What Must Transpire

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Angst, Drama, H/C, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Holiday, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  S10 - December 26, 2005 - January 1-31, 2006
Spoilers:  Company of Thieves, The Quest Parts 1 & 2, Line In The Sand, The Shroud
Size:  203kb
Written:  November 27-28, December 5-18,20, 2009, January 3,10-11, September 5-6, 2010
Summary:  As a new year dawns, the war with Ori intensifies, Sam deals with a crisis, and Jack and Daniel face a painful separation.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) This is truly my interpretation of these episodes and it definitely does not follow the chronological order of events as seen in the TV series.
2) 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.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), “The Pact,” “What Must Be,” “What Must Happen,” “What Must Occur”
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Navi, Becca, Irina!

What Must Transpire
by Orrymain

SG-1 was back to work after a three-and-a-half day downtime for the Christmas holidays.  Each member of the team had spent most of the morning getting caught up on reports and the activities of their departments before being called to a pre-lunch status briefing with General Hammond.

When the meeting concluded, Teal'c headed to Chulak to check in with the Jaffa Council and Bra'tac.  With their prior leader, Se'tak, killed in the destruction of Dakara, the Jaffa Nation was once again in a bit of a shambles.  Of particular concern to the Pentagon was the potential involvement of Gerak, which was another reason Teal'c returned to his home.  He, too, wanted to ensure Gerak hadn't changed his mind and was sticking to his promise not to follow the Ori.

Immediately at the end of the briefing, Sam focused on two different projects that would hopefully assist in the war against the Ori, both of which kept her busy and not necessarily on the base.

Jack turned his attention to monitoring all of the off-world missions as more accounts of the Ori invasion kept coming in.  Stargate Command was assisting as many worlds as possible, but it was usually for naught.  Residents who didn't opt to follow the Book of Origin were most often wiped out.

As for Daniel, from the moment he walked out of the conference room, his focus was on researching the books in Merlin's library.

As the week continued, members of the Archaeology Department went to Camelot where they cataloged all the books in the library, capturing the title of the book and any other descriptive information of its contents that could be summarized.  While Daniel actually now had possession of various tomes belonging to Merlin, he couldn't be sure what books he might need in the future, so having a growing database on the subject was simply a good idea.

The days passed with SGC personnel once again pulling double shifts and rarely leaving the base.  Their families were concerned and could only be grateful for the hours or few days and/or nights that a loved one came home.

Bijou and Katie, the beloved beagles of Jack and Daniel, were still at the house, but were frequently looked after by Mrs. Sophia Valissi, their neighbor.

“Daniel,” Jack called out as he sat down next to his lover in the mess hall.  “You're actually ... eating ... of your own accord?” he asked in disbelief, his own tray making a dull thud against the table.

As the archaeologist put a spoonful of peas in his mouth, he just smiled.

“You sick?” Jack questioned, quashing the urge to place the back of his hand to his lover's forehead.

Finishing his chewing, Daniel responded, “I thought I'd surprise you.”

“You did,” the older man mused and then began to focus on his own meal.  “I figured I'd have to pull you in here again.”

“Actually, I just needed to rest my eyes and I was hungry, so ...”

“I have an 'actually' for you, too.”

“Good or ...”

“Bad,” both men said together.

Jack continued, “SG-3 just came back with some news.  Ba'al's definitely thrown his hat into the Sangreal ring.”

“What?”

“He's after the Sangreal,” Jack stated simply, shoving a helping of meat loaf in his mouth.

“I can't say I'm surprised, but ... what happened?”

“Reynolds had a one-on-one with Ba'al on 749.  Ba'al's after the coordinates of Merlin's triple play.”

“Castiana, Sahal, and Vagon Brei,” Daniel enumerated, taking a sip of his never ending coffee cup.

“The universal gossip line is active.  He thinks we know what he wants, only he doesn't know that we already know that there's nothing to know, since the triple play was a wipe out.”

Jack grimaced at his lengthy and oddly worded sentence and just shrugged when Daniel gave him a similar look.

Raising his shoulders slightly as he decided to let the quirky comment go, Daniel responded, “Okay, so ...”

“So we're on double alert.”

“Double alert?”

“Doesn't make sense, does it?” Jack questioned.

“I wouldn't say that,” Daniel replied, quickly continuing, “but I'm glad you did.”

“Ba'al mentioned something about the Ancient database.”  Jack grimaced again, only this time it was because of the bad memories associated with the object.  “We think he might make a play to get it.”

“He can't,” Daniel refuted. “I mean, uh, he'd have to get inside the base or ...”

“Or get access to Carter.”

“Sam's here.”  The archaeologist stared at his lover, noting a non-affirmative expression there.  “Jack, Sam's here, right?”

“She left two days ago aboard the Odyssey.  It was a double whammy mission, to test out one of her toys and to investigate intel from the Jaffa that there was another Supergate out there.”

“And?”

“And we haven't heard from the Odyssey  in two days,” Jack sighed.  “We're thinking the intel might have been a setup for an ambush, but that's just a guess right now.”

“How come I didn't know?” Daniel queried, panic flying through his eyes.

“Daniel, you've been holed up in your office with your nose stuck in those books all week.  I'm lucky you know I'm alive,” Jack huffed, striking a temporary indignant pose, arms crossed over his chest, until he decided his hunger was more intense than was his huffiness over Daniel's preoccupation in recent days. ~Food,~ he thought while taking another bite.

“Feeling ignored?” Daniel queried, a sole eyebrow arched over his cerulean blue eyes.

“No,” Jack admitted.  “Carter said she peeked into your office, but you were mumbling something and she didn't want to disturb you.  She told me to give you a 'see you later' for her, but I've barely seen you.”

Daniel sighed.  Over the years, he'd had several assignments with SG-11 or other teams, and he did go through the Gate on his own now and then again.  Jack, obviously, had gone on quite a few secret missions, most of which no one but Hammond and Daniel knew about.  Teal'c, too, had been away many times on Jaffa-related missions, and while Sam had also gone off on solo assignments before, it still felt strange to think of a member of SG-1 being away from the safety of unit.  That feeling of strangeness now became one of concern since there was the chance that something dire had happened.

“I should have paid more attention,” the archaeologist lamented.

“No, Daniel.  Your job is to do exactly what you've been doing.  You're the only one who is going to figure out the answer, so you need to stay focused on the big prize -- the location of Merlin's weapon.”

“But you knew,” Daniel pointed out, feeling a tad guilty at the moment.

“That's because it's *my* job to keep up with what everyone is doing.”

Daniel let out a sigh, putting down his fork at the same time.  He was no longer hungry.

“We've alerted our allies about the Odyssey,” Jack continued, his brow furled with worry about his second-in-command.

“Wait!  Can't we track the Odyssey with a, a ...”

“... transponder signal?” Jack completed for his Love.  “Ferretti's team tracked it to a dealer on a planet.”

“Dealer?  On a ... a planet?”

“Obviously, whoever is in control of the Odyssey knew we could track it by the transponder.  They removed it and sold it to a dealer named Borzin.  Ferretti cajoled, teased, threatened, and ... did all he could, but Borzin wouldn't say anything about where he got it or who he got it from.”

Daniel saw an uneasiness on his Love's face and prompted, “Jack?”

“Like I said, SG-2 couldn't get anywhere and when Ferretti was ready to use force to bring Borzin in, they were attacked by Borzin's buddies and had to leave.”

“So, go back with more teams,” the younger man put forth.

“We could do that and risk more people getting hurt.”

“Jack, what aren't you saying?” Daniel asked, having a funny feeling that he was not going to like this one bit.

With a groan, Jack answered, “Ferretti did learn one thing while he was there.  It was a name.  From what he heard, it's someone Borzin knows ... and might ... trust.”

“Who?”  Daniel studied his husband's face and suddenly, the answer came to him. “Vala?”

“As much as it pains me to say this, Daniel, I think we,” Jack's face tightened, the words he was speaking causing him great emotional pain, “need her.”

“Okay, let's go get her.”

“She's a liar, Daniel.”

“She did what she had to do to protect her husband, Jack.  I think we both agree that we'd do the same, if in her position.”

Jack stared into Daniel's eyes and, as he stood up, asked, “Would we?  Would we threaten the safety of an entire galaxy, or would we find another way?”

Having lost his appetite, Jack swiftly pivoted on his foot and marched out of the mess hall.

Daniel watched his lover walk away, sighed in contemplation, ~Some days are just easier than others.~ before standing and sprinting to catch up with Jack.

====

“Finally, some company!” Vala exclaimed.  “Do you know I've forgotten what it's like to be in daylight?”  She watched the two men in front of her, noticing their direct stares but hesitant expressions.  “You want something from me,” Vala sing-songed, ready to prance around and irritate the men in front of her.

“We need your help,” Daniel admitted honestly as he stood with his hands in his pockets.

“I really think we need to discuss my accommodations,” Vala stated, sensing a sudden power surge in her corner.  ~About bloody time!~

“We can get you a VIP room,” Jack responded quickly.

“My, you really do need me,” Vala surmised, putting an extra swing in her swagger as she moved around.

“Yes, well ...”  Jack explained the situation to the woman, ending with, “This Borzin guy might be able to tell us who has the Odyssey, and if we know that, we might be able to find her and ...”

“... her crew,” Daniel completed.

“You've kept me locked up in here like a prisoner for weeks, treated me like dirt, and now you have the audacity to ask for *my* help,” Vala dramatized, placing a delicate hand over her heart.

“Vala, Sam's on the Odyssey,” Daniel informed quietly.

“The pretty blonde.  Some might call her a rival to me,” Vala remarked, sweeping her right hand across the back of her long hair, causing it to flair up dramatically.

Daniel walked forward a couple of steps as he implored, “Vala, you said that all the lies you've told us, the deception, was because you wanted to save Tomin.”

“It's the truth,” Vala claimed emphatically.  “He might already be dead.”

The archaeologist glanced at his general and then continued, “If what you're saying is true than you have to understand how we feel about our friend, about Sam.”  He paused and then offered, “Help us, and we *will* help you to find Tomin.”

Vala looked over at Jack and saw his incredulous expression, but then she looked at Daniel and saw sincerity in his eyes.

“He doesn't want to,” Vala told Daniel about Jack.

“Lady, I do a lot of things I don't want to do,” Jack explained.  Seeing Daniel's stare out of the corner of his eyes, he leaned forward a second onto the balls of his feet and stated, “Helping us now could go a long way towards us helping you later.”

“Could?  And later might be too late.”

“That's the best we can do,” Jack responded in a straight-up tone.  He paused and then sighed, “We're up against a wall.  We have to knock it down before we can promise to do anything.”

“Vala, we'll help you, but you have to help us, too,” Daniel stated.

“I know Borzin well.  We've had ... dealings,” Vala replied.  “Okay, I'll help you.”

“Thank you.”

Jack motioned to the female Special Forces guard at the door who then brought in appropriate attire for Vala to change into.

“When she's ready, bring her to the briefing room,” Jack ordered the guard.  He looked at Vala and asked, “I don't need to assign more guards, do I?”

“Jack!”

“Habit,” Jack rationalized as he left the holding cell which had been Vala's home while on the base.

“He doesn't trust me,” Vala opined to Daniel, staring at the closed gray cell door.
 
“He believes trust is earned.”

“And what about you, Daniel?” Vala questioned, shifting her gaze to the archaeologist in front of her.

Thoughtfully, Daniel answered, “I believe trust is a two-way process, and that's not always an easy outcome to achieve.”

His response given, the archaeologist left the room, leaving Vala to her own thoughts.

====

As the travelers approached their destination that afternoon aboard The Daniel Jackson, the premier ship of the Asgard fleet, Vala recognized the planet as one that had been a Goa'uld shipping base and which was now home for the previously enslaved humans who had ties to the Lucian Alliance.

“Jack, do you think maybe the Lucian Alliance is behind this?” the archaeologist wondered.

“It's possible.  Let's keep our heads up down there.”

“Oh, heads up.  I like the sound of that,” Vala chimed, bouncing on the balls of her feet.

“Stick to business,” Jack instructed tersely.

“Some do call it a business.”  As Jack began to walk towards Vala angrily, she backed away, and commented, “You're so high strung.  You really do need sex.”  She caught notice of Thor blinking a couple of times and then she smiled, “Maybe you know of ... no, I guess not.”

“Vala,” Daniel interjected.  “It would probably be advisable to ...”

“... shut the friggin' up,” Jack ordered in a strained but stern voice.

The Asgard had agreed to transport Jack, Daniel, and Vala to the planet.  Thus, the trip through space had taken only a few hours.  All three were wearing clothing usual to the planet.

“O'Neill, we are in position.”

“Thanks, pal,” Jack stated, nodding to Thor, who immediately beamed the three to the surface below.

“Just remember, no funny business,” Jack told Vala right before they began to walk to their ultimate destination.

“Just stand back and let me work,” Vala replied, flinging an arm back to lightly strike the general in the abdomen.

However, the woman missed her mark and accidentally knocked Daniel hard. An intense brown-eyed glare in her direction had Vala backing away with her hands in the air.

“Sorry,” Vala apologized unconvincingly.

====

“This is the place,” Vala stated as they approached a hangar.

“How Brigham Young-ish.”

“What?” Vala asked.

“Forget it.  You'd never get the concept,” Jack accused with a wave of his hand.

“Jack, just ... give her a chance,” Daniel interjected.  “She's helping us to find Sam.”

Jack nodded and vowed to hold back any future barbs, at least for a while.  Still, he just didn't trust the woman.  His focus changed as he looked around and took a reading of the planetary environment.

~Shifty types; shady characters; I wish this guy were out in the open more,~ Jack thought.  “Daniel, glasses.”

“Oh,” Daniel acknowledged, removing his glasses and placing them in the pocket of the long coat he was wearing.  ~This glasses equals weakness thing is getting old, but he's right.  Stereotypes are everywhere.~

Entering the hangar, Vala was a couple of steps ahead of the lovers.  The hangar was full of equipment, things to be sold or traded for the right price.

“Vala Mal Doran!  I never thought you'd show your face in these parts again,” Borzin opined as he recognized the woman striding purposefully towards him.

“Borzin, you slimy, two-faced, grease peddler,” Vala greeted.  “Come on, give us a hug.”

~Geez, she works it all over the place,~ Jack thought.  ~Oh, brother.  Look at her.~  He couldn't believe it.  Vala had leaped into Borzin's arms, wrapping her legs around him.  ~Well, he sounds like he has her number.~

~Better him than me,~ Daniel thought gratefully, crossing his arms as he watched.

“And what poor losers have you conned into your company this time?”

Borzin's beady eyes looked the over Jack and Daniel as if they were pieces of meat; to keep or sell was anyone's guess.

“Oh, this is my apprentice, Shamus,” Vala stated about Daniel.  “And this is ... Braggadocio.”

**Is she saying *I'm* vain?** Jack questioned his lover.

Daniel blinked once, but didn't respond to the query.

“You two must be learning a great deal,” Borzin surmised.

With a shrewd smile, Daniel replied, “More than I'd like to.”

“Actually, I took this one on as part of a bet,” Vala embellished.  She whispered, “He's mentally disabled.”

“Can we get on with this?” Jack urged strongly, wanting to get far away from this place pronto.

Laughing cunningly, Borzin advised, “Don't trust her; she will sell you out for a bad lunch the first chance she gets.”

While Daniel grinned and nodded, Jack responded smugly, “Don't worry.”

“We're ... aware of Vala's ... uniqueness,” Daniel stated.

Pointing at Daniel, Vala interjected, “He likes me.  Isn't that cute?”

~I think that's a slight ... exaggeration,~ Daniel thought as he smiled facetiously before returning to a serious expression within a second.

“We all know Vala is delusional,” Jack spoke.

“He's just jealous,” Vala explained, whacking Jack on the abdomen successfully this time.

**Daniel, I swear, if she does that again ...**

**Jack, just play along.  Think about why we're here.**

**Believe me, I can't forget,** Jack responded, knowing that otherwise he would have already given Vala a piece of his mind because of her remarks.

“What do you want, Vala, if you haven't already stolen it from me?” Borzin questioned, leering at the woman in front of him.

“We're looking for some information.”

“About a Tau'ri ship that was attacked not far from here,” the archaeologist elaborated.  “Any information you can give us ...”

Jack and Daniel watched as Vala led Borzin away from them, though they could hear her comments as she continued her con game.  When it didn't work, she tried a more direct approach, telling the trader that he was in over his head.

When Borzin merely scoffed, Vala dramatically responded, “I've recently made some contacts high up in the Lucian Alliance that'd be very interested in knowing exactly how much you've been skimming off this operation.”

That was an offer Borzin couldn't refuse, so he led the three over to some equipment from which he pulled out the transponder and asked, “Is this what you're looking for?”

Jack took hold of the device, studying it carefully, and then observed, “That's Odyssey's data recorder.  The transponder's still broadcasting.”

“Where did you get this?” Daniel questioned.

“A man brought it a few hours ago,” Borzin answered as he took back the data recorder.  “He said it could fetch me a very nice price,” he elaborated and then activated the playback on the recorder.

Jack and Daniel listened carefully to the playback, while Vala, too, took in the recording.

“Anateo is my name and believe me, I am part of no alliance of any kind.”

Borzin fast forward the recording.

“It's not designed to be shut off.”

**That's Sam,** Daniel communicated about the voice he'd just heard.

“It activates automatically and stays on.”

“Then remove it!”

“Don't help them, Colonel.  That's an order!”

**Jack is that ...**

**Emerson,** Jack confirmed about the man who had just given Sam a direct order not to assist Anateo.

**Jack?**

With a heavy heart, Jack nodded.  A clear and distinct shot had been heard on the recorder.  The question was, who got shot and were they still alive?

Borzin turned off the voice recording and demanded, “You want more, show me the naquadah,” while also holding up his left hand and making a 'give me' gesture.

“Hey, that thing's useless to us unless we know who gave it to you,” Jack responded.  **Daniel, behind us.**

Daniel was about to respond to the warning when the trader commented, “Oh, timing's everything,” gesturing behind the three visitors, “Him.”

Turning, the three saw a man aiming a zat gun at them.

“Shoulda seen this coming,” Jack sighed just as the man opened fire.

====

As the affects of the zat blast wore off, Jack looked around and quipped, “I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.”

“I wouldn't exactly call that Kansas,” Daniel sighed as he sat up, the task not as easy as it normally would have been if his hands weren't tied behind his back.

“Don't touch me,” Vala warned violently as the man who had zatted them tried to pull her up.  “Untie me.”

“Get up,” the man ordered, his words backed up by other apparent 'bad guys' with weapons as Jack currently thought of them.  ~Ah, Borzin is here, too.~

“Just who are you, anyway?” Jack inquired as he stood.

“I am Solek of the Lucian Alliance.”

“Any friend of Anateo's,” Vala proclaimed, sashaying up to the man as she shifted from being outraged to being flirty in a blink of an eye.

Unaffected by the woman, Solek motioned for the three to start walking.  They noticed the lack of crew anywhere, another sign that the ship was being controlled by someone else and apparently that was Anateo.

**We're going to the bridge,** Daniel surmised from the direction they were headed.

**Makes sense.  That's where the king of the mountain would be,** Jack replied.

After a few more turns, the group was approaching the bridge.  Daniel closed his eyes in relief.

**Jack, that's ...**

**Carter.  She's alive.**

Sam couldn't believe it and exclaimed in happy relief, “Sir, Daniel ...”  Her happy train of thought turned quizzical as she saw their third person of the trio.  “... Vala?”

“They needed me,” Vala explained proudly.

“Where is the fourth, the Jaffa?” Anateo asked Borzin.

“Look, it is not my fault that only two of them showed up,” Borzin answered.  “Now pay me.”

“Of course,” Anateo said with a two-faced smile.  To Solek, he ordered, “Take care of him.”

**He is *so* dead,** Jack told his lover.

**I'm thinkin' the same thing,** Daniel agreed.

“Put them in the hold,” Anateo ordered about the three.  “Her, too,” he added, motioning towards Sam.

====

The Tau'ri and Vala were taken to the cargo bay, where their hands were untied, after which they were forced inside.  The Odyssey crew immediately noticed who had entered.

“General O'Neill,” Major Marks called out, resulting in the imprisoned crew snapping to.

~Didn't they get the memo about this saluting business?~ Jack questioned.  He always felt like a bit of a hypocrite, at least as respects the standard 'here's the man' salute, like this one.  “Thanks, but this situation doesn't seem like the salute type of event,” he quipped, giving the crew a sort of casual half salute.  “Go about your business, such as it is.”

A review of the crew revealed the absence of one very important member.  Jack bowed his head, the recording replaying in his mind.

Daniel walked forward, standing next to his lover as he did his own review.  Of course, he didn't know the entire crew.  Neither did Jack, but this one missing member stood out like a sore thumb.  Sam, meanwhile, had stayed back, near the entrance where no one else was at the moment.

~Needs better decorations if this is going to be a party.~  Vala stood a foot or so behind Jack and Daniel but was also a foot or two in front of Sam.  She was definitely in the middle as she struggled to figure out what was transpiring.  “So, do we just sit here or what?  Maybe we can ...”

Jack twisted around and spat, “Shut up,” before glancing at Sam for the verification of his suspicions.  She didn't need to say anything.  Her watery eyes said it all.  He faced forward again and walked over to Marks, who had a large reddish-purple bruise on the side of his face, which the general deduced was a result of the attack.  “Major, report.”

“The intel about the Supergate was false,” Marks began.  “We were forced into a minefield where we were attacked by three mother ships.  We were boarded and eventually towed out of the minefield.  Colonel ...”

When Marks paused, becoming emotional, Daniel sighed.  He turned, walked by Vala, and made his way over to Sam, where two pairs of blue eyes said what words couldn't.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Sam shook her head, tears threatening to fall, and she couldn't deal with that right now.  She looked over to her left, afraid that if she looked at Daniel again, she might lose it anyway.  The archaeologist reached out and gently caressed his sorrowful friend's upper arm.

“I'm here,” Daniel whispered.  With a small smile, he added, “And ... I'm not military, remember?”

The colonel's head snapped back to look at the archaeologist, her memory fresh about a similar scene years ago when Cassandra's life was at stake.

“Daniel,” Sam spoke, her calling cracked as she lost control and fell into his arms. “I shouldn't do this.”

“There's nothing wrong with it, Sam,” Daniel reassured, tightening his old on the blonde.

“It was so cold, the way they killed him,” Sam revealed, letting some of her pain out.

Daniel held Sam close, probably closer than he ever had before.  Somehow, it didn't feel as funny as he thought it might.  They were such good friends.  In fact, except for Jack, Sam was his best friend, and she was hurting.  He was right to comfort her.

“This is wrong,” Sam stated as she broke out of Daniel's embrace, looking down as she straightened her black shirt.  “The Odyssey crew is here.”

“They're human, too,” Daniel reminded.  “Besides, why do you think Jack walked away?”  When Sam looked up, the archaeologist saw the surprised expression on her face.  “Why would he need to ask Major Marks about what occurred?  You're the one we need to talk to.”

Sam nodded as she wiped her teary eyes with her hands, expressing, “Gosh, my eyes must be so puffy.”

“Who cares?” the archaeologist stated lightly, giving Sam a supportive smile.

Once again, two pairs of blue eyes locked on to one another, delivering gifts of caring and friendship.

“I'm so glad you're not military,” Sam expressed softly, smiling at Daniel even as she continued to recover from her emotional release.

“Uh, here.  Maybe this will help,” Daniel suggested, pulling out a handkerchief for his friend.

“Thank you, Daniel,” Sam acknowledged, dabbing the white handkerchief under her eyes to try to wipe the moisture away.

“I'm your friend, Sam.”

The colonel nodded in thanks and then walked away to pull herself back together. At that point, Vala backed up to where Daniel was standing and asked what the big fuss was about.

“You heard the transponder recording,” Daniel began.  “That was Sam's voice talking with Anateo.”  He paused, “Colonel Emerson ...”

“The shot,” Vala interrupted.  “He was the captain of this ship?”  Seeing Daniel's nod, she sighed, “They killed him.”  After another nod, she asked, “In front of Sam?”

“Apparently,” Daniel replied curtly as pivoted away from the woman.

Vala nodded, watching as Daniel walked over to join in with Jack's conversation with Marks.  She was very much the outsider, and she knew it.

====

A couple of minutes later, Jack gave a signal and SG-1 grouped together.  Sam explained in more detail what Anateo wanted her to do and that she was working as slowly as she could.  They all agreed that with the transponder removed from the ship, Stargate Command would never find them.

“Time for a mutiny,” Jack stated quietly.  “We need to regain control of the Odyssey.”

“Actually, I have an idea about that, but it's pretty risky,” Sam replied.

“It's probably better than our plan,” the general stated, lightly waving his hand between Daniel and himself.

“Why?  What's your plan?”

“We don't have one,” Daniel explained in a lighthearted tone.

“Ah,” Sam acknowledged with a quick bob of her head.  ~I'm glad they're here,~ she thought as she still reeled from having seen Emerson murdered and yet felt assured that with her team present, there was hope for a winning outcome.

“So what's your plan?” Jack questioned.

“The escape hatch,” Sam answered, nodding over towards a side hatch in the wall that opened up into another corridor.  “If I can get it open, a couple of us could escape, get to the armory for weapons, and get to the bridge to regain control of the ship.”

“A little surprise party for Anateo,” Jack acknowledged gleefully, rubbing his hands together.

“Sam, do you have time to get it open from here?” Daniel questioned, concerned about being discovered before the plan could be enacted.

The colonel sighed, “I'll try, but they could come back for me at any moment.  If they do, I can blow the hatch remotely using the controls on the bridge.”

====

“I'll bet you're surprised to see me here,” Vala told Sam a bit later.

“A little,” Sam responded as she fiddled with the controls that she'd obtained access to by removing a small panel by the door.

“About what happened with the captain ...”

“Vala, I really don't want to talk about that,” Sam interrupted, cutting her off abruptly, not really in the mood to listen to Vala's tales.

“I was just going to say that I know how you feel,” Vala continued, noting that Sam had turned to face her briefly.  “When they took Tomin, they killed our two closest friends.  They rejected Origin as well, but the reason they killed them when they did was to show me that they would kill.  It was the last thing I saw before they sent me back through the Stargate.”

“I'm sorry,” Sam replied sympathetically.

“Yes, well, seeing someone killed in front of your eyes is never easy.  It stays with you, you know.”

“Unfortunately, I do,” Sam agreed.  “Listen, I really need to concentrate on this.”

“Oh, right, sure,” Vala acknowledged walking away from the blonde and mixing in with the group of Odyssey crew who were all acting as a shield to keep the guards and surveillance equipment from spying on Sam's activity.

====

A couple of minutes later, Sam announced, “Sir, I've got it,” after which a light pop was heard, the hatch coming ajar slightly.

“Okay, Carter you're with me.  Daniel, watch her,” Jack ordered, referring to Vala.

“I'll make sure he doesn't take his eyes off of me,” Vala interjected as she pranced around Daniel, looking him up and down seductively.

“Do I have to?” Daniel asked his lover dryly.

Jack glared at Vala and then led the way through the open hatch and into the corridor.  The plan was to get to the bridge, via the armory to obtain weapons, without being discovered.  They needed to get the drop on Anateo and his men before their disappearance from the cargo bay was discovered or Sam had been sent for again.

Approaching the bridge, Jack and Sam heard Teresh, one of the Lucian members, call out to another of his Alliance, “Something's going on in the hold.  Go do a head count.”

As the guard began to follow out his orders, Jack zatted him and then did the same to Teresh, knocking both of them out.  Quickly, Sam hurried over to the bridge controls and began working.

“How long is this going to take?” Jack queried as he looked around for intruders.

“A number of the arrays have been damaged, Sir.  Even with the locators, beaming a person from one room to another within the ship is very risky,” Sam stated.  “It's going to take some time.”

“No worries,” Jack assured calmly.  “We have time, lots of time,” he lied.  ~I really hope this doesn't go south.~

====

Not long thereafter, Jack cringed when he heard Anateo calling out to Teresh about having missed his radio check-in.  His cringe turned into severe heart palpations when he heard Anateo's next message.

“General O'Neill, Colonel Carter, just wanted to let you know that your duplicity has already forfeited Doctor Jackson's life.  Unless you surrender immediately, the rest of the crew is next.”

Apparently, Anateo had gone to the cargo hold himself to fetch Sam for more repair work.

“Carter!”

“I can't be sure, Sir.”

“Take your best shot.”  A moment later, Jack looked around, expecting to see Daniel on the bridge.  “Carter!”

“It worked, Sir.”

“I don't see Daniel,” Jack complained anxiously.

“I did say it was risky.”  Sam saw the strain on her CO's frustrated and worried face.  “He's ... there,” the blonde advised, pointing in another direction and suddenly grinning.

Jack did an about face so that he was looking out the front window.  Floating directly towards him was Anateo.  Sam walked over to stand next to the general, the two watching as the man pulled out his weapon and fired uneventfully towards them.  The Lucian banged against the window and then drifted upwards, out of sight and to his death.

Jack looked at Sam and agreed, “Sometimes you have to take risks.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam acknowledged.  “It's part of war,” she added as she returned to the controls, made a slight adjustment, and then locked on to other life signs in and near the cargo hold.

“I thought you were going to beam Daniel out.”

“I wasn't really sure of the technology, Sir, so I decided to ... experiment with Anateo.”

“Daniel?” Jack called out over the radio.

From the cargo bay, Daniel replied, “Here.  Uh, the guards just ... disappeared.”

As Jack looked quizzically over at her, Sam explained, “They should all be in the brig.”

“Did you copy that?” Jack questioned his lover.

“Okay, well, Major Marks is already on his way on the bridge.  Is ... Anateo with you or ...”

Jack looked over at Sam, who returned his look only for a moment before beginning to work on fixing the damaged ship's systems.

“He's ... way, way, way out.”

“Oh,” Daniel acknowledged, not sure what to make of the reply.

====

Jack had the crew do a sweep of the ship to make sure they had all of Anateo's men secured in the brig.  As far as they knew, the entire invasion force was now contained.

“Marks, what's our status?”

“Only fifty percent of the shield emitters are responding,” the major answered.

“We need to get them back online and get the hull integrity back within acceptable parameters.  The hyperdrive is our priority,” Sam advised, cutting into the conversation.

Just then Daniel and Vala entered, the archaeologist asking, “Hey, how's it going?”

“Hey,” Jack and Sam both responded.

With a nervously shy smile, Sam looked over at Jack apologetically and then answered, “No shields, no weapons, no communications, and at least a day out for hyperdrive.”

“So, we're sitting ducks,” Daniel surmised.

“Quack,” Jack quipped before returning to business.  “Carter, do you know why Anateo wanted the Odyssey?”

“Actually, Sir, he wanted us as much as he wanted the ship,” Sam returned.  “I believe his intention was to turn us over to Netan,” referring to the leader of the Lucian Alliance.

“That figures,” Jack sighed.

“As a surprise?” Daniel asked hopefully.

“I doubt it,” Sam responded.

“Which means Netan is probably looking for us,” Jack surmised.  “We need that hyperdrive, Carter, and we need it now.”

“Sir, I could use some help in the engine room,” Sam stated, jutting a thumb over her shoulder towards the door.

“Me?” Jack asked, pointing to himself in mock disbelief.

“Everyone else is ... busy ... Sir.”

“Right,” Jack responded dryly.  As he began to follow Sam off the bridge , he smiled, turned back, and stated, “Daniel, you have the bridge.”

“Aye, aye, Sir,” Daniel returned playfully with a mock salute, smiling when Marks stared at him questioningly.  “He's ... never mind.”

Marks faced forward while thinking, ~I respect Doctor Jackson, but he's a frackin' archaeologist.  This is gonna be an interesting ride.~

====

About a half-hour later, Marks called Daniel over and reported, “If these sensors are working properly, two Goa'uld mother ships just emerged from hyperspace and are closing in.”

Looking out the front window, Daniel saw the ha'taks approaching.  Quickly, he sat down in the captain's chair, feeling a little odd about it and fidgeting in it somewhat as a result.

~This is a new one.  I'm freakin' Captain Kirk.~  Pressing the appropriate button, he called out, “Uh, Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“We may need that hyperdrive a little ahead of schedule.”

--

“How ahead of schedule?” Sam asked in response, glancing at Jack as the two worked in the engine room.

“In about ten seconds would be good.  We've got company.”

~Crap!~ was the silent exclamation given by both Jack and Sam as they stared at each other, dreading the news.

Ignoring the radio, Sam hastily returned to work, leaving Jack to respond, “Ah, Daniel, Carter says that's a no go.  Try stalling.”

“How would you suggest I do that?”

“Do what you always do -- talk,” Jack quipped.

--

~Smart-aleck,~ Daniel opined as he looked over at Marks.  “What's our shield status?”

“Less than thirty percent.”

“Weapons?”

“Rail guns are online, but we don't have missiles yet,” the major answered.  “One of the ships is hailing us.”

~Haven't had this much fun since the great and powerful Oz,~ the archaeologist thought dryly about the first time he'd flown a ship of any kind.  After angling his chair for a more precise view of the action and then clearing his throat nervously, he pointed towards the view screen and ordered, “On screen.”

~I hope he never considers changing careers,~ Marks opined as he patched in the video link.  ~He's not cut out to be a ship captain.~

“Doctor Jackson,” a surprised Netan called out.

“Oh, right, hi.  Hi, how are you?” the archaeologist stammered in a false display of friendliness.  ~Like we have a lot in common here ... not.~

~Now that doesn't make me feel confident at all,~ Marks groaned inwardly about the greeting.  Ducking his head over his station, he tried vainly not to stare at the mock starship captain.  ~Maybe if I don't think about it, it won't seem so bad.~

“I was expecting Anateo,” Netan stated from his ha'tak.

“Y...yes, he was here for a while, but then he ... had to go,” Daniel responded, gesturing towards the window.  ~To a far, far, far away place in the galaxy.~

“Your ship is battered.  My scans tell me your shield strength is low, and if you had hyperdrive, you would've left long ago.  Surrender now, or be destroyed,” Netan threatened.

“Right.  Okie dokie,” Daniel replied.  ~Been here, done this before.~  He took a breath and stated, “We surrender.”

~Excuse me?  Surrender?  Is he out of his mind?~ Marks wondered, sure now that they were definitely not coming out of this encounter in one piece.

“Prepare to be boarded.”

“Yeah, that ... that's where you're going to run into a bit of a problem.  You see, our ... our rings are damaged, and as you yourself pointed out, our shields are down, which means atmosphere in the 302 bays is unsustainable.”  Daniel paused, recognizing Netan's unhappiness.  “I mean, I just don't see how we're gonna get your guys over here, unless you want me to try ... beaming you over?”

~He does have a good sense of humor,~ Marks acknowledged about how Daniel was approaching the dangerous standoff.  Suddenly, the communication ended.  Worse, the sensors indicated a dire turn of events.  “They're powering weapons.”

Opening the channel to the engine room, Daniel advised, “Jack, Sam, I think I've stalled as long as I can.”

“Daniel, talk some more,” Jack urged.  “Pretend it's a power point presentation.”

“Too late.”  Daniel again looked over at Marks and suggested, “Uh, you should probably prepare to return fire.”

“For the record, I'm always prepared.  I just have to press this button here,” Marks returned, tapping over the button in question.

“Right.  I just ... I thought that's what you're supposed to say, so ...” Daniel explained as he waved to the appointed button.

“I know.”  Marks faced forward, silently admitting, ~I like the guy.  He's no Jean-Luc Picard, but he's a good Patrick Stewart.~

~He thinks I'm an idiot,~ Daniel thought about Marks.  ~Well, actually, we have a good rapport, but he knows this isn't my forte.  I mean, uh, we're not troweling for artifacts.~  He bowed his head, his left hand on his forehead, almost as if shielding himself from the incoming blast.  Quickly, though, he realized several seconds had past, much longer than was needed for a ship to fire on another.  ~Hmm.  We're still here.~

“One of the mother ships is firing at the other,” Marks announced.

“Really?” Daniel questioned, surprised by the news as he lowered his hand and looked at Marks.

~I'd *really* feel better if General O'Neill were calling the shots,~ Marks sighed to himself.

====

“Come on, Carter,” Jack urged urgently as he watched his 2IC try to get the hyperdrive up and running again.

“It takes time, Sir,” Sam sighed, staring at the column of blue- and white-lit crystals.  ~I can't wave a magic wand and fix everything.~

Jack looked down at the table of unplaced crystals, picked one up, and, while examining it, suggested, “How about this one?”

“Sir, that's not the right one ... I don't think.  You can't just jam it in!” the blonde screeched at seeing her CO's actions.

~We're out of time.  We have to try something or we'll be dead anyway,~ Jack reasoned, jamming in the crystal.

When the power grid came on line, a stunned Sam questioned, “How did you do that?”

“I pushed it in,” Jack answered.  “Is that it?”

“Way to go, Sir,” Sam complimented.

Jack clicked his radio and ordered, “Daniel, get us out of here.”

Daniel nodded at Marks, who sent the Odyssey into hyperspace.

With the ship clear, Daniel praised over the radio, “Engine room, well done.”

“Gee, thanks,” Jack replied comically.  “We'll be right up.”

“We'll see,” Daniel responded, staring straight ahead and not looking at anyone else as he replied to the comment.

====

Back on the bridge, Jack entered, his speed decreasing as he saw his lover sitting in the command chair.

“Having a good time ... Captain?” the general teased.

“What?”  Daniel looked down at the chair and responded with a bright, “Oh,” as he stood up.  He stared back at the black seat and remarked, “I, uh ... don't think being a spaceship captain is my ... cup of coffee.”

~You can say that again,~ Marks mused from his station.

As the crew began to return to their posts, Jack questioned, “Any idea who Netan was fighting?”

“Uh, no,” Daniel answered.  “They came out of hyperspace at the same time, so we thought they were together.”

“Family squabble?” Jack teased.

“Well, from what I discerned from Anateo and his men, Netan's popularity among his seconds isn't too high,” Sam put forth.

“So, this was a ... an attempted coup?” Daniel asked.

“I think so.  Anateo definitely double-crossed Netan,” Sam affirmed.

“The question is, who won that battle back there,” Jack stated.  “What about communications?” he asked Sam.

“We should have them back up and running within the hour.”

“As soon as you do, make sure you contact SGC and let them know what happened here, and you can add that we're officially at war with the Lucian Alliance.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam stated, nodding for emphasis and then heading over to one of the control consoles.

“Just what we need, another war,” Jack lamented.  He took in a breath as he watched the activity.  Checking his watch, he grimaced and asked, “How long have we been on this ship anyway?”

“Too long,” Daniel answered.  He walked over to Sam and asked quietly, “Any chance we'll be home by tonight?”

“Absolutely,” the blonde responded brightly, feeling confident that she knew why Daniel was asking.  ~I really need a life.  Okay, so I have a boyfriend, sort of.  Well, sometimes I do.  Why'd I call off the engagement?  Oh, yeah, because I'm an idiot.~

Daniel walked just a couple of steps away and stood, just thinking and taking in the situation.

Meanwhile, Sam stared blankly at the console in front of her, her mind far away from the Odyssey's problem at the moment.

~He didn't call me,~ the colonel sighed about her one-time fiancé, Pete Shanahan.  ~Well, Samantha, you can't have your cake and pie both.  Maybe he's met somebody new.  Maybe he doesn't love me anymore, which I couldn't blame him for, not with the way I treat him, like a puppy dog trained to come only when I want him to.~

The blonde was in her world at the moment as she reflected on her failed romance.  She grimaced at her verbiage and then let out a sigh.

~What a way to end a year and start a new one -- alone.~  After another sigh, Sam continued pondering her single and uncommitted status, relationship-wise.  ~Maybe he ...~

“Carter, do you want to stay out here in space?” Jack asked when he happened to look over and see his 2IC just sitting and staring.

“Oh, I was just ... I'm on it, Sir.”

====

“Sam, why don't you join us for dinner?” Daniel asked that evening as the two walked towards the exit of Stargate Command.

“I'll be fine, Daniel,” Sam replied with a short smile.  “I think I'm just gonna curl up with a good book and get some sleep.”

“Are you sure?  I mean, it's New Year's Eve.”

“No regrets,” Sam stated without elaborating.  “Happy New Year, Daniel,” she said, leaning over and giving her friend a kiss on the cheek.  “Wish the general a happy New Year for me, too.”

Daniel nodded and watched Sam make her way towards the security gate.  The Odyssey had arrived home two hours ago and after a quick preliminary debriefing, Hammond had ordered all Odyssey personnel and SG-1 to take the night off.  He couldn't give them a full twenty-four hours, but they didn't have to report back until midday on New Year's.

The lieutenant general wished he could just go home and enjoy the night in peace, but he couldn't do that.  He knew the Emerson family and planned to go by and pay his respects on this difficult evening.

As for the archaeologist, he had reservations about Sam being alone on this holiday evening, but she was independent and he didn't have any right to invade her privacy.

“Daniel,” Jack called out.

“Well?”

“All set.  Let's go.”

Already in their civvies, the couple didn't head for the exit but for the holding cell. Once there, Jack nodded at the SF, who unlocked the door.

“New uniform?” Vala questioned angrily, feeling betrayed to find herself back in the same room as she'd been before Jack and Daniel had requested her assistance.

“Come with us,” Jack ordered, not wasting time with frivolous dialog.

Though frustrated, Vala followed.  Aboard the Odyssey, she'd been all but forgotten once the crisis had ended.  In fact, she'd had her own special guard and had been placed in one of the VIP rooms, where she'd remained until the vessel arrived home.  After that, she'd been immediately taken back to the dreary holding cell, without even an acknowledgement of her contribution to the Odyssey rescue.

“This is your new home, until the war is over,” Jack announced, showing the woman into one of the VIP rooms at the Mountain.

“Better, but not by much,” Vala opined as she searched around.

Daniel looked at Jack expectantly.

Reluctantly, the general continued, “You'll be allowed access to the gym and the mess hall, *but* two SFs will accompany you at all times.  Play any games and you'll be back in the holding cell before you can blink.”

“You could say 'thank you'.”

“Lady, we didn't even need you,” Jack pointed out, something that had been obvious once it had become clear that SG-1 had been the real target of the Odyssey takeover.

“But you didn't know that when you asked me to help you,” Vala countered.

“That's why you're here ... and why you're being given more access for the duration of your stay.”  Jack sighed and then added, “It's also why we will keep our promise.  As soon as we can, we'll help you find ... your husband.”

Jack turned and walked out, leaving Daniel inside the room with Vala.

The archaeologist smiled slightly and said a quiet, “Thank you.”

“Was that so hard?”

“No,” Daniel answered.  “But ... I know you're hiding a lot of pain, Vala.  Maybe if you just ... toned it down a little and don't assume everyone is out to get you, life might be easier.  Goodnight.”

Seeing Vala just staring at him, Daniel shook his head and sighed.  Then he turned and exited the room quietly, leaving Vala alone to hopefully ponder his words.

====

On the drive home in Jack's truck, Daniel was a bit too quiet for his lover's taste.

“What's wrong?”

“Do you think Sam ...”

Daniel didn't complete his query and his pause caused his lover to look over at him curiously.

“I think in war, people die,” Jack answered the uncompleted question.  “She's not perfect.  She said there was a risk to the procedure, and there was.  Law of averages,” he expounded.

“I guess that's one way to look at it.”

Jack glanced over at his Heart, sighed, and made a surprising left turn.

“What are you doing?” Daniel questioned in surprise.

“Danny, I know you, and you've got a case of the Carter Blues.”

“The ... wh...what?” the archaeologist sputtered, looking at his husband with wide eyes.

“You're gonna worry about Carter all night.  You've got it in your head that she shouldn't be alone, even though she's military, even though she's seen death up close before, and even though she's killed before, so we might as well force our way into her house and keep her company.”

“Jack?”

“What?”

“You're worried about her, too.”

“Daniel ...”

“Colonel Emerson wasn't a fallen soldier who got caught in crossfire, Jack.  Anateo wanted Sam to do something and she refused, and Colonel Emerson was executed within a few feet of her.  Teal'c's still on Chulak, Jacob's dead, she can't talk to her brother and his family, or to Cassie about this, Janet's still on duty, so ... she only has us, and you know that.  We're her family.”

“Couldn't you have left it at me humoring you?” Jack groaned.

“No.”

Jack shook his head, but then gave his husband a smile.  He should have known he couldn't pull off the act.  Daniel always saw through him, just as he'd done just now.

“I know a place that stays open all the time, no matter what,” Jack told his soulmate.  “High prices and not the best quality, but they'll be open.”

====

After their stop at the all-night, all-holiday store, the lovers went by their house where they picked up a few more things and geared up Bijou and Katie for a special outing.  By the time Jack turned off the truck in front of Sam's house, it was 11 p.m.  Food, drink, and beagles in tow, Jack used his nose to hit the doorbell.

Already in her plush pink pajamas, complete with furry pink slippers, Sam put on her robe and went to the door.  Peeking through the peep hole, she saw an eye looking back at her.  Immediately, she laughed.  She'd know that eye anywhere.

With a chuckle, the colonel opened the door and smiled at her teammates.  She was about to say something when she heard two barks and immediately looked to the source.  That she hadn't been expecting.

“We thought we'd let them talk for us,” Jack chimed cheerfully, his arms full of beer and two bags of miscellaneous groceries.

“We have to heat the pizza,” Daniel responded, holding the unbaked pizza in a box.  “We ... think they're still good.”

Laughing, Sam let her friends inside, kneeling down to give a proper hello to the beagles.

“This is ... sweet, but you guys didn't need to do this,” Sam stated as she closed the door, latching the lock behind them in a subconscious motion that indicated she was glad to have the company.  “I'm sure you'd rather be alone.”

“We will be,” Jack returned.  He looked at his husband and added, “Later.”  He began to unload the full bags, calling out, “We have bread, chips, pretzels, cheese ...”

“All kinds of stuff,” Daniel interrupted as he began to look more closely at the pizzas.  “We stocked up on these earlier this week, in case we made it home for longer than a half hour at a time.”

“Champagne,” Jack announced, pulling a bottle out of the bag.

“Champagne?” Sam asked with widened eyes and walking over to examine the bottle.

“Yeah, we're not big on it, either, but sometimes you gotta splurge.  This feels like the year to splurge,” Jack put forth as he continued to unload the bags.

The friends settled in to a warm evening, or rather late night time together.  Bijou and Katie enjoyed some mini-turkey rolls that Sam popped into the oven and heated for them, while the humans ate pizza and snacked on all kinds of extra goodies.  On TV, they remote-controlled their way between several different holiday specials.

Just before midnight, Daniel opened the champagne and poured their glasses full. The three stood up, standing between the sofa and television.  They counted down with the host of the program -- three, two, and then the big moment.

“Happy New Year,” the trio rang out with smiles, toasting their glasses and then sipping their champagne.

Jack tossed the beagles a couple of treats and wished them a happy new year, too.

“Woof!” both girls responded joyously.

The friends and teammates even sang along to Auld Lang Syne before sitting back down and settling in to talk some more.

“It never gets easier,” Sam sighed, still dangling the champagne glass between her fingers.

“Put it behind you, Carter,” Jack urged quietly, well aware of her internal angst since he'd been there before himself.  ~There are just some things you have to lock away for your own sanity.  I ...~

Sensing what was on his husband's mind, Daniel squeezed Jack’s knee in silent comfort and support.

Nodding, Sam lifted her glass and toasted, “To Colonel Emerson.”

Jack nodded, standing and leaning over to make sure he could tap his glass against that of his 2IC's, and stated, “He was a good man.”

“To all the good men, and women, who die before they should,” Daniel added, moving his glass from the right to the left to meet the glasses of the other two.

There was a minute of solemn reflection and then Sam giggled, “Remember the Watusi?”

Be it the small amount of alcohol consumed in a short period of time by the teammates or just a need to escape from reality before having to face it again at noon, the three let themselves get giddy, doing silly dances from the over the decades and just pretending there were no villains such as the Ori and the Lucian Alliance in their lives.

====

“Thank you,” Sam stated appreciatively to Jack and Daniel, the friends sharing one of their occasional hugs as just the earliest hint of the sun rising was visible on the horizon.

“Anytime,” Jack stated.  “Come on, girls,” he beckoned to Bijou and Katie, leading them away from the front door.

“Daniel ...” the woman began a bit emotionally.

“That's what friends are for, Sam,” the archaeologist interrupted, smiling as he backed away.  “See you at the briefing.”

Her hands braced against the rim of her front door, Sam smiled, watching for a moment before the chill convinced her to close the door.

~How was I blessed with such good friends, I'll never know.  I'm just glad they are my friends; make that ... my family. ~

--

“Daniel?” Jack called out as his husband climbed into the truck and shut the door.

“Hmm?”

“This was one of your better ideas,” Jack praised, leaning over for a quick kiss.  “Happy New Year, Love.”

“Happy New Year to you, too,” Daniel returned, taking advantage of the opportunity for one more kiss before Jack started the truck and headed for home.

====

Once again, SG-1's focus returned to research (for Daniel and Sam) and monitoring recon missions (for Jack).  Teal'c remained on Chulak to assist with the Jaffa Council, but was ready to return to Earth when necessary.  In his last report, he'd advised Hammond that Gerak was remaining firm and had no interest in Origin and that the fracture among the Jaffa was healing slowly as they came together.

Midday on Tuesday, Jack entered his lover's office, immediately noticing that Daniel was staring at one of his computer monitors.

“Are you looking at porn again?” Jack teased as he sneaked over to take a peek.

“Wha...what?”  Daniel sighed, shaking his head at his husband.  “Right, Jack.  I have a top ten 'most gorgeous women' right here in my 'B-I-G' file.”

The general laughed and then questioned, “Okay, what are you doing?”

Wryly, the younger man answered, “Oh, just trying to figure out the location of Merlin's weapon so we can find it in time to defeat the Ori, hopefully save our galaxy.  You?”

Seeing his lover looking up at him innocently, Jack answered, “I was thinking O'Malley's.”

“Food: it figures,” Daniel commented about his husband's ongoing love affair with food.  “Jack, I think I'm onto something.”

“What?”

“Here, take a look at this,” Daniel requested, calling up a star map onto the screen.  “These are the locations of the planets that Arthur and his knights set off to in their quest for the Sangreal: Castiana, Sahal, and Vagon Brei.  Now, we searched all three and came up empty, so I thought it was a dead end, until I noticed this.”

Daniel changed the display to show the position of the three planets to one another.

“Okay, it's a triangle,” Jack observed.

“Exactly.  Their coordinates form an equilateral triangle.  Now, add their departure point, the Camelot planet, and you get,” Daniel triggered the addition of a fourth point on the screen, adding a new image on the screen, “a tetrahedron: a perfect pyramid.”

“What are the odds?”

“One in a billion; trillion, maybe,” Daniel answered, shrugging his shoulders.

“Which tells us what?”

With a sigh, Daniel answered, “I have no idea.”  After a pause, he continued, “But it means something.  I'm just ... not sure what.”

“Okay, so think about it at O'Malley's,” Jack suggested.

Daniel rolled his eyes, but shut off the monitor and stood up.  The couple hadn't been to O'Malley's Bar and Grill in at least two months and maybe longer.  It would nice to enjoy a leisurely lunch there before returning to their work.

====

“For crying out loud, Daniel, it's 0200 hours,” Jack whined as he walked into his Love's office, finding him still staring at the screen.

“I think I've got it,” Daniel stated in an amazed tone.

“I've heard that before.”

“No, no, I ... Jack, Morgan Le Fay in the alternate realities only managed to get out part of her message, that Merlin's weapon's was not ... something.”

“Yeah, so?”

“So ... those three planets are part of a puzzle,” Daniel put forth.

“Isn't that what you showed me this morning?” the older man questioned, yawning and eager to get some sleep.

“I think what she meant is that the weapon is not on either three of the planets, but that together they are the address.”

“Huh?”

“Jack, the pyramid is a visual representation of 'three into one' -- three addresses into one.  That's what Morgan was trying to tell the Daniels, that the Sangreal is located on a planet, the address of which is made up of symbols from each of those three worlds: Castiana, Sahal, Vagon Brei.”

Jack thought for a moment and then cocked his head in agreement as he inquired, “What's our next move?”

Smiling, Daniel stood up and instructed, “Follow me.”

It quickly became obvious to Jack where they were going, prompting him to bemoan, ~Doesn't anyone sleep around here?~

“Sam, I need your help,” Daniel called out, entering Sam's lab.

“Do you have something against sleep, too?” Jack questioned his 2IC.

“I'm making good process on adapting this device, Sir,” Sam answered.  Looking at the archaeologist, she asked, “What do you need?”

Daniel explained the problem and fairly quickly, Sam had the solution.  She setup her laptop appropriately and explained what she was doing.

“Okay, this program will cross reference the addresses in the database with those of Castiana, Sahal, and Vagon Brei, searching out planetary designations made up of symbols from all three addresses.”  As the program began to search, Sam continued, “Given the number of symbols and the amount of addresses in the database, we could be looking at dozens, maybe hundreds of permutations.”

“Hundreds, eh?” Jack quipped when the search ended, showing just one address.

“Or, maybe just the one,” Sam stated, looking amazed at the blinking symbols on the screen.

“Jack, that's where we need to go,” Daniel surmised, excitement filling his voice.

“Well, you know what they say,” Jack sighed.  “Sleep is highly overrated.”  As he headed for the door, he added, “I'd like to shoot whoever they are who said it, too.”

There wouldn't be any sleep for the team tonight, or rather, this morning.  Jack was headed for the control room to send a message to Teal'c and to contact Hammond with the news.  At first light, the flagship team would be heading for the coordinates that had popped up on Sam's laptop.

====

“Carter, how far is the village?”

“About five clicks north, according to the UAV.”

“Swell,” Jack sighed as he yawned and began the hike towards the village.  “It's so much easier when the towns are by the Gates.”

“It may not matter, Jack,” Daniel responded.  “We don't know where the weapon is.  It could be ... anywhere.”

“Next time, Merlin needs to leave a note.”

====

As the team entered the town, they couldn't miss the stares given to them by the villagers.  It wasn't threatening, but it was disconcerting.

“The culture and level of technology looks similar to what we found on the Camelot planet,” Daniel noted.

“Hopefully, that's a good thing,” Jack replied, leery of all the looks being directed at them.

When Jack and Daniel called out for help in respects to finding the Sangreal, they were told by a villager that they were the second group to have come in search of it in less than week.  From the description, the team deduced that the other group was Ba'al and some of his Jaffa.

The villager also advised, “If you truly seek the Sangreal, you must consult with the Parchment of Virtues in the village library.”  He pointed across the square and added, “It will prepare you for the journey to come.”

====

At the library, SG-1 met an elderly statesman named Osric, the self-proclaimed “keeper of the village archives.”  He told them that the Sangreal was “located in a cave beyond the outlying forest,” which he claimed would be a perilous journey to make.

As he talked, Osric retrieved a box from one of the higher shelves and pulled out a piece of parchment paper which he revealed was left there by Morgan as a guide for the noble, “since it is said that only the most virtuous will succeed in claiming the Sangreal.”

Daniel took the parchment and translated, “Only those of virtue true may win the prize concealed beyond the reach of the flawed and tainted.  The Sangreal shall instead belong to he who speaks the guardian's name.”  He looked at the keeper and questioned, “Guardian's name?”

“They say that the Sangreal is protected by the most powerful of magical beasts -- a dragon.”

“Of course,” Jack responded.  “Puff's standing guard over the Sangreal as we speak.”

“Jack!”

The team scoffed at the idea that an actual dragon protected the Sangreal, though they were certain something was.

Laughing, Osric returned, “Believe what you will.  With luck you may have the opportunity to prove the truth for yourselves.”

Translating the parchment further, Daniel read, “Prudence, wisdom, charity, kindness, and faith.  Let these be your guide on this perilous quest.”

“Call me a doubting Jack, but don't you think we need a little more than this to find the Sangreal?”

“That is all Morgan left, and the map,” Osric responded.

Osric refused to show the team the map, claiming that Ba'al's group had tried to steal it from him.  No matter what the team said, the keeper of the archives simply laughed and walked away.

“I need a drink,” Jack sighed.  “I saw a tavern on the way in.”

====

The teammates munched on peanuts and enjoyed a drink at the tavern as they tried to determine their next course of action.  All of a sudden, their brainstorming efforts were interrupted by a disturbance outside.  There was no question over who was responsible.  It was a band of Ori soldiers, demanding obedience from the villagers.

As time passed and the team watched, the Ori brought out all of the books from the village library and lit them on fire.

“Fahrenheit 451,” Jack sighed.

“What?” Sam asked.

“Old movie: they burned books.  451 degrees Fahrenheit was the temperature of the burn, when paper catches fire,” Jack explained as he watched the burning inferno.

“Daniel, isn't that the box that Osric took the parchment out of it?” Sam asked as she gazed at the latest addition to the fire.

“Yes,” the archaeologist acknowledged sadly.

As they talked, Osric arrived, frantic and claiming the Ori were after him, wanting him to take them to the Sangreal.  He explained to the uncertain team that he'd memorized the map and could indeed show them the way.

At that point, Ori soldiers rushed inside the tavern and a firefight transpired in which the soldiers were killed.  Quickly, the barkeep showed the visitors a way out through a hidden passageway.

====

After having made haste for about a mile, the group stopped, ascertaining that they hadn't been followed.

“Well, that was interesting,” Daniel remarked.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed, happy they'd gotten away but a little surprised that it had been a clean getaway.  ~Maybe too clean.~

“Osric, which way?” Daniel inquired.

Extending his arm outward, the keeper replied, “That way.”

Casually, the group moved forward in their quest to find the Sangreal.  Osric and Sam were out front, with Teal'c walking several feet behind them.  Bringing up the rear were Jack and Daniel.

“Osric didn't seem to have much of a problem keeping up with us,” Jack pointed out, even though he knew the team hadn't gone at a full pace when leaving the village.

“Well, running for your life is a good motivation for moving quickly,” Daniel replied.

“There's that,” Jack sighed.

The archaeologist glanced at his lover and saw a look of puzzlement on his face which caused him to query, “What?”

“No one followed us.”

“That's a bad thing?” Daniel questioned in surprise.

“Daniel, we shot up a tavern and killed some Ori bad guys.  Don't you think someone might want to track us down?”

“Maybe they just went the wrong way.”

“Maybe,” Jack sighed skeptically.  ~I don't like this.~

====

SG-1 continued to follow Osric as he led them through the forest and eventually into a meadow where they came upon a group of motionless people and animals.

“Okay, this is different,” Jack observed.  He looked up at a bird, suspended in flight.  “Definitely different.”  He looked over at his 2IC.  “Carter?”

Sam pulled out a hand-held sensor and began to take readings as she approached the still people.

“Carter?” Jack repeated.

“I'm picking up varying anomalous readings,” Sam reported.

Sam deduced that the readings were temporal fluctuations which meant that the people and animals were trapped in a time distortion field.

“But the leaves are moving in the trees,” Jack pointed out.  When Daniel looked at him in surprise, the general shrugged and said casually, “You know me and trees.”

“It could be an illusion designed to reproduce the standing weather pattern,” Sam theorized.  “These readings indicate the time within the field is extremely decelerated.  I mean, these people may look like they're standing perfectly still, but, in fact, they're moving imperceptibly slowly.”

The problem for SG-1 was how to travel around the time field.  One misstep and they would be trapped just as the statue-like life inside of the field was now.

“Ideas?” Jack asked, willing to consider almost any possibility to continue on with their journey.

“I think I may have found a way in,” Sam stated as she continued to take readings with the sensor.  “There's a circuitous path of real-time winding through the temporal field.”

“It's a maze,” Jack deduced.

“Yes, Sir.”

Going single file, the team and Osric began walking, carefully following Sam.  Then they hit a bump in the road when her readings went wonky because of the temporal distortions.

“Could we not retrace our steps and try our luck with the Ori soldiers,” Teal'c suggested.

“Retreat, T?”

“Another option, O'Neill,” the Jaffa corrected.

Unfortunately, no one knew the exact way back, so that wasn't a safe alternative.

Teal'c then asserted, “If Morgan Le Fay left clues as to the whereabouts of the Sangreal, then it is safe to assume that she believed that someone would eventually reach it.  It also stands to reason that our task, though challenging, is far from impossible.”

“Teal'c's right,” Daniel agreed.  “She set this trap to weed out those she deemed unworthy.  There is a way out.  We just have to be resourceful and carefully think it through.”

“Okay,” Jack sighed.  “Look, Arthur could lead a round table, but he wasn't any smarter than me, so the answer has to be simple.”  Seeing his team staring at him, he grimaced.  ~I don't think that came out right.~

Thoughtfully, Sam looked around and then she announced, “I think the general has done it again.”

“Of course I have,” Jack agreed.  “What I'd do?”

“Figure out how we can get through.”  With a smile, Sam picked up a rock and threw it.  She realized she could use the rock to determine the path through the field.  “Follow me.”

Patiently, the team made their way through the time distortion field and then quickened their pace to try and make up for the time they'd lost.

====

Later as they walked, Daniel and Osric discussed the Ori rather intensely.  Jack was listening to the conversation as well.  At issue was the question of faith and why followers of the Ori believed.

“Faith is something that cannot be won through intimidation and fear,” Osric proclaimed.  “If their followers have faith, then they must truly believe.”

“No, they only believe because they've been mislead.  See, to many less developed civilizations, certain advanced technologies would strike them as supernatural in nature.  For example, Merlin wasn't a wizard, and Morgan Le Fay was not a sorceress.  They simply used their advanced abilities to fashion seemingly magical creations, like the Sangreal or that time dilation field we encountered.”

“So you would have me believe that you are possessed of a complete understanding of these amazing feats?”

~He's getting a little hostile about this whole thing,~ Jack noted.

“No, but just because I don't know how the trick is done doesn't make it magic,” Daniel responded.

Resting his hand against a tree as he stopped walking, Osric returned, “And I would argue that your inability to comprehend such feats does in fact prove their supernatural nature.”

~Something's not right here,~ Jack thought.  “Their army just ran roughshod over your village; forced you into hiding.  Now you're defending 'em?”

“Hardly!  I condemn the actions of their soldiers, but am in no position to judge the Ori or their message.  Not yet.  Truth is elusive to those who refuse to see with both eyes.”

Daniel just stared at Osric, processing what he'd just heard, and then finally asked in surprise, “What?”

Hearing a noise in the distance, SG-1, followed by an annoyed Osric, moved forward where they found Ba'al sitting on the ground in a clearing.  Behind him was a small wooden chest.  Though the Goa'uld called out in warning, the group had already come too far.  A force field erected, locking the team inside with Ba'al, who had already been trapped there for three days.

“How'd you find this planet?” Sam asked curiously.

“I have my sources.”  Ba'al's ego deflated a bit when he admitted, “I could only obtain two of the addresses.  As a result, I had significantly more possibilities to investigate.  By a process of elimination, I was left with one prospect, and when I went in search of the planet, it wasn't there.”

“What do you mean, it wasn't there?” Jack questioned inquisitively.

“It wasn't where it was supposed to be,” Ba'al answered.  ~Tau'ri simpleton!~

As they talked, it became clear that Morgan somehow made the planet inaccessible to ships as a protection against the Sangreal being destroyed from space.  The only way to reach the planet was by Stargate, as Ba'al had finally done.  His luck turned bad, however, when he became trapped inside the force field.  His Jaffa had left to try to find a way to free him, but hadn't returned.

To Daniel, who had opened and was now examining the empty wooden chest, Ba'al advised, “You're wasting your time.  I've had three days to search for a way out of here.  There's nothing inside.”

“Well, that's the point, isn't it.  The Parchment of Virtues told us that we'd have to rely on five things in order to reach the Sangreal: prudence, wisdom, charity, kindness, and faith.”

“You're saying the parchment was intended to be interpreted literally,” Sam deduced from her teammate's comment.

“Why not?  We were able to make our way through the time dilation field by patiently and carefully negotiating the maze.  In other words, we demonstrated prudence as opposed to recklessness, which would have stranded us.  So ask yourselves, what does this trap exploit?”

“Curiosity,” Ba'al guessed.

“Greed,” Daniel stated.  “A person approaches a chest expecting to find treasure inside but instead finds nothing and gets trapped for his trouble.”

“So in order to reverse the trap, you have to reverse the impetus,” Sam returned.

“Right.  The opposite of greed is charity, one of the virtues mentioned in the parchment,” Daniel responded.

“Instead of taking something, something must be sacrificed,” Teal'c stated.

Daniel put one of his possessions inside the box and closed it, but nothing happened.  After that, they all realized that everyone had to sacrifice something because they were all trapped inside the force field.  The archaeologist took the objects he was given and placed each inside the box.  He smiled at Jack's offering of his baseball cap, knowing that really was a sacrifice.  Jack loved his caps.  He also paused and looked curiously at the ring that Osric gave him to put inside.

After Daniel closed the box, the force field collapsed.  SG-1 intended to proceed without Ba'al, but the Goa'uld insisted he had something they needed.

“Amongst the information I obtained regarding the Sangreal is the name of the protector, the dragon,” Ba'al advised.

“You see, I told you there was a dragon,” Osric responded triumphantly.

“I'm sure there's something guarding the device.  Maybe it's a hologram,” Sam put forth.

“Holograms can be dangerous, you know,” Jack remarked, wincing as he recalled his beating at the hand of the Black Knight on Camelot.  ~Talk about ouch.~

“It could be a ship,” Daniel supposed.  “Flies, breathes fire, has armored skin.  It's a mistake a mediaeval storyteller could easily make.”

“Then if it's based on technology, the name is no doubt a password or a command code; and either way, if you want it, you'll have to take me with you,” Ba'al insisted, not about to be left behind.

Jack thought about it for a moment and then grumbled, “Fine.  Let's go.”

**Jack, I think there's something you need to know,** Daniel communicated.

**Such as Osric isn't exactly who he claims to be,** Jack countered.

Surprised slightly, the archaeologist acknowledged, **Yeah, something like that.**

**I'm on it.**

**Me, too.**

**Then this should be a piece of cake, when the time comes,** Jack surmised.

**I'll take chocolate.**

Jack turned and looked back at his lover, who was walking a yard or so behind him.  He saw the cute smile and chuckled.

~Cheeky geek,~ the general mused.

====

Reaching a clearing, Osric announced, “According to the map, the Sangreal is hidden in a cave beneath a lone mountain.”

Looking ahead, the group could see a large, cone-shaped mountain all by itself.  They continued walking until they reached the entrance.

“This is it, the cave entrance!” Osric exclaimed.  “The Sangreal is located within.”

Raising his P-90, Jack responded, “It's too bad you won't be coming with us.”

Not in on the exactness of what was happening but following along, both Sam and Teal'c aimed their weapons at the supposed keeper of the archives.

“I thought I made it clear, you need me,” Ba'al stated as he stood beside Osric.

“I wasn't talking to you,” Jack replied, rolling his eyes at the Goa'uld.

Happy, the Goa'uld responded, “Ah, well, uh, allow me to get out of your line of fire,” as he walked away.

“Have you lost your senses?” Osric asked in disbelief.

“'Truth eludes he who does not seek it with both eyes wide.'  That's a quote from the Book of Origin.  You paraphrased it earlier today.  I've spent a great deal of time in recent weeks studying the good book, so ...” Daniel explained.

“Surely you're not basing your suspicions on this mere coincidence?”

“And when it came time to give up a possession to free ourselves from the force field trap, I noticed the designs on your ring -- not Celtic as one might expect given the cultural background of this planet, but distinctly Ori.”

Angrily, Osric claimed, “The ring was a gift from a traveling merchant.  You're making a mistake!”

“You're the one who screwed up; now drop the act!” Jack interjected strongly.

Cornered, Osric had no choice.  In an instant, the keeper of the archives transformed into the Orici.  Seeing Adria, Jack realized that everything that had happened since SG-1 had arrived on the planet had been a setup.

“Why the deception?” Daniel queried.  “I mean, uh, why were you waiting for us?”

“Yeah,” Jack added, staring at the young woman pointedly.

“Apparently, Morgan put safeguards in place to ensure the weapon could only be secured by, what was the term again -- 'Those possessing truth of spirit.'”  Adria sighed as she looked at Daniel and explained, “You seem to be the closest I can find to meeting the requirements.”

“I don't think so,” Jack refuted and then opened fire.  “Crap,” he groused when Adria's personal shield protected her from the bullets.

“You've seen a demonstration of my powers.  You know what I'm capable of,” Adria told Jack.  “So I'm offering you a choice.  Either we work together to reach the device, or I'll start killing off members of your team,” She looked over at Sam, “starting with her.”

Not wasting time, Daniel exclaimed, “All right!  We'll work together, for now.”

~We will?  Says who?~  Jack looked at his lover in confusion and, as the group began to enter the cave, questioned, **Daniel, what was that about?**

**She was going to kill Sam.**

**I wasn't going to let her,** Jack stated sternly.

**I just ... I had a bad feeling, Jack.  I'm sorry if you think I usurped your authority,** Daniel responded a tad angrily.

**Daniel ... never mind,** the general sighed.  ~He's been on edge for weeks, even at home,~ he realized, concern flowing within him.

====

The cave was proving to be a real challenge, literally.  It was a series of tests, all relating to the parchment.  First, the group had to comfort and rescue a young boy who was trapped behind an iron gate.  The team worked to free him, and when they did so, the rear cave wall opened, revealing a tunnel.

“I guess that's the direction we're supposed to go,” Jack stated.

“Apparently,” Daniel agreed as he walked forward, realizing that the virtue of kindness had been met by helping the child.

The group's second challenge began after Daniel translated some writing on a panel.  It was a riddle to be solved.

All of a sudden, the cave began to shake violently, with rubble and dust collapsing around the visitors to the planet.  For each piece of the puzzle they solved, a new door opened and another piece of the riddle was revealed.

~Gawd, another one,~ Daniel thought upon seeing yet one more panel with Ancient writing on it after running into another part of cave.

“Oh, for crying out loud!” Jack exclaimed in exasperation as he saw the next panel.

“Battle-scarred in times of strife.  Resistant to ... resistant to ...” Daniel began.

“To what?” Sam asked anxiously.

“Uh, I don't know.  I, I can't translate this section of the text,” the linguist admitted.

“Daniel!”

Looking down, Daniel stammered, “Ah, well, battle-scarred would suggest ... uh ...”

“Contagia!” Adria called out loudly, causing the panel to disappear and the rumbling to finally stop.

“Looks like that was the one,” Jack stated, relieved to have quiet and stability restored.  The group kept walking and before long, the general began to feel some heat.  ~It's not male menopause,~ he told himself.

Also feeling the heat, Daniel asked, “Is it just me, or ... is it getting hot in here?”

“Now that you mention it,” Sam agreed.

The group soon realized the reason for the heat was at the end of the tunnel, a wall of fire was raging in the doorway, preventing them from going forward.  At the same time, the path behind them was blocked.  They were trapped inside the cave.

“Toasty,” Jack quipped unhappily.  ~All I'm missing are the graham crackers and marshmallows.  I'm sure Daniel has some chocolate on him.~

A closer search of the area revealed no way out, a disturbing fact for all of them.

“I was right.  We walked into a trap,” Adria proclaimed smugly.

“No.  We made all the right choices to lead us to this point.  I know the Sangreal lies beyond that wall of fire.  We just have to find a way through,” Daniel insisted.

At that point, Ba'al began to challenge Adria, who threatened him, but didn't actually do anything to him, claiming it would be a waste of her time.

“It's the only one left,” Daniel stated quietly as he returned to the wall of fire.

“Daniel?” Sam called out in concern, especially when she saw him move even closer to the wall.

“The parchment told us that five virtues would guide us in our quest for the Sangreal: prudence, kindness, charity, wisdom, and faith.  Now, we displayed prudence in finding a way out of the temporal maze, charity in escaping the force field trap, kindness by helping the child and finding the hidden passageway, and wisdom in solving the riddles.  The only virtue left is faith,” Daniel explained.

“Dan...iel!” Jack called out, his heart sinking as he watched his lover step directly into the fire.

“Daniel!” Sam called out in concern at the same time.

“I wish you wouldn't do that,” Jack groaned after the fire dissolved and showed a healthy and uninjured Daniel on the other side of the wall.  “Geez,” he whined as he joined his husband.

“I wasn't in danger, Jack.  I had faith.”

“Yeah, well ...”  Daniel just smiled and began walking, leaving Jack to groan and be thankful his Love was in one piece and ~not crispy.~

====

Next the group arrived at a cavern that had a narrow walkway over a deep abyss.

“Reminds of me of the giants,” Jack sighed as he looked down and recalled the incident with the crystal skull.

Across the walkway was a glowing red object, which the group assumed was the Sangreal.

“I'll go.”

“We'll both go,” Adria stated.

“Daniel ...” Jack began.  “Heights,” he stated succinctly referring to his husband's one-time fear of heights, although in reality, he was just worried about the trek over the toothpick-like crossing.

“Old news, Jack,” Daniel replied as he began for the walkway.

“I think I'll stay here and support you from a distance,” Ba'al stated, surprising no one with his cowardice.

“We should all go,” Jack returned, not wanting Daniel to go without him, especially not with Adria.

In a warning like tone, Adria objected, “No.  Only Daniel and I will go.  The rest of you will stay.”

As Jack began to posture, Daniel stopped him by saying, “It's all right.”

Reluctantly, the general held back and let Daniel go after the Sangreal with Adria. His gut told him it was a mistake, but he could tell from the younger man's eyes that the argument would have been a lost cause.  He watched the two walk across to the other side of the cavern and take positions on opposite sides of the platform on which the Sangreal sat.

“Take it,” Adria ordered the archaeologist.

~She's anxious, isn't she,~ Daniel noted.  “After you.”

Adria claimed that Morgan's safeguards were preventing her from taking it, only Daniel wasn't buying it.  He challenged her about not using her telekinetic powers.

“You should have just snatched the Sangreal off the dais without taking a step, but you didn't, probably for the same reason you didn't use your powers to lift the portcullis or kill Ba'al the second he stepped out of line.  You can't.”

“Of course I can,” Adria boasted indignantly.

“No.  My guess is Morgan did put safeguards in place and that those safeguards are neutralizing your Ori-given powers.”

The Orici tried to deny it, but again Daniel pointed out that the only actions she'd taken had been those that emanated from the pendant that operated as her personal shield.

“Do you really want to test me?” Adria questioned in an alluring manner.

~She's completely lost here.~  Smugly, Daniel replied, “Yep.”  After pointing his flashlight at Adria, he felt even more confident.  “You know what?  I changed my mind about helping you.”  Nodding towards the orb, he invited, “Knock yourself out.”

“What's the hold-up?” Jack called out, not liking the showdown that appeared to happen between his Love and the Orici.

“Thought so,” Daniel stated, ignoring his husband's shout.  He attempted to take possession of the Sangreal, only his hand went right through it.  ~Oh.~  Disappointed, he sighed, “Well, I guess I'm not as true of spirit as you thought I was.”

All of a sudden, sounds were heard and dust began to fall.

“Daniel, get your butt over here!” Jack ordered urgently.

Adria was already hurrying back across the walkway when Daniel began to run.

“What were you doing, digging for artifacts?” Jack complained when his lover finally stepped off the walkway.

“Let's just get out of here,” Daniel responded, only in a matter of seconds, the group discovered they were once again trapped.  “I hear ... flapping,” he advised as his eyes searched the cave.

“Like a big, big ... big bird,” Jack added.  “Carter, I thought you said it wouldn't really be a dragon.”

“I ...”

“Carter, that looks like one big, honkin' dragon to me,” the general observed about a large object with wings and legs hovering over them.

“Okay, I guess I was wrong,” Sam sighed.  ~This time, I really wanted to be right.~

“Look out!” Jack shouted when the dragon breathed a ball of fire towards them.

As the group crouched down, Adria remained standing, repelling the attack by extending her personal shield to protect the entire group.  When the dragon tried to attack again, its tail whipped against the wall, creating an opening to the tunnel.  They ran out while they could, relieved when they found an exit that would allow them to escape the mountain interior.

Once outside and quite a distance away from the cave, the group thought they were safe until the dragon appeared and emerged from the top of the mountain.

“Tree line!” Jack ordered, resulting in the group taking cover by some trees, which he hoped would prevent the giant dragon from being able to get to them.

As they tried to hide, the ensuing discussion determined that the dragon was actually the final test and the Sangreal inside the mountain chamber had only been a hologram.

The groups' attention focused on Ba'al, who was unexpectedly advocating returning to the village.

“Okay, Mister Big Mouth, aren't you the one who said we needed to keep you around because you *knew* the name of the dragon?” Jack questioned sharply.  “Well, there's the dragon.  Now what's its name?”

“I may have been exaggerating about what I know,” Ba'al conceded.

Jack scowled at the Goa'uld and then grumbled, “No wonder the Goa'uld lost the war.”  Looking over at his lover, he asked, “Daniel, what do we do here?”

“We have to figure out the dragon's name,” Daniel answered.

“You sure?” the general questioned.

“Name magic is common in most mythologies.  To know something's secret name is to steal its power,” Daniel explained.

“So we're just supposed to start guessing?”

“The only dragon I can think of is Daryl,” Sam stated, getting questioning looks.  “Daryl Dragon -- the Captain and Tennille.”

“Muskrat Love,” Teal'c stated, shocking everyone.

Ba'al couldn't believe what he was hearing and called out, “What are you talking about?  There's a fire-breathing dragon right over there, waiting to singe our flesh.”

Jack stared at Ba'al and quipped defiantly, “How about Smokey?”

“Perhaps Puff,” Teal'c suggested, playing the 'Let's Perturb the System Lord' game.

Annoyed by the distractions, Daniel bowed his head in an effort to concentrate and asked a bit gruffly, “Would you just give me a minute?”

~Touchy,~ Jack observed, filing away the tone of voice for further consideration once they were back on Earth.

While Daniel worked on coming up with a name, Jack suggested a nice blast of C-4 to take out the dragon.  Acting on that, Teal'c gathered a powerful group of C-4 and ran into the meadow.  Miraculously, he was able to get the dragon to eat the explosives.  Unfortunately, when it detonated, it had absolutely no effect on the creature.

“Oh, not good,” Sam observed.

“Teal'c, run!” Jack ordered loudly.  “Daniel, now would be a really good time to call out that name.”

“Okay, the Parchment of Virtues said the Sangreal would belong to he who speaks the Guardian's name,” Daniel stated as he tried to work through the problem.  “The Guardian's name.”

“The Guardian is a dragon,” Sam interjected.

“No, the Guardian is not a dragon.  The Guardian is the person who set this whole thing up.  The Guardian is Morgan Le Fay!” Daniel exclaimed as he put the pieces together.

With the Jaffa's life on the line, the archaeologist ran into the meadow, passing his upset husband.

“Daniel!  Oh for crying out loud!”

“Uh,” Daniel gasped as he came upon the towering dragon, which was flapping its wings.  “Okay, well, Morgan Le Fay.”  The dragon drew nearer.  ~Oh, crap~  He blinked and shouted, “Ganos Lal!”

In seconds, the dragon simply disappeared.

“Ganaswhatchos?” a relieved Jack called out as he joined his lover.

“Ganos Lal.  It's, uh, Morgan's name in Ancient,” the linguist explained.

“Okay, splash one dragon.  Now what?” Jack questioned, watching his team catch their breath.

“We go back inside.”

Jack raised his eyebrows and then turned towards the lone mountain.

====

Now surrounding the Sangreal, the team was stunned when Daniel tried to pick up the object but, just as before, his hand went right through it.  This time, though, it triggered a reaction, one that had everyone but Adria disappearing and then re-materializing inside a large chamber in which torches lit up upon their arrival.

“Okay, what just happened?” Jack asked as he looked around the new environment.

“I think we were transported into another chamber,” Sam surmised.

“No Ori spawn, but we still have snake eyes,” Jack pointed out as the group realized that Adria hadn't been transported with them.

“I don't think Morgan was too concerned about the Goa'uld.  It was the Ori she was worried about,” Daniel theorized.

Then Sam made a startling discover, an old man frozen in ice.  The writing on the stone next to him indicated that he was Myrddin, or Merlin as he was known to the Tau'ri.  When Teal'c accidentally touched a device attached to the structure, Merlin began to thaw as the stasis chamber turned off.  Quickly, Teal'c carried the man over to a large table and placed him there.  Knowing it could be a while before Merlin came to, the group began to look for a way out of the chamber.

Sure enough, Jack found an opening and quickly realized that they were no longer on the same planet.  The green meadows and trees were gone, replaced by a hot desert and high winds.  There was also a Stargate and DHD nearby.

“The Gate must have been activated remotely; then the obelisk beamed us through the wormhole,” Ba'al deduced.

“Well, as far as I'm concerned, the more distance between us and Adria, the better,” Jack opined.

“Except that she has the knowledge of the Ori.  She knows as much about the Gates and the DHDs as the people who built them.  If anyone can track us, it's her,” Sam put forth.

“Let's stay positive.”

“You're best subject,” Daniel retorted with a slight smile before turning around to go back inside the chamber.

“He's so snarky today,” Jack remarked playfully, cocking his head and giving a shrug while Sam smiled.

====

Back inside the chamber, Daniel observed, “It's amazing how similar this is to the myth.”

“How?” Sam asked.

“Supposedly, Morgan trapped Merlin in a cave and left him frozen there for all eternity, only in reality, I think she was trying to protect him.”

“How?” Jack questioned, beating Sam to the punch by a second and smiling smugly at her as a result.

“Well, I'm starting to think that maybe Morgan did destroy the Sangreal after all. I mean, she probably figured she had no choice, that if she didn't do it, the other Ancients would have just sent someone else.”

“So ... she did the next best thing,” Jack surmised, staring at Merlin.

Nodding, Daniel affirmed, “She preserved the one man capable of building it again.”

“Sir, I think we should start working on the DHD,” Sam advised.

Just as Sam, Teal'c, and Ba'al were about to return outside to try to fix the DHD, which Sam had already determined had been tampered with, Merlin awoke.  At first, he thought Jack was Percival and Sam was Guinevere.  Then he looked at Daniel, proclaiming who he thought the archaeologist was.

“And Galahad!  Oh, brave knights, fortune indeed does smile upon me to see your faces again.”

“Looks like Merlin's drawbridge no longer goes all the way across the moat, if you catch my meaning,” Ba'al quipped unkindly.

Turning towards the Goa'uld, Merlin responded, “What's that?  Mordred.  I might have known it.”

“We're wasting our time with this old fool.  We ...”

Interrupting while gesturing toward's Ba'al, Merlin ordered, “Be silent!”

Ba'al grabbed his throat and quickly became annoyed that he couldn't speak anymore.

“Can you teach me to do that?  It would sure come in handy,” Jack requested of Merlin, who just stared back at the general, or Percival as he still thought of the general.

Finally, Daniel got through to Merlin, the legendary wizard slowly figuring out that time had moved forward.

“A thousand years have passed,” Daniel pointed out after telling Merlin that he and Jack were not Arthur's knights.  “We know who you really are.  We know about Atlantis, and we've encountered the Ori.”

“Tell me more,” Merlin requested.

“I don't know where to begin,” Daniel sighed.  He look at his teammates and advised, “This is gonna take a while.”

“Okay, Carter, you, Teal'c, and the silent one here get to work on the DHD.”  Jack looked back at his lover and suggested, “The sooner you start the history lesson, the sooner Merlin might be willing to give us some answers.”

For the next while, as he sat down next to Merlin, Daniel relayed what had happened with the Ori.  He also told him about the alternate realities and what the SG-1 of those realities had experienced and learned.  He also mentioned his past encounters with Oma DeSala and expressed his frustration over the Ancients' ardent resistance in helping the Tau'ri, especially in this battle with the Ori.

“The Ori gain their power from the lower planes, so much so that one day they shall be strong enough to wipe The Others out.  In the face of such a threat, the strict policy of non-interference is absurd,” Merlin opined.

“I'm sure Oma would agree with you.”

“Oma concerns herself with the individual.  She may have the best intentions, but then, so did the Ori when they first began.  Still, she must have seen something in you, to believe you to be worthy.”

“Look, you two can be part of the Oma DeSala Fan Club if you want, but that lady is a bit on the wacky side and she has a hard time taking 'no' for an answer,” Jack interjected gruffly as he stood behind the other two men.

Merlin stared at Jack and then looked over at Daniel, who explained, “He, uh, doesn't like Oma very much.”

“I see,” Merlin responded, looking back at Jack again, after which he closed his eyes.

“What's he doing?” Jack asked.

“Meditating, I think,” Daniel answered.

“Is he gonna help?”

“I'm hopin' so,” the archaeologist responded with a shrug.

All of a sudden, Merlin popped out of his trance and stated, “Before I agree to join with you, I need to know that you are willing to do whatever must be done to see it through.”

“Come on, Wiz, you have to know what we've been through just to get to this place,” Jack asserted.

“What you experienced so far is as nothing compared to what is to come,” Merlin countered.

“No problem,” Jack responded.  “We don't quit.”

“In that case, there's much work to be done,” Merlin stated, standing and walking over to the Ancient device that was used to impart knowledge.

“I really don't like that thing,” Jack bemoaned, not wanting to even go near the object.  “My head's hurting just looking at it.”

“It's not made for us,” Daniel reminded as he stood and walked over to his lover, turning around so he could watch Merlin, whose head was staring into the device while his hands held on to its sides.

“How long do you think he's gonna be in that head sucker?” Jack questioned, inching his way far from the device.

“I have no idea.”

Nodding, Jack moved even further away and surveyed the chamber in a panoramic turn.  Then he reached into one of the deep pockets in his BDU pants and pulled out a small ball.  His brown eyes smiled playfully at his husband.

Catching the ball that was tossed to him, Daniel laughed, “We're in a chamber, on a planet we have no idea where it is, with a ... wizard, and you want to play catch.”

Jack caught the ball Daniel lobbed to him and, with a grin, responded, “No, I want to do something else, but three's a crowd.”

Seeing his lover glance over at Merlin, the younger man dropped his head, shaking it as he replied, “I can't believe you said that out loud.”

“He's busy,” Jack put forth.

====

The lovers' game of catch had ended quite a while ago, after which Jack had gone out to check on the others working on the DHD, but they hadn't made much, if any, progress.  Now he was back in the chamber with his archaeologist.

“Look at this,” Daniel noted about the holographic images that had been hovering over the platform for quite a while.

“Meaning of life stuff?” Jack questioned, his mind flashing back to the first year of exploration for SG-1 when holographic images of great importance had led his archaeologist to a heightened level of excitement on Heliopolis, also known as Ernest's Planet.  ~Heightened?  Geez, he was near-orgasmic, not that I knew the full extent of ... O'Neill, focus.~

“No,” Daniel refuted, “more like ... big, honkin' weapon stuff.”

“Yeah?” the general asked eagerly, looking upward at the display with more excitement now.

Daniel just shook his head and continued to study what he was seeing.

====

After working for several hours, Merlin fell back, explaining that he needed a rest. It coincided with a light that quickly shimmered across the chamber.

“Daniel, what was that?”

“I don't know,” Daniel answered.

“O'Neill, come quickly,” Teal'c requested over the radio.

“Uh, we'll be ... right back,” Daniel told Merlin, sensing that he needed to see whatever was happening.

“This is so not the desert,” Jack observed as he watched the snow flurries fly.

“It's nighttime.”

“Daniel, do you have any idea how many hours ago it was when we woke up?”

After a thoughtful blink, the archaeologist answered, “When it was daylight.”

Jack groaned and then called out to the others as they stood by the DHD, “What happened?”

“The Gate activated on its own.  The crystal on the obelisk began to glow, and then everything changed,” Teal'c reported.

“So we're ... on another planet,” Daniel determined in amazement.

“Well, Daniel, it makes sense.  You said Morgan wanted to keep Merlin hidden, so this would be a great way to do it.  My guess is we're traveling through a circuit of planets, cut off from the rest of the Gate system by a deliberate alteration of the DHD program,” Sam postulated.

The team didn't know if they'd be able to dial out.  Sam still thought it was possible if they could find the automatic dialing program in the DHD and shut it down.

“You can do it, right?” Jack asked his 2IC.

“I think so ... maybe.”

“No pressure, Carter,” the general lied, turning around following Daniel back to the chamber.

====

“You have returned, Galahad.”

“Uh, Daniel,” the archaeologist stated as he sat down next to Merlin.

“I have lived many lifetimes.  First, in Atlantis; then on Earth, before the dawn of your civilization.  Then I joined the ranks of the Ascended, and, finally, I returned to mortal form, to live out my remaining days among the noblemen of Arthur's Court, or so I thought; and through all these eons, only one thing has stayed the same: there is never enough time.”

“Well, we're safe for the moment.  You can take all the time you need,” Daniel assured.

“Yeah, no pressure,” Jack added less convincingly than his soulmate had.

“I slept too long.  My body betrays me.”

“You realize what's at stake,” Daniel stated pointedly.  “If you don't help us, the Ori will take this galaxy.”

Sighing, Merlin agreed, “One last task then before I rest.”

Jack and Daniel helped Merlin back to the Ancient device.

Merlin placed his hands on it and was about to activate it fully when he turned back and wished, “Good luck, Doctor Jackson.”

Jack and Daniel exchanged a surprised look at the comment, not understanding its meaning.  They watch Merlin utilize the device, but after just a moment, he fell backward, taking one last breath and then dying.

“Daniel, I'm getting a funny feeling here,” Jack confided.

“I don't understand.  He was going to help us,” Daniel stated.

“His ticker stopped.  He was an ice cube in that stasis chamber for a long time.  It's not the easiest thing to deal with.”

“Sir ...”  Sam paused, walking in and surprised to see Merlin's body on the floor.  “What happened?”

Daniel brought Sam up to speed, prompting her to comment how prophetic the remark seemed to have been.

“Which leaves us with no Sangreal and, for the moment, no way off this planet,” Jack lamented.

“I told you I can fix the dialing device,” Ba'al insisted, surprising everyone since he could speak once again.  “Merlin's little trick with my vocal cords expired at the same moment he did.”

“Yet another reason to mourn his passing,” Teal'c quipped.

~The big guy is getting good at being sarcastic,~ Jack opined silently.  “Carter, shouldn't you be ...”

“Oh, yes, well, we just needed a break, General.  It's a little ... nippy out there.”

Jack nodded in agreement and then pointed to Teal'c, signaling him to move Merlin from the floor back to the table.

====

The general went outside to check on the progress of Sam and the others with the DHD.  Unfortunately, while the bickering between Sam and Ba'al had increased, they still hadn't made any real progress with their task.  Colder than he'd been in a long time, Jack returned to the chamber where his lover was pondering Merlin's death.

“Any ideas?”

“He said he had one more thing to do before he could rest,” Daniel returned thoughtfully, talking to himself as much as he was answering his Love's question.

“I don't see any weapons.”

“He didn't have time,” Daniel stated, walking over to the knowledge device.

“Daniel, don't stand so close to that thing.”

“Now this is obviously some sort of virtual interface, like a computer-assisted design program.”

~I hate it when he ignores me,~ Jack whined internally.

“Only in the past, we've seen it used to download information into someone's mind,” Daniel continued.  “All the knowledge of the Ancients,” he elaborated, not really even aware whether or not Jack was listening.

~He's in that Daniel zone again,~ the general observed nervously.

“It's too much for a human brain to handle.”

“I can attest to that.”

Daniel actually looked at his husband and asked, “But ... but what if you could control it an...and use it to store and load something more specific?”

“Such as?” Jack asked.  ~Wow, he noticed me.~

“I'm not sure,” Daniel answered, glancing over at Merlin's body in a leading manner.

Jack, too, focused on Merlin's body.  He cocked his head as he stared, wondering what there was to learn by staring at a dead wizard.

~Oh, crap!~  Jack's heart fell and his blood pressure skyrocketed in a split second.  “Daniel!”

It was too late.  With Jack distracted, Daniel began what was a new day by having taken his place in front of the knowledge device. He'd grabbed the handles, activating it.

“Daniel!” Jack called out again as he reached his husband.  ~I'm gonna kill him, after I kiss him silly.~  He breathed heavily, unable to stop what was happening and afraid that even if he could, the process would kill his Heart.  ~Oh, geez, Danny.  This thing is nothing but trouble.  How could you do this to me?~

Jack was angry and worried at the same time.  He hadn't suspected Daniel would put himself in harm's way with the Ancient device.  His internal Daniel alarm hadn't indicated any warnings at all.

~Which just means you were all the more determined,~ the general sighed.  Having no choice, he watched until finally Daniel was thrust back.  “Whoa, Danny.”  Gently, he held his lover as he eased him to the cold floor of the chamber.  ~Snap out of it, Angel.  I need you.~

The archaeologist was unconscious, his head nestled against Jack's shoulder. Tenderly, Jack rested his head atop his Love's and let it stay there.  He knew of nothing else to do.

“I love you, Danny,” Jack whispered, placing a kiss atop Daniel's head.

As the two men were coupled together, the room was filtered by a bright light for a moment.  Jack realized the group must have been transported to yet another planet.

“Sir?” Sam called out over the radio.

Clearing his throat from his emotion, Jack clicked his radio and spoke in a low voice, “I know, Carter.  We're on another planet.”

“This one is more conducive to working out here.  It's like the end of autumn, a lot of dead leaves on the ground and it's a little foggy, but we're out of that blizzard,” Sam reported.

“Glad to hear it.”

Sam noted the deflated monotone of her CO's response and questioned, “General, is everything all right in the chamber?”

Jack's head brushed against Daniel's silky hair as he sighed, “Not really, but keep at it out there.”

Not quite understanding, but having received her orders, Sam acknowledged the transmission and went back to work.

“J'ck?”

“Daniel?”

Unfortunately, that was all Daniel said.  He was awake, but unable to function much, except to sit up and then bury his head in his hands.  Jack tried talking to his husband, but whatever was happening was simply too powerful for Daniel to respond, except that when Jack sat back down next to him, the archaeologist leaned over, resting against the older man.

~That's my Danny.~  Jack put his arm around Daniel, holding him close and again leaning his head against his Love's.  Then he heard steps and knew the others were returning.  He hated doing it, but he shifted their positions, but only slightly.  He was still holding his husband, just not quite as intimately.  ~You'd better come back to me, Daniel.~

“Sir, I just ...” Sam paused, walking slowly around to where she could see the two men.  She was alone, having come up with an excuse to check on her teammates. “What happened?” she queried, jogging to close the distance between them faster.

“Daniel stuck his head in that friggin' head sucker,” Jack explained.  “He's out of it.”

Suddenly, Daniel's head moved upward.  He looked at Jack and smiled as they pulled apart.

“He was right.  You do look like Percival.”

“Excuse me?” Jack questioned.

It quickly became apparent that Daniel was sharing his mind with Merlin, something that was disconcerting to Jack.

“You have Merlin's memories?” Sam asked.

“Some of them -- Earth, Atlantis, and the different medieval societies he set up throughout the galaxy; and the work he did in this lab,” Daniel answered as he stood up and began to get his bearings.  He looked at Jack and explained, “Merlin knew he didn't have the strength to finish his weapon.  His body had deteriorated too much during the stasis, so he gave me the knowledge.”

“You mean he knew you'd figure out that you needed to stick your head in that thing,” Jack responded a bit angrily.

“I had to do it, Jack, and I have to do it again now.”

Once again, Daniel activated the Ancient machine, frustrating his husband to the depths of his restraint.

“I can see it now.  I can do this,” Daniel asserted.

“Daniel, that thing almost killed me -- *twice*,” Jack argued.

“I'd better get back.  I just wanted to make sure you were all right,” Sam stated quietly, feeling the tension rising between the two.

Jack said nothing, his focus on his husband as Sam headed back outside to assist with the DHD problem.

====

For hours, Daniel stood, his mind connected to the Ancient device and forming molecules in the display, only the display was becoming real as a tangible device was being built atop the platform.  Jack could only watch and then be grateful when Daniel stepped back and the machine turned off.  When his Love stumbled, Jack swooped in to steady him.

“Thanks,” Daniel said as he rubbed his tired eyes.

“What is that?” Jack asked, looking at the now solid circular device that was on the platform.

“Stage one.  The first step towards creating Merlin's weapon.”

“It's real?” Jack questioned, wanting to touch it but thinking perhaps he shouldn't.

“Yeah.  That's exactly what this device does.  It allows you to design and configure something virtually and then materializes it.”

“Like when I made the big bug killer,” Jack surmised, thinking back to the anti-Replicator weapon he'd built after using the knowledge device for the second time.  “Daniel, bottom line it for me.  How long?”

“Uh ...”  Daniel leaned forward, almost falling again until Jack grabbed hold yet again.  “I'm fine.  It's just this machine takes a lot out of you. The, uh, level of concentration required is pretty intense,” he stated, holding his hand to his eye.

All of a sudden, a canteen floated through the air to the archaeologist, lightly hitting Daniel's unoccupied hand.

“Whoa!” Jack exclaimed.

“Okay, that happened,” Daniel acknowledged.  He shrugged and explained, “I was thirsty.  You had healing powers; I guess I have telekinetic powers.”

“I'm not liking this,” Jack sighed as Daniel took a drink.

“I'll be fine.”

“That's crap, Daniel.  I know first hand how that thing messes with your brain.”

“Look, obviously, creating the weapon requires a higher level of brain function. Now, Merlin would have foreseen that.  Trust me, I can handle this.”

“You, I trust.  That machine, not for a second,” Jack barked angrily.

====

Daniel returned to work, creating stage two before pausing to rest again and quipping, “I'm not as young as I used to be.”

“Right,” Jack sighed dryly, feeling such enormous frustration that he thought he might explode at any moment.  “Daniel, how much longer?”

Jack stood up straighter when he didn't get a response.  He went to his archaeologist and tapped him on the shoulder.

Daniel flinched from the touch and in alarm asked, “What's going on?”

“You're fading away, that's what's going on.  Every time you come back from that machine, it gets a little worse, and don't tell me you're fine 'cause that's nothing but crap and you know it.”

“No.  No, I just have too many thoughts in my head.  I can't concentrate.  I get confused,” Daniel admitted.  “Jack, I ... I have to let this happen.  That's the only way I can build Merlin's weapon.  Please don't interfere.”

It was a struggle, but Jack didn't move when Daniel returned to the Ancient machine to use it once again.

~We are *so* retiring soon.  How much more can we give to this universe?  I'd better get him back.  So help me, I'd better get him back.~

Jack didn't know who he was threatening, or maybe he was just warning everyone, everywhere.  Right now, he was not a happy camper.

====

SG-1 and Ba'al had been in the chamber and working on the DHD problem for almost two days when Daniel pulled back from the device and instructed, “Get to the Gate, now.”

“Why?” Jack asked.

“They're coming.”

“They ... who?”

“Jack, it's Adria.  Get to the Gate!”

“Let's go,” Jack stated, tugging on his Love's arm.

Over the radio, Jack heard, “Sir, we've got company; we're under attack,” from his 2IC.

“Daniel!” Jack called out again, getting a nod from Daniel.

Daniel acted like he was going to follow Jack, who ran for the exit to assist his team in defending themselves.  He didn't know that Daniel stopped, seeing Adria suddenly appear inside the chamber.

“Doctor Jackson.”

“You're too late,” Daniel told the Orici.

“You haven't completed the weapon.  I'd say I'm just in time.”

“And I'd say things are different now.”

--

Outside, Jack joined the battle, fighting with all his might.  Then, unexpectedly, the sky darkened and lightening began to strike, killing the Ori soldiers.

~That was weird.~  Jack looked around and then realized a horrible truth.  “Daniel!”

--

With Daniel weakened and on his knees, Adria gloated, “Draining isn't it?  Instead of helping your friends, you should have saved your energy to deal with me.”

As Adria leaned down, Daniel asked, “Would it have made a difference?”

“Probably not,” Adria admitted, her mind taking control of Daniel's body and literally flying it through the chamber and over to the exit where she flung the archaeologist out of the cave.

“Daniel!” Jack shouted, hurrying over to his lover as he landed near the DHD.

“It would have been so easy,” Adria contended, surprising the others when she appeared at the cave entrance.  “You only needed to embrace Origin.  Now, you must be destroyed.”

As Adria raised her hand and launched a flame of energy towards SG-1, Daniel leaped to his feet and held up his left hand, releasing a ball of white energy towards the Orici.  The two were fighting, and it was intense.

“Get through the Gate, now!” Daniel ordered, knowing he couldn't hold up for long.

“We're not leaving you here!” Jack exclaimed.

“I'll be right behind you!”

“Daniel!”

“Go!”

Leaving Ba'al, who had been shot by one of the Ori guard, behind, Sam and Teal'c hurried through the Gate.  Jack remained, not intending to step through the Stargate without his husband.

Sensing this, Daniel used his telekinetic ability.  Involuntarily, Jack felt an energy going through him and he knew exactly what his archaeologist was doing.

“Don't ... Dan...”

His plea unanswered, Jack felt himself being lifted and then thrown through the Stargate.

Having saved his Heart, Daniel fell to the ground when the Gate deactivated.  He had no more energy within him.  He looked up to see Adria staring down at him.

~Jack is safe.~

--

“I'm going to kill him,” Jack shouted as he was still sprawled out on the ramp at in the gate room.  ~We have a pact, Danny.  How could you do that?~

“Jack!” Hammond called out, passing by the medical team that Jack had waved off.  “What happened?  Where's Doctor Jackson?”

“Carter, can we go back?”

“A DHD buffer typically holds that last fifty addresses that were dialed, and we went through three Gates before getting there.  We've got a lot of planets to check,” Sam answered a bit regretfully.

“Even if we could return to the planet, at this point, I fear it will do us little good,” Teal'c interjected.

“Merlin gave Daniel some pretty valuable intel.  Adria knows that,” Jack sighed as he finally stood up.  “She'll keep him alive,” he asserted, staring a bit blankly into the eyes of his 2IC.

“Yes, Sir, she will,” Sam confirmed emotionally.  “We'll find Daniel.”

“He always comes back,” Jack returned.  ~Just come back to me in one piece, Love.~  He looked at Hammond and requested, “Sir, if you don't mind, I'd like Carter to get cracking on those addresses.”  Not waiting for a response, he headed for the locker room, exhausted and full of worry.  ~Why is it always you, Daniel?~

====

~Okay, now what?~ Daniel asked Merlin, even though he knew he wasn't going to get a response.  He was aboard an Ori ship and was still recovering from the events on the planet.  ~Jack is *so* going to kill me.  We'll have great makeup sex.  Gawd, what I am thinking?  I feel like crud, like I have a ... a hangover.  When we have kids, we'll have to stop drinking.  We can't raise kids and feel like this.  Sorry, Babe, the beer has to go.  Well, okay, not completely, but we'll lessen it.~

Daniel steeled himself for what was about to happen.  He still had Merlin's memories, and the weapon, though incomplete, was on the ship.  Somehow, he was going to have to figure out how to finish and ultimately use it.

~Danny's World.  I have to be even tougher.~  Laughing hauntingly, Daniel lamented, ~The fate of the universe is in my ha...head.  It's our turn, Jack.  Gawd, not again.  Haven't we done this enough?~

====

With a beer in his hand, Jack sat alone on the roof deck of his home.  He stared up at the stars, finding no comfort in them.  In a whisper, he recited:

moon of the universe
only a quarter of thee
the stars burst bright
with memory of light
only partial it be
the memory of thee

Jack took a swig of his beer, letting the bottle dangle in between his fingers as his hand fidgeted as it lingered just beyond his up-bent knees.  He leaned his head back and looked up again at the night sky.  He noted a twinkling star that seemed to vanish from his sight and again, he whispered his oration:

the twinkling of one
it fades with longing
its brothers and sisters shining
oblivious to the void
the memory of light
the memory of thee

The silver-haired man's head hung low now, his inner despair tearing him apart.  He believed Daniel was alive, but at the same time, he had no idea what was happening to him.  Neither did he know if he'd ever see his Love again.  It was a torture unlike any other.

As Jack downed the rest of his beer, he heard two sounds.  They were tiny and faint, but he recognized them.  They were calling to him, pleas for faith.  Standing, he stretched for a moment, looking out over the night which made the clouds nearly indistinguishable.

Then the general climbed down the ladder and knelt down to look at Bijou and Katie.

“Sorry, girls.  I was ... lost up there.  Let's go to bed.”

A few minutes later, Jack was in the now way-too-big and way-too-empty bed.  As Jack stared up at the ceiling, Katie rested on his chest while Bijou was lying along his arm, her snout actually lying between his arm and torso.

Katie let out a whine and Bijou sighed.

“Yeah, I know what you mean.  It's too quiet in here.”

====

“Are you ready to begin your journey?” Adria asked, having entered the quarters assigned to Daniel on the Ori warship.

Daniel blinked, having made a decision over the last several hours of his confinement.  He'd been given clothing to wear that was like those of crewmen on the vessel and though it was a new day, he hadn't slept much at all.  Instead, he'd been working on his plan, although the plan was actually his and Merlin's.  To make it work, he'd have to pull off one of the best acting jobs of his life, perhaps even better than years earlier when he'd had to pretend that he and Jack were on the outs.  Still, he had to use common sense.  He couldn't turn too fast.

“I'd rather take a nap,” Daniel replied, faking a large yawn.

Adria walked over to Daniel as he sat at the side of his bed.  She leaned over, her hand going under his chin as she spoke.

“You will embrace Origin.  Rest another day.  We will begin tomorrow.”

“I didn't think patience was one of your ... virtues.”

Standing, her glare suggesting her ire at the affront, Adria held her tongue in check and responded, “For you, I will make an exception.”  She turned and walked to the doorway.  Turning around to face Daniel again, she warned, “This one time.”

When the door closed, Daniel let out a sigh and then reclined back onto the bed, his eyes looking up at the empty ceiling.

~I don't know that I can do this.~

~You must, Daniel.  It is the only way,~ Merlin told the inhabiter of the body whose brain he shared at the moment.

~There are ... I mean ...~ Daniel stammered, unable to get out his thoughts about Jack.

~Do not think so hard, Galahad.~

~I'm not ...~

~Rest now,~ Merlin insisted, cutting off Daniel's thoughts.  ~The fight will take all our might.~

For the rest of the day, Merlin essentially forced Daniel to sleep and rest, knowing that what lie ahead would tax them both.

====

Over the next few days, Daniel continued to show signs of resistance, arguing with Adria and even pretending to try to escape a couple of times.  When left alone, Merlin helped him to prepare for the fight that was to come.  Then Daniel acted as if he were seeing the light.  He reread the Book of Origin and began to talk in earnest about it with the Orici.

Given his perceived sincerity, Adria began to trust Daniel more.  His knowledge and questions about Origin impressed her.  They spent hours together discussing the religion.

~It's like she's in my head,~ Daniel told Merlin one night.  ~I can hear her preaching to me.~

~She is powerful, Daniel, but she is full of vanity.  She lacks the purity of Guinevere.~

~Or Percival.~

====

Three nights after Daniel's abduction by Adria, Jack had completed a sixteen-hour duty shift.  Most personnel were continuing to do double shifts and many were staying over in quarters at the Mountain.  On this night, though, the general had been sent home by the man in charge of Stargate Command -- Lou Ferretti.

//Flashback//
Jack was off-duty and was supposed to be resting in his VIP quarters.  With Hammond and other key personnel either off the base or off-world for the night, that left Ferretti in command for the very first time.

Things were quiet at Cheyenne Mountain.  Numerous SG units were actually on other worlds, searching for intel on the Ori as well as keeping an eye out for Daniel.  The majority of the rest of the teams were sleeping.  Research units were working round the clock on all kinds of weaponry and notions to help fight the Ori and the priors, so many of the labs were the busiest places on the facility.

Ferretti's peaceful night in charge was risked only by a hushed murmuring that he'd heard from certain on-duty personnel who had come in contact with a rather gruff and overbearing General Jack O'Neill.  They weren't complaining.  Lou was their friend and it didn't even occur to them that by grumbling to Lou, they were grumbling to the current base commander.

Taking his job seriously, however, Lou tracked Jack down in the general's office.  Fortunately, no one else with an office close to Jack's was in the vicinity.

“Having a bad night, Jack?” Lou questioned as he looked at his friend while leaning back on the door he'd just closed.

“Shut up, Lou,” Jack barked, picking that moment to throw down another set of files.  Roughly, he ran his hands through his silver hair in frustration.  ~Why can't he leave me alone?~

“I've never known you to react like this.” Lou commented, getting comfortable in his spot as he crossed arms and ankles.  Tilting his head slightly, he gave the other man a pointed look.  ~I understand, Jack.  You know I do.~

“Deal with it,” the general grouched, really not in the mood for company of any kind.

“Look, Jack, right now you're not hurting anyone else.  If it floats your boat to tear up your office, cool.  You, um, might want to consider that no one is gonna help you put those files back together, though,” Lou pointed out, stepping closer to the table hidden under the mess of papers.

“Wanna bet?” Jack challenged.  He pointed at his stars and asked, “See these?”  With a sneer, he insisted, “I'll have anyone I want put these things back in shape, or maybe I'll just shred them all.”  He looked around at the papers strewn over the cold floor and whined, “Paperwork is crap anyway.”

“Okay, just keep it in here.”

“Or what?”

“Beating up on the lower ranks isn't going to bring Daniel home.”

Angrily, the veins of his neck bulging, Jack charged his friend, getting into his personal space as he griped, “That snarky geek tossed me through the Gate *knowing* he wasn't going to be able to follow.  What *right* does he have to do that?  He disobeyed my orders, which is nothing new, but why now?  We ...”

There was an emotional pause with Jack uncertain whether or not to continue.  He'd caught himself from getting personal.  Of course, before going on his rampage, he'd turned off the recording equipment and Ferretti knew all about Jack and Daniel's marriage.  Still, he stood, breathing heavily, just staring at the Italian.

“Jack, if the situation were reverse, I'm guessing you would have done the same thing,” Ferretti offered calmly.

“I'm so angry, Lou.”

“No kiddin'?” Ferretti replied.  “Look, this isn't you,” he said, motioning to the messy office.  “Go home.  Scream at Daniel.  Get out it.  Then get your butt back here and let's focus on finding him.”  He saw Jack's surprised stare.  “He's out there.  The doc's resilient.  He's no ordinary geek.  He's street smart; you've taught him that.”

“Lou,” Jack began quietly, “we have to find him.”

“Thirteen teams are out there now,” Ferretti reminded.  “Now, get off my base until 0900 hours tomorrow.”

“*Your* base?” Jack questioned antagonistically, raising an eyebrow.

“Until 0900 it is,” Ferretti reminded with a smile, seeing the general taking a step back, as if to withdraw.  “You may have stars, but right now, these silver oak leaves say that what I say goes, so go.”

“I think you're enjoying this.”

“It's not everyday a lieuy colonel gets to tell a brigadier where to go,” Ferretti answered with a smile, using slang to describe his rank.

“Okay, I'll take off for a while,” Jack agreed, patting his friend on the shoulder and then heading for the door.  He turned back and added, “Thanks, Lou.”

“We'll find the Doc, Jack.  He's not gone for good.”

With a hopeful nod, Jack left his office and made his way to the exit.

As for the base commander, he checked his watch and then bent over and began to pick up the files and papers that had been tossed on the floor.  Once they were on Jack's cluttered desk, Lou Ferretti began the daunting task of putting the files back together.  By the time Jack would return, his office, and his paperwork, would be back in tip top order.
//End of Flashback//

Jack went home, spent some time with the beagles and then, after putting them back outside, went into the plant room as it was called, which was completely out of the eyesight and hearing range of the beagles.  There he did exactly what Lou Ferretti had recommended -- he yelled at Daniel, cursing him for breaking their pact to face any unknown future together, not to mention sending him involuntarily through the Stargate.

For a solid hour, Jack let his anger out, shouting at an empty wall until his voice was coarse.  Venting his rage among the in-house greenery was a much-needed release, and doing it in the plant room was just about the only place where he could have done it.  Every other room was either too close to the beagles or full of reminders of Daniel, not that there weren't plenty in this small room as well.

Weary but anger-free, Jack slowly made his way upstairs to Daniel's den.  He walked inside and over to the Jackson-O'Neill Tree of Love, a special arrangement of photos meaningful to the couple.

“I love you, Danny, and you're coming home.  I don't know when, but you are.  When you do, we're gonna talk, but I'm not going to yell.  I just want you home, Angel.  Lou's right.  I would have done the same thing.”

Jack took a shower and changed into his sweats and then he welcomed Bijou and Katie back inside the house, soaking in their love and comforting them as he was being comforted by them.

====

“Of course, Origin is designed to channel the energy of its followers to the Ori,” Adria stated as she and Daniel walked down a corridor of the ship.

Daniel was getting in deeper with his ruse.  He was having a religiously intellectual discussion about something that sounded righteous, but which was really a cover for pure evil.  He had to look interested, and he had to be a participant, even if it turned his blood.

This conversation continued on, Adria postulating about the self-righteousness of the Ancients.

“They claim not to interfere, but they do manipulate.  They use their power to hoard their knowledge and prevent those beneath them from reaching their level.”

“They ... twist the truth to benefit them,” Daniel replied.  ~Not that far from the truth, actually.~

“Yes,” Adria agreed, stopping when they reached a chamber Daniel hadn't been to as yet.  She looked at Daniel, running her hand along his cheek.  “You have come far in a short time.”

“My eyes are open now,” the archaeologist lied softly.  ~Please stop touching me.  It's all I can do not to cringe.  I'm a scientist, not an Academy Award winner.~

“Come,” Adria instructed, leading Daniel inside to her private chamber.

~Oh, boy,~ Daniel thought, internally sounding more like Jack than himself.  ~Jack isn't going to like this.~

~Be steady, Galahad.~

~Right,~ Daniel told Merlin in reply.

“We will study here today.  It is more comfortable,” Adria stated.

From this point on, the many hours of study and conversation between Adria and Daniel occurred in the comfort of the Orici's quarters.  He was just grateful her growing interest in him, which he knew was necessary, hadn't progressed further than frequent touches to his face.  She did it often, though, and he was beginning to think he might regurgitate if she placed her palm against his skin one more time.

~Pretend she is your Guinevere, Daniel,~ Merlin urged, giving Daniel the strength to carry on.

~You got my name right.~ Daniel thought in surprise.

~Daniel, Galahad: what's in a name,~ Merlin questioned as a statement.

====

Surrounded by comfortable cushions, Daniel sat on the floor, acting relaxed and totally at ease.  They were contemplating when Adria opened her eyes and looked across at the archaeologist.

“In our time together, I've really come to see in you what draws Mother's affection.”

Startled, Daniel stuttered, “Mo...mother?  Vala?  Affectio-what?”

Moving closer, Adria returned, “I can sense her emotion.”

“That's ... uh ...”  Daniel was stunned by the comment and for one of the few times in his life was speechless.  ~Help.~  A moment later, he spoke calmly.  “Affection of the heart is sweet.”

Adria smiled and admitted, “I do not know my mother well.  She does not embrace Origin.”

“Then her affection for me would be misplaced.”

Adria's smile became more pronounced and confident as she observed Daniel.

“I can feel the difference in you.”

“It's because you've done so much for me, showing me the true path,” Daniel replied.

“I'm glad, and there's so much more I can do for you; and you for me,” Adria proclaimed, getting closer to Daniel.

~Oh, gawd.~

~Be strong, Daniel.  This is it.  This is our plan in action.  You will be changed,~ Merlin encouraged.

Not happy about what was within a nanosecond of happening, Daniel nevertheless gave in and returned Adria's kiss.  Then he felt her hands on his forearms.

~Okay, glowing pendant means ...~

Caressing his cheek, Adria announced, “And now you will spread the word of the Ori and lead others down the true path.”

~Merlin, am I a ... a prior?~

~Yes, Galahad.  We are a prior.~

~Sweet,~ Daniel sighed inwardly while smiling outwardly at the Orici.

====

Later that day, Daniel made his first visit to a planet.  A part of him was hoping to see SG-1, but there were no outsiders in the village.  He smiled and chatted warmly with the inhabitants about the Book of Origin and then returned to the Ori vessel, receiving praise from Adria.

“Adria, I think I can help you, us, in a ... a better capacity,” Daniel put forth.

“How so?”

“Merlin's weapon.”  Daniel could see from the Orici's expression that she was pleased.  He also sensed something else.  ~She was waiting to see if I'd offer.~

~Convince her, Galahad.  Make her believe she inspires you to do this for her and her army of Ori,~ Merlin actuated.

~Yes,~ Daniel concurred.  “I can do it; I can complete the weapon.  I have Merlin's knowledge.”

“Yes, I know,” Adria replied.  “You will finish making Merlin's weapon and then we will use it to destroy the Ancients.”

“I'll get started in the morning,” Daniel returned.  “Now, I ... I have to think.”

“Rest,” Adria insisted.

Daniel nodded and then returned to his quarters, feeling relieved for the precious moments he had away from Adria.

~We can do this,~ Merlin told Daniel, continuing to encourage and provide strength for the archaeologist.

====

Hearing the announcement of the returning SG team, Jack made his way to the gate room.  He watched as SG-3 handed over their weapons to the SFs and began to walk out of the room.  Colonel Reynolds was walking right toward him, and the two made eye contact.

“How'd it go on ...” Jack began, pausing as he searched for the planet's designation.

“P9C-882,” Reynolds responded.  “I'm sorry, General.  There was no sign of Doctor Jackson.  However, I think 882 is a prime candidate for Colonel Carter to test out her cloaking thing.”

Disappointed with the news of no news about his husband, Jack nodded and ordered, “We'll debrief in 30.”

“Yes, Sir,” Reynolds acknowledged and then walked away.

Jack checked his watch and then headed for Hammond's office to check the calendar in order to ensure the debrief with SG-3 didn't conflict with anything already scheduled.  If necessary, he could just get the highlights from Reynolds personally, but he knew Hammond was anxious for Sam to field test what could be an important defensive weapon against the Ori.

The lieutenant general was due to report in at Stargate Command in fifteen minutes.

====

“Colonel Reynolds,” Hammond instructed as the debrief began.

“Two days ago, the people of 882 were visited by a prior.  He told 'em to build this.”

“What is that?” Hammond asked as he studied the diagram.

“They call that an ara, General,” Sam answered.  “I saw a reference to it in the notes that Daniel and I received from our counterparts in the other reality.”  She looked around the room hesitantly as she elaborated, “It's used to burn people alive.”

“Hello!” Jack exclaimed, cringing at the thought.

“The prior is due back tomorrow afternoon,” Reynolds added.

“Are they building this ... ara?” Hammond inquired.

“No, Sir,” Reynolds answered.  “They rejected the idea from the start.  They lived under the Goa'uld for centuries.  They're not about to give up their freedom again.  They've asked for our help.”

All eyes focused on Sam, who cocked her head as she responded, “I think we're ready to go, Sir, although I can't promise it will work.”

“Colonel, if it doesn't, this ara probably won't matter,” Hammond stated.

“They'll all be dead,” Jack surmised solemnly.  He looked at his 2IC and asked, “How much time do you need to set that gizmo up?”

“A few hours, but we should go as soon as possible,” Sam advised the group, “just in case it needs ... tweaking.”

“SG-1, SG-3, you have a go as soon as you're ready to depart.  Good luck,” Hammond ordered, standing and making haste to his office.

“Colonel,” Reynolds called out as everyone stood up.  “These people won't give in.”

“But no pressure,” Jack added.

Sam nodded and left the room to begin preparing Merlin's device for the off-world journey.

====

On the planet, the two SG teams met with Thilana, the leader of the community, and explained what they wanted to do and how they hoped it would protect the village.

“Um, I need a place to set up,” Sam requested.  “It doesn't need to be too big, but it should be inside.”

“I know just the place,” Thilana responded, leading the personnel onward.  “For years, my ancestors were forced to record the true history of our people in secret, beyond the eyes of the Goa'uld.  Our library now houses their legacy.  It seems appropriate for you do your work there.”

“I'm flattered,” Sam responded, smiling at the leader of the village.

====

It took Sam and those helping her with the setup of the Ancient device a few hours to get everything hooked up and arranged properly.  After doing a couple of preliminary checks on the connections and hookup, it was time to test it out.

“Sir,” Sam spoke over the radio to Jack.  “We're ready to go.”

--

In the village square, Jack stepped up onto a bench and whistled to get the attention of the buzzing locals.

“Now that I have your attention,” the general began with a small smile.  “We're about to go invisible.  If it goes as planned, you won't even notice.  If not, well ... let's think positive.”  Stepping down, he clicked his radio.  “Reynolds, this is O'Neill.”

“Reynolds,” the colonel acknowledged.

“We're about to do a David Copperfield cover up,” Jack announced, equating the cloaking to a magician's trick.  “Remember, we'll be out of radio contact once we go out of phase.”

“Understood.”

Again clicking his radio, “Okay, Carter.  Do it.”

--

From the Stargate where Reynolds and his team were watching the village when it faded into apparent nothingness.

Awed by the wonder, the SG-3 leader remarked brightly, “We have the craziest jobs in the world.”  His team's task over, SG-3 was to return to Earth.  To his second, he ordered, “Dial us out, Lieutenant.”

====

That night, with the cloak active and working successfully, the villagers were honoring SG-1 with a feast.

~Nothing new,~ Jack thought, a pasted smile on his face.  It's not that he wasn't happy about the mission's success or that the people were being gracious hosts; rather, it was just that Daniel wasn't there to partake in the village's unique foods.  He didn't want to be unkind, so though his heart was distracted, he smiled as best he could and tried to take in as much of the conversation as possible.  ~Been to one feast, been to them all.~

Thilana stood and to her people spoke, “Tonight we honor our newest friends from Earth, whose wisdom, generosity, and kindness have allowed us to resist those who wish to return us to slavery.”  Looking at SG-1, she welcomed, “We extend to you our deepest and most sincere thanks.”

As a young girl presented Sam with flowers, the blonde smiled shyly and said, “Thank you.”

“We're glad we can help,” Jack stated in acceptance of the kind words.

As the celebration continued that evening, Jack walked casually through the villagers, smiling, though not really seeing.  He found a corner and sat down on a bench, hoping to be left alone, only it wasn't long before Thilana wandered over.

“You are not enjoying the feast, General.”

“I had plenty,” Jack acknowledged, looking over his shoulder at the village leader.  “It was very good.  Thank you.”

“You look worried,” Thilana observed.  “Do you have doubts that the shield will fail?”

“Oh, no,” Jack stated definitively.  “Carter knows her doohickeys well.”

“Doo...hickey?” Thilana questioned, sitting down next to the general.

Jack smiled warmly and chuckled as he explained, “That's the technical term for that device.”  He realized he'd confused the woman, but he wasn't concerned about that.  “Thilana, the prior who visited this village ...”

“He will return tomorrow.”

“And he'll find nothing,” Jack assured.  “Was he alone?”

“Yes.  He walked with confidence, a staff in his hand.”

“Did he ... mention any other humans or ...?” Jack questioned.

“He spoke only about his religion and how we should follow his gods, but we recognized the words as being false,” Thilana returned before hearing her name being called and then rejoining the party.

“Wish I knew if that was good or bad,” Jack sighed.

====

Jack walked forward, hearing the approach of the prior.  The robed postulator was alone, striding purposefully, yet slowly towards where the village was.

“He can't see us,” Sam stated as she joined her CO.

“And he's not gonna bump into anything, either, right?”

“No, Sir.  He's in another dimension.  We can see and hear him, but we can't touch him.”

“He looks confused.”

“An entire village has disappeared,” Sam mused happily.  “I recommend we keep the village shielded for a couple of days, in case he returns.”

“Can you and Teal'c handle it?”

“Of course.  Are you going back to the SGC?” Sam questioned.

“Carter, if I just sit here for two days, I'll go stir crazy,” Jack admitted honestly.  “I have to keep busy.”

“I understand, Sir.”

“Let's give it a couple of hours in case they're lurking up there.”

Sam nodded before heading for the library to do a routine observation of the equipment.

Jack sighed, knowing he should probably stay, but also realizing he had to do more than walk the village's perimeter and twiddle his thumbs.

~Daniel, you'd better get back here fast.~

====

After having worked on finishing Merlin's weapon for a few days, Daniel was actually much closer to completing it than he was letting on to the Orici.  Though Adria dearly wanted the device, she was also afraid of the Ancients somehow getting control of Merlin's creation before the Ori could take advantage of it.
        
“They've interfered once before in its creation.  You're using Merlin's knowledge, knowledge he kept from them when he was ascended,” Adria told Daniel.

“But if I don't finish it ...”

“For now, you must help bring the energy of more followers into the fold,” Adria insisted.

“I'll do whatever you want, Adria, but are you sure?  I know you are concerned, but ...”

“Spread the word, Daniel.  Lead the followers to the words of the Ori,” Adria instructed.

Daniel nodded, secretly happy with the request.  He needed to make contact with SG-1.  It was a big galaxy, but surely they had to be looking for him.  Besides, if he just visited enough worlds, people would tell SGC personnel about the unusual prior.

~They'll have to know it's me,~ Daniel opined silently.

====

Daniel was transported to another Ori warship.  The life of a prior was not as slow as their walk.  Traveling by spaceship made it possible to visit multiple worlds in a single day.  As a rule, he would visit one planet during early morning, another midday, and a third in the late afternoon or early evening.

His time on the ship was spent, supposedly, in private mediation, reading the Book of Origin, and being present for the Ori soldiers on board.

Oftentimes, Daniel would take a casual walk around the vessel.  He was trusted by now.  Not only was he a prior, but he was considered the Orici's pet, having been personally chosen by Adria.  He used this to his advantage, to try to observe and learn everything he could.

One night, the archaeologist wandered onto a level he hadn't been to before. Many Ori soldiers had their quarters on this level, but towards the rear, quarters gave way to cells.

~Why have cells?  They kill anyone who doesn't capitulate,~ Daniel thought as he walked.  ~Which is why they're all empty.~  He walked several yards further.  ~Except for this one.~  Stopping, Daniel turned and faced the front of the locked cell.  “Hello.”

“Go away, Prior,” the man requested.  He was staring at his clasped hands as he sat on the only other flat surface of the cell.  The prisoner was dressed in loose brown pants and a shirt that has seen better days.  ~Leave me to suffer in solitude.~

“Why are you here?”

“You don't honor the Book of Origin.”

“What makes you think that?” Daniel asked curiously.

Murky brown eyes gazed into the whitish blue eyes of Daniel's prior face before staring blankly at his cell wall and responding, “It doesn't matter.”

“No, really.  Why did you say that?”  When the man didn't respond, Daniel continued, “Are you trying to say I don't practice what I preach?  I know that's a cliché, but ...”

“You speak strangely for a prior.”

“What is your name?”

“Tomin.”

“Tomin,” Daniel repeated, realizing the man was Vala's husband.  “I have heard of you.”

“The Orici enjoys making me an example,” Tomin stated.  “It would be better if she killed me instead of using me as she is.”

“How is that?”

“I thought you said you knew who I was,” Tomin asked, a bit taken aback by the question.

“Your name, yes,” Daniel answered.  “Why are you imprisoned?”

“Because I believe the Ori are misinterpreting the words from the Book of Origin,” Tomin stated.  “Do not the Ori wish all who seek their wisdom to follow the path?”

“Of course.”

“Then why do they murder thousands who have expressed an interest in learning about the Book?” Tomin challenged, standing swiftly to face Daniel with his hands balling into fists at his side.

~Vala's telling the truth,~ Daniel realized inwardly, somewhat surprised, but not completely.  “That ... should not happen.”

“But it did, Prior.  I will not stand by while the holy doctrine of good will and faith that I have sworn to uphold is twisted into a hammer and used to beat people down.”

“That's why you're here?”

“Yes,” the man acknowledged.  “I refused to participate in murder.”  He looked down, sadness in his eyes, as he spoke more quietly, “Then they took her.”

“Vala,” Daniel whispered quietly.

Like a rocket, Tomin's head lifted.

“Look,” the archaeologist paused, looking up and down the corridors, “Vala's okay.  I can't say anything more, but don't give up hope.”

“Who are you, Prior?” Tomin questioned, his brown eyes glaring at Daniel as he tried to figure him out.  ~His words do not make sense, not with what I've seen.~

“A friend.”  Daniel backed up a couple of steps and reiterated, “Don't give up on Vala.  She's ... resourceful.”

Tomin watched, totally confused as Daniel the prior walked away.

~Merlin, can we save him?~

~The plan must come first, Galahad,~ Merlin answered.

====

A couple of days later, Sam entered the gear-up room, sighing when she saw Jack just sitting on the bench in front of his dressing area.  He was all ready to go on their mission, but looked like a copy of The Thinker statue at the moment.

“Sir, General Hammond is waiting for us in the gate room,” Sam stated with a steady voice.

“Three weeks, Carter, and no word from him.”

“He's out there.”

“Where?”

“I wish I knew,” Sam responded quietly.  “But ... it's like you said, Daniel always comes back.”

“Yeah,” Jack sighed, standing up.  “So, another prior, another dollar.  Let's go hear what dribble this one spouts.”

====

SG-1, minus Daniel, of course, walked with the village leader, Tevaris.  They'd met with him before and knew that the villagers were being preached to by a prior.  Today the prior was set to return, and the team just wanted to lurk and see what the latest propaganda was from the world of the Ori.

“He was very persuasive.”

“Convert or die.  Yeah, I'd say that's got some bite,” Jack quipped with a heavy heart.

“He said nothing of death, only salvation and life eternal: the blessings of the Ori,” Tevaris refuted.

The team was curious about this peculiar prior, who hadn't threatened the villagers in the least.  Tevaris was very definite that this prior wasn't at all like the ones SG-1 had described to him.

~Soft sell: that's new,~ Jack thought to himself.

“The prior of Ori returns!” a villager called out.

While, SG-1 took a position by a tent where they could remain unseen by the prior, Tevaris moved forward to greet the Ori prior.

“Welcome back.”

“Thank you, Tevaris.  Have you contemplated your divine right?” the prior asked.

“We have, prior.  We wish to hear more of your wisdom,” the village leader responded.

“It is not my wisdom, but the wisdom of the ages passed on to us by the only true gods.”  The prior lowered his hood, causing SG-1 to gasp.  “Hallowed are the Ori.”

“Daniel,” Sam stated in near shock.

“Carter, is the Odyssey in the vicinity of this planet?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“You and Teal'c get to the Gate and send a message to Hammond.  Tell him to get the Odyssey to prepare a secure room.  You know what we need.”

“It may take a little while,” Sam warned.

“That's Daniel talking, Colonel.  I have a feeling we'll be here a while.”  When Sam nodded, Jack continued, “When the Odyssey is prepared, beam us up; you and Teal'c first, then me, and then Daniel.  Have a zat ready for me the moment I'm beamed up.”

“Sir ...”

“Go!”  As Sam and Teal'c began to leave, Jack called out, “Carter?”  As she turned, he added, “Make sure they know.  No one fires on Daniel but me.  That's a direct order, and I'll personally court-martial anyone who disobeys it.”

Sam nodded and then, with Teal'c following, made her way out of the village square undetected.

~Okay, Daniel, convince me I'm doing the right thing,~ Jack requested silently, afraid to even try their non-verbal communication.  ~You'd better be playing a game, Daniel.  We have plans for the future.~

====

As Daniel the prior continued to meet with the villagers, preaching the Book of Origin, Jack watched.  It was almost a half hour before the general was finally beamed aboard the Odyssey.

“Sir,” Sam called out, tossing him a zat gun.

“Beam him up,” Jack ordered.

Just as Daniel the prior concluded his preaching, saying, “Blessed are those that follow the path to Origin,” he was beamed onto the space vessel.  A bit annoyed, he called out, “Hey!  What took you guys so long?”

“Sorry, Daniel,” Jack sighed as he fired his zat gun at his husband, watching as Daniel fell to the floor unconscious.

Sam clicked her radio, communicating to the ship's captain, “We've got him.  Let's get out of here.”

Immediately, the Odyssey zoomed into hyperspace, leaving the planet far behind them.

Jack hurried over to Daniel and knelt down beside him, reaching out to feel the pulsating beat that confirmed he was alive.

“Teal'c.”

The still-very strong Jaffa lifted Daniel from the floor and placed him on a table.  Jack removed the robes that were common for priors to wear and he personally re-dressed his husband in the blue jumpsuit that was common place for prisoners to wear.

~Blue's your color, Danny, but this just isn't right.  For the first time in my life, I wish you weren't in blue.~

Jack nodded at Teal'c, who then took Daniel and placed him in a chair.  Jack gulped, watching the man he loved being locked down to it.  He flinched, seeing the metal bands secured around Daniel's arms and legs.

~This is not the way I wanted to start out a new year, especially not this year.~

“General, the SGC is still prepping for ... Daniel's arrival.  They should be ready for us by the time we reach Earth,” Sam advised.

“Thank you, Carter,” Jack stated quietly.  He looked over at the guards and ordered, “Out!”

A bit confused since their ship's captain had ordered them to remain with the prisoner, the guards hesitated.

“Excuse me,” Jack called out.  “Does anyone see these?” he asked, pointing to his stars.  “These say 'general'. *Out!*”

In an instant, the guards left the room.  Jack sighed, looking over at Sam, who had glanced nervously at Teal'c.

“Teal'c, tell them to stay outside, by the door,” the general ordered less severely than his previous commands.

====

“J'ck?” Daniel called out a while later as he began to come around.

His guard up, Jack stood and walked over to within two feet of the chair Daniel was tied down to.

“Hey,” the archaeologist greeted, his eyes now open and happy to see his husband looking at him.

“So, you've changed,” Jack stated coldly, a necessary evil until he could verify if the man he was looking at really was his Heart.

Daniel's appearance was far from normal.  He had the bleached skin and wrinkles of a prior.  Though his handsome features might lessen his outer beauty at the moment, Jack was more concerned with what was inside.

“Oh, yeah, it was, uh, necessary.”

“Was it now?”

For the first time, Daniel sensed something was wrong.  He felt the chill and distance.  Then he became cognizant of his physical state and of being confined to a chair.

“Okay.  This is not necessary.” Daniel stated, shaking his bonds.

**Danny, are you in there?** Jack attempted to communicate.  His heart sighed when no response came.  Now he had to say something he didn't want to, but there was always the chance this wasn't Daniel anymore, but just another gimmick, courtesy of the Orici.  ~She changed her shape once; she could do it again.~  With his military persona at the forefront, he advised, “You should know there is someone with a finger poised over a button waiting to beam you out into space.”

Leaning back and closing his eyes, Daniel explained, “We had to let this happen. It's part of the plan.”

“We?” Sam asked, entering the room.  She looked at her CO and commented, “We should be in orbit in about ten minutes.”  Returning her focus to Daniel, she repeated, “We?”

“Hi, Sam.”

“Answer the question,” Jack ordered, not in the mood for pleasantries.

“Myself and ... Merlin.”

“Merlin's still sharing your brain?” Jack questioned.

“Yeah,” Daniel confirmed.

The archaeologist then explained much of what had transpired up until this point, including how he hadn't been strong enough to fight Adria any longer than he had on the planet.  He told Jack that he knew he couldn't let her have control of Merlin's weapon, and that's why he'd let himself be captured.  He elaborated by filling Jack in about her attempts to convert him and how'd he'd played along.

“Daniel, don't take this the wrong way,” Jack began, “but lying isn't your forte, so just exactly how were you able to pull this off?”

With a more distant tone, the response was, “I was able to protect Daniel; make Adria think he had succumbed to her will.”

Sam looked at her CO in surprise and then questioned, “Merlin?”

“It was necessary,” came the reply.  “We told you.”

Recalling what Daniel had told them already, Jack stated, “Look, I get it.  I get that you ... Daniel ... had to get Adria to trust you.  That makes sense; and I get that she kept you alive because in her eyes, you were her best bet at getting to us, Earth.  What I don't get is how Merlin's weapon fits into the picture.”

“Jack,” Daniel began, apparently having flipped the 'who gets to talk switch' with Merlin, “Adria is human.  Her knowledge is still limited.  She needed me to finish the weapon.”

“Finish?  You *finished* it?”

“I told her I would finish it for her, yes, but ... it's not done ... yet.  I needed to have the rest of my plan in place before I finished it.”

“Daniel, you didn't say anything about a plan,” Jack pointed out in frustration.

“You haven't given me a chance.”

“Consider this your chance.  You're a prior, which helps us ... how?”

“So I could steal an Ori ship and fly it through the Supergate to the Ori galaxy with the weapon on board and destroy them.”

“Okay, um, one small flaw in that plan,” Sam interjected.

“I know, there's a wormhole blocking the Supergate, and that's why I'm here.  I need you guys to shut it down.”

“You don't want much, do ya?” Jack asked, standing and surprising Daniel and Sam by leaving the room.

“Sam, this is the only way,” Daniel pleaded as he watched his general walk away.

“You're asking a lot, Daniel,” Sam pointed out before leaving Daniel alone with the two guards who had just entered the secure room now that Jack had left.

~For once, I wish they'd just believe me,~ the archaeologist lamented.

====

SG-1 had beamed down to Stargate Command and were meeting with General Hammond while Daniel remained on the Odyssey.  It had been decided that it would be too risky to allow him to beam down to SGC, even under guard.

“He knew he was no match for her, and he couldn't let Merlin's unfinished weapon fall into her hands, so he and Merlin came up with a plan to fool Adria into thinking that he had succumbed to her power,” Sam told Hammond.

“So he could continue to work on the weapon, ostensibly, this time for her to use against the Ancients,” Jack added.

“You mentioned Merlin,” Hammond interjected.

“Merlin even seemed to be speaking on occasion.  Daniel says that's what's protected him from Adria's influence and what's allowed him to convince her to make him a prior,” Sam answered.  “General,” she began, looking at Hammond, “He wants us to shut down the incoming wormhole so he can dial out.”

“Yeah.  So he says,” Jack sighed.

“You do not believe DanielJackson is being truthful,” Teal'c surmised from Jack's remark.

“I want to believe him.”

“He could be brainwashed,” Sam pointed out.

“It could be Adria, acting again,” Jack put forth as well.

“So this whole thing could be an elaborate plot to get us to shut down that wormhole so more Ori ships can come into our galaxy,” Hammond concluded, seeing the nods of agreement.  “General,” Hammond looked over at Jack, “you're closest to Doctor Jackson.  We need to know the truth here.  Find it.”

Jack watched as Hammond stood and left the briefing room.  He was well aware that both Sam and Teal'c were staring at him, waiting for instructions, or maybe just waiting to see what he'd do.

“Contact the Odyssey.  I need to talk to Daniel.”

====

Focused on his task, Jack walked into the secure room and immediately gestured for the guards to leave, which they did.

“I see you're still ... the new you,” Jack observed.  “Eww.”

“Yeah, it's always something, isn't it?”

“Gotta tell ya, though, not your look.”

“Oh, it is just temporary,” Daniel stated.

“Promise?”

“Jack, when Merlin programmed the Ancient device to download his consciousness into my brain, he gave it a time limit.  See, he knew I could only survive so long with the knowledge and consciousness of two distinct people in one mind, so ...”

Bringing a stool over from the other side of the room to be near his lover's chair, Jack asked, “And when he goes?”

“He's genetically programmed my body and mind to revert back to the state it was in before he was downloaded.”

Sitting down, Jack queried, “He can do that?”

“Yeah, I'm hoping so.  I won't look like this anymore.  I won't have any of the prior's special abilities.  Unfortunately, I'll just be little ole' me again.”

“But that's good news.”

Daniel agreed, “Yeah, except I won't be able to fly an Ori ship; it will be too late to execute the plan; and Adria will have Merlin's weapon.”

“You said that wasn't finished yet,” Jack reminded.

“I told you that it's close to being done,” Daniel corrected, knowing he was being tested.  “All the pieces are there.  It just needs to be assembled.  Adria will figure it out.”

“And just when does your *chariot* turn back into a *pumpkin*?”

“I don't have much time, a day or so,” Daniel sighed.

“A day?” Jack returned incredulously.  “Kinda risky leaving it this late in the game.”

“Well, I didn't have much choice, and it took you guys a little longer to capture me than I planned, so ...”

“Right.  Why did we have to do that again?” the general questioned pointedly.

“Well, I couldn't exactly just come to you.  I think Adria might have suspected something.”

“Yes, I see,” Jack acknowledged, wanting to believe his Love and realizing his answer explanation was logical.

“Jack, you have to believe me!”

“Why?” Jack asked.  **Tell me why, Danny.  *Talk* to me ... here!**

Equal to the incredulous Jack had voiced before, Daniel answered, “Why?  Well, because, oh, I don't know, the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance!”

Shaking his head, Jack responded, “You know, that old chestnut's getting' a little ... old.”

“No, no, that part never gets old.  Now, you have to shut down that Supergate and you have to let me go!”

“You know how much I hate being told what to do,” the general snarked.

“Jack, it's *me*!” Daniel exclaimed, trying desperately to get the other man to realize how important it was to believe in him.

“What, that's supposed to convince me?  Look at you!” Jack shouted with hostility.

“Have I ever let you down?” Daniel returned, though he spoke again before Jack could answer.  “No, don't answer that.  Have I ever let you down when it really mattered?”

Still shouting, Jack answered, “I don't even know who I'm really talking to right now!”

“How about when you put your head in this thing the first time, and I was there to get you through it, not to mention the second time,” Daniel reminded sternly. “Or when you were stranded on Edora?  Or, or when Ba'al killed you ...”

“All right, just stop!” Jack ordered.  “I don't need to be reminded of that!  I've been around this barbecue a few times.  Just because you know the stuff Daniel knows doesn't mean you're him; doesn't mean you're telling the truth.  I mean, come on, you've got to know what you're asking me to do.”

With great sincerity, Daniel acknowledged, “I do.”

“You know, there's a bottom line here.  Carter doesn't think it can be done.”

“So, one more time, I have to prove I'm right?  You can't just ... believe me?”  Daniel saw the noncommittal stare, shook his head, and insisted, “Yes, it can.  A Mark IX beamed directly behind the Gate in the Pegasus Galaxy will destroy that Gate.  The wormhole connection will be broken.”

“How do you know that?” Jack asked incredulously.  ~He sounds more like Carter than himself.~

Fidgeting and tossing his head from side to side, Daniel answered agitatedly, “Hello?  Merlin!”

Mockingly as he rolled his eyes, Jack snarked, “Oh, yes -- Merlin!”

Completely frustrated and distressed, Daniel sighed, “Jack, I wish I had proof.  I wish I had a way to convince you, but I don't.  Now, this was the only choice I had, and I took it.  It's a good plan.  It just happens to hinge on you guys believing in me, having a little *faith*.  Now I thought you of all people might.”

“Why?” Jack shouted.  “You of all people should know that I don't believe anything anybody says, even if I understand what they're talking about!”

“Jack, it's me!”

“Yeah?”  Jack stared at the man in the chair with the hopeful expression on his face.  **Then answer me.**  Once again, there was silence and no look of acknowledgement on Daniel's face.  Waving his hand, he expressed a dismissive, “Oh,” and left the room.

Daniel waved his hands in frustration, as much as he could do, being locked inside restraints.

~I thought he'd believe me, Merlin.  This time, I thought he would.~

====

Outside the secure room, Jack walked out of the sight of the guards and then collapsed back against a wall.

~Why didn't he answer me?~

The general closed his eyes for a minute, so many conflicting feelings flowing within him.  His military self was battling the lover.  It wasn't the first time and hopefully, it wouldn't be the last.

~He knew the past, but ... nothing personal.  He didn't say one thing personal.  Why not?~

====

As Sam entered the briefing room, she looked over at General Hammond's office and asked, “Is that ...”

“Woolsey,” Jack completed.  “He huffed and puffed his way in here a few minutes ago.”

“General Hammond doesn't look happy,” Sam observed as she sat down.  She looked at her CO and asked, “Do you believe Daniel?”

Jack looked his 2IC directly in the eyes and was about to answer when Hammond and Woolsey entered.

For a moment, Hammond glared at the representative from the International Oversight Advisory, and then he looked at SG-1 and advised, “Mister Woolsey has an announcement to make.”

“We're changing our name?” Jack quipped.

The sharply dressed civilian approached the table and began with a bit of an apology for what he was about to say.

“Woolsey, we're in the middle of a crisis here,” Jack interrupted.  “Could you speed it up?”

Woolsey continued to waffle, so much so that Jack stood up and approached him, requesting sternly, “You wanna get to the point?”

“I assure you this may be the hardest decision I'll ever make.”

“Woolsey!”

“I take full responsibility for it,” the man continued.  “Based on my recommendation, the IOA has proposed to the President that Daniel Jackson's life be terminated ... immediately.”

For a moment, Jack just stared at the man.  At the table, Sam and Teal'c shared a shocked look, and then Sam looked over at Hammond for a confirmation, her head bowing when she got one.

“You're out of your mind,” Jack accused in a strained voice.  He walked forward, into Woolsey's personal space and suggested strongly, “You need psychological help, and I know just the man.  His name is MacKenzie, and he's just as incompetent as you are.”

“General O'Neill ...”

Jack turned, waving his hand as if to push his adversary away.

“Colonel Carter, Teal'c, if you'll excuse us,” Hammond stated.  He motioned towards his office.  “Jack.”

Jack looked over at Hammond, a man he respected deeply.  With a reluctant nod, he went to Hammond's office and sat down, as did Woolsey.  The three began to talk over the situation, with Woolsey bringing up the dangerous situation that had transpired when Khalek had been on the base.

“As I recall, he almost choked you to death,” Jack stated.  “Too bad he didn't finish the job.”

“Jack,” Hammond chastised.

“He's wasting our time, General,” Jack asserted.

“Khalek ...” Woolsey began.

“He was the demon spawn of Anubis!” Jack exclaimed.

“And Doctor Jackson is now potentially an even greater threat,” Woolsey countered.

Hammond interjected, “I think the operative word there is 'potentially'.  We don't know exactly what's going on yet.”

“And by the time we do, it may be too late.  We know that anti-prior device will only subdue his powers for a limited time.  After that, you won't be able to control him.”

Full of ire, Jack looked at Woolsey and warned, “All right, listen to me closely, 'cause I'm only going to say this once.  You kill Daniel ... over my dead body ... and yours.”

Woolsey gulped, seeing the promise of the warning becoming a reality in Jack's eyes.

“Obviously, we need to discuss some realistic options,” Hammond put forth.

From that point, it was agreed that while Daniel couldn't be held as he was long term, that they only had to wait for time enough to pass when he was supposed to revert to his old self.  Since killing him wasn't going to happen, something Woolsey backtracked on for personal reasons, the next option would be to put Daniel into stasis.

“If he hasn't already caused a major catastrophe by then,” Woolsey sighed.

“Oh, will you stop it!” Jack barked in frustration.  “If he is telling the truth, then we've blown the best chance we've ever had of beating the bad guys.”

“General O'Neill ...”

“I've had enough of this,” Jack interrupted, standing and walking out of the office.  ~The man is cracked.~  He made his way to Sam's lab, walking in and finding Teal'c there as well, which is what he expected.  “We need Plan B, and we need it in a hurry.”

“I've been thinking about that,” Sam sighed, glancing at Teal'c.  “It's a little on the crazy side.”

“You know me and crazy, Carter.  We go together like that,” Jack said, snapping his fingers.  “What's the plan?”

“We do the mission,” Sam put forth.  “We get all the information from Daniel, and we handle it.”

“You're assuming he's going to tell us.”

“Perhaps if DanielJackson were made aware that he had no choice,” Teal'c stated.

“Because he's not going anywhere?” Jack asked rhetorically.  “I'll be back.”

====

Daniel thought the idea was crazy and insisted it was too dangerous for anyone else to attempt the mission except for himself.

“Not if you give me the intel we need,” Jack insisted.

“It's my plan!” Prior Daniel shouted.

“Aren't we full of ourselves,” Jack chastised.  “Daniel, it was a plan.  You had to know we weren't going to shut down that Supergate for you.”

“We had no choice,” Daniel stated.

“Oh, now it's 'we'!” Jack responded snarkily.

“You've been in my position before, Jack.  Well, not this one, but ... similar.”

“Yes, I'm sure I have, but my brain's been messed with so much over the years, I don't remember.”

“Wait a second,” Daniel began as something occurred to him.  “With your way, you still need to shut down the Supergate.”

“Daniel, where's the ship?  How does Carter fly it?  Give me any other intel I might need to make this op a success.  C'mon!”  Jack crouched down to make eye contact with his lover and cajoled, “Trusting you.”

Shaking his restraints, a frustrated Daniel sarcastically replied, “Oh, yes. I really feel the faith.”

“Well, now you have to trust us.  Let us finish what you started.”

Daniel closed his eyes and then looked at his husband, saying, “Fine, but don't pretend you're trusting me, Jack, when we both know better.”

“Tell me something that will make me believe you a hundred percent.”

Looking straight ahead, the response came, “We cannot, but we can tell you what you need to know.”

“Great,” Jack sighed and then took in the details being given to him.

====

“Carter,” Jack called out as he returned to her lab.

“Did he tell you?”

“Yeah, but you need to talk to him.  All that techno-stuff is over my head,” Jack admitted.  “Look, do you think you and Teal'c can handle it?”

“Of course.  Uh ...”

“I don't trust Woolsey,” Jack confided quietly.

“Do you think he might try something?”

“He wants Daniel dead, but I think he's gonna settle for making him a Popsicle in the Antarctic.”

“We can handle it, Sir,” Sam assured confidently.

Thoughtfully, Jack corrected, “No, you need more.  Take Reynolds and Ferretti with you.”

Sam nodded in agreement and then advised, “I'll go talk to Daniel.”

Jack nodded, not really watching as Sam headed for the corridor.  He didn't see her pause and look back.

“Daniel's strong, General.”

With a smile and still not looking at his second-in-command, Jack nodded and agreed, “What's a little prior-itis, right?”

“Right,” Sam mused as she left her office.

~Why doesn't he say anything about us, though?  That's what I don't understand.~

====

With Sam and Teal'c along with Colonels Marc Reynolds and Lou Ferretti ready to board the Ori vessel via the rings and with the Daedalus standing by in the Pegasus Galaxy to shutdown the wormhole, Woolsey beamed aboard the Odyssey, using his IOA authority to put his personal plan into place.  Smugly, he entered the room where Daniel was still secured to the chair.

Seeing Woolsey enter, Daniel quipped, “No gun.  Hmmph.  Did you bring lethal injection, high voltage, or are you just going to have them beam me out into space?”

“I think you understand my position.”

Facing the man, Daniel reminded, “I gave Jack the information you asked for.”

“And you will be frozen in stasis until such time that SG-1's mission is deemed successful.”

“Does Jack know that?”

“General O'Neill is occupied elsewhere.” Woolsey stated smugly, his hands behind his back.

“That's what I thought,” Daniel replied, his look leaving Woolsey and focusing straight ahead.  “So, I take it then, you're not going to allow me to just ... turn back into my old self.”

“If the intel turns out to be reliable, you will be unfrozen and allowed to resume transforming, if that indeed is going to happen.”

“I see.”

Woolsey walked closer towards Daniel and declared, “I'm here out of respect for you.  I wanted to explain personally that we're about to beam you into the Ancient pod in Antarctica.”

Not getting a response, Woolsey headed for the comm panel near the doorway.

“You do know that you'll have to deal with Jack sooner or later.”  Daniel looked over menacing at the IOA representative.  “He's not going to be happy.”

“General O'Neill is not a concern.”

“He should be ... among others.”

Annoyed that Daniel rebuffed his kindness in telling him what was going to happen, Woolsey spoke into the intercom, “You're clear to beam the prisoner out now.”  When nothing happened, he asked, “What's the hold up?”

“We're having some technical problems.  We can't seem to get a lock,” a crewman responded.

All of a sudden, Daniel broke through his restraints.  He stood and walked purposefully towards Woolsey, who backed against the wall.  The IOA man tried to run out the exit, but the doors sealed.  Then Woolsey found himself telekinetically lifted into the air.

“Not part of my plan,” Daniel stated, staring at Woolsey.  “You should thank me.  My plan is ... kinder than what Jack would have done to you.  I don't like being double crossed, but Jack ... he takes it personally.”

“What are you going to do to me?”

Fear had laced Woolsey's voice even as he stared right back at the prior Daniel.  This didn't go unnoticed by the changed archaeologist, who decided to give himself one brief moment of fun.

“Kill you?”  Daniel smiled, seeing the fright on Woolsey's face, but then he let out a short sigh.  “I wish I had time to play because I'm really upset about your plan.  However, time's running out and I am telling the truth so ... so, I just want you out of my way.”

Keeping Woolsey pinned in place, Daniel closed his eyes and quickly took care of all of the obstacles in his way.  Then he made his way to the bridge, leaving Woolsey guessing about his fate.

On the bridge, Daniel closed his eyes again, ridding the Odyssey of the annoyance known as Robert Woolsey.

--

Walking towards Hammond's office, Jack stated, “I know I'm still wearing the stars, but I'm not sure I should.”

“Jack, you're a fine officer.”

“And?”

“And a pain in the butt,” Hammond admitted.  “You're honest, General.  There's something to be said for that.”

“I don't think I'll ever be able to play that diplomatic game.  Right now, I'd liked to string Woolsey up by his,” Jack paused, watching as Woolsey suddenly appeared a few feet away, “thumbs.”

The next thing Jack knew, he was staring out the front window of the Odyssey.

“Daniel?” Jack asked before turning around to see his lover sitting calmly in the command chair.

“Jack.”

“What's up?” Jack asked lightly.

“Oh, I'm taking the ship.” Daniel replied, shrugging his shoulders from his seat on the captain's chair.

“Oh, I see that,” Jack acknowledged as he observed that no one else seemed to be on the vessel.

“Yeah, I, I've beamed the crew safely to the surface.”

“Nice for them.”

“But as you've probably figured out by now, I'm going to need you.”

Sarcastically, Jack replied, “You know, I was just thinking how much I missed being needed.”

“You're always needed, Jack,” Daniel stated softly.

Jack stared at his Love.  That was the closest the archaeologist had come to making a personal remark.

“About Vala,” Jack began, searching for a response.

“Vala?” Daniel asked in disbelief.  “I assume she's still locked up in her VIP room.”

“Gym access, don't forget,” Jack added.

“I'm sure she's having a ... gay old time.”

Again Jack stared into the eyes of the body of Daniel Jackson, or was it Daniel?  He wanted to believe.  In fact, he needed to believe.  He wished he wasn't so skeptical all the time.

“Jack, sit,” Daniel ordered, motioning to the chair next to him.

Jack shrugged and calmly made his way over to the station next to his husband. His mind was flooded with possibilities and he knew that soon he was going to have make a choice: to believe or not to believe.

====

As the Odyssey continued flying through hyperspace, neither man said anything for awhile.  Instead, each contemplated recent events and what might transpire in the coming hours.

Jack began playing with the control switches, none of which affected the vessel's flight since Daniel was controlling it with his mind.

“Yep, just like old times,” the general quipped.

“Three weeks can seem like a lifetime,” Daniel agreed as he looked over at Jack and smiled.

“It felt like it.”

“Me, too,” Daniel agreed.

“Why'd you bother giving me the intel if you were going to bust out anyway?” Jack questioned.

Clearing his throat and then turning his chair so he could face the other man, Daniel answered, “Well, obviously I'm improvising at this point.  I had no idea when or even if I was going to be able to overcome the effects of the anti-prior device.  Time was running out.  Adria's gonna notice my absence and become suspicious, so sending the rest of SG-1 to get the device was my only choice at the time.”

“Then why do this now?”

“Because I'm afraid the rest of the team won't be able to complete the mission without me.”

“Oh, aren't we full of ourselves?” Jack snarked.

“That, and I wasn't about to let Woolsey freeze me.”

“That I understand,” the general sighed.

Nodding, Daniel responded with a simple, “Yeah.”

“Kidnapping.”

“What?” the archaeologist questioned.

“You kidnapped me.”

“I'm doing what I have to do in order to save the galaxy, not to mention your six. You think I look bad?  How'd you like to look like this?”

“I ...”

“You think it was fun cavorting with the Orici for three weeks?  I have news for you, we thought it was torture.  Adria isn't happy unless she's talking and the center of the universe.”

“Like her mother,” Jack opined.

“Uh ... yeah, pretty much,” Daniel agreed.

**Last chance, Daniel.  Talk to me.**

All of a sudden, Daniel became more formal as he stated, “We had to endure the Orici for the plan.  We had to let her believe we were succumbing to her charms.”

“*Succumbing*?” Jack questioned with force.  “Just how much did you ...”  He paused, realizing he was getting too personal in the public area of the Odyssey.  Was the security equipment on?  He wasn't sure, so he just growled a second and muttered, “Never mind.”

Again, silence filled the air and the next time Jack looked at the younger man, Daniel's eyes were closed.

“I hope you're not flying this bird while you're asleep.”

More casual again, Daniel answered, “Of course not.  Oops!”

Alarmed by the lurch the archaeologist had just made, Jack was slightly startled and looked out the front window, expecting to see danger.

“Just kidding,” Daniel teased with a slight smile.

====

Jack was walking around the bridge of the Odyssey, glancing over at the prior who claimed to be his lover.

Standing near the star map towards the rear of the vessel, the general requested, “Daniel, run this by me again.”

Twisting around in his chair to face the other man, Daniel replied, “What?”

Walking forward, gesturing outwardly with his hands, Jack pursed his lips, looked off to his right for a second, and then elaborated, “The Ori's plan to take over the galaxy.”

Daniel sighed, a bit annoyed at the repetition since this had been discussed previously, but there was nothing else to do at the moment, so he went along with request.

“The original plan was for the Ori to convert our whole galaxy so that they could build up their power enough to attack the Ancients, but even then, a conflict like that on that level was going to be costly.  But now they have a weapon that could destroy all Ascended beings within the scope of an entire galaxy in one fell swoop.  They just need to distract the Ancients long enough so that they can use it.”

“Engage them in battle long enough to complete the weapon,” Jack surmised.

With a nod of affirmation, Daniel continued, “Then back off to safety while Adria detonates it.”

“Okay,” Jack returned, accepting the answer and walking forward another couple of feet.  “If the Ancients perceive this weapon as a threat, why not intervene and simply take it now?  Why the game?  Why the delay?”

“I have no idea.  I mean, maybe they want to give my plan a chance to work. Either way, the Ori believe they still need more power to maximize their chances for success.”

“Let's ... go back,” Jack stated.  “Maybe *they* wanted to give you plan a chance to work, or ... Adria?”

“Jack, Adria is the Orici.  She makes all the decisions.”

“Exactly my point,” Jack declared pointedly, lunging forward a tad with his torso as he stared at Daniel.  “You think maybe she just wants to reel you in all the way; make you the Orici's consort?”

Daniel blinked at Jack and paused before answering, “I think you've been watching too much TV.”

“I hate TV, especially 'The Simpsons' -- George and Martha.”

The archaeologist let out a sneer as his head dropped.  He laughed out loud for a second before looking up and shaking his head at the general.

“Jack, it's Homer and Marge, and you can't get enough of TV, *especially* 'The Simpsons'.”

Daniel turned his chair back to face the front window, leaving Jack more curious than ever.  Slowly, he made his way back to the helm position and sat back down.

“It was a shot,” Jack sighed.

“I know,” Daniel responded lightheartedly.  “But it's me, Jack.  I've told you that before.  Okay, Merlin's in here, too, but not for much longer.”  He turned the chair towards his lover and stared straight into his eyes.  “Believe in me.  You told me once you'd always believed in me.  I need you to prove that when the time comes.”

Jack said nothing as he returned the stare, his brown eyes trying hard to judge the once pure blue eyes he was so sure of.  Now, though, Daniel's eyes weren't blue.  They were bland and branded with the mark of the Ori.

Daniel turned back to face forward, silently hoping his soulmate would follow through.

~He's not sure, Merlin.~

~He is, Daniel,~ Merlin replied, using the archaeologist's actual name for one of the few times since they'd become one brain.

~People haven't believed in me very much.~

With a sense of a chuckle, Merlin returned, ~It is important only to believe in oneself.~

~That's all I could do for awhile until ... uh, well, until SG-1, until I met Jack.~

~Perhaps you should believe in him.~

~Excuse me?~ Daniel asked in his mental conversation.

~Are you not doing what you accuse him of doing?  You want him to believe in you and yet you are not believing in him,~ Merlin asserted.

Saying nothing, verbally or in his mind, Daniel stared thoughtfully out into space, pondering the silent teaching he'd just been given.

====

When the Odyssey exited hyperspace, Daniel instantly cloaked the vessel so it couldn't be seen, a wise idea since there were two Ori ships on its horizon.  The Supergate was also clearly in sight.

“I was afraid of that.  Adria must have anticipated my plan,” Daniel sighed.

“They're gonna detect us,” Jack warned.

“We're cloaked.”

Disbelieving, Jack responded, “This ship doesn't have that.”

“It does now.  Having a ZPM helps,” Daniel explained.  A moment later, he requested, “When the time comes, give the order to Daedalus.”  He had only a few more seconds on Odyssey.  “Even if you don't believe in me, Jack, I believe in you, so I *know* you'll give the command.”

As Daniel stood and walked forward, Jack replied with an noncommittal, “We'll see.”  Observing his lover disappear, the general sighed and leaned back.  ~Was that really you, Danny?  The b-witch is awfully good at that pretending to be someone else, but ... crap, I don't know what to think.~  He stood up and walked to where the-prior-in-Daniel's image had last stood.  He cocked his head as he whispered, “He believes in me even if I don't believe in him?  What's that supposed to mean?”

====

Daniel beamed over to the Ori vessel just in time to see Adria facing off with Sam and Teal'c.  Behind him, he held an object that no one else could see because of how he was standing.

Adria was angry that she'd ever trusted the archaeologist.

“They're about to shut down the Supergate and allow our ships through.  They've assembled the weapon, and the Ancients didn't interfere.”  Daniel looked over at his teammates for verification.  “Right?”  He saw stunned expressions on their faces and asked pointedly, “You did exactly as I said, right?”

No one knew what to believe at the moment.  Sam and Teal'c were feeling betrayed, though they weren't totally sure.  Adria was suspicious of Daniel.  His words sounded reassuring, but could she really trust him?  Was he telling the truth he'd said that he'd done everything for her?

“Your mind is closed to me.”

“Yeah,” Daniel sighed just as he shot off an energy bolt at Adria.

The Orici collapsed, leaving Sam and Teal'c feeling more unnerved about Daniel.  His words said one thing and his actions another.

Showing signs of growing weakness, Daniel spoke, “Eh, sorry about out that.  I ... had to be sure this,” he held out the completed anti-prior device, “was working on her first.”

“You got past her personal shield!” Sam exclaimed.

Out of breath, Daniel agreed, “Yeah.  That took a lot.”

Daniel lost his strength and Sam helped him to sit down in the captain's chair, taking the device from him in the process.  He explained that time was running out and instructed his teammates to arm the device.

When Sam and Teal'c hesitated, Daniel gasped and explained, “Jack's on board Odyssey.  He's gonna shut down the Gate.  Now go!”  Once they left the bridge, he struggled to channel his remaining strength and then he called out over the radio, “Jack, give the command.”

--

~I'm not someone who questions my decisions, but there's so much at stake here.  Am I letting my personal feelings get in the way?~

Jack heard Daniel's statement, to give the command that could win or lose a war.  Then he heard Daniel speak again, and this time he heard the plea.

--

“Please!” Daniel implored desperately.  “I'm running out of strength to do this.”

--

~It comes down to one thing: trust.  Do I trust my husband, even when he's been turned into a friggin' prior?~  With a nod, Jack knew the answer to that.  It wasn't even a hard question.  He looked forward thoughtfully, almost sarcastically stating, “I believe in you, Danny.  I've always believed in you.”

Drawing a breath, Jack made his decision.

~Heaven help us if I'm wrong.~  Clicking the radio and speaking with complete confidence and conviction, Jack stated, “Daedalus, this is General Jack O'Neill.”  With the acknowledgement of his transmission, he again spoke with total authority, “Shut down the Supergate.”

====

On the Ori vessel, Sam and Teal'c reached Reynolds and Ferretti and saw they were being held by some Ori warriors.  Immediately, they opened fire, freeing their temporary teammates.

Sam looked at an expectant Reynolds and ordered, “Do it.”

Colonel Reynolds hurried over to the weapon and replaced a crystal with the timer crystal, causing all of them to pulsate with a blue light.

--

On the Odyssey, Jack watched as the Supergate shut down and then began to activate again.  He walked up to the front window getting an almost surreal feeling like he was part of a 1950's outer space movie, only with better special effects.

Unable to resist, Jack tried one more time, hoping for verification.

**Daniel?**

**J'ck ...**

**Danny?**

There was no response, but for the first time, Jack had received a non-verbal response from his Love.  He sighed in gratitude, but then immediately increased his worry.  After all, the ship Daniel was on was now headed straight for the Supergate where it would travel to the Ori galaxy.  Knowing time was of the essence, he returned to the helm to await the soon-to-come order.

~Come on, guys.  Let's hear it.~

--

On the Ori ship, the temporary SG-1 group ran onto the bridge and found Daniel slumped over in the chair and apparently in the process of changing back into his normal appearance.

“Sam, we gotta go!” Ferretti advised anxiously.

“Sir, if you can hear me, we need to beam out now!” Sam called out.

--

~That's what I was waiting for,~ Jack sighed as he locked onto their locator beacons and beamed all five to the bridge of the Odyssey.  He stood up, seeing the group materialize just as the Ori vessel went through the event horizon and the Supergate shut down.  “Daniel?”

“He's unconscious, Sir,” Reynolds pointed out.

“But he's alive,” Ferretti interjected.

“And he's back to ... himself,” Sam observed with a smile.

“Let's get him to sickbay,” Jack stated, wanting desperately to hold his Love but knowing he couldn't just yet.

====

Once again, Jack was the one who changed his Love's attire to blue and this time, he wouldn't be leaving Daniel's side.  With Sam and Reynolds on the bridge, Ferretti kept Jack company while waiting for Daniel to awake.

When Daniel began to rouse, Jack leaned forward and playfully tousled his hair while saying, “Hey, sleepyhead.  What took you so long?”

Wide-eyed as he took in the new view, Daniel asked, “What happened?”

“Nothin'.  Why?” Jack asked seriously.

“We armed the weapon; you dialed the Gate and sent the Ori ship through,” Ferretti explained.

“Assuming it is you,” Teal'c added.

Seemingly searching his brain, Daniel answered, “Yes, it's ... just me.  Merlin's gone.  He sacrificed himself for this to work.”

“Yeah?  Prove it,” Jack dared, though he already had his proof.  ~Gotta play along for the others.~  When his lover waved his hand with two fingers pointed at him, Jack grimaced as he asked, “What the heck was that?”

“If I was Merlin, you would know,” Daniel answered.  “What about Adria?”

“Still on the ship,” Ferretti answered.

“All right, here's a question,” Jack began.  “How do we know it worked?”

“Oh, we don't, not yet,” Daniel answered.

“I think if it did work, the Ancients would feel obligated to ... give us a fruit basket ... or, uh, like a gift certificate, or ... so...something like that.”

The group continued to wonder why the Ancients hadn't intervened.

“Even if it is successful, there are still many priors with great power and vast armies of warriors bent on converting this galaxy.  It will be very difficult to convince them their gods are dead,” Teal'c put forth.

“If they're dead,” Jack interjected, shrugging when Daniel looked at him in challenge.

At that point, Sam radioed, “Sir, any news on Daniel?”

Jack looked at the archaeologist and quipped, “Ya gotta love that she cares.”  He walked over to the intercom and answered, “He's a little grumpy, not knowing for sure if his little plan worked or not.”

“That's good, that he's okay,” Sam replied.  “Uh, can you ask him how he managed to cloak this ship?”

Jack looked at a shrugging Daniel and then answered, “He said only the great and powerful Oz knows for sure.”  More seriously, he inquired, “Carter, what about that Ori ship?”

“It's still out there, Sir.  I sent a message to Earth telling them that we were going ...”  Sam stopped, alarmed by the sound of a buzzing.  “Uh, Sir?  You'd all better get up here.”

Immediately, Teal'c and Ferretti headed out, while Daniel began to sit up.

“Whoa!” Jack exclaimed, hurrying over to his lover.  “Steady there, Danny.”

Daniel looked up and smiled, and for the first time in weeks, Jack's heart sang.  Looking at him were blue eyes that spoke of tenderness and depth of feeling.  They were the soul of his Heart.

“Thanks,” Daniel stated as Jack helped him up.  “I'm fine, though.”

“Spoilsport.”

“I can be ... not fine ... later.”

“Music to my heart,” Jack whispered.

With romance on hold, the lovers hastily made their way to the bridge, joining the others who were already there.

“Incoming wormhole,” Sam announced.

Not certain what to make of what they were seeing, the group watched several Ori vessels come through the Supergate.

A bit sarcastically, Jack stated, “Yeah.  I think that went well.”

“We knew eliminating the Ori might not stop their followers,” Sam interjected.

“I still think it was the right thing to do,” Daniel asserted.

“Okay,” Jack sighed.  “Maybe we may have made things worse right now, but in the long run, it could be our only chance to win the war.”

At that moment, the Ori warships disappeared from sight after jumping into hyperspace.

“We made a difference,” Daniel insisted.  “We didn't just go through all of that for nothing.”

“I'm with you, Daniel,” Ferretti put forth supportively.

“Tactically, it was the correct thing,” Reynolds added.

“War has many turns, DanielJackson,” Teal'c stated.  “We will be victorious as we were with the Goa'uld.”

“Carter,  get us out of here.”

====

“You know, I'm fine,” Daniel said, balking at Jack's insistence that he return to the infirmary and rest.

“It doesn't take the Doc's framed diploma to know that playing footsies with your metabolism isn't necessarily a good thing.  Humor me.”

Daniel sighed and hopped onto the hospital bed in the sickbay.  He looked over and smiled at his lover.

“You trusted me.”

“Always,” Jack replied, sitting down on a stool that he'd just pulled up to the bed.

“And you believed in me.”

“Daniel, I never doubted you.  I only doubted if you were you,” Jack put forth, grimacing from his phraseology.  “You know what I mean.”

“Because of what we saw Adria do at the cave.”

“It was possible,” Jack asserted.  Leaning forward, he looked straight into his Love's eyes and stated firmly, “I always believe in you, Daniel.  You have to know that.”

“I do.”

**Danny?**

The archaeologist smiled and replied, **I couldn't talk to you, Jack.  Merlin controlled so much of mind.  Sometimes, I'd hear a rumble.  I thought it was you, but I couldn't focus.**  He sighed, “Merlin needed me to concentrate.  He gave all he had to this mission, and he needed me to be willing to do the same.  Remember, he asked us if we were willing to go all in.”

“I remember,” Jack acknowledged.  **I love you.**

**Love you, too.  You know how much.**

Grinning for a moment, the general asked, “Did you pick up anything else that might help us?”

“Jack, Vala's telling the truth.”

“*That's* what you found out?” an unhappy Jack asked as he stared wide-eyed at his lover.

With a slight chuckle, the reclined man explained, “I met Tomin.  Well, he doesn't know who I am, but I saw him and I talked to him to a few minutes.  Everything he said verified Vala's story.”

“We already said we'd help her.”

“I know, but ...”

“We'll keep our promise, but this war isn't over yet.”

Daniel's eyelids began to flutter and he sighed, “I guess I am tired.”

“Get some sleep, Daniel.”

“Will you ...”

“Count on it,” Jack answered before the question was completed.  “I'm not going anywhere.”

In seconds, Daniel was sound asleep and Jack settled in, just watching his soulmate sleep.

~Thank you for coming back, Danny.~

====

Twenty-four hours later, the lovers were back in their country-style home, lounging on their bed and playing with the beagles.  At the moment, it was a game of 'Rub my belly' that was popular with the girls.

The two men were in their sweats, black for Daniel and gray for Jack, lying down on their sides, facing each other.  They were actually in reverse on the bed, their heads at the foot of the bed rather than by the headboard.  Bijou, closest to the general, and Katie were in between, both on their backs as they received tickles and touches to their bellies.

“Simple pleasures,” Daniel sighed contentedly, feeling tremendous joy from this calm human-canine play session.

“They're the best.”

“Jack, are you ... upset with me for what I did on the planet?” Daniel asked cautiously.

After returning home on the Odyssey, SG-1, Ferretti, and Reynolds had gone through debriefing.  While Hammond would have liked to have postponed it, the direness of the Ori situation demanded that he be completely updated at once.  He did, however, allow the participants to provide just a preliminary written report.  He was well aware that Daniel would have a lot to relay, so he permitted his to be a mere overview.  Then the personnel were given forty-eight hours downtime before returning.  Janet had cleared Daniel.  Apparently, Merlin took great care to protect the archaeologist while present in his brain.

At Daniel's insistence, the two had also gone by to see Vala, but she was asleep, a veil over her eyes.  They called out, but the woman didn't respond.  Ultimately, they decided Daniel's news about Tomin could be delivered when they returned to work.

Once home, the lovers had enjoyed a few rounds of lovemaking as they reminded each other of their eternal nation of two, and they'd enjoyed a couple of good meals.  Intermixed were play times like this one.  Off and on, they'd discussed the Ori and what had transpired, slowly getting to everything that needed to be reviewed.

“I was,” Jack answered his lover, freely admitting to his ire.  “I destroyed my office one night.”

“You did?”

“Lou had a field day,” Jack mused.  “He ordered me home.”

“Uh ... how?”

“By a fluke of command, he was in charge.  He loved every minute of it,” Jack accused.  Then he smiled and confessed, “He was being a friend.  The crazy Italian spent the next few hours of his first base command by cleaning up my office and putting my files back together.”

“That's a good friend,” Daniel acknowledged while he leaned over and exchanged nose swipes with Bijou.

“I came home and hid out in the plant room, cursing you for doing what you did,” Jack continued.

“I don't blame you, but ...”

“I know, Danny.  We have this pact that we don't particularly like to talk about, but it's always here,” the general put forth, patting his chest over his heart.  “When push comes to shove, we're always going to try to protect each other.  It's what people in love do.”

“I wasn't going to die.  Adria wasn't going to kill me.  I knew that.”

“So did I.”  Jack let out a sigh as he raised his fingers up to tickle Katie beneath her chin.  “The problem was I didn't know what they were going to do to you.”

“So, you're not angry now?” the archaeologist inquired.

“Does it look like I'm angry?”

“No,” Daniel answered as a prolonged chuckle.  He rolled over onto his back while Bijou flipped over, actually doing a 270-degree turn as she positioned herself to lie on her side, facing Katie and Jack.  “Is this war ever going to end?” he asked in a forlorn tone.

“Daniel, it took years to defeat the Goa'uld.  We've been fighting the Ori for three months.”

“But it's ... different.”  The archaeologist closed his eyes.  “It takes so much ... energy to fight them.”

“We're making progress.”

Jack looked over at his Love and realized Daniel had fallen asleep.

“He's tired, girls; more tired than I've ever seen him,” Jack confided with concern, his worry about Daniel's mental state, not his physical one.  ~You've been exhausted from the beginning of this battle.  The Ori are eating away at your soul.  They aren't going to win, Danny.  No one can beat up your soul, but you.~  He sighed, admitting silently, ~And that's what I'm worried about.~

Katie rolled over onto her side, her eyes on the archaeologist.  She felt Jack's hand wrap around her as he slid his head down.  Together, the two watched Daniel sleep, hoping it would be a peaceful one.

“Sleep tight, Galahad,” Jack whispered.

====

After an early morning fusion of their bodies, the lovers were lying peacefully in their bed, their hands gently gliding along the other's body.

“I kissed her.  Well, actually, I think Merlin did.  He sort of ... took over.”  Daniel paused and sighed, “I'm sorry.”

“Daniel, we've been through this.  You stayed alive and to do that, you showed her what she was missing.”

“It wasn't that good of a kiss, Jack.  I could barely get through it without throwing up afterwards.  That's why Merlin shut me out.”

“I don't get it.”

“I knew I was about to kiss her, that I had to, but then he just sort of ...”  The archaeologist paused, scooting his head along his Love's chest slightly.  “I don't know how to explain it.  I know it happened, the kiss, but it's ... it feels like a fact I read in school and not something I experienced.”  He let out a sigh.  “I know it's weird.”

“No biggie, Love,” Jack assured.  “Um ...”

“No, Jack.  The only thing that happened was that one kiss,” Daniel stated.  “She had a thing for touching me, but I guess she wasn't into much else which was a ...”

“... good thing,” both men said simultaneously.

“I have an idea,” the younger man suggested.

“What's that?”

“Let's forget about the Orici and ... you know.”

“Angel, you have some great ideas, and this is ...”

Daniel silenced his husband, the two then engaging in plenty of 'you know' to get Adria and, for that matter, the rest of the world completely out of their minds.

====

After a mostly leisurely day which included attending to some necessary parts of life, such as paying the bills, tending to their yards, and buying groceries, Jack and Daniel enjoyed a home-cooked pasta meal with ice cream for dessert.  After reading a bit, the two decided to settle onto the sofa and watch a movie.  They figured they'd surf through the 'on demand' movies offered on cable and find something to enjoy.

The couple brought in some snacks and beverages and were about to get comfortable when Jack dropped Daniel's Godiva chocolates.  In all the hubbub, he'd kicked the small box somewhere and was trying to find it.

“Jack, I want my chocolate!  I haven't had chocolate in *weeks*!” Daniel exclaimed demandingly.

“I'm looking!” Jack responded anxiously.

Finally, both men ended up on all fours, looking under their furniture.

“Aha!” the general exclaimed.  “Found it!”

Just as Jack retrieved the unopened box and the two men were about to get up, they both felt the patter of little paws on their backs.

“Daniel,” Jack stated seriously.

“Yes, Jack?”

“Have I lost mind or is there a dog on my back?”

“Well, while I don't want to address your state of mind at the moment, I do believe you have a dog on your back.”

Jack broke out into laughter as he turned his head to look over his shoulder and ask, “Do you think I'm a horse?”

Bijou woofed.

“And I suppose that's what you think, too?” Daniel asked Katie.

The youngest beagle woofed in reply, her tail wagging happily.

“Well, Daniel, I guess we've just become horses.”

“Actually, Babe, you're more of a ...”

“Daniel, the children,” Jack interrupted, using a tactic his lover often brought into play, one of no swearing in front of their canine kids.

“... donkey.  I was gonna say donkey.”

“Sure, you were,” Jack returned knowingly.

Jack and Daniel began to gently walk around the carpeted floor, giving their beagles a ride.  Jack frequently nayed playfully, while Daniel whinnied here and there.

After a couple of silly minutes, the lovers accidentally bumped into each other, causing the four to end up in one big pile.

“Group hug,” Jack sing-songed as he and Daniel laughed and the girls barked gaily.

As they hugged and laughed, Daniel sneaked in a kiss and declared, “I do love you, Jack, so freakin' much.  It's what got me through ... again.”

“Love you, Angel, more than life,” Jack returned, following it up with another kiss.

The kiss would have lasted longer, except Bijou and Katie chimed in with declarations of doggie love for their humans, sealing it with happy dog kisses.

No matter what was transpiring in the universe, nothing could ever outdo or permanently interfere with the love and happiness within the hearts of Jack and Daniel, and their devoted beagles.

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