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Cleo the Muse [dot] net - Renewing Trust

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Renewing Trust
Rating: Teen
Genre: Gen, Angst, Episode-Related, Friendship, Hurt/Comfort, Team
Warnings: Strong Language, Temporary Character Death
Timeline: Season 08
Summary: SG-1 saves the galaxy, goes fishing, and all is well.  Or is it?
Series: None
Notes: Let me first state that this is not one of my typical happy-go-lucky SG-1 jaunts.  This was a very great focus for some of the emotional turmoil I've been going through in real life.  Making the team yell at each other has helped me let out some of my own stress.  This story also doesn't portray any of the team in a very positive light at times, though Sam gets it worst.

Renewing Trust

Ah, the great outdoors.  Sun, lawn chairs, fishing poles, and a beautiful gal at his side.  Jack didn't think life got any better... well, beer would be nice, too.

"This is great, sir," Carter grinned.

"I told ya!"

"I can't believe we didn't do it years ago."

Jack smirked, reeling in his own line.  "Yes. Well, let's not 'dwell'."

The blonde-haired colonel giggled girlishly, and the general found himself thinking things quite unbecoming his status as her direct superior in the SGC's chain-of-command.  Thankfully, he wasn't looking right at her at the time, as he was certain his expression would have been transparent.  Then, just as he heard the approach of his other two team—former teammates, that is—a big, fat fish obligingly leapt out of the water and plopped back below the surface.

Perfect timing... lots of witnesses around.

"Didn't that tape say there were no fish in your pond?" Carter asked, referring to the rather bizarre five-thousand year-old video-recording of an alternate SG-1 who apparently hadn't even diverged from their own timeline yet.

Frankly, the whole matter made Jack's brain hurt, so he turned to the attractive astrophysicist and smiled.  "Close enough."

Footsteps from behind signaled Daniel's approach.  "Oh, so I guess that explains the invoice from Spruce Creek Fish Farm on the kitchen table," the archaeologist commented dryly, popping the caps off of two cold beers and handing them to his two friends.

Jack coughed lightly, taking a sip of the beer.  "Lots of people have their ponds stocked, Daniel."

"Not with fully-grown fish, they don't," came the snarky reply.

Beside him, Carter was grinning insanely, and he wondered if her jaws weren't hurting from all the smiling she'd been doing lately.  He couldn't remember a time when he'd ever seen her so relaxed or at peace with herself.

Now if only the same could be said for the other half of the Genius Twins...

Casting a casual glance over his shoulder, Jack eyed the bespectacled linguist just now casting his own line into the water.  When was the last time he'd seen the younger man smile?  Sure, there'd been that knowing smirk when the general showed up in Daniel's lab yesterday with a donut in-hand to watch that really, really old home video, plus a few amused expressions at Carter's attempted explanations about the tape's origins... but an actual, genuine smile?

Not since Rya'c's wedding, that Jack could recall, and even then it'd been only a brief one that didn't quite touch his eyes.  And it wasn't as though Daniel had ever been big on flashing his pearly whites to begin with, but why wasn't he thrilled to know the SGC's war against the Goa'uld had been won?  Even the formerly taciturn Teal'c couldn't stop his lips from curving upward at all times.

Heck, Carter had lost her dad and broken up with her fiancé a little over a week ago, but here she was, smiling like she hadn't a care in the world.

As if sensing his scrutiny, Daniel turned his head and met Jack's gaze.  Over the years, the two friends had managed to refine non-verbal communication to a fine art, completely capable of conveying entire sentences with a single shared look.

This stare quite clearly told Jack he was fine, and to back off and mind his own business.  Blinking in surprise, the general turned back to his rod and reel, casting the line again.

After all, you could lead a linguist to water, but you couldn't make him talk.

——-

The camo field jacket in front of him shuddered, causing Teal'c to falter mid-step.  Regaining his stride swiftly, he asked, "Are you well, Daniel Jackson?"

"I'm fine," came the expected response.  "A little cold."

"You're the one... who didn't want to... go back to the cabin... yet," O'Neill huffed from behind, his formerly excellent physical condition perceptibly softened by nearly a year commanding the SGC as a whole.

He was, as the expression went, out of shape.

"You're the one who thought you could still keep pace with a field unit!" Colonel Carter replied from the head of the line, actually turning around and jogging backward so she could be heard more audibly.

"Not wearing... the right kind... of shoes!"

"Nor is Daniel Jackson," Teal'c observed.

"He's... younger... than me."

"Indeed.  As you are to me."  It was not entirely an accurate analogy, however, as the age differential between him and O'Neill was nearly five times the length of the separation between O'Neill's and Daniel Jackson's ages.

"Not... the point."

Teal'c let his lips curve further upward.  "In this case, O'Neill, it is the footwear that is irrelevant.  You are simply no longer in conformity."

He thought he heard an amused snort from Daniel Jackson—but couldn't be sure—as O'Neill exasperatedly huffed, "Out... of shape... Teal'c."

"Indeed you are," the Jaffa replied.

Colonel Carter stumbled, and only Daniel Jackson's timely intervention saved her from falling.  She was gasping for breath as she rested her hands on her knees.

"Carter!  You all right?"

She nodded her head, and they saw then that her collapse was the result of silent, uncontrollable shakes of laughter.  "Sorry, sir, but you walked right into that one."

Teal'c smiled again as O'Neill glared at the woman.  "Yeah, but I'm not the one who had to stop.  Who's out of breath now?"

Colonel Carter grinned.  "Who's ready for another five miles?"

"Sounds good to me," Daniel Jackson quickly agreed.

"This from the guy I have to bribe into jogging with me by promising a stop at Starbucks?"

His expressive eyebrows knitted.  "That was years ago, Jack.  It quickly turned into a perk of the trip."

"A 'perk'?"

"No pun intended, of course," he replied, suddenly finding his shoes intriguing.

"Fine.  See if I go jogging with you again," O'Neill responded with what he must have thought was an expression of wounded resignation.

"Funny," Daniel Jackson answered, his tone neutral as he retied a shoelace, "Teal'c's been my running-buddy for over five years now."  He turned back toward down the trail and resumed jogging.

"Indeed.  You would be hard-pressed to keep up, O'Neill."  With a small bow, he followed his younger teammate, catching up quickly to Daniel Jackson's easy pace.

From behind, he heard O'Neill yell, "I'll show you keeping up!"

"Don't hurt yourself," came the reply.  "Sir."

——-

He hadn't meant to flinch.

In fact, Daniel thought he'd done a remarkable job of—as his Air Force co-vacationers would say—flying under the radar so far this weekend.  Granted it was only the first day, but he'd already shot Jack down with the weighted stare he'd first learned while a guest of the Bedrosian Marriott.  He'd had plenty of opportunities since then to perfect it so that even the infamously bull-headed Jack O'Neill could get the message.

This weekend was supposed to be about Sam, after all, who'd broken off her engagement to Pete and lost her father within a few entirely-too-short hours of one another.  Losing Jacob was a hard loss for them all, actually, but the retired general and his daughter had become much closer in the years since he became a Tok'ra than ever before in their lives.  Since they were also supposed to be celebrating the defeat of the Goa'uld and the Replicators, it wasn't entirely a "let's make Sam feel better 'cause she's had a rough last few weeks" party, though Daniel thought she could use the good cheer.

Oh, yes, but the flinch, now... that had been pure reaction, and not even a trained response like translating languages on the fly or reloading a Beretta in the middle of a firefight.  No, it was gut-clenching terror expressed in a single involuntary twitch that had Jack, Sam, and Teal'c eyeing him with suspicious concern.

He never dealt well with suspicion, and concern always made him feel uneasy when he knew it should have made him feel good that someone cared enough to be concerned for him.  Heaven help him if Dr. Mackenzie or some other psychiatric quack ever got a hold of his innermost thoughts, because they were sure to have a field day psycho-analyzing and otherwise BS-ing about things they could never comprehend, let alone actually have any experience in the matter.

And Mackenzie had certainly never flinched when a friend decided to chop vegetables for a fresh salad.  He'd never been mashing boiled potatoes when his surrogate sister walked up, rolled a few cucumbers onto a wooden plank, and grabbed a sharp, gleaming, deadly sword out of the chopping block by the sink.

Okay, in retrospect, it wasn't a sword but a paring knife or santoku or whatever, but his mind's eye had immediately likened it to the sharp, gleaming...

And he flinched.  Which wasn't so bad, really, since what he felt like doing was screaming and running for the hills, never to be seen again.  Unfortunately, Jack and Teal'c had just returned to the kitchen in search of the steaks left in the refrigerator to marinate while they'd been fishing and running and generally avoiding talking to one another all day.  Sam had also chosen that moment to turn toward him, her lips parted slightly in askance.

"Hey, Daniel, you all right?" Jack asked, shattering the stillness.

"What?  Fine, fine.  Sam just startled me, that's all... I couldn't hear her over the potato-mashing, that's all," he answered quickly, the stuttering and self-repeating making his hastily offered explanation sound lame even to his own ears.  Unable to meet the concerned looks they were undoubtedly leveling his way, he turned back to the pot in the sink and vigorously resumed mashing.

After a torturously long moment, he felt their gazes stop pricking holes in between his shoulder blades, the sound of the fridge door rattling with bottles of Jack's favorite brand of beer-turned-marinade as the other two men retrieved the cuts of meat.  When the back door was pulled shut, Sam nudged his shoulder.

"You sure you're all right?  You've been kinda... quiet today."

"Just doing a lot of thinking," Daniel answered, which was true.  "You know, that tape kind of threw me for a loop.  If we were trapped in Egypt five-thousand years ago, do you think our alternate future selves might have helped start the rebellion against Ra?"

The deflection worked like a charm.  "I don't think so, Daniel.  The whole reason they had to make that tape was because they couldn't risk contaminating the timeline.  Since the Sam Carter on that tape is me, or at least a version of me diverged from a few days or weeks from now, she would have insisted on keeping a low profile."

It was amazing how easy it was to distract her with a scientific mystery to solve, and thankfully so, as he'd used the Ancient knowledge in his mind as the proverbial carrot-on-a-stick to lead the Replicator—

He coughed lightly, resuming his potato-pressing efforts.  "Sorry, Sam, but I don't see how our future selves could have convinced themselves to go on a one-way trip back to ancient Egypt."

"I'm sure you talked us into it," she smiled, sliding the cucumbers into the bowl of lettuce and reaching for... carrots.

"Maybe, but I doubt I could have talked anyone into any kind of trip like that without thinking we could get back."

"So they became separated from the time-ship, and couldn't risk contaminating history to get it back."

"Uh-huh... so how come the archaeological expedition didn't find the ship, too?"

"They might have destroyed it to keep it from falling into Ra's hands."

"An explosion of that magnitude would certainly have been noticed.  Besides, who's to say that the very fact they did go back in time wasn't the very catalyst needed to overthrow Ra and send him packing?"

"You're suggesting a paradox?"

"Why not?" he answered, feeling the tension in his shoulders ease as the familiar intellectual sparring picked up pace.  This was what first made his and Sam's friendship all those years ago in the Cartouche room on Abydos.  "The universe is full of ironies... just look at the platypus."

She giggled.  "You've been around the general too long."

"Ya think?"

Sam threw a carrot slice at him.  "So if our alternate future selves went back to the past and defeated Ra and lost their time-ship while they were there, that suggests the possibility that there exists a parallel reality to our own which begins sometime in the near future and ends in the distant past."

"Actually, our timelines split the moment they stole the ZPM from Ra.  We have no reason to go back in time because they did it for us.  Even more, because they went back in time and kicked Ra of the planet, they created the very conditions which allowed us to even have a Stargate program—"

"—Which is necessary to even go back in time in the first place!" Sam finished.  "That's assuming, of course, that you're right about them helping defeat Ra."

"You think Jack in any timeline would sit back and let a Goa'uld rule?  Or Teal'c?"

"What about us?"  Startled, the two scientists turned around to see the aforementioned general and Jaffa carrying the grilled steaks back into the cabin.  "Daniel, are you going to mash those potatoes or purée them?"

Realizing the potatoes were well past an acceptably smooth consistency and working their way rapidly toward liquid, Daniel grabbed for the milk and butter on the counter.  "Sam and I were just talking about that tape, Jack.  Did you know it's possible the reason I was able to translate the Stargate's coverstone as quickly as I did nine years ago was because I'm the one who wrote the inscription in the first place?"

Jack blinked once, twice, then shook his head.  "Don't say stuff like that, Daniel... it makes my head hurt."

——-

Dinner was a success, Sam decided, her intellectual tête-à-tête with Daniel seemingly having cured the archaeologist's previously sullen disposition.  Teal'c's expert supervision had ensured that the steaks were not burnt to a crisp on the grill, but tender and juicy.  Daniel had done an excellent job on the mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables, and the cheesecake purchased from a bakery back in Colorado Springs proved to be the perfect conclusion to the feast.

After the dishes were cleared and washed, the team moved into the living room, Jack and Sam grabbing beers, Daniel a steaming mug of coffee, and Teal'c a glass of apple juice.  There they shared with one another their favorite memories of Jacob Carter.

Sam thought she did a remarkable job of keeping her emotions in check throughout, though she did get a little misty-eyed a time or two.  Teal'c's solid presence on her left side and Daniel's gentle rubbing of her back from the right helped keep her cheeks dry.

They finally ran out of things to say somewhere past midnight, and Sam was hesitant to bring up the news she'd been holding in reserve for the last few days.  It just didn't seem appropriate, yet, not when everyone was so relaxed and comfortable.

"Why don't we hit the sack so we can get an early start on fishing tomorrow?" the general suddenly suggested.  A chorus of groans answered him.  "What?  You mean to tell me you didn't have fun fishing today?"

"In case you forgot, Jack," Daniel began, fiddling with the hem of his t-shirt, "Sam, Teal'c, and I are a field unit... we're not used to sitting on our butts all day."

"Smartass."

"Takes one to know one."

Sam giggled.  "You two have really been around each other too long."

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed with a smile.

Just then, Sam yawned loudly.  "Actually, sir, going to bed does seem like a good idea. Who's got the other bunk?  Daniel?"

"I'll take the couch," Daniel answered.

"No, Danny, you and Sam have the bunks, Teal'c's got the double, and I'll take the couch."

"Sure, and you'll wake up in the morning with aching joints and complaining about it until sunset."

"Will not."

"Will too."

"I will take the couch, O'Neill," Teal'c interrupted.

"Sorry, Teal'c, but you're a few inches taller than even Jack.  I'm shorter than you—not to mention nowhere near as broad-shouldered—so I'll fit better."

"You're not that much shorter," Jack reminded him.  "And Carter and I shouldn't share a room for the same reason we don't share tents offworld."

"Who's going to know?  And besides, how the hell is that any different from her sharing a tent with me or Teal'c?"

"'Cause you and Teal'c were married!  Er, to your wives, that is.  Not that that's been the case for a few years, now, but everybody knows you and Carter are the scientific siblings of the SGC and Teal'c's the epitome of 'honorable'."

Sam's felt her eyebrows rise.  "And you're not?"

The general's mouth snapped shut.  "Er... uh..."

"Fine, then.  I'll take the couch, you and Teal'c take the bunks, and Sam will take the double."

"Actually, Daniel, since I'm the shortest, I should probably take the couch."

"Oh, for cryin' out loud!"

"You're not that much shorter," Daniel parroted.  "The bunks are extra-long, and the double isn't... so you'd actually be better taking the double and letting Jack and Teal'c stretch their legs.  As for the couch, how many times has one of you caught me sleeping on the one in my office?"

Jack threw up his hands in defeat.  "Fine!  But I don't want to hear one word out of you tomorrow about being stiff or sore from sleeping on the couch."

"Not a problem," Daniel answered.  "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go wash up and change clothes."

"Me too," Sam agreed, standing up from the couch and stretching.  Jack collected her beer bottle before she could return it to the kitchen, so she headed for the spare room to grab her pack and transfer it to the master bedroom.

When she stepped out of the room to wash her face, Jack gave an appreciative grin.  "Nice jammies, Carter."

She grinned, picking at the navy blue cotton pajama set she'd bought earlier in the week for this trip, having decided that her usual sleepwear of shorts and camisole top would probably be a little too cool for the fall air in Minnesota.  "Thanks, sir."  When she'd finished washing up, she paused in the bedroom door and said, "Goodnight, sir!"

"Goodnight, Carter," Jack answered.  "Goodnight, Daniel."

"Goodnight, Jack," the archaeologist replied, shaking out a blanket and laying it on the couch.  "Goodnight, Sam... Goodnight, Teal'c."

"Goodnight, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c smiled.  "Goodnight, Colonel Carter."

"Goodnight, Teal'c," she grinned.

"Who are we, the Waltons?" Jack grumbled.

"Goodnight, O'Neill," the Jaffa added, lips curving higher.

"Oh, for cryin' out loud," the general muttered, disappearing into the spare room.

It didn't take long for Sam to fall asleep, but she awakened only a few hours later when the single beer she'd had decided it wanted out immediately.  Calling upon her stealth training so she wouldn't disturb any of her sleeping friends, she crept down the hall to the bathroom just off the living room.  Unfortunately, there was no way to flush quietly, but she kept the door closed until the pipes shut off, then flicked off the light and stepped into the hall.

A sudden noise from near the fireplace made her jump.  Cautiously, she made her way to the front of the couch, dismayed to see its occupant twitching beneath the tangled sheet, caught in the throes of an intense dream or nightmare.  Knowing Daniel as she did, Sam was willing to bet on the latter, especially since he seemed to be muttering in one of his many languages.  It sounded suspiciously like Latin, so it was probably Ancient... which was an indicator this probably wasn't a good memory for the former Ascended being.  Hoping to wake him before the nightmare worsened, she reached out to touch his shoulder to shake him, his name falling softly from her lips.

She had the sudden sensation of vertigo, looking into two deep, black pools ringed with crystal blue that seemed to hold all the knowledge of the universe in their confines.  Eyes which stripped right through the barriers of her mind and laid her thoughts bare before the frighteningly aware gaze.

"No!"

The cry was barely more than a strangled whisper, yet its volume was enough to shatter the stillness.  Then she was airborne, sailing across the darkened living room until she crashed into the small table near the double windows, sending dark soil, plants, and clay pots raining about her ears.

"Carter!"  A calloused hand was on her arm, helping her sit up, brushing dirt and stray leaves off her hair and face.  "What in the world did you trip over?" Jack groused, looking thoroughly displeased at having been so rudely awakened at such an ungodly hour.

"I—I didn't," she stammered.  "I mean, I... Where's Daniel?"

"He is not present," Teal'c replied.

Jack spun around, staring first at the back of the couch, then at the open front door.  "What the...?"

"I woke him," Sam managed, still shaking from the bizarre encounter.  "I was on my way back from the bathroom when I heard him having a nightmare, so I thought I'd—thought I'd wake him before it got too bad."

"Well, obviously that worked well," was the sarcastic reply.  The general thumped his temple with the heel of one hand, scrunching up his eyes as though he could squeeze the sleep out of them.  "Teal'c, go see if you can find Daniel."

"I will attempt to locate him, O'Neill," the Jaffa answered, slipping on his bright blue jacket and sneakers before stepping out the door into the chilly night.

Daniel's battered brown shoes and surplus jacket, a detached part of Sam noted, were still sitting by the door.

"Sir, he's out there barefoot and—"

"Teal'c will find him and bring him back inside," Jack soothed.  "Now... what happened to you?"

"Um, well... when I touched him, sir, he woke up and just stared at me... it was creepy, like he was actually looking through me or something.  And then... then he threw me."

"'Threw you'?" he repeated, head turning as he gauged the distance between the couch and the now-broken butler's table next to the wall.  It was six feet... and over the back of the couch, too.  "That must have been one hell of a dream."  His words were light, but his expression had darkened.  "Damn it, he should know by now that he doesn't have to keep everything to himself!"

Sam blinked, startled at the sudden change.  "Sir?"

"Carter, what exactly has he told you about his time as an honored guest of your evil twin?"

She felt the blood drain from her face.  "Nothing.  He hasn't said anything... God, sir, when he woke up, he must have thought—"

"Yeah.  And those lovely blue jammies didn't help matters any, I bet," the general groused.  "When Teal'c drags him back in here, we are going to sit him back down on that couch and make him talk to us."

"Sir?"

"No 'buts', Carter.  I think we all have a few issues we need to deal with, and we'd better clear the air now.  Tonight.  Even if we go through every beer and bottle of liquor in this cabin."

"Sir?"

"I have a twenty year-old bottle of bourbon tucked up around here somewhere I was saving for a special occasion, and—"

"JACK!"  The use of his given name caught him off-guard.  "Can I get up now?"

"Crap!  Sorry, Carter!  Jeeze, are you all right?"

She nodded, flicking potting soil off her shirt.  "Yes, sir.  He startled me more than anything.  I forget how much stronger he's gotten in the last eight years."

"He's always been strong," Jack corrected.  There was a long moment of silence, then he cleared his throat.  "But you're right: he's put on a lot of muscle, too."

"Yes, sir."

He coughed lightly.  "T's taking a lot longer than I thought he would... what say you and I clean up this mess?"

——-

Even a young Jaffa could follow the trail Teal'c was tracking, the maker of the tracks making no attempt to cover his passage.  Hardly surprising, that: given how far apart the individual footprints were placed, Daniel Jackson was obviously in full flight.  Having witnessed the long-legged archaeologist's transition from awkward scholar to fleet-footed warrior, Teal'c knew the younger man had a considerable lead on him.

He wondered what could possibly have "set off" the normally level-headed linguist.  Daniel Jackson was not known to panic, even in some of the worst situations the team had ever experienced.  Colonel Carter said she had awakened him from a nightmare, but he was not prone to fleeing from bad dreams.

Mired in his own thoughts, he almost raced past the figure huddled at the base of a large tree.  The missing man was seated on a flat rock, elbows propped up on his knees and hands covering the top of his head.  His face was hidden behind his forearms, but Teal'c could see that his entire body was trembling.

"Daniel Jackson," he called softly.

The archaeologist leapt to his feet, back pressing against the tree's trunk but hands coming up defensively.  "Teal'c," he rasped, realizing who had followed him.  "Sorry, I—"

"You have nothing for which to apologize," Teal'c assured him.  "It is I who should apologize."

"Y-you?  Teal'c, you—"

"I did not realize you were in distress, Daniel Jackson.  Upon reflection, I have concluded that you have not been the same since your return to the SGC."

"Teal'c, I—"

"I regret that we did not question your absence further.  You have never been one to seek solace for the many troubles which have plagued you in your life, and we failed you by not realizing you had need."

"I didn't—"

"You did, Daniel Jackson... only we did not wish to see it.  It was far easier for us to extend our sympathies to Colonel Carter for her visible losses and celebrate the defeat of the Goa'uld than to realize it was you who paid the price for that victory.  I can not make apologies for Colonel Carter and O'Neill, but I can and will offer my sincerest regret and ask once again for your forgiveness."

"God, no, Teal'c... there's nothing to forgive!  I should've known better...  You'd think I'd have learned by now that I don't have to keep everything to myself any more but nine years doesn't undo the previous thirty.  I'm sorry I didn't tell anyone... I'm sorry that I hurt Sam... I'm—"

"Colonel Carter is uninjured."

Daniel Jackson glared stubbornly.  "I may not have been completely in control of my actions, Teal'c, but I do remember throwing Sam across the room."

The Jaffa raised an eyebrow.  "Nevertheless, she was merely shaken, and insisted I locate you immediately."  He eyed the younger man critically.  "You are not suitably attired for a trek in the forest."

As though Teal'c had flicked a lightswitch, Daniel Jackson suddenly noticed his apparel... or lack thereof.  Clad only in a t-shirt and flannel pants, he began to shiver as a cool breeze stirred the trees around the teammates.

"Crap, you're right.  Um... how far is it to the cabin?"

"Just over a hundred yards," Teal'c estimated, making to unzip his jacket.

But Daniel Jackson waved him off, looking around for a moment as though to get his bearings, then stubbornly setting off in the direction of O'Neill's recreational abode.  "No sense in us both getting sick," he muttered, wrapping his arms around his ribcage.

Teal'c was very dismayed to see the closed self-hug he had believed Daniel Jackson had finally managed to abandon upon his return from a higher plane of existence.  Clearly it had returned, too.

"I'm sorry you—"

"No more apologies, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c interrupted, lengthening his stride to catch up with the archaeologist.  "We will talk more when we return to the cabin.  I have something I, too, have been meaning to discuss, and I believe O'Neill and Colonel Carter are in need of a conversation as much as you and I."

Daniel Jackson merely shivered and hugged himself more tightly.

——-

Jack paced.  He and Carter had already swept up the dirt, crockery shards, and plant detritus and moved the remains of the table out to the fire pit in the backyard, but Teal'c had yet to return with Daniel.

"I'm giving them one more minute," he announced, glaring at the mantle clock as though it was at fault for delaying the appearance of his two missing friends.  He hated worrying, which was the worst thing about commanding the SGC instead of a field team, was not being there with his "kids" off-world.  He dreaded to think how much worse it would be even further from the action, which is why he'd been deliberately steering conversation away from work as much as possible.

Unfortunately, he'd just been given a whole new reason to worry.

Silence took command of the room, broken only by the ticking of the little clock's shiny pendulum.  Counting the too-cheery clicks, Jack was up to forty-eight when heard a muffled thump from the direction of the front door.  In a flash, he was at the door, pulling it open to let in a frigid blast of air.

As though he wasn't already worried sick about Daniel, the younger man's appearance elevated his concern to new heights.  Shadows darkened his normally expressive eyes, and his short hair clung to his forehead in sweat-dampened spikes. His skin was too pale, carrying the faintest tinge of blue which spoke of too little clothing and too much late autumn air.

Then Carter was there with a blanket, ready to wrap the shivering man up in its soft warmth, only Daniel cringed when he saw her, winced at his own reaction, then accepted the fleece with a smile that stopped at his lips.

"Crap," Jack muttered, shutting the door behind Teal'c and resuming his pacing, trying to figure out where to start.

"S-s-sorry, J-jack."

He spun around.  "You're damn right you are!"  Only that wasn't exactly what he meant to say.  Too late, the already-hunched shoulders seated on the couch pulled even closer together, the tousled head dropping lower.  "Why the hell didn't you tell us?  Dammit, why the hell didn't we make you tell us?"

"We should not have needed to ask, O'Neill," Teal'c said softly.  "We have all been prisoners of human-form Replicators in the past.  We know they are capable of inflicting torture."

"T-torture?" Daniel stuttered, trying to pull on the pair of thick socks left for him on the coffee table.

"Yes, Daniel.  Tortured.  Those things like to stick their hands in people's heads and make them see things no one should ever have to witness.  That's why you can't look at Carter without reacting like a kicked puppy."

"Only the pup grew up and tossed me for a loop," the colonel added, staring down at her hands.

"Sam, I'm s-sorry.  I didn't mean—"

"Stop apologizing, Daniel, we've all ended up on the wrong side of each others' nightmares."

"But never the direct cause of them, sir."  She sank in the seat of the armchair, her gaze distant.  "I'm the reason she went after you.  I'm the reason she tortured you for information."

"She didn't torture me!" the linguist shouted, then swallowed hard before lowering his voice.  "You think I didn't know about the hand-in-the-head thing, Jack?  'Cause it was in your reports, all of you, and I read those.  So I told her I'd tell her whatever she wanted, but what she was after wasn't something I could just pull from my conscious memories."

"She sought memories from your time among the Ascended," Teal'c concluded.  "Somewhere in your memory was the knowledge of the device at Dakara, and she sought to take it for herself."

"No, she wanted to destroy it," the younger man corrected.  "She didn't need it for herself, she was winning anyway."

"So you are admitting she stuck her hand in your head."

Daniel scowled up at Jack, and the general was startled by the anger just beneath the surface of the expression.  Covering for his own reaction, Jack grabbed the armchair's ottoman and settled on it with a barely audible sigh.  He was getting too old for these late-night panic attacks.

"Did she probe my mind for information?  Yes.  But she did not stick her hand in my head, and she did not torture me."

Jack scrubbed his hands through his hair.  "Okay, so you weren't tortured.  That still doesn't explain how you ended up in my office without a stitch of clothing.  You managed to avoid that explanation last week, and I can't believe I let you get away with it."

"I think we all knew, sir," Carter piped up, looking miserable as she hugged her knees to her chin.  "We all knew what his return meant, but we were all looking for an excuse to avoid it."

"You descended again," Teal'c agreed.  "Which would indicate your death and ascension had already occurred."

"And which also brings up a whole lot of other questions," Jack finished.  And he hated unanswered questions where a friend was concerned.  Daniel didn't answer, shrinking further into the blanket, so the general slapped his thigh and rose from the ottoman.  "That's it, I'm going to grab us all some Kentucky courage."

"Is not the expression 'Dutch courage'?" questioned Teal'c when he returned from the kitchen with four tumblers and a dark amber bottle.

"Not this stuff, T... this is twenty year-old Wild Turkey 80-proof, and I have a Woodford Reserve on standby, if we need it."  Pouring out a few fingers, he handed the first glass to Daniel.  "The whole thing," he ordered gently.  The scowl was back, especially since Daniel wasn't fond of hard liquor, let alone drinking it neat.  Nevertheless, he tipped the shot back, glared at the glass for a moment, then held it out for a refill.

It was all Jack could do to keep himself from swearing.  Instead, he poured a smaller amount than the last, glanced at Carter for confirmation, then poured two more tumblers.  Meanwhile, Teal'c filled his own glass with water, then returned to the living room and seated himself on the couch next to Daniel.

"Okay," the general began after he'd sipped at his own drink.  "Let's start where Carter's report left off: the Replicators beamed you away—"

Daniel set his tumbler back on the coffee table, pinching the bridge of his nose with one hand.  He still hadn't asked for his glasses, which Jack and Carter had found lying next to the fireplace, which was a pretty fair indicator the younger man still didn't want to look at any of his friends.

Or worse, didn't want to see them looking at him.

"Nothing happened at first," he admitted abruptly, hand dropping from his brow but still staring down at his lap.  "I was beamed aboard the attacking Goa'uld vessel, into one of the holding cells.  Neither firearm nor vest beamed in with me.  The doors were sealed, I couldn't jerry-rig the locking mechanism, and I didn't know what I was going to do even if I could get out.  So I stayed and proceeded to be very bored for a long time.

"Then I was beamed out of there and into a room made entirely of Replicator blocks.  I could pretty well guess the entire ship was, too, based on your description of Fifth's version, Sam.  So after hanging around there for a while, she finally showed up."

"My double," the colonel stated morosely.

"Nothing like you, Carter," Jack insisted.

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed.

Uncharacteristically, Daniel didn't leap to her defense.  "Yeah.  That's when she told me she was after information in my subconscious.  She backed me into a wall, then the blocks... uh, kinda formed manacles to hold me there.  Next thing I know, I'm in my tent on Vis Uban, talking to Oma Desala."

"No kidding," Jack muttered.  "I take it not Oma?"

"I had my doubts.  Especially once she started to tell me exactly what I wanted to hear: that my subconscious contained information about a weapon which could destroy the Replicators."

"Dakara," frowned Teal'c.  "The weapon was built by the Ancients."

"It wasn't a weapon," Daniel snapped.  "Or at least, that's not why they built it.  It was designed to re-seed the galaxy with life after the plague wiped out almost everything.  But somehow, I knew about it, so when she got me thinking about ways to stop the Replicators, I apparently came up with that.

"So I confronted her, exposed her as a fraud, and she changed back into... into her normal form.  She told me she was going to destroy the device."

"And off they went to shoot the crap out of Baal's fleet," Jack finished.  "But the story doesn't end there, does it?"

Daniel's response was to pick up the tumbler again and hold it out for another refill.

"Shit," Jack swore.  He waited until the glass was drained again before asking softly, "What happened, Danny?"

"I'm sure you've all guessed by now... I died.  Again."

"When the weapon destroyed the Replicator ship," Carter guessed.

"After she found out about the device at Dakara, she wanted more.  If I knew about that kind of technology, she wanted to know what else I knew.  This time, though, I knew what she was doing and fought back.  But she knew me too well...  Sam, if I asked you what we have in common, what would you say?  Besides SG-1, of course."

The colonel frowned.  "Besides SG-1?  Lots of things, Daniel: our love of learning, our—"

"Yes, our love of learning," he interrupted.  "And she used that.  She knew I couldn't deny myself access to the knowledge of the Ancients once I knew it was there, couldn't fight her off and still learn what I wanted to know.  So I stopped."

Jack groaned.  "What were you thinking?"

Daniel could have been carved from ice.  "Don't you know by now what a manipulative bastard I am?"

"Daniel!" Carter protested.

"It's true and you know it!" he retorted.  "While she was rummaging around in my head, I took the opportunity to utilize her own greatest weakness: arrogance.  She was you, Sam... right down to your inability to see your own faults, your superiority in all things scientific, the way you let your emotions override your common sense, and the way you continuously underestimate me."

——-

"Daniel Jackson!"

"Dammit, Daniel!"

The archaeologist clutched his blanket tighter as though gathering his shield, but Sam was reeling from the blow he'd just delivered.  Did he really think that of her?  Even worse, was it true?

"You're the wrong person to talk about someone else being 'arrogant', Daniel," the general was growling.  "I still remember the guy who walked into a lab nine years ago, took one look at a blackboard full of scribbles, and proceeded to un-do seventy years' worth of translations.  The guy who—"

"I'm not denying I can be arrogant, too, Jack," Daniel snapped.  "In fact, I'll be the first to admit it when it comes to translating certain languages or defending a thesis or theory.  And no one has to remind me that the price paid for my 'arrogance' includes my own wife and her entire planet!"

Sam swallowed.  "That wasn't your—"

"—Fault?  Spare me the useless platitudes, Sam, we all know who re-opened the Abydos 'Gate... who gave the Eye of Ra to Anubis.  Nothing will bring those people back.  The only thing any of us could do is try to minimize the future body count."

"Daniel!" she gasped.

"You know," Jack began, skin flushed, "I'm not sure Oma put all the pieces back together correctly this time, Daniel: you've never been such a cold-hearted son of a—"

"O'Neill!" Teal'c interrupted, looking more annoyed than Sam had ever seen.  "Daniel Jackson, you will resume your narrative.  You were about to explain why you allowed the Replicator to draw knowledge from your subconscious."

The younger man's hands were shaking again, but he clenched them into fists to abate the tremors.  "I let her think she was beating me—that I'd given in to the lure of all that knowledge of history and technology.  Gone over to the Dark Side, you might say.  Instead, I was digging into the teachings at Kheb."

"What did you discover?" the Jaffa asked.

"There is only one truth: the universe is infinite."

Sam frowned.  "Of course the universe is infinite.  But why—"

"Infinity is a terrible concept for the human mind to try to imagine.  The very fact that we have a word for it at all is a tremendous advance in human thought.  But knowledge of the infinite can not be contained in a single vessel unless it a vessel of infinite capacity.  The Replicator was smart enough to realize she couldn't possibly learn and retain everything she wanted to know herself, so she tried dispersing little bits of information to her brethren.  With her confused and distracted, I went into her mind."  He stared at his hands for a long moment, but when he looked up again, the frighteningly aware expression was back.

"She was just like you, Sam.  Same hopes, ambitions, dreams, tragedies, triumphs... right up until Fifth separated her from you and destroyed her humanity.  She even wanted kids, but she was afraid they would one day do to her what she did to Fifth."

"Creepy," Jack commented, but there was no levity in his voice.

"No kidding," Sam agreed, shivering.  "What happened next?"

"A lot.  I found out she had no intention of letting me go, that she'd keep me prisoner in my own mind until she no longer had any use for me.  She had tried to convince me to help her speed up her search for information by promising to leave Earth alone, but I was able to sense all the Replicators everywhere at once."

"Found out she lied, did ya?"

"Yes, Jack.  And while confronting her about it may not seem to have been the best idea, it... uh... it..."

Sam had a pretty good idea exactly what being taunted would have done to her double.  "It made her speed up her search, didn't it?"

Daniel nodded.  "So she could get what she wanted and get rid of me.  She got sloppy.  Sam, you do a lot of things really well under pressure, but too much pressure and you... cave.  She couldn't hold up under the strain, and I took over."

"That's when the bugs all stopped," Jack guessed.

"They aren't meant to do that, you know.  Most of the work of controlling all the Replicators is simply letting them do what they're programmed to do: consume technology and resources, multiply, and move on.  Stopping all of them goes against their design, and was... very, very hard."  He swallowed hard.  "I couldn't—I'm only human, I held for as long as I could."

"It was long enough," Teal'c assured him.

"It gave us the time Dad and I needed to finish programming the wea—the device."

Jack nodded.  "What happened next, Danny?"

"She broke free... got out of my mind.  I—I was still in control of the Replicators, and she knew she didn't have much time left to stop you, Sam.  So while I was still trying to hold it together... and getting used to being in control of a physical body again... she killed me."

"How?" Jack asked softly, as gently as Sam had ever heard.

Daniel's eyes slid shut, his entire body rigid.  "Remember when Teal'c rented Terminator 2?"  Sam nodded, but didn't quite understand.  "And remember how great we all thought it would be to be able to shape body parts like—"

"Damn, the sword!" the general cursed, comprehending.  "She stabbed you with a sword?"

He tapped his breastbone.  "Straight through.  Hurt like hell, and I couldn't hold on... to the Replicators, me... anything.  Not the worst way to go, really, but bad enough when the person who killed you looks like one of your closest friends."

"The kitchen knife," Sam realized.  "Oh, god, Daniel.  You must have thought—"

"Yeah.  This I will say isn't your fault, Sam.  You didn't make her what she was, only unwillingly provided the template for her body and mind."  His hands fisted again.  "I was dreaming of the ship when you woke me, Sam.  I'm sorry I reacted the way I did... you couldn't have known.  I didn't tell anyone."

"We did not ask," Teal'c stated.  "In that, we failed you, Daniel Jackson."

"I thought you died when the Replicator ship disintegrated.  I didn't think—" Sam began.

"You couldn't have known," Daniel insisted.

"Actually, Daniel, we didn't give you a chance to tell us," Jack corrected.  "We could have let you explain while Walter got you a spare uniform, but I started cracking jokes, instead.  Once you were suitably attired, we told you about what happened to us while you were gone, then the Jaffa dialed in to talk to Bra'tac...  The point is, I should have made you write a report on it, at least."

"I wouldn't have been able to write it," the younger man admitted.  "I would have lied, anyway.  Down-played the truth.  It wouldn't have been able to say what really happened, how I really died."

"Say it like it is, Danny.  You were murdered."

Sam gasped.  "Sir!"

"Cold-blooded murder, Carter—pre-meditated, even.  We're done sugar-coating it.  That never got us anywhere anyway.  We got more accomplished tonight with Daniel sockin' it to us straight than we have all week."  His eyes narrowed.  "So while we're at it, I'm ashamed of you, Daniel.  I'm ashamed that you still haven't learned in almost eight years that you can trust us with stuff like this.  You always bottle everything up inside until you explode, and take it from me, that's not healthy."

"I know," he sighed.  "But it is so hard to go back on over twenty years of keeping it to myself.  You guys have helped me so much, but—god, how do I say this..."

"Spit it out," Jack prompted.

Without further encouragement, Daniel let them have it.  "How the hell do you expect me to automatically trust any of you with something like this when the four of us spend so much time lying to one another?"

"What do you mean by that?"

Daniel's jaw worked silently.  "Okay, I'll start with me.  As we've noted, I'm pretty arrogant.  I grew up smarter than everyone around me, so now I just assume I am, though I know I'm out of my league in the hard sciences.  I tend to act like everyone should automatically know what I'm talking about, no matter how difficult or unusual a concept it is.  Then we have my perpetual, 'I'm fine'.  You've noticed it, I've noticed it, yet we all still let me say it anyway.  'You're not fine, Daniel', that'd be something, but we all just smile and nod and go on our merry way.  I come back from the dead again, and it's 'how are you, Daniel?', 'I'm fine', and I'm not.  But it's easier than admitting to myself I'm not 'fine' and telling you the truth."

"And easier for us to pretend you are telling the truth," Teal'c agreed, "even though we also know you are being dishonest."

"Right.  Then there's you, Teal'c.  You do the same thing, too, always pretending you're too stoic or whatever.  That nothing ever bothers you, and we let you get away with it.  There's also that little thing you do where you act like you don't understand colloquialisms.  Thanks to this latest round of 'let's dig up Daniel's memories', I now remember a certain fireman who was quite versed in American vernacular.  Even called everyone around him by nicknames."

Sam frowned in confusion, but Teal'c looked apologetic.  "Indeed you are correct, Daniel Jackson.  But like you, I have spoken and acted a certain way for so many years that it seems unnatural to do otherwise, even if it is to conform to the acceptable standard around me."

"Of course.  Now, as far as how you perceive us, for the most part you trust the rest of us to do our jobs, but not to take risks.  You have this tendency to treat us like small children.  I mean, I know we're all several decades younger than you, but the scope of our experience is no less.  In many ways, it's even greater.  But I often get this impression that you are indulging us as you would a small child."  Rather than dispute the charges, Teal'c bowed his head solemnly.

"My, you're perceptive when you've tied a few on," the general commented.

"You bet, so it's your turn, Jack.  Sometimes that 'dumb' act of yours gets really irritating.  Did you think no one would know you had a master's degree in international affairs?  Or a BS in astronomy?"

"BS is about right," the general quipped.  "It's in my personnel file, Daniel, I'd be shocked if none of you did know."

"Yeah, which brings up my next point.  You make a joke out of everything to avoid talking about it.  I might say 'I'm fine', but you'll joke around about bad knees, or having gas, or something else which has nothing to do with the topic at hand, and we let it go at that.  All in all, though, I'd say it's a vast improvement over the unfeeling bastard I first met almost nine years ago."

"Well, thanks so much," came the reply, then a muttered, "Crap, I did it again, didn't I?"

"Yeah.  You also like to pretend you're an optimist, when in fact you consistently look for the worst-case scenario.  Sometimes that causes you to overlook a best-case scenario, and then you get mad about it.  And last, but certainly not least, there's you, Sam."

Sam wanted to curl up and die, knowing full well that Daniel had been, for all intents and purposes, inside her head.  True, her Replicator duplicate was a completely different entity, but as Daniel had said, the template upon which she'd been based was all original.  "Don't pull your punches on my account," she said, instead, trying not to shrink back into her chair.

"You are the most brilliant and courageous woman I have ever met," he began, "but you make my emotional insecurities look simple by comparison.  You have a predilection for danger that exceeds Jack's, and you exercise it by driving fast cars, riding motorcycles, and performing in some rather adventurous outdoor sports.

"You also take everything at face-value, refusing to accept there might be more to any situation than what can be seen or measured.  Fortunately for me—and I guess for all of us, really—that worked in our favor this time.  You're always the last person to believe me, Sam, especially since I don't always have cold, hard facts to back up some of my theories or ideas.  You always look to Teal'c and especially Jack to decide for you if you want to listen to me or anyone else going on instinct alone.  Even more than Jack or Teal'c do, you treat me like some precocious kid brother with a lot of wild but silly ideas.  It hurts, Sam, especially since I've always held your skills and intelligence in the highest regard.

"You have a remarkable tendency to let your emotions override your common sense.  In the early days, I did the same thing, too.  The difference is, you never got the shit kicked out of you when it happened.  If whatever happened didn't land me in the infirmary all on its own, Jack would rake me over the coals himself.  That's our fault for treating you like 'the girl' instead of a soldier and friend.

"Finally, there's this 'thing' between you and Jack.  Sometimes the tension is so thick, I swear I'm about to choke.  Sometimes I think it's a schoolyard crush, and other times I think it's a lot deeper.  Whatever it is, it's affected the team time and time again for years—again, we got ourselves in a few tight scrapes because we let you let your emotions get away from you.  This weekend, you're not here as general and colonel, so I suggest the two of you get your shit straight.  Teal'c and I will go hunt truffles or whatever, but the two of you have some serious issues to resolve."

——-

Daniel took a deep breath, surprised at himself for having said as much as he had.  Of course, his usual reticence had been overwhelmed by the nightmare, the dash through the woods, and three rather stiff drinks.  Now that the adrenaline rush was over, though, he found himself cringing in anticipation of his companions' inevitable responses.

"First off, Daniel," Jack began evenly.  "Stop cowering like that kicked puppy Carter compared you to earlier."

"Sir, you're the one who—"

"Not now, Carter," the general interrupted.  "Secondly, you're right.  That's got to be one of, if not the most annoying thing about you.  You're right entirely too often, and each of us has a terrible track-record when it comes to listening to you.  It always comes back to bite us all in the ass, too.  Actually, it usually comes back to bite you in the ass, while the rest of us get off scot-free.  Usually, we all shrug it off, maybe even throw a lame apology your way, but this time we really screwed up, and you got killed again.

"I can't even begin to apologize for it, either," he continued.  "We—the three of us, I mean—screwed up with the Replicator at the Alpha Site while you were off saving the Prometheus from that insane ex-host who had the hots for you.  And that's only one example."

"There are many others," Teal'c agreed.  "While I believe that Colonel Carter, O'Neill, and I are primarily at fault for not learning to listen to you, Daniel Jackson, you also stopped fighting to be heard.  When SG-1 was first created, you challenged everyone with your beliefs.  Then you stopped.  While it is true you never gave up trying to do what was right, you did cease attempting to be heard and simply began acting.  This eventually led to your death from radiation poisoning, and we are again at fault: not by direct action, but by its lack."

Daniel was unable to contain the shiver that particular memory evoked, and the unintentional gesture left expressions of pained regret on Jack's and Sam's faces.

"Ouch, Teal'c... but like Daniel, you're absolutely right."

"Yeah," Sam agreed quietly, looking as miserable as Daniel felt.

"I thought when you came to me while Jacob was trying to heal you that you were giving up.  You said you weren't, but I didn't believe you.  That time I was right, though, Daniel.  You did give up, but not on life, like I thought.  You gave up on us, and I don't blame you for that one little bit.  But the fact of the matter is, I've come to rely on you and your 'never say never' attitude, so don't you dare give up on anything again, you hear me?"

Daniel felt his cheeks coloring.  "That's a promise," he answered softly.

"And we're going to promise you that we'll never give up on you ever again," Sam added.  "The general didn't this time, even though I tried to get him to hold a memorial service or declare you MIA."

He blinked.  "You wouldn't hold a memorial service?"

"I didn't think you were dead at all," Jack clarified.  "I thought... I'd hoped Oma saved you again, or you'd managed to save yourself."

Daniel felt his eyebrows rise.  "Going for optimism now, are you?"

"Realism," he corrected.  "Maybe not worst-case scenario, but definitely the most realistic one.  Come on, how many times have we thought you were dead and gone, only to show up later very much among the living?  Jeez, Daniel, SGC regulations state that we have to wait a year before declaring you dead."

"They do not."

"They should.  In fact, I'm the general.  I'm gonna change that when we get back!"

"You'll have to clear it through the President and General Hammond," Daniel retorted, rising to the bait even though he knew Jack's obvious deflection by humor for exactly what it was.

He cleared his throat.  "Uh... yeah.  Listen, while we're making confessions?"

"Sir?"  Carter's stunned expression had yet to fade, and Daniel wondered just how bad the emotional damage he'd inflicted was.  Despite the blunt and forward delivery, though, he felt better for having gotten all his deepest feelings off his chest.  He was pretty sure Sam was going to have to do some soul-searching before she could accept faults she'd never before considered she had, but he was confident she'd get there.

She was the most brilliant and courageous woman he'd ever met, after all.

"Hammond's decided to retire.  He asked me to take over in Washington, but I don't want to leave you three without a keeper."

"Master Bra'tac has asked me to join the newly-formed Jaffa Council," Teal'c announced, looking a little uncomfortable himself.

"And I've been asked to head up R & D at Area 51," Sam blurted.  "Again."

Daniel felt his face pale, suddenly fearful of what his forceful words had done to his friends.  "You guys are leaving?  I-I didn't mean to imply I don't trust any of you, really, I—"

"How you can you trust me to lead you anymore, Daniel?" she exclaimed.  "After what she did to you, to see me with the same face and—"

"N-n-no!  Sam, I can work through it, I can.  It'll take some time, but I can get over it, really."

"And there you go again with the 'I'm fine'," Jack growled.  "Maybe not in those words, Daniel, but I just sat here and watched a battle-hardened warrior turn into frightened orphan in the blink of an eye.  We're not abandoning you, but you are completely right: we need to get our shit together.  All of us, not just me and Carter.  So while the two of us have a heart-to-heart later this morning, you and Teal'c are going to wrap up any issues the two of you have, then we'll swap off partners until we all get it out with one another."

"We have already undertaken the first step toward healing," Teal'c agreed.  "Perhaps time away from one another will help us to reconcile our own feelings for one another, especially now that we no longer battle the Goa'uld."

"I can't be on SG-1 without you guys," Daniel confessed.  "It was hard enough without you, Jack, but without Sam and Teal'c, too?  I can't do it alone."

"So don't," Jack suggested.  "Go independent.  Any one of the research or first contact teams at the SGC would love to have you with them.  Reynolds would be tickled pink to have you on SG-3, even, which speaks a lot for how much you've—how much we've forced you to change over the years.  You're as good with a P-90 as anyone in the SGC, and nobody speaks more languages than you."

He squirmed under the unaccustomed praise.  "That's not exactly what I meant.  Any time I've gone offworld with another team, I've always known that you guys would be there to back me up if we got in trouble.  I may not have trusted you with my emotions, but I've always trusted you with my life.  Without the three of you out there, that's gone."

"No one at the SGC will give up on you anymore, Daniel, that's my promise... especially after your latest Lazarus impression," Jack reminded him.

"What about SG-1?  Will someone else lead a new team or are we going to 'retire the jersey'?"

Jack narrowed his eyes.  "Is that a sports metaphor, Danny?"

He smiled a little.  "Yeah.  That's what happens when I hang around you for so long."

"Right.  Well, as it so happens, there's a certain young Air Force colonel you dragged me into visiting at the Academy Hospital who's due to pass his combat-readiness physical any day now.  He managed to sweet-talk me into letting him have whatever he wanted—within reason, of course—and I was trying to figure out how I'd be able to break it to you three that you were getting a fourth."

"Cameron?" Sam asked, and Daniel smiled as he recalled his own visits to the F-302 pilot who'd saved SG-1's cargo ship from certain doom despite having a crippled craft of his own.

"Yeah.  Now I just have to figure out how to tell him the three of you won't be on SG-1 any more.  Wow, what a concept."

"Yeah," Daniel echoed.

Jack grinned.  "I'd hoped to have one last hurrah with the team, some wacky offworld excursion with just the four of us, but I think I like all this trust and emotions stuff better.  Imagine that."

"Well, if not for the tape, sir, we'd have had our last mission together a few days or weeks from now," Sam pointed out with a small smile of her own.  "Painful as this has been for what I now realize is the ego I didn't know I had, I wouldn't trade this weekend for anything."

Satisfied he hadn't inflicted any permanent damage on his friendships with any of his team—former teammates, Daniel allowed himself to finally relax.  "Uh, guys, before this alcohol kicks in and I'm left an incoherent wreck for the next few hours, what about Atlantis?  When the Daedalus comes back from Atlantis, maybe I can go join the expedition.  The city of the Ancients."

"You are the expert on the Ancients," Sam agreed, this time without the hint of condescension she'd unconsciously voiced the first time she'd made the same comment just before his disastrous trip on the Prometheus.

"Twice Ascended," Teal'c mused.

"Nope, only partway this time," Daniel sighed, leaning back into the couch and letting his eyes slide to half-mast.

"Really?  So what happened after—uh, after the lights went out?" Jack asked.

"I walked into a diner, and—"

The older man chuckled.  "Crap, he's wasted.  I knew I shouldn't have let him drink three bourbons!"

Daniel grinned.  "I walked into a diner.  Believe me, it didn't make much more sense when I was sober..."




End Notes:

You know me, I had to have a happy ending :) I also have to once again acknowledge the lovely ladies over at the D/V forum for unintentionally spawning this little plot bunny-cum-wererabbit.

Will there be a follow-up 'fic to this? Maybe... I want to see what happens when I write Sam's return to the SGC in "Beachhead". I might even incorporate it into "The Thief and the Archaeologist" in some way, letting Sam and Vala have a heart-to-heart about trusting Daniel (which will doubtlessly foreshadow "Memento Mori").

In the meantime, however, I have more "thief 'n'arch" stuff to write, a season three-based story to finish, an LD-verse "First Christmas" challenge to meet, and a Teal'c/Daniel friendship vid to finish. That's right! I do vids now, too!

Thanks for letting me rant!

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