Was the room shaking or was it his legs? Jack discreetly bounced as he walked down the ramp to determine if his legs were solid. No shakes. There was some pretty unpleasant ringing in his ears, though, making his brain feel detached and anesthetized.
"What just happened?" Jonas asked by way of greeting, studying Jack as he joined his team.
Abydos. God, he hoped the damage wasn't too bad. It had felt bad. Ominous.
"Abydos was hit," Jack said, hoping he wasn't shouting. Maybe there was sand in his ears as well as bells. That would explain the thick feeling.
"You saw it?" Carter said in disbelief.
If he had seen it, he'd be dead now, wouldn't he? The blast had been close, Jack knew, or the SGC wouldn't have shaken as if a mild earthquake had hit it. And the ringing in his ears was additional proof. That had to stop soon. It was very distracting, like when he had something at the back of his mind and he just couldn't quite think of it. He shook his head to try to dispel the fuzz, and to remember the most important thing - he had got his team back alive.
"I felt it. Just before I came through."
Jack wondered why the hell Carter hadn't connected the dots between him saying Abydos had taken a hit and the shaking. She was bright, it shouldn't have been a stretch. His 2IC looked vaguely ill for a flash, and then raced from the 'gateroom. He figured she was headed for the control room. Shrugging his shoulders at Jonas and Teal'c, Jack followed. He found her leaning close to the technician, a frown creasing her forehead. She still appeared ill. He glanced at Teal'c quickly, noting the man's unhappy disposition. Nothing unusual there.
"Carter?" he prompted.
"We're lucky they closed the iris when they did, sir. A massive energy wave followed you through the wormhole," Carter reported, sounding as grim as she looked.
He might have joked about how powerful his personality was, that he had made the earth move, but decided that would be in very poor form. There had been an explosion on Abydos, that was no joke. It couldn't have been that bad, though. Anubis had been taken care of. Jack's mouth inexplicably felt like the pile of sand Abydos was. He tried to swallow, but it was impossible to swallow nothing. It felt like his tongue slid halfway down his throat, dry and bloated. Wrong.
"Redial," he ordered, amazed he could speak in even the hoarsest of tones. He tried to swallow again. His head started to ache.
"Yes, sir," the sergeant...Davis...said.
The ringing in his ears seemed to be getting worse instead of better. Jack couldn't figure it out. He took a deep breath as he watched the Stargate start spinning. Clattering of footsteps pulled his attention from the device. He turned as General Hammond joined them.
"Welcome back, SG1. What's happened?"
Not sure. Nothing major, he hoped, just a little setback. All those people. He was slow to remember the Abydonians, about how many could have been hurt while he and his stood in the safety of a dull underground building, a galaxy away. It had sounded and felt worse than it actually was, Jack had to believe that. All those people. They couldn't all be gone.
"Seems there was a large explosion on the planet just after we left, sir," Carter reported, directly contradicting his hopes.
"Is that possible?" Hammond said.
Shouldn't have been. He shouldn't have felt any kind of explosion. Anubis had been taken care of, Daniel had assured him of that. Daniel. Oh.
"Unfortunately, sir," Jack said.
The admission shrouded around him, heavy and suffocating. Something cold twisted his gut. He'd got his team home, left an entire world of people behind.
"We're dialing Abydos now to see what happened."
"Chevron six encoded. Chevron seven will not lock," Davis said.
Jack stared back down at the 'gate. The lack of connection didn't mean anything; the 'gate on Abydos had just been jarred or something. It was temporary. Skaara had already been dead, but all those people. They couldn't be. The ringing raised in pitch, to a sharp whine. His head hurt.
"Briefing room," Hammond snapped.
"Yes, sir," he said.
His brain was numb from the assault it was enduring, and so were his eardrums. Jack shook his head again as he trailed behind Carter, Teal'c, Jonas and Hammond. The ringing wouldn't stop, but it seemed better now. More tolerable. He'd have to tell Fraiser to check his ears very carefully during the post mission exam. He kept his eyes on the Stargate as he made his way to the stairs. It stared back at him, unblinking, useless and cold. His head hurt. His stomach hurt. The ringing returned full force, resonating in his ears, screaming at him.

Jack wondered if anyone else could tell how he wasn't really in the room. His distraction had tripled as soon as he sat down at the briefing table, and he spent most of his time refraining from grabbing that stupid stone tablet away from Jonas and smashing it on the floor. He didn't really know the reason for the compulsion, but knew it would make him feel a helluva lot better to break something. The more he sat, the more he stewed. There was something, a piece of the puzzle, he was missing, and it was the only one left. Shouldn't be difficult to find and snap into place. If only he hadn't misplaced it.
All those people.
"Can you translate this?" Hammond said, pushing the tablet back to Jonas.
Jack looked up, then straightened when he saw Daniel sitting where he knew Jonas was. Daniel, still dressed in Abydonian robes, smiled at him without showing his teeth, small and sad. Blinking three times in rapid succession washed the vision of Daniel away. Where had that come from? He was hallucinating due to extreme tiredness. He watched Jonas study the tablet without any of the passion or reverence Daniel would have treated it with. It was unfair, this built-in comparison he had between the two men, but something he could not stop. It stole his breath away right now, a punch to his abdomen.
"Oh, yeah," Jonas said. "It will take some time, but Doctor Jackson did offer his assistance."
Daniel. Daniel.
"I'm not sure we can count on Daniel for anything anymore," Carter said.
What she said was impossible. For all his moaning and bitching about how Daniel was a thorn in his side, for all the times he had been resentful of the other man's stance and approach to every situation, Jack knew one thing in this crazy universe was irrefutable: Daniel Jackson could always be counted on. Always. It was a fact Jack had relied on for five years. The world could start spinning the wrong direction and the sky could turn purple at any given moment, but Daniel would always be there. That *couldn't* change. Solid or glowy, it didn't matter.
"Why not?" General Hammond asked.
Don't say it, don't say it. Jack didn't want to hear what he already knew spoken aloud.
"Well, sir, he would have done everything in his power to protect the people of Abydos. If he was somehow prevented from doing that, then..."
Carter trailed off, unable or unwilling to finish the sentence. She didn't have to. Everyone in the goddamned room knew what she meant. What she said was impossible. What she said was correct. The thrumming in his ears reached a fevered pitch, blasting at him so strongly he thought his brain would turn to mush from it. All those people. All those...God, Daniel. The coldness in his stomach threatened the back of his throat. He swallowed it down, nearly choking.
Hammond stared at him, but all he could do was shake his head. Bleed dread from his eyes. Hammond blanched slightly, dull purple rising from his neck into his cheeks. Daniel had said he could and would kick Anubis' ass. Jack had believed him, still believed him even though the scant evidence they had was refuting it. He couldn't...they couldn't take what little they knew and jump to conclusions. Abydos was fine. Daniel was fine. Battles weren't clean, and the explosion he could still hear ringing had just been Daniel losing ground for a minute before taking that bastard Goa'uld out.
Jack was skilled at telling himself lies. He stared at his hands.
"I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation," Jonas said finally, voice loud and cutting in the heavy silence. "We don't know anything right now."
Jack knew. Through the course of the last year, he had felt warm reassurance when he thought of Daniel. Hell, not just then but whenever he'd been weary of it all, old, disheartened. It was indefinable, but he had always believed the feeling was more than a feeling. After his experience in Ba'al's palace, the niggling idea that Daniel was around up there, somewhere, and watching over him, over all of them, became reality. The knowledge had been a security shield for him, and one he'd kept selfishly to himself. he felt cold.
Empty, alone.
"Major Carter, I want you to continue periodically dialing for Abydos. It's possible the 'gate there was simply buried in rubble. It could take some time for it to be excavated," Hammond ordered. Jack looked up at the general, who was still looking at him with a sickened expression. He didn't know if he should be grateful or disturbed for the hope the general wanted to instill. "Jonas, make translating that tablet a top priority. Keep me informed. You're dismissed."
Jack hadn't even got himself completely vertical before General Hammond disappeared into his office. He watched the door shut, then turned to glare at the tablet once again. He hated that thing, hated that the general had just espoused hope for the Abydonians in one breath, and countered it in the next. If Abydos survived, Anubis could not have, and the tablet wasn't necessarily an immediate project. He clenched his fists, looking down at them. Dirt packed into every crease, blackened his fingernails. He could probably scrub them for days and they wouldn't come clean.
The cicada pining away in his head was tireless and shrill, and it warned not the end of summer, but the end of something far better. Jack lifted a dirty finger and poked it in the cavern of his left ear, as if he could plug up the sound. All it did was make his ear as dirty as the rest of him. He dropped his hand.
"Let's go visit the doc," Jack said dully.
"Sir..." Carter said, but she didn't continue.
He gave her a fleeting look, but couldn't acknowledge the naked worry in her expression. It was self-preservation for him to walk away. He'd do just about anything to make one of his team feel better, but he just couldn't do that when he felt as heartsick as they. Not now, he couldn't. Maybe not ever again. He opted for the stairs instead of the confinement of the elevator, hoping the echoing of his footsteps would drown out the other obnoxious sound in his ears. They bounced back to him, serving to tell him he was alone in the stairwell. Alone. The ear ringing did not subside. As he climbed the levels, he decided he wouldn't mention it to Fraiser. He suspected it wasn't caused by anything a physician could fix.

Abydos was gone, all of it. The humming whine from the explosion had disappeared when the 'gate had finally dialed. For a few short hours, Jack had had quiet. But then, it had all come crashing down. All those people. 'Abydos was gone' repeated in his head, replacing the numbing bell tone. Worse. Louder. Telltale.
Jack leaned his head to rest on the back of the sofa and stared at the ceiling. He spotted big cobwebs in two corners, abandoned and desolate. Drafts of air made them ripple and dance slowly, creating stark beauty where there should be none. He scrambled to his feet, picking up an old magazine. He swiped both of the webs out until all that remained was a sticky mess tufting out of the pages of his National Geographic. Destruction didn't make him feel any better. He dropped the magazine on the floor, staring up at the bare corners. They seemed wrong now, empty. He scrubbed a hand down his face, cupping it across his mouth.
//"Nothing will happen to the people of Abydos," Daniel said, voice firm.
Jack nodded, trusting Daniel's pledge. He knew without a doubt that Daniel was on their side now, that he would do whatever it took to ensure Abydos remained safe, and his former team as well. Watching his friend go glowy and disappear from the room, there was nothing left to do but wait. //
"Damnit, Daniel," Jack muttered into his hand. "What did you do?"
He still half expected his friend to appear from nowhere, wearing Eddie Bauer clothes with disparately ugly socks, to dispense vague advice. Even if Daniel showed, Jack wouldn't expect an answer to that question. He knew what Daniel had done. Tried to do. God. He couldn't believe after all this that Daniel was gone. Not off dealing with Oma and those wacky Others like Carter seemed content to believe - gone, as in gone. Daniel was lost forever this time, and it left him cold to even think that.
Jack lifted the hand from across his mouth, studying his grime-filled fingernails. The shower hadn't removed enough, just like he had known it wouldn't. He needed to get under them, get all that dirt out. He had a vegetable brush in the kitchen that would be perfect for the chore. Blindly walking from the den, he stumbled on the step and nearly fell. He didn't know why he hadn't compensated for it; the step had always been there and he could navigate from the den to the kitchen in pitch black if he had to. He grunted an obscenity at the hapless stair simply for always being there and moved on.
He made it to the kitchen sink, turning the tap on, reaching for the dish soap and snatching up the brush in one fluid movement. Jack set to work, relishing the sharp bristles bite into his skin. It didn't take long to finish his left hand, and he began working on the right. Scrubbing each finger with diligence, he had the thought that he was washing away the last traces of Abydos. He paused, lifting the bubble-covered hand closer to his face. Abydos was gone; a little dirt under his fingernails couldn't change that. He finished cleaning, fingers throbbing from the abuse.
Abydos was gone. All those people. Daniel.
// The sounds of glider fire started to heavily outweigh the gunfire. They were losing the battle up there, Teal'c didn't have to radio an update. Jack was pissed. Daniel just stood there looking at them when he knew damn well he had the power to stop it all.
"You hear that?" Jack demanded.
"I can't do anything about that," Daniel said quickly. "You know."
Can't. Won't was more like it. Jack and his very mortal team were sitting ducks, here. He glared at Daniel.
"I don't care. Do something or we walk." Or run. Get the hell out of Dodge. This was no idle threat. "Right now."
"Remember that fine line we were talking about?"
Desperation colored Daniel's tone, Jack could hear it. It angered him further - because from where he stood, Daniel wasn't 'doing more' as he'd claimed he wanted to. He was useless as an Ascended being, useless to him right now. Worse, he wasn't Daniel like this. Daniel hadn't exactly played by the rules while human, and Jack couldn't see why he would now. That was something he hoped he could use to his advantage.
"Cross it," Jack ordered.
Daniel stared at him, unblinking. Something wild flashed in his friend's eyes, and more. Jack didn't have time to try to understand what was going on in Daniel's head. He made damn sure he didn't break eye contact, daring his friend to grow some Ascended balls. He waited longer than he should have, and was about to tell Carter, Teal'c and Jonas to beat a hasty retreat when Daniel sighed and nodded.
"Okay," Daniel said softly. //
Jack rubbed wet hands down his thighs, stuck in his memories. Stuck on the image of Daniel deciding whether or not to do as he had asked. He knew Daniel, had used his friend's need to do the right thing to get what he wanted from the situation. He hadn't realized, had only been concerned with saving his own ass. But Daniel...Daniel had known. The wildness in his eyes had been colored with comprehension. Jack saw it now - the picture-puzzle before his eyes snapped into completion with such force he was surprised he didn't hear it snap. Daniel had understood his fate from that point forward.
At last, Jack knew what he had actually asked of his friend, and God help him.
// "Oma's here, watching me," Daniel murmured, sounding slightly frazzled.
"And?" Jack retorted. But, so, therefore? He just kept getting more and more pissed off. Skaara was dead, they were trapped in this little shithole of a room and Anubis was winning.
"And I don't care anymore. Anubis is one of us." //
Oh, Christ, what had he done?
His stomach ached with emptiness he wanted to vomit. Jack knew what he had done, just as he knew what Daniel had done. Daniel had crossed the line, tried to save the world and got killed instead. Again. Daniel had gone on a suicide mission with reckless hope that it might just work, knowing it probably wouldn't. Knowing he was dead either way. But he hadn't gone without assistance.
Twisting around, Jack slid to the floor. The hard cabinets scraped down his back, but he barely felt a thing. He drew his knees up, resting his forearms on them. Abydos was gone. Daniel was gone. He spread out his fingers, staring at them. They were pink, immaculate, but they didn't look clean.

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  Hawk50 Nancy Bailey Carrie AnnO  
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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.