It's a Jaffa Revenge Thing

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  4/5 - June 30 - July 25, 2001
Spoilers:  Exodus, Enemies, Threshold, Crossroads, and minor ones for The Serpent's Lair, Family, Entity, and Double Jeopardy
Size:  153kb
Written:  June 7-15, 2017
Summary:  SG-1 assists the Tok'ra in moving bases and end up battling Apophis and the Replicators.  In the process, a member of their team is at risk and turns against them.  Will it be all's well that ends well, or will SG-1 be forever changed?
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) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s):  “Please Don't Die” and “The Art of Friendship”

It's a Jaffa Revenge Thing
by Orrymain

“C'mon, Dannyboy, it's off to the Mountain we go,” Jack singsonged one early Saturday morning.

“Geez, Jack.  You're positively chipper.”

“Early bird catches the worm,” Jack responded, glancing at the clock that read 7 a.m.

“I've never seen you so happy to have a weekend shift.”

“It's a good day, Angel.”

Daniel rolled his eyes as he buttoned his shirt.  He knew the reason for his lover's good mood.  While he was on an off-world diplomatic mission, his teammates were roped into an adventure when Harlan returned and told them that the SG-1 synthetic others were going on missions.  Harlan was worried when the four did not return as expected.  Sadly, all of the team's doubles were killed, but not before they helped to take out the System Lord, Cronus.

While the aftermath of the event left Jack reeling in despair for the night when he'd witnessed yet another 'Daniel death', he was back on track now and thrilled to bring to the United States Air Force its first mother ship, acquired upon Cronus' death.  For the next few days, Jack would be able to 'play' with the new ship until it was finally able to be hidden at Area 51 and reviewed by a multitude of engineers and scientists.

“Daniel!”

“Okay, okay, Jack, let's go.”

“We're going to be late,” Jack pointed out.

“What are they going to do, Babe, shoot us?”

“Good point,” Jack mused as he pulled out his keys.

For the entire forty minute drive to Cheyenne Mountain, Jack raved about 'his' new ship.  As far as work went, Jack was the most excited about that than anything since perhaps first realizing the possibilities that a Stargate brought to his world.

After signing in and changing into their green BDUs, Jack and Daniel headed for the briefing room where they expected to see Sam, Teal'c, and General Hammond waiting.

“Okay, kids, let's ...” Jack began, his excitement turning into cautious reticence.  “Jacob, I didn't know the Tok'ra were scheduled to visit today.”

“Hello, Jack, Daniel,” Jacob greeted.

“Carter,” Jack called out.

“I didn't know he was coming until I got here, Sir,” the major responded.

“Colonel,” Hammond ordered with a nod to the empty chair that was on his right.

Jack sat and asked, “I'm not going to like this, am I?”

“Jack ...”

“Jacob, you want something, and I think I have a pretty good idea what it is you want, and you can't have it.”

“We only need to borrow Cronus' ship ...”

“*Our* ship,” Jack corrected.

“Your ship,” Jacob acquiesced.

“Why?”

“We're relocating to a new and better base.”

“Better?”

“More permanent,” Jacob clarified.  “We've found a planet off the Goa'uld map where we believe we can establish a long-lasting base of operations.  We need the mother ship to transport our people and the Stargate.”

“Big move,” Jack opined.  “Don't get me wrong, Jacob, but exactly what does Earth get out of this ... loan?”

“Good will,” Jacob answered.  “And the knowledge that you're helping an ally.”

Jack smirked and responded, “You know, I'm getting sick of the Tok'ra attitude.  You come to us when you want something, but there's a suspicious lack of anything resembling a two-way street.”

“Actually, Sir, my father is offering to teach us how to operate the mother ship, if we loan them ... the ship.”

“I thought you said you didn't know he was coming?”

“I didn't,” Sam affirmed.  “But I was here on time.”

“Of course you were.”

“Jack, a mother ship doesn't do you much good if you don't understand how to use it,” Jacob put forward.

“And what happened to all that jazz about good will and helping your allies?”

“It's a two-way street, Jack.”

“Can I get that in writing?” the colonel snarked.

“That's enough, Colonel,” Hammond chastised.

“General, this is a bad idea.  Let the Tok'ra get their own ship.  They don't share with us, why should we share with them?”

“Never the less, the President agrees that a bit of good will on our part in loaning the ship to the Tok'ra is necessary.  Jacob is right.  The ship can't help us if we don't understand its operation.”

“We have people,” Jack argued.

“Sir,” Sam interjected.  “Without the help of the Tok'ra, it could take us years to learn everything we need to know.  This is new technology to us and we have to be very careful with it.”

“We haven't even had a chance to take her a proper shakedown,” Jack whined.

“Jack?”

“Jacob.”

“How do you start the engines?”

Jack stared at Jacob and then looked at his 2IC and said, “Carter?”

“I don't know, Sir.”

“Hey, Teal'c knows,”  the colonel supposed with certainty.

“Are you saying, Colonel, that you are willing for Teal'c to be reassigned to Area 51 for the unforeseeable future in order to advise our engineering team on the operation of the mother ship?” Hammond asked with a completely straight face.

“Point made,” Jack sighed.  ~Crap.~

“SG-1 will accompany Jacob on the mother ship to Vorash.  The Tok'ra and its Stargate will be transported to the new Tok'ra base.  Once there, Jacob and other Tok'ra will return with SG-1 to Area 51 for detailed instructions on the full and complete operation of the mother ship.  Major Carter will be assigned to Area 51 for a few weeks to oversee the instruction.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam enthusiastically acknowledged.

“What about us?” Daniel inquired.

“You, Doctor Jackson, Teal'c, and Colonel O'Neill will stay at Area 51 for a few days, but then you will return here and resume your mission schedule with a temporary replacement for Major Carter.”

“Don't worry, Sir.  I have a few people in mind to fill in for me.”

“I'll bet you do,” Jack retorted, certain his 2IC had plenty of technobabble experts in mind to drive him crazy while she was gone.

“There is one more reason for us to go along with this, Jack.”

“I'm all ears.”

Hammond looked at Jacob who revealed, “With our relocation, it's time to let go of our ace spy.”

“Tanith,” Teal'c spoke menacingly.

“We can't risk bringing him with us.”

“What are you going to do?” Daniel inquired.

“We'll remove the symbiote Tanith from the host, Hebron.  Tanith will be left on Vorash.”

“He'll die there,” the archaeologist surmised.

“More than likely.”

“I will remove the symbiote personally,” Teal'c vowed harshly.

“Teal'c, I understand your desire, but we'll handle that.  I can make arrangements for you the witness the extraction, if you wish,” Jacob responded.

“It is my wish,” the Jaffa asserted.

“Are there any questions?” Hammond asked.  However, he didn't wait for a response.  He simply continued.  “You leave in thirty minutes.  Colonel, you *are* in charge of *our* vessel.  Bring her home, safe.  Jacob, good luck.  Dismissed.”

“Don't worry, Jack,” Jacob stated.

“I'm not now,” Jack replied.

SG-1 prepared for their mission, changing into their desert camouflage uniforms, and then departed with Jacob on the mother ship for their destination of Vorash where the current Tok'ra base was located.

====

“When do we get our lessons?” Jack questioned, even though he already knew the answer.

“Once the evacuation is complete,” Jacob responded.

“You could start now.”

“Yes, we could.”

“But you're not going to?”

“Jack, do you want to learn how to properly operate a Goa'uld ha'tak, or do you just want to know enough to go for a joyride?”

Jack considered the question and answered, “Both.”

Jacob laughed and replied, “Be patient, Jack.  We made an agreement and we're going to stick to it.”

“Yes, the Tok'ra are so good at sticking it.”  Jack walked away and joined his 2IC as she stood, leaning against the wall.  “Whatcha doin'?”

“I'm making some calculations.”

“I don't see any pen and paper.”

“I'm doing it in my head, Sir,” Sam explained with a polite smile.

“Oh, like Mr. Spock.”

“Well ...”

“I get it,” Jack returned.  “Carter, is this thing a ha'tamacallit or a mother ship?”

Sam chuckled, “It's both, Sir.  This is a Goa'uld ha'tak class vessel, a pyramid ship that is also called a mother ship.”

“Okay, but Apophis' ship was ... bigger,” the colonel recalled from having seen the System Lord's ship in the past.

“It's a battle class vessel, a battleship, also referred to as a mother ship.”

“But it's bigger!”

“Yes, Sir.”

“The Goa'uld don't make sense.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam agreed.

“Go back to your calculations.”

“Thank you, Colonel.”

While Sam blissfully returned to her mental mathematics, Jack decided to find his archaeologist.  It took a few minutes, but he eventually found the younger man in the rear of a storage area.

“Daniel.”

“Jack.”

“What are you doing?”

“Well, I'm sitting.”

“I can see that.”

“Join me?”

“I can do that,” Jack agreed and then sat down next to the scientist.  “So, you're just ... sitting.”

“I forgot my books.”

“Ah!”

Daniel chuckled and admitted, “So, I'm sitting here, wondering what it is Jaffa do when they're on one of these ships, traveling the galaxy.  I mean, do they ... chitchat, play Solitaire?”

“Somehow I can't imagine the Jaffa playing card games.  They'd kill each other when they lost.”

“Actually, Jack, they're just men, drawn into slavery without really knowing they're slaves.  They have families.  Teal'c's told us a little about his life with Drey'auc, and he loves Rya'c every bit as much as a human father loves his son. They have communities and a lifestyle that might seem more primitive than ours, but I guess it's easier for us to see them as this collective that's part of the enemy.”

“Easy to do when they're aiming a staff weapon at you.”

“True,” Daniel admitted.  “It's like an any war, Jack.  We make the enemy to be all evil.  Now, that's true for the Goa'uld, but the hosts aren't all evil.  Most of them haven't even heard the truth.  They've been born into a life of slavery that is their norm.  They don't know anything different, so they accept it.  They become warriors without ever giving a thought as to why or how.  It's just who they are.”

“Danny?”

“Hmm?”

“The next time we take the mother ship out for a ride, I'll remind you to bring your books.”

“I'd appreciate that, Jack.”

The lovers chuckled and then began a game of 'Who Am I' as a way to pass the time.

====

As the mother ship approached Vorash, Jacob and SG-1 discussed the evacuation of the base.

“Sam, can you oversee the loading of the supplies?” Jacob asked.

“Of course, but I'll need to know exactly what you're bringing on board.”

“A list was being prepared when I left Vorash.”

“I could probably use some help.”

“I'll help you, Sam.”

“Thanks, Daniel.”

When Jack felt eyes on him, the colonel advised, “I'm watching over this baby,” as he patted the side of the wall and looked at Jacob pointedly.

“Jack, we're going to give her back.”

“No worries there, Jacob, because we aren't giving the ship to you.  It's a loan, with us aboard.”

“Aren't you being a little paranoid?”

“Nope.”

Jacob was exasperated, but there was nothing he could say to alter Jack's opinion.  Besides, he needed to focus on the transition from the old base to the new one.

====

“Are we ready?” Jack asked as he looked around to ensure his team was ready to go.

“One second,” Jacob called out as he conferred with a Tok'ra who would be in charge of the mother ship while he and SG-1 were in the tunnels.

“I suppose we have to wait for him,” Jack jested.

“Probably a good idea,” Sam replied with a smile.

When Jacob entered the ring room, he hit the controls and then joined SG-1 within the transport circle.  Seconds later, the five were below the surface of Vorash in the Tok'ra tunnels.  Jack turned around and saw the greeting party.

“Hey, kids!  We're not parked in a red zone are we?”

“Welcome to Vorash,” a Tok'ra female spoke.

“Jack, this is Li'nau, one of the council representatives on Vorash.

“Howdy, Ma'am.”

“Jacob, the council is assembled.  I'll await you there.”

Jacob nodded as the woman walked away and then said, “You know Tanith, of course.”

“SG-1,” Tanith spoke with a twinge of displeasure.

“Feeling's mutual,” Jack returned.

“You can leave your gear in one of our chambers,” Jacob suggested.  “Sam, Daniel, why don't you give Jack and Teal'c your weapons and I'll show them where to leave them.”

Getting a nod from the team leader, Daniel and Sam did as requested.

“Tanith, Sam and Daniel are going to help with the supplies.  Please take them to Cor'dai,” Jacob requested.  He looked at the teammates and explained, “Cor'dai will assist you in coordinating the transfer and placement of the supplies on the mother ship.”

“What of the meeting?” Tanith queried.

“Yes, we want you there as soon as you show them where to go.”

“See you later, Dad,” Sam said as she and Daniel followed Tanith.

Jack scowled for a moment until Jacob assured, “He doesn't know what's happening, Jack.  Sam and Daniel aren't in any danger.”

“Jacob, as long as that snakehead is alive, we're all in danger.”

“Fine,” Jacob acknowledged.  “This way.”

The Tok'ra leader escorted Jack and Teal'c to a chamber where the two placed the team's vests and weapons for safekeeping.

====

As Jack, Teal'c, and Jacob walked through the Tok'ra tunnels, Teal'c commented, “Tanith was surprised to see us.”

“Uh huh,” Jacob agreed.  “We didn't want to give him any warning.”

“Doesn't suspect you're on to him?” Jack inquired.

“Not that we know of.  We'll see soon enough.”

“Of what do you speak?” the Jaffa questioned.

“Well, thanks to the mother ship you're so graciously lending us ...”

“Not me,” Jack interjected.  “Hammond.  It was an order, remember?”

“Well, anyway, we'll be able to move the Stargate to a new planet not currently on the Goa'uld map.  We'll finally be able to ensure the security of a more permanent Tok'ra base.  As useful as Tanith has been in relaying false information to Apophis, we can't afford to take him with us.”

“What will become of him?” the Jaffa asked.

“We have a little surprise planned.  Shall we?”

~Okay, we've actually been through all of this back on Earth, but I suppose a little review never hurts,~ Jack told himself.

The three entered the council room where several Tok'ra, along with Tanith, were already seated at the table.

~He didn't waste any time getting here,~ Jack noticed.  ~I do believe we've unnerved the little snake.~

As usual, the Tok'ra chairs were hard and uncomfortable, the triangle-shaped backs pointed at the top.

~Someone needs to explain the concept of comfort to these people,~ Jack opined, somewhat grateful there wasn't a free chair for him to utilize.

After a few initial greetings, the meeting began.

“I must say, Colonel, I was most intrigued by your means of arrival,” Tanith stated, somewhat irritated, not only that he was not advised of SG-1's coming, but that they came via mother ship.

“Yeah, it's a sweet ride, a little rusty but it's still got zip,” Jack responded about the vessel.

“How exactly did a Goa'uld mother ship come into your possession?”

“Well, it was kind of a trade deal,” the colonel replied.

Tanith asked, “How so?”

“Cronus gave us his ship and he got what was coming to him,” Jack answered.

“Really?  Cronus is dead?”

Selmak, the symbiote to which Jacob was host to, spoke, “Now that we have access to a mother ship, we will be able to move our people and our Stargate as well and thereby establish a completely new and secure base.”

“I don't understand.  Why have I been excluded from such important information?” Tanith questioned.

~Wait for it,~ Jack smirked.  ~Go on, T.  Give him the good news.~

Teal'c responded, “The Tok'ra did not wish Apophis to be informed.”

Selmak expounded, “We've been aware of your duplicity from the beginning.  You deceived and then murdered the Jaffa Shan'auc.  You took the host Hebron and you've been acting as a spy amongst us ever since.”

Teal'c added, “You have been used to channel disinformation to Apophis.  He will be most displeased when he learns the truth.”

Realizing he was caught, Tanith tried to maintain his innocence and leave the council room, but Tok'ra agents with zats stopped him and took him to a cell where a force field, backed by two guards, kept him from fleeing.

“That guy is a living cliché,” Jack retorted once Tanith was gone.

====

Teal'c confronted Tanith, simply wanting him to know he was going down.  The need to face his enemy was part of his Jaffa heritage and the need to exact vengeance.  He took great pleasure in telling Tanith what was to become of him.

“You are to be extracted from the host Hebron and left behind here on Vorash.  If you are fortunate, you will die before Apophis discovers how you have been used by the Tok'ra.”

In response, Tanith taunted Teal'c with how Shan'auc died, full of fear and pain while crying out for Teal'c.

The Jaffa was not fazed.  He took pride in listing a number of the System Lords and false gods who were now dead at the hands of SG-1, and then he returned the words in kind as he tried to torment the Goa'uld with his destiny.

“You are attempting to goad me into killing you, thereby avoiding the extraction process.  I understand it to be excruciatingly painful for the symbiote.”

Tanith countered, “I am far more valuable to you alive than dead.”

“The Tok'ra do not believe so and I am inclined to agree,” Teal'c responded and then left Tanith to his imprisonment.

====

At various points in the morning, individual members of SG-1 and Jacob all went back and forth from Vorash to the mother ship as they applied their efforts to the evacuation of the Tok'ra.

At one point, Jack and Jacob transported to the ship and were discussing the situation as they walked through the sometimes long and very winding corridors.  In fact, there were moments when Jack wasn't exactly sure where he was.

~Okay, I've been on these things before, but with this gaudy decor, how can anyone tell where you are?~

Turning the corridor and seeing two Tok'ra carrying a very heavy crate, Jacob paused and instructed, “You'll have to take that to the secondary cargo hold.  We need the room for the Stargate.”

Observing the heavy crate, Jack backtracked slightly as he watched the Tok'ra turn the corner and head town the long walkway.

“Hey!  Don't scuff the walls,” the colonel warned.  He caught up Jacob and explained, “I want this ship back the way we found it.”

“We know, Jack.  I still don't think it's really necessary for you to be here.”

“Sorry, not letting her out of my sight.”

“My mission is to oversee the relocation of the Tok'ra base.  What's yours again?”

“Protect Earth's big fat asset.  We've got about a thousand engineers and scientists just drooling to go through this thing.”

“You really think that's wise?”

“Don't start with me, Jake.”

“Remember when you tried to retrofit a death glider?”

“Yes, I have that memory,” Jack replied.  ~Thanks for bringing that up.~

“This is a vastly more complicated piece of technology.”

“Which is exactly why we're loaning it to you in exchange for flying lessons.”

“You know what I mean.  You should really leave the ship with us.”

“Not a chance,” the colonel refused.  ~We'd never get it back.  I know how the Tok'ra operate.  Nope, keeping this baby under my control.~

“This is me talking, Jack, Jacob, not Selmak.  You have no idea how dangerous this thing is.”

“Hey!  We were smart enough to steal it in the first place, which is more than the Tok'ra have been able to do.”

“We don't operate that way,” Jacob put forth.

“Well, maybe it's time you took a more direct approach.  The Tok'ra have been around for what, two-thousand years?  In all that time how many System Lords have you taken down?”

“Oh, yeah, things have certainly gotten better out here since you started killing Goa'ulds off one by one.  Let's examine the results.  In each case more warlike Goa'ulds have stepped in to fill their place.  There's more chaos than ever before.  With the power Apophis now has, we are on the brink of losing any chance of ever defeating the Goa'uld.”

“At least we're doing something.”  Jack sighed, ~He makes it sound like we've been playing a game.  This isn't a game.  We're doing everything possible.~

“Yeah, well, we're doing something as well.  Maybe our plan is a little more long term, but at least we have one.”

“What plan?”

“Undermine the Goa'ulds individual power and keep them fighting amongst themselves until we have a way of eliminating them, once and for all.”

“Go on.”

“We're working on it, Jack,” Jacob assured before he walked away.

~Yeah, right.~  Jack turned around, looking at some of the Tok'ra as they passed by him or were going about there business.  ~Crap, I'm lost.~

====

“Daniel!” a happy Jack called out, surprised to accidentally run across his soulmate.  ~I need me some archaeologist time.~

“Hey,” Daniel replied as he walked away from a storage room full of boxed equipment and approached his lover in the corridor.  “How'd the meeting go?”

“Tanith wasn't very happy.”

“And Teal'c?” Daniel asked circumspectly.

“Well, I wouldn't call him happy exactly.”

“But he's ...”

“... approving,” Jack responded.  “I think he'd like to be the one to yank out the snake.”

“But if he did ...”

“Yeah, murder.  He'd squeeze the thing to death, which isn't necessarily a bad idea.”

“Jack!”

“Yeah, I know, but he's a murderous snake, Daniel.  It's hard to feel anything but hatred for the thing.  I can't say I'd object if Teal'c went rogue.”  Jack looked around and asked, “How's it going?”

“Good.  Most of their equipment and supplies are ready to go.  It's just a matter of finding the best place for them.”

“I'm sure you and Carter will find the right place for everything.”

“It's not exactly rocket science,” Daniel smirked, prompting Jack to chuckle.  “What are you doing over here anyway?”

“I'm ... lost,” the colonel admitted.  “We need specs for this thing.”

“We have the specs, Jack.”

“We do?”

“We do.”

“Oh, well, do you know where we are?”

“We're on a mother ship.”

“Funny, Daniel.”

“Where do you want to be, Jack?”

“I'm not sure.  Maybe I'll stay here with you for awhile.”

“Okay, well, see those crates in the far corner?” Daniel began.  “Find a home for them somewhere else because we have some larger pieces of equipment that need to be stored in here.”

“Daniel ...”

“Thanks, Jack,” Daniel interrupted before walking inside the room and starting a conversation with two of the Tok'ra.

====

Later in the afternoon, everyone was back on Vorash.  SG-1 was updating the council on their progress with the supplies, while Jacob was attending to Tok'ra matters elsewhere.

In his cell, Tanith threatened to kill his host, Hebron, and was able to make the host collapse.  When the guards entered to help their fellow Tok'ra, the symbiote was able to overtake them and escape.  The breakout was quickly discovered and the alarm sounded.

--

In the meeting, Sam advised, “We've finished loading the supplies onto the ship.  It's time to start transporting your people up.”

Then Jacob entered and informed the group of Tanith's escape.

“Teal'c, let's go,” Jack ordered, eager to get his weapon and go to the surface to find the wayward Goa'uld.

“What about us?” Daniel questioned as he looked at Sam.

“You two still have work to do here.  Teal'c and I can handle it.”

When the Tok'ra left the room, Daniel and Sam remained briefly.

“Did you ever feel like you were ... wallpaper?” Daniel asked his colleague.

“Not really.”

“Oh, well, that's good,” the archaeologist responded.  “Where's the Tok'ra roster?”

“Right here,” Sam answered as the teammates reviewed their plan in order to make the evacuation of the Tok'ra smooth and without incident.

====

On the surface of Vorash, Jack, Teal', and a couple of Tok'ra searched for Tanith in vain.

~We're spinning our wheels here,~ Jack cogitated.  After hours of looking for Tanith, he was ready to return to the tunnels, believing they weren't going to find the Goa'uld at this point.  ~We'll catch up to him later; we always do with the bad guys.~

“Tanith could not have escaped through the Stargate.  It has been heavily guarded the entire time,” Teal'c stated.

“Yeah, what, by the same guys who were guarding him in the first place?” Jack said snarkily.  He looked over at the Tok'ra and said, “No offense.”

“He is out here somewhere,” Teal'c maintained.

“Ah, well, he's boned without water.”

“The symbiote will sustain him for a considerable time.”

“Big desert,” Jack said.  ~T, give it up.~

“I will continue looking.”

“Keep in touch,” Jack spoke, not really knowing what to say.  ~I hate it when he gets like this.  He followed the Tok'ra over to where the ring transporter was located, though he only knew that because of where the two Tok'ra were standing.  ~Gotta ask,~ he thought.  “So, how do you guys know where to stand anyway?”

There was not a response from either Tok'ra, which didn't really surprise Jack.  When the rings settled into their platform, Jack looked around, pleased when he saw his archaeologist waiting for him.

“Any sign of him?” Daniel asked about the Goa'uld.

“Nope,” Jack answered.  Referring to Teal'c, he added, “He's still looking.”

Daniel noted, “You guys have been up there for hours already.”

As Jack walked by his lover, he sighed, “Yeah, it's a Jaffa revenge thing.”

Daniel turned and watched Jack exit the ring room for several seconds before moving forward and catching up to him.

“Jack, how long are you going to let Teal'c keep looking?”

“You wanna stop him?”

“I, uh ...”

“Look, there's no harm in letting him search.  All he'd be doing down here is sitting on his six, brooding.  Maybe he'll get lucky.”

“Maybe.”

“Have you started the evacuation?”

“Uh ...”

“Daniel?”

“I'm not really sure what's going on, but Sam's been with Jacob, working on something.”

“What something?”

“If I knew, I'd tell you.”

“What do you know?”

“She told me to hold off on starting the evacuation to the ship.”

Having reached the chamber where his team was storing its gear, Jack groaned and asked, “Where's Carter?”

“The last time I saw her, she and Jacob were still talking.  I ... didn't understand what they were talking about, so I left, to meet you.”

“And I'm glad you did,” Jack chimed.  “We'd better make sure Carter doesn't give away our ship.”

“She wouldn't do that, Jack.”

“I hope you're right.”

The couple returned to the council room and began talking with Sam and Jacob, who updated them on the latest Intel.

“It seems Tanith's been busy.  We've received word from one of our operatives that Apophis has been given our location,” Jacob advised.

Daniel surmised, “I guess he's trying to make up for the last few months.”

Jacob noted, “An attack fleet is being assembled.”

“How long will it take him to get here?” Jack asked the Tok'ra leader as he and Daniel sat down in near unison.

“Less than a day.”

“We have to speed up the evacuation,” Daniel pointed out.

“We're going to send them through the Gate,” Sam responded, surprising both Jack and Daniel.

“I thought we were going to take 'em on the ship?” Jack interjected.

“Sam and I have come up with a new plan,” Jacob explained.

“If it works, we may be able to wipe out a significant part of Apophis' fleet in one shot,” Sam stated before activating a device that projected a three-dimensional representation of a sun into the air above the table.

“This is a sun that Vorash is orbiting,” Jacob stated.  “It's a regular main sequence star with a core temperature of about fifteen-million degrees and enough hydrogen to burn for another five-billion years.”

“Yeah?” Jack returned.

“We wanna blow it up,” Jacob spoke plainly.

“Wow,” came Jack's astonished response.

“That's, uh ...” Daniel began.

“... ambitious,” both Jack and Daniel spoke, their voices completely in synch.

Sam explained, “Every star is a delicate balance between the explosive force of the fusion going on in its core which tends to want to blow it apart and the gravitational force of its mass which tends to want to crush it into a little ball.  Now if we could disrupt that balance by suddenly removing some of the star's mass, we could create an artificial supernova.  The blast wave would expand at nearly the speed of light.  It would destroy everything in this system within a matter of minutes.”

“Um, how are we supposed to remove some of the star's mass?” Daniel inquired.

“Well, uh, this is going to sound a little crazy, but we dial P3W-451.  It's the planet where we encountered the black hole.”

“Wow.  That sounds a little crazy,” Jack opined.

“Yeah,” Sam agreed.

Jacob put forth, “We take the Stargate in the mother ship and bring it as close to the sun as we can.  Then we dial the black hole, enclose the Gate in a force field, and jettison it.”

Sam further explained, “The sun's gravity will pull it in, the force field will disintegrate, and stellar matter will be sucked through that wormhole like water through a fire hose.”

“It's likely the Gate won't last long, but we figure it'll be long enough,” Jacob noted.

Daniel interjected, “Ah, excuse me, but wasn't the Gate on P3W-451 sucked into the black hole a long time ago?”

“Not necessarily,” Sam answered.  “That planet was probably ripped to pieces, but it could take years for that matter to spiral into the event horizon, especially given the time distortion.”

“Either way,” Jacob began, “we'll know as soon as we try to dial out.  If we can't make a connection, we abort the plan and get the hell out of there.”

“Well, let me think about this a moment,” Jack returned.  ~I think Carter's fire hose has leaked her brain matter, leaving nothing but mush inside.~

Jacob asserted, “You're the one who wanted to take more direct measures, Jack.  The Council's already approved the plan.”  He waited, not getting any indication of a decision, so he added, “But it's your ship, which means it's your call.”

“Still thinking,” the colonel stated.  **Danny, help me out here.**

**Choiceless.**

**I was afraid you'd say that.**

“Sir, this solar system is completely abandoned and barren.  Apophis' fleet is on the way.  Now we may never have an opportunity like this again,” Sam opined.

“Okay,” Jack agreed.

With the decision made, the group stood and set forth to accomplish their goal.

====

“He's back,” Sam told Daniel when she joined him to do a check on their progress.

“Teal'c?”

“Yes.  I saw him for a minute.  He's in a bad place, Daniel.”

“Tanith's going to die, Sam.  I'm not sure I understand why that isn't enough for him.”

“Me, either.”  Sam shrugged and then said, “We need to finish this up.”

“They're going as fast as they can,” Daniel put forth.  “Are you worried Apophis might get here too soon?”

“Well, it's a possibility.  All we could estimate was that's he could be here in less than a day, and a lot of factors play into that.”

“You think he'll be here sooner.”

“Yes.”

“I'll see if I can speed things up.”

“Thanks, Daniel,” Sam replied and then left the area.

====

Later, Daniel took a break, leaving Cor'dai to monitor the Tok'ra exodus, and decided to check on Teal'c, whom he hadn't seen in a while.  He was concerned for his friend, who he assumed was mourning the woman at the center of his feud with Tanith.  Her name was Shan'auc of the Red Hills and she showed up unexpectedly at Stargate Command a year ago.

Shan'auc was a high priestess in the temple of Apophis who shared a past with Teal'c.  Their romance heated up immediately to the point where Teal'c planned to leave Earth for a life with the beauty.

The woman was the host to Tanith and believed that she'd made an astonishing connection with him.  However, she'd been fooled and Tanith ultimately murdered her after taking a new Tok'ra host named Hebron.  Tanith's treachery and betrayal to Shau'nac was discovered; hence, Teal'c's need for revenge.  The Jaffa had to wait to reap his harvest, though, as the Tok'ra wanted to make use of Tanith to aid their cause, which they'd done successfully since allowing him to think he was a true part of them.

Understanding Teal'c's loss, Daniel sought out his friend in the hopes of providing support and comfort.  He found him alone, seated at a table.

“Hey, Teal'c.  I've been looking for you.  There's been a ... change of plans.”

“I have been informed of MajorCarter's intentions.”

“So, you understand then that, that there's nowhere for Tanith to run?  This whole planet is going to be incinerated.”

“If all goes according to plan, yes.”

“Well, you don't think we can pull it off?”

“I have great confidence in both Selmak and MajorCarter.”

“But?” Daniel prodded.

“Twice I have had the opportunity to avenge the murder of Shan'auc.  Twice I have let Tanith slip through my grasp.  I have failed Shan'auc.”

“That's, that's not true.  You let Tanith live so the Tok'ra could use him and it worked, and now we're about to take down Apophis and the largest Goa'uld fleet ever assembled.”

“It will be a great victory.”

“That's right,” Daniel agreed.

“And yet knowing what Apophis did to Sha're, would you not trade it all for the opportunity to crush the life from his throat with your bare hands?”

~Wow, I mean, I've had so many emotions about what happened to Sha're.~  The question took Daniel aback.  He thought about how he should answer and finally replied, “Well, I'd be lying to you if I said I'd never thought about it, but that doesn't mean I'd do it, given a more rational option.”

“In the future, I will not be capable of such restraint,” Teal'c stated calmly, after which he stood and walked by Daniel as he left the room.

~Okay, that didn't go so well.~

Daniel took a few more minutes to get his thoughts together and handle a call from nature before returning to his post.

====

“What's our status?” Jack asked his archaeologist as the Tok'ra Stargate remained connected to a safe place where the Tok'ra could stay until later when they could be transported to the new Tok'ra base.

“Probably another ten or fifteen minutes.”

“What's wrong?”

“Wrong?”

“Daniel, I know you, remember?  I can sense distress from a mile away.  Something's wrong.”

“No, nothing's wrong.”

“But?” the older man prompted.

“I talked to Teal'c.”

“And?”

“I don't know, Jack.  He wants Tanith and I'm not sure how far he might go to get him.”

“Far, way far,” Jack asserted.  “I'm worried about him, too, but there's nothing we can do about it right now.”

“You're right,” Daniel agreed.

Jack patted his lover on the arm and said, “Keep them moving.  We need to get going as soon as we can.”

“Okay.”  As Jack began to leave, Daniel called out, “Uh, hey!”

“Yeah?”

“Teal'c?”

“Oy!” Jack exclaimed as his head shot back for a brief moment.  “Mama taught me never to leave the children behind.”

“I wouldn't let Teal'c hear you calling him a child.”

“Wouldn't be smart,” the colonel agreed.  “I'll go reel him in.”

As Jack left the Tok'ra gate room, Daniel sighed.  He had a funny feeling that he couldn't explain or even describe, but it was gnawing at him.  He hoped he was simply being overly anxious about the alteration of the plan, but that didn't make sense.  Too many missions had abrupt and dangerous changes to have that be the explanation.

“Doctor Jackson, this is the final group of Tok'ra.  After this, all who remain are those in the outer gathering area and Selmak.”

“Thank you, Cor'dai.  Once this group goes through, please have the rest of the Tok'ra ready.”

Cor'dai nodded and walked away, leaving Daniel to finish the tally as the last of the Tok'ra disappeared through the event horizon.

====

With the Tok'ra assigned to Vorash evacuated and the Stargate brought on board, the mother ship was ready to go.  The

“Where's Colonel O'Neill?” Sam inquired of her science twin.

“He went to find Teal'c.”

“We're here,” Jack called out, motioning to Teal'c who was following him.  “Are we ready?”

“Yes, Sir.”

With the entire team now on the vessel, SG-1 and Jacob went to the bridge.  The colonel looked around and saw the throne-like chair that was clearly meant for use by the Goa'uld leader or System Lord in charge.  Enthusiastically, he went over to it and jumped on, settling in with joy.

“Shotgun,” Jack called out happily.

Jacob activated the engines and set a course for the sun.

====

As the mother ship neared the sun, Jacob noticed the presence of Apophis' fleet on long range scanners and determined they would arrive in sixty-eight minutes.

Sam responded, “The timing has to be precise.  Once we're close enough to the sun, we'll slow to five-percent light speed and release the Gate.  That should give us more than enough time to get away.”

“How much advance warning is Apophis going to have?” Jack asked.

Jacob answered, “They won't be able to detect the Gate on their screens and they won't know Vorash is deserted until they're in orbit.  By then it'll be too late.”

Once in position, Jacob slowed the ship and Sam and Jack hurried to the cargo bay.  From the observation area, Sam initiated the remote dial-out sequence and breathed a sigh of relief when the Stargate's event horizon formed, proving that the Gate on P3W-451 was still active.  She then engaged the force field, after which she hesitated.

“Something wrong?” the colonel asked.

“No,” Sam answered.  “I've just never blown up a star before.”

“Well, they say the first one's always the hardest.”  Jack noticed Sam's confused expression as she looked at him.  “They say that.”

In short order, the clamps holding the Stargate in place were released and it floated out of the cargo bay and into space.

--

On the bridge, Daniel stood next to Jacob, who was operating the ship's controls, and in front of the revenge-seeking Jaffa.  He watched as the Stargate came into view.

~Wow, that's ... that's incredible.~  Daniel gazed with wonder as the open Gate floated through space, slowly spinning as it navigated its way forward.  ~Look at it, this amazing technology just ... walking among the stars.~

Daniel's reverence for the Stargate was interrupted when Jacob announced he was preparing to jump to hyperspeed.  That was when an al'kesh, a Goa'uld midrange bomber, suddenly de-cloaked and opened fire on the mother ship.

As Jack and Sam returned to the bridge, Teal'c walked over and began to operate the weapons' control station that was kept beneath the floor until needed.  After it raised up, the Jaffa reported that the shields were inoperable.  He charged the weapons and returned fire.

The mother ship became a sitting duck when the main power died, causing the hyperdrive to fail.

The air was tense as the group expected to take another hit, one that most likely would do them in.  They feared they had only seconds left to live.

**Forever, Angel,** Jack communicated to his lover, afraid he didn't have time to say much more.

**Always, Jack,** Daniel responded, also fearing there was no time to say anything more elaborate.  However, nothing happened.  His left hand fidgeting, Daniel asked, “Why haven't they finished us off?”

“They took a direct hit.  They might be just as damaged as we are,” Jacob suggested.

“Hey, who's they, anyway?” Jack asked.

“I have no idea,” the Tok'ra answered.

“Tactical indicators are down,” Teal'c told the others.

“Weapons?” the colonel queried.

“Inoperative,” came the Jaffa's response.

“I have to go check it out,” Jacob advised.

“Hey!  Whoa!” Jack objected.  “We've still got an enemy ship out there.”

“Sir, when that Gate reaches the sun ...” Sam began.

“It's not going to make any difference if we get blown out of the sky,” Jack argued.

“What do you want us to do, Jack?” Jacob asked.  “We have no weapons or shields.”

Jack needed an answer and finally he came up with one, the ship's gliders.  Quickly, he and Teal'c headed for the hangar bay.  With Teal'c in the pilot's seat, the two left the ship to take out the al'kesh.  It wasn't long before they confirmed Jacob's theory that the vessel was damaged.  Just as Jack was preparing to fire weapons, the al'kesh ignited its engines and flew away.

That's when things took a nasty turn, especially for Daniel, who began to get a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.  It was even more aggressive than the odd feeling he'd had earlier when the Tok'ra were heading through the Stargate.

On the glider, Teal'c observed, “O'Neill, the ship appears to be heading for Vorash,” and then he began to follow the al'kesh.

“Ah, Teal'c?”

“We must not allow Tanith to escape,” came the Jaffa's determined response.

“Um,” Jack expressed slowly.  ~I'm not happy about this, but ...~  The colonel radioed the mother ship.  “Teal'c thinks the ship might be going to pick up Tanith.”

“That makes sense, Jack.  He probably had his ship waiting in a nearby system the whole time.  That's why they got here so fast,” Jacob responded about the Goa'uld spy.

“Yeah, well, seems we're going after him.”

As he looked through the window, Daniel expressed dryly, “It's a Jaffa revenge thing.”  It's also why he surmised, ~This is why my stomach feels like it's being hit with a ribbon device.~

“Sir, you only have a little more than an hour,” Sam advised.

“Ah, Carter relax.  We'll be back in plenty of time.  Right, Teal'c, we'll be back in plenty of time?  Buddy?  Pal?  Crap,” Jack sighed.  **Danny, can you hear me?  Danny?**  Jack and Daniel never knew for sure when they were on missions if their special communication link would work.  Sometimes, the link worked even when separated by incredible distances and then there were times, like now, when a short span of space blocked their ability to talk mentally.  ~Nope, it's gotta work.~

**Jack?  Jack, talk to me.**

~There he is,~ a pleased Jack noted.  **Danny, you heard me, right?**

**Jack, you need to stop him.  He's playing with your life.**

**He's not playing.  The big guy doesn't play much when we're on missions.**

**Jack, make him stop.**

**Sorry, Danny, he's in the pilot's seat.  I don't have a choice, but, hey, we'll be fine.  We'll find Tanith and ...**

**Jack?  Jack!**

The communication link disengaged, making both men even more displeased with the current state of affairs.

====

Aboard the mother ship, Jacob spoke, “Sam, I'm going to need your help with the hyperdrive.  Doctor Jackson, you have the pel'tac.”

~The bridge?~ a stunned Daniel translated silently.  “Uh, what, what, what exactly does that mean?”

“We'll stay in touch,” Jacob said as he and Sam hurried away.

~Okay.  Breathe.  What do I do?~  Daniel looked forward and decided to go for it.  Even though he had no clue what he was doing, he extended both of his arms out over controls and wiggled his butt, as if doing a little dance.  For a few seconds, it was fun.  ~Jack won't believe this,~ he mused.  Then his smiled faded as he remembered what was going on out there in space.  ~Jack.  Gawd, what is Teal'c thinking?~

The fun was gone, replaced by fear for his lover's safety which he oddly felt was in the hands of their friend and teammate, Teal'c.

====

Daniel had reason to be concerned.  It was daylight again on Vorash when the glider caught up with the al'kesh.  Jack locked the glider's weapons and fired, hitting the bomber and causing it to break up.  Unfortunately, the glider began to spiral downwards.

“Pull up, Teal'c.  Teal'c, pull up!” Jack ordered.  However, the controls didn't respond.  Over the radio, he reported, “Mayday, mayday.  We are *so* going in.”

“Jack, can you hear me?  Jack, I'm not reading you.  What's happening?  Jack?” Daniel called out anxiously.  **Jack, answer me,** he demanded, but there was no response.  He contacted Sam over the radio and advised, “I just got a mayday from Jack.”

“What's going on?” the blonde queried.

“I don't know.  I lost the transmission.”

Fortunately, Sam and Jacob were finished getting the main power back online, which meant that weapons and shields were operational.  The bad news was that the hyperdrive's control circuit was fried.  In order to fix it, they were going to have to re-route through secondary systems.  After some discussion, Jacob returned to the pel'tac and talked Sam through the process of making the repairs over the radio.

====

Having exited the glider, Jack and Teal'c made their way to the top of a dune to get a good look at their surroundings.  Neither were injured from the crash, except for a cut Jack received to his left eye.  A streak of blood ran down about an inch before it clotted and eventually dried.

Teal'c told Jack that the propulsion system and communication array on the glider were damaged and could not be repaired.

“Ah, that's good because according to my calculations we are roughly in the middle of ... nowhere, give or take.”

“The cruiser was on its way to pick up Tanith.  Therefore, we cannot be far from the Tok'ra base.  If we can make it there, MajorCarter and DanielJackson can ring us aboard the mother ship.”

“You're assuming they're assuming we're alive and they're coming back for us of course,” Jack replied.

“Care to make a wager, O'Neill?”

“On which part?”

“I believe it is this way.”

As he prepared to follow the Jaffa, Jack whined, “This is *so* the last time I help someone move.”  Jack kept a sharp eye out, though he didn't know for what he was guarding against.  Still, he let his mind wander a tad.  ~Danny will always come back, but Jacob?  Now about him I can't say.  I like him.  I do, but he's Tok'ra through and through.  Okay, I just made a rhyme.  Come on, Danny, and find me before I turn ninety.~  He sighed, ~Great.  I'm in the rhyme zone.~

====

Aboard the mother ship, the repairs progressed.

“Good, the tactical display came back online,” Jacob noted.

“Yeah, I think we have a problem here.  I figure that flashing wasn't good news, and the fact that in Goa'uld it says, 'Warning, Warning',” Daniel responded as he gestured with his right hand, his fingers and thumb coming together to indicate a flash warning.

“It's Apophis.  He's here,” the Tok'ra stated.

With Apophis' ships in close range, Jacob retreated and hid behind the sun, much to Daniel's dismay.

====

At the same time, Jack followed Teal'c as they traversed the sand dunes.

“Ah, this is a bad idea.  I said that, remember?  Remember I said, 'General this is a bad idea'?”

“I remember, O'Neill.”

“'Let the Tok'ra get their own ship', I said.  'They don't share with us, why should we share with them'?”

“I remember.”

“Yep, that's what I said,” Jack groused.

“How much time remains before the sun explodes, O'Neill?”

“Huh?”  Jack checked his watch and answered, “Oh, forty-five minutes.”

“Then at least we have prevented Tanith from escaping.”

“Yes, at least we have that,” Jack responded somewhat sarcastically while he reached out and touched Teal's shoulder from behind.

Unaware of the problems plaguing the mother ship, the two military brothers continued their trek towards the Tok'ra base.

“Yeah, should be around here somewhere,” Jack sighed.

“Indeed.  The rings are centered here.”

“So, now what?”

All of a sudden, Teal'c was shot in the back by a staff weapon.  He slumped forward into Jack's arms, forcing Jack to the sandy ground.  As the fire continued, Jack scurried as fast as he could to take cover behind a nearby dune.  He counted to five and then moved out and opened fire, immediately killing one of the two Jaffa on the attack.

The second Jaffa used a zat and blasted Jack, who fell onto his back.  He was in agony, but seeing the Jaffa still firing, Jack aimed his P-90 and pulled the trigger, killing the second warrior.  Then Jack saw Tanith and wanted to blast the smirk right off the Goa'uld's face.  He hesitated, though, the effects of the zat blast causing his mind to become fuzzy.  Hearing the sound of the rings activating, the colonel mustered his energy and fired.  He hit Tanith, but not enough to down him.

Alone, Jack waited for the effects of the zat gun to dissipate.  Until it did, though, he was in pain and unable to fully function.

====

On the mother ship, Sam's plan was working as the Stargate entered the sun.  However, that meant they only had twenty-seven minutes to leave the area before the sun went supernova.  Since Jacob realized Apophis was already at Vorash, he sent out a bunch of unmanned gliders to act as decoys.  The System Lord took the bait and took his diminished fleet to follow them.

With less than four minutes to go before the supernova, the mother ship was finally in place.

Urgently, Daniel called out over the radio, “Jack, come in.”

The colonel heard his lover's voice, but was it really him?  Jack was still shaken from the zat attack, and his heart was full of thoughts of his soulmate.  Maybe he was hearing things, but then he heard the request again.

“Jack, come in.”

“Yeah, I'm here,” Jack responded.  Now he knew Daniel was safe, too, and just that fast, his 'no man left behind' mantra reeled in his head.  He was angry, though he wasn't sure with whom.  “Hey, thanks for checking in.”

“Yeah, we had a little trouble avoiding Apophis' fleet.  Are you in position to be ringed up?”

Looking down at the sand, the colonel answered, “Yeah, I s'pose.  I don't know.”

Pointedly, Daniel warned, Jack, if you're not in position ...”

“Daniel, just get me the heck out of here, will ya?”

The archaeologist activated the rings, transporting Jack aboard the mother ship within seconds.

Jack was again facing the wall at the end of the transport.  He seemed to always pick the wrong way to stand so that when the rings fell to rest in place, he had to turn to see who was waiting for him.  As he turned this time, he saw Daniel.  He began to move towards the archaeologist, his face stern and his gait determined.

Daniel's mouth opened slightly.  He knew Jack was angry with the hesitation in initiating the rings.  Was Jack going to hit him?

When Jack was just mere inches from his Love, he reached out with his right hand and placed it on the rear of Daniel's neck.  Immediately, he leaned for a deep, tongue-twisting, passionate kiss that lasted only as long as he dared, considering their location.

“Danny, I love you, and I didn't mean to yell at you.”

“I ... love you, too,” the stunned archaeologist replied.

“What's the time?”

“The sun may have already exploded.”

Certain he shouldn't delay longer, but succumbing to his heart's desire, Jack leaned his forehead against Daniel's.  Both men closed their eyes and drew audible breaths.  Pulling back, Jack smiled into his lover's beautifully expressive blue eyes before giving him a nod.  He turned and headed for the bridge, with Daniel right behind him.

====

As Daniel estimated, the sun exploded just after Jack was ringed to the ship, taking Vorash and several of Apophis' ships with it.  Jacob engaged the newly repaired hyperdrive, but without warning, the ship jumped out of hyperspeed.

Jacob surmised, “We must have caught the tail end of the blast wave.  It knocked us off course.”

Right then, Jack and Daniel walked onto the pel'tac.  They took positions just behind the still-raised weapons console.

“Where's Teal'c?” the major questioned.

“I'm not sure.  I think he's dead,” Jack answered.  ~Deja vu in an oh so bad way,~ Jack cogitated, his mind going back to his first time on a mother ship when he'd left Daniel behind.  ~Bad memory.  Don't go there, O'Neill.~

While Sam argued the group needed to return and find Teal'c, Jacob stated, “That may not be possible, Sam.  The navigational computer isn't recognizing any of the star patterns.  According to these readings, we've traveled over four-million light years.”

“That's impossible.”

“We're not even in our own galaxy anymore.”

Sam replied, “Well, the explosion must have somehow affected the subspace window created by the hyperdrive.”

“Wait, well ... wait a minute,” Jack stammered.  “What are you saying?  We can't get back?”

“I don't know.  The ship isn't normally capable of going so fast,” Jacob answered.

“It only took us a few seconds to get here.”

“Given our current position, and maximum hyperdrive speed, it's going to take us 125 years to get back,” Jacob noted.  Then he reported the really bad news to the team.  “Long range sensors are picking up another ship.  It's Apophis.”

Alarmed, Jack and Daniel moved forward for a closer look, stopping to stand behind Jacob and Sam.

Jacob noted, “He's arming weapons.”

“Shields?” the colonel asked.

Jacob answered, “Not responding.  Not that they'd do much good anyway.  That ship has weapons powerful enough to penetrate our shields at full power.”

“Hyperdrive?” queried Jacob's daughter.

“It's not responding.  The blast wave that propelled us here did some damage.”

“Can we communicate with them?” Daniel asked hopefully.

“And say what?” Jacob questioned.

“I don't know, don't shoot?” Daniel suggested.

After a moment, Jacob opened a channel to the other ship and stated his name while identifying himself as the “commander of this ship.”

“Commander?” Jack questioned, not happy to have heard the statement.

“You want to bicker about rank right now?”

When Apophis' image became visible on the screen, Jack observed, “He's looking a little pissed.”

“We did just destroy his fleet,” Sam responded.

Translating Apophis' words, Jacob told the team that, “It's time for us to die.”

Over the radio, Daniel stated, “Uh, wait a sec, I don't know if you've checked your dashboard here, but we're both way off course.”

Apophis responded in Goa'uld that he knew everything and there was nothing SG-1 could do to help him.  He was going to destroy them.

“We surrender,” Daniel submitted suddenly.

“What?” Jack questioned incredulously.  “Daniel?”

“It's either that or he blows us to pieces.  I'm just trying to buy us a little time here.”

Unfortunately, Apophis' reply was not favorable.  He said it was too late.

“Can't stand it.  What's he waiting for?” Jack asked.

Suddenly, a second ship emerged from behind the mother ship and opened fire on Apophis' vessel.  Jacob took the opportunity to fly SG-1 out of the area.

“That ship is unlike anything in the computer records,” Jacob pointed out.

“Well, we are in a completely uncharted part of the universe,” Sam noted.

“I'm enjoying their style.  Shoot first, send flowers later.  It works,” Jack put forth.

“But it only fired on Apophis, right, not us,” Daniel said.

“Well, his ship's a much bigger threat,” Sam postulated.

“You think they were trying to save us?” Jacob asked.

“It's possible,” Daniel replied.

Jacob returned, “We may still find out.  We're not going to get far on sub-light engines.  Whoever wins the fight will probably come looking for us.”

As her father worked the controls, Sam questioned, “Now what are you doing?”

“This system is centered around a blue giant.  If we can move close enough to the corona sphere, the radiation should keep us off their sensors,” Jacob answered.

“Excuse me?  Radiation?” Jack responded.

“Well, the ship's hull will protect us, for a while,” Jacob stated.

Jack turned and walked around for a bit.  He stood in front of the commander's chair and began to stretch.  His emotions were starting to get the best of him as it sank he that his friend, Teal'c, was probably no longer living.  He sat down on the upper platform step and leaned back.  He didn't like this feeling of loss, especially since he blamed himself for allowing Teal'c to put them both in that situation.

“We're entering the corona sphere,” Jacob advised.  “The good news is that we won't show up on anyone else's sensors.  The bad news is that our sensors will be blocked as well.”

“So when we're ready to go, we won't know if someone's out there waiting for us,” Sam surmised.

Daniel asked, “How long do we have?”

“About an hour without full shields, ten hours with them,” the Tok'ra answered.  “Sam, want to give me a hand?”

Jack advised, “I'd fix the shields first.”

As he passed the colonel, Jacob responded, “Right, Jack.”

“Just a suggestion,” Jack sighed.

Daniel looked over and not only saw but felt his lover's distress.  It was difficult for him, as well, but maybe for different reasons.  He, too, was mourning Teal'c; yet, he also had anxiety over the Jaffa's decision to put Jack in harm's way for nothing more than revenge.

“Jack, are you sure you're okay?”

“It was just your standard zat blast.”

“Zat blast?”

“It's nothing,” Jack said dismissively as he lie down on the platform.

For a few minutes, there was only silence as Jack tried to relax and get his thoughts sorted out while Daniel slowly paced the pel'tac.  Eventually, though, Daniel wandered over and sat down on the steps.  He was facing the front, his back to his husband.

“I don't suppose you wanna talk about what happened on Vorash,” the archaeologist asked as he fidgeted with the boonie that he held in his hands.

“Not really,” Jack answered flatly, his hands on top of his head as he stared up at the ceiling.

“Didn't think so,” Daniel quickly responded, dropping his head down in both relief that his lover was safe and frustration that Jack was blaming himself for something that wasn't his fault.

Suddenly, Jack explained, “We were ambushed at the rings.  Teal'c took one in the back.  I shoulda seen it comin'.”

Quickly, Daniel responded, “Well, I thought the key to a good ambush was to make sure that you *don't* see it comin'.”  He paused briefly, taking a quick glance back at his hurting soulmate.  ~Come on, Jack.  This was not your fault.~  “My point is that I'm ... I'm sure that you did your best.”

“Apparently, it wasn't good enough,” Jack said, unable to free himself from his guilt.

~Crap, Teal'c.  This is your fault.~  Daniel stewed for a moment as he considered what happened to Jack on Vorash.  ~Relax, Jackson.  He had his reasons.~  Daniel sat quietly for a minute before refuting Jack's statement. “Jack, you didn't create the situation.”

“I'm the leader of the team, Daniel, and I'm responsible for everyone on it.”  Jack scooted up, clearly not wanting to discuss it anymore.  “Here, let's play,” he said, taking a position at the side of the steps.

“You're out of your mind,” Daniel replied, watching as Jack reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small ball.  ~Only My Jack would think to bring a ball on a mission into space.~

Still, the archaeologist moved to the other side of the step, and the lovers played for points while they waited for Sam and Jacob to work their magic at making further repairs to the ship.

~Okay, Babe, we'll play now, but when we get home, we are going to talk about this,~ Daniel thought as his finger tapped the ball into Jack's 'finger target'.

====

Meanwhile, Ren'al of the Tok'ra, and two others, visited General Hammond at Stargate Command.  The council person reported that the supernova occurred in close proximity to Apophis and his fleet.  They did not have more detailed readings due to blast wave impacting their sensors.

“However, I can assure you, there is no way for another ship to have survived,” Ren'al put forward.

“And there has been no communication from SG-1?” the major general asked.

“No.  A single, one-man pod was launched from Apophis' mother ship several minutes prior to the explosion.”

“Apophis?”

“It is possible, but that would mean he had anticipated the explosion and his fleet should have escaped.”

“Then who was it?” Hammond questioned.

“We tracked the pod into Goa'uld occupied territory, but did not follow further.  There was one, possibly two subspace distortions during the explosion that could be explained by ships attempting to go into hyperspace.  However, we are fairly confident they did not make it out prior to being hit by the blast wave.”

“So you're saying SG-1 did not survive.”

Ren'al responded, “The possibility is extremely remote.  If they had, they should have contacted us by now.  You can rest assured, whether or not SG-1 survived, their action has thrown the Goa'uld into chaos.  The resultant void in dominant power will have the remaining System Lords fighting each other for years to come.”

“Thank you.”

“The Tok'ra are officially considering Selmak a fallen war hero,” Ren'al stated with pride.

“You'll forgive me for holding out hope a little longer.  SG-1 has a surprisingly good habit of beating the odds.”

====

Unfortunately, Jacob and Sam were not able to fix the hyperdrive.  Weapons and shields were still working, thankfully.  Back on the pel'tac, Jacob maneuvered the mother ship out of the corona sphere, after which the sensors came back online and immediately displayed data for Apophis' ship.  The second ship, however, was not showing on the computer.  The most shocking piece of information the sensors reported was that there were no life signs on the other Goa'uld vessel.

“Okay, we need to check this out,” Jack stated.  As his team began to move out, he reached out and took hold of Daniel's left forearm.  “Not you, Daniel.”

“Uh, why not?”

“Other than Jacob, you're now our expert on flying Goa'uld mother ships.”

“Lucky me,” the archaeologist responded dryly.

“Listen in.  We'll be back.”

“I'm counting on that.”

The lovers exchanged a look of longing before Jack's hand slipped off Daniel's arm.

Daniel watched as Jack, Sam, and Jacob left the pel'tac.

====

Aboard Apophis' ship, Sam questioned, “What if the other alien ship comes back while we're over there?”

Jacob answered, “Without hyperdrive we're sitting ducks no matter where we are.  If Apophis' ship is damaged and we can repair it, we should.  It's faster, has more advanced weaponry, and superior shields.”

“It still got its fanny whopped,” Jack reminded.

“We won't know what happened until we get there.  At the very least, we need hyperdrive control crystals,” Jacob stated as the three went to the ring room and activated them.

Arriving on the System Lord's vessel, the group heard a voice repeating a message over and over.  It was the self-destruct mechanism and they had just four minutes to shut it off.  Jacob headed for the pel'tac to handle that task while Jack and Sam went to find the much-needed crystals.

As the teammates walked, Jack asked, “Carter, how do you know where to go in a place like this?”

“I studied the Tok'ra specs of the ship while we were on Vorash.”

“You know how to have a good time, don'tcha?”

“I'm having a good time now, Sir,” Sam teased.

“You go, girl.”

The amusing discussion came to a dead halt when Jack and Sam turned the corner and happened upon a number of dead Jaffa.  Shortly thereafter, they heard a familiar sound and it wasn't one they ever wanted to hear again.  The sound was that of a Replicator.  Seconds later, they spotted one as it climbed the wall.  More were seen, and Jacob, too, came upon a swarm of Replicators.

Concerned, Daniel called out over the radio, “Guys, what's going on?”

Sam clicked her radio and answered, “The ship's crawling with Replicators.”

The mechanical beings prevented Jacob from shutting down the auto-destruct.  Sam still had three minutes to try to get the crystals.

Over the radio, Jacob instructed, “Daniel, you're going to have to fly that ship out of here as soon as we ring back aboard.”

Empathetically, Daniel replied, “And you're going to have to tell me how to do that.”

“No time for notes, Daniel.  This is what you need to do,” Jacob called out as he relayed the instructions for the archaeologist.

With less than a minute to go, Jacob arrived at the ring room, followed by Sam, who was able to get the necessary crystals.  Jack took a last shot and ran as fast as he could and literally slid inside the room and to the center of the circle just as the rings engaged.

As soon as the trio was back aboard the Air Force mother ship, Jacob called out urgently, “Go, Daniel!”

~This was definitely not on my list of studies at Harvard, or Oxford, or anywhere else,~ the archaeologist-turned-Goa'uld ship pilot cogitated.

With no time to fix the hyperdrive, the group relied on the sub-light engines to get them a safe distance away from Apophis' ship when he blew up.

On the bridge, the group discussed the possibility that the Replicators might be able to reprogram the control systems and prevent the vessel from completing its auto-destruct.  Though Jacob felt the menace would have to learn the computer system quickly, Sam believed it was possible.

“Hey!” Jack shouted.  “You guys are just being too negative!” he exclaimed in a raised, angry voice.

~He's stressed,~ Daniel thought to himself.  ~He's not normally like this, which means we really are in trouble.~

“We're not going to make it!” Jacob exclaimed.

“We're going as fast as we can,” Daniel responded.  ~And I haven't a clue what I'm doing here.~

As the other ship exploded, Jacob took over for Daniel in order to divert full power to the shields.  Fortunately, the blast wave merely washed over the mother ship, prevented by the shields from doing any damage.

“That was close,” Jacob said.

“I believe someone said we're not going to make it,” Jack noted.

“Sam, let's get the hyperdrive running,” the Tok'ra urged as he turned, intending to walk away from the pel'tac.

“Excuse me,” Jack stated as he stared at Jacob.  “I distinctly remember someone saying ... we're not going to make it.  I think we made it.”

“I'm sorry, I overreacted.  At the time, it looked very much like we weren't going to make it.”

“Yes, well, maybe next time you'll just wait and see.”

“And blow the last chance I might ever have to be right?” Jacob quipped and then walked by the colonel.

“What?” a confused Jack returned.

Grinning, Sam teased, “Welcome to my life,” and followed her father off the pel'tac.

“What?” Jack repeated as he looked over at his life partner.

Daniel simply walked forward, assuming that he was yet again responsible for flying the ship.

“Daniel, did you hear that?”

“I heard, Jack.”

“What just happened?”

“I'd say the Tok'ra just out-quipped you.  He shut you down cold, Jack.”

“There's something .... wrong about that.  The Tok'ra don't have a sense of humor.”

“You forget, Jack, Jacob's human, too, and he's been human a lot longer than he's been a Tok'ra.”

“There's that.”  The colonel sighed as he looked around the pel'tac, not certain where to place his attention.  ~What I need is a good distraction.~

“It wasn't your fault, Jack,” Daniel intuitively spoke.  “If it's anyone's fault, it's Teal'c's.”

“I let him do his thing.”

“No, it was Teal'c.”

“Are you okay, Danny?”

“Are you?”

“Me?  Hey, I'm ready for the next Olympics.”

“Good.  Then I'm good, too.”

“Am I missing something?” the colonel questioned.

Softly, Daniel answered, “I'm just glad you're okay.  I've spent most of the past twenty-four hours worrying about you, and Sam, Teal'c, and Jacob.

“I guess three out of four isn't bad.”

Words ceased as the lovers simply let silence grow.

====

“Ut-oh.”

“Ut-oh what?” Jack asked as he once again sat in the command chair.  Alarmed, he stood and walked down the steps to the pel'tac.  “Daniel, what ut-oh?”

“This ut-oh,” Daniel responded as he pointed.  Using the radio, he spoke, “Uh, engine room, this is pel'tac.  Engine room, come in immediately.”

In the engine room, Jacob opined, “I think we've left him in charge once too often.”

“What is it, Daniel?” Sam asked.

“I'm picking up a ship on the sensors.”

Hearing no response, Jack said, “I guess they're on their way.”

“I hope so.  I feel like a kid on a joyride.”

“Pretty cool, eh?”

The younger man chuckled, “Yeah, it is.”

“Ya gonna give me lessons?”

“Jack, I'm sure you could fly the mother ship if you put your mind to it.”

“See, that's the problem.  My mind: it gets a little warped sometimes.”

“Sometimes?” Daniel jested.

**Geez, I love you.**

**I love you, too.**

**I'm sorry if I scared you today, yesterday -- both days.**

**It goes with the territory, Jack.  I think ... that's part of loving someone so much.**

**Yeah.**

At that point, Jacob and Sam arrived, Jacob immediately checking the sensors and advising, “Looks like someone must have escaped Apophis' ship before the bugs took over.”

As it turned out, it was a tel'tac, also known as either a cargo or scout ship, piloted by Teal'c, which was happy news for all aboard the mother ship.  Teal'c explained that Apophis revived him in the sarcophagus, but that other Jaffa who believed in the cause helped him escape and were on the vessel.  Quickly, Jacob opened the cargo bay doors.

Soon, Teal'c and other Jaffa were greeted by the rest of SG-1, only the greeting did not go as planned.  As Jack shook Teal'c's hand and gave him a brotherly hug, the Jaffa seized the colonel's zat.

Seconds later, Apophis appeared and praised, “Well done, Teal'c.  Finally you have resumed your rightful position as my First Prime.”

SG-1 was taken to a rather large room.  They were confused by Teal'c's odd behavior and refused to believe their friend turned against them.

Quietly, Jack spoke to Teal'c, saying, “All right, this is feeling like a strange plan, but just let me know what to do and when.”

The Jaffa hit the colonel with the back of his hand, causing Jack to sail backwards and onto the floor.

Jack held his hands over his nose and exclaimed, “Whoa!”

“Come on, Teal'c, you don't really think that you're still First Prime of Apophis,” Daniel challenged.

Pointing Jack's P-90 at the colonel, Teal'c asserted, “I have never ceased to be in the service of my god.”

His face reddened, Jack got back up onto his feet and opined, “All right, that's sounding a little brainwashy.  You don't believe that guy's a god anymore than I do.”

Not answering, Teal'c lowered the weapon.

“What the heck is that suppose to mean?  Come on, we're friends.  Are you trying to tell me you don't remember what's happened these past fours years?”

Teal'c returned harshly, “I remember everything.  It makes me *ill* to think I was forced to pretend to be your friend.  So many times I saved your life when I wished I could watch you die.”

“It hurts me that you would say that, but that's okay because I know its not true.”

“Your belief is not necessary.”

“It doesn't make any sense.  Come on, you and I together have taken down a half a dozen Goa'ulds.”

“Enemies of Apophis.”

“And we kicked his butt twice.  Heck, you sat around and watched him die once.”

“I knew he would be reborn more powerful than ever.”

Jack groused, “I'm talking to a wall here.  Anybody?”

Daniel put forth, “Teal'c, you remember when Apophis brainwashed your son, Rya'c?”  He watched as Teal'c turned and walked away.  “Consider the possibility.”  After the door closed, locking SG-1 inside, he added, “Or don't.”

“Well, this is a fine plan we've gotten ourselves into,” Jack complained as he looked around the vacant room.  “Not even a lousy bench.”

“Jack ...”

“He's been brainwashed, Daniel,” Jack insisted.

“I think that's obvious,” the archaeologist agreed.

“Can the sarcophagus do that?” Sam wondered.

“Who knows,” Jack groaned.  “Is there another way out of here?”

The team searched the room, but did not find any other way out other than the doors.  There were no vents or openings of any kind.

====

Jack removed his jacket and ambled around the room until he reached the front.  He leaned against the wall and looked down.

Daniel walked over and stood opposite his Love, his body also leaning against the wall.  He looked to his left and saw Sam walking around.

“Jack, you know none of this is your fault.”

“I'm the leader, Daniel, everything is my fault.”

“That's military crap.”

“That's the truth.  I shoulda seen it coming.”

“How?”  Daniel spoke sharply as he repeated, “*How* were you supposed to see it coming?”

“I don't know.  Maybe if I wasn't so busy complaining I might have heard something.”

“Maybe, or maybe not.  Besides, Teal'c's alive.”

“Is that you're calling it?  He's been brainwashed.”

“And we'll un-brainwash him, once we get out of here.”

“Are you trying to give me a pep talk?”

“I'm trying ... to keep you from feeling guilty about something you had no control over.”

“There were only two of them, Daniel.  I actually took them both out.”

“But not Tanith.”

“No, not Tanith.”

“Look, I know you can come up with a number of scenarios in which you're to blame for Teal'c being shot and brainwashed, and, uh, I can come up with just as many for why I'm to blame for all of this.”

Standing up straighter for a second, Jack returned, “Low blow, Daniel.”

“My guilt for your guilt, and considering everything we've been through, I'd say mine is a lot ... bigger than yours.”

“Low blow, Daniel.”

“Later,” Daniel replied softly at the double entendre.  “Jack, you can't be a hypocrite on this.  Let it go, or I guess, I've been right all along, and all of this is my fault.”

“Blackmail,” Jack accused with a small smile.

“Maybe,” the younger man acknowledged.

With a nod, Jack said, “Thanks, Danny.”

Daniel felt the need for activity, so he began walking around the room.  Jack and Sam both already had their jackets off and Daniel decided it was too hot to keep his on, too, so he placed it on the floor and then continued pacing the room.

Jack ambled over to another part of the wall where the control panel was located.

“Got to wonder why they didn't put us in the brig,” Jack spoke as he randomly pressed the buttons on the panel as he again leaned against the wall.

Sam responded, “It's on one of the lower levels.  It was probably damaged in the firefight.”

“Think you can hot-wire this thing?”

“Well, I'd assume there's some sort of safety mechanism to ensure against that.  I mean, otherwise it would be pretty stupid to lock us in here, wouldn't it?”  Though Jack wasn't looking at her, Sam felt the glare.  Walking to the panel, she said, “Of course, I could give it a shot ... Sir.”

“Thank you.”

“Of course, I'm not MacGyver.”

Jack simply grimaced at the remark, not really understanding his 2IC's comment.

Wanting to respond in some way, though, he spouted, “Neither am I, Carter.”

“Definitely not, Sir.”

“Is that a dig, Carter?”

“No dirt here, Sir.”

“You go, girl,” Jack said, repeating his line from earlier in the day, though not as brightly.  ~And you'll end up in Antarctica researching penguins.~

====

Sam worked hard in an attempt to open the door, but she didn't believe she was making any progress.

“I really have no idea what I'm doing here.”

“Keep trying.  You may get lucky,” Jack said hopefully.

“Sir, I really hate to sound negative, but I think it's pretty safe to say that without a little more insight into how these things actually work, I've got pretty much zero chance of getting ...”  Just then the door opened.  “Okay, maybe not zero.”

However, Sam and the others quickly realized it wasn't she who opened the doors, but Jacob who urged them to follow.  Unfortunately, he himself was followed by Teal'c and other Jaffa.  Thus, Jacob was locked up with Jack, Daniel, and Sam.

“Come on, Teal'c.  A part of you has to know the truth,” Jack pleaded.

“The truth is you are a prisoner of Apophis.  When the symbiote that I carry matures, you will become its host.”

“Okay, I meant the other truth,” the colonel stated.

Suddenly, Teal'c fired his staff weapon at the panel on the wall while Sam was standing very close to it.  She barely avoided being hit as she leaned into her father's arms.

“Are you okay, Sam?” Jacob asked.

“Yeah, Dad, I'm fine.  I don't think it was as close as it looked.”

====

“Okay, here's what we're going to do,” Jack began as he checked his watch.  “We've had almost two crazy long days with some victories and some losses.  We're tired.”

“Actually ...”

“Jacob, I'm not talking to you.”

“Sorry, Jack.”

“Yeah, me, too.  I'm sorry,” Jack said to the Tok'ra, who nodded in acceptance of the words.  “We don't know how long they're going to keep us in here, but for now, we rest; get some shuteye.”  He looked at Sam and ordered, “Carter, I said we're resting.  Sit down and close your eyes.  That's a direct order.”

Sam nodded and settled down into a corner of the room.  She smiled when Jacob sat down next to her and put his arm across her shoulders.  She leaned in against her father's shoulder, wishing they could do this type of thing more often, without there being a life and death crisis involved.

Jack walked over to another corner and motioned to his life partner to come sit with him, which Daniel happily did.  The two sat, shoulder to shoulder, their heads against the wall, and their eyes closed.  The colonel's hands rested casually over his raised knees, while Daniel gently kept his arms crossed against his chest.

With Jacob on watch, the team relaxed, all falling into various stages of sleep.

====

Two hourslater, Sam's eyelids fluttered open and she realized her father was no longer sitting beside her.  She looked up and saw Jacob standing a few feet away, his eyes focused across the room; that is, until he became aware his daughter was awake.

Jacob returned to his spot by Sam, sitting down next to her again.

“What were you looking at Dad?”

“Those two are close,” Jacob responded.

Sam looked over at her commanding officer and the team's archaeologist.  She smiled.

“They're best friends, Dad.  You know that.”

“Very *close* best friends.”

“Come on, Dad.  I was leaning against you.”

“You're my daughter.”

“So, because the colonel and Daniel don't have a daughter handy ...”

“Sam, I'm not saying that.  The military's a pretty formal unit, you know.”

“Tell me about it,” Sam chuckled.  “Look, Dad, SG-1 is a family.  We all care about one another more than a typical military unit.  We're comfortable together.”

“Yeah, I know, Sam,” Jacob acknowledged as he looked at the blonde and smiled. “Actually, Sam, I miss that.”

“What?”

“Well, it's not that I was ... especially people oriented on Earth.  I was committed to my career in the Air Force.”

“I know,” Sam responded, a part of her aching from the loneliness she felt as a result of her father's choices.

“But people cared.  The Tok'ra exist right now to fight the Goa'uld.  The hosts have sacrificed their lives for the cause.  There isn't much of an independent life, Sam, so sometimes, I miss what I see over there, two friends able to lean against each other, supporting each other.  It's done differently with the Tok'ra.  There's no time for anything but the fight.”

“I'm sorry, Dad.”

“Me, too,” Jacob said as he gave Sam another smile and again put his arm around her.  “Sleep for a little while longer, Sam.  It's still quiet out.”

Sam settled into her father's hold and returned to sleep.

====

After another twenty-five minutes passed, Jack began to stir.  As he woke, he realized his head was against his lover's, and Daniel's entire body was leaning in close to his.  He looked across the room and saw Jacob still sitting by Sam.

Jack blew out a small whiff of air and hoped he could wake Daniel gently.  At home, waking the archaeologist prematurely sometimes resulted in passionate interludes.  Any such hint of that type of occurrence now with Jacob present would be detrimental to their future with Stargate Command.

Whispering, Jack spoke, “Daniel,” as he gently shook him.  “Daniel, we're on the mother ship and we need to wake up now.”

“Ship?”

“Yes, the mother ship.  *Jacob* is sitting right over there with Carter.  Daniel?”

“Ship.  Jacob ... oh!”  Daniel jerked as he regained his senses.  “Jack?”

“We were all sleeping, but now we're awake.”

Daniel totally understood what was happening.  He also realized his body position was turned into Jack.

“Uh, we ... uh ...”

“Everything's fine,” Jack assured in a low tone.  Then he spoke up, “Everyone awake?”

“Uh, yes,” Daniel responded in a normal tone while standing up.

Slowly, the group gathered and shook their bodies, stretching and bending or doing whatever they felt necessary to be in a fully alert state of body and mind.

====

As the hours passed, there was sometimes silence and sometimes discussion.

“I guess it was just common sense, but Teal'c was sure from the start that the ship was there to pick up Tanith, and considering they ringed him up right in front of me, I'd say Teal'c was right.”

“So, he's with Apophis, or ...” Daniel asked.

“He could be, Daniel, or maybe he's gone.  Unless he shows himself, we won't know for sure.

--

“How are we going to get through to him?” Sam asked as the group discussed Teal'c's brainwashing.

“I think Daniel had the right idea,” Jack opined.

“I did?”

“Yeah, Teal'c loves Rya'c.  He'd do anything for his kid,” the colonel asserted.  “It might be the only way to reach him.”

“Maybe, but he didn't respond when I reminded him what Apophis did to Rya'c.”

“It was one line, Daniel.  Give us more time, and I'm sure we'll give through to him,” Jack maintained.

“Sir, Rya'c was cured with a simple zat gun blast,” Sam reminded.  “Maybe we should ...”

“Zat T?” Jack questioned.  “I don't know, Carter.”

“You don't know what Apophis used to alter Teal'c's mind,” Jacob stated.  “I'm not sure it would be the smart thing to zat a Jaffa who was already under the influence of a chemical we don't know anything about.”

“You might be right, Dad.”

“But we'll keep it in mind,” Jack noted.

--

“A cargo plane may not be business class, but at least there are seats.  Why is it the Goa'uld don't have chairs?” Jack questioned.  “Seriously, why?”

“I don't know, Jack,” Jacob replied.  “These are warships.”

“You still need to sit down.”

“Not necessarily, Jack,” Daniel negated.  “I mean, the symbiotes keep the Jaffa strong and awake.”

“You mean those snakeheads don't strain their feet?”

“I guess you could say that.  They don't get tired or physically stressed like we do.”

“So they don't need chairs?” Jack queried.

“Not when they are on duty,” Daniel responded.

“Actually, when they're in that armor, I'm not sure they can sit down,” Sam interjected.  “From my observations, if they sat down with armor on, the breast plate would shift upward and block their face.”

“Now that's an idea!” Jack exclaimed.

====

Later on, the team and Jacob were all sitting on the floor, relaxing in the quiet as they waited for whatever was to happen next.  Jack and Daniel were side-by-side with Jacob and Sam facing them from a few feet away.  Suddenly, there was a bump.

“We just dropped out of hyperspeed,” Sam noted.

“Why would that happen?” Daniel questioned.

“I'm not sure,” Sam responded.

“Maybe they're going to throw out the space debris,” Jack suggested.

“What?” the archaeologist asked.

“The trash, Daniel -- us.”

“Oh.”

“Bad joke,” Jack admitted.

Sam got up, as did Jacob.  Both walked around for a couple of minutes before sitting down again, this time up against one of the columns.  Now they were perpendicular to the couple.  Uncertain what was happening, the four sat quietly, each contemplating the immediate future.

====

Not long thereafter, the door to the room, which was on the couple's right, slid opened a couple of feet.

“Odd,” Jack spoke.

A Replicator crawled under the door and into the room.

“Ut-oh,” Daniel expressed, watching as the bug began to climb up the wall against which the lovers were sitting.

Jack got onto his knees and as he moved, spoke, “Uh, excuse me,” to his lover.  He made his way to the door and observed many Replicators passing in the corridors.  In response, his body shifted downward to a more at rest position.  “This could be a problem.”

“Sir, if they've already got control of the primary systems ...”

“This could be a problem,” the colonel repeated.

Daniel remained calm as he watch the Replicator inside the room coming in his direction.  The bug was watching him.  When it suddenly lunged towards him, he jolted in response.

“It won't attack unless you threaten it,” Sam told her friend.

The Replicator continued to charge towards the archaeologist, who used his body to scoot away.  He was essentially lying on the floor on his left side as he carefully observed the bug.

“Yeah!  Still, maybe we should, uh ...” Daniel suggested, not completing his obvious thought and wanting to leave the room.

Sam moved forward and ducked low to go under the door at the same time Jack left the room.  Jacob followed and rolled his body across the door and into the corridor, while Daniel was the last to exit the room.  He pushed forward and then crawled under in a supine position until he could stand.

“We need weapons,” Jack told his team.  “Carter.”

“This way,” Sam said.  ~I'm glad I reviewed the specs on Vorash.  That was definitely time well spent.~

====

In the armament room, Daniel noticed a hole at the top and in the center of one of the crates that contained various weapons.

“Hello,” the archaeologist said as he motioned forward with his hand and fingers to indicate the moving bugs.

“It's been, what, ten, eleven hours since we picked up the cargo ship?  The Replicators have had more than enough time to reach unmanageably large numbers,” Sam stated.

“Let's just hope they left the cargo ship alone.  It's our only way out of here,” Jacob responded as he handed his daughter a bulletproof vest and then put one on as well.

“Chances are they have.  I mean, they'd focus on controlling the mother ship first,” the blonde returned.

Daniel offered, “Well, brainwashed or not, we can't just leave Teal'c here.”

Handing his soulmate a P-90, Jack agreed, “I know.  You and Jacob secure the cargo ship.  Carter, you're with me.”

With everyone geared up, Jacob handed Jack a silver stun grenade that he'd retrieved from a box of Goa'uld weapons.  The four hurried to the cargo bay, doing their best to keep the Replicators away.  Once there, Daniel and Jacob entered the cargo ship to prep it for their escape while Jack and Sam fought the Jaffa.

“Atmospheric shield is online.  Cargo bay is pressurized,” Jacob told the archaeologist as he began to turn on the ship's power.

Seeing the larger ship's cargo doors were closed, Daniel said, “I have what may seem like a dumb question.”

“Yeah?”

“Don't we need to open those big cargo bay doors in order to fly the ship out?”

“Well, this ship has remote access to the door controls.  Hopefully, the bugs haven't overridden it.

Daniel queried, “You, you don't wanna check?”

“I don't wanna tip them off before we have to.”

--

In the corridor, Sam called out, “Sir, we got to move!”

The firefight with the Jaffa was rampant.  Both Jack and Sam took out several, and Jack used the stun grenade to take out quite a few more.  With time gone and Teal'c aiming his staff weapon in his direction, he was forced to do something he never thought he would have to do.  He calmly aimed his P-90 directly at the First Prime and fired.  Teal'c fell to the cold floor.  Sam followed Jack to their teammate's fallen location and took his pulse.  Fortunately, Teal'c was still alive.

“Hope Junior keeps him that way,” Jack said and then helped Sam raise up the Jaffa and take him to the cargo ship.  **Danny, some help,** Jack beckoned.  When the archaeologist stood at the entry of the ship, Jack released Teal'c to him. “Yeah, here you go.”

Daniel observed, “He's been shot.”

“He resisted a little,” Jack admitted.

“I was starting to worry to guys weren't going to make it.”

Jacob quickly interjected, “I didn't say it though.”

At Jack's behest, Daniel and Sam started to tie up the unconscious Jaffa.

“Sam, you were right.”

“I don't know who created their armor, but it's definitely not made for sitting,” Sam commented.

After removing his Jaffa armor to make him more comfortable, Daniel and Sam tied their friend up securely and did their best to leave him in a restful position.

Another subspace distortion occurred, indicating that Apophis' ship jumped to hyperspeed.  This meant Jacob couldn't pilot the ship out since the cargo bay doors can't open when the ship is in hyperspace.

Daniel closed his eyes at the news and let the latest block to going home settle within him.

“Can you do something?” the colonel asked the Tok'ra.

“Sure, but it means going back out there,” Jacob responded.

“Like we have a choice,” Jack spoke.  “Okay, kids, let's go find out what's going on.”

Leaving Teal'c secured in the vessel, the four well-armed individuals carefully made their way along the corridors until they came to a control panel.

“According to this, the ship is headed towards the last set of coordinates that were entered, Sokar's old planet; Apophis' new base,” Jacob noted as he studied the computer readout.

Realizing the ship's speed was accelerating, Sam energetically stated, “This is incredible.  The bugs must have modified the engines.”  She further explained, “They can do almost anything.  They're very advanced.  The individual blocks can come together to form whatever pattern they need to achieve their goals.”

Daniel interjected, “But I though they didn't care about traveling fast.”

“Only while they're multiplying.  Once they've reached a critical number they look for new sources of technology to consume.”

The group recognized that the Replicators were eager to get to Apophis' base for its technology.  Jacob figured it was great news because they'd be back in their galaxy quickly and it would be easy for them to get away when the mother ship dropped out of hyperspeed.

“I wouldn't exactly call it ... great news,” Jack responded.

The four considered their options.  One thing they knew for sure, they couldn't let the Replicators get a foothold in their galaxy.  They talked about initiating the self-destruct since that worked on Apophis' ship.  At that point, though, Jacob advised that the bugs were preventing him from getting into the main system.

“All right, come on, let's figure this out.  We got them on Thor's ship,” Jack reminded.

“How?” Jacob questioned.

“We destroyed the deceleration drive just before the ship entered Earth's atmosphere.  It couldn't withstand an uncontrolled re-entry,” Sam answered.

“Goa'uld mother ships use sub-light engines to slow down after exiting hyperspace,” Jacob said.  “If we destroy the sub-light engine controls ...”

“The ship won't be able to stop,” Sam surmised.

“And it will crash right into Apophis' planet,” Jacob put forth.

The group realized they would need to wait for the ship to come out of hyperspace, so the bugs wouldn't have time to change the trajectory.  Then they would destroy the engines by eliminating the control crystals in the engine room.

“Which is bug central probably,” Daniel assumed.

“So we plant C-4,” offered the colonel.

Sam refuted, “The bugs could disable the detonator by the time we leave and set it off.”

“What are you saying?” Jack questioned.

“To be sure, we would have to physically destroy the crystals ourselves.  A P-90 at close range should do the job,” Sam answered.

“Oh, now see, that doesn't sound like ...” Jack began.

“You got a better idea, Mister Positive?” Jacob challenged.

“This ship has now reached over eight-hundred times its previous maximum speed,” the major reported.

“All right, we'll be there pretty soon.  One of us should get the cargo ship charged up and ready to go,” the Tok'ra suggested.

Jack quickly instructed, “That would be you.  Carter, Daniel, with me.”

“All right, it's going to be tight guys.  You only have about thirty seconds to get from the engine room back to the cargo bay,” Jacob told SG-1.

“Just keep it running,” Jack suggested.

“All right.  Good luck,” Jacob responded before running towards his destination.

“Keep an eye out for Jaffa as well as the bugs,” Jack told his team as they made their first steps away from the cargo bay.

“I wonder if we can add anything anything else to the list?” Daniel questioned rhetorically.

“Cockroaches,” Jack quipped.  “I hate those things.”

“Me, too,” Sam responded.

“Me, three,” Daniel admitted.

Now that they were en route to their target, the team went silent.  Each member had a job to do and they needed to be focused on their task in order to protect one another.

====

In the engine room, Jack, Daniel, and Sam discovered, in Jack's words, “a big bug,” that pulsated steadily and spanned almost the total height of the ship.

“Guess that explains the extra power,” Sam opined.

“Uh, listen.  Let's not wake it up,” Jack suggested.

Moving cautiously and slowly, Sam located and pulled out the control crystals, causing the ship to drop out of hyperspace, after which Jack fired on the crystals, destroying them.  In response, the big bug disassembled itself into smaller Replicators, prompting SG-1 to retreat hastily.

“Go go go go go!” Jack shouted.

Hundreds of Replicators sought to kill the team as SG-1 tried to get to the cargo bay.  The bugs were everywhere.  At one point, as Daniel covered Jack and Sam, a bug dropped down on his back, but Jack shot it into pieces.  Daniel ran to his next position to once again fire on the menace and allow his teammates to move further towards their destination.

--

Aboard the cargo ship, Jacob completed the charge up process and turned the vessel to face the cargo bay doors that were now open.

The Tok'ra radioed, “Guys, we got to go now.  Jack, Sam, Daniel.”

--

In the corridor, Sam heard her father's voice.  She was aware that there were too many bugs for the team to make it to the cargo bay.  She asked her father to ring them up remotely once they reached the ring room.  Once there, Jacob ringed them onto the tel'tac.

“Let's get out of here!” Jack ordered.

“The doors are closing,” Sam observed.

Jacob reported, “They've overridden our controls.”

“Are we going to make it?” Sam asked.

“I don't want to say,” the Tok'ra responded.

Fortunately, the cargo ship inched its way through the opening, though it did make some minor contact.  They all watched from the pel'tac as the mother ship, with Apophis trapped inside, hit Vorash and exploded.  SG-1's longtime nemesis, the System Lord Apophis, was at long last, finally, and for sure, dead.

“I'm going to check on Teal'c,” Jack told the others as he headed for the storage area where Teal'c was tied up.

“Jack, you got his body back.  Getting his mind back may not be as easy,” Jacob warned.

The colonel looked at his friend, who sat against the wall with his eyes closed, and kneeled down, waiting for a response.

“You may torture me all you wish.  I will tell you nothing.”

Jack responded, “I'm sorry I had to shoot you.  You didn't give me much choice, though.”  He heard no sound.  “Apophis ... is dead.”

“I do not believe you.”

“Trust me.”

“Gods cannot be killed,” Teal'c insisted and then closed his eyes again.

====

Not long thereafter, Jack finished speaking with Jacob on the pel'tac and looked around for Daniel.  Not seeing him, he entered the largest storage area and saw his archaeologist sitting on the floor in the far corner of the room.

~You're trying to hide.  I recognize this.~  Jack joined his soulmate, sitting down beside him.  “Penny for your thoughts.”

“Jack, you don't have a penny on you.”

“That's true, but the sentiment is there.”  Silence overruled the peace of the couple's togetherness.  “Are you okay?”

“I'm fine, Jack.”

“I beg to differ.  You're not acting fine.”

Daniel turned his head to face the older man and said quietly, “I'm just glad you're okay.  Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I'm okay.”

“Then I'm okay, too.”

“Daniel ...”

“I'm okay, Jack.  All that matters is that you're okay.”  Daniel smiled and then got up onto his feet.  “I'm going to see what Sam's doing.”

As Daniel walked away, Jack shook his head and thought, ~Nope, not okay, but I'm not sure why.  I can't put my finger on it, but something's been bugging him on this mission.  Well, I guess I'll save it until we get home.  This isn't the place, especially with Teal'c ...~

Jack's mind stopped its train of thought as his attention switched to the Jaffa.  Jack was worried about his warrior brother and he wondered if the situation could be remedied quickly.  He began to ponder alternatives and to consider the best course of action.  He wasn't sure and right now, he was already tired of thinking.  He closed his eyes and decided to rest for a while.

====

As Jacob continued to pilot the cargo ship towards Earth, Jack was stewing as he sat atop a crate in the storage area.

“Jack?” Daniel called out as he entered and sat down on another crate opposite his lover.  “How's your eye?”

“My eye?”

“You've got a cut, right ... there,” Daniel said as he leaned forward and motioned to the area, though he didn't touch the spot.

Jack automatically raised his left hand and gently touched his injury.

“The blood is dry.  We should clean it.”

“Nah, let it go.  Doc will take care of it.”

“It must have happened when you and Teal'c crashed on Vorash.”

“Probably.  It was a hard crash.  I vaguely remember hitting my head on something.”

Daniel didn't really want to let the issue go.  In fact, he wanted to clean the cut, afraid it could become infected, but he could tell Jack wasn't going to allow that.  He could sense his Love had something serious on his mind, too.

“What are you thinking about?” the archaeologist asked.

“Rya'c.”

“You're thinking about the zat blast.”

“I think we have to try it, Daniel.”

“Jack, you can't just zat Teal'c.”

“Why not?”

“Because you can't do that.”

“Daniel, let me ask you something.  This is ...  hypothetical.  Say you had some crazy nutty disease that could be cured by weeks after weeks, maybe even months of deprogramming, or, and I know it's a big or, but or ... you could be back to your old self within days of one little zat blast.  What would you want?”

“I guess you have a point, but Janet ...”

“The Doc isn't going to okay a zat blast and you know it.”

“She might.  She knows what Rya'c went through.”

“You're right.  Hey, ah, how long until we're home?” Jack asked.

“I'm not sure.”

“Go find out, will ya?”

“Sure.”

“Make sure it's accurate, not an approximation.”

“Okay.”

Daniel left his lover alone, but he didn't do exactly what he said he would.  Instead, he told Sam his suspicions and she completely agreed.

--

Jack stood and went to his gear where he retrieved his zat.  Calmly, he entered another compartment of the vessel where Teal'c was tied up.  He stood across from his friend and stared.

Teal'c opened his eyes and returned the stare, but he said nothing.

“Look, I don't want to this, but your son, Rya'c, he was ...”

“Do not speak to me of my son,” Teal'c ordered strongly.

“This worked for him, and I don't have a choice.”

Teal'c's head reared up when he saw the zat gun in Jack's hand.

“I'm not going to kill you.”

“You lie.”

“No, he's not lying,” Daniel refuted as he entered and walked to his lover's side.

“Daniel,” Jack objected.

“Sir, if you're going to do it, now's the time.  We'll be back on Earth soon,” Sam told her CO as she also entered the area.

“You shouldn't be here,” Jack told his 2IC.  “And neither should you,” he told Daniel.

“We're a team, Jack, and this is a team decision.  You're not doing this on your own.”

“I don't have a choice, Daniel.”

“I know.  If ... if were me, I'd want you to do it.”

“As would I,” Sam added.

Jack took a big breath and slowly aimed the zat as he spoke, “Sorry, buddy.”

The weapon released a single discharge that caused the Jaffa to cry out in pain.

“You will pay,” Teal'c threatened Jack.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed.  “Nothing.”

“Actually, Sir, we don't know.  It wasn't instantaneous with Rya'c.  We'll have to wait and see.”

====

The cargo ship was less than a half-hour from Earth and SG-1, sans Teal'c, were standing on the pel'tac.

“You have to admit, it was better than ID-4,” Jack put forth about the movie, “Independence Day.”  He smiled, “I mean, that exit through the cargo doors was much closer than in the film.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“And did you hear?”

“Hear what?”

“C'mon, Carter, you had to have heard it.”

“Colonel, all I heard were hundreds of Replicators squealing all over the place and the sounds of our P-90s going off.”

“Before that.”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” Sam claimed.

“Sure, you do.”

“Sorry, Sir,” Sam said with a shrug.  “Dad, I have an idea ...”

Jack watched as Sam began a technobabble type discussion with Jacob.  He grimaced and then he looked at Daniel.

“You know what I'm talking about.”

Daniel simply shrugged, but then he said, “Uh, I'll be back.  Right now I have to ... go, go, go, go, go.”

The colonel heard the chuckle and groaned as he opined to himself, ~These guys are no fun.  I put my 'go, go, go, go, go' right up there with Goldblum's.  Besides, that was a movie, and this was real life.~

====

Their post-medical exams done, Jack, Daniel, and Sam joined General Hammond and Doctor Fraiser in the briefing room and went over the events of the past two-and-a-half days in detail.

“Sam and I coordinated the supplies transfer to the mother ship with Cor'dai of the Tok'ra.  There weren't any problems with that at all,” Daniel reported.

“Things didn't go south until Tanith escaped,” Jack began.  “You know, I still don't understand how he got away.”

“Colonel?” Hammond questioned.

“General, that snake was being guarded by two male Tok'ra.  He apparently did some little seizure dance to make them think he'd died.  Jacob told us later that a third Tok'ra, a lady, who was in charge of their security, ordered the force field lowered.  One of them, *one*, General, walked inside to check on Hebron, the host.  He thought the guy was dead.  Now you tell me, even if Tanith got hold of the guy checking on him, how the heck did he get the drop on the other two?  I would have shot the snake as soon as he'd reached out and grabbed the first Tok'ra.”

The teammates all shrugged.  No one understood it.

“What did Jacob say?”

“Nothing,” Jack answered.  “He never says anything.  You know how the Tok'ra are, Sir.”

--

“We felt it was necessary to change the plan, Sir,” Sam advised.  “Since Tanith was able to communicate with Apophis and we were able to determine that Apophis' fleet was coming, we knew we had a chance to stop him, once and for all.  We, uh ...”

“Major?”

“We decided to blow up the sun, General.”

“Continue.”

Sam was expecting a bigger reaction to the news, so she was surprised.  She nodded and continued her report.

“We, my father and I, convinced Colonel O'Neill ...”

“I agreed to it, Sir,” Jack interrupted, not willing to allow his 2IC to take the blame for a decision he was responsible for making.

“Major, continue, please,” Hammond requested.

“It worked, but there was one thing we didn't count on,” Sam said.  “Somehow, Apophis' ship and a few ships from his fleet, made it through, more than likely being helped by the blast wave.”

--

“We had no idea who was in the other ship,” Jack stated.  “It never fired on us.  We hightailed it out of there and let Apophis deal with whoever it was.”

“Of course, we know now it was a Replicator ship,” Daniel interjected.  “It must have deposited bugs onto the mother ship and then left.  The bugs killed the Jaffa.”

“We believe Apophis ordered the auto-destruct and then escaped with Teal'c and a few others on the transport vessel.  The rest of his company were killed by the Replicators before we boarded,” the major expounded.

“Apparently, some of the ... bugs transported themselves into crates on the cargo ship.  When the Jaffa moved those crates onto our mother ship, they broke out and started to duplicate in the engine room,” Daniel elaborated.

--

“He's dead, Sir,” Jack stated confidently.  He looked around and asked his team, “He is dead?”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam confirmed.  “There were no signs of any escape pods or other ships leaving Apophis' mother ship, and we barely made it off the ship before the Replicators caught us.  They were everywhere.  Yes, Apophis is dead.”  She looked at Daniel and questioned, “Right, Daniel?  Apophis is dead?”

The problem with proclaiming the System Lord as a dead false god was that Earth had already done it, not once, but twice before.  The first time SG-1 was certain Apophis died was when his ship was destroyed over Earth.  They were unaware Apophis used the onboard Stargate to leave the ship.  The second time they thought Apophis was dead was when he actually died at Stargate Command after fleeing from Sokar, who tortured him.  His body was sent through the Stargate to Sokar, who ultimately revived Apophis in a sarcophagus.  Then he managed to ring off Sokar's mother ship before it was destroyed when Netu exploded.

Daniel considered the past before he answered, “To the best of our knowledge, General Hammond, Apophis is dead.  As Sam said, we didn't observe any ships or beams emanating from his mother ship before it was destroyed and Vorash was destroyed when Sam ... blew up the sun.”

“So he's dead?” Hammond asked his flagship team.

“Yes, Sir,” came three moderately confident responses.  “We think.”

The teammates were somewhat startled by their synchronized replies, but they shrugged it off.

--

“Tanith just seemed to disappear,” Sam reported.

“He ran with his tail between his legs,” Jack put forth.

“Why do you say that, Colonel?” Hammond inquired.

“General, I don't care squat that he passed on Intel to the Goa'uld about the Tok'ra base.  He did that in the hopes of saving his butt.  But,” Jack said as he leaned in over the table and then looked each person in the room in the eye, “if you'd been a puppet for the Tok'ra for a solid year, if everything you'd passed on to Apophis was nothing more than fantasy, and if Apophis suddenly knew that all you'd passed on was fiction, wouldn't you get as far away from Apophis as you could?”

“So you think the ship that rescued Tanith from Vorash wasn't one of Apophis' ships?” Daniel questioned.

“That's what I'm saying.  He was trying to save his butt when he passed on the Intel and then he got out of there as fast as he could.  He's long gone.”

“Which means we might see him again,” Sam surmised.

~Gawd, I hope not,~ Daniel bemoaned.  He felt that same unease from before.  He wasn't sure what it was, but he was certain he never wanted to encounter Tanith again, not if Teal'c was there and could put Jack's life at risk again.  “I guess so,” he spoke quietly.

--

“Where did the Tok'ra end up?” Hammond inquired.

“Actually, I'm not sure, General,” Daniel responded.  “Cor'dai dialed the address when I was outside their Gate room.”

“Not surprised,” Jack muttered.  “You might ask Jacob.”

“Jacob has already departed the SGC,” the major general responded.

~He didn't say goodbye,~ Sam thought, though she hid her disappointment from the others.

“I take it he didn't leave a forwarding address?” Jack inquired with a lift in his voice.

“He gated to the Land of Light and planned to join the other Tok'ra from there.”

“Like I said, General, they want to know what we know, but they don't like to share what they know.”

--

“Teal'c is absolutely convinced he's the First Prime to Apophis,” Janet stated.  “Of course, I've only been able to do a very quick exam, but he seems very sincere in his opinion of his ... job.”

“What is your recommendation?”

“First, General, I want you all to know that it takes time to deprogram a person, especially in a situation where the hold is so strong.  This could take weeks, or even months.  Second, at least for a while, Teal'c's care needs to be handled privately.  I recommend we confine him, for the time being, in a private room where we can completely control who he sees and when, but, for now, no visitors.”

“Except for us, of course,” Jack piped up.

“No, Colonel, especially not you.”  Janet continued, “And, lastly, and most importantly, Doctor MacKenzie is the best choice to oversee Teal'c's recovery.”

“Come on, Doc,” Jack chimed in unhappily.

“I know what you think of him, Colonel, but he is highly regarded within his field for his expertise.  Please do not use my failure to handle a unique circumstance properly as a judgment against his ability to deal with this specific instance.”  Janet reminded, “I am not a psychiatrist and my knowledge in that area is limited.  That's not the case with Doctor MacKenzie.”

Everyone at the table was aware of the time when Daniel ended up committed to the psychiatric wing due to MacKenzie's misdiagnosis of events.  Of course, it wasn't that simple, but the feelings regarding the man's integrity and ability were low, at least to SG-1.”

His hands clasped together atop the table, Hammond questioned, “Doctor, I recall a few years ago when Teal'c's son, Rya'c, was under Apophis' control.”

“That's correct, General,” Janet affirmed.  “We determined that the effect could be eliminated by electroconvulsive therapy, commonly referred to as shock therapy.  We used a zat and Rya'c was freed from the mind control.”

“Could not Teal'c's brainwashing be removed in the same way?”

“It's already been tried,” Jack admitted solemnly as he looked the major general straight in the eye.  “I zatted Teal'c on our way back.”

“I see.”

“We had to know.”

Hammond nodded and asked, “Is there anything else?”  Not hearing any words, he responded, “Very well.  Dismissed.”

Eager to get back to the infirmary and arrange for Teal'c's care, Janet quickly left the room.  SG-1's departure was more casual and they were just at the door when they heard Hammond's voice.

“One more thing.”  Hammond waited for the team to turn and face him.  “I realize we are all very concerned about Teal'c, but as Doctor Fraiser said, there's nothing any of us can do at this point.  The SGC continues and SG-1 will continue its mission schedule.”  He paused, allowing time for any complaints, but he received none and was pleased about that.  “We also have a little tradition.  It may have escaped your minds, but the Fourth of July is two days away.”

“Independence Day,” Jack said quietly.

“I still intend to hold a barbecue at my home, as I've done every year since taking over this command.  You all know that SG-1 are the guests of honor.  It would be a shame and disappointing for your colleagues if you weren't there.”

“I can bring the steaks,” Jack offered.

“It's already covered, Jack,” Hammond replied.  “Just bring yourselves.”

“We'll be there, Sir,” the colonel promised on behalf of his team.

Hammond returned to his office and SG-1 moved forward with their day, all glad to be back on Earth.

====

That night, Jack and Daniel returned to the country-side residence where they lived and readjusted to the uncertainty of SG-1's future.

“I don't trust that quack, Danny,” Jack admitted as he pulled a beer out of the refrigerator.  “Want one?”

“No, thanks,” Daniel replied.  “I don't trust him, either, but, uh, after what I went through, I don't think that's much of a surprise.”

“I'd feel better if the Doc were handling this.”

“Me, too, but psychiatry isn't Janet's specialty.  She's being responsible by admitting that up front.”

“Maybe there's someone she could bring in.”

“Clearance?”  Daniel sighed and elaborated, “Jack, we don't like MacKenzie for our own reasons, but there isn't anyone else who is aware of the Stargate and the life beyond it who can be brought in and really understand the dynamics of the situation.  I mean, MacKenzie knows the history, at least.”

As he approached Daniel at the opening that separated the living room from the kitchen nook, Jack responded, “You're saying that because MacKenzie knows about the Jaffa, he's qualified to treat Teal'c?”

“No, I'm saying that he's the only one in his field who has an inkling about the Jaffa and might be able to at least reach Teal'c, maybe, if we're lucky.”

Jack and Daniel stared at each other for a moment before Jack walked by and sat down on the sofa.  He took a few sips of his beer and shook his head.

“I know, Babe.  The odds aren't on our side.”

“Or Teal'c's,” Jack lamented.

“Jack, are you okay?”

Jack looked up and questioned, “Why wouldn't I be?”

With a knowing expression, the younger man sat down next to his life partner and answered, “Oh, I don't know.  Maybe, uh, because you ... shot Teal'c.”

“Right in the chest.”

“You had to, Jack.”

“Yeah, and I ...”

Daniel watched as his lover drank more of his beverage.  He waited and then reached over and pulled the colonel back and into him.

“And you shot Sam.”

“Yep.”

“And you left me behind on the mother ship.”

With his eyelids shielding him from the images that threatened to bring him spiraling downward, Jack whispered, “I remember.”

“Babe, you didn't have a choice in any of those situations.  I was dying.  You weren't going to save me.”

“You did that yourself,” Jack eked out, his voice cracked as he remembered the moment.

“It had to happen.  We might not be here, like this, if it hadn't.”

“I admit that might be true, but it doesn't help, Danny.  I left you and that eats at me all the time.”

“And what is you always tell me about guilt?”  Daniel let the query settle before he put forth, “Jack, we can't live in a world of guilt.  I fight it all the time, too, but it will tear us apart if we surrender to it.”

“I know you're right, Angel.”

Daniel's hands rubbed his lover's back as they continued to talk.

“If you didn't shoot Sam with a zat, we might not be here, either.  She was under the control of that entity and was going to destroy the SGC and maybe even Earth itself.  You had to shoot her.”

“I know,” Jack sighed.

“And if you hadn't shot Teal'c, we wouldn't be here.  We'd be dead because he would have killed you, Jack.  He totally believes he's First Prime and we're the enemy.  We didn't have more time.  You did what was necessary.”

“That doesn't make it any easier to live with.”

“I know, Babe, I know.”  Daniel held his soulmate close.  “Jack ...”

“I love you, Danny.”

“And I love you, more than I know how to say.”

“There's more than one way to say it.”

“I thought you'd never ask.”

The lovers adjourned to the master bedroom and expressed their love as only they could while also venting their woes and sorrows.

====

The last three weeks were almost normal for SG-1.  They continued to go on missions, with Lou Ferretti brought over from SG-2 to be a part of the team.  Ferretti actually did double duty, subbing for Teal'c and then leading his own team through the Stargate.  Hammond ensured the schedules for the two teams were staggered so that there wouldn't be any overlapping.  Fortunately, all missions went smoothly and were completed in the anticipated time frames.

Jack, Daniel, and Sam attended Hammond's barbecue and had a good time, though there was a more somber tune to the affair as all in attendance lamented Teal'c's not being there.  Janet attended the event and updated everyone on the current status of the Jaffa, but at that point, there wasn't much to be said other than Teal'c was at least listening to MacKenzie, or so they believed.

The lovers took a few days off when Jack surprised his Heart with a trip over his birthday.  Neither forgot about their teammate, but there was nothing they could do to help Teal'c.  As a result, the brief trip was a special time they would always remember.

As the days passed, the three SG-1 teammates were anxious for news about Teal'c, and Janet did her best to keep them apprised of his progress.  She reported that he was coming around and letting go of the notion that he was First Prime.  Eventually, he sounded freer and even smiled when talking about the SGC. According to the physician, MacKenzie was making headway with the Jaffa.

At the end of the day on Friday, Hammond called Jack, Daniel, and Sam into the briefing room.  The teammates took their seats and waited as Hammond entered and sat down.

“Sir?” the colonel called out when silence continued to fill the room.

“We're waiting for Doctors Fraiser and MacKenzie.”

“Has something happened to Teal'c?” a concerned Sam inquired.

“Yes, Major,” MacKenzie said as he walked into the room with Janet behind him.  Both physicians took their seats next to Sam on the far side of the table.  “We've made significant progress.  It's my belief that Teal'c is no longer under the influence of the sarcophagus.”

“And you know this ... how?” Jack asked.  ~Hey, I want to believe it, but I don't trust this guy as far as I can throw him.~

“I'm confident that Teal'c is once again the man who has been a member of SG-1 for the last several years.”

“The plan is to meet with Teal'c again over the weekend and then he can return to duty on Monday,” Janet added.

The meeting continued for a few more minutes until Hammond dismissed the physicians.  He then looked into the eyes of each SG-1 member.

“You all aren't convinced?”

“Let's just say we want to make sure,” Jack responded.  ~And you're not convinced, either, George.~

“What do you have in mind, Colonel?”

“Back up,” Jack stated.  “Sir, I don't think we can just let Teal'c have free roam of the base until we can be certain.”

“Jack, is this about your belief, or lack of belief, in Doctor MacKenzie's capabilities?”

“No, Sir, and yes, Sir.”

“Sir, I think you'd agree that we have to make sure the base is secure before we let Teal'c, or anyone who's gone through this experience, have access to secure areas,” Sam offered.

“Bra'tac,” Daniel stated thoughtfully.

“Doctor Jackson?”

“No one knows Teal'c better than Bra'tac.  I think we should try to find him and bring him here; get his opinion about Teal'c.”

“Excellent idea!” Jack praised, giving his lover a pat on the back and sitting back in his chair with a pleased expression.  ~Shoulda thought of that myself.~

“Colonel, send SG-6 and SG-10 to Chulak to find Master Bra'tac and bring him here to Earth.  Make sure they communicate the urgency of the matter to him, but he is not to be forced or coerced to return in any way.  Dismissed.”

“General, about the base ...” Jack began.

“I agree, Colonel.  Formulate a plan.”

Hammond left the briefing room and the teammates remained for a few minutes to discuss a viable plan to test Teal'c's commitment to Stargate Command.

====

On Monday morning, news arrived that SG-10 located Bra'tac and they were en route to the Stargate.  Meanwhile, Jack finalized the plan that would ensure Teal'c didn't have access to the rest of the base unless everyone was convinced he was back to his old self.

Special Forces officers were scattered along the corridors in both directions to cover all areas Teal'c might try to flee.  Daniel and Sam were also positioned with two SFs as they waited around a turn from Teal'c's room.  Sam would be prepared, too.  Jack ordered her to have her zat drawn and at the ready.

Neither Janet nor MacKenzie were told of the special preparations.  In fact, Janet was tending to personnel in the infirmary when a somewhat cocky MacKenzie joined Hammond and Jack and prepared to enter the private room.  Two guards stood watch outside the room and one was inside, which was how it had been since Teal'c was quarantined.

The Jaffa was under constant monitoring.  Most of the time, Teal'c sat quietly or was involved in therapy sessions with MacKenzie.

“I think you'll agree Teal'c is ready for duty,” MacKenzie stated just before he opened the door to the room.

Jack walked inside, while MacKenzie and Hammond waited just inside the doorway.

“It is good to see you, O'Neill,” a somewhat smiling Teal'c greeted.

“You, too.”

“You appear to be well.”

“Well, forget appearances.  The back's gone, the knee's shot; forget the curling. You?”

“I am well again.”

“So I hear,” Jack responded.  “Welcome back.”

“I once again pledge to you my allegiance and ask your forgiveness for succumbing to the will of Apophis.”

“Well, he did sort of have you over a barrel, you being dead and all.”

“It was through the power of the sarcophagus that I was forced to again believe that Apophis was my god.”

“Sarcophagi will do that.”

“Doctor McKenzie has convinced me otherwise.”

“You convinced yourself Teal'c.  All I did was shine a light on something you already knew,” the overconfident MacKenzie stated.

“You know, just for fun, I'd love to hear you say it out loud,” Jack prompted.

“That Apophis is a false god, that the Goa'uld are nothing more than parasites.”

“Yeah, that stuff.”

“I hope one day to restore your trust in me, O'Neill, and to return to your service, General Hammond.”

Jack looked towards the doctor and the base commander and asked, “What do you think?”  Not seeing or hearing any objections, he invited, “After you.”

The group exited the room and once in the corridor, Teal'c noticed Bra'tac was waiting.  He went to greet him.  At first, they were both full of smiles, but then Bra'tac's grin left him.

“He is deceiving you,” Bra'tac informed the Tau'ri.

Teal'c realized he was outed and tried to get away, but when he turned a corner, there was a human blockade that included Daniel and Sam.  When he reversed course, he was blocked by Jack, Hammond, and other guards.

As Teal'c lashed out at Bra'tac, the elder Jaffa zatted his protege, who fell to the cold floor.  Bra'tac surprised everyone by going to Teal'c and removing Junior, the symbiote he carried and which kept him alive.

“Get Doctor Fraiser,” Hammond ordered.  “Colonel, once Teal'c and the symbiote are in the care of Doctor Fraiser, escort Master Bra'tac to the briefing room.  I want to know exactly what he's up to.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged.

“It is the only way,” Bra'tac assured Jack.

“Yeah, well ... can you not wave that ... thing this way,” Jack requested as he kept his body somewhat reared back from the visitor.

Bra'tac laughed, but kept a tight rein on the Goa'uld that was not yet mature.

The elderly Jaffa at one-hundred-thirty-seven years of age requested, “You must fill his room with candles.  Keep the room dim.  It will set the course for the journey Teal'c will undertake when the Rite of M'al Sharran begins.”

“I'll take care of it, Jack,” Daniel interjected.  “I'll meet you in the briefing room.”

Jack nodded, but he couldn't take his eyes off the symbiote.  He didn't like the things and until it was safely in a container, his focus was on the squirmy snake.

For a brief second, Jack looked at his 2IC and instructed, “Carter.”

“Sir,” Sam acknowledged.

Though there were several guards around, Jack felt more comfortable with the major keeping her zat drawn and aimed in the direction of the Goa'uld.  Sam knew exactly what her CO wanted and moved into a better position, where she remained until the symbiote was finally placed inside the jar that would sustain his life until he could hopefully be returned to Teal'c's body.

====

With SG-1 and Bra'tac gathered in the briefing room, Hammond began, “Master Bra'tac, before we proceed ...”

“We waste time,” the Jaffa interrupted.

“Please explain to me what it is you hope to achieve by depriving Teal'c of his symbiote.”

“I hope to save him.”

“By killing him,” a confused Daniel interjected.

“If necessary.”

Jack replied, “See, I think we disagree on the meaning of the word 'save'.”

“You would have him remain this way, loving a false god, spitting and cursing?” Bra'tac questioned.

“No,” Jack answered.

“There may be other methods we haven't considered,” Sam put forth.

Bra'tac disagreed, “I have seen your methods.  You underestimate the hold Apophis has on Teal'c's heart.  In time, you will have little choice but to lock him away, for he is far too dangerous an enemy to have in your midst.  The Rite of M'al Sharran is the only way.”

“Last Rite,” Daniel translated.

“To save Teal'c's soul, first we must take him to the very threshold of death.  On Chulak, it is said that when a warrior is dying, the events that forged him wash over his mind like a great wave,” Bra'tac explained.

“His whole life passes before his eyes, we have a similar ... uh, where does that get us?” the linguist asked.

“Through his fever and hallucination, he will relive his true path, buried beneath this lie.”

The kicker was that Bra'tac had only done this ritual twice before and neither Jaffa lived through it.  However, he was confident both died free.

Hammond took a breath as he considered his options.  He had a strong hunch how Janet Fraiser felt.  Still, he was certain what Teal'c's honor and integrity meant to him.

“Colonel?” the major general called out, the question in the man's title.

“I say we go along, General.  Bra'tac's right.  Teal'c wouldn't want to live this lie Apophis fed him.  It would be worse than death.”

“I agree.”

“We have no time to waste,” Bra'tac asserted, leaving the briefing room right away and being quickly followed by SG-1.

====

In the infirmary, Janet wasn't the least bit happy with having her patient intentionally left on death's door.  Though Bra'tac coaxed her into going along, the petite physician was a reluctant participant.

Bra'tac spoke with Teal'c in an attempt to challenge his beliefs that Apophis was a god.  Teal'c insisted Apophis was alive and eventually shouted out to Bra'tac that it was he who was the shol'va, the traitor.

“There was a time I was once the First Prime and loyal servant to your lord Apophis.  You were my apprentice,” Bra'tac had reminded.  “For years we fought side by side in battle, in his name.”

Bra'tac attempted to guide Teal'c in his memories.  Teal'c recalled his first meeting with Apophis when Bra'tac presented him and two others as aiding in their latest victory.  Apophis had been immediately intrigued by the Jaffa in front of him.

“His name is Teal'c, My Lord, my apprentice and with your blessing, my successor,” Bra'tac had told the System Lord.

The memory continued with Teal'c having stood up to Apophis over the murder of his father, Ronac, First Prime of Chronos.  After losing a battle, the family was exiled to Chulak and Ronac was killed.  Teal'c claimed the battle was unwinnable.

When the memory of his father ended, Teal'c screamed in pain and lapsed into unconsciousness.

“Uh, what was that?” Daniel asked.

“A conjured memory, the first of many,” Bra'tac responded.

“He's obviously in a lot of pain.  At least let me give him ...” Janet began.

Interrupting the doctor, Bra'tac advised, “Pain is what we seek.  Teal'c's path was laid down with suffering.  It is the path he must take to return to us.”

“At the moment, he's unconscious,” Janet replied.

“All the better.”

Concerned, Jack repeated, “All the better?”

“It is his unconscious mind we must reach.  I know my ways are foreign to you, but I have known Teal'c longer than any of you have lived.  I have walked his path.  You cannot hope to understand the darkness in his heart as I do.”  Bra'tac looked at those in the room and implored, “Trust in me, all of you.”

“We do,” Sam promised.

“Whatever you need,” Daniel assured.

“For the moment, I must meditate in kelno'reem.  This Rite will take most of the night and I am tired from my long journey here.  In the meantime, stay with him, speak to him.”

“He won't be able to hear us unless ...” Janet began.

“Perhaps not in his mind, but in his heart.  Even in silence he will know of your presence, but your words will force him to remember.  Challenge him when he does, question his beliefs.  Without his symbiote, he will not resist reason so readily,” Bra'tac stated.

At that point, Sam escorted the weary Jaffa to his quarters in one of the VIP rooms.  On their walk, she learned that Bra'tac's current symbiote would be his last.  It would mature in two years and he would be too old to carry a new one, even if somehow a new symbiote could be procured.  He told her it was how old warriors died.

====

Jack and Daniel stood together at Teal'c's bedside.

“You wanna go first?”

“Sure,” Daniel responded.  He took a stool and moved it to the bedside.  He sat down and stared at the Jaffa.  ~I don't know if I can do this.  Why did you risk Jack's life again?~ he asked internally.  ~Gawd, I have to let this go.~

“I'll go,” Jack offered, not really understanding his talkative love's silence.

“Yep,” Daniel agreed, getting off the stool so Jack could take that spot and then pulling over another stood to sit close to Jack.

Jack looked at the Jaffa and said, “So, explain this to me one more time.  You honestly believe that from the moment you broke us out of that prison on Chulak, that you've been serving Apophis?  Because, I got to tell you, as your best friend at least in this whole live world, that makes absolutely no sense at all.  I mean, that would make you the most ineffective double agent in the history of double agenting.”  He heard his friend make some kind of sound, but he couldn't make out what it was.  “What?”

Teal'c relived a second memory, this one surrounding an old friend named Va'lar, who did not share Teal'c's doubt about Apophis being a god.

Meanwhile, Jack spoke, “Va'lar.  Is that what he said?”

“I thought he said velour,” Daniel replied.  ~I guess I'm not paying close enough attention.  I'm sorry, Teal'c.  I'll focus better from now on.~

“Velour?”

“Velour.”

“The fabric?” the colonel questioned.

“That's what I heard him say.”

“Why would he say that?”

“I don't know.  Why would he say Va'lar?” Daniel asked.

“I don't know.”

Suddenly, Teal'c explained, “Va'lar was my friend.”

“What?” Daniel questioned.

“Teal'c,” Jack stated.

The Jaffa tried to raise up, but realized he was strapped to his hospital bed, and asked innocently, “O'Neill.  What is happening?  Why am I restrained?”

“Well, you were sort of ... trying to kill everyone these past few weeks.”

“I could never have harmed you,” Teal'c claimed.  “The Rite of M'al Sharran has been successful.  Please release me.”

“Nice try, but ... no,” Jack responded.  ~Sorry, buddy, but I'm not convinced and I have to put the base first for now.~

“I am not your enemy.  We are brothers.  DanielJackson ...”

~I'm not the one to be asking that of right now.~  Regrouping, Daniel requested, “Tell us about Va'lar.”

“I have not heard that name in years.  I trained with him under Bra'tac.  We served in the personal guard of Apophis.  If you do not return my symbiote to me, I will die.”

“What happened to him?” Daniel asked, ignoring the plea from his friend.

“He failed his god,” Teal'c responded.

~Okay, test time.~  Jack pointedly spoke, “His god?  You mean that scum-sucking, overdressed, boom-box-voiced snake-in the-head?  Latest on our long list of dead, bad guys?”

Under the strong control of the drugged sarcophagus, Teal'c could not contain his anger at Jack's words.  His heart rate doubled and he cursed at Jack in Goa'uld.  He claimed he was being killed, that the Rite never worked.  His blood pressure  fell sharply.

At that point, another memory played in Teal's mind.  He was blindfolded on a snowy plain, being trained by Bra'tac, who was then the First Prime to Apophis.

Bra'tac had warned his protege that, “In battle, you must use all your senses.”  As he continued to get the best of Teal'c as they practiced, he advised, “There are no second chances in battle.  You have ears to hear and eyes to see, but you will not learn!  Shall I put us both out of our misery?”  He had primed his staff weapon and aimed it at Teal'c.  “The choice is mine.  Who can stop me?  Apophis?”

“Yes.”

“So you believe our Lord Apophis is all seeing?  All powerful?”

“He is a god,” Teal'c had maintained.

“Is he?  In battle, Teal'c, faith will not save you, blind faith least of all.”  Bra'tac had kneeled down and helped to pull his young friend upright.  “Rely on your own strength, your own wits, or you are of no use to me.”

====

“Daniel, wanna give it a go now?” Jack asked.

“Sure.”

“That's what you said before.  Are you okay?”

“I'm fine, Jack.  I can talk to him now.”  After the lovers changed places, Daniel focused on Teal'c.  “I think the point that Jack was trying to make is that you're generally a very, extremely logical person and therefore your assertion that you never left the service of Apophis is so completely illogical, almost to the point of making absolutely no sense whatsoever.”

“Do you not know the meaning of faith, DanielJackson?”

“I think I do.”  Daniel's heart told him that faith was believing in Jack and in the love the two shared.  ~I have to have faith in that.  It has to be real.~

Teal'c responded, “Then you should know that my faith in Apophis is beyond question.”

“Still, if you remember me and you remember, Jack, you must remember at some point questioning your faith.”

“Never!  Apophis is a god.”

“False god,” Daniel corrected.  “Dead, false god.”

“Your words cannot change the truth.”

Daniel replied, “They're not my words, Teal'c, they're yours.  Of course, you were wrong at the time because he wasn't ... actually dead, but that's neither here not there ...”

“Lies!” Teal'c exclaimed.

“The point is, there was a time in your life when you realized the Goa'uld can't all be gods.  Every symbiote a Jaffa carries will take a human host given the chance and become a Goa'uld.  How can they all be gods?”

“Do not test my temper woman!” Teal'c said angrily.

Again, Teal'c became delirious in the eyes of those in the infirmary, but in his mind, he was remembering his wife, Drey'auc as they argued in their home on Chulak.  He told the strong-willed woman about his conversation with Bra'tac, notably the words about Apophis not being a true god.  Drey'auc wanted him to go to Apophis and tell him of Bra'tac's vocal betrayal.

“Explain how a ball of light can leave his palm and throw a warrior across the square if he is not a god,” the woman had challenged.

“I cannot!” Teal'c had conceded.  “Yet, neither have I seen a warrior greater than Bra'tac.”

“Then you are the servant of two masters.”

“What am I to do, Drey'auc?”

As she stroked her husband's face, Drey'auc had beckoned, “Come to bed,” and kissed him.

The memory faded, but Teal'c did not wake.

“Woman?  Did he just call me a woman?” Daniel asked his soulmate.

“Yes, I believe he did.”

At that point, Sam entered and noted, “Still unconscious.”

“In and out, obviously delirious,” Daniel told the blonde.

Sam crossed the room to speak with Janet, who reported that Junior was doing well.  The physician also confided that if Teal'c was allowed to die, she was going to resign.

“I'm a doctor, Sam.  This goes against every part of me to just stand by and do nothing,” Janet stated from the very depth of her being.

Sam walked back over to Jack and Daniel and inquired if Teal'c had said anything.

“Talked about fabric, briefly,” Jack answered.

“He just called me a woman,” Daniel added.

“So I think it's working,” Jack opined.  **Teasing, Danny.**

“Well, something's happening,” Daniel stated.  **Payback, Jack.**

“Well, it looks like we're in for the whole night.  We should probably take turns sitting with him,” Sam suggested.

“Yeah, all right,” Jack agreed.  “I'll come back in a couple of hours.  Daniel, you go after me.  Then I think we'll all wanna be here.”

Jack and Daniel left the infirmary while Sam sat down to talk to her teammate.  As he'd done with the others, Teal'c pleaded with Sam to intervene and free him.  She tried to get him to realize he was believing in a false god.

“I can't but help what I believe,” Teal'c stated.

“You believe in freedom, Teal'c.  You believe in justice, in protecting people from false gods.  You despise everything Apophis was.”

Teal'c grew weaker, his words stretched out as he again thought about his friend, Va'lar.  It was after a battle when Va'lar returned to Apophis' ship.  The other warrior had retreated with his men during a fight with Ra's Jaffas.  Va'lar had insisted he wanted to return to the battle, but with more men.  Teal'c knew the act his friend had done was wrong in the eyes of Apophis.  In fact, the false god had ordered Teal'c to kill Va'lar.

Teal'c had not been able to bring himself to kill his friend, so he ordered him to flee and took the symbiote from a wounded Jaffa in Ra's service to show Apophis as proof of Va'lar's death.

Apophis had accepted Teal'c's proof with pride, which only served to stir Teal'c's doubts further.

====

“Your office or mine?” Jack asked when the lovers reached the elevator.

“Uh, I need to check on some things.

“Daniel, the point here is to rest, get a couple hours of sleep, not to play with your toys.”

“Have you seen my backlog?” the archaeologist queried as he crossed his arms in front of his chest.  “I mean, uh, I still have a lot of catching up to do from when we were on PR1-887 before the Vorash mission.”

The elevator doors opened and Daniel walked inside.  He reached out to press the '18' button when Jack's arm pushed his out of the way.

“Not going to happen, Danny,” Jack insisted as he pressed the button for another level, one that had VIP suites on them.  “We're going to relax and it looks like the only way I can be sure you sleep is ...”

“... to baby-sit me?”

“I don't care what you call it.”

When the doors opened next, Jack and Daniel headed for the VIP rooms.  The younger man was surprised when Jack followed him inside the room he'd just entered.

“Jack.”

“Bed,” Jack ordered.  Well aware of the risk to their careers, or more aptly to his own military future, the colonel sat back in a chair.  His eyes remained focused as he crossed one leg over the other and brought his arms to relax over his torso.  “Lie down, Danny.”

As he took off his BDU jacket, Daniel asked, “Why are you doing this?”

“Because I love you and something's going on that you're not telling me.  That's okay.  You will eventually.  Right now, I'm making sure you don't boil over from a lack of sleep and food.  I already made sure you ate earlier, so now, it's sleep's turn.  Lie down.”

Somewhat reluctantly, Daniel settled onto the bed, though he refused to make himself comfortable.  He stared up at the ceiling, his mind full of worry.  He didn't know if the Rite of M'al Sharran would work.  They were taking a big chance, risking Teal'c's life in the process.  At the same time, he believe it was probably their only option.  Three weeks with MacKenzie had resulted in no progress at all.  Of course, he had zero faith in MacKenzie anyway.

There was more to Daniel's wariness, and it, too, focused on Teal'c and the decision his friend made to risk Jack's life along with his own.  Daniel was trying to reconcile what he knew and believed to be true in his mind, but he wasn't having much success.

Suddenly, Daniel saw Jack's face in front of his.

“I love you, Danny.  I need to make sure you're remembering that.”

Gently, Jack placed a tender kiss on his Love's lips.  He smiled and rose up.  He started to turn to go back to the chair when Daniel reached out and grabbed his hand.

“I need you, Jack.  I need you so freakin' much.”

Making love in a VIP suite in Cheyenne Mountain was not the safest thing to do, but Jack would not and could not deny his lover.  The result was that neither man got the desired amount of sleep before their next shift at Teal'c's bedside.  They didn't care, though, as their love, need, and want for the other was primary to their existence.

Eventually, Daniel fell asleep.  Unable to sleep himself, Jack watched over his Angel for a while, but then he became restless.  In the belief Daniel would rest for an hour or two, he dressed and headed back to the infirmary.

====

General Hammond sat in the observation room, watching Teal'c below.  He had been there, off and on, since the Rite began.  Hearing a noise, he looked over and saw Jack walk in.

“You didn't stay away long.”

“You should talk.  You can go in there you know,” Jack stated.

“I know,” Hammond acknowledged, his voice tinged with guilt about his decision to let Bra'tac conduct the Rite of M'al Sharran, especially with Janet so dead set against it..

“General, if Teal'c were here, he'd say you made the right decision.”

“If he were here.”

“He'll be back,” the colonel asserted confidently.

“If not, Teal'c will be sent to a high security facility and placed in solitary confinement.  When his symbiote matures in four or fives years ...”  Hammond paused and spoke from his heart.  “I won't do that to him, Jack.”

“No, Sir, of course not.”

====

Another memory stirred for Teal'c as his unconscious mind struggled.  He'd awoken from a nightmare in which he recalled following Apophis' orders to retake a planet controlled by Ra and more specifically, to burn down a village.  The faces of the innocent had caused havoc inside the Jaffa, as did the knowledge that the village had become the home to the banished Va'lar.

Teal'c had told his wife, “I banished him to that village to save his life, only to take it away for fear that Apophis would learn my secret.  I put my own life before that of an entire village and that of a dear friend.”

“No, you had no choice.”

“I did have a choice.”

Then pregnant with their child, Drey'auc had argued, “A son ... will soon be born to us, Teal'c.  You must ensure that he has a father.  Our son will be born into a real home, a gift from Apophis himself.  It is the best life we can hope for.”

“Then why am I so ashamed?”

The memory morphed to yet another moment when a grinning and exhilarated Teal'c ran to Bra'tac to deliver big news.

“Apophis has made you his First Prime,” Bra'tac had surmised, subsequently admitting he was not happy about it.

“There is no greater honor among Jaffa than to become First Prime to one's god,” Teal'c had proclaimed.

“Ah!  You know as well as I what the Goa'uld truly are.  We pretend, men like you and I, so we may advance in rank and privilege, but do not pretend to me now. You know the truth.  Can you look me in the face and say otherwise?”

“My entire life you have prepared me for this day.  Why?”

“I saw the spark of doubt in you and the wisdom to keep that doubt unto yourself.  I saw you play the game with those who would play god,” Bra'tac had answered.

“If I do not believe in him, how can I serve?”

“Because there is no other choice but to serve.  The Goa'uld are powerful.  They've seen to it that we cannot live without them and so it may be for all time, but neither can they live without the Jaffa.  We are they're true power.”

“I do not understand.”

“As First Prime that power will be yours.  When Apophis throws his armies into the fire, you will be there to temper his sword and in so doing, you may save countless lives as I have done in my time.”

“And you have done all these things against his will?”

“His will can be made to bend, but not always.  I have done deeds for which I cannot forgive even myself, as will you.  Men such as you and I have only the comfort of those times we make a difference.”  Bra'tac had placed his hand over Teal'c's heart and urged, “Make a difference.”

In his mind, Teal'c moved on to another conversation with Bra'tac.  They were watching prisoners being held in a cell.  Among them were SG-1 and Skaara, the brother of Sha're, the Abydonian woman Daniel married on the first mission to Abydos.

Bra'tac had pointed out, “Those are the humans who came through the Chaapa'ai. They do not appear to be as formidable as I have imagined.”

“Their weapons are not of Goa'uld design.”

“That may be so, Teal'c, but they are only three.”

“There is something more, a strength.  They know the taste of freedom,” Teal'c had put forth.

“Your dreams of freedom will be your undoing, Teal'c.”

“Perhaps so.”

“Pray they are not chosen as hosts.  That is the best fate you can wish for them,” Bra'tac had responded before he left the other Jaffa behind.

====

As Jack looked down into the infirmary, he noticed Daniel standing at the doorway.

“General, if you'll excuse me,” Jack spoke.

“Of course,” Hammond responded, silently speculating that the reason for Jack's departure was the arrival of SG-1's archaeologist.  ~Their friendship is rare.~

--

“Hey,” Jack called out as he approached.

“Hey,” Daniel replied with a smile.  **I woke up and you were gone.**

**Sorry about that, but I was worried about Teal'c.  You're not mad, are you?**

**No, of course not,** Daniel replied.  “Any change?”

“No,” Jack answered.  Checking his watch, he added, “Her turn's about up.”

Before a change could be made, Teal'c began to rouse and immediately went into de-fib.  Jack picked up the red phone and ordered Bra'tac brought to the infirmary immediately.

Janet wanted to put Junior back inside Teal'c's pouch, but Bra'tac stopped her.  She was insistent, but forced to wait when Hammond, still in the observation room, ordered her to stand aside.

Bra'tac leaned over his friend and ordered loudly, “Choose now, Teal'c.  Return to those who love freedom, or die in the name of a false god.  Choose!”  He shouted as forcefully as he could, “*Choose to be the warrior we know!  Renounce Apophis and return to us*!”

“It's now or never,” Janet interjected.

“*Choose*!” Bra'tac exclaimed, but there was no response.  “Very well,” he agreed and backed away.

Janet rushed over and put the symbiote back inside Teal'c's pouch.  As Teal'c was dying, she used the defibrillator to try to get his heart beating again.

“No pulse,” Nurse Karen reported.

“Make it three-sixty.  Give me five of eppy.  Charging.  Clear,” Janet spoke.

In his mind, Teal'c heard Jack's plea on Chulak:  “I can save these people!”  He remembered looking at the Tau'ri, who then begged, “Help me.”  Again, a more quieted, “Help me,” was spoken.

It was a moment of choice and, tossing his staff weapon to Jack, Teal'c said, “Many have said that, but you are the first I believe could do it.”

It seemed like years to all who waited in the infirmary, but it was mere seconds, seconds during which Teal'c replayed the last few years with SG-1.  Finally, his eyes opened.

“I choose freedom.”

As he did in the corridor the day before, Bra'tac stared into the eyes of his friend, not seeing his pupils, but sensing his true heart.  He smiled.

“The Rite has succeeded.  He has returned to us,” Bra'tac assured.

“Uh, just out of curiosity,” Jack began, “how do you feel about ...?”

“Apophis is a false god, a dead, false god,” Teal'c answered without any hesitation.

Hearing the words, Hammond smiled and walked swiftly from the observation room to the infirmary.  He needed to be there to welcome the Jaffa back.

“It's good enough for me.  Get him out of those restraints,” Jack ordered.

“Thank you, Doctor,” Hammond praised as he walked in front of Daniel to stand next to the bed.  “Well done.”

“Yes, Sir.  I'm glad it worked out, too.”

“MajorCarter, DanielJackson, Tek'ma'te,” Teal'c spoke, acknowledging his teammates and Master Bra'tac to whom he greeted with a word of great respect.

“My friend,” Bra'tac responded as he and Teal'c gripped each other's arm in traditional Jaffa fashion.

“GeneralHammond, I once again pledge my allegiance to you and the people of this world, and I request permission to return to SG-1.”

Happily, Hammond replied, “Permission granted.”

“Okay, everyone, let's give Teal'c some room,” the redheaded physician suggested strongly.

“I am well again,” the Jaffa claimed.

“I know you are, Teal'c, but humor me,” Janet requested, getting a nod in reply.

“And I must take my leave,” Bra'tac announced.  “Old friend, you have done well.”

“I'll escort you to the gate room,” Hammond offered.  “Doctor Fraiser, when will Teal'c be ready for duty?”

“In forty-eight hours, General,” Janet responded.  “I want him to rest, and  Junior, too.”

“Very well,” Hammond agreed.  “SG-1, we'll brief Saturdy at 1500 hours.  I want full status reports on all assignments.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged.

“Master Bra'tac,” Hammond invited with a wave of his hand.

“Paperwork,” Jack groused.

“Sounds like we'll back to normal,” Sam noted brightly.  She walked over and touched the Jaffa on the arm as she said, “I'll see you later, Teal'c.”

“Yeah, uh, I need to get back to my office.  I'm glad you're okay,” the archaeologist expressed with total sincerity.

“As am I, DanielJackson.”

Daniel gave his lover a smile and then left the infirmary.

“So, how are we going to celebrate?”

“Perhaps another mud wrestling outing, O'Neill.”

“Okay, I don't think I want to hear this,” Janet remarked.  Satisfied that the Jaffa was fine, she walked away.  ~Mud wrestling?~

“Sounds like a plan.”

Jack gave his brother-in-arms a smile and then left to resume his duties.

====

Daniel left the Mountain at the end of his shift and headed for his apartment.  He needed to put in an appearance to keep the game alive, the game that was a lie, that said he and Jack were platonic best friends.  Even though the younger man now lived with the older, and it wasn't hidden much from anyone who knew them well, he still had his apartment and spent time there to add to the illusion of the game.

The archaeologist began his time by reviewing the mail that collected there since his last visit.  It was essentially junk mail that he quickly tossed into the trash.  Then he went to his piano, the one he purchased after moving into his new abode, a benefit of having a regular paycheck.  He played a song he remembered and let himself become lost in its melodic harmony.  Daniel enjoyed becoming a part of the story of a song, but it was also something he kept to himself.  He never played in front of another person, not even Jack.

After the song ended, Daniel attended to some basic cleanup, dusting the furniture and washing the windows.  He left the vacuuming to the last and it was while the device was sucking up whatever debris was on the carpet that Jack entered the apartment.

The colonel groaned.  The door was, as it often was, unlocked. Of course, he realized he was being somewhat hypocritical.  There was a time when he didn't lock his doors with regularity.  These days, that didn't happen much.  He was in love and that meant the need to protect his lover was primary to all else, meaning the doors and windows to the country-like home where the couple lived were kept locked as recommended by law enforcement and dictated by common sense.  The precaution was one that felt more urgent, now that he had someone to care for once again.

As Daniel focused on his task, a set of keys appeared in front of his face, causing him to startle.  He immediately turned off the vacuum.

“Jack, don't do that.”

“How do you know it's me?  You didn't lock the door.  I could have been a serial killer.”

“A serial killer would kill me, not dangle keys in front of my face.”

Jack twisted his lover around and kissed him tenderly before admitting, “I worry about you.”

“I know,” Daniel acknowledged.  “I knew you were coming.”

“Lock the door.”

“You're incorrigible.”

“Maybe, but you love my quirks.”

“Do I?” the younger man questioned.  “Yeah, I guess I do.”

The couple kissed again, and again.  Actually, they kissed several times before they settled on the sofa and snuggled in close to each other.

“Angel, are you going to tell me what's going on inside that crazy head of yours?”

“Nothing,” Daniel responded, his answer overlapping Jack's query.

“Danny ...”

“Jack, just hold me, okay?  Everything's fine; it's better than fine.”

Jack's hold on his lover grew stronger as he leaned his cheek against Daniel's hair and placed a sweet kiss there.

~Something happened on that mission.  I don't know what it was, but one of these days, you're going to tell me.  Until then, we're gonna keep doing this.  Geez, how you make me feel, Danny.  I love you so much.~

“I love you, too,” Daniel replied, smiling as he did so.

“Were you eavesdropping on my mind?”

“No, I just ... sensed what you saying?  You ... were saying that?”

“My heart says that all the time.  I love you, Angel.”

“I love you, too, Jack, so freakin' much.”

“Shall we go home?”

“I don't want to wait.”

Jack didn't need to hear another thing.  He kissed his Heart again and then the two headed for the bedroom and became thoroughly engaged in their passion, a union that renewed itself several times throughout the remainder of the night.  The couple experienced much in the past two months and survived, as they always did, with enduring love, need, and want for the other.  Life may not be perfect, but for Jack and Daniel, what mattered most was that they were together, and when they were together, nothing else mattered.

As a light rain fell in Colorado Springs, an eternal outpouring of their souls brought Jack and Daniel together as their nation of two thundered to satiation and peacefulness.  It was never better than this.

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

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