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Thursday, November 6th, 2014 08:07 pm
My thanks to the authors who made Friendship Alphabet Soup a reality: Aelfgyfu, Annieb, Eilidh, Elder Bonnie, Fig Newton, Gategremlyn, Gillian, Immertreu, Ivorygates, Jedibuttercup, Julie, Maddersahatter, Magickmoons, Magistrate, Magnavox, Roeskva, Sallymn, Stringertheory, Tallulah Rasa, Topazowl, Thothmes, Traycer, Wonderland, and Zeilfanaat. A salute of the ladle to our new cooks, Magnavox, Immertreu, and Zeilfanaat, and much appreciation to the regulars who help make these Soups happen, time and time again. Special thanks to Stringertheory and Annieb for providing us with second stories as last-minute fills!

There are 26 stories of different friendships here for you to enjoy. This time, Friendship Alphabet Soup clocks in at over 57,000 words. Blame Credit for this goes to Eilidh, who easily breaks all Soup records with a word count of over 17,000! As this total exceeds even DW's generous limits, Eilidh's epic is incomplete. You can find the entire fic at AO3. All other stories are included here in full.

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. Expect spoilers throughout the movie and the series, and references to canonical character deaths. Ratings range from G to PG-13.

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

A is for Absinthia (Jack and Teal'c)
by [personal profile] magnavox_23

Teal'c sees Jack's figure, barely illuminated by the lights from the townhouse. Outside in the cool evening air, muted sounds from the party inside battle with the crickets' song.
Jack is seated, almost cross-legged on the grass, head tilted towards the sky. His stillness would cause Teal'c concern, but somehow he knows there is a slight smile upon the general... ex-general's lips. Jack's retirement party is still in full swing despite Jack's absence.

"You can keep staring at the back of my head, as long as you tell me I'm not thinning out on top," Jack speaks to the sky.

"You are a hirsute yet kempt warrior, O'Neill," Teal'c intones.

Jack's eyes narrow. "Get over here."

Teal'c effortlessly lowers himself to the ground, and Jack looks at him sideways.

"I envy you that," Jack gestures to Teal'c's easy pose.

"Do not," Teal'c replies firmly, "it has come at too high a price."

Jack winces in response, and turns his face once more to the heavens. Teal'c follows his gaze and looks skyward up at the few stars visible in the night's sky. He lets himself meditate on their hypnotic twinkling, awaiting Jack's next words.

"Look, I know you don't normally..." Jack trails off, producing a bottle of green liquid. Its peridot hue dances inside the glass, before settling as Jack rests the bottle before him. "Absinthe," he continues aimlessly, "Invented by the Swiss, stolen by the French..."

"It would be an honor, O'Neill, as a leader's final request." Teal'c studies the amount of liquor left in the bottle and the slight pinkness to Jack's cheeks he can see in the dim light.

"Oh, Teal'c, I haven't been your commanding officer in a long time... and what do you mean 'final request'? I'm retiring, not dying, sheesh!"

Teal'c keeps his expression open, but neutral.

"I don't like you when I'm drunk," Jack mutters to himself, and Teal'c suspects Jack has the beginnings of a pout.

"You lie poorly, O'Neill."

"Jack."

"You lie poorly, Jack O'Neill."

"No, just 'Jack'."

Teal'c is afraid his neutrality is slipping, and this is confirmed when Jack turns away muttering "sarcastic Jaffa" under his breath before taking a swig. Jack hands Teal'c the bottle, wiping his own mouth with his other hand. Teal'c nurses the absinthe, noting the contrast between the smooth glass and the embossed label. The stillness he noted in Jack when he first came outside is still present, as if he has finally found solace within. Perhaps retirement is something Jack has coveted for a while.

"What endeavours do you wish to undertake now that you will no longer be leading us into battle?"

"You know... Teal'c," Jack's tone is slow and serious. "Who knows? Maybe fish, frolic... fornicate..." Jack snickers to himself, his balance leaving him momentarily as he sways towards Teal'c at his side, throwing out an arm for support before righting himself. Teal'c steadies him also, and Jack's expression sobers quickly. "Honestly, I've come to realise that sometimes, you have to know when to let the fight go. If even for a little while in your case 'cause you're still, you know, out there. If you don't, it will eventually consume you."

Teal'c is startled by Jack's clarity and forthright confession.

"This, my friend," Jack continues, "Is a lesson that has taken me a long time to learn, and even longer for you I suspect."

"Indeed," Teal'c concedes, heartened by the wisdom in Jack's words. He lifts the bottle to his own lips and lets the fiery liquid slide down his throat and warm his insides. Fortification for the thought that he too may one day decide to let it go.

Letting his gaze drift back towards the sky Teal'c concludes, "The stars will always be there tomorrow."

"Absence in absinthia," Jack agrees, as Teal'c passes the bottle back.

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B is for Battle Ready (Catherine and Janet)
by [personal profile] sg_wonderland

"General Hammond, I have to repeat that I firmly believe this is a mistake." Dr. Janet Fraiser jammed her hands in her lab coat, clearly frustrated.

"Dr. Langford passed her physical?" General Hammond flipped through the file on his desk.

"Yes, sir, she did. However, her age notwithstanding, SG-1 could be gating into a hostile environment. Dr. Langford is..."

"An old broad?" They both turned to face the woman climbing the stairs and coming into the briefing room. "I appreciate your concern, Dr. Fraiser. But my mind's made up. I am going to the planet. I have to go."

"I would be lax in my duties at a doctor if I didn't object..."

"I realize you have no idea how healthy I am, you just have my word for the fact that I'm tough as boot leather. Very old boot leather." Her dark eyes gleamed mischievously.

"Catherine!" Daniel protested behind her. "You're not old!"

Catherine patted his arm. "Oh, Daniel, only someone as na?ve as you would say that. I am old." She turned back to face Dr. Fraiser. "Please try to understand. Ernest could be out there. I have to see for myself, with my own eyes, what happened to him. Besides, I suspect this is my only shot of going through the gate. I can't see General Hammond agreeing to let me join an SG team."

Frustrated, Fraiser curtly asked for permission to return to the infirmary.

*

Dr. Fraiser had to admit, reluctantly, that Catherine Langford had suffered no ill effects of her trip through the Stargate. No physical effects, anyway. However, the older woman was currently sitting on a gurney looking down at the hands she was constantly twisting.

Reaching out, the doctor stilled those restless hands. "I believe Dr. Littlefield will be fine, in time. He needs to gain some weight and I can't even begin to imagine how to introduce him to this world..."

"When can he go home?"

"Home?"

"I won't have him staying here any longer than necessary," Catherine snapped. "When the Air Force releases him, I'm taking him home with me."

"That...medically, I'd like to keep him at least a week. As to when he can leave..."

Surprisingly, Catherine smiled. "Young lady, you don't have to tell me anything about the Air Force; I've been battering against this wall longer than you've been alive." Her voice softened. "He should be able to see the sky and smell the grass and know that there's a whole world out there."

Fraiser smiled back at her. "Yes, he deserves that much."

"I have to...there are so many things I need to see to. He...he didn't recognize me at first."

Dr. Fraiser clutched the file to her chest. "As far as we know, he hasn't seen or spoken to another human being in fifty years. He's holding up remarkably well, given the circumstances."

Catherine ran a trembling hand through her hair. "This morning, I woke up, thinking it was going to be an ordinary day and I ended up on another planet. This has been...Ernest is back from the dead and all I can think about is whether my hair looks alright."

The two women shared a smile before Catherine hopped down from the gurney. "Dr. Fraiser, if you'll excuse me, I've got an Air Force to bully."

Fraiser wasn't about to bet against the white-haired steamroller who sailed purposefully from the infirmary. She handed off the file in her hands and went to check on Dr. Littlefield.

*

Catherine was standing at the bottom of the stairs, hands worrying her necklace when Janet appeared. "Relax, Dr. Langford, he's fine. He won't even need stitches."

"Thank heavens! When I saw the blood, I just..."

Janet led the older woman into the sitting room. "Head wounds always bleed profusely."

"I'm sorry for calling you at home, Dr. Fraiser, but I didn't know what to do. And I knew I'd never get him to the emergency room." She looked up as the maid wheeled in a gleaming cart. "Thank you, Martha."

"Shall I pour?" Janet chose not to mention the trembling hands, She fussed over the tea, the scones, commented on the tea service, giving Catherine time to catch her breath.

"This was my grandmother's service."

"It's beautiful. I'm glad you're not afraid to use it."

The twinkle was returning to Catherine's eye. "If there's anyone who should appreciate old things still being useful, it would be me."


*

"Janet. Come in, my, it's cold out there!" Catherine kissed her cheek as she handed the heavy wool coat to Martha. "I've a fire in the sitting room."

"Oh, that's lovely!" Janet warmed her hands before she sank onto the sofa and accepted a cup.

"Would you like a stiffener?" Catherine's hand hovered over the crystal decanter.

"Oh, no, thanks. I've got to pick up Cassie in an hour."

"And where is your young lady this afternoon?"

"Colonel O'Neill is afraid that Dr. Jackson is filling her head with nonsense so he's taken her to a hockey game."

Catherine laughed. "What type of nonsense does he think Daniel is teaching her?"

"Head in the clouds stuff, I think is how the colonel described it. Not enough 'useful skills', in his opinion."

"I shudder to think what Colonel O'Neill deems useful."

*

Catherine took one look at Janet's frozen expression before pouring a stiff dollop of whiskey in the teacup before handing it over. "I don't have to tell you that Daniel knows you were only doing what you thought best."

"As long as I live, I am never going to forget him crying, begging me to help him. And I know he's never going to forget that I didn't help him."

There was nothing Catherine could do but nod her head and listen.

*

"So General Hammond put a reprimand in your file? I suppose he had no other choice."

"I guess holding a gun on an alien prisoner is against some sort of regulation."

Catherine had to smile at the image of the petite doctor holding a very big gun. "I can't imagine a mother who wouldn't do everything to save her child." She couldn't help but think about the children who were only ever a dream and a wish.

*

Martha met her at the door, silently took Catherine's coat and hat. "Shall I bring you anything else, ma'am?"

"No, thank you, Martha." She watched as her employer walked slowly into the sitting room.

With a long sigh, Catherine poured tea for one.

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C is for Captured and Cooperation (Jack and Martouf)
by [personal profile] roeskva

"No! You will just get captured as well!" Martouf grabbed hold of O'Neill and pulled him down behind a large rock.

"The Jaffa are taking my team mates! I can't just let them do that!" O'Neill exclaimed.

"You getting captured with them - or killed - will not help them," Martouf insisted.

Frustrated, but having to admit the truth in that, O'Neill watched as the large group of Jaffa dialled the Stargate and walked through, taking his team members with them.

"All right, we saw the address, let's follow them!" O'Neill got up and started running towards the DHD.

Martouf hurried after him. "Wait! If you go through now, like that, you will be captured. There will be guards, so we need some sort of disguise."

O'Neill stopped, groaning. "I should never have agreed to let you come with us!"

"The Jaffa would still have attacked. The only possible difference would be that they would now have all members of SG-1."

O'Neill grumbled something barely audible about insufferable Tok'ra, but conceded the point. "Okay - I'll blame Daniel then, for always wanting to study some damn ruins!" He glared at the Stargate. "Those Jaffa - what Goa'uld did they belong to?"

"Mehen. He is an ally of Heru'ur, and previously of Ra. He is a fairly powerful, though still minor, System Lord."

"This is his planet?"

"No, as I told you during the debriefing, the planet is abandoned. It originally belonged to Ra." Martouf sighed. "A world being abandoned is never a guarantee that a Goa'uld will not send a scouting party from time to time. It was just bad luck that it happened while we were here."

"That could be motto of SG-1," O'Neill grumbled. "You said there would be guards by the Stargate. Any ideas?"

"The planet they went to is Mehen's homeworld. He is quite obsessed with security and has guards by his chaapa'ai day and night. However, there is a fairly large marketplace on his world, in the town nearest the chaapa'ai, and it has frequent visitors and traders from other planets."

"So if we go there, pretending to be traders, they won't suspect us?"

"That is correct."

"Okay, what are we waiting for, then?"

"We need different clothing, as well as some valuables so we can believably play the role - and pay the required fee to the guards."

"Fee? Sure you don't mean bribe?"

Martouf gave him a wry smile. "That is probably an accurate description."

"Okay, what then?" O'Neill said, his worry for his team making him irritated.

"What do you mean? We should go and acquire the valuables."

"I'm assuming you have a plan and just doesn't want to tell me yet. What is it?" O'Neill demanded, getting angry.

Martouf raised an eyebrow. "Contrary to what you seem to think, I am not being deliberately obfuse. I wish to rescue Samantha and the others as much as you do. I don't have a plan, but I may have some ideas."

O'Neill rolled his eyes and sighed. "Okay, what are your ideas, then?"

"If Mehen were not so suspicious, I might dress up as a Goa'uld and be able to convince him I came from Heru'ur. Then, when he mentions the prisoners, I could ask to take them to Heru'ur. This will not work here, though."

"Would that ever work?" O'Neill looked disbelieving.

"More often than you would think." Martouf said, starting to dial an address.

"Where are we going? And what were those ideas you had? Explain!"

Martouf sighed. "We are going to a planet that is knows as Wilin. It is currently uninhabited, since the climate has been growing worse for centuries, following a cataclysmic explosion caused by a weapons test done by one of Bastet's scientists. It is..."

"Stop! Dammit! Now you're going to the other extreme!"

"What do you mean?" Martouf hit the red center button and the wormhole was activated.

"Just tell me why we're going to... Will's inn, or whatever."

"Wilin, and we are going there because that is one of the places where the Tok'ra have a hidden cache of valuables and other things that might be needed for an operative. We will then go and buy clothes and such at another market."

"Ah, a stash - good idea. Lead the way!"

*

"I'm not sure I like being your lo'tar," O'Neill grumbled. "Couldn't we have found some higher position for me?"

"It was you who insist that I pretend to be a Goa'uld trader instead of a human one," Martouf reminded him. "Lo'tar is the highest rank a human can have in Goa'uld society."

"That sucks, but I do think we'll have a better chance with you as a Goa'uld. The idea you had about a distraction will work, but only if we have a man inside the palace who can break out my team while the Jaffa are... otherwise occupied."

Martouf sighed. "I suppose I agree with that. We will need something valuable to present to Mehen. For now we need to go back to Wilin. Also because I need a kara'kesh."

"Kara- what?"

"Kara'kesh. You call it a hand device."

"Well, if you know that, why didn't you just say that to begin with?"

"Then I'd deprive you of the chance to learn a new word, and that hardly seems fair, does it?" Martouf suddenly grinned.

"What!" O'Neill stared at him in disbelief, then groaned. "That's so not funny!"

"Lantash thinks it is," Martouf said, still smiling a little. He sighed. "We are both very worried for your team mates. We should hurry to Wilin and pick up the things we need, and then go to Mehan's homeworld. Several hours have passed and the longer we take to rescue them, the more time Mehan has to possibly torture them - though I do not believe he will have begun yet. He will first wish to ascertain their capture is not part of some attempt to kill him, and that may well take until tomorrow."

"That sounds a bit paranoid - not to mention self-absorbed."

"Mehan is paranoid - and all Goa'uld are self-absorbed."

O'Neill nodded. "I guess that's true. Okay, let's get going!"

*

"You're sure the explosives are set correctly?" O'Neill asked.

"Yes, I am sure," Lantash said, slightly miffed. "They will explode one hour before midnight, as we agreed on."

"And Mehan will send all his Jaffa to check on it?"

"Certainly not, but he will send most, as it is near the construction yard for his ships and he will assume it is an attack. Those remaining he will probably keep nearby, for personal protection."

"Right, and that gives us the opportunity to break out my friends! Sounds great!" O'Neill grinned.

"Yes. We will go to Mehan now, and I will ask for an audience. You must remember to behave according to your role. It is very important that you don't gainsay me or in any way argue with me."

"Yeah, yeah, I know."

"It is important that you obey me! If Mehan suspects anything we will end up dead!" Lantash exclaimed.

"I know! Relax! I've been undercover before!"

"Not like this, I am sure."

"Maybe not, but I've also done some theater, you know. Well, a school play, but almost the same." O'Neill grinned.

Lantash rolled his eyes. "Humans." He turned around and start walking with long strides.

"Hey! That sounded like it was meant as an insult!" O'Neill complained, as he hurried after the other man. "I take offense at that!"

*

Mehen was sitting on what looked to be a solid gold throne, in the middle of an opulently decorated room. The Goa'uld was wearing clothing that was exactly as flashy as what O'Neill had come to expect.

While O'Neill stayed back, Lantash walked up to maybe ten steps from Mehen, and bowed. "Lord Mehen, thank you for allowing me an audience. I am Alim, a trader in exotic and rare goods. Please accept this small token of my respect." He waved O'Neill forward.

O'Neill stepped closer to the Goa'uld and with difficulty placed a heavy, covered figurine on the floor.

"What is that?" Mehen asked, alarmed, and turned to look at his First Prime.

"I have ascertained it is harmless, my Lord," the Jaffa assured him.

Lantash pulled the covering off the statuette. "As you can see, it is one of the figurines that stood in Ra's palace on Maa'di. I assure you it is genuine - it was recovered from criminals who had stolen it after the, ah regrettable demise of the Supreme System Lord."

The figurine was perhaps 14-15 inches tall, and made of silver and gold, decorated with gemstones. It showed Ra himself, wearing a mask, and sitting on a throne, issuing orders.

Mehan stared at it for a long time, before he finally spoke. "It is... exquisite! I have seen it - and the identical one that stood on the other side of the entrance to his throne room - but I had thought it gone forever, after the palace was raided by the ha'taka." He nodded slowly. "This is truly a worthy gift, and I thank you. What is your reason for bringing it to me?"

"I wish to open a trade route. Your planet is well known for the wine you make from the rare and delicious Nuh grapes. I would like to buy twenty casks of it every three months, if possible."

"Eighty casks of wine per year? That is a lot! It will be hard to set aside so much just for you. What are you offering?"

"I understand the normal price is 500 shesta per cask, but I would expect to get a better price when I make such a large order, of course."

Mehen laughed. "You would, would you not? I believe this is something we should discuss over dinner - or perhaps tomorrow afternoon, as I have some business I need to take care of tomorrow. I will have a suite prepared for you."

"That is most thoughtful. I hope the business you refer to is not too boring. Business often is."

"Indeed, however this might prove to be interesting. My Jaffa caught some Tau'ri - and the shol'vah Teal'c. I expect their interrogation to be most revealing, as well as entertaining. I do hope they will scream well."

"No doubt." Lantash bowed. "You must inform me if you wish for my... assistance."

"Hah! As if I would share in pleasure such as that - and with a stranger! No, but I am feeling magnanimous. We will have a large and exquisite dinner tonight, with some of my best wine - so you can test what it is you are buying. I will see to it that there are music and my best dancers will perform. I will even let you have fun with a few of my skilled slavegirls later tonight, should you so wish."

"Thank you. That is most thoughtful."

"Of course." Mehen looked pleased. He turned to his lo'tar. "Have a suite prepared for the esteemed trader Alim, and if he is hungry, you will see to it that he is served something suitable." He looked back at Lantash. "Dinner is in three hours. My lo'tar will take you to your rooms."

Lantash bowed again, and after thanking Mehen one more time, he followed the lo'tar. O'Neill walked after them, a few steps behind, as Lantash had instructed him earlier.

*

"That snakehead sure is a pompous ass! If he touch as much as a hair on the head of any of my friends, I'm going to make him wish he was never born!" O'Neill exclaimed, when all the servants had left - after bringing some food and drink.

"Please keep your voice down. We cannot risk anyone overhearing something like that!" Lantash warned. He sighed. "I do agree, though, and I would gladly help you." He shook his head. "Goa'uld are always... most trying to interact with." He sat down on a chair and grabbed a plate, which he started placing a bit of bread, some cheese, and some cold chicken meat on. He was hungry, but since he would be expected to eat at the dinner later, he could not afford eating his fill now.

O'Neill snorted. "That's an understatement!" He picked up a chicken drumstick from one of the platters, and inspected it. He experimentally took a bite. "Hm, at least the food is good."

They ate in silence for a little while.

"You will not need to attend the dinner tonight, so you should try to find the best way to the holding cells, and a way we can use to get out of this place later. We will likely have to escape quickly," Lantash said, putting his plate down and reaching for a napkin.

"Yeah, I know. It's a good thing the Stargate isn't far away, because I'm guessing we'd better get through that as fast as possible, or the Mehan-fellow will order increased security there. Assuming the guards haven't found the shock grenades we hid near the Stargate, we should be able to take out those four Jaffa there, at least."

"Correct, he will order more guards to the chaapa'ai very shortly after learning of what he will think is an attack. Time will be of the essence." Lantash emptied a glass of fruit juice, then rose and walked to a mirror. He studied his reflection and tried to remove a smudge where he had happened to touch his eye makeup when he had rubbed his eyes a moment earlier. "Mai'tac! Now I have to reapply this! I hate it!"

O'Neill grinned. "But it is so you! The makeup, the jewelry... the clothes..." He got up and walked over towards Lantash.

Lantash glared at him. "Just be happy I didn't insist on you wearing makeup!"

"Oh, I am!" O'Neill threw himself on the couch. "I'll just take a nap while you have fun with the eyeliner!"

Lantash scowled as he went into the bathroom to wash his face and reapply the makeup.

*

"Wake up!" Lantash told O'Neill.

O'Neill yawned. "What? How long have I slept?"

"About two hours. It's time for Martouf and I to go to the dinner, and for you to search this place. Remember, if the Jaffa or any of the servants stop you, tell them I have tasked you with procuring different bath soaps since I dislike the smell of the ones I was provided with. It's very likely you would have no idea where to go, and so accidentally find yourself in a place where you are not supposed to be."

"Okay, so I just tell them you're ungrateful and difficult to please, and then they'll feel sorry for me. No problem."

"No, do not do that! Many Jaffa, and even some human servants at a Goa'uld court would find that to be sacrilege! In addition, many lo'tars almost worship the Goa'uld and might even wish to become hosts to Goa'uld. It would be risky and out of character for you to complain!"

"Relax, I won't!" O'Neill assured him. "They want to become hosts to a Goa'uld? Really? That's insane!"

"I concur. I will leave now. Wait a short while before you go. We meet in the antechamber of the dinner hall as soon as the alarm has been sounded. It would be reasonable for you to go there to see if I am alright, as you would worry for your master."

"Sure... and Lantash? Good luck," O'Neill said, meaning it.

Lantash smiled a little. "The same to you."

*

"What is happening?" Mehen demanded of his First Prime, when the alarm was sounding.

The second, larger explosion went off, and could be heard clearly even here in the palace, since the music had stopped as soon as the alarm was activated.

"I will find out immediately, my Lord." The First Prime hurried off, while other Jaffa came running into the room, and made a protective circle around Mehen.

"I will go see as well," Lantash said.

"Good idea," Mehen told him, clearly very nervous.

Lantash hurried out into the antechamber where O'Neill was waiting. "Well?" he asked.

"Many of the Jaffa have already run off to see what is going on. It seems to be working." O'Neill smiled.

Lantash nodded. "Good. What about the holding cells? Have you found them?"

"Yup. Follow me."

They walked as fast as they could without appearing suspicious. Fortunately, the palace was in chaos, and servants and Jaffa were running back and forth.

They went through a number of corridors and down some stairs, and here there were fewer people. No one was in the part of the palace where the holding cells were located - they had more important things to think of than the prisoners.

O'Neill lead Lantash down one more floor, and then into a corridor that ended by a large door.

"This place is built like a trap," Lantash complained.

"I agree, but I'm pretty sure this is the right way."

"No guards at least... though I do sense an energy signature nearby. One Jaffa, perhaps... as well as Samantha."

The door at the end was locked, but Lantash broke the lock with a hard burst of energy from his hand device.

"Neat!" O'Neill exclaimed.

"Thank you." Lantash pushed the door open and they entered the short corridor inside.

There were two holding cells, one on each side. One was empty, and the other held their friends.

"Hi, guys!" O'Neill said, grinning.

"Jack!" Daniel exclaimed, smiling where he was sitting on a bench that ran along the inner wall.

"Sir! Martouf!" Sam smiled and walked up to the cell door. "It's great to see you!"

"It is indeed," Teal'c said.

"Are you unhurt?" Lantash asked.

"Yeah, we're fine - some bumps and bruises, nothing worse," Sam told him.

"That is good." He looked relieved. "Please stand back - I do not have a key."

Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c hurried as far away from the door as possible, and Lantash again used his hand device to make a blast that broke the lock.

"We should hurry up," O'Neill said.

"Yes, I'm not sure how long it will take for some of the guards to show up and check on the prisoners," Lantash agreed.

"Coming," Sam said, helping Daniel to stand.

"Daniel?" O'Neill wondered, concerned.

"It's nothing - I sprained my foot when one of the Jaffa, uh, took a dislike to something I said and hit me."

"Daniel Jackson was thrown several feet," Teal'c informed them.

O'Neill grimassed. "Damn. Can you walk?"

"We have to hurry," Lantash warned.

Daniel nodded, leaning somewhat against Sam. "Yeah, I can walk... I think."

O'Neill sighed and went to help Sam support Daniel.

Lantash went ahead, holding his hand device ready to defend them, and Teal'c followed them, while looking for something that could be used as a weapon.

They made it out of the cell block and through the narrow corridor without problems, which was a relief. If anyone had met them there they would have had no other choice than to take them on directly, and with no cover.

When they had ascended the stairs to floor above, they could hear people shouting some distance away.

"Sounds like there's still chaos," O'Neill said, relieved.

"What way?" Sam asked.

"Straight ahead. We should get to a back corridor which runs along some storage rooms with stuff for the kitchen which is on the next floor. There should be a small staircase up to a room just behind the kitchen, and a door out from there," O'Neill explained.

"It would seem you made good use of the time you spent searching this place," Lantash said, starting off in the direction O'Neill indicated.

"Sure - also, one of the maids really like me." O'Neill grinned. "She even gave me some of the cake that was served for dessert!"

Lantash sighed. "I see there was no reason to worry. You would clearly do just fine at a Goa'uld court! Maybe I should suggest you to Garshaw as an operative!"

"Nah, please don't do that!" O'Neill said quickly.

They passed the storage rooms.

"Wait!" Lantash held up a hand, stopping them. "I heard something."

They stood for some moments, listening. After a little while, they could all hear distant voices - probably coming from the kitchen upstairs.

"Crap," O'Neill whispered. "We can't get out that way, if there's people there."

Lantash considered it for a moment. "If there are only a few human servants up there, then they will almost certainly not dare attacking us - particularly if I glow my eyes and say something threatening. They may inform the Jaffa later, but by then we will hopefully have escaped."

"So you're saying we should risk it?" Sam asked.

Lantash nodded. "Yes."

"I'm all for that - let's get going!" O'Neill decided.

They walked up the narrow staircase, Lantash first. They had all made it up into the small entrance room, when the door to the kitchen was opened by a young girl. She stared at them, clearly shocked.

Lantash flashed his eyes. "Kree! You heard the alarm. This world is under attack. Go and hide, and you will be safe. Go now!" he ordered.

She stared at him for a second longer, then bowed deeply. "Yes, my Lord. Immediately, my Lord!" She backed out of the room, then turned and ran, calling out to the other servants to do the same. Panic ensued inside the kitchen.

O'Neill pushed the door to the kitchen shut. "Seems our work here is done."

"Yes. We must hurry." Lantash opened the door to the outside and looked around. It was almost dark, with only a pale green moon to light up the area. Little light fell from the few windows on that side, which was an advantage, of course.

"Which way to the Stargate?" O'Neill asked, as they hurried across the backyard.

"Follow me," Lantash said.

"He - can sense it," Sam clarified. "Uh, like Hathor, you know."

"Creepy," O'Neill observed, as they left the open terrain for the relative safety of a small forest.

"Why?" Lantash wondered. "It is merely the naquadah in my blood which is reacting to the naquadah in the chaapa'ai."

"Never mind - and I'm recognizing the way now." O'Neill remarked, as they found the narrow path he and Martouf/Lantash had followed earlier. "We hid the weapons over by those large rocks, right?"

"That is correct." Lantash looked at the sky. "There are some clouds. If we are fortunate, they will cover the moon when we reach the chaapa'ai. It will mean we can get closer before the Jaffa sees us - and since they will be on high alert after the alarm, that is good."

They picked up the grenades, and walked the rest of the way to the Stargate in silence.

They had just reached the small group of trees that stood before the open terrain around the gate, when they heard noise from some distance behind them.

"Jaffa?" O'Neill wondered in a low voice.

"Yes," Teal'c confirmed.

"Damn, no time for subtleties like waiting for the clouds to cover the moon. How do you activate these?" O'Neill asked, turning one of the stun grenades over in his hands.

"Like this." Teal'c took one of them and activated it, then threw it at the Jaffa by the Stargate.

Lantash quickly flung another grenade at them, and they all covered behind the trees during the explosions. When they looked up again the Jaffa were lying on the ground, unconscious. Behind them the other Jaffa were now shouting and approaching quickly. It was obvious they had noticed what happened.

"Run!" O'Neill exclaimed.

They ran as fast as they could to the DHD, and Daniel began dialling Earth while Lantash turned to the approaching Jaffa and sent off as strong a shock wave as he could from his ribbon device. It threw them in disarray, at least.

"GDO?" Daniel asked, frantically.

"Here." O'Neill handed his to him.

"Okay - time to go!" Daniel exclaimed moments later.

Lantash fired on the Jaffa again, and then he and SG-1 all ran into the open wormhole.

They all made it through unharmed, tumbling down the ramp as staff blasts zipped past.

"Close the iris!" O'Neill yelled.

The iris closed and the Stargate shut down as they picked themselves up from the floor. Medics came running to take care of Daniel, and anyone else who might be wounded.

"Welcome back," Hammond said, walking into the gateroom.

"Thank you, General." O'Neill smiled, relieved to be back.

"You were overdue, and it looks like it was a close one. What happened?"

"It's a long story, sir," O'Neill said.

Hammond nodded. "Right. Get checked out, then we'll debrief in three hours."

"Yes, sir," O'Neill said. He turned to Martouf/Lantash. "We were going to have a team night tonight - beer, pizza, a movie or two. You know. Now, I think we probably want to get some sleep first, so we're probably doing it tomorrow instead, but would you like to join us?"

"For a 'team night'?" Martouf wondered, having gotten control from Lantash.

"Yeah. After this, you're sort of part of the team, you know." O'Neill smiled and gave him a slap on the shoulder.

Martouf looked surprised, then smiled back. "I would be honoured. Thank you."

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D is for Don't Touch (Cam and Daniel)
by [profile] elder_bonnie

A waterfall of grainy dust fell away under Cam's fingers. He stepped away from the ancient stone wall and hastily brushed his hand against his BDU's, casting a nervous glance at Daniel.

The good doctor didn't look up from his notes. "Don't. Touch."

"Sorry," Cam offered, looking over the wall again. It was covered in some pretty intricate carvings - symbols and decorative filigree that Daniel assured him were all part of the same language. It was a language he was having apparent difficulty identifying, however.

"How's it coming?"

Daniel grunted and lifted his head to squint up at the wall. The alcove they stood under was all part of the same open-air stone structure, and the sun was just past its zenith, casting short but sharp shadows.

"That good, huh? Anything I can help with?"

"Yeah." Daniel looked back down at his notes. "You can stop talking."

Cam raised a hand in surrender and stepped away, turning to look out over the field of rubble and ruins they were in the midst of. "I wonder how the silt deposits analysis is going," he wondered aloud, trying to imagine Teal'c standing in watch, equally bored, as Sam collected river silt on the other end of the valley.

"You still think this is more exciting?" Daniel asked with good humor.

Cam turned back toward Daniel and the wall. "Eh. I didn't wanna get my boots wet." One of the designs looked a bit more deeply engraved than the rest and its shape made Cam think of a doorknob. He lifted his AK-47 and poked it gently.

The wall snapped as if on a spring lever and whirled around impossibly fast, rotating 180 degrees. Daniel was hit with the far left side and thrown toward Cam, his body slamming into the unadorned wall behind them. The ground under Cam's feet seemed to be connected to the mechanism and he was lurched forward, the wall crashing into his pack and throwing him into the pitch dark.

*

"Mitchell!"

The voice seemed to be coming from very far away. Muffled. Distorted. Cam groaned and put a hand to his head, trying to open his eyes.

Except his eyes were open. They were open wide, trying to draw in any tiniest bit of light they could. But he was in complete blackness.

"Cam, can you hear me?"

He almost couldn't make out the words, they were so muffled. Cam coughed, cleared his throat, and shouted back, "Yeah, I'm here."

A brief pause. Then, "are you okay?"

Cam felt around him, trying to sit up. Nothing felt broken, but his neck was sore from whiplash and his right knee and wrist were tender from landing. The ground beneath him was the same dusty stone he had been standing on outside. He stretched a hand forward, coming into contact with what he assumed was the wall. He could feel the same grooves and etchings of symbols he had seen when on the other side.

"I think so," he called back. "Bit of a crick in my neck, but otherwise fine."

"Can you push the same button? The one you weren't supposed to touch?"

Cam snorted and rose to his knees, gingerly feeling along the wall, trying to find the same shape he had seen before. The awkward doorknob. "Hang on."

It took a few minutes, but he eventually found what he was sure was the symbol. He pressed gently with his forefinger.

Nothing.

He pressed again, but there was no movement, no sound.

"Cam."

"I pushed it. Did anything happen?"

Another pause. "No, nothing happened over here. Are you sure it's the right one?"

"I'm positive," he called back even as he continued feeling around with his hands. He came to it again and pressed it, just to be sure. But the wall remained immovable.

"Jackson, how do I get out of here?"

*

The sun was three quarters of the way across the sky and the shadows were growing long. Daniel sat with his elbow on his knee and forehead resting on his palm, head at an uncomfortable angle as he looked at his notes. There were no symbols on the new side of the wall that had presented itself. The stone was smooth and flat and frustratingly devoid of anything resembling writing. All Daniel had to reference were what few notes he had managed to take.

"Okay, what's the next one?" he called.

After the initial shock of the situation wore off, Cam had eventually remembered that he had a flashlight and had been trying to help Daniel with further translation efforts. But it wasn't going too well.

"It looks like an upside down pitchfork with two mirrored S's and a really stretched out H."

Daniel closed his eyes tight and shoved his pencil into the crease of his notebook's open pages.

"Jackson?"

"Hang on."

"Listen. I know this maybe isn't your preferred route here. But can I just shoot the damn thing?"

Daniel's eyes snapped open and he glared at the blank wall. "You're not going to destroy an entire structure because you were stupid enough to poke things you weren't supposed to."

"Jackson, come on! We aren't making any headway here, it's just a wall!" There was a brief pause in which Daniel drew his legs together and rubbed his face with both hands. Cam continued, "I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm all for preserving significant archaeological finds and studying them for the benefit of Earth and your log book, but you said yourself you couldn't figure out the language."

"That doesn't mean anything."

"Doesn't mean anything?! Jackson, you are the best damn linguist this side of the universe, if you can't figure out a written language in five hours, I bet my great aunt's ashes it's not an actual language. Hell, it could be ancient finger paintings for all we know."

"Then why was the wall booby trapped?"

Another pause.

*

Cameron was getting a headache. He had turned his flashlight off to preserve the battery, but he was getting more and more trigger happy by the minute. The last thing he wanted to do was piss Daniel off, but things were getting ridiculous. He did admire the doctor and his skillset. He had already saved his life on a number of occasions. But he was beginning to see why Colonel O'Neill and Daniel butted heads so often.

"I don't know why the wall was booby trapped," he called through the stone. "But I've felt all over this closet space and haven't found a single death trap. Or treasure chest," he added. "I think it's safe to say whoever put this in place is long gone, along with whatever they were trying to protect."

There was a muffled, longsuffering groan through the wall.

"Jackson?"

No response.

"Jacks-"

"Shut up, I'm paying my last respects."

*

The sound of gun fire was oddly tinny until the bullets burst through the thin stone at last, echoing loudly and shattering the wall across the alcove floor and peppering the wall across the way. To his credit, Cam stopped after there was a large enough hole to work with and punched a few smaller pieces away, dropping his gun, then his pack through, then climbing out one limb at a time. Dust covered his hair and shoulders, soon coating the rest of his uniform as well.

Daniel merely watched, arms crossed, as Cam got himself free and readjusted. He hoisted his pack, eyeing Daniel cautiously while reclipping his AK-47 and brushing some of the dust off of his shoulders. He got himself settled, sniffed, shrugged his shoulders and faced Daniel squarely, standing with as much esteem as possible.

The silence stretched for a time. The shadows grew longer. A tumbleweed bouncing along in the background would not have seemed out of place.

"....You mad?"

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E is for Energy (Daniel and Skaara)
by [personal profile] immertreu

Daniel Jackson had been on Abydos for more than a month, but more often than not he still felt like a stranger among these people he now called family. Sha're, Skaara and Kasuf had welcomed him with open arms, but Daniel still had trouble accepting everything that had happened to him in such a short time.

He had been vindicated, traveled to another planet, incited a rebellion and killed a "god", and, most importantly, he'd found the love of his life.

Sha're was a wonder to him, perfect in too many ways to tell. She knew his heart like no one else. She loved to tease him, too, but she also taught him everything he needed to know in this new environment. Daniel was no stranger to sand and wastelands - his travels with his parents before their untimely deaths had often led them to equally hot and dirty digs in Egypt and Jordan - but Abydos' dangers were different from that of Earth's deserts.

Therefore, wherever Daniel went, someone made sure to follow him and keep an eye on the curious but sometimes oblivious member of their tribe that had suddenly appeared in their midst. Sha're would never forgive her family and friends if anything were to happen to her new husband. There were still predators about, even though Ra and his minions had perished.

Inwardly grinning at the thought of a furious Sha're demanding why her husband had fallen prey to a sandworm or walked off a cliff, Daniel slowly made his way up a dune right outside the city gates and looked down the slanted slope facing away from Nagada. He didn't want to go far, he just needed some space for himself, a place to think.

Today it was Skaara's turn to follow Daniel, and although he had pretended not to notice the younger man trailing him, Daniel sighed and waited for his brother-in-law to join him on the crest of the sandy hill.

Skaara grinned when he caught up with his new brother. He wasn't in the least intimated by the unwelcoming stare and stiff posture the other man adopted. Jack O'Neill had been much more scarier when they first met.

They stood in silence for a while, each lost in their thoughts, until Skaara tugged on the wide sleeve of Daniel's new tunic that Sha're had finished for him only last night Curiously, Daniel turned to Skaara and then followed the younger man's outstretched hand. He was pointing toward some kind of smaller building nestled against the outer wall of the city they had just left. Skaara was right; they should find some shelter and not stand around in the middle of the desert in the midday heat. So when he spun around and started clambering down the dune, back towards Nagada, Daniel followed him.

Communication with the people of Abydos had remarkably improved since Daniel's first halting - and disastrous - attempts at speaking with them, but Skaara was still shy to try out his new language skills with Daniel. He wasn't coy, per se, but he preferred to master a new task before showing it to others. He was a little slower in picking up Daniel's English terms than Sha're, for example, but he was a good student when he put his mind to it. Still, he chose his words very carefully, some might even say wisely.

Daniel silently approved of this tactic. He knew he could learn a lot in that regard from his younger companion. Grinning ruefully - his mouth had gotten Daniel in more trouble than he could recount in this life - he walked on in Skaara's footsteps.

They made their way to the hut huddled against the palisade surrounding the city, Skaara leading the way and Daniel looking around in wonder, as always. He still hadn't gotten used to this place. His home. Such a strange concept for someone who had been shoved around from foster home to foster home in his youth, and even ended up on the street as a young, brilliant but shunned academic because he couldn't pay his bills anymore.

Swallowing thickly, Daniel admonished himself for dwelling on his current situation - after all, no one had forced him to stay. On the contrary, he had been more than happy to leave his miserable life on Earth behind and start fresh with Sha're and her people. Yet sometimes he couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if he had gone back after all. Would his peers in the academic community finally have accepted his claims? Or would the military have forbidden him to publish anything at all, put him in a dark room and told him to shut up for the rest of his life? Would Jack O'Neill have remembered their newfound friendship and grudging respect for each other or abandoned him the moment they stepped out of the other side of the gate?

Daniel shook his head to clear his thoughts and suddenly felt a little dizzy. The heat of the day had leeched him of more energy than he had realized.

Skaara stopped right outside the small building they had been aiming for and waved Daniel inside, picking up on the newcomer's heavy breathing and the sweat on his brow. Daniel knew he would get accustomed to his surroundings within a few weeks, but it still stung him to be so weak sometimes. At least his allergies were finally going down! It seemed there wasn't much here that even his huffy senses could be allergic to anymore. Well, as long as he stayed away from the mastages, the huge beasts of burden that, incredibly, had taken a liking to him and tried to lick him whenever he came near.

Grateful to arrive in the cooler interior of the tiny, unoccupied house, Daniel sank against the left-hand wall and dug out the canteen Sha're had forced on him the moment he went out on his first investigation of his new home. "Never forget this!" she told him. She had been right, of course. Water was life in this world.

Skaara entered the hut a few seconds later and closed the flap that served as the door. Now the midday heat was kept outside, but the interior of the windowless, one-room building was hard to make out. He took out the lighter Jack O'Neill had given him not so long ago and set about building a small fire with dried dung and a few tiny sticks he always kept in his belt pouch for such a purpose. Neither of them was carrying an oil lamp or something resembling a light because there had seemed no need for it in the middle of the day.

In moments like this, Daniel missed his old life. Comforts like flashlights and running water would have been wonderful additions to this relatively primitive lifestyle, yet Daniel didn't crave them too much. There were always other ways. Even the lighter wouldn't have been needed, but Daniel knew Skaara loved to show off his new tool. He just hoped the younger man wouldn't run out of fuel too soon. There would be no way to refill it - ever.

Sighing, Daniel closed his eyes, the canteen still in hand, and listened to Skaara work. He started when he heard his brother-in-law's voice in the stillness of the uninhabited hut.

"Dan'yel?"

Slowly, he opened his eyes again and found Skaara looking at him from his place by the tiny fire he'd created in the middle of the room. "Yes?" he asked, curious by his companion's tone. Normally, Skaara was full of life and laughter, not unlike his sister, but right now he sounded pensive and serious. Daniel cleared his throat and tried again. "What is it, Skaara?" He knew his pronunciation of the Abydonian words was slightly off by the grin on Skaara's face, but then the smile fell away and got replaced by a ruminative look.

Skaara spoke haltingly, groping for words he had just learned. "I know what this..." he sighed and raised the lighter in his hand, "...does, but how?" He stared at it as if he had never seen it before.

The Abydonians knew of modern technology, of course, but they had never learned to build for themselves any of the helpful tools their "god" possessed That had been reserved for Ra and his followers. His slaves had to work by hand, with either the simple instruments they were given or could create from their surroundings.

Daniel got up and slowly walked over to their impromptu campfire, trying to figure out how to put something into words he had never tried to explain before. He sat down next to Skaara and gently took the Zippo from the younger man's hand.

"O'Neill told you that we call it a 'lighter', yes?"

Skaara nodded, and Daniel continued. "We call it that because it creates light. It takes fuel which we fill inside, and makes it burn." Seeing Skaara's blank look he added, "Fuel is a liquid, uh, substance, a little bit like water or moonshine." Both of them grinned, remembering their hidden distillery in one of the lesser used storerooms at home. "It burns, like wood or dung."

Daniel winced at his own inadequate explanation and hurried on, "Inside this..." he raised the lighter for emphasis, "...is a small stone and a wheel, similar to the tools you have, when you use two rocks or sticks to make a fire."

Skaara nodded. This he understood, at least in part. "But how does it make light?" He stopped and thought for a moment. "No. I mean, how does it make fire? And why doesn't it get hot?" He was switching to Abydonian now, trying to understand a foreign concept that wasn't that strange at all - just different from the methods he knew.

They stared at each for a moment until Daniel spoke again, searching for simple words. "When you press the lever, uhm, the button, the stone and the wheel inside the lighter rub against each other and create energy which has to go somewhere. The fuel wants to burn, and because the spark needs to escape, you get a flame...fire. And it doesn't get hot because the fire is at the top, not at the bottom."

Daniel chastised himself, knowing his explanation was seriously lacking, but he didn't know how else to explain it at this moment, with their limited vocabulary in any common language and, if he was honest with himself, his own lack of knowledge of Zippos. Damn O'Neill and his top-notch equipment. He could at least have added a manual! Daniel almost snorted at the ridiculous notion. He was a doctor, yes, but one of archaeology and linguistics, not physics!

Skaara nodded, though, grasping the basic concept if not the sketchy details. Then he suddenly held out his hand, so Daniel handed back the lighter the younger man so clearly cherished.

"Does O'Neill know how this works?" Skaara hesitated and corrected himself, "No. I mean, did he know how much it would be of use to us? That it gives life and warmth and comfort to our people?"

Daniel started at the sudden leap in logic. Then again, Skaara's idea wasn't that farfetched. The lighter made building fires that much easier. It also created heat, gave much-needed light, was handier and easier to carry around than a staff-weapon, and also held a special place in a young man's heart. It was a reminder of the battle the Abydonians had fought for their freedom. It was a force to be reckoned with. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Daniel smiled and shrugged at the same time, not willing to commit to an answer on O'Neill's behalf, but strongly suspecting that his grumpy friend had known the Zippo would be much more than a simple memorabilia for Skaara and his tribe.

Skaara nodded knowingly and grinned. Then they settled back and looked into the fire once more. The flames were small enough as not to give off too much heat, but bright enough to illuminate their refuge. In fact, it was perfect for this peaceful moment spent in companionable silence.

Daniel's thoughts turned back to his former life, and he compared it to his current one. The lack of warmth and love he had experienced on Earth after his parents' deaths, the blazing heat and simple acceptance he had found on Abydos after many struggles and pain - they lay worlds apart. Literally.

Sha're's face rose before Daniel's inner eye, and he smiled. His beautiful wife was the reason he had stayed behind. She was smart and funny, willful but kind and compassionate, radiating energy and life. She was everything he had ever dreamed of - if he would have allowed himself to think of his future in such uncertain terms. Chuckling about his own sentimental foolishness, he felt Skaara's eyes on him and got up with new vigor in his movements.

"Come on, Skaara, let's go home."

Sha're was waiting. And Daniel suddenly knew he would be all right. These people loved him the way he was, and he loved them in return. What could ever go wrong?

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F is for Flummoxed by the Fourth Race (Daniel and Robert)
by [personal profile] sallymn

"So I don't think it's an alien Book of the Dead," Robert said slowly, looking at Daniel over the top of his glasses. "Rather a pity, I have to say I prefer aliens that way. What do you think?"

Daniel blinked. "I'm thinking that if you and Dr Fuentes," he gave a brief, disbelieving thought of the fruitbat-faced senior linguist working with Robert on this one, "are giving a report on this to General Hammond in the near future, I want to be there."

Robert frowned. "Well actually..."

"Robert, I wouldn't miss it for the world."

Respect and esteem Hammond as he truly did, Daniel could not resist the prospect of the preternaturally unflappable head of Stargate Command having to keep a straight face as he absorbed the news about the piece of archaic alien apparatus acquired so proudly by SG-2 and being studied so carefully, so thoroughly and oh-so-slowly by Rothman, Fuentes and their little team. Yes, it was definitely made by the Furlings, the last of the 'Alliance of Four Great Races' (they'd met two of said races, the Asgards and the annoyingly perfect Nox, and Daniel had his suspicions that he at least now knew an Ancient) and the only one for whom they were still totally unable to crack the written language or the sparse, rarely found contraptions. But no, it was not only not anything the military could use for good or bad - aka weaponry - but it wasn't even the highly esoteric but reasonably respectable cache of ancient information and lore that they'd believed.

SG-2 would be almost as disillusioned - if not as appalled - as Sam would. But to be fair, Daniel mused, determinedly not thinking about Sam as he studied the alien lettering that covered both pictures of the device and of the decaying site it had been found on, it was certainly helping with the deciphering of the language. And it was helping to keep his mind off his missing team for - oh, what was it now? Forty minutes? That had to be a record over the last seven days...

General Hammond, egged on by his CMO, had ordered the entire SGC to keep Daniel distracted while he was recovering from surgery and fretting about the rest of SG-1, wherever they had vanished to while he'd been too busy getting over the surgery to be with them. Daniel knew that, and appreciated the way academic and military alike were doing their collective best to obey... and failing miserably, almost as miserably as Daniel was doing distracting himself.

The Rothman-Fuentes report, hundreds of pages on what was proving to be a technological Enquire-Within-Upon-A-Highly-And-Unexpectedly-Specific-Everything was doing a way better job.

He leafed through the pages and pages and pages of closely typed wordage Robert had brought him. His favorite kind of words (though to be honest, he loved most of them): convoluted, complex, deeply immersed in both conjugate theory and application and xenohistorical archaeological speculation... and best of all, lots of them, spilling lavishly across the pages and running like balm across his mind.

He needed this so much right now. Dr Frasier and the medical staff might frown and mutter about overdoing it and overtaxing himself and shouldn't he rest and not think too much? - but Robert, more than anyone in the SGC, knew better. Not thinking too much wasn't an option, so thinking too much about something he liked thinking too much about was... a better one.

Definitely.

Daniel's fingers traced over the photograph of the lettering, which completely covered the cigar-shaped something that Ferretti's team had dragged back (it was, to be fair, a seven-foot cigar-shaped something) from P5F-44F. Just on the surface alone, there was definitely more Furling that they had collected in all the SGC's history, and that was before someone with an annoying habit of fiddling with priceless artifacts had, err, got it working (Jack would never ever let his two scientists forget the month they and their people had spent trying to make it do anything before that, or admit it was sheer dumb luck on his part and damn it, he was not thinking about Jack) and found it to be some sort of alien almanac, a non-lethal treasure trove of a kind.

Masses of historic information about long dead alien races and - they'd thought - their religious and funerary beliefs. Robert and the other archeologists had been thrilled to take it on and - maybe a little too well taught by Daniel himself - had found no less than fourteen excuses to return to the planet.

Daniel wasn't jealous. He wasn't. And he also wasn't thinking of the way Teal'c would quirk an exasperatingly loquacious eyebrow of disbelief at him when he said he wasn't.

"Well," Robert repeated, "actually, we - that is, the whole academic staff, everyone who's read it - thought you might like to take the lead on presenting this to the General."

Daniel stared at him. "Me? Why me?"

"Because you're the senior archeologist and the head linguist, and the foremost expert on Furling to date and... well yeah, okay. Because the General won't fire you."

"Robert -"

"He likes you."

"He doesn't dislike you."

"Right."

"And neither does Jack. He's just..."

"You've said it before, Daniel. Intimidated because I'm way smarter than he is." Robert snorted. "He hides it well, you've got to admit. Anyway, that's not the point."

"The point is, Robert, that you and Fuentes and your assistants did the work on this and deserve the credit."

"Or blame. Be honest, Daniel, they weren't happy when we - or rather you -"

"- Because you found a pressing need to be six floors down in the storage levels!"

"- When you told them we thought it would be a treatise on funerary practices of several hundred long-dead alien races," Robert continued calmly. "They only let us keep going with the survey because you then convinced the Air Force that it was still - what did you call it?"

"Socio-political documentation and xenoanthropological analysis with possible applications to contemporary prospective engagements with civilizations that evolved from the source cultures outlined, unquestionably germane to any realistic benefit expecting from interaction with..." Daniel paused. "I don't recall the rest."

"Neither would the brass, probably. You know, you're good."

Daniel shrugged.

"Anyway, you were the one who persuaded them that it would help us actually decipher Furling and about all the benefits that would bring if the SCG ever finds anything from them useful to the military mindset."

Daniel winced at the sardonic swipe at their paymasters: never mind that he thought - and said - much the same sometimes, Robert could be almost as tactless as Jack (not thinking about Jack, remember) and as blunt as Teal'c (or about Teal'c, damn it). His friend didn't notice, but went on carelessly. "Look, you agree we should keep going with this."

Daniel was tempted, he couldn't deny it. No matter what the content of this encyclopedic alien source, it was pretty much a Rosetta Stone for that mysterious language.

Though if he was honest, he really would love to hear Dr Fuentes describe it that way to an assembly of canny, suspicious, hard-nosed top military brass. A Rosetta Stone from Outer Space.

And she would too.

"The General will listen to you, Daniel." Robert interrupted his thoughts. "Hey, the Pentagon probably listen to you, well, sometimes, if you talk at them for long enough."

Daniel, staring down at the final paragraphs of the Rothman-Fuentes report, could well believe that it. Hammond and the Pentagon - maybe even the President - would be struck dumb at first, and he had to admit, a struck dumb audience could be quite useful if he had to talk very very very fast to get his way...

He looked at Robert suspiciously. "And when do you think I should do this?"

"Oh fine, not until you've read it all... which will take you, let's see, 600 pages?"

"Plus indices."

"I like indices."

"I know."

"Fuentes likes them even more."

"I've noticed."

"And be honest, Daniel, you like them most of all. I proofread your dissertations, remember? So we can see about briefing the General in two days, you should have it finished by then."

"Of course, what else do I have to do?"

Robert - in a rare flash of tact - didn't touch that, or the slightly fragile voice it was said in. Daniel had a suspicion that his friend, never one to think even slightly positive, was not holding out much hope for the rest of SG-1's return. That wasn't really a problem, though, and less painful than all the people who kept thinking and talking positive at him.

Robert didn't get on with the military, or most of the hard science people, many of the linguists and anthropologists and... to be honest, pretty much anyone up to and including the catering staff, and didn't really care. Daniel had never regretted bringing him to the SGC though, he loved having Robert here as a colleague and a sometimes needed break from the military mindset (no matter how much he cared for his team and no, he still wasn't thinking about any of them, sometimes he needed to connect with someone like Robert - or Fuentes - as alien to his team's mindset as, well, the Furlings might be) and as that sounding board and reminder of where they had both come from.

Archaeology.

Ancient languages.

Amazing slices of past life just like this.

"All right, I'll open the briefing," he said, "and help it along. But the actual presentation, you'll have to share between you." It would certainly be a distraction and a half - if he needed it by then. Maybe he wouldn't.

Maybe SG-1 would be back together again, but he'd do it anyway, for Robert.

"Ahh... okay," and Robert looked as if he hadn't expected even that much, "as long as you can convince the General that it's, well, just as useful as a linguistic and deciphering aid and -"

"Rosetta Stone from Outer Space?"

"If you want." Robert looked at him warily. "You don't, do you?"

"Ahh... no. Definitely not." Actually yes, but Daniel was already planning to suggest to Fuentes that she do the honors with that one.

"You know," and Robert's expression was a bizarre mixture of gloomy foreboding and academic pride, which Daniel, after all these years with the SGC, totally understood, "Fuentes spent nearly six weeks trying to work out all the different terms and synonym usages for frottage alone, something like seventeen hundred when you add up all the different races. It's pretty amazing how differently they all -"

"I'm sure, Robert." He tried to imagine the General being told that, and almost forgot his team and his worry for oh, at least a minute and a half at the mental image.

Not an alien Book of the Dead, but more a Furling Kama Sutra, in astonishing and sometimes blessedly incomprehensible depth, detail and deliberation. Somehow, Daniel thought as he flicked through the opening paragraphs - all methodology, dry and verbose and oh so innocently giving no hint of what was inside - he shouldn't have been surprised.

He was obviously going to have to hone his arguments about relevant applications with contemporary offworld civilizations, but that wouldn't be hard. The principal was the same, even if the source material was about sex rather than death.

Robert paused, shrugged and gave a half-smile. "It's all in there. I'll leave you to it, oh, and Daniel...?"

He looked up.

"Maybe I don't get on with him - with them - and I guess I hope they're back soon. But -"

"Don't invite them?"

"Uhh, yeah."

"I won't."

"Great, great. I'll just... come back tomorrow then." He gave a slight wave, and left, probably already trying to work out how they were going to do this.

Daniel lay back, ignoring the slight pain from his scar, and picked out the page in which SGC staff had spent weeks tracing the complexities of symbolism and graphic representation (unfortunate terminology there, yes) for a myriad of alien expressions for various forms of...

Oh, now that was fascinating. He read a little more, trying to imagine... no. Physically impossible, at least for humans or any other race he knew of. Which meant a new (totally new, as his normally vivid imagination faltered and failed) physiology for xenobiologists to get excited over, and that would bring the life science division in on his and Robert's side.

And at least they could now spell fornication in Furling now. And he would never admit it to Jack - or Sam or Teal'c - or Hammond or even Robert himself - but to himself? Yes, honestly - whether from linguistic passion or a galactically-honed sense of the ridiculous - he actually loved the fact that they could.

He sent a mental note of thanks to Robert, and all of the people who had at least tried to help him through this week, then settled down to read, knowing that he really could lose himself in the words, almost deep enough to forget the worry, maybe long enough that they'd come home and the worry would be over.

Maybe a Rosetta Stone in Outer Space wasn't such a bad idea after all.

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G is for Giving (George and Janet)
Those Who Give the Most
by [profile] annieb1955

It's not the first time he's sat here. It's become something he's had to do rather more often than he wants to. Usually though he's not sitting vigil alone. Today he's chosen solitude over support. He wants to pay tribute in his own quiet way, away from those he knows are grieving just as much as he is. He's supposed to be in charge, stoic and strong, and he needs to present that face to the rest of his people. They rely on that quiet strength of purpose of his. But he can't quite find that stoicism within himself today. Not just yet. He'll dig deep and find it later, plaster a layer of authority over the sorrow and the inevitable guilt he knows he wears plainly on his face. Later. Now he just wants to lower his defences and grieve for his friend.

He covers her hand with his own, squeezes it gently. Such small hands for one who'd done so much with them. With these hands, now cold and still, she'd given caring and kindness; healing and mending broken bodies at times against almost insurmountable odds. He's seen those hands bring comfort to small scared children, perform delicate and intricate surgery on the wounded - both friend and foe alike, convey friendship and empathy to colleagues and all those she'd cared for.

She'd been a doctor, an officer, a soldier, a mother, and a friend. She'd packed so much love and laughter and living into her far too short life. He'll miss her wise counsel, her smile that touched her wide expressive eyes, her kindness. He'll miss her, all that she had been and all that she had yet to become. There'll be no dancing at her daughter's wedding, no grandchildren to take into her welcoming arms and heart. And he rages against the unfairness of it all.

"I'm sorry," he says, finally breaking the silence of the quiet cubicle where he sits shielded from the sympathetic, sorrowing gazes of those who'd also known and worked with her. "This isn't right and it isn't fair. You had so much left to give. If I could have sacrificed myself for you, I would have in a heartbeat." He can almost hear her voice whisper, "I know" in his mind.

"I'll keep an eye on Cassie for you," he goes on, "we all will. She's one of us, part of our family. And she'll be just fine. She's a strong young woman, a daughter to be proud of. You did a wonderful job raising her. But you know all that."

He leans forward and brushes her still lustrous hair away from her forehead. "What you don't know, what this General finds so hard to say to those lost under his command, is how much I'll miss you. You were more than a trusted colleague, much more than a valued officer. You were my friend."

He stands up, wipes a hand roughly across his tear-damp eyes then salutes her. "Vale, Major," he says, his voice broken and rough. He reaches out and pats her hand one last time. "Goodbye, Janet."

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H is for Home (George and Jack)
by [profile] zeilfanaat

It was with a weary sigh that Major General Hammond started his walk towards his own front door. He loved his job as the head of the SGC, even if it had cost him the few hairs he'd had left at the start of his assignment here. He just wasn't particularly fond of having to go back to the mountain when he had his two granddaughters over. Why couldn't this crisis have cropped up tomorrow or yesterday?

No, scrap yesterday. Yesterday had had its own crises. Come to think of it, tomorrow probably would have plenty as well. Still, was one crisis-free day too much to ask?

Perhaps he should have anticipated it. With Jack on medical leave, Colonel Reynolds in the infirmary, leaving Dixon in charge, it was almost like taunting fate to expect an uninterrupted day with the girls.

And of course, this just happened to be one of those days that neither his daughter nor his son-in-law would be able to come back straight away. He'd hesitated for a moment, considering the Colonel's injuries, but still went ahead and called him. Tessa and Kayla trusted Jack, and more importantly, Hammond trusted him.

His musings had brought him to his front door, and he paused there for a moment. He wondered if Jack would have started dinner preparations yet. The few times the Colonel had ended up looking after the girls around dinnertime, he actually had. In this case, George thought the twisted knee and bruised ribs would have kept the man from making the effort. To be perfectly honest, George didn't feel much like cooking either today. They would probably order take-out.

Already running through a mental list of what kind of take-out the girls would like, he opened the door. Immediately a waft of a very recognisable dish came to greet him, along with the sounds of giggles and the gruff voice of his Second in Command.

He walked to the kitchen, where he paused in the doorway to take in the sight. Kayla was on her knees on a chair, in front of the kitchen counter, apparently rolling out some dough with a dough pin. Tessa was at the stove, carefully stirring what smelled like a tomato sauce. Jack had seated himself at the kitchen table, close to the stove to take action if necessary. A couple of ingredients were spread out on the table, most already cut, a few awaiting their turn to meet the knife.

Kayla giggled at the flour she had accidentally gotten on her nose. She turned to look at Jack with a mischievous expression, clearly planning to share some of the powder. That was when she noticed her grandfather.

"Grandpa!" She let herself slide off the chair and ran around to greet her grandfather. George gave himself a mental pat on the back for thinking of changing into his civvies while he was still at the SGC. The moment the little girl's arms wrapped around him, flour- covered hands were just a background thought. "Hey Kayla." He let go and went over to his older granddaughter to give her a hug too. "Hey Tessa. That smells great."

She beamed up at him. "We're making pizza!"

"I figured that's what it was."

"We've done it all ourselves!" Kayla added proudly, "Look, there's already one in the oven."

George let himself be dragged over to have a look.He greeted Jack on his way, who nodded back with an amused "General", as he continued to slice the mushrooms.

"That looks delicious, girls." Hammond grabbed another chair and joined Jack at the table.

"We made that one first, but then I ...we used too much tomato sauce so we're making more," Kayla told him, sneaking a quick look at Jack, who tried very hard not to grin.

Tessa looked up. "I think it's ready, Uncle Jack."

"Alright, have a taste," Jack said.

Tessa grabbed a spoon and carefully tried a bit of the hot sauce. "It's good," she declared after a moment of deliberation. Jack nodded. "Ok. You can turn off the stove then." He watched as she correctly turned it off. "Good job. Kayla, how's the crust?"

"It's ready!!" The youngest of the two girls practically bounced back over to the kitchen counter where she had rolled out the dough. It wasn't exactly round... or close to it, really... but it was just about equally flat everywhere.

"Well done, go ahead and put it on the baking tray," Jack instructed. They'd already put some flour on there. From his position, Jack could easily reach over to the stove to grab the thankfully small pot of sauce, without straining his ribs too much. "Can I do it?" Kayla asked, bouncing on her feet. "I'll be careful this time!"

George had a sinking feeling that he'd be trying to get tomato stains out of clothing. Come to think of it, hadn't she been wearing a different shirt this morning?

"It's Tessa's turn," Jack replied. Seeing his commander's look, he added, "The stains are out, they just need to be washed still. I put them in a plastic bag for now. Ok, careful, Tessa, it's still a bit hot," Jack said to the oldest of the two. Tessa smiled, then bit her lip as she very carefully spooned the tomato sauce onto the pizza base, and spread it out. "Ok," Jack said, putting the mostly empty pot back onto the stove for now. "Go ahead."

Immediately the two girls started 'decorating' the pizza with different ingredients, giggling at some of the more unusual combinations. The oven beeped. "First one is ready," Jack announced. He started heaving himself out of his chair, when George stopped him. "I'll get it."

Jack nodded, silently relieved as his knee was throbbing more and more. Instead, he started stacking a few empty bowls that had contained ingredients for the pizza. That way they'd have some room to actually eat.

Soon enough, everyone was munching on a piece of homemade pizza. The second one was in the oven. Tessa and Kayla were telling their grandfather about their afternoon. Jack ignored George's admonishing look when he heard they'd all walked to the store a couple of blocks away to get a few missing ingredients. He was fine! The doc had said he was allowed to take short walks, as long as he was taking it easy.

Later, when the dishes were all put away, Jack had tried leaving. Not that he really wanted to, but with Hammond back home, his presence was no longer necessary. The girls objected, saying they needed his help with a board game otherwise Grandpa would win again. George told him he was welcome to stay. So, he stayed.

When Tessa doubled over in laughter at something Jack had stage-whispered, and Kayla leaned against her grandfather, tired from the day's activities, George sighed contentedly.

He loved moments like these. They were kind of family moments. Sure, Jack was not really family; technically he was just his subordinate, his Second in Command. Yet they had become good friends, and George couldn't deny that he had some paternal feelings towards this man who had been through so much in his life. And of course the girls loved him as an uncle.

Jack caught his gaze, and something of what he had been feeling must have been reflected there, because Jack smiled knowingly.

Yes, George decided, this was a family moment. This was home.

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I is for Infirmary (Janet and Teal'c)
Those Who Wait
by [personal profile] stringertheory

Janet had never minded working the night shift. When she was first starting out, she was often assigned the late shift as the lowest member of the totem pole, so she had become accustomed to the hours. Even as she moved up the ranks, she would take on night shifts from other doctors and nurses who had children at home. She appreciated the quiet, the pervasive sense of rest and healing found in darkened wards after visiting hours.

Moving underground to the SGC, dozens of floors below daylight, hadn't changed that.

They set their timetable by the rotation of other planets, so 'night' came to be a relative term, but Janet strove to maintain - as nearly as possible - the normal operating hours of a military infirmary. And between 23:00 and 06:00, that meant lowered lights and lowered voices. Under her regime, nighttime in the SGC infirmary became hallowed ground that no one - lowliest private to highest general - dared sully. Night was her sanctuary, the time when it felt like the chaos of the day was contained, set right, and on its way to being better when the sun came up. It was one of the few times she felt completely in control, or at least not entirely out of control.

So much of what she came up against in the SGC was beyond her conventional medical training. Even with experimental treatments and an ever-expanding knowledge base, usually her instructions ended with "wait and see." When you were relying on untested methods to battle unfamiliar ailments, you just had to watch and see what happened. And as much as they dealt with the alien, there was still plenty of garden-variety military damage to go around. Add in the fact that the entire base seemed comprised of trouble magnets, and her hands - and beds - were usually full.

The only beds currently occupied held the human portion of SG-1, recuperating from a mixture of combat, escape, and alien narcotics. Janet ghosted past Jack, who she'd had to sedate two hours or so earlier to keep him from exacerbating his injuries, to check on Sam, who still hadn't come to. According to Daniel, she'd received the biggest dose of the drug and had lost consciousness about halfway back to the Gate. Her vitals were stable, though, and her brain scans indicated a deep sleep, so Janet refused to be worried. She shifted around Sam's bed to check on Daniel himself, who had finally fallen asleep. He was resting quietly, the pain medication having kicked in, and Janet let herself relax.

Nerves of steel - and the sanctity of the nighttime quiet - were the only reasons she didn't jump out of her skin when she turned back around and found Teal'c sitting between Jack and Sam. He was in the space she had vacated only minutes before and she marveled once again at how quietly someone his size could move when he chose to.

"Teal'c, what are you doing here?" she asked softly.

"I apologize, Dr. Fraiser," he replied, his voice a low rumble, "I know it is after visiting hours. I merely wished to inquire about the others." He gestured to her three patients with the sweep of one massive hand.

After-hours visits generally weren't frowned upon so long as the number of visitors at any one time remained small and they kept the noise down. Soldiers were a fiercely loyal bunch, and keeping them away from their injured comrades often caused more of a ruckus than letting them in. As such, the rules were bent about as often as they were enforced.

Teal'c was a model patient, and he maintained that behavior when on the other side of the cot, so Janet didn't begrudge him the violation of visiting hours. He wasn't long out of the infirmary himself, having lingered after receiving treatment for his own injuries to see after the well-being of his teammates. Janet's sharp eyes could already see how the bruising - not even twelve hours old - that crawled up one side of his neck and down his arm had already begun to fade. She didn't miss the fact that he had abandoned his sling, either.

"They're all in stable condition right now," she advised, repeating nearly word-for-word what she had told him just a little over an hour before. "Dr. Jackson has finally joined the others in unconsciousness - I didn't have to sedate him," she added at Teal'c's raised brow of inquiry. "And they're all getting the best, and most, rest they'll probably have all month." She eyed him closely. "How are you doing?" she asked, half knowing the answer.

"I am healing well, thank you." He flexed the fingers of his hand as if testing it. "The injuries were minor."

Janet held back a snort at that. His injuries might have been minor for a Jaffa, but they would have kept a human off active duty for at least a week, and probably more. At the rate he was going, he'd be completely healed and no worse for the wear in a day or two.

"It is strange to wait," Teal'c murmured.

Janet frowned. "To heal? Teal'c, even for Jaffa healing takes time."

"It is strange to wait for one's teammates to heal," he clarified. His eyes roamed over the colonel's still form before focusing on Janet. "It is not something that happens often for Jaffa."

"Oh?" Janet asked, curiosity piqued. She knew for a fact that Jaffa could sustain injury just as easily as humans - it was merely the severity inflicted, the probability of recovery, and the time of healing that were different. And with every injury there was a recovery period, for human or Jaffa.

Teal'c was silent for a few moments before he answered. Janet was still learning to read him, but she got the impression that he was collecting his thoughts, maybe deciding how best to word his response.

"Jaffa do not have healers," he said finally. "Every Jaffa learns basic medical care: how to stitch and bind wounds, how to set broken limbs, and how to deal with anything that might occur during battle. And there are those who look after the health of Jaffa children, who are more vulnerable before they undergo prim'ta and receive their symbiote. But we do not have individuals who study as you do, who work as tirelessly as you to heal."

"And why not? Do the Goa'uld forbid medical care?" Janet asked, feeling anger bubble inside her: another sin to add to a long list.

"We do not need it," Teal'c replied, and Janet felt her ire vanish at his straightforward tone. "In general, any injury that would require extensive medical assistance is a death blow, and any disease that manifests as debilitating illness is strong enough to kill us. If our symbiote is unable to heal us, nothing we can add would be of benefit. If we are keeping vigil at a bedside, it is typically a vigil for death, not healing."

Stunned, Janet pondered the assured finality in Teal'c's voice. Humans had shorter lives than Jaffa, and were - for lack of a better term - more fragile, but they fought to the last for every precious breath. It was one of the reasons why they had doctors; they wanted to live. Perhaps it was that frailty, and the short lifespan, that made them fight so hard. Just as it was likely that knowledge of their own strength made the Jaffa so willing to let go when the time came: because they knew, with absolute certainty, that it was time.

Teal'c's gaze dropped to search first Daniel's face, then Sam's. "Somehow this waiting is more difficult."

"Because when you wait for death, you know what's coming," Janet advised, her voice gentle. "Here, you don't know. It's just waiting." She paused, and the faintest hint of bitterness crept into her tone. "Half my job is waiting. Waiting for the wound to heal, for the medicine to take effect, for the patient to wake up." She laid a hand atop Sam's, still and sun-browned against the starch white sheets. "I wait for you to get hurt."

Teal'c's eyes snapped back to hers at that. Janet mused that she read surprise in his gaze.

"I sit here every day and watch all of you go off to who-knows-where, and I wait for you to return, knowing odds are that you'll come back injured or sick." She doesn't add the 'or worse,' but it hangs heavy in the air. "Then I'm presented with wounds made by weapons I've never seen before, or alien diseases that have no known treatments, or aliens who only have a basic understanding of their own physiology," she said, giving Teal'c a small, wry smile. "I have to make up a lot of it as I go. And then I wait."

Mirroring Teal'c's earlier gesture, she waved a hand to encompass her quiet domain. He nodded and looked away, his gaze going distant, and Janet felt herself soften. She waited before, the soldiers after. It wasn't easy on any of them. With unfamiliarity, it must be even harder for Teal'c.

"This is the hard waiting," she said, stepping around Sam's bed to lay a hand on Teal'c's uninjured shoulder, "but you don't have to do it alone."

Teal'c glanced up at her and then nodded once in understanding. Janet returned the nod, then rolled a chair between Sam's and Daniel's beds. Perched there, keeping the vitals monitors in her line of sight, she kept vigil.

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J is for Jeopardy (Daniel and Jack)
by [personal profile] gategremlyn

Colonel Jack O'Neill: "We can back him up, sir. I'd like Daniel back on the team."

*

Daniel stood in the briefing room alone. Hammond had approved a return mission to P3R636 in three days. But after that piece of good news Jack, Sam, Teal'c, and General Hammond had all left without a word or a glance in his direction. Daniel swallowed hard. He expected nothing else-deserved nothing else-but it still hurt. He shoved his hands in his pockets to hide their shaking and made his way back to his office. He kept his head down, not wanting to see the disdain, or worse the pity, in the eyes of the passing personnel.

Once in his office, he closed his door and simply stood in the middle of the room. His books, artifacts, computer, they were all there looking as they had before his catastrophic addiction to the sarcophagus. He'd apologized to Sam, and Sam being Sam had accepted his apology. But the hurt was still there. He couldn't unsay the words, he could only ask to be forgiven. They hadn't spoken since. He'd apologized to Janet, and Janet being Janet had accepted his apology. Her understanding was almost worse than Sam's reticence: "You were under the influence of the sarcophagus, Daniel. That wasn't really you." But he knew the sarcophagus only amplified what was already there. Teal'c acknowledged his apology with a simple nod of his head.

He still hadn't moved from the middle of the room. He didn't know if he'd ever move again. With any luck the floor would open up and swallow him, saving him the trouble of making the decision. The floor didn't open up. Finally, Daniel pulled his hands out of his pockets, wiped the sweat on his pant leg, and walked to his desk. He touched the frame of Sha're's picture, Sha're his life and his hope. The only apology he could give her was to find her. He pulled out his notepad. If they were going back to the planet, he needed to have a well-thought-out plan.

Twelve hours later, Daniel came up for air. His back ached from long hours bending over his desk; his head ached too. He didn't know if the headache was from concentrating so hard or a leftover from withdrawal. It was from working too hard; it had to be. He dropped the pencil on the desk, shaking out his cramped fingers. He need to eat and then sleep for a few hours.

He stood in the center of the room again and turned: books, artifacts, computer, notepad, pencils, but no Sam or Teal'c. And definitely no Jack. No one had come by to drag him away to eat; no one had come by to see if he was okay. That too he expected, but it hurt. He stuffed his hands back in his pockets and headed for the mess. He choked down a cup of bad coffee and a half a sandwich before he found a bunk. After four hours of restless sleep, he was at his desk and back to work.

Two days later, he stood at the base of the ramp, tired beyond belief. Sam and Teal'c nodded at him as he came in, but they didn't speak. Jack didn't even look at him. He merely called out to the control room, "Dial it up," and stepped through the wormhole behind the MALP. Sam and Teal'c followed. Daniel came last.

Once through the 'gate, Daniel stood, waiting for orders.

Jack said, "We're going to take these supplies to the miners. We'll meet back here in four hours." He divvied up the food, clothing, and medical supplies among the three of them. "Carter, Teal'c, move out." Daniel watched them walk away. Because of his gear, he couldn't shove his hands in his pockets. Instead he balled them into fists and moved forward. He had a job to do.

He spent the first of the four hours holding Shyla as she cried. He spent the second hour talking about sarcophagus addiction and what she could expect. In that, if nothing else, Shyla had told the truth. She'd only used the box a few times and Daniel didn't foresee a problem. He spent the third hour talking about the miners and the inhumane conditions they endured. He spent the fourth hour paving the way for SG-12 and SG-9 who were scheduled to come and streamline the mining process.

When he got back to the Stargate, Jack simply looked at him.

"Shyla is willing to meet with representatives of the miners tomorrow. She'd like us to stay and mediate." He already knew the answer to the next statement. "She'd also like us to join her for dinner, and she's offered us rooms for the night."

"No." Jack stepped back to survey the immediate area.

"Jack--"

"We'll stay to help with the miners, but we're not staying in that place." He turned his back on Daniel. "Carter, we'll set up camp here. I want to be ten seconds from the DHD just in case the princess decides to change her mind."

"Yes, sir."

"Teal'c, you've got first watch, Carter, take second, Daniel..." For the first time since their arrival on the planet, Jack hesitated. For a moment, Daniel wondered if Jack would trust him with watch at all. Second and third watch were the ones he hated most. If he had first watch, as he usually did, he had a couple of hours to settle his thoughts before he tried to sleep. If he had last watch, he could drink coffee, put his notes in order, and plan the day. It didn't matter this evening because he knew no matter how tired he was he wouldn't sleep anyway. "Daniel, third watch. I've got the last one."

Without any more conversation, they set up camp. They started a fire for warmth, but they didn't sit around and talk as they usually did at the end of tough day. When it came time for his watch, Daniel came out of the tent fifteen minutes early. Jack sat, crouched by the fire, poking at it with a stick. When an ember flared, illuminating the darkness in a faint red, Daniel was back in the storeroom, seeing Jack's face, stained red from the flashing emergency lights; he saw Jack's face from over the barrel of a gun. He froze.

The one person he hadn't been able to give an apology was by the fire. He hadn't been able to face Jack.

Daniel made a decision. He couldn't leave the SGC, he couldn't leave his search for Sha're, but he could leave SG-1. He had to leave SG-1. Jack didn't need to look at him day after day, knowing that someone who claimed to be his friend had almost killed him. It was the only choice.

Unaware of any delay, Jack gave the briefest of reports: "I haven't seen anything. Call me in two hours."

Daniel didn't know if he nodded. He didn't know if Jack would notice if he did. The tent flap closed as Daniel pulled out his gun. His hand shook so badly he had trouble checking to make sure the safety was on. He walked the perimeter three times, gun drawn, before he was able to settle by the fire. He made a fresh pot of coffee (Jack had left the pot empty) and sat. He didn't pull out his journal because, honestly, how often could he write that he was as sorry an excuse for a human being as he'd ever met. By morning he'd finished one pot of coffee and started another.

Jack, Sam, and Teal'c came out at the end of his watch. They ate their MREs in silence. Daniel stuck to coffee, and for once, no one said anything about that.

"We're going back to the mine," Jack said as he turned his coffee cup over on a nearby log. The voice in the stillness made Daniel jump.

"We have established an aid station for the workers," Teal'c added.

"Aren't you going to help mediate the-"

"Deal with it," Jack said shortly. "We'll meet back here at 1800 hours." He stood, adjusting his P-90 as he did. "Let's go."

Sam and Teal'c followed, and Daniel was left alone again. He emptied his cup, placing it beside Jack's. One more day, he thought, and then he'd put in for a transfer when he got back-if any other team would have him. It was the only thing he could do to make amends.

At five minutes after six, 1805 Daniel corrected himself, he was back in camp so tired he jarred his bones when he sat. Sam passed him an MRE, which he put on the ground beside him, unable to look at its unappealing contents.

"Report," Jack said.

"We've established a mining agreement with Shyla and her people. SG-12 is going to come back within the week to help make mining the naquada not only more efficient but safer. We'll be able to sample some of the ore for our own uses. We're going to try to decrease the amount sent through the 'gate and see what happens." Daniel thought his voice sounded slurred. "SG-9 will also be here to help with a shift in government. Shyla will still act as monarch, but a monarch with a parliament to keep her in check. That parliament will have representatives from the mines and from the surrounding towns and villages. It's not a perfect setup, but it's a start. We've also offered them medical help and basic medical training. SG-12 will be responsible for that as well." He sat with his hands hanging between his legs, staring at the ground and not at the people who had been his team.

"Get some sleep," was all Jack said. "Carter, you've got first watch."

With an effort that almost cost Daniel his consciousness, he stood, hoping he could make it to the tent without falling flat on his face. He didn't care about his empty stomach or his headache or the watch. Someone would wake him when it was his turn.

At four o'clock, Daniel woke with groan. Since no one had come to get him yet, he assumed that he had last watch. His body felt stiff, and when his stomach grumbled, he began to regret the abandoned MRE. He dry-swallowed two aspirin before he left the tent.

As before Jack sat by the fire.

"I've got the watch," Daniel said, knowing that Jack would like to head for the tent and be as far away from him as possible.

"Okay." As Jack sat by the fire, he added another log.

Daniel walked the perimeter to give Jack a chance to make good his escape, but when he got back, Jack was still there. Daniel sat. On the log to his right was a steaming cup of coffee. He thought it must be Jack's but when he looked up, Jack already had a cup cradled in his hands. "Thank you," he said as he picked it up.

A wave from the other cup was his only answer.

"Jack." Daniel wanted to say so much: to plead for forgiveness, to make excuses for his own stupidity, to ask for another chance. "I... I don't know where to start." He took a deep breath. If he was going to leave the team, he at least owed it to Jack to try to explain. "I can't even begin to tell you how sorry I am for everything. I know I was addicted to the sarcophagus, but I never should have let that happen in the first place. I was an idiot in every possible way. I can't...." The knot in his throat stopped him from speaking, but not from noticing Jack's silence, a silence he thought he was used to but never would be. "God, Jack, I held a gun on someone. By all rights I should be in jail not here and part of your team. I want you to know I'm putting in for a transfer as soon as we get back, and if no other team needs me..." he choked on the words "...If no one wants me, I'll stay at my desk and do what I can from there. I can't... I just can't leave the SGC. I hope you know that. Sha're knows I'm looking for her, and I have to keep looking, I have to." His fingers, gripping the coffee cup, were white. Carefully, he brought the cup to his mouth and took a sip. It was fresh. He noticed his hands weren't shaking as much this morning. Maybe that was a good sign. "Jack, I know you can never forgive me for what happened, but I want you to know how much it's meant to me that you let me come back here. We've done something to help these people. I know it can never make up for what I've done, but I'm--"

"You don't know shit."

Startled, Daniel spilled coffee on his hand. "I... I didn't mean--"

Jack cut him off again. "We didn't do anything, Daniel."

Daniel blinked. "Pardon?"

"We didn't do anything. You did it all. You set up a treaty with Shyla, you set up a provisional government, and you procured some naquada-something Carter is just giddy about."

It was the longest sentence Daniel had heard from Jack in weeks. "What?"

"You still need a few hours sleep, don't you?" Jack waved at him and after he figured it out, Daniel passed him his cup. Jack filled it again and handed it back. "You've been pretty hard on yourself and I know you think we were mad at you, but you had to know you could do this on your own. We were just here for backup in case anything went wrong."

"What?"

"Ah. That's why the SGC hired a linguist, so we'd have someone witty and articulate at our disposal. Drink that stuff in your cup and listen to what I'm telling you."

Daniel did as he was told, too stunned to do otherwise.

"I want you to know, by the way, that letting you go off with that vulture for two days was absolute torture for all of us. We had Teal'c posted outside the door, just in case."

"You did?"

"Didn't you notice?"

"No."

"Well, he was."

"Oh." Daniel felt lightheaded in a way that had nothing to do with the sarcophagus. "I don't know what to say."

"Speechless," Jack said with a grin. "Excellent. Oh, and that garbage about transferring to another team? Not going to happen."

"Jack."

"No, Daniel. You're a member of this team."

"But what I did--"

"What you did, you'll have to live with. That's a sad truth. But you live with it here with us."

"The things I said to Sam--"

"--were pretty crappy."

"And I threw Janet halfway across a room."

"Also crappy."

"And I had a gun," Daniel said. "I pointed a gun at... at...."

"At?" Jack prodded. "You pointed a gun at...?

"At my team leader--at my friend." The next sentence was no more than a whisper. "I pointed a gun at you."

"Yet you didn't fire it." Jack moved to sit beside him. "Even as strung out as you were, you didn't fire it."

"But I could have."

"But you didn't," Jack insisted. "There's no way you would have fired that gun."

Daniel watched the sunrise, this time with Jack by his side. "I'm so sorry." He didn't know if he'd ever be able to say it enough.

"I know," Jack said. "We all know. But it's time to move on."

"I don't know if I can."

"You already have or you wouldn't be here. It's going to take time to rebuild those friendships, but you've got time, and we're not going anywhere; not me, not Fraiser, not Carter, and not Teal'c."

Jack wasn't looking at him, he was looking at the sunrise, but the steady presence of the man at his shoulder made Daniel relax. "I'm so tired," he admitted.

"I know," Jack said. "When we get back, you're putting in for three days leave."

"I don't think that's--"

"And then you're coming to my place for beer and hockey."

"Hockey? Really?" He really didn't know how Jack could even stand to look at him, let alone spend time with him. But Jack was a man apart, now as always. "Is it ever not hockey season?"

"It's either that or the Simpsons."

"Not much of a choice, if you ask me." Daniel grinned as he realized Sam and Teal'c were standing by the fire, listening.

"Are we invited, sir?" Sam asked as she snagged an MRE. She checked the label and passed it to Daniel before taking another one for herself.

"I do not wish to watch hockey, O'Neill, nor do I wish to watch the Simpsons."

"Well, we're not watching wrestling, I can tell you that for sure," Jack said as he poured the last of the coffee for the two newcomers. "Daniel, it's your turn to make another pot."

As Daniel reached down to take the pot, Jack held on to it a second longer than necessary, long enough to make Daniel look him in the eye. Sam and Teal'c argued about viewing options-Sam vetoing both Star Trek and Columbo--while Jack simply looked, waiting for Daniel's answer.

He nodded. Message understood. With steady hands, Daniel made a fresh pot of coffee.

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K is for Kismet (Cam and Ferguson)
having perhaps the better claim
by [personal profile] jedibuttercup

Cam paused outside the door of the conference room where the latest SG-1 to fall through the interdimensional wormhole had been temporarily set up, and smiled as their team leader looked up from his conference with anther Daniel, a Teal'c, and a lieutenant Cam hadn't met before.

Objectively, he knew their SGC had been taking less than a third of the teams who'd dialed in from other universes; it was just luck that the ones who'd been under fire at the time and were willing to try temporary exile over certain death were mostly SG-1s, and mostly SG-1s under the command of Lts. Colonel Cameron Mitchell. Something about the universes most likely to be pulled into the confluence being the ones with the fewest differences from their universe's timeline... which said a few things about his trouble-magnet status he could have done without having confirmed, and said a few more about the apparent inevitability of his place in the program that had been nagging at him.

He absolutely believed that God had a plan; but he'd also been raised in the school of faith that believed it was up to each person to take what they were given and make their own go of it. Free will; no such thing as kismet. And given all the possible things he could have said and done over the course of his life... no few of which had collided in seemingly unpredictable ways to bring him to the SGC... meeting so many near-identical Cameron Mitchells had been a little vertigo-inducing.

It was really nice to see that in at least one other universe, he'd been capable of learning a little restraint. He'd always thought Fergie would have beat him out for the 302 slot, if he hadn't been injured saving Cam's sorry ass first.

"Well if isn't Bryce Ferguson, as I live and breathe," Cam said, walking into the room.

"Funny you should put it that way," Bryce replied, quirking a smile as he shook Cam's hand. There was a twist to the corner of his mouth, though, and a tightening at the corners of his eyes that reminded Cam of Teal'c and Jackson meeting that Janet Frasier, earlier, or Sam greeting Martouf; a unique hazard of a job where 'multiverse theory of quantum physics' was even a thing.

"Ah," Cam replied, wincing. So it wasn't that he'd managed restraint; it was that Bryce hadn't taken that shrapnel for him, for whatever reason. "Wondered about that. There but for the grace went I, huh?"

"Seems like, from what I've gathered since I got here," Bryce agreed, then gestured to a chair at the table and exchanged a look with his team. "Bad luck I was out sick for that mission, I guess."

They filed out in a group, probably headed for the commissary with the escort of one of the Marines posted outside; Cam appreciated the gesture.

"Bad luck for me, sure. Well, your me. Not your yours... well, you know what I mean." Cam rolled his eyes. "Good luck for you, though. It really is good to see you, man. I've wondered for years if you'd be the one in this seat and I'd be the one doing defense consulting, if I hadn't been an idiot that day."

Bryce shook his head, amused and wondering. "Defense consulting? You know, you're the only Mitchell I've seen today-- out of what, a baker's dozen?-- that hasn't looked at me like I'm the ghost. Trippiest thing I've experienced since I the first time I stepped through the gate, which is-- well, you know how crazy this job gets sometimes. It's been like some damn country western song; died in your arms, died on the table, died of an infection, died of an aneurysm a year later. Any Bryce Ferguson who was there that day, far as I can tell, isn't there now. Good to hear there's at least one universe where both of us made it."

"At least for a while. No guarantees with this job... unless your name is Daniel Jackson." He shared a knowing chuckle with his friend at that. "But yeah, last I heard from him a couple weeks ago, he was fine; getting another consult for his headaches, I think, but mostly the same Fergie as ever. Damn, I've missed serving with him. Though I did get Carter back-- she still as impervious to your charms as ever?"

"I should hope so, considering she's on her honeymoon at the moment."

"What-- really?" Cam raised his eyebrows. "That's the fourth one so far who's either turned up with a ring, or been on maternity leave, or something. And not a one of 'em will tell our Sam who the lucky guy is."

"Is that a hint?" Bryce shook his head, grinning. "You know the rules, man. Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies."

"Darn," Cam snapped his fingers theatrically. "Hoped you'd forget that. What kinda teenagers make out a list of things they can or cannot tell their future time-traveling selves? You even sure this situation counts? It's not like we're going to break the continuum, or anything. Right? Carter would have said."

"The kinda teenagers who end up in this kinda job," Bryce laughed. "And, yeah. I'm sure. For nothing else, because it's gonna drive you nuts while I'm here."

"You ass," Cam sputtered.

"Takes one to know one," Bryce pointed at him, then leaned forward on his elbows. "I will tell you one thing, though. You did that crazy sword out of the stone thing here, too, right?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, it turns out Lieutenant Yancey's part of some recreationist medieval society...."

*

The conversation didn't last long, given the time crunch SG-1 was under to solve the problem; and once Sam figured out how the rogue SG-1 had caused it in the first place, they had even less time, because of course all the displaced teams wanted to head home as soon as possible.

Cam made time to exchange one last backslap with the other Ferguson, though, before he left. It stung a little, to finally get a glimpse down the road not travelled and see what might have been; and from the look in Bryce's eye, he was feeling much the same.

"Watch your back out there," he cautioned him; feeble last words, but a man had to say something.

"You too, man. Stay strong. And say hi to your Fergie for me, if you get the chance."

Yeah; they both knew that wasn't going to happen, not unless Cam could get his Bryce's clearance raised. But damn, it was a story he would have enjoyed.

"Will do," he nodded, and made a mental note to make sure he called him soon, regardless. It was so easy to let friends outside the program slip, what with the demands it made on everyone's lives; he didn't want to end up losing Fergie, too. Especially now that he knew how rare the man's presence was in the nearer reaches of the multiverse.

"And that has made all the difference," he murmured to himself, quoting.

Then he shook it off the lingering uneasiness, and went to help escort the next team.

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L is for Listening (Daniel and George)
by [profile] annieb1955

Daniel doesn't think he's ever known anyone who's really listened to him the way George Hammond does. Even when the General doesn't agree with most, or some, or all of what Daniel's saying he can tell just by that certain look in Hammond's eyes, or the tilt of his head that he's listening to what Daniel is trying to convey.

And on those days when Daniel has wanted to beat his head against any available hard surface in the SGC, when he feels that no one - not Teal'c or Sam or hell, even or maybe especially Jack, understands what he's trying to get across, he'll look up and catch George Hammond's eye and know that he's listening. Listening and doing his damndest to understand.

It means a lot to Daniel. He's been ignored and downright vilified for much of what he's said over his professional career. Hammond gets him though, even when some of what Daniel's saying sails right over that bald Texan head. And every time it happens it warms Daniel inside and he hangs onto every instance of it and stores each memory up against those days when George Hammond is gone and maybe there won't be anyone who listens in quite the same way.

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M is for Motorcycle (Teal'c and Sam)
by [personal profile] crazedturkey

He pulls the edge of his beanie further down across his forehead. People stare at him as he walks past and he worries that it has slipped upwards, betraying the metal burned into the skin of his forehead. Daniel Jackson, somehow noticing his discomfort on a previous excursion, had earnestly reassured him that it was more to do with his size and the colour of his skin. Teal'c still worries every time. Earth is new to him and right now it is his only home. His friends are kindly allowing him the privilege of these off base excursions. He will not risk them.

Today he is slightly more uncertain than usual, although he will not betray it. Daniel Jackson is reliable in that they will be certain to attend some form of museum or gallery. With Colonel O'Neill it is always bowling followed by beer or beer followed by bowling. However Major Samantha Carter is an unknown quality.

She smiles at his side, looking different out of her uniform but relaxed in a pair of jeans and a black leather jacket.

"I'm sorry I haven't found the time to take you out sooner, Teal'c," she says with a small smile. "I've just been so busy, you know, with all the stuff happening in the lab. I don't want you to think it doesn't mean I don't value our friendship, because I do, value our friendship, I mean." She closes her eyes and sighs. "I'm babbling aren't I?"

Teal'c has spent much of his life using as few words as possible to convey his meaning and is still not sure, even after several years, how to handle Samantha Carter's verbosity. He decides to incline his head and say, "Your dedication to your work is admirable, Samantha Carter. I value both that and our friendship."

By the beaming smile she returns him, he knows he has done well. That makes him happy, because even as she baffles him he enjoys the young warrior's energy.

"Ah," she suddenly says, pausing at a garage door. "Here we are. My house."

Teal'c pauses to take in a small, non-descript red brick home on the tree lined street. "This is your home, Samantha Carter?"

She grins. "Yep. But we're not going inside today." She flourishes a key and unlocks the garage door lifting it open with two hands. "We're taking this for a ride instead."

Teal'c follows her line of sight to see a strange contraption of metal with two wheels. Samantha Carter stares at it proudly, hands on her hips.

"Have you seen one of these before?" she asks.

"I have not."

"It's a motorcycle. It's a classic, actually, an Indian. I've been restoring it." Samantha Carter's smile is so wide now it appears as though her face may actually divide into two pieces.

Four wheeled Taur'i vehicles are someth-ing Teal'c is familiar with and has travelled in, but this is something different and certainly appears less safe.

"Are we both travelling on it?" he asks.

"Sure!" Samantha Carter replies enthusiastically. She ducks into the garage and returns with a large black helmet. "Here, this should fit. Put it on." She pushes the helmet into his hand's and disappears back into the depths of the garage.

Uncertain still, but not wanting to offend or misinterpret a strange Taur'i custom, Teal'c obeys, putting the helmet onto his head and fumbling momentarily until he works out how to lift the visor. Samantha Carter returns not long later, wearing her own helmet and wheeling the motorcycle at her side.

"Are you nervous?" she asks suddenly. "You look nervous. Don't be. You're completely safe with me. Riding a motorcycle is like flying. Like freedom." She grins.

Teal'c steels his features. "A warrior of Chulak does not get nervous he replies stonily.

Samantha Carter bites her bottom lip. "Oh, sorry. Anyway, here." She climbs onto the bike. "You have to hop up behind me and hold onto my waist, ok?"

Teal'c does as she asks, wondering how such a small piece of metal can possibly hold their combined weight.

And yet it does, and she starts it and they start moving in an amazing rumble of engine noise and wind.

Teal'c is fearful of the first corner, but Samantha Carter bends, and whoosh around they go, and he feels like whooping from the joy of it, but warriors of Chulak do not "whoop". Although he is reconsidering that on the next corner. And the next. And particularly when Samantha Carter steers them out of the city the roads get windy and she gets faster.

Eventually she pulls over and takes off her helmet and turns around with a big smile on her face.

"What do you think?"

He gives her a thumbs up.

"Should we keep going?"

"Indeed!

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N is for Name (Cassie and Jack)
by [profile] madders_ahatter

SG-1 arrived at Janet Fraiser's front door with Cassie, who was holding her new dog.

"What's this then?" Janet queried, her puzzled frown soon belied by the upturned crinkle at the corners of her mouth.

"It's the rules," Cassie reiterated what she'd told Sam. It was strange that so many people here didn't seem to know their own rules. "Every Earth kid has to have a dog. Jack told me."

"Oh, well, if Colonel O'Neill said so, then I guess it must be true. You'd better bring him in."

She stood aside and Cassie led the team into her temporary - or possibly permanent if Sam had guessed right - home.

At a gesture from Janet, the others moved to take seats in her comfortable living room, while Cassie sat on the floor playing with her new pet.

Janet pulled Jack aside. "I thought I was taking in one stray, not two," she scolded good-naturedly.

"Hey, he's not a stray," Jack objected. "I picked him out from the pound myself this morning. He's got all his certificates. He's fit and healthy and ready to go." Jack pulled several sheets of paper out of his waterproof jacket pocket and handed them to Janet.

"Does he have a name?" Janet wanted to know, scanning the vaccine records and the report of his neutering operation. The puppy had evidently had a slight adverse reaction to the anesthetic and been sick for a couple of days, but other than that he seemed okay.

"Ooh, good point!" Jack moved over beside Cassie and squatted down, grimacing at the creaking of his knees. "We gotta give this little feller a name."

He addressed the whole group then, as if giving orders at a briefing session.

"It's very important that we find the perfect name. Any ideas?"

"You sound like T S Eliot on the naming of cats," Daniel observed with a grin.

"Oh, believe me, naming dogs is way trickier," Jack assured him, winking at Cassie and ruffling the pooch behind the ear.

"He was a gift from you, so I should call him Jack, shouldn't I?" Cassie looked up at the Colonel for approval, and then looked back at the dog to see if it suited him.

The dog whined.

"Oh no, no, no," Jack shook his head and his hands vigorously. "No you don't. I'm not sharing my name with a dog, even a great little guy like this one." He wasn't sure whether he should be insulted or flattered, so he acted insulted, particularly by the dog's reaction. Secretly, he was a bit flattered that he'd been Cassie's first choice.

Sam, Daniel and Janet all laughed. Teal'c tilted his head thoughtfully.

"How about Pavlov?" Sam suggested, ever the scientist.

"Carter, you gotta be joking," Jack told her firmly. "No way we're gonna yell, 'Here, Pavlov, dinnertime Pavlov,' all up and down the street."

"Jack has a point," Janet smirked at how the colonel had made it clear he recognized Sam's reference without boasting about it. The man had hidden depths.

"What breed is he?" Sam wanted to know.

"He's a Shiba Inu, similar to a Finnish Spitz," supplied Daniel, before Jack had a chance to reply.

"Now before you try and get clever, Daniel, no weird foreign-sounding names," warned Jack. "We want him and Cassie to fit in round here, not raise suspicions."
Daniel looked hurt. "I was just gonna suggest Finn, actually."

The dog whined again.

"Nah, he doesn't like that," Jack declared dismissively. "Do you, boy?" he asked the dog, who tilted his head much as Teal'c had done, and panted contentedly in response to more ear rubbing.

"Perhaps he should be designated K-9 as in the creature from Dr. Who," proposed Teal'c, who had studied popular Earth programs as part of his own induction. "Both accurate and a cultural reference to aid Cassandra with her cover story."

"K-9 was a robot dog," Jack objected, though the puppy had made no protest.

Janet looked round the group indulgently. They had all bonded with the young alien girl to some degree, but Jack... well, Jack had a special way with kids. He would provide a good male role model for Cassie as she grew up without a father. For now, it was obvious that Jack felt he had the biggest stake in this decision. "You asked for ideas, Jack, but you seem determined to veto everything offered. Why don't you suggest a name? Though it should really be Cassie's decision."

"Yes, please, Jack," Cassie bounced excitedly on her heels, making the dog bark. "You choose. I know nothing about suitable Earth names, and we didn't keep pets back home on Hanka."

The dog sat down and licked her hand.

Everyone stiffened and leant forwards slightly, opening their mouths to correct the girl on her slip.

She realized at once. "Sorry, I mean I never had a pet in Toronto. I promise I'll remember."

Jack looked from the dog to Cassie and back. Then he looked up at Janet.

"Okay, Janet, here's my suggestion. We call the little guy Hanka. That way, if Cassie slips up and mentions her home planet, we got plausible denial that she was talking about the dog."

The dog in question wagged his tail. "

There ya go; he seems to like it. Wadda you say, Cassie?"

"I like that." Cassie threw her arms round the colonel. "Thank you, Jack. Here, Hanka!"

Hanka nuzzled in between them.

"Good boy!" Jack and Cassie said in unison.

Janet grabbed her camera from the coffee table where she'd placed it ready for Cassie's homecoming and took the first of many 'family photos' for her mantelpiece.

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O is for O Club and Oval Office (George and Henry Hayes)
by [personal profile] ivorygates

The first time they met was in Korea (PACAF, 4 AF, flying the F-100 out of Osan AFB, with the bright lights and big city of Seoul about an hour away). Both Air Force, both newly-commissioned First Lieutenants, but aside from that they had nothing in common: Lieutenant George S. Hammond was by the book, West Texas, bootstrap education and wings through OTS. Lieutenant Henry R. H. Hayes was old Boston, old money, Academy ring and daredevil attitude. George was saving his money to go home and put a ring on his girl's finger. Henry'd left a bride behind in Back Bay (as he said frequently), but it didn't seem to slow him down in his attentions to the opposite sex. The two of them knew each other the way pilots in the same fighter group will: bought each other drinks, played some pickup basketball, bitched about flight time and missions and mechanics. Henry was a card player, and George wasn't, so that was about it: Academy boys tended to flock together. Some were doing their five-year hitch and getting out, some talked about making General. George wasn't one of the "ring and the book" set, but he was planning on the long haul, even if everybody knew it was tough to stay in and move up in peacetime.

And there wasn't going to be another war. Was there? Even Korea was a UN force, with the USA tossing some rolling thunder in to sweeten the pot. Not the same as a war. (Some of the boys bitched about that, but George's daddy had been at Pearl. One of the lucky ones.)

The first time George got to see the real Henry Hayes was that November. George didn't hear about Dallas that day until he got to the mess: the news had broken around 0330 local, and Armed Forces Radio was still pretending it hadn't happened, but everybody knew. Flags were at half-mast, everybody was in shock. He still doesn't remember much about that day, other than his feelings of disbelief. The President of the United States had been murdered.

That night, Henry came banging on his door, out of uniform, bottle in hand. He was very drunk. It was hard to make out what he was saying, other than to blame all of Texas (and George by extension: well, George was here) for JFK's death. All George knew was that he'd better get Henry out of sight before the CO had to write him up.

He didn't get much sleep that night, but he did get to know Henry Hayes. The Hayeses and the Kennedys had known each other. Both Boston, both political families. Henry had been a guest at the Inauguration back in '61. Not that close, things being what they were, but both sons of ambitious fathers. That was the first time Henry told him he was going to be President some day: spoke of it as if it was established fact, as if the future was a thing set and solid and waiting for him on the flight line for him to show up. Said it wasn't right for a man to be killed for being right. (And George knew that was true enough, but he also knew it happened more than sometimes.)

Henry slept on his floor that night, and in the morning George administered his patented hangover cure, and after that...they were friends. It was simple, back in those days.

The following year, peacetime was over. The new President took the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution between his teeth and started gearing up for (as it said) "the use of "conventional'' military force in Southeast Asia." That meant boots on the ground and planes in the air: the pilots of the Fourth swapped their F-100s for F-111s and called Takhli RTAFB home.

Vietnam was a different kind of war than the one their fathers had fought. Undeclared and uncertain, their allies weren't that much better than their enemies, and it was best not to think about their missions. The "Fourth But First" flew air cover for bombers, the bombers were bombing villages full of civilians, and if you got shot down, well...you tended to disappear. Nobody was going to come for you, and the VC weren't interested in following the Geneva Convention.

Of course, Henry's daddy pulled strings to get him transferred Stateside. And of course, Henry was as stubborn as a Missouri mule: he fought it as long as he could, but that was only about three months. He promised he'd write. George never found out whether that was true: the week after Henry left, he was shot down over North Vietnam.

He spent that Christmas in a cage in the middle of a village with a name he doesn't know to this day. Just like he doesn't know the how and why of his escape. He'd managed to keep his boot knife (even after he lost his boots), but he couldn't use it while the guards were there. (Bamboo cage in what passed for the village square, and the fact he didn't die of exposure was a testament to West Texas hardiness; the rain was the only thing that kept him from fatal dehydration.) He prayed to God for deliverance (by a month in, he wasn't any too picky as to what and how that deliverance might consist of), and one day, for no reason he could see, everyone in the village took off and left him behind. It took him almost a day to saw the cage open, and a week to walk back to where he ran into friendly forces (more surprised to see him than he was to see them; the letter had already gone to his folks). He spent a month in a military hospital in Japan, then took his leave, went home, and married Tess. (Henry sent a wedding gift. Lord alone knew how he found out about the wedding.)

By 1967 George was Stateside once and for all. (Vietnam would run on almost ten more years, but he was just as glad to be out of it, all things considered.) The baby was a year old, and they were expecting another in a few months. He was looking to make Captain soon, and the extra money would be welcome. (It was another two years and a bit before he made it.) His new post was Cheyenne Mountain Air Base. It shared space with NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Complex: he wasn't all that happy about bringing up a family in a First Strike Zone, but as Tess pointed out, just about anywhere they were likely to be living would be just as perilous if the nuclear birds took wing. (Tess was always a woman of great sense.)

Henry continued to send Christmas cards (always, and Tess sent cards right back), as well as random postcards from wherever he was. Japan. Germany. Once from Italy. In '68 (with a fine lack, as Tess said, of the sense God gave a goose), he sent the Hammonds an invitation to his separation party (it involved a full-dress formal ball). The event was in Boston, the Hammonds were in Colorado. George sent a card. Tess sent flowers. (Down the years she followed Henry's career more closely than George did, finding mentions in whatever their local paper was at the time and clipping them to tuck them beside his plate at breakfast.)

George's father had a heart attack in July of '69. George went home on emergency leave, and watched Mankind land on the Moon from a hospital room, holding his daddy's hand. The doctors wouldn't say yes and they wouldn't say no about Daddy's chances, but they were all agreed on the fact that Thomas J. Hammond needed to rein in and take it easy from here on in. And George knew how likely that was, so when he got back home, he put in for a transfer to somewhere closer to the family. (Tess missed Texas, and so did he.)

But before that transfer went through he got himself caught up in one hell of a crazy thing. The first he knew of any of it was when he was sent to pack up some items for shipment. Tech Sergeant Baconne, who was guarding them until he got there (for reasons known only to Command), knew more than that (the NCOs always had the best gossip); he said the stuff belonged to a bunch of Russkie spies they'd nabbed up at NORAD the day before. Major Thornbird was shipping them to Kirtland AFB, and their gear with them. (The damndest stuff you ever saw. Didn't really look Russian to George.) Orders were orders, so he did what he was told. He was just as glad it was a one-man job when he discovered the fact that one of the spies had been carrying a note with his name on it, written in his own handwriting.

He packed up the rest, pocketed the note, and made sure he was assigned to the prisoner transport.

It was neither the first or last time he'd lie to his commanding officer, and there was nothing anybody could teach a West Texas boy about shaving the truth. (The strangers'd said he'd make General someday. It was nice to think about. He didn't really believe it until he met Jake and Liz Carter and their kids, though.)

After that his transfer came through, and they were posted to Dyess AFB, just outside of Abilene. It wasn't as close to Odessa as a man might like, but it was closer than Colorado Springs, and that year George made Captain and was fast-tracked for Major. He was glad to be there for Mama when the second stroke and the third one came and they had to put Thomas Hammond into the ground. Mama sold up their bit of land and came to live with him and Tess and the kids. (That was the year Henry became the junior senator for Massachusetts.) Mama wouldn't leave Texas, though, so when George got orders for Vandenberg some while later, she moved in with his sister up to Dallas. (Little Tess and Peter were in school, by then, and growing like weeds.)

Time passed, and it was Colonel Hammond now, and he'd long since (mostly) forgotten about an unlikely group of Russian spies with the gift of prophecy. Peter grew up, followed in his father's footsteps (Air Force Academy for Peter, and George was proud to see it), married a wonderful girl, fathered two beautiful daughters, and died too damned soon (in the service of his country, an honorable death, but still). It was hard at the time, but George found it in himself to be grateful that his Tess didn't live to see her boy dead: she'd died the year before Peter did. Cancer. (Henry's wife sent white roses and a personal note of condolence.)

Made General (wishing Tess was here to see it), and even got himself a second star. Washington, now, Pentagon duty, a world away from the hardscrabble ranch he'd been born and raised on. (He'd watched Jake's girl grow up, and wondered, and wished sometimes he'd asked Tess what it all meant, but a promise was a promise, so he never had.) Command was a heavy yoke, and he knew the decisions he made would affect the lives and fortunes of hundreds, even thousands, of good men and women. But Daddy'd been a jackleg preacher, and George knew his Good Book: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." It was a good life when the blessings and the burdens balanced out.

And then it was '96, and thirty-some years in service was enough for any man. His garden beckoned, and maybe a bit of fishing. Higher offered him an easy transitional assignment to run out his time, babysitting a mothballed black budget project located in Colorado Springs. It was a gracious and generous featherbed-Josephine lived there- (Peter had been stationed at Peterson) and George looked forward to the prospect of spending more time with his grandkids.

It was funny-peculiar to be back in his old stomping grounds.

About a year later, it got a lot more peculiar and a lot less funny. And he stopped thinking about retirement. There wasn't time for much but to do the impossible six days a week and praying on the seventh day they could keep on doing it. The oddest moment out of all of it, he thought privately, was writing a note to himself that would be delivered in 1969, and thinking he was writing it because he'd received it, and, well, he guessed he'd let Captain Carter worry about the fine points. In the process, he got to know POTUS better than he would ever have expected to (or wanted to, considering that the only time he spoke to the man was when Earth was-once again-on the brink of Armageddon). But they made it work, him and the men and women with whom he served. Heroes, every one of them.

Without Tess here, he'd lost track of Henry's doings (too much else to keep track of), but in '03 he couldn't have remained unaware if he'd tried: the Senator from Massachusetts declared his intention to seek the highest office in the land, just as he'd told young Lieutenant Hammond he would forty years before. (The papers were full of stories about "Camelot Reborn", and similar nonsense, well, George could recognize a good PR strategy when he saw it.) He would have been happy to cast his vote for Henry come the day, except for the fact that Henry's running mate was Senator Robert F. Kinsey. (A familiar face around George's command, and a bird of ill-omen.) Because of Kinsey, George was the first Hammond to vote Republican in over a hundred years, but the fact that the choice was between "bad" and "worse" didn't mean you didn't choose.

It didn't change the outcome. The Hayes/Kinsey ticket won. George sighed, and braced for trouble, but they had enough trouble right here that the matter entirely slipped his mind. Until the phone on his desk-the red one-rang toward the end of January.

George spent a good few seconds staring at it in bemusement. He called POTUS often enough, but he couldn't think of one time in the last seven years that POTUS had phoned him up out of the blue. Still, he couldn't just stare at it. He picked up the receiver.

"General Hammond."

"George! I can't believe you've been holding out on me all these years! I thought we were friends!"

Henry.

"I hope we are, Mr. President."

"I'm not sure I'm going to forgive you, George. So. When can I see it? I'm the President, you know. I get to go places and do things."

"Yes, Mr. President," he said. "I'll arrange for a tour." Despite himself, George Hammond chuckled. "After all, what are friends for?"

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P is for Patches of Sunshine (Daniel and Vala)
by [personal profile] eilidh17

Light had not reached inside the old temple in hundreds of years. The upper floors were gone; sheared off, crumbled away in some ancient quake that had taken out a substantial part of the surrounding city. The room Daniel and Sam stood in was all that remained of an archive that once held thousands of tablets and scrolls, and given shelter to scribes who labored away to preserve the history of the Mekrit.

Even this room, which smelled of time and decay, had not escaped the encroachment of the forest that had all but grown over the old city. Only one wall was free, and that one had been split open at one time to form a grotesque doorway in place of one that had been lost. The other walls were mostly covered in a build-up of sand and clay, though in some places Daniel could just see a hint of what was hidden underneath.

The wall he was working on, gently teasing away centuries of grime and dirt, was in desperate need of preservation. What little of its fa?ade he could see was cracked and peeling away, and the once vibrant colors that washed across its surface were virtually faded beyond recognition. There was writing though, crude and almost totally worn away in places, most likely by time and exposure to the elements.

"Looks Greek to me," Sam said, peering over his shoulder and adding the light of her flashlight to his.

Daniel directed the beam of his light up to the very top of the wall, to where the writing was more uniform and recent, and slightly more preserved. "It is," he said with no real enthusiasm, because he was totally distracted with what little he had managed to translate so far. "At first glance it looks like whoever carved these inscriptions was taken from Earth around the Hellenistic era, despite some phrasing that seems a little out of place. However, I'm also seeing some Byzantine influences. Classical era. The writing is all over the place... historically."

"Can you compensate?"

"I have been," he said dryly. "Would be helpful if the lighting was a little better."

Sam stepped back and shone her flashlight around the ceiling in a full sweep. The weight of the collapsed floors above had caused the structure of the room to fracture in places. That it had remained standing for so long in such adverse weather conditions was the only reason Cameron had allowed them inside. "Cam, Vala and Teal'c have gone back to the Stargate for a scaffolding and a portable lighting tower. Nothing much, but it should be enough to give you access to the upper part of the wall."

"And there's the next mystery. See this?" Daniel directed his beam over to the far side of the room, to an intersection between two walls that was almost buried to the ceiling in compacted soil. "Repeated earthquakes and subsequent flooding have caused a sedimentary build up that has almost buried this part of the building. I'm almost positive that somewhere under all that dirt there is a mural, a visual representation of the writing on the walls."

"Because this is a Greek thing?"

"Thing?"

"Something you've seen back on Earth. Writings accompanied by a visual depiction."

"Well, the Greeks were famous for their mural work, much like the Romans. No, it's more that I've come across several passages of text that refer to depictions of an object of great cultural and religious importance."

"Like a sign that says, 'this way'?"

"Yeah, that's funny. What has me most confused is the reference to Atlas."

"Greek god of?"

"Nothing. He was the Titan who held up the celestial spheres. Son of Iapetus and Clymene. Mostly known as the Titan of navigation and astronomy. He was also one of two Titans that governed the moon. There is a large bronze sculpture of Atlas at the Rockefeller building in New York which depicts him holding a representation of a celestial sphere on his shoulder."

"I don't see the connection."

"Neither do I, except that in some academic circles Atlas' association with navigation and astronomy was taken a step forward to include acts of heavenly retribution. Thunderbolts and lightning, that kind of thing."

"So this object of cultural and religious importance could be connected to Atlas?"

"The reference is vague. Atlas isn't mentioned by name, more the idea of who he was and what he represented. Call it a form of symbolism."

"Sounds complicated." Sam walked across to the soil encrusted wall. "I guess we can try and dig away some of the debris and hope the rest doesn't come down on top of us. There really is only so much we can do without bringing in an engineering team."

"Not worth it."

"Really?" She turned and shone her flashlight at him. "That's so unlike you to turn down a chance to go digging for treasure, Daniel."

"Now you sound like Vala." He turned back to the wall and its mish-mash of writing. "What I mean is that we don't exactly have the resources to turn this area in to a full blown archaeological site. And then there's the unstable weather--"

"Tell me about it," Sam said, cutting in. "The MALP has registered as many as eight different weather patterns around the Stargate in a matter of hours. I don't know how the Mekrit have managed to survive so long under these conditions."

"They adapted. Not much choice when you have nowhere else to go."

"Yeah, and me telling them their god was dead hardly helped the situation."

"Mot. Personified as a god of death."

"Dead god of death."

"And very out of place here."

"Not Greek?"

"No. Semitic. In this case I'd say he was opportunistic. Saw a power vacuum and moved to fill it. Yet..."

"The writing on the wall tells a different story?" Sam asked.

"Tells no story, at least not as far as who ruled and at what time, which could mean that whichever Goa'uld brought them here from Earth was long gone by the time these walls were used as an historical reference."

"And another one stepped in to fill the void but didn't rate a mention?"

"Or Mot forbade all forms of writing, ensuring there was no historical documentation of his rule."

"Cruel."

"But not unusual, even on Earth."

"Carter, come in."

Sam reached for her radio. "Go ahead."

"Got your lights and ladders. On our way back to you now."

"Roger that. I don't suppose you picked up a shovel or two while you were there?"

"Don't tell me... Jackson found something?"

"More of a might have found something."

"Shop's closed and we have a boat... scratch that, a dinghy to catch. He'll have to get his hands dirty."

"Had a boat to catch. Taphir says the weather is too unstable to risk a trip to the island right now."

"Nothing but sunshine here."

"Give it ten minutes."

"That bad?"

"Oh, yes."
*
"Bored!"

"Of course you are."

Vala sat on the ground in front of the mostly removed mound of soil that had built up against the back wall of the temple, and balanced a large spotlight on her knees. Every so often, when her concentration waivered, she would look up to find Daniel looking down at her, soil brush mid-swish and a scowl on his face.

"We've been here for hours!" she protested, jiggling the light and knowing full well she was annoying him. "Hours! I don't know why you couldn't just put this light thing on a stand thing and let me go with Sam."

"Because you left the light thing at the gate--"

"Unintentionally."

"Still left it there! And Sam was going on a hospital tour, which you agreed, quite loudly and in front of our hosts, would be a waste of your time."

"Cameron? Muscles?"

"At the barracks watching the equivalent of gladiatorial games."

"All those men in skirts wielding their little knives at each other. Infinitely more fun than watching you fawn over a wall full of squiggles."

"It's writing. And you know full well women aren't allowed at the arena."

"Yes," Vala huffed indignantly, "about that--"

"I know what you're going to say, and normally I'd agree, but we're not talking about a patriarchal society that oppresses their women."

"Really, Daniel? Then what are we talking about?"

"A millennia-old tradition where the men are the protectors. You've seen the Mekrit women. Do any of them look particularly oppressed to you?"

"Positively joyous. Actually, a little too peppy if you ask me."

"There you go."

Vala dropped her head to her chest and blew out a long breath. "So bored!"

"How about you put the light down on the ground, angle it up towards the upper right quadrant of the mural, and come and give me a hand with this last sedimentary layer?"

"I get to dig?"

"No, you get to take one of my other brushes and start carefully removing the soil from the outer edge of the mural. And when I say carefully--"

"You mean with baby strokes."

"Just... just be careful."

Vala sorted a brush from Daniel's roll and stood alongside him. The outer edges of the mural were chipped and fallen away. It was easy to see where layers of color and mosaic had been and where fragments still remained, but this section of the wall had definitely been exposed for longer than the rest. She gently teased at clumps of soil, loosening them enough to fall away naturally or with a minimal amount of help. Where Daniel was working, the mural was more intact but covered in a thicker crust of clay from the original bank that had formed around it over the centuries. She watched him working the groves between tiles with his little brush, flicking and swishing, at times applying more pressure than she was prepared to use.

Daniel knew his trade.

"Here," he said, and handed her his flashlight, "hold this while I work this last layer of soil away. I can almost see an image forming in the center of the wall. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, this whole wall was devoted to this one central icon."

"Then what were the rest of the tiles for?"

"I think they formed a kind of frame and canvas."

"Like a picture?"

"No real purpose except to be decorative. I mean, the framing of the mural is quite a common feature of ancient Greek art, but the content generally fills the frame."

"This isn't the same?"

"No. And there's something else. Most Greek art is heroic; an attempt by the artist to portray the human form through beauty and strength."

Vala took a couple of steps back, which widened the beam from the flashlight to cover a greater area of wall, revealing the image in almost its entirety. "Well," she said in a dissatisfied tone that only served to play up her boredom, "I haven't been so disappointed since I failed that little ink blot test."

"Oh!"

"Don't tell me you find this... this... whatever this is to be interesting?"

Daniel tucked his brush into his vest and reached for his radio. "Sam, come in."

"Go ahead."

"I've just discovered something you're going to want to see."

*

Sam looked up at the darkening sky and over to a nearby grove of trees whose branches were being tossed about in the growing wind. There was a strong smell of ozone in the air, a hint that rain was definitely on its way.

"Well," she said, turning her attention back to the tiny digital camera screen Daniel was playing back his recording on. "It certainly explains a lot."

"Indeed it does," confirmed Teal'c.

Vala stood off to one side with her arms crossed and one foot tapping the ground in clear irritation. The wind was whipping her hair about her face, and she made no attempt to push it back. "Would anyone care to tell me what Daniel and I found?"

"It's a Touchstone, right?" Cam asked. "The... Madronans? You guys found one of these things there."

"More like returned. Maybourne's rogue SG team stole it from right under the Madronans noses." Daniel shut the recording down and closed the screen. "The Touchstone was used to maintain the weather on Madrona once it had been terraformed."

"The Madronans knew how to use the Touchstone, but not the technology behind it," Sam added. "We never did find out who terraformed the planet. And there are any number of options there."

"The Ancients?" Vala asked, hopefully. "Seems like the sort of thing they might do."

Daniel bent down and put the little camera back in his pack. "The technology isn't Ancient. They're not the type to go leaving huge statues behind to mark their existence."

"No, just huge cities."

"About that..." Sam looked over at the old temple and then back to Daniel. "The depiction in the mural is just the Touchstone, nothing else?"

Daniel frowned for a moment. "The statue?"

"Wouldn't it make more sense to paint a complete picture?"

"Only if we work on the assumption that the statue on Madrona was left by the same people who created the Touchstone and terraformed the planet. It's just as likely the Madronans built it specifically for the Touchstone. High Priest Roham was the only one who knew how to calibrate the device, indicating that it was regarded by the Madronans as an object of worship."

"Which begs the questions of how they discovered the Touchstone in the first place."

"Honestly, I don't know." Daniel shrugged. "We didn't exactly stick around for a history lesson, despite the invitation."

"All really good question, but we've got a dinner to get ready for." Cam bent down and picked up Daniel's pack, thrusting it at him. "And I don't know about you guys, but I'm starving."

"Yes. About that dinner..." Daniel started to say, but Cam was already walking in the direction of the city. "He does know the protocols, right?"

Vala hooked her arm through Daniel's and ushered him forward. "I don't know, but why don't you tell me all about them while we walk."

"Ah, Mitchell? Wait up!"

*

On the odd occasion Vala ever professed to paying attention to more than a few words of a Daniel Jackson mission briefing, she would at least admit to having learned something from the reams and reams of discourse that whirled about her head. She could, if she really tried, pluck something out of the maelstrom and store it in her mental folder of useless information, in the unrealistic hope that Daniel might actually think she had more smarts than she generally let show. Today was one of those moments. With the exception of the weather, the planet was beautiful and the hospitality of the Mekrit--a community of fishermen and women who fit her genetic gene pool theory with astounding accuracy, because they were all blond-haired and blue-eyed--was unparalleled in the amount of banquet courses they insisted SG-1 sit through.

To her right, Cameron sat relaxed in his chair with his stomach forced out, his BDU belt undone and his eyes at half-mast. His earlier belch, which she half expected to cause him embarrassment and SG-1 some kind of diplomatic incident, was met with a loud chorus of applause and tabletop slapping from the large Mekrit gathering. They wanted more, and Cameron was only too happy to oblige, after several tankards of the local honeyed-wine, fortified with an exotic and apparently rare flower she couldn't remember the name of.

"I thought you said we shouldn't drink the wine?" Vala whispered to Daniel, who was sitting on her left, picking through the scraps of his fruit and vegetable salad, looking either bored or distracted. Sometimes it was hard to tell.

"I did," he murmured in return, piercing something round and purple with his folk and popping it in his mouth. "Actually, no. I said we shouldn't drink the wine. As in you, me and Sam. And Teal'c."

"Not Cameron?"

"No. Well, yes, considering how drunk he is, drinking the wine probably wasn't the brightest of ideas. However--"

"There's a 'but'?"

"Always expect the unexpected. In this case, Mitchell doesn't have much of a choice in the matter. Mekrit politics demands the legally appointed representative of any prospective trading partner pay their due respects by partaking in equal quantities of Dahalas wine with the first leader."

"Mister Taphir."

"Mister?" Daniel asked questioningly, and then nodded quickly. "I guess mister works."

"So, this is like one of your Earth drinking games?"

"Well, no, more like--"

Vala took a deep, theatrical breath, spread her arms wide and belted out in a decidedly out of tune key, "Ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall. Ninety nine--"

"Vala!"

"I never could get past eighty seven," she said with an air of dejection. "Never. Not even once!"

"I'm more surprised you even know the words!"

"Muscles," she sighed, as she sunk back in her chair and crossed her arms. "Though there's not much fun to be had when your drinking partner isn't exactly drinking."

"Teal'c taught you?"

"After a lesson in counting backwards from ninety nine and a bottle of your Nappa finest."

"Should have known."

"Oh, I don't think so." Vala reached for her fork and used it to push her mostly untouched plate away. "Sam tells me you have a rather discerning palette when it comes to wine. Less light and white and bubbles, and more vivaciously red and expensive."

"Yes. I miss those days where we actually got enough downtime to indulge in more than cork sniffing and browsing for bargains on wine chateau dot com."

"They have bargains?"

"No," Daniel grumbled and pushed his plate to one side, in favor of his mug of the local coffee equivalent.

Vala tipped her head to one side and appeared to study him for a moment, before whispering in a clipped tone, "You might want to practice your sarcasm. I almost believed you."

A loud belch and some more table thumping was followed quickly by a heavily slurred "Yo! Jackson!" and the sound of a chair scraping noisily on the wooden floor.

"Well," Vala announced with a wide smile that quickly faded when she turned to face Cameron, who was now slumped forward and barely sitting on his chair. "Looks like someone has exceeded his limit for the evening."

Daniel rose to his feet and walked behind Vala's chair to get to Mitchell. "Want to give me a hand getting him to bed?"

"Can we do that? What happened to the bottles on the wall? The whole... whole..." She waved a hand frantically in the air. "Oh, you know... equal amounts of wine!"

"I don't know, but I think Mitchell is done for the night, don't you?"

Vala took in Cameron's slumbering form, the puddle of drool spreading over the table under his open mouth, and the nasally snoring that was almost loud enough to drown out the dying enthusiasm of the table slappers. "And here I am without my camera!"
*
Somewhere, someone was tearing down trees with a chainsaw. Somewhere close. Very close. Probably in the room. Cam turned onto his side and jammed the pillow over his head, not even daring to open his eyes, and desperately trying to tune out the chainsaw and its tree torture.

"Shuddup!" he said just a little too loudly, when it felt like the chainsaw was right next to his ear and about to fine-tune its blade on his scalp.

"You know," came a disembodied voice, "diplomacy is a lot like boxing. You have to learn to fight in your weight. And drinking in excess is a lot like eating in excess. They both relay upon the seldom practiced art of moderation, which is apparently not one of your finer skills."

"Va-la," Cam enunciated slowly, more because his mouth simply didn't want to work at normal speed, and also because somewhere between the two syllables he needed to pause to stop himself from puking up last night's... "Oh, God!"

"Well, no. At least, not anymore. Not sure what I miss most - my followers obeying my every order or my exclusive and quite expensive wardrobe collection."

"Can you just..."

"Be quiet? Shut up?"

"Yes," he hissed.

"I can, but Daniel says Taphir is expecting you for breakfast in about, oh... now."

And then it all came flooding back in the kind of Technicolor dream that Cameron remembered from his high school days, where drinking moonshine in the stable room at the back of his father's barn with some of his closest friends was seen as a rite of passage before turning twenty one, when it all became terribly legal and a whole lot less enjoyable. They practiced a lot.

Too much.

He lost some of his favorite brain cells in that little room.

"Now, meaning--"

"Close the curtains."

"What?" Vala's voice was closer now, her breath just bouncing off his exposed left cheek. "The curtains? Oh, no need to worry about your virtue. Your adoring fans are all waiting for you at breakfast, where I'm sure you will be serenaded with more cheers and table slapping. Did you know the whole table slapping ritual is only reserved for higher caste members of Mekrit society and visiting dignitaries?"

"No."

"Amazing what you can learn at one of Daniel's oh-so-boring missing briefings if you actually pay attention for a minute or so."

Cam could feel the blankets being pulled back. His legs were suddenly cold, and there was a draft running up the back of his spine. "Vala."

"Something else I learned at the briefing was that the Mekrit are sticklers for adhering to schedules, which means being late for ones celebratory breakfast could be seen as a ancestor to a diplomatic incident. And I don't know about you, but explaining the loss of this trade agreement to General Landry because you were late for waffles and eggs with Taphir wouldn't exactly look good on your personnel record."

"Precursor."

"Pre what?"

"Cursor. You said ancestor to a diplomatic incident, when the word you want is precursor. And what I want is my pants!"

"Oh. Oh! Your pants. I think they're here somewhere."

He heard Vala move away from the side of the bed and then come back a few seconds later, tossing at him what he assumed was his pants.

"You know," she went on to say, heedless of the fact he was semi-naked and freezing cold, "you have a terrible habit of losing clothing at the most inopportune moments. Not that I'm complaining."

"Turn around." Cam pointed towards the back wall of the room and twirled a finger in the air. "All the way around."

Vala sighed and turned away. "You've got nothing I haven't seen before."

"And I'm not about to start showing you."

"Well, while you're covering your bits, you might want to consider layering."

"What?"

"Layering! You haven't heard... no, I guess not. Let me introduce you to the seldom discussed but very fashionable tip of layering, where you start with one piece of clothing and then add another over the top. And so on, and so on, and--"

"You call that a fashion tip?"

"Well, you had no idea. It's freezing outside!"

"I could just put my jacket on ."

"Hence layering!"

Cam stood, pulled up his BDU pants and then looked out the window. "Whoa! What's with the weather?"

"Ahem! Lay-er-ing!" she said crisply, still with her back to him. "I'm not surprised the Goa'uld don't know about this place, what with the wacky weather and men in little skirts."

"Can we just get this over with?"

"Are you all respectable now?" Vala turned to face him and smiled appreciatively. "Splash of water, a couple of Tylenol, and you wouldn't care about the pictures Daniel and I took of you last night while you were enjoying some quality time with the... facilities."

"Oh, you didn't!"

"I bet you didn't know that once ingested, the juice of the Dahalas flower turns from clear to a lovely shade of violent yellow?"

"Violent?"

"Uh huh! A description more in keeping with the speed and severity at which you managed to puke up every last drop."

Cam sunk back down on the bed and dropped his head to his hands. Outside, an enormous clap of thunder announced the arrival of a massive electrical storm.
*
"Morning," Daniel said with as much cheerfulness as he could muster. The breakfast hall was all cobblestone floors and mud brick walls, cold and rather drafty. At one end there was a giant fireplace, stoked high with some local fragrant wood that smelled a lot like tamarack but burned black like it was wet. Unfortunately for him, the fireplace was at one end of the hall and he was seated at the other. He watched with some amusement as Mitchell slowly lowered himself into the chair next to his and tried not to look at the banquet of foodstuffs running down the center of the table. "Headache?"

Mitchell nodded once and swallowed deeply.

"Don't go puking on me."

"Nothing left. I want the number of the bus that hit me last night."

"Ah, that would be the Dahalas wine. What part of pace yourself didn't you get?"

"You told me I had to go one for one with the guy! Equal amounts... or something like that."

Daniel smiled and reached for a pitcher of water. "I did say that, didn't I?" he said as he poured a tankard and pushed it towards Mitchell. "And if you'd bothered to pay attention, you would have heard me say that it was up to the guest to set the pace. I doubt there's anything in the first aid kit that'll help."

"Vala already gave me Tylenol."

"Working?"

"No."

"Told you. On the plus side, though... if there is one... Leader Taphir was so impressed with your performance last night--"

"Please tell me I didn't puke in front of the guy?"

"No, you saved that bit for later. Thankfully. No, he's allowing myself and Vala access to a small island off the coast where the Touchstone used to be housed."

"He knows?"

"I showed him the footage I took of the wall. He's sending the city historian and the local equivalent of an archaeological team to finish the work we started on the building. Which, by the way, isn't a temple after all. It used to be a type of museum, possibly an archive. Apparently it, and several suburbs of the old city, were destroyed in an earthquake about four hundred years ago. About the same time they lost their Touchstone."

"I thought this Touchstone was supposed to control the weather?"

"Weather, yes, but I doubt that included geological disturbances. Besides, the earthquake was caused by a 'ball of fire that fell from the sky'."

"Meteor?"

"Sounds like it. Taphir says there are documented accounts of the event in the city archives, which we should be able to access once the treaty has been ratified."

"Whoa, wait up. They let you play about in some of their old buildings and go visit this island of theirs, but you can't take a peek in their library?"

"Yeah," Daniel shrugged and reached for a piece of toast, offering it to Mitchell... who stared blankly at it before turning away. "I wondered about that as well, but then maybe they figured there was nothing of value at either site for us to find."

"Proved them wrong."

"What I don't understand is why Taphir and those that came before him made no effort to retrieve the Touchstone. On one hand, and assuming this planet was used as a seat of power, a homeworld of sorts, it's possible Mot stopped them from conducting any type of activity that amounted to these people becoming educated, much like Ra tried to do with the Abydonians. Which means, if they did know about the Touchstone when Mot first arrived, then its existence may have been deliberately hidden or taken out of the history books for the sake of it not being found. Especially if it was regarded as a religious item or held some cultural significance."

"And on the other hand?"

"I don't know," Daniel said slowly. "I'd say it held a place in their society as an item of religious importance only. One thing is for sure, the Mekrit either never learned to calibrate the Touchstone, or if they did they lost the ability when the quake struck and they presumed the object gone for good."

"Which it probably is." Mitchell pushed the tankard away and reached for a piece of toast. "Am I going to regret this?" he asked.

"What? The toast? No, it's fine."

"No. I was thinking more about you and Princess alone on some island by yourselves."

"With a local guide."

"Like I said... alone."

"Well, it's either I take her with me or she goes with you, Sam and Teal'c for a tour of a nearby waste management system."

"You're kidding me!"

"Oh, no. And you might want to consider a shower and deodorant, maybe polish your boots."

"Why?"

"You're the special guest at an aqueduct opening ceremony."
*
"This ceremony is a waste of time," Teal'c grumbled under his breath, his gaze flicking from Cameron, sitting high above on a podium full of dignitaries and religious representatives, to the crowd standing in front of them. "Should we not be seeking to expedite the sealing of the trade agreement?"

"The art of diplomacy lost on you, Teal'c?"

"Diplomacy is irrelevant unless you are a diplomat. I believe Daniel Jackson to be correct when he complains about time he cannot recover. This may well be one of those moments."

Behind the podium, and running a course that snaked from the outer edge of the Mekrit city to a nearby mountain range, was the aqueduct Cameron was here to ceremoniously declare operational. The structure was impressive, given the technological level at which these people lived. And on the other side of the city, well away from the shanty living areas, there was another much smaller aqueduct that diverted sewerage waste to a collection pond containing an algae that processed the waste and turned it into harmless biomaterial. It was this algae, along with several mineral requests, that was at the top of the SGC wish list when it came to trading with the Mekrit.

"Smile and nod, Teal'c," Sam said. "That's all you need to do until the ink is dry and we can all go home. Besides, if this algae works even half as well as we think it does, it'll go a long way to solving our own waste disposal problems back on Earth. We need what they have."

"In return for mining technologies, and educational and medical support."

"The Pentagon believes it's a fair trade, given the naquadah levels in the soil. We detected enough high grade naquadah in one geo scan alone to put out the next generation of X-304's ahead of schedule."

"If this ceremony does not conclude soon, that schedule may well be put back several generations."

"Teal'c.... was that an attempt at humor?"

Teal'c looked back up at Mitchell and cocked on eyebrow. "I do not believe Colonel Mitchell is enjoying this day any more than I am."

Sam sighed. "Probably not. I think he's a little dehydrated from last ni-" The ground moved, shifted ever so slightly underfoot, and so barely discernible that Sam thought for a split second she must have simply lost her balance. "Did you...?"

"I did." Teal'c looked sharply up at the podium at the very time the ground moved again, only this time the shift was acute enough to bring most of the crowd to its knees. Screams filled the air as people fell into each other, struggling to hold on to anything they could. "Up there," he called out, and Sam stumbled forward and to her knees just as the giant podium started to shake violently and list to one side. She could just make out Cam as he fell to the left and landed on the hard railing.

"Go," she called out to Teal'c, who was already up on his feet and trying to surge forward through the crowd. A cold silence filled the air. The small tremors that rippled their way under the ground were just a taste of what was coming as the sonic boom of a massive earthquake rolled across from the direction of the ocean, bringing down the podium and almost every building around them. The massive aqueduct structure seemed to rise in the air and hang there for a moment as the wave sped beneath it, only to crash back on its base and fracture. Sam tried to climb to her knees but the ground continued to yaw and sway until eventually she heard the sickening sound of the earth splitting open somewhere behind her.
*
If past experiences held any sway over Vala Mal Doran's current predicament, then the presence of two suns was a sure sign of impending disaster. Normally, she was somewhat pleased to admit to herself, most of the somewhat dire situations she had found herself in over the years tended not to be impacted upon in any way by local celestial bodies. Today, however, was different.

Both suns were high in the sky. One slightly closer than the other and shifting into the red spectrum, thanks to some spectacular atmospheric conditions... or so Samantha had told them with a mixture of enthusiasm-soaked babble and hand waving. The other sun was smaller and farther away, but was still putting out enough heat to fry an egg on the bow of her little boat. If only she had an egg to fry.

Combined, taken as a duet of extreme solar radiation beating down on her lily-white skin, the suns made for formidable foes.

Only a few hours ago, when said suns were shrouded behind a heavy blanket of black cloud that was throwing down enough rain to erode a healthy slice of the mainland, she would have killed for a bikini and a tube of some expensive tropical bronzing lotion. Now, in the light of an offshore earthquake that had triggered a tsunami, followed by the storm, and then followed again by a parting of the clouds to reveal two altogether peppy suns, she was more interested in hiding in a nice dark cave.

Vala looked towards land, what little there was left, and struggled to find any of the landmarks she had taken note of from her and Daniel's jaunt between the mainland and the little island they had been exploring. It would be an overstatement to say she was familiar with the island, despite it not being overly large, and especially because the weather had been so poor during their trip that what they saw was a mostly mist-coated mountain top and the beach... when their guide rammed the little boat into the shore.

Thankfully, they were still relatively close to the beach, largely due to the fact that the boat she found only had one oar. Rowing in a continuous right-hand circle, especially now the sea was calm and the wind had dropped, meant that gaining any great distance was almost impossible.

And right now she had little precious energy left to come up with a better plan.

Movement towards the bow caught her attention, and she shifted cautiously forward, careful not to sway the boat. Mekrit fishermen were known for their boat building skills, or so their leader had declared with an air of pride, but this battered dinghy showed none of that famed craftsmanship whatsoever. In fact, Vala was quite surprised when she had found it wedged between two palm trees and relatively in one piece-- minus an oar, sails, the mast, and a repair kit for the many worm-chewed holes peppering its wooden planks.

"Daniel?" Vala said softly and reached out to touch his shoulder, half expecting him to wake-up with some complaint on his lips, but not surprised when he quickly settled.

The quake had rumbled in from across the ocean, shifting the ground beneath their feet, and roaring across the island like a rock rippling the surface of a pond. She remembered looking across at Daniel, who was moving out from the shade of the ruins and running to where the jungle met the beach. There was confusion and worry on his face, and then there was fear. She scrambled to his side, forgetting the implements she had been holding for him and the journal in which she had been noting down his findings, when suddenly she found herself being forcibly spun about back in the direction of the ruins and shoved forward. He told her to run.

Somewhere in all the confusion, where she was trying to catch a glimpse of whatever it was that had frightened him, she found her pack being thrust into her arms, it's top flap still open and stuff falling out onto the ground.

And then Daniel was suddenly in front of her and pulling her forward. "The ocean!" he said breathlessly as he stopped to let her past so he could boost her up the face of a small rise. "The quake must have triggered a tsunami."

"How-"

"The water in the lagoon is gone. Up. We have to get up as high as possible!"

"Daniel!"

"Just go!"

And they had. As fast and as high as they could. All Vala could remember was her lungs burning and legs stinging from running and climbing, stumbling and retching. She never did get an opportunity to look back, but Daniel's none-so-gentle urgings to move her butt fueled her forward until they reached a sheer cliff face and could go no further. He pushed her up a tree and made to follow her when suddenly he was gone, and the world around her churned grey and white, cold and wet, as a wall of water slammed into the tree and then the rocky cliff behind her. She held on where Daniel could not. And she cried.

Vala had found him sprawled, broken and unconscious, on a rocky ledge a few hundred feet from where they had taken shelter when the tsunami had struck. At first she thought he was dead. He was pale and still, his head turned to left and a thick trail of blood running down over his eyes and cheek and dripping onto the rock beneath him. She dropped her pack and clambered to his side, one hand reaching, searching for the pulse point on his neck, the other stroking his wet hair as though she could make him better.

"Darling, " she whispered when she realized he was alive, and when the enormity of their situation hit her. All around her, the land had been flattened by the force of the water. What trees were still standing had mostly been stripped of their foliage and left bare and shredded. Debris banked up against the rocks and what remained of the ruins was left as silent witness to the force of the wave and the equally as deadly receding tide.

Daniel had remained still, and it had taken all of Vala's willpower to leave him there while she collected enough fallen branches and wide leaves to cobble together a stretcher.

All that had happened before lunch.

Their guide had deposited them on the shore, handed over a basket of fresh fruit and two skins of water, and announced he would be back at dusk to take them home. Apparently the ruins were regarded as haunted or something, and totally out of bounds for the locals, though Daniel quickly theorized, once the guide was back in his boat and out of earshot, that it was more likely Mot had forbid the Mekrit from traveling to the island. It was all part of his master plan to keep the population under his control.

The ruins were some distance from the shore and well back from the beach, which in itself was nothing more a thin strip of white sand being held back by a low-set natural rock wall. They cleared the shore and headed off in the direction the guide had suggested until Vala stumbled on a moss-covered rock, which turned out to be the start of the temple complex.

Daniel was ecstatic! Vala was lamenting the huge chunk of leather gouged from the toe of her boot by the rock.

There was one thing Vala didn't have in spades and that was patience. She sat on the rock and watched Daniel walk about the perimeter he had established, making notes in his journal and mumbling to himself. And it wasn't until he pulled up a rock next to her and opened the journal out on his lap that she could see the detailed map he had made of the area. Where she saw trees, plants and funny flowers that curled in on themselves when she touched them, he saw the foundations and shattered remains of the temple complex that was hidden beneath.

"The entrance should be here," he said stabbing a finger at a point on his map. "There's a fair amount of structural damage and overgrowth, which probably means we'll have some work to do to actually find the entrance, but--"

"Why there?"

"Where?"

"There." Vala tapped the spot on the map. "Why not someplace else?"

"The entrance?"

"Uh huh."

"Well, because the Greeks liked to face the entrance of their temples towards the rising or setting sun. Almost seventy five percent of all ancient temples in Greece were found to be orientated within about sixty degrees of due east. I took note of the rising sun this morning, which then gave me an automatic reference to the direction of the setting sun. We try this location first," he pointed back to his spot on the map," and if there's nothing there then we go to the other side."

"You do realize we only have a few hours here before our lovely guide returns."

"I know, which means we don't have time to be sitting about. It also means if we do find something then we'll need to return with a science team."

"And you think the Mekrit will let you?"

"I don't know. Taphir moved quickly on the other site when I told him it was actually a museum, so he may well do the same here."

"I wonder why that was?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I don't really know, but Taphir wasn't interested in the building when he thought it was a temple but as soon as you tell him otherwise, he sends in an archaeologist."

Daniel nodded slowly and then smiled. "I think you're on to something there. Makes me wonder if history and education weren't the only things Mot subverted during his rule."

"Made it so visiting this place--"

"Which likely would have been seen as a holy site..."

"I was going to say a crime."

"And you'd probably be right. SG-1 encountered Lord Mot the year I was..." Daniel pointed a finger in the air.

"Playing celestial sightseer?"

"Ascended."

"Ah."

"According to the mission file, Mot was in the service of Ba'al and was in charge of the naquadah mines on P4S-237. Only, Ba'al believed the mines to be depleted."

"But Mot was hoarding the naquadah for himself."

"Right. Apparently, he planned to overthrow Ba'al at some point."

"Don't they all!" Vala laid back and stretched her arms above her head. "I met Mot once. Or should I say Qetesh did. Just briefly. Wiesel of a man."

"He's dead now."

"Can't say I'm sorry."

"Anyway!" Daniel closed his journal and stood up. "That way," he said pointing to an outcropping of stones. "The upper floors have collapsed down on the structure below. We could be here a while."

Vala groaned.

According to Daniel, the time spent on trying to help the Mekrit uncover a temple lost centuries ago was somewhat akin to them chasing their tails. Vala must have looked confused, given she had no tail and they really weren't chasing anything except too much sun exposure, because Daniel broke into a long lecture about the use of idioms and slang in everyday conversations.

She blah blah blahed, as she did when he tried to educate her in ways she wasn't interested in, and he gave up and went back to counting and cataloging rocks. Stones. Bricks. Whatever.

Which was where they were when the ocean pulled back and then reared up at them.

So here she was. Rowing round and round in a continuous circle, which, in reality, she only did once because it didn't require a degree in rocket science to realize that one oar meant going in one direction.

There was also a moment where she considered using the oar as a mast and her BDU shirt as a sail, except the two suns overhead laughed mockingly at her, promising to bake her to a crisp so she had an outline of her bra as a souvenir of her silliness.

Back to rowing. An oar on the right, swap to the left, back to the right. And pause to wonder why she thought leaving the shore was a good idea in the first place.

There wasn't much current to speak of, but there was a lot of debris in the water, floating and bobbing away, dispersing off into the distance as the slight breeze slowly carried everything away. She looked to the shore again, which seemed a little closer now, and spotted the rocky outline of the ruins they had been exploring. Originally, the site had been overgrown with vines and shrouded beneath tall trees that seemed to knit together to form a kind of barrier around the site. It had all been perfect when their guide first lead them ashore and pointed to where they needed to go, on what was looking like one of the only decent weather days they had. Now, though, the trees were mostly gone, the vines had been ripped away from the crumbling outer wall of the structure... along with the wall itself. Most of what was left was a lower room Daniel concluded had been the base of the structure that had once sat atop the small clay knoll, but had long sunken as the landscape changed over the years.

"Vala?"

The boat rocked from side to side as Daniel struggled to sit up. He had his right arm across his chest and was using his left hand to reach blindly out for any support.

"Daniel," she called and inched forward, trying not to rock the boat any more. "Just lay still. We're on a boat. At sea."

"Good place for a boat to be," he muttered in return and flopped back into the little alcove at the bow. "Where are we?"

"Boat. Sea. Not obvious enough?"

"Funny." His eyes were still closed and the cut on his forehead that snaked into his hairline was still bleeding quite heavily, despite the field dressing she had applied. "I mean... where are we?"

"Just off shore, about a mile or so, but getting closer." Vala finally wriggled her way over the center seat until her knees touched his. "I thought we would be safer on the ocean than back on the island. Or what's left of it."

"What--"

"Giant wave. Lots of water and floaty stuff. You don't remember?"

"Would I be asking if I did?" He tried to open his eyes a fraction, but snapped them closed again and winced as the suns bit into his vision.

"You lost your glasses," she said sympathetically and with a tired smile. "And your pack with your shades. I did a scout of the area before we set sail, but there was nothing to find."

"Did you try--"

"The radios? Uh, huh. Mine is broken and yours was totally ripped off your vest when the wave hit."

"What about water?"

"One canteen. Mine."

"Care to share?"

"Oh!" Vala dragged the canteen from her pack and reached forward, placing Daniel's free hand around it and pushing it towards his lips. "There's not much, so...."

"Take it easy. Yeah, I get it."
*
"Colonel Mitchell!"

"Son of a bitch!" Cam bit down hard on his bottom lip and ran a hand across the right side of his chest. Bruised but not broken, he mused ruefully as other aches and pains started to make themselves known.

Coming to a stop beside the broken remains of the wooden podium, Teal'c knelt down next to Cam and tried to assess his injuries. "Are you injured, Colonel Mitchell?"

"Bruised ribs, couple of cuts. I'll survive. Where's Sam?"

"Attempting to provide assistance. She believes the quake originated in the ocean just off the peninsula."

"Wherever it was, it was close. What about Jackson and Vala?"

"Unknown."

Cam reached for his radio but stopped when he found it missing and part of his TAC vest ripped open. "I thought these things were made to last? Try yours."

"I have."

"Nothing?"

"I shall try again once you have been extricated from the remains of the podium."

Cam made a quick assessment of the damage. There had been five of them on the podium when the quake struck and brought it tumbling down. He could see Taphir off to his right, sprawled on the ground, but being tended to by one of his aides. And beside him were the three other delegates, all sitting up and brushing themselves down. The podium suffered the most amount of damage. Sturdy legs had supported a raised platform that could only be reached by a ladder. When the quake hit, Cam felt the podium shift beneath him, and then in an instant the whole structure shifted to the left and started its eventual and graceless slide to the ground. He remembered stumbling into the handrail and then on to the floor as the other delegates came tumbling towards him.

"Teal'c!"

Cam looked past Teal'c and saw Sam running up towards them. "We've got a ground rupture in the vicinity of the aqueduct!" She pulled up and braced her arms on her knees as she struggled to catch her breath. "I'm almost certain now the quake was offshore, which means there is a high probability this region could be hit by a tsunami. We need to get these people to higher ground."

"What about those in the city?"

"Too many of them and not enough of us. This whole region has been subjected to quakes and tsunamis for generations, so there's a good chance they've worked out some type of emergency plan."

"And the rupture?" Teal'c asked.

"I don't know for sure. The section near us is fairly shallow, but I managed to track it most of the way towards the peninsula with my field glasses before I lost it. It gets wider. I think this whole region must be sitting on an active fault line."

Sam stood up straight just as Taphir hobbled over with the assistance of his aide. He nodded to each of them in turn, and then said somberly, "I am pleased you are all well."

"Likewise," Cam said with a nod.

"Taphir, a ground rupture has opened up between the peninsula and here. It might be wise to start moving your people to higher ground."

"Colonel Carter, we have no facilities beyond the city. Development of any kind was forbidden while Lord Mot ruled this world. Our city and the mining facility to the west are all there is. We have no place to move."

"I'm worried the offshore quake might have triggered a tsunami."

"Tsunami?"

"A string of long waves that are generated by the displacement of large volumes of water. In this case as the direct result of an offshore earthquake."

"Ah! You mean a tidal crest? A wall of water."

"Close enough."

Taphir nodded knowingly. "We have encountered such a phenomenon in the past, but the city has been protected by the peninsula. I have sent a messenger to the city to appraise the situation there. We will know shortly if the tide has crested."
*
Vala jumped out of the boat and into three feet of water. "Just perfect, " she muttered to no one in particular because Daniel was asleep again. Her attempt at steering the boat away from the island had become a futile one, and with night only a few hours away she knew her best course of action was to make a camp back on the shore.

"You know, darling, this is nothing like those quaint little brochures Samantha picked up from the travel agent. Baa-haa-mas, I think she called the island. All cocktails and posh frocks. I hardly call traipsing through muddy water on an alien planet with an unconscious teammate the perfect vacation."

"Me either," came Daniel's slurred response from behind her.

"Oh, good. You're awake again. As you can see, I'm wading us ashore. Or, to be more precise, I'm risking my life by walking in water that contains who knows what type of deadly marine life. I could be taken like one of those teenagers in whatever movie Teal'c made us watch last week."

"Jaws?"

"Uh huh."

"You watched that crap?"

"One of us had to. And you fell asleep!"

"Bad horror movies have that effect on me. I wouldn't waste your time worrying about something grabbing you. Whatever marine life there was would have either been dumped on the island or tried swim to deeper water."

"Oh. So, I'm safe here but once we hit land I could be eaten by a land shark?"

"A what?"

"Well, I can only guess that if you toss a shark on the land it becomes--"

"Vala?"

"Yes, darling?"

"Did you try your radio?"

"You've already asked..." She looked quizzically at him, remembering he likely had a concussion. "Yes. Somewhere between hauling you to the beach and launching the Prometheus."

Daniel groaned. "Do I want to know?"

"Why I called this poor excuse for a worm-eaten boat the Prometheus?"

"Go on. It's not like I have a choice."

"No. Let's call this saving rights. Almost like bragging rights, only I get to explain to my captive audience of one why I had to steal this tiny boat and launch it in the direction of expected salvation. Similar situation, only in this case we have a single oar instead of a fully functioning hyperdrive."

"Expected salvation?" The boat rocked slightly as Daniel struggled to sit up. "You were going to trade the Prometheus for weapons grade naquadah!"

"Let's not quibble over the details, but instead reflect upon my ingenuity--"

"For stealing ships!"

"I was going to say for getting us out of trouble." Vala was jerked to a sudden halt as the hull of the boat scraped the sea bottom. "Well, that was a refreshing little walk."
*
By the time Cam, Teal'c and Sam made it back to the Mekrit city, the suns had almost slid below the horizon and a large, fat moon was rising to cast its soft light across the harbor. Sam sat at the window seat of their guest room in the main government building and looked down to the street below, to where many of those who had been at the ceremony were just making their way home. There was an eerie silence to the procession, which Sam could only put down to everyone being in shock.

She turned and looked over at Cam, who was lying on his bed with one hand rubbing at a sore spot on his ribs.

"You sure you didn't break anything?"

Cam stopped rubbing and let his hand fall to his side. "Na. Not much I can do about it even if I have."

"We should attempt to return to the Stargate," Teal'c said from the next bed. "The refusal of the Mekrit to assist us in recovering Daniel Jackson and Vala Mal Doran is unacceptable."

"Relax, Teal'c," Cam said. "They simply want to play it safe and wait until morning."

Play it safe. Sam had predicted a tsunami and she had been right, only the unusual geography of the peninsula had protected the city but not some of the smaller islands farther out in the bay. By the time the wave had made it into the harbor, it did nothing more than produce an unusually large high tide. The Mekrit, swayed by centuries of experience living with such diverse weather conditions, had instantly dismissed any thought of sending a fishing boat to the island Daniel and Vala were on. It was too dark, the seas were too unpredictable, and there was no one willing to take them.

"There's also the length of the rupture to consider. It would take us hours just to navigate around the furthermost point and just as long to go the rest of the way to the Stargate," Sam added as an afterthought, and then returned to looking out the window. "The SGC will check in once we're over due."

"Which will be in about..." Cam checked his wristwatch. "Twelve hours."

A bolt of lightning streaked across the darkening sky, illuminating the horizon with a flash of brilliance that reflected off the ocean. The wind was picking up again, and Sam thought she could just make out heavy clouds rolling in from the west. "Looks like a storm," she said softly as another flash of lightning seemed to strike the ocean.

"If this world did have a device similar to the Madronan Touchstone, then it would appear likely to have been stolen," said Teal'c.

"No, I don't think so." Sam got up from her window seat and moved to sit on her bed. "The weather on Madrona was extreme, far worse than what we've encountered here and on Earth. Madrona was almost tearing itself apart."

"You on to something, Carter?" Cam asked.

"No." She shrugged. "Well, maybe. More like hypothesizing. I think we can assume there is more than one Touchstone, which at this point we fairly well know to be true, unless the Mekrit stone was taken and given to the Madronans."

"Likely?"

"I don't think so. I think it's a more acceptable assumption that there is more than one Touchstone, and that whoever created them did so because they needed to terraform more than one planet. It could be that each Touchstone is specifically calibrated to the planet it was made for."

"Custom made?"

Sam turned to Cameron and smiled knowingly. "In its simplest form, yes. So whether the rogue NID team played with the calibration or not, the Touchstone they stole would never work on Earth, except to do the damage it did."

"Still hypothesizing?"

"I think I've gone all the way down to guessing."

"Yeah, well, your guess is better than most people's solid facts."

Teal'c stood up from his bed and moved to the place by the window Sam had vacated. He looked out over the ocean and towards the coming storm. "If you are correct, Colonel Carter, then it would seem that the Touchstone device is still here."

"That's what I'm starting to believe. I don't believe it's broken completely, or we would the conditions here would be virtually unlivable, but it could be damaged enough to upset the calibration."

"Then we must help these people find their Touchstone."

"Not now, Teal'c," Cam said, turning on to his lift side and cursing from the pain in his ribs. The window shutters rattled as a strong wind blew in from across the ocean, cold and crisp. "Now we sleep and hope that Jackson and Vala are doing the same."

~o0o~

"That's it, Daniel. One foot in front of the other, just like I'm sure you parents taught you."

"Whatever happened to not mocking the injured?" Daniel tightened his grip around Vala's shoulders just as she did the same with the arm she had around his waist. Getting out of the boat had been one obstacle overcome, not without a lot of swearing and a bout of what Vala called manly fainting, but trying to walk across a muddy and debris-strewn beach was proving to be something completely different.

"Pretty sure that only applies to the elderly. In any case, and I'm not sure if you've noticed, but we are about to be rained upon!"

"We need shelter."

"My idea of turning our little boat upside down and hiding underneath wasn't appealing enough for you?"

"Yes to the boat. No to the getting down on the ground and hiding bit."

Vala tightened her grip again as if to urge him on. "If it's any consolation, I didn't fancy waiting out the storm by sitting in the mud either."

There was barely any daylight left. The setting suns, one of which had already dropped below the horizon, gave them hardly enough light left to navigate their way across the debris-strewn beach. Most of the trees were gone and those that were left looked like something ghostly swaying in the building breeze.

"Ruins," Daniel wheezed, and dropped his head to his chest to squeeze out a pain-filled cough.

"Brilliant plan! And about as useful as an upturned boat in a storm. I could add it to our growing list of options, right along with pitching the tent we no longer have on the beach and climbing in to our one and only sleeping bag to share body heat."

"Let's call it Plan B."

"And Plan A is?"

"Me walking one foot in front of the other and getting off this beach."

"That we can do." Vala pointed their one and only surviving flashlight to a point ahead of her. "Not many trees and definitely no curly little flowers, but I'm fairly sure this is where the forest started, which means the ruins have to be... "

"You don't know?"

"Not exactly. I saw what I thought was left of the ruins when we were bobbing about in the ocean, but not so much from standing right here. I am, however, lamenting our lack of an actual map and before and after shots from Mother Nature's attempt at geological renovations! And don't ask me to try and visualize the forest because I may have to hit you."

"Seven hundred and twenty paces from where the guide left us to the outer edges of the ruins."

"You counted?"

"No, I guessed. Of course I counted. Lack of map, remember?"

"Counting steps isn't the same as knowing the way." Strange that trying to validate an answer should be given an instant boost when a streak of lightning shot across the evening sky, followed a few seconds later by a massive clap of thunder. Vala ducked instinctively and almost brought Daniel down with her. "Well," she said, straightening up and smiling nervously, "that was close."

"Too close."

"Seven hundred and twenty paces straight ahead?"

"Give or take." Daniel followed the beam of her flashlight and nodded forward. "Probably give."

The 'give' was considerably more than the amount of paces Daniel had predicted. By about the time they had reached eight hundred, Vala was ready to lower Daniel down to the ground and wrap them both up in the sleeping bag, but the coming storm was building in intensity and pushing them forward.

"There," Vala said ten minutes later as the beam of her flashlight hit the large rock she had found earlier that day. "Ever so humble, but it'll have to be home."

"No." One hand still wrapped around his chest, Daniel reached for Vala's flashlight and shone it in the direction of the temple ruins. "That way."

"That way to where, Daniel? What I could see in daylight, and from a considerable distance, was nothing more than a few rocks. Probably what was left of one of your walls. It's all gone."

"Not like you to give up so easily," he huffed around a half-smile. "The lower levels should still be there."

"Under how much water? I much prefer Plan C, which was actually Plan A but minus the boat. Daniel, we are about to be rained on! We have one pack, missing half its contents, and one sleeping bag. It's dark, I'm cold, you're injured and bleeding, and--"

"Vala."

"Oh, I know, darling." She sighed theatrically and slipped her right arm back around his waist. "Nothing to be lost by looking, right?"

Vala was right about there not being much left to find. Night had taken over the island, and the light from the rising moon was shrouded by clouds from the coming storm. The sky was angry.

The light from her flashlight cut through the darkness and settled upon an outcropping of uniformly shaped rocks. Earlier in the day they had been mostly moss-covered and camouflaged behind a veil of tropical plants and exotic flowers, but now they were laid bare and very exposed in the flattened forest.

"If this is it, then there's not much left to speak of."

Daniel nodded slowly and was prepared to agree with her, but instead reached for her flashlight and shone it off to the right of the rock pile. "There," he said, when the beam settled on a dip in the ground and then appeared to dissolve into the darkness. "The wave must have washed away the sediment around the lower ground floor."

"I thought you said it was gone? Squashed."

"No. Come on." He pushed her forward until they were standing on the edge of where the beam had disappeared.

And that was where Vala took one step more than Daniel did... and vanished.

"Vala!" yelled Daniel as he tried to follow her descent through the darkness. "Vala!"

"Ow," came Vala's muffled reply. Daniel grabbed his injured side with his left hand and waved the flashlight around with his right hand until he found her sprawled at the bottom of a ditch, just a few feet down.

"You okay?"

"No, Daniel. I landed on my..."

"Butt?"

"It's not funny!"

"No," he conceded with a smile, "but at least it cushioned the blow."

"You do realize it is impolite to remark on a lady's behind!"

Laughing hurt too much, so Daniel settled for distracting himself by getting a wider view of where Vala had fallen. Where the ruins had once stood there was now a decent sized but not too deep hole in the ground that was shored up at one end by an ancient wall. Directly opposite the wall, the wave had gouged a trough that led straight to the ocean. Daniel suspected at some point in the temple's history the trough had most likely been a paved walkway, which was why soil had been so easily carried away. Some of the massive stones that had once constituted the framework of the upper levels of the temple were now scattered about the floor of the hole, and others had probably been dragged out to sea.

"You knew?" Vala called out from below, gingerly picking herself up and following the beam of light as Daniel circled it around the hole and back to the wall.

"I suspected there might have been a lower floor and possibly more than one room, simply because most civilizations that reach a period in their construction history where they develop the tools to work stone tended to get more grandiose in their designs."

"Well, that was a mouthful. You couldn't have just said yes?"

"Without qualifying my answer?"

"No. Without confusing me. I don't suppose you can get down here?"

To Daniel's right, the lip of the trough started to slope downwards. "Yeah. Just give me a minute."

*

"It's a wall."

"Yeah. I got that."

"Would it help if I said I thought it was old?" A strong wind was sweeping across the island and bringing with it a light shower of rain. Vala pulled up the collar of her jacked and zipped up the front, but it was barely holding back the cold and wet. "Daniel?"

"It's got to be here somewhere."

"You've been looking for half an hour now."

"It's here. I know it is." Daniel ran the beam of his flashlight around an indent in the wall, tracing out an almost perfect square. "Jammed or wedged. I don't know."

"And this problem isn't going to solve itself by morning. I'm tired, you're tired."

"Maybe, but if we don't get out of this weather we'll be a whole lot more than tired." Daniel turned the flashlight on its end and started tapping around the outline. After a few taps, the sound went from a thick thud to something more hollow. "Here," he said running his hand over a point on the wall. "Help me push."

"Really, Daniel---"

"Are you going to help me or are you going to stand here and complain until we're both hypothermic?"

Vala harrumphed loudly but got nothing but an angry stare from Daniel in return. She leaned into the wall and put her weight behind the spot he still held his hand over. "Is it too late to get a refund on this vacation?"

"Just push, will you?"

Daniel bit down hard on his lip as he put all the effort he could muster into pushing against the door. He ignored the sharp pain of broken ribs protesting his every move and the headache that had started to dull but was now back in full force. And yet despite his efforts, the door remained stuck. To his left, Vala had pulled away sharply, frustration etched on her face as she blew out her cheeks and turned to lean heavily against the wall. He thought about doing the same, even knowing there was no way he could offer up enough strength to match hers... when the side of the door they had been trying to move shifted inwards a few inches.

"Daniel?" Vala stepped back, turned around and grabbed the flashlight, shining it through the slight opening and into the darkness beyond.

"More," he urged and took up the strain again. A bright, white arc of lightning streaked down from the sky and hit the ground some way off in the distance, lighting up the entire area for a few brief seconds. In a flash, Daniel could see the small ravine they were in and the extent of the ancient wall. The stone moved beneath his hands, and then suddenly so did his balance as the door shifted on some unseen hinge and opened enough for him to fall through, with Vala stumbling in over the top. Her cry of surprise and a super bright flash of light was the last thing he saw as the pain in his chest erupted and sent him sinking into darkness.

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Q is for Quintessential (Daniel and Oma)
by [personal profile] tallulah_rasa

What am I going to do with you, Daniel?" Oma sighed, gazing out across time and space. Still, she waited -- as patiently as if temporal reality mattered -- until a power generator on one particular planet exploded, until a single man on another planet drifted into sleep. Only then did she materialize; did she will walls and floors and tables into existence; did she slide into a booth; did she gently shepherd Daniel Jackson into the booth across from her.

Daniel looked around with a rueful smile, picked up his fork, and poked at the steaming plate of waffles in front of him. "I take it that's a rhetorical question," he said.

Oma gave him what was, in any dimension or level of existence, a look. "This isn't a joke, Daniel. The Others wouldn't be pleased if they knew what you'd done."

Daniel frowned. "I still don't really get how the Ascended can be all-powerful, but not all-knowing," he said.

"Nevertheless, the rules are--" Oma began.

"You probably aren't the best...uh being...to talk to me about rules," Daniel observed, reaching for the syrup.

"Has anyone ever been able to?"

"Also rhetorical, I'm assuming," Daniel said, wrinkling his nose as a thin amber stream trickled from the bottle. "I'm sorry, Oma, but you can't give someone unlimited power and then ask them not to use it."

"I ask that you use judgment, Daniel. Discretion. Understanding."

"I did," Daniel said. "Jack was in trouble."

"As are many people every day, Daniel."

"But right then," Daniel said mulishly, "it was Jack."

Oma took what was, in any dimension or level of existence, a deep breath. "Things unfold as they must," she said, enunciating each word clearly, carefully, seriously.

"Well, maybe this is what's meant to unfold. That I'm here, helping my friends. Who are, by the way, trying to help the universe."

Oma sighed again. Daniel went back to his waffles.

"He saw me," Daniel said. He carefully cut a waffle into precise sections, and then looked up. "Jack. He saw me."

Oma nodded.

"The others...never have. Is there a reason...?"

"If you know the window is open, then you are more likely to feel the breeze," Oma said after a moment.

Daniel narrowed his eyes and put down his fork. "You just say those things to make me crazy, don't you?"

Oma shrugged. She gestured at the table and two cups of coffee appeared, wreathed in tendrils of fragrant steam. Oma poured some cream into the cup closest to her. "When the sky is dark, only the dreamer sees stars," she said.

Daniel's eyebrows went up and down a few times. "And when the syrup is empty," he said solemnly, holding the bottle upside down, "the archeologist must find more."

Oma chewed her lip, put down her cup, and then nodded. "Maybe you're right."

Daniel set the empty bottle gently on the table. "I don't need to be right," he said softly. "But I do need them to be okay." He met Oma's eyes. "If the carton says chocolate chocolate chip, you shouldn't be surprised that the ice cream isn't pistachio."

"Daniel...?" Oma asked, and her tone made it clear that, had they been corporeal beings, she would have been checking his temperature.

"You're not the only one who can quote philosophy," Daniel said.

"This is...the wisdom of your ancients?" Oma asked skeptically.

"Actually," Daniel admitted, "it's the wisdom of my colonel. But the point stands - you saw who I was on Kheb, Oma. Are you really surprised that's who I am?"

Oma didn't answer, but cocked her head, listening to a growing murmur just outside their reality. Daniel, hearing it too, turned toward the window, where an increasing number of vague, flitting forms were throwing inky shadows across the frosted glass.

Oma shared a long look with Daniel. He raised his eyebrows. She nodded. They toasted one another with their coffee cups. "You should have finished your waffles when you had the chance," Oma said.

"If the plate is empty, is the soul truly filled?" Daniel asked, and then he grinned and faded from the booth, leaving behind a whisper of warmth and light, and an almost untouched #2 Breakfast Special.

Oma absently speared a corner of one of Daniel's waffles and chewed thoughtfully.

The noise outside grew.

The walls of the Waffle House began to waver and fade, to reshape themselves into something else.

Despite having all the power of an ascended being, Oma couldn't quite contain her smile. "What am I going to do with you, Daniel?" she murmured, and then she, too, was gone.

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R is for Rapport (Daniel and Teal'c)
by [personal profile] fignewton

The first time Daniel Jackson meditated with Teal'c, it was more or less unplanned.

While he was deeply skeptical of Shau'nac's claim, the potential opportunity to suborn the Goa'uld's young to the Jaffa cause - not to mention his unspoken desire to ensure that Shau'nac survived - impelled Teal'c to risk his life. Unsure of the possibilities, Teal'c prudently asked his teammates to keep watch over him when he tried to disprove Shau'nac's claim that it was possible to communicate with a symbiote. Despite the gravity of the situation, he was inwardly amused that O'Neill considered the dangers he might pose to others due to the symbiote's influence, while Daniel Jackson questioned the threat to Teal'c's own life.

No matter. He placed his safety in their hands and turned his thoughts inward, focusing on his own heartbeat and slowing its steady flutter within his chest.

As his state of kel no reem gradually deepened, a small part of his mind was interested to note that his perception of the room began to narrow and fade. Normally, a Jaffa in kel no reem retained a keen awareness of his surroundings, even if outsider eyes might assume he was oblivious; it would be fatal, after all, if kel no reem left the Jaffa helpless and vulnerable to attack. In the first minutes, he was keenly aware of the movements of the others: Major Carter had taken a military stance at the doorway, shoulders squared and eyes alert. He could hear O'Neill's restless footsteps as he paced the small room. He sensed Daniel Jackson's breathing as the man settled on the floor opposite him, unconsciously mirroring Teal'c's own pose as they watched and waited. None of this surprised him. But as he plunged recklessly beyond the normal threshold to achieve a far deeper state of kel no reem than he had ever attempted before, he began to lose the ability to sense his surroundings. His discernment of Major Carter's presence, then O'Neill's, were lost to the rapidly dwindling focus outside his own self. Daniel Jackson's presence lingered a few moments longer, perhaps because he, too, was in a primitive meditative state by now. Even that welcoming reassurance was soon lost as his heartbeat stuttered and slowed, until there was nothing left but a sense of...

(death)

(father!)

Shaken by the unexpected flash of non-memory, Teal'c composed himself to try again.

Days later, with Tanith's betrayal laid bare and the bitter mourning rituals for Shau'nac complete, Daniel Jackson appeared at the door of his quarters late in the evening.

"May I join you when you kel no reem?" he asked.

Teal'c regarded him, puzzled. "Humans cannot kel no reem, Daniel Jackson."

"No," he agreed. "But they can meditate, and they do."

Teal'c tilted his head thoughtfully. "It is not a companionable activity."

"No," Daniel Jackson said again. "But I offer my company, just the same."

"You have seen me kel no reem off-world, in difficult conditions. However, in my own quarters, I prefer to avoid distractions." At Daniel Jackson's somewhat blank expression, Teal'c clarified, "I require silence."

"Aha. So, no talking or twitching or fiddling with things?" Eyebrows rose. "That shouldn't be a problem." Then, a little pointedly, "I'm not Jack."

The corner of Teal'c's mouth twitched. "Your presence will not be unwelcome," he allowed, and stepped back in invitation.

"That's very kind of you," Daniel Jackson said politely. His smile was nearly as understated as Teal'c's own.

He followed Teal'c into the room and assisted him in creating the intricate pattern of candles. Teal'c was surprised at his friend's self-control in refraining from asking too many questions regarding their cultural significance, confining himself only to the occasional inquiry regarding the correct placement of a particular taper. When the pattern was complete and the flames alight, Daniel Jackson settled on the floor, copying Teal'c's cross legged stance. Silence blanketed the room, yet Teal'c did not sense the usual Tau'ri unease of long periods of stillness.

The human did, eventually, fall asleep, for he did not have a Jaffa's stamina or endurance. Yet Teal'c found himself oddly comfortable with Daniel Jackson's presence, and the next time his friend knocked on the door in the late hours, Teal'c allowed him to enter without hesitation.

Their joint sessions of kel no reem and meditation lasted for over a year. There was no set pattern to Daniel Jackson's sporadic visits - they might occur twice in a week, or only once in three months - but Teal'c thought that they took place most frequently after their more distressing missions. He never questioned what drove Daniel Jackson to seek the silence and oddly peaceful atmosphere of his quarters, for he found that he valued these sessions himself. They spoke but little before and afterward, but it was more than enough.

When the disaster on Kelowna struck, Teal'c found it difficult to speak to Daniel Jackson. Their shared silences and close rapport had always served before. But when his friend lay dying, his human body ravaged in a way no Jaffa would ever endure, Teal'c found the courage to voice the sentiments he had always felt were best left unspoken.

"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."

It was not quite death, in the end. Indeed, Daniel Jackson achieved that which many of the Jaffa believed to be the ultimate reward. And yet, as he confessed to Major Carter, he would have preferred to have their friend with them, on their own mortal plane.

Teal'c had been compelled to delay the rituals of mourning in order to deal with the crisis with Thor and Osiris. When the time finally came, and he set the candles in the patterns of grief and loss, he thought back to that strange breeze that had teased at Major Carter's hair and caressed his own cheek. He had hurriedly speculated aloud that it was a flaw in the ventilation system, for he knew all too well that his friends met mysticism with skepticism. But he, who had rejected the Goa'uld as gods and longed to believe that the kalach yet endured, could not suppress a frisson of hope.

So he sat on the floor of his quarters, eyes automatically drawn to the spot where Daniel Jackson had sat so many times before, and composed himself - not to kel no reem, but to meditate, and to hope for the acknowledgment of another's presence.

No sign occurred. No breath stirred the room. Hours passed, and Teal'c conceded his defeat and turned to the physical requirement of kel no reem.

Acceptance, after all, was an inevitable part of life.

And then it was not, as he fought and clawed to keep himself and Bra'tac alive in the wake of a massacre. As his body and mind weakened and kel no reem proved impossible to maintain, Teal'c strained simply to keep his heart beating and his lungs expanding.

Help me, he whispered to the stagnant air, broken only by the whine of the insects descending on the dead. Help me.

Thoughts jumbled, twisted, whirled. He saw himself at the SGC, in a hospital, battling the theat of flame on a Tau'ri highway. He groped, fingers trembling, to remove the symbiote from his own pouch and push it deep within Bra'tac's wounded body.

"Hang in there, just a little while longer," a voice murmured in his ear, and he blinked in dazed confusion at the gentle expression on the face of a man he'd lost so many months before.

"You can't leave me like this," he begged, too desperate to be ashamed.

The figure stopped, turned. "I haven't left your side, Teal'c," Daniel Jackson said quietly. "And I'm not going to. That's a promise."

Reality splintered, shattered. He was alive, at least, and back in the SGC, even if his survival remained unclear.

Afterward, he told no one of his visions and dreams, even that last visit in the infirmary, when he was fully lucid and wholly awake. He thought that O'Neill, at least, would believe him, but it was too private, too personal to share.

But he took up meditating again, replacing the demands of kel no reem with the quiet of reflection. Perhaps, some day, there would be another sitting across from him on the floor in his quarters, sharing silence.

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S is for Second Chance (Jonas and Teal'c)
by [personal profile] stringertheory

Without looking up from his plate, Teal'c knew Jonas Quinn had entered the commissary. The shift in the air alerted him to Jonas's arrival, the impact of his presence rippling through the assembled personnel like a stone thrown into still water. Though obvious to anyone paying attention, the effect was subtle. There was no pause in conversation, and no gazes follow Jonas on his walk through the tables - though more than a few eyes flickered in his direction as he passed by. The feel of the room simply changed, a faint tone of blame, anger, and cool consideration settling over the crowd.

The familiar combination rang with memories for Teal'c, but he ignored their whispers to observe Jonas. He had no doubt that Jonas had felt the change in the room - he was as astute an observer of people as the man whose office he now occupied had been - but if the scrutiny bothered him, he didn't let it show. He approached the food line with his normal gait, back straight and a generically friendly expression on his face. As Jonas filled his tray and turned to find a seat, Teal'c watched the room closely.

No one made any motions to exclude Jonas from their tables, but none welcomed him, either. Instead, they avoided his eyes and gave no indication that they noticed him at all. If not for the fact that the room hummed with everyone's overwhelming awareness of Jonas, the overall impression of their actions would be that he simply did not exist.

Jonas, for his part, never faltered, walking decisively between the tables, expression still blandly pleasant. However, Teal'c could see in his eyes how much the rejection - or at least lack of invitation - bothered him. Not just because he wanted to belong, but because he genuinely wanted to interact with and get to know the people here, in his new home. And because he was concerned that such acceptance might be beyond him. Teal'c doubted that, though.

The majority of people, it seemed, had taken a neutral stance on Jonas, content to wait and see what he would do with himself now. Jonas had done much to help himself in that regard by returning to Earth with the naquadriah, and with his eagerness to learn and to help in any way possible. Many did not blame him for Daniel Jackson's choices, and those who felt he bore a measure of responsibility did not blatantly condemn him with their actions. There were even some who sympathized with him, who understood the weight of bad decisions and the burden of penance. Teal'c counted himself among them.

Though Teal'c had already finished his meal, he remained seated. He knew that Jonas would soon spot him and wanted to provide him with company. Once Jonas's gaze met his, Teal'c nodded his head in greeting. Jonas's expression finally changed then, a genuine smile warming his face and mostly masking the relief and gratitude that appeared there.

"Hi, Teal'c," he said, sliding into the chair across the table, his back to the majority of the room.

Teal'c nodded in response. "Jonas Quinn."

"The commissary is busy today," Jonas casually commented. "I thought I'd have to eat in the lab."

Teal'c noted that Jonas did not refer to the lab as his own; it was obvious that he still didn't feel any ownership of the space. The fact that it remained full of the work and possessions of a dead man probably didn't help in that regard. Teal'c wondered how often in the past few weeks Jonas had returned to Daniel Jackson's lab, or his own sparse quarters, to eat alone.

"How are you adjusting to life among the Tau'ri?" Teal'c asked. Open questions were often much more effective at eliciting truths than direct inquires.

"I--" Jonas began to give a standard response, but cut himself off, brow furrowing momentarily in thought. "I'm used to people not liking me," he finally said. "Anyone who rises through the ranks as fast as I did is going to make at least a few people unhappy, so I'm no stranger to the looks or the whispers. But this - I don't think I'll ever fit in here," he admitted, hints of both surprise and sadness in his voice. He threw a glance over his shoulder, the action causing a small flurry of movement around the room as the few people looking his way turned their heads a second before he could catch them staring. "No one is begrudging my presence - at least not to my face - but no one wants me here, either. And they don't have to come out and say it; they just don't look at me or talk to me unless they have to. And most of them don't have to."

Jonas half turned again, this time locking eyes with a passing lieutenant who didn't register the motion quickly enough to stop his study of the back of Jonas's head. As their eyes met, the man quickly averted his gaze, his expression shifting from open curiosity to careful blankness. He strode by with his eyes on the commissary doors, acting for all the world as if he hadn't noticed Jonas at all. Jonas sighed as he turned back to Teal'c.

"Many are still recovering from what happened to Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "He was well respected and loved, and he met his end on your planet."

"And I am both a constant reminder of that loss and the person to blame for it."

"Not all blame you," Teal'c assured him, "and those who do may, with time, come to realize the error of that belief."

"You don't blame me, do you?" It was less a question and more a statement of realization.

"I do not blame you for Daniel Jackson's decisions."

"But you blame me for mine."

Teal'c tipped his head thoughtfully. "We all have choices whose weight we carry. I believe the blame you place on yourself is punishment enough. I do not need to add to that weight." The words recalled his own experiences, and the time a man had once forgiven him because he could not forgive himself. The memory stung slightly, like sand blown across sun-burned skin, rubbing against the rawness of his own loss.

"I don't think the colonel agrees with you," Jonas muttered.

Teal'c studied him for a moment before replying. "The Tau'ri once took in another who had caused them great pain and who, by joining them, became a traitor to his own people." He knew Jonas had read all the SG-1 mission reports and would understand who he meant. As Jonas held his gaze, Teal'c could all but see the pieces coming together behind Jonas's eyes. "My sins were far greater than yours, but I was forgiven and accepted, with time."

He had, of course, had the benefit of SG-1's full support, something that Jonas currently lacked. That he was a warrior - not to mention a former enemy combatant with firsthand knowledge of the new, wholly unfamiliar threat the Tau'ri faced - had helped to facilitate his acceptance with the base's military majority as well. Though he had endured much more aggressive behavior than what Jonas had so far faced, he had also had people who were completely on his side. While there were people who felt for Jonas, there was no one as of yet who was standing up for him. Despite this, Teal'c was certain that Jonas's sacrifice and efforts would be fully appreciated, given time.

"What do I do until then?" Jonas asked, as if in answer to Teal'c's thoughts.

"Whatever you can, whatever they ask of you."

Jonas let out a huff of laughter. "That's a problem. They never ask me for anything. I can't try to make up for what happened if no one will let me."

"You cannot make up for what happened. It is past and cannot be undone. But you can help with the trials of the present, with the problems of the future. Be ready, be available. And when you see that you have something useful to offer, do not hesitate to do so."

Jonas stared at him for a long moment, then smiled, understanding in his eyes. "What a pair we are," he said, "the fallen First Prime and the former government golden boy turned traitor. All it took was one moment, one choice to destroy everything we had built our lives into."

"And to gain something much better. In joining the Tau'ri, I did more for the fight for Jaffa freedom than had been accomplished in the many centuries before me. And you had the wisdom to see what your government did not. I believe your choice will save them, will save all the people of your planet." Teal'c paused, then added, "We are more than our mistakes, unless we allow them to be all that we are. You are a good man, Jonas Quinn. I do not think you will let this mistake be all there is of you."

He paused again, but it appeared that - for the moment, at least - Jonas had nothing to say. With a final nod, Teal'c pushed back from the table and rose to his feet. "I must leave for a meeting with General Hammond," he said. Then, a little more loudly and therefore clearly audible to every ear stretching their way, he added, "You have expressed interest in learning defensive skills. If you would like to practice sparring, I will be available this afternoon."

Jonas looked up at him, and his smile this time was the one Teal'c remembered from before everything went wrong on Kelowna. "Thanks, I - I'd like that. I'll come by your quarters around, say, two?"

"That would be acceptable." Teal'c picked up his tray, and nodded in Jonas's direction. "Until then, Jonas Quinn."

While the other diners had avoided Jonas's eyes, they did not do the same for Teal'c. As he returned his tray and wove his way between the tables back toward the door, Teal'c could feel the weight of being watched. He kept his stride even and his expression relaxed. As he pushed through the door, he gave the room one more glance, and was pleased to see a few people studying Jonas's back with more open, gentle looks than before. The Tau'ri were firm believers in forgiveness and second chances, and Teal'c would help Jonas Quinn get his.

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T is for Trying Times (Daniel and Janet)
by [personal profile] topazowl

Janet managed to make it home before collapsing in floods of tears. How could she have done that? Committed one of her best friends to mental care. She lay on the sofa and cried until she threw up. Exhausted, she fell into an uneasy sleep and that was how Cassie found her when the child minder brought her home after school. Not understanding the distress but realising her mother was traumatised, Cassie grabbed the phone and dialled Sam at the mountain.

"Come on, come on," whispered Cassie, waiting for Captain Samantha Carter to pick up the phone. She was about to put the phone down and try Uncle Daniel or Uncle Jack when a subdued Sam answered with a very solemn "Hello."

"Sam, Sam, Mommy's so upset. What happened?" Cassie could hear Sam take a big breath.
"Can I speak to Janet, please Cassie?"
"She's too upset," was Cassie's reply which set Sam in motion and with "I'll be there as soon as possible," she put the phone down and went in search of reinforcements.

By the time Sam, Jack and Teal'c arrived, Janet had gained some semblance of control but the sight of her three friends set her off again and, as Sam comforted her, it was left to Jack to explain to Cassie that Daniel had had a bit of a breakdown and that her mom felt responsible, "even though she isn't," he hastened to add. Explanations over and Janet settled, three quarters of SG1 headed home. Emotional crisis abated for a while and Cassie in bed, Janet reflected on her friendship with Daniel and as to why it had affected her so much.

[Thoughts by Janet:]
- Daniel is a geek. A very friendly, fair-minded academic who is living in a soldier's world. Stubborn, argumentative, hot, a lousy patient, hot, a good friend.
- Why is he a good friend? He listens well, he cares, he would give his life for anyone or anything he believed in, he helps me ground myself, he's just nice!.
- Why do I think he's gone crazy? He is stressed, gate travel did this, he's a genius (which can border on madness), he's overwrought.
- Why did I agree to section him? I DON'T KNOW!!

Tears were flowing again and Janet was very pleased when Cassie had gone to school next morning and she was able to get back to the mountain.

*

The problem was solved, although not soon enough for anyone's liking because MacKenzie could be very obstructive at times. Machello's bugs were discovered, Daniel was not insane or schizophrenic, MacKenzie became public enemy number 1 and all was right at Stargate Command UNTIL a little bird (or should that be a big colonel) happened to mention to his archaeologist that a certain Napoleonic Warmonger had been in quite a state over the sectioning of said archaeologist.

[Email exchange:]
From: Doctor Daniel Jackson PhD, PhD, PhD, Stargate Command
To: Doctor Janet Fraiser, MD, Stargate Command
Subject: Machello's Bugs
Hey Janet,
Jack's just told me you were a bit upset about me being sent to "that place" last week and you felt it was your fault. Don't be silly. If it was anyone's fault it was Machello's (and maybe a bit of MacKenzie's) but don't blame yourself. Anyway, it's all sorted now.
Hope you and Cassie are OK
Your friend Daniel

From: Doctor Janet Fraiser, MD, Stargate Command
To: Doctor Daniel Jackson PhD, PhD, PhD, Stargate Command
Subject: Machello's Bugs
Dear Daniel
Thank you for saying that but I do feel I should have been stronger and fought MacKenzie more. I know you are not in the least bit insane and I should have known better and realised that it was something alien that was inside you. Please forgive me.
Janet

From: Doctor Daniel Jackson PhD, PhD, PhD, Stargate Command
To: Doctor Janet Fraiser, MD, Stargate Command
Subject: Machello's Bugs
Hey Janet,
You and I need to talk about this - it is NOT YOUR FAULT. I will bring takeout tonight - Chinese OK?
Daniel

From: Doctor Janet Fraiser, MD, Stargate Command
To: Doctor Daniel Jackson PhD, PhD, PhD, Stargate Command
Subject: Machello's Bugs
Dear Daniel
You know I love Chinese food! 7pm OK?
Janet
[End of email exchange]

Daniel made sure he finished work by 6 so he had time to shower before heading to his favourite Chinese restaurant and collecting the meal he had ordered earlier. With some trepidation, he knocked on Janet's door and was relieved, although in a way disappointed, when she said that Cassie was at a friend's house. He had little opportunity to play Uncle to the alien refugee but he needed to sort things out with his friend tonight.

Small talk was the accompaniment to the meal - Cassie and her schooling, Jack and his grouches, Sam and her latest experiments but, with freshly brewed coffee, they adjoined to the living room and Daniel launched straight into the reasons why she was not to blame for his incarceration.

"Firstly," he said, "I was acting oddly. I 'saw' a Gou'ald go into Jack, I 'heard the Stargate turning and the chevrons engaging, I 'saw' the event horizon in my closet. Damn it Janet, I thought I was going crazy!

"You couldn't have known... Wait," he said, lifting his finger in a very familiar gesture as she tried to interrupt him, "you couldn't have known that I had been infected by those bugs. All we knew was that the Linvris had somehow died. We had no other clues. All I did was pick up a tablet and Jack found the operating stone. No-one saw the bugs. I'm glad one went into Teal'c, although I wish it hadn't caused him so much pain, because, without that, I could still be locked up BUT IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT," he finished, in rather a loud voice. "Sorry" he whispered, "didn't mean to shout."

"Daniel, I should have been more thoughtful though. I realise I don't know much about off-world diseases and problems but I should have made more of an effort to isolate that problem when you were behaving so unlike your usual self." This time it was Daniel's turn to try to interrupt but he let her continue. "I know you don't go around seeing event horizons and Gou'alds in the SGC. When I look back, it should have been obvious that there was something alien involved and I failed you!" Daniel turned to Janet from beside her on the sofa and took her hand.

"Janet, we're friends, right?"

"Most certainly, Daniel."

"And friends trust each other, right?"

"Umm, where are you going with this, Daniel?"

"Do you trust me, Janet?"

"Of course I do Daniel."

"So, trust me now when I say it was not your fault. Put it down to an unfortunate but interesting learning experience. No one was permanently hurt or scarred. No one died, you learned a lot, as did we all, well, maybe not Jack, but that's another discussion, and to quote a Jack cliche "All's well that ends well!" Janet just looked at him.

"Why are you so forgiving? Why am I so lucky to have someone like you as my friend?"

"Janet, I'm the lucky one to have you as my friend and, before this turns into a really soppy mutual admiration fest, I say we drop the whole thing and watch an episode of that idiot "MacGyver" as it's due to start any minute now, what do you say? Friends?"

"Sure thing Daniel," Janet replied in her southern drawl. "Let's watch some TV!"

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U is for Uninhabited Planets (Cam and Vala)
by [personal profile] magickmoons

Pain pulled Cam back to consciousness, and he kind of wished it hadn't. As far as he could tell, there wasn't any part of him that didn't hurt to some degree, ranging from an annoying twinge to agony. As agony seemed to center around his lower back and down his left leg, he decided to focus on something else.

He tried to look around, but had to stop almost immediately when his neck went from 'Ow' to 'On Fire.' He could see enough to know that he wasn't in the SGC infirmary, or any type of medical facility. Dark, jagged stone formed the walls and ceiling around him. The only light seemed to be daylight coming from somewhere on his right.

"Wha happ'n'd?"

Light footsteps brought Vala into his line of sight, and she crouched down beside him with a neutral expression that didn't quite cover the worry.

"You were caught in a rockslide. It was fairly impressive, really. Even more so that you survived. Once I found you, I pulled you into this lovely cave."

He grunted. "Not s'posed to..."

"Move you, I know. But I thought that you might prefer not to buried under a pile of rubble while waiting for certified medical professionals," she retorted defensively.

As if to emphasize her point, Cam could hear the sound of debris rolling somewhere outside. Scattered memories flashed through his mind: the flash of panic as he felt the ground give way beneath him, rocks hurling themselves against his body, dirt and dust clogging his nose and throat till he thought couldn't breathe.

"No, you did good. S'better in here." He heard the slurring in his own voice and wondered how many of those rocks had found his head. "The others?" he asked. The team had split up after arrival, trying to maximize the chances of finding any trace of the civilization that may have once lived here.

Vala shook her head. "Your radio was shattered. And I seem to have lost mine somehow while getting you in here."

Well, that was bad. That meant they had to wait until they missed their scheduled check-in for the others to alert the SGC that they needed help. A couple of hours at best. It just figured, too. A nice, quiet uninhabited planet: no Ori, no Lucien operatives, it was supposed to be a walk in the park. No need for frequent check-ins.

Or full medkits, he thought as Vala handed him a couple of acetaminophen and a canteen. He swallowed the pills and closed his eyes.

"All right," he said aloud. "They'll sound the alarm as soon as we miss check-in. Someone will be here before you know it."

Time passed slowly. His headache and the lump he could feel on his skull told Cam that it wasn't a great idea to fall asleep. And despite the slight help from the meds, the pain was doing its part to keep him awake. Unfortunately, awake just meant he had more time to remember endless months in a hospital bed, watching life through windows and television. He really didn't know if he had it in him to do that again.

Vala had taken up a position at the small opening of the cavern and stood there, still as a statue.

"Stop standing there. I feel like I'm under guard," Cam finally grumbled. Vala's profile was outlined sharply against the daylight as she turned her head back toward him.

"Someone has to keep watch."


"It's an uninhabited planet, Vala. Just... here. Take a load off." He clumsily patted the ground next to him.

She sat beside him, radiating nervous energy. Cam knew that Vala hated feeling confined, helpless.

"They'll come for us, right?" Vala looked back out of the cave.

"Yeah, Vala. They'll be here."

"Well, they'll come for you certainly. They like you."

Cam groped around till he found her hand and squeezed it. "They are coming for both of us," he said as firmly as he was able.

She was silent for a second, then tossed her hair and smiled. "Well, of course they are."

Cam tried to smile back, to reassure her, but everything hurt, dammit, and he was having trouble making it look real.

Vala tilted her head, looking at him intently. Cam felt a bit like a deer in headlights.

"How badly does it hurt?" she asked.

"Enough," he answered shortly.

She considered his answer, then said, with certainty, "You're scared. You're scared of it being like Antarctica again."

He hadn't told her about his injuries in the battle against Anubis, and injuries of that magnitude were not the stuff of casual gossip around a base like the SGC.

"I looked up your file," she offered by way of explanation. "Everyone's, actually. I was bored one night and the Tau'ri computer systems are so much easier to break into than others I've encountered." She looked smug for a minute, then turned serious.

"It won't happen again you know. Because this time you have me. And as soon we get back to Earth, I can use the healing device on you. Or maybe sooner if someone has the sense to send it with the rescue team.

"You will be fine, Cameron."

And he actually believed her. That she would and she could. Because here she was sitting in a dark cave, keeping him company when she really could have walked out at any time. And probably would have, a year ago.

His smile this time was small, but genuine.

"I'm glad you're here, Vala," he said. "Really glad."

She squeezed his hand tightly and settled back against the wall to wait with him. " I know."

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V is for Vegas Road Trip (Sam and Vala)
"When I've Got Nothing On But the Radio"
by [personal profile] splash_the_cat

The sound of the car door slamming shut jolted Sam awake. She blinked against the unexpected glare of sunlight until her eyes adjusted enough to see an advertisement for Fishlake National Forest on a dilapidated sign.

"Well, Sleeping Beauty, nice to see you join the party." Vala, whose return to the car had woken Sam, held out a bottle of water and the prescription bottle of Sam's painkillers.

Sam struggled to sit up, the pull of her skin around her wound making her hiss. She took the bottle of water and let Vala open the medication and tip the pills into her hand. "Do I dare ask where we are?"

"One of your states. I think it starts with a 'U'."

Sam choked down the mouthful of water she'd taken to chase the pills, which now felt like they were lodged in her throat. "We're in Utah? Why are we in Utah?"

"Because the map said this was the shortest route."

Sam sagged back into her seat. "Do I even want to know where we're going? You know, since when we got in the car, I was under the impression I was letting you drive me to the grocery store across town."

"That was your plan." Vala started the car, smoothly putting it into gear and backing out of the parking spot in front of the gas station. She'd gotten her driver's license only a week before, but had badgered Sam into teaching her the mechanics of "your inefficient combustion contraption" months ago. "I had a better one."

"In Utah."

"Please. While charming at points, Utah has nothing on Las Vegas." At a red light, Vala reached out and tipped Sam's chin up. "You look pale."

That was because Sam felt like crap. The painkillers made her sleepy and slow, and she avoided them as much as she could, but today had been bad and already exhausted from too little sleep, she'd swallowed them down before they left for the store and dozed off even before Vala had pulled out of the driveway. Forty year old bodies didn't bounce back from major trauma with quite so much verve as she had even a few years before.

Still, she hadn't expected she'd sleep right through a state line. "Being kidnapped doesn't agree with me."

Vala's grin didn't agree with that assessment. "It will once you are settled in a lounge chair by the side of the pool, with a delicious drink in your hand and the whole of Las Vegas to explore."

"Oh God. Just tell me it's not the Luxor."

Vala grinned. "While tempting, if only for the amusement value, no. I made us reservations at the Bellagio."

"And whose credit card did you 'borrow' for this excursion?"

Vala huffed. Digging one-handed through a giant canvas tote bag tucked in next to her seat, she pulled out a wallet, which she handed to Sam. Inside: Vala's new license and a platinum Mastercard with Vala's name on it, and a Common Access Card, complete with Vala's irreverent grin in the photo. Huh. "Teal'c told me I should demand equitable compensation for my efforts," Vala said, "So I am now officially what you call a civilian contractor. And since your military won't let me leave the mountain, I have no expenses, and Muscles has been quite helpful in building an investment portfolio. So you may rest your overactive conscience - no thievery or illegal shenanigans of any kind are involved in this adventure."

It was looking easier and easier to just give in, but Sam rallied one last salvo. "I didn't bring anything for a long trip."

"I packed your bag while you were in the shower. It's in the trunk." Vala patted Sam on the knee. "It will be fabulous. Trust me."

Left with no other choice, Sam relaxed back into her seat and closed her eyes as Vala pulled on to the highway entrance ramp and picked up speed.

*

Sam woke to a delighted squeal of, "Sin City, here we are!"

She caught herself before stretching too far, but still had to bite back a gasp of pain. The bandages were bulky under her shirt and the waistband of the loosely-tied drawstring pajama pants she'd dressed in for the planned trip to the grocery store. She pressed her fingers against them, pushing in, gritting her teeth against the rising ache and stomach-churning flare of pain.

"The bag on the floor." Vala glanced at Sam over the top of her sunglasses before cutting across two lanes of traffic. "Open it."

Sam had to shrug out of the shoulder strap of her seatbelt, and drag it up with her foot, but Sam managed to grab the bag without that horrible sensation of tweaked stitches. She dug into it, and found her pain meds and a bottle of water right near the top.

"They are significantly more effective if you actually put them in your mouth." Vala's remark startled Sam out of her daze. Biting back a grunt of pain, Sam swallowed them down and slumped back into the seat, picking at the label on the water bottle. The towering skyline of the Las Vegas Strip loomed ahead, smudged by heat haze. It was a little surreal how something so immense looked so unrealistic, like a model-train town of wonders, tilt-shift unreal.

"You probably wouldn't be in so much pain if you actually listened to Dr. Lam and rested, you know."
Sam squinted one eye open. "Says the woman who kidnapped me and took me to Vegas."

"Details." Vala dismissed the accusation with a flick of her fingers. "You needed a break. I needed a break. This was... efficient."

That startled a laugh out of Sam, which pulled at her stitches and made her swear, which set Vala to clucking with concern. Up ahead, the classic Las Vegas sign flared brightly then disappeared in a wash of blinding light against the first edge of sunset.

*

Sam argued against valet parking, but was immediately grateful for it when Vala helped her out of the car, because even with the recent dose of pain meds, the fifteen feet to the doors suddenly looked like a million miles, and she found herself leaning heavily on Vala's shoulder through the check-in process and long trek to the room. Where she sagged onto the nearest bed and fell asleep to the quiet murmur of Vala saying something to the bellhop.

Sam woke with a start, her side and back cramping and burning. She struggled out from under the covers she didn't remember getting under, and saw a glass of water and her pain meds on the bedside table. She gulped down a dose and half the water before collapsing back on the bed, gritting her teeth until the throbbing subsided down to uncomfortable. She gingerly sat up, blew out the breath she'd been holding and slid off the bed.
The room was dim, lit only by one of the bedside lamps. The window looking out over the strip was a vivid smear of color framed by the deep blue of fast-fading twilight. She hadn't been asleep long, then, an hour at most.

The room was dim, only one bedside lamp on, but it was enough light to see that Vala certainly hadn't skimped on their accommodations. And now that the pain wasn't the only thing hogging her attention, compared to the opulent surroundings, she felt grimy and stinky.

Her bag sat prominently on the chair closest to the bed she'd slept in, a smaller bag full of first aid gear next to it. She made it into the shower before she started to flag again, eventually just slouching to the floor of the gorgeous tile, letting the hot water sluice over her until her shoulder and her back started to soften from the sharp tension that never really seemed to go away anymore.

Sam pulled the now-soggy bandage free, probing the puckered, inflamed skin and the threads of her stitches with shaking fingers. One more scar to add to her collection, one more too-close brush to add to her count. They tended to crowd her thoughts more these days, all those near-misses. And Daniel gone again, Teal'c all but lost, his heart, rightly, with the Jaffa. Jack, in Washington, only paltry miles apart in reality but across a gulf that felt like the stretch of the galaxy.

She hated it, that she always felt like the one left behind, and hated that she even felt that way at all, a selfish shame that rose and burned like bile in her throat.

"Are you alive in there?" The shower door slid open and Vala poked her head in. "If you drown in the shower Mitchell will never let me live it down."

Sam just stared up at her, which Vala took as a sign to continue her diatribe. "He told me I would be a terrible caretaker. Can you believe that?" She reached in and turned off the water. Sam thought about protesting, but it had started to cool, and she started to shiver, goosebumps prickling uncomfortably over her skin. She let Vala pull her up, because she wasn't sure she'd be able to on her own, and accepted the soft, ridiculously fluffy towel Vala pushed into her hands.

"I am perfectly capable of being an excellent caretaker when properly motivated," Vala said as she sailed out of the bathroom, to return moments later with the first aid kit, one of Sam's favorite, well-worn Air Force Academy t-shirts, and some yoga pants.

"Sit," Vala gently shoved Sam toward the ridiculous chaise lounge in the corner of the bathroom, and Sam did, shifting the towel over her shoulders like a cape. Val crouched at her side and quickly changed the bandage, deft and sure and far more gentle then Sam would have expected. But it was still almost more than Sam could bear, especially the concern in Vala's eyes.

"Room service tonight, I think," Vala said, leaving Sam to get dressed. Sam did, slowly, and dragged herself back into the room just as Vala hung up the phone. She crawled onto the bed she'd slept in and closed her eyes.
"No sleeping until after dinner, Colonel darling." The bed bounced, and she cracked open one eye to find Vala's face inches from hers. "Come on, we'll have a picnic, right here."

Vala did let her doze until the bellhop appeared with a cart filled with dishes, and Vala shooed her up to the head of the bed and laid a towel across the bedspread before laying out the food and handing her another dose of pain meds. Vala sat at the foot of the bed

Sam swallowed them down and picked at her food under Vala's watchful gaze before easing back against the pillows. The last thing that she was aware of was Vala tucking her in.

*

When Sam woke again, the glittering lights of the Strip had been replaced by the blinding desert sun. The treated windows cut the worst of the glare, but the room was still very bright, giving Sam more details of the room: gorgeous fabrics for the bedspreads, not the chintzy polyester stuff Sam was used to. Deep, plush pile carpet, art that looked like actual art, not generic reprints that looked the same as every other painting in every hotel room she'd ever stayed in.

The furniture too, was gorgeous and ornate. The chair closest to her bed looked like an actual antique, not a reproduction, and today her swimsuit was draped across the back of it, and a pair of ridicuously bedazzled flipflops peeked out under the chair on the floor.

And there was no sign of Vala.

She managed another shower with far less issue, and to replace the bandage on her wound without disaster, and she even navigated getting dressed with minimal swearing and pain. The door flew open as Sam gingerly wormed her way into her shirt, and she yanked it down to see Vala peer out at her from under the brim of a floppy hat, oversize sunglasses perched on the tip of her nose. She leaned against the door, a brightly patterned, bordering on garish, sarong slung around her hips, and an actual teeny, yellow-polka-dot bikini top. It drew a smile, unbidden, from Sam, and Vala answered with a blinding grin. "That's not what I laid out for you."

"Nope," Sam said, and tugged her baggy, comfortable shirt into place.

Vala sighed. She pulled the hat off and dropped it on Sam's head. "Well, I guess it will have to do. Now let's go. We have a great deal of relaxing to do."

Sam rolled her eyes, but shoved her feet into the gaudy flip flops before following.

The trip through the hotel to the pool depleted Sam's reserves and she was grateful to collapse on the chaise lounge Vala led her to. The umbrella overhead cut the glare from the sun, but the heat of it was good, baking deep into her bones, slowly loosening the rigid knots in her limbs and her shoulders. She dozed, not so much out of exhaustion this time, but relaxation.

When she eventually woke she saw Vala stretched out next to her on a matching chaise, a tall drink with a neon green paper umbrella in one hand, and a bodice ripper romance novel in the other. The sun had shifted, the edge of it creeping to blaze under the umbrella. That and the loud growl of her stomach made Sam think she'd been out into the early afternoon.

Vala peered at her over the top of her sunglasses. "Time for lunch, apparently." She tucked her book on an oversize canvas tote and drained her drink before bouncing to her feet and reaching down to pull Sam to hers. "Let's go change."

"Why?" It came out petulant, disgruntled, and Sam yanked her hand out of Vala's. She wanted to stay here and go back to that pleasant, quiet lull, where her mind was quiet, and let the head dig deeper into her bones, let it burn out the aches, the shadows.

"Because I refuse to be seen in public with you unless you're appropriately attired."

*

Public in this case was Picasso, and properly attired was a pretty blue sundress that, according to Vala, matched Sam's eyes. She let Vala order for her, ignoring Vala's frustrated sigh when she pushed the menu away

"Why are you doing this?" Sam asked after their food had been placed in front of them.

Vala didn't answer immediately. She ate a few bites of her meal, obviously relishing it, and Sam realized she was making a point when Vala suddenly said, with no trace of levity in her tone, "Because someone needs to remind you to take the time to enjoy this world you spend so much time and blood trying to save."

Sam finished her meal in silence.

*

The next morning, back at the pool, Sam couldn't get back to that blissful state from the day before. Instead she was restless, edgy, and right now, pissed, because Vala wouldn't let her have her phone.

She didn't realize it was quite so obvious until Vala grabbed her ankle, stilling Sam's jiggling foot and said, the picture of exasperation, "Will you just relax already, Samantha Carter?"

"I can't!" Sam subsided as soon as she said it, loudly enough that heads turned to stare all around them. She burrowed back down into the lounge. "I'm sorry. I'm just not very good at..." She waved her hands around at their surroundings. "This."

"It is easier when you've been a god." Vala patted her knee and handed her a drink. "Fortunately, I am an expert at leisure, so you are in good hands. Now drink, lay back, and I don't want to hear another word out of you unless you're asking for another beverage or commenting on the fine attributes of our fellow vacationers. "

Sam wrinkled her nose and took a slug of her drink. It was delicious and sweet, and it was really good Sam had foregone her pain meds that morning, because it was also really full of vodka. Her head swam, and she flopped back against the lounge and did as she was told.

*

The next morning Vala hustled her out early, but this time in the direction of the parking garage instead of the pool.

"Should I even ask?" Sam said, staring wistfully back toward the pool area.

"Nope!" Vala hitched the canvas tote she carried up higher on her shoulder and grabbed Sam's hand. "You are learning."

Sam stuck out her tongue in reply, but didn't resist as Vala tugged her along. She was loathe to admit it, but the enforced rest was working; she still hurt, but the sharp pinching pain in her side had dulled, and she no longer felt the exhaustion that had dragged at her like a riptide, pulling her down into restless, useless sleep.
Vala drove them down the Strip, apparently in no hurry; she paced the slow traffic, content to pepper Sam with ridiculous trivia about the landmarks they passed. It was so much like Daniel that it was all Sam could do not to demand that she stop it, just stop it please.

Instead she squeezed her eyes shut and recited primes in her head, the comfortable, predicable progression drowning out Vala's voice, and all the fears and worry and hurt that suddenly welled in Sam's chest like a new, tearing wound.

Eventually they left the city, and further on they escaped the last of the sprawling suburbs and the scrub and sand opened up ahead, the mountains smudging the horizon; it felt like they were leaving the world behind. Sam had never really been one for nature, but she found that the stark landscape of the desert soothed her,
Vala took them into the foothills, though Red Rock Canyon and up into the Spring Mountains. An hour or so in she pulled off into a lookout, and chivvied Sam out of the car. They ended up sitting on top of the weathered picnic table, eating the little picnic lunch Vala had produced from her tote.

"Do you ever think about just walking away?" Vala said after almost a half an hour of silence.

Sam stole a look at her - she was gazing off into the distance. "Only about once a week," Sam said, with a weak attempt at humor.

"Why don't you? Walk away. No one could ever claim you have not done enough for this planet." Vala swung around to stare Sam down. "And do not attempt any of your trite duty and honor talk."

So Sam didn't. It wasn't like it was something she'd never addressed before. Just never aloud. "The curse of knowing what's out there. I just... I don't see how I could ever go back, could ever just go about my life, not when I know what's at stake, what's waiting. At least this way, I'll know when the end is coming, as much as I can. I'll have a chance to do something, even if it doesn't work. If I left, I'd just spend all my time looking over my shoulder, waiting. That's not living. That's just... like catching up to already being dead."

The answer seemed to mollify Vala. Sam finished her sandwich before taking her turn. "Why don't you? This isn't even your world. Why do you keep doing this?"

For a moment it was all gone: the levity, the charm, the vibrancy that blazed in Vala all the time. For that moment the weight of her dark and terrible godhood haunted her eyes, trembled through her frame, and Sam started to reached out to her when it to was gone, and Vala grinned, tossing her hair.

"I'd be so terribly bored without all of you."

*

The next morning, when Vala dragged her back down to the pool, Sam wore her swim suit and the ridiculous flip flops. Vala's smile when Sam came out of the bathroom was incandescent, and Sam thought the one she gave in return was much lighter and brighter than anything she'd managed lately.

They laid on their matching lounges, and Sam stretched, pleased to feel how dull the pain was now. "So, how long are we staying?"

"As long as we need to."

"And who decides that?"

The trill of Vala's phone interrupted, and after a moment's heated, whispered conversation, Vala handed it to Sam. "Please tell him that I did not kidnap you."

It was Cam's number on the screen. "You technically did," she whispered sotto voce before tucking the phone between her ear and shoulder. "All is well in Sin City, Cam."

"You sure?" There was concern in his drawl, but it was blunted by barely contained laughter. "Got a little Stockholm Syndrome going on?"

"No, I have a very tasty, very alcoholic drink in my hand."

The laugh bubbled free. "I see she's having an effect on your priorities."

"No, having lost track of how many times I've almost died has had an effect on my priorities."

That came out sharper than she'd intended, and it took Cam a long time to reply. "Hey, really, you okay, Sam? T and I can be there by tonight."

Sam glanced over at Vala, draped languorously over her lounge chair, back into her terrible-looking romance novel. "Thanks, Cam. But I think we've got this." She hung up and leaned over to drop the phone in Vala's tote. "So what's the plan for tomorrow?"

Vala rolled to her side and pulled her sunglasses down her nose. "I think it's time for you to start pulling your weight around here, Colonel dear. You decide."

"Even if I decide we're going to go to Hoover Dam and take the tour?"

Vala rolled her eyes before pushing her sunglasses back up and pointedly returning her attention to her book. "I'll suppose I'll survive."

"Yeah," Sam said softly, contentedly. "I suppose we will."

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W is for Where There's a Will or an Or (Jack and Siler)
by [personal profile] thothmes

As far as Sgt. Siler was concerned, officers were like the weather, hard to predict with any accuracy, beyond the ordinary person's control, and capable of greatly affecting the tenor of a working man's day. And like the weather, most of the activity they generated was made way up high where the air was thin, and fell alike on the just and the unjust down below. His personal approach in dealing with all this was to try to keep his head down and keep going, regardless. What can't be changed must be endured, and in general, it wasn't worth having too much of an opinion about the weather.

Now no one had ever asserted that Sgt. Siler was the most adroit or lucky of men. He was no stranger to the infirmary, and he did seem to draw more than his share of stray electricity. He himself considered the number of shocks and jolts he had received to be the natural result of working with the Stargate and the massive electrical infrastructure that was needed to run it. The infirmary, where Siler found himself from time to time, was one of the places where officers and enlisted men encountered each other with regularity, and that was where he first encountered Col. O'Neill.

The Colonel was sitting on one of the beds, his right knee in a wrap-around brace, snugged tight with velcro. He had three rolls of gauze, still in their plastic packaging, which he was juggling to pass the time, and he looked up, without missing a pass, to see Sgt. Siler between two airmen, holding his own right wrist, showing the palm which bore a rapidly blistering electrical burn, and with a rather alarming set of black eyes from where the wrench had flown up to hit him between the eyes.

"Woah! Sparky! Next time duck!" the Colonel offered.

"Yes, sir," said the Sergeant, deadpan, as his fellows lead him to an available bed. He wasn't in the mood to negotiate the murky waters of officer-enlisted interaction. His head hurt. His hand was throbbing, and his wiring project had been set back several hours.

Janet Fraiser came bustling in, barked at the Colonel to get that leg elevated and to put that icebag back on, and began to tend to her latest patient, diagnosing a concussion, bandaging the burnt hand, and declaring that neither man would be released that night.

If it had been up to the Sergeant, they would have dimmed the bright lights, tiptoed away, and left him alone in the slowly spinning room, and let him sleep. His head hurt, his hand was throbbing, and he was all too aware of the officer in the next bed. He was afraid of saying something stupid while his brain was not at its best. He lay back and listened to the regular "thwap-thwap-thwap" of the gauze rolls hitting the Colonel's hands.

"Who you think will take tonight's game?" asked the Colonel.

Thwap-thwap-thwap.

A game? What game?

"Avalanche and Wild?" the Colonel helpfully supplied.

That started a discussion that lasted until supper, and the Colonel endeared himself to the Sergeant by swapping his serving of apple pie ? la mode for Siler's piece of yellow cake with vanilla icing. By the end of the evening the tech sergeant had decided that in spite of the fact that he couldn't always tell when the Colonel was in earnest and when he was joking, that the man was okay. Anyone who understood sports (and betting odds) like that, and who appreciated the cultural treasure that was the Simpsons, couldn't be all that bad.

That wasn't to say that the Colonel wasn't a dangerous man. That he was a very dangerous man was the thought that was uppermost in Siler's mind as he went sailing down over the railing of the spiral staircase to the briefing room, down to the control room below. Well, with the corner of his mind that was not occupied by the question of why O'Neill had done it, that is. Two days later, still under observation for his gradually fading concussion, he awoke to find an awkwardly incoherent O'Neill by his bedside, holding two parfait glasses of Jello, one yellow and one red, and a spoon.

"It was the armband," he offered, waving the glass of red Jello about, endangering them both with the excited antics of the spoon within. "Didn't mean it."

There was a moment of awkward silence. Siler still thought it was a rather damnfool thing to do, but he didn't want to say so. O'Neill clearly had run out of words. The Colonel didn't look happy. He shrugged. He sighed. He opened his mouth and then closed it. He placed both glasses carefully on Siler's tray.

"I don't know what your favorite flavor is, but Carter got the last blue, and green is just... eewww. So I got these."

He put his hands in his pockets, clearly at a loss for what to do with them now that Jello waving was no longer available to him. He stared at Siler for a moment in mute discomfort, and then turned on a heel and left.

A few minutes later Doc Fraiser came in.

"Colonel O'Neill's been by I see."

Siler wondered how she knew.

She smiled and explained that it was the Jello.

"He seems to think it fixes everything. The more he brings the more worried he is. I told him you would make a full recovery, so I think in this case it might be guilt."

It wasn't an apology or a real explanation, but it was rather endearing that a bigwig like O'Neill would come to his bedside and squirm. It was enough.

A few years later Siler wondered how many glasses of Jello O'Neill had carried to Dr. Jackson's bedside as he was dying of radiation poisoning, but he never asked.

He and the Colonel met and passed a few hours from time to time, as by chance they ended up in neighboring beds in the infirmary. Siler began to think of the Colonel as a friend, for all that he was an officer, but he still couldn't tell if he was joking.

Like when he was nearly electrocuted by the exploding DHD. Was that hand on his shoulder, and the instruction to "Shake it off, Sparky!" an O'Neillian offer of comfort, or was it a joke? Did he mean it when Siler passed him in the hallway with his largest wrench, and O'Neill asked "Overcompensating much?" Sometimes Siler could work it out, and sometimes he couldn't.

But life was short, and in a frontline unit like the SGC, never guaranteed, and Siler finally decided that he needed to get his act together and make his will. He'd been touched when Daniel Jackson had told him that Jack O'Neill had left Siler his Simpsons collection on VHS, should he not make it back from stasis in Antarctica. Facing death and losing his control over his mind and his ability to communicate, and he had taken a moment to tell his team that the Sergeant was to get the tapes. In the end, the Colonel had made it back, and soon he was a General, in charge of the whole base, and like General Hammond before him, he stood by his people in ways large and small. He made sure that no one was left behind, and he made sure that the cooks in the commissary had the right varieties of potatoes for the menus that were planned. He was a standup guy, and as long as he was in charge, Siler wouldn't be afraid about the weather.

Siler knew now what he would do:

and to General Jonathan J. O'Neill I leave my very largest wrench with the request that when he carries it, he be aware that in his case it is not overcompensation, but truth in advertising.

The General would like that. He might even find it funny. Siler would give a lot to see what his expression would be the first time he carried it, but of course that would be quite improbable. In the SGC, Siler had learned, nothing could be pronounced utterly impossible.

The replicators were winning, the base was a chaotic maelstrom, but when O'Neill told Sgt. Siler he would get Siler and his men out of the area where they were trapped and allow them to make it to the emergency hatch, he was sure that this was exactly what would happen, and one exploded blast door later, they were free. He took the weapon from O'Neill's hand and prepared to use it.

"I expect to be put in your will," the General said. It was a joke. Siler was sure of it.

"Already in it, Sir," he replied, and he wasn't joking at all.

"Okay, that's... weird." said the General.

Well maybe it was, but the General was leading, and Siler was content to follow.

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X is for X-rays (Janet and Sam)
by [personal profile] aelfgyfu_mead

"The object continues to be reabsorbed at a regular rate. Just the way it grew in the first place. It should be gone by late morning." Janet saw reflections of her own relief in the tired faces of SG-1. They'd verified that the object was getting smaller before they could even move Cassandra out of the old nuclear facility. Here at the Air Force Academy Hospital, they had the equipment to observe it with more precision.

"And that process will continue to happen even if you all sleep for what's left of the night," Janet said firmly. "You've all been through the wringer, and you should go home now. Doctor's orders, sir," she added, singling out O'Neill. If he went, the rest of his team would follow. Most importantly, O'Neill didn't need to be at a hospital again worrying about yet another child.

She could see him wavering, about to protest despite his obvious discomfort at the place. She pitched her voice low. "I'll still be here, and it might be less frightening for Cassandra if everyone she knew on this planet did not hover around her."

O'Neill's eyes flickered between her, the nurses' station, and the room she wasn't letting them enter now. The little girl was exhausted too and didn't need that much company. "Okay," he said, and soon enough he was moving away, Daniel and Teal'c following after saying quick goodbyes.

Captain Carter did not move. "I know they're a little loud," she said quietly, "and that might be a bit much right now. But can I go back in and see her? I won't bother her."

Carter was no less tired than the others, but she didn't look like she would sleep any time soon. Daniel had told Janet about Carter's refusal to follow orders and leave Cassandra.

"I'm sure she'd like that," Janet said.

"I told her I wouldn't leave her," Carter said for the fifth or sixth time that night as Janet led her the short way down the hall. "Oh, she's asleep!" she whispered.

Sure enough, the girl's breathing was low and regular, and she didn't stir when they drew near her bedside. It had only been a few minutes since the last x-ray.

"Maybe I can just sit here with her?" Carter said so quietly that Janet could hardly hear her. The look on her face spoke louder: a mix of longing and fear. Or perhaps Janet could read it so well because she felt it herself, and she was afraid she knew what caused it.

"I was going to do the same," Janet said, waving her to a chair while she quietly pulled another one in from a nearby room.

The minutes ticked away with occasional voices from the hallway or the sounds of carts being wheeled past. A nurse came in to do checks and Janet waved her off; the nurse wasn't happy, but Janet was in charge here. They had no need to wake the girl now.

"She was so brave," the captain said finally, her voice cracking a little. "And I left her-"

"And went right back," Janet said as forcefully as she could in a whisper. "She told me all about it."

"She's too smart not to know that something was wrong. She asked me if we were going to die."

Janet nodded. Their little conversation didn't seem to disturb Cassandra at all. "She was afraid that she really had the virus, and that you were leaving her so she wouldn't infect anyone else. She didn't care that you left for a minute. She cared that you went back."

Carter sat very still and breathed slowly and deliberately. She was no doubt willing herself not to cry. Or Janet was projecting a lot tonight. She didn't much care which.

"So I talked to the General about her."

Janet had too, but only very quickly, as they did exhaustive tests. They were confident that the little girl would not explode now, and they were increasingly sure that she would be healthy when this whole ordeal ended. At least physically.

"I . . . when I was little, I wanted a family." Carter paused and took a deep breath. She wasn't looking at Janet. She was looking at the girl in the hospital bed. "When I got older and decided what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be, I realized that might not . . . happen."

That wasn't what Janet had expected her to say at all. She wasn't going to give up her place on the team, was she?

"I thought I wouldn't miss it; the excitement at the Academy, and then even in DC, and then here! And mostly, I don't." Another deep breath. "I decided that I don't need to have a baby. I don't think I even want to have a baby."

She shook her head. "But I kind of want. . . ."

Janet didn't know if she should probe further or just give her time. She didn't know Captain Carter very well. Since she'd been assigned to the SGC, she'd had very little downtime; she had only just finished unpacking in the little house she'd bought. She hadn't talked with anyone outside the medical staff a whole lot.

Just when the silence had become long enough that Janet had her mouth open to ask, Carter blurted, "I wish I could adopt her."

Janet had her mouth open to respond when the other woman continued, "But I don't want to give up my place on the team. I can be gone for days, weeks at a time. I promised I wouldn't leave her. . . . But sometimes I'd have to."

"You'd always come back," Janet said, then realized it was a mistake.

That made Captain Carter turn her head.

"No, I know better than that," Janet corrected herself. "You don't want her to lose a second mother."

"I couldn't put her through that."

"Well, I thought I could have a family and a career in the Air Force," Janet confessed. "And maybe I could have, if I'd met the right man. Unfortunately, I met the wrong one." It hadn't always been bad. It just hadn't been good enough to keep going. She missed him sometimes, but less than she'd thought she would.

She didn't usually talk about her ex-husband to anyone outside her closest friends. She mentally retraced her path. Then she realized that Carter had either delivered a total non-sequitur, or she hadn't finished talking about General Hammond. "So what did the General say?" she asked neutrally.

"Someone with clearance for the Stargate program could take her." Carter's eyes flicked back to the bed but were now mostly on Janet, catching the little bits of light left in the mostly dark room.

"I just . . . I might be totally out of line, Doctor, and just tell me-"

"But you saw the way I looked at her too," Janet finished for her.

Even in the low light she could see Carter's forehead crinkle in surprise.

"Sorry. I just put things together for myself," Janet said, which probably didn't make things any clearer. Carter surely wasn't aware how much her love for the girl had been showing on her face. She had, however, been fishing to see if Janet might want a child. She must have noticed that Janet never wore a ring.

"I hadn't even thought of it until now," Janet admitted. "I've just been busy making sure she isn't going to blow up-and also, that she hasn't overstressed her heart, that she still has no trace of the virus, that there wasn't some other cause for her coma. I haven't had time to think beyond the additional tests I'm going to run."

She looked at the little girl in the bed. Cassandra. She was, as Carter said, a very brave girl. She had listened and cooperated and sometimes even asked questions as Janet and others examined her. She'd only cried a little for her lost parents-her lost planet. Janet's heart had gone out to the girl when she first laid eyes on her. She had felt terrible sending her off to an abandoned facility to die, but she hadn't been able to find anything she could do for her.

Now she could see no limit to the end of things she could do for the little girl. She just had to stop thinking as a doctor. But was it too much to hope for? Her dreams of a family had died some time ago. Limiting the pool of potential adoptive parents to people with clearance on the Stargate project sounded small, but really, many people worked at the SGC and knew they went to other planets. Maybe one or two of them had been waiting to adopt. Maybe one of them had two parents, even a stay-at-home mom or dad. She'd never be that.

"So I could be . . . a foster mother," Janet said hesitantly. "She'll need someone right away, before they have time to clear a potential family for her."

"And I can help," Carter volunteered. "I mean, I don't know much about kids, aside from having had a brother growing up, but-I'm really good at research."

They both laughed very softly.

Janet looked at the girl on the bed, seemingly carefree now in sleep. Cassandra. Cassie? Would she want a nickname?

Janet had to smile. "I don't know a lot about kids either, but I'm pretty sure it's easier once you're past the baby and toddler stages. And it doesn't have to be long term! But temporarily, until General Hammond can find someone else."

Janet suspected that the other woman knew she might not be satisfied with temporary custody, but she wasn't ready to get her own hopes too high. It was far too early for that.

"Wait-did you already talk about me with General Hammond, Captain Carter?"

"Oh, no!" Sam said hastily, and a little louder than she'd been talking. They both froze for a moment. Cassandra didn't even stir. "I wouldn't do that before talking to you, Doctor. But you know, my friends call me Sam."

"And mine call me Janet."

"So, Janet: did you ever think about adopting? Or at least fostering?"

"Not really. But now I'm thinking there's some appeal in not having to go through the diaper stage."

Sam laughed almost silently, her shoulders vibrating. "You won't mind the lack of baby pictures?"

"I don't think so. No, I've got some spectacular first x-rays."

Janet was surprised she could laugh about it already, but apparently Sam could too. Maybe it was the exhaustion making them giddy.

Or maybe it was the start of something really good. Only time would tell.
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Y is for Yearling (Sha'uri and Skaara)
by [personal profile] magistrate

Ra's chariot had sunk beneath the ground and all of Abydos's children should have been curled in bed, their blankets pulled over their noses so that Apophis would not catch the scent of their breath. But Sha'uri woke to a small form burrowing under the covers beside her, body warm and lithe. A moment later, a grinning, breathless voice said "Sister. Come see!"

She hnnfed and swatted halfheartedly, but her brother ducked her hand. In any case, she couldn't be too angry at him: in a few more turns of the daughter moon she would be a woman - unwed, but a woman still - and this would be profane. But now they were children, and she could hold on to that, and try to enjoy her brother's visit and whatever mischief he had in mind.

Because it was always mischief, with Skaara.

"You must come," he said, and his voice had the absolute certainty of one his age. "Come on, sister, wake up."

"I am awake," she groused. "How could anyone sleep with you bothering them?" She found his shoulder under the blanket and gave him a shove, and he tumbled away and took the blanket with him. She stood up, into the night chill, and reached for her cloak.

"Sandals, sister," Skaara said, and rooted around in the darkness until he found them. They landed in front of her feet with two plops. "Come on, hurry!"

"Has Ra descended to Abydos?" Sha'uri muttered, slipping her feet into the sandals. Skaara had always been an enthusiastic boy. She just wished that his enthusiasm didn't extend to these dark patches of the night.

And, if she were honest, she wished that in part because she could have taken the darkness to sneak back into the caves Father had forbidden, light a torch, and watch the light flicker over the images on the wall. So illuminated, they would seem to move - and even though symbols beyond the was and the Eye were forbidden, Sha'uri could imagine that they would speak to her. Like her father's voice when he performed rites in the temple, the meaning was only muddled by distance, and if she was quiet enough and listened carefully enough she would have that secret knowledge shared by priests and gods. But she hadn't taken Skaara there - she doubted her brother could keep a secret - and so on nights when he woke her, her curiosity was put aside.

She stamped her feet to be sure the sandals held firm. "Go on, then," she whispered. Careful not to wake anyone who might hear. "What have you found?"

Skaara grinned at her and took of running, and Sha'uri rushed after him.

He ran out past the huts, and then out past the tents where the roads gave way to sand and the only walls were cloth. And then down the long path of marker-stones as though going to the mine, and Sha'uri held her questions. Soon they turned, and Skaara led her to the small, hidden creek from which they drew their water, where another collection of tents held the men who would wake with the sun and work the pumps to draw water up from the ground. Now, without their assistance, the creek was less than a knuckle's depth of water whispering across stone.

Skaara pushed past a screen of scraggled bushes, what few leaves they had fat and round with water jealously guarded, and Sha'uri could see the face and wary eyes of a young mastadge peering out at her.

"Oh," she said, and blinked.

She hadn't known what to expect. But the wrinkled face under the branches wasn't it. There were mastadges in the city, of course - the ones who brought fish and grain to them from Awanu; the ones who hauled the precious metal from the mines and foundries to the great pyramid. But the business of priests was not the business of beasts of burden.

"I've named him. Shadhed." Skaara beamed. "He was lying on his back in the desert. I brought him here to drink and he ate some of the branches."

"And what were you doing in the desert?" Sha'uri asked, and looked at the bush again. "Tempting Setesh?" And what, she could have added, do you expect to do with a mastadge?

Skaara ignored her question. Probably, he knew she didn't mean it. They were both children who were most obedient when their father was watching. "Do you think I could ride him?"

Sha'uri thought of two images: one, her brother on the back of this calf, cheering and waving a stick about like the staff of some king of legend. Two, the mastadge bucking from the noise and the unfamiliar weight and dropping Skaara to the sand and treading on his head. "You don't know how to ride a mastadge."

"But I could learn. Would Father let me keep it?" It only took a moment after he said that for him to discard the idea entirely. "You have to help me hide it. You know the good hiding spots in the desert."

Sha'uri looked at him, sharp and shocked.

"You go out into the desert," Skaara protested, his expression oddly earnest. "I see you. But I always lose track of you."

He sounded disgruntled enough that Sha'uri laughed. "Women's things," she lied - because those pictures she sought out did have the edge of condemnation to them, and Skaara would grow to be a priest of Ra. He should not be corrupted, nor condemned. And it was easy to make a boy lose interest in women's things.

"You're not a woman yet," Skaara said, petulant.

"But I will be."

Absently, Sha'uri smoothed down her kalasiri. She didn't know what the rites to move her to womanhood would be - she just noticed the older women looking appraisingly on her, measuring the changes in her body, beginning to prepare themselves to accept her among them. "What will you do with a mastadge?"

"He was lonely," Skaara said, and crouched down. Ran his hand along the mastadge's face, and the beast turned its head and leaned into his hand. So, not feral - and it had let itself be led here. Sha'uri wondered if it had an owner; some mastadge-driver whose cow had been recently bred. But if they had lost a calf, wouldn't news have spread through Nagada? Mastadges were valued. When one was lost, everyone knew.

"What will you feed it?" she asked. "Will it keep drinking water at the creek?"

"It will eat the desert scrub," Skaara said, stubborn as always. "Like the wild mastadges do. And I'll carry it water, if I have to."

Sha'uri had an image in her head now, of a tame mastadge wandering out in the desert, grazing along - what a ridiculous sight. Cut off from a herd, neither belonging to the city nor not. Like a temple ruin standing along amid the sands. Absurd. "I think you should take it to one of the drivers."

"It's not theirs," Skaara said, and leaned against the calf's shoulder. When he did that the calf leaned under his weight, and Sha'uri could see the thing's flank - thin and bony. Maybe not a calf, then. Maybe a juvenile, but half-starved. Left for whatever reason out to die.

"Sister, help me!" Skaara said. Then, with a flash of seriousness, "if you don't help me, I'll take him out into the desert and hide him myself."

Sha'uri sighed, and tried not to let a small smile onto her lips. It was what she'd expected. She'd made similar ultimatums, herself.

"I will help you hide him," she said. "But there will be a time I ask you to do something..."

Skaara nodded, all that boyish seriousness still stamped on his face. "Yes, I promise. I promise you and Ra."

"All right," Sha'uri said, and knelt down. Skaara had knotted a rope loosely around the mastadge's neck, and Sha'uri took the end of it. "Come along, both of you. And Skaara, you must get this animal a proper harness."

"I'll ride him!" Skaara said, and clambered onto the beast's back before Sha'uri could ease him up. Sha'uri caught her breath, but the mastadge took the indignity with no complaint, and raised itself up on only slightly unsteady legs.

She looked over both of them, but the mastadge seemed strong enough to carry one small, enthusiastic burden, and Skaara looked so proud of himself with his hands holding tight to the mastadge's mane. So Sha'uri tugged the rope, gently, and led both of them over the creek and away from the sleeping city, into the sands and the ruins she knew well.

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Z is for Zebra (Jonas and Nyan)
Meeting of the Minds
by [personal profile] traycer

As far as Jonas Quinn was concerned, differences made life interesting. Finding and discovering new concepts of life always gave him a distinct thrill. But now, after being on Earth for only a few days, the different life forms had him confused and lost for what seemed to be the first time in his life.

He had always felt confident in his knowledge of all things, living and dead, but now he faltered under the strangeness of the things his new neighbors took for granted. It was an experience he didn't like very much. It made him feel lost and alone, feelings that were compounded by the fact that he was no longer welcomed on his own planet, an outcast from old friends and allies.

He was determined to get past all that, though. He hoped to become more involved in SG-1, provided he could earn the trust of Colonel O'Neill. And he had an entire library of this world's inhabitants at his fingertips. It was called the Internet, and Jonas took advantage of this tool the moment he was given access. Between that and the fascinating information he found in Daniel Jackson's office, Jonas couldn't help but believe he would eventually be confident in whatever conversation he found himself in.

Having that knowledge would also be a boost in showing O'Neil he was qualified to be on his team.

He stared at the screen, watching the animals in the video graze in a green plateau of grass. There were a few trees in the background, but Jonas was mainly interested in the animals, trying to find a correlation to the species he was used to back on his planet. The body shape reminded him of the horses he had studied the day before, except these animals were white with black stripes. Zebras, the description stated. He watched them, thinking that if he had to come right out and compare it to anything, he'd have to say the animals closely resembled the...

"They're called zebras," a voice said from behind him. Jonas jerked with a start, then whirled around. His heart beat rapidly in his chest as he stared at the stranger in the doorway.

"Zebras," Jonas said, trying his best to calm down.

"Yes." The man gave a small smile. "Sorry to scare you."

"It's okay," Jonas said with a slight shake of his head. "I guess I was too involved in what I was watching."

The newcomer nodded, then stuck out his hand. "I'm Nyan," he said. "You must be Jonas."

"I am," Jonas said as he shook the man's hand. It was a customary greeting he had learned over the past few days, and it felt good to respond automatically. Just one more accomplishment, he thought happily. "I was just..." he waved at the computer screen, then grinned apologetically. "I'm interested in learning everything I can about the inhabitants of this planet."

"No need to worry," Nyan said as he walked over to the desk. "I did the same thing when I first came here." He picked up an object as he added, "Although my interest was geared more toward the people and their cultures."

That took Jonas by surprise, although it stood to reason now that he thought about it. Teal'c was from another planet, there had to be more. "You're not from this planet?"

Nyan chuckled at that, then said, "No. I'm an archaeologist from Bedrosia. I came here several years ago and haven't had a chance to go back." His expression turned wistful when he said that, but he seemed to catch himself. "Hopefully, I'll be able to go back to show them all our true origins." He looked down at the object he was holding. "If I can just prove to the Bedrosians that the Optricans were right..." He stopped and shrugged as he turned his attention back to Jonas. "In the meantime, I'm still doing some research to find out where we actually came from."

"Any ideas?" Jonas asked, his thoughts now on the possibilities that Nyan's people may have actually come from Earth.

"Some." Nyan's eyes lit up as he went on, "I've found some familiar cultural traits among the Eastern European societies and even a few comparative tendencies here in North America." Jonas' confusion must have been obvious, because Nyan added, "This planet is divided up by continents." Jonas nodded and vowed to himself that he would give up zoological studies for now and go back to studying Earth's geological aspects. It would be easier to understand the differences amongst the cultures if he understood more where the various societies lived.

"I've also found similar traits in the American military that are very intriguing," Nyan said. He gave a faint smile. "Having to live on a military base does have its merits in terms of research."

Jonas nodded. He couldn't argue with that since he had personally taken advantage of every opportunity he could to talk to the soldiers, scientists, and technicians that worked in the facility. And now he had met someone who had the unique knowledge of a whole different planet. Here was an opportunity that was too good to miss.

"What kinds of similarities?" he asked as he waved at the chair on the opposite side of the desk to indicate Nyan should sit down.

"Military ranks, for example," Nyan told him. "The leader of the troops from Bedrosia who nearly killed me was a Colonel. So are the leaders of the SG teams." His smile grew wide even as his expression turned thoughtful. "You know, I was heading off to lunch. Care to join me? We can talk about this in more detail."

"Of course." Jonas fairly leaped out of his seat at that. The thought of talking to another scientist had his heart thumping. Even better was the fact that this one had lived all his life on another planet. He wouldn't pass this opportunity up for anything. Well, that and the fact that there were still plenty of food items he hadn't tried yet. Still, he was anxious to find out everything he could, so he followed Nyan down the hallway, asking more questions and soaking up the answers.

They had spent the rest of the afternoon comparing traditions, rituals, and cultural traits of all three planets: Earth, Bedrosia, and Kelowna. They went to Nyan's office after lunch, but ended up in Daniel Jackson's old office once it became apparent that Daniel's journals and books covered a lot more of the information they were interested in. It wasn't until later that Jonas realized that he and Nyan had more in common than the fact that they were both interested in various cultures and from other planets. He understood the thirst for knowledge when Nyan asked question after question about life on Kelowna. They had a mutual need to learn everything they could and this made things easier for Jonas. He had thought he was going to have to learn everything on his own, but now he had a friend to go to - someone who would understand the frustrations of not knowing something every school child should know.

Having a friend was a good start, Jonas thought as he walked toward his quarters later that evening. At least now he had an ally to help him combat the feeling of being different. Now if he could only convince Colonel O'Neill that he...

Jonas stopped abruptly. Up until that point, in his excitement over his new friend, he had completely forgotten all about his quest to join SG-1. He smiled slightly at that and continued walking. He was still determined to succeed, and with the added ammunition in terms of all the knowledge he was gaining of the different cultures throughout the galaxy, he figured he had a much better chance of getting what he wanted.

Life suddenly seemed brighter, he thought with a grin. He just might like his stay here on Earth after all.

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Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 01:48 am (UTC)
Thanks once again for organizing this, Fig! I may have set a new record for how long it took to read them all. I was savoring them—yeah, that's the ticket.