Take this Opportunity by SisterMu
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Category: Jack/Daniel
Genres: Alternate Universe, First Time, Friendship, Missing Scene/Episode-Related, Pre-Slash
Rated: Mature
Warnings: Language, Sexual Situations
Series: None
Summary: Daniel is free to act without consequence. A 'Window of Opportunity' AU.

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Story Notes:
Daniel seemed so taken with the idea of being able to act without consequences, so I thought I'd give him a chance. Also, I've always wondered what he was arguing so passionately about in the commissary.

I got the Arabic swearing from the internet so if it's wrong, that's why; the French and German I got from my husband. Very great thanks to my betas : LadyHawk, AnnieB and leanne of SGA; any remaining mistakes are mine.
----------------
Day 1

He pulls out a weapon and all Jack's coaching, all Teal'c's training, all my experiences from the last four years kick in at once. I duck behind the altar. And it turns out to be a mistake. The beam streaks over my head and hits Jack.

"Jack!"

"Sir!"

Sam runs to him and takes his pulse. Teal'c runs towards the altar. I peer over the top of the altar, which, incidentally, has gone crazy. Malikai is depressing the surging blocks while waving a gun. Two shots go wild and I reach over before he can fire a fourth and grab his gunhand, sprawling myself over the altar. The blocks are still pumping up and down under me and there is humming and crackling all around. I don't think it's just the storm.

I hear Sam yell that Jack's OK. Thank God. I see Malikai pushing more buttons with his free hand. I see Teal'c's hand reach across the altar to grab Malikai by his collar and then an intense flash bursts around us ... and I'm in the commissary.

--------
Loop 1

I'm in the commissary. Jack is sitting in front of me with a spoonful of Froot Loops. What? What the hell? I look around. Sam is sitting beside me, watching me with interest and concern.

"What just happened?"

Sam and Jack look at each other.

"Nothing," says Sam.

Jack says, "You were yammering on about something." He eats his Froot Loops. "I wasn't listening."

I look from one to the other. "Weren't we just..." Wait. Wait a minute. I'm sure we were just on P4X-639. However, neither Jack nor Sam seems to think anything odd is happening. So I think I'll just wait and find out what they do think is happening. I've learned the hard way not, if I can help it, to say anything that sounds crazy to my listeners. "No, sorry. Um, I've lost my train of thought." Oh God. Maybe I got a head injury when I was struggling with Malikai. Maybe I'm starting to have blackouts. Please, God, no, not my brain, not for real. To Sam, "What was I saying?"

"You were talking about allowing homosexuals in the military and you just said, 'Any argument about distrust engendered by the potential for unwanted romantic or sexual propositions became void when women won the right to work alongside men in the military. In addition, the whole concept of 'don't ask, don't tell' as an unofficial regulation makes a hypocrisy out of the retention of the actual regulation. Moreover, I cannot accept that military law should be able to override federal law on workplace discrimination on an issue that is irrelevant to achieving either personnel safety or military strategic objectives.' I think you were finished. It sounded like a summing up to me."

"Oh. Yes, it was." This morning. "Um. I mean, I don't think it would be wise for gay airmen to throw coming out parties in the commissary but I do think the official regulation should be scrapped and the unofficial one made officially accepted practice. Nice eidetic recall, by the way."

"It's got me where I am today. Well, it's helped. And I think you've made some good points, but I'm not sure the Colonel agrees."

I turn to Jack. This morning, I'm sure it was this morning, when I asked what he thought, he just said, "Huh? What?" and then I said "What do you think?" and he said "About what?" and Sam said "Sir, Daniel was asking you ..." and I said "Forget it, Sam. He either doesn't have an opinion, doesn't want one or wasn't listening. What do you think?" and then I ate while she talked about her experiences, some past colleagues, and, of course, her Dad's position on the issue. Let's see what Jack says now.

"Anyway, I'm sorry, that just happens to be how I feel about it. What do you think?"

"About what?" Well, no change there.

"Sir, Daniel was asking you ... "

"Forget it, Sam, it doesn't matter. What do you think?" And here we go again. She says, word for word, what I already know she's going to say. This is so strange, I'm hearing in stereo, in both the present and in memory.

Eventually, as last time, Jack cuts us off. He takes a last bite of his Froot Loops and drops his spoon in the bowl. "Come on. Time for you two to fill me in on the delights of P4X-whatever." He stands.

"I haven't finished my waffles."

"Now, Daniel." He walks away, dumping his bowl in the collection tub as he goes.

Sam shrugs at me and follows. I stare at my waffles. What the hell is going on? Either ... this is some time after the mission on P4X-639 and I have had some kind of brainstorm and forgotten the intervening time. Oh and incidentally, I'm having the same conversation I've had before, though that is possible since it's an important one to me. Or, have I just had an astoundingly vivid and sensual premonition? But if that's the case then reality, if that's what this is, has already begun to diverge from my 'vision' when Sam repeated my words. Still, it's only a minor change. Or there's the cheerful possibility that I'm having a mental breakdown. If that's the case, I'm taking myself off to the mental institution of my choice; somewhere that thinks of drugs as a last resort and avoids MacKenzie clones.

Could I have imagined the whole Malikai incident, the whole day from breakfast on, and the day itself hasn't happened yet? I could still be imagining it. I could be imagining it over and over. How do I know that what I am currently perceiving as reality is real, or indeed if I am real and am the one doing the ... No. Stop. Get a grip, Jackson. This is what happens when you read too much pre-Socratic Greek philosophy and then join a government program where things fuck with your head on a regular basis.

Is there any other explanation for this weird experience? Could I have gone back in time? But isn't that the least likely option? Going back in time, what, eight, ten hours? Is that likely? How would it happen? And wouldn't Jack and Sam know about it? One thing's for sure - I'm not saying a word until I know what's happening and I can prove it.

--------

Sam's report is first in the briefing. I know I've heard this before, seen it before. I heard it already this morning - coronas and geomagnetic interference, yes! That at least removes the possibility that I dreamt the day - I don't know enough physics or astronomy to come up with all this, even after four years of Sam. And she's talking about P4X-639 which is the planet we were due to visit where SG-15 found the ruins and met Malikai.

Still, neither Sam, nor Jack, nor the General seem to be aware of the strangeness. I'm not sure about Teal'c. He's frowning at Sam, not his usual blank briefing expression. "MajorCarter, have we not previously been briefed concerning this matter?"

Sam frowns and considers. "For a previous mission? I don't think so, Teal'c. We haven't found..."

"No, MajorCarter, for this mission. We have had this briefing already. Indeed, much of the last hour has had great familiarity for me."

I let out a sigh. I'm not alone. "I, uh, I think I'm going through the same thing." I look at Teal'c. "Teal'c, do you remember being on P4X-639?"

"I do, DanielJackson."

Jack raises a hand. "Whoa. What are you talking about? We haven't been there yet. That's what this briefing is about."

"I know," I say, "and we already had it, then we went."

"Did not."

"Did."

"Did not."

"Did. Teal'c says so."

"Daniel..."

"I concur with DanielJackson, O'Neill. We went to the planet. Malikai shot you..."

"What?!"

"...and then we found ourselves at the beginning of the day."

"I got shot?! I never get shot." I raise a finger. So does Jack. "Never except when I intend it." Now there's a cue for a long, quarrelsome digression, could have been one of our best, but at that moment the klaxon sounds.

"Unscheduled offworld activation."

Hammond hesitates but an invasion or a team coming in hot outweighs even possible insanity in half his flagship team. We head for the control room.

"We have an unscheduled incoming traveller, sir."

I remember this too. "It's SG-12."

"They're not due back for days," says the General.

"Receiving GDO transmission. It's SG-12."

I get a surprised look from the General then he resumes his job.

"Open the iris."

"One of them will be injured," says Teal'c.

SG-12 walk onto the ramp. Captain Hamill is supporting Captain Ford, who is limping. Teal'c and I get strange looks from everybody then the General sends us to the infirmary along with the newly returned men.

--------

Teal'c and I sit on infirmary beds while the staff run baseline tests.

Jack stands beside me. "Let's get back to the bit where I was shot."

I'm happy to say the General and Sam choose that moment to arrive.

Janet addresses the General. "Well sir, I can't find anything wrong with either of them. Now, we'll have to wait for the lab results to be sure, but they both appear to be in perfect health."

"Except for the fact that they're remembering events that haven't even happened yet," says Sam.

"Why just them?" Jack asks her. "If we were all on that planet together, why don't you and I remember it?"

"You and Sam weren't beside the altar. Teal'c and I were. And Malikai."

"The archaeologist guy?"

"Right."

"I'm not taking any chances," says the General. "Until we figure out what's going on, I'm postponing your mission to P4X-639."

Everyone gives their own variant of a nod.

--------

"Hey, Daniel."

Jack catches up to me in the corridor and we pause at an intersection.

"Daniel." His face twists and he waves a hand as he tries to think what to say. "This is weird."

"Yes. I'm not disputing that but it's hardly the first weirdness that's come our way through the Gate. Body-swapping and Urgo are the two that instantly leap to mind. And of course, the Quantum Mirror, the Reetou, the aliens on Tonane's world, the... "

"OK, OK, OK. All I'm saying is..."

"Oof!" Siler slams into me and knocks me on my ass.

"Gee, sorry, Doctor Jackson."

"Guess that didn't happen before," says Jack.

Oh this is embarrassing. "Yes, it did." I straighten my clothes. "In all the confusion, I forgot."

"Seems like it would be something to remember."

"Yeah. Jack, if there's nothing else, I've got the equivalent of about four hundred pages of alien text to start translating."

"Go ahead. Translate. Keep me informed."

"I will." He thinks I'm going nuts again. It would be nice to be trusted. Then again, Teal'c is my only certainty that isn't a delusion. If he hadn't said anything, I would be quietly preparing to return to 639.

--------

Once I'm safely in my lab, I start to gather and sort photographs of the inscriptions. I soon lose myself in the soothing rhythms of my work.

"So." I look up and Sam is standing there, looking expectantly at me.

"Hey, Sam. I'm just studying the text around the altar. It seems a good place to start as that's what Malikai was manipulating."

"That wasn't what I was going to ask."

"Oh."

"Don't you know what I'm going to say?"

"No."

"I thought..."

"By this time ... last time, we were on the planet. Everything's different now."

"I think that supports my theory."

"Oh?"

"Maybe you're not remembering future events."

"Well, no, we can't be since they haven't turned out as we remember them. Is that right? My sentence structure is going to hell with this."

"Maybe you were sent back in time."

"But, does that make sense? Why only ten hours?"

"Well, it wouldn' t be the first time we've seen something like this. I mean the Stargate did send us back to 1969."

"Yes, I suppose ... The writing on the ruins was Ancient. I suppose they might have built something that could interact with the Stargate."

"Right." And then she said something about subspace and inversions and I had a flash, as I sometimes do when Sam talks physics, of what it must be like for Jack when I get to wound up in archaeo-linguistics or similar. Then again, archaeology, linguistics and anthropology are simply studies of humanity, so they come a lot more naturally to humans than physics. Right?

Sam leaves to run simulations and I get back to my translations. Science may get us out of this situation, but I feel that only translation will allow us to understand it.

--------

We're in the General's office when another unscheduled offworld activation occurs. Electricity arcs across the gate just as it did on P4X-639 ...

--------
Loop 2

... and I'm back in the commissary again. Jack, Sam, Froot Loops, waffles.

"Oh, wow." This is not another vision.

"Daniel? Is something wrong?"

"Oh, I think you could say that. I need to find Teal'c. See you in the briefing."

--------

Teal'c and I let the briefing begin, just to make utterly sure, but really ... How likely is it that Airman Reyes would open a door into Teal'c's face three days in a row?

Sam starts by showing us pictures of 639's sun.

"Uh, General?"

Sam looks surprised at my interruption and the General looks at me. "Doctor Jackson?"

"I think we're in a situation here. It seems that Teal'c and I are reliving the same day over again. This is the third time we've had this briefing."

"Hey," says Jack, "I'm the one who finds science briefings blurring into each other. You're meant to be excited by this stuff."

"No, That's not what I mean. This is the third time we, that is Teal'c and I, have attended this briefing about P4X-639."

Sam answers, "We haven't had any other briefings about 639."

"Yes, I know that. Look, you are about to talk about solar activity and coronal mass emissions."

"That's right."

"How would I know that if we hadn't already had the briefing?"

"You read my report."

Ah, the innocence. I hate to break this to her but ... "Sam, I don't read your reports. At least, not when you're going to give us the short version in the briefing anyway." Should I go for full disclosure? "The rest of the time, I just read the bullet points."

Jack looks triumphant "HAH! I knew it! And you dare fuss about me not reading reports."

Teal'c steps in. "DanielJackson is telling the truth. He and I appear to be living the same events again."

"Look, any moment SG-12 are going to come through the gate."

General Hammond responds on cue. "SG-12 aren't due back for three days."

Teal'c says, "They will return and one of them will be injured."

"Unscheduled offworld activiation."

--------

We get sent to Janet again. The General says he wants to postpone the mission. Teal'c points out that that didn't work last time but I don't object because I can continue with my translation.

Again, Jack catches up with me in the corridor. This time, I make sure we're properly positioned.

"Hey, Daniel."

"Yes, Jack, it is weird."

"Uh, yeah."

"Urgo, Reetou, Quantum Mirror, the Goa'uld themselves - all weird."

"Right."

"Ma'chello's Goa'uld killing devices. Weird."

He looks embarrassed. "Uh, yeah."

Three, two, one. With his back to Siler and his focus on me, Jack executes a neat little do-si-do and deftly avoids the striding man, who doesn't even notice. Damn Special Ops training!

"Look, Jack, if there's nothing else, I've got the equivalent of about four hundred pages of alien text to start translating."

"Go ahead. Translate. Keep me informed."

"I will."

--------

I come to my lab and realize - I have no translation. Everything I wrote down before, all my notes are gone. Of course they are. I'm back at the beginning of the day. It's all been unwritten.

I fall into my chair. Then I close my eyes. I push my fingers up under my glasses, trying to remember, trying to think. OK. I remember the gist of the translation. It was the beginning of a planetary history.

I drop my hands and reach for a pen and then put it down again. If this is going to happen again, and there is no reason to suppose it won't any more than it will, then there's no point in writing down anything. Except that I remember things better when I write them down, and see them written. Sam has a more auditory memory, mine is visual. And it won't do me any harm to continue the many minor jottings and scrawls that I tend to make, often unconsciously, as I translate. Trying to avoid them is more likely to distract me from my translating groove than letting them happen. I just have to remember that I can't rely on them.

I check my clock. When I am an hour before the moment when the electricity comes through the Stargate, I will check over my work and write down the salient points to remember. After all, I don't need to remember the entire translation word for word. All I need is to know where I got up to, what linguistic dialectal decisions I made, and the overall meaning of my translation. Any sections where the words seem more important, the details on the altar, for example, I can learn by heart when I am sure of the translation. Nevertheless, not being able to keep notes is going to make this a harder and longer process. Perhaps Sam will come up with something.

--------
Loops 3-7

Sam came up with several things but nothing worked. In the end, the only option was for me, with Teal'c's assistance, to translate the text. The whole text. With only my memory as a guide.

--------
Loop 12

"DanielJackson."

It takes me a while to rise out of my translation zone. Teal'c is used to me and waits for me to blink, pause, raise my eyes. "Teal'c. What's up?"

"You are, DanielJackson. You have been up for several days."

"Well, there is an awful lot to translate and I don't think our bodies actually need sleep. We keep being returned to our previous physical state and I was actually quite well rested ... this ... morning." I flick my eyebrows and blink at him.

"Sleep is not merely rest for the body. It is rest for the mind. If your mind runs too hard for too long, you will do yourself harm."

"The only way out of this is for me to finish this translation."

"But you have all the time in the world."

"I do." I think for a moment. "I do. But you're the one getting a minor concussion every ten hours."

"I will be fine. For us to escape this time loop, you must also be fine. Will you accompany me to the commissary?"

So we go to the commissary. Once I start to eat, I can't seem to stop. I have two servings of macaroni cheese, three hunks of bread, three glasses of juice and two servings of pie. I'm just finishing when ...

--------
Loop 13

... I find myself eating waffles again.

Now that Teal'c has broken the translating groove I was in, I am suddenly, deeply tired. So I crawl into a VIP bed and sleep the loop away.

--------
Loop 14

"Teal'c. I've been thinking."

"Not translating."

"Uh, a little of both. How would you feel about spending a little longer looping than absolutely necessary?"

"For what purpose?"

"Well, given all this time, I could catch up on some of my translation backlog. I wouldn't be able to write anything down but I could at least deal with the tricky bits and remember the solutions. But I don't want to trap you here unnecessarily. I don't suppose there's anything you would like to take the time to do?"

"There are many things I should like the time for, DanielJackson, but I do not believe we have sufficient time for them. Ten hours does not lend itself to complex activities."

"True." I stare at the images in front of me a bit more. Another thought strikes me. "You know, since everything is always going to go back to the way it was then, theoretically, we could do anything, within the constraints of time and distance, for as long as we want, without having to worry about consequences." I smile at my own fancy and turn back to the text. Teal'c sits back in his chair.

"That is a most interesting observation. Were I, for example, to treat Airman Reyes next loop as I would treat a Jaffa who so injured me when I was first prime, it could relieve my tension greatly while at the same time doing no lasting damage to him."

"Um. Yes. I suppose. Though, no offence, Teal'c, but I wouldn't go so far as, say, death."

"Indeed not. I would not inflict so extreme a punishment. It would not be wise to tempt fate. It would be most unfortunate to discover that within this phenomenon, death is still permanent."

"And I would also refer you to Socrates' and Buddha's views on violence being more destructive to the soul of the aggressor than the victim."

"I believe a simple punishment of humiliation will be sufficient to relieve my irritation."

"Oh, well, run his shorts up the flagpole, sure. Or whatever the Jaffa equivalent is. With him in them, perhaps."

"And you, DanielJackson? What advantage would you take of our new found freedom?"

"I ... I don't know." Is he seriously thinking about this? But then, why not? There would be no consequences. Except those we carry with us. "I might ... be a little less polite ... with people."

"With O'Neill."

"Among others. I might take a few days off. Spend some time relaxing, reading. I could spend some time in bookshops, maybe see a film. I mean, I know that's what downtime is for but I always seem to get caught up in more work. There's so much to do. But this is time out of time. Truly ... free time." I think a bit more. "I could experiment a bit too. You know I never did the teenage experimentation thing with clothes and hair and no, you ... probably didn't have that on Chulak."

"The young always experiment with that which they believe their elders have never discovered. Hairstyles were indeed part of this, particularly for those who were not training as warriors."

"Oh really?"

"Many young warriors would reject old styles of fighting and established strategies, attempting to find new ones. Hymns to the gods often went in and out of fashion, unless the Goa'uld attended to these things closely, and sports and games had their cycles as did romance."

I smile. I'm pleased to know Jaffa society still possesses these freedoms despite its enslavement. "Humans are still human, no matter where or when they are."

"I believe that is so."

I think some more. "I think I'd like to disrupt the military just a little bit, while I have the chance. I mean, I do respect the people here, most of them, and whatever Jack thinks, I do understand the need for discipline in the military but sometimes, I just want to ... explode a counterculture bomb all over them. Maybe I'll paint myself blue and run naked through the hallways throwing glitter over everybody. Tie-dye all their uniforms in shades of pink and stick fairy wings on General Hammond's back."

I'm grinning now, the possibilities starting to reel around me and it doesn't matter if I get caught, and it doesn't matter if I get into trouble because no-one's going to hold it against me. No-one's going to remember and keep minding. No-one's going to alter their opinion of me because of it. Except Teal'c but he doesn't exactly looking disapproving. "Teal'c, we've been fighting for a long time and we've been through some horrible things. I think we're owed a little fun."

"DaneilJackson, have I recently taken the opportunity to note how greatly I appreciate your perception and shrewdness of mind as well as your scholarship?"

"Thank you, Teal'c."

"If you will excuse me, I have a matter to discuss with Airman Reyes. After that, I shall attend to Nurse Karen Millar."

"Oh really?"

"I believe that will prove sufficient interest for this loop. After that, I shall think again." He leaves my office.

OK, well, Teal'c has great plans. So...what do I want to do?

--------

I guess I start fairly tamely. I go down to the linguistics department and mess with their heads. I tell Thompson that the Asgard runes should actually be translated into their numeric form and then converted into quadratic equations before having numerology applied to it the gain meaning. When he looks doubtful, I point out that they are a technologically advanced race who eat small cubes of powder so it makes sense that they might have replaced letters with numbers.

"But I don't know how to do quadratic equations. Or numerology."

"Get a scientific consult. Ask Major Carter. She's good at Math and numerology is right up her street."

I leave him reaching for the telephone but make a mental note to ask Sam about it later.

I tell Munson that I have reread Budge and am persuaded that he was right all along. This means that the Goa'uld translation that he is working on at the moment is actually about sexual positions rather than building techniques. I then follow him to his presentation to Hammond and SG-8. Just in case he needs any help with synonyms.

--------
Loop 15

As soon as the loop starts, I get up to leave the table.

"Daniel?" Says Sam. "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to find Teal'c."

"In mid-sentence?" Asks Jack.

"Well, you're not listening, I've heard Sam's opinion several times already and there's something I want to talk to Teal'c about. I'll see you later ... " I frown, " ... maybe."

"Daniel, we have a briefing in fifteen minutes."

"Yes, Jack, I know." I pause. "And I don't appreciate you using that tone of voice to me. I'm neither an idiot nor a child. As for the briefing, well, as scintillating as it was the first fifteen times, I think I'm going have to opt out of this one. See you next loop."

As I walk away, Jack stands and yells after me. "Daniel, what the hell?"

"Time loop. I'll explain it to you, " I wave a hand, "sometime."

--------

Teal'c is preceded by Airman Reyes. At full speed. He slams into me and we both go down. I hope this isn't going to develop into a motif. I hit my elbow pretty hard.

Teal'c leans over us and Reyes gives a frightened squeal.

"DanielJackson." He takes my hand in his and hauls me up. "Are you hurt?"

"No, I'm fine, thank you."

He inclines his head.

"I was just wondering whether you'd like to take a trip into town, see if the effect is being felt there too. I mean, I assume it is but it's always best to double check."

"Indeed. I would enjoy leaving the mountain for a while. I am beginning to feel it's weight above me."

Reyes is lying on the floor beside us, paralysed with fear. Teal'c steps over his feet and we walk away. We part briefly to change into casual clothes and then leave the mountain. I leave my cell phone behind.

Our first port of call is Starbucks. Mel is serving today. I can smell her perfume from the door. Oh, and she's wearing the scalloped talons with Persian kittens on. Very chic. I would be nicer if she'd ever shown sympathy for early morning people running late and suffering severe caffeine withdrawal.

I decide to give her one last chance. We approach the counter and wait for her to take our order.

"...so, I'm like, are you trying to hit on me? Why would you think that I would waste this body and these looks on a skinny, glassified geek?"

Yup, the last of my guilt is gone. "Miss?"

She ignores me and carries on talking into her cell phone. Cat fast, Teal'c pulls the phone from her ear and slams it closed with one hand. Then he squeezes it so hard, the casing cracks. Mel swings round to deliver invective but pauses when she sees Teal'c.

"Hello," I smile, "We'd like a double espresso grande with hazelnut and an tall iced honey latte with whip. Whole milk."

She gives us a look to convey her disgust with our order and probably our desire for coffee based drinks. She flicks a couple of switches and then settles down with her back to us to read a magazine. I swing myself over the counter and grab the right size cups. "Hey, what are you doing?"

"Something you're not familliar with. I'm preparing coffee."

"You can't come back here."

"And yet, obviously, I can." I elbow her aside and start to prepare Teal'c's latte. "The word you're looking for is 'shouldn't'. I shouldn't come back here but I want coffee and your 'screw you' attitude is so compelling, I thought I'd give it a try." I decant my espresso.

"Oh, you think you're something, don't you? You think you're high and mighty, you think you're better than me."

I get out the whip and squirt it onto Teal'c's latte. Then I turn to Little Miss Harridan. "Mel, here's a tip, the only one you're ever likely to earn. Wonderbras have their disadvantages." I fill her cleavage with whip and then shake some chocolate sprinkles on the top. I swing back over the counter. Mel is still frozen with outrage, too many swearwords struggling to be the first out. Teal'c drops her phone into the whole mess and we walk out with our coffees. High pitched, high decibel ranting lashes out after us but fails to connect.

--------

"Well, that was ... liberating. What would you like to do now?"

"I would like to visit some stores of apparel."

"Clothing stores?"

"And shoe stores. I wish to locate black leather cowboy boots set with turquoise. Also a belt. And some steel toed hiking boots. I also wish to experiment with more colorful clothes than MajorCarter will allow me near and I wish to visit some of the stores of apparel on James Street."

"Really? James?" I wonder how to phrase this. Teal'c wasn't present for our morning discussion on military hypocrisy and I've never thought to ask about Jaffa attitudes to homosexuality. "Um, the stores on James, um, well, you know the rainbow flags and stickers they have?"

"They are the emblem of homosexuality. Many homosexuals like to dress their bodies to show the grace and beauty of the male form. Many heterosexual men seem unaware that such a thing is possible. Or desirable."

"Fair enough. I have to tell you, though, clothes shopping is possibly the last non-harmful thing I would choose to do. How about you do your thing and I'll do mine? We can meet up this afternoon in the Garden of the Gods. Or not. You know, if you're still busy."

Teal'c could usually give Mount Rushmore lessons on keeping a poker face. Faces. Now a smile graces his expression, real pleasure as he bows to me and turns away without a word. I suddenly wonder what it must be like never to be allowed to leave the mountain without a guard, even if that guard is a friend. I never realized before that for him, on Earth, I am both.

I have a small sadness in my chest as I turn my own way and set off for the bookstores. I resolve to stop in at the travel bookstore to buy my friend a gift and then I remember that in a few hours it would be back where it came from. Damn. I make a mental note to do it after we finish looping. And then I spend the rest of the morning, between bookshops, trying to work out how Teal'c could have more freedom, and perhaps be able to see a bit of this world face to face, rather than through glass or paper.

--------

It's a beautiful day and so I find a spot in the Garden and put down a rug, a small picnic lunch, three books and seven journals. I strip off my shirt and lie back in my t-shirt, reaching out for my sandwich bags. I notice that my elbow has quite a bruise. I wonder if it will be there next loop.

I begin to eat and read. The sun is really quite hot. I get out my sunscreen and squirt some on my arm. I start to rub it in, reaching my fingers into my sleeve. Then I stop. Why not take my shirt off? Shirtless in public is not a look I'm really comfortable with. Then again, as I said to Teal'c, why not experiment? And seriously, who's going to care? And even if they do, well, in four hours, I won't have done it. No consequences. So. Shirt off. Sunscreen all over. Lie down again, gleaming in the sun. Mmm. It feels good to have the sun on my skin like this. I should do it more often.

I finish my lunch and read a bit more but the sun and the calm do their work. I fall into a comfortable drowse for the rest of the day.

--------

It's getting near loop time and Teal'c hasn't appeared or called. I'll be willing to bet he's had fun, though.

--------
Loop 16

Flash of white light and ...

"OK, just remembered something, gotta go." I twist out of my seat and hurry out of the commissary with the sound of Sam's "OK, we'll see you in the ..." fading behind me. I meet Teal'c in the locker room while changing into my own clothes and we set off once again for the Springs. Our first stop is Starbucks and unless Mel has had a run-in with Ma'chello's bodyswap device, the loop is indeed affecting the world outside the mountain. I guess the date on the newspaper could have been a sufficient check, but this way was more fun.

This time, I don't bother to get my hands messy with her. I march into the manager's office and tell him that if we don't get our coffees in the next three minutes, I will be writing to the head office about the appalling standards of customer service and managerial oversight that exist at this shop and, what's more, I'll blacklist the shop all over the mountain. We get our coffee in two minutes. As we leave, we hear the manager, who looks about twelve, attempt to broach the concept of customers with Mel. From her reply we gather that she got her job because she went on her knees for it. TMI.

--------

I decide to again spend the morning browsing, the afternoon drowsing. Maybe I'll manage to read a bit more this time. Teal'c downs his coffee, bows his head and walks away. He says nothing about meeting up later and I don't ask. If he's going to spend all his free time on his own, and I wouldn't blame him a bit, maybe I can persuade Jack to play hookey with me one day. I am happy with my own company but I've become used to having friends around more often than in my past. I've become used to having Jack around. I miss Jack. Khara. I don't want to miss Jack.

--------

"DanielJackson."

"Teal'c. I didn't expect to see you."

"Indeed. However, I wanted to enquire whether you intend to continue to take advantage of our free time in the next loop or whether you will return to your translation of the Ancient inscription."

"I think I'd better get back to the translation. This is fun but we can't stay indefinitely."

"We can."

"Well, yes, we can but ... this isn't really any more than a holiday. We can't actually achieve anything."

"Many would argue that you have earned a holiday. That you have, in fact, earned as much time as you need to restore your energies and take your pleasure as you wish. It is not achieving nothing to reinforce your own inner strength by immersing yourself in positive and peaceful activities. You are a warrior, DanielJackson, but you are not a soldier and you should not allow yourself to become one. The SGC has many soldiers. It has no other DanielJacksons. You are unique. We need you to maintain your separation from traditional military paths of thought."

Oh. Wow.

I don't know what to say to him so I change subject. "What time is it?" I try to focus on my watch. Damn, I'm going to have a tan line. Oh, wait.

"We have half an hour before looping."

"Then sit down, have some water. I think I have some cookies left, where's the bag?" I try to sit up a bit.

He sits beside me and takes a cookie from the crumpled bag. I flop back and watch him take a bite. Do you know that Teal'c can eat cookies with the same dignity that he, well, that he does everything, from greeting people, to telling jokes, to facing down snakes? Seriously, try eating a cookie with dignity. There are crumbs. It's surprisingly hard to be dignified where crumbs are involved.

"By the way, I noticed that the bruise that I got last loop when Reyes and I collided has gone. It was big enough that there should still be a trace."

"Indeed. I shall punish him for it."

"No, no. No. That's not why I mentioned it. I just wondered, well, what exactly is it that is looping?"

"Time."

"Yes. But, I mean, what part of us is being carried back in time? We already knew our clothes were changing back." Is that what I mean? I hardly know how to express this. "If our bodies are returning to the state they were in at the beginning of the loop, does that mean we are being rapidly regenerated or that something else is being taken back through time and ..." I gesture vaguely "... replaced in our bodies at an earlier point. Or..." I'm lost. I hate not having the words I need.

"Our souls."

I raise my eyebrows. "Yes. I suppose so. The ancients ascended ... did they evolve or did they somehow learn to scientifically manipulate ... the soul? Which I suppose in this context would be defined as our metaphysical selves. Which would mean this experience proving that such a thing does actually exist. Uh." I stare at the sky. No large ball of enlightenment falls to smack me between the eyes. I sit up and turn to face Teal'c. "You believe the religion of your childhood is false yet you still believe you have a soul?"

"The two are not related. All living things have souls. This is true whether or not the Goa'uld are gods."

"It's just that many people on this world only believe in the soul if they also believe in ..." I circle my hands " ... God or Gods." I stare over his shoulder into the trees. "Though I suppose less so these days." I look back at him. "People talk about the spirit as something that survives death but only religion gives you any ..." I move my hands in parallel " ... plan for the afterlife. What do most Jaffa believe? And what do you believe now?"

"The Jaffa are taught that when they die, they will come before their god to be judged. If found worthy, they will enter Paradise to serve the Goa'uld forever. If not they will be thrown into torment."

"Sounds pretty standard. At least by Earth, ah, standards. We have a lot of that."

"Indeed."

"So, if they serve the supposed incarnation well while they are themselves incarnate, they get to serve it transcendentally forever as a 'reward'. Great."

"This is no doubt why Kheb gained popularity as an alternative."

"So what do you believe? Would you go to Kheb? Will you, when you can longer carry a prim'ta?"

"Before we had been there ourselves, I might have done so. Now I am not sure. If death is ascension, why not wait for that to occur? If ascension is not death, then what is it? Are they trapped between life and death? Have they found a state which transcends time or do they merely 'hang about' the galaxy with, if I may use O'Neill's expression, their heads up their asses?"

I duck my head and smile.

"I do not believe I could remain on the same plain of existence as my brother Jaffa and not take part in their struggle." He raises his head and looks out across the park. "I do not wish death, but I do not fear it. I even have some curiosity about what lies beyond." He turns back to me. "And you, DanielJackson, what do you believe?"

"I don't know. If I had some religious faith, I might find it easier to make the same choice as you but I'm not sure I even believe in the soul, let alone an afterlife."

We are quiet again and dusk is beginning to touch the sky. I lie back to see Hesperus, the evening star. It's actually the planet Venus. Jack told me. It's the first star to appear on the evenings, and the last one to disappear in the morning, when it is known as Lucifer, the morning star. I told Jack that Lucifer means 'the Light-bringer', and we ended up discussing Milton. It was a good evening.

"Teal'c."

"DanielJackson."

I am sidetracked. "You know you can call me Daniel, if you want, don't you?"

"I do, but it would not be fully respectful."

"I wouldn't mind."

"When I first came to this world, I did not understand why O'Neill should accord you such respect. I did not perceive you as a warrior. He explained to me the events which occured when you opened the Stargate and travelled with him to Abydos. I understood more and accorded you respect as he wished it. I knew him to be a soldier such as myself and accepted his opinion.

"Over the months that followed I learned that you are a warrior but my respect for you came from my new understanding, gained from observing you, that battle done in one's mind and spirit achieve far more of freedom than the battle done with one's body. By seeking to destroy the Goa'uld, I will bring my people war and death and it may be that I will not free them from their beliefs, simply by destroying what they believe are only physical incarnations of the gods. To bring them also peace and life and true freedom, I must teach them the lessons that you teach me.

"You are my teacher, DanielJackson, as much as MasterBra'tac." He pauses for a moment while I simply stare at the sky. "However," he says and it seems, to my relief, that he was just thinking, rather than waiting for me to say anything, "your friendship is precious to me and so, for friendship's sake, I will, at appropriate times, call you Daniel."

At last all I can say is, "Thank you."

Teal'c inclines his head. We stay as we are for a few more moments.

"You call Sam MajorCarter. I .. suppose her scientific knowledge, ah, is another thing that the Jaffa will need in order to stop believing in the magic of the Goa'uld."

"Perhaps. She is a woman. And a soldier. There are no female Jaffa soldiers. I do not know how to call her Carter as I would were she a man I considered my equal. But it would not be correct for me to call her by her given name."

"Ah. An issue of etiquette, then."

"Indeed."

I look at my watch. It's almost time. Of course, any confessions I make to Teal'c will be remembered but at least I won't have to look him in the eye immediately after I say it. Keeping my eyes on the time I say, "Teal'c."

Perhaps he senses this is a friendship moment. "Daniel."

"I miss Jack."

"You will continue translating, then."

"Yes."

"I will help you."

"Thank you, my friend."

The sky is starting to darken but a light brighter than the sun flares around us.

--------
Loop 17

I am so bored of this briefing.

--------
Loop 18

"Two weeks ago," Sam clicks the remote at the screen, "SG-15 took these images of solar activity on P4X-639." A finger painted sun with a smiley face appears behind her with curly lines coming out of it and disappearing. The words 'FIZZ' and 'HISS' pop in and out of sight around the edges.

--------
Loop 19

Teal'c chooses the briefing images this time. The Deathstar pops up with all guns blazing. It turns out General Hammond has never seen Star Wars.

--------
Loop 20

Blue sky. Fluffy clouds. "The Simp-sons!"

"It wasn't me. I swear. I wouldn't even know how!"

--------
Loop 23

After our impromptu weekend, we got back to translation for a few loops. This loop, however, Teal'c stops me as I leave the infirmary.

"DanielJackson, I should like to go bowling. Would you accompany me?"

"Sure. Um, I'll just go and tell General Hammond that we're leaving."

"It is not necessary."

"I know." I cross my arms, look down at my feet, look up again. "It's just, even though I know that, it still feels disrespectful to just walk out. I want to at least try to explain."

He bows, humoring me. We walk together to the briefing room.

I knock at the General's open door and he waves me in. "Doctor Jackson, we haven't had the test results back yet."

"Yes, sir, I know. They won't find anything but you need to have that verified again, of course. The thing is, Teal'c and I have been working for quite a few de facto days without break and we need some downtime to relax and refresh our minds."

"You can spend the day in the VIP quarters."

"Well, actually, don't take this the wrong way, it's just that ... when you've been stuck at the bottom of a mountain for too long, you really need some light and air to offset the weight of earth."

"What are you asking me?"

"We want to go out. Bowling, actually. We ... thought ... we'd ... go bowling." I grimace. I know what he's going to say, even as he shakes his head.

"I can't allow you to leave this mountain. I am not yet convinced that you are experiencing the phenomenon you claim to be. There may be another explanation."

For one or two occurrences, perhaps, but for over twenty? "You think we're, what, making this up?"

"It could be a possible alien influence causing delusions. It has happened before."

"And I suppose I should be grateful this time not to end up in a padded room." A look of pain crosses his face. It was a low blow. I am surprised at myself because I thought I was over that incident. I start to pace. "I'm sorry. You're doing what you think is best. Just try to understand our point of view. How would you feel being trapped down here for three weeks?"

"I think it would focus me powerfully on escaping the situation as soon as possible. According to you, that can only be achieved through your translation. I would have thought you'd want to spend all the time you could working on that."

"Yes. Yes, I suppose you're right. It's just so frustrating, the constant repetition at the beginning of every loop trying to convince you of what's happening and then being submerged once more in the translation which, incidentally, I have to carry completely in my head. I know I am famed for loving my job, " I clutch the back of the chair, "but I'm going up the walls here and Teal'c's even worse. He's a man of action, like Jack. This is stupefying for him."

"Take some time for yourselves, by all means. Play chess or gin, watch some television, hell, borrow the Colonel's gameboy. But I can't let you leave the base."

"I understand. I'll get back to the translation. As you said, the sooner I finish, the sooner we're free."

I leave his office with crossed arms and tell Teal'c that I'm going back to the translation. "I think it's best just to get this over with."

"We shall not go out today. GeneralHammond will now instruct the guards specifically to prevent our departure."

"I suppose so. Sorry."

"It is of no matter. We shall go tomorrow."

I pause and watch him walk away. That's not what I meant. And he knows it. It would feel wrong to disobey the General. We really shouldn't go.

--------
Loop 24

We spend the morning bowling, the afternoon sleeping.

I could get used to this kind of life. If Jack were here.

--------
Loop 25

We set up the stolen bowling pins at one end of the corridor and take turns getting used to bowling on concrete rather than polished wood. Careful careful, time it just right ...

"Gee, sorry, Sergeant Siler."

--------

After a few minutes, Jack stops my ball with his foot. "Daniel. T. Not enough downtime lately?"

"Indeed not, O'Neill."

"Our 'lately' is somewhere at odds with yours. We're in a time loop. We've been going round this day for ... what ought to be weeks ... but isn't. Breakfast to late afternoon and then back to breakfast again. Well, breakfast for me. Teal'c, lending credence to a belief in the gods of sadistic comedy, is being sent back to the moment when Airman Reyes opens a door into his face. So he's ... very sure about what's going on."

"Is that why Reyes was found locked in the out-of-order men's room an hour ago? You know, it's foul in there."

Teal'c inclines his head. "Since we were engaged to perform petty larceny, I did not have time for a more creative revenge."

Jack looks alarmed. "Larceny?"

"We don't own bowling balls and pins, Jack."

"You stole them?"

"We borrowed them."

"Teal'c said 'Larceny'."

"OK, we stole them; but they'll get them back. They won't even know they were gone."

"Right." A beat. "Maybe you two should come see ol' Doc Fraiser. Just let her shine her little torch at you, take your temperature. Indulge her vampiric inclinations. How 'bout it?"

"Jack, I can understand you not believing me. You've always thought I was 'kinda flaky'. I doubt you've ever thought that about Teal'c. He's not what you'd call a whimsical man."

"What DanielJackson says is true, O'Neill. We are stuck in a time loop."

"Jack, do you really believe we would indulge ourselves, bowling, here, if we weren't in a time loop? You think I would do this, knowing that it would get me to sent to MacKenzie so he can evaluate my sanity?"

I can see him starting to believe. "A time loop."

"In about seven hours, we will return to the moment when we were sitting in the commissary, me eating waffles and talking, you eating Froot Loops and not listening and Teal'c and I will be the only ones who remember anything."

He considers me. Then he says, "This would be the moment during breakfast when you suddenly leapt up like a scalded cat and zoomed off to see T?"

"That's the one." I feel a small smile, a lightness and warmth. He believes us. "This is the 24th loop, the 25th iteration of the day for us. So we're just taking some time off." I gesture at the ball under his foot. "Want a go?"

He takes one more moment's consideration then, with a happy smile, says, "Sure, why not?"

--------
Loop 28

"Daniel."

I smile at Teal'c's use of my first name only. "Yes, Teal'c."

"You do not need me to succeed in this translation. I am only of slight assistance to you."

"Well, I wouldn't say only slight ... " I begin then think for a moment. "Is there something else you'd like to do?"

"I should like to take this time of no consequences to continue to explore your world outside the mountain. And perhaps outside Colorado Springs."

"Where will you go?"

"Anywhere I can reach in a flight time of up to 8 hours. I should like to visit the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls. I should like to visit the Forest of the Giant Redwoods that we passed so near in Washington State. You and O'Neill have both spoken of Chicago. I will also go to San Francisco, New York and Washington. I should like to visit a stud ranch and witness a rodeo."

"And is there one on?"

"There is indeed. In Wyoming. These are my first thoughts. Then I will think again."

I nod. "Go."

He gives a small bow and turns away.

"Teal'c."

"Daniel."

"I'm sorry. There are so many places I would love to take you. To Egypt, to Jordan, Tunisia, Greece, Italy, Iran. Places where you can see the ancient world and the modern side by side. Or more natural wonders, the Northern Lights. the Angel Falls, rainforest and savannah. The Mountains of the Moon." He looks confused. "Not the actual moon, the Rwenzori mountain range in Uganda. It's meant to be amazing. I've never been.

"And there are such cities. London, Paris, Vienna, Sydney, Cape Town, Rio. We should go to Rio for the Carnival. The bull runs in Pamplona." Another thought strikes. "Bali. Jack would probably like visiting Bali too. They have beautiful beaches, teeny bikinis, sea-fishing. It's his idea of Paradise. We could even try to get Sam into a grass skirt and a coconut bra, with a flower behind her ear."

I focus back into my grey utilitarian office far under a mountain, onto my friend smiling softly at me. "Of course, I know you've seen amazing things off-world. The Northern Lights shine on a hundred worlds and we've seen how many ruins in the last few years? I don't suppose a few more would be that much of an excitement. But I would still like to show it all to you. Show you what you are protecting."

"We will travel your world, Daniel, though it may not be for many years. When we are both old men, we shall visit all these places. And we shall take O'Neill, though we may leave him fishing while we inspect the ruins, having by that time lost all patience with his child-like bellyaching."

"And Sam in the grass-skirt and coconut bra?"

"When the climactic conditions are appropriate."

I smile. "When they are appropriate. Goodbye, Teal'c. Enjoy your rodeo." He leaves and I make myself a promise that I will help him see more of my world. The US, at least, since I doubt the Air Force will grant him a passport. They won't even give him citizenship. Hawaii, I decide, Chicago, and New Orleans for the Mardi Gras. That would be a start.

--------
Loop 31

I enter the briefing last. "Ah, Teal'c makes his apologies and asks that we start without him."

General Hammond looks disapproving, as he has for the two previous loops, but nods to Sam to start.

Sam clicks the remote at the screen and I take the words out of her mouth. "Two weeks ago, SG-15 took these images of solar activity on P4X-639. Analysis of the data indicates a steady increase in the intensity. Now, if Sam's right, the explosions that we're witnessing here are just the precursor to an exponentially greater violent ejection."

There is a stunned pause.

"That's exactly what I was about to say."

"Since when did you become Stephen Hawking?" Asks Jack.

"Since this is the thirty-second time I have attended this specific briefing. We're caught in a time loop. Teal'c and I and the archaeologist Malikai on 639 are the only ones who are aware of what's happening."

"That's the archaeologist SG-15 met," says Hammond.

"That's right. The ruins on 639 are a device built by the Ancients that is powered by geomagnetic storms. Malikai set it working while we were there. It has the effect..."

Jack interrupts, "Whoa, whoa. While we were there?"

Sam says, "Daniel, we haven't been to 639 yet."

"Correction, you have no memory of having been to 639 and potentially, you never have."

They all move to speak at once and I borrow a Jack-ism. "Aht. Just hear me out. He set the machine into motion. It had the effect of sending me and Teal'c, at least, back in time by roughly ten hours to a point about half an hour ago, returning to the positions and states that we were in at that time. I don't know why it's only us, except we were the ones caught in the beam that hit the altar."

I point to Sam. "You have theorized that the device accesses the subspace field that the gate is capable of generating. I am spending my time translating the inscriptions from the ruins to try to understand what the device was meant to do and how to turn it off."

I turn to the General. "You are going to send me to Doctor Fraiser who won't find anything wrong with me. Even so you will both insist on waiting for all the results to come in. That's fine because I will sit quietly in my office and continue my translation. And in just a few seconds there will be an unscheduled offworld activation which will be SG-12 returning early due to Captain Ford falling and spraining his ankle."

I turn to Jack. "Yes, Jack, it is weird."

They have time to look at each other, start formulating their comments and ... "Unscheduled offworld activation."

--------

The General was pissed, again, when he discovered that Teal'c had left the mountain. He sent me to the infirmary, again, and sent some SFs to look for Teal'c. Again. I'm going to ask Teal'c to stay until the end of the infirmary checks next loop. After that, the General won't notice he's missing. I can do without an angry and disappointed General remonstrating with me. Over and over again.

--------

Jack stands by me while Janet is doing her thing. "So where's Teal'c?"

"I think he's off to Niagara Falls."

"What?!" Jack and Janet are both wide-eyed.

"Yesterday ... " I think about this, " ... yesterloop ... " whatever, " ... he went to the Grand Canyon. Janet. Janet, it's tight enough." Apparently Janet was shocked enough to forget she was pumping.

"Oh, sorry." She lets down the blood pressure cuff.

I turn back to Jack. "He wants to take this opportunity to see a bit more of America while there is no risk of consequences."

"And you let him? What if something happens to him?"

"The Colonel's right. Last time Teal'c was out on his own, he almost mutated into a swarm of giant insects."

"He was under the influence of said insects at the time and anyway, it doesn't matter if anything happens to him. It will unhappen at nightfall. And then it will never have happened. Do you understand? There are no consequences to anything as long as the loop lasts."

Janet shakes her head and makes a note on her chart.

Jack considers me. "What if Malikai switches the loop off?"

"I don't think he will. He's got some reason for doing this..."

"Which you don't know."

"Fine but he's only had about three hundred hours in elapsed time. He spent years studying the ruins, I don't think he's going to give up this soon. Besides you weren't so worried when we were tenpin bowling in corridor C."

He looks surprised. "You and Teal'c?"

"You joined in as soon as you figured the no consequences part."

Janet mutters, "Now that I can believe," and leaves to run tests.

"How did Hammond react?"

"Incredulous and furious."

He nods ruefully. "That, I can believe. The incredulous part, for sure."

The growl of frustration that I give surprises me too. "You know what, Jack? I've put up with your incredulity for almost thirty loops now. I'm sick of it."

"I thought you said it had been more than thirty."

"I haven't bothered to explain every loop. Some days we just left the mountain. Don't digress. You need to tell me something, something you're sure you've never told me and wouldn't tell me in any other circumstance and that I can't possibly find out any other way. Then I can tell it to you in future loops and you will know instantly that I'm telling the truth."

"OK. That makes sense, I guess." He takes a deep breath and blows it out. Then he stares into the air above my head. Then he fiddles with a thermometer. Then he twists his face and blows out another breath.

"Oh come on. How hard can it be? Practically your entire adulthood is classified. There has to be some secret you can tell me."

"See, the keyword there is 'classified'."

"Jack, I work on the most secret project the military operates. Or I assume I do. Do you really think I can't keep a secret?"

"It isn't about you. I took an oath."

Of course. I feel abashed. "I'm sorry. Well, then choose something else. Come on, there must be something you could tell me that you ... wouldn't ... otherwise..." When I listen to myself, I do see his difficulty. "Something you'd prefer not to tell me but will in the circumstances."

He nods, purses his lips and stares into space.

"Anything."

"I'm thinking."

I fall back on the bed and cover my face with my hands. "Ugh. Never mind. You couldn't think of anything the last two times I asked."

I scrub my face. I need to get some more sleep. I feel a breath on my ear, then a whisper, "The first person I kissed with tongue was Aaron Drummer, in the back of his Dad's pickup at Midsummer, 1969."

After a moment I turn my head. He's resting on his forearms, now staring straight ahead at nothing. Or actually, when I turn my head further, at Nurse William's behind.

"That do?" He asks it.

"Uh, yes." I say to the ceiling. "Yes, that sounds ... suitable to me."

"You'll tell me I told you and I'll know that .. you know something I don't. About time loops."

"Right."

He pushes off and goes to stare at the empty x-ray box. Then he turns back. "So. You'll be off to translate once Doc's done with you."

"Actually I need to get some sleep this loop."

"Sleep?"

"We found out that even though our physical bodies don't need any rest, our minds do. Although," I sit up, "it's not always easy to go to sleep. Without physical weariness to help. I've been managing best by going and lying in the sun. It's a beautiful day."

He nods. "Looked like it was shaping up that way this morning. Good fishing weather."

"Fish bite better in the sun?"

"Forget the fish. Fish-ing is better in the sun. Coupla' beers, deck chair, pack of thick sandwiches. Just cast a line, sit back, let your thoughts drift. It's the perfect way to relax."

"Sounds just what I need."

"I'll take you to the cabin one day."

"Actually, I was thinking today."

"What?"

"Jack, I've been out of the mountain four times already. And it never happened. Want to come with me?" I offer a little smile. "I'll probably mess up the fishing without your expert guidance."

"You really believe this." He raises a hand as I start to object. "What I mean is, you don't think this is some alien messing with your head. Or precognition or ... whatever."

"Initially I did. It took me a while to believe it. But, thirty times, Jack. And I can act differently each time. I think the obvious explanation is the right one."

"'Time loop' is obvious?"

"When you're in it. Also when I talked to Malikai the first time we were on the planet, I noted a line that recurred several times, 'Domavatus vestul motabilum' which Malikai translated as 'Conqueror of time'."

"Was he right?"

"No. It's more like 'Master of the uncertain past'. But the point is, he thinks that the device can control time. Which must be what he wants to do with it."

"But you don't know why."

"He wasn't exactly forthcoming when we returned to the planet. We could have kept going back and back, trying to get it out of him. I thought it better to have all the facts first."

"The facts being contained in ..."

We speak together, "...four hundred pages of alien text,"

"... yes. I don't think Malikai is a good enough linguist to have translated it, certainly not with any degree of accuracy."

"And you think doing so will give you an advantage."

"Yes."

"That's what you've been working on."

"Yes."

"When you're not sleeping."

"Right."

"Or bowling."

"Right."

"Don't you think ..."

"No, I don't think I should be translating non-stop. I really would go crazy. Is there any activity, even one you love, that you'd want to do all day, every day for weeks at a time? Even fishing?"

He comes to sit by me. "No." He looks at me. "I can see your point. I just don't see Hammond allowing it."

"No. He specifically told me, when I asked him, that we should stay in the mountain."

"There you go."

"When he said that, he had no memory of the fact that we had already left the mountain twice and three times played with Sam's briefing images."

"You did?" He has that small pleased smile.

"Yes. And I left the mountain twice more after he forbade it. Teal'c has been out for the last four loops as well. Except, as far as the rest of you are concerned, it hasn't happened. The only things that will stay ... happened ... are the events of the final loop. I promise to behave then."

"And if I ask you to behave now, next loop we won't even have this conversation and you'll do what you want anyway."

"Jack, it's still going to take me weeks of elapsed time to finish the translation. I can't stay down here all that time. I can't. And the General probably won't give us more than a couple of days downtime afterwards because he'll only half believe that this all happened. That's not enough. I need to take time now." In his eyes, I see understanding. "Come fishing with me."

"Fishing is an art. If I leave you alone, you'll probably take coffee with you. Or wine."

A line from the Rubbaiyat comes to mind but all I say is, "I rely on you to guide me on the true path."

"Damn straight."

We look for Janet and she waves us out, telling me she'll send the results to the General and to wait for him to call. Done that.

As we leave Jack says, "So, Teal'c tied Airman Reyes to the punching bag and encouraged the Marines to pummel him with padded staffs. What's that about?"

--------

We pick up equipment and provisions at Jack's house and then drive in his truck to a 'secret' fishing spot. We are in the mountains by a small lake. The air is still, the day beautiful, as always. Sunlight accents the water beyond the shade of the trees. Somewhere, a bird cries. I don't know what sort of bird. Digs apart, I'm a city-boy. Not enough bookshops in the countryside.

We set up two folding chairs on the lake shore, with the cooler between them.

Jack says, "You ever fished before?"

"With rods? No."

So he spends the next twenty minutes showing me the rods, naming the parts and demonstrating how to attach the flies and lures.

"Now, the most important bit - the cast."

"I thought that was for people who wanted to catch fish."

"I have nothing against catching fish."

"But, I understood that that was not the point of fishing."

"It isn't. For fishing, the important part of the cast is having a stable line so that you can sit back and only have to recast every," he shrugs, "twenty minutes or so."

"I see. Just enough movement to stop oneself atrophying."

"Exactly." He grins at me. "You're a natural."

So I learn to cast away from currents, reeds and shallows. Then I demonstrate my existing aptitude for lolling in a folding chair. Jack gives me an approving nod and hands me a beer from the cooler. He breathes out a deep contented sigh and relaxes slightly more.

"This is the life. I take back what I said before. I could do this ... forever. No problem being stuck in a time loop, if this is the beginning and end of it. All we need is a dog."

I look at Jack. His long legs stretched out, his hands loosely holding a rod and a beer. He is wearing sunglasses and a boonie hat, so I can't tell whether his eyes are open or closed. I don't think I've ever seen Jack entirely relaxed. He isn't now, either. Even in this peaceful place and safest time, there is still a watchfulness in him. I wonder if it is innate and eternal. Could there be a situation where, without the help of Janet's drugs, Jack could relax completely? Perhaps at the cabin. I hope he will invite me there again. I think I would like to continue to learn fishing at the feet of the master.

--------

We don't talk much. I drift from time to time, close to sleep, happy in the peace and the company. We eat lunch. Afterwards, Jack tells me some tall fishing stories. They sound as though they were cribbed from Baron Munchausen. I tell him about fishing with nets in the Nile while my parents were off fighting for grants.

We stay until the light fails and builds. I turn my head so that I see him going ...

--------
Loop 32

... and coming.

--------

The temptation is so strong. I could ask him again to give me some secret for the sake of future proof. I could direct him to something different, asking about his family, his marriage, his son. I could find the right buttons to learn about his career. I could find out about other first times. For one moment I am terribly tempted. But Jack trusts me. In some things, at least, he trusts me. As a soldier he trusts Sam and George, Teal'c, Kawalsky, Griff, Bra'tac, several others here. Over two decades, he has trusted many others to watch his six, to stand firm beside him. I think he knows I'll stand firm but he doesn't trust me to fight when he wants, to kill when he needs, to judge cynically enough to keep us alive. It's OK, though. He trusts me with his emotions, his pain and his secrets. These are things he doesn't trust to anyone else.

"Aaron Drummer, Midsummer, 1969."

Jack halts, one foot in the air. He stands with his back to me for a moment, then slowly puts his foot down.

I wait him out. After a moment, he turns to back to me. Teal'c has left, Janet is in her office. At the other end of the infirmary, two nurses are tending to Captain Ford. There is no-one close enough to hear.

He walks back to me.

"You told me that. Last loop. I asked you to tell me something that you knew you hadn't told me and wouldn't otherwise."

"And that's all I said?"

I lower my voice and my head to make absolutely sure I don't break his confidence. "You kissed in the back of his Dad's pickup. It was the first time you'd used tongue."

He exhales hard. "So. How long did you say you've been ... looping?"

"More than thirty times now."

"So you start again ..." He circles his hands.

"During breakfast."

"And then you come to the briefing, explain this situation and have to persuade us to believe you. Again and again."

"Every ten hours."

"That sounds ... frustrating."

"And boring. Don't forget boring.

"Oh yeah. But then you get to spend the rest of the time in your happy translation world."

"Well, mostly."

"Mostly?"

"Yeah." I glance swiftly to the side then lean slightly towards him. "You want to play hookey?"

He raises his eyebrows.

"Teal'c's gone to Chicago, this loop. He's already been to the Grand Canyon twice and to Niagara Falls. And, uh, a few loops ago, the three of us ended up bowling in the SGC corridors."

"Three as in .. you, me and T?"

"Yup. I'm taking a weekend every six or seven loops, depending on how I'm doing with the translation. We can do anything. No-one else remembers. There are no consequences because nothing we do happens." I throw in the final temptation. "Yesterday, you and I went fishing."

He stares at me in surprise for some moments. Then delight spreads across his face. "I know exactly what we should do."

--------

We lie near the lake in the Garden of the Gods and I am relaxed, though it took me about twenty minutes to attain this state. The sun helps. It's hard to be tense in the sun. Jack's heedlessness helps a lot.

Nude sunbathing. It was the first thing he thought of.

--------
Loop 33

After Janet has finished with us and Teal'c has left, I get up to return to my office. Jack and Sam leave with me.

"So, what will you two do today?"

"There's no point in doing paperwork," says Jack. "Cryin' shame." He seems to be bearing the disappointment well. "What have I done before?"

"You've eaten a lot. Drunk a lot of bad coffee. Worked out in the gym. Fished."

"Really? Sweet. It's a beautiful day for it."

"You mentioned that."

He looks around, furtively. "You don't need me, do you?"

"Not at the moment."

"Sir?" Sam looks between us. "You can't really be considering," she lowers her voice, "going fishing."

"Why not? I won't remember it but ... I won't remember anything. And it might be ... karmically relaxing for me." He raises his eyebrows at me.

"Can't hurt." I say.

Sam isn't satisfied. "What if something happens? What if this 'loop' suddenly ends?"

"I think Daniel has made it quite clear that nothing is going to happen." He sighs. She has reminded him of his duty. "All right. I'll be in my office. I've almost reached level 27."

I think Sam is about to speak, then realizes he isn't talking about the base.

Jack leaves and I turn to Sam. "What about you?"

"I'm going to run some simulations, some tests on the 'gate."

"You've done that over thirty times now." I wave a hand to prevent her objection. "I know you don't remember." I should let her go. What does it matter? I just feel bad about her being stuck doing the same thing over and over. At the end of all this, I want to be able to tell her she did something crazy. "If you were in my position, what would you do? If there were no external consequences to any of your actions? Isn't there anything you'd love to do but can't because of the trouble it would cause?"

She's thinking about it. A slow smile curves her lips. "There is this experiment I've been wanting to do. It breaches safety protocols. Actually it stomps on safety protocols and grinds them into the dirt. But I'm sure it would be safe." She sets off towards her lab. Uh oh. I realize I'm standing still when she rounds the corner. I run after her.

"Uh, Sam?"

"I've worked it out theoretically. I know it's safe but the General ... Well, I understand his position, the safety protocols are laid down by government scientists and he doesn't know anything beyond that."

"Well, they're probably... "

"If I were working at a dedicated science lab, it would be different. I could present my findings and get special dispensation. Here, I only get that if the planet's in danger."

We arrive at her lab. I stand in the doorway.

She continues, "But as you said, I can do this now without worrying about consequences."

"What about explosions?" I ask as she pushes past me.

She smiles and starts fiddling with something.

I stay in the doorway. "You won't remember the results."

"You'll tell me."

She expects me to stick around for this?.

"Then," she continues, "I'll be able to prove to the General that it is safe."

"He'll only have my word for it."

"That'll be enough."

"It's not usually."

"Daniel." She thinks I'm joking. A bank of switches is flipped.

"Ah, Sam, you know if you destroy the 'gate, the loop effect will be broken and then there will be very definite consequences."

"This couldn't possibly destroy the 'gate." Oh, good. Perhaps I've been overreacting. "A meteor strike, an exploding spaceship and re-entry into our atmosphere have all failed to destroy a 'gate. At the most, this might make ours a bit sooty." Or not.

"We also don't know if death is somehow permanent."

"Daniel." That's her big sister voice. "No-one is going to die. The experiment is perfectly safe."

I'm going to die. If the experiment doesn't kill me, Jack will. "Sam," I move closer to her. "is this really it? There's nothing else you want to do but this? Just one more experiment. You won't even get to observe it yourself, not usefully. You'll just get the results second hand. Isn't there anything outside the mountain, anything personal that you've always wanted to do and always held back from?"

She pauses. For a moment she is looking far away. She looks around the lab and I can see her trying to decide. "But I won't remember. Anything I do, I can only hear about second hand."

"Look, if you really want to perform this experiment, ask the General for permission to visit a dedicated laboratory. Go to Area 51, you can snoop at the same time. Right now, do something extraordinary. If it goes well, you can decide to do it again afterwards."

She bites her lip and decides.

--------

Some loops you can't win. I am clinging on to the strap while Sam revs the engine. A long, straight stretch of road lies ahead and Sam wants to find out how quickly she can get to the other end. A drag race, against her own expectations. Maybe I would have been safer with the experiment.

"When I was a kid, well, a teenager, there was this group of boys at school that got into drag racing. I wanted so much to join in. I knew I could build one hell of a hot rod. But if anything had gone wrong... Well, I was afraid the Academy wouldn't take me and Dad would be furious. I couldn't take the risk." She looks over at me. "You'll tell me."

"If I survive." I'm not a cautious driver myself but this is somewhere beyond my automotive interest.

Sam grins, not offended. "Don't worry, I have an advantage over my seventeen-year-old self. I'm trained in offensive driving."

She slips on a pair of sunglasses while I am wishing the Air Force would train its personnel in defensive driving. She revs the engine again, then clutch, gear, accelerator, GO!

--------

Sam drives sedately back to her house, her speed demons temporarily exorcised. We have a late lunch after which Sam eagerly introduces me to the inner world of her motorcycle. After using more mechanical tools than I think I own, the bike is back together and we are both smeared with oil.

Sam flicks a rag at me and grins. "Grease monkey. Yeah."

I smile and impulsively kiss her cheek. She gives me a hug. Then we go out into the evening and I seat myself on the pillion while Sam does the preflight check. I think that if she didn't need me to remember, Sam would be doing this alone and heading for the drag stretch again. Instead we cruise through the city into the fading and rising light.

--------
Loop 36

Today's briefing images are four cowboys riding into the sunset.

--------
Loop 38

I'm happily translating while Mozart playing over the loudspeaker. Do you know how many places in the SGC you can access the loudspeaker from? It'll take them a while to find the CD player.

Halfway through Vaughn Williams' 'Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis', silence returns. I go over to my stereo and put on the duplicate CD. A few minutes later, Jack and the General come into my office. "Doctor Jackson."

"Hey George. Jack."

"Daniel."

They are both looking at me as though the walls were padded. Slightly unsure what I might be about to do. I rub out the word 'surrender' and replace it with 'give up'.

"Doctor Jackson, is this your CD player?"

"Yes."

"Why were you playing it over the loudspeaker?"

"Well, there's research to show that classical music can reduce violence and thuggish behavior."

General and Colonel exchange a glance. "And you think that's needed at the SGC?"

"General, have you looked in the gyms recently? Dozens of men and women boxing, sparring, wrestling. No non-contact workouts like yoga, pilates or dance. Honestly, I'm worried about the aggressive and downright violent tendencies that my colleagues are displaying. Do you know how many of them regularly use automatic weapons?"

Yeah, definitely worth it for the looks on their faces. The ensuing visit to MacKenzie is even more fun.

--------
Loop 43

I steal into the General's office and sit on his chair. It's very comfortable, more than I was expecting. I bounce a bit, do a little swivel and then turn my attention to my reason for being here. I don't know exactly how this works, I suppose I just pick it up...

"Hello? This is Dr Jackson at the SGC, get me the President." There's a brief pause and then a strange familiar voice answers at the other end. "Mr. President. Just the man... "

--------
Loop 44

Yesterloop's fun with the President ... and how often does anyone use that phrase? ... has me thinking. Could I find a way to do it? I'd never get near in Washington. I bite my lip then grab the telephone. "Paul, hi, it's Daniel."

"Daniel." I like calling Paul, he always sounds happy to hear from me. "How are you?"

"Stuck in a time loop. You? Well, you are too, of course."

"What?"

"Nothing, forget it. You'll get the report in a few days. Your time."

"O-kay. I take it this is more SGC weirdness."

"What would be the point of interstellar travel if everything were normal. Be kind of disappointing, wouldn't it?"

He laughs. "I suppose so."

"Besides, as SGC weirdness goes, this is pretty benign. I occasionally have Teal'c for company and the only thing likely to drive me crazy is too many repetitions of Sam's briefing."

"Sounds quite peaceful." He's still amused, doesn't know if I'm really serious. It doesn't matter.

"Paul, I was wondering if you can give me Senator Kinsey's phone number."

"What?! What could you possibly ... ? I thought you hated the man."

"I wouldn't say I hate him. That's a very extreme emotion. I prefer to reserve it for Goa'ulds, misused apostrophes, that kind of thing. I merely despise him."

"Apostrophes?"

"Well, how hard is it t... no, I'm not going there. Focus. Kinsey."

"The man you despise?"

"The man I despise. Can you help me contact him? Don't worry, there won't be any comeback for you."

"Now you've really got me worried."

"Just give me the number."

"OK. You'll tell me later what this is about, won't you?"

"I will."

Once he's given me the number, I brood for a few minutes on how I should approach him. Then I make the call. "Doctor Daniel Jackson for Senator Kinsey. Please tell him it's urgent." Naturally the conard keeps me waiting for five minutes. I just put the 'phone on speaker and continue with the translation.

"Doctor Jackson." I imagine he uses the same tone of voice to say 'Communist' or 'Islamist'. "What the hell do you want?"

I swallow my knee-jerk reaction and stay focused on the prize. I speak fast. "Senator, I'm sorry to bother you. I know our relationship hasn't been exactly ... cordial in the past but there are things, " I pause and lower my voice, "things you need to know. Things are happening here. Nothing dangerous. Well, politics. I can't say much over the 'phone. You need to be here. Today."

"Why should I believe you?"

"I know we've held opposing points of view in the past. But you can believe that I want to defend Earth from the Goa'uld. I lost my wife to them, I know what they can do. And I believe we need the best defence, the best weaponry we can get. I've never been against that. There's a race SG-4 met on P2P-100, the Sharmootaat Hayganaat, who have technology similar to the Eurondans but without the genocidal tendencies. They're here now for negotiations. But Jack is set on alienating them, no pun intended, for no reason that I can understand, and the General is backing him. You know how Hammond backs Jack up, even against the regulations.

"If it's left to them, we won't get anything, even diplomatic relations. They won't listen to me, someone needs to be here now to stop this. Or start it. Whatever. I can't do anything, I certainly can't get to the President. You're the only person I could think of who has the security clearance and the clout to affect this. Please. Come. Now." I end and pause. Have I filled this with enough details for him to believe it? I hear him suck in a breath.

"Sounds like you've got yourself quite a situation there, Dr Jackson. But what possible reason could O'Neill give for not accepting this technology?"

"He says he doesn't trust them. Something about being overeager to share with us." Time for my ace. Oh Jack, forgive me. In a few hours this won't have happened. I sigh, "To be honest," I sigh again, "to be honest, I think he hates the idea that it wasn't SG-1 who found them."

"That does sound like O'Neill to me." How would you know, you arschloch ? How dare you even think you could dream to understand a man like Jack? "I'm on my way." Good.

--------

"Hey Jack."

"Daniel. Aren't you translating?"

"Uh, not right now. I have something important to do. Are you doing paperwork?"

"Hammond feels that since we have a sudden free day, I should do some catching up."

"He does? Does he realize that in about three hours' time, this will all be undone again?"

"I did point that out to him. I think he thinks I should spend some time like Sisyphus." I love it when he talks mythology to me.

"Or he just doesn't believe us."

"He keeps an open mind. So what's this important thing you're doing?"

"Asking you if you want to get a late lunch before Kinsey arrives."

"Kinsey! What's that slime-sucking pissant coming here for?"

"I asked him to."

"You what?!"

"I had to spin him quite a story."

"Why would you ask that crap-snorting wereworm to come here?"

"Crap-snorting wereworm?"

"Daniel!"

"I'm in a timeloop. I can do anything without consequences."

"Yeah, so?" Then it sinks in. A smirk forms. "So-o?"

"It's very simple, nothing elaborate. You'll see."

--------

Jack, Teal'c and I are sitting at the briefing table. I felt this type of entertainment was a little outside Sam's comfort zone. I have my feet up on the table and am watching Jack showing Teal'c how to do tricks with a yo-yo.

In the middle of a 'Gunslinger', Jack says, "So, T, what was the point of making Reyes wander round naked but for a sprinkling of glitter, telling people Jaffa jokes?"

Before Teal'c can explain, Senator Kinsey walks in to the briefing room and General Hammond comes out of his office to challenge him.

"Senator Kinsey, what the hell are you doing here?"

"I thought someone from government should meet the Sharmootaat Hayganaat."

Jack snorts and shakes his head. "And you campaign against degeneracy. I knew you were a hypocrite."

Hammond says, "I have no idea what you're talking about. Colonel, what is going on here?"

I answer. "I called the Senator, General. I ... lied."

"You what?"

"I lied. 'Sharmootaat Hayganaat' is Arabic for 'horny slutbitches'." Kinsey looks as though he's about to have an aneurysm.

"Is this your idea of a joke, Doctor?" 'Doctor' said with shadings of 'Cocksucking pervert'. "You brought me here for nothing?"

"Oh not for nothing. For this." I pull a zat and fire.

We regard the results.

"Sweet."

--------
Loop 45

As we leave the infirmary, I pull Jack aside and offer him his own shot at Kinsey. He's a bit more elaborate than I was. I think he would rather have strapped Freya and Anise into the Zatarc detector, but he is a man who makes the most of his opportunities.

--------
Loop 51

I am translating a section on the cataclysm when it hits me. I sit back and stare at nothing for a moment then grab the phone and dial a number.

"Oriental Institute. How may I help you?"

"Hello, could you put me through to Doctor Jordan, please?"

"I'm sorry, Doctor Jordan has left for the day. May I take a message?"

"Oh. Uh, no. No, thank you. Uh, what time did he leave?"

"I think it was about three."

I have to take a moment, after years of military hundred hours, to understand this simple statement. "Great, thank you. Goodbye."

--------
Loop 52

I leap out of my chair as soon as the loop recommences.

"Daniel? Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Sam. I'll see you guys."

I go to my lab, put certain items into my briefcase and leave the mountain. You know, sometimes the guards here are a bit too trusting. Anyway, I drive to the airport and take the first flight to Chicago. Once there, I take a cab to the Oriental Institute.

I stare up at the building. Being here again, I am caught up in a spectrum of memories and emotions. The Institute was home for so long. I mean, I didn't live there but ... it was where I felt alive. Where I wanted to be. When I wasn't on digs, of course. I worked with people who understood my enthusiasms and shared my joy in ancient cultures and languages and artifacts. We had long days and late nights sharing, debating, arguing, learning. It wasn't all taken in good part. Academia is a world where you're not likely to get rich and so reputation, what the ancients Greeks called kudos, your status, your prestige, is everything. Bitching, back stabbing, begging for grants, it can wring you out sometimes.

It's not always about the truth, at least not for everyone. For some of them, their own careers are more important than accuracy. So much of what they are propagating is wrong or at least, based on false information and assumptions. I feel a shock of guilt. As much as I look forward to the day the Stargate knowledge is revealed and I ... yes, and I can claim my due ... how can I face my colleagues, knowing that I let them make fools of themselves?

Although, aren't they doing it to themselves? Before I knew about the Stargate, I knew that the Egyptian language and the pyramids were older than was generally believed. There is no outright evidence for the pyramids being dated as accepted academia would have it. I wouldn't have persisted if to do so were to ignore the obvious proven facts. I tried to tell them but they wouldn't listen. As good scientists, they should have listened to the theory, studied the evidence that I presented and made their decisions based on that. The possibility, however remote, should have been considered and accepted.

Instead they formed a pack to protect their own interests, because if I was right, they were all wrong and everything they taught and had written would have to be undone and remade. People don't like having to change their beliefs, to think again. Even in a life presumably based on thinking. So they threw me out, rather than start over.

Still, I wasn't the first and I won't be the last. Jane Goodall with her belief in complex ape societies. Elaine Morgan, fighting for the aquatic ape theory of human evolution. Galileo and all his astronomical discoveries. Many others. I'm in good company.

I walk through the Institute, passing a couple of people I know. They look shocked. I'd like to stay and talk but in the loop it wouldn't mean anything and my time is passing. Dr Jordan is still in his old lab. It's been less than five years. I can't believe it. It seems so much longer. I knock. I have no idea how he'll greet me.

"Come in."

"Dr Jordan."

He glances up, stares. "Daniel. Daniel, is it ..."

"Hi. Uh..."

"Daniel, oh my God, it's wonderful to see you." He gets up and comes over to me, embraces me. I'm surprised, but after a moment, I return the embrace.

"Dr Jordan, it's good to see you again too."

"It's David, Daniel. Remember? David. Where have you been?" He leads me over to the chairs by his desk. The lab is just as I remember it. High, long walls of books with one of those ladders on wheels attached to a rail. A table owned by artifacts and one elderly computer clinging to a corner. Dust hanging in the light from the large windows, because he'll never let the cleaners in or the windows be opened for fear of damage, theft and windblown piles of paper.

We sit down after moving paper and books from two armchairs. "How are you?" I ask. "You look well."

He stares at me a moment. "I searched for you, Daniel. I was worried about you, we all were. Sarah especially. Have you seen Sarah?"

"No."

"You must. We searched but all we could find out was that you got into a big black car and drove off. You were gone. We didn't know what had happened."

"I'm sorry. I was offered a chance to prove my theories and I didn't have anything left to lose. I didn't know, I couldn't imagine where it would take me. I have so much to tell you."

"Tell me."

So we sit in his office and he waves away everyone who tries to interrupt. I tell him everything and when his expression starts to stutter with pain and sadness at my delusive state, I open my briefcase and show him. His wonder, his blossoming excitement in the truth, warms me. I describe Abydos, the Land of Light, Cimmeria. I tell him of Nem and Omoroca, whose story is told in the Babylonian Enuma Elish. Of Thor and Apophis and Egeria's Tok'Ra. The reality of the gods. When he says, "Daniel. My God, Daniel, you were right," I feel a lightness that I have needed for a long time. I don't need anyone else to know. Just him.

"So. When do you publish?"

"God knows. Or the Air Force Chief of Staff, who is the same thing to many of my colleagues. I signed non-disclosure papers."

"But you must. That's minor, that's trivial. This, this is beyond petty military secrecy rules."

"There are some good reasons ..."

"None that matter in the face of all this. This changes the world. Everyone's world."

"I know. My hands are tied."

"Then why are you telling me?"

I look at my watch. "Because in about five minutes, this will never have happened."

"What?"

Suddenly I feel urgent. "If I asked you to join the SGC, would you? Would you sign the papers and keep the secret and be part of it?"

"Daniel! I ..."

"You have had a splendid career, you could retire early, no-one will think it odd. You're a brilliant man, you would be such an asset to us."

"I can't keep this secret, Daniel. I can't keep this from my colleagues and my friends and ... everyone. Everyone has a right to know about this."

I deflate. "Yes. That's what I thought you'd say."

"Why shouldn't people know?"

"To start with, what would happen? Imagine it. Look at the UN. Built to allow all nations an equal voice, it is ruled by the nuclear club of the Security Council. It maybe wrong for the only the US to have the Stargate, but equally, the arms race, the spying, the power games that would ensue when all countries know. Until there's a way around all the petty international squabbling, we might as well stay as we are.

"I may not be convinced of the goodwill of the American military and I don't trust the NID as far as I could throw the Pentagon. But neither do I trust the Russian, Chinese, Israeli, Syrian militaries and secret services, or the British or the French, the Egyptians, anyone. And speaking of the Egyptians, they would want the gate returned to them. The Arab nations would form a bloc demanding it. And while we bicker amongst ourselves ...

--------
Loop 53

"... the Goa'uld wipe us out."

Jack and Sam stare at me. I sigh, eat my waffles and return to my translation, leaving Teal'c to explain it all this time.

--------
Loop 57

Just to confuse matters, I take this loop's briefing images from the Hubble telescope via the NASA website.

--------
Loop 62

The design has to be just right. Even if it isn't going to last, there's still no point going through the pain for the wrong image. I've spent the morning inspecting tattoo parlours and this man seems to be an artist. We consult over the design and he draws a preliminary sketch I'm happy with.

It's a cartouche effect to go from the top of my breastbone all the way down my torso. At the top is a henna hued Ankh, the symbol of rebirth, followed by the six symbol address for Earth leading down from it in azure. Below that, above my navel, is a dark grey ring with nine red triangular chevrons on it and within that is a circular inscription : 'Exegi monumentum aere perennius' which is the first line of Horace's Odes 3:30' - I have built a monument more lasting than bronze'. In the poem, he proclaims that his poetry will secure his immortality. The most famous line is in fact : 'Non omnis moriar' - 'I shall not completely die'.

Below the representation of the Stargate is a broken tablet half buried in sand with a partial Hebrew inscription describing the tower of Babel. At the bottom is a desert filigreed with dark brown vines sprouting blue, white and palest green flowers - the Abydonian Sha'ur.

The top part hurts like a bitch. Not as bad as a ribbon device, but anyone who does this often must have a much higher pain threshold than I do. The tattooist, Mitch, tells me that doing it over bone always hurts worst. It's done pretty fast, though. He asks me if I want to continue the rest that day or come back another time.

"It has to be today."

"OK." He waves his colleague, Paulie, over and they both set to work. I'm done by lunchtime.

I look in the mirror they provide. I like the effect. Apart from the painful red skin all around. I had half a mind to wander round the SGC with my shirt off but that's not likely to happen now. Especially not after they tape the bandages in place. "Just keep them on for a couple of days."

"Yah," says Paulie, "and then use a soothing ointment for a week after that."

"Thanks."

I leave thinking that I might have to give up on the sexy tattoo look, at least while I only have ten hours to break it in.

--------

I try to visit some clothes shops but after experiencing mild claustrophobia in two I give up and soothe myself in a bookstore.

--------
Loop 63

This loop, I ask Teal'c to guide me. I wonder for a moment if I'll end up as a cross between Luke Skywalker and the Lone Ranger. Or even Tonto. It doesn't matter. This is all about experimentation.

He leads me serenely through shops I would never have known about and although we do visit the rodeo store, we also visit Macy's and take in areas I've never seen before. In each store, I turn off my practicality, insecurity and embarrassment and try to dress for night-club pulling. Not something I've ever done. I never had the confidence or really the inclination to sleep around, but just occasionally I've watched people flirt, connect, opt for something casual, and I've wondered how it would be to be so easily flirtatious, so tactile.

In the end, with Teal'c's approval, I buy soft, pale blue, pre-worn, low-slung jeans, a pale grey soft shirt and high-tops. I wear them out of the store.

We return to the SGC. I undo my top two shirt buttons as we go down in the elevator. Teal'c looks and then undoes the third.

The elevator doors open on a pissed-off Jack. We blew off the briefing to go shopping. "So." He stops and looks me up and down in some surprise.

"Hey Jack." I push things and look up at him through my eyelashes. We stride out of the elevator and he falls in step with us.

"Daniel. New look."

"I thought I'd like to try something different."

"And for this you blew off Hammond? He is not a happy camper."

"He won't remember in a few hours."

"What?"

There's a different look. Suspicious. I do believe Jack suspects this might be the onset of a foothold situation.

We pass Lt Harvey. She gives Jack a loose salute, her eyes on me. I give her a small smile and a wink. She blushes! Once we've passed, I look back over my shoulder and she's doing the same. I turn forward and walk into Jack. I swear he gives me a slight shove as I bounce back. Maybe I just wish I had that excuse. Anyway, I end up on my ass again.

"Oops." He offers me his hand to stand. I glare at it, embarrassed, but I take it all the same.

--------

General Hammond is not happy and he's even angrier with my explanation. He feels we are taking advantage. Well, yes. It makes me a little sad that he's disappointed in me but we've had this conversation so many times that I'm just getting bored and irritated. I remind myself sternly that this is new for him. Still, I'm starting to understand why criminals and teenagers just roll their eyes when someone berates them for the fortieth time.

We are sent to Janet, as always, and then confined to an isolation room. It seems my 'out-of-character' behavior has them still suspicious that disease or aliens have a foothold in us.

I have the opportunity to assess the nurses' reactions to my outfit, first during our initial check and then the frankly unnecessary visits we get in the supposed 'isolation' room. Three nurses take my temperature, four my blood-pressure - with a lot of arm-stroking that Janet never employs - and seven take my pulse, gazing into my eyes and holding on far too long. Not one of the seven even glances at her watch.

I do my best to flirt, though my best consists only of small smiles, sustained eye-contact and making a point of touching each one on the shoulder. With Nurse Williams, who I actually find quite attractive, I even curl my hand slightly over hers. She stays the longest, while we discuss her college travels around the Mediterranean. Eventually Janet arrives in a clap of thunder and Williams flees.

I conclude that if I ever wanted romantic attention, this would be the outfit to get it.

Between nurses, I enjoy Teal'c's narrative of his travels, particularly riding the bucking-bronco in a cowboy bar, falling off at the end and having Junior pop out squealing loud complaints. He says the bar emptied so fast, you'd think Asgard had taken them all.

--------
Loop 64

This loop, I try a more extreme outfit. I'm wearing a dark blue bandana, a tight, dark grey tanktop, a pair of soft, tight leather trousers and black leather boots. I then visit Mitch and Paulie and have one ear pierced with a gold hoop. Part of me is convinced I look a fool but I've developed my brazen side in this loopiness. I return to the SGC. Teal'c is unwilling to spend another day in the isolation room and sets off for Hawaii.

Deja vu. Pissed off Jack. This time, though, I don't even get a 'So', just a gobsmacked expression and a slow appraisal up and down. I saunter out of the lift and round him. "Hey Jack." I don't really know how to do a sexy walk. Women do it with the hips, I have never taken time to observe how men do it. So I walk quite slowly and imagine I'm a lion. I look back over my shoulder, expecting a smirk and some mocking. Jack is staring at my ass. He looks ... mesmerised. Wow. This outfit is effective. Part of my mind is now slightly concerned about going near the nurses like this. More of it, though, is fixed on the thought 'Jack is checking me out'.

None of my thoughts are concerned with where I ought to go so my auto-pilot sets course for my office. I turn the corner and there's Lt Harvey. Her jaw drops and she takes a deep breath while dropping her gaze slowly downwards. One hand climbs raises to her mouth. She bites a fingertip and raises her eyes to mine. "Doctor Jackson." She sighs.

"Lieutenant!"

She jumps, stares to my right for a moment then snaps back into military mode, complete with perfect posture and faultless salute. "Sir!"

"Keep moving."

"Sir!" She passes to my left and marches away.

I look at Jack. He's watching her leave with a death glare.

"She was being nice, Jack."

"Oh, I don't think her thoughts were nice at all. She bypassed naughty and went straight to downright nasty. And what the hell do you expect, looking like that? What are you doing in those clothes? And I use the term loosely."

I look down at myself. "Don't you like them?"

He looks incredulous. "I don't care." His anger is up to speed now. "What is wrong with you? We were meant to be in a briefing three hours ago for a mission in three hours' time. And you have been, where? Getting fashion tips from the James Street boys?"

"Actually the pants did come from James. Teal'c recommended a shop there."

This statement throws a girder on Jack's tracks. "Wha'? What does Teal'c know about James Street?"

"You know Teal'c's approach to fashion is somewhat eclectic. And I don't think leather pants are that unusual for the Jaffa."

He pokes a finger at me. "You are not a Jaffa. I've never seen you wear anything like this."

"I thought I'd try something new."

"You..." He breaks off. Jack has very wide peripheral vision. His subconscious has now directed him to the growing number of watchers. "Problem, Airmen?"

"No, sir." They leave smartly.

Jack grabs my arm and tows me to my office. He flips on the light, shuts the door and stares at me.

"What's going on, Daniel?"

"I open my mouth to explain about the loop but instead I say, "Aaron Drummer, Midsummer, 1969."

He's shocked. His mouth opens a couple of times. Quietly, dangerously, he says, "How do you know about that?"

I explain about the loop. There's not a moment of doubt in his eyes.

"And so you're dressed like that because ... ?"

"Honestly, Jack, I just wanted to try something new. And see how people would react without worrying about them remembering. And knowing." I shrug and hug myself.

He nods slowly. "And what are you doing to escape this time loop?"

I explain about the translation.

"So translate. Find out how to end this." He leaves, closing the door behind him.

I sit down at my desk and the door opens again.

"Where's Teal'c?"

I don't look up. "Hawaii." There is silence as I sort through my photographs trying to find where I got to. Then the door closes again. I sit back in my chair and think. I consider going to the infirmary. Nurse Williams had such enthusiasm for the Acropolis and the Roman mosaics in Tunisia. I don't have the curiosity for more reactions, though. Lt. Harvey responded very nicely. And Jack... I need to think how I feel about Jack's reaction to me.

I have slept with men. They're much easier to have casual sex with than women. I could take care of my physical needs without having to be tied down to a relationship. I even had a boyfriend once, though it didn't last long. But I don't think of men sexually, actually I don't think of anyone sexually, unless they are presented to me that way. Or I'm really horny. Jack is an attractive man, I have felt that. And he knows me.

I wrench my thoughts away. There has never been any point in following this train of thought. I don't want to feel things that can never be acted upon. I start to flip through the photographs, reminding myself of the translation so far, firmly suppressing the question of what I would do if I found myself with Jack in the back of his truck on Midsummer Night.

--------
Loop 70

Today, Sam credits SG-15 with the Maui tourist video. Jack looks quite hopeful. His face falls when she apologises to the General and goes to find the proper pictures.

--------
Loop 75

I've come to the conclusion that I would do a lot in the back of Jack's truck at Midsummer. And that it's a place I will never be in real life. But just now, I'm not living real life. I stand outside Jack's office and am surprised to find myself calm. Perhaps all these other things I've been doing have been an education in chutzpah.

I knock and Jack waves me in.

"Daniel. Aren't you translating?"

"I've been going round and round today for several weeks now, Jack. Even I can't translate non-stop for all that time."

"Wow. The Jackson perpetual translation engine finally ran down, huh?"

"Everyone needs a little R&R sometimes. Teal'c suggested that we should take a break from time to time and relax."

"So what have you been up to?

"Oh, I've been having some quiet fun. And this loop I intend to have more."

"Anything I can help you with? There's very little point to my doing anything ... " he searches for a word, coming up with "... at all. According to you, it will never have happened."

"Right. In fact, I think you should do a little of what Teal'c and I have been doing. Take the opportunity to do something you would never do if you had to live with the consequences."

He's leaning back, smiling that quirky Jack smile at me. "Sounds like a better use of time to me. You'll tell me about it once the looping's over, right?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"Stand up. Come round here."

"O-K." He stands slowly and strolls round the desk with his hands in his pockets.

"It depends on how you react to this." I would ask him to close his eyes but he wouldn't agree. That's right up there with asking him to put his gun down. Instead I move fast so he won't block me and I can't lose my nerve. Well, I try to move fast but as soon as my lips touch his, I lose speed. I didn't expect his lips to be soft. Silly, because most people's lips are soft. I have a moment to enjoy the feel of them, before he pulls away.

"Daniel?"

"I just wanted to know." I step back from him. He is calm, slightly wary. I've had the same response when I do something he doesn't understand in the field. Actually, I've had the same response when I've asked him to go to the cinema. "So, I'll just," I gesture with my thumb over my shoulder, "be going." I turn away.

He lays a hand on my shoulder and turns me back. One arm wraps around my shoulders, the other round my waist. He moves close and kisses me thoroughly. I am reminded of Sha'uri. Then my arousal starts to thrum and I'm only thinking of Jack. We are tightly pressed together. I have one hand on his neck, the other just above his ass. Our cocks are hard, our hips moving minutely.

The kiss ends. He takes a deep breath. "That what you wanted to know?"

I stare at the bridge of his nose, blink, draw back slightly. "Yes. Ah. Mm." I dart my tongue over my lips then realize it.

He nods and we release each other. "Glad to be of assistance."

"Right."

He looks at me, casual, leaning back slightly against his desk. Then a shiver, runs through him and he rolls his shoulders. "Good. So. Was there anything else?"

"Want to go to the movies?" I nod my head to the side. "You won't ... remember the film but I can let you know if you enjoyed it."

A beat. "Sure."

So we go to the cinema and if our knees rub together, if our hands and forearms keep bumping and stroking as they fight for the armrest, it's not something either of us bothers to mention.

--------
Loop 80

Sam's briefing pictures this time come courtesy of gayhardcoreporn.net. Thought I'd get Jack in the mood. General Hammond's eyes pop out of his head. "MAJOR CARTER." Shocked, Sam looks at him and then turns round to see screen. She goes bright red, her mouth drops open then she's scrabbling with the remote. She pauses at a somewhat unfortunate point, well, depending on your point of view. From the General's point of view definitely. "MAJOR!"

--------

The showers. If this goes horribly wrong, which is a strong possibility, I will only suffer for a short time. If it goes right ... my mind short-circuits at the images that appear and my dick gets hard beneath my towel.

Teal'c helped. He took Jack for a workout while I translated. Got him all hot and sweaty. Gave me a head's up when Jack was heading for the showers.

"Jack."

He looks over his shoulder at me and looks away, "Dan...", and looks back, "..iel. What, do I have something on my butt?" He tries to see.

"No. Just admiring the view."

He freezes then turns very slowly. I walk towards him in what I hope is a predatory way. I've been watching him and Teal'c and I've tried to add a little of their grace and intent to my own gait.

"Daniel?" Calm, cautious, slightly tense. The sort of voice you might use to a drunk friend who has just insulted a Hell's Angel.

I drop my towel and let him see exactly how intoxicated he makes me. He's distracted, I might happily say fixated, for long enough that I get a foot away before he looks up. The adrenalin is pumping, getting him ready for fleeing, fighting or fucking, but he doesn't know which he wants. I reach behind him and turn the water hotter. I trail my hand onto his hip.

"Hey, Jack. You ever done this before?"

He just stares intently into my eyes while I rub his hip, brushing his ass with my fingers. I raise my other hand and graze his nipple with the ball of my thumb. He hisses and moves back slightly. "I gave it up, Daniel. I gave it up for the Air Force. It's too late to reverse that decision." He takes my hand to hold it still.

I turn his hand over in mine and kiss the palm. "What has the Air Force ever given up for you?" I slowly kiss and lick his fingertips.

"We, the Air Force and I, we don't have that sort of relationship. I'm her bitch, always have been."

I still my hand on his hip and look up at him. "Doesn't sound a very healthy relationship."

"I didn't expect that. I did want to fly. And stand up for my country. Be a quiet sort of hero." He quirks a smile. "Or a big loud one." He knows himself.

I want to ask him when that changed. How did he end up in the murky waters of Special Ops? Was the reality worth sacrificing the dreams? Instead I wrap my arms around his waist. He tries to pull gently away. "Time loop, Jack." I whisper. I kiss his neck. "Do you think I would have substituted those pictures into Sam's presentation," kiss, "if there would be consequences?" I bite his shoulder. "The Air Force can't get you for this." I lick my way up his throat. "Not long from now," nibble, "this will never..." I breathe my final words onto his mouth, "... have happened."

A growl-groan rises from his throat and then he's kissing me wildly. His hands are holding my face, mine clutch his shoulders. We kiss wetly, roughly, messily, missing each other and searching, learning. I slow us down, he sucks my tongue in deep. I grip his hips and roughen my kiss, he tilts my head and plunges his tongue in and out. He rolls my nipples, I twist. I press hard against him and he pulls me to him, falling back against the wall. We grapple at each other, roughly massaging skin and muscles. Our tongues rub, our lips bite. We pull apart and press together again. His hand gets a grip on my ass cheek. I raise my leg and dig my heel in behind his knee. Our erections rub, slide together in the water. I look down. I take them both in my hands, pumping, stroking, measuring with my fingers, length, width. His hands join mine, each circling a cock. He squeezes, pumps, wraps his hands around both. I grab at his shoulders and thrust into his hands. He bucks with me; squeezes again. For a moment we are almost still.

A whisper, "Oh Daniel."

My fingers bury in his hair. "Jack."

His tongue slips into my mouth again, his hands in my hair. Then he kneels and sucks the head of my cock. My body aches and brightens. His kisses and sucks all over my shaft, my head, my balls. I am groaning and rocking. A click, a moment, his mouth withdraws and something slick is rubbed on me. Then he stands. He pulls me tight and kisses me open mouthed. One hand captures my cock. He turns his back to me and guides me to his hole. It's slick. I groan-sob, try to get a grip on myself. I rest my head on his shoulder and he turns to me. I look into his eyes. Wildness, desire, pain, need. I take a physical grip on myself and start to guide my cock inside him. His head falls forward and his groan lasts as I slowly push inside. He is relaxing, opening to me, but he is still so tight. He is hurting and I try to stop but he just presses down until I am all the way in. His eyes slide shut and he breathes deeply.

"God, it's been so long." His muscles squeeze me and I shudder while he writhes and throws his head back. I take a firm stance, a good grip, pull out and thrust. Again, steady, forceful. I want to last as long as I can. A river of pleasure is rushing through me, in my back, my guts, my legs, a lake of it in my groin. Jack is pushing back, rocking with my relentless rhythm, eyes closed, teeth clenched. Oh, good, good, good. Ah. "Harder. More."

"Yesss." I'll come sooner but I won't disobey him. Oooh, God. "Uh. Ja-ack. Jack."

I change my angle. He throws his head back and shouts. Then, "God. Yes. There. Ah. Yes. YES." Our rhythm builds, too fast and hard to last. We grunt and shout and clutch until I'm spurting inside him, my thrusts hard enough to lift him. I put one hand on his cock, squeeze and he comes in the air and on my hand.

I ease out of him. We both slide down to the tiles and sit under the spray, holding each other. I raise my head and he matches me. We just look at each other, breathing hard. His fingertips touch my cheek and we share a soft kiss. Our foreheads meet and we stay like that, gently touching until white light flares ...

--------
Loop 81

...and I'm back in the commissary, dressed, looking across at him and his uniform and his breakfast, and I have to look away. I have the memory, one perfect secret, hidden in the loops. Just one. Whatever happens, no-one can touch it, no-one can taint it, no-one can take it from me.

--------
Loop 82

"So we'll do it. But I won't remember."

"No. But I promise to tell you all about it."

"In the gateroom."

"Yes."

"And you can't even take pictures because..."

"Once the loop resets it will never have happened."

"You know, I'm not sure that can be right. I mean, it will have happened because if it hadn't have happened you wouldn't be able to remember it even though the rest of us forget..."

"Jack, don't try to understand it. We'll leave that up to Sam."

"You ever wondered if Carter understands this stuff because she's that much brighter than us about Physics? Or because she just ignores the bits that make everybody else's heads spin?"

"No, I've never wondered that. It would make me worry too much, the next time we have to rely on her."

"Good point. Let's go. I can't wait to do this. In the gateroom. You've got hidden depths of bad behavior, Doctor Jackson."

"Jack, you have no idea. Teal'c's waiting with the supplies."

"Teal'c's joining in?"

"Sure. Why not?"

"I...wouldn't have thought he'd be interested."

"Teal'c has hidden depths too, Jack."

"What about Carter? Are we making this a team activity?"

"She's arranging a little private time for us, just until we're in full swing."

"Sweet."

"Mm. Can you think of anyone else you'd like to invite?"

Jack thinks for a moment then says with a smirk, "How 'bout Ol' Doc Fraiser?"

I smile. I'm doing that a lot. Must be loopy. "Good choice."

--------

So we round up Janet, picking up Walter, Siler and Feretti as we go. The more, the messier. We get busy in the gateroom and thanks to Sam, we actually manage more than an hour before someone in the control room opens the blast shield. Their eyes bug out and forty-eight seconds later, the General's delicate tone sounds through the intercom. "Colonel O'Neill, what the hell are you people doing?"

Jack waves lazily at him with one wet hand. "Hey, George. Come join us, there's lots of room."

George does indeed run down to the gateroom but I suspect he's not coming to join in the fun. I haul myself to my feet to try a little diplomacy. The General is already talking as he comes through the door. "Have you lost you minds? Wha..." And then he spots Teal'c.

Teal'c is naked and holding a muscle man pose. A slight twist of his hips combined with the positioning of his forearms hides his symbiote pouch and, well, he looks stunning. Janet certainly thinks so. She said he's her muse and has been intent on him for the last hour. She's currently working on his pectorals. She said the study of anatomy at medical school has paid off in heaps of areas.

"General," I start, "did you know that Janet's hobby is life drawing?"

"Doctor Jackson..." The General is very confused.

I try to explain. "General, contrary to common belief, ancient Greek temples weren't plain white, they were gaudily decorated with bright colors in both natural and geometric patterns..."

"Doctor Jackson..."

I try again. "General, we've gated to so many places where the local Stargates are kept in the most beautiful locations - in temples, in parks, in forests, in decorated caverns. We have a large concrete box. This," I wave my hands around the room, "is what people see when they arrive for the first time on our world. The only other similar location was on Euronda. So we thought we'd decorate. We wanted to make it a bit more welcoming and show just a little of what Earth has to offer. I admit it's eclectic, we didn't work out a particular design or anything..."

Everyone just went their own way. It's not like it's going to last. Jack immediately grabbed a couple of spray cans and released his inner teenager. He started with slogans - 'Death To All Snakes', 'Thor For President', 'Anise For God's Sake, Put Some Clothes On', a few others. After that, though, he took a big space and started on an impressionist ice hockey mural. It's actually pretty good.

Teal'c took a inch wide brush and depicted our defeats of Ra, Hathor, Seth, Sokar, Klorel and Apophis in cave painting style.

Sam has several brushes in her pockets, a couple of spray cans in a holster and an airbrushing Siler as assistant. She is alternating between colorful, calligraphic equations, and atoms, where each circle in the atom is a planet or a fruit, a seedpod, a sun, a moon, a wheel, a Stargate.

Janet took a big wide brush and our brightest colors and started painting huge Southern flowers; Teal'c is her centrepiece.

Feretti has set himself the personal goal of reproducing the logos of every NFL team.

Walter, and I think this is quietly brilliant, is picking out the symbols on the gate itself in many colors, the Earth symbol in gold.

My own work is a mural of typical patterns of ancient cultures merging into each other, interspersed with my favourite dictums in ancient and modern languages.

I'm proud of us all.

The General is not proud. He's got that look that says MacKenzie and he's also turning puce. I give up. "Not that it makes a difference whether you agree or not."

"Oh, it doesn't?"

"Nope. In another," I glance at my watch, "hour and a half, this won't have happened."

"Doctor Jackson, are you using this supposed time loop to your advantage?"

"Absolutely."

"What?"

"Why not? It's rare enough that I get what I want around here. This is an opportunity to have a lot of fun and believe me, General, I have been." I raise the thick paintbrush that I was using to make a nice gold key pattern around the bottom edge of the room - I'm not very good at drawing concrete objects but my skill with various graphical representations of language mean I have a talent for patterns - and I carefully and solemnly paint the General's bald head. He stands shocked so I take the opportunity to add some ear guards. "There. Just like Bra'tac."

--------
Loop 85

"That's it. I've finished."

"That is excellent news, DanielJackson. Allow me to congratulate you on your success and the speed with which you have achieved it."

I sit down in my chair and look across at Teal'c. "Let's be honest here, I haven't been as fast as I could have been. We could have been at this point twenty loops ago, if I hadn't taken time off to mess about. I apologise for that."

"No apology is necessary. It would have been detrimental to your health for you to have worked continuously for many weeks. In addition, I have greatly enjoyed the diversions we have allowed ourselves. I shall carry forward some happy memories of these events. Despite the several frustrations of the situation, I am glad to have had these opportunities."

"It has been fun. I've got some pretty good memories out of it too. I've found it liberating. I'm going to have to remember not to act or speak quite so freely after we're out."

"Indeed? I believe you should take time to consider that, DanielJackson. The liberation you have found is not an entirely bad thing. Too many inhibitions can be as harmful as too few. At the very least, you will need to pursue matters with O'Neill."

"I want to. I will try to find a way, but Teal'c, the couple of times in the last weeks that I persuaded Jack to express an kind of interest, it was only after I had convinced him that none of it would ever have happened. That doesn't bode well for future relations which will remain in ... past ... existence. I wonder if the Ancients developed verb tenses and idioms to deal with their situation?"

"You must decide if O'Neill is truly a prize worth the battle."

"It's more that Jack has to decide if I'm worth the risk. I doubt it's going to happen, Teal'c."

"You must learn to believe in yourself. Any sane person would be honored to have you in their lives in any capacity. I am honored to call you friend and brother. If O'Neill is wise, as I believe deep down he is, he will be honored by your wish to pursue a relationship with him."

I'm blushing and staring at my hands by the end of his pronouncement. "Teal'c." I clear my throat. "You are one of the greatest men I have ever met or heard of. I ... feel enriched to know you. And honored to be your friend and brother too." He bows his head. Teal'c never just 'nods'.

"So, brother Teal'c, shall we take these findings to the General now, or shall we wait for the reset? I imagine you would be very happy not to be hit in the face again."

"Indeed. I believe it would be wise, however, to allow the loop to reset again. This morning when Airman Reyes hit me, I dragged him by the leg to gymnasium and forced him to spar with me. I told him it was a matter of honour."

I smile. "And when it resets?"

"I shall simply growl and loom at him, as I did the first time, and advise him to be more cautious in future, lest I inflict a suitable vengeance on him."

"Next loop, then. In the meantime, how about reconnecting all Sam's computers to the wrong monitors or supergluing Jack's desk drawers shut?"

"Both."

"Let's do it."

--------
Loop 86

I present my findings to the others and we head through the gate.

We stand in the ruins and look around. "Malikai," I call, "Malikai, we need to talk."

We spread out to search for him. As Teal'c walks between the stone arch, he is thrown backwards. Sam and Jack run to him and Sam takes his pulse.

Malikai walks into view. "I'm sorry, but you've come to break the time loop. And I'm afraid I can't let you do that." He turns back to his notes.

I walk up to the stone arch. "Malikai. Why are you doing this? What can you possibly get out of this that makes it worthwhile? Trapped in the same ten hours, over and over?"

"You wouldn't understand."

"Try us."

He ignores me and continues studying.

Jack picks up a stone and tosses it at the arch. It is deflected with greater force and whizzes off into the distance. Sam says, "It's no good, sir. It looks like a variation of a Goa'uld forceshield."

Malikai answers, "In fact it is, Major. I had to trade several rare artifacts for the field generator but it was well worth it."

I try again. "Malikai, please reset the controls. This loop is never going to end if you don't."

"I'm counting on it. I need more time. Once I have correctly deciphered the symbols on the altar, I will be able to master the time device."

I knew it. "You want to travel in time. Control time. Why? Wealth, power?"

"You think I would do this for personal gain? She ...", he stops, looks away. "You wouldn't understand."

"What happened?" Says Jack.

Malikai looks weary with grief. "She died. Twelve years ago. When I found this place and discovered its true purpose, I dedicated myself to unlocking its mysteries."

"So you could go back and save her," Sam says softly. Teal'c wakes and quietly stands.

Malikai answers Sam. "No, that would be quite impossible. She died from a congenital heart weakness. Not even the ability to travel time could change that."

"Then why are you doing this?" I ask.

"To be with her once more." He turns away again. I understand. Oh Lord, I understand. We all do.

"Malikai," I say, "we do understand. We've all lost people dear to us, lost them young, far to early. But the device doesn't work. It never did."

"It never did? You're living proof."

"I finished translating the text on the ruins. The Ancients who built this place never got it to work. They tried, over and over again, just like you, but in the end they gave up." He doesn't believe me. "Why do you think this place has been deserted so long? They couldn't save themselves."

"You're wrong. There must be some other explanation. I know I can make this work."

"You can't. They proved it can't be done. You're just going to go on like this forever. You'll be trapped."

"Along with billions of innocent others," says Teal'c.

Sam explains. "This device activates fourteen stargates simultaneously. That's fourteen worlds reliving the same day, over and over."

Malikai looks swayed. "I, uh, I didn't realize." His radiation meter beeps and he steadies his resolve. "But it doesn't matter. Once I am able to input the correct time co-ordinates, the loop will be broken."

Jack patient but firm. "The people who made that machine are the same people who made the stargates. And they couldn't get the damn thing to work."

"And even if you could," I say, "you can't change what happened to her."

"I can touch her face again. Talk with her, hear her laugh."

"I understand ... "

"No, you don't."

"How dare you? You think you're the only one who has suffered? I lost my wife. And you know the difference? I could save her. We could all save those we lost. Each of them died by accident or violence. If this device worked, we could save them. And I would. In a heartbeat. I don't care what it would do to the timestream, what paradoxes it might create. If I believed for one second that this device could work, I wouldn't stop until I figured it out."

The altar starts to surge as the storm builds and the power begins to crackle around us. "Please, stop this. It doesn't work. And even if it did, you said yourself you can't save her. Will you watch her die, again and again, for the rest of your life? I was forced do to that, to relive my parents' death repeatedly. I thought I would go mad. I couldn't go through that again. Could you?"

We watch as Malikai loses his purpose, his defiance. His face turns haggard, grief turning sharp again as he loses hope. "No," he says with tears in his voice.

Jack says softly, "Let her go."

He nods wearily and presses the buttons to end the loop.

--------
Day 2

The four of us are sitting in the commissary. Sam is on the edge of her seat, ready to bolt off to her lab. Jack extracted the modified Goa'uld shield device from Malikai in payment for damages and she wants to start deconstructing it.

"So," says Jack, "Daniel spent almost three months lost in happy translation and Teal'c spent almost three months being hit in the face. Sounds like heaven and hell."

"Well, not quite. We, uh, gave ourselves a few days off as well."

"Days off?"

"DanielJackson realized that our actions in the time loops were without consequence, except in the last. Therefore we could act more freely than in ordinary life."

I flick my eyebrows at Jack, who is looking suspicious and intrigued. Sam is smiling and leans in. "So?" She asks.

I think about my most precious memory and give Jack a small, happy smile. He starts to look deeply suspicious. I look down at my food with a grin. "Well, there was bowling."

"You wild men," says Jack.

"Down corridor C," says Teal'c.

"You joined in." I add.

"Sir." Sam sounds truly shocked but the huge grin puts the lie to it.

"We painted the gateroom. Went fishing. And I will never forget the castigation of Senator Kinsey."

Jack sits bolt upright. "You serious?"

"Oh yes." I give him an evil smile. He returns it and leans close.

"Details, Daniel. Every single detail."

So we tell them about all we did. Teal'c's adventures are a high point. Jack praises him. I think Sam gains a few white hairs.

I don't mention Aaron Drummer, leather pants or showers. I won't mention them even when we're alone. I think it's best to let those dogs lie. Maybe in the future ... but that line of thought will leave me languishing like Narcissus, wanting a vision I can never attain. Jack made it clear he is married to the Air Force and he is not an unfaithful man.

As Teal'c describes his day at a stud ranch, I think back over my time out of time. I had a lot more fun than I have had in a long time. Oh, I do regard the majority of my work as fun. Archaeology, linguistics, history, these are my passions, my purpose. I believe I am lucky to have a focus, something that I love to strive at, that fulfils me. This experience, however, has shown me that there are many kinds of enjoyment and I need to learn to mix them. Translation is a pleasure but it's not always fun. I need to have more fun. As Jack is always telling me.

I've also learned that there are some things I can safely change and do. I'll start by changing my wardrobe a little. I'll spend more time in the sun. With my shirt off. Probably not naked. I'll lobby the General on Teal'c's behalf, perhaps to allow him to take that pottery course Lieutenant Astor told him about. And most important, I'll go to see Dr Jordan. I know he will be pleased to see me. I may not be able to tell him anything, but at least I can reconnect with a good friend.

"Daniel?" It's Sam. She doesn't know whether to be amused or indignant.

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"You messed with my presentation images?"

I smile at her. Jack is leaning back in his chair, happy and envious. Teal'c is amused, in that quiet, Teal'c way. Oh yes. Taking time to connect with my friends. I'm glad I had the opportunity.

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Finis

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