Keep Out

Author:  Orrymain and special guest co-author, Jodi!
Category:  Slash, Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  4
Spoilers:  None
Size:  134kb
Written:  September 20-22, October 5-11,16-17,20,24-26,29-30, November 7,24,28, December 22-23, 2006
Summary:  SG-1 goes on a rescue mission that takes a few unexpected twists and turns, leaving both Daniel and Sam in jeopardy.  Is the answer to the situation really as simple as it seems?
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Linda, Claudia, QuinGem!

Keep Out
by Orrymain and Jodi

SG-1 had been called into the conference room on short notice, having their downtime cut short by two days.  There was an undercurrent of nervous energy throughout the base, but no one knew why.  It was almost a sense of expectancy; perhaps even excitement.

Standing in front of the large screen in the darkened room, Sam continued with her presentation, clicking the remote to reveal the next photograph.  She was wearing her green BDUs, though, at the moment, she had her jacket on the chair.  Her dog tags dangled over her long-sleeve black blouse as she spoke.

“These latest photographs taken by the UAV clearly show an established town, and we can see people nearby,” Sam spoke.

The town was nestled in an open glen, with trees surrounding it on three sides.  Its buildings and homes were elaborately laid out in a star pattern, with a large hall-like structure in the center.  The roofs were woven thatch, and the walls were a beautiful, muted red color that shimmered where the sun shone on them.

Sam clicked to another picture, explaining, “Now this is further out, about three clicks to the north.”

“Uh, what is that?” Daniel asked.  He was wearing his blue uniform, his jacket bunching up slightly on his shoulder since he didn't really have it pulled on all the way.  ~It's curious looking.~

The slide showed a fifteen-foot wide dome that apparently covered some underground building or receptacle.  Emerging from the ground were a series of six-inch high frames or beams that the dome rested on.  It appeared to be made of the same material as the walls of the town's homes, having the same reddish color and shimmer.  Surrounding the building was grass, a few trees, and on one side there was what looked like a small dais or raised platform.  Visible in the background was a small, round shack.

“Looks like a portobella mushroom,” Jack murmured, looking absolutely devilish in his blue BDU's, at least, that was Daniel's opinion.

Daniel stared at his lover in disbelief, rolling his eyes as he wondered, ~Where does he get these ideas from?  No, I don't really want to know.~  Studying the photograph further, the archaeologist was intrigued.  “It's absolutely fascinating,” he stated, elucidating, “The layout, as well as the structures.”

“We don't know what it is,” Sam responded.  “But, the UAV's sensors picked up high energy readings that seem to be coming from this structure,” she added, pointing at the mushroom-like object with her hand which still held the remote control.

“What kind of energy?” Jack inquired as he doodled on the notepad in front of him.

Sam grimaced slightly as she answered, “We don't know that, either, but the problem is that in addition to the strange energy readings, the structure is also releasing varying amounts of radiation.”

“Varying?” Daniel asked inquisitively.

“It's unusual because the release goes in cycles.  The planet operates on a thirty-one hour day.  The cycles last anywhere from one to three hours.  Sometimes the amount released is miniscule, but during other periods, the amounts released are dangerously high if they aren't contained,” Sam expounded.

“So?” Jack asked.

“So,” Sam continued.  “The people are in danger.  No structure can endure this constant release of radiation.  It could explode, Colonel, and when it does, it's going to release even more radiation.”

“Perhaps radiation is not harmful to the inhabitants of this planet,” Teal'c spoke, his green uniform tightly fitting his muscular body.

“That's possible, Teal'c,” Sam acknowledged.  “However, it's still our problem.”

“Why's that?” Jack inquired, sitting back in his chair.

General Hammond answered, “Because four days ago SG-6 went to PR3-410 to investigate these readings.  They made one check-in and haven't been heard from since.  Yesterday, SG-3 was sent in to find and extract SG-6, and we haven't heard from them since they stepped through the Gate.”

“Not even a check-in?” Jack questioned.

“Nothing,” Hammond affirmed.

“Time to rescue the rescuees and the rescuers, Sir?” Jack asked.

Hammond let out a tiny, almost indistinct smile and replied, “I'm afraid so, Jack.  I want you to take SG-5 along and have them remain at the Gate.  Maybe there's something wrong with the communication device on the MALP that is causing this problem.”

“I was wondering why I was here,” Colonel David Hamilton, the leader of SG-5, stated as he reviewed the information packet that had been given to them at the start of the briefing.  “Major Carter, is there any indication of the military capabilities of these people?”

“Nothing definite, but judging from the make up of the town, they probably aren't as advanced as we are, although from past experience, appearances can be deceiving,” the major answered.

“The Nox,” Jack and Daniel spoke in unison, glancing at each other, then back to Sam.

“Sam, is there any sign of the Goa'uld on this planet?” Daniel asked from his seat next to Jack's.

“No,” Sam responded.  “From SG-6's initial check-in, we know they made contact with the residents, but all they said was that they weren't able to learn much about the energy readings.  They were going to investigate some more and do a few tests.”

“What did they say about the radiation?” Daniel questioned.

“Nothing,” Sam answered.

“Isn't that odd?” Jack asked.

“Very,” Sam affirmed.

“We haven't heard from either team since that communication,” Hammond reiterated.  “You leave in one hour,” he ordered, standing and heading back to his office.

“Sounds like fun,” Jack spoke dryly as he, too, stood.  He looked at Sam and asked, “Hazmats?”

“Not necessary going in, Sir,” Sam replied.  “I'll be taking readings as soon as we get through the Gate.”

“Okay, let's get the show on the road,” Jack stated.  “We'll need zats,” he ordered, making sure to get acknowledgements from his teammates and Colonel Hamilton before leaving the briefing room.

Daniel stood, glancing one more time at the picture of the structure that was still on the screen.

“Do you see something?” Sam asked with a sense of urgency in her voice.

“Ah, no, but, uh ... you know, Sam.  I think Jack's right,” Daniel commented.

“The colonel?” the woman questioned doubtfully.

With a wry smile, Daniel affirmed, “Yeah.  It does look like a portobella mushroom.”

Sam just shook her head, watching as Daniel left the room.  She then turned off the audio-visual equipment and prepared to embark on the mission.

====

“Hamilton, once we get to the planet, no one on your team leaves the Gate, not for any reason.  Is that understood?” Jack asked as they stood at the ramp that led up to the Stargate.

“Yes, Sir,” Hamilton acknowledged as the kawoosh of the Gate exploded forward.

From the control room, Hammond looked down on the two SG teams, nodding at Jack in encouragement.

The leader of the flagship team replied with a nod of his own, then ordered, “Let's hit it.”

“What is it you wish us to hit, O'Neill?” Teal'c questioned.

“It's just a figure of speech, Teal'c,” Jack responded.

“Speech has a figure?” the Jaffa inquired.

“No, I just mean ...” Jack paused, looked at Daniel, and instructed, “You explain it to him.”

“Jack ...” the archaeologist objected, his right arm extended slightly.  It was a lost cause as Jack was already up by the blue water-like event horizon.  He sighed, looked at Teal'c, and clarified, “A figure of speech is a word or phrase that departs from straightforward, literal language.  They're used for emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity.  They aren't really intended to be taken literally.”

“O'Neill uses many of these figures of speech,” Teal'c replied.

“Yes, he ... he does,” Daniel responded, nodding his head as he looked at the Stargate, an object that had brought both good and bad things into his life.

Teal'c contemplated the situation and then asked, “What is it O'Neill wishes us to hit?”

“The road,” Daniel answered.

“Why would we do that?”

“Be...because it's ...”  Daniel paused, glancing up at the event horizon where Jack was still standing, smugly smiling as he held onto his weapon.  “Teal'c, Jack was just being his usual ambiguous self.”

The colonel frowned, taken aback when his alien friend nodded at Daniel, obviously satisfied with the answer he'd received.

Teal'c walked up the ramp, Daniel following several steps behind.

As he reached his CO, the Jaffa gave him a passing glance and intoned, “You cannot hit *it*, O'Neill, if you remain in this position.”

Stunned, Jack wasn't allowed a comeback quip as Teal'c disappeared through the Stargate.  Chuckling, Sam also walked through the Stargate to their destination.

Pleased with himself, Daniel gave his lover a smirky grin before following the major.  Jack made a face, nodded one more time at Hammond, and then hopped through the event horizon.  SG-5 trailed behind by only a few seconds.

Once through the Stargate, the Earth explorers walked forward about twenty feet along a cement platform, then down three steps.  Surrounding them was a large meadow and, beyond it, a lightly forested area.

Jack cautiously surveyed their surroundings, while Sam immediately began to take readings of the area.

“Anything to worry about?” Jack asked.

“No, Sir.  Readings are within the normal range at the moment.  I'm not sure I understand that, though,” Sam hesitantly admitted.

“Why?” Jack inquired, looking over to his right at the blonde.

“There should be some indication of the radiation, but there's none at all.  This doesn't make any sense,” Sam spoke.

Jack raised his eyebrows in response, but shifted his focus to SG-5, making sure the team had arrived on the planet.

“We'll check in every two hours,” the colonel ordered.  “If you don't hear from us, contact Hammond.”

“We'll come after you, Colonel,” Hamilton declared.

“Negative,” Jack quickly refuted.  “We've already got two teams missing.  You are to maintain your position, pending orders from General Hammond.”

“Yes, Sir,” Hamilton reluctantly agreed.

“SG-1, move out,” Jack ordered, leading the way towards the town the UAV had revealed.

Jack had gone about forty yards from the Gate and was just about to enter the woods when Daniel called out.

“Uh, Jack,” the linguist spoke.

Jack paused, looking to his left.  He noticed his lover standing about six paces behind him, staring into a clump of tall bushes that lined the beginning of the wooded area.

“What's so fascinating about the bushes?” Jack questioned as he approached, Sam close behind him.

“It's a warning,” Daniel responded.

Jack gave Daniel a funny look, clearly wondering if the younger man was pulling his leg.

“No, really,” Daniel insisted, pointing downward with his left hand.  He knelt down on his haunches and began to clear away the shrubbery.  “It's Old Celtic, um, very similar to Gaelic, using much of the same words.”

“Gaelic?” Sam questioned.

“Almost a forgotten language,” the younger man clarified.  He added, “Philologists have shown the language descended from the original Ur-language, from the Indo-European language tradition.  Old Celtic was the closest cousin to Italic, the precursor of Latin.”

“Very informative,” Jack quipped.  **I'm a good teacher,** the older man communicated via their non-verbal connection

Having learned Irish Gaelic from his grandmother as a child, Jack was fluent in the language, and when their St. Patrick's Day celebration a year and a half ago revealed that Gaelic wasn't a language Daniel knew, the older man had begun teaching his lover the language.

Since then, Daniel had researched the romantic-sounding language and learned much more about it as an area of study to add to his linguistics repertoire.

**Yes, you are, but we have work to do,** Daniel intoned.

“What's it say?” Jack asked, finally noticing the reddish cylinder apparently embedded in the ground, but unable to read the words from where he stood.  **Danny, no one needs to know I speak this language.**

**Copy that,** Daniel responded formally, his mind more focused on the item in front of them.

The stone was about fifteen inches across and fifteen inches high.

“It says 'Coinnigh Amach'.  Um ... 'Keep Out',” Daniel answered.

“That's it?” the colonel inquired.

“No, there's more, but I can't make all of it out,” Daniel admitted.  He pointed hesitantly at the block and explained, “It's been damaged, Jack.  Some of the writing is covered, and ... well, I don't think this block was put here in the middle of the bushes intentionally.”

“Yeah, I guess that wouldn't be logical,” Jack agreed, taking another look at everything around them.  “Maybe it means to keep off the grass,” he quipped, motioning back to the meadow they had just crossed.  “Someone is going to be mad when they find out we walked on it.”

“Jack,” Daniel chastised, rolling his eyes at his lover's humor.

“Any guesses on what we're supposed to keep out of?” Jack inquired, returning his attention back to the seriousness of the mission.

“I'm not sure,” Daniel replied, inwardly wishing he could make out the rest of the writing on the block.  He tried to wipe away a build-up of some substance on part of the cylinder and then noted with regret, “Only a few words are readable -- 'Bheadh tu', which means 'you would be' and 'Aire!', which is 'Danger!'.  And, oh, there's ... 'cumhacht', um ... that's 'power', but those are the only words visible.”

“The UAV didn't report anything unusual in the woods, Sir,” Sam added.

“Maybe the squirrels don't want to share the trees,” Jack jested before nodding for the team to move forward.  ~Whatever it is, we'll find out soon enough.~  “Stay alert, Kids.”

====

Seventy-five minutes later, SG-1 reached the outskirts of the town.  There were about three dozen structures, perhaps less, all made with that radiant looking stone and with thatched roofs.  Up close, the buildings all looked a bit weather-worn, and several were definitely in need of repair, or at least some touching up.  There were no automobiles, but there were tricycle-like vehicles.  They looked very much like motorcycles, and the bench-like extensions attached on the side, some enclosed and some open, looked a bit like sidecars.

There was a main circular path around the center building, and five or six other large avenues that branched out beyond the visible points of the star-like configuration.  From SG-1's perspective, it was organized and well planned out.  All the houses seemed a part of the whole, blending together as one great entity, and all faced the round center.

“Reminds me of those ancient places Daniel drools over,” Jack quipped as he got his first good look at some of the buildings in the distance.

“I don't drool, Jack,” Daniel replied.  **Do I?  Gawd, it's just ... it's fascinating.**

“Well, it's not exactly Chicago,” the older man pointed out, to which Daniel just looked off in the other direction.  **And, no comment.**

For several minutes, the team observed the town from a distance, looking for signs of either their missing comrades or anything unusual.

“This is about as fascinating as watching a Presidential speech,” Jack spoke dryly.  “We're not gonna learn anything here,” he decreed, getting up from his perch by some rocks.

“How do you want us to do this, Sir?” Sam asked, wondering how they'd approach the town.

“Straight on, Carter.”

“We will hit it,” Teal'c stated, his face expressionless, even when Jack glared at him.

“Let's take a walk,” Jack ordered, leading the way to the township.  ~Smart-aleck Jaffas.~

====

After checking in with SG-5, the SGC's flagship team entered the town.  As they came into view, they noticed the looks of both anxiety and concern on some of the citizens' faces.  Many quickened their pace and locked themselves inside buildings.  Others were openly smiling, rushing to and fro, intent on their duties. The mixed reactions were cause for speculation.

As the explorers reached the center path, a man in a long robe approached from the front of the center building.  He was smiling, gesturing SG-1 forward.

“Failte a chur roimh dhuine,” the man spoke.

“What's he saying, Daniel?” Sam asked, a bit surprised Jack hadn't already asked the question.

“Um, 'failte' is welcome,” the linguist stated.  He addressed the man, replying, “Go raibh mile maith agat.”  He paused, translating his words into English for his teammates.  “Um, thank you very much.”

The man's smile grew wider as he spoke, “Ah, you speak English, as do we. Please, come forward.  I am Brennis, chief elder and priest of the Chalcedontz.  How may I help you?”

After introductions were made on SG-1's part, Daniel went into his peaceful explorer spiel and then explained, “We're looking for our friends who visited here a few days ago.  They'd be dressed like us.  Have you seen them?”

“Friends are always welcome,” the elder answered a bit cryptically.

“Yes, well ...” Jack began, moving forward a couple of steps.  “Our friends were to report back to our chief.  They didn't do that.”

At this point, Brennis looked startled, finally responding, “I'm not sure I understand.  Why would they cross the threshold, if they didn't intend to stay?  We welcome all who wish to contribute.”

Jack immediately went into alarm mode and questioned sharply, “What threshold?  I don't see any bride and grooms around here.”

“It's the Great Prophecy, and now you have come;  Blessed Are We!” Brennis expounded, then turned to go inside.

Jack and Daniel exchanged a look, then Jack let out a tiny groan and nodded for the team to follow the man.

====

As SG-1 entered the center building, the Great Hall as Brennis called it, they were struck by the beauty of the decor and furnishings.  It was spectacular.  Everything glowed, shimmering with light and color.  It was as if all things present had an aura, making them almost alive.  From the simple benches to the most ornate sculptures, it all shone.  It dazzled the senses, evoking a feeling of wonder and peace.

~This is really something,~ Daniel thought as he stood frozen in place, trying to take it all in.  With the utmost respect, he turned to Brennis and stated, “Um, with this device ...” he held out the small camcorder in his hand, “I can take visual recordings.  Do you mind if ...”

“Please,” Brennis spoke, nodding his head in agreement and then inviting, “And explore our Hall of Knowledge to your content.  It is with your presence that our destiny will be fulfilled, for it is you who bring good fortune to my people.  We give you thanks.  When you have seen your fill, I will show you the Astral Prophecy.”

“Astro what?” Jack inquired, earning him a glare from his lover.

“You will see,” Brennis replied, a gleam in his eyes that caused them to shine.

As the delighted archaeologist filmed the great room, Jack was awestruck by his lover.  He seemed more than he was before, and, to Jack, the room paled in comparison.  It was as if he'd never fully appreciated his Love's sheer physical beauty before.

~That's so not true,~ Jack thought.  ~I've always known he was beautiful.  He is, My Danny.~  He smiled as he gazed upon the younger man, his mind so transfixed on the archaeologist that he forgot others were nearby; that is, until he heard a female voice say something.  Yet, he couldn't concentrate on what the woman had said.  The colonel shook his head, trying to get himself back into the moment.  Still, it was Daniel who had his attention.  ~Geez, he's beautiful, perfection even.  He's radiant, and he's all mine!~

“This place is unlike anything we've seen before,” Sam had commented to her distracted CO, though since she was equally enthralled with the place as Daniel, she didn't realize Jack hadn't heard her.  She was examining objects and itching to take samples, wanting to understand as much as possible about what made the place so spectacular.  ~This is the find of a lifetime.  The structure is exquisite.  I wonder what powers this place.  It would take a lot of energy to keep everything so ... spectacular.~

As she studied the room, Sam took digital photos as a backup to Daniel's recordings.

Teal'c, meanwhile, observed everything around him and the movements of his teammates.  He, too, was affected by the beauty of the room, but remained stoic and silent.

~It is indeed an honor to be here,~ the Jaffa thought as he stood with his staff weapon in his right hand.

Brennis watched, a smile on his face.  He was pleased to see the newcomers having a good time, and he could tell they were.

~We are blessed they have come.  Life will enrich yet again,~ the man thought while he waited for SG-1 to complete their exploration of the Great Hall.

====

Finally, Daniel finished taping and recording a few thoughts in his notebook as well.  He put the items away and looked around for his teammate.

“Sam?”

“I'm about done for now.  You?”

“Yeah,” Daniel confirmed, nodding to Jack.

“Okay, Brennis, let's see this Astro yapper of yours,” Jack spoke, intentionally mis-speaking the name.

“The Astral Prophecy, Colonel.  Please, this way,” Brennis invited, leading SG-1 to a large dais in the center of the room.

“It's here?” Daniel asked, having expected to be taken elsewhere, perhaps to a sanctuary or place of history.

Brennis read aloud the words that were carved into the stone:  “From the stars, bringing forth great change, four will cross the threshold to harness the power of the prisms and unlock the knowledge they behold.”

“Okay, I get it,” Jack responded.  “You think we're some answer to this mumbo jumbo?”  Skeptically, his eyes bore into Brennis'.  ~Sweet!  We get to save another world and set them straight about the universe.  It never gets old!~

“It is foretold,” Brennis responded calmly.  “Although you are the third party to arrive, all have been welcome.  Each time, more good fortune has shone upon us.”

“Third?” Daniel inquired.

“SG-6 and SG-3,” Sam assumed.

“So, you know where our friends are?” the archaeologist question.

“Of course.”

“Well?” Jack interjected sharply.  He added firmly, “We want to see them.  *Now* would be good.”

“Of course.  This way, please.  Follow me,” the middle-aged elder instructed, still keeping the warm, welcoming smile on his face.

Inexplicably, as they began to leave the Great Hall, Jack and Daniel locked eyes for several seconds.  It was a look that spoke volumes, of both their love and of what they were both feeling at the moment.  A rush of love washed over them, strengthening their bond.

**Danny, do you know ...**

**Oh, yeah, and, uh, you?** the younger man responded.

**You're so beautiful.  You're ...**

“Colonel?  Daniel?  Is something wrong?” Sam inquired, having retreated a few steps once she realized the two men hadn't moved a step.

“Wha...what?” Daniel stuttered.

“Of course not, Carter.  Let's go,” Jack answered as if no time had passed at all.

“Right,” Sam replied skeptically, exchanging a look with Teal'c before turning and catching up with Brennis.

Jack gave his lover a shrug, and then both walked double-time to catch up with the others.

====

It only took a short while to reach the dome structure, and, as they walked, Sam was full of questions about the buildings, the raw materials used in their construction, and how they were made.  Daniel, however, was unusually quiet.  He knew something odd had happened back at the Great Hall.  There had been a feeling there that he couldn't describe, that seemed to have overtaken his senses.  It was gone now, but it left him with a disconcerted feeling.

**Jack, that place ...**

**The Great Hall?** the colonel responded, glancing over at his lover.

Daniel didn't see the glance as his head was down as he walked, but he responded, **Yes.  Didn't it feel ... I don't know ... wasn't it ...**

**Odd?** Jack completed for his Love.

**Yeah.  Very odd,** Daniel replied.

~I'm not sure I like this place,~ Jack thought to himself.  “Brennis,” he called out, interrupting the man's explanation to a question he had never even heard and that he was sure he didn't care about.  “Our people -- they're okay?”

“Yes, Colonel, they are all well,” Brennis answered without hesitating.  “I'm sure they'll be delighted to see you.”

“Delighted?” Jack mumbled, not quite loud enough for anyone else to hear.  ~He acts like everything is okay, but, if it is, why haven't they checked in?~  Tapping his P-90, a weapon he'd only begun using regularly this year after having rescued his lover from being captured by an Unas, Jack let out a soft groan.  ~I just don't like this.~

“O'Neill, it is time to check-in with Colonel Hamilton,” Teal'c reminded as he followed behind Jack by a couple of feet.

Jack nodded and slowed, allowing everyone to go ahead.  He didn't want Brennis to hear his radio transmission.

“Hamilton, come in,” Jack quietly stated as he clicked the radio.

“This is Hamilton.  What's your status, Colonel?” the leader of SG-5 asked from his position at the Stargate.

“We've met up with someone named Brennis.  Very polite fellow.  He's supposed to be taking us to SG-6 and SG-3,” Jack explained.

“Their condition?” Hamilton inquired.

“He says they're okay.  Stay on your toes, Hamilton.  There's something not quite right about this place.  Follow your orders if you don't hear back from us in two,” Jack instructed.  “O'Neill out.”

As Jack caught up to him, Teal'c asked, “You do not believe things are as they seem, O'Neill.”

“Do you?” Jack questioned.

“I do not,” the Jaffa answered.

“Any idea what's off about this place?” the colonel questioned curiously.

“Things are not what they seem,” Teal'c answered.

“How are they off?” Jack inquired, intrigued by what his comrade might have to say.

“They are off,” Teal'c said flatly.

Jack paused just a moment and replied, “Right.”  After a beat, he moved forward.  ~That's what I like about the Big Guy -- he always gets to the heart of the matter.~

====

The sun was bright, and the dome glowed brilliantly.  Brennis approached the object and bowed, then knelt down on one knee.  He spoke in a quiet whisper as SG-1 looked on.

“What now?  Do we shrink?” Jack quietly quipped.

“Jack,” Daniel quietly chastised.

Brennis rose, then smiled at SG-1.  He led them to a small structure behind the dome.  It was the round shack that they had seen in the UAV photos which the team had reviewed prior to arriving on the planet.

“Looks like an outhouse,” the colonel snarked about the wooden edifice, earning him another glare from his lover.

“Outhouses aren't round,” Daniel replied.

“Who says?” Jack asked, his question ignored by his life partner.  After watching the elder pull open the door and gesture for the foursome to enter, he cautiously led the way, sticking his head in first and looking both ways, then up and down.  Though there wasn't much to see from looking up, there was a spiral staircase that led underground.  “Sure hope there's toilet paper,” he quipped.

**Jack, stop it!** Daniel silently communicated, though the older man chose not to respond.

There was just enough room inside the 'outhouse' for the four teammates and Brennis to stand without being pressed together uncomfortably.

“We welcome you to our prism facility.  Please, come forth,” Brennis beckoned as he led them down the staircase that spiraled down about three floors.

The group of five came to a large platform that overlooked a large, sectioned room.  It was bustling with activity and buzzing with an energy that was palpable.  In fact, the air practically sizzled with it.  Along the perimeter of the room ran a counter with every color of crystal the eye could imagine.  Both large and small machinery graced the counter as well as being at different stations throughout the room.

“Didn't see this coming,” Daniel commented.  Though he'd chastised his soulmate for all the barbs about the shack-like building they'd enter, Daniel had no idea that once inside, they'd find such a hub of activity.  ~Amazing.~

As she viewed what was happening below, Sam was in scientific heaven, practically salivating to touch, see, and learn what they were doing.  There were experiments taking place that intrigued her and equipment being used that she'd never even dreamed about.  Though she didn't understand all of what was going on, the blonde was fascinated, certain there were things to be explored here that couldn't be found elsewhere.  Entranced, she continued to peer at the various machinery below.

Daniel, meanwhile, wandered over to the platform walls, rubbing his fingers across the stone to feel its texture.  He noticed there was a slight hum and a tingling sensation as if it was vibrating with energy.  Different colored specks were visible on the wall, and that intrigued him.

~What are these?  What do they mean?~ the archaeologist wondered as he stood transfixed.

“Na-uh, Daniel, no touching!” Jack warned his wayward lover.  ~Will he never learn?~

Unfortunately, the curious explorer's focus was dimmed due to his fascination with the wall.  At least, Jack hoped it was just Daniel's fascination and not the contact he had with the wall.  He didn't clearly hear his team leader and remained in the same position as before Jack's order.

Alarmed, Jack went to Daniel, physically reaching out and pulling the slender fingers away from the stone.

“Jack?” Daniel asked, blinking.

“Didn't you hear me?” Jack asked.

“Hear ... you?” Daniel stammered, looking around the room.  “Uh, no.  What did you say?”

“To *not* touch anything,” Jack replied forcefully.  “What's so fascinating about the wall, anyway?”

Daniel looked at the stone, shook his head, and answered, “I have no idea.”

“Very informative,” Jack responded.  He looked around and called out, “Carter?”

“Sir?” the blonde quickly responded, turning around from her position near the edge of the platform.  Seeing Jack motion them, both Sam and Teal'c walked over to where their teammates were.  “Any unusual readings in this place?”

“Nothing unusual, but it is fascinating, isn't it, Sir?” Sam asked, more rhetorically than anything else.

The major's expression reminded Jack of when they had first entered the Cartouche on Abydos.  Sam had acted like a giddy teenager then, the woman alight with excitement.  That's how she was now, a huge smile on her face, and her eyes wide with awe.

“Teal'c, what's your take on this playground?” the colonel inquired.

“The workers appear happy to tend to their tasks,” the Jaffa answered simply, having observed the people below attending to their work.

“A bit too happy, don't ya think?” Jack questioned, getting only raised eyebrows in response.

When Jack turned back around, Daniel was again touching the wall, his eyes scanning it up and down.

“Daniel.”  Jack waited, then exclaimed, “Oh, for crying out loud.”  For the second time in five minutes, Jack tore his lover away from the wall.  “Why aren't you answering me?”

“I ... I was studying the wall; it's ... it's fascinating,” Daniel answered, glancing back at the granite.

“It's a *wall*!” Jack exclaimed a bit loudly.

Jack's raised voice caused Brennis to approach.  He had held back, allowing the visitors to again explore the platform area at their will.

“Colonel, did you have a question?” Brennis asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Jack answered sharply.  “I want to know why my people are fascinated by a slab of stone and a few token machines.  What's going on?”

“It's the crystals,” Brennis responded, a smile on his face.  “They are our life source.  Praised be.”

“Excuse me?” Jack replied, clearly wanting more information.

“Life source?” Daniel suddenly chimed in, folding his arms across his chest, more to keep himself from touching the wall, yet again, than anything else.  “Is that literal?”

“No,” Brennis answered.  “You are concerned about the physical, but we live for the mental and the emotional.  The crystals provide us with what we need to move forward.”

“Why was Daniel so glued to that wall?” Jack asked.

“The crystals have great powers; sometimes, they can have an almost hypnotic effect when one is near them,” Brennis admitted.

“You're putting us in a trance?” Jack questioned a bit agitatedly.

“No, not exactly, Colonel,” Brennis responded, expounding that his people believed the hypnotic sway over the mind was a positive thing, bringing health and vitality to those who touched them.  “The euphoric feeling brought on by the contact is pleasing, Colonel, and it has no lasting ill aftereffects.”

“Are you sure about that?” Jack challenged, that feeling in his gut stirring big time.  ~I don't like it here.~

“You worry much too much, Colonel.  The crystals are revered for their purity,” Brennis expressed calmly.

“How do they work?” Sam asked curiously.

“The crystals produce an electric charge when compressed ...” Brennis began.

“That's the piezoelectric effect,” the enthusiastic major interjected.

Brennis smiled fondly, indulging Sam, and continued, “We use it for almost everything we do -- building and insulating our homes, cooking, powering our vehicles and buildings, and much more.  It's also used for decorative purposes and ...”

“Yadda, yadda, yadda,” Jack interrupted.  He hated the eager smile on his 2IC's face.  He was also concerned that Daniel, who normally would be asking a thousand questions in this kind of situation, remained unusually quiet and glanced frequently towards the wall.  ~Hypnotic or addictive?~ he wondered with concern.  “Okay, all of this is fine and dandy, but I don't care about the crystals.  We came here to get our people back.  *Where* are they?”

“Follow me,” Brennis requested as he moved down from the platform towards the lower portion of the room where the workers were attending to their jobs.

As they proceeded down another stairway, this one straight and without any railings along it, Jack finally saw some of the missing SG team members, noticing immediately that there were dressed in the similar attire to the planet's inhabitants, their SGC uniforms nowhere in sight.

~They look okay,~ the colonel thought as he observed the personnel.  He felt relieved somewhat since they looked healthy enough from his current vantage point.  ~But they aren't all here, either,~ he thought, still looking around, trying to get a glimpse of the people beyond the nearest partition.

Teal'c, who hadn't moved an inch, surprised everyone when he said, “O'Neill, I do not believe this is wise.”

Having gone about halfway down the stairs, Jack stopped, looking up at his friend and staring questioningly.

From his position a few steps 'below' Jack, Daniel asked, “Why?”

The Jaffa answered, “He has not told us the dangers of going below.”

“Dangers?” Jack echoed.  It hadn't occurred to Jack that simply going down an extra level could be dangerous, and he silently blessed the Jaffa for pointing out the possibility.  Turning back towards the lower level, he looked back at Brennis and asked, “Is there a danger?”

“Does it look dangerous?” Brennis replied innocently.

~I hate non-answers.~  Jack shouted out, “Carson, front and center!”

Lieutenant Ben Carson looked up, surprised to see Jack high up on the staircase.

“Hey, Jack, how's it going?” Carson asked informally.

“Peachy.  Get up here,” Jack ordered.

“Can't do that, Jack.  I'm making a crystal necklace.  Have you ever made a necklace before?”  Carson look down, smiling as he added, “Man, that's a peaceful feeling, just making jewelry.”

“CARSON!” Jack yelled.

“Hey, not so loud, Jack,” Sergeant Joseph Mellinger interrupted.

“Mellinger?” a surprised Jack asked.  No way should the sergeant be addressing Jack by his first name.  Jack had thought it strange when Carson had done it, since they were off-world, but the two did have a cordial relationship on base, occasionally engaging in boxing matches and the like, so Jack had dismissed Carson's informality.  “Okay, Brennis, I want the truth, and I want it now!”

“O'Neill, I believe it would be best to return to this level,” Teal'c stated from the platform.

“Yeah, I think you're right,” Jack agreed.  “Carter!” he ordered, sending the blonde back to the upper area.

“No, wait,” Brennis called out almost urgently.

“I don't think so,” Jack replied with a rebellious attitude.  “Daniel, get your butt upstairs,” he ordered.

As the two turned to walk back up, there was a loud popping noise.  The underground building began to shake violently.  Both men stumbled, but Jack was quick enough to catch Daniel before he fell.

**Danny, are you okay?** a concerned Jack asked his lover.

**Yes.  You?** Daniel asked, not realizing that everyone was looking at them.  Jack was still holding onto the younger man.  “Uh, Jack,” he spoke, tilting his head slightly and looking downward with his eyes.

“Oh, sorry,” the colonel replied, releasing his hold on the archaeologist.  “What was that explosion?”

“The explosions happen from time to time,” Brennis confessed.  “We have no idea what causes it, but it never lasts long.  We are fine.”

“Fine?” Jack asked in disbelief as he and Daniel made their way back up to the platform.  “Carter, any funny reading from your doohickeys?”

“We need more information, Sir,” Sam responded.  “There was a fluctuation, but it's not holding steady.  I'm not sure if it's the equipment or the energy source,” she added.

Jack nodded, looked downward, and yelled, “SG UNITS, I'M GIVING YOU A DIRECT ORDER.  COME UP TO THE PLATFORM *NOW*”

“Jack, calm down,” Carson replied with a slightly raised voice.

“I GAVE YOU AN ORDER, CARSON!  ALL OF YOU!” the colonel shouted down at the SGC personnel.

“Nah, this is a cool place, Jack.  Why don't you come on down.  We'll play poker!  You like poker, don't ya?  Come down here, and join the party,” the man invited.  Seeing Brennis, Carson asked, “Brenny, how about getting Jack and his pals some comfortable clothing?”  He looked back at Jack, saying, “Ya gotta change your clothes, Jack.  That uniform is so uncomfortable.  These fit like a velvet glove.”

“Okay, that's it.  We're going back to the Gate for reinforcements.  If that brainwashing doesn't happen right away, we'll take them up by force.  If it does, we'll need to work out something else.  Either way, we need backup.  Then we're putting a kibosh on anyone coming back to this crazy place,” Jack ordered, leading his teammates back to the spiral staircase.

“Please, wait!  You must help us!  It is our destiny, both ours and yours,” the elder pleaded.  “I beg of you, your help ... please.  I will tell you what you wish to know; what you need to know.”

“Everything?” the angry colonel ground out as he stopped and turned to face the all-too-cordial Brennis again.

“Yes, and I *am* sorry for the deceit,” Brennis spoke as sincerely as he could.  “I had to make sure you were the 'four' the Astral foretold.  The previous groups from your world were not as described, but I now believe that your team is.  Please, I will tell you all, but we have to stop the process before more explosions take place.”

“I thought you were fine,” Jack challenged sarcastically.

“You do not understand.”

“No, I don't,” Jack sighed.  “Carter, have you figured that thing out, yet?” he inquired about the fluctuating readings and her equipment.

“Yes, Sir,” Sam responded after she reviewed her hand-held instrument again.  “There's a definite spike in radiation, but we're still within safe parameters.”

“The equipment is okay?” the colonel inquired.

“The momentary fluctuation was probably a direct result of the radiation increase and whatever this energy source really is.  You see ...”

“Keep an eye on it,” Jack ordered, cutting Sam off from what was sure to be a paragraph full of technobabble.

“Brennis, apparently the lower level is, well, different from here.  It's not that far down.  Why?  What makes it more dangerous down there than up here?” Daniel asked in full negotiator mode, though inwardly concerned by all that had happened.

The Chalcedontz elder looked into the archaeologist's face, saw his honesty and compassion, and knew his instincts were correct, that these four were the ones to fulfill the Prophecy.  All he had to do was trust in return.

“There is a way to lessen and stabilize the power cycles, but we have never had much luck in doing so.  We do not know why the systems will not disengage.  Our top scientists have been unable to find the exact method, but it is confirmed in the Hall of Knowledge that we should be able to so,” Brennis stated.

“So, the power cycles on an irregular schedule,” Sam deduced.  “Sir, that explains the changes in the radiation emissions.”

“What does that have to do with our people being in happy land?” Jack snapped.

“Well, Sir,” Sam began.  “I'm not sure.”

Daniel looked at the major and inquired, “Could the crystals and the energy source combine to, uh ... uh ...”

“Make us little happy bees?” Jack completed.

The archaeologist shrugged and nodded.

“Maybe.  We don't know anything about the energy source,” Sam said again.  “Daniel might be right, Sir.  If we can get the cycle low enough, maybe that will cause a break in whatever it is that has a hold on SG-6 and SG-3.”

“Carter, go and ... play,” Jack quipped.  “See how low you can get that thing to go.”

Sam nodded and headed for the stairs.

“Wait!” Brennis called out.  With a sigh, the elder confessed, “If Major Carter crosses the Sahyadris, she will soon be swayed by the power.  There is no way to counter the hypnotic effect.  It is overwhelming on that level.”  He looked at Sam and said, “It must be your choice.”

“What's a Sawhatchamacallit?” Jack inquired.

“The Sahyadris,” Brennis replied.

“Daniel?” Jack asked.

“Um, well, legend states the Sahyadris were once the tallest mountain range in the world.  They were noted for being peaceful and serene, healing, too,” Daniel reported.

“That doesn't help,” Jack responded, to which Daniel shrugged.

“Barrier -- that is the word,” Brennis suddenly spoke.

“Barrier?” both Jack and Daniel asked at the same time.

“Yes, between the platform and the lower level, there is a barrier.  It is unseen, but it is there.  Once you cross it, life changes inside,” Brennis stated.

“Okay, how long before this thing starts playing with our minds, exactly?” Jack asked.

“Not long -- three, four hours, maybe less, maybe more, but soon,” Brennis answered.

“That helps ... not,” Jack snarked.  “Carter, I won't order you to go down there.”

“Sir, those are our people down there, too,” Sam refuted, willing to do whatever was necessary to not only free the SG teams, but help the Chalcedontz people as well.

Brennis added, “There is time before the full effects would take place.  Perhaps if we were to watch Major Carter closely.”

“And what exactly would we be looking for?” Daniel asked.

“She would become pleased to remain where she is.  Her work would slow and then stop completely.  She would not listen to requests to leave.  She would be content to work on the crystals and its byproducts,” Brennis explained.

Jack motioned for SG-1 to huddle and then said, “Okay, Kids.  What's your take?  Ideas?”

“I believe my symbiote would protect me from the effects of the barrier.  I can ensure that MajorCarter is safe,” Teal'c stated.  “I am stronger than she.”

Sam noted, “Thank you, Teal'c ... I think.”

“Look, I'm not so sure we can trust this guy,” Jack commented in a low voice.

“Jack, he seems sincere,” Daniel opined sympathetically.

“Yeah, right,” Jack responded dryly.  “Okay, Carter, Teal'c, go on, but at the first sign or feeling of anything weird, get back up here.  Pick her up and carry her upstairs, if you have to,” he instructed the Jaffa.

Teal'c nodded while Sam just stared for a moment, her baby blue eyes widened and incredulous.  Then the two teammates turned and went on their way.

“Now, while they're working on turning off the power, you're going to tell us about this Prophecy of yours.  Details,” Jack demanded as he tapped his P-90 again after turning back to face Brennis.

“Come.  We will revisit the Great Hall, and ...”

“No, I don't think so,” Jack interrupted.  “We need to watch over our teams, and if Major Carter were to need something, we need to be available for her.”

Seeing Jack's glare, practically daring him to disagree, Brennis responded, “Very well.  Please, let's sit here, and I will begin.”

**Why does he always say 'please'?** Jack grumbled silently.

**Maybe he's just being polite,** Daniel replied.

**Right, Daniel -- a polite elder with a lot of secrets in a town that's holding two of our teams hostage.**

**That's not exactly what's happening,** Daniel refuted.

**Of course, it's not,** Jack replied.

Brennis led Jack and Daniel to a corner table where records of the workings below were kept, and explained, “For generations, this story has been told in order for all Chalcedontz to learn and to live by the Astral Prophecy.  It states: 'From the stars, bringing forth great change, four will cross the threshold to harness the power of the prisms and unlock the knowledge they behold.'  There is a second passage, but only the elders knew of it.  They, in turn, passed it along to their successors.  That is why I knew you were the ones.”

Brennis paused and looked upwards, as if in supplication.

Daniel used the momentary lull to glance at Jack.  Feeling his lover's gaze, the older man turned to look at his soulmate. Their eyes connected, each feeling a calming serenity.  There was no reason for the sudden reassurance both felt, or the momentary bliss that seemed to shoot through them, and yet, while cerulean blue eyes were locked on to chocolate brown ones, the two men felt an incredible calm circulating within them.  Finally, Daniel gave his lover a brief, small smile, and then both refocused on the man before them.

====

Meanwhile, down in the facility, Sam was deep into consulting with the available scientists who knew of the power systems and the inner workings of the crystals.  Rather, she was trying to, but as they were suffering the effects of the brainwashing, her progress was very slow going.

“Okay, so when the power cycles on high, the radiation increases?” the blonde asked one of the men.

“When we achieve our goals, we are rewarded,” the man replied convolutedly.

“So, does that mean the power increases when you're rewarded?” Sam asked.

“The crystals empower us.  We gain happiness when we thrive from the goods we prepare and from the things that pass on the essence of the life source,” the man answered.

Sam was starting to get an inkling of what caused the strong effects over the workers' minds.

~But this isn't helping the immediate problem,~ the female thought.  ~New idea.~  “Is there a main power coupling or booster or anything like that where the crystals create the power?”

“The conduit of unity,” the man intoned, pointing towards a room a few feet away.

“Okay, let's try that,” Sam suggested, heading for the room with Teal'c walking next to her.

====

~I must be precise,~ Brennis thought.  The elder was centering his mind, letting his inner knowledge guide him to do and say the right things to those whom he was sure would fulfill the Prophecy.  Taking a deep breath, he began again, saying, “And in this four, there will be unity, all of different minds, but of only one goal.  The Prophecy says there will be a leader who is loyal and true, a scholar of the past, both near and far, a warrior of great strength and honor, and a guide to the celestial powers of the universe.”

“Sounds familiar,” Daniel spoke.

“I'm not sure what he's saying Carter is,” Jack quipped.

“A scientist,” the archaeologist answered.

“A guiding scientist?” Jack asked skeptically.

“Do you know anything about astrophysics and stellar drift?” Daniel challenged.

“Okay, she's a guide,” Jack agreed.  “So, you think we're the answer to some ancient foretelling of the future?”

“After only a few minutes in your presence, I believed you to be those destined to bring forth the great change, for all the Chalcedontz, both now, and future generations.  Those that came from your world before you did not fit those descriptions, but we welcomed them to join us, hoping you would follow.  It was theorized the great change would enable us to live more freely, giving us a  life without the mind sway.  We are concerned about the dangerous conditions that seem to be more frequent as time moves on.  The Prophecy says you will lead and guide us with your knowledge.  Your strength, intelligence, and resolve will enhance our own so that we no longer crave the crystal to find our happiness.  That is our hope, and we believe in your ability to prove the Prophecy true.”

The three men fell silent, absorbing the enormity of the situation.  For once, Jack had no sarcastic retort, and Daniel was speechless.  After exchanging hopeful glances with both Jack and Daniel, Brennis moved away to let them confer.

“We need a report from Carter; see where we stand.  Then we'll decide where to go from there,” Jack said as he stood and walked to the railing overlooking the lower level.

“Daniel, where is she?” Jack spoke.

“I don't know,” the archaeologist answered, now standing at his lover's side, his eyes searching for both of their friends.

====

In the room that contained the conduit of unity, Sam was fast learning what she needed, no thanks to the scientific workers or the members of the other SG teams, who were extremely content to work on their various projects.

“Teal'c, I think we're about ready to test my theory,” Sam stated.

“Perhaps we should advise ColonelO'Neill and DanielJackson,” Teal'c suggested.

“We don't know if this will work or not, Teal'c, and we can't afford to waste time. The colonel ordered me to try to figure out how this works, and that's what I'm doing.  Ready?”

“As you wish,” Teal'c responded, bowing his head.

====

“Carter?  Teal'c?” Jack called out.

“Sam?” Daniel yelled.

“CARSON, HAVE YOU ...”

Just then, a huge flash went off downstairs.  As Jack and Daniel searched to see what was happening, Teal'c called out to them, though he still wasn't visible to them.

“O'NEILL, DANIELJACKSON, IT IS MAJOR CARTER!”

Jack and Daniel exchanged one quick glance, after which both ran down the stairs, hoping the effects of crossing the Sahyadris wouldn't affect them for quite some time.

“Teal'c, what happened?” Daniel asked, breathing heavily as he and Jack arrived at the room a minute later.

Teal'c was on the floor, staring blankly ahead, while Sam was unconscious on the floor.  She began to rouse as Jack crouched down by her.

“Carter?”

“I guess it didn't work,” Sam mumbled as Jack helped her to sit up.

“What didn't work?” Jack asked.

“I was trying to realign the conduit externally,” Sam answered.  “I was sure it would work, but when I reconnected the last circuit, the room was filled with an electrical charge.  Then I went down.”

“There was a great flash of light,” Teal'c intoned.

“Yes, we saw that.  Are you guys hurt?” Daniel asked.

“No, I'm fine,” Sam responded as she stood.  “Teal'c, are you okay?”

“The light has caused some difficulty, but I will be fine,” Teal'c responded.  “My symbiote is working to fix the problem.”

“The problem?” Jack inquired as he stood up.  He was curious why the Jaffa was still seated.  “Where are you hurt?”

“I am not hurt, O'Neill.  I am blind, temporarily,” Teal'c announced.

“Teal'c, I'm so sorry,” Sam spoke, suddenly feeling very guilty about having insisted they test her theory.

“I will be fine, MajorCarter.  You must continue to find the answer to the power cycles,” Teal'c insisted.

“I think we should just get out of here,” Jack commented.

“Why, Jack?  It's nice down here,” Daniel responded with a smile.

Jack's heart suddenly skipped a beat as he silently swore and exclaimed an inward, ~Crap!~  He looked at Sam, a question in his eyes.  ~Think of something, Major.~

“Maybe crossing the barrier works quicker on some people,” Sam deduced.

~Double crap!~ Jack thought as he suddenly remembered.  “He touched the wall -- twice!”

“The connection must have enhanced his reaction time, Sir,” Sam theorized.

~Ya think?~  The colonel just shook his head.  ~Will My Danny ever learn?~

“I'm gonna go talk with Rod,” Daniel stated.

“Rod?” Jack queried in disbelief.

“Rod Klinger.  You know, Jack -- he's the good-looking lieutenant on SG-6.  He has a fabulous collection of tribal masks at home.  Ah, anyway, I'm gonna go say 'hi',” he said, pointing over his shoulder for a second and then walking a couple of steps towards the exit.

“Daniel, we're going upstairs,” Jack insisted.  ~Before I have to kill Rod Klinger.  Good looking?~

“No, Jack,” Daniel said, stepping back.  “I like it here, and I want to talk to Rod.”

“Oh, we *so* aren't playing this game,” the older man said.  He turned, ordering, “Carter, make sure Teal'c is okay, and keep on trying to reduce the cycle.”  He frowned, then remarked, “It's too bad you can't just turn it off.”

Sam's eyelids fluttered a few times and then she smiled, saying, “Sir, you've done it again!”

“I'm so glad.  What have I done now, Carter?” the colonel asked dryly.

“I don't think this is meant to change cycles.  That's the problem,” Sam revealed excitedly.  “Sir, I assumed it was the level of the emissions, but maybe it's meant to go and on and off at various intervals.  If that's the case, then something is keeping it from shutting off.  The question is ... what,” she said, staring at the large object and already lost in a myriad of possibilities.

“Oh, Jack, it's like the timers people use in their houses to make their lights go on and off when they aren't home, so that people will think they are home and not break in, so they don't come home to an empty house and have to call the pol...”

“We get it, Daniel,” Jack stated, silencing his lovers latest rambling lecture.

“Daniel is correct, Sir,” Sam stated.

“Fine, well ...” Jack began, but then he twisted around to look at his lover and realized he was gone.  “Fix it, Carter,” he ordered impatiently before hurrying out into the large bottom floor of the facility.  He searched anxiously for the man who was his heart, going in and around the various partitions that divided the room into work areas, finally taking a breath when he saw Daniel.  Quickly, he made his way over to the younger man.  “Daniel, upstairs -- *now!*”

“Can't, Jack,” Daniel said, turning back to continue a conversation in an African dialect with Klinger.

“No way!” Jack exclaimed, physically picking up Daniel and tossing him over his shoulder.

“PUT ME DOWN!” Daniel ordered as Jack began to make his way through the lower level.  When Jack didn't respond, he squirmed and used his knees to kick his soulmate in the abdomen.  The blow wasn't all that hard, but it was enough to get the older man to falter, giving Daniel a chance to roll out of Jack's hold.  “LEAVE ME ALONE, JACK, unless you want to hear what Klinger was saying.”

“Daniel, I'm sorry,” Jack spoke softly as he stood facing his lover.

Daniel smiled, sure Jack was now interested in learning about Klinger's tribal mask collection, and responded.  “You don't need to be sorry, Jack.”

“Good!” Jack replied, looking away for a moment.  Then, using all of his might, he landed a right jab onto his soulmate.  He repeated, “I'm sorry, Danny,” as the archaeologist fell to the floor.  “KO for me,” he quipped, leaning over, picking his lover up, and then carrying him upstairs.  ~You'll forgive me.  I hope.~

Brennis had witnessed the latter part of what happened and quickly led Jack to a bench.

Jack gently laid Daniel down, then briefly checked him over to make sure his lover hadn't hit his head against anything when he fell.

A bit startled, the elder asked, “Do you think that was wise?  We had not thought to use force as we are unsure how that might affect the mind sway.  What if there are repercussions?”

Alarmed, Jack looked down into Daniel's face and lamented, ~What have I done, Danny?  If something happens, I'll never forgive myself.  Love you, so friggin' much!~  He sighed, knowing he had to hope for the best.  “Well, Carter thinks she'll be able to come up with a solution.”

“I suppose you are right,” Brennis responded.  “It's best not to dwell on that which cannot be changed.”

“Yes,” Jack agreed quietly.  “Let's not dwell.”

Still, looking at his youthful lover, Jack, continued to do just that, his heart aching at just the idea that he could have done something to seriously hurt Daniel.

====

Having shaken off the temporary effects of the electrical surge, Sam was hard at work getting to the core of the power conduit.  As she removed the final piece, allowing her to see inside, she gasped and stood frozen in awe.

“Holy Hannah!” the scientist exclaimed.

“What is it, MajorCarter?” Teal'c questioned, his vision still not completely restored, though his eyesight was now blurry instead of a steady darkness.

“It's an asterism, and it's beautiful, Teal'c,” Sam observed almost breathlessly.

“I am not acquainted with that word,” Teal'c noted.  “What is an asterism?”

Still struck by the dazzling sight, Sam explained, “It's a star-shaped pattern burst of light that occurs naturally when light reflects through crystals or gems ... um, sapphires to be specific.  Wow.  I've never seen such a large representation before.  It must be what redirects the current away from ...”

“MajorCarter, my vision is slowly returning.  I am able to discern shadows and light once again,” Teal'c informed her.

Moving to the Jaffa's side, Sam helped him to stand and move closer to her work station.

“Wait here, Teal'c, while I go get Colonel O'Neill, Daniel, and Brennis.  I see the problem now, and I think I've figured out a solution,” Sam stated.

Teal'c bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement and then waited for his teammate to return with the others.

====

Daniel let out a contented sigh.  Everything was so perfect.  It was a beautiful day, the blue sky and white fluffy clouds highlighted a perfect temperature of eighty-degrees.  There was a slight breeze, and all around him were tall trees.  Birds were chirping, squirrels were chewing on nuts, and children were laughing and running all around.

A feeling of warmth and peace filled the archaeologist.  He couldn't help but smile at the sensations that were flowing through him.  He turned around and grinned at what he saw walking towards him -- the sexiest man he'd ever seen.  More than that, the man was his lover.

Jack approached, holding a box in his hands.  He greeted Daniel with a sweet, tender kiss, letting the whole world see their love.

“I brought you something, Angel,” Jack said, handing the blue box to his soulmate.

“What is it?” Daniel asked.

“It's something very special, and you should only put the things that matter most to you in it,” Jack answered while his lover opened the box.

“Uh, there's nothing inside?” the surprised archaeologist asked.

“That's the beauty of it.  It's totally up to you.  Make sure you only keep what makes you happy inside,” Jack replied.

“I don't understand, Jack.  It's a ... box, isn't it?” Daniel inquired.

Jack radiated with love, his smile becoming the Irish grin that made his eyes shine, the one that always caused Daniel to go weak in the knees.

“It's your heart, Danny.  Take care of it, for it's a special kind,” Jack explained.

“I'll put thoughts of you inside,” Daniel replied.  “You're what makes me happy, Jack.”

“No need,” Jack surprised his lover in saying.  “We're one heart, one soul, and one everything, Danny.”

Daniel smiled widely, nodding as he said, “You've given me so much, Jack.  My heart is full because of you.”

“I love you, Angel,” Jack responded, kissing the younger man and holding him close, but making sure not to harm the box.

--

Jack had been watching his unconscious lover, full of worry about the effects of his punch.  He paced for a minute, wondering how long it would be before Daniel would wake up.

Daniel let out a happy sounding sigh, and he smiled as his head turned.

~What's with the smile?  Geez, you're beautiful.  What are you dreaming about, Danny?~  Jack watched, actually unable to keep from smiling himself as he gazed upon the younger man.  He groaned, though, seeing a bruise developing on the man's jaw from where Jack's fist had made contact.  ~I'm sorry about that,~ he thought again.

“Colonel?”

Hearing Sam calling from below, Jack walked to the railing so he could see her.

“Sir, I think you and Daniel should come down here.  I think I know what happened and how to correct the problem,” Sam stated.

“We'll be right there, Major,” Jack replied.  Jack turned and looked at Daniel again, wondering if he should try to wake him, but the choice was quickly taken from him as his lover began to stir.  “Daniel?”

Still smiling, the archaeologist opened his eyes and called out, “J'ck?  Jack, I lov...”

“Uh, Daniel, how's it going?” Jack asked loudly, moving forward to stop the words that were about to tumble from his lover's lips.  “Brennis is here.  Sorry, I had to hit you.”

“Hit ... hit me?” Daniel questioned, the dream now fading, and the reality setting in.  ~Gawd, that was a beautiful dream, but ... it was just a ... dream.~

Daniel's smile had faded, causing Jack's soul to take a nosedive.  Something had just happened, but as much as he wanted to know what that something was, this wasn't the time or place to find out what was going on in the young man's mind.

“Carter has something.  You up for a return visit downstairs?” Jack asked, ignoring any need to explain why he'd hit his soulmate.

As Daniel sat up, he rubbed his jaw and said, “Just ... don't let me touch anything.”

“Deal,” Jack replied.

Standing, Daniel added, “Jack, why *did* you hit me?”

“You didn't want to come up to the platform.  That stuff down there got to you,” Jack answered.

“Oh, uh, sorry,” Daniel stated.

Brennis led the way down the stairs, but just as Jack and Daniel began to walk down, Jack added, “And keep away from Klinger.”

“Rod?”

“Yes, Rod!” Jack confirmed snarkily.

“Uh, why?  He's ...” Daniel began, not realizing why his lover was acting the way he was.  Then, a few steps down, the fuzziness left, and he began to recall what had happened.  “Oh,” he stated in realization.

Jack paused for a brief moment, glancing back at the younger man.

“I remember now,” Daniel revealed.

“Good,” Jack replied with a nod and warning tone.

Daniel just shrugged and smiled slightly before the two continued down to the lower level of the facility.

====

“The power core's center crystal has shifted, probably as a result from the frequent explosions, which means it's been unable to process the power correctly,” the major explained to her teammates and Brennis.

“Which means?” Jack prodded.

Sam continued, “As I understand it, the core acts as a filter, first absorbing the energy, then redirecting it to the underground piping systems.  That in turn distributes the power to where its needed.  The force generated becomes too much, if not given the proper outlet.  Each different type of crystal produces different levels of energy.”

“Carter, you're giving me a headache,” Jack complained.

“Sorry, Sir,” Sam apologized.  Thinking how she could simplify her remarks, she continued, “Each process gives off different amounts of energy, and it's fed to the core.  The core gathers it, then transfers it into an electric current, and then it's used for various applications all over the community.”  She paused, watching as Jack physically yanked his lover away from a nearby crystal, apparently snapping the man out of becoming affected yet again.  “It's really as fascinating as it is complex.  I've never seen anything quite like it before.”

Brennis was nodding, listening intently, and asked, “Would this be why the mind sway has overcome the workers?”

“It could certainly explain a lot.  The power that naturally occurs most likely built up, and with each power spike, the physical response was also heightened,” Sam theorized.

“Like blood pressure rising in response to stress?” Daniel asked, self-hugging to keep himself from touching anything.

“Very much like that,” Sam confirmed.  “Endorphins go wild, or perhaps dopamine levels spike.  Those would be my best guesses, but we'd need Janet to run tests.”

“Why are some people more susceptible than others?” Jack asked, looking at Daniel, who bowed his head.

“Basic physiology, I suppose,” Sam theorized.  “I imagine it's no different than why some people get drunk faster than others or get the flu more frequently.  There's probably something in our bodies that make us more likely to succumb to the emissions.  Um, we should keep a close eye on Daniel while we're down here,” she added almost apologetically.

Ignoring the issue as it related to himself, Daniel inquired, “What do you think will happen to the Chalcedontz people, Sam?  I'm not sure it's a good idea to drastically take away their happiness and alter their entire belief system; it, uh, might be disastrous.”

“That's the great thing about it, Daniel.  We're not taking it away.  We're toning it down to a more manageable level, one that will be tolerable, but not addictive,” Sam responded.

“Carter, my head hurts from all the technobabble.  Bottom line it for me,” Jack requested.

“Well, Sir, when you mentioned the off switch, I thought there must be a main power source.  Essentially, the plug's loose; we just need to wiggle it a little,” Sam replied, a little smile on her face.

“Thank you, Carter.  Now that, I understood,” Jack quipped lightly.

~He understood it all.~  Daniel ducked his head, hiding a grin, then it faltered as he turned toward Teal'c.  Walking closer to his friend, the linguist asked, “Are you all right?”

“I am fine, DanielJackson.  My sight is almost fully restored,” the Jaffa answered.

“Good enough to see where you're going?” Jack questioned.  After Teal'c nodded, Jack led him away from the others, speaking softly, “T, I tried contacting SG-5 upstairs, but something about this building blocks the signal.  It's about time to check-in, or they'll send out the calvary.  Go back to the Stargate.  Contact Hammond, and fill him in on what we know.”  Jack looked back inside the room, just to make sure Daniel wasn't touching anything and that Brennis was still there.  “Have SG-5 close in on the area, but keep a safe distance from the town.  I want them able to move in at a minute's notice if this guy is pulling something on us.  Then you come back inside.”

“As you wish,” Teal'c acknowledged, looking over at the others and then making his way to the upper level.

Jack turned back towards the room where the conduit of unity was.  He hoped everything was as Sam described, but he wasn't about to take chances.  When he returned inside the room, Sam and Daniel were discussing the details which the Chalcedontz scientists would need to know in order to maintain the core properly.

“Carter, I understand the plug analogy, but, if it's that simple, why couldn't their scientists control it before?  For that matter, what if the plug needs wiggling again?” Jack asked.

“That shouldn't happen, Sir,” Sam answered.  “It was the high levels of the emissions that were affecting their ability to control the equipment,” she explained.

“You mean Happy City?” Jack deduced in question.

“Uh, yes, Sir.  They didn't know what to look for, and before they could investigate, they were probably under the influence.  I can add a few safeguards and create a monitor that would provide an audible warning should anything malfunction in the future, ” Sam suggested, feeling totally confident that the problems in the facility would be eliminated when she finished her work.

“How long to do all that?” Jack asked, waving his hand at the power core.

“Well, fixing the ... plug is relatively simple; so is adding the alert monitor, but the safety protocols involve some complicated rewiring.  I have to ...” Sam spoke.

“Carter!”

“Three more hours, Sir,” the female answered.

“What about our exposure?” Daniel inquired.

“Once I fix the plug, the effects will start to wear off.  We haven't been down here long enough to be at risk.  Well, except for ...”

“I get it,” Daniel acknowledged, feeling a bit embarrassed.  “What about SG-6 and SG-3?”

“It'll take them a little while to feel like themselves.  I don't think we should force them, Colonel,” Sam opined, looking at Jack.  “If we let the power core do its job properly, the teams should be back to normal within a couple of days.”

“What of my people?” Brennis asked.

“That's going to take longer, Brennis,” Sam answered.  “We can't undo the effects of years worth of emissions overnight, but it will happen; and you'll notice that people who haven't come down here before won't be affected abnormally at all.”

“We are in your debt,” the elder spoke.  “You *have* fulfilled the Prophecy.” He went into an almost meditative state for a moment, then he became overjoyed, bursting with excitement over the outcome.  “My friends, today is a glorious day indeed.  Major Carter, when you have completed the corrections to the conduit of unity, we will have a feast.”

“Feast?” Jack asked, perking up slightly.  “We like feasts.”

“Yes, come.  We must plan the celebration,” Brennis told Jack and Daniel.  “It will be a feast for all.”

“Will they leave?” the colonel inquired, motioning back towards the larger work area where many of the inhabitants were working.

“Yes,” Brennis answered.  “We have always had celebrations for our special days.  They will not stay away long, but they honor our history.”

“Brennis, I really would like to speak with all of your scientists before I start this.  I think they should see it,” Sam remarked.

“Of course.  I will send them to you directly,” Brennis agreed cheerfully before leading Jack and Daniel back upstairs.

====

As Teal'c came into view, SG-5 gathered closer, waiting anxiously to find out what was happening.  With the team together, the Jaffa imparted the information about the town and the underground facility.  Colonel Hamilton listened intently, asked a few questions, and then waited as the quiet warrior dialed Earth to give Hammond his report.

“Is everyone safe, Teal'c?  Do you need backup?” the concerned leader of the SGC asked.

“At the moment, all appears to be well, GeneralHammond,” Teal'c began.  He then updated the major general on the recent events and continued, “The missing SG teams are affected, but that will not last long.  MajorCarter and I will be fine, also.  ColonelO'Neill believes the situation to be stable, but is watchful.  I am to return with further orders,” Teal'c reported.

“And Doctor Jackson?” General Hammond wondered.  ~That young man is a magnet for mishaps.~

“He is ... himself,” Teal'c responded with a slight smile on his face.

Hammond threw his head back slightly as he took in the Jaffa's answer and thought, ~That means he got in trouble, Colonel O'Neill got him out of it, and the situation is status quo.~  He nodded and replied, “Very well, Teal'c.  Check in again in six hours.  SGC out.”

With the transmission ended, per Jack's orders as relayed by the Jaffa, SG-5 followed Teal'c to the town and spread out, taking positions along its perimeter.  After observing their movements, Teal'c returned to the facility as ordered.

====

When Sam had finished her work and was satisfied that the local scientists knew how to handle a failure in the system, should it occur, Brennis called for the people to gather in the Great Hall in order to celebrate SG-1's fulfilling of the Prophecy.  With SG-1 standing alongside him in the center of the room, near the dais, he turned to address the room as a whole.

“The Prophecy was foretold many generations ago.  This day we are blessed for it has been fulfilled.  We give thanks to our new friends, and we will celebrate with a feast for all,” Brennis proclaimed.

Cheers and hugs flowed throughout the hall.  Smiles were abundant, and the members of SG-1 were momentarily overwhelmed with thanks and greetings of appreciation.

When the room settled down a bit, Brennis stepped forward, calling for quiet, and spoke, “As was promised, a great change has occurred, and all of Chalcedontz will have a better future.”  Turning to face the premiere SG team, he continued, “As a token of thanks, we offer you these gifts.”

The elder retrieved four pouches from a compartment in the back of the dais and gave one to each member of SG-1.

“This really isn't necessary,” Daniel nervously spoke, never comfortable with having so much affection and adoration coming their way.

“Yeah, really, you don't have to,” Jack said, shaking the pouch with curiosity like a kid trying to discover what's inside a wrapped present.

“Please, take them,” Brennis requested, watching as the teammates opened the pouches to see what was inside.

Each gift consisted of beautifully polished stones -- different types of crystals and gems in their natural form.  The collection was comprised of amethyst for happiness, aquamarine for joy and confidence, carnelian for physical energy and drive, citrine for clarity and memory, coral to enliven emotions, diamond for prosperity and love, emerald for peace and harmony, jade for compassion and generosity, lapis for spiritual connection, rose quartz for kindness and emotional healing, ruby for courage, vitality, and strength, and sapphire for communication and calm.

“Individually, these crystals can enhance life, and together, they can do so much more.  We ask that you accept them, as our thanks.  Now, we celebrate!  Let the feast begin,” Brennis declared, raising his hands up joyfully as he turned around in a circle to look at his people.

“Enhance life?” Jack asked, unsure about accepting the gift.  “Carter?”

“No abnormal readings, Sir,” Sam reported.

“Jack, crystals have been believed to channel good energy and ward off bad energy for centuries.  There are religions that use them in their spiritual practices.  It's, uh, a personal ... power that they are supposed to bring,” Daniel stated.

“Voodoo?” Jack challenged.

**Jack, it's a gift,** Daniel chastised.

“Thank you for the gift,” Jack stated dutifully to the elder.

“O'Neill,” Teal'c approached as the celebration began.  “SG-5 is guarding the perimeter.”

“Yeah,” Jack said, looking around the room, taking note of everything and everyone.  ~And, they're gonna stay there.~

Just then Lieutenant Carson entered the hall and approached Jack, shaking his head as things continued to become clearer to him.

“Colonel O'Neill, I'm turning myself in for insubordination.  I failed to obey your order, and ...”

At that moment, Sergeant Mellinger also entered the hall and approached, saying, “Lieutenant Carson, I regret that my actions were not befitting my place on an SG team.”

“Whoa!” Jack interrupted.  “How many times have you guys been off-world, anyway?”  He shook his head, not allowing them to answer, and continued, “I think the 'alien influence' defense works well here, don't you?  Relax, Gentlemen, and enjoy the food.  It sure beats MREs!”

“Thank you, Sir,” Carson spoke.  “Two members of my team are still affected by ... the crystals.  I admit that I ... I think I may still be under the influence myself, Sir.”

“It'll take a little time, Colonel,” Sam interjected.  “Don't force it.”

“Um, Sir, our uniforms and ...” Carson began, looking down at his casual attire.

“I'm not sure where we left them,” Mellinger added.

“Check with Brennis.  I'm sure he knows where they are,” Jack spoke, motioning towards the man.

With a nod, the two members of the other teams backed away.

“O'Neill, SG-5 is still awaiting orders,” Teal'c reminded.

“I'll take care of it, Teal'c,” Jack replied, heading for the corner where there was a little more freedom to talk without being overheard.  “Hamilton, listen carefully,” he said upon making contact with the leader of SG-5.

====

After forty minutes of celebrating, the members of SG-3 were all at least cognizant of their whereabouts and actions.  They were still suffering minor affects of the power core leakage, but all had indicated they were able to go back to Earth.  SG-6, however, were still affected.  Since they'd been on the planet longer, it was taking more time for their minds to clear.

“Colonel, maybe we should take SG-3 back to the Gate,” Sam suggested.

“No, let's wait,” Jack replied, taking another bite of something that tasted a lot like spicy chicken.

“Sir, do you suspect something?” Sam asked, curious about her CO's hesitation to return the team to Earth.

“Carter, where are their weapons?” Jack inquired.

Sam looked around, realizing for the first time that the other two SG teams were both weaponless and without their other equipment as well.

“That's what I'm worried about,” Jack added, seeing the light dawning on Sam's face.  “When Brennis returned their clothing, he failed to include or even mention their weapons, equipment, and backpacks.  Why?”

“I don't know,” Sam answered, suddenly feeling a little ill at ease herself.

“I think maybe we'll find out, when *we're* ready to,” the colonel intoned, a false smile on his face as he walked over to join his lover near a table with desserts on it.

“Jack, try some of this; it's fantastic!” the archaeologist spoke about a dessert that looked like a pie but was some kind of gel with icing on it.

“Jell-O pie?” the colonel quipped as he took a slice and examined it closely.

“Tastes like ... like ... I don't know, but it sure is good,” Daniel commented.

Jack nodded and finally ate a bite of dessert.  He mumbled indistinctly that his lover was right, and it was delicious.

“Jack ...”

“What?”

“That warning we saw ...” Daniel began quietly.

“The one by the Stargate?” Jack responded.

“We still don't know what it means, or why it's there,” the archaeologist commented.

“How about 'Danger: Keep Out or be turned into happy worker bees because of the power of the crystals'?” Jack quipped sarcastically.

“Actually, uh, you may not be too far off with that statement,” Daniel replied.

“Daniel, all I know is that this place isn't what it seems,” Jack stated in between bites of his dessert.

“But it is fascinating,” Daniel maintained, walking over to get one of the beverages.

====

Sam walked over to Teal'c, who was standing quietly by the far wall, and asked, “What's your take on this place, Teal'c?”

“It is impressive,” Teal'c responded.

“It is, isn't it?” Sam asked, not really expecting an answer.  After a moment, she said, “Teal'c, I'm going back down to the room with the power core in it.”

“Do you suspect something, MajorCarter?”

“I don't know, but I want to check something out,” Sam replied, smiling briefly at her teammate.

Sam halted the Jaffa's attempt to accompany her, reassuring him that it was unnecessary as SG-5 was still outside.  Then before he could say anything more, she turned and headed back for the facility.

“ColonelHamilton,” Teal'c called out over the radio.  “MajorCarter is headed back to the facility.”

“We have her covered, Teal'c,” Hamilton responded.

====

Having covertly watched his soulmate for a few minutes, Jack was a little concerned. The two were standing side-by-side, but the linguist hadn't really responded to Jack's presence.  Daniel definitely was a bit withdrawn, at least at the moment.  Worse than that, the younger man was flexing his jaw in a subtle, please-don't-notice sort of way.  Unfortunately, Jack had noticed, and he was on the verge of turning into a total nutcase as his guilt over hitting his lover began to surface.

~I had to hit you, Danny; I had no choice.~  With an anxious sigh, he murmured, “We'll be heading out soon, Daniel.  We just have to clear up some unfinished business first.”

“Unfinished business?  What do you mean?” the archaeologist softly asked.

“Look around, Daniel.  You know enough to spot the obvious,” Jack replied quietly.  **By the way, I love you.**

**Yeah, well, me, too, I mean, I love you, too, but ...**  Daniel sighed in frustration and returned to a verbal conversation.  “Notice what, Jack?  All I see are some very nice people celebrating.”

“Look closer,” Jack encouraged, continuing to monitor who was nearby and making sure they weren't being overheard.

Daniel reviewed the room, searching for what his lover might be bothered by.  He studied the local inhabitants, taking notice of what they were doing.  He saw the SGC personnel, observing their behavior closely.  Then he bowed his head, trying to piece it all together.  Clearly, Jack was concerned about something.  The question was what.

~I'm missing something,~ Daniel acknowledged as he went back to the beginning, replaying their entire visit to the planet.  “Their equipment.”

“Bingo!” Jack quietly exclaimed.

“Jack, maybe they just forgot.  I mean, we haven't seen anything here that even indicates the Chalcedontz have any kind of arms, and they clearly have the capability of manufacturing radios,” Daniel commented.

“Maybe, or maybe this is all one big ruse,” the CO of SG-1 suggested.

“Why?” Daniel asked.

Jack tilted his head one time and shrugged, not having the answer to the question.

“Maybe you're looking for a war where there isn't one, Jack,” Daniel countered.

Jack nodded and was about to reply when he heard the click of his radio.

“Colonel O'Neill?”

“Carter?” Jack asked, wondering where she'd gone to.

“Sir, I think you should see this.  I'm in the ...” Sam's voice trailed off.

“Carter?” Jack called out again.

Daniel clicked his radio, saying, “Sam, come in.  Sam?”

“Let's go,” Jack commanded, signaling to Teal'c.

“What is wrong, O'Neill?” the warrior inquired.

“Carter's disappeared, and ...”

“She went back to the facility, to their conduit of unity,” Teal'c explained.

“Then that's where we're going,” Jack ordered, leading his teammates out of the Great Hall.

====

En route to the facility, Jack radioed Hamilton, who confirmed Sam's entry into the 'outhouse', as Jack continued to call it.  He also reported that two other inhabitants had gone inside within two minutes of Sam's arrival.  However, the leader of SG-5 hadn't been concerned because the men were dressed like the other inhabitants of the town, and they had done nothing to draw negative attention towards themselves.

“Do you want reinforcements, Colonel?” Hamilton inquired.

“Negative,” Jack replied as they approached the dome.  “The word is crunch.”

“Understood,” Hamilton said, signing off.

Weapons at the ready, SG-1 entered the small shack, taking the spiral staircase down to the platform and then walking down the other stairway to the lowest level.  With all of the Chalcedontz at the Great Hall, the only ones who should be there were Sam and the two mystery men who went in after her.  Stealthily, they made their way to the room with the power core, finding it empty.

“O'Neill,” Teal'c spoke, bending down and picking up Sam's green BDU cap.

“She was here,” Jack deduced, though he already knew that was true.

“I don't understand,” Daniel spoke, desperately wanting to believe in the Chalcedontz people.

“It's simple, Daniel,” Jack replied.  “We're in the middle of a chess game, and right now, we're the pawns.”  He sighed, then ordered, “Teal'c, search the place.”

The Jaffa nodded and exited the room to search.

“You don't think she's here?” Daniel asked, though it was more of a statement.

“No,” Jack answered.  “Let's help Teal'c, and then we're gonna have a little chat with Brennis.”

====

When she regained consciousness, the first thing Sam became aware of were soft murmurings.  She could tell they were coming from nearby.  There was a pleasant lilt to the voices, although the words were indistinct.  The second thing that struck her was the bindings around her wrists and that she was lying on her side.  Alarmed, she began to struggle, trying to sit up and take in her surroundings.

Seeing the movement, the two captors slowly approached, so as not to further alarm her.

“Do not attempt to escape,” the first man spoke.

The second man added, “If you cooperate, no harm will come to you.”
 
Wide-eyed, Sam looked at them, trying to gauge the situation.  She then looked around the small room in which she was being held.  It was simple, the only furniture being the bench she was seated on and a small table.  There was also a light and what looked to be a radio transmitter atop the table.  The walls appeared to be made of the same material the buildings in town were.
 
“What do you want with me?  Why am I here?” Sam questioned sternly.

“All in due time, Major Carter.  Please, speak no further,” the first man ordered.  Going to the radio, he spoke softly into it, “She is awake.”

====

Their search having come up empty, SG-1 returned to the celebration and were immediately greeted by Brennis.

“Was there something displeasing about our celebration?” the elder inquired.  “Why did you leave the Great Hall?”

Walking up to the man, Jack was glad to note he was alone at the moment.

The colonel replied, “This has been a swell party, and everything was really tasty.  We had fun and want to say thanks before we head out.”

Brennis froze for a second, unprepared for the apparent quick departure of the visitors.  Then, he relaxed.

Unfortunately for the elder, Jack caught the pause, his eyes narrowing, knowing his gut instincts were right.

In an eerily calm tone, the leader of SG-1 asked, “Were your suspicions just confirmed, or proven wrong?”
 
Taken aback, Brennis stared at Jack as he answered, “I'm not sure what you are implying, Colonel.”

“One of my team is missing,” Jack stated.

“That can't be,” Brennis refuted.

“MajorCarter went to the power core to check the equipment.  She has not returned,” Teal'c stated soberly.

“Perhaps she is studying some of our machinery.  She was fascinated by them,” Brennis reminded.

“Not that fascinated,” Jack argued.  “She wouldn't just disappear.”

“I assure you, Colonel, that I have no knowledge of any of this.  I am sure she will return soon.”
 
“We did a search of the facility, with no trace of her whereabouts.  Where is she?” the colonel persisted, moving one step closer to the elder.
 
“Please, return with me.  Come feast again,” Brennis begged.

“No, I don't think so.  We're done playing your game, Brennis,” Jack barked.  Seeing the flicker in the elder's eyes, Jack knew he was on the right track and that now was the time to push the issue.  “This can go down the easy way, or the hard way.  Your choice.”  Jack's voice was cold and threatening.  “Tell us what you know *now*!”

“Jack!” the linguist exclaimed.  He stared at his lover, surprised and unsure at the lightening change.  **What's going on?**

**Danny, trust me on this.  There's more to this than meets the eye,** Jack responded.
 
Knowing Jack, and fully trusting him, Daniel turned to their host, quietly requesting, “Brennis, we're very concerned about our teammate.  If you know something, you have to tell us.  Please.”

The Chalcedontz priest nodded and led them slightly away from the Great Hall where he finally spoke, “You must understand that I meant no harm.  I only wanted to ensure the safety of my people.  As a leader, I am positive you would do the same, would you not, Colonel O'Neill?”

Jack was silent for a moment as he considered what Brennis had just said.  He turned to check that Teal'c was alert for any potential problems.  Though he couldn't see them, he also knew SG-5 was in position.

**He's right Jack, and you know it.  Can we hear him out, please?  At least give him a chance.**

**Daniel, I'm really trying here.  Something happened, and I want to know what.  I 'need' to know!** Jack exclaimed in reply.  “I'm listening, Brennis, but understand this.  If my people were harmed in any way ... ”

Brennis hastened to assure Jack and his team that it wasn't what he was thinking, explaining, “Things were becoming more unstable, and my top scientists had not been able to figure out why.  They'd been affected by the mind sway.  My scientists were useless.”

“Scientists usually are,” Jack gibed.

Immediately, Daniel glowered at his Love, his eyes hardened by the remark.

“I was just saying that in ... never mind,” Jack stated, motioning for the elder to continue.

Brennis nodded and spoke, “When your first team arrived, but were not the ones to fulfill the Prophecy, some of the other elders became afraid.  We remained hopeful when the second team came, but it became clear that they, too, were not the ones to fulfill the Prophecy.  It was taken as a bad omen, and precautions had to be taken.”

“Like what?” Jack growled, fast running out of patience.

“I still believed the true 'four' would come, and it was agreed that your people would be searched and watched, and by the time they were affected, there was no need to be concerned any longer.  Shortly thereafter you came, and the day of great change was upon us.  No harm came to your people, Colonel, please believe me.  We are honorable people,” the elder entreated.
 
“That doesn't explain what happened to Carter.  For the last time, where is she?” the colonel asked forcefully.

“I'm not sure, but I suspect it is Finn's doing,” the elder stated cautiously, keeping his voice low and eyes downcast.

~We're just having a bad day here ... I hope.~  Not liking the change in Brennis, Jack was immediately on guard.  “Who is Finn, and what would he want with Carter?”

“He is a powerful being, one who controls our lives and provides for our way of life.  If he is, in fact, responsible, he must feel Major Carter possesses knowledge he does not.  He would wish to gain it from her.”

“What?  Are you saying he's been watching us this whole time?” Jack asked, furious at this new development.

“You said powerful being?  Could it be ...?” the archaeologist started, but paused, drifting inward with his thoughts.

“Daniel?  Care to share with the class?” Jack snarked, frustrated and feeling his blood pressure rise.

**Jack, you're not helping,** Daniel chastised privately.

**Daniel, we don't have time to play games.  Carter's not with us, in case you've forgotten.**

**I know, but ... be quiet for a minute,** Daniel requested as he tried to connect Finn with another legend of folklore.  Turning back to Brennis, he nodded, saying, “Tell us more about Finn.”

“Finn is known to only myself and the elders.  If the townsfolk knew, there would be chaos, with much fear and distrust.  Never before has he interfered in our lives, so it must have something to do with your arrival and the fulfilling of the Prophecy.  I am sorry about this, Colonel.  I never anticipated this could happen.”  Turning to Daniel, Brennis confirmed what the archaeologist suspected, stating, “Finn is a being beyond anything else I've ever known.  He is able to change forms ...”

Daniel gasped excitedly, turning to Jack as he made the connection that had been stirring within him and explaining, “Celtic legends say that 'Finn', or 'Fintan', had magical powers and was able to shape-shift, become anything he wanted.  He'd travel the lands, granting wishes, causing mischief, or performing miracles, depending on his moods and whims.  There's also a version of him controlling the Three Worlds -- the Sky, being the sun, moon, and stars; the Earth, being human, animal, and the forces of nature; and the Underworld, being ...”

“Let me guess,” Jack interrupted.  “Death, the devil, hell.”

“Close,” Daniel answered, continuing, “It's, uh, life, death, and rebirth.  It's powerful, heady stuff, Jack.”

“Yes, that is a fair account of the Finn I know, the one you speak of,” Brennis agreed.  “He has rarely shown his true self to me, usually appearing as an elder to the other townsfolk and very seldom at that.  Something must be terribly wrong for him to have sent someone here and to take one of your people.  Those loyal to him move peacefully among us, never causing trouble.”

Jack looked taken aback, asking, “So, he what, morphs into different things and sends spies to watch you?  You've got to be kidding me!”
 
“I'm afraid so, Colonel.  He controls our towns, our way of life, our very livelihoods.  We would not cross him.  I'd hoped to avoid having to tell you anything about him, praying that all went well concerning the Prophecy and your safe return home.  The only thing I can think of is that the power supply shifted, and we did not fulfill his needs, thereby displeasing him greatly.  He would have been informed of the developments here by one of those loyal to him.  They would have told him of Major Carter's involvement, and it would have been those loyal to Finn who would have taken your peoples' belongings from where they were stored.”  Brennis hung his head, repeating softly, “I am truly sorry, Colonel O'Neill.”

The remaining members of SG1 looked at each other, absorbing this new information.
 
“Well,” Jack stated, “Plan B it is.”  He tapped his radio twice and heard three taps in response.  “Daniel, Teal'c,” he stated, leading them away from Brennis.

“Jack, I don't think Finn would hurt Sam,” Daniel opined.

“You don't?”

“He's ... mischievous and kind in legend, not evil,” Daniel reminded.

“Then why is Brennis afraid of him?” Jack posed, lowering his head just slightly to emphasis his point.  “Legend or not, he wants something.  I still feel like we're being played.”

“Do you believe Brennis is still lying, O'Neill?” Teal'c inquired.

Jack sighed, glancing around the area again as he considered the question.

“Jack, he sounds sincere,” Daniel stated before his lover could respond.

“Daniel, you thought Shyla was sincere,” Jack snapped sharply.

“She was, but ...”

“Forget I mentioned her,” Jack ordered.  “The point is you'd trust Brennis if he was standing there wearing a red suit, had two pointed horns sticking out on his head, and was surrounded by fire.”

“Aren't you being a little too skeptical, not to mention condescending?  Brennis has been nothing but kind to us. Okay, so he withheld some information, but he's telling us now, and I think he's sincere about not knowing where Sam is,” Daniel argued.

“Daniel, you were the most affected by that brainwashing thing of theirs, so ...”

“So ... what?  You can't trust me?  Is that what you're saying?” Daniel argued.

“No, I'm *not* saying that.  Don't put words in my mouth,” Jack sniped.

“Would you prefer I hit you instead?” the archaeologist asked curtly.

“Okay, that's it!”

“O'Neill, DanielJackson,” Teal'c interrupted.  “Perhaps you have both been affected by the energy source.”

“No, Teal'c, I don't think so,” Jack denied.  “Not me, anyway.”

“Oh, so I'm just ... what ... crazy?” Daniel argued.  “Are you going to call Janet and have her lock me in a padded cell again?”

“Daniel ...”

“No, Jack, you just carry on, but I'm going to go find Sam,” Daniel expressed angrily, turning and walking away rapidly.

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Jack sighed exasperatedly.  “DANIEL, GET BACK HERE!” he shouted.  “Teal'c, go get him.  Bring him back by force, if necessary.”

“He may not want to come back, O'Neill.”

“*By force*, if necessary,” Jack repeated.  “Go!” he ordered.  He walked back to Brennis and warned, “Brennis, you'd better be telling me the truth.”

“I avow on the Astral that what I said is the truth, Colonel,” Brennis responded.

“Right,” Jack sighed, turning around and waiting for Teal'c and Daniel to return.

====

Ten minutes later, Teal'c radioed Jack with the bad news that he had been unable to find the team's archaeologist.  He suspected Daniel had slipped inside one of the many buildings in the star-shaped pattern of the town.

“Great, just great,” Jack bemoaned.

“Shall I continue looking for DanielJackson?” Teal'c inquired over the radio.

“Hold,” Jack answered.  “Hamilton, any sign of Doctor Jackson by your team?”

“No, Sir.  We haven't seen him,” Hamilton responded.

“Keep an eye out,” Jack ordered.  **Daniel, where are you?**  As he paced, he waited for a response, hoping Daniel was close enough that their communication would work.  **Answer me, blast it!**  Still, even as he waited, he knew his lover wouldn't respond.  “Teal'c, come on back.”

====

“You won't get away with this,” Daniel told his captor as he sat on a chair in the middle of a small room.

“I am getting away with it, Doctor Jackson.  You *will* do as I say,” a man spoke from the shadows.

“I won't do it,” Daniel insisted as he tried to undo the bindings that held his hands together.

“You will, or you will never see your friend Carter again.”

“That's what you don't get!  I don't have the authority to do what you want,” the linguist explained.

“Maybe, maybe not, but you are the perfect bait to lure in the one who does,” the man in the shadows spoke.

“Pawns,” Daniel whispered.

“What?” the man asked.

~Jack was right.  We're game pieces to ...~  Daniel looked over at the shadowy figure for a moment, then cunningly asked, “Are you bored, Finn?”

With a twisted smile, the man emerged from the shadows, saying, “You know of me.”

“I know that your idea of entertainment isn't just playful mischief,” Daniel replied.  ~Jack has to be looking for me, and Sam, too.  I need to buy time; learn as much as I can.~  Putting on his best snarky face, he challenged, “So, you want us to 'escort' you off this planet ... to where?  And for what purpose?”

“My reasons are my own,” Finn replied.

“Have you grown weary of your playground?  Is that it?  I mean, uh, you have a pretty nice operation going on this planet.  Maybe you need more of a challenge,” the archaeologist wondered.

“Enough!  Angering me is not the way to keep you and your friend alive.  I can still use you as bait, dead or alive.  Your choice,” the legendary being threatened.

~Bait?  Don't like the sound of that.~  Daniel hesitated, deciding on his next course of actions.  However, being an anthropologist, he was full of questions, unable to contain his curiosity.  “How did you come to be trapped here, if I may ask?”

“I see no harm in answering your question,” Finn replied as he studied the human being before him.  “Three hundred years ago, I was traveling the lands, exploring, making a name for myself when the area I was in was set upon by a powerful being, with many loyal subjects.  I was enthralled by the abilities this being possessed.  He was able to control people at his will, simply by laying his hand about their heads, emitting a glow that swayed the mind, so I disguised myself, hoping to learn more.  In a moment of weakness, I allowed myself to be overcome by his magic and was captured, then taken from my home land, transported to another planet.  I learned much.  Eventually, I was able to steal a ship and escape.  I came here, with a few of my own 'loyal' subjects,” Finn explained.

“A Goa'uld took you?  Is that what you're saying?” Daniel questioned.

“Yes, one named Umbra, formerly loyal to Ra.  It seemed he no longer wanted to be in the 'shadow' of Ra and branched out on his own.  For many centuries he had reigned on his own, but his mistake was letting his guard down around me.  He was easily dealt with,” Finn answered with an evil cackle.  “Then I traveled here, to begin anew, but without the means to return home.  I knew it would be only a matter of time before I could achieve that goal, and here you are.  Now I will no longer be bound here, and I can return to my home land.”

“I'm sorry to tell you this, but your ... home land won't be as you remembered it. Much has changed since you left,” Daniel replied.  “Three centuries is a long time,” he sighed, feeling a bit sorry for Finn.

“LIES!  I grow tired of this!  You will provide me with the means to leave this place,” Finn snarled.  “Your knowledge of the Great Ring is what I seek.”

“The Great Ring?” Daniel asked.  “Never heard of it.”

In an instant, Finn's appearance changed, causing Daniel's mouth to open and eyes to widen.

“Daniel, you looked stunned,” Finn stated, now appearing in the guise of Samantha Carter.  “I can make your friends believe I am your Major Carter.  I can make them believe she's dead.  I can make them believe she's trying to kill them.  The truth, Doctor Jackson, is that I can make them believe most anything. Unless you help me, that's what I'll do.”

“Why?  Three hundred years is a long time, and you were enslaved by a Goa'uld.  And, being a traveler before that, you have to have knowledge of ... the, uh, Great Ring, so, what is it you really want?” Daniel queried.

Finn shape-shifted back to his own form, a leer on his face as he softly answered, “You, Daniel Jackson.”

“No, I'm nothing special, and until we got here, you didn't know I existed,” Daniel argued, shoving to the back of his mind both fear and shock, his skin crawling at the thought of what Finn wanted of him.

Finn laughed, his head thrown back as he did so.  He walked in a circle, around the confined archaeologist.

“You have a logical mind,” Finn remarked.

“Not everyone thinks so,” Daniel replied.  “There's ... more that binds you to this place.”

“Much more.  The Great Ring is my escape, but I cannot leave,” Finn acknowledged.

“Why?”

“The Chalcedontz need me,” Finn answered.

“Right,” Daniel replied temperately, then adding snarkily, “They need you like they need the plague.”

“Perhaps it is I who need them,” Finn proposed.

“Oh, now, uh, that I can see.  What fun is it to play your games if there is no one around to see it.  They're afraid of you, and you like that,” Daniel theorized.

“They are afraid of nothing,” Finn smirked.

“Well, you may be right, but that's only because you keep them drugged in ...” Daniel paused, cocking his head just slightly as he stared at the otherworldly being.  “You did it intentionally.  You wanted the Chalcedontz to become dependent.”

“They were happy,” Finn responded.

“No, they weren't,” Daniel refuted.  “No one who lives in an altered state can be happy because it's not their true selves.  They don't know what they are; at least, they didn't.  They will now.  I still don't understand what it is you really want.”

“What a shame,” Finn replied with a smile.

“Where's Sam?”

“She is unharmed, for the moment,” Finn threatened.

~It's all a game,~ Daniel thought.  ~Legend says he's not a malicious character.  Of course, legends can be wrong.  What does he want?~

“You're trying to get inside my mind, Doctor Jackson,” the magical figure observed.

“You're playing a game,” Daniel surmised.  “I'm just not sure what it is you want to win.”

“Everything,” Finn answered.

“Why are you still here?  All you'd have to do is ... leave,” the archaeologist stated.  Then another thought occurred to him.  “You don't want to leave.  You like the Chalcedontz.”

“That is a crazy notion.  You, yourself, have accused me of keeping them by force.  They are merely puppets to carry out my whims,” Finn claimed.

“Puppets?  No, I don't think so,” Daniel refuted.  “Brennis says you've never harmed anyone.  They aren't afraid, not really.  They just don't know any different.  You're the unknown.  That's your game -- keeping them guessing.”

“For what purpose?”

“I have no idea ... yet.”

“Nor will you know my secrets,” Finn responded.

“But you want me to,” Daniel surmised with a knowing look.  “This is part of the game -- you and me, sparring.”

“I could make you cease to exist,” Finn spoke as he turned away.

“But you won't.  You're lonely,” Daniel surmised, his voice with a subtle lilt to it as he made the latest discovery.  “You're tired of being in the shadows, of hiding, of not interacting with your 'subjects'.  You don't want to hurt them, or me.  You just want ... company.”

“You are a pitiful excuse for a human being,” Finn snapped.  “I wouldn't waste my time on you.”

“Am I?  Then why are you *wasting* time on me now?” Daniel questioned, his eyebrows arched.

As Finn slowly turned to face him, the gleam in the magickal being's eyes frightened Daniel like nothing else in the strange conversation had.  He suddenly realized just how stimulating the game was to Finn, and he no longer wanted to play.

**Jack?  Can you hear me?  Please find me!**

====

The irate colonel had become tired of pacing and waiting and had started a methodical search of the buildings, frustrated that there were no signs of his lover anywhere.  He widened the search, concentrating on the direction he thought Daniel would have most likely traveled in order to find Sam.

Jack's anxiety level was climbing, his gut telling him to find Daniel *now*, so he let his instincts guide him.  He felt he was getting close, when he heard his soulmate's plea, making his gut clench even more.

**Please find me!**

~Okay, that was Daniel,~ Jack thought as he paused his search.  He thought there might have been something more to the message, but if there was, he didn't get it.  His and Daniel's special non-verbal communication bond was growing and strengthening with time, but to 'hear' each other, they still had to be fairly close in proximity.

**Danny, where are you?  Are you hurt?** the military leader asked, hoping his lover would hear.

Though he didn't get an answer, Jack felt the connection with his lover grow stronger.  He could sense his soulmate was nearby.  Taking in the surrounding area, he decided that Daniel was probably being held in the building closest to him.  Taking cover, he radioed Teal'c, communicating his location.  It seemed his archaeologist needed a plan and some assistance, and he was more than willing to provide both.

====

“Guys, it's been great, but I've got to get going now,” Sam told the goons watching her.  She was fed up with their stares, and the half threats were grating on her nerves.  She was confident her rescue was imminent, but didn't want to hang around waiting any longer.  The female warrior was also determined to show her captors what Earth women were made of.  She was part of SG-1, after all.  ~Time to go, as the colonel would say.~

As the first guard turned to use the radio again, the major lunged at the other, ramming her shoulder into his midsection, sending him crashing into the wall.  The contact was hard enough that he hit his head and slid down the wall, unconscious.  Before the man at the radio had fully straightened, she kicked his legs out from under him, swung her elbow up under his jaw, and punched the side of his head, knocking him out, also.

“Sorry, but when a lady asks to go, it's always best to let her go,” Sam joked as she looked over her fallen captors.

The blonde gathered her belongings, then disabled the radio and prepared to leave.  As she was about to make her exit, she heard a sound.  Looking at the doorknob and seeing it move, she realized someone was trying to get inside, surmising that the commotion had alarmed someone from the outside.  Her supposition was correct as the outside guard had heard noise and had rushed to the door, which he was now hurrying to unlock.  He called out his friend's names anxiously as he worked to open the door.

Hiding behind the door, Sam waited for the guard to rush in and check on his unconscious friends.  When the man ran straight to one of the downed men, Sam rolled her eyes at the man's stupidity in not remaining alert and then slipped out the door, pulled it shut, and relocked it from the outside.  She took off running towards the town, but stopped short, less than twenty yards from where she'd been, having spotted her CO and Teal'c crouched low on the side of a nearby building that was positioned slightly away from the others.  Switching on her radio and tapping it twice to get the colonel's attention, she motioned that she would take up position opposite them.

====

“Can I ask you something, Doctor Jackson?  What is the one thing you would wish for, right now, more than anything else?” Finn inquired as he wandered around the small area like an eager cat stalking its prey.

“You don't really want the truth, do you, Finn?” Daniel snarked, hoping to raise the ire of his captor, and, in effect, distracting him from what Daniel was confident was about to take place.  “You want me to tell you what you want to hear, right?  Like, say for instance, untie my hands?  Is that what you expect me to wish for?”

Finn began to answer, but a noise drew his attention.  In the blink of an eye, the mythical figure transformed himself from the image of a human to that of a spider.  Unbeknownst to Daniel, Finn, in his altered form, crawled away, hiding high up in the corner of the room, away from any human path.

“Finn?” Daniel questioned trying to look behind him.  “Finn?” he called out again, blinking at the lack of response.  “Okay, you just disappear, and I'll sit here by myself.  Your companionship is highly overrated, anyway.”

====

Jack clicked three times on his radio, the signal to move in.  Efficiently and methodically, SG-1 stormed the room, overtaking the nearby guards and freeing Daniel.

“It's about time,” Daniel snarked as Sam undid the ties that were binding him to the chair.

“You're the one who stormed off,” Jack reminded.

“I did not run off,” the younger man refuted.  “I went after Sam.”  Suddenly, he realized their teammate was with them.  Quizzically, he asked, “Sam?”

“I'm fine, Daniel.  Sir, they jumped me inside the facility and knocked me out. When I came to, I was in the building next door,” the major explained.

“Are you hurt?” Daniel asked, full of concern.

“No.  They were actually very careful *not* to hurt me,” Sam spoke.  “I don't know how to explain it.  They were threatening, but ...”

“All talk and no action?” Jack asked.

“That's how Finn was ...” Daniel stopped, looking around the room.  “Jack, Finn was here, questioning me.”

“He doesn't seem to be here now,” Jack responded.

“According to legend, he's a shape-shifter,” the archaeologist reminded.

“What did he want?” the colonel questioned.

“Me,” Daniel answered.

“Excuse me?” Jack asked incredulously, totally not expecting that answer.  ~Over my dead body!~

“That's what he said,” the archaeologist replied, knowing it was driving his lover crazy.  Looking Jack straight in the eye, a smile barely quirking his lips, he continued to tease his lover.  “He seems to find me fascinating.”  Daniel had to look away, to refocus on the mission and save the teasing for later.  Finally, he added, “Actually, uh, I think he just wants to play.”

“Play?” Sam questioned.

Daniel twisted around to face the woman for a moment, then answered, “Yes, uh, or something.  I don't really know for sure what he wants; frankly, I'm not convinced he knows, either.  Like you said, he was very threatening, but none of it made much sense.  I think he's just bored.”

“I don't like this place,” Jack commented.  “It's time to pack up and head home, Kids.”

“Jack, we can't just leave things like this.  We need to confront Finn and help these people if we can,” the archaeologist insisted.  **Please, Jack, you know I'm right.  We just need to draw him out because I'm sure he's watching us right now.**

**How, Daniel?  And don't make me regret this!** Jack threatened in both his mind and with his sharp, intense stare at his Love.

**Do something ... you.**

**Me what?**

**Jack!  You know what I mean.  Something 'Jack', that's totally you.  Bait him, make him show himself,** the younger man encouraged.

Switching back to verbal communication, Jack glanced around the room and replied, “Okay, you have a point.  We need to find him.  Oh, look, maybe this is *him*,” he said, stepping on a large ant-like bug and killing it.

“Ewww,” Sam said with a grimace.

“Jack!” Daniel admonished.  **No more alien bug movies for you!**

“What?  Wouldn't be much of a loss,” Jack refuted.  “Think how much better off these people would be.”  Emphatically, he added, **And no way is he getting you!**

“O'Neill, DanielJackson, look behind you,” Teal'c called out.

Both men turned, stepping back from the wall and closer to their teammates.  In front of them, a 'spider' was walking down the wall, slowly morphing into a human form.

“Finn, I presume,” the colonel spoke.  “Well, it's swell to meet ...”

“Silence!  You dare to speak that way about me!  You don't know who I am, and you cannot begin to imagine what I am capable of,” Finn declared arrogantly.

As Finn circled around the edge of the room, trying to intimidate SG-1, Jack slowly slipped his zat from its holster, readying it for use, waiting for the right opportunity to subdue the magickal creature.

“I have been all to these people, both provider and protector for centuries,” Finn continued.  “And now you presume to know what is best?  I have powers beyond measure, which you will soon see,” he threatened.

The strange figure approached the door, reaching out to open it, when a bright blue light enveloped him, sending a current throughout his shaking body, making him slump to the floor.

“Carter, go get Brennis, tell him we need to chat.  Teal'c, help me get little Finny here up in the chair.”

====

As Sam went to find the elder and inform him of the situation, Jack asked Teal'c to stand guard over Finn.  He then took Daniel by the elbow and led him out into the hallway, over to a dark corner, allowing for a bit of privacy.

Spinning his lover around, pressing them tightly into the corner, and doing something he almost never indulged in off-world, Jack took his lover's lips in a powerful, possessive kiss.  The surrealism of the planet was making him twitchy, and he desperately needed the contact with his soulmate, craving their connection, if only for a few moments.

Daniel allowed the passionate contact, wanting the same, and wound his arms around the older man's neck, reassuring them both.  He briefly dug his fingers into Jack's scalp and moaned into his mouth.

At the sound, Jack gentled the kiss, savoring the stolen moment.  Giving Daniel's lips one last soft kiss, he pulled back to stare into his eyes and saw their love reflected back at him.

“Let's get this over with, Jack, so we can go home and ... you know,” Daniel stated softly.

“Oh, yeah, do I ever!”

====

Walking back into the room, Jack and Daniel saw Finn starting to rouse, with Sam and Brennis entering just behind them.  They all formed a semi-circle around the chair and waited for their captive to open his eyes.

Brennis was taken aback at what he saw and reached out to Finn, but was halted by Teal'c's outstretched arm.

“Do not,” the Jaffa warned simply.  “Let him explain his actions, and we shall see if a solution can be found.  Both this creature and your people need to co-exist, and our wish is to help you.”

“Okay, Finny, what's it gonna be?” Jack questioned flippantly.  “You want to tell us why you're pulling pranks and messing with these good people's minds?  And what could you possibly think to gain by kidnapping my teammates?  The jig is up, so spill,” Jack commanded.

“It might be messy,” Finn responded, causing Jack to grimace and look away.

Daniel rolled his eyes at his lover's comment and the sarcastic reply, then stated, “Finn, your actions suggest that you're bored and restless.  It doesn't make sense for you to remain so ... isolated from the Chalcedontz.”  With a little smile, he added, “I have a feeling friendship and honesty would go a lot longer and farther than deception and mischief.  Why not give it a try?”

“I need no one,” Finn insisted.

“Everyone needs someone,” Daniel spoke solemnly, glancing over at his lover and sharing a moment of intense understanding.  “That's why you altered the power supply, to make sure the Chalcedontz never wanted to leave here.”

“We have never intended to go anywhere; we are very happy here,” Brennis interjected.  “There is no mention anywhere in our records of moving to another world.  You have provided a wonderful life for us.  Why would we do that?”

“This is pointless,” Finn said, waving off the conversation as he turned away.

More passionately, Daniel spoke, “No, it's not pointless.  It's what you were afraid of all along.”  He walked to the leader of SG-1 and theorized, “Jack, what if you were a powerful being, but you weren't bad, just ... playful.  You were ... immortal, so to speak, living on ... well, who knows for how long, but ...”  He turned and approached Finn as he continued, “But being who, or what, you are put you at a distance.  At first, all you want is to do what your reputation insists -- be mischievous, but a funny thing happens.”  The archaeologist smiled slightly and said, “You discover you like these people, and, yet ... you're afraid.  What if they no longer need you?  What if they left you behind?  No, you can't risk that, so you make sure they'll never want to leave, or be able to.”

“Daniel,” Sam interrupted, suspecting where her friend was going and trying to help him along a little.  “Why not just reveal yourself?”

“That's a good question,” Daniel answered, twisting around to look at her for a minute, quickly raising his left hand to point at her quickly.

All eyes were on Finn, who squirmed slightly for the first time.

“Oh, for crying out loud!” Jack exclaimed.  “Are you saying he did all of this because he's lonely?”

“I'm saying he did all this because he ... cares, and he's afraid,” the archaeologist intoned quietly as he folded his arms across his chest.  “Being alone isn't fun.  Being part of a community, of a ... of a family is ... it's everything.”

Finn let out a huge breath and conceded, “The Chalcedontz are a wonderful people.”

“You are welcome to live among us, Finn, openly,” Brennis spoke.  “We hold no ill will towards you.”

“I played many games.  Your Prophecy is ...”

“Meaningless,” Jack surmised.  “Pretty darn convenient, too, seeing as how we showed up.  Our arrival put a little bit of a snag in your plans, didn't it?”

“Apropos, I'd say,” Daniel stated.  “It doesn't negate your intentions, or take away from the life you provided for them.  Actually, uh, I'm not sure Finn created the Prophecy, Jack, but he definitely took advantage of it,” Daniel asserted, never taking his focus away from Finn.  “The truth is, the Prophecy gave the Chalcedontz a wonderful thing to believe in.  All cultures need some kind of faith to focus on.”

“And the power supply problem was engineered intentionally to keep the people happy, even if they were ...” Sam hesitated.

“Drugged,” Jack completed sharply.

“Happy, but here,” Daniel noted.

“The Chalcedontz are kind and virtuous; they are a good people,” Finn reiterated quietly, knowing the truth of those words.  “Doctor Jackson is right, Brennis.  The Prophecy is real.  It is not of my doing.  When I learned of it, I knew I could take advantage of it.  It was not hard to do for someone with my abilities.”

“Finn, come and meet your family,” a smiling Brennis requested, holding out his arm towards the door.  “We can discuss the Prophecy and our future together.”

“I would be honored,” Finn agreed, standing up and following Brennis.

The room emptied until just Jack was remaining.  He looked around, grumbling slightly.

“Jack, are you coming?” Daniel asked, returning to the room in search of his lover.

“Daniel, I have half the SGC on the perimeter, and this was all because that creature wanted friends?” Jack groused.

“When did you do that?” the curious archaeologist asked.

“Do what?”

“Have half the SGC Gate here?”

“Daniel, just answer the question!” Jack demanded, not feeling like revealing his secret plan that he had concocted for when everything turned sour on the mission, and he had been certain it would have.  ~And I was right, sort of.~

“It's because he wanted a family.  I know the feeling,” Daniel spoke softly, his eyes communicating much more to his soulmate.  He motioned at Jack's radio and suggested, “Tell everyone to go home, or, better yet, have them come meet some new friends.”

“You could have died,” Jack lamented just as Daniel reached the door again.

Daniel smiled at his soulmate, wishing they had the time to physically reassure each other that they were both okay.  Unfortunately, it would have to wait until later when they were home.

“I don't think so.  I have a hunch nothing here could really hurt anyone.  Maybe Finn didn't do things the right way.  He put out a sign to keep any travelers away from the Chalcedonz and created a mythology for the Chalcedontz to believe in.  Okay, so he rigged the machinery, but no one was hurt, Jack, not really.  From what Brennis told us, no one's ever really been harmed.  Finn ... threatened a lot.  He played some crazy games.  Jack, he was evolving.  Let's let him continue to do that with his new family,” the younger man suggested, giving his lover a smile before walking out of the room.

Jack sighed and clicked on his radio, ordering, “All SGC teams on the perimeter except SG-5 return to the Stargate and await further instructions.  SG-5 hold positions.  O'Neill out.”

====

En route to the Great Hall, SG-1 held slightly back from Brennis and Finn, allowing them a bit of privacy, though still able to hear their words.

“You must have faith that our people will accept you as you are,” the chief elder insisted.  “They will come to recognize that what happened was not done with malice, but was willful and mischievous.  I do not mean to be unkind, but to point out that things could have been done differently.  Maybe as you come to know us in a personal sense, you will see for yourself what can be.”

“I would truly like that,” Finn conceded.  “At times, being so different, so ... isolated was almost too much to bear.”

Jack covertly glanced at his lover, trying to see how Finn's words were affecting him.  He realized how true those words could be for some people and how aptly they had applied to Daniel for much of the younger man's life.

**Stop it, Jack.  I'm fine, but thank you for caring,** Daniel stated via their special communication, having caught his soulmate's look of concern.

**Just checking,** Jack replied.

**I know,** Daniel spoke, a small smile on his face as he bowed his head, fighting off a slight blush from his lover's attentions.

“Daniel, are you sure we can trust this guy?” Jack inquired.

“I'm sure.”

“How sure?” the colonel asked.

“Very sure.”

“How sure is that?” Jack questioned.

“As sure as I am that this is a ridiculous conversation,” Daniel answered.

“That sure?” Jack teased, looking at the younger man as they entered the center of town.

“Yeah, Jack, that sure,” the younger man affirmed.

====

At the entrance to the Great Hall, Brennis paused and turned to others, saying, “It truly is a remarkable day.  First, the Prophecy was fulfilled, and now our people will finally understand the way of life they have been given.  We will know our true history.  It is a very blessed day.”

The atmosphere inside the room was still festive, with everyone continuing to celebrate and enjoy the day.  As Brennis stepped to the center of the room, SG-1 flanked Finn, preventing him from fleeing to a corner to hide.

Finn recognized that this was, in fact, a supportive move, not a threatening one, and felt ashamed at what he'd done.  He turned to face the 'team of four', and knew that he had been wrong.  He owed them an apology.

“I must say that I feared this would never be possible for me, and I owe you more than you know.  I am ashamed my actions caused you harm in any way, and I beg your forgiveness.  I was not always as you have seen, and my fears and loneliness have affected you all adversely.  I am truly sorry and would wish to redeem myself in your eyes,” Finn spoke, then lowered his eyes.

Daniel knew that his instincts had been right and that everything would be fine. As the diplomat of the team, he felt justified in speaking on their behalf.

“Finn, if you wish to honor us and prove your words true, then use this opportunity to change for the better, to be the best you can possibly be.  Allow yourself the chance to become a part of something wonderful.  Believe me, I know how hard it is to let your guard down and allow others in, but, uh, if you do, if you let yourself find acceptance and ... and friendship, then the bounty you'll receive in return is worth the risk.”

“Indeed, DanielJackson,” Teal'c confirmed.  He then addressed Finn, saying, “Being a member of such a society is a great honor and privilege, as I have found, and you would do well to heed these words.”

Taking in the expression on Daniel's face, knowing his words came from deep in his heart and from personal experience on all their parts, Sam added, “Having people who know accept and care for you is a gift and shouldn't be taken for granted or ignored.”

“It doesn't excuse what you did, Finn, but your desire to belong can help you become a part of the Chalcedontz,” Daniel opined.

“It'll take time,” Sam added.

“Well, let's not dwell,” Jack snarked, tempering his words with a smile.  “You know, you may end up getting way more than you bargained for, Finny.  These shindigs have the best food, and just look at all the fun you could have,” he added, waving his arm out, to encompass the room, full of people eating, laughing, just living their lives.

Finn gazed around the room, taking in the festivities, but, more importantly, he felt the vibes radiating from the good people he had wronged.  The longing he felt to be a part of them shuddered through his body, and he knew he had to let go of his fears.  Only in doing so would he be able to move forward.

“Yes, and I wish to start now.  Will you join me?” Finn asked.

“Alright!  More partying!” Jack exclaimed, nudging Daniel's shoulder.

“Sir, it looks like Brennis is about to speak,” Sam cautioned.

Jack nodded and listened as Brennis talked to the people about Finn.  He watched everyone's reactions, not just those of the Chalcedontz, but the shape-shifter's.  Finally, he moved to a corner and made contact with the backup SG teams at the Stargate, releasing them and ordering them to return to the SGC.  He then ordered SG-5 to return to the Stargate and resume their watch of that area.

“Feeling better?” Daniel asked as he approached his Love.

“Did I feel bad?” Jack questioned.

“You didn't believe him,” the archaeologist reminded.

“No, I didn't, but, Daniel, that's my job.  We can't afford to trust anyone, and he could have turned out to be as bad as any Goa'uld out there,” Jack commented.

“Why do you always assume the worst?”

“Because you always assume the best,” Jack answered pointedly.  “You want to believe, Daniel, and that's fine, but believing gets you, and us, in trouble sometimes.  I love your passion, but ...”

“But you're military and can't afford to take chances,” Daniel completed for the older man.

“We don't have a problem, do we?” Jack asked.

“No.  That's how we've been since before SG-1 was ... SG-1,” Daniel answered with a smile.  “I'll always believe, Jack.  I ... I have to believe.”

“And I want you to,” Jack spoke more softly than he normally would in this situation.  “Just remember that I have to do what I have to do.”

“Okay.”

“Okay,” Jack echoed.  “Where's the cake?” he asked, walking away.

Daniel smiled, thinking, ~Jack and cake -- what a pair!~

====

“Welcome home,” Hammond spoke happily as the two previously missing SG teams, once again properly uniformed and fully equipped, returned to Earth the next day.  They were all now completely back to normal.  “Well done, SG-1,” he greeted his flagship team as they also returned to the SGC.

“Thank you, Sir.  We had a great time,” Jack mused.  “Teal'c got philosophical, Carter got kidnapped, Daniel found a princess ...”

“Jack!” Daniel chastised, rolling his eyes.

“All's well, General,” Jack intoned with a smirk.

“Very well.  We'll debrief tomorrow at 1100 hours.  After Doctor Fraiser's staff clears you, you're free to go home,” Hammond ordered all three teams, nodding and then returning to his office.

“Home,” Jack echoed.

“It's where the heart is,” Sam chuckled.

“The land of the free,” Teal'c added.

“On the range, where the deer and the antelope play,” Jack chuckled.

Continuing their silly 'home' cliché banter, the group made their way to the infirmary before heading to their personal homes for the evening.

====

Daniel stood at the patio doors, looking out at the backyard, watching for the first stars to poke through the twilight.  He felt peaceful and free.  This place was the closest thing to a home he'd ever had or would ever have, save the few short years with his parents.  The goodness he felt here was genuine, not like the hypnotic effects of the planet they'd just been on.  Inside, the archaeologist acknowledged the distinction as well as being amazed at how simple the solution on the planet had been.

Jack had put the coffee on a bit earlier.  Once it was ready, he poured two cups and went to join his lover in the living room.  He stood back for a bit, just inside the dining nook area which gave him a beautiful glimpse of his lover's profile.  He stood there, taking in the expression on the younger man's face.  He recognized the wistful smile and the contentment he saw.

~It's that same look he had just before waking from that dream he had, right after I decked him.  Way to go, O'Neill!~  Curious what Daniel was thinking about exactly, he approached with one of the cups held out.  “Glad to be home?”

“Home,” Daniel echoed as he took the cup and drank a sip.  He sighed as he digested his favorite Arabian Mocha brew from Starbuck's.  “Jack, all it took was the willingness to see a truth.”

“Okay, I admit it,” Jack stated, turning around and sitting down in his favorite chair.  “You lost me.”

Daniel chuckled as he moved over to the sofa, sitting on the edge closest to his soulmate.  He leaned forward, taking another sip of his coffee.

“Are you going to share?” Jack inquired, still seeing a bit of a sappy and contented look on his archaeologist's face.

“Finn was lonely.  When you look at everything that's happened on that planet, it all boils down to ... simple human emotion,” Daniel stated.

“Human emotion has never been simple, Daniel,” Jack replied between sips of his coffee.

“No, I guess not,” Daniel agreed.  “Jack, I ... ”  He shifted for a moment, then asked, “Remember when you hit me and, uh, knocked me out?”

Leaning forward with both of his hands holding his coffee mug and in anticipation of having to defend his actions, Jack apologized, “Daniel, I didn't ...”

“I'm not mad, Jack,” Daniel interrupted calmly, seeing the look of guilt that flashed across his lover's face before his body had tensed in anticipation of a possible fight.

“You're not?”

“No, I'm not.  Jack, I had a dream, a really ... really beautiful dream, and I'd like to tell you about it,” Daniel spoke softly, his eyes equally tender, even shining as he looked at his lover.

“I'm all ears,” Jack replied, relaxing and sitting back in his chair again.

The younger man gave some of the initial details of his dream, then remarked, “It was beautiful, Babe ... just perfect.  You walked towards me, with that Irish grin, and I had never seen anything as sexy as you were in that moment.  You kissed me, for all the world to see, and it was perfect.  You had a gift for me -- a blue box.”

“Blue is your color, Love,” Jack agreed, knowing he often insisted on his lover wearing blue and being around blue hues.

Blushing slightly, Daniel continued, “It was empty, and I asked you why.  You told me it was my heart and for me to only keep what makes me happy in it.”

“Sounds ... interesting,” Jack commented, curious what his Love would put in the box.

Before Jack could ask the question, his lover continued, “But you know what, Jack?  That's the easy part.  I'm happiest with you, and you fill my heart because you are the other half of my soul.”  His eyes grew misty, and he gazed into the deep, luscious brown eyes of his Heart.  He was freer with the words now than he had been when their love affair had begun, but they were still precious and not often given first, not without Jack having already spoken them.  “I love you, Jack O'Neill, and I'm so thankful you're in my life.”

“I love you, too, Angel,” Jack declared tenderly, getting up and moving over to the sofa, both men setting their mugs on the coffee table.

The couple kissed, soothing each other with gentle touches as their bodies communicated what words could only hint at.

“You're right, Jack,” Daniel spoke as he ushered his lover backwards on the sofa.

“I am?”

“Yeah,” the younger man said, leaning down to taste his soulmate's lips again.

“What am I right about?”

“There's nothing simple about human emotion, including what I feel right now.  You stir things up inside of me that I've never felt before.  You're, uh, my better half,” Daniel declared, albeit with a tiny chuckle.

“One heart, Danny,” Jack stated as his hands rubbed against Daniel's back.

“One soul, my Silver Fox,” Daniel crooned before another kiss.

“You are my box, Angel.  Everything good I have is you,” Jack opined.

“Even when we fight?”

“Even when we fight,” Jack said, raising his hands to cup Daniel's face and lower it to share a deep kiss.

Fighting was the last thing on the soulmates' minds as the night continued.  Instead, they let their passion and love for each other speak for them.  On this night, Jack and Daniel gifted each other with themselves, and that was the best gift either could ever give to the other.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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