation. He did. SG-3 was waiting with bated breath. So was General Hammond.
Hey, he thought, what exactly did all those alternate universes do without Daniel Jackson? Who translated their difficult and highly important unknown languages? Who?
He glanced down at the writings in front of him and smiled wryly.
Yeah, sure. You betcha. Daniel grinned. Jack hadn't said that in a while. Hadn't said it with just that smile.
Daniel's grin faded.
The alternate universe Jack from two missions ago had used that expression. He'd smiled at Daniel, then punched him in the arm. Hadn't known him from Adam, yet that Jack seemed to -- like him, even before Daniel had shown them how to contact the Nox to help hide Cheyenne Mountain.
Of course, now that he thought about it, that had been a very strange alternate universe. Teal'c had been part of that SGC, both Jack and Sam had been alive, General Hammond had actually been General Hammond, hell, even Janet had shown up. And Catherine. The only differences had been that Sam was still a Captain, Kawalsky was the fourth member of SG1 and Teal'c had a braid and a whacky sense of humor. Oh, and Catherine had been their expert Egyptologist.
Oh, yeah, and one other -- minor -- difference: Ra, not Apophis, had been the major enemy. In fact, when Daniel's SG1 had been accidentally directed to that alternate universe, Ra had been in the middle of an all out attack on the SGC. Not on Earth, just the SGC. It was as if he'd known that the real danger to the system lords, to him, lay within the confines of Cheyenne Mountain.
Another really strange thing, among many strange things, was that his SG1 had come through the second gate, the one stored in the warehouse where his SG1 team had found it after the whole Antarctica thing. An alternate Mayborne had been there to greet them and upon seeing Daniel, had immediately pulled his weapon. Obviously Kawalsky should have been the fourth, so seeing Daniel had clued Harry in rather quickly. The man hadn't been mad, just cautious.
Harry's first words, once he realized something was wrong, had been, "Alternate universe?" followed by, as he'd aimed his gun at Daniel, "Who's he?"
From there, stories and realities had been exchanged, the battle with Ra explained, and yes, they knew who the Asgard were, but the Asgard had fallen to the Replicators.
"Okay," Daniel had said, "what about the Nox?"
Harry's puzzled expression had said it all. Harry's universe had not yet met the Nox.
Sam, ever quick to pick up a "Daniel clue" had immediately suggested that the Nox might be their salvation and offered her help. Harry had nodded but had then thrown the monkey wrench. Since Harry's universe had a living Jack, a living Sam and a living Teal'c, and since no one knew how long it would take to contact the Nox and because his universe had never heard of Daniel Jackson, well, that meant that only Daniel could accompany Harry to Cheyenne Mountain and attempt to contact the Nox. So off Daniel had gone.
He'd been welcomed by friendly, if somewhat puzzled, SGC personnel, had found this Sam to be a bit less serious than his Sam, and maybe somewhat -- perkier? This Jack had been no different than his Jack -- of two or three years ago. Except that this Jack and this Sam, like so many -- okay -- all -- of the other Jacks and Sams, were in love. And married. Unofficially. Officially-unofficially.
Daniel had gone the entire three days trying desperately not to gag himself.
At one point, during a lull in the attacks and, while waiting to see if the message to the Nox had been received, Daniel had done what it seemed he'd done in every alternate reality to date -- he'd gone to a computer and inputted himself. He was fully prepared to find that, like all the other times, he was dead. He'd been highly shocked to find that in this universe -- he'd never existed at all.
It had probably been that fact had sown the first seed of death thoughts. After all, how many alternate universes had they, or he, visited in the last five years? Seven? Eight?
Eight. The last one had made eight.
Had Daniel been alive in any of them? No.
In fact, in the last one, he'd never existed. So why bother to exist here, in this universe, in his universe? And didn't it seem that someone, or something, was trying pretty hard to make sure he didn't exist in this universe? After all, he'd died, or almost died, or had been thought to be dead, more times than he could count (but way over nine).
Daniel drummed his fingers on the table. So what exactly was he accomplishing in this universe, besides bugging the hell out of Jack? Which, by the way, was almost worth hanging around for, actually.
So what if he'd opened the gate? So what? As all the other universes had shown, the gate got opened no matter what. Maybe not as early, but damn, it got opened. In this last universe, it had been Sam who'd done it. Three years later, but still, it was opened.
In four of the eight universes, Sha're had been alive and as happy as it was possible to be, given the conditions on Abydos. She'd even been married with children. In two of the four, the SGC hadn't found Abydos yet, but Daniel could assume that Sha're was still alive and happy. In the other two universes, Abydos had been destroyed by Ra. But hell, that was six out of eight with a happy, alive Sha're. And hello? In none of them had she become a host.
Damn, Daniel thought, in this universe, it could be said that he was actually -- a hazard. A bio-hazard.
He rubbed at his sore eyes and grinned. A bio-hazard. That was good. He should consider a spot on Letterman. Maybe that was his true calling? A comedian?
Daniel picked up his glasses, slipped them back on and went back to translations, thoughts of death temporarily on hold.
Daniel threw down his glasses and watched them skitter across his work table.
Damn, damn, damn. A fucking weapon. SG3 had found exactly what the NID was looking for; a weapon of mass destruction. Global, universal, off-worldly, galaxy-killing, plant-altering, people-dissolving mass destruction.
And this god damned translation tells them, once they find it -- how to use it.
Fine. He'd let SG3 use him as target practice.
Daniel leaned across the table and picked up his glasses. For the briefest moment, he considered not telling General Hammond, but the moment was so fleeting, he hardly acknowledged it. Instead, he spent
the next two hours making a nice tidy report, including a PowerPoint presentation, then sent the General an email.
As he stared at his computer screen, he wondered why the hell did it have to be him doing SG3's translations? His email program pinged and he knew without looking that the new message would be from Hammond.
He was right.
Dr. Jackson, briefing in thirty with Colonel Ambrose and SG3. Thank you.
Exactly 28 minutes later, Daniel was in the conference room, his computer set up, a cup of much needed coffee in hand. Seated around the table, in various stages of boredom, were Colonel Ambrose, a tall, thin, taciturn man; his 2IC, Captain Mitchell, a posterboy for "Uncle Sam Needs You" ; Lieutenant Elvis, who actually looked a bit like Elvis -- if Elvis had been a woman -- and black; and finally, Colonel Ambrose's resident scientist, Captain Montoya, an expert in physics. General Hammond was the only one missing.
To Daniel, it no longer seemed strange to be at a briefing devoid of the faces of SG1. Lately, Daniel had allowed himself to be loaned, borrowed, requested, and basically pawned off on several SGC teams. But damn, he missed SG1 when he wasn't with them.
He missed Teal'c and his lack of expression, which always spoke volumes to Daniel. He missed Sam's lectures and the joy of watching her words fly over Jack's head. And he missed -- Jack.
He missed that quirky eyebrow of Jack's, and the faint scar that made it seem so funny when said eyebrow rose. He missed the way Jack fiddled with his pen during one of Daniel's lectures; or the way he always leaned into Teal'c for macho-man support when faced with Daniel and Sam spouting off some scientific mumbo jumbo. He missed Jack pretending to be dumber than dirt.
He missed Jack. And yes, he -- yearned -- for Jack.
Daniel hadn't actually seen Jack in days and he doubted that Jack missed him.
"Doctor Jackson, thank you for your patience. Sorry, but I was detained by the President."
Daniel was brought out of his ruminations about Jack by General Hammond's arrival. The General took his seat at the head of the table, acknowledged Colonel Ambrose, who was not one of his favorite team leaders, then said, "Doctor Jackson, if you're ready?"
Daniel nodded, hit his remote and up on the screen a series of hieroglyphics appeared. He highlighted the figure of a man who seemed to be standing on the back of another man. An ostrich feather protruded from the first man's head.
"This represents the God known as Shu. He was the god of the atmosphere and of dry winds."
Daniel pointed to another figure, clearly female, but with the head of a lioness. "This depicts the goddess Tefnut. Now according to legend, she and Shu were brother and sister as well as husband and wife. They were also considered to be the first recorded example of soulmates."
Daniel turned and faced his audience. "Within the context of a possible weapon, it's important to remember that one of them was the god of the atmosphere, but more accurately, the god of the dry winds, and the other god, the exact opposite -- the goddess of moisture and clouds."
Daniel put up the drawing done by Montoya.
"There is no doubt that we're dealing with two Gou'alds who joined forces in an unprecedented show of strength. But more importantly, it would seem from what I've been able to translate, these two Gou'alds were more akin to the Tokra."
At Daniel's words, Hammond leaned forward. "The Tokra? Doctor Jackson, are you saying that these two Gou'alds were - good?"
"In essence, yes. Shu was Ra's first son. According to what is written here, he hated the evil that Ra was committing, and his sister, Tefnut, agreed with him. They took their daughter Nut, and fled. According to the myths, they travelled to Nubia. But first - Shu was forced to kill his son, Geb."
Daniel pointed once again to the figure of Shu. "This, the man Shu appears to be standing on, is Geb. According to my translations, Geb was sent by Ra to destroy Shu, Tefnut and Nut. But Shu prevailed."
Montoya frowned and asked, "Why would Ra care? We already know that there was much in-house fighting, that many of the gods splintered off. Why would Ra want all three dead?"
"Therein lies the mystery. But a mystery hinted at in Tefnut's words. Yes," Daniel nodded at a look from Ray Montoya, "the hieroglyphics you found were apparently written primarily by Tefnut. But the hints also came from these drawings you made, Ray.
"Shu and Tefnut knew that before making their -- escape -- if you will, they'd need something to protect their new world. They combined the elements of the wind and water to create a weapon."
Daniel's expression would have told anyone interested, just how distasteful this was to him. He looked at Hammond and said, "The weapon basically sweeps the target area, be it a Gou'ald mother ship, a planet, a city, a house, or a person, and dries it to such a brittle consistency that when the weapon's next blast hits, a blast of -- moisture -- which is the only way to describe the word used in the writings, the target disintegrates. Turns to dust. And Shu used it on -- his son, Geb."
He waited a moment, then anticipating a specific question, said, "General, as you know, P3C-392 was one of the planets on the list Jack inputted into the computer when he had the knowledge of the Ancients. The Gou'ald don't know of its existence, but I would guess that they are looking for it -- hard. This also means -- or we can conclude that it means, the Ancients shielded Shu, Tefnut and Nut."
Daniel pulled out a chair and sat down. He was finished.
There followed several minutes of silence as everyone in the room took in Daniel's information. Daniel watched Ambrose. The man's team had found the pyramid and the writings, but SG1 should be going in for the follow-up. Not that SG3 wasn't qualified, they were. Montoya was almost as smart as Sam.
Damn, Daniel wished Feretti's team had been given P3C-392. Feretti would have gladly turned it over to Jack.
"Doctor Jackson, did the writings say where this weapon can be located?" Ambrose asked, his voice carefully neutral.
"No, but there is enough here to lead the team -- that goes back -- to additional writings. And the -- how -- of the weapon is here." Daniel kept his voice equally neutral.
Hammond cleared his throat, then said softly, "Doctor, would you be able to accompany SG3 back to P3C-392? It looks as though you'll be needed to do more translations."
Daniel turned to look at the General and he could see the regret in Hammond's eyes -- and the need. Slowly, he nodded.
Why the hell not?
After all, who wants to live forever? Not him.
Daniel sat at the table in the cafeteria, a bowl of tepid soup and an equally tepid cup of coffee in front of him. He was methodically crumbling crackers in the soup, a task he'd been at for the last five minutes. As the pieces of cracker floated, swelled, then sank, he wondered why no one, not even the General, had asked what had happened to Shu and Tefnut. And their daughter. He could have told them. If they'd wanted to know.
Jack knocked on the open door before stepping into Hammond's office. "Sir? You rang?"
George glanced up, then sat back in the chair as he waved Jack in. As his 2IC took his usual seat, Hammond said, "You might want to read this, Colonel."
Uh-oh. Colonel. Not Jack. Not good. Jack took the offered booklet and immediately recognized Daniel's handiwork. He flipped it open, read the first few paragraphs, then said, "This sounds like what we've been looking for, weapon-wise. NID should be thrilled."
"They are, as is the President. Keep reading." Puzzled, Jack kept reading. He was halfway through when he said without looking up, "What happened to this Shu and his -- soul mate?"
"I don't know, Ambrose didn't ask. Jack, I want SG1 to be -- the backup on this one." Jack closed the file, dropped it on the General's desk, stood up, then said easily, "No problem, Sir, we can be ready --"
He froze. Frowned. "Sir, did you just say backup on this one?"
Hammond locked eyes with Jack. "Yes, Colonel, that's what I said. And I'm -- sending Doctor Jackson with SG3." Jack sat back down. "This should be SG1's, General. And it most certainly should not be SG3's."
"They found it, Jack."
Hammond leaned forward and Jack recognized the body language. It was his, "give me a break here, Jack" pose. The one he took when he didn't want to do what he was about to do.
"Jack, Ambrose earned this and I'm not going to take it away from him. SG3 goes today at fourteen hundred hours. But - I want you and your team to stand-by. I'll be sending you through - after five hours - unless SG3 returns prior to that deadline." Jack recognized the gesture for what it was - the only way Hammond could get SG1 involved. They both knew it would take longer than five hours to find what SG3 would be looking for, let alone do the translations. Hell, from the report he'd just perused, it was an hour walk back to where SG3 had found the hieroglyphics to begin with. He'd have to accept the deal. It was better than nothing, not to mention that it had been an order.
"Yes, Sir. Understood."
When he didn't rise right away, Hammond said, "Well, Colonel?"
"Daniel. Why is he --"
"The hieroglyphs were, according to Ambrose, difficult. A mixture of dialects or languages. I'm sure that others could do the work, but not as fast, nor as accurate as Doctor Jackson."
"I see." Jack couldn't argue that fact. No way. Truth was truth. He started to rise, but Hammond stopped him. "Jack, we need to talk."
Uh-oh. Jack. This was not the good "Jack", but the "son, what have you done now", Jack. He sat back down.
"In the last weeks, Doctor Jackson has offered, volunteered, whatever word you want to use, his services to other SG teams on their missions. He's now constantly requested whereas months ago it would have been inconceivable for an SG team to "borrow" SG1's archeologist. What's going on?" Jack found it difficult to maintain eye contact with his friend -- and boss. Finally, he said, "I'm not sure, Sir."
"When was the last time you saw Daniel?"
"A week ago, after our return from --"
"A week ago? A week ago?"
"Yes, Sir. When his door is closed, well, you know what that means. And since our return -- it's been closed."
"Colonel O'Neill, a closed door, any closed door, has never stopped you from checking in on your teamates. I repeat "What's going on?"
"Sir, Daniel and I will -- correct -- whatever it is -- we need to -- correct."
"Go see him, Jack. He looks like hell, his briefing today was -- brief. I'm worried."
"And yet you're sending him with--"
"I have no choice, Jack. No choice."
"You know how Ambrose feels about--"
"Yes. The same way you once felt. He has little use for civilian scientists. But this particular civilian, well, he knows damn well he needs him." Jack saluted and was dismissed. He turned on his heel and walked out. He paused in the corridor. He supposed now would be a bad time to check in on Daniel. Yet, considering that his archeologist was going off-world in two hours, now would be a perfect time.
But he wasn't looking forward to it. As he took the elevator down, he closed his eyes and thanked God that he was alone. He really didn't know what was wrong between him and Daniel, he only knew that Daniel had changed. And not in the best way.
Okay, okay, he'd changed as well.
Jack rubbed at his eyes, the ran his fingers through his short hair, leaving it slightly spiked. Damn.
He missed -- Daniel, the old Daniel. He missed him. So why -- was he pushing him away?
The elevator stopped and opened. Jack debated with himself, then shrugged and stepped out. He turned right and headed for Daniel's office, fully expecting to see the door closed. It wasn't. He paused, looked in. Daniel was standing by the counter, his backpack in front of him. Daniel's eyes were closed, his hands resting on the pack. Jack almost gasped out loud, but he bit down on his lower lip, then quickly backed away and moved to the wall.
He could feel it. The heat. The pounding pulse. And he recognized it. In one quiet moment, he recognized what he'd been feeling for months. Feelings he'd spent the last twenty years stomping down. The feelings, desires, and wants -- of his youth. Feelings that belonged to the man he couldn't be. Feelings belonging to a man he'd killed off years ago. There was no way in hell that he could face Daniel now. Now fucking way.
Jack hurried away from the open door. He needed -- solitude. Balance.
Daniel opened his eyes and steadied himself. He glanced down at his pack, then shut it. He was ready. But first, he needed to meet with General Hammond. Just because Ambrose was an asshole was no reason his team should go into something blind.
"Sir, Doctor Jackson is here to see you."
"Show him in, Sergeant." Hammond hoped this wasn't bad news, or Daniel changing his mind. He looked up as the younger man walked in. As he waved him down into the seat that Jack had vacated not so long ago, he said, "Doctor Jackson. Is there a problem?"
"Yes, Sir. And I realize -- that I'm partly to blame. I should have spoken up in the briefing. About Shu and Tefnut." Hammond's eyes narrowed, then he smiled wryly. "Ah, yes. The question Ambrose didn't ask. I take it that what happened to them could impact the mission?"
"Well, it's possible. You see, I think they, well, at least Shu, was killed by their daughter."
"I don't see how that could be of significance here. Haven't you said many times that the children of the gods usually rose up against them? And from what I read, Nut was quite young when her parents took her to Nubia. It was also quite evident from our investigation that the planet is devoid of any living souls. So Nut couldn't be a danger, correct?"
"In a way, sir. But you see, the writings, the final few glyphs, were Nut's. She wrote about how she used the device on her own father. But it isn't clear what happened to Tefnut, let alone Nut. If she left the planet, was forced to run, obviously without the device, it's very possible she's out there."
"Doctor Jackson, it's been thousands of years, correct?" At Daniel's nod, Hammond continued. "And no one has returned to that planet for the weapon. Wouldn't that indicate that Nut is dead? Of no danger to us?"
"But you don't that think that's what it means, I take it?"
"No, Sir, I don't. Nut was, by my count, a teenager when she killed her parent. In translating her, she comes across as being particularly strong and intelligent -- and not even remotely aligned with her parents' views. As evidenced by the fact that she--"
"Killed them," Hammond offered dryly. Daniel gave him that little wiggle of his head that signaled embarrassment, then went on.
"She was intelligent enough to "get out of Dodge," as Jack would say, and intelligent enough to know that lying low would be in her best interest. She could be anywhere, as anyone. But if she's alive and if she aligns with a powerful Gou'ald--"
"I think I'm getting the picture. But the odds are with us, wouldn't you agree, Doctor?" Daniel couldn't argue with that -- exactly. He shrugged. Hammond rose, signifying that the meeting was at an end. "I'll ensure that Ambrose is aware and keeps an eye out. Thank you, Doctor." Daniel walked out.
Jack got the door closed, then, in an unprecedented act, he locked it. He sat down at his desk and noticed absently that his hands were shaking. He ran a finger over his upper lip. Yep, he was sweating too. Well, fuck. No wonder. His neat little world -- destroyed in an instant. One brief look at Daniel in his office and years of closet fortification -- gone. Oh, he was still in the closet, but now - he wanted out. Desperately.
Or at least he wanted to be in the closet with Daniel.
Unaccountable anger as exhibited toward one highly intelligent archeologist now made sense. Transference of deep, dark, pleasurable thoughts to one Samantha Carter, now made sense. Even as his 2IC, she was safer to lust after than Daniel. A hell of lot safer. For one thing, neither of them would have ever acted on any supposed feelings. Sam had made that crystal clear on several occasions. It wasn't even a toss-up for her. She'd choose her career over Jack O'Neill any day of the week.
And he'd choose his over her. The knowledge of which did nothing to dampen his complete utter wanting of Daniel. Whom he would choose over his career.
Jack got up and went into the small bathroom. He turned on the water and cupped his hands. Letting the cold liquid rise, he bent over and splashed his face. Straightening, he looked at himself in the mirror. Damp, bloodshot eyes, creased face, spiked hair -- You're lying to yourself, Jacko. You don't just want Daniel. You -- love -- him. "God help me, I do," he said to his reflection. He needed to talk to Daniel. Now.
Daniel stood in the gate room, ready. Montoya stood next to him, eyes glued to his commander. As Ambrose spoke quietly to Hammond, and the gate spun as chevrons were locked into place, Daniel had no thoughts of death. Death was accepted now, so why waste time thinking about it? Daniel was content to wait. "Chevron seven, encoded." At the sight and sound of the wormhole establishing, Ambrose saluted Hammond, then moved forward with the rest of SG3, Daniel bringing up the rear. Another mission. Another day.
Daniel stepped through to the other side.
Jack didn't make it. He'd run like hell, barreled into the gate room -- just in time to see the event horizon disappear.
For a minute he stood trying to catch his breath, and staring at the spot where Daniel had been--
Daniel stepped out and into blazing sun and pale sands. He pulled up his sunglasses and put them on, then gazed around him. His first thought was that he was on Abydos - but then he took a deep breath and thescent hit him -- Egypt.
He moved unsteadily down the five stone steps and took another breath.
God, Egypt. This planet smelled like - Egypt. He closed his eyes and inhaled again, a small smile tugging at his lips. A breeze brushed his face, gentle and familiar. There had to be a river near by, yet nothing had shown on any of the tapes, nor in any of SG3's reports. Montoya was adjusting his glasses and Daniel tapped his shoulder.
"A river. Is there a river anywhere near by?"
"Not that I'm aware of, no."
Strange, he thought. The scent, the feel of the breeze, the whole sense of the place yelled out water.
Ambrose raised his arm and brought it down and they moved out.
The team had an hour's hike on desert ground, the surface temperature, a balmy 90 degrees, but for Daniel, it was like home. Thirty minutes into their walk, the air changed, but Daniel expected that and he suspected that he was the only one who'd noticed. If there was water, they were getting closer, and yet, that appeared to be impossible.
As they walked, the scenery never changed, but Daniel would have sworn that he could smell the plants and rushes of the Nile even though there wasn't a plant in sight. No birds flew overhead and the only sounds to be heard were the sounds of boots hitting ground, the occasional grunt and the unique sound of wind on sand, a kind of whoosh, playful and welcoming. Daniel knew he was smiling. And he had no intention of stopping.
As he walked and enjoyed, he mulled over the strange turn his life had so recently taken and, in spite of the hopelessness of such thoughts, his smile remained.
In spite of missing Jack and in spite of understanding that the reason he missed him so much was that -- he was -- in love with the man, he realized that there was a certain freedom in loving someone you can never have. There was also a certain freedom in his calm acceptance of death. Somehow, they went together. Loving Jack and death. He just wasn't sure how.
Shifu came to mind and Daniel wondered if the other path the boy had spoken of -- was death. Or maybe not death -- but ascension? A life totally different from what he knew now? A path to a new kind of enlightenment?
Well, the path he was currently on was certainly going nowhere fast. Sometimes it felt as though he were stuck in this box and no matter which side he tried, the same future stretched out before him. A future where Jack was nothing more than a back, walking in front of him. Where the only purpose of each off-world mission was finding a way to destroy, and where his gun was needed more than his mind.
God, it could all be so much more. Instead of a cold back, Daniel could share a hidden smile or a touch that promised intimacy later. He could revel in the sight of a much loved face hovering above him, brown eyes so full of love and laughter that the moment couldn't hold it all. And off-world, each new planet could offer a wealth of knowledge, cultures, and history, thus providing a compass for his world. If the people of Earth were to really become the Fifth Race, Daniel doubted that it could be done through the search for bigger and more glorious weapons.
It was funny really. After giving up Shifu the first time and realizing that his place was with the SGC, that he was needed by the SGC, he'd had this funny, ridiculous notion. A notion that he and Jack, Sam and Teal'c, that the whole SGC, were the foundation for the future of mankind. The path to enlightenment had to start somewhere, he'd reasoned, so why not with them?
Just shows to go you.
Daniel wondered if it was too late for Earth. He knew it was too late for him, he was too tired. The arguments had been said and lost, the looks of pity, disdain or puzzlement were no longer tolerable. He could change, he knew that. He could become what Jack, what they all, wanted. He was close now.
Daniel "Rambo" Jackson. He grinned. Yeah, he was close, too close. He was losing himself. Which was never a good thing.
Daniel had to smile again. Like what the hell difference did it, or would it make, to anyone, anywhere, if Daniel Jackson became -- someone else? Hadn't he already decided that he was a biohazard? If all those other realities managed without Doctor Daniel Jackson, well, so could this one, right?
So "Rambo" Jackson it was. Or maybe -- "Action" Jackson; lean, mean fighting machine?
Of course, there was the added bonus that "Action" Jackson wasn't likely to last too long. Not that he couldn't be game, he could. But it wouldn't, ultimately, be enough. Something inside would always hold just enough back -- that he'd get himself killed.
Ah, too bad. But historical. Can't beat history, can you?
Slowly he began to hum low, too low for the others to hear. As the music formed in his mind, he recognized the song and mentally sang the words--
"What is this thing that builds our dreams, yet slips away from us. Who wants to live forever, who wants tolive forever...."
Jack shoved his hands into his pockets, sighed, turned around and walked out of the gate room.
In five hours -- he'd have his chance.
"There you go, Doctor Jackson. The pyramid."
Daniel followed the line made by Montoya's arm and nodded. Ten minutes later they were out of the sun and in the cool darkness of the small structure.
Daniel flipped on his flashlight, as did the others. Lieutenant Elvis made her way to the equipment they'd left behind on their first visit. Daniel heard the whir of the generator and seconds later -- it might as well have been daylight.
And he got his first real look. Mouth open, he began to walk around the walls.
Color. Brilliant color. The photos in black and white had not done justice to these hieroglyphics. And God, how well preserved they were! Damn, Montoya should have had a video camera--
Ambrose and his team stood silently by as Daniel walked. This was old hat to them and truth be told, meant nothing until Daniel could tell them where to find the weapon.
When Daniel got to the south wall, he stopped. Eyes wide, he put out his hand to touch, then drew it back. "Why weren't there pictures of this wall?"
Ambrose stepped forward. "No need. It was obvious that nothing there alluded to the device. Even to my untrained eyes, it's nothing but drawings of people enjoying a picnic by a river."
Daniel didn't turn around as he said without any attempt to hide his disdain, "A river that, according to you, doesn't exist. Yet here it is. And I suppose you missed this?"
Daniel pointed to another pyramid, the twin to the one they were in, that rose up behind the figures enjoying, as Ambrose had said, their picnic.
"I didn't miss it, I just didn't deem it important. The tapes don't show a river, so how could those drawings represent this planet?"
God, the military mind. Daniel counted to ten, then said patiently, "This figure, recognize him?"
All three members moved closer, until they were almost looking over his shoulder. Elvis said, "That's Shu. I recognize the feather."
"Very good. And this?"
"Tefnut. The head of a lioness," Mitchell offered.
"Exactly. But they're not alone. They're surrounded by figures, and here," he tapped lightly and carefully, a much smaller figure in the center, "is Nut. But no Geb. No son."
Montoya nodded, his eyes bright with understanding. "No Geb means this represents their time after their escape. And the people with them, their followers?"
"Followers, no. But when they left Ra, they rescued others. As many as would come. This represents a celebration."
"So it had to take place - here," Elvis added.
Daniel nodded, then continued to make his way around the room. After ten minutes, his puzzlement grew. The story was here. All of it, the majority told by Tefnut, the final part, by Nut. And yet -- so self contained. Nothing to indicate where they lived, where they loved and died -- other than -- where Daniel was standing right now.
Which meant -- rings? So this isn't Nubia? Only the -- what? The gateway to Nubia?
No, this had to be Nubia. He'd smelled the river. It was here. It had to be--
Daniel tore his eyes from the glyphs and began to really look at the room. He walked out into the center and slowly began to turn--
"Sir, what's he doing?" Captain Mitchell whispered.
"Hell if I know. This is Jackson."
The room wasn't built in perfect proportions, which was odd. The south wall was marginally longer than the rest, and yet--from the outside and from one's first glimpse inside, it appeared to be a perfect pyramid, with precise dimensions in and out.
But it wasn't.
His gaze swept over the east wall, then slowly, moved back. Daniel cocked his head. "This is strange," he mused, more to himself than to the others. "A phonogram by itself."
Ambrose shook his head. "And this is strange, why? And what the hell does a phonograph have to do with anything?"
"I can answer that, Sir," Lieutenant Elvis said. "See, hieroglyphs are divided into two groups, phono grams, which are symbols that denote sound, and ideograms, or glyphs that express objects or ideas. You need both to correctly deduce the significance of a phrase, to know its true meaning."
Ambrose looked at her as if she'd just sprouted two heads. She was his weapons expert. Ann Elvis grinned sheepishly and said shyly, "I -- I've attended a few of -- Doctor Jackson's lectures, Sir."
"Uh-huh. I see." He turned back to Jackson. "So what significance does a -- phono-gram -- have for us andour search for the device?"
"I suspect you wouldn't believe me if I told you, Colonel Ambrose, so why don't I -- try it out?"
Daniel walked over to the set of drawings, and the one lone phonogram, then waved the others to him. "If I'm right, you might want to stand by me?"
Suspicious and impatient, Ambrose nodded at the others and they moved to his side.
"Here's hoping I haven't lost my touch--"
Daniel put his hands to his mouth and a moment later a strange sound surrounded them. It sounded -- birdlike, only more -- sorrowful. Like a hawk, or--
The ground shook, the sand beneath their feet shifted and slowly the south wall seemed to recede. The very floor they stood upon shuddered, then -- the center of the room -- disappeared altogether.
The shaking stopped, the sand stilled. Ambrose stared. "What the hell--"
A stairway had opened in the floor. Huge, gaping, sand still spilling from the edges--
Captain Mitchell looked at Daniel with something akin to awe. "What was that sound?"
"Evidently - it was the mating call of the Horus-falcon. The sacred bird of Thoth."
Mitchell looked over Daniel's shoulder, then said, "The phonogram?"
Ambrose walked the few steps to the stairway and looked down. "Jackson, are you saying the device is down --- there?"
"Nubia is down there, Sir. And yes, I think we'll findthe device as well."
There were no doubting Thomases left. Everyone picked up their backs and lined up - behind Daniel.
Daniel started down.
The first thing the team noticed was the smell. Or maybe lack of smell would have been more accurate. Instead of stale or rank, they got clean, fresh, and cool. Even more amazing was that as they traveled further down, everyone could hear the sound of water.
The steps took them, Daniel guessed, the equivalent of about three floors below the surface. When he hit bottom and turned, flashlight beam moving, the first thing that greeted him was the source of the rushing water.
An underground river.
"Which direction?" Ambrose asked, his voice barely above an awestruck whisper.
Daniel aimed to the left. The beam flashed over a wall where water could be seen flowing through a small cave-like opening. He swung his flashlight to the right and highlighted a long tunnel.
"Right. We go right," Ambrose said.
It was their only course. No one hesitated, they simply started walking. Less than fifteen minutes later -- their flashlights were no longer necessary. "Daniel, this isn't possible," Montoya said as he stared ahead at the obvious daylight that grew as they moved closer.
"Rey, the SGC is about the impossible."
They continued forward and eventually the tunnel opened up to the -- outside. Air, sky, clouds, sand, and the river flowing freely now as its path widened. And overhead -- birds flew.
The members walked out, each turning in different directions while slowly -- amazedly -- they removed their sunglasses, as if the dark shields were responsible for what they couldn't be seeing. But were seeing. Daniel was smiling, shades on top of his head,as he took it all in.
Nubia. The real Nubia.
Someone tapped him on the shoulder and he turned in the direction Lieutenant Elvis was pointing -- The other pyramid.
"It's the drawing, Doctor," she said, her voice filled with wonder.
"I think so, Lieutenant, I think so," he breathed out.
At that moment, for at least four members of the team, thoughts of weapons faded. They were seeing -- a miracle. The impossible. And they reveled in it, almost as excited as their scientific leader.
Ambrose was stunned, and -- afraid. This was beyond his ken, wasn't in his job description. Sure, he'd seen plenty in his two years with the SGC, but nothing, nothing like this. At that moment, all he wanted to do was get the weapon, wherever the hell it was, and get out.
"Let's head over to the pyramid, that has to be where it is, the device."
If no one seemed eager to go, he pretended not to notice. He started off, certain the others would follow.
The pyramid was almost a complete replica of the one above. The four walls were full of hieroglyphs, but this time, a series of shelves and cubbyholes had been carved into the center of all four walls. And on those shelves - Gou'ald technology. Daniel immediately recognized a zat, a ribbon device, a healing device - hell, they'd struck the Mother Lode.
He stood back and watched as Mitchell, Elvis and Ambrose went from item to item, touching each as reverently as if they'd been in a church. Daniel suddenly felt sick to his stomach.
It was possible that all the evil that was the Gou'ald was represented in this room - all but a sarcophagus. He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and turned his attention to the walls and the hieroglyphs.
These glyphs were different - darker in mood, the colors muted and heavy. While SG3 "oohed" and "aahed" over weaponry, he began to walk the room and mentally translate--
No mixed dialects here, just straight glyphs.
"This -- we shouldn't be able -- to be here. We shouldn't have been able to enter," he finally said.
Montoya turned from one large, shiny item. "Why? Wha t do you mean?"
Daniel pointed to a series of glyphs. "She protected this room, there, at the entrance. When Tefnut and Shu arrived, they took all that they'd used, all that was Gou'ald, and -- interned -- them here. Then Tefnut created a kind of -- seal -- around the entrance."
Everyone gazed at the entryway, then back to Daniel. Ambrose cleared his throat. "So how are we here?" He gave a little wiggle of his head and Daniel wondered if that was a regulation Air Force move or if Ambrose had stolen it from Jack? Of course, Jack's wiggle was much better.
"I'm not sure."
Montoya proved to be the brave one. He walked steadily to the entry and -- through it. Then he returned. "Okay, so we're not trapped either. That's always good news," he said with a grin.
Daniel returned the smile, then noticed something odd about another set of glyphs. He moved closer--
Understanding flooded through him. Seemed as though the Asgard weren't the only ones to come up with a system to block out those with symbiotes within.
"We were able to enter because we're not Gou'ald,"he said.
Lieutenant Elvis joined him and stared up at the drawings. "That's -- brilliant. Tefnut made sure that Gou'alds, the only ones who would be able to use these, couldn't. If somehow Ra found them here - or some other snake--"
Her voice trailed off as she found a hole in her theory. "But that would mean," she looked up at Daniel, "that if they were attacked, they couldn't use the weapons either!"
"I think," Daniel said softly, "I think Tefnut was ensuring that her daughter - couldn't use the weapons. They'd already experienced the turning of Geb - it wasn't so farfetched to believe that it could happen to Nut as she matured. Initially, there were no Jaffa, which meant that the symbiote had to be placed when the host was young, thus maturing with the host."
"Then how did Nut get her hands on what we're looking for and use it against her parents?" Elvis asked.
"Simple," Ambrose said with disgust, "the weapon isn't here. Besides, look around you. Nothing looks even remotely like something that destructive." Daniel gazed about him, taking in each item. All intricate, ranging in size from the palm-held ribbon device to the length of a staff weapon. But everything inside him, told him the device was here.
Tefnut had battled her daughter after seeing her beloved husband killed and there'd been no triumph in the glyphs left by Nut. Nothing showing her leaving with the device. So --
Tefnut must have been able to retrieve it, get it back in here--
Of course. That's it. That which can be turned on -- can be turned off. And then on again.
Daniel closed his eyes and mentally reviewed the glyphs of Nut's. Damn. So much to put together, so easy to misinterpret.
Daniel gazed down at the ground. He began to walk, scuffing at the sand, brushing it aside with his boot--
"What the hell are you doing, Jackson?" Ambrose demanded.
"She died in here. Tefnut. She died in here."
"Are you crazy?"
Daniel knelt down in the far corner and ran his hands through the sand. Montoya knelt next to him and watched, then began to do the same.
"Teeth, if I'm not mistaken," Rey said a moment later.
Daniel looked at what the scientist held in his palm and nodded. "Tefnut."
Lieutenant Elvis, almost bouncing in excitement, said, "I get it! Tefnut turned off the mechanism, came in with the device, and turned it back on again. But why not just--"
"She'd lost everything," Daniel said, his voice distant and far away. "She had nothing to live for. Her children - gone. Her beloved - gone. She came in, just as you said, then destroyed the control mechanism. She was content to die, knowing that at least her daughter could not have access to all this. Even in freedom, she and Shu could not escape their fate as Gou'alds.
"They created a terrible device, were forced to use it on their own son, then Tefnut watched as it was used on her soul mate, her husband -- "
"Live by the sword - die by the sword," Lieutenant Elvis whispered.
Not entirely apt, but close enough, Daniel thought. More like, "what price freedom?"
Ambrose walked to the corner where Daniel and Montoya still knelt and said, "So where's the fucking device?"
Daniel looked up into blazing green eyes and he almost cringed. Slowly he rose, moved past Ambrose, and started to walk around the room again, eyes critical. Feeling somewhat like Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail, he stopped in front of one cubbyhole.
Inside sat a rather innocuous item. It wasn't intricate or shiny, and was about twice the size of the microscope in his office. He reached in and lifted it out. It was heavy, but not so heavy that one person couldn't handle it. As he carried it to the middle of the room, he could feel the carvings on the sides of the item, as well as something infinitely more detailed. Slowly he set it down.
"This is it."
Ambrose walked over and raised an eyebrow. "That?" he said with disdain.
"This," Daniel said. "Think about it. The glyphs you found told how Shu used it on Geb. You saw the symbols for sunbeams radiating out from Shu. The drawings obscured the area in front of him, you only saw his face."
Ambrose waved Montoya over. "Is it possible, Rey?"
"Knowing what we know of Gou'ald technology, yes, I'd believe that they could create something as powerful -- and contain it within something this small. Look at a zat gun."
"How does it work, Jackson?"
Daniel looked over at Ambrose and frowned. "Wouldn't it be better to get this back to the SGC, then--"
"We're to test it here," Ambrose said coldly. "Now -how does it work?"
Déjà vu. Abydos all over again. Talk about full circle. Daniel felt something let go inside of him. Another path taken. "Give me twenty minutes. There are engravings on it. I'll need time to translate, to ensure everything matches what I translated earlier."
"Fine. I need some air anyway. Montoya, you stay--"
"No! This is -- no. I need quiet, good lighting and privacy."
"Fine. Mitch, you and Elvis set up the lights for the Doc, then leave him to his task. Rey, let's get some sun. This place gives me the creeps."
It was amazing how calm Daniel felt. He sat down cross-legged in the sand and regarded the device. He wondered vaguely if it could be turned on itself. He twisted it around until he could see the more detailed design he'd felt with his fingers. Ah, a locking mechanism. No key. This was good. No key, meant no one could use it. Except -- the scientists of the SGC were pretty inventive. He'd bet Sam would have this thing up and running in no time.
Daniel peered closer at the design of the lock and frowned. Why did it look familiar? He cocked his head and squinted -- Slowly he pulled several of the black and white photos of the pyramid above from his pack. He sorted though them until he found one particular picture: A representation of Shu, playing with his daughter, Nut, and around her neck, a chain. And dangling from the chain--a pendant. He looked closer --
It matched. Tefnut had put the key to the device around her own daughter? And why not? Who'd ever believe--
Yet - somehow - Nut had figured it out. Her symbiote matured, took control, or -- it had been a true meeting of minds. Children rebel against what they have--a child raised in the city yearns for the country and vice versa. And a Gou'ald raised in a private paradise, must yearn for -- the world.
As Daniel had figured earlier, Nut must have talked one of the others, one without a symbiote, to enter the pyramid and bring her the device. Daniel shook his head in sorrow as pain for Tefnut, Shu, Geb and Nut filled him. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he bent to the task of figuring out the damn machine.
When he was done and he'd matched the hows with the wheres, he concentrated on opening it. Two words were inscribed on what he'd figured to be the compartment housing the power source, the words: Shu and Tefnut.
Daniel rubbed his brow. He was running out of time. Shu and Tefnut. Tefnut and Shu.
"Damn. Could I be any more stupid?"
Dry wind, and moisture. Shu and Tefnut.
Daniel picked up a bit of dry sand, spit on it, rubbed it together between two fingers, then holding up the mixture, he blew gently.
The compartment door popped open.
Yeah, right. First he'd been Indiana Jones, now he was Bruce Willis. Which explained Hollywood. Gou'alds, all of them.
He slipped the power source out, marveling at its compactness. Without this, the machine would never work. No matter what they did.
Daniel stared at the small chip. Another path taken?
Dare he take it? Could he go against everything the SGC now stood for? Go against his -- friends? Jack?
He closed his hand over the chip. No one knew better than he how evil Goa'uld technology could be. How it could corrupt.
Another path -- taken.
But what to do with this? How could he destroy the power source? Daniel grinned. Three zaps with a zat. And if the energy of the zat gun fed the power source? Well, he'd die, but so would it. No problemo.
He set the power source down a few feet from the device, then hurried over to the zat, picked it up,and fired.
Once, twice, thrice.
No sound of significance, no debris, no evidence. He put the zat gun back.
By the time SG3 returned, Daniel Jackson was scribbling details of how to open the device into his notebook.
"Well?" Daniel looked up and into the impatient gaze of Colonel Ambrose.
"Everything matches and I can tell you how to work it. But -- no key."
Daniel turned the device to show Ambrose the lock. "The key was worn as a pendant by Nut. Wherever she is, there you'll find the key. But I suspect our people back home can get it going. Eventually."
"Fuck. All right. Fine. We take it and go back. Montoya, pack it up. We'll return later and retrieve the rest of this stuff. This," he indicated the device now in Rey's hands, "was our mission. Let's head home."
Jack stared out the observation window. One hour, thirty minutes left.
That was it. And if SG3 wasn't walking down that ramp--
The trip back was silent and uneventful. Daniel brought up the rear, kept his head down, and wondered at what he'd just done.
Who was he to make such a decision? Who said his path was the right one? Well, besides Shifu.
A child with all the knowledge of the Gou'ald.
Which didn't excuse what Daniel had done. Changing his path was hardly the same as changing the path of the SGC or Earth.
Damn, he was confused. He was only one man.
At that moment, Daniel would have given anything to have Jack in front of him. The Jack who knew. Who understood even when he pretended not to. The Jack whose dark eyes held so much more than he'd ever let on. The Jack who, in spite of being flippant, would have understood Shu and Tefnut, would have felt pain for them. Daniel wanted the Jack who'd made a decision regarding the Eudorans. Who'd decided in a split second, that not even Alar and all his knowledge had been worth allowing the man and his poison through the gate.
Oh, yeah, Daniel had known. He'd seen the look pass between Jack and Sam. Sure, Jack had made a decision Daniel never would have made, but still, Jack had made it. And been - hurt by making it. Daniel was pretty sure he'd never loved Jack more than at that moment, seeing him on the ramp, hearing him tell the General to close the iris, knowing full well what the SGC was losing. Daniel almost tripped as they entered the tunnel, so he quickly shut down his thoughts. He could do that -of late.
They started up, Ambrose several feet ahead. When they hit the top, the ground shook and SG3 jumped back, Daniel almost needing to throw himself, as the stairs quickly disappeared.
"Okay, that was close," he said breathlessly.
Rey smiled at him and said, "Close only counts in horseshoes, Daniel."
They exited the pyramid and started for the gate.
An hour later they reached their destination.
"Montoya, dial us home."
Rey started forward, but suddenly froze as the gate came alive and before anyone could move, five figures appeared. Two Gou'ald and three Jaffa.
It was funny how fast these kinds of things happen, Daniel thought. One minute; quiet, the next; surprise,and finally; the shooting.
Daniel might have been all right, except his gaze landed on one of the two Gou'alds - a woman. And he recognized her. Nut.
Those few seconds of shocked recognition cost him.
Hell was breaking all around him as, ducking down, Ambrose, Mitchell, Elvis and Montoya all began firing while they ran to take cover behind the dunes. On the stone deck holding the gate, the Jaffa did the same, exchanging fire as they moved. A blast struck next to Daniel and he hit the ground. He was unprotected.
The two Gou'ald, protected by their shield, walked down the steps and toward him. Daniel saw a Jaffa fall, thanks to a good shot by Elvis. Another Jaffa had a bead on Mitchell, but Rey took him out. Two Gou'ald, one Jaffa left.
The wormhole shut down and immediately Ambrose yelled out, "ELVIS, THE GATE!"
The lieutenant spurted for the DHD and the third Jaffa rose from behind the dune and took aim. Ambrose stood and fired at the same time. The Jaffa fell, Elvis didn't. She punched in but nothing happened.
By now, the two Gou'ald stood above Daniel. The golden head of armor disappeared, revealing the Gou'ald god. Daniel had never seen him before.
The man had pale, almost translucent skin and dark thick hair that flowed to his shoulders. Eyes the color of midnight blue stared down at Daniel. The Gou'ald smiled.
Turning so that the Gou'ald and Nut faced the gate, the god terminated the protective shield, then leveled a zat at Daniel. Eyes glowing brightly, he said, "We only want whatever you may have taken from this place. We have locked out your coordinates, you can not return home. Comply, and we will release the chaapa'ai and you may leave. Refuse and this one dies."
The Gou'ald grinned and fired the zat gun.
Daniel knew it was coming. The pain hit him, enveloped him in its tight hold. He didn't lose consciousness as the power of the gun coursed through him and his body jerked in pain, but he really would have liked to. He really would.
Ambrose stared at the tableau before him. At least Jackson's body had stopped jerking.
"You know the second one kills. Leave what you have taken."
Ambrose stared at the tall Gou'ald, then yelled, "ELVIS, DIAL THE COORDINATES FOR P3X-772!"
Elvis did as instructed. Moments later, the worm hole had been established.
"GO THROUGH NOW! MONTOYA, FOLLOW HER!" Both quickly dove through.
"THE DEVICE IS GONE, IT JUST WENT THROUGH THE GATE!"
Daniel heard Ambrose. Heard him tell the Gou'ald that he'd lost. He opened his eyes and stared up into the face of Nut. Hers flashed gold, and it was like staring into Sha're's eyes as Ammonet was killing him with the ribbon device.
He was going to die. He knew it. The device was gone, Ambrose and Mitchell were close enough to the gate to jump -- And he felt nothing. Here it was, at last. He closed his eyes and smiled.
The Gou'ald fired.
Ambrose watched as the Gou'ald fired the second time, then he pushed a stunned Mitchell toward the gate and both men jumped through.
The two Gou'ald stared at the gate. The Tauri were gone and so was what they'd come to claim. Thoth looked down at the body, then at his Queen. With a nod, they walked to the Chaappa'ai. Nut checked a device on her arm and showed him the results. "Good. We know where they are. We'll follow them once we have more soldiers."
Nut nodded, then pressed the seven symbols that would get them home. When the wormhole reestablished itself, they both stepped through and disappeared. Thewormhole died.
Behind them, the wind carried the sand in small drifts and whorls, changing the face of the dunes -- and beginning to cover the body that lay on the barren planet, alone and otherwise -- undisturbed.
Jack hid his impatience well. The ring was moving, chevrons were being locked into place, steam rose from behind the great structure, yet all he wanted to do in the face of such a miracle was yell, "HURRY THE FUCKUP!"
He sighed instead.
Behind him, Sam was checking something, God only knew what, while Teal'c stood to his right, impassive as ever. Hammond was watching from the control room, just as worried, just as impatient, and hiding it just as well. The wormhole exploded out in its usual display of power and Hammond's voice floated down to them.
"SG1, you have a go."
Jack turned, shot him a smart salute (Daniel would have called it a smart assed salute), then said,"Let's go, guys."
The three of them moved up the ramp and stepped through.
Jack could honestly say that even though the five hour limit set by Hammond had come and gone, he still expected, when stepping out of the wormhole, to find nothing more than -- sand. He expected to have to walk the hour to the pyramid, and he expected to find SG3 bored out of their skulls while they waited for Daniel to translate.
He expected to find Daniel, knee deep in hieroglyphics and happy as a clam.
What he didn't expect was to find three dead Jaffa around the gate.
He most certainly didn't expect to find Daniel -- dead-- and so alone.
He sure as hell didn't expect his reaction. The gut-wrenching feeling that his body experienced when the message was sent to his brain that the figure lying in the sand -- so still and so very dead -- was, indeed, Daniel.
He didn't expect to almost fall as the message hit his consciousness. Didn't expect his legs to buckle the way they do when someone comes up behind you and knees the back of your -- knees.
He didn't expect the total darkness. Or the cold. Nor did Jack expect the yell.
The pain-filled, impossibly loud, "this-can't-be-happening-heart-ripped-from-the-chest-my-world-is-ending-kill-me-now" yell of, "NO!"
He also didn't expect it to come from him.
Jack ripped his glasses off, then tore the pack from his body, all as his boots hit the ground. He ran across the sand, then dropped to his knees, and without thought, lifted the lifeless form into his arms.
But of course, there was no answer.
Jack was vaguely aware of the fact that Sam, eyes red and full of moisture, had sunk down next to him, and that Teal'c, his staff weapon ready, stood behind him, assuming his natural role of guardian.
Jack shook the still form and Daniel's arm flopped away from his body to land with his hand palm up in the sand.
It seemed that was all Jack could say, so he stopped saying anything. Sam checked Daniel's pulse, then with tears coursing down her cheeks, shook her head.
It was the wrong thing to do. Or the very right thing. The shaking of that blonde head said so much. It said Daniel had no pulse. It said Daniel was dead. It confirmed what Jack already knew and what he had steadfastly refuse to accept.
Clarity returned with a rush. "Carter, dial up the Nox homeworld."
"You heard me, dial up the Nox. I expect you know the symbols."
Eyes pitch black with a mixture of such deep grief and anger that Satan himself would have cringed, Jack repeated softly, "The Nox. Now."
Sam pushed herself up, let her hand graze lightly over Daniel's hair, then she walked to the DHD and began to set the symbols for the Nox.
Teal'c bent low and said, "Please allow me, Colonel? I do not believe that you--"
Jack stared up into Teal'c face and in witnessing the depth of emotion behind the dark eyes, nodded. Teal'c knelt beside him and gently, tenderly, the body of Daniel Jackson was transferred from Jack's arms to Teal'c's.
Both men rose, Jack taking Teal'c's weapon. With Daniel secured in Teal'c's embrace, they joined a surprised Sam at the gate. Jack nodded and Teal'c went through, then Sam, then Jack.
The gate closed.
Galaxies away, SG3 came together on P3X-772.
Captain Mitchell, face pale, eyes glazed, sat on a boulder. Lieutenant Elvis and Captain Montoya remained at the gate, waiting for Doctor Jackson to come through.
Colonel Ambrose stared at the pack that contained the weapon.
"Sir? Doctor Jackson? He--"
"He won't be -- joining us, Lieutenant."
Elvis traded concerned and disbelieving looks with Montoya. Rey shook his head, then walked to where Ambrose stood. "Sir? What the hell happened? Where is Daniel?"
Ambrose picked up the pack and said coldly, "He's -- dead. The snakehead killed him. SG8 should be around here, somewhere. We'll connect up with them--"
At that moment the gate began to turn.
Ambrose cursed under his breath, then commanded, "Let's get the fuck away from here, NOW!"
Everyone moved, but Elvis had to grab Mitchell's arm. They ran toward a stand of trees and kept on running.
Somehow, all four of them knew that nothing good would be coming out of the gate.
The world of the Nox was as serene and peaceful as their first and until now, only visit. As they stepped down onto the grass, SG1 wasn't surprised when the gate disappeared. Jack looked around him as if he were lost. He sat down and held out his arms. Teal'c, uncertain, but with no choice, carefully knelt and placed Daniel in Jack's embrace. Sam took off her helmet and wiped her face with back of her sleeve.
"Sir, how did you know that--"
Eyes on Daniel's face, Jack said, "I've learned one thing in five years, Carter. If the very young rarely do as they're told, the very ancient are often too self-assured. A trait that seems to have brought down many an advanced race. Besides - it worked with the Tollan, didn't it? 'Bury the gate' my ass."
Gazing around them, Sam seemed at a loss. As Jack stroked a hand down Daniel's right cheek, he said, "Sit, Carter. Take a load off. They'll be here soon."
With a startled look at Teal'c, Sam sat. If any of them thought it strange that they were sitting in the middle of a field, holding their dead comrade -- well, no one mentioned it.
Sam wanted to touch Daniel, but somehow felt that she'd be trespassing on the Colonel. She also didn't know if being here would even work. They didn't know how long Daniel had been -- dead.
As if reading her thoughts, Jack said, "He's still warm. And I don't mean surface warm, from the sun, I mean -- warm."
She nodded, for no particular reason. "What do you think happened, Colonel?"
Eyes narrowing dangerously, Jack said, "SG3 left Daniel, that's what happened."
"Sir, you don't know--"
"Don't I, Major? Did you see any of SG3 lying dead in the sand? Do you see a wound on Danny? No."
"I believe he was shot twice with a zat, Colonel," Teal'c offered quietly.
If Jack heard Teal'c, he gave no sign. Instead, he seemed suddenly obsessed with straightening Daniel's clothes. "Did we leave his glasses back there?" he said, his voice almost hollow.
Sam, glad she'd picked them up after spotting them almost buried in the sand, reached into her pocket, pulled them out, then handed them to the Colonel. He took them and almost smiled.
"See, Danny? You can always count on one of us to find your glasses. You know that."
"Colonel O'Neill?" Teal'c whipped about, staff raised. But all that stood before them was Lya. She started forward, a gentle smile on her face -- then she spotted the still form in Jack's arms.
Jack gazed into her eyes and said in a voice reminiscent of a hurting boy, "Please, Lya? Please?"
A moment later Lya, Jack and Daniel disappeared.
Sam scrambled to her feet as Teal'c said, "Shall we?"
"As if we have a choice?"
They began to walk.
Jack sat with his head in his hands. Around him, the forest and quiet. Lya had left him here but taken Daniel with her to the others. Daniel had been dead -- too long. With unaccustomed tears in her eyes, she'd said, "It may too late, Colonel. It may be too late."
Then she was gone, Daniel with her.
It was all together possible that if the Nox couldn't bring Daniel back, Jack would die.
Probable, not possible.
Jack raised his head, acknowledged Carter and Teal'c, then said, "She took him to the others. She said -- it might be too late."
The small clearing looked exactly as it had the last time. The small huts, the strange flowered bed, the food in front of Jack--
Sam took a seat opposite, Teal'c beside her. For a moment, no one spoke, then Jack, eyes on his boots, said, "A few days ago, Colonel Hatch spoke with me about Daniel. He said that Daniel was -- had become -- reckless. That was his word. Reckless. Not -- negligent, reckless, with his own life." Jack looked up and into Sam's sad eyes. "What do you suppose that was all about?"
"I don't know, Sir. But you have to admit, Daniel hasn't been -- himself -- lately."
"No, he hasn't. So who has he been, if not himself? Who would there be for him to be? What the hell am I saying, Carter? Help me out here?"
"It was not the DanielJackson I know that agreed to go undercover with the Tokra," Teal'c said quietly.
Jack felt as though a secret had just been revealed, but not to him. "What do you mean, Teal'c?"
"DanielJackson held a hatred for the Gou'ald, but several months ago, he released it. He understood the poison and what it could do to his soul. Yet, he agreed to be a part of what was an assassination plot. To murder -- in cold blood -- the system lords."
Teal'c cocked his head, then said, "I believe he was trying to be what he is not. I believe that he was trying to find his place in a world that has changed beyond his ability to accept or understand. And I believe that he understood that he could not be what he is not, nor could he find a place in this new world. I believe he fully intended to die on that mission."
Jack stared at his friend, then said dryly, "O-kay. That was -- enlightening. Not."
He ran his hand back through his short hair, then rubbed at his eyes. This was maybe too much. Too much -- thinking. Too much -- information.
"I think I see what Teal'c means, Sir."
"Carter, right now, it's Jack. I'm Jack, you're Sam. The Air Force is nowhere around. So Sam, what do you think you see?"
Carter smiled, a hurting, half-smile, then said, "The SGC has become -- less -- than what it was. We've been sent on more missions where Daniel had no purpose, Colo--Jack. No purpose other than to shoot his way, and ours, out of some mess. And while we've spent the last five years pretty much doing just that, we were explorers, not techno-hunters. We sought out other worlds, as much for what they could teach us as what they could -- share -- with us. We don't really do that anymore, do we, sir?"
"So what's the answer? If we didn't try to find weapons to fight the Gou'ald, if we didn't change, there wouldn't be an SGC right now. You know that."
Sam looked at her commanding officer and tried to see him, tried to see them all, as Daniel must see them --
In a voice so filled with sadness that both Jack and Teal'c felt the pain physically, Sam said, "We are close to becoming that which we fight. Daniel knows this. He knows that we are Sarita."
"The planet that was responsible for the destruction of the original Tollan homeworld. The Tollan's made contact with them, found them to be in a similar place as us. They shared their technology with them. And within a day--"
Her voice trailed off and Jack had to lean forward and tap her knee to get her attention. "And?" he asked, truly interested.
"And -- they used the technology and destroyed themselves. And in doing so, destroyed the Tollan homeworld."
President James Markham stood at the window of the White House dining room, hands clasped behind his back. He had two years left of his first term. As he stared out over the White House lawn, he accepted the fact that his future as President, that a second term, not to mention a successful first term, lay under Cheyenne Mountain.
With the Stargate.
He shook his head and turned back to his breakfast. His wife, Claire, sat watching him. James gave her asmile and took his seat.
"You were a million miles away, Jim."
"I can't deny that, Claire."
She picked up her spoon and dug a polite chunk out of her grapefruit. As she looked at the fruit, glistening on the silver, she said, "Have you ever considered -- actually -- going through it? Experiencing it?"
How the hell did she always know what he was thinking about and when? He grinned. "You are amazing, Mrs. First Lady. How did you know?"
Dark green eyes lifted to his hazel eyes, but she just shook her head hopelessly. "Twenty-two years, Jim. Twenty-two years."
"Burke was there, you know."
She nodded. "For about an hour. He hated it."
"Assassination attempts can have that effect on a President, Claire."
"He was already dying, Jim."
"Cancer can have that effect on a President."
She clucked her tongue. "Jim, go. Or maybe you think I don't know what you're thinking?"
Taking a piece of toast, he cocked his head. "Oh? So what am I thinking this time?"
"You're thinking it's the dream of a lifetime."
Claire Markham put down the spoon and fixed her husband with her best "let's be honest" look. "The SGC saved the world again." She shook her head, the loose red mane moving gently with the action. "Listen to me. I said again. They saved the world again. If that doesn't prove its worth, what in the name of all that is holy, could? You need to see it. It's time, Jimmy."
James Sullivan Markham, forty-fourth President of the United States of America stood and walked back to the large picture window. James Markham stood one quarter of an inch taller than Abraham Lincoln, making him the tallest in history. He was eight months younger than Kennedy, which made him the youngest President in history. He was a Democrat and his vision for the United States was more in line with a Star Trek episode than real life. Or at least it had been.
But then three days after his initial swearing in, he'd been informed of a small project in Colorado.
"Small indeed," he'd laughed when Timothy Logan, his number one man, had told him of Star Gate Command.
Suddenly a United Earth and a Federation of Planets wasn't so farfetched. Suddenly all the horrific compromises he'd made in order to sit in the White House, all the layers of himself he'd been forced to bury in the effort of running for President, became worth it.
As the weeks of his presidency flew by, he spent an inordinate amount of time reading the mission reports of the SGC, especially the lead team, SG-1, as commanded by Colonel O'Neill. One person's reports had truly captured Markham's interest, namely Doctor Daniel Jackson.
In Jackson, Markham had found a kindred spirit. It was especially odd that in the last two years, he'd never had the opportunity to meet the man whose own thoughts so closely paralleled his own, not to mention that Jackson was responsible for opening the secrets to the gate.
But then Kinsey and the battle to preserve his presidency all but drowned out the dream for the future of the gate -- and mankind. He'd found himself having to make more and more compromises in order to stay afloat, to keep Kinsey at bay. The times he'd had to turn his back on General Hammond or Colonel O'Neill had torn him apart. And then Claire, one night after a State dinner, had said, "Go, go to Cheyenne Mountain. Go through the stargate."
And now she -- and he -- were thinking the same thing-- again.
Was it time? Did he dare even consider going through the stargate?
"I believe it is time to visit Colorado, Claire. You game?"
Claire Elizabeth Pontiac Markham, beloved wife of President James Sullivan Markham, joined him by the window. Sliding her arm around his trim waist, she said, "I am most definitely -- game. But only if I accompany you when you decide to take that walk. And I'm assuming you plan to do just that?"
Eyes a million miles away, James Sullivan Markham, forty-fourth President of the United States - nodded.
Lya stood over Daniel Jackson, hovering, almost afraid to leave him. It had been close, very close, but here he was -- alive -- asleep, his body exhausted, but alive. Shortly, she would return him to his comrades, but for now, she watched over him.
As she hovered, he moaned slightly, then turned. She leaned down and placed her cool hand on his forehead. His eyes opened and she could tell his vision was poor.
"He is here, Daniel. I will take you to him shortly. You are well, but need to rest."
Confused blue eyes gazed about him before landing back on Lya. Then they closed and one tear escaped. She touched it, stopped its flight down his cheek and held it up to her face. She did not understand. "Daniel, you are alive. You will survive."
He shook his head, then turned away from her.
A soldier's memory was a good one. A good soldier's memories were even better. They could see old battles fought and comrades die over and over again. Moments of their lives were aptured for all time.
Jack was a good soldier.
As he sat in the middle of the forest of the Nox, his mind played out the last five years as if it were yesterday, but always -- he returned to the beginning; his first glimpse of Daniel.
Arms bulging with maps, glasses sliding down his nose and that silly excited grin on his face. And later, his wonder at seeing the gate for the first time, a wonder that not even Sam had matched her first time. Later, as Daniel had come out of the pyramid with Ra, Jack had understood immediately what Daniel was supposed to do.
He could remember staring up at this -- geek, and seeing so much intelligence burning bright in those eyes staring down at him. Intelligence and sorrow.
Daniel had known he was going to die -- again. He'd had no intention of killing Jack and his men on the steps of the pyramid that day. With or without Skaara's intervention, Daniel had already planned out his movements, his final act. And it had been so obvious that he'd choreographed it. The surety of his motions, the way he brought the weapon up--all a dead giveaway to Jack.
Yes, he'd intended to die again that day.
And later, Jack could clearly remember the look on Daniel's face as they'd stared at each other before Jack had gone through the gate and home. A look that said a valuable friendship had been formed, strong and inviolate, even though neither believed they'dever see each other again.
But perhaps Jack's favorite memory had come after stepping through the gate on Abydos one year later. Seeing Daniel in the robes of the Abydosian, his hair longer and lighter, his eyes alight with real joy, his smile wide and open. Jack hadn't been able to resist passing him for Skaara. It had been -- too easy. Too fun.
As Jack remembered his past with Daniel, he tried to find one moment that seemed to define Doctor Daniel Jackson. There had certainly been moments of great sacrifice and pain, as well as moments when his incredible intelligence came up with the answer everyone needed. But was there one moment alone that should have told Jack everything about Daniel?
It came to him, and like his best memories of Daniel, it too was in the beginning. It was a moment that said more clearly than any other, just who Daniel Jackson was.
It was the moment when the other Abydosians had surrounded Daniel after he'd told them that he would go, would leave them to find Sha're and Skaara. Jack remembered the touching. How each one had to touch Daniel, not wanting to let him go--
They'd known what Jack hadn't, felt what Jack only now could allow himself to feel.
Jack closed his eyes and dropped his face into his hands, oblivious of Carter and Teal'c. Aw, God, Danny. Why? He'd known how Daniel had come to feel about him. He'd known. And Jack had -- ignored it. Tried to break it, destroy it. Why?
Because how could he live with it otherwise? How could he go through the gate with Daniel, see Daniel, love Daniel, knowing that Daniel felt the same?
How could they both exist in this world when the world would not allow them to be together?
So Jack had made the decision for both of them.
Hadn't that been the noble thing to do?
God, what a crock. At least he knew it now. While he couldn't pretend to know what the future held now, he did know one thing: If Daniel was returned to him alive -- he'd keep him this time. He'd learned his lesson -- the hard way.
"Colonel--" Sam's voice trailed off as Lya materialized in front of the small hut.
Jack jumped to his feet. "Lya?"
Smiling, she wiggled her fingers at them and they followed her.
Inside, Daniel lay -- asleep.
"It was not easy, Colonel O'Neill. His energy was nearly gone." She gazed from O'Neill to Sam to Teal'c, then said, "Please, stay as long as you need. When you are ready -- we will talk."
Lya was gone. Jack blinked, then hurried to Daniel's side. He knelt before the bed and placed his hand over Daniel's heart. He closed his eyes and smiled.
Daniel could smell -- flowers -- wild, exotic-smelling flowers. He could buy that. Just not in Hell. Why did he not think Hell would have wild exotic flowers? On the other hand, since when did he believe in Hell?
He moved slightly and sighed. Something beneath him was -- soft. Incredibly so. Should he open his eyes? And hadn't he already done that once? He tried to remember--
Ah-ha. The Nox were -- heaven? He'd died and -- gone to the Nox?
He opened his eyes. Shadows, vague but suggestive of plant life, vines and flowers, and something heavy on his chest. Daniel looked down.
Okay. This was not right. Unless he was crazy, which was altogether possible, that was Jack's head, on his chest. He lifted one hand and placed it gingerly on the short spiky hair, salt and pepper -- soft --yep, it was Jack.
Daniel turned his head and immediately spotted Sam and next to her - Teal'c, who was the only one awake.
The Jaffa smiled and quietly rose. When he stood above Daniel, he said softly, "I am glad to see you, DanielJackson. Do you need anything?"
Daniel looked back down at Jack, then let eyebrow rise in question. "He fell asleep like that. I made one attempt to move him and he threatened my -- future efforts at having-- offspring."
Daniel smiled. Now that sounded like Jack. Just not about him. Daniel finally noticed that Teal'c was looking at something and he followed his gaze down to his own hand, which was gently petting Jack's head. He stopped.
"Should I wake Colonel O'Neill, DanielJackson?"
Doubting that he was up to that, Daniel shook his head. "No, no, let him sleep. He won't be able to walk when you do wake him and that should be adequate payment for threatening your ability to have -- offspring."
Teal'c smiled. A genuine, broad grin. "It is good to have you back, DanielJackson."
Jack sniffed, then wiped his mouth. He'd been drooling. He yawned, then lifted his head. When he closed his mouth, he looked around, then down-- and into Daniel's blue eyes.
"You drooled all over my shirt."
"Not exactly the first words I'd expect from a man whodied -- again."
"Can't help that. You drooled all over--"
"Yeah, yeah, your shirt." Jack took Daniel's hand and leaning down a bit, placed it on his own head.
"Okay,what do you see?"
"Hair, Jack. I see and feel hair. You'll be happy to know that you're not going bald either."
"What color is my hair?"
"Um, you know, kind of --"
"Would that be gray, Danny boy? Wouldn't you agree that my hair is mostly gray?"
"What color was it two years ago?"
"Umm, kind of -- brown."
"Three years ago?"
"Four years ago?"
"Brown -- er."
"Umm, that would be -- less brown."
"Huh-uh. Less brown. I'm too young for this kind of gray hair, Daniel. You are responsible for this gray hair, Daniel. Not Carter, not Teal'c, not Hammond, nor Frasier. Not Maybourne, or Simmons, or Kinsey. Not Apophis, nor Hathor. You can basically forget Ra, Set, Sokar, the Tokra, the Tollan, the Asgard or the Nox. Gate jumping isn't responsible. You are responsible." Daniel shifted and tried to sit up, but Jack pushed him none too gently back. "Stay down, I'm not done."
"Oh, yes you are, Colonel O'Neill."
"Oh no I'm not, Doctor Jackson. I can't take it anymore. You almost didn't make it this time. It was close -- way too close. From now on, we set a few new ground rules. From now on, you are NOT to be loaned out to anyone. You travel with NO other SGC team except SG1. And from now on, if you die, I die with you. Is that understood?"
"Is that understood?"
"Are you -- nuts?"
"Yes, but that's another discussion. Now, do you understand?"
"You die with me?"
"Look Daniel, it's like this; we either live together or we die together. Only options. Whichever it is, it's together."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that."
"So that's why you felt that it was okay to drool on my shirt?"
"I see," he said softly. Daniel attempted to look past Jack and when he couldn't, he asked, "Where are Sam and Teal'c?"
"Outside. Eating. Why?"
Daniel reached up and grabbed Jack's shirt in his fist, then hauled him down until Jack's face was inches from his own. "This is why, you jackass."
Daniel kissed him. Not that he believed for a minute any of what Jack had said. Or if he did, well, Daniel knew he was expendable. But hell, right now, he'd take what he could get--
He could feel Jack's lips, slightly cracked from lack of moisture, but the man's mouth was pretty terrific. Daniel moved his hands up to Jack's head and while he moved his left hand to Jack's neck, he let his right brush over the gray hair.
They parted, hot breaths blowing in each other's faces, then Jack said, "Aw, Danny--"
Daniel moved over and Jack got the idea. He climbed onto the bed with Daniel, then covered the younger man's body with his own.
"I love you, Danny. I've loved you for a while but didn't think I could ever have this."
The words penetrated, but Daniel chose to ignore them. He was too close to having so much, that even if he had it for only an hour, it would be enough. He kissed
Clothing had to be discarded, both men needing to feel skin. When shirts, pants, and boxers were history, Jack kissed as much of Daniel as he could, and was pleasantly surprised to find Daniel trying to do the same to him. They both moved up and down, their cocks in perfect alignment to allow the friction to tease at them.
Jack wanted to see more of Daniel, so he slid down the strong, pale body until he reached Daniel's groin. He squinted, then smiled.
"So fair--" he said, his voice almost a whisper. "What color is this, Danny boy?"
Groaning, Daniel lifted his head and said, "What, my dick? Well, I'm guessing - same color as yours--"
"Ha-ha. No," he kissed a patch of pubic hair close to Daniel's inner thigh, "this."
"Aw, jeesh, Jack--" Daniel dropped his head back and groaned again. Who bothered about such things anyway? And hadn't Jack seen him in the showers?
"Do you have any idea how hard it's been for me? After missions, always taking the farthest shower, trying not to look, catching glimpses and wondering -- just how fair is my Danny?"
"Strawberry blond? No, darker than that. Yet--"
"You gonna do something down there, or what?"
Teal'c lifted his head. Across from him, Sam frowned.
"Teal'c? Was that--"
"I believe it was. It would appear that--DanielJackson is awake--"
"He doesn't sound too -- happy with Jack."
"I was thinking -- that DanielJackson sounded --very happy with O'Neill."
Jack lay half on top of him, half on the bed. He was asleep. Daniel ran his hand up and down the long back, then across the broad shoulders. He knew it wouldn't last, but if this was his "one sweet moment", then he would accept it, let it happen. He knew that forever wasn't for him. But he had this -- now -- and it was more than all the other Daniels, in all the other realities, had ever possessed.
It would be enough.
Daniel let his eyes drift shut, then he remembered.
"Jack?" He pushed at the man, then said again, more urgently, "Jack! Wake up. Now!"
"Ssh, I'm dreamin' here."
"Jack, God damn it, SG3. The device, where--"
Jack rolled over and sat up, all thoughts of sleep gone. His expression hardened. "Damn it, Daniel, what happened back there? And when I get my hands on--"
Daniel was already up and jumping around on one leg as he tried to get his boxers and pants on at the same time. "You tell me, Jack. You tell me. The last thing I remember, this huge Gou'ald, who looked just like depictions of Thoth, hit me once with a zat gun, Ambrose sent Elvis and Montoya through the Gate and Thoth fired again. I was dead." He stopped just before tossing Jack his shirt, then said, "I guess I just assumed that they got back all right? Did they? Is that why--"
Daniel looked away, found his own shirt and said as he slipped it on, "No, you wouldn't--so they must not have--and Hammond sent you. Yeah, so where would they have gone? Damn, if I didn't have this headache--"
Jack froze as he watched and listened to Daniel, who, after buttoning his shirt, was about to pull his black tee on over it. Jack shook his head in wonder and said, "Daniel, we don't wear our tee shirts over our fatigues, you know?"
Daniel kept mumbling, but he also took off his shirt and put on his tee shirt.
"---wait, Ambrose yelled out the coordinates to another planet--"
At least, Jack observed, Daniel was putting on his shirt the correct way this time.
"Sure, that's it. He pulled a me. He must have remembered that -- damn, was it SG9? SG5? Well, anyway--"
Daniel looked around for his shoes, spotted one, grabbed it, sat down, and started to put it on.
"Damn, right. Sock." He stood, looked around some more, found his other shoe, but still no socks. He frowned, then rubbed his nose with the palm of his hand.
Jack grinned, got up, strolled over to where Daniel stood, bent down, then straightened. In his hand: Daniel's socks. He dangled them in front of the younger man. Daniel rubbed at his nose again, then grabbed them.
With a small huff of air, he turned away -- then turned back. He looked at Jack, eyes scanning from top to bottom. Then he grinned. "You look pretty good for an ol -- "
"Watch it, Danny--"
"For an -- Air Force officer -- in his prime."
"Thank you. Now throw me my pants, they're behind you, on that -- branch."
Daniel hid his smirk, turned and plucked the item from the branch. As he tossed it to Jack, the older man mumbled, "Branches - inside. It's not -- sanitary --or something."
"Jack, you were sleeping on branches. And leaves, not to mention flower petals, grass - hell, you made love in the middle of garden!"
"Yeah, well, it ain't sanitary, that's all I'm saying. The outside should be -- out, and the inside should be, you know -- in."
Daniel, SG3 suddenly forgotten, walked up behind Jack and palmed one firm ass cheek. "Some people would say what we did wasn't exactly -- sanitary, Jack."
Pausing in his attempt to straighten his tee shirt prior to putting it on, Jack smiled and leaned back into Daniel. "Yeah, well, that's different."
Daniel gave the firm butt a swat and said, "Put your pants on, Jack."
"Have you seen my boxers?"
Daniel looked around, then his grin went broadened.
"You mean those old things -- stuck -- up there?"
Jack followed Daniel's gaze. "Fuck," he said as he stared up at his khaki-colored underwear, currently hanging by a vine near the top of the hut.
Jack was tying up his boot when Daniel snapped his fingers. "I've got it. I remember now. Ambrose told Elvis to dial up P3X-772. SG8 is on that planet, remember?"
"No, Daniel, I do not remember what friggin' planet SG8 was assigned."
Daniel scratched his head. "Then how come Ambrose--"
"Because Daniel, Ambrose doesn't have you, so he has to memorize the back-up planets."
"So what if he doesn't have me? Well, he did, but normally--"
"Right. So what was I saying? Oh yeah. Since when do we have 'back-up planets'?"
"If you'd been awake during the briefing before the last -- two or six -- briefings, you'd know since when."
"What briefing?" Daniel asked, truly confused.
Jack, now fully dressed, walked over to his friend - and lover, then snapped his fingers in his face. "Hel-lo? The briefing where we determined that since a certain Egyptologist, who shall remain nameless, Daniel, used a back-up planet, not once, but twice, when dialing home wasn't possible, then maybe all SG teams should have back-up planets?"
"Oh. That briefing."
Jack could have rolled his eyes, but he decided to kiss Daniel instead. It turned out to be a good decision.
When he was done, he pulled away and said, "So SG3, the bastards, are on P3X-772 with SG8? And they have the device and one mean motherfucker Gou'ald is after them? Did I get all your mumblings right?"
Daniel, still staring at Jack's lips, said, "Mmm, yeah."
"Okay, let's join Teal'c and Carter and get the hell out of here. We've got some unfinished business. I couldn't possibly allow a mere Gou'ald to do my job for me."
Jack gave Daniel a little push and as Daniel started out, he looked over his shoulder and asked, "Your job?"
"Yeah," Jack said, as he followed Daniel, "killing Ambrose."
Teal'c stood quickly. Sam, following his gaze, grinned and joined him.
"Daniel," she said softly.
"Hey, Sam. Teal'c."
"DanielJackson. You are -- well?" Teal'c asked, his gaze drifting meaningfully to Jack.
Daniel blushed, ducked his head, then said, "Yeah, Teal'c, I'm fine. Just -- fine."
Sam moved to stand beside her friend and rested her hand on his shoulder. "Daniel, I swear, you're going to be the death of me one of these days."
Eyes clouding over, Daniel shook his head. "No, I won't, Sam."
She frowned, as did Teal'c, but before either could say anything, Lya reappeared, her expression soft and loving as she gazed upon Daniel.
"It is good to see you awake, Daniel." She moved toward him, holding her hands out in front of her.
Daniel took them. "Thank you, Lya. And please, thank everyone for me."
"It is already done." She turned to Jack. "How did you know that dialing our gate would be successful,Colonel O'Neill?"
In effort to keep the Colonel quiet about cocky advanced aliens, Sam moved quickly in front of him.
"It was -- a hope, just a hope. Our only chance of saving Daniel."
"I see," Lya said, her eyes telling them she knew exactly why O'Neill had felt the gate would open. "I know you must go now, that others are at risk. But know this, when you are able," she turned her attention back to Daniel, "my people would like to meet with you."
Surprised, Daniel could only nod. Lya smiled, then said, "Allow me to make your journey back to the gate a little easier."
Seconds later, they reappeared in front of the Stargate -- without Lya.
Jack shook his head in wonder, then said, "Carter,dial home."
As she dialed, Jack said, "Daniel, you and Carter will go through, give Hammond an update, and bring reinforcements. Teal'c and I will go through toP3X-772."
"Jack," Daniel said, warning in his voice, "don't--"
Ignoring Daniel, Jack said, his voice firm, "Carter --you and Daniel, now."
For a moment, it looked as though Daniel would refuse, but then, jaw tight, he nodded. Seconds later he and Carter disappeared.
"Was that wise, O'Neill?"
Approaching the DHD, Jack said, "Very wise, Teal'c. Let's go."
"You will bring me up to the race, will you not?"
Rolling his eyes, Jack said as the last chevron was locked, "Speed, Teal'c. It's speed."
Shoot, run, duck, shoot again: the life of an SG team when trying to outrun a Gou'ald. Ambrose and his people were doing an admirable job, but damn, Ambrose thought, they could use SG8 about now.
Staff weapons were blasting rock, grass, trees, but so far, not SG3. Montoya, pack in hand, was vaulting over the trunk of a fallen tree when a blast hit a little to close to home. The trunk shattered and he flew about seven feet -- straight up, then came crashing down.
Lieutenant Elvis saw him hit ground, managed a nice zigzag maneuver, firing all the way. When she reached him, she hauled him up. Montoya shook his head, then nodded at her hurried, breathless query of, "You okay?" They took off. Neither noticed that behind them, in the rubble, sat the pack containing the device.
As the ground beneath them turned rough, and it looked as though they would lose, SG8 appeared, firing at will.
The surviving Jaffa retreated, one of them spotting the pack and lifting it as he ran.
Colonel William Cash, commander of SG8, stared at Ambrose and waited. The last he'd heard, Ambrose was investigating a new planet that promised some "super duper" weapon, as Ambrose had put it. Cash also remembered that Doctor Jackson was supposed to be with them. He'd counted the bodies. Six Jaffa - zero SGC. So where the hell was the young scientist?
"Montoya? Where the fuck is the pack?!"
Captain Montoya paled. "We, I -- when that blast hit -- I must have--it must have--"
Cash stepped forward and favored Ambrose with a steely gaze. "To hell with some damn pack. Where's Doctor Jackson? Wasn't he assigned to you?"
The sudden stillness, the absolute quiet of SG3, told Cash all he needed to know. His own face now as pale as Montoya's, he said, "You lost Doctor Jackson? I see four seasoned soldiers before me, but you lost Jackson?"
Ambrose drew himself up to his full six feet, four inches. "It was either the pack with the weapon, or Doctor Jackson -- and the entire team. He knew it."
Voice dripping icicles, Cash said, "Would this be the pack -- now in the hands of the Gou'ald?"
Ambrose closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then said as he fixed Cash with his own hardened look, "Yes, and we're heading back to the gate right now. We must retrieve it before those soldiers get it back to their leader."
Cash couldn't argue with that. One man already dead, hell, the least they could do was get the damn weapon. But -- the dead man was Daniel Jackson. Fuck. This wasn't right. It wasn't.
Letting out a long breath, Cash nodded. "All right, let's go."
SG8 and SG3 joined forces and headed out after the Jaffa on a run.
The moment Jack stepped through the gate, it hit him that it might not be a good idea.
M.A.L.P.s were handy little devices, and when the first staff blast hit the ground next to him, he was really wishing he'd had one to send through first. He and Teal'c dove for cover and he was damn glad there was cover to dive for. He was also glad to see only two guards. Teal'c took out the one closest to the gate. Jack, after a couple of quick moves, took out the other.
They both stood slowly, carefully, eyes scanning the area. Jack motioned to Teal'c and the Jaffa nodded, then moved slightly east, away from the gate. Jack went west.
"Only two guards, Teal'c. What do you make of it," Jack said loudly as they both covered their ground.
"Two guards at the Chaappa'ai would indicate their god is nearby."
Jack nodded his agreement. Their paths converged several feet from the gate.
"It looks clear, O'Neill."
Jack, on full alert, mused, "I'm thinking -- we play Jaffa, Teal'c."
"I do not need to 'play' Jaffa, O'Neill. I am Jaffa."
Hammond stood at the head of the conference table, hands flat on the surface, face mottled with rage.
"Would you repeat that, Major Carter?"
"When we arrived," her voice faltered, then she went on, "we found Daniel -- dead -- and SG3 nowhere to be seen. There were three dead Jaffa near the gate. Sir, we really need to--"
"I have SG2 and 11 gearing up now, Major. They'll be ready in ten." Then going on as if nothing else mattered, he said, "SG3 left Doctor Jackson?"
Sam nodded. "Apparently."
The phone on the wall behind Hammond buzzed and he moved quickly to pick it up.
Sir, Daniel is fine. No residual affects from dy -- from the zat gun.
"Thank you, Doctor Frasier. Please send him to the briefing room." He put the phone down and walked over to the observation window. Below him, in the gate room, Ferretti and his team, along with Colonel Hatch and SG11 were readying themselves.
Sam watched him, fully aware of the signals. The tense body, the ramrod straight back, and the tight jaw, all indications of Hammond's deep anger. An anger rarely seen. She waited.
"A weapon," Hammond said quietly.
"If the Nox -- if they --"
"For -- a weapon. Not for peace, not for people, not for his team, but for -- a weapon."
"Yes, sir." Sam was starting to feel like an echo. But was there anything else she could say?
"Sometimes, Major Carter, I believe I have the answers. I enter this facility and I know there is greatness here. We walk a fine line, and yet, it is a line I walk gratefully. Because of the greatness." He turned and faced her. "Am I a fool? Is Doctor Jackson wrong and the NID right? Should we lose a man like him, or a woman like you, Major Carter? Should it be acceptable to lose Teal'c? Or -- Jack? For --weapons?"
"You have no choice, General."
Both Hammond and Sam spun around to find Daniel just inside the door. He shrugged and stepped further inside.
"You have no choice," he repeated, "because it's the decision our government has made."
Disturbed by Daniel's voice and demeanor, Hammond started toward him, but at that moment, the com squawked and Ferretti announced that SG2 and SG11 were ready for deployment.
Daniel opened the door and stepped aside to allow Sam and General Hammond to precede him down.
Thoth held out his hand. The Jaffa handed him the pack and watched as his God and Queen tore into it.
With a satisfied growl, Thoth lifted out the device and turned it, the sunbeams streaming through the trees creating a halo around it.
"We have it, my love. We have it."
Nut placed her hand over Thoth's and nodded. "No one can stop us now, my husband. No one."
Thoth turned and with a wave, indicated that they would return to the gate. He had no desire to test Tefnut's device on a handful of Tauri, not when he could test on their entire world. But perhaps -- testing it on the new Tollana would be appropriate?
He smiled as they walked.
Thoth and Nut were within sight of the gate when the sound of approaching men froze them. The Jaffa spread out in a circle around their God even as they walked backward, picking up speed. Behind them, the two guards who'd been left behind, moved forward to protect.
"SPREAD OUT! THEY'RE UP AHEAD!" Cash yelled to his men.
Signs were flashed and Elvis, along with a young airman named Harris, moved to the left, while two other members of SG8 moved right, the goal to out flank the Gou'ald.
The Jaffa could be seen now, as well as a tall Gou'ald in gold and a smaller figure that appeared to be a woman. They were walking quickly, but seemed relatively unconcerned. In the Gou'ald's hand -- the device.
Ambrose signed to Cash.
"I think it would be appropriate to allow me to do the-- "
"Correct. The -- talking."
"Well, duh, Teal'c. And speaking of talking -- here they come. Heads up."
They observed the approach, then watched as the group froze. From his vantage point, Teal'c could see a flash of green cammos.
"It would appear that SG3 and perhaps SG8, are about to close in. I suggest we move forward in a --"
"Flanking motion, Teal'c?"
As they moved, Jack got the creepy crawling feeling that this was a mistake. Sure, two teams were on the other side of the snakehead, but damn, he and Teal'c were between the Gou'ald and the gate. While surprise was most definitely on their side, O'Neill still felt at a supreme disadvantage and didn't quite know why.
"Now would be a good time, Danny. A few reinforcements, maybe?" Jack said to no one.
The next few minutes moved as if in slow motion. One SG member opened fire and from there, the battle escalated. And Jack and Teal'c were getting farther and farther away from the gate.
"I'M THINKING IF WE DON'T FIRE AT THE SNAKE, OUR GUYSWILL BE FIRING AT US!"
From several feet away, Teal'c spun around and brought his weapon up and his face mask down. "I AM IN TOTAL AGREEMENT, O'NEILL!"
Both men fired. A guard on each side of the Goa'uld fell. The man in gold, protected by the shield, surged forward, anger in every line of his body. He brought up his weapon and aimed it at the closest traitor, who in this case, was O'Neill. Jack dove and felt the heat of the blast. He rolled, grabbed his knife from the Jaffa boot where he'd hid it, and from his position on one knee, threw. A quick guard blew the knife to smithereens before it could penetrate the shield. Jack might have been in big trouble then, but SG3 and SG8 came out of the woods.
The two Goa'uld moved quickly toward the tree cover to the east. They were outnumbered and the tall Goa'uld knew it. But in spite of his strategic retreat, he seemed surprisingly unconcerned.
At the boundary, he stopped. His guards moved behind him and Jack watched, almost spellbound, as the Goa'uld lifted what O'Neill realized must be the almighty weapon that was responsible for bringing them all to this point in the first place.
Damn, this was bad. Jack was aware that SG3 and SG8 were slowly coming forward, weapons up and ready. But they, like Teal'c, were still several yards to Jack's rear, which left Jack the closest to the snakehead. And he was close. Too close.
The Goa'uld turned in a half circle, weapon raised. "YOU CAN NOT WIN! WITH BUT THE PLACEMENT OF A KEY, I CAN DESTROY YOU! LET US PASS AND YOU WILL LIVE." Jack thought that was a strange request since, as the snakehead had said, he could supposedly destroy them all. So why not do it?
"PERHAPS YOU REQUIRE A DEMONSTRATION?"
Uh-oh. Jack had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach and wondered vaguely if it would be too wussy to run like hell at this point?
But he suspected he was about to become the "demonstration", damn it.
A sound from his right alerted him to the opening of the gate and he shook his head. Great timing, guys, he thought, as SG2 and SG11 stepped out.
Slowly Jack removed as much of the Jaffa uniform as he could, praying that Hammond had kept Daniel back.
Daniel was the last to step through and by the time he had, SG2 and SG11 were in firing positions, Carter just behind Ferretti.
The scene that greeted him chilled him to the bone. SG members were scattered around a large grassy meadow, Teal'c, in Jaffa armor, about a fifty yards from Jack. And Jack, the unarmed bastard, was standing about ten yards from the Goa'uld who'd killed Daniel. And in the Goa'uld's hand -- the weapon.
Daniel shook his head. Then before anyone could stop him, he was bolting down the steps and out onto the meadow.
"DANIEL!" Sam yelled.
"JACKSON, GET BACK HERE!" Ferretti yelled.
Daniel kept going.
Jack heard the yells of Ferretti and Carter and groaned. If he and Daniel got out of this alive, he would be forced to kill Daniel.
He heard the pounding boots that signaled Daniel's approach and he watched as the tall Goa'uld frowned at seeing the man he'd killed such a short time ago, bound onto the meadow. At least Daniel's appearance had stalled what was certainly going to be Jack's death.
A moment later, Daniel, breathing heavily, came along side.
"This is your version of 'live together, die together', Colonel?" Daniel hissed out.
What could Jack say? He wisely chose to say nothing. A moment later, he was wishing he'd said something, like maybe reciting -- the entire SGC Policy and Procedural Manual? Instead, he was forced to watch Daniel take several steps toward the Goa'uld.
"Daniel, so help me--"
"Shut up, Jack."
Daniel took off his sunglasses. "Thoth, isn't it? And your Queen, Nut?"
Golden eyes narrowed but the Goa'uld said nothing.
Around Jack and Daniel, SG teams held their breath.
"Surprised to see me? Surprised that like you, a mere Tauri can come back from the dead?" When Thoth said nothing, Daniel continued.
"The Tauri aren't as helpless as you've been led to believe, Thoth. We are very hard to kill. Impossible, even."
That got the snakehead. Thoth stepped forward, the device held out steadily before him. "Indeed, Tauri? Impossible to kill?"
Smiling, Daniel said, "How many of your guards lay dead here and on Nubia? And how many Tauri lay dead?"
"You are nothing, Tauri. Nothing. In a moment, you will be as dust."
"I don't think so, Thoth. Standing before you and all around you, are the Tauri responsible for Ra's death. And Apophis, and Hathor and, well, the list goes on."
Smiling, Daniel held his arms out to the side. "But hey, give it your best shot."
Jack watched, horrified, as the woman joined the man Daniel had called Thoth, and took a necklace from around her neck. She handed it to the creature.
"Ah, yes, the key. Placed around a young girl's neck by her mother," Daniel said softly. "Your mother died rather than allow you access to the device."
The woman stepped forward, head held regally. "My mother was a fool. I am not."
Daniel said nothing. Jack took that moment, as Thoth placed the pendant on the device and twisted, to move to Daniel's side.
"Together, Danny boy."
"Yadda, yadda, Jack."
"Geezus, even facing death, you can't get my name right. It's Daniel."
Jack rolled his eyes, then watched as Thoth smiled and with the simple twist of his fingers on the key, activated the machine.
Jack winced and waited. Teal'c started to move closer, to get into better position for firing, to try to stop Thoth, but it was too late.
Nothing happened. Thoth twisted the key in the opposite direction and still -- nothing happened. He whirled on his Queen, who grabbed the device and yanked at the key. She twisted it and when again, nothing happened, she threw the weapon as far from her as she could, then looked up at the sky, tossed back her head and screamed, "TEFNUT!" Daniel whispered, "No, Daniel."
As the echo of Nut's terrible scream faded, the guards began to lay down fire as Thoth and Nut hurried toward the gate. Jack tackled Daniel and both went down as Teal'c finally moved into position, SG 3 and SG8 close behind.
Carter, seeing Thoth's hand rise, yelled out, "HIT THE GROUND!"
SG2 and SG11 dove out of harm's way and Thoth and Nut ascended to the gate, no one able to stop them. Nut punched in seven symbols and the wormhole opened. As more of his guards went down, Thoth and Nut stepped up, but before entering, Thoth turned. His golden eyes gleamed as he looked upon the two men in the field, only now rising, unharmed.
Carter, from her position to the left of the gate, witnessed the look and cringed. Then Thoth and Nut stepped through.
Moments later -- silence.
Soldiers stood, gazed about them, looked down at the field of dead Jaffa, then shouldered weapons and began to walk toward Jack and Daniel.
Ferretti picked himself up, gave Carter a hand, and as he pushed back his helmet, said, "Gee, being with Jack and Daniel again, well, it's just like old times. Of course, they were times I could have done without."
Carter grinned at him and both started walking.
Jack, at a loss as to exactly what had just happened, started to brush off the back of Daniel's jacket.
Daniel, a disgusted look on his face, moved out of reach as he said, "Would you cut that out?"
It was a testament to Jack's confusion that all he said was, "Sorry."
Seconds later, they were surrounded. Almost. Only SG3 held back. And even further back, Ambrose stood, eyes narrowed.
The device thrown by Nut was retrieved and slowly, twenty-two men and women of the SGC made their way to the gate and home.
Klaxons blaring, Hammond entered the control room.
"It's SG1, Sir."
"Open the iris."
Hammond hurried down, praying that all of SG1, not to mention the other teams, were about to come through the gate. A few minutes later, he had his answer.
In pairs, or single file, four teams came through -- in their entirety. And all without a single injury that he could see. He watched as Jack strolled down, Daniel not far behind.
As Jack came abreast of Hammond, he gave a two-fingered salute. "Sir, SG1, 2, 3, 8 and let us not forget SG11, all present and accounted for. It was a nice party, Sir, but my vote is that we skip the next one, okay?"
"Yes, well, debriefing will commence at 0830 tomorrow, Colonel. In the meantime, I expect a full report from you and the other SG leaders by seventeen-hundred today. And welcome back."
As his people moved past him, he found his gaze drawn to Daniel. Hammond breathed out, then nodded in satisfaction.
As Jack trooped down to the infirmary with the others, he marveled at his control. He could see Ambrose several feet ahead of him and considering the fact that his fingers were itching to wrap themselves around the man's throat, well, he was handling himself right nicely, thank you very much.
The weapon had been handed off to the experts and Jack knew that Daniel had some explaining to do. But right now, all he wanted was a hot shower, a brief encounter with Daniel in his office, then do the report, followed by a less brief encounter with Daniel.
New Gou'alds, death and destruction, a weapon that apparently didn't work, Daniel risen from the dead -- again. And yet, all Jack wanted was some quiet time with the man. And touching. He wanted lots of touching. Mostly him touching Daniel. Yeah, touching. Plan A firmly in place, Jack started whistling as he entered the infirmary. He ignored the looks. He was too -- happy.
SG3 met in Ambrose's office. They'd been cleared by Frasier, then ordered to report to Ambrose. As they filed in and took their seats, he rose from behind his desk.
"We had a mission, and we fulfilled it. I've been informed that all four of us must remain on base until further notice and that we will all be undergoing an interview sometime in the next few hours. Each of you will be debriefed personally by General Hammond. I felt it was to our benefit if we--"
Montoya lurched to his feet, his face dark with anger. "This is against protocol, Colonel. You know it, we all know it. None of us should be here right now, discussing anything with each other if--"
"Sit down, Rey. Now."
Montoya's eyes narrowed but before he could say anything, Captain Mitchell stood.
"He's right. We're leaving, now." He turned to Elvis and nodded. "Lieutenant, Captain, your quarters until called."
Lieutenant Elvis saluted, spun on her heels and walked out. Montoya, barely able to contain his smirk, followed suit. When the door closed, Mitchell faced his leader.
"You blew it, Andy, big time. And this meeting? A complete breach of protocol. If Hammond finds out -- it could mean a court martial for you. When we're called in, every one of us will tell exactly what happened. Nothing more, nothing less."
He saluted and when it was grudgingly returned, he started for the door. At the last minute, he turned back. "Andy, I don't know how O'Neill brought Daniel back this time, but if he hadn't -- I think I would have killed you. Or myself. Or both."
Ambrose sat down, then back in his chair. He'd followed orders. He was in the right. A civilian over the weapon that could ensure Earth's defense against the Goa'uld? And any other enemy? No contest.
He wasn't worried.
Daniel entered his office, relieved to finally be alone. The atmosphere in the infirmary had been -- weird, to say the least. Everyone not looking at him, SG3 not looking at him, Sam and Teal'c looking too much at him and then Jack and his infernal whistling.
He sat down and reached for a pencil. As the piece of wood moved over and under his fingers, he thought of Jack, the bonehead. And he thought of Jack in the hut, of Jack's touch and Jack's lips--
The pencil rolled to the floor.
Jack smiled from his position in the doorway. He leaned against the frame, legs crossed at the ankles.
"Wanna go home?"
"Oh. Yeah. Reports. Okay, wanna go home in thirty?"
Daniel titled his head and grinned. "Home, Jack?"
"Yours, mine, I don't care. Just so long as we go home-- together."
"Oh, yeah. Live together, die together."
Jack moved inside and as he picked up the pencil and set it back on the table, he said with a grin, "You're never gonna let me live that down, are you?"
"Not anytime soon, no. I'm betting it will come in very handy -- eventually."
"Huh-huh. No doubt. So home? Later?"
This time, Daniel's smile was almost -- shy. "Okay. But remember, I have a bigger -- report -- to do than you. So I'll need more than -- thirty."
Jack's eyebrow rose. "Oh really? Well, we'll just see about that -- later. And speaking of longer reports, SG3 has been confined to quarters. Hammond will be interviewing them later today."
Puzzled, Daniel frowned. "Why?"
"Daniel? Are you kidding? They let you die. Then they left you on that God damned planet."
The one word question was so entirely without guile, Daniel was so completely clueless, that Jack's eyes popped wide and his mouth dropped open. "Daniel, you okay? Because I gotta tell ya, you're worrying me here."
"Jack, why would Hammond confine them to quarters? Why the interviews? They did nothing wrong."
"Excuse me? Nothing wrong? They chose a device, a fucking weapon over YOU, that's what they did wrong."
"It was the entire purpose of the mission, Jack. Any SG team would have made the same call. One civilian over a weapon that could be the answer to everyone's prayers? Get real Jack."
O'Neill was so stunned, he had to sit or fall down. He reached back blindly, hand finally connecting with the other chair, and he pulled it to him and sank into it. "You can't really believe that, Danny. You can't. You really think Ferretti, Cash, Martin, Hatch, or any other team would have sacrificed you for that piece of junk?"
"Yes. As well they should. Who am I? Come on, Jack, I'm expendable. Especially when faced with what this program is about. And trust me, Jack, that weapon - is everything the President has been looking for. Everything the NID has been looking for and everything you've been searching for out there."
For a moment, Jack could only stare into the blue eyes of the man he thought he knew. Then standing, he said in a deadly calm voice, "You -- think -- I would have left you? Chosen the device over you?"
"Of course. You'd have hated it, but you would have done it."
"Jesus." Dazed, Jack then said, "I'm -- I'll be going now. Hammond has us all off for the remainder of the week, after the briefing tomorrow, that is. I'll see you then."
A small frown creasing his forehead, Daniel nodded as Jack left, closing the door behind him.
Daniel felt the heat rise to his face, felt his throat close up and his jaw tighten. He squeezed his eyes shut, held them shut for the count of ten, then opened them. He wasn't sure what he'd done wrong -- this time. But he was bound to have done something stupid -- eventually.
He'd had his one sweet moment, right? Right.
Daniel turned to his computer and started his report.
He wondered why he was having so much difficulty -- seeing the screen. And his fingers were shaking too.
Daniel checked his watch. After five. He picked up the pace, his report for Hammond in his hand. He turned the corner towards Hammond's office and his step faltered. Through the open door, he could see Lieutenant Elvis seated, hands clasped in front of her as she sat in the small conference room to Daniel's right. She was alone and Daniel realized that she must be waiting for Hammond. Swallowing hard, Daniel hurried the rest of the way.
Inside, he faced Sergeant Wilkins. "Is the General available?"
"I'll check for you, Doctor Jackson." The man rose, knocked and entered Hammond's office. A moment later he returned. "He'll see you, Doctor. Go on in."
Relieved, Daniel nodded and entered.
"Doctor Jackson, please, sit down."
Daniel took the offered seat, then placed his report on the General's desk. "Sir, I felt the need to see you personally regarding SG3 and what happened on P3X--"
"Son, I understand. I'm interviewing them--"
"That's just it, General. SG3 did nothing wrong."
"--as we speak--what? What did you say?"
"SG3 did nothing wrong. Colonel Ambrose did nothing wrong. Their mission was to bring back that weapon, they did so. Colonel Ambrose made the only decision possible and in the process, saved his team and the weapon."
Hammond gave his head a little shake and Daniel thought it looked exactly like Rabbit, a German shephard his third -- no, fourth -- foster family had owned. The dog was always shaking his head due to fleas.
"Doctor Jack--Daniel, Ambrose did not save his entire team, he did, in fact, choose a device over one member of said team."
"Sir - I - please, just read my report. SG3 is blameless."
"Would it interest you to know that three members of SG3 don't agree with you?"
"Captain Mitchell, Captain Montoya and Lieutenant Elvis all agree that there were options, good options, and you could have been saved as well as the device."
"Yes. I was in the middle of interviewing the lieutenant when I received a call from the President. Unfortunately, our call was interrupted. I was just about to return to the conference room when you arrived."
Daniel digested that piece of information and was truly puzzled by it. It made no sense.
"Sir, I'd still hope that you'd take my account into consideration before making any decision regarding the team or Colonel Ambrose."
Hammond stood and Daniel judged that to be the precursor to his dismissal. He rose.
"I fully intend to read your report, Doctor Jackson, and will naturally factor it into any decision. But understand this: even if there'd been no other options, the choice should have been a human life over that of a weapon."
Daniel frowned, but accepting his dismissal, he turned and walked out. As the door closed, he wondered how everything had suddenly gotten so screwed up.
Hammond sat down hard. Of all the things he would have liked to have said, not to mention should have said, how had he and Daniel ended up in a discussion of SG3, with Daniel defending Ambrose?
If not for Jack's quick thinking and the help of the Nox, General Hammond would have been readying another -- funeral -- for his archeologist. This one - permanent. And for what? For nothing. Even if the damn thing had worked, Daniel's death would have been for nothing as far as Hammond was concerned.
God, when had they started measuring this battle, this program, against a human life? At what point, in Daniel's mind, had the race for weapons won over the race for humanity? Of equal importance was how had he, General George Hammond, let it happen?
He rose and after picking up the manila folder with Lieutenant Elvis' report, Hammond walked back to the small conference room.
Jack had no idea where he was going, only that he was going and the journey was taking him as far from Cheyenne Mountain as he could get and still be back by eight the next morning.
Daniel really believed that Jack would have chosen a weapon over Daniel's life. He believed it. Believed that any of them, all of them, would have done the same. What in God's name could have given Daniel such a fool notion?
Jack's fingers tightened on the steering wheel and as he ground down on his molars, the headache that had been forming - roared to life.
Okay, Jack had been forced to almost blow Daniel up in order to save the Enkarans, but damn it, Daniel had understood. Hell, he'd have killed Jack if Jack hadn't pushed the button. A whole race of people versus Daniel?
His body suddenly spasming, Jack somehow got the vehicle to the side of the road. For a moment, he couldn't breathe, then when he could, he dropped his head to the steering wheel.
A whole race of people or Daniel.
"Dear god, Danny," he whispered into the dark, "an entire race, yes, but not a weapon. Never a weapon. I'd die for you first--"
Daniel walked into his apartment, closed the front door, locked it, then took off his jacket and hung it up. He wandered into his livingroom and over to his stereo where he rifled through his CD collection until he came to the one he wanted.
He dropped it in, set the memory for track sixteen, then set it for constant replay. With Freddie Mercury's voice filling his home, he walked into the kitchen, got a wine glass, took a bottle of Chardonnay and poured. Glass in hand, Daniel walked back out and over to his balcony. He opened the door and let the night air in. For several minutes he stood quietly, sipped his wine and listened to Mercury.
Culture shock hit him suddenly and his knees almost gave way.
His balcony, Colorado, Lya, death, Thoth--
Geezus. Dazed, he looked around him.
So damn -- normal. Street lights on, cars making their way home, a few pedestrians strolling up and down the sidewalks. A few hours ago -- he'd been on an alien planet, and dead in the sand.
Daniel took another sip and watched his fellow Americans go about life. He shook his head in amazement because -- none of them knew. None of them would probably never know.
The world went about its business completely unaware that only a few solitary miles down the road, men and women walked easily through a stargate to other worlds galaxies away. Completely unaware of how many times their own neat secure world had been in serious jeopardy.
Serious? All right -- mortal jeopardy.
As Daniel watched, he realized that he'd learned what few others had; that any serious weapon of the Goa'uld would be as tainted as the Goa'uld themselves. That once such a weapon were in the hands of -- what? The military? Americans? The world? It didn't matter whose hands, life as was known now would - cease.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. His lesson from Shifu. Not that he hadn't always known that particular lesson, he had. But in his eagerness to be a part of something greater than his own needs or desires, he'd allowed himself to be sucked into the search for destructive technology. Made to believe that a child possessing all the knowledge of the Goa'uld was something to -- desire.
He frowned as the last of the dusk was conquered by the night. What had the original misson of the stargate program been, anyway? Not the first mission, but later, after re-opening the gate? Had there been an original mission?
Daniel took another sip of his wine and thought that one over. He remembered the Presidential Directive that all missions were to be evaluated for their scientific and cultural significance, but nothing said about weaponry. Scientific significance, sure. Like - medical significance, agricultural -- that kind of thing--
Was he being naive? Had he been naive all along?
All right Daniel, time to be honest with yourself.
Honest? Yeah, he could do honest.
Queen was belting out the lyrics to Who Wants To Live Forever and Daniel thought, 'Now that's honest'.
'No time for us and no place for us'. The dreamers.
Was he a dreamer? Yeah, he guessed that was exactly what he'd been. Hadn't he believed that his world of archeology would embrace the fantastic concept that the pyramids had been built by aliens? And the SGC, hadn't he just assumed that Jack, Sam, Hammond, Feretti, all of them, felt as he had? That beyond the event horizon there existed salvation?
Daniel barked out a laugh. Honest? Bullshit. He'd joined forces with the SGC for one reason, and one reason only; to find Sha're. And after her death, he'd stayed to find the child. And after he'd found the child, he'd stayed--
'Why, Daniel? Why did you stay? Why, if you're so God damned certain you're not only expendable, but that you don't even belong here, that you are, in fact, a hazard, why then do you stay?'
He waited a beat, but when the answer to his unspoken question didn't come in on the wings of some great learned beast, he whispered, "I don't know."
'Yes you do.'
He shook his head. "No, I don't. You, whoever the hell you are, you tell me."
'Because you do believe that salvation is beyond the horizon. Because you know that the answers to Earth's problems are beyond the event horizon. Because -- because--'
"Ah-ha! Think you're so God damned smart. I think not."
'Because the Goa'uld are a threat, but no more a threat than good old Earth and her -- humanity. And because -- because--'
Daniel started to smile. "Because? Need some help? I'll make you a deal. You shut up and I'll tell you the last reason."
Daniel raised his glass and saluted his unseen friend. "To you."
He drank down the rest of the wine. Freddy was singing poignantly about "Who dares to love forever" and "...touching tears with lips" and at that moment, Daniel realized that he'd never felt so alone in his entire life. And all things considered, that was saying something.
'What? I'm chopped liver?'
"You're me, so shut up. We had a deal."
'Not in this lifetime, Danny boy.'
"Colonel, have a seat."
Ambrose did as ordered. Hammond had a copy of his report in front of him and while he perused it, Ambrose waited.
Stupid ploy, really. They both knew that Hammond had that report memorized by now. Finally Hammond looked up and it didn't skip Ambrose's notice that the man's jaw was clenching -- overtime.
"Colonel, do you believe you had any alternative back on the planet, when faced with the threat to Doctor Jackson?"
"No, sir, I do not. My first obligation was to get that weapon back through the gate, then my team. I did just that."
"No, Colonel, you didn't. One member of your team was left behind. One member was left behind -- dead. Or didn't you consider the man I assigned to you, to be a member of your team?"
Ambrose's mouth opened, then closed.
Hammond continued. "Do you think there was anyway to take out the Goa'uld and save the doctor's life, return with your team intact and with the weapon?"
On this, Ambrose was on firm ground. "No sir, I do not."
"Funny, Captain Mitchell seems to have a differing opinion. As did Captain Montoya. What is SOP when faced with the shielding device, Colonel?"
"We were too far away to be effective with knives, General."
"Again, Captain Mitchell disagrees. Both he and Lieutenant Elvis are, in fact, two of the best at disrupting the shielding devices so far encountered."
Hammond leaned forward and in a voice hard and cold, asked, "Why did you let a member of your team die when it could have been prevented?"
"The mission was the retrieval and testing of the device. I succeeded in my mission. No one can tell me that a civilian scientist is more important than a device that could prove to be the ultimate weapon in the fight against the Goa'uld."
Hammond sat back and through eyes narrowed to slits, he regarded the man sitting across from him. Another Makepeace.
"Would it surprise you to learn that many people, including your own team, would consider human life to be more valuable than something that might be helpful in defeating the Goa'uld?"
"Than those people, my team included, would be grieviously wrong. And dangerous. Our mission is to find ways to protect ourselves from the Goa'uld and to defeat them. But I'm telling you, General, men like Doctor Jackson are the real threat to this country and to the SGC. I'm not saying he isn't smart, because he is. And sure, he opened the gate, but how long are we supposed to let that one accomplishment keep him around? He can't ride on the coattails of his accomplishment forever, sir."
"Are you aware," Hammond said in a deceptively soft voice, "that you wouldn't be here right now, if not for Doctor Jackson? Specifically - Doctor Jackson?"
Ambrose frowned. Where the fuck was Hammond going with this? "Sir?"
"Who do you think is directly responsible for SG1 gating to Apophis' ship four years ago and thus 'saving the world as we know it'? Who do you think came up with the only possible remaining method to save Earth from the asteroid?
"And would it interest you to know that Doctor Jackson feels as you do? That what you did on the planet was acceptable? That he's asked that no action be taken against you or your team?"
Hammond shoved another manila folder across the slick surface of the table. "Read that. It's Doctor Jackson's report."
The folder slid under Ambrose's hand. He glanced down at it but didn't pick it up. Eyes lifted back to Hammond. "Like I said, Jackson is a smart man, General. But -- he doesn't belong in the SGC."
A strange prickling feeling started at the back of Ambose's neck. He rubbed the skin and waited.
"Colonel Ambrose, it's clear to me that you're the man who does not belong in this program."
Hammond rose. "You are hereby relieved of your command. I suggest that before you leave tonight that I have your request for a transfer on my desk. I will happily sign it. Dismissed."
Stunned, Ambrose rose and managed a salute. This was not how it was supposed to go. As he walked out -- he knew he had a few calls to make.
Jack lifted his head from the steering wheel and tried to focus. Squinting, he gazed about him and realized that he had no idea where he was. Well, other than the fact that he knew he was on Earth. Good old dependable Earth.
As he sat back, his gaze dropped to his hands and for a moment he flexed his fingers, then lifted his right hand and stared at it. Just hours ago, this hand had experienced Daniel. Both hands, his mouth, his dick--
"God. Daniel, we have got to talk."
Jack checked the road and satisfied, he whipped a u-turn and headed -- home.
Daniel closed the balcony door and after taking his glass into the kitchen and washing it, he walked back into the living room and sat down. He toed off his shoes and propped his legs up on the coffee table.
Had he committed a crime today, when he'd destroyed the weapon's power source? Had it been -- treason? He suspected that maybe it had been. What the hell had possessed him anyway?
'You'd do it again, Jackson.'
The answer startled him. It seemed to echo throughout his apartment and he actually winced.
Absently, Daniel began to rub up and down his thigh and for a moment, his attention was drawn to his hand--
A hand that had stroked down Jack's bare back, then up into his hair--
Daniel closed his eyes and let his head drop back. He could feel the heat in his legs as it traveled up and lodged in his groin. Daniel visualized he and Jack together, rolling on the Nox nature bed, soft grasses caressing his skin when Jack's hand wasn't. He felt the hot kisses and heard the tender moans--
He moved his hand to his zipper and slowly brought it down, then slipped his hand into his shorts. As Daniel stroked himself, eyes closed, he replayed his brief time with Jack and his lips curved into a gentle smile. He started pumping faster, lifting his hips up, imagining where he could be, leaning into warm breath as Jack's lips hovered close to his own--
Jack realized just how far he'd driven and he had quite a trip back. When he finally pulled up in front of Daniel's apartment, he sighed in relief. Slowly he climbed out, then stretched until the creaking stopped. He flexed his knee and grimaced at the pain. Taking a deep breath, Jack headed for Daniel's.
Riding up in the elevator, he tried to marshal his thoughts and figure out how to handle this, but his thoughts rebelled. They were absolutely no help whatsoever. The bastards.
So. what really mattered here, uh?
Their future together mattered. Why Daniel believed that he was expendable when compared to some sick-assed weapon, well, that mattered too, but not as much as Jack and Daniel together. Get the J/D part right and everything else would just naturally fall into line.
Jack stepped out and turned left. He thought about knocking when faced with Daniel's door, but instead pulled out the emergency key he'd been given years ago. He let himself in and quietly shut the door.
The apartment was in darkness but the shutters on the balcony windows were open and thanks to not only a bright moon, but street lamps, Jack was able to negotiate the room without harm.
Stepping up into the living room, the first thing that caught his attention was the music. He didn't recognize the group but the song sounded -- bittersweet.
The second thing he noticed was -- Daniel.
Jack stopped mid-stride.
The younger man lay on his stomach, head buried deep in the sofa cushion, his left arm dangling, fingers just grazing the floor. He was, in spite of the stereo, sound asleep. The streaks of moonlight were hitting half of Daniel's body, highlighting the pale cheek, the only part of Daniel's face visible, and one set of dark lashes gone silvery.
Jack's breath caught at the sight and he almost moaned, but bit down on his lower lip instead. He stepped closer, briefly considered shutting of the music, but the lure of Daniel was too much. He started to kneel, but pain in his protesting knee stopped him. He sat on the coffee table instead.
"I love you, Danny," he whispered. "We can do this, I know we can."
'If you're so sure, why are you telling him while he's asleep?'
"Because -- I'm an asshole?"
Jack smiled, then ran his hand over Daniel's hair, finally coming to rest on the younger man's cheek. He leaned over and kissed him on the slightly parted lips. Daniel moved and Jack felt a hand palming his head as Daniel's mouth opened to his. Fear of dislocating his back drove him to stand, which unfortunately meant that his mouth had to leave Daniel's.
As Jack straightened, Daniel rolled over and said in a husky, sleep worn voice, "'ack?"
"Yeah, the one and only. If you'll move over and take pity on this beat up body, I could slip down next to you--if you wanted."
A flash of white teeth told Jack that Daniel was smiling.
"Beat up? You?"
Daniel shifted until his back was against the couch, then held out his arms. With a sigh of relief, Jack moved into them and with a bit of maneuvering, he was down on his side and in Daniel's embrace. He buried his face in Daniel's neck and closed his eyes.
For several minutes, Daniel just held him, his hand stroking up and down his back. For now, it was more than enough for Jack O'Neill. He breathed in Daniel's skin, caught the lingering scent of aftershave on Daniel and buried his face deeper.
As the minutes ticked by, the song replayed - over and over, and Jack finally heard the words. All of them. He'd been wrong. The song wasn't bittersweet -- it was -- it was -- hopeless.
He lifted his head and pulled away. "Daniel?"
"We need to talk."
Daniel nodded and slowly the two men sat up. Jack moved to the other end of the couch while Daniel turned on the light next to him. Jack winced a bit, then as his eyes adjusted, he said, "Strange song you've got playing -- over and over again."
"Who Wants To Live Forever, by Queen. From the Highlander movie. You know, the Highlander? Immortals, beheadings, all that good stuff?"
"Huh-uh. You -- like the song?"
Daniel looked away, his gaze focusing on his balcony. "Yeah, I like it. Always loved Freddie Mercury and this one is a favorite."
"Give me 'We Are The Champions' any day of the week, Daniel. This song is -- depressing."
"Not really. It's -- promising."
"Promising? You call those lyrics promising? Come on, Daniel. It's -- fatalistic."
Daniel turned to him and as the song died away, he quoted softly, "Who dares to love forever, when love must die? But touch my tears with your lips, touch my world with your fingertips, and we can have forever, and we can love forever." He smiled. "See? Promising."
Jack narrowed his eyes and jerked a thumb at the stereo. The song was back on and he said the words with Mercury, "There's no time for us, there's no place for us. What is this thing that builds our dreams, yet slips away from us? Who wants to live forever, who wants to live forever? There's no chance for us, it's all decided for us--"
"Jack, Jack, Jack. The song is about the brevity of life, how life is the 'one sweet moment set aside for us'. Promising."
"There's no chance for us? You call that promising?"
"Yes, because all it takes is this--"
Daniel leaned over and placed the tips of his fingers against Jack's shirt, just over his heart. "Promising," he said again, his eyes a smokey blue now.
"I'll never understand you, Daniel. It's like -- you're all these people and I don't know which one I'm with now."
"The horny one, if that helps."
Jack took Daniel's hand and set it on the younger man's leg. "It doesn't, Daniel."
The smokiness left Daniel's eyes as quickly as it had come. Jack got up and turned off the music, then remaining by the unit, he said, "I think the song -- has a different meaning for you, Daniel. I think some weird shit is going down and we need to talk about it."
"Tell me we're not arguing about a song?"
"We're not. We're not even arguing. But damn it, Daniel, I'm getting the feeling that you -- want -- to die. Or at least, that you most certainly don't mind if your life is cut short. I think that's why you like that fucking song so much."
Daniel got up and walked over to the balcony door. He opened it and stepped out, knowing that Jack would follow. He supposed he owed Jack an explanation - sort of. Besides, maybe when he'd finished explaining, Jack would understand why he'd done -- what he'd done -- before cleaning himself up, and then falling asleep on the couch.
When he felt the heat of the man he loved behind him, he said softly, "You ever think of those alternate realities, Jack? You ever think of the other Jack and Sam? The Sams who lost their Jack's? Or the Jacks and Sams still happily together?"
"A whole lot of alternate realities and Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter were in love in each and every one of them." Daniel turned to face Jack. "And Daniel Jackson was never a part of their lives, nor of the SGC. In fact, in two of them, he'd never even been born. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?"
Jack felt a sickening sensation in the pit of his stomach as he listened to Daniel. Where the fuck was this coming from anyway? A kind of coldness joined the nausea.
"Daniel, that is, without a doubt, the scariest thing you have ever said. Who cares that in a couple--"
"Eight, Jack. Eight."
"Okay, eight, alternate realities, me and Carter were together? Who the fuck cares? That was in those realities. And that's only eight out of millions and billions. Geezus, Daniel."
"Jack, have Sam explain it to you one day. Sure, only eight out of millions, but those eight had some very particular similarities. And they can't be ignored."
"Tell me you're not going to say that I belong with Carter, because if you do -- I'm jumping off your balcony."
"Been there, almost done that. And no, I don't think you belong with Sam. You two are both very different in this reality. And in only one of the other realities, was Sam also in the military. No, you two are more like - warrior siblings now. Although, for awhile--"
Jack held up a hand. "Please, don't remind me. About you and that balcony or about me and Carter and fruity loops."
Daniel chuckled, remembering Jack's confession of kissing Sam during the whole time loop fiasco. He'd always liked the bicycling part the best -- or maybe Jack and Teal'c doing chip shots into the event horizon.
"All righty then, since Carter and I are nothing like the other realities, what does any of it have to do--"
"None of them had Daniel Jackson, Jack. None of them. You don't think there's some symbolism there? You don't think, maybe, that someone or something in our reality has been trying to correct the fact that I exist, and am a part of the SGC, in this reality?"
Jack was so stunned by Daniel's -- observations, that he had to sit down. So he did. On the floor. He gazed up his friend, his oh, so wrong friend and just gaped.
"Jack? Are you okay?"
Earnest blue eyes were inches from his face and Jack blinked, then realized his eyes were crossing--
"Back the truck up, Danny boy. Literally and figuratively."
Daniel straightened and held out his hand, his expression still one of concern. Jack took the help and after standing, said, "I can't get into this on a mind that is completely sober. I need -- fortification. Now."
Jack turned around and headed for the kitchen. Daniel followed, albeit at a much slower pace. When Jack walked over to the counter, Daniel said, "Tea."
Jack's hand froze. "Tea?"
"And coffee. And milk. And maybe -- a glass of chardonnay. Although I'm not sure about that. I think I drained the bottle."
Jack groaned, spun around, grabbed Daniel's shirt sleeve and tugged him back out and to the front door.
"Liquor store run. Together. You're not safe to leave alone."
Daniel frowned and as Jack took his arm and slipped Daniel's jacket up and across his shoulders, Daniel said, "I'm not a child, Jack. I can be left alone. I won't set fire to the house and I can put on," Jack zipped up the jacket, "my own jacket--"
"Huh-uh. Let's go."
For the entire trip down and out of the building, across and then two blocks down the street, Jack never allowed his hand to leave some part of Daniel's body. When they got to the liquor store, Jack held on to Daniel's sleeve even while he paid for the bottle of Jack Daniels. When they left, Jack's hand ended up on Daniel's shoulder -- and stayed there all the way back and up.
By the time they'd walked back into Daniel's apartment, the younger man was over his anger at being treated like a child and had moved to an amused affection for Jack.
He watched from the doorway as Jack poured his drink, then eyes growing round, he watched Jack swallow, then pour again, then repeat a third time. Jack finally set the glass down, licked his lips and said, "Okay, now we can talk. I am officially -- fortified."
"But not in here. Let's go."
Once again, Daniel found himself being hauled around by his shirt sleeve. Rolling his eyes, he followed Jack -- into the bedroom.
"We're gonna talk in bed. Do you wear pajamas? What?"
"Weather, mood, company--"
Jack's cute scarred eyebrow rose. "Company?"
"Yes," Daniel said somewhat indignantly. "Company."
"You've had company here," Jack pointed to the bed, "like, when?"
Blue eyes shifted away and a myriad of 'Cueless Daniel' expressions flitted across the man's face. "Um, well, not -- recently."
"Well, like I said--"
"Daniel, let me rephrase that. When?"
"Okay, not since I moved in here. But still--"
"Daniel, shorts, pajamas, naked, what?"
"Tee shirt and boxers -- usually. Sometimes, just boxers."
"Well, I sleep in the nude." Jack began to undress.
Daniel gave a little so what wiggle of his head and began to undress, almost daring to Jack to say anything. After all, hadn't they already been naked together? In bed, naked together? Hell, yes.
For some reason -- Daniel kept his shorts on.
Jack pulled back the comforter and covers, then said, "Right or left side?"
Daniel couldn't resist. "Middle."
Jack plopped himself down on the left side and patted the space next to him. "Okay, get your butt in here so we can talk."
"Jack, are you -- drunk?"
"Nope. But I have a nice little buzz going and it'll help me get through this. Now come on, get into bed."
Daniel walked over and slid in on the other side. The covers were still at their feet and Daniel thought this was the weirdest thing he'd ever experienced. Here he was, in his boxers, lying on his back in his bed and next to him -- Jack, naked, hands behind his head and looking -- really cute.
"This is weird, Jack."
Jack rolled over and propped his head on his hand. "No, Daniel. Weird is you believing that some strange universal force is trying to correct an error by killing you off. Weird is thinking that you don't belong here just because in eight other universes, you weren't. Weird is thinking death is okay, because you didn't exist in eight other universes. Weird is--"
"I get the point."
"Getting it and believing in it are two distinctly different things. So, it's time for a little quiz. You ready?"
"Jack, do we have to do this?"
"Yes. Now, question number one--"
"This isn't going to be one of those quizzes Lorraine down in Supply is always trying on me, is it?"
Jack frowned. "What kind of quiz is Lorraine down in Supply always trying on you?"
"Oh," Daniel waved his hand airily, "you know, 'If you and your significant other had a free night and unlimited money, how would you spend it? A) In bed, sleeping, B) In bed, having fun, C) Out on the town, club hopping, D) Watching a good movie.' One of those quizzes."
"Daniel, why does Lorraine in Supply ask you those quizzes?" Jack asked reasonably.
"Like I know?"
"Right. Back to business. In world number one, did I survive?"
Daniel swallowed hard. "No," he said quietly.
"Right. In world number one, did that universe survive the Goa'uld attack?"
"In world number two, was I alive at all when, thanks to Samantha's and Kolwolsky's invite, we arrived?"
Daniel closed his eyes. "No," he whispered.
"In world number two, would they have survived the Goa'uld attack if we hadn't arrived?"
"Daniel," Jack said, warning in his voice.
"No, probably not."
"In world number two, when you were trying to find the right alternate universe again, did you come across one that looked right?"
"Carter was a Captain, not a Major."
"But she recognized you, didn't she?"
There was silence.
"She did, didn't she? And that universe looked exactly like ours, other than Carter's rank, as if they were at the same point as us?"
"In world number three, what was left of the SGC?"
"Nothing above the twenty-seventh floor."
"Who saved that world?"
"Who saved the world?" Jack prodded.
"Have we visited any world that hadn't been attacked by the Goa'uld? And the world nearly destroyed?"
"No, not really."
"No, not at all. We popped into world number five and the SGC was a rebel force. In fact--"
"World six too."
"Right. You're doing good, Daniel. You're up to a hundred points."
"Out of how many?" Daniel asked, a small twitch to his lips.
"What do I get if I get all two hundred?"
"Were any of the gates opened earlier than ours in any of the worlds?"
"What's the earliest the gate was opened on any of the worlds?"
"Um, about three years after ours."
"Huh-uh. So what might have happened if we'd opened our gate later? Say -- a year later?"
"I don't know," Daniel almost whined.
"Yes," Jack scooted over, "you do. What happened to all the other eight worlds?"
Jack rested his hand over Daniel's heart. "Danny, we'd be dead now, in all probability. If you'd refused Catherine, well, we wouldn't be here now, any of us. Of that, I'm as certain as I am of my love for you."
Jack slid his arm under Daniel and pulled him in close, then rested his chin on the top of Daniel's soft hair. "Danny, don't you get it? You were the difference in those other worlds. You're the difference here. I'm betting that in any alternate world where Daniel Jackson became a part of the SGC, that that world is still intact, still fighting, still exploring."
"Did you just cheat me out of my chance for the rest of the points?"
"God, I love you."
Daniel turned in Jack's arms until they were face to face. Running a hand over Jack's stubbled cheek, he said, "You really do, don't you?"
Jack couldn't miss the amazement in Daniel's voice and he took the hand currently caressing his cheek and kissed the palm. "Yes, Daniel, I do. More than I ever thought it was possible to love another human being. That's why I need to know that you're all right, that this whole -- dying -- thing is over. That you believe me when I tell you that Earth is free because of you."
"Because of -- us, Jack. Because maybe, in this time and this place, four very different people came together and--"
A beautiful smile spread over Jack's features and his eyes crinkled with it until the brown all but disappeared. "By George, I do believe he's got it."
"Jack, give me a break. My mind is, well, it can kind of--"
"You don't even know what I was about to say."
Jack did a beautiful imitation of a pondering Daniel, then said, "My mind can kind of -- run away with itself."
"Keep that up, and this could be the shortest relationship in history."
Jack grinned and dropped a quick kiss on Daniel's lips. "Does that mean this is a relationship?"
"And we're not going to do anymore dying? And everytime we end up in some stupid, unlucky alternate reality that doesn't have a Daniel in it, you're gonna say, 'But I do exist and Jack loves me,' right?"
One pair of brown eyes met one pair of blue and both men smiled. Then Daniel moved in and kissed Jack. When he had him thoroughly breathless, he pulled away and said, "You love me, right?"
Eyes glazed, Jack nodded.
"You would -- forgive -- anything, right? Cause you love me so much and wouldn't want to lose," he placed Jack's hand on his ass, "this, correct?"
Suspicion started to clear away the glassy tint to Jack's eyes. "Daniel, why don't you just tell me what you did?"
Daniel took a deep breath, then said, "Iresignedfromthesgc."
Jack pulled away. "Say that again. Slower."
Daniel huffed out a huge amount of air, then said -- slowly, "I--resigned--from the SGC. Before you came, before I fell asleep. I -- emailed -- General Hammond."
"And you did this -- why?" Jack asked, astounded.
"Well, it seemed I'd done it again, screwed up, plus I figured if I wasn't supposed to be with the SGC, wouldn't it be easier, than say, dying all the time, if I just -- resigned? So -- I did. It seemed the right thing to do -- at the time."
Jack closed his eyes and started to count to ten - out loud. Daniel waited, a small smile playing about his lips.
Jack's eyes finally opened as he said the number ten. "Okay, so this is what we do. We send a new email to good old George, and we tell him that someone hijacked an email of yours and that he should--"
Daniel put a finger to Jack's lips. "Wouldn't it just be easier to tell him you changed my mind?"
Jack pursed his lips, then said, "Well, ye-ah, we could do that."
"We should probably do it now--"
Daniel ran his hand from Jack's hip down to the scar on his left knee. "Now?" he asked, after licking his bottom lip.
Daniel slipped his hand between Jack's thighs. "Soon?"
Ambrose threw the phone across the room. He watched with satisfaction as it crumbled into pieces before falling to the floor.
Seven phone calls made, two so highly placed that the receiving phone was a color other than black. And what did he have to show for them? Nothing. He was still out of the Star Gate Command, his choices for reassignment less than stellar.
Ambrose closed his eyes and all he could see was the jerking body of Daniel Jackson after the first blast of the zat gun.
"You couldn't have shot him a fucking third time?" Ambrose asked a 'nowhere in the vicinity' Thoth.
All his frustration and anger swirled around him, dark and seething.
HIS DECISION HAD BEEN RIGHT.
But when push came to shove, some snot-nosed Egyptologist took precedent over a Colonel in the United States Air Force. A man with over twenty five years serving his country. A man whose record was exemplary, who had always put his country first. Yet, he'd been forced from his position with the SGC. His command taken from him.
Because of Jackson.
Ambrose walked over to his gun rack and took down his SIG sig pro. He walked over to the peg by the door and removed his jacket. After slipping it on, he stuffed the gun into the outer pocket.
"I just received a rather disturbing -- phone call."
General Hammond cocked his head, indicating that he was listening.
"It was from Colonel Westlake, at the Academy?"
"I know him well. Good man. What did he have to say that was so disturbing?"
"He'd just received a call from a very angry and incoherent Colonel Ambrose. Colonel Westlake said that, and I'm quoting him, 'Someone named Jackson had better be given a head's up,' end quote."
"I don't like the sound of that. Get Doctor Jackson on the phone."
"Oh. Yeah. Thanks."
"No problem, Jack." Daniel grinned as he watched Jack head back to the bed, sit down, and start to put on his shoes. The guy was -- bonkers. Sweet, but bonkers. Who really needed a babysitter in this relationship?
Jack glanced up and eyes narrowing, said, "Did you just snicker?"
"Huh-uh, thought so." He stood. "Okay, we're ready. Off to see the wizard."
"One of these days, Jack, I'm gonna tell General Hammond about your little affectation."
"Fine. Go ahead. He won't mind my telling him what I call you--"
"You know, Space 'monkey' didn't just spring to my lips that day."
As Jack pushed Daniel through the bedroom door, down the hall and then to the front door, Daniel spluttered incoherently, but finally managed to say, "You--think--I'm like--one of those--UGLY--monkeys in the Wizard of Oz?"
As they stood before the elevator, Jack said innocently, "When I was a kid, I loved those monkeys!"
As they rode down, Daniel discussing how ugly the flying monkeys were, Jack just smiled. When they hit the street, they decided on Jack's car and started to cross to the other side. A black Taurus came around the corner, tires squealing, brakes screeching.
Both men looked up and too late, saw the window lower and a gun appear--
Ambrose turned the corner onto Jackson's street and received the surprise of his life; Daniel Jackson and Colonel Jack O'Neill right in front of him.
This was too good. Too easy. Too--cosmic. He hit the power window button and as it rolled down, he took aim--
The shots were like small pops and both Jack and Daniel had the same idea at the same time; protect the other.
For Daniel, everything came together in one long, loud moment. He pushed, was pushed, he went down, rolled, felt a burning pain, then thudded against the curb, his body sliding into the gutter. He was vaguely aware of the car, that it was backing up and he lifted his head in time to see Jack rolling over and onto his side, a gun in his hand.
Muzzily, Daniel thought, "Now where did he get that?" Then there were more popping sounds, a thunderous noise, the ground shaking and shuddering, then -- ominous quiet.
Daniel lifted his head and blinked rapidly as he realized that somewhere along the way -- he'd lost his glasses.
On the sidewalk.
Daniel sighed in relief until he realized that Jack -- wasn't moving. And that -- there was a large amount of what appeared to be blood, spreading out in scraggly a circle around Jack's -- body.
"No, no, no--"
Somehow Daniel dragged himself up and onto the sidewalk, the lower half of his body strangely unco-operative. He grabbed at Jack, hauled himself up on one arm and pulled the man's face to him.
"Jack? Jack, come on, open those eyes for me, please?" When nothing happened, he looked for the wound -- and found it. "Oh, God, no, no--"
So much blood.
Daniel clamped his hand down over the hole in Jack's side and pushed. Blood welled up between his fingers as he turned his attention back to Jack's face. "Please, Jack. You promised, remember? You promised.
Live together, die together, remember? You can't do this, Jack, you understand?"
Daniel searched the grey face, looking for any sign that Jack was alive, that Jack could hear him. He patted the side of Jack's face lightly. "Jack, listen to me. You are NOT going away. You are staying right here, PERIOD! I'm not letting go, understood? YOU HEAR ME?! I AM NOT letting go and neither are you!"
He rested his forehead on Jack's chin and tried to control his breathing -- and the tears. Lifting his head again, he drew in a sharp breath when his gaze connected with two brown eyes. "Jack! Can you hear me?"
"--i hear--you. hell, p3xwhatthefuck, can hear you--"
"I don't give a damn about P3Xwhatthefuck, I care about you hearing me - you, you, you--"
"studly -- lover?"
Jack tried to grin, but ended up licking his lips, then grimacing in pain. "wha' happnd?"
"I don't know, I don't know. Gunfire, then you returned fire, I think, and there are cars coming and I hear sirens, but Jack, listen, you have to hang on, okay?"
"would--nt, have it--any oth--er way--"
"Promise me, Jack. Say it."
Jack's head lolled a bit and his eyes fluttered. Daniel, panicking, gave him a little shake.
Eyes fought to open, then Jack said, "hey--care--ful with the--merchandise."
The sounds of sirens nearly overpowered Daniel and he could hear running feet and he could smell -- something burning, but all that mattered was that Jack stay, just--stay.
Voices came next; soothing, promising, hands trying to take him away and he fought, tried to explain that he couldn't let go of Jack--
"Son, it's all right. They're going to help him. We're going to get you both into the ambulance and Doctor Frasier will work her usual miracle--"
Daniel frowned. A large freckled hand closed over his pale one. "Let go, Daniel. We need to let the experts do their thing."
"It's me, son. I'll take care of everything -- just -- let go."
Daniel released his almost -- obsessive -- hold on Jack and men in uniforms knelt down, another hand replaced his over the wound and then someone said, "I'm afraid they've both been hit, sir."
They must mean him. How weird. He didn't feel any--
"I think you're right, Major Davis. Handle him carefully, men, that's it, gentle--"
Daniel passed out.
Lights passing overhead, grey walls, concerned faces, his gurney going left, Jack's going right--
General Hammond sat down and scrubbed at his face.
"What is it, Sargeant?"
"Sir, the President."
Hammond looked down at the red phone, then picked up the receiver. "Mr.President?"
President James Sullivan Markham glanced up at his wife.
"There's been -- an -- incident in Colorado. A shooting."
Claire Markham sat down in front of her husband and took his hand. Colorado no longer meant -- just Colorado. "Are you saying that, at the SGC?"
He nodded. "Our trip has been -- postponed -- for a bit. My decision. But not for as long as George believes."
Tired, hurting eyes turned to hers. "Colonel Ambrose went beserk and shot both Colonel O'Neill and -- Doctor Jackson. Fortunately, O'Neill had his own service revolver with him and before Ambrose could finish the job, O'Neill got off a shot. Ambrose is -- dead."
Claire put her hand to her mouth to stifle a gasp of shock. After a moment, she was able to ask, "And O'Neill? Doctor Jackson?"
"They were both in surgery when I called Hammond. He'll let me know, when he can."
"Thank God this happened at the--"
"It didn't. It occured in front of Doctor Jackson's apartment building. But the General was minutes away and damage control was started immediately."
"You said you'd postponed, but not for as--"
"As soon as I hear about our two men, well, if they make it -- we're going. If they don't--"
"We're still going."
He nodded. But there would be no trip through the gate. That would wait -- years if necessary.
He put his head in his hands.
God, not O'Neill. Not -- Daniel Jackson.
Not the heart and soul of Star Gate Command.
Thirsty. So thirsty.
"Let me lift your head, Daniel. Here's the straw -- that's it, drink slowly--"
His upper body was lowered and he opened his eyes. "jan-et?"
"It's me. You're here, in the SGC. And before you ask, Jack is right next to you. He's going to make it, Daniel. Nice hole in his side, lost a bit too much blood for my comfort, but he's going to be fine."
Daniel let his eyes drift shut, then murmured, "Damn straight. He knows I'd kill him if he didn't--"
Janet smiled tenderly. Then frowned a bit. Exactly when had Daniel become Jack O'Neill? She grinned again, then turned to Jack's bed, straightened his sheet, checked his IV, then sat down between the two men.
"Major, give us a rundown."
Davis coughed a bit, let his gaze move from General Hammond, to Major Carter, Colonel Ferretti and finally to Teal'c.
"We've kept Ambrose's name out of it. The whole incident is being handled as a random act of -- violence. The media immediately picked up on the possibility that if an armed Air Force Colonel hadn't been present, many others might have been hurt or killed during the," he coughed again, "unknown -- assailant's rampage."
Sam leaned forward and addressed Davis. "Is it true that Ambrose was burned beyond recognition?"
Davis nodded. "Yes. I don't know how O'Neill did it, but his bullet hit Ambrose in the neck. The man lost immediate control of the vehicle and slammed into garbage truck. Both vehicles exploded."
"That is too bad," Teal'c said, his face impassive.
"Yes, a shame," Carter added as she glanced over at Teal'c.
Hammond gave a small shake of his head, then said, "Major Carter, Teal'c, I'm sure you'd both like to head down to the infirmary. Major Carter, we can discuss the weapon and your findings later. I'll schedule a meeting for, say, two days from now?"
"That would be fine, sir. But what about -- SG3?"
Rising, Hammond said, "They've been returned to the roster with Captain Mitchell temporarily in command. Dismissed."
Daniel turned his head and smiled. Jack was sound asleep, his mouth slighly open. The reassuring whir of various machines lulled Daniel like a lullaby and it struck him that he was getting all too familiar with Janet's little corner of the world. So was Jack.
As he watched Jack sleep, he wanted nothing more than to touch him, but he was too far away. Looking was nice -- touching was infinitely better.
Daniel let the sights and sounds of the infirmary surround him and just before dropping off, he thought that maybe, just maybe, he and Jack really were meant to live forever--
Jack was finally awake and able to stay that way for minutes at a time. Daniel was ecstatic.
Sam and Teal'c had been in and out, mostly in, but until Jack opened his eyes, Daniel had only been able to give his friends and teammates a quarter of his concentration.
But now -- Jack was with him.
"How you feeling?"
Jack turned a sleepy gaze on his love and winked. "Not bad for a guy with two bad knees and a new hole in his side. Not bad at all. You?"
"I'm fine. Now that you're awake. Just wish," he gave a furtive glance around, "I could touch you, is all."
"All in good time, Daniel. All in good time. And speaking of new holes, where exactly were you hit?"
Mercifully, Sam, Teal'c and Doctor Frasier entered, smiles wide.
"Good to see you awake, O'Neill."
"Thanks, Teal'c. Good to be awake."
Sam took a spot on Daniel's side while Teal'c stood on Jack's, both intuitively suspecting that standing between the two men's beds might solicit a death threat.
As Janet did some of her usual fiddling, Jack wagged an eyebrow at her. "How is Daniel?"
Without looking up from her inspection of the IV, she said, "In case it's missed your notice, he's right next to you. Ask him."
"Jack, I'm fine."
Ignoring Daniel, Jack asked in a worried tone, "Where was he hit?"
Janet gave a little cough, then turned quickly away and said, "You'll need to ask him, Colonel."
Sam immediately said, "Teal'c, maybe we should be going now--"
"Perhaps you are correct, Major--"
"Both of you freeze," Jack ordered. Eyes narrowing dangerously, he said to everyone, "Where was Daniel hit?"
"You know, I'm right here, Jack. You could ask me."
Jack looked at Daniel, who gazed back at him, chin somewhat high in the air.
"Where were you hit, Daniel?"
"Um, that would be -- in my -- leg."
Teal'c snorted. It was not a pleasant sound.
Jack's head whipped around. "Teal'c?"
He turned to Sam, who had her hand held to her mouth. "Major?"
Jack drummed his fingers. Then he said in a patient voice, "Daniel, where in the leg, and which leg?"
"Uh-huh. Left leg. Daniel, where about in your leg were you hit?"
"That would be -- my -- thigh. Upper -- thigh."
Teal'c snorted again. Sam -- giggled.
Janet turned around and in a very serious voice, said, "Two hours of painstakingly careful surgery later, we were finally able to remove the bullet. In your case, Colonel, no bullet to remove, it passed right through you."
"Two hours for surgery to his upper thigh?" Jack asked, incredulous.
"Well, Colonel, that's a very tender area, right, Janet?" Sam offered helpfully.
"Very -- tender, Major," Janet agreed. "And of course, I was very careful about -- scarring."
Daniel moaned, then clamped both hands over his face.
"Daniel, what aren't you telling me? How bad was it really?" Jack turned to Janet. "Doc, is he--I mean, will he--"
"I was shot in the God damned ass, you jerk."
Jack frowned. "Oh."
"You really okay, Danny?"
"I promise that as soon as I'm able, I'll kiss it and make it better."
"Technically, I was shot -- below my ass. Technically. Above the thigh, but below my -- ass."
"I see. Sure. That clarifies it. You gonna let me see your scar, right?"
"Well, Major Carter?"
Sam placed the weapon in the middle of the debriefing table. It looked -- innocent.
"Sir, we've been unable to figure out how it was powered, but we did find where the power source may have been kept."
She turned the weapon and pointed to a faint, barely discernible crack. "This outlines the one and only apparent compartment, but we haven't figured out how to open it yet. I can rig something to take the place of the key, but -- Daniel's notes are gone, so the actual how of this--"
Sam felt the sudden rush of anger tinging her cheeks. She swallowed, then nodded. "Gone, sir. Colonel Ambrose took the device, but Daniel's notes -- stayed with -- Daniel. When Ambrose -- left him, well, his pack must have been torn from him when the first blast struck the ground near him. No one retrieved it and when," she ducked her head, "when he was -- left -- behind, the wind and the papers --"
"I see, Major. Would it be worth going back at this juncture in time?"
"I don't believe so. Daniel has a photographic memory. I suspect he can recreate his notes. I've just been waiting until he's feeling better."
"So basically we have nothing on the weapon at this point and won't have until Doctor Jackson can help us. Is that a correct assessment?"
"See what you can get from him today."
Daniel stared at the device that Sam had placed on the tray table by his bedside. Next to him, Jack whistled.
"Looks harmless now," Jack said gruffly.
"Well, Daniel?" Jack asked quietly.
Daniel touched the compartment. "See these symbols, one on each side?"
Sam nodded. "I recognized them. Shu and Tefnut, right?"
"Yeah. Shu and Tefnut. Earth, water and wind. I -- suspect that's how you can open it. Combine dirt and water, then blow."
"Hey, I saw that movie. Bruce Willis and--"
Jack gave a little cough, but shut up.
"Did you open it in the pyramid, Daniel?" Sam asked, a puzzled expression on her face.
"No, didn't -- have time. I was too busy deciphering the how."
Jack couldn't see Daniel's expression, but he knew that his friend was lying. Lips compressed, he didn't say anything.
"So you can tell us how?" Sam asked.
"Yes. I'll rewrite it all for you. I can tell you that the power source, as described here," he pointed to several glyphs, "is foreign to anything we've encountered before. No naquada involved, for one thing."
Sam stared at the device, her expression telling both Jack and Daniel that she was already coming up some suppositions. She surprised them both when she said, "Is it possible that the power source is no longer viable and that's why the weapon didn't work for Nut?"
Daniel looked away from the weapon and said, "You're asking the wrong person, Sam."
She kept on as if he'd said nothing. "Of course, it's possible that enough of the original compounds are present to recreate it if it's lost its potentcy." She picked it up, her eyes dark with anticipation. "I'll go and do the whole dirt, water and wind thing, then we'll see. In the meantime--"
"I rewrite. No problem, Sam. Go. Have -- fun."
She nodded absently and walked out, device in hand.
While Daniel watched Sam, Jack watched Daniel.
"You opened it, didn't you, Danny?"
"I believe I answered that question, Jack."
"Yes, you did. You opened it, didn't you?"
With some effort, Jack rolled onto his side, or at least partially onto his side, and in a voice barely above a whisper, said, "You can tell me, Daniel."
"I didn't open it, Jack." With that, Daniel closed his eyes.
Jack watched him for a moment, then closed his.
"Empty. The compartment is empty."
Sam stared in confusion at the device. She'd decided to wait to open the compartment until she had Daniel's recreated notes, which were laid out in front of her now.
Siler looked over her shoulder and nodded. "Yes, sir, it is. Guess that would explain why it didn't work."
Sam nodded thoughtfully as she ran a finger around the inside of the small space. Nothing. Then with crystal clarity, she had a flash-back to Daniel, running across the field to stand slightly in front of Jack and facing down Thoth. Daring Thoth to use the weapon.
She sat back on the stool and let her arms drop to her side. Siler gave voice to a small part of her thoughts.
"No power source, no weapon. Do Doctor Jackson's notes give you any idea of the type of power required to do what--ever-- this weapon does?"
"Yes, in a way. And naquada barely scratches the surface if this did even half of what Daniel claims it did."
Siler leaned forward and peering at the device, said, "But would naquada be of use? Couldn't we use what we have to--"
"No. Naquada is completely wrong, composition-wise, to use here. This is now an -- artifact. Nothing more."
Blinking sleepily, Daniel turned his head to find Sam seated next to his bed. "Hi. Late for you, isn't it?" he asked following a yawn.
"A bit. Just thought I'd check in before going home. When does it look like you'll be sprung?"
"Couple more days. Both of us."
Sam nodded, her eyes fastened on Daniel. He met her gaze steadily, if somewhat sleepily.
"The compartment was empty. Just thought you'd like to know that, Daniel. The weapon is of no use whatsoever. To anyone."
Sam glanced over at Jack, and satisfied that the man was sound asleep, said quietly, "NID will, I'm sure, manage to get their hands on it, but it really is useless. But I suspect you guessed that."
"Tefnut was an intelligent woman."
"Yes, of course. Tefnut. Maybe when you're a bit stronger, you'll tell me more about Tefnut and Shu."
"I suspect I'll need to, Sam. The NID won't be content with an empty compartment."
"Good point." Sam rested her hand on his shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Go back to sleep. I'll see you in the morning."
As her footsteps faded away, a drowzy voice from the next bed said, "Good-night, John-boy."
Daniel limped into Jack's house, Jack, bolstered by Teal'c, right behind him. Carter, arms full of groceries brought up the rear. While Sam took the bags into the kitchen, Daniel got blankets and pillows from the hall closet. By the time he returned, Teal'c had Jack comfortably ensconced on the couch.
Daniel draped one of the blankets over him, stuffed a pillow behind his head, then using the other pillow to cushion his left side, he sat down at the other end of the couch with a sigh.
"Good to be home," Jack said happily.
"It was very wise to agree to spend the next few days here, together, O'Neill. I do not believe that Doctor Frasier would have released either of you so soon otherwise."
"Yeah, two sickies taking care of each other, always better than one lone sicky."
Daniel raised one eyebrow. "Sicky, Jack?"
"Air Force term. Very hush-hush."
Sam came out of the kitchen at that point, and as she brushed her hands together, said cheerily, "All right, everything is put away, I've stacked all the ready-to-eat foods on the second shelf of the fridge, but left out the barbecue chicken for tonight. I thought I'd toss together a salad before Teal'c and I leave."
"I suggested the chicken, Sam, in hopes you two would join us," Daniel said with a hopeful grin.
"Oh, well, if you're sure?" Sam asked, the question to Daniel, but her eyes on O'Neill.
"We're sure, aren't we, Jack?"
When Jack didn't immediately respond, Daniel prodded. "Jack? Aren't we sure?"
Jack's brow wrinkled, then Daniel poked him. "Tell Sam we're sure."
"We'd love to have you and Teal'c join us for dinner."
Smiling smugly, Daniel said, "See, Sam? What did I tell you?"
Jack lay sprawled on the couch, lazy, sated and warm. Teal'c had started a fire before he and Sam had finally left and Jack was thinking that things couldn't get much better. His side was already starting to itch -- a good sign of healing, and Daniel was hobbling around, fussing and fidgeting. To Jack's trained eye, Daniel appeared somewhat -- edgy.
During the entire meal with Sam and Teal'c, Daniel had never once made eye contact with Jack. He'd been quiet, but no more so than usual, trading the usual barbs and quips. But something had been missing and Jack figured he had a pretty good handle on the problem.
"Daniel, would you sit down. You're wearing me out."
Jack watched, amazed, as Daniel took the chair opposite the couch.
"Um, Daniel? That can't be very comfortable. And if the pinched look you're currently wearing is any indication, I'm right. Would you get your shot-up butt over here -- now?"
When Daniel didn't move right away, Jack said, "Daniel? Please?"
"I think -- I'd better stay here. I have another confession."
Considering that Jack figured he knew exactly what that confession would be, he was surprised when his heart meandered up to his throat. He couldn't remember Daniel ever looking as uncomfortable and downright miserable as now. "All right, Danny. I'm listening."
"Remember my email to General Hammond? We were on our way to rectify--"
"I remember, Danny. It was only a few days ago. Why?"
Daniel's eyes drifted around the room and Jack coudn't fail to notice that the younger man's fingers were gripping the arm of the chair in what could only be called a death grip.
"Why?" he asked again, gently.
"I told General Hammond to -- keep it." Finally, Daniel looked at him. "I am resigning from the SGC, Jack."
Jack's heart took a nose-dive to his feet. His mouth wouldn't work, his mind in turmoil.
Daniel rose unsteadily, then limped over to the fireplace. He lifted the poker and pushed needlessly at a couple of the logs , then said, "I did something, Jack. Something even now, I don't fully understand. I mean, I don't really know why I did it. But...I know I would do it again. That's what scares me. That's why I told General Hammond to keep the resignation. I also asked him to let me handle it with you."
"Danny? I really need you to be sitting next to me, right now. Okay?"
"I don't think so, Jack. I don't think, after you hear what I did--"
"You opened the compartment, took out the power source and somehow destroyed it."
"You see, I took the pow--um, what did you say, Jack?"
"I said, you opened the compartment, removed the power--"
"Dear God." Daniel turned and stared at Jack, mouth agape, eyes wide. "How the hell--"
"Daniel, I know you. I know what these last months have done to you. And I'm pretty sure your little run in with Shifu was -- illuminating. I know I certainly learned from it -- eventually."
"Dear God," Daniel said again.
"How -- how did you, I can't believe you -- can't believe that you figured this out, that you--"
"Daniel, I said I know you." Jack's words finally seemed to penetrate the brilliant brain but instead of cheering up, Daniel paled. "So now you understand," he said.
"No, I don't understand. Maybe you'd like to come over here, take a seat and tell me about it?" Jack patted the space beside him and gave Daniel what he hoped was his best come hither look. If it was his best -- he was going to have to do a great deal of practice. Daniel didn't move an inch.
"I destroyed the power source, Jack. I can't be trusted anymore. I'm -- I -- made a conscious decision in that pyramid, a decision that went against the whole philosophy of the SGC."
"And you'd do it again." Daniel nodded. "And I'd do it again."
"You'd destroy -- zat guns?"
"Well, no, of course not."
"So why this weapon?" Daniel limped over to the couch and gingerly sat down, his body language radiating the need to explain this to Jack. Jack leaned back and smiled. And waited. "Jack, this one -- it's -- we're talking end of the world destruction. You know what Sam said about the sarcophagus?" At Jack's nod, Daniel went on, "Well, with that weapon -- it's Goa'uld technology like we've never seen before." Daniel stopped, then started to rise, but Jack put out a hand and holding onto the younger man's arm, said, "Stay." When Daniel sank back down, Jack added, "Okay, get it all out, Daniel." Daniel stared into warm brown eyes -- understanding -- eyes, and he gave Jack a small smile of gratitude. "You -- get it, don't you, Jack?"
"In a way. Thanks to what you told me about the dream Shifu gave to you." Jack reached over and took Daniel's hand in his own. Bringing it to his chest, he said, "Danny, it took me a while to really figure it out. I puzzled over it, and it scared me, the idea that even in a dream, I'd have to try to kill you -- and I said to myself, 'Not Daniel. It could never happen to Daniel.' And that's when it hit me. If you could be changed by the knowledge of the Goa'uld, what chance did the rest of us have? And somehow, I'm thinking this is all tied in with that damn weapon."
"God, I love you, Jack." Letting his eyes have their fill, Jack nodded. "And I'm thanking God that you do. But tie up the loose ends for me, will ya?" At peace for the first time in hours, Daniel moved closer, then shifted them both so that Jack was resting up against Daniel's chest. Arms holding him close, he said, "Their weapons, like the one Tefnut and Shu created, are as corrupting as the knowledge that Shifu holds. That's the only way I can explain it, Jack. Tefnut finally learned that lesson herself -- the hard way. "She and her husband were good. They wanted only to live in their paradise, but they created a monster in order to accomplish that. And in the end, it destroyed dreams, their world, and them."
"So what's the answer, Danny?"
"I -- don't know, Jack. I know that I've tried to be something else, some one else and I've failed you and the team every time. I know that those first years -- even though I was searching for Sha're and Skaara, I was excited about going through, excited about what we were finding and experiencing." Daniel slipped his hand out of Jack's. "I haven't felt that in a long time, Jack." Jack smiled, his own memories of their early adventures springing up, fresh and vivid. "I miss those days, Danny. I miss you running off to tell some group, 'I'm Daniel, and this is Jack O'Neill and we're peaceful explorers from Earth'."
"Oh, yeah, right. I'm betting you're missing the 'thrown into prison, shot at and terrorized' part too."
"Yeah, kind of." Jack took Daniel's hand back, then he turned slightly, brought up his arm and with his hand on the back of Daniel's head, he said, lips close to Daniel's, "You're not alone in your dreams for the SGC, Daniel, there are two of us, you and me. And if you think Sam and Teal'c don't agree with you, you're sadly mistaken. So I guess that makes four of us."
"Four of us?"
"Four. SG1. It started with us, it'll finish with us."
"God, you're sexy when you spout off like that." Jack let his lips slide over Daniel's, then he murmured, "Bed?"
Bed was nice, even if the two men currently wound around each other could do little more than actually sleep. Daniel was on his good side, one arm draped across Jack's chest, his head pillowed on Jack's shoulder. Jack could feel Daniel's breath brush his skin and he let his cheek rest against short, soft hair. Their future with the SGC was on hold, he knew that. Their talk hadn't really resolved the issue of Daniel and his resignation, not really. Because for all his talk, Jack couldn't change anything. The newest directive was to find technology to defeat the Goa'uld. Period. But could either one of them sit back and let the SGC move ahead without them? Knowing the grievous error that was being made? Jack didn't have any answers. No, that was wrong. He had one. If Daniel didn't go back, neither would Colonel Jack O'Neill.
"General Hammond? The President." Hammond sighed before reaching for the red phone. He wasn't looking forward to this conversation. The great weapon report. Damn. He picked up. "Mr. President."
Daniel watched Jack from his comfortable spot on the couch. He grinned, then brought his book up to hide his face. Jack was restless. Only four days and the man was already going out of his skull with boredom.
Daniel shifted a bit, testing, and smiling. His butt and left leg definitely felt better. Not quite as sore. It was time to give Jack O'Neill an outlet for his -- energy.
Daniel put the book down and stood. Then he started to unbutton his shirt. Jack, who'd been walking slowly, but with determination, around the living room, froze. "Daniel?"
"Taking off my shirt. Something I would have thought you'd be familiar with, as disrobing is a common action taken among humans."
"Huh-uh." Daniel tossed his shirt on the couch behind him, then unbuttoned the top of his jeans.
"Daniel?" Sighing, Daniel said, "Yes?"
"Now whatcha' doin'?"
"I'm continuing the practice of disrobing. First a man takes off his shirt. Now as you can see, I've done that already. Next, he removes his pants. This is usually done by," Daniel lowered his zipper -- slowly -- lowering one's zipper. Then sliding, in this case, a pair of jeans, over one's hips, like so." Daniel slid the denim down -- as slowly as he'd lowered the zipper. "Then a guy steps out of them and if he's neat and tidy, he folds them carefully, like this." Daniel folded them, then placed them on top of his shirt. He held out his arms. "See? Undressing. Getting unclothed. Divesting oneself of apparel. Everyone does it." Daniel winked. "Care to give it a try?"
"Doctor Jackson, are you attempting to seduce me, an injured man?"
"No. I'm attempting to assist you in finding an outlet for your -- boredom. Undressing, then dressing, then undressing -- might work." Daniel raised an eyebrow. "Ah. Gotcha. Okay, let's see how this works." Jack was wearing a pullover, so he stretched experimentally, felt the slight stitch in his side as the wound, front and back, was pulled by his movement. He smiled. Then lazily took off the sweater. As it dropped to the floor, he said, "Normally, I'm military neat, but today, well, fuck neat."
"Amen," Daniel agreed. "And of course, I have no zipper, what with wearing sweat pants."
"You have string--" Daniel pointed out suggestively. "Why so I do." Jack, eyes locked onto Daniel's face, and with a small, satisfied grin, slowly untied his sweats. He watched as Daniel licked his lower lip.
"You know, side still hurts a bit. Maybe I could use some -- help?" Daniel cocked his head. "Mmm, probably. Want me to call Sam? Teal'c?"
"Mmm, why don't you get your bandaged ass over here, four eyes."
"Yes, sir." Daniel moved as quickly as his wound would allow, which was surprisingly quick. When he was standing in Jack's space, he placed his hands on Jack's hips and started to work the sweats and boxers down. Half way, he looked up and said, "How am I doing?"
"I can tell you've been undressing -- for years."
"Oh, yeah." After Jack stepped out of his pants, Daniel rose and led him to the couch. He was about to sit down when Jack reversed their roles.
"Nuh-huh. I'll sit, you stand." As he gazed up at Daniel, he added softly, "Your boxers, Daniel. Step out of them. Please?"
"We're supposed to be relieving your boredom, Jack--"
"Then I should be the judge of the best way to do that, right?" Daniel shook his head helplessly, but stepped out of his shorts.
"There, happy now?" Jack, his eyes full of lust and love, brought his hand up and tenderly stroked up and down Daniel's leg. "Oh, yeah. God, you're beautiful, Danny."
Looking down at the bent head Daniel smiled tenderly and said, "So are you, Jack. So are you."
Daniel took Jack's head between his hands and lifted until he could see Jack's face, then he bent and kissed him. Jack's mouth opened beneath his and Daniel slipped his tongue in. Both men groaned. The kiss deepened and Jack pulled Daniel impossibly closer.
When they parted, he was smiling, his brown eyes twinkling. "What's so funny, flyboy?" Daniel said, his voice husky with emotion and lust. "Not funny -- joyful. Joyous. Have I mentioned how good you taste?"
"Feel free to taste more."
"Thank you, I do believe I will." Jack, one hand on Daniel's right hip, the other gently encircling the younger man's cock, leaned in and flicked out his tongue, taking a taste of the firm flesh. With his hands on Jack's shoulders, Daniel said, somewhat breathlessly, "I'm -- supposed to be -- relieving you -- giving you an outlet -- for--"
"Uh-huh," Jack said absently, his mind on the beautiful cock in his hand. He tilted his head, narrowed his eyes, then moved in again. He licked up the underside and was rewarded with a sudden thrust and moan. He moved his hand from Daniel's hip and slid it around to gently cup the sweet ass cheek. He felt Daniel shiver and he looked up, worried.
"Did that hurt?"
Eyes closed, Daniel shook his head. Nodding, Jack explored some more, his finger tracing over the bandage that graced the spot where the upper thigh met the lower swell of Daniel's ass.
"Not too tender, Danny?"
Biting down on his lower lip, eyes still closed, Daniel shook his head.
"Good." Jack slipped his finger between the two cheeks and as he teased, he took the head of Daniel's cock into his mouth.
Working Danny's ass and his cock, he let Daniel fuck his mouth. Jack rocked slightly with each thrust, loving each minute, loving the closeness, the scent of it, the strength of it. But he knew that with his finger fucking Daniel's ass and his throat constricting, Daniel wouldn't be able to last long. With a grunt and soft moan, Daniel's head fell back, his fingers tightened on Jack's shoulders and his orgasm rolled through him.
With the last thrust, Daniel almost fell forward. Jack held him, then somehow, together, they both managed to fall back on the couch. Jack ended up on his side, his back flush to the couch. Daniel was on his right side, facing Jack, his arm around Jack's chest. Jack watched the flushed face, watched Daniel's eyelashes flutter, and felt the constrictive fingers as they opened and closed on Jack's skin. When Jack felt the last of the orgasmic tremors move through Daniel, he kissed soft hair before resting his cheek against Daniel's head.
Jack could honestly say that his boredom had been greatly relieved.
"Okay, that was -- good."
"Oh, yeah." Daniel lifted his head and smiled dreamily up at Jack. "But -- I'm sensing a need here--" His fingers closed around Jack's erection as he spoke. Stroking, he smiled against bare, sweaty skin.
"Needs -- are -- good," Jack managed to grind out. "Needs met are better--"
The jangle of the phone penetrated Daniel's brain and without opening his eyes, he reached out, fumbled around and finally connected with the receiver. "'Lo?"
Daniel? It's Sam.
Daniel tried to roll over, but Jack appeared to have a death grip on him.
Are you and Jack able to--could you--
"Spit it out, Sam."
General Hammond needs you both. The weapon, the mission, he -- there's a special -- debriefing -- tomorrow at two. And Daniel?
Daniel was about to say, "what," when a tongue took a swipe at his neck. "YIPES!"
Daniel? Are you all right?
Daniel swatted the man behind him as he said, rather breathlessly, "Yeah, I'm -- fine. So, briefing, tomorrow--um, Sam?"
"Did the General say anything--else?"
Not really, Daniel. Why?
"Oh, nothing. I just -- are you sure he wants both Jack and I and not just -- Jack?"
Pretty positive, Daniel. You're kind of important in this particular meeting.
"Oh, yeah. Naturally. Okay, we'll be--"
The General is sending a car for you. He didn't want either of you to have to worry about driving. Actually, that was Janet's idea.
"Oh, okay then. We'll be ready. I guess."
It's a top level meeting: Pentagon, the works.
Daniel closed his eyes. "I see. Suit for me, dress uniform for Jack?"
'Fraid so. A courier will be delivering his uniform later, all right?
"Wow, you've thought of everything, Sam."
I try. See you two tomorrow. And Daniel?
You're both feeling -- better -- right?
"Well, until your call, yeah."
Sorry. Tell the Colonel -- well, just tell him 'hi', okay?
Daniel twisted his head and smiled into sleepy but interested brown eyes. "Sam says 'Hi.'" Jack took the phone. "Major? Say good-bye."
When the line disconnected, Jack handed the phone to Daniel, who put it down on the coffee table. "So?"
"We have a top level meeting with General Hammond and representatives of the Pentagon tomorrow -- at two. She's sending your dress uniform overlater." Jack kissed the nape of Daniel's neck, then murmured against the soft skin, "Don't worry, Danny. One day, and one step, at a time, okay?" Daniel nodded, but his blue eyes grew dark with sorrow.
With a shaking hand, Daniel straightened his tie. From behind him, he could hear a soft curse and he turned from the dresser mirror and walked slowly to the bathroom door. "Jack? You okay?"
The door opened and Jack stood there, in full dress uniform, looking every inch a dream. "I'm fine, just bumped my knee." Jack turned out the light and shut the door. He let his eyes roam down Daniel's body, then he whistled. "I love a man in a suit."
Smiling, Daniel said, "Not as much as I love a man in uniform."
"I knew you were going to say that."
"Real reason I stuck around the last couple of years. All the men in uniform."
"Air Force slut."
"Come on, the car is waiting."
The closer they got to Cheyenne Mountain, the more nervous Daniel became. He was going to go in there and lie -- to General Hammond, to the men from the Pentagon, and he wondered if he could. And if he didn't lie? He'd resigned, hadn't he?
He'd committed treason.
Or at least, he was pretty sure he had.
Suck it up, Jackson. You made a decision, now you need to live with it, own up to it.
His conscience was right. Wasn't it always?
So -- the truth.
A truth that could destroy his life with Jack. Didn't a person go to prison for treason? Actually, he was pretty certain they could -- kill him. Execute him.
The car came to a rest just inside Cheyenne Mountain and the young sergeant climbed out and quickly opened Jack's door, saluted, then hurried around to Daniel's side. Daniel stepped out, then reached back for the cane Janet had given him. He hadn't used it around the house, but for this, for the amount of walking and standing he'd be doing -- he knew he'd need it. Besides, leaning against Jack was a no-no, so the cane could be a nice substitute.
Jack came slowly around to his side and nodding, said, "You ready?"
"Ready. How are you feeling?"
"Fine, Danny, just fine." They headed deeper inside.
Claire reached up and straightened her husband's tie. "There, that's better." They stood before the long mirror in the VIP suite and as she smiled up at him, President Markham leaned down and dropped a kiss on her cheek. "Thank you, as always." She patted his suit jacket, then brushed her hands across the shoulders.
"You look -- presidential."
"How long will this meeting actually be?"
"I don't know. I need the clarification on the weapon that didn't work, and to tell the truth, I'm very interested in hearing from Doctor Jackson about Tefnut, Shu and Thoth. But then, well, then we'll get down to the heart of the matter."
"How did General Hammond feel about your decision?"
"He was confused, councilled against it, but then we did a bit more discussing and now, I think, he's one hundred percent behind it."
"Do you have DanielJackson's coffee cup?" Sam turned, cup in hand. "You had to ask?" Teal'c nodded, then took his usual seat. He was dressed in one of his finest cloaks from Chulak and looked every inch the strong warrior. Sam was in her dress uniform and clearly nervous. She set Daniel's mug down and took her seat next to Teal'c. "You are worried, Major Carter."
"Only to one who knows you well." She turned enough to view his expression, then said softly, "And you do, don't you? Know me well."
"I would hope so. We are soldiers-in-arms, Major."
"He hasn't had enough time, Teal'c." One eyebrow rose. "You mean DanielJackson?" Sam nodded. "Today, this," she waved her hand at the table, "they're going to blame him, somehow."
"I believe your fear stems from another source, Major Carter. For as well as I know you, you know DanielJackson. And we both understand that he is an honorable man and will not -- lie -- today." For a moment, the two friends stared at each other, each recognizing the truth in the other. Sam nodded. "No, he won't lie." The door opening prevented Teal'c from responding. "Teal'c, my main man. And Major. Good to see you both." Jack smiled as he held the door for Daniel. "Sam, Teal'c," Daniel said as he limped in and moved straight for the table with the coffee. Sam smiled at Teal'c, then both rose and walked over to their friends. "You both look great," Sam commented as she poured for Daniel. "Feel great, Major. A little sore still, but other than that -- we're both hunky dory."
Teal'c tilted his head. "Hunky -- dory?" Daniel took a good whiff of his coffee, then said, "Means we're both fine, Teal'c."
"I do not understand, DanielJackson." Daniel turned and after taking a sip, looked around him at the expectant faces. "Oh. Well, see, um, the dory part is from the Japanese word for road -- dori. Hunky means fine or splendid. See, there was this street in Yokohama. A street where the sailors went to find," he paused, then looked down at the ground, "um, relaxing -- pursuits. Very relaxing pursuits. So they nicknamed the street -- hunky-dori."
"Ah. Splendid road."
"So how did a term for a road that led to -- relaxing -- pursuits, come to mean feeling fine," Jack asked, actually interested. "Well, there's a Dutch word, hunk or hunker as in hunker down, which means to get into a really good -- position. And um, well, you can see how--"
"I see," Sam said. " Sailors, after traveling the dori and then hunkering down in a--"
"A good -- position," Teal'c offered helpfully. "Yes, exactly," Jack picked up. "The sailors would then come out and after stretching and scratching, would say to each other, 'How do you feel?' And they would answer, 'Hunky dory.' Makes perfect sense."
The four members of SG1 looked at each other, then burst out laughing.
It was this scene which greeted General Hammond and Secretary of Defense MacMillan. "Colonel O'Neill." Jack turned and he, along with Sam, immediately saluted. General Hammond returned the salute smartly, then said, "I believe you all know Secretary of Defense MacMillan?" Hands were shaken, and as coffee was poured for MacMillan, two more men entered the room. Jack barely suppressed his groan as Colonel Simmons took his seat after saluting General Hammond. The other man was Major Davis.
Before anything could be said, two members of the Air Force Honor Guard entered and stood at attention. The guard nearest Jack and Daniel, said, "Please stand for the President of the United States."
Daniel thought he would collapse. The President? Well, hell, if a man had to go down for treason, why not in front of the President of the United States? But damn, did Simmons have to be here? Then President Markham was entering and smiling and shaking hands. When he stepped in front of Daniel and Jack, he said as he gazed down at Daniel, "I'm glad to see you and Colonel O'Neill looking so well. I'm looking forward to hearing your report, Doctor Jackson. I find that I'm fascinated by this Tefnut and her soul mate, Shu."
"I -- thank you, Mr. President. I believe what happened to Tefnut and Shu will be, I hope, illuminating."
The President nodded, then indicated that everyone should take their seats. Once everyone was settled, President Markham said, "George, this is your show."
"Thank you, Mr. President. And with that, I will promptly turn this meeting over to Major Carter, who will give you what information she can on the weapon recovered by SG3." Sam nodded and rose, then picked up the case that held the device. She opened it, took out the weapon and set in front of her. "Thanks to the translations done by Doctor Jackson, we were able to figure out how this device would work -- if we could get it to work--"
"Are you saying, Major," Colonel Simmons leaned forward, "that the power source was completely missing?"
"I'm afraid so. And the only thing we can state categorically is that naquada could not possibly have been the material used."
"I see." Simmons turned his jaundiced gaze to Daniel. "Doctor Jackson, can you give us any insight into this mystery?" Before Daniel could speak, General Hammond said, "Perhaps, if there are no more questions about the device itself," when no one said anything, he went on, "now would be a good time for Doctor Jackson's report?" From the time he'd received the call from Sam, Daniel had been trying to find the right way to handle today. Sometime late last night, in Jack's arms, he'd found it. Slowly he stood and using the cane to bolster him, he said, "I believe you all have the translations in front of you, so let me present this as it must have happened centuries ago.
"Egyptian myths all agree that Shu and Tefnut were the first recognized soul mates. This is substantiated in the hieroglyphics found by SG3. They were truly in love. Deeply in love. I can't tell you why Shu and Tefnut were different than the other Goa'uld gods around them, only that they were. It's altogether possible that their hosts were particularly strong, I don't know. But it was enough that they hated the slavery and the evil as represented by Ra.
"Unlike other gods who split away to create their own kingdoms of slavery, Shu and Tefnut wanted only peace. Tefnut dreamt of a world she called Nubia, of a paradise where she, Shu, and their two children, could be free. She and her husband also knew that simply leaving would be impossible. Not to mention that once they found their world, keeping it safe and free of other Goa'uld would be equally impossible. So Tefnut set about to create a weapon that would ensure their escape and continued safety." Simmons interrupted. "You keep referring to this world of theirs, this paradise. In your initial report, you alluded to the Ancients?" Daniel nodded. "Some of the symbols used by Tefnut were recognizable as being of the Ancients. And of course, P3X-872 was one of the addresses provided by Colonel O'Neill after obtaining the knowledge of the Ancients."
"So you believe that this Tefnut and Shu received assistance from the Ancients?"
"It seems likely. Imagine finding two such Goa'uld? Yes, I believe the Ancients would take great interest in helping Tefnut and Shu." Simmons nodded, then sat back, content, for the time being, to listen. "The weapon was created and probably accounts for the myths assigning Tefnut and Sh their powers. The slaves of Ra saw first hand how Shu controlled the atmosphere via this weapon, and how Tefnut added her power over moisture."
Now it was Secretary MacMillan who sat forward. "Are you saying that this weapon created -- weather? To such a degree that it could then destroy?" Daniel shook his head. "No, Mr. Secretary, that isn't exactly correct. This weapon -- harnessed -- the elements and turned them against whomever, or whatever, was the target. It's as if the elements were filtered through the machine and turned into--" Daniel paused, then looked over at Sam. "Major Carter, maybe you could better explain?" Smiling, Sam shook her head. "I think you're doing just fine, Daniel." Giving her his best, 'I'll get you later' look, Daniel went on. "I believe you get the idea. We know from the glyphs that this machine, in a matter of seconds, could turn its target into dust. We also learned that the focus of the machine could be as narrow as one individual and as broad as an entire city or -- army. "And we know that Geb, Tefnut's and Shu's son, tried to stop them, that he'd succumbed to the power of Ra, and that Shu was forced to turn the machine on his own son." Daniel let that sink in, then said, "And before you think in terms of how the Goa'uld take their children, remember that everything we know of Tefnut and Shu says that both Geb and Nut were children. My best guess is that the hosts for Tefnut and Shu were related, perhaps were actually husband and wife, then taken by Ra as his children. And it's altogether possible that Geb and Nut were the hosts couple's real children." Again, Daniel paused, allowing his words to sink in. He wanted everyone in the room to understand Tefnut and Shu. Needed everyone to understand them. "My God," Sam exclaimed in a hushed voice, "I can actually see where the hosts might have been strong enough. So much love, taken, but kept together, and their children--"
"Exactly, Sam. But the children were too young to fight. And when Geb reached what was basically his teens, he gave into the power that was Goa'uld and Goa'uld technology."
"It must have nearly destroyed Shu--" Jack said, his voice fading as his own thoughts of Charlie suddenly took front and center. "I suspect so, Jack," Daniel said softly. "But he and Tefnut had followers, others who wanted freedom -- and they had their small daughter. They must have hoped against hope that once away from all that evil, they could spare her."
"But they couldn't--" The hushed voice was the President's.
Daniel looked over at the President, observed the sorrow in the man, and said, "No, Mr. President, they couldn't. In spite of making sure that their story was on the walls, that the Goa'uld technology was housed in a protected pyramid that wouldn't admit Nut, she was turned."
"How does this Thoth fit in? Egyptian mythology says he was the son of Ra, and a great mediator. He's one of the few gods of which nothing bad is said or even hinted at," Markham asked, showing his knowledge of Ancient Egypt and her myths.
Daniel was tiring and it was evident to everyone around him. So much so, that General Hammond interrupted. "Doctor Jackson, perhaps you'd be more comfortable seated?"
Jack immediately pulled out Daniel's chair and the younger man sank gratefully into it. "Thank you, sir."
"Not at all. Continue when you're ready."
Daniel nodded and answered the President's question. "I'm only guessing now, but mythology tells us that Ra sent Thoth to Nubia to plead with Tefnut and Shu, to beg them to return. I suspect he was sent to destroy them. Nut was now in her teens and it's possible that it was this first exposure to a full blown Goa'uld that turned her, although we'll never know for sure. But you can imagine this immature Goa'uld, seeing what to her would have been this great man, beautiful and strong, surrounded by power, weapons -- and perhaps hearing from him how her own parents killed her brother--"
For a third time, Daniel paused for effect. He took a sip of his now tepid coffee, then continued.
"What we do know from the hieroglyphs, is that a battle ensued. I would have to assume that Nut was able to get the device, via one of the freed slaves without a symbiote, and she used it -- on her father. Tefnut was forced to watch her mate perish by the very weapon they'd created to protect themselves -- and at the hands of her beloved daughter.
"It's unclear what happened next, but somehow Tefnut resumed control of the device and took it back to the pyramid. By this time, all those who'd come to Nubia with her and Shu, were either dead or enslaved by Thoth. Tefnut's world was -- gone. She must have reactivated the protection of the pyramid and Nut was unable to leave with the weapon."
"So she died there - alone? Surrounded by Goa'uld technology?"
"Yes, Mr. Secretary. Captain Montoya and I found what had to be her -- teeth."
"None of this explains what happened to the power source, Doctor Jackson," Simmons drawled, his expression one of cold calculation.
Here it comes, Daniel thought. He took a deep breath, then--
"I think I can figure out what happened, Colonel Simmons," the President said, his voice soft, his expression as he gazed on Daniel, knowing and -- accepting.
"I suspect that she did exactly what I would have done in similar circumstances. She took out the power source and destroyed it. Her final act of protection and perhaps -- redemption. And in doing so, she undoubtedly saved us all."
The President turned to Simmons. "Don't you agree, Colonel?"
Stunned, Colonel Simmons asked, "How could such an act save us?"
"Surely you can see the answer to that, Colonel. I have no doubt that if Nut had managed to retrieve the weapon, it would have been used on us by now. The Goa'uld would undoubtedly be in total control of this world, Colonel. "But," the President returned his gaze to Daniel, "let's suppose that Tefnut hadn't destroyed the power source. Then I would have prayed to God that somebody else -- would have. My God, Colonel, can you imagine if such a weapon fell into -- say -- the wrong hands? And Colonel, I'm not sure our hands wouldn't have been the wrong ones."
The President pushed back his chair, then rose to his full height. "I believe that at least two of our members could use a break now. General Hammond?"
"I couldn't agree with you more, Mr. President. Shall we reconvene in say, thirty minutes?"
"That sounds good to me, General."
"Well, you seem to be doing very well, Colonel," Doctor Frasier said as she lowered his wrist "Looks like those stitches can come out in another few days."
"I'm going to take his out later today."
"Can I watch?"
Janet froze in the act of checking his lungs. She tapped the stethoscope against the palm of her hand, then said, "Funny, this thing is really acting up."
They sat in silence, Jack still seated on the examining table, Daniel now in the chair next to him.
"You're awfully quiet, Danny."
"He -- knows, Jack."
"He's -- guessing."
"Correctly. He's guessing correctly."
"Yeah? Well, it's pretty obvious that he and General Hammond approve of your decision. Stop worrying. Don't you know a rescue attempt and a stamp of approval when you hear it?"
"You're taking all of this pretty damn well, Jack."
"That's what happens when you gate onto a world and find the man you love dead -- in the sand. Everything else pretty much pales by comparison."
"I'm sorry, Jack."
"Get on with ya," Jack said, love shining from his eyes.
Daniel grinned, then his expression went serious again. "So you're saying that I should let it alone? That I shouldn't -- confess?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "Yes, Daniel, that's exactly what I'm saying. In fact, that's what everyone is saying. For a bright guy, you sure carry around a pretty dim light bulb."
"Ha-ha. Would you look whose calling the -- bulb dim?"
"My bulb is quite bright, thank you very much. Three way."
"Not in my lifetime, flyboy."
Jack grinned and damn, Daniel thought, the man is actually blushing. Well, who knew?
Jack got down and handed Daniel his cane. "Come on, ScienceBoy, let's get back to the briefing room. And by the way?" Jack said as Daniel moved past him, "Doc Frasier said I could watch later -- when she removes your stitches."
"In your dreams, Jack, in your dreams."
"Often, Danny boy. Often."
When they returned, they discovered that they were the last ones to arrive. Both quickly took their seats and Daniel was only slightly disconcerted to find the weapon still taking center stage on the table. He started to fiddle with his pen when he felt the squeeze of Jack's fingers on his thigh. He dropped the pen.
"Doctor Jackson, I have a few more questions for you," General Hammond said as his way of starting up the meeting again. "How is that Thoth and Nut arrived at the same time as you and SG3 were about to leave with the weapon?"
Daniel had given this a great deal of thought and he leaned forward to give his answer. "Sir, there are several strange questions. Such as how did Thoth find Nubia in the first place? And why didn't Nut send someone else into the pyramid, someone without a symbiote, to retrieve the device? Or, if Tefnut altered the protective ring around the entrance, how would we have been able to penetrate it?"
Smiling, General Hammond said, "I suspect you have some theories, Doctor Jackson?"
"Well, yes. I've given those questions a great deal of thought. And part of the key is something that you, Mr. President, alluded to earlier. Thoth's reputation. It's altogether possible that he found a way to contact the Ancients, to convince them of his honorable intent in contacting Tefnut and Shu."
"Hence they actually showed him how to get to Nubia?" the President asked, his curiosity aroused.
"I think so, sir."
"Daniel, it's altogether possible," Sam interjected, "that Tefnut did alter the protective circle, but if it was calibrated to the physiology of her time, well, that would explain how you and SG3 were able to pass through. As we've already discovered with others transported from Earth over the centuries, the physiology did chang with the environment."
Daniel nodded, his mind churning. "Sam, how did Thoth and Nut follow SG3? They were both too far away to have seen the co-ordinates put in by Lieutenant Elvis, yet they showed up."
"They must have a tracking device of some kind," Sam mused. "Now that's something I'd like to get my hands on."
"This is all fine and good, but are we to suppose that Thoth and Nut showing up just as SG3 was about to leave, was a coincidence?" Simmons asked.
"No," Daniel said quietly. "I think Nut rigged a sensor and we triggered it. When we found the way to the real Nubia, she was probably alerted."
"Is that possible, Major?" General Hammond asked.
"Very. It wouldn't take much to go back and confirm our theories, Sir."
"And collect the rest of the Goa'uld technology in that pyramid," Simmons added sharply.
"Not to mention alerting Nut and Thoth - again," Jack snapped back. "I think Doctor Jackson has probably died enough -- for the month."
Simmons, ignoring Jack, turned to Carter. "I would suppose that you could discover the method Nut used and disarm it, Major? And if not, then the team would simply return, no harm, no foul."
"I don't believe that--"
"General," the President interrupted Hammond, "I think it might be worth a try. If Major Carter and a crack team can discover Nut's trick and disarm it, then I would immediately authorize a unit moving in and destroying the pyramid -- and all that it contains."
The sudden silence that followed the President's statement was such that Daniel was pretty certain he could hear Jack's heart beating. Sam looked -- stunned, and Simmons looked as though a heart attack was imminent. General Hammond acutally looked pleased.
"Well, Major Carter?" he asked.
"I'd like to try, sir."
The General's gaze drifted to Jack. "Colonel, Doctor Frasier believes she can return you to full duty in another two weeks. How would you feel about a return to Nubia as SG1's next assignment?"
"Under the conditions just outlined? Peachy, sir."
"Mr. President, I must object to any plan that includes the destruction of that pyramid. The technology inside -- even Doctor Jackson noted in his preliminary report -- many of them were unknown to him. We must--"
"No, Colonel Simmons, we mustn't," the President said, interrupting the man mid-sentence. "Or have you heard nothing said today?"
Face growing more red by the minute, Simmons said, "Sir, with all due respect, we have some pictures on a wall and a great deal of supposition by -- Doctor -- Jackson, and nothing more. As head of the NID, I must remind you of the directive--"
"As Commander and Chief, I'm the last person that you need remind of anything, Colonel, let alone a Presidential directive. The matter is closed."
Simmons actually had the gaul to turn to MacMillan, who steadfastly refused to meet his gaze.
General Hammond turned to the President. "Sir, I believe this might be the appropriate time to bring up the other item on the agenda?"
"I believe you're right, General."
The President, after sharing a strange look with General Hammond and Secretary of Defense MacMillan, rose.
"First however, I'd like to express my appreciation to SG-1. The last days have been a test of us all. I also find it necessary to reiterate what we have learned today." He paused a moment, then went on. "As I stare at a weapon that was responsible for destroying a paradise and two people whom I suspect would have been great allies, I must repeat that I am not sorry that -- Tefnut -- destroyed the power source. I do not believe that such a weapon belongs in anyone's hands. Which brings me to the real reason for today."
President James Sullivan Markham looked at each person around the table, then said, "With regard to Stargate Command, I am resurrecting the original Presidential Directive and broadening it."
The four members of SG1 sat quietly in the briefing room, the only ones remaining. As Daniel gazed at each of his teammates, he wondered where their thoughts were taking them. When the President had shared his startling announcement, Daniel had been uncertain of the reactions of those present. Due to Jack's earlier words, he'd thought he'd see, if not jubilation, then at least a reserved form of triumph, but he hadn't. He'd only seen a quiet -- reserve -- instead. And hatred.
But that had come from Simmons. Along with a whole lot of other shit.
Daniel rested his cheek on his hand and looked down at what he'd been doodling all over the legal pad in front of him. He almost smiled. Simmons looked good with horns and a tail. As Daniel stared at his cartoon, the discussion that had arisen following the President's exit came back to him full force.
Simmons had stood up the moment the door had shut behind the President. His face a pasty white, he'd glared at Daniel through narrowed eyes, then said through clenched teeth, "I knew you'd be the death of us, Doctor Jackson. This new directive will result in the annihilation of our world! Weapons -- that's our only answer, the only way to protect ourselves."
"Protect ourselves from what, Colonel? Or are we supposed to believe that any weapons given to us by an ally such as the Tollan, or stolen from the Goa'uld, would be used only against the Goa'uld? That we wouldn't use a powerful new weapon on, say, the Middle East? Or any other enemy of the United States?" Daniel had asked, his voice deadly quiet.
"You're a fucking scientist, Jackson. Protecting our government isn't your concern."
"Excuse me, I am the government. I'm one of the people. You know, of the 'We the People'? Very old family. Go way back. But you're right, protecting a government isn't my concern. But protecting Earth -- is. And so far," he'd said, one eyebrow raised, "I think the SGC has done a remarkable job of just that."
Simmons had placed both hands palm down on the table then, and with a voice hard with threat, he'd said, "If you think the President's new directive will change anything, you're sadly mistaken, Doctor Jackson. You and I have spoken before about your supposed motives and just whose side you're really on -- and I have it within my power to permanently remove you from the SGC. You're a dangerous man, Jackson."
Daniel had been able to tell that Jack was about ready to launch himself over the table and attempt some serious damage to Simmons' neck, so he'd done the only smart thing; he'd started laughing.
Unfortunately, that had only served to enrage Simmons further. Teal'c had just been about to take a hand in subduing the red-faced head of the NID when a command had been barked out.
All heads had turned toward General Hammond who'd returned after escorting the President and Secretary MacMillan to the VIP offices. Face impassive, he'd immediately excused Simmons, informing him that the President desired his presence. After returning Simmons' salute and watching the man's exit, Hammond had turned to his number one team.
"I know this was a shock for you all, but I do support the President's decision. This new directive is more in tune with how, I believe, we all envisioned Stargate Command. Pursuing knowledge, allies, and discovering anything that can aid in our battle against the Goa'uld, the replicators and anything else that threatens us from beyond the boundaries of our space."
He'd paused then, and with a smile, dropped the other shoe.
"By the way -- President Markham has requested that SG1 take him through the gate. Put your heads together, people, and decide where to take the President of the United States and the First Lady -- on their first trip through the Stargate. Let me know in the next couple of hours."
He'd then walked out, leaving the four members of SG1 alone to discuss.
Daniel looked around the table again. Since Hammond's departure, not one word had been said and Daniel figured that maybe it was time to take matters into his own hands. He put down the pen and pushed back his chair. Standing, Daniel said, "Hey, remember that planet, the one with the three moons? P5X-Y97? I'm thinking that might be perfect for President Markham."
Slowly Jack's eyes had widened. Then he'd smiled. "Yeah sure, you betcha. Perfect, Doctor Jackson."
Teal'c frowned, then said, "If I remember correctly, P5X-Y97 was populated by women."
Jack's eyes glittered. "Amazon women. Women who hadn't seen a man in twenty years. Really hungry women."
Three members of SG1 burst into laughter while the fourth member allowed one expressive eyebrow to rise as he said, "Ah."
Whistling, Jack turned the corner and stopped in front of Daniel's office. He peeked in and wasn't surprised to find his main man with his head on the table -- sound asleep. Like, what the hell is the cot for anyway? Shaking his head, Jack entered, walked softly over, then placed his hand on Daniel's neck. "Hey, Sleeping Beauty, it's time to wake up--"
When Daniel failed to respond, Jack blew softly in his ear. Big mistake. Daniel's head shot up, his glasses went flying and he nearly fell off his stool.
"None other. Sorry about that. You okay?" Jack asked as he retrieved Daniel's glasses.
"I'm -- fine. Just fine. Guess I fell asleep."
Daniel stood and stretched uncomfortably, then adjusted his glasses. Jack leaned against the table and smiled, the simple joy of watching Daniel his reward.
"Um -- how did it go?"
"I presented George with our thoughts, and no, I left out P5X-Y97. Now it's up to President Markham."
Frowning, Daniel nodded, then took off his glasses, pulled his black tee shirt out of his pants and wiped at the lenses. "So Land of Light?"
Jack gave an elegant shrug. "I suspect so. But I can tell you nothing will happen in the next couple of weeks, since President Markham is insistent that only SG1 take him and the First Lady through. Janet has told the General that she'll probably release us to full duty by then."
Daniel nodded, then watched as Jack picked up an artifact and started to twirl in his hands. Something was up.
"Uh, Jack? Got something you want to share?"
"Well, now that you mention it, Hammond did give me some additional news."
Slipping his glasses back on, Daniel said, "Oh? What?"
"Simmons was relieved of duty. He's no longer the head of the NID."
Daniel fumbled around until his hand connected with the stool. He dropped onto it. "Wha--what?"
Looking a whole lot like Sylvester moments after swallowing Tweedy Bird, Jack grinned. "He's gone. Kaput. I think he's going to end up in the Antarctic somewhere. And you ready for this? The new head of the NID?"
"Do I want to know?"
"O-kay -- I'll bite. Who?"
Daniel's mouth dropped open. Jack reached over and tenderly tipped it shut. "If you ask me, they should have done that a while back. He's got the background, the rank, and the experience."
"Well, I'll be damned."
Jack ran a finger along Daniel's jaw line. "Not likely, Danny. Not damn likely."
Daniel shifted a bit on the stool and Jack's grin widened.
"So -- um, what about the idea of Carter trying to, you know, on Nubia?"
"That's a go. She's putting together a team right now. They're not going to wait for us, just go ahead and give it a try. Then if she can disable the sensor, her team will destroy the pyramid."
"I hope it works, Jack. But can't we get them to wait? I'd really like you to see Nubia. It's beautiful."
"Can't risk it, Danny. And right now, we need to get you down to the infirmary and let Frasier do her stuff on your cute butt." Daniel rolled his eyes. "Jack, Jack, Jack--"
"What, what, what?"
"Stitches are history."
Daniel nodded, lips twitching with suppressed laughter.
"Well, damn." Then Jack's face brightened. "All right," he said enthusiastically, "now I can see your scar!"
"Just what is it with you and scars? First my appendicitis scar, now this?"
"Hey, come on! You know how low an appendix's scar is -- how could I not want to see it?"
"Why you horny bastard--"
"Well, duh. Now stand up and lean against the table. I wanna see it. Now."
"Danny? Door? Lock?"
"Jack? Go lock it?"
"Smart ass," Jack said as he almost ran to lock the door. Coming back, he made a twirling motion with his finger and Daniel stood, then turned around as he began to undo his pants.
"You know, this is ridiculous," he said as he took his zipper down.
Jack came up behind Daniel and watched as the younger man lowered his pants and boxers.
"Okay, hurry up and look. It's cold in here."
Jack chuckled, then squatted down. As he got into position, he realized that the world was full of beautiful things to look at. Great art, the Grand Canyon, the Tefar Forest on P3Y-179, but really, in all honesty, could anything equal Daniel Jackson's ass?
Nope. And it was right in front of his face. Damn, he was one lucky son of a bitch. "Hey, you really were shot in the thigh. The bullet kind of --"
"Jack? I know where the bullet went, okay?"
Peering closely, Jack had to admire Janet's handiwork. The scar was neat and tidy. He touched it gently, smiled, then kissed it.
Daniel twisted his head around and looked over his shoulder. "Jack? Did you just kiss my scar?"
"Yep. Gonna do it again too."
But of course, Jack did considerably more than just kiss the new scar.
"Um -- Jack? What -- oh. That's -- um, that feels -- you know, I don't think Janet had this in mind--"
Jack licked a path up Daniel's left ass cheek.
"On the -- other -- hand, if she'd only let -- you --"
Jack nodded happily. Nothing like a good rim job to shut up a babbling archeologist.
"The M.A.L.P. is ready, sir."
"Very good, Major. Let's get this show on the road."
Sam started the dialing process. On the ramp. the M.A.L.P. was in position. Sam's team was also in the gate room, ready to go if all looked quiet.
"Chevron six, locked--" As the Stargate turned, the process ground to a halt. Everyone waited -- but nothing happened.
Sam stared at the gate. "It's gone, sir. The gate can't lock because there's -- nothing -- on the other side."
"Thoth could have destroyed the gate," Sam offered.
"Why?" Jack asked. "What would that accomplish? He'd have to know we'd want to go back. If anything, I'd have expected a trap."
General Hammond nodded, then noticing Doctor Jackson's silence, said, "Doctor? Any theories on why we can't dial Nubia?"
Daniel looked up, then glanced at Sam. "I think we can't dial what is no longer there, sir. I think Nubia - the planet -- is gone." Jack turned so that he could see Daniel's face. "What, you think maybe the Nox?"
"Is that possible?" Hammond asked. "Could the Nox have cloaked the planet? Or--"
"I think," Daniel said, "that what the Ancients could give -- they could take away."
"That doesn't make sense, Daniel," Sam posited. "Why now? Why not centuries ago?"
"I don't know."
"But you have a suspicion, don't you, Daniel?"
"Jack, I really don't--"
Daniel looked at his friends, then at the General. He coughed, then said, "All I have is supposition. Theories based on little more than -- some weird instinct. I -- think leaving Nubia alone all this time was a test and Nut failed. As did -- we. Now -- it's -- gone."
Teal'c tilted his head. "I do not believe we failed, DanielJackson."
"I really wanted you to see Nubia, Jack."
Jack stroked a hand down Daniel's back, then kissed his temple. "I wanted to see it too -- with you."
They were in Daniel's apartment, in Daniel's bed. There'd been no contact by the Nox yet and no word from the President. Jack was due to be released to full duty in three days. Daniel had already been released.
As Daniel rested in Jack's arms, he still couldn't reconcile the life of today with the life of just a few weeks ago. Now he wanted nothing more than to live with this man, work with him and grow old with him. He wanted to explore new worlds, fight the demons, and make love with Jack O'Neill as often as humanly possible. Seemed like a good plan.
Then the phone rang.
The gate room had more SF's then Daniel had ever seen. He stood next to Jack, and if anyone had asked him -- he'd have admitted to a raging case of nerves. In a few minutes, SG1 would be taking President James Sullivan Markham and First Lady Claire Markham through the Stargate to the Land of Light.
It was history in the making. And he, Jack, Sam, and Teal'c were a part of it, a major part of it.
Five minutes later, President and Mrs. Markham entered the gate room, both appropriately dressed for gate travel. First Lady Markham was introduced and Daniel found himself grinning in response to her obvious delight at being in the presence of the Stargate. She could barely keep her eyes from it
With a nod from General Hammond, Jack and Daniel took their places on either side of President Markham, while Teal'c and Sam flanked Claire Markham. Bringing up the rear: three Secret Service Agents. Daniel was pretty sure that traveling to different galaxies was not a part of their job description.
"Mr. President," Jack said, "If you're ready?"
James Sullivan Markham glanced back at his wife and with a wink, said, "I've been ready for this all my life, Colonel. Let's do it."
Jack and Daniel moved forward, bringing the President with them. When they were a few inches from the shimmering blue, Daniel said, "Go ahead, touch it. I know it was the first thing I wanted to do just before going through the first time."
President Markham grinned like a school boy, then reached out and in a move eerily similar to Daniel's of over six years ago, he touched and watched as his finger disappeared.
"Too cool," The President of the United States said.
Jack nodded and said, "Sweet."
They stepped through.
Simmons stared at his computer screen. Slowly, he read:
"The Book of Thoth supposedly contains the knowledge of the gods themselves, the knowledge of Thoth. It is written in his book and hidden away. By reading it you will learn the language of the beasts, how to see the wind and how to hear the sun, the secrets of the gods and the songs of the stars..."
Simmons' eyes glittered bright.
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