Who Wants To Live Forever by sideburns
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.
Season/Spoilers: Season 5.
Synopsis: Daniel ponders many things, a whole lot happens and a new God to battle comes along.
Warnings: CAVEAT -- NO MATTER HOW THIS LOOKS, IT IS NOT A DEATHSTORY. HAVE NO FEAR. <g>
Length:  242Kb

Who Wants To Live Forever by sideburns

He'd been thinking of death. Not artifacts or translations. Not the SGC. But death. He could even pinpoint the moment death first entered his mind--

It had been a week after yet another alternate universe trip, courtesy of sun spots. He'd been standing on the ramp, Sam behind him, Teal'c behind her, Jack still talking to General Hammond. He'd looked at the puddle in front of him and thought, "Maybe this time -- my molecules won't re-form. Or better yet, when we return, the iris will close just as I enter the wormhole."

Oddly enough, he hadn't even been startled by such thoughts. He'd simply -- smiled and thought, "Maybe".

As it happened, his body had rearranged itself on the other side, and the iris had remained open on his return. He'd shrugged, gone to the infirmary for the requisite MRI, then to his office -- for -- the usual 'work until coffee no longer keeps me standing.'

But death had been his companion ever since.

He found himself constantly dwelling on the idea of dying. He wondered about it and spent hours counting the near misses and the many hits. By his calculations, he was way past nine. But then, he wasn't a cat. Who knew how many lives Daniel Jackson, the human had? Certainly not him.

So what had he conluded after hours and days of dwelling? Simple: he'd welcome it if it came again.

Hell, truth be told, maybe he even yearned for it. Yearned for the darkness, the peace and quiet -- and maybe -- for absolution?

The truly strange thing about all his musings on his death was that he'd never once thought about any reunion with Sha're. He suspected that would be impossible, that she would surely be in a different place -- a better place. He'd also never considered seeing his parents -- they'd probably be too busy investigating ancient cloud formations. And Kowolski wouldn't know him if he tripped over him. Well, maybe he'd hand him a box of tissues before he headed out to some heavenly soldier bar, but that was it.

Daniel turned the page of the book he wasn't reading, adjusted his glasses before picking up his pen. He really needed to finish this translation. He did. SG-3 was waiting with bated breath. So was General Hammond.

Hey, he thought, what exactly did all those alternate universes do without Daniel Jackson? Who translated their difficult and highly important unknown languages? Who?

He glanced down at the writings in front of him and smiled wryly.

Highly important?

Yeah, sure. You betcha. Daniel grinned. Jack hadn't said that in a while. Hadn't said it with just that smile.

Daniel's grin faded.

The alternate universe Jack from two missions ago had used that expression. He'd smiled at Daniel, then punched him in the arm. Hadn't known him from Adam, yet that Jack seemed to -- like him, even before Daniel had shown them how to contact the Nox to help hide Cheyenne Mountain.

Of course, now that he thought about it, that had been a very strange alternate universe. Teal'c had been part of that SGC, both Jack and Sam had been alive, General Hammond had actually been General Hammond, hell, even Janet had shown up. And Catherine. The only differences had been that Sam was still a Captain, Kowolski was the fourth member of SG1 and Teal'c had a braid and a whacky sense of humor. Oh, and Catherine had been their expert Egyptologist.

Oh, yeah, and one other -- minor -- difference: Ra, not Apophis, had been the major enemy. In fact, when Daniel's SG1 had been accidentally directed to that alternate universe, Ra had been in the middle of an all out attack on the SGC. Not on Earth, just the SGC. It was as if he'd known that the real danger to the system lords, to him, lay within the confines of Cheyenne Mountain.

Another really strange thing, among many strange things, was that his SG1 had come through the second gate, the one stored in the warehouse where his SG1 team had found it after the whole Antarctica thing. An alternate Mayborne had been there to greet them and upon seeing Daniel, had immediately pulled his weapon. Obviously Kowolski should have been the fourth, so seeing Daniel had clued Harry in rather quickly. The man hadn't been mad, just cautious.

Harry's first words, once he realized something was wrong, had been, "Alternate universe?" followed by, as he'd aimed his gun at Daniel, "Who's he?"

From there, stories and realities had been exchanged, the battle with Ra explained, and yes, they knew who the Asgard were, but the Asgard had fallen to the Replicators.

"Okay," Daniel had said, "what about the Nox?"

Harry's puzzled expression had said it all. Harry's universe had not yet met the Nox.

Sam, ever quick to pick up a "Daniel clue" had immediately suggested that the Nox might be their salvation and offered her help. Harry had nodded but had then thrown the monkey wrench. Since Harry's universe had a living Jack, a living Sam and a living Teal'c, and since no one knew how long it would take to contact the Nox and because his universe had never heard of Daniel Jackson, well, that meant that only Daniel could accompany Harry to Cheyenne Mountain and attempt to contact the Nox. So off Daniel had gone.

He'd been welcomed by friendly, if somewhat puzzled, SGC personnel, had found this Sam to be a bit less serious than his Sam, and maybe somewhat -- perkier? This Jack had been no different than his Jack -- of two or three years ago. Except that this Jack and this Sam, like so many -- okay -- all -- of the other Jacks and Sams, were in love. And married. Unofficially. Officially-unofficially.

Daniel had gone the entire three days trying desperately not to gag himself.

At one point, during a lull in the attacks and, while waiting to see if the message to the Nox had been received, Daniel had done what it seemed he'd done in every alternate reality to date -- he'd gone to a computer and inputted himself. He was fully prepared to find that, like all the other times, he was dead. He'd been highly shocked to find that in this universe -- he'd never existed at all.

It had probably been that fact had sown the first seed of death thoughts. After all, how many alternate universes had they, or he, visited in the last five years? Seven? Eight?

Eight. The last one had made eight.

Had Daniel been alive in any of them? No.

In fact, in the last one, he'd never existed. So why bother to exist here, in this universe, in his universe? And didn't it seem that someone, or something, was trying pretty hard to make sure he didn't exist in this universe? After all, he'd died, or almost died, or had been thought to be dead, more times than he could count (but way over nine).

Daniel drummed his fingers on the table. So what exactly was he accomplishing in this universe, besides bugging the hell out of Jack? Which, by the way, was almost worth hanging around for, actually.

So what if he'd opened the gate? So what? As all the other universes had shown, the gate got opened no matter what. Maybe not as early, but damn, it got opened. In this last universe, it had been Sam who'd done it. Three years later, but still, it was opened.

In four of the eight universes, Sha're had been alive and as happy as it was possible to be, given the conditions on Abydos. She'd even been married with children. In two of the four, the SGC hadn't found Abydos yet, but Daniel could assume that Sha're was still alive and happy. In the other two universes, Abydos had been destroyed by Ra. But hell, that was six out of eight with a happy, alive Sha're. And hello? In none of them had she become a host.

Damn, Daniel thought, in this universe, it could be said that he was actually -- a hazard. A bio-hazard.

He rubbed at his sore eyes and grinned. A bio-hazard. That was good. He should consider a spot on Letterman. Maybe that was his true calling? A comedian?

Daniel picked up his glasses, slipped them back on and went back to translations, thoughts of death temporarily on hold.

Damn.

Daniel threw down his glasses and watched them skitter across his work table.

Damn, damn, damn. A fucking weapon. SG3 had found exactly what the NID was looking for; a weapon of mass destruction. Global, universal, off-worldly, galaxy-killing, plant-altering, people-dissolving mass destruction.

And this god damned translation tells them, once they find it -- how to use it.

Fine. He'd let SG3 use him as target practice.

Daniel leaned across the table and picked up his glasses. For the briefest moment, he considered not telling General Hammond, but the moment was so fleeting, he hardly acknowledged it. Instead, he spent the next two hours making a nice tidy report, including a PowerPoint presentation, then sent the General an email.

As he stared at his computer screen, he wondered why the hell did it have to be him doing SG3's translations? His email program pinged and he knew without looking that the new message would be from Hammond.

He was right.

Dr. Jackson, briefing in thirty with Colonel Ambrose and SG3. Thank you.

Uh-huh.

Exactly 28 minutes later, Daniel was in the conference room, his computer set up, a cup of much needed coffee in hand. Seated around the table, in various stages of boredom, were Colonel Ambrose, a tall, thin, taciturn man; his 2IC, Captain Mitchell, a posterboy for "Uncle Sam Needs You" ; Lieutenant Elvis, who actually looked a bit like Elvis -- if Elvis had been a woman -- and black; and finally, Colonel Ambrose's resident scientist, Captain Montoya, an expert in physics. General Hammond was the only one missing.

To Daniel, it no longer seemed strange to be at a briefing devoid of the faces of SG1. Lately, Daniel had allowed himself to be loaned, borrowed, requested, and basically pawned off on several SGC teams. But damn, he missed SG1 when he wasn't with them.

He missed Teal'c and his lack of expression, which always spoke volumes to Daniel. He missed Sam's lectures and the joy of watching her words fly over Jack's head. And he missed -- Jack.

He missed that quirky eyebrow of Jack's, and the faint scar that made it seem so funny when said eyebrow rose. He missed the way Jack fiddled with his pen during one of Daniel's lectures; or the way he always leaned into Teal'c for macho-man support when faced with Daniel and Sam spouting off some scientific mumbo jumbo. He missed Jack pretending to be dumber than dirt.

He missed Jack. And yes, he -- yearned -- for Jack.

Daniel hadn't actually seen Jack in days and he doubted that Jack missed him.

"Doctor Jackson, thank you for your patience. Sorry, but I was detained by the President."

Daniel was brought out of his ruminations about Jack by General Hammond's arrival. The General took his seat at the head of the table, acknowledged Colonel Ambrose, who was not one of his favorite team leaders, then said, "Doctor Jackson, if you're ready?"

Daniel nodded, hit his remote and up on the screen a series of hieroglyphics appeared. He highlighted the figure of a man who seemed to be standing on the back of another man. An ostrich feather protruded from the first man's head.

"This represents the God known as Shu. He was the god of the atmosphere and of dry winds."

Daniel pointed to another figure, clearly female, but with the head of a lioness. "This depicts the goddess Tefnut. Now according to legend, she and Shu were brother and sister as well as husband and wife. They were also considered to be the first recorded example of soulmates."

Daniel turned and faced his audience. "Within the context of a possible weapon, it's important to remember that one of them was the god of the atmosphere, but more accurately, the god of the dry winds, and the other god, the exact opposite -- the goddess of moisture and clouds."

Daniel put up the drawing done by Montoya.

"There is no doubt that we're dealing with two Gou'alds who joined forces in an unprecedented show of strength. But more importantly, it would seem from what I've been able to translate, these two Gou'alds were more akin to the Tokra."

At Daniel's words, Hammond leaned forward. "The Tokra? Doctor Jackson, are you saying that these two Gou'alds were - good?"

"In essence, yes. Shu was Ra's first son. According to what is written here, he hated the evil that Ra was committing, and his sister, Tefnut, agreed with him. They took their daughter Nut, and fled. According to the myths, they travelled to Nubia. But first - Shu was forced to kill his son, Geb."

Daniel pointed once again to the figure of Shu. "This, the man Shu appears to be standing on, is Geb. According to my translations, Geb was sent by Ra to destroy Shu, Tefnut and Nut. But Shu prevailed."

Montoya frowned and asked, "Why would Ra care? We already know that there was much in-house fighting, that many of the gods splintered off. Why would Ra want all three dead?"

"Therein lies the mystery. But a mystery hinted at in Tefnut's words. Yes," Daniel nodded at a look from Ray Montoya, "the hieroglyphics you found were apparently written primarily by Tefnut. But the hints also came from these drawings you made, Ray.

"Shu and Tefnut knew that before making their -- escape -- if you will, they'd need something to protect their new world. They combined the elements of the wind and water to create a weapon."

Daniel's expression would have told anyone interested, just how distasteful this was to him. He looked at Hammond and said, "The weapon basically sweeps the target area, be it a Gou'ald mother ship, a planet, a city, a house, or a person, and dries it to such a brittle consistency that when the weapon's next blast hits, a blast of -- moisture -- which is the only way to describe the word used in the writings, the target disintegrates. Turns to dust. And Shu used it on -- his son, Geb."

He waited a moment, then anticipating a specific question, said, "General, as you know, P3C-392 was one of the planets on the list Jack inputted into the computer when he had the knowledge of the Ancients. The Gou'ald don't know of its existence, but I would guess that they are looking for it -- hard. This also means -- or we can conclude that it means, the Ancients shielded Shu, Tefnut and Nut."

Daniel pulled out a chair and sat down. He was finished.

There followed several minutes of silence as everyone in the room took in Daniel's information. Daniel watched Ambrose. The man's team had found the pyramid and the writings, but SG1 should be going in for the follow-up. Not that SG3 wasn't qualified, they were. Montoya was almost as smart as Sam.

Damn, Daniel wished Feretti's team had been given P3C-392. Feretti would have gladly turned it over to Jack.

"Doctor Jackson, did the writings say where this weapon can be located?" Ambrose asked, his voice carefully neutral.

"No, but there is enough here to lead the team -- that goes back -- to additional writings. And the -- how -- of the weapon is here." Daniel kept his voice equally neutral.

Hammond cleared his throat, then said softly, "Doctor, would you be able to accompany SG3 back to P3C-392? It looks as though you'll be needed to do more translations."

Daniel turned to look at the General and he could see the regret in Hammond's eyes -- and the need. Slowly, he nodded.

Why the hell not?

After all, who wants to live forever? Not him.

Daniel sat at the table in the cafeteria, a bowl of tepid soup and an equally tepid cup of coffee in front of him. He was methodically crumbling crackers in the soup, a task he'd been at for the last five minutes. As the pieces of cracker floated, swelled, then sank, he wondered why no one, not even the General, had asked what had happened to Shu and Tefnut. And their daughter. He could have told them. If they'd wanted to know.

Jack knocked on the open door before stepping into Hammond's office. "Sir? You rang?"

George glanced up, then sat back in the chair as he waved Jack in. As his 2IC took his usual seat, Hammond said, "You might want to read this, Colonel."

Uh-oh. Colonel. Not Jack. Not good. Jack took the offered booklet and immediately recognized Daniel's handiwork. He flipped it open, read the first few paragraphs, then said, "This sounds like what we've been looking for, weapon-wise. NID should be thrilled."

"They are, as is the President. Keep reading." Puzzled, Jack kept reading. He was halfway through when he said without looking up, "What happened to this Shu and his -- soul mate?"

"I don't know, Ambrose didn't ask. Jack, I want SG1 to be -- the backup on this one." Jack closed the file, dropped it on the General's desk, stood up, then said easily, "No problem, Sir, we can be ready --"

He froze. Frowned. "Sir, did you just say backup on this one?"

Hammond locked eyes with Jack. "Yes, Colonel, that's what I said. And I'm -- sending Doctor Jackson with SG3." Jack sat back down. "This should be SG1's, General. And it most certainly should not be SG3's."

"They found it, Jack."

Hammond leaned forward and Jack recognized the body language. It was his, "give me a break here, Jack" pose. The one he took when he didn't want to do what he was about to do.

"Jack, Ambrose earned this and I'm not going to take it away from him. SG3 goes today at fourteen hundred hours. But - I want you and your team to stand-by. I'll be sending you through - after five hours - unless SG3 returns prior to that deadline." Jack recognized the gesture for what it was - the only way Hammond could get SG1 involved. They both knew it would take longer than five hours to find what SG3 would be looking for, let alone do the translations. Hell, from the report he'd just perused, it was an hour walk back to where SG3 had found the hieroglyphics to begin with. He'd have to accept the deal. It was better than nothing, not to mention that it had been an order.

"Yes, Sir. Understood."

When he didn't rise right away, Hammond said, "Well, Colonel?"

"Daniel. Why is he --"

"The hieroglyphs were, according to Ambrose, difficult. A mixture of dialects or languages. I'm sure that others could do the work, but not as fast, nor as accurate as Doctor Jackson."

"I see." Jack couldn't argue that fact. No way. Truth was truth. He started to rise, but Hammond stopped him. "Jack, we need to talk."

Uh-oh. Jack. This was not the good "Jack", but the "son, what have you done now", Jack. He sat back down.

"In the last weeks, Doctor Jackson has offered, volunteered, whatever word you want to use, his services to other SG teams on their missions. He's now constantly requested whereas months ago it would have been inconceivable for an SG team to "borrow" SG1's archeologist. What's going on?" Jack found it difficult to maintain eye contact with his friend -- and boss. Finally, he said, "I'm not sure, Sir."

"When was the last time you saw Daniel?"

"A week ago, after our return from --"

"A week ago? A week ago?"

"Yes, Sir. When his door is closed, well, you know what that means. And since our return -- it's been closed."

"Colonel O'Neill, a closed door, any closed door, has never stopped you from checking in on your teamates. I repeat "What's going on?"

"Sir, Daniel and I will -- correct -- whatever it is -- we need to -- correct."

"Go see him, Jack. He looks like hell, his briefing today was -- brief. I'm worried."

"And yet you're sending him with--"

"I have no choice, Jack. No choice."

"You know how Ambrose feels about--"

"Yes. The same way you once felt. He has little use for civilian scientists. But this particular civilian, well, he knows damn well he needs him." Jack saluted and was dismissed. He turned on his heel and walked out. He paused in the corridor. He supposed now would be a bad time to check in on Daniel. Yet, considering that his archeologist was going off-world in two hours, now would be a perfect time.

But he wasn't looking forward to it. As he took the elevator down, he closed his eyes and thanked God that he was alone. He really didn't know what was wrong between him and Daniel, he only knew that Daniel had changed. And not in the best way.

Okay, okay, he'd changed as well.

Jack rubbed at his eyes, the ran his fingers through his short hair, leaving it slightly spiked. Damn.

He missed -- Daniel, the old Daniel. He missed him. So why -- was he pushing him away?

The elevator stopped and opened. Jack debated with himself, then shrugged and stepped out. He turned right and headed for Daniel's office, fully expecting to see the door closed. It wasn't. He paused, looked in. Daniel was standing by the counter, his backpack in front of him. Daniel's eyes were closed, his hands resting on the pack. Jack almost gasped out loud, but he bit down on his lower lip, then quickly backed away and moved to the wall.

He could feel it. The heat. The pounding pulse. And he recognized it. In one quiet moment, he recognized what he'd been feeling for months. Feelings he'd spent the last twenty years stomping down. The feelings, desires, and wants -- of his youth. Feelings that belonged to the man he couldn't be. Feelings belonging to a man he'd killed off years ago. There was no way in hell that he could face Daniel now. Now fucking way.

Jack hurried away from the open door. He needed -- solitude. Balance.

Daniel opened his eyes and steadied himself. He glanced down at his pack, then shut it. He was ready. But first, he needed to meet with General Hammond. Just because Ambrose was an asshole was no reason his team should go into something blind.

"Sir, Doctor Jackson is here to see you."

"Show him in, Sergeant." Hammond hoped this wasn't bad news, or Daniel changing his mind. He looked up as the younger man walked in. As he waved him down into the seat that Jack had vacated not so long ago, he said, "Doctor Jackson. Is there a problem?"

"Yes, Sir. And I realize -- that I'm partly to blame. I should have spoken up in the briefing. About Shu and Tefnut." Hammond's eyes narrowed, then he smiled wryly. "Ah, yes. The question Ambrose didn't ask. I take it that what happened to them could impact the mission?"

"Well, it's possible. You see, I think they, well, at least Shu, was killed by their daughter."

"I don't see how that could be of significance here. Haven't you said many times that the children of the gods usually rose up against them? And from what I read, Nut was quite young when her parents took her to Nubia. It was also quite evident from our investigation that the planet is devoid of any living souls. So Nut couldn't be a danger, correct?"

"In a way, sir. But you see, the writings, the final few glyphs, were Nut's. She wrote about how she used the device on her own father. But it isn't clear what happened to Tefnut, let alone Nut. If she left the planet, was forced to run, obviously without the device, it's very possible she's out there."

"Doctor Jackson, it's been thousands of years, correct?" At Daniel's nod, Hammond continued. "And no one has returned to that planet for the weapon. Wouldn't that indicate that Nut is dead? Of no danger to us?"

"It could."

"But you don't that think that's what it means, I take it?"

"No, Sir, I don't. Nut was, by my count, a teenager when she killed her parent. In translating her, she comes across as being particularly strong and intelligent -- and not even remotely aligned with her parents' views. As evidenced by the fact that she--"

"Killed them," Hammond offered dryly. Daniel gave him that little wiggle of his head that signaled embarrassment, then went on.

"She was intelligent enough to "get out of Dodge," as Jack would say, and intelligent enough to know that lying low would be in her best interest. She could be anywhere, as anyone. But if she's alive and if she aligns with a powerful Gou'ald--"

"I think I'm getting the picture. But the odds are with us, wouldn't you agree, Doctor?" Daniel couldn't argue with that -- exactly. He shrugged. Hammond rose, signifying that the meeting was at an end. "I'll ensure that Ambrose is aware and keeps an eye out. Thank you, Doctor." Daniel walked out.

Jack got the door closed, then, in an unprecedented act, he locked it. He sat down at his desk and noticed absently that his hands were shaking. He ran a finger over his upper lip. Yep, he was sweating too. Well, fuck. No wonder. His neat little world -- destroyed in an instant. One brief look at Daniel in his office and years of closet fortification -- gone. Oh, he was still in the closet, but now - he wanted out. Desperately.

Or at least he wanted to be in the closet with Daniel.

Unaccountable anger as exhibited toward one highly intelligent archeologist now made sense. Transference of deep, dark, pleasurable thoughts to one Samantha Carter, now made sense. Even as his 2IC, she was safer to lust after than Daniel. A hell of lot safer. For one thing, neither of them would have ever acted on any supposed feelings. Sam had made that crystal clear on several occasions. It wasn't even a toss-up for her. She'd choose her career over Jack O'Neill any day of the week.

And he'd choose his over her. The knowledge of which did nothing to dampen his complete utter wanting of Daniel. Whom he would choose over his career.

Jack got up and went into the small bathroom. He turned on the water and cupped his hands. Letting the cold liquid rise, he bent over and splashed his face. Straightening, he looked at himself in the mirror. Damp, bloodshot eyes, creased face, spiked hair -- You're lying to yourself, Jacko. You don't just want Daniel. You -- love -- him. "God help me, I do," he said to his reflection. He needed to talk to Daniel. Now.

Daniel stood in the gate room, ready. Montoya stood next to him, eyes glued to his commander. As Ambrose spoke quietly to Hammond, and the gate spun as chevrons were locked into place, Daniel had no thoughts of death. Death was accepted now, so why waste time thinking about it? Daniel was content to wait. "Chevron seven, encoded." At the sight and sound of the wormhole establishing, Ambrose saluted Hammond, then moved forward with the rest of SG3, Daniel bringing up the rear. Another mission. Another day.

Daniel stepped through to the other side.

Jack didn't make it. He'd run like hell, barreled into the gate room -- just in time to see the event horizon disappear.

For a minute he stood trying to catch his breath, and staring at the spot where Daniel had been--

Daniel stepped out and into blazing sun and pale sands. He pulled up his sunglasses and put them on, then gazed around him. His first thought was that he was on Abydos - but then he took a deep breath and thescent hit him -- Egypt.

He moved unsteadily down the five stone steps and took another breath.

God, Egypt. This planet smelled like - Egypt. He closed his eyes and inhaled again, a small smile tugging at his lips. A breeze brushed his face, gentle and familiar. There had to be a river near by, yet nothing had shown on any of the tapes, nor in any of SG3's reports. Montoya was adjusting his glasses and Daniel tapped his shoulder.

"Yeah, Daniel?"

"A river. Is there a river anywhere near by?"

"Not that I'm aware of, no."

Strange, he thought. The scent, the feel of the breeze, the whole sense of the place yelled out water.

Ambrose raised his arm and brought it down and they moved out.

The team had an hour's hike on desert ground, the surface temperature, a balmy 90 degrees, but for Daniel, it was like home. Thirty minutes into their walk, the air changed, but Daniel expected that and he suspected that he was the only one who'd noticed. If there was water, they were getting closer, and yet, that appeared to be impossible.

As they walked, the scenery never changed, but Daniel would have sworn that he could smell the plants and rushes of the Nile even though there wasn't a plant in sight. No birds flew overhead and the only sounds to be heard were the sounds of boots hitting ground, the occasional grunt and the unique sound of wind on sand, a kind of whoosh, playful and welcoming. Daniel knew he was smiling. And he had no intention of stopping.

As he walked and enjoyed, he mulled over the strange turn his life had so recently taken and, in spite of the hopelessness of such thoughts, his smile remained.

In spite of missing Jack and in spite of understanding that the reason he missed him so much was that -- he was -- in love with the man, he realized that there was a certain freedom in loving someone you can never have. There was also a certain freedom in his calm acceptance of death. Somehow, they went together. Loving Jack and death. He just wasn't sure how.

Shifu came to mind and Daniel wondered if the other path the boy had spoken of -- was death. Or maybe not death -- but ascension? A life totally different from what he knew now? A path to a new kind of enlightenment?

Well, the path he was currently on was certainly going nowhere fast. Sometimes it felt as though he were stuck in this box and no matter which side he tried, the same future stretched out before him. A future where Jack was nothing more than a back, walking in front of him. Where the only purpose of each off-world mission was finding a way to destroy, and where his gun was needed more than his mind.

God, it could all be so much more. Instead of a cold back, Daniel could share a hidden smile or a touch that promised intimacy later. He could revel in the sight of a much loved face hovering above him, brown eyes so full of love and laughter that the moment couldn't hold it all. And off-world, each new planet could offer a wealth of knowledge, cultures, and history, thus providing a compass for his world. If the people of Earth were to really become the Fifth Race, Daniel doubted that it could be done through the search for bigger and more glorious weapons.

It was funny really. After giving up Shifu the first time and realizing that his place was with the SGC, that he was needed by the SGC, he'd had this funny, ridiculous notion. A notion that he and Jack, Sam and Teal'c, that the whole SGC, were the foundation for the future of mankind. The path to enlightenment had to start somewhere, he'd reasoned, so why not with them?

Just shows to go you.

Daniel wondered if it was too late for Earth. He knew it was too late for him, he was too tired. The arguments had been said and lost, the looks of pity, disdain or puzzlement were no longer tolerable. He could change, he knew that. He could become what Jack, what they all, wanted. He was close now.

Daniel "Rambo" Jackson. He grinned. Yeah, he was close, too close. He was losing himself. Which was never a good thing.

Daniel had to smile again. Like what the hell difference did it, or would it make, to anyone, anywhere, if Daniel Jackson became -- someone else? Hadn't he already decided that he was a biohazard? If all those other realities managed without Doctor Daniel Jackson, well, so could this one, right?

Fine.

So "Rambo" Jackson it was. Or maybe -- "Action" Jackson; lean, mean fighting machine?

Oh joy.

Of course, there was the added bonus that "Action" Jackson wasn't likely to last too long. Not that he couldn't be game, he could. But it wouldn't, ultimately, be enough. Something inside would always hold just enough back -- that he'd get himself killed.

Ah, too bad. But historical. Can't beat history, can you?

Slowly he began to hum low, too low for the others to hear. As the music formed in his mind, he recognized the song and mentally sang the words--

"What is this thing that builds our dreams, yet slips away from us. Who wants to live forever, who wants tolive forever...."

Jack shoved his hands into his pockets, sighed, turned around and walked out of the gate room.

In five hours -- he'd have his chance.

"There you go, Doctor Jackson. The pyramid."

Daniel followed the line made by Montoya's arm and nodded. Ten minutes later they were out of the sun and in the cool darkness of the small structure.

Daniel flipped on his flashlight, as did the others. Lieutenant Elvis made her way to the equipment they'd left behind on their first visit. Daniel heard the whir of the generator and seconds later -- it might as well have been daylight.

And he got his first real look. Mouth open, he began to walk around the walls.

Color. Brilliant color. The photos in black and white had not done justice to these hieroglyphics. And God, how well preserved they were! Damn, Montoya should have had a video camera--

Ambrose and his team stood silently by as Daniel walked. This was old hat to them and truth be told, meant nothing until Daniel could tell them where to find the weapon.

When Daniel got to the south wall, he stopped. Eyes wide, he put out his hand to touch, then drew it back. "Why weren't there pictures of this wall?"

Ambrose stepped forward. "No need. It was obvious that nothing there alluded to the device. Even to my untrained eyes, it's nothing but drawings of people enjoying a picnic by a river."

Daniel didn't turn around as he said without any attempt to hide his disdain, "A river that, according to you, doesn't exist. Yet here it is. And I suppose you missed this?"

Daniel pointed to another pyramid, the twin to the one they were in, that rose up behind the figures enjoying, as Ambrose had said, their picnic.

"I didn't miss it, I just didn't deem it important. The tapes don't show a river, so how could those drawings represent this planet?"

God, the military mind. Daniel counted to ten, then said patiently, "This figure, recognize him?"

All three members moved closer, until they were almost looking over his shoulder. Elvis said, "That's Shu. I recognize the feather."

"Very good. And this?"

"Tefnut. The head of a lioness," Mitchell offered.

"Exactly. But they're not alone. They're surrounded by figures, and here," he tapped lightly and carefully, a much smaller figure in the center, "is Nut. But no Geb. No son."

Montoya nodded, his eyes bright with understanding. "No Geb means this represents their time after their escape. And the people with them, their followers?"

"Followers, no. But when they left Ra, they rescued others. As many as would come. This represents a celebration."

"So it had to take place - here," Elvis added.

Daniel nodded, then continued to make his way around the room. After ten minutes, his puzzlement grew. The story was here. All of it, the majority told by Tefnut, the final part, by Nut. And yet -- so self contained. Nothing to indicate where they lived, where they loved and died -- other than -- where Daniel was standing right now.

Which meant -- rings? So this isn't Nubia? Only the -- what? The gateway to Nubia?

No, this had to be Nubia. He'd smelled the river. It was here. It had to be--

Daniel tore his eyes from the glyphs and began to really look at the room. He walked out into the center and slowly began to turn--

"Sir, what's he doing?" Captain Mitchell whispered.

"Hell if I know. This is Jackson."

Daniel turned--

The room wasn't built in perfect proportions, which was odd. The south wall was marginally longer than the rest, and yet--from the outside and from one's first glimpse inside, it appeared to be a perfect pyramid, with precise dimensions in and out.

But it wasn't.

His gaze swept over the east wall, then slowly, moved back. Daniel cocked his head. "This is strange," he mused, more to himself than to the others. "A phonogram by itself."

Ambrose shook his head. "And this is strange, why? And what the hell does a phonograph have to do with anything?"

"I can answer that, Sir," Lieutenant Elvis said. "See, hieroglyphs are divided into two groups, phono grams, which are symbols that denote sound, and ideograms, or glyphs that express objects or ideas. You need both to correctly deduce the significance of a phrase, to know its true meaning."

Ambrose looked at her as if she'd just sprouted two heads. She was his weapons expert. Ann Elvis grinned sheepishly and said shyly, "I -- I've attended a few of -- Doctor Jackson's lectures, Sir."

"Uh-huh. I see." He turned back to Jackson. "So what significance does a -- phono-gram -- have for us andour search for the device?"

"I suspect you wouldn't believe me if I told you, Colonel Ambrose, so why don't I -- try it out?"

Daniel walked over to the set of drawings, and the one lone phonogram, then waved the others to him. "If I'm right, you might want to stand by me?"

Suspicious and impatient, Ambrose nodded at the others and they moved to his side.

"Here's hoping I haven't lost my touch--"

Daniel put his hands to his mouth and a moment later a strange sound surrounded them. It sounded -- birdlike, only more -- sorrowful. Like a hawk, or--

The ground shook, the sand beneath their feet shifted and slowly the south wall seemed to recede. The very floor they stood upon shuddered, then -- the center of the room -- disappeared altogether.

The shaking stopped, the sand stilled. Ambrose stared. "What the hell--"

A stairway had opened in the floor. Huge, gaping, sand still spilling from the edges--

Captain Mitchell looked at Daniel with something akin to awe. "What was that sound?"

"Evidently - it was the mating call of the Horus-falcon. The sacred bird of Thoth."

Mitchell looked over Daniel's shoulder, then said, "The phonogram?"

Daniel nodded.

Ambrose walked the few steps to the stairway and looked down. "Jackson, are you saying the device is down --- there?"

"Nubia is down there, Sir. And yes, I think we'll findthe device as well."

There were no doubting Thomases left. Everyone picked up their backs and lined up - behind Daniel.

Daniel started down.

The first thing the team noticed was the smell. Or maybe lack of smell would have been more accurate. Instead of stale or rank, they got clean, fresh, and cool. Even more amazing was that as they traveled further down, everyone could hear the sound of water.

The steps took them, Daniel guessed, the equivalent of about three floors below the surface. When he hit bottom and turned, flashlight beam moving, the first thing that greeted him was the source of the rushing water.

An underground river.

"Which direction?" Ambrose asked, his voice barely above an awestruck whisper.

Daniel aimed to the left. The beam flashed over a wall where water could be seen flowing through a small cave-like opening. He swung his flashlight to the right and highlighted a long tunnel.

"Right. We go right," Ambrose said.

It was their only course. No one hesitated, they simply started walking. Less than fifteen minutes later -- their flashlights were no longer necessary. "Daniel, this isn't possible," Montoya said as he stared ahead at the obvious daylight that grew as they moved closer.

"Rey, the SGC is about the impossible."

They continued forward and eventually the tunnel opened up to the -- outside. Air, sky, clouds, sand, and the river flowing freely now as its path widened. And overhead -- birds flew.

The members walked out, each turning in different directions while slowly -- amazedly -- they removed their sunglasses, as if the dark shields were responsible for what they couldn't be seeing. But were seeing. Daniel was smiling, shades on top of his head,as he took it all in.

Nubia. The real Nubia.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder and he turned in the direction Lieutenant Elvis was pointing -- The other pyramid.

"It's the drawing, Doctor," she said, her voice filled with wonder.

"I think so, Lieutenant, I think so," he breathed out.

At that moment, for at least four members of the team, thoughts of weapons faded. They were seeing -- a miracle. The impossible. And they reveled in it, almost as excited as their scientific leader.

Ambrose was stunned, and -- afraid. This was beyond his ken, wasn't in his job description. Sure, he'd seen plenty in his two years with the SGC, but nothing, nothing like this. At that moment, all he wanted to do was get the weapon, wherever the hell it was, and get out.

"Let's head over to the pyramid, that has to be where it is, the device."

If no one seemed eager to go, he pretended not to notice. He started off, certain the others would follow.

The pyramid was almost a complete replica of the one above. The four walls were full of hieroglyphs, but this time, a series of shelves and cubbyholes had been carved into the center of all four walls. And on those shelves - Gou'ald technology. Daniel immediately recognized a zat, a ribbon device, a healing device - hell, they'd struck the Mother Lode.

He stood back and watched as Mitchell, Elvis and Ambrose went from item to item, touching each as reverently as if they'd been in a church. Daniel suddenly felt sick to his stomach.

It was possible that all the evil that was the Gou'ald was represented in this room - all but a sarcophagus. He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and turned his attention to the walls and the hieroglyphs.

These glyphs were different - darker in mood, the colors muted and heavy. While SG3 "oohed" and "aahed" over weaponry, he began to walk the room and mentally translate--

No mixed dialects here, just straight glyphs.

"This -- we shouldn't be able -- to be here. We shouldn't have been able to enter," he finally said.

Montoya turned from one large, shiny item. "Why? Wha t do you mean?"

Daniel pointed to a series of glyphs. "She protected this room, there, at the entrance. When Tefnut and Shu arrived, they took all that they'd used, all that was Gou'ald, and -- interned -- them here. Then Tefnut created a kind of -- seal -- around the entrance."

Everyone gazed at the entryway, then back to Daniel. Ambrose cleared his throat. "So how are we here?" He gave a little wiggle of his head and Daniel wondered if that was a regulation Air Force move or if Ambrose had stolen it from Jack? Of course, Jack's wiggle was much better.

"I'm not sure."

Montoya proved to be the brave one. He walked steadily to the entry and -- through it. Then he returned. "Okay, so we're not trapped either. That's always good news," he said with a grin.

Daniel returned the smile, then noticed something odd about another set of glyphs. He moved closer--

Understanding flooded through him. Seemed as though the Asgard weren't the only ones to come up with a system to block out those with symbiotes within.

"We were able to enter because we're not Gou'ald,"he said.

Lieutenant Elvis joined him and stared up at the drawings. "That's -- brilliant. Tefnut made sure that Gou'alds, the only ones who would be able to use these, couldn't. If somehow Ra found them here - or some other snake--"

Her voice trailed off as she found a hole in her theory. "But that would mean," she looked up at Daniel, "that if they were attacked, they couldn't use the weapons either!"

"I think," Daniel said softly, "I think Tefnut was ensuring that her daughter - couldn't use the weapons. They'd already experienced the turning of Geb - it wasn't so farfetched to believe that it could happen to Nut as she matured. Initially, there were no Jaffa, which meant that the symbiote had to be placed when the host was young, thus maturing with the host."

"Then how did Nut get her hands on what we're looking for and use it against her parents?" Elvis asked.

"Simple," Ambrose said with disgust, "the weapon isn't here. Besides, look around you. Nothing looks even remotely like something that destructive." Daniel gazed about him, taking in each item. All intricate, ranging in size from the palm-held ribbon device to the length of a staff weapon. But everything inside him, told him the device was here.

Tefnut had battled her daughter after seeing her beloved husband killed and there'd been no triumph in the glyphs left by Nut. Nothing showing her leaving with the device. So --

Tefnut must have been able to retrieve it, get it back in here--

Of course. That's it. That which can be turned on -- can be turned off. And then on again.

Daniel closed his eyes and mentally reviewed the glyphs of Nut's. Damn. So much to put together, so easy to misinterpret.

Daniel gazed down at the ground. He began to walk, scuffing at the sand, brushing it aside with his boot--

"What the hell are you doing, Jackson?" Ambrose demanded.

"She died in here. Tefnut. She died in here."

"Are you crazy?"

Daniel knelt down in the far corner and ran his hands through the sand. Montoya knelt next to him and watched, then began to do the same.

"Teeth, if I'm not mistaken," Rey said a moment later.

Daniel looked at what the scientist held in his palm and nodded. "Tefnut."

Lieutenant Elvis, almost bouncing in excitement, said, "I get it! Tefnut turned off the mechanism, came in with the device, and turned it back on again. But why not just--"

"She'd lost everything," Daniel said, his voice distant and far away. "She had nothing to live for. Her children - gone. Her beloved - gone. She came in, just as you said, then destroyed the control mechanism. She was content to die, knowing that at least her daughter could not have access to all this. Even in freedom, she and Shu could not escape their fate as Gou'alds.

"They created a terrible device, were forced to use it on their own son, then Tefnut watched as it was used on her soul mate, her husband -- "

"Live by the sword - die by the sword," Lieutenant Elvis whispered.

Not entirely apt, but close enough, Daniel thought. More like, "what price freedom?"

Ambrose walked to the corner where Daniel and Montoya still knelt and said, "So where's the fucking device?"

Daniel looked up into blazing green eyes and he almost cringed. Slowly he rose, moved past Ambrose, and started to walk around the room again, eyes critical. Feeling somewhat like Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail, he stopped in front of one cubbyhole.

Inside sat a rather innocuous item. It wasn't intricate or shiny, and was about twice the size of the microscope in his office. He reached in and lifted it out. It was heavy, but not so heavy that one person couldn't handle it. As he carried it to the middle of the room, he could feel the carvings on the sides of the item, as well as something infinitely more detailed. Slowly he set it down.

"This is it."

Ambrose walked over and raised an eyebrow. "That?" he said with disdain.

"This," Daniel said. "Think about it. The glyphs you found told how Shu used it on Geb. You saw the symbols for sunbeams radiating out from Shu. The drawings obscured the area in front of him, you only saw his face."

Ambrose waved Montoya over. "Is it possible, Rey?"

"Knowing what we know of Gou'ald technology, yes, I'd believe that they could create something as powerful -- and contain it within something this small. Look at a zat gun."

"How does it work, Jackson?"

Daniel looked over at Ambrose and frowned. "Wouldn't it be better to get this back to the SGC, then--"

"We're to test it here," Ambrose said coldly. "Now -how does it work?"

Déjà vu. Abydos all over again. Talk about full circle. Daniel felt something let go inside of him. Another path taken. "Give me twenty minutes. There are engravings on it. I'll need time to translate, to ensure everything matches what I translated earlier."

"Fine. I need some air anyway. Montoya, you stay--"

"No! This is -- no. I need quiet, good lighting and privacy."

"Fine. Mitch, you and Elvis set up the lights for the Doc, then leave him to his task. Rey, let's get some sun. This place gives me the creeps."

It was amazing how calm Daniel felt. He sat down cross-legged in the sand and regarded the device. He wondered vaguely if it could be turned on itself. He twisted it around until he could see the more detailed design he'd felt with his fingers. Ah, a locking mechanism. No key. This was good. No key, meant no one could use it. Except -- the scientists of the SGC were pretty inventive. He'd bet Sam would have this thing up and running in no time.

Daniel peered closer at the design of the lock and frowned. Why did it look familiar? He cocked his head and squinted -- Slowly he pulled several of the black and white photos of the pyramid above from his pack. He sorted though them until he found one particular picture: A representation of Shu, playing with his daughter, Nut, and around her neck, a chain. And dangling from the chain--a pendant. He looked closer --

It matched. Tefnut had put the key to the device around her own daughter? And why not? Who'd ever believe--

Yet - somehow - Nut had figured it out. Her symbiote matured, took control, or -- it had been a true meeting of minds. Children rebel against what they have--a child raised in the city yearns for the country and vice versa. And a Gou'ald raised in a private paradise, must yearn for -- the world.

As Daniel had figured earlier, Nut must have talked one of the others, one without a symbiote, to enter the pyramid and bring her the device. Daniel shook his head in sorrow as pain for Tefnut, Shu, Geb and Nut filled him. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he bent to the task of figuring out the damn machine.

When he was done and he'd matched the hows with the wheres, he concentrated on opening it. Two words were inscribed on what he'd figured to be the compartment housing the power source, the words: Shu and Tefnut.

Daniel rubbed his brow. He was running out of time. Shu and Tefnut. Tefnut and Shu.

"Damn. Could I be any more stupid?"

Dry wind, and moisture. Shu and Tefnut.

Daniel picked up a bit of dry sand, spit on it, rubbed it together between two fingers, then holding up the mixture, he blew gently.

The compartment door popped open.

Yeah, right. First he'd been Indiana Jones, now he was Bruce Willis. Which explained Hollywood. Gou'alds, all of them.

He slipped the power source out, marveling at its compactness. Without this, the machine would never work. No matter what they did.

Daniel stared at the small chip. Another path taken?

Dare he take it? Could he go against everything the SGC now stood for? Go against his -- friends? Jack?

He closed his hand over the chip. No one knew better than he how evil Goa'uld technology could be. How it could corrupt.

Another path -- taken.

But what to do with this? How could he destroy the power source? Daniel grinned. Three zaps with a zat. And if the energy of the zat gun fed the power source? Well, he'd die, but so would it. No problemo.

He set the power source down a few feet from the device, then hurried over to the zat, picked it up,and fired.

Once, twice, thrice.

No sound of significance, no debris, no evidence. He put the zat gun back.

By the time SG3 returned, Daniel Jackson was scribbling details of how to open the device into his notebook.

"Well?" Daniel looked up and into the impatient gaze of Colonel Ambrose.

"Everything matches and I can tell you how to work it. But -- no key."

"Key?"

Daniel turned the device to show Ambrose the lock. "The key was worn as a pendant by Nut. Wherever she is, there you'll find the key. But I suspect our people back home can get it going. Eventually."

"Fuck. All right. Fine. We take it and go back. Montoya, pack it up. We'll return later and retrieve the rest of this stuff. This," he indicated the device now in Rey's hands, "was our mission. Let's head home."

Jack stared out the observation window. One hour, thirty minutes left.

That was it. And if SG3 wasn't walking down that ramp--

The trip back was silent and uneventful. Daniel brought up the rear, kept his head down, and wondered at what he'd just done.

Who was he to make such a decision? Who said his path was the right one? Well, besides Shifu.

A child.

A child with all the knowledge of the Gou'ald.

Which didn't excuse what Daniel had done. Changing his path was hardly the same as changing the path of the SGC or Earth.

Damn, he was confused. He was only one man.

At that moment, Daniel would have given anything to have Jack in front of him. The Jack who knew. Who understood even when he pretended not to. The Jack whose dark eyes held so much more than he'd ever let on. The Jack who, in spite of being flippant, would have understood Shu and Tefnut, would have felt pain for them. Daniel wanted the Jack who'd made a decision regarding the Eudorans. Who'd decided in a split second, that not even Alar and all his knowledge had been worth allowing the man and his poison through the gate.

Oh, yeah, Daniel had known. He'd seen the look pass between Jack and Sam. Sure, Jack had made a decision Daniel never would have made, but still, Jack had made it. And been - hurt by making it. Daniel was pretty sure he'd never loved Jack more than at that moment, seeing him on the ramp, hearing him tell the General to close the iris, knowing full well what the SGC was losing. Daniel almost tripped as they entered the tunnel, so he quickly shut down his thoughts. He could do that -of late.

They started up, Ambrose several feet ahead. When they hit the top, the ground shook and SG3 jumped back, Daniel almost needing to throw himself, as the stairs quickly disappeared.

"Okay, that was close," he said breathlessly.

Rey smiled at him and said, "Close only counts in horseshoes, Daniel."

They exited the pyramid and started for the gate.

An hour later they reached their destination.

"Montoya, dial us home."

Rey started forward, but suddenly froze as the gate came alive and before anyone could move, five figures appeared. Two Gou'ald and three Jaffa.

It was funny how fast these kinds of things happen, Daniel thought. One minute; quiet, the next; surprise,and finally; the shooting.

Daniel might have been all right, except his gaze landed on one of the two Gou'alds - a woman. And he recognized her. Nut.

Those few seconds of shocked recognition cost him.

Hell was breaking all around him as, ducking down, Ambrose, Mitchell, Elvis and Montoya all began firing while they ran to take cover behind the dunes. On the stone deck holding the gate, the Jaffa did the same, exchanging fire as they moved. A blast struck next to Daniel and he hit the ground. He was unprotected.

The two Gou'ald, protected by their shield, walked down the steps and toward him. Daniel saw a Jaffa fall, thanks to a good shot by Elvis. Another Jaffa had a bead on Mitchell, but Rey took him out. Two Gou'ald, one Jaffa left.

The wormhole shut down and immediately Ambrose yelled out, "ELVIS, THE GATE!"

The lieutenant spurted for the DHD and the third Jaffa rose from behind the dune and took aim. Ambrose stood and fired at the same time. The Jaffa fell, Elvis didn't. She punched in but nothing happened.

By now, the two Gou'ald stood above Daniel. The golden head of armor disappeared, revealing the Gou'ald god. Daniel had never seen him before.

The man had pale, almost translucent skin and dark thick hair that flowed to his shoulders. Eyes the color of midnight blue stared down at Daniel. The Gou'ald smiled.

Turning so that the Gou'ald and Nut faced the gate, the god terminated the protective shield, then leveled a zat at Daniel. Eyes glowing brightly, he said, "We only want whatever you may have taken from this place. We have locked out your coordinates, you can not return home. Comply, and we will release the chaapa'ai and you may leave. Refuse and this one dies."

The Gou'ald grinned and fired the zat gun.

Daniel knew it was coming. The pain hit him, enveloped him in its tight hold. He didn't lose consciousness as the power of the gun coursed through him and his body jerked in pain, but he really would have liked to. He really would.

Ambrose stared at the tableau before him. At least Jackson's body had stopped jerking.

"You know the second one kills. Leave what you have taken."

Ambrose stared at the tall Gou'ald, then yelled, "ELVIS, DIAL THE COORDINATES FOR P3X-772!"

Elvis did as instructed. Moments later, the worm hole had been established.

"GO THROUGH NOW! MONTOYA, FOLLOW HER!" Both quickly dove through.

"THE DEVICE IS GONE, IT JUST WENT THROUGH THE GATE!"

Daniel heard Ambrose. Heard him tell the Gou'ald that he'd lost. He opened his eyes and stared up into the face of Nut. Hers flashed gold, and it was like staring into Sha're's eyes as Ammonet was killing him with the ribbon device.

He was going to die. He knew it. The device was gone, Ambrose and Mitchell were close enough to the gate to jump -- And he felt nothing. Here it was, at last. He closed his eyes and smiled.

The Gou'ald fired.

Ambrose watched as the Gou'ald fired the second time, then he pushed a stunned Mitchell toward the gate and both men jumped through.

The two Gou'ald stared at the gate. The Tauri were gone and so was what they'd come to claim. Thoth looked down at the body, then at his Queen. With a nod, they walked to the Chaappa'ai. Nut checked a device on her arm and showed him the results. "Good. We know where they are. We'll follow them once we have more soldiers."

Nut nodded, then pressed the seven symbols that would get them home. When the wormhole reestablished itself, they both stepped through and disappeared. The wormhole died.

Behind them, the wind carried the sand in small drifts and whorls, changing the face of the dunes -- and beginning to cover the body that lay on the barren planet, alone and otherwise -- undisturbed.

Jack hid his impatience well. The ring was moving, chevrons were being locked into place, steam rose from behind the great structure, yet all he wanted to do in the face of such a miracle was yell, "HURRY THE FUCKUP!"

He sighed instead.

Behind him, Sam was checking something, God only knew what, while Teal'c stood to his right, impassive as ever. Hammond was watching from the control room, just as worried, just as impatient, and hiding it just as well. The wormhole exploded out in its usual display of power and Hammond's voice floated down to them.

"SG1, you have a go."

Jack turned, shot him a smart salute (Daniel would have called it a smart assed salute), then said,"Let's go, guys."

The three of them moved up the ramp and stepped through.

-

Jack could honestly say that even though the five hour limit set by Hammond had come and gone, he still expected, when stepping out of the wormhole, to find nothing more than -- sand. He expected to have to walk the hour to the pyramid, and he expected to find SG3 bored out of their skulls while they waited for Daniel to translate.

He expected to find Daniel, knee deep in hieroglyphics and happy as a clam.

What he didn't expect was to find three dead Jaffa around the gate.

He most certainly didn't expect to find Daniel -- dead-- and so alone.

He sure as hell didn't expect his reaction. The gut-wrenching feeling that his body experienced when the message was sent to his brain that the figure lying in the sand -- so still and so very dead -- was, indeed, Daniel.

He didn't expect to almost fall as the message hit his consciousness. Didn't expect his legs to buckle the way they do when someone comes up behind you and knees the back of your -- knees.

He didn't expect the total darkness. Or the cold. Nor did Jack expect the yell.

The pain-filled, impossibly loud, "this-can't-be-happening-heart-ripped-from-the-chest-my-world-is-ending-kill-me-now" yell of, "NO!"

He also didn't expect it to come from him.

Jack ripped his glasses off, then tore the pack from his body, all as his boots hit the ground. He ran across the sand, then dropped to his knees, and without thought, lifted the lifeless form into his arms.

"Danny? Danny?"

But of course, there was no answer.

Jack was vaguely aware of the fact that Sam, eyes red and full of moisture, had sunk down next to him, and that Teal'c, his staff weapon ready, stood behind him, assuming his natural role of guardian.

Jack shook the still form and Daniel's arm flopped away from his body to land with his hand palm up in the sand.

"Danny?"

It seemed that was all Jack could say, so he stopped saying anything. Sam checked Daniel's pulse, then with tears coursing down her cheeks, shook her head.

It was the wrong thing to do. Or the very right thing. The shaking of that blonde head said so much. It said Daniel had no pulse. It said Daniel was dead. It confirmed what Jack already knew and what he had steadfastly refuse to accept.

Clarity returned with a rush. "Carter, dial up the Nox homeworld."

"Sir?"

"You heard me, dial up the Nox. I expect you know the symbols."

"But--"

Eyes pitch black with a mixture of such deep grief and anger that Satan himself would have cringed, Jack repeated softly, "The Nox. Now."

Sam pushed herself up, let her hand graze lightly over Daniel's hair, then she walked to the DHD and began to set the symbols for the Nox.

Teal'c bent low and said, "Please allow me, Colonel? I do not believe that you--"

Jack stared up into Teal'c face and in witnessing the depth of emotion behind the dark eyes, nodded. Teal'c knelt beside him and gently, tenderly, the body of Daniel Jackson was transferred from Jack's arms to Teal'c's.

Both men rose, Jack taking Teal'c's weapon. With Daniel secured in Teal'c's embrace, they joined a surprised Sam at the gate. Jack nodded and Teal'c went through, then Sam, then Jack.

The gate closed.

Galaxies away, SG3 came together on P3X-772.

Captain Mitchell, face pale, eyes glazed, sat on a boulder. Lieutenant Elvis and Captain Montoya remained at the gate, waiting for Doctor Jackson to come through.

Colonel Ambrose stared at the pack that contained the weapon.

"Sir? Doctor Jackson? He--"

"He won't be -- joining us, Lieutenant."

Elvis traded concerned and disbelieving looks with Montoya. Rey shook his head, then walked to where Ambrose stood. "Sir? What the hell happened? Where is Daniel?"

Ambrose picked up the pack and said coldly, "He's -- dead. The snakehead killed him. SG8 should be around here, somewhere. We'll connect up with them--"

At that moment the gate began to turn.

Ambrose cursed under his breath, then commanded, "Let's get the fuck away from here, NOW!"

Everyone moved, but Elvis had to grab Mitchell's arm. They ran toward a stand of trees and kept on running.

Somehow, all four of them knew that nothing good would be coming out of the gate.

The world of the Nox was as serene and peaceful as their first and until now, only visit. As they stepped down onto the grass, SG1 wasn't surprised when the gate disappeared. Jack looked around him as if he were lost. He sat down and held out his arms. Teal'c, uncertain, but with no choice, carefully knelt and placed Daniel in Jack's embrace. Sam took off her helmet and wiped her face with back of her sleeve.

"Sir, how did you know that--"

Eyes on Daniel's face, Jack said, "I've learned one thing in five years, Carter. If the very young rarely do as they're told, the very ancient are often too self-assured. A trait that seems to have brought down many an advanced race. Besides - it worked with the Tollan, didn't it? 'Bury the gate' my ass."

Gazing around them, Sam seemed at a loss. As Jack stroked a hand down Daniel's right cheek, he said, "Sit, Carter. Take a load off. They'll be here soon."

With a startled look at Teal'c, Sam sat. If any of them thought it strange that they were sitting in the middle of a field, holding their dead comrade -- well, no one mentioned it.

Sam wanted to touch Daniel, but somehow felt that she'd be trespassing on the Colonel. She also didn't know if being here would even work. They didn't know how long Daniel had been -- dead.

As if reading her thoughts, Jack said, "He's still warm. And I don't mean surface warm, from the sun, I mean -- warm."

She nodded, for no particular reason. "What do you think happened, Colonel?"

Eyes narrowing dangerously, Jack said, "SG3 left Daniel, that's what happened."

"Sir, you don't know--"

"Don't I, Major? Did you see any of SG3 lying dead in the sand? Do you see a wound on Danny? No."

"I believe he was shot twice with a zat, Colonel," Teal'c offered quietly.

If Jack heard Teal'c, he gave no sign. Instead, he seemed suddenly obsessed with straightening Daniel's clothes. "Did we leave his glasses back there?" he said, his voice almost hollow.

Sam, glad she'd picked them up after spotting them almost buried in the sand, reached into her pocket, pulled them out, then handed them to the Colonel. He took them and almost smiled.

"See, Danny? You can always count on one of us to find your glasses. You know that."

"Colonel O'Neill?" Teal'c whipped about, staff raised. But all that stood before them was Lya. She started forward, a gentle smile on her face -- then she spotted the still form in Jack's arms.

"Daniel?"

Jack gazed into her eyes and said in a voice reminiscent of a hurting boy, "Please, Lya? Please?"

A moment later Lya, Jack and Daniel disappeared.

Sam scrambled to her feet as Teal'c said, "Shall we?"

"As if we have a choice?"

They began to walk.

Jack sat with his head in his hands. Around him, the forest and quiet. Lya had left him here but taken Daniel with her to the others. Daniel had been dead -- too long. With unaccustomed tears in her eyes, she'd said, "It may too late, Colonel. It may be too late."

Then she was gone, Daniel with her.

It was all together possible that if the Nox couldn't bring Daniel back, Jack would die.

Probable, not possible.

Likely.

A certainty.

"Colonel?"

Jack raised his head, acknowledged Carter and Teal'c, then said, "She took him to the others. She said -- it might be too late."

The small clearing looked exactly as it had the last time. The small huts, the strange flowered bed, the food in front of Jack--

Sam took a seat opposite, Teal'c beside her. For a moment, no one spoke, then Jack, eyes on his boots, said, "A few days ago, Colonel Hatch spoke with me about Daniel. He said that Daniel was -- had become -- reckless. That was his word. Reckless. Not -- negligent, reckless, with his own life." Jack looked up and into Sam's sad eyes. "What do you suppose that was all about?"

"I don't know, Sir. But you have to admit, Daniel hasn't been -- himself -- lately."

"No, he hasn't. So who has he been, if not himself? Who would there be for him to be? What the hell am I saying, Carter? Help me out here?"

"It was not the DanielJackson I know that agreed to go undercover with the Tokra," Teal'c said quietly.

Jack felt as though a secret had just been revealed, but not to him. "What do you mean, Teal'c?"

"DanielJackson held a hatred for the Gou'ald, but several months ago, he released it. He understood the poison and what it could do to his soul. Yet, he agreed to be a part of what was an assassination plot. To murder -- in cold blood -- the system lords."

Teal'c cocked his head, then said, "I believe he was trying to be what he is not. I believe that he was trying to find his place in a world that has changed beyond his ability to accept or understand. And I believe that he understood that he could not be what he is not, nor could he find a place in this new world. I believe he fully intended to die on that mission."

Jack stared at his friend, then said dryly, "O-kay. That was -- enlightening. Not."

He ran his hand back through his short hair, then rubbed at his eyes. This was maybe too much. Too much -- thinking. Too much -- information.

"I think I see what Teal'c means, Sir."

"Carter, right now, it's Jack. I'm Jack, you're Sam. The Air Force is nowhere around. So Sam, what do you think you see?"

Carter smiled, a hurting, half-smile, then said, "The SGC has become -- less -- than what it was. We've been sent on more missions where Daniel had no purpose, Colo--Jack. No purpose other than to shoot his way, and ours, out of some mess. And while we've spent the last five years pretty much doing just that, we were explorers, not techno-hunters. We sought out other worlds, as much for what they could teach us as what they could -- share -- with us. We don't really do that anymore, do we, sir?"

"So what's the answer? If we didn't try to find weapons to fight the Gou'ald, if we didn't change, there wouldn't be an SGC right now. You know that."

Sam looked at her commanding officer and tried to see him, tried to see them all, as Daniel must see them --

In a voice so filled with sadness that both Jack and Teal'c felt the pain physically, Sam said, "We are close to becoming that which we fight. Daniel knows this. He knows that we are Sarita."

"Sarita?"

"The planet that was responsible for the destruction of the original Tollan homeworld. The Tollan's made contact with them, found them to be in a similar place as us. They shared their technology with them. And within a day--"

Her voice trailed off and Jack had to lean forward and tap her knee to get her attention. "And?" he asked, truly interested.

"And -- they used the technology and destroyed themselves. And in doing so, destroyed the Tollan homeworld."

President James Markham stood at the window of the White House dining room, hands clasped behind his back. He had two years left of his first term. As he stared out over the White House lawn, he accepted the fact that his future as President, that a second term, not to mention a successful first term, lay under Cheyenne Mountain.

With the Stargate.

He shook his head and turned back to his breakfast. His wife, Claire, sat watching him. James gave her asmile and took his seat.

"You were a million miles away, Jim."

"I can't deny that, Claire."

She picked up her spoon and dug a polite chunk out of her grapefruit. As she looked at the fruit, glistening on the silver, she said, "Have you ever considered -- actually -- going through it? Experiencing it?"

How the hell did she always know what he was thinking about and when? He grinned. "You are amazing, Mrs. First Lady. How did you know?"

Dark green eyes lifted to his hazel eyes, but she just shook her head hopelessly. "Twenty-two years, Jim. Twenty-two years."

"Burke was there, you know."

She nodded. "For about an hour. He hated it."

"Assassination attempts can have that effect on a President, Claire."

"He was already dying, Jim."

"Cancer can have that effect on a President."

She clucked her tongue. "Jim, go. Or maybe you think I don't know what you're thinking?"

Taking a piece of toast, he cocked his head. "Oh? So what am I thinking this time?"

"You're thinking it's the dream of a lifetime."

Claire Markham put down the spoon and fixed her husband with her best "let's be honest" look. "The SGC saved the world again." She shook her head, the loose red mane moving gently with the action. "Listen to me. I said again. They saved the world again. If that doesn't prove its worth, what in the name of all that is holy, could? You need to see it. It's time, Jimmy."

James Sullivan Markham, forty-fourth President of the United States of America stood and walked back to the large picture window. James Markham stood one quarter of an inch taller than Abraham Lincoln, making him the tallest in history. He was eight months younger than Kennedy, which made him the youngest President in history. He was a Democrat and his vision for the United States was more in line with a Star Trek episode than real life. Or at least it had been.

But then three days after his initial swearing in, he'd been informed of a small project in Colorado.

"Small indeed," he'd laughed when Timothy Logan, his number one man, had told him of Star Gate Command.

Suddenly a United Earth and a Federation of Planets wasn't so farfetched. Suddenly all the horrific compromises he'd made in order to sit in the White House, all the layers of himself he'd been forced to bury in the effort of running for President, became worth it.

As the weeks of his presidency flew by, he spent an inordinate amount of time reading the mission reports of the SGC, especially the lead team, SG-1, as commanded by Colonel O'Neill. One person's reports had truly captured Markham's interest, namely Doctor Daniel Jackson.

In Jackson, Markham had found a kindred spirit. It was especially odd that in the last two years, he'd never had the opportunity to meet the man whose own thoughts so closely paralleled his own, not to mention that Jackson was responsible for opening the secrets to the gate.

But then Kinsey and the battle to preserve his presidency all but drowned out the dream for the future of the gate -- and mankind. He'd found himself having to make more and more compromises in order to stay afloat, to keep Kinsey at bay. The times he'd had to turn his back on General Hammond or Colonel O'Neill had torn him apart. And then Claire, one night after a State dinner, had said, "Go, go to Cheyenne Mountain. Go through the stargate."

And now she -- and he -- were thinking the same thing-- again.

Was it time? Did he dare even consider going through the stargate?

"I believe it is time to visit Colorado, Claire. You game?"

Claire Elizabeth Pontiac Markham, beloved wife of President James Sullivan Markham, joined him by the window. Sliding her arm around his trim waist, she said, "I am most definitely -- game. But only if I accompany you when you decide to take that walk. And I'm assuming you plan to do just that?"

Eyes a million miles away, James Sullivan Markham, forty-fourth President of the United States - nodded.

Lya stood over Daniel Jackson, hovering, almost afraid to leave him. It had been close, very close, but here he was -- alive -- asleep, his body exhausted, but alive. Shortly, she would return him to his comrades, but for now, she watched over him.

As she hovered, he moaned slightly, then turned. She leaned down and placed her cool hand on his forehead. His eyes opened and she could tell his vision was poor.

"Ja-ck?"

"He is here, Daniel. I will take you to him shortly. You are well, but need to rest."

Confused blue eyes gazed about him before landing back on Lya. Then they closed and one tear escaped. She touched it, stopped its flight down his cheek and held it up to her face. She did not understand. "Daniel, you are alive. You will survive."

He shook his head, then turned away from her.

A soldier's memory was a good one. A good soldier's memories were even better. They could see old battles fought and comrades die over and over again. Moments of their lives were aptured for all time.

Jack was a good soldier.

As he sat in the middle of the forest of the Nox, his mind played out the last five years as if it were yesterday, but always -- he returned to the beginning; his first glimpse of Daniel.

Arms bulging with maps, glasses sliding down his nose and that silly excited grin on his face. And later, his wonder at seeing the gate for the first time, a wonder that not even Sam had matched her first time. Later, as Daniel had come out of the pyramid with Ra, Jack had understood immediately what Daniel was supposed to do.

He could remember staring up at this -- geek, and seeing so much intelligence burning bright in those eyes staring down at him. Intelligence and sorrow.

Daniel had known he was going to die -- again. He'd had no intention of killing Jack and his men on the steps of the pyramid that day. With or without Skaara's intervention, Daniel had already planned out his movements, his final act. And it had been so obvious that he'd choreographed it. The surety of his motions, the way he brought the weapon up--all a dead giveaway to Jack.

Yes, he'd intended to die again that day.

And later, Jack could clearly remember the look on Daniel's face as they'd stared at each other before Jack had gone through the gate and home. A look that said a valuable friendship had been formed, strong and inviolate, even though neither believed they'dever see each other again.

But perhaps Jack's favorite memory had come after stepping through the gate on Abydos one year later. Seeing Daniel in the robes of the Abydosian, his hair longer and lighter, his eyes alight with real joy, his smile wide and open. Jack hadn't been able to resist passing him for Skaara. It had been -- too easy. Too fun.

As Jack remembered his past with Daniel, he tried to find one moment that seemed to define Doctor Daniel Jackson. There had certainly been moments of great sacrifice and pain, as well as moments when his incredible intelligence came up with the answer everyone needed. But was there one moment alone that should have told Jack everything about Daniel?

It came to him, and like his best memories of Daniel, it too was in the beginning. It was a moment that said more clearly than any other, just who Daniel Jackson was.

It was the moment when the other Abydosians had surrounded Daniel after he'd told them that he would go, would leave them to find Sha're and Skaara. Jack remembered the touching. How each one had to touch Daniel, not wanting to let him go--

They'd known what Jack hadn't, felt what Jack only now could allow himself to feel.

Jack closed his eyes and dropped his face into his hands, oblivious of Carter and Teal'c. Aw, God, Danny. Why? He'd known how Daniel had come to feel about him. He'd known. And Jack had -- ignored it. Tried to break it, destroy it. Why?

Because how could he live with it otherwise? How could he go through the gate with Daniel, see Daniel, love Daniel, knowing that Daniel felt the same?

How could they both exist in this world when the world would not allow them to be together?

So Jack had made the decision for both of them.

Hadn't that been the noble thing to do?

God, what a crock. At least he knew it now. While he couldn't pretend to know what the future held now, he did know one thing: If Daniel was returned to him alive -- he'd keep him this time. He'd learned his lesson -- the hard way.

"Colonel--" Sam's voice trailed off as Lya materialized in front of the small hut.

Jack jumped to his feet. "Lya?"

Smiling, she wiggled her fingers at them and they followed her.

Inside, Daniel lay -- asleep.

"It was not easy, Colonel O'Neill. His energy was nearly gone." She gazed from O'Neill to Sam to Teal'c, then said, "Please, stay as long as you need. When you are ready -- we will talk."

Lya was gone. Jack blinked, then hurried to Daniel's side. He knelt before the bed and placed his hand over Daniel's heart. He closed his eyes and smiled.

Daniel could smell -- flowers -- wild, exotic-smelling flowers. He could buy that. Just not in Hell. Why did he not think Hell would have wild exotic flowers? On the other hand, since when did he believe in Hell?

He moved slightly and sighed. Something beneath him was -- soft. Incredibly so. Should he open his eyes? And hadn't he already done that once? He tried to remember--

Lya.

Ah-ha. The Nox were -- heaven? He'd died and -- gone to the Nox?

No way.

He opened his eyes. Shadows, vague but suggestive of plant life, vines and flowers, and something heavy on his chest. Daniel looked down.

Okay. This was not right. Unless he was crazy, which was altogether possible, that was Jack's head, on his chest. He lifted one hand and placed it gingerly on the short spiky hair, salt and pepper -- soft --yep, it was Jack.

Daniel turned his head and immediately spotted Sam and next to her - Teal'c, who was the only one awake.

The Jaffa smiled and quietly rose. When he stood above Daniel, he said softly, "I am glad to see you, DanielJackson. Do you need anything?"

Daniel looked back down at Jack, then let eyebrow rise in question. "He fell asleep like that. I made one attempt to move him and he threatened my -- future efforts at having-- offspring."

Daniel smiled. Now that sounded like Jack. Just not about him. Daniel finally noticed that Teal'c was looking at something and he followed his gaze down to his own hand, which was gently petting Jack's head. He stopped.

"Should I wake Colonel O'Neill, DanielJackson?"

Doubting that he was up to that, Daniel shook his head. "No, no, let him sleep. He won't be able to walk when you do wake him and that should be adequate payment for threatening your ability to have -- offspring."

Teal'c smiled. A genuine, broad grin. "It is good to have you back, DanielJackson."

Jack sniffed, then wiped his mouth. He'd been drooling. He yawned, then lifted his head. When he closed his mouth, he looked around, then down-- and into Daniel's blue eyes.

"You drooled all over my shirt."

"Not exactly the first words I'd expect from a man whodied -- again."

"Can't help that. You drooled all over--"

"Yeah, yeah, your shirt." Jack took Daniel's hand and leaning down a bit, placed it on his own head.

"Okay,what do you see?"

"Hair, Jack. I see and feel hair. You'll be happy to know that you're not going bald either."

"What color is my hair?"

"Um, you know, kind of --"

"Would that be gray, Danny boy? Wouldn't you agree that my hair is mostly gray?"

"Mm, yes."

"What color was it two years ago?"

"Umm, kind of -- brown."

"Three years ago?"

"Kinda brown."

"Four years ago?"

"Brown -- er."

"Last year?"

"Umm, that would be -- less brown."

"Huh-uh. Less brown. I'm too young for this kind of gray hair, Daniel. You are responsible for this gray hair, Daniel. Not Carter, not Teal'c, not Hammond, nor Frasier. Not Maybourne, or Simmons, or Kinsey. Not Apophis, nor Hathor. You can basically forget Ra, Set, Sokar, the Tokra, the Tollan, the Asgard or the Nox. Gate jumping isn't responsible. You are responsible." Daniel shifted and tried to sit up, but Jack pushed him none too gently back. "Stay down, I'm not done."

"Oh, yes you are, Colonel O'Neill."

"Oh no I'm not, Doctor Jackson. I can't take it anymore. You almost didn't make it this time. It was close -- way too close. From now on, we set a few new ground rules. From now on, you are NOT to be loaned out to anyone. You travel with NO other SGC team except SG1. And from now on, if you die, I die with you. Is that understood?"

"Jack--"

"Is that understood?"

"Are you -- nuts?"

"Yes, but that's another discussion. Now, do you understand?"

"You die with me?"

"Look Daniel, it's like this; we either live together or we die together. Only options. Whichever it is, it's together."

"Together?"

"Together."

"Just like that?"

"Just like that."

"So that's why you felt that it was okay to drool on my shirt?"

"Yep."

"I see," he said softly. Daniel attempted to look past Jack and when he couldn't, he asked, "Where are Sam and Teal'c?"

"Outside. Eating. Why?"

Daniel reached up and grabbed Jack's shirt in his fist, then hauled him down until Jack's face was inches from his own. "This is why, you jackass."

Daniel kissed him. Not that he believed for a minute any of what Jack had said. Or if he did, well, Daniel knew he was expendable. But hell, right now, he'd take what he could get--

He could feel Jack's lips, slightly cracked from lack of moisture, but the man's mouth was pretty terrific. Daniel moved his hands up to Jack's head and while he moved his left hand to Jack's neck, he let his right brush over the gray hair.

They parted, hot breaths blowing in each other's faces, then Jack said, "Aw, Danny--"

Daniel moved over and Jack got the idea. He climbed onto the bed with Daniel, then covered the younger man's body with his own.

"I love you, Danny. I've loved you for a while but didn't think I could ever have this."

The words penetrated, but Daniel chose to ignore them. He was too close to having so much, that even if he had it for only an hour, it would be enough. He kissed

Jack quiet.

Clothing had to be discarded, both men needing to feel skin. When shirts, pants, and boxers were history, Jack kissed as much of Daniel as he could, and was pleasantly surprised to find Daniel trying to do the same to him. They both moved up and down, their cocks in perfect alignment to allow the friction to tease at them.

Jack wanted to see more of Daniel, so he slid down the strong, pale body until he reached Daniel's groin. He squinted, then smiled.

"So fair--" he said, his voice almost a whisper. "What color is this, Danny boy?"

Groaning, Daniel lifted his head and said, "What, my dick? Well, I'm guessing - same color as yours--"

"Ha-ha. No," he kissed a patch of pubic hair close to Daniel's inner thigh, "this."

"Aw, jeesh, Jack--" Daniel dropped his head back and groaned again. Who bothered about such things anyway? And hadn't Jack seen him in the showers?

"Do you have any idea how hard it's been for me? After missions, always taking the farthest shower, trying not to look, catching glimpses and wondering -- just how fair is my Danny?"

"You dick."

"Strawberry blond? No, darker than that. Yet--"

"You gonna do something down there, or what?"

Jack grinned.

"AWGODJACK!"

Teal'c lifted his head. Across from him, Sam frowned.

"Teal'c? Was that--"

"I believe it was. It would appear that--DanielJackson is awake--"

"He doesn't sound too -- happy with Jack."

"I was thinking -- that DanielJackson sounded --very happy with O'Neill."

Jack lay half on top of him, half on the bed. He was asleep. Daniel ran his hand up and down the long back, then across the broad shoulders. He knew it wouldn't last, but if this was his "one sweet moment", then he would accept it, let it happen. He knew that forever wasn't for him. But he had this -- now -- and it was more than all the other Daniels, in all the other realities, had ever possessed.

It would be enough.

Daniel let his eyes drift shut, then he remembered.

Nut.

SG3.

The device.

"Jack?" He pushed at the man, then said again, more urgently, "Jack! Wake up. Now!"

"Ssh, I'm dreamin' here."

"Jack, God damn it, SG3. The device, where--"

Jack rolled over and sat up, all thoughts of sleep gone. His expression hardened. "Damn it, Daniel, what happened back there? And when I get my hands on--"

Daniel was already up and jumping around on one leg as he tried to get his boxers and pants on at the same time. "You tell me, Jack. You tell me. The last thing I remember, this huge Gou'ald, who looked just like depictions of Thoth, hit me once with a zat gun, Ambrose sent Elvis and Montoya through the Gate and Thoth fired again. I was dead." He stopped just before tossing Jack his shirt, then said, "I guess I just assumed that they got back all right? Did they? Is that why--"

Daniel looked away, found his own shirt and said as he slipped it on, "No, you wouldn't--so they must not have--and Hammond sent you. Yeah, so where would they have gone? Damn, if I didn't have this headache--"

Jack froze as he watched and listened to Daniel, who, after buttoning his shirt, was about to pull his black tee on over it. Jack shook his head in wonder and said, "Daniel, we don't wear our tee shirts over our fatigues, you know?"

Daniel kept mumbling, but he also took off his shirt and put on his tee shirt.

"---wait, Ambrose yelled out the coordinates to another planet--"

At least, Jack observed, Daniel was putting on his shirt the correct way this time.

"Sure, that's it. He pulled a me. He must have remembered that -- damn, was it SG9? SG5? Well, anyway--"

Daniel looked around for his shoes, spotted one, grabbed it, sat down, and started to put it on.

"Danny? Sock?"

"Damn, right. Sock." He stood, looked around some more, found his other shoe, but still no socks. He frowned, then rubbed his nose with the palm of his hand.

Jack grinned, got up, strolled over to where Daniel stood, bent down, then straightened. In his hand: Daniel's socks. He dangled them in front of the younger man. Daniel rubbed at his nose again, then grabbed them.

With a small huff of air, he turned away -- then turned back. He looked at Jack, eyes scanning from top to bottom. Then he grinned. "You look pretty good for an ol -- "

"Watch it, Danny--"

"For an -- Air Force officer -- in his prime."

"Thank you. Now throw me my pants, they're behind you, on that -- branch."

Daniel hid his smirk, turned and plucked the item from the branch. As he tossed it to Jack, the older man mumbled, "Branches - inside. It's not -- sanitary --or something."

"Jack, you were sleeping on branches. And leaves, not to mention flower petals, grass - hell, you made love in the middle of garden!"

"Yeah, well, it ain't sanitary, that's all I'm saying. The outside should be -- out, and the inside should be, you know -- in."

Daniel, SG3 suddenly forgotten, walked up behind Jack and palmed one firm ass cheek. "Some people would say what we did wasn't exactly -- sanitary, Jack."

Pausing in his attempt to straighten his tee shirt prior to putting it on, Jack smiled and leaned back into Daniel. "Yeah, well, that's different."

Daniel gave the firm butt a swat and said, "Put your pants on, Jack."

"Have you seen my boxers?"

Daniel looked around, then his grin went broadened.

"You mean those old things -- stuck -- up there?"

Jack followed Daniel's gaze. "Fuck," he said as he stared up at his khaki-colored underwear, currently hanging by a vine near the top of the hut.

Jack was tying up his boot when Daniel snapped his fingers. "I've got it. I remember now. Ambrose told Elvis to dial up P3X-772. SG8 is on that planet, remember?"

"No, Daniel, I do not remember what friggin' planet SG8 was assigned."

Daniel scratched his head. "Then how come Ambrose--"

"Because Daniel, Ambrose doesn't have you, so he has to memorize the back-up planets."

"So what if he doesn't have me? Well, he did, but normally--"

"DANIEL!"

"Right. So what was I saying? Oh yeah. Since when do we have 'back-up planets'?"

"If you'd been awake during the briefing before the last -- two or six -- briefings, you'd know since when."

"What briefing?" Daniel asked, truly confused.

Jack, now fully dressed, walked over to his friend - and lover, then snapped his fingers in his face. "Hel-lo? The briefing where we determined that since a certain Egyptologist, who shall remain nameless, Daniel, used a back-up planet, not once, but twice, when dialing home wasn't possible, then maybe all SG teams should have back-up planets?"

"Oh. That briefing."

Jack could have rolled his eyes, but he decided to kiss Daniel instead. It turned out to be a good decision.

When he was done, he pulled away and said, "So SG3, the bastards, are on P3X-772 with SG8? And they have the device and one mean motherfucker Gou'ald is after them? Did I get all your mumblings right?"

Daniel, still staring at Jack's lips, said, "Mmm, yeah."

"Okay, let's join Teal'c and Carter and get the hell out of here. We've got some unfinished business. I couldn't possibly allow a mere Gou'ald to do my job for me."

Jack gave Daniel a little push and as Daniel started out, he looked over his shoulder and asked, "Your job?"

"Yeah," Jack said, as he followed Daniel, "killing Ambrose."

Teal'c stood quickly. Sam, following his gaze, grinned and joined him.

"Daniel," she said softly.

"Hey, Sam. Teal'c."

"DanielJackson. You are -- well?" Teal'c asked, his gaze drifting meaningfully to Jack.

Daniel blushed, ducked his head, then said, "Yeah, Teal'c, I'm fine. Just -- fine."

Sam moved to stand beside her friend and rested her hand on his shoulder. "Daniel, I swear, you're going to be the death of me one of these days."

Eyes clouding over, Daniel shook his head. "No, I won't, Sam."

She frowned, as did Teal'c, but before either could say anything, Lya reappeared, her expression soft and loving as she gazed upon Daniel.

"It is good to see you awake, Daniel." She moved toward him, holding her hands out in front of her.

Daniel took them. "Thank you, Lya. And please, thank everyone for me."

"It is already done." She turned to Jack. "How did you know that dialing our gate would be successful,Colonel O'Neill?"

In effort to keep the Colonel quiet about cocky advanced aliens, Sam moved quickly in front of him.

"It was -- a hope, just a hope. Our only chance of saving Daniel."

"I see," Lya said, her eyes telling them she knew exactly why O'Neill had felt the gate would open. "I know you must go now, that others are at risk. But know this, when you are able," she turned her attention back to Daniel, "my people would like to meet with you."

Surprised, Daniel could only nod. Lya smiled, then said, "Allow me to make your journey back to the gate a little easier."

Seconds later, they reappeared in front of the Stargate -- without Lya.

Jack shook his head in wonder, then said, "Carter,dial home."

As she dialed, Jack said, "Daniel, you and Carter will go through, give Hammond an update, and bring reinforcements. Teal'c and I will go through toP3X-772."

"Jack," Daniel said, warning in his voice, "don't--"

Ignoring Daniel, Jack said, his voice firm, "Carter --you and Daniel, now."

For a moment, it looked as though Daniel would refuse, but then, jaw tight, he nodded. Seconds later he and Carter disappeared.

"Was that wise, O'Neill?"

Approaching the DHD, Jack said, "Very wise, Teal'c. Let's go."

"You will bring me up to the race, will you not?"

Rolling his eyes, Jack said as the last chevron was locked, "Speed, Teal'c. It's speed."

Shoot, run, duck, shoot again: the life of an SG team when trying to outrun a Gou'ald. Ambrose and his people were doing an admirable job, but damn, Ambrose thought, they could use SG8 about now.

Staff weapons were blasting rock, grass, trees, but so far, not SG3. Montoya, pack in hand, was vaulting over the trunk of a fallen tree when a blast hit a little to close to home. The trunk shattered and he flew about seven feet -- straight up, then came crashing down.

Lieutenant Elvis saw him hit ground, managed a nice zigzag maneuver, firing all the way. When she reached him, she hauled him up. Montoya shook his head, then nodded at her hurried, breathless query of, "You okay?" They took off. Neither noticed that behind them, in the rubble, sat the pack containing the device.

As the ground beneath them turned rough, and it looked as though they would lose, SG8 appeared, firing at will.

The surviving Jaffa retreated, one of them spotting the pack and lifting it as he ran.

Colonel William Cash, commander of SG8, stared at Ambrose and waited. The last he'd heard, Ambrose was investigating a new planet that promised some "super duper" weapon, as Ambrose had put it. Cash also remembered that Doctor Jackson was supposed to be with them. He'd counted the bodies. Six Jaffa - zero SGC. So where the hell was the young scientist?

"Montoya? Where the fuck is the pack?!"

Captain Montoya paled. "We, I -- when that blast hit -- I must have--it must have--"

Cash stepped forward and favored Ambrose with a steely gaze. "To hell with some damn pack. Where's Doctor Jackson? Wasn't he assigned to you?"

The sudden stillness, the absolute quiet of SG3, told Cash all he needed to know. His own face now as pale as Montoya's, he said, "You lost Doctor Jackson? I see four seasoned soldiers before me, but you lost Jackson?"

Ambrose drew himself up to his full six feet, four inches. "It was either the pack with the weapon, or Doctor Jackson -- and the entire team. He knew it."

Voice dripping icicles, Cash said, "Would this be the pack -- now in the hands of the Gou'ald?"

Ambrose closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then said as he fixed Cash with his own hardened look, "Yes, and we're heading back to the gate right now. We must retrieve it before those soldiers get it back to their leader."

Cash couldn't argue with that. One man already dead, hell, the least they could do was get the damn weapon. But -- the dead man was Daniel Jackson. Fuck. This wasn't right. It wasn't.

Letting out a long breath, Cash nodded. "All right, let's go."

SG8 and SG3 joined forces and headed out after the Jaffa on a run.

The moment Jack stepped through the gate, it hit him that it might not be a good idea.

M.A.L.P.s were handy little devices, and when the first staff blast hit the ground next to him, he was really wishing he'd had one to send through first. He and Teal'c dove for cover and he was damn glad there was cover to dive for. He was also glad to see only two guards. Teal'c took out the one closest to the gate. Jack, after a couple of quick moves, took out the other.

They both stood slowly, carefully, eyes scanning the area. Jack motioned to Teal'c and the Jaffa nodded, then moved slightly east, away from the gate. Jack went west.

"Only two guards, Teal'c. What do you make of it," Jack said loudly as they both covered their ground.

"Two guards at the Chaappa'ai would indicate their god is nearby."

Jack nodded his agreement. Their paths converged several feet from the gate.

"It looks clear, O'Neill."

Jack, on full alert, mused, "I'm thinking -- we play Jaffa, Teal'c."

"I do not need to 'play' Jaffa, O'Neill. I am Jaffa."

Jack sighed.

Hammond stood at the head of the conference table, hands flat on the surface, face mottled with rage.

"Would you repeat that, Major Carter?"

"When we arrived," her voice faltered, then she went on, "we found Daniel -- dead -- and SG3 nowhere to be seen. There were three dead Jaffa near the gate. Sir, we really need to--"

"I have SG2 and 11 gearing up now, Major. They'll be ready in ten." Then going on as if nothing else mattered, he said, "SG3 left Doctor Jackson?"

Sam nodded. "Apparently."

The phone on the wall behind Hammond buzzed and he moved quickly to pick it up.

"Hammond."

Sir, Daniel is fine. No residual affects from dy -- from the zat gun.

"Thank you, Doctor Frasier. Please send him to the briefing room." He put the phone down and walked over to the observation window. Below him, in the gate room, Ferretti and his team, along with Colonel Hatch and SG11 were readying themselves.

Sam watched him, fully aware of the signals. The tense body, the ramrod straight back, and the tight jaw, all indications of Hammond's deep anger. An anger rarely seen. She waited.

"A weapon," Hammond said quietly.

"Yes, sir."

"If the Nox -- if they --"

"Yes, sir."

"For -- a weapon. Not for peace, not for people, not for his team, but for -- a weapon."

"Yes, sir." Sam was starting to feel like an echo. But was there anything else she could say?

"Sometimes, Major Carter, I believe I have the answers. I enter this facility and I know there is greatness here. We walk a fine line, and yet, it is a line I walk gratefully. Because of the greatness." He turned and faced her. "Am I a fool? Is Doctor Jackson wrong and the NID right? Should we lose a man like him, or a woman like you, Major Carter? Should it be acceptable to lose Teal'c? Or -- Jack? For --weapons?"

"You have no choice, General."

Both Hammond and Sam spun around to find Daniel just inside the door. He shrugged and stepped further inside.

"You have no choice," he repeated, "because it's the decision our government has made."

Disturbed by Daniel's voice and demeanor, Hammond started toward him, but at that moment, the com squawked and Ferretti announced that SG2 and SG11 were ready for deployment.

Daniel opened the door and stepped aside to allow Sam and General Hammond to precede him down.

Thoth held out his hand. The Jaffa handed him the pack and watched as his God and Queen tore into it.

With a satisfied growl, Thoth lifted out the device and turned it, the sunbeams streaming through the trees creating a halo around it.

"We have it, my love. We have it."

Nut placed her hand over Thoth's and nodded. "No one can stop us now, my husband. No one."

Thoth turned and with a wave, indicated that they would return to the gate. He had no desire to test Tefnut's device on a handful of Tauri, not when he could test on their entire world. But perhaps -- testing it on the new Tollana would be appropriate?

He smiled as they walked.

Thoth and Nut were within sight of the gate when the sound of approaching men froze them. The Jaffa spread out in a circle around their God even as they walked backward, picking up speed. Behind them, the two guards who'd been left behind, moved forward to protect.

"SPREAD OUT! THEY'RE UP AHEAD!" Cash yelled to his men.

Signs were flashed and Elvis, along with a young airman named Harris, moved to the left, while two other members of SG8 moved right, the goal to out flank the Gou'ald.

The Jaffa could be seen now, as well as a tall Gou'ald in gold and a smaller figure that appeared to be a woman. They were walking quickly, but seemed relatively unconcerned. In the Gou'ald's hand -- the device.

Ambrose signed to Cash.

"I think it would be appropriate to allow me to do the-- "

"Talking?"

"Correct. The -- talking."

"Well, duh, Teal'c. And speaking of talking -- here they come. Heads up."

They observed the approach, then watched as the group froze. From his vantage point, Teal'c could see a flash of green cammos.

"It would appear that SG3 and perhaps SG8, are about to close in. I suggest we move forward in a --"

"Flanking motion, Teal'c?"

"Precisely."

As they moved, Jack got the creepy crawling feeling that this was a mistake. Sure, two teams were on the other side of the snakehead, but damn, he and Teal'c were between the Gou'ald and the gate. While surprise was most definitely on their side, O'Neill still felt at a supreme disadvantage and didn't quite know why.

"Now would be a good time, Danny. A few reinforcements, maybe?" Jack said to no one.

The next few minutes moved as if in slow motion. One SG member opened fire and from there, the battle escalated. And Jack and Teal'c were getting farther and farther away from the gate.

"I'M THINKING IF WE DON'T FIRE AT THE SNAKE, OUR GUYSWILL BE FIRING AT US!"

From several feet away, Teal'c spun around and brought his weapon up and his face mask down. "I AM IN TOTAL AGREEMENT, O'NEILL!"

Both men fired. A guard on each side of the Goa'uld fell. The man in gold, protected by the shield, surged forward, anger in every line of his body. He brought up his weapon and aimed it at the closest traitor, who in this case, was O'Neill. Jack dove and felt the heat of the blast. He rolled, grabbed his knife from the Jaffa boot where he'd hid it, and from his position on one knee, threw. A quick guard blew the knife to smithereens before it could penetrate the shield. Jack might have been in big trouble then, but SG3 and SG8 came out of the woods.

The two Goa'uld moved quickly toward the tree cover to the east. They were outnumbered and the tall Goa'uld knew it. But in spite of his strategic retreat, he seemed surprisingly unconcerned.

At the boundary, he stopped. His guards moved behind him and Jack watched, almost spellbound, as the Goa'uld lifted what O'Neill realized must be the almighty weapon that was responsible for bringing them all to this point in the first place.

Damn, this was bad. Jack was aware that SG3 and SG8 were slowly coming forward, weapons up and ready. But they, like Teal'c, were still several yards to Jack's rear, which left Jack the closest to the snakehead. And he was close. Too close.

The Goa'uld turned in a half circle, weapon raised. "YOU CAN NOT WIN! WITH BUT THE PLACEMENT OF A KEY, I CAN DESTROY YOU! LET US PASS AND YOU WILL LIVE." Jack thought that was a strange request since, as the snakehead had said, he could supposedly destroy them all. So why not do it?

"PERHAPS YOU REQUIRE A DEMONSTRATION?"

Uh-oh. Jack had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach and wondered vaguely if it would be too wussy to run like hell at this point?

Probably.

But he suspected he was about to become the "demonstration", damn it.

A sound from his right alerted him to the opening of the gate and he shook his head. Great timing, guys, he thought, as SG2 and SG11 stepped out.

Slowly Jack removed as much of the Jaffa uniform as he could, praying that Hammond had kept Daniel back.

Fat chance.

Daniel was the last to step through and by the time he had, SG2 and SG11 were in firing positions, Carter just behind Ferretti.

The scene that greeted him chilled him to the bone. SG members were scattered around a large grassy meadow, Teal'c, in Jaffa armor, about a fifty yards from Jack. And Jack, the unarmed bastard, was standing about ten yards from the Goa'uld who'd killed Daniel. And in the Goa'uld's hand -- the weapon.

Daniel shook his head. Then before anyone could stop him, he was bolting down the steps and out onto the meadow.

"DANIEL!" Sam yelled.

"JACKSON, GET BACK HERE!" Ferretti yelled.

Daniel kept going.

Jack heard the yells of Ferretti and Carter and groaned. If he and Daniel got out of this alive, he would be forced to kill Daniel.

He heard the pounding boots that signaled Daniel's approach and he watched as the tall Goa'uld frowned at seeing the man he'd killed such a short time ago, bound onto the meadow. At least Daniel's appearance had stalled what was certainly going to be Jack's death.

A moment later, Daniel, breathing heavily, came along side.

"This is your version of 'live together, die together', Colonel?" Daniel hissed out.

What could Jack say? He wisely chose to say nothing. A moment later, he was wishing he'd said something, like maybe reciting -- the entire SGC Policy and Procedural Manual? Instead, he was forced to watch Daniel take several steps toward the Goa'uld.

"Daniel, so help me--"

"Shut up, Jack."

Daniel took off his sunglasses. "Thoth, isn't it? And your Queen, Nut?"

Golden eyes narrowed but the Goa'uld said nothing.

Around Jack and Daniel, SG teams held their breath.

"Surprised to see me? Surprised that like you, a mere Tauri can come back from the dead?" When Thoth said nothing, Daniel continued.

"The Tauri aren't as helpless as you've been led to believe, Thoth. We are very hard to kill. Impossible, even."

That got the snakehead. Thoth stepped forward, the device held out steadily before him. "Indeed, Tauri? Impossible to kill?"

Smiling, Daniel said, "How many of your guards lay dead here and on Nubia? And how many Tauri lay dead?"

"You are nothing, Tauri. Nothing. In a moment, you will be as dust."

"I don't think so, Thoth. Standing before you and all around you, are the Tauri responsible for Ra's death. And Apophis, and Hathor and, well, the list goes on."

Smiling, Daniel held his arms out to the side. "But hey, give it your best shot."

Jack watched, horrified, as the woman joined the man Daniel had called Thoth, and took a necklace from around her neck. She handed it to the creature.

"Ah, yes, the key. Placed around a young girl's neck by her mother," Daniel said softly. "Your mother died rather than allow you access to the device."

The woman stepped forward, head held regally. "My mother was a fool. I am not."

Daniel said nothing. Jack took that moment, as Thoth placed the pendant on the device and twisted, to move to Daniel's side.

"Together, Danny boy."

"Yadda, yadda, Jack."

"Dick."

"Geezus, even facing death, you can't get my name right. It's Daniel."

Jack rolled his eyes, then watched as Thoth smiled and with the simple twist of his fingers on the key, activated the machine.

Jack winced and waited. Teal'c started to move closer, to get into better position for firing, to try to stop Thoth, but it was too late.

Daniel grinned.

Nothing happened. Thoth twisted the key in the opposite direction and still -- nothing happened. He whirled on his Queen, who grabbed the device and yanked at the key. She twisted it and when again, nothing happened, she threw the weapon as far from her as she could, then looked up at the sky, tossed back her head and screamed, "TEFNUT!" Daniel whispered, "No, Daniel."

As the echo of Nut's terrible scream faded, the guards began to lay down fire as Thoth and Nut hurried toward the gate. Jack tackled Daniel and both went down as Teal'c finally moved into position, SG 3 and SG8 close behind.

Carter, seeing Thoth's hand rise, yelled out, "HIT THE GROUND!"

SG2 and SG11 dove out of harm's way and Thoth and Nut ascended to the gate, no one able to stop them. Nut punched in seven symbols and the wormhole opened. As more of his guards went down, Thoth and Nut stepped up, but before entering, Thoth turned. His golden eyes gleamed as he looked upon the two men in the field, only now rising, unharmed.

Carter, from her position to the left of the gate, witnessed the look and cringed. Then Thoth and Nut stepped through.

Moments later -- silence.

Soldiers stood, gazed about them, looked down at the field of dead Jaffa, then shouldered weapons and began to walk toward Jack and Daniel.

Ferretti picked himself up, gave Carter a hand, and as he pushed back his helmet, said, "Gee, being with Jack and Daniel again, well, it's just like old times. Of course, they were times I could have done without."

Carter grinned at him and both started walking.

Jack, at a loss as to exactly what had just happened, started to brush off the back of Daniel's jacket.

Daniel, a disgusted look on his face, moved out of reach as he said, "Would you cut that out?"

It was a testament to Jack's confusion that all he said was, "Sorry."

Seconds later, they were surrounded. Almost. Only SG3 held back. And even further back, Ambrose stood, eyes narrowed.

The device thrown by Nut was retrieved and slowly, twenty-two men and women of the SGC made their way to the gate and home.

Klaxons blaring, Hammond entered the control room.

"It's SG1, Sir."

"Open the iris."

Hammond hurried down, praying that all of SG1, not to mention the other teams, were about to come through the gate. A few minutes later, he had his answer.

In pairs, or single file, four teams came through -- in their entirety. And all without a single injury that he could see. He watched as Jack strolled down, Daniel not far behind.

As Jack came abreast of Hammond, he gave a two-fingered salute. "Sir, SG1, 2, 3, 8 and let us not forget SG11, all present and accounted for. It was a nice party, Sir, but my vote is that we skip the next one, okay?"

"Yes, well, debriefing will commence at 0830 tomorrow, Colonel. In the meantime, I expect a full report from you and the other SG leaders by seventeen-hundred today. And welcome back."

As his people moved past him, he found his gaze drawn to Daniel. Hammond breathed out, then nodded in satisfaction.

As Jack trooped down to the infirmary with the others, he marveled at his control. He could see Ambrose several feet ahead of him and considering the fact that his fingers were itching to wrap themselves around the man's throat, well, he was handling himself right nicely, thank you very much.

The weapon had been handed off to the experts and Jack knew that Daniel had some explaining to do. But right now, all he wanted was a hot shower, a brief encounter with Daniel in his office, then do the report, followed by a less brief encounter with Daniel.

New Gou'alds, death and destruction, a weapon that apparently didn't work, Daniel risen from the dead -- again. And yet, all Jack wanted was some quiet time with the man. And touching. He wanted lots of touching. Mostly him touching Daniel. Yeah, touching. Plan A firmly in place, Jack started whistling as he entered the infirmary. He ignored the looks. He was too -- happy.

SG3 met in Ambrose's office. They'd been cleared by Frasier, then ordered to report to Ambrose. As they filed in and took their seats, he rose from behind his desk.

"We had a mission, and we fulfilled it. I've been informed that all four of us must remain on base until further notice and that we will all be undergoing an interview sometime in the next few hours. Each of you will be debriefed personally by General Hammond. I felt it was to our benefit if we--"

Montoya lurched to his feet, his face dark with anger. "This is against protocol, Colonel. You know it, we all know it. None of us should be here right now, discussing anything with each other if--"

"Sit down, Rey. Now."

Montoya's eyes narrowed but before he could say anything, Captain Mitchell stood.

"He's right. We're leaving, now." He turned to Elvis and nodded. "Lieutenant, Captain, your quarters until called."

Lieutenant Elvis saluted, spun on her heels and walked out. Montoya, barely able to contain his smirk, followed suit. When the door closed, Mitchell faced his leader.

"You blew it, Andy, big time. And this meeting? A complete breach of protocol. If Hammond finds out -- it could mean a court martial for you. When we're called in, every one of us will tell exactly what happened. Nothing more, nothing less."

He saluted and when it was grudgingly returned, he started for the door. At the last minute, he turned back. "Andy, I don't know how O'Neill brought Daniel back this time, but if he hadn't -- I think I would have killed you. Or myself. Or both."

Ambrose sat down, then back in his chair. He'd followed orders. He was in the right. A civilian over the weapon that could ensure Earth's defense against the Goa'uld? And any other enemy? No contest.

He wasn't worried.

Daniel entered his office, relieved to finally be alone. The atmosphere in the infirmary had been -- weird, to say the least. Everyone not looking at him, SG3 not looking at him, Sam and Teal'c looking too much at him and then Jack and his infernal whistling.

He sat down and reached for a pencil. As the piece of wood moved over and under his fingers, he thought of Jack, the bonehead. And he thought of Jack in the hut, of Jack's touch and Jack's lips--

"Daniel?"

The pencil rolled to the floor.

"Jack?"

Jack smiled from his position in the doorway. He leaned against the frame, legs crossed at the ankles.

"Wanna go home?"

"Reports?"

"Oh. Yeah. Reports. Okay, wanna go home in thirty?"

Daniel titled his head and grinned. "Home, Jack?"

"Yours, mine, I don't care. Just so long as we go home-- together."

"Oh, yeah. Live together, die together."

Jack moved inside and as he picked up the pencil and set it back on the table, he said with a grin, "You're never gonna let me live that down, are you?"

"Not anytime soon, no. I'm betting it will come in very handy -- eventually."

"Huh-huh. No doubt. So home? Later?"

This time, Daniel's smile was almost -- shy. "Okay. But remember, I have a bigger -- report -- to do than you. So I'll need more than -- thirty."

Jack's eyebrow rose. "Oh really? Well, we'll just see about that -- later. And speaking of longer reports, SG3 has been confined to quarters. Hammond will be interviewing them later today."

Puzzled, Daniel frowned. "Why?"

"Daniel? Are you kidding? They let you die. Then they left you on that God damned planet."

"So?"

The one word question was so entirely without guile, Daniel was so completely clueless, that Jack's eyes popped wide and his mouth dropped open. "Daniel, you okay? Because I gotta tell ya, you're worrying me here."

"Jack, why would Hammond confine them to quarters? Why the interviews? They did nothing wrong."

"Excuse me? Nothing wrong? They chose a device, a fucking weapon over YOU, that's what they did wrong."

"It was the entire purpose of the mission, Jack. Any SG team would have made the same call. One civilian over a weapon that could be the answer to everyone's prayers? Get real Jack."

O'Neill was so stunned, he had to sit or fall down. He reached back blindly, hand finally connecting with the other chair, and he pulled it to him and sank into it. "You can't really believe that, Danny. You can't. You really think Ferretti, Cash, Martin, Hatch, or any other team would have sacrificed you for that piece of junk?"

"Yes. As well they should. Who am I? Come on, Jack, I'm expendable. Especially when faced with what this program is about. And trust me, Jack, that weapon - is everything the President has been looking for. Everything the NID has been looking for and everything you've been searching for out there."

For a moment, Jack could only stare into the blue eyes of the man he thought he knew. Then standing, he said in a deadly calm voice, "You -- think -- I would have left you? Chosen the device over you?"

"Of course. You'd have hated it, but you would have done it."

"Jesus." Dazed, Jack then said, "I'm -- I'll be going now. Hammond has us all off for the remainder of the week, after the briefing tomorrow, that is. I'll see you then."

A small frown creasing his forehead, Daniel nodded as Jack left, closing the door behind him.

Daniel felt the heat rise to his face, felt his throat close up and his jaw tighten. He squeezed his eyes shut, held them shut for the count of ten, then opened them. He wasn't sure what he'd done wrong -- this time. But he was bound to have done something stupid -- eventually.

He'd had his one sweet moment, right? Right.

Daniel turned to his computer and started his report.

He wondered why he was having so much difficulty -- seeing the screen. And his fingers were shaking too.

How odd.

-

Daniel checked his watch. After five. He picked up the pace, his report for Hammond in his hand. He turned the corner towards Hammond's office and his step faltered. Through the open door, he could see Lieutenant Elvis seated, hands clasped in front of her as she sat in the small conference room to Daniel's right. She was alone and Daniel realized that she must be waiting for Hammond. Swallowing hard, Daniel hurried the rest of the way.

Inside, he faced Sergeant Wilkins. "Is the General available?"

"I'll check for you, Doctor Jackson." The man rose, knocked and entered Hammond's office. A moment later he returned. "He'll see you, Doctor. Go on in."

Relieved, Daniel nodded and entered.

"Sir."

"Doctor Jackson, please, sit down."

Daniel took the offered seat, then placed his report on the General's desk. "Sir, I felt the need to see you personally regarding SG3 and what happened on P3X--"

"Son, I understand. I'm interviewing them--"

"That's just it, General. SG3 did nothing wrong."

"--as we speak--what? What did you say?"

"SG3 did nothing wrong. Colonel Ambrose did nothing wrong. Their mission was to bring back that weapon, they did so. Colonel Ambrose made the only decision possible and in the process, saved his team and the weapon."

Hammond gave his head a little shake and Daniel thought it looked exactly like Rabbit, a German shephard his third -- no, fourth -- foster family had owned. The dog was always shaking his head due to fleas.

"Doctor Jack--Daniel, Ambrose did not save his entire team, he did, in fact, choose a device over one member of said team."

"Sir - I - please, just read my report. SG3 is blameless."

"Would it interest you to know that three members of SG3 don't agree with you?"

"Sir?"

"Captain Mitchell, Captain Montoya and Lieutenant Elvis all agree that there were options, good options, and you could have been saved as well as the device."

"You've already--"

"Yes. I was in the middle of interviewing the lieutenant when I received a call from the President. Unfortunately, our call was interrupted. I was just about to return to the conference room when you arrived."

Daniel digested that piece of information and was truly puzzled by it. It made no sense.

"Sir, I'd still hope that you'd take my account into consideration before making any decision regarding the team or Colonel Ambrose."

Hammond stood and Daniel judged that to be the precursor to his dismissal. He rose.

"I fully intend to read your report, Doctor Jackson, and will naturally factor it into any decision. But understand this: even if there'd been no other options, the choice should have been a human life over that of a weapon."

Daniel frowned, but accepting his dismissal, he turned and walked out. As the door closed, he wondered how everything had suddenly gotten so screwed up.

Hammond sat down hard. Of all the things he would have liked to have said, not to mention should have said, how had he and Daniel ended up in a discussion of SG3, with Daniel defending Ambrose?

If not for Jack's quick thinking and the help of the Nox, General Hammond would have been readying another -- funeral -- for his archeologist. This one - permanent. And for what? For nothing. Even if the damn thing had worked, Daniel's death would have been for nothing as far as Hammond was concerned.

God, when had they started measuring this battle, this program, against a human life? At what point, in Daniel's mind, had the race for weapons won over the race for humanity? Of equal importance was how had he, General George Hammond, let it happen?

He rose and after picking up the manila folder with Lieutenant Elvis' report, Hammond walked back to the small conference room.

Jack had no idea where he was going, only that he was going and the journey was taking him as far from Cheyenne Mountain as he could get and still be back by eight the next morning.

Daniel really believed that Jack would have chosen a weapon over Daniel's life. He believed it. Believed that any of them, all of them, would have done the same. What in God's name could have given Daniel such a fool notion?

Jack's fingers tightened on the steering wheel and as he ground down on his molars, the headache that had been forming - roared to life.

Okay, Jack had been forced to almost blow Daniel up in order to save the Enkarans, but damn it, Daniel had understood. Hell, he'd have killed Jack if Jack hadn't pushed the button. A whole race of people versus Daniel?

His body suddenly spasming, Jack somehow got the vehicle to the side of the road. For a moment, he couldn't breathe, then when he could, he dropped his head to the steering wheel.

A whole race of people or Daniel.

"Dear god, Danny," he whispered into the dark, "an entire race, yes, but not a weapon. Never a weapon. I'd die for you first--"

Daniel walked into his apartment, closed the front door, locked it, then took off his jacket and hung it up. He wandered into his livingroom and over to his stereo where he rifled through his CD collection until he came to the one he wanted.

Queen.

He dropped it in, set the memory for track sixteen, then set it for constant replay. With Freddie Mercury's voice filling his home, he walked into the kitchen, got a wine glass, took a bottle of Chardonnay and poured. Glass in hand, Daniel walked back out and over to his balcony. He opened the door and let the night air in. For several minutes he stood quietly, sipped his wine and listened to Mercury.

Culture shock hit him suddenly and his knees almost gave way.

His balcony, Colorado, Lya, death, Thoth--

Geezus. Dazed, he looked around him.

So damn -- normal. Street lights on, cars making their way home, a few pedestrians strolling up and down the sidewalks. A few hours ago -- he'd been on an alien planet, and dead in the sand.

Daniel took another sip and watched his fellow Americans go about life. He shook his head in amazement because -- none of them knew. None of them would probably never know.

The world went about its business completely unaware that only a few solitary miles down the road, men and women walked easily through a stargate to other worlds galaxies away. Completely unaware of how many times their own neat secure world had been in serious jeopardy.

Serious? All right -- mortal jeopardy.

As Daniel watched, he realized that he'd learned what few others had; that any serious weapon of the Goa'uld would be as tainted as the Goa'uld themselves. That once such a weapon were in the hands of -- what? The military? Americans? The world? It didn't matter whose hands, life as was known now would - cease.

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. His lesson from Shifu. Not that he hadn't always known that particular lesson, he had. But in his eagerness to be a part of something greater than his own needs or desires, he'd allowed himself to be sucked into the search for destructive technology. Made to believe that a child possessing all the knowledge of the Goa'uld was something to -- desire.

He frowned as the last of the dusk was conquered by the night. What had the original misson of the stargate program been, anyway? Not the first mission, but later, after re-opening the gate? Had there been an original mission?

Daniel took another sip of his wine and thought that one over. He remembered the Presidential Directive that all missions were to be evaluated for their scientific and cultural significance, but nothing said about weaponry. Scientific significance, sure. Like - medical significance, agricultural -- that kind of thing--

Was he being naive? Had he been naive all along?

All right Daniel, time to be honest with yourself.

Honest? Yeah, he could do honest.

Queen was belting out the lyrics to Who Wants To Live Forever and Daniel thought, 'Now that's honest'.

'No time for us and no place for us'. The dreamers.

Was he a dreamer? Yeah, he guessed that was exactly what he'd been. Hadn't he believed that his world of archeology would embrace the fantastic concept that the pyramids had been built by aliens? And the SGC, hadn't he just assumed that Jack, Sam, Hammond, Feretti, all of them, felt as he had? That beyond the event horizon there existed salvation?

Daniel barked out a laugh. Honest? Bullshit. He'd joined forces with the SGC for one reason, and one reason only; to find Sha're. And after her death, he'd stayed to find the child. And after he'd found the child, he'd stayed--

He'd stayed--

He'd stayed.

'Why, Daniel? Why did you stay? Why, if you're so God damned certain you're not only expendable, but that you don't even belong here, that you are, in fact, a hazard, why then do you stay?'

He waited a beat, but when the answer to his unspoken question didn't come in on the wings of some great learned beast, he whispered, "I don't know."

'Yes you do.'

He shook his head. "No, I don't. You, whoever the hell you are, you tell me."

'Because you do believe that salvation is beyond the horizon. Because you know that the answers to Earth's problems are beyond the event horizon. Because -- because--'

"Ah-ha! Think you're so God damned smart. I think not."

'Because the Goa'uld are a threat, but no more a threat than good old Earth and her -- humanity. And because -- because--'

Daniel started to smile. "Because? Need some help? I'll make you a deal. You shut up and I'll tell you the last reason."

'Deal.'

"Jack."

'Ah.'

"Yes, 'ah'."

Daniel raised his glass and saluted his unseen friend. "To you."

He drank down the rest of the wine. Freddy was singing poignantly about "Who dares to love forever" and "...touching tears with lips" and at that moment, Daniel realized that he'd never felt so alone in his entire life. And all things considered, that was saying something.

'What? I'm chopped liver?'

"You're me, so shut up. We had a deal."

'Sorry.'

"Forgiven."

'Not in this lifetime, Danny boy.'

"Amen."

On to part two
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sideburns, 2002.
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Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. These stories are for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. These stories may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author. Copyright on images remains with the above named rightsholders.
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