Know Thyself by Suzanne J
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Category: Jack/Daniel
Genres: Action/Adventure, Pre-Slash
Rated: Pre-Teen
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: Just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill mission.

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Colonel Jack O'Neill, leader of SG-1, the U.S. Air Force's flagship team of intergalactic explorers, squinted in the bright sunlight of P4X390. You never really knew what you were letting yourself in for when you stepped through the Stargate onto another planet. He looked back over his shoulder at the rest of his team. Dr. Daniel Jackson, archaeologist and linguist, was readjusting his glasses and pulling a boonie out of the pocket of his jacket. Major Samantha Carter, his second-in-command and dedicated astrophysicist, blond hair tucked under a baseball cap, was looking at an instrument in her right hand, while Teal'c, alien fourth member of his team, exuded imperturbability, as always.

"Oxygen, radiation level, temperature, everything as expected, sir." Yep, that was Carter. Always on the spot.

The UAV they had sent out had recorded no trace of inhabitants within fifty miles of the Stargate. But the video footage had shown a white structure on a hill five miles to the east which had looked like some sort of ruin, and predictably Daniel had been beside himself.

"This looks like the remains of a Greek temple," he had said to Jack, beaming. "I'd really like to take a look at it. We haven't come across that many cultures transplanted from Earth in Greek antiquity."

Well, as usual Daniel had got his way with the general. They were here, and in addition to the usual recon they were to check out what was left of the culture of this planet.

Jack put on his sunglasses. "Okay, people. Let's move out."

He knew the drill. Hike to the ruins. Let Carter pick up some samples of the indigenous soil, plants, whatever on the way. Let Daniel do a little digging in the dirt. Hike back to the gate, and if he was lucky he'd even get to catch that hockey game on TV back on Earth. Same old, same old.

But the hike proved to be more demanding than he had figured. They had to climb several hundred feet in a warm, humid climate and it took them longer than he had guessed to reach their destination.

The ruins turned out to be the remains of a temple all right, even Jack could make that out. A stairway carved out of the local white stone led up to a line of pillars, behind which lay what must have once been the main entrance to the temple. The frieze on top of the pillars was still there, but the roof of the structure was gone, and the white stone was weathered with age.

Jack dropped his backpack and planted himself on the lower part of the stairway. His knees hadn't taken kindly to the steep ascent, but that was nothing new. Neither was the sound of footsteps rapidly mounting the stairs towards the main entrance of the building.

"Watch your step, Daniel," Jack called out over his shoulder. "Might be some sort of booby trap in there." But Daniel was gone.

Jack caught Teal'c's raised eyebrow. "What?" he asked. The Jaffa remained silent.

He shook his head, and finally got to take one of the standard field rations this man's Air Force supplied its soldiers with out of his backpack. Chicken, it said on the wrapping.

"Yummy," Jack muttered and pulled off the plastic film.

Daniel Jackson stared at the sunbleached inscriptions carved into the crumbling walls of the ancient temple. Beautiful. Letters precisely cut into the stone by people long dead, they remained to speak to the living and unfold the wisdom of their elders. Daniel had had to amend his theory of the Greek origin of this culture. The letters were clearly Roman, but as to what the inscriptions actually said he had no idea.

"MUSP IETE CSON," he read. "ARTSAR EPUSEB ROEDMU TIDART SIBONC EAH." He sighed. It was hopeless. The words didn't resemble any of the twenty-three languages he was fluent in, neither the living ones nor the dead. This didn't have to mean anything in itself, but he'd have to consult his reference books back on Earth to unravel the mystery of these writings. He searched his backpack for the camcorder he had got used to carrying around and set out to tape as much of the heritage this culture had left behind as he could.

Sunlight streaked through the cracks on the southern wall of the complex. The day had grown even warmer. White fluffy clouds were scudding across the sky, unable to soften the blaze of the alien sun. Strange birds were singing, and the warm air was filled with the fragrance of foreign herbs. An aromatic scent, Daniel mused, not unpleasant, and strangely reminescent of another fragrance, at another dig, on another planet, at another time. Daniel set down the camcorder and stepped up to the lone window looking out onto shrubs, trees, and eventually, over wide plains.

The summer had been hot at his parents' dig in Asia Minor. The air had been rich with the scent of thyme, lavender and rosemary mingling with the slightly sharper woody scents of juniper and cypresses. It had been an intoxicating mixture. And it had been an intoxicating time for six-year old Daniel, running around the site dreaming up the glorious past of the ruins. A bright flash on the dry brown earth had caught his eye, and he had bent down and retrieved a silver coin. "Look, Mum, what I've found," he had called out to his parents, and they had let him keep the coin. That had been before the horrible accident. It had been one of the few times in his life that he had been thoroughly happy. The other time had been one year on an alien desert planet, with a beautiful wife and a kind father-in-law. But that hadn't lasted either. Daniel had learned the hard way that all good things come to an end. However, in the strange order of things he had somehow acquired a new family along the way.

Jack and Teal'c came into his field of vision, returning from their perimeter walk. Daniel caught parts of the banter the two men had going, Jack's Minnesotan drawl an odd contrast to Teal'c's still unusual choice of words, in spite of the fact the Jaffa had spent the best part of the last couple of years on Earth.

"Teal'c, buddy. Anyone ever take you to a hockey game?"

"I do not believe so, O'Neill."

A decidedly strange family at times, but nevertheless a family. Daniel still found the military mindset a bit trying. But he had grown to appreciate his teammates. And he had grown to trust Jack. It certainly wasn't the case that Jack wasn't able to put two and two together. Jack liked to play the dumb soldier, but he was a lot smarter than he usually let on. He just tended to be a little slow on the uptake sometimes. And despite all differences, they had ended up as best friends, and somehow, over the years, Jack had become to mean home to him.

The sound of footsteps alerted him to the presence of someone else inside the compound. Daniel turned and found Sam taking a look around and smiling at him.

"How's it going, Daniel? Did you find out where they came from or where they went?" She had taken off her sunglasses and her cap, the bright sunlight bringing out different shades of blond in her hair.

"I can't read the inscriptions," he said. "Um, that's not entirely true. I can read them, but I don't understand them."

"Maybe it's some kind of code," Sam suggested.

"Yeah, I thought about that. Guess I'll have some translating to do back at the base."

Sam had moved over to the far end of the room, where the inscriptions gave way to pictographs.

"That's fascinating," she said, tracing a finger along a stylized eye. "The pupil is made of a different stone than the rest of the wall."

*Um, what's that Jack always tells me about touching things,* Daniel thought.

"That's just the colonel, overprotective mother hen," Sam said.

"What?" said Daniel.

"You said I shouldn't touch this." Sam looked at him.

Daniel frowned. "No, I didn't."

"But I heard you loud and clear." Her eyes widened. "Oh my God, I hope this is not what I think it is."

*You look like death warmed over, Sam,* Daniel thought. *And yes, you were meant to hear that.*

Sam winced. "Daniel, we might have a little problem here."

Sam Carter slid down the rough wall of the ancient temple onto soft grass. She felt slightly queasy. The whole thing hadn't been so eerie when she had just been able to hear Daniel's thoughts. But when the colonel and Teal'c had joined them and the errant thoughts of three people had assaulted her brain together with what the guys had actually been saying out loud, she had had to admit defeat. Needless to say the colonel had been less than pleased with her newly acquired ability.

*It's not enough that she's way smarter than me, now she can also look inside my head,* she had heard him grumble. And frankly, she hadn't known if she should feel flattered or insulted. The colonel had noticed her uncomfortable shuffling and had flinched.

"Sorry, Carter. I didn't mean that personally. It's just me and scientists, you know." Of course she knew. His self-proclaimed little problem with scientists didn't keep him from teasing the hell out of Daniel, though. But then again, anyone with eyes in their heads could see the colonel had a soft spot for Daniel.

"Yes, sir," she had muttered and had shifted her gaze to Teal'c. Teal'c could usually be relied upon to be a pillar of strength, no matter how awkward the circumstances.

*Do not worry, Major Carter,* she had heard his soothing voice. *I am certain Daniel Jackson will find a way to reverse what has befallen you.*

She had smiled at him a little shakily. "Thanks, Teal'c."

And that was what Daniel had been doing the past two hours. Trying to find a way to return her to the world of non-telepaths, while she was trying to fight the onset of a major headache. She had started out with touching first the engraved eye again, then the other pictographs around it, but nothing had happened. So they had figured that their best option was hoping Daniel would find a way to translate the inscriptions on the walls of the temple.

She rested her head against the cold stone behind her and let Daniel's mental ramblings wash over her. The colonel and Teal'c were sprawling on the ground five yards away from her. They seemed to have dozed off, at least no stray thoughts were coming from their direction right now.

"That could work," she heard Daniel say out loud.

"What?" The colonel's head snapped up.

"Yeah, I think I've got it," Daniel carried on. "And it's not even a code." Sam rose to her feet and stepped up to the wall he was studying, the colonel and Teal'c joining her at Daniel's side.

"Look." He pointed at the white letters. "All you have to do is read it backwards and ignore the way the letters are grouped into words, which seems to be pretty arbitrary. It's pure Latin from there. Haec nobis traditum de orbe super astra. Nosce te ipsum. This was brought down to us from the world beyond the stars. Know thyself." He looked at them expectantly.

"Which means?" The colonel glared. Daniel's eyelids fluttered.

"It's the same inscription as the one on the temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece. It was meant to prepare people who came to consult the oracle to what might be revealed to them."

"I don't know more about myself," Sam said. "I know more about you guys, is all."

Daniel eyed her thoughtfully. "But you also know what we think about you, right?" *You have beautiful eyes, Sam,* he added silently. She felt the heat rise to her cheeks.

"Thanks. From the guy with the bluest eyes on this or any other planet that means a lot."

She noticed the colonel looking at them quizzically. "Care to let us in on your little conversation?" *And what the fuck is going on, apart from Daniel doing the blinking thing again?*

"Sir." Sam really didn't know what to say.

He waved his hand dismissively. "Yeah, yeah. Forget it, Carter." *Whole thing is spooking me out.*

"Me too, sir," she said. He smiled weakly.

Daniel drew a deep breath. "Well, all I have to do now is translate four walls of inscriptions, I guess. Why don't you make yourselves comfortable, guys, and come back in, say, maybe a week?"

"A week?" the colonel yelped. Sam felt a surge of anger well up inside her. The colonel wasn't the one who had gone telepathic.

"Give me a couple of hours." There was definitely a gleam in Daniel's eyes. "Maybe we'll have to stay the night and I'll be able to finish it tomorrow. Depends on how fast I get to the relevant parts. No play-offs tonight. Sorry, Jack." Oh yeah, the colonel was the one with the hockey game.

"Ah." Once again Daniel had rendered him speechless. And even thoughtless, as Sam had the privilege to find out. A privilege she could well do without, thank you very much. Daniel just might get to the important parts sooner than later. Well, she could always hope.

Sam had volunteered to take first watch. When it had become apparent that Daniel would really need another day to translate the rest of the inscriptions, the colonel and Teal'c had gone off to collect branches and twigs, and together they had built a fire which was burning fitfully now.

She held out her hands and let the warmth seep through her fingers and face into her body. The crackling of damp from the wood vaporizing in the heat of the flames and the occasional snore from one of her teammates were the only sounds breaking the silence of the night. Her gaze drifted upwards to the alien sky, stars twinkling in unfamiliar constellations against the velvety black of space. Millions of worlds were out there, invisible, some of them inhabited, others void. Some of them she had been to, others waited for them to be explored. Her dad was out there, too, traveling from planet to planet, part of a different culture now. She smiled wistfully. He had always wanted her to be able to fulfil her dreams; join NASA, board a space shuttle one day maybe. *Guess things have turned out a little different for both of us, Daddy.* She checked her watch. Time to wake Daniel.

The guy was sound asleep, breathing through slightly parted lips. He looked unbelievably young without his glasses, eyelids closed over those incredibly lucid eyes, blanket carefully tucked around him. She nudged him gently. "Daniel?"

"Hmmm?" He seemed to withdraw even deeper into the blanket.

"Your turn to take watch." Daniel lifted his head.

"Yeah, just give me a minute." *How's a guy supposed to wake up without a decent cup of coffee? And it's damn chilly out here.* He sat up and blinked at her.

Sam grinned. "Why don't you sit closer to the fire? Nice and warm there." He yawned.

"Yeah, I'll do that. 's okay, I'm awake now. You can go to sleep, Sam."

She spread out her own sleeping bag and blanket on the hard ground and crawled in gratefully. She felt totally wiped out. Not that this was any more surreal than what they usually ran into, but becoming telepathic ranked pretty high on her scale of weirdest things that ever happened to you. Closing her eyes, she drowsily settled for sleep.

She was floating. Somehow she was back home in San Diego, on the front porch of the white two-storey building with her dad, gazing at the bright stars in the night sky.

"Daddy, what's that star called, the bright one on top of Orion?"

"That's Betelgeuse. It's a supergiant, Sam. Four hundred and thirty light years away from Earth."

"Wow." *That warm smile.* Oh, he had definitely been smiling.

"My little rocket scientist. Let's get you inside. It's getting late."

*Warm, chocolate brown eyes.* Safe, she had felt safe with his gaze on her. He used to pick her up when she was smaller, and carry her inside up to her room, her arms fastened around his neck. *Dark hair streaked with grey. I bet it's soft when you touch it.* It had been soft against her cheek, when she had rested her head against his, tired all of a sudden, so tired. *Soft, like the tanned skin on the nape of his neck, just above the shirtline. It looks vulnerable. Kissable.* Kissable? Something was wrong, was weird. *The hard lines in his face are softer when he's asleep.* Not her dream; another voice, intruding into her dream. *Olive brown skin, a warm earthy tone.* A male voice. *Like the sands of the dunes on Abydos.* Daniel's voice. *The tan isn't so strong on his chest and back, where the shirt covers his skin most of the time. I've seen it. But never touched it. I'll never be able to touch it.* The dream was receding. *Never be able to touch him.* Daniel?

Sam stirred and opened bleary eyes. Daniel was sitting close to the fire, hands resting on the gun in his lap. His gaze was riveted on the huddled shape in front of him, the dark blanket rising and falling with every breath the sleeper lying underneath it took.

*Never be able to kiss him. Never be able to hold him.*

The colonel. Daniel was in love with the colonel?

*To trace the contours of his face with my fingers. The straight nose, thin lips; the scar on his left eyebrow.*

Well, Daniel and the colonel had always been close, ever since the colonel had taken him home after their return from Abydos.

*Funny that should be the only visible trace of saving the planet several times. The other scars on his body are much older, from past missions he won't speak about. I'll have to kill you if I tell you, Danny. They stand out white against the tan. One on his upper thigh. A few smaller ones on his chest, right below the line of ribs. And a nasty long one which starts on his lower back and runs down to his ass. Oh, I've looked my share. No harm in looking. Except touching would be so much better.*

And they were heading way too far into the land of too much information.

"Daniel," she called out faintly. The trickle of thoughts stopped.

Daniel's head jerked up, his eyes wide with panic. "Sam?" He sounded terrified. *Stupid, stupid. How could I have been so -*

"Daniel," she whispered. "It's okay." The haunted look hadn't left his face. If she wasn't so damn tired they might - but with the other two around, Daniel probably wouldn't want to talk this through right now either. "Don't worry. Your secret's safe with me. We'll talk about it tomorrow, I promise. Just think about something else now."

But Daniel didn't think about something else. He had switched to thinking in ancient Egyptian. Sam sighed. She closed her eyes and let the foreign sounds and melodic tone of his ramblings lull her to sleep. A real sleep without dreams this time.

"Morning, Teal'c."

Teal'c slowly surfaced from the deep meditative state of kel'no'reem he had been in, a rest his symbiote required and another aspect of his life that set him apart from the people of the Tau'ri in general and his teammates in particular. He had chosen a slight elevation of the ground for his ritual, a grassy spot looking out over the plains, leaving him exposed to the light winds playing in the fresh morning air.

Daniel Jackson squatted down beside him, hands cradling a cup of steaming hot coffee. He stared gloomily into the black pool of liquid, shoulders slightly hunched. *Tap, tap,* his fingers went against the tin cup. Teal'c raised an eyebrow. Daniel Jackson was not a morning person as Teal' had been able to find out on many occasions, but this amount of brooding was a little odd even for him.

Daniel Jackson's grip on the cup tightened. "Sam knows," he said miserably. "I was thinking about Jack last night and apparently she was awake and couldn't help reading my thoughts." He looked up, lips quirked in a wry smile. "She wants to talk to me about it this morning."

"I see," Teal'c acknowledged.

Their eyes met briefly before Daniel Jackson resumed looking numbly at the beverage in his hands. Teal'c let his gaze sweep over the open field to the slight indentation in the ground where they had set up camp, and where Major Carter was currently putting away her sleeping bag and blanket. O'Neill was nowhere to be seen.

"Perhaps you should finally talk to him about your feelings," he suggested, even though he knew Daniel Jackson's opinion on the matter. It wasn't the first time they had this particular conversation.

Predictably Daniel Jackson shook his head. "Not an option, Teal'c. I can't afford to lose him as a friend."

Teal'c remained silent. He refrained from saying that he had seen a lot of things happen in his over a hundred years of life he wouldn't have deemed possible at first. He also refrained from saying that he had an inkling that O'Neill might not be averse to any revelations on the young man's part. Daniel Jackson would have to work that out on his own.

Daniel Jackson sighed. "It's just different on Earth, Teal'c. Your people may be way behind in their belief in false gods, but you're obviously not so behind when it comes to male warrior bonding."

"Do you not think that O'Neill may have encountered such male bonding also in your military forces, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked, only to be met with a sad smile.

"Oh, I know Jack," Daniel Jackson said. "And I know some of his Air Force buddies. Believe me, if I had thought this was a piece of cake I'd have made my move a long time ago."

Gazing across the plateau, Teal'c noticed Major Carter looking up and waving a hand at them. Daniel Jackson inhaled deeply. "Guess that's my cue." He rose to his feet, nervously pushing his glasses up his nose. Teal'c could sympathize with his panic but didn't think it was warranted.

"Do not fear Major Carter," he said. "Everything will be fine." A lopsided grin told him Daniel Jackson did not quite share his enthusiasm.

"From your lips to God's ears, Teal'c."

He watched Daniel Jackson scramble down the hillside, saw the wide smile on Major Carter's face, who was looking first up at him, then at the pitiable figure heading her way, saw her taking Daniel Jackson by the elbow and dragging him off towards the adjacent undergrowth, and knew that, indeed, everything was going to be fine.

He turned his eyes back towards the woodlands of the plains, interspersed at times with wide clearings, but bereft of any traces of human settlement. He couldn't help but wonder why the inhabitants of this planet seemed to have abandoned this particular stretch of land, provided there were any inhabitants left. The landscape bore a slight resemblance to Chulak, and he found himself thinking of his wife and son, so far away, and yet at least safe for now in the Land of Light.

A loud clatter had him look back to the camp site again, the source of which he identified immediately as Colonel O'Neill, who appeared to have returned from his morning stroll and was fiddling around with his backpack. He waved at Teal'c, stooping once more to pick something up off the ground, before casually sauntering over to Teal'c's current hilltop position, where he dropped ungracefully at his side.

"Hey, Teal'c."

"Where have you been, O'Neill."

"Oh, around." O'Neill vaguely waved his hand. "It's not everyday I get to see so many - trees." He had pulled out his binoculars and was scanning the distant woodlands. "Where is everyone?"

"Major Carter and Daniel Jackson are comparing notes on what has occurred on this planet," Teal'c said unmoving. Fortunately, O'Neill seemed to buy it. He held up two raspberry flavoured granola bars.

"Found that lying in the grass at the camp site. Three guesses as to who hasn't eaten his breakfast."

"You are mistaken, O'Neill. I believe these belong to Major Carter."

O'Neill stared at him. "You sure?"

Teal'c happened to know the raspberry flavoured ones were Major Carter's favourites. He bowed his head. "I am certain."

"Ya know, I'm used to Daniel skipping meals, but Carter?" O'Neill shook his head. "You always have to look after those kids."

The kids in question were just stepping out of the undergrowth. Daniel Jackson was talking animatedly to Major Carter, who laughed and briefly touched his arm. She looked up, and when her eyes met Teal'c's, she steered Daniel Jackson in their direction. Teal'c noticed the look of relief on Daniel Jackson's face as they finally arrived at his side.

*Did you manage to set his mind at ease, Major Carter,* Teal'c asked silently.

She looked at him blankly. "Sorry, Teal'c. We'll have to resort to more traditional means of communication."

"Apparently the telepathic effect was only temporary," Daniel Jackson stepped in. "It seems to wear off on itself. Which would actually have been my next guess, if the inscriptions hadn't turned up anything useful."

This turn of events was very convenient indeed, in Teal'c's opinion, as they would be able to return back to Earth without further ado, with all members of SG-1 in perfect health for once. However, when he turned to his team leader, O'Neill's expression had darkened considerably. Daniel Jackson seemed to have noticed it, too. "Don't," he said tersely.

"Don't what," O'Neill snapped.

"Don't start about how if we'd gone back yesterday you'd have got to watch that game." He had stubbornly crossed his arms in front of his chest.

O'Neill eyed him suspiciously. "Daniel, you didn't by any chance go back in there and touch that eye thingee on purpose?"

"No. Why?"

"Because all of a sudden you know what I'm thinking."

"I don't need to be telepathic to know when you're thinking of your favourite spectator sport," Daniel Jackson announced.

Teal'c noticed a smile quirking Major Carter's lips, which vanished instantly the moment O'Neill turned to them both. "Am I so easy to read?" A note of desperation had crept into his voice.

She shrugged nonchalantly, while Teal'c resorted to the tried and tested raise of the left eyebrow, which had O'Neill looking from one to the other, uncertain of what he should make of their carefully blank faces. He turned back to the one member of his team who seemed to have no trouble showing his emotions, but who had taken off in the direction of the ruins at top speed.

"Hey, where're you going?" O'Neill yelled.

Daniel Jackson didn't slow down. "I'm packing up the rest of my stuff in the ruins, if you don't mind, colonel, sir!"

Reaching the white staircase, he mounted the steps two at a time and stormed through the opening in the wall into the building, leaving Teal'c with an exasperated O'Neill and a visibly worried Major Carter.

"Sir, give him a break." Trust Major Carter to step in on Daniel Jackson's behalf. "He's had a rough night."

"Oh, did he now." O'Neill didn't sound convinced, but he beckoned them to follow him back to the camp site. "Come on, folks. Let's get ready to blow this Popsicle stand."

It wasn't until they were almost set to go that Teal'c noticed something was wrong. He couldn't quite put a finger on it, but he noticed that Major Carter was glancing around herself uneasily, too.

"It's the silence," she said. "It shouldn't be so silent. Weren't there birds singing a couple of minutes ago?"

And then all hell broke loose. The ground started to shake, emitting a low rumbling noise. Trees started to come down in the nearby forest, splintering like matches. Teal'c caught Major Carter's outstretched arm and prevented her from falling to the ground, as another wave hit them and caught him off guard, too, and they both ended up in a tangle of arms and legs on the hard ground.

"Where's Daniel?" O'Neill yelled at them. "He's not still inside the ruins, is he?"

But Daniel Jackson was nowhere to be seen. Another quake shook the earth, sending some of the pillars of the temple swaying precariously. A deep crack had opened up in the stairway, and debris was starting to fall away from the crumbling walls of the building.

"Oh, for crying out loud," O'Neill muttered, and broke into a run.

"Colonel, we don't know if it's safe to go in there right now," Major Carter called out after him, but he was not slowing down. She looked at Teal'c, shaking her head, and scrambled to her feet. Together they set off towards the collapsing temple.

He was in search of an errant archaeologist. Again. Why was Daniel always the one who managed to get himself into trouble? Jack sprinted up the white steps, avoiding cracks, dodging a good part of the frieze, which had come loose and crashed into thousands of pieces between what was left of the pillars. He made it through the main doorway, desperately trying to avoid being hit by all the debris flying around.

"Daniel!" he called out.

Of course, wonderboy was bound to be in the innermost room of the compound, that was were the pictographs had been. But the opening in the wall to the room with the inscriptions was no longer there. A large heap of broken stones piled up where once had been a doorway. Jack's heart sank.

"Daniel, where the hell are you!"

No one answered him. The movements of the earth became more erratic, and finally stopped altogether. A flood of rocks falling off the side walls of the compound had him jump back to the middle of the room, before dust finally settled on what was left of the temple ruins.

"Sir, where is he?" Carter and Teal'c had arrived at his side, panting hard. The pile of stones in front of them moved, followed by what was unmistakeably a curse, even though it wasn't in any language Jack understood. He was at the base of the pile in an instant.

"Daniel? You in there?"

"I'm here. 'm stuck." The voice was muffled, but it was unmistakeably Daniel's. "Can't move. Ouch." His struggle had sent more of the debris rolling down the pile. The whole structure didn't look too good, Jack figured, and if Daniel moved some more the whole thing was bound to come crashing down, burying him underneath it.

"You might wanna stop moving and let us dig you out," he called out. The movement beneath the pile of rocks stopped.

"Carter, Teal'c, over here," Jack directed, and together they set out removing layers of broken stones, cutting into their hands with sharp edges.

It was one hour later, when Jack wiped dirty hands on his fatigues, sweat trickling down his back, that Carter removed a large piece of rock, and a hand became visible underneath it, attached to the sleeve of a standard issue military jacket and the edges of a black military vest.

"Looks good, guys," Daniel announced, the fingers wriggled, and another ten minutes later they were able to grab his arms and pull him out of the hollow he had nestled in, evading most of the debris falling down around him.

He looked okay, Jack figured, when he checked him over, examining arms and legs, turning him around to look for signs of major injuries. No broken limbs, the uniform was torn in places, and Daniel's left arm didn't look too good, but considering he had been dumped under a pile of rocks the kid had come away surprisingly unharmed.

"I'm fine," Daniel protested, "just a little bruised. Ow." Jack shook his head and affectionately ruffled his hair.

Daniel blushed. "Don't - do that." He glared at Jack, before turning pleading eyes to the rest of their team. Jack noticed Carter's eyes darting back and forth between the two of them, a curious smile on her lips.

"What's it, Carter?" he asked indignantly. "Something on my nose?"

She ruefully averted his gaze, left boot kicking against some rocks on the dusty stone floor. "Nothing worth mentioning, sir."

Jack wiped his brow as he carefully stepped over the roots of gigantic alien trees blocking the path through the forest back to the gate. The lower they got the warmer the air grew, moist and making it hard to breath. He was leading the way, with Daniel and Carter right behind him and Teal'c bringing up the rear. Daniel's backpack on his shoulders added to the weight he was carrying even though he had tried to cram a good part of Daniel's stuff into Teal'c's backpack. They had had to bandage Daniel's arm, and he had declared Daniel unfit to carry his stuff on his own.

Daniel had looked at him sheepishly. "You know, the Greeks had another notion. The taking care of the self, which was actually more important than the knowing of the self." Jack had grinned smugly. Because, more often than not, that was his part, the taking care of Daniel part.

He carefully climbed over a root the size of a crocodile. Picking up the pieces after the universe had thrown some crap at Daniel again was part of his job description these days. Not that Jack complained about that. Well, not much anyway.

He became aware of Daniel and Carter chattering excitedly over God knew what.

". definitely have to come back. If they wrote backwards due to an influence of Arabic cultures that would mean that there were actually two cultures transplanted here from Earth, which implies . "

Jack tuned out again. So they would come back if Daniel had his way. Big deal.

The forest at last opened up onto a vast clearing, and when they stepped out of the shadows of the last trees the gate finally came into view. Always a sight to behold, Jack mused as he looked at the huge ancient monument set against the dark green of the forest. Another fifty yards through high grass and they would be at the base of the steps leading up to the metal ring. Jack turned back to the rest of his team. Daniel was still gesticulating wildly, blue eyes sparkling, blond hair shining in the bright sunlight of the open field.

"Danny?" he interrupted the never ending flux of words.


And there it was, one of those rare megawatt smiles lighting up Daniel's face. He hadn't been treated to many of those lately. "Dial up the gate, Daniel," he said gruffly.

He watched as Daniel meticulously punched in the seven symbols designating Earth on the DHD, sending the metal ring spinning until all seven chevrons had locked into place, and the familiar blue ball of liquid burst forth.

"Never gets old," he commented, and led his team up to the shimmering event horizon, marvelling once again at the wonders of the wormhole, the true nature of which still eluded him despite Carter's numerous attempts at explaining it to him.

He knew the important thing, and that was that it would lead his team safely back to Earth. Another mission completed and all his kids were on their way home. He took a deep breath and stepped through the blue horizon into the maelstrom.
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