I

I Dreamed of Abydos Last Night

 

Disclaimer: This story is for entertainment purposes only. I do not own Stargate SG-1 or its characters and make no profit from the story.
Title: I Dreamed of Abydos Last Night
Spoilers: New Order, 1 and 2, and probably many small ones through Season 7.
Warnings: Major character death(s)

 

Prologue
I dreamed of Abydos last night. I sat cross-legged on one of Hari’sha’s beautiful woven rugs with some of the boys, Ari-dou, Sapoo, A’dam, Palou, boys I haven’t thought about in years, teaching them what I could about stars, planets, solar systems, the wide universe. The day was waning, and the cool evening breeze had begun to blow. One of the boys pointed to the setting sun and said, “Dan’yel, you know that is the only star that truly matters,” and then Sapoo said, “No, no, tell us more, please, Dan’yel! Someday I will travel to the places of which you speak. We belong in the stars!”And the boys and I all laughed. I don’t remember more than that, but I woke up smiling, my head turned toward the slight breeze coming through screened window of my tent. Maybe it was the coolness of the predawn air that gave me this memory or maybe my subconscious still struggles to find the peace that I’ve given up on. The dream was so vivid that if I close my eyes even now, I can almost hear the boys’ laughter and feel the warmth of their bodies gathered around me. I can smell the evening meals being cooked across the city, the—
“Jacques!” a cheerful British voice called from outside Daniel’s tent. “Come to breakfast. The day’s a-wasting!”
Daniel sighed at the interruption and closed his journal, sticking it in the bottom of his pack, then extinguished the flame on his small propane lamp.
“Coming, Charles,” he called out. “You don’t have to wake up the whole camp.”
“Dawn has come and gone,” Charles retorted. “They’ll all be stirring soon enough. We’ll be melting by half eight.”
Charles was right. The earlier hint of coolness had already been defeated by the humidity of the new day. Daniel pulled his tee-shirt from his sticky chest to try to air it out and reached down to put his work boots on. “All right,” he said. “You win. Did you at least start the coffee?”
“Of course,” Charles said. “I need you in top form today!”
Daniel paused for just a moment more. He closed his eyes and thought of the boys on Abydos and the cool desert breeze and tried to recapture that moment of dream-induced happiness, but it was gone, replaced by other images, the real ones, the ones that usually filled his nights. The excitement at exploring the universe he once shared with the Sapoo of his dream was a thing of the past. The Abydonians were gone, Sha’re was gone. Jack, Sam, Teal’c. . . . All gone. These days, he kept his eyes on the ground on starry nights.
Daniel shook his head. “Enough,” he told himself. “This isn't helping.” He ran a hand over his face as if to physically wipe away the sorrow he knew showed there and rearranged his features in what he hoped was a good imitation of a man mildly annoyed at being disturbed so early in the morning. Then he stood up, pushed the flap of his tent aside and stepped out to greet the already steamy Amazonian day.

 

Chapter 1

 

Author's note: Some of the dialogue here is taken directly from Season 8's New Order, although by the end it's decidedly AU. I've tried to give enough information so that if you've never watched the end of Season 7 and the beginning of Season 8, you will still understand what's going on.
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Three months ago. Cheyenne Mountain.
Daniel walked down the hall toward Sam's lab. Finally, they would be able to do something! The last days had been incredibly frustrating. If only he'd been allowed back into the Ancient outpost in Antarctica, he might have found something that could have helped them figure out a way to save Jack by now—at least he would have been able to try—but instead the leaders of the world were playing politics, and Jack, who had once again given everything to save the planet, was still marooned there in stasis, frozen until they could find a way to revive him without the Ancient knowledge in his head killing him.
Now, amazingly, Weir had done an about-face and agreed to Sam's plan. Honestly, Daniel would have liked to have had a chance to try an Earth-bound remedy first before heading off for another galaxy to try and find the Asgard, but given the way treaty talks were going, this was probably Jack's best, if not only, shot.
Daniel got to Sam's lab and stepped inside. “Hey!” he greeted Sam and Teal'c, who were deep in conversation. “So, uh, how did you talk Weir into letting us go?”
Sam looked at Daniel apologetically. “I didn’t. I talked her into letting us go. You’re staying here.”
Daniel looked at his friends as if they were crazy. How could they go without him? If they thought he would let them risk their lives. . . .
“Daniel,” Sam said, seeing the look on his face, “even with the modifications to the ship, there’s no guarantee it’ll get us there, and if it does, there’s a good chance it’ll burn out the engines. The ship was never meant to fly at that speed, which means, if we don’t find the Asgard, we’ll be stranded.”
“I know,” Daniel said.
“We need you here,” Sam went on. “You’re our best chance at deciphering whatever information is in that Ancient outpost.”
Daniel was about to protest again when Teal'c added, “If we fail, you will be O’Neill’s only hope.”
Daniel was silent at that. They were right; he knew that, but what would he do if they didn't. . . . How could he live with himself if. . . .
“When do you leave?” he said finally, failing to hide the strain in his voice.
“Tomorrow,” Sam said. “Look, Daniel. . . .”
“It's all right, Sam,” he said. “We have no choice.” He gave a weak grin. “I'll hold down the fort.”
The next morning, they were gone.
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More than a week had passed, and there was still no word from Sam and Teal'c. He knew they'd said it would probably take ten days to arrive at Othalla and contact Thor, but he'd been hoping for something, anything. He wasn't sure he was going to last ten days. No one was allowed through the Stargate until the treaty negotiations over Antarctica were finished, so there weren't even any new artifacts to study or cultures to explain or Goa'uld technology to seek out. So Daniel had pestered Weir daily about going to Antarctica and pored over every Ancient artifact at the SGC and endlessly studied every reference to the Ancients in the mission reports, every word in his own journals, and played over and over each bit of video he'd ever brought back that might, even tangentially, touch on the beings that had created the technology that was keeping Jack alive, but not alive.
But over the last couple of days, he'd found himself, more often than not, staring off into space, and just . . . waiting.
He felt useless. And that made him mad.
So, when a message came through the Stargate from the Goa'uld system lords saying they wanted to negotiate a treaty, at first he could barely bring himself to care. He was so frustrated with the leaders of Earth, so angry that they couldn't put aside their squabbles to save the life of a man who had time and again risked his for them, so furious that their delays had sent the rest of his teammates on what might be a one-way trip to another galaxy, that his first impulse was to say, To hell with them and to hell with the whole planet.
The only problem was, Jack was still on the planet, and so was Cassie, General Hammond, the rest of the people he'd worked and fought side-by-side with for the past eight years, not to mention all the billions who lived in ignorance of the danger and couldn't be blamed for the foolishness of their politicians. So he'd stepped up and done what he could, translating the Goa'uld, providing background, sitting in on the negotiations.
The system lords told them that Ba'al had taken over Anubis's territories and that he posed a grave danger to the galaxy, the system lords included. They claimed to want Earth to help them fight Ba'al, although both Daniel and Weir—Elizabeth, he reminded himself, she wanted him to call her Elizabeth—were fairly certain that they really just wanted to find out if the Ancient weapon was still a threat. He had to admit, Elizabeth had done a spectacular job; despite her protests to the contrary, she was a masterly bluffer. Earth had nothing: no weapon, no Asgard, no chance at all if the system lords were to decide to attack, but they left the meetings still convinced that the Tau'ri could blow any approaching ships to pieces. Elizabeth had even upped the ante, demanding Ba'al's territories for Earth in return for helping them defeat Ba'al.
The only problem was, he didn't think they were going to buy it, and neither did Elizabeth. They were running out of options. Sam and Teal'c had been gone for almost nine days now. If they could hold out a little longer, maybe Thor would make an appearance to save Jack and save the planet while he was at it. One could only hope.
Daniel was thinking this over as he walked into Elizabeth's office.
“Hi,” he said. “Anything from Antarctica or Sam and Teal'c? We could use some good news right about now.”
Weir looked down at the papers she held and then back up at Daniel. She was having trouble meeting his eyes, and he knew something was very wrong.
“No,” she said. “We haven't heard from Sam and Teal'c.”
“Antarctica then?” he asked.
Elizabeth forced herself to look directly at Daniel. “I'm sorry, Daniel,” she said.
Daniel misunderstood her. “Look, they have to let me go there. It doesn't make sense. Not to be immodest, but I'm the foremost expert, the only expert on the Ancients on the planet. . . .”
Weir held up her hand to stop him. “Daniel,” she said, “that's not what this is about.”
“What then?” Daniel asked.
“The President was concerned at how the negotiations with the system lords were progressing. He believes, and probably rightly so, that at any moment either Ba'al or the system lords themselves will try to call our bluff about the Asgard and the Ancient weapon. . . .”
“And?” Daniel prompted.
“Yesterday he ordered that the medical team in Antarctica try to revive Colonel O'Neill.”
Daniel, who had been standing in front of Weir's desk, grabbed it to steady himself. “What?” he asked, stunned. “What? They can't! He wouldn't survive!”
“Daniel. . . ,” Weir tried to interrupt.
“No,” Daniel went on, undeterred. “Wait. You can't let them. At least give Sam and Teal'c another couple of days to contact the Asgard. We could hear from them by tomorrow! And let me get to Antarctica now. There may be something there that would help Jack or something about a power source for the weapon. It's insane that they haven't let me try to find out before now! We can't. . . .”
“Daniel,” Weir began again, “it's too late. I'm sorry.”
Daniel reached for the chair behind him and sat down heavily. “What?” he asked, in barely more than a whisper.
“I'm sorry, Daniel. I didn't know anything about this. I swear I would have tried to stop it,” Weir apologized again.
“What exactly are you saying, Elizabeth? They already . . . they. . . ?” Daniel stuttered to a stop.
Weir took a deep breath. “They tried to revive Colonel O'Neill early this morning. Soon after, and before they could attempt to communicate with him, he suffered a massive stroke followed by cardiac arrest. They attempted to put him back in stasis, but their knowledge of the technology was not sufficient to stop his. . . .” Weir paused, not wanting to say it but knowing she had to.
“I'm sorry, Daniel. Colonel O'Neill is dead.”

Chapter 2

Warnings: Major character death(s). Some disturbing images.
Author's notes: Again, some of the dialogue in this chapter was taken directly from New Ground (2). Please heed the “disturbing images” warning.
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Daniel was functioning on automatic pilot. He hadn't slept and he'd barely eaten. He didn't want to believe it; he couldn't believe it. There was no way they could have done what Elizabeth claimed. There was no way they could have murdered Jack. He had done too much, sacrificed too much for it to happen this way. No. It was all part of some elaborate hoax or plan to defeat the Goa'uld. The Asgard would come, bringing Sam and Teal'c with them, they'd find Jack and it would all be O.K.
In the meantime, the so-called negotiations with the system lords had, predictably, gone from bad to worse. They Goa'uld had decided to call their bluff and test their defenses after all and had sent a ship to attack Earth. Daniel had discovered the plot in a coded message, and Weir had ordered the system lords, who were still at the SGC, arrested. Daniel and Elizabeth's next move was going to be to threaten the arrogant yet cowardly snakes with execution for the attack should it go forward, while at the same time continuing the bluff that the weapon and the Asgard would protect Earth.
As they were about to go convey that to the prisoners, though, a message came from the Prometheus, which was orbiting Earth in anticipation of the attack.
“Stargate Command, this is Colonel Pendergrast, do you copy?”
“This is Weir, Colonel. We copy. What have you got for us?”
“Good news. An Asgard ship has just dropped out of hyperspace and is offering assistance. Commander Thor sends his greetings.”
“That is good news, Colonel,” Weir responded, the relief evident on her face. “I will pass that on to our 'guests' with pleasure.”
Daniel gestured toward the communications panel in a mute request to speak to Pendergrast. Weir nodded. “Go ahead. I'll meet you in the conference room,” she said, and walked from the control room.
Daniel nodded to Walter that he was ready and leaned forward. “Colonel Pendergrast. This is Daniel Jackson. Did you speak to Major Carter or Teal'c?”
“Negative, Dr. Jackson. We only spoke to Commander Thor. He didn't mention them. Would you like us to raise them?”
“Yes. Welcome them back for me. Tell them, tell them. . . .” His voice cracked a little and he hesitated. Please don't make me have to tell them that Jack is dead, he thought. “Tell them we have to talk.”
“Yes, sir, Dr. Jackson,” Pendergrast responded, and then, “Hold on. We're getting something else. Yes, O.K. . . . Dr. Jackson, we have just received word that Ba'al has destroyed the ship the system lords sent. Ba'al's ship is still approaching.”
Daniel pushed everything else from his mind once more. First he had to finish this. Jack and his years on SG-1 had taught him that: Complete the mission; fall apart later. “I'll tell Dr. Weir,” he confirmed. “Thanks, Colonel.”
Daniel left for the conference room. He'd see the system lords squirm at the news that the Asgard had arrived and that their ship had been destroyed; Ba'al would back off when he detected Thor's ship; and then, finally, Daniel could find out what the hell had really happened to Jack.
He entered the conference room as Elizabeth was saying, “I have just received word that the Asgard have arrived. They want to witness the demonstration of our new Ancient defense technology that you have forced us into. There’s still time to call off the attack.”
The Goa'uld Amaterasu obviously thought they were still bluffing and said with her usual arrogance, “We would also like to witness the demonstration.”
Daniel decided that now would be a good time to share his news: “Your ship isn’t coming,” he said. “It was destroyed en route by Ba’al. The collective forces of the system lords are bowing, and you’re losing the war.”
Yu was responding, “And so are you,” obviously also unconvinced that the tables had been turned, when Daniel was enveloped in the familiar flash of an Asgard transport beam.
As he found himself rematerialized on the bridge of the Asgard ship, he thought, “Well, if that doesn't convince them. . . .”
He looked around, seeing only Thor.
“Thor, hi,” he said. “Thanks for coming. Where are Sam and Teal'c? They told you about Jack, right? We need to find him right away. They might have already. . . .”
“Dr. Jackson,” Thor interrupted. “Your Colonel Pendergrast was also under the impression that Teal'c and Major Carter were aboard this vessel. I however have not seen either one of your teammates. I would have brought them here as well but have been unable to determine their location. I am here in response to a subspace message we received in the Ida galaxy. I apologize for our delay in responding to your request for aid. Our own situation with the replicators is dire, and I was only able to persuade the others that I should come here because I believe the greatest hope for our race lies in the Ancient knowledge the message said was again stored in O'Neill's mind.”
“Wait,” Daniel said, almost stupidly. “That message was from Sam and Teal'c. They aren't with you? They took a ship to Othalla to find you.”
“That is disturbing news, Dr. Jackson,” Thor said. “We also received a distress signal from the area. When one of our fleet responded, however, there was no sign of a vessel. Our commander surmised that the ship which sent the signal was destroyed when it came within the gravitational field of the black hole. If that ship was piloted by Major Carter and Teal'c, that is truly a great loss to both our races.”
Daniel put a shaky hand up to his head. Oh, God, he thought. Sam. Teal'c.
“Thor,” Daniel almost pleaded, “we need to search for them. They can't just be gone. This is Sam and Teal'c. They would have figured something out. You know them.”
“We will continue to scan for them, but I am afraid we can do no more. Our forces are already stretched thin in our war with the replicators, a war we are losing. I am sorry, Dr. Jackson.”
Daniel felt the trembling from his hand start to spread and he recognized the beginning of shock. Jack Focus on Jack. There still had to be a chance. . . .
“Thor, Jack is in Antarctica. Can you bring him here?”
“Yes,” Thor responded. “I will attempt to retrieve Colonel O'Neill now.” Thor walked over to one of the computer consoles and looked at the screen. “I have detected Colonel O'Neill's locator,” he confirmed. “However, I cannot detect O'Neill himself. I am afraid this indicates that either his locator has been removed or that O'Neill has not survived. I will transport now.”
“Jack,” Daniel breathed, knowing despite himself which answer was the truth. “God, Jack.”
The light of the transport beam appeared over a table on the bridge and then disappeared.
Daniel let out a sound that even he didn't recognize and took a step back. No. No. No.
“I am sorry Dr. Jackson,” Thor said. “I regret that we have come too late. He was a great man and will be remembered as such by the Asgard should we survive.”
When Daniel didn't respond, Thor said, “Dr. Jackson. If I had known that O'Neill's body was undergoing this procedure, this. . . .”
“Autopsy,” Daniel supplied hoarsely, not recognizing his own voice.
“This autopsy,” Thor continued, “I would not have brought him here.”
Daniel continued to stare at the mutilated body of his friend. His chest and abdomen had been sliced down the center and gaped open, his organs gone, and the back of his skull had been sawed away, exposing his brain. Daniel felt his knees give, and he dropped to the floor. He thought he was going to be sick, but he managed to hold it back. The bastards, he thought. They had really done it. They'd killed Jack.
“Thor,” he said, finally, looking up from his knees, “could you please cover him with something. I can't. . . . Just, please, do you have something?”
Thor blinked at him, then reached down and pressed a panel on his console. An opaque partition rose from the table and surrounded Jack's body, hiding it from view.
Daniel continued to stare toward the table. He grabbed onto a partition and pulled himself up. His body felt strange, heavy and light at the same time, as if he'd been flooded with some strange alien drug. Thor was talking again, and he tried to focus on the words, but they slipped by and around him, and he couldn't make out their meaning. The voice in his own head was much clearer. They killed Jack, it whispered. They killed Jack. Weir was right. They killed Jack. They killed Jack. And an even quieter voice chanted beneath that one, Sam and Teal'c are dead, Sam and Teal'c are dead. . . .
“Dr. Jackson?” Thor's voice broke through.
Daniel looked at him numbly. Thor, Jack's friend too.
“I regret that I must leave and rejoin the battle against the replicators,” Thor said. “We have already contacted Ba'al, and his ship has turned away from your solar system. He now believes the Asgard still enforce the treaty, so Earth should remain safe for the time being. I cannot guarantee the future, however. The survival of the Asgard remains uncertain at best. I fear the knowledge held by Colonel O'Neill that is now lost may have been our last hope.”
Daniel closed his eyes. He realized that Thor was saying goodbye and that he did not believe the Asgard would survive this last battle with the replicators. In all likelihood Daniel would never see this strange, kind and brilliant being again. “I'm sorry, Thor. I wish I knew what to do. I wish I had an answer. If. . . . if Sam, Teal'c or Jack were here, they would be able to help, but I . . . I don't know what to do.”
“Dr. Jackson,” Thor said, “do not underestimate your value to your world or indeed to the Asgard. You are equally revered by the Asgard for your insights and contributions to our survival. The ship you stand on is called The Daniel Jackson for that reason.”
Daniel looked around at the great ship he stood on and back at Thor, and shook his head. There were so many things wrong with that, he didn't know where to begin.
“Perhaps you can perform one last service for the Asgard, Dr. Jackson,” Thor said, when Daniel didn't respond.
Daniel closed his eyes. He was so tired. What could he possibly do? Still, he said, “I'll do whatever I can, Thor.”
“Thank you, Dr. Jackson. There may be useful information stored in the Ancient lab you discovered on Earth. The Asgard people would be most grateful if you could request permission from your leaders that we be granted access to this information.”
“You don't need permission, Thor. Just take it. Take what you need,” Daniel answered wearily.
“I am afraid that would violate the agreement we made with your people. The Asgard honor our treaties.”
Honor? Daniel wanted to laugh at the word, but it came out as more of a sob. “Thor,” he said, “the people you want me to ask are the people who murdered Jack. The entire planet could have been destroyed because of their petty squabbling. They don't deserve your respect and they don't deserve to have their treaties honored. Your entire race is facing extinction. Just take what you need. Help your people, and if you succeed, I trust you to return and help mine.”
Thor was silent as he considered what Daniel had said. He nodded once and went to a control panel and entered several commands.
“I have done as you suggested, Dr. Jackson. You have my word that, should we discover anything that could be of use to Earth, we will transmit that information immediately to the SGC. As this was in your possession in the first place, I do not believe such an action would be seen to violate our treaty with the Goa'uld.”
Daniel nodded. “I hope you find what you need, Thor.”
“Thank you, Dr. Jackson,” Thor said. “I must leave now. I have been away from the battle for far too long. I will transport you now to your SGC, unless you choose to go elsewhere. Would you like to take the body of O'Neill, or should I return it to the Ancient lab?”
“No, God, no!” Daniel said, appalled at the idea of letting those vultures anywhere near Jack again. “Just, just. . . .”
Daniel stopped. Just what, he thought. Just what. He felt a wave of dizziness and he then a chill even as he broke out in a cold sweat. Shock, he thought again. Maybe he should just let it take him. Instead, he told Thor, “Just send us both to the infirmary.”
And before he could wish the Supreme Commander of the Asgard fleet luck, he was gone.

 

Chapter 3

The limousine pulled up to the guard house at the Cheyenne Mountain complex. The guard, Bindermann, stepped out as the black-tinted window went down and was pleased and surprised to see General Hammond looking out at him. He gave a broad smiled. The gentlemanly Texan had always treated the men and women on guard duty with the utmost respect, and Bindermann, for one, had missed the man when he'd left.
“General Hammond! Good to see you, sir,” the guard proclaimed.
Hammond looked back out at him and gave a strained smile. “Thank you, Sergeant,” he said, but nothing more. Bindermann immediately put on what he thought of as his professional guard face. From the general's expression, clearly something big—and unpleasant—was going down beneath the mountain.
Bindermann walked up to the driver's window and took the man's I.D., then looked past him into the limo to make sure there were no other passengers. “Please open the trunk, Airman Connors,” he requested. Other VIPs might bristle at the security precautions taken here, but the sergeant knew that General Hammond would not only expect protocol to be followed but would insist on it, no matter how grim or urgent his mission was.
Having checked that all was secure, Bindermann called the base to get permission for the general to proceed, again protocol for everyone entering the mountain who didn't work there and who was not on that day's list, even the man who was again, for all intents and purposes if the rumors could be believed, their boss.
Having received the word, Bindermann waived the general's limousine on through.
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Hammond had been outraged almost beyond reason when he was informed of the President's order. President Hayes had only just put him in charge of all things related to Earth's defense, and yet the man had acted without consulting him. And now Jack O'Neill, his friend and the finest officer he had ever had the privilege to command, was dead.
He would have resigned on the spot, but he couldn't bring himself to abandon the rest of the men and women under his command in such perilous times.
Hammond, usually not a swearing man, cursed out loud and slammed his hand down on the seat, causing the airman driving the limo to glance back in concern. Hammond almost snapped at him to keep his eyes forward, but then took a deep breath to control his temper. He had never taken his stress and anger out on his people, and he wasn't going to start now. But truthfully, this was almost too much to handle. Jack was dead, and now, if the reports he received were correct, Teal'c and Major Carter—who in his heart would always be Jacob's little girl, God help him—were MIA and presumed dead.
After all these years, SG-1's luck had finally run out.
Well there was one member of his makeshift extended family left, and he would be damned if he'd leave Dr. Jackson to the wolves. And yes, those wolves were already circling, howling for blood.
Hammond got off the elevator and signed in at the last security desk. He nodded briskly at the greetings, but he did not have to pretend here. Despite another last-minute reprieve from destruction by the Goa'uld, there was no evidence of joy. The news of Colonel O'Neill's death and the disappearance of Major Carter and Teal'c hung over the subterranean hallways like a pall.
“General Hammond, sir,” a familiar voice said, and he turned to see Walter Harriman coming toward him.
“Walter,” Hammond said. He saw his own pain reflected in the chief master sergeant's eyes, and he looked away momentarily before turning back and saying, sincerely, “It's good to see you, son.”
Walter gave a small smile and said, “You too, sir. If you'll come with me, Dr. Weir is waiting for you in her office.
Hammond followed Walter down the hallway and up the staircase to what, until very recently, had been his office. Dr. Weir rose to greet him. “General,” she said. “It's good to see you again. I'm sorry it's under such difficult circumstances. Please have a seat.”
“Dr. Weir,” Hammond greeted her. “Yes, tragic circumstances.”
They both sat down, and there was an awkward silence as General Hammond considered the woman before him. He knew she was at the top of the list of candidates to lead the Atlantis expedition, in no small part because of the way she had handled herself in the negotiations with the system lords. She was obviously smart and extremely competent, but he still didn't know enough about her to know if he could trust her. And even if he did trust her, was it fair to involve her in something that could at the very least derail her career and at the most land her in federal prison?
Weir cleared her throat. “So, General, what brings you here today?”
Hammond decided it was best to involve as few people as possible.
“First, Doctor,” he said, “I would like to congratulate you on the superb job you did in the negotiations with the system lords. I don't think anyone could have handled them better, and thanks to your diplomatic skills and your unique ability to bluff, the planet has survived another day.”
“Thank you, sir. I had a lot of help from Dr. Jackson and the rest of the SGC personnel. And if anyone is to thank for saving the planet, it is Major Carter and Teal'c. If they had not contacted the Asgard, I'm not sure we'd be here having this conversation.”
Hammond sighed. She was right in that. SG-1 had, almost by accident this time, saved the planet again. Carter's and Teal'c's quixotic mission to another galaxy to find a means to rescue Colonel O'Neill had brought the Asgard to Earth in time to stop Ba'al. It was S.O.P. for the members of the SGC's premier team, except that, this time, it looked as if they really weren't coming back.
Something of his emotions must have played across his face, because Dr. Weir said, “I'm sorry, General. I know how close you were . . . are . . . to your people here. I can't imagine how hard this must be.”
“Occupational hazard,” Hammond said, not really believing his own words, but needing to distance himself from his own emotions and Weir's concern. “You learn to live with it.” He cleared his throat. “However, I did think that my presence here might help. Colonel O'Neill was well respected and very popular with the men and women here, and SG-1. . . . Well, I assume morale is not at its highest point right now.”
“No. It's very low. Colonel O'Neill's death and the failure of Major Carter and Teal'c to return have hit everyone very hard. I'm sure they will appreciate your being here. They obviously look up to you, sir.” Weir smiled a little wryly. “You left some pretty big shoes to fill. . . .”
Hammond smiled sadly back. “You've done very well here, Dr. Weir. I'm sure you've gained everyone's respect and good wishes.”
“I'm working on it, General. At any rate, would you like me to gather the personnel who can be spared in the Gateroom? Or would you prefer to speak to people individually, where you can?”
“I think I'd like you to assemble everyone, Doctor, but first,I'd think I'd like to speak with Dr. Jackson. Is he still in the infirmary?”
“No. He was released this morning. He was suffering from exhaustion—he apparently had barely slept or eaten in days—trauma and shock. Fortunately he got himself to the infirmary in time. Now all he needs is rest, at least physically. Emotionally. . . .” Weir let her words drift off.
Hammond winced. “Have you talked to him?”
Weir sighed. “Yes. He gave me a brief report about what happened aboard Thor's ship and about how he came to . . . be in possession of Colonel O'Neill's remains. And he told me that we need to find the Tok'ra or find some other way to search for Major Carter and Teal'c. Then this morning, he came to my office just after he was released and begged me to let him go through the Stargate to search for any technology or any of our allies who could help us reach the Ida galaxy. He . . . didn't take it very well when I had to turn down his request.”
Hammond could well imagine the desperation in Daniel's voice and his single-minded search for a way to put what was left of his team back together, and it pained him to think of it.
“He believes Major Carter and Teal'c are alive,” he stated, not really surprised by the revelation. The members of SG-1 never gave up on each other, and they had all cheated death—or returned from the dead—time and time again.
“I think he needs to believe it, General. I don't think he really believed Colonel O'Neill was dead until he saw. . . .” Weir stopped and swallowed to keep the bile down. She had seen O'Neill's body in the infirmary. It was no wonder that Dr. Jackson had collapsed when the Asgard beam released him. And to have just found out on top of that that his other teammates were likely dead. . . .
Hammond had read the report, and more, and understood why Weir had stopped. “Do you know where Dr. Jackson is now?” he asked.
“No. I do know he hasn't left the base, but I haven't seen him for several hours.”
Hammond nodded and started to stand. “With your permission,” he said, “I think I'd like to try to find him. Perhaps you could lend me CMS Harriman to help?”
Weir nodded back, a little surprised and touched that a four-star general would want to search the base himself. “Of course, General,” she said. “And anything else you need, feel free to ask.” As she watched him leave, with Walter already at his side, she thought she understood a little more about why the men and women of the SGC revered the man so and a little more about what made the place tick. “Very big shoes to fill,” she murmured, before returning to the report on her desk.
-----------------------------------
After they had checked Daniel's office and the commissary, Walter said, “General, sir, I might be wrong about this, but there's a place Dr. Jackson sometimes goes to think, when things get, well, really bad. It's several more levels down, and it might be a wild-goose chase, but. . . .” He waited for General Hammond to assent to what might be a waste of time.
“It sounds as if it's worth taking a look,” Hammond said, motioning him to lead on. They went back to the elevator, and Walter pushed the button for one of the lower storage areas. “There's nothing down there but emergency supplies and empty rooms, Sergeant,” Hammond said.
“Yes, sir,” was Walter's only reply.
They rode the elevator the rest of the way in silence. The doors opened on a dim corridor, and Walter turned right and led them past several doors and large crates, then turned left down another long, empty hallway containing more closed doors, with labels identifying their contents, on both sides. About halfway down, a door stood slightly ajar. Hammond glanced at the label and raised his eyebrows when he saw what was written there. Walter just shrugged a little. “OBSOLETE,” the sign said.
Hammond pushed open the door slightly and looked inside. The room, lit only by the dim bulbs of the hallway, was filled with boxes of what he supposed were old supplies. Against the far wall, with crates piled high on either side, he saw the unmoving figure of a man sitting on the floor, knees drawn up, head down. Hammond stuck his head back out the door and nodded to Walter. Walter nodded back and walked quietly away down the hall.
Hammond pushed the door farther open and stepped inside. The figure did not move or look up. “Dr. Jackson?” he said quietly, and when there was no reaction, he repeated, “Dr. Jackson?”
Daniel remained unmoving, lost in a place Hammond didn't want to fathom. He briefly wondered how hard sitting on the cold supply room floor would be on his aching bones, then walked over to Daniel. He turned and slid down the wall so they were sitting side-by-side. Only then did Daniel look up, startled. “What? Who. . . ? General?” he asked, as if he weren't quite sure he was there.
“Yes, son. It's me.”
Daniel looked around at the piles of boxes and the dusty floor and started to get up. “I'm sorry, General. You shouldn't be. . . .”
“It's all right, Dr. Jackson. Please sit down.”
Daniel, perhaps sensing that Hammond needed his company as much as Daniel needed his, slid back down to the floor and leaned his head back against the wall, and the two men sat silently, thinking of their lost friends.
“Do you think,” Daniel asked suddenly, “that the real Daniel could have saved them somehow?”
Hammond looked at the exhausted civilian sitting next to him. “The real Daniel?” he asked, utterly confused.
“You know, the Daniel from before I--” Daniel fluttered his fingers in the air above his head.
Somehow this question made Hammond sadder than almost any other could have. Even though it was barely more than a year since Dr. Jackson had “descended,” it hadn't occurred to him that Daniel was still struggling with what had happened, still trying to reclaim his identity. He had a brief vision of Daniel alone on a wooden raft, adrift on a stormy sea trailing three ropes hanging loose from their moorings.
“Dr. Jackson.” he said. “Daniel. I know you don't always feel that way, but let me assure you, you are the same brilliant, passionate, compassionate man you always were. You may still have some missing memories, but you are very much the Daniel Jackson I remember. I was and still am proud to know you.”
Daniel ducked his head and turned away. Hammond thought he saw him wipe his eyes, but he couldn't be sure, and the general felt tears sting his own eyes. He wondered how long it had been since he'd cried. He thought not since his dear Margaret had died, but this newest loss had hit him hard, and the palpable suffering of the young—or not so young anymore, he reminded himself—man sitting next to him cut him further.
“Dr. Jackson,” he started again. “There was nothing you could have done. Nothing—no one—could have made those government representatives move faster on Antarctica, and you couldn't have known that the President would give that order. I didn't know, and I had met with him earlier in the day.”
“Maybe not,” Daniel said, “but I should have found some way to get back to Antarctica. Or I should have talked Sam and Teal'c out of leaving. Or insisted that I go with them. Maybe my being there would have made a difference. But instead, I was stuck here, and now they're. . . . How could they do that, General? How could they leave me behind? Was I not good enough? Didn't they know I would give, would have given anything, anything to save Jack?” Daniel's voice rose, anger mixing with his grief and guilt.
“They knew, son. Of course they knew,” Hammond responded.
Daniel let his head drop forward, so he was staring at his own lap. “I'm sorry,” he said. “I just. . . .” He stopped talking and shook his head, the linguist for once unable to put what he was feeling into words.
The two men sat again in silence.
Finally, Hammond said, reluctantly, “Dr. Jackson, I need to ask you some questions.”
Daniel looked up at Hammond's tone. He straightened up a little and tried to prepare himself for more bad news.
“I read your report of how you managed to bring Colonel O'Neill's remains back to the SGC,” the general continued.
Daniel, who had been trying without success to keep the vision of Jack's body from replaying endlessly in his mind, didn't say anything.
“Did you request that Thor bring the colonel's remains aboard his vessel?”
Daniel closed his eyes. He didn't see how any of this could possibly matter. Jack was dead. Everything else was . . . useless clutter.
“I didn't know it would be Jack's body, but, yes, I did ask Thor to bring him aboard,” he finally said.
“You didn't know it would be Colonel O'Neill's body?”
Daniel laughed a hollow laugh. “I hoped, I thought, that maybe the report of his death was some kind of hoax or trick. Nothing else made sense to me. Why would they try to revive Jack when we told them it would kill him? What was the point? So I thought, if Jack was still alive, and maybe even if he wasn't, Thor could . . . fix him.”
“And when you realized he couldn't?” Hammond asked. “Did you consider sending the body back?”
“To the people who murdered him? No, no, I never considered that.”
Hammond looked over sharply at the word murdered. Daniel looked back at him, unflinchingly, until Hammond sighed and looked away again. As furious as he was at what happened to Colonel O'Neill, he had filed it away with the long list of the wrongheaded decisions that men in power make that result in the unnecessary deaths of soldiers and civilians alike. To think the way Dr. Jackson did could lead to madness for a career officer. But to a civilian, even one who'd been fighting on the front lines for years? Yes, it would seem like murder. He thought that might go a long way toward explaining what else happened on Thor's ship.
“Very well,” he said. “However, Thor apparently removed more than Colonel O'Neill's body from the Ancient outpost. Were you aware of this?”
Daniel looked again at the general. Was he being accused of something?
“What's this all about, General?” he asked tiredly.
“Dr. Jackson, were you aware that Thor retrieved data and some technology directly from the Antarctica site without permission, in violation of the Asgard treaty with us?” the general asked, not unkindly.
“Yes,” Daniel said simply. “I told him to take what he needed.”
“Dr. Jackson. . . .”
“The Asgard are facing extinction, General. If the writings left by the Ancients could help prevent that, how could we say no? There was no time to wait for those idiots to stop bickering and make some decisions. Thor wanted to honor the treaty. I told him not to bother.”
“And did you think that was your decision to make?”
Daniel was silent.
“Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said, “if the key to Earth's survival lies in the information Thor took?”
Daniel took off his glasses and pressed his palms into his eyes. “I think these last few days have shown that Earth's survival depends a lot more on the Asgard than on anything else we might discover in Antarctica,” he said quietly. “And Thor agreed that if he found anything useful to Earth, he would transmit it to us immediately.”
“And if the Asgard, God forbid, don't survive, and the information dies with them?”
“He'd find a way to get it to us.”
Hammond sighed. “Dr. Jackson, our battle with Anubis, followed so closely by another threat to the planet from Ba'al, has caused a panic among some in our government and among the world leaders who are now aware of the Stargate and the Antarctica outpost. I understand why you did what you did, but there are some people in these overcharged times who consider it treason.”
“Treason,” Daniel said, flatly.
“In effect, Dr. Jackson, you leaked top-secret information.”
“To the Asgard, who are our allies and who could have taken the information on their own.”
“Dr Jackson, these people are afraid and are looking for a scapegoat. Facts are not that important to them. There has already been talk of an investigation and imprisonment or worse from some quarters. My sources tell me that at least one official suggested quite seriously that we give you a choice between execution for treason and some sort of indentured servitude where you would be locked up and forced to translate for us for the rest of your life. And if history is any predictor, I am sure other less savory elements in and outside the government are hoping to use this latest incident as an excuse to have you kidnapped or even eliminated.”
Daniel ran his hands tiredly through his hair. Treason, he thought again. An ugly word. Eliminated. Another ugly word. “And you, General? Are you here to have me arrested?” he asked.
Hammond was silent for a moment as he studied the man whose brilliance and passion seemed to have led inexorably to this point.
“No, Dr. Jackson. I'm here to tell you I think you need to disappear.”

 

Chapter 4

Daniel stood up and turned toward Hammond, shock evident on his face even in the near darkness of the room. “Disappear? I don't understand. What do you mean disappear?”
“I mean I believe you need to go into hiding.”
“What? No. I can't. Sam and Teal'c are out there somewhere. I need to find them. And Cassie, who would watch out for Cassie with all of us gone? She's going to be devastated by this news.”
“Dr. Jackson. . . ,” Hammond tried to interrupt.
“After I talk to Cassie, I can go to P3X-241, the planet where. . . .”
“Dr. Jackson, please. ”
Daniel drew in a deep breath and stopped talking..
“You must know that you won't be allowed near the Stargate, Dr. Jackson. Right now Gate operations are still suspended, and I expect an order at any time confining you to the base until charges can be filed. That's why I'm here now.
“I promise you that I won't stop trying to find out what happened to Major Carter and Teal'c. We will use whatever resources we have. But, son. . . .” Hammond stopped, not wanting to say it himself. “Son, you realize that the odds against their having survived without leaving a trace for the Asgard to find are . . . not good.”
“We're SG-1, General! We've beaten those odds again and again!”
“I hope you're right, Dr. Jackson, but the fact remains that if you stay here, your freedom and possibly your life are at risk. You can't help Teal'c and Major Carter if you are imprisoned or dead. And as for Cassie, I promise I will look out for her myself. Imagine how much worse she would feel if you stayed and something happened. You don't have much time, Dr. Jackson. You have to take advantage of the temporary chaos this most recent threat has caused and find someplace to go before charges are filed and you are arrested.”
“All right, then, if not through the Gate, I'll contact the Prometheus, and they can transport me out. If I can't be here for Cassie, at least off-world I'll have some chance of helping Sam and Teal'c. I know we're not supposed to be moving personnel off Earth right now, but I'll think of something to get Elizabeth to let me go, someone I have to talk to onboard, something, then I'm sure I can talk Colonel Pendergrast into putting me down on a planet with a Gate. . . .”
Hammond almost allowed himself a small smile despite the grim circumstances. It was all so familiar: Dr. Jackson, arguing fervently for what he believed was right, eyes blazing. He wished he could say yes to the man one more time, wished he could give him some small bit of hope, but to do that would endanger his life, and Hammond was not prepared to lose Daniel the way he'd lost the others.
“Assuming you could talk them into it, Dr. Jackson, and I don't doubt that you could, have you considered the consequences to Dr. Weir and Colonel Pendergrast if they were to violate explicit orders against off-world travel to help you flee charges of treason?”
“They wouldn't know that's what they were doing. And that's not what I'd be doing. I don't give a damn about the treason charges. I just can't be trapped here, waiting, while Teal'c and Sam might be out there somewhere needing help. Weir and Pendergrast can't be held accountable for. . . .” Daniel, who'd been gesturing wildly, stopped talking and let his hands drop to his sides. Of course they could, he thought. They could be held accountable and they would be. Lose one scapegoat, find two others.
Daniel ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. “If I did this, General, how long would I have to be . . . gone?”
“I can't answer that, Dr. Jackson. It could be a very long time, if ever, before you could safely return.”
Daniel swayed slightly and steadied himself on one of the crates. General Hammond's eyes were filled with understanding as he watched the man he'd come to think of as almost a surrogate son struggle with what he'd been told. Finally, Daniel stepped forward and reached out his hand, and Hammond clasped it and pulled himself stiffly to his feet.
“Thank you for coming here to tell me this, General,” Daniel said, sounding defeated. “I know you risked a lot to do it. I'm just not sure if I can run, not now.”
“I understand, son. And if you decide to stay, I'll do everything in my power to protect you, although I fear that nothing I do will be enough. If you decide to leave, you have to do it soon.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small scrap of paper and held it out to Daniel. I can't help you hide, son, but these people might be able to. I wish I could do more.”
Daniel took the paper and looked at it. There were two phone numbers scrawled there, one international, one domestic, Montana he thought. He slipped the paper into his pocket but didn't say anything. Hammond was not sure he'd ever seen a man look so lost.
“I know it's a lot to think about,” he said. “Whatever you decide to do, I'm on your side. I need to go up now, though. I promised Dr. Weir I'd address the staff. Would you like to come with me?”
Daniel shook his head. “No, I'll be up later. I . . . I have to think,” he said.
Hammond reached out and touched Daniel's arm. “I'm sorry, son,” he said, then turned and walked out the door.
-------------------------------------------
Daniel remained in the darkened supply room. He took his spot again between the crates and tried to process everything the general had said and everything that had happened in the last two days, but it wasn't possible. It was too much, too fast. All he knew was that he couldn't run. He couldn't abandon his team and he couldn't abandon Cassie. But what were his options? Arrest? Execution? Involuntary servitude for life? An unexpected bullet in the head?
God, Jack, he thought. What should I do? And the reality of Jack's death hit him again, the force of it making him bend forward and curl into himself. God. He only knew one way to deal with pain like that and it was to throw himself into a cause, to remember that there were people who needed him. Sam and Teal'c needed him, he thought. Cassie needed him. Once, the last time, when Sha're died, he could convince himself that Earth needed him, but no longer. That was arrogance, chutzpah, a child's dream. Earth would live or die without him. The Abydonians, the Asgard, everything died, and he was just a gnat buzzing around the ear of fate.
He saw an image of his parents crushed beneath the cover stone and remembered the helplessness that felt so familiar now, and a thought suddenly occurred to him that, in its simplicity, its spectacular obviousness, made him start to laugh.
Oh, God, he was such a simpleton. Is that what this was all about? He couldn't save his parents, so he'd spent the last seven years of his life trying to save the fucking universe! Oh, God, what an idiot! Save the universe? He couldn't even save himself. He thought of the Asgard naming a ship the Daniel Jackson and he laughed harder until tears came to his eyes and the laughter, finally, turned to sobs, and he cried for Jack and Sam and Teal'c and for everyone else he'd lost, and he despised himself even more then, because he realized he wasn't crying just for them but for himself, that the one thought that consumed all the others was the same one he'd first had so long ago, the day he realized his parents were never coming back. Years of making his own way, of traveling the universe, of fighting the war against the Goa'uld, of ascending, none of it could quiet that child's voice in his head: Please, it repeated over and over, please don't leave me alone.

PART 2

Chapter 5
It was late by the time Daniel finally exited the elevator on the floor near his office. Most of the civilian staff was already gone for the day, and the corridors were quiet, for which he was thankful. He knew people meant well, but he couldn't bear to see their sympathetic gazes or lie again and again to those who asked how he was holding up, saying whatever he could think of just to make them go away.
He kept his head down and made it to his office with only one mumbled, “I'm hanging in there,” grateful for the silence and averted faces of the few others he passed. He slipped into his office and closed the door with relief, leaning against it as if he'd just run a gantlet, then made his way to the phone. He picked it up and asked for Elizabeth.
“Weir here.”
“Elizabeth, it's Daniel.”
“Daniel, you had us a little worried. General Hammond hoped that you might be there when he spoke to the rest of the SGC personnel.”
“I'm sorry about that. Look, Elizabeth, I'm going to take you up on your suggestion to take a few days, or at least a day. If you need me, I'll be at home.”
“I think that's a good idea, Daniel. Take as long as you need. Only . . . don't take this the wrong way, but do you have anyone to stay with you?”
Daniel blew out an exasperated breath, and told the lie one more time. “I'll be fine, Elizabeth. I'm a big boy.”
Daniel sensed her uncertainty in the silence before she answered, but she said only, “O.K., but let us know if you need anything.”
“I will. And you let me know if you reach the Tok'ra or hear from the Asgard. I'm not giving up on them, Elizabeth.”
“I understand, Daniel. We won't either. I'll see you in a couple of days, then.”
Daniel hung up the phone. From what the general had said, he didn't think he had a couple of days, but he hoped that one night at home, in his own bed, might help him come up with a plan to hold the wolves at bay until he could find his teammates. And maybe in the morning he would drive the five hours to see Cassie and let her know what had happened. He thought he could do at least that, couldn't he?
Out of habit, he checked the papers on his desk before he left, and his eyes fell on the last thing he'd been working on before the system lords had contacted them: yet another, well-reasoned, rational plea to let him go to Antarctica to try to save Jack. He stared at it, unblinking, as if it were an artifact of a different age, and he guessed it was. Already he felt the man who had written those words slipping away. He put his hand over the sheets of paper and crumpled them into a ball in the middle of his desk. Then he grabbed his jacket and headed out of the mountain.
--------------------------------------------
Daniel sat in his car outside his house, the engine still running, not entirely sure how he'd gotten there or how long he'd been sitting there; he didn't even remember driving home, only getting into his car and pulling out onto the mountain road. His thoughts still spun relentlessly, like a multitude of opposing voices, and he shook his head to try to clear it. He was no good to anyone this way. He needed to make himself eat something, if he could find anything in the house, and he needed to sleep, although God only knew how that would be possible. His friends' faces floated before his eyes, and he closed them for a few seconds before he turned off the ignition, got out of the car and walked tiredly up to the front door of his house.
Daniel fumbled for his house keys, almost dropping them, then opened the door. He reached his right hand around to turn on the light and stepped into the small entrance hallway, ignoring the pile of mail on the floor. Something felt different about the house, but everything looked the same as he had left it. He shrugged slightly, knowing exhaustion was playing tricks on his mind, dropped his keys in the bowl on small table and walked into the still-dark living room. And froze. A figure was sitting on the couch across the room.
No, not now, not yet! he thought. He started to back toward his front door when a voice came from behind him, polite and without inflection.
“Please stay where you are, Dr. Jackson. You have no hope of escape.”
A light flicked on in the living room, revealing another man sitting in the chair by the couch, his hand still on the lamp switch. Both the man on the couch and the one in the chair were well dressed, in suit and tie, and both held guns in their hands. Once it would have bothered Daniel that he knew the make and caliber of the weapons, but now it was just one more detail he registered automatically. The men held them with seeming casualness, but Daniel had seen that supposed casualness before, not often, but enough, with military men who had lived at some time in a darker world than most. He'd seen it with Jack.
He looked back over his shoulder to see the third man, and his eyes widened in recognition before he looked away. Jordan? No, Jorgans, Lieutenant Jorgans, one of the SGC security guys. He wasn't in uniform, but there was no mistaking him. He'd worked at Stargate Command for years.
“Nothing personal, Dr. Jackson,” Jorgans said when he saw Daniel's look. “I happen to disagree, but the men I work for believe you are a dangerous man and need to be . . . contained.”
Daniel didn't say anything. A week ago he would have tried to engage them, annoy them, distract them with words, or at least commented on the man's choice of euphemism, but a week ago he'd still, despite everything, believed, in miracles. A week ago he still had his team. Now, he just waited.

Jorgans must have made some sign, because the man on the couch, a large man in his 40s with thick blond hair (not military anymore, Daniel thought, another fact registered), slipped his gun inside his jacket and stood up, moving with surprising grace for such a big man. The man on the chair, younger, smaller, with dark hair and vaguely Asian features, shifted slightly toward Daniel but otherwise didn't move. The big man, a barely perceptible smile on his face, reached into his pocket and pulled out a syringe.
Daniel took a step backward and felt the metal of Jorgans's gun against his back. The dark-haired man, seeing Daniel's movement, stood up and walked around to Daniel's left. There was no sign of nervousness or satisfaction in the men, no sign that they either underestimated or overestimated Daniel's skills, no sign of any emotion at all except for the blond man's small smile.
Daniel realized he was staring at the needle and forced his eyes away. Think, he ordered himself. Think. What are your options?. . . Let them drug me? Not good. Attack the guy with the needle when he comes near? Make a move on Jorgans now? He shifted his eyes toward the dark-haired man, hoping to see him watching the man with the hypo, but the lithe man's eyes were on him. Daniel had no doubt that his chances of escaping were zero. Options, he thought. Hypo or death.
Jorgans, as if reading Daniel's mind, said almost conversationally, “I wouldn't try anything, Dr. Jackson. We won't kill you, but we will hurt you very badly. It's your mind they want. They won't care if we snap your spine.”
Daniel couldn't hide his shiver at the coldness of the man's words. How did he not realize, after everything, how much evil was in his own world? He'd have to make them kill him then, he thought, because he sure as hell wasn't going with them.
Inanely, at that moment Mark Antony's words drifted through his head, and he spoke for the first time since he'd entered his house:
“The evil that men do lives after them,” he said. “The good is often interred with their bones.” He supposed it was as good an epithet as any.
The blond man hesitated slightly and the dark-haired man blinked, and Daniel took his chance. He threw himself backward at Jorgans, knocking the gun sideways, and he heard heard it skitter across the hardwood floor as he went down hard on top of the other man.
Jorgans swore, losing his composure for the first time, and tried to throw Daniel off, but Daniel jabbed back hard with his elbow, and he heard a satisfying crack as he caught the man in the nose. He rolled off Jorgans and started to rise, but the blond was already there. Daniel couldn't get to his feet in time, so he let the bigger man come, sticking his arms up at the last moment, in a move Sam had taught him, and propelled the man over the top of him. He started to jump to his feet, but by then the dark-haired man was on him. Daniel swung his arm out to try to catch him off-balance, but the man grabbed his arm and in a deft move that Daniel, after all his years of training could never hope to imitate, twisted his arm hard behind his back, swinging him around, then swept his foot under Daniel's legs and flipped him face-down to the ground. Then the man's knee was in his back, and Daniel's arm was pulled up so high he was pretty sure another inch would dislocate his shoulder.
Daniel stopped struggling and was still, for a moment the only sound that of his harsh breathing.
“You do have a reputation for not listening, Dr. Jackson,” Jorgans said. He voice was changed, but he spoke calmly, as if he hadn't just had his nose broken by a man he was trying to kidnap. “My mistake for not being more prepared.”
Daniel heard a rustling sound, and he looked up to see the blond man squat in front of him.
“Please don't be concerned, Dr. Jackson. Being a quadriplegic will undoubtedly shorten your life, but you have many years ahead of you still,” Jorgans said.
Daniel started to struggle again. He tried to kick and twist his body to knock the other man off, but he only felt his arm pull up another fraction of an inch, sending more pain through his shoulder and back. Then the blond man reached down and put his hands on either side of Daniel's head, holding it firmly.
“It would probably be better if you didn't move, Dr. Jackson,” Jorgans said matter-of-factly. “My colleague here knows exactly which vertebra to snap, but it can be delicate work.”
Daniel gasped out something incoherent even to his own ears.
“I am sorry, but I did warn you of the consequences of trying to escape. . . . Go ahead. Do it now. We're behind schedule as it is.”
Daniel felt the large hands tighten around his head, and he could only hope that he wouldn't survive what was about to come.

 

Chapter 6
Tears burned in Daniel's eyes as the big man's hands tightened on his head, and he realized he had never been more afraid. He let out another involuntary sound, somewhere between a whimper and a plea, as he felt the knee press harder into his back and his neck start to twist. Please, no.
Then there was a crashing sound and he heard his door slam open, and a voice barked, “Step away from him, now!” The blond man released his head, and the other man rose from his back, dropping his arm. Daniel cried out as pain shot through his shoulder, but he didn't otherwise move. His heart was still pounding sickeningly, and he felt bile rise to his throat. Oh, God, he thought. Oh, thank God.
There was dead silence for a moment, then Jorgans said, placatingly, “Look, we're all on the same side here. This is sanctioned at the highest levels. My boss and your boss, they want the same thing.”
Daniel pushed himself up, painfully, and looked past Jorgans, who was standing with his back to him, hands out from his sides, palms down, and saw two men in masks, both holding guns with silencers. They wore dark clothes, black slacks and turtlenecks. Daniel blinked, trying to make sense of the scene. He looked over at his two other tormentors, the men who had been only seconds away from brutally snapping his neck. They stood several feet apart from each other, and both had a blank, resigned look in their eyes, the look of men who knew they were about to die.
Daniel looked back at the men with the silencers. “Wait,” he croaked, his voice strained and hoarse, although he had barely made a sound since he'd entered his own house. “We have to question them. We need to know who sent them.”
No one in the room looked at him, or even seemed to hear him.
The man who had barked the first order said, addressing Jorgans, “No final decision has been made regarding this target. You acted prematurely.”
“We acted on orders,” Jorgans said.
The man gave a slight shrug, and both he and the other man in the mask raised their guns.
Daniel's eyes widened and he ducked down as he heard the muffled sound of the silenced revolvers going off. Jorgans was taking a step back when they fired, and the bullet caught him in the chest and sent him flying backwards to fall at Daniel's feet. Daniel heard a crash behind him and a scream, then the sound of two more bodies hitting the ground. The man who had spoken remained where he was, lowering his gun to his side, while the other man stepped forward, and Daniel tried to ready himself for the bullet he was sure was meant for him, but both men continued to ignore him. The second man walked up to Jorgans, who was twitching and gasping for breath, and shot him again, in the head. He went to the other men, who lay unmoving, and shot them each in the head as well, dead center. He then removed the silencer from his gun, stuck it and the gun inside his coat and walked back toward the door, stepping around Daniel and Jorgans's body, careful to avoid leaving a footprint in the spreading pool of blood. He pulled off his mask, opened the door and stepped out. The first man turned toward the door as well, sticking his gun and his mask in his deep coat pocket, and then he too was gone. The door closed behind him with a gentle click.
Daniel sat, unmoving, on his living room floor, Jorgans's body growing cold at his side, and stared at the closed door, unaware of time passing. His mind was a blank, and his limbs felt heavy. A horn sounded, loud and sudden, from the street outside, and he jumped and looked around, and for a moment he couldn't remember how he'd gotten there or what had happened. He lifted his hand to adjust his glasses and realized he wasn't wearing them, then noticed that his hand was covered with blood. He tried to look at his other hand, but when he went to lift his arm, the dull ache became a screaming pain and he let it drop back to his side. He looked around, finally, at the carnage, and the whole night, the entire past few horrific days, came back to him in a rush, and the enormity of it was like a kick in the gut. He felt the bile rise again, and this time he vomited, the dry painful heaves of an almost empty stomach.
When he stopped, he tried to get up, to move away from the blood and vomit, but his legs wouldn't support him and he fell awkwardly to his side. He tried again and managed to push himself up, one-handed, and stumble almost drunkenly into his kitchen. He leaned heavily on the counter, gasping, then picked a glass out of the sink and filled it to the brim under the faucet. His hand was shaking so badly much of the water slopped out over the rim as he brought it to his mouth, but he drank what was left in one long, desperate swallow. His stomach rebelled at even that small amount, but he managed to keep it down.
He splashed more water on his face and watched pink, diluted blood swirl down the drain. He felt, then, the cut on his forehead, and realized some of the blood was his. He knew he should clean the wound and try to stop the bleeding, but the effort was more than he was capable of. He turned, leaned back against the counter again and slid slowly to the tile floor, hissing a little at the pain the movement caused in his shoulder and his bruised back. Blood dripped from the cut over his eye, and he wiped it away with the sleeve of his jacket.
He needed help. He'd thought he could do this alone, that he could use everything he'd learned in seven years, from Jack, Sam and Teal'c, from his battles with the Goa'uld and the replicators, to find some way out, some way to keep his place at the SGC and find his teammates, some way to go on living, but he didn't know how to fight this Earth-bound enemy, these men with the dead eyes. Here, on his own planet, the lines were too murky, good and evil blended in some gray area he'd never understood. The men who had “rescued” him today would kill him tomorrow as easily and with as little thought as they'd killed the men still lying in their death poses on his living room rug. Crippling him, kidnapping him, murdering him, none of these things were wrong, only premature.
A few hours ago he might have called the SGC, complacent in the knowledge that Weir would send someone to get him, to keep him safe at least for a while, and that maybe she would, after all, help him go off-world. But that was before he had turned and seen Jorgans, SGC security in the flesh, pointing a gun at his back.
Ferretti? No, he couldn't involve Ferretti in this, couldn't set men who killed so easily on his friend. Not Hammond either. He couldn't lose anyone else, couldn't be responsible for anyone else dying.
Daniel dropped his head forward in defeat. He was well and truly alone. Sam and Teal'c were out there somewhere, needing his help, he was sure of it, and he was trapped here, useless. He had failed them, the way he'd failed Jack. He looked toward the living room and thought briefly of the guns left behind, of how easy it would be to just end it, end the pain and guilt and fear. Release. He imagined almost sweet release. Maybe that was the way, the only way.
But no.
He wouldn't give the bastards the satisfaction.
Someday, somehow, he would avenge Jack's death and find his teammates, or at least live to see them again when they found their own way home. This was Sam and Teal'c; they would do it. He couldn't have lost them all, forever. Someday, and he realized now that it might be years, he could find Cassie and beg forgiveness for abandoning her, and maybe, someday, she would understand that he'd had no choice. Someday.
But tonight? Daniel remembered the feelings of the hands clutching his head and the terror that had gripped him; he saw again the ease with which the men in the masks had gunned down his tormentors, ignoring him as if he were less than nothing. He thought of Jack's mutilated, dissected body, the life drained from the most alive man he'd ever met, and he imagined Sam and Teal'c floating helplessly somewhere in another galaxy, waiting for help that might never come.
Daniel reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the crumpled piece of paper he'd shoved there hours before. He flattened it out and looked blearily at the numbers.
He closed his eyes, despair almost overwhelming him again, because tonight, tonight he would do something that he'd never done before, something he'd sworn he never would.
Tonight, he would run.

 

Chapter 7
And so he ran.
Daniel pulled himself off the floor and, giving the bodies in the living room a wide berth, climbed unsteadily up the stairs to his bedroom. He took his extra pair of glasses from the dresser, then went to the bed table and found the spare cell phone Jack had given him once, to use if he ever needed to make a call he didn't want traced. At the time, Daniel had laughed, but he'd kept it anyway, knowing Jack had his reasons. He thanked Jack silently now when he turned the phone on and saw that it was working, still, after all this time.
He called the Montana number, expecting to have to hide somewhere safe—where, he had no idea—until they could reach him, but as soon as he identified himself, a voice cut him off and said, simply, “Cemetery, one hour,” and that was all. Daniel stared at the phone blankly for a moment, as if waiting for more, then stuck it in his jacket pocket. As cryptic as the message was, Daniel knew immediately which cemetery and which grave site. Of the many, many people he knew who had died, not many were buried on Earth and of those only a handful were buried in Colorado Springs. He knew that the voice on the phone meant not Janet’s grave nor Kawalsky’s, not Connor’s or Spanner’s.
Charlie's. He meant Charlie’s.
He had to move.
Ignoring his exhaustion and pain and burying the emotions that kept flitting to the surface and threatening to break through, Daniel went into “survival mode.” Don't think, but keep moving. It had gotten him to the sarcophagus on Apophis's ship when the rest of the team had been forced to leave him behind; it had gotten him back to the Gate after Chaka had knocked him out and dragged him cross-country; it had kept him alive when he was kidnapped in Central America. Don't think, move.
Daniel went into the bathroom and glanced in the mirror, avoiding his own eyes. He set about quickly cleaning himself up the best he could, one-handed. He washed the blood from his face, neck and hands and put antibiotic cream around the cut above his eyebrow, awkwardly sticking a bandage on top. The cut was small but ugly and no doubt needed stitches, but it had almost stopped bleeding. He grabbed a bottle of Tylenol from the medicine cabinet and swallowed three of the pills dry, then dropped the bottle in his jacket pocket. He looked at his clothes and realized for the first time that he was still wearing his BDUs. At least he'd put on his leather jacket and not the standard issue one with its SG-1 patch. At any rate, there was no way he could pull the jacket off with his injured arm, so the black T-shirt would have to do as well. He looked down at his pants and saw that they were splattered with blood, most of it, he knew, not his. The vision of the silenced gun to Jorgans's head as his body convulsed flashed through his mind, but he shoved it back again. Don't think. Move.
He went back to his room, untied and kicked out of his boots and awkwardly pulled off the bloody pants, leaving them on the floor. He grabbed a pair of jeans that hung over the chair by the lamp and struggled into them. Bending was painful, and tying his boots again one-handed near impossible, so he slipped on some loafers. He hesitated for a moment, then went to his closet and pulled the lock box from a shelf. He took out the Beretta Jack had insisted he keep in the house and went to the small file cabinet and grabbed a magazine from another locked box in the drawer. Gun loaded, he was at a loss for a moment what to do with it. He'd always had a holster off-world. Checking again to make sure the safety was on, he stuck it in his waistband at his side, where his jacket was just long enough to cover its bulk. Not comfortable, but it would have to do. Even if it was more likely to get him killed, there was no way he was leaving the house unarmed, not after what those men had tried to do. If it came to it, he would use it on himself before he let them take him again.
Daniel looked around his room again, wondering what else he should take, then realized there was no point in taking anything. This life, the life in this house, in this place, was over.
He was almost out of the room when he turned, impulsively, and went back to the bed table. Fumbling one-handed, he took the picture of Sha're from its frame, then reached back into the drawer and came out with a messy pile of photos. He dropped them on his bed and sorted through them quickly till he found one of the team, together, at a barbecue at Jack's, and another small, square, well-creased black-and-white one of him with his parents. He shoved the pictures into his pocket and then, suddenly fearful that too much time was passing, ran, almost stumbling, down the stairs and into the kitchen. He took a bottle of water from the refrigerator and grabbed a couple of protein bars from a cabinet otherwise nearly empty of food. He stepped to the curtained backdoor near the small kitchen table, put his hand on the knob to open it and . . . stopped.
One of the thoughts he'd been avoiding as he prepared to leave came back, front and center.
What if they were out there, waiting? What if he opened the door and got a bullet in the heart? Or a one-way ticket to a tiny locked room?
He rested his hand on the Beretta, but it didn't help. He felt the panic beginning to rise again. Shit, shit, shit. He tried to think of another option, another way out of the house that might be safer, but there were no other options. If the house was being watched, it was being watched. His only other choice was to stay here with the bodies of his would-be kidnappers and wait for the next round of mercenaries to turn up or the police or NID. . . .
Daniel took a deep breath to try to slow his heartbeat. There were no choices. He turned the knob, then ducked down and pulled the door open slowly. Nothing happened. It was a dark night, and the back of the house cast a long shadow from the streetlights in front. He slipped out through the screen, letting it shut with the smallest click. He stayed unmoving, low to the ground, and waited. Nothing. Expecting a bullet or someone to jump him at any moment, he slid cautiously to the edge of his house. There was a small strip of grass, lit by the street lamp and a neighbor's porch light, between his house and the low fence and thick bushes that surrounded the next yard. He moved quickly in a crouch to the fence and clambered over where there was a space in the bushes. He fell forward, stopping himself with his good arm but causing a jolt of pain to echo through the other. He swallowed his shout, got down on his knees and crawled through the bushes into the next yard and lay flat, waiting again.
He could hear sounds in the house, dishes clinking, water running and the droning of a television in the background. Leno, it sounded like, and he realized how little time had passed since he'd first opened the door to his house. It had seemed like an eternity, but his neighbors were only just now ending their day. The mundane, everyday sounds were jarring. How could everything else still be so normal when his own life had been twisted so grotesquely in a matter of a few days?
Daniel got back into his crouch and moved across the yard into the next, then cut diagonally across that yard until he was at the edge of the street one over from his own. He stopped again to listen for the sounds of pursuit, but there were no footsteps or rustling of leaves behind him, no car engines starting up. It seemed impossible that he wasn't being followed, but if he was, he couldn't tell. He took a deep breath, stood up and stepped out into the street. He didn't look right or left but started walking briskly, as briskly as he could, toward town and Evergreen Cemetery, expecting at any moment that his next step would be his last. His shoulder throbbed, and an occasional spasm would stab at his back where the dark-haired man had pinned him with his knee. His head began to pound in rhythm with his other hurts, and he pulled the water out and took a long drink as he walked. It was not a short distance, but Daniel had gone much farther, and with far more severe injuries, before. Strange, though, to do it on Earth.
When he got to the cemetery, he paused, looking around him at the quiet street. It was only a little past 11:00, but Colorado Springs was not a late-night type of city, especially on a weeknight and away from the downtown and the bars frequented by the military personnel from the Peterson and the Mountain. He didn't see anyone, so he hopped the small fence by the entrance and walked toward the small, pretty section that held Charlie's grave. It was quiet here, away from the commercial buildings and traffic from I-25, and he couldn't hear anything but his footsteps on the asphalt path and his own quiet breathing. The path was lit only by moonlight. A stick snapped somewhere, and he froze, listening intently and ignoring the impulse to run for his life. He stayed that way for several minutes, waiting, but he heard nothing else, so he started moving again.
When he got there, Daniel waited in the shadows for a time, looking for someone to show himself, but no one did, so he walked slowly up to the grave of the small boy he'd never met. There were fresh flowers, and he figured Sara must have been there earlier in the day. God, Sara, he thought. Had someone already told her Jack was dead? Was anyone with her?
Daniel looked around again, and still seeing no one, he let himself sink to his knees by the gravestone. He was silent for a moment, but then he started to talk to Charlie, the way Jack always had, apologizing for not protecting his father better and telling him how much his father had loved him. Finally Daniel stopped, reached out and ran his fingers over Charlie's name. He didn't know what he believed anymore, but he liked to think that Jack might be with Charlie now, somewhere, somehow. He looked at the empty plot next to Charlie's and realized that it was probably Jack's, that his friend would be buried here in the next few days and that he wouldn't be here to say goodbye.
Daniel felt the tears come again, but he blinked them back. He took a shuddering breath and stood up. He checked the time on the cell phone and saw that well over an hour had passed since he'd made the call, and still no one had come.
Had he been wrong after all? Janet was buried here too, at the other side of the cemetery. Should he go there? If he missed his contact, was that it? Was he on his own? A wave of exhaustion hit Daniel and he went down to his knees again, accidently knocking against the small vase of flowers. He was reaching to straighten them when he saw the card stuck between the blossoms, as if it were a bouquet delivered by a florist. Daniel closed his eyes and cursed himself for his own stupidity. It had been here all along.
He picked up the small envelope and slipped out the note, trying to make out what it said in the dim light. An address. He squinted and held the card up to the moonlight. An address at the edge of town, nothing more. Daniel wanted to cry again, but this time in frustration. Was this some kind of joke? Was it too much to ask that the people who were supposed to help him actually help him? Were they trying to see how far he could go before he gave up?
And he was very close to giving up.
Instead, Daniel struggled to his feet, said goodbye to Charlie and started walking. He tried to stay out of sight without looking suspicious, and he tried not to stagger. After an hour, his brain shut off, and he walked, step after step, like an automaton, his only thought repeating itself on an endless reel: Don't think, keep moving, don't think, keep moving. . . . He might have walked right out of town, but something in his subconscious must have still been paying attention, because he stopped himself when he got to the right road. He wasn't even sure how he had found it. He stood still, swaying slightly, and looked up the street. There were a few rundown ranch houses with scrubby brush for yards, an empty lot with garbage scattered about, and an abandoned building that might have been a warehouse. If someone had chosen this as the place to kill him, he'd chosen well, but Daniel could barely bring himself to care. He was well past exhaustion, well past his limits. He limped slowly toward the one working street lamp, stopped just out of its light and pulled out the note to check the address. One of the houses, the closest one. The shades were drawn, but light peeked out around them. Two in the morning, and someone was up.
Daniel put his hand on the Beretta, took a deep breath and walked up to the front door. This was it. Whatever was going to happen now, was going to happen. He raised his hand to knock but the door swung open first.
A tall, redheaded woman, somewhere around Daniel's age, stood in the doorway, wearing jeans, boots and a black sweater. She didn't seem to be armed. Daniel sensed another, bigger figure standing to the side.
“Dr. Jackson, I presume?” the woman said calmly, swinging the door open farther.
Daniel gave a small smile and took one step before his vision grayed and he felt his legs start to give. “I . . . uh . . . ,” was all he said before he pitched forward into the woman's arms, taking her to the ground with him. “Shit,” he heard a man's voice swear, and he thought to apologize, but before he could, the gray turned to black and the world went blank.

 

Chapter 8
The next time Daniel was aware of his surroundings, he was lying in the back of a carpeted van under a blanket, his head on a rolled-up jacket. He could feel the hum of the road beneath him, and he knew they were moving fast. A woman sat at his side, reading a book. He could see little out the dirty window in the back doors of the van, only that it was dark. The van went over a bump, and the sudden motion jolted his arm and back. He must have groaned, because the redhead put down the book and leaned over him.
“Ah, you're awake,” she said. “I'm sorry you're in pain. Your shoulder is swollen, and you have quite a bit of bruising, but we don't think you have any internal injuries. We'll get a doctor to look at you as soon as we can.”
Daniel squinted his eyes at her, trying to remember who she was and where he was, then remembered the ranch house and this woman answering the door. And he remembered falling on top of her.
He tried to talk, but his mouth was so dry the words wouldn't come out.
The woman, still in jeans and a sweater, grabbed a bottle of water from a case next to her and opened it, then helped him to sit up. She handed him the bottle and he drank a long draught of it, then she gave him two Tylenol, which he dutifully swallowed.
“I'm sorry for before,” he said finally, his voice sounding rough to his own ears, as if someone had rubbed sandpaper on his vocal cords. “Did I hurt you?”
“Hurt me?” the woman blinked at him in confusion for a moment, then her expression cleared and she smiled. “Oh, that. Well, the landing was a little rough, but no, I'm O.K. . . . Is there anything else you'd like to know?”
Daniel gave that some thought. He was in a van, speeding to someplace God only knew where, with people he'd never met. They didn't seem to want to kill or maim him. Beyond that last, he realized, he didn't really care where he was going or what would happen next.
“No,” he said, “nothing.”
The woman, who was still supporting his back, nodded as if there was nothing at all surprising in that, and started to lower him to floor. He was about to protest, but he realized how tired he still was and how much everything just . . . hurt, and he let her help him back down. Ignoring the pain as best he could, he closed his eyes and let the hum of the motor and the feel of the road beneath him carry him back to sleep.
-----------------------------------------
Later, Daniel didn't remember much of those early days. The redhead called herself Susan; her partner, a large bear of a man who always seemed to have a couple of days' growth of beard, was Jeff. Those were not their real names. He never understood entirely who they were or the organization they belonged to, only that they lived in a shadow world where governments turned on their own people after they'd outlived their usefulness or possessed knowledge deemed too dangerous or even if their continued existence could prove an embarrassment. The were mostly “ex-spooks,” as Susan put it, some ex-military. Daniel supposed they were like the mirror image of the men who had been in his house the night his life ended. They had all experienced and done things in the name of justice or honor or patriotism that had taken a piece of their souls, but this group, unlike the men who'd tortured and killed so easily, had somehow retained their humanity, and now they tried to help.
Like Jack, he supposed, and Teal'c. He wondered if Jack had ever been a part of these people that helped him now. He wondered how General Hammond even knew they existed. Those questions Susan and Jeff, and those who replaced them, never answered. There were rules, and the paramount rule was secrecy.
They were kind to him, but kept a polite distance. In some little town somewhere, a doctor told him his shoulder was sprained and that he should keep it in a sling and ice it four times a day. He handed Daniel an unlabeled bottle of painkillers and told him not to take more than three a day. Ordinarily Daniel avoided painkillers at all cost, not liking the brain-numbing side effects, but right now brain-numbing sounded good to him, so he popped one as he stood in the doctor's office. The doctor knew without asking that Daniel would not be staying in one place long enough to seek physical therapy, so he gave Daniel a list of exercises, some he could do alone, some he'd need help with, and sent him on his way. He never asked how Daniel had injured his shoulder, or how the rest of his body had come to be so bruised and battered, or where he'd gotten the cut over his eyebrow.
The next few days, as far as he could remember, Daniel slept like the dead as his body and mind tried to recover, waking up only to eat and drink or move from place to place, vehicle to vehicle. He gradually stopped taking the painkillers and became alert enough to be introduced to his companions and listen half-heartedly as they explained who they were, but he always welcomed the sleep that would grab him unexpectedly day and night.
Until the nightmares started.
Screaming, terrifying, heart-wrenching nightmares. Jack, his brains seeping out, reaching out to him; men in black masks whispering, Goodbye, Dr. Jackson, as they smother him beneath his pillow; lying helplessly on a metal table in a tiny room unable to move while a shadowy figure pushes a long needle through his eye and into his skull.
And the old favorites: Sha're screaming his name as a symbiote pierces her neck; Nem shouting, over and over, What fate Omoroca? as water fills the room; the Honduran rebels coming toward him with the sparking cables, ready to electrocute him again. . . .
And the worst one, because it was his living nightmare, Sam and Teal'c lying bloodied and broken on a planet somewhere in another universe, whispering as they died: “Daniel?”
It was one night after that nightmare that he jumped out of bed in whatever “safe house” in whatever town they were in and woke Susan in a panic, saying he'd made a mistake and he had to go back. His friends needed him; he couldn't leave them.
Susan, who was immediately alert, sat up and grabbed his arm, saying, “Daniel, you need to calm down,” and Jeff, who had been keeping watch in front of the house, appeared in the doorway and said, simply, “You can't go back,” and turned and left the room.
Daniel, still gasping for breath, pulled away and said, “What does he mean, I can't go back? Am I your prisoner? You can't keep me here!”
“Daniel,” Susan said. “No, of course you're not our prisoner. You can leave whenever you want. Jeff means, if you go back, you'll be imprisoned, tortured or killed.”
Daniel's shoulders slumped, but he said, looking at his feet, “You can't know that.”
“You really doubt it? After what happened to you?”
Daniel shook his head, and looked away. “I need to help them,” he whispered.
Susan pulled herself up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. “Sit down, Daniel,” she said, gesturing toward the wooden chair near the bed.
Daniel sat, and waited.
“Maybe we can help your friends. It's what we do. If they need to disappear also. . . .”
Daniel bowed his head. “No, you can't help them.” He raised his head and stood up. “Look, I'm sorry I woke you. It was stupid. I know it's hopeless. I just. . . .” Daniel gave a small shake of his head, and turned to leave the room. “I'm sorry,” he said again, walking out of the room. “Go back to sleep.”
Days passed. Daniel’s shoulder started slowly to heal and the bruises began to fade. Trying to avoid the nightmares, he lived on little to no sleep and coffee, and the question of why he bothered at all was not often far from his mind. Yet he kept going, because he always had. And because he remembered Jack when he’d first met him, how he’d been ready to destroy a world to end his own life, and how Daniel had somehow talked him down. To give up now, to end his life, it seemed to Daniel, would be a betrayal of Jack. And his missing friends.
He needed to work. For as long as he could remember he had used work to survive. As a child he threw himself into his schoolwork and, when school wasn’t enough, tried to learn everything he could about . . . everything. As an adult, he’d worked to solve a puzzle, to save a world, to save his wife, to save his friends. . . .
Now he sat up long nights in motel rooms and houses, apartments and boats, drinking coffee and trying to remember everything he could about the Asgard's home galaxy, anything that he could think of to help in a search that he hoped was continuing, allies they may have overlooked, technology or a fail safe that Sam or Teal'c may have mentioned. He felt lost without his books and journals, but he did his best, reconstructing what he knew, listing questions for what he didn't. Among the questions that nagged him the most were what the distress call, the one Thor had spoken of, had said, how long it had taken the Asgard ship that received the transmission to respond and what planets were within range of Sam and Teal'c's ship at its last-known location.
Jeff had wandered up to him one night, one of the last before Susan and he had handed him off to the next set of competent strangers, and silently watched him work. Finally, he'd said, “You know, you have to let the old life go. That's the past.”
Daniel had inclined his head and given a little shrug, as if to say, “Maybe so,” and turned back to his notes. Jeff had sighed and said, “Well, at least make sure no one can read what you're writing, unless you plan to swallow all that paper when you're done.”
Daniel had looked up that time and caught Jeff's eye. His notes, as usual were in random languages, Earth and other. “You're right,” he said after a moment. “Thank you.” And from then on he wrote in a combination of an obscure off-world language that no one, not even the experts at the SGC, was likely to recognize, and a shorthand he'd invented as a child to hide his words from the prying eyes of foster parents and social workers.
When he had thought it out as much as he could, he asked “Angel,” one of the men who replaced Susan and Jeff and who sometimes sat in the early morning hours and played chess with him, for access to a computer and printer, but Angel brought him an old portable typewriter instead. Then he typed the following: 1) Tka spoke of px—2 and travelers. Contact?; 2) ship from Melna?; 3) Gt to bylia gt; 4) if Tr returns: what last message; how long to respond; radio signals escape bh? He didn't sign it. The note wasn't much, but it was something. He then wrote down General Hammond's home address on a scrap of paper and handed it and the note to Angel, and asked him please to find a way to mail it, knowing he and his colleagues would make the letter untraceable.
“This is not a good idea, friend,” Angel said. “If you disappear, it is best to disappear.”
“Please,” Daniel said. “If I don't do at least this, I can't live with myself.”
“Will it help with the nightmares?” Angel asked, quietly.
Daniel winced a little and looked away. None of the others had mentioned the nightmares, allowing Daniel the self-deception that they hadn't heard his screams. He forced himself to look Angel in the eye. “Yes,” he said, “it might.”
Angel looked back at the man who stared at him now, troubled blue eyes pleading, and sighed. “All right,” he said. “This is my deal. You start eating real food and try to get some sleep, and I will have someone mail this note. I still think it is unwise, but I will let you make that choice.”
Daniel let out a breath he didn't know he was holding. He wasn't sure what he would have done if Angel had refused. “I'll eat,” he said. “The sleeping thing hasn't been working out too well. . . . ”
Angel nodded and took the letter. “That's a start. You go make a sandwich, then, and I'll set up the chess board. You can try sleeping later.”
More time passed. Angel and his partner were gone and two others took their place. Daniel, without another way to help his friends, floundered for a while until, finally, to escape his tortured thoughts and his still-nightmare-plagued nights and with considerable pressure from the people who were hiding him, he started taking an interest in where he was going and what he would do. A tall, thin man with a receding hairline and a small scar under his eye whose name Daniel never learned, not even a fake name, came and sat with him for two days straight, in some small, cold town in Alberta, and they hammered out an identity. The man told him it was unusual to have so many choices but that with Daniel's linguistic abilities and breadth of knowledge of other cultures and lands, the possibilities were almost limitless. He said Daniel should pick a language and identity he was comfortable with, and a part of the world where he was unlikely to come into contact with anyone from his past life. He and his “associates” would take care of the rest: passport, other documents, computer records. . . .
Daniel had come up with a scenario that he thought he could survive. The facilitator, as Daniel came to think of him, balked at only two points, the first a big one. Daniel wanted to join up with a dig somewhere as an amateur archeologist, but the facilitator was adamant that this was too dangerous. Daniel had been equally adamant, pointing out that there were thousands of small digs all over the world, and that many of them would take on students or others who were interested with little documentation and no background check. After leaving Daniel for several hours to “look into” what Daniel had said, the man had come back and agreed that perhaps Daniel's plan was not a bad one, especially since the people looking for him would not expect him to do something so obvious, as he put it.
The second dispute was a minor one: his name. The facilitator had suggested Michel Perrault, and Daniel had acquiesced to the surname but told the man that his given name would be Jacques. The facilitator's objected that it was too close in sound to Daniel's real surname, but Daniel stuck to it stubbornly. He knew he was being perverse, but it was his small way of hanging onto his old life. He knew that Jacques wasn't “Jack,” but he knew, also, that he'd always hear the name when it was being called, would never forget to look up and answer.
So Daniel became Jacques Perrault, from Montreal, an amateur archaeologist who had never finished college but whose parents had recently died and left him enough money to spend it as he pleased. Daniel searched the databases and looked in the magazines until he found what he was needed: a small, remote dig in Brazil, where the less-than-ideal living conditions and the time constraints of having to work within the dry season kept the directors in constant need of “extra hands.” It was as far away from his roots in Egypt as he could get, yet in the past decade great strides had been made in the understanding of pre-Columbian rain forest societies. Maybe, Daniel thought, the work would provide enough distraction to keep him from losing his mind.
So it was settled.
Daniel did have one last question, though, and he was embarrassed that it had taken him so long to consider it. Where was the money coming from to pay for all this? He had saved a good deal of money over the years with the SGC, but he had no idea how he could access his accounts.
Harrison, the last of his “handlers” before he was sent off on his own, told him not to worry, that it was taken care of. When Daniel persisted, Harrison had finally told him that a fund had been set up in his name some time ago, but that he couldn't tell him how or by whom.
Daniel had stared at the man, open-mouthed. He didn't need to be told who had set up the fund, and now he didn't think he needed to be told how General Hammond had known this organization existed or how they knew to pick Charlie's grave.
Jack.
Jack had known it might come to this someday; he'd known. For a moment Daniel was angry that Jack had never told him, but he realized that if he had, Daniel never would have believed him, in the same way he had laughed at the untraceable cell phone and protested at keeping a gun in the house.
And Daniel's anger was replaced by an ache that he would carry with him into the Amazon and beyond.
God, he missed him. He missed his friend.
Two days after the conversation with Harrison, Daniel, his arm finally out of the sling, said goodbye to his old life and boarded a flight for Brazil.
PART 3

Chapter 9
Brazilian rainforest, Upper Xingu Dig 17
Daniel stooped through the opening to his tent and stepped out into the already-steamy Amazonian day. The sun was still low on the horizon and cast only a hazy morning light on the place he'd called home for a month. At some point in the near future, if the dig turned out to be as important as the lead archaeologists hoped, there would be buildings, but for now everything was very . . . basic. There were several tents to either side of his, and the “kitchen,” was across the small dirt "yard." It was a simple affair with posts holding up a corrugated tin roof and rolled up flaps attached that could be dropped to keep out the rain, black flies or mosquitoes, depending on the time of day and the season. There were three long picnic tables set up, and a large kerosene cooking stove. The noisy portable generator stood silent, as it was turned off each night unless they needed refrigeration. Fresh meat was a luxury they enjoyed perhaps once a week; the rest of the time they lived off canned or dried food, fresh fruit from their surroundings and sometimes fresh vegetables from the local people. Having survived for years on MREs and bad commissary food, Daniel was not bothered. At least the coffee was good.
Daniel wandered to the dining area and poured himself a cup of coffee from the old fashioned percolator working away on the hot stove and went to sit down across the table from Charles, who was already wolfing down what looked like several Twinkies. The rest of the camp still slept, only the night security guard wandering about, mug of coffee in hand.
“Jacques!” Charles greeted him, with his mouth full. “Get yourself some food, man! We've got digging to do and discoveries to make!”
Daniel just shook his head slightly and took a sip of the scalding coffee. Charles had married young and raised two boys and a girl, dutifully working in his father's bank to support the family while longing for the career as an archaeologist he had trained for at university. Now Charles had taken a six-month leave, with the blessing of his wife and almost-grown kids, and was on the adventure of a lifetime, pursuing his dream. Daniel appreciated Charles's enthusiasm, and sometimes he even found it infectious, but there were many days that he also found it a little overwhelming, especially so early in the morning. He felt the now normal pang of nostalgia and grief as he thought, briefly, of how Jack, Sam and Teal'c would laugh at the idea of Daniel, of all people, finding another archaeologist too enthusiastic.
Ignoring Charles's continuing banter, Daniel looked over the man's shoulder and, past the small structure they used as a “lab,” to the dig itself, maybe 100 square yards, with its newly dug narrow trenches and grids marked off carefully with string.
So far, it looked as if they had found the site of a small community or campsite, and not one of the small cities with their wide roads, plazas and parkland, the discovery of which had begun to change the archaeological world's view of pre-Columbian civilization in the Amazon. Although Daniel was an Egyptologist, he had always thought that the mainstream assumption that the people of the region were “primitive” had been based on a Western bias dating back to the days of the first Spanish conquerors, who viewed the Amazon as a vast, hostile, unexplorable region, unfit for human settlement. Daniel knew better than most how stubborn his colleagues could be when their assumptions were challenged. Thus he'd followed with interest news of the archaeological finds, starting in the ’90s, that had turned the beliefs about the region on their head.
Daniel's eyes wandered past the dig to the beginnings of the forest just beyond it, with its scrubby brush giving way to isolated trees and then the knotty tall trees of deep woods, with its snakes, monkeys, spiders, sloths, tapirs, panthers, an an incredible variety of birds, lizards, insects. . . . Daniel let himself listen to the sounds, the constant clacking, whistling, buzzing, grunting multitude of sounds. In the distance a troop of howler monkeys started up its eery moaning.
In all his years and all his travels and all the wonders he had seen, Daniel had never experienced anything so astonishing as this shrinking patch of rainforest he was living in now.
Behind him, back in the other direction over a low rise, was the Xingu River. Most of the foreign volunteers, and the Brazilian lead archaeologists, Elena and Manoel, had arrived from Altamira by boat, a fairly grueling four-hour trip. Daniel barely remembered the trip, though, still caught as he was in state of mourning and disbelief, but he did remember the ache in his back and the crocodiles on the riverbank. And he remembered the feeling of despair as he floated farther and farther away from the life he'd known.
Daniel was snapped out of his less than pleasant reverie by the sound of Charles clearing his throat. He looked across the table at his companion, who was uncharacteristically silent and staring at him with concern. Daniel had allowed Charles and the rest of the camp to think that he was still mourning the untimely death of his parents in a car accident, since he knew he wasn't a good enough actor to always hide his grief. Now Daniel forced out a small laugh and a smile.
“Sorry, just thinking,” he said. “What were you saying?”
“Clearly, nothing important,” Charles said dryly. “But it looks as if Mac and the others are here, so perhaps we should get started?”
Daniel looked back toward the dig and saw that a few of the Kaipo men hired on to help with the dig were appearing from the forest. “Mac” was Charles's name for Miacuro, one of the few young men of the community who spoke Portuguese and who most often acted as translator for the group.
“Looks like it,” Daniel said. “Let's go.” He downed the rest of his coffee, and the two men walked out into the brightening sunlight and headed for the dig.
-----------------------------------
Reggie Saunders, bored with providing security where none was needed, watched Jacques Perrault as he squatted near one of the younger volunteers—Hannah, one of the German girls—and gestured toward something in the ditch. From the narrow trench, she looked up at him raptly, but Jacques seemed oblivious to her adoration, caught up totally in whatever he was explaining to her.
Over the past month since the Canadian had arrived, Saunders had gradually become convinced that Monsieur Perrault was not whom he pretended to be. Oh, there seemed no doubt that he knew his archaeology. Even the lead archaeologists, the gloomy Manoel Almeira and his sharp-witted sister Elena Borques, had started to listen to the man when he softly voiced his opinion on where best to expand the dig or the likely reason for an oddly located artifact.
Saunders, when he was bored, liked to listen.
No, Jacques was an archaeologist, but it was what else he was that had begun to fascinate Saunders. Saunders had been in the U.S. Army for 20 years and he knew what he knew.
Jacques was a soldier.
Saunders had first seen it early on, when he'd watched Perrault come out of his tent one morning. The man didn't just push his way out and stumble to the kitchen the way most of them did. He stood for a moment and took in his surroundings, his eyes moving from the kitchen to the work areas, to the edge of the rainforest and back to the tents. Saunders had at first thought it was his imagination, until he'd seen Jacques do it the next morning and the morning after. The man was scouting his surroundings like a pro, and he did it whether he was in mid-conversation with whoever stood outside his tent or on his own.
Saunders was fairly certain Jacques was not even aware that he was doing it. It was habit, the habit of a man who had spent a lot of time waking up in hostile territory.
So Saunders, again out of boredom, started paying more attention, just to see what else he could pick up. He watched as, some two weeks after he'd arrived, Jacques had started to work out with some of the kid volunteers. The Englishman Charles and Elena had rolled their eyes at him, telling him to leave all that exertion to the “children.” The Kaipo men had laughed at the absurdity of the foreigners running on the dirt track that led past their village and out to the rudimentary logging road about a mile away. Manoel had, typically, just scowled, and gone back to typing into his laptop.
But Saunders had watched. Perrault was out-of-shape, but not in the way a sedentary man might be. He moved with ease and grace, and he had the muscles still of someone used to an active life. No, Jacques had the look of a man who had been ill—or wounded. His color had not been that great when he'd arrived, he favored his left arm, and he'd obviously recently lost a lot of weight, quickly. The first days he'd tired quickly, joking with the German girls who'd joined in and the tall young Dane that he was “too old” to keep up with them. But he'd pressed on, and by now he was, definitely, keeping up with the kids.
It might have been middle-aged vanity that made Jacques work so hard, but Saunders didn't think so. Staying fit was another survival habit that Jacques had not been able to shake.
And then there was the night when Saunders had filled in for Evones, who'd gone into Altamira, and he'd heard Perrault crying out in his sleep, not in French but in English and in a language he'd never heard, although it sounded vaguely Arabic. He'd later asked Evones about it, and the night guy had shrugged and said that, yes, the man seemed to have a lot of nightmares, but he didn't pay much attention. It was more fun, he said, winking, to see who was sneaking into whose tent.
Saunders put together all this information and added to it the haunted look that he often saw in the archaeologist's eyes, and he could reach only one conclusion: Jacques Perrault was military, or ex-military, and in his time, he'd seen some serious shit.
None of this would be so strange, or was really any of his business, except that one day Saunders had finally approached the man and asked him about it point blank. He was curious, yes, but he also though that maybe they could connect, share some stories, help each other get through some of the more tedious days, when the rain would come and send everyone undercover for hours. So he'd sat down at an otherwise empty table across from Jacques. Jacques, nursing his ever-present cup of coffee, had greeted him warmly, calling him Reggie, which no one else around there did. He doubted any of the rest of them, except for Manoel and Elena, who had hired him, even knew his first name.
So he'd asked the where he'd served, what branch of the military . . . and Jacques had denied it. Flat-out denied it. He'd stared at Saunders with those disturbing blue eyes, and then with a smile and a laugh had said, “Reginald, whoever told you I was a military man is way off base. If you knew how much I hated guns. . . .” Jacques let his statement drift off and shook his head. Then he'd asked Saunders about his own military career and before he knew it, he was telling Perrault about his days in the Gulf.
The man was smooth, Saunders had to give him that, but he was definitely a soldier. A few days after that conversation, Evones had woken up to find a python in his tent. He'd rolled out of bed, grabbed his gun and shot it. At the sound of the gun shot, most of the camp had reacted, jumping at the sound, ducking down, giving a small scream. Saunders himself had ducked for cover and drawn his weapon before Evones had come out of his tent swinging the dead snake and laughing.
Jacques, though, who had been walking not far from Evones's tent, had hit the ground, rolled and come up in a crouch grabbing for an imaginary sidearm.
So Saunders watched the mystery man now, wondering if he was someone to be worried about, if he was some kind of threat to the security of the dig and the people on it, or if he was just another damaged man running from his past who deserved to be left in peace. Saunders knew something about running away. Why else would he have taken this job in this mosquito-ridden, godforsaken place? And he knew he wasn't being paid to do more than keep vandals from the camp and to make sure that the disputes between the miners and the loggers working mere miles away didn't spill over into the dig.
Still, Jacques Perrault was a mystery, and Saunders loved a good mystery. He looked toward him again and saw that, at the moment, Jacques was just standing up, gently pulling his arm from the German girl's grasp. Saunders watched Elena come up behind him and lay her hand lightly on his back, pointing to the area where Charles was working with some of the local guys, one of whom was holding a GPS while the others marked off the grids. Jacques turned and accidentally brushed against Elena's chest, and Elena smiled a little, looking him in the eye. Jacques blinked and gave an embarrassed shrug, offering what Saunders imagined was an apology. It was hard to see from where he stood, but Saunders could swear that the man was blushing.
Saunders raised his eyebrows at that. Oblivious as Jacques may have been to the pretty 19-year-old who had been practically jumping him moments before, he was decidedly not oblivious to the charms of his boss. Not that Saunders could blame him. He himself tended to prefer the young ones, much to his ex-wife's dismay, but Elena was a force of nature. Saunders smiled to himself as he turned to scout the outskirts of the camp. Watching Jacques Perrault had just become even more interesting.

part 2

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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.