nightspear: (Default)
nightspear ([personal profile] nightspear) wrote2009-05-30 04:36 pm
Entry tags:

Archaeology (15/30)

Title: Archaeology (Table of Contents)
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.
Pairings: Gen.

Chapter1 Chapter2 Chapter3 Chapter4 Chapter5
Chapter6 Chapter7 Chapter8 Chapter9 Chapter10
Chapter11 Chapter12 Chapter13 Chapter14


Chapter 15: Aftermaths


20 December 2000; Infirmary, SGC; 1300 hrs

Daniel walked into the infirmary the next day but stopped when he saw Janet finishing what looked like a post-mission exam on SG-12. Major Ferretti saw him in the doorway and hopped off his gurney as soon as he was done.

"Hey, Daniel," Ferretti said. "You need the doctor?"

"Yes, but I can wait until everyone's done," Daniel said.

"No, no, we're all fine," Ferretti said, concerned. "You look like hell. What do you need?"

Bemused, Daniel said, "Uh...thanks. But I'm not here for myself--I just need to ask Janet to look at a Goa'uld symbiote that we think we have in the lab."

"You think you have," Ferretti repeated.

"It's in a jar," Daniel explained. "We think." Ferretti's eyebrows rose, but he didn't ask any more. "So...your team's not hurt or anything?"

"Regular checkup from a regular old boring mission," he answered. "Hey, uh...I've been meaning to say. I know you were close to Dr. Rothman, and I wanted to say I'm sorry."

"We lost a lot of people on that planet," Daniel said evenly. "I'm sorry, too."

"Yeah," Ferretti said.

Daniel cleared his throat awkwardly and wished Janet would finish faster.

"Okay, new topic," Ferretti said. Daniel smiled reluctantly. "You said you've always wanted to go to Egypt, right?"

"Um..." Daniel said. "Yes. And one day maybe I'll to do it without leaving blood on the floor of a temple." He was getting used to not using his right hand--the pain was more than enough to stop him when he forgot--but using his left hand for everything still felt clumsy enough to make it impossible to forget something had just happened.

"Ri-ight," Ferretti said, scratching his head. "As long as you guys are all okay. You are, right?"

"The others are off-world. They wouldn't be if they weren't okay."

"If it were up to me," Janet said, walking up to them, "they wouldn't be off-world, either. There's a reason we don't like to assign so many missions a week, even when everyone's not injured. Major, everyone on your team is fine. What's going on here?"

Ferretti waved as he collected his men and left. Daniel nodded back, then turned to Janet and said, "We have a canopic jar suspected to have a Goa'uld symbiote in it. They're working on getting an MRI image now, but the general would like you to examine whatever's inside. It's in a closed lab, because the seal looks like it was damaged, but not enough to allow something as big as a symbiote to we're not sure what to expect inside it."

She nodded briskly. "All right, then. Let's get started."


SG-5 and General Hammond were in the lab when they entered. "Well, here it is," Major Pendleton said, pointing at the screen. It looked like an outline of the canopic jar, and, inside it was--"That's a Goa'uld if I've ever seen one. Sorry it took us so long--we had trouble figuring out the right relaxation times for proper contrast, but I can tell you right now that whatever medium it's suspended in is not water. We recommend no direct skin contact with it until it's identified."

"Embalming fluid?" Janet asked.

Lieutenant Barber shrugged. "Maybe, but it'll be a lot easier to tell once we get a sample of the liquid. What would that be, like formalin?"

"No, no, Osiris was alive in his jar," Daniel said. "Maybe it's some medium that can keep a symbiote alive outside of a host or a Jaffa. Janet, I know you've been trying to perfect a water-based formula for that but haven't--"

A thought struck him. He'd seen a formula that could do that--he'd swum in it, even, and drunk and breathed it.

"Daniel?" Captain Lithell prompted after a moment.

"I need to go back to P3X-888," Daniel said.

There was a brief pause, and then, "Okay...random," Barber said.

"I know you want to finish Dr. Rothman's project, son," the general said, "but--"

"No, the formula," Daniel said. "I mean--there were Goa'uld living rivers there. And it was potable, and seemed just like water, but clearly not just plain water. If we knew what it was that was keeping them alive and could compare it to--"

"We'll discuss it later, Mr. Jackson," the general said firmly, the same way the Jack said it, meaning 'no.' "For now, we have to deal with Isis, and all we know is that there's a liquid in there, which may or may not be similar to what sustained the Goa'uld on P3X-888. And we have to assume the symbiote might still be alive or might wake up once the jar is opened. Captain Lithell, do you know anything about the jar itself?"

"It looks like it's just plain ceramic, sir," Lithell said, "the kind of thing you'd expect to find in ancient pottery from that region of the world. From the outside, there's nothing extraordinary."

"Except the Goa'uld writing," Captain Jameson added.

"It doesn't say much more than the Osiris jar did," Daniel said, looking at the jar. "Setesh banished Isis and Osiris to oblivion."

"The part about Isis isn't in the myth I know," Jameson said, "but supposedly, Isis went to great and magical lengths to try to save Osiris after Seth banished him, so it's not inconceivable that Seth eventually..." He gestured toward the jar. " fed up and put her in here, too."

"Well," Janet said, studying the scanned image, "at least it's still in the jar and wasn't let out accidentally at some point. Before I try to take it out...if it's alive, should we keep it that way?"

"Excuse me?" Pendleton said. "Keep it alive?"

"I'm not sure we've ever developed a proper protocol for how to deal with sentient Goa'uld prisoners," she said stiffly. Daniel had studied Earth's international laws of war, however, because he'd wanted to understand where he stood with regard to them, and he knew that the Goa'uld had not signed the Geneva Conventions or other Tau'ri treaties. There was wide disagreement on how international humanitarian law should, could, or had to be applied to alien races and nations.

The general sighed. "What else do you suggest we do with it? We can't get information from a symbiote without a host, and I'm not sure experimentation on it would be any more ethical than killing it."

"Whatever information Isis has probably predates the Goa'uld-Tok'ra split," Daniel said, "so much of that could be learned from our allies. And if we're not killing her, the only way to keep her alive is to implant someone."

There hadn't been an order anywhere in there, though. Janet still looked indecisive, until Lieutenant Barber pointed out, "The seal's been damaged. It might be dead already."

"Take it out, Doctor," the general ordered. "And be careful."

"Yes, sir," she said. She moved behind the glove box and added, "A Goa'uld symbiote on its own isn't strong enough to break through this box. If it tries to get through the gloves, I'll withdraw, but I don't think its teeth could get through, even if it were at full strength and health."

"Which it's probably not if it's been in that jar long?" Lithell said.

Sensing their eyes on him, Daniel shrugged but said, "Osiris was shocked that there was no Goa'uld ruling Earth, so I guess thousands of years."

"That's messed up," Barber said. "No way should something be alive in a jar after that long."

A loud, squelching noise stopped their discussion. "Ugh," Pendleton muttered as Daniel leaned closer to see Janet lay a glistening, wet symbiote at the bottom of the glove box.

"It's dead," Janet said a moment later. "We can stop worrying."

"Wow--she's a queen," Daniel said. "A biological female, I mean."

"Well, Isis was a goddess of motherhood and fertility," Jameson said as Janet lay the symbiote flat on the surface and picked up a scalpel. "How can you tell?"

"The pectoral arch is prominent enough to show even through the tissue layers, which is unusual in gender-neutral modern Goa'uld," Daniel said, backing away to sit down abruptly when he remembered kneeling in the soil and saying this to Robert. "And, uh, and the dorsal curvature...uh..."

"That's right," Janet said, glancing briefly at him when he trailed off. "It's characteristic of the queen of the species. And, skeletal structure aside, I'm seeing the right reproductive organs in here."

Pendleton narrowed his eyes and leaned over for a quick look. "If you can see its organs, it's not dried up or...or even rotting away. It's really intact."

Janet nodded, not looking away as she peeled back tissue layers. "It could have died yesterday."

"So it wasn't embalmed; it was actually kept alive and only died when...I guess when the seal was broken," Captain Lithell said.

"Well, the important thing is that it's dead and, as far as we know, there are no other Goa'uld or Goa'uld artifacts in that museum's collection," the general said.

"I'd like to know what chemical or technology was involved in keeping it alive and docile, sir," Janet said, finally looking up and pulling one hand out of the glove box.

The general nodded. "I'm interested in knowing that, too," he said. "Analyze the liquid in there and anything else you can about that jar, but continue to be careful until we know what it is."

"The Tok'ra know stasis technology," Daniel offered, starting to push himself to his feet. "I can go ask Martouf if he's familiar with anything like this."

"Sit down, Daniel," Janet said before he could stand. "Lieutenant, please go ask Martouf to come down here."


"This is a two-layered construct," Lantash said once they'd pulled the jar back out of the glove box and onto the bench. "It is disguised to look from the exterior as though it were a normal, human-made jar, but the interior is a Goa'uld containment vessel."

"What's that?" Janet said, pointing inside the jar.

In answer, Lantash held it up to the light. "It seems to be a naquadah power source. This vessel was undoubtedly meant to act as a stasis chamber, probably to hold Isis prisoner eternally. It malfunctioned when the seal was broken."

"Why not just kill it?" the general asked.

"For the same reason that Sokar did not kill Apophis when he had the opportunity," Lantash said.

"To shame them?" Janet said. "Pride?"

"That's probably part of it," Daniel said. "But we think it's also for the sake of the godly façade. Many Jaffa don't think it's possible to kill a god, but if they see System Lords killing each other, they'd start to wonder what makes the Goa'uld gods when they can die. So we've generally seen System Lords get imprisoned instead--in 'magical' canopic jars and sarcophagi, things like that."

"It is for that reason that the rise of the Tau'ri has been so disturbing to the Goa'uld," Martouf added, not looking away from his work. "Before the death of Ra, System Lords were occasionally defeated, but their deaths have rarely ever been recorded, or, at least, confirmed. The Jaffa rebellion might otherwise have started sooner."

"Still, it's kind of a bad habit, isn't it?" Barber said from where he was watching one of the scientists run chemical tests on the liquid from inside the canopic jar. "Sticking live enemies in boxes or holding them prisoner for eternity, I mean. That sounds like a bad idea just waiting to backfire."

"Apophis did end up taking over Sokar's army," Daniel agreed. "And Setesh is dead while Osiris has...'awakened,' and will return to make the rivers of Earth run red with blood."

There was another short silence. "When did you get so morbid, Daniel?" Barber said, looking like he wasn't sure whether to be amused or disturbed. "You used to be all chipper and caffeinated when I met you."

Suppressing the odd reflex to make a morbid joke about the word 'morbid' and dead people--which seemed initially very funny, given recent events, and then very horrible for the same reasons--Daniel defended, "She said it, not me. Or he. Do we call Osiris a 'he' or a 'she?'"

"Osiris has always taken a male host," Martouf said after he'd put the canopic jar back down. "That he has taken a female one this time means only that he was desperate. He may not remain in her if a male host is available, but if he does, he cannot help but be influenced by the host's qualities."

Reminded that they were talking about an innocent host who'd slipped through their fingers only yesterday (literally, in his case, with her blood running through his fingers), Daniel laid his head down on the bench to watch quietly as Martouf explained the stasis device to Barber and someone else walked around with a vial full of liquid for testing.

"So," Janet said quietly, watching alongside him. "What's this about P3X-888?"

Daniel shook his head. "Everyone thinks I'm insane again."

"Of course we don't, Daniel," she chided. "But if you think about it a little, I'm sure you can understand our reservations about sending anyone back there."

"Look," he sighed. "I know what you think. This isn't some...issue about Robert or anything like that, all right? There are rivers full of symbiotes. There are caves full of people with an intimate understanding of--and hatred for--those symbiotes, which has developed over thousands of years of slavery, predation, and coexistence--"



Janet turned to look down at his face. "You said 'caves full of people.' Those were Unas."

Daniel sat up, looking self-consciously around at the many people in the lab who hovered close enough to hear and were studiously not listening. "We call the Tok'ra 'people.' We call the Jaffa and the Asgard 'people.' It just means they're intelligent beings we deal with and respect, not exclusively humans."

"Okay," she said, setting her hands on her hips. "What about the fact that these Unas were ready to kill and eat you, from what I hear?"

"Yes, well," Daniel said. "They've had a change in leadership."

"You have good reasons to want to go?" she said. "Solid scientific initiatives?"

An odd shiver tried to work its way up his spine. He'd never initiated any scientific initiative, really, not completely on his own. "Yes," he said, sounding a little less sure than he felt.

"Can you write it out in a proposal?" she continued. "Lay out the reasons for Colonel O'Neill and General Hammond?"

He nodded, scowling at his bandaged hand again. "Yes." It might take him a while, with his fingers on medical leave, but he'd get the return mission approved; he'd just have to make sure he did it through the proper routes and prove this was logical, not emotional and irrational.

"That's how you need to go about things," she said, and he realized she wasn't encouraging or discouraging, exactly, but telling him that he didn't have Robert as his safety net now. He couldn't blurt an idea to his officemate and hope it was enough to get approval.

"I understand," he said.

"Daniel, can we step outside for a minute?" Janet said, a hand on his arm. "Let's leave the chemists to their work. I think that liquid's some kind of sedative; they're going to have a field day trying to synthesize it."

Wary of what she wanted but not willing to make a scene, Daniel stood and followed her, not just into the hallway, but into a quiet corner of the infirmary.

"I'd like you to make an appointment to speak with Dr. Mackenzie," she said.

"No," Daniel said immediately, and then, "About what?"

Janet spread her arms. "About any of the things you've been through in the last week, Daniel, or whatever you might be feeling now. I think it would help to talk about it."

"I'd rather not. Please don't make me."

She folded her arms over her chest and stood looking up at him, in that way that always made him feel like she was the taller.

Daniel felt himself trying to lower his gaze and stopped deliberately. "What is it that you think is going to happen if I don't talk to one of the psychiatrists?" he said. "Sometimes you Tau'ri say 'psychiatrist' like they're a...a cure for everything."

"It's not about anything happening," she said. "It's--"

"It's just for my own good," he said. "To work through things. To get an unbiased opinion. Is that what you're about to say?"

Janet sighed. "Yes," she said. "That is...more or less what I was about to say. And would it really be such a bad idea?"

"I'd just...really rather not," Daniel said again. "Janet..."

"Hey, guys," Jack's voice called from the end of the hall. They turned to see the other three members of SG-1 walking toward them. "We're back. What's up?"

"Not much, Colonel," Janet called. "The situation with the Isis canopic jar is contained--Daniel and I have been comparing notes about Goa'uld symbiotes, particularly the queens, since he's familiar with their skeletal structure but not as much with their other physiological adaptations. In fact, we've isolated--"

"Ah!" Jack said, holding up a hand. "Doc--I've already got a headache."

"Yes, sir," Janet said.

"Thank you," Daniel said quietly.

"Talk to someone," she answered under her breath, just before the other three came within hearing distance. "Colonel, anything I need to know before I start in with the needles?"

"Um..." Jack said. "I don't like needles, if that counts."

"SG-4 was right," Sam said as SG-1 stepped into the infirmary. "There's still a huge, measurable increase in sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere, but it doesn't seem to be at toxic levels, at least not where the main villages are. There are traces of other chemicals, too, and while they've mostly dissipated by now, it looks like the Enkarans would've been killed where they stood if the ship had reached their village."

"Sulfur dioxide?" Janet said, frowning as she picked out SG-1's medical records and gestured for Jack to take off his jacket. "As a byproduct of something, some combustion process?"

"Well, there's a lot of naturally-occurring sulfur in the soil," Sam said, "and the ship burned through everything in its path. Colonel Ivanov thought it was some sort of chemical warfare. Their report said they found a substance that reacted with sulfur and released the oxide. In fact, they found some microbes in the soil--"

"Biological and chemical warfare?" Janet said, looking alarmed.

Jack shrugged. "They didn't have time to identify anything--one village and part of another had already been destroyed by the time they'd been called to help, and the Stargate was close to going, too. But after the ship went down, SG-4 managed to decontaminate what was there, so there's no danger from the microbes anymore."

"Huh," Janet answered. "You know, sulfur dioxide is an odd choice of chemical weapon."

"But would it be sufficient as a weapon?" Teal'c said.

Janet raised her eyebrows, then shrugged. "At very high levels, sure, almost any gas could be sufficient, and SO-2 can be toxic. If nothing else, it could have consequences on their environment and on those already ill, possibly more than they could survive in the long term."

"I guess it would be efficient, too," Sam said. "Instead of having to synthesize or isolate a large amount of some chemical and release it, they just burn the land and let oxidation finish the job for them."

"I hope someone's working on trying to clean things up and monitoring environmental conditions," Janet said.

"SG-7's been assigned," Jack said.

"But why did this happen?" Daniel said. "Who even knew there were people on that planet, and who'd want to kill the Enkarans?"

"If we could've seen the ship before Lieutenant Marchenko managed to destroy it..." Sam said, then shook her head. "Anyway, the images we got from the MALP don't correspond to anything I've ever seen."

"Nor do I recognize such a ship," Teal'c said.

Jack scowled at the needle in his arm. "Well, this might be one time when we'll never know. The Enkarans are safe for now. That's what's important."

"But just in case," Sam added, "we're continuing the search for another planet that could support Enkaran life, and if SG-7 reports that conditions seem to be worsening, we can evacuate them in time. And it might be less hectic this time around--we'll be able to help them start building first before they have to move in."

"Glad to hear that, Major," Janet said. "Your arm, please?"

When they'd finished and were pulling their jackets back on, Daniel took a breath and said, "The general says we have no missions for the rest of this week and couple of days off after that."

"Thank god," Jack muttered, sounding genuinely relieved.

"I was going to go home this weekend," Daniel said to the floor. "Already asked the general. So I can check the...the mines, and...make sure things are still safe. Check in with Skaara and Sha'uri. You know."

"Sure," Jack said easily. "Sounds like a good idea."

"Do you want to come?" He glanced up. "I mean, I know it's near Christmas, so maybe you--well, Sam might have plans. But I thought I'd ask, since the wormhole will be open anyway, and with the DHD, we won't even be using the SGC budget to dial."

"I don't have plans," Sam said. "You think they'd mind a few extra guests?"

"Hey," Jack said. "How come I might not have plans?"

Daniel mustered up something he thought might resemble a smile. "Do you?"

Jack made a face. "No," he said.

"And there's no mining team there now," Daniel said, "so the SGC house is open, and if it's not for some reason, we can take shelter in Ra's pyramid. It's not like there's a lack of space, and--"

"I'm in," Jack said.

"Me, too," Sam said.

"And I," Teal'c added.

"But, just to warn you," Jack added, "there will be trading of embarrassing stories about you with your family."

Somehow, that didn't seem as unappealing as it sounded like it should. "That's okay," Daniel said. "Okay."


23 December 2000; Stargate Room, Abydos; 0900 hrs

"Dan'yel!" someone called when they stepped through.

To Jack's mild surprise, behind that were calls of "O'Neill!" and "Major Carter!" and "Teal'c!"

The guns were lowered, too. "Skaara," Jack said, smiling when he recognized Daniel's favorite big brother at the front of the pack. "How's it going?"

"We are well, O'Neill," Skaara said. "Is there trouble?"

"No, no," Jack assured him. "We just wanted to stop by to visit for a few days, see how you folks are doing--hope that's all right?"

"Yes, of course!" Skaara said, grinning back. "I began to wonder when Dan'yel and the Tau'ri would return."

Skaara turned to where Daniel was standing and stuck out his hand. Daniel started to reach for it, then pulled his injured hand back and put down his pack to try an awkward handshake with his left hand. Skaara frowned, looking his brother over, and was a little gentler than usual when he pulled Daniel in for a hug. As they held a short, whispered conversation in Abydonian, Jack shrugged at Teal'c and Carter and motioned to them to step away from the Stargate.

In the few minutes they'd been there, Carter had already managed to find her way to the iris control mechanism and was now checking it over fussily. "Sha she'a taiyu," someone said, pointing out into the desert. Jack turned to the young man who'd spoken, but he only repeated, "Sha she'a taiyu."

"A storm's coming," Daniel translated, turning away from Skaara to squint outside. "We might make it to Nagada before it hits, but we should probably wait it out. We'll be safe in here."

"All right," Jack said, sending a smile around the chamber at the six boys standing guard. "Let's settle in."

"O'Neill," Skaara said, "we have something to show to your team."

Jack raised his eyebrows and looked over Skaara's head to see Daniel giving him a small smile and lighting a torch from one of the lamps around the Stargate room. "Really? Us?"

"This way," Skaara said, and pointed down the staircase in the back that Jack didn't think he'd ever used before.

"Teal'c's seen it, briefly," Daniel said as the five of them made their way down the steps, "but Sam, I've been wanting to show you this door. Oh, one of you should bring your gun."

"Daniel," Jack said, "why do we need our guns?"

"You just need the sight," Daniel amended. "Something about the laser triggers the door to open. Skaara and I spent days playing with the...the torches and the flashlights before we realized it had to be a red light. Here, come on, I'll show you."

"Huh," Carter sad, sounding interested now and moving to the front of their procession to trot after a suddenly-excited Daniel. "Did you try using a lens to focus..."

As the two of them took off down the winding catacombs and their voices faded into the distance, Skaara turned around and stopped, forcing Jack and Teal'c to stop, as well. "What has happened?" he asked quietly.

Jack glanced at Teal'c, then looked past Skaara to make sure the other two were out of earshot. "Now, why would you think something--"

A finger jabbed at the air dangerously close to his eyes. "Do not make jokes," Skaara warned him. "I have seen what there is through the chaapa'ai. I know what my brother risks as long as he is with your people."

"And believe me, we know it, too," Jack said tightly. "Look. A lot has happened. I don't know how much you know about..." Then again, it was true--of all the Abydons, Skaara and his sister were the only ones who might know and understand. "You know what the Unas are?"

"Unas," he echoed, furrowing his brow in thought the way Carter did on the rare occasion when she tried to remember something about Jolinar. "Unas... Klorel knew that word, but..."

"They were the first hosts of the Goa'uld," Teal'c filled in. "Daniel Jackson and his teacher were studying the planet where all Goa'uld originated, and he was captured by an Unas. His teacher was killed."

"Dr. Rothman?" Skaara said.

"So you've heard of him," Jack said.

"I spoke with him a year ago when he came here to explore," Skaara said. He glanced over his shoulder. "I see. And Dan'yel--he is hurt?"

"Not...badly," Jack said. "He'll heal. He just needs a break for now. You understand." While Skaara seemed to be digesting that, Jack said, "Okay? They're going to start wondering what we're talking about back here if we don't catch up."

"O-K," Skaara said, nodding once and turning abruptly around. "Come--it is here. Dan'yel said that he promised one day to show you the hidden chamber of Ra."

"Ah, that's what this is," Jack said, relaxing now that he knew what they were doing in the basement of a Goa'uld pyramid. "Yeah, he tried to talk my ear off about the place for weeks before he figured out that I had no idea what he was talking about."

Skaara laughed. "He has done that all his whole life."

"Now that we are on Daniel Jackson's homeworld," Teal'c said, giving Jack a look, "I believe he will be doing so even more."

Jack let out a mock-sigh. "What've I gotten myself into?"


As expected, the SGC house in Nagada village was empty when the four of them settled in for the night. Daniel hovered over them, looking unsure about what the protocol was--having a solid roof over their heads and bedding under them was already more than they usually had off-world.

"I'll be right back," Daniel said after they said they could manage to find what they needed. "If you need them, there are supplies--"

"We're good--you don't have to play host," Jack assured him, and he ducked back out.

It was only a minute later when Carter said, "Where do you think he's going?"

"He took his pack with him," Jack observed.

"Perhaps he wishes to be left alone," Teal'c said.

"Perhaps I'd rather not sit here wondering--"

To Jack's alarm, a pounding noise came from the ceiling. While he looked up, Daniel's face appeared upside-down in front of the doorway to their temporary lodgings, sweeping the curtain aside with a bandaged hand. "I can hear you, you know," Daniel said.

"What the hell are you doing?" Jack said, stepping out to see just where Daniel was dangling from, only to find him in the house above, halfway off the catwalk and holding on with a single hand and his legs. "You're gonna fall!"

Daniel rolled his eyes, though his face was starting to turn red from being upside-down. "I used to live up here, Jack. I did this all the time."

"And you've never fallen on your head?"

"Uh," Daniel hedged. "Well, maybe..."

Jack scowled. "That explains a few things. You want me to go up there and drag you up?"

"I'm going," Daniel said, and then he slithered back out of view. "Ow," his voice said a second later, and then, "I'm fine, don't come up!"

Carter snorted. "I swear, sometimes Daniel's such a little kid!" she said, raising her voice loud enough for Daniel to hear above them. They received an answering stomp from the ceiling.

More quietly, now they knew there was a possibility of eavesdroppers, Jack said, "As long as he's having fun."

"Did you know, sir," she said, "that the Abydons have found a stash of naquadah--they followed one of the mines to an underground storage facility, apparently, where there are some blocks of weapons-grade material that must have been left over from Ra's era."

Jack turned to give her a disbelieving look. "Are you talking work, Sam?"

"Sorry, sir," she said. "Jack. Colonel."

"Colonel Jack," Teal'c deadpanned.

Jack sighed, moving toward the lamp in the middle of their lodging to pinch it out. "Daniel's a bad influence on you two," he told them, and then her words registered. "Wait, the Abydons found a naquadah stash at the end of a mine? Since when have we been putting them to work?"

"We're not making them do anything," she said. "Sha'uri told me they're helping by choice, scouting the mines and helping SG teams. It's their way of contributing--apparently, Daniel and Skaara have forbidden them to join the SGC in a more active capacity, but she's very gung-ho about doing something, at least."

"Really," Jack said. "Well...good." He supposed it made sense that the woman was keen to help the SGC, even if Skaara had settled back in at home. Her son was still out there, after all, and if she was anything like Daniel, she had to have a grudge against Apophis--and Heru-ur--the size of this planet. It was probably a good thing she was Kasuf's right-hand woman, according to Daniel, or as close to it as women could get in Nagada; if nothing else, duty to her own people would keep her from going through the 'gate on her own and getting herself killed. Louder, he said, "Daniel, are you coming down?"

"I'll be right there," Daniel called back from upstairs.

"He's probably reading or taking notes on something," Carter said quietly. "He'll be fine, sir."

"Yeah, I know," Jack said. "Ready or not, lights-out in"


Jack couldn't tell at first what had woken him. He sat up in the relative darkness and realized--Teal'c was still in kelno'reem and Carter sleeping, but Daniel was gone.

Given the past few weeks--years, even--he didn't consider it unreasonably paranoid that his first thought was to wonder who'd managed to kidnap Daniel from under all of their noses. His next thoughts were more rational, though, and he decided that wouldn't happen, not on Abydos and not with the three of them used to waking up at a sign of danger. More likely, Daniel had just snuck out, and Jack managed to get to the door without waking anyone for the same reason--the noise of teammates moving around was normal enough not to disturb them.

The village was quiet at night, but not completely silent. There were walls surrounding the whole town, after all; it wasn't what Jack would call a dangerous place for kids to run around at night.

In fact, as he turned a corner, a boy who had to be about five years old ran headfirst into Jack's leg, which only made two other boys collide with him from behind.

The first one had landed on the ground and was staring up at Jack with wide eyes. Jack picked him up, winked, and set him back down on his feet. "Keep going!" he said. "Run! Go!"

The boy giggled and zipped away, his friends hurtling after him.

Jack watched them laugh and make their way down the path, then turned around and found himself face-to-face with a much larger Abydonian boy who carried a knife at his belt. He was Daniel's age, probably, maybe a little younger, but there was no mistaking him for anything but a guard keeping watch.

"Hello," Jack said warily, suddenly wondering if he'd missed some weird protocol about dealing with children who ran into him at night.

The boy nodded to him. "O'Neill," he said.

"Was I supposed to walk them home or something?" Jack said, jerking a thumb in the direction of the playing children.

"They are playing," the boy said, which Jack decided to take as a 'no.'

"Yeah, I got that," Jack said. "So. I was just looking for Daniel. Did you happen to see where he went?" The boy pointed toward the gates of the village. Jack felt his eyebrows rise. "He walked out of town? What--where--"

"He is with Mel and Claire," the boy said, and for a moment, Jack thought he meant Daniel had found a way to get himself killed in the last few hours. And then he pointed again and said, "They ground. Buried. There."

"Ah," Jack said, relaxing. "He'll be okay out there?" The boy didn't seem to understand Jack's meaning, so he added, "There aren't...wild animals that come out at night or..." The guard looked amused. "Right," Jack said. "Guess you guys know how to deal with stuff like that, huh."

"Yes," the boy said. "You go also?"

"Uh...sure," Jack decided. "Just out that way?"

It took both of them together to push the gates open, but once Jack was outside, he could see a single lamp burning in the distance. He made his way alone but hesitated at the edge of what looked like a sort of graveyard. He must have made some noise, though, because the lamp rose from the ground to illuminate Daniel's face as he stood and made his way toward Jack.

"What's wrong?" Daniel said once he'd stepped past the last grave.

"Nothing's wrong," Jack said. "I was just..." He waved a hand.

"Oh," Daniel said, nodding, as if that made sense.

Jack tried to think of something to say, only to regret it when the first moronic thing that came out was, "I never get used to seeing you dressed like this."

Even in the dim candlelight, he could see Daniel's brows shoot up and then crunch back down in a frown. "Well...okay," he said.

"Bet it's more comfortable than our gear, in this heat," Jack said, flicking a finger at the light, woven Abydonian clothing.

"Yes," Daniel agreed.

"Yep," Jack said.

"Have you ever come here before?" Daniel said.

"Here, here?" Jack said. "Can't say I have."

"These are our burial grounds. Did you want to..." Daniel pointed out to where he'd just been, then said, "My parents are buried out there."

Jack wasn't the biggest fan of graveyards--they were awkward and uncomfortable, and he never knew what the hell he was expected to do or what taboos he was breaking. Still, he saw Daniel's expression faltering and said, "Yeah, okay."

There was a small, flat stone slab with the Jacksons' names, as well as hieroglyphs. Jack wanted to know whether he was standing right on top of them or behind their heads or something, but there didn't seem to be a good way to phrase the question. "Uh," he said.

"You don't have to, you know, say anything," Daniel said, ducking his head, his hands searching for pockets that didn't exist in his robe.

"Right," Jack said, feeling like an idiot. It was odd to think he'd once known Daniel only as Melburn and Claire's son, and now he was realizing he'd barely known them at all, really, except as Daniel's parents. "Nice genes," he told their grave.

Daniel let out a surprised laugh. "Thank you," he said. "I think."

"You talk to them?" Jack asked.

"No, not...really," Daniel said. "I'll have time to talk to them when I'm dead, and if that's not what happens when we die, it's not like I'll be around to care, so... I just came here to think."

"About what?" Jack said, because there had to be better places to meditate than in the middle of a graveyard.

Daniel shrugged again. "A lot of things. Sam says the law of averages isn't really a law."

" don't get arrested for breaking it," Jack said, deciding to ride out the change in topic.

"Do you ever wonder 'why us?'"

"Nope," Jack said.

"Never?" Daniel pressed.

Jack shook his head. "No one dragged me into this kicking and screaming. Okay, actually, they did drag me out of retirement, but--"

"No, no, not that," Daniel interrupted. "I mean...why are we still alive?"

"Ah," Jack said, understanding now. "And still 'no.' My team survives, I'm okay with that." When no answer came right away, he said, "What?"

Daniel pulled his robe around himself and folded his arms. "All the teams are good teams, Jack. Even considering that I joined SG-1 later and don't go on every mission, the four of us have been on at least as many missions together than any other four people without being split up or...or needing a replacement. And they're not the safest missions, either, but we're still alive. What are the chances of that?"

"I leave the statistics to Carter," Jack said, sticking his own hands into his pockets and hoping he still sounded mostly calm. "Like I said, I'm okay with not being dead."

A pause. Then, "Well, yeah," Daniel said, kicking a sandaled foot through loose, soft soil. "Me too, I guess. I was just, uh...wondering."

Jack watched him play with the bandage on his hand. "Daniel? Something you want to tell me?"



"I'm glad we're alive, okay? I just think it's strange--like it shouldn't be that way."

Jack said the first thing that came to mind, which was, "Have you been taking those pain meds Fraiser gave you?"

Daniel rolled his eyes, reflexively cradling his hand to himself. "No, Jack."

"Why not? You're supposed to."

"Jack, I'm thinking, not high or...or delirious."

"Well, sometimes it's hard to tell with you," Jack said. "And I'm gonna need some elaboration on your not-so-comforting thought process."

"Think of it this way," Daniel said. "I died in the womb, right? It's in my medical file. I died before I lived, and only a...a remarkable set of circumstances made me not stay dead. And that's not even the only time. So everything after that--every second of my life is--"

"What, borrowed time?" Jack snapped.

"--extra," Daniel finished.

Jack stared at him in the moonlight. "If you really think that," he said, "then I'll be forced to keep you off duty for...for however long it takes to get your head back on straight."

"There's nothing wrong with my head," Daniel said. "I'm just--"

"I disagree," Jack said.

"Jack, how many times should I have died in the past few years alone?"

"There's no 'should,' Daniel. You almost died a few times; you didn't. And..." Daniel looked away. Jack took a breath. "And," he went on, "sometimes other people did. It shouldn't happen, but it does, and it sucks. But it doesn't mean your number's up."

"I know that," Daniel muttered. "The law of averages isn't..." He stopped.

With a sigh, Jack looked around himself, trying to decide whether there was a polite way to get the hell out of the sea of dead people while they talked about whether or not they were going to die.

He was pretty sure Daniel hadn't spent the last few years secretly thinking he was somehow less worthy of being alive than everyone else. Daniel fought for things, and not just for his friends or his mission; he fought for himself, too, for his ideas, for what he wanted, for his life. It was so much a part of who he was that Jack refused to think otherwise.

Except when Daniel stopped fighting. Like that time, just a week ago...

"You thought you were going to die on '888," Jack said.

"I think fairly often that I'm about to die," Daniel pointed out wryly.

"Not like that," Jack said. "In the middle of a fight, maybe, when you're too busy shooting back and running around to really think about it, but you've never been tied up in a cave and so sure you were going to die that you left a 'goodbye' message."

Daniel laughed uncomfortably. "That, uh...that wasn't a... That was a quick attempt at recording data about a novel species we'd never met before that particular--"

"You thought you were going to die," Jack said.

"Yes, Jack," Daniel said, "I thought I was going to die."

"And then you didn't."

Looking at his feet, Daniel said, "I drew arrows for you to find. I didn't want you to think...I wanted you know what happened to me. In retrospect," he added, almost lighthearted in his tone, "that was pretty stupid--it would have led you right into the midst of a clan of Unas."

"Call me crazy," Jack said, "but I'm happy about the way that part of it turned out."

Daniel huffed. "I joined the SGC thinking that any extra bit of help I could provide was...extra help. I'm not a commander or a leader of anything, not like you and Sam and Teal'c. Or Robert and Major Hawkins. No one was supposed to die for me."

Jack looked over his shoulder to see someone still standing guard near the gates. "You're not just some extra person, not to the SGC, not to Abydos. Not to us," he said, resolving to listen closer when they got home. If Daniel thought it was a poor trade, him for Rothman and SG-11, whether or not SG-11 would have been lost anyway, Jack knew others might be thinking it, too, and maybe whispering about it. "SG-11 was killed fighting against the enemy. That's...that sucks, but it's not about you for them. It's all of us versus the enemy."

"Robert wouldn't have been fighting any enemy there if not for me," Daniel said, his voice thick. "That's the difference, Jack--he didn't die trying to fight the Goa'uld; he died trying to save his assistant."

Which was true. If it had been anyone else, Rothman wouldn't have tried to go, and Jack wouldn't have let him. "Dr. Rothman didn't like a lot of people on base," Jack said. "But he cared about you, and he wouldn't have regretted what he did. That's what you need to remember."

"He's what I might have been if not for the Stargate," Daniel said. "The kind of scientist my parents would have wanted me to be."

Despite having thought that himself before, Jack couldn't imagine it anymore. "Your parents never saw what you've seen," Jack said, sending an apologetic look toward the grave they were standing next to. "But we have. Dr. Rothman was a good man, but we like you the way you are, Daniel, not the way you might've been. And definitely not dead."

Daniel bit his lip. "Sometimes I don't like the way I am."

"Hey," Jack said. "Look who you're talking to. I know how you feel. We all do, sometimes."

"I'm sorry," Daniel said immediately, looking guilty. "I shouldn't have said that--"

"It's not a competition to see who's more pathetic," Jack said, then found himself at a loss for anything else to say, because he knew from experience that having those thoughts in one's head wasn't a good place to be. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't...uh, work on translations until Janet clears me to start taking missions again, I guess."

"Good," Jack said. "So nothing...drastic?"

"What are you talking about?" Daniel said, looking confused. "I'm not leaving. I mean, as small as the chance might seem these days, I still have a baby brother out there somewhere, and then, fighting the Goa'uld will never not be important to me. I'm thinking, not planning anything." He raised his eyebrows. "Some of us do that, you know. You should try it."

"You are the pain in my ass," Jack told him and watched a half-smile flicker across his face and away in the lamplight. " know you to us, right? If you need to?"

Daniel frowned, looking puzzled. "What are you expecting me to say? Contrary to popular SGC belief, I'm not in constant imminent danger of cracking under the pressure and going nuts."

"It's not that popular," Jack said, though he was a little relieved, anyway.

"It is in the sense that a lot of people seem to think it at any given time."

"We don't," Jack said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the rest of his team in the village.

"Well," Daniel said, "you're all popularly believed to be a little nuts, too."

Jack opened his mouth to protest, then closed it and shrugged. "Yeah, whatever," he said. Daniel managed a grin this time and started out toward the village gates. "Hey, you'd tell us, right?" Jack said, following along. "If you needed something."

Daniel turned to look over his shoulder. "Yeah," he said. "Don't worry."

"It's my job to worry," Jack pointed out.

"I know," Daniel said. "That's why you don't have to worry."

"Why do I always believe you'll start making sense if I wish hard enough?" Jack said.

"You never learn," Daniel teased. "Come on--it's a long day tomorrow."

"Why is it a long day?" Jack said, because he didn't remember planning anything.

"Because days are long here," Daniel reminded him, quirking a quick smile. Jack shook his head and jogged to catch up.


24 December 2000; Nagada, Abydos; 1300 hrs

Jack woke in the morning to the smell of coffee and opened his eyes to see Carter reading something in a notebook. The other two were nowhere to be seen. "Is there enough for me?" he said, startling her into looking up.

"Yes, sir," she said handing him a cup of crappy instant coffee. "I know I'm gonna need it--it's over twenty-four hours before night falls in earnest, and with the long nights, we're up before most people are awake."

"People here have way too much energy," Jack muttered. "What's that you've got there?"

She hesitated, then said, "Daniel asked me to look this over."


"In...a manner of speaking. Well, yes. It could be."

Wary about her hesitance, Jack lowered his cup of coffee and said, "Carter, what is that?"

"It's...a proposal, sir," she said. "For the study of, and establishment of relations with, the Unas of P3X-888, as well as the continuation of previously-recorded research efforts that have been conducted in that area."

"Oh, for cryin' out loud," Jack said, pushing his head out past the curtain to see if he could glimpse Daniel around anywhere. "He's still doing that?"

"Sir, he's got some good points," she said.

"So have the Unas," Jack said. "On their claws." She didn't answer. Jack let the curtain fall shut and turned around to see her looking down at the proposal again. "You disagree?"

"No, sir, I don't disagree," she said. "The Unas have very sharp claws."

Jack raised his eyebrows. "Was that sarcasm, Carter?"

She looked up. "Sir, I understand the reluctance to let anyone, much less Daniel, go back to that planet, and to an extent, I agree. But that planet is a treasure trove of knowledge--"

"Unas, Carter!" Jack said. "Loder killed. Goa'uld in the water that no one can even sense without an MRI, and everyone else killed by the Goa'uld. Remember that? Do you remember what state he was in when we found him?"

"I remember," she said. "But I think we need to consider the possibility that Daniel's right about the Unas--that whatever connection he created with his kidnapper really is one based on reason and not unhealthy psychological dependence on--"

"You've been hitting the books," Jack accused.

"Yes," she said unapologetically. "And I've been talking to Janet and Dr. Mackenzie."

Jack mulled over that--credentials aside, few of them enjoyed going to Mackenzie willingly for advice, so if Carter had... "What'd they say?"

"That there are well-documented cases of captives or hostages who form an emotional attachment to their captor, as I'm sure you know," she said. "Not a whole lot that we didn't all learn in resistance and escape. They also pointed out that Daniel was only with the Unas for a day or so--his reasoning could be...well, reasoned, and not an irrational bond. None of us can claim to know the whole story, and until we have evidence either way of the Unas's intentions, we can't be certain."

Jack looked at the report in her hands. "Do you buy it?"

"Sir, if we'd been a little further from this situation, I'd have given this to you sooner with my recommendation," she said. "In fact, as I understand it, Dr. Reeve has already approved and will be recommending to the general that a research team be sent there."

"Dr. Reeve's so confused about what the hell his job's supposed to be right now that he'll sign anything Daniel puts in front of him, especially if it has the words 'in the field' somewhere in the description," Jack said.

"I'm just saying that you should read it," Carter said, handing the report to him.

Jack took it reluctantly but put it down. "Where is Daniel, anyway?"

"Outside the village. Teal'c said he'd be careful."

"Carefu--are they training?" Jack said, standing. "Those two are going to be the death of me."

Carter followed him out of the house and toward the village gates. "Well, sir, it's not often any of us gets the chance to train outside the base, especially for the two of them."

"Yeah," Jack said, "because the two of them hit each other with sticks and yell at each other in foreign languages. It tends to draw the unwanted kind of attention."

She suppressed a smile. "It's only Daniel who gets yelled at."

"It's also Daniel who gets hit and who currently has stitches holding one of his tendons in one piece."

"Teal'c wouldn't let him get hurt," she said as they stepped outside and made their way toward two figures standing in the sand. "I'm sure they're going easy."

"Ah," Jack said when they were close enough to see Daniel and Teal'c clearly. "He's pulled out the blindfold again."

Daniel didn't seem to be particularly happy about that fact, but it was hard to tell just what he was feeling, being that he was blindfolded.

"Sometimes I wonder," Carter said as Teal'c circled around while Daniel worked through some vaguely familiar-looking exercise sequence with a short staff, one-handed and blind, "whether Jaffa training techniques are really as effective on humans as they are on Jaffa. I mean, Daniel's senses aren't as sharp as Teal'c's, and I'm not convinced they'll get as sharp as Teal'c's just by being pushed this way."

Jack shrugged and folded his arms. "I've questioned Teal'c's methods before. He just insists that this part is even more important for Daniel, in case the glasses fall off or anything."

Teal'c stopped deliberately. Daniel whirled and swung his staff in that direction. It struck out the right way, but Teal'c caught it easily in one hand. Daniel overbalanced and toppled over backward, holding his injured hand clear. "It's kind of painful to watch," Carter commented.

"Ow," Daniel said, flopping back to the sand. Teal'c dropped the staff next to him and watched him lie there but didn't poke at him to get up. "I can't feel my arm," he added, waving his left arm in the air.

"You must strengthen it," Teal'c said. "You rely too heavily on your right arm."

"That's because it's better than the other one," Daniel said. "Usually." Then Teal'c moved another step to the side. Daniel swept a leg viciously in that direction, twisting to get an impressive amount of weight behind it and whipping Teal'c's legs out from under him. "Did I get you?" Daniel said. "I just kicked someone and I really hope it was you, because otherwise, I kicked someone...else."

"Maybe we should leave them to it," Jack said while Teal'c smiled and picked himself up. "Skaara said he'd show me today how they fish around here."

"Jack?" Daniel said, sitting up and flailing his arms in front of himself. "I heard Jack's voice. Are you here? Teal'c, is Jack here?"

Just for fun, Jack tapped Daniel on the top of the head before running off with Carter in the direction of the river. This was a mistake, because Daniel elbowed him hard in the knee, and it took all of Jack's effort not to make a sound as he limped away.

"Not a word, Major," he warned when Carter looked like she wanted to burst out laughing.

"Yes, sir," she chuckled.


25 December 2000; Nagada, Abydos; 1900 hrs

"Did you read my proposal?" Daniel said at their evening meal that they were sharing with the guards in the 'gate room.

Jack stopped with a piece of bread about to enter his mouth. "No," he said. "Because we're on vacation, and, unlike some people around here, I don't like to work when I'm on vacation."

Daniel sighed.

"Proposal?" Skaara spoke up from next to them. "What is this?"

"Oh, uh..." Daniel said, looking to the rest of them as if unsure what he was supposed to say. Since their confidentiality laws didn't apply out here, Jack stuffed the bread into his mouth and waited for Daniel to answer. "I want to go to a planet where we think we can learn a lot." He turned back to give Jack a challenging look, then looked at Carter. "Right, Sam, there's a lot to learn on '888?"

Carter had a mouthful of water and looked like she wished she could avoid answering. Finally, she swallowed, glancing apprehensively at Jack, then said, "It's true that there's probably a lot to learn, but there's still the question of whether the risk is worth what we'd learn."

"With what we know now, and allies there, I think we can--"

"Skaara," Jack said. "Did Daniel mention that what he means by 'allies' are the Unas, particularly the one who kidnapped him to begin with?"

Maybe it was something that came only with years of practice, but Skaara managed to make Daniel shut up and shrink where he sat with a single look.

"Dan'yel?" Skaara said, sounding confused. "Why would you want this?"

"It's not what you think," Daniel protested.

"I know of the Unas," Skaara said.

"These are...are the enemies of the Goa'uld. One of them saved my life. Jack, you know that," he added, turning around.

Skaara lowered his voice to speak in Abydonian. Daniel turned back to him, shaking his head and gesticulating vigorously with a hand wrapped in a bandage, which Jack thought was not the best way to convince someone that Daniel understood risks and safety well.

"Perhaps we should all return to P3X-888," Teal'c spoke up. "It is true that there is much to be learned there. Furthermore," he added when Jack started to respond, "Major Carter says that the research department has already recommended the mission. If we do not accept it, it is likely that another team will be sent to the planet with Daniel Jackson."

"They need him if they're going to initiate contact with the Unas," Carter pointed out. "Someone'll probably get the mission and he'll go with whichever team it is."

Just then, Jack saw Skaara nodding. "I understand," he said, clapping Daniel on the shoulder.

"Another convert," Jack said.

"Convert?" Daniel echoed. "So I'm...converting people to some irrational, unsupported point of view?"

"No one said that, Daniel," Carter said.

"I've studied this Unas extensively, and he's studied me. I think I'd know if he had any intentions other than to be friends and...and exchange...knowledge or whatever we might be able to offer."

Jack sighed. "I'm not saying anything right now, Daniel. It's Christmas. I haven't even read the damn proposal yet. We're going back to work tomorrow--can you stop thinking for...long enough to have dinner?"

Daniel took a deep breath and nodded slowly. "Yes. Okay. I'll ask you tomorrow."

"That's fine," Jack agreed. "Eat up. Good food."

They ate in silence, letting the happy Abydonian chatter flow over them, and then Daniel mumbled, "'m sorry," and walked out of the pyramid.

"Crap," Jack said.

"Daniel!" Carter called, following him out.

"No," Daniel said when they'd caught up to him. "Look--go back in--"

"Hey," Jack said. "Slow down--I'm gonna get lost out here in the dark!"

Daniel stopped and turned around. "You can't follow tracks in sand?"

Jack glanced back to see Teal'c closing in on their little group. "Okay, so maybe we won't get lost. But--where are you going?"

"I'm not going anywhere," Daniel said. "I just had to get out of there for a...a minute. I'll be right back, I promise."

"Okay," Jack said, holding up his hands. "Okay. You want some company?"

"Not really," Daniel said. "That was the point of--"

"They don't understand," Jack said, gesturing back toward the pyramid. "Right? It's too soon and everyone's all cheerful. But we get it, okay? Come on. Let's..." He glanced back once, where Skaara was watching in concern from the pyramid entrance, then spread his arms. "Everyone sit down. Right here. I'll be right back."

With help from Skaara to figure out what everything was, Jack returned a minute later to find the other three all standing in the dark. "Jack, what are you doing?" Daniel said.

"I thought I said to sit down," Jack said, handing out the bowls and pouring a splash of wine into each of them.

"Do you know what that is?" Daniel said, though he didn't complain as Jack gave him his share. "You're serving alcohol to a minor. That's, uh..."

"...not a law here," Jack said. "Teal'c, water for you."

Carter looked dubiously into her bowl. "Thank you, sir. Do you actually know what this is, or...?"

"Sure," Jack lied. Once they all had about a shot's worth in their bowls, he said, "So."

"We honor our fallen brothers and sisters," Teal'c said.

Relieved, Jack raised his bowl. "And the ones still living."

"To friends," Carter added, raising her bowl.

Daniel finally joined in. "To remembrance," he said tightly.

They tapped their bowls together gently and drank.

Jack barely managed not to choke. "Holy crap," he coughed.

Daniel laughed, though he was wiping his eyes at the same time. Jack suspected it was from more than the sting of the alcohol. "It's,'s easier the second time," Daniel said. He cleared his throat and took another more cautious sip--he'd been smarter than Jack and hadn't tried to down it all in a single gulp.

Carter made a noise suspiciously like a giggle. "Aren't we supposed to be the ones coaching you on how to drink? Oh, god, this is strong."

"Maybe we should all just follow Teal'c's example from now on and stay away from alcohol," Jack said, noticing that Teal'c looked like his drink had gone down a lot easier than the rest of theirs. "Geez."

"You will not think that for long, O'Neill," Teal'c said, sipping again at his water. "You have simply grown accustomed to the fare of Earth."

"Yeah, probably," Jack conceded. "Hey, slow down," he added when Daniel gulped the last of the stuff in his bowl. "You okay?" Daniel nodded, not looking up. "Everyone good?"

"We're good," Carter said.

"Indeed," Teal'c added.

Once they'd all fallen silent again, Jack said, "Listen. Maybe we shouldn't've brought up '888 just now. When we go home, I'll read your report, and once we're all a hundred percent, we can start talking about how to approach the problem."

Daniel nodded again. "Okay. Thank you."

Jack dropped onto his back and looked up, thinking that, sometime, he should ask Daniel to tell him what they called the constellations on this planet.

"That's my Orion," Daniel said suddenly, as if reading Jack's mind.

"We can't see Orion from Abydos," Carter said.

"Not Orion Orion," Daniel explained, lying next to Jack so their eyes lined up and he could point. "My Orion. My father made it up. See? The belt--one, two, and kind-of three...and the shoulders--there and there...I never remember which ones are supposed to be the club, but if you look at those five, there, see? It's like a...well, a lion's skin, but I suppose that can look like whatever shape you want it to."

"I see it," Jack said, and he did, too. It was just a mess of stars, really, but what else were constellations but a mess of stars between which they drew lines?

Carter lay down with the top of her head touching Daniel's and said, "Wait, show me again?"

Teal'c was already lying on the other side of Daniel. "Your Orion lacks a head," he said when the explanation had been given again.

"Yeah, I've always thought so, too," Daniel admitted. "There's that bit up there, but it's lopsided."

Jack closed his eyes and breathed the scent of alcohol on his tongue and sweat from the people around him and the desert in the air. He had almost fallen asleep by the time Carter said, "Should we go back in before they start wondering what we're doing out here?"

Daniel yawned and sat up, so Jack pushed himself to his feet, too. "Sounds like a plan."

From the next chapter ("Preparations"):

"I've reviewed your reasons for wanting to return, Mr. Jackson," Hammond said, "as well as Colonel Neill and Teal'c's suggested security precautions for a return mission. I'm willing to authorize one mission to see whether it's safe or not to pursue relations with the Unas clan you met there."