ILLUMINATION BY BIBLIO AND PHOENIX E: PART ONE


Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: NC-17
Category: Angst.  Drama.  First Time.  Hurt/Comfort.
Season/Spoilers: Season 4. Based around the events of Absolute Power and The Light
Synopsis: The arrival of the Harsesis child causes both Jack and Daniel to see themselves - and each other  - in a completely different light
Warnings: Intense situations.
Length: 640 Kb Download a printer-friendly PDF version of the story


JACK

The wind seems to moan his name. "DANIEL."

Shit, there it is again. Swear to God. Um - should I be worried about this?

"Anybody else just hear that?" Daniel asks.

"I think so." Carter confirms.

Yeah. Me too. NOT getting weird, here. Good to know.

"Look!"

Kasuf's voice is awed as he gestures to a few wisps of sand swirling. The wind gusts, buffeting against me. I gape as the wisps of sand abruptly solidify, spiralling savagely into the sky, looming sullenly over us.

"Now THAT'S impressive!" I call out, making sure Kasuf gets the message. An honest-to-goodness tornado leaves any NUMBER of burning bushes for DUST. As proportional responses go, this one is quite flattering. I guess bad news like me spreads fast.

While close proximity to the aforementioned tornado would suggest to anyone else a prompt strategic withdrawal is in order, my very own Great and Powerful Oz grabs onto his boonie and makes a break for the Emerald City.

"DANlEL!" Jesus. Can't take my eyes off him for a SECOND. He turns to face me, looking puzzled.

"Try to keep in Kansas, huh?" I yell.

Focus, Toto, focus. That's a big honkin' tornado right there, and here's me without my ruby slippers. If this thing blows right over us, whaddya expect me to do about it? Shoot it?

"I was just - uh," he waves a vague hand.

He was just gonna follow the yellow brick road? Why am I not surprised? Becoz, becoz, becoz, becoz, becoz. Becoz of the dumbass things he does.

"I'm Daniel!" he hollers. "Who's calling?"

Not Glinda the Good Witch of the North, I'm guessing.

You're kidding! That WORKED? Daniel is good, but he's not THAT good. Somebody hit the tornado off-switch or something? It's just -- OH boy! Literally. Where in God's name did HE come from? Short stuff looks like an escapee from Kung Fu in those orange pyjamas. Walking steadily towards Daniel like the rest of us aren't even here.

Kid looks around eight years old, but he sure doesn't act like it as he comes to a halt a short distance away from Daniel. Those cool, serious eyes fixed on Daniel make Teal'c look giddy and light-hearted.

"I am Shifu. I am Harsesis."

Fuck me.

I turn in time to see Daniel stiffen. Jesus. It's just one kick in the butt after another for him.


I can distinctly remember the last I time I felt this edgy. This awkward. The reason is one I've put behind me, though she's sitting at my side. All that - confusion - over Carter is in the past. In perspective. In its place. Over. Now I don't know why the hell I'm uncomfortable around Daniel all of a sudden, or why this reminder of my best friend's dead wife has the 'omigawd' meter running. I haven't handled this situation well from the beginning, and I don't know why. I just don't know why.

Sha'uri is like a wall between us and Daniel, the only wound he won't have touched. He can't have it touched, not by us. Not by me. There isn't one of us sitting at the table that wouldn't have done exactly what Teal'c did if we had to. Carter and I will be glad to our dying day it wasn't either of us who killed Sha'uri, but there was no question we would have done it. For Daniel.

The Air Force doesn't exactly encourage its officers to do the 'what if' routine, but THAT gave us both cold chills. Not even a question of IF. Nothing so easy. WHEN. One of those nightmare scenarios that have you up night after night at three am.

I've known Sha'uri from the beginning. Knew more of her, thought more of her than anyone else in the SGC apart from Daniel. I know for a goddamn fact I wouldn't have given her half the time Teal'c did while Amonet was frying Danny. Teal'c did the right thing, and he did it for the right reasons. Selflessly. He had the hope but not the expectation Daniel would forgive him, and he took the risk anyway. He was prepared to sacrifice their hard won friendship for Daniel's life.

I would have done the exact same thing, but for the wrong reasons. I know it to be true Teal'c factored Sha'uri's life into the equation, gave her every opportunity to fight Amonet; gave her every chance to live. I would have thought only of Daniel. I don't how or when or why it happened, but it got personal. He gave himself so freely to our friendship that somewhere along the way I guess I started thinking of Daniel as mine.

I would have weighed Sha'uri's life against Daniel's and found her wanting. No doubt in my mind. I held my fire for Skaara 'til the last possible second but Sha'uri would have gotten the full clip the instant I walked in that tent. And I would have pulled that trigger in the sure and certain knowledge of Daniel's forgiveness. Again, not a question of if. WHEN.

I'm not proud of myself, not proud of any of the chaotic, caustic emotions that shot through me when I saw Daniel lying next to his dead wife. I shut them down, hard, before they could take root. Sorrow. Fear. Guilt. Relief. Glad -- Part of me was glad it was finally over. For his sake.

Except it wasn't over, because of her child. Another situation I haven't handled well from the beginning.

Daniel's been in that tent with the kid for a long time. Too long a time to spend alone with living, breathing proof of his wife's unwilling infidelity. He can empathise with that, he can forgive. He has common ground. He's been forced against his will and his conscience twice, and the least said about that fucking bitch Linea the better. She was after him from the MOMENT she laid eyes on him, I just - I - he - he's the bane of my life. I just can't seem to STOP these things happening to him, prevent him from being hurt.

I still remember the first time I laid eyes on him. I couldn't equate the intimidating academic achievements of the Dr Jackson in the file with the reality. I'd never met anyone like Daniel in my life. No one else on the base had either. Not just a genius. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. First and only goddamn time I ever beheld it in a man. What with the hair curling at the nape of his neck and all, he was one of those Pre-Raphaelites made flesh. I've been physically aware of Daniel, of course, couldn't fail to be in places like Hadante and Netu, but --

Speak of the devil: look who decided to join us. At long last. Strange, how his features are suddenly coming into such sharp focus for me -- So easy just to - to - especially the way the sun is - sun -- glasses, I need my sunglasses.

Sunglasses. Yeah. Getting dazzled here.

"Well, I think that he is the Harsesis." Daniel says steadily as he plants himself in front of me, elegant hands on slender hips.

Sunlight kinda glinting down and turning his hair - and skin - to - to - er - movement. I've got movement on my periphery. Someone walking up behind me. I look around hopefully, I gotta say I'd welcome ANY distraction just now. Oh, come on lady, gimme something to WORK with here! TRY to look threatening, will ya? Cut a guy some slack when he's - er - focusing. I'm not even asking for threatening. Suspicious, that'd do it for me. No? No.

Turning his…

"How is that possible?" Carter asks.

How the hell would I know? Not like I've never seen him in daylight before. Gets out plenty. Sunkissed. Glowing. Y'know? Hot. HEALTHY. That's the one. Danny looks - healthy - is all.

"I'm not sure. He says he grew like the weeds." Daniel looks - Daniel is unimpressed with the explanation.

"Apophis sired the child to be his next host." Teal'c says thoughtfully. "It is possible he used Goa'uld technology to manipulate the boy's body to mature quickly."

"We know that's possible." Daniel's wry glance has me holding up my hands in mock surrender. So I got to have my cake and eat it. Big deal. It's not like I've made a HABIT of fooling around on you! On us. On the TEAM.

"Does he speak of the knowledge passed on to him by Amonet and Apophis?"

Teal'c at least is never cause for weirdness of any kind and he's still the only one of us who can bring himself to say the name.

"He says Oma taught him to forget," Daniel shrugs.

I straighten up a little. "Oma?" That sounds familiar.

"The alien we encountered on Kheb. Mother Nature."

Ah. I point an acknowledging finger. If I remember correctly, hell hath no fury like THIS mother scorned.

"Guess that explains the tornado." Carter says, not taking her eyes off Daniel. Guess she's doing the silent sisterly support stuff.

"Shifu says he came to Abydos to learn more about his mother."

"Shi-fu?" Like tofu?

"His name. Means - light."

I nod and look away. Did he HAVE to bring up the light again? I JUST got my wayward train of thought back on the tracks here. Crap. Isn't there anything round these parts worth focusing on? Apart from Daniel? And I don't mean sand.

"I think we should have Doctor Fraiser take a look at him. I mean, if he's been altered to grow quickly, it could still be happening." Carter suggests.

"Do you think it's WISE to bring him back?" That is in fact a reprehensibly STUPID idea with fallout potential of epic and possibly biblical proportions. What the fuck kinda tactical response am I supposed to generate for a tornado, for Chrissake? And why am I still looking at Daniel when it's my 2IC who mooted the point?

"I don't think he's a danger."

THIS from the guy who thought the Destroyer of Worlds was a peach? Not that I'm doubting your judgement here, Daniel, but you have GOT to stop thinking people are as sweet and nice as you are. You might very well bring out the best in the people - people like me, who KNOW you - though not in the biblical - OBVIOUSLY not. Biblical. Desert. Yeah. It's the desert. The robes. Stuff. Gotta stop thinking about - stuff - focus - not on HIM - make like the colonel here.

"What about his step mom? Is she coming along?" Jeez. I SINCERELY hope not. The SGC can live without the sorta special effects would make Spielberg sit up and eat his heart out. Especially as hers aren't effects.

"He says, ultimately, a man travels his chosen path alone."

My path is unexpectedly taking my mind places I SO do not want it to go. I don't think I'M in Kansas any more. I can't tear my eyes off Daniel and, so help me, I can't get the - biblical - connotations off my mind.

"Smart kid." I turn to Carter. "Get a message to Hammond, let him know who we're bringing along."

When I glance back, Daniel looks conflicted. Almost worried. I don't blame him. He has his promise to Sha'uri to keep on one hand and our need for information on the other. I can't see any way he can fulfil both obligations, and when the two inevitably clash, Daniel, as usual, will be caught right in the cross-fire. I gotta do my duty. but that doesn't stop me doing a little hand holding. So to speak. In private. Encourage him to open up to me.

"Jack, I'm going to spend a little time with Kasuf. Find out what he's told Shifu about Sha'uri."

"Er, sure. Sure. We got time. Take all the time you need, Daniel." I hope it doesn't sound in my voice, this sudden resentment singeing through me. She's been gone over a year. Why the hell can't the cosmos just let her, and Daniel - and me - be? Can't we put her behind us, get on with our lives? Is that SO much to ask?

Even when Daniel is inside the tent, I can't stop staring after him. We did not need this. She's haunted our - haunted? Our? Jesus. I can't be jealous of Sha'uri. Can I? I can't be so petty, so goddamn selfish I don't want to share any part of him with her. Even with the memory of her. Can I?

This is about him. Why do I feel like it's about me?


As I step through the event horizon I spin and check behind me until I'm sure Daniel and the kid are right on my six. It's unnatural, unnerving, never supposed to be this way. I come through last, that's the way it is. I watch Daniel's rear. It's my right and my duty as team leader to dispose the team as I see fit and I see fit to always keep Daniel right where I can watch his butt.

Over. Watch over his - oh, forget it. What the HELL is wrong with me? This is DANNY, for Chrissake.

A little strategic distance between Daniel and I seems advisable just at this moment, so I hustle down the ramp and take refuge with the general.

Daniel stands with a protective hand at the kid's back. "Shifu, this is General Hammond. He's the leader of this facility."

All things considered, I'd better keep my mind on the kid and off Daniel. Both of 'em could blow up in my face at this rate. I stare determinedly at Shifu and try to look interested in him and not my - not in Daniel.

"Welcome to Earth," the general says warmly, smiling a little.

"A spark lights a flame, but the candle will only burn as long as the wick," Shifu responds meaningfully.

Hammond turns to me. Like I have a clue? We all look at our linguist. Daniel's body language is insisting he's not touching that one. Touching. NOT good. I'm not touching the touching.

"If I may, sir." Crap. Tongue engaging BEFORE brain. "I think what he means is the wick is the centre of the candle, and ostensibly a great leader - like yourself - " Cool. Dense AND fawning. Stellar translation service, O'Neill, " - is essential to the whole ball of wax." I shape a circle in the air with my hands, like that helps him swallow the crap I'm spouting. I'm drowning in my own bullshit here and plunge desperately on, hoping momentum will get me through. "Basically, what it means is that it's always better to have a big - long - wick. Right?"

WRONG. WRONG. Couldn't BE more wrong. Jesus. I did NOT say that to Danny. TELL me I did NOT just say that to Danny. PLEASE.

Daniel gives me a weird look tells me I said EXACTLY that to him and then wrenches his gaze away. Yep. I did. I think I made him blush too. Way to go, O'Neill!

"Don't look at me," Daniel emphasises, shrugging and avoiding my eyes as he gently leads Shifu past me.

I'm TRYING. I've BEEN trying to stop since I started. I can't. Just can't. Not waving here. Drowning. I did it. I said it. It's out there and I'm outta options. Damage control. As in, need to do some. Like, NOW.

"That's right, though? Right?" I insist as Shifu passes me, then I turn and shrug helplessly at the General when neither Daniel nor Shifu deign to acknowledge my humble existence.

The general. I just came on to Daniel in front of my commanding officer. George might not have picked up on it, but God help me, Daniel did.

I just came on to Daniel. Right here in the gateroom. What the hell is wrong with me?

And please, God, let him think that was a joke.


I'm slumped back in my chair chewing a finger. Haven't done that since I was about twelve. Nerves. I'm nervous. Pathetic. Daniel has more on his mind than his erstwhile team leader and best friend making frigging wick jokes in the gateroom. Or should I say making gratuitous phallic references. Or just cut to the goddamn chase -- making - weird - advances.

"Doctor?" Hammond gives Doc Fraisier the nod.

"Sir, I found traces of the same nanite technology that once prematurely aged Colonel O'Neill."

I lean in front of her and crane to read the notes in the file. Whadda they say about me? They name a disease after the person who discovers it, don't they? O'Neill Syndrome? Can't quite make it out --

"Now, I've had them analysed by some of the foremost experts in the field," Janet says crisply.

I'm guessing she doesn't mean me and I should get my nose outta her file before she TAKES it out. I lean back. She still gives me a LOOK. They should bottle whatever the Doc has and make it freely available at the Air Force Academy. It would DRAMATICALLY improve the calibre of the officer candidates, at least when it came to ability to silently intimidate.

"And they say they appear to be inactive."

Jeez, be a lot easier to read if she'd slide the file a little closer. Foremost experts, huh? Just for little old me. I happen to BE the foremost expert. Only one with first hand experience. About time I contributed to the reasoned debate.

"So, they shut themselves off already?" I ask intelligently.

"Well, it's possible the boy's already reached the pre-programmed age."

Janet is just being picky. I'm right and she knows it.

"Or Oma figured out a way to stop it." Daniel's hands are clasped in front of him, like he doesn't know what to do with them, thumbs engaged in a constant nervous dance.

"Either way, we can assume he's in no immediate physical danger," the general comments.

"Yes, sir," the Doc confirms.

"What about the information this boy apparently knows? What exactly can he tell us?" Hammond asks Teal'c.

"He was born with the genetic memory of all the Goa'uld who came before him." Teal'c's tone is sombre.

"So the kid should know everything Apophis knew when he -- " my eyes go to Daniel's shuttered face. I can't say it. I cannot sit here and calmly talk about a Goa'uld we both hate screwing my best friend's beloved dead wife. I can't be that cruel, especially not when the burning issue on my mind is how come I suddenly - apparently - unbelievably - want to, y'know. Kinda. With him. I make a vague gesture with my fist, hoping to God I don't have to spell it out, then spread my hands apologetically.

Daniel leans a little closer. "Fathered the boy," he says precisely.

I stand, or rather sit, corrected. "That," I let my finger do my talking and give him an apologetic look.

"That must be an awfully big burden for a young child to carry," Hammond muses.

"That is why all Goa'uld are born evil," Teal'c states flatly.

"It also explains why a benevolent being like Oma Desala would help the boy to bury those memories in his subconscious, so he could lead a normal life," Daniel informs us pointedly.

We can always rely on Daniel, our very own vocal moral minority, to keep us firmly focused on the stuff we absolutely don't want to think about. It's never enough for him we do what we gotta do, we also gotta do the right thing for the right reason too. He annoys the crap out of me over this stuff, letting me get a good head of steam going, then taking me out at the knees when I fall short of the mark, always from the one direction I don't see coming. I don't know why I even argue. I always lose.

"Sir, we've received word from the Tok'ra."

I turn as Carter's voice brings the totally unwelcome news. "Oh, did we REALLY have to call THEM?" I say indignantly.

"We have a treaty with them, Colonel. Specifically mentioned is the full exchange of all potential sources of information pertinent to the Goa'uld." Hammond rebukes me.

Remembering how many times they've fucked us over makes me roll my eyes heavenwards. For God's sake, when are people going to clue in this is a one way street here?

"They say they can use the memory recall device to extract information without harming him physically," Carter addresses Daniel specifically.

The kid ISN'T Daniel's! Don't shift this burden on HIM, Carter. We're ALL involved.

"What about mentally?" Janet's not happy either.

"Ah - what about emotionally?" Daniel looks to me as he asks this, then around to the others. "Er - think about what we'd be exposing him to," he turns to Hammond, "We'd be flooding his mind with the thoughts of a thousand Hitlers, one of whom happened to put a - " he falters, " - a snake in his mother - uh."

Daniel can't finish. He just trails off and stares down at the tabletop.

I hate that he's having to go through this in front of everyone. It's never enough for Daniel to be hurt, the vast cosmic injustice of life absolutely HAS to go the distance for him and make sure there are plenty of frigging witnesses every single frigging time.

"Look, I realise we're talking about protecting the Earth and potentially eliminating the Goa'uld entirely but - ah -- "

What? Isn't that MY line? Someone switch scripts on me here?

"It seems to me the boy is fairly wise, well beyond his years in fact. Isn't it possible he might comprehend the situation if you explained it to him?" Hammond also addresses Daniel.

This is where he goes up like a rocket and tears us a new one for even SUGGESTING --

"Uh - " Daniel sighs. "Well, I guess so, but I doubt he'd be willing to remember, and even if he is, how can we ask him to?"

Daniel can't meet ANYONE'S eyes, and God knows I'M trying to meet his. I can't believe I'm hearing this. We in the twilight zone? This is Daniel. DANIEL. The annoyingly loud and insistent voice of my conscience for four years. Daniel, just rolling over and playing the good little get-with-the-program soldier? How fucked is that?

"Well, if he's forgotten before, maybe he could forget again." Carter is sympathetic, but duty comes first, last, always in her book.

Daniel sighs again and looks away. He's going to do it. MY Daniel is going to DO it. What the fuck is going on here? This is the same guy who stood up in this same briefing room, and fought the good fight for Linea, nailing both Teal'c and I to the wall to make his point because he thought it was the right thing to do. The quintessential Dudley goddamn Do Right. He can do THAT, do that to US for the Destroyer of Worlds but NOT do THIS for Sha'uri's child?

I don't get this. This is not the Daniel I know. What the hell happened? I know we haven't exactly been living in one another's pockets lately, but we're okay. He's okay. He's always okay. Can't be anything bothering him; he'd have come to me. He would. No question. He knows I've always got time, no matter how busy I - he knows. We're fine.

Had a few shaky missions recently, but we're fine.

I keep thinking that right until Hammond dismisses us, and Daniel leaves me high and dry, striding off with Teal'c hovering protectively over him.

That's MY job. Teal'c? Daniel comes to ME. That's the way it is. The way it's always been. SUPPOSED to be that way.

It bothers the hell out of me that I didn't see this coming. Not the way he'd react, nor that he wouldn't have filled me in on whatever it is that's making him feel whatever this is. I don't KNOW. It's the first time EVER I don't know what's going on with him.

Did we - when did we stop talking?


DANIEL

"Well, I guess so, but I doubt he'd be willing to remember, and even if he is, how can we ask him to?"

And yet, with everything that's at stake, how can we not?

He has her eyes.

Can't stop thinking about them, can't get them out of my head as I try not to look at another pair of eyes. Watching me. Weighing me. Assessing me. Both sets of eyes - the ones of the man on the other side of the table, the ones of the boy examining me in my mind's eye - taking my measure and finding me --

Wanting?

This isn't the time. I can't be bothered with self-indulgent mental ramblings or thinking about anything except what needs to be done. Focus, Daniel. Stay with the program. Since Apophis killed Heru'ur and gained control of his forces, the galaxy - and the Earth - has been in the gravest danger it has ever known from the Goa'uld. We did our good deed, tried to stop the 'worst' from happening and in the end all we achieved was to hand our bitterest enemy yet more means to destroy us.

We all stood there helpless to stop it from happening, knowing we didn't have a single way of opposing him. Not a hope in hell if he decided the time was finally right to settle a few scores. Nothing we could do. Not a goddamned thing. That is, not until a little miracle was dropped into our laps like so much manna.

Miracles. That's what children are. What they're supposed to be. They're supposed to be conceived in love, born as innocents, nurtured and protected in constancy; a source of joy and pride.

Not a reminder of an unspeakable act and an embodiment of the hopes for deliverance of an entire planet. Possibly an entire galaxy.

Millions - billions of lives. Weighed against one small boy. God.

Jack has always said I needed to develop a sense of proportion. Needed to be able to see the big picture. Get a proper sense of perspective.

Oh, I think I'm finally there. This is about as 'big picture' as it gets. No room for my petty personal scruples in this scenario. There's too much at stake. Too many lives depending on --

I know what we're planning to ask of this boy is wrong, but - I have to remember to be strong. Sha'uri was strong. Right 'til the end. She understood what the boy was, how important he is. She fought to reach me, to tell me what he was, made me promise I'd find him. She knew. She understood what was at stake.

I have to remember this, have to be strong. I have to do this. It's what Sha'uri - it's what she wanted. What she asked me to do.

Sam is right. I have to trust that Oma will look after him. If she made him forget once before, she can do it again. Oma wouldn't have let him come to me - to us - if she didn't trust us. We're not going to hurt him. He's strong. Brave. Like his mother. I'll be right there with him, help him understand how important this is, how much GOOD he can do if he helps us.

That's it. Think of the good. That's better. That's the way. When it comes right down to it, none of us really matter. What we want, what happens to us - it doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. What we do - what we're willing to do for the greater good. That's all that matters.

Think of all the good it will do. Hold that thought.

I've made my choice. Not that I need to, not that it makes any difference any more, certainly not lately, but I guess old habits die hard - I look across at Jack. Looking for --

For what?

Approval? Support? Understanding? That's a laugh. Once upon a time when I was his good little Dannyboy he'd pat me on the head and hand me a lollipop whenever I did what he wanted but somewhere along the way -- I committed the unpardonable sin. I grew up. Had the temerity to cut the apron strings. He'll never forgive me for it. It was bound to happen some time, I suppose. Truth is, I was NEVER the inept, wide-eyed innocent he took me for, but he so needed to see me that way, that God help me, I let him.

So I guess if anyone's to blame for us falling out it's me. I couldn't keep up my side of the bargain. Just couldn't be 'Dannyboy' to his 'Poppa Jack,' anymore. Too much has happened. Too much. Have to reap what I've unwittingly sown.

I know what I'm going to see as I look at him and yet I look anyway. He doesn't disappoint me. More disapproval. More bewilderment. God, Jack, I really can't win with you, can I? I'm finally getting with the program and am still getting the 'what? are you nuts?' look from you.

I used to be able to please this colonel all of the time. Then I could only please him some of the time. Now? Now I've graduated to pleasing him none of the time. O'Neill's Law of Diminishing Returns.

Well, screw you, JACK! Who fucking needs you anyway? Go play with your wick and work it out for yourself. I've got more important things to do. One of us is going to save this planet. No matter what it takes. There won't be any more stolen, violated wives and innocent children used as weapons if I have anything to say about it.

Shifu will understand. Once I explain to him what's at stake, once I explain to him this is what his mother wished - he'll understand. He'll help us.


His eyes are so deep, so wise. So much like his mother's. I look at him, but Sha'uri is all I see.

"She spoke to you through the Goa'uld hand device?" Shifu's dark, fathomless eyes are wide with wonder. She'd look at me the same way, marvelling at the simplest of things.

"Yes," I nod. Spoke to me, held me, kissed me.

Told me she loved me.

"She was strong."

So strong, so brave. Right to the very end. I can't let everything she fought for come to nothing. I can't. I won't.

My heart fills, aching with the memories called forth by his eyes. I have to change my focus. Break the connection. Look away. It doesn't help; I can still feel him watching me.

I wonder what he sees?

"In those moments, as Amonet tried to kill me, I felt like I lived a lifetime."

The lifetime we should have had together. The lifetime STOLEN from us.

I love you too. I said it. I told her. But she didn't hear me. Already gone.

"Like a dream." Shifu approves.

"Yes." A dream. One beautiful, bittersweet, impossible dream.

He smiles a little. "Dreams teach."

// You are the only one who can save the boy, Danyiel. //

What?

"Sometimes." Something - something in his eyes. Reminding me -- I find it so hard to look into his eyes. HER eyes. And yet I can't seem to stop looking at him. Seeing her. Something she was trying to tell me, suddenly not sure.

"In this one, I got the chance to say goodbye and - your mother told me how important YOU were."

Yes, that's what she was trying to tell me. What he was. What I had to do. Why I needed to find him.

// Promise me you will save the child. //

What?

"Oma teaches the true nature of a man is determined in the battle between his conscious mind and the desires of the subconscious." Shifu says gravely. "Oma teaches the evil in my subconscious is too strong to resist. The only way to win is to deny it battle."

[ I promised he would be safe. ]

I did. He will. Oma started the job. Now she's trusting me to take over. We NEED him. We need the knowledge he has. Sha'uri knew this, that's why she -- She understood. Oma has to understand this as well. That's why she sent him here - now. To us.

To me.

It'll be all right. I'll help him. He won't be alone. We'll get through this together. What I couldn't do for Sha'uri, I'll do for him. I'll keep my promise.

Keep my promise.

It all makes sense. I know I'm doing the right thing. I know I'm doing what needs to be done. What Sha'uri wanted me to do.

Why then, when I look into his eyes, does it suddenly feel so -- wrong?

I shift uncomfortably in my seat, eyes on the ground again. Makes it easier on me not to look at him as I try to make him understand what has to be. "Yeah." I straighten up to make the attempt to face him, but still can't meet his eyes. It's just because I have to concentrate, focus on what's important. Not because I can't look at him while I lie.

"The thing is, we can't deny the battle against the Goa'uld forever." They're evil. They've killed and enslaved millions; they deserve to die. Every last one of them. They're responsible for the death of your MOTHER! They - did this to you! Made you what you are. Surely you of all people can see why we HAVE to stop them!

"And the information buried within your memory could really help us."

You can stop them, Shifu. Help me - help us stop them. Has to be done. We can't let this go on. All this pain, suffering, someone has to stop it. Answer for it. I need - I need to see it end. Whatever it takes I will - I will see it end.

"You have chosen a path that leads to me because of this." Shifu declaims solemnly, his young brow furrowing with a look of concern. For me.

He's concerned. For me. About me. It's all I can do to stop from jumping up and running away from him. Stop it. Stop LOOKING at me like that. This isn't about me.

"Yes." Yes, I guess I did. The instant Apophis took Sha'uri from me my course was set. It has brought me right to you. My first real chance to make all the wrongs - right. To make a difference. Apophis meant to use you as a host. To use you. That's not what I want. I want to HELP you understand what you have. What you have the POWER to do. Don't you understand? You've got the power, the knowledge to HURT them. Stop them! Use it! I'll help you. I know Oma has told you the knowledge within you is too evil to resist, but only if you try and face it alone. I'll help you. We'll make sure it's used properly. I'll make sure it's used properly. Only to do good. To spare my - to spare others their suffering.

I promise.

I'll protect you. I promised your mother I'd keep you safe. She knew I could, knew she could trust me. Said I was the only one who could save you.

It'll be all right. You can trust me.

"You must release your burden before you will find your own way again."

( You do not have the same evil within you. But you have your own burdens of which to rid yourself. )

"Yeah. Someone else once said that to me."

Hello again floor. Why can't I LOOK at him? I know what I have to do, that I'm doing the right thing. "The thing is, this is my way. I chose this path to honour Sha'uri's strength."

[ The Goa'uld are responsible for the death of my wife. As well as millions and millions of other people. How can I NOT hate them. ]

Yes, I know I said this, but that isn't why I'm -- this has to be done - the Goa'uld have to be opposed and defeated for the good of everyone. My particular sorrows don't matter. This isn't about me.

It isn't.

"Ultimately, it isn't about me." Or this incredibly fascinating spot on the floor I've found. "Or you, for that matter."

( Your hate will lead to the child's death. )

"I understand," Shifu says serenely, and yet sadly.

What?

"The Tok'ra have a way to help you remember only certain things. How Goa'uld technology works, their weaknesses. And then afterwards, maybe Oma can help you forget again."

I'm sure she can. I know she can. If she can do it once --

"If the instrument is broken, the music will be sour."

No, don't want to hear this can't - can't allow myself to - this ISN'T going to hurt him. It ISN'T.

"The music does not play the musician."

That made him smile. I hope - I hope he understands I'd never hurt him. I - I wouldn't --

"Normally, there is truth in that."

Maybe not.

"Really? Good. Because I really didn't have any idea what I was talking about." Sounded good, though, didn't it? I've got this ghost of a smile on my face, the first semi-positive expression I've been able to muster since I came in here, and he's smiling back with a whole lot more conviction than me. Which makes me feel so much worse. "All I know is this is very important, or I wouldn't ask."

Very important. Life and death. Life and --

Oh God - Sha'uri. She asked me to promise to SAVE him!

Shifu is sombre. He lifts his hand and touches it to my forehead. He's emanating a white light, like the light Oma -


{ Depending on the degree of mental control you are able to achieve it is possible to inflict considerable pain upon the victim in steadily increasing increments before the threshold beyond which the organic tissues become irreparably damaged is reached. It is not easy to achieve such subtle control, but the results are worth the effort. }

What? What was that?

God. Head. Absolutely splitting. Haven't felt pain like this since -- No wonder I'm thinking about ribbon devices.

What - what happened?

"Colonel, he's awake."

That's Janet's voice. Where? Maybe if I opened my eyes.

"What happened?" Okay, so I'm going for practical, not dazzlingly original.

"I was going to ask you the same thing. You were talking to the boy, then you suddenly collapsed."

I hardly hear Janet's answer. My head, swooping, swirling as if a door is opening up in my mind, something huge, unfathomable rushing up toward me --

Or - or dragging me down.

"Hey! How you feeling?"

Open my eyes again. Jack. Of course. Face as worried as his voice sounded. Like I should be surprised. Seems lately whenever I find myself in this position, his is always the first face I see. There's something - something comforting in that.

Whatever it was fuzzing my head up, it's over. Funny. Pain is gone too. Don't feel all mentally jumbled and confused. Just the opposite. Everything is clear. Astonishingly clear. Simply astonishing.

"Fine. I'm - uh - I'm fine." Yeah. That's right. I'm fine. No harm done. Better than fine, maybe, in fact.

"Er - listen. What happened with the kid in there?" Jack's still not convinced. He wouldn't be worried if he could see what I'm seeing now.

Son of a bitch. Smart kid. Way smarter than me. Never even occurred to me there was another way.

"I asked him for something. Anything that would help us fight the Goa'uld."

"Yeah?"

"And I think he gave it to me."

Nobody does sceptical quite like Jack, but I have to say, Janet runs him a close second on this occasion. Would it KILL Jack to take me at my word, just ONCE? Why do I have to PROVE it - prove MYSELF to him, over and over again?


"These are the long range sensors," I explain to Sam as I indicate the diagram on the board. I'm still having a bit of a hard time taking this all in. I actually KNOW all of this. Not just - this - what I'm showing Sam now, but oh, God, all of it. There's just so MUCH - information --

"I don't even know what to ask first."

That makes two of us, Sam. I don't know where to start to get all of this 'catalogued.' Sorted, mentally organised, evaluated, prioritised, sifted. Such a tremendous wealth of information. Such a huge responsibility. I want to make absolutely sure I get the maximum value from what I've been given. Get at what we most need. What will be of the best use to Earth.

Shifu gave this to me not simply because I asked him to. He gave it to ME. Not Sam, Not Teal'c, not Jack. ME. He chose me. He's trusting me to understand what I have and to use it properly. I can't let him down. I can't let the Earth down.

I won't.

"Well the translation might be a little off, everything in my head is actually in Goa'uld." Working on it. Working on it. It's all coming at me a little fast, it's a lot to take it in but I'll get it all sorted out. Just have to get used to having all this -- stuff -- in my head.

I'll be fine. I can handle it.

"Where does it get its power from?"

Sam is speaking to me. Trying to focus on what she's saying. She's so excited, like a kid in a candy store. This has to be her dearest fantasy come true. All the things we'll be able to discover, mysteries she'll be able to explore, questions she'll finally have the answers for.

That is, if she asks me nicely.

"Liquid naquadah fuel cell, here," I frown and tap the diagram on the board in front of me.

What? Where, where did THAT come from? Asks me NICELY?

"LIQUID naquadah?" she peers at me incredulously.

That's what I said. Surprise. I know something YOU don't know. Hell, a LOT of stuff you don't know! Now I'm the one with the cold, hard facts. Not - not intuition. Not FEELINGS that only turn out to be 'facts' after YOU take over and take all the credit. Bet you won't be cutting me down in front of the colonel now, huh Sam? Suddenly Daniel is the one who has all the answers. Your new best friend. Wonder what you'd be willing to do to stay my 'friend?'

"Well, actually it's heavy liquid naquadah, but don't ask me what makes it heavy. At least, not yet."

Come to think of it, it must really be eating your up you have to ASK me about any of this. All this wonderful technical stuff. Should be in YOUR head, not mine, right? After all, I'm only a stupid archaeologist. I couldn't POSSIBLY have the ability to understand and appreciate this stuff the way you could.

You should have been the one Shifu picked, right, Sam? That's what you're thinking. What you've been thinking all this time while you're standing there making nice and picking my brains. Only because you've got no other choice. Only way you'll get any of it is if you kiss up to me and pretend you don't mind you're strictly second chair this time. And won't get to be the big cheese no matter what.

You never liked me. Not really. This must be just KILLING you. Having to make nice to DAN-iel. When all the time it should have been you.

I'm just that much better than you one more time, Sam, dear.

"Daniel, this -- " Sam's voice, full of awe and wonder, cutting through my thoughts like an accusing knife.

God! What, what - what am I thinking? Where is all of this coming from? Sam - Sam's my friend. She wouldn't think - I - I wouldn't - wouldn't --

"Are you okay?"

She sounds genuinely concerned. Must have seen me flinch. I feel too ashamed to admit what just happened, what I was just thinking about her. Crazy stuff. Must just be the stress of having to deal with all this technical information. Once I get it all properly organised, it won't be so overwhelming. So confusing.

It'll be fine. Nothing to worry about. I can handle it.

"Yeah," I grin reassuringly at her, "it's just that strange things keep flying into my mind." Don't sweat it Sam, I'm fine. It's nothing. Nothing you need to worry about. I'll deal with it. I rub my eyes, shake my head, and smile at her again. "I'm - I'm sorry. What were you saying?"

"Just that this is unbelievable." Her eyes are shining, wide with wonder. All she can see is the good, the potential, the possibilities. She doesn't understand there's so much more. She doesn't understand there's a cost. A responsibility that goes with having this much knowledge.

This much -- power.

"I know," I say gravely.

She doesn't understand, but I'm beginning to. I look away from her, focus on the blackboard as sudden terror grips me. She can't help me with this. No one can. I'm all on my own, here. I have to find a way to deal with this.

I can. I will. I'll find a way to be the master of this gift, not it's servant. Or its victim.

I CAN do this. I can.


Sam presents my plans for my satellite defence system to Hammond with a flourish and a 'look what I did, sir' expression. Sure enough, he looks at HER before he takes a look at the plans, like she actually had anything to do with coming up with them. Other than taking dictation, that is.

He gives the plan a brief once over like he even has a clue what he's looking at. You can stare at it all day, George, I guarantee you you're still not going to get it.

"What is it?" he asks, finally. Asks HER. Typical. I'm actually in the room but he hasn't even acknowledged me yet. Still thinking of me as the dopey, no account archaeologist. That'll change. That'll change very, very soon.

"Well, I guess you could call it a satellite, sir," Sam launches forward with the requested explanation. Pretty pleased with herself. "According to Daniel, it would be capable of detecting Goa'uld ships thousands of light years away. Its weapons systems could penetrate Goa'uld shield technology and destroy motherships. Basically, sir, it's the basis of the perfect anti-Goa'uld defence system."

Which I came up with, Sam. Not you. Think it's about time to enter the conversation and remind certain people of that fact. You being at the top of the list.

"Of course, we need to build an entire network of them, and launch them into orbit," I say tersely. Hello, George. Real genius in the room, here.

"Can we do that?" Once again, he's asking HER.

"Well, sir, this is an entirely new kind of technology. We'd need to bring in outside help. A LOT of it." Okay, I can see where this is going. Sam figures as long as she has the plans and then gets her alien buddies involved she can cut Doctor Jackson out of the loop. Pick his brains, suck him dry and then discard him. Get to the top on his back and then push him over the side when she doesn't need him anymore.

Not going to happen. Sam, you've just used me to look good for the very last time.

"Ultimately, it means we don't have to involve the Tok'ra." I interject sharply. Ah, I see that finally got George's attention.

"Why not?" Talking to ME now.

"At the moment, the Goa'uld don't care what we're up to. We're no immediate threat. If it gets out we've suddenly advanced to this level of technology, we wouldn't be able to build the defence system fast enough."

I'm trying to keep the tone of my voice patient, but I can't believe I actually have to explain this to him. It's so obvious a child would be able to work it out. He's a two star general, for crying out loud, you'd think he'd have some basic grasp of strategy and tactics. I can't believe how STUPID these people are turning out to be. Or how I could have worked with them for four years and not seen it sooner.

Unbelievable. Lucky for the Earth its fate isn't resting in THESE hands.

"You think the Tok'ra would betray us?" Hammond inquires. Of Sam. Again.

Why the fuck does he keep looking at Sam? I'M the one who's talking. Not only that, I'm the one who really knows what's going on here. Who can see things clearly. You know, George, the big picture? Especially the part of it pertaining to Major Carter and her buddies the Tok'ra.

Who knows what the hell the Tok'ra have done to Sam. Or how much of her loyalty is really to them instead of to the Earth because of Jolinar's influence. Not to mention the fact she turned her own FATHER over to one of them.

Interesting. This never occurred to me before, but now that it has, I'm thinking I should be keeping a very careful, watchful eye on Major Carter. She's definitely a potential security risk. It might not necessarily be her fault, but the fact she was at one time blended with a Tok'ra means she's compromised. The effects of that union were never fully explored or tested. The memories could affect her mentally. Overwhelm her and control her at any time. Make her act according to the Tok'ra's agenda and not Earth's.

I'll definitely be keeping track of Major Carter.

"They've had problems with Goa'uld spies before. I don't think it's worth the risk. Not when we can do this without them." I say emphatically.

WILL do it without them, George. I've made up my mind. No snakes in on this. 'Friendly' or otherwise.

"I'll take it under consideration," he replies almost dismissively.

No you won't George; you'll do what I say. So will everyone else.

"What about the boy?" he asks, suddenly turning and really looking at me for the first time.

Of course. Now we're back in the realm of feelings it's over to good old DAN-iel.

An answering response of protectiveness for Shifu wells ups within me.

"Well, he doesn't have to remember anything now," I tell George firmly, in no uncertain terms. "He's given me all the knowledge we need."

Which is why none of you are getting your hands on him. I'm the only game in town. You'll be dealing with me and no one else. The boy is MINE. As well as everything he has in his head.

Mine.

"How he did that is what concerns me," Hammond continues. Well, what do you know? Still talking to me. Don't worry your bald head about it, 'sir'. The boy is in good hands. He's staying that way, as well.

"He's no danger, sir," I tell him, still firmly.

Nor is he any of your concern. Don't cross me on this, George. Take the hint. I've got some leverage you don't know about yet, and I'm not afraid to use it if you push me.

"Still, as long as he's here, he should be kept under close guard."

I see. Still not listening to me. Still thinking my opinion and my views don't matter. Still brushing me off to the side as the no account civilian.

Still making the fatal mistake of underestimating me, just like everyone else.

Hammond turns from me to Sam. "I'll talk to the Pentagon about bringing in some more personnel to help you out."

I look at Major Doctor Carter too. Help HER out? I see. So that's the way you think it is, eh? The way it's going to be? I don't think so.

That's too bad, George. It really is. I like you. You've seemed to be a little more far-sighted and flexible than many of your peers, but I'm sorry to see even you have your limits. You've left me no choice. I'm going to have to go over your head. If you're not going to work with me, you're going to have to be cut out of the loop.

Just like anyone else who might be having any ideas of trying to get in my way. Nothing personal. I just can't afford to let this get screwed up by myopic, hide-bound, unimaginative bureaucrats. Or people who let their ambitions and personal agendas get in the way of the achieving the goal.

No room for sentiment or feelings here. No room for petty politics either. This is far too important. It stuns me sometimes; I seem to be the only one who can see this. Who can grasp what's really at stake here, why it's so important we get the job done, no matter the cost. Without allowing all this pointless protocol, red tape and petty politicking to obfuscate the issues and slow down achieving the objective.

Committees, organisations, governments, even - are a complete waste of time. Too many voices trying to satisfy too many agendas - someone has to put their foot down finally, and make a decision. DO something, before the Goa'uld come and catch us with our pants down while we're all still busy talking at each other without listening and kissing each others butts in order to score brownie points.

Pathetic. The whole lot of you are so pathetic.

SOMEONE has to take charge and get the job done. I don't understand why I'm the ONLY one who sees this.

Maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. Shifu knew what he was doing when he picked me. He knew I'd understood, knew I won't let him down.

I'll get the job done. No matter what. The Earth is counting on me.


JACK

I'm not good at this navel contemplation stuff, but half an hour alone in my office, thinking - trapped rat comes to mind for some reason - has led me to three pretty shitty conclusions. One. Talk about a bolt from the blue, but I've got the hots for Daniel. Two. Daniel and I are on speaking terms but we're apparently not on SPEAKING terms. Or maybe he's been speaking and I haven't been listening. I just don't know. Three. I don't resolve two there's no point whatsoever sitting here fretting myself to death over one.

The hots. Sounds so - casual. Almost jokey. Not at all like suddenly wanting to fuck my best friend just turned my already pathetic, empty life upside down and inside out and back to front and stomped on my balls for good measure.

I do so enjoy eating my heart out over people I shouldn't want and can't ever have. Becoming quite the habit for me. The emotional frigging root canal from HELL. A constant searing ache just never quits, not until the root of the pain is forcibly extracted and you go mercifully numb.

I've got a horrible feeling about Carter. Have a sick feeling in the pit of my gut she wasn't my first foray into this particular arena. That she was just a painful object lesson in avoidance. Diversion. Obfuscation. A feint. A show of strength to deceive the enemy. At this point in time I don't know who the hell I was trying to kid, who the 'enemy' was. Him? Me.

It's so low key. A revelation like this should have been worthy of a burning bush of it's very own. I didn't get an epiphany. No blinding flash of inspiration, no coup de foudre. Daniel stood in front of me like he has a thousand times before and just - came into focus. I've finally seen an old truth. Part of me, a part of me that's been choked way down deep, wants him. Has wanted him from the very first moment I laid eyes on him. If I hadn't been so fucked up back then I would have seen it.

I've hated everyone who's had him when I couldn't. Easy to hate Hathor, Shyla and Linea. Shameful to be jealous of Sha'uri. Shameful that she saw something in me I didn't, way back when. She knew I'd come to take him away from her, that's what that kiss in the gateroom on Abydos was about. Staking her claim.

When she died -- I wasn't glad for him. God forgive me, I was glad for me. Glad it was finally over, that I wouldn't have to share him any more. He was finally mine. Now I know why I went off the deep end over the kid. HER kid. A concrete reminder she was still as much with us as she was that first night on Abydos.

Until today I never knew myself. I had no idea I could be so unconscionably self-centred. I can't change what is, but I can damned well change what will be. I won't do it. It's killing me, the thought of not being able to have him when I want him so very, very badly, want him so much I can TASTE it.

I will not do it. I will not fuck my best friend. Here endeth point one.

On to point two. How come I don't know what's up with my best friend these days? Gotta deal, O'Neill. Teal'c apparently does. Knows what's up with Daniel, that is. So I gotta swallow my pride and go dig shamelessly for information. If it's broke, I gotta fix it.


"You must ask DanielJackson," Teal'c tells me sternly.

"That's no answer!" I snap.

And I DON'T need you standing there JUDGING me. Fuck it. "Just what the hell are you trying to imply here, Teal'c? That I've been neglecting him or something?"

"You have had other concerns of late," he ripostes.

I stop my pacing abruptly. "What?"

"You have been cementing your relationship with Major Carter most diligently, O'Neill," he supplies smoothly. "A fact of which DanielJackson has been as aware as I. He has been most grateful to find someone sympathetic to HIS interests and concerns."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I snarl. My voice is getting the same ugly edge as my anger. Anger as impotent as my jealousy. He IS saying I've been neglecting Daniel. Damn him all to hell, how dare he judge me? "Daniel is a grown up, if he wants -- "

"I will refrain from the obvious response," Teal'c interrupts with such meaning I can't let it go by.

"You're skirting the line here with me, Teal'c."

"Your behaviour invites it."

Sonovabitch! "How dare you!"

"Do not pursue this discussion, O'Neill." Teal'c's tone is forbidding. "You will not like what I have to say on this matter."

I'm so angry my hands are shaking. I shove them deep in my pockets. "Oh, no, I INSIST. Pray tell!"

Teal'c gives me a long measuring glance. "Very well. It is YOU who does not recognise DanielJackson is an adult."

"WHAT? That's - that's NUTS!" I explode.

"Nonetheless, it is true. It has not been my place to interfere, but I have had occasion to regret DanielJackson's willingness to indulge you."

"INDULGE?"

"Indeed," he intones with flat finality. "There have been many occasions recently when your behaviour towards him has been manifestly intended to reassert an authority, a control over his actions you clearly felt you were losing as his own convictions and developing capabilities have led him to take a stance somewhat at variance to your own."

"You trying to say I'm some kind of control freak?" I demand furiously. "That is SUCH crap. I can't believe - "

"It is the truth," Teal'c interjects swiftly. "You have reacted irrationally to DanielJackson's demonstrable assimilation of military protocol, procedure and furtherance of tactical goals. In addition, you have viewed with the severest disapprobation the increasing demands on DanielJackson's time from teams such as SG-5 and SG-11, as well as his highly successful forays into the realm of diplomacy as witnessed most recently in the signing of the treaty with the Tok'ra."

"Are you saying I think Daniel has outgrown the team, so I'm trying to hold him back?" I demand furiously, almost breathless from the bitter anger gripping me. When the only response I receive from Teal'c is a slightly pitying look I manage to connect the dots all on my own. Teal'c is saying I think Daniel has outgrown ME, and I'm trying to hold him back, control him, keep him how I want him to be for ME.

Daniel - indulges me? Does Daniel - does he - Do I come off as the 'do as I say not as I do' anally retentive control freak loser to Daniel?

Teal'c is telling me outright I DO, and Daniel wearily INDULGES me in my delusion of adequacy.

I can't think of a frigging thing to say to Teal'c and just lose myself negotiating the maze back to my office from his quarters without another word spoken between us. I think I can still feel his pity weighing me down, though.

I won't have sex with Daniel? Just who the hell am I fucking trying to kid here? This isn't about morality, or even about practicality. Try self-preservation. Even if Daniel had given any indication EVER he was so inclined, I guess I'd be the LAST person on this or any other planet he'd choose to get horizontal with, if this is what he thinks of me.

This isn't about me. Daniel and I? This is NOT my decision to make. I thought it was, so I guess I should thank Teal'c for the heads up. Yeahsureyoubetcha. I've apparently got nothing to offer Daniel and there's no point asking him for anything. He'll indulge me, but it only goes so far. 'Don't look at me.' Gotcha. Crystal clear, here.

I don't feel angry any more. Like a greying, numbing mist is smothering me, dampening the acuity of my senses, dulling my reflexes, leaching all the life and ardour out of me. No chance. I haven't even framed a coherent thought about what the hell it is I want, what I've apparently wanted from the moment I laid eyes on him, but I already know I can't have it, because Daniel and Teal'c have told me so in so many damning words.

Daniel indulges me.


I'm so lost in thought the shrilling of the phone makes me jump.

"O'Neill," I mutter, not really caring.

"Colonel, it's Dr Fraisier. Can you come up to the Infirmary?"

"Why?" You got a test for anal retention I can take?

"It's Dr Jackson, sir. He was with Shifu for so long, Teal'c went to find him. He found Dr Jackson unconscious on the floor."

"I'm on my way," I snap, slamming the phone down and hauling ass down the corridor to take the elevator up to the Infirmary.

I enliven my mad dash through the hallways of the SGC scattering the SFs from my path, and trying to imagine just what the hell could have happened to Daniel inside a guarded room in the middle of Cheyenne Mountain. He wasn't sick. The kid. It had to be the damn kid. Why does no one ever listen to me about these things? What? I gotta add paranoid to my list of attractive personality traits? That one make Daniel's top ten of things about me he just has to put up with?

I slow to a more moderate pace but still manage to pounce through the door of the Infirmary, making some inoffensive little nurse jump as a result.

The Doc and Teal'c are hovering by Daniel's bedside. He's in those blue hospital pyjamas, not wired up to anything, thank God, his beautiful face dreadfully pale and still.

Beautiful?

Crap. GOT to pull myself together. I'm too damn old to have a CRUSH. I'm on the slippery slope here, headed straight down to notes in his locker and asking Carter to tell him I like him and wanna meet him outside after work. God help me.

"Is he hurt?" I demand, keeping a careful distance. Got itchy fingers all of a sudden. I got some room for manoeuvre on the hugging thing - though there's been a bit of a drought recently, one I hadn't picked up on until today - but stroking his hair would definitely occasion comments. The kind that lead to an Article 15. I can't feel him up just because I want to, and he's unconscious. I'm not allowed to look, which makes it pretty damn tough to touch. I could close my eyes, which would honour the letter of the prohibition, though it would do considerable violence to the spirit.

"I can't find any signs of physical injury," Janet explains patiently. "His scans are all normal. There's no cause for alarm. He's just - unconscious."

She's annoyed she has no explanation. I can tell.

"How long's he been out, for cryin' out loud? If he isn't hurt, why the hell isn't he awake yet?" I'M annoyed Janet has no explanation. SHE can tell. Her eyes snap at me, though she maintains her usual calm demeanour, unhurriedly checking Daniel's pulse and resps again. Baseline observations, even I know they do that when they don't know what else to do. And they just keep on doing them until nature takes its course.

Why the HELL is she making me sweat like this? Come ON. GIVE, woman, gimme something.

"DanielJackson has been unconscious since I found him twenty minutes ago, O'Neill," Teal'c measured tones break the silence.

"Why didn't you call me sooner?" I snap. That's a HELL of a long time to be out, and it's over an hour since the briefing. He could have been out for any or all of that time. "Why didn't the kid ask for help? What was his reaction?" I know I sound harsh, Janet is shooting me disapproving looks. I don't give a damn. I want ANSWERS.

Teal'c considers this thoughtfully. "The boy merely said, 'Whatever an enemy might do to an enemy, or a foe to a foe, the ill-directed mind can inflict more harm.' I alerted the medical staff and questioned the boy as we waited. He would say no more, and would not reveal how DanielJackson came to be in this condition."

Kids of today, huh? They speak MTV, not English. This particular kid is only fluent and comprehensible in gibberish, a language none of us speaks, not even Daniel.

I also speak a language Daniel doesn't. It's called interrogation, and it's one the kid is about to learn.

"I'm going to talk to the kid. Call ME the moment there's a change in his condition." I eye Teal'c, trying not to let the resentment show.

"I will, O'Neill," Teal'c says calmly.

"You?"

"Indeed. I will remain with DanielJackson for the moment. It is Doctor Fraiser's opinion that even though Daniel Jackson is unconscious, he is not beyond the reach of our voices. I will speak to him."

"That's an excellent idea, Teal'c, thank you," Janet says warmly.

They couldn't make it more clear I'm in the way just now, and I'm - I'm shocked by the intensity of the possessive rage scorching through me. Daniel is MINE - MY best friend and it seems everyone here has forgotten it.

It hits me like a punch to the gut. Including ME. I assumed. Took for granted. No more. This is too damn much. It stops HERE and it stops NOW. Major reconstruction of fences, bridges, boats required? Jack O'Neill is your man. Whatever it takes, I'll do.

I love Teal'c like a brother, but I ain't ready to give up a 'burden' he's apparently only too ready to relieve me of. Maybe I've got no chance whatsoever of having Daniel as lover. Maybe I don't deserve a chance. I don't know. Not sure of anything any more except I do want my FRIEND back.

Starting now. I need answers, and the kid can give 'em to me.


DANIEL

Where is he? I sent for him ten minutes ago. DAMMIT! What could he POSSIBLY have to do which could be more important than this?

My head is aching. I take off my glasses, rub my eyes, peer at the board again. The Goa'uld phrase which is eluding me staring back at me. Mocking me.

It's too absurd. I've just pulled the specs for the hyperdrive that powers the Goa'uld motherships up from the mental archive of information I'm assembling and I can't seem to remember the meaning of a simple phrase in Goa'uld. It's driving me crazy.

WHERE THE HELL IS TEAL'C?

Insolence! He's lucky this isn't Chulak.

"DanielJackson."

It's about time.

I glance up from my notes for just a moment.

"Teal'c." What? No apology? No explanation for the unacceptable length of time it took you to answer my summons?

You kept me waiting, Teal'c. You held the fate of the entire world hostage while you - while you - WHAT?

"I was unable to complete my Kel'no'reem. What is of such importance I had to be summoned here immediately?"

Kel'no'reem, is it? You want ME to tell YOU what is so important I had to interrupt your NAP? How DARE you take that tone with me? Since when does a SLAVE question his master's actions? An insolent, insubordinate slave at that! You should be on your knees before me, begging me for mercy, swearing you'll serve me.

On your KNEES before me! Where you belong!

A searing pain lances through my head and suddenly, I see him. The slave before me, as he should be. Properly attired in his serpent garb, kneeling in obeisance at my feet. In silent, abject obedience. For an instant the image, the notion horrifies me and yet --

I try to shake my mind free of it only to have it flash before me again. Stronger, the sense of 'rightness' about it singing through me.

I'm seeing clearly for the first time. The man before me is a slave. Nothing more than a slave from a race of slaves. He's looking at me as if he imagines himself to be my equal. Wrong, he's so wrong. He's not my equal. He's not even fit to serve me. He's a - a Shol'va. A slayer of his betters. The slave who killed Sha'uri. He's not even fit to have looked at her! He betrayed his masters, his betters because he imagined himself superior to them.

What's to stop him from betraying me for exactly the same reason?

Nothing. Presuming, of course, I'm stupid enough to give him the opportunity.

"Um - what does this mean?" I tap the diagram on the board before me and step back to my desk. I have to put some distance between us. I can barely disguise my contempt. I look away from him and rub my eyes as he answers me. My head is throbbing, rage building within me.

"I believe the closest translation would be subatomic energy particles."

Of COURSE! I had it, just as he told me. Didn't need him after all.

"That's what I thought. Thank you." Get out of my sight.

Teal'c bows as I step back to my work, but doesn't leave. I'm finished with him. Why is he lingering? "You can, er, you can go back to whatever it is you were doing." Must be careful what I say to him, mustn't arouse his suspicions. I feel his eyes on me, searching me, as I keep my back to him, focus on my notes and try to calm the raging fury within me. I can't believe his arrogance that he would presume to question or examine me. ME!

Insolent slave. What does he know?

Finally he realises I have nothing more to say to him nor do I feel the need to further acknowledge his presence. Finally, he leaves.

I'm going to have ensure he never bothers me again.


Well, here we are. All the players assembled. The Majors Davis and Carter, our fearless leader the wise and avuncular General Hammond, and various assorted and sundry military and political bit players. The stage is well and truly set for the debut of Doctor Jackson.

So far it has been going well. Everyone has been listening; Sam is actually letting me do most of the talking. Generous of her, I must say.

They've all come here with a certain expectation. That they'll be listening to DAN-iel tell them his little plan, and then they'll tell him what's going to happen and all HE needs to do is just sit there like a good little wonder boy, churning out the information while the real work is done by the grown ups. The wise military and political minds who know what's good for the world far better than he does.

He doesn't need to worry his pretty little head about it. Big Daddy Military's got the whole thing handled.

That's what they think is going to happen. Let's see how they take it when Doctor Jackson tells them the way it's actually going to be from now on.

And let's see how many of them I'm going to let stay on this team by the end of this briefing.

"Bottom line is, it's going to require the entire resources of the entire SGC to focus on the retrieval of raw naquadah for the time being."

Ah, as expected, opposition from the major. Let me guess, Sam, going to try and bring up the tired old Tok'ra bone again?

"Well if we ask the Tok'ra for help -- " Sam begins

How predictable. And how very disappointing. You know how I feel about this, Sam. I thought we'd straightened all of this out. Evidently not. Still trying to challenge my authority, I see.

This little battle of wills ends now.

I turn away from her, cutting across her comment, addressing my remark to the other major I'm wanting to take the measure of.

"Major Davis, you've prepared a budget and timetable based on the data?" I pointedly ask him.

Your opinion and input are no longer required, Major Carter. She flinches at the way I've cut her off. Doesn't say another word. Good. It appears as if she finally understands who's REALLY calling the shots here. Now she has been dealt with I can ignore her and turn my attention to handling the other inflexible military minds in this room.

"The Pentagon had budgeted the construction and launch of the satellite network at eighty billion dollars, estimated time of completion to be two years after the start date." Davis answers me with correct precision and deference. While he says the last thing I want to hear.

"That's unacceptable." Completely. Though, sadly, not unexpected.

Timid, narrow-minded, short sighted BUREAUCRATS! Two years? Two years? Do they have any conception of what's at stake here? IDIOTS! No doubt if I'd given them the plans for the ultimate sports arena they'd have the funds allocated and the thing built in a month. Who cares if the Goa'uld come and wipe us out as long as we've got a nice new fancy place to play football in?

Ah, Davis is trying to be helpful. Attempting to demonstrate creative thinking and a problem-solving capacity by offering up a solution for getting the job done faster. "Well, if we involve the Russians in a co-operative effort --"

Can't say I think much of it. Risking compromising the entire project and the safety of Earth by disclosing our plans to the Russians is an acceptable option to the Pentagon just so long as it means they can save a few bucks?

You're going to have to do better than this, Major, if you're hoping to impress me.

Unbelievable. This goes so far beyond the scope of stupidity I can hardly fathom what I've heard. Aside from the fact if we gave this up to the Russians it would be all over the globe in no time, need I remind you, the Russians have a working, unprotected Stargate. What's to stop them from using it to betray us? Or anyone ELSE using it to launch a covert attack on the Earth?

Once again I'm going to have to EXPLAIN things to these people. I'm getting really tired having to waste my time pointing out the obvious to military drones who are completely lacking the capacity to formulate an original thought.

I suppose I really shouldn't blame them. They've probably had the impulse 'trained' out of them years ago.

" No" I say sternly to him.

He's quite startled by the word, and my delivery. Almost shocked in fact. Ah, Major Davis. You thought you were talking to DAN-iel - didn't you? Poor old, inoffensive, unimportant DAN-iel.

Surprise, Major. Say hello to Doctor Jackson. Get used it. You're going to be seeing a whole lot more of him from now on.

"I'm sorry?" he blinks, looks at me like I just grew another head. No Major, just attaining a new perspective on things. I'll be more than happy to help you achieve the same state of enlightenment.

"I said no."

He's still staring at me like he doesn't understand. Do you want me to SPELL it for you, Major?

"The Russian government has agreed to stop using their Stargate on the condition we share all information gathered by the SGC. Now we have to tell them," Davis tells me with a slightly patient look. As if he thinks I'm not quite up to grasping the political ramifications inherent in the situation.

When are these politicians and bureaucrats going to understand none of this can be allowed to have any bearing on what's at stake? Nor will any of it MATTER once I get this system operational.

Why won't they TRUST me? I know what I'm doing.

This is so disappointing. But not unexpected. Fortunately I've already anticipated this problem.

"No we don't," I inform them bluntly. Inform all of them.

"But -- "

"It's okay I have a way of rendering their Gate inactive," I say hastily over his next remark. This is boring me. The Russians are not an issue. Not an issue at all. They'll fall in line just like everyone else.

"You do?" Sam pipes up, quite astonished by that little piece of information. Ah, yes, Sam. I do. Surprised I never told you? You'd be amazed by what I haven't told you. Don't worry your pretty little head about it. Doctor Jackson has everything well in hand. Trust me, and we'll get along fine. If you need to know, I'll tell you. Just so long as you accept I'm the one in charge here and do what you're told. You try and oppose me, you'll regret it.

"That's really not the point," Davis doggedly tries to drag the conversation back to the dead horse he's still determined to flog. I'm starting to find myself becoming disappointed in the major, and not a little irritated with him.

I thought Davis was one of those rare military types who could think outside of the box. Starting to think perhaps I was overgenerous in my personal assessment of him.

Very well, I'll EXPLAIN this to you. Do try to keep up, will you?

"The point is we don't know if the Russians are turning around and trading those secrets. This project is too important to get screwed up by petty Earth politics. We're talking about protecting this planet from Goa'uld occupation."

Hello? Focus! Come on, Davis, show a little intelligence. Impress me! I know you can!

"I imagine that several of the so called petty nations of this planet are going to be very curious when we start launching satellite weapons into orbit two years from now," he protests.

Or not. Damn, another dud. Might as well stop postponing putting him away. Cut to the chase and get this over with. I wonder what time it is. Feeling a little hungry, actually.

"One year from now," I tell him in a tone which does not suggest there is any room for negotiating the point.

"That's impossible. It would double the cost," he protests once more, plainly not understanding what I have just told him.

"Then it's not impossible, is it?" I fire back at him, barely resisting the impulse to suddenly roll up a newspaper and hit him on the end of the nose with it. Bad dog! Stop contradicting your Master, sit down like a good little major, SHUT up and do as you're told!

He stares at me, his mouth open as I tell him how it's going to be. "Obviously most of the workload will have to contracted out to the private sector so there'll have to be a strategic division of labour in order to maintain the security of the project," I finish coldly, throwing several already prepared folders onto the table in front of him.

Davis continues to gape at me, bewildered, as the folders hit the table in time to my words. It's painful to watch him, see his mind tick slowly over to the inescapable conclusion he's only now just coming to:

'I have lost control of this situation.'

Not strictly true, Major. You never had it. It'll take you a little longer to work THAT one out, though. But that's all right. You'll have plenty of time to think about this, and lots of other things as well. I understand there isn't much else to do BUT think where you're going to end up.

"Major Davis, if you could also see to this," I hand him the folder barely looking at him.

He peers at it, and then looks at me like I owe him some sort of explanation. "What is this?"

None of your business, lackey. You're paid to take care of things and ask no questions. Be silent and do your job.

"Just a few personal requirements I'm sure the Pentagon will be happy to provide me with, given the nature of my continued contributions. Please see that it gets approved as soon as possible."

I've finished here. In more ways than one. I cast a final look about the table, taking in the rather shocked and subdued expressions all around me. Not a one of them can believe what they've just seen. It's all I can to stop myself from laughing aloud right in their stunned and uncomprehending little faces.

Stupid, stupid faces.

Any lingering doubts I might have had as to the necessity for getting out of this stifling, unimaginative atmosphere have just been dispelled. It's obvious this organisation and these people are completely inadequate for the task ahead of me. I can't waste any more time having to go through channels and worrying about stepping on toes. Nor do I have time for people who are unwilling or unable to support me, and who lack the vision to be of use to me.

Or who are more interested in trying to further their own selfish needs for advancement and recognition then they are in giving their heart and soul to the task of defending the Earth.

I'll be able to co-ordinate getting the naquadah retrieval project up and running while working on establishing my own organisation at the same time. Already have a line on some promising personnel. Am rather looking forward to some of the interviews, actually.

Should be an extremely enjoyable selection process.

"Gentlemen," I address the room tersely, and begin to walk away. But not before I hear an incredulous comment from Major Davis.

"PERSONAL requirements?"

Correction. Make that EX-Major Davis.


The ribbon device feels strangely familiar. Almost as if it should be a part of me. I'm looking down at it, flexing my fingers, feeling how easy it would be to just flex my thoughts, make it - come - to life.

"Hey! What's going on? What are you doing?"

Jack! That's Jack. He sounds annoyed. Still, it's nice to hear his voice. We haven't seen much of each other lately. I've been - been --

I've had other things on my mind. I'm aware Jack is standing by my side, but I can't seem to stop looking at the gleaming metal sheathing my hand. There's just something so -- beautiful -- about it.

"I know exactly how this works now but you need naquadah in your blood or you can't make it do anything," I murmur.

Unfortunately. Something not right about that.

Jack's impatient, challenging remark cuts across my reverie, bringing me back to him.

"Have you considered that maybe that's a good thing?" he fires at me, his eyes flaring.

"Something on your mind?" Stupid question. I've seen this look on his face before. Jack O'Neill, loaded for bear, coming at me, ready to take me on.

I'm missed this look. Missed him.

"Your BEHAVIOUR, as a matter of fact!" he bristles, the annoyance in his voice definitely edging up a notch or two.

"What about it?"

Ah, evidently Jack doesn't care for Doctor Jackson. Missing Daniel, are we, Jack? Little late for regrets, now, don't you think. Should have thought of that before --

"For starters, who gave you the authority to give orders around here?" he demands like he's just about to haul me up before the authorities for impersonating a person who actually counts for something.

Let me give YOU an order, Jack. Seriously. Try it, you might like it. LOTS of things about Doctor Jackson you might like.

He's a lot more powerful than DAN-iel for starters. Can do a lot more for you as well. A LOT more for you, Jack.

"Actually the Pentagon," I tell him bluntly. Which stops him for a moment. He can't argue with facts. I'm suddenly tired of all the arguments, the constant struggling with people who have no concept of what I'm trying to do - and no gratitude for all the sacrifices I'm making, either. No gratitude at all. No appreciation. I know how much Jack hates clichés, but the 'it's lonely at the top' one just happens to be true.

I might have to fight with every single person in this place, but the last person I want to fight with is you.

"Look, maybe I haven't been patient lately but I'm just doing what has to be done. I have the knowledge; I have to make sure it gets used properly. Now, I can elevate us to the point of wiping out the Goa'uld or I can watch it all go to waste."

Come on, Jack. Work with me, here. Just for once, don't fight me. I could really use some help, here. I could really use YOUR help.

Jack?

"You're under a lot of pressure, I understand," he says carefully, eyeing me warily, making a lie of what he's just told me.

Doesn't understand. Doesn't understand at all. Doesn't see. I was so hoping -- but maybe it isn't too late.

"I recommended you to oversee the entire naquadah retrieval operation," I remind him. Even though I've been busy, I haven't forgotten about you, Jack. You're still getting your chance to help out, to do your part for the Earth. That's what you want - right?

"Oh yeah, thank you very much by the way," he snarls sarcastically at me. "I can either accept the position or RETIRE!"

Now he's angry with me. I don't understand. What does he WANT from me? We've got a job to do, a planet to defend, and I gave him the top position in the organised off world effort to DO that job. We can't be prancing through the Stargate picking daisies like before. Not when there's work to be done! Serious work to be done! I don't understand why he's so angry with me. What have I done wrong?

Why is nothing I ever do GOOD enough for you, Jack?

Why?

God, I don't FUCKING believe this! I'm possibly the most - no - scratch that I AM the most important person on this planet and I STILL can't get the seal of approval from Jack O'Neill!

"Why aren't you behind me on all this?" I know I sound a little hurt, but suddenly I don't care. "I mean, I'm finally taking your position. Lets build weapons, let's KICK some Goa'uld ASS! Because it's me saying it, I'm suddenly the bad guy?"

All in all, my delivery was quite impassioned. Getting a little worked up myself. I'm right, he can't deny this. Can't back away from the hypocrisy of his disapproval of me. Someone is finally getting the job done. That someone is me. I know when we first went through the gate together as SG-1 we were doing it for totally different reasons, but that's all changed, Jack. We're finally both on the same page, here, finally both in total agreement on what we should be doing with that ring.

No more wasting my time - and yours - on mouldering ruins and chicken scratches. We're going to go after those fucking snakes, and we're going to get them. This is only the beginning Jack. I've got plans. Oh, you have no idea! You have no idea how far I'm going with this.

But you could. You could know it all. You could help me. You could come with me.

What do you say, Jack? The two of us, together? We can do it. We don't need anyone else.

"Where's Teal'c?" he suddenly snaps at me.

HOW DARE YOU SPEAK THAT NAME IN MY PRESENCE!

The ribbon device screams with power, coming alive in my hand in response to my fury. My need to punish him for disappointing me.

For the VERY last time.

Swiftly I stretch my hand out toward him, the power leaps from me, my will SLAMS into him, flinging him across the room like the useless, fickle thing he is before he has a chance to utter another TRAITOROUS syllable. My heart leaps with fierce joy as I watch him smash into the wall, hear the sounds of his bones shattering, the hash snap of his neck as it gives, the wet, satisfying crunching of the back of his skull pulverising against the unforgiving concrete --

No! NO! I - I didn't MEAN it! JACK!

Shuddering, gasping, I come back to myself. He's standing beside me. He's okay. I didn't - didn't hurt him.

It didn't happen. Thank God, only in my head, didn't really happen.

I struggle to pull myself together. Jack doesn't seem to notice anything's wrong. Doesn't know what I just did to him.

No - didn't. Didn't really happen. Didn't hurt him. Won't EVER hurt him.

"He's on a mission," I say quickly.

"What mission?" Jack presses, peering at me sharply. Shit. He HAS noticed something.

"The one I sent him on."

"When's he gonna be back?"

Goddammit! He's so damned STUBBORN! Why is he riding me about this? We're talking about a Jaffa, here. An expendable slave who'd outlived his usefulness. What does it MATTER?

What does any of it matter, any more? He's just given me my answer, and it's not the one I wanted. Why am I so surprised?

All you can think about is Teal'c. Nothing for Daniel. Not going to give Doctor Jackson the time of day either, huh Jack?

I need you to go now. If you're not going to give me what I want, then just - just leave. I'll make it through just fine without you, Jack. Just like I have every other time I needed you and you had better things to do.

"When he's done. Jack," I say wearily, turning away from him. Nothing left to say. " I've got a lot of work to do and so do you. So, please help me, or leave."

Even he can't miss the finality in my last statement. Or the last chance I'm giving him to -

True to form, he lives down to my expectations. He gives me a searching, deeply disappointed look, and then turns his back and walks out on me.

That's my Jack, I knew I could count on you to leave me.


JACK

I'm sitting here seething as Shifu refuses to acknowledge my existence, let alone answer any of my questions. My much vaunted touch with kids seems to have deserted me completely with this one. He's just sitting neatly on his bed, not even glaring me down. Refusing to engage. Kid is eight going on sixty four. It's MADDENING. It's HIS fault Daniel is in a coma and I damn well know it.

"Anger has been ready to be angry," he says out of the blue, breaking the prolonged silence.

How does someone so young get to be so damn sententious? "Huh?"

"I could explain, but then you would understand only my explanation, not what I have said."

"Oh." What?

He looks at me with those disquieting eyes, as if he - as if he KNOWS me. Through and through.

"The wounds you do not want to heal are YOU."

No. Still not with you. What the hell does this have to do with me asking you what you did to Daniel a couple of hours ago?

I guess I must look as blank as I feel, because suddenly the kid waxes positively loquacious, radiating that calm yet annoyingly pitying manner that reminds me of Teal'c from a short while back.

"If the root remains undamaged and strong, a tree, even if cut, will grow back. So too if latent craving is not rooted out, this suffering returns again and again."

He is SO not going to give me this in English. Gonna have to think here. I rewind to the first unintelligible comment. I'm angry with him. No, not with him. With Teal'c. With - with DANIEL. And myself. Ready to be angry? Maybe all this stuff was coming to a head, for all the reasons Teal'c hammered me over the head with. Daniel is changing and I'm not. Not only that, but allegedly I'm trying to hold him back, to rein him in so he fits neatly in the nice little niche I have for him.

The second comment? I got unhealed wounds? First I - stupid. Latent craving. Yeah, I get it, me and Danny. The - little pitchers and all - the craving thing. Suddenly noticed but NOT suddenly felt. Buried way down deep for way too long.

"I have to face my craving for - for someone." I suggest cautiously.

Shifu smiles gently at me, which is encouraging. "Gone to the beyond of becoming, you let go of in front, let go of behind, let go of between. With a heart everywhere let-go, you don't come again to birth and aging."

"This is like English Lit," I grumble. He's upping the stakes with a vengeance. Remind me never to play poker with the boy. "You got Coles notes for this?"

I sigh and give it another shot. Let go? Let go of what? One minute he's telling me I gotta face this stuff and in the next he's telling me to forget it. Can't be right.

"Can you help me out here? Just a little?" I plead.

Shifu just stares back. Okay. Explanations thing. I get that. It doesn't help me get this that I get that, but I get that anyway.

What have I actually done? I've - okay, admit it here, be a mensch, O'Neill. I've pushed Daniel away. Pushed him so far and so hard he no longer bothers to close the distance between us. Not for the important stuff anyway.

"Daniel and I, well - we've gone from best friends, to friends, to - to 'friendly' colleagues. I gotta let go of that? I've already decided to make the push, mend those fences, do all that good bonding stuff. Is that it?" I ask hopefully.

How would he know? He's two years old. Looking at his eyes, I realise he's goddamn critical even FOR a know-it-all two year old.

"Can we cut the Zen crap, PLEASE? Just gimme a straight answer!" I'm whining. I know it. Now the kid looks critical AND disappointed.

Jeez. What ELSE have I been doing? I got NO problems with anyone BUT - crap. Oh crap. CARTER? That what this is about? I turn from Daniel to her? I turned because I knew it was - damn. I knew it was SAFE. Predictable. Controlled. Never going to go anywhere. Mooning around over Carter was the easy option. Nothing could and would ever happen between us, mostly because of her, as recent events have made abundantly clear. Whatever feelings she may have had for me don't rate nearly as highly in her book as her career generally and her place on the team specifically.

I look at Shifu uneasily. This shit was all buried in my subconscious. Is it okay for me to let go of guilt I've just this second started to think I should feel? Like I'm getting off light here or something. WAY too light.

WHY did I turn to Carter? It couldn't just be because I couldn't handle the new improved Deluxe Daniel, couldn't be just because I want to lure that Daniel out of his clothes and into my bed. Have done for quite a while, I just sublimated those impulses into Carter. No. How could I? There was NO chance whatsoever we'd - not sex - none. So what the hell was the POINT of it?

Has to be something more, right? Something I'm still not seeing.

"For a person forced on by his thinking, fierce in his passion, focused on beauty, craving grows all the more. He is the one who tightens the bond."

I straighten up in my chair. "No." This one is so damn blatant, I got a weird feeling, like I'm in a plummeting elevator and my stomach is trying to climb out my throat, churning every inch of the way. "You've GOT to be kidding me?" I'm pleading. "Are you saying - you're telling me I'm - I LOVE Daniel?"

No. Relax. Don't panic. It's okay. He's my FRIEND. It's okay to love him. That's what friends are for. That's OKAY. Okay? Crap. Double crap. I sense an ambush here. I also want to have SEX with this friend that I love. I've wanted it FOREVER and now I know it's what I want, I NEED it.

"Christ, Oma covers a lot of ground in a year!"

I'm quite jaundiced about it. I'm supposed to be interrogating HIM, it's not supposed to be the other way around. A two year old chronologically going on eight year old physically going on sixty four year old emotionally boy is battering down my defences here.

I know where he's going. I know what I've got to admit to and accept, and do all that shitty keep me awake 'cause even knowing about it don't mean I can DO anything about it stuff.

"I'm in love with Daniel," I bitterly admit. "For all the damn good it will do me. And don't sit there coming the superior being at me, I didn't KNOW it until you told me. Cut me some slack. I thought I was just pathetically insecure over my increasing redundancy in my own team and my relationship with him. I can live with being all anal over THAT, that's perfectly reasonable. You sitting there and insisting I'm doing what I've been doing because I'm in love with him and I can't live without him and I'm shit scared of losing him is too much! WAY too much." I'm working up a good head of steam. "And wipe that sympathy off your face. So I've been playing power games. Not enough for me to keep him, I have to keep him on MY terms, gotta keep my control, make him come to me. Hasn't worked, has it? I've pushed and he hasn't come, he's GONE."

"If you worship those worthy of worship, who have transcended complications, lamentation, and grief, who are unendangered, fearless, unbound; there is no measure for reckoning your merit."

"Gimme a BREAK," I groan. "Too easy. 'I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy.' I should get over it. Well, whoop de doo. There ya go. Done. I feel SO much better. Course, worshipping - and I take issue with THAT very strongly, I've never worshipped ANYONE in the whole of my life - " I catch a little gleam in his eye and subside, sullenly. "He DOESN'T worship me back. Made that abundantly clear, right in front of you, as I recall. How can I go with the flow if he doesn't? What's the point?"

I stare at Shifu, who looks back at me with all the sorrow in the world welling in those eyes.

"I haven't missed the point," I say wearily. "I'm supposed to be altruistic and unselfish and not mind this is a one way deal. Well, pardon me for breathing." I can't look into those gentle, knowing eyes for another moment. "I have to measure my worth against Daniel's choosing to accept me? I got news for you. He doesn't choose. He won't. He doesn't want me. How do I measure that? Jack O'Neill, reject. I'm sorry I don't have those wonderful inner resources that would let me be anything other than utterly miserable about an epiphany like this one, and I've got a little aphorism for you too. Chew on this. 'A vacuum is a hell of a lot better than some of the stuff that nature replaces it with'."

I can't take any more of this, jump to my feet and stalk out. I want to just hide out in my office and lick my wounds. Bad enough my friend doesn't want to know me right now. Worse, the man I want to make love to doesn't want to know me right now. Worst of all, so unimaginably bad my mind keeps shuddering away from it, the man I'm in love with doesn't want to know me. Most likely not ever. I can recoup some ground on the friendship thing, but that's it. Th - th - that's all, folks!

For everything else, I'm not just FUBAR, I'm accelerating exponentially beyond it.

We also still don't have a single thing that could help us with Daniel. Maybe if I get Carter to take a crack at Shifu she might find a hook, something to get under his skin. She's way smarter than I am. Hammond told me so, first day I met her.

Teal'c is due for some Kel'no'reem too. If I send him off to spend some quality time with his candles, I can sit with Danny for a while. Just the two of us. And Janet and the medical staff, of course.

Still, I have to eat my heart out over the man I love, I can at least do it by his side.


DANIEL

He's not screaming as much this time. This crawling, pathetic thing who dared to think he could oppose me and prevail. I wait serenely for the Jaffa to drag what's left of the once High and Mighty Apophis before me.

It really rocks to be the boss.

"Please have mercy," Apophis gasps as they push him to his knees before me. He looks up at me, entreating me, knowing, at last, as he should, I am his one and only hope. What happens to him next is all up to me.

"I beg you!" he cries.

Nah. Don't think so. Not enough sincerity in the voice. Sorry. Better luck next time.

Although I'll have to admit I'm much more convinced by the sincerity of his screams as I turn the ribbon device on him and begin to slowly liquefy his brain in his skull. Very, very slowly. Not easy to be so precise, so careful. To make it last so long. But I'm getting so much better at it with practice.


ONE YEAR LATER

Apophis' dying screams are still echoing in my ears as I awaken. You know, that dream just doesn't do it for me the way it used to. Not anymore. It was a lot of fun the first dozen times or so, but it's getting old, now. Too damned easy. No challenge, no sport in it.

Maybe it's because I'm getting close to being able to do so much more. For real. On a scale which will prove to be infinitely more diverting and entertaining in respect of the sheer scope of possibilities it will open up to me.

Let's face it. Apophis is strictly small potatoes. Faced with the prospect of having an entire world at my feet, who cares about a ratty old System Lord? And that's only the beginning.

Just the beginning.

Oh well, here we are, morning again, guess I should rise and shine. Looks like it's a beautiful morning. Sun shining and all. Nice change after all the rain we've been having lately. Once we get the satellite system up and running I think I'll have General Bauer send someone out to fetch the Touchstone from Medrona. Shouldn't be a problem to figure out how it works and recalibrate it for Earth's biosphere. If I'm going to bring some order and stability to this planet, only makes sense climate control should be at the top of the list.

I've got so many plans; it really is hard at times to decide what to do first.

My steps have carried me to the window. Usually the first thing I do upon rising, go over to the window, take a look out, survey my --

SHIT! Well, well, well, what do we have here? If I'm not mistaken that's Major Doctor Samantha Carter's car. Why Sam, what a pleasant surprise. Coming to pay your respects? A social call, perhaps? Somehow, I don't think so. Not that it matters. I've got much better things to do with my time than waste it on you.

I put on my robe and walk out of my bedroom. Cynthia falls into step beside me. One of these days I'm going to find out how long she actually stands outside my door waiting for me to get up.

Mind you, I'm beginning to get bored with Karen. Maybe it's time to introduce Cynthia to some of the other duties that are part of her job description.

"Good morning Dr. Jackson," Cynthia greets me with efficient politeness before launching straight into the business at hand. She's learned well. I'm really not much for small talk or extraneous, trivial details. Cut to the chase. "The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is already waiting for your 0900 briefing. You also have a message from Carl Smith at NASA regarding the AG's dispersement mechanism."

The idiot. I'm surprised the man can find his way to his own dick to pull it out and piss. What's his problem now, I wonder?

"Are they on schedule yet?" I ask her, knowing the answer.

"No."

"Unbelievable." I will be SO glad when I do not need any of these idiots any longer.

Cynthia follows me down the stairs, still full of glad tidings.

"And Major Carter is here to see you," she says crisply, eyeing me carefully to gauge my reaction. She wasn't with me the last time Sam and I spoke, but I imagine word gets around.

"Send her away," I instruct her, with a slight wave of my hand. "And find out why she still has a valid security pass." And who I have to fire for allowing this breach of security to occur.

"Right away Dr. Jackson." That's it. Off you go. Run, scurry, jump. Do what you're told.

Did I mention being the boss really rocks?

Harrison says something to me as I pass him on my way to the dining room. If it was something important he'd be at my heels trying to get my attention, so I pay him no mind.

As expected, Angela is waiting for me. She might not be as pretty as the rest, but she knows how I like my coffee. Shifu is seated at the table. He looks up from his bowl of cereal and smiles serenely at me as I take my accustomed chair and reach for the cup of coffee waiting for me.

"Morning, Sir," Angela says stiffly. You can relax, my dear, I'm not going to be jumping YOUR bones.

"What can I make for you this morning Dr. Jackson?" She always asks me this. Always gets the same answer. It's a good thing she makes good coffee. Damned good coffee. Nice and hot, too.

"I'm not hungry." Never am. Coffee. Same as always.

"Of course." She smiles nervously at me and leaves. I barely notice her go, I'm suddenly puzzled by --

What in the world is that child eating? Hardly a breakfast of champions, here. Froot Loops? Froot Loops? What in the HELL is Angela thinking, letting the boy eat this GARBAGE!

I'm suddenly furious with a bowl of Froot Loops. Want to pick it up and fling it against the wall I'm so - so ANGRY!

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." Shifu's gentle voice distracts me from the focus of my fury. I'm still annoyed but realise, whatever it was bothering me, it was nothing.

Seeing Sam's car threw me for a loop - I mean, made me - it doesn't matter. Not important.

It's nothing. Nothing at all.

"Oma teach you that?" I say to him.

"Television," Shifu beams. For an instant, he looks like just a little boy. A normal, eight year old boy. Eating his crappy cereal, having breakfast with his --

"Glad I've been such a positive influence," I say sourly as I pick up my coffee and take another sip. I'm on the verge of being pulled into some very strange, unwelcome emotional territory when suddenly I'm saved from unnecessary and unwanted introspection by the arrival of an old 'friend'.

"Daniel!" Sam shouts accusingly at me as she pushes her way into my dining room, security and a sheepish Cynthia in her wake.

"I'm sorry Dr. Jackson, she insisted," Cynthia informs me contritely. trying to smooth over her own incompetence.

"It's okay." Actually, it is. For once, Sam is a welcome distraction. Besides, the way the major is spitting fire, she could prove to have some entertainment value as well. It's been a long time since anyone has actually - stood up to me. Been forgetting what it felt like to have a really good knock down drag out verbal fight.

Let's see what you've got, Sammie, girl.

"You can't seriously think you're gonna get away with this?" she throws at me.

Oh Sam, I'm SO disappointed. Opening with clichés? I thought you could do a little better than this! I guess you're not going to be worth my time after all. Shame.

"What are you talking about Sam?" I answer her trite, unimaginative voice of righteous indignation with reasonable and slightly bewildered innocence.

"What you're doing, what you've got planned!" she accuses, trying to get in my face. Only too aware there are a couple of men behind her who will drop her where she stands if she so much as blinks the wrong way. "That's why you had me removed from the project, you knew I'd figure it out eventually!"

She really working up a good head of steam now, letting herself get carried away with her 'convictions.' She thinks she's got a holy cause, thinks being 'right' is all you need in order to prevail.

I could tell her a few things about how wrong she is about THIS one. As it is, I won't need to bother. She'll be finding out soon enough for herself the way the world really works. The privilege of being 'right' only applies to the smart and powerful.

Of which, Sam, dearest, you are NEITHER.

"I relieved you of your responsibilities because you were starting to crack under the pressure," I continue to answer her in a calm, tolerant, almost understanding tone. Humouring an obviously bitter and spiteful woman so eaten up inside with jealousy because she's been passed over and sidelined she has to resort to making wild, unsubstantiated accusations against the man she holds responsible for her fall from grace. When the truth is becoming plain for all to see - she's got no one to blame for the state she's in but herself.

Don't mess with me Sam, I've warned you time and time again, and you just don't seem to want to get it. I'm better than you. Especially at this.

"You seem to have lost all perspective," I tell her calmly. "Quite frankly, I think your jealousy finally got the best of you."

Her eyes flare with renewed anger at this, as she more than rises to the verbal goad, losing what little self control she had left.

Just like I knew she would.

"Jealousy?" she almost spits the word in my face. "I'll tell you why it's hard to maintain perspective, DAN-IEL"

Oh Sam, that HURT. It really did. Come on now, dearie, tell DAN-iel what's wrong. What's got you so worked up? Oh wait - it's not that time of the month, now, is it?

"Strategic division of labour," she enunciates every word dramatically, like saying it aloud will be all the world will need in order to see the light. "All in an effort to stop anyone from seeing the big picture."

Big picture? You want to see the big picture, you BITCH? I've got a 'picture' for you. The one in my head. The one where you're screaming while I'm showing you what REAL power can do to you. Screaming and screaming --

"What exactly do you think you've figured out, Sam?" I ask her with an air of weary tolerance, letting my eyes fill with pity for her in her sad delusions. Cynthia's eating it up.

"You know damn well what I'm talking about!" she asserts stubbornly, and then turns to look accusingly at Shifu. "What have you done to him?"

"You leave him out of this," I warn her. I wasn't expecting this. Not even from her, This is really low. Trying to blame her own insecurities and inadequacies on a child. Definitely not sporting.

"Can't you see what you've become?" Interesting. She sounds almost imploring. Like she's sad about something, something she's missing.

That's ridiculous.

"I didn't change Sam. You did," I answer her coldly. This interview is now over. I don't have to tell them to remove her, my people know me well enough to know what I want them to do.

"You can't stop me from telling people what's really going on!" she raves as she is dragged from the room. "They'll listen. You'll never get away with this."

Open with a cliché, end with one. Bye Sam. Have fun trying to get anyone to give you the time of day. You have no idea how much trouble you've just bought yourself.

You'll be finding out soon, though.

"Is she insane?" Cynthia breathes with wide-eyed disbelief.

I nod and smile sadly at her. I know, it's so hard to believe, isn't it? That the poor, deluded woman could think anyone as obviously dedicated to the good of the Earth as the Sainted and Selfless Doctor Jackson capable of the sort of duplicity she was implying. I sigh with the sad disappointment of seeing yet another trusted friend fold under the burden of their own inadequacies. And am rewarded to see the aching sympathy in Cynthia's eyes. She's dying to 'comfort' me.

It's refreshing to see DAN-iel is still good for something after all. He could have had his pick of women - of men, for that matter - but was much too foolish and 'principled' to realize it.

Fortunately Doctor Jackson doesn't suffer from his glaring lack of confidence in his own persuasive powers.

Rest assured, my dear, you'll be getting your chance to soothe the cares from my brow. And a few other places. What the hell, maybe I'll even let Karen play, too.


JACK

I'm doing the quintessential immovable object thing, and seriously wearing out my welcome. Every time I ask about Daniel, Janet explains with more obvious patience there's nothing physically wrong with him. I'm sick of hearing it. She's sick of me asking, and of my reaction while I hear it. I'm sitting by Daniel's bedside, watching him. Janet is watching me watching him. She lays any crap on me about visiting hours, let's see how SHE likes being on the receiving end of 'there's nothing wrong with him'.

"Sir?"

Carter slips past me to the other side of Daniel's bed. She stands for a moment, seeming to forget my presence. He's utterly inert beneath her focused attention, his stark pallor in turn draining some of the colour from Carter's own skin. I've never quite figured out why Carter only feels safe in showing this pitch of emotion around and for Daniel. She and I have had our moments, in extremis, but that's what it's taken to get her to lower her guard, to let me see a glimpse of the 'Sam' Daniel is allowed to see and share as a matter of course.

I know I've done Carter a disservice.

My nice, clean minimalist lifestyle suddenly gaped open, desolate, and I rushed to fill the gap with something, anything, to detract my focused attention from ME. I don't like spending time with myself. I can't, don't, won't live in my own head. I need structure, a framework, people to spark off and watch over. I'm not a loner, not by the wildest stretch of the imagination. It isn't even that I live my life vicariously, expressing myself through my relationships with others. Something in me draws others to me. I'm the guy at the apex. Top dog. Alpha Male. Whatever. That's just the way it is. If I have something they need, then they're welcome to it and to me.

That's the part of me which attracted Carter. I find it near impossible to do either of us any justice over the whole 'feelings' fiasco, but I've had a lot of time to think today, in my post-epiphany - and even moreso in my post-Shifu - depression. Carter and I are not good for one another, there is something in each of us that calls to - encourages - the worst character traits in the other.

My gut reaction to hearing about the alternate versions of us being together was one I should have remembered before I let my hormones get the better of me in THIS reality, and the Jack only Daniel knew pulled up a chair and joined the SG-1 party on Euronda. I don't need to be the well adjusted introvert to know what a stony-hearted, ruthless bastard I can be. I show that side of myself to Daniel and it's zero tolerance. He cuts the moral ground out from under me, makes me face up to it, do the right thing. I've been showing that side to Carter too, and she - part of her rolled over and just took it. I was that same man in the alternate realities, and it was THAT man the alternate Carters loved. Wrong, wrong, wrong. That's what my gut told me. Major Carter is twice the woman Doctor Carter will ever be, and for all her rigid adherence to the rules, to protocol, to fitting into her 'place', she has more backbone and more warmth than her civilian selves will ever be capable of.

Daniel brings out the best in Carter, as he does in all of us. Maybe it's time I forgot about turning over a new leaf and went for a whole new tree. Started being her friend too. I'm Daniel's friend, I've loved him for almost as long as I've known him and the sky hasn't fallen, the team hasn't faltered. Surely I can manage it for Carter?

If I have to let go of behind, in front and between, I can start by letting go of between. Carter has been keeping a careful distance for a while now, because yours truly refused to quit the 'feelings' party despite being firmly shown the door. Time to let her know it's okay, we're okay. Time for us to try being friends. Who knows, she might even learn to like me. If she doesn't, if this is as good as it gets, still it's resolution of a kind. I can live with distance from her, if that's the way she wants it.

I glance down at the bed. For Daniel and I, it's a different story. Distance from Daniel is a loneliness that hurts the soul.

I let her drink her fill of him, then offer her more grace than I've managed so far for the long-suffering Janet. "There's nothing physically wrong with him, Carter."

She looks up at me, eyes very bright. "Nothing waking up won't cure, Sir," she says wryly. Her fingers gently smooth back the hair from his brow.

I guess she's amiably tolerating my presence. Daniel has never been in the Infirmary without the whole team by his side as much as possible, but we also like our private time with him, Carter included. She does those recuperation cookies and a has a hell of a sideline in sisterly TLC.

Pretty sure it's sisterly. Though, come to think -- She'd be a lot happier if she did go for guys like Daniel. Like him. NOT him, obviously. He's spoken for. At least, he will be, when he comes to.

Crap.

This letting go business is damnably tricky. I'm about to start building a solid mano y mano friendship between Carter and I, and I'm uneasily conscious the first words out of my mouth in support of this noble endeavour are going to be a lie. I don't think Shifu would approve, but hell, I'm not Daniel. My morality is a little more situationally flexible than his, so I gotta take smaller steps on the path to enlightenment.

"Carter?"

"Sir?"

"I'd like YOU to talk to the boy. He's the key to this. If he didn't do this to Daniel, he knows what did. Witness or perpetrator, he ain't talking," I say firmly.

"Not talking to YOU, you mean?" Carter says softly, eyes weighing me up.

I shrug. "Nada. Zip. Zilch. He might open up to you, and you might be able to get further than I did with those irritating little aphorisms that he passes off as communication in place of anything comprehensible to we lesser mortals."

"You don't like him, do you, Sir?"

I don't like he knows I don't like myself. And I'm not going near that kid again. If he could fuck with my mind like this, God alone knows what he could have done to Daniel. I glance at Daniel's too-still face. What Shifu is doing to him right now.

"I think I was wrong to bring him here without being able to determine what kind of threat he posed." I gesture to Daniel. "This could just be the start. Remember what Oma was capable of? If this kid goes south on us, what the hell do you think we could do about it? What kind of proportional response can I generate to a force of nature? A tornado, or worse, that lightning frying our guys where they stand? I screwed up, Carter, big time, and now Daniel's paying for it."

Carter is a little taken aback by my vehemence. "You hold him responsible for Daniel? Sir, we haven't been able to determine the facts, this could be a -"

"Don't tell me it's a coincidence, Carter. There's nothing natural about this. There isn't a single medical cause for Janet to work on. We're just assuming he'll wake up all bright eyed and bushy tailed, good and rested. There's not a whole hell of a lot we can do in the meantime except wait."

"Sir, there's nothing to suggest this is permanent."

"How do we KNOW? God knows, the Goa'uld have never hesitated to use kids against us. And this kid, lest we forget, is the spawn of Apophis. Technologically enhanced spawn, at that. We ONLY have Shifu's word for it he remembers nothing. He could have planned this from the start, could have been after Daniel from the start. After all, he lured us to Abydos and it was Daniel's name he called, no one else's. BORN evil, Carter. That's what Teal'c told us in the briefing."

Okay. Stop. Stop now. Stop with the yelling. Janet is LOOKING at me again in a manner suggestive of summary eviction. Gotta calm down, ease back on the anger. Supposed to be working on the friendship thing here, not on the venting of emotions I am not permitted to express any other way.

Fortunately Carter is always a captive audience. I lean in. "The kid could have been influencing Daniel from the moment we met him on Abydos. Look at Daniel's behaviour in the briefing. Didn't you sense something was OFF there? Come on, Carter. Tell me the truth here. I trust your judgement."

I guess I should say stuff like that more often as Carter's confusion clears in a flush of gratification.

"Daniel has to be confused about this whole thing, Sir. I -- " she hesitates, glancing behind me, gauging if anyone is close enough to hear this. I wave her on.

"I think Daniel is becoming disengaged. From us, from the team. Daniel and I - we haven't been spending time together the way we once did. I've been a little concerned, but I haven't known what to do about it. I'm not sure I can judge the cause fairly." Her eyes are steady on mine.

I guess it's as close as she'll come to an admission of what almost but never quite happened between us.

"At the same time, Daniel's professional judgement has come under perpetual question from all of us, on mission after mission. Rightly so, in some cases. In others -- "

She doesn't need to fill in those blanks.

"We - I - haven't spared him," she says unflinchingly, generously accepting some of the burden of culpability from me. I know. He's spared us. Over and over.

"As to the briefing, sir, I just think he's finally learned to speak our language. He was concerned for Shifu's welfare, as were we all, but he was able to see the bigger picture. We can't fault Daniel for being pragmatic, for putting his duty first. For doing what WE do."

She says 'we' but I know she means me. I don't see any point going on with this. She's missed the point ENTIRELY. Daniel ALWAYS does his duty, no matter how painful or whatever personal cost he has to bear. Today, he FAILED in his duty. He took the path of least resistance. This is not the least concern amongst the multitude clamouring at me. Not only am I not objective, rational is a stretch for me right now, given the magnitude of the wake up call I've had today. With all that's tearing me up inside, I can't judge the cause of Daniel's behaviour fairly either.

"Talk to the boy, Carter. Please."

Carter's face softens. "Of course, Sir. For Daniel's sake, of course. I'd do anything I could to help him."

"I know that," I smile at her and she smiles right back. After a final look at Daniel she nods reassuringly at me, "With your permission, Sir?" and strides over to confer with Janet before heading determinedly out the door.

I don't blame her. Doing is always better than waiting.

Now that was painless. Asking instead of telling. Got her to open up a little, to see beyond rank and protocol. I can do this. I can definitely do this. Be a friend. It's the easiest thing I have to do, to face, but still, it's something I haven't managed so far.

I lean closer to Daniel. "Stay with me, Daniel. We are going to help you. Just stay with me. TRUST me."

On to Part Two

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Biblio, PhoenixE, babs, Brionhet, Darcy, Devra, Fabrisse, JoaG, Kalimyre, Marcia, Rowan and Sideburns, 2001-2008.
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