Early Days by sami_j
[Reviews - 4] Printer
Category: General
Genres: Angst, Drama
Rated: Teen
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: In the early days of Stargate Command, Colonel Jack O'Neill discovers that getting the SGC up and running is a piece of cake compared to dealing with one brilliant, and very stubborn, archeologist.

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Damn it to hell!

Colonel Jack O'Neill slumped against the wall of the empty briefing room as he wearily rubbed his face. He should have known something would go wrong. Everything had been going too smoothly.

Since their return from Chulak two days ago, events had been moving forward with breathtaking speed. The President's mandate for the new Stargate Command had begun a full-speed-ahead build-up of personnel along with all the accompanying accouterments for both personnel and the base itself-everything from clothing and weapons to several tons of equipment, general military as well as more technological, all geared toward assisting in this one-of-a-kind endeavor. Last, but certainly not least, was the rapid creation of a full-scale commissary with all of its necessary equipment, supplies, etc., etc.

Although the new 2IC of Stargate Command, O'Neill had been able to avoid a good deal of the run-of-the-mill paperwork involved in setting up the base, for which he was extremely grateful. Thanks to General Hammond's sharp read of his 2IC, Jack was permitted to focus on personnel, with special emphasis on his own new team as well as the development of Kawalsky's SG-2 and the still tentative SG's-3 and -4. This was going more slowly than Jack wanted due to his need to keep a close eye on what was happening with Teal'c. That close eye included being a buffer between the Jaffa and certain elements of the military and government who had plans for Teal'c that conflicted with O'Neill's. At the moment, thanks to the President's (via General Hammond's) intervention, those other plans for Teal'c were still on hold. Both Colonel and General recognized that the sooner the powers that be discovered what a great asset the Jaffa could be to Earth, the sooner the threat to remove the alien warrior from the SGC would disappear.

Teal'c's debriefing had been proceeding smoothly, thanks to Daniel Jackson's involvement. O'Neill had been secretly impressed at how swiftly the archeologist/anthropologist/linguist was picking up the nuances of Gou'ald-ese. It wasn't that Teal'c was unwilling to provide them with all that he knew, but simply that he didn't understand the subtleties of the English language, not to mention the always-a-little-skewed mentality of the American military. Without Daniel's gentle probing and clarifications, it would have taken twice as long to extract pertinent information.

Oh, yeah, it had all been going well, O'Neill thought sourly. Right up until the moment when Teal'c had dropped the little bombshell- make that two bombshells-that not only had he been involved in the original kidnapping of Sha're and Ska'ara but he had also been the one who had chosen Sha're for Apophis to turn into a host for his queen.

O'Neill closed his eyes and scrubbed his face harder but it did not erase the memory of Daniel's expression when he heard Teal'c's matter-of-fact admission. As long as he lived, Jack didn't think he would ever forget how . . . how destroyed the younger man looked when he realized the truth behind the loss of his family.

Before anyone could move, hell, before anyone had time to blink, Daniel had stumbled to his feet and staggered from the room. O'Neill had exchanged a stunned look with General Hammond before returning his attention to Teal'c-whose raised eyebrow did not disappear until after the Colonel's muttered admission that the woman chosen by the Jaffa was Daniel Jackson's wife. Teal'c's emotionless mask had remained firmly in place but, for the briefest of seconds, Jack thought he saw a flicker of regret in the dark eyes.

The briefing had ended abruptly at that point and after a quick minute of reassurance to Teal'c, Jack went in search of the archeologist, a search that proved futile until an SF advised him that Daniel had gone topside. He debated between following the man or leaving him alone but as he considered what he would be wanting in Daniel's place, O'Neill decided to give him some time to himself. He retreated to his new office, a bare cell containing a battered, military-issue desk and chair, two empty file cabinets, and several boxes filled with file folders and miscellaneous papers that he hadn't yet had the nerve to explore.

Leaning back in his chair, O'Neill shook his head. What a mess. Especially considering his own aspirations for the newly-formed SG-1.

Teal'c's background and experience-invaluable.

Carter's background and brains-equally invaluable, despite her lack of field experience.

Daniel Jackson-aye, there was the rub.

"Damn," he muttered aloud.

Jack O'Neill had come a long way from the emotionally shattered and suicidal military robot who first appeared before Catherine Langford and her team-the newest member of which just happened to be a down- on-his-luck, pariah of the archeological community, and multiple Ph.D., Daniel Jackson. At that time, O'Neill had still been overwhelmed by grief and guilt at the loss of his son. A suicide mission was exactly what he wanted. But in spite of all the dark emotions driving him, O'Neill had eventually chosen life over death, a choice due in large part to Jackson.

The archeologist's inherent gifts, training and experience on Abydos were all key ingredients in why Jack wanted him on SG-1, along with Carter and Teal'c. Together, he had no doubt they would eventually compose a team second to none in the new Stargate Command.

And now O'Neill's dream lay in shambles at his feet.

Jack slammed his fist on the desk and winced. "Shit," he snarled, both in reaction to his stupidity and the situation in general.

Forget giving the archeologist time to himself. He had to talk to Daniel.

Nearly three hundred feet above the frustrated officer, Daniel Jackson leaned against a towering spruce while he struggled to gain control over his emotions. But all his efforts could not turn off the memory of Sha're, standing beside Apophis in that huge prison chamber, her beautiful face cold and uncaring as the Gou'ald ordered the deaths of all of the prisoners.

Nerveless legs dropped him to the ground and he groaned, burying his face in his hands. No! That had not been his Sha're. His Sha're was a warm and loving and caring person who had-who did-love him despite all his failings. She was also the strongest person Daniel had ever known. The creature that now . . . possessed her would not, could not, ultimately win. Daniel knew with every atom of his being that Sha're was still there, inside. If he could only find her, then figure out how to remove that-that parasite from her, he would have his wife back.

And Ska'ara. Daniel's gut twisted at the thought of his brother-in- law. No, brother, for they had grown as close as any brothers could be in the past year. He thought of the vivid, eager spirit of the young man, the great zest for life, and the bright mind that was like a sponge in absorbing all that Daniel taught him. To think of all that gone- destroyed-


Daniel started, then realized that he had spoken aloud.

There had to be a way to save his wife and brother. He knew there was. But first he had to find them. Which meant going through the Stargate-

Fury surged through him, momentarily overwhelming his grief. How could Jack expect him to work beside the man-the alien-who had stolen his family away! Teal'c had admitted it. And he had chosen Shar're to present to Apophis . . . to be-

"No," he said again, this time in a whisper that barely made it past his tight throat.

Daniel had never hated anyone in his life. Nor had he ever held a weapon. But for a moment he could visualize himself holding Jack's rifle-or whatever it was called-and facing Teal'c. He imagined himself standing before the Jaffa, pointing the weapon as he slowly squeezed the trigger-


He twisted around to find Jack O'Neill standing a few yards behind him and immediately turned back, closing his eyes.

"Go away, Jack."


Although he was now aware of the other man's presence, Daniel couldn't hear any footsteps or other sounds that indicated Jack was coming closer. Perhaps, he had gone away after all? After another moment of silence he had to open his eyes, only to lean back in surprise at the sight of Jack sitting cross-legged a few feet away. He'd had no idea the man could move so quietly.

"I'm sorry, Daniel."

That got the archeologist's attention. Daniel could see the sadness in those dark eyes and his throat tightened again for he knew the sadness was for him. But now that the first shock of Teal'c's confession was beginning to subside there was a question he had to ask.

"Did you know?"

O'Neill's eyes widened, then narrowed. "Shit, Daniel, no, of course not! Do you actually think I would've let you get hit broadside like that, if I'd known?"

Did Daniel think that? As soon as he asked himself the question he knew the answer. "No," he admitted, almost inaudibly.

He saw the Colonel's shoulders drop as he relaxed. Lucky Jack. Daniel doubted if he would ever be able to relax again, not so long as Sha're and Ska'ara were out there, lost to him. He dropped his head into his hands, filled with a impossible yearning to go back one week, just one week. Just enough time to bury the Stargate so none of this would have happened. But there was no going back. No changing what had happened.

Lost in despair, he didn't look up until O'Neill tapped his knee.

"I know this must be really hard for you, Daniel. But you've got to talk to me. And about Teal'c-"

"I can't work with him," Daniel cut in, his words muffled but understandable.

"Yeah, well, we need to find a way so you can."

Daniel stiffened. "I won't do it, Jack. I won't!"

During their short but tumultuous time together during that first Abydos mission and then again during the past few days, Jack had seen Daniel Jackson excited, curious, shy, frightened, happy, desperate, but he had never seen him angry. Until now. Damn. Well, he'd known it wasn't going to be an easy sell. He needed to figure out some way-

And fast, since Daniel was climbing to his feet.

O'Neill jumped up and caught his arm. "Daniel-" The archeologist tried to pull away but Jack hung on.

"Daniel, SG-1 needs Teal'c. If you refuse to work with him then you can't be part of the team." No reaction. Damn, there just went his best shot. O'Neill tried again. "Look Daniel, Teal'c had no choice. He was just following orders-"

Daniel lifted his head and Jack winced inwardly at the bleakness of his expression.

"Wasn't that the popular Nazi defense at the Nuremberg trials, Jack? That they were just following orders? The Allies rejected that argument, if you remember."

Jack stared at him, momentarily speechless. Damn, he'd forgotten how smart this kid was. He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times before finding his voice.

"Look, Daniel, this isn't-"

With a sudden jerk that caught O'Neill by surprise, Daniel yanked free and stepped back. He threw the officer a long, hard look with blue eyes blazing in anger.

"Tell me something, Jack. If Teal'c had chosen your-someone you loved to be turned into a host, how anxious would you be to work with him?"

He didn't wait for an answer, instead turning on his heel and storming away. O'Neill stared after him until he was out of sight.

He tried to swallow but couldn't get past the lump in his throat. He knew what Daniel had almost said-if Teal'c had chosen your son . . . but the archeologist had bit back the word. In spite of his own pain and anger with O'Neill, he had avoided using his best weapon to hurt Jack.

O'Neill took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Adding together all the time he'd spent with Daniel so far totaled less than a week, but it was enough time to recognize that, besides being a genius, the archeologist was also both stubborn and caring. But Jack had never imagined this level of compassion. This-it was something he had never before encountered. Something that gave him fresh insight into the archeologist.

But new insight notwithstanding, Daniel's question still lingered in the air. And it was a legitimate question. If Teal'c had kidnapped Charlie-if he had chosen Charlie for Apophis to turn into a host-

O'Neill shook his head hard but the thought would not let him go. Probably because he didn't want to acknowledge his gut response. If Teal'c had taken Charlie, Jack would have blown the Jaffa's head off with his own staff weapon. Period. End of story. The thought of working side by side with the alien would never have entered into the equation.

But that was exactly what he was demanding of Daniel.

Damn. He was so screwed.

Charlie Kawalsky sauntered down the corridor, not bothering to hide his smirk. He had just spent the last two hours with his new team- minus Casey who was still recovering in the infirmary-running them through a vigorous work-out. Though pleased at how well everyone did, he was particularly pleased by the fact that he had come out on top.

Oh, yeah. The big dog still ruled, by example as well as by rank. The thought widened his grin as he gave a quick glance at his watch. He had just enough time to swing by the infirmary to deliver the new Sports Illustrated to the still-convalescing Ferretti and check on Casey before he had to report to the General.

As he turned the corner he was nearly knocked off his feet by a fast- moving figure who ricocheted off him, bounced against the wall, and, by the time Kawalsky had regained his balance, was lying in a heap at the Major's feet.

"Dr. J?" Kawalsky said, recognizing the shaggy head.

Daniel looked up and Charlie's surprise morphed quickly into concern at the bleak expression marring that absurdly young face. He reached down. "Here, let me give you a hand."

He yanked the man to his feet and Daniel nodded, his head down again. "Thanks, Kawalsky."

He started to pull away put Charlie did not release his grip. "You okay, Doc?" It was a stupid question, considering the man's pallor, but he didn't know what else to say.

His question earned him a quick little smile that disappeared almost before it formed. "Um, yes, I'm fine. Excuse me-"

"Whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. Mind if I come along with you?"

Daniel's head jerked up and this time he met the concerned gaze of the older man. "No, of course not. But-" he looked around-"weren't you going in the other direction?"

"Yeah, but I remembered something," Kawalsky lied. He mentally re- scheduled his visit to the infirmary until after he saw the General. That would give him a few minutes to spend with Jackson. Something was wrong with the kid, and, apart from Jack O'Neill, Charlie was the only one on the base who knew him at all. He just couldn't walk away from the obviously troubled youngster.

"How're things going?" he asked.

It seemed an innocuous question but the sudden surge of color in the archeologist's face said otherwise.

"It's . . . um . . ." He threw Charlie a quick sideways look and Kawalsky took his arm again, pulling him to a halt.

"Look, Daniel, I know we don't know each other that well but something's obviously going on. I'd like to help. If I can. Or else the Colonel-"


Charlie had spent his entire adult life in the military and he was used to working with, training, and ordering around his fellow soldiers. But it didn't take nearly twenty years in the military to figure this out. As clearly as if Daniel had spelled it out, he knew something had happened between O'Neill and the archeologist. That, plus the scuttlebutt that was all over the base, pointed Kawalsky toward the problem.

He threw another look around but saw no one. Nonetheless, he kept his voice down. "I've heard Colonel O'Neill wants that Jaffa on SG- 1."

Ah-ha. The sudden look of anger and betrayal that filled the brilliant blue eyes was all the confirmation Charlie needed.

"I won't do it. I won't be on the same team with him." Though he spoke quietly, there was no missing the anger, not to mention the resolve, in the younger man's voice.

Damn. Kawalsky wanted to shake his head. He had seen O'Neill pull off some wild missions in the early '80's, when they had worked together in Special Ops. But he knew he was far from being the only one on this base who thought that, this time, the Colonel had bitten off more than he could chew.

The thought of working with the Jaffa filled Charlie with unease. And he had none of the history with the alien that Jackson did. He couldn't believe O'Neill actually thought the archeologist would be able to work with the Jaffa. Kawalsky knew if he'd been in Daniel's shoes, he'd just be hoping for a little private time, him and his trusty MP-5, with the Jaffa.

As much as he wanted to support the Colonel, Charlie's sympathies were entirely with the archeologist on this one. He gave the younger man a pat on the back.

"I'm sure the Colonel will understand. And from what I've heard, there'll be plenty of work for you on the base."

"No," Daniel shook his head. "I can't stay on the base. I have to be out there. I have to find-" he stopped abruptly, the jagged ends of the sentence hanging between them.

But he didn't need to finish. Charlie recognized what Jackson left unsaid, and, along with the sudden surge of sympathy he felt for the young man, he had an idea.

"Maybe you could be part of SG-2."

"Really?" Daniel straightened, hope suddenly replacing despair in those intense blue eyes. "You'd want me to be part of your team?"

Kawalsky grinned. "Hell, Daniel, in case you've forgotten, I've seen you in action. You'd be great on SG-2."

Daniel's smile widened, almost blinding. There was no doubting how the archeologist felt about the idea. His sudden enthusiasm was infectious but a lifetime in the military kept Charlie's feet on the ground. "We gotta get the General's okay, you know. I'm going to see him right now and I can run it by him, if you're sure you want-"

"I'm sure, Kawalsky, absolutely sure. You won't regret having me on your team. I promise."

"Of course, we gotta get you some training and-"

"I know," Daniel said quickly, eyes bright again. "I'll jump through whatever hoops I have to so I can be part of your team."

Uh-oh. Almost carried away by the young man's excitement, Kawalsky realized, belatedly, that he had forgotten to ask a very important question.

"Uh, Daniel, you and the Colonel have talked about this, right? You've both agreed that you're not gonna be part of SG-1?"

Daniel nodded, his emotion abruptly dampened. "We've talked, yes."

Kawalsky opened his mouth to ask a follow-up question but a glance at his watch immediately snapped it shut.

"Shit! I'm gonna be late. Catch you later, Daniel."

As he hurried off, he rubbed the back of his neck irritably. He could feel another one of those damn headaches coming on. Maybe he'd check with the physician on duty when he visited Ferretti, get some pain pills or something. Aspirin was sure as hell worthless.

As he rummaged dispiritedly through the personnel files spread out on the table before him, O'Neill was aware of one bright spot in his immediate future. The commissary had gotten lucky in its cooks. This was the best meatloaf he'd had in he didn't know how long.

Of course, this was the only bright spot he could see in his immediate future. He had gone around and around in his head, trying to think of a persuasive argument to change Daniel's mind. Half- heartedly, Jack had considered the idea of threatening to kick the archeologist out of the SGC altogether if he didn't agree to work with Teal'c. But that would never work. Even if O'Neill had really wanted to get rid of the kid, General Hammond had made it clear that he wanted Daniel Jackson to be part of the SGC and he would probably be delighted if Daniel decided not to join SG-1.

Jack understood the General's thinking. Daniel was a civilian, not military. He didn't belong on a front-line unit. Not only would he be safer staying on base, but he would have more time to accomplish his work since he wouldn't always be going off-world.

Yes, Jack understood that line of thinking. He just didn't agree with it this time.

On so many levels, Daniel would be immensely valuable on SG-1. Not to mention the fact that, up until Teal'c's little bombshell, the archeologist had been hell-bent on being part of SG-1. The possibility of exploring other planets, of visiting countless alien cultures, would be an irresistible lure to any self-respecting archeologist/anthropologist.

But Daniel's greatest reason for being on SG-1 had nothing to do with his archeological or anthropological desire, and Jack knew it.

Daniel's greatest reason for being on SG-1 was to search for his lost wife and brother.

But now his desire to go through the Stargate was at war with his all-to-understandable feelings for Teal'c.

Jack didn't want to threaten Daniel to get him on SG-1, even if he thought his threat would work. That would be a disaster waiting to happen. O'Neill needed the archeologist to want to be on the team, to be willing to listen to Jack and to follow his orders, to learn the military skills he would need for his own sake as well as his team's.

If push came to shove . . . hell, Jack wasn't sure what he was going to do. Since Daniel's little eye-opener that forced O'Neill to walk a mile in the archeologist's shoes, Jack knew he wouldn't, couldn't, threaten Daniel with anything.

But at least the meatloaf was good.

He took another bite and glared at the file currently open before him. Makepeace-that was a hell of a name for a Marine. But he certainly had all of the qualifications, especially the experience. Except for going through the Stargate, of course. But considering the tiny group of individuals who had any experience going through the Stargate, he certainly couldn't hold Makepeace's lack of experience in that regard against him.

Maybe Jack had found the new C.O. for the not yet created SG-3.

"Excuse me, sir?"

O'Neill started and looked up to see his own 2IC standing over him. Damn, he hated being surprised. "What's up, Carter?"

"Well, actually sir-" She looked around as if she was afraid of being overhead and Jack stifled a sigh.

"Take a load off, Captain."

"Yes, sir." She obeyed, her eyes dropping to the files in front of O'Neill before quickly looking up again. "Sir, I don't mean to be telling tales but . . . I'm concerned about Dr. Jackson."

Join the party, O'Neill thought. "Spill it, Captain."

"It's just . . ." she squirmed under his gaze, "he missed a presentation he was supposed to help me with this morning and . . . um, I just came from the firing range and Sergeant Mikelis asked about him. Apparently, Dr. Jackson didn't show up for his scheduled practice with the Sergeant. I . . . as I said, I'm concerned about him, especially-" Carter stopped abruptly and gave him an apologetic look.

O'Neill barely suppressed a groan. He had no doubt about where she had been going before discretion shut her up. Military bases were the same around the world, regardless of how secret they might be. Nothing traveled so fast as gossip. Teal'c's involvement in the original kidnapping of Daniel Jackson's family, his sudden turnaround to help SG-1 escape from Apophis, O'Neill's own stupid public announcement of his desire to have the Jaffa on his team, a team that included Daniel Jackson-the whole damn mess was ndoubtedly all over the mountain by now. Jack could only be grateful for small mercies-to the best of his knowledge, only he and Daniel knew of the latter's adamant refusal to work with Teal'c. So far, anyway.

He kept his head down, not wanting to see Carter's worried gaze. Damn it, he was concerned, too. Hell, he was so far beyond concerned he didn't know what to call it. There had to be some way to reach Daniel-

O'Neill straightened as a new idea nibbled at the edge of his thoughts. As he considered it, he wondered why he hadn't thought about it before. But immediately he knew. For this idea to work, it would require Daniel's active cooperation, something unlikely at this point.

But . . . still . . . Jack hadn't been able to get through to Daniel but maybe, just maybe, Teal'c could. Daniel was the original compassionate, bleeding-heart, do-gooder. If he could get to know the Jaffa as one man to another-er, one man to an alien-okay, that didn't sound quite right. But a stir of excitement in his gut told Jack he might be on the right track.

All he had to do was figure out how to move one immovable archeologist.

He stood so abruptly that his 2IC jerked back in her chair. "Thanks for the info, Captain," he said briskly. "See you later."

"Yes, sir," Jack heard behind him.

He reached the door way only to stop short to avoid running into a young airman. As he started to swerve around him, the airman said, "Sir! I've been looking for you, sir."

O'Neill turned an impatient look on him. "Well, you've found me. What is it?"

The airman flinched visibly and Jack shook his head. God, these kids got younger every day. "Relax, Airman. What's up?"

"Uh, General Hammond, sir. He's, uh, he needs to see you, right away."


When he reached the General's office Jack was mildly surprised to see the door open but then he didn't know SGC's C.O. very well yet. Every C.O. was different. When he appeared in the door way, Hammond waved him in.

"Close the door behind you, Colonel."

"Yes, sir."

Once he was seated in front of the General's desk, Hammond handed him a file, saying, "This is the updated roster of new personnel, as of this morning. The highlighted names are those whose files you'll want to review for possible inclusion in the new SG units."

More paperwork. Wonderful. Jack was careful to keep his expression neutral as he accepted the file. "Thank you, sir. I'll go over this as soon as I've finished with the current batch."

Hammond gave him a long look, his pale blue eyes suspiciously bland. "You do that." He glanced at another piece of paper under his hand, "I know that you're not a fan of paperwork, Colonel, but it serves a necessary function. However, I have decided to approve Dr. Jackson's transfer to SG-2, pending his satisfactory completion of weapons training. But next time, I expect normal channels to be followed concerning any reassignment of personnel. Am I making myself clear, Colonel?"

O'Neill stared at him as he re-ran the General's words through his mind. SG-2? Transfer? Daniel? What? He couldn't help it, he had to shake his head in confusion.

"Sir, with all due respect, I don't know what you're talking about."

Hammond lifted the sheet of paper he had been looking at. "Major Kawalsky was just in here. He stated that Dr. Jackson had requested to be transferred to SG-2 and that you had approved-" he stopped, his eyes narrowing.

"Colonel O'Neill, do you mean to tell me that you have not approved this transfer?"

"General, I haven't talked about any transfer, not with Daniel and not with Kawalsky. This is the first I've heard of it." Jack fought to keep his voice calm, fought to keep his surging anger under control. So Daniel thought he could go around his back, did he? That archeologist was in for one painful awakening. And as for Kawalsky-


Hammond's voice jerked O'Neill back to the present. The General was looking at him with something less than affection.

"I don't know what's going on here, Colonel, but I expect you to take care of it. Is that clear?"

O'Neill rose. "Yes, sir."

He had reached the door when Hammond said, "Colonel?"

Jack turned around to see the General looking down at his desk. "Sir?"

Hammond looked up then and the officer was startled to see . . . sadness in those pale blue eyes. "I am aware that I was less than welcoming to Dr. Jackson when he first came back through the Stargate. But since then I have come to feel great sympathy for what he's been through. I want what's best for that young man, Colonel. Do you understand?"

O'Neill swallowed, his anger blunted by this fresh reminder of what Daniel had endured, of what he was still enduring. And he had no trouble picking up Hammond's less than subtle message. Clearly, the General intended to support the archeologist in whatever capacity the young man needed. Even, probably, a transfer to SG-2 if Daniel could persuade the General that's what he really wanted.

Which made Jack's job of convincing Daniel to stay with SG-1 that much harder.

"Yes, sir."

As he made his way down the hall, O'Neill recalled a mission many years ago that had gone terribly wrong, a mission during which his actions saved the life of one of his team-one Charlie Kawalsky.

At this particular moment, with anger still burning a hole in his gut, he would have liked a do-over. The sonofabitch thought he could steal one of O'Neill's team? When he got his hands on that sorry bastard-

Speak of the devil.

Just rounding the far end of the corridor, Charlie Kawalsky was walking toward him, a frown on his face as he rubbed the back of his neck. He spotted Jack and his hand dropped to his side, then the blossoming grin disappeared with ludicrous speed. O'Neill had no idea what his own face looked like but clearly Kawalsky saw something to concern him.

He continued his rapid pace, not stopping until he was directly in front of the man, noting that Kawalsky had automatically come to attention


"What in the hell do you think you are doing, Major!"

Kawalsky's eyes stretched wide and he gulped. "Sir?"

"Don't 'sir' me! You think you can just get Daniel transferred to your team and I won't notice? And let's not even think about chain of command!"

"Sir, Colonel, I thought-" he hesitated and O'Neill took a step forward until they were almost nose to nose.

"Yes, Major, tell me what you thought."

Kawalsky's eyes darted away from Jack momentarily before returning. "I apologize, sir. I didn't intend to ignore the chain of command. I-I misunderstood the situation."

"Misunderstood-" It was O'Neill's turn to pause, his mind moving with lightning speed as he tried to comprehend a twist he hadn't expected. And as he considered the Major's careful words, he recognized what was happening. Kawalsky was trying to cover up for someone. And Jack had no trouble figuring out the name of that someone.

"For future reference, Major, if you have any questions, problems, whatever, you bring them to me. You do not try to go around me or over my head. Is that clear?"

Kawalsky's rigid stance stiffened even further. "Yes, sir."

"As far as Dr. Jackson is concerned, he is not transferring to SG-2, he is remaining where he is. And I don't want to hear any rumors indicating otherwise. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

O'Neill took a deliberate step around the man and continued on his way. One down, one to go. And, despite his continuing anger, he wasn't looking forward to this second confrontation. Daniel wasn't military. He didn't know about, and, doubtless, couldn't care less about chain of command. When he learned that O'Neill had squelched his effort to transfer to SG-2, he might very well go directly to Hammond who had already indicated his support for the civilian. The General might be persuaded-and Jack knew better than anyone how persuasive Daniel Jackson could be-to let the transfer go through, despite the irregularities. Regardless of his 2IC's wishes.

O'Neill shook his head in frustration. Once again, he considered that snippet of an idea that had occurred to him earlier. Getting Daniel together with Teal'c could prove to be a disaster. But maybe not. Anyway, it was the only plan he had left.

Forget subtlety. It was time to blow the kid out of the water. Don't give him a chance to think about anything.

With renewed purpose, the 2IC of the SGC prepared himself for imminent battle.

For the first time since they had returned from Chulak, Daniel sat in his lab/office feeling a sense of hope. As much as he had rebelled from even thinking about working beside Teal'c, staying on base while Sha're and Ska'ara were somewhere "out there" would be unbearable.

Being part of SG-2 had never occurred to Daniel although he would be forever grateful that it had occurred to Charlie Kawalsky. Demanding to be on SG-1 was different. He and Jack O'Neill had been through an intense experience that-as much as the older man might scoff-had created a bond between them on some unnameable level. Jack understood where he was coming from (even if he didn't understand him at all). Most importantly, Jack understood loss.

As he thought about it, Daniel recognized what he hadn't considered before. His demand to be on SG-1 had been instinctive, knowing without realizing he knew that Jack would not refuse him.

Recalling his last angry words with the Colonel, Daniel dropped his head in his hands. How could he have been so cruel as to remind Jack of his dead son? He cringed at the thought of the pain he must have stirred up in the older man. Despite his feelings toward Teal'c and Jack's insistence on the Jaffa being part of SG-1, Daniel should have kept his head-and his words-to himself.

Intellectually, Daniel could understand why Jack would want Teal'c on his team. The Jaffa's knowledge would be invaluable. But how on earth could the alien be trusted? He had already betrayed the being he considered to be a god. Who was to say he wouldn't do the same to his new allies?

Not to mention what he had done to Sha're and Ska'ara and who knew how many others.

Daniel ran a hand through his hair, massaging his scalp, but it did nothing to ease his throbbing headache. He reached blindly behind him for the aspirin that he had been taking like candy for the last two days. At least something positive had happened today. He would still be able to look for his family after all-thanks to Kawalsky.

His door banged open and Daniel started so badly he slid half way out of his chair. Before he had time to regain his balance, Jack was standing in the door way. His gaze swept over the slumped figure and he frowned.

"You okay?"

"I'm fine. What do you want?" Daniel chastised himself for his tone but the sight of the officer immediately reminded him of Teal'c and he found himself bristling.

But O'Neill seemed unperturbed. "Come on."


"You'll see. Come on."

For a moment Daniel was tempted to refuse but a sideways glance at the older man was enough to make him realize that Jack wasn't going to take 'no' for an answer. With a sigh he stood up and O'Neill stepped back, gesturing him out of the room.

Their walk was a silent one. Despite his exhaustion and headache and unruly emotions, Daniel realized that sometime during their walk a small bit of curiosity began to stir. Where were they going? But he wouldn't give Jack the satisfaction of asking and O'Neill seemed perfectly content to remain quiet.

They walked down a number of corridors before reaching an elevator and going down a level. More corridors, twisting and turning until Daniel was confused. Finally they turned a corner to see another corridor, except this one wasn't empty. Two SG's stood on either side of a nondescript door. At the sight, Daniel's heart began to pound and he stopped short. He hadn't expected this.


Jack lifted a hand to him then spoke to the guards. "Take a ten- minute break."

The SG's exchanged looks and then the older one said, "Sir-"

"Now, Sergeant."

Daniel flinched and hoped no one had noticed. There was a bite to O'Neill's tone that brooked no argument and he really hoped Jack wouldn't turn it on him anytime soon. It certainly did the trick as far as the guards were concerned. They disappeared almost before the Colonel finished speaking.

When they were alone, O'Neill turned to meet the archeologist's wary and angry gaze. "Look, Daniel," he said quietly. "I heard what you were telling me before. But there's more to it than you realize. I want you to talk to Teal'c-"


"-so you can understand some things I don't think are very clear to you," O'Neill continued as if Daniel hadn't spoken.

"No," Daniel repeated, wrapping his arms around his chest and leaning back on his heels.

Jack's gaze did not falter. "Teal'c is from another planet, hell, from an alien culture. Who he is, why he did what he did-how can you really understand any of that apart from that culture? And how can you learn about that culture without talking to him?"

Daniel's eyes widened. He had never expected the Colonel to appropriate an argument from one of his own specialties.

"I'm not defending what he did, Daniel. And I know how hard it would be for me to do what I'm asking of you. But the fact is, Teal'c turned his back on his god, on everything he knew, to save our lives. If that counts for anything, then talk to him. Just this one time is all I ask. If you still feel the same afterwards, then I'll okay your transfer to SG-2."

Daniel could feel the heat of a blush warming his face. Jack had found out his plan so quickly-but at least he didn't seem upset. Which was both reassuring, and, Daniel was chagrined to realize, a bit disappointing.

He yanked back his wandering thoughts to consider Jack's words. The thought of facing the Jaffa, of being in the same room, made him break out in a cold sweat. But he also recognized what Jack was offering. One conversation with Teal'c and the archeologist would be free, free to travel through the galaxy with SG-2, able to continue his search for his wife and brother without having to deal with the Jaffa's constant presence.

When Daniel met Jack's gaze, he was startled by the intensity of those dark eyes. He found himself unable to look away, and, finally, he nodded. So did Jack, who then turned toward the door and inserted a key-where had that come from?-and pulled the door open, then stepped aside.

Swallowing hard, hoping his pounding heart was not audible, Daniel moved past Jack and stepped into the cell, freezing when he heard the door slam shut behind him. He swallowed again and allowed his gaze to move slowly around the small room. There was a sink, toilet, and narrow bunk, that was all-except for Teal'c kneeling on the floor and looking up at him.

Daniel stared back, hoping desperately the Jaffa wouldn't speak because he couldn't hear anything except the roaring in his ears.

As he stared at the alien, he could feel fresh anger and grief welling up and had to look away. But this time the strength of those emotions was diffused, muddied by something new-the words Jack had so recently spoken . . . "Teal'c is from another planet, from an alien culture. Who he is, why he did what he did-how can you really understand any of that apart from that culture?"

The anger and loss Daniel felt as a husband and brother warred with his training. The importance of understanding a culture in order to understand its inhabitants, and vice-versa, underlay so much of what he had always taken for granted.

"Have you come to tell me my fate, Daniel Jackson?"

The deep, quiet voice startled him and he turned his gaze back to the kneeling figure. "I, uh, what? What did you say?"

"I asked if you have come to tell me my fate."

Daniel shook his head in confusion. "I don't understand."

The Jaffa met his gaze with his own dark, unreadable one. "I took what was your's. You have the right to take what is mine. My life rests in your hands."

Daniel's eyes widened at the implication. Just hours ago he had imagined facing Teal'c with Jack's weapon and now his fantasy might be realized?

What? Where had that come from? How could he even think-

No! A surge of revulsion swept through him.

Suddenly face to face with a darkness in his soul beyond anything he had ever imagined, Daniel mentally reeled back in shock, appalled with what he saw.

What was wrong with him? How had he allowed himself to reach this point? This kind of thinking-dear God, it was foreign to everything he believed! Yet, how easily he had embraced it-

The shock was like a hard slap to his face and Daniel blinked rapidly as he tried to bring his breathing back to normal.

He took a deep breath. Then another. For the first time since he had lost Sha're, Daniel felt as if he was seeing clearly again. For a brief while his grief and anger had led him off down a foreign path, but as he looked at the man-the alien-who waited so matter-of- factly for the archeologist to declare his fate, he realized that he could not allow what had happened to his family turn him into someone his family would not recognize.

The thought darted through his mind, lightning-fast, but its effect lingered.

Deep within his heart, Daniel quietly, deliberately, released his anger with Teal'c. And as he did so, he suddenly realized that he had no other barriers to hide away the truth that had been haunting his nightmares. He blinked hard against the burning in his eyes as he finally allowed the deepest, darkest pain to surface. It was Daniel who had persuaded Kasuf to allow him to unbury the Stargate. It was Daniel, even more than Apophis, who had brought this destruction down on Abydos, and down on his own head. Because of his damnable curiosity, so many precious lives had been lost and Sha're and Ska'ara-

Daniel swallowed hard. He would not allow the tears-he did not deserve the relief they would bring. He had been blaming Teal'c and Apophis, but in truth the Gou'ald could have accomplished nothing if he, Daniel, had not unburied the Stargate. The true guilt lay at Daniel's feet.

And on the heels of that silent admission came another realization. Teal'c hadn't just been following the orders of a superior. He had been obeying the orders of a being who he had spent his life believing to be a god. But somehow he had seen beyond those beliefs. He had broken away from a lifetime of indoctrination and in that breaking away he had been instrumental in saving many lives.

He took another deep breath and let it out slowly, feeling himself standing straighter than he had in days. The Jaffa was still on his knees before Daniel and the archeologist flinched as their relative positions finally sank home.

"May I ask why you are kneeling?"

"I was engaged in kel-no-reem before you arrived." The answer was matter-of-fact, with no indication of surprise for the abrupt change in subject.

"Oh, um, well, you don't have to continue kneeling. I mean, I would prefer that you were standing while we talked."

Smoothly, without discernible effort, the Jaffa rose and stood perfectly still in front of the archeologist. Instinctively, Daniel started to take a step back but caught himself. He had forgotten how big Teal'c was. He was so perfectly proportioned that a person didn't realize how massive the alien was until close-up. Daniel was being reminded all over again and it stirred ancient memories of his days as a bullied nine-year orphan.

He shook his head to dispel the memories and studied the alien's features, not sure what he was hoping to see. Whatever it was, he was disappointed. Teal'c met his gaze, his own dark and without expression. Could the man, um, the Jaffa, be so utterly self- contained as he appeared?

For the first time since Teal'c's admission, Daniel found himself looking at the alien with some of the same awe he had first felt on Chulak. This was a being from another planet, truly alien. All of Daniel's training and experience in diverse cultures could not have prepared him for this. And, he realized, this was just the beginning. What an amazing, unbelievable adventure lay before him-

But first, his family.

The thought had leaped into his consciousness before Daniel recognized it. But as soon as he became aware of it, the question that had been haunting his nightmares forced its way out.

"Why did you take them?"

"Apophis came to the planet looking for hosts."

A shudder gripped Daniel at this matter-of-fact admission. They had all been so ignorant, despite what they had gone through with Ra. Heartbreakingly, criminally ignorant and naive. While they had laughed and enjoyed life, evil in the guise of an ancient Egyptian god had been planning to invade, to kidnap, and to destroy everything and everyone Daniel had held dear.

No, he couldn't think of that. Not now.

Daniel took a deep, shaky breath. When he had himself under control, he dared to meet that emotionless gaze. "Why did you choose my wife-"

"Apophis wished a new host for his mate," Teal'c said matter-of- factly.

"But why Sha're?" He barely managed to force the words out of a throat so tight he could hardly breath.

"Several women were chosen before her. All were rejected and disposed of. When your mate-your wife-was brought before Apophis, she was chosen by Amonet. If she had not been chosen, she, too, would have been disposed of and other women would have been brought before the Gou'ald until one was finally accepted."

"Wait, wait a minute-" Daniel shook his head, surprised to find himself still standing after this spate of information. The mind that normally worked faster than he could logically follow was now moving sluggishly, overwhelmed with new, unthinkable images.

Disposed of . . . dear God. Human beings, each one unique and essential in the universe, treated like, like-his mind balked at any comparisons. If Sha're had been rejected, she would have died. If Apophis had had his way, everyone in that prison chamber would have died, including Ska'ara, except that he, too, had been chosen. It was a bitter irony-being chosen as hosts had kept Sha're and Ska'ara alive, although prisoners in their own bodies.

Thanks to Jack and Captain-Doctor Carter, most of the people in that prison chamber had survived Apophis' plan for them.

Except that wasn't entirely true. Trained soldiers they might be, but without the intervention of one, very unexpected, individual, all of their efforts would have been fruitless.

Jack's words rang in his ears once more-"Teal'c turned his back on his god, on everything he knew, to save our lives."

And Jack had spoken the truth.

Daniel stared for a long time at the Jaffa, at the alien warrior who was unlike any being he had ever known. Only now could the archeologist admit to himself that he was in the presence of someone he wanted to know better, to understand both as a person and as part of his culture.

"I don't think I ever thanked you for saving my life," he said quietly. "All of our lives, actually."

The Jaffa's head tilted ever-so-slightly and Daniel sensed surprise in the still figure. "How can you thank me when I am responsible for the loss of your family?"

Daniel shook his head. "You're not, not really."

"I do not understand."

Daniel understood his confusion but it wasn't a subject he was prepared to pursue. But there was another issue he did want to resolve.

"You said earlier that your life is in my hands."

"That is correct."

Daniel swallowed. "Well, then, I give it back to you."

Teal'c's eyebrow rose and the archeologist swallowed a sudden, absurd desire to giggle. Although he knew his reaction was an indication of his exhaustion, Daniel had to give himself credit nonetheless. Finally, finally he had gotten a reaction from the alien.

"Why would you do such a thing, Daniel Jackson?"

"Because what you did was done under duress, against your will."

"How do you know this?" The Jaffa's voice had softened.

Daniel rubbed his forehead. He hadn't realized the depths of relief he would experience when he released his anger at Teal'c. His own culpability in the loss of his family was another, harder issue but one he wasn't ready to deal with at the moment. It was enough to feel as though he had been able to put down one burden. And with that action, he could finally allow himself to experience the bone- deep weariness that had been haunting him for days.

"You turned your back on your god to save all of us. That act took great courage and will. It spoke far more accurately about who you are than what you did when you were obeying the dictates of your god."

Was that his voice that had become so distant? Daniel yawned, a huge, jaw-cracking yawn, vaguely aware that he was swaying. He felt a huge hand engulf his arm and a deep, surprisingly gentle voice spoke above his head.

"You must rest, Daniel Jackson."

Yes, rest sounded good. For the first time in a week, Daniel felt as though he could rest.

He followed the gentle pressure on his arm and found himself stretching out on the bunk. "Thank you, Teal'c."

The whisper-soft words would have been inaudible to a human but Teal'c had no trouble hearing them. He looked down at the still figure, so quickly asleep, and marveled in his heart. He had bitterly wronged this young Tau'ri and how had he responded? With such forgiveness, such acceptance, that Teal'c had never seen the like before. Truly this race was unlike any he had encountered in a century of living.

Something stirred deep within the Jaffa and it took him a moment to recognize it. Hope. It was the same surge of emotion he had encountered in that prison chamber when he had faced O'Neill and recognized a warrior who, in his own way, was as formidable as any he had ever met.

Looking at the sleeping scholar, Teal'c marveled at how different the Tau'ri were. In sleep, Daniel Jackson looked almost as young as his own son, yet the learning he possessed was truly staggering. He had had the right to take Teal'c's life, but instead he had given it back and in that gesture had also given unreserved forgiveness.

O'Neill and Daniel Jackson. Two utterly different beings, yet both Tau'ri.

Combine the scholar's wisdom and the warrior's experience and what would be the result?

Perhaps, the defeat of the gods themselves?

Teal'c had pledged his loyalty to General Hammond a few days before. Now he bowed slightly before the sleeping man.

"I took them from you, Daniel Jackson. I swear on my life that I will not rest until they are returned to you."

He straightened and moved over to the door when he took up a position with folded arms. He would ensure that Daniel Jackson's rest would not be disturbed.

"Try the meatloaf."

Daniel looked over his shoulder to see Jack standing behind him, wearing a distinct smirk. More surprising was the sight of Teal'c beside him, eyeing the food offerings with an ever-so-slight frown.

"Hello, Jack, Teal'c."

"Daniel Jackson."

"It's good to see you out and about." Daniel glanced back at the Colonel. "So the General's relented?"

"Yeah, well-" Jack waggled one hand in the air. "In a manner of speaking. I finally persuaded him to let Teal'c get something to eat with the rest of us but he's still got company."

That was one way of putting it, Daniel thought, as he took in the sight of two fully-armed SF's standing close by. Looking at Teal'c he had to swallow a grin. The Jaffa certainly didn't appear to be intimidated.

Murmured rumblings came his way and Daniel abruptly realized that he was holding up the line. He moved on quickly, not stopping until he sat down at a table beside Captain-Doctor Carter.

"What's that?" he said curiously.

She smiled and waved her spoon in the air. "Haven't you ever seen jello before?"

"Um, yes. But not blue."

"It's just food coloring and flavoring and gelatin."

Hmph. He'd take a chocolate bar any day.

O'Neill and Teal'c sat down across from them. Immediately, Jack's eyebrows shot up. "Tell me that isn't blue jello."

Carter rolled her eyes. "I happen to like jello, sir."

"But blue? It looks like some kind of lab experiment. You know, from one of those old, late-night movies? There's a big green-or blue-blob sitting in a petri dish that turns into some kind of extra- terrestrial and, uh-" O'Neill shot a quick look at their resident extra-terrestrial. "No offense, big guy."

As Teal'c raised an eyebrow at the Colonel, Daniel exchanged disbelieving looks with the Captain-Doctor. "Jack, does your mind always do that-that . . . ?" Words failed him and he suddenly realized that Jack O'Neill often had that effect on him. Hmm, he was going to have to make a serious effort to overcome the Colonel's strange influence.

O'Neill's head whipped around. "Do what?" he demanded.

"Well, to be honest, I don't think I've ever encountered anyone whose mind works the way your's does."

Carter quickly ducked her head and Jack gazed suspiciously from one scientist to the other. Surprisingly, Teal'c took up the slack.

"I believe Daniel Jackson is paying you a compliment, O'Neill."

"Yeah? How do you figure?"

"Is he not stating that you have a unique mind?"

Military training could only do so much. Carter burst out laughing, which promptly set off Daniel. Jack leaned back in his chair, watching half of his team giggling helplessly while the third member of his team-and yes, Teal'c was going to be the third member of SG-1 regardless of what the Pentagon pencil-pushers thought-eyed them all with implacable imperturbability. SG-1, premiere team of the SGC? He just might have to re-think the P.R. on that one.

Secretly, Jack was pleased by the nonsense, by the sight of his team relaxing together. Just 24 hours ago he had feared there would be no SG-1. But somehow his last-ditch plan had worked. He didn't know exactly what had happened between Daniel and Teal'c yesterday, but what mattered was that they had come to some kind of understanding. Thanks to an off-the-cuff remark by the archeologist this morning, O'Neill knew also that Daniel and Teal'c would be spending more time together as Teal'c acquainted Daniel with all things Gou'ald while Daniel would be familiarizing the Jaffa with all things Tau'ri.

Jack nodded to himself. A good deal all the way around.

He glanced at his watch and pushed his chair back. "Come on, kids, we don't want to be late for the briefing."

As they headed for the conference room, Jack forced back his irritation when Teal'c left them to return to his barren room/cell. Soon, he silently promised the Jaffa.

Rounding a corridor they ran into Kawalsky who was headed in the same direction. O'Neill did not miss the brief hesitancy in the Major's step when he saw them.

"Come on, Charlie," he smiled. "Unless you want to keep the General waiting."

Kawalsky's answering grin was broad and relieved as he fell in with them. "No, sir. I'm not ready to retire yet. Hope this briefing means we're heading back out there again."

"We'll see," Jack temporized, not about to one-up the General while they were still in their getting-acquainted stage. "Hey, you were here last night. Did the Gou'alds come knocking at our door again?"

The Major shook his head. "No, sir. It was all quiet."


O'Neill and Hammond had spent a long time yesterday discussing the Gou'alds' intermittent attacks on Earth's iris. Despite the General's reluctance, Jack had finally gotten him to agree to a 24- hour window. If 24 hours passed with no more attacks, the SGC would start sending teams through the Stargate. And they were now nearing the end of that 24-hour-period.

If Hammond kept his word, this briefing would indeed be about sending SG-1 and -2 off-world. The thought sent a tingle of anticipation through his gut and O'Neill barely suppressed a snort of amusement. He was behaving like a kid fresh out of the Academy. But then, again, this was about traveling around the galaxy. If he couldn't allow himself a bit of a thrill over that notion, he might as well tell them to bury him now.

At the briefing, Jack's anticipation heightened as soon as Hammond started talking. Sure enough, they were going off-world. But he was less excited at the so-called names for the planets-provided by the computer, according to Carter. How in the hell was he supposed to remember P3-575 and P38-577 for more than a couple of minutes?

He mentally shook himself and focused on the General who chose that moment to look around at them, saying, "SG units 1 and 2 will operate concurrently."

O'Neill couldn't resist and turned to Kawalsky. "You know, I'm kinda partial to P3-575 if you don't mind taking P38-577."

Kawalsky gave a straight-faced shrug. "Nah, I'll take 577."

"I'm not married to it," Jack continued with a tap on the Major's arm. "I want to be fair about this-how 'bout we flip for it?"

Hammond interrupted with some asperity. "How 'bout you go where I tell you. As far as I'm concerned-"

The Stargate suddenly engaged, cutting him off. Instinctively, everyone turned toward the 'gate room just as the technician shouted into the microphone-

"Alert! Inbound traveler! Repeat, inbound traveler!"

"Damn," Kawalsky muttered, "those Gou'alds are persistent."

"I think we pissed them off," Jack acknowledged.

"Closing the iris," the technician observed unnecessarily.

They watched the controlled chaos below them as armed SF's rushed into the 'gate room and took up defensive positions. In the control room, the monitors all flashed the same message-WARNING-UNRECOGNIZED TRAVELER. Immediately, General Hammond moved forward.

"Alert!" he boomed. "All defense teams stand by." He threw a quick glance at the technician. "Set the base auto-destruct countdown at three minutes."

Behind the fully deployed iris, they heard and saw the reflection of the event horizon whooshing into life, immediately followed by several loud thuds, one after the other.

Kawalsky scowled. "We're not going anywhere as long as the Gou'alds keep up these attacks."

Standing quietly with his arms wrapped around his chest, Daniel spoke for the first time. "They can't keep this up forever," then darted a quick look at the Major before adding, "can they?"

An extra loud thud resounded against the iris and Jack winced. "Whoa."

Carter shook her head. "Once they realize our iris is impenetrable, they should just give up."

Kawalsky's scowl deepened. "Part of me just wants to let them through. Give them the fight they're looking for."

There was another thud, then, just as abruptly as it had started, the Stargate shut down.

"Radiation team," the technician called, "move in."

As the team moved toward the Stargate in their protective suits, O'Neill said thoughtfully, "Well, there's got to be worse ways to go, I suppose."

Daniel stared at him with wide eyes. "You don't think the Gou'alds are sending people through, do you?"

Jack was reminded all over again of the archeologist's civilian status. All of the horror he had experienced in the past year, particularly the past week, had not diminished the kid's innocence. The Colonel was both pleased and concerned by the realization. For himself, O'Neill clearly recalled the Jaffa in the prison chamber who had been willing to slaughter innocent people simply on the whim of a parasite masquerading as a god.

He gave Daniel a look and a shrug as he allowed a bit of his feelings to show through. "Be like bugs on a windshield."

Out of the corner of his eye he saw one of the radiation team turn around and give them a thumb's-up, immediately followed by the technician's words to Hammond.

"Team reports all clear, sir."

The General nodded. "All right, stand down from the alert." To the technician he added, "Abort the countdown."

As the technician obeyed, O'Neill relaxed. He looked at Daniel to see how he was doing but noticed Kawalsky, standing just beyond the archeologist, rubbing his neck uncomfortably.

"Kawalsky," Jack said, "what's the matter?"

The Major looked up with a grimace. "Headache. Took a fist-full of aspirin but nothing helps."

Jack frowned at the memory of Kawalsky also massaging the back of his neck on the way to the briefing room. "Get down to the infirmary and get it checked out," he said. As the man hesitated, Jack made a shooing gesture. "Go on."

Kawalsky nodded. "Yes, sir. I think I'll do that." He glanced at the General directly in front of him. "Sir, with your permission?"

He saluted and Hammond returned it. "By all means, Major. I need you to lead your team to P3-575."

The General turned away and Kawalsky headed toward the stairs, grinning and slapping Jack's arm lightly as he went by. O'Neill dropped his head briefly to hide his smile then glanced at Daniel, now engaged in a discussion with Carter. He was going to have to-

The sound of the Stargate suddenly engaging again interrupted Jack's thoughts.

"Inbound traveler!" the technician warned. "Inbound traveler!"

"Re-set the countdown," Hammond snapped. Glancing around the room, he said, "Here we go again. All defense teams, remain in position."

Once again they heard and saw the reflection of the event horizon behind the closed iris as it exploded open. More thuds, louder thuds, began to resound against the iris.

Daniel shifted uneasily. "So this iris is going to hold, right?"

Beside him, Sam said, "It's pure titanium, less than three micrometers from the event horizon. It won't even allow matter to fully re-integrate."

O'Neill gave her a long look. "So this iris is going to hold, right?"

She gave a little shrug, perfectly matter-of-fact. "If it doesn't, the failsafe will detonate, this whole mountain will vaporize, and there'll be nothing to worry about."

"Ahh," Jack rolled his eyes. "Good. I feel much better."

She didn't react and O'Neill swallowed a smile. He looked at the iris as more thuds could be heard and figured that Carter was right. Eventually, the Gou'alds were going to realize they couldn't get through Earth's iris and give up. At least as far as a direct attack was concerned. Then Earth, through the SGC, could begin to explore the unbelievable reality of the universe out there.

Jack took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Up until a year ago, he thought that he had seen it all and done it all. But thanks to a skinny geek with more brains than O'Neill had ever imagined one person could possess, the galaxy-the galaxy, for crying out loud!- had been opened up to them. He could not begin to imagine what lay out there. Some monomaniacal parasitical aliens, for certain. But Jack knew there had to be more, much more. Including, please God, finding Sha're and Ska'ara, and, somehow, returning them to themselves.

He glanced out of the corner of his eye to see Daniel still standing beside Carter, watching the iris with his mouth slightly open, obviously nervous, and mentally shook his head. Daniel Jackson, multiple Ph.D. was the last person he would had chosen to be part of that original mission to Abydos. But because Daniel had been included, he was still discovering how completely the younger man had overturned everything O'Neill thought he knew.

And, he expected, that discovery process would continue for a long time. Jack hoped he wouldn't have to butt heads with the archeologist too often. It was just too damn exhausting. As he was learning, the younger man redefined the term "stubborn". But one way or another, Jack was going to make sure that Daniel learned what he needed to learn, including the importance of following orders-for his own sake as well as the team's.

Knowing he was unobserved, O'Neill allowed himself a small smile. One thing was certain. They were all in for one hell of a ride.

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