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Thursday, February 13th, 2014 10:02 am
My thanks to the 23 authors who made On-world Alphabet Soup a reality: 11am Street, Eilidh, Elder Bonnie, Fig Newton, Gategremlyn, Greenbirds, Ivory Gates, Jb, Lord Spyridon, Madders Ahatter, Magickmoons, Magistrate, Nymaeria, Rad1986, Sallynm, Sid, Splash the Cat, Stringertheory, Tallulah Rasa, Thothmes, Traycer, Wonderland, and Wyomingnot. A warm welcome to our new cooks: Jb, Magickmoons, Nymaeria, Rad1986 and Wyomingnot. A grateful tip of the ladle to our regular contributors. And special thanks to Ivory Gates, Thothmes, and Rad1986, who pinch-hit and wrote multiple servings!

Enjoy over 46,000 words of on-world gen fic in 27 stories! Word counts range from less than 200 to over 9,000. Ratings range from G to PG-13, and expect spoilers for the entire series.

Readers are strongly encouraged to follow the links to the authors' individual journals and leave feedback.

A is for Alien
by [personal profile] fignewton

Despite her dutiful refrain about being "from Toronto," Cassandra was genuinely worried that she was going to slip up and somehow reveal her alien status. Never mind the larger sizes of the three moons back on Hanka, or the different technological level that still had her gaping at things like electricity. There was so much she didn't know about on the cultural level - religious beliefs, common manners, children's games, fairy tales, even nursery rhymes! Surely someone would notice the way she tapped her right shoulder as a gesture to ward off bad luck, or her half-aborted curtsy to any bearded man as an automatic acknowledgment of his assumed authority. And what would happen then?

She remained tense and anxious about a potential disaster for months, cringing every time she thought she'd given herself away. But no one seemed to care, beyond an initial startled blink, if she'd never heard of Superman or didn't know that birds fly south for the winter. Her friends or teachers simply explained the reference and continued talking as if nothing had happened.

She quietly voiced her concerns to Janet, once, but her surrogate mother only smiled and hugged her.

"Don't worry about it, Cassandra," Janet told her. "You're forgetting that most people here on Earth have no idea that there's life out there. Why would they imagine that you're from off-world?"

Cassandra thought about Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Power Rangers in Space, and Dragon Ball Z. Janet would no doubt say that everyone recognized them as fiction, though, so she decided not to argue. But she continued to worry.

It was Teal'c who finally allayed her concerns one summer day, as they stood near the Uncle Wilber Fountain in Acacia Park.

"Look around you, Cassandra Frasier," he advised softly, his voice a velvety murmur to avoid being overheard. "The Tau'ri come in much variety. Are you and I truly so noticeable?"

Cassandra pivoted slowly, scanning the crowds. Most were speaking English, but a welter of accents twisted common phrases into unfamiliar sounds in her ears.

"I guess not," she admitted, watching a man, dressed in the hat and frock coat that Sam had once identified as Hasidic, shepherd a group of children across the plaza.

"There are thousands of languages spoken on this planet," Teal'c continued. "Daniel Jackson is considered a great linguist, yet he speaks perhaps twenty of them. Each language belongs to another people with their own beliefs, habits, and ways of living."

Cassandra considered this. Hanka had been little more than a string of small villages, all united with one culture - one directed by Nirrti, even if they hadn't known it. The United States of America was only one country, but it had so many people, so many different ways of thinking. Add the rest of this teeming world into the mix, and, well... How noticeable could her little errors really be, after all?

Teal'c wrapped his large, comforting hand around her own small fingers. "In all this vast crowd, Cassandra Frasier, I believe there is room for the two of us."

She leaned against him, feeling very safe. "Room for ice cream, too," she suggested, and watched his face bloom with that special, gentle smile that he always saved just for her.

"There is always room for ice cream," he agreed gravely, and together, they went to find some.

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B is for Bibliotherapy
by [personal profile] sallymn

Soft, slightly flat door chimes. Weak, shifting sunlight filtering through time-dulled windows and making the dust motes seem to swirl. Soft rustle of pages, and that smell he hasn't come across for a year now... a mix of the dust, aging leather and old paper, stale coffee dregs in forgotten cups, and a general... mustiness, with a hint of dank sweetness.

He really hasn't missed all this. Not at all. He'll keep telling himself that.

And he's, well, kind of sure that his ex-ex-teammate hasn't either. After all, there really couldn't have been old bookshops in the higher realms.... or could there? He'll have to ask Daniel, when and if Daniel remembers anything about the higher realms he's spent the last year swanning about in, or about old bookshops, or about anything at all for that matter...

Which is why Jack O'Neill is standing in the doorway of Books and Crannies and breathing in that old bookstore smell that he hasn't missed. Because if anything is going to kickstart Doctor Jackson's missing memories into some sort of working order, his favorite places in the whole of Colorado ought to do it.

Such as Booktique, Colorado Springs.

The Book Barn, Greeley.

Buy the Book, Aurora.

Bibiophilia, Colorado Springs.

Bookwyrms, Denver.

Bookends, Denver.

The Bookman Cometh, Fort Collins

... and back home to Books and Crannies, here in good old Colorado Springs.

"I hope you're happy, Doctor Jackson," he mutters.

***


He has to admit it, though. Doctor Jackson looks happier than he has ever since SG-1 ran across him, lost in body and mind, on Planet P4T-Ass-End-of-Nowhere - also known as Not-The-Lost-City - several weeks ago. Daniel's wide blue eyes might still have too much of that odd, vague, wary blankness that Jack wasn't about to admit actually hurt to see; his fingers as he first touched the battered covers and rifled through stained pages had still been uncertain, even a little nervous. But within minutes of entering Booktique two days ago, he had brightened up like one of his own elderly reading lamps, and by now he was positively glowing -

Jack stomps on that thought, on the word itself being in the same though as Daniel ever again. No glowing, not ever again, thanks.

But still... damn it, Daniel is almost shining, in the good old-fashioned happy-geek-being-geeky way Jack does like to see in both of his scientists. Right now, Daniel is sprawled in an old chair, surrounded by most of the contents of the formerly overloaded 'Prehistory and Antiquities' and 'Curiosa' shelves, his complimentary cup of coffee cooling on the nearest pile of leather-clad, pricey-looking hardbacks, happily lost in... whatever this esoteric old volume is about. Jack has no idea, but whatever it is, he's pretty sure it's coming back to the base with them. He can almost hear it clicking with those fragments of memory floating round Daniel's brilliant but at the minute all too blank brain. And with every click, maybe another small piece of the brain is falling into place...

Jack can hope, anyway. He finds a chair of his own, soft and squashy with years of readers, sinks into it and sips his own coffee. It's been a looooong day.

With all due respect, it's been a looooong week ferrying Daniel to each and every one of these bookstores, and as his team leader, Jack had looked danger - of death from boredom, at least - in the face and bravely volunteered.

Okay, he'd seen Carter's point that it might help the memory process. At least, he did after she went on and on and on for long enough about it.

And okay, he could see Carter's other point, the one about it giving her a chance to go through Daniel's bookshelves with Teal'c to quietly remove any that someone (and damn it, if Daniel found out and threw the sort of fit Jack recalled all too well, he would fink on Quinn, no matter how much Carter disapproved!) had written in. In pen. Carter has never really understood the appeal of old books - she liked her information overload brand spanking new, or even better, electronic and easily updated - but she understands their Daniel, and that for him old can never be out of date.

Greater love hath no hard science geek than this, Jack thinks, that she go through way more soft science volumes than anyone should have to in one lifetime just to find any incriminating markings before their very own soft scientist does.

***


Anyway... right now, and maybe for the first time since they'd brought him home, Daniel really is simply, perfectly happy. And if Jack was being honest (or being tactless, or as Daniel used to put it, "being Jack"), he'd damn well say Daniel ought to be happy. In the two days they've been shopping, he's bought up something like fifty-odd books of varying ages and states of decay. What's more, he's done it all on the USAF's dime since they still haven't worked out how to get the recently undeceased's credit cards activated, and General Hammond - like the rest of them - is way too thrilled to have the man back to nitpick over a mere two, three... seven or eight hundred dollars worth of 'restocking'. Anything Daniel wants, anything that might help Daniel back to himself, Daniel can have as far as the entire base is concerned right now.

Hell, if the Air Force decide to bitch over the 'Bullfinch - A Brief History' (370 pages and counting), 'Britannia Antiqua' (in Latin, of course), or - god help them - 'Beliefs of the Bergistani, Volumes 1-18', Hammond will probably stump up the money himself.

Maybe they can just do a whip-round the whole SGC. That'd work.

Jack picks up one of the slightly less shabby volumes on one of the piles surrounding Daniel's chair, taking care not to tip the coffee cup onto not-yet-paid-for merchandise. (That has happened before. At 'Bookends'. And Daniel waited till Jack paid up and carried them all the way back to the truck before mentioning that they were actually ones he'd decided not to buy.) It isn't as impressively decrepit as the ones Daniel is poring over, but if stained covers and the scent of paper mould were any indication... it's older than Daniel. Or Jack himself. Hell, older that Hammond.

He squints at the price, winces, and then looks at the title. "'Minor Babylonian Creation Myths'. Really, Daniel?"

The blue eyes shift to him, vague and questioning. "Mmmm?"

"It's called 'Minor Babylonian Creation Myths'." For that price, Jack thinks, they should be pretty damn Major, but he only pretends to be stupid enough to say so, and only when it's worth it.

"Oh yes. It's a collection from the forties of Middle East gods and legends, a useful secondary source but... I can't remember if I had it before." Daniel rubs his forehead. "I really thought I had a copy, but it's not in my office and Sam doesn't recall seeing it after..."

Yeah. After Daniel... left.

And anyway, Carter's probably hidden it till she can check the pages. Right. "Well, better two copies than none, right?"

Daniel looks at him uncertainly.

Jack tries for a reassuring smile.

Daniel's uncertain look gets a little more uncertain, and Jack decides to change the topic. "How many of those do you want to take back, Daniel? Hammond doesn't care, but your bookshelves are gonna crash if you cram much more in them."

"Uhh... not many, I think." Daniel looks down at the piles on his left, his right, in front, on the chair arm... pretty much everywhere. Jack hopes to god some of those piles are 'not today' or carrying them out is gonna be as much fun as the last seven times. "Eighteen, nineteen, I think." He looks up, blinking at the face Jack tries not to make. "And I may need to come back. When I'm... you know."

More myself.

Every complaint Jack and his back and his knees want to make is swallowed under the look in those eyes. He shrugs. "Hey, why not? And there are more stores..."

"There are?" Daniel lights up.

"Oh yeah." Jack was the one who found that last, scribbled list of every half-decent new or used bookstore this side of the Rockies. It's still in his left-hand drawer, and Carter and Teal'c used a photocopy to check how many of them were still in business so Jack could do this volunteering and ferrying bit.

Greater love hath no Colonel, either.

***


Jack fights down a smile, and picks up another volume. Large, fat and by the looks of it, as new, never - or at least rarely - read.

"Budge." He murmurs, oddly nostalgic. That name is one even he knows. "Want this one?"

Daniel lifts expressive eyebrows for a moment, then lowers them in the frown Jack has missed. "Hardly," he says dryly. "It's rubbish. Absolute rubbish. I won't have it in the Mountain, you know that, Jack."

And when did you remember that, Doctor Jackson?

Seems the therapy is working.

Daniel's eyes drift back to the book he's reading; he turns a page and is lost again in the words. Jack tries to read the upside-down title at the top of the pages, but he's pretty sure he won't recognize, understand, or give a damn about it.

He sits back, drinks his coffee and leaves his 'Minor Gods' book open on his lap so he can watch - without being too obvious - and for the first time let himself believe that his friend is healing, a little bit more with every dingy page.

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C is for Coffee
by [personal profile] thothmes

Jack O'Neill woke, as he usually did, a few moments before his alarm sounded, and seeing that it would soon be making that really, really annoying buzzing sound, he turned it off. He took a moment to savor the absence of pain anywhere, knowing that as soon as he rolled over and began the process of getting up and getting going, his body would start to complain. Too many injuries, too many hard landings, too many years. He was home, though, and didn't need to protect his image. so he rolled over with a groan, and slowly, stiffly, pushed himself into a sitting position, and then gathered himself for a moment before standing, and walking as slowly and as shufflingly as the old man he felt like, he made his way to the bathroom, to shower, shave, and otherwise complete his morning routine. First thing, though, were a couple of ibuprofen. With the painkillers on board, a hot shower, a shave, and a few agonizing stretches, he would be able to present a picture of a field ready soldier, lithe, limber, and at the peak of physical condition. This was one of his bad days though, and he chose to take extra time in the shower over a chance to make coffee. He'd pick something up in the commissary when he got to the SGC. Even if it was bitter, black, and strong enough to eat its way from his stomach straight through to his heart, it was going to be better than the uselessly boneless instant stuff that was currently inhabiting his cabinets. He was looking forward to finishing the jar and buying something better soon. He had his eye on the espresso powder Daniel had pronounced to be the only mildly civilized alternative to "proper" - read chi-chi - coffee. He just didn't want to get it too soon, or Jackson might think that he was taking his advice and get all puffed up.

***


George Hammond listened to he ringing of the old fashioned wind-up double-belled alarm clock that had been his parents before it became his. It still kept good enough time, and it certainly was loud enough to wake the deaf, let alone the dead to the world, but that was not the reason he kept it. No, he kept it for the dent in the top corner, left from the day that his brother Will, dead these many years, and memorialized, for those who took the time to notice, on the dark, polished wall of the Vietnam War Memorial in D.C., lost patience with the teasing George had been aiming at him all day, and used the closest thing to hand and chucked it at his tormentor. He kept it for the memories of hearing that strident ring, muffled by distance and the covers pulled over his head, indicating that his father would be making his was in soon to wake George and Will for school, for the memory of his father, checking his pocket watch, adjusting the time and the alarm, and slowly, carefully winding it, always being careful not to overwind. His granddaughters might scorn the thing as old fashioned and less accurate than a modern electronic model, with one of those annoying buzzing alarms, but George remembered his own grandfather, a man born when Victoria was still queen and Russia had a Czar, and he knew beyond all doubt that being old fashioned was not necessarily a bad thing. He reached over, flipped the toggle that would block the hammer and stop the clangor, he sat up, and running one hand over where his hair used to be, a habit he had somehow never lost, at least not before his first cup of coffee, he began to prepare himself for whatever crises the day would bring. At least the perks of being a general meant that he had no need to make himself a lonely breakfast. An airman would bring him something at his desk as soon as he got in.

***


Walter Harriman slipped out the door of his modest one bedroom apartment, and made his way down the covered walk, past his neighbors' units, and found his way blearily to the garage space assigned for unit 5B. It was part of the reason he chose this apartment. It might be small, with a kitchen barely big enough to make toast, but then Walter was never much of a one for cooking, and a garage for his car was a delightful luxury. In one hand was a clean, empty thermal coffee mug. Ordinarily he would have pinched his pennies by making himself a cup of whatever instant was on sale at the grocery store, whitened with milk and sweetened with sugar, but he had been assigned a double shift today, because no matter how many of his fellows were out with the nasty cold wending its drippy way through Colorado Springs, the gate still needed to be monitored at all times. It would be a long day and into the evening before Walter could come home, and he'd promised himself a a treat. He would drive through Starbucks and get himself something involving plenty of cream, sugar, and caramel, and you bet it was going to be venti today!

***


Daniel Jackson picked his head off of the page, reseated his glasses back in front of his eyes, and tried to figure out where he had stopped reading to close his eyes for a moment. It would help if he could figure out what he had been reading. He reached without looking with his left hand for his coffee cup, and bumping into it, seized it and raised it to his lips before he could register how cold it was. He stared into the black mug with horror, and after a pause for consideration, swallowed the mouthful of room temperature swill, rather than spit it back. Iced coffee was sometimes a sad necessity in hot climes, but this stuff! This stuff was a crime against humanity! He dumped the remaining liquid unceremoniously into a wastebasket, and picked through his collection of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters k-cups, and began the business of filling the mug with hot fresh brew. While he waited for the machine to finish, he pulled open a desk drawer, and pulled out a jar of sugar, another of coffee creamer, and pawed around his desk in search of his spoon. It was not in the other mug with his pens and pencils, as it should have been. By the time he found it, somewhat less curved in the handle than it should have been under his massive copy of Lewis and Short, Latin English Dictionary, the brewing process was done, and soon he was back at work, blowing gently on the fragrant hot liquid, and happily anticipating the moment when it would be cool enough to not burn his tongue. He knew that soon it would be washing the last of the morning mustiness out of his brain.

***


Sgt. Siler finished the last bite of his muffin, finished the last swallow of coffee in his cup, and stood up. As he settled his cap on his head and put on his jacket before leaving, Sue poured the last of the coffee from the carafe into a plastic travel mug, stirred in two generous spoons of sugar, and carefully put the lid on, checking twice to make sure it was properly seated. She loved the man dearly, and with all her heart, but he was just a weency bit accident prone, and there was no sense in tempting fate. Once it was securely closed, she handed it to him, and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him on his nose. His expression changed from his usual deadpan to the grin he kept just for her.

"Don't forget that I'll be back late tonight. There's that double shift. You'll remember to tape the Simpsons for me?"

She assured him she would, and then he was gone. She refilled the reservoir on the coffee machine, dumped the old grounds, and once she had put in a new filter and poured new grounds in from the can and started the new pot brewing, she went to wake the kids for school.

***


Airman Valenti pushed the trolley with its three large stainless steel commercial urns of coffee, decaf, and hot water into the commissary, and stopping for a moment to move a similar trolley out of its place next to the large upright dispensers of milk, skim milk, and orange juice, moved the new trolley into its place, and then spent a moment moving the glass dispensers of sugar, the insulated carafe of half-and-half, and several baskets, one containing artificial sweeteners, one full of assorted and individually wrapped teas, and the last one containing packets of instant oatmeal and cocoa. He lined them all up in even ranks, and then checked the level on the half-and-half. For now there was enough, but he should probably check it a half hour or so, sooner if the traffic was heavier than usual this morning. It was early yet. Before too long the first guys would start trickling in, but now, while it was quiet, he had time to grab a cup for himself, while it was hot and hadn't been turned into the spoon-eating wicked dark sludge it would be after a few hours of over-brewing. He grabbed one of the thick-walled white mugs out of the stack of dishwasher racks of clean mugs nearby, and poured himself a mug, and doctored it with a yellow packet of sweetener and some skim milk. Stirring it with one of the thin, stamped and fluted stainless steel spoons familiar from diners and institutional dining halls across the nation, he settled himself down in the nearest seat with a sigh. Damn, but it felt good to take a load off!

***


Sam Carter rolled out of bed, and hit the ground running. Her hair was sticking out at all angles, like ruffled blond feathers on a molting bird, but she hardly noticed. Three hours was definitely not enough rest, even for her, but the answer to the problem of the heat loss had come to her as she slept, as these things sometimes did. She had been counting on it. She needed to make herself presentable and find herself a large cup of sweet black coffee, in that order, and if she hurried, she could dip into the commissary and grab a cup and make it to her lab to jot down the mathematics of what she had discovered before her briefing. She dragged her brush through her rebellious tufts of hair just long enough to tame the worst of it, and stuffed the brush back into her toiletries bag, and started trotting, boots in one hand, bag in the other, for the locker room.

***


Gen. Hammond shared an elevator car from the eleventh floor checkpoint down into the SGC with his second, and his yo-yo. Fortunately, there was no one else in the small space, because for someone who seemed so devoted to the toy, Jack O'Neill certainly didn't seem to have mastered its use. The General hadn't been struck by it yet, but it was a near run thing. After one particularly crooked toss, where the yo-yo refused to rise in response to Jack's tug, his 2IC looked up ruefully, the drying hair on his head busily reasserting its independence and escaping from its slicked-down state.

"Haven't had my coffee yet today, sir," he offered.

George thought smugly about the coffee, piping hot, dark, and very, very sweet, and the two doughnuts, one sugared, and one plain, that would be waiting for him on his desk by the time he reached it. Rank certainly had its privileges.

***


So it was that Sam Carter was double-timing it out of the commissary, with a mug of coffee in one hand, a piece of dry toast balanced on a cup of yogurt in the other, her mind on her calculations when she walked smack into her commanding officer, who was rounding the door on his way in seeking out a cup of joe. He got much more than he bargained for, most of it below the level of his second's navel, where she had been carrying her mug. It was nice and hot, just the way he took his, but definitely not delivered where he wanted it.

It was a very impressive growl he let out. Sam's eyes, taking a lesson from the Grinch's heart, grew two sizes that day, and she began to utter a flustered series of "Sorry, sir! I'm so sorry!"

Ordinarily he would have stopped her after the first cycle or so, but he was too busy fending off Felger, who had grabbed a napkin, and was attempting to help sop up the spill. The very last thing the Colonel wanted was that looney pressing scalding hot cloth into the more sensitive portions of his manhood, which was quite frankly none of his business, not now, not EVER!

"FOLGER!" Jack roared in a voice that had carried across chaotic battlefields at need.

Felger froze and cringed, and a profound silence spread through both the hall and the commissary. Felger made a retreat reminiscent of a peasant leaving the presence of an emperor, cringing, bobbing, backing, and apologizing all at the same time. Sam picked up the toast from the floor and put it in the trash bin, and the now-empty mug and its spoon in the rack for dirties by the door. She peeked from under her bangs at the Colonel, who was flapping his BDU jacket about with both hands, working to cool things down. Her own jacket was more than a little damp.

"I think I'll hit the locker room," he offered, curving one thumb back the way he had come.

"I will too," she said. "Mind if I come with, sir?"

There was a silence while O'Neill's eyebrows rose gently ever higher, and the ghost of a smirk flitted across his lips.

He bowed ever so slightly.

"Ladies first," he said, and fell in by her side.

As for the commissary, the rest was silence, at least until they were out of earshot.

***


George Hammond was seated at the head of the briefing room table with his second cup of coffee, savoring it, when Teal'c came in and after greeting the General, took his customary seat. There was a companionable silence, interrupted briefly by greetings for Sam, who carried a steaming mug of coffee and a folder with a pad of graph paper within. As soon as politeness allowed she sat down, unclipped a pen from the front of the folder, and began to jot down notes and sketch curves. Jack O'Neill was next, clomping up the stairs two at a time, his hair still damp. After greeting everyone he moved to the coffee on the table in the corner, and he poured himself a mugful, and immediately downed a large swallow, and let out a sigh of satisfaction.

As usual, Daniel was last to arrive, and as he rose into sight, rumpled like he had slept in his BDUs, he sipped from the mug he was holding and grimaced. Immediately crossing to the coffee he topped up his mug, sipped again, and smiled. All was right with his world again. Glancing about the room, his eye settled on Teal'c.

"Shall I get you some coffee, Teal'c?" he asked.

"You shall not. My symbiote does not care for coffee. It finds it disturbing."

"I knew there was a reason I don't like those guys!" said Jack.

And the work of the day began in earnest.

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C is for Caretaker
by [profile] rad1986

Wanted:
Part-time property caretaker.
Two days a week.
Light housework, paid travel.
$15 per hour.
Call 555-8222.


Her mother had given her the wanted ad; said it would do her some to finally get a job. Parents... what did they know anyway? Still, with college coming up and her wanting to move out anyway, Sharon really did need to start earning her more money and stepping away from the nest. Small steps; she'd still need help paying for that car she'd been drooling over.

She calls the number and is requested to come for an interview in a few days at the temp agency building. Sharon fumbles her way through a resume, showers, dons khaki pants and a button-up and arrives ten minutes early. The female interviewer is nice and asks generic questions about how Sharon does in school, what she likes to do, and if she can follow the twice-a-month cleaning schedule and other mundane questions. Sharon feels like the interview was a breeze and she expects that someone else on the interview's list will get the job. That's totally fine with her, she'll find something somewhere.

It comes as a surprise when three days later she receives a call saying she's hired. The next day her mother drops her off at the house in question - cute little thing only a few blocks from home - and is given a tour and a key. The job is close and super easy. She'd been helping her mother clean the house since she was nine; forced labor if you ask her. But still, vacuuming and basic dusting aren't that hard. And the pay is fantastic... $30 for two hours!

Sharon never bothers to care who the pretty blonde woman in the pictures is.

***


Wanted:
Part-time property caretaker.
Two days a week.
Light housework, paid travel.
$25 per hour.
Call 555-8222.


He'd been scanning the want ads for weeks, hoping for something, anything. Man in his thirties shouldn't be looking for work when he's completely competent in computers. But when the boss doesn't care that you care that employees are lifting pop from the machines and talking smack about the company and it escalates into a fight... Of course, fighting with the CEO's son made a huge difference, Jake is sure.

Hey, he can push a vacuum and a wet rag around; he has plenty of time to waste as it is currently. He dials the number, is asked to meet, and that's that. The interview is short - all Jake has ever done is work the computer. But he does have a good history: always on time, hardly ever any sick leave, hardly ever any vacation time, usually doesn't make a scene at work. They did ask why he was fired and he was vague but made sure the interviewer knew he wasn't a troublemaker; his other job and he just didn't see eye to eye.

No way he'd get the job. Jake doesn't care, really; he'll find something eventually.

Jake is shocked when he receives the 'you're hired' call the next day and a tour of the apartment. He is warned against taking anything from the place. The thought had crossed his mind but he's not interested in old pieces of junk, no matter their worth. No, no, the price tag on him pushing a vacuum around this place is pretty nice.

He does wonder about the glasses-wearing guy who lives here though; where he might be that he needs someone to air out the place every other week.

***


Wanted:
Part-time property caretaker.
Two days a week; three times a summer.
Light housework, paid travel.
$40 per hour.
Call 555-8222.


It piques her interest and she does need the extra cash to afford that perm and dye each month. She has a little time she can eek out in her busy schedule. Monique decides to call the number and after discussing different times for the interview, a date is finally settled upon. She is sure that she is primped from tip to toe: a nice long shower, business casual suit, and twenty minutes early in the event she can't find a parking spot. Monique is hired on the spot and taken to the house and then cabin she's to care for. The roundabout trip takes up most of her day but is totally worth it.

The house, just outside the city, is large and the telescope looks cool but she vows to herself she'll never touch it. If she indulges herself now she'd get caught and where would that get her? The cabin too far into the country for her sake and the pond doesn't even have fish - not that she fishes, but what's a pond without fish?? - but she only has to drag herself out here three times a year. Just after spring starts, mid-summer, and late September; she's a big girl, she can handle it! Pay rate is totally worth it!

It's pretty obvious to Monique that a man lives in the house but the living space feels more like a house than a home to her... she wonders why he is so lonely.

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D is for Detained

The Delicate Balance of Trust

by [personal profile] traycer

"I'm bored."

Daniel looked up from the book he was trying to read and sighed. Keeping Jack down for longer than five minutes was a trial in itself.

"Yeah, well so am I," he said with just a trace of aggravation in his tone.

"Well at least you have something to read," Jack grumbled. "And Carter has her laptop, and even Teal'c has... well he can meditate." This last was said with a firm nod as if to prove his point. Daniel just stared at Jack in amusement.

"You could try reading something too," he said, knowing full well that reading was not what Jack wanted to do.

"Read?" The look on his face affirmed Daniel's suspicions. Jack definitely did not want to read. "No," he said as he began to pace around the room. "I need to be doing something else."

"We're being detained," Sam said from her desk. "We have to deal with what we have."

"Not enough," Jack announced with a flair. "We need to... I need to do something... constructive."

"Perhaps you should work on your mission report," Teal'c suggested. Daniel couldn't help but think that was the wrong answer in Jack's view, but he understood Teal'c's reasoning behind the suggestion.

"No," Jack said with a grimace, giving credence to Daniel's thoughts. "Not even close."

"Okay," Daniel said giving up on his book for the moment. "What do you have in mind?"

"Well, I don't know," Jack said vaguely. "How about a game..."

But whatever Jack was going to say was lost in the sound of gunfire in the hallway. Daniel stared at Jack in shock, but Jack didn't stop to acknowledge anything. He ran to the door, with Teal'c right behind him, both ready to defend themselves with fierce determination. Daniel jumped up to join them, getting there just as Sam did. They had been locked in the room and now they were trapped while the base was under attack. This didn't bode well for anyone.

"What's going on?" Sam asked, her eyes wide with concern. Sirens filled the air as another blast outside the door and a loud thump told them that the guard outside the door had been taken down. Daniel stepped back when the door handle jiggled.

"Get down," Jack shouted. Daniel did what he was told. Too many years relying on Jack's instincts taught him to move when the order was given. He jumped to the side and ducked down with his arms over his head, while the door blasted off its hinges and the floor shook with the explosion.

He looked up before the dust settled to find a very irate Jack O'Neill trying to strangle a man that Daniel was surprised to see.

"Let me explain," Colonel Maybourne said as he valiantly tried to save himself. His companion wasn't any help, as Teal'c already had the man in a headlock. "I needed to get you out of here, and no one was cooperating."

"Why didn't you just grab the key and unlock the door," Jack said through gritted teeth. Daniel thought about coming to Maybourne's aid mainly because the blue tinge to the man's face made it clear that Jack was succeeding with his intent, but Maybourne's words stopped him in his tracks.

"Wanted to make an entrance," he said struggling for breath. "Ease up a little and let me explain. You owe me that much."

"I don't owe you anything," Jack snarled. He loosened his grip a little though, apparently deciding to give the man a chance anyway. "Start talking."

"I heard you were being held here, and we... my friends and I, realized what was going on, so we came to get you out."

"That's it?" Daniel had to ask. "You thought we needed to escape?" None of this made sense, and Daniel needed things to make sense. He hated being on the wrong side of logic. "We're here because the General thought we were compromised when we got back." Maybourne shook his head, but Daniel kept on talking. "We'll be out of here as soon as they realize we're okay."

"We do not need to be rescued," Teal'c interjected quietly. He was still holding Maybourne's buddy in the headlock, although not as tight as before. The man was actually breathing normally.

"Yes, you do," Maybourne insisted. "Jack, do you think you can let me go sometime soon? I really would like to get some air in my lungs."

"You're breathing well enough," Jack said in a surly tone, but he let go and stepped back to give the man some space. Daniel looked over at Teal'c to see that he too had let go of his prey. Both men were on their guard though, as were Daniel and Sam. They didn't have much trust for Colonel Maybourne.

"You’re not at the SGC," Maybourne said. He massaged his throat while at the same time glaring at Jack.

"Yes, we are," Sam said. "We came back through the Gate, and we were immediately taken into custody."

"Why?" Maybourne said quietly.

This was a strange question, Daniel thought as he and his teammates shared confused looks with each other. He had already told the man why.

"Because they thought we were compromised," Sam said warily.

"You're not at the SGC," Maybourne told her. She looked skeptical, so Maybourne tried to clarify his statement. "Why hasn't anyone come running? They had to have heard the sirens and the door being blown open. Where are they?" Sam didn't answer, and Daniel was starting to believe the guy. Maybourne jerked his head toward the door and said, "Go on. See for yourself."

Nobody moved. Jack was staring at Maybourne with an intent look, while Daniel waited to see what Jack was going to do. They didn't have to wait long.

"Carter," he said. "Check it out."

Sam went over to the door, her movements slow and guarded. It was apparent she had her own doubts. She looked out into the hallway, paused a moment, then stepped out completely. Nothing happened. "Nobody's there," she said, before taking a step further into the hallway.

She didn't come back right away, a fact that had Daniel worried. What if Maybourne was right and Sam was walking into a trap?

"Daniel," Jack said, apparently tired of waiting. But he didn't get a chance to finish. Sam came back at that point and looked directly at Maybourne.

"Where are we?"

"Not at the SGC," Maybourne replied quietly.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Jack asked. "Carter?"

"He's right, sir," Sam said with a glance at Maybourne. "I'm not sure where we are, but this is not the SGC."

"See? I told you," Maybourne said with a grin. "You should listen to me more often."

"You say that as if I should trust you," Jack replied with a shake of his head. He suddenly reached out and grabbed Maybourne by the lapels. "Where are we and why are we here?"

"Okay," Maybourne said with an indignant air. "All right, already." He pulled back from Jack's grasp and stepped away. "You're being kept in a warehouse outside Taos."

"Taos?" Daniel couldn't help but say. "As in New Mexico?"

"Yeah," Maybourne said. "They found you on whatever planet you were on and brought you here."

"Who brought us here?" Teal'c asked.

Maybourne stared at him for a moment then said. "The NID."

"The NID," Jack said quietly. "Again?" Maybourne nodded while Jack ran his hands through his hair and started to pace. "Jeez, don't those guys ever give up?"

"Apparently not," Maybourne replied, the grin on his face an irritating reminder that the guy was not the best ally in the world, if he could even be considered one. "Look," he said. "From what I gather, they found all of you unconscious and decided to bring you here to exploit your talents."

"Fat chance," Jack mumbled. Daniel had to agree with him there. Whoever these people were, they had a fight on their hands.

"I'm having a hard time believing any of this," Sam piped up. "I mean we came through the Gate on our own, right?"

Daniel stared at her, trying his best to remember exactly what happened from the time they left their host's dwelling on P94-C3D to the moment they woke up in this very room. Everything was jumbled up in his memory. All he knew for sure was that Hammond's voice came over the intercom telling them they had come back dazed and confused and were being detained, or quarantined, until the doctors were absolutely sure the team didn't bring back any diseases. But now that he thought about it, he did remember thinking the General had a cold.

Maybourne must have recognized the dawning comprehension on Daniel's face, because he gave him a knowing look and continued on with his story.

"The NID were already on that planet before you got there and bribed the locals to drug you. They then brought you here." He faced Jack and said, "We found out about it and decided to come break you out of here."

"How did you acquire this knowledge?" Teal'c asked.

"We have our ways," was all Maybourne would say after a moment's pause.

"Right," Jack said with a heavy dose of sarcasm. "If what you say is true..."

"It is Jack. Believe me."

"If what you say is true," Jack repeated. "Then we need to get out of here." He glanced at Teal'c who nodded agreement. Jack turned back to face Maybourne. "What are we facing?" he asked.

"My people took care of the men guarding the warehouse, but I can't be sure if we're going to run into anyone else."

"Okay," Jack said. "Here's the deal." Maybourne raised an eyebrow at Jack's insistence of taking over, but Jack apparently decided to ignore it. "Maybourne, you and your friend over there lead the way. You got any extra guns?"

"We might," Maybourne said with a smirk. Jack reached out to grab him again, but Maybourne was quicker this time. "Not this time, Jack. You want me to supply you with a gun, you'd better be prepared to prove to me you won't use it on me."

Jack glared at the man for a moment, obviously debating on the wisdom of what he was going to say, then apparently deciding to play the game their way for the time being. "Let's go," he said with a growl.

Maybourne and his friend led the way, leaving SG-1 to follow. Teal'c picked up the gun their guard had dropped, although he had to roll the man over to get to it. Jack and Sam acquired their guns when they found two more dead men in a corridor. Maybourne's men did a good job of taking care of the bad guys.

They had to stop once when gunshots came from somewhere in the facility. They dropped down for cover as they scanned their surroundings, but it was Maybourne who whispered, "I have a few men out there keeping an eye out for strays. That's probably them taking care of things."

Daniel wasn't so sure he was comfortable with the word "probably," but as they were sitting ducks with no idea of the layout of the place, they didn't have much choice. Jack finally nodded and they took off again, much slower and quieter this time.

They ended up in a shootout anyway. Freedom was only a few feet away when shots were fired from the direction of a stack of pallets lined up next to a wall. Maybourne's friend was hit first, and he went down yelling. Jack pushed Daniel down to the ground, then took aim. Without a gun, Daniel felt pretty useless, but he knew better than to get in the way of his teammates, so he waited until the shooting died down, all the while scanning the surroundings just in case there was a way to sneak up on them from a different vantage point.

The shootout didn't take long, or maybe it was forever, but the men who had ambushed them were lying in pools of their own blood, while SG-1 and Maybourne waited to make sure the going was safe. Daniel finally got up and watched as Teal'c went over and checked to make sure the men were dead. He wanted more than ever to get out of that place. He hated the worthless feeling of not being able to help.

Maybourne stood up next to Daniel and stared intently at the carnage. "Let's go," he said quietly.

Daniel was more than ready and they ran for the door, with Teal'c dragging Maybourne's friend along. Bright sunlight blinded him for a moment as he stepped outside, but that was a minor inconvenience as far as he was concerned. They needed to get out of there. Still, it seemed so easy. He glanced over at Sam and saw that she too was feeling wary about this whole thing.

"It's safe. I promise," Maybourne told them. "Let's just get out of here."

"Maybourne," Jack said as he stared at the man. "Why did you help us? What's in it for you?"

"We can have this conversation in the truck," Maybourne said instead, his eyes darting about as if looking for something. "You want to stand out here in case there are more of them somewhere?"

Jack didn't move right away, he just stared at Maybourne, who stared back. It seemed strange to Daniel, but it was almost as if they were communicating somehow. Jack finally nodded, then moved over to the truck. Daniel, Sam and Teal'c followed suit and piled in to the back. Maybourne and his wounded companion joined them.

Daniel watched as Sam checked his wounds. "Nothing too serious," she said. "But he does need to see a doctor."

"We'll take care of it," Maybourne told her. "Once we get to our destination."

"Which is where?" Jack wanted to know.

"The airport," Maybourne responded with a "you-should-have-known-this" attitude. "And you owe me for this Jack."

"What?" Jack said with an incredulous expression. "No way. This makes us even."

"No. It doesn't," Maybourne insisted. "I know you haven't forgotten that time you were..."

Their conversation droned on. Daniel tuned them out, not the least bit interested in their history. He had more pressing worries on his mind, like what really happened on that planet. And why were they ambushed by the NID. And most importantly, how did the NID manage to be on that planet in the first place.

"All in good time," Maybourne said when Daniel interrupted the personal history lesson to ask those very same questions. "Suffice it to say that you are no longer in their possession."

It really wasn't enough, Daniel thought, as they rode on in silence. But as they were no longer being detained, he figured he could wait to see what would happen next.

***


A full regiment met them at the airport. Daniel was surprised to see Major Davis, but it quickly became apparent that SG-1 had been missing for quite some time. Maybourne didn't get out of the truck with them, choosing instead to stay out of sight. "It's better that I lay low," he told Jack with a knowing look.

Jack didn't argue and Daniel understood why when Major Davis nodded at the truck and asked, "Maybourne?"

Jack shrugged and Davis smiled. "We were surprised when we got the call from him," Davis said. "But we couldn't give him everything he wanted." He turned to watch the truck as it drove away. "I guess he was happy with what he got."

"I guess," Jack said quietly.

Davis stood aside and waved them toward the plane. "Shall we go?" he asked. "General Hammond is very anxious to find out what happened on that planet."

Daniel was more than happy to lead the way. They got settled in their seats and they sat in silence for a few moments, until Sam asked, "Do you really trust Maybourne, Colonel?"

Jack looked at her for a moment, then turned to look away. "No," he finally said. "Well, not completely." He looked back at them and said, "But he has helped in the past. I'll give him that."

Confusion spread across Sam's face. "But sir," she said. "It could have been a trap. Why were you so sure?"

"But it wasn't a trap," Jack said with a finality. "Not this time."

Daniel shook his head. It wasn't worth it, he decided as Sam sent him an exasperated look. Jack knew the man better than they did. But he still wondered what was going on.

Jack apparently didn't want them to brood on the subject. "I'm bored," he announced suddenly. "Who's up for a game of cards?"

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E is for Empathy
by [personal profile] eilidh17

Vala Mal Doran considered herself to be an observant person. Perhaps a little perceptive. Astute even. Paying attention to details, even while appearing to be easily distracted, had proven to be very lucrative for her in the past, and none more so than today. She had taken her place at the back of the crowded lecture room on level 18, tablet in one hand, stylus in the other, looking for all the world like she genuinely wanted to be there. Which, of course, she didn't.

It was all very ho-hum for her. These lectures, presented mostly by Daniel as part of the indoctrination process for new 'recruits' to the SGC, seemed designed to lull students to sleep rather than educate them. She rolled her eyes at the stupidity of it all as she took her seat, surrounded by camouflage-clad marines who clearly regarded deodorant as an effective bio-weapon for the senses.

Today's lecture was Ancient 101, and was a step up from the First Contact class of several days before where, much to Daniel's chagrin, she had proudly raised her hand and volunteered to play the alien in the practical side of the lesson. The marines all cheered vigorously and formed a line. Daniel dipped his head to his chest and whispered something she was glad she couldn't hear.



This lecture had started off simply enough, with Daniel showing a presentation of Ancient peoples, places, artifacts, and selected pieces of technology. An overview, he called it. And Vala could see the common sense in familiarizing new recruits to the program with a healthy cross-section of the races the SGC had encountered over the years. Arguably, the Goa'uld owned the bulk of that contact, but as they had fallen, the star of the Ancients had risen. In myth, if not so much in legend.

Images filled the screen, manipulated by Daniel. He droned on, she paid little attention. After all, it wasn't like she was a raw initiate to the program. She had wandered the Stargate network all of her life, been influenced by some cultures, amazed by others, and frowned upon by so many more. And on those rare occasions when having tradable goods for weapons grade naquadah had slumped, she had taken up treasure hunting of a different kind.



Hands were raised, questions were asked. Vala was astounded. Her marines had taken an interest in the lecture! One look at Daniel told her that he was just as surprised. Taking his cue from what was likely a fleeting moment of enthusiasm, he answered their queries with big and impressive words that had her looking for the dictionary icon on her tablet. But the moment was gone as fast as it came and even when she found the icon, she couldn't remember the words.

He had introduced the class to the Ancients, their culture, various prominent figures, and was working through a detailed timeline of their history when the question of ascension was raised. The topic couldn't be avoided, simply because ascension was who the Ancients were. It was the core of their existence, on this plane or any other. Even Vala knew ascension to be something coveted by more than those few who had managed to achieve it. Qetesh had taken an interest in the subject when Ba'al had done the same. He, of course, had been exposed to the notion of achieving a higher plane of existence through Anubis. Unfortunately, Vala was only on the periphery of their conversations, and only at those times when Qetesh thought she had blocked her host out completely. Sometimes she succeeded, other times Vala was a spy to their most intimate and secretive moments.

Daniel took the question of ascension without much pause, explaining the process as he knew it, fielding a few more questions with clinical precision, before loading up a digital video from his repertoire of lecture resources. The lights were dimmed, bottoms shifted in chairs, and somewhere to her right someone started to snore.

And that was when she saw it.

A flicker of something crossed Daniel's face.

***


Lecture over, the room cleared quickly. Very quickly. Vala checked the clock on the wall and smiled appreciatively at marines and their inbuilt sense of time, most especially when it came to mealtime.

"So," she said, making her way to the front of the lecture room, to where Daniel was diligently packing away his folders, resetting the room for the next lecture. "That was interesting."

"You enjoyed it?" he asked with a hint of satisfaction in his tone, but without actually looking up at her.

"Well, enjoyed isn't quite the word I was thinking of." She hopped up on the table and sat cross-legged, with her tablet cradled in her lap. "The marines seemed... curious."

"Yeah?"

"About ascension."

"Most people are, I guess." Daniel finally looked up at her, frowned at her position on the table, but dismissed it with a shrug. “I think it comes down to each of having a fundamental need to believe there is some place beyond death, something more we can achieve.”

"Some of us have already been there."

"What?"

"That was you, wasn’t it?"

"I don't know what you—”

"The moment of ascension you showed us, the person in the video? That was you."

"Well, yes. I don't know why that would surprise you. It's not as if my ascension has ever been kept a secret from you or pretty much everyone else at the SGC."

Which Vala admitted to herself was true. "It's the subtle difference between knowing and seeing."

"You need to disassociate yourself here. Don't think of what you've seen as the loss of someone close to you, but as a valuable education tool. Catching a person at the moment of ascension, actually being able to record it, is a very rare thing."

"Not quite what I meant."

Daniel stared hard at her for a moment, head turned to one side as though he was seeing her for the first time. "This is a real problem for you, isn't it?"

"Me? No. But it clearly was for you."

“No. No, that’s where you’re wrong. I don’t have a problem watching my own ascension. Okay, sure, it was a bit surreal the first time around, especially once I remembered the whole process leading up to that point. Not something I really care to share, just in case you’re interested.”

“But—”

“Vala.” He put a finger to his lips to buy her silence. “Death is supposed to be absolute. Final. It doesn’t matter what belief system you have or moral code you live by, because in the end we all live and die. Call it a cycle of existence, or call it whatever you want that helps you to understand the process. But what if you could come back? If there truly was a higher power that by simply believing you were worth saving, could return you back to those that loved you?”

“Well, I think I’d be grateful for the assist.”

“A second chance?”

“Is that so wrong?”

“No. It’s never wrong to value living. But consider for a moment the repercussions of being able to come back, to resume being a mere mortal being again, to living on the only plane of existence you can remember – the one where the only changes you notice don’t directly relate to you personally.”

“Okay.” Vala cringed at her shallow answer. “Well, maybe not okay, but I think I understand. Kind of.”

Daniel smiled softly at her, almost sympathetically; as he picked up the remote from the desk and started skimming through the catalog of lecture footage.

“Here.” He stopped the playback at a specific point and nodded towards the screen. “You want to know why I don’t like watching this? Well, it’s not because I can’t handle seeing myself die and ascend. It’s because of this.” The image froze, captured a moment in time that told a story of grief and loss, etched on the faces of those who were present for something most people could never comprehend. Vala instantly understood what only Daniel had been able to see. He wasn’t caught up in his own death; he had moved on from that moment. What pained him was seeing those he loved most bear witness to his own passing; and the simple realization that his unique experience through ascension had the side-effect of him now being able to see beyond the instant of death and to the immediate impact it had on others.

“Death used to be that simple. Grief, the reality of loss. Emotions that are a privilege, perhaps even a right for those left behind. All things we don’t experience after we die because we are gone. We no longer exist. We don’t care anymore. I used to believe that achieving ascension was unique in the sum of human experiences.”

“But it’s not for you?”

Daniel looked up again at the image on the screen. “I think this picture says it all.”



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F is for Future
by [livejournal.com profile] 11am_street

“C’mon Harrison! Hurry up; we’re going to be late!” Lieutenant Allison Reynolds shouted to her friend, Lieutenant George Daniel Harrison.

“Alright alright, I’m coming!” the lieutenant shouted as he adjusted the insignias on his dress uniform. They had to be perfect, today was a special day. Today was the day that he and his fellow soldiers and hopefully eventual teammates, friends really, would be inducted as part of the Stargate Program.

“Oh Dani!” Allison shouted as she knocked on the door. “Yeah yeah,” replied Harrison as he gave himself once last look in the mirror. Not a single hair was out of place and his insignia were perfectly straight. He grabbed his hat and left the locker room.

“I’m here,” he said as he pushed opened the door and saw his best friend waiting for him along with Allison. “You know, it’s usually us girls that take a long time in the bathroom,” she laughed as she high fived Daniel’s friend, John Bender, also a new recruit to the program.

The three friends, who had been friends since their early days at the Air Force Academy, marched toward the elevators and pushed the button for Level 28. All three soldiers were overcome with pre ceremony jitters as they excitedly fidgeted in the elevator, smiling nervously at each other. The moment the car stopped and the doors opened, however, the soldier façade was back in place as they marched steadily toward the Embarkation Room they paused briefly and smiled excitedly, their eyes shining with pride. As they entered through the doors, they were overwhelmed by the sight. It was not the first time they had been in the legendary “gate room”, but it was their first time to be in the presence of such notable members of the program. They fell into place with their fellow soldiers, all part of the new recruits to be sworn in as members of Stargate Command.

Harrison looked up to the podium and was awestruck to see the premier SG team standing together. He had heard so many wonderful stories about the legendary SG-1. The team designation was usually reserved for the best team, the flagship team. It was a tradition that had begun with the inaugural SG-1 team so many years ago. The members of that team were long dead, but the tradition continued that to be a part of SG-1 would be a privilege reserved for the select few that distinguished themselves in their service to the program. Harrison’s own father, now retired, had been a member of the team. He himself was named after the first non-military personnel on SG-1; of course his mother always said he was also named after her favourite musician, George Harrison and his own son Dhani. Daniel smiled thinking of his parents, who had been granted access to the ceremony, a privilege only for Stargate personnel, active or retired.

The young soldiers stood to attention as the Commander of Stargate Command, General Anderson, entered the room. He stood up to the podium and began his speech.

“Welcome to the Inauguration of Stargate Command’s 2097 Graduating Class. You are all here today, because you are the best and the brightest of that planet Earth has to offer. I would also like to highlight that this year marks the one hundredth’s anniversary of the foundation of the Stargate Program. This year we have graduates from over 137 countries, a new record for the SGC.”

The General continued speaking, commenting on the long standing tradition of the US Military, the changes made to Stargate Command over the years, various accomplishments of the graduating class, highlighting how certain candidates had distinguished themselves over their recruiting period.

“I would like to speak now about Stargate Command. Since it’s foundation in 1997, many great accomplishments have been achieved. When the Program first began, in the capable hands of the first SGC Commander, General George Hammond, Earth was in a different state. Countries were fragmented, the risk of war between the world’s most powerful countries was constantly looming, just waiting for a spark to set the power struggles alight with a third world war. Similarly, the galaxy was enslaved by a powerful enemy, one that was believed never to be vanquished. However, through great losses and great ingenuity, especially from the SGC’s flagship team, SG-1, the Goa’uld was defeated and after a long struggle, peace was achieved in the galaxy. Furthermore, the Stargate Program not only worked hard to ensure a safer galaxy, they also ensured a safer world, the world that we enjoy today. It is in part thanks to the Stargate Program that many of this planet’s warring nations were able to put down their arms against one another and work together for a common goal: peace, exploration, progress. You can see the evidence here today, as the Stargate Program is now open to all countries, not only the United States as it had been for the first decades of the Program.”

There was a presence just on the outskirts of the stage, standing in the darkness. He took in the sight of the 126 new recruits and how young and eager they looked. He remembered being so young, eager to join the fight, however, he was now very old having past the age of his prime long ago. His hair white and his skin wrinkled and he could not run or fight as he once had. He looked at the crowd again, they were not all soldiers, but there were also scientists and scholars as well, another progress made by the Program as it was now openly recruiting non-military personnel. He smiled thinking of past warriors, past comrades, friends. He was there one hundred years ago, when the program had started and he could attest to the General’s comments. The Stargate Program was entirely different, filled with uncertainly, fear, and even despair at times. He spared a thought to all of the fallen soldiers, scientists, non-military personnel and every innocent victim of the Goa’uld and other fierce enemies. He sighed, there were days where he truly missed his friends, and today was one of them. He steeled his gaze, turning his now frail appearance into a commanding presence. It was time.

General Anderson continued, “And now for the moment you have all been waiting for. I would like to give the podium to our honoured speaker: the last of the original members of SG-1. Please welcome, Mr. Teal’c.”

The audience erupted in a roar of applause.

And so life continued, as it always has and always will. Teal’c felt at peace, honouring his teammates’ memory as he took the podium and began to speak of his three greatest friends: Jack O’Neill, Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson. The Stargate Program was in good hands.

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G is for Godparent
by [personal profile] stringertheory

Over the years, Jack collected many accolades, each with its own worth and meaning. The official variety were the easiest to identify and understand. Every time the symbols on his shoulders changed, it indicated higher authority, broader responsibility, a heavier burden. The medals pinned to his jacket signified valor and daring feats; they commanded respect and admiration.

Less straightforward were the personal recognitions interwoven into military life. There were thousands of ways big and small that soldiers honored one another, unique to the individuals involved and the circumstances invoked. Jack had been given plane tickets, family heirlooms, specially prepared meals, hand-knit scarves, and one beloved vintage-era trading card. One of the men under his command – barely older than a boy, really – had even given Jack a small glass phial containing some of the shrapnel that had been recovered from his leg. Considering Jack had been the one to haul the man over his shoulder and cart him all the way to the field hospital, the offering had the mark of both a thank you and a trophy - “Here, remember what you did.”

His soldiers gave him trinkets, mementos, and memories. But it was always special when they gave him their children.

Being a godparent had different connotations for military personnel than it did for civilians. For all that it was a symbolic gesture to both, civilians had an understanding that, should the worst happen, they would be called upon to see to the child's well-being. Jack never entertained the same notions. When these men and women asked him to be a godparent to their child, he never expected that he would step into their boots should they not make it home. Neither did they. There were grandparents and aunts and uncles to fulfill that role. Hell, odds being what they were, it was highly likely that Jack would die before any of them, so surrogate parenthood was clearly not the intention.

For soldiers, it was the ultimate show of respect and appreciation a subordinate could give a superior. Trusting your life to another was standard practice for a soldier; they did it every day with one another. You trusted the man at your back to have your back. But to symbolically entrust your child to another's care? That gesture carried a deeper meaning than any title or medal or tchotchke ever could.

Only a few ever offered Jack the honor. Usually they found him on base, stopping him in the hall or joining him in the commissary and hesitantly making their request. One did the same, but then invited Jack to the christening for the formal announcement. Jack bought a new tie just for the event. There was one couple – one stationed in the SGC, one in NORAD – who asked to come by his house under a paper-thin pretense. Jack knew they had just had a baby and guessed at their true intentions, but he played along and even went so far as to tidy before the arrived. One sergeant even took it a step further and named his son after Jack (the middle name, but Jack was pleased just the same).

Jack didn't keep much in the way of personal items in his wallet. But tucked in one of the front pockets, behind an expired gift card he kept meaning to throw out, were pictures. Each one had a name, a birthdate, and the two parents' names carefully written on the back. Jack never pulled them out, but he always remembered that they were there. That was enough.

***


Had circumstances been different, Sam would have been a mother.

From the moment they had discovered Cassie hiding in the field on Hanka, Sam had been drawn to her. There was something in the girl's quiet gaze, in the solemn way she submitted to their examinations that struck a chord in Sam. She had been tempted – despite everything in her life, in her, that argued against it – to adopt Cassie as her own. The maternal connection she had so quickly established with the Cassie pushed against the logic that told her she couldn't be a single mother and a member of SG-1, the knowledge that she wasn't yet willing to give up SG-1 for motherhood. For days she was at war with herself.

Then Janet came to Sam to ask her opinion on adopting Cassie, and Sam took it as a sign. Janet was good for Cassie, and vice versa, in a way that Sam could never have managed in her current circumstances. And Sam would get to keep Cassie after all, even if just in a peripheral way. When Janet asked her to be Cassie's godmother, Sam hadn't hesitated to say yes. She and Janet had become close, almost like sisters, and helping Janet raise Cassie had seemed like a natural extension of that. Janet, as strong and self-sufficient as she was, was still a single parent with a high-pressure job, and could always use the extra set of hands. And she knew better than most how much Cassie meant to Sam.

So Sam had Cassie over to her place for weekend sleepovers when she was planet-side, both to spend time with Cassie and to give Janet a night to herself. She established their traditional chess Saturdays and did everything within her power to always be available for them. And she was there whenever Janet asked, whether it was sitting by Cassie's sickbed or commiserating with Janet over Cassie reaching dating age. She got to be an important part of Cassie's life, and she never took for granted the fact that she got to watch Cassie grow up. She felt guilty sometimes, though, as if she were getting all the good parts of parenthood with very few of the difficult parts.

Then Janet died, and even through she felt crushed by her own grief, Sam had to step up and be there for Cassie. Cassie, who was almost grown and had lost two mothers now and didn't want or need or ask for another, but still clung to Sam's hand like a lifeline while calmly greeting strangers at the viewing. Cassie, who burrowed into Sam's embrace at the funeral and went through the motions of life on autopilot while Sam sat up at night worrying about her. Cassie, who was at turns prickly and devastated, who left for college without giving Sam a hug and called her a month later, crying with homesickness.

When Sam's friends talked about being godparents, their descriptions sounded entirely alien. They never actually became the parent. They passed around three-by-fives of professionally photographed newborns, throwing out weight and height and time of birth the way Sam relayed instrument readings. They explained the choices behind names and recounted humorous tales from baby showers. By a year later, many of them hadn't seen the baby in months and could barely remember the child's birthday.

Sam didn't have any of that with Cassie. She didn't have Cassie's first steps or her first words. She didn't have an accurate birthday for her, since Hanka's calendar had been so different from Earth's. Even Cassie's age was an approximation. But she knew Cassie's favorite cereal and the first movie she ever watched and the boy she was dating. Sam's experience as a godparent was different then everyone else's. It was harder, but it was better.

***


Daniel was responsible for at least seven children.

He'd been asked to be a godparent so often he half wondered if it was a conspiracy. Most of the time, he accepted the requests at face value – as symbols of trust and respect and even admiration. He was asked as a way of saying thank you or out of a genuine sense of friendship. He had friends and colleagues in the SGC; it wasn't unusual they would ask him to be a part of their children's lives.

But sometimes he suspected they did it partially to give him an obligation to live, to come back.

Occasionally, there was something in the way they asked that was far more intense than the circumstances called for, sometimes tinged with an uncharacteristic or unwarranted desperation. And Daniel noticed that the frequency of requests tended to increase after he died – and came back – especially after his first Ascension. The invitations were given with clear, if not always direct, indications that he was expected to be around, alive and well, for the foreseeable future.

Major Habersham asked Daniel to be godfather to all three of his children. When the third was born, the major came by Daniel's apartment to make his request just as he had with the previous two. Daniel liked Habersham and his wife, and it was obvious to anyone who was around the major for more than fifteen minutes that he lived for his children. It was humbling that the man would want Daniel as a godparent once, much less three times. Daniel accepted the offer, as he had previously, without hesitation. The major clapped him on the back in his way, and joked that Daniel would have his hands full if anything ever happened. Daniel knew for a fact that each of Habersham's children had at least four godparents, but the man acted for all the world like Daniel would be the only person around.

Daniel was sitting with Sergeant Santiago in the infirmary when Santiago asked him to be godfather to his baby girl. The sergeant was on day two of a recovery that, according to Janet, would take at least a couple of weeks. The sergeant had requested that Daniel visit him, and Daniel was happy to oblige. He'd been on a few off-world missions with Santiago and SG-14, and knew the sergeant to be an unfailingly upbeat, level-headed soldier who worked hard and appreciated even the smallest things. So Daniel was slightly taken aback by the sergeant's demeanor when he fixed Daniel with a somber, unflinching gaze the minute Daniel sat down. The seriousness of the stare didn't surprise Daniel, given what Santiago had just been through, but there was a complete lack of the lighthearted relief he'd expected to see at least hints of. Instead, Santiago quietly explained why he wanted Daniel to be his daughter's godfather. He was doing dangerous work, work that could get him killed at any moment, and he wanted someone he knew would be there, someone who knew what to do, who could help his wife through his loss, someone who would be there. He gripped Daniel's arm so hard Daniel felt his fingers go numb. Daniel used his free hand to pat Santiago's and assured him that he would be there should it be necessary, even as he assured him that it wouldn't ever be necessary. Just in case, the sergeant replied, finally relaxing back against his pillow, pain etched in his face.

One of Daniel's research assistants, Dr. Freyr, bustled into his lab late one afternoon, heavily pregnant and with a determined glint in her eyes that he well recognized. Lowering herself into the chair he quickly wheeled over, she swept him from head to toe with that same gaze and informed him that he was going to be a godfather. He smiled and thanked her for the honor, but she waved away his gratitude with an impatient flick of her wrist. She and her husband were choosing a godparent each, she told him, and – in her words – his choice was a damn fool. She explained that she'd picked him because she knew he would be able to handle the responsibility. When she stared him down and added that she also knew he would make it a priority to actually, physically be there in the event of the worst, there was an directness in her eyes that gave Daniel pause. She had a bone-dry sense of humor, but Daniel sensed that she was, at that moment, completely in earnest. He responded in kind, and she scrutinized him for a minute longer before nodding her head and asking him to wheel her back to her lab, as she hadn't the energy or the desire to get out of his chair.

Instead of wallet prints or framed shots, Daniel received baby photos in a more unconventional way. It started simply enough, a couple of small photographs of his first two godchildren pinned to a bulletin board between bookcases in his lab. As he collected godchildren, the board collected more pictures until they were layered – newborn photos, birthday snapshots, school pictures, vacation shots. He never witnessed the growth of the collage; whether they did it intentionally or not, the parents always managed to add to the board while he was out of the lab. He'd just notice a new photograph and would know that someone had been by.

Daniel couldn't help but see the photographs every time he went into or out of his lab. He remembered every name, every birthday. And sometimes, when he was caught in the usual life-and-death off-world, he thought about the board, and all the people who wanted him to come home. And he never forgot that he had promised to be there, just in case.

***


Jaffa children did not have godparents. The concept of designating someone – or multiple someones – to step in as parents should a child's birth parents die was foreign to Jaffa culture. There would simply be no need to ask.

Though childrearing was the parents' responsibility, the entire village contributed. And though many children grew up without a parent – or sometimes both, lost to battles or the whims of the gods – no child was ever at a loss for guidance or protection or care. Neighbors kept an eye on each other's children at play and at work, passing on their individual knowledge and meting out discipline. Even when the children were split into their various adult tasks – warriors, mostly, but also others such as artisans – they were taught communally. A Jaffa's child was his pride, but a village's children were its future, and everyone felt they had a hand in the raising.

Teal'c had seen that the same was not always true for children on Earth. Some Tau'ri couples had large families, while others had small ones or even no children at all. Some lived near their parents; some did not. Some grandparents were very involved in their grandchildren's lives, while others saw them only occasionally. Some parents raised their children alone and others sought help from every friend and family member they could. It was a strange amalgamation of approaches, and it was very befitting the Tau'ri.

Teal'c was aware of the existence of godparents in Tau'ri culture – Colonel O'Neill and Daniel Jackson were godfathers to numerous children, and Major Carter was Cassandra's godmother. His three teammates were prime examples of the spectrum of involvement non-family members could expect with children of their friends and acquaintances. Colonel O'Neill had no interaction with his godchildren, Daniel Jackson was kept informed on the children's growth and milestones, and Samantha was almost as much a mother to Cassandra and Doctor Fraiser had been. They each fulfilled the role as it best suited them and the parents who had asked it of them.

Teal'c himself had one godchild, a little boy born barely two months before his father died on a world at the far side of the galaxy.

Corporal Brantley had been newly married when Teal'c saved his life during a skirmish by pulling him out of the path of a fatal staff blast. Even after Brantley was hit in the back during their retreat, Teal'c managed to get him through the Gate and into the infirmary. When Teal'c visited him there a day later, the corporal had been profusely grateful and expressed a desire to find something suitable for Teal'c as a thank you. Though Teal'c had politely dismissed the need for any gifts or recognition, Brantley couldn't be dissuaded. Ten months later, he found the perfect honor when he asked Teal'c to be godfather to his son, Hunter. Teal'c had been humbled by the request. He wondered what role the corporal would want him to play in the boy's life, where along the Tau'ri range he would fall as a godparent.

Brantley died before he could introduce Teal'c to his godson. The first time Teal'c met Hunter, he was part of the contingent sent to inform Mrs. Brantley that her husband wouldn't be coming home.

Vanessa Brantley was from a military family, and Teal'c could see in her expression that she knew why they were there even before anything was said. She recognized him, too, and he knew she wouldn't miss the significance of him being on her doorstep. She led them into the small, tidy living room to deliver the news in full. Sitting alone on the sofa, arms wrapped around herself, she looked terribly small, but she sat tall as Major Donnelly gave her what vague details they were allowed to impart about her husband's death. When the sharp cry of an infant rang from another room, Teal'c offered to see to the baby, and Mrs. Brantley gave him a small smile of thanks before turning her attention back to Major Donnelly, her eyes full of questions they would never be able to answer.

Teal'c followed the cries to a tiny nursery. Hunter Brantley had his father's eyes and a head full of hair a few shades darker than his mother's bright gold. The minute Teal'c picked him up, he stopped crying and focused on Teal'c's face with an unusually solemn stare. Staring back, Teal'c thought about his own childhood and the father he had never really known. In that moment, he knew what his role as godfather would be.

Carefully lowering himself into the rocking chair by the crib, Teal'c cradled his friend's son in his arms and told him about the father he had lost.

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H is for Half-Life
by [personal profile] sg_wonderland

I was engrossed in SG-12’s mission report when a flash of movement caught my eye. Glancing up, I realized Daniel was lurking in my doorway. Suppressing the inevitable sigh, I invited him in. Since his return, he won’t enter anyone’s room or lab or office without express consent. The door would always be left wide open. I have yet to figure out if it’s a method of discouraging personal conversation or if it was Daniel’s way of insuring a speedy escape. Consequently, I feel the chasm between Daniel and SG-1 widening every day.

He was stiff and formal and so clearly uncomfortable that I want to hug him tight but I realized that would lead to more stiffness and formality. There is this beautiful shell where a friend used to be and I hate it. “Daniel, you know you don’t have to ask me every time you want to come in.”

“I…I didn’t used to do that?” He perched uneasily on the stool opposite me, keeping the wide lab table between us.

“Oh, Daniel, you used to burst in one anyone, anywhere, without thinking about it.” My smile fades. “I wish, just once, you’d come in here like your hair was on fire.”

He shifted uncomfortably. “We used to be pretty good friends, huh?”

“The very best.”

“So, if I asked you to do me a favor, it wouldn’t be strange?”

My heart gave a hopeful bounce. “Daniel, I would love to do you a favor.”

“This weekend? I need to show you something. Off-base, if you have the time, Sam.”

He looked so young, so lost that I couldn’t resist reaching across the table to take his hand. “You call me, anytime. I’ll be there,” I promise.

***


I fought the urge to ask where we’re going when Daniel picked me up early Saturday morning. I suppressed my curiosity as Daniel drove, with measured care, into a quiet subdivision that looked an awful lot like my own neighborhood. Slowing down, he shot me a quick look. “I just….just tell me if you think this is a good idea or not, okay?” Waiting for my nod, he quickly turned into a driveway and stopped.

I tumbled out of the car when I spotted the real estate sign in the yard. “Daniel, you’re buying a house!”

He was fumbling with his keys. “I might have…may have…already bought it.”

Turning, I surveyed the house. It was small, cottage-like, with flowers and a well-kept lawn. “Please tell me you have the keys?”

Finally, finally a smile. “Come on in.”

***


An hour later, we were sitting on the highly polished living room floor, devouring a fast-food breakfast. “So,” I asked, “what made you decide to buy a house?”

“I…I’ve been having trouble sleeping. Dr. Fraiser advised me to spend more time out of the mountain but I…”

“Didn’t have anyplace to go, outside the mountain?”

“Yeah. So I thought I should get my own place. I went to see a condo and I…well, I had a panic attack. Scared the realtor to death.”

“Daniel!” I exclaim, horrified.

“I just….I felt all boxed in and I couldn’t breathe anymore. But she opened a window and then I made it downstairs. She asked me if I’d ever thought about a house, which I hadn’t so she showed me a couple. When I saw this one, it seemed to be the right size and it’s not too far from the base. Lori, the real estate agent, said it was kind of small but since it was only me, she thought it might suit me.” He gave me a quick glance. “What do you think?”

I’d walked through the house with him, trying to see it through clinical eyes. “Yes, it’s small but the kitchen and bathroom have been updated so it’d be pretty low maintenance.”

“Did you know you can hire people to mow your grass and water your flowers?” He seemed amazed.

“And clean your house, too.” I patted his knee at his shocked look. “I’ll give you the name of the service that cleans my house.” I searched his face. “Are you sleeping any better?”

He shrugged. “Dr. Fraiser is still signing off on me to work.” Knowing Janet, I’d bet he had to persuade her not to ground him. “I have to get some furniture and stuff before I can move in.”

“Oh, you know I’m up for that.”

“Teal’c’s already offered. But you can come along.”

“Teal’c?” Somehow, I just couldn’t picture it.

“He was actually pretty forceful about going with me.”

One big difference in the new Daniel was his inability to prevent Teal’c – and the Colonel – from totally bulldozing their way over his objections. That, I figured, wouldn’t last long but the two of them were taking outrageous advantage of the circumstance.

“So, what do you think?” Daniel asked, his expression uncertain.

I thought about the house. The exterior was beautiful, precisely landscaped, the perfect facade. The interior so divergent: some rooms ruthlessly remodeled, all their wondrous history stripped away to be replaced by mere function. Other rooms were so empty that sound and light echoed on wall upon wall upon wall. I forced a smile. “I think it’s perfect, Daniel.”

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I is for Insight
by [personal profile] gategremlyn

“Oh, my,” Daniel sputtered as he wiped the tears from his eyes. “Tell me you didn't.”

“I did,” Sam said. “To a general. And me just barely out of the academy. I thought for sure I was done.”

“What did he do?”

“He said,” and Sam put down her beer bottle so she could place both hands on her hips, “he said, 'Young lady, I may be wrong, but I'm a general. The only people who can tell me I'm wrong are my staff. And you aren't one of them... yet. So keep your opinions to yourself.'”

Daniel grabbed a tissue to wipe his eyes. “I can so see you as a wet-behind-the-ears lieutenant. Did you keep your opinions to yourself?”

“Well, let's say I kept them to a select group of people,” she admitted. “Okay, I've told you about a time I cried, now somebody else tell one.”

They were at the easy part of night when, lubricated with a few beers, the stories came. It was a time-honored tradition for SG-1, especially after a mission like the one they'd just had. Seeing Daniel as a Prior, knowing they'd started a war they weren't sure they could finish.... Well, it had been a rough few days.

“I cried when my son was born,” Teal'c said.

“Tears of joy,” Sam said with a nod. “I get that.”

“No, not tears of joy,” Teal'c said. “Tears of sorrow that my son would someday serve Apothis.”

“But you were in the service of Apothis,” Daniel said. “Didn't you want your son to follow in your footsteps?”

“No,” was Teal'c's blunt reply.

“Well, T, that's not a problem anymore,” Jack said from his chair by the fireplace. “Ding dong, the witch is dead.” He raised his bottle in a toast. “And about time, too.” Jack had stayed at Cheyenne Mountain to brainstorm with the brass about how to defeat the Ori. Now they had nothing to do but what the military did so well: hurry up and wait. In the brief respite before the storm to come, he had dragged the old team to the cabin for a few days of peace and quiet. They flew out tomorrow.

“I've cried,” Daniel said into the stillness.

“Yeah?”

“I cried when you made two-star general.”

“Knew you were going to miss me, didcha?”

“No. I feared for the people in Washington.”

“Yeah, I get that, too.” Sam leaned forward so that she could whisper in Daniel's ear, an act that was an abysmal failure considering her state of inebriation. “I don't think you were the only one who cried over that.”

“Oh, very funny, you two. You both know that Washington needed me.”

“And that might be the scariest thing of all,” Daniel said. On his way for refills, he grabbed a handful of empties and brought them to the kitchen. “So, Jack,” he said as he passed out fresh bottles, “you haven't shared your tearful moment. Did the mess run out of pie? Did Siler hit you with his wrench?” He grinned and slid into the chair, propping his bottle on his knee.

“Perhaps he was given more forms to sign by Sergeant Harriman,” Teal'c suggested.

Sam snorted. “That would definitely make him cry. Come to think of it, it would make me cry.”

“Why?” Daniel asked. “He just gives them back and has Walter do them anyway.”

“Laugh it up, you two,” Jack said, “but my inadequate record-keeping skills have kept several people employed over the years.”

“Good point,” Daniel said. “And with that, it's time for me to head to bed.” He drained his beer and stood, a little unsteady on his feet.

They'd argued about the room assignments earlier, and Daniel had won the cot in the spare room. Teal'c had the bed and Sam the couch. Jack, as the master of the cabin, had the double bed in the main bedroom. He'd offered to give up his bed, of course. But no one would let the man paying for the food and at least part of the beer do that.

As everyone started to shuffle themselves to their spots, Sam grabbing her her sleeping bag from under Daniel's elbow, Jack said, “I have cried.”

“Yeah?” Daniel finished his tug-o-war with Sam and sat back down. “Jack, it's just a game, you don't have to--”

“When you died,” Jack said. “Ascended. Whatever. I cried then.”

“You did not!” The alcohol made Sam bold. “Not even a tear. 'Cause I watched. I cried, Teal'c cried, Janet cried, but you never even let on it even bothered you.”

The silence which they'd enjoyed for the last couple of days was no longer friendly and comfortable. Teal'c stood in the doorway; Sam hugged the sleeping bag; Daniel came to stand by Jack's chair.

When Jack finally looked up, Daniel said, “I don't think I've ever seen you cry, except maybe when you were in pain. But never for anything else. Not even when you were being tortured by Ba'al.”

“You remember that?” Sam asked in shock. “You said you didn't remember anything from when your were ascended.”

Daniel continued to stare at Jack. “Maybe it was being a prior or having Merlin's memories downloaded or something. But yeah, I remember. Not all of it,” he added, putting up a hand to forestall further questions, “but some.”

“You remembered Ry'ac,” Teal'c said. “Was that not from your time ascended?”

“I still don't know why that memory came back,” Daniel said. “Maybe the memories are jolted by trauma.”

“Having a brain dump from an Ancient wizard would be traumatic, that's for sure.” Jack rose, making Daniel step away from his chair, and tossed a pillow at Sam. “Anyway, I... wanted you to know that. God knows why.”

“Jack,” Daniel started.

“Don't make a thing of it, Daniel. I just wanted you to know. Now...” he rubbed his hands together “...who's making breakfast?”

“Why didn't you tell us, sir?” Sam asked.

Teal'c came back into the room and sat in his chair. Daniel sat on the coffee table. Jack looked around the room, defeated, before he sank back into his chair. “What did you want me to say, Carter?”

“That you cared; that you felt what the rest of us felt; that you missed him.”

“It hurt too much, I guess.” Jack shrugged his shoulders, looking not at his friends but at the floor. “I didn't know how to say it,” he added. “If I said it, it would make it real.”

“Why now?” Daniel asked quietly.

“Because I'm old, and I'm afraid one of us is going to die without getting a chance to say it. We keep dancing around the whole death thing, but sooner or later, it's going to catch up to us.” Jack picked up a bottle off the floor. “And I've had too much to drink.”

“Say what?” Daniel prodded.

“You're not really going to make me.” Jack glared at the non-Prior Daniel with the small smirk and the tired eyes.

“How often am I going to get the chance?” The smirk turned to a smile. “So what were you going to say?”

“That you made a lousy Marcel Marceau.”

“I like Marcel Marceau.” Daniel put his hands in front of him and mimed being in a box.

“What is a Marcel Marceau?” Teal'c asked.

“Not a what, a who,”Sam explained. “Marcel Marceau was a mime.” Seeing Teal'c's confusion she added, “A mime. A person who has a white face and tells a story through movement.” She turned to Jack who was still glaring at the Daniel-in-the-box. “Not to pry, but why Marcel Marceau?”

Without stopping Daniel said, “When I beamed him up to the ship, he said I looked like Marcel Marceau.”

“You two have some very weird conversations.” Sam shook her head in confusion.

“I have been to the ballet with ValaMaldoran. A mime is a dancer then.”

Teal'c's sage nod took Daniel out of his box. “No, Teal'c, not a dancer. A mime uses movement, but not rhythmic dancing. Like this,” he added and went back to feeling his way around the box.

“Oh, good. Daniel's in a box,” Jack said. “Somebody lock it and throw away the key.” He turned and started down the hallway to the bedrooms. “I'm not making breakfast.”

“Come on, Jack, say it.” Daniel followed as Jack made his way out of the room.

“You're a pain in the ass.”

“Thank you. But that's not what you were going to say.” Daniel was at Jack's shoulder.

“If I told you to go to hell, would that work?”

“Been there, done that.” Daniel turned himself around so that he was walking backward as he and Jack maneuvered down the hall. “Been there, done that, with you. Besides, it's never worked before, telling me to go to hell.”

“It never works to tell you anything!”

As the bickering voices faded, Teal'c looked at Sam. “Will he ever say it?”

“After 11 years?” Sam flattened out the sleeping bag before she looked down the hall. After a last “Come on, Jack!” followed by a “Have you lost what little is left of your mind?” Sam said, “I think he just did.”

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J is for Just a Bit Off Base
by [personal profile] thothmes

Sgt. Otis Jefferson was coming up on his thirtieth year in the Air Force, and was thinking of retiring. Like most enlisted men, he had gone where the service sent him, moving every few years, living on or near various bases at home or abroad, often as not uprooting his family to be with him, but occasionally enduring long separations when that was not safe or possible. For the last ten years he had been lucky enough to pull a relatively cushy spot at Cheyenne Mountain. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t as prestigious as landing guard detail at the White House, but that was a job for Marines in any case. His mama, God rest her soul, had been a wise woman and had warned him against going into the Marines, and from what he had seen of what the Corps expected of them, Mama had been right. She usually was.

Be that as it may, Otis had thrown his lot in with the Air Force, and the service had suited him. He’d left a neighborhood in South Philly that was sinking from middle class make-do into urban blight and decay, and seen the world and made a life for himself, while so many of his contemporaries had found their way into prison or a series of dead-end, low wage jobs. Otis had a good job, decent medical care, and a pension, and he still had his health. Lately, though, Mary’s mother had been ill, and they’d been talking about the possibility of him getting out and moving back to Oakland, where Mary had grown up, to take care of her. Her brother Jim ran his own security firm, and could offer Otis a job with benefits, so maybe it was time to make one last move, and put down roots for good. Ten years was a long time in one place, and there were friends and places he’d miss, but with any luck, he and Mary would have another thirty years in them before all was said and done, and thirty years was time to put down some serious roots.

He’d seen a great deal in his time in the service. He’d seen the fierce blizzards of Minot, South Dakota, and the wilting heat of Eglin and McDill in the grip of a Florida summer. He’d been to Vietnam, Turkey, and Germany, and he’d been able to show his kids castles and museums, things he’d only read about in books as kids, and scarcely thought were real. This world was full of wonders, but some of the oddest things he’d run into right here, guarding the entrance to a mountain in Colorado.

He thought he was going to be spending his time securing the entrance to NORAD, the aerospace defense command facility headquartered in the nuclear defense bunker at Cheyenne Mountain, with other facilities at nearby Peterson AFB, and in other bases around the U.S. and Canada, and at first that was exactly what he did. Then they started some kind of top secret project down in the lower levels under NORAD, and the steady stream of Air Force officers and support staff was suddenly swollen with an odd collection of scientists and scholars. What they were up to down there, Sgt. Jefferson was never quite able to figure out, but he listened hard, at first just because the things the folks downstairs talked about among themselves were just plain more exciting than anything the NORAD folk had to say. Their conversation was all about radar frequencies, alert protocols, and test results. The folk downstairs were talking about massive power requirements and how to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was weird, and not a little intriguing.

Then one day, Col. O’Neill turned up again. Jefferson had met the colonel back when he was nothing but an itty bitty major, up to something hush-hush in Germany. He’d seen him again in a hangar in Incirlik, Turkey. He and Mary had shaken their heads in horror and pity and held their kids a little closer when they saw his picture in the paper and read the article about what happened to his son. O’Neill had looked about as grim as Otis thought he would have been if it had been James, but the Sgt. hadn’t said a word. The colonel’s expression had not invited discussion. A couple of weeks later, there had been the first of a series of rumblings and shakings deep under the mountain. After the second series of small quakes, O’Neill emerged again, and this time he stopped to pass the time of day. He was going home, he said. Retiring. Looking forward to spending some time with his wife. And that was the last Sgt. Jefferson saw of the man for a year.

When the rumblings started up again, damned if Col. Samuels didn’t hot foot it out of the mountain, nearly dancing with impatience at the necessity of clearing through security, only to return a few hours later with O’Neill in tow. More rumblings, and then out came O’Neill, this time with a scientist who had signed into the mountain over a year ago, and hadn’t been out since. The Sgt. spent quite a few watches trying to figure out how a man who had just spent an entire year deep in the bowels of a mountain could have sun-streaks in his hair and a bit of a tan, but finally decided, based on the huge dude with the weird gold tattoo that Col. O’Neill brought out, the rather emaciated older gent that came out with Dr. Langford, and the auburn-haired child that come out with Doc Fraiser, all of whom signed out of the mountain but had never signed in, that they must, for some reason, be bringing people in via the locked, but unguarded entrance shaft up on the slope of the mountain. If there was a breach in the perimeter fence they were using to get in, well that was some other poor bastard’s responsibility, not his. Otis pointed out the irregularity to both the commander of NORAD, and Gen. Hammond of the SGC, and after a few days sighed with relief when nothing happened. He hadn’t wanted to turn a blind eye to a security breach, but in his experience, the less attention that enlisted got from officers in general, and generals in particular, the better life went.

Besides, three individuals, spaced out over a period of several weeks was not nearly as odd as the collection of patients, some of them with serious looking wounds and terrible burns that were rushed out from below, loaded into transport trucks, for lack of available ambulances and the personnel to man them, and carted off to the Academy Hospital. That entrance shaft went down at least twelve stories. What in the world would make them lift people, wounded, in pain, some of them clearly in critical condition down a shaft, only to bring them back out the main entrance and ship them off? Not only that, but before too long, the patients were all trucked back in through the main gate, and disappeared down into the mountain never to be seen again. Surely there was a reason, but Otis remembered his mama’s warnings that his curiosity would be the death of him, and kept his eyes and ears open, and his mouth shut. At least the rumblings had pretty much stopped.

There were a few days when the giant 25 ton blast doors to the mountain were sealed shut, trapping everyone inside. When the officers at NORAD made it clear in their conversations that the threat had been contagion or invasion from below, Sgt. Jefferson had bit his tongue to keep from pointing out that if the folks downstairs would just stop bringing folks in the back way, the whole damn top secret government facility would be a lot safer. He was just one tiny little cog in a vast, unimaginably complex machine. Surely all that extra education the officers had to get to climb the ranks would help them figure it out. They got the fat paychecks and the right to boss everyone else around. Let them handle it.

If anything, over time things got more disturbing.

One day everyone poured out from down below, and trucks trundled in from Peterson, setting up tents, with temporary quarters, a mess, and command centers, and all the scientists were jawing on about a black hole. When Sgt. Siler explained what one was, it sounded very alarming, but Otis had no idea why something far off in space was causing a bivouac right here at Cheyenne Mountain. Before he could get up the courage to approach Siler with that question, everything was all over, and he was allowed to go home to Mary at last. They were still arguing about whether he’d had to stay on base eight nights or twelve. That Mary was a stubborn woman, even if she clearly couldn’t count. It was nice to know she’d missed him that much though.

Whatever it was they did in the lower levels, it was important enough to draw important people. The Secretary of Defense came. Senator Kinsey, and later Vice President Kinsey came. The President had come. So had Gen. Ryan, the general in charge of the whole Air Force. Sgt. Jefferson had been impressed.

A couple of colonels up to no good came blustering in, throwing their weight and their papers around from time to time. The streets of South Philly had taught Otis a thing or two about bullies, and he knew one when he saw one. Maybourne and Simmons were bullies alright, just like that Kinsey fellow, and it surely was a testament to the Lord’s Providence and General Hammond’s strength that they all three came out with their tails between their legs, escorted by an affable O’Neill and his giant friend with the gold tattoo. It was a sad day, though, when Col. Makepeace and a number of other officers had been led away in irons. Dr. Jackson said it was treason. It shook the Sgt.’s confidence in his judgment, because Makepeace had always seemed like such a stand-up guy. Even though Makepeace had never returned, Otis had not believed it for a moment when O’Neill had been escorted out in chains for the murder of Senator Kinsey, a few years later. His faith in his judgment was confirmed. O’Neill had been innocent. Otis and Mary watched the press conference together, and then thanked the Lord for taking such good care of the Colonel. What could have happened to him if Kinsey had died didn’t bear thinking about.

Shortly after that Col. Maybourne went down into the mountain, and was never seen again. The Sgt. would have said good riddance if it weren’t for the fact that Dr. Jackson had disappeared for a year twice, and came back. Who was to say that Col. Maybourne wouldn’t come back after a few?

There were a few times over the years when scientists, military personnel, professors, and various government officials all trooped into the mountain, bearing whatever of their personal belongings they could carry with them. They mostly looked careworn and a little frightened going in, and a few days or a few hours later, when they trooped out with all their stuff, they looked like kids on holiday. It was a puzzler.

There was the time that some rather fierce ladies in strange and drape-y costumes emerged from the bowels of the mountain with a flock of goats, a herd of sheep, and several horses, and proceeded out to graze them on the mountain side, before taking them back inside for the night. This happened for several days, and then abruptly it stopped. Were the animals still alive? If not, why? It was conceivable that fodder was smuggled in and manure was smuggled out via that shaft, but there was no way in Hell that even if the sheep and goats were lifted out on ropes and herded away, they would be able to get the horses up those shafts alive. The shaft simply wasn’t big enough.

Sometimes it was clearly just practical joking. That Col. O’Neill had a very off-beat sense of humor, and clearly that was the reason for the teenage boy who arrived carrying O’Neill’s I.D. and insisting that he be allowed on base. What the point of the exercise was, Otis Jefferson never was able to see, because the joke should have been over the moment he had detained the boy and called Gen. Hammond over the issue, proving that the base was secure, but no, the boy had been declared to be O’Neill, and his team and his commander had gamely played along with the charade, insisting that this was indeed true. It was all Otis could do to bite back the “I told you so!” when the kid came and went a final time with the real deal O’Neill at his side.

All those things, though, had been real. Otis Jefferson could see them, hear them, and (especially in the case of the farm animals) smell them. Even the little boy that looked just like the son O’Neill had lost, the boy that O’Neill said wasn’t Charlie, was real. The insects from below weren’t real. Otis could see them, but he couldn’t touch them because his hand went right through, and he certainly couldn’t smell them. He wasn’t about to try and taste them. He’d had ants on a survival course, and grubs when he was stationed abroad, and that was enough insects for a lifetime, thanks! They said it was a hallucination from a chemical spill and patted him on the back, and he never saw them again, but it was disturbing. Not as disturbing as the little fellow who appeared in a blinding shower of light one day. He had enormous large eyes, and spindly little limbs, and he looked just like the little green men from Area 51. Sgt. Jefferson had stared, open mouthed at the little mottled grey man, who had clearly said “Ooops!” and vanished the way he came. Then there was the time that he had heard O’Neill, he had even, he thought, smelled O’Neill, and had certainly smelled his coffee, and felt the current of air from his passing, but he had seen nothing but a floating steel and black plastic travel mug.

Some things simply defied explanation. Invisibility was simply not possible, and yet there was no other way that Otis could think of for that to happen. It kept him up nights when he thought of the SGC in the hands of a civilian. Ms. Weir was very nice, but she didn’t inspire the Sgt.’s confidence the way Gen. Hammond had. There were nights Otis lost sleep over it. Ten years settled in Colorado Springs, in the middle of the continent, far from any of the shooting wars, and he was losing more sleep over the ways of the world than he had in combat zones.

Speak of the Devil, Mama had said, and he’ll appear. Well, Elizabeth Weir was not the Prince of Darkness, but Otis had been thinking of her, and here she was, ready to be checked through, and behind her was a surprise, Col. O’Neill, who hadn’t been seen in a few months this time. No doubt he wouldn’t offer an excuse this time either. He never did.

Otis put Ms. Weir through the formalities of checking out, and was turning to do the same for O’Neill, when she stopped the Sgt. for a moment to tell him that she would be leaving for another assignment in (of all places!) Antarctica. When he asked who would be heading the SGC in her absence, she gestured to O’Neill.

He was rocking on his heels, hands in his pockets, and a grin on his face. He pulled out his yo-yo, and tossed it up and down a few times. He cracked the gum he had evidently been chewing, and blew a large bubble. The bubble popped, and the Sgt. and Weir watched in some suspense as he managed to peel it off his nose and cheeks without involving his nearby eyelashes, and placed it back in his mouth.

“For some reason, they’re making me a general!” he said with glee. “There’s a big leather chair, a much better parking space, and a bump in pay for me too!”

“More paperwork too,” said Elizabeth Weir, dampeningly.

Soon an evidently chastened O’Neill had been checked through, Sgt. Jefferson had offered The Man his congratulations, and the two leaders were walking off towards the parking lot.

“Walter understands paperwork. It’s practically his mother tongue!” O’Neill offered, and the spring was back in his step.

Ms. Weir shook her head ruefully, and Otis made a mental note to warn Harriman when he came out what was likely coming his way, unless O’Neill was joking. He always did have that strange sense of humor. It was hard to tell.

O’Neill.

A general.

In charge of the top secret base under NORAD.

That night Mary was in the kitchen when Otis got home, lifting a pot roast out of the oven. He waited until it was out, the oven door was closed, and the lid was lifted off, releasing a fuller, richer version of the smell that had been making his mouth water from the moment he got in the door. He stepped up behind her, and pressing close, put his arms around her, while she turned her head over her shoulder and leaned to one side just enough to drop a kiss on the edge of his chin. He hummed his appreciation, and took a moment to appreciate how much better he liked hugging this full-figured woman than the skinny little thing she’d been when they met.

“I’m gonna do it, Baby Girl,” he said. “Call your brother Jim and tell him I’ll take him up on that job. It’s time for me to get out of the service. We’re gonna pack up one last time, and move to Oakland.”

Let someone else worry about what Col. Gen. O’Neill will be up to under that mountain!

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K is for Knit
by [profile] wyomingknot

"I don't understand," Vala says, peering around Cam.

"Well, the combination of the heat and the vinegar..." Cam starts.

"No. I mean why. You can just go to the mall and buy whatever. Why go to all this effort? Why take all this time?"

"It gives me something to do. Lets me feel useful during downtime."

"Usefulness is overrated."

"It's relaxing."

"So are lots of other things."

"I like doing it, Vala. All of it. It reminds me of home. My mom taught me all the 'womanly arts'. I prefer to think of it as apocalypse preparedness." Cam winks. “I make a mean macaroon, too. ”

Vala rests a hand on Cam's arm. "Maybe you can teach me to knit later, when the yarn is done cooking."

Cam smiles. "You bet."

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L is for Lockdown
by [personal profile] sg1jb

It hadn't been until 2050 hours Saturday evening, almost four hours after SG-3's return – and one hour after they'd started showing signs of serious illness – that Janet abruptly realised there was a bigger problem afoot than she'd thought. When a tech from one of the labs on level twenty had wandered in asking for calamine lotion or the equivalent, one glance at the small reddened area on the man's neck had sent her heart into her throat and her hand to the telephone.

Fortunately, Colonel Dixon was senior officer on duty for the night. Smarter and easier than most to deal with, he hadn't even bothered trying to convince her they should first take the time to double-check whether or not the man had been either directly or indirectly exposed to SG-3. He'd simply said, "Oh crap," followed by "Yeah, okay," and it was a done deal. Within five minutes, the base had been sealed off and the SGC ventilation system isolated from the rest of the mountain and the outside.

She'd had no doubt as to the mode of transmission, and immediately ordered her staff into contamination gear and hoods. Judging from the small size and shallow penetration of the bites on SG-3 and the lab tech, she'd suspected the heavy suits were overkill but hadn't been about to assume anything until they found the vectors and got one of the little buggers under a magnifying glass. To which end, not fifteen minutes after her initial call to Dixon SG-3's bagged clothing and gear had been put under glass in the isolation lab, to be carefully examined.

At 2110, Dixon had called her with a full head count. There were only forty-eight people on base in addition to her staff and the patients already in the infirmary – a reassuringly small number of potential victims when compared to what might have been had SG-3 returned on a bustling Monday morning, but at the same time indicative of a disturbingly inadequate amount of skilled help. Dixon had also confirmed that although the tech had traveled a bit during the time between arriving on base for his twelve hour night shift and subsequently showing up in the infirmary, he hadn't had contact with anyone who'd been in the vicinity of SG-3 or their belongings.

That initial legwork done, by 2120 the corridors had been nailed down and everyone on base instructed to remain behind closed doors unless explicitly permitted otherwise. There were some things the human body couldn't be denied no matter the risk, though; the predictable, completely understandable requests from some of the civilian staff for said explicit permission had begun filtering in shortly after midnight. Equally as predictable was how most of the military contingent, even ten hours later, according to Dixon, hadn't done the same. Janet well knew a military man's bladder was no larger nor more capable of withstanding abuse than anyone else's. She'd made a mental note to add disinfection of private and public area sinks in the occupied locations to the post-lockdown protocol. She'd made sure to include the one in Daniel Jackson's office on the list; while not normally a victim of military discipline and pride, at times he could be more stubborn than everyone else put together.

Establishment of the lockdown had been quick, efficient, and thorough. Even so, within hours of the first she had four more patients at her door, escorted to her by airmen protected by bright orange contamination suits.

The two-man Facilities crew on duty had found a few culprits in the first place they'd checked, caught up in the hepa filters in the gateroom ventilation grids. They were insects, as she'd thought, but unfortunately they were the teeny-weeny-tiny flying kind, rather than the easier to locate scary-creepy-crawly sort. While they couldn't get past the filters into the ventilation system, it was bad news all the same – there was no telling how many of them had accompanied SG-3 through the 'gate and they'd had close to four hours to flit through hallways, inspect elevators, and catch rides on clothing and equipment before the base had been locked down.

Four hours to possibly have escaped the SGC, and it was her fault. Her tenure here was just approaching three and a half years, and apparently she was already growing complacent.

***


Lying huddled under a blanket on her uncomfortable cot, unwilling to open her eyes even though she knew she wasn't going to fall back to sleep, Janet listened to her infirmary: to unhurried footsteps, muted conversations, the clink and rattle and rustle of care being given and received. To soft moans and grunts, evidence of discomfort she was increasingly unable to alleviate. There were twenty-one patients in various stages of illness crammed into the infirmary, filling the beds and spilling over onto camp cots and rescue stretchers imported from Stores, and although the lockdown wasn't even a full four days old the count of remaining medication, intravenous supplies, and linen was so low as to be laughable.

Her mind and body still weighed down despite her nap, it wasn't until a chair leg scraped on the floor right next to her that she realised someone was sitting at her side. "Okay?" she mumbled, expecting it to be one of her slowly recovering patients. Probably Johnson; since the worst of his symptoms had begun to wane, the SG-3 member had chosen to deal with his unearned guilt by being particularly helpful and solicitous.

"Oops. Sorry. Didn't mean to wake you."

Her eyes snapped open. "What did you do?" she demanded, struggling against the blanket to sit up on the awkward cot. She quickly scanned Daniel Jackson's hands, face, and neck for the now familiar telltale of a bite but came up empty.

"I didn't do anything. It must have snuck in with my take-out order." He pulled on the collar of his black tee, exposing an angry-looking swelling just under his left collarbone.

The affected area was large enough to sharpen her gaze and send it right back to his face for a more thorough assessment. "That's not even remotely a fresh bite," she accused. Despite that the extent of the inflammation indicated he was a goodly number of hours past initial exposure, he didn't appear flushed with fever yet, so hopefully his would be just a mild case.

"No," he freely admitted. "Noticed it just after getting my meal delivery, about ..." He couldn't hold back a wince as he shifted his weight in the chair, bringing his arm up to check his watch. "Gee. Time flies. About seven hours ago. The airman and I used the WD-40 before opening the door, but obviously one got inside anyway."

That wasn't what she wanted to hear. She'd rather he'd done something stupid such as wandering blithely out in the hall unprotected, or leaving his office door open. While cleaning products, disinfectants, and the limited types of insecticide on hand hadn't fazed the little bugs, two days ago, at twenty-nine hours in, they'd discovered that sprayed cooking oil and mechanical lubricants had proven good aversives in the iso lab – the inadvertent tourists on SG-3's clothing and gear had cut and run at the smallest squirt into the air, and so far it'd been an effective way of enabling escorted bathroom breaks and the safe distribution of food. Regular spraying of the entrance to the infirmary and the corridor outside had also meant she and her staff could ditch the cumbersome contamination gear in favour of regular iso gowns and neoprene gloves. Hopefully the mishap with Daniel's office wouldn't be repeated here.

"I found a bottle of Tylenol in the back of a filing cabinet drawer, so I figured I'd just stay put and not add to your load unless it got bad enough I couldn't handle it," Daniel told her. "But I wasn't thinking – it didn't occur to me until a bit ago that you could probably make good use of that bottle. I'm really sorry. I had no idea it was there, and I should have realised its value right when I found it ..." He shrugged, and his face paled. "Ow."

Okay, so probably not just a mild case, then. Janet pried herself up and out, and despite Daniel's protests helped him off his chair and onto the cot. His skin was hot to the touch, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been, the worst of his fever apparently held back by the Tylenol he'd taken. "You've been checked over?" His answer was yes, indicated with a nod that heightened the tinge of nausea on his face.

"Have you been filled in on what to expect?" This time the answer was no, so she quickly gave him a summary as she untied his boot laces. "You're already familiar with the start of it. The itch, erythema, and inflammation at the site of the bite shouldn't get any worse from this point on, and the headache should plateau soon. Your fever and nausea will worsen, though, and will be accompanied by joint and muscle pain of increasing severity as time goes on. Of course," she eyed him, "you're already pretty sore, aren't you?"

Daniel didn't bother validating her assessment. Instead, he plucked at the front of his t-shirt and asked, "Do you have any scrubs, or even a gown I can trade for? I've been wearing the same clothes for over four days."

Ah yes, that problem. There was no way to supplement the dwindling supply of clean linen; with no way to do laundry, anything soiled stayed that way. "Sorry, but we've only got a few gowns left," she told him. "And believe me, you'll need a clean one a lot more later than you do now."

"Oh, I dunno about that," he mumbled under his breath, adding something indistinct that seemed to involve underwear, and then changed the subject. "Ran into Teal'c in the hallway on my way here," he told her. "He was calmly sitting on the floor holding a bowl of raw eggs, and surrounded by a wicked-looked beige halo." His lips twitched into something approaching a grin as he added, "I think he's enjoying himself."

Janet had to smile. The discovery that Teal'c didn't get sick when bitten, and that biting him was instantly fatal to the tiny gnats, was a bright light in this dark tunnel. It gave them something to fight with, at least, while the two biologists who'd found themselves trapped on-base while working on a special project tried to figure out what to do about the bugs and how to do it. As the pale bugs were easily visible against Teal'c's skin colour, he'd been able to see the one that had landed on his hand and directly observe the immediate effects of its bite. Janet had worried about the cumulative effect of multiple bites on Teal'c's apparent immunity, until she'd gathered enough medical data to determine that SG-3, who each had been bitten numerous times off-world, were no worse off than her SGC patients.

After days of debilitating illness, SG-3 and her earliest patients appeared to be on the road to recovery, symptomatically at least. And while there was no way to know if the virus, or whatever, transmitted by the gnats would result in residual health problems, lab tests run by the overworked biologists so far indicated humans probably weren't effective incubators of the infective agent. They'd confirm it later – once they figured out a safe way to get virologists, support staff, and much needed supplies into the SGC without risk of letting any of the gnats out – but so far it seemed likely this illness wasn't contagious. Qualitatively supporting that hope was that after three days of direct contact with infected patients, Janet and her staff hadn't fallen ill. Yet.

Aided by the raw eggs that so instantly attracted the bugs, for the time being Teal'c was proving to be an effective biological exterminator, and she was glad to hear he was enjoying the job. However, he could only be in one place at a time and she wasn't all that comfortable with letting him carry on this way for much longer. How many of the little creatures were out there and how to most efficiently find them all was everyone's biggest concern: no matter what means of widespread eradication they might come up with, before any thought could be given to lifting the lockdown, the risk of any possible survivors escaping the base had to be quantified and eliminated.

"Hey, Dixon." Daniel raised his voice, looking over at the man curled up in the bed opposite them. "How are you feeling?"

"Jackson," Dixon drawled, not bothering to raise his head. "I'm pissed off. Thanks for asking." Dripping with sweat and his face creased with pain, all the same he still clutched his newly permanent appendage – a telephone handset.

"He's just starting to come out the other side," Janet told Daniel. "He'll feel better by tomorrow." Not that he, or anyone else, ever should have become ill in the first place.

The colonel had been on the phone during as much of his time as possible while in the infirmary, the exception having been the long peak period during which he'd been too sick to keep even a stray thought in his head. Janet knew Daniel would arrive there within the next four hours or so, and she also knew she didn't have nearly enough drugs left on the shelf to help him through it as she had Colonel Dixon and her other patients. The lockdown had unfortunately come at the lowest point in their supply cycle – but all the same, the speed with which the supplies on hand had been used up was her fault; she'd miscalculated the need.

As perceptive as ever, Daniel lightly touched her arm. "You're not to blame for any of this, you know."

No? He wasn't that obtuse, but she explained it anyway, if for no better reason than to get it out into the open. "SG-3 returned covered in bites not twenty minutes after they'd left, Daniel. We've been at this for years now; how difficult would it have been to have realised that whatever bit them that many times, so close to the Stargate, just might come on through along with them?"

"You did what you could, as soon as you could," Daniel tried to soothe her, but turning green and gagging on bile in the middle of the reassurance sort of spoiled the effect he'd been going for. Janet lightly squeezed his hand in lieu of the compazine she didn't have, and got up to fetch an emesis basin for him.

A hand grasped her sleeve as she moved past Colonel Dixon's bed with a cup of water and the basin. "They didn't show signs of being sick until hours later, Doc, and you're not the person who's primarily responsible for keeping track of what might come through the 'gate." He was interrupted by a tinny voice issuing from the phone in his other hand, and she tried to move off while he answered whoever it was, but he shook his head at her and wouldn't let go of her sleeve.

An outright retch from the cot across the way had Johnson hurrying over to pluck the basin and water from her hands. She let him deliver them; there wasn't anything she could do for Daniel other than that anyway, and far be it from her to interfere with Johnson's insistent need for penance.

"Let the general do the post-mortem later – right now we've got other things to talk about," Dixon said, waggling the phone at her. "Grab another handset and pull up a chair, because it looks like we just might have a plan."

The conference call turned out to be with one of the on-base biologists plus a myriad of people on the outside, including a chemist whose name she missed, General Hammond, Colonel O'Neill, and someone in charge of supplies logistics. The conversation covered issues around the relative degrees of hazard inherent in the aerosol delivery of various oils and lubricant chemicals, and maintaining the integrity of airtight isolation tenting large enough to span the height and breadth of the level nine corridor on the NORAD side of the SGC main blast door. Needs were prioritised, and lists were compiled and confirmed, then re-compiled when the logistics guy had a fit over the impossible task he'd just been handed.

Well over an hour later, after cautions from several people not to count unhatched chickens, the talking was done. She put down the phone, tucked in an exhausted Colonel Dixon, and retired to the bathroom to stand at the sink for however long it took her. When she finally came back out, her eyes were clear and her hands steady as she snagged one of the last two gowns from the pitifully depleted linen rack.

The Tylenol had worn off completely; Daniel's eyes were glazed by fever as he eyed the gown in her hand. She tucked it under his pillow. "They have a plan," she softly told him as she dipped the edge of his blanket in the cup of water and used it to clean a thin trail of bile off his chin. They were all out of washcloths.

"Oh, a plan." A bit of deep breathing let him get past a spike of nausea enough to add, "A plan is good. So when are we getting out of here?"

"I have no idea. Probably not for a long while yet. But in six to eight hours, hopefully everything we need will be coming in."

"Ah, that kind of plan." He twitched his head to indicate the gown she'd brought. "Maybe you should keep that, just in case it doesn't pan out."

"It's a decent plan, Daniel. It'll be fine." Besides, the next six to eight hours would stretch out to eternity for him; he was in for a rough ride and there was nothing else she could do for him while he was still aware of it. "I'm pretty sure I heard you mutter something about vile underwear ..." she teased.

A faint smile ghosted across his face. "Yeah, okay," he agreed, touching the edge of the gown where it poked out from under the pillow. "This is a good plan."

Yes it is, she thought as she helped him up and turned him over to Johnson's tender mercies. As they made their way to the washroom so Daniel could change in privacy, she surveyed the crowded, unsanitary condition of her infirmary, and much to her own surprise was comfortable with the thought that another eight hours wasn't too long to handle.

There was a plan, and considering the quality of all the people both waiting on and driving that plan forward, it was enough. Lockdown, schmockdown – they could handle it.

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M is for You Must Remember This
by [personal profile] ivorygates

In May of 1961, construction started on a nuclear bunker at Cheyenne Mountain. In July of 1966, the Combat Operations Center functions were turned over to NORAD. In another July (in 1969), he was staring up at the ass-end of a Titan Missile in what had been the SGC Gate Room when he got out of bed that morning (Daniel had actually been surprised to find out there were seven Titan bunkers within 100 square miles, but the Cold War is a little recent for him). In 1976 (on some unknown date), the Air Force decided it would be a great idea to tunnel under NORAD to build a super-scientific secret project (he’s still not quite sure how they managed that, but there are questions he’s learned he really doesn’t want the answers to), and moved it in (Catherine Langford and her geeks and geeklets and—eventually—a merry band of Air Force Special Operations Forces). It was 1999 (March; late snow) the last time he parked his truck in Lot A. Which was either two weeks ago, or this morning.

Jack O’Neill really hates time-travel.

He’s got a sunburn from an August day that was thirty years ago and yesterday: the first time he saw that August he was seventeen in Minnesota waving his acceptance letter from the Academy like the Get Out Of Jail Free card that it was (in 1969, people worried about the Draft, the ’Nam, and it was ‘hell no, I won’t go,’ for half his generation and ‘my country: right or wrong’ for the other half; there’s a lesson there for cynics). It wasn’t that he wouldn’t have been proud to serve (the O’Neills tended to be Navy men), of course. It was just that he wanted to fly. (Wouldn’t you know it, four years later he was jumping out of perfectly good airplanes over the same godforsaken jungle half his high school classmates had been lost in.) And the second time—thirty years removed but not in any way that matters—he was in Washington DC, breaking into an armory to catch the brass (naquadaah) ring for a free ride home.

Apparently when you spontaneously time-travel, it becomes necessary for people to fly to your secret base in Colorado to debrief you: NID, CIA (they called them “Christians in Action” back when he was jumping out of a C-130), maybe even Air Force. Who knows? He doesn’t: the SGC is the military equivalent of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney putting on a show in their parents’ barn; it makes everything up as it goes along, including operational procedures.

But it means he and his team are stuck here until they’re cleared. Carter’s in her element, off making quantum angels dance on the heads of strange charmed pins (a joke, like so many others, that he won’t make anywhere someone can hear him: the military distrusts intelligence and the geeks always find a way to trump it) and Daniel’s probably second-guessing everything he did (Honest to God, Daniel: we get arrested for espionage during the Cold War and you think it’s a good time to practice your Russian language skills?) Teal’c’s off making up for lost kel’no’reem: he thinks Earth is bizarre just to start with, and if he’s thinking about anything, he’s thinking that at least they don’t have to worry about letting a snake loose where there wasn’t one before (though if O’Neill’s learned anything in the last three years, it’s that there are too many damned snakes hiding in the attics and basements of Earth).

He’s...

He’s not sure what he’s doing. He could go to his office and start his report (a waste of time until he finds out whether or not The Powers That Be want any record of this), catch up on his paperwork, take a nap in his very uncomfortable chair (but one thing you can say for military life; you learn how to sleep anywhere). He could go to the gym, to the range, to the Commissary, or even to bed. But none of those things appeal. So he roams the halls.

These aren’t the halls of his most recent (as the memory flies) visit. These halls didn’t exist then, not until Catherine Langford (God knows how) managed to run up the curtain on the great and secret show. Even so, the SGC retains the indelible imprint of its first incarnation, despite the fact the silo was scrubbed down to concrete and new tunnels hammered out (swords not into plowshares, but bigger swords) and poured. The oldest sections of the base are cylinders suitable for moving warheads and fuel tanks; only the newer corridors are angular. There and then they went from a silo to a catwalk to a truck and were whisked out of NORAD as quickly as possible, off to the Cheyenne Mountain with windows (and cells). He wonders if Major Thornbird ever got the joke. Most of the Air Force had been Star Trek fans; just his luck to draw the only one who wasn’t.

Good luck. Bad luck. You never know which it is without hindsight, and there’s always the chance you won’t survive to look back. Which may be its own kind of luck. (Pity he can’t still get away with the “dumb zoomie” act, but it hasn’t really worked since he made Major.)

He ends up in the Commissary anyway. Third shift’s coming on, which means the donuts are stale, but he takes one anyway, and a cup of coffee. Nothing to see here, just a cynical old Colonel wasting his time.

In 1969, Daniel was four and Carter wasn’t even a year old. (He’s not sure how old Teal’c was, but he wasn’t here.) O’Neill’s the only one who saw 1969 twice. As it were. A parallax view. It makes him uncomfortable. Here in the Now, thinking about the Then that (when he wasn’t looking) managed to become Now, too.

Nixon was President, Watergate was in the future, gas was thirty-five cents a gallon, classic rock was cutting edge, you could drive eighty miles an hour without getting pulled over. It’s only now that he’s willing to admit (if only to himself) that he could have been happy there. There was nothing he’d miss. Daniel bitched about the absence of cellphones, and Carter was in mourning for her computers: none of that bothered him. He’s never liked gadgets. Gadgets break; relying on technology is a good way to die.

There’s nothing I’d miss if we’re stuck here. That’s the kind of thing he knows better than to say out loud, even to his team. Carter would consider it too personal, Teal’c would consider it a non sequitur. Daniel would grab it and gnaw it to death, turning it into some kind of grand confession that Colonel Jack O’Neill considers his entire life to have been a grand and unsatisfying waste of time. And it isn’t that (not exactly, and that’s why this is not going to become one of those candid remarks offered up during his psych evaluations) as much as it is the fact he doesn’t think there’s been a lot of progress in the world. A few newer and shinier toys (some larger wars), but the only possible shiny toys (great big guns) he has an interest in still lie in the future (please, God, let them show up before the snakes get their act together and wipe out everything he’s sworn to defend).

You aren’t supposed to go walking through your past. It’s supposed to be a dream, a memory distorted by time, something you can tell yourself you remember as better than it was. It’s not supposed to be something you can walk into, sit down at a lunch counter, order a cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke (a buck including tip) and take a good look around at. It isn’t something that should be better than you remember. Because you can’t stay there and you can’t go back. “The best is yet to come”, as Sinatra said (his parents’ generation, not his, no matter how much Daniel affects a strategic confusion about the social history of the later 20th century), and that’s what everyone’s supposed to believe. A little careful amnesia helps. God knows he’s a master at forgetting the things that need forgetting.

The Commissary gets suddenly noisy as SG-5 comes in. It’s the team that went to 555 this morning (two weeks ago) when SG-1 took its little side-trip. It’d been supposed to be a routine First Contact; he hopes the gentle people of 555 aren’t going to judge Earth on the basis of a few Marines.

Time to go. Find his desk, find his bed, get his story straight for whoever wants to hear it in the morning. Yes, absolutely, we’re all very relieved to be back. None of us wanted to be stuck in the past. Funny, isn’t it: all those offworld missions and we end up getting in trouble right here on good old Planet Earth?

Crack a joke, crack a smile, nothing to see here, move along. Look to the future. Eyes on the prize. Command integrity. Aim high. Don’t think about a place you aren’t going to see again (if you’re lucky).

Forget.

The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.

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N is for Normal
by [profile] rad1986

"I could use a research assistant," Dr. Jackson had mentioned. It had been a line of hope for Nyan as he sat in the hospital bed. No doubt Commander Rigar would quickly taint his name, painting him as a traitor to Bedrosia to become an Optrican spy. While the SG-1 team falsified everything he had grown up believing, their existence proved that there was a wide world out there that needed exploring. As an archeologist, exploration and new discoveries fascinated Nyan. Assisting SG-1 with whatever they brought back to Stargate Command became Nyan's new focus.

First he had to become accustomed to the base. It was huge compared to the small building allotted to him and his team back home. One level for the Stargate, one level for plants, one level for this chemical, guest quarters, personnel quarters, the prison, one level for this, one level for that; at least twenty-eight levels. (The grand total number is never made clear to him, though he never bothered to particularly care.) Nyan is given a permanent room and a tour. It takes him weeks to remember how to get around the place and back and forth from his room to the conference room or the cafeteria or Dr. Jackson's work room. He even assists Sam every so often with whatever project of the week she has going.

Secondly Nyan immerses himself in Daniel's research. (The kind man insists he be called by his first name.) Egyptology becomes the primary subject, that being what the Goa'uld assimilated into Earth's past. He also studies various other languages in the event they become necessary with whatever else SG teams bring back to the base. SG-1 particularly returns with the most interesting projects.

The hardest part is becoming adjusted to the way the Tau'ri live their lives. Nyan quickly discovers that they usually don't speak directly or say what is on their mind. He learns that they do not mean to be duplicitous, but that this is simply how they speak. Most of their speech is informal and it takes him a while to adapt. After a month he is allowed on the surface for glorious fresh air and after another three weeks he is accompanied in to town. Some of what he sees and hears assault his senses, but there are too many wonders to be discovered for him to dwell on the negative.

Each SGC personnel is given a mundane task around the base to assist in the every day functioning of a community. Clean the floor here, organize these files, label those objects. Wash the laundry, cook food, clean the dishes. Take out the trash. Nyan chuckles that life is basically the same no matter where one is. Many of the SGC personnel barter and exchange their current, disliked duties for leave time or more enjoyable tasks. He finds himself working in the cafeteria more often that not. While most people don't enjoy washing dishes or helping the cooks, Nyan comes to enjoy the simplicity of it after spending hours and days on end looking at old languages or complex algorithms.

Besides, he meets Nancy in the dish room.

Teal'c is the obvious choice to assist him in becoming acquainted with the Tau'ri ways; the two of them even had a connection established.. Nyan had become quite settled in his new role by the time of Daniel's death. He mourned with the rest of the SGC and then accepted Jonas Quinn as the newest member of SG-1. As Jonas adopted Daniel's position in the SGC and projects, so Nyan adopted the role of introducing the new alien to the Tau'ri way of life. With the help of Teal'c, of course; only the Jaffa could properly teach Star Wars to aliens to the Tau'ri.

Nyan does not know when this new life became normal for him... But as he lays on a bed in the infirmary, Nancy holding his hand and their three children watching on, he realizes that somewhere along the line this life with the Tau'ri had become his new normal. Somewhere along the line he had accepted this new life on his terms, come to enjoy learning all the new things the SGC and Earth had to offer. Nyan had spent almost fifteen years assisting with projects within the SGC.

Who would have known he'd die of a random Goa'uld attack instead of living a full, boring life back at his old home? At least he'd been given a chance to expand his knowledge and to learn more. Nyan may have been thrust blindly into this new life, but he'd come to accept and even love this normal.

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O is for Observance
by [personal profile] magickmoons

Jack hated Orientation weeks. They were even worse than the scientific survey missions where he was essentially nothing more than a glorified gofer. Barring galactic emergencies, SG-1 was always pulled from the active mission schedule to lead the presentations. Jack supposed it was one of the hazards of working with the most valuable members of the command. No introduction to their enemy was effective as Teal’c (and Junior, of course). Carter knew the base tech inside and out. Daniel was not only The Man Who Opened the Gate, but provided context to all the things they would be likely to encounter.

And Jack... well, Jack gave the standard military talk: base SOP, chain of command, what meals to skip in the mess. But mostly, he spent a lot of time holed up in the office he liked to pretend he didn’t have, because General Hammond seemed to consider these weeks excellent opportunities for Jack to catch up on his paperwork.

He glared at the numerous requisition forms and staffing evaluations and budgets threatening to collapse his desk. After a moment’s thought, he reached past all of those to pick up the orientation course evaluations for the previous day’s presentations. That had been all Daniel and Carter; these would be a breeze. The only negative those two ever got was overusing geek speak. He could sign off on these in short order and head to lunch with a (mostly) clear conscience.

He picked up the first form, eyes skimming quickly almost to the end before stopping abruptly and rereading several sections in consternation. With a mental shrug, he put that paper off to the side and grabbed the next one, this time reading carefully from the start. A frown crossed his face, and he turned the page over as if looking for the April Fool’s sign. Of course, it was June, but there had to be some explanation for the out of character remarks, and suddenly moving backward in time wasn’t entirely out of the question.

Jack thumbed through the next several evaluations, which were all substantially the same, with a sinking heart. There went his quiet lunch. What the hell had Daniel been up to yesterday?

Sighing, he pushed back from his desk and headed out to find some answers. First stop was the Orientation Briefing Room, where Bill Lee had managed to send about half the newbies into a stupefied daze. Jack didn’t understand why, but Daniel and Carter often sat in on these things voluntarily. Not today, however. It wasn’t a total loss, though as a ripple went through the audience when those who were still alert noted Jack’s presence, straightened up, and elbowed their neighbors. Bill gave a pleased smile at the renewed interest and continued with increased enthusiasm.

Jack continued on his way, heading for Carter’s lab first. If he was lucky, Daniel would be there, and they could have a friendly, non-confrontational chat... with witnesses. If he was really lucky, he could get Carter to do it for him.

He found Carter was alone in her lab, glued to her microscope. Jack cleared his throat and waited until she looked up before saying, “How’s it going, Carter?”

She grinned before glancing down to make some notes. “Pretty good, Colonel. It’s great having some dedicated lab time.”

He nodded and looked around the lab aimlessly, reaching out to poke at a new doo-dad sitting on the lab table.

“Is there something I can help you with, Sir?”

Jack withdrew his hand. “Yeah, well, I was just wondering if you’d seen Daniel lately?” Her expression tightened a bit and she put down her pen.

“I haven’t seen him since yesterday, Sir.”

He stared at her, waiting. She and Daniel had breakfast together most days, especially days where they weren’t likely to see to each other due to their divergent departmental responsibilities.

She winced as she admitted, "We had a disagreement."

“A disagreement?”

"Well, I guess it was really more of a fight, Colonel. He was kind of, well, mean."

Mean? Daniel wasn't... Jack reconsidered. Okay, Daniel could be pretty brutal when he wanted to, but being mean to Carter? That usually meant some kind of alien influence. Before he could say anything else, Teal'c appeared in the doorway.

“Teal’c,” Jack greeted him. “Come on in. We were just discussing what’s wrong with Daniel.”

Teal’c inclined his head slightly. “I too would like to know. He has avoided two training sessions with me this week.”

Jack blew out a breath. Strike three. “Yeah, definitely sounds like someone should go talk to him.” He nodded and looked toward the others, hoping to see a volunteer.

Teal’c stared back at Jack. “I believe that team morale falls under the team leader’s responsibility, O’Neill. I would not want to tread on your lower digits.”

Carter’s lips twitched slightly. “What he said, Sir.”

***


Jack paused in the doorway to Daniel’s office. Daniel hadn’t noticed him, staring fixedly at something on his desk, although Jack wasn’t sure he was really seeing much of anything. He had that lost in thought aura about him, not the one that signalled a great breakthrough, but the frustrated one, the one that said Daniel had hit a wall in his own mind and couldn’t find the way through.

After tapping lightly on the door frame, Jack called Daniel’s name and stepped into the room. A quick movement of Daniel’s hands and whatever it was that had Daniel so intent disappeared under a stack of paper by the time Jack neared the desk.

“Daniel.”

“Jack?”

“So...” Jack rocked back on his heels. “You’ve got some people worried about you, you know.”

Daniel sighed. “Is this about Sam? I know I need to apologize to her.”

“Yeah. And maybe to Teal’c, too.”

“Teal’c?”

“You’re blowing off training. I think you hurt the big guy’s feelings.”

Daniel sagged a little more in his chair. “Damn it. I just needed some time. It has nothing to do with Teal’c.”

“I also heard that you lost your temper in Orientation yesterday.”

At that Daniel bristled. “Well, if they had shown even the slightest respect for what I do...”

Jack cut him off. “They’re no different than any other group of newbies we’ve gotten in.”

Daniel sighed huffily, but didn’t argue, so Jack continued. “Daniel, you know we have a good cop / bad cop thing going. You and Carter are the good cops. I’m the bad cop. And Teal’c is the scary cop. After your performance yesterday, all the newbies think you’re the bear and I’m the cuddly one. Now, we can’t have that, can we?”

Daniel didn’t even crack a smile. “God, Jack, we’re supposed to be getting the best of the best here. What’s it say when they don’t know the first thing...”

“It says that Daniel Jackson, peaceful explorer and patient teacher, is going to help shepherd them along. Just like you have every other group we’ve brought through. And successfully, I might add. So what’s different this time?”

Daniel’s eyes showed a dangerous glint of defiance, so Jack grabbed the chair next to the desk, pulled it over near Daniel’s and sat. “Look, Daniel, you don’t have to talk to me about it. You don’t have to talk to anyone, except maybe to apologize to Carter and Teal’c. But... we’re here. That’s all I’m saying.”

Daniel stared at his keyboard for a minute, then looked up at Jack. “You know it’s my birthday next week, right?”

“Yeah.” They’d been planning a typical SG-1 birthday celebration: dinner out with the doc and Cassie, then the team would head back to Jack’s for a night of drinks and ‘deep’ conversation that would never be repeated in the light of day.

Daniel was silent again, and Jack wondered if he had been expected to glean some explanation from that fact. He was just about to admit that he didn’t have a clue what Daniel was saying, when Daniel extracted a glossy pamphlet from the papers on his desk and handed it to him.

Jack’s eyebrows rose when he looked at it. It was a brochure for a cemetery. Daniel was turning 36. Not a birthday that typically called for a large degree of fuss or introspection or morbidity. unless... He looked at Daniel. “Um...”

“It’s where my parents are buried,” Daniel offered, and Jack relaxed a bit. “I’ve never been since... you know.”

Jack’s relief at Daniel not being ill segued right into discomfort. One of the things Jack really liked about his team was how good they all were at the whole repressing feelings bit, but every now and then, something would break through. He really should have sent Carter.

But he was here now, and Daniel was talking, so he really had to see it through. “Never?” Jack asked.

“No.” Daniel shook his head slowly. “I guess, at first, I was just adjusting to foster care. I didn’t really feel like I could ask to go, although maybe... I’m not actually sure it ever occurred to me to ask. Then later, I didn’t even want to think about it. I started picking up extra classes in high school, studying, building on everything I’d learned growing up on digs, in museums. Finally found the love they’d had for archaeology, but just when I’d have wanted to share it with them...”

He gave a mirthless chuckle. “I knew too much by then. I can tell you in great detail about how dozens of cultures handle their dead; I can tell you why it’s important to the family unit, to society at large, that there be some agreed upon ritual. But in spite of that... no, because of that, the idea of pursuing any of those rituals offered nothing to me.”

Jack indicated the pamphlet Daniel had given him. “But now something’s changed?”

Daniel nodded. “On Wednesday, I’ll be older than my father ever was.” His brow furrowed. “I guess technically, I already am, but... Once I realized, I just started feeling like I should, like I, I want to...”

Jack pursed his lips, watching Daniel fumble for the words, as his own thoughts circled round inside his head. Jack couldn’t speak to the import of those rituals on society at large, but he knew their significance in his own life. It had taken several years before he could visit Charlie’s grave, and it wasn’t until he did that the slow road to healing had truly begun.

Daniel took the pamphlet from Jack’s hand and looked at it with equal parts fear and longing.

Jack was already mentally rearranging their schedule for the next week as he asked, “So, you want some company?”

***


The trip to New York was tedious, with delayed commercial flights and a too-small rental car. Daniel’s company was spotty at best, and he grew increasingly quiet as they neared their destination.

They walked to the gravesites together, but then Jack dropped back to give Daniel some privacy, choosing to stand in the shade of a nearby tree, angling himself so that he was looking across the slightly unkempt graveyard. It was beautiful, in a wild way. Natural. He thought Daniel’s parents would probably appreciate that, rather than the immaculately manicured lawns and sterile look of more modern places.

He kept Daniel in his peripheral vision, just in case. He stood there for a while just looking at the gravestones. Eventually, he lowered himself to sit cross legged between them. Jack could see him speaking quietly every now and then, but mostly he just sat in silence. Not the tense silence that had been present before they arrived, Jack was grateful to note, just a thoughtful kind of reflection. Every now and then, Daniel even smiled.

Finally, he stood and, with a soft touch to each of the granite stones, he turned and headed over to Jack. With a quiet nod, they fell into practiced step as they headed toward the car. Daniel let out a deep breath as he settled into his seat, already seeming much more like the old Daniel.

“Thank you. I’m glad I came,” Daniel said softly. “I don’t know if what I got out of it was what I’m supposed to, or not, but...”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s whatever works for you.”

Jack pulled out of the cemetery and started heading back to the highway. Daniel was quiet for a while before he spoke again. “You know, my parents had no great love for the military. But I like to think that maybe they would have been proud of what I’m doing.”

“I’m sure they are.”

“‘Are?’” Daniel repeated. He looked over at Jack. “You believe in an afterlife?”

Jack kept his eyes on the road. With as many times as they had all been presumed dead, come close to death, even actually died, what happened after wasn’t something they had ever really discussed, at least not when Jack had been around.

“I have to,” was the only reply he trusted himself to give.

“Oh. Of course,” Daniel said softly. He nodded and fell silent again, staring out the window as they neared the hotel.

Jack started speaking after a moment, trying to keep the silence from getting too awkward. “So, we can hang around here for a few days, go into the city, hit the museums if you want. In which case, you should know that Carter and Teal’c will be flying out as soon as they finish up the last round of show and tell. Or we can head back to Colorado to the not-quite-surprise birthday celebration I’m sure you know is waiting for you.”

Daniel leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. “Yeah, let’s go home,” he said with a smile. “I’ll probably come back another time, but it wouldn’t really feel like my birthday without Teal’c letting Cassie beat him at darts, or Sam and Janet having their ultimate eight ball competition, or what passes for beer at your place.”

“I knew you liked that beer!” Jack smirked at Daniel’s mock glare. “Home it is, then.”

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P is for Plan (and also for Pie)
by [personal profile] tallulah_rasa

“I think I need a raise,” Daniel said.

Daniel’s voice was surprisingly clear, given the circumstances; he had to be closer than Jack had thought. Crap. “Now? You want to bring this up now, Daniel?”

“Not a good time?” Daniel hazarded.

“There’s an alien incursion at the Mountain,” Jack pointed out fairly calmly, given the still-blaring sirens. “Granted, there don’t seem to be a lot of them, but we don’t know what they want, or how they got past the iris. We barely got away from them, we’re unarmed, and we’re holed up in the commissary kitchen. Oh, and because of some weird alien hocus pocus, every other human on the base got transported off the mountain.”

“So you’re saying, this is just the usual?” Daniel asked. “Because…I don’t remember hiding out in the commissary before.”

Jack could imagine Daniel’s expression. “I’m not laughing,” he said flatly. He didn’t mean for the irritation to leak into his voice, but they were both injured, both huddled on the kitchen floor, and…well, he didn’t need his Magic 8 Ball to tell him the future was cloudy. Damn.

“I remember you being a lot more fun,” Daniel said. “Look, at the moment, we’re safe. Sam and Teal’c and everybody else are okay; we heard that before the comms shut down. The commissary staff was baking before they…” he waved his hand to indicate disappeared in one of the standard ways, “so it smells good here, and we won’t go hungry.” He shifted, and his voice hitched a tiny bit, but he continued smoothly before Jack could say anything. “We could be on that ice planet with the feral dog-things, or the one where everything smelled like a latrine. You have to admit, Jack, we’ve been in worse situations.”

Jack just tilted his head in Daniel’s direction, listening as Daniel shifted again, trying to ease the pressure on the injury he thought Jack didn’t know about.

“Remember when…” Daniel began.

“No,” Jack cut in firmly. He’d only just stopped dreaming about empty spaces and weird, glowing lights. Memory Lane had lost its charm, just the way it had when…but no, he wasn’t going there, either.

“You don’t even know what I’m going to say,” Daniel pointed out in his But I’m being so reasonable! voice.

“Not, no, I don’t remember,” Jack said. “No, I don’t want to go there. Let’s focus on the here and now, Daniel.”

“It’s supposed to be good for me to—”

“Not now, Daniel.”

“But—”

“Daniel, I swear—”

“I’m an archeologist, Jack,” Daniel interrupted. “I have to focus on the past, or I don’t get paid.”

Jack could tell Daniel was amused; his eyebrows were probably about to hit the ceiling. He relaxed fractionally, and could tell the moment when Daniel noticed.
“Don’t look back,” he recited, a thankfully non-fraught memory suddenly bubbling to the front of his mind. “Because if you look back, you’ll want to go back. And you can’t go back.”

Daniel was apparently stunned into silence. Jack squinted into the inky darkness, waiting while Daniel ran through their standard checklist: Concussion? Alien mind control? Late-onset schizophrenia?

“That’s…kind of profound,” Daniel finally said.

And people said he and Daniel had the same conversation over and over. “I have my moments,” Jack said.

“Did Homer Simpson say that?” Daniel asked.

“Sonny Crockett,” Jack said. “Miami Vice. The show, not the movie.”

“There was a movie?”

“Not so much,” Jack conceded. “But wait – you remember the show? You know about the show? Was there an archeology episode?”

“No,” Daniel said, “but the whole series was actually a modern-day retelling of an ancient Assyrian myth. It was a clever idea, actually; the--”

“Are you serious?” Jack broke in, and he could hear Daniel moving closer, could tell he was leaning in, assessing. Damn. He must have figured out Jack was hurt, after all, though by now they could both tell it was minor. Minor-ish, anyway.

“Sam owes me twenty bucks,” Daniel said with no small satisfaction, and Jack heard him settle back against the cool tiled wall. “I told her you couldn’t tell anymore when I was lying.”

Jack chewed that over for a minute, thinking about change, and the unknown, and the comfortable familiarity of petty annoyances. “So…” he said, wondering what Daniel could hear in his voice, “when my computer kept futzing out, and you said my polarity was probably affected by all our Gate travel, and that I should change my ground by going outside in my bare feet…?”

“Actually, that was true,” Daniel said.

“You’re not fooling me, Daniel,” Jack said quietly.

“No, really,” Daniel insisted. “Ask Sam. And look, your computer worked after that, didn’t it?”

“Yeah, but that’s not what I meant,” Jack said. “How bad, Daniel?”

He heard Daniel move again, favoring his…leg? No, hip, he thought.

“Not bad,” Daniel said.

“You owe Carter twenty bucks,” Jack said.

But Daniel ignored that. “Do you…Jack, do you ever wonder why we’re doing this?”

You could get whiplash around Daniel, Jack thought tiredly. On the bright side, that sudden shifting of gears made it less likely Daniel was under alien control, unless the alien was particularly flaky. On the other hand, this could be the iceberg tip of a concussion, or that mental breakdown MacKenzie kept saying they were all just one step away from. But they didn’t have time for that; even in the old days Daniel would have known that, so he probably just had a concussion. “The answer that comes to mind,” Jack said, his voice mostly steady, “is that we’re saving Earth and all its inhabitants.”

“But—”

“Not enough? You need some greater mythological reason? Something linguistic?”

“Jack—”

“Something to do with rocks? Relics? Ancient depositories of…ancient stuff?”

“What if they don’t want to be saved?” Daniel broke in, his voice a little too quiet.

Jack sighed and slid over until his shoulder was touching Daniel’s. “Doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s still the right thing to do. And anyway, even if humankind does want to destroy itself, we don’t have to aid and abet.”

Jack could practically hear Daniel blinking, could almost hear his brain grinding into overdrive.

“Okay,” Daniel said.

“Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Just – okay?” Jack blinked hard. He still couldn’t see Daniel, but now there were definite streaks of gray at the edges of his vision.

Daniel nudged Jack’s arm. “You want the linguistic derivation of the term?”

“Tough question,” Jack deadpanned.

“Seriously?”

“No,” Jack said. “But it would prove it’s you, and while I’ve ruled out late-onset schizophrenia, I’m not entirely sure you haven’t been taken over by an agreeable, non-argumentative alien.”

“I did bring up a meaning-of-life thing,” Daniel pointed out.

“That’s right, you did,” Jack acknowledged. “Okay, not so worried about you being an alien now. Concussion?”

“Just a little,” Daniel said. “Not even in my top ten. Let’s take down the bad guys, get out of here, go to your place, and grill some steaks.”

“Okay,” Jack said. “How do we do that?”

“I’m pretty sure Route 115 goes right past your house,” Daniel said. “I’ll drive, if you still can’t see.”

“You noticed that, huh?”

“When we ran into the aliens, something that looked a lot like a flash grenade went off practically in your face,” Daniel said. “After we got away, you let me take point to find cover, and you followed me pretty closely. Also, you haven’t been looking at me.”

“It’s getting better,” Jack said, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “It doesn’t look like we’re in a cave any more.” He sighed. “I don’t suppose you got much of a look at those…whatevers?”

“Tall,” Daniel said. “Not muscular, not strong. I think they use some sort of audio-visual sensors located in their…well, face, for lack of a better word…to communicate, and to control their weapons. They seemed to be networked, and to need a clear line of sight to do anything – they tried to keep a direct sight-line with each other at all times. It’s possible they’re not able or willing to fight, since they just transported our personnel out of the way. I think they were surprised we weren’t transported with everybody else.”

“Me, too,” Jack said.

“We’ve both had contact with the Ancients, maybe that had something to do with it,” Daniel mused. “Anyway, their weapons seem designed to visually impair us, not kill us, so either they’re against killing, or sight is so important to them they just assume it’s crucial for everybody. Other than that, they seem to have a problem with cold temperatures. The ones near the vents got sluggish when the a/c went on.”

“You noticed all that?” Jack said.

“I can be observant,” Daniel said in mock hurt.

“Of rocks,” Jack said.

“There weren’t any around, so I compensated,” Daniel said. “Look, given the circumstances, I think our best bet would be to launch targeted, cold, projectile missiles at them, preferably toward their eyes. That should disorient them, and maybe even—”

Jack stared at Daniel, though he could only make out his barest outline. “Daniel,” he broke in. “Are you suggesting we take out the aliens by hitting them in the face with a pie?”

“Well, not the chocolate cream, obviously,” Daniel said. “That would be a waste.”

“You and Teal’c watched The Three Stooges last weekend, didn’t you?”

“It’s not like we have that many options,” Daniel said.

Star Wars!” Jack hissed. “You could watch Star Wars again; it’s a perfectly good—“

“I meant weapons,” Daniel said.

Jack slumped against the wall and closed his eyes. “I can’t base military strategy on pie, Daniel.”

“It’s that, tuna casserole, or creamed corn,” Daniel said. “The commissary’s not really prepared for this kind of thing.”

Jack opened his eyes. The room was a little clearer. “We’ll need a diversion. And we’ll both have to man the…pies. Have you ever thrown a pie, Daniel?”

He could almost see Daniel’s face. “Teal’c’s decided,” Daniel said carefully, “that he could more fully understand facets of Tau’ri culture by reenacting scenes from our classic movies.”

Jack shook his head. “I can’t believe you didn’t invite me.”

“You were in D.C.,” Daniel said. “We’ll call you next time.”

“You’d better,” Jack said. “Think you can stand? We’ve probably played this out as long as we can.”

“My legs are fine, Jack,” Daniel said, but he didn’t move.

“But your hip isn’t,” Jack said. “Don’t argue; I can tell.” He stood up slowly. The room was foggy, but clearing nicely, and there was a refrigerated rack full of pies straight ahead. “One other thing I don’t want to argue about,” he added, offering Daniel a hand and levering him to his feet. “After this is over? We’re never speaking of it again.”

“Wouldn’t matter if we did,” Daniel said cheerfully as he moved over to the pie rack, limping only a little. “No one would believe us but Sam, and she’d assume your strategy was based on the mathematical constant, not the dessert.”

“Small mercies,” Jack said and joined him at the rack, measuring ratios and distances and whether they could get away with squirreling a chocolate cream pie away, just for them, for later. “You know, it’s a good thing the commissary wasn’t serving cookies today, or it would be the end of life as we know it.”

Daniel looked up, startled. “That’s a disturbing thought.”

Jack hefted a pie. “Says the man who used to be a glowstick. Say – when everyone comes back, how are we going to explain the sudden lack of pie in the commissary?”

“The way we explain everything,” Daniel said, balancing on his good side and pulling a tray of pies off the rack. “We’ll tell them it’s classified.”

Jack just looked at him. Daniel had a hell of shiner, and his BDUs were torn, but his eyes were bright and his slight grin was clearly and entirely Daniel. “Okay, then,” Jack said as they settled several trays of pies behind the serving line. He crouched down, checked the distance to the door, and repositioned himself for what he was absolutely not calling Operation Coconut Cream. “I guess we’ve got everything covered.”

“Except for my raise,” Daniel said, carefully positioning himself by Jack’s side. He held up his radio. “Same diversion as on PX...uh…the planet with the giant flying toads?”

Jack nodded. Things were, surprisingly, looking better. He’d forgotten how often that happened around Daniel.

Daniel’s threw a glance at Jack while he fiddled with his radio. “This worked with the flying toads, right?”

“Actually, not so much,” Jack admitted. “But the odds were against us that time. We didn’t have pie.”

“Well, then, lucky we get another chance to get it right,” Daniel said.

“Indeed,” Jack murmured as he waited for the commissary doors to swing open, for instinct and muscle memory and chance to kick in, for the future to throw whatever it was going to throw at him.

This time he was going to throw something back, and despite the laws of probability and the echoing mistakes of the past, despite everything, he was going to do it with Daniel.

He didn’t see how they could miss.

END

Some notes:

Obviously, Daniel’s wrong about Sam. She knows pie from pi. *g*

Jack and Sam joined Daniel and Teal’c for their next movie night. It was “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and Jack brought the mashed potatoes.

And finally, I have it on good authority that the going-outside-in-your-bare-feet thing is true, and works, even if you haven’t been through the Gate.

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Q is for Questionnaire (aka "I Am Aware of All Internet Traditions")
by [personal profile] splash_the_cat

Teal'c's first experience with the Tau'ri obsession with questionnaires was a Cosmo magazine given to him by some airmen, early in his SGC tenure, in an attempt to, as O'Neill later described it, "Screw with the alien newbie." This, of course, was after O'Neill had stopped laughing when he walked in on Teal'c reading the questions to a vaguely horrified Daniel Jackson, to whom Teal'c had taken said questionnaire for assistance in deciphering the cultural cues and unfamiliar slang.

It was some years later that Cassandra began to send him internet-based questionnaires, in her own attempts to navigate her new cultural context. Most still made no sense to him, but he was content to humor her, for it was clear she gained both pleasure from their email interactions and some sense of stranger-in-a-strange-land camaraderie.

As he watched her navigate her world through the grouping of questions that veered between the banal and the deeply personal, he found them, after some time, a unique perspective into the cultural mores of his new home (though Daniel Jackson would explain to him they did not represent the Tau'ri as a whole, but specific regional, socio-economic and gendered clusters of human experience).

As Cassandra's comfort in her new world grew, so did the variety of queries she shared with him. Magazine quizzes became titillating middle-school purity tests (and Teal'c openly enjoyed bringing those to Daniel Jackson), became email chain quizzes, became Livejoural memes, became Reddit ask-me-anythings, became lolcat memes (by now he was used to the American Tau'ri penchant for internet-based speech modifications and shifts in word usage, so that he was only puzzled for a moment when the first feline-based caption picture arrived in his inbox, instead of the list of questions or requests to share an activity that he expected.), became Teal'c creating a Tumblr so that Cassandra could share a dizzying array of photographic collages depicting commentary on current events or scenes and character interactions from television and film.

"What's that?" Daniel Jackson appeared at Teal'c's shoulder as he scrolled through his dashboard. He had not intended to peruse it, given that he was here at O'Neill's cabin to spend time with with his friends, but he had brought his laptop, and everyone else had appeared otherwise engaged. Appearances, he thought darkly, that were quite deceiving. "That flashing monstrosity on your screen."

"It is an animated gifset of the pivotal relationship moments between Mako Mori and Raleigh Beckett, the titular characters in Pacific Rim." He and Samantha Carter had gone to see it on one of their rare synchronous times on planet. She had been charmed enough by the giant robots and the proficiency of Mako Mori's character that she did not feel the need to immediately compile the list of scientific inaccuracies as they exited the theater. In fact, almost a month had passed before their email exchanges on the subject of the film took a turn to the negative. It pleased Teal'c that she had been as deeply affected by the positivity and diversity of the story as much as he had.

"What's... tumbler? Did someone spell that wrong?"

Teal'c sighed. "No. Tumblr is a social media sharing site."

"Like Twitter?"

"It is nothing like Twitter." For one, he had the option of Tumblr Savior to minimize those things he did not wish to see, whereas on Twitter he had few options to limit Daniel Jackson's atrocious habit of stringing multiple entries together to make his point without removing him all together. Teal'c greatly enjoyed Twitter for both its brevity and the ease of following it from off-world, the segmented nature of twitter making it ideal for data burst transmissions through the Stargate. Unless the tweeting individual was Daniel Jackson, and then it made keeping track of his stream-of-twenty-five-entries-in-ten minutes to remark upon whatever had taken his interest that day incredibly aggravating ("I love him," Cassandra had said some weeks back, "really I do, but I just had to mute him. Sam created a new account and followed him with it, and wrote an algorithm that collects all his tweets in digest form and emails it out at midnight every day. You should ask her to add you to the list.").

"So what do you do with it?"

"It's primary function appears to be sharing images and popular culture discussions via the process of 'reblogging', usually through some combination of internet memes and these gifsets, but it is also greatly used for organizing and activism against social ills such as racism and other forms of oppression." Teal'c had in fact found social media, throughout its various incarnations, to be the most rigorous and clear education about the issues that impacted the people of Earth, especially those marginalized by majority and mainstream cultures.

"Oh really, so, like academic stuff?" Daniel Jackson's eyes lit up, and Teal'c realized he had inadvertently given him a potential new avenue for endless exposition.

Teal'c hurriedly added, "It does, however, remain primarily the domain of young people, so perhaps not the best audience for your wisdom." Daniel Jackson's apparently enthusiasm seemed to dim only a small amount at that revelation and for a moment Teal'c despaired of having another social media environment deluged. And then, it came to him, and he must email Cassandra after this and thank her for keeping him up-to-date on the world of internet social sharing. "Indeed, Daniel Jackson, I think I may have something else more suited to your linguistic interests." He pulled up Google and began to type.

"Let me introduce you to 'Doge'."

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R is for Roan
by [profile] elder_bonnie

No one could quite remember whose idea it had been. The genesis of such things becomes lost over time in favor of the memory itself. But one thing led to another, as things have a tendency to do, and so it came to pass that Teal’c, former first prime of Apophis and leader of the free Jaffa rebellion, was featured on the cover of the autumn issue of Equine Lifestyles Quarterly.

Naturally, through his inherent inquisitiveness, it was Daniel who had discovered that Teal’c had never been horseback riding. Jack didn’t believe it, surely the first prime of Apophis had been on a horse, but Teal’c had reluctantly expressed that it was looked down upon, they were beasts of burden, and his status had allowed him to use much more sophisticated means of travel, such as Tel'tak vessels and the like. The idea of traveling across the surface of a planet on the back of a smelly animal was an offense to any self-respecting Jaffa.

Sam had asked about the Hak’tyl and their horses, and Teal’c had replied about there being no dishonor in their circumstances. And then Daniel, dear Daniel, the ultimate advocate for any and all sentient experiences, had to organize the field trip.

The stables were out in the general vicinity of Jack’s cabin – he’d been a couple times and knew the owner, and was able to get a small discount on account of his charm. The four of them had arrived one impossibly beautiful Sunday morning and Mabel, the owner, had greeted them from the barn house and led them through the stables, introducing them to the horses, talking about how much she loved photography. And then they'd realized Teal'c wasn't with them.

"Well there's nowhere for him to go..." Daniel said, looking behind them at the empty stable aisle.

"Teal'c?" Jack hollered. After a moment of silence, a stall door opened near front door and Teal'c emerged, bowing his head in apology so that the brim of his Stetson briefly covered his eyes.

"I apologize. But your stallion invited me to come in."

No one in the group said a word. Mabel politely sputtered, "That's Roan's stall. Roan doesn't interact with anyone, he's our least sociable horse. Only Clay can even ride-"

The horse in question lolled its massive head over the side of the door and pushed at Teal'c's shoulder with his nose, then blinked at the others.

A half hour later and everyone was on the trail, and Teal'c was riding Roan near the front. Roan was massive - easily the largest horse any of them had ever seen - and coupled with Teal'c's height, the pair made an imposing scene. Mabel, unaccustomed to seeing anyone on Roan ever, kept taking pictures.

The best part of the afternoon was when Roan took off for no apparent reason, nevermind that Jack had quickly dropped a thorn branch and looked aside when Daniel and Sam snapped their glares in his direction. Mabel tried to go after him and called directions at Teal'c to reign him in, but the former first prime seemed content to just let the horse run.

It was a good ten minutes before they came back from the field, Roan prancing energetically and Teal'c beaming. His face was stretched wide and his eyes all but disappeared, he was smiling so big. Of course no one reprimanded Jack. And of course, Mabel pulled out the camera again.

A couple months later found Daniel and Teal'c in Sam's lab, conversing over a piece of alien technology, when Jack sauntered in, tossed a slightly rolled magazine onto the table, and left. No one said a word, but the issue was passed around with fond smiles. Teal'c's forehead had been Photoshopped before the print even made it to the editors, thanks to Jack, they assumed, but the unbridled joy on his face was untouched. The cover ended up in a frame, and when Roan was finally sold to an anonymous buyer, Teal'c ended up spending a lot more weekends away from the base.

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S is for Sprained Ankle
by [personal profile] sid

"Hey, isn't that Daniel's car?" Sam asked.

The colonel pulled up in front of her house, set his parking brake and turned off the ignition. "Is it?" He climbed out and walked around the front of the truck.

Sam hurried to open the passenger door and swing her legs out. It was better to establish right away that she wasn't helpless. But the cane Janet had given her felt awkward, and she was actually glad for the helping hand as she climbed down from the truck. When the colonel's hand continued to hover at her elbow, however, she said, "Thanks, sir; I've got it now." The hand went away, but he continued to hover, in that overly casual way that wouldn't fool a two-year-old.

When the hand returned as she reached the foot of the porch steps, she gave into the inevitable and accepted his help to her front door. The colonel reached past her and rang the doorbell.

Sam looked at him. "Definitely Daniel's car."

He just smiled. "Should be open."

Sam turned the knob and swung the door inwards, nearly hitting Daniel with it. "Oh, sorry!" She stepped into the house. "Oh, good, you turned the a/c on." She wiped away a bead of sweat from her temple.

"Yeah, sorry," the colonel said. "Gotta get the truck fixed one of these days." He crowded into the hallway behind her. "Daniel? Want to give us enough room that I can shut the door and stop air conditioning the neighborhood?"

Daniel stepped back a scant foot.

"Sheesh," the colonel muttered. "Excuse me, Carter."

Sam moved enough so that the door could be shut. "Daniel?"

Daniel appeared to be telegraphing a message to the colonel with his eyebrows. After years of trying, Sam had stopped attempting to intercept and decipher those messages. She sniffed the air. "What's that I smell?"

Daniel gave her a sudden smile of blinding charm. "Oh, that's Teal'c, in the kitchen."

"This I have to see." The colonel squeezed past them both.

"Come sit down," Daniel urged. "How are you feeling? How's the ankle? You must be tired. And hot. Jack really does need to get the air in his truck taken care of." All the while he was inexorably moving them into the office she'd set up in the front room and guiding her into a chair.

"Daniel."

"You just rest there." Daniel patted her shoulder. He jerked a thumb toward the doorway. "I'll just…"

"Daniel!"

But he was already out in the hallway, where he turned to give her another bright, false smile before sliding the pocket door closed.

Sam stared open-mouthed at the door for a few moments, then set her jaw. She got up from her chair, turned away, and hobbled toward the entrance into the dining room, where there was a second pocket door. Silently easing it part-way open, she moved into the dining room, limping straight ahead toward the living room. She didn't even make it halfway.

Through the archway on her right she could see down the hall to the kitchen, where the colonel stood at the counter, his back to her. Until he turned around and started back to the front room. Their eyes met. Sam froze like a deer caught in the headlights. The colonel darted in from the hallway and turned her around. "Now, Carter, you should be resting. Not traipsing around."

Sam tried to resist their progress back into the office, but when you couldn't plant both of your feet and had a large and determined man, who you were accustomed to obeying, who had other ideas… In no time she was back in the chair she'd just left. "Sir, I'd really like to put my feet up. I'd be much more comfortable in the living…"

The colonel wheeled her desk chair over and carefully lifted her injured foot up onto it. "How's that?"

The foot immediately started to throb, but Sam wasn't about to admit it. She gritted her teeth. "I'd really be much more comfortable…"

The hallway pocket door opened and Daniel slid into the room, shutting it behind him with a furtive glance down the hall toward the kitchen. "Hey, Sam. How's the foot?"

"The foot?" Sam took a deep breath. "The foot is going to kick somebody's butt if you guys don't tell me what's going on."

The colonel tutted disapprovingly. "No need to get snippy, Major. Teal'c's cooking. That's all. I'll go check in on him, shall I?" He exited through the door Daniel had just entered, giving Daniel what was undoubtedly a meaningful look on his way past.

Sam glared at the closed door, then shifted the glare to Daniel, who was folding and unfolding his arms while appearing fascinated by her bookshelves. He cleared his throat and adjusted his glasses a few times before finally looking in her direction. "So."

"So what’s Teal'c cooking, and how big of a disaster area is my kitchen?"

"Oh, we'll clean it up," Daniel said hastily. He tried out another smile on her. It faded quickly as she continued to glare. "He's making soup."

"It's 86 degrees out!"

"Well. But." Daniel waved a hand at her. "It seemed appropriate."

"I am not sick! I have a sprained ankle. I'm not an invalid, and I don't need chicken soup!"

"If only."

She hadn't noticed the colonel coming back in via the dining room. Startled, she jumped a little, jarring her ankle. "Ow! What?"

"What?" He slid the door shut.

"'If only' what?"

His face was a strange mixture of concern for her pain and the bland look that meant he was hiding something. "Nothing. You okay?"

"I'm fine."

"Okay. Good. Excellent. Oh, Daniel."

Daniel's expression was wary. "Yes."

"It's time."

Daniel closed his eyes briefly. "Oh, hooray."

The colonel moved to usher Daniel through the hall door. "Pray for us," he whispered to Sam as he slid the door shut behind them.

This time Sam stayed put in her chair while she contemplated just what sort of painkiller Janet might have given her, that would confuse her into thinking her life had turned into something strongly resembling a French farce.

The colonel returned. The look on his face was one Sam couldn't remember ever having seen before. "Definitely not chicken soup."

Daniel was right behind him, gulping from a tall glass of water. He closed the door. "Jaffa soup," he gasped.

"Gimme that." The colonel took the glass and drank.

"Smells weird, looks disgusting, tastes…" Daniel shuddered.

"Do you think he could tell we hated it?" the colonel asked.

"I really don't think we were very successful at hiding it, Jack."

Sam was listening to the unmistakable sound of her garbage disposal unit. "Yeah, he knows." The sound stopped. Footsteps approached. The colonel thrust the empty water glass at Daniel and struck a nonchalant pose.

The pocket door slid open. Teal'c stood in the hallway looking at them.

"Hi, Teal'c," Sam said, smiling in what she hoped was a kindly fashion.

Teal'c entered the room and stood at attention before her, hands clasped behind his back. "Major Carter, I regret to inform you that I have failed in my attempt to create a healthful meal for you to enjoy. I am deeply chagrined."

"Oh, hey," Sam said. "It's okay, Teal'c. I couldn't begin to tell you how many meals I've tried to prepare that have ended up going down that disposal. I really appreciate the fact that you made the effort, honestly. Please don't feel bad about it, okay? Promise me?"

Teal'c looked stoic. His head dipped an inch in acknowledgment.

The colonel went over to place a hand on Teal'c's shoulder in manly commiseration. "I think what Teal'c is trying to say here, Carter…" He waved a hand to encompass himself and Daniel. "What we're all trying to say here, is…"

"What Jack's trying to say, Sam," Daniel said, bending down over her solicitously and placing a hand gently on her arm, "is: Where do you keep your takeout menus?"

Sam burst into laughter.

The colonel pointed a finger in the air. "Yes, that's it. In a nutshell."

"Middle drawer next to the sink," she managed to say.

"I am purchasing."

"Buying, Teal'c. You're buying." Teal'c and the colonel left the room.

Daniel rubbed his hands together. "Let's get you more comfortable in the other room."

Still laughing, Sam just nodded, and allowed herself to be helped up from the chair. She was clearly going to spend the next few days being hovered over, cosseted, and pampered, so she might as well just give in now.

Who knew a sprained ankle could be so entertaining?

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T is for Team Night
by [personal profile] nymaeria

Jack fidgeted in his chair and tapped his pencil in boredom. They had just finished their third mission together as a team and were waiting for General Hammond for their debrief. He, for one, couldn’t wait to get out of here. He had that post-mission adreneline rush that left him both buzzing with energy and exhausted at the same time.

He looked around the room. Carter looked, somewhat annoyingly, as bright eyed and bushy tailed as she had that morning. She was sitting up straight, poised and ready for their meeting. Daniel was distracted by some book he’d brought with him from his office. Teal’c sat stoically at the table, his hands folded as he calmly waited. Jack had a lot of respect for his newest team member, but he still hadn’t quite learned to read him. He couldn’t tell if Teal’c was tired, annoyed, happy or what. Well, he supposed he’d get to know him better over time.

“You know,” Jack exclaimed suddenly. “We should really have a team night sometime” Jack leaned back in his chair, distractedly twirling his beleaguered pencil through his fingers.

“Sir?” Carter raised an eyebrow, looking pointedly at his sharp, whirling pencil.

“Team night?” Teal’c inquired, looking at him calmly.

“Yeah, you know. Popcorn, a movie, a coupla beers.” Jack looked at his teammates expectantly. “You know — a team night. C’mon, whaddaya say? Daniel, you in?”

Daniel lifted his head from his book, his eyes still somewhat dazed from shifting focus. “Hunh?”

Sam smiled. “Team night, Daniel?”

Daniel smiled back. “Oh, sure, sounds good!” His gaze returned to his book.

“Teal’c?” Jack asked.

“Perhaps, O’Neill, but I have no knowledge about this type of event. What is popcorn?” He tilted his head, waiting for an explanation.

“Oh!” Jack smiled. “It’s a snack. It’s pretty tasty; you’ll like it, trust me.”

Teal’c inclined his head in acknowledgement. “In that case, I am “in,” as you say.”

Jack looked over at his last teammate. “Carter?”

Sam looked sideways. “Well, I don’t know… I was hoping to recalibrate…”

“Ah!” Jack said loudly, cutting her off. “I’m too tired for technobabble right now. C’mon Carter” he wheedled, “even you need a break.”

Sam hesitated. She did have a lot of work to do, but then, it did seem like a good opportunity to get to know her new teammates. She supposed her work could wait. She smiled and said, “I’m in.”

“Great!” Jack clapped his hands. “Popcorn it is. I’ll even let you guys pick the movie."

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U is for Unheimlich
by [personal profile] magibrain

The SGC was different when an SG team was out.

Well. Not quantifiably; there was no special change in the facility's operation when a team was out. (Medical and security staff were always at full compliment, because trouble didn't need to follow a team home to make itself known in the SGC.) The quarters which stood empty would stand just as empty when a team was on-world but off-duty. There weren't any faithful dogs sitting at the foot of the Stargate and waiting for their masters to come home.

Nothing so obvious.

Still, there was something different, and Hammond could feel it with every step he took. He knew it was probably a trick of his mind, but he swore that even if a team snuck away, he'd know it implicitly: it was a strange kind of proprioception, as though he'd put a hand out through the Stargate and was left uneasy until it was drawn back in again.

And SG-1 was late.

***


They showed up like a loosed breath three days overdue, looking somewhat sheepish for the concern that greeted them in the Gateroom, but otherwise untroubled.

Which was, all things considered, the best result Hammond could have hoped for after they blew past the initial check-in and their reconnaissance deadline without so much as a radio whisper. He waved them on to get themselves cleared by the infirmary and cleaned up, with orders to reassemble in the briefing room as soon as that was done. Where, after a brief inward reassurance that the ground was solid and all his limbs were where they should be, and a few minor tasks to pass the intervening time, Hammond joined them. "I expect there's a good reason you've been keeping us all up at night."

"Well," Colonel O'Neill said, with a tone that in one syllable told Hammond it would be a quip, "there's definitely a reason. Not sure if I would call it a good one."

"We couldn't open the Stargate," Dr. Jackson said.

Hammond nodded; he'd expected something similar. "When you missed your check-in, we tried to dial out to the planet to make contact," he said. "We weren't able to make a connection, either." He turned to Jack, weighing the implications in Not sure if I would call it a good one. "I take it you don't know why this happened?"

"Not... exactly," Major Carter said, and Hammond turned his attention to her. "When we tried to dial in, the event horizon wouldn't form," she said. "There was some kind of energy field which interrupted it."

"Replaced it," Jack said, with an arch of his eyebrow. "Looked like a soapbubble, sir. Stretched entirely across the 'gate. Nothing we could do got rid of it."

Hammond was curious to read the details of that Nothing we could do in his report; he imagined at least one rock had been thrown through. "Well, obviously something happened, or you wouldn't be here now. How did you manage to get through?"

"It vanished on its own, actually," Dr. Jackson said. "During Teal'c's watch."

Teal'c inclined his head. "Indeed. It occurred at a moment when I was facing the forest. When I turned back to observe the region surrounding the Stargate, the energy had vanished. I immediately woke Major Carter."

Who shrugged. "I looked at the readings from our MALP, but there wasn't much. Its energy signature held constant for the three days we were there, and then just dwindled away to nothing over the course of seventeen seconds at the end. Nothing indicated a precipitating event."

"Anything that warrants further study?" Hammond asked.

Carter shook her head. "It's interesting, definitely, but I don't see an immediate strategic benefit," she said. Perhaps a little wistfully. Hammond took that at face value, and turned to the other scientist who might have a stake in the place.

"I don't imagine the ruins were extensive enough to occupy your entire time there."

"Well, I did–" Dr. Jackson started, and a noise from Jack brought him up short. He cleared his throat. "No, we... actually, for the most part, we just camped out in a clearing. A lot of the food plants the early slaves brought with them were growing wild."

"Nuts, berries and apples, General," Jack said. "And Teal'c managed to take down a boar-thing."

Hammond had to chuckle. "Sounds like your kind of vacation, Colonel."

"Teal'c told ghost stories," Dr. Jackson volunteered. A strange look passed over Jack's face, as though he'd just tasted something bitter.

"A single story," Teal'c corrected, smoothly. "And the Jaffa do not have an entirely compatible genre to the traditional ghost stories Daniel Jackson described."

No one seemed inclined to expand on that.

"So," Hammond said, trying to sum it all up in his head. "If I'm hearing you correctly, the ruins were no more expansive than the UAV showed, there were no signs of recent activity, no signs of technology, and the only thing out of the ordinary was the field which prevented you from returning home. Does that sound like an accurate assessment?"

"That's about it, sir," Jack said. "Cross that planet off; move on to the next."

Hammond nodded. "Well," he said, "I'm glad your delay was nothing serious. We were all getting pretty worried, here."

"Nothing serious at all," Jack said. "Just one of the unexplained mysteries of the cosmos."

His tone suggested that he'd put it out of mind for now, but didn't entirely buy that this was the end of the matter. And, glancing across the table, Hammond could see that Carter's mind was already halfway to somewhere else, teasing at the edges of the mystery and working out how best she could get to the middle of it. Dr. Jackson was jotting something down on the corner of the legal pads they stocked the briefing room with, and Teal'c sat, as ever, implacably.

Every team had its own particular repose, and this was SG-1's. It was subliminally reassuring, like a heartbeat: so present that it didn't call attention to itself, but immediately noticeable when something changed.

"I'll look forward to reading the reports," Hammond said, and stood up to dismiss them.

***


It was late that night, past the time when sensible day-shift folk would have headed off to bed, that Hammond found himself in the commissary, holding a cup of decaf coffee. But the SGC didn't self-select for the common sensibility. He found Teal'c there as well, enjoying a solitary evening meal.

Teal'c had a vast quantity of food on his plate, which still rang in Hammond's mind as somewhat odd, but which no longer startled him these days. While Teal'c wasn't precisely evasive about a Jaffa's caloric requirements, Janet hadn't ever been able to pin down precise guidelines on them, and Hammond had long ago made a note to allocate twice the usual quantity of rations to Teal'c's pack for missions. Teal'c had neither requested nor acknowledged the change. Hammond suspected that if he ever did feel underfed on a mission, he'd either stoically endure it or quietly supplement it.

A part of him wished he could have been a silent observer at SG-1's on-world boar feast.

"Teal'c," he said, drawing up to the table and raising his mug by way of explanation. "Do you mind if I join you?"

Teal'c raised an eyebrow at him, and said "Please."

Hammond sat. Teal'c had mentioned, once, that a commander among the Jaffa was never required to ask permission of his subordinates to take any seat he pleased. Hammond had made a decent effort to explain the forms of politeness in human – or at least American – social situations, an had kept to himself that he wasn't sure how much he bought into the idea that Teal'c was a subordinate, or how unsure he was whether Teal'c had meant that as a gentle corrective or an aside. Teal'c deferred to him, and acted as an exemplary soldier, respecting the need for a chain of command and executing directives with admirable focus. Still, he'd been a First Prime – a general in his own right – and probably had more combat experience than any two other members of the SGC put together, Hammond and Colonel O'Neill included.

Hammond always had the sense that Teal'c's willingness to work with the SGC was absolute, so long as their ultimate goals remained aligned. Should those goals diverge...

Well. Best to worry about that when the war was over.

Teal'c continued eating, evidently accepting Hammond's presence as he might a change in the weather, and Hammond drank his coffee. If Teal'c was relieved to be in a place with a wealth of food at his fingertips, he didn't show it. Hammond didn't expect him to. He wasn't precisely a demonstrative man.

"I have to admit," Hammond said, "I'm curious about the ghost story you told."

Teal'c turned his attention to Hammond, a kind of reflected curiosity in his eyes. "Are you a collector of ghost stories, General Hammond?"

That was an odd question, which Hammond thought probably traced back to some conversation on the planet he hadn't been privy to. Probably the same one where Dr. Jackson had been describing traditional ghost stories, so that Teal'c could compare his own against that mold. "Not exactly," Hammond said. "But I appreciate a good ghost story, now and then." Maybe later he'd find a way to explain how he was at least sure it was American, and how he suspected it was human, to want to gather at odd hours and hear stories that balanced you between fear and incredulity. To want to test those waters, that no-man's land.

"I would be pleased to tell it, if you have no pressing engagements," Teal'c said.

The night shift commander had charge of the SGC, and Hammond was just lingering, enjoying the everything-in-its-place feeling of having all his teams home at once. It'd disappear, replaced by the not-quite-anxiety, tomorrow morning, when SG-10 went out. "I've got nothing but time."

"Very well," Teal'c said.

***


"The story I told was the story of The Boy Who Walked Away And Turned His Back," Teal'c said, his hands coming around to cradle his commissary mug as though it were a ceremonial relic. "It concerns events which happened on the world of Inmeshe, many generations ago, in the time when Ra cast down Utu. It concerns a warrior, Macana'c, one of my ancestors."

That surprised Hammond. "Is it a true story?" he asked. The Jaffa had their own words for most things, and even with a fluent translator on the team, nuances got lost. Daniel had said ghost story, and Teal'c had said the Jaffa do not have an entirely compatible genre. He didn't entirely know what to expect.

Then again, the best ghost stories here on Earth were the ones that began, This happened to my uncle when he was out on a hunting trip, or this happened to my sister when she got her first apartment. The best stories began with an assertion of truth.

But Teal'c only raised an eyebrow, and regarded him evenly. "The quality of its truth has been lost to the forgetfulness of time," he said, with perhaps a hint of reproach. Still, a moment later, his tone softened. "When my father told tales..." A brief pause, there; an imperceptible pang. "He told us, 'all stories benefit from being treated as truth. If only in the telling.'"

Hammond nodded, and motioned him on.

"It was the case," Teal'c began, "that Macana'c had a single son when these events occurred, though he did not know his wife carried another. The living son's name was Jana'c, which meant 'dancer'. He was fleet of leg, like his father, and had the strength of his mother, who could throw down a mastadge colt if it should charge her. But quite unlike either of his parents, he had a willful streak, and was not mindful of either tradition or custom.

"In the year before his prim'ta, six warriors came to Jana'c's village. They were ash'kree'ta – those who fought on their own word. In those days, a warrior could gain glory and fame by attacking the enemy of his god, before his god had given the word."

That was a strange thing to hear Teal'c say, and Hammond blinked. His god. Teal'c was often so careful in his terms, so reluctant to give the Goa'uld that term of recognition. Then, Hammond could see something in Teal'c's expression, hear it in his tone – something like his old friends, leaning back with a beer in hand, rehashing an old story told by rote. An oral tradition, as Daniel would likely point out. An old, well-worn tale.

"A child before his prim'ta is no warrior," Teal'c went on. "He does not possess the endurance of an adult, nor the capacity to heal from any but the most minor of injuries. But Jana'c was willful, and eager for glory, and the ash'kree'ta who had come to his village were full of laughter and high blood. They said to Macana'c, 'Let the boy come, if he will taste battle. If he can spill blood before his prim'ta, surely his courage is greater than those who would wait.' Macana'c cast their words aside, and forbade his son to go." A pause, and then something added, as though for the benefit of a human audience. "The Jaffa know that death comes when it pleases, and there is no guarantee that a son will outlive his father. But it is still a knife near the heart when a child is lost, and Macana'c was afraid of that particular pain."

Hammond was beginning to understand Jack's bitter look at the briefing table.

"It is a great offense to disobey one's elders before one is of age," Teal'c said. "But Jana'c was willful. As the ash'kree'ta left through the Chappa'ai, he dodged his father's hand and ran after them. He showed his father his back before the portal swallowed him, and because Macana'c had not thought to ask the ash'kree'ta where they were going, he could not follow. He was left with the image of his son's turned back.

"Many days passed without word, and Macana'c was troubled. His rest was disturbed, and in the third day, he began to dream of his son's turned back. He confided in his wife, who advised him to cast out all thoughts of his troublesome boy." Another pause. "In Jaffa society, it is the men who do battle and their wives who steward their strength. When a Jaffa warrior comes home and shows his doubts, his wife reminds him of his strength, of the demands of his god, of his honor. The wife beats at his resolve like a carpenter driving a spike through a join. So, Macana'c's wife berated him until he put aside the thought of his son, and when the call came that his god bade an army to do battle, he went with them.

"It was a fierce battle, as well, but they triumphed amidst blood and the fire of their staves. Then, as the warriors around him gave voice to their victory, Macana'c saw something he could not set aside. HE had been haunted by his son's turned back for so long that there was no mistaking it here, and he ran through the chaos which follows battle. He cried out, 'Jana'c!' But Jana'c did not turn, and Macana'c was swept up in the revelry, though his heart and mind were distracted from it.

"When the Primes of each band felt that enough paeans had been raised, they sounded the horns to call their bands back to Inmeshe. Macana'c concealed himself and remained behind. Soon enough, when all the other warriors had gone home, he spied Jana'c walking along the crest of a hill, his back turned. Macana'c pursued his son and soon caught up to him, and Macana'c threw his arms around his son. It was in his heart to ask for Jana'c's forgiveness, though he himself had done no wrong. He hardly noticed that his son's body was cold.

"'I would do many things to have you return to me,' Macana'c said. 'Tell me how I may bring you back to my household. I would petition the priests to give you your prim'ta at once, that you might be a warrior in name and renown as well as action.' But his son did not move, and gave no indication of hearing. So Macana'c stepped back and put his hand on Jana'c's shoulder, to turn him around – and in fact he thought he had turned his son around to face him, but his son's back was still turned.

"At this, Macana'c should have been angry. His son, not yet a warrior for all his acts, had defied him and continued to defy him. But Macana'c was motivated by softness and regret, not by discipline. He put his hands on his son's shoulders.

"'Show me what I am to do,' Macana'c said. Jana'c began walking, and Macana'c followed him."

Teal'c paused.

"My father, when he told me this tale, told me that the Prime of Macana'c's band had noted his departure and stayed behind, well concealed, to discover if Macana'c was up to any treachery or cowardice. That is how this tale survived to be told to his second-born son. When Macana'c began to follow Jana'c, his Prime leapt from his hiding place and called, 'Macana'c! Return or be cast down with deserters or traitors.' And Macana'c did hesitate in his stride. But in the end, his son had commanded him; he put his back to his Prime and his duty and walked away.

"Now, some have said that Macana'c was never seen again. But those who say it show disdain for the word of women, who may not fight in the great battles but who hold the home territory in a grasp like the jaws of a jedze. For it was the case that Macana'c's wife saw him again many times, on nights when clouds obscured the light of moons and stars: he would stand in the door of their compound with his back turned to her. But her feet had the strong roots of duty and wisdom, and she acted as Macana'c should have done: she turned her back to the one who had abandoned her, and when she deigned to look again, he was gone."

***


Some time later he and Teal'c parted ways, Teal'c to his meditation and Hammond to walk the halls of the SGC one last time before going out to his truck. It was his own little ritual, one he always thought of as putting the SGC to bed – even when he knew, with the presence of the night shift, with the galaxy that didn't hold itself to office hours or Mountain time, that the SGC never slept. He passed the infirmary – quiet, thank God – and the labs with their usual smattering of scientists choosing science over sleep for at least a few more hours, yet. He passed the guards at their stations and the empty offices of the deskbound, passed the briefing table waiting for a new mission to begin or a mature one to end, passed his own office.

Finally, he resolved his rounds in the embarkation room, standing before the Stargate, which glowered like an opened eye. He nodded to it as he turned to go.

It wasn't until he'd seated himself behind the wheel of his truck that he thought: in all the time since he'd settled into this post, since he'd started to think of it as home, he'd never thought of the Stargate as glowering. He didn't know why it had looked like an opened eye.

***


The next morning dawned bright and patchy, strong sun beaming down through ragged clouds. Hammond returned to the SGC as he always did; went past the security checkpoints, down the corridors and the long gullet of the elevator, and nothing seemed strange. That was, he couldn't shake the strangeness of the previous night, but it felt more like a fear that the strangeness would recur than a fear springing from the fact that it had.

He went to the control room just in time to see Major Carter slipping in, with a nod for him and a greeting for the 'gate technicians as she took one of the empty terminals and logged herself in. Hammond considered leaving her to whatever she was doing, trusting that she'd tell him if anything interesting came up, but curiosity prodded him over.

"Following up on the mission, Major?"

She nodded. "While we were on the planet, we observed some kind of energy field within the Stargate," she said. "But we didn't have any equipment sophisticated enough to really dig into it. But our logs showed an anomalous energy fluctuation in our 'gate when we returned; I'm trying to put that data together with what we got from the MALP and see if I can learn anything."

A screen sprang up, replete with graphs and equations that Hammond didn't try too hard to untangle. "Anything that might have an impact on SG-10's departure?"

"I don't believe so," Carter said, and Hammond almost smiled in recognition. Most of his scientists shared that disinclination to give an absolute yes or no. "I'll alert you if I think there's any cause for concern."

"Appreciated," Hammond said, and noticed motion down on the Gateroom's floor. Colonel O'Neill, apparently; he walked in ten steps or so from the door, and then just stood there, staring at the great stone circle.

If Major Carter knew what he was doing or found it relevant, she didn't show it. Her attention was fixed on the screen, and more than likely unless her commanding officer was ordering her to do something or messing with the readings coming out of the Stargate, she was perfectly content just not to divert any of her attention his way.

Hammond had to maintain a much broader consciousness, in his position. He headed down the stairs to join him.

***


Down here, the presence of the Stargate was almost palpable: august and aged, and impenetrably alien. But standing before it today, the feeling that had been only a wary premonition earlier was strange as it had been last night. It felt as though an alien intelligence had turned on them.

"You feel it," Hammond said, and Colonel O'Neill glanced over at him.

"Thought it was just me," he said.

The confirmation was reassuring. Better, it saved Hammond from having to explain what it was. The closest he could come was one of those days when a summer thunderstorm rolled in between the start of the shift and the end of it; you couldn't see or hear anything, twentysome stories underground, but there were days when you would swear you could feel in the air that when you got up to the surface, a storm would be waiting for you.

"I had Teal'c tell me that ghost story of his, last night," Hammond said. "I just thought that listening to ghost stories that close to bed might have been a mistake." A small joke; a bit of self-deprecation that the Colonel seemed to miss in favor of wherever his own thoughts were going.

"It's all ghost stories, sir," Jack said, though the sharp, pensive look on his face didn't go away.

That sounded like an odd phrasing. Hammond didn't always put much stock in what things sounded like.

"According to Daniel," Jack went on, "these guys – the ones on the planet – went absolutely nuts on writing their ghost stories down."

Superstition and myth were rarely just superstition and myth, in this line of work. "Think there's anything to them?"

Jack shrugged. "Wouldn't put it past... it," he said, with it standing in for some unnamable aspect of the situation. The planet, the energy distortion, the universe's crooked sense of humor. There was very little Hammond would put past that.

"Well, have him come up and brief me," Hammond said. Jack nodded, and walked away.

Hammond was about to follow him when a flicker of light caught the corner of his eye, familiar and utterly out of place.

The Stargate stood still and empty. Or it feigned emptiness. Hammond turned; if he kept it in his peripheral vision, he could almost see the event horizon; could see the light which scattered across the walls. But when he faced it, the great Naqahdah circle was dead.

With Jack gone the only person in the Gateroom was the custodian, sweeping a mop across the space at the foot of the ramp with a kind of meditative evenness. Hammond walked up to stand beside him, trying to put his finger on what was out of place, here; the Stargate took up his attention, smoothing it away from anything else. He could turn away, look at something: no, the custodian was on his schedule; no, the lights were all on; no, the window to the control room was visible as it should have been, as the blast doors had no reason to be down.

No reason to be down. It was a strange hiccup in his thinking, as though noticing an absence wasn't something he was accustomed to.

He turned, though a strange pressure along his spine warned him not to turn his back to the Stargate, and made a slow examination of the room.

–he was left with the image of his son's turned back–

Hammond turned to the the control room's window. "Sergeant Harriman!"

The sergeant looked up, then reached to his station's mic. "General?"

"Where's the response team?" Hammond asked.

A look of confusion crossed Harriman's face.

"Our standing orders are to keep this room guarded at all times," Hammond said. "There should be men on the emplacements, at minimum."

The look of confusion deepened, and Harriman turned to look at each of the mounted guns. The guns were where they should be. As they should be. Hammond could almost see the sergeant working through to the realization that there was something conceptually wrong in what he was seeing.

"I didn't–," he admitted. "I didn't notice them leave, sir."

"Find out who's on duty," Hammond said. "Order them to report to the Gateroom immediately."

"Of course," Harriman said.

"And get me the status of the Stargate," Hammond said, and started moving for the stairs.

The image of his son's turned back.

Hammond didn't back out of the Gateroom, but he was strong enough to admit that he was tempted.

***


The sense of muted menace wasn't as strong in the control room, but Hammond still felt it, ghosting along the edge of his awareness like a figure at the corner of his eye. He looked at the 'gate technicians, trying to gauge their reactions, but there was no way to winnow out the confusion generated by the odd disappearance from this, more abstract unease.

"Stargate systems are reporting normally," Harriman said. "We're still getting an anomaly in the energy readings, but no errors."

"Humor me," Hammond said, "and tell me whether or not the Stargate is active."

Harriman looked up at the Stargate, but either shared Hammond's misgivings or was too inured to the nonsensical having some hidden sense in the SGC to comment. "Due to the anomaly, the Stargate is drawing more power than it should at standby," he said. "But it's still drawing less than three percent of the power it would need to form an event horizon."

"Of course," Hammond said. "Where's Major Carter?"

"I think she went back to her lab," Harriman said. "Should I call her back up here?"

Yes, Hammond's mind said, instantly. he wanted everyone he had seen here to remain in his line of sight, but that wasn't practical for any of them getting things done. The 'gate technicians excepted. "Just confirm her location for me," he said.

Harriman nodded, and glanced over to make eye contact with another tech. The other tech nodded in turn, and Hammond could almost feel the seamless delegation which had taken place. That, at least, was working as it should; the human brain of the SGC hadn't faltered.

Something else had.

Harriman was bringing up the security feed already, playing it backwards from the moment Hammond had walked into the Gateroom. The defense team hadn't been there, then; that was both troubling and reassuring. Hammond didn't want to think of them vanishing, like ghosts, unnoticed in the corners of his eye.

Though it felt like that had happened, anyway.

The video scrolled back through a long shot of an empty room, only the timestamp in the corner admitting any change. Then, with a suddenness that almost made Hammond jump, the four airmen stationed in the room popped back into existence, and Hammond stopped the rewind and started a playback at normal speed.

It showed the four of them: standing at their stations, with the occasional shift of their weight or turn of their head, and then after a minute they moved as one.

"They... walked through the Stargate, sir," Harriman said.

"When?" Hammond asked, though he was already looking to the timestamp. Harriman confirmed what he could see.

"About forty-seven minutes ago." Harriman paused the video, leaving an image of one of the guards, half-dissolved into nothingness in the great, empty circle of the Stargate.

Hammond was trying to work out something to say when Dr. Jackson poked his head into the control room, an overstuffed manilla folder under one arm. "General?"

"Dr. Jackson, come in," Hammond said, slightly too distracted to realize that was a greeting usually reserved for his office. But Dr. Jackson walked in, glancing at the security feed with interest.

"What's going on?"

"Almost an hour ago, without the Stargate technically activating, the stationed response team walked through it and disappeared," Hammond said. "And none of us noticed it until just now." Obliging an unspoken request, Harriman rewound the video again, and played it for its new audience.

There was silence in the control room while the scene played out again, and then Dr. Jackson nudged the bridge of his glasses. "Wait – go back," he said. "Right when they... decide, I guess."

Harriman cued back the video, and the three of them watched as every guard in the Gateroom turned at once, as though motion at the corner of their vision had commanded their attention.

"They saw something," Dr. Jackson said, and his gaze shifted to the image of the Stargate on the screen. "But whatever it was, our cameras didn't pick it up."

"There's a flicker in the Stargate's energy use at that timestamp," Harriman said, his attention caught by another screen, replete with graphs and numbers. "Our systems didn't mark it as anything dangerous."

"It seems our systems need refinement," Hammond said. That was the problem with working here: common sense got shot out the window, not that there were windows, and no one knew how to adapt to the new sense required until they were shown the error in their suppositions. From what he understood, physics suggested that there was a minimum amount of energy that had to be expended for the Stargate to take people and disappear them. Then again, their sense of physics had been proved incorrect or incomplete before. He turned to the other technician. "Did you–?"

"Major Carter is in her lab, sir," the tech said. "Should I have all this new information sent down to her?"

"Please do," Hammond said, and turned to Dr. Jackson. "Colonel O'Neill said you might have some insight." Into this situation, he didn't say; Jack hadn't much more than implied that. Still, insight was a surprisingly malleable currency, here.

"Well, I've been going over the inscriptions we found in the ruins," Dr. Jackson said. "There's actually a surprising density of information, if you include the steles – turns out they're not just boundary markers. Looks like they might have had some sort of ritual significance, which would mean that the ruins we found probably weren't just a 'gate-monitoring outpost. They seem to have been significant in their own right."

"Significant in what way?"

"That's what I'm trying to extrapolate," Dr. Jackson said.

After a moment, Hammond prompted, "Colonel O'Neill mentioned something about ghost stories."

"Yeah," Dr. Jackson said, that one word oddly clipped. As though he was loathe to bow to the inevitable relevance of that particular detail. "Most of the inscriptions concern ghosts, either explicitly or obliquely. They also contain some very stern injunctions against discussing any of this out loud."

A quiet supposition – one which felt like a realization, which felt like dread – crept in under Hammond's stomach. "What happens if you're to discuss it out loud?"

But he already knew the answer. It was the answer to whispering Bloody Mary in a dark room with a mirror on the wall.

"From what I've translated, the texts either disagree or offer multiple consequences," Dr. Jackson said. "Some say you'll call attention to yourself. There's one line that says you'll give birth to a ghost – give rise to it, make it manifest."

What kind of a ghost lures four airmen through a closed Stargate? Hammond wondered. "Did they mention any way to exorcise the ghost afterward?"

Dr. Jackson exchanged a look with Hammond, both of them balanced on the same edge of half-understanding. "Not that I've encountered."

"Think it would do any good to ask Teal'c to un-tell that story of his?" Hammond asked.

That garnered a small noise of amusement, at least. "If he knows how to un-tell a story," Dr. Jackson said. "Though that might be a philosophical impossibility."

Indeed, Hammond thought, and his mind gave the word Teal'c's inflection. It was probably as good as a response from the man. "Maybe you should continue translating those steles," he suggested.

"I was just about to go do that," Dr. Jackson agreed, as though Hammond's dismissal would have been just a formality. And while Hammond suspected that that was pretty near the truth, he nodded for the Doctor to go, anyway.

***


Three hours passed, with a roll call of SGC personnel and diligent silence from the scientists, before Hammond walked into the control room again and saw light stretching like a soapbubble across the eye of the Stargate.

"Do you see that?" Hammond asked.

At his station, Harriman looked up, and frowned. "What, sir?"

Hammond paused. The question had been more of a statement, as he'd intended it. Look at that. Harriman's answer raised questions of its own.

"What's the status of the Stargate?" Hammond asked, and Harriman turned back to his screen with a frown.

"...we're picking up the same fluctuation as earlier," Harriman said, and turned his attention back to the vast circle. To him, it must have stood empty. "Do you–?"

Hammond turned and headed for the stairs. It seemed like a good idea to walk down to the Stargate, take a closer look at it. It seemed the only good idea.

"General!" Harriman called. Hammond ignored him. There was no answer to the implied question, anyway.

Walking through the entrance to the Gateroom, under the Damocles sword of the blast door, it felt as though the room opened up like a pair of arms, the Stargate like an emperor at the center. Like the air of the room was holding back the walls as a courtesy, and if that courtesy was rebuffed, the walls would clap in like a curtain falling.

It didn't feel like a particularly safe room to be in.

Hammond walked forward anyway, pausing at a sudden equipoise halfway between the entrance and the base of the ramp. He'd gone through the Stargate before, but infrequently. Now, he was disturbed to realize, he wanted to walk through it again; see if the coruscating light felt different on his skin than the cool crackling nothing of the event horizon. Warm, his mind supplied. The field looked silken and warm, and probably provided an adequate refuge from the confusion out here.

Motion at his elbow startled his attention away, and he turned to see Jack standing there, attention fixed on the Stargate like a dog considering a bird.

"You can see that," Hammond said.

Jack nodded. "Looks just like it did on the planet," he said. Then, somewhat dryly, "What do you think would happen if someone walked through it?"

A cold, quiet certainty rolled in like a late fog. It pushed Hammond's mind back to that uncompromising space a general had to learn to develop, where he could give an order without being sure it was the right one, without, in the moment, being cowed by the consequence of wrongness. Worry was a paralytic. He stepped around it, and said "Colonel, I'm relieving you of duty. Report to your quarters and remain there until further notice."

Beside him, Jack blinked at that, and turned to look at him like he wasn't entirely sure this wasn't some kind of injoke he was missing. "It was just rhetorical, sir."

Under other circumstances, Hammond would have been predisposed to believe that. Now, though, with the light of the Stargate like a whisper at the edge of his mind, he wasn't inclined to take chances. "That was an order, Colonel."

There was another moment, when Hammond both tried to find a way to explain and tried not to explain, and the Colonel looked as though he was trying not to look vaguely offended. Then Jack pushed back any recalcitrance, said a very clipped "Yes, sir," and turned to walk out of the Gateroom.

Hammond watched him go, and fought down the niggling thought that he'd made the exact wrong decision. Then again, if the last thing he saw was Jack's retreating back, surely it would be better if he was retreating into the SGC and not through the Stargate.

Surely.

He turned and followed the Colonel to the Gateroom entrance, or thought he did. A moment later, standing at the base of the Stargate ramp, he caught himself.

He could almost see his reflection – or a distorted echo of his form, a shadowy silhouette which could be facing him or facing away – in the center of the Stargate, as though waiting for him to join it. It would have been very simple to join it.

He curled his fists.

"I don't know what you are," Hammond said, "but you're not welcome here," he said, softly. "And we'll find a way to get rid of you, if you don't leave us alone."

Then, focusing on every minute movement of his body, he turned and walked out of the Gate room. Kept his eyes fixed on the doors and counted his steps until he was safely in the hall.

He went back into the controlroom and refused to look at the Stargate. "Seal off the Gateroom," he said. "Lockdown. No one in or out."

Harriman, who was keeping his own opinion of the interchange in the Gateroom firmly behind a mask of professionalism, nodded. "Yes, sir."

***


Hammond was heading out through the briefing room toward the officers' mess – hoping to walk out his thoughts, get coffee, maybe clear his mind – when he found himself cornered by the three members of SG-1 he hadn't confined to quarters. He stopped short, half-expecting them to remonstrate with him.

Fortunately, the one inclined to remonstration was confined to his quarters. If he'd liked them all less, Hammond might have found that a particularly clever bit of forethought.

"Tell me you have something," Hammond said.

Teal'c was the one who inclined his head, and said "We have something." At that, Carter shifted uneasily.

"We have hypotheses," she corrected.

"I'll take them," Hammond said, and motioned them along to his office.

They shuffled in and let him sit, settling into positions in front of his desk as though they'd flowed there like water. "We're working from the assumption that whatever this is, it followed us from PG3-235," Dr. Jackson said. "We're also operating under the assumption that it's altered its behavior in response to our actions."

The first seemed like a logical jump. The second...

"I'm inclined to believe you," Hammond said. "Still, mind telling me what evidence supports that conclusion?"

"The readings we've taken since its arrival here have been consistent with the readings the MALP took planetside," Carter said. "And..."

There was a moment's silence before Dr. Jackson exhaled, and said "The timing of its disappearance, on the planet. It disappeared on the night of Teal'c's ghost story."

"It exhibited none of its current behavior on the planet," Teal'c said.

"So, you think–" Hammond began. He was loathe to say, Discussing a ghost story makes it true.

"We may have accidentally taught a non-corporeal entity how to act like a ghost," Daniel agreed. It took Hammond a moment to work out what he was agreeing with, but he supposed that it was only one or two logical leaps past where his own mind had gone.

"You think this is an entity? Not some sort of natural phenomenon?" Even as he said, it, he knew how unlikely that sounded.

Daniel shrugged. "Well, it's interpreting our language, or some other aspect of our communication or mental processing, and it's applying that to its own behavior. That's – correct me if I'm wrong, but that's something an alien intelligence would have an easier time with than a natural phenomenon."

"I'd agree," Major Carter said. "Even artificial intelligence – intelligence designed by species which approach logic like we do, anyway – would have a more difficult time than an evolved intelligence. It's not impossible, but–"

"Occam's razor," Hammond said. Both of the scientists nodded.

Only SG-1. The rest of the teams might come back with bizarre mining treaties or ancient mind-altering strategy games or the occasional alien incursion, but somehow there was still a whole class of trouble only SG-1 ever found themselves in.

"Does this inform, in any way, how we're meant to address this situation?"

There was silence, and Hammond felt as though every member of SG-1 was quietly looking at one another. Without actually performing the actions of looking. Then Dr. Jackson tried, "Metaphorically?"

"We're still working on some projections," Carter said.

Hammond politely refrained from noting how much of an answer that wasn't. He knew it was scientist-speak for We're trying to figure out what the right questions are; he was fairly sure Carter knew that he knew that; there was little he could do about it.

"But it would help if we had access to the Stargate," Carter said.

"No." The word was out of his mouth before he'd considered the proposal. "I'm afraid that's out of the question."

This time, there actually was a flurry of glances exchanged.

"General," Carter began.

"We've already lost four men to the anomaly," Hammond said. "Th entity. Whatever it is. We don't even know where to begin in trying to retrieve them. And from what I can tell, the entity can be rather persuasive about getting people to join them."

Halfway across the 'Gateroom, thinking with every step that he was walking away from danger. Hammond didn't shudder, but he came close.

"General," Dr. Jackson said. "If we can't analyze or interact with the entity, we might as well be sitting in our labs theorizing. We can't do any practical work."

"Unless you can give me some guarantee of your stability when it comes to the entity, it's not an acceptable risk," Hammond said.

A moment passed.

"...you could cuff us to the emplacements," Carter offered, reluctantly.

Everyone in the room turned to look at her: Hammond in surprise, Daniel with a speculative look, and Teal'c with an arch of the eyebrow that seemed, perhaps, almost approving. Carter shifted under their gazes.

"...we'd need a fairly long chain to let us do the work we needed to," she added.

"I'd be willing to work under those restrictions," Dr. Jackson said.

Another moment.

"I have no need to access the Stargate," Teal'c put in.

Hammond let out a breath shaped a little like a chuckle. "Fine," he said. "I'll allow you access to the Gateroom, under restrain, and with a defense team standing by to extract you. And I don't care if I have to give them blinders and stop up their ears like Odysseus's men: if I believe you're in trouble, I will have you dragged out of the Gateroom."

"Thank you," Dr. Jackson said, quickly. "We'll go gather the materials we need."

Then he and Major Carter vanished, as though getting out of earshot before he could change his mind.

Teal'c remained.

"I take it you have something to add," Hammond said.

Teal'c inclined his head. "You were able to resist the influence of the entity," he said.

Hammond grimaced. It was all to easy to imagine not coming back to himself at the base of the ramp. Would he have come to his senses at all? Just in front of the strange, bright field, maybe. And if he'd blinked and found himself there, would his reflection have reached out to grab him?

Or maybe he would have reached out. Put his hand on his reflection's shoulder.

–and in fact he thought he had turned his son around to face him.

"Believe me, I wish I knew how," Hammond said. The response team hadn't been able to. He had, and he hadn't given Jack the chance to find out whether or not he could. If it was just a matter of knowing that the Stargate would lure you, being aware enough to fight that inclination, he should probably let the Colonel out of his quarters. But it was rarely a good idea to let everyone know you were second-guessing your own orders.

If he'd expected Teal'c to have light to cast on that particular dilemma, he was disappointed. Teal'c simply nodded, and followed the rest of SG-1 out.

***


It actually took some time to locate appropriate restraints in the SGC: most of the restraints on hand weren't designed to allow for any significant degree of movement. Fortunately, one of the botanists on level 19 had a number of high-load chains, for reasons Hammond couldn't immediately recall and wasn't inclined to ask. A quick weld job later, and two sets of extremely long handcuffs had been produced.

Which meant that it wasn't too long before Hammond got to watch an odd procession – two of the SGC's finest, both chained to a MALP controlled by a 'gate technician, entering the Gateroom with wary, mistrusting looks for the great stone circle they travelled through without hesitation on most days.

Then, not too close, they settled in to work.

Hammond wasn't entirely certain what the substance of their investigations entailed. Major Carter bent to the MALP, and Dr. Jackson spread out a dizzying array of materials – glossy images of the steles on the planet, books, and his own journals, replete with notes. Their work was punctuated by the intermittent susurration of speech, not quite loud enough for the Gateroom microphones to pick it up.

It would have been eerie, if Hammond had let it be. As it was, this, at least, seemed right.

Until inevitably, something made it wrong.

Dr. Jackson noticed it first, so Hammond noticed his noticing first: a turn of his head, as if something had caught the corner of his eye. Rather, from Hammond's perspective, as though he'd suddenly seen something which had already been there.

Hammond took the microphone. "What do you see?" he asked.

With apparent difficulty, Dr. Jackson turned to look at Major Carter for confirmation, then said, with a distracted carefulness, "it looks like what we saw on the planet. But this – I don't think this is interested in keeping us here. I think it's inviting us."

Inviting them to where, he didn't say. Hammond suspected it was irrelevant; he felt that it was irrelevant. The invitation was all that mattered. "It's an invitation you'll have to decline."

Dr. Jackson shot an unexpectedly sharp look up at the control room. And also unexpectedly, it was Major Carter who spoke up. "General, I know that finding out what it wants is outside of the scope of this investigation, but..."

"'But,' Major?" Hammond asked. He hoped the question was answerless.

He could hear the tension of the question rasping like a hacksaw along the atmosphere down below. And Teal'c reacted noticeably at Hammond's side.

"I think it would be best if I were to join them, General Hammond," he said.

Hammond turned to him, ready to object, but Teal'c pre-empted him.

"I believe I have a solution – if not to bring home those who have already vanished, at least to end the extant threat."

"Care to share your insights?" Hammond asked.

Teal'c nodded. "Ghost stories, to the Jaffa, are merely cautionary," he explained. "When Daniel Jackson first proposed that the entity was playacting the story I told, I was suspicious. Its actions mimicked the story on only a basic level; the fact that it remained to tempt us, rather than sending back specters of the lost guards, was a clear discrepancy. Now I believe it has modeled itself not on the story but the story's intent."

"Its intent," Hammond said, not quite willing to gamble Teal'c on a chain of reasoning he couldn't follow."

"To teach that one must sometimes repudiate adventure and the unknown for duties which would keep one home," Teal'c said. "While all of our energies are focused on the anomaly, it cannot help but call to us."

"So you're saying we should cease our investigations," Hammond said.

Teal'c nodded. "We must turn our backs on it."

That, Hammond was happy to agree to. "I'll send in the MPs to bring them out," he said.

Teal'c shook his head. "If I am correct, it must be their choice," he said. "Not an effect of force or circumstance."

"And you've already made that choice?"

"My duty is not toward adventure or the exploration of knowledge," Teal'c said. "It is toward the overthrow of the Goa'uld. I know that the entity cannot offer me what I need."

It seemed as reasonable as anything else in this situation had. Hammond hoped that that seeming could be trusted.

"Go," Hammond said.

Teal'c walked down and into the Gateroom.

Hammond watched him, measuring the length of his stride and the path it took over the concrete floor. He approached the MALP and not the 'Gate; his pace was steady and not coerced.

Teal'c reached out, and put his hand on Daniel's shoulder.

Hammond tensed, but Teal'c did not try to turn Dr. Jackson back. Instead, he moved to interrupt the line of sight between Dr. Jackson and the Stargate, and bent down to explain.

A charge came to the air, or Hammond perceived one. He watched the faces of the three in the Gateroom: Teal'c's ever-impassive façade, the slow shift of consideration across Dr. Jackson's face as a new theory was presented to him, the gradual slip of Major Carter's attention from the readouts she was working on to the conversation going on across the MALP from her.

He had the feeling that being told the answer to a problem lay in not investigating it offended Major Carter's religion, or whatever beliefs she held as true as one.

Without thinking, Hammond walked out of the control room and down past the blast doors, past the defense team waiting in the hall.

Major Carter turned to look at him as he came in, with palpable reluctance. "We'll cease investigating," she said, and Hammond could imagine what it cost her to say – and mean – those words. "Daniel thinks it would be a good idea to destroy the data we have."

"Burn the ships," Dr. Jackson murmured, in a kind of rueful agreement.

Hammond looked to Teal'c. It was a great deal of faith they were all putting in him.

But there was certainty in every angle of his expression, and faith was as central to the SGC as the Stargate itself.

Beside him, Dr. Jackson was carefully pulling pages out of his journal, with a look that suggested it physically pained him. Carter was punching in commands to the MALP – clearing its memory, no doubt.

"Here," Dr. Jackson said, and held out a sheaf of pages.

Hammond took them. "I appreciate the sacrifice you're making," he said.

"Hopefully it's worth it," Daniel said, and the film across the Stargate snapped into nothingness like a dispelled dream.

All of them turned, as one, as though noticing its first glimmers. But the air was different, now; Hammond could look at the Stargate without feeling its allure or its dread.

Something pale and shining glimmered briefly in the center of the circle.

"What–," Hammond began. Then, "It worked."

Teal'c raised an eyebrow. Hammond could hear it in his tone. "All stories benefit from being treated as truth," he said. "I would advise you to open the Stargate back to PG3-235. It is possible the entity will wish to return home."

"To follow some other poor adventurer home," Hammond said, but he turned to the control room window and gave a curt nod. Harriman caught his nod, nodded back, and began dialing.

"Notice can be sent to the Free Jaffa, the Asgard, and the Tok'ra," Teal'c said. "As for the Goa'uld, should they stumble upon the world, I have no doubt they are deserving of any trouble it may cause them."

Hammond could agree with that assessment. He couldn't quite believe it would be that simple, but if Teal'c's point was that there was only so much they could do...

Well. That was the story of their lives, SG-1's tendency to whip up miracles notwithstanding.

"Any idea how we can retrieve the missing?"

A look of regret crossed Teal'c's face. Maybe. Or maybe it was Hammond's imagination. "If I have any theories, I shall surely bring them to your attention."

"Please do," Hammond said, and glanced at SG-1's scientists, still cuffed to the MALP and likely smarting over the resolution. He glanced down at the papers in his hand.

...time enough to return those later. Once they were certain the danger was past.

"Let's unlock these people," Hammond said, and turned to leave the Gateroom as the defense team rushed in.

***


And when she deigned to look again, he was gone.

The stargate flashed open, waited like an open eye, and then closed again in its own time. Hammond, standing in the control room, took a breath.

Things felt right again, or mostly so. There was still the faint aftertaste of unease, and a niggling awareness of the defense team who had yet to come home. But the air of the SGC was as it should be, and the Stargate stood august and empty. Not precisely dead, but no longer possessed.

It was a start, if nothing else. A place that they could work from.

Hammond turned away from the Stargate, and went to update his log of the events. There would be one note at least, he thought, mentioning the stories brought back from the planet; reiterating the old taboos about things not to be discussed aloud.

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V is for Vodka and Victories (sp. pyrrhic)
by [personal profile] greenbirds

It is a fact long-established that General Jack O’Neill, darling of the amerikanskiyStargate program, notorious cowboy, and bol v zadnitse* in general, does not speak Russian. The good general has always left that thankless task for Dr. Daniel Jackson, who is a good lad, if utterly ignorant about history in the era post-dating 2000 BCE. But Dr. Jackson isn’t here.

Neither is Colonel Carter, or Teal’c of Chulak.

Neither is Cheyenne Mountain.

This is Washington, D.C., the most American of American cities (filled, the political officers told them in the days before Perestroika, with corrupt politicians and an assortment of sycophants; in that, at least, they were right).

Colonel Andrei Chekov studies the man behind the polished wood desk (silver-haired, distinguished, and when did they all get so damned old?) and thinks that General O’Neill doesn’t like Washington any better than he does, particularly not on a day like today.

O’Neill looks old, worn, weary. There have been too many memorials these last few days, and there will be more in the weeks to come.

It is the misfortunate of old soldiers, Chekov thinks, to watch war from a distance and funerals from entirely too close at hand.

“You guys saved our asses out there,” O’Neill says. In English, of course, but that’s all right. “If it hadn’t been for Korolev and her men, we’d be toast.”

Bog dal, bog ivzyal,” Chekov says. “God gave, god took back. She was a good ship.”

He thinks of submarines, lying at the bottom of the North Sea under fathoms of cold gray water. He thinks of men drowning, or freezing, or dying the slow death of radiation poisoning.

He supposes what happened to Korolev was better.

(Gone, between one breath and the next, in a flash of light. Perhaps her crew hadn’t had time to be afraid.)

A soft, sloshing thunk startles Chekov out of his reverie. O’Neill has set a bottle of vodka on his desk. Good honest Russian vodka, not the amerikanskiy swill that comes in pretentious blue bottles and promises not to leave you with a hangover. O’Neill sets two squat glasses beside it, sloshes a stiff snort of liquid into each.

Zemlya pukhom,” O’Neill says, raising his glass.

It’s the traditional toast to the dead.

His Russian is terrible. Chekov smiles anyway.

*pain in the ass, at least if you ask Google translate.

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W is for Wrestling
by [profile] madders_ahatter

From S5 ep 3 Ascension:

O’Neal and Teal’c visit Carter with pizza and a movie [Star Wars] but she sends them away because Orlin is inside.

O'NEILL
So, now what?

TEAL'C
I have read of a place where humans do battle in a ring of Jell-O.

O'NEILL
Call Daniel.

[They get in O'Neill's car.]

THIS IS THE CONTINUATION OF THAT SCENE (OUTTAKE) AS IT MIGHT HAVE GONE...

TEAL’C dials Daniel’s number and presses speakerphone

O’NEILL (on phone)
Hey, Daniel, watcha doin?

DANIEL (also on phone)
Trying to finish this translation. I thought you and Teal’c had gone to Sam’s for pizza. I assumed I’d get some peace and quiet.

O’NEILL
She blew us off. Gotta hot date or.... something.

DANIEL (tilts his head and frowns in puzzlement)
Really?

O’NEILL
So she said. Go figure. Whatever. Point is we’re at a loose end and Teal’c suggested wrestling.

DANIEL
Why would I want to wrestle Teal’c? Bad enough we have to spar in training. I’ve still got the bruises from last week.

O’NEILL
No, dummy. We go watch some wrestling.

DANIEL
No thanks Jack. I really need to get this translation done. Somehow watching a couple of testosterone driven muscle mountains beating the crap outa each other is a less than tempting alternative. Go knock yourselves out. Have fun, but don’t call with a blow-by-blow, ‘k? I need to concentrate here.

O’NEILL
Suit yourself, Danny boy. Only I don’t remember saying anything about male wrestling. (He looks to Teal’c.) Did I mention male wrestling?

TEAL’C
Indeed you did not, O’Neill.

O’NEILL
See. Not male wrestling, Daniel. Female wrestling. Hot sexy bikini clad chicks wrestling in a huge ring full of Jell-O. Is that a tempting enough alternative for ya, bookworm?

DANIEL (struggles to put his coat on while still holding the phone to his ear)
I’m on my way. Save me some pizza. Oh, uh... Where do I meet you?

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X is for Explore
by [personal profile] ivorygates

The first time Teal’c got to see the world outside the Mountain they were chasing a shapchanging alien bomb. Teal’c hadn’t been on Earth more than a few weeks then. He got his information about his new alien home from CNN, and he thought Earth was a pretty scary place.

Jack had offered to show him around, but it was a promise he found surprisingly hard to keep. The second time Teal’c left the Mountain it was to help him and Carter pack up Daniel’s apartment, since they thought Daniel was dead. He also got to come to Daniel’s wake, which Jack supposes doesn’t really count as either a social occasion, or as seeing Earth. (Fortunately Daniel wasn’t dead. That was also when Jack discovered Monty Python didn’t translate across cultures.)

The third time Teal’c got to go out also involved exploding aliens. Only this one didn’t explode after all, and she got to stay. (They’d just found out Teal’c had a boy about Cassie’s age a few weeks before, and that’s an associational road Jack isn’t going to go down, thanks so much.) He has to admit that a visit to a mothballed Titan missile silo was probably not what Teal’c had in mind when he asked to be shown Earth (missile silos seem to be a recurring motif in the life of one Colonel Jack O’Neill, but let that pass), though.

It wasn’t that Teal’c never got outside. They were outside every time they stepped through the Stargate. (It was usually raining.) But it also wasn’t Earth. He knew Teal’c wanted to see Earth. He wanted to understand it. (Good luck there, big guy.) The paperwork seemed to go on forever, though. Teal’c didn’t officially exist, and in the eyes of Washington, the easiest way to deal with little problems like that was to ignore them. (And Teal’c.)

He got to see plenty of the Springs on his next outing, since he was hiding from the NID while a big bug turned him into a bunch of little bugs (that would grow up to be big bugs and then bye-bye Earth). But it was after that (Carter helped him put the boot in; she was still pissed with little Timmy Harlowe of the flexible morals) that they finally got permission to take Teal’c on an honest-to-God outing.

You’d probably think camping wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice. They do plenty of that at work. But Teal’c’s interested in how people who were born free choose to spend their time, Jack likes camping, Daniel said the contrast between camping for fun and camping because they had to would probably interest Teal’c, and Carter announced she made a mean s’more. General Hammond liked the idea. (General Hammond probably thought they couldn’t get into much trouble in The Garden of the Gods.)

The gear fills the whole back of the truck, so Carter follows them on her bike. They’ll stay here overnight, go back to the house to unload (and shower), and then down to that Italian place Daniel likes for Sunday dinner. A nice low-key introduction to the pleasures of Earth. (Jack wonders what the folks back home get up to for fun, but having visited scenic Chulak a couple of times now, he doesn’t wonder very hard.)

It’s car camping, but they find a nice spot. Trees just don’t smell the same anywhere else. Carter’s efficient, clearing level ground, arranging all the tools. She’s brought a bright blue bubble tent; he’s brought his old red Coleman (sleeps four, but not if one of them’s Teal’c and they’re going to be storing a lot of gear inside). The tents go up quickly: Carter’s talking about the engineering aspects of tent construction; Daniel’s contributing the history of tents (which go all the way back to Sunday School; no surprises there). Jack’s pulled out a lawn chair to...supervise.

He’s always liked the outdoors. His grandfather first introduced him to it. The first summer he spent outside of Chicago was a revelation. Sara liked it too: whenever he was home, they’d load up the truck of the moment and take off for whatever wilderness was closest. Even while she was pregnant. Even with the baby. (He doesn’t think of Charlie if he can help it, but some parts—the good parts—of his life are so intertwined with those eight brief years he had with him that forgetting Charlie would be like lobotomizing himself. That’s why the pictures are still on his living room wall.)

Teal’c looks a little wacky in civilian clothes. Like they’re some kind of costume he isn’t really sure about. He does what Carter tells him, and the tents look like they’ll stand. Jack shifts gears from ‘supervisory’ to ‘managerial’ to get the rest of the truck unloaded. and the gear stowed. They brought wood with them; he builds the fire in the firepit himself. Some things you have to leave to the experts.

Teal’c is asking Daniel if this is a customary form of recreation among the Tau’ri. Daniel is tripping over his own tongue, trying to be fair and accurate and list all the possibilities. (As usual, the explanation doesn’t go well.) Jack thinks Daniel’s looking at the trees instead of the forest: Teal’c isn’t asking if this is what normal people do as much as he’s asking if the four of them are doing it the way normal people do it.

Yeah, pretty much.

Everything’s set up by mid-afternoon. Jack runs the truck down to the parking area and walks back; by then, Daniel’s talked Carter into hiking up to look at some local petroglyphs. Jack adjusts his chair so it’s facing the firepit and the sun’s at his back, makes sure the cooler is close to hand, sits down, and cracks a beer.

Teal’c sits down beside him. Jack hands him a bottle of juice.

“I would not have expected recreation on your world to be so...quiet...O’Neill,” Teal’c finally says.

“Wait ’till you see a hockey game,” Jack answers. He knows Teal’c’s probably seen them on ESPN. The real thing’s better.

They sit in silence for a while, which is fine. Jack likes silence, and likes having nothing to do, and likes being places where the possibility someone is going to shoot at him is vanishingly small. And Teal’c isn’t a chatterbox. That’s one of the things Jack likes about him.

“It is odd,” Teal’c says at last, “to be presented with so many choices.”

And that’s something that might actually call for him to say something profound and Colonel-ish, but he hears Carter and Daniel coming back, arguing about something, and he lets the moment go.

***


Dinner is hot dogs, cooked over the fire. (They’ll have to fire up the camp stove to cook breakfast, but they don’t really need it now.) His grandfather’s battered old percolator nestles in the coals so the caffeine-addicts can have their coffee; Jack sticks to beer. After they’ve roasted hot dogs (and every other dinner-related thing that can conceivably go on the end of a roasting fork) it’s time for dessert.

Carter talks about making s’mores when she was in the Girl Scouts. Daniel disentangles Teal’c from the idea that the Tau’ri have a caste of child warriors. Jack shows Teal’c how you put them together. Teal’c gets the first one by default. They’re all watching as he shoves the first square into his mouth (whole). Waiting for the review.

“I believe this is the taste of freedom,” Teal’c pronounces gravely.

And nobody laughs.

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Y is for Yearly Physical
by [personal profile] ivorygates

“If we just had a physical three months ago—which we did—why are we having another one now?”

“That was a quarterly physical, Daniel. This is an annual physical.”

“‘Annual’ implies ‘yearly.’ As in: ‘once every twelve months,’” Daniel protested.

“And amazingly, this time last year, here we were.”

The two of them were sitting side by side on a bench in a waiting room in their underwear. Teal’c always took up a lot of the docs’ time, and while Carter got the same treatment he and Daniel did (more or less), the Air Force in its infinite wisdom had decided long ago that these exciting bonding sessions weren’t meant to be co-ed. Maybe it was the underwear thing. In which case, Jack was very very worried about the medical department’s grasp of a Gate Team’s average working day.

“But we were also here three months ago,” Daniel pointed out.

“Which was a quarterly physical,” Jack said.

Yearly physicals were standard: he’d endured them since he’d joined the Air Force. In addition to determining that you weren’t about to die suddenly (and therefore cost the Air Force a great deal of money), it also assessed mystical qualities like “preparedness”. Preparedness meant lying to someone up the chain of command about your work life, your home life, your marriage (where applicable), and your one hundred percent lack of nightmares, stress, and second thoughts about any subject whatsoever. In the good old days, passing an eval meant one more step up the ladder of promotion. Good assignments. Shiny toys. The chance to participate in (and cause) really spectacular explosions. He’d always known he’d never make General (combat track or not), and he’d actually been surprised to make Full Bird. (He’d told Sarah he’d get out after that, if he had his twenty, but there’d been one more thing, and one more thing, and then it didn’t matter any more.)

“Which implies that this...is also a quarterly physical?” Daniel suggests.

“If it was a quarterly physical, Daniel, they’d call it a quarterly physical.”

Operation Giza had meant a day-long physical before he and his team left on their suicide mission. (Daniel hadn’t been included that time, even though he’d bought a ticket on that particular pleasure cruise: he was too irreplaceable to downcheck on physical grounds, and Jack suspects West and Katie Langford figured Dr. Jackson would kill all germs in his vicinity with the power of his brain.) It had been a month-long physical when he, Kawalsky, and Ferretti came limping home. Everybody wanting to figure out if anything had really changed when the Air Force White Elephant turned them all into energy and squirted them across the universe. Twice. (West never did stop bitching about them not recovering the MIT Probe; he’d said it was worth all of them put together. West had always been a charmer.)

“So why don’t they call it a quarterly physical, Jack?”

He sighs and stops concentrating on the crack in the opposite wall. He brought a yo-yo with him to pass the time, but the docs took it away along with his clothes; the military believes that boredom builds character. He’s cold and his knees hurt and he hates being barefoot. Probably about as much as Daniel hates what he considers pointless bureaucracy, which explains all the bitching. Daniel isn’t military. Daniel doesn’t understand that half of this stuff is secret mind control and the other half is ritual, and it all goes together to cover up the fact that it takes a lot of training to replace a civilian with a soldier. (Of course, if he did understand, he’d think it was a stupid idea, but Daniel’s never fired a shot that he hasn’t fired in anger.)

“Because if they called it a quarterly physical, Daniel, it would be a quarterly physical. And that would mean we still had to have an annual physical. And that would be three more days of my life that I would never get back.”

In fact, there isn’t much difference between the two in terms of hamster mazes and exercise wheels (and clueless chats with MacKenzie). But Jack knows that the yearly results find their way to his jacket, and the quarterly ones just vanish into the same place his after-action reports do. Quantity over quality. It’s the military way. That, and the forlorn hope that somewhere in all that mass of information might be the facts they’re looking for, because what it all boils down to is this: they’re using a piece of equipment built and designed by aliens to go running around the galaxy on the most important treasure-hunt ever, and it’s not so much because they figured out how to make it work (he’s sure MIT has a lot of probe droids it isn’t using) as because a whole galaxy full of bloodthirsty aliens (who don’t like us, by the way, Daniel, as you’ve probably noticed) know they’re here (and sitting ducks, if they have ducks). Nobody in Washington knows why the Goa’uld haven’t come calling yet, but they’re all really clear on one thing: when they do show up, Earth had better be in a position to blow them out of the sky.

So they’re using the Stargate. And they’re trying to figure out what it does at the same time. And that means gathering information however they can. (He thinks of little Doc Frasier: if the woman doesn’t drink, it’s beyond belief.)

“Why would they do five quarterly physicals in a year?” Daniel asks. “The word ‘quarter’ comes from the Latin quartārius,, a fourth. You can’t have five fourths of anything.”

“You’ve been working here how long?” Jack asks, and is rewarded with a faintly-amused grumble.

“I just want things to make sense,” Daniel replies.

“Life doesn’t make sense,” Jack says.

“It does,” Daniel says stubbornly. “It can.”

Daniel is younger than he is in so many more ways than just a twelve-year gap between the dates on their birth certificates. Daniel retains the optimism of youth: questions have answers; problems have solutions. Jack has never quite been able to bring himself to quash that completely, even when it makes him want to bang his head repeatedly against the nearest wall.

“If life made sense, we would not be sitting in a refrigerator in our underwear waiting to go jogging on a treadmill so they can tell us our blood pressure’s too high.”

“Do you think they care?” Daniel asks, after a pause. “What the results are, I mean?”

There’s a new note in his voice now. Not just bitching-for-the-sake-of-it. The kind of voice you use when you’re wondering if it’s all worth it.

“You don’t expect to stay alive,” his first CO said. “You’d better not. All you can hope for is that when you die, it’s worth it.”

This isn’t a philosophy he’s going to share with Daniel, the idea that his life is something for somebody else to spend and all you can do is hope they get a good price. It’s the unspoken truth of life in a combat unit: Jack would rather not either have another round of Military Versus Civilians or find out that Daniel’s gotten to the point where he understands it.

“Depends on what you mean,” Jack says. “They’re probably hoping that if they do enough tests, the results will make sense to somebody someday.”

The door opens. A white-coated orderly beckons. They get to their feet.

“For science,” Daniel says, sounding more cheerful.

“Yeah. Science.”

"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

Oppenheimer was a scientist, too.

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Z is for Zombie
by [personal profile] lord_spyridon

"Sir, we can't hold for much longer. They've overrun SG-2's position and are threatening SG-3 and 4. They're just too many of them!" Jack O'Neill, Colonel and leader of SG-1, could hear the desperation in hi second-in command's voice. The only time, he had ever heard the all-consuming panic was only when the odds began against them; SG-1 fighting all alone on Apophis' mothership during their first year together, the multiple times when they had thought Daniel lost to them forever, the list went on for them.

He keyed his mic. "Major, hold your position. That's an order! The planet is depending on us. Daniel, go and reinforce Carter. Teal'c, how are you holding up?" From his position, he could see Daniel running from where he was on the other side of Teal'c's position to slide right where Carter was, taking all of his ammo with him. The two scientists quickly launched another counter-offensive, keeping their position from crumbling under another onslaught.

"I fear that this will be SG-1's last stand, O'Neill. Another wave is preparing to attack, one with greater forces than the previous waves." Even their trusty Jaffa couldn't keep the resignation out of his voice.

Giving up when the odds were against them wasn't in SG-1's handbook. No, they were fighting to the bitter end. "Not today, campers. Lock and load. We're going down fighting!"

"Colonel, it's Reynolds. We're almost out of ammo and we about to be o. . . ." The mic went dead, the static a grim note in Jack's ear.

"Colonel Reynolds, can you read? Reynolds? Carter, do you see SG-3 from your position?" Jack launched another round, trying to keep the hordes away from his position but for every one that got hit, another two took its place.

"Yes, sir and it looks like they're down."

Daniel popped out from underneath the rock cropping, trying to catch sight of the other SG teams that came as reinforcements. "I can't see SG-4 from my position. We're alone."

"Feels like old times, huh, Daniel?" Carter called out, aiming for a pack of five.

"How's the ammo, kids." Jack grunted as he grabbed another missile and launched, seeing it disappear in a cloud of red mist.

"I'm almost out here, sir."

"As am I, O'Neill."

"Last one, Jack."

"It's been an honor fighting with you. Come on, you flesh-eating monster! I'm taking you down with me!"

The last thing Jack saw was the gaping, dripping mouths and outstretched arms reaching for him . . . .

***


Jack looked at the small child attached to his arm as the multitudes of kids swarmed around them, ranging from 6 years old to 13. "Carter?"

"Yes, sir?"

"I think the kids are taking this too seriously." Yeah, he was sure the kid was definitely enjoying himself too much. Just because you were acting as a zombie didn't mean you had to bite the volunteer human forces. Kid obviously missed that memo.

The archeologist looked up at Jack from where the masses of children had tackled him. His previously pristine t-shirt and pants were now covered in smears of fake blood. "Jack?"

"The kid is still chewing on me." The colonel shook the child off, grimacing when he finally dislodged.

"Ahh."

SG1 along with SG2-4 had decided to help with the military event for families during the Halloween weekend. All of the team members were dressed in unmarked BDUs. All around them were the remains of exploded vaccine bombs, water balloons filled with colored water to mark where a child had been hit. "Whose bright idea was it to volunteer for the Zombie Madness Event instead of going to the zoo?"

"Teal'c's."

"Buddy, next time we're just giving out candies and watching Halloween movies." Jack checked where the kid had bit him. The area was already starting to discolor under the red dye.

"Can't handle hordes of kids dressed up as zombies? I thought you were a Black Ops soldier."

Jack glared at Daniel. "They did not cover zombie apocalypse scenarios during training. Carter, was there anything in your training covering zombie hordes?"

The sides of her mouth twitched. "No, sir."

"Are you laughing, Carter?"

Daniel pointed at the colonel, an amused expression on his face at what he found. "Jack, is that-"

Jack looked at himself and groaned. "Not a word, Danny boy, not a word if you want to live."

feedback
Thursday, February 13th, 2014 12:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you for doing this! Looking forward to reading.
Thursday, February 13th, 2014 06:02 pm (UTC)
Brilliant round up..thank you very much...


Deeds xx
Thursday, February 13th, 2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
*dances*
Thursday, February 13th, 2014 07:47 pm (UTC)
:D
Thursday, February 13th, 2014 10:47 pm (UTC)
I had a moment where I went "Hang on, 46,000 words... a 9,000 word fic... let me do the math on that..."

•headDESK•

Next time, just watch, I am going to write a flash fic, it will be exactly 1000 words* and a diamond of polished brevity.

*this will almost certainly never happen.

...

But yes! Thank you for hosting this, and doing all the wrangling! I imagine that 23 authors must be only slightly easier to work with than 23 cats.
Friday, February 14th, 2014 09:32 am (UTC)
I suppose I could just go to the complete other extreme and do a Decidedly Non-National SG-1 Alphabet Soup Novel Writing Month for the next one. And then cackle wildly, fake my own death, change my name, and move to Colorado Springs.