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Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 12:12 pm
My thanks to the 24 authors who wrote 28 fics to make Episode Alphabet Soup a reality: Alynt, Annieb, Busaikko, Dennydj, Eilidh, Fig Newton, Gategremlyn, Gillian, Ivorygates, Julie, Jb, JD Junkie, Magickmoons, Magistrate, Obsessivemuch, Paian, Princess of Geeks, Sallymn, Sid, Roeskva, Topazowl, Traycer, Thothmes, and Wonderland. An extra warm welcome to our first-time contributors:. [profile] alynt, [profile] annieb1955, [personal profile] busaikko, [personal profile] misaffection, [personal profile] topazowl. Special thanks to the seasoned cooks who are always happy to offer another serving. And an extra, extra thank you to Alynt, Annieb, and Thothmes, who contributed two fics apiece.

Enjoy over 42,500 words of episode related fic! Story lengths range from 240 words to over 3,800. Ratings range from G to PG-13. Expect spoilers throughout the entire series, and references to canonical character deaths.

Story text is as written by the authors, but minor HTML coding has been changed and scene breaks have been altered to allow for more uniformity in page style.

At the end of each fic, you will find a link to the author's own entry. Readers are encouraged to leave feedback for the authors in their respective journals.

Click on a specific episode to jump to that story, or just scroll down!

Stargate: the Movie

Season One: COTG / Fire and Water / TBFTGOG

Season Two: Need / 1969

Season Three: Legacy / Demons / FIAD / 100 Days / New Ground / Crystal Skull

Season Four: Upgrades /The First Ones / Beneath the Surface / The Light

Season Five: The Fifth Man / Rite of Passage / Wormhole Xtreme! / Meridian

Season Six: Nightwalkers

Season Seven: Fallen / Fragile Balance / Enemy Mine

Season Eight: Lockdown

Season Nine: Ripple Effect

Season Ten:The Quest / Unending


A is for Abandoned (Fire and Water)
by [profile] annieb1955

"To be alone is to be different, to be different is to be alone."

Suzanne Gordon "Lonely In America" 1976.


Intellectually Daniel knew his team hadn't meant to leave him behind on Oannes. Instinctively though he'd felt abandoned. Still did. Especially when he'd come back to find his apartment and his office packed up, most of his belongings squared away in cardboard boxes with labels reading "Property of Dr. Daniel Jackson, deceased" slapped haphazardly on the sides. He was making some little headway on restoring his office back to normality when Sam poked her head around the corner of the door. "Need a hand?" she asked. "We're on stand down for the rest of the week so I thought I'd drop by and see what I could do to help."

"No," he said, knowing it sounded short and pissy and unable to really care even when Sam's face dropped. "Sorry, it's just that I know where everything used to be and it's easier if I do it myself."

"Sure," she said fake-brightly, "I understand."

Daniel was sure she didn't understand at all but he just nodded a goodbye at her as she left and went on with what he'd been doing.

He avoided talking to anyone at lunch by not going to the mess hall and instead nibbling on a powerbar he found in his top desk drawer when he was sorting papers. He'd drained his coffeepot by 3 o'clock and gave thought to making another but decided against it when he realized that going out to get more water from the fountain in the hallway increased the chances of him running into Sam again, or Teal'c, or God forbid, Jack. Somehow it was seeing Jack that bothered him the most though he couldn't really put his finger on why and at this juncture wasn't inclined to analyze it. Instead he put the coffee pot back and hurried out of his office, down the corridor to the elevator, which he rode up to the parking level then signed himself out at the security desk there and almost ran out to his car. By the time he got home the headache he'd had ever since he'd got back from Oannes, and that Dr. Fraiser said was a result of the memory device Nem had used on him, had soared to new heights and he let himself in his front door and closed it behind him with a sigh of relief.

He went searching for Tylenol and cursed as he looked around and remembered that everything here was boxed up as well. They'd only returned from Oannes the day before and Dr. Fraiser had insisted Daniel stay on base overnight, even though he'd assured her he had no ill effects from his time as Nem's prisoner other than a pretty nasty headache. But Janet Fraiser overruled everyone on the base when it came to medical matters so on the base Daniel stayed. Jack assured him he'd organized for all Daniel's furniture and belongings to be taken back to his apartment but of course the men who'd returned everything hadn't unpacked the boxes. That remained for Daniel to do and he had no idea which one might possibly hold his stash of Tylenol.

He swore again as he went into the kitchen and realized he couldn't even make coffee, let alone cook himself a meal. His headache went up a notch as the doorbell rang and he stomped over and yanked the door open with bad-tempered force. "Jack," he said sourly as he saw who was there, "look, I'm not in the mood for visitors. I've got to get all my stuff unpacked and I have a headache as it is. I just want to find the boxes that have my Tylenol and my coffeemaker and coffee beans and then have an early night."

Jack unslouched himself from the doorframe and pushed his way inside past Daniel's stiff unwelcoming form. He shoved a small foil strip into Daniel's hand as he walked past. "Tylenol double strength from Janet. She said you refused to take anything in the infirmary and she remembered your stuff was probably still packed so..." Jack stopped just short of the kitchen then turned and reached into his jacket pocket. "Here." He tossed Daniel a bottle of water. "Figured your drinking glasses were probably still packed too."

"Thanks." Daniel uncapped the bottle and swallowed two of the pills. He waited for a moment then stood back and indicated the door. "Good deed's done, Jack. You can leave now."

"That's not very friendly," Jack replied, walking away to sit down in one of the chairs the airmen had brought back. "Sam said you were in a grouchy mood. Who pissed in your Froot Loops this morning?"

Daniel rubbed a hand across his aching forehead. "Nem, you, Sam, Teal'c, take your pick," he snapped back.

"Ah." Jack ignored Daniel's pointed and not very subtle hint to leave. "I'll listen if you want to talk."

Daniel sighed. "I don't think you'd understand," he said.

"Try me."

Daniel sat down on one of the other chairs and thought about it. Despite his impressive linguistic gifts he wasn't sure he could articulate how he'd felt when he'd realized his team had left him behind. That once again he'd been abandoned. First by his parents, then his grandfather, Nick, then Sha're, and now his team. He knew his parents hadn't wanted to die and leave him alone, he knew Nick had thought putting him in a foster home was for the best, he knew Sha're would have given anything to stay with him. And he knew his team had been given no choice but to leave him on Oannes. They'd been given false memories of his death after all but still... "I agreed to Nem using that machine on me because I thought it was my only way to get home. I thought you wouldn't come back for me anyway," he said finally.

"I broke the General's car window," Jack said. "You know, at the wake after the memorial. I was so pissed off at you for being dead and yet some part of me knew that you weren't but there was no way I could do anything about it. So I got a hockey stick and I started hitting and next thing I knew I was smashing the shit out of Hammond's car window."

"Ouch," Daniel replied, secretly impressed and rather touched at the strength of Jack's feelings. "He going to make you pay for it?"

"Yep, and now that you're back on the pay roll I think it's only fair that you pay half," Jack said with a grin. "Look, what I'm trying to say here is that when we thought you were dead all I could think was that I'd lost someone close to me again. First Charlie then Sara then Kawalsky - "

"Oh God, Jack, I didn't even think about Charlie. I mean you lost your son..."

"Grief's grief," Jack said flatly. "No one has a monopoly on it. What I'm trying to say here is that while you were feeling abandoned on Oannes, we were feeling pretty cut up here on Earth. Hell, Carter even agreed to be hypnotized."

"Yeah, Janet told me that's how you worked out what had happened," Daniel replied, feeling really guilty now about how he'd treated Sam that morning. "I should call Sam, apologize - "

"Hold that thought," Jack said, just as the doorbell rang again.

"You're kidding me?" Daniel said but he was smiling now, striding quickly over to open the door.

"Hey," Sam said as she walked in with a couple of pizza boxes in her arms and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"It is team night," Teal'c said as he carried in a six pack of beer and some sodas. "I am glad you are here to share it with us, DanielJackson."

"Hey hey, the gang's all here," Jack said. He got up and walked across to Daniel. "I get it, Daniel, I get it. So no more dying on us, real or pretend, okay?"

"I'll do my best," Daniel said, looking around at the three people who represented family in his world and feeling as if he really belonged for the first time in his life. "I really will."

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B is for Blame (The First Ones)
by [profile] annieb1955

"Where's Daniel?" Jack asked, looking around the mess hall as he pulled up a chair at the table across from Sam Carter and Teal'c.

"He asked for a day off," Carter said, around a mouthful of jello. "Said there was something he needed to do, and as his wrists are still pretty sore from being tied up and he's still suffering headaches from that bang on the head Chaka gave him, Janet told General Hammond he could probably use a day or so topside."

"Uh huh." Jack shoved his barely touched plate over to Teal'c. He had a feeling he knew where Daniel was going and what he was doing and he decided he might just need someone watching his six while he did it. "Enjoy, big guy," he said as Teal'c arched an inquiring eyebrow at him. "I'm not really hungry," he said. "I'll catch you guys tomorrow. I'm kinda tired. Think I'll knock off early myself."

Carter nodded and waved her spoon at him while Teal'c hoed into the food with enthusiasm. Jack headed for Hammond's office and apprised him of his plans then caught the elevator up to the parking level and signed out. In his truck, he looked at the slip of paper he'd gotten from Walter on his way out of Hammond's office then checked the route and headed off.

They'd only been back a day since rescuing Daniel from the Unas, Chaka. Daniel had been exhausted by the time they'd caught up with him, his wrists torn and bruised from the rope Chaka had bound him with as he'd dragged Daniel back to his home territory like some big hunting trophy he wanted to show off. Despite that, Jack had been impressed by Daniel's resourcefulness during his captivity, the way he'd left clues for anyone looking for him to follow, the fact that he'd kept his head and managed to befriend the young Unas and prevent himself from being killed. That they rescued Daniel was the only upside of that mission. The downside was losing the people they had. Finding out about the death of Robert Rothman had hit Daniel particularly hard. Rothman and Daniel had been friends and Jack had seen the sheen of tears in Daniel's eyes when they'd told him what happened.

Jack pulled his truck up in the parking lot of his destination and looked around, spotting Daniel's car a few spaces over and Daniel standing leaning up against the side of it, looking up at the windows of the apartment building they were in front of. He looked around as Jack approached. "I didn't tell her what really happened," he said.

"I know," Jack replied. "What did you tell her?"

"Just that Robert was my friend, that we'd worked together, that I was sorry he was dead. I told her to get in touch with me if she needed anything in the future. Robert was her only child," he added.

Jack nodded. "Good."

"It's my fault he's dead," Daniel said softly. "It's the least I can do."

"Your fault?" Jack asked, genuinely stunned. "You didn't ask to get kidnapped by Chaka," he went on.

"No, but I told Robert to come work at the SGC. He wouldn't have even been on that planet if he'd still been working at the University," Daniel said.

"Okay. Why did you tell him to do that?" Jack asked.

Daniel sighed. "We met for a drink not long after I came back from Abydos. He said he was bored with what he was doing. He couldn't see how it achieved anything. He wanted to make a difference."

"And he did," Jack said. "Look, I know I paid the guy out once or twice. Okay. More than once or twice but you know I do that to all the geeks. Hell, I even do that to Carter and she's Air Force. But Rothman knew the risks and he still wanted to do it. He made a difference, Daniel, and he'll be remembered with honor, I promise you that."

Daniel nodded. "Thanks," he replied.

"There's a little bar I used to go to not far from here," Jack said. "How about we meet there and raise a glass to Rothman and the guys we lost on this mission?"

"Yeah, okay." Daniel turned to walk back to his car and Jack squeezed his shoulder as he went past.

"No blame, Daniel," he said. "Rothman wouldn't blame you. None of those guys we lost would. All we can do is make sure we deal with the Goa'uld and kick their slimy asses with as few casualties along the way as possible."

"And we will, right?" Daniel said.

"Damn straight we will."

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B is for Beholden (The Light)
by [profile] alynt
"Not a bad place for a three week vacation, huh?"

Daniel turned his head at the sound of Jack's voice then stood and tucked his notepad into his pocket. "Depends," he replied.

Jack quirked an eyebrow. "On what?"

Daniel shrugged. "On what your idea of the perfect vacation is."

"I'm guessing this isn't yours then."

"I'd rather be out in the desert on a dig. I was never one for bright lights, big city kind of stuff."

Jack gazed around the Light Room, almost but not quite looking at the machine that had caused so much trouble for them all. He tried not to think of the men who had died, the time to honor and mourn them would come later when they could return to Earth. He didn't want to think that it had almost killed Daniel either but it was difficult to keep his mind free of the images of Daniel on the balcony, about to jump, of him lying comatose in the infirmary and of the gut-wrenching moment when Daniel's heart had stopped just before Jack had carried him back to the planet.

"Mine either," he said finally. "I'm going for a walk on the beach. Wanna come?"

"I was going to take another look -"

"Come on." Jack grabbed Daniel's arm and pretty much dragged him out of the room. He was relieved when Daniel appeared to go with the flow and followed him without another word.

It was a perfect day for beachwalking. Jack picked up a piece of driftwood, hefting it in his hands before trailing one end in the sand as he walked.

"The light is safe now, you know," Daniel said.

"Yep, so Carter said, but you know me, never take a risk unless it's worth taking. No reason to be going in there any more than we have to, I figure." Jack waved a hand at the expanse of beach and water. "Way better things to look at than that."

"True," Daniel agreed. "Do you think I would have jumped?" he asked suddenly.

"What?" Jack spun around to face Daniel.

"If you hadn't found me when you did. I really don't remember any of it and I keep wondering, if you hadn't shown up when you did, if I would have jumped. Was I so far gone, so addicted… again… that I felt there was nothing to live for?"

"I have to go back."

Daniel had said those words when he'd been addicted to the sarcophagus and again just a few days before. Jack shook himself mentally and gave a shrug. Honestly? No, I don't think you would have. Something was making you hang on. You didn't want to do it and you were stronger than it was. Anyway," he slung an arm across Daniel's shoulder, "I got there, didn't I?" He lifted the driftwood and pointed at several other pieces further down the beach. "I'm thinking we need to introduce Loren to the delights of a cookout."

Daniel smiled and nodded. "Now that's one part of this vacation I could enjoy. Thanks, Jack, for being there."

Jack waved the words away and decided to lighten the moment. "You want to thank me for something, thank me for convincing Fraiser to dress you in your BDUs so I didn't haul you back here with your skinny ass hanging out of a hospital gown." The look on Daniel's face brought a satisfied grin to Jack's. "If you're really grateful, you'll go collect some more wood. I'll let the others know."

"More wood coming up." Daniel trotted off down the beach.

Jack watched him for a moment then headed back toward the palace. "You're welcome, Daniel."

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C is for Command Constants (New Ground)
by [personal profile] sg1jb

Tired and disquieted, George wished for nothing more than the luxury of closing his eyes and running his hands through his hair to massage his aching head. Unfortunately, the constants of command made that impossible at the moment. Despite that more often than not the need was the bane of his existence, he had to maintain an attentive, competent, and impartial demeanour. And anyway, even if command did not preclude such personal freedom of expression, there was still an obvious impediment to indulging in that sort of self-comfort. He really missed having hair.

After having spent countless, anxiety- fraught hours helpless to intervene in whatever was happening to his people - cages, for God's sake; they'd been confined in barred cages - he dearly wanted to hang on to the bloom of pleasure he'd felt when the clattering on the gate's ramp had ended and the head-count had come up complete. While that satisfaction had remained unbent during the quick, informal hallway chat with O'Neill and throughout most of this subsequent debrief, now the intensity of his relief was tempered by the realisation that something was being left unsaid.

No matter if somewhat dented, where all team members showed up on this side of the 'gate and stayed alive long enough to get back into the saddle for another ride was considered, in the SGC's books, a safe return. And a safe return plus formal clearance after all medical and debriefing reviews was normally enough to put most missions to bed - even ones that had gone sideways. Regardless of small cages, taser equivalents, and Teal'c's ordeal, given what he'd heard up until the last five minutes of this meeting George had expected this post-mission progression to follow suit.

Debriefings featured heavily in George's command routine; he had a lot of experience with them and was no slouch in reading between the lines. In the last few minutes of this one, he'd caught a hint of the small, carefully protected gap in the narrative, and that it was so covetously hidden gave him reason to suspect that one team member might not be moving on from this mission quite so readily as the others.

"Carter and Daniel went through, and as we followed, we saw Nyan go down. Teal'c said, 'Hey Dad, look what I found; can I keep it?' Looked like he could use a treat, so I said, 'Yeah, sure, why not,' and so here we all are." Jack O'Neill shrugged, then took in the number of people sitting at the table with him and added, "Well, okay, not all here, here ... but all here, as in home, here ..."

Ah yes, and right there was another constant in this command: O'Neill's irreverence, which at times was every bit as much George's nemesis as was his rank's demand for professionalism. If truth were to be told, though, George wouldn't have it any other way.

In the momentary silence which followed the colonel's personal version of stress-reduction, cleverly disguised as closing remarks, George eyed each of the team members in turn, his attention moving from Jack to Major Carter, and then on to the last person in attendance. He lingered on Daniel just that few seconds longer than the others, well aware the young man would catch the speculation in his gaze. The inadvertent response was subtle, but the slight downturn of his head was enough to both confirm George's suspicions and dictate his approach.

Daniel Jackson was holding out on him, and George was going to find out why.

"All right, people. Unless anyone has anything else to add ..." George waited a few beats, and into the one shrug, the other dutiful "No, Sir," and the unfortunate utter lack of response in the third case, he informed them of his decision. "I've already spoken briefly with Teal'c, however his formal debrief is pending Dr. Fraiser's approval. Until such time as that's concluded, as per standard protocols applying to potential compromise, none of you are to discuss any part of this mission with him, nor with our guest."

He got two nods of acknowledgement and one still unfortunate blank wall. There was nothing for it, then: "Colonel, Major, that protocol applies to all of your contact with Dr. Jackson as well. I will have Teal'c informed of the same."

In amidst two objecting voices, he abruptly placed both hands on the table and pushed himself to his feet. Two bodies followed him up. "By your own admission during this debriefing, Colonel, Dr. Jackson was twice isolated from his team for interrogation under duress. Until such time as I decide it's unwarranted, we will follow the appropriate post-mission protocols." End of conversation. "You and Major Carter are dismissed. Dr. Jackson, my office."

Walking briskly past the back of Daniel Jackson's chair, George heard him mutter a soft acknowledgement to the tabletop in front of him. "Yeah, I figured."

George heard Jack's sotto voce, parting insistence on independent thinking - "Not twice. Effectively, once. It was once," - aimed at his back as he entered his office. He thought about poking his head out with a reprimand, but Jack was more expressing support for his friend than he was arguing the order. Given the circumstances, George heartily approved of that motive.

The friend in question appeared at the office door just a moment after George had settled in at his desk. "Jack used the wrong word when he said 'effectively'. Maybe technically, although that's questionable as well." Daniel hovered in the entry, hands thrust into his pants' pockets, seeming reluctant to take the chair George waved him toward. George patiently folded his hands on his desk and listened to Daniel engage in his bit of pedantry, no doubt as an avoidance technique. "He said once, but you're right, Sir: effectively, it was twice. Technically-speaking."

Or maybe not in avoidance, George revised, as Daniel stepped forward to stand behind the chair he ought to be sitting in. "He's not being obstreperous; he just doesn't know. Neither of them know," he quietly said. "They only know what we covered in the debriefing - that your dial-in distracted Rigar right after Jack was zatted. I haven't mentioned anything other than that, and I'm not sure I should ... even if I wanted to, which I don't."

George's only response was to once again wave at the chair, and this time Daniel wearily took the seat he'd been ordered into, obviously surrendering to the reality this was to be a longer conversation than he preferred. He leaned forward, hands clasped, elbows on his knees. George was reminded of the discouragement that had come through so clearly at the end of the short MALP transmission.

"I didn't give anything up, Sir. I assure you, any concerns I've brought home with me are purely personal ones. I realise you can't just take my word for it, but ... I don't ..."

As Daniel faltered to a halt, George nodded thoughtfully, more to himself than the man in front of him. The scene the MALP's camera had showed him was clear in his mind, and with his suspicion there had been more to that particular situation than had been revealed during the debriefing now confirmed, it was time to get down to specifics. "Tell me what happened," he gently ordered, and leaned back in his chair to provide Daniel with the security of more personal space.

"I followed Jack's lead," Daniel softly began, pushing his glasses aside to rub his eyes. "When they took me outside to the DHD, I denied knowledge of what it was, and of Teal'c. They bullied ... well, okay, hurt me ... more than just a bit, but it was just me out there so it wasn't hard to keep to the script. Hardly rocket science, understanding what I had to do."

"And when they brought you all back together, to where I saw you via the MALP," George prompted, following the sequence of events as had been laid out in the debriefing. "Commander Rigar decided to try something new?"

"Yeah." The glasses were removed completely in favour of a hand dragged down Daniel's face. "Yeah, and suddenly the situation wasn't quite so clear-cut anymore."

George wasn't concerned about the safety of the Program; he didn't doubt for a minute that Dr. Jackson's response to both forms of coercion had been beyond reproach. He made a mental note to be sure to tell him just that.

"When Jack was zatted, the door on his cage was still electrified. He fell against it. I ... Rigar, he ..." Daniel miserably admitted, and George thought, all right, now we're getting somewhere.

It wasn't hard to fill in the remaining gaps, nor to understand how easily such a no-win situation could frighten even the most courageous man and eat away at his confidence in his choices. The thought of being placed in that position, of all the what-ifs, unsettled George - what if the SGC hadn't dialled the 'gate when they had; what if Rigar had chosen differently; what if Daniel himself had chosen differently?

No doubt there were many who would say the role and obligations of an Air Force General, especially one in command of a critical facility, did not include personally talking key personnel through a crisis of confidence. George might even agree with them, in another place and time where the territory was familiar and the risks being taken more predictable.

His place and time were here and now, though. This was the SGC and these exceptional people, faced with exceptional circumstances, were his people. As far as George was concerned, seeing his people safely to the other side of trouble, when and however he could, was one of the most important constants in his life - one he'd never regret having to live by and would never shirk.

"It was a difficult situation," George acknowledged. He leaned in as far as his desk would allow, trying to close the distance with kindness if not with physical proximity. "Go ahead," he told Daniel. "I'm listening."

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D is for Demons (Demons)
Evensong

by [personal profile] princessofgeeks

When Daniel arrived at Teal'c's quarters, Sam was already there.

She was standing in the open door with her arms folded, waiting, in civilian dress, as Teal'c shrugged into a jacket.

"Um," Daniel said.

"Doctor Fraiser has cleared me, and Captain Carter has secured permission for me to leave Stargate Command for twenty-four hours," Teal'c said.

"Great," Daniel said. "I just. I was wanting to... where are you going?"

"Out," Sam said, more tersely than he was used to hearing from her. "Come with us."

"Um, okay. I have to change."

"Meet us at my place," Sam said, and she took Teal'c by the arm, hardly waiting for him to grab a watch cap before she was tugging him away, up the gray corridor toward the elevator.

Daniel was still standing there, bemused, looking at the closed door to Teal'c's quarters, when he heard cautious footsteps behind him. He turned to see Jack.

"They just left," Daniel said.

"What?" Jack said. There was a butterfly bandage on his eyebrow, Daniel noted. The blow he'd suffered back on the planet would probably leave a scar. What would Teal'c be left with?

"Come on," Daniel said, heading for the locker room. "I'll explain on the way."

At Sam's cottage, Daniel and Sam drank wine -- a cheap white that Sam apologized for, over Daniel's protestations that it was fine; he was the antithesis of a wine snob. All four of them looked a little stiff, a little formal, crammed into Sam's small living room. Daniel and Sam spent a couple of awkward moments talking about what bad wine one became inured to in grad school, but Teal'c interrupted them. He and Jack were drinking ice water.

"The only vehicle capable of transporting all of us comfortably will be your Volvo sedan, Captain Carter," Teal'c said. "And we will need to depart in approximately twenty of your minutes in order to arrive early."

"Early for what?" Jack said.

Sam was looking at the carpet, her fingers white-tipped on her wineglass. "The evening service at Grace and St. Stephen's, sir."

Daniel said absently, "That's the Episcopal church downtown, but aren't you -- and Jack, for that matter, Cath--"

"Open communion," Sam said, still looking at the floor.

"Ah," Daniel said.

"What?" Jack said again, glancing from Daniel to Sam.

Daniel set down his wine glass, then reconsidered and took it up again. He wasn't going to be driving, after all, and a gulp or two of wine before church sounded like a really good idea.

Teal'c turned the full force of his gaze on Jack.

"Captain Carter was entirely willing to accompany me to a church service tonight. After reading your Bible, and after the events of the most recent mission, I had a desire to see firsthand how the rituals and observances of the Christians on Earth differed from that of Simon and Mary's planet."

"Ah," Jack said.

Daniel cleared his throat. "Of course. The people of that world were most likely descendants of a Roman Catholic tradition, since that was prevalent in medieval Europe, which, on the basis of admittedly sketchy evidence, it seemed we were facing... but the Catholic tradition today here --"

"Daniel," Sam said, "I'm by no means an observant Catholic, but I figured it would be better to take Teal'c to a service that was similar, but which had open communion, if he wanted the full experience."

"I see," Daniel said, at the same time that Jack said, "Oh, crap," which resulted in everyone looking at Jack.

"What?" Jack responded. "I told you not to give away the ending."

"You don't expect us to believe that ridiculous remark about you listening to the Bible on tape," Daniel said.

"On the contrary," Teal'c interjected. "The Bible is indeed available on tape."

"Jack was pulling... Jack was making a joke," Daniel said, crisply.

Sam put her half-drunk glass on the coffee table. "I should change," she said, and vanished down the hallway to what was presumably her bedroom.

"Explain," Teal'c said.

"It was a joke. Really," Jack said, reluctantly, into Teal'c's demanding gaze. "I was raised Catholic. All the way. I wasn't listening to the Bible on tape. I read it all, years ago. Repeatedly. I just..."

His turn to look down. His turn for Daniel to finish.

"Jack knows how it turns out," he said.

A silence fell.

"As do you," Teal'c said, turning his questioning gaze on Daniel. Daniel found he wanted to swallow in the face of it. He resisted. "Yes, I do. I'm not a Christian, but I've read the Bible, and studied quite a bit of church history, and the history of the Jewish people that preceded Christianity."

"You understand my desire to see these rituals first hand."

"I do," Daniel said.

"Will you accompany Captain Carter and myself?"

"I will," Daniel said. "It's not--"

Jack, to Daniel's lasting astonishment, broke in. "I'm sorry you had to go through that, Teal'c. And I'm really glad Junior was able to keep you from..." He winced. "Drowning."

Daniel closed his eyes, impolite and improper references from Monty Python warring with quotes from the Malleus Maleficarum in his mind. He felt his brain might explode.

Teal'c said, "You expressed as much on that planet."

Jack went on, clearly uncomfortable, "There's a lot of good in the teachings. You just... You didn't see any of it at its best, there."

Daniel drew breath, but Teal'c was already speaking.

"It seems that I did. In the words and behavior of Simon."

"Well. Yeah," Jack said. He noticed Sam's abandoned glass, and picked it up. He took a gulp. Daniel winced in sympathy. Jack, he'd noticed, only drank red wine, when he drank wine at all. And this wine really was pretty awful. Jack put down the glass and turned the stem, making the glass rotate where it sat on the coffee table. Daniel waited for him to speak, but the moment passed.

"I'm ready," came a voice from the hall, and there was Sam, in a sober and becoming maroon dress, and the high heels she wore with her dress blues. Instinctively, Daniel stood up, Jack right behind him and Teal'c a beat behind the two of them.

"Great," Daniel said, to fill the silence. Then they all filed out, clustering on the porch while Sam locked the door. She turned and took Teal'c's arm.

Jack sighed. "You all will excuse me if I bow out of this particular field trip?"

Sam raised her eyebrows, and Teal'c's face assumed the impassive expression that Daniel had learned could mean anything.

"Of course," Teal'c said, and with a nod to the group, Jack preceded them down the steps.

Daniel watched his back recede, and then followed Sam and Teal'c to Sam's car. It would be nice, he thought, to hear the liturgy, probably with organ music, and put all thoughts of drills and demons out of his mind. It might be soothing. And educational. For Teal'c.

Yeah. He could do this. He turned toward the car, and as he did he saw Teal'c put his hands behind his back, which Daniel had learned was a gesture of respect.

"And O'Neill, perhaps, unbeknownst to us," he said, as Jack's truck passed them and went on down the quiet street, out of sight, "has demons of his own."

Daniel met Sam's understanding eyes.

"Maybe he does," she said thoughtfully, and got in the car.

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E is for Enemy Mine (Enemy Mine)
by [personal profile] sg_wonderland

This had to be, Daniel thought, the longest debrief in history. Not that he had much of a memory of past debriefing but this one seemed to go on forever. His head hurt, he needed a cup of coffee and a good night's sleep and what purpose could possibly be achieved by rehashing the mission over and over?

Finally, General Hammond stood. "Colonel Edwards, I'd like to see you and Teal'c in my office. The rest of you are dismissed."

Daniel shot up and toward the door only to be stopped by Colonel O'Neill's voice. "Daniel, my office."

Thoughts of his coffeemaker danced in his head. "I need to stop by my office. How about I meet you there later?"

"Now, Daniel." Jack replied in a voice that sounded like he meant business. With a loud sigh, Daniel followed him out the door.

***


"Sit down." Daniel slumped in the seat. "Just so you know, the reason General Hammond kept Edwards and Teal'c after class is that they're both getting a reprimand."

Daniel jolted to awareness. "What? Why?"

"Because, Daniel, that mission was screwed up in so many ways."

"No! Jack, we got the mineral, we kept the peace with the Unas."

"An SG team member died, Daniel. Do you remember that?" Jack's voice was clipped, cold.

Daniel sputtered. "That's not fair, Jack."

"Well, it isn't fair to Lt. Ritter's family, is it?" Jack paused but Daniel remaind silent. "Edwards isn't being reprimanded for Ritter's death; that probably couldn't have been avoided. But what he should have done was to have reported, immediately, when he found artifacts that clearly were man-made on a planet that was supposedly unoccupied. He failed to take advice that was offered to him. From someone who had more experience and understanding of the species. That would be you, Daniel."

"He..." Daniel realized he was on the cusp of defending Edwards.

"He doesn't listen when you talk, Daniel. He dismissed your advice because you're a civilian. That could easily have provoked a war we couldn't win."

"Jack..."

"And you. You never should have gone unarmed into enemy territory with a known combatant. And Teal'c should never have allowed it."

Daniel protested. "Chaka? He's not...he....I asked him to come! And I made Teal'c stay behind. If you want to blame someone, then blame me. Write me up, put one of those reprimands in my folder."

"Oh, don't tempt me. The only reason I'm not officially reprimanding you is that I'm not one hundred percent certain you realized what could have happened."

"But it didn't happen!"

"Okay, Daniel, you tell me. What would have happened if Chaka hadn't been able to make the peace? Say, if those Unas had just killed you and strung you up like Ritter?" Daniel frowned. "Answer the question, Daniel. What would Teal'c have done?"

Daniel stared at his hands. "He would have...he probably would have attacked the Unas."

"You're damned right he would have! He'd have killed as many as he could have gotten his hands on. Of course, there were a helluva lot more of them than there were of him, but that wouldn't have stopped him, would it?"

"No," Daniel whispered, never raising his head.

"Then the Unas would have gone after the SG teams and, well, we pretty much know how that would have ended, don't we?"

Daniel nodded. The silence stretched between them. "I...I don't know what you want from me, Jack."

"I want you to give a damn about your life as much as the rest of us do. And I want to know that you know there are other lives at stake besides your own."

"What?" He was clearly confused.

Jack sighed. "They're all sworn to protect you so when you put your life in danger, you're putting theirs on the line too. I just want you to think about that the next time you decide to hare off somewhere alone with people you shouldn't be trusting."

"If Teal'c had come with me, the Unas might not have negotiated."

"And they might have. If you'd told Chaka that protecting you was Teal'c's sworn duty, he might have understood that. You're the one who is always telling us the Unas have a pretty good understanding of honor and all that stuff."

"It might have been acceptable to the Unas." Daniel thought for a minute. "So it technically was my fault and you should reprimand me, not Teal'c."

"You're asking me to reprimand you?"

Daniel lifted his chin. "I insist on it."

Jack grinned and Daniel frowned. "No, I don't think I'm going to. I'm not going to give you the satisfaction. Your punishment is going to be seeing Teal'c get his hand slapped because of you."

"That's not fair!"

"Again with that word. Life's not fair, Daniel, and the military is an excellent example of that. Now," Jack closed the folder on his desk. "If we hurry, we might be able to get the ends of the meat loaf for lunch." Jack could see he wanted to refuse on principle if nothing else. He pointed out his sling as he rose, "Besides you have to carry my tray. You owe me."

"How do you figure that?" Daniel's frown was even more pronounced.

"Because it's your fault Chaka Khan attacked me."

"Chaka? Chaka wasn't even on the planet when you got hurt!" But Daniel found himself talking to an empty room. "Hey," he shouted as he followed Jack to the elevator. "What's a Chaka Khan?"

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F is for Fandom(Wormhole Xtreme!)
No One Expects the Fannish Inquisition

The email sat in his inbox for weeks. He only even noticed it after scrolling back through ten screens of messages trying to find one about translating text on an artifact SG-18 had brought back, that Bill Lee insisted he'd sent months ago.

Daniel blinked at the subject line a few times before he opened it, and blinked several more times as he read the message. He then forwarded it to Sam with a note: "Am I being trolled?"

Three days later the message ended up back in his inbox, this time forwarded by Jack (via Sam, the traitor), with a note: THIS IS PERFECT YOU HAVE TO GO.

Two days after that, Daniel got another email, this one confirming his special scholar guest of honor registration for Con-Treme, the premier Wormhole X-Treme! fan convention, complete with the list of panels he'd been assigned to sit on. And a public lecture. And a Q&A. And judging the constume contest.

Daniel sat in front of his computer for six hours, until Jack accepted the video chat invite Daniel had been resending him every fifteen minutes. The chat window popped open to display the deck over the pond at Jack's cabin, backgrounded by a brilliant sunset. Jack's face resolved on the screen at an odd angle, apparently peering down over the top of the laptop screen. "Hey, Daniel."

"I hate you, Jack."

Jack just grinned, unrepentant, as his image righted and he sat down in front of the laptop. "Miss you too, buddy."

"What the hell, Jack. A Wormhole X-Treme convention? Are you punishing me? What did I do?"

"What? You always complain you don't get to do the academic jibber jabber circuit anymore. Come on, an adoring audience hanging on your every word..."

Daniel rolled his eyes. "This is not the same thing, Jack. How did they even get my name? Why would they even want me?"

"Beats me, but obviously someone was taken with you."

"How is this even a good idea?"

"Come on, Daniel." Jack reached out of the image and pulled back in with a beer. "You remember what Hammond said when the whole thing first happened. The whole point of letting the studio and Marty go ahead with the dumb show was plausible deniability. These people may be a little weird, but most of them just like a TV show. And for the few who might be a problem, well, there's no better way to convince a bunch of conspiracy theorists they're right than to tell them they're wrong."

He could translate alien languages with ease, but translating Jack O'Neill into reality was still a challenge. "Jack, are you listening to a word you say?"

Jack waved the beer bottle dismissively. "Okay, look, yes. It's contradictory, but we have to keep in mind the idea that the program may go public someday." Jack sighed, picking at the label on the beer bottle and Daniel was suddenly struck by how tired he looked. "Look, the more shit that goes down closer to Earth, the harder controlling information about the program gets. Homeworld Security has a special task force assigned to putting crap on the internet to misdirect them. But you have to maintain that. If you don't feed the lions something to keep them occupied, they're going to go looking for something to eat."

Daniel was't really sure if he should be taking that as a metaphor or Jack actually thowing him to the lions. "So, you want me to go to a fan convention and what... debunk myself?"

"Daniel, you just be your charming, boring self, and I'm sure they'll be lulled into a false sense of... false security. Tell them if there were a government agency running a secret alien transport program that we'd be good at it. Benevolent. Friendly. You know, seed the idea that we're the good guys, so if the program ever has to go public, they like us."

"How Orwellian of you," Daniel said dryly, and Jack smiled and gave him the finger.

"I'll send you the list of talking points to hit."

"Fine, but I'm expensing this."

***


He'd never ever, ever, ever admit it to Jack, ever, but within a few hours of arriving at the convention Daniel decided he was a fan of Wormhole X-Treme! fandom.

"Dr. Jackson!"

At the airport he saw a tall woman sporting a Wormhole X-Treme! t-shirt, electric blue hair in a loose afro, holding up a sign with his name in neat block letters. She clearly recognized him, waving as she jogged up to meet him at the baggage carousel. "I'm Tekia," she held out a hand, "your liason."

Daniel shook her hand and let her grab his carryall off the conveyor when she waved him off as he reached for it. "Which means?"

She slung his carryall over her shoulder. "I'll get you to the convention center, get you to your panels, answer any questions you have about the convention."

"That's... very nice," Daniel said as he followed her through the throngs of passengers waiting for their bags, "but I think I can manage on my own."

Tekia grinned. "Have you ever been to a fan con?"

"No," Daniel said, vaguely concerned by the gleam in her eyes, "this is my first."

She held open the door that led out to the parking structure for him. "Then maybe you should hold that thought."

Tekia was a charming hostess, and they talked Boas, Hymes and Judith Butler and how she'd gotten into fandom on the drive to the convention center, after she mentioned that she was working on her PhD in linguistic anthropology. "I know it's ridiculous, after a friend showed me the the episodes, I was just... It was silly and fun, but there was something bigger there, the idea of these complete strangers going out into the galaxy, all different but figuring each other out and becoming friends... That whole found family thing is totally one of my bulletproof kinks. Not that kind of kink," she amended, catching his eyebrows go up. "I mean it can be, but usually it's fan speak for things like narrative devices, tropes, and the like, the things that will always make you watch a source, no matter what it's about."

Daniel filed away the terminology, fascinated.

"Anyway, I wanted to be just like Dr. Levant, and when I graduated from college and wasn't sure what to do, I thought, well, here's my chance." She glanced over at him. "Have I terrified you yet?"

"No, no. This is... really interesting. Really," he said as she side-eyed him. "I think this is going to be fun."

***


For all Tekia's descriptions in preparation, the convention itself was a bit of a shock - a crowd of a few thousand filled the space with a dizzying array of t-shirts and costumes and in-jokes and props. "It's pretty slow right now since it's early Friday afternoon, and this is still a small con," Tekia said as she handed Daniel a badge on a lanyard and a thick manila envelope before leading him through a side door, flashing her badge to a man in an X-Treme! Volunteer! t-shirt. "But tomorrow it'll really kick into gear."

Daniel trailed her down the stairs onto the main floor hall and tried not to gape as she led him through checking in at the hotel front desk and introducing him to a group of three women and one man tucked into a board room with a hand-made sign labeling it as Ops. "If you need anything and can't get a hold of me, come here, and whoever is on staff will take care of you." Her phone trilled, and she pulled it from her pocket and swore under her breath. "Sorry, I forgot I'm supposed to be moderating a panel in fifteen minutes. Do you want me to find someone to show you around until I'm done?"

"No, I think I'll just wander a bit, take it all in." He wasn't sure if he was grateful or a little insulted at the skeptical tilt of her head. "Really, go." He shooed her off. "I'm an anthropologist. I can handle this."

"Okay, I'll meet you back here at 4:00 and take you to your first panel."

Back out on the convention floor Daniel meandered through the crowd, taking in a dizzying array of people, costumes, art, crafts, t-shirts with quotes and obvious in-jokes. The idea of such passion for a topic certainly wasn't foreign to him, of all people, but what baffled him was how a television show that lasted only a few episodes could have had such an impact?

It clearly wasn't just a bunch of kids or, as Jack so lovingly said, obsessed nerds with no lives - Tekia was an incredibly bright scholar, and the two teenagers he'd just passed were having a discussion about string theory that would have kept Sam interested and engaged. He saw grandmothers and kids. Such a variety of people that he'd never expected.

By the time he met back up with Tekia at Ops, he was thoroughly charmed by Wormhole X-Treme! fandom.

***


Sunday morning found him hurrying to his final panel, juggling a cup of coffee, his messenger bag and the convention program, as he tried to find the room for his final panel: "Creating Canon from Conundrum: The Mystery and Mythology behind Wormhole X-Treme!"

It was listed as a Q&A, just him and a moderator who would handle the questions from the audience. If he managed to get there, it sounded like a relaxing way to end the day.

The small auditorium was almost full by the Daniel made his way through the thinning crowds in the convention hall, having gotten distracted in the dealer's room finding little things to send to Sam and Teal'c. He wasn't going to get anything for Jack, entirely out of spite, but then he found a quite well-made cross-stitch of Colonel Danning looking particularly Jack-like, with his "It's what I do" catchphrase embroidered around the edges, and decided that was even better.

He trotted up onto the stage at the moderator's urging, letting the young woman with brown hair and cats-eye glasses, whose badge identified her as SquirmyWorm (which was much less bizarre now that fandom pseudonyms had been thoroughly explained) clip a wireless mic onto his jacket lapel. "Sorry, sorry," he said by way of testing the volume - it rang out clearly over the crowd. "Just picking up some souvenirs."

The audience murmured appreciative laughter and SW (okay, less bizarre, but he still couldn't think of her with the whole thing) stood up from the table and smiled. "Everyone, I am pleased to introduce Dr. Daniel Jackson, an expert in Egyptology, a linguist and an anthropologist, who has graciously joined us to look at the real world myths and mysteries that lie at the foundation of the Wormhole X-Treme! universe. To start things off, can you give us some insights, Dr. Jackson, into what the writers may have been thinking when pulling specifically from ancient Egypt to create their world of aliens and space travel?"

Daniel settled back into his chair and cleared his throat. "Well, the connection between the earliest human technologies and the idea of alien influence has long been a part of any discussion of archaeology, from Easter Island to the pyramids, from Egyptian, Mayan and Aztec cultures, to the idea of lost civilizations such as Atlantis. It was most prominently popularized by Erich von Däniken and his book 'Chariot of the Gods,' but there are innumerable scholars who have specialized in this particular form of historical revisionism. You can hardly deny that the ideas certainly inspire grand stories."

The questions lobbed his way by the eager audience were surprisingly astute, and there were even some moments of lively debate, and by the time things began to wind down Daniel was actually feeling a bit guilty as he did as Jack had asked and denied, debunked and mis-directed. Then a blonde woman dressed in a incredibly accurate version of the Wormhole X-Treme! team uniform stepped up to the stand mic at the base of the auditorium stage. She cradled a thick folder in one arm. "Dr. Jackson, thank you for taking the time to come out here and talk to us."

"Of course, Ms...?"

"My name's Karen." Karen smiled, and Daniel smiled back.

It was the last time he would do so for the rest of the day.

"Dr. Jackson," Karen said, glancing down at the folder she was holding, "I was interested to find that your earliest research into the idea of the origin of the Egyptian pyramids as landing sites for alien spacecraft is very similar to the background created for Dr. Levant. Can you confirm that you were the the model for the character?"

Daniel blinked. "Well, I've never had anything to do with the show, so I can't speak to that."

"Interesting," Karen said. "I ask because Martin Lloyd recently gave an interview to Wormhole Weekly about how he came up with the idea for the show, and he talked about his work with the Air Force as consultants on the military aspect of the show, and said that it was through them he met an archaeologist with expertise in Egypt who brought the whole idea of the ancient gate to the stars buried in the desert to life."

Oh. Crap. Daniel wiggled his phone out of his pocket, and making sure it was set to silent all, attempted to stealthily text Jack: Did u know Martin Lloyd's giving interviews? Apparently v. detailed ones?

"I wasn't aware of that," Daniel said as he thumbed out the message. "Obviously Mr. Lloyd must have found some of my early research. It's quite flattering, I must admit."

"Do you still stand by your theories, Dr Jackson?" Karen asked.

"I've had a lot of theories over the course of my career, and not all of them have been supported by evidence, and I've not been able to find evidence to support them all. I've moved on from the more fanciful world of aliens and spaceships."

No one looked like they were lining up behind her, so when she held up her hand again, the moderator waved her a go-ahead.

"What are some of your more recent theories, Dr. Jackson?" She flipped open the folder and peered down at the contents. "Based on your curriculum vita, you haven't published anything in the last five years, and even before that your record showed a rapid decline in production. You have no current academic institutional affiliation. What do you do, exactly?"

Daniel sat up ramrod straight. "How did you get my vita?"

"Google," she countered. "Do you work with the Air Force, Dr. Jackson?"

"Of course not. The Air Force doesn't have much use for Egyptologists." He glanced to SW for help, but she looked fascinated by the turn things had taken, and Karen was already charging on.

"Do you know Joe Vernon?"

Oh no. No, no, no. "No?" Daniel furiously texted Jack: Houston, we have a problem.

"Because I ran across an article that referenced a Dr. Jordan from University of Chicago. It mentioned that he was killed in a lab accident while investigating two artifacts brought back from a 1931 Egyptian expedition, one that was famously cursed. And I realized I'd heard that story before. And after I dug around, I realized it was one of Joe's stories."

"Excuse me?"

"Oh," SW leaned over and covered his mic. "Joe wrote these awesome Wormhole X-Treme! fics with original characters. Really detailed. He's got quite a following. Of course, he's a guy so everyone acts like he walks on water, but hey, that's fandom for you... No offense."

"None taken." a BIG problem Jack

"And so I started looking up a few other things from Joe's stories," Karen was saying, "and found some interesting matches to real life events - the disappearance of Adrian Conrad, the destruction of Immunitech Research and the death of one of its employees, Dr. Flemming. Stories of alien creatures in Colorado Springs... But I think the most interesting is that Joe had a character named Daniel Jackson. Well, he did until about a year ago, when he pulled down all his old stories and vanished from fandom."

Jack did you know Joe Vernon was a Wormhole X-Treme! fan? Apparently a big name one? Who wrote fan fiction? With our names? AND PUBLISHED IT ON THE INTERNET?

"Is it true, Dr. Jackson, that the world of Wormhole X-Treme! isn't just loosely inspired by your early work, but is in fact based of events in your actual life? That you did not only find evidence of aliens, but that you in fact are currently involved in a secret government project involving intergalactic travel?"

The room positively buzzed with anticipation as Karen took a deliberate step back from the mic. Daniel had to give her credit - no matter what he said, it was not going to make a damn bit of difference. "Well... That's... well..." He dug the list of talking points out of his pocket and scanned it. Nothing looked helpful. He looked back at Karen, who pinned him with a challenging gaze. Okay Jack, he thought. Don't say you didn't ask for this.

"That's classified," Daniel said firmly.

Oooooooh, went the room, and hands started popping up everywhere. Karen snapped her folder shut and gave him a little wave as she faded into a second wave of eager fans rushing to the mic.
Daniel relaxed back into his chair as SW tried to sort out the deluge of new questions, and sent to Jack:
Just remember, this was YOUR bright idea
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G is for Growing Up (Rite of Passage)

by [personal profile] thothmes

When it came to her uncles, Jack was the one with the season tickets, mostly for sports of various kinds. There were the Broncos in the fall, the Rockies in the summer, and of course the Avalanche through the winter, and when Cassie had come along, within a year, he had converted all those season tickets into season tickets for two. Mom had worried a bit about how much it was costing him, and sometimes she worried about the weather between Colorado Springs and the various venues in Denver, but one look at the two of them faces still showing traces of ketchup and mustard from their hot dogs at the Rockies game (apparently there was an Earth rule about that too) and wearing identical grins, under identical caps, and she'd folded. It was so wonderful to see her new daughter, who was still struggling with her loss, acting like a normal, care-free child. All the same, Janet was never quite able to figure out on those occasions which one was really more of a child. Sometimes she suspected it was the one with the graying hair.

But there was another set of season tickets, and those ones were a secret. Mom could know, but Cassie was absolutely not to share word of them with the rest of SG-1, not even Sam. Jack had season tickets to the opera. It was an easy secret to keep. The music, by itself would have been dismissed by her new classmates as desperately uncool, and there was nothing Cassie wanted more than to fit in, to be normal, unremarkable, just like everybody else. Well, as unremarkable as someone with hair her color could be, anyway. So when Jack took her for the first time, Cassie was expecting to have to spend an evening working desperately hard not to fidget. Boy was she wrong.

On the drive to Denver, all dressed up in their best clothes, Jack in an elegant and simple black tux with amazingly shiny black formal shoes, and Cassie in a new deep green satin and velvet dress with its matching headband, frilly white ankle socks, and black patent leather mary janes, Jack had told her the story of the opera that they would be seeing. Then he handed her little book, and told her it was a libretto. On one side were the words as they would be sung, in Italian, and on the other were the same words translated into English.

"You won't need that, though. These days they have a screen where the English scrolls by as they sing it, so you don't have to take your eyes off the stage."

Then they got there, and there were all the people dressed in their fanciest clothes, the women a swirl of color and ornament amidst the dark suits and tuxes of the men. The theater was just as fancy, and when the curtain rose, the scenery, the costumes, and the acting, and yes, even the music, kept her in thrall from beginning to end. The kids at school would never understand. Opera was so cool! Some of the stories were silly and unrealistic, but there was so much passion, so many dark and dangerous things, so many plot twists. It was better than vampires and werewolves. Cassie was hooked.

So when Jack stopped by the Fraiser household to mention that the tickets for the Metropolitan Opera's annual trip to perform in Denver just happened to fall on Cassie's sixteenth birthday, it was clear to both Cassie and her mom that he didn't expect that to be a problem. What could be better than a birthday outing, preceded by a birthday dinner at a swanky restaurant in Denver with Janet and Sam? Present opening and cake could be at home after.

This was a disaster. Cassie had been spending the last few weeks casting out looks, racking her brains for witty things to say, sending out feelers through mutual friends, and hoping, always hoping, and it looked like if things kept going the way they were trending, by her birthday she and Dominic might be an item, and not just rather flirtatious friends. She was bound and determined that she was not going to be sixteen and unkissed. Surely that would be a violation of an important Earth Rule! Given the prospect of spending an evening with Uncle Jack, or the possibility of spending it with Dominic, with his twinkling eyes, and his long, thick lashes, and his jeans that fit just so...

It was an easy decision.

"I'm sorry, Uncle Jack" she said. "You go and have fun. I know Pagliacci is one of your favorites. I kinda want to have a quiet birthday here, just me and mom, and maybe Sam and" more quietly "Dominic."

"Dominic, is it?" said Jack, as always, picking up on the thing nobody wanted him to notice. "Okay. Have fun."

He made for the door, and Cassie, feeling that maybe she'd been a little mean, headed for her room. Uncle Jack hadn't shown any disappointment, but if he hadn't felt it, how come Mom had felt it necessary to stop him at the doorway with a hand on his upper arm?

"She has to grow up sometime, Jack" she said softly, but not so softly that Cassie couldn't hear.

"I know that!" was all he said.

Cassie got her small gathering, with the guest list she was hoping for. She didn't have to worry that her fair complexion would give her away with a blush of mortification when one of the mean girls at school accused her of being "sweet sixteen and never been kissed," because she had been kissed, and she could honestly say that sparks flew. Yeah, Dominic would like it if she said that.

The problem, was when Nirti was in the SGC, when Cassie had been scared, so scared, Jack had been there, big, competent, confident, and nice. Cassie felt the little seed of guilt start to put down roots. Dominic was alluring, but Uncle Jack was family. The opera night was over. It was too late to fix it. Best to say nothing. Bringing it up would just make Jack feel bad all over again, right?

It was funny, Cassie mused, not ha!ha! funny, the other kind, how grown and sophisticated she thought she had been at sixteen. She'd been so silly, so immature. Not that she was the ultimate in sophistication at twenty-two, but she really wasn't a kid anymore. And there it was, that guilty feeling the memory of that birthday always brought up again. There were worse things she lived with, but it would be nice if she could get rid of it.

She pulled out her phone, and typing on the virtual keyboard with the practiced dexterity of someone who had spent several hours a day texting for many years now, she began to do some internet research. She had an idea. She'd see if it was feasible, and if things looked hopeful, she'd make arrangements for real.

A few minutes later, she made a phone call.

"O'Neill!" came the voice on the other end.

Cassie grinned. She loved the way that bark turned to warmth when he realized it was her, and it always did.

"Hi, Uncle Jack!" she said cheerfully. "Do you get season tickets to the opera, there in D.C.?"

"Sure do. Don't always make it. Things come up, but I have 'em."

"If I happened to be in town for the weekend on the 29th, is there any way you could manage to get a ticket for me to see Pagliacci with you?"

"Already have one."

This was a problem. Did this mean that he had a date lined up?

"I wasn't expecting anyone," he offered. "The ticket's yours."

In the taxi, on the way home, Cassie pronounced it the finest production of Pagliacci she'd ever seen.

"It was a good one," Jack agreed.

"Who do you usually go with?"

He shrugged with careful casualness.

"No one."

"But then why did you have two tickets?"

"I was waiting for you to grow up," he said. "And there you are, all grown up. Guess it's time for me to start thinking about finding a old folks home and taking up shuffleboard."

And the guilt she'd been growing and nurturing so long withered away, and in its place sprang up pride and affection. There was no one she'd rather hear call her grown up.

"When I come visit, will you teach me how to play?" she asked.

"Only if you promise not to beat me!" he answered. "It's not nice to pick on the feeble-minded."

Cassie hit him.

"Hey!" he said, and tapped her back.

That was the start of a free for all.

The cabbie had never seen such elegantly dressed people, just returning from the opera for Chrissakes!, act quite so much like a couple of eight year olds. It sure looked like fun.

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H is for Holding On (Meridian)
by [personal profile] jdjunkie

The blare of the heart monitor was insistent and unrelenting in the heavy silence.

Daniel had flat-lined. Then Daniel had died. Left. Something.

Fraiser switched off the machine with a click that was shocking in its finality, offering a blessed relief from the dreadful noise that accompanied the dreadful truth.

Stunned, bereft and disbelieving, those gathered did not speak. No feelings were shared, no grief expressed. No one, it seemed, knew what to say or what to do. There was no precedent for this.

Eventually, when the silence stretched too taut, they left the iso room, Teal'c first, pausing only to incline his head once more towards the now-empty bed, then Jacob and Hammond, then Fraiser, who placed a careful arm around Sam's shoulder. Jack stayed the longest, standing perfectly still, hands shoved resolutely in his pockets. Finally, when some of Janet's staff moved in hesitantly to start clearing up, he walked away, too.

Daniel was gone.

Where did they go from here?

***


" If you are to die, Daniel Jackson, I wish you to know that I believe that the fight against the Goa'uld will have lost one of its greatest warriors. And I will have lost one of my greatest friends".

Teal'c opened his eyes slowly. Kel-no-reem was proving impossible. It had been many years, many deaths and tragedies, since he had found himself unable to achieve the peace that kel-no-reem afforded him. But this loss was harder than most to bear.

He reached for a lit candle, raised it to eye level in his cupped hands and stared deep into the flame.

What was he hoping to find there? Absolution for past wrongs? He knew he would never find it. The wrong he had done Sha'uri and Daniel Jackson was so egregious, so abhorrent, that there was no absolution. He would never absolve himself of blame. And yet, over time, Daniel Jackson had forgiven him and come to regard Teal'c as a friend. A good man, he had once said. In the harsh, hard world Teal'c had inhabited before he joined the SGC, such forgiveness was unthinkable. His world was death and fear, a place where submission of will was all. There was no place for compassion, least of all toward himself.

Daniel Jackson had taught him much. Daniel Jackson had taught him what friendship meant. Teal'c was familiar with the ties that bound his warrior kin, but there had been no room for friendship with the comrades he called Brother.

For now, his thoughts turned to the best way to honor his friend, but it soon became apparent that clear thinking would be required to achieve that and his mind was too busy with the events of the day and the ghosts of the past.

He suspected he would come to know and understand more fully what he had learned from his teammate as he continued to fight the Goa'uld alongside the Tau'ri.

Teal'c stared into the wavering light of the candle for many more minutes, but calm and peace would not come.

He rose to his feet, crossed to his desk and ran his fingers over the Egyptian funerary statue that he'd hoped would offer Daniel Jackson comfort in his dying moments. He had no way of knowing if his friend had known he was there. He hoped so. Such comfort was all he'd been able to offer.

Teal'c's quarters, so often his refuge, his place of comfort in a strange and often mystifying world, held no comfort for him at this moment.

He couldn't be here right now; the room too small, his grief too great.

He picked up the statue and his BDU jacket and headed for the door.

***


"I may have, might have, grown to admire you a little, I think."

He didn't like his office. He didn't like what it represented. He was a practical man, a doer, a man who preferred combat boots and fatigues to shiny shoes and dress uniform. He did his bit by doing things. Hadn't done much for Daniel, though. Unless you counted waving him cheerily on his way to who knew where.

Jack ambled around the room, eyeing with disdain the pile of reports that needed his urgent attention. He glanced at his citations on the wall, set alongside pictures of Forces buddies from different eras of his career. There he was, relaxed and smiling with an arm slung casually across Kawalsky's shoulder, and with Michaels in a shot taken only days before the East German mission went to hell in 1982. Kawalsky and Michaels were gone and now Daniel was gone, too. All casualties of wars Jack had somehow managed to survive.

Lucky him.

He didn't feel lucky. He felt angry, so damned angry he didn't know what to with it. At least Kawalsky and Michaels had known what they'd signed up for. Daniel had signed up first and foremost to find his wife, and they all knew how well that had turned out. But he'd also signed up for the wonders of discovery and exploration, for the chance to learn and make things better. He didn't kid himself it was entirely altruistic on Daniel's part; Daniel was in it for Daniel, too, and there was nothing wrong with that.

But it was the altruism that had cost him his life.

Stupid, stupid Daniel had put himself in harm's way for bunch of lying Kelownan bastards. When Jack had pointed this out to him, during an early visit to the iso room where Daniel had eventually bled to death, Daniel had merely said, "Um, I was thinking about the Tau'ri and Jaffa bastards I'd arrived on the planet with, too, actually." There was no arguing with that, so Jack hadn't bothered. He kind of wished he hadn't bothered with the mealy-mouthed acknowledgement of friendship that had accounted for the majority of their final conversation either.

Why couldn't he have told Daniel that their friendship mattered? That he was a valuable member of his team? That his work had truly made a difference? Instead, he'd blathered on about admiration and official record, sounding for all the world like a CO rather than a friend.

As the minutes ticked by, he felt increasingly unhappy and unsettled. Nothing about what had happened felt right. And now, Daniel was gone.

Absently, he flipped open a file and just as quickly flipped it shut again. His office, this place that had never signified anything, seemed suddenly to signify everything. It felt overwhelmingly small and confining.

He had to get out of there.

***


"I don't know why we wait to tell people how we really feel. I guess I hoped that you always knew."

Sam sat at her bench, staring at the computer screen. The readout showed a representation of the energy pulse from the naquadria-enhanced device that had killed Daniel. She looked at it. Really looked at it. This sort of thing was her lifeblood. She lived for discovery, for the gaining of knowledge.

She looked away but the image burned, searing itself into her memory. She forced herself to look again - this was what death looked like. Not a dry set of calculations, a graph, a series of numbers. This was blood, pain, tears and unbearable loss.

Daniel had died as a result of what could be something amazing and vital in their battle with Earth's greatest enemy. Her need to find out more, to find solutions, advance human knowledge and capability warred with her need to grieve and rage. She had no idea how to deal with any of it. Her work was her refuge and solace. At that moment, because of what she was seeing on the screen, she hated that. How could she be thinking of work when she'd just lost one of her dearest friends?

Angrily, she swiped away yet more tears. It was okay to cry here. She was alone and wouldn't be judged. She'd told Daniel once, as they considered the horror facing the young Cassandra, that she knew she was supposed to be detached, and he'd said, "Who said that?" like she should just ignore the military mindset that had been ingrained since childhood. Now, as she began grieving for Daniel, she realized that she had never grieved for her mother. She hadn't been allowed to. She hadn't allowed herself to. She dug out a tissue from her pocket and blew her nose, loudly. You hear that, Air Force? That is the sound of a woman grieving. Deal with it. She blew it again, as a defiant addendum.

But even as she hated the military mindset sometimes, she recognized that it offered her the comfort of rules and disciplined reactions.

And, boy, she needed that comfort.

It had been barely two hours since Daniel had gone. How was it possible he was gone? Not Daniel. Not the beating heart of them. She loved him and she'd never told him. Not romantic love; something deeper and much more important to her. She loved him because he pushed her to be better. They weren't competitive per se - their differing fields of expertise precluded that - but they poked and prodded each other to achieve, to beat the odds, to be the best, because that's what they did and that's what made SG-1 so damned good.

She'd tried, oh how she'd tried to heal him. Her father, too. And then the Colonel had told him to stop and he had. And no one had questioned it. Well, she had questions now and she needed answers. She was a scientist, just as Daniel had been, and she needed those answers for him, too.

Sam glanced one last time at the visual representation of Daniel's death on her screen, and rose determinedly from her seat.

***


"Lightning flashes, sparks shower, in one blink of your eyes you have missed seeing."

Jack stood in the open doorway of Daniel's lab. It hadn't been a conscious decision to come here but somehow he wasn't surprised that this was where he'd ended up. The team had often gravitated here - after briefings, before missions, after long, trying days when the coffee that Daniel always had brewing in his lab did nothing to ease the lingering tensions even as the talking and mutual bitching did. There was a myth that Daniel was a coffee snob and drank nothing else. He wasn't a snob; he drank it whether it was hot and fresh or cold and stale. It was just the easy option and it was sociable. In the early days, being sociable had helped ease the way for a non-military geek type. Jack suspected Daniel liked the ritual associated with the making, pouring and drinking, too. What Daniel loved about ancient tea-making ceremonies, he subverted, in his inimitable Daniel style, with coffee.

Surfacing from memories, it came as no shock to Jack to find that he wasn't alone here.

"You too, huh?" he said, quietly.

Teal'c was standing by Daniel's desk, clutching some stone artefact, while Carter sat quietly, hands in her lap. She found a smile from somewhere. "Seemed the only place to be, Sir," she said, voice thick with already shed tears. There'd be plenty more of those, Jack felt sure, and not all of them would come from her.

Jack stepped into the room, one step, two, and it felt familiar and comforting. The lab resonated with the echoes of past arguments, lively debates and laughter. With what it meant to be a team.

"Do you think he's really dead?" Carter asked, turning eyes on him that seemed to plead for an answer they both knew he couldn't give.

"Who knows?"

"There's a chance that he could come back, right?"

"I don't know, Carter." It came out harsher than he intended, but he was all out of empathy for the day. "Try having a chat with Mother Nature."

"Oma? What are you ...?"

"Forget it. Daniel's gone. I suggest we all go home and get some sleep." He was tired. Exhausted, actually. Maybe if he had some rest he'd be able to make sense of what had happened here today.

"But we can't just ..."

"Yes, Carter, we can. We will."

She stuck her chin out in that half-stubborn, half-hurt way she had but didn't finish what she was trying to say. She didn't challenge him further because she couldn't. That had always been Daniel's job.

Jack blew out a deep breath and shook his head. "Look. It's been a hell of a day. We've all got questions," he fixed Carter with a knowing look, "but now is not the time to ask them. We need to clear our heads. Report back at 08.00. We'll take it from there."

Teal'c bowed in acknowledgement, probably glad of an order to follow. Carter pursed her lips and dipped her head. Jack could see the questions practically fighting to cross her lips, but instead settled for a resigned, "Yes, Sir."

Jack couldn't offer them anything else. The best tactical option was to retreat and regroup. But Hammond's earlier comment echoed in his head, "Please, Colonel. Do not think you're alone in your feelings on this matter." He wasn't alone. They'd all lost a friend and they needed more from him, even if it cost him to give it. If ever there was a time to be their CO, it was now.

"Teal'c ... that coffee drinkable?" Jack inclined his head in the direction of Daniel's coffeemaker.

Teal'c put the statue down carefully and looked studiously at the pot. "It is doubtful."

"Well, I could use a hit."

Carter looked up at him, and for the first time since Daniel had gone, he saw a glimpse of the Carter he knew best - determined, stoic, dogged. "I'm on it, Sir."

Holding onto the ritual meant holding onto Daniel. At least for a little while. After that, well, they'd deal with it together.

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I is for "I Know You Are But What Am I?""(Fragile Balance)
by [personal profile] busaikko

"Jack doesn't buy the cover story," Hammond said, walking to the borrowed office's wide picture window and looking out over the grounds of the Air Force Academy. "But he's not going to make trouble."

"It's hard to lie to yourself," Jack agreed, and dropped down on the nearest sofa. There were three sofas, arranged in a U facing a terrible oil painting of eagles in flight. Jack twisted around so he didn't have to stare at the damn thing, put one foot on the coffee table, and then thought better of it. His feet were nearly his normal size, but they looked ridiculous at the end of his teenaged chicken legs. "But he can't be involved."

"We've got everything set up." Hammond glanced over at the airman who was guarding the door and nodded. He waited until she had left and the door was shut before continuing. "There are school attendance records and transcripts, a foster family. An America Online account for talking about teenager things like chess and opera. We believe that should satisfy the Colonel's curiosity for a few months." He held his hands out, like he was making an appeal - or holding an invisible balloon, Jack thought. "After that, we'll transfer your records to an out-of-state school. It's not hard to lose a person in this country of ours, particularly if the government's involved."

"He won't look that hard," Jack said, drumming his fingers against his thighs. "Trust me."

"I'm glad to hear that," Hammond said after a short pause.

"You know what really tees me off," Jack went on, and when Hammond turned around he had to take a deep breath to stave off the reflexive, defensive nah, nevermind. Hammond's expression was sympathetic, but Jack was well acquainted with how Hammond wielded that look like a weapon. "My kid... would have been eighteen. Going off to college, listening to heavy metal, telling me I'm full of it one minute and asking for the car keys the next." Jack refused to keep a count in his head of every stolen year, day, minute, but the knowledge that there was an ever-increasing measure of time without was always with him. "It's ironic, right? The last thing the world needs is another Jack O'Neill, and the one thing I'd give my life for would be - "

He cut himself off.

Hammond shook his head, saying nothing. He walked over and settled down across from Jack. Jack thought he looked tired and old, though despite his best efforts he was starting to see everyone around him as old.

"Carter said I should see it as a gift," he added, hearing the sulkiness in his own voice. Fraiser had warned him that there wasn't any cure for teenaged hormones; just another thing he had to ride out. Again. "It's not."

"Be that as it may." Hammond leaned forward, eyes intent. "We both know you're looking at another sixty, seventy years of life in that new body of yours. You're going to outlive me, yourself - pretty much everyone you know, except perhaps Teal'c. Now, I'm prepared to put my neck out for you. You've earned it. But you have to decide, Jack, while we still have the opportunity to act first and ask for forgiveness later. What are you going to do: stay or go?"

"If I stay..." Jack sighed and slouched down further, crossing his ankles and glaring at his boots. "You, Daniel, Carter, Teal'c - I might see you guys around. Christmas. My birthday, whenever the hell we decide that's supposed to be. But I wouldn't be a part of your lives anymore. Would be booted out of the SGC - " he waved the back of his hand desultorily at the picture window "- the Air Force. Book of the Month Club. Everything."

Hammond looked regretful, but he still nodded. "You know we wouldn't be able to keep you in the loop. Nothing personal, of course. And there would always be eyes on you. You are a walking, talking security risk." He sighed. "The other option is to go off world."

"Not to the Tok'ra," Jack said swiftly, and rubbed a hand over his face. He was already getting used to the lack of calluses, the unstoried smoothness of his palms. These hands had never fired a gun (zats were weird, they didn't count). He wasn't sure how he felt about that; his gut feeling was that thinking too hard about it would pull him down into a very bad, dark place. He preferred not to revisit places like that. "Or the Asgard. Sorry, but..."

"The Jaffa," Hammond suggested. "You know they'd be glad to have you. Or go to Langara and help them out. We could use a liaison in place."

Jack thought about that, cold running down his back. He'd heard rumors. "Someone upstairs making plans?"

"Naquadria," Hammond said simply. Yup. That's what Jack had heard. "They'd be glad to have you - and not because of your Ancient gene."

"What about my highly evolved brain?" Jack asked. "I hear everyone wants one of those."

Hammond lowered his chin and gave him a steady, narrow-eyed look. Jack's chills upgraded to all the hair at the back of his neck standing on end. He didn't like that he'd managed to suss out the border of what Hammond was allowed to say, or that he wasn't sure from how high up the order of silence had come from.

He'd thought about pulling a disappearing act himself, but knew it wasn't practical. Or especially safe. He didn't like the idea of ending up in some mad bureaucrat's secret laboratory at all.

"Give me til nine tomorrow." He shrugged, trying to look like he hadn't already made up his mind. "I'll have an answer then."

Hammond pushed to his feet and Jack stood as well, crossing his arms, feeling short and hating it.

"Until then," Hammond said, and nodded, like everything was fine and it would all work out. "To tell the truth, I enjoy being in a room with a view once in a while. Sometimes it's good to get out."

"Just let me back in every now and then." Jack tried to smile and failed, so he headed for the door a couple of steps ahead. Youthful energy in action. "Christmas. Birthdays."

"The galaxy desperately needs all Jack O'Neills," Hammond said, gentle, wry, sympathetic. "You know the gate will always open for you."

Jack opened the door and held it. Hammond didn't appear to notice as he walked through, but Jack chalked that up to him trying to get Jack's goat.

"Well." Jack followed Hammond out into the corridor, and ignored the way his guard fell into step behind them. "That's all I ask. Sir. All I ask."

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J is for je ne sais quoi (Nightwalkers)
by [personal profile] magibrain

He wouldn't have admitted it back on Kelowna, where it could have cost him his position, but Jonas had begun to suspect that ethics was the study of undefinable gut feelings. Pick any formal law - maximizing happiness for the majority, minimizing suffering, prioritizing the correct balance of action and responsibility - and pretty soon you could put together a scenario abiding by those rules which most people would agree was an atrocity.

Thing was, that just put everyone back at square one. Whatever feels wrong, is wrong. And more than a few people took that to its contrapositive: whatever doesn't feel wrong, isn't wrong.

And that led to problems.

After lunch, Jonas headed back to his lab, and the research assistant he'd apparently inherited along with it. "Hey, Nyan," he greeted; Nyan looked up from a tall stack of books dragged up from the Archaeology and Linguistics Library, and gave him a smile. "Up for another round of A-B-K?"

Nyan winced in sympathy. "It was one of those missions, wasn't it?"

Jonas raised his eyebrows, and poured himself a cup of coffee.

Here they were, scientists in a military outfit, with a history of science overseen by military concerns. Once they'd bonded on that, it had become something of a game to compare notes. America, Bedrosia, Kelowna. Take a situation, guess how each nation would react. If there would be differences at all.

"Let's assume that out of some form of professional incompetence, an entire town is infested with immature Goa'uld symbiotes," Jonas said. "The symbiotes have a vested interest in preserving the status quo until they can complete their objective. The hosts have no conscious awareness of them. All anyone notices is that they're tired all the time, because the symbiotes are waiting until they're asleep so they can manipulate them into building a ship with spaceflight capabilities. Meanwhile, a branch of the government becomes aware of this, sets up containment protocols to ensure that the Goa'uld won't actually make it off the planet, and then sits back and observes in order to seize the ship once it's finished, returning the town to normal."

Nyan flipped the book closed.

"The NID apparently had all the authorization they needed to do that," Jonas said.

Nyan tilted his head. "From what I've read of contemporary political thought, if the program were public, there would be widespread controversy if that were to come to light."

"Civilian controversy," Jonas pointed out. "But yeah. I think most people have a gut reaction that getting taken over by an alien is bad. And that letting someone be taken over by an alien is bad, too. At the same time, this ship could conceivably mean a significant leap forward in Earth's capacity to defend itself."

Sitting in the back of the NID van, with Agent Cross thinking about whether or not to hold a gun on them, Jonas had wondered what he'd thought of the mess. All the opinions he'd given voice to were on that pragmatic side of the scales. Had there been a niggling unease at the edge of his consciousness? A hint that the situation didn't sit right?

Whatever doesn't feel wrong. Jonas still had yet to figure out if the hardline positions he'd seen in his own overseers, in some of the people here, were beliefs held without reservation, or if the reservations were rationalized away.

"According to Kelowna's military thinking, the benefit to security would easily outweigh any damage to personal autonomy." The Kelownan military had been hungry for any kind of technology it could get its hands on. A few civilians with sleepless nights wouldn't rate much - not when a team of dead scientists and a dead foreign diplomat was hardly worth a pause to reflect.

Nyan considered, for a while.

"I can't see the Bedrosian government supporting that," he said. "But not on moral concerns. Exploiting Goa'uld knowledge would mean admission that the Optrican theory of life on our planet was correct. No matter the technological gains in the long run, the blow to Bedrosian morale and the increase in positive sentiment for Optrican propaganda would be too dangerous for them to accept."

There was an odd feeling at the back of Jonas's head, after all these conversations. A sense that whatever the individual representatives of these organizations felt - he did like Major Carter, had a healthy respect for Colonel O'Neill and General Hammond, and felt a growing sense of camaraderie with Teal'c - the whole of the armed forces wasn't much aware of him as an individual. Had no sense of individual life or individual experience as something to recognize or assign any value to. And it was no single person he could ascribe that to, but something in the layers of abstraction that separated life on the individual level from considerations at the pragmatic.

"I'm not sure that's an improvement," Jonas said.

"Certainly not," Nyan agreed. "Especially as the civilians would likely be executed or detained indefinitely."

Jonas thought about that, for a moment.

For no reason other than his own sense of moral propriety, which he felt was the right one and had no evidence to support. He couldn't deny that the overall effect of Earth being unable to mount a defense against the Goa'uld could have far-reaching consequences that stretched beyond one sleepy town in the corner of this continent undergoing a control they'd have no memory of. But that was taking the moral weight of a hypothetical and weighing it against a real, ongoing decision. Maybe if the Goa'uld did show up in a month or two, and a ship was the only way to protect the planet, he'd feel that the moral choice should have gone differently.

He was still somewhat amazed that he'd ever been paid to present himself as an expert on this. After his first school of philosophy had fallen apart under his feet, the more he thought about it, the stranger all of it felt.

"Well," Jonas said. "As always, it's been a vaguely disquieting game."

"I look forward to our next round," Nyan said, and turned back to his reading.

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K is for Kinship (Crystal Skull)
by [personal profile] ivorygates

He was born the year the world ended, the youngest of nine children, on a little farm outside a little village in a place that ceased to exist soon thereafter. By the time he was four, his father and his two oldest brothers were dead, the farm lost, and his mother had taken the rest of them to the city, to Amsterdam, to live with Aunt Annika.

By the time he was five, only he and Aunt Annika were left. Everything the War hadn't taken, the influenza epidemic did. Nicholas Ballard spent his entire life knowing that family, that place, are things the world takes from you. It was something he never accepted, just as he never accepted the logic of war, the credibility of violence.

His father had been a farmer. His aunt was a shopkeeper. Nicholas wanted more for himself: he worked and studied and saved, and in 1932 he entered the Universiteit van Amsterdam. There, he studied archaeology. There, he met Kaatje.

Kaatje Grieta van Coevorden was bright and merry and fearless. Her friends said she could do far better than a loutish shopkeeper. His friends said he could never get such a girl to look at him twice. Everyone said students should think of their studies instead of romance.

But he laughed at her jokes and she laughed at his theories. All around them, Europe grew darker: he wonders now if they didn't care, or if they just didn't notice. They married in 1939, in June. In September, Europe was at war, but Nicholas knew he and Kaatje were safe. The Netherlands had declared neutrality.

Their daughter, Claire, was born the following year, the month - May - the Nazis invaded their homeland.

Everything changed then.

He'd never taken any interest in anything outside his studies. Studying the past taught him the futility of war. Violence (he told Kaatje) never changed anything. (She had laughed bitterly, and pointed to the headlines in the morning paper.) But this was violence on a scale that dwarfed the maddest dreams of a Caesar or a Genghis. Violence coupled not to a mere lust for power, but to the propagation of an intolerable ideology.

And the Germans gave him no choice. There was no longer any neutral ground. One embraced the new world order they had brought with them in their conquest ... or defied it.

The price Nicholas paid for that defiance was higher than he could accept. Kaatje's life. It did not matter that she gave it up willingly, if not gladly. He had already lost so much. Only Claire was left.

But his Raad van Verzet work gained him one thing. When the Allies won their victory, Nicholas Ballard and his young daughter were easily able to emigrate to America. There, in a country untouched by war, he hoped to finally find peace. A family.

The next years were good ones, as Claire grew to womanhood, as beautiful and brilliant as her mother. Then disaster struck once more.

She fell in love.

Dr. Melburne Jackson was one of her teachers at Harvard. He was rich, well-connected, and academically-conservative. The first time Nicholas met him, they argued. Not over politics. Over something far more volatile.

History.

Jackson's field was Egypt, where he built carefully and meticulously on the work of those who had gone before him. Nicholas Ballard had long since learned to distrust authority, even academic authority: he had become an explorer, an adventurer, a student of the bizarre and the inexplicable. He called Nick a crackpot. Nick called him a Fascist. He ordered Claire to have nothing more to do with the man outside the classroom.

When she married Dr. Jackson, it broke Nick's heart. He buried himself in his work, his researches, supporting himself, as he always had, by lectures and by selling a few of his finds. The letters he exchanged with his daughter were curt and infrequent, full of bitterness and anger on both sides. Even the news of a child did not repair the rift between them.

The years had tricked him into believing Life had no more to take from him; new land, new hope, an end to his losses. But Claire's death was Kaatje's all over again, this time a product of carelessness instead of hatred.

It was still theft. The cause didn't make things better.

The only thing remaining to him was the one thing that had never failed him, never left him, never been taken away: discovery.

In 1971 he had gone to Belize, and there he found an ancient temple. A crystal skull. Proof of all his theories - civilization on Earth was far older than anyone suspected, and the culture-bringers, the fire-givers, the founders of civilization itself were not human myth-figures ... but men from other worlds.

Aliens.

He'd been certain he could convince Claire and Melburne to come and investigate. Claire's refusal had been tactful, but he could read her husband's mocking laughter between the lines. By the time he'd mastered his fury to make a second attempt to woo them...it was too late.

Looking down at Claire's son, Kaatje's grandson, he knew he couldn't face another love, another loss. He made his voice harsh as he told Daniel there was no place in his life for him. That someone - someone else -- would care for him. About him.

And he left.

The crystal skull had taken him across the stars. But it was as if all his luck, all his hope, all his life had been bound up in Claire's life and destroyed by her death. He could not make the skull work again, or find the temple once more. He tried to get funding, support, recognition for his find.

And in 1980 he gave up. He was hearing voices by then. Claire. Kaatje.

Daniel.

The first time Daniel came to visit him was the following year. The "rest home" he had chosen for his retreat was a safe haven filled with kind-hearted young men and women. Dr. Roberts spoke with him often, assuring him that the voices weren't real. That they would vanish when the part of his mind that was sick no longer felt a need for them.

Nick knew that time would never come. He knew what the voices were. They were his conscience. His might-have-beens. If he had saved Kaatje, reconciled with Claire...

...taken Daniel in when the child, his grandson, so desperately needed home and family.

To see Daniel, alive, grown to young manhood was a shock. The first six times Daniel came, Nicholas refused to see him. At first he didn't believe Daniel was real. Dr. Roberts told him that Daniel was entirely real. The boy was just sixteen, and had started college in California.

Neither of them knew how Daniel had tracked him down, and Nick didn't care. Daniel (so he discovered), was as stubborn as his mother and grandmother had been: after a few months Nick gave up avoiding his visits. (He still talked to his own Daniel, though, the one who stayed with him in the dark nights, the one to whom he'd told all his most shameful secrets.)

Daniel wanted to call him "Grandfather". Nick would not permit it. What kind of a grandfather had he been to this child, this blood of his blood? Daniel shared Claire's love of archaeology and Nick's love of exploration. He was studying to be an archaeologist like his parents' had been; he'd tracked Nick down by following the references to the Crystal Skull of Belize, but if Nick thought he'd found a soulmate, he was rudely disappointed.

The aliens, his grandson said, had not appeared in the New World at all, and certainly hadn't used mystical teleportation devices. The aliens had used starships, and when they'd come, they'd come to Egypt.

It was wild justice of the cruelest sort to hear the abandoned arguments he'd once made to Melburne flung at him by Melburne's son, and Nick refused to stand for it. He shouted Daniel down. Ordered him out.

Daniel came back.

And he kept coming back, month after month, year after year, for ten years.

Then he stopped.

All Nick had left was his dream Daniel. He'd gone away for a while, when the living one began to visit so regularly. But now he - insubstantial, pallid, echolalic -- was the only one who remained. Nick tried to take comfort in his presence, even though he knew (really) it was just another of the lies he told himself. And as the years passed, even that cold comfort faded away, and all there was were the voices that whispered at the edges of audibility.

And then, one day, Daniel came back.

He was dressed in a soldier's uniform - so Nick knew instantly this wasn't real. Daniel would never join the military, even the American military. He would never become an instrument of oppression and death. That much Nick was sure of.

Hi Nick, long time no see.

Dr. Roberts had come to tell him that Daniel's friends were here. Nick could not imagine why they would come to see him. It had been a long time since even Daniel had visited. There had been no letters, no messages. Not even a postcard. It made no sense that Daniel would tell his friends about him.

It was another dream. He'd taken pity on his own loneliness and conjured his grandson up again. And because his mind, like that of all men, was a house divided, he'd dressed that paraclete of solace as a soldier.

Nick, I need your help. Friends of mine want to ask you about the skull you found in Belize. Tell them everything, just trust them.

Not Daniel. Not real.

Daniel was never coming back.

There was nothing left.

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L is for Luxation (Unending)
by [personal profile] paian

Auburn, Shawnee County, Kansas, 11:06 p.m.

Less than an hour after going to bed, Wendy and Frank wake gasping.

Frank lies still, trying to get his breath. Wendy turns and clutches at him; he puts his arms around her, wraps her up tight, and their hearts hammer against each other through their ribcages.

They know it wasn't just a bad dream. They know it wasn't a bad dream they happened to have at the same moment. They can feel in each other the old impulse to get up, go down the hall, check on the boys. In Frank it's so strong that he's flung an arm out to reach for his legs before he catches himself. He pulls Wendy closer against his side with the other arm.

They know where their younger son is; they can hear his voice through the window, rising up from the patio, quiet but reassuringly audible as he chats away on the phone with his girl. He's telling her what a nice visit he's having with the folks, how they'd love if she'd come along next time.

"He's all right," Frank says. He's not talking about that one.

"Yes," Wendy says. "I know. I feel that now. But what ... "

"I don't know," Frank says. "Best forgotten, maybe."

"Yes," Wendy says. But they both know that they'll be freezing at the sound of every ringing phone, every knock on the door, until they've got him alive and well on the other end of a telephone line.


Cheyenne Mountain, 2206 hours

Carolyn has worked at Stargate Command long enough to know that when she experiences a wave of vertigo so debilitating that she drops what's she holding and staggers, accompanied by a feeling of grief so visceral and so powerful that she comes close to vomiting, and a moment later feels so physically fine and emotionally serene that it's as if it never happened, it's unlikely that the battery of tests she mentally schedules herself for will indicate any somatic etiology.

She'll schedule them anyway. She'll have to take herself off duty in any case -- two SG teams have come back from missions with injuries serious enough that she was called back in, but there are enough personnel to cover -- and besides being the right course of action, it will keep her occupied.

Inexplicable calm after the inexplicable storm or not, she'll need to do whatever she can to keep her mind off the feeling that her father was irretrievably lost when they'd only just started to find their way back to each other.



San Diego, 9:06 p.m.

Mark always brings work home with him, never stays late at the office. The kids are playing a video game on the living-room TV, and he's camped out at the dining table with his notebook and his blueprints. He lobs a pro-forma "Keep it down, guys" at them every now and then to remind them that their mother's idea of a relaxing bath does not include a soundtrack of two rowdy teenagers carrying on downstairs, but he loves their laughter and the oblivious poetry of their running narrative, and the game noise doesn't bother him until it stops.

The sound stops, the screen flicker stops, their voices stop. It's as if somebody hit the pause button on reality.

He looks up sharply, and everything's going again. No sign from the kids that anything weird just happened. He'd chalk it up to overwork, some kind of brain blip like déjà vu, or even some kind of highly unlikely but not impossible accident of timing where the game lagged just as both kids were taking a breath ... except that he's had time, now, to register what he felt in that moment, and recognize it.

When his daughter was three, she got away from him on the street. As he was lunging for her, he saw the open stairs to a shop cellar directly on the path of her current trajectory, and as he was grabbing her arm and yanking her safely back, he saw her falling down the stairs, as clearly as if it was actually happening. He went to his knees and hugged her to his chest, and knelt there frozen until he could actually feel her safe in his arms, and he could breathe again.

What he just felt was exactly that feeling. Not the terror, not the visual, but the sense of sitting freeze-framed between realities, what wasn't happening overlaid on what was.

He's not prone to brain blips. He never had another experience like that, and life with two kids is full of could-have-happeneds, way too many near-misses to this day.

The kids are OK. His wife is calling down that she's out of the bathroom and headed for bed, the kids are calling good-nights to her. He takes what he just felt seriously, but he doesn't know what its significance is. He'll probably never know. His sister is the only family he has left outside this house, and he knows perfectly well that deep-space telemetry is a cover story, so all he can think is that it had something to do with her.

He's picked up his phone and swiped out a text before thinking it through: HEY. CALL ME, TEXT ME, WHATEVER. I NEED TO KNOW YOU DIDN'T FALL DOWN THE CELLAR STAIRS.

He can't remember if he ever told her about that time. He's the solid, boring one in the family, and that text is going to sound pretty crazy if he didn't.

He doesn't care, as long as she answers.



Lucia, midafternoon

Lucia City is full of back alleys, and all of the alleys are lined with back doors, and between some of the doors are shadowy openings, and most of the openings are tunnels that run through to the next alley. But in one alley there's a turnaround: a tunnel that goes in a few steps and then loops back to open on the same alley. You can go past one opening, duck into the next, and come out the first -- five strides behind where you went in, and five strides behind whoever's chasing you.

Jacek has paused three-quarters of the way around the loop, holding a sack full of Goa'uld devices, waiting to hear his pursuers' bootfalls go by, when he's shaken by the most confounding blast of what if he's ever felt.

It's like his life passing before his eyes, but his life as it could have been, a vision as sparkling and shiny as any treasure hoard, crowned with triumphs and bedecked with luxuries, glittering with opportunities, an infinity of golden fruits for the plucking -- if only she had let him take the girl.

The thought has crossed his mind before in idle moments, brief bitter flashes of recrimination when he was running a con where a child would have been the perfect foil. A little girl with a winning smile and a quick wit, a head as sharp as her father's -- what a team they would have made. He's thought it before, but never seen it: how together they could have stolen the galaxy. Conned the systems from the System Lords, bilked the Ori of their worshippers. It's a vision so stunning it leaves him weak with hunger and longing, overflowing with love for the clever child who helped him attain it.

Blast that woman for clutching the child to her bosom the moment he offered to take her off her hands. Pulling the weapon on him was the last straw. He was willing to negotiate! All the deals he's made, all the possessions he's appropriated, and it turns out that his own daughter was the most important thing he could have stolen.

The vision leaves as fast as it came on, and he's standing there shaking his head in the shadows, wondering what in blazes got into him. He hefts the sack, considering; if the Goa'uld gewgaws have some kind of psychotropic powers, he should up his asking price considerably, and the market's already pretty sweet, with all the former hosts running loose these days.

Speaking of running, here they come.

He listens, times his exit, comes out of the turnaround five strides behind where he came in, and goes back the way he came.



New Hak'tyl, midday

With a seasoned warrior, Ishta would have fought this bout a dozen times before it began. Potential moves and responses and counterresponses cascade from each shift of weight, each adjustment of stance, played out to their inevitable conclusion in the blink of an eye, and all that's left to chance is error, misjudgment, hidden weak points in their weapons; the bout is won or lost based on which of them is more fatigued or badly injured, which of their weapons is better crafted or more damaged from recent battle. All things being equal, two seasoned warriors would never lock weapons at all, but win or lose in a dance of opening stances, both able to read the outcome in the starting points.

With this apprentice, everything is left to chance but her own victory. The outcome is assured; she will win. How it is achieved depends on how the apprentice errs, and each apprentice errs differently in every bout. But unpredictability is not enough to explain what Ishta sees when she confronts her young opponent across the hard-packed dirt.

It is as if the greyish shadows cast by this world's pale single sun had torn away from each other, then multiplied. The beautiful cascading spatial logic of movement and response becomes a blur, a smear of madness, an impossibility attempting to manifest, and failing, and turning monstrous. She tastes death on her tongue, ashes, the shadows gone to windblown dust, nothing to cast them anymore. The extrapolations of strike and counterstrike twist inwards on themselves and implode.

She shifts her stance, her grip, reflexively from offensive to defensive, and the vision is gone. She does not think its departure was her doing. The apprentice has blanched at whatever she saw on Ishta's face, and she has dropped her guard into a shapeless slump, a lapse that will earn her a stinging reprimand, but all is as it should be around her once again.

Ishta has no explanation for what she saw, but she thinks on Teal'c locked in combat with the Ori, and fervently hopes that he is well.

Then she commands the apprentice to begin again, and lifts her weapon in defiance of the burnt hole the vision has left in her heart. It will heal, as Chulak will heal, and apprentices must be made masters, more urgently now than ever before.



P7X-377, morning

The blink of a human eye is a snap of muscle, a flick of movement, a flicker of darkness. The blink of a giant alien's eye is a slow thing, to human perception. Nicholas has grown accustomed to living among diaphanous giants; when he occasionally has dealings with other humans, they seem to him peculiarly small creatures, strangely solid, like plastic dolls one could hold in one's hand. But this blink of Quetzalcoatl's great eyes stretches, for one endless moment, into eternity.

At the start of that moment, Nicholas feels he is being phased again, perhaps sent away; he is washed by the fizzy sparkling waves emanated by the transportation crystals, and his impulse is to cry out against it, ask latitude for whatever it is he's done wrong, ask to stay. The Goa'uld have been routed, but he believes himself to be a friend to these beings now, not merely an ally against a common foe, and he cannot understand why they would cast him out.

By the end of the moment, he is ashamed, and afraid, for he senses that whatever is happening is not their doing, and nothing to do with him. At least, nothing to do with his work here, or his worthiness, or his behavior. It's been a long time since he lived under the observation of authorities who judged him, but in times of confusion he sometimes reverts to the patterns he acquired under their care. By the time the wave passes, in the elongated blink of an enormous gossamer eye, he is deeply afraid that it has something to do with his grandson, and that he himself, being in this place out of phase, may be the only one who could perceive it.

Quetzalcoatl's brethren have joined him, as perturbed as he has ever seen them, proof that he was not hallucinating, although he is secure in his assessment of his perceptions. He asks them what happened, and they cannot tell him. He is unable to determine whether that means they don't know. Their syntax suggests that he has phrased the question in an unanswerable way, but he recasts it several times to no avail.

He has been happy here. He has seen no reason to return to the world of his birth, the world where he suffered so much loss and so much confusion. He has been more than content to pass his notes along to the teams that come from Earth to find out what he's learned. They leave a different numeric code with him each time, to use for safe passage through their barrier should he choose to return, and a radio with which to communicate; he does not know if the most recent code will still work, or if anyone will be there to receive his transmission. But he knows, now, that he has to try.

In all these years, his grandson has visited him only twice. He understands that it's not the same as when he was hospitalized. He understands that there has been war, and that the stargate is operated at great cost that prohibits frequent travel for personal reasons. But he has not visited his grandson even once.

It's time for him to face his fears and his discomfort with the world he left, and check on Daniel. And he must do it believing that, if all is well and perhaps especially if it is not, Quetzalcoatl's people will welcome his return.



The Pentagon, 0006 hours

Jack whips around so fast and so hard to look at the wall of world clocks that Harriman's chair, which he was leaning on, swivels several inches the opposite way with Harriman in it.

Like most career field operatives, Jack has an ingrained, intuitive ability to keep track of time, and the only things that can knock his internal chronometer out of whack are drugs and extended periods of unconsciousness. Even in captivity, even in lightless places, even when he doesn't know what day it is, he knows what time it is. Time for the guard to change. Time for another interrogation, and if they're changing up the time to confuse him and wear him down, how long it's been since it should have been time for another interrogation. He always knows how much time has passed since the last time he had a point of reference.

Thirty-two seconds into the seventh minute of the day, something happens in his brain that feels the way loss of gravity feels in a spacecraft. He becomes weightless at his core. His points of reference vanish.

It's over by the time his eyes have focused on the clock faces. At a glance they appear to be frozen. He watches unblinking until their minute hands jerk forward to the next tick mark, a minute, mechanized kickline. 0007.

"Sir?" Harriman says. His tone is calm but guarded. He's voicing the question for the room, as active as it was a few seconds ago, but quiet now, watchful. These people don't spook, but Jack doesn't move like that very often.

"I'm not sure," Jack says honestly. The experiences he's had over the past eleven years make "Could have been anything" the understatement of the decade, century, millennium, pick your calendar range. "It's over, whatever it was." He turns his back on the clocks, fans his fingers at his personnel. "Carry on."

He doesn't shrug it off. He's been in this business too long to dismiss a feeling as strong as whatever the heck that was. He could take a moment, try to examine it; but it's already fading into the ordinary sensation of post-adrenaline-dump washout, and he's got two live operations in progress, and an SGC whose commander is off hobnobbing with the Asgard because he had to be here to run them, and later will have to be soon enough for reflection.

He doesn't let the deeper knowledge anywhere close to his conscious mind, but in his gut he knows that it's his team, and he's luckier than most: he'll be the first to know when they're headed home.

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M is for Many (Ripple Effect)
by [personal profile] crazedturkey

"They want what?"

The airman looks a little taken aback. Ed is abashed for about ten seconds. He usually makes a point of not raising his voice no matter how frustrating the day.

Then he goes back to being just darn annoyed.

Gamely, the airman repeats himself. "They've asked for a hundred servings of blue jello, sir."

Ed heard him the first time, not being deaf and all, but wanted to hear it a second time so he could get properly irked. Today has been one hell of a day, even by his standards, and his standards are pretty darn high.

"I've already sent out four times the normal servings to the commissary. Along with enough food to feed the extra two hundred people that have magically appeared around here. My people are working hard enough already. What's wrong with the jello they have?"

He can see the airman swallowing nervously. Good, he thinks, although he knows he'll regret it later. He's thirty years older than this young fella and about a stone heavier. Someone needs to hear this though. Honestly.

"It's not blue, sir," the airman offers.

"It's not blue!" sputters Ed, before the penny finally drops. "This is Colonel bloody Carter isn't it?"

He can hear the shocked gasps from his staff behind him. Ed don't swear. Not normally. And he likes the Colonel.

"Yessir," says the beleaguered airman. "They, I mean she, wants it ASAP, sir."

"WELL SHE CAN'T BLOODY HAVE IT."

The kitchen, steamy and full of the noise of ten people trying to cook for five hundred instead of three hundred has suddenly gone kinda quiet. Ed notices but doesn't care.

"WhatdoItellherthensir?" the airman says in a small voice.

"Come to Cheyenne they said. Cushy little nine to five, they said. Nice job before retirement. Do you know what I've had to do in these kitchens, son?

"Did they mention the research to produce five course meals of ancient Egyptian cuisine with two hours notice? Ancient CHINESE cuisine? How about that weirdo red headed lady that insisted on me peeling her grapes in a metal breastplate? That happened the first goddamed month I was here. Do you know how I lost my favourite ladle? Some bloody crazy little metal bug came in here and ATE IT. And I can't even go home and tell the wife that can I? Because it's all bloody CLASSIFIED."

Wisely, the airman doesn't say anything.

"And have I complained, son? Not once. I wasn't grey when I started here." Ed pulls on his admittedly thinning hair and sighs. "I've kept it up because these people need feeding and that's my job. But I've got to draw the line somewhere and I'm bloody doing it today. No more bloody blue jello. Colonel Carter can bloody eat bloody red for once."

There's a long, shocked pause.

The airman finally says, "Yessir. I appreciate it. Do you have five minutes, sir? I think you need to see something."

Ten minutes later Ed is back in his kitchen, looking wide eyed.

"You think you've seen it all..." he mutters.

"Sir?" asks one of the assistant chefs.

"Make the goddamned blue jello," Ed says. "One I can handle. Fifty..." he shakes his head.

The kitchen staff look confused. "But, sir, you said...?" The chef queries.

Ed leans forward on the bench wearily. "I know. I'm sorry. Just make the bloody jello."

He rests for a moment before heading back to supervise dinner prep. The assistant chef won't swear to it but she's sure she can hear him muttering, "I bloody liked that ladle."

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N is for Need (Need)
The Emptiness Inside
by [profile] alynt

Addiction begins with the hope that something "out there" can instantly fill up the emptiness inside.
Jean Kilbourne


There were times when Jack O'Neill wished he'd listened to his gut and refused to allow civilians anywhere near the Stargate and definitely not through it. Bad enough there were slimy snakeheads waiting to chew their way through your neck to enslave you from the inside out, seems you couldn't even trust a pretty princess with a death wish and delusions of grandeur, just waiting for some poor schmuck with a soft heart and no common sense to come racing to her rescue.

Daniel made a soft sound of distress and Jack sat back down on the chair by the bed, reaching out to squeeze one of Daniel's hands, uttering murmurs of comfort. After holding Daniel in his arms in the storeroom while he sobbed his despair, a little handholding wasn't going to make Jack feel ill at ease, even in front of the guards. Daniel was sleeping now at least, the shackles gone, faint tear tracks still visible on his cheeks, his hair wet with sweat. Doc Fraiser said she'd pumped enough sedative into his IV to put an elephant to sleep and still Daniel struggled, though feebly, to escape the sarcophagus' addictive hold.

"I know what this is. I know what it's like."

If anyone knew what Daniel was going through as he crouched in the storeroom, disheveled, energy all but spent, weapon waving about shakily, it was Jack.

In the weeks after Charlie died, Jack saw that same despairing look on his own face every morning in the bathroom mirror. The devastation, grief, and most of all the guilt, that his actions had caused so much suffering and loss to be brought upon those he loved. The blame he saw shining more brightly in Sara's eyes than her tears had him pulling away from life itself, subsuming all that he was, all that he had, until he felt nothing. The yearning to recover what had been lost, to regain what he could no longer have dissipated like so much dust, replaced by a need to just end it all. Yet, some small shred of his will to live remained, which only served to fuel the disgust he felt at himself, at his failures.

The emptiness inside would not be ignored though. It devoured his every thought until finally he found the numbness he sought inside a bottle of booze.

The Stargate mission had come out of the blue. He hadn't even had to resign his commission himself. The air force had taken it upon itself to solicitously suggest that it would be for his own good to leave the service, have time to mourn. Jack knew damn well it was more they were hoping the whole disaster would be quietly buried, just like Charlie. They didn't want someone serving the country who'd allowed his own son to shoot himself with his service weapon.

And now, suddenly, they wanted him back.

Sara had been stunned into silence when he'd walked back into the house the morning after the airmen had left, his hair cut, his dress blues immaculately pressed.

"You can't go," she said. "I need you here."

He shook his head. "No, you don't. I just remind you... You need to move on, Sara."

"Just like that?" Her eyes flashed venom at him. "Is that what you're doing, Jack? Moving on, forgetting Charlie ever existed - "

He grabbed her wrist, pulling her closer but she struggled and he let her go, aghast at the fear in her eyes. "I haven't forgotten," he whispered hoarsely, feeling tears sting his eyes for the first time since the funeral. "I have to go."

She stared at him for a long time and he saw the sudden realization in her eyes. She knew he wouldn't be back. She turned away from him and picked up a coffee cup from the sink, drying it with savage swipes of the dish towel. "Go then."

No goodbye, no kiss, no pleading for him to reconsider. He reported in at Cheyenne Mountain that afternoon.

He'd known from the start it was a suicide mission and he silently thanked whoever was responsible for pulling him out of retirement and placing him in charge of the first team to go through the Stargate. It fit into the plans he'd often created in his head but had never carried through on. Best of all, it would leave Sara free to move on with her life, unfettered by a husband driven mad through guilt, and secure her a decent pension to live on.

He hadn't figured on one Daniel Jackson though. Geek scientist, brilliant obviously, total pain in the butt. It was Jackson who had figured out that the glyphs on the gate were actually addresses to other planets in the galaxy. Jackson had insisted he'd be able to get them home again once their mission was completed. What he and the rest of Jack's team didn't know was that Jack was taking along a bomb and he wouldn't be coming home with them.

Moot point, since it seemed that Daniel couldn't find the seventh symbol at first and so all of them were condemned to Jack's fate.

"I don't want to die, your men don't want to die and these people don't want to die. It's a shame you're in such a hurry to," Daniel had said to him after they discovered that Ra was planning to send the bomb back to Earth loaded with a shitload of Naquadah, and yet, only a day before that, Daniel had thrown himself in front of Jack and sacrificed his life. Jack still wasn't sure whether it had been Daniel's words on the heels of his selfless sacrifice or whether it was just that Ra had pissed him off enough that he was finally able to see the world that had diminished to nothing after Charlie, ignited the fire in his belly and reminded him of his oath to protect the people he'd sworn to serve. What he was certain of was that he'd be damned if some young fancy-dressed kid with a parasite inside him was going to get the better of him.

It didn't matter what had made him see that he had something to live for, he decided. They blown the bastard to kingdom come and Jack and his men had gone home, leaving Daniel behind with his new family.

Then Apophis taken Sharé and Skaara and Daniel returned with the team to Earth, desolate, lost and filled with hopelessness. Jack had vowed they would find them, but they all knew the chances were pretty slim. So Daniel moved on, did his job and perhaps it was Jack, more than anyone, who could see the emptiness growing and gnawing at him.

So Jack knew what it was like, and how, even though you had lost the most precious gift in the world and knew there was no changing what was, there was light in the darkness, a candle instead of a beacon perhaps but it was enough to keep you going.

When Daniel finally woke, free from the grip of addiction, full of apologies for what he had done, Jack had shushed him with the time-honored expedient of a hand over his mouth and then he had told Daniel about Charlie and Sara, and the emptiness inside.

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O is for Ordinary Things (Beneath the Surface)
by [personal profile] thothmes

Janet Fraiser walked briskly into the infirmary, a heavy red tome under her arm, and proceeded directly to the large coffee urn in the corner that was her ostensible reason for being there. Years of medical training had taught her a thing or two, and one of them was how to get coffee from one of these industrial urns one handed, and she proceeded to show that skill with unconscious grace. There was plenty of coffee on offer at the nurse's station in the infirmary, of course, but that was a small carafe, and as it sat it tended to become both very strong and notably bitter. If anyone asked, she was here for the less toxic brew available here.

She hoped no one would ask, and to that end, she sat herself down at a table in the corner with a good view of the one that SG-1 habitually took, and propped the heavy medical text upright and open to act as a bit of a screen. She was here to observe, not to be observed. She checked that her pager was on in case she should be needed, although it was doubtful. Supervisor Brenna was under Dr. Warner's excellent care in the O.R., getting her arm tended to, and SG-1 had been queried, examined, and sent off to the showers, with orders to remain on base until she had cleared them to leave. Siler's injury of the day had been an electrical burn so minor that Janet had left him in the care of one of the nurses.

There was something going on with SG-1, and before Janet cleared them, she was going to get to the bottom of it all.

Teal'c, as always, claimed that he was fine, that although he had been sick for a time when he had gone too long without kel'no'reem, he had recovered his memory in time to ensure a full return to health. To the best of her knowledge, Teal'c had never lied to her. She was inclined to believe him now.

Daniel was a bit broody, but had offered up that he was just thinking, comparing Daniel to Carlin. It was, he said, a fascinating study in personality development, and no, to the best of his knowledge he had no memory deficits. Then his blue eyes had twinkled mischievously. "Of course, if I did, how would I know?" he said. That was the sixty four thousand dollar question, right there.

It was Sam and the Colonel that had her most worried. Something was going on with them. There was a lot of studious not saying and not looking going on between those two, and the Colonel was uncharacteristically not trying to make her laugh, or anyone else for that matter. And red flag of red flags, they both said that everything was fine. Janet had seen Sam put away an alarming amount of wine sitting on the sofa in Janet's living room being "fine", and the Colonel was forever insisting that he was "fine" even as he left a visible blood trail behind him. Janet would believe fine when she saw it, and that was why she was here.

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle had its own peculiar application to SG-1 teams. Observation made them twitchy. Janet had gotten a bit of a read on position in the infirmary. Hopefully watching them in more relaxed surroundings would give her a read on momentum. They should be trooping in soon. Sam had been given orders to eat after her shower. She had been notably underweight, and Janet had put her on light duties until she had gained some of that weight back. Teal'c was reliably hungry, and Janet assumed that a meal would become a team event.

First into the commissary was Teal'c. Ever the consummate warrior, he scanned his surroundings as he entered, noting every person, their positions, expressions, and no doubt, whether they were armed. They were not, unless he included the large metal serving spoon in Airman Pizzigalli's hand. As his eyes rolled over Janet, he cocked his head, ever so slightly, and raised an eyebrow. Janet tried her best to look casual and innocent. Channeling one of her childhood role models, she thought to herself Dammit, Jan, you're a doctor, not an actress!. In spite of the ever deepening sensation that she should go and confess all, Teal'c soon turned away, and proceeding through the serving line, he made sure that the Airman's serving spoon got plenty of use, filling a tray with the equivalent of three or four hefty human meals, and carried it off to SG-1's usual spot, choosing the chair that backed against the wall, and had a good view of the door.

Daniel was next. He grabbed two cups of coffee, added plenty of sugar to each, and carrying them in his right hand, deftly snatched up a chocolate-glazed doughnut, and putting it on one of the thick industrial plates nearby, paused for a moment, then shook his head, and took the single treat and his two cups of coffee over to the table, settling across from Teal'c, with his back to the door. The boy might have a terrible sweet tooth, but he seldom let it get completely out of hand. From where Janet was sitting, Daniel was in profile. The expression of lascivious and orgasmic delight on the man's face as he took his first long sniff of one of the coffee cups before taking his first sip almost had Janet blushing, and she nearly looked away as Daniel raised the mug to his lips and closed his eyes, the better to appreciate the blissful first sip.

Colonel O'Neill's entry filled her with despair. If he scanned the room it was perfunctory, but that was not surprising, considering that Teal'c was probably the first thing he spotted coming in the door, and the warrior's carriage, although no less erect than usual, showed no sign of tension or wariness. The Colonel moved with his customary slight swagger, and nothing he did bothered Janet until he filled his tray. Black coffee. A burger, no doubt with cheese, and certainly with plenty of ketchup. Fries and mashed potatoes and a handful of butter pats to go with them. Apple pie and a piece of carrot cake. Not a single piece of fresh fruit or any vegetable unless, like the government bureaucracy in charge of school lunch regulations, you counted the ketchup. Janet didn't. If his knees ever got to the point that he was forced to take a desk job, Jack was going to lose what he jokingly referred to as his "girlish figure" in a matter of months. Janet held back a sigh, and Jack settled down by Teal'c, leaving the space between Daniel and himself for Sam.

Sam would have inspired similar despair, slipping in unobtrusively and seeking out a large salad, an orange, and a yoghurt before settling between Jack and Daniel, if it weren't for the fact that before she could even lift her fork, Jack had transferred the mashed potatoes, the butter pats, and the carrot cake to her tray.

"Doc says you're underweight," he said.

"Sir." It was a plea. "I haven't had fresh fruit or a salad in weeks!"

"The mushy stuff had veggies, Carter. Yeah, they'd lost the will to live, but they were there. You missed a lot of those bready-biscuity things, as I recall."

"Sir, that's too much, and with the butter - "

"Ahht! That's an order, Carter. Eat up." Or words to that effect. It was not easy to make it out, given that Janet was a several yards away, and the Colonel had plenty of burger in his mouth as he said it.

Teal'c, silently working his way through the mountain of food before him was the first of the team that Janet crossed off her worry list. As far as she could tell, there was nothing at all out of the ordinary going on with him. Daniel was next. His long and passionate analysis of the difficulties facing the society of P3R-118 as they tried to reintegrate the subterranean workers back into the upper world might have been giving Jack indigestion, if the Colonel's face was anything to go on, but it was utterly in character, and the fact that Dr. Jackson, like the academic he was, was able to cite reference works and anthropological studies with no noticeable pause in the flow of verbiage told Janet that his memory was just fine.

That left Sam and Jack. Were they quiet because something was off, or was it simply because with Daniel in full flood, they couldn't get a word in edgewise? And how worried should Janet be that Jack let him? Shouldn't he have cut him off by now? It was entirely possible that Sam's silence was because she felt out of her depth in the soft sciences, and it would be entirely characteristic of her to be tight-lipped to avoid giving any clues that she wasn't a master of it all. There was nothing Sam hated more than demonstrating ignorance. As Janet pondered this, she also noted the fairly large blob of chocolate icing that Daniel had somehow managed to get on the tip of his nose, no doubt distracted by the point he was trying to make so earnestly.

She was not the only one. Jack stopped making that pinched, pained expression that Daniel's lectures so often produced, and now he wore a subtle smirk. Leaning slightly toward Sam, he elbowed her gently in the ribs. Her head tilted slightly as she looked up at him. He picked up his napkin, and under the guise of using it to wipe his mouth, touched it to his nose. He gestured ever so subtly with his chin. She glanced at Daniel, and then elbowed her commanding officer, whispering something. He grinned, shook his head, and moving the mostly consumed salad away, placed the carrot cake in its place.

"Daniel," said Sam, "You have a..." and waved her fork in the general direction of his nose.

"It is most undignified," added Teal'c, and the Colonel half stood and leaned over to wipe it off using his own napkin, before Daniel could raise his from his lap.

Daniel batted rather unconvincingly at the invading cloth, and protested.

"Jaack! I can clean my own face!"

Sam's fork hovered over the slice of cake, but she went no further.

"Sir, do I really have to?" she asked, and Daniel stopped flapping his hands, as Jack sat down, looking wounded and raising the napkin to his chest in a coy gesture that would have done credit to the heroine of a Victorian melodrama.

For a moment Janet expected him to throw back his head and utter a shivery, fainting moan like the girl on the tombstone from the introduction to Mystery on PBS, but instead he just whined.

"I gave you my cake, Carter! Greater love hath no man than this, that he shall give you his cake!"

Sam ducked her head in a way that Janet knew meant she was trying not to smile at his antics.

SG-1 was going to be fine. Janet settled in to wait for them to leave. They were due to meet her in the infirmary in an hour. She'd wait for them to leave, and then go sign their discharge from her supervision before they got there. No sense in letting them know they were being observed.

Teal'c finished his tray and left first, with a nod of parting. Daniel and Sam left next, as soon as she finished her cake. Jack finished off the few bites of mashed potatoes that Sam had not, and swiped a finger across the cake plate to get any last bit of icing she might have left. He took his coffee, and searched with a fingertip for anything that might be floating in it, took a sip, and grimaced. Apparently he didn't much care for lukewarm coffee. Janet could relate.

As an airman began to bus SG-1's table, Janet prepared to rise, only to look up into the eyes of Jack O'Neill. Damn, the man can move silently when he tries!

No half smirk, this time. This was the full-on complete smirk.

"Williams Obstetrics? Get much call for that here at the SGC?" he asked, and not waiting for an answer, he strolled out the door.

"You'll be glad I'm an expert when some alien decides you can carry a fetus to term, Sir!"

"Eeeewwww!" drifted back.

***


Teal'c was the first to reach home, of course, since he lived on base. He swiped his card, returned it to his pocket, and entered his quarters. He was beginning to feel some discomfort from having eaten quite so much. Not that it was more than he ordinarily consumed, but it had been quite some time since he had been given the freedom to do so. His stomach was no longer accustomed to consuming so much in one sitting. He looked at the time display on his DVD player, a gift from Major Carter, and made some simple calculations. He would kel'no'reem, and let his symbiote help with the indigestion. Then he would avail himself of the weights in the gym and have breakfast. SG-1 was on stand down for a few days. He was looking forward to relaxing for a time after that, and watching Oprah.

He began to arrange his pillows and his candles in just the way he liked them, straightening and nudging until all was to his satisfaction, and then retrieving the box of matches from the drawer of his desk, he began to light the candles, one by one. His favorite were the beeswax candles, redolent of home, reminding him of childhood, and of the years of Ry'ac's infancy, but even odd scent of paraffin that the Tau'ri so often used was soothing and familiar. He turned off the electric lights, and seated himself on his large pillow, surrounded by the flickering lights. He was home.

***


Daniel struggled with the lock on his door. Ordinarily, this would have been annoying, but now it was a welcome sign that nothing had changed in his absence. One of these days, he'd spring for a locksmith to come out and make a key that was more suited to the lock, and allowed it to move smoothly but for -

There! He was in.

He stood for a moment, gazing at all the pieces that he and his parents had collected through the years. Almost all of them were reproductions. Daniel knew the makers, and some of them were truly masters of the art of forgery. To actively collect genuine antiquities was to encourage the market for illegally looted and stolen works, and neither his parents nor Daniel would condone that. After his time with Nem, he had made an accounting of his pieces, with pictures, so that if he died, someone else would know which pieces were real and which fake. He ran his hand gently over his Hounds and Jackals board, a genuine piece, and a highly unethical gift from the man who had been head of the Egyptian Antiquities Department at the time of the death of his parents, a gift to a grieving boy who had visited it often in a small provincial museum, whose curator had nowhere near the clout he would need to prevent the removal of this one object by the powerful Director. Tomorrow Daniel would have to dust. And maybe now that he had a few days of down time, he would carve out a few hours to call some of his contacts in the Antiquities Department. The Director had died a few months ago, and his family was now living in France, Daniel had heard. It was time for the Hounds and Jackals to return to Egypt, where they belonged.

Moving to the bookcases, he ran his fingers along the spines of the right shelf, until he found the right book, bound in red cloth, with a black cloth title plate, lettered in faux gold. W.H. Stevenson, Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt. When he was a child his mother would make him wash his hands before she would let him handle it, with its diagrams of architectural plans and details, and the fascinating chronological progression of black and white photos in the back. Daniel looked at his hands. Clean enough. He pulled it out, and without opening it, raised it to his nose, and sniffed. The same familiar scent, first encountered in youngest childhood, never changing, never fading, right up to today. As always, it whispered "Home!" to him.

***


Jack opened the door, juggling a paper grocery bag and a six pack of Guinness in his other hand. Proceeding directly to the kitchen, he pulled a clear plastic container full of salad, dotted with tomatoes and round slices of cucumber and sprinkled with carrot shreds, out of the bag, and then a bottle of Greek salad dressing and a smaller container, this time full of blueberries. He took the blueberries over to the sink and rinsed them, and then fumbled in a drawer for a bottle opener, and in another for a fork. He took the two containers, the salad dressing, and a bottle of Guinness over to the table, and put them down. Before he took a seat he popped the cap off the bottle, and took a long swig of the dark liquid, giving a satisfied sigh at the familiar dark flavor. Then he sat down put some dressing on the salad, and began to eat. The blueberries were for dessert. Carter had been right. They hadn't had fresh fruit or vegetables for a looong time. But he'd seen Doc watching him in the commissary. No way he was going to let her think she'd won with all her lectures on getting those seven servings in!

He had a plan. He'd eat this, and then he was going outside. He'd do something about the lawn, which was getting uppity and planning world domination, and then when night fell, he'd spend time up on the deck on the roof, looking at the stars from Earth. If he could help it, he would only be inside from now until he had to report back to the SGC to eat, to sleep, and to attend the call of nature. He was sick of being indoors in windowless space. He intended to drink in as much sun, fresh air, wind, and the sight of green and growing things as he was able.

Still, he would know, really know, that he was home when he looked up into the clear dry Colorado skies, and saw the stars of home.

***


Sam was an Air Force brat. She had grown up expecting to move often, and seldom with much notice. She had learned at her mother's knee how to pack up her worldly possessions, and then unpack them when she reached the new posting. She had learned which things needed to be carried from place to place, and which were better to replace when she had reached her destination. She had learned young that home was not the walls that surrounded you, or the placement of the furniture. Home had no defining smell, no particular color scheme, and certainly no common weather conditions, or even necessarily a common diet. The food in Germany had been pretty much like home, as it had mostly come from the groceries section of the commissary on base, with familiar brands and ingredients brought in from the States, but the food in England was different, with unfamiliar cuts of meat, strange new varieties of apples and pears, and oddly named but delicious candy bars.

No, when Sam came home, she planned to go back to her bedroom, change into her leathers, and go for a ride on her bike, because the fresh air, the edgy speed, and the wind in her hair were all calling to her. The last thing she wanted was to be surrounded by more walls. But when she got in the door, she found herself wandering from room to room, looking at the pictures scattered about, rubbing a finger over a frame here, and touching the glass over a face there, and straightening out the placement of a few of them.

Wherever in the world the Carter family went, the last box Sam's mother had packed up, and the first box she opened when they got to their new home was the box with the pictures. The pictures made a house a home.

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P is for Perception (The Fifth Man)
by [personal profile] magickmoons

Kei'ya'aii stepped through the wormhole, returning to the small colony he had thought he would never see again. His mind was a jumble of thoughts about his recent experiences at the hands of the Jaffa, and more importantly, with SG-1.

He struggled to find the right words to explain these humans from Earth to the others of the Reole. It was vital that his people understand the opportunity they were being presented, but there had been nothing but mistrust of outsiders for so long. Secrecy had become almost as natural to his people now as their innate ability to manipulate others' perceptions. It had never even occurred to him to reveal himself when SG-1 had happened upon him, so deeply ingrained was that protective response.

It wasn't until he saw how devoted Colonel O'Neill was to his team, including Lt. Tyler, that he had started to question his assumptions. Watching O'Neill's willingness to put himself in harm's way for a new team member had finally convinced him that he could not take advantage of the Earth man's nature. But O'Neill had stubbornly refused to put himself first, even when Kei'ya'aii revealed his true form. His momentary surprise had quickly morphed into acceptance, and they had worked side by side, trying to hold off the Jaffa.

The remaining members of SG-1, when they showed up, had easily followed O'Neill's lead, accepting Kei'ya'aii without question. They didn't just fight by his side, they fought for him.

The Reole never openly acknowledged it, but they knew that they would never be free of the Goa'uld. They were not strong enough; their numbers were too few to ever defeat them on their own. They had accepted, on some level, that they were simply counting the days until their final extinction.

As he approached the small building housing the colony's leadership, Kei'ya'aii straightened. He had to make them understand that the people of Earth, and the alliances they led, presented a real chance to break the Goa'uld stranglehold on the galaxy. A chance for freedom for them all.

We don't leave our people behind.

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Q is for Quantum Mirror (TBFTGOG)
by [personal profile] topazowl

"Quickly, the guy's hurt! Get a medic, now!" The instructions were issued even as the gate was shutting down. The intonation echoed in Daniel's ears and he attempted to sit up as he recognised Kawalsky's voice.

"Charlie?"

Kawalsky turned to stare at Daniel then recognition followed.

"You're that Doctor who came through the gate recently aren't you, Doctor Daniel Jackson."

"Yes! I know you, I knew you in my world. I bring bad news, I'm afraid"

"It's gone" Kawalsky sighed.

"'Fraid so," replied Daniel, "but they all died with honour. Now, I've got to get to P3R-233 quickly and stop the same thing happening in my world. No, no, leave it." He finished as a medic tried to inspect his shoulder. Daniel staggered to his feet and attempted to walk to the DHD to dial P3R-233 but the sound of a gun safety's being removed halted him.

"Why?" Daniel turned round to face Kawalsky with his hands out, palms up.

"Sorry Doc, can't let you go just yet. Sergeant, dial Earth, see if we can get a connection." Daniel stood back, understanding this move but needing to get back to the Quantum Mirror and back home before it shut down. Sam had gone for the controller but never got it to him.

"Whilst we try," said Kawalsky, "I'm sure Colonel Reynolds would like to debrief you. If you'd follow me, Doctor."

"No, I I ...."

"That's an order, Sir."

Daniel acquiesced and made to follow but collapsed in a heap as the pain and shock was getting to him. The medic rushed over, insisting he look at the shoulder.

"Can you fetch Colonel Reynolds?" Daniel asked. "I'll talk to him here whilst the medic looks at my shoulder."

At that moment, the dialling failed to engage chevron 7 for earth and Daniel looked beseechingly at Major Kawalsky.

"Or just let me go. Earth has gone, there is nothing you can do. Let me go save my world, please."

Kawalsky, the sergeant and the medic looked at one another. Kawalsky shrugged.

"It's your call, Major," said the sergeant.

Daniel, meanwhile had again staggered to his feet and was moving towards the DHD. He then quickly slapped all the symbols for his destination and hit the red dome. He started running even as the kawoosh started to fade and dove through the event horizon to tumble onto the floor of the alternative reality P3R-233. Muttering "Ow, ow, ow" to himself, he dragged himself to his feet yet again and stumbled through to the Quantum Mirror. Realising his luck was in, he reached out, touched the surface and once again found himself collapsed on the floor.

"This is getting old!" he mumbled with further "Ows!"

Colonel Jack O'Neill, Captain Samantha Carter and Teal'c, back on their P3R-233 and searching for Daniel, turned in the direction of the lab and hurried toward where they heard the Ows coming from. Seeing Daniel lying on the floor in front of the mirror, clutching his arm, with a dark Quantum Mirror behind him, they rushed towards him.

"Daniel!" cried Jack as he knelt down by Daniel, Carter and Teal'c following close behind. "What the hell is this?" he exclaimed, looking at Daniel's shoulder.

"It appears to have been caused by a staff weapon." stated Teal'c and Carter pulled a piece of paper out of Daniel's hand.

"This looks like a Stargate address," she stated after un-crumpling the yellowed paper. Giving her a look that clearly said 'that's not important right now', Jack stated the obvious:

"All right. Let's get him back to Earth."

Jack started to pull him up, but Daniel suddenly clutched his arm, breathing heavily whilst O'Neill, Teal'c, and Carter looked at him and each other, puzzled.

"No, Jack! We're all in very big trouble. They're coming! They're coming."

"OK campers, he's obviously a bit delirious here. Daniel, we're gonna take you back to Janet and then you can tell us all about it."

Lifting Daniel to stand between them, Jack and Teal'c helped him towards the Stargate whilst Carter ran forward and dialled Earth. She ran on through, shouting "Medics" as she was closely followed by O'Neill and Teal'c with their precious burden. She noticed Jack holding some sort of book, a journal.

"Yes, Carter, he had me grab this on the way through the lab." Carter smirked. Doctor Janet Frasier appeared at a run, closely followed by medics with a gurney.

"No arguments!" as Daniel held up a figure and started to protest. "You can talk to him on the way, Colonel, General, but he IS going to the infirmary NOW!"

"Jack, don't lose that book, OK? It could be very important."

"Aren't they all, Danny, aren't they all."

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R is for Resignation (100 Days)
A Time for Change
by [personal profile] traycer

It took a long time to give into fate and accept the inevitable fact that he was stuck on Edora. Jack fought against it, unwilling to believe that the cavalry, also known as his team, wasn't going to find a way to come charging through the universe to save him.

But fate was a wicked old witch, laughing at his attempts to hang onto his fading faith as he spent his days helping the Edorans rebuild, while mourning his losses along with their own. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and still Jack held on to hope with both hands that maybe one day someone would come.

But now, two months after that fateful day, he stood on the edge of the marsh and stared toward the mountains in the distance, his heart finally resigned to the fact that he was being foolish. No one was coming to the rescue. He knew that now. He was never going to see his home planet again.

He tried to use the others in the community as an excuse for his refusal to give in, but they were finally getting past their anger and accusations that he was the one who took their loved ones away, and were slowly starting to accept him in their fold. It helped, he supposed, that Laira insisted that he was now one of them, not to mention his willingness to help in rebuilding their homes. But their acceptance of him made it hard to hang onto his stubbornness…

Crap, he thought with resignation. What's the use? He needed to accept the reality of his situation. It had been over two months and no ally ships in site. No one was coming, he realized again. He was well and truly stranded.

He looked down at the homespun shirt in his hands and sighed. Laira had made it for her husband before he died but deemed it was better used by the living. Jack had declined the shirt when she first offered it to him. He wasn't ready at the time to accept that he was stranded. He rubbed the material between his fingers, knowing deep down that it was for the best. His uniform represented the people who had gone through the Stargate and were lost forever. Those left behind would be far more receptive of accepting him completely if they didn't have the daily reminders of their missing family members.

Besides, he thought with a wry grin, his old BDU shirt was starting to show signs of wear and tear. It was time.

Still, he turned his attention to the sky one last time, hoping for a miracle he knew wasn't going to happen, then shook his head. He was stuck here for good. He might as well get used to it.

A cool breeze swept over his skin as he pulled off his black shirt and donned the homespun. The coarse fabric felt crisp and clean, which was a definite plus. He felt a little better about his decision. He could get used to this.

He grabbed his old shirt and took it with him as he headed back to the house he shared with Laira and her son. She was going to be pleased, he thought with annoyance. Hopefully she won't make a big deal of it. It was hard enough to give in without having to deal with someone gloating over it.

She didn't. She looked up at him when he walked in, took in his apparel, and smiled at him before calmly turning back to the table where she was kneading dough. "Garan will be home soon," she said as she punched down the lump in front of her. "He would like to hear more of the tales you mentioned the other day." She gave him an appraising look, then said, "I don't know if I believe the stories you tell of animals that stand taller than you and are twice as big around. Bears, I think you said they were called?"

"It's the truth, I swear," Jack said with an expression he hoped relayed his honesty. She just shook her head with a bemused smile and went back to her work. Jack left it at that, glad that she wasn't going to mention the shirt.

He went over to his bedroll on the floor and bent to stuff the BDU shirt into his bag, with the thought that he will need it as a spare in the coming days, all the while knowing that he really didn't want to give everything up entirely. The door opened at that moment and Garan came in. He stopped when he saw Jack, his expression changing from confusion to anger to a resigned look, seemingly in just a few moments. Jack waited for him to say something, prepared for the worst, but Garan nodded quietly and went over to give his mother a hug.

"I am glad you are settling in," he said when he turned back to look at Jack again. "It is time you did."

"Yeah," Jack said with a nod. "I suppose it is." He smiled at Garan and then moved to the fireplace to stoke the fire as he started in on the routine chores he had claimed for himself. He had given it the good fight, but it was now time to face his fate. He looked back to see Garan trying to sneak something out of a pan while Laira gave him a look that dared him to go through with it, and Jack smiled at the exchange of familiar banter. This felt like home, he thought with a renewed sense of what he had done. Garan was right. Jack should have given in a long time ago.

But then again... he stood up and looked at the radio he had left sitting on the mantel. It couldn't hurt to hang on to his old stuff... just in case.

He didn't have much time to dwell on that, because Garan came over at that moment to pull Jack toward a seat next to the fire. "So," Garan said with a grin. "Tell me about those bears."

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S is for Standing Alone (Fallen)
by [personal profile] eilidh17

Archivist's note: the version on Eilidh's journal (link below) includes illustrations.

The city was old and vast, full of domed structures and towers with twisting spires. The broad streets with ochre-colored earthen walls were covered in a writing that seemed achingly familiar and yet not. Arrom could feel history bleeding out of these buildings - in their crumbling archways, in the long, narrow viaduct that swept overhead into the distance to some point he could not see, and even in the decaying plinths that lined what must have once been a grand thoroughfare, but was now overgrown and deserted.

On a blustery day, wind whistled through the city and danced in her abandoned streets, stirring up dust and plucking leaves from the clutches of withered and dying trees. Khordib believed the city was inhabited by the dead and the sounds they could hear were their voices carried on the wind, but Arrom could hear another voice more clearly - that of Khordib as his attempt at seriousness fell flat.

Arrom asked why they did not live in this city of halls and mud brick houses and unexplored places, but Khordib shook his head and told him that sometimes the ground moved and bricks fell; it was safer to be out in the open and near the fields.

The universe is vast and we are so small.

There was a fear that hid inside Arrom, steeled within his veins like it had always been a part of him, a coldness that lived like a thread threatening to snap with the slightest tension.

He does not yet know his place in this village of welcome strangers. They gave him clothes that matched their own, muted colors that reminded him of the river that runs through the field they found him in, a slice of blue that breaks the landscape but which feeds the people, giving up fish for their tables. Mostly, though, the nomads offered him a home within their camp. Theirs was a measure of trust that was unquestionable, which bothered Arrom more than perhaps it should have, because despite all they had given him he felt awkwardly out of place.

This day was long and enduring, where Arrom's only solace was found in the snatched moment Khordib afforded him, by way of company, on their visit to the abandoned parts of the old city. It was, as it had been since he first saw them, the walls of clay and plinths of coarse stone, with their lines of blocky writing that had mostly crumbled and decayed in the sun, which captured and held his attention.

Arrom closed his eyes in that place that commanded silence and attention, letting his fingers search across the roughly imprinted glyphs with their troughs and dips and broken lines. Scraps of images bubbled to the surface of his mind, fractured and warped. He caught flashes of other walls that glowed hazily with the life of even stranger writing. All familiar, but not. And all just out of his reach. But like a dream that faded when he opened his eyes, the moment was over when Khordib placed a firm hand on his shoulder and turned his attention to the west, where the sun was gently settling over the center spire and casting a long shadow up the side of the mountain behind.
In a tone that was both sad and apologetic, so much so that Arrom felt like a child being torn away from his favorite game, Khordib told him it was time to leave.

The city that had stood for thousands of years would have to wait for another day to reveal its secrets.

***


"... and Lantos reached for the heavens, his arms stretched wide and ready to embrace the stars and the unseen gods of his devotion, only to fall to the ground, to land heavily on a bed of his wishes."

The words were familiar, their meaning not as clear as Arrom had hoped, but then like so many things that had risen from somewhere deep inside of him, they were lacking any real definition. He likened the experience to looking at his reflection in a bowl of water on a clear day, only to find that where his face should have been was nothing but an unmarred surface. Maybe that was oversimplifying the experience, because as the days passed and grew longer and colder, his reflection morphed into something truly terrifying.

Arrom mentally shook himself out of the moment and reigned in his wandering mind, turning it back to Shambda. From the children who sat at the old man's knee, to the gathering of villagers standing just outside the periphery of the telling circle, there was no doubt Shambda commanded attention from even the most distracted of minds.

"Of course," Shambda went on to say, his steely gaze and hushed tone proving to be an effective lure for both children and adults alike, "there is a lesson here for each of us to learn." This revelation, which Arrom thought was more of a suggestion for his listeners to reach into their belief systems and pull forth a response, hardly drew the reaction Shambda was seeking.

"Do not tend your flock on the side of a mountain, lest you fall?" came an answer from the crowd.

The children turned to each other and giggled, some behind their hands, while some cautiously looked back and forth between Shambda and their parents, perhaps seeking permission to respond. But Shambda quickly silenced them all with a raised hand, as he looked towards Khordib and replied smoothly, "The mountain was smaller than the distance Lantos had to fall, and yet he, too, failed to understand the lesson."

Khordib tipped his head to one side in an act of veneration and smiled affectionately. Arrom understood the moment with perfect clarity; he had seen this game played out before between the two men. One was the master, the other a sometimes reluctant apprentice, but they worked in harmony to show the children that every story had more than one moral to teach, more than one outcome.

So Khordib, his work done, nodded briefly to the other adults and turned away from the telling circle, leaving Shambda to pull the children in closer with a sweep of his arms, as though he had a secret that only they could keep. Eager faces looked up at him, their eyes bright with anticipation and wanting, but Shambda put a single finger to his pursed lips and instantly bought their silence.

"Lantos," he said softly and crossed his arms, "was a man who wanted much but gave little in return. The only hand he held out was the one in which he expected to receive great treasures. And the bed of wishes he made, the one on which he fell, was as hard as it was hollow."

If the children failed to understand the lesson, they clearly did not say. Dark heads bobbed again and whispers were traded, though Arrom was almost certain, from the looks on their faces, that most of them had little concept of the message Shambda was trying to impart.

Shambda put his hands on his knees and rested them there for a moment before rising to his feet. "After first meal tomorrow, we will let Lantos continue to teach us the lessons of his poor choices. His history is long, his woes many," he announced with a stiff nod, only this time some of the children responded with unappreciative groans as they picked up their resting mats and moved away.

"And where is your bed of wishes?" It was disconcerting to find Shambda standing beside him, looking down at him with his arms crossed and hands lost in the sleeves of his winter robe, and a look of concern etched on his craggy face.

There have been moments, small and seemingly insignificant, simply because he knows they are extensions of his fears, where Arrom has lost time. His mind stops, trapped in a thought, in an instant, where even though on some level he is aware of the world carrying on around him, he feels he is caught in a bubble of his own existence. This time, Arrom lost himself between Shambda dismissing the children and finding him at his side. The loss was as alarming as it was unnerving. "What?"

"You are ill?" Shambda asked, head cocked to one side and his brow furrowed questioningly above the shine of his caring gaze. "Perhaps you - "

"No." The sun had slid almost fully behind the distant mountains, in perfect synchronization with the moon rising and lighting up the pathway of stars across the sky. "It's nothing."

"Nothing is something which does not exist."

Which made no sense to Arrom, though he was loath to admit it. "Did Lantos ever learn his lesson?"

"Ah! A wise distraction." Shambda pulled up a stool next to Arrom and gathered in the folds of his robes to sit. "Lantos," he remarked, crooking a bony finger up at the evening sky, "looked to the heavens and ultimately fell to the ground."

"I know how he feels," Arrom replied dryly.

"Do not compare yourself to a man without virtues. His lesson is only yours to remember and learn from."

"Not to emulate?"

Shambda looked sadly at him. "Again you doubt yourself. Have you learned nothing in your time with us?"

But Arrom found himself turning to the wall of writing at his back and feeling the knot of loss that he carried in his chest, curling even tighter. "You said Lantos looked to the heavens but ultimately fell. I'm starting to wonder if he didn't take lessons from me."

"His time came and went many, many moons ago. Well before my father told me his story and his father before then. He would not be the first man to want more than he was able to hold."

Arrom left the wall of confusing words to the growing darkness and turned back to Shambda, meeting the old man's worried gaze with a small smile. "True," he agreed somewhat begrudgingly, because while some of the children may have been too young and distracted to comprehend the simple concept of giving and receiving, he was not. "But you have to admit to a few similarities."

Shambda shrugged. "There is a part of Lantos in all of us, Arrom. Even in the most pious of men. Perhaps what you heard today will sound different tomorrow."

"Perhaps," he admitted slowly, cautiously accepting the now familiar unease that came when something was nagging at him, teasing him, a memory of a feeling rather than an actual event from his past. "If you are truthful, the essence of a story should remain the same, no matter how many times it is told."

"So serious, you are." Shambda reached out to lay a hand on Arrom's knee, patting it softly like a parent would for a child who had just learned a hard lesson. "Do not confuse lessons of morals and good manners with those of our history. Should you wish to know more, perhaps you should seek Khordib for more than just company on your wanderings through the old city. His stories are of our people."

"Like historical documents?"

"Documents?"

"Using ink to write words down on parchment."

"Ah! We have never had a use for such things. Go, talk to Khordib. His stories are for learning - "

"As yours are for teaching."

Shambda shrugged and sighed heavily. "Though both contain lessons of the past, I fear my young audience is becoming less and less interested in my stories." He climbed to his feet and looked down at Arrom. "And still you look unwell, my friend."

There was a hum that settled across the camp at night as cooking fires snapped and sizzled and the smell of flatbread and spiced broth filled the air. These are the remains of the day, when children have said their goodnights and retired to their tents. And where words of importance faded to talk of family and health, of milestones come and gone like the setting of the sun.

Fearing he had taken too long to answer, Arrom nodded quickly and whispered, "I'm fine," earning a cautious nod of acceptance from Shambda, who then rolled his eyes when Ridah, his wife, called him for his evening meal. Once again, Arrom found himself sitting on the periphery of camp life, feeling the bonds of family and friendship so woven into life here, but not quite able to be part of that rich tapestry. Loneliness tore at him from his place outside the telling circle, to where the firelight cast an eerie shadow on the ancient walls that served at best to distract him from his wandering mind.

"Perhaps you should join us this night," Shambda said in an almost pleading manner, with a heavy accent on should that quickly turned his words from a suggestion to being a demand, but Arrom, sympathetic though he was, could not share their table.

As was usual, and because he was unable to escape her scrutiny, Ridah watched him as she set her bowls and spoons, her face a mask of guarded suspicion from the doubt she pinned to his chest. She was an elder, like Shambda, but in every way his opposite. Arrom quickly learned that her comely smile and the neck charm she wore of cloves and wild Darrow flowers from the field, that left her smelling of home and hearth, was a false façade for the unease she radiated when her withered fingers touched his cold skin on that first day. Shambda had light-heartedly christened him 'the naked one', but Ridah, in what Arrom could only excuse as a moment of surprise and shock at his sudden appearance, for there was no other explanation, called him 'motherless' under her breath, almost as though she was looking into a part of his soul that only she could see.

Yet despite her doubts, and the wary watchfulness Arrom felt her holding over him from time to time, it was Ridah who took him into her home and covered his nakedness with robes and gave him food and soft bedding and candles. And it was Ridah who held him to her chest when he cried with a loneliness he could neither explain, nor could she fully understand.

These were his moments of loss, where Arrom could no more fill in the blanks of his past than he could find his way back to his former life. He was a nameless man with no past to remember, no future to contemplate, and no tangible connection to a present and place that felt awkwardly familiar and yet totally wrong.

There was a temptation to reach up and touch the low-slung moon in the night sky, that maybe tapping it lightly would send it off on some wandering journey, much like Arrom felt he was on, but instead he gave it a small smile as he rose wearily to his feet. Behind him, shrouded in near darkness, the old city stood tall and silent. Arrom gave it one last look over his shoulder before he walked off in the direction of his tent, content for the small measure of comfort he found in the glow of Ridah's candles.

Somewhere, and he was sure of this now, the answers to who he was were waiting for him to find. Perhaps Shambda was right when he said that what Arrom heard today might just sound different tomorrow.

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T is for Tok'ra (Stargate: the Movie)
by [personal profile] roeskva

Garshaw looked up as Martouf entered her office. "What is it, Martouf?"

"We just got a message from our operative at Ra's court."

Garshaw sat up straighter. "That is highly irregular!" She frowned at the young man.

Martouf nodded. "She felt the risk of detection was small compared to the potential importance of the information. Ra is overdue from his most recent trip to Abydos."

"Overdue? He has probably just decided to spend some time on a pleasure planet on the way back!"

Yosuuf made a mental snort at Garshaw's comment, tending to agree with her symbiote. However, the operative in question was Jolinar, and while she was certainly prone to unorthodox, even rash behaviour, she was also very experienced and too intelligent to make a dangerous decision without good reason. There might be more to this than just Ra taking off on a whim.

"Quite possible," Martouf admitted. "Were it not for the fact that he was to meet with Heru'ur, Cronus, and Bastet. He is more than a day late for that meeting, with no explanation. In fact, no one knows where he is. Apparently his guests are now... quite furious."

"I am not surprised!" Garshaw looked shocked. "Has Ra lost his mind! He risks war with such behaviour. Even a Supreme System Lord cannot ignore his staunchest allies!" She listened to her host, who suggested something might have happened to Ra. "There is no word at all on Ra's whereabouts?"

"None." Martouf hesitated, then voiced what both he and Lantash were thinking. "Could something have happened to Ra? Betrayal, perhaps? An attack?"

"Surely no one would dare do that - however much they would like to," Garshaw said, conviction in her voice. "His allies are too strong, and I also doubt even Sokar would want to risk the chaos that would result, should Ra be killed."

"Of course." Martouf nodded, then turned to leave.

"Wait." Garshaw thought about it for a moment. "Inform the other members of the Council that I wish to meet with them."

Martouf inclined his head. "Yes, Master Garshaw." He hurried off to carry out her orders.

***


The Council acted unusually fast, deciding to risk contacting Tok'ra operatives undercover at various courts and asking them for any updates on Ra's whereabouts, which rumours circulated at the courts, and the general reaction to Ra's disappearance.

An attempt was made to send someone through the Stargate to Abydos, but the Stargate failed to engage. This was very suspicious, but it could mean anything from an unrelated malfunction - unlikely as that was - all the way up to the entire planet being completely gone.

Unfortunately, the only other option was to send an operative there in a teltac, and the nearest place to Abydos where the Tok'ra had a teltac, was almost a week away. Nevertheless, Aldwin was sent to investigate.

Reports began to trickle in from the operatives, but no one knew where Ra was.

As knowledge of the fact that Ra was missing spread across the Galaxy, the tension at the Goa'uld courts rose quickly. Already the Tok'ra operatives could report on several smaller skirmishes that had broken out along the borders of the various System Lords domains.

Then came a rumour that a ship that had been near Abydos at the time Ra went missing, had detected an explosion. While this was only a rumour, it only increased the already high tension.

***


"Lord Mehit." The servant bowed deeply.

"Yes?" Jolinar gazed up from the reports she was reading, and looked arrogantly at the man before her. "Speak."

"A trader who was near Abydos at the time of Ra's dis... at the time when Ra chose to disappear, wishes to talk to you, my Lord." The servant gave her a nervous look. "He claims to have important information."

Jolinar raised her eyebrow at the man's near blasphemous statement. She liked him, but she could not openly permit slaves to think that a god could disappear against his wishes. She considered briefly whether she would have punish him, but listened to Rosha and let it slide. The man was terrified enough as it was.

"Send him in." Jolinar returned to perusing the documents she had looked at when the servant entered.

She was reading reports about sightings of Ra from all over the empire. There was little worthy material in them. Nothing credible.

"Uh..." The servant nervously shifted from one foot to another.

"Why are you still here?" Jolinar demanded.

"Ra's queens..."

"What about them?" Jolinar unhappily thought about the three empty-brained, self-possessed harpies. They had been making her life hell the last week, but it was probably understandable that they were worried about Ra. Or rather their own position, should Ra no longer live. Jolinar did not for a second think they held any sort of warm feelings for the pompous idiot.

Some Goa'uld queens were System Lords in their own right, some lent their services to whomever paid the most, and others preferred to align themselves with a powerful Goa'uld.

Ra's current queens were lazy and did not seem interested in anything but luxury, and an easy life. Ra had given them that, requiring only Goa'uld larvae in return. With three queens they did not even have to spawn very often, so it was no wonder they were happy.

"They..." he swallowed. "They demand an update on Ra."

Jolinar sighed. "Inform them that I will talk to them as soon as I have met with the trader."

"Yes, my Lord." With a relieved expression, he fled the room.

***


"Travik?" Jolinar asked, quickly masking her surprise.

"Yes, my Lord Mehit. That is my name. Perhaps my reputation has reached your ears?" The handsome, youngish looking man gave her an impudent smile.

Jolinar considered what to say, then made the decision it was better he did not know her real identity. Yes, they might have been friends - or more - a couple thousand years ago, but now she was Tok'ra and he was still a Goa'uld, albeit a very non-traditional one, who talked to his host.

Revealing her identity would only lead Travik to endless seduction attempts, unless he had changed, and Jolinar doubted that. No matter how handsome Travik's host was, she did not want that kind of attention from him. She loved her mates, Lantash and Martouf, and she would never betray them.

She raised an eyebrow and looked at Travik with a bored expression. "I believe I may have heard your name in passing... somewhere."

"I see." Travik frowned, looking both unhappy and slightly suspicious.

Jolinar sighed inaudibly. Travik was intelligent, she would have to remember that. "I was told you have information about Ra?"

"Perhaps. I thought we should discuss the price of this information first?"

"The price? Ra is missing, and you are trying to barter for information about your Supreme master? With me, the one he put in charge while he is absent?"

Travik snorted. "I am an independent trader, and have no master. As for you... are you really in charge of anything but Ra's palace? A glorified housekeeper? For someone who may be dead." He looked at his nails, and pretended to remove something from under one of them.

"Insolence!" Jolinar rose from her rather opulent chair, and took a step towards him. She calmed herself. "Why did you come here, if you think so little of me and my master?"

Travik smiled, pleased. "Ah, that is the question, is it not? The answer is simple. I am a trader, and I have something to sell. Something I believe you want and that you can buy from no one else."

Jolinar had to admit he was fearless. Most Goa'uld would not dare speak like this to someone Ra had put in charge of anything. She had not thought Travik would either, and suspected that meant Ra was dead, and that Travik had proof.

She nodded. "By all means. Let us discuss the price. I assume weapons grade naquadah will be acceptable?"

"It will." He smirked. "I hear Ra recently acquired a planet with large naquadah deposits."

Jolinar sighed. She had a feeling it would be a long discussion. Well, at least it meant more time befoe she had to talk to Ra's queens.

***


Travik had just left, and Jolinar returned to her own chambers, to read through the data logs from Travik's ship. He claimed to have detected an explosion around Abydos, that he further claimed proved Ra was dead.

If he was correct, this was the news of the century. Or maybe even the millennium.

Rosha and Jolinar were equally apprehensive as they loaded the data crystal into their computer, and sat down to read.

When they had finished going over the information, they looked at it once again, before Jolinar finally leaned back in the chair as they considered the intel.

Jolinar's first reaction was numbness, then elation, then concern. Rosha's feelings mirrored her symbiote's on the matter, but she felt less concern for what would happen now, than Jolinar did.

Ra was almost certainly dead! No, he was dead, there was no doubt. The Supreme System Lord, symbol of the evil Goa'uld empire, was dead! That was cause for celebration, Rosha pointed out.

Jolinar agreed, but could not stop worrying about the coming wars, and the possibility of a new, worse, Supreme System Lord. Sokar had, after all, once held Ra's position.

Regardless, the data logs were clear, and their validity was also not in question. Travik's ship had been close enough to Abydos to get a reading of a ship that lifted off from it. That ship could only be Ra's yacht. Nothing else matched the specifics.

Then that ship had exploded. The scanners had picked up that as well. From the readings, the explosive device was probably some sort of fission device.

That was puzzling. No one used that kind of weapon - at least no one civilized. Not only was it a primitive weapon, but the pollution from the fallout made it undesirable. Who would want to pollute that which you had just won in battle? Unless that was the purpose, of course, but then better ways existed.

Jolinar and Rosha debated it for a short time, but reached no agreement on who could possibly have been behind the attack. Particularly since Travik had detected no other ship in orbit or nearby, so whomever it was who had killed Ra, must have come through the Stargate.

Giving up on pondering a problem that they had too little information to solve, Jolinar quickly put together a message to the Tok'ra, containing a copy of the relevant intel. She then coded the transmission to be sent next time there was another outgoing message, which would be used to mask her secret transmission.

With a deep sigh she left the room to go and talk to Ra's queens - and inform them their husband was dead. They would not be pleased. Most likely they would panic, and immediately start trying to decide which other Goa'uld they should align themselves with.

Jolinar could not deny feeling a certain pleasure at the thought of their panic.

***


"Aldwin, what do you have to report?" Selmak asked, as soon as the other Tok'ra entered the room.

He looked briefly at the assembled Council members. "As ordered, I travelled to Abydos. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary when I arrived, but when I scanned the planet and the atmosphere around it, I detected something. There were debris consistent with the remains of a large ship, as well as traces of radiation. I showed the data to the scientists, and they believe some sort of fission bomb has exploded."

"Are you saying that Ra is... dead?" Garshaw asked, shock in her voice.

"I landed on the planet and talked to our contact. He did indeed confirm that Ra's ship had exploded. With Ra on it."

Everyone in the room was quiet for several moments, before anyone said anything.

Then one of the Council members, Sirla, spoke up. "So Ra is dead. We never really thought that would happen, however much we wished for it."

"He is not the first Supreme System Lord. He is unlikely to be the last," Selmak remarked.

"Very true, and it would also be prudent to get confirmation from another source. Not that we do not trust your contact, Aldwin, but he is just an Abydonian. A human from a world enslaved by Ra for generations. He may not fully have understood what he saw," Delek insisted.

"I concur," Ren'al said.

"I do not share your low opinion of humans, even though I do realize the inhabitants of many worlds are lacking in education and that this means they are sometimes easy to mislead." Selmak looked up as someone appeared in the doorway to the room. "What is it, Martouf?"

"An important message. From Jolinar." He held out a data crystal.

Garshaw, who was closest to him, took it. "You may leave."

Martouf nodded and left.

Garshaw plugged the crystal into a small computer unit and quickly read over the information.

"What news?" Selmak asked.

"The confirmation we wanted. A trader witnessed the explosion of Ra's ship," Garshaw told them.

"Then it is true. Ra is dead," Delek said, a look of disbelief on his face.

"Yes, it is," Garshaw confirmed.

"It is almost unbelieveable. A dream come true!" Sirla said, smiling.

"We should not assume that everything will change, just because Ra is dead. The Goa'uld way of life is rooted securely among the System Lords, unfortunately," Selmak reminded them. "Much will stay exactly the same."

As the Council continued discussing, Aldwin wondered if they had forgotten about him, since they had clearly started debating instead of listening to the rest of what he had to say. He considered if he should leave, as non Council members were normally not permitted during the Council's deliberations.

His symbiote suggested he wait, though - unless it became too boring. Agreeing with him, Aldwin tuned out the droning voices and instead thought about the chess game he was playing with Martouf. It had been interrupted when he had been sent on the mission to Abydos, and he was looking forward to continuing it.

Garshaw nodded. "Agreed."

"Though surely there will be some changes," Sirla said, hopeful.

"Yes. Chaos. Violence. War," Garshaw insisted.

Ren'al nodded. "The other System Lords will try to take as much of Ra's domain as they dare. Of course, Heru'ur will attempt to claim his father's territory as his own, but the question is whether or not Ra's allies will support him."

"Some may, but many will see this as their chance. Alliances will be broken, and new ones forged. Armies will clash. Jaffa will die. Countless of humans will suffer and die, as their planets are attacked, forgotten, or get new masters," Garshaw said.

"Yes. We all know this, Garshaw. There is no reason to repeat it," Selmak observed tiredly. "She turned to Aldwin. "Let us focus on something more important. Who killed Ra? Is it even known?"

"Of course. Which System Lord was it? Not Sokar again, trying to regain his position, I hope?" Cordesh asked.

"That is the strange thing..." Aldwin hesitated for a moment. "It was no System Lord. It was humans. Not Abydonians, but some who had travelled there - from a world, the name of which is veiled in legend. The Tau'ri!"

"What?" Garshaw stared at him. "The Tauri?"

"Impossible!" Ren'al insisted.

"Surely, it is a dream the Abydonians have come up with! A fairy tale!" Cordesh said.

Aldwin shook his head. "No, it is the truth. I hid and saw one of them, one who had remained behind with an Abydonian wife. He is clearly from a more advanced culture - he wears glasses, and knows how to read and write. Apparently he came through the chaapa'ai with a group of soldiers. They were... explorers, and they brought many things that seemed strange to the Abydonians. Including, clearly, an explosive device with fissionable material."

"Impressive, if true!" Garshaw looked shocked. "The Tau'ri must have advanced greatly in the time they have been free."

"Perhaps it is time we visit their world again?" Selmak suggested. "To my knowledge, no Tok'ra has been there since Egeria last visited, and that was perhaps 800 years ago."

"What for? This bomb is no proof they have anything to offer! There are other, more advanced human civilizations," Cordesh said. "Why would we waste any time on the Tau'ri?"

"We do not know what they have to offer! Besides, we need to know if they will be a force we must reckon with. If they start killing Goa'uld indiscriminable, they will quickly cause chaos in the Galaxy. Not to mention the fact that they may mistake our operatives as Goa'uld. Do you care about that?" Selmak asked.

"Perhaps... perhaps it is worth sending someone to check on their progress," Cordesh admitted.

The other members of the Council nodded.

"It certainly is. However, we may have to postpone sending anyone there until an operative becomes available. Right now we will need all we have, to keep an eye on the fallout of Ra's death," Garshaw decided.

"You are correct. That must be our first priority," Delek said.

Indeed," Selmak agreed, sighing. "We should take a break while a list of operatives is compiled, and then reconvene to decide on the most optimal placement of those agents currently available, as well as which ones will need to be moved."

"Now you mention it," Garshaw looked at the message from Jolinar. "We will need to recall Jolinar. She notes that Ra's court and Ra's allies will scatter, and that she feels her position puts her in grave danger, were she to stay."

"The infighting has begun, then. By all means, recall her. We shall have to give some thought to where best to place her next," Cordesh said.

"She may wish for some time here in the tunnels first. She has been gone for more than two years, and as you probably remember, she requested shorter missions when she and Lantash became mates," Selmak reminded them.

"We will try to accommodate that, but it may not be possible. Not under circumstances such as this," Garshaw said. "For now, the meeting is adjourned. We shall meet again tomorrow morning, and look at the list of operatives."

"Excuse me, Garshaw," Aldwin spoke up. "Which parts of the information discussed here may be shared?"

"You are asking if you can tell your friends that Ra is dead?" Garshaw asked.

"Yes. It is the only thing talked about in the tunnels right now. Everyone wants to know if the Supreme System Lord is dead or not - and if he is dead, who killed him," Aldwin said.

Garshaw looked to Selmak, who nodded. "Given the importance of the information, it would not make sense to attempt to keep it secret. You may share it with everyone."

"So Ra truly is dead? It is almost unthinkable," Martouf said, as he sat down on the sofa beside Korra. They were in Aldwin's quarters, discussing the shocking news.

"He is," Aldwin confirmed, placing some cups and a teapot on the table. He then sat down beside his friends.

"Not only is he dead... he was killed by the Tau'ri... that is almost as fantastic," Korra observed.

"Yes." Aldwin nodded. "It is truly unbelievable."

"Will someone be sent to learn more of the Tau'ri, and what they have become?" Martouf asked, pouring some tea into his cup. He held the teapot questioningly towards the others.

"I do not know," Aldwin said, nodding at Martouf. "Probably... at some point."

Martouf poured tea in Aldwin's cup as well, then looked to Korra, who shook his head. He put the teapot down and dipped his head, giving Lantash control.

"It would be foolish not to learn all that we can about them, and quickly!" Lantash exclaimed. "If they can kill Ra, they are a force to be reckoned with - and possibly a destabilizing one, if we do not help them to focus their strength!"

"You wish to ally yourself with the humans of the Tau'ri?" Korra asked, surprised.

Lantash hesitated. "Perhaps... perhaps not. I do believe it would be sensible for us to have some sort of contact, and perhaps a treaty, with any race reaching the point where they can affect the order of the Galaxy."

"I do not disagree with you logic, but how do we ensure our safety? Our very existence? Which must remain secret to the majority of the Galaxy! Not to mention that we do not know how they would react to us," Korra said.

"Surely some way could be found!" Lantash insisted.

Korra sighed. "It may not matter. I doubt the Council will agree with you, and in any case they will not move quickly."

"No." Lantash scowled. "Fools. All of them!"

"Be that as it may," Aldwin said, soothingly. "Our operatives will keep a watchful eye on these Tau'ri, of that I am sure. Should more be seen of them, and should they again interfere, I am certain the Council will reconsider. Right now there are more important things to focus on."

"Ra's domain, yes." Korra leaned back against the cushion. "There will be many wars fought over it. The map of the Galaxy will change greatly in the years to come."

"That is correct. Still, all things considered, I would say Ra's death is worth it. We should celebrate," Lantash insisted. "Our name are not the 'Tok'ra' for nothing!"

Korra nodded slowly. "We should. Ra's death is something we have dreamed of for a very long time, and even if another should take his place eventually, then few are as gruesome as he."

"The Council said that Jolinar would be recalled. Perhaps we could have a celebration when she is back?" Aldwin suggested. "Forgive me, Lantash, for not telling you earlier, but I had completely forgotten among all else."

Lantash smiled. "That is good news indeed! Yes, we will have the real celebration when Jolinar is back." He got up. "I believe I have a bottle of terac shri in my quarters. Would you care for a glass of that now? To commemorate the occasion?"

"Yes, that sounds very nice," Aldwin said.

"Indeed. That sounds very good." Korra rose too. "I have some chocolates from Ix'thul, I believe those will taste good with the terac shri."

"Are you having a party?"

They all looked up to see Jalen sticking her head into the room. Behind her stood Malek and Ocker.

Lantash laughed. "Not quite - but a small commemorative occasion, perhaps. Would you care to join us?"

"Of course!" Jalen grinned.

"We would." Ocker said, and Malek nodded.

"Then find somewhere to sit. I'll be back with a bottle of terac shri in a moment," Lantash said, as he left the room.

When he returned, several more Tok'ra had joined them, and the decision was quickly made to take the 'commemorative occasion' to the recreation room. Once there, it did not take long before most of the Tok'ra currently on base had heard of the impromptu gathering, and had joined in.

After all, Ra was dead, and was that not reason enough to celebrate?

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U is for Understanding
Kishotenketsu
by [personal profile] fignewton

Kishotenketsu: a story based on observing how change affects perception, rather than classical conflict plotlines

Jack hauled himself up the last few steps of the ladder and onto the roof. Straightening, he stretched until he felt his spine crack.

As usual, no traffic came through the quiet neighborhood street, allowing him to revel in the silence. He blew out a long, slow breath and watched the vapor dissipate into the chilly air. Everything was normal. Familiar. Ordinary. It was just another night of sharing the stars with his telescope and a bottle of beer, as he'd done every cloudless night for a year now.

Except it wasn't. Nothing was ever going to be the same, was it?

It wasn't the obvious changes in his life that made the difference. Not his retirement from the military, not -

(Charlie)

- not the loss of his son, not the divorce papers he'd found on the table when he'd come home. He'd dealt with that -

(or not dealt with it permanently, as he'd come too close to doing)

- dealt with that in his own way, and once he'd successfully moved past certain... tendencies, Jack was pretty sure he'd reacted more or less as he'd always done.

Jack dragged a clean rag out of his pocket and wiped the eyepiece of his telescope free of dust. He'd had time enough, before West hustled them out of the mountain a year ago, to do a little research: Abydos' sun wasn't visible from Earth. His stargazing wouldn't change because of his new knowledge that there was another planet out there with human beings who had been brought there from Earth by an alien with delusions of grandeur and an eyeliner fetish. His awareness of an amazing, courageous group of people who had cast off the belief of millennia to rebel - to save his life, and the lives of his men, and throw down their false god - none of that had to change how he looked at the night sky, did it?

Knowing that a scruffy civilian had died to spare him and had come back to life, had chosen to stay behind with a new people and a new wife and the joy of the opened universe reflected in his eyes...

Jack huffed again, a self-deprecating chuckle that only the crickets might overhear.

Oh, who was he kidding?

It didn't matter if the door had been slammed shut, carefully buried behind them. He knew that there was life beyond Earth now, and he'd never look at the stars the same way again.

"Hope you're getting some good stargazing in with Shau'ri, Daniel," he murmured to the soft night, and grinned to himself. "Among other things."

He bent over the eyepiece. There was a slight scuffling on the ladder, but Jack chose to ignore it.

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U is for Unread
by [personal profile] sallymn

...Or as good as unread. Good. Bad. Whatever.

He stares at the two piles of books by his desk - a little less than clearly, since the glasses he hadn't needed during that glorious burst of alien-enhanced speed reading were hanging from one hand, gently swinging from his fingers. One pile - about twenty of them, all sizes and shapes and threatening unsteadily to topple over - have a post-it note on top, scrawled in his own hand, the writing made even more chicken-scratchy from the excitement he still remembers. Read in one night!

The other pile - about thirty, even more unsteady - have a similar even chicken-scratchier note. To read tomorrow night!! Except that the tomorrow night in question never came.

The Atenik armbands that upgraded the three SG-1 humans so well, that made them so superhuman and so stupidly reckless, that nearly killed them, are gone. And he knows better than to even mention in his General's or his doctor's hearing that he rather wishes they could try again. Just to get all the way through that beckoning, mocking to-read pile...

"S-see the point is... I can read really fast!"

No, he sighs. The point is, with the disastrous descent back into merely-human, he doesn't even remember most of what he read anyway, it had been all surface, no depth. Just as Sam had found the book she wrote - "in two hours!" - was astonishing in quantity and astonishingly absent in quality, and almost blushed her way into an even deeper decline as she deleted it from her hard drive.

He morosely twirls the glasses around by one earpiece, hooked by a finger and thumb.

It wasn't all ego - oh some of it was, for all three of them, he knows that, Sam knows that, Jack knows it too. But it wasn't all ego. He simply loves the act of reading, more than anything short of digging in dirt, loves it so much that over the years he's couldn't even begin to calculate how many books he's got through reading the normal, human, slower and okay, deeper way -

"S-see the point is... I can read really fast!"

- but as many as he does, he can't catch up. People like him always have more books than time, would even if the time was near limitless, always have a to-read list.

And with his work, his time is anything but limitless, isn't it?

Just for a short time though... he really thought, with the armband and the upgrade, he could do it. He was going to clear his to-read list for the first time since the age of what, 15? - and face the world - worlds - oh hell, galaxy - clear-eyed and totally knowledgeable and emptyhanded without those toppling piles of books he needed, wanted to get to and never, ever could, wanted to get down and just kept adding to.

With the help of an ancient technology, not have any books left to read the next day...

Daniel stops, and thinks about that for a minute. He absently puts his glasses back on, still staring and the piles that come into focus as he does so, and he reads - slowly and carefully - the titles, all those esoteric, abstruse, obscure headings that call to him from two or three thousand centuries or more, that have so much to teach or challenge or just infuriate him. And he starts to smile.

"S-see the point is... I can read really fast!"

He crumples the post-it notes, and throws them in the vague direction of the trash; still smiling, he maneuvers the two piles together into one uneven, unclearable, amazingly inviting structure of books he has to read, or read again. Sometime.

Who, after all, would want a day without any books left to come?

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V is for Vaselov (Lockdown)
by [personal profile] gategremlyn

Jack ran his fingers through his hair and cursed the endless piles of paperwork that paraded across his desk. This... this is why he didn't want to be "the man." He sighed, scrawled his signature, and reached for the next pile. A knock at the door gave him a momentary reprieve. "Come."

"Hey." Daniel stood in the doorway in a smart gray suit and tie.

"What do you want?" Jack snapped.

"Nothing. Why?"

"Everybody wants something." He waved a hand over the mounds of paper.

"Ah, the burdens of command," Daniel muttered. "And I do have a request, now that you bring it up."

"Yeah?"

"I'd like to request that people stop zatting me - especially members of my team."

"Is there a form for that?"

"I'd be willing to create one," Daniel offered.

"Fine. Create one, fill it out in triplicate, and put it on my desk so I can ignore it." Jack sighed again. "Is it time?"

"Five minutes," Daniel said. "I just wanted to know if you were ready."

"Do I have to say anything?"

"It's all taken care of. You just have to be there."

"Yeah, okay." Jack capped the pen and stood up. He shrugged his arms into the jacket of his dress blues, another reason he didn't want to be "the man."

"Who's delivering the eulogy?"

"Colonel Chekov. He's one of the few people who knows about the program and knew Colonel Vaselov."

They took the stairs slowly, Jack straightening his tie on the way down. "One of the worst things about the program is that we can't tell the families what happened."

"I know."

"The man dies a hero, and the best we can say is 'he died serving his country.' We can't even say he died saving the whole damn world."

"I know. But it's this or nothing."

Jack didn't respond because they'd rounded the corner to the gateroom. All of the teams currently on planet stood at attention, awaiting his arrival. The Russian team stood a little to one side and the gap between them and the others, while not large in terms of distance, was huge in terms of attitude.

He knew why. People needed an adversary; they needed someone to blame, and the Russians had chosen their longtime enemies, the Americans. It wasn't personal; Jack knew that, too. These men and women were under his command, and they were as good at their jobs as anybody in the room. But they were hurting. A countryman, a national hero, had died, and they couldn't tell a soul why. They felt the sting of secrecy more than anyone.

Jack spotted Colonel Chekov by the podium, his head down and his hands behind his back. Leaving Daniel at the door, he made his way to the man who had been an enemy and was now an ally if not a friend. He put out his hand.

"Colonel Chekov, I want you to know how sorry I am about what happened. Colonel Vaselov's sacrifice won't be forgotten."

"General O'Neill--" Chekov accepted the handshake but wouldn't meet his eyes."--and yet you wouldn't put him on SG1." His voice was low enough not to carry, but Jack heard the reprimand in it.

"If he'd been here long enough to go through the proper training, I might have," Jack firmed his grip, making Chekov look at him. "I have a responsibility to my people - our people. You know that."

Chekov stared at him and the handshake became almost a tug of war. Finally, Chekov sighed - a sound Jack was far too familiar with today. "I know." Their hands dropped. "Is Anubis dead?"

Jack wanted to tell him "yes." He wanted to say that Vaselov's death had also brought about the end of Anubis, but the two of them dealt in realities.

"I don't know," he admitted. "He won't be bothering us for a while at least."

Chekov nodded sharply before he walked to the podium.

Jack turned to look for Daniel, Carter, and Teal'c. He still gravitated to his team even if they weren't "his" team anymore. He found them, not in the spots they'd been assigned but with the Russians. He walked down the ramp to join them.

There was barely perceptible shift as the everyone closed ranks to honor one of their own and they became Stargate Command.

Colonel Chekov nodded again. Then he began, "Colonel Alexi Vaselov was a much-decorated Russian officer and a friend. He gave his life in the service of this planet. We who also serve gather today to honor his sacrifice ...."

Once this ceremony was over, Jack thought, he needed to have Daniel walk him through the logistics of adding another Russian team. It was time. Even if he didn't want to be "the man," maybe he could make it count for something. But for now, Jack listened.

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W is for Wordless (The Quest)
by [personal profile] misaffection

As the blue-tinted glow faded, Baal noted two things. The first was the rather obvious fact he, and SG-1, had been transported to another part of the cave system. The second, was that the Orici had not. He was unsure what to feel about that - Adria had been a complication he'd not made allowance for. On the other hand, something within the cave had tempered her abilities. He'd lost whatever chance there'd been to remove her from the equation altogether.

And now what? Were they truly closer to finding the Sangreal? The chamber Baal found himself in appeared to be a roughly hewn laboratory of sorts. The way Jackson had harped on about Merlin, he'd expected something more... grand. Not this dank, dark cavern untouched for centuries.

The old man unconscious on the table didn't allay Baal's misgivings either. He, and the Repository that Vala Mal Doran had activated, were the only things of note in the chamber. Ancient or not, Merlin was not someone Baal wished to interact with. He'd had his fill with Anubis, and were not the Ori enough evidence that no being should have such power? The Goa'uld had hardly covered themselves in glory, of that he was painfully aware, but their godhood had been more smoke and mirrors. The Ori, and by extension the Ancients, were truly a risk.

Baal eyed the Repository. It was frustrating to know the device held so much knowledge when his physiology was no more compatible than that of O'Neill. What a disgusting thought.

Dragged along with Carter's investigation of the cave system, it proved that the transporter had moved them further than Baal had originally thought. Gone were the rolling green fields. Now a barren desert stretched around them. The Stargate sat at a slight distance, with the obelisk beyond. He was impressed - the idea of beaming people through an open wormhole had never occurred to him. It was indeed an effective way to hide something.

Or it was until the person seeking had all the knowledge of the Ancients and could mentally manipulate the DHD.

The second problem was that Carter was unable to dial out. That meant taking the Sangreal should it be found was a pointless exercise - SG-1 would shoot him and reclaim it with ease. No, he would have to hold off until he'd had chance to fix the dialling device. He tried not to smirk at Carter's glance when he suggested such a thing. She knew how good he was.

Merlin was recovering when they returned. If it could be called recovering. Baal sneered at the old man's befuddlement. What a waste of time this had been!

"Oh brave knights," Merlin exclaimed, clasping the hands of one after another. "Fortune indeed does smile upon me to see your faces again."

Fortune had nothing to do with anything as far as Baal was concerned. Clearly all that time in the suspension chamber had addled the man's mind. "Looks like Merlin's drawbridge no longer goes all the way across the moat, if you catch my meaning," he quipped, quite pleased at getting in a reference to the mythology Jackson had been going on about.

"What's that?" Merlin turned at face Baal, then scowled. "Mordred. I might have known it."

If he'd known anything, it had clearly escaped him. The Sangreal was not here, nor was anything of worth. "We're wasting our time with this old fool! We need to get back to the gate so I can start reprogramming-"

"Be silent!"

Merlin waved with one hand. Baal rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to tell the old fool to butt out, but no sound emerged. He put a hand to his throat as Merlin walked away, effectively dismissing him.

"Well, how do you like that?" Mitchell said, amusement clear in his voice. "The old boy still has some tricks up his sleeve."

It seemed he had. No matter how hard Baal tried, he could not say a word. He glowered at Merlin's back. Yes, the Sangreal needed to be found, if only to remove the annoyance that were the Ancients. He half listened to Jackson trying to catch the old man up with events of a thousand years. Mitchell suggested further exploration of the cave system.

"Unless you have any objections," he challenged, shining his flashlight directly into Baal's face. He knew he could make no answer. "No? Great; move out."

Baal grated his teeth. This was ridiculous! Teal'c propelled him after Mitchell. The Shol'va seemed to be enjoying the chance to push him around. With his superior strength greatly reduced by three days without food, and the small matter of SG-1 being armed, Baal had little choice but to follow.

A narrow passageway led deeper into the caves. It opened out again after about two hundred yards into a larger cavern. Stalactites hung from the ceiling, dripping moisture into a shallow pond. Phosphorescent plants cast a weird, pale light. It was pretty enough, but they weren't here on a sight-seeing trip. Mitchell turned around and led them back, then into another section, that proved as short on any sort of technology as the first.

However Mitchell seemed determined to explore each and every crevasse. Baal tried to argue, but whatever Merlin had done was still potent. He couldn't make a single sound, never mind utter a word. Frustration roiled in his gut. Worse was the niggling sensation of helplessness - he'd always preferred words over weapons, finding the power of persuasion longer lasting than that gained by other methods. He was finding being denied that most vexing.

Carter walked beside him, her gaze curious as she shone her flashlight around. He didn't miss her small sigh when yet another passageway ended in bare rock. As she turned, her eyes met his. He hitched a shoulder, mouth twisted in a sardonic line. Hers quirked, but then she shook her head.

"That way," she murmured, indicating back the way they'd come. He rolled his eyes. Like they'd any choice in direction. Carter chuckled softly. She still prodded him into motion.

Little seemed to have been done when the group returned to the main cavern. Merlin sat with his eyes closed, Jackson and Mal Doran nearby watching him. Baal dropped to a crate. Mitchell reported their findings, or rather the lack of, then enquired what Merlin was up to. Jackson admitted he wasn't sure.

What was frustrating was they seemed happy to settle in and wait. Baal could barely believe this was SG-1, a team he knew as one of action. Surely they knew that every moment they delayed, was one the Orici got closer to discovering their location.

A hologram lit up the room. It was located about a round block, though how much was down to hidden technology and how much down to the Ancient's powers, Baal couldn't be sure. He wanted to ask, wanted to investigate for himself. He was also very interested in how they'd been beamed elsewhere - such technology could come in handy one day.

Teal'c left the cavern, to stand watch in case Adria managed to fathom out where they'd gone to. As Merlin stumbled away from the Repository, the air shimmered, putting the team on alert. Teal'c requested Carter and Mitchell's presence. This apparently meant Baal had to join them.

Outside, the surroundings had changed once again. So the device didn't just beam them to one location, but one of several. A circuit of planets, as Carter put it. Even with his knowledge of dialling devices, Baal wasn't sure how such a system could be implemented. An alteration to the DHD of course, with the obelisk as a transmitter, but finding what had been changed could take longer than they had at one place, and might even be different at the next.

All of which he could have told them, had Merlin not stolen his voice. Instead, he had to listen to Carter hoping she could fix the DHD and dial somewhere else. And then Mitchell forced him out to help her. He was nobody's assistant! Not to mention it was damn cold. The flurries of snow made it impossible to see.

Almost snow-blind and trying to operate SG-1's tiny computer device with frozen fingers, Baal quickly lost track of time. He struggled to think, never mind work, and it was all but impossible to offer any assistance when he couldn't talk to Carter. So Jackson calling them over the radio came as a relief. It sounded urgent. Baal was just glad to have an excuse to get in out of the cold.

Once inside, and able to breathe easier anyway, he found the odd tightness in his throat had gone. Whatever grip Merlin had had was gone. Baal suspected he knew why. He trailed into the cavern behind Carter, Teal'c gun in the small of his back, and looked at the old man, lying prone on the table again. This time, he wasn't breathing.

Jackson told them what had happened in the interim. When he fell silent, no one seemed to know what to do or say next. Carter moved closer to the table, gaze on the dead man. "He said, 'Good luck'?"

Baal had said those words to her once. He wondered if she remembered.

"Very strange." Mal Doran stood, her arms folded across her chest as if she were cold. Or disturbed by the series of events. "It's almost as if he knew it was going to happen."

"Which leaves us with no Sangreal and, for the moment, no way off this planet," Mitchell pointed out.

Ah the perfect opening. "I told you I can fix the dialling device." Baal didn't bother to hide his smirk as they all turned to stare at him. A petty revenge, but one he savoured. "Merlin's little trick with my vocal cords expired at the same moment he did."

"Yet another reason to mourn his passing," remarked Teal'c. The Jaffa had definitely picked up some Earth humour. Pity most of it seemed to originate from O'Neill.

"Joke all you want, Teal'c," Baal told him. "But I am the only one who can get us out of here."

He hoped. He certainly stood the best chance of any of them. Well, almost. Carter glanced at him, then looked at Mitchell. "He is good with dialling programs," she said, sounding as if the statement was a confession gained under torture. "Maybe if we work together-"

They could, now. Before it hadn't mattered whether he'd been willing to help or not - his inability to communicate had been a problem compounded by the dreadful weather. He doubted the snow had stopped, but at least he could voice his concerns now. He stepped to one side of the passageway leading outside and made a sweeping gesture with one hand.

"Shall we get started then, Colonel?"

She grinned, then looked a little shocked before hiding that behind a sigh and an eye roll. He wasn't fooled, though. For a moment, she'd forgotten who he was, had allowed herself to be amused by him. Yes, words had power.

And once the Sangreal was in his grasp, he would never be without either again.

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X is for Unknown (1969)
by [personal profile] fignewton

X: Denoting an unknown or unspecified person or thing. -- Oxford Dictionary

Daniel, leaning over Sam's shoulder, stabbed a finger at a name on the screen. "There! What about him?"

"What?" Sam frowned at the screen, disconcerted, then looked up at him.

"Michael Joseph Blassie, the Vietnam unknown in Arlington Cemetery that they finally identified last year. They reburied him in a military cemetery in Missouri, didn't they? Maybe that's our Michael."

"No," Jack said flatly.

"No?"

"No."

Daniel looked at him sideways. "Why not?"

"It's too pat. Even for time travel." Jack's grimace showed how much he enjoyed the need to make such a qualification.

"But the name..."

"There are lots of people named 'Michael' in the world, Daniel," Sam said, her voice cool as she turned back to her database search. "I know the timing seems right to you, but that doesn't mean Michael was First Lieutenant Blassie."

"Besides," Jack added, slouching back in his chair, "Blassie was a graduate of the Air Force Academy, not a long-haired Woodstock wannabe."

Daniel opened his mouth to protest the insult to the young idealist who had helped them, but stopped when a gentle hand closed over his arm.

"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said quietly, "I am certain that O'Neill and Captain Carter believe you should abandon this theory."

Daniel looked at Teal'c's still expression, so unreadable to those who didn't know him and so rich in nuance to his friends and teammates. The faint tilt of his head, the slight droop of his eyelids, it all but screamed at Daniel: Stop.

He frowned, replaying the last moments in his mind. Then his eyes widened. Oh.

This wasn't a question of civilian versus military thinking, he realized, although Daniel always had to keep that factor in mind. He knew he was a product of academia, of the Oriental Institute in Chicago and UCLA, and he often had to force himself to stop and determine whether his resistance to a military decision was based on a genuine objection or was simply a knee-jerk reaction of protest. This time, he recognized that he'd allowed his scientific curiosity to steamroller over any other sensibilities. For Jack and Sam, reducing the identified unknown of Vietnam to their long-haired friend was just short of sacrilegious. Daniel took a deliberate mental step backwards, acknowledging that this was a matter of respect.

He gave Teal'c the tiniest of nods - message received - and turned back to focus on Sam's search.

"If only we had a bit more to go on," she was muttering, her fingers flying over the keyboard. "Michael. Jenny. No last names. No idea if they got married..."

"Were they not yet married when they journeyed together?" Teal'c asked, one eyebrow raised.

"Doubtful," Jack said. "Not that lifestyle, at that time."

"Although they might have, eventually." Daniel coughed a little, choosing not to add the caveats of if Michael came back whole or if he came back at all.

"Yeah. Might have. That's the problem - too many maybes." Sam frowned. "Anyone remember if Jenny said specifically when Michael got his draft notice?"

"Just that he'd been drafted, with the implication that it had pretty much just happened." Jack thought back. "I assumed it was sometime in July, but no guarantees."

"If they were traveling on Route 66, they had to have come from the Southwest," Daniel mused. "That highway runs from LA to Chicago, so..."

"Not necessarily," Jack interrupted, a slight smirk on his face. "The bus had a Colorado license plate."

Daniel blinked at him, bemused. "And naturally, you noticed that."

"Oh, naturally."

"I suppose you memorized the license number, too?"

"PJ-2251," chorused Sam, Jack, and Teal'c.

Daniel rocked back on his heels and grinned at nobody in particular, suddenly feeling very fond of his team.

"...which was apparently registered in Arapahoe County, in Denver," Sam continued. She clicked on the mouse and called up another file. "I got that far. See?"

"Well, that's impressive," Daniel said, leaning over her shoulder again. "Can you track the owner that way?"

Sam shook her head, rueful. "The license plate was registered, believe it or not, to a John Smith in 1963. I can't find anything beyond that."

"Cars were sold and traded off the books all the time, back then," Jack explained to a bemused Teal'c, who did not look any less mystified after Daniel clarified the unhelpfulness of "John Smith" and the meaning of "off the books."

Voting records. Military records. Tax records. Sam hacked her way into whatever she could, and recruited one of the tech wizards when her own computer skills failed. The hours dragged on, fueled by coffee runs and power bars, as she searched for any clue to Michael's or Jenny's identities. The others offered suggestions, advice, encouragement.

"Are there records kept of eyeglass prescriptions, Captain Carter?"

"It's a long shot, but any arrests near Woodstock that might include a Michael..."

"Anti-war protests?"

"...not much point checking high school records when there's no guarantee he ever graduated, but let's try, anyway."

In the end, they knew nothing they hadn't known when they fled first the past, and then the distant future, to return through the Stargate to 1999. Michael and Jenny were still kind, unidentified strangers who had so generously helped four mysterious hitchhikers find their way home.

With a quiet, resigned sigh, Sam shoved her chair back and turned away from the computer monitor. She got up and stretched, her muscles clearly aching after so many hours hunched over the keyboard.

"We may have to accept that we'll never know," Daniel murmured, voicing the shared unspoken thought.

"Yeah," Jack sighed. His mouth twisted as if he tasted something sour. "Too bad we can't go back in time and ask."

Silence filled the room, heavy and unhappy, and Daniel sought a way to dispel it. Inspiration suddenly struck, and he cleared his throat. "Y'know, Jack, even if our Michael wasn't Blassie, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is still a good place for us to pay our respects. To Michael, whatever might have happened to him, and to all the... others, who were lost."

Jack looked at him sharply.

"Maybe a short visit, since we're on leave for the rest of the week?" Daniel proposed. "A team outing. Just to settle ourselves properly, in the right decade."

"That does sound most interesting," Teal'c conceded. "It is a part of your world I have not yet seen."

Sam's eyes lit at the idea, and she gave Daniel's shoulder an affectionate squeeze. "After Teal'c's cross-country drive, sir, the Pentagon can't possibly object to a quick jaunt to Washington," she agreed hopefully.

"Oh, the Pentagon can always find a reason to object." Jack's warm expression belied the skepticism in his voice. He rose to his feet. "But let's go ask Hammond and find out."

"Honoring and keeping faith with America's missing servicemen," Sam said under her breath, and Jack gave her an approving nod as he led the way out the door.

Author's note: The Vietnam Unknown Soldier, interred in May 1984, was positively identified by mitochondrial DNA testing as Air Force First Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie in June 1998 and reburied in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery by his family the following month. The Vietnam Unknown Crypt is now empty and is inscribed with the words that Sam quotes in her final line. The dedication ceremony for the new inscription did not actually take place until September 1999, eight months after the team returned from the past; but the proposal for the new inscription was already being reported by February, so I fudged a little and included it here.

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Y is for Yearning (FIAD)
by [profile] dennydj

He woke disoriented, still tethered to the realm of dreams. Soft light filtered through the slats of the window blind, enough to discern the familiar furnishings of his bedroom.

Instinctively, he reached out, his hand searching for the body that should be lying next to him, the one that had been there only hours before. But the space next to him was empty and cold, the warmth of his dream dissipating as his mind became grounded in the present.

Sha're was gone. Irrevocably lost. She had never lain next to him in this bed, in this house, and never would. But he could still feel the ghost of her touch as her fingers gently stroked his face. Could still smell vanilla and sandalwood mixed with something that was uniquely Sha're.

She had been here - but she hadn't.

Daniel squeezed his eyes shut as though it would allow him to draw her back from wherever she'd gone. Seconds and minutes passed, the light intensifying behind his eyelids. He opened his eyes, finding the room transformed by daylight, the shadows banished along with his dreams.

The jarring buzz of the phone severed the last thread tethering him to his dream world.

"Hello?"

"Daniel - briefing in forty-five minutes!"

"Hello to you, too, Jack."

"Are you still in bed?"

"No, I'm in the shower."

"Funny. Get your butt in gear."

They were scheduled to go off-world tomorrow. For some reason, he was having trouble getting excited about the prospect. He'd never find the one thing he'd always searched for. No matter how many ruins they explored or new cultures they met, they would never take the place of that 'one thing'.

"Daniel?" He'd taken too long to answer and now he had to deal with 'concerned Jack'.

"I'll be there; don't worry."

"Tick tock, Daniel."

He hung up the phone and lay staring at the ceiling. He reached out, once again finding the space next to him cold and empty.

***


Daniel turned his engine off and scanned his surroundings, realizing he was in the Cheyenne Mountain parking lot. He also realized he had no memory of the drive up the mountain. He was going to have to pull himself together or they'd decide he wasn't fit to go off-world after all. Strangely, that possibility no longer scared him.

He locked his car, passed through security, and took the elevator down to the SGC.

Daniel braved the gauntlet of the SGC corridors, passing airmen and civilians who tossed subdued greetings at him or nodded awkwardly. Finally, he reached his office where he ducked inside and shut the door. Everything was as he left it, but it felt different. The walls of books and artifacts had always been secondary to the central focus of his life, and now they held little appeal. The only indication of that focus was sitting in the wooden frame next to his computer. He picked up the photo and stared at the soft, brown eyes that looked back at him with affection.

A knot formed in his chest, twisting tighter and tighter, as though being pulled from both ends. He was no stranger to loss; was familiar with its affects. But somehow this was different. It left a deep yearning that was not going to be filled by history, or languages, or the study of ancient cultures. All of his future hopes and dreams were gone, destroyed in the blink of an eye by the blast of a staff weapon. He felt as though he'd been struck by that blast, and it left a gaping hole in his soul. He wondered if he was as irrevocably lost as Sha're.

A quick search of his desk produced his file for the briefing. Another folder was nestled underneath it, and Daniel laid his hand on it, considering its contents. He had wrestled long and hard with the decision and, despite the events of his 'dream', he was sure he was making the right choice.

Daniel gathered it up with his briefing folder, and with a last glance around his office, headed for the briefing room.

***


Everyone else was already seated around the table.

General Hammond acknowledged him as he entered and waved him to a seat. "Doctor Jackson."

Daniel gave him a weak smile and quickly filled a cup with coffee. The only open seat was the one next to Teal'c. He hesitated before pulling out the chair, setting his file and coffee on the table then sitting down.Teal'c glanced at him, giving him the slightest dip of his head, before focusing his gaze straight ahead once again.

He'd told Teal'c that he'd done the right thing, choosing to shoot... kill... Sha're. Teal'c had done it to save his life. His brain knew and accepted this - his heart was another matter.

Jack was watching him closely; most likely scrutinizing his behavior for any sign that he shouldn't be going off-world. Sam - Sam just had that sad smile that was supposed to be comforting, but instead wound the knot in his chest even tighter.

"Doctor Jackson," Hammond said, "would you - "

"Unscheduled off-world activation!"

The announcement sent everyone hurrying down to the control room.

"It's SG-11, sir," Sergeant Harriman said as they arrived.

"Open the iris!"

The SFs stood with weapons ready as the iris whirred open. A single member of SG-11 stumbled through the 'gate. No one followed.

Captain Evans, his face flushed and his breaths coming in choked gasps, looked up at the control room. "General, my team needs help."

"Where is the rest of your team, Captain?"

"Trapped, sir. In a chamber with some kind of invisible force that's hurting them."

"I'll assemble a team immediately," Hammond assured him.

"I think we're gonna need one of the archaeologists, and maybe one of the linguists, too, sir," Evans added. "The door to the chamber has some unusual writing on it, and Doctor Cole thinks there might be a code on it that will release them."

Doctor Maggie Cole was the archaeologist assigned to SG-11. She had been with the program about a year, and Daniel had worked closely with her during her orientation. She was sharp - if she thought translating it would release them, she was probably right.

"We'll send someone to translate it, Captain. Get to the infirmary and get checked out."

"Sir, requesting permission for SG-1 to do the S & R," Jack said.

The general's eyes flicked to Daniel before resting on Jack. Daniel knew Hammond was asking if he was fit for the mission. Was he? Daniel thought about Maggie, a woman he had recommended for the program. Bright, capable, young, with a family and her whole life ahead of her. She had something to live for. He couldn't turn his back on her, not if there was a chance he could help her.

"Are you sure?" Hammond asked.

Now Jack turned his gaze on Daniel, who met the scrutiny unwaveringly. Before he could speak the words to convince Jack he could count on him,his friend faced Hammond and replied, "Yes, sir. SG-1 is ready."

***


Daniel tried to focus on the symbols in front of him and not the cries of the pain-wracked people trapped just a few feet away.

Sam was occupied taking readings outside the chamber where SG-11 was being held in a brilliant white light. Jack was pacing by the door, while Teal'c stood just outside on sentry. Evans hovered nearby, not wanting to leave his teammates.

Doctor Cole had been able to give brief answers to a few of Daniel's questions, but basically, no one had a clue what had triggered the chamber to shut them inside. The writing on the panels next to the doorway appeared to be a mixture of Phoenician and Phrygian, and was challenging his translation skills.

He risked a glance at the chamber. The three members of SG-11 were all lying curled on the floor, their moans becoming softer and softer. Daniel's stomach churned-they couldn't survive much more.Maggie opened her eyes and squinted up at Daniel. Save me, she pleaded silently.

Deep, brown eyes filled with sorrow, regret... and love, looked across at him. Lips that had kissed his parted, her final words flowing out along with her life. "I love you, Danyel." And then... stillness. Emptiness. Pain. Grief. "I love you, too."

"Daniel?"

Sam's voice pulled him back to the present.

"You okay?"

"Fine. I'm fine. What were you saying?"

"That I can't find a control panel. I'm going to try disrupting the frequency of the beam and see if it will shut down."

"Good idea."

"You might want to step back."

"Right."

He backed away from the wall as Sam activated a piece of her equipment. The beam holding SG-11 wavered briefly before an arc of light shot out and struck Sam's equipment, sending her flying across the floor.

"Sam!"

"Carter!" Jack rushed across the room and knelt next to Daniel as he checked her over.

"Still breathing," Daniel announced. But she was out cold and her hands had burns on them.

Teal'c entered the room and stood over them. "What has happened to Major Carter?"

"She tried to shut down the beam," Jack explained. "We need to get her back to the SGC and get some engineers in here to figure this out."

"Jack, I'm making progress," Daniel said. "Let me stay and finish."

Evans waved agitatedly at his trapped team. "We can't just leave them!"

"We're not abandoning them," Jack frowned, narrowing his eyes at Evans before turning his gaze to Daniel. "Are you sure you can translate this?"

Daniel wasn't sure of anything anymore, but a feeling welled up from deep inside him. He wasn't going to give up; he wasn't going to abandon Maggie or her teammates. "Yes, I can."

Jack's jaw twitched under the pressure of his decision-making. His gaze turned to Teal'c. "T, stay with Daniel. Evans and I will take Carter back to the SGC."

A fraction of hesitation preceded Teal'c's reply. "As you wish, O'Neill."

Teal'c? Jack was leaving him here with Teal'c?"But shouldn't - "

"Can it, Daniel. Decision's been made. If you can't figure out the translation, Teal'c can blast them out."

"What? You don't trust me to figure it out?"

"I trust you. I just like having a Plan B."

Jack gathered Sam in his arms and followed Evans out of the building.

Teal'c dipped his head to Daniel and took up a position by the doorway.

Daniel turned back to the writing on the wall. His gaze flicked to the people trapped within the beam of light, minute twitches the only sign they were still alive.

Pushing the image away, he focused on the text in front of him. He could do this.

A pattern emerged and his heart sped up as the mix of languages gradually became clear. There was a warning, and a list of consequences for not heeding it. The beam was -

A familiar whirring sound pierced the silence. Daniel looked to the far side of the room where a space in the ceiling was opening. He forced down panic as he realized there was nowhere to hide. And if he'd read the script correctly, a Goa'uld was coming to collect whomever had sprung his trap: SG-11.

Teal'c reacted instantly, taking up a position behind a column that was the only thing between the chamber holding SG-11 and the ring platform.

"Daniel Jackson - you must work quickly!"

Daniel's gaze darted from SG-11 to Teal'c. It was suicide. "Teal'c, you can't - "

"You must hurry!"

The rings deposited two Jaffa and Teal'c fired quickly, taking them down before they had time to react. Daniel had no doubt more would be coming.

He reached up and grabbed his radio. "Jack! We need help!"

Teal'c was putting his life on the line to give him a chance. He turned back to the writing, pushing aside the imminent threat as he searched for the information he needed. Running his fingers across the raised script, he sorted and translated the hybrid text.

It was a riddle based on ancient Phoenician history, something only a priest or historian would know. Lucky for him, he fell into the latter category.

There were two control pads, one on either side of the door, each requiring its own sequence. They weren't obvious, but if you had correctly solved the riddle, easy to find.

"Daniel Jackson!"

Teal'c's warning sliced through his focus. The rings deposited four more Jaffa.

"Almost!" he shouted, turning back to the left panel and pressing the symbols he'd deciphered.

Staff weapon blasts rent the air, one impacting the wall above Daniel's head. He heard Teal'c returning fire and glanced back before diving to the other side of the doorway.

Daniel pulled his Beretta and joined Teal'c as he fired on the remaining two Jaffa. Even as they exchanged fire, the rings activated again. Daniel hit one of the Jaffa and Teal'c took out the other.

Aware he only had seconds to act, Daniel turned to the second control panel and searched for the remaining symbols. Staff fire started up again just as Daniel pressed the first symbol. Fire exploded in his shoulder and he was slammed against the door panel. It was a familiar pain, just like he'd felt years ago on Apophis' ship.

Apophis. The parasite who'd stolen Sha're. Who'd stolen his life, his hopes, his dreams. Just like another Goa'uld was going to do to SG-11. No one should have to suffer like Sha're did. A familiar rage boiled up inside him. To give up now would mean the Goa'uld had won.

Gritting his teeth, Daniel blinked the sweat from his eyes and searched the panel for the final two symbols. Behind him, Teal'c continued to defend their position - to protect him.

There - the last two. Daniel pressed them in order and the chamber shimmered just before the beam disappeared.

Silence had fallen behind him and he slowly, painfully turned, still gripping his weapon. The invading Jaffa all lay dead. Teal'c was lying sprawled on his back at the base of the pillar.

"Teal'c!"

Daniel staggered to him and knelt. A blast had hit just to the left of his symbiote pouch.

He looked up at Daniel. "Are they free?"

"Yeah, yeah, the beam is down."

"Good." Teal'c closed his eyes.

"Hey, stay with me," Daniel encouraged. "Help will be here soon."

Teal'c opened his eyes and looked Daniel over. "My symbiote will heal me, but you are also injured."

"It's not bad." Not like yours.

"Yet you were able to complete the translation and disable the beam."

"Only because you had my back."

"I will always 'have your back', Daniel Jackson."

Daniel's throat tightened. "I know that, Teal'c. I'm sorry I ever doubted it."

"I understand."

Teal'c had been ready to die for him, and to save SG-11. He'd always had Daniel's back. Daniel had just been too overcome by grief to remember that.

Moans from the other chamber pulled his attention back to where SG-11 was stirring. Maggie Cole opened her eyes and squinted as she searched her surroundings before zoning in on him.

"Doctor... Jackson?"

Commotion at the building's entrance spurred Daniel to lift his Beretta again,and hiss at the burning in his shoulder as he leaned protectively over Teal'c.

"Daniel?"

Jack appeared in the doorway, MP5 sweeping the room. Behind him, Evans did the same as they cautiously entered.

"It's all clear," Daniel assured them, relaxing. "At least for now."

They had no idea if the Goa'uld had given up or was re-grouping.

"We must go," Teal'c said urgently, obviously thinking the same thing.

"Daniel, can you help Teal'c?" Jack asked, his gaze moving from Teal'c to Daniel's injured shoulder.

"Yeah, I can," Daniel replied, his gaze meeting Teal'c's.

"Good, get movin'. We'll take care of SG-11," Jack said moving towards the chamber.

***


Daniel poked at the Jello on his tray and watched as it jiggled in the dish. Every time he'd been stuck in the infirmary, he'd been given Jello to eat, as though it had some magical property that healed. The last time he'd been here...

He closed his eyes and laid his head back against the pillow. The last time, he'd been recovering from the effects of the ribbon device, and from the loss of the person he held most dear. Magical Jello couldn't fix that - nothing could.

The curtain between dreams and the waking world blurred once again, and Sha're's beautiful face shined down as she leaned over him. His skin tingled where her fingers caressed his face with feather-light touches.

"My Danyel."

"Sha're."

"You must forgive Teal'c."

"I have."

"That is good. Now sleep, my love. I will be waiting for you."

"Waiting?"

"For you to finish your journey."

"Because it's not over yet."

"Not yet, my Danyel. Not yet."

"Daniel?"

Sha're's face faded as he opened moist eyes to find Jack standing next to his bed, looking at him with concern.

"Hey, Jack."

"You okay?"

"Yeah, fine," he replied, swiping at the dampness on his cheek. Jack watched him suspiciously. "How's Sam?" he asked, glancing a couple of beds away to where Sam was sleeping.

" Better. Fraiser's keeping her while her hands are healing."

"Good thing she woke up before you got to the 'gate."

"Yeah. She was just pissed that when we got your call, I wouldn't let her come with us."

"I bet," Daniel chuckled. "What about Teal'c?"

"Still doing kel-no-reem. Junior's just about healed him, though."

"I'm glad. It looked pretty bad."

"How's the shoulder?" Jack picked up Daniel's Jello and sniffed it, wrinkling his nose.

Daniel shifted uncomfortably. "Not too bad.Teal'c was hit worse than I was, but he'll probably heal faster."

"You'd rather have a Junior of your own?"

"Uh, no thanks. I'll just heal the old-fashioned way."

"You'll be back at it before you know it." Jack put the Jello back on Daniel's tray and shoved his hands in his pockets, his face neutral. "That is, if you want to."

It wasn't a casual statement, though. Jack was waiting for a decision. Daniel had never mentioned the contents of the second folder he'd brought to the briefing, but he was pretty sure Jack knew what he was planning to do. Did he still want to do it? Was he ready to walk away from the SGC? From SG-1? Sha're had told him his journey wasn't over yet. Maybe there really was something out there that he was destined to find.

"You and Teal'c made a good team," Jack said, apparently taking Daniel's silence negatively.

"We almost got killed."

"But you didn't - and you saved SG-11."

And it felt good. Once they'd been freed from the beam, they'd started to recover. Fraiser had checked them over and released them, only ordering them to rest in their on-base quarters until she was sure they didn't have any lasting effects. SG-11 had stopped in to see how he was doing, and Maggie had given him a gentle hug, and whispered, 'thank you'. She hadn't died - was whole and healthy, and able to return to her family. It had been worth it.

"Look, I know you're still dealing with losing Sha're. Just remember, we're here - all of us - if you need to, ya know, talk, or... anything."

Jack offering to talk? He really must be worried that Daniel would quit. It was true he was no stranger to loss, but he realized he was a stranger to sharing that loss with people who were close to him - people who were family. Maybe instead of keeping himself closed off, keeping everything locked inside, he needed to allow them in. Maybe he needed to lean on them, just a little bit.

"Are you sure you're feeling okay?"

"What? I can do the talking thing."

"Right. You avoid it like the plague," Daniel chuckled. "I appreciate the offer, but I'm not going anywhere."

"You're... you're not?"

"Nope. Let's just say that there's something through the Stargate that I think I have to be the one to find."

Jack's forehead wrinkled in confusion. "I have no idea what that means, but I'll buy it."

A shiver ran up Daniel's spine, like the fingers of a ghost.

Jack patted him on the shoulder. "Glad you're staying."

"Me, too."

Jack smiled and sauntered out of the infirmary. Daniel laid his head back on the pillow and smiled, the scent of vanilla and sandalwood and something else teasing his nostrils.

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Z is for Zebras (Legacy)
by [personal profile] sid

They drill it into you in medical school. The most likely explanation for whatever symptoms a patient presents with, is the most likely explanation. 'Think horses.' Daniel's diagnosis was clear-cut. Migraines, hallucinations, increased dopamine levels... Everything added together pointed in one direction. I called in Doctor MacKenzie. He agreed with my conclusions.

Schizophrenia.

We put Daniel away. Committed him, medicated him, stopped listening to him. The only thing that saved Daniel in the end was Machello's device transferring itself into Teal'c.

Teal'c inadvertently saved Daniel's sanity and ended up nearly losing his own life. Daniel saved Teal'c by telling us what we should be looking for.

What I learned in medical school had been of no use to anyone up to that point. My sole worthwhile contribution in the entire process was ultimately the idea to use the centrifuge to make an injection of Sam's blood safe for the rest of us. Everything else I did or said was either useless or harmful.

'First do no harm' is the other thing they drill into you in med school.

I failed Daniel in every way.

I am the chief medical officer of a command that has the word 'Stargate' in its title. Why did I assume that the mundane answer would be the right one, when my patients travel for a living to other planets?

God help me, from now on, when I hear hoofbeats, I am going to think zebras.

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Thursday, May 29th, 2014 07:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for doing this!
Edited 2014-05-29 07:52 pm (UTC)