Fall to Heaven by Sideburns
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Category: Jack/Daniel
Genres: Meridian Fix
Rated: Adult
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: Daniel returns from his ascension -- uncertain of his welcome following the destruction of Abydos.

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Author's Chapter Notes:
Written before Fallen - my version of Daniel's return.
Prologue

If anyone had been in the area, they'd have stood quietly, stunned and transfixed, as three luminescent streams burst through an unusual opening in the dark clouds that filled the morning sky.

If anyone had been driving down Highway 16, they would have jammed on their brakes after spotting the beams of light hit the ground to the right of the road.

Some people might have run away, fearing an attack by aliens, and not the E.T. kind. Others would have allowed their curiosity to get the better of them and stayed their ground.

If anyone had been there that morning, and if their curiosity kept them rooted to the spot, they'd have seen the three lights shimmer and shift -- and finally gather into three solid forms.

Human forms.

But no one was on Highway 16 that morning. There were no hikers, bikers, joggers, cows, dogs, or anything else, to see glittering, silvery tendrils of lights become human beings.

***

Daniel felt... odd. He was prepared to feel again, prepared for scratchy materials, beard stubble, itches, aches and pains, hunger, thirst, all the normal things a man should feel if human, but he wasn't prepared to feel so strange.

"Daniel, do you understand what we must do now?"

He looked up from his perusal of his now Nike-clad feet and into Oma's too-bright eyes. Words failed him, so he nodded.

Oma smiled gently and, as Shifu had done so very long ago, placed her very real but oddly bright hand on his forehead.

He didn't collapse, felt no dizziness or disorientation, but when she removed it, he could remember nothing of what he'd learned, seen, or accomplished while with Oma and the Others.

How odd, he thought. He didn't miss what he no longer remembered.

Oma drew the back of her hand down his cheek and the action reminded him of that time in the garden of Kheb. His words of then echoed now: "We will see each other again, won't we?"

When he'd said it, he'd believed with all his heart that he would see them both again -- but now -- now he knew that should he ask again, the answer would be no.

There'd be no more ascension for Daniel Jackson. He could die tomorrow and he'd be nothing but ashes. Or maggot food.

Whatever.

"This is for the best, Daniel. Please trust me?"

Before he could respond, Arnak took her arm and warned with a simple, "Oma."

She stepped back. "Good-bye, Daniel. You're not far from town, a few miles. You understand why we had to do this here?"

Daniel was thankful for the lack of platitudes or riddles. He'd have hated, "Daniel, the walk is only a small part of the larger journey. Each step will reveal a greater truth" yadda-yadda.

He suspected that after a year of not 'being', his upcoming walk would reveal nothing more than blisters. He didn't share that thought, instead choosing to nod in the all-knowing and mysterious manner that came with being one of the "Others". He could still do that well.

Arnak bowed his head, and then lifted his hand in his version of a wave. Daniel had taught him that. He'd been good for something in the last year. Oh yeah.

A moment later, Oma and Arnak were gone and Daniel was alone. He glanced around, scratched his head and thought that he should have been left at the SGC, perhaps? As opposed to an empty field in the middle of nowhere? Somewhere other than the middle of Colorado.

And wouldn't you know that, silly him, he had absolutely *no* idea which direction would take him to Colorado Springs. Like he'd ever *been* here before? He could think of quite a few planets he knew better than he knew the back roads of Colorado Springs. Hell, he knew a few planets better than he'd known his bathroom.

Daniel took the few steps required to put him on asphalt, then faced right.

No.

He turned left and started walking.

***

Jack got himself a beer. Seemed the right thing to do. Saturday afternoon, no game worth watching, no planets to explore, no Earth in need of saving at the moment.

So.

Beer.

He walked into his kitchen, opened the fridge and took out a bottle. For a moment he simply stared at it. Brown, cold, inviting, so why was he staring at it? Maybe waiting for an invitation?

"Drink me, drink me, please?"

That was good enough for him. He popped the top and took a swig.

Ah, now that hit the spot.

However, he was still bored.

Maybe Teal'c would--

No. Teal'c was busy with Bra'tac and training the Tok'ra and Jaffa. Not due back for another week. And Carter was working on another motorcycle.

Funny, he'd yet to see her actually drive one. Maybe it was just her way of relaxing. Fighting losing battles with semi-ascended gods definitely required *some* form of relaxation.

Okay, that left... Jonas.

Um... no.

Just... no.

Hammond was with his grand-daughters, and Ferretti was with his new "friend", Abigail.

Which left... Daniel.

No, that was no good. He'd stopped 'talking' to Daniel after Abydos went bye-bye. Besides, contrary to Sam's belief that Daniel had gotten himself into trouble, Jack suspected that the man --sorry-- the *ascended* being, was probably busy serving up wise and really ancient sayings for the fortune cookie companies.

Jack downed his beer and, with the thought of not talking to Daniel in mind, reached for another.

***

Well, well, Daniel thought. Looks an awful lot like the edge of town. And yep, he had blisters. Not that he minded. It proved he was alive. It was kind of funny though, how Oma could know so much about everything, could zip across galaxies, yet have no concept of time or miles. Not that he was tired, exactly. Okay, he was tired. Really tired. But he wasn't sure if his exhaustion was due to the lack of human physical exercise, or if the distance he'd traveled was really that great.

Of course, he hadn't been in such great shape the last time he'd been human. An overabundance of radiation can do that to a fellow.

Daniel stopped his walk and took stock of his surroundings. It was landmark time.

Okay, he knew that gas station. Jack had filled up there once--

Jack.

Daniel closed his eyes as his heart began throwing pvc's. Which felt really weird, because when he'd been one of the "Others" and he'd thought about Jack, he'd just glow brighter. At least that's what Onrah always said. He'd always figured she was pulling his... tendril. But now, as a human once again, his heart was doing a great impression of a jackhammer.

Okay, let's get back on topic. If this was *that* gas station, then he was on the complete opposite end of town because this was the station Jack used as he *left* town. So he was miles and miles on the opposite end of town.

He couldn't do any more miles and miles.

Daniel squinted, trying to identify one of the vehicles whizzing past him as a taxi. Oma had put him in clothes, but had forgotten his glasses and being ascended for a year hadn't cured his poor vision. Well, except while ascended, of course.

He really needed a taxi.

A yellow and black checkered car pulled up a few feet in front of him and a woman with a small child jumped out, reached back in and handed something to the driver, then hurried into the building that was currently shading Daniel from the afternoon sun.

If that wasn't a cab, he wasn't Daniel Jackson.

Daniel hurried over.

"Excuse me, can I--"

"Hop in, Mister. I've got time for one more fare."

Sighing in relief, Daniel opened the door and slid into the backseat.

"Where to, buddy?"

"1216 Evergreen. It's on the other side of Richmond."

"Right."

Daniel hoped Jack was home. He was depending on him to pay the fare. Oma wasn't big on the concept of money either.

Daniel reached up and touched the bridge of his nose, almost as if pushing his non-existent glasses up.

Money and glasses. She wasn't big on money, glasses... and miles.

At least she'd remembered to provide him with underwear.

***

The guy hasn't given me a thought in months, then he pops up to accomplish exactly nothing, and oh, gee, wasn't that familiar? Did constant torture by Baal ring any bells? So if the almighty Daniel Jackson, or "He Who Does Squat" doesn't give a rat's ass for him, why, now, was Jack thinking about *him*? He looked at the array of bottles on his coffee table, closed one eye in order to see clearly, and counted them--

One...two...three...four...five--

And one in his hand.

Six. Wow.

Jack crossed his right ankle over his left, decided he didn't like it and crossed the left over the right. The hand not holding the beer was folded behind his head as Jack regarded his ceiling.

He really needed to deal with his anger. It couldn't be healthy. On the other hand, he couldn't kill Daniel because Daniel was already dead... in a way, so that just left his anger.

Damn amazing, his anger. He'd gone from gratitude and trust after Baal, to this all consuming, almost pathological rage after Abydos. A rage experienced every time he thought of Daniel. An anger fueled by the fact that no matter what, when all was said and done, Daniel had done nothing to help him, Skaara, nor his supposed family on Abydos.

Something in Jack was trying to whisper words refuting that Daniel had done nothing, but Jack stomped down on it. After all, the one truth he knew above all else, was that he sure as hell would have helped Daniel in a New York minute had their situations been reversed, not to mention the people of Abydos and Skaara. If it had been an ascended Jack, Anubis would now be a speck of ash in somebody's eye.

Damn right.

God, what a sucker he'd been when Daniel had shown up in Baal's version of a jail cell. He'd been so God-damned needy, not to mention grateful, for Daniel's company, that he'd totally skipped the part where Daniel, this fucking all-powerful being, had done NOTHING to stop Jack's pain.

Yeah, he was chockfull of anger all right. Maybe it was time for another beer.

***

Daniel stood next to the cab in the driveway. The Avalanche was parked in its usual spot, front bumper kissing the garage door. Obviously Jack was home.

Jack was home.

Daniel leaned down and said through the open window, "Please wait?"

"Sure thing, but ya gotta know the meter's ticking."

Daniel's attention was back on Jack's house, so he nodded absently before starting up the driveway to the front door.

He stared at the wood, peered through the etched glass, then after pulling courage from somewhere deep, he... knocked.

***

The knocking interrupted Jack's fantasy of yelling at Daniel. Not fair. He swung his legs from their comfortable perch on the couch pillows and, beer in hand, ambled over to the front door. He opened it -- and had the immediate desire to laugh hysterically while at the same time -- slamming in his visitor's face.

"Hey, Jack."

Jack sighed heavily, stepped back, made an expansive motion with his arm, and said, "Come on in, Daniel."

***

"Come on in, Daniel"? Those were Jack's first words to him? Well, okay, but really, he'd been hoping for a little something more.

Daniel stepped in and followed Jack down into the living room.

That's when it hit him.

He was alive.

For hours he'd been walking, experiencing the sun, flowers, grass, buildings, other humans, birds, insects, stray dogs, the odd skunk or two, cars and their exhaust, but until he stepped into Jack's home - until he'd taken in the scent of Jack's aftershave - he'd experienced nothing.

Daniel inhaled deeply, and sighed contentedly. God, he'd missed the smell of Jack.

"Okay, let me guess," Jack turned and faced Daniel, "I'm about to pop an artery in my brain and you're here to hold my hand, right?"

Daniel frowned. "Um, well, actually--"

"No, no," Jack held up the hand holding the beer, "let me guess. Okay, if it's not that, then I'm about to have a major heart attack and you're going to sit with me until the end, right?"

Daniel might not be able to see Jack all that clearly, but the tone of his voice was telling him that perhaps he wasn't all that welcome after all. His frown deepened as he took a step closer and said again, "Um, well, actually--"

"Okay, okay, the world is coming to an end in fifteen minutes, and you didn't want me to be alone, so here you are, my *best* friend, to help me through this difficult time, while, by the way, DOING SQUAT!"

Before Daniel could offer up another lame attempt at a response, Jack threw out his arm, spilling beer in the process, and said, "NO, WAIT! A horde of Goa'uld are about to descend on my humble abode, whereupon they will either rip me to shreds, blast me to smithereens, OR snake me, and you're here to help me through it, to share platitudes like, 'Jack, the pain is only as real as you allow it to be', or 'Jack, your strength will carry you to a new level of oneness with the universeness', OR, 'Jack, to know one's enemy, one must become one's enemy, or one may never defeat one's enemy, so suck it up, Junior, and welcome the damn snake'. Am I close, Danny-boy?"

Daniel started to say something, to tell Jack that he was really *here*, but Jack moved in and, with his face a mere inch from Daniel's, said coldly, "Well, you wanna know somethin', Daniel? I don't want or need your fucking platitudes, okay? You want to hold someone's hand in their hour of need, go hold," he frowned as if losing his concentration, then said, "someone else's. I DON'T NEED YOU, THIS WORLD DOESN'T NEED YOU -- you got that?"

Jack punctuated his words with a finger jabbed repeatedly into Daniel's chest.

Daniel stepped back and blinked several times as he wiped the beer spray from his cheeks. He could feel the heat of his shame traveling up his neck to spread across his face.

Jack took another swig of his beer, then after swallowing, said, "Listen, buddy, if I'm gonna die, I'd rather die alone than be with you, so fly back up where you belong, say hello to Skaara for me, and don't let the door hit you on the way out, okay?"

For a moment, Daniel couldn't move. His face was burning up, his throat had closed off, thanks to a lump in it the size of Pittsburg, and he found that he was seeing the world through a watery haze. He finally cleared his throat, with difficulty, and said, "Jack, you're not... dying. I just... hey, just thought I'd stop in... I was in the neighborhood, you know? So I'll justbegoingnow--"

His last words came in a rush as he started walking backwards to the door.

Jack had turned away, but now he waved his beer and muttered, "Yadda-yadda."

Daniel left.

***

Once outside, he took several deep breaths, bent at the waist and braced himself with his hands on his knees, took more breaths, then straightened.

Who was it said, "You can't go home again"? He should probably know but at the moment, he knew next to nothing.

He required a new game plan. Any thought of picking up his old life was gone now, which meant good old Plan B.

Daniel walked over to the cab, climbed in, and said, "Let's try 437 Schubert Avenue, all right?"

There was nowhere else to go if Plan B didn't work.

Did he have a Plan B?

***

Sam unplugged the vacuum, rolled up the cord and stowed the monstrosity in the closet. As she closed the door, a profound thought struck: Should someone who'd helped save the Earth as many times as she had, have to vacuum?

Grinning, she turned away and headed for the kitchen. As she crossed her living room, she glanced out the large windows that overlooked the street and noticed a cab pulling into her driveway.

Who on Earth?

A moment later, her world tilted three hundred and sixty degrees. She found herself staring out the window as a man who looked *exactly* like Daniel, approached her front door. Her body pivoted but remained in place as the doorbell rang.

It rang again.

As if a movie director had used special effects on her, Sam moved in what she could only call - slomo - to the door. With her hand on the knob, she chastised herself.

It's not really him. The man doesn't really look like him, you just want it to *be* him. Him is dead. Or -- whatever. Daniel is gone. Completely, forever, irrevocably gone.

Sam twisted the knob and, feeling like Dorothy after her home had been dropped by the tornado, opened the door.

A world of vibrant color and dotted with Munchkins was what Dorothy had found.

Sam found... Daniel.

Eyes wide, she stood on the other side of the screen door and said the only thing that came to mind.

"Daniel?"

***

The curtains were open. That was a good sign. Sam must be home. Once again Daniel got out and told the driver to wait. And once again, he found himself walking slowly up a driveway.

He was running out of people to surprise. He sure hoped this one worked.

Stomach in his feet, heart in his throat, and hope springing eternal, Daniel pushed the buzzer.

Then pushed it again.

Several minutes later, the door opened and Samantha Carter, his big sister, was standing on the other side of the screen door, eyes wide, mouth wider.

"Daniel?"

Dumbly, he nodded.

"Daniel?"

Words might work here.

"Hey, Sam. It's ... me. Really. Honest."

The dam broke.

The screen door was flung wide and five feet, nine inches of Air Force Major was suddenly in his arms.

"OHGODOHGODOHGOD!"

Over and over she said the words, her arms hugging, hands in his hair, running down his back, his arms, his hands, then over his face as she stepped back just enough to actually run her hands over his face. And through it all, she kept saying it.

"ohgodohgodohgod...."

***

He was human again, and while the smell of Jack brought that home, it took Sam's tears to reinforce *who* he was. Daniel knew he was crying too, but he also knew that his tears had nothing to do with happiness.

***

She was still touching him.

"I don't believe this, Daniel, but I really don't care. You're here, I can touch you, see you... it's like a miracle."

Her voice was breathless, her eyes fixed on his face. Daniel nodded and linked his fingers with hers. "I know, but I'm here."

"But how, Daniel? We--I--all of us, we assumed that--Anubis? That you were--really gone this time?"

Daniel shrugged. Time to say for the first time, but certainly not the last, why he was here. Why he was alive and human.

"What happened, Daniel?"

"I guess you could say that I blew it, big time. I just wasn't -- and she had no choice -- she sent me back," he finished lamely, his face coloring a dull red.

They were sitting at her dining room table, sitting close, fingers entwined. As Sam tried to digest what he'd said, Daniel remembered the taxi driver.

"Shit. Sam, I... the taxi. I... can I... could you lend me... Oma isn't big on money, you know?"

"Oh, God, Daniel. Of course. How much?"

"Twenty-six, plus... he deserves a good tip?"

Sam jumped to her feet, half taking Daniel with her, thanks to still being in possession of his hand. "Hang on, let me get my bag."

She finally let go and started back into the living room, but stopped part way. "You won't... don't go... anywhere, all right?"

Grinning, Daniel said, "How 'bout I follow you? I should be the one to pay him anyway."

Smiling sheepishly, Sam said, "Right, of course." She got her purse and rifled through the contents until she found her wallet. She extracted three bills and held them out. "Here you go. Let's take care of the man."

***

Jack carried the bottles out through the kitchen and onto the porch where he dumped them into the recycle bin before walking back inside. As the door slammed shut, he froze.

The door.

Daniel had -- knocked.

Daniel.Had.Knocked.

Ascended beings didn't need to knock.

Jack lifted his right hand and stared at his index finger. The finger that had repeatedly jabbed Daniel's chest.

Daniel's real chest.

Bone. Flesh. The cream-colored v-neck sweater.

Jack could see Daniel's face flushing a deep crimson, and his eyes... those incredible blue eyes swimming in moisture, squinting at him--

Squinting?

Daniel had been squinting.

He hadn't squinted in Jack's cell. No glasses, but no squinting either.

JESUS H. CHRIST!

***

As they reentered the house, Sam marched straight over to the phone. As she picked it up, Daniel panicked and asked, "Sam? Who--"

"I have to tell the Colonel, Daniel. Get him over here. And then I have to tell General--"

"You might want to wait on telling Jack," Daniel said quietly. "I don't think I'm on his list of favorite people right now. And before you call the General, let's stop and think through a few things, all right?"

Astounded, Sam said, "The Colonel has to know, Daniel. He's been... it's been horrible for him. And General Hammond, and Teal'c, and Janet, and Ohgod! Cassandra!"

Daniel closed his eyes. This hurt so much more than he'd been prepared to deal with because he understood now that he couldn't see any of them. He had to stop Sam now.

"Whoa, Sam. Look," he rubbed his jaw as he tried to find the right words, "the truth is -- look, I'm just here because--"

His voice trailed off as Sam's expression went from excited to hurt in anticipation of Daniel's next words. He hurried to reassure her. "Naturally I wanted to see you, Sam, to tell you, you know. That I'm -- here. Back. To say what I didn't get a chance to say on -- Abydos -- that I've really -- missed you."

Eyes still reflecting her hurt and confusion, Sam said, "Daniel, you were -- and now you're not. We were so certain that you were really lost to us after what happened with Anubis, but -- here you are," then added with some hesitation, "right?"

"I -- yes, I'm here. Alive and human."

Sam stepped closer, hand outstretched as if to touch him, but unsure if she should. She cocked her head and repeated, "You really aren't -- ascended -- anymore, right? This isn't a ... a what, a visit? A visit? This isn't just a visit, is it?"

"No, no, I'm here to stay, as in here -- as in," he wiggled his finger in a circular motion, "alive."

Eyes on the moving finger, Sam grinned and said, "I missed that, you know."

Digit poised in mid-air, Daniel frowned and asked, "Missed what?"

Indicating the finger, Sam said, still grinning, "That."

Daniel looked at it, scrunched up his face and quickly dropped his arm. "You missed my finger?"

"I missed the way you'd use it to make a point, or get the Colonel's attention, or communicate a thought. Well, that and your eyebrows," she concluded.

Daniel licked his lips. He was beginning to miss the way The Others talked in parables.

"Your eyebrows have always been so expressive, Daniel. I could always tell if you were being patient with the Colonel, or if you were confused, or angry, or accepting, just by the way your eyebrows moved. I've missed that. Whenever you had a point to make, or something to add, the finger would come up and those eyebrows would start dancing and you'd get this little scrunch thing going on with the bridge of your nose."

Schooling his expression and trying not to waggle or scrunch anything, Daniel said, "Oh." Then he stuck his hands in his pockets.

"Let me take you to the Mountain, Daniel. Please?"

"That's really a bad idea, Sam. To everyone there, I'm dead. It might look strange if you showed up leading a dead man into the SGC, you know? And let's face it, I've been gone an entire year and everything is fine and Jonas is doing well and -- there really isn't any need for another archaeologist, you know?"

He took a deep breath and plunged back in." And see, I have these friends, in Egypt. They have a school just outside of Cairo and I thought -- I'd, you know, go there, help them out and teach, that kind of thing. Thing is, well, Oma isn't exactly big on money and what you see in front of you is all there is, which is why you had to pay the taxi, but don't worry, I'll pay you back, so anyway, I was hoping that maybe, well, I need to actually *get* to Egypt and that involves airplanes and money and such--"

Sam held up one hand and said, "Stop, Daniel."

"--and I don't -- huh?"

"Daniel, I don't have a clue what to say to you, how to express, I mean, this is incredible, and yet, here you are, talking about Egypt, and teaching, and not seeing your friends, and spouting off all this, 'the SGC doesn't need me' crap--"

One eyebrow rose. "Crap?"

"Yes, Daniel, crap. Now I'll give you that walking into Cheyenne Mountain with a man who was, up to a short time ago, dead, might not be a good idea, but let's allow General Hammond to decide how best to deal with this -- this -- miracle, all right? Now you stay here, make yourself comfortable, and I'll head to the Mountain to let the General know. How does that sound? And before you say no, even if later you decide to do this whole Egypt thing, then the General can take care of it, okay?"

What could Daniel say? It wasn't as if he had any choices here.

"All right."

Satisfied, Sam hurried to the closet in the hall, and even as she was taking her jacket down, she was talking a mile a minute. "There's coffee, your favorite, in the kitchen, and some donuts I bought yesterday. I think I have some yogurt, I haven't done my shopping yet, but this won't take long, and we can always get you a proper meal later, all right?" She grabbed her purse and slung it over her shoulder. With keys in hand, she opened the front door and added, "Now don't go anywhere, okay? You promise?"

Blinking in confusion, Daniel nodded helplessly.

"Good. Be right back."

The door shut and Daniel wondered if he was having a good day.

***

Daniel was alone. Not that he hadn't been since Oma had so kindly dropped him off, but he'd been outside. Why that should make a difference, Daniel couldn't say, but it must have, because now, in Sam's house, he felt completely alone. Utterly. Alone.

Like-couldn't she have called Hammond? Why hadn't she just called him? And why was he standing in the middle of the living room asking why Sam hadn't just called Hammond? He could. sit down, or go into the kitchen, or. go back outside?

Outside was good, outside wasn't surrounded by Sam's things, and Sam's perfume, and everything that was real and Sam.

Daniel walked down the hall and into the den. He opened the slider and stepped out into her small backyard. He breathed in the air as he tilted his head back and took in the sky.

Okay. Birds. Not so lonely now.

Odd how the loneliness had hit him. And strange how stark everything felt in the loneliness, and how failure was the epitome of stark. His memories of his time with Oma, and all that he'd learned, were gone, yes, but he still *knew* he'd been there, remembered Baal, remembered -- Abydos. Remembered--

He shook his head, then gave his body a similar shake. He'd been left with only the memories already shared by Sam, Teal'c, Jonas and -- Jack. He knew what Anubis was, knew about the Eye, the tablet, the Ancients. Knew he'd done everything he shouldn't have done. But didn't remember how he'd done any of it.

He remembered that Anubis still had to be stopped and that Oma was in the middle of her own battle. A battle he'd forfeited the right to be a part of now.

The sound of pleasant chirping forced his eyes open and, surprised, his eyes widened. Overhead, robins, sparrows, finches and hummingbirds flew in a circle just a few feet up. Frowning, Daniel reached out a tentative hand and was further shocked when several of the smaller birds came to rest on his outstretched fingers. Staring hard, he was barely aware when something bumped up against his leg. Tearing his gaze from the birds, he glanced down to find three cats winding in and out between them, rubbing up against each leg in turn. A black and tan dog, maybe a sheltie, ran into Sam's backyard, thanks to a broken piece of wooden fence. Tail wagging, it bounded over to him, sat down, and with tail swishing over the grass, looked up adoringly.

Huh-uh. Right.

***

Sam was half-way down the block when it hit her. She'd just left Daniel alone and there was absolutely no reason for it. She had a phone, right? Right. She u-turned and seconds later was pulling back into her driveway. She climbed out, slammed the door and almost ran inside.

Only to find no Daniel.

"Daniel?" She ran to the kitchen, found it empty. She called his name again as she hurried down the hall toward the guest bathroom. She glanced to her right because the door to her den was open, but that room was also empty.

She froze.

Empty, but the slider--

Sam backed up and feeling somewhat wary, eased her way inside -- and spotted him immediately. Mouth dropping open, she moved to the door.

Daniel was standing in the middle of her backyard -- surrounded by animals.

Sam gave herself a little shake, as if trying to clear her vision of what she couldn't possibly being seeing. She pulled the screen aside and cautiously stepped onto her brick patio.

"Daniel?"

Birds flew up, chirping and twittering, but the dogs and cats that sat on him and around him, remained unmoving. Daniel turned his head, gave her an 'I don't understand this either' look, then attempted to dislodge the animals by starting to rise to his feet.

"I needed some fresh air, Sam. Just thought I'd come out--"

"You and every neighbors pet?" she said, her eyes drawn to the animals now sitting on their haunches as they gazed up at Daniel.

"Oh. Yeah. That. I don't -- they just started -- appearing, you know? And why are you back?"

"I realized that all I needed to do was call General Hammond, that it was silly to leave you alone."

"Oh. So?" he said, indicating the house.

"Right. Phone. But what about," she made a twirling motion with her hand that encompassed the animals, "them?"

Daniel shrugged uncomfortably and started for the house. With another strange look at the dogs and cats, Sam followed, relieved to note that as Daniel stepped inside, the animals lost interest in her backyard and began to wander off.

Scratching her head, Sam shut the slider.

***

"Yes, sir. I can do that. The NID? Why? Oh, of course." Sam glanced over at Daniel, then said into the phone, "Do we have to -- I mean, couldn't we--"

Daniel stood up and walked over to Sam's side. "It's okay, Sam. I understand. But tell the General that I have no memories of what I learned. They were taken before I was -- what would we call this? Before I was -- sent down?"

Sam nodded and repeated Daniel's words to the General. A few moments later she said her goodbye and hung up.

"Well?" Daniel asked, only slightly worried.

"A car is on its way. And he has to call the President, which means the NID will be informed. A few things have changed since you--left. And--"

"I know. Senator Kinsey has a new title."

One eyebrow arched and he shrugged his shoulders. "What can I say? I checked in from time to time."

"I see. But you don't remember how you--"

"Nope."

Sam stepped in close and, with worry in her voice, asked, "Abydos?"

"I remember what happened, but not the how of it," he answered quietly.

Sam placed her hand on Daniel's arm and closed her eyes as she said, "We'd hoped that it was Oma's intervention and not Anubis that was responsible --"

"I know. But as you can see," he held out his arms, "I'm here, as opposed to no where."

They smiled at each other, smiles that did nothing to mask their sorrow.

***

Daniel looked at the black car and his 'armed' escorts. "Sam-"

"I'm going with you, Daniel, don't worry. I'm sure this is just-"

"A precaution? Is that what you were going to say?" Daniel said, his gaze fixed with doubt on the military vehicle.

Sam put her hand on his arm and squeezed. "Come on, let's go. The sooner we get there, the sooner-"

"I'm in Egypt," he finished softly.

***

Jack made the left onto Carter's street and drove slowly towards her home. His fingers tightened around the wheel as he approached her driveway. Everything looked quiet, and surely, if Daniel were inside, there'd be some evidence? Jack shook his head in disbelief. Evidence? Like, what, Carter's home would be bathed in a silvery light?

He parked and shut off the engine. He stared out the passenger window at the closed up house. Garage door shut, front door shut, curtains drawn. Nobody home? He found it hard to believe that on the day like this, Carter wouldn't have the house open to the sun. Nevertheless, he got out and walked to the front door. He straightened his shoulders and rang the bell.

Nothing happened.

He rang again.

Nothing happened again.

O-kay, no one was home. Which officially worried Jack. He'd have bet anything that Daniel would have come here next, yet with Carter not home, where else could Daniel have gone?

Jack turned away from the door and slipped his phone out of his pocket. He pressed two digits and a moment later, Sam was answering.

"Carter, it's me. Where are you?"

"Uh, sir, we're. I'm on my way to the Mountain."

He stepped onto the grass and said, "You haven't, by any chance, seen an old friend today, have you? And do we not know the meaning of the phrase, 'day off'?"

"Sir, I was in the middle of a relaxing day of cleaning when that. old friend. showed up at my door, which is *why* we're on our way to the Mountain."

Jack stopped half-way to his car. "He's . with you. now?"

"Yes, sir. I notified General Hammond and he sent a car for -- him."

"I'm on my way, Carter."

***

Sam closed her cell and gave Daniel a wry grin. "Colonel O'Neill is right behind us, Daniel. Somehow he knew-"

"I went there first, Sam. He was less than welcoming, not that I blame him."

With a disgusted look, she turned away and said, "Oh swell. You manage to see Teal'c and the Colonel while you're... you know," she pointed upward, "but not me? Do you stop by to chat with me? No-o-o. And on Abydos, what do I get but a tossed off, 'Sam'? And now, you go to the colonel's place *first*?"

Daniel frowned self-consciously at Sam's outburst as he said, "I'm sorry, Sam. Really. I know I visited, but I don't actually remember much, actually."

Suddenly contrite, Sam hastened to reassure her friend. "I'm the one who should be sorry. It only makes sense that you'd go to the Colonel's place first, after all, didn't you stay with him after your return from Abydos?"

Assaulted by the memories of those days, Daniel nodded even as he turned away from Sam to look out the window. Sensing his discomfort, she let the silence lengthen, finding no words to help him.

***

The car drove into the tunnel and Daniel didn't even have to crane his neck to see General Hammond, flanked by two officers he didn't know, standing at the ready. The vehicle stopped, the two SF's got out and one of them opened the left rear passenger door. Sam gave his hand a squeeze and slid out. Daniel took a deep breath, and followed.

Nothing in his life had even remotely prepared him for a moment such as this.

Coming back from the long dead. Sure, he'd come back from the dead before, but not like this. Never like this.

He faced General Hammond.

"Sir, I-"

Hammond's face was pale, eyes hidden behind sunglasses, sunglasses he didn't need. In an uncharacteristic gesture, he waved a hand in the air and said, "Not here, son. Let's get you down below."

Just like that.

Seven of them squeezed into the elevator and Daniel had the distinct impression that he was -- under arrest. Or. under guard. Or. or. he gave a small shake of his head. What had he expected? He was dead, after all. And now, he wasn't. That had to screw things up a bit. Mess with everyone's minds.

The transfer to the final elevator was made and then they were stopping on an all too familiar floor - Janet's little domain. But that made sense. They'd have to confirm that he was -- who he said he was. And that he wasn't, like, glowing, or anything.

He was 'escorted' to the Infirmary, where Janet stood ready to receive him. This had to feel weird for her, as the last time she'd seen him, a machine had just told her he was dead. She looked good, tired, but good. He hoped they hadn't called her back to duty just for him.

"Daniel," she said quietly, no question in her voice, but plenty of pent up emotion. She held out her hand.

"Doctor Jackson, this -- drill," Hammond said it as if it were a four-letter word, "is not of my doing. The NID is insisting on a thorough physical, followed by an," he glared at the two men Daniel hadn't recognized, "interview, is, I believe, the word they used.

Daniel slid his cold fingers into Janet's warm hand. "I understand, sir. I guess it's to be expected."

***

Jack almost ran into the Mountain, flashing his ID and stopping long enough to sign in and get the nod to proceed. He headed down, Hammond's office his destination. As he stepped out of the elevator, he came face-to-face with Major Davis.

"Colonel."

Seeing the man gave Jack pause. If Davis was here-

"What's going on and where is he?"

"Enduring a forced physical at the moment, at the request of the NID, who are here in the form of Colonel Winston and Major Harding, both under the orders of Kinsey. They're in charge, Jack."

Davis was never informal, and the fact that he'd just used Jack's first name told him that things were bad.

"Right now, the General is trying to get the President again, but I doubt-"

"How is this going to end, Davis?"

"If something doesn't change, the NID will walk out of here with Daniel -- if he *is* Daniel."

"He is." Jack said it simply, but leaving no doubt as to his beliefs.

"I know. This isn't going to go down well, Jack."

Davis was a good man and Jack found himself wrestling with how much to ask of him. Standing in the halls of the SGC, he felt as though it had been days since Daniel had shown up on his doorstep instead of a couple of hours. His anger was temporarily shelved in the face of the danger that now surrounded his friend. Jack stared hard at the man in front of him, and finally asked, "What are you willing-"

"Anything," Paul said simply.

"Then get to the Doc and tell her to take as long as she can for that physical - as in hours."

Smiling, Davis said, "If anyone can, she can."

Jack grinned and punched the elevator button.

"What are you-"

"I'm going to Washington. as quickly as I can get there."

"You might try the base. I understand several fighters are taking off in about two hours for a run to Washington."

"You're too well prepared for this, Davis."

"Would you believe I was a Boy Scout?"

The elevator opened and as he stepped inside, he said, "Get Teal'c back, pronto, tell Carter to stick to Daniel like glue, and yes, I believe you were a Boy Scout. I wasn't."

The elevator closed and Davis found himself thinking it was a good thing that Colonel Jack O'Neill hadn't been a Boy Scout.

***

Janet looked up at Major Davis and repeated in disbelief, "Hours?"

"If you can. Unless you want to see the NID waltz out of here with," he jerked his head to the curtained off bed, "him."


Janet tapped her chin before saying thoughtfully, "You know, I really should quarantine Daniel. We just don't know enough about who and what he might be now. Yes, I do believe that's the way to go. Isolation, great caution, slow and easy. And naturally we need to keep in mind that if he *is* Daniel, then he's been through a great deal, and for his peace of mind, perhaps someone, oh, someone like -- Major Carter -- for example, should stay with him. It would be the humane thing to do."

Falling into Frasier's plans, Davis nodded eagerly. "I agree wholeheartedly. As long as she's properly protected, yes, I believe that would definitely be the -- humane -- thing."

Seeing that his work here was done, Major Davis gave Janet an honorary salute, turned on his heel and headed to the 'Gate room and hopefully, Teal'c.

***

Jack flipped open his cell and punched in General Hammond's private number. As it rang, he tapped his fingers restlessly on the steering wheel and cursed the fact that he'd had to stop at home for his dress blues, thus leaving him captive to traffic now.

"Hammond."

Thank God.

"Sir, can you talk freely?"

"Not at the moment, no."

"Can you listen?"

"Always."

"Can you clear it through not-so-normal channels for me to catch a ride with a Corsair and then get me into the White House via the back door?"

"Is that all?"

Jack didn't miss the dry tone. "Yes, sir, that should do it. Especially if you haven't been successful in reaching the President?"

"I haven't, nor do I expect to be."

"So the back door?"

"I can arrange that, it's phones I'm having trouble with today."

"Marge?"

"That could work. She's a big fan of yours."

"I'm fifteen minutes from the base, sir."

"No problem."

"Thank you, sir."

He disconnected and concentrated on getting to the base. He was pretty certain that Marge Campion, good friend to Presidential Aide, Charlie Young, would be able to get him to the President without Kinsey knowing, and where the red phone was failing Hammond now.

All this work for a man he'd been cursing a short time ago. All right, Jack might never understand Daniel's failure to be of any real assistance while ascended, but damn it, Daniel was Daniel, and no matter what, he was Jack's friend.

Ascended, or descended, Daniel Jackson was Jack O'Neill's friend -- even if he was pissed as hell at the man.

***

"Colonel O'Neill, we've got you booked for a round trip flight on one of our A-7 Corsairs. It's a timed stealth flight, with a two hour turn around. Does that work for you?"

"Would this be a champagne flight, by any chance?"

The airman barely blinked as he said, "Not even a peanut, sir. But I understand the movie is a killer."

"Can't ask for more than that."

"No, sir. You'll be flying with Captain Monroe and you can change-"

"I know, Airman, I know."

"Right, sir. You've got twenty minutes."

***

"What the hell is going on?" Daniel got off the bed as the plastic curtain parted and a gowned and masked Sam entered.

"Daniel, it's okay-"

"One minute I'm out," he jerked his thumb toward the Infirmary, "there, and the next thing I know, I'm in Isolation." Daniel's face paled. "Wait, it's. coming back, isn't it? Or Janet thinks. I'm, it's going to happen again-"

Realizing what Daniel meant, Sam moved quickly to his side. "No, no, Daniel, you're..."

She threw a look over her shoulder and, satisfied that no one was on the other side, finished, "You're fine, just fine. This is... I guess you could call it a delaying tactic."

Understanding dawned in the blue eyes she'd missed so much in the last year. "Ah. Jack O'Neill strikes again." He looked past her and asked, "Where is he?"

Sam didn't miss the eagerness in his voice, nor the worry that edged it. She only wished she could tell him where the Colonel was, but that was one piece of information Davis had managed to withhold. She said the only thing she could.

"He's here, somewhere, but that's all I can tell you."

Something flickered in the blue depths of Daniel's eyes but he turned away before Sam could give it a name.

"Sure, sure. Understood. So the NID is chomping at the bit, eh?"

"You could say that. You hold the key to powers they've only dreamed about, Daniel."

"I hate to disappoint them, but I hold absolutely zip."

Needing to pin down exactly what Daniel had meant by having no real memories, she asked, "What *do* you remember?"

He sighed, and knowing that this wouldn't be the first time he'd have to do this, he plunged in. "This isn't easy to explain, but basically, I have only what you have."

Sam frowned a bit as she said, "What I have?"

He nodded. "I see only what you experienced. In other words, what you know or experienced with me once I ascended, is what I was allowed to keep. But it's like a photo, one dimensional, with no background, no understanding of the whys or hows."

"So those few minutes on Abydos, when we were trying to find the Eye of Ra, that's it? That's what you remember?"

"That's it. I see myself there, talking to all of you, discovering the Eye, and then, nothing."

"And Teal'c? His experiences with you?"

"What he remembers, I remember, and nothing more. And in his case, I have NO clue about-"

He stopped, scratched his chin, then said, "I guess. I mean, I don't know what he shared about all that happened while he was trying to save himself and Bra'tac, so I'm thinking-"

"I know he dreamed that he was in an alternate world, one in which he was a fireman and you were a psychologist. Does that help?"

"Ah, so he told you."

"Only after Abydos. You know him. A clam is a chatterbox compared to Teal'c."

Daniel chuckled and the sound brought tears to Sam's eyes.

"God, I'd forgotten that."

The smile still in place, Daniel said, "What?"

"Your laugh. It wasn't a common sound, so when it happened, it was special."

Daniel's face took on the color of a strawberry and Sam had to laugh. "God, now I've made you blush. It's been a long time since anyone could do that to you, Daniel."

"Yeah, well, as I remember it, you and Jack managed to keep my face a constant shade of red in the early days."

Sam blew on her fingers, then buffed them against his hospital gown. "We were good, weren't we? A few well-chosen remarks and your face would flush from neck to hair roots. You were so easy back then." Her smile softened. "Then you grew up," she finished quietly.

"Nah, I just got used to Jack's sense of humor. And yours. I got so I could predict the next raunchy jab."

They looked at each other, eyes full of emotions neither could give voice to - yet.

***

God, Jack missed this. The freedom of flight, the soaring exhilaration, the command of the sky that only flying a jet could give - oh, yeah, he'd missed it big time. Somehow, walking through shimmering water to another world just didn't have the same punch.

As he tilted his head back to gaze up through the canopy, it hit him. This was his version of temple worshipping. Of course, in his case, his years of flying were behind him and not something he'd actually given up when accepting duty with the SGC. And he supposed digs hadn't exactly been on Daniel's agenda before Catherine had found him. And yet-

God, he'd missed this.

But now that he thought about it, maybe not as much as walking through the shimmering liquid that was a wormhole. with Daniel by his side.

"Sir, we'll be down in twenty."

"Thank you, Captain, and thanks for a smooth ride."

"Care to take over, Colonel?"

God, yes.

"I might be persuaded," Jack said, not even trying to hide the smile in his voice.

"She's all yours, sir."

To quote a great general while threading a needle with a death glider; YEEHAW!

***

Hammond stared at the red phone. He almost reached for it again, but at the last moment -- didn't. It was up to Jack now. He knew that President Bartlett wasn't ignoring his calls - exactly, but he also knew that the soldier answering his calls was NID. Made all the difference now.

Damn, Kinsey anyway.


Too many changes in the last year, and none of them worth writing home about. But they were worth retiring over. And until Major Carter's phone call today, he'd been a breath away from doing just that. Retiring.

And now?

Maybe the longest year in his life, and the life of the SGC, was over. Maybe a good man would once again find a reason for continuing as a colonel with the United States Air Force and the SGC. Maybe the grey pallor that Jack O'Neill had been sporting in these last months would be replaced with the tan they were used to seeing. And maybe those dark eyes would sparkle with mirth as often as they once had - maybe.

George decided it was time to visit the recently undead, NID spooks or not. He checked his watch and nodded in satisfaction. Right about now, Jack O'Neill should be entering the White House.

God be with him.

***

"Colonel O'Neill, if you'll follow me?"

Jack, now in his dress blues, turned to the driver and said, "I won't be long."

The airman saluted and moved back around to the driver's side of the car while Jack followed Melissa Sanders, one of the presidential secretaries in Charlie's office, inside.

No Kinsey this time. Hallelujah.

***

Charlie stepped into the Oval Office and walked quietly over to where President Bartlett sat with several foreign dignitaries. Since the Ambassador from Zimbawe was currently speaking, Charlie bent low and whispered, "Mister President, may I have a few moments? It's urgent, but won't take long. You have a special visitor."

Jed Bartlett glanced up, searched Charlie's face, and satisfied that the interruption was indeed important, turned to his visitors.

"Gentlemen, I must excuse myself for a moment, so perhaps this would be an excellent time to avail yourselves of the snacks delivered a few minutes ago? I'll be back momentarily."

Translators quickly shared the President's words, and when several heads nodded enthusiastically, the President rose and followed Charlie outside and onto the Veranda, where he found Jack O'Neill waiting.

"Charlie?"

"Mister President, if it weren't important-"

Bartlett held up a hand. "I get it. You can go back inside now, Charlie."

With a grin flashed at O'Neill, Charlie slipped back in.

"To what do I owe this visit, Jack?"

"Is there someplace," he shot a look at the two Secret Service men, "more private, Mister President?"

"Follow me."

They ended up in the President's private office, where Bartlett took one couch, and offered the other to Jack.

"Sit, and spill. I have a room full of ambassadors eager to educate me."

Jack looked hard at Jed Bartlett and, subconsciously, his hand went to his jacket pocket and the disk he'd placed there before leaving home. The next election was only months away and Kinsey was giving Bartlett's party a real run for their money, so much so that many on the Hill were already predicting Kinsey the winner. All of which explained the haggard look currently worn by President Bartlett. Jack hated to add to the stress, but considering that he also had the means to ease the man's burden, and that all that really mattered to Jack was keeping the NID away from Daniel-

Jack cleared his throat and said, "I need you to call off the NID. Get them out of Cheyenne Mountain, and away from Doctor Daniel Jackson."

That wasn't so hard. really.

***

Jed Bartlett considered the man opposite. He was one of the few true heroes of the world, and Bartlett suspected he was also a great man. And he was asking him to stop the NID from taking Jackson, a man who'd apparently returned from the dead.

Sure, why not? He was President, right?

"Jack, I can't do that. Kinsey has teeth now, sharp teeth."

But he wasn't God.

"Mister President, no one understands the danger Kinsey represents better than I, but the fact is - he'll destroy the man who opened the Stargate."

"I'm well aware of Doctor Jackson's contributions, Jack. But hell, we're not even certain that he's who he says he is. I'm not predisposed to believe in his resurrection, so in this case, the NID has every right-"

"He's Daniel, Sir. There is no question of that in my mind. He *is* Daniel."

"And I'd love to take your word for it, but-"

"But we're back to its being an election year, and Kinsey has giant teeth."

Bartlett leaned forward and rested his arms on his thighs. He ran one hand through his hair and said, "Obviously the two men sitting in this room are Jack and Jed. With that in mind, I won't take offense at your last words, and I'll say, damn right it's an election year, and if Kinsey wins, it won't matter if that man is Doctor Jackson or Barney because the SGC will be Kinsey's. Is that what you want, Jack?"

"Right now, I don't give a rat's ass what happens to the SGC. And frankly, I'm tired of fighting Kinsey and men like him. Men who would hold us down, destroy us in the name of God and caution and egos. Men who spout platitudes about doing the right thing, while committing treason on a daily basis. Men who can't see beyond their noses and wouldn't know greatness if they bumped into it in their bathrooms."

Jack did the leaning forward this time. "Mr. President, to quote a truly great man, namely Doctor Daniel Jackson, 'the Stargate is the greatest discovery the world has ever known and will undoubtedly be our salvation'. I believe that, Mr. President, but it means nothing if the man whose genius made it happen, and whose blood and sweat kept us on the right path, is lost to us."

"Jack, I won't interfere with Kinsey in this. I can't."

Jack sat back and placed both hands flat on his legs. "I could leave here and go to the press."

Bartlett cocked his head. "You could, but you won't."

"Why not?"

Jed smiled. "Because you're an honorable man."

Jack slipped the disk from his pocket and tapped it against his other hand. "Honorable? No, not with Daniel's safety at stake." He held up the disk. "This is courtesy of Harry Maybourne. In an effort to save General Hammond, we turned the original over to Kinsey a while back, and now I'm going back on my word by offering it to you. No, sir, I'm not an honorable man."

Bartlett stared hard at the disk, watched it moving back and forth as Jack continued to tap it against the skin of his hand. "What-"

"Treason, Mr. President. Proof of Kinsey's treason."

Jack leaned forward and held it out. Slowly Jed took it.

"When you've looked at it, call them off."

Eyes fixed on the floppy, Bartlett said, "Doctor Jackson could hold the key to abilities and powers we can only imagine, Jack."

"I don't have to imagine them, Sir, I've seen them up close and personal and that was long before he ascended. We need him, Mister President, more than you'll ever know."

Jed looked up and stared almost as hard at Jack as he had at the disk. Finally he said, "I think I'm beginning to understand."

Jack rose, stood at attention, and gave the president a crisp and perfect salute.

"Why do I think I should be saluting you, Jack?"

***

During the drive back to Langley, Jack tried to come to grips with his conflicting emotions regarding Daniel. His anger was real and seemed to sit in his stomach like a meal cooked by Carter, no offense intended. After all, why should anyone that smart also be expected to know how to boil water?

So -- what he had was anger, combined with a stupid protective feeling that had sent him to Washington and a nice chat with the President of the United States. and he had the whole "would like to crawl inside Daniel, rattle a few cages, give the guy's prostate a buzz, then settle in for the winter" thing going, and finally, he had a memory.

A memory that kept intruding on his righteous anger, and a memory that had been hovering on the outskirts of his dreams. A memory that for months he'd doubted.

As streets and buildings swept by, Jack could once again see the time following his escape from Baal, could see himself, Daniel at his bedside. But more than the vision of Daniel, more than the man's eyes looking down at him with so much fucking understanding, there'd been Daniel's voice and words.

"You're just gonna have to trust me."

Jack could see himself lying in the Infirmary and, at Daniel's words, experiencing something inside unwind and let go. Feeling ten years younger, he'd said a heartfelt, "I can do that."

The days that followed should have been horrific, but he'd sailed through them, Daniel's promise covering his six. But later, doubt had crept in on questions like, "Why hadn't Daniel simply zapped me out of that fucking cell?" Or, "How could he have allowed me to be tortured and repeatedly killed?"

As the days stretched into months, and walking through the 'Gate became self-defeating, the questions multiplied as did his anger.

Now, Daniel was back. So now he was supposed to give up his anger? Surrender it just because he'd agreed to trust Daniel in a moment of weakness?

Apparently.

Okay, so the guy had done nothing other than 'be' in a not-really-there kind of way, and he'd continually failed to use those awesome abilities that ascending had provided, but hell, see-through or not, he *had* been there. So what if shoes sailed right through him and you couldn't actually touch the guy. He'd been there when Jack had needed someone, and when Teal'c had needed someone. He'd listened. He'd supported. And wasn't that what friends did?

Hell yeah.

And yet ---

Jack was getting no where . fast.

He really needed to see Daniel. Now.

***

"We're not done with the testing, Major. We don't even have the results back from his clothing, so no, you may not remove him from Isolation."

Janet stood her ground and stared down the man looming over her. He'd have to go through her to get to Daniel, and that wasn't going to happen.

Colonel Robert Winston, recently promoted in order to replace the late Colonel Simmons, said calmly, "Very well, we'll interview him in Isolation, Doctor."

"I'm afraid I can't allow that, Colonel."

One eyebrow rose lazily. "Oh, I think you can. He's had visitors, so I see no problem."

Realizing that she had no where to go with this, she lifted her chin stubbornly and said, "Gown up and don't forget the gloves and masks."

"Of course, Doctor Frasier. Of course."

She stepped aside as Winston and his partner-in-crime moved past her. A few minutes later they were both gowned and entering Daniel's protected cubicle.

***

Davis stood in the 'Gate room, General Hammond beside him. The wormhole blossomed out, then settled. A few seconds later, Teal'c stepped onto the ramp. Striding down, he skipped the small talk and jumped straight to the heart of the matter.

"DanielJackson is here?"

"He is," General Hammond affirmed. "We're not sure of much yet, but he is here, in the flesh."

"Then Anubis did not win all that we believed. DanielJackson escaped."

"Apparently. Unfortunately, Dr. Jackson has no memories of the last year," Hammond said as they walked out. "He can tell us nothing of the Eye of Ra or Anubis."

Without breaking stride, Teal'c said simply, "Does it matter? He is back."

Smiling, Hammond said, "Can't argue with you there, Teal'c."

***

Time was crawling by like a drugged ant. No, scratch that, Daniel thought. A drugged snail. No, better yet, a slug on Valium. Was he having fun yet?

He let his gaze drift back to the two NID men seated across from him. They were definitely having fun. In their fucking element. How long had they been at it now?

Who cared.

He sighed and said again, "No."

"Mr. Jackson-"

Daniel didn't bother to correct the spook. Having been dead for a year, he suspected his doctorates may have expired anyway. Surely death could do that, right? Expire things like driver licenses, library cards, discount cards to Pet Smart and doctorates?

"... do you really expect us to believe that you remember nothing of the last year? That you have no additional information on the Ancients, other than what we received from SG-1 after Abydos?"

"Yes."

The other NID lackey leaned forward and said, "We don't, Jackson."

He considered saying 'tough shit' but decided against it. People who glowed - correction - had *once* glowed, should not say 'tough shit.' Probably shouldn't have said 'fucking' earlier. Not a glowy kind of thing to say.

"Tough shit?" he said anyway. After all, he no longer glowed, would never glow again. So take that, you ebn el metanaka.

"We can do this all day, Jackson. In fact, when you're cleared, we'll be doing this for weeks. So why not save yourself a lot of time in our presence and just give us what we need. You must have learned a great deal, *know* a great deal-"

"Does the concept of 'no memory' completely escape you morons?"

Nothing like channeling Jack at this point.

"Do you really believe that the Ancients would allow someone like me to *keep* whatever I learned while with them? Get real, gentlemen."

God, he was tired. Tired of this room, tired of these men, tired of it all. He'd been human for how long now? And he was already tired of it? He sighed as more questions, the same questions, were asked again -- and again -- and again.

***

Standing just outside of Daniel's cubicle, Hammond asked, "They're still at it?"

"I'm afraid so, sir. And we're about stalled out. If something doesn't happen soon, they're going to walk out of here with him," Janet said, her eyes on the plastic sheeting that separated them from Daniel and the NID.

"DanielJackson will not leave in their company," Teal'c said easily.

Hammond and Davis shared a concerned look before Hammond said, "Teal'c, I won't allow-"

He got no further as one of the nurses entered and said, "Sir, you have a call."

"Maybe it's the Pres-" Davis started to say.

"Possible," Hammond interrupted. He turned to Janet and added, "If so, you may need to stall a bit longer, Doctor."

She nodded as Hammond walked out, Davis following.

***

"You have a very persuasive second-in-command, George."

Letting out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding, Hammond said, "Do I, Mr. President?"

"Feel free to put me on hold while you get Colonel Winston to the phone. I'm calling them off, George. In fact, I don't think the NID will be bothering the SGC anymore."

Hammond closed his eyes in relief. He couldn't begin to fathom how Jack had done it, or what it had cost him, but damn, he was grateful. The idea of being forced to stand uselessly by while the NID walked out of the mountain with Daniel--

But that wasn't going to happen. now.

"Mr. President, if you'll hang on, I believe I can get Colonel Winston for you." He didn't bother to hide the smile in his voice.

"For that, I'll hold, George."

***

His head was splitting open, and of all the things he'd dreamt of experiencing again, headaches had never been mentioned. Neither had migraines.

"How did you know Anubis was going to Abydos, and how did you know what he was looking for, Jackson?"

Voice raw and tired, Daniel said, "Don't know."

"How are the Ancients able to harness energy?"

Eyes closed, he said, "Don't know."

"Did you see the child, Shifu? Do you know where he is?"

Now Daniel's eyes opened and flashed a tried sort of anger. His words came out tight, with barely concealed disgust.

"I. Don't. Know."

Winston leaned forward, his expression smug. "And if you did, you wouldn't tell us, would you, Jackson?"

Daniel hauled himself backwards on the bed and rested against the headboard as he drew his knees up. "In a word; no."

Winston rose, walked over to the hospital bed and said quietly, "Then this interview is over. You've just moved up a notch from a possible threat -- to traitor." He straightened his shoulders and added formally, "Dr. Jackson, you are under arrest for treason against the United States of America."

If Winston was hoping for a reaction, he was sadly disappointed. Daniel didn't even blink.

Without looking away from his 'prisoner', Winston said, "Major, tell Doctor Frasier that we're taking Jackson - now."

***

"I wish General Hammond would get back down here, Janet. I have a bad feeling--"

"Doctor Frasier?"

Both women and Teal'c turned to find a smug Major Harding standing just outside Daniel's cubicle. Janet shot Sam a worried glance before saying, "Major?"

"We're taking Jackson now. If you believe we should take any special precautions, you might want to mention them at this point."

Sam answered for Janet. "I don't think you're taking Daniel anywhere, Major."

Smiling tightly, Harding said, "Oh, but I am, Major. Dr. Jackson is under arrest for treason."

Sam took two steps forward. "*Treason*? Are you joking?"

"Not at all. And we *are* taking him . precautions or no."

"I do not believe that you are," Teal'c said as he stepped in front of Sam.

Harding started to reach for his gun, but a voice stopped him cold.

"Major Harding, tell Colonel Winston that he has a very important phone call, and that's an order."

The voice belonged to General Hammond, who stood at the entrance to Isolation, two SF's and Major Davis next to him. Harding let his arm drop to his side.

***

Winston put the phone down, his anger thrumming. Giving no outward sign of it, he turned and smiled at General Hammond. "It looks as though we'll be leaving now, General. It's been pleasant."

Hammond simply nodded, his expression giving nothing of his satisfaction away.

Two experienced military men playing a game of chicken.

Hammond nodded at the two SF's, who stepped aside and allowed Winston to move out, Harding right behind him. Just as they stepped into the hall, Hammond said quietly, "They'll escort you to the top, Colonel."

Winston stopped but didn't turn around. "That won't be necessary, General."

"Oh, but it will," Hammond said.

Hammond had always been a winner at playing chicken, and he won now as Winston, anger no longer hidden beneath a veneer of military civility, turned and said, "We *will* be back for Jackson, General. Trust me."

Chin lifting slightly, Hammond said, "No, Colonel, you won't. Trust *me*."

***

"So, what, it's just -- over?" Daniel said as he looked from Sam to Janet to Teal'c and lifted one eyebrow.

Grinning, Sam took his hand and said, "Yep. Over. The NID are history and according to the General, they won't be back.

"So I can get out of this bubble?"

Laughing, Janet said, "Right now, unless you've grown accustomed to it?"

"Not hardly, Janet. Let's go." He swung his legs over the edge of the gurney, stood up -- and with eyes wide and mouth forming a near perfect 'o', he immediately dropped like a stone.

All three were down and by his side in an instant.

"Janet? What's-"

"Get help, Sam, *now*."

She rose quickly and ran out of the cubicle even as Janet was checking Daniel's pupils.

[][][][]

"You can all relax, he's fine."

Hammond gave a small shake of his head, then asked, "Care to explain what happened, Doctor?"

"Hours without food, water, and sleep. I suppose we can add the stress of *being* again to that list as well. His blood sugar took a nose dive, Sir."

"And now?"

"He's asleep and is likely to remain so for several hours. But before succumbing to his exhaustion, we managed to get some soup and crackers into him. I've also got an IV hooked up to get some much needed fluids into him."

"Very well," Hammond said, his relief almost visible. "Let me know if there are any changes, Doctor," he added.

Watching the general and Major Davis leave, Janet sighed. Hearing it, Sam asked worriedly, "Janet? Are you sure everything is all right?"

"He's fine, Sam. Really." She walked over to the small desk a few feet away and sat down. She rested her head in her hand and said quietly, "He didn't recognize the fact that he was starving, Sam."

Teal'c shared a puzzled look with the Carter as they walked over and pulled up chairs.

"I do not understand," Teal'c said as he sat down.

"He's forgotten what hunger felt like so he never thought to ask for food."

Janet's words hung between the three friends as each tried to digest the fact that someone could forget that. Suddenly Sam chuckled, and at Teal'c's rising eyebrow, said, "Why should we be surprised that Daniel, of all people, would forget what hunger pangs are? He never recognized them before, did he?"

Teal'c canted his head, then said somberly, "No, he did not. Unless faced with chocolate walnut cookies."

Janet looked at Sam, who shrugged and said, "He made a joke. He does that every now and then."

"Oh." Then with a hint of a smile, Janet added, "I wasn't sure, so thank you for the confirmation."

Teal'c did the Chulak version of rolling his eyes.

***

The flight back to Colorado held little of the joy of the previous one, which was odd considering that Jack had been successful in his mission. He supposed it was a testament to his current state of mind.

Jack had no clue how to face Daniel.

***

"Is it true, Major Carter?"

Sam turned away from her work and faced Jonas. Nodding, she said, "It is. Daniel's back and safe."

"That's great news. Now he can aid us in finding Anubis and-"

"No, Jonas, you don't understand. Daniel is *back*. All the way. And he has no real memories of his time with the Ancients."

Jonas took one of the tall stools at Sam's workbench and sat down. "That doesn't sound good, Sam."

"Perhaps not, but it makes a strange kind of sense."

"I suppose so. Is he with General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill?"

Shaking her head, she said, "He's asleep in the Infirmary and I'm not sure where the Colonel is. Right now, we're just waiting for Daniel to wake up."

Jonas picked up one of Sam's tools and absently began fiddling with it. Sam watched the restless fingers and, even though she was pretty certain what the answer would be, asked, "What's wrong?"

Without looking up, he asked, "How am I supposed to face him?"

Turning on the stool, Sam carefully removed the wrench from his hand and said, "You did fine on Abydos."

"He was. you know-"

"And now?"

"Now he's real, alive. And he died because of my people, because of me. You don't think that I know I'm the one who should have thrown himself into that lab and sacrificed himself to save Kelowna? But I didn't. Instead, it was a complete stranger who saved my world. A man who owed us nothing, yet gave up his life for us." Anguished eyes sought hers. "How do I face him knowing that?"

"You face him honestly, Jonas."

***

When Jack stepped out of the elevator this time, it was to find himself face-to-face with--

"Teal'c," he said unnecessarily. "Where's-"

Anticipating the question, he said simply, "He is in the Infirmary, O'Neill."

"What--why?" Eyes narrowing, he added, "Tell me the NID is gone, just tell me that."

"The NID is gone."

"O-kay, so what, the doc is going a little overboard here?"

"I believe we have a miscommunication, O'Neill. DanielJackson is in the Infirmary," Teal'c stated solemnly.

They got back into the elevator as Jack asked, "*In*? As in -- in?"

Teal'c nodded. "According to Doctor Frasier, he has forgotten to be hungry and thus, when he attempted to rise from the hospital bed, he collapsed."

Yeah, sure, youbetcha, Jack thought. And didn't that just explain everything? Not.

"Teal'c, you're going to have to give that to me one more time. You lost me."

The elevator stopped and opened. Teal'c allowed to Jack to precede him as he answered, "Since rejoining us, DanielJackson has not eaten, nor had anything to drink."

"Okay," he said, as they walked down the hall toward the Infirmary, "now that I understood."

"Doctor Frasier believes that our teammate forgot what being hungry felt like, so he ignored it."

"Teal'c, that describes Daniel before he ascended."

"Major Carter said much the same, O'Neill."

Smiling, Jack murmured, "I just bet she did."

They entered the main room of the base hospital and Jack's eyes traveled from empty bed to empty bed..

"He is in a private room, O'Neill. Follow me."

"Right. Private." Jack followed, his heart hammering within his chest, mouth dry, and throat tight at the thought of seeing Daniel. A Daniel in the flesh -- and knowing that this time, he was real.

A moment later, he was staring down at a sleeping Daniel.

He was wearing scrubs, blue ones, and looked peaceful on his side, knees bent, one hand on the pillow. In the background, the light clicking sound of an IV intruded on Jack's perusal of his friend. "Why the-"

"To provide the necessary liquids," Teal'c offered.

"Ah."

A rush of emotions assaulted Jack as he gazed down on his friend, emotions kept in abeyance for months -- and years. They were so strong, so violent, that he believed for a moment they'd bring him to his knees.

He needed to get the hell out of here. Now.

Voice raw, he said, "Let me know when he's awake." He turned, eager to escape, but found Carter and Frasier standing in the doorway.

"Sir, you're here," Sam said quietly.

"Ever the quick one, eh, Carter?"

Ignoring his sorry attempt at levity, she said, "The NID are gone."

"So Teal'c has informed me. Guess the President got the message."

Sam moved to stand next to him and beside the bed. Her expression thoughtful, she said, "Would that be a message delivered personally by... you, Colonel?"

"Yeah," he said softly, eyes once again on Daniel.

Teal'c stepped to the other side of the bed, and Janet, sensing their need for privacy, backed quietly out and shut the door.

***

The silence was companionable and Jack found himself drawing strength from his teammates. His emotions were still there, swimming just below the surface, but the military Jack was in control. He watched as Sam drew a finger gently down Daniel's cheek

"He looks different," she whispered. "Doesn't he? Look different?"

"Younger, perhaps?" Teal'c offered.

"He is younger," Jack said with a smile. "We've all aged a year, he hasn't."

Sam moved her fingers through his hair and, smiling tenderly, said, "He always hated being the youngest on the team."

"Jonas Quinn is slightly younger than DanielJackson," Teal'c said.

Smile widening into an all-out grin, Jack said, "Yeah, last year."

***

Jack shut the door to his office and locked it. Moving like an old man, he walked to his desk, sat down, and buried his face in his hands.

Claiming work, he'd finally left Daniel's bedside, again asking that he be told the minute Daniel awakened. Once out in the halls of the SGC, the emotions he'd kept back, exploded and he'd barely made it to his office. Now tremors wracked his body and he did nothing to try to control them.

Danny was back.

Anger, joy, relief, disbelief, shock. and love, all assaulted him. He had no defense against any of them. Against one in particular.

He didn't think he'd survive what he was experiencing. So long denied, then buried, only to be resurrected days after letting Daniel go, only to be buried again in the belief that it was too late to act upon it. After all, did acknowledging his love warm the empty, cold and lonely nights? Or change the fact that when going through the 'gate, and glancing over his shoulder hoping to find Daniel right behind him, it was always Jonas?

No.

So he'd buried the love believing it would give him no comfort, and for the last year he'd been living a gray life. He moved through it, survived each day, did his job, quipped with Teal'c, fought the good fight, but always in a fog. Colors died, to be replaced by a monochromatic world. unless the grayness was interrupted by ruby red blood --then memories of Daniel would rush him, try to devour him - until he could once again get the floodgates shut.

But Daniel was back.

Jack acknowledged that the thrill of flying he'd experienced earlier would have been nothing yesterday. Yesterday, he'd never have seen the blueness of the sky, or the dark, midnight velvet edge where space met the wild blue yonder. It had been the knowledge that Daniel lived and breathed that had given today its glorious color and vibrancy.

Jack lifted his head from his shaking hands and stared at the long slender fingers. Life flowed through them, as it flowed through Daniel once again.

Real -- and undeniable -- life.

He understood how the fingers, now shaking in front of his eyes, longed to bury themselves in Daniel, understood how they'd envied Carter when she'd stroked hers down one pale cheek. Understood how badly these fingers had wanted to slap Carter's hand away.

What the hell was he supposed to do now? What was he supposed to say to Daniel when the younger man awoke?

"Oh, hey, you know what I said earlier? Forget it, Danny boy. Just forget it. All that shit about preferring to die alone than with you around? Hog wash. And by the way, did I mention that I'm soul fucking deep in love with you? No? Silly me."

Or how 'bout, "Hey, forgive you? No problemo, buddy. So what if you did nothing but offer what you thought was comfort. I'm okay, Teal'c is okay, and I still want to seriously jump your bones."

That probably wouldn't fly real well. Not with Daniel.

A gentle knock on his door stirred him from his thoughts, and in a tired voice, he said, "Come in."

Sam entered, somewhat hesitantly, and paused just inside. "Sir?"

"Little late to stand on ceremony now, Carter. Is he-"

"No, but I thought. maybe. well, Daniel said a few things-"

"Carter, get your ass in here and sit down."

Smiling in relief, Sam said, "Sir, was that sexual harassment?"

"Hell no, that was a direct order."

"Right."

Sam pulled a chair up to Jack's desk and sat down. When she didn't immediately speak, Jack gave a discreet 'get to it, Carter' cough. She looked up and smiled tentatively, but her eyes held nothing but worry.

"Daniel isn't staying, sir," she finally said. "He said that he was going to Egypt, to work with some friends there who have a school. He's hoping that the general will help him get there."

Jack leaned forward and asked, "And when, exactly, did he mention this ridiculous idea?"

"Back at my place, before I called the General."

He sat back, suddenly very calm. "Well, we'll just have to make sure that doesn't happen, won't we, Major?"

"Will we, sir?"

"Yes, Carter, we will. Daniel Jackson is a member of SG-1, and no matter what else, that's non-negotiable."

***

A member of SG-1. Yep, he'd said it all right. And it was true. But questions swam around and through him. Could he forgive Daniel? How was he going to deal with all this shit? Could any of them recapture what they'd once had or was it too late? And would Daniel give them the chance to return to a better time? And could he hide his -- other -- feelings? And how the fuck could he forgive Daniel?

Did he need to, in order to have him back in his life? Probably not. Probably one of those things best laid to rest. Like his loving Daniel.

The phone jangled and he quickly answered, knowing exactly what was about to be said and by whom.

"Sir, he's awake and the general would like us all to meet in the briefing room."

"Thank you, Carter. I'm on my way."

***

Jack was the second to arrive, Daniel being the first. Evidently ascension was good for something. Jack noticed that the scrubs were gone and the recently-back-from-the-ascended man was once again dressed in the cream sweater. Jack wondered vaguely if that sweater was like, 'ascensionally mandatory' and thus 'descensionally' mandatory?

Giving himself a little shake, he headed for the coffee. With eyes rimmed in shadows, and a pallor that did the shadows proud, Daniel gave Jack a slight nod acknowledging his presence, while at the same time, acknowledging their earlier meeting. Jack couldn't find a single word to say to the man, so he poured, absently noticed that his hands were shaking again, and took a quick sip only to burn his mouth on the scalding hot coffee.

"Coffee's hot, Jack."

Fanning his tongue, Jack let his left eyebrow rise as he said with some difficulty, "Ya thimk?"

He started for the table, paused while trying to decide where to sit, then sucked it in and took the seat next to Daniel - just like the old days. He put his cup down, dredged up the necessary words, and said, "Guess we got off to a rocky start earlier, eh?"

Fingers wrapped tightly around a coffee mug, Daniel nodded slowly as he said, "But I understood, Jack."

"That's... good. Just a little left-over... you know-"

"Anger," Daniel said quietly as he turned his attention back to his coffee.

"Anger? No, just-"

Daniel looked at him, his gaze saying clearly, 'don't even try it, Jack'.

"Right. Anger. But hey, all behind us now. You're back, for whatever reason, and Daniel, that's all that really matters."

Daniel regarded him from under dark lashes, then shrugged, took a sip of his coffee, and said, "Sure it is."

Jack was about to respond, but Carter, Jonas, Teal'c, General Hammond, and Doctor Frasier entered the room. It was so much like any day from their past that Jack felt his heart skip a beat.

The General sat down, smiled at Daniel, and said, "It's very good to see you, Dr. Jackson. I hope you're feeling better?"

"I'm... yes, sir, I'm fine. Sorry about the trouble, and inconvenience, I-"

"Doctor Jackson, you have nothing to apologize for, I'm just glad it's over and we can get down to the business at hand." He reached for a folder in front of him and opened it. "The President has authorized me to extend an offer to return to SG-1. He's also released the funds you had in both your checking and savings at the time of...."

He coughed suddenly before continuing. "You left no next of kin so your money was frozen, at my request. Your account has now been reopened and new credit cards should be here by tomorrow. And naturally, until you've found a new place to stay, one of the VIP suites will be at your disposal, unless you'd prefer a hotel?"

"I.I-"

"Daniel, we kept many of your things," Carter said, her eyes brimming. "The Colonel has most of it, but both Teal'c and I, oh, and Lou, have several items, but I'm afraid your clothing were given - to - well, you know," she finished lamely.

"I am honored to say that I have your Jackal and Hound, DanielJackson, as well as your fish. I have kept them well."

"I have many of your artifacts, Dr. Jackson, as well as all your books," Jonas paused, then said, "But of course you know that...." He let his voice trail off.

Smiling slightly, Daniel said, "Right, my 'stuff'."

Sensing Daniel's discomfort, Jack hurried to add, "Once you have a place, we can get everything moved back in, even your piano." Eyes glittering with humor, he added, "Although I'm gonna miss it. It's been the perfect catch-all."

"One great big coat rack, eh, Jack?"

"You got it, Daniel. You got it."

"Well, I wouldn't want to deprive you of something to throw your jacket on, so you can keep it. I won't need it where I'm going."

***

The silence that followed Daniel's words stretched out and hung in the air like the smog over Los Angeles. It was Daniel himself who finally ended it.

"General Hammond, I appreciate the offer to return to the SGC, but I doubt that I'd be of much use now. It's been a year, SG-1 is -- SG-1 -- and-"

"Bull shit, Daniel," Jack interrupted. "You may not have been any use to us in the last year, but-"

"O'Neill," Teal'c started to say.

"Colonel!" Sam interjected at the same time.

With a dry laugh, Daniel held up his hand and said, "I know what you mean, Jack, and I... I'd probably agree if I remembered more."

"That's not what I meant, Daniel, I just-"

"I know what you meant, and again, it's all right, I understand. Hell, I even agree with you. Which is why I think I'd be better off in Egypt."

"Dr. Jackson-"

"Daniel-"

"DanielJackson-"

Jack held up his hand and everyone stopped. Knowing that this was do or die time, and that SG-1 needed Daniel back no matter the history of the last year, he said, "Daniel, we could bombard you with the reasons why we want you back, why you should stay, and how much we've missed you. We could tell you how dreary the last year has been without you, but you wouldn't believe any of it because that's just you, so let me put it this way; you're the only one who can help us find the Lost City of the Ancients. We need what you have up there," he tapped Daniel's temple, "to defeat Anubis, and you know as well as I do, that if we can't defeat him, your sweet little life of teaching in Cairo will be over before you can turn the page of a book. That's why you should accept all of this, Daniel. That's why."

A moment slipped by as everyone held their breaths. then Daniel let one eyebrow arch as he said, "Dreary, Jack?"

Knowing he'd won, Jack grinned. "Okay, dreary might be a bit of an exaggeration-"

"Actually, I believe dreary is quite adequate, O'Neill," Teal'c said.

***

Daniel stared at the wall. It was a nice wall, as any wall hundreds of feet underground could be. It was his new wall. He had four of them.

He turned around.

He had a bed, a dresser, a table, four chairs gathered around it, a sofa, a desk, a small compact refrigerator, all the glories of home. Had to love VIP suites. His gaze fell on the BDU's that were laid out on the bed. Gosh, he'd missed them. This set was the blue set. Maybe this time around, he'd actually ask about the green versus the blue thing. He preferred the blue - reminded him of being outside. The green reminded him of hospitals, soldiers, camouflage -- and death.

Can't have that. He'd wear the blues from now on. Fuck the greens.

He pulled the sweater over his head and tossed it onto the bed. He stared at it a moment, and wondered why that sweater. He could see in his mind each visit during his ascension, and that most of them were made in that thing. Not that it wasn't nice, once it had been translated into something real. It was soft and all, but who'd thought it up? Had he? Oma? He frowned. Had he actually owned a sweater like that?

Yeah, yeah, he had. He remembered now. It had gone to the Goodwill after Sha're. after he'd buried her - because it had figured so prominently in the vision of the future she'd given him. How the heck had she known about that sweater, anyway?

God, he was getting a headache with all of this. He picked up the sweater and dumped it in the wastebasket. Evidently giving it to the Goodwill hadn't worked, maybe throwing it out would.

He changed into the BDU's and sat down on the edge of the bed.

Okay, he was dressed. Now what? He glanced over at the alarm clock on the nightstand and grinned. He stood up and started to undress. It was after two in the morning.

Being alive was going to take some getting used to.

He turned off the light, slipped under the covers and, admitting that he was still tired, he plumped up the pillows and dropped back with a sigh.

He'd missed the invitation to bunk down with Jack. He'd known it wouldn't come, but he missed it just the same.

The loneliness hit him then. And the emptiness.

God, he felt so - hollow. How could he survive this?

Daniel rolled over onto his side, drew up his knees, and pulled the covers over his head.

***

It was easy to say, "Just do it" but impossible to do so.

Jonas gazed around him and faced the truth. This was Daniel Jackson's office, had always been. And there was no way in hell that Jonas could face Dr. Jackson, could admit his failing. Just no way.

Was it time to go home?

It was.

***

"Son, your place on SG-1 is secure. There's no reason to do this."

"With all due respect, General Hammond, I must disagree. What I am, what I have been, is a pale extension of Dr. Jackson. I tried to become him through his books, journals and words. I memorized him, sir. But in all truth, and to quote Teal'c; 'there can be only one.'" At the puzzled frown, Jonas explained, "Someone got Teal'c hooked on a show called Highlander and he in turn, hooked me-"

He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture and said, "It doesn't matter, sir. What matters is that, in this case, there really can be only one Dr. Jackson. And to tell the truth, I'm actually eager to go home. I've had my taste of travel, of seeing the stars and other worlds, and now, now I think I'm ready to help my own world."

Jonas stood before the General and watched the piercing blue gaze of the man as he tried to determine the truth. He knew what he would find, so he waited, calm and secure in his decision.

"Very well, son." Hammond rose and stretched out his hand. As Jonas took it, the man added, "You'll always be welcome here, Mr. Quinn. Remember that."

As his hand slipped out of Hammond's, the older man added, "Going home or not, you need to speak with Daniel. We both know that."

"I probably should, sir, but the courage I lacked when Dr. Jackson sacrificed his life is still lacking. Maybe someday I'll be able to face him, but not today. Not today."

***

The wormhole burst forth, spectacular as always, and Jonas turned to say good-bye to his friends. Major Carter actually looked sad, and Teal'c looked like -- Teal'c. The real surprise was that Colonel O'Neill had joined them to say good-bye.

"We're going to miss you, Jonas," Sam said as she stepped forward and took him into her arms. "I wish you'd change your mind."

He held her, squeezing lightly, wishing to be able to do more, to perhaps drop a chaste kiss on the woman he'd come to admire and love; but others were watching so he dropped his arms and stepped back. "I'll miss all of you too, and thank you for not letting Dr. Jackson know that I was leaving. I appreciate it."

"He will be very disappointed, Jonas Quinn."

"Nevertheless, thank you all." He faced O'Neill. "And thank you, Colonel, for all you've taught me, and for giving me the chance to make up for -- just -- thank you."

"You've acquitted yourself with honor, Jonas. Never doubt that. And you're smarter than Carter here," Jack added with a sly grin.

"Which is why you always made the Colonel very uncomfortable. He hates people who are smarter than he."

"I believe O'Neill must hate many people," Teal'c noted.

"And I believe that was another joke," Jonas said with a grin. "You should tell Doctor Frasier, Major Carter."

Laughing, Sam said, "I will."

An awkward moment passed, then he lifted his bag up and gave a wave. "So, this is it."

"Good-bye, Jonas Quinn."

"We'll see you again, Jonas, so no good-bye for me," Sam said, her voice breaking slightly.

"Same here," Jack said.

Jonas smiled, turned, and without a backward glance, walked through into the wormhole. A moment later, it evaporated.

***

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking, sir?" Carter asked as they walked down the hall.

Jack fingered the glasses in his pocket and grinned. "I am."

"As am I, Major Carter."

All three smiled and headed for the VIP suite.

***

His second day on Earth and he didn't have a clue what to do. He also suspected that the SGC didn't have a clue what to do with him. Talk about your full circles. He was right back where he'd started.

Maybe he should go down to Jonas' office? Check things out, see if he could be of any assistance with anything. Yeah, he could do that. Except. Jonas had to be feeling odd right about now. And insecure? Maybe afraid he was about to be ousted? Okay, then Daniel would head down to his old office and reassure Jonas. Tell him that he was around for the length of time it took to find the Lost City, that he wasn't here to replace Jonas.

Mind made up, Daniel headed out.

***

Jack knocked, then knocked again.

"Perhaps he has gone to eat, O'Neill?"

"Nah, not without prompting."

"So where could he be?"

Jack thought about it, thought about who Daniel was, then snapped his fingers. "His old office. He'd go there, probably to reassure Jonas that he wasn't about to step on his toes."

"Typical Daniel," Sam acknowledged.

"Let's go, kids. Time to reunite SG-1."

***

The office was empty.

Daniel was about to leave when his attention was caught by the shelves of artifacts to his left. He took in a deep breath of the room, of odors that represented the past, and smiled. Almost as good as the smell of freshly turned earth. Deep, musky, and filled with history. He couldn't help himself. He walked over to stand in front of the shelves.

Jonas hadn't moved anything around, each shelf almost exactly as Daniel had left them. How strange. His journals, the ones from his home, were now on the second shelf and represented the only new additions. He glanced over at the worktable and nodded. A few new items were there, waiting for Jonas. His curiosity peaked, Daniel stepped over.

One item in particular caught his attention immediately. At first glance, it looked like the typical piece of pottery found in just about any Egyptian tomb. But Daniel always went past a first glance. On one side of the pottery, a man wearing a long robe had been painted in the bright blues and greens often found on Earth pottery of Ancient Egypt. The robe signified life and would be considered a rare find in Egypt. He picked it up carefully and turned it slowly in his hand.

His eyes widened. The language of the Ancients. He shook his head in disbelief. Surely Jonas hadn't seen this yet? It wasn't tagged so Daniel searched the desktop for anything to tell him where it had been found.

There. The inventory sheet. He picked it up with his other hand and held it close. Damn, he wish he had his glasses. Okay, this was found on a planet designated P4Y-

Like that mattered? God, he couldn't believe this. Without thinking about it, Daniel sat down, picked up the magnifying glass and set to work.

***

Jack didn't bother to knock, he just walked in, Carter and Teal'c on his heels. What he saw as stepped inside - stopped him cold.

Daniel was at his desk, head bent over some old piece of whatever, eyes fixed on the object, right hand scribbling across a yellow legal pad.

"Aw, God," Carter breathed out softly.

Amen, Jack thought. He knew exactly what she was thinking.

"Uh, Daniel? Whatcha doing?"

Daniel looked up and squinted at him. "Oh, Jack, hi." He waved the vase in the air. "I found this, and you. well, you're not going to believe... and I can read it... and it's very different from the normal 'store the guy's heart' type of vase, you know?" He got up and almost ran to the doorway.

"Jack, I think we've got a leg up on finding the Lost City of the Ancients. This vase-"

"Whoa, Danny, whoa. Let's back up here and start from the beginning."

Brows knitting together, Daniel said, "Beginning? Oh, yeah, sure, the beginning. Well, see-"

"Can we sit down, Daniel?"

"Down? Sit? Oh, sure, sit down. We can do that."

He moved back to the table and, after sharing fond looks, Jack, Sam and Teal'c, followed. They arranged themselves on either side of their friend and waited. Daniel scratched his nose, then said as he glanced back at the door, "Uhm, where's Jonas?"

With studied nonchalance, Jack pulled the yellow note pad toward him, saying, "Oh, he's gone. A visit to his home world."

"Oh," Daniel said lamely. "A visit, Jack?"

"Yeah, a visit."

"Right." Blue eyes looked from one person to another before resettling on Jack. "He shouldn't have left."

"He thinks it was the right thing to do, Daniel," Sam explained. "And that means it was."

"Look," Jack interrupted, "it's over, he's made his choice. We need to move on, so cough up the story behind this vase, or whatever. I'm not getting any younger here."

"Now?" Daniel asked, still digesting the fact that Jonas was gone.

"Not quite yet ," Jack said with a grin as he pulled out Daniel's glasses. He slipped them onto his friend and said softly, "Now."

Daniel blinked a couple of times, then smiled and plunged in. "Okay. See this vase? I don't think Jonas had noticed it yet, it's not tagged, but anyway, it was found by SG-3 on P-"

"Huh-uh. On a planet. Go on."

"Right. Well, I. uhm, think it will lead us to the Lost City."

"Okay, that's impressive. Spit out the rest, Archaeology Boy."

One eyebrow rose. "Archaeology Boy?"

Sam leaned back and caught Teal'c's eye. "I've missed this," she mouthed.

"As have I."

***

"...see here? In his hand?"

"It's a scarabaeus," Jack said innocently.

Silence fell on the room as all eyes turned toward Jack. He grinned like a little boy and said, "What? Like I don't ever listen to Daniel?"

"You do?" Daniel said, shock coloring his voice.

"Daniel, I'm a colonel. I didn't get to this rank by *not* listening to my people."

With a snort, Daniel turned back to the vase as he said, "I'm gone a year and his humor takes a nose dive." He pointed at the scarabaeus that had been so painstakingly painted onto the vase. "General, this was usually the sign for creation, but it could also mean. resurrection. Now you may be wondering what significance this has to finding the Lost City of the Ancients-"

Jack listened and watched as Daniel shared with General Hammond the startling importance of an unassuming vase found by SG-3 on a routine mission. He listened as the honeyed voice spoke of one man, a mortal, being given the key to resurrecting the Lost City - a city *made* lost by the Ancients - and that the key was actually a series of clues.

For Jack, at that moment, it was as if Daniel had never been gone.

"Do we know the planet's designation where this first clue can be found, Doctor Jackson?"

Jack brought himself back with a mental jerk.

"In a way, yes," Daniel said as twisted the vase in his hand. "This symbol represents Amasis, a man considered to be the last great Egyptian Pharaoh. . His birth name was Ahmose II, which means 'The Moon is Born, Son of Neith'. But it's his throne name that is of the most interest. It was Khnem-ib-re, meaning," Daniel paused, then said quietly, "He who embraces the Heart of Re, or. Ra. Based on this, I think it's altogether possible that the first clue may be back on. Abydos."

[][][][]

"Daniel, the temple is gone and most of Abydos is wasteland," Jack said, his tone more harsh than he'd intended.

Daniel's blue eyes clouded over as he nodded slowly. "I .know. But the catacombs, Jack, they're intact and. I believe that's where we'll find the next. clue."

"Colonel?" Hammond said, making it clear that a return visit to Abydos was Jack's decision.

Jack looked over at Carter and Teal'c. Both nodded their heads ever so slightly. His gaze traveled back to Daniel, whose sudden pallor told him that going back to Abydos wouldn't be all that easy for the younger man, and he sure as hell knew it wouldn't be easy for him either.

"Looks like we're going back to Abydos, kids," he finally said.

[][][][]

Daniel checked his pack, fingers automatically working the snaps and buckles. All supplies present and accounted for. He straightened and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. How strange. He looked - normal. Like a normal human. He certainly didn't feel that way, in spite of the last several days. Days of prepping for the mission, of listening to news reports from Washington D.C., reports that detailed the rise and fall of Senator Kinsey and the federal investigation that now surrounded the NID. Kinsey's bid for president was dead, long live the new rising Democratic star and serious contender to replace Bartlett; Sam Seaborn.

There'd also been days of getting used to being again, and days of watching Jack struggle to be 'normal' around him, yet always keeping his distance. Of course, there had been that moment in Jonas' office . *Daniel's* office . when Jack had put his glasses on his face -- a moment that had seemed impossibly tender -- but since then, there'd been no other touches. In fact, it seemed altogether possible that somehow, he and Jack had returned to a time almost two years in the past. Not their greatest hours. Snipping, sniping, threats of his head and an impending intimacy with walls, being paired off with Teal'c instead of Jack, oh, yeah, nothing like resuming the friendship that wasn't.

Not that Daniel blamed Jack, because he didn't. His memories shared by he and Jack of the time of his ascension told him that he'd failed Jack miserably, and that knowledge, combined with the fact that he'd failed *at* ascension, only served to remind him that he wasn't worth Jack's friendship, or Jack's touches, or Jack's. tenderness.

But still. he wanted them, missed them. and needed them.

Life was full of wanting and needing and not getting, and no one knew that better than he did. Even so, he'd have loved to get rid of the dark loneliness that permeated his very soul, that separated him from his fellow humans - his friends. Living within the bowels of Cheyenne Mountain was doing nothing but exaggerating the feeling of loneliness. Other members of the SGC walked around him, literally walked around him, as if they weren't sure he was there. They rarely talked to him, but offered small shy smiles in passing. The world of the SGC was clearly uncomfortable with a resurrected Daniel Jackson.

Well, hell, so was he. But damn, he needed so much because without. Daniel didn't think he'd ever be totally. human. He sometimes managed to capture a thin filament of who he used to be, he'd see that in the expressions on the faces of his friends, but he knew that most of the time, he was acting. Pretending.

He needed - a connection. To something. or someone. A connection strong enough to hold him down, to keep him grounded.

Looking one final time in the mirror, he acknowledged an undeniable truth; the human body was a lonely thing that demanded attention, touches, connections. Without them, the being inside the body would simply . fade away.

Daniel was fading fast.

He shrugged at his melodramatic and morbid thoughts, slung the pack over his shoulders, slipped his arms through the straps and buckled it in place. He was ready and, he checked his watch, on time. He slammed his locker door shut and headed to the 'gate room.

[][][][]

"He's not late, sir," Sam warned as Jack paced. "Teal'c isn't even here yet."

"Our observational skills are improving by leaps and bounds, Carter."

Hiding her grin, Sam said, "Thank you, sir."

At that moment, Teal'c arrived.

"Well, Carter, he's got one minute, and now, Teal'c *is* here."

"Indeed I am, O'Neill."

Jack opened his mouth but closed it again as Daniel walked in.

"Before you say it, I *know* I'm on time. In fact, I'm," he looked at his watch, "thirty seconds early."

Jack put his hands together and clapped. "Bravo, Daniel, bravo. A first in the history of."

"I was on time at least sixty percent of the-"

"Forty," Jack interrupted.

Daniel rolled his eyes and said, "Whatever."

The 'gate began to turn and all four members of SG-1 faced it as the symbols were gradually locked in. Daniel took several steps forward, almost as if drawn to the 'gate. He stopped short of the ramp, thus out of danger of the exploding wormhole. When it settled, he walked slowly up to stand before the liquid blue.

At the bottom of the ramp, his team watched, and in the control room, Hammond watched as well.

Daniel put out his hand and, as he'd done so many years before, touched the blue beauty of the wormhole with one finger, then rested his hand against hit. The light reflected off his glasses and bathed him in its silver glow. At the bottom of the ramp, Jack gasped, then started up, fear driving him on. Half-way, Hammond's voice said, "SG-1, you have a go."

The strange moment was broken, and Jack, voice tight, said, "Daniel, wait up."

Daniel stepped back and waited. As his teammates came abreast, he let Jack and Sam move ahead and he fell in next to Teal'c - just like old times. A moment later, SG-1 disappeared through the wormhole.

In the control room, Hammond murmured, "God be with you, Daniel."

[][][][]

Jack thought he was prepared - he was wrong. The last time they'd stepped out onto Abydos, it was to see the ascended Abydosians cavorting around as if nothing had happened. Now, there was only sand.

The pain of helplessness engulfed him and for a moment, he closed his eyes. It shouldn't have happened. None of it. Abydos, Skaara, Kasuf, Skaara's fiancée, they should all be here, happy, celebrating, alive, but they weren't. They were. whatever.

"Not Daniel's fault" became his mantra. Only problem was, it wasn't working.

He turned and faced his archaeologist. "Well, Daniel?"

Hands shaking, Daniel pulled his sunglasses off, and with a dazed look in his eyes, glanced around him. He swallowed with some difficulty before saying, "I.this.I did.."

His voice trailed off and he fell silent. Carter moved ahead of him and, instrument in hand, said, "The explosion may have altered the terrain, sir, but," she moved to her right, eyes fixed on the instrument, "the catacombs are twenty clicks that way." She pointed east.

"Well, it's not getting any cooler, let's move it, kids."

[][][][]

The journey to the catacombs was made in silence and no one noticed Daniel falling further behind. As the sun beat down on them, Daniel punished himself with memories of his time on Abydos, of the love and respect he'd received and how he'd done nothing but bring them all grief. He bruised his mind with the memory of a love freely given, a trust given unconditionally, and how he'd brought nothing but terror, and finally death, to Sha're. He'd failed his family on Abydos seven years ago, and he'd failed them a few weeks ago.

He deserved this loneliness, this - self-contained, untouchable self that he now was. Deserved to have fallen out of grace not only with the Ancients, but with Jack, the Abydosians, and the rest of SG-1.

As the sand skittered across the ground at his feet, or swirled up in small bursts of mini-tornadoes, Daniel swore that at the very least, he would stick it out, help find the Lost City in any way he could, and accept his punishment and the loss of connection that was his life now.

It was the very least he could do.

[][][][]

By the time they'd reached the dunes that concealed the catacombs under what had once been Daniel's home, it was almost dark. A chill had supplanted the heat of the Abydosian suns as they dipped below the horizon. Jack took off his sunglasses and said, "Teal'c, you want to get a fire going? Carter, Daniel, let's set up camp, then we can take a look inside. If we're lucky, you'll find whatever it is we're looking for, and we can go home tomorrow."

Jack's tone expressed what both Sam and Teal'c were feeling . the need to leave this place. Daniel heard only condemnation. He nodded and immediately set about to help Sam with the tents.

Working like a well-oiled machine, camp was set up in minutes. Daniel hadn't bothered to set up a tent for himself, wishing only to sleep under the stars that night. The very idea of further confinement sent shivers down his spine. In understanding, Carter left the other tent bundled up and set aside.

"All right, camp is looking like home, so lets get the lights set up down below and see what we can find, shall we?"

At nods from Carter, Teal'c and Daniel, Jack headed out, the others following.

[][][][]

Jack checked his watch. Two hours and nothing, squat, zip, nada. Daniel was still looking for a painted scarabaeus, checking walls, following corridors with his torch leading the way, but always in radio contact. Teal'c and Carter were doing the same while Jack stayed near the entrance and kept watch. Suddenly the radio crackled in his ear.

Daniel, I've found another. what did you call it? Scarab-

Scarabaeus, Sam. Where are you?

Jack listened as Carter directed Daniel, then said into his mike, "Teal'c, relieve me up here."

On my way, O'Neill.

When Teal'c came into sight, Jack headed off to find his two other team members.

He found them five minutes later, Daniel on his knees on the ground in front of a crumbling wall, Carter behind him, directing the flashlight on the same wall.

"Well, kids? Tell me you have good news?"

Without looking up, Daniel said, "It's a riddle in pictographs, Jack. In time, I think I can figure it out."

Jack came up behind the younger man and watched as he videoed the drawings. "How *long* is 'in time'?"

"I don't know yet."

"Right. Well, then, you almost done?"

Daniel lowered the camera and rose to his feet. "Yes," he said simply.

"Great. I can already smell dinner. Let's go."

[][][][]

The night was silent, as befit a dead planet. Daniel sat cross-legged on his sleeping bag, the firelight flickering over his face. Teal'c sat on the other side of the fire, eyes watching the barren world around them for dangers that couldn't possibly exist. Daniel had no desire to sleep, his mind taken up with working on trying to figure out the riddle represented by the painting on the wall.

Sam exited her tent, stretched, ruffled her hair, and spying Daniel immersed in his work, walked over to Teal'c and indicated their friend with a nod of her head.

"He has been working since you and O'Neill retired, Major Carter."

"Didn't take him long to slip back into his old habits, did it?" she murmured softly.

"No, it did not."

Sam got herself some coffee, and since Daniel hadn't even acknowledged her presence, she sat down next to Teal'c and said, "You can turn in now, it's my watch."

"I am aware of that, Major Carter. But as of yet, I'm not willing to-"

"To leave him?"

Teal'c nodded somberly.

"How is it possible that things have been so normal, and yet so very different, Teal'c?"

"I do not know, but I do not like the way 'things' have been. I see no life in DanielJackson's eyes, no love of discovery. Even now it is not love of challenge that keeps him bent over that video camera, but a sense of duty."

Their voices were low, but as Sam nodded her agreement, she also mentally acknowledged the fact that she and Teal'c could be yelling right now, and Daniel would not hear them.

They were a team - yet not. Daniel was Daniel - yet not.

"How do we fix this, Teal'c? How do we get him back?"

Dark eyes fixed on the younger man, Teal'c said softly, "I do not believe it is up to us to fix."

[][][][]

Daniel was surprised at how simple the riddle finally turned out to be. It was a simple game as played by the children of Ancient Egypt, a game that when solved, would spell out the name of the next 'victim' in the Egyptian version of Hide and Seek. Only in this case, a planet designation had been spelled out. He looked up from his notes and found himself staring into the brown eyes of Jack O'Neill.

"Jack?"

"It's morning, Daniel," the older man said simply.

Daniel looked around him, noticed the sunlight as it crept across the sand, then rubbed at his eyes under his glasses. "Wow, how time flies when you're having fun."

"I hope a night without sleep accomplished something?"

"Oh, yeah, I've got the address of where we'll find the next clue."

Jack's jaw dropped open. He snapped it shut then opened it enough to say, "Well, la-de-da and-"

"If you say, 'spank me rosy'-"

"You heard that?" Jack squeaked out.

"Well, yeah.."

Jack shook his head in disgust. "You think you can count on an ascended being . being actually, you know, gone, when he disappears, and if you can't count on that, what can you count on?"

"What, it was okay to say that in front of Sam, Teal'c and Jonas, but not me?"

"Hey, you were *ascended*. That's like - well, like being, you know.."

"Let me guess, like being. ascended?"

Jack gave up. "Never mind. Look, as long as we're done here, let's get everyone up, destroy the clue as planned, break camp and get home."

"Why not go directly to the new planet? Hammond will okay it, won't he? I mean, we're geared up for several more days, right?"

"Actually, that's not a bad idea. Okay, let's get 'em up and get going."

They didn't 'get going' quite as quickly as planned, as first, Jack insisted that Daniel at least have breakfast. Once he'd eaten, they headed back to the 'gate, the M.A.L.P. and communicating with Hammond. The general, in spite of some misgivings, agreed to let them send the M.A.L.P. through to the new destination while he sent the UAV. It was decided that if it appeared clear, they'd have the go-ahead to 'gate through and search for the next clue.

[][][][]

"Sir, the only thing we know about this planet is that it's one of the ones you downloaded when you'd been-"

"Got it, Carter. So we would have come here anyway, at some point."

"Yes, sir. The readings from both the M.A.L.P. and the UAV showed no signs of life."

They stood on a raised platform that housed the 'gate. Vegetation surrounded them, a river ran quietly and calmly to their left, and straight ahead . stood a very large pyramid. Jack nodded and looked around. "Nice," he said. "Palm trees, bushes, and a nice big pyramid for Daniel to play in. What more could we ask for?"

"The next clue," Teal'c deadpanned.

"Does anyone else feel like we're on a scavenger hunt?" Jack asked as he started down the steps.

"No," Daniel answered.

[][][][]

"O-kay, this is interesting," Jack said.

All four members were standing in a straight line and staring at the far wall of the pyramid. Once they'd gone inside, they'd all been surprised that it was simply one large . room. No tunnels, no secret passageways, just sand and walls. three of them to be exact. And on the far wall, a scarabaeus and a drawing. Nothing more.

"I have never seen such-"

"Doodles?" Jack offered.

Teal'c tilted his head. "Doodles?"

"Yeah, you know, those silly marks we all make on paper when we're listening to Daniel in a briefing. Doodles."

"Ah. Doodles."

Ignoring the jab, Daniel stepped closer. He ran his fingers over the wall and said, "Don't say don't touch it, Jack."

"Who, moi? Never. By the way, don't touch anything, Daniel."

"Thanks for not saying that."

Jack joined Daniel in front of the wall and asked, "What do you make of this? I mean," he waved his hand along the wall, "it's all lines and circles and x'es."

"Colored lines, circles and x'es," Carter added, fascinated. "You know, sir, I think this might be a mathematical equation."

"So we video it, take it home and you get to have fun, Carter. Okay, Daniel, you got it?"

"Uh, Jack? I don't think this-"

"Daniel, do you have it or not?"

Daniel nodded, but said, "Jack, we should. I mean, this may not be it."

With some exaggeration, Jack looked around. "Oh, I see what you mean. Why, this place is full of possible *other* things that could be the riddle, or clue, or whatever."

"It just seems too easy."

"Daniel, it that the scarabaeus?" At Daniel's nod, he added, "So that means this is very probably the clue. Now, do you have any idea what those squiggles represent?"

"No-o, not yet, but still-"

"The M.A.L.P. and the UAV showed nothing here but this pyramid. This pyramid consists of this. Give me one good reason to stay."

Daniel put the camera away and turned from the wall.

"Good boy. Teal'c, do your thing and let's get out of here."

Teal'c looked at Daniel, who nodded. A moment later, the drawing on the wall had been obliterated by a blast of heat from a miniature flame thrower pulled from Teal'c's pack.

[][][][]

Okay, this is not good, Jack thought as he ran. Getting back to the 'gate was proving a bit more difficult than planned, thanks to the arrival of several Jaffa bearing the mark of Anubis. Fortunately, the Jaffa were as surprised as SG-1. Using the shock to their advantage, both parties had scattered, each looking for protection even as the firefight broke out.

Teal'c and Carter were the closest to the 'gate. Jack got Teal'c's attention and motioned him to grab Carter and head out, with Jack and Daniel taking care of their sixes. Teal'c nodded, signed to Carter, and moments later, with Jack and Daniel laying ground cover, the two began a zig-zag run to the 'gate. As they ducked behind the DHD, Jack waved an arm to Daniel and they both started their move, Teal'c now covering them as Sam dialed out.

Somehow, two Jaffa managed to get behind Jack and the next thing he knew, he was trapped. He could hear the 'gate circling, the muted clank as the symbols locked in, and he could hear Daniel firing somewhere off to his right. He couldn't see Teal'c, the 'gate, or Carter for the palm trees. What he needed was a diversion, but since he was fresh out-

At that moment, a loud thunderous noise sounded and Jack whirled around to see one of the larger palm trees shudder, then fall. on one of the Jaffa that had him trapped. This was his chance. He bolted. As he ran, body bent, he could hear more firing, knew it was Daniel covering him. He thought he was clear, was just about to smile, when it hit him.

A blast from a staff weapon. Powerful, burning his shoulder, throwing him to the ground. He rolled and bounced against the trunk of a tree, then decided passing out would be good.
Part 8

Daniel had been firing continually, trying to give Jack enough cover, but it was useless, the man was trapped and two Jaffa were closing in fast.

This was NOT going to happen.

Panic written in every line of his tense body, Daniel looked for anything - anything at all, to distract the Jaffa, to give Jack a chance..

Blue eyes searched, landed on a leaning palm tree..

A thought; brief, hopeless, but there. if only..

A sound; loud, and pounding in his ears, heralded the sudden falling of the very tree he'd been thinking about-

Eyes wide with shock and surprise, Daniel watched the tree hit one of the Jaffa, then watched in relief as Jack, seeing his chance, took it.

Daniel fired . and fired again, but a third Jaffa appeared between the rushes that bordered the river. The Jaffa brought his staff weapon to bear on Jack, and he was too far away for Daniel to stop, to shoot, to hit, so all he could do was watch as the weapon discharged and Jack -- went down.

"NO!"

With his yell still echoing in his ears,, Daniel was up, running, and shooting over his shoulder. The other Jaffa fell as Daniel jumped over two bodies and started firing at the rest of the Jaffa as he ran. They had to dive for cover, which gave Daniel the time and space needed to reach Jack. He threw himself at the prone man, using his own body to shield him, then rolled onto his right side, his back bumping into the unconscious man.

There was sudden silence.

The 'gate was a good seventy yards ahead of him, and he could hear the yelling of yet more Jaffa approaching, however, they were too far away to be a problem yet. But the one by the river - he was still very much a danger.

Eyes narrowed, Daniel listened. Bushes moved, there was a glint of metal-

Daniel took aim and fired.

Nothing happened.

His gun was empty.

Ammunition, he needed ammunition. He struggled with suddenly clumsy fingers, but the Jaffa was closing in and he knew he wouldn't be able to load in time.

He needed -- Jack's weapon. Where the FUCK was that FUCKING P-90?

He finally spotted it. just out of reach.

No, that was wrong. He could crawl over to it, and in fact, be invisible to the Jaffa, thanks to a mound of rocks and bushes. But Jack would be vulnerable and he was starting to move, to groan, and even though his injury didn't look too serious, thanks to his pack and jacket, Daniel couldn't - wouldn't - leave him. Maybe if he just stretched out his arm, stretched, and stretched impossibly more..

Not nearly enough, still feet too short, and Daniel moaned with his failure, his gut churning at the thought of Jack dying because Daniel had failed him again.

Once more he yelled out, this time in anger and frustration-

"NO!"

His eyes were fixed on the P-90, his fingers beckoning as the Jaffa broke through the brush, leveled his weapon and smiled. Energy coursed through Daniel at the idea that Jack would die because Daniel couldn't protect him, and at the same moment, the P-90 JUMPED into Daniel's hand, flew across the sand and reeds and dirt to land snug against him and he turned, flipped over, braced himself on his side, head slamming into Jack as he brought the gun up and fired.

The bullets hit the Jaffa, charged into him as if they were alive, each with its own target. There was the sound of metal hitting metal, sparks flew, and finally the body landed with a fatal thud.

Daniel stopped thinking as he rose, slung the weapon over his shoulder, strapped his pack to Jack in order to protect the injured man against anymore staff weapons, and finally reached down, picked Jack up, then bent slightly so that Jack fell across his back. Hands holding tightly to a leg and an arm, Daniel started to run.

Trusting that Teal'c would do his best to take care of the Jaffa behind him, he concentrated on . running.

Like the wind.

And run like the wind he did. Didn't matter that he had a six-foot-two, one hundred and eighty-five pound man slung across his back, didn't matter that he could hear the sound of staff weapons discharging, or see the dirt on either side of him shoot into the air as blasts hit the ground inches from his feet.

Nothing mattered but getting Jack to the 'gate.

He lengthened his stride, dug in deep, pulled up energy and speed he didn't know he, let alone anyone, possessed, and he kept running. And as he ran, he said over and over again, "Stay with me, Jack, stay with me, Jack, stay with me, Jack."

[][][][]

"TEAL'C, LOOK!"

He whirled back around and spotted that which Major Carter wanted him to see, but that could not be possible.

DanielJackson, Jack slung across his back, was running toward them, and behind him, four Jaffa were closing in.

Even as the Jaffa were closing in enough to start firing, Teal'c and Carter took up position on either side of the DHD, the wormhole their backdrop, and began shooting at the Jaffa, both knowing the impossibility of their task, the impossibility of Daniel reaching them alive.

[][][][]

He could hear a sound and it worried him. Was it someone speaking? Yes. Begging? Yes again.

He had to listen because the pleading voice sounded so - lost, so - terrorized. Then it was gone and he was surrounded by silence. He opened his eyes and found himself in the cavern of the pyramid. He knew this because of the drawing that had been burned from the wall by Teal'c.

The air was still and cool and he wondered where his team could be. The last thing he remembered, he'd been running, then trapped, then-

Wait.

He'd been hit. Gone down. What the..

"Colonel?"

He spun around and found himself facing-

"Tell me I'm not dead, just tell me that," he said to Oma Desala.

She smiled gently. "You are not dead, Colonel O'Neill."

That was good news. On the other hand-

"But I'm about to be, aren't I? That's why you're here?"

"No, Colonel, you're not going to die, your injury is not severe and even now, Daniel is almost at the 'gate, and he will succeed. He'll get you safely home."

Daniel? How the hell-

"He's carrying you, and running. Running remarkably fast, I might add."

Okay, no double talk. Oma actually sounded-

"Normal?" she asked with a smile.

And she was reading his thoughts. Bet that drove Daniel crazy-

"No, Colonel, it didn't, it was how we communicated, and right now, I'm here to communicate with you in a way that will help you listen. Hence no - double talk - as you would say."

O-kay, best not think anymore - just - talk.

"If I'm not dying, and thus not about to ascend, which by the way, no way in hell would I do now, not with Daniel finally back, but again, if I'm not dying-"

"I'm here to help you discover a few things you already know, Colonel. And the reason I'm here to help you, is because you're killing him."

"Killing - who?"

"Daniel."

Killing Daniel? *HE* was killing Daniel?

"What the hell do you-"

She took a step toward him and held out her hand. Jack found himself taking it.

"Colonel, what do you believe it would take for an ascended being to be, how did Daniel put it? Oh, yes, to be 'sent down'?"

"Obviously contacting-"

"You're fully aware of the punishment Orlin suffered. What was his transgression?"

Jack shook his head. "Not the same, Orlin was an Ancient, Daniel wasn't."

Oma sighed in a way that seemed - not - ascended. With a soft patient smile, she said, "The rules do not differ between one who has been helped to ascend, and an Ancient, Colonel. "

"But Daniel said himself that just contacting me was a major rule breaker, was enough-"

"Contacting you broke a small rule, Colonel. Just a small one. He could do that for years and not be punished. I'm breaking just such a rule now. To give support, succor, to give strength to friends - no, Colonel, Daniel would not have been sent down. So what *could* he have done?

Her question was all it took to transport Jack back to Baal's cell-

"You left.

"I know, I'm sorry, there was something I had to do, but I'm back now and I promise I'll stay with you 'til this is over."

"It'll never be over.."

"Yes, it will."

Jack could see the certainty in Daniel's face, and he remembered hope flaring within him as those incredible blue eyes seemed to say so much more than Daniel's words.

".it's almost over, Jack.

"How?"

"You were right. There's always a way out. at least there's always a chance. You're journey isn't over, Jack, not yet.

Jack could hear Daniel's voice, and instinctively he now knew that a key to a major truth had been contained in those words, a truth that still eluded Jack. What he did remember was the certainty that Daniel had finally acted to save him, a belief that Daniel's next words had shattered-

"What did you do?"

"I didn't do anything. it was, um, Sam and Teal'c. and, uh, Jonas, too."

"What?"

"They thought of something.."

Frowning, Jack tried to make sense of what he was now remembering, of what it could mean-

"You're close, Colonel," Oma said gently. "When an ascended one truly interferes, the punishment goes far beyond the choice of returning to human form. The punishment matches that which was necessary to ascend." At his shocked looked, she nodded. "Yes, death. But sometimes, sometimes there is a greater good to be served so other choices are made available to us. Such is the case with Daniel."

"Wait, you're saying that he *did* interfere? But -- but he didn't-"

The look on Oma's face reminded him of his mother. It was the way she'd look at him when she was disappointed in him, when he'd failed to supply her with an answer they both knew he knew.

"The answer is in your heart, Jack. Let it speak for you."

In his heart. Great. Okay, this was not his thing - listening to human organs. Really, it wasn't-

Daniel's words in the Infirmary came back to him--

"Look, I know you don't think so...right now, I mean I know you have your doubts, but uh...because you've been through something that no one should have to go through...I guess what I'm trying to say is...you're gonna be all right."

"How do you know?"

"You're just gonna have to trust me."

"I can do that. You gonna be okay?"

"I'm. gonna be fine."

Now this was sweet. His heart was singing to him, and the song and the melody, and the voice, warmed him, filled him with beauty - and - undeniable truth.

"He did it," Jack said in wonder. "He did it all. He gave them each a piece of the puzzle until they knew where I was, then he gave Teal'c-"

"There's more in your heart, Colonel. Look deeper."

He frowned. Wasn't the knowledge that Daniel *had* done something - everything - enough?

"No, Colonel, it isn't." She reached out with her other hand and touched his chest, just over his heart, and waited.

The hand became heavy, seemed to heat through the clothing, his skin-

"He came for me, didn't he? That's why he appeared to me."

Oma removed her hand and nodded ever so slightly.

"He wanted me to ascend, because that was something he *could* do, and . wanted to do."

"Yes. But it was not something he should have been *able* to do, Colonel. Daniel was - is - very special. And when you refused, when your soul refused to even contemplate joining him, Daniel did the only thing he could for you. He-"

"Spoke to Jonas, to Sam, and to Teal'c. Visited them in their minds, whispered knowledge, let ideas take root - and gave me my chance."

"Yes, Colonel. He - interfered."

She seemed to be waiting for him to acknowledge something else, but all he could think about was what Daniel had done for him. And--

"Teal'c. What about Teal'c?"

"He gave Teal'c the strength to visit another dimension, to move back and forth as he needed in order to cope with his decision. He visited him, spoke to him, gently guided him with his words and kept him going with the puzzle. He gave him his own energy when it looked as though Master Bra'tac would finally succumb." Smiling, she said, a strange pride in her voice, "He found every loophole, every weakness in our system and with our rules, then used them to help all of you more times than you or I could count."

The truth settled and anger rose again. But directed now at Oma. "Then why did you send him down? If he didn't actually break rules, then how could you-"

"You know the answer to that one too, don't you, Colonel?"

And Jack did.

"He crossed the line. I asked him to - and he did. On Abydos."

"I can tell you no more, Jack. But I warn you - Anubis *wanted* Daniel to strike him down, for in doing so, Daniel would have lost his soul and Anubis would have been able to fully ascend. But the battle between Daniel and Anubis is not over, it has barely begun. Anubis knows he has a dangerous enemy, but he believes Daniel is no longer a threat, so knows not from where said enemy will come. But we do, don't we, Colonel? There are battles ahead for all of us, but we can prevail. It is possible if you would face one more truth, and then give that truth to Daniel. Can you do that?"

Jack felt the final two pieces of the puzzle slide into each other.

"When I turned Daniel down, when I refused all that he was offering - I refused him, didn't I?"

"Yes."

"Because he was offering - himself," Jack said, awe coloring his voice.

"Yes, Colonel. He was offering himself - his love - to you. Do you understand the final truth now?"

He did.

She placed her hand on his heart once again and said, "Living or dying means nothing, Colonel, if you can not hear your own heart - beat."

Oh, sure, *now* she uses double talk-

Before he could think of anything to say, a dark warmth drifted over him. As he slipped into a deep sleep, he wondered if he'd remember any of this when he awoke.

He sure as hell hoped so.

[][][][]

Sam couldn't believe what she was seeing. It was clearly not real. She could barely grasp the fact that Daniel was running like a gazelle, the weight of the colonel not even a blip on Daniel's radar running screen, but in addition to that little bit of impossibility, the Jaffa were firing unimpeded, yet not one single blast was hitting Daniel.

Not. One.

Sure, she and Teal'c were shooting continually, but in all honesty, they weren't keeping the Jaffa from shooting Daniel down - and yet, Daniel was still up, still running, still dodging, still working against the odds.

She'd been certain that he'd never make it - now she had no doubt that he would. As strange as that fact was. Because he *shouldn't* make it. No one else, not even Teal'c, would have been able to pull this one out.

And then Daniel was there, waving an arm, yelling at them to go through, and Teal'c was turning, nodding, and Sam jumped through, hit the ramp, rolled, came up, turned, and breathing hard, watched as the blue rippled and Teal'c was thrown out, and a final ripple as Daniel burst through. Without taking her eyes from her friend, she yelled out, "CLOSE THE IRIS!", then moved forward to help him as he slowly dropped to his knees.

Dull thunks could be heard as a few wayward staff blasts hit the iris, but Sam's attention was on Daniel and the colonel. Teal'c tried to help Daniel, but the younger man waved off his hand as he gently lowered Jack, then turned around and lifted him up and took him into his arms.

"Hit - he's - he was - hit, Sam," Daniel said, eyes fixed on Jack's face.

"I know, Daniel, I know. Help is on its way, they called for a medical team the moment we came through."

There didn't seem to be anything else to say. She and Teal'c remained on their knees beside their friends until Janet and the medical team arrived.

[][][][]

It seemed to Teal'c that DanielJackson was in shock. His face was pale, skin cold to the touch, and his eyes haunted and dark. Teal'c did the only thing he could, he stayed by his friend's side as they awaited word on O'Neill. Major Carter had brought coffee, but Teal'c noticed that the cup remained in Daniel's hand, but untouched. Slowly he placed his larger hand beneath Daniel's and gently urged the hand up. When Daniel tore his eyes from the door that Janet would come through, Teal'c said, "You should drink this, Daniel. You need it."

It was then that Teal'c realized that Daniel *couldn't* drink it for the simple reason that Daniel couldn't lift his arm. Teal'c took the cup and held it to Daniel's lips. He was gratified when Daniel sipped. He would ensure that Doctor Frasier understood Daniel's condition when she finally joined them with news of O'Neill.
Part 9

Daniel was slumped back in the chair, eyes closed. He knew Jack was going to be okay, but he needed to hear it from Janet's lips. Maybe hearing the words would anchor him a little longer. His feelings of being disconnected were actually growing and he was finding it more and more difficult to even talk, let alone anything else. Of course, being anchored sounded silly considering that right now, his limbs felt like granite. Hell, he was worried about how he'd make it to his suite once Janet *did* tell them that Jack was going to be fine.

Teal'c had helped him drink some coffee earlier, and for that, he was grateful, but now he looked down at his hands, and marveled at them. They were just sitting there, useless, on his legs. Hell, his legs were useless too.

"I'm going to say this just once-"

Daniel's head shot up as he realized that Janet had joined them and was talking..

".and he's going to be fine. A day or two in my wonderful company, then home. He'll probably be back to full duty in a couple of weeks. He's sound asleep right now, but you can have five minutes to look lovingly down upon him before I kick you all out. Any questions?"

Next to him, Sam stood up and said, "The general?"

"He knows. I phoned him before coming out here."

Daniel watched as Teal'c stood and he really wished he could do that too. Standing would be good right about now. However, he was pretty sure it was beyond his capabilities.

"Doctor Frasier, I believe you should look at DanielJackson. He accomplished something earlier that may have injured him."

Suddenly concerned brown eyes were trained on him and he cringed. This was definitely going to end up with a needle imbedded somewhere in his body, probably somewhere below the waist. He sighed.

"Daniel?"

"Janet?"

"Don't try that innocent routine with me, Doctor Jackson."

He hated it when she resorted to using his title. Now he was pretty certain that at least *two* needles would find their way into his body. One for his doctorate in Archaeology, and one for his doctorate in languages.

Teal'c took Janet's arm and led her a few feet away. Daniel watched as he leaned down to speak with her, to, in essence, squeal on him. He gave an inward sigh as she turned to look at him while Teal'c continued whispering. Her eyes widened, and then she was striding over to him and, with hands on hips, said, "Daniel, can you get up?"

Well, of course he could. He just - chose - not to.

"Of course I can, Janet," he said in a voice remarkably soft and weak.

"So get up."

He knew she'd say that. Time for a little - misdirection.

"Shouldn't you be more concerned about Jack? I don't have a scratch on me." He really thought he sounded reasonable.

"Stand up, Daniel."

Huh-oh. She suddenly sounded too - nice.

"I don't think - well, maybe - it's altogether possible that - you know, there's an outside chance that I might - maybe - need help. To stand, you know?"

Teal'c was by his side instantly, one hand under his arm to help him up. Daniel couldn't even get his legs to move. He looked up at Teal'c, his expression one of complete misery and embarrassment. "I don't think-"

Teal'c didn't let him get any further. He slid his arm around Daniel's back and lifted. "Doctor, if you would lead the way."

"No, no. I don't need, it's just - I need - look, I just need rest. My room, please, Janet?"

"Daniel, let me check you over first, please?"

Oh swell. Now she was turning those puppy dog brown eyes on him and she *knew* he couldn't say no to that.

"Okay, but really, I'm fine."

"Huh-uh. Let's go, Teal'c."

[][][][]

Okay, now she had two members of SG-1 in the Infirmary. Both sound asleep.

Janet stood next to Daniel's bed, her hand on his arm. She was still having difficulty grasping all that Teal'c, and later Sam, had told her. The very idea that Daniel had run at top speed, a speed that Sam said would have been fast by anyone's reckoning, while carrying Jack, *and* somehow managed to zigzag, to avoid the firing staff weapons - was beyond her ability to see. She doubted that even Teal'c would have been able to do what Daniel was supposed to have done.

What had further surprised Janet upon completing her examination of Daniel, was the condition of his body. She'd expected his muscles to be sore, to have locked up, but that wasn't the problem. No, it was more like his body was shutting down after an incredible loss of blood, hence the pale cool skin and shock-like appearance. Once she'd realized what his body seemed to be going through, it had come as no surprise to find him severely dehydrated.

Janet knew that humans had been known to do impossible things in moments of danger, like the mother who lifted a car from her son, but nothing on record could account for the sustained strength Daniel had exhibited, a strength that left him with all the signs of severe blood loss - but in a weird way. She had no logical explanation for any of this, but around the SGC, that was hardly news.

"How are they, Doctor?"

She glanced over her shoulder and smiled. "They're going to be fine, General."

He stepped next to her and looked down at Daniel, then over at Jack. "I just completed the de-briefing with Major Carter and Teal'c, then read your medical report. None of it makes any sense, Doctor Frasier."

"I know, sir."

"No explanation?"

"You don't want to hear it, sir."

Hammond looked down at the man so recently given back to them and realized that Doctor Frasier was right - he didn't.

[][][][]

Jack stuck out his tongue.

"Colonel, I have my orders, so eat and don't give me any grief."

Shouldn't she have added, "Sir"? "Don't give me any grief, *sir*"? What was the military coming to, anyway? He scrunched up his nose as she swept the plastic top off his breakfast. Oatmeal. And dry rye toast. Oh goody.

"If you're good, maybe she'll let you have a tuna sandwich for lunch," the nurse said, a wicked smile on her face.

He would have liked to have come back with a witty retort worth of Jack O'Neill, but he was fresh out. He stuck out his tongue again.

One finely penciled eyebrow rose. "I have just the right pair of scissors for that problem, *sir*."

He closed his mouth.

With a smug expression, she said, "I'll be back in fifteen and I will expect to see that tray cleared of all food, sir. Enjoy." She turned smartly on her heel and walked out. Jack gauged the distance between his bed and the trash container and decided that he could make it. He lifted the toast and was just about to give it a nice toss when a voice stopped him.

"You'll never make it."

"Who says?"

Daniel walked the rest of the way in and stood next to Jack's bed. "I do. You're good, but the distance is too far. You might get one or two slices in, but not all four. And what do you plan to do with the oatmeal? Hide it under your pillow?"

"Well, now that you're here, you can eat it. You love oatmeal. Hey," he said, his face brightening, "you love rye toast too, right?"

Daniel pulled up a nearby chair and sat down, then regarded Jack's toast with some suspicion. "It's not buttered. Mine was buttered."

"Yeah, well, we all know how the nurses feel about *you*, Daniel. Of course yours was buttered. And how come were you freed up so soon, anyway?"

"Because I wasn't hurt, Jack. Duh. I don't know why I had to stay here overnight to begin with."

"The nurse thing," Jack said with certainty. "They love you, plot ways to keep you in here, always did."

"So, be as sweet as me and they'll love you too and next time, you'll get buttered sourdough instead of unbuttered rye."

Jack made a gagging sound.

Laughing, Daniel said, "So when *do* you get out of here?"

"Tomorrow." He absently rubbed his left arm as he added, "But we both know I'm fine and could go home today. The doc is just being contrary."

"Ain't that just like her."

Jack looked at Daniel suspiciously. "You're making fun of me, aren't you?"

Innocence personified, Daniel said, "Moi?"

Shaking his head in defeat, Jack muttered, "You're making fun of me."

"Eat your oatmeal, Jack, it's good for you. And look," he leaned forward and peered into a small plastic-wrapped cup, "you even have brown sugar. Oatmeal is great with brown sugar."

Long slender fingers carefully undid the wrap and lifted the cup. Jack nodded and Daniel sprinkled the sugar on top of the still warm cereal, then added the cream.

"You gonna feed me too?" Jack asked, looking all the world like a hopeful six year old.

Daniel picked up the spoon.

[][][][]

The Infirmary was quiet, the lighting subdued as befitted two in the morning. Jack was still awake and knew full well that if that fact reached Janet, he'd be in serious trouble later.

Strange how sleep was eluding him, yet dreams of Oma Desala swam before his open eyes. It had been real, his moments with her in the pyramid. He *knew* that even though his brain was screaming otherwise. So why hadn't he done anything about it? After all, Daniel had been with him most of the afternoon, yet Jack hadn't said a word of what he'd promised to say. They'd talked sports, the relative merits of tuna fish, Jack had asked how the team had managed to get him back to the SGC safely, to which Daniel had simply shrugged and said, "You know us, Jack. Miracle workers." He'd almost been tempted to say something then, something like, "Oma told me you were carrying me and doing your impression of Speedy Gonzales, Daniel. Care to tell me more about that?" but he hadn't. Maybe that was the part of his Oma experience that he didn't entirely believe. And if not, then someone needed to tell him how he could believe part of something an ascended being says, but not all of it? And did it matter?

Probably not.

Daniel had looked tired earlier. Too tired. And thin. Being back wasn't all it was cracked up to be, evidently.

*You can change that, O'Neill.*

Could he? Really? Could one person make a difference to Daniel now? Could *he* make up for all that Daniel had lost? For all the knowledge he'd never learn and the difference he could have made?

Therein lay the problem. The reason Jack hadn't said any of the words he'd planned. Would *never* say them. Since when could Jack O'Neill take the place of ascension?

Since never.

[][][][]

Daniel was breaking up inside, the loneliness ripping him to shreds. God, he felt so damn isolated, so damn 'not here'. Maybe he wasn't. Maybe he was stuck mid-descension. Or maybe - it was just too hard for everyone to deal with. After all, how many times could one person come back from the dead? And this time, he'd really died, right in front of Janet, the general, Jacob, Teal'c, Sam, medical personnel, and . Jack.

If he could just feel.

If they could just feel him. LOOK at him, SEE him. But they didn't. They looked around him, through him, but not at him.

It had felt good, having Teal'c holding him up. For a few moments, he was almost real. But then he'd been helped onto a bed, Janet had shooed everyone away, he'd been poked, prodded, whispered about, pointed at, and finally, he'd slept. And now, things were back to normal. He'd been released twelve hours later. It was two in the morning and he was in his ... office. Papers and books were spread out in front of him and, in spite of Sam's assertion that what they'd found in the pyramid was a mathematical equation, he was working on it. He'd played the video over and over again, then after hooking it up to his computer, he'd downloaded it, and finally copied it out. Now it lay in front of him and he was stumped.

Maybe Sam was right and this was an equation, in which case, most definitely not his area of expertise.

He threw his pencil down.

And promptly picked it back up again. He pulled another book toward him, opened it and started reading.

[][][][]

"Just take it easy for the next four or five days, Colonel. The sling is there for a reason, don't ignore it. Take your pills when scheduled, be a good boy, and I may sign you off by this time next week. You were lucky, Colonel, very lucky."

"The luck of the O'Neill's, doc. We're famous for it."

"Huh-uh, just take care of yourself, all right? Surprise me."

It was early evening and Janet had finally gotten around to a final exam prior to releasing him. Jack was dressed and sitting on the edge of an examining bed, and at Janet's words, he gave her a two-fingered salute and jumped off the bed, just to prove that he could. A little staff blast couldn't keep a good fly boy down.

Pausing on his way out, he asked, "By the way, Doc, Daniel *is* all right, isn't he? I mean, he looked good yesterday, if a little thin-"

"He's fine. A few hours sleep, some nice delicious liquid replacements courtesy of an IV, and he was as good as new."

"Ah. Good. So he's fine."

Janet cocked her head. "Colonel, is there something you're not saying?"

"Who me?"

She indicated her office and, at his nod, started for the door. Jack followed. Once inside, she sat down and pushed out another chair. "Sit before you fall."

He sat, but immediately said, "I'm fine."

"Sure you are. Now let's get to the heart of this. What's wrong?"

"Are you trying to tell me that you *haven't* noticed anything odd about Daniel?"

"He's been through a great deal in a very short time, Colonel. So have we. Did you think he could just reappear and there wouldn't be adjustments needed? We lost him once and right now, it wouldn't be unrealistic for his friends to be reticent about risking their emotions again."

Expression hardening, Jack said, "That's the most cold-blooded thing I think I've ever heard you say. This is *Daniel* we're talking about here. Our Daniel, not some-"

"We saw him die, Colonel, and now, just like that, he's back. Do you think any of us believe that next time," she paused, lowered her head, then murmured, "next time he'll come back too?"

"So what, we're all holding our feelings in check? Is that what you're saying?"

She lifted her head and met his gaze unflinchingly as she said, "Aren't we? Aren't you, Colonel?"

Jack slumped back in his chair, defeated.

"Colonel. Jack - it's all right. It's natural for all of us to be feeling this way. It's human nature."

"How does that help Daniel?"

Cheeks tinged pink, Janet shook her head. "I don't know. I tried to talk to him before I released him, but got nowhere. He just kept reiterating that he was fine, that he understood, that everything was okay." Janet rubbed her eyes. "I felt about two inches tall at that point. I *know* what we're all going through, I know it intellectually, but in here," she tapped her chest, "I want nothing more than to hold him, tell him I'm glad he's alive, yet can't get my body to obey."

What could Jack say to that when he was feeling much the same - and considerably more. He stood up and pushed the chair back against the wall. "I think I need to find Daniel right now."

Janet brushed a sudden spate of tears from her face, then waved him out.

[][][][]

He had to get out of here, out of the mountain. Now. He'd been cooped up inside this rock for weeks, other than one trip through the 'gate and he was slowly going crazy. Besides, maybe being outside would help him feel - something. Like - alive. Connected.

Daniel got up and headed out. [][][][]

No Daniel. So . his room. Jack turned away from Daniel's closed office door and headed back to the elevator. A few minutes later, he was standing in front of the VIP suite that had been given to Daniel. He knocked, no one answered. O-kay, time to try Sam.

Twenty minutes later, Jack had run out of places to look for his wayward archaeologist. Sam was busy in her lab trying to figure out the drawing from the pyramid, Teal'c by her side. Neither had seen Daniel in hours. And didn't that say a whole hell of a lot? Maybe the gym? No, not willingly. So where could he be? He'd called the Mess hall and had been told that Doctor Jackson hadn't been there all day, no surprise there. Had Daniel said anything about leaving the mountain when he'd checked up on Jack earlier? No, not that he remembered. But that didn't mean-

Of course. Hell, Daniel was probably up top.

[][][][]

The sky was rapidly darkening and stars were already twinkled above the dark outline of the evergreens. Daniel breathed in deeply and closed his eyes. Cool mountain air caressed his skin and a breeze ruffled his short hair. Life swirled around him in the sounds and smells of the mountain night. Smiling, he let his eyelids drift open. Daniel placed a hand over his heart, but in spite of the beauty that surrounded him, he felt .nothing.

"Danny?"

He didn't turn around. "Jack, should you be here?"

"Why not? I'm fine."

"Sure you are. A little staff blast isn't going to stop an O'Neill," Daniel said dryly.

"No way. Besides, it was just a flesh wound."

Daniel turned away from the view to look at his friend. "You've wanted to say that for a long time, haven't you?"

Grinning sheepishly in the dark, Jack said, "Well, yeah, macho soldier that I am."

Daniel chuckled and Jack immediately moved to his side. Good shoulder touching Daniel's, he surveyed their surroundings, and in the silence, he tried to find the words that would convey his feelings. A sigh from the man next to him brought his attention back to Daniel, who was looking up at the sky. Jack followed his gaze and said, "This must seem so confining to you now."

"Confining?"

"Maybe that's not the right word, but - I guess what I'm trying to say is that you soared, Daniel, and now, now you're-"

"Grounded?"

Jack would never have chuckled if he hadn't heard the smile in Daniel's voice. "Yeah, grounded."

Still grinning, Jack moved closer still. He searched Daniel's face, spent time memorizing the small laugh lines at the corners of his eyes, at the full lower lip, the firm chin, and finally said the only thing he could think of to say.

"Can we go home now?"

Daniel stepped back. "Home?" he asked oddly. His expression changed to one of understanding as he nodded and added, "I guess the SGC *is* my home now, but I think I'll stay out awhile longer. You, on the other hand, should head to your place and get some rest, get off your feet-"

With an impatient shake of his head, Jack said, "I meant that you," he reached out with his good arm and took Daniel's hand, "and I," then pulled him back toward him, "should go home, to my home, to what I hope will become our home."

Daniel cocked his head and said," Are you still under the influence of some of Janet's happy juice, because I gotta tell you, Jack, you're sounding really weird."

"I was going for romatic, asshole," Jack said with a grin.
Part 10

Something changed in Daniel's demeanor and once again, he stepped back and away. "Where is this coming from, Jack? Romantic? With me? With a *guy*? A guy you, how did you put it? A guy that maybe you'd come to . admire?"

"Aw, come on, Daniel, that was code for 'I love you'."

"I love you? Admire equals love in the Jack O'Neill world?"

"I'm not doing this very well, am I?"

"What exactly are you trying to do?"

"Daniel, you have an IQ that puts the average MENSA member to shame. Surely you can figure this out?"

Daniel scratched the back of his neck and said, "I guess I'm little confused. You haven't been exactly - my return hasn't exactly left you all warm and tingly, if you know what I mean, not that I blame you, because I don't."

Jack took a tentative step nearer and said, "I can't begin to tell you how your return has affected me, but I can see that I owe it to you to try, so here goes." He took two more steps closer and said, his voice husky with emotion, "I'm so damned grateful to have you back that I can't see straight and I'm fucking delirious that Oma gave you up and I can have you all to myself because I fucking love you, have been in love with you for so long, I'm amazed that the world hasn't tumbled to my secret. I have this overwhelming need to hold you, keep you hidden, keep you safe, so that I never have to go through anything like this again. I find myself imagining us-"

"Whoa, Jack, I get it. You do romantic good. Very good."

"But do I do it in a way that - works?"

Daniel turned away and faced the mountains. "It's funny because I can hear your words, I can even see the truth of them in your eyes, but I can't - feel any of it. It's been like that for awhile." He turned back and added in a voice full of fear, "You asked if all of this," he waved his arm at the trees, "was confining? No, it isn't, but this," he pointed at his body, "this is. I can't seem to get past it, to connect with anyone. I guess I'd forgotten how lonely the human body is. can be. Don't misunderstand me, I don't really miss what I was - before, I don't think. But I do remember connections, so many connections, on so many levels." He smiled wryly and said, "I'm not making much sense, am I? You've given me all these words and emotions, feelings from your heart, and what do I give you in return? Nothing. I can't even explain any of this very well."

Jack took a chance and slipped his good arm around Daniel's waist. When the younger man didn't move away, he took his courage in hand and said, "I think I understand, in a way. There was a poem written by a young World War II pilot who died a few months after writting it. When I think of it now, I think of you." He touched his forehead to Daniel's and started to recite, his voice low and full of awe.

"I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds-"

Daniel's eyes widened in surprise before he nodded and added his voice to Jack's-

".and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of. Wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence. Hovering there, I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air... up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace where never lark or even eagle flew. And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod he high untrespassed sanctity of space-"

For some reason, both men stopped, but after a moment, Jack placed the palm of his hand against Daniel's cheek and finished tenderly, "I've trod the high untrespassed sancitity of space - put out my hand - and touched the face of God."

The moon was full, and now that the sun had set, free to shine alone in the velvet night sky and on the two men. Jack took a deep breath and asked, "Is there a God, Danny?

Throat tight, Daniel said, "I believe so, Jack."

"Is he good? Is his hand in any of this?"

Again Daniel nodded, and again, he said, "I believe so."

"Then there's hope, Danny. Hope for renewal of familiar connections. and new connections. Like this one-"

Jack lowered his head until his lips hovered above Daniel's. He waited for the blink of an eye, and when Daniel remained within the circle of his arm, Jack touched his lips to Daniel's.

Soft, warm, sweet breath mingling, a hand resting on his shoulder, Daniel's small gasp, and then the lips beneath his were opening to him and he slipped his tongue inside only to be met by Daniel's. Stroking gently, suckling, and eyes finally drifting closed because the vision was too beautiful, to impossibly real.

Jack had to hold Daniel all the way, but that was impossible with his left arm in a sling, but a moment later, he didn't need to worry about it because Daniel was holding him, holding tightly, pulling gently but insistantly, until their chests bumped ever so slightly. Need seemed to explode out of Daniel and Jack found himself on the receiving end of it, and more than willing to provide anything Daniel required. After all, wasn't that why he'd made the first move?

[][][][]

Daniel wasn't expecting anything when it became obvious that Jack was going to kiss him. He wanted it, had wanted it for years, but had long since given up any idea that a kiss, or anything more, would happen between them. When he'd surrendered his dream, he'd contented himself with the fact that he'd been lucky once, with Sha're, and that was more than any man had a right to expect.

But now.

Now Jack's lips were on his, and they were dry and soft and . and. on his, and he could feel Jack's pulse in those lips, and the beat seemed to be begging to be allowed into Daniel, so Daniel opened his mouth, and Jack was inside, and the beat grew stronger, the pulse steady, pure, and all Jack, and Daniel had to hold him, make sure it was all real, so he wrapped his arms around Jack, felt the muscles beneath his hands, and the pulse that was Jack seemed to be everywhere so Daniel took it into himself and. and-

Emotions exploded, his own heartbeat pounded in his ears and Jack's tongue stroked his even as he stroked back, the silken softness feeling better than anything Daniel had ever experienced. Energy flowed through him and he was soaring, yet standing still on his Earth.

A gift was passing between he and Jack, a gift of love and life, and Daniel took it greedily, then promised it right back.

He was alive.

The kiss ended, but only because Jack pulled away long enough to whisper against Daniel's temple, "Home, please?"

"Yes," Daniel breathed back.

[][][][]

Getting home proved to be a bit more difficult, what with having to stop by Daniel's office to pick up the scarabaeus photos and trying to figure out how to actually *get* home. Jack certainly couldn't drive yet, and Daniel was . well, to the rest of the world, including the DMV, Daniel was dead. Jack finally got them a car and a driver.

Resisting the need to touch, they rode in the back seat of the military vehicle, each in his own world, biding their time until they were alone. Daniel watched the world pass in a blur, aware of only one thing - heart beats. His. Jack's.

The car pulled into Jack's driveway and the airman hurried around to get the door open for the injured colonel. Daniel exited first, took Jack's keys and hurried up the walkway to the front door while their driver helped Jack. Daniel got the lights on in an attempt to keep busy, to keep from thinking of his shaking hands and what would happen once they were alone.

Actually, he wanted very much to think of what would happen once they were alone. He grinned and turned off one of the lights he'd switched on.

"Alone at last," Jack said from the hall step.

Daniel faced him and his grin widened. "Yeah, we are. And knowing that you have this great military background, and that you're this macho soldier and all, I expect that sling to barely slow you down, right?"

Smiling a smile that took off years, Jack stepped up and said, "Well, I am rather amazing one-handed, but I'm also a wounded man, so be gentle with me, Daniel."

Daniel rolled his eyes and added insult to injury by snorting.

"Of course," Jack added as he moved further into the room, "I'll need a lot of help undressing-"

"Well, I'm rather amazing in that arena, as it happens."

They met each other half-way and Daniel helped Jack slip out of his jacket. With rather careless abandon, Daniel tossed it over his shoulder.

"Um, that's my-"

Daniel started to unbutton Jack's shirt while at the same time, dropping soft kisses against Jack's neck. The sling was carefully, but temporarily removed and the shirt soon joined the jacket.

"Your tee-shirt is going to be tricky," Daniel said breathlessly.

"Cut it off."

Laughing low in his throat, Daniel said, "I don't think that'll be necessary. We just need to be careful-"

"Who has time for careful? Cut the fucker off."

"Tsk-tsk, language, *Colonel*, language."

With great care, Daniel managed to get the tee-shirt over Jack's head without causing any pain or discomfort to his injured shoulder. The tee dropped down to land in the growing pile of clothing.

"Daniel, one of us is definitely overdressed for the occasion."

Looking down at Jack's jeans and licking his lips, Daniel said, "You're right, you are." He quickly unbuckled and unzipped, then pushed both the jeans and shorts down until Jack could step out of them. Once that was done, Daniel stepped back to look at his handiwork. "Mmm, nice. You, a bandage, and Nikes. My Adonis."

"Your aging Adonis. Now get back over here and, while you're at it, strip."

"Oooh, strip? There you go again, being all romantic." But Daniel moved, and he started to unbutton his shirt. By the time he was back in front of Jack, his shirt was on the floor, as was his tee-shirt. "Better?" he asked with a wicked grin.

"Much. But until you're in nothing but your Sebagos-"

Daniel had his jeans and boxers off in seconds.

"Aw, much better. Now we're both in nothing but our shoes." Jack scratched his chin. "Uhm, Daniel? Do you find a man in nothing but his shoes - sexy?"

"Well, you'd be sexier if you weren't wearing socks," Daniel answered, a playful grin on his face. "Or shoes," he added with a smirk.

Jack immediately sat down on the couch, held up one leg, and wiggled his foot. With an exaggerated scowl, Daniel walked over and took off the shoe, then the sock. "No holes. Good for you."

"Hey, I'm military. We never have holes." He held up his other foot and grinned winningly.

Biting back his own grin, Daniel removed that shoe and sock as well, then said, "No holes if you don't count the ones in your head."

"Hey," Jack said in mock indignation, "that's my line."

"I don't have holes in my head so it can't be your line. Now why don't you scoot back against the cushions, get comfortable, and let me - work you over."

"No way could I resist such a tempting offer." Jack moved back, albeit a bit clumsily, then said, "So work me over, big fella. Do your worst."

"You know, I'm a sucker for a challenge."

"What do you know, I'm a challenge."

Being very careful not to hurt him, Daniel climbed onto the couch and settled somewhat oddly between Jack's legs, but using his arms to keep the majority of his weight from Jack. Once he was as comfortable as possible, given his own long legs, he started with small kisses along Jack's jaw line, then moved down to his neck, uninjured shoulder, then his chest. As Daniel worked one nipple, his tongue alternating between the brown nub and swirling through Jack's chest hair, Jack frowned.

This was - wrong. It was incredibly good, but very wrong. The feelings surging through him told him to shut up and enjoy, but his mind was screaming, "NO!"

"No, Daniel, no," he finally said with a groan.

Forehead creased in worry, Daniel lifted his head. "Jack?"

"I want. I *need* to. ah, hell." He palmed the back of Daniel's head and kissed him. Kissed him deep and kissed him hard. He plunged his tongue in as if it were his soul ready to blend with Daniel's. And maybe it was.

Daniel let his body drop to rest over Jack's as their mouths met and Jack's tongue once again took over. His worry dissipated as he gave himself over to the feelings rushing through him at the incredible attention Jack was giving his mouth, and his soul.

When Jack shifted that attention to his neck, Daniel shivered. Small bites, followed by licks reminded him of how good this could be. Then Jack was whispering and it took everything Daniel had to listen..

"You've got to move for me, Daniel, I can't.but I need to be able to-"

Understanding, he shifted so that Jack could spread his legs enough to give Daniel room, to provide friction and warmth and heat. Daniel lifted his hips and thrust down into the space created by Jack and the older man brought his thighs together, trapping Daniel's cock and he began to move languidly, his eyes fixed on Jack's, his breath coming in short pants.

"That's it, Danny, that's it, come on, faster, I need you to go faster-"

Their current position provided Jack with plenty of friction too but he needed more, so once again he brought Daniel's head down and captured those lips. This time it was Daniel's tongue that sought entrance and Jack gave it all the room it needed. He moved his right hand down to cup Daniel's ass cheek and squeezed, trying to urge him on, urge greater speed with his thrusts even as he matched him.

[][][][]

Sweat, breath, hands stroking, a silky tongue and a warm inviting mouth, a rigid cock brushing against him, his own finding heat and friction between Jack's legs; gentle words whispered into his mouth, or brushed against his ear, brown eyes spilling love, soft spiked hair under his fingers, and Daniel wondered how he could ever have thought the human body was a lonely thing.

His orgasm ripped through him as bright flashes of light sparkled behind his eyelids. Tendrils of energy wrapped around him, held him in their sweet embrace, and Jack's voice whispered, "I love you, Danny boy, I love you," while still another murmured, "You're safe now, Daniel, you're safe."

[][][][]

Jack opened his eyes and found the bed beside him empty. For a brief moment, he wondered if it all been a dream, but the mussed up covers on the other side of the bed, not to mention the scrunched pillows, told him that he and Daniel, together, had been very real. His sore muscles were further proof. He smiled.

Rubbing a hand over his face, he squinted at the alarm clock and immediately swore under his breath. It was after three in the morning and the open bathroom door told him his wayward archaeologist was *not* relieving himself of more bodily fluids. Which meant-

Jack threw off the covers and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He grabbed his robe and, careful of his arm, slipped it on before heading out to the livingroom.

He wasn't in the least surprised to find Daniel at the dining room table, papers and books spread out before him.

"Daniel, Daniel, Daniel, what *am* I going to do with you?"

Without lifting his head, Daniel said, a smile in his voice, "You weren't having any trouble answering that question earlier."

Pulling out a chair, Jack sighed in resignation and sat down. "It's after three, Danny. That would be three in the morning, by the way."

"Look, I know you think Sam's right, and that this," he held up a photo of the drawing they'd found in the pyramid, "is a mathematical equation, but I don't think it is, Jack."

Jack looked at the squiggles, lines, circles and x, then rubbed his eyes. "Daniel, if you say it's not a mathematical equation, then it isn't. But couldn't you come back to bed and work on that later, at a more decent hour?"

Daniel looked up and smiled softly. "That sounded. nice."

Running his hand through his hair, Jack said, "What?"

"'Come back to bed'. That sounded nice."

"Yeah?" Jack grinned, surprised. "So come back to bed, and take it a step beyond nice."

"It's after three."

Jack took the pencil out of Daniel's hand. "I do my best work after three."

"I think I'll hold you to that, Colonel." Daniel closed a few books and stood up, then froze.

"Daniel?" Jack got up and frowning, put a hand out to the younger man.

"Did you say. did you say, when I mentioned that I didn't think. and that Sam thought, but you believe. me?"

Shaking his head in disbelief, Jack said gently, "Yes, Daniel, I believe you. Now let's go to bed."

The smile that spread across Daniel's face was the most beautiful thing Jack had ever seen.

[][][][]

Three days later, Jack was feeling pretty darn spry and found himself worrying about fluid intake and how to get more protein into his body to make up for all that he was losing with Daniel on a very regular basis.

Love was pretty terrific, and love with Daniel was extrordinary. Jack figured he was the luckiest guy alive. He looked up from the television set to watch Daniel, and couldn't help but smile. He was still working on the riddle and at the moment, had a pencil behind an ear, a pen in his mouth, was reading not one, but three books, and to top it off, he was writing on his legal pad with yet another pen.

Who wouldn't love a guy like that?

In spite of all the work Daniel was putting in to trying to figure out the riddle, his expression was almost sublime and a smile was never far from his face. His eyes were alive and when they looked at Jack, they glowed - a surreal blue as opposed to the dreaded gold. Daniel's glowing eyes were definitely keepers.

His Danny was almost all the way back - and so was Jack.

The ringing of his phone startled him out of his nifty 'Danielthoughts' and he quickly picked up.

"O'Neill."

Colonel, General Hammond has scheduled a meeting for SG-1 for tomorrow at ten. He wanted me to give you a call. He wants everything we've come up with on the drawing--

"Daniel and I will be there, Carter."

Yes, sir. Uhm, Colonel, has Daniel made any headway?

"Not yet. You?"

No, sir, nothing.

He could hear the worry in her voice and he hadn't failed to notice that Daniel had stopped writing and was listening. He smiled and said, "I'm not worried, Carter. See you tomorrow."

Yes, sir.

He hung up and watched as Daniel looked up and grinned.

"Very diplomatic, Colonel. You are a great leader of men, Jaffa, female geniuses, and stubborn but sexy archaeologists. I applaud you."

Jack buffed his nails against his sweat shirt and said, "I am good, aren't I?"

Daniel snorted.

[][][][]

By the time they left home for the mountain the next morning, Daniel had come no closer to breaking the code of the riddle and his body language screamed the fact to anyone who knew him. When they arrived at the SGC, Daniel immediately went to his office to work as long as possible before the briefing while Jack went down to the commisary to grab breakfast for both of them. Suddenly being a twosome was kind of cool, in a weird, Air Force 'don't' ask, don't tell' kind of way. He'd always felt responsible for Daniel, in a weird, 'he's a grown man, but I can't help it' kind of way, but now, now he *was* responsible, and Daniel for him. In a 'we're men, macho men, but why the hell not' kind of way.

Jack grabbed a tray, two plates and the necessary cutlery, then got into line. He heaped both plates high with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes and fried potatoes. He plucked up several packaged syrups and headed to the cashier determined that Daniel would eat every bite on his plate - and some of Jack's too.

[][][][]

Damn. Maybe this was a fucking mathematical equation after all. Daniel closed his eyes, tore off his glasses and muttered a "fuck" before sitting back in his chair and staring at his computer screen. This was hopeless.

For the umpteenth time, his eyes were drawn to the grey circle, the only grey circle. And for the umpteenth time, he was certain that it was the clue. He gave a cursory glance to the many red and blue circles and discarded the idea that they represented male/females. If this were, say, a family tree, then what were the two yellow circles that, combined with the two red circles, seemed to create a lineage?

Wait. Wait.

He leaned forward and put his glasses back on.

Red equals women. Blue, men. So. the yellow? Not humans? Red equals female humans, red, the men. Yellow..

Gods?

His eyes went to the grey circle again. The answer played hide and seek with his brain-
Part 11 - the conclusion

"Heads up, Danny boy. Breakfast is served."

"Good God," Daniel said, eyes wide as he took in the plates heaped with food. "You planning on feeding the entire mountain?"

Jack set the tray down and started to unload it. "No, just one picky archaeologist."

"That is a rumor *you* started. I am not picky. I eat, I sleep, I do all the things normal people do."

"You also give great head, but as with everything else, you don't do it normally."

A plate of food was set down in front of him, and as he marveled at everything Jack had managed to get on one little plate, he said, "I give head perfectly normal, Jack."

"Daniel," Jack said as he sat down, "it's 'I give perfectly normal head', which you do not. You hum."

"And that bothers you?" Daniel said as he picked up a fork and dug into the pancakes.

"Don't you want syrup on those? And I love the humming. In case you missed that fact last night, and this morning, and every day for the last three days. But it's not normal."

"Of course it is, and yeah, hand me some syrup. Haven't you ever read the Gay Karma Sutra?"

Jack was just handing off the syrup at that point, but Daniel's question froze him in mid hand-off. "Gay Karma Sutra? You read that? Ever?"

"Of course. And making music while you-"

"Daniel, I don't want to hear about it. And do you have a copy at home?"

Smiling, Daniel poured the syrup and nodded. "Of course. I could let you borrow it. if you want."

Jack looked up at the video camera, just to double check that it was off, per his order of many moons ago, like after Daniel's little foray into schizophrenia thanks to Machello's little buggers, and sighed in relief. Who knew that making Daniel feel more comfortable and less insane would pay off all this time later?

"I want it. Although. just how much of it have we already. practised?"

"Only a couple of chapters. There are a few things I'll have to think about - your knees and all. But if I can find a way to make them work-"

Jack looked thoughtfully at his . lover, and said, "You know, if anyone can, it's you, Danny. A fact I'm counting on."

Syrup dribbling down his chin, Daniel grinned. Jack licked up the syrup.

[][][][]

Jack fiddled with his coffee mug. Across from him, Sam sat, a closed folder on the table in front of her. Teal'c sat next to Sam, his expression as implacable as always. At the head of the table, Hammond was giving off waves of impatience, his eyes telling Jack that somehow it was his fault that Daniel was late. He was just about to suggest to the general that he go to Daniel's office and drag the man to the meeting, but the door opened and the missing man, out of breath, hair mussed, and arms full of books and papers, ran in.

Jack looked at Sam, who looked at Teal'c, who looked at the general, who said with a smile, "Welcome back, Doctor Jackson."

[][][][]

"So it's not a mathematical equation?" Sam asked twenty minutes after Daniel's entrance.

Daniel shook his head, then. nodded. "'Well, in a way, it is, and it isn't, Sam. This is more of the.mathematical telling of a story rooted in Greek mythology."

She sighed in relief. "Well, thank God. I thought I was losing it for awhile."

"I'm still losing it, Carter. Daniel, care to explain? " Jack asked, knowing full well that Daniel was about to do just that.

"Oh, um, right. Well, I have good news, and bad news." Before anyone could say anything, he hurried on. "This doesn't give us the next destination, but it does provide the way to get to what we need once we find the Lost City. This is, in essence, the key to the Lost City."

"As in opening it when we find it?" Jack asked, only mildly disappointed.

"That, and recognizing it when we find it."

Everyone in the room stared up at the image on the screen, an image of circles, lines, x's, and dotted lines.

"O-kay, I'll bite, Daniel, how does that," Sam pointed to the screen, "translate into the key?"

"If I say. family tree, what would you see?"

Eyes fixed on the drawing, Sam said slowly, "Okay, yellow dot mates with red dot and both have a lot of blue and red dots, but-"

"But, if the red represents females, and the blue, males, what might the gold be?" Daniel asked, clearly happy that at least one of his students was doing so well.

"Goa'uld," Teal'c intoned.

"But that would mean all the other dots are. would be. Harcisis," Sam said, her eyes wide with the shock of that possibility.

Daniel said, "Not Goa'uld, Teal'c, but you're close. The yellow dots do represent gods. As in. Greek gods. This drawing represents the Labryinth. And when we find it, we'll have found the Lost City of the Ancients. And knowing that it's the Labryinth, I'll be able to find the key, because it's a maze, and I have a map."

"You have a map?"

At Jack's question, Daniel held up two books. "We're talking about an ancient Greek myth about the Minotaur and the maze that held him. The Minotaur, a creature that was male but with the head of a bull, was born of Pasiphae, Minos' queen, and the white bull given to Minos by Poseidon. When Minos learned of the Minotaur, he went to the Oracle at Delphi to ask how best to hide the shame of his family and was told to build a maze and place the Minotaur in the center of it."

Jack held up one hand. "Wait, I know this one. Nine years, seven male and seven female virgins sacrificed to the Minotaur, right?"

"Why am I not surprised that anything featuring virgins, you'd remember, Jack?" Daniel said with a wicked gleam in his eye.

"What can I say? I'm a gem," Jack said.

"Gentlemen," Hammond interrupted, "the books?"

Daniel's cheeks took on a sudden red hue, but he gamely moved on. "This one was written by Robert Graves and is an encyclopaedic recounting of Greek mythology. It includes his own drawing of the labyrinth, as does this," he held up the other book, "one by Joseph Alsop, which recounts the discovery of the Minoan and Mycenean civilizations. It too includes a recreation of what anthropologists believe *was* the labyrinth. We have the map through the maze, and thus, the key. All we have to do now, is find-"

"The Lost City," Teal'c finished for him.

"Which means," Jack added, "finding more scarabaeus'."

"Which means," Daniel said to General Hammond, "we travel only to the planets downloaded by Jack when he had the knowledge of the Ancients. And that includes going *back* to previously visited planets, since we weren't looking for it then and could easily have missed a scarabaeus on a wall, a rock, or anywhere."

Hammond looked at the four people at the table. After a few silent moments, he said, "SG-1, I do believe you have your new mission."

[][][][]

"So we leave tomorrow? For P-"

"We leave tomorrow, Daniel." Jack was standing in front of Daniel, hand over the younger man's heart. "But," he added as he listened to the beat of his life, "we have all the rest of today and tonight."

Daniel cocked his head. "Did you just leer at me? Is that," he wiggled his finger at Jack's face, "a leer?"

"Yeahsure, youbetcha."

"Sweet."

[][][][]

Sam sat at her lab table, Teal'c across from her. "They're. different, Teal'c."

"I have noticed. DanielJackson seems. happier, as does O'Neill."

"Yes, they're both happier. Daniel was just like the old Daniel today. It was wonderful to see and watch."

"I agree."

She fiddled with a mechanical pencil and said, "I've given a great deal of thought to the when the colonel was a prisoner of Baal."

Teal'c canted his head. "As have I. I believe that thinking of Yu was not my own thought. I believe - it was DanielJackson."

"Great minds, Teal'c. Great minds."

"Indeed."

"I think a great deal of good things in the last year were - Daniel."

"Again, I agree. I do not believe that I nor Master Bra'tac would have survived our ordeal without DanielJackson."

"Indeed," Sam said with a mischievous grin. Then the smile faded as she added, "I don't think the battle between Anubis and Daniel is over, even though he's descended."

"No. And I suspect there is more to DanielJackson than we know, but in either case, this time, he will not be alone when they meet again."

"No he won't."

A few moments passed, then Sam said, "I think they're doing it, Teal'c."

"I believe they are."

The End - Fall to Heaven
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