Conspiracy

Colonel Jack O’Neill read the transfer authorization in his hands, shook his head, and scowled at the man seated across from him.

“Do they really need Daniel to go, sir?”

“Colonel, you know as well as I do that Dr. Jackson’s expertise is in constant demand,” General George Hammond explained.

“He needs rest, General,” Jack insisted.  “These last few months have been hard on everyone and—”

“And none more so than Dr. Jackson, I agree,” Hammond interrupted.  “You won’t get any argument from me, Jack, but Dr. Jackson agreed to this assignment.”

“With all due respect, sir, you know Daniel will never turn down an opportunity to ‘meet and greet’.”

“This is not open to discussion, Colonel.  Half the mountain, including SG-2’s archaeologist, is down with the flu.  They need Dr. Jackson.  The indigenous peoples of P2H-742 have shown a willingness to talk and perhaps trade with us.  We cannot lose this opportunity,” Hammond declared.

“Of course, sir,” Jack acquiesced.

“Speaking of exciting adventures, Colonel, are you ready for your trip to Washington?”  Hammond asked, deftly changing the subject.

“Now you’re just being downright cruel, General,” Jack accused.

“Better you than me, son,” Hammond smiled.

                                                *****************                         

“Jack, you shouldn’t have,” Daniel teased.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Jackson.  These dress blues aren’t for you and you damn well know it, “Jack growled, tugging at his choking tie.

“Well, I appreciate you seeing me off anyway,” Daniel said sincerely as he slapped Jack’s hand way and helped him adjust his tie.

“Any excuse that will delay this damn trip to D.C.  Crap, Simmons and a bunch of paper-pushing bureaucrats,” Jack muttered.  “I must’ve done something to piss off Hammond.”

“On the contrary, Jack, I think Hammond’s sending you because he knows you won’t take any crap.  You know better than anyone what the SG teams need in terms of personnel, training, and equipment.  No offence, but I’d send you too,” Daniel said as he stepped back to admire his handiwork.

Jack smiled at the unexpected praise.  “None taken,” he said, clapping Daniel on the shoulder.

“Looks like we’re just about ready to go,” Daniel commented as the remaining members of SG-2 filed into the gateroom.  “Who’s that guy on the left?  I don’t think I’ve seen him before?”

“I have,” Jack said tightly.

Daniel watched with curiosity as Jack purposefully strode over to Major Griff.

“Major,” Jack said coolly.

“I know, Colonel.  Believe me, it wasn’t my idea,” Griff said defensively.

“What the hell is Levings doing here?”  Jack hissed.

“Hazards of the flu epidemic, Colonel.”

“Hazard is right.  The guy’s a loose cannon.  He’s got no business being in the SGC, let alone a field unit,” Jack said angrily.  “I thought we got rid of him.”

“We did, Colonel,” a voice drawled.

Jack spun around and faced the steady blue gaze of General Hammond.

“And now we’ve got him back,” Hammond finished.

“Let me guess,” Jack said dryly.  “Simmons?”

“Apparently, we misjudged Levings.  It appears the young man had been prescribed the wrong medication for a skin condition —”

“Resulting in paranoia, depression, and bouts of anger,” Jack sneered.

“Yes,” Hammond replied.

“Bull shit, General.  I’m sorry, sir,” he added hastily, “but the guy’s a liability.”

“Dr. Jackson appears to be getting on rather well,” Hammond said quietly.

Jack turned to look at the men in question, and indeed, they were engaged in friendly, animated conversation.

“Damn it, sir.  Daniel could get along with the devil himself; it’s in his nature.”

“I’m not happy about this either, Colonel.  If I had my way I’d scrub this whole mission until the base is back at peak strength, but I have orders from the President to proceed with negotiations with the Penkat people with all due haste,” Hammond explained.

“I’ll keep an eye on him, Colonel,” Griff promised.  “Both of them.”

Jack looked at the major and said evenly, “You do that.”  He looked back at Hammond.

“Excuse me, General,” he said respectfully, “but I need to talk to Daniel.”

Jack walked over to Daniel and Levings.

“Levings,” he said, trying not to choke on the name.

“Colonel O’Neill,” Levings said, saluting sharply.  “It’s a pleasure to see you again, sir.”

“How many times have you been through the Stargate, Levings?”  Jack asked.

“This will be my third time, sir.”

Jack didn’t miss the flash of trepidation in Daniel’s eyes, and it gave him goose bumps.

“Daniel, a word?”  Jack said, ushering the archaeologist aside.

“Third time?”  Daniel said incredulously.  “He’s only been through twice and they’re sending him on a negotiation team with an alien culture?”

“He’s just there to make up the numbers,” Jack said acidly.  “Keep him as far away from the Penkats and yourself as you can,” he warned.  “I don’t trust him, and the fact that Simmons sent him does not work in his favour.”

“Simmons?”  Daniel said disdainfully.  “You’ve pissed him off again, haven’t you?”

“Believe me, he’ll get an earful when I get a hold of him in Washington,” Jack promised.

“Don’t lose your cool, Jack.  That’s what he’s looking for.”

“Don’t worry about me.  You just watch your back,” Jack said, squeezing his friend’s shoulder.

“We’re ready, Dr. Jackson,” Griff announced, nodding apologetically to Jack.

“I’m ready,” Daniel said.

Jack’s eyes narrowed as Levings sidled over to Daniel.

“Ready to kick some ass, Dr. Jackson?”  Levings asked.

Daniel’s eyes flashed with annoyance and he said tightly, “We are going to negotiate peacefully with an alien civilization, Levings, not to ‘kick ass’, and I would advise you not to interfere.  Is that understood?”

Levings’ eyes widened in astonishment at the harsh words.   

“Sorry, Doctor Jackson.  It’s just a figure of speech,” he explained. 

“Dr. Jackson,” Hammond called.

As Daniel went over to Hammond, Jack fixed Levings with a cold stare.

“Stay out of his way or your ass is mine, and that’s not just a figure of speech,” Jack warned.

“There won’t be any trouble from me Colonel.”

The wormhole engaged, ending any further discussion.  Daniel returned to Jack’s side and held out his hand.

Jack grasped the hand firmly.

“Good luck, Jack. Kick some brass ass,” he grinned.

Jack smiled.  “Good luck to you too, and remember what I said,” he added, glaring suspiciously at Levings as the latter swaggered up the ramp as if it was a common occurrence.

“He’s just overly eager, Jack,” Daniel said trying to reassure his friend.

Jack nodded and released Daniel’s hand.  He gave him an affectionate cuff to the side of the head and said, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

Daniel smiled then turned and jogged up the ramp to where Griff was waiting for him.

Jack nodded to Griff, the unspoken message, ‘look after him’, received by the major.  He watched them both enter the event horizon then thrust his hands deep into his pockets and waited for the wormhole to disengage.

 “Watch your back, Danny,” he murmured as the blue water winked out.

                                                ************

The negotiations were going well, exceedingly well.  Major Griff sat back and marvelled at the ease with which Daniel Jackson charmed the Penkats.  The kid’s not even breaking a sweat.  It’s as if he’s known them all his life.  Amazing.  Damn that O’Neill.  If we all had a Dr. Jackson our jobs would be so much easier.  Or not.  Griff suddenly remembered the injuries, loss, and even deaths that seemed to plague the young archaeologist.

“Why are we even here?”  Levings whined at his side.  “These people don’t have any weapons we can use.”

“Listen and learn, Levings,” the major said gruffly.  “You may never get the opportunity to see Dr. Jackson in action again.”

Levings smiled.  “Yes, sir.” 

Levings sat down and smiled to himself.  Major Griff had no idea how right he was.  There would be no more opportunities to watch Jackson in action because, he, Levings, would see to that.  He closed his eyes and listened to the annoying buzz of Jackson’s voice.  Christ, you do go on, don’t you?  Enjoy your last hurrah, Doctor.

                                                ****************

“That’s all for today, gentlemen.  We’ll reconvene tomorrow at 0900 sharp,” Colonel Simmons announced pleasantly.

After a few moments of shuffled papers, murmurings and the scraping of chairs, the room was deserted except for two men.

“Colonel O’Neill?  Did you fall asleep?”  Simmons asked sarcastically.

Jack stared intently and silently at the man.

After a minute, Simmons jerked his gaze away from the scrutiny.  “I don’t have time for this, Colonel.  If you have something to say then say it.”

Jack smiled, enjoying his small victory, and then said, “Levings.”

“Good, he got there in time,” Simmons commented cheerfully.

“Why?”  Jack asked evenly.

“Why?  Well, because if he had been late—”

“Cut the crap, Simmons!”  Jack snapped, getting to his feet.

“I’m sorry, Colonel,” Simmons said flabbergasted.  “I don’t understand your anxiety.”

“Then let me illuminate you,” Jack said, resisting the urge to throttle the man.  “Levings was declared mentally unfit for duty.”

“’Was’, Colonel, is the operative word.  The poor lad had been prescribed the wrong medication for an unfortunate ailment.  Surely General Hammond apprised you of the circumstances?”

“He did.”

“Well then,” Simmons smiled sweetly, spreading his hands.  “Why the fuss?  Don’t you think he deserves a second chance?”

“Not with the SGC and definitely not with any member of my team,” Jack said coolly.

“Ah, so this is about Dr. Jackson,” Simmons said, nodding his head knowingly.  “Well, Colonel O’Neill, it is precisely because of Dr. Jackson that I insisted Sergeant Levings accompany SG-2.”

Jack’s eyes darkened and his hands clenched into fists.   “Explain.”

“I don’t owe you an explanation.”

“Humour me.  Please,” Jack added with self-control.

“Well, since you asked so nicely.  Sergeant Levings earned his Master’s degree in archaeology, specializing in Egyptology, and he is currently a PhD candidate.  I’m hoping that Dr. Jackson will take him under his wing.  I hear he’s looking for a new protégé.  It seems that you, ah, killed his last one.  Rothman, wasn’t it?”  Simmons asked sweetly.

“You fucking son-of-a-bitch,” Jack seethed, advancing angrily on the smug man.

Simmons backed up slightly and the movement was enough to bring Jack up short.  ‘Don’t lose your cool, Jack.  That’s what he’s looking for’.  Daniel’s soft words settled in his mind and he took a deep breath.  There were security cameras in the room and the slimy bastard was probably taping them as well.  Wordlessly, Jack turned and walked out of the room.

                                                **************

Major Griff was inordinately pleased with the mission.  The Penkats were more than willing to share their unique medical knowledge in exchange for Earth engineering expertise.  But best of all, Dr. Jackson was in one piece and Levings was being the perfect little trooper.  Too perfect, in fact, Griff scowled to himself.

“Why the face?”

Griff looked up, startled.  Blue, amused eyes looked down at him.

“Dr. Jackson,” Griff said.  “I was lost in thought, sorry.  Is everything finished?”

“Just about.  Lucan, the elder, has invited me to look at their burial chamber.  No off-worlder has ever set eyes on it,” Daniel said excitedly.

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving,” Griff said sincerely.

Daniel’s eyes widened in surprise and he felt his cheeks flush.  “Thank you,” he murmured.

Griff cocked his head slightly.  Damn, O’Neill, don’t you ever compliment him?

“Daniel, will you come with me?” the elderly Penkat asked.

“Lucan, yes.  I am very honoured to have this opportunity,” Daniel said, bowing respectfully.

“Take you time, Doc, and enjoy yourself,” Griff said good-naturedly.

                                                ***********

Daniel followed the old man through a maze of tunnels.  Two sentries posted outside a high arched portal signified their arrival at the chamber.  Daniel would have gladly stopped there.  The panels on the door were exquisite.  Rich, ochre-coloured wood covered in curious drawings and characters.  A quick study, Daniel recognized some of the Penkat words. 

Lucan translated the text while Daniel traced his fingers lightly over the embossed panels.  The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.  The words were a dire warning to trespassers.  Desecration was unforgivable and punishable by a hideous death to both the transgressor, and to their unfortunate family and friends.

Lucan smiled at Daniel’s expression.  “One does not choose friends lightly on our world.”

“No,” Daniel said slowly.  “I can see why.”

“Do not concern yourself, Daniel.  We have not executed anyone in several lifetimes.”

Daniel nodded but thought, no time like the present.  He shuddered involuntarily and the old man placed a warm hand on his shoulder.

“Come, Daniel.  Pass through this portal with me.  I ask only that you close you eyes for a moment, please.”

Daniel obediently closed his eyes while Lucan deftly touched the appropriate figures on the panel.

“You may open your eyes.”

Daniel’s eyes flicked open as the panels slid into the rock wall.  He glanced incredulously at his host.

“You want our engineering expertise?”

Lucan laughed gently then ushered the surprised linguist inside.

                                                ***********8

“Levings, stay put,” Griff ordered.

“Major, have a heart.  I have to take a leak,” the Simmons’ pleaded.

“Damn it, all right, but make it quick, and use the proper facilities,” he added gruffly.  Unfortunately, the ‘facilities’ were way outside his line of vision but he didn’t want Levings to screw everything up now by pissing on sacred ground or something.

“Thanks, back in a jiff,” Levings said, setting off at a jog.

“Martin, follow him…discreetly,” Griff ordered of his second.

“Yes, sir.”

Griff looked at his watch.  “Come on, Dr. Jackson.  I know I told you to take your time, but my good luck can’t last forever.”

                                                **************                   

Daniel was in archaeology heaven.  Everywhere he looked something intrigued and thrilled him.  He rushed from one splendour to another, literally vibrating with excitement.

Lucan smiled paternally, tears pricking his aged eyes.

“You may touch, Daniel,” he said.

Daniel shook his head.  “No, no, I can’t.”

“Yes, you can.  Please, indulge an old man.”

Daniel’s blue eyes misted in gratitude as he turned his gaze once again upon the surrounding treasures.

Lucan smiled with deep satisfaction when Daniel’s restless fingers finally settled on a plain, rather primitive-looking figure. 

Daniel cradled the object in his hand, surprised at the warmth emanating from the heavy wood.  The figure was female, her belly swollen.  Daniel thought of Sha’re and his heart clenched.

“Close your eyes, Daniel,” Lucan said gently.

Daniel closed his eyes.

“Caress the Mother,” Lucan whispered.  “Open your heart and mind.”

Daniel did as instructed, lightly caressing the rounded belly.  Warmth tingled through his fingers, up his arms, flooding his body.  Memories, long past and recent, filled his mind:  his family; his friends; his life.  Each one pleasant and each one cherished.  Daniel felt wanted and loved.  Tears of joy trickled down his face. 

“You have honoured the Mother, Daniel,” Lucan said solemnly.  “She is pleased with you.”

Daniel opened his eyes and blinked rapidly to clear his vision.

“H-how?” he stammered.

“Do not question, Daniel.  Accept her gift and cherish it.”

Daniel looked down at the object still warm and heavy in his hand.  He didn’t understand what had just happened, but he knew he had been honoured, and he would never forget this moment.  He brought the figure to his lips and kissed it softly and gently.  He handed it to Lucan.

“Thank you,” Daniel whispered.

“Thank you,” Lucan replied.  “Come, Daniel.  Indulge yourself,” he smiled.  “I will leave you in peace.”

“No, no, no.  Please, stay.  I have so many questions,” Daniel insisted.

Lucan’s gentle laughter echoed in the chamber.

“As you wish.  I will inform the guards that we will be a while longer, and then I will be pleased to answer any questions.”

“You may regret that,” Daniel warned with a smile.

Lucan left and Daniel did as requested: he indulged himself.  He knew what he was looking at was deeply sacred to his host and his people.  He also knew the rules:  no pictures, no sketches, and no written evidence of what he would see.  But he would have his memories which he could enjoy whenever he wished.

                                                *************                                 

Martin uttered an oath and pulled out his radio.

“Major Griff, this is Martin.  Do you copy?”

“I copy,” Griff answered immediately.

“Levings just entered the tunnels, sir,” Martin informed the major.

“The tunnels?  Damn it, those are off-limits.  What the hell is he doing?”  Griff muttered irritably.

“Do you want me to follow him, sir?”

Griff agonized over the question.  They’d already violated the Penkats’ trust.  Did he add to it?  Did he dare leave Levings on his own?  Shit, I knew things were going too well. 

“Stay where you are, Martin.  Wait for me,” he finally ordered.

                                                ************                                   

Like a dog on the hunt, Levings crept through the tunnels in search of his quarry.  He figured he had at least ten minutes before Griff would get annoyed.  Eleven before he’d be pissed, and twelve before he became concerned, and it wouldn’t be concern for Levings’ welfare.  It would be for that prick, Jackson, he thought disgustedly.  He couldn’t agree more with Simmons.  Civilians had no business in the Stargate program.  The mandate, as far as Levings was concerned, was to procure weapons to defend themselves against the Goa’uld.  If some alien civilization got wiped out in the process, well, that was the price of war.  Unfortunately, people like Daniel Jackson didn’t see it that way.  They were always spouting off about humanity and the meaning of life.  Levings philosophy was simple: when you’ve got a gun to your head, you know the meaning of life.  It’s kill or be killed.  They couldn’t afford the time to be nice to the natives.  If they had something Earth could use than it was their duty to take it.  Self-preservation.  Simple as that.  All these overtures of peace and friendship only brought the Goa’uld closer to victory.  Although the Goa’uld were the enemy, Levings admired them.  They were warriors; they knew what they wanted and they took it.  No questions asked.  That was the key to power.  Colonel Maybourne knew that, but look how they treated him.  Did his damnedest to save Earth and he got locked up for his efforts.  Same with Colonel Makepeace.  He saw the light, joined Maybourne, and look where it got him.  Traitors they called them.  Levings scowled.  No, the real traitor was that bastard, O’Neill.  He let Jackson turn him around and inside out.  Sickening when you thought about it.  A brilliant military career all shot to hell by one civilian.  And if that wasn’t enough, there was General Hammond.  Now, there was a man long past his usefulness.  Simmons had told him all about the Holy Trinity: Hammond, O’Neill, and Jackson.  Get rid of one, namely Jackson, and the rest would follow.

Levings’ radio crackled and he cursed, shutting it off before Griff’s voice gave him away.  I’m not ready to talk to you, Major.  He crouched in the shadows.  The two sentries stood motionless.  Couple of damn statues.  His pulse quickened when he saw the old man emerge from the chamber alone.  A few quick words with the sentries and the old man turned, passed his fingers swiftly over the door, and then returned into the gloom.  Bonus, Levings thought as he felt the adrenaline rush.  Time to get this show on the road.

Levings did what he was trained to do: he dispatched the enemy quickly and without a trace.  He pocketed the forbidden zatnikatel back into his jacket.  He grudgingly admitted that O’Neill and his cronies had brought some useful things back to Earth.  God, he was so excited he had a hard-on.  He looked at his watch; he had time.  Adrenaline surging, he unzipped his pants and jerked himself off.  Tucking himself in, he pulled out his radio.

“Major, this is Levings.  Jackson’s gone crazy.  The burial chamber.  Quick.  Shit!  He’s seen me.”  He switched off the radio and dropped it to the ground, biting his lip to stifle a giggle.  God, Simmons would be proud.  He looked at his watch and calmed his breathing.  Timing was everything.  He had to give that bastard Griff enough time to respond.  He put on his gloves and began to count.  It wouldn’t be long.  He knew Martin had followed him.  Another two-bit amateur.  Levings approached the door, and in spite of his photographic memory, it took him a few attempts before he hit the right sequence and the doors slid into the rock wall.

                                                            ************

Daniel listen spellbound to Lucan’s narrative of the funeral rites of Penkat royalty.  The old man paused in mid-sentence and cocked his head, his aged ears attuned to every nuance of the sacred chamber.

“Lucan?”  Daniel asked uncertainly.

“Someone has entered the chamber,” Lucan responded softly.

Daniel straightened from where he had been kneeling.  He heard footsteps: running footsteps.

“Dr. Jackson?” a voice yelled.

Daniel’s eyes widened in shock, dismay, and horror at the noise, and worse, the intrusion.

“Dr. Jackson, I did like you asked and-oh,” Levings stopped in his tracks.  “I thought you were alone,” he said lowering his voice.

Daniel looked horrified and he glanced quickly at Lucan.

“What is the meaning of this?  How dare you enter this chamber,” Lucan said.  “Guards!” he called loudly.

“Save your breath, old man,” Levings said derisively.

Daniel finally found his voice.  “Levings, what the hell are you doing here?” he asked angrily.  “Do you realize what you’ve done?”

“Hey, I just did what you asked me to do, Doc,” he answered defensively.

“What?”  Daniel asked in alarm, all too aware of Lucan’s burning gaze.

“I took out the guards like you told me.  You were right, the third shot vapourizes,” Levings smiled.

“You killed the guards?”  Lucan asked in a hoarse whisper.

Levings shrugged.  “They wouldn’t open the door.”

“This cannot be,” Lucan said in a strained whisper.  He turned to leave, but Levings whirled, the zat in his hand.  He shot the old man in the back…twice.

“No!”  Daniel screamed, lunging for Levings and wrenching the gun from his grasp.

Levings smiled and put up his hands.  “Cavalry’s coming, Doctor,” he whispered, then suddenly stumbled backwards as if pushed.

 “Dr. Jackson, don’t!” he yelled, staggering back into the arms of several Penkats, closely followed by Griff and Martin.

Daniel stared open-mouthed as Levings babbled on about trying to stop Daniel from killing Lucan, but he had been too late.

Oh, shit, Daniel thought as an angry swarm of Penkats engulfed him.

Griff and Martin tried in vain to pull the enraged mob off Daniel.  As they were forbidden to carry weapons into the negotiations, they had to rely on brute strength, but they were hopelessly outnumbered.

“You’re killing him for God’s sake!”  Griff implored, wincing as he heard the vicious blows and kicks impact with their target.

Daniel curled into a defensive ball as fists and feet pounded into him.  He couldn’t even think of fighting back; the dead body of Lucan paralyzed his mind and body.  As blessed unconsciousness overcame him he heard Griff’s frantic plea.  Too late, Major, he thoughtThen another thought suddenly sprang into his mind:  ‘One does not choose friends lightly’… Oh, God, let it only be me was his final thought as he sank into oblivion.

“Enough!” a voice roared.

Griff watched in amazement as the Penkats suddenly stopped their brutal assault and backed away nervously.  Turning to the source of the voice he stared incredulously at the wizened old man trembling in their midst.  He soon realized that the tremors were not due to palsy but barely suppressed rage as the ancient creature stepped in and with one swift jerk, yanked an apparently deaf Penkat off the prone body of Jackson.

Griff looked in horror at the archaeologist.  “Oh, Jesus,” he whispered as he rushed to the battered man’s side.  He frantically felt for a pulse and almost cried in triumph when he found it: fast and erratic, but definitely a sign of life.

As Major Griff assessed Daniel’s injuries he heard the emotionally charged, but subdued voices of Daniel’s attackers and the old man speaking in their native tongue.  He blocked the noise out and concentrated on the task.  Shit, there’s so much blood.  Rib cage is caved in.  Jesus, there’s gotta be a punctured lung or worse.  “I need some help here!” he yelled.

Levings instantly appeared at Griff’s side.  “How is he?  He just went nuts, sir,” he explained.

“Shut up and hold your hand here,” Griff ordered.  “I can’t find where the hell this blood’s coming from.”

“I tried to stop him,” Levings said as he followed instructions, relishing the feel of broken bones and blood. 

I said shut the fuck up,” Griff hissed.  “Put some pressure on it, damn it.  Do you want him to bleed to death?”

“You must leave,” the ancient man spoke in English.

Griff looked up in shock.  “What?  I can’t leave him like this!” he exclaimed.

“You can, and you will.  You will leave our planet.”

“I’m sorry but I can’t do that.  Not without Dr. Jackson,” Griff said defiantly.

The old man walked up to the major and looked at him intently. 

“He will not die.  Not here.  Not like this,” the old man explained.

“What the hell does that mean?”  Griff countered.

“I think they want to execute him, sir,” Levings whispered helpfully.

Griff glared at the younger man, and only years of training prevented him from smashing his fist into the man’s face.

Levings wisely backed away from Griff and hovered in the background as two Penkats picked up Jackson’s body.  The body was limp, but definitely not dead.  You son-of-a-bitch, Jackson. Don’t sweat it. It’s just a matter of time. They’ll never let him leave here alive. After all, the good doctor just killed their beloved elder.  But who the hell’s that old bastard?  Christ, he makes Ghandi look like Mr. Universe.

                                                ************

The plane approached the landing strip and Jack couldn’t be happier.

Crap, that was the longest three days of my life, but Simmons is still alive.  Daniel will be proud of me.  Jack glanced at his watch.  Thirty more minutes and I can get out of this,he thought as he tried to loosen his collar.  I swear I can smell that bastard’s cologne, sickly sweet and cloying, just like him.  Crap, where do they find these guys?

Jack had to admit he did make some headway at the meetings.  Simmons was a lone wolf on several counts, but he was still a definite thorn in the SGC’s side. 

“Colonel O’Neill?”

Jack looked up from his unbuckling of his seatbelt at the stewardess.  “Yes?”

“Would you come with me, please?  There’s a General Hammond waiting for you on the tarmac,” she explained.

Jack’s initial surprise of delight swiftly gave way to a sick feeling of dread.  What the hell’s happened?  He quickly exited the plane and stepped into the back of the waiting car where General Hammond was seated.

“General,” Jack said warily.

“Welcome back, Colonel,” Hammond said as he rapped the partition to signal the driver to leave.  As they drove away Hammond turned worried blue eyes to Jack.

“We have a situation.”

Jack closed his eyes, an image of Simmons and Levings flashing in his mind.  God, please let it not be Daniel.  He opened his eyes and looked levelly at Hammond.

“Serious allegations have been made against Dr. Jackson.”

Son-of-a-bitch!  “Allegations by whom,” Jack asked quietly.

“The Penkat Council from P2H-742 and Sergeant Levings.”

“Crap,” Jack muttered.  I knew it.  I fucking well knew it. “What type of allegations, sir?” he asked, biting down on his rising anger.

“Desecration of a sacred site, theft, and…murder,” Hammond said distastefully.

“What?”  Jack cried in disbelief.  “What the hell does Daniel say?”

“Dr. Jackson hasn’t said anything.”

“For crying out loud, who’s he protecting now?”  Jack grumbled.  “I’ll talk to him.”

“I’m afraid you can’t do that, Jack.  Dr. Jackson is still on P2H-742.  He’s— ”

“Fine, I’ll go to P2H whatever,” Jack said, waving his hand.

“It wouldn’t help, son.  Dr. Jackson was seriously injured,” Hammond informed him gently.  “He’s in a coma.”

The gentle words thundered in Jack’s ears and he stared mutely at his superior.  The sound of passing sirens sent shivers down his spine.

“What the hell happened?”  Jack finally whispered.

Jack listened in silence as General Hammond related all that he knew, or more correctly, all that Levings and Griff had told him.  Jack felt sick, angry, and helpless.

“General, I have to go there.  I need to be with Daniel.”

“Jack, I wish it were that simple, but we have to treat this situation with the utmost diplomacy.  The death of the Penkat elder, Lucan, is an enormous blow to their government and to their psyche, and frankly, at this moment, Dr. Jackson is better off in a coma.”

Jack’s eyes narrowed and he asked, “What are you saying, sir?”

Hammond looked out the window and took a deep breath.  He turned tired, blue eyes to his second and said, “Once Dr. Jackson regains consciousness he will be tried and executed.”  Hammond omitted the slow and painful part.  Jack didn’t need to hear that.

Jack’s fists clenched with the need to strike out.

“We can’t let that happen, sir,” he said carefully, trying to maintain some semblance of rationality.

“I’ll do everything in my power, son.  Unfortunately, the Penkats have an eye-witness to the alleged murder.”

“Levings,” Jack spat, silently thanking Hammond for saying ‘alleged’.

“Yes.”

“We have an eye-witness too, General,” Jack insisted.

“An eye-witness who’s in a coma, Colonel.”

Jack slumped in his seat and closed his eyes.  Christ, Daniel.  Nothing’s ever simple with you, is it?

                                                ***********8

Daniel’s return to consciousness was slow, confusing, and increasingly painful.  He was aware of a harsh, ragged sound.  It was close.  He concentrated and was not relieved to discover it was his own tortured breathing.

Oh, God, what’s happened?

Pushing his pain aside, Daniel concentrated.  He remembered being with Lucan.  He remembered the burial chamber and the ‘Mother’.  He smiled at the memory, at the honour of witnessing the sacred treasures.  Think, Daniel think, he chastised himself for his self-indulging.  His eyes snapped open in panic.

“Lucan!” he gasped.  The image of Levings zatting the benign elder in the back forced him to full consciousness.  He bit back a cry of agony as shards of pain shot through him.  He lay back panting as the pain coursed through his body.

“Lie still, Daniel,” a gentle voice instructed.

Anxious, pain-filled eyes searched weakly, but desperately for the source of the words.  They widened in hope and disbelief.

“Lucan?”  Daniel rasped.

“Yes, Daniel,” Lucan replied softly, a gentle smile gracing his lips.

A myriad of emotions danced in Daniel’s eyes as he struggled to understand.

“The Mother,” he sighed, clarity in the pained, blue eyes.

Lucan smiled and patted Daniel’s chest.  “Yes, my friend.”  He grasped Daniel’s limp hand and placed the object in his hand.  He wrapped the slender fingers around the sacred figure.

“Close your eyes, Daniel.  Let her help you,” Lucan ordered gently.

Daniel’s eyes slid obediently closed.  He couldn’t keep them open if he tried.  His whole body tingled with inner warmth, and he felt like crying.  Not tears of pain or sorrow, but tears of an unexplainable sense of well-being.

Lucan smiled benevolently as the young archaeologist gave himself willingly to a greater power.

“You are correct, my son.  He is different.”

Lucan turned to the wizened old man stepping out of the shadows and smiled, his eyes shining.

“Yes, Father.  It does my heart great joy to see such compassion and wisdom in one so young.  He has suffered much for one of so few years, but it has only strengthened his spirit.”

Lucan turned back to Daniel and his face darkened momentarily.

“Speak your thoughts, my son.”

“I am ashamed, Father.  Ashamed of what our people have done.  If you had not intervened…”

“They saw your lifeless body, my son.  They felt betrayed, angry, and confused.  They do not feel that way now.  Now, they feel only shame and regret,” the old man explained.  They have dishonoured the Mother and us.  It is time you returned to them.  They need your guidance and understanding.  More importantly, they need your forgiveness.”

“And yours, Father.”

“That I have already given.  Go, my son.  I will watch over this one,” he said, looking fondly upon the sleeping man.

                                                ****************                           

Jack’s first stop was Major Griff’s office.

“Major, what the hell is this crap?”  Jack barked, shoving a piece of paper under the major’s nose.

“Colonel,” Griff said, standing at attention.  “One of my men reported an incident.  I did my job as required and reported said incident to General Hammond.”

“Your job was to keep your man the hell away from Daniel.”

“I followed procedure—”

“That is so much bullshit, Major!”  Jack seethed, crushing the report in his hand.  “If you believe Levings—”

“Colonel!”  Griff interrupted angrily.  “If you think for one goddamned second that I believe Dr. Jackson is guilty of what Levings claims then you don’t fucking know me at all!  Sir,” he added, acknowledging his insubordination, but remaining stalwart.

The two seasoned soldiers glared at each other.  Jack, imposing in his dress blues, towered over the smaller man, but his rigid posture relaxed as the anger drained from his face and body.  He threw off his cap and sat down.

“Damn it, Hank,” Jack said wearily.  “I hear that bastard’s name and I go ballistic.”

“Colonel, I was out of line and I’m sorry,” Griff apologized.  “But every time I close my eyes I see Dr. Jackson lying there, and then having to write that damn report,” he said clenching his jaw.

Griff’s words, I keep seeing Dr. Jackson lying there’, pierced Jack’s heart.

“Hank, tell me what happened.”

                                                *************                     

Jack surveyed his unhappy team.  Major Samantha Carter and Teal’c had returned to the SGC only to be pole-axed with the news of Daniel’s alleged crime and subsequent beating.

“Daniel Jackson is not capable of these crimes, O’Neill.  Let me see this Levings and I will obtain the truth,” Teal’c requested darkly.

Jack looked into the dark eyes, darker with fury at his young friend’s treatment.

“I wish I could, Teal’c.  I’d like to beat the shit out of him, too,” Jack said.

“Stand in line, sir,” Sam voiced vehemently.

Jack and Teal’c both raised their eyebrows at Sam’s uncharacteristic anger.

“What?” she said defensively.  “That guy is so full of it I’m surprised he doesn’t explode.  Daniel, a thief and a murderer?  God, how could anyone even consider that?” she asked disgustedly.

“Low-life scum like Simmons don’t seem to have a problem,” Jack answered.  “The bastard’s got Levings in protective custody.  He’s afraid something may happen to him.  That someone may take offense to his allegations.”

“Someone?”  Sam snorted.  “How about the whole SGC?  Damn it, sir, we can’t let him get away with this.”

“Easy, Major,” Jack soothed.  “Guys like Levings always screw up.  They swell up with their own importance.  All it’ll take is one little pinprick and he’ll explode like so much hot air.  That’s the real reason Simmons has him squirreled away.  He’s a loose cannon and Simmons knows it.”

“Daniel Jackson was not expected to survive the Penkats’ wrath,” Teal’c stated.

“You got it,” Jack confirmed.

“Many have underestimated Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c intoned.  “I will take great pleasure in seeing this Levings explode.”

“And I will take great pleasure in pushing the pin into that prick,” Sam said quietly.

Once again, Jack and Teal’c looked at her in surprise.

“Damn it, sir,” she said, “this is Daniel we’re talking about.  I have to stay angry or I’ll…” her voice hitched and she turned away, forcing her grief back.

“I know, Carter,” Jack said.  “I feel exactly the same way.”

“As do I, Major Carter,” Teal’c concurred.  “The mere thought of someone deliberately harming Daniel Jackson is repugnant and the need for vengeance is powerful.”

Sam nodded, accepting their empathy in the spirit it was delivered.  They were all in this together, as a team, as a family.

“Come on, let’s go talk to the general,” Jack said.

                                                ***********

Daniel was in a warm place; a warm, safe place.  He felt content.  He didn’t want to leave.

“Wake up, Daniel.”

Daniel shook his head.  No, thank you.  I’m quite happy where I am.

The ancient one smiled.

“You must wake up, Daniel.”

Daniel’s eyes slowly opened and then he bolted upright.

“Easy, my child,” the old man said, placing a withered hand on Daniel’s chest.  “Your injuries have healed, but you are not yet at full strength.”

Daniel was mesmerized by the old man’s pale, blue eyes.  He nodded dumbly and lay back down.

“You’re Lucan’s father,” Daniel whispered.

“Yes.”

My God, how old are you?

“I am very, very old,” he smiled.

Daniel blushed.  “I’m-I’m sorry,” he stammered.

“There is no need.  My son has told me about your people.  Your lives are very brief.  Perhaps, in time, we can help you.”

Daniel shook his head sadly.  “No, we don’t deserve your help.  We betrayed you, and your trust.”

“You did not betray us, Daniel.” 

“I allowed your son to be killed,” Daniel said flatly.

“My son is alive, as you know, and enriched by your friendship.”

Daniel averted his eyes from the gentle gaze.

“You feel you are not worthy of our compassion?”  Lucan’s father asked.

Daniel blinked back his tears.  He moistened his lips and whispered, “I feel blessed.”

“And you are,” the old man said softly, placing his hand on the side of Daniel’s face.

Daniel closed his eyes.  An incredible warmth flowed into his body.   A healing warmth that enveloped his body and his soul.  He turned his face into the hand, remembering another time, another hand.  A hand that offered comfort, strength, and love.

“Jack!” he cried, his eyes snapping open.  “My friends!  What do my friends know about what happened?” he asked anxiously.

“They believe you to be grievously injured and in a coma,” the old man explained gently.

 “Oh, God,” Daniel murmured, the anguish his friends must be going through affecting him deeply.  “I have to talk to them.”  Daniel turned pleading blue eyes to Lucan’s father.  “I have to let them know I’m okay.” 

 “A grievous crime was committed here, Daniel.  We cannot allow that to go unpunished,” he said gravely.  “Can you give us this man, Levings?”

Daniel chewed his lip nervously.  God knows he had no fondness for the sergeant, but could he knowingly turn the man over for execution?

“You do not believe we have a right to this man’s life?” the old man asked quietly.

“I believe he should be punished for his crimes,” Daniel said firmly.

“Daniel,” he smiled, “you have not answered my question.  Do we have the right to this man’s life?”

Daniel looked away in frustration.  He pursed his lips then looked back.

“No,” he said bluntly.

“He killed my guards.  He killed my son.  We…I…have the right to avenge that,” the old man stated emphatically.

“I agree with you, but killing for the sake of revenge…”  Daniel shook his head, the image of his hands around Apophis’ throat disturbing him.  God, how many times have I wished to avenge Sha’re by killing Apophis?  Trading my own soul for vengeance.  Daniel looked up, his eyes blue and intense.  “No one.  No one has that right,” he whispered.

“You believe we should just forgive and forget?” the old man asked.

“No, of course not.  He must be punished, and he will be,” Daniel entreated.  “I’ll tell them the truth about what happened, or as much as I know,” he amended.

“It will be your word against his.  Can you honestly tell me justice will be served?”

Daniel opened his mouth to say “‘yes’”.  Anything to get back home and let them know he was okay.  He looked into the caring, wrinkled visage and felt his cheeks flush with shame.

“No,” Daniel whispered.  “No, I can’t tell you that.  The truth is, the worst he’d get would be a slap on the wrist and then Simmons would take him away and smooth his ruffled feathers.”

“Who is Simmons?”

“He’s a major thorn in our side,” Daniel muttered darkly.

“Your words are most unusual,” the old man remarked.

Daniel blushed.  “I’m sorry.  I’m not making much sense, am I?”

“You wish to return home to your friends,” the old man stated.

“Yes.  Yes, I do, but not without avenging the dishonour we have done to you and your people.”

“By a slap on the wrist?”

Daniel wrapped his arms around his middle, frustrated and torn.  “My friends will see that he is punished,” he said quietly.

“But not you?”

“No,” Daniel said flatly.

“What will you do?” the old man asked curiously.

“I will stay here,” Daniel replied.

“For what purpose?”

“Your law dictates the right to a life.  I offer mine,” Daniel said.

“You would choose to be executed in the place of a man who wronged you as much, if not more, than he has wronged us?”

“I won’t lie and say I’d be happy to do it,” Daniel admitted ruefully, “but I think I owe you my life regardless.  If you hadn’t intervened they would have killed me, wouldn’t they?”

“Yes,” the old man answered gravely.  “It pains me to admit it, but yes, in their grief and shock they would have killed you.”

“You saved my life,” Daniel reiterated.

“Now you offer me your life after all we have done to heal you?  You value your life so little?  You now ask me to soil my hands with your blood?”

Daniel heard the disappointment in the old man’s voice.  His face flushed with shame and he ducked his head.

“Look at me, Daniel,” the old man said gently.

Daniel looked up obediently, blinking his eyes to clear his vision.

“My son has shown you many things.  Have you forgotten the Mother?”

“No,” Daniel whispered, shaking his head and averting his eyes.  He would never forget the infusion of love he felt when he held the small object.  He couldn’t understand how someone exposed to that could even consider executing a man in cold blood.  Daniel looked up slowly, and his eyes brightened in understanding.

“The warning,” he said, “it’s a bluff.”

“A bluff?” the old man asked quizzically.

“Yes, a bluff.  It’s a-a-a way of making someone do what you want by pretending something undesirable will happen if-if they don’t,” he said, stammering in his excitement.

The elder smiled.  “A bluff,” he mused.  “Yes, that will do.”  He turned his bright, lively eyes to Daniel.  “We have had five executions in the last three hundred years.  Come with me, Daniel.”

Daniel followed the ancient man, confused but curious.  He was hopelessly lost in the maze of tunnels and kept close to the heels of Lucan’s father.  A wonderful smell of herbs wafted around him and he blinked rapidly when he suddenly found himself standing outside in the sunshine.

“This is our herbarium and gardens,” the old man said, gesturing to the rows and rows of plants, flowers, and shrubs.  Several robed figures were tending to the plants.  Others were harvesting certain herbs into their baskets.

“These are our herbalists.  A very old and time-honoured position.  You see that man bending over the yellow shrub?”

“Yes,” Daniel replied.

“He was ‘executed’ thirty years ago,” the old man said, his eyes twinkling.

Daniel’s face split into a slow, wide grin.

“He called your bluff.”

“Yes, he did.  He tried to steal from the burial chamber and was caught.  He fought and he and a good man were grievously wounded.”

“But you saved them both?”

“Yes, Daniel.  They now work side by side, and are even related by marriage.”

“You rehabilitate the ones marked for execution,” Daniel remarked almost to himself.

“Our ways are peaceful, but the attack still haunted him for a long time.  Evil is a hard burden to bear, Daniel.  They are free to rejoin their families if they are from another world, or they may choose to remain here and live out their natural life with us.”

Daniel’s face darkened slightly and he looked away.

“You disapprove?” the elder asked.

“No, no, it’s just that, the idea of Levings living his life out here in peace and quiet…” Daniel shook his head.  “He doesn’t deserve your kindness.  God, listen to me.  I’m sorry.  I have no right,” he apologized.

“You are young, Daniel, and full of passion.  Would it help if I told you that the process of rehabilitation can be very painful, both physically and emotionally?”

Daniel blushed and admitted, “Yes.”

“And honest,” the old man said approvingly.  “Come, my young friend, it is time for you to return home.”

“No, I want to help you get Levings.  Let me send a message,” Daniel requested.

“You have a plan?”

Daniel smiled in answer.

“And impetuous,” the old man sighed affectionately, patting Daniel on the back.

                                                *************                     

“You have all voiced your opinions most clearly,” General Hammond said, “but I will not risk sending anyone through the Stargate to P2H-742.  Until we hear back from the Penkats on the condition of Dr. Jackson, our hands are tied.”

“General— ”  Jack’s words were cut off by the blare of klaxons and the activation of the ‘gate.  His and two other sets of eyes swivelled to the general.

“There are no teams due back,” Hammond confirmed rushing to the control room.

“Incoming traveller,” Sergeant Davis announced.  “It’s Dr. Jackson’s GDO, sir,” he said, his voice questioning.

“General,” Jack said nervously. 

Everyone in the room knew that standard operating procedure was to lock out a compromised individual’s GDO, and there was no question that Daniel had been compromised.

“There are no Goa’uld on P2H-742, General Hammond,” Teal’c stated.

Emotions raced across Hammond’s face but he said firmly, “Open the iris.”

Davis enthusiastically hit the appropriate button and everyone waited anxiously for the visitor.

“What the hell?”  Jack murmured when a book sailed through the wormhole, landing with a loud thud on the ramp.  He rushed into the gateroom followed closely by Hammond, Sam and Teal’c.

Jack jogged up the ramp and retrieved the object.

“Stand down,” Hammond ordered the security detail, not taking his eyes off Jack.

“It’s Daniel’s journal,” Jack said, frowning as he flipped through the pages.

“Colonel?”  Sam voiced, fear in her voice.

“What is it, General?”  Simmons asked silkily, sliding into the gateroom.

Jack stiffened at the sound of the voice and he turned dark, cold eyes to the colonel.

“You fucking son of a bitch,” Jack seethed, bearing down on Simmons.

“Colonel O’Neill!”  Hammond reprimanded sharply as he turned to Simmons.  “What the hell are you doing here, Colonel?”

“I heard the alarm, General,” Simmons explained.  “I thought maybe there would be news of Dr. Jackson.”

“Don’t you even say his name,” Jack hissed savagely.

“Colonel O’Neill, that will be enough,” Hammond ordered.  “One more word and you are on report.”

“O’Neill, what does it say?”  Teal’c asked.

“It’s an invitation,” Jack said quietly, glaring at Simmons.

“Colonel?”  Sam queried fearfully.

“To retrieve Daniel’s body,” Jack said tonelessly, looking Hammond in the eye.

“Oh, God,” Sam gasped.

Hammond gently removed the journal from Jack’s nerveless fingers, not wanting to believe what he had just heard.  He looked at the page Jack had opened, read the words, and visibly shrank.  He looked up at Jack, sorrow dulling his eyes.

“Colonel O’Neill, when your team is ready you have permission to bring Dr. Jackson home,” he said, his voice trembling.

“May I?”  Simmons asked politely, his hand reaching greedily for the book.  He yelped as a strong, dark hand clamped down painfully on his wrist.

“You will not touch Daniel Jackson’s diary,” Teal’c said menacingly.

“Teal’c, let him go,” Hammond said quietly.

Teal’c nodded respectfully to Hammond, then released Simmons’ wrist after a quick, painful squeeze.

“Is this what you want to see, Colonel?”  Hammond asked sarcastically, holding the offending page under his nose.

Simmons read the words, carefully masking his delight. 

“General, let me be the first to offer my condolences on the loss of Dr. Jackson,” Simmons said, his voice and face suitably grim.

“Condolences accepted, Colonel,” Hammond said quietly, “now get the hell out of my sight.”

“Certainly, sir,” Simmons replied, saluting smartly and exiting with an obvious spring in his step.

“I can’t believe it,” Sam whispered.  “I can’t believe Daniel’s gone.”

Jack stared at the silent ‘gate.  This isn’t right.  Coma or not, Daniel wouldn’t go down without a fight.

“General Hammond?”  Jack said, holding his hand out for Daniel’s journal.

Hammond returned the book and Jack clutched it tightly before opening it and gazing at the familiar handwriting.

The general and the rest of SG-1 watched him in silence, their own hearts and minds heavy with the harsh blow of losing a valuable member and friend.

Jack flipped through pages, searching.  There must be something here.  Come on, Daniel.  I know you.  Where the hell is it?  He paused in his reading then looked up.

“General, could we please convene to your office?”  Jack requested.

“Of course, Colonel,” Hammond replied. 

Teal’c and Sam looked at each other in puzzlement but followed their superiors.

“Are we secure?”  Jack asked, closing Hammond’s door.

“Colonel?”  Hammond queried.

“No cameras?  No hidden microphones?”  Jack asked.

“We’re secure, Colonel.  What’s this about?”

Jack looked levelly at Hammond, Sam, and Teal’c, and then his face split into a wide grin.

“He’s alive,” Jack said.

“Sir?”  Sam said, unnerved by Jack’s sudden change.

“The son-of-a-bitch is freaking alive!”  Jack enthused, throwing the journal up in the air and catching it deftly.

“O’Neill, on what do you base this assumption?”  Teal’c inquired, daring to believe his friend.

“He told me,” Jack said grinning, his eyes brimming with tears.  “Look, look, it’s right here on the inside back cover,” he said, trembling with suppressed excitement as he thrust the journal in front of Hammond.

Sam and Teal’c watched the general and couldn’t help grinning when the older man’s face spread into a wide, bemused smile.

“Son of a gun,” he muttered, shaking his head. “He’s done it again.”

“What does it say, sir?”  Sam asked anxiously.

Hammond held the book up and cleared his throat dramatically.

“‘Jack,’” he read, “‘they don’t have Kleenex boxes here.  This is the best I could do.’”  He lowered the book and grinned at the stunned on-lookers.

The confused expressions on Sam and Teal’c’s faces quickly changed to understanding.  The tale of Jack’s initial contact with Daniel on Abydos was SGC legend.

“Oh, my God, he’s alive,” Sam said excitedly.

“Alive and up to something,” Jack said proudly.  “Daniel knew that slimy bastard Simmons would be hanging around.”

“Colonel O’Neill, need I remind you that ‘slimy bastard’ is a member of the USAF and as such, is accorded respect worthy of the rank?”  Hammond reprimanded half-heartedly.

“Understood, sir,” Jack said contritely but still smiling.  “Permission to ‘retrieve’ Dr. Jackson, sir.”

“You’re not going anywhere, SG-1 until you wipe those smiles off your faces,” Hammond ordered, his eyes twinkling.

                                                ************

You are certain your plan will work, Daniel?”  Lucan asked.

“It will work,” Daniel said adamantly.  “I just hope to God it doesn’t take Jack too long to figure it out,” he said worriedly.  “As long as Levings believes I’m dead, Jack will be able to nail him, um, convict him,” he amended at Lucan’s puzzled expression.

“For my murder and your attempted murder,” Lucan said.

“For starters.  What he did, Lucan, was put both our worlds at risk of war.  Under our laws, he could be put away for a very, very long time,” Daniel stated.

“For what purpose?”

“I know,” Daniel smiled.  “I promise I’ll do everything I can to have him turned over to you and your laws.”

“That is all we ask,” Lucan acknowledged gratefully.

                                                **********                           

Levings paced back and forth in his assigned quarters.  The looks he had been receiving from all the SGC personnel were getting a little unnerving.  Here he was, risking his neck by doing them all a favour, hell the world a favour, by getting rid of Jackson and they treated him like a pariah.  A knock on the door brought him up short.

“Come in,” he said, unconsciously clenching his fists.

Colonel Simmons nonchalantly entered the room and closed the door behind him.

“Sir,” Levings said, saluting sharply.

“At ease, Sergeant,”

“Is there any news, Colonel?”  Levings asked anxiously.

“There’s been a message from P2H-742,” Simmons answered.

Levings eyes widened and his heart began to beat faster. 

“Dr. Jackson?” he whispered.

“It’s my sad duty, Sergeant, to report on the untimely death of Dr. Daniel Jackson.  General Hammond has just been given permission by the Penkats to retrieve the good doctor’s body,” Simmons said gravely, his lips twitching into a smile.

“That’s…disturbing news, Colonel,” Levings replied, equally grave.  His room had been swept for bugs but it didn’t hurt to be careful.

“Yes,” Simmons nodded, “things will never be the same around here without Dr. Jackson.  It’s a real tragedy.”

“The SGC will survive, sir,” Levings said sagely, feeling the heat in his groin building.

“Yes, it will,” Simmons replied, annoyed and repulsed by the growing bulge in Levings’ pants.  “Well, I’ll just leave you to…yourself,” he said distastefully.  “I have a few things to clear up and then we’ll be leaving.”

“Yes, sir,” Levings said saluting.

Simmons merely nodded, trying not to look at the lower part of the sergeant’s anatomy which was also saluting.  He shook his head and quickly left the room.  Where do you find them, Maybourne?

Levings sighed and his hand immediately dove for his zipper.

                                                *************

Daniel’s worried pacing stopped at the first sign of activity from the Stargate.

“They’re coming,” he whispered.  What if Jack didn’t find my message?  Oh, God, what if they think I’m dead?  God, it was a stupid thing to do.

“Why are you so nervous, Daniel?”  Lucan asked kindly.  “Whether they believe you alive or dead, will they not be glad to see you regardless?”

“Um, well, when you put it that way…yes…maybe,” Daniel said frowning.

“Do not worry, Daniel,” Lucan said, placing a calming hand on Daniel’s shoulder.  “Ah, here they come,” he said softly, removing his hand and stepping back.

Daniel turned and stared as Jack, Sam, Teal’c, and General Hammond emerged through the event horizon.  General Hammond? his mind queried as he stepped forward quickly, his eyes wide and anxious.  He stood and stared at Jack who was looking at him in bemusement.

“Jack?”  Daniel uttered nervously.

Jack shook his head and then stepped forward to give Daniel his second Jack O’Neill bear hug.

“Kleenex box,” Jack murmured, stepping back and ruffling the younger man’s hair.

“Thank God you found it,” Daniel said with relief.

“It took awhile, Daniel,” Jack said solemnly.

“I’m sorry.  I—”

“You did good, Daniel,” Jack interrupted.  “Simmons was there like a dirty shirt.”

“Well done, Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said, stepping forward to shake Daniel’s hand, “and let me say what a pleasure it is to see you.”

“Thank you, General.  I’m a little surprised to see you, sir,” Daniel said, shaking the general’s hand firmly.

“An honour guard requires four people, son,” Hammond replied, “plus I wanted to offer my condolences and apologies to the people of this world,” he explained, nodding towards the elderly Penkat in the background.

“Honour guard?”  Daniel repeated.

“Everyone else at the SGC thinks you’re dead, Daniel,” Sam said, hugging her teammate warmly.

“Oh, of course,” Daniel said, the colour draining from his face.

“Relax,” Jack said, clapping Daniel on the back, “it’s nothing they haven’t gone through before,” he teased.

Daniel blushed and ducked his head.

“It is a pleasure to see you looking so well, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c said.

“Thank you, Teal’c.”

“Speaking of which,” Jack said, “not that I’m complaining or anything, but aren’t you supposed to be badly injured and in a coma?”

“Oh, right, um, I was.  God, where are my manners?” Daniel said disparagingly, turning quickly to Lucan.

“General Hammond, everyone, I’d like you to meet Lucan,” Daniel said with a hint of pride and enjoying the looks of surprise on their faces.  “Lucan, these are my friends.”

Daniel made the introductions, beginning with Hammond and ending with Teal’c.  Lucan greeted each one warmly.

“I, uh, don’t mean any disrespect, sir,” Jack said to Lucan, “but aren’t you supposed to be dead?”

Lucan’s eyes danced merrily as he laughed.

“I was, the same as Daniel was grievously wounded and in a coma,” he replied.

“There’s a story here, right?”  Jack asked worriedly.

“Jack, you won’t believe it,” Daniel said excitedly.

“Come,” Lucan said, “I would be honoured to have friends of Daniel dine with me and my father.”

“Your father?”  Jack said unbelievingly.  Crap, how old is he?”

“Ja-ack,” Daniel whispered harshly.

“What?  Oh, I mean the honour is ours,” Jack explained, attempting to extricate his boot from his mouth.

Lucan smiled and leaned in to Daniel.  “He is just as I imagined.”

Jack’s eyebrows rose while Sam stifled a giggle and Teal’c and Hammond exchanged amused looks.

“General Hammond, will you accompany me?”  Lucan requested.

“It will be an honour and a privilege, sir,” Hammond said sincerely.

“Please, call me Lucan.”

“Call me, George,” Hammond said, reciprocating the courtesy.

“Come, George,” Lucan smiled, ushering the general forward.

SG-1 followed in the wake of the two leaders.  Jack snagged Daniel’s sleeve, pulling him back as Sam and Teal’c passed.

“Just what did you tell him about me?”  Jack asked worriedly.

“I didn’t tell him anything,” Daniel said defensively.

“Well, what was that all about?”

“I have no idea.  Maybe I talked while I was in a coma,” Daniel explained as he hurried to catch up with the others.

“Oh, great.  That makes me feel so much better,” Jack grumbled, increasing his stride to catch up to Daniel.

“Relax, Jack.  Any friend of mine is a friend of Lucan’s,” Daniel grinned.

“Did I say how glad I am to see you’re okay?”  Jack asked, smiling, and ruffling Daniel’s hair again.

Daniel smiled happily then said sombrely, “I’m sorry I had to deceive you like that, Jack.”

“Forget it.  Just don’t die anymore, okay?”

“I’ll do my best,” Daniel answered.

“Now we can get that bastard locked up and throw away the key,” Jack growled.

“Um, about that,” Daniel said hesitantly, slowing to a stop.

“Daniel?”  Jack said warily, grasping his arm and pulling him to the side.

“Yeah, there’s, uh, something I need to discuss with you and General Hammond,” Daniel replied, reluctant to meet the dark, assessing eyes of his friend.

“Why do I get the feeling I’m not gonna like it?”  Jack asked rhetorically.

“Just promise me you’ll keep an open mind, okay?”  Daniel requested, holding Jack’s gaze.

Jack looked into the earnest, blue eyes and sighed.  “Crap, I’m really not gonna like it.”   But he was so damned glad to see his friend alive and well, he couldn’t refuse him anything.

“I promise,” he said, squeezing Daniel’s shoulder.  “Come on, or we’ll miss the party.”

Daniel’s face beamed, and he nodded gratefully.

“Thanks, Jack.”

                                                ************

“So, you see, General Hammond,” Daniel said fervently, “by turning Sergeant Levings over to the authority of the Penkats we alleviate any diplomatic fall-out from our desecration of their temple.  Levings is rehabilitated— ”

“I prefer ‘executed’,” Jack interrupted dryly.

Daniel cleared his throat and continued, “Levings is, um, ‘executed’,” he said, glancing at Jack, “and given a…second chance.”

“Even you choke on the words, Daniel,” Jack said grimly.  “That bastard deserves something but it sure as hell isn’t a second chance,” he said bitterly.

“Colonel O’Neill,” Hammond warned quietly.

Jack dutifully bit his tongue.  “Sorry, General.”

“Dr. Jackson, please continue,” Hammond requested.

“Yes, um, well, that’s about it, really,” Daniel said.  “The Penkats want him and we want to get rid of him.”

“Can’t argue with that,” Jack muttered.

Hammond glanced briefly at Jack, who mouthed “sorry”, and then addressed Daniel.

“You said that ‘executed’ criminals are given the option to return to their own home.”

“Yes, but under these circumstances, crimes were committed against both our worlds,” Daniel explained.  “I’ve been assured that laws can be flexible.”

“I see.  Well, God knows we’ve wasted enough time and money on that boy already, and the fact that Maybourne and Simmons are anxious to have him on board makes me want to divest ourselves of him immediately,” Hammond announced.

“So, I can tell Lucan we agree to release Levings to their custody?”  Daniel asked.

“I’m afraid not, Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said regretfully.

Everyone’s eyebrows rose in unison.

“General?”  Jack said slowly.

“Colonel, in order to turn Levings over to the Penkats there has to be proof that a crime was committed.  Now, hear me out people,” he said, raising a placating hand, “at this point all we have is Dr. Jackson’s word against Sergeant Levings’.”

“I don’t have a problem with that, General,” Jack said evenly.

“Nor do I, General Hammond,” Teal’c intoned ominously.

“Nor I, sir,” Sam said, her face still registering shock.

Daniel removed his glasses and clasped his hands together tightly.

“Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said firmly, “let me assure you that I never, for one millisecond, believed the malicious lies perpetrated against you.”

“Thank you, General,” Daniel said softly.

“However,” Hammond continued, “Colonel Simmons has some pretty powerful connections and we cannot afford to make any mistakes.  Agreed?”

Mutual nods and reluctant mutters of agreement were made.

“Very well then,” Hammond acknowledged.  “What we now need is a confession.  Any ideas?”

“Yes,” Daniel said immediately, his eyes glinting.

                                                ************8

“I can manage from here,” Levings said sulkily to the guard who had escorted him outside to meet Simmons.

“My pleasure,” the guard responded.  “Don’t choke on the fresh air.”

Levings hurried over to Simmons.

“Colonel, what’s taking so long?”  he asked, agitation evident in his voice.  Ever since the news of Dr. Jackson’s demise, Levings was feeling more and more like a pariah.  The initial euphoria of success had quickly been erased by the increased hostility inherent in every SGC personnel he had come in contact with.

“Relax,” Simmons said coolly.  “Once they return with Jackson’s body they’ll have no reason to keep you here any longer.”

“Even the goddamned Marines seem to have a thing for Jackson,” Levings spat disgustedly.

“Maybourne always said he was like a cancer.  Once he gets a hold he spreads, infecting everyone with his ‘holier than thou’ platitudes,” Simmons said dismissively.

“They’ll never accept me here,” Levings said.

Simmons smiled silkily.  “You did what you came to do.  We can use you at Area 51.  In the interim, we’ll sit back and watch SG-1 and the SGC fall apart at the seams.  Hammond won’t last.”

Levings shook his head, his mind fixated on Daniel.  “He’s only one man.  A civilian for god’s sake.  How can one man affect the whole SGC?”

“I stopped asking that question a long time ago,” Simmons sighed.  “Eliminate the problem was, and is, the answer.”

Levings smiled and puffed out his chest.  He did that.  He eliminated the problem.

“Do you think they’ll let me see the body?” he asked, his voice almost a whisper.

Simmons grimaced at the tone and the implication.  Damn idiot’s getting another hard-on.  Christ, Maybourne, is he a relative or something?

“Just stay out of it, Sergeant.  You’ve done your job,” Simmons warned.

                                                ***********8                                   

“Daniel, lie still,” Jack hissed.  “You’re supposed to be dead, remember?”

“Sorry, but something’s poking me,” Daniel said, squirming under the sheet.  “There,” he sighed in relief.  “Okay, one dead archaeologist coming up.”

The words were delivered in jest, but Jack shivered just the same.  Glancing at his teammates and CO, he saw his own fears mirrored in their eyes.  This had been close.  Too close.

Daniel found the utter stillness more oppressive than his death shroud.

“Jack?” he whispered worriedly.

The worry in his friend’s voice snapped Jack out of his gloom.

“It’s okay,” Jack said softly, his hand resting on Daniel’s shoulder.  “We’re just getting psyched up.  It’s not every day we have to bring your body home.”

Daniel heard the teasing in his friend’s voice, but he also heard the pain.  He reached up and pulled the sheet off his face.  He looked at Jack, Teal’c, Sam, and Hammond, each one grasping a corner of his stretcher.

“Take me home,” he said, his eyes settling on Jack.

Jack nodded and looked at Hammond.

Hammond turned to Lucan and said, “We’ll send an escort through in one hour.”

“I’ll be ready, George,” Lucan responded,

Daniel smiled at Lucan’s familiarity, and he glanced up at Jack who was also smiling.  He recovered his face and lay motionless, and the act was enough to make Jack’s smile vanish.

Jack placed his hand on Daniel’s chest, needing to feel the warmth of his living, healthy friend.

“Colonel?”  Hammond asked.

“Ready, sir,” Jack acknowledged, once again grasping his corner of the stretcher.

“Let’s go people,” Hammond ordered.

                                                ************                                   

The guards stationed outside the control room felt almost as unpopular as Sergeant Levings.

“I’m sorry, but we have strict orders from General Hammond not to allow anyone else to pass through these doors.  Please clear the hallways,” the airman repeated for the umpteenth time.  He sighed at the muted murmurs of discontent which invariably followed his ‘line’.  Everyone, including himself, wanted to pay their respects to Dr. Jackson and to confirm for themselves the unbelievable truth of his death.  But they also knew and understood that Colonel O’Neill and his team would not, and certainly did not, need an audience to witness their grief.

The scene inside the gateroom, however, was devoid of grief.

A small team of personnel, personally picked by Colonel O’Neill and General Hammond, stared in stunned amazement at a smiling and healthy Daniel Jackson.

Sergeant Davis quickly stuffed his Kleenex back into his pocket after surreptitiously wiping his eyes.

“Dr. Jackson, it’s a pleasure to see you looking so…so…”

“Alive?”  Daniel smiled, shaking Davis’s hand firmly.

Davis blushed and felt Hammond’s large hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t let you know, son,” Hammond said sombrely, “but it was important that everyone believed Dr. Jackson had died.”

“I understand perfectly, General.  Well, no, I don’t,” he admitted with a self-deprecating shrug.

“I’ll explain everything later,” Hammond assured, patting the younger man’s shoulder affectionately.   “But for right now,” he said, addressing the room’s occupants, “I need you all to carry on with our subterfuge until advised otherwise.  Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” came the resounding reply.

“If it’s any consolation,” Jack said clearly, concentrating on Dr. Fraiser, “for awhile there we all thought Daniel was dead.”

Daniel glanced sharply and guiltily at Jack.

Jack saw the emotion in his friend’s eyes.  He smiled and shook his head.

“You did the right thing, Daniel.  Hell of a job,” he said sincerely.

Daniel nodded gratefully and then looked at Sam and Teal’c, seeing the same sentiment in their eyes.  He smiled and relaxed.

“Well, Dr. Jackson,” Janet said, asserting her authority, “I think it’s time to take you to the morgue.”

Daniel’s smile turned to a wince.  “Party-pooper.”

                                                *************                                 

Levings was fuming.  “Who does he think he is?” he raged.  “Barring me from Jackson’s memorial service.”

Simmons leaned back in his chair, his legs crossed, and a lazy, bemused smile on his face.

“He is still the commander of this facility, and you would do well to remember that.”

“I want to see him,” Levings insisted, wincing at the whine in his voice.

“I think you are the last person General Hammond wants to see right now,” Simmons said.

“Not him,” Levings snapped, “Jackson.  I want to see Jackson.”

“And do what?”  Simmons grimaced.  Jerk off in front of a corpse?

“Let’s just say I want to see the fruits of my labour.”

Simmons shook his head.  “Your fruit is in cold storage and you should just be thankful O’Neill hasn’t separated your manhood from your body and shoved it down your throat,” he said coolly.

“O’Neill doesn’t scare me,” Levings huffed.

Simmons eyed the young Simmons’ critically. 

“You just don’t get it, do you?” he said, shaking his head sadly.   “No wonder Maybourne chose you.”

“He chose me because I’m the best,” Levings said defensively.

“He chose you because you don’t have a clue,” Simmons corrected.

“About what?”  Levings snapped, irritated that his abilities were being questioned.

“About what, Colonel!”  Simmons reprimanded sharply.

“About what, Colonel,” Levings replied, biting his tongue.

“About O’Neill and Jackson.”

“What, are they a couple of faggots or something?  Sir.”

Simmons sighed and stood up.  “Be ready to leave in thirty minutes.”  Before I change my mind and personally deliver you to O’Neill.

Levings watched the door close in his face.

“Thirty minutes,” he spat.  “I don’t need thirty minutes.”

There were no charges against him.  He was a free man.  Levings knew the layout of the SGC; Maybourne had insisted on it.  He stood outside the morgue doors in less than ten minutes.  No one had stopped him.  No one would give him the time of day either.  In fact, anyone he passed barely acknowledged his existence.  No matter.  It suited his plans just fine.

He slipped inside the morgue door unnoticed and was a little surprised at the absence of personnel.  Probably all at that bleeding heart’s memorial.  He scowled at the number of drawers in the wall.  Clearly, the government was prepared for heavy casualties.  Levings didn’t relish the thought of pulling out countless numbers of drawers.  There had to be an admissions book somewhere.  He sidled over to the desk and quickly found what he was looking for:  Dr. Daniel Jackson, No. 32.

Levings’ heart rate increased as he scanned the room and spied his quarry.

“Let’s make this quick,” he muttered.

He swiftly crossed the room and grasped the handle to No. 32.  He pulled and almost stumbled backward as the drawer slid out effortlessly.

What the hell?

Levings snatched up the card sitting on the slab.  He felt a flash of white hot rage and humiliation as he read the words: “ ‘Look behind you, Levings’”.

I bet that fucking O’Neill is behind this, he thought as he prepared himself.  He forced his face into a neutral mask with just the right touch of confusion and embarrassment, turned and was utterly unprepared for the sight.

“Looking for me?”  Daniel asked calmly, a small yet mirthless smile gracing his lips.

Levings stared, his mouth hanging open.  He quickly snapped it shut and forced his expression into a false smile.

“Dr. Jackson!  I seem to have been misinformed.  It’s good to see you looking so well.”  He forced the words out with an effort while his mind screamed, You’re dead, damn it!  You’re supposed to be fucking dead!

“Your concern touches me,” Daniel remarked, his blue eyes cool.

“Words can’t express what it does to me,” a familiar voice drawled sarcastically.

“Colonel O’Neill,” Levings said, his eyes widening at the sight of a clearly angry superior officer stepping out of the shadows.

“I warned you, Levings,” Jack growled.  “Your ass is mine.”

“I don’t understand, sir,” the Simmons’ replied shaking his head in bewilderment.  “Am I being accused of something?”

Jack’s jaw and hands clenched in barely concealed anger.

“Let’s start with the murder of the temple guards,” Daniel said slowly, effectively taking the focus off Jack.

“Guards?”  Levings repeated in confusion.  Play it cool.  He’s fishing.  There weren’t any witnesses.  “No,” he said, shaking his head.  “I don’t remember any guards.  I followed you into the temple and I tried to stop you from shooting that old man.  I’ve already been cleared of any wrongdoing.”

“You bastard,” Jack seethed, “I’ll—”

“Jack, he’s right,” Daniel interrupted, placing a restraining hand on Jack’s forearm.  “He has been cleared of any wrongdoing.  However,” Daniel said slowly, his eyes fixed on Levings, “General Hammond has called for a new trial.  Colonel Simmons is probably looking for you as we speak,” he said with a lift of his eyebrows.

Levings looked warily from the calm set of blue eyes to the dark, cold set of brown eyes.  Don’t let them freak you out.  It’s his word against yours.

“I’ll cooperate fully, of course,” Levings proclaimed graciously, “but I fail to see the point,” he said shrugging his shoulders.

“You fail to see a lot of things,” Jack said icily.

“You should know that the events in this room are being recorded and videotaped,” Daniel advised helpfully.

Levings shrugged again.  “Makes no difference to me.  I have nothing to hide.”

“You have no business being in this room,” Daniel stated flatly.

“You’ve got me there, Dr. Jackson,” he shrugged.  “I just wanted to pay my respects to your…tragic demise.  Is that a crime?”

“No, but murder is,” Jack said coolly.

“Murder?  If you’re referring to that old guy you have my report on file.  And Major Griff’s,” he added.  “I am not the murderer,” he said looking pointedly at Daniel.

“You still insist Dr. Jackson murdered Lucan?”  Jack asked.

“I reported what I saw, Colonel,” Levings replied smartly.

“So did I,” Daniel said calmly.

Levings threw his hands up.  “What can I say?  We obviously have a difference of opinion.”

“So, you deny any complicity?”  Daniel inquired, cocking his head.

“Complicity?”  Levings repeated, shaking his head.

“As I recall,” Daniel said, “you told Lucan that I ordered you to kill the two guards and break into the sacred chamber.”

“Look, Dr. Jackson, I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I saw you force your way into the chamber.  I radioed Major Griff with my concern, and I went in after you.  I—”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Jack grumbled.  “I don’t have time for this.  The zat, which was not issued to you, was fired eight times.  Six shots to obliterate the guards and two shots to kill Lucan.  Now, what you may not know,” Jack said smugly, “is that a zat that’s been repeatedly fired over a short period of time leaves a unique signature trace on the user.  Now, I’ll ask you again, did you see Dr. Jackson murder the elder Penkat, Lucan?”

Levings stared at the impassive faces of Daniel and Jack.  He could feel the sweat begin to slide down his back.  This was not the way things were supposed to go.  Jackson alive?  Zat signatures?  Where the hell is Simmons?  It’s okay.  They’re just yanking my chain.  They don’t have anything.  They don’t have a witness.  They can’t.  I killed the bastard.  Jackson should be dead too.  I saw the blood.  I felt his blood, damn it.  Christ, he doesn’t even have a bruise.

Levings straightened his shoulders and said firmly, “The old man tried to run when he realized Dr. Jackson had deceived him.  Dr. Jackson shot him in the back…twice.  I believe he would have fired a third time had he not been interrupted.  As for the guards, I can’t say.  I never saw them.”

“You’re a real piece of work, aren’t you?”  Jack asked.  He shrugged and turned to Daniel.

“Dr. Jackson, would you care to do the honours?”  Jack inquired with a lift of his eyebrows.

“My pleasure, Colonel O’Neill,” Daniel said smiling.

Levings’ eyes narrowed as Daniel moved towards the door.

“I want to see Colonel Simmons,” Levings called out, not liking this strange scenario one little bit.

Daniel stopped and turned slowly.

“Of course.  He’s right outside with General Hammond, oh, and with someone else who is just dying to meet you,” Daniel informed obligingly.

Jack smiled and leaned against a desk, crossing his arms in front of his chest.  He exuded a sense of absolute confidence that sent a chill up Levings’ spine.

“I want to talk to a lawyer,” Levings blurted, feeling the walls closing in.

“How about a judge instead?”  Jack asked dryly.  “An off-world judge,” he added.

Daniel smiled and opened the door.  He spoke softly to someone outside and then stepped back.

Levings’ eyes widened in disbelief and fear as a very angry-looking General Hammond gently led Lucan into the room, a stone-faced Colonel Simmons in their wake.

“I believe you’ve met Lucan before, Sergeant Levings,” Hammond said quietly.

Levings stared at the old man.  He stepped back unconsciously, shaking his head.

“You’re dead,” he whispered.

“Levings!”  Simmons hissed warningly.

“I saw you die,” Levings said, an irrational anger washing over him.  “I shot you twice,” he spat.  “What the hell is this?” he cried, looking at Simmons.  “This isn’t him, Colonel.  It can’t be.”  Levings looked back at Lucan and shuddered.

“Stop staring at me!” he shouted.  “Colonel, I did what you asked.  I swear,” he implored, wrenching his eyes from the damning gaze of Lucan.

“Colonel Simmons,” Hammond said coolly, “was Sergeant Levings acting under your orders while on P2H-742?”

“If you’re referring to murder and sacrilege, General, he most certainly was not,” Simmons declared.  “His orders were to observe and learn from Dr. Jackson, nothing else,” he said adamantly, ignoring Jack’s glare.

“A very worthy endeavour,” Lucan said, speaking up for the first time.  “A pity you squandered your gift,” he said, addressing Levings.

Lucan turned to Daniel, and the warmth shining from the old man’s eyes caused Daniel to blush and duck his head.

Jack nodded approvingly to Lucan, and smiled at Daniel’s obvious discomfort.  The thought of almost having never seen that shy gesture again brought his anger back.

“General, have we heard enough?”  Jack asked stiffly.

“More than enough, Colonel O’Neill,” Hammond replied.  “Colonel Simmons, have you anything to add?”  Hammond inquired.

“I want it on record that Sergeant Levings’ actions on P2H-742 were abhorrent at best and treason at worst,” Simmons said icily, pinning Levings with a disdainful sneer.

“Treason?”  Levings whispered in shock.  “You told me to neutralize Jackson!  You and Maybourne told me—”

“Save your breath, Levings,” Jack said.  “You’re way out of your league, isn’t that right, Colonel?” he asked blandly, looking at Simmons.

“Gentlemen,” Hammond warned softly.

“I want to see a lawyer,” Levings said desperately.  “I have a right to—”

“You lost that right, son,” Hammond interrupted gravely, his eyes smouldering.

Levings visibly shrank as his world crashed in around him.

“Wh-what do you mean?” he stuttered.  “As an officer of the—”

“A word of advice,” Jack interjected.  “Don’t even think of quoting regulations to General Hammond.  Not a pretty sight,” he said, wincing at the thought.

“Lucan,” Hammond addressed the elder respectfully, “It is with great personal gratitude that I turn this young man over to you, and to your justice.”

“What?”  Levings said shocked.

“Thank you, George,” Lucan bowed.

“No!  You can’t!”  Levings exclaimed.  “They’ll kill me!  Dr. Jackson, tell them!” he pleaded, looking desperately at Daniel for salvation.

“Look at it as a unique opportunity to observe and learn an alien culture,” Daniel responded dryly, trying his damnedest not to feel sympathy for the sergeant.

 

Levings stared in shocked silence while Jack whistled softly under his breath.  Danny, you’re cruel.  I love it.

Hammond looked at Jack.  “Colonel.”

“Yes, sir,” Jack acknowledged as he turned and opened the door, ushering in two SF’s.  “Lock him up until we’re ready,” he ordered simply.

“Yes, sir,” the guards answered in unison.

“Major, Teal’c,” Jack said to his waiting teammates, “would you please accompany them.  Make sure Levings doesn’t get any ideas.”

“Yes, sir,” Sam said with satisfaction.

“It will be my pleasure, O’Neill,” Teal’c boomed menacingly.

“You can’t get away with this! I have rights!”  Levings shouted frantically.  “Colonel Maybourne recruited me personally.  He’ll—”

“Maybourne wouldn’t piss on you if your ass was on fire,” Jack informed him casually.  “Now get him out of our sight.”

Jack turned and met Daniel’s wide-eyed gaze.

“What?”

“Where do you find your material?”  Daniel asked with amusement.

“Experience, Danny-boy, experience,” Jack claimed proudly, clapping the bemused archaeologist on the shoulder.

“You have some very interesting people working for you, George,” Lucan commented lightly.

“You don’t know the half of it, Lucan,” Hammond said sombrely.  “I used to have a full head of hair and it was brown,” he sighed wistfully.

Lucan chuckled with delight and Hammond’s blue eyes danced with their own merriment.

“In defence, sir,” Jack said, “I’d like to add that my hair was brown up until four years ago.”

“What happened then?”  Lucan asked with interest.

“Jack,” Daniel said warningly.

“Daniel happened is what happened.  A year after he showed up, wham-o, grey hair city,” Jack explained.

Lucan laughed softly.  “He can be very intense, can he not?”

Daniel frowned. “Look at what I have to put up with,” he said in his own defence, inclining his head towards Jack.

“You love it or you wouldn’t keep coming back from the dead,” Jack insisted, throwing his arm around Daniel’s shoulders.

“I come back so you won’t sell my stuff at a garage sale,” Daniel retorted, showing no inclination to shake off Jack’s arm.

“See what I mean?”  Hammond sighed, addressing Lucan.

“Your job is clearly not any easy one, George,” Lucan agreed.

“No, but somebody has to do it, although God knows what I’ll lose next,” Hammond smiled wearily, brushing his hand over his bald head.

Jack frowned and looked at Daniel.  “I don’t think we’re making any ground here,” he said, squeezing his friend’s shoulder before removing his arm.

“What was your first clue?”  Daniel smiled.

“Well, gentlemen, shall we convene to the briefing room for some last minute preparations?”  Hammond suggested.

“Should I arrange for some refreshments, General?”  Jack inquired.

“That would be appreciated, Colonel, thank you, and please have Major Carter and Teal’c join us.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jack turned and gave Daniel’s hair a quick ruffle before leaving to perform his task.

Hammond and Lucan smiled at the long-suffering look on the young archaeologist.

“He is very fond of you, Daniel, but I believe you know this,” Lucan said.

Daniel bit his lip and nodded as he remembered the rush of warmth and love he felt when he had held the ancient temple artifact in his hands.  He felt it again when Jack put his arm around him, and he felt it now as the two older men smiled at him paternally.

“My life is very rich,” Daniel said softly.  “Thank you.”

Hammond observed the silent communication between the young man and the old man and he felt a peculiar sensation of humility.  He cleared his throat gruffly.

“We should be on our way, Lucan, or Colonel O’Neill will leave us nothing but crumbs.”

“I look forward to sampling your planet’s food, George,” Lucan said eagerly as Hammond held the door open for him.

“I just hope Sam’s helping Jack with the menu,” Daniel muttered.

“Why is that?”  Lucan asked.

“Ever heard of Froot Loops?”  Hammond inquired, unconsciously rubbing his head.

                       

Epilogue

Jack moved his rook and sat back.

“So, what do you think is happening to Levings?” he asked.

“More than he deserves,” Daniel murmured quietly, moving his bishop.

Jack’s eyebrow rose in surprise.  “Daniel?”

Daniel clenched his jaw and looked up.

“You weren’t there, Jack.  He didn’t even hesitate.  He shot Lucan in the back and he practically bragged about killing the guards.”

“Hey, you don’t have to convince me he’s scum,” Jack said, holding up his hands.  “And let’s not forget what he did to you.  The kid was a bad apple from day one.”

“Was he, or did we make him that way?”  Daniel asked.

“We?  I hope you’re referring to the royal ‘we’ because I’m sure as hell not taking responsibility,” Jack grumbled.

“So we just ignore it?  Lock them up and throw away the key?”  Daniel countered.

“Or, we hand them over to benevolent aliens who are way smarter than us,” Jack offered.

Daniel felt the indignity drain out of him and he smiled.  “Or that,” he conceded.

“Daniel, you’re the one who convinced us to hand him over.  To give him a second chance.  Why are you beating yourself up over it now?”

“I did it because I wanted to please Lucan and his father, not because it was the right thing to do,” Daniel admitted, wrapping his arms around himself.

“Sorry, but I’m not buying it,” Jack said shaking his head.  “I know you too well, Daniel.  You’re just feeling guilty because a part of you wants Levings to suffer, and rightly so, for what he did.  That doesn’t make you a monster; it makes you human.  Besides, they’re going to smother him with love and kindness and for people like Levings that can be the worst torture of all.”

Daniel glanced up at Jack and smiled.

“Lucan did say it could be very painful,” he mused, “but I didn’t really want to think about what that meant.”

“There ya go.  That’s because you’re a nice guy.  Me, I’d want to know every sordid detail,” Jack said.

Daniel sighed.  “We’re still very young, aren’t we?”

“And sometimes we don’t listen,” Jack agreed.  “This time we did so stop worrying about it.  We made new friends and Levings gets the chance to turn his life around.”

“Levings was just a tool, Jack.  Maybourne and Simmons are still out there.”

“So are we,” Jack said solemnly.

Daniel gazed intently into the dark eyes and felt the familiar warmth that only shared experience could bring.  He lowered his head and smiled to himself.

“What?”  Jack prodded.

“What?”  Daniel asked looking up.

“You’ve got that look,” Jack said.

“I was just thinking,” Daniel shrugged.

“About?”

It’s hard to explain,” Daniel said frowning.

“Try me,” Jack offered.

“Well,” Daniel said slowly, “I’ve been having these…feelings.”

“Feelings?”  Jack repeated warily.  Crap, should’ve kept my big yap shut.

“Yes, feelings.”

“O-kay,” Jack said wincing, leaning forward to move his queen.  “What kind of feelings?  Bitterness?  Hate?  Anger?”

“Uh, no,” Daniel said smiling gently, waiting for Jack to sip his beer.  “It’s more like…love.”

Jack choked on his beer and sputtered, “Love?”

“You asked,” Daniel said impishly.

“I know, but jeez,” Jack mumbled, wiping his mouth.  Jack scratched his head, studied his fingernails, and then said, “So, what about, you know, um, love,” he asked, clearly uncomfortable with the whole conversation.

“It’s hard to explain,” Daniel said, furrowing his brow.

 “Has this got something to do with Lucan and his father?”

“Yes.  They helped me to see,” Daniel said simply.

“To see,” Jack repeated.  “Okay, I see.  Uh, no, no I don’t,” he admitted, rubbing his temples wearily.

Daniel smiled and shrugged.  “This.”

“This?”  Jack asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Sitting here, in your home, playing chess,” Daniel explained.

“So, you love chess.  What’s so hard about that?” Jack asked, puzzled by his friend’s strange introspection.

“You’re missing the point, Jack.”

“Yeah, I was afraid of that,” Jack sighed, reaching for his beer.

“It’s okay, we don’t have to talk about it,” Daniel said charitably.

“No, no, let’s get this out, otherwise we’ll never finish this game,” Jack replied.

“You’re sure?”  Daniel asked, giving him one last chance to bail out.

“Positive.”  Crap, did I really say that?

“Okay,” Daniel said, licking his lips.  “Well, sitting here, with you, I feel loved.”  He smiled self-consciously at Jack’s stunned look and looked away.  ”That’s it,” he shrugged, reaching out to grasp his knight.  He looked up in surprise when Jack’s hand gently covered his own.

Daniel gazed into the solemn dark eyes and swallowed hard.  He was seeing a depth of emotion that Jack rarely revealed.

“You are,” Jack said seriously, “and not just by me.  You’re very special, Daniel, and denying it only makes you more special,” he added in anticipation of his friend’s denial.

Jack removed his hand and sat back.

Daniel thoughtfully moved his knight, Jack’s words infusing him with warmth.

“So are you,” he said softly.

Jack opened his mouth to say something flippant then thought better of it.  Daniel was being honest and he deserved nothing less in return.

“Thank you,” Jack said sincerely, taking Daniel’s knight, “but I don’t think I would be if it wasn’t for you.  You make friends wherever you go, Daniel and I’m damn lucky to be one of them.”

Daniel blinked rapidly and ducked his head.

“You’re top of the list,” he admitted quietly.

“Right where I want to be,” Jack said proudly.  “Now, can we get back to the game?” he said, his voice suspiciously thick.

Daniel smiled and moved his queen.  “Checkmate,” he said apologetically.

“Crap,” Jack muttered.  “You distracted me,” he accused.

“Sorry,” Daniel chuckled.

“It’s okay, I won’t hold it against you, but can we please not talk about love this time?”  Jack requested as he replaced his pieces on the board.

“It’s getting kind of late,” Daniel said, glancing at his watch.

“You got a plane to catch?”

“Um, no, but—”

“Relax then,” Jack said.  “It’s our weekend.  You know where the spare room is.”

Daniel felt his eyes sting and his heart swell.  In his own inimitable way, Jack had invited him to stay the night, and he felt very grateful, very fortunate, and very much loved. 

Jack glanced up, saw the love in Daniel’s eyes, and felt ten feet tall.

 

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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.