The second Sam stepped through the Stargate and took in the massive structure about half a klick away, she knew Daniel was going to be a very happy camper.
“Oh, wow,” the archaeologist breathed in uncontained wonder.
Yep, called it.
But even Sam had to admit, the architecture was impressive. The palatial building looked like something straight out of 1001 Arabian Nights – it looked like it was from that era, too, and had not seen a living soul since. No ramparts fluttered, the bulbous onion domes were stripped by age of any color they might have once had, and the crumbled ruins of a city between here and there were tomb-like.
“Well,” Jack sighed wearily, “at least it’s not a pyramid.”
Sam bit back a smile. It was a constant battle not revealing how much she truly enjoyed her CO’s sense of humor.
“We’re going to check it out, right?” Daniel asked as he looked expectantly at Jack.
“You just try and hold me back,” Jack answered sarcastically, but all the same he glanced past Daniel’s shoulder at Teal’c and gave a head tick that signaled the Jaffa to lead the way.
Teal’c nodded and set off for the palace at a dignified pace.
Daniel hurried down the steps after Teal’c, practically buzzing with excitement, but he didn’t attempt to cut in front of Teal’c. He had finally learned better than to dart ahead. The Jaffa was particularly good at noticing signs of danger, whereas Daniel obliviously stumbled right into it. It took his fair share of mishaps, but Daniel had learned to respect the reasons Jack had Teal’c take point.
There was still an impatient bounce to his step, though.
Sam watched after Daniel fondly. His curiosity often got them in trouble, but the truth was Sam loved that about Daniel. He’d been through so much, and still he could marvel at the universe. There was a purity to Daniel Jackson nothing could destroy, and heaven knows fate had sure as hell tried.
“They’re cute,” Jack said as he leaned in toward her. “That’s how they get you.”
“Children.” Jack waved at Daniel as case in point. “It’s so you won’t strangle them, you know.” With that, he moved down the steps after the guys.
Safe with Jack’s back to her, Sam smiled to herself as she followed after her commanding officer.
The main thoroughfare of the city was a maze of rubble, turning their trek down a straight road serpentine. Sam took her cue from Teal’c at the head of the group. The Jaffa was alert but not tense, suggesting the city was as dead as it appeared. She let herself relax (as much as she ever did off-world) as they marched inexorably toward the Arabian palace.
Jack was a step in front of her, but when the path cleared up ahead to allow two to walk abreast, she lengthened her stride to walk beside him.
She realized he was humming.
Eyebrows climbing toward her hairline, Sam looked over at him.
“What?” he asked when he noticed her stare.
“Sir… are you humming?”
Jack paused a second and seemed to startle when he realized he had been. “Huh… guess I was.”
The notion itself had Sam fighting back a smile. That and the dead planet seemed unlikely to give them trouble, so her mood was pretty good. “What song? Because that didn’t sound like the Simpsons theme.”
Jack’s off-world soldier façade cracked with a tiny smile. “Prince Ali.”
Sam cocked her head when she didn’t recognize the title. “Is that from one of those operas you like?” Though the fact Jack O’Neill was a fan of opera music still seemed like the biggest mind-warp in history.
Jack snorted. “It’s from Aladdin, Carter.”
Sam didn’t react.
“The Disney movie?” he added expectantly.
Sam faltered a step as she mumbled, “Oh,” and let Jack pull ahead of her when the path bottlenecked with debris once more. Jack seemed glad to outpace the direction of their conversation.
Sam didn’t blame him. Sometimes she forgot that Jack had been a father in little ways… like knowing children’s movies that would have been popular when Charlie was alive. The sharp reminder made her heart twinge.
But she buried it post haste; Jack wouldn’t want to contend with the ghost of his dead son while on a mission. She didn’t really want to, either.
The team met no resistance on their trek through the dead city and reached the palace to find it foreboding. And impregnable. Whereas the other buildings in the city had been demolished and reduced to rubble, the palace was intact. Its great walls rose three stories up, sheer unmarred sandstone that dwarfed SG-1 as the team milled around in its shadow like ants trying to conquer a picnic basket.
Frustrating Daniel further, there were no windows and the only door – a large set of double-doors tall enough for an elephant to walk through – was bolted and chained shut.
“This looks like the only way in,” Daniel said as he stood before the barred entrance. The woodwork on the doors was exquisite, intricate designs carved into the aged lumber by a master artisan. Sam could practically hear Daniel’s inner voice wailing that the only way to get to the treasures inside might be to damage this treasure outside.
Jack craned his neck up toward the top of the palace and pondered the options. “Well, I suppose you could take a walk around and see if there’s another way in.”
Daniel huffed as he contemplated the sheer size of the palace (and how long it would take to circle it), shifted on his feet impatiently, then he headed off along the building’s front wall to do just that.
“Teal’c…” Jack said wearily, and it was enough for the Jaffa to nod and follow after Daniel. Keeping an eye on him, because dollars to doughnuts, the second he was out of sight he’d manage to find trouble.
Sam came up alongside the colonel and considered the enormous structure with him.
“Doesn’t really look Goa’uld, does it?” she mused. They mostly tended toward the Egyptian motif.
“Nope… then again, Lord Yu is as snakey as they come, and he rocks the Chinese thing.” Jack turned and surveyed the surrounding village. There was still no sign of life besides the visiting team, and Sam was both glad for that and creeped out by it.
“Wonder what happened here,” Jack thought aloud.
Sam shrugged. “Daniel can probably tell us once he gets inside.”
“No doubt.” Jack sized up the building again, squinting into the overcast sky unnecessarily, then turned a look toward Sam. “So, you want to bet on whether he’ll let us break down the doors or if he’ll try to shimmy up the wall like a monkey?”
Sam stifled a chuckle and turned her back to him just slightly to hide her amusement, masking the maneuver as a perimeter-check.
“My guess is he caves and lets us break in,” Jack said conversationally as he readjusted his P-90 across his chest. “He’s really embraced the ‘bull in the china shop’ method over the years. I like to think that’s my influence.”
Sam snorted. “If it is, sir, it’s probably just Daniel knowing you’ll only sit around for ten minutes, tops, without observable progress before you resort to drastic measures.”
Jack narrowed his eyes at her. “Major, are you calling me impatient?”
“I’m just saying, sir… with you breathing down his neck, Daniel has had to learn to speed up the innately time-consuming process of archaeology.” She knew all about that.
Jack cocked his head and peered shrewdly at her. “Like you’ve learned to make science ‘hurry up’?”
Sam smirked, not surprised he had caught her meaning. “Yes, sir.”
Jack waved off her allegations with a flippant gesture. “Bah! Say what you want, but you two both get your jobs done, done well, and done fast. If that’s my fault, then I’ll gladly take credit.”
Truth was, Jack knew how far he could push his people, and if something really could not be done any faster than it was already being done, he acceded to the experts. Maybe not happily, but he grudgingly gave his people the time they needed to get the job done (outside factors notwithstanding). It was part of what made him such a good commanding officer.
As the pair waited for the rest of their team to return, Sam found herself seeking science experiments (fiddling with her compass to determine if the planet had a magnetic pole) while Jack toed several rocks around the ground (into a shape that looked suspiciously like a fish).
When Daniel and Teal’c finally came around the opposite side of the huge building, Daniel was scowling.
“There’s no other way in,” Daniel said sourly when they rejoined their teammates. “It’s solid walls all the way around. Not even a rear entrance.”
“Then I guess we’ll just have to force our way in here,” Jack said as he gestured toward the doors.
Daniel looked pained at the thought and approached the double doors mournfully, laying his hands atop the artwork on the panels like he was apologizing in advance.
“Can’t we come back with a team to cut through the chain without damaging the doors?” Daniel asked.
“They’re just doors, Daniel. We don’t even know if there’s anything useful inside. You want to waste more manpower and time on potentially nothing?”
“It wouldn’t be locked up if there was nothing inside,” Daniel argued.
“Then let’s find out. Stand back.”
Jack sighed in mounting annoyance.
Sam felt it best to step in. She went to Daniel’s side and touched his shoulder. “Come on, Daniel. Given the fact that this palace is untouched, I bet there’s some amazing stuff inside.” Certainly worth the sacrifice of a pair of (admittedly) beautiful doors.
Daniel looked over at her, considered her words, then nodded. “I sure hope so.” Then he stepped back from the doors. Sam retreated with him.
When they were clear, Jack turned Teal’c. “Teal’c?” he said and gestured meaningfully toward the doors.
The doors were solid, and it took several rounds of staff blasts to reduce the wood surrounding the lock to splinters. Beautiful craftsmanship went careening through the air in fragments and shards. Daniel all but whimpered as he watched Teal’c destroy the doors.
But he was also the first one to rush forward when the weapons fire stopped.
“Oh, wow!” he exclaimed when he’d poked his head through one of the sizeable holes. “You guys have to see this!”
Pulling apart the mangled door pieces until the lock lay useless on the ground, SG-1 pushed at what remained of the two great doors. They creaked and groaned in protest but slowly swung inward to allow the team through.
Daniel had good reason to be so excited. Inside was a wide, tiled foyer with rich tapestries and rugs to give the space a maroon and wine-red hue, but they were lost in the grandeur of the chamber directly opposite the doors.
A great room, like a theater, was filled with treasures. Fitting with the style of the building, the trinkets and goods within were of the same Arabian Knights motif, and obviously the palace had been the home of a sultan. Jewels and gold and silk abound. Opulent furniture, lush cushions, and tasseled curtains crowded every inch. Horses and camels and elephants of ebony, ivory, and marble stood in for the living beings that must have once reveled in the embarrassment of riches.
“Wonderful things!” Daniel breathed. He noticed Sam standing next to him, turned to look at her, and grinned, “Did you know that’s what Howard Carter said when he first poked his head inside the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922?” Daniel turned his eyes back to the glitter of rubies and gold. “He must have felt like this.”
“I can understand his amazement if that tomb was anything like this,” Sam agreed as she considered the room’s contents. She didn’t even have any frame of reference for appreciating their historical significance or value, and even she was impressed by the sight of all the objects.
“Damn.” Jack whistled as he took in the sprawl of priceless goods. “It’s a shame we’re not treasure-hunters.”
Daniel started toward the room of riches like a man entranced.
Right up until he collided with air and was knocked back. A thin, blue sheen rippled across the threshold to the treasure room in reaction to the collision.
“Ow, ow…” Daniel staggered back and cupped his nose. “Force field.”
“Ya think?” Jack asked as he came up alongside Daniel. He checked that the archaeologist wasn’t bleeding, then he surveyed the seemingly harmless space that he now knew held an energy barrier. “Now, that was Goa’uld.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c intoned as he also inspected the invisible line.
“Someone must have really wanted to protect their valuables,” Sam said thoughtfully as she studied the building with a new, scientific eye. Now that she knew an advanced technology was hidden amid the ancient finds, her interest was piqued. “Teal’c… do you see a ring platform in that treasure room anywhere?”
Teal’c peered into the room, but Sam had really asked to have her own observation verified. The treasure room was too cluttered with goods for a ring platform to have clearance. And if the Goa’uld who left the booty there had ringed out, it would have left circular evidence behind.
“I do not,” Teal’c finally answered.
Sam scanned the walls in the foyer from floor to ceiling, eyes searching for the telltale hint of advanced amid antique.
“I’m just thinking, sir… if the Goa’uld set this shield then left through the front door, then there must be a control panel for the shield generator…” Sam trailed when she finally spotted it, a rectangular box on the wall that passed itself off as art, but Sam knew the dimensions of a force shield control panel.
Shouldering her weapon, she moved to the panel and easily opened it.
The glowing innards gave her the kind of thrill the artifacts had probably given Daniel.
Sam leaned down and scrutinized the control panel before making any attempts to touch it. The Goa’uld had burned them more than once with booby traps.
Jack came up beside her. “What’s the verdict, Major? Can you get the shield down?”
“I can, sir.” She turned to Jack and awaited the order.
Jack considered the treasure room, Daniel in his paroxysm of impatience to get inside, and turned back to Sam. “I don’t want to watch what will happen if we don’t. Like a June bug and a bug zapper.”
Sam almost smiled.
“Take it down, Major,” Jack ordered.
Sam nodded and turned back to the open panel.
The force field had clearly been designed with an uninformed palace staff in mind, because there was nothing complex about the interface. It wouldn’t have to be if the resident Goa’uld was the only one who knew how to use it.
In little time at all, Sam shuffled the correct crystals and the force field went full-intensity blue, held steady, then descended to the floor like a theater curtain falling.
Daniel was hurrying through to the treasures in the next heartbeat.
The rest of SG-1 followed at a more sedate pace while Daniel moved from item to item like a bee in a field of flowers. Sam angled toward a jeweled and engraved bowl and picked it up. “I think my Aunt Susan had one of these.”
“I doubt it,” Daniel commented absently as he studied a goblet.
Sam shrugged and put the bowl back. She would be the first to admit her knowledge of fine things was practically nonexistent. She could extol the virtues of a 429 engine, but precious metals and stones? Wrong girl.
Jack picked up a long bolt of silk, candy apple red and shimmering in the light. A shiver of blue raced along the red, and it made him frown. He looked up and exhaled, “Whoa.”
Sam went to his side and looked up. “Oh, wow.” A lattice-work of metal had been crafted in such a way that the entire ceiling right above the treasure room looked like the underground cavern of some fairytale world. A force field like the one that had blocked off the room stood between the elements and the interior of the palace, but somehow it had been programed to change colors. A full range of shades and hues swirled and drifted across the ceiling, like they were underwater beneath soapy bubbles throwing prisms.
“This chamber is most impressive,” Teal’c said.
“I’ll say.” Jack put the silk down on an obscene pile of wealth. “Daniel, any idea who this vault of goodies belonged to?”
Daniel was searching the items for anything that might contain identifying marks. “Not yet. Try to find anything that looks like it has writing on it.” Daniel spotted something that snared his interest. “Hello…”
Daniel picked up a lamp and studied it.
It was a dull thing compared to the other priceless treasures in the room. Tarnished and plain with a noticeable dent on one side. Sam wondered why it was even allowed in the same room with the rest of it.
Daniel’s eyebrows drew together and he peered closer at the lamp. “I think there’s writing on this, but it’s hard to make out.” He pulled one sleeve down over his hand and tried to rub the writing clean.
Sam was not expecting the tremor that suddenly shook the room. Silk swayed and curtains flapped and golden statues toppled on their sides. Sam nearly lost her footing and flung her arm out to catch herself on something. She ended up with a fistful of Jack’s jacket. He grabbed her arm to steady her even as he fought to stay on his feet himself.
Daniel stumbled back and tripped over a pillow on the floor. “Ah!” he yelped as he went down. The lamp flew out of his hand and somersaulted in the air.
It was enveloped in a great cloud of emerald green smoke before it hit the ground.
As abruptly as it had begun, the shaking stopped and the thick green smoke contracted into a dense column.
It surged, undulated, then split open violently and spit forth a beautiful woman in a richly embellished green diaphanous outfit. She stood with one leg bent and hips cocked, a pose that accentuated her curves. Her arms crossed over her chest like a pharaoh, hands resting lightly on opposing clavicles, and her head was dipped with eyes demurely closed. Her jet black hair was streaked with gold and silver, and when she lifted her eyes they were a penetrating, striking peridot.
The room settled and everyone on SG-1 gaped a moment at the fifth person suddenly in their midst.
Jack recovered first, offering a lilting, “Well, hello,” as he released his hold on Sam.
The woman turned her sultry eyes on Jack. She unfolded her arms slowly and considered the colonel with a palpable sensuality about her.
Daniel clamored to his feet and all but stumbled over to the woman. “Hello, hi! I’m Daniel Jackson.”
The woman raked her eyes slowly over Daniel, head to toe. After her slow assessment, the strange woman’s stern expression transformed and she smiled. She lifted one hand and danced her fingers down the side of Daniel’s face.
“What, uh… do you have a name?” Daniel asked.
“Jiniya,” the woman purred in answer.
“Jiniya… that’s good. That’s… well, I’m Daniel. Right, I already told you that.” He moved out of the woman’s touch and turned to his teammates. “That’s Teal’c, that’s Jack O’Neill, and that’s Sam Carter.”
Jiniya let her eyes leave Daniel to take in the rest of SG-1. When she took note of Teal’c, she frowned. Somehow, the room temperature seemed to drop ten degrees and a feeling like a thunderstorm pressed against Sam’s skin. “Jaffa.”
“He doesn’t serve the Goa’uld,” Daniel hurried to assure her. “He’s with us, and we are definitely not Goa’uld.”
Jiniya swept her eyes up Daniel’s body again. “No… you are most definitely not.” She reached again to touch him, almost tickling his chin like one would a cat.
Sam resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Looked like this was going to be another mission where a local woman got a massive crush on Daniel. Oh, yay.
Jiniya left Daniel’s side and approached Teal’c.
“You are called Teal’c.”
“But you do not serve the Goa’uld.”
“I do not.”
Jiniya cocked her head, considered Teal’c a moment, then she traced a cloying hand up his arm, starting at his hand then skirting up the sleeve of his jacket until her fingers came to rest against his neck. Somehow touching him seemed to convince her of his allegiance. She smiled. “Most unusual.”
She dropped her hand from Teal’c and turned to Jack and Sam. She smiled coquettishly and sashayed closer.
“Um… Daniel…” Sam spoke warily.
“It’s okay. I don’t think she means us any harm.”
Well, that seemed a bit premature. Sam cut a look toward Jack beside her. His eyebrows twitched in a way Sam knew meant ‘put up with it for now, but be on the look-out for any funny business’.
When Jiniya reached the pair of officers, she delicately cupped Sam’s face in one hand and looked into her eyes. The woman’s gaze that seemed to reach right into Sam’s soul. Sam felt strangely exposed, like the woman had stripped her naked without actually removing a stitch of her clothing.
Jiniya must have found something she liked in Sam’s eyes, because she smiled.
Without taking her hand from Sam’s face, Jiniya turned her head and reached for Jack in similar fashion.
“Now, hold on…” Jack began to protest.
“Jack, I think it’s just a greeting custom,” Daniel placated.
“What’s wrong with a handshake, huh?” Jiniya’s fingertips danced up the line of Jack’s jaw. “Okay, look, miss…”
Jiniya swept her thumb across his bottom lip, effectively shutting him up long enough for her to take a long, deep look into his eyes, as well.
She must have liked what she found there, too, because she brightened, flashing a smile that filled the room with an inexplicable sense of pleasure.
“I thank all of you for my freedom,” Jiniya said at last. She took one last second to cup Jack’s face, brushed a thumb over Sam’s lips the way she had Jack’s a second ago, then she dropped her hands and turned to address SG-1 as a group. “Your action shall not go unrewarded.”
Jiniya moved away from Jack and Sam a pace and held her arms out at her sides with palms up. It looked like some kind of ritual, maybe a prayer or blessing. Without warning, Jiniya arched her arms overhead and clapped her hands together. The sound cracked like thunder and exploded with an unforeseen power that filled the room with energy.
In the blink of an eye, SG-1 vanished from the treasure room.
Teal’c woke to a very deep sense that something was wrong.
He opened his eyes to find himself prone on his back.
He lay still a moment and tried to take stock of his physical condition. The task was made impossible by the inexplicable wrongness that seemed soaked into his bones. Whatever the strange woman had done to him, he had never experienced anything like it before. Such that he could not name the wrongness now.
But a few experimental movements proved his limbs in perfect working order, and nothing hurt, per se, so he risked sitting up to look around.
He was in a room not unlike the treasure room, although there were no riches in this room. Instead it was crowded exclusively with luxurious furniture like the chaise couches, settees, and footstools that had proliferated in the treasure room. Pillows and blankets were in abundance, reminding Teal’c of the extravagance of the Goa’uld and the opulence of their pleasure planets.
“O’Neill. Major Carter. Daniel Jackson.”
There was no answer. Teal’c was alone.
He stood carefully, still plagued by the feeling that something was deeply wrong with him, though he still did not know what. Until he did, he concentrated on assessing his surroundings.
He was in a large, hexagonal room with walls of red-wine velvet with great sweeps of cerulean blue and seafoam green silk dangling from the ceiling. Attached to the lounge room was a smaller, also hexagonal, room containing a low, round bed. It, too, was piled with silks and pillows. A small table between the two rooms held a basin and pitcher. Presumably water for refreshment. When the building was staffed with slaves, there was no double also ample food on offer.
The most disturbing discovery of all, however, was that there was no door.
Teal’c walked the perimeter of both rooms, leaving no inch of wall unexplored, but there was no means of ingress or egress that he could find.
Failing to find a door, he searched the floor and ceiling for evidence of a ring transport device. He did not find that, either.
He did not know how he had been put in the room.
Nor how he would get out.
Teal’c made another circuit of the rooms to make sure he had not missed something before he braced himself against a wall, overcome with an overwhelming sense of wrong. His body was screaming at him that something wasn’t right, but for the life of him he didn’t know what it was.
It didn’t register like an injury. Nothing hurt. It wasn’t illness as far as he knew, because he didn’t feel weakened. The humans were severely weakened when they got sick. So it didn’t feel like that.
If he had to describe it, it felt like he’d been taken from his own body and dropped in an identical one… right in most respects but yet somehow still utterly wrong.
Teal’c brought a hand to his stomach and laid it atop the symbiote pouch.
He pushed open his jacket and yanked his shirt out of his pants to expose his belly.
He looked down in horror at the unbroken skin of his stomach. No pouch. No Goa’uld larva. No indication that either had ever even been there.
Teal’c staggered back in near-panic. If his symbiote was gone, he would die. He did not have his own immune system. He needed his symbiote to stay alive.
But even if he retrieved it, how was he supposed to reinsert it? There was no pouch.
He had never seen his stomach unmarred by the X of the pouch, and it had not been empty since before his Primta ceremony.
He didn’t even look like a Jaffa anymore. For better or worse, that was fundamental to Teal’c’s identity. Without the symbiote, the only sign he was Jaffa was the emblem of Apophis on his forehead.
Teal’c brought a hand to his forehead to trace the familiar ridges of the design only to feel a chill of terror race through his veins.
The tattoo was gone, too.
Rage began to war with panic.
“What have you done to me?!” Teal’c bellowed as he stumbled away from the wall and whirled in a mad search for his enemy.
There was no response. His attacker did not reveal herself.
Teal’c moved to a cushioned bench and sat, wondering how long he would live before his organs began to shut down. Even isolated as he was from any germs others might be carrying, his nonexistent immune system would collapse under the first hint of assault.
He would die a victim of his own weak body.
It was not a noble way to die. Certainly no death for a Jaffa.
If he could even be called one anymore.
Daniel was used to waking up in unfamiliar surroundings after an alien attack, but he usually woke up feeling like he’d been hit by a truck.
So in that regard, this was a vast improvement because he didn’t feel like shit. He just returned to consciousness as if he had fallen asleep. No splitting headache, no nausea, no mysterious aches from being manhandled and knocked around by brutish guards.
Still, it was unsettling to open his eyes and find himself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling, uninjured or not.
“Ugh,” he grumbled and brought a hand to his face, nudging his fingers underneath his glasses to rub at his eyes. None of that hurt, either, so maybe he was okay.
With a blessed lack of agony, Daniel rolled onto his side and sat up to look around. It looked like he was in some kind of relaxation room in the same style as the treasure room. “Jack? Sam? Teal’c? Anyone here?”
There were plenty of couches, loungers, and floor space in the immediate vicinity where his teammates might have been, and yet they were nowhere in sight.
“Well, this can’t be good…” Daniel muttered as he patted himself down once to double-check for wounds (Jack’s constant nagging had finally taken root), then he got to his feet to take a better look around.
The circular room was swank as hell, but disturbingly lacking in an exit.
“Great,” Daniel grumbled. “What a time to be separated from Sam.” Because if there were no doors, that had to mean a ring device was the only way in or out, and since the device wasn’t obvious at first glance then Daniel feared that meant it would take technical know-how to find an escape route.
“Hello!” Daniel called toward the ceiling. “Jiniya? Can you hear me? I’d like to get out of here, please! I think there’s been a misunderstanding.”
A feminine hum behind him had Daniel whirling to seek the source.
In the smaller room attached to the lounge area, a circular bed was draped in silk curtains. The sound had definitely come from behind them.
“Hello?” Daniel tried again as he crossed the lounge room toward the bedroom. “Is someone there? Jiniya, is that you? Look, I’m sure this is supposed to be a lavish thank you, but you really don’t have to do this. If you could just take me back to my team, I would really –”
Daniel reached the bed and pulled aside one of the sections of silk to see who was inside.
His heart stopped in his chest.
She was miles of tan skin in desert robes, waves of dark hair, and a face that lived immortal in his dreams.
Lying in sweet repose on her side, she opened her eyes and looked at him. Recognition and joy and love flared, and she sat up eagerly. “Daniel…”
Even the sound was right, the characteristic ‘Dan-yel’ she always had when she’d pronounced his name. Everything was right. Her lips, her nose, the arch of her brows.
But it couldn’t be… it couldn’t…
“Sha’re?” he croaked.
Sha’re smiled, pure beauty and Abydos morning sunshine, and shuffled toward the edge of the bed. “Husband… I am very happy to see you.” She was within an arm’s length. She reached a hand toward him.
“No!” Daniel jerked back. He staggered a few paces away from the bed. “No, you’re not Sha’re.”
Sha’re, the thing pretending to be Sha’re, frowned and got off the bed to stand facing him. She even carried herself right, as though one of his dreams had found physical form and came to haunt him. “What do you mean? It is me, Daniel.”
Daniel mutely shook his head and moved another step back.
“Please,” she took a step forward, “what is wrong?”
Daniel’s retreat was stopped when he backed into a couch. “I don’t know what kind of trick you’re playing here, but this isn’t funny. Stop this.” He turned to address the ceiling, shouting, “You hear me?! Stop this!”
“My love…” Sha’re moved quickly toward him, arms outstretched and expression full of concern.
“NO!” Daniel backpedaled and clumsily put a couch between him and the woman impersonating his wife.
Sha’re stopped and stared at him, eyes wide in fear. “Husband, what is the matter? Why do you fear me?”
“You are not my wife. Sha’re is dead!”
The woman blinked in convincing confusion and looked down at her hands. They were right, too… he could remember those same hands mapping his body.
Her brow furrowed and she shook her head. “That cannot be. I live, Daniel.”
“No, no, no…” Daniel backed away further still until his back hit the soft, cushioned wall. He pressed himself against it and closed his hands into fists. “Please, stop doing this. Please.” Because the imposter was so painfully good. She was just as he remembered. Every detail of her. She looked so much like Sha’re that his arms ached to hold her. His heart hurt with the accuracy of her.
“What have I done to displease you?” Sha’re asked in despair as Daniel recoiled from her. Tears began to swim in her eyes, and Daniel’s heart full-on broke. “Daniel, please…”
“Don’t…” Daniel croaked. “Please, don’t…” He turned his head and closed his eyes, willing the nightmare to stop.
“Don’t call me that!” he exploded raggedly. “I’m not your husband! You’re not my wife! My wife is gone, and you have no right… no right…”
He heard the woman begin to sob, and it sounded just like her. Exactly the way Sha’re had wept when that stupid Abydonian yak-camel Daniel had named 5th Avenue died. He could practically feel her shaking in his arms, the memory of her so clear that his own eyes watered.
He turned his back to the woman, pounded his fists against the wall, and yelled, “Let me out of here! Don’t do this to me!”
“Daniel…” the woman sobbed.
Daniel glanced over his shoulder to see her drop to her knees on the floor and weep into her hands.
Every instinct he had told him to go to her, gather her up in his arms…
But it would be a lie.
He had lost Sha’re… he would not be fooled by this creature, whatever it was. No matter how much it looked just like her.
Daniel pounded on the wall again. “Get me out of here!”
Jack woke up pissed.
Pissed because he sure as hell didn’t remember lying down for a nap, which meant someone forced him into his current situation, and that had him seeing red before he even opened his eyes.
He squinted as he opened his eyes, expecting the stabbing pain that normally accompanied loss of consciousness, but he was pleasantly surprised to find none. It didn’t improve his mood much, though.
A groan beside him had Jack turning his head and he found Sam lying on the floor next to him. She was stirring, and it didn’t look like she was having a good time of it.
“… Sir?” she groaned as she brought a hand to her forehead and cracked open her eyes.
“You okay?” he asked as he slowly sat up. No vertigo… the situation continued to exceed his expectations.
“I’m not sure,” Sam answered as she looked around the room from the flat of her back. “Where are we?”
“Not a clue,” he answered as he climbed to his feet. He felt okay, unwilling captivity aside. “Here.” He offered Sam a hand, and when she took it he hauled her into a sitting position, at which point Sam let go and stayed on her ass.
Jack eyed her. “Carter?”
Sam shook her head. “I feel sick.”
“That’s weird… I feel fine.” He meant it as an assessment of what might have been done to them, but when Sam shot him a glower he realized it sounded like gloating. He winced and moved away a few steps to examine their prison.
“Well… unless we can master the smoking in and out trick Jenny did, it doesn’t look like we’re getting out of here anytime soon.” How the hell did one even make a room without doors?
“Rings?” Sam asked in a miserable tone from her spot on the floor.
Jack turned to sweep his eyes across the floor. He wandered toward the attached bedroom scanning the ground the whole way. “None that I can see.”
The next sound out of Sam was a gurgling burp, and Jack turned to see her leaning sideways to vomit on the floor.
His worry shot through the roof. He hadn’t made too much of her feeling unwell upon waking because often she responded differently to alien influences than the rest of her team. The naquadah in her blood from Jolinar made Sam prone to being the oddball. She usually shook it off in a few minutes.
But this was not improvement.
“Carter?” Jack moved toward her, side-stepped the puddle of sick, and knelt next to her. “Talk to me.”
Sam grimaced and started to crawl away from the vomit (he didn’t blame her there). “I don’t know, sir… I feel like shit.”
“Here, let’s get you off the floor.” Jack helped Sam onto the nearest bench, where she bent forward, one hand propping up her forehead while her other arm curled around her stomach.
“Is it just your stomach?” he asked as he tried to check her temperature.
Sam dropped her hand to let his replace it. “I don’t feel right.”
“You don’t have a fever. Let’s get you out of this, might make you feel a little better.” He unhooked her P-90 then unclipped her tac vest and stripped it. They both ended up in a pile in the floor (quickly joined by Jack’s gear, in case he ended up having to carry her out… once they figured out ‘out’).
Sam looked miserable as she curled around her stomach. “We have to get out of here.”
“Yeah… will you be okay if I take a closer look around?”
Sam nodded wordlessly.
Jack hated to leave her, but at least she wouldn’t be out of his sight. The rooms weren’t big enough for that.
Unfortunately, the closer inspection revealed no doors, windows, or hatches for escape.
Jack turned at Sam’s stressed tone and found her sitting where he’d left her, back straight, one hand on her knee and the other on her belly.
Jack went back to her. “What?”
“Something’s wrong with my stomach.”
He looked down at her hand pressed to her abdomen and put his hand next to hers.
It was swollen and hard. To Jack’s medical knowledge (granted, it was limited), the only thing that caused swelling and abdominal rigidity like that was internal bleeding.
“Damnit, that’s not good.”
Sam was breathing like she was hurting.
“All right, no more playing nice,” Jack growled as he jumped to his feet, went to the wall, and started pounding with his fists. “Hey! You out there! Let us out! One of us is hurt, god damnit!”
Sam hissed and Jack turned to check on her. She was fidgeting, visibly uncomfortable.
“Shit…” He hurried back to her. “Carter?” He laid a hand on her stomach and his eyes widened when he discovered the swelling was worse. Noticeably worse.
“My belt’s cutting into me…” Her abdomen had swollen so much that her pants were biting into her flesh.
“Unbuckle and unbutton,” Jack ordered, because he knew she’d been looking for him to make the awkward call.
Sam fumbled with her belt and fly until both were wide open. It was an obvious relief from the pressure, but it hardly solved the underlying problem.
“Oh god…” Sam curled her arms around her midsection.
Jack was getting very worried. “No dying on me, Major. That’s an order.”
Jack marched back to the wall and kicked it. “We need medical attention in here! Get off your sadistic ass and help us!” He glared up at the velvety wall and snarled. “Screw it.” He turned and marched back to his gear.
Sam looked over at him from being nearly doubled over. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to blast our way out,” Jack said as he freed a grenade.
Sam’s eyes went wide. “Sir, you can’t! We’re in too confined a space!”
“Damnit!” Jack put the grenade back and paced. He was honestly ready to risk it, because it was looking like the only way Sam would get help. But of course she was right. Even racked by pain, she was right.
Sam lurched to her feet and stumbled across the room, getting as far as a settee and grabbing onto the back and bracing against it.
Jack abandoned his plan to blow a hole in the wall and moved to her side. She was holding onto the back of the settee in a death grip, eyes squeezed shut and arms trembling. Jack cursed when he got closer. The distension in her belly had become disfiguring, rounded and stretching the material of her t-shirt taut.
“What’s happening?” she bit out through clenched teeth.
Jack moved closer and touched her shoulder. “I don’t know.”
Sam let go of the settee with one hand to clutch at her belly. She peeled the shirt material up toward her chest, releasing the tight fabric and exposing the growing roundness. If he watched closely, Jack could actually see it getting bigger.
Actually, it looked…
“Okay, I know this sounds nuts, but… you look pregnant.”
Sam’s head snapped up and she looked over at him. There was a different kind of agony in her eyes he couldn’t explain. “That’s not possible.”
Jack looked down at her growing belly. It had gone past plausible internal bleeding – the amount she would have to have bled out into her abdominal cavity to make her swell up that much would mean she would be out cold, if not already dead. There was no way she could have bled that much and still be on her feet. But if it wasn’t bleeding… if it was what it looked like…
“I don’t know, Carter… you look like Sara when she…”
Sam shook her head emphatically. “You don’t understand, I can’t…” but her words fell apart as she leaned forward and cradled her impossibly swollen abdomen with one arm.
And still it grew.
Jack was starting to worry about how this would end. If she was going to swell up so much that she literally popped. He couldn’t watch her die like that. He wondered when he would be expected to end her suffering – they had all their weapons.
He might as well have two bullets ready if he had to put one in Sam.
The agony continued until it suddenly stopped. He could see Sam’s body relax and her breath gust out in relief.
“Carter?” he rested a hand on her back and eyed her warily.
She was sweaty and pale, but she was coherent. “I think it stopped.”
Jack looked down at her. It didn’t look exactly like a pregnant body. There wasn’t added weight to her hips and breasts or a softening of her face. All the change was concentrated in her midsection, but that part had Jack pretty much convinced of what was happening.
“Major… I’m pretty sure that gypsy knocked you up.”
Sam looked distraught. “Sir, please…” Then she tensed. “Oh god, it hurts again!”
Sam quaked with pain, but her swollen stomach did not grow. After a minute, the pain stopped.
Jack’s suspicions were waving frantic red flags. “Carter, I think you’re…”
“No, I’m not.”
Her vehemence seemed to fly in the face of all evidence.
The next time the pain hit (what Jack was sure was a contraction), Sam clutched at the settee and full-body startled. She looked down. Jack did, too. The crotch and the inside of her thighs darkened as her pants soaked.
“Okay,” Jack put his hands on Sam’s shoulders. “This is happening. Let’s get you to a couch or…”
“No!” Sam shook him off without relinquishing her grip on the settee. “No, it’s impossible… it’s…”
Sam was interrupted by the next wave of pain. She hunched forward, gritted her teeth, and began to strain.
Whatever denial Sam was in, Jack wasn’t. He didn’t know how, but Sam was having a baby.
He gave up trying to move her. Clearly she had some crazy idea that if she stayed on her feet she would be right. He would humor her as long as possible. He was just relieved she wasn’t dying.
The next contraction had Sam pushing as hard as she could, her refusal to accept it doing little to quell instinct. “This can’t be happening…” Sam all but sobbed.
Jack brushed her sweaty hair out of her eyes but didn’t argue.
The next time Sam pushed, he thought she was going to crack teeth. With a squawk, she looked down. Then she turned a panicked look toward Jack. “Sir… I can feel something coming out!”
He had a damn good idea what.
“Okay…” he said calmly (way more calmly than he felt). “We’ll need to get these off.” With that, Jack hooked his thumbs into her pants and panties and moved them down her legs.
They were still above her knees when Sam put a hand between her legs. “Oh my god!” Without ceremony, Sam grabbed his hand and guided it to the juncture of her thighs. He felt the wet, solid shape of a tiny crowning head fill his palm.
A contraction caught Sam by surprise and her free hand shot out and fisted in Jack’s jacket. Her knees started to buckle. Jack could only scramble to catch her with one hand, because the other was filling with the head of a newborn at an alarming pace.
“Easy, easy!” Jack yelped as he awkwardly helped Sam down to her knees. She pitched into him, burying her face in his shoulder, and attacked the contraction. Jack may have panicked a little when he felt the baby’s head fully emerge into his waiting hand.
The contraction stopped and Sam trembled against him.
For a second Jack was too scared to move. “Carter…”
“I don’t know, but we’ll find out. I promise. We just have to get you through this first.” He tried to gauge the situation and knew something had to change. She had to move one way or the other, because he couldn’t catch the baby when she delivered with her leaning into him.
“Listen, Carter… I need you to sit back. Slowly.”
He rested his temple against the side of her head. The situation warranted it, damnit. “I need room to catch the baby.”
Sam seemed to process that a moment, then swayed away from him. She held on to him with one hand and reached back with the other to feel for the floor. She didn’t have a lot of maneuverability with her pants around her knees hobbling her, and they were racing the clock.
It was ungainly, but Sam managed to recline on the floor with her feet planted and knees bent. Jack had helped guide her hips down, but once she was in position he used both hands to pull her pants up and over her knees and down to her ankles. Her knees immediately spread apart and Jack gulped. It was one thing to know a head was wedged between his 2IC’s thighs… it was another thing to see it.
“You’re doing great, Carter. Almost over.”
Sam looked at him plaintively. Then she began to tense. “Oh, fuck…”
“Okay.” Jack had wanted to get her boots off, free her legs, give them both more room to work, but too late now. He reached between her legs and cupped his hands around the baby’s head. Man, what he wouldn’t give for Daniel right about now. “This is it. Give me a good, hard push.”
Sam tucked her chin into her chest and did as ordered.
The baby’s shoulders appeared. Then a small chest. Then a belly.
Sam bore down, and before Jack knew it a baby was spilling into his hands.
For a second, everyone was frozen in shock. Sam let out a ragged breath. Jack gaped at the newborn cradled in his hands. The baby seemed as stunned as any of them, tiny arms flailing and tucked legs shaking with tension.
Their collective immobility was shattered when the baby opened its mouth and wailed.
Jack wasn’t sure what to do next. He looked up at Sam. She looked shell-shocked. He couldn’t blame her.
First things first… he had to cut the cord.
Jack laid the baby on the floor and kicked up a foot to unlace his boot. He unsheathed his knife from his hip, cut the lace in two, then tied one length around the umbilical cord a few inches from the baby’s belly. The other piece he tied off further up, then he sawed between the two until the child was free.
Then he needed something to wrap the baby in.
Their mission hadn’t been an overnight assignment, so they didn’t have their packs with spare clothes. Improvising, Jack took off his jacket then stripped out of his shirt. He wrapped up the baby in the black material. Already warm from his body heat, the t-shirt blanket quieted the baby quickly.
Once the baby was no longer screaming, Jack turned his attention to Sam.
She was glassy-eyed and pale. She looked like she was in shock.
Jack frowned, considered his two patients, and decided the baby could wait. He carried it to a nearby couch, laid it down, then returned to Sam.
He knelt beside her and touched her shoulder. “Carter?”
“It’s okay, it’s over.”
Sam looked up at him, dumb-founded. “Did that really just happen? Did I just…”
“Yeah.” Jack slipped behind her so she could lean against him. It was testament to her state that she did so readily.
Sam started to shiver. “Where is it?”
“Over there on the couch.”
She trembled harder. “Is it okay?”
Jack put his arms around her, concerned about her shaking. “Seems to be. How are you holding up?”
“I…” Sam began tugging her hiked-up shirt down over her exposed stomach without answering Jack’s question. And Sam always answered when Jack wanted a sit rep.
Sam started at his voice and looked up at him. “Colonel… is it okay?”
“Could you go check? It’s not crying… it’s supposed to cry, right?”
But Sam seemed out of it.
“Okay, okay… I’ll go check on it. Just take it easy.”
He slid out from behind Sam, fetched his jacket and laid it over her, then returned to the couch.
The baby was fine, looking around blearily from the folds of his shirt. Of course, it shouldn’t exist, but that was another matter entirely.
It looked human, but he wasn’t sure how much that mattered.
He wasn’t a doctor, but he had been a father. So he did what any father with a newborn did. He fished hands out and counted fingers. He unfurled the warm fabric to count toes. The baby was a healthy pink color. It was breathing.
It was also a girl.
Jack wrapped her back up, his expertise sadly exhausted.
The baby whimpered, no doubt displeased that the shirt was losing the body heat that had made it so cozy.
Jack gathered her up and cradled her against his chest. The baby squirmed then settled.
Jack looked back toward Sam. She was struggling to her feet, shuffling awkwardly with her pants around her ankles. She’d left behind a mess on the floor, afterbirth and god knew what else. Jack didn’t really want to think about it.
Sam pulled her pants up and tugged down her stretched-out shirt. When she was as close to back-to-normal as possible, she looked up. Her eyes landed on Jack with the baby and she went almost white.
Jack stood and started toward Sam.
Sam’s eyes widened.
Jack paused. “Carter…?”
Sam flitted a panicked look down at the baby, opened her mouth to say something…
Then the room was empty.
Teal’c was sitting on a chaise lounge chair in the room without doors waiting to die, then in the blink of an eye he was sitting on a couch in the treasure room.
It took him a few seconds to realize what had happened, but he would blame that lag in situational awareness on the inexplicable loss of his symbiote.
When he became cognizant of the fact he had instantaneously changed locations, he noticed also that he was not alone in the room. The strange woman who had appeared in the cloud of smoke was gone, but SG-1 was accounted for. He stood and surveyed the rest of his team.
They had clearly fared no better than he.
Daniel was standing with his arms tucked tightly around his chest in a self-hug. His shoulders were up around his ears; his face was pinched and his eyes haggard. He looked quite miserable, and Teal’c did not know why until Daniel looked up, noticed the change in location, then looked across the treasure room and paled.
Teal’c turned and saw…
It could not be so, but cowering among the magnificent statues of gold and ivory was the wife of Daniel Jackson. Sha’re of Abydos. Teal’c knew her well… too well. Her face haunted his conscience. Her eyes were red and her face wet with tears.
Daniel turned away as though he could not physically stand to see her pain but yet refused to go to her.
And despite that, Daniel seemed to be better off than Sam and Jack.
Sam looked wrecked, clothes oddly ill-fitting and stained, both with colorless fluid and blood. Her face was frighteningly blank. Something traumatic had happened to her, and her frail human body was shutting down in response. Teal’c had seen humans in shock before, and it had always made him uneasy. They looked like hosts implanted with immature Goa’uld, visibly zoning out while the Goa’uld within wrestled with the host mind.
Looking upon Jack gave Teal’c many answers as to the reason for Sam’s horrid condition. He was half-naked, and while the fate of his jacket and gear was unknown, Teal’c could see that Jack’s shirt had been used to swaddle an infant. An infant that Jack presently held in his arms. The team leader looked spooked, though Jack was a seasoned warrior and masked it well.
Jack was the one who came back to himself first at finding them all back in the treasure room, and he took stock of his people.
He paused when he laid eyes on Teal’c. “Teal’c? Your decal…”
“My symbiote is gone as well.”
At first Jack just stared, perhaps waiting for Teal’c to proclaim it a joke, then he scowled. “Crap…” He knew what would happen to the Jaffa without it. “Any idea where Junior went?”
Teal’c believed that to be an accurate assessment of the situation.
Jack zeroed in next on Daniel. “Daniel? What happened to you?”
Daniel cut a look at Sha’re across the room, flinched, then turned away.
Jack followed the younger man’s gaze and his jaw dropped. “Oh, what the hell…”
Sha’re shrank back amid the goods, much like a fawn in a cage of wolves.
Jack looked overwhelmed. It was not a look he wore often. Teal’c would like to offer him support, but he himself felt overwhelmed. He still felt no ill effects from the loss of his symbiote, but it was inevitable. He was a man waiting to die.
“Sam…?” Daniel had finally noticed his friend, listless and abnormally pale. He went to her and touched her elbow. “Hey… what…” The archaeologist finally realized the bundle Jack was holding was a baby, and his eyes went wide.
Daniel looked from the baby to Sam and back again, then he stammered, “Sam, did you… did you have a baby?”
“Is that Sha’re?” Jack asked sharply in the next instant. Teal’c could tell it was to distract Daniel from interrogating Sam. Teal’c agreed – Sam did not look fit to be questioned.
Daniel had to collect himself when the question, blunt and bracing, struck him too hard too fast. “No. I don’t know what she is, but she’s not Sha’re.”
Sha’re whimpered, “Daniel…”
Sam was too far gone to even offer her teammate comfort. Teal’c knew for certain then that Sam was in bad shape. Sam always looked out for Daniel’s heart.
Jack looked down at the baby in his arms, at his teammates, then made the call. “All right, that’s it. We’re bugging out of here. Now.” He looked down sourly at his bare torso. “Please tell me one of you has your GDO.”
“I have mine,” Daniel answered in a small voice as he patted the pocket on his vest with the device.
“Good, then everyone move out.”
Teal’c headed toward the open double doors without question. He did not ask to remain to search for his symbiote. It would do no good without a pouch in which to put it.
Jack went to Sam’s side and lowered his voice so much that Teal’c could barely hear it. “Carter…?”
She didn’t react.
Jack looked down helplessly at the baby tying up his hands.
“I’ve got her,” Daniel said as he gently took Sam by the arms and directed her toward the door. Sam, at least, seemed capable of moving where prodded. She probably could have been led off a cliff at that moment, but at least it meant they could get her to the gate without having to be carried.
Daniel’s eyes darted again and again to the baby, but something in Jack’s face and Sam’s state seemed to keep him from asking questions.
They were all moving toward the exit when the creature that looked like Sha’re scrambled to her feet. “Husband, please! You cannot leave me here!”
Daniel stopped, tensed, and clenched his jaw.
Jack looked past Sam toward Daniel. In all matters Sha’re, the rest of the team did their best to defer to Daniel. No matter how long ago the man’s wife had died, it was still an open wound for him.
“Daniel?” Jack asked.
Daniel flinched. “Bring her. We should find out what she is. Question her.” There was an angry, flinty look in Daniel’s face that was completely out of place on the compassionate man. The fate of his wife brought out the darkness in him.
Jack looked toward Teal’c and silently begged for help.
Jack had Sam and the baby to worry about, Daniel was a mess about the woman in question… Teal’c could put aside his problem to fetch the woman. He was going to die whether or not he helped his friends… so he might as well help.
He nodded and moved toward the Sha’re look-alike.
She panicked when he approached her, and Teal’c was struck by the memory of dragging Sha’re off to be implanted with Amounet. Whoever had replicated Sha’re, they had done a masterful job. Memory and the present twisted together in his mind like a pair of fighting snakes until it was hard to tell one from the other.
He told himself the woman could not be Daniel’s wife as he reached down and grabbed her by the arm. As he pulled her to her feet, she struggled against him. “No, let me go! Leave me alone!” Anger suddenly replaced the fear in her eyes and she shouted at him, teeth bared like an animal, “I am not afraid of you!”
Daniel made a wounded noise in the back of his throat.
The baby started to cry at the ruckus.
“For crying out loud,” Jack growled.
Teal’c looked down at the woman. She really did seem identical to the woman he had stolen from Abydos so many years ago. And she either loved Daniel by some manufactured design, or she was pretending to very convincingly. Either way, he hoped he could use it to his advantage. He did not wish to drag her kicking and screaming to the gate.
“If you truly wish to accompany Daniel Jackson, then you will stop fighting and come with me.”
Sha’re went still and stared up at him.
Teal’c let go of her and instead held his arm out toward the group. He would rather not abduct her.
Sha’re looked between the team and Teal’c, then slipped past him and joined the others. Daniel shied from her, Jack gave her a suspicious look, and Sam shivered despite the balmy temperature.
“Let’s get out of here,” Jack commanded grumpily as he tucked the infant closer to his skin.
It was a strange, tense walk back to the Stargate.
General Hammond was used to seeing his flagship team walk through the gate under all manner of odd circumstances – they always managed to find trouble – but he was not the least bit prepared for the sight that greeted him when SG-1 emerged from the event horizon that day.
They’d returned with more people than they’d left with for one, and that wasn’t even the half of it.
Hammond sighed mentally as he called for a medical team.
Not all of Jack’s team made it to the infirmary. Janet took over like a medical dervish, delegating and snapping orders to her staff, and between the gate room and the infirmary people were peeled off and led elsewhere.
Jack didn’t worry about it – he trusted Janet to look after his people.
At the moment, his biggest concern was Sam.
When they reached the infirmary, Sam was herded to a bed by Janet herself, where the privacy curtain was hastily drawn. It made sense, he knew some kind of lady-exam would have to happen. Jack, at a loss, shuffled back against the far wall so he’d be out of the way. Sometimes the medical staff would let a teammate linger if they stayed well out of the way.
Jack tore his eyes from the curtain concealing Sam and blinked down at a nurse standing in front of him. She was looking at him expectantly, and he had no idea why.
She frowned at him then glanced down at the baby he still held in his arms. Stupidly enough, he’d forgotten he had it.
And yet, when the nurse lifted her hands to take it, he almost turned away to keep it from her.
He did hand the baby over, though. It made him feel doubly helpless to suddenly be empty-handed. Holding the baby might have been a dumb job, but at least he’d been contributing.
He found himself trailing after the nurse as she carried the baby to an empty bed and unwrapped the shirt to examine her.
Jack lurked nearby, eyes frequently cutting to the curtained off bed where Sam was being treated.
Another nurse appeared next to Jack with a scrub top, which the colonel donned like an afterthought. He asked if Jack needed medical attention, but the sad truth was that Jack was the only one of his team who didn’t. And he would not stand to distract any of the medical staff from tending to the others.
Especially considering the extras SG-1 had come back with.
He looked back down at the baby who was one of those extras, dwarfed by the bed normally used for grown men and women of the SGC. He watched silently as the nurse did a more thorough check-up of the newborn than Jack’s finger-and-toe-count back on the planet. The last thing the ad hoc pediatric nurse did was draw blood from the infant, which caused the baby to scream bloody murder.
Jack stopped himself just shy of taking a step forward to interfere.
Examination done and blood sample in hand, the nurse looked around the infirmary, clearly at a loss. They weren’t set up for natal care.
“I’ve got her.” Jack stepped forward, bundled the crying baby back up in his shirt, and brought her to his chest. Turned out the one job he could do wasn’t totally pointless after all.
The nurse looked relieved. “We’ll have someone run into town for supplies as soon as possible.” Then she was gone. No telling where she disappeared to – they’d come back with a lot of people in need of care. A healthy human baby (as she seemed to be) didn’t really rank high on the list of priorities.
Jack drifted back to the far wall again, trying to quiet the infant and melt into the scenery so he would be allowed to stay. He didn’t want to leave until he knew Sam was okay.
The baby squirmed against him, probably feeling betrayed that she had been jabbed with a needle by the good guys.
Jack rubbed her back and bounced on the balls of his feet – it was frightening how all those old habits from Charlie’s infancy awoke in him so effortlessly. “Shhh… it’s okay. I know how you feel. I don’t like the needle part, either.”
The baby whimpered and snuggled against him. Her tiny hand found the collar of his scrub top and held on.
It hit like a kick behind the sternum.
Jack swallowed hard.
“Doctor Fraiser,” Hammond said wearily as he gestured for the CMO to have a seat in the chair opposite his desk. He could tell by the harried look on Janet’s face that it was going to be a rough debrief.
Janet sat and laid the stack of files in her arms on her lap.
“How are our people?”
Janet visibly braced herself. “We’ll start with the most critical case first: Teal’c has lost his symbiote. Not only that, but the pouch is gone, too.”
“What do you mean gone?”
“Just that, sir. There’s no indication that it was ever even there. Physically, Teal’c is currently indistinguishable from a human man.” She shuffled the files to find his and handed it to Hammond. “We have him in an isolation room right now to hopefully reduce the chance of contact with a virus or bacteria – without his symbiote, either one could kill him in a matter of hours.”
“What can be done?” Hammond asked as he flipped through the report.
“Honestly, sir, I don’t know at this point. If he still had his pouch and it was undamaged, I would say try to recover his original symbiote or find a replacement. I’m sure Master Bra’tac could come through with one on short notice. But even if we had a symbiote, there would be no way to give it to Teal’c. We have had one bit of luck, however… Teal’c doesn’t appear to be falling ill.”
“You mean yet.”
Janet winced. “That’s right. We’ll keep a close eye on him, but the few instances in the past when we’ve removed his symbiote, he showed signs of organ failure long before now. But so far he seems to be perfectly healthy. We’re still running tests, of course, but I wanted to bring you a status update on everyone as soon as I could.”
“I appreciate that,” Hammond answered. “What about that thing on Teal’c’s forehead? I noticed that was missing.”
“Yes. But fortunately, the tattoo was purely cosmetic. It’s strange that it’s gone, but medically speaking it’s not even on my radar.”
“That’s good news, I suppose.” He gestured to the stack of files left on her lap. “Go on.”
Janet nodded and pulled out another file that she handed to the general. “Sha... the woman who appears to be Sha’re is also in an isolation room. That’s mostly for observation. We’re waiting on bloodwork and DNA analysis, but initially she seems to be a healthy human woman.”
“Seems to be… but is she a Goa’uld?”
“We’re scheduling an MRI scan for this afternoon to determine that, since our two ‘Goa’uld bloodhounds’ are both out of commission.” She scowled. “I know what you’re thinking.”
“The last time we saw this woman, she was Amounet.”
“Yes, sir.” Janet shook her head. “But I don’t see how it could be her, either. We buried the body of Sha’re Jackson. The Goa’uld died with her. It was buried with her.”
Hammond pursed his lips. That had been an uncomfortable conversation when the body of Daniel’s wife had been brought back to the SGC. It had been an ugly choice between burying the woman with the Goa’uld still wrapped around her vertebrae or mutilating her corpse to get it out. In the end, Janet had injected the lifeless parasite with enough neurotoxin to kill it five times over, and Sha’re was buried intact.
Now Hammond was questioning that decision. “Is it possible the Goa’uld dug up her body and revived her with a sarcophagus?”
“If you asked me this morning, I would have said no. I flooded that thing with poison before the funeral, enough to cause severe damage at the cellular level. But now… I really don’t know, sir. I can’t explain her presence otherwise.”
“Is it possible that Sha’re was revived but the snake stayed dead? Maybe what you did worked, but the Goa’uld didn’t know that until they tried to bring her back.”
Janet shrugged. “Frankly, General, at this point I am willing to entertain all theories, no matter how wild they are. I can tell you that behaviorally, we have seen no indications that she’s a Goa’uld.” Janet frowned. “All we’ve seen is an inconsolable woman begging for her husband.”
Hammond winced. “I take it Doctor Jackson has witnessed all of this?”
Janet nodded. “We can’t get him to leave the observation room. It’s not healthy, and I hate to see him do that to himself, but I’m not ready to force the issue yet.”
Hammond nodded his understanding and put the Sha’re file aside. “What about Major Carter?”
Janet sucked in a breath. “Don’t ask me how, but Major Carter conceived, brought to term, and gave birth to a baby in a matter of minutes.” She found the correct file and handed it over to join the growing pile on Hammond’s desk. “She was in shock when we brought her in – we were worried about blood loss, which thankfully wasn’t the case – but I suspect it was just as much a psychological response to the birth as a physiological one. Most likely due to…” Janet hesitated and looked down at her remaining file.
Janet looked up at the general and grimaced. “I don’t know if I should be telling you this, sir, but it does explain Major Carter’s reaction to giving birth… we determined years ago that she would never be able to have children.”
“I had no idea,” Hammond breathed in surprise.
“Yes, sir. The naquadah left behind in her bloodstream by Jolinar… you have to understand naquadah is a very powerful element, sir. Technically, having it in her blood should poison Sam. But something about Jolinar’s genetic make-up managed to adapt it to coexist with Sam’s DNA – some part of the blending process I still don’t fully understand – which allows her to remain healthy despite the element. But it would kill an unborn baby that wasn’t an exact genetic match to Major Carter.”
“Yes, sir, it is. So you can understand how unexpectedly giving birth when she believed herself to be sterile would be a shock to her.”
“How is she now?”
“Resting. Given what her body was put through, she’s remarkably unharmed. There isn’t anything medically wrong with her.”
“What about the baby?”
“Again, we’re waiting on bloodwork. We have no idea who or what fathered it, but we can at least run a test to see if it’s human.”
“Do you have reason to suspect it’s not?”
Janet shook her head. “No, sir. Like Doctor Jackson’s wife, it seems like a perfectly healthy human female. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying it is until I’ve seen some test results.”
“Could it be a clone of Major Carter? You said only a child that was an exact genetic match would survive the major’s unique physiology.”
“It’s possible. It is a girl, so we can’t rule out a clone. We’re doing a comparison to Major Carter’s DNA samples on file to see if it’s even Sam’s at all, so we should know soon.”
Hammond nodded. “What did you do with it? Is it in an isolation room, too?”
Janet paused. “No, sir. It’s in the infirmary.” The doctor shifted uncomfortably. “Colonel O’Neill hasn’t let it out of his sight.”
“Is that wise?” He knew as well as anyone that Jack had a soft spot for children. If he was going to be compromised, it would be by using a kid.
“I honestly don’t know, sir. It hasn’t given us any reason to suspect it’s anything other than a normal baby…” Janet met the general’s gaze directly, “and I don’t want to be the one to tell Colonel O’Neill we have to dump it in an iso room.”
“No… I can’t imagine he would take that very well.”
“For the moment, he’s been taking care of it, so I’ve left him be. Someone would have to do that anyway, and he obviously wants to.” With that and a shrug, Janet handed Hammond the last file in her lap.
Hammond scowled as he accepted the file. “Very well… let me know if you feel he’s getting too attached. If we have to pull Colonel O’Neill off baby-duty and fill in with Siler, we will.”
Janet smirked. “I’m sure the sergeant would love that.”
“I don’t have to worry that Sergeant Siler is going to have his judgment clouded by an infant.”
Janet nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Hammond surveyed the stack of files before him. Some days his job was too damn hard. “Very well. Keep me informed of any changes and let me know as soon as you have those test results, Doctor. Dismissed.”
Teal’c opened his eyes and looked toward the isolation room door. He could see the hazy image of Janet in her contamination suit, murky through the sheets of plastic that comprised the biohazard tent around his bed.
The precautions were tedious, but necessary. That did not mean Teal’c liked them.
“Doctor Fraiser,” he said as he unfolded his legs from their crossed position.
She approached the two-stage entryway to the clean environment and was doused with disinfectant from a series of nozzles before she unzipped the final layer of protection and entered his tiny dome of safety.
“How are you holding up?” she asked as she approached the bed. The sound of her voice was distorted through the helmet she wore, but it was still a welcome sound.
“I am unable to kel’no’reem,” he answered peevishly.
“Makes sense,” she mused. “Without your symbiote…”
“Indeed. Yet the practice has long been my means of finding inner peace. I would very much like some right now.”
Janet smiled sadly. “I know. How do you feel? Besides irritated that you can’t do your meditation?”
Teal’c cocked his head and considered his body. He had never tried so hard to be so in tune with it, but he didn’t know how to interpret anything it told him. “I feel strange. A part of me has fallen silent. Fallen still. It is as though there has been a death within me.” He looked toward the doctor. “Should I not be dead as well?”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. It’s been six hours, and so far you haven’t shown any signs of infection or sickness.”
“That is not possible. I am without my symbiote.”
“Yes, I know. But we’ve been sending someone in here every hour on the hour to draw blood samples, and so far there is nothing. Or rather, there’s something.”
Teal’c looked at her expectantly.
“Teal’c, I can’t explain this, but the last four hours’ worth of blood samples have shown the rapid introduction into your bloodstream of white blood cells.”
Teal’c frowned. “I do not understand.”
“Leukocytes are the primary human line of defense against foreign bodies like viruses and bacteria. They are the basis of our immune system. Up until now, you have always lacked those cells and relied on the symbiotic relationship with your Goa’uld to keep you healthy.” Janet moved to perch beside him on the bed. “But you are gaining leukocytes at an astonishing rate.”
“How is that possible?”
“I don’t know. You shouldn’t be.”
“A Jaffa cannot grow an immune system in the absence of its symbiote. Without our symbiote, we are soon dead.”
“I know… but the bloodwork doesn’t lie. At this rate of multiplication, I estimate you will have a white blood cell count equal to or greater than a regular human’s within another six hours.”
Teal’c did not know how to process that information. He had been prepared for death. He had not wished it, but it was clearly his fate. Now he would perhaps not die, but what was life without a symbiote? Without everything that made him a Jaffa?
“We’re going to continue to monitor you, of course,” Janet said, “but if this trend in your bloodwork continues and your body establishes its own immune system, we should be able to take you out of containment.”
Teal’c listened to the purified air being pumped into his plastic bubble. He had not expected to leave it alive, much less leave it healthy. He could not imagine carrying on his life without his symbiote. It was too alien a concept to a Jaffa.
“Has there been any word yet from Master Bra’tac?”
Janet shook her head. “General Hammond’s trying to reach him, but you know how Bra’tac is. He’s a hard man to pin down.”
“So the Goa’uld lament,” Teal’c agreed with a tiny smirk.
Janet’s gloved hand came to rest on Teal’c’s knee. “I don’t know how this was done to you, and I can only imagine what a violation it must feel like, but if this latest development means you’re going to live, then I’m grateful.”
Teal’c looked to her and offered a smile. “As am I… I do not wish to die.”
Janet smiled back. “Hang in there, Teal’c. We’ll figure this out and find a way to get you back on your feet.”
Teal’c nodded. “What of my teammates?” None of them had visited him in the hours he had been confined, and he feared what that might mean.
Janet’s smile vanished.
Teal’c decided perhaps he was the lucky one, all things considered.
Daniel stared down at the film from the MRI scan done on the thing pretending to be Sha’re.
The blue and white bust of a woman clearly showed a skull, cervical vertebrae, clavicles, the tops of shoulder blades and ribs… but no sign of a tiny parasite skeleton wrapped around the spine.
Daniel scowled down at the film, then he looked up and down into the isolation room.
Sha’re’s imposter was slowly pacing the room, chewing on her right thumbnail. It made Daniel want to run into the room and slap her, because Sha’re had done that. When she was anxious or upset, she chewed on her thumbnail. He used to pull her hand from her mouth and replace it with his lips. The substitution never failed to bring a smile to her face.
And how dare the copy know that. How dare she?
Her desert robes had been taken from her shortly after arriving at the SGC, replaced with medical scrubs during the course of her physical exam, and it wasn’t as helpful as Daniel had hoped. He still saw his wife, despite the alien garb.
Daniel had stayed in the observation room and watched them undress and dress her. He wished he hadn’t. The shade was a perfect duplicate. Daniel knew Sha’re’s body, and every mole, scar, and birthmark was where it should be.
It was so right, so damn accurate, that Daniel’s heart began to ache with hope. Maybe…
But he had watched Sha’re die. He had buried her. He had lost her and mourned her and made a shrine to her in his memories. He knew this woman couldn’t be his wife.
But still, he couldn’t seem to drag himself away. He stayed safely behind glass, but he stayed nonetheless.
The first few hours, she kept asking for Daniel. Anyone who entered the room was barraged with pleas for them to bring Daniel to her.
Then she stopped asking for anything at all. She endured the poking and prodding mutely, eyes guarded and watchful.
Then she started walking the edges of the room, looking long and hard at the door, at the two-way mirror…
Daniel had started to smile. Just like Sha’re, looking for a way to save her own ass.
Then Daniel had been furious, because for a heartbeat he’d bought into her lie.
He felt himself sag when the door to the observation room opened and the soft footfalls of the general approached.
“Doctor Jackson,” Hammond greeted lowly.
Daniel picked up the MRI film despondently. “Have you seen this?”
Hammond paused. “I have. Doctor Fraiser informed me we’re not dealing with a Goa’uld.”
“Then what the hell are we dealing with?” he asked tersely as he dropped the MRI onto the table and plucked off his glasses so he could rub his eyes. “Who is she?”
“I don’t know, son.”
“Whoever did this… they got everything right, General. Everything.” He turned a look up at Hammond. “How can anyone know my wife like I do enough to do this?” he gestured into the room.
“I wish I had some answers for you, but frankly I’m as stumped as you.”
Daniel shook his head, his whole chest hurting. “This is too much. I put up with a lot on this job, but this…” Daniel covered his face with his hands.
Hammond’s hand fell to his shoulder. “Maybe you should take a step back, Doctor Jackson. Get a few hours’ sleep. She’s not going anywhere, and I think you could use a break.”
“No…” Daniel dropped his head between his forearms and clenched his hands into fists behind his head. He dug his fingernails into his palms, clinging to the pain. Better to physically hurt than this. “No.” His head popped up. “Any word yet from Janet on the DNA test?”
Hammond sighed and took his hand from Daniel’s shoulder to reach into his pocket and pull out a folded sheet of paper. He held it out to Daniel.
Daniel unfolded a baffling collection of numbers and bars with variants of gray scale and a lot of technobabble. “What am I supposed to make of this?” Daniel asked peevishly.
Hammond moved to sit in the free chair next to Daniel’s and eyed the young man carefully. “It says that the DNA sample taken from this woman,” he nodded toward the imposter in the isolation room, “is an exact match to the sample Doctor Fraiser took from the body of your wife before she was taken to Abydos for burial.”
Daniel’s jaw dropped. “That’s impossible.”
“I told her to run it again, but she’s confident it’s going to show the same result. Based on genetic tests, this woman is not only human, but she is Sha’re.”
“No.” Daniel stared down at the woman in question, so very much Sha’re it was killing him, then he turned a sharp look toward Hammond. “I need to go to Abydos.”
“I need to see her grave. See if it’s still there.”
Hammond peered at Daniel. “And if it is?”
Daniel swallowed the taste of bile in the back of his throat. “If it’s there, then I have to dig it up.”
Hammond sat back. “I can’t let you do that.”
“Don’t you get it? I have to. If her body’s still… if Sha’re is still on Abydos, then we know this woman can’t be her. I don’t care what the DNA tests say. I buried my wife on Abydos, General… and if some sick bastard dug up her body…”
“Son…” Hammond reached out and put his hand on Daniel’s shoulder again. “I’m not disagreeing with you on what needs to be done. You’re right. It’s the next logical step. I’m saying I can’t let you do it.”
“She’s my wife, General.”
“Which is why I can’t let you do it. Say that this isn’t Sha’re… I won’t let you dig up your own wife’s body. No one should have to do that. You’ve been through enough.”
Daniel floundered. “Then what…?”
Hammond sighed. “I’ll send a team back to Abydos to confirm the remains of your late wife.”
Daniel felt tears burning in his eyes. “I… all right. But I have to go.”
“I won’t… I’ll let the team do the… but I need to be there. That world was my home, General. I still think of Sha’re’s father as family. I just… I need to go.”
Hammond took a moment to study the painfully familiar woman in the isolation room, then he nodded solemnly. “Very well. I’ll allow it.”
“But I don’t want you near that grave if they have to dig it up. Is that understood?”
Daniel dropped his eyes wordlessly.
Hammond’s voice softened. “I’m doing this for your protection, Doctor Jackson. I don’t want this to break you.”
Hammond went stone-faced. “It’d break me if it was my wife.” Then he stood and left the room.
Sam woke feeling like she had been trapped in a very vivid, very strange dream. She easily recognized the infirmary. She didn’t remember being taken to the infirmary, but that wasn’t so strange. She often woke up in the infirmary with no memory of getting there.
Sam turned at Jack’s voice to find him sitting in a chair beside her bed. That, too, was not unusual. So far so…
Her eyes landed on the bundle in his lap, and her world hit the emergency brakes. Everything came to a screeching halt, because that was a baby in his lap, and suddenly her dream was shredding its comfortable layers of unreality.
“You were out so long, I was starting to get worried.”
Sam couldn’t take her eyes off the baby. “I thought I dreamed it…”
“Oh my god…” She felt like she was caught in a net, unable to tear her eyes from the squirming creature in Jack’s lap. That had come out of her. That thing had been inside her, and she had given birth to it. She had given birth.
Her world didn’t allow for that, and she didn’t know how to reconcile what she knew was possible and what had, nevertheless, happened.
Jack frowned and slowly scooped the baby up into his arms, tilting it toward his body and partially hiding it from view. “Carter…? You okay?”
Her view of the child (and its seeming hold on her senses) broken, Sam at last managed to look away from the baby to meet Jack’s eyes. For the first time, she really noticed how he looked in the wake of the ordeal.
He looked like he’d had his world shaken to its core in the last few hours, and she imagined she looked even worse. “Honestly, sir… I don’t know.”
Jack nodded slowly.
“What…” Sam began to ask, but then realized she had so many questions she didn’t know where to start.
“We still don’t know how this happened. It’s been chaos around here, to tell you the truth.”
She decided to start with something she could wrap her head around. “I don’t remember coming back to the SGC.”
Concern flickered in Jack’s eyes. “I’m not surprised. You were pretty shocky when we got back. I’m not sure you slept so much as passed out. Doc says you’re going to be okay, though.”
The baby wriggled and kicked, letting out a whine that stopped them both dead in their tracks.
After a moment of sheer awkwardness when the elephant in the room had the audacity to make a sound, Jack patted the baby’s back. “Hey now, stop that.”
“She’s fine.” Jack looked up with a strangely hesitant look. “You seemed worried about that on the planet.”
Sam’s mouth went dry. “… she?”
“Yeah.” He cocked his head thoughtfully, as though asking himself if his next words would be an enormous mistake. In true Jack O’Neill fashion, he spoke anyway. “Do you want to hold her?”
Sam couldn’t formulate words, much less know if she wanted to hold it or not, but that somehow translated into her nodding.
Not moving for a beat (maybe questioning her mute response), Jack stood and stepped toward the bed.
Sam wasn’t really ready when he gently laid the baby on her chest. But in all fairness, she wasn’t sure she would have ever been ready for this. The newborn was a solid weight against her, breathing and warm and alive. Sam’s heart was suddenly pounding. Air seemed elusive.
“Carter?” Jack asked in worry as Sam visibly teetered on the edge. He frowned and reached down to take the baby back.
“No, don’t…” Sam croaked and placed her hand on the baby to keep him from taking her.
Jack looked uncertain but backed off.
Sam felt something inside her cracking, a shield she had erected years ago failing. She felt raw. Exposed. Defenseless.
The baby opened and closed her tiny fingers with their itty bitty nails. She peered up at Sam with eyes blue like the bottom of the ocean. She had wisps of blonde hair and the softest skin Sam had ever touched.
She was real. She was the only one that had ever followed Sam into the real world from her dreams.
“This isn’t possible…”
“Doc’s running some tests now to find out what she is.”
That had Sam looking up. “What she is?”
Jack winced. “Well, come on, Carter. Consider how she got here. She might not even be human.”
Much less hers. Sam nodded and forced herself to pull it together. The baby might not even be human. And if it wasn’t human, it definitely couldn’t be hers.
“Colonel,” Janet stepped into the partially curtained off area with an irritated scowl. “I thought I told you to come get me the moment she woke up.”
Janet sighed then looked at Sam. “Hey, Sam… how are you feeling?”
“The baby, Janet.” Sam had to know, and Janet should damn well know why.
Janet nodded and consulted the clipboard in her hand. “Well, you slept through the agonizing wait for results, so I’ll get right to it. She’s human, and her DNA matches yours. Not closely enough to be a clone, but to a degree consistent with maternity.”
Sam stared wordlessly, afraid to hope.
“According to every test I know to do, that’s your daughter, Sam.”
“But how? You said I could never have children.”
“Uh…” Jack started to retreat uncomfortably. “Maybe I should let you two talk alone.”
Sam shot out a hand and grabbed his wrist. “Please stay.” It didn’t make sense, but she needed him with her. Perhaps because he’d been there when the baby was born, so she felt like they were both involved. Or maybe she wanted him there just to have someone who could assure her she had heard Janet right. That Sam hadn’t imagined it. Her grip on reality felt so tenuous.
Jack hesitated at first, then he nodded and moved back toward the bed. Sam continued to hold onto his wrist tighter than she should.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Janet said after a second looking between Jack and Sam. “Nothing about your blood chemistry has changed. My professional opinion is still that you can’t have children.”
“Obviously someone didn’t get that memo,” Jack interjected.
“Yes, well… there’s a lot of the impossible going around today,” Janet said wearily.
Sam held her breath as she gazed down at the infant. It was a miracle. Sam worked in absolutes, in science, but she had no logical explanation for the child. And on this, she was willing to accept a miracle. She thought she would never have children of her own, and she hadn’t realized that it was something she wanted out of life until she knew she would never have it.
In a perfect world, Sam would have gone about it differently. Her life wasn’t ready for a baby. If she’d had a choice, she would have planned for this.
But the universe hadn’t consulted her before it gave her what she never thought she could have, and she wasn’t about to throw it away because it was inconvenient.
“Does that mean I can keep her?”
Janet’s exhausted look melted into a kind smile. She alone had known of Sam’s infertility heartache; she alone knew how much this meant to Sam. “Well, you are her mother.”
She was a mother.
Sam was barely holding it together.
Janet touched her foot through the sheet. “Congratulations. I’ll be back to check on you later, okay?”
At Sam’s jerky nod, Janet left.
“You want me to go, too?” Jack asked softly.
Sam wondered how he could even think that when she was gripping his wrist so tight she had to be cutting off circulation. “I’m sorry, sir.”
He looked down at her gently for a second, then he sat on the edge of the bed. He didn’t try to free his wrist. “Don’t apologize.”
“But I’m crying.”
“So? I cried the day Charlie was born.”
“You did not,” Sam snorted a watery laugh.
“I did! Later, in the bathroom. Manly tears, of course.”
Sam sniffled and smiled.
He shook the arm she was attached to just enough to get her attention. “Don’t feel bad for wanting a family.”
Sam looked down guiltily at the newborn, anyway.
Jack’s voice dropped to that dangerous, soft timber (the kind of dangerous that made Sam want to follow her heart instead of her head). “I never knew you wanted children.”
“I didn’t, either… until Janet told me I couldn’t.” And when that had become her reality, Sam felt a desire for children that had torn at her with surprising ferocity. It had felt like a cruel joke the universe was playing on her.
“Did anyone know?” Jack asked carefully.
It was probably a little surprising she hadn’t at least told Daniel. Neither of them mentioned why she wouldn’t tell Jack. Neither of them had to. That danced too close to the line they fought so hard to hold.
“I guess it just goes to show,” Jack said after a pensive pause, “never say never.”
Sam’s heart was hurting with the longing to hope. “Do you think she’s really mine?”
“Doc says she is. That’s good enough for me. Besides, something good should come out of this mess for at least one of us.”
Sam looked up at that. “What?” That’s when she realized half the team was missing. In the shock of suddenly having a baby in her life, she hadn’t even noticed two key people were absent. “Where are Daniel and Teal’c?”
Jack sighed. “Guess I better fill you in.”
“Thank you for coming with me, Jack.”
Standing beside him at the base of the embarkation ramp as the gate dialed Abydos, Jack looked over at Daniel. He was probably surprised. Daniel hadn’t spoken much lately. He hadn’t slept at all. He wasn’t even sure what day it was anymore. His world was all jagged edges and mismatched pieces in the nightmare that had become his life.
Jack glanced around at the members of SG-7 waiting to go to Abydos with them and moved closer to Daniel in order to drop his voice. “When Hammond told me what you’re going to Abydos to do… I couldn’t let you go alone.”
Daniel gave Jack a trademark intentionally obtuse look. “SG-7 was going with me.”
Jack gave him a knowing look at that. “I couldn’t let you do this without a friend.”
Daniel swallowed and simply nodded, not trusting his voice.
The fifth chevron locked.
“Besides,” Jack grumbled to himself, “I needed to get out of the infirmary. Even I was starting to think ‘sheesh, when is this guy going to leave?’, and I hate being the loser who overstays his welcome.”
Daniel felt bad for being such a shitty friend lately. He knew Sam and Teal’c were having a tough time, too, yet he hadn’t gone to see either of them. Daniel was just too wrapped up in his crisis to devote any energy to someone else’s. Any more heartache and he might shatter.
“I should have gone to see them,” he acknowledged guiltily as he hung his head. Whether from the guilt or the weight of his life, he did not know.
Daniel could tell from the look on Jack’s face that Jack knew. He reached out and curled his hand around the back of Daniel’s neck. “It’s okay.”
It really wasn’t, but something about Jack’s gentle manner hit Daniel in the heart and had his eyes stinging with tears.
He was grateful when the gate whooshed to life and put a stop to their conversation.
Abydos was just as Daniel remembered it… so much so that he found himself looking around corners and behind curtains in the gate room for Sha’re. The reality of what he was there to do was threatening to drown him.
Jack came up beside him and touched his elbow, grounding him whether Jack knew it or not. “Daniel…”
“Let’s just get this over with.”
Jack nodded grimly and ordered the team to head out.
As soon as the first Abydonians spotted them, word got to Kasuf and he came running. Daniel still felt the burn of failure every time he set eyes on his father-in-law. It was why he still thought of Kasuf as family yet rarely visited.
“Good Son!” the town elder clasped Daniel’s arms in eager greeting. “It is well to see you. Do you bring news of my son?”
With the man’s daughter dead, Kasuf pinned all his hopes on getting Skaara back.
“No, Good Father.”
Hovering far too close, Jack fidgeted unhappily at the mention of Skaara still in the clutches of the Goa’uld.
“I see,” Kasuf said in disappointment. “The boy, then?”
Daniel felt like crying. He knew Kasuf didn’t mean to, but he was rattling off a list of Daniel’s failures, one by one. “No, Good Father. I’m afraid the reason I’ve come is… something you are not going to like.”
Kasuf frowned. “What is it?”
Daniel had to take a moment to breathe when it felt like he was going to throw up.
“Speak, Good Son.”
“Good Father… we have come to check Sha’re’s grave.”
Kasuf looked confused. “I do not understand. You are welcome always to come and speak where her ka might hear you. I know my daughter would be glad for it.”
“No…” Daniel tried to tame his heart – it felt like it was in its death throes. “We must be certain she is still in it.”
Kasuf didn’t understand at first. And then he did. He pulled away from Daniel and glowered. “I will not permit it!”
“Good Father, please… I would not ask this if it was not necessary.”
“Why? Why would it be so that you must disturb her when she has already passed through the seven gates to the Field of Reeds?”
“A woman who looks and speaks like Sha’re, a woman who knows the things that Sha’re knew, has come to us in our travels.”
Kasuf gaped. “Truly? Could it be my daughter?”
“But the demons… they have the power over life and death, yes?”
“They do… Good Father, this woman is a liar. A trickster. But even knowing this in my heart, I have to be sure.”
Kasuf looked torn by the request. Daniel could see the slim hope that his daughter was still alive finally win out. But it didn’t mean Kasuf was happy about the disinterment. “If you must, Good Son, then do so.”
Daniel did not feel like he had won. “Thank you, Good Father.”
Kasuf waved him away in obvious disgust and left. The villagers clustered around them, in horror, left with their leader. Enough knew English to follow the conversation… and be appalled by it.
For a moment, Daniel was rooted to the spot, feeling like his soul was sloughing off like rotten meat.
Jack shifted closer, near enough that their jackets touched. It was a silent show of solidarity, and it bolstered Daniel’s flagging fortitude. Daniel girded himself and led the group toward the gravesite.
Sha’re’s grave was marked by a wooden ankh for a headstone. There was nothing written on it (in the long Abydonian tradition of not writing), but the location was burned into Daniel’s memory. He knew it was hers.
Daniel ran his hand along the smooth wood and rested his eyes on the plot before it. The sand was level, the wind having carried off any evidence left behind by the ceremony. There was no hint of the funeral that had buried the love of his life. There was also no sign that the ground had been disturbed.
“All right, men,” Jack spoke to SG-7. “You know what to do. And I think it goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway – any remains found here are to be treated with the utmost respect. Is that clear?”
A chorus of “yes, sir” followed. Daniel felt the eyes of SG-7 on him. He felt their pity. Some of their sympathy. He knew they would proceed carefully, because Daniel was one of their own.
They would be careful as they unearthed his wife’s grave.
Daniel didn’t register that the others were moving, preparing to dig, until Jack touched his arm. “Daniel?”
Jack took hold of Daniel’s sleeve and tugged. “Come on… you don’t need to watch this.”
It was hard to walk away from Sha’re’s grave… as hard as it had been the first time. But Daniel went. Jack practically herded him away.
“Are you absolutely, one hundred percent sure the woman at the SGC isn’t Sha’re?” Jack asked as they climbed over the dune near the gravesite.
Daniel scowled. “My wife’s dead, Jack.”
“I know, but…”
“No.” Daniel closed his hands into fists at his sides. “That woman at the base is not Sha’re. I don’t care what Janet’s DNA tests say.”
Jack abruptly stopped walking. “What?”
Daniel paused and looked back at him. “Janet said that woman’s DNA is an exact match to Sha’re’s.”
Jack frowned. “An exact match? Well, then maybe…”
“No. And when we find her in that grave, that will prove it. Fuck the DNA results. I know my wife.” That woman back on Earth was an imposter, and she was making him relive one of the most painful events in his life. How many times did the wound of losing Sha’re have to be ripped open? He was as much angry as he was upset.
Daniel turned and marched over to a tent meant for the guardians of the dead. Daniel felt like it was a fitting place for him as he sat in its shade to wait.
Jack eventually joined him, going to one knee and watching Daniel pensively. “You’re saying that lady in the palace made a person that could fool a DNA test?”
The notion seemed to bother Jack. “I don’t know, Daniel… that sounds like something that would be too hard to fake.”
“And when we find Sha’re’s body?” Daniel countered.
Jack looked stymied. “Maybe we won’t.”
Jack dropped his eyes to the ground and scowled in thought.
Daniel took off his glasses, buried the heels of his hands in his eye sockets, and rocked. He just wanted it to be over.
After about two hours, one of the members of SG-7 came over the hill and approached them.
“Colonel? Doctor Jackson? We found a body.”
Daniel let out a shuddering breath. He knew they would, but still. Still…
“We have to check,” Daniel croaked and he moved to get up.
Jack’s hand landed hard on his shoulder and pushed him back down. “Don’t you dare. I’ll ID her.” He got up and gestured for the other officer to lead the way.
Daniel stayed behind and buried his face in his hands. When he heard the murmur of voices over the dune, he slid his hands to his ears and clamped down tight. He slammed his eyes closed and tried to fly away in spirit. To shake his physical body and find Sha’re’s ka among the winds of Abydos, to be with her in the only way he knew he ever could be again.
Abydos had never felt so threatening as it did in that moment. He felt like the sand wanted to blast the flesh from his bones and leave him to bleach in the desert sun.
He startled when a hand fell softly on his shoulder.
Daniel looked up and saw Jack looking down at him, his face somber and deeply troubled. “It’s her.”
Even though Daniel had known they would find her body, he realized a tiny flame of hope had burned deep inside him nonetheless. That flame was cruelly doused. His last chance snatched away.
His wife was truly gone.
“God…” his voice cracked.
“They’re reburying her,” Jack said in a soft voice fit for graveyards. “We’ll leave once they’re done.”
Daniel nodded wordlessly.
Jack looked down at Daniel, glanced over his shoulder toward the dune where SG-7 was hidden from sight, then he turned back to Daniel. He nudged Daniel’s shoulder purposefully. “Come here.”
Daniel knew what it meant, and he stood gratefully for it.
Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel and Daniel returned the embrace, clinging to the older man with a fierceness of grief he hadn’t expected. He’d already buried Sha’re once, it shouldn’t be so hard to do it again.
But it was.
In an overabundance of caution, Janet did not release Teal’c from the isolation room until two days after the palace crisis. And even that seemed to make the doctor immensely uneasy. She did take down the containment tent after the allotted amount of time had passed, but she shied from letting him go beyond that.
Teal’c was subjected to many and more tests. He believed the doctor was so reluctant to turn him loose because she so little understood what had happened to him.
“Now, Teal’c, I want you to understand that while you have what appears to be a complete and functional immune system, you might still find yourself sick very quickly. Even if you have the means to fight off pathogens, you don’t have any immunities that the rest of us do. We spend a lifetime contracting and building defenses against a wide range of illnesses. Viruses could hit you fast and hit you hard.”
Janet seemed to spook herself with that, because she then ordered a seemingly never-ending barrage of vaccinations to try and ‘catch Teal’c up’. By day two, both of Teal’c’s arms were horribly sore.
However, there came a time when Teal’c would be confined no more. He would take his chances beyond the safety of the clean room. He couldn’t hide in it forever.
Janet resisted, but Teal’c was adamant. With great reluctance, the doctor finally gave in and let him go.
He sought out his teammates first. Hammond informed him that Jack and Daniel were on Abydos, and when he dropped by the infirmary to see Sam, she was asleep.
In the end, he went to his quarters.
The first thing he noticed was the proliferation of candles. Aides to kel’no’reem which he could no longer achieve. He scowled. It had so long been a focal point of his day – so much of his ‘zen’, as Jack called it, stemmed from kel’no’reem – that he didn’t know what he would cleave to without it.
He strode across the living space to his bathroom. He at last saw himself in a mirror.
He did not know himself without the serpent emblem of Apophis on his brow. So long he had cursed it, hated everything it stood for to him and his people, but it had also been part of him. The mere sight of it kept him focused on his quest to defeat the Goa’uld and free all Jaffa. Any time that his commitment flagged or his strength waned, just one look at his own reflection stoked the fire.
Now he was unmarked. Unclaimed. Without gods.
He looked human.
Teal’c leaned back and pulled up his shirt to examine the smooth skin of his stomach. He had hated the Goa’uld he carried, but that had been his identity as well. Among the Tau’ri, he alone was Jaffa.
Now what was he?
“Mr. Teal’c? Sir?” came a voice at his ajar door.
Teal’c dropped his shirt and turned to the airman. “What?”
“Uh… General Hammond wanted me to let you know he’s reached Master Bra’tac.”
At last, good news.
Teal’c nodded his thanks and headed for the control room.
He found Hammond waiting for him. “Teal’c.”
“General Hammond. You have word from Master Bra’tac?”
“Here’s coincidence for you… SG-11 just made their scheduled check-in, and they ran into Master Bra’tac on their mission. Had no idea we were even trying to find him, but turns out he wants to talk to you. They should be back shortly.”
Relief rushed through Teal’c. He didn’t know why – he wasn’t sure what Bra’tac could do – but he would welcome the counsel of such an old and wise friend. “I am pleased to hear that.”
So Teal’c waited.
He made haste to the embarkation room when the gate activated and spit forth SG-11 plus one.
The moment Bra’tac saw Teal’c, the grizzled warrior’s face fell. And with it, Teal’c’s spirits.
“Teal’c… what has happened to you, my friend?”
Teal’c bowed his head in shame, as though the fault somehow lay with him. “A powerful creature has changed me, Master Bra’tac.”
“Changed you?” Bra’tac moved closer and his eyes widened. “I sense no Goa’uld within you.”
“It is gone. It is as though I never carried one.”
“But you will die! How long ago did this happen?”
“Two days have passed.”
At first, Bra’tac was speechless. “Two days? That cannot be. You would have died well before now without your symbiote.”
“Indeed. And yet I live. According to Doctor Frasier, I have developed an immune system not unlike a human’s.”
Bra’tac was stunned. “What can do this?”
“I do not know what manner of creature is responsible. She appeared human, but clearly she was not. Nor was she a Goa’uld. I have never met another like her. But whatever beast she is, her power was great.”
“This is unexpected news, my friend.” Bra’tac frowned in contemplation. “Perhaps bad news.”
“How so, Master Bra’tac?” Hammond asked as he came up on Teal’c’s left side after seeing to SG-11.
“Hammond of Texas,” Bra’tac greeted with a quick nod. “I banded with your people so that I might return through the Chappa’ai and request Teal’c’s help.”
“For what reason?” Teal’c asked, immediately alert and attentive.
“A great faction of runaway, unaligned Jaffa have been found in hiding on a planet in Sokar’s territory. While they are free and live independent of Goa’uld rule, they are not allied with the rebel Jaffa. I had hoped to win them to our cause, for their numbers are great.”
“What assistant can I offer?” Teal’c asked.
“You are renown among our people for your defection and defiance of the gods. To the disillusioned, you are a hero. If you were but to speak to them, they might be convinced to join us.” Bra’tac hesitated and considered Teal’c in his present condition. “But I do not know how they will respond to you like this.”
Teal’c was overcome with fury. His life’s work could not be over on account of this. He would not allow it.
“Nevertheless, I shall try.” He cocked a look at Hammond. “With your permission, General.”
Hammond hesitated. “I don’t know if it’s such a good idea, Teal’c. You know Doctor Fraiser is concerned about the hardiness of your new immune system.”
Teal’c bristled. “It will serve me or it will fail me, but I must continue the fight against the Goa’uld, regardless.”
Hammond looked unconvinced.
“General Hammond…” Bra’tac spoke. “We have much to gain if these fugitive Jaffa could be won to our cause. They are already accustomed to fending for themselves, resourceful, defiant… they would be a great addition to the resistance.”
“I realize that, Master Bra’tac, but I don’t think you fully appreciate Teal’c’s present situation. He could get seriously ill if he’s exposed to a nasty bug.”
“Then there is no need for worry. There is no dangerous insect life on this world I wish for us to visit.”
Hammond sighed. “No, I mean Teal’c can get sick now. In fact, Doctor Fraiser fully expects that he will. We just don’t know how much more effective his symbiote will prove to be over the immune system that replaced it.”
Bra’tac, in fact, did not understand. A Jaffa wouldn’t.
“General Hammond,” Teal’c said at length. “I appreciate your concern for my well-being, but I believe this should be my decision. These are my people, and the freedom of all Jaffa is a worthy cause. I am willing to take the risk.”
Hammond eyed Teal’c a long moment. Then he sighed. “Very well, Teal’c. Maybe Master Bra’tac has no concept of illness and what it can do to a person, but you’ve seen your share of it living among us humans, so if you’re adamant about risking it…”
“Then I’ll allow it. But be careful, and if you start feeling under the weather, come home.”
Teal’c nodded deeply. He didn’t express it enough, but George Hammond was a good man. He watched over his people well, even his ‘strays’ (to borrow a term from Jack).
“Excellent. Then let us depart at once, my friend,” Bra’tac urged. “I shall give the coordinates for this rogue Jaffa world to your Walter of Davis.”
Hammond smirked at the moniker while Teal’c left to retrieve a staff weapon from the armory. That, at least, was still his to claim. A piece of his heritage that the strange woman could not take.
“I will give you ten dollars to stop crying.”
The baby was not silenced by the bribe. If anything, she began to cry louder.
Sam was regretting her decision to relocate to temp quarters. Janet had given them both a clean bill of health and discharged them, but she’d advised Sam to remain on base with the baby until further notice. Janet didn’t say so, but Sam knew everyone was still giving the miracle newborn the hairy eyeball. As much as they were suspicious of the Sha’re locked up in observation.
Sam supposed she had to be grateful they didn’t want to lock her baby up, too.
But bunking down in temps meant Sam was on her own with a baby for the first time in her entire life. An airman had rushed to the store and bought all the essentials, but that didn’t mean Sam knew what to do with them.
The baby was on a real tear with the wailing, nothing Sam did helped, and she was about to march right back to the infirmary and tell Janet there was something wrong with it.
A knock on her room door caught Sam at her wits end. “What?!”
The door opened and Jack peeked his head in. “Whoa… DEFCON Two, huh?”
“She won’t stop crying! I’ve tried everything.”
“Yeah, they’re like that sometimes.” Jack narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, then pushed the door open further and stepped inside. As he neared Sam, he held out his hands. “Here, give her to me.”
Sam hated how gladly she passed the baby to him.
Jack cradled the infant against his chest, her head tucked beneath his chin, and started to sway. “Now look here, missy… this is a top secret military base, and we don’t stand for personnel screaming like banshees. I mean, not unless they actually are banshees, which hasn’t happened yet, but I wouldn’t put it past this place. Sooner or later, I’m sure we’ll have elves, gnomes, and goblins to add to our list of SGC guests, invited or otherwise. So… there’s that to look forward to, I guess. Might not be so bad, though. I’ve always wanted to meet a leprechaun. Also, you’re probably not technically personnel, but you sure aren’t ordnance – though the contents of your diaper might be another story – so I’m considering you an airman as of now, and we won’t have any more of this crying nonsense. That’s an order.”
While Jack rambled on, the baby went from screaming to whimpering until finally she was hiccupping softly against his chest. His hand spanned the entirety of her back, and her tiny profile nestled safely under the shadow of his jaw.
The scene stole Sam’s breath. She knew the feeling whipping into a frenzy inside her stomach all too well. It was an old feeling, a dangerous one, but it had never been this strong before. And it had been almost unbearable before.
“How did you do that?” Sam asked with a nervous gulp, struggling to stop being so fiercely attracted to everything Jack O’Neill.
“No clue, but it worked with Charlie, too.” At that, Jack’s expression tightened. She could almost see the memory of his son tearing at his insides.
She had thought Jack was the one among them unharmed by the palace witch, but she realized just then how wrong she was. Having a newborn on the team would invariably dredge up memories of his son. Especially when Jack ended up having to come to Sam’s rescue when it came to childcare.
Fatigued, Sam plopped down on the bed and raked her hands through her hair.
Sam gave a humorless laugh. “No. I suck at this.”
“You don’t suck.”
Sam gave him a pointed look, he who had swooped in and calmed her inconsolable baby in less than a minute.
“Cut yourself some slack, Carter… remember, I’ve done this before.”
Sam rubbed at her tired eyes. “I just don’t like being bad at something.”
“Oh, believe me, I know you don’t. You’ll get the hang of it.”
Sam nodded absently, not really believing it. “So what happened on Abydos? Did you…”
Jack looked some strange combination of pissed, sad, and worried. “Yeah… Sha’re was still there.”
“Damn… how’s Daniel doing?”
“Not good.” Jack glanced down toward the baby then back toward Sam. “Actually… this trip to Abydos brought up something we need to talk about.”
Dread settled in Sam’s stomach. She knew Jack’s tones, and this was a bad one. “What’s wrong?”
“Not here. I told Daniel to meet us in the infirmary. I think we might need the doc for this conversation.”
If that didn’t scream ‘ominous’, she didn’t know what did.
Sam nodded warily and got up to head to the infirmary with Jack. He carried the baby without comment, almost conspicuously not giving it back. She couldn’t shake the feeling she was about to hear news she really would rather not.
When they got to the infirmary, it was the first time Sam had seen Daniel since they were split up at the palace. Technically, she had seen him when they left the planet, but Sam had no memory of it.
She immediately understood Jack’s concern. Daniel looked wrecked as he fended off Janet’s attempts to assess him.
“Doc…” Jack grunted, a low warning to back off.
Janet did indignantly, asking, “Colonel, what’s this about?”
Jack glanced at Daniel a second before he answered, “Sha’re’s body was still in her grave.”
Janet was struck silent by the news.
Sam walked gingerly over to Daniel, physically incapable of keeping her distance when he was clearly hurting. When she reached to touch him, he flinched.
“I don’t see how that could be possible,” Janet said.
“Could she be a clone?” Sam asked with care.
“With Sha’re’s memories?” Daniel asked acerbically.
Janet winced. “Daniel’s right. Cloning a body is one thing, but a clone grows up a different person. It forms its own memories.”
“Then she has to be something else we’ve never encountered before,” Sam mused aloud.
“I don’t care what ‘something else’ she is,” Daniel snapped. “All I know is she’s not Sha’re.”
Daniel’s outburst muted them all for a moment, everyone afraid to upset Daniel further by doing or saying the wrong thing.
The doctor sucked in a breath as she measured her next words with care. “Is it possible… could the body you found be a fake?”
With a stony face, Jack shifted the baby so he was holding it in one arm, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a lock of dark hair.
“Shit…” Daniel hissed and turned his head away.
Sam’s stomach clenched.
Janet took the hair quickly, no doubt to spare Daniel having to see the lock taken from his wife’s corpse a second longer. “I’ll run a DNA test.”
“If it matches,” Jack said haltingly, “then we might not be able to trust DNA results with anything that woman had a hand in creating.”
Sam’s heart slammed hard against her ribs and her eyes darted to the baby.
Jack looked up at her almost apologetically.
Sam was finding it suddenly hard to breathe. Could the universe be that cruel? Give her the child she thought she could never have only to steal it from her again?
She knew that it could.
So, probably need some quick clarification here… I wrote this as set pre-ascended Daniel, so a clone like the one in Fragile Balance would not have been a known thing to them. That is all. Carry on! :)
The talks with the rogue Jaffa were not going well.
Their leader was a man named Kal’rac, a former servant of Sokar who had founded the free city of Amarn. He was a proud man with his own vision of life free from the Goa’uld, and it did not include inviting trouble by fighting the gods.
Teal’c and Bra’tac had been trying for almost two days to convince Kal’rac that his people had to do more than live below the radar. The problem was, Amarn was thriving. The people were content, self-governing, and free in a sense. As Jack would say in such a situation, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
Teal’c found his temper short as he sat in Kal’rac’s office with Bra’tac trying once again to convince the Amarn leader otherwise.
“Surely you must realize these people will one day draw the wrath of the Goa’uld,” Bra’tac said plaintively. “Sooner or later, they will come. Will you not fight for your brothers and sisters? Are you not responsible for their safety as their leader?”
“What you propose is not battle, it is suicide. You cannot defeat the gods.”
“False gods,” Teal’c interjected sourly.
Kal’rac looked at him through narrowed eyes. “That may be, but for their strength and numbers, they may as well be gods. If they can defeat us handily, then what matter is it what we call them?” Kal’rac gestured at a map of Amarn on the wall. “We have angered no one, our city is peaceful… those who have come here did so because they were tired of fighting. And you would ask me to force them into combat once again.”
Bra’tac grunted in disgust. “You are not safe here. That you have not been attacked yet is pure luck. Do not be fooled into thinking that the Goa’uld are ambivalent toward those who have deserted them.”
“That is why we allow only a small number of deserters from any one god to settle here. Too many from Sokar or Bastet or Ba’al, and it will draw attention.” Kal’rac crossed his arms. “You insult us by suggesting we are not careful. That we admit new Amarnians indiscriminately.”
“And what of the ones you turn away?” Bra’tac countered. “What happens to the Jaffa denied this alleged utopia?”
Kal’rac scowled. “I would rejoice if all could be made welcome here, but certain steps must be taken to ensure the safety of the group. Safety you would jeopardize by asking us to join your unwinnable war.”
“It is not unwinnable,” Teal’c rose to his feet in a pique of anger. “It can be won. But not without Jaffa willing to stand up and fight.”
“Teal’c of Chulak,” Kal’rac sneered. “Why should I give weight to your words? You fled your service alone. You do not live among Jaffa. You do not serve alongside your fellow rebels. You speak big words about conquering our masters, yet you are not responsible for any Jaffa lives.” Kal’rac stepped closer to Teal’c. “I am responsible for the Jaffa in my city. I do not have the luxury of giving rousing speeches inciting violence then retreating to a world removed from the Jaffa struggle.”
“If you think Earth is safe from Goa’uld attack, you are wrong.”
The relative threat to Earth did not sway Kal’rac. “You’re flashy armor that’s hollow inside, Teal’c. You do not have to answer for the seeds of rebellion you plant. You do not fight and die alongside us once you have roused us to war.”
“I have fought alongside my brothers and sisters of the Jaffa longer than you have been alive!”
“Teal’c, please…” Bra’tac stepped between them to diffuse the situation. “This is not helping.” He turned a baleful eye on Kal’rac, “But you are wrong to question Teal’c’s honor or his loyalty to the Jaffa. He is trying to free our people.”
“No,” Kal’rac countered, “he’s trying to get them killed. I’m trying to keep them alive. I give them something outside of service to the Goa’uld. They have a life here.”
“A borrowed one,” Teal’c growled.
“Better a borrowed one than a short one.” Kal’rac looked away from Teal’c in disgust and focused his attention on Bra’tac. “Tell me, Master Bra’tac… if the Goa’uld were to be wiped out today and all Jaffa made free… what then?”
“I do not understand.”
“Amarn provides a template of a self-sufficient, self-governing Jaffa city. Can you not see the good in that? You would bring down the skies, but you wouldn’t know what to do with the stars you caught.”
Teal’c felt his anger and frustration at Kal’rac like fire, burning through his body.
“You are welcome to your rebellion, Master Jaffa. And you are free to scorn us for not participating in it. But if you succeed, you will be coming to us to teach you how to build Jaffa cities.”
“These are lies you tell yourself to assuage your guilt for turning your back on your fellow Jaffa!” Teal’c spat.
Kal’rac lifted his eyebrows imperiously, his skin wrinkling under the edge of his Sokar tattoo. “I am not the one guilty of that crime, Teal’c. You stand before me, and you are not Jaffa. The lengths you must have gone to in order to remove all trace of your heritage is sickening.”
Teal’c felt light-headed with fury.
“This was done to Teal’c without his consent,” Bra’tac tried to mediate.
“If only I could believe that,” Kal’rac replied. He looked down his nose at Teal’c. “Your words are meaningless, Teal’c. Your actions have spoken for you. How can you claim to care about the Jaffa when you stopped being one?”
Teal’c blinked, trying to clear the fog.
“Kal’rac,” a visitor arrived, by his tattoo a former servant of Heru’ur. “The agriculture council is about to convene. Your presence is requested.”
“I will be there shortly.” Kal’rac turned back to the rebel representatives with a stony expression. “We are done with bloodshed here. The only battle we seek is that against the elements to bring in a bountiful harvest.”
“You are a fool,” Bra’tac decreed. “You are condemning these people to death.”
“So would you, only your way would be faster.”
With that, Kal’rac left the office with the messenger.
Teal’c could not believe they had failed so completely. He felt oddly distant from his body.
“That did not go well,” Bra’tac mused mournfully.
Teal’c struggled to comprehend Bra’tac’s words.
“Come, my friend… let us leave. I do not see what more progress we can make for now.”
Teal’c followed after Bra’tac vacantly, devastated by their performance.
Once they emerged into the fresh air, Bra’tac seemed to find hope. “Perhaps if we return again later, when tempers have cooled, we will get through to him.”
Teal’c was having a hard time concentrating on Bra’tac’s words. Why was the world wrapped so tightly around him? He felt so compressed by the air he could hardly breathe.
“Let us go, Teal’c.” Bra’tac started toward the city center.
When Teal’c tried to follow, he crashed to the ground.
“Teal’c?!” Bra’tac was kneeling beside him in the next second, rolling him to his back and looking down into his eyes. “What is wrong? Can you rise?”
Teal’c could not imagine getting up. Every part of him wanted to stay down.
“What is it? Were you attacked?” Bra’tac looked around suspiciously at the Amarnians.
“Earth…” Teal’c managed to croak. He had to get back to the SGC. He suspected Janet’s fear had become reality. He was sick. But he couldn’t believe humans routinely felt as horrid as he did. How did they not die?
Maybe that’s what he was doing.
“Have you gotten any sleep?”
At Jack’s question, Daniel looked up from his desk and blinked at Jack in the doorway to Daniel’s lab. Jack could tell the answer was ‘no’ just looking at the archaeologist.
But in typical Daniel fashion, rather than cop to his unhealthy habit, he frowned down at Jack’s arms. “Why do you have the baby?”
Jack looked down at the infant he was holding. She sure was a cute little thing, whatever she was. Daniel’s question brought up a lot of awkwardness, though.
“Carter’s really backed off since hearing the DNA results might not mean squat,” Jack answered as he moved to stand across the desk from Daniel.
“So you get stuck with it?”
Jack scowled. “I wouldn’t put it that way.” He’d been helping with it before, and it never occurred to him to stop. He glanced back down at the newborn and scowled even harder. The truth was, the more time he spent with the kid, the more he got an uneasy feeling about it. Something about her was bothering him, but he couldn’t put his finger on what.
Daniel focused on the baby a moment with pursed lips. It was his ‘pondering an alien’ face, and it unnerved Jack for some reason.
“Have you gone to see…” Jack started to ask, then trailed when he didn’t know what to call the Sha’re imposter in isolation.
Daniel drew back as though slapped. “No.” He shook his head. “I want nothing to do with that… thing.” Pain and anger were practically radiating off Daniel in waves.
“Fair enough. So what are you doing?” Jack asked to change the subject.
With a sigh, Daniel looked down at his array of books. “Trying to figure out what that thing in the palace was.”
“Really?” That Jack was actually interested in. He snagged a stool, dragged it closer, and sat down. “Any luck?”
“Actually, yes… I think it’s a djinn.”
“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
“You would know it as a genie.”
Jack waited for Daniel to say ‘just kidding’. He didn’t. “You mean like Barbara Eden? That kind of genie? Because I’ll grant you she looked the part, but me dressing up as a fireman doesn’t mean I am one.”
Daniel seemed to barely resist rolling his eyes. “I can only guess, because I never found anything in writing in the palace that would provide a more accurate cultural or historical context, but it fits.”
“Of course it does. Wait a second, aren’t genies supposed to be good guys?”
“Actually… in Middle Eastern lore, the word ‘djinn’ can be synonymous with ‘demon’.”
“Well, that sounds about right.” Jack glanced down at the baby. She was starting to wiggle in earnest against him, perhaps annoyed she wasn’t the center of attention. “So she’s, what… demon-spawn?”
Daniel looked pained… because if the baby was, then Sha’re was, too. “I don’t know.”
Jack’s eyes landed on the baby again. He just didn’t see it. She looked too cute to be evil.
“But something occurred to me,” Daniel added as an aside. “Those Goa’uld shields Sam deactivated were on the outside. They weren’t there to keep anyone out, they were to keep her in.”
“Wonderful.” Because something that scared the Goa’uld had to be bad. And they’d set it loose. He was ninety percent sure that was going to come back to bite them in the ass. Destroyer of Worlds came to mind.
The baby huffed and landed a kick in Jack’s stomach, perilously low and very nearly a groin shot.
“Hey! Take it easy, Charl–”
Jack’s heart lodged in his throat with the suddenness of a gunshot.
Daniel’s head snapped up, his eyes wide.
The baby was watching Jack calmly, as if thinking ‘took you long enough’.
That inexplicable, weird feeling Jack kept having about the baby… now he knew what it was.
“Son of a bitch,” Jack hissed as he surged up from the stool with the baby in his arms and headed quickly for the door.
“Jack?! What’s wrong? Jack, wait!”
He heard Daniel hurrying after him, following him through the halls of the SGC at the same reckless, speed-walking pace in order to keep up, but Jack didn’t check his stride to wait for him.
He had to talk to Janet. Now.
There was a lot in that one word, a wealth Janet was really wanting to know, so Sam forestalled it with a question of her own. “How’s he doing, Janet?”
Janet looked down at Teal’c in the infirmary bed. Sam had never seen Teal’c so frail. He’d been brought in by Bra’tac practically unconscious a few hours ago, delirious and burning with fever. He hadn’t improved much since. Sam found herself at his bedside holding his limp hand… for all the good it did.
“He’s stable. I’m giving him antibiotics to help him fight off whatever this is, but his immune system just wasn’t ready to tackle an unregulated environment.”
Sam could hear Janet’s ire at Hammond allowing Teal’c to go off-world in her voice. She looked up at Janet. “You know Teal’c’s pig-headed when it comes to the Jaffa rebellion. If he really wanted to go, he would have found a way to do it against orders.”
“Probably.” Janet frowned. “I’ve given Teal’c every vaccination I can think of to try and keep ahead of this, but the truth is he’s a walking invitation to viral and bacterial infections right now. Short of putting his symbiote back, I don’t see how we can prevent this from being his reality for the next several months until he builds up a defense system that’s worth a damn.”
Sam placed her other hand on Teal’c’s forearm, careful not to disturb his IV line. “Hang in there, Teal’c.”
A beat of silence. Then Janet tried again. “Sam…”
Sam cringed and hoped a distraction would fall from the sky.
It kind of did.
Both women startled when Jack and Daniel came rushing into the infirmary. Sam tensed. Jack had the baby with him, and Sam couldn’t look at it without feeling swift and brutal heartache. Hope and fear collided within her, again and again, each knocking down the other in turn until Sam didn’t know how to feel anymore.
“Hey, Doc…” Jack walked straight over to Janet, and the fact that he didn’t ask immediately about Teal’c’s status proved something big was up. “You got a minute?”
“Of course, Colonel. What can I do for you?”
Jack hesitated then, sparing a concerned glance at Sam before he lowered his voice, “I need you to run another DNA comparison on the baby.”
Sam’s stomach turned.
“All right,” Janet said, drawing out the words in puzzlement. “I can, but it’s still going to show a match to Sam. I triple-checked my initial results.”
“I don’t want you to run it against Carter’s DNA. I want you to run it against mine.”
Sam looked up sharply. Daniel gaped.
“Yours?” Janet parroted.
“Why?” Sam asked in a cracking voice.
Jack winced. “Look, I know we’re taking the DNA results with a grain of salt here, and I know, all babies kind of look alike, but…” Jack looked down at the baby and seemed to ache for it, “she looks a hell of a lot like Charlie.”
For a moment, no one spoke. Sam couldn’t if she had to. Finally, Janet nodded. “All right… I still have the baby’s DNA results on file… it shouldn’t take long to run them against yours.”
Sam barely registered Janet leaving. She was too shocked by the possibility that Jack could be right. It shouldn’t be possible, but neither should the baby, either. And if there was anything that could make a bigger mess of the situation, it would be Jack being the father.
Sam mutely shook her head.
Jack sighed. “Daniel? Could you take her for a minute?” Then Jack was rounding the bed and taking Sam by the shoulders. “Carter? Come over here.”
He pulled her away from Teal’c’s bed to an empty one. She sat facing him, he facing her. She finally dared to look him in the eye. He looked worried.
“Talk to me,” he coaxed.
Sam flapped her hands. “What the hell am I supposed to say? First I have a baby that Janet says is mine, then maybe it’s not, and while I’m scared it’s going to turn out to be some kind of monster, oh yeah, it might be yours, too?” That didn’t even touch on the fear that it would end up being taken from her – that if it was hers, it wasn’t hers to keep. That fear was too close to her heart to voice. Truthfully, it was too much for her to even contemplate… best to face every other possible outcome other than that one.
Jack blinked, perhaps surprised she had been bottling up so much. Then he canted his head slightly. “You think it might be a monster?”
Sam cringed. “I don’t know. I don’t want it to be. I want her to be real, I want her to be mine, but the rational side of me keeps telling me all the reasons she can’t be.” She looked uneasily across the infirmary to where Daniel was walking back and forth with the baby. Sam took a steadying breath as she braced herself to voice the dark thoughts that had been plaguing her since doubt about the baby’s identity had surfaced. “You know, if a hostile alien was looking for a way to infiltrate us, passing through one of us in the guise of a human child would be a damn good way to do it. Because it’s not like we were ever going to leave a baby behind.”
An uncomfortable silence fell between them.
“Do you really think you’re…” Sam started to ask then lost her courage.
“There was something about her I couldn’t put my finger on that was bugging me. I just realized it’s that she looks almost exactly like Charlie did at that age.”
“But all babies look pretty much the same, right?” Sam asked hopefully.
“They do…” Jack hesitated. “Except your own. I could pick Charlie out of a thousand newborns. And she’s not Charlie, so it’s not an exact likeness… but she could damn well be his sister.”
Sam felt dread settle into her bones. “Let’s hope she isn’t.” She realized how that might sound and looked up at him apologetically. “No offense, sir… but it would be a big problem if she is.”
“Yeah, I know.”
They didn’t have to wait long for Janet to return, but it felt like an eternity. When the doctor came back from the lab, she looked bowled over.
“Well, Colonel… you were right. DNA analysis says she’s yours, too.”
All of SG-1 was speechless, and for three of them it was the shock of the news. Before, Sam thought knowing the baby’s full parentage would help. Turns out it didn’t.
In a rage-filled outburst, Jack snarled, “All right, that’s it.” He lunged off the bed and stomped toward the door. The difference in the man from just a couple of minutes ago was stark – Jack was always going to be invested where any child was concerned, but now this concerned his child. It was next-level Jack O’Neill, and woe be to the creature that stood against him.
“Jack? Where are you going?” Daniel called after him.
Jack turned sharply. “I’m going back to that planet, and I’m getting some god damn answers.”
Adrenaline shot through Sam like a bullet. She jumped to her feet. “I’m going with you.” She wanted some answers herself. Her entire life was in limbo until she knew the truth about the baby. If it was real. If it was hers. If it was his. She wasn’t leaving that godforsaken planet until she knew.
“Don’t you guys leave without me!” Daniel called after them as he rushed to hand the baby off to Janet. He caught up with them before Jack and Sam had even turned the first corner in the corridor.
Marching purposefully through the halls of the SGC toward Hammond’s office, it was the first time in a week that Sam felt in control. She felt like herself again. She was on the offensive, heading off to face an enemy. Daniel and Jack were at her side, just as dead-set on confronting the creature in the palace that had upturned all their lives. Teal’c’s absence only hardened their resolve.
They’d get their answers… even if she had to blow up another sun to do it.
“Well, this is a troubling development.”
Daniel gave Jack a perturbed look as they stood on the Stargate dais looking out over the city.
A gleaming, beautiful, intact city.
If he hadn’t watched Walter put in the coordinates himself, Daniel would think they were on the wrong planet. But there was little chance of a misdial; to even make the connection, Walter had to bypass the lockout placed on the address when Hammond added it to their no-travel list after SG-1’s short-lived yet disastrous mission.
It seemed Jack was unimpressed by the drastic change from ruins to radiance. He checked his P-90 and growled, “Let’s go.”
Sam and Daniel trailed after him as they marched toward the palace, the journey easier than the first time as they were unimpeded by debris.
Daniel knew Jack was in a fire-breathing mood. Sam was not much better. Daniel found his own actually improved just by being away from the base and finding himself in a rich cultural trove. If he just stayed focused on the mystery of the djinn woman, maybe he could shove the woman in the isolation room back on Earth to the back of his mind.
It was a good theory, anyway, and he was going to cling to it until his fingers bled.
“There’s no people,” Daniel noted as they passed by pristine, empty buildings on the way to the palace.
“What?” Jack asked brusquely.
“She restored the city, but she left it empty.” At Jack’s dark look, Daniel shrugged. “It’s just strange, that’s all.”
“Yes, because we know this thing has no qualms about making people out of thin air.”
Daniel went moodily silent.
The palace was waiting for them with open, undamaged doors.
The woman Jiniya was sitting on a throne made of gold and emerald in the center of the treasure room. The other riches that had previously been crammed into the single room had been dispersed throughout the palace foyer, lending it an even grander air. The only untouched object from the treasure trove was the lamp from whence the creature came – that was still on its side on the ground where Daniel had dropped it days earlier. Elsewise, the place was resplendent.
The throne and the enriched palace on all sides gave the woman on the throne a Goa’uld-like aura. She lacked only servants to complete the likeness.
The imposing scene did not slow Jack’s step, and Daniel and Sam did not waver from his sides.
Jiniya looked down imperiously on them, her lazy beauty like a bored panther. Breath-taking but powerful enough to kill at a moment’s notice.
“Hey!” Jack barked as he moved closer, heedless of that leashed power. “Lady, we have a bone to pick with you.”
Jiniya lifted one arched brow. “Why have you returned? I have fulfilled my duty to you and yours for freeing me.” She narrowed her eyes. “If you have come to demand you each get three, then I will be most displeased.”
Before Jack could explode at her, Daniel jumped to the front of the group and blurted, “So you are a djinn?”
Jiniya dipped her head regally. “You know of my kind, then. If so, you should understand the terms. I caution you, do not object to my treating your group as one entity. You should be grateful that my gratitude to be freed from my prison was sincere. I am rarely so generous.”
“What the hell did you do to us?” Jack interjected.
Jiniya looked past Daniel toward Jack, unmoved by the colonel’s anger as very few ever were. “Granted you your heart’s desires.”
“Our friend is lying in a hospital bed gravely ill,” Sam said angrily. “I’m pretty sure Teal’c didn’t wish for that.”
“He wished his kind to be free of their need for the Goa’uld.” She shrugged. “But that was beyond my power. I am unable to affect change on such a scale. But I did free him from his need for the Goa’uld.”
“He could die because of what you’ve done,” Jack said.
Jiniya tipped her head in unconcerned acknowledgment. “As anyone could die. His wish was not for long life or eternal health.” She lifted her chin haughtily. “He should have been more specific.”
“Are you really talking fine print right now? What are you, a lawyer?”
“Jack, please…” Daniel begged.
“Daniel. You can’t want to make friends with this woman. You know what she did to us. To you.”
“Yes… and I also know these are powerful, feared creatures. Just look at what she did. And that was her being nice. I’m pretty sure her kind is where the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ originally came from, so maybe try not to piss her off?”
Jack glared but gestured toward Jiniya as if to say to Daniel ‘be my guest’.
Daniel turned back to Jiniya and moved a few steps closer to the throne. “So you granted Teal’c freedom from the Goa’uld… and my wife? Where did she come from? Did you bring her back from the dead?” They’d found the body on Abydos, but maybe, by some miracle…
Jiniya idly stroked a nearby cat made of alabaster, the very picture of boredom. “Returning life to the dead is something I cannot do.”
Despite his doubts from the start, Daniel’s heart still sank a little. “Then where did she come from? What is she? She’s Sha’re down to the DNA. How?”
“I took from the traces of her that live in you. The piece of her soul that resides in your heart.”
“Souls don’t have DNA,” Sam said testily.
Jiniya looked haughty, frighteningly godlike (and SG-1 had run into their fair share). “None that you can detect.”
Sam just looked insulted.
“But is she Sha’re?” Daniel pressed.
“She is your memory of her brought to life. All that you remember of her lives in her. I could not give the woman who died back to you, but I could give your memory of her life.”
Daniel’s mind was racing, tripping over cobblestone metaphors. What did that even mean?
“And the baby?” Sam asked.
Jiniya almost smiled. “Yes… a wish granted once that served twice. That was most fortunate, for I did not have to choose which three among you to reward.”
“And you knew I wanted a baby.” Sam began to scowl. “But why did you have to make it happen like that?”
“Because you wanted it – the whole filthy experience of motherhood.”
“Not like that,” Sam argued. “That was traumatic.”
“When isn’t childbirth?” Jiniya scoffed.
Annoyed, Sam said, “You could have just made me pregnant. I didn’t have to go through the entire pregnancy in twenty minutes.”
“That is true,” Jiniya agreed easily, “but I don’t like waiting.”
Daniel supposed a being used to conjuring things in the blink of an eye wouldn’t hold patience as one of its virtues.
With a frustrated huff, Sam stared down at the floor a moment before looking up once again at the djinn. “How did you even know?” Sam asked, her voice as vulnerable as Daniel had ever heard it. Given the fact that no one on SG-1 knew anything about Sam’s infertility, it said a lot about how closely Sam guarded the information, and yet the djinn had known.
“With a single touch, I know all. I touched your minds and read your souls. I found your heart’s desires. And I gave them to you. Three wishes for my four liberators.”
That made sense except for one thing. “How does Sam having a baby do anything for Jack?” Daniel asked.
Jiniya gave Jack a shrewd, smug look. “It gives him what he truly wants.”
Daniel looked back at Sam in time to see her cast Jack a confused look. Jack just looked stony-faced and pissed. So maybe the djinn had guessed wrong there, but even if she hadn’t…
“But are they real?” Daniel pressed. “Sha’re and the baby… are they just facsimiles of humans? Fakes?”
“No more than you are, puny meat-creature.” Jiniya frowned down at them then. “You do not seem pleased by my gifts. Perhaps I should take them back. But be warned, I will not replace them with new gifts in an endless subservient quest to please you.”
“What do you mean, ‘take them back’?” Daniel was leery as all get out. “Do you mean killing them?”
“Ending their existence,” Jiniya replied, as though the two were somehow different.
Jack immediately brought his P-90 to bear on the djinn. “You stay the hell away from my kid.”
Sam froze. Sam never froze in combat… but the fight had never been about her child, either. The whole situation had Sam spooked and Jack on a hair-trigger.
In a horrid premonition, Daniel could see it all going to hell fast.
Daniel rushed back to Jack and pushed down on the barrel of his weapon frantically. “Jack, stop.”
“I see my gifts are wanted,” the djinn proclaimed. “My debt is paid.” Then Jiniya leaned forward and skewered them with a fierce look. “I warn you, do not trouble me again. My gratitude is not infinite, and my wrath is fearsome.”
Daniel did not doubt that for a second. A wave like static electricity swept over his skin at merely the edge in Jiniya’s voice. Like she was a living thunderstorm. He did not question the hell she could unleash if she were provoked.
With that, Jiniya was swept up in a green cyclone of smoke and disappeared.
Jack reluctantly lowered his weapon, index finger flexing outside the trigger guard like an attack dog on a leash. Sam let out a gusting breath, tremulous at the end and so, so telling.
Daniel looked at the empty throne a moment, at a loss, then he looked between Sam and Jack.
No one seemed to know where to go from there.
“So what do we do with them?” Sam asked after a beat. “Sha’re and the baby…”
“We’re keeping them,” Jack growled, his tone brooking no argument.
Daniel didn’t know how he felt about that, but he knew his heart had seized when Jiniya suggested Sha’re’s double die.
And he wasn’t sure how to feel about that, either.
“So what are our options at this point?”
Everyone at the briefing room table looked around at each other following Hammond’s question. No one seemed eager to jump in with suggestions.
“For starters,” Jack broke the tense silence with a steely voice, “I say we lock out that gate address for good. This woman is clearly a hostile. We should try to eliminate any further contact with her.”
“She may also be the only one who can fix the problems she created,” Hammond pointed out.
Jack looked up hotly. “Her idea of ‘fixing the problems’ is murder, and I won’t let that happen. I don’t know how Daniel feels about Sha’re being put down like an unwanted stray, but that psycho genie isn’t going anywhere near that baby.”
Hammond hesitated at Jack’s vehemence and exchanged a glance with Janet. The doctor had told him earlier that genetic testing proved Jack was the child’s father. It was the only reason Hammond didn’t say something about Jack’s strong opinion on the matter of the djinn.
Staring down at the table in defeat, Daniel mumbled regarding the fate of the Sha’re double, “I don’t want her to die… if the djinn is telling the truth about how she was created, then the woman we have in observation is innocent. Her existence isn’t her fault… it’s mine.”
“But what do we do with her?” Hammond queried.
Janet jumped in at that point. “If we feel reasonably confident she’s not a security risk, then I’d like to downgrade her threat status so she can be moved to guest quarters.”
“She’s not doing very well.”
Daniel’s head came up at that. “What do you mean?”
“She’s despondent, she’s barely eating…” Janet bit her tongue shy of saying ‘depressed’.
Daniel slumped miserably.
“If it’s too hard having her here,” Sam broke in gently, touching Daniel’s arm to soften the blow of her next words, “maybe we can send her to Abydos.”
Daniel flinched. “I don’t know… would that be easier or harder on Kasuf? How do you go about your life with your daughter in your home when her body is buried just a few dunes away?” He shook his head. “And if this Sha’re is a product of my memories… she won’t remember her childhood. Things she’s told me, sure, but things she didn’t? I like to think I knew Sha’re better than anyone, but the fact remains I only knew her for a year. To Kasuf, would it seem like having half of Sha’re back? Would that be a blessing or a curse?” Daniel practically wilted. “I just don’t know.”
Hammond nodded kindly. “We can put that decision off for the time being. For now, I think we can move the woman in question to more comfortable accommodations. We haven’t seen anything to warrant her continued twenty-four hour observation.”
Janet nodded gratefully and made a note on her pad of paper.
“What’s Teal’c’s condition?” Hammond asked while he had the doctor’s attention.
“He’s showing some improvement. The antibiotics seem to be helping. His fever’s down, and his white blood cell count is consistent with a healthy immune response. Which is to say elevated, but we’d expect that while he’s fighting off something. But once he’s back on his feet, I really can’t stress how important it is that he stay on base, close to medical care, while he’s building a battery of immunities to common illnesses.” She gave Hammond the closest thing to a scolding look that she dared.
“That could prove difficult,” Hammond said in a non-apology. “He’s not about to abandon his mission to end Jaffa dependence on the Goa’uld in order to stay home with a cold.”
“According to Master Brat’ac,” Janet replied, “we might not have to worry too much about that. The other Jaffa that used to look up to him apparently don’t take well to the changes he’s undergone. They think he’s a traitor to them now, too.”
“That’s not Teal’c’s fault,” Sam said defensively.
“And the Jaffa are jerks, there’s a news flash,” Jack quipped sarcastically.
“All right, settle down, people.” Hammond looked between Jack and Sam. “We’ll deal with Teal’c and the Jaffa rebellion when it becomes an issue.” He hesitated then, knowing the next topic would be a sensitive issue. “What do we do about the baby?”
Sam dropped her eyes to the table.
“Well,” Daniel said diplomatically, “if we’re not taking it back to the planet…”
“Not a chance in hell,” Jack said tersely. “Agrabah is not an option.”
Daniel paused in deference. “Then logic follows that it’s going to have to stay here.” He took a breath. “Which means someone has to raise it.”
Hammond expected Jack to jump in and assume the role of parent, given his attitude toward the baby so far during the briefing. That, coupled with Sam recently distancing herself from the child, made Jack the most likely volunteer.
But it was Sam who spoke up first. “I will, sir.”
“You realize, of course, having a baby is going to be a big change in your life.”
But it didn’t seem like she fully grasped Hammond’s meaning. He looked between Jack and Sam again and frowned. “Colonel O’Neill, Major Carter… I’d like you two to remain. Doctor Jackson, Doctor Frasier, you’re dismissed.”
Janet and Daniel looked startled to be excused, but after sending worried looks at their friends, they got up and left as asked.
When the three of them were alone, Hammond said gently, “Listen… I know this isn’t your doing, but the fact is you two have a child together. That’s going to be a problem for SG-1.”
Jack glared down at his hands like he’d already come to that conclusion.
“Sir,” Sam said in panic, “are you talking about breaking up the team?”
“I don’t want to, but if you keep this baby… surely you understand I can’t have you on a frontline team if you have a baby with that same team’s commanding officer.”
“Are you… are you asking me to give the baby up?”
“That’s not happening,” Jack interjected harshly. “This is your only chance for motherhood, Carter. You’re taking it.”
“But the team…”
“Hell with the team,” Jack countered. “We’ll figure something out.”
“Look, nothing has to happen right now,” Hammond said quickly to deescalate the situation. “SG-1 is on stand-down anyway until Teal’c recovers. And if Doctor Fraiser’s right, that could be a while. But it is something you two need to be thinking about.”
He was talking to them like they were going to be making decisions about the baby together. As parents.
“In light of the paternity test… should we be bracing ourselves for disciplinary action, sir?” Sam asked.
“I won’t let it come to that. Neither one of you did a damn thing wrong. Oddly enough, given the fact we’re talking about you two having a baby, nobody broke regulations. I’ll make sure you aren’t punished for a crime you didn’t commit.”
Sam nodded stiltedly. Her relief seemed minimal, for even without fear of blowback from the Air Force for having a child fathered by her CO, she still had a lot of life-changing and career-changing days in her near future.
“Will that be all, sir?” Jack asked tensely.
Hammond frowned. “That’ll be all. You’re dismissed.”
Jack was out of his seat like a shot and out the door before anyone could stop him.
Sam looked after him and exchanged a baffled look with Hammond.
Janet couldn’t help thinking of Sha’re as a lost kitten. Tiny and scared and cowering in a corner as the world raged around her, too big for her to stand against.
Over the years, Janet had heard stories about Sha’re of Abydos. Mostly from Daniel, but from Jack sometimes, too. They had both known her before she was taken by the Goa’uld Amounet, and they described a strong, fearless woman. A woman who stood up to a god and helped free her people from slavery.
That was not the woman in front of Janet now.
At first, this Sha’re had not been all that different from the Sha’re of the stories. She had been distraught by Daniel’s absence, but she had been outspoken about it. She had been demanding. ‘Where is my husband?’ ‘Bring my Daniel to me.’ ‘I want Daniel.’ But gradually, that stopped. And when she wasn’t asking for Daniel, she seemed to have nothing to say to anyone.
She had attempted escape a few times at first, but that had stopped, too. It seemed she was only interested in getting out of lock-up when it was part of a mission to find Daniel. But when it became obvious he wanted nothing to do with her, her reason for seeking release disappeared.
It was like watching a vibrant woman slowly dim, fading away to an empty husk of a human being until it left Janet tending the woman beside her now, a reduced version of the myth that was Sha’re.
Sha’re had been given a set of green BDUs to wear in lieu of the hospital scrubs she’d been wearing in isolation. She only seemed to notice them insomuch as she kept tugging on the sleeves of her jacket and hiding her hands from view. Janet thought she looked out of place in olive drab, truthfully. She almost wanted to give her back the robes she’d arrived in. The sand colors would suit her better.
But Janet wondered if she was, on a subconscious level, really just trying to make this woman what she could never be. For her patient’s sake, but also for Daniel’s.
“I know this has been hard for you,” Janet said softly as she escorted Sha’re through the halls of the SGC, headed for guest quarters. “But things are going to get better, I promise.”
Janet was relieved to finally be moving her. She had spent any free time she had checking in on Sha’re, and the woman did not seem like a threat.
Heartbroken, yes. Dangerous, no.
Sha’re averted her eyes and shied from a passing airman.
Janet put a careful arm around her, her protective doctor instincts in full bloom. “Is there anything I can get you?”
Sha’re opened her mouth to speak then closed it without uttering a word and shook her head.
Janet knew what Sha’re had been about to say, but she had given up asking for Daniel days ago.
“You’re not a prisoner, but there are certain areas of the base you’re not allowed in. They’re clearly marked, but if you’re not sure, just ask. I’ll come by later and show you around, if you like.” Because damn if this woman didn’t seem like she could use a friend, and clearly no one else was going to step up to take the job.
Sha’re nodded minutely and looked up. She froze.
Janet followed Sha’re’s gaze and saw Daniel at the end of the hall, just as motionless as he stared back at Sha’re.
It really did smack of Daniel’s luck to run into his wife’s duplicate while Janet was moving her from isolation to quarters.
“Daniel…” Sha’re whispered, saying his name in that almost lyrical ‘Dan-yel’ cadence Janet had become very familiar with in the last week.
Daniel jerked back, turned quickly, and all but fled.
The encounter shattered whatever was left of the poor woman. She trembled as tears spilled down her cheeks.
“Hey… it’s okay,” Janet said, even though she knew it was not.
“Why does he no longer love me?”
Janet didn’t even know how to start answering that question. She hadn’t told Sha’re about the body still in her grave on Abydos, about the powerful creature on a deserted planet that made her out of thin air and memories. Janet didn’t know that it was her place to tell her; the woman seemed upset enough without knowing the gory details of how she was not who she thought she was.
And Janet was pretty sure that if she hadn’t told Sha’re, no one else had, either.
It was not the first time Janet’s heart had ached for the tragedy that was Daniel Jackson and his love for Sha’re of Abydos.
Sam didn’t realize Jack had been MIA for over a day until Daniel pointed it out to her, which really should have said something about her state of mind.
“I can’t reach Jack,” Daniel announced sullenly as he slipped into her temp quarters.
Sam was bent over the bed struggling with a diaper, pissed because she could build a particle accelerator but apparently failed miserably at adhesive tape. “He isn’t answering his phone?”
Daniel shook his head. “No. I must have tried six times.”
Sam stopped at that and looked up at him. She knew Daniel. “What’s wrong, Daniel?”
As an obvious delay tactic, he took the diaper from her, shouldered her gently out of the way, and proceeded to put Sam to shame. How was everyone better at babies than her? “I just… I wanted to talk to him. About Sha’re.”
Sam looked down at the freshly-diapered baby and was determined not to be demoralized by the steep learning curve of baby care. At the moment, she was more worried about her friend. She looked back at Daniel. “Is it something I can help with?”
Daniel shrugged and moved back a step. “I don’t know. Jack knew her… so I thought maybe…” He slumped like the universe just would not let up on beating him down. “I ran into her in the hallway.”
“How’d it go?”
“I ran away from her,” Daniel laughed bitterly. “But you know what I really wanted to do?” At Sam’s headshake, he said, “I wanted to run to her. She looked awful, and she looks just like her, and I wanted to hold her in my arms and see if I could make her smile.” Daniel’s expression turned absolutely heartsick… if heartache could make someone physically ill, Daniel was on the cusp. “Sha’re had the most amazing smile. Literally breath-taking, you know? And for a second, it’s like I forgot, and I just… I wanted to see her smile. That woman I just ran into in the hall.” Daniel sagged. “I don’t even know what to call her.”
Sam finished redressing the baby and lifted the infant to her shoulder. At least that was starting to feel a little less foreign. “And, what? You don’t think you’re allowed to let yourself care about her, whatever she is?”
“How can I just act like she’s Sha’re when I know she’s not?”
It was a tough question, and Sam didn’t have an answer. “I don’t know, Daniel… you’re asking the woman who’s going to raise a genie baby.”
The reminder of the child created by the same inexplicable means seemed to catch Daniel off-guard. “Does she…” Daniel studied the baby uneasily, “is she in any way less real to you because of how she was created?”
Sam hesitated guiltily. “At first. But I can’t think like that. Not if I’m going to be her mother. I have to believe that she’s real and she’s mine. If that’s the leap of faith I have to take to make this work… well, I can do that.” For once in her empirical, scientific life, she could go on faith. For the chance at motherhood, she could just believe.
Daniel crossed his arms in that self-hug that always made Sam want to hug him. “Can I ask you something?”
Daniel reluctantly uncrossed his arms and sat down on the edge of the bed. He waited until Sam joined him, the two practically shoulder-to-shoulder, before he continued. “Jiniya said this Sha’re is the living embodiment of my memory of her.”
Sam nodded for him to go on.
“Well, I already love her memory. I will for the rest of my life. It’s how I got into this mess. And if this woman is Sha’re’s memory… do I already love her in some weird sense? And is it wrong to love her? Am I betraying Sha’re if I do?”
Sam repositioned the baby, though no hold yet felt natural. “I don’t know what to tell you, Daniel. I’m biased. If I tell you she’s a cheap copy, then what does that make my daughter?”
Daniel looked apologetically at the child on Sam’s shoulder and brought up a hand to trace a finger down the newborn’s forearm.
“I don’t know what Sha’re would have thought. Like you said, I didn’t know her. But I know I love you, and I want you to be happy. And I like to think Sha’re would want that for you, too.”
Daniel allowed a brittle smile. “I love you, too, Sam.”
Sam gave Daniel a warm smile then offered a one-shoulder shrug, trying not to jostle the baby. “That probably doesn’t help much…”
“No, actually, it did. Thanks.” He started to move to leave when he stopped short and looked at Sam, a different type of uneasiness in his expression. “I think someone needs to check on Jack.”
Sam lifted her eyebrows.
“And by ‘someone’, I mean you.”
“Why me?” Sam asked uncomfortably, willing to admit at least to herself that she had kind of been avoiding him since hearing the news that he was the baby’s father. She still didn’t know how to deal with that. It was as if the genie hadn’t granted a wish so much as she had concocted the most awkward way of turning her and Jack’s closely-guarded, forbidden feelings for each other inside-out for the world to see. It was like that nightmare of showing up for review in front of a panel of generals naked, except she wasn’t dreaming.
So Sam had naturally assumed that Jack was avoiding her as much as she was avoiding him, and for the exact same reasons. The feelings, all of them, were mutual. Avoid and let avoid in kind was Sam’s philosophy on the matter.
“If he’s not okay,” Daniel answered, “then it has to do with this,” he gestured at Sam and the baby, “situation.”
That caught Sam’s attention and made her sit up straighter. Avoidance was one thing, but something being wrong was another. “Why wouldn’t you think he’s okay?”
Daniel’s face fell. “Call it a gut feeling.”
Jack didn’t move from his deck chair when he heard a car pull into his driveway. He had a few guesses who it would be, and he wasn’t really interested in seeing any of them. Whoever it was could just fuck off.
He took an unrushed swig of beer from the bottle in his hand and kept his ass firmly planted in his chair. He deliberately ignored the knocking on his front door and then the ringing of the doorbell that followed. He had absolutely zero interest in visitors today. He hoped the lack of answer at the door would communicate his solitary mood to whoever was trying to intrude on his one-man pity party.
No such luck. Eventually, the visitor came around back looking for him.
So it was her, then. He’d kind of expected Daniel. “Carter.”
Sam scaled the deck steps and approached him warily, like he was an unpredictable animal. The thought tugged at Jack’s lips with maudlin amusement. She wasn’t entirely wrong. He squinted into the sunlight and took another drink.
“How drunk are you?” she asked when she noticed the empty bottles on the deck next to his chair. He’d gotten an early start… or he was still on the drunk he’d started last night. Take your pick.
“Enough.” He eyed her up and down a moment. “Where’s the kid?”
The question made Sam tense for a second. “Back on base. Nurse Guerin is watching her for me.”
Sam continued to stand there awkwardly, not saying a word. Jack wondered why she’d sought him out if she didn’t have a speech pre-planned. Not that he really wanted to hear one. It did make the silence uncomfortable, though.
“You want one?” he asked as he shook his nearly-empty bottle in her direction.
“No, thank you.”
Jack pushed out of his chair. “Well, I need another.” Then he turned to head inside. He kind of hoped she’d take it as a hint to leave. He was in a dangerous mood… the kind he liked to leave his friends out of if he could.
Instead of leaving him to his demons, Sam followed him into the house. “Colonel… what’s going on with you?”
“Nothing, Major. I am fine. Just fucking dandy.”
Sam faltered at the venom in his voice, but only for a moment. Then she was trailing after him again.
She followed him all the way into the kitchen, and when he opened the refrigerator door to get another beer, she slammed it closed. Damn near on his hand.
He turned on her with a beady look. “Back off, Carter.”
“Why are you drunk in the middle of the day?” she asked, challenge and steel behind her eyes. Normally, he thrilled at that spark of blue fire, but not today.
“Keeps people on their toes, now move aside.”
Sam stood even more firmly in his way, even going so far as to edge around him to stand directly in front of his fridge. The audacity of it, the boldness, surprised Jack. Sam was usually more respectful of their ranks. Outright defiance and gross insubordination were Jack’s specialties, not Sam’s. He guessed she thought having his baby gave her privileges… like the right to question his life choices.
“You’re out of line, Major,” Jack snarled.
“I don’t think so,” Sam countered. The missing ‘sir’ felt like a hole in the space-time continuum.
For a moment, they weren’t a colonel and a major or even a man and a woman squaring off, they were two forces of nature pitted against one another. He was the immovable object and she the unstoppable force.
It was a tense stalemate.
Then Sam frowned as confusion replaced some of the anger in her expression. “I don’t get you.”
“Most people don’t.”
“You were so protective of the baby on the planet, and you wouldn’t hear of me giving her up. I thought it meant you would at least want to be part of her life… since you were so dead-set on her living and me keeping her. So what happened? Did you just stop caring? Are you not interested in being involved?”
Jack gave up on getting a fresh beer, turned at the waist, and tossed his empty bottle in the sink. At the distance he was standing, it shattered on impact. He found some sick gratification in seeing Sam jump at the jarring sound. “You don’t want me involved in raising your kid, Carter. I’m a shit father. Now get out.”
He tried to leave the kitchen, desperate to escape to a different part of the house, but Sam grabbed his arm and pulled him around to face her.
“Hey!” he barked, trying to pull out of Sam’s hold only to have her fingers tighten.
“You are not a shit father.”
“Oh, I’m not? Let’s recap, shall we? Charlie’s dead. My fault. And I didn’t even love him enough to…” Jack stopped short and swallowed hard, certain he was about to throw up. His pulse pounded in his ears, creating a claustrophobic effect. The world was collapsing on top of him. He felt like screaming.
Sam’s touch gentled. “Didn’t love him enough to what?”
Jack reached out to steady himself on the counter and closed his eyes. “That genie brought Sha’re back from Daniel’s memories. Because he missed her that much.” He opened his eyes and wondered how Sam could even stand to look at him. Jack couldn’t even stand himself as he croaked, “Why didn’t she bring back Charlie?”
Sam’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open on a silent gasp.
Jack shook her hand off and answered for her. “Because I’m a shitty father, that’s why.”
“No, sir… that’s not true…”
But he wasn’t interested in her platitudes. He didn’t need her trying to make him feel better with bald-faced lies.
Instead, Jack backed away, turned at the hall, and retreated to his bedroom.
It wasn’t much of a sanctuary… in fact, in many ways, it was the very opposite of one. The photos of Charlie on his nightstand and the dresser seemed to mock him. They were reminders of his greatest achievement and his greatest failure.
Jack sat on the edge of his bed, hands limp in his lap, and it made him think of the day he sat on Charlie’s bed with a gun in his hands. The memory was so vivid he could almost smell the oil, he could practically feel the cold weight of the pistol in his hands. He remember that cold, sinking resolve that had pulled him under, that quiet readiness to end his own life that rolled over him like a landslide.
He felt some of that same despair prowling at the edges of his mind once more, both familiar and dreadful.
He hadn’t lost Charlie again, but he hadn’t gotten him back either, and somehow they felt the same.
He had no idea how much time passed with him swimming in his own grief before Sam appeared at his door. He wanted to tell her to go away, but a hopeless knot in his chest wouldn’t let any words through. She knew his unconscionable crime, the depths of his failure as a father, and it seemed to steal any power he had to order her around anymore. The chain of command had no place in the realm of dead children and those responsible.
Sam walked slowly to the bed and sat down beside Jack, so close that her leg touched his. The contact made Jack feel perilously close to the edge of sanity. She was warmth and life, and he didn’t deserve either.
They sat side-by-side for several minutes before anyone had the guts to speak.
“You didn’t get Charlie back because of me,” Sam said in a near-whisper.
Jack clenched his hands into fists in some vain hope it would keep him from flying apart.
“The genie read my heart, she found what I wanted more than anything… and it wasn’t for you to have your son back.” Sam let out a shaky breath. “I’m sorry.”
Her guilt knocked loose the lump in his throat impeding his speech. “It’s not your fault… why would you even wish for that?” Given the chance to have anything she wanted, why would she ever wish for something for him?
Sam cast a brief look at him before she answered candidly, “Because I care about you. A lot more than I’m supposed to. And if I could give Charlie back to you, I would. Or at least I thought I would. But apparently I wanted my own child more.”
She was beating herself up, but there was no reason for it. He would never expect that kind of sacrifice from her. Not for the likes of him. “No one blames you.”
“It’s still selfish.”
“I don’t blame you.” No more than he blamed Daniel for wanting Sha’re back or Teal’c for wanting freedom for his people. He wanted those things for his friends, too. Sam and Daniel and Teal’c all deserved good things in life.
He didn’t realize he was clenching his fists so tightly they were shaking until Sam reached over and covered one of his bloodless-white hands with hers. He exhaled hard and consciously loosened his hands, fingers curled like claws from the prior force of his closed fists.
“What I don’t understand,” Sam said after a moment of silence, “is how the baby fulfills your heart’s desire. The genie said it granted both our wishes.” She hesitated uncomfortably and cast him a wary look. “I didn’t… I never knew you wanted to have more children.”
Jack took a careful breath. “I don’t. Didn’t. After Charlie… I didn’t deserve another chance.”
Sam frowned. “Then what do you get out of this?”
He sighed in surrender and felt something inside him break. He couldn’t hold the line anymore. He was too heartsick and world-weary and done to maintain the façade any longer. A genie gave them a baby, and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “There’s only one thing I’ve really wanted and couldn’t have these last few years, Sam.”
Sam went still and turned her head to look at him. He could feel her staring at the side of his head as he stared down at her hand on his. He kept waiting for her to snatch it back.
When she didn’t, he lifted his eyes to her, and he knew she got it. She looked astonished that he’d said it, the illicit truth they had both danced around for years. It was understood that there were inappropriate feelings between them, and it was understood that they didn’t speak of it. Jack had spoken of it.
Jack was just too tired to play his part anymore. He’d hit critical mass. And he knew it wasn’t fair to put all of the responsibility for keeping them in line on her, but he never claimed to be a good person.
He shrugged one shoulder. “I guess the genie figured if we had a baby together, we’d fucking find a way to make it happen.”
Sam nervously licked her lips. Her hand on his twitched anxiously. He could practically see her pulse racing in the hollow of her throat.
“And are we going to?” she asked in a carefully-controlled voice.
Moment of truth. “I sure as hell want to.” There it was. He didn’t deserve her, but he wanted her all the same.
Sam sucked in a breath and stared at him, wide-eyed.
“But I won’t push you,” he said, the prior haze of his drunkenness remarkably absent. He never thought they’d be having this conversation, and his mind cleared out all the junk when he realized they were having it.
Sam blinked and breathed rapidly. He could see her panicking.
His heart sank.
“Carter, it’s okay…”
“Don’t assume anything,” Sam snapped, gripping his hand like a vise. “Be quiet, I’m thinking.”
Jack lifted his eyebrows but stayed obediently quiet.
Sam got up and paced the floor in front of his bed. Jack watched without comment, hoping she had no idea his heart was hanging on her next words. She didn’t need that pressure.
Finally, she turned to him, a fervently thoughtful look on her face. “Hammond said we can’t serve on the same team anymore because of the baby, right?”
Jack nodded slowly. That was a kick in the nuts, but he got it. The top brass would have a shit fit, whether regs were broken or not. Practically, he even agreed with all the reasons it would be a bad idea to have a child’s mother and father on the same off-world team. Still sucked, though.
“So no matter what we decide to do,” Sam continued, “SG-1 is over.”
He hated how that sounded. He wanted to argue that SG-1 was a family, and that would never change, but he kept quiet. He felt like Sam was building to making a point, and he was loathe to interrupt.
Sam stopped pacing and stared unseeing at a spot on the floor. He was surprised smoke didn’t come out of her ears from all the heavy-duty thinking she was doing.
Then she turned to face Jack. Her expression was oddly defiant. “So why not?”
Jack frowned. “That’s it? Just… ‘why not?’”
She deflated a little at his lackluster reaction. “You wanted something else?”
“Yeah. Maybe… you just make it sound like I’m the movie you see when your first choice is sold out.”
Sam rolled her eyes. “Jack…”
He came to attention at that.
She went back to the bed and sat beside him. She looked amused, which confused Jack. “Think about it. Even if that genie could only create a baby from the DNA she had on hand, Daniel and Teal’c were available, too. But I didn’t have Daniel’s baby, and I didn’t have Teal’c’s baby. I had yours.”
A seed of hope began to blossom. “Because you wanted to?”
“Who else would I want to have a baby with? Besides a baby, there’s only one other thing I’ve wanted for years…” She looked pointedly at him.
He felt himself starting to smile. “Yeah?”
Sam smiled back and nodded. “Turns out my wish was a two-for-one.”
Joy swept Jack up so high he couldn’t breathe. Sam wanted him. She could do so much better than a damaged man like him, but the universe went and gave him more than he deserved.
He never thought he’d see this day, certain a bad mission would kill one or both of them before he ever had the chance to be with her. He’d accepted that a future together wasn’t in the cards for them, no matter how much it ached.
But now it was. Doors long locked and barred were flying open.
He took her face in his hands, leaned over, and kissed her.
Sam kissed back, her hands finding their way to his shirt and tugging him closer. Jack smiled against her mouth. The genie’s machinations finally made sense. His most guarded wish was coming true.
He would get a second chance at happiness.
Sam kissed him again, confident and possessive, then she gently pulled away.
“What?” he asked, hopelessly confused and aroused, “Why did you stop?” He wanted to kiss her more. He never wanted to stop kissing her.
“You taste like beer… and we probably shouldn’t do anything we can’t take back until you’re sober.”
“Oh, trust me, I am stone-cold sober right now.”
She smiled indulgently. “Even if you are, we’re still technically on the same team. We should wait until we’re free and clear to do… more.”
His skin tingled at the thought of what ‘more’ meant. But she was probably right. She usually was. Considering the state she’d found him in less than an hour ago, it was probably best they put on the brakes. His mental and emotional states were hardly to be trusted. It was difficult to convince his body of that, though. “Okay,” he said with a note of disappointment.
When she moved to stand, he reached out and grabbed her hand. “But you want it, right?” You want me. He needed some reassurance that the last ten minutes hadn’t been some deranged fantasy cooked up by his beer-addled senses. The very idea sent a dart of panic through his nervous system. God, what if he’d misread the whole thing?
Sam squeezed his hand. “I do.”
Jack gave her a side-eye look.
Now, that was an idea…
Daniel’s steps slowed as he approached the door to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex base guest quarters.
He had come down here intending to actually talk to the woman, to maybe see if she could be Sha’re enough for him to allow himself to love her without guilt, but he wasn’t sure he could do it. His heart was pulling him in two different directions. She was everything he remembered about Sha’re – of course she was – but could he ever stop thinking about the first Sha’re, the real Sha’re, when he was with her?
It would be impossible to be with her if every time he looked at her, he imagined her corpse.
And if he couldn’t come to terms with his wife’s death, would it be fair to this woman (whatever she was) to try anyway? She’d done nothing to deserve that. And no one should have to live up to the woman who had been Sha’re. It was an impossible standard to meet, maybe even for someone made in Sha’re’s image from Daniel’s memories.
But what Sam had said made sense. And he was already trying out the name ‘Uncle Daniel’ when he was alone to see how it sounded. If he was ready to accept the baby into his life, shouldn’t he accept Sha’re’s living memorial?
He also had to consider the absolute improbability of his situation. So many people lost loved ones, and they never got them back. His own friends had lost people they would never see again. They would surely trade places with him to have mothers, fathers, and sons back. And here Daniel was with a priceless gift that he was spurning. How wretched would he be to get that one in a million second chance and throw it away without even trying?
Daniel reached the guest quarters door and tried to hear movement inside over his own pounding heart.
It was a simple question… could he look at her and see Sha’re? Not a copy of her, not a shade or a ghost, but the love of his life.
He honestly didn’t know.
Daniel lifted his hand to knock and stopped just shy.
He’d watched her die. He’d buried her. He had at home the hand-crafted Ma’at feather of copper and gold that Kasuf had given him since he could not easily visit her grave on a distant planet. Losing Sha’re had been etched into his very soul.
The pain tore at him, visceral and stinging his eyes. Sha’re’s last words, with her last breath, an eternal, ‘I love you, Daniel’ that he would carry with him to the day he died.
No. He couldn’t do this. There was only one Sha’re, and he had lost her. Loving this woman would be a sad attempt to replace the irreplaceable. Sha’re deserved his loyalty, even after death.
With a hard swallow and a tense breath, Daniel turned and started to walk away.
He was about twelve paces from the room when he heard the sharp sound of breaking glass behind him.
He jerked to a stop and turned sharply, staring at the closed door. There was no one else in the hallway. The room had to have been the source of the sound. Daniel stood stock-still a moment, senses reaching for input. There was only silence in its wake, but the sound of breaking glass had been sharp and unnerving.
Brow beetling, Daniel walked back to the door.
He listened with his ear to the door, but he heard nothing inside.
Daniel looked up and down the corridor a second, hoping for someone he could send in instead of him (like a coward), but he was alone in the hallway. Bucking up his courage, he rapped lightly on the door with his knuckles.
The easy thing to do would be to walk away and pretend he hadn’t heard anything. But something in Daniel’s gut pinged with concern. Something was wrong, he could feel it. He’d sent Sam after Jack on a ‘gut feeling’… he’d be a hypocrite if he ignored it now.
Bracing himself to face her, for better or worse, Daniel grabbed the knob and eased the door open.
He was not prepared for what he found.
Sha’re was kneeling on the floor next to a broken picture of an F-15 Eagle. The frame was askew, and the glass was in shards scattered across the floor… except for one piece.
One piece was in Sha’re’s right hand as she dragged it down her left wrist. The bright red spill of blood made Daniel’s heart stop.
“No!” he yelled and raced across the room to her. He fell to his knees, opened his own skin on broken glass, and yanked her cutting hand away from her wrist. He took the bloodied, jagged weapon and threw it across the room. Then he clamped his hand down hard over her bleeding wrist, holding her wounded arm against his chest and above her heart to stem the flow.
Sha’re stared up at him in shock, her eyes blank with confusion. He could see the emptiness in her expression. She was partway gone. She had already prepared herself mentally to die. Physical death was just her body catching up.
The thought turned Daniel inside out.
“We need some help in here!” Daniel screamed toward the open door, hoping someone was passing by close enough to hear and fetch Janet.
Daniel looked down at Sha’re and everything was too much. Because it was her. In that moment, in his panic, he didn’t see a close facsimile. He didn’t see a clever fraud. He saw Sha’re. She was exactly the way he remembered her, down to the last detail.
Except he didn’t remember that worn agony in her eyes or the hot blood on her wrist from his strong, beautiful wife trying to take her own life.
His heart was racing, and that soul-breaking fear was not fake.
Semantics ceased to matter. She was Sha’re.
God, he couldn’t watch her die twice.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Daniel demanded frantically as he grabbed her other wrist to haul her closer to him. He’d spent so much time and effort pushing her away, and now he couldn’t pull her close enough. He was such an idiot. “Why would you do that?!” He knew his panic was coming out like anger, but he couldn’t help it. He was so scared of losing her.
The blank confusion in her eyes shattered. Sha’re’s face crumbled, like perfect crystal cracking, and she began to sob.
Daniel’s stomach dropped, leaving far too much space between the heart in his throat and the stomach in his feet. He felt stretched too thin and about to tear apart. Losing her again would tear him apart.
“You say that I am not Sha’re,” she wept into his chest, her forehead resting against his sternum. “I believe you, Daniel. You would not lie to me.” She lifted her head to look up at him miserably. “But if I am not Sha’re, then who am I? I’m sorry. I am so sorry.” She was crying so hard that it was difficult to make out her next words. “I don’t know how to be anyone else.”
Daniel’s heart broke. “You don’t have to be anyone else.” Now he was crying, too. “It’s going to be okay…”
“You do not love me,” she cried in despair, tears and blood dripping to the floor in tandem. She sagged toward the ground, held upright only by Daniel’s death grip on her wrists.
“No, no no…. somebody! We need a medic!” Daniel yelled at the top of his lungs. At last, he heard footfalls racing toward them. There were voices raised in alarm and calling for a doctor.
“I do not know who else to be,” Sha’re sobbed hopelessly. She was going limp in his arms. Giving up.
“Sha’re… Sha’re, listen to me.”
She looked up at him, her breath hiccupping and eyes wide. Beautiful, soulful eyes. The soul he had guarded in his memories. He had made her. She existed because his heart never stopped putting her first. He owed it to her to love her.
It hit him like an anvil. He had been approaching this Sha’re like it was a problem of identity, when he realized he should have been handling it like a brain injury. She was Sha’re in every way except she was lacking a perfect memory of who she was, and he would not have stopped loving his wife if she’d gotten amnesia. With her blood on his hands, it all seemed so clear now.
But why did it take this for him to realize he’d been a fool for pushing her away? He’d been so selfish, only thinking about how hard this was for him. He understood now it had been just as hard for her… maybe even harder.
“This is all my fault,” Daniel practically whimpered, “I’m so sorry.”
His apology went seemingly unnoticed. Sha’re had latched onto something else he’d said. A flicker of light in her eyes, of life, sparked hope in Daniel. “You… you called me Sha’re…”
Daniel gave her as much of a smile as he could muster, given he was clutching her wrist to stop her from bleeding to death. “And I’ll keep calling you Sha’re if you promise to live.” He didn’t deserve for her to live for his sake, but he needed her to.
He shuffled closer until she was halfway pulled into his lap. He let go of her uninjured wrist and brushed her hair back, just as he had done a thousand times before. “Can you do that for me?” he asked, voice cracking.
She nodded jerkily, a broken smile pulling valiantly at her pale lips. “Yes. I will live for you, my Daniel.”
Just then the med team was bustling into the room, taking in the scene and flying across the room to take over trying to save Sha’re’s life. Before he was pushed aside, Daniel leaned in quickly and kissed Sha’re on the forehead. It didn’t feel like kissing an imposter. It felt like kissing his wife. It felt like home. “I’ll be waiting.”
He’d be waiting to love her. As he should have from the start.
A/N: Guys, I was so torn about this chapter… I HATE the ‘female character is incomplete without her man/love interest’ nonsense. It’s awful, unhealthy, teenage-brain CRAP, and I hate characters with that mentality so, so much. BUT. This Sha’re actually is NOT whole without Daniel, since she is only what Daniel remembers her being. Without him to anchor all that she knows, she’s missing huge pieces of what she needs to be a fully-realized person. ARGH! WTF, Muse??
Hammond was just thinking about heading home for the night when there was a knock on his open office door. He looked up and saw Jack poking his head around the door frame, the rest of him hidden in the corridor. “Sir? You got a minute?”
When Jack filed into Hammond’s office, Sam was right behind him. Jack let her by then deliberately shut the office door.
Hammond sat up attentively.
“Sir…” Sam began nervously, “we have something to tell you, and we want you to hear it from us before the rumor mill gets hold of it.”
“I see… and what would that be?”
Jack came up alongside Sam, consulted her with a look, then took over the impromptu meeting. “General, you should know that when Major Carter and I are no longer assigned to the same team, we intend to pursue a personal relationship.”
Hammond digested that a moment before responding. “Well… I can’t say I’m surprised.”
Sam’s eyes bugged.
Jack coughed. “Excuse me?”
Hammond just gave Jack an ‘I’m not an idiot’ look.
“Ah… right…” Jack acknowledged with a wince of annoyance. No doubt he’d convinced himself that he’d done a better job hiding his feelings for Sam than he actually had. As former special-ops, he would hate learning he’d given away guarded information without even realizing it.
Sam looked kind of flustered that her secret desire to have a romantic relationship with Jack was apparently common knowledge… at least among the people currently in the general’s office. Hammond decided not to mention the ‘concerned conversations’ he’d had with some of the brass in high places over the years about the relationship between the two officers. Divulging that information would serve no purpose.
“We wanted you to know that we’re going to wait until everything is official,” Sam hastened to add. “Nothing’s ever happened, and nothing will ever happen, while we’re in the same chain of command.”
By the quick glance Jack shot Sam, Hammond got the feeling that was a Sam decree more than a Jack one. Hammond didn’t care who came up with it, just so long as one of them was being smart.
Hammond also felt like something in Jack’s look said that Sam’s statement wasn’t entirely true. But if it wasn’t, Hammond definitely didn’t want to know about it. Plausible deniability and all that.
“I appreciate your professional integrity.” He looked between his two officers. “So I take it this means you two plan to raise the baby together?”
Sam blushed faintly and Jack couldn’t stop the smile that danced at the corner of his mouth. “Yes, sir.”
“Then I also take it that any doubts you still had about the little girl are no longer an issue?”
“None whatsoever,” Jack said with complete confidence. “She’s our daughter.”
Sam struggled to hold back a grin at Jack’s pronouncement. Hammond, too, was feeling enormous relief that the pieces were falling into place for Jack and Sam. SG-1 was dealt more crap than any four people deserved – it was nice to see good things happening to some of them for a change.
“We’re all in, sir,” Jack continued. “For this occasion, we are embracing all the clichés. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Don’t eat yellow snow. Etcetera, etcetera.”
Sam gave Jack an unimpressed look but said nothing. Hammond smiled to himself. He hoped he was around the first time Sam let Jack know exactly what she was thinking when he was being asinine without rank stopping her. Hammond had known Sam since she was a little girl – he was pretty sure Jack had no idea just how much of a spitfire Sam really was.
But he would find out soon enough. The notion made Hammond strangely happy for his two best officers. They’d earned this. He almost wanted to visit the planet and thank that genie for giving Jack and Sam what Hammond couldn’t. Hammond had carried the burden of enforcing the regulations that had keep Jack and Sam apart for years, but the genie had had no such compunctions. Hammond would never say so, but he was glad for that.
“If you both know you want this,” Hammond said, “I can start the process of getting Major Carter transferred off of SG-1 right away.”
Sam and Jack exchanged a look.
It was Sam who answered. “Thank you, sir. We’d appreciate that.” It probably said a lot about how much Sam wanted a life with Jack and their daughter that she didn’t even question where she’d be assigned. As though she didn’t care, so long as she got to have her family. In just one week, her priorities had certainly shifted drastically.
They would get no grief from Hammond about it. They both deserved this chance.
“Consider it done.” Hammond looked between the two of them curiously. “So what now?”
Sam took on a pensive look as she seriously considered the next step of their new lives, but there was a flippant light in Jack’s eyes that had Hammond bracing for a quip. Jack did not disappoint.
“Well,” Jack mused aloud, “that baby needs a name. I’m thinking Jeannie.”
“No,” Sam countered.
Sam gave a long-suffering sigh. “We’ll get back to you on the name, General. It could take a while.”
Jack made a sour face.
Hammond chuckled. He could wait. He was just happy to see something good finally come out of the whole genie snafu. Even if it did break up his best team.
He had a feeling Jack and Sam would ultimately consider it a small sacrifice.
And considering the update Hammond had received just a couple of hours ago about Daniel’s wife-duplicate (news that he had yet to pass on to the rest of the team, knowing they were all dealing with their own problems), finding out that Jack and Sam were going to give being a proper family a go was fantastic news.
Teal’c opened his eyes to an unfamiliar sight… though one he would perhaps have to become accustomed to. Janet Fraiser was standing over him, watching him regain consciousness and waiting for the right moment to say, “Hey, there. Good to see you coming around, Teal’c.”
Teal’c frowned. “What happened to me?”
“What I told you was going to happen. You got sick.”
He did not appreciate her tone of ‘I told you so’. “Is it always like this when humans fall ill?”
Janet smiled and touched his shoulder sympathetically. “Not always. Sometimes it’s not as bad, sometimes it’s worse.”
“Worse?” Teal’c laid his head back on the pillow in disgust and closed his eyes. “How do you not all die?”
Janet chuckled. “You get used to it.”
“I would rather not.”
Janet huffed out a breath and pulled a stool up to Teal’c’s bedside. Teal’c opened one eye and studied her. Janet looked serious, so he opened his other eye and turned his head toward her.
“I’m not going to lie to you, Teal’c… this is not going to be pleasant for probably several months while your immune system is being put through its paces. But it will get better. And there is an upside.”
“You don’t have a ticking time bomb in your stomach anymore.”
“I never did.”
Janet rolled her eyes with a smile. “I mean we won’t have to worry about the symbiote inside you maturing or finding you a replacement larval Goa’uld when it does.”
“That is true.” He had not considered that deadline hanging over him until Janet pointed out that it was gone. That was a refreshing, freeing feeling. In truth, it was the first positive outcome from the loss of his Jaffa identity. And where there was one… “Perhaps there are other advantages to being like the Tau’ri.”
“I’m sure there are. And you’ll get to experience every one of them.” She winced. “We just have to get you over this speed bump first.”
Teal’c smiled gently. “Then I shall experience first-hand the excellent care you have provided those here at the SGC for years.”
Janet grinned. “Nothing but the best for you.” She stood and pushed the stool toward the wall. “Speaking of, now that you’re awake, I was going to have a nurse bring you some chicken noodle soup.”
“Trust me, Teal’c… before this whole ordeal is over, you’re going to learn to love chicken noodle soup.”
Sha’re’s dreams were only of Daniel, as though she knew nothing outside of him. It was strange how Daniel took up all of her soul, filling her thoughts as no one else in her memories did. She knew her father, she knew her brother, but they were not as clear in her mind as Daniel. It was as if her relationship to her own kin was second-hand knowledge, but Daniel was first.
He was always first.
When he rejected her, she did not know what to do. It was as though the person she lived for did not want her. Her universe had no meaning. It was unbearable. She remembered trying to end her pain.
And then Daniel was there. He had run his fingers through her hair.
She could still feel them, as though they were real.
Sha’re opened her eyes reluctantly, in agony to think waking would take the dream of Daniel from her, but she found it was no dream. Daniel was sitting beside her hospital bed, brushing his fingers through her hair.
He startled, looked down into her eyes… then smiled. “Hey.” His voice was soft. It was warm. Not like the harsh words he had yelled at her in the room without doors.
“It was not a dream? You are finally here?”
Daniel winced. “Yeah… I’m here. I’m sorry it took so long. Can you forgive me?”
He was with her… her heart was full. “There is nothing to forgive.”
“There is… but I promise I’ll never leave you again. I’d have to be an idiot to turn down a third chance.”
Sha’re reached up with the arm that was not sore and touched his face. “I do not know what that means, but if it means you will be with me, then I am glad, husband.”
Daniel leaned down and kissed her on the mouth, gentle and tender. She could never want more in the entire universe than this, his touch, his love. It was her whole existence. It seemed the purpose she was made to serve was finally becoming a reality. It felt beyond wonderful.
When he pulled away, his taste like a benediction on her lips, he said, “Listen, when you get out of here, I’m going to show you everything. Whatever you want to do, we’ll do it. The more, the better.”
She almost giggled at his eagerness. That she remembered. Her husband, the man of adventure and exploration. “But why?”
“Because you…” Daniel tripped over his words, a flicker of discontent ghosting across his face. “Because I want you to have a thousand experiences. Make a million memories. As if you were starting out only half full of adventure.”
That was strange, but she had married a man from the stars, after all. She had to expect strange. She had to embrace it. “And will you be with me on these adventures?” she asked as she traced her hand down his jaw, as though her hand was made for his contours.
Daniel touched her cheek lovingly, the way he would cradle priceless artifacts back on Abydos. As though she were priceless to him. “Absolutely.”
Sha’re smiled, tired but content down to her core. “Then I cannot wait to make a million memories with you.” She gazed up at him and felt the universe falling into place. She finally felt whole. “I love you, my Daniel.”
Daniel kissed her fingertips. “I love you, too… Sha’re.”
Teal’c surveyed the empty apartment with a strange swell of pride. It was barren, but it was his.
He had not expected to have his life improved by the loss of his symbiote when it first happened to him. He had been sick for a long time, one frustrating ailment after another, and many of the Jaffa in the rebellion scorned him. They said he was no longer one of them.
It had seemed like a truly horrible curse.
But with time, things began to change.
His health gradually improved, and he enjoyed longer and longer stretches of time when he was free of illness. It took him a while not to glare daggers at anyone who dared sneeze around him, but he felt like he was finally over that ‘speed bump’ Janet had mentioned.
Some Jaffa never accepted his new form, that was true, but those who’d known his character prior to the change realized that he was still the same honorable warrior with or without a larval Goa’uld. And some Jaffa were actually heartened by what Teal’c had become… he’d shaken the yoke of the Goa’uld as no Jaffa ever had before. For the ones that despised him, just as many envied him.
When his time came, he would truly die free.
But perhaps the greatest gift of the loss of his symbiote… freedom on Earth.
Without the parasite inside him making those in charge of the SGC and Earth’s safety afraid of him, he was granted an increasing number of privileges that were denied to him before. It turned out there was much the United States government could do for him when he was no longer inescapably alien.
It started with a great deal of paperwork. Teal’c had no idea being a human entailed so much of it. A birth certificate, a green card, and a driver’s license with the name “Murray Tealc” on it. There was even talk of him taking a ‘citizenship test’ and becoming a recognized member of the United States of America.
As he understood it, that status came with certain benefits and rights he had not had before, either. He would have a measure of protection from enemies within who had made Teal’c’s life at the SGC a nightmare in the past.
He also began to earn a paycheck, which opened up a whole new world of possibilities. He discovered a love for browsing the junk food aisle of the grocery store and putting in his basket any treat he wanted to try. Because he could buy it. He found there were many sweets the commissary foolishly did not offer.
But his favorite advantage so far was this… his own apartment. A small ground-floor place with a window facing the common area that was full of trees and grass and people going about their lives. There was a bus stop at the corner, and a movie theater a few blocks down the street. A market of farmers sold fresh produce in the lot across the street on Sundays, and he would get to listen to the rain whenever a storm rolled through.
He felt like he was finally experiencing what it meant to call Earth home.
Teal’c turned and surveyed his domain. A home on a world free from the Goa’uld.
He liked that.
A knock on the window had Teal’c turning, and he saw Jack waving at him from the outside with a goofy smile on his face.
Teal’c smirked and walked across the room to open the window. “O’Neill.”
“Murray, buddy. Get your apartment-dwelling butt out here. We brought stuff for a picnic.”
“Very well.” Teal’c lifted his foot to the windowsill.
Jack slapped it down. “Don’t climb through the window! Were you born in a barn? Normal people use the door.”
Teal’c lifted an eyebrow. “Is it not my window to climb through as I wish?”
Jack went slack-jaw a moment, then he chuckled. “It is at that. Fine, have it at, crawl through… but you’re a big guy, and I’m going to laugh if you get stuck.”
Teal’c did climb through the window, just to prove a point, but it was a tight fit and he would opt for the door from now on. Jack shook his head with a laugh and led him to a shaded picnic table where the rest of Teal’c’s friends – in truth, his Earth family – were preparing lunch.
Daniel distributed sandwiches to everyone like a dorky waiter. When he came back around to his spot, he grinned and carded his fingers into Sha’re’s hair. She turned to look up at him, her expression one of pure love, and Daniel bent down to kiss her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and deepened the kiss. As Teal’c understood it, such a display of public physical affection was bordering on obscene.
“Knock it off, you two,” Jack grouched as he plucked his daughter from her car seat and held her to his chest, shielding her eyes with one hand scandalously. “We have children present.”
Daniel pulled away from his wife sheepishly. “Sorry, Jack.”
“I doubt it,” Jack said back, a ‘you sly dog’ smirk on his face.
Daniel shrugged, unapologetic.
Sam came around the table to dig through the diaper bag for sunblock. When she found it, she stepped up behind Jack, her hand trailing along his back before hooking a finger in one of the belt loops in his jeans and tugging. Not to direct him anywhere; just to feel his body sway toward hers. Since they became a bonded pair, they did that often. Small touches for the sake of touching. Touches that had been forbidden to them not so long ago.
Jack looked at her and grinned. Then he leaned over and bumped Sam gently with his shoulder.
To judge by Sam’s smile, the gesture was a level of obscene equal to Daniel and Sha’re’s kiss.
The baby waved her arms insistently and blurted a string of vowel sounds. Jack snickered. “Aw, what’s the matter, Gracie, are you feeling left out?” With that, Jack proceeded to lay a path of nibble-kisses down his daughter’s neck, eliciting screeches of delight from the child. It was a familiar sound for those of the former SG-1 – Grace O’Neill was a happy baby.
Sam looked drunk with happiness as she watched Jack play with their daughter.
The way Teal’c understood the up-coming Earth ceremony, mother, father, and daughter would soon share a last name. Undoubtedly, it would entail a great deal of paperwork.
“All right,” Sam said fondly, faking exasperation (and do so poorly), “hand her over, mister.”
Jack shifted the baby’s weight in his hands until he was holding her belly-down like she was a plane. “Fly to Mommy, Grace-Face!” he cajoled as he hefted the girl toward Sam, bobbing her up and down in the air while he made engine noises. Grace squealed happily and stretched out her arms for her mother.
Sam gathered Grace into her arms with an impish smirk and a twinkle in her eye as she caught Jack’s gaze. Teal’c understood the look. Sam was just as much an adrenaline junkie as Jack – if not more. No doubt Grace would grow to become a very daring woman. Teal’c would expect no less from the daughter of two such fine warriors.
While Sam put sunscreen on Grace (amid Jack’s protests that “we’re in the shade” and “she’s probably got the O’Neill ability to tan, anyway”), Teal’c felt a contentment he had not experienced since the last time he was able to kel’no’reem.
He was zen.
It seemed it was possible to reach that state as a human, as well.
He smiled serenely to himself and closed his eyes. The breeze in the branches overhead acted like a candle, giving him focus and centering him. The center of the universe didn’t have to be a flame… it could be a leaf dancing with wind and sunlight.
Teal’c looked up at his name. It was Jack who’d spoken. In the time since Teal’c had slipped into meditative bliss, Jack had reclaimed his daughter and presently held her against his chest. In general, it seemed Jack could never get enough of holding her.
Two pairs of brown eyes were watching Teal’c, the souls behind them so much the same. Grace was the living legacy of two of the finest humans Teal’c had ever known. It was a great deal of promise to fulfill, and he had no doubt that Grace O’Neill would fill it.
Teal’c studied father and daughter contentedly. One of them called him friend, the other would call him ‘Uncle Teal’c’…. once she learned how to talk.
Teal’c looked around at the rest of the people at the table.
Sam was laughing about something with Sha’re while Daniel watched the Abydonian woman with unmasked adoration in his eyes. The pair had been traveling a lot lately, seeing the world and seemingly all that was in it, but they had come back to attend the wedding. Teal’c had the honor of sharing the title of ‘best man’ with Daniel, much the same way Janet and Sha’re were both bestowed the honorific of ‘maid of honor’. It only further solidified the fact that they were not a team, they were a family.
It was strange to think this happy scene would not exist if they had never visited the planet of the djinn.
“You good, T?” Jack asked.
Teal’c nodded with a content smile firmly in place. “I am.”
They all were.
Guys... it pains me to say this, but I have gotten so busy lately that I'm not sure how much time I'll have for writing new fanfic :( Which SUCKS but, you know, gotta work. If only the world would pay me to just write fanfic all day.