Title: Journeys (Table of Contents)
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Part IV: The Lost
3 May 2003; Embarkation Room, SGC; 2000 hrs
"Close the iris!" Jack called, but it was already closing as he stepped through and made his way toward his team.
"Where's that med team!" Carter was snapping. "Come on, Skaara, stay with us--"
"Shut it down!" Jack ordered.
The ramp trembled. The wormhole shut down.
Dr. Fraiser, directing a gurney up the ramp, caught the railing for balance. She turned an alarmed look on Jack, but quickly returned to her job, ordering, "Let's move--I want him in OR One right away."
Jack watched them hurry out with Skaara's limp form. "What just happened?" Jonas said, staring at the iris, just now retracting from the Stargate.
"Abydos was hit," Jack said.
"You saw it?" Carter said.
"I felt it," he said. "Just before I came through."
Carter narrowed her eyes, then strode from the embarkation room. Jack caught Teal'c and Jonas's gazes, shrugged, and followed her up into the control room. "...full 'gate diagnostic," she was saying as they entered.
"Colonel," Jonas said while Sergeant Harriman hurried to obey, "what happened to...uh, Daniel?"
Carter glanced up at them but refocused back on the computers. "I don't know," Jack said. "He was doing his glowy thing. Told me to run and close the iris."
"A large burst of energy was transmitted through the wormhole just after Colonel O'Neill came through," Harriman said.
"We're lucky they closed the iris when they did, sir," Carter said, straightening to look at Jack. "A massive energy wave followed you through the wormhole."
Crap. "Redial," Jack ordered.
As the Stargate began to turn, General Hammond entered the control room. "Good--you're back," he said. With a glance out the window, he asked, "What's going on?"
"We think Anubis hit Abydos, sir," Jack said. "There are still on the order of ten thousand civilians on the planet. We're trying to dial now to check--"
"No time for that, Colonel," Hammond interrupted. Jack looked away from the Stargate in surprise, but the general's face was grim. "Do you have the Eye of Ra?"
Jonas held it up. "Yes, sir, we have it."
"Chevron six encoded," Harriman said, and even the general paused for a moment to watch. "Chevron seven..." The Stargate stopped. Nothing happened. "...will not lock."
"Their 'gate could be buried," Carter said. "Or something could be malfunctioning on their end."
"Maybe," Hammond said impatiently, "but it's not something we have time to figure out now. Lord Yu is in our orbit and has initiated communications with us.
"Son of a bitch," Jack said. He'd almost forgotten about what Daniel had said--what had he been thinking, leading not one but two System Lords to Earth?
"He says," Hammond went on, "that Daniel Jackson of SG-1 appeared on his ship and promised him the Eyes of Ra and Tiamat. As much as I don't want to believe that, I don't see how else Yu would even know about Mr. Jackson's...current state, much less his involvement and the fact that we have the Eyes."
"Sir, that's not possible," Carter started, looking confused. "Daniel would never--"
"Actually, he would," Jack said, torn between anger at Daniel and wishing he were there so he could explain to them how this idiotic plan wasn't going to fail miserably. "He said that he told Anubis we have the Eyes--said that Anubis was coming here to take them from us."
"What?" Carter said; she must not have heard that part.
"Apparently," Jack said, watching Hammond's jaw tighten, "he made some sort of deal with Yu--the Goa'uld--that we give him our two Eyes, and Yu gets to blast Anubis out of our orbit."
"He made...a deal with a Goa'uld," Hammond repeated.
"I know!" Jack said, somewhat gratified that he wasn't the only one who found that crazy. "That's what he said."
"Well...I guess it wouldn't be the first time Yu has helped us," Carter said.
"He has been almost an ally to us, at least where Anubis is concerned," Jonas offered.
"He's a Goa'uld," Jack countered.
"More importantly," Teal'c said pragmatically, "Anubis's ship is still superior to that of Yu, and he is still in possession of four of the six Eyes."
Hammond folded his arms. "Yu claims to have the collective forces of the System Lords behind him. He uncloaked his ships very briefly, and satellites confirm that there seems to be a very large Goa'uld fleet up there."
As Jack tried very hard to figure out how that was ever a good thing, Jonas said, "We'd still be giving two powerful weapons to Yu. Even if he is essentially the lesser of two evils..."
"I realize that," Hammond said. "But I'm not sure we have a choice."
"Dammit, Daniel," Jack muttered.
"Speaking of Mr. Jackson..." Hammond said. "I don't suppose there's a way to contact him?"
"Maybe he'll show up on his own," Jonas said hopefully. "He said there was a translation he would help me with, and he was very, uh...direct about helping us today. If this was his plan, maybe he'll come back to make sure it goes through."
Jack knew better, though, and so did the rest of them who'd really known Daniel. "I'm...not sure that we can count on him for anything anymore," Carter said.
"He would have done everything in his power to protect Abydos and its people," Teal'c said. "If something--or someone--prevented him from doing so..."
"He told us the Others would stop him," Jack said. "His brother's half-dead in our infirmary and their 'gate won't lock. Something happened to him."
Hammond sighed. "Unfortunately," he said, "we can't worry about him now. Abydos is one of the closest planets in the network; Anubis will be here soon. What do we do about Lord Yu? He's waiting for our answer, and from his last transmission, he's getting impatient."
"Is the Eye of Tiamat already here, sir?" Carter said.
"It arrived from Area 51 just after you left," Hammond confirmed.
"Have we attempted to reach the Asgard?" Teal'c said.
"We've been trying and will keep trying," Hammond said, "but so far, nothing. Besides, Anubis and Osiris have already shown they're not afraid of the Asgard; Thor almost died the last time he stepped in for us."
Jack looked at the console. Yu had saved his life--or his sanity--by using SG-1's information to take out Ba'al's outpost, and he'd saved Teal'c's and maybe even the entire Jaffa rebellion by exposing Kytano as Imhotep. He didn't seem to care much about the SGC, except in the general sense that humans were supposed to be lower than Goa'ulds, and he was probably less likely than any other Goa'uld to turn on them without direct provocation. When talking about Goa'uld integrity, though, that wasn't saying very much.
"It seems we have little choice," Teal'c said, "and we have little time. We have less than a day before Anubis arrives from Abydos."
"Colonel?" Hammond said. "Your opinion?"
Shaking his head, Jack said, "We don't even have the Prometheus right now, much less something that can stand against Anubis. We're dead if we don't do it, sir."
Hammond pursed his lips. "We have a few F-302s ready for deployment--I had them taken to Peterson as soon as Yu first contacted us, so they're close by, and we have several pilots who've trained on simulators. You don't think there's any way we could handle this, even use the Eyes on our own?"
"Uh...sir," Carter said, "if we give the Eyes to Yu, who presumably knows how they work, he just might have a chance against Anubis with the help of an entire Goa'uld fleet. A couple of F-302s with much weaker weapons and shields simply aren't going to cut it, even if I could figure out in time how the Eyes worked."
"And Anubis is Ascended," Jonas added. At Hammond's incredulous look, he said, "Or something. Daniel Jackson was very clear that Anubis is more than we thought he was."
Jack grimaced but could do nothing but shrug. It actually explained a lot about Anubis, unfortunately. "All right," Hammond finally said. "Sergeant, get Yu back on the line."
"Yes, sir," Harriman said.
Hammond put his hand over the microphone and said, "SG-1, the Eyes and a few other supplies are prepared for you. Bring them to Peterson. Stay in contact, and I'll give you further instruction on how to deliver them once I've spoken to him again."
"I still can't believe Daniel would have sent Anubis here," Carter said as they drove. "There must be something else we're missing..."
"You know what," Jack said, "I think this was exactly it. Abydos stays safe, Earth is protected by Yu, we stick a thumb in Anubis's eye...everyone's happy."
"Except that Abydos...well..." Jonas started, then trailed off.
"Apparently, someone miscalculated a little. Or else he'd be here right now!" Jack said loudly to the roof of the car. He waited a few seconds and even checked the rearview mirror, just in case, but no one appeared out of thin air.
A fresh tendril of grief tried to creep closer. They'd finally gotten to talk to him and gotten a chance to work together again, in whatever form that took...how could they have lost him again?
"I hate this," Jack muttered. He slapped the steering wheel.
Carter offered, "If I had to trust a Goa'uld..."
"Yeah, that's the problem," he said. "Who else but Daniel would do something as stupid as making a bargain with a Goa'uld and expecting him to hold up his end of it?"
"Yu has shown great determination to defeat Anubis," Teal'c said, "and Daniel Jackson's actions have proven insightful in the past."
"They've also been reckless," Jack snapped, drumming his fingers restlessly. "How many times have you had to tell him to tone it down, huh? Who's doing that now if it's not us?"
"Martouf?" offered Jonas, who mostly thought of Daniel as a particularly cool and shiny (literally) part of SGC mythology.
"Daniel respected--respects Martouf," Carter said. "That doesn't translate into taking his orders."
"Maybe he just knows what he's doing," Jonas said optimistically. "He knew about Kelowna, after all. He said he saw it but couldn't do anything."
"Which just means he's alone, powerful, and frustrated," Jack pointed out, remembering their conversation in Ba'al's prison, the way they'd snapped at each other that they should, could, shouldn't, wouldn't act. "Take it from us, Jonas--that's a dangerous combination."
Carter's phone rang. Jack focused on the road and not the fact that he wasn't sure whether or not he'd get a chance to yell at Daniel for this one.
"General Hammond wants us to deliver the Eyes by F-302," Carter finally said when she'd hung up. "Lord Yu will let us into his bay of his mothership."
Jack imagined floating around in space in a tiny glider, sticking their noses into the middle of a fleet of warlord who hated them. Apparently, he wasn't the only one thinking it, because Jonas said, "Is that, um...really the wisest idea?"
"Well," Carter said, "we could invite the Goa'uld to send an al'kesh full of Jaffa down to Earth to collect the Eyes instead, but the general doesn't seem to think that's a good idea."
"Also very true," Jonas conceded.
"Oy," Jack sighed.
"Besides," Carter added, digging through the supplies Hammond had sent with them, "the general wants to know how things are turning out so he knows if and when Anubis is going to hit Earth. If we go up ourselves, we can leave bugs behind."
"Ah," Jack said. "Now there's an idea I can live with."
"I'll key the transmission to the secure channel we use for communications with the Tok'ra--it should let us keep track of what's happening as long as Yu is in our orbit or relatively close to our system."
"Unless Yu gets blown up by Anubis," Jonas said.
"It's something," Jack allowed. "At least we'll know if he does, not that it'll matter much by then."
3 May 2003; Peterson AFB, Earth; 2045 hrs
"Teal'c," Jack said as they strode toward the F-302s on the runway, "take Jonas up in that one. Carter, you're with me."
Carter climbed into the back of one '302, holding the sack containing the Eyes. She put on her headset and then pulled out the transmitters they were to use as bugs, quickly turning one on, slipping it in with the Eyes, and securing it under a flap in the bottom of the bag with a simple strip of tape. Jack settled into his seat and waited for Carter to join him as Teal'c ushered Jonas into the next glider over.
Securing his headset, Jack keyed the SGC's channel. "SGC, this is SG-1. Do you read?"
"Loud and clear, Colonel," General Hammond's voice said through the earpiece.
"We're just about ready to take off now, sir," Jack said, making sure his mask was on tightly. He glanced over his shoulder to see the shield close over Teal'c and Jonas, checked that Carter was in place, and sealed the cockpit of their own '302.
"Stay in contact while you're up there," Hammond said. "We'll keep track of your progress from here. Good luck."
Teal'c powered his engines. "Thank you, sir," Jack said, following his lead. "Carter, we good?"
"Yes, sir, ready for takeoff," she said. "I've got the signal from Yu's ship. Transmitting to your terminal now. Teal'c, Jonas, you too."
Jack waited until the information blinked onto his screen. "Location received. Hold tight."
"Sir, the fleet is cloaked," Carter reminded him when they broke atmosphere and he scanned the space before them for any signs of Goa'uld motherships. "You'll have to go on the proximity sensors' data alone."
Jack adjusted his headset, switched to the correct channel, and hailed, "This is Colonel O'Neill of the SGC requesting entry to Lord Yu's mothership. Please respond."
Immediately, an unfamiliar voice answered, "Do you have the Eyes of Tiamat and Ra?"
"We do," Jack said. "Who's this?"
"I am Oshu, First Prime to Lord Yu," the voice answered. "Our bay has been opened for entry. I will meet you with three other Jaffa. If you take any hostile action, we will respond immediately with force and leave your planet to the mercy of Anubis."
Jack rolled his eyes, but just barely stopped himself from jerking the controls when a mothership suddenly appeared out of blank space, just in front of him and Carter. Now, that was something that had never happened before alien spacecraft had entered the picture. "Geez," he muttered. "All right, we're coming in. Don't shoot." Switching back to the other channel, he added, "Teal'c, wait for us to get in and then come in after us."
They glided carefully into the open hangar and settled. Teal'c swept in and landed beside them.
"We're in," Jack said into his headset.
The bay doors slid closed behind them. "Gravity and life support have been activated in the bay," Oshu's voice said. "You may disembark."
Popping the top of their '302, Jack quickly climbed out. He keyed open the door leading to the main deck of the ship, then led the way in with Carter. Teal'c followed, blocking the view of anyone who might be watching as Jonas accidentally dropped his hat and bent to pick it up, leaving another bug stuck in the corner.
As promised, four Jaffa strode in to meet them, staff weapons in hand but not at the ready.
"We brought the Eyes," Jack said.
Carter held up the bag and stepped forward to hand it over. "In here," she said, opening it and tilting it toward them to show the two jeweled devices inside.
The First Prime waved one of his men forward. "If you have tampered with them in any way..." he warned.
"Oh, for cryin' out loud, just take the damn things!" Jack snapped.
Jonas winced as someone started to bring his staff weapon to bear, then stopped upon the First Prime's signal. "Colonel..." he said quietly.
But Jack was pissed off and Daniel was dead again, but not before making a deal with a Goa'uld that involved ships shooting at each other above Earth, so he went on sharply, "We're not any happier about this than you are, pal. Actually, that's our planet down there, so we're probably a lot less happy. So if we could move it along..."
One of the Jaffa accepted the bag from Carter, who backed away again as he pulled out the Eyes and tossed the bag on top of a nearby cargo box. "They are real," the Jaffa said.
"Happy?" Jack said.
"You may go," Oshu said simply, touching a panel on the wall. The door opened, revealing the glider bay. "Leave immediately."
Jack didn't need to be told twice.
3 May 2003; Control Room, SGC; 2130 hrs
"Good work," Hammond said absently when they returned. "We've been receiving transmission on and off for half an hour now."
"On and off, sir?" Jack repeated.
"That location was not ideal for planting spying devices," Teal'c said. "Few Jaffa are likely to have been talking within range of our transmitters."
"But at least it's by the glider bay," Carter said. "People are going to be gearing up for the fight and passing through there. We should hear a lot more once Anubis arrives and it gets underway."
Jack folded his arms, almost wishing Anubis would just get here now and get all of this over with, preferably with Earth still in one piece when all was said and done. "How much longer do you think?" he said.
She looked up from adjusting their communications device and exchanged a glance with Teal'c. "We have never seen anything like Anubis's hatak vessel," Teal'c said. "Perhaps a few hours."
Hammond took a deep breath. "We've gone on alert," he said. "Britain, France, Russia, and China have, too. At the first sign of an attack--by Anubis or Yu--we'll hit back with everything we've got and start evacuation to the Alpha Site. People are on their way here now."
"Great," Jack muttered, already imagining more political rumblings about the SGC's way of dealing with things. He drummed his fingers on the opposite arm. "You said hours, right?"
"Perhaps," Teal'c reiterated.
"...lak konach garik'ko..." a Jaffa on Yu's ship finally said in passing.
"What'd he say?" Carter asked.
"He is informing his friend that he needs to use the latrine," Teal'c translated, sitting down and slipping on a pair of headphones to hear more clearly.
Jack rolled his eyes.
"And," Teal'c added, "the friend responded that he is hungry."
"Sir, permission to check on Skaara?" Jack said, hoping his tone conveyed how close he was to dying of anticipatory boredom.
"He just came out of surgery an hour ago, Colonel," Hammond said. "Dr. Fraiser says he's stable. You can check on him when this is over."
"I should go call a few more Goa'uld translators," Jonas said. "When the battle starts, it could get pretty hectic. We don't want to miss anything anyone says."
Jack pulled out a chair and sat down, almost wishing Anubis would just attack and get it over with.
Soon, Jonas had joined Teal'c at another console, and so had another man and two women from his department. Every once in a while, one or more of them scribbled out a line of speech, though, from what Jack was seeing, nothing interesting was going on yet. Jonas was frowning as he listened--the kid learned fast, but he wouldn't be completely fluent in Goa'uld military slang after only a year of study. Even Daniel had needed an almost obsessive fascination with Teal'c, enforced boredom, and a lot of practical experience before he had had the linguistic skill to play the part of a loyal servant who spoke Goa'uld.
Teal'c, on the hand, looked like he'd rather be out there in a glider, and Jack agreed.
"If Anubis really pushes it, he could be here any second," Carter said when nothing interesting had happened an hour later.
Waiting, Jack decided, was the worst part.
"General Hammond!" Teal'c said suddenly. "Anubis has arrived. Yu is preparing to deploy all udajeet and al'kesh from all hatak vessels under his command."
"We see Anubis in our orbit," Carter said, pulling her chair closer to her computer.
"China's seeing the same thing, sir," Sergeant Harriman reported, a phone to his ear.
"And Russia," another technician added.
"Anubis only seems to have brought his one hatak," Jonas said. "Yu is ordering his men to power his ship's weapon--"
"All ships and all weapons," one of the translators corrected.
"Al'kesh have been launched," Teal'c said. "Gliders are being prepared. They have been ordered to surround Anubis's ship and attack from all sides once their weapon is used to penetrate Anubis's shield."
"Wait, wait, wait," Jonas said, holding up a hand. "Something's happening--Anubis stopped. Yu's saying...or...um..."
Teal'c leaned forward and routed the receiver Jonas was listening to through the main speakers.
The room seemed to freeze. Jack listened hard, catching one word in ten as two voices snapped at each other in Goa'uld--something about surrender, kill, and several more terms that he was pretty sure all meant various shades of defeat. "And?" he said during a lull in the conversation.
"Lord Yu says Anubis is in violation of the Asgard Protected Planets Treaty," Teal'c said. "His ship is surrounded, and he must...surrender the Eyes or be destroyed."
"Oh, for--" Jack started in disgust. If one Goa'uld had all six Eyes, it wouldn't matter much if it was Anubis or Yu, except that Anubis would be a slightly quicker route to Earth's destruction.
"It doesn't matter," Jonas said. "Anubis isn't going for it."
"What's going on?" Hammond said when nothing happened. "Major?"
"The ships haven't moved, sir," Carter said, looking over a technician's shoulder. "Yu's ships must be uncloaked now, too--we're picking up many more ships around the first."
"They're firing," Jonas said.
"Who?" the general said, clearly as frustrated as Jack was.
"Yu, Anubis...everyone, sir," Jonas answered.
Jack lasted another minute before saying, "Why's it so quiet?"
"I don't know, sir," several someones said all at once.
"No one's talking in range of our bugs," Jonas added more helpfully. "Their fighters must've been deployed already, so no one's hanging around the bay."
But then... "Several ships are disappearing, from what our satellites see," Harriman said. "It's not clear yet whether they were destroyed or are reactivating a cloak. Or leaving, jumping into hyperspace--"
"Anubis's ship was damaged," Teal'c interrupted as another burst of barked orders came over the line. "He is attempting to flee. Yu's Jaffa are reporting that several al'kesh escaped; it is unknown if Anubis is on one of them or is still on his hatak, but the hatak itself no longer seems functional. Yu has ordered troops to board the hatak to search for Anubis and the Eyes."
"At least Anubis's ship's dead in the air," Carter said.
"I'll feel better when all the ships are out of our air," Jack said. Whatever anyone tried to convince him, he was never trusting a Goa'uld with guns so close to them, even Yu.
"Several ships seem to have left our orbit over the last several minutes, sir," Harriman said.
Jonas shook his head. "Yu is still there, and there are still Jaffa searching Anubis's ship. Anubis...apparently isn't onboard anymore."
"He escaped," Carter guessed, "and some of Yu's forces probably pursued him--that would explain why so many ships suddenly left our orbit."
"And," one of the other translators added, "Yu's Jaffa found the weapon with the four Eyes. They're going back to Yu's ship and are going to pull back."
"So now Yu has all the Eyes," Jack sighed.
But just then a flurry of noise broke out from Yu's ship--someone speaking, Yu yelling, someone else calling out orders, clanking footsteps and weak reception obscuring each sound... "Kheste," Jonas swore, surprised into a rare slip of language, and even Teal'c looked intimidated by all that was going on before all sound stopped abruptly.
"Something has happened," Teal'c said.
"Something good or something bad?" Jack said.
"I am uncertain," Teal'c said.
"Sir, as far as we can tell, the ships have all left our orbit, with the exception of a few smaller vessels that could be simply disabled," Harriman said. "Unless they're cloaked or otherwise out of our sensors' range or sensitivity, the motherships are gone."
"Okay," Jack pointed out, "that's what I call 'something good.'"
"Can this be rewound?" Jonas asked, turning to Sam. "We'll need time to pick everything out. Too many people talking at once."
"Sir, our allies want to know what's going on," a voice from the other end of the console said.
"Then anyone who can speak Goa'uld will listen to the recording of that transmission as many times as you need to until you can tell me what the hell happened just now," Hammond ordered. "Don't celebrate yet, people. Anubis might still be out there somewhere, and Yu certainly is. Get to work." The translators jumped to obey. "And dial Abydos again."
4 May 2003; Briefing Room, SGC; 0800 hrs
"Still no lock on Abydos," Jack said the next morning.
"We've sent a message to the Tok'ra, asking them to send a scout ship to check," Carter added, "but, unsurprisingly, it might be a while before anyone's free and in the neighborhood."
Turning to Teal'c and Jonas, the general asked, "What about Yu and Anubis?"
"Yu is in possession of the Eyes of Osiris, Apophis, Seth, and Anubis," Teal'c said. "The Eyes of Ra and Tiamat appear to have been destroyed."
Carter's eyebrows flew upward. "What? Why?"
Jonas shrugged. "One of the Jaffa said something about the circuitry. Yu is really angry--the Eyes' crystals were fried, apparently from a power overload. And then someone found our bugs, so he got even more angry, and...it got confusing after that. He started yelling about some other things, too, which didn't make a whole lot of sense."
"Like what?" Jack said.
"Like..." Jonas looked down at his notes. "That they needed to get to Abydos quickly to kill Anubis before he got to the Eye of Ra. Of course, someone mentioned they were past that part, and Yu said not to argue and go back to their homeworld. I'm not sure what he was angriest at, by that point--the Eyes or the fact that his Jaffa were questioning his orders."
"When we had the Eye of Tiamat at the SGC," Hammonds said, "our best investigators--with help and advice from a Jaffa and a Tok'ra--didn't know how it worked. Is it possible Yu's Jaffa really did make some mistake?"
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "Even with what I have learned from the SGC, I would not have been able to use the Eyes. I had never even heard of such a technology."
"But," Jonas said, "judging by their conversation and the outcome of the battle, the weapon was effective. In fact, it sounded like the malfunction was in the ship's internal system, not the Eyes."
"So either Yu hasn't been taking care of his mothership," Carter said, frowning, "which I find doubtful for someone as experienced as Yu, or the Jaffa fumbled through the installation on their own, barely got it functional, and are making excuses. And if it's the latter, how did they know how to do it at all, and what loyal Jaffa would lie about it afterward?"
Teal'c opened his mouth, then closed it and glanced at Jack. "Daniel talked to Yu," Jack said.
"You think...?" Jonas said.
"I don't know," Jack said, deciding that, right or not, he was going to take comfort in the fact that Daniel had made a deal with a Goa'uld but might have sabotaged it, too. It didn't really seem like Daniel's MO, but then, neither did sending a fleet of attack ships to Earth. Desperate times. "Either that, or Yu is losing it."
"The upshot is that if Yu thinks his Jaffa did something wrong, he won't be coming after us," Hammond said. "Do we know what happened to the other ships in the fleet?"
"We don't have an exact count, sir," Sam said, "but we synched the conversation with satellite data, and it looks like Anubis was able to take out almost half of the motherships on his own before they were able to damage his shield at all, probably using the Eyes. We think very few motherships actually survived by the time Anubis had to retreat."
"But Anubis survived."
"We must assume that he did," Teal'c said. "His ship may have been damaged, but several al'kesh successfully entered hyperspace."
Hammond sighed. "And Yu has the other four Eyes."
"Better than all six," Jonas said. "If all of them together are ten times more powerful than the sum of its parts, that means four Eyes is...about...six-and-a-half percent the threat of all six together. Besides, Yu just lost a lot of his army. He'll need time to recover."
"However, Yu was able to penetrate Anubis's shield with only two of the Eyes, a feat that Thor could not accomplish," Teal'c pointed out.
"Thor was on his own," Jack defended his favorite Asgard.
"It is nevertheless true that even two of the Eyes were a formidable weapon against Anubis."
"Well, this will definitely give Yu an advantage over the other System Lords," Carter said, "but he also has all of their forces under his command. That could be good for us, if the other System Lords' resentment makes them start attacking each other again--or even Yu--instead of us."
"I'm thinking lots of war while they all grab for the Eyes," Jack said.
"Let's hope that keeps them busy for a while," Hammond said. "What's our next step?"
"Well..." Jonas said tentatively. "There's that tablet Daniel Jackson showed us. He said it was about an important Ancient city and seemed very adamant that we had to find it."
"The Ancients did have very advanced technology," Carter said. "If we can find the city..."
"Weapons," Jack suggested, "made by an advanced race of humans who didn't like the Goa'uld."
"Make that tablet your priority, Mr. Quinn," Hammond ordered, and stood. "Stay on top of this--find out whatever you can from the Tok'ra over the next days and weeks, and Teal'c, I want any news you can get from the rebel Jaffa. Dismissed."
5 May 2003; SGC, Earth; 1400 hrs
Skaara opened his eyes. He blinked, surprised when his eyelids moved slowly, and tried to sit up.
Someone moaned, and only when the pain struck did Skaara realize that it had been himself.
"Don't move," a familiar voice said from the other side. With an effort, Skaara turned his head and saw O'Neill looking down at him. "I'd ask how you're feeling, but I think I know already."
Skaara blinked again.
Then he remembered--Anubis had been on Abydos. There had been Jaffa, and the Eye of Ra, and guns, and Dan'yel--
"Abydos?" he managed.
O'Neill's eyes flicked away, for just a second, but enough for Skaara to know something was wrong. "We're at the SGC," O'Neill said. "We're working on getting back to Abydos, but for now, your job is to get better. All right?"
"Abydos," Skaara insisted, pushing himself upward until the pain overwhelmed him and he couldn't tell whether he was lying down or sitting up. "D-dan'yel said..."
When he finally made himself open his eyes again, there was a woman next to him--he had seen her before, but his mind was slow and would not tell him who she was--he found that his hand was clenched tightly on O'Neill's. "He's not here," O'Neill said quietly. "You need to relax for now. When you wake up again, I'll explain everything to you. How's that sound?"
"Mm," Skaara heard himself say. The woman smiled and did something next to him. When the burning agony in his stomach began to decrease, he turned again and mumbled, "O'Neill?"
"You're gonna be fine," O'Neill said, patting him on the shoulder. "Go to sleep. I'll come down and see you again."
True to his word, O'Neill was there again when Skaara next woke. Skaara lay where he was for a while, watching O'Neill before anyone noticed that he was awake.
Most times, O'Neill seemed to be exactly who the legends said he was--the hero of Abydos, killer of false gods, the leader of SG-1 of the Tau'ri. Now, the leader of SG-1 was facing away, and no one else was in the room. As Skaara watched him make comical expressions while holding a shallow metal tray in front of his own face, he began to see what had made Dan'yel say that O'Neill was very different from what the stories said. O'Neill stuck his tongue out, and Skaara was surprised by a weak laugh.
Immediately, O'Neill turned around. He quickly put the tray back down on a table and made his loping way toward the bed. "Hello," O'Neill said.
"Hello," Skaara tried to answer, but he had to try twice to make sound emerge from his throat. As he shifted, the pain made itself known again, but it was duller than before.
O'Neill frowned down at him and played with the edge of his blanket, pulling it higher and then smoothing it back down to where it had been a moment before. Skaara watched him curiously. "So," O'Neill said, "how's it going?" Skaara swallowed. "Ah--here--"
A cup appeared in front of him. O'Neill's other hand slipped under Skaara's head and lifted just enough to drink the water inside. Skaara drank slowly, knowing that he was still weak and unwilling to cough should he choke.
Still, he was sweating by the time O'Neill lowered him back to the bed. He thought he should say 'thank you' but could not catch his breath.
"Take it easy," O'Neill said quietly, pulling a chair close and sitting at the side of the bed. "How's the pain?"
Skaara waited a moment to let the world slow in its spinning before he said, "It is...better."
Looking relieved, O'Neill said, "Good, because ol' Doc Fraiser wasn't going to give you any more of the happy juice for another few hours. Think you can make it that long?"
"Yes," Skaara said, trying to remember more of what had happened. He raised his arm--why was it so weak?--and tried to feel for his bandage, only to have it grabbed before he could touch.
"Ah-ah," O'Neill said, holding up a finger. "Leave that there."
Skaara closed his eyes for a second. "How did I come here?"
"Got yourself shot," O'Neill said simply. "We brought you back, and the doctors patched you up. Not gonna lie--it was pretty bad, but they say you're out of the woods now."
"The...woods," Skaara repeated, confused.
"Trees aren't even in sight," O'Neill assured him, waving a hand and explaining nothing. "You've got a ways to go, but you will get better. So now, you get to rest here for a while, and then you'll start some physical therapy when you're a little better. Oh, that reminds me--I'm supposed to feed you before you fall asleep again."
O'Neill stood and pulled something behind Skaara so that part of the bed moved, gently raising him until he was nearly sitting. Then O'Neill turned around in a full circle before he spotted whatever he had been looking for. He picked up a tray full of small containers and carried it to a small table by Skaara's bedside. "What...?" Skaara said.
"What do we have here?" O'Neill said, lifting the lid from one of the containers and peering inside before moving to the next one. "Looks like...soup, juice...Jell-O, uh...tea, which isn't a food," he added to Skaara. "Got a preference?"
After a few moments of strained silence, O'Neill said, "You've never had Jell-O before, have you?" He picked up one of the small, round containers.
"Wait, O'Neill--" Skaara started.
"Don't worry, it's good--it's not anything like cows at all. Cows are...like mastadges, sort of."
O'Neill scooped a spoonful of brightly-colored...something. He frowned at the cup and said, without looking up, "Your brother was grossed out at first when he found out we make this from cows and such, but he got over it. He liked the red kind--said it tasted like some drink you guys make on Abydos by putting...fruit in... To be honest, I wasn't paying attention," he admitted. "You know how he was."
Skaara stared at the spoonful. As he watched, it vibrated and wobbled disconcertingly. "This is...a food?"
"For today, it's probably the closest you'll get to real food," O'Neill told him. "C'mon, try it."
He reached out tentatively to take the spoon for himself, embarrassed when O'Neill's hand stayed on the spoon but thankful when his hand shook. The first bite was unexpectedly sweet--he started to chew automatically, but it turned into water in his mouth and slipped down his throat. "Oh," he said, unsure what to think of a drink that disguised itself as a food.
"You feel sick at all?" O'Neill asked, watching him closely. Skaara considered, then shook his head. "Give it a second." Skaara waited obediently for several seconds, then shook his head again. "Good. You need to get your strength back, and you're gonna need more than a spoonful of Jell-O to do that."
"Wait," Skaara said, holding up his hand. He started to sit up more, then stopped. "What happened?"
O'Neill looked back down at the tray, but not quickly enough to hide his wince. "You know," he said, "this is a discussion better suited for when you're not gonna fall asleep halfway --"
"No, what of Anubis?" he persisted. "I did not see the end of the fighting--"
"Anubis left Abydos and came here," O'Neill said. "And then he left here, too. You're safe. We're just...trying to figure out what to do next."
Skaara thought about that, but his mind was slow. "Then why are you here and not helping the Tau'ri?"
Shrugging, O'Neill said, "Teal'c and Major Carter are collecting news from the rebel Jaffa and the Tok'ra. Jonas Quinn's working on some translation I can't help with. Besides, it's nighttime now. I've got nothing to do."
"Dan'yel said he would come to help you after Anubis," Skaara said, confused, and then, "Where is my brother? Have you seen him again since...since then?"
O'Neill stared at him, becoming oddly still for a man who normally could not seem to stop moving. "No," he said calmly. "Then again, most of us went a year and a half without seeing him, and then he popped up out of the blue. Who knows?"
"Perhaps he is still on Abydos," Skaara said, uneasy. Belatedly, he remembered, "Have you told my people that Anubis is gone?"
Finally, O'Neill put down the cup of Jell-O and turned to Skaara seriously. "Don't think too hard about this, all right? Doesn't mean anything for sure. But...we can't...reach Abydos."
Skaara sat up straight despite the pain that flared. "What?"
"Hey, calm down," O'Neill said sharply, poking a finger into Skaara's chest. "Your people were evacuated, right? The Stargate was smack in the middle of the area. Chances are, it got damaged in the fight just after we arrived at the SGC, but that doesn't mean anything happened to the rest of Abydos or your people. Anubis got here so fast, he probably didn't have time to go rampaging around your planet."
"But we cannot go back?" he said.
"We're trying the 'gate every once in a while, but that looks like a no-go. We've also got a hold of the Tok'ra, and as soon as they can, they're gonna send a ship out there to take a look around. They're just...a little busy and very short-handed. We've gotta wait it out, that's all."
"We have to wait," Skaara echoed hollowly.
O'Neill sat back with a sigh. "Look, you're in no shape to travel, anyway--with some work, you'll probably be back on your feet by the time we get some news."
Skaara thought of what Klorel would have been able to do to Abydos with a hatak. To younger Goa'uld like Klorel--even to many of the System Lords--Anubis was no more than a myth. It had taken most of the forces of Ra, Cronus, Sokar, Yu, and any other Goa'uld they could find simply to banish him the first time. Skaara wondered if O'Neill was telling him the truth or deliberately making it seem less grave than it truly was.
"I must know what happened," Skaara said finally. "You are speaking of my home, O'Neill."
"Yeah," O'Neill said. "But it's a long story, and you're injured. You need to get some food in yourself, get some sleep, and I promise I will tell you when you wake up. That's basically all I know yet, anyway."
Now, he wanted to demand, but there was nothing he could do now. Skaara knew that he was lucky to be alive, after the wound he had taken, and he knew that it would be difficult to recover fully. If he was to help, that was what he needed to do first. Besides...
"Dan'yel told me that you keep your word," Skaara said, remembering that brief, wonderful stretch of time when he had been able to sit on the floor of his house with his brother, talking of nothing and of life and of war, learning how to be brothers again and knowing that they would never be who they had been before Apophis's attack. "You will tell me? Everything?"
O'Neill's expression grew stiff, but he nodded. "Promise. And whatever happens--not that anything'll happen," he added quickly, "but in case...you know, if it takes a while for the Tok'ra to get back to us or something--we'll make sure you're taken care of. Daniel would kick our asses if we let anything happen to you."
"I trust you," Skaara said, and did not think about the fact that his brother had died to save SG-1--he very carefully remembered that his brother had been stubborn and, for all that he knew, might have lost himself again in the name of Abydos after losing himself once for Earth.
"Good man," O'Neill said, patting him gently on the shoulder. "Now eat your Jell-O."
When as much of the food as he could manage was gone and his eyes began to fall closed, he said, "Was Tobay here before?"
There was a long pause, and then, "No. You're the only one who got through the 'gate with us."
"I think I dreamed of him," Skaara mumbled. "Is he dead?"
"No," O'Neill said again. "Ascended. Remember? I think you saw it." A moment later, he added, his voice stiff and awkward, "I saw Daniel before. I was hurt pretty bad then, too. Maybe Tobay was...checking up on you the same way."
Skaara knew already that the knowledge that one's brother was Ascended and not dead was little comfort. Later, perhaps, it would help to know that they still lived on somewhere, but for now, he cared only that many of his brothers--men he had led into battle--were gone forever.
"You all right?" O'Neill said. Skaara nodded but didn't shake O'Neill's hand away as he let himself fall asleep.
13 May 2003; SGC, Earth; 2200 hrs
The Ancients, Jonas thought, should have picked a phonetic system and stuck to it.
Well, that wasn't fair. He didn't actually expect languages and societies to stay static over time. It was just that Ancient, more than any other language the SGC cared about, was a constant guessing game. There was a longer gap between Ancient and the closest attested Earth equivalent than between most other languages, and, with Ayiana dead, there weren't any living people on Earth to ask about it.
The whole thing was rather discouraging. Jonas could remember things exactly--equations, conversations, idioms, vocabulary, grammatical exceptions, technical specifications--but this, with the Ancient tablet...
Daniel Jackson's notes on the tablet and the conclusions he'd drawn made sense--the way a puzzle made sense after someone else put the pieces together--but even after hammering out a bit more of the translation, Jonas still couldn't figure out what to do with the rest of the pieces.
Teal'c came in while Jonas was feeding the fish and hoping that their careless circuits around the tank would bring him some inspiration.
"I must be missing something," Jonas said, rubbing the back of his neck.
"You said that the dialect is very old," Teal'c offered. "What do you know thus far?"
"Well..." Jonas returned to his desk to look at his notes, "I know that there's a city that the Ancients built--Daniel Jackson translates it in his notes as the 'city of the lost'--and that there was a plague that killed most of the Ancients. Maybe the thing Ayiana had, remember?"
"Indeed," Teal'c said, scowling. Jonas winced. None of them liked remembering what had happened in the aftermath of that disease--Colonel O'Neill's implantation and subsequent capture by Ba'al was not a highlight of his time at the SGC.
"Anyway," he went on, "they Ascended to escape the plague. And..."
He stopped. And...and...something. Something about the plague and the city.
"What is it?" Teal'c said.
Jonas narrowed his eyes, trying to catch some thought that was eluding him. "I don't know," he said, shuffling back through a pile of notes and reports he'd set aside. "That reminded me of...I don't know. Maybe I read something once and it's registering in my mind somewhere..."
"I am certain the answer will come to you," Teal'c said.
"Yeah," Jonas said, frustrated, then forced himself to slow down and go back through the notes in order. "You think maybe they never finished the city?" he asked. "If there was that plague..."
Teal'c raised his chin, looking thoughtful. "It is possible," he said. "If it held great technology, perhaps they were building it to shelter themselves from a plague or defend themselves from an enemy who would have taken advantage of their weakened state."
"Maybe," Jonas said. "But the plague killed them first."
"Why do you think the city was not completed?" Teal'c said.
Frowning, Jonas flipped quickly through his notes and wondered if he'd simply imagined seeing that somewhere, because he couldn't find a reference to it now. "It just...sort of came to me." He sighed. "I don't know."
"Perhaps you should begin again tomorrow," Teal'c suggested, glancing pointedly at the clock. Jonas followed his gaze, surprised to find that hours had passed since he'd last looked up.
"Yeah. I'll think about this again in the morning. Any change with Abydos? I know Skaara's been getting restless."
"None yet. We received word from Tagrea, however--the Prometheus will not be ready to return for months. The Tok'ra remain our only source of ships capable of interstellar travel."
Jonas nodded. "And anything from the Jaffa?"
"Anubis has recovered from his brief defeat," Teal'c said grimly.
"Anubis was beating them even before he really had his own army," Jonas said. "Even before anyone knew he was back. Losing one ship and the Eyes probably wasn't a setback so much as it was a...a lack of a step forward, right?"
Teal'c seemed to consider that for a while. "He is undoubtedly foremost among the Goa'uld."
"So how is this going to play out? Anubis knows the other System Lords turned on him, so is he going to keep his head down until he's strong enough that they can't defeat him easily all at once, or is he going to strike now before they can recover?"
"He does not yet have the power to defeat them all at once," Teal'c said. "But I am certain that he will begin to attack the others one by one to ensure that they never become too strong."
"The others have four of the Eyes, though," Jonas pointed out.
"However, some of the Jaffa have spoken of strange behavior from Yu's forces."
"Strange how?" Jonas said.
"They say he is accusing other System Lords of crimes that never occurred," Teal'c said. "He spends much of his time near his homeworld, sequestering the other armies under his command there as well. There is talk that the other Goa'uld are planning to replace him, or to steal the Eyes that he holds."
"I don't understand," Jonas said. "Yu has been the most reasonable Goa'uld I've heard of, and now, he's...what, going mad?"
"I do not know," Teal'c said. "But it has begun to sow more dissent between the other System Lords at a time when we need them to ally against Anubis. Unless," he added, "we find the city of the lost and defeat Anubis ourselves."
"If things continue as they have been, Anubis's victory is only a matter of time," Jonas guessed.
"Perhaps," Teal'c said, reluctantly, in the tone that really meant 'indeed.' "I believe he may bide his time until the other System Lords have resolved their current disputes."
"Let's hope so," Jonas said. Hopefully, by then, they would have a miraculous plan to defeat the System Lords--a massive strike using some derivative of the symbiote poison, maybe, once they found a way not to kill Jaffa. Actually, speaking of that... "How...uh...have you been talking to other Jaffa about tretonin, too?"
Teal'c's entire body tensed. "They know of its existence," he said, almost calmly, but Jonas knew enough about body language to know that his friend wanted him to shut up.
"Oh," Jonas said, uncertain of how much to push. He knew Teal'c had had trouble adjusting to the new drug, but he didn't know how to ask about it, or even if it was all right to ask whether the problem was more physical or mental. "So, you..." He tried to find the right way to phrase it and settled on, "You and Dr. Fraiser have found the right dosage for you by now, right?"
"We have," Teal'c said. This time, he added a scowl whose meaning was unmistakable.
Jonas made a face. "Right. Okay. You should get some rest--"
Teal'c's glare turned to ice.
Swallowing, Jonas added, "--and so should I. There's still a lot to do in the morning."
Finally, Teal'c relented a little and turned away. "Indeed," he said.
"Teal'c, you know...if there's anything--"
"There is not, Jonas Quinn," Teal'c said.
Jonas sighed. "Okay," he answered unhappily. "Good night."
Teal'c nodded once and left. Jonas made his way to the office door and peeked out to see Teal'c touch his abdomen where the symbiote pouch had once been before he walked out of sight.
17 May 2003; Major Carter's Lab, SGC; 0700 hrs
"You're here early," Jonas said when he saw Sam already in her lab.
She glanced away from her laptop, waving him in. "I just can't shake the idea something's going to go horribly wrong. You know, what with the fleet of motherships in our orbit a couple weeks ago."
Jonas made a face. "At least you're staying cheerful," he said. She rolled her eyes, but it made her smile, too. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," she said, not looking up from her work.
"It's about Ra," he added, taking a seat.
"I'm probably not the best person here to ask about Ra," she said. "I wasn't exactly present at the Abydonian Great Rebellion. Colonel O'Neill or Teal'c--"
"Not about him personally," Jonas said. "Ra was the most powerful System Lord until he was defeated, right? He must've been a powerful symbol for the Tok'ra to use him in their name."
"As far as we know, he was one of the bigger ones," she said, nodding. "At least in this part of the galaxy, although it's possible other parts were dominated by...by Lord Yu, for example."
"But Ra still didn't know what the Ancient tablet said."
She folded her hands on her desk, looking thoughtful. "Well, he could have, I guess. Teal'c says he hasn't heard about anything like a lost city, so if Ra did know anything about it--"
"And we have to assume he would've looked for it if he'd been able to read it," he added.
"--then he kept it pretty quiet," Sam finished. "That's par for the course for powerful Goa'uld, though; it was kept in a secret chamber, after all."
"How much do the Goa'uld know about the Ancients, anyway?" Jonas asked. "How much would someone like Ra have known?"
"It's hard to say," she said. She closed her laptop, turning her attention fully to the question. "But if they knew a lot, they'd probably be using more Ancient technology."
"Maybe they didn't understand it enough to capitalize on it," he suggested. "Maybe that's why Anubis's technology seems so different--he's half-Ascended and probably picked up a lot from the Others--Ascended Ancients."
"You're right--I bet that's what Khonsu had noticed and was going to tell us before Herak killed him," Sam said, wincing. "But it could be even be simpler than that. Most of the 'gate addresses in the Ancient database are not in the Abydos cartouche data, and we've rarely found traces of the Ancients except on addresses from the Ancient database; in fact, the only definitive present connection we know of between them is that the Goa'uld didn't dare to go to Kheb. Maybe the Goa'uld were never really exposed to the Ancients except on the battlefield."
"The battlefield?" Jonas asked, and then answered his own question. "Right. When Colonel O'Neill had that repository of knowledge in his head, the Asgard told him the Ancients used to be one of the four races fighting the Goa'uld. But...hold on, when did the Goa'uld first start taking hosts?"
"Our best estimates put Ra's first contact with Earth about ten thousand years ago, give or take, but there were Goa'uld regularly using other-than-human hosts for...ten, even twenty-five thousand years before that. But that's just a rough estimate based on some very fuzzy translations of Unas oral history."
"Sometime in the last forty thousand years," he summarized. "Less than a hundred thousand."
"That's the right order of magnitude, yes."
"So how did they ever meet the Ancients," Jonas said, holding up his translation notes, "who Ascended about five million years ago?"
Sam chewed on her lip, thinking, then said, "Well...it's possible the Ancients themselves weren't part of that war, but they left technology or knowledge that were used to fight the Goa'uld."
"Okay, that's reasonable," he said, making a mental note to review intergalactic history when he had some free time. "So where did Ra get that tablet?"
"Could've been anywhere," she said, shrugging. "We've found abandoned technology lying around, and we haven't spent thousands of years exploring. Ra might have just picked the tablet up somewhere, whether or not the Ancients had already Ascended by that time--in fact, it could explain how little the Goa'uld seem to know about them, other than the basics. The other three races of the alliance would've tried to keep Ancient knowledge out of Goa'uld hands."
"Like leaving Ancient knowledge in databases mounted on walls," Jonas said, and then, "Huh." Something jangled in his mind again, but he still couldn't quite catch what he was looking for.
"What?" she said.
"I don't know," he said. "Can you say all of that again?"
Giving him an odd look, Sam said, "Uh...not word for word."
"Ancient database," he said, thinking backward. "The alliance of the four races...which were Asgard, Ancient, Nox, Furling. The Asgard...no. Wait, yes, Colonel O'Neill found out when the Asgard took the database out of his head, because it was programming his brain to do...things..."
The answer fell into place.
"That's it," he said, standing up. "He...and the Ancient repository of knowledge--that's it!"
"What's it?" she said cautiously.
Excited, Jonas explained, "The city! It's the city of the lost! We don't know the 'gate address!"
"Right," Sam said. "Yeah."
"No, no--we don't need it," he said. It was only when he was at the door that he realized she wasn't beside him. "Sam, c'mon!"
Wearing a bemused smile, she said, "Jonas, what are you talking about?"
"Come on!" he repeated, and ran out the door toward the general's office.
17 May 2003; SGC, Earth; 0745 hrs
"So," Jack said as he walked Skaara slowly toward the infirmary, "anything fun planned today?"
"I do not know," Skaara said, not quite managing to walk casually as he manfully pretended he didn't have a hole healing in his stomach. "It is...a bit boring."
"Dr. Fraiser thinks you can step up your physical therapy soon," Jack offered. "So the good news is it won't be as boring as sitting in a bed all day; the bad news is it'll hurt a lot more."
Actually, the good news was that Skaara wasn't going to be crippled for life, and that there was a 'life' involved in the equation. That staff blast had done a lot of damage, and he might not ever be quite as strong as he had been, but Jack was just glad the kid was on his feet.
Skaara made a face. "I know," he said. "Have you heard from the Tok'ra about Abydos?"
"You know, funny you should ask..." Jack said, then held up a hand when Skaara looked up with wide eyes. "Now, hold on. They've got someone on a mission who might be wrapping things up soon. If he finishes as planned and if he gets away in a ship with a working hyperdrive, they'll have him swing by Abydos and take a look around. It might be a couple of days; it might be a couple of weeks or even more if things go pear-shaped on the Tok'ra's mission."
Skaara swallowed, but nodded. "Will you come with me when I return to Abydos?"
"Well, sure," Jack said, smiling in what he hoped was an optimistic way. "I said I'd go to your wedding, didn't I? I want to meet this girl of yours."
He earned a grin for that. None of them mentioned the other possibility: that Skaara's fiancée, his father, his sister, his friends, and everyone else might not have made it through. Their own curiosity aside, they had to go with Skaara so that someone could bring him back to Earth if it turned out something was wrong on Abydos.
"Maybe Dan'yel will be there," Skaara said wistfully, as if he didn't know that if Daniel had been on Abydos all this time, he could have been here on Earth, too. Ascended people didn't need functioning Stargates to zip around.
"Are you trying to replace me as best man?" Jack said.
Skaara laughed and rolled his eyes, and as selfish as it might be, Jack couldn't help wishing just a little bit that he were walking and talking with someone else instead. He had no doubt Skaara felt the same.
"Colonel O'Neill?" an airman said just as they reached the infirmary. "You're needed in the briefing room, sir."
Skaara looked up at him, looking torn between trepidation and anticipation, so Jack made sure he showed neither on his face as he said, "All right, Skaara, here's your stop. Take it easy, you hear?" He caught an nurse's eye, tilting his head toward the still-unsteady Skaara.
"I will, I will," Skaara grumbled obligingly. Jack started off, but glanced back in time to see his worried face still watching from around the doorframe until he was firmly ushered to a bed.
Hammond, Carter, and Jonas were already in the briefing room when Jack arrived. Before he could open his mouth to ask what was going on, Jonas turned to him with a rather maniacal grin and said, "I got it!"
"Hope it's not contagious," Jack said automatically, and realized it wasn't about the Tok'ra mission or a ship at all.
Jonas paused, then said, "That--that's a good one, sir."
"What has happened?" Teal'c said as he hurried up the stairs.
"Jonas thinks he knows where the city of the lost is," Carter said.
"The city of the what?" Jack said.
"The city on the Ancient tablet," Jonas explained excitedly. "Now. I couldn't figure out how the tablet was supposed to help us, because all it seemed to be was a...a history of sorts. And I couldn't figure out why something would be called 'city of the lost,' but I realized: they were building some great city and then they started getting infected with a plague before the city could be finished."
"Okay," Jack said. "Do we know where this city is?"
"No...but I know how to find it," he insisted. "Colonel, you put a lot of 'gate addresses into the dialing computer when you had the Ancient database in your head."
"Apparently," Jack said. "And?"
"And we haven't seen nearly all of them, even with probes," Jonas went on. "But if they were building some great, central city when they all died or Ascended, wouldn't it stand to reason that it might be the last address on the list?"
Jack stared at him, then looked at Carter and Teal'c. "Wouldn't we have thought of that?" he asked. It sounded too simple not to have thought of it. Then again, it also sounded too simple. The one thing he knew about the Ancients was that nothing was simple with them.
"Well...no, sir," Carter said. "We didn't think of it."
"Did you not say the Ancients were killed by a plague while building this city?" Teal'c said.
"Yeah, why do you say that again?" Carter said, setting her hands on her hips.
"Because...because...well, we know they ended up being killed by a plague, and I think this might have been their last city," Jonas said, frowning. As Jack tried to decide whether that was circular logic and where it actually connected, Jonas added, "Colonel, I realize it's not hard evidence, but I think this is worth a shot."
Carter shrugged. "It wouldn't hurt to look, sir."
"Okay...but I also seem to remember being almost killed the last time we found an Ancient with the plague," Jack said, barely stopping a shudder as he remembered Kanan and Ba'al.
"Actually, we might be okay there," Carter said. "The pathogen Ayiana carried was presumably preserved in her body. Otherwise, after such a long time and with no living hosts, I suspect the disease wouldn't have lasted. After all, the Ancients of P4X-639 were killed by a plague thousands of years ago--maybe the same one--but we were perfectly fine there."
Jack racked his brain for P4X-639. "The planet that caused the time loop," Teal'c told him.
"Ah," Jack said. "So...possibly dangerous Ancient technology, but not Ancient diseases."
"Probably," Jonas said. "We're hoping for dangerous Ancient technology, aren't we?"
"Okay," Jack conceded. "But I thought you said I didn't finish putting the addresses in after the whole...head-sucker thing."
"To be honest, sir," Carter said, "we don't know. You might have, and even if it turns out not to be the right place...well, Ancient planets that aren't listed in the Abydos cartouche are a good place to start looking for more clues."
"If I'm right about the order of the planets, starting at the end will at least give us more of a chance that we'll find references to the very last planet," Jonas pointed out. "Or a direct link from there to the city of the lost. Sir, I don't know if there's much more I can do from here."
"The coordinates are already being recalculated," Hammond said. "If the MALP doesn't detect any immediate threat, you'll check it out. Take SG-3 and -5 with you."
17 May 2003; Village, P4T-3G6 (Vis Uban); 1500 hrs
The people they met spoke Egyptian, more or less. Actually, they spoke quite a few things, including a bit of some very old-sounding English that was all but incompatible with Tau'ri English. They were travelers, they said--Jonas called them nomads--and had met many people of many cultures, just as SG-1 did themselves.
And then, the man who had greeted them--Khordib--returned with an old man called Shamda, who gave them all a vaguely suspicious look and said something that Teal'c translated as, "No one can be a friend if you know not whether to trust them."
"You should not judge a book by its...first...page," Jack retorted in what he felt was passable Abydonian.
A glint appeared in Shamda's eye. He straightened and countered, "The promises of one's enemies are made to be broken."
Carter ducked her head, looking bemused, but how often did Jack get to play any sort of intellectual patty cake off-world? Rising to the challenge, he said, "But honesty is still best."
"He who has too many friends has none," Shamda answered swiftly.
"Ah," Jack said, raising a finger, "but birds...uh...that have feathers that look...the same..."
Shamda tilted his head, squinting interestedly. "I am unfamiliar with that story. What lesson does it teach?"
Uh... "It's about...groups," Jack said. "Being...in a group. And...I don't know it well myself," he said, surrendering what would otherwise turn into a linguistic struggle too complicated for him to get out in favor of turning the conversation around. "But we are not your enemies. If you give us a chance, we can prove it."
Jack turned to see Colonel Reynolds and his team walking toward SG-1. He tensed slightly, but aside from the fact that the man wasn't assessing the site and the perimeter as he'd been ordered to do, all of SG-3 looked more excited than anxious.
"We found something you might want to see," Reynolds said.
Weapon, Jack thought first. Maybe an Ancient stronghold.
But instead, there was a regular person following them, wearing a faded blue robe in the style of all of Shamda's people and looking a lot like--
Jack's thoughts ground to a halt.
A familiar face looked up at him, a familiar blue gaze roving over all of them in that familiar way. "Daniel?" Jack heard himself say.
"Arrom," Khordib corrected, but Jack wasn't listening anymore.
Daniel was watching all of them curiously. Jack opened his mouth to ask very loudly where the hell he'd been for the last few weeks and why the hell he hadn't at least contacted the SGC to tell them he was okay and was, by the way, sitting around in the Ancient city of the lost...
But then Daniel shifted his feet, and Jack noticed a light puff of dry dirt rising from under his sandal to settle gently on Daniel's rather dusty toes, and all Jack could think was that people who were made of energy and were immaterial weren't supposed to get dusty but Daniel was, so he was real and solid this time, and the only thing that came out of his mouth was, "What?"
"It is what we call him," Khordib said. It took Jack a minute to realize he meant 'Arrom.'
"It means 'naked one'," Shamda added.
"We found him naked in the forest, a short time ago," Kordib said.
So why had Daniel been walking around naked in a forest, and why was he going by another name?
The sudden, sickening thought occurred that Jack could be imagining all of this. So soon after that disaster on Abydos, maybe Jack's mind was playing tricks on him and he was just seeing Daniel's features on some stranger.
Then the new arrival lowered his eyebrows the way only Daniel could do, the way that meant I'm-confused and I'm-waiting-why-aren't-you-talking and hold-on-wait-I'm-thinking. He folded his arms over his chest, looking for all the world like he had when he'd been about a foot shorter than he was now, back when...
When he hadn't recognized anything around him.
Daniel's gaze met Jack's again and moved away, like Jack was part of the surroundings and not the person who knew him best in the entire universe, so Jack knew, even before Reynolds said, "He doesn't seem to remember anything. I'm not sure he even understands English."
Annoyance flitted across Daniel's face. "I saw that," Jack said immediately, pointing an accusatory finger at him. "You do understand us. What is this, some sort of game?"
The annoyance became confusion, not recognition. "Who are you?" Daniel said, in Abydonian.
By habit, Jonas started to answer in the same language, "We are--"
"No," Jack interrupted sharply. "He's our translator. He doesn't need a translation." Jonas shut up.
Carter stepped forward. "Daniel, it's okay," she said, reaching toward him. "It's me, Sam--" Daniel's hand blocked hers before she could make contact. She pulled back slowly.
"Do you not recognize us, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c tried.
In answer, Daniel backed away two steps, his expression wary, then walked quickly past all of them. Jack watched him go until he ducked into a tent.
"Do you truly know who he is?" Khordib said, calling Jack's attention back.
Jack opened his mouth, but apparently his mouth was being as stubbornly disobedient today as Daniel on a bad day, and nothing came out. Carter was looking at her hand, as though she wasn't sure whether to feel more hurt or astonished that she'd actually touched him. "Yes," Teal'c said quietly when neither of them answered. "We thought him lost forever."
"You say he 'appeared?'" Jonas asked. "No one knows where he came from?"
Shamda shook his head. "No one--not even Arrom himself." He cocked his head to the side, looking all of them over. "If what you say is true...you cannot think this meeting happened purely by chance?"
That was a good point. "No, we don't think that," Jack said, and broke away from the group, striding toward the tent where Daniel had disappeared.
When Jack ducked down to see into the entrance, Daniel looked up, startled. "Leave me alone," he said, still sticking stubbornly to Abydonian.
Jack ignored him and stepped inside, letting the edge of the canvas drop again behind him. "I know you know what I'm saying," Jack said. Daniel didn't move from where he was sitting on a pallet, but he glanced up again, briefly. "Think about that, Daniel. Even you can't know an entire language the first time you hear it. What do you think that means, huh?"
Daniel twisted his hands together, sitting even more stiffly than before, his eyes following as Jack sat down on opposite him. Finally, he said, "Dan..." He paused to clear his throat. "Daniel?"
Amnesia, Jack firmly reminded himself. Be patient. "Your name is Daniel Jackson. You were born in the village of Nagada on the planet Abydos. You're officially a foreign volunteer serving with the SGC on Earth. Unofficially, we picked you up once and just never got rid of you." He waited for that flicker of recognition, but nothing happened. "I'm Jack O'Neill, commander of SG-1. Until about a year ago, you were part of my unit. Any of this sound familiar?"
"You were--are a friend of ours," Jack went on. "You died about a year ago--well, no," he amended when Daniel's eyes flicked up and said, Yeah, right. "You just...sort of died. Actually, you...Ascended to another level of existence. The last time we saw you, you convinced us to help you fight Anubis and then had to try to save our asses."
This time, Daniel glanced at the gun still clipped to Jack's chest and pursed his lips skeptically.
"Don't ask me why you could do some stuff and not others," Jack said. "Pissed me off, too. Anyway, since then you've obviously retaken human form somehow..."
Daniel raised his eyebrows.
"I can see how this might sound a bit unusual," Jack said. Daniel didn't answer. Impatient, Jack said, "Look, I'm not just gonna sit here talking to myself."
Daniel tilted his head and looked back at him pointedly. I didn't ask you to come, Jack read in his expression. You could go away.
"C'mon--say something," Jack said.
Daniel said something in his native language far too fast for Jack to understand. If the complete amnesia hadn't been obvious, Jack would have suspected him of having said it that way on purpose, just to annoy him.
"I meant in English," Jack said. "If you're gonna speak in Abydonian, you'll have to slow down."
"Jackson," Daniel said.
"That's you," Jack said warily.
Daniel pointed to him and said, "Jack."
"And that's me."
"Jack...son?" he said, pointing his finger between the two of them.
"No," Jack said quickly, realizing what the question was, not even calling Daniel on the fact that obviously he knew the word 'son' and could probably explain the roots of his own name; correcting the misunderstanding took precedence. That seemed to confuse Daniel even more, though. "It's just a name. They really wouldn't've let me be your commanding officer if you'd been my son."
"Commanding officer," Daniel repeated blankly, his eyebrows drawn low. He didn't say it like someone repeating meaningless foreign sounds--he knew what the words meant and wasn't admitting it, maybe still puzzling over it himself.
"Look," Jack said, "don't you at least want to know who you are?"
Instead of answering him, Daniel looked at the ground. Jack waited a full minute--okay, it was at least ten seconds--for him to say something, but he didn't. "Daniel--"
"Arrom," Daniel said quietly.
"Daniel," Jack insisted.
Jack, Daniel didn't say.
18 May 2003; Village, P4T-3G6 (Vis Uban); 1600 hrs
Teal'c stopped at the entrance to Daniel Jackson's tent and watched him light one candle using the flame from another. He moved in the same way--he even tilted his head the same way, watching a thin line of smoke rise until the wick caught fire. He remembered, Teal'c thought; perhaps he simply did not know that he remembered.
"May I enter?" Teal'c said in the Egyptian language, suspecting that it would feel more comfortable and less alien at the moment--O'Neill and Major Carter both said that Daniel Jackson would not speak to them in English.
Daniel Jackson's head turned to look at him. His eyes lingered on the tattoo on Teal'c's forehead, but his expression was one of curiosity, not of recognition or even fear. "You know me also?" he said in his own tongue.
"I know you very well. I am your friend, called Teal'c."
"Do you not have many names like the others?" Daniel Jackson said.
Teal'c smiled, remembering another conversation like this that they had had, though it had been in reverse that time. "I do not," he said, resisting the urge to step forward and sit, as they had done so many times before. Caution was needed now.
When he remained outside, Daniel Jackson said, almost as a question, "Jim didn't wait for my permission to come in."
Teal'c felt his smile falter. "Perhaps you mean to say 'Jack?'"
"Jack," Daniel Jackson repeated, furrowing his brow. "The man who was here earlier--?"
"Jack," Teal'c said firmly. "Jack O'Neill."
"Did I know someone else called Jim?"
"It is possible," Teal'c said. "You knew and worked with a great many people." Daniel nodded faintly but still did not seem to understand. "If Colonel O'Neill--Jack--did not ask your permission, that is because he is accustomed to overlooking some courtesies with you. The two of you were very close."
Daniel Jackson nodded slowly. "You may enter," he added.
"Thank you," Teal'c said as he bent and ducked inside.
"But I don't know what you want from me," Daniel Jackson said.
"Only to allow us to help you," Teal'c said, lowering himself into a seat. "I know that my friend would have wanted us to help him if ever he forgot who he was."
"Then my wishes don't matter?" he answered. "Only his?"
Teal'c paused. He had not thought of it in such a way. "You are not two different people," he pointed out. "Part of you is simply hidden from your own mind. Do you truly wish not to remember all those years of your life?"
"Perhaps I don't like who I was," Daniel Jackson said.
Something about the words made Teal'c suspicious. "Have you remembered something?"
"No," Daniel Jackson lied, because he did not remember that he could never lie to Teal'c.
"A name?" Teal'c prompted. "An image? Perhaps in a dream?"
"No!" he repeated, and then, the words directed toward the ground, "I don't know. I couldn't remember when I woke up, but it...bothered me at the time."
"It will always be so until you know what happened and why," Teal'c said, curious about what kind of thing Daniel Jackson had remembered on his own, even in a dream, but asking now would only distance them further. "I told you once before that you should not allow fear of what you could be to impede the good person that you are."
Biting his lip, Daniel Jackson looked up from under his eyebrows, considering. "I don't know what to say to that," he finally said.
"If you try to remember," Teal'c said, "perhaps you will understand."
"These people have been very kind to me. This place is all I know."
"But it is not," Teal'c countered. "You know much more. Before we lost you, the SGC valued you greatly for your knowledge and your intellect. It was with the help of records you left that we were able to find this planet."
"I left records to tell you where to find me...and then forgot that I would be here myself," he said, looking confused.
"Perhaps you did not know this would happen to you," Teal'c said. "But I cannot believe it was solely chance that brought us to this planet such a short time after you were found here."
"Then what do you think it was?" Daniel Jackson said.
Teal'c had not asked Jonas Quinn whether the inspiration to search this planet had been his own and suspected he would not have been able to say for certain in any case. "That remains unclear," Teal'c admitted. "But there must be a connection. While we were preparing to fight Anubis, you told us of this place where we could find great treasures--we believed we would find devices here to help us in our war."
"What devices?" Daniel Jackson said, looking interested--looking like himself--for the first time. "Who is Anubis?"
Teal'c stood. "Perhaps you would like to rejoin us and find out," he invited, moving toward the tent flap.
Daniel Jackson was quiet for a minute. "You are trying to trick me into joining you," he accused.
"It was you who asked the questions," Teal'c pointed out. "I only answered them. My friend, I would not force any choice upon you, but I also do not believe you will choose ignorance for fear of knowledge."
Before he could leave, Daniel Jackson said, "Teal'c, was I happy there?"
It pained Teal'c that he could not say 'yes' as simply as he wished he could, and yet, neither could he lie to lure Daniel Jackson to Earth. "You were loved by many," Teal'c finally said. "You have shared good times with us, and you truly believed that what we did was important."
"You do not say 'yes,'" Daniel Jackson observed.
"Would you hide from the truth because it displeases you?" Teal'c asked. This seemed to surprise Daniel Jackson into silence again. "We are likely to remain on this planet for some time," he added. "I ask that you consider returning home with us. Come to us when you wish."
O'Neill was waiting impatiently outside the tent. "He talked?" he said when Teal'c approached. "I saw talking going on."
"Indeed," Teal'c said.
"He will come with us."
"Really?" O'Neill said, hope lighting his expression. "He said that?"
"He did not," Teal'c said. "Nonetheless, I am certain."
This did not seem to be nearly enough for O'Neill, who scowled at the ground. "If Oma was the one who did this..." he started, warning in his tone.
"Daniel Jackson is alive," Teal'c reminded him. Only a day ago, that would have been more than any of them would have ever asked for. "Perhaps we have Oma Desala to thank."
"Yeah," O'Neill said, but before they could go on, Major Carter returned with Jonas Quinn.
"We, uh...we sent up a UAV," Jonas Quinn said. "But it'll take weeks for us to scour this place properly."
"What about Daniel?" Major Carter asked worriedly.
From behind them, Daniel Jackson said, "He is going home."
Teal'c turned around to see him step out from under the tent, adjusting a simple bag over his shoulder. For a long moment, no one spoke, and the determined expression on Daniel Jackson's face faded slowly into uncertainty. "No?" he asked.
"Yes," O'Neill said immediately, emphatically. "Yes. Home. God, Daniel, you really had us worried there for a second."
"Worried...where?" Daniel Jackson said.
His speech was oddly careful for someone who usually spoke too much rather than too little and O'Neill stared at him doubtfully, but Major Carter seemed relieved. Teal'c thought that teaching Daniel Jackson Tau'ri turns of speech again was a small price to pay for having him back. "Never mind," O'Neill said, looking unnerved.
"Will I learn what the...the devices are?" Daniel Jackson said eagerly, looking around himself.
"What?" Major Carter said.
"I believe you must relearn other things first, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "We will have much time on this planet to see what is here."
"One step at a time," Jonas Quinn said, almost managing to sound more cheerful than awkward.
18 May 2003; SGC, Earth; 1800 hrs
Arrom-who-was-Daniel Jackson looked down at himself when he felt his foot land on a hard, cold surface instead of the sand he had been expecting. When he stopped, the person behind him--Major Samantha Carter whom he called Sam--placed a hand on his back and pushed gently. Daniel lifted one foot and took a step, then lifted the other and took another step, and by then, the fascinating view before him had caught his attention.
He had hoped that seeing things that he was supposed to know would remind him and that he would suddenly remember. Now, it felt as though he would understand if he could simply reach a little further, but every time he tried to catch some memory lingering just out of reach, it disappeared.
"Welcome back, Mr. Jackson," said a man at the bottom of the ramp. Jonas had talked nearly the whole time while they had walked back to the Stargate, perhaps because no one else to know what to say, so Daniel knew that this must be General Hammond.
It took the sharp noise of someone's cough before he remembered that he was Jackson. It took him another moment to remember that he did not need to be frightened of the fact that he knew this language without remembering that he knew it. "Thank you," Daniel said carefully, but the words tumbled easily from his lips, so he tried again. "Thank you very much."
There was a man beside the one who had spoken, this one with long, black hair and a face that was beaming delightedly. "We did not think to see you again, brother," the man said.
Daniel narrowed his eyes, trying to bring the man's features into sharper focus. "Am I Brother?" he asked hesitantly. A second later, he remembered what the word 'brother' meant.
He looked in question at the man next to him--Jack? Jim? he could not remember which--who made a face that looked embarrassed and disappointed and almost angry, the same way that he had sounded angry before, even as he insisted that he was a good friend. Daniel did not understand what this meant.
"You have no memory of us?" Hammond asked.
Daniel shook his head. "No. I don't remember."
He looked back at the brother he did not know, standing at the bottom of the ramp, who suddenly did not look much older than Daniel assumed himself to be. Daniel looked at Jim-Jack-Colonel-O'Neill, who was giving the young man a commiserating look. Daniel wished he knew what he was supposed to do.
"This way," Sam said, touching him on the arm. Daniel turned readily away from the unhappy expressions he knew he was at fault for putting on several faces and followed her gentle tug, leading him away from the room and into a long corridor outside.
"I'm sorry," he said, not completely sure what he was sorry for. He looked over his shoulder, but the others did not seem to be following.
"It's okay; they're just briefing the general," Sam said, still walking. He realized he was lagging behind in his attempts to see everything and hurried to catch up. "Were you hurt when they found you?" she said abruptly.
"Hurt?" Daniel repeated. "I do not--I don't think so."
"Hm," she said, turning her head slightly to frown at him. "Have you had headaches? Anything unusual in... I mean, is it harder to do certain things, or bring some kinds of thoughts to mind? Not just memories, but everyday things."
He puzzled over her questions, then said, "You think that my brain was injured. That's why I remember nothing?"
"Well..." she hedged, and for a moment, he nearly stopped breathing with horror at the idea. "No, not necessarily."
"But it is possible?"
"Look," she said, offering a small, forced smile, "you were badly injured when you Ascended, but since you're not anymore, there's no reason to think you're hurt at all. Maybe there's another explanation--we already have a few ideas. It'll just be nice to be able to rule out some things."
"Oh," Daniel said.
"In fact, do you have a scar on...um, let's see...on your leg?" she said.
Daniel pulled his robe high enough to see his leg. "No."
Sam bent and pointed to his other leg with her finger, where there was a thin, faint line that ran messily from his knee and halfway down to his ankle. "I meant this one. And see? Yeah, you do. I noticed it in the ready room once."
"I never noticed," he said, unnerved by the fact that she knew his body better than he did.
"You said you got the scar horsing around as a kid," she explained. "Fell into a pile of rocks, I think. Your brother might know exactly how it happened."
Brother. There it was again. He had a brother he didn't know, even when faced with him. "What does that mean?" he asked. He let go of his robe and placed his hand on the wall beside him instead, trailing his fingers over the rock-like surface of the walls.
Concrete, he thought, although he couldn't have said what was so concrete about any of it. The wall was very steady, though. Daniel knocked tentatively on it with a fist, then ran his fingers over it to feel the texture--it was like fine sand, the roughness even and controlled in a way that was nearly impossible in walls cut from stone. It had somehow been molded, perhaps, like clay, and then coated with something that dulled the roughness and made it a single color.
Sam was waiting, so he stopped exploring the wall and hurried to catch up to her. "I'm not sure, except that Dr. Fraiser's going to need to examine you to find out exactly what condition you're in," she said. "I spoke to her before we all came back, so she'll be expecting you--she's going to have you sit through some neural scans, too, for completion."
"Scans?" he echoed. "Who is Dr. Fraiser?"
Sam bit her lip. "Um. She's...a friend, too. Our chief medical officer. And she's going to...use machines to take a look inside your head so that--no, no, it's perfectly safe," she said quickly when he felt his eyes widen. "You'll be awake the whole time, and you won't feel a thing. People here do these things all the time--in fact, you've had brain scans before, too, pretty regularly. It's just to see if there's anything we can do to help you remember."
"Oh," Daniel said.
"We've got cat and pet facilities here on base," she said, and before he could figure out why she was suddenly talking about animals, she went on, "At some point, Janet will probably want the full spectrum of what we can see of everything in your body, but for now, she's going to start with an emar eye, maybe coupled with pet. We've got a high resolution ephemer rye, too, but--"
"What--wait--what?" he interrupted, unable to pretend anymore that he had any idea what she was saying. "Ephemer rye?"
"Yeah," Sam said, nodding.
"I don't know those words," Daniel said, feeling embarrassed. "Or...that word? Is it one word?"
Her brow furrowed before she quickly smoothed her features and said, more slowly, "Oh. You. They're letters. M...R...I. And fMRI. It's a way to image...the inside of your body. Dr. Fraiser is going to want an 'MRI' of your brain to start with, and then we'll try other modalities."
"Like cats," he said.
"Uh, not exactly," Sam said, and bit her lip. A moment later she said, "That's a kind of scan, too. Nothing to do with cats."
He bit his lip. That still didn't tell him what any of that meant, only that it wasn't about animals. "How does...MRI see inside my body?"
"Magnets," she said. "But, uh, maybe we should wait if you want a more detailed explanation."
"I wouldn't understand, yes?"
She glanced at him, then away. "It's...a little complicated without the background. But don't worry about it. She'll explain as you go."
"Go? Am I going somewhere?" Daniel said.
Sam sighed. "That's just an expression, Daniel. She'll explain...while she works."
He swallowed, sensing her impatience, even though she was careful not to show it. Sam Carter was all anticipation and expectation he didn't know how to fill, and it felt like he was killing her friend all over again every time he didn't understand what she expected him to. "Oh," he said. "Did Daniel--did I understand all of that before?"
"Probably not the physics behind it, but yeah, you knew the general idea. It's not hard to pick up when you're around it all the time."
The corridor was very long. He wondered if he had always thought the corridor was so long or if it only seemed long now, because he didn't know where it went.
"What is it?" Sam said.
"What?" Daniel said, and it came out too quiet. The walls were coming closer. He reached out to touch them and discovered that it was only his imagination that made them seem that way.
"You stopped," she said.
"Did I?" he said. He looked down and noticed that his feet were not moving.
Looking so hopeful that he what she must be thinking and that she would be disappointed by his answer, she said, "Did you remember something?"
"No," he said. "Could we stop talking, please?"
She stared at him, then shook her head and gestured for him to continue walking with her. "Yeah--yeah. I'm sorry. I'm overloading you, aren't I? I've just been thinking about this ever since we found you. There has to be some explanation..." She trailed off. "Anyway."
"Okay," he said, but he found it was less of a relief than he had expected, because now he was thinking about all of those things, and he wanted to know, too.
Janet Fraiser was a small woman who wore white robes and whom everyone seemed to obey. Daniel wondered if the robes or their color was a sign of the respect she was afforded. She even made Sam go away, for which Daniel was grateful until he began feeling guilty for feeling grateful.
"Later, I'd like to run some neurological tests, if that's all right with you," Janet said.
"Yes. Sam told me."
"You're actually very close friends, you know," Janet said.
"I know that she's trying very hard," he said. "I don't know how to...to answer."
"Ah," Janet said, and tactfully dropped the subject. Daniel sat on the side of a bed and held very still as she wrapped something around his arm and tightened it. He couldn't quite remember what the device was called. He tried very hard to remember that much, because it would mean...something if he could remember that. "For now, we're just going through some mundane things. Okay?"
"Sphygmomanometer," he said triumphantly. She froze. "You, uh, let all the air out," he said, watching a needle turn to zero on a small gauge as the band around his arm loosened. He suppressed the urge to grab the bulb and squeeze it himself, just to watch it work.
"Ah...sorry," she said, and squeezed the bulb to make the cuff tighten again. She finished quickly and took the cuff off before saying, "That's quite a word for an amnesiac to remember."
"If I didn't remember words, I wouldn't be talking to you now," he pointed out.
"Very true," she said, smiling at him. "Can I ask you a question?"
Daniel expected the question to follow directly, but she was actually waiting for permission to go on. Courtesies among these people were very inconsistent. "Oh--yes."
"What does 'sphygmomanometer' mean?"
"Well..." Daniel said, looking intently at the device and turning the question over in his mind. "That depends on what meaning you want. The word is derived from Greek, but some of the roots entered this language through..." He paused, trying to remember the correct word. Lingua latina. Oh--"...Latin. Or derivatives of Latin. But the function of the object is..." He couldn't think of what its function was, so he teased the word apart into sphygmos and manos and metron, combined that with the inexplicable intuitions he had about things around him, and said, "To measure...the pressure? Or how...strong the pulse is."
Janet was still smiling. "That's wonderful. Now I'm sure Daniel Jackson is in there somewhere."
"Really?" he said, thinking that perhaps Daniel Jackson was a doctor if he knew about pulses.
"Really," she said. "Another question--you met SG-1 on the planet Vis Uban yesterday. Can you describe that meeting to me?"
"I was stopped by a group of men carrying weapons. They led me back to the main village, where the...the others recognized me, too. Anyway, Colonel...uh, Reynolds"--he paused until she nodded to say that was the right name--"said he didn't think I understood English, which I did, which is what Colonel O'Neill said. They said they knew me and didn't think it was a coincidence that we'd met there."
She was writing something down on a chart. "That's fine," she said. "Very good."
Daniel leaned over to see what she had written. "I could have just told you that the only memories I've lost are the ones from before I was found on Vis Uban, not after."
"If you had forgotten things from after that, you'd hardly be the most reliable source, now would you?" Janet answered, returning her pen to a pocket and putting the chart down, close enough that he could read it if he wanted to. He thought that was a deliberate decision. "But I think we can leave it at that for now. We'll go to radiology next. This way, please."
It was hours before he was declared fit. Janet admonished that this was in part because he had squirmed inside the brain-scanning machine while trying to see what it was doing to him, and then they had had to repeat the scan.
"Is anything wrong with me?" he asked when he was let out of the last machine, shaking his head to clear the ringing left by listening to strange, mechanical noises.
"Not in gross anatomy, that's for sure," she said, looking at a black-and-white film on the wall. "No, I'd guess there's nothing at all wrong with you, Mr. Jackson, at least not physically. I want to go over what we know so far, but keep in mind that there's a lot we don't know yet."
"All right," he agreed. He sat down.
" Now, one simple way of classifying memory is to divide it based on what type of information is encoded. You remember not only how to perform tasks and use different skills, but also some facts. That you can walk and talk and don't have any trouble with everyday motor skills means that your procedural memory is probably intact. Make sense?"
"Procedural," Daniel said, frowning. "You mean my body remembers, even though I don't remember learning it."
"That's one way to put it," Janet went on, setting down her charts and tools and slipping her hands into her pockets. "It's the kind of thing that seems automatic, that you don't have to think about to do. The other type of memory is called 'declarative memory,' things we remember consciously. Within that, we classify semantic memory--that is--"
"Meaning," he said. "That's what 'semantic' is, right? What things mean."
"Yes, that's right--facts, including those about the world around us. It's why you might...see an elevator, for instance, and know what the buttons do, or know the term 'sphygmomanometer' when you see the instrument."
"Elevator?" he echoed. The word was familiar, the way 'commanding officer' and 'concrete' and 'sphygomomanometer' were, like something he could grasp if only he reached a little more...
Janet raised an eyebrow. "Interesting. You didn't know that word the first time I met you, either. It's harder to judge certain things with you, since you didn't grow up around elevators, and they may not be as ingrained as they would be in an American-raised person. On the other hand, you remembered what a blood pressure cuff was on your own, so maybe, if you think hard..."
When she paused, Daniel thought about the word 'elevator,' which was obviously something that elevated or lifted things, and if it had to do with buttons that made it work--"Rings," he blurted, then frowned, not sure why the word conjured the image of a series of black metals rings. He tried to gesture with his hands. "It has something...there are rings that shine light inward. You push buttons on the wall to make them move."
"Rings that..." Janet repeated slowly, and then, "Rings. You...you remember transport rings?"
"No. Maybe," he said, confused now, because he could think of the series of rings but couldn't place it in context. "They move people to a higher or lower place," he tried. Then again...was it a set of round rings or a rectangular box with doors? Both of them felt right, somehow.
"Just like an elevator," Janet said, shaking her head. "Hm. I suppose one didn't necessarily seem stranger to you than the other. And that illustrates..." She stopped again, thinking.
"It's always hard to say what will happen to amnesia patients," she explained. "Your episodic memory--memories associated with specific experiences in context, or emotional associations, things that happened in your life--are apparently missing. In some cases, the patient never regains it. Others regain all of it. Some fall somewhere between those extremes."
"And for me?" Daniel said, apprehensive. As nervous as he had been about following people to a place they called his home, he wasn't ready to accept the possibility that he might never remember it.
"There's just so much we don't understand about what happened to you," Janet said. "If we're right about what happened, your retaking human form might have been quite a shock. What you're experiencing now may simply be a result of that trauma, and it may be fully reversible. Let's give it time, and if you're still having trouble with your memories, we'll run more detailed scans. In the meantime, over the next few days, I might have you come in for other simple tests."
"All right," he agreed. "So what should I do now?"
"Well, Colonel O'Neill's back," she said. "He's setting up your room."
There was something important about that sentence. "Why is he...?"
"He was keeping your things for you," she said. "He just went back to his house to get them."
"But everyone thought I was dead," he said.
"Well..." she said, a bit hesitantly, "that's...really between you and him. You can talk to him about it if you're wondering."
"Oh," he said. "Um...what's his name? Jack?"
"Ah...yes," Janet said. "You usually call him 'Jack.'"
"I keep wanting to call him something else," he confided.
"Like O'Neill?" she said.
"Like Jim," he admitted. "He seems like a Jim to me." Which made little to no sense once he thought about it, but he was starting to become used to that.
"Hm," she said, setting her hands on her hips and frowning at him. "Did you know someone named Jim?"
He raised his eyebrows. "I don't know."
"Right--of course," she said, shaking her head. "Well, anyway, it's 'Jack' to you. Oh, and one more thing..."
She handed him a pair of glasses, and he slid them on his face without thinking, blinking to let his eyes adjust. “Wow--I can see all the way over there,” he said, surprised. The man who was his brother was visible in an adjoining room through a small window. Janet was watching him, smiling again. She was the only one who seemed happy; everyone else seemed upset, and he didn't understand what it meant. "What?"
"You probably don't remember," she said softly, "but that's almost exactly what you said to me years ago, when I first handed you a pair of glasses. You were about as big as me back then."
Daniel opened his mouth, then closed it, unsure what to say.
"Don't worry," she said. "Give it time. Now, if you'll follow the airman down to your room, I need to check on your brother before he reinjures himself. Try to get some rest before you get back into the swing of things."
"Hey, glasses," O'Neill said when Daniel arrived. He tapped the glasses with a finger. Daniel stepped back, uncomfortable, and O'Neill put his hands into his pockets. "Recognize me now?"
Daniel looked around the room, but nothing looked familiar. He shook his head. "Um," he said, not wanting to say again that he still didn't recognize O'Neill. He slipped inside and picked up a slender chain that lay on top of a pile of clothes. Threaded onto the chain was a thin sliver of metal that was stamped with letters and numbers--including his own name, he saw, though it was written backwards as 'JACKSON DANIEL'--and surrounded by a strip of black rubber. An identical one hung from a shorter chain that, in turn, hung on the longer one.
When he turned around, Colonel O'Neill was staring at him, but the other man looked quickly away. "So, does this ring any bells?" he asked.
"No," Daniel said, wondering where he could have found bells. "What are all of these things?"
"Why don't you tell me?" O'Neill said, meeting Daniel's eyes again.
Daniel tried to think of something to say but couldn't, and, after a moment, O'Neill gave him a tight smile and walked back out. With a sigh, Daniel sat down on the bed. Tired after all the oddities of the day, he lay back as he looked around once more at the neatly placed objects in the room, wondering why it felt like he was the only thing here that didn't fit.
"Did you do the laundry!" Jack yelled from upstairs.
Daniel closed the lid of the machine. "Why do you ask!" he yelled back.
Muffled thumps sounded from overhead. "Where are you!"
Rolling his eyes, Daniel called, "Doing the laundry!"
Jack appeared at the top of the basement stairs. "Ah. That's where my clothes went," he said.
"Stop fighting me like I'm Teal'c," Sam said. "Look, you're gonna be too big not to take advantage of your size. Try that one again. I'm not holding back."
Without any more warning, she flew toward him. His body moved without thought, and they both ended up on the ground with her elbow on his throat. His arm stung where it hit the mat.
Sam slapped him once on the shoulder and stood. "Try again," she said.
"You can't catch me!" Dan'yel called breathlessly as he reached the top of a dune and slid quickly down the other side, rolling the rest of the way when he tripped. "I beat you!" he gasped, grinning and pushing himself back to his feet. He looked around, but no one was there. "Skaara?"
A quiet shuffle was his only warning before a pair of arms grabbed him from behind. "Caught you!"
Dan'yel squeaked in surprise and struggled, but Skaara was big and strong and held fast. "Evil tyrant," Dan'yel said, trying not to giggle. "You will not take my people!" One hand shifted to cover his eyes and Skaara turned around and around in circles until Dan'yel had no idea which way was which. "Ay--not fair..."
The hand lifted away, but before he could see anything, the arms spun him so that they were face-to-face, Dan'yel's feet dangling off the ground as Skaara held him in place. Skaara scowled. "I have captured a prisoner," he said, making his voice deep.
Suddenly, the world flipped over as Skaara's arm encircled his waist and hoisted him up. Draped upside-down over Skaara's shoulder, Dan'yel panted for breath and thumped his fists halfheartedly on his brother's back. "But I was being O'Neill," Dan'yel protested. "I was supposed to capture you."
"Perhaps when you are older," Skaara said,
"Well, Sha'uri will save me," he declared.
Skaara scoffed and continued walking up the dune. "The woman is not supposed to save the warrior, Dan'yel," he said.
"She could," Dan'yel said, twisting himself around as much as he could. "Papa says that Mama saved him in the Rebellion. And you never argue with Sha'uri."
"I argue with her."
"But you never win."
The world jiggled disconcertingly as Skaara jostled him gently. "When you are older," Skaara said in his best 'listen-to-me-because-I-am-your-elder' voice, "you will understand that sometimes it is best not to argue."
"You always say that," Dan'yel complained. "I am old enough to understand now."
"But not old enough to go this far from the village," Skaara scolded as they bounced their way down a dune. "Father will tell the Guards not to let you outside the walls again if he finds out."
Dan'yel made a face. "But I want to be an explorer. Ay, stop!" he added when Skaara tickled his foot. "Stop it, Skaara!"
"When you are older, you can explore," Skaara said, not relenting. Daniel tried unsuccessfully to curl away. "Until then, you will stop going farther than I say you can go."
Flopping back down, Dan'yel pinched Skaara's side as hard as he could. Skaara yelped and let go, sending Dan'yel flailing to the ground. He laughed and rolled over, then, seeing Skaara bending over him again, he scrambled to his feet, taking off toward the village gates.
"You will never escape me!" Skaara called, and obligingly gave chase.
Dan'yel ran and waited for the gates to appear like they were supposed to, because he had lived this day before, dozens of times before. Every time, he ran, and Skaara chased him, and he reached the village just barely out of Skaara's reach, and he cheered because he thought he'd beaten his big brother--
There was a gaping blackness stretching before him.
Daniel stopped and stared in confusion, wondering where the village had gone, but little Dan'yel ran on, Skaara behind, both of them shouting with laughter as they disappeared into the dark.
Daniel jerked awake with a gasp. The room was dark and cold, and he was wearing clothes that he barely remembered putting on. He was holding something in his hand--glasses--and he quickly slipped them on. He remembered his dreams here better when he woke, not like the vague feelings of dread and yearning that had often accompanied his sleep on Vis Uban. Still, he didn't understand most of it, and certainly not the one with Jack O'Neill, or with Sam.
The other, though, with his brother (whose name was Skaara)...that told him something useful.
Excited, he ran out of his room and found himself with a hand on the handle of another door a few rooms away. The door didn't open. Daniel stopped and realized he wasn't sure what door it was or why he was trying to open it.
Then there was a soft click, and the door swung open.
Teal'c stood in front of him. "Daniel Jackson," he said, looking surprised.
"Teal'c," Daniel said. "I don't... I just had a...a dream, and..."
He stopped. He had no idea why he was there. Teal'c was smiling, though, so perhaps Daniel Jackson had always been a person who barged into people's rooms unannounced in the middle of the night. It seemed impolite, but perhaps it was not in this culture. "I am pleased that you came to me," Teal'c said. "What is it you need?"
"Um. Actually, I was looking for Skaara. I don't know why I bothered you. You were probably...doing something?" he said, looking at the many candles around the room.
Teal'c tilted his head. "Since I have begun to use tretonin, I am unable to kelno'reem as I once did. You are not disturbing me."
"Oh," Daniel said stupidly. "You...what?"
"Would you like me to show you to Skaara's room?" Teal'c offered, stepping out.
Daniel inched backward when he realized he was blocking the doorway. "Okay," he said.
Skaara's room was just next door, one of the ones between Daniel's and Teal'c's. It was embarrassing to have roused one person to help him rouse another. "Maybe I should wait," he said nervously. "He might be sleeping."
"He hoped to speak with you yesterday," Teal'c said. "He will be pleased that you sought him out, and we will not stay long." Before Daniel could balk, he knocked softly on the door and pushed it open.
The person from the dream was lying on the bed, though he looked different now. Perhaps it was his undone hair that hung loose around his shoulders, or his clothing, or the tiredness in his face as he yawned and slowly sat up. "I'm sorry," Daniel said quickly. "You were sleeping. I'll go--"
"Dan'yel, no--stay," Skaara said, rubbing his eyes. He split the syllables of the name differently from most other people here and said the vowels differently. He had done so in the dream, too. Skaara patted the bed next to where he sat, shifting to one side. "Come here. What is wrong?"
Daniel bit his lip and looked back at Teal'c, then entered the darkened room and sat at the edge of Skaara's bed, turning so they were looking at each other. "Skaara," Daniel said, feeling excitement beginning to bubble up again.
"Yes?" Skaara said.
"Your name is Skaara," Daniel explained. "No one told me that. I...I had a dream, and I woke up, and I remembered. By myself."
Then it seemed silly, that he had woken someone to say that he knew a name. Still, Skaara grinned, so perhaps Teal'c had been right. "That is good to hear," he said.
"You're bigger than you were in my dream," Daniel said.
"So are you," Skaara said. "No?"
He must be--he didn't think Skaara could pick him up now, much less with one arm. "Who is Sha'uri?" he asked.
Skaara's smile flickered briefly and then returned. "My sister. Our sister."
Daniel tried to imagine her face and could not, though he had remembered her name in a dream--perhaps that meant he would remember more with time. "It was hot in my dream," he said. "There was a...a sun, and we weren't wearing these clothes. I was running and you were chasing me, but we were laughing. Where was that?"
Skaara looked just past him, where Teal'c was still standing in the doorway. "That was...our home. Abydos."
Abydos. He knew that word. His first thought was that he didn't want to think too hard about it, and that in itself confused him so that he found himself thinking more about it, until his mind was whirling dizzily and his head began to ache.
"Can I go there?" he said, turning to look at Teal'c, too, when he decided he was more curious than afraid of the memory. "Maybe I would remember something else."
Teal'c looked sad. So did Skaara. Daniel didn't know why people kept looking that way around him, except for Jonas, who looked only curious, and Jack, who usually looked annoyed.
"What is it?" Daniel said.
"We should speak of Abydos later," Teal'c said. "It will be difficult to understand now."
"Why? Isn't it my home? Why are we here instead of--"
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said a note of warning in his voice.
"I did something wrong?" he said, desperate to know. "Is that it?"
"We are not punishing you," Teal'c said, and looked unhappy again.
"Then why is this happening?" Daniel said.
"Dr. Fraiser told me that it would be best to let you remember by yourself," Skaara said. "Some of these things are difficult to understand without already knowing it on your own. There is too much to explain. I do not know how to explain."
Daniel started to stand, only to have Skaara's hand close around his wrist. "Don't," Skaara said, sounding just as frustrated as Daniel felt. "You can stay--talk. Perhaps it will help you remember."
But there was a light sheen of sweat gathering on Skaara's brow, and he was slumped where he sat. "You're hurt," Daniel said, remembering now that Dr. Fraiser had mentioned that.
"I am fine," Skaara said, tightening his grip, and Daniel felt a strangely familiar panic begin to well up along with his uncertainty. "We can talk, brother--whatever will help you."
It was Teal'c's hands that came between them. "Tomorrow," Teal'c said firmly, unmoved by Skaara's outraged expression. "You are in need of rest, Skaara."
And now Teal'c was holding his wrist, not tightly, but the grip was still impossible to escape. The air thickened around him, and he fought to breathe normally despite the sudden fear that surrounded him.
"Let go," Daniel said, transfixed with a terror he didn't understand, because he didn't think he should be afraid of either Teal'c or Skaara. "Let me go, let me go!"
Teal'c let go immediately. Daniel stumbled back toward the door, intensely alert, his heart pounding as if something were about to happen. Skaara and Teal'c were both staring at him.
Embarrassed, he clenched his fists at his sides when one hand tried to rub the other wrist. "I don't like being tied up," he muttered.
"Indeed you do not," Teal'c said, his tone strange. "No one was tying you up, Daniel Jackson."
But suddenly, he could imagine very clearly the feeling of having his hands held in a painful grip before his body, or perhaps bound to his sides, or perhaps his ankles in shackles or his whole body trapped somewhere and unable to escape whatever it was he was trying to escape. He didn't like not being able to escape. He took another step backward toward the door, where it was not as dark. "I don't...understand," he said.
Teal'c came toward him. "Later, you can spend time with Skaara," he said. "Not now."
"But I want to know," he said. "I don't even know what I'm afraid of."
"Not here," Teal'c said, walking still closer until Daniel backed up all the way out the door. "Wait for me--I will return shortly." Daniel found his eyes drawn to Skaara. "Tomorrow," Teal'c repeated. "When you have both rested."
The door closed, leaving Daniel outside and Teal'c inside with Skaara. There was a man in the hallway--there were always people in the hallways. Everyone said they were for safety and not to keep people trapped inside, and Daniel thought he believed it, but he also knew that they would stop him if he tried to escape.
"Mr. Jackson?" the man said politely when he had been staring too long.
"What?" Daniel said, sounding a little breathless to his own ears. He took a breath.
"Do you need something?"
Daniel didn't know the answer. He found he also didn't like not knowing simple things like whether or not he needed something.
"You don't remember me, I'm sure--I'm Senior Airman Banks," the man added.
"I'm Daniel," Daniel said nervously, then realized that Banks clearly knew his name already.
"Can I help you with anything?"
"I...I don't..." he said, lost. He wished Teal'c would come back.
Looking concerned, Banks took a step closer. Daniel took a step back and flinched when his back hit the door. He turned and was almost surprised to find a door and not bars.
"Mr. Jackson, are you all right?" the voice behind him said, and a hand touched his shoulder.
"Don't--" Daniel gasped, pulling violently away. Someone was laughing, but no one else was in the corridor. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to stop hearing it. Do not struggle, Dan'yel, a voice whispered, and laughed at him while he shrank back, and his head was trying to squeeze itself into pieces.
The door opened, and he jumped. "Airman," Teal'c said, shutting the door behind him. Banks nodded and returned to his post. "Daniel Jackson. Do you wish to talk more or return to your room until morning?"
Daniel stared at him. He knew instinctively that he should fear someone like Teal'c, who was very strong and moved like a fighter (and was trained to kill), but at the same time, he also thought that he should trust the other man implicitly. He didn't know how both could be true.
Teal'c stepped away, twice, slowly, and kept a wide distance. "You are safe here," he said, still sounding so calm that Daniel forced himself to breathe and try to quash the thoughts he didn't recognize flitting through his mind. "Is there somewhere else you would prefer to go?"
"I don't know," Daniel said.
Finally, Teal'c nodded, as if coming to a decision, then said, "Have you been shown to the archaeology office?"
Teal'c let him inside the office and walked past to open the door on the far side, so that both of the doorways stood wide open. Daniel stood still in the middle of the room because he didn't know what he was supposed to do. Teal'c returned, closer but still not close enough to touch.
"I'm sorry," Daniel said. He still didn't know why he kept apologizing, except that it felt like he should for...something. Sometimes, the only thing he was sure of was that he had done something wrong, whatever it was.
"Do you feel unwell?" Teal'c said.
He cleared his throat. "Um," he said, and despite the fact that he was still trembling minutely without knowing why he was so alert, he said, "Why do you ask?"
"You appeared distressed," Teal'c said. Daniel's eyes darted toward the doors, but there was a clear path to either--or both--of them. "Was it the memory of being restrained?"
"I don't know!" he said for the hundredth, thousandth time since waking up and not knowing who he was. Wok tah, someone growled in his mind, and a noise just outside made him jump. His back hit the desk this time, and he forced himself to remember that there were always people walking around outside but it didn't really mean anything bad. "Yes, uh...I guess it might have been that. I really...don't like the idea of being...restrained."
"You were first brought to Earth as a victim of Goa'uld cruelty," Teal'c said. "I believe we began your initial training in part because you feared being held or controlled in such a way again."
"Oh," Daniel said. "Did it work?"
Teal'c tilted his head, as if considering how to answer. "You have indeed been captured several more times, but you have learned enough to survive and to escape your captors."
Daniel didn't find that very comforting. He squeezed his eyes shut and placed his hand firmly on the desk to remind himself this was a safe place, not one of the incomprehensibly terrifying memories his mind was trying to recall.
When he opened his eyes again, Teal'c hadn't moved. "Would you prefer Colonel O'Neill's presence to mine?" Teal'c asked.
"No!" Daniel said, aggravated that everyone knew so much about him and that they all assumed he must know all of it, too. "What...why would I prefer that?"
"Jonas?" a voice said from outside. He turned and saw Sam yawn as she peered inside the office. "What are you still doing...Daniel! I heard voices, and I assumed..."
She stopped. Daniel found that his hands were clenched tightly around the edge of the desk. He didn't let go--he wasn't sure he could--but he did make the effort to stand straighter. He could feel his heart pounding, and the surging feeling that had come with the trembling before had now heightened to something at once calmer and more ready to act.
"What's going on?" Sam said, looking at Teal'c.
"Do we fight a lot?" Daniel asked her, calling the snippet of his dream back to mind.
She looked surprised. "You and me? Uh...no, not really. I mean, we...disagreed sometimes. Debated plenty of things."
"But we didn't...hit each other?" he said.
"What? No! We'd never," she said, her eyes wide. She looked again to Teal'c, who seemed just as nonplussed. "Daniel, what...?"
Daniel peeled one hand away from the desk to rub the back of his neck. "I think I'm losing my mind," he said. "Not that there seems to be much to lose."
"No, no," she said, shaking her head. "You might just be remembering events without knowing what they mean. Context, remember, you're always saying--" She stopped again. He pressed his lips together and didn't answer. "Okay. Um. So you...remember the two of us fighting?"
"Fighting next to each other or against?" she pressed. "Were we angry?"
"We were trying to hit each other."
She frowned. "I'm sure it was a more complicated situation than can explained by a simple 'we were trying to hit each other.'"
"I don't know," he repeated.
"Do you still have the memory in mind?" she said. "We were trying to hurt each other? Had something just happened?"
"I don't...think we were angry," Daniel said. "You...uh...told me not to fight like you were Teal'c?"
Her mouth formed an O, and then she grinned, turning to a relieved-looking Teal'c. Daniel didn't think it was fair that they should understand his mind and be relieved by it when he was still confused and holding onto the desk. "We were training, Daniel," she said. "We weren't trying to harm each other."
There it was again--the idea of training. "Is that what we do, you and I?" Daniel asked. "Train?"
Sam shook her head. "We mostly worked together in the lab or in the office. We did run drills as a unit, but Teal'c and Colonel O'Neill did most of the one-on-one training with you. I just like you to practice against other people sometimes."
"Why?" he said.
"So...that...if you got in a fight with someone off-world who doesn't move like Teal'c or the colonel, your chances of winning would be better," she said.
"But I don't want to fight anyone," Daniel said, starting to feel unaccountably anxious again.
Sam didn't seem to know what to say to that, and, looking at her expression, Daniel knew he'd said something wrong again. She recovered quickly, though, and said, "What's that you're looking for?"
Surprised, he looked down at his hand, where it had slid a desk drawer open of its own accord. "It's empty," Daniel said, glancing into the drawer.
"You kept a zat'nik'tel in that drawer," Teal'c spoke up. "It is a Goa'uld handheld weapon that--"
"I know what a zat'nik'tel is," Daniel said before he could fully consider the fact that he did, in fact, know what the weapon was. Had he been reaching for it? If it had been subconscious, did that mean that a part of him felt Sam and Teal'c were threats? Or did his horror at the mere idea mean the opposite? Was there a part of him that reacted to fear by reaching for a weapon, or did his uneasiness at that mean the opposite?
"A lot of us like to keep a weapon close at hand," Sam explained, almost nervously. "For emergencies when there's no time to get to an armory. I don't think you started doing it until your last year or so--Dr. Rothman was uncomfortable with weapons in the lab."
Daniel carefully slid the drawer closed. He didn't know who Dr. Rothman was or why the man's--or woman's?--opinion had mattered. "I don't want to shoot a weapon," he said.
Sam nodded. "I know. You never wanted to if you thought there was another choice. That's part of what made your view so valuable to us."
So that meant that, for some reason, he had thought it necessary to fight people--maybe to hurt them, or kill them. He tried to imagine that now and couldn't. "What was so important that I thought there was no other choice?"
They exchanged another look. "What do you remember of the Goa'uld?" Teal'c said.
Daniel flinched, but there was nothing to flinch from. "Nothing."
"Are you sure?" Sam said, narrowing her eyes. "If just hearing the word--"
"I'm sure!" he insisted, and he was being honest, too. If he did remember it, his memory wasn't telling him anything except that he was supposed to be bothered by the idea. "I'm not lying."
"We have been fighting the Goa'uld," Teal'c said. "I believe that, until you remember about their race, you cannot understand our motivations, or even your own."
"Then tell me," he said, wanting to know and wanting to hide under one of the desks at the same time. No one had talked of Goa'uld and fighting on Vis Uban.
"I have a better idea," Sam said. She walked past him to the bookshelf and took down a book. "You can tell yourself."
"What's this?" Daniel said, cautiously accepting the book when she held it out to him.
"That's one of your journals," she said. "Jonas reorganized them in chronological order when he was studying, and this is the first. Not everything in there has to do with the Goa'uld, but...well, we might as well start at the beginning, right?"
"Mm-hm," he said. He opened the book.
"Do you want to sleep first?" she said. "Start reading in the morning?"
"No," he said.
The sound of quiet whispers reached his ears, but he didn't look away from what he was reading. "Actually...on second thought, maybe you should remember things on your own," Sam said, louder. "Without forcing yourself, I mean. What do you think?"
Daniel had messy, though legible, handwriting. He often wrote in more than one language at a time or used more than one writing system, but that made sense--some concepts were easier and quicker to express in one language than in another. It was difficult to capture all and only the correct meaning with a translation, so if these books were his personal notes, there was no reason to risk losing information with a translation of some things, like...like lo'taur or sinu or delmak. It was hard to explain words like that in a different language without excessive explanation.
When he looked up, about to ask what the question had been because he hadn't really been paying attention, Sam and Teal'c were coming back into the room, although he didn't remember their having left in the first place.
"Daniel," Sam said, "Teal'c says you've been having mild flashbacks tonight."
"Having what?" Daniel said.
"Perhaps you did not know precisely what you were remembering," Teal'c said, "but it disturbed you greatly."
Daniel glanced at Sam, who was chewing her lip, and said, "But I need to remember things, right? Shouldn't...flashbacks be good?"
"Well, they can be intense," Sam said. "You've already remembered little things on your own--words, objects around you--and you might be able to ease back into life here more smoothly if you let the rest come back in its own time, too. There are things in your memories that might be...a little upsetting if they hit you all at once."
"I don't want 'slowly,'" Daniel said. "I want to know what's going on."
He didn't look up from reading his journal, but it was a long time before anyone answered. Finally, she said, "You would. We'll stay with you, then. You can sit down, you know."
Daniel sat, still reading.
"I meant on a chair," Sam said, looking down at him on the floor, but for some reason, she seemed to be suppressing a smile now, so he supposed it was a good thing.
It wasn't until Sam fell asleep on the couch that Daniel realized guiltily that it was still apparently nighttime, so he had been keeping them awake. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, looking at Teal'c.
"You do not have to apologize," Teal'c said, looking sad again, which made Daniel want to apologize again. Suddenly, a face that had seemed almost ageless in its infinite composure seemed tired, and Daniel found he didn't like it when Teal'c looked like that.
"I did something wrong," he said with certainty. "I can feel it. I did something, and now you're all unhappy all the time."
"You often spoke of the rules to which you were subjugated while on the higher plane of existence," Teal'c said. "We believe you were punished for defying those rules in order to help us. For that, we should be grateful to you."
"But I don't remember it," Daniel said. "You do."
"That is most certainly not your fault," Teal'c said.
"Yes it is--you just said it was."
"In no way do we fault you for it," Teal'c amended.
"I knew Colonel O'Neill very well," he said. "Right? According to everyone, I mean, although I haven't seen him since he left me in my room and"--Sam stirred. Daniel took a breath and waited for her to settle back again. "Never mind," he said more quietly.
"You did not seem eager to talk to him on Vis Uban," Teal'c observed.
Because I don't know what he wants, Daniel thought. He knew it was unreasonable, though--he couldn't have it both ways. "Nothing makes sense," he confided, "but the things I think I remember about...O'Neill make even less sense."
Teal'c smiled faintly. "The bond that exists between you and O'Neill makes little sense to most," he said, "though the same could be said for us."
"But you're easier," Daniel said without really knowing what he was saying. "You're safe."
Looking surprised, Teal'c stopped smiling and said, "I would never wish you to feel otherwise in my presence, but there are matters in our past that you would do well to understand first. As for O'Neill, perhaps if you spoke with him--"
"Well, it's not like I know where to find people if I do want to ask questions," he pointed out. Besides, he had the feeling that Jack O'Neill didn't want him to ask questions to which he should have known the answers already.
But Teal'c raised an eyebrow, and Daniel realized that he had, in fact, found Teal'c in his quarters without anyone's help, even without knowing he was doing it at the time. It might have been an accident, though logic and something much deeper than logic told him it had been intentional, at least a little. Teal'c didn't mention that, though, and said, "O'Neill may have forgotten that you do not know your way inside the SGC. Do not worry. I am confident you will remember again."
Daniel nodded. "Can I ask you something? You mentioned a word before--something about...te...tonin-something?"
Suddenly, Teal'c sat a little straighter and looked more intent. "Tretonin," he said.
"I don't know that word," Daniel said. He had been keeping track of the words he did and did not know.
Teal'c's hand moved toward his stomach. The weary, uncertain expression returned, briefly, before it disappeared again. "Do you know what a Jaffa is, Daniel Jackson?"
"You're one," Daniel said, pointing at his notebook. "I wrote about Jaffa. Your name came up."
Looking hesitant, Teal'c asked, "May I assume...that you do not remember speaking with me in a hospital about donating--" The answer must have been clear in Daniel's face, because Teal'c stopped.
"I don't remember," Daniel said apologetically. "Was it important?"
Teal'c smiled gently. "Indeed," he said quietly. "It meant more to me than you can imagine."
"But more important still is that you have returned now."
"I wish I remembered," Daniel said. "About the tretonin, and more about Jaffa, and... I really wish I did. But."
"Do not concern yourself--I can explain it to you. Tretonin is the drug that I--and Bra'tac, a friend of ours--use to replace the symbiote that normally sustains a Jaffa."
Daniel sucked in a breath as a sense of choking hopelessness flooded over him.
"Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c said, looking worried.
"Tek'ma'tae?" Daniel said.
Teal'c's eyebrow rose. "You remember?"
"What?" Daniel said. The feeling disappeared. He shook his head. "Sorry. Go on."
19 May 2003; SGC, Earth; 0800 hrs
"Hi, guys," Jonas said from the doorway of the office, raising his eyebrows when he saw the three of them there.
Daniel blinked at him. "Hello," he said. "Do you want us to leave?"
Jonas glanced away from him and took in Sam and Teal'c, scrunched tightly together on the small couch in the only way they had fit without one of them falling off. "No, no, that's okay," he said. "It...it's your office, anyway."
"Really?" Daniel said, wondering how he had managed not to pick that up yesterday.
Jonas smiled, looking cheerful rather than sympathetic like the others. "Yeah," he said. "So...did I miss a party in here last night?"
"I told them to go to bed. They said not to be by myself, but I didn't know where else I was supposed to be. And I couldn't remember how to go back to my room," he admitted. "This place is...big."
Teal'c opened his eyes then, but didn't get up, perhaps because it would have woken Sam. Instead, he sighed resignedly and raised an eyebrow at them. He didn't look annoyed, though, which somehow made Daniel feel more guilty rather than less.
"Maybe I should just..." Daniel pointed out the door.
"You know what," Jonas said, bending to shake Sam's shoulder until she woke with a start and sheepishly released Teal'c's legs. "Why don't we let Sam and Teal'c go get ready to leave. I know this office pretty well--I can show you whatever you're looking for."
"Jonas," Sam said, rolling awkwardly off the couch. "Uh...good morning. Sorry for crashing in your office."
"Morning, Sam," Jonas said, still smiling. Daniel decided the man must smile more than anyone else on this planet. Then he wondered how big this planet was, because it was surely much bigger than this one base. "And Teal'c. If you're gonna catch the wormhole back to Vis Uban, you probably need to go get ready."
"You're not coming with?" she said.
Jonas held up a small, thin rectangle and slotted it into something that connected to his computer. Disk, Daniel's mind supplied. Memory card. "The general told me to go over what the UAV picked up yesterday, so..." Jonas said. Both of them looked hesitant. "Don't worry; we'll be fine," he added. Daniel didn't move, because he wasn't sure what part he was supposed to be playing here. Everyone played a role in everything, and it was important to know what that role was in order to know how to change it--that much, he remembered.
Either way, both Sam and Teal'c left, leaving Daniel sitting at Jonas's feet with his fifth notebook in his hands.
"So, uh..." Jonas said, scratching his head. "If you don't mind sharing with the office pets, you can use the desk, you know. That one used to be yours."
"Okay," Daniel said, standing up and wincing when several joints clicked.
"Wow," Jonas said, eyeing him as he stretched, then sat down at the computer. "Were you sitting there all night?"
"Mm-hm," he said, yawning and sitting back down into a chair. There was a container full of water on the desk, with two ahbidju swimming around inside, so he carefully set the journal down in front of it.
Daniel's vision was starting to become fuzzy. He wiped his glasses on his jumpsuit, blinked hard, and tried to focus again. Finally, he decided to take a break and set the journal down, folded his arms on the desk, and watched the water ripple in the tank in front of him.
The smell was almost overwhelming--blood, sweat, metal, singed leaves, burnt flesh.
Daniel heard footsteps. He turned and shot the two men he could see, not stopping when he heard their screams because it was only two more among many others. He raised a hand to his radio. "Sam, he's not here," he said.
"Here, either," her voice answered him through the radio. "He must've taken Tyler--whoever it was--into hiding."
"Major Carter, I have found their tracks," another voice said.
"Daniel, fall back to Teal'c," the first voice said.
"On my way," Daniel said. One wounded man on the ground stirred and started to rise. Daniel shot him again and ran.
He woke with a start and promptly bumped his head on something hard.
"Ah--whoops," Jonas said, and Daniel slowly sat up to see the other man holding the container steady with his hands as water sloshed gently inside it. "You okay there?"
Daniel swallowed and fixed his skewed glasses. "Sorry--I hit your...ahbidju...uh, pisk..." He stopped, bemused. "I can't remember the word."
"Fish?" Jonas said.
Flushing, Daniel nodded. "Right. Fish. Box."
"Actually, it's, uh--"
"Tank," Daniel corrected himself as the right word came to mind. He shook his head, exasperated. "For crying out loud. Fish tank."
Jonas's jaw fell open a little bit, and he asked, "Would it be weird if I asked to record everything you say, just so I can show it to people later?"
"Uh," Daniel said.
"Yeah, that'd be weird," Jonas said. "Never mind. You okay?"
"Yeah. Sorry. I fell asleep."
He received a grin in return. "They can be kinda hypnotic, huh?" Jonas said lightly. "Sometimes I watch them swim around in circles when I can't sleep."
Hypnotic, Daniel thought. Hypnos, god of sleep, father of Morpheus, god of dreams. "I had a dream," he said. Was it normal for dreams to be so vivid? On Vis Uban, he'd barely remembered them at all, and now he couldn't close his eyes without watching something play out. Sam said they worked together in a lab--why couldn't he dream of that, instead of hearing her voice give him orders on a blood-streaked field?
Jonas's eyebrows rose. He looked out the doors, then said, "You did? Uh..." He cleared his throat. "About...like...a memory?"
Daniel closed his eyes and thought of holding a gun in his hands and, even though he didn't remember ever seeing one close up, he was sure he knew where every piece fit into every groove. "I sort of hope not," he said. "But I think so."
"Okay," Jonas said, suddenly sounding unsure for the first time Daniel could remember since meeting him. "Um. The rest of SG-1 has already left"--Daniel looked at the clock to find that it was early afternoon--"but...if you want to talk about it, I'd be happy to...but obviously, since I...well..." He trailed off.
"They told me I was a good person," Daniel said.
"Yeah, I've heard that, too," Jonas said, laughing uncomfortably.
Shame began to mingle with the confusion that hung perpetually over him. "I was killing people. I think I did...some bad things."
"Oh," Jonas said. Daniel looked at the floor, not sure how he was supposed to reconcile everything he'd heard and remembered. Then again, maybe the two weren't completely reconcilable. A dead person might be remembered for specific positive traits more than for who he had actually been--what people told him might not be completely fair or accurate, especially if they were trying to be nice.
There was a small, creaking noise. Daniel was still looking downward and saw the other chair tip back very slightly on two legs, then settle again. When he looked up, Jonas was staring at him curiously. "What is it?" Daniel said.
Jonas quickly looked away, scratching his head. "I got so used to the idea of you as...you know, as Daniel Jackson of SG-1."
"I'm...not?" Daniel said cautiously.
"No, you are. I meant...someone not really real. I guess I just...never expected you to be..." Jonas gestured at him. "You're younger than I imagined. Which is bizarre, because your age is sort of part of the legend; I just never pictured..."
"I'm not a legend," he said immediately, because the idea of that was worrisome. It was bad enough that everyone else knew so much about him without adding in the complication of those kinds of false expectations.
"Yeah," Jonas said quietly. Then, he pulled his chair closer to Daniel's desk and leaned forward slightly. "Okay, I didn't know you," he said. "But I do know that our job is to defend. Sometimes it requires force."
Daniel thought of the man on the ground he'd shot in the dream without a second thought--a split second of warning, and then bang--who probably wouldn't have reached a weapon before Daniel could get away. He hadn't even hesitated. "I don't think it was all in defense," he said. "It was like...I just wanted them to get out of my way." And to do what? To find something--someone? To kill someone else?
"We're at war," Jonas said, wincing slightly. "Every time we're out there, we're trying to advance a larger goal that's bigger than we are. Defense can mean something...a little different, I think, when you're trying to defend a lot of other people instead of just yourself."
"For the latter, you don't kill unless you're in immediate danger," Daniel thought aloud. "For the former, you make a rational decision that it's acceptable--that it's the better choice."
Jonas swallowed. "I haven't been directly involved in a battle--other than running, getting captured, or setting plastique from a distance. And a few times, I just happened to miss the action--like, there was this time with a tumor that..." He stopped. "The point is, I'm not sure I've actually killed anyone before, but a lot of the people I look up to around here have done so. It's part of the job. It doesn't make you a bad person in and of itself."
"That makes sense," Daniel said, because it did, as much as a war could make sense. It was all very logical, and at the same time, the memory of fresh blood on a battlefield--there was a very distinctive smell to it, he remembered--made him want to feel sick. "Could you do it?"
"Kill someone, face to face?" Jonas said. "I'd like to think I'd pull the trigger, yeah. I mean, not that I'd like it. But if I had to, and I was staring down a staff weapon..."
"Yeah," Daniel said, but that wasn't it, either. What Jonas was talking about was literal ability or perhaps the possibility of freezing in the middle of a fight. What Daniel wanted to know was whether the instinct to kill and not be killed was the same as shooting a man who might or might not pose a direct threat--like the man in his dream. Daniel had certainly seemed able to kill him.
"If it helps, when you were alive--the, uh, first time--you were well-known for loudly protesting violent measures when you thought there was a better option," Jonas added.
It did help, actually, a little. "You know more about me than I know about myself," Daniel said, feeling odd, "and you didn't even know me."
Jonas shrugged. "We met once, sort of. And people compared me to you--human alien who finally got onto SG-1 with a knack for languages..." He looked over his shoulder, then lowered his voice. "To be honest, the team was...touchy at first, after you died. I had to find out more."
"Oh," Daniel said. He looked down at his notebook, then closed it and asked, "Can I have the next one?"
"How did I die?" Daniel asked a few minutes later.
"What--don't tell me no one's told you," Jonas said.
Daniel huffed. "Most of them seem to think reading mission reports is too traumatic for me."
"To be fair, I found some of them a little traumatic, and I didn't live them," Jonas said.
His display of nervousness last night probably hadn't helped, either. But... "I still want to know," Daniel said. "I have to know, Jonas."
"Well..." Jonas glanced out the doors, as if making sure no one was there, then said, "I guess that's fair. Okay. You know about the Goa'uld by now, right? The System Lords?" Daniel nodded, listening carefully and hoping something would sound familiar. "They were meeting to discuss a mutual threat. You got in disguised as a slave to one of the Goa'uld so that you could release a poison once everyone was there. It would've taken out all the System Lords at once."
"I'm a spy and an assassin," Daniel said, surprised at the thought and not a little dismayed. "And not a very good one, apparently, since there are still System Lords and I died."
"Well, no. Anubis wasn't at the meeting, and if you'd released the poison, it would've handed victory to him. So you escaped and found SG-1 trapped on a planet that was being attacked by Zipacna, one of Anubis's lieutenants. You, uh...let yourself be captured to get close enough and then released the poison and killed all the guards to let SG-1 escape, but you were fatally wounded, and an ally named Selmak was killed."
("I can save him," Selmak said.)
Daniel closed his eyes against the wave of guilt that crashed against him, then determinedly opened them again before the memory of being beaten on the ground could take over his thoughts completely. "Did you just remember something?" Jonas said.
"No," Daniel lied, then, as he waited for the phantom pain to subside, he amended, "Not much. I think I killed him."
"Selmak," Jonas said, looking curious. "Yeah, in a way, but no one faults you for it. Selmak's old host--the man closest to him--comes by sometimes, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't think badly of you. So you...you remember it?"
("I'll be fine," he said into the ship's radio as he held the vial loosely in his fist. "I've got a secret weapon, remember?")
Daniel rubbed his eyes, knowing he should feel encouraged but only able to feel disturbed. "Some." His last act had been to kill many people, including an ally. How could he be someone like that? "Are all of your missions like that? I don't remember being scared."
"That sort of thing happens sometimes, yeah," Jonas said. "You'd survived missions just about as dangerous many times before. And...you probably told yourself you'd make it because no sane person would do something like that otherwise."
"I'm starting to get the idea I wasn't all that sane," Daniel said. Jonas smiled, thinking it was a joke, but Daniel said, "No, really, I think I remember being...quite insane."
"Oh...well, that's possible, too. The SGC has faced its share of mind-altering substances and technology. You've probably been affected by some of that before."
Daniel put his head in his hands and laughed, not sure whether it was hysterically funny or just crazy. He couldn't believe he'd actually wanted this job, though his notebooks made it very clear that he had. When he finally looked up again, Jonas looked concerned--perhaps for his sanity--so he made an effort to control himself. "I'm not making a very good impression, am I?" he said. "This is all just so absurd."
"Hey," Jonas said, "your real first impression was pretty absurd, too. Impressive, though."
"That must be the...with Anubis...?"
"Nope. There was one time before that. I didn't actually see you, but I think Sam did, and it was common knowledge you'd been involved. Selmak's old host had blended with another Tok'ra symbiote, and that one's old host got...he...uh..."
Jonas trailed off. Daniel wondered what his expression looked like just then. He suspected that 'bewildered' wasn't strong enough of a word.
"You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you," Jonas said.
"Sorry," Daniel said. "I've barely gotten to the Tok'ra in the reports."
"Don't worry about it," Jonas said with a friendly smile. "It's a lot to take in." He pushed himself back to the other desk. He nudged his computer off the screensaver--the image on the screen was now a stone from Vis Uban--but then said to Daniel, "I'm from a place called Kelowna. There was an experiment with a bomb that killed a lot of people and set off a chain reaction that pretty much destroyed the planet. I came to Earth, hoping the SGC could help when I realized my people weren't going to see reason."
"Oh," Daniel said. "Um...I'm sorry to hear that."
"Your notes were the first thing that told us the experiment was going to go wrong. It probably saved my life. I would've been right there otherwise, in the way. So that's part of why your name was just about the first thing I learned about this place."
"But I was dead," Daniel said. "I wasn't even in this place."
"Yeah," Jonas said, wrinkling his brow. "Actually, now that I think about it, that was sort of an invasion of privacy, since I've read pretty much everything about you except the really personal stuff that Colonel O'Neill packed away. I thought you were dead. Uh, sorry. I can give you my notes, though, when you get there--they pick up shortly after you Ascended."
"Thanks--and I don't mind your reading my notes," he said, holding up a journal. "I'm reading them, too. Is that why everyone seems to know so much about me?"
Jonas shrugged. "Word travels fast in a small, secret community, especially when you live in it. And most mission reports are open to other personnel, because people need to know the kinds of things that happen on missions in order to learn from them. We try to keep personal details out, but sometimes those details are mission-essential, or they're not hard to piece together."
"So everyone knows everything about everyone," Daniel summarized, a little daunted.
"In a way, but details are still colored by perspective, so take everything with a little caution." He shrugged again. "Which means you can ask pretty much anyone if you're wondering about anything, and you'll get some sort of answer, at least."
"But they all want me to be him," Daniel said, frustrated. "I'm..." He sighed, then confided, "It's nice to talk to someone who only knows me from records, because that's all I know of me."
Jonas grinned. "Well, I can imagine how that might be...difficult. But I'm sure other people would welcome it if you wanted to talk to them. In fact, once you get your memory back, you're going to rejoin SG-1, right?"
Surprised, Daniel said honestly, "I...hadn't thought about that. Do you want me?"
Jonas looked just as surprised in turn. "I meant in place of me."
"Why would I replace you?" Daniel said.
"It was your spot to begin with," Jonas said. "I've been the replacement for your replacement over the last half year or so--a lot of what I do has foundations in what you helped to pioneer."
"I'm not sure the rest of the team would--"
"Oh, I'm pretty sure they would," Jonas said, his cheery expression slipping for a brief moment before it returned.
Daniel frowned. "I barely know what's going on. I--I don't...I'm not--"
"You know what," Jonas said, "you're probably right. It's a little soon, huh? We can work that out later." He gave another quick smile and turned back to his computer.
"Can I at least help?" Daniel said, looking at the screen. "It seems I don't like being useless."
"Do you, uh...no offense, but can you help?" Jonas asked.
"Well, I understand that," Daniel said, squinting at the writing on the stone in the picture. "It's pretty clear what that says."
"Very funny," Jonas said, and then, "You--you're not joking. Wait, really?"
"Really. It's...actually very intricate," Daniel said, intrigued. He skimmed over the writing he could see, then added, "It's a fable, right? But if you stretch the metaphors just a little, all together it's basically a historical record buried in the specific word choice itself. It's very clever, actually--you'd need to know the language really well to get the subtleties."
When he finally tore his eyes away from the image, Jonas's mouth was open.
"What?" Daniel said.
"You can read this?" Jonas said, jabbing a finger at his computer. "That easily?"
"Sure--I don't seem to have forgotten any of the languages I spoke."
"No, no, Daniel," Jonas said, shaking his head, "you don't understand. You didn't speak this language. I mean, you probably knew more about it than anyone here, but you heard it spoken once and pieced everything else together through guesses based on derivations and logic...or, at least, that was what I'd always assumed. Are you saying you actually understand this now, just by looking at it?"
Daniel looked back at the screen. "Are you sure?" he said doubtfully. "I'm not making this up. Like...the city where you found me was only partially completed, yes? That slab there, to the...uh...left, marks a date when they stopped construction on that particular part of the city, and the larger one on the other side is a warning of the illness spreading throughout--"
"That's amazing," Jonas breathed.
"The main stone is more interesting, really," Daniel said. "It talks of another home and the battles that have been fought there. Somewhere far away. Uh...and lessons learned, which is the fable-like part."
"Wow," Jonas said. "It took me all morning to figure out just bits of it."
"I don't know how to explain it," Daniel said. "I just...looked at it, and I know what it says."
Jonas gaped at him. "Wait here," he said, standing quickly and holding a hand out. "Just...wait, I'll be right back."
As Daniel watched, bemused, Jonas rushed out of the office.
Then he rushed back with an armful of books. He set the first down in front of Daniel and said, "Read this line. Uh, the part not in English, right here."
Daniel looked down--Jonas was covering part of the page with one hand, but the rest of it was still visible. It took him a moment to figure out what language it was, much less what it said. "Is this...Sanskrit?"
"Yes," Jonas said. "Classical."
"I don't think I know very much Sanskrit," he said after some thought. "If I had a dictionary, I think maybe I could work it out, with time--"
"You've read this one, right, Panini?" Jonas said, flipping the book closed so that Daniel could see Ashtadhyayi written on the cover. "From your notes, I assume you read it more as a study of early grammatical theory than as a primer on this language, so that's consistent. Now this one."
He sighed but obediently looked, then said, "It's...East Asian. Something. Um. Hanzi characters? No, I don't know what that says--" The book was whipped away and replaced. "This is Egyptian Arabic, that's easy. And Greek, ancient--yes, I can read those. And this...Jonas, I wrote this--of course I can read it. What is this, a test?"
Jonas grinned and gathered all the books away. "Yeah. Come with me."
"Mr. Quinn...and Mr. Jackson," General Hammond said when they appeared in the doorway to his office. "What's going on?"
"Daniel can read Ancient," Jonas said. "Fluently."
The general frowned. "He was the closest person we had to an expert on the Ancient language. I know that he sometimes makes it seem as though--"
"No, no, it's not just that," Jonas interrupted, then added, "Sorry, sir, but I mean he can really read it. Unless his notes heavily downplayed the progress he'd made before Ascending...well, this is new. I tried a few other languages he didn't know before, and I think it's just Ancient."
The general looked at Daniel. "Seriously," Daniel said, still confused, "this is that big of a deal? There were things written in that language--uh, 'Ancient'--all over lots of things on the planet where you found me."
"It's also," Jonas said, "all over the tablet that led us to Vis Uban and, therefore, to you."
"Okay, well, that's...a coincidence," Daniel said, holding up a hand. "I can also read several other languages that had nothing to do with finding me."
"But the ability to read those other languages isn't something you apparently gained while residing on another plane of existence," the general said. Daniel bit his lip before he could say aloud that he was starting to feel like a puzzle that people were trying to solve and didn't appreciate that others seemed to be better at solving it than he was.
"Look, think about it," Jonas said. "One of the last things you told us while Ascended was about the Ancients."
"I haven't gotten there yet," Daniel said. "I don't know what the Ancients are."
"Well, we don't know a whole lot, either, but we just found out that before they Ascended, they left behind a city of the lost where they might have kept something we can use as a weapon. You were the one who told us that finding the city was more important than anything."
"City of the...lost," Daniel echoed. The phrase didn't mean anything to him, and it didn't really sound right, either.
"In fact," Jonas said, "there were two other devices that you thought were worth risking whole planets for, and you still said that the Ancient city of the lost was more important than those. Then we finally found the place where we're hoping to find Ancient technology, and you were there, able to read Ancient."
Daniel found both of them staring at him again. "I don't know what you want me to say," he said.
This time, the general turned expectantly to Jonas. "You might know something else, too," Jonas said. "In terms of languages, we'd need a few simple tests just to establish your baseline--"
"Tests?" Daniel repeated. The general's eyes flicked toward him, but Jonas seemed too excited to notice and went on.
"--but maybe you knew the secrets that you wanted us to find there. If nothing else, it would help the mission on Vis Uban if we had someone who can read the language easily. It took me two weeks to decipher enough of the tablet to find Vis Uban, even with the start your notes gave me. And you looked at a slab in a picture and knew what it said in two seconds."
"Mr. Quinn," the general said, "I understand, but I'm not sure that's the best idea."
"What? But sir..." Jonas started.
"Mr. Jackson has just barely returned from the city of the lost," the general said. "This soon, I'm not sure it's fair to--"
"Wait--wait a minute," Daniel said, "you think Vis Uban is the place where the Ancients put all their most advanced technology?"
Jonas looked surprised. "Well, its name does mean...'city of, uh...'"
"...of power," Daniel finished. "Yes."
"Right," Jonas said, furrowing his brow. "I can't imagine it's a coincidence that you desperately wanted us to find the city, and then we used the tablet you pointed out to us to find it and found you. In the Ancient 'city of power.' After you'd just left the company of the Ascended Ancients. There's just too much coincidence there."
"Well, maybe, but the Ancients could have had plenty of powerful cities and Vis Uban could have been one of them before it was abandoned," Daniel said. "I just don't think you're looking in the right place."
Now, the general leaned forward. "Why do you say that?"
"I don't know," Daniel said, confused himself. "I...just know that Vis Uban isn't the planet you're looking for. Can I see that tablet and your translation?"
"Well, it's classified," Jonas said, turning to the general, "which is why I wanted to ask permission to show you. But...maybe I was a little overenthusiastic."
"It's up to you, Mr. Jackson," the general said to Daniel. "I wouldn't force you to work before you're fully able to understand what that entails."
"I thought it just entailed reading a tablet," Daniel said, deciding that apprehension about being tested wasn't as important as his curiosity just now. "I can read. Can I read?"
The general looked at Jonas. "He can read," Jonas offered, looking like he was trying to look less excited and mostly failing.
"Fine," the general finally said. "Go and take a look."
19 May 2003; SGC, Earth; 1900 hrs
"All right," Jack said, feeling a headache beginning to build behind his eyeballs, "so let me get this straight. You"--he pinned Daniel with a hard stare--"told us we had to find the city of the lost--"
"No, the lost city," Daniel said, sounding irritated. "It's not the 'city of the lost.' That's what I'm trying to tell you."
"But you said it was," Jack said, tired from a few days of fruitless search peppered with local stories about dogs and dancing monkeys that he suspected he was understanding wrong.
"No I--" Daniel said, then closed his eyes and let out a breath. "Look, you thought the tablet was about an incomplete city and therefore found Vis Uban, which is an incomplete city. But the tablet's actually about the lost city of the Ancients."
"Is that just semantics?" Carter said. "Or are you saying the Ancients really lost one of their own cities?"
Daniel shook his head. "No--the Ancients made it lost so that no one would find it."
Jack glanced at Jonas, who shrugged, looking disappointed but not surprised or even in disagreement. Apparently, he'd already thought this through before the three SG teams on Vis Uban had been recalled to base. "Colonel, I went back over the tape that showed him giving us the tablet," Jonas said. "He did say the 'lost city,' not the 'city of the lost.'"
"But you were following his notes," Jack said. "Which said 'city of the lost.'"
"I didn't think it was a big difference," Jonas said, grimacing in apology.
"The notes are wrong," Daniel said. "I must have made a mistake back then. I'm certain of what the tablet says now, and all I know is that it's. Not. Vis. Uban."
"So where is it?" he said. He would overlook the fact that Daniel had been willing to surrender Earth for that damn tablet and the fact that they'd spent weeks looking for the damn city, as long as Daniel told them where it actually was.
Daniel looked around the table at Carter and Teal'c before turning back to Jack. "Did I just say 'all I know...'?"
"Colonel," Hammond said sharply when Jack felt his hands clench into fists. "Mr. Jackson's given us his revised translation and Mr. Quinn concurs. Let's clean up on Vis Uban and move on." He stood and returned to his office.
"Oy," Jack said, and started to leave.
"Colonel--" Daniel said.
"It's Jack," Jack snapped, and then, "What?"
There was a long pause in which Daniel frowned a lot. "Never mind," he finally said.
24 May 2003; SGC, Earth; 1750 hrs
For the next few days, Daniel spent hours at a time in Skaara's room, and more than once, Jack went to the archaeology office to find him firmly ensconced between large and delicate objects in the archives. Jonas had taken to giving Jack a nervous glance from his desk and declined to weigh in.
It didn't escape Jack's notice that Daniel sidled out to feed the fish once he thought Jack was no longer in view, which made him think rather uncharitably that Jonas hadn't even known Daniel and the two geeks were fast friends already. Jonas was covering for Daniel while Daniel hid from Jack, and that...well, that was just wrong.
They were even training together in the gym--Daniel had the edge through experience, but he got distracted easily while fitting pieces of his memory together. Jonas had a tendency to hesitate, too, in the heat of the moment, which Daniel had never done, and while Jonas was getting better at that, it would take more than a few months of off-and-on training to gain the kind of unflinching instinct that someone learned from being drilled in Jaffa-style combat since puberty.
So Jack busied himself with reports and stacks of MALP data and news from the Tok'ra and Jaffa until Carter ran up to him one day and said, "Colonel O'Neill! It's Daniel. He, um..."
"Where is he?" Jack said sharply, recognizing her tone for danger.
"Near the gym, sir, I think he's hiding in the men's room--"
"What happened?" he asked as he followed her.
She took a breath, then said, "He went to keep Skaara company during PT. Teal'c says he was fine--he stayed after Skaara was done to talk and ask questions, and then when he was leaving, he panicked at something and just ran. Teal'c and Jonas are there now, but..."
"Okay," Jack said, and pushed the door open.
"...me alone!" Daniel's voice snapped from somewhere inside. Jonas, looking anxious, pointed at the far stall. Jack stepped past him and could hear Teal'c's low voice, but it was too quiet to make out the words over Daniel's, "No, stop it! Just--"
Teal'c was crouching on the tile floor, but Jack held up a hand to stop him from saying anything and said casually, "Hey, Daniel."
"Please. Go. Away," Daniel said. His voice was muffled--more than the stall door could account for--and Jack imagined him huddled in a corner with his head buried in his knees.
"Um..." Jack raised his eyebrows at Teal'c, who raised one in return and shook his head to say he had no idea. "No, I don't think so. Why don't you come out of there."
No one answered.
"Floor's pretty dirty," Jack tried. "I assume you're sitting on the floor. You used to do that a lot--the bathroom part's new, though."
Daniel mumbled something.
"What was that?"
"D'you just remember something?" Jack said.
"Leave me alone," Daniel said, and this time, his voice cracked on the last word.
Jack rubbed a hand over his face. "Okay," he said briskly. "I'll give you a choice. You can tell me what's wrong, or I can have Teal'c give me a boost over the door and we can both sit inside a tiny little stall until you tell me anyway. Trust me--it'd be awkward."
There was a bark of hysterical laughter punctuated by a shaky gasp of breath in. "Who are you?" Daniel said.
Suppressing a pang at the idea that his voice hadn't been enough to breach the recognition barrier, Jack said, "It--it's Jack O'Neill. Jack."
"I know that. I mean...who..." He stopped again. "What do you want?"
"Well..." Jack said, "Right now? I'm hungry, so I'd kinda like a steak, but that's not really the point."
Something thumped inside--Daniel, tipping his head back against the wall behind him.
When no answer came again, Jack asked, "Did you knock yourself out?"
"No," Daniel snapped.
"I'm just asking," Jack said. "Listen, whatever answers you're looking for, I'm telling you, it's not in the toilet."
"Shut up. For once, could you stop--"
"All right!" Jack said quickly. "Okay. Hey! Will you calm down!"
"Stop yelling at me!" Daniel yelled.
"I'm not yelling!" Jack yelled back.
Something hit the door hard with a thump that rattled the flimsy hinges.
Jack stared. "Did you just throw something at me?" He lowered his head to peek under the door and saw one socked foot and a sneaker lying on its side. "You threw your shoe at me!"
"Well, it didn't hit you," Daniel said.
"Daniel," Jack said.
"Jack!" Daniel said.
"Great," Jack said. "Now we got that off our chests, why don't you come out."
"Why don't you go away."
"Okay--look. Stay in there if you want. Teal'c and Jonas are gone"--Jack turned and waved at them to go away until they both slipped out the door--"and Carter's guarding the door, so it's just you and me. I'm not leaving until you tell me why you're sitting in there."
"I don't even know you!" Daniel said, his voice rising. "Why would I want to tell you anything?"
"Because I know everything about you," Jack said. "Well, not everything. But I know you just remembered something, right? Something bad. And anything that bad...well, chances are, I was there for it, too."
Daniel sniffed once but didn't speak.
"I could start guessing," Jack offered. No answer. "All right. You were in the gym. I assume you were working out with Teal'c." A thought struck him. "Is this about Teal'c?" He really hoped it wasn't; they had enough complications as it was.
A soft, slithering sound came from inside the stall.
Jack frowned. "Did you just shake your head?"
"Yeah," Daniel said. He cleared his throat.
"You know, this whole...non-verbal communication thing...works a lot better when there's not a door between us," Jack pointed out.
Daniel went non-verbal.
Jack looked around, then slid down the side wall to sit against the wall, turning to face the row of stalls and listening for any signal that might mean he should do something. He'd seen his share of people get spooked by some trigger or other, whether it was the distant whir of a helicopter or the crush of bodies jostling against each other in a crowd. A military base like the SGC would be chock full of reminders for Daniel, good and bad.
Finally, Daniel said quietly, "Why do I call you Jack?"
"Because...that's my name," Jack said.
"No one else calls you that. I thought you were my commanding officer, and that's...that's not how it works. I know that much."
"I wasn't always," Jack said. "You call Major Carter 'Sam,' too, even though you take orders from her in the field when I'm not around. Well, did. The point is, we're..." He gestured with a hand, then remembered no one could see it. "...friends. First."
"Nothing makes sense," Daniel mumbled.
"Maybe I can make some sense of it," Jack said patiently. "Can you at least tell me what happened today? Just now?"
"I don't know. I don't--I can't...mph." The muffled sound was back.
"You know what? That doesn't really matter," Jack said worriedly. "It could've been anything. Someone familiar, a noise...doesn't matter, all right?" The only answer was the sound of slow, deliberate breathing. "You all right?"
"So..." Jack said. "Still 'no' to the coming out, huh."
There was a shifting sound and another quiet thump.
"You keep doing that, you're gonna give yourself a concussion," Jack said.
"Why would I--"
"I'm joking," Jack said. "Well, mostly. You really shouldn't keep banging your head on the walls. Your brain's enough of a tangle at the best of times--"
Daniel made a frustrated noise. "Why is everything a joke to you?"
Jack winced. "It's just...it's what I do. Whistling in the dark."
After a pause, Daniel said, "I don't know what that means."
"It's okay," Jack said. "You'll remember."
"What if I don't?"
"And if I don't?" Daniel said tightly. "What if I'm not the person you think I am anymore?"
"You are," Jack insisted.
Daniel sucked in a sharp breath and pressed, "No, Jack--what if I'm not?"
It wasn't until then that Jack understood. "You're still Daniel Jackson," Jack said. "All right? You do these little things... You probably don't even notice them, but they're there. Everything else, you can learn again. We can teach you again. Hell, you're remembering tons of stuff every day already."
"But you wanted your friend back," Daniel said.
Jack stretched his legs out in front of him. It took a moment before he could say, "Yeah, I did. And you know what? I got him. It'll be okay. But I don't know what to do, either. So you gotta tell me what's going on. Start with today. What happened a few minutes ago?"
"I had to get away," Daniel said, his voice starting to shake, just a little, like a picture that trembled at the edges because the person holding it up was shivering. "It's not... I didn't remember anything, exactly, not like in the dreams. I just...it's all the time, I keep seeing things, or...or hearing them, and I don't know why it bothers me or makes me think of something else, but it...does."
"Yeah," Jack said. "Not all flashbacks come with full picture." There was no answer to that. "You don't have to be embarrassed," he added. "If that's why you're not coming out, I mean. No one thinks anything of it. And besides, it's just me in here."
A bark of something between a laugh and a sob came from behind the door, and Jack realized that that wouldn't mean anything to Daniel, that it was just Jack.
"I know it's been...rough," Jack said evenly. "And you're...it's like you're trapped now, right? Or that's how it felt before? That's why you had to get away. It happens to all of us. But Daniel, hiding in there is not the solution."
"It smelled like blood," Daniel said in a small voice. "And it was...it was hot, and my leg hurt..."
"Are you hurt?" Jack said immediately.
Daniel seemed to think about it, and then, "No. I don't know why I said that."
"How about this: I know SG-12 got back around then," Jack said. "I heard they'd just run into a Jaffa patrol, and someone got winged in the fight. They might've walked past you on the way to the infirmary. I bet Lou Ferretti said 'hi'--he usually does--"
"Yes. I looked over. Saw them."
"Maybe that was what set it off."
"There was so much blood," Daniel insisted, sounding dazed by the idea. "I thought it was going to...to choke--"
"You might've been thinking of something else, too," Jack said. "A memory, but just part of it."
"Part of a memory."
"Sure. Like...this one time, you were with a team--Coburn's--and got ambushed. I wasn't there. You were shot in the leg. So. Just now, you caught a whiff of blood, probably some metal and gunpowder, you were tired from working out, someone yelled 'Jackson'..." An abrupt intake of breath told him he was right. "It reminded you of something else--maybe that fight, maybe just the general feeling--and your nose got all confused."
Daniel laughed weakly. "My nose got confused?"
"Your brain," Jack said firmly, "is a strange place, Daniel. If it can confuse the smartest brains in this galaxy, it can confuse your nose."
A snort answered him.
"All right, that doesn't matter," Jack said. "You've gotta stop thinking about it. Just...look around you--you know where you are. You're fine, there's no blood, there are no weapons or enemies around. It's just you and me, on base. On a...bathroom floor. Okay?"
"Okay," Daniel said. He coughed. "No, I'm...I'm fine."
"Good," Jack said. "Now will you open the damn door?"
For a while, Jack thought he was going to have to start over and try something else, which would probably involve breaking down the door. And then a rustling sound came from inside the stall, and Daniel pushed the door open, his face pink.
"Hello," Jack said cautiously, pushing himself back up to his feet as well.
"We've done this before," Daniel said, but like a question.
"Um...no," Jack said.
"It feels like we have."
Jack took the last few steps toward him, dropping an arm around his shoulders, only hesitating a moment because he still wasn't completely convinced that he'd feel a solid person under him. "Maybe something like it. Today, you just freaked out a little bit. Got confused. No big deal."
"I must have been a very unbalanced person," Daniel mumbled. He wasn't leaning into Jack, but then, that was par for the course, too. He wasn't pushing away, which would have to count for something. "The things I keep remembering..."
He shivered. Jack automatically started to pull him closer, but Daniel pulled away instead, looking embarrassed as he folded his arms.
"With the things you saw? You were pretty balanced," Jack assured him, sticking his hands into his pockets for lack of anything better to do with them. "Lots of good people wash out of this program, and you were one of the elite."
"I remember that was more or less an accident."
"No way I would've let you stay that long if you hadn't turned out to be pretty damn good."
"I made mistakes," Daniel said. "The Ancient city. And whatever I did to get...like this."
"Well, yeah," Jack admitted. "When you were wrong, sometimes, you were really wrong, but when you were right, you were really right, too."
"Do you think I lied?" Daniel said, looking at the floor. "About the Lost City. Maybe I gave you enough clues to find Vis Uban because I wanted you to find me."
"Never thought of that," Jack said honestly. "Doesn't sound like something you'd do." Daniel opened his mouth. Jack cut him off with, "You did your 'selective truth' routine there at the end, yeah, but an Ancient Lost City full of knowledge and power is not something you'd joke about or use as an excuse. Ever."
"But then how do you explain the coincidence of finding me there when it was the wrong--"
"Don't ask me," Jack said. "Maybe Oma pulled a few strings. I don't really care--and you know what? I don't even care if you were all enlightened and everything; it's better this way. The other way sucked a lot more."
Daniel gave him a long look. "I remember things about you," he said. "I just don't always know how they fit."
Shrugging uncomfortably, Jack said, "Yeah, well...it was complicated, kid." The word 'kid' sounded wrong as soon as it came out, though--he'd barely used it at all for years, and the person who had died for them and then come back to life was tall and muscular and pensive and no longer looked anything like a kid.
"Kid," Daniel echoed, as if the same thought were occurring to him, but then he asked, "Do you think I'm the same age as I was before I Ascended, or did I come back a year older?"
Jack blinked. He turned and looked at Daniel, who turned and looked at him and blinked back. "This is about the driver's license you never got, isn't it?" Jack said.
"What's a driver's license?" Daniel said blankly.
Jack searched his face suspiciously for another moment, but couldn't find anything. "Never mind," he said. "Hey, did I ever mention we used to live together sometimes?"
"Well, that would explain the laundry dream," Daniel said.
"You had a dream about laundry?" Jack said in disbelief.
Daniel was still looking at him oddly, like he was trying to figure something out, but in the end, he only shook his head and said, "Never mind."
31 May 2003; O'Neill Residence; 2130 hrs
"I know this place," Daniel said the first time Jack took him out of the Mountain. "Do I?"
"You should," Jack said, trying not to react. He tossed his coat on a chair. "You lived here a lot of the time."
Without looking, Daniel hung his coat casually on a hook by the door. Jack didn't push his luck by asking him how he'd known the hook was there. "Do you ever worry," Daniel said thoughtfully, "that living in such close and personal proximity with a subordinate might make you unable to maintain objectivity in the field, or that, as a person in authority, you might not remain impartial?"
Jack gaped at him. "You're going to lecture me about objectivity."
"Why do you say that?" Daniel said, tearing his eyes away from where he'd apparently been cataloguing every visible inch of the house. "I feel like an objective person."
"Oh, for cryin' out loud," Jack said. "I seem to remember you stepping in at every choice I made to argue that it just wasn't fair, or--"
"Being objective and being in disagreement are not mutually exclusive," Daniel said, tilting his head. "Objectivity is about treating equal entities or ideals equally. We disagree sometimes on the treatment that should be applied to each equal individual, yes? Or whether or not two things are equal. What I meant was, would you be able to sacrifice the person you live with--"
"No," Jack snapped. "End of sentence. That's the way it works. The four of us...it was different. Especially with you. Hell, you used to run to Teal'c's room when you had nightmares."
"Teal'c also used to punch me a lot," Daniel said. "I'm not saying it's something that should be changed, necessarily; I'm just trying to regain a feel for the team's dynamics."
Jack scowled. "In case you've forgotten, you've had your moments of putting me, Carter, and Teal'c in front of entire solar systems, not to mention what you'd do for your brother and sister. And you'd do it again, too, without blinking, and so would I."
"My sister," Daniel echoed, and Jack remembered belatedly that he might have forgotten, after all.
"Her name's Sha'uri," Jack told him.
"I had a dream about her." Before Jack could say anything else, though, Daniel leaned closer to something on the mantle. "Sara," he said, pointing to a photo of her and Charlie. "I met her once. But I don't think I ever met..." He broke off. Jack held his breath, but Daniel only glanced toward him once and finished, "Charlie. I remember."
"Okay," Jack said. "Good. I guess."
Daniel looked down the line of pictures, then backed away to stand with his hands in his pockets.
"There are a few more in your old room," Jack said when he didn't say anything else. "There's at least one picture of your brother and sister that I know of. That one was taken on Abydos, right in front of the Stargate. Maybe it'll jog your memory."
"Okay," Daniel said.
Jack eyed him for a moment, wishing he'd do something else that made it obvious he knew this house, or that it felt like home somehow. When he only waited, Jack nodded. "This way."
When they reached the spare room where Daniel used to stay, though, the first thing he zeroed in on was a different photo. "This must be my mother," he said, bending to look more closely at an old black-and-white that Nick Ballard had left behind.
"You recognize her," Jack said, relieved.
But Daniel frowned. "No. Just a logical... Why haven't I remembered anything about my parents?"
Jack looked back at the photo. "Well. This is a... It's an old picture. I didn't even know her back then."
"So did she look very different when she died? Aside from being dead, of course."
Uneasy, Jack cleared his throat, reminding himself that even a normal Daniel could be perfectly diplomatic and overly blunt by turns without even noticing it. Daniel was still studying the picture. "Well," Jack said. "No, not a lot. Little older. Different clothes, no glasses. You know."
"Huh," Daniel said, and put it back on the bookshelf to reach for the next one.
"You know what," Jack said, "I'll give you some time to sort through these. You remember where things are in the house if you need them?"
"I'll be fine," he said, not looking up. "'Night."
Jack found Daniel in the living room around three in the morning.
"Hey, Jack," he said in a normal tone of voice as he paged through a newspaper on the table. "I have no context at all to understand this at anything but a very superficial level, but--"
"What are you doing up?" Jack said.
"Why does 'Vice President Robert Kinsey' sound familiar to me?" Daniel asked instead of answering.
Jack finished shuffling his way toward the sofa and flopped down on it. "He was Senator Robert Kinsey before you went glowy,"
"Senator," Daniel said. "Robert Kinsey. Senator Kins--oh. Oh."
"What does the Vice President do?"
Daniel folded up the paper again. "Good," he said firmly.
"You remember Kinsey," Jack said, "but not the fifteen bucks you owe me?"
"You remember fifteen bucks I owe you from over a year ago?" Daniel countered, and then, "A buck is a unit of currency, right? I can't imagine owing you animals."
"Did I wake you?" Daniel said. "I didn't mean to."
"Nah. I'm just not used to hearing you creep around at night anymore."
Daniel stilled. "Oh."
"It's fine," Jack said, not wanting to admit that, for a while, he'd woken up at night with a burning sense of dread and gone to check on Daniel, only to find an empty bed in a dusty room. He didn't know what the hell he was supposed to feel about it now. "Couldn't sleep?"
"What do you know about MRI?" he asked.
Jack raised his eyebrows and had to remind himself that apparent non sequiturs were sometimes perfectly logical in Daniel's mind. He hadn't realized until recently just how much he'd missed feeling like he was falling into a middle of a conversation, knowing that all he had to do was follow along and let Daniel lead him to whatever convoluted conclusion he'd drawn. "I know you had another one yesterday. I know Fraiser's been saying you look fine. Otherwise...not much other than that it scans your head and makes a picture of your brain. What'd she say this time?"
"You call her Janet."
Daniel paused, very briefly, but Jack had suffered through enough of his rapid-fire sentences to know that even a brief pause meant serious thinking was going on. "Janet said there were certain trends in my fMRI that are often seen in cases of functional amnesia," Daniel said, now folding the newspaper and pausing curiously on the crossword puzzle.
"Well, we knew that," Jack pointed out.
"It's not quite consistent with someone who's very rapidly regaining his memories, although it's really hard to make any sort of definite conclusion."
Jack watched him squint at the crossword. "You're worried that you're still missing something. Well, we knew that, too. It's a work in progress."
"You think it'll come back?"
"I don't know," Daniel said. "I'm the amnesiac, remember?"
"Three down is 'spaniel,'" Jack told him, because it was easier than answering the question. Daniel looked up from under his eyebrows but obligingly filled it into the puzzle.
"You were always better at these puzzles than I was," Daniel commented, but there was a question in his eyes when he straightened.
"Yeah, well, did you have cocker spaniels on Abydos?"
"I don't even know what that is."
"Exactly," Jack said. "So...nothing's actually wrong with your MRI, right?"
Daniel shook his head. "No large sections of my brain seem to have died, if that's what you mean. She's thinking of setting up a time to try that high-resolution, directional...something scan she and Anise put together, but even that might not tell her much, since I've never been in that scanner, so they don't have anything to compare it to."
"They're still looking for damage?" Jack said.
"They're looking for something," Daniel said. "Jack, I learned all the nuances of the Ancient language at some point while I was Ascended. That means I came back different somehow. It has to mean whatever happened during that time isn't completely gone from my mind, and if we could regain that knowledge..." He shook his head. "I hear that Anubis has the knowledge of an Ascended being. We could use that kind of intelligence to even the playing field."
Jack leaned back and studied his earnest expression. "Funny that you'd put it that way."
Furrowing his brow, Daniel asked cautiously, "What do you mean?"
"You were Ascended," Jack said. "You knew...the secrets of the universe and the meaning of life or something, and you're losing sleep thinking about how to use it to kill Anubis."
"Don't you want to?" he asked.
"Well...yeah," Jack said.
"So what's the problem?" Daniel said, looking honestly confused.
What happened to you up there? Jack thought.
Besides, they'd tried to coax knowledge out of Shifu before Daniel and Sha'uri had stopped them. He wondered if Daniel had remembered that yet and if his opinion would change when he did.
"And," Daniel added, his eyes lighting up, "can you imagine what else could be left in my brain? The Ancients found a way to convert themselves into energy, Jack. They built the Stargates, they had the most advanced human civilization we've come across to date... It could be the most important historical discovery... And the Lost City! If we could only find it, just think what they might have left behind for later generations to learn."
"Right," Jack said. "That, too."
But even as he started to breathe a sigh of relief--Daniel, in the end, was still himself--Daniel added, "Robert once thought we'd found the greatest historical discovery in the history of the SGC, and it didn't turn out very well."
Jack winced. "You remember that." What Jack remembered was shooting the SGC's head archaeologist and finding Daniel trussed up for dinner, courtesy of an Unas.
"Be careful what you wish for?" Daniel said wryly.
"Never stopped you before," Jack pointed out.
"I guess not. But it makes you wonder if I should have let it stop me sometimes."
Jack wasn't sure what exactly the 'it' was that they were talking about, but he said, "Nah. You wouldn't be you. Besides," he added, "that's what I'm here for."
Daniel tilted his head, studying him. "Yeah, maybe," he said, nodding once as if he were saying 'definitely,' and Jack wondered if their lives had simply become a series of one maybe after another.