BUT NEVER DOUBT I LOVE

OR

DON’T CRY ALONE

FORWARD

Most of the characters in this novel are the property of Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions, and MGM. They were borrowed by me solely for the entertainment of my children, my friends who supported me in my endeavor to have my serious Stargate SG-1 efforts published, and a couple of real SG-1 fans who said they wanted to read it, even if it was a romance novel.

This novel is set in an alternate reality. For those of you who are true Stargate fans, there are several anomalies. You’ll find them. The rest of you won’t care. There are also references to events which took place in my season by season novelizations which don’t occur in the televised episodes, so don’t drive yourselves crazy looking for them. This story begins in the middle of Season Five, shortly after ‘Proving Ground,’ roughly mid July, 2001, right after Daniel’s 31st birthday, and shortly before Sam’s 36th. Michael Garrett Shanks plays Daniel as older, but I am basing the character on Michael’s age.

I guess its PG-13. There is a glossary and a list of foreign phrases and translations at the end of Part Two.

Also, there is a word search within the text of the novel using the titles of many, but not all, gate episodes in seasons 1 through 6.  To help you find them I have included an alphabetical list of titles.

PART I - MIRROR, MIRROR

Sam sat next to the wing of the death glider, her knees hugged tight against her chest, her head down, her short blonde hair blowing in the gentle breeze.

Daniel ducked under the wing and stopped in front of her. "Sam, we have to go. We can’t wait any longer for Teal’c. I’ve left a message for him telling him where we’re headed in case he comes back. Its going to take us close to six months to reach the stargate. That’s not going to leave Earth and its allies much time to prepare. I can’t do this alone. You have to guide me."

Samantha raised her head, wiped her hands across her tear stained cheeks and stood. She picked up her vest, with back pack and P-90 attached, and shrugged herself into it. Then she turned, placed one hand on the skin of the death glider and whispered, "goodbye, Colonel, it has been an honor to serve with you." She moved back a step, rendered a hand salute, made an about face, and began to march east.

"Doctor Jackson, I’m going to set a brisk pace. Let me know if you can’t keep up. Also, keep an eye out for game and other consumables. We will need to forage as we go."

Daniel fell in with her, walking just a step behind her left shoulder. He carried Jack’s P-90 strapped across his chest, a constant reminder of the friend left behind.

That first day they covered a lot of ground, mostly grass covered plain, with a few narrow streams. They filled their canteens at the first one they crossed and stopped only once, to stuff Daniel’s pack with apples as they passed through a wild orchard. The planet seemed completely deserted, which confirmed the instrument readings they had taken when they had entered orbit.

Daniel remained quiet most of the day, partly because Sam was moving so fast he needed his breath to keep up and because he sensed conversation wouldn’t help her concentrate on continuing to move away from Jack’s body. He spoke only twice, once to point out the orchard, later to suggest they stop when he spotted fish beneath the surface of a brook they reached late in the afternoon.

Sam agreed and told him to gather firewood while she caught dinner. She pulled fishing line from her survival kit and selected an appropriate tree branch to use as a pole, found some grubs under a rock, and sat down to fish. Within a short time there were enough fish piled on the bank for dinner.

"Doctor Jackson, can you clean fish?" Sam asked.

"Fraid not, Sam, its not a skill you acquire in desert country, but if you show me, I’ll try."

Sam demonstrated and explained the procedure and Daniel picked it up quickly. Soon they had dinner grilling over the fire.

Daniel tried to get Sam to talk during dinner, but could get only monosyllabic answers on any topic but fish cleaning. As darkness fell, a cold wind sprang up. Daniel shivered as he remembered they had only one sleeping bag. At Sam’s insistence, Jack’s body had been wrapped tightly in the other one, inside the death glider. He hadn’t the heart to refuse her when she had said in a tiny voice, "I don’t want him to get cold."

As the wind grew stronger, Daniel threw dirt into the fire, making sure it was out. He didn’t want sparks to ignite the dry brush. He put up their tent on the lee side of a small hill, unrolled the sleeping bag inside it, and returned to the campfire site where Sam was still huddled.

He settled beside her and put his arm around her shoulder. "Sam, its time to go to bed now, you need to get out of this wind and get warm." He could see her shivering as she sat, again hugging her knees.

"Leave me alone," she mumbled, pulling away from him. "I’m on watch."

He removed his arm and stood up. "Major Carter," he said, trying to put steel into his voice, "you will not compromise our mission by making yourself ill. Furthermore, standing watch on a deserted planet is completely illogical. You must sleep to stay healthy and make it to the stargate as quickly as possible. You are off duty. Your orders are to go to bed."

He sighed with relief that his imitation of General Hammond seemed to be working as Sam stood and made her way to the sleeping bag, where she pulled off her vest and holster belt, removed her boots and slid inside. Daniel did the same and wriggled in beside her.

"What do you think you’re doing?" Sam spat.

"Staying warm and healthy so I can keep up with you on the march. Don’t worry, Major, I won’t bother you." He turned on his side away from her, squirmed as far away as he could get and regulated his breathing. He knew it would be a long time before he actually slept this night, but figured Sam would feel more secure if she thought he was asleep. He blessed Teal’c for teaching him kal-no-reem techniques to control his breathing.

As he lay quietly he could feel, rather than hear, Sam sobbing behind him. He knew the only way to keep her going was to force her to be USAF Major Samantha Carter during the day in the long months ahead, and let her be Sam, heartbroken and alone, at night.

Daniel tried to tune Sam out by replaying the events of their mission in his mind. It had started with a frantic visit from a Tokra representative who brought information about a massive attack being planned by the Goa’uld against Earth, the Asgard, and the Tokra. The informant said the attack would come, not by ship or stargate, but through stealth and infiltration, although how anyone could infiltrate the Asgard was hard to imagine. SG-1 was urgently needed to find the Goa’uld who was developing the master plan and neutralize him or, at the very least, ferret out his secrets.

After some false starts, they had discovered their quarry and learned his plan, but he had escaped in a hyperspeed equipped death glider. The only trouble was, two gliders escaped and SG-1 didn’t know which one they needed to follow. The team stole two gliders and had pursued both ships to this planet. While in orbit, they had discovered the stargate far to the east on this continent. Much to SG-1’s surprise, the two gliders had landed at a small colony on the west coast and SG-1 had landed as well, without detection.

Jack had divided the team, sending Sam and Daniel to circle around while he and Teal’c investigated the area near the landing site.

Sam had removed her vest to squeeze through a small window in a locked building. Just as she disappeared around a corner inside the room to find the door and let Daniel in, his radio chirped.

"SG-1 Delta and Sierra, this is SG-19. Our targets have returned to their transport. SG-1 Tango and I are following them."

Daniel clicked his mike in response and hurried around the corner of the building to meet Sam at the door. Before he reached it, the radio came on again. "This is SG-1 Tango, my quarry has entered hyperspeed. I am in pursuit."

This was immediately followed by, "Roger T, mine decided to turn and fight." There was a pause. "Sorry guys, we just collided. His ship is coming apart and mine isn’t flying anymore. I’m on my way down and it won’t be a pretty sight." The radio started to throw off static. Daniel was only getting a few words now, "Tell . . . . sorry . . . . . love her."

Just as Sam opened the door, there was a tremendous crash and explosion, followed by a second crash. Daniel explained what he’d heard as they ran toward the crash site. It took them an hour to reach the wreckage. By the time they got there, the fireball caused by the demise of the enemy death glider had burned itself out.

The pilot compartment of Jack’s ship was more or less intact. When they got it open, Jack was slumped over the controls. He bore no outward marks, but his body was cold and lifeless.

Daniel winced as he recalled Sam’s Herculean efforts to save him. She had tried mouth to mouth and CPR until Daniel stopped her and made her realize Jack was gone. He insulted and shamed her until he convinced her they had to go back and secure the Goa’uld colony. That brought her back and her military training had taken over, but she hadn’t forgiven him for making her leave Jack.

Once they determined the site was deserted and collected everything they thought they could use, Sam returned to Jack’s death glider and stayed there throughout the night until dawn, while Daniel stood watch. Finally, he had made her leave.

Daniel’s tears started as he remembered Jack’s last message. He knew Jack had said, "Tell Sam I’m sorry and I love her." He had to keep it together and get Sam home. It was the only thing he could do for Jack now. He’d lost one of his best friends in that glider. He couldn’t let the other self destruct.

***

Teal’c continued to stalk his quarry through several planetary systems, staying in what O’Neill would call the ‘radar shadow’ of the other glider. When it finally dropped from hyperspeed, Teal’c was surprised that they were not near a star system, that they were, in fact, in a particularly empty region of space.

A minute later he spotted a blinking light and realized the other pilot had stopped at a ‘way point’ to compute the next leg of his course. Teal’c took the opportunity to blow him apart, but made the same mistake as O’Neill, he was too close, and his craft was damaged by the debris. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t terminal, though his hyperspeed capability was gone. Also, he was unsure of his location. He would have to proceed cautiously to find a friendly planet with a stargate, or, failing that, somewhere he could make repairs on his hyperdrive. In either case, it would be a long time before he reached Earth.

***

When Daniel woke up, Sam had kindled a fire and was sitting next to it holding a cup in her hands. ‘Coffee?’ he thought. When he reached her, she handed him another cup and an apple.

"Doctor Jackson, how nice of you to join me for breakfast."

He looked in the cup. It wasn’t the right color for coffee, although it was tan, but it didn’t smell like coffee. Maybe it was weak tea, he thought. He tasted it and coughed. "What the hell is this?" he spluttered.

Sam glared at him. "Its bouillon and its all you’re going to get in the mornings, until we can make broth."

"What happened to the coffee?"

"I’m saving it for when it is really cold."

"You don’t think this is cold?" Daniel looked at the skin of ice that had formed in the backwater of the brook over night.

Sam’s expression softened. "Doctor Jackson, I believe you requested my guidance to reach the stargate. As you so correctly pointed out yesterday, it will take us almost six months to get there. This region of the planet is entering its winter cycle. It will get much colder before it begins to get warm again. That is also why we have to collect a supply of game while its plentiful, before most of the animals migrate south or hole up for the winter. Drink you bouillon and let’s get started. We have a long day ahead of us."

Daniel did as he was told and they continued to march across the windswept prairie. In mid-morning they came across another grove of trees which appeared to be walnuts and collected a good supply. In mid-afternoon they discovered wild carrots, which they collected as well.

Daniel suggested that this may have been farming country long ago and Sam agreed, speculating that they might even find the descendants of some of the farm animals eventually. Daniel was relieved that she was at least talking to him in a normal tone of voice now. The wind continued to blow and, as twilight approached, it started to rain.

Just as they were about to give up and hunker down in misery for the night, they spotted the ruins of a stone building, with part of its roof intact. Once inside, they built a fire, shed their wet clothes and pulled dry ones out of their packs. Daniel put up a line to dry their damp clothing and set about making dinner. He split a macaroni and cheese MRE with Sam and roasted two of the apples for desert, sprinkling them with a sugar packet, just before he pulled them out of the fire.

"This isn’t bad," Sam commented. "Where did you learn to do this?"

"Sha’re taught me. Of course we didn’t have refined sugar. We used honey, and we didn’t have apples, we sprinkled the honey on hot pears, but the principal is the same."

Sam nodded, finished licking the sweet juice from her fingers, and stuck her hands out in the rain to wash them off. Then she unrolled the sleeping bag and climbed in.

‘Well,’ Daniel thought, ‘I guess we are making progress. At least she is being civil now.’ He made himself as comfortable as possible and turned away from Sam. This time his thoughts turned to Sha’re and their life together. The memories, which used to be etched deeply in his brain, had begun to fade long ago. When he thought of Sha’re’s face now, usually he saw blue eyes, instead of chocolate, short blonde hair instead of long dark brown tresses.

He pulled his mind back to the present and realized that Sam was again crying quietly behind him. He badly wanted to roll over and take her in his arms, but he knew Sam too well to attempt it. She needed to release her grief, but wouldn’t give in and let herself be vulnerable if she believed he was trying to comfort her. Lord knows, he needed comfort as well, he thought. Once again he told himself this was what Jack would want him to do, keep Sam on the path back to the stargate, and the path of sanity.

As Sam’s body stopped shaking and she finally fell into an exhausted sleep, he wiped the wetness from his own face. Sleep finally claimed him as he listened to the rain.

***

Teal’c was beginning to worry that his air supply would run out before he found a safe haven, when a G type star appeared in his instrument window. It wasn’t guaranteed to have an earth type planet, but it was the only choice he had so he set course for it. If his calculations were correct, he had just about enough oxygen to land on a planet, if there was one.

***

Daniel opened his eyes and rolled onto his stomach in the empty sleeping bag. He could hear rain still pelting down outside. Sam was sitting against a wall writing in a small notebook. She looked up when he cleared his throat. "Good morning, Doctor Jackson. Did you sleep well?"

"Uh, yes, thank you," he said as he scrambled out of the sleeping bag. ‘Okay, still formal, but friendly. I can work with this.’ "Why didn’t you wake me?"

"Oh, there was no hurry, unless you enjoy slogging through a thunderstorm. I thought we would wait it out where we can stay dry."

"Okay," Daniel agreed. "However, I do need to go outside for a few minutes. I’ll be back shortly." He found his rain slicker and pulled it on over his gun belt and vest and stepped out into the rain.

Sam was beginning to worry when he returned a half hour later carrying two dead pheasants. He dropped them near the fire, wiped off his zat gun and put it away and shook out his rain gear.

"I thought I heard them last night, just before the rain started to really pour down and I figured they wouldn’t have gone too far away." He sat down by the fire and started to pull out feathers. "While scaling fish was a mystery to me until yesterday, I do know all about plucking chickens. We had lots of them on Abydos. Let me teach you."

Sam smiled and picked up a pheasant. They spent a companionable hour plucking feathers and preparing the pheasants for the pot. Another bouillon cube, a little salt and some of the wild carrots completed their preparations, and they put their concoction over the fire to simmer.

"I’m glad we found a large pot in the Goa’uld encampment," Sam remarked as she cleaned the feathers out of the room. "We would have had a tough time trying to cook that in our coffee pot."

Just before sundown, it finally stopped raining, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared. Sam stopped at the door to watch it and a tear trickled down her cheek. Daniel didn’t dare touch her, but he could ask, "Sam?"

"It looks like the end of the rainbow comes down where we left the Colonel. I was just thinking it was fitting to let the Tin Man rest beneath the rainbow until we can take him home from Oz. Silly thought." She smiled apologetically.

"No, its not. I think Jack would appreciate that thought. Uh, I think dinner’s about ready. Shall we eat?"

After they ate, they set the leftovers aside to cool. In the morning they would seal them in plastic specimen bags to carry on their journey.

That night Daniel felt Sam’s body relax quickly into sleep. He was still awake, speculating about who had built the surprisingly sturdy shelter they were presently occupying, when Sam started to toss and moan in her sleep. He was thinking about waking her from her nightmare, when she sat up and screamed, "Jack!" She jumped out of the sleeping bag and ran out into the night, crying.

Daniel followed as fast as he could untangle himself, then tripped over his boots, or hers, and went sprawling into the ashes of the dead fire. When he finally reached her, she was leaning on a rock with her head buried in her arms, still crying.

This time something inside him snapped and he went to her, gathered her in his arms, cradled her head against him and began rubbing circles on her back. For a long time he was too choked up to say anything, but finally he began to talk to her, saying, "Jack loved you so much, he wouldn’t want you to grieve like this. He would want you to cry a little. You know he always said crying was good. But he would want you to get it out and go on. Sam, he died doing what he loved, flying, and protecting what he loved, you, and the people of Earth. He won his last battle. He beat the bad guy. He died with your name on his lips, saying he loved you."

Finally, he couldn’t think of anything more to say and, realizing that they were both standing in a mud puddle in their bare feet, Daniel picked Sam up and carried her back inside. He built up the fire again, cleaned her feet and wrapped her in a blanket. Then he put her on his lap and held her as she continued to cry.

At around 0200, she fell asleep with her head on his shoulder. When he was sure she wouldn’t wake up, he carried her back to the sleeping bag and this time she curled against him. He got very little sleep that night, afraid that she would wake up screaming again. He held her and marveled at how good she felt in his arms, how fragile and delicate she seemed. She was the strongest woman he had ever met, yet this was truly tearing her apart. It was beginning to tear him up as well, he realized. He couldn’t stand it if she didn’t recover. She was his best friend and he loved her like a brother. ‘Or not,’ his conscious shot back at him. I can’t let myself be in love with my best friend, not now, not when she is so broken up about Jack. What kind of a friend am I to either of them if I let myself love her? He’d been in love with her since the day he met her in the map room on Abydos and they’d finished each other’s sentences. He’d fallen in love with Sam before Sha’re was taken and been fighting it ever since. Sometimes he thought Sha’re had been punished for his sin. He knew he had betrayed her, if only in his mind.

***

Teal’c brought his death glider down in a clearing on what appeared to be another uninhabited world. He pulled the tool kit out and crawled beneath the glider, opening the hyperdrive access hatch. After studying the interior for several minutes, he sighed, closed the hatch and put the tool kit away. There was no denying it, it couldn’t be fixed, at least not with the equipment he had on hand. At least he could replenish his air supply, find some food, and catch up on his kal-no-reem while he was here.

***

Daniel’s mind chased itself in circles for the rest of the night, even in his dreams. He woke from a dream of holding Sha’re in his arms to find Sam there, her arms wrapped around him, her lips against the hollow of his neck, and his in her hair. He was laying on his back, she was draped pretty much all over him and his body’s response was quite obvious. When she woke up, the situation would, at the very least, be highly embarrassing, unless he could come up with a way to move them apart without her catching on. He smiled to himself as the answer came to him. He let out a tremendous sneeze as he rolled to put his back to her, ostensibly to protect her from the flying germs. He threw in a couple of more sneezes for good measure, as Sam sat up and began to work her way out of the bag.

"Sorry, Sam, I didn’t mean to wake you up that way. I must have inhaled some of your hair I guess." Daniel extracted himself from the sleeping bag, since he had now determined he could do so safely. "I’ve been thinking, if we do manage to collect some large game, we’re going to need to pull it along somehow, maybe on some kind of sledge. What do you think?"

"I think you’re right. First, we are going to need something to pull on that sledge though. With all that rain yesterday, maybe we can find some tracks today. Unless there are more pheasants close by, we need to get moving before the ground starts to dry up. Let’s get packed."

Daniel grabbed an apple and munched it as they started out. They reached the edge of the prairie that day and entered wooded country, where they followed a game trail for several miles. In a clearing they spotted an animal which neither had ever seen before, but for want of a better term, they dubbed it an elk. Sam zatted it twice and they spent the rest of the day skinning and cutting it up and building an improvised smokehouse, Daniel concentrating on the skinning and cutting, while Sam did the design and building. By the time they were finished, Daniel was covered in blood and elk parts and took himself off to a nearby stream for a very cold bath. When he returned, wringing himself out as he walked, Sam had started the smoking process and was roasting fresh elk steak over the campfire.

When he stopped by the fire to warm himself before shedding his wet clothes, Sam asked, "Daniel, did you take a bath with your clothes on?"

"Y-yes," he answered, as his teeth began to chatter. "It was actually warmer that way and easier to g-get the blood out. I’m going to g-go and change now." He grabbed his bundle of clothes and found a tree to use as a changing booth. When he returned to the fire, he sat down to put on his dry socks and worked his way as close to the flames as he could stand.

"I saved the fat, although there wasn’t much," he said, when he could talk without stuttering. "We can use it for frying and I think there’s a way to make soap from fat. I just can’t remember how at the moment."

"Euuu! Well, I suppose if we have to. I guess we’ll make our carrier tomorrow. I’ve been thinking about a travois, I think its called, that the Indians used to strap across their shoulders and drag behind them. With something like that we could dismantle our smokehouse and take it along as well. We may not find material this good when we reach the mountains."

"Mountains?" Daniel’s head came up from studying the fire. "We have to cross mountains?"

"I’m afraid so," Sam confirmed. "It would take many extra months to go around. And we have to get across and down the other side before winter really sets in." She pulled a steak out of the fire and slapped it on a plate with some carrots. "Eat your dinner and get some sleep. Tonight we will have to stand watch to keep the fire in the smoke house going. I’ll take first watch."

Daniel wolfed down his dinner, vowing not to let Sam do the cooking again. The steak was raw on one side and burned on the other and the carrots were like rubber. He was still shuddering occasionally, and crawled into the sleeping bag early and alone. He found he missed Sam’s presence beside him, both the heat from her body, and the sense of security he felt when she was sleeping next to him, but he was completely exhausted from his previous night’s vigil and soon fell into a deep sleep.

Sam came to wake him after her four hour watch and found him feverish and mumbling. She decided to let him sleep and went back to doze by the fire. When she checked on him again, he was shivering violently. "Screw the smokehouse," she mumbled as she crawled into the sleeping bag and started to rub his arms and back to warm him up. Daniel moaned and tried to push her away, repeating, "no, no, I can’t, I can’t do this, please don’t make me do this!"

Sam soothed him, whispering, "its all right now, you don’t have to do it," over and over, as she smoothed his hair. Eventually his shivers subsided and he settled into slumber again. Only then did Sam return to check the smokehouse. Satisfying herself that everything was preceding normally, she rejoined Daniel and fell into a light sleep beside him.

***

Teal’c roused himself from kal-no-reem and prepared to continue his journey. The previous evening he had studied the night sky for several hours and now thought he had a pretty good idea of his location and the stops he would need to make to keep his consumables at acceptable levels until he reached a world with a stargate. The next leg of his flight would determine if his calculations were correct.

***

When Daniel woke up that morning his head was stuffed and he could feel the heat radiating from himself. Sam was sitting close beside him, watching him anxiously. "How do you feel this morning?" she asked, placing a cool hand on his hot forehead.

"I think I have a cold. Trust me to manage to get sick when we have to make time." She handed him a handkerchief and he blew his nose. Then she placed a cup of water in his hand and held out some pills in the other.

"This won’t cure you, but it should help. Its a cold capsule and vitamin C. Drink all the water. You need to stay hydrated."

He did as he was told and then began to struggle out of the sleeping bag.

"Where do you think you’re going? You stay put and keep warm. I’ll bring you some pheasant broth in a minute."

"Sam, I need to uh go to the bathroom."

"Oh, okay, sorry. Stay as close as you can. I’ll be at the stream for a while. I think I can catch some more fish and we can smoke them."

Daniel did what he had to and then closed himself in the sleeping bag again with a cup of warm broth and a paperback copy of the Aeneid in the original Latin, the only reading material he had brought on their mission. The cold pill seemed to help for a while. He could tell his fever had gone down. He read and rested and dozed off and on throughout the day.

When Sam returned she cleaned the fish she had caught and placed most of them in her smokehouse, setting a few aside for dinner. Then she came and sat down beside him. "What are you reading?" she asked.

"I was reading the Aeneid, but my eyes started watering too badly."

"Would you like me to read it to you?" she asked, picking up the book. "Oh, its in Latin! What’s it about?"

"Its all about Aeneas trying to get his troops to safety after Troy was destroyed. There’s romance and adventure and intrigue. Virgil tells a good story. Homer told the tale of the troops on the other side in the Odyssey. The part I like best is about Camilla. She was an Amazon warrior fighting against Aeneas. I’ll tell you more about her later, if you like. My throat’s a little sore."

"Okay, let me make you something to help your throat."

Daniel was just beginning to doze off again when Sam returned with a steaming cup.

"What’s in it?" He asked suspiciously, remembering the bouillon.

"Its tea. Just drink it. Doctor’s orders."

Daniel blew on it and then took a swallow. "Hey, there’s whiskey in here. Where did you get whiskey?"

"I found it in the Goa’uld village. Now drink all of that. It should help your throat."

He finished it off and handed her back the cup. "That did help. Thanks."

"Okay, I’ve been collecting wood for the travois, and I want to bring the rest in before dark. I just put some fish in the smoker, so I’ll be back in a little while to check on them." Sam started off into the woods.

Daniel decided he had better relieve himself before he settled down for another nap. On his way back to the tent he stopped by the campfire and found that there was more hot tea so he dumped in more whiskey and returned to his sleeping bag. Checking his watch, he decided it was time for another cold capsule and washed that down with the tea.

Sam returned a while later to collect the hand ax she had left behind and found Daniel sitting cross-legged on top of the sleeping bag with his head in his hands.

"Daniel? What’s wrong?" She ducked into the tent beside him.

"Oh, I don’t feel so good." He looked over at Sam. "Are there two of you in here?"

She felt his head again, which was cool. "Did you drink more of that tea?"

"Yeah. That was good. I put some more whiskey in it. My throat feels great." He gave her a lopsided grin.

"Oh, Daniel, there was already whiskey in it. And did you maybe take another cold tablet?"

He reached down and picked up the empty foil packet. "Sure did."

"Don’t you know you’re not supposed to take alcohol and medicine together? No wonder you’re seeing two of me. You need to lie down. Get in the sleeping bag."

"Only if you get in with me. I’m cold."

Sam pulled off her boots and crawled in beside Daniel.

"Thanks, Sam, you’re the greatest. You’re my best friend in the whole world." He smiled at her sleepily. "You know, I think I’m drunk and high on cold pills."

Sam smiled back at him. "I’d say that’s a pretty good diagnosis, Doctor Jackson."

"I want to tell you something, but I shouldn’t, but since I’m drunk I can tell you anyway. Does that make sense?"

"Of course. You always make sense."

"Good, because I want to tell you you’re my best friend. Did I say that before? I said that before. Okay, you are my best friend and I love you." He snuggled up against her and kissed her cheek. "Night, Sam."

***

Teal’c made his descent into a clearing and shut the glider down. He knew this planet. He had been here before with Apophis. Unfortunately it had no stargate, but Apophis enjoyed several of the game animals here. There was a small settlement of humans permanently in residence to serve Apophis when he visited. There was also a minimal repair facility for death gliders. He hoped the parts he needed were in stock, but he would need to be careful not to be discovered. In addition to the humans, there had also been a squad of Jaffa stationed on the planet.

***

As usual, Sam was up and out when Daniel woke up. The first thing he realized was that his head was no longer stuffed up. He remembered drinking tea with whiskey, but he didn’t seem to have a hangover either. And then it hit him. He had told Sam he loved her. Oh, crap! Now what was he going to do?

The tent flap opened and Sam squatted down in front of him. "Good morning. How are you feeling today?" She touched his forehead. "Still no fever. How’s your throat?"

"Actually, I think I’m cured. No cough, no stuffy nose, and no hangover." He worked his way out of the tent. "Listen, I want to apologize if I did or said anything inappropriate. Um, did I?"

"You didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. You just said I was your best friend and you loved me. After the way I’ve been treating you the last few days, I’m glad you still feel that way. I’m sorry I’ve been giving you such a hard time." She hugged him. "It wasn’t until you got sick that I realized how much I depend on you. You scared me when you started running a fever. Don’t take any more cold baths, okay?"

Daniel laughed and moved over to the fire to get some morning broth. "So you said you were going to start working on the travois today. Can I help?"

"Actually, they’re pretty much done. All we have to do is test them out."

***

Teal’c squatted under cover at the edge of the village. He saw several people moving among the buildings, some small children playing and laughing near by, but not even one beast of burden, and no Jaffa. He had been watching for nearly an hour and had seen nothing of interest. He decided that, when darkness fell, he would approach one of the dwellings and seek information from the inhabitants. The sun was beginning to set, so he should not have to wait too much longer.

***

Sam had completed her travois construction and they had experimented with the best way to attach them to themselves as they had moved through wooded country. So far, they didn’t seem to be having much trouble, but they were moving more slowly with the added weight trailing behind them. They were in the foothills of the mountain range now, and were expending more energy than they had on level ground. They had just climbed down into a valley. The west wind continued to blow pretty steadily, but the valley now provided some shelter and the sun had warmed them all day.

They had chatted easily as they walked, their old camaraderie restored. Daniel was relieved that Sam had not picked up on his confession and grateful that she seemed to be adjusting to Jack’s loss. He knew they both had a long way to go to put that behind them, and, in fact, he doubted that they ever would completely. He would never forget Jack, nor did he want to. He realized that what he had said to comfort Sam in her grief was true, Jack had died doing what he loved best, flying, and he had died to protect Sam, who he had loved for years and could never make his own.

He just wished he could stop thinking of Sam as so desirable. Sometimes he wondered if Ammonet’s ribbon device had opened his mind to the thoughts of others, now dead, not just Sha’re’s dying message. His thoughts about Sam might be a gift from Jack, or Shi’fu - the Harsesis child (who wasn’t actually dead), or even Oma Desala. Whoever it was, he wished they’d quit and leave him alone. He was having enough trouble trying to keep his thoughts, not to mention his hands, off Sam, without the mental nudges he seemed to be getting from somewhere. Spending every night next to her wasn’t helping either. Of course, he might just be going crazy, that was a pleasant thought! He shook himself out of his reverie when he realized that Sam had stopped moving and was asking him something.

"Sorry, Sam, I was miles away."

She smiled. "I just asked if you were ready to stop for the night. I know I am."

"Sounds good to me." Daniel squirmed out of his harness and dropped his backpack. "Okay, if you’ll make a fire ring, I’ll go and collect wood tonight." He started off toward some nearby trees.

A few minutes later Sam heard, "oh, shit!" and the sound of a zat gun.

She ran toward Daniel who was standing staring at the ground.

"You want snake for dinner?" he asked when she came up beside him. "I only zatted him once. I thought he was a stick."

"Did he bite you?"

"No. I’m fine. I think we should let him go." He backed up as the snake started to stir. "You know, there is something to be said for rattlesnakes. They announce their presence and you know they’re poisonous. This one is probably harmless." The snake wriggled its way to a nearby hole and disappeared.

"I wasn’t in the mood for snake anyway," Sam said. She picked up a handful of wood, after careful inspection, and started back toward the campsite. Daniel piled up the branches he had collected and followed along behind her.

"I think we may have a nutrition problem here," he said as he dropped his wood near the fire pit and pulled at his pants. "I’ve already tightened my belt once and I’m about to do it again. Of course I missed dinner last night, but I’m thinking we need some carbs in our diet. I begin to see why most nomadic tribes are pretty thin. The farmers grow the grain and the potatoes, but the nomads have to trade for that kind of stuff."

"Well we can’t stop to plant crops. I wouldn’t know what to do with a grain crop if I had one anyway. Would you?"

"As a matter of fact I do. I learned a lot about farming on Abydos. The whole planet wasn’t a desert. But that’s not going to help us here."

He stared down the valley as the sun began to set. "I think I’m going to check out the fields in the morning. Those look suspiciously like corn stalks down there. This valley would have been a perfect place for a farm."

Dinner that night consisted of smoked elk, the last of their carrots, and walnuts for desert. They used rocks to smash the nuts and passed Sam’s metal fingernail file back and forth, using it as a nut pick.

"Who would believe that a nail file would become an essential piece of survival equipment," Sam mused as she finished digging nut meat out of her last shell and passed the file back to Daniel. "We’ll have to remember to include that in our report."

She dusted off her hands and crawled inside the tent. Daniel joined her and sat down on the edge of the sleeping bag to pull off his boots. Then he snorted and started laughing.

"What’s so funny?"

"Oh my God," he snorted again and then sobered. "I don’t think I should tell you. You’ll probably think its bad taste." He worked into his usual position with his back to Sam.

"Oh, come on. I could use a good laugh."

"No, it really was an inappropriate thought."

"Daniel," Sam rolled over on her side toward him, "tell me or you’ll be sorry!"

"No." He wished he hadn’t laughed. She would really think he was unfeeling if he told her.

Sam reached over and started tickling him in the ribs. That started him laughing again and he tried to fight her off and tickle her back, which got her laughing too, at his inability to reach her.

"All right, I give. I’ll tell you," he finally gasped. "I was just thinking of the look on General Hammond’s face, not to mention Major Davis’ reaction, if Jack marched in and presented them with an SG-1 report on the value of fingernail files in the field."

"Oh," Sam said in a small voice.

‘Crap,’ Daniel thought, ‘now I’ve upset her again.’ Then he heard her giggles and his heart soared.

"Or what about Senator Kinsey?" she got out between bursts of laughter.

Daniel fell asleep that night with a smile on his face.

Sam suppressed her giggles when she thought Daniel had gone to sleep, but she kept replaying the scene in her head, with different reactions from Kinsey, Davis and the General. She discovered that she could think about the Colonel in this way without sorrow.

Both Sam and Daniel slept, undisturbed by nightmares, that night.

***

Teal’c cautiously approached a rundown house on the edge of the village and knocked on the wooden door.

"Come in," a voice called in Egyptian.

Teal’c knocked a second time.

A young woman opened the door and gasped. "Oh, sir, I humbly beg your pardon for keeping you waiting. I did not know any Jaffa had returned to us. How may I assist you, sir?"

Teal’c stared at the woman. She was tall and comely with hair of rusty gold. "May I enter your dwelling?" he asked.

"Sir, I would be honored by your presence in my house. Would you care to sit by my fire? May I bring you water or nourishment?"

Teal’c sat in the chair she indicated and stretched his hands toward the fire. "Woman, please sit and answer some questions for me. Where is your husband?"

The woman’s eyes, which he now noticed were the color of emeralds, took on a wary look. "I have no husband, sir. He was killed in the mine a season ago."

Teal’c softened his voice. "I will not harm you. Please accept my sympathy for your loss. What is your name?"

"My name is Marissa, sir."

"Mommy, who is here?" A small girl poked her head out from the doorway to the other room. She had inherited her mother’s hair and eyes, Teal’c saw. He guessed her to be about four or five years old.

"A noble Jaffa honors us with his presence. Go back to bed Lonny."

"I want to see the Jaffa, mommy," she said, walking up to Teal’c and placing her hand on his. "Hello, I’m Lenore, but mommy calls me Lonny. What’s your name?"

Marissa gasped, but Teal’c smiled at the child. "My name is Teal’c," he said, "and I think Lenore and Lonny are both pretty names."

She smiled. "Thank you, do you have any little girls?"

Teal’c shook his head. "I am sorry to say I do not, but I have a son. His name is Rya’c."

"Are Rya’c and his mother here? Will he play with me?" She looked around to see if anyone else was in the room.

"They are not. Rya’c’s mother is no longer alive and Rya’c is far away training to be a warrior."

"Oh, that’s too bad. May I touch your tattoo?"

Marissa had begun to relax as her daughter seemed to be amusing the Jaffa. Now she gasped again.

"You may," Teal’c said, inclining his head so the little girl could reach his forehead, "but then I think you should return to your bed. Your mother and I have much to discuss."

Lonny ran her fingers around the tattoo and then stood on tiptoe and kissed Teal’c’s cheek. "Goodnight. Will you be here in the morning to tell me more about Rya’c? I like you. You’re not mean, like the Jaffa in the stories the elders tell."

"I promise I will tell you more of Rya’c if you go to your slumber now. Good night," Teal’c said, smiling again.

Lonnie padded into the other room and closed the door.

Marissa’s hand had gone to her mouth when Lonny had insinuated the Jaffa were not revered. Now she tried to make amends. "Oh, sir, the child meant no disrespect to your people, she simply misunderstood what she has heard."

"Marissa, you have no need to fear me. When were the Jaffa last here and what system lord do they serve?"

"The last left three seasons ago. Apophis was their master. They were most benevolent guardians."

"Yeah, I bet, as my friend O’Neill would say. I want to ask you a question and I want a truthful answer. A lie will not serve you. I will not harm you, no matter what your answer. Do you and your people still believe Apophis to be a god?"

Marissa stared at him in shock. Then she rose and moved to the nearby table. "I will answer you truthfully, sir, but first may I offer you refreshment? I have but poor fare, but I can give you cold spring water or milk from the goat, bread and cheese. Please sit at the table."

Teal’c did as she asked and she provided the bread and cheese. He accepted the water to wash it down as she sat across from him.

"I thank you for your hospitality, lady," Teal’c said, using the polite form of address. "Now please give me your answer."

"My people revere Apophis as their lord and master, although he has not visited our folk for many years."

"And what do you believe?" Teal’c prompted.

"You have asked for the truth, sir, and I know if I do not give it to you, others will. The reason Lonny and I live in this small house away from the other villagers, and the reason I have not been claimed as a wife by another, is that my husband and I were considered heretics. We did not believe Apophis was a god. He and I, when we were very young, saw a Goa’uld fall from a high cliff. We were playing on the beach below and his body landed near us. We watched a snake crawl out of his mouth. Then it launched itself at me. Norel hit it with a copper shield he was using in his play and the snake fell to the ground, broken. It soon died and we ran away. We told no one what we had seen for many years.

One day a Jaffa was beating an old man who was not working hard enough and Norel tried to make him stop. He was beaten and his arm was injured so that he was never able to use it properly again. After that, he told the story to all who would listen. If we had not had a small child, we would have been turned out into the forest, but they judged Lonny innocent of our heresy and allowed us to stay.

All of our people heard that Apophis and his kind are snakes buried inside a human host, but they did not believe us. That is the truth, sir. Please do not harm my child. She knows nothing of this."

She jumped from her chair, grabbed a knife from the table, and ran to place her body in front of the door to the other room.

Teal’c walked slowly toward her, his hands open at his sides.

"Lady, I will not harm your child. I give you my word. I will not harm you either. I do not serve Apophis or any Goa’uld. I fight with the humans of the Tau’ri against the Goa’uld." He reached out and gently removed the knife from her fingers.

Marissa stared at him, first with horror, then with hope, as she absorbed his words. Tears began to roll down her cheeks unheeded as a dam burst inside her.

Teal’c reached up and wiped her face, then gently encircled her with his arms as she began to sob in earnest. "Marissa you are safe with me," he said into her hair. "Apophis is dead and I do not believe his Jaffa will ever return." As he gently stroked her back, he inhaled her scent, apples and spice, he thought, a pleasant combination.

***

Daniel awoke to find Sam still asleep beside him. He carefully rolled over so he could watch her as she slept. He had an almost overpowering urge to reach out and touch her cheek or run his fingers through her silky hair. To distract himself he tried to bring to mind the methods of soap making he had read about long ago. It involved animal fat and lye and water. He was sure those were the ingredients, but he couldn’t remember what lye was, or how to make it. As he continued to probe his memory while watching Sam breathe, her eyes popped open.

"Daniel," she asked quietly, "why are you staring at me like that?"

Daniel looked into her beautiful blue-gray eyes and blinked himself back to reality. "Sam, what’s lye and how do you make it?"

Sam stared back at him. "Good morning to you, too. You are the strangest man sometimes. If I woke up to find any other man staring at me like that, I’d either be worrying if I had a toothbrush handy, or I’d be reaching for my sidearm, depending on the man."

Daniel sat up and climbed out of the sleeping bag to put his boots on. "I was just thinking about making soap. I know you need fat and lye and water and I remember the process, but I don’t remember what lye is."

"Its wood ash." Sam was up and reaching for her own boots now. "File that recipe away for a rainy day when we don’t want to march. Meanwhile, go check out your corn field while I start the fire."

"Right." He took a few steps away from the campsite and then turned back. "I understand the sidearm part, but what’s the toothbrush for?"

"Geez Daniel!" She bit back all the remarks that came to mind, like ‘What did you and Sha’re do in your tent at night?’ or ‘Have you always been a monk?’ Instead she said, "to poke him in the eye. If I liked him I would just point the gun at him and tell him to go away." She turned back to the fire as Daniel laughed and started for the corn field again.

"Turn on your radio," she called after him.

As he continued toward the field, he came across what appeared to be a vegetable garden. He dropped to his knees and began examining the greenery, then reached for his radio. "Sam, I’ve found more carrots and some onions and potatoes. Come see."

Sam rushed to join him, bringing all the containers they had left. They spent the morning collecting vegetables and then attacked the corn field. The corn was beginning to dry up, but was still usable, so they gathered as much as they could and stuffed that in with everything else. They were just finishing up when Daniel froze, and then began to turn slowly in a circle. Sam gave him a questioning look and started to speak. He touched a finger to her lips and then pointed. She pulled out her binoculars and focused them further down the valley.

"Chickens?" she whispered. "There’s a shed or maybe a chicken coop down there too."

Daniel nodded. "I’ve been hearing them for a while, but I didn’t realize what they were. Let’s wait till dark and then go check out the coop. They should all be inside asleep by then."

***

As they were sitting by the fire finishing dinner Sam began to piece together the parts of the puzzle that had been nagging at her since she had been on the planet. "Daniel, when we were in the Goa’uld colony, I went into a building through a window to look around. I never did tell you what I found there. It looked like they left in a hurry. They left all kinds of stuff behind, electronic equipment, paperwork, weapons, just a ton of stuff. This farm looks the same way."

"I agree, and judging by the corn, it happened some time in the last growing season. They must have taken their slaves though, or there would be people here still working the farm."

Sam shrugged. "I guess we’ll never know what scared them away. Let’s go check on the chickens."

***

Teal’c roused himself from kal-no-reem as he heard Lonny begin to chatter to her mother in the next room. He had spent an agreeable night in front of the warm fire and was looking forward to another conversation with Lonny. Spending more time with Marissa would not be disagreeable either, he thought. He chided himself for that last idle thought and began to wonder if this settlement had such a thing as a bath house. He concluded that he had been spending way too much time indulging himself with Tau’ri comforts like hot showers, deodorant soap, and soft towels, not to mention washing machines.

He returned to his present surroundings when Lonny came skipping across the room and launched herself into conversation.

"Good morning, Master Teal’c," she crowed happily. "Will you come and have breakfast with me? How old is Rya’c? Will he come and visit you here? Have you come to stay with us? Do you know how to make a swing?" As she talked, she tugged on his hand and led him back to the table where her mother was setting out bowls.

"We have only bread and cheese this morning, Lonny." She opened the window and retrieved a container from the ledge outside. "Here is your milk," she said pouring it into a mug. "Unless, Master Teal’c, you wish the milk?"

"I do not." Teal’c answered. "Milk should be saved for children." He observed that Marissa did not set a place for herself at the table, even though there was a third bowl and cup on the shelf. "Tell me, Lady Marissa, have I depleted your food stores with my meal last night?"

Marissa cast her eyes down. "It is an honor to serve you, sir. I do not need to indulge myself with food."

Teal’c sighed. ‘Oh, crap!’ he thought. "Lady Marissa, please sit and break your fast. Honorable warriors do not take food out of the mouths of women and children."

He turned to Lonny. "Mistress Lenore, I do not know how long I will be staying. Rya’c, however, does not know where I am, so he will not be visiting me. He is now sixteen seasons and I believe I can make a swing, if the required materials can be obtained. Now, eat your breakfast, and then we will see about your swing."

"Lady Marissa, after that, will you show me where the Jaffa keep their tools and repair equipment? I must make repairs to my death glider before I can leave your planet."

"I can, but I wish to talk to you first. Lonny, take your breakfast out on the porch and watch the ducklings play."

Lonny obediently picked up her bowl and mug and went outside.

"Master Teal’c," Marissa fell to her knees before him, "there is something I have yet to tell you. Lonny will be five seasons old in three days time. By our laws, since we have no man to work for us, at that time she and I will be sent to the mine to work for the rest of our lives, or until a man takes her to wife. She will die in the cold, dark mine long before she reaches that age. I have seen your gentleness with her. If you are planning to leave, I beg of you to take her to be a servant in your house. I know you would treat her with kindness."

Teal’c was shocked. He had seen and done many cruel things in his long years, and had seen many humans sacrifice themselves for their children, but this touched his heart. "Please, Lady Marissa, get up. I need to explain the dangers involved. I would very much like to do as you ask, but I will not take Lonny without you."

Marissa sat in Lonny’s place and gave Teal’c her full attention.

"Have you ever seen a death glider?"

"I do not know those words, sir."

Teal’c searched a minute for the Egyptian/Goa’uld phrase. "Did you ever see a flying metal dragon?"

Marissa nodded.

"Good, that is a death glider. They are not large, in fact they are made to hold only two people. I can modify the restraint harness, so Lonny can sit on your lap, but the air for breathing is limited and based on the needs of only two. I must recalculate the distances involved to be sure it will sustain three."

"I do not understand. Air is air. Is it not all around us?"

‘Where is Major Carter when I need her?’ Teal’c thought. He dipped his finger in the cup of water beside his hand and drew a circle on the table. "This is your planet. It is a round ball moving in space around your sun. It is enclosed in air."

Marissa nodded.

"When I fly the death glider away from the planet," he wet his finger again and made a long mark extending upward from the circle and halfway across the table, "the air does not come with me. It stays around the planet. The only air we take with us is that inside the death glider. When we use it up, we will die. Or think of it this way. We can only take so much water with us. If we use it up and don’t find more, we die. It is the same with air. Do you understand?"

"I do."

"Good. For us to be safe, I must find other planets for us to land on to renew our air supply. If I do not, we die. Also, we may encounter enemy Jaffa or even their Goa’uld masters. I am being hunted throughout the galaxy. I am known as Teal’c the Shol’va. If you and Lonny are captured with me, you both may be tortured or killed or even be chosen as Goa’uld hosts. Would this not be worse than a life in the mine?"

"Sir, I know that you would not let us be taken alive. At least with you Lonny will have a chance. If we die, we will die free."

"Lady Marissa," Teal’c paused and covered her hand with his, "you have just voiced the rallying cry of the Jaffa who fight against the Goa’uld. I will take you, provided I can repair the death glider. Now let us gather up Lonny and I will make her a swing. Then we will see to the glider."

***

That day Daniel was out of the tent and lighting the campfire as soon as his eyes popped open. He had already warmed up some elk strips and was preparing to scramble some eggs when Sam joined him.

"My, you’re an early bird today," she grinned. "You just couldn’t wait to cook up some of those eggs, could you?"

"You’re absolutely right. This could be our only chance to load up on good eggy cholesterol. I’m going to enjoy it. We’ll have to hard boil the rest to take them along. I’ve got a pot on for that and I’ve already been to the hen house to collect what they laid over night."

"Its a shame we can’t take the chickens along."

"Yeah, I thought about that too, but there’s no way. I’d like to just go and leave them alone. They don’t seem to have any predators and they appear to be doing fine on their own."

"You don’t think we should slaughter them and smoke them?"

"Sam, have you ever eaten smoked chicken? Rhetorical question. The answer is no. That’s because you can’t smoke chicken. I mean you can, but you wouldn’t want to eat it, not the way we have to smoke it anyway. Trust me. Also, we have no way to carry that much chicken stew or soup. If you want to take a couple, we can cook them tonight, but you get to kill them."

"Daniel, you really don’t want me to, do you? Why?"

He stared at the fire. "Its just that they are the closest thing we’ve seen on this planet to home, to a normal life. I just don’t feel right about harming them. I know its stupid, but there it is."

"Softy," she said affectionately, as she scooped eggs on her plate and sat down to eat.

***

After they had climbed to the top of the valley and were again being buffeted by the wind, they took one last look at the peaceful scene below and then turned and continued their march into the foothills.

That night they made a dry camp, sheltered under a giant overhang. Daniel found a flat rock, out of the wind, and began to pound and grind the corn into meal, while Sam searched for game.

He put two of the potatoes to bake in the coals of the fire and melted a little of the elk fat in a pan with a chopped onion, throwing the smoked fish in to warm at the end.

When Sam returned empty-handed she could smell the onions frying, and it picked up her spirits.

"Daniel, if you ever want to change your occupation, you could open a restaurant," she said as she polished her plate.

He laughed. "You can’t cook, can you Sam?"

"Hey, I made you bacon and eggs once!"

Daniel thought for a minute. "That was a million years ago, right after Kawalsky died. We’ve been doing this a very long time." He sighed. "Sometimes I wish we didn’t have to go back, that we could just stay here and forget about the Goa’uld, raise chickens, build a house, and grow old without having to look over our shoulders or run for our lives all the time."

"You wouldn’t miss going through the stargate, you know, meeting new people and new civilizations, going where no man has gone before?" She quoted the Star Trek line.

"Maybe sometimes, but it would never be the same again without Jack." He stopped, horrified at what he had said.

Sam moved over and sat beside him, taking his hand and putting her head on his shoulder. "I know. I really miss him, too, but we’re both going to have to find a way to live with it, and go on. You’ve been my rock, my anchor, and I think I’m beginning to finally center myself, so its okay to talk about the Colonel now. I promise I won’t fall apart again."

They sat in silence for a minute, then Daniel said, "I remember the time he started talking about an accretion disk. I was so shocked you had to pull me into the wormhole."

Sam laughed. "I’ll never forget when he gave Cassie her dog. He was so proud of that child."

"How about when the Reetou came? He really loved that little boy."

"Or when he and Mayborne invaded Senator Kinsey’s house and blackmailed him."

"Sam, did you ever find out what Jack’s other Masters Degrees were in?"

"No, did you?"

"Yes, I did. I snooped. Would you believe English and American Literature? His Masters for English Literature was about Hamlet’s undying love for Ophelia. I was planning to snag it and read it some time, but I never got around to it. The American Lit one had something to do with Frank Baum and Oz, but I haven’t found it yet. Jack was an incurable romantic."

"Oh, my God. I have to read that thesis about Hamlet. You know, I think I’ve seen it on the shelf in his office. I remember looking through some stuff when he was on Edora. The title is "But Never Doubt I Love." I thought that was odd at the time, but I never opened it."

"Of course!" Daniel snapped his fingers. "Act III, Scene 2, Line 119. ‘Doubt that the sun doth shine, doubt that the stars are fire, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love.’"

"Daniel, I didn’t know you could quote Shakespeare."

"That ain’t nothin’ lady. I can quote Omar Khayam too. ‘A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, a book of verse, and thou beside me singing in the wilderness.’"

"Wow, I’m impressed."

Daniel chuckled evilly. "Let’s go to bed and I will put you to sleep with love poems. By the way," he added as he jumped up and pulled her to her feet, "I figured out what you really meant about the toothbrush. Naughty girl."

Sam ignored him. "So, can you quote Shakespeare’s Sonnets too?"

"I wouldn’t want to. First of all, most of them make reference to death or decay, and second, rumor has it, they were mostly written to another man. By the way, I find the line ‘doubt that the stars be fire’ quite significant. How did an actor and playwright who lived at the same time as Elizabeth I know the stars were on fire?"

Sam pondered that question as she prepared for bed. When she joined Daniel she decided she would leave that serious topic for the next day to discuss as they walked. Instead she requested Daniel recite some more of the Rubiyat.

Daniel turned from his usual position facing away from her, to lie on to his back and pillow his head on his hands. He started to chuckle. "Most people are fooled by that verse. The Rubiyat is not a love poem. Its about an old man extolling the virtues of wine, for 101 verses. The one I quoted is the only exception. However, I think the ‘thou’ he refers to is a grape arbor."

Sam laughed.

He loved her laughter. He stored the sound away to bring out and play back later.

"So," she asked, "what do you think is a romantic love poem?"

"Well, aside from Shakespeare, King Solomon had a nice line, ‘How beautiful are thy feet in sandals, O Prince’s daughter.’ That’s sometimes translated as ‘O Pharaoh’s daughter,’ so it might even refer to Hathor.

Then there’s, ‘I love the fairest, the fairest of the world, most brilliant, most refined, most golden-haired. She’s a danger mortal. All unsuspicious - full of charm unconscious, like a sweet perfumed rose - a snare of nature, within whose petals Cupid lurks in ambush. He who has seen her smile has known perfection . . .’ You get the idea. That was not really a poem, but lines said by Cyrano de Bergerac about the fair Roxane, in a play by Edmond Rostand."

"I don’t believe I ever read that, although I’ve heard of Cyrano. He’s the one with the big nose, isn’t he?"

"Yes, its a French play, quite old, set in the time of the Three Musketeers. Cyrano, of the enormous nose, loves the fair Roxane, who is his cousin. She treats him like a brother and asks him to help keep her beloved Christian safe during the war. Christian loves her too but is not good at expressing himself, so Cyrano writes love letters to her for him. One day Christian goes to visit her and stands outside her window and tries to tell her how much he loves her, but he just doesn’t have the words, so Cyrano stands in the shadows and does his talking for him. Its a very sad story. Christian gets killed in the war and Roxane joins a convent. Cyrano continues to visit her and be her friend. She doesn’t find out until he is dying that he was the one who wrote the letters and that he has loved her all those years."

"That is a sad story. I wonder why the greatest love stories have sad endings. So, did you ever write any poetry?"

"Oh yeah, I wrote some evil limericks in college in assorted languages. Let’s see if I can remember one of the English ones. There was a young lady from Nantucket, who said . . ."

"No, silly, love poems. Did you ever write love poems, to Sha’re maybe?"

"Not exactly, uh . ."

"Daniel!"

"All right, for God’s sake don’t start tickling me again. Here’s one:

You offered me friendship when we met,

A haven for my tortured soul.

And how do I repay this debt?

With secret love you’ll never know.

I love your eyes, your smile, your laugh;

The joy you bring to all, my queen.

I love the soft vulnerability of your soul,

That none but I have ever seen.

When sun falls on your golden hair

My heart stands still, my senses reel,

My blood runs fast, my soul lies bare.

I dare not tell you how I feel."

"Wow! That’s beautiful. Who was she?"

"The unattainable dream."

"Daniel, come on. You’ve been holding out on me. Tell me about her."

"I can’t Sam." He rolled onto his stomach. "Maybe some day."

"You still love her!"

"I dream about her every night. I’ll love her for all eternity."

"And we’re not talking about Sha’re, not with that sunlight on your golden hair line. Did you leave her behind when you went to Abydos?"

"No, I hadn’t met her then. Give it up Sam. I’m not going to say anything more." He rolled on his side away from her and began his breathing regulation routine.

"Daniel Jackson, you haven’t met anybody I don’t know since you came back from Abydos. Unless its somebody you met in your apartment building or at the grocery store, I must know her."

He sighed. "Sam stop. I will not tell you her name. Go to sleep."

There was a pause and Daniel thought she had given up until she said, "At least explain why you can’t tell her how you feel."

"She loves somebody else," he answered, "just like Roxane."

"Its not Shyla or Kera. Shyla was a brunette and Kera’s hair was almost white, certainly not golden. Nor is it Janet, our sometimes blonde friend. She’s not in love with anybody or I would know about it. Is she married?"

"Damn it Sam, stop it! I’m sorry I told you. No, she’s not married. Now leave it alone or I’m going outside to sleep by the cold fire."

Sam subsided, thinking furiously to herself. Who could Daniel’s mysterious love be? He had no women on his staff, he had spent very little time with any of the other SG teams, and she didn’t remember any beautiful blondes. It seemed obvious that he had spent time off-world with her, for he never took a day off and would not have seen sunlight on golden hair inside the mountain. She continued to work the problem around in her brain until she fell asleep.

Meanwhile, Daniel mentally kicked himself for opening his big mouth. You couldn’t let it alone, could you Jackson, you had to show off. You’re an idiot. ‘Now, Daniel,’ what he thought of as the Jack voice said, ‘don’t be so hard on yourself. Maybe its time you told her the truth.’ No, its too soon. I can’t tell her now, when she has no other choice but to be with me 24 hours a day. It would make her uncomfortable and I don’t want her pity. ‘Danny, Danny, what makes you think she would pity you? How do you know she doesn’t want the same thing?’ Jack, shut up and leave me alone!

***

"Lonny, please hand me the tool with the big red handle." A muscular brown arm appeared from under the death glider and Lonny placed the requested tool in Teal’c’s grasp. The arm disappeared for a minute and then Teal’c reappeared and handed the tool back to Lonny, who carefully replaced it in its space in the tool kit. He rinsed his hands in a nearby pail of water and wiped them on his fatigue pants.

"Thank you Mistress Lenore for all your assistance. It is much appreciated. Now run and tell your mother we are ready to leave."

The child scurried away to deliver the message, as Teal’c stowed the tool box inside the maintenance locker of the glider.

A few minutes later Lonny came skipping back, carrying her favorite doll. Her mother followed slowly behind, carrying several containers of various kinds. Teal’c hurried to help her and relieve her of her burdens.

He packed their belongings into the glider’s small storage compartment, meant to hold not much more than armor and a staff weapon. Then he seated Marissa and Lonny in the aft seat and arranged the buckles and straps so they would be secure. Last, he placed water and food so that it was tightly secured, but could easily be reached. He had tried to explain about the lack of gravity in space, but was not sure Marissa grasped the concept. When everything else was ready, he placed a communications device on Marissa’s face, seated himself in the forward position and closed up the small fighter. It was going to be a very long ride home.

***

Daniel woke before daylight and carefully rolled over facing Sam. He knew he was treading on dangerous ground every time he did this, but sometimes he could feel the air move as she breathed and that sent shivers down his spine.

I have to stop this, he thought. Its like I’m stalking her.

‘Danny, how can you be stalking her if she knows you’re here? Relax!’

That mental nudge felt like it was from Jack again. I’m beginning to scare myself. Thinking about Sam is better than arguing with myself. Okay, that’s easy. I did get to touch her the other day when I motioned her to be quiet. And she held my hand and put her head on my shoulder last night. That was really nice.

He shifted his hand slightly and bumped into Sam’s fingers, which grasped his and held on. Was she waking up? She shifted again and her hand ended up flat on his chest over his heart. Then she settled quietly. He listened to her breathing for a few minutes and the next thing he knew the sun was rising and Sam had snuggled even closer to him. Somehow she was lying on his arm with her head on his shoulder. Fortunately, this time he had nothing to hide as yet, although if they stayed in that position much longer the situation might change.

He shook her shoulder gently. "Sam, its time to get up."

Her arm came up around his neck and her lips brushed his in a feathered caress. "Not yet, Danny," she said in a whisper he could barely hear, "let me sleep a few more minutes." Her head cuddled against his chest and the fingers that had been stroking the base of his neck stilled.

‘What the hell was that?’ he thought. ‘She’s still asleep. She must have been dreaming. Wait a minute, she called my name. She’s dreaming of kissing me? Maybe I was dreaming, but I’m wide awake now and she’s sleeping in my arms. How did my other arm get around her? This is really getting out of hand. Okay, if she wakes up now, this isn’t too bad, just a brotherly hug. If I can fix my mind on something else I should be okay. What about getting across the mountains. That’s a tough problem. What we really need is an airplane or a balloon.’

The next time he woke up the sun was higher in the sky. Sam was still in his arms, but her eyes were open and her hand was on his face.

"Daniel, wake up. We’ve overslept."

"I don’t notice you moving," he said, his mouth almost touching hers.

"You’ve got me trapped, I can’t move." She looked up at him. "You need to move your arm."

"Okay," he said. Then he allowed himself a dangerous indulgence. He leaned down and kissed the tip of her nose, before letting her go and sliding himself up and out of the bag and the tent and grabbing his boots on the way.

She joined him a few minutes later. "You’re in a really good mood. What was that all about?"

"I think I’ve figured out how to get us over the mountains. Of course you’re going to have to design and build it, but I think it will work. It came to me in a dream."

"What did and what did kissing my nose have to do with it?"

He told her three-quarters of the truth. "I was dreaming of you breathing in my face, and when I woke up you were, only I wasn’t really awake yet, and your breath became a warm wind and then it wasn’t you breathing, the wind was coming from a hot air balloon."

"That’s your idea, a hot air balloon?"

"That’s it."

"We’d need something that would hold air, something like rubber and something to make a fire and a basket to carry us."

"Okay, that giant cooking pot we’ve been hauling along could hold the fire and we could use the metal from the smoke house you built to direct the air up into the balloon."

"And we could weave a basket," Sam added, "but we still need a balloon."

"What about our rain slickers? They’re rubbery and we could smear them with pine pitch to make sure they’re air tight."

Sam shook her head. "A slicker is way too small."

Daniel bounced in place, as he sometimes did when he was very excited. "We have four of them. Jack’s and Teal’c’s are in my pack too. All we have to do is figure out how to join them together."

***

"Master Teal’c?"

"I thought you were both asleep back there."

"Lonny is. I did not want to bother you. I just wondered if we would be landing soon."

"It will be some time before we do so, but you are not disturbing me. Conversation would be welcome."

"Would you tell me more about the Tau’ri and the SG-1 team?"

"Of course. SG-1 is commanded by Colonel Jack O’Neill. His second in command is Major Samantha Carter. Major Carter is a scientist as well as a warrior and she has a vast store of knowledge in many areas. Doctor Daniel Jackson speaks and reads many languages, including several Goa’uld dialects. He is also an expert on the customs and artifacts of ancient cultures. They are all pilots and experts in the use of firearms. Each is a warrior of great skill and cunning."

"Master Teal’c, did I hear you correctly? Is Major Samantha Carter a woman?"

"Indeed she is, and as I said, a formidable warrior, and a scientist, highly regarded by both the Tau’ri and the Tokra."

"Which of your teammates is her mate?"

"Major Carter has never been bonded."

"Then who protects her?"

"Lady Marissa, among the Tau’ri, women do not have to marry to be safe from harm. While there are few true warriors among them, Major Carter is one. We all protect her as she protects all of us. That is why we are a team. Major Carter is proficient with many weapons. I myself have seen her best a man twice her size with a knife. She is also an expert in unarmed combat."

Marissa sighed. "I would like to be able to defend myself and Lonny. Can you teach me this unarmed combat?"

"I will attempt to do so. We will begin at our next stop. In the meantime I will tell you about some breathing techniques which would be useful in certain combat situations."

***

Sam and Daniel worked their way further up into the foothills that day, searching for the right material to make a basket. Just as they thought they might have to turn and seek lower ground, they found another warm valley with a shallow river running through it and plenty of greenery of various kinds, they agreed they could make use of.

Sam caught more fish for dinner, while Daniel poked through the reeds and fronds, testing them for strength. He speculated to himself that maybe it was a good thing Sam had never gone fishing with Jack. She caught fish so easily that Jack would have been jealous.

As Sam fished, she started wondering again about Daniel’s mysterious blonde love. She was beginning to get annoyed and a little jealous, not that he didn’t deserve someone, but that he didn’t think he could confide in her. She was hurt, too. She told him everything and she had thought he did the same with her. Daniel’s poetry was beautiful and hearing him recite it was a treat. He had a wonderful voice and it almost felt like he was talking to her when he recited it. God, she wished he were. She’d had about enough of the mystery woman. It was about time she did something about it.

Daniel returned as Sam was getting ready to cook the fresh fish she had caught. When he saw what she was doing, he grabbed the pan away from her and opened up his pack to pull out some things.

"What are you doing, Daniel? I was making dinner."

"Sam, um, oh boy! I don’t want to offend you, you are just about the most capable person I’ve ever met. You’re smart, and brave, and beautiful, but you can’t cook. Please let me make dinner."

"All right, since you ask so nicely." She gave him the smile that showed off her dimples and made his heart flutter. "So am I as beautiful as your mysterious blonde?"

"Yes," he said, as he rolled the fish in some of the corn meal, "you most definitely are."

"Wow, I didn’t expect that!" Her heart jumped into her throat.

He looked up at her. "You know, you do that all the time, you just don’t see yourself the way others see you. You are one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met. Ask anyone. Ask another woman, if you don’t believe me. Ask Janet. Even Hathor told you so."

"Well, since you seem to be the only one here, I’ll have to take your word for it for now. You know, I’m done fishing for the day, honest. But I am really curious. Obviously, I don’t see it, so can you tell me why you think I’m beautiful? I mean I’m not fat or ugly and I’m in reasonably good shape."

He gave her an ‘Oh, please!’ look.

"Well, okay, I guess very good shape, considering all the exercise we get running around in the woods, and I keep myself well groomed, but I’ve met hundreds of women who could say all that who aren’t beautiful. And while you’re thinking, can I at least chop up that onion for you?"

Daniel lobbed the onion to her while he sliced a potato and thought about his answer. ‘Be careful, Jackson,’ he cautioned himself. ‘Don’t give yourself away.’

He put the potato in some water and started peeling a carrot. "Okay, here’s what I see. You carry yourself proudly, you have a clear, radiant complexion, a lovely smile, good teeth, clean bouncy hair, exquisite eyes, and dimples. You also have a lovely speaking voice and an infectious laugh, but none of those things is why I think you’re beautiful." He handed her a small pot. "Put the onion in here." He put some fat in the frying pan and then added the onion and potatoes.

"Daniel?"

"What?"

"That was lovely, but I’m waiting for the punch line."

"Punch line?"

"You know, where you say its your big nose, or your flat feet that really makes the difference."

"I didn’t know you could get in the Air Force with flat feet."

"Daniel!"

He finished chopping carrots into the mixture. "Seriously, its what’s inside that makes your beauty stand out. The inner glow thing, the way you care about everybody, your thirst for knowledge, your joie de vie."

"Well, that was really eloquent. Thank you, and you’re not so bad yourself."

"Yes, well, I seem to recall one of your journal entries you let me read which referred to Jack, Teal’c and me as gorgeous men, and, if I remember the quote correctly, ‘the three hottest pilots I’ve ever flown with (double entente intended).’ I always wanted to ask you about that."

"Daniel, everybody’s got a turn on, hot pilots are mine. The first time I met Jonas, he had just climbed out of his fighter."

Daniel added the fish to the pan and covered it, setting it over the coals. "So I’m guessing Top Gun is your favorite movie."

"Well, its one of them, but Tom Cruz is too short. I like them tall."

"So what else gets you going?"

"Fresh military haircuts, I love to feel short hair on the back of a man’s neck, not the kind where nothing is left, but short."

"Speaking of which, can you cut hair? I’d hate to be out here for six months without a haircut."

"Oh, yeah, I used to cut Mark’s so he could save the money dad gave him for haircuts. So what turns you on?"

"I guess I never thought about it. Its easier to list the turnoffs, like all those girls at the SGC who used to chase me around. I don’t like pushy aggressive women."

"So your lady is meek and submissive?"

Daniel picked up a plate and started dividing up dinner. "I thought we were talking theoretically here."

"Okay," she handed him a fork, "theoretically then."

"No. I want a partner, someone who will treat me as an equal, rather than being bossy or submissive. By the way, you do realize this conversation developed because I insulted you?"

"You can insult my cooking any time," she said around a mouthful of food. "We all have our talents and cooking over a campfire is definitely one of yours."

***

Teal’c brought the death glider to a landing near a large village. He climbed out and reclosed the hatch after warning Marissa and Lonny to wait quietly for his return. He needed to find some food for his temporary family.

***

That night Sam was already wrapped up in the sleeping bag when Daniel crawled into the tent. "You know, I’ve been thinking about the basket. We need to really reinforce the bottom."

"Could we talk about it in the morning?" Sam asked through gritted teeth.

"Sure? Are you okay? You sound like you’re in pain."

"Its just cramps. I don’t get them but a couple of times a year, but when I do, nothing helps."

"I think I can fix that. Lie on your stomach." He loosened the velcro on the sleeping bag and opened it up.

"It hurts when I do that."

"It won’t when I’m done. Trust me. I used to do this for Sha’re."

Sam gingerly rolled on to her stomach.

"Okay, loosen your belt and pull your fatigues down a little and your shirt up. I need to get at your waistline."

"You’re sure this isn’t just a ploy to get me naked?"

Daniel chuckled. "Well, even if it were, tonight is obviously not the night, is it." He started to knead the muscles near her waist and lower back with a subtle gentle motion.

After a few minutes she sighed contentedly. "Um, that feels good. The cramps are almost gone."

"Shh! If I do this right you should be asleep in a few minutes."

When he stopped his efforts she was breathing in sleep mode. He kissed her back, pulled her shirt back down and covered her, before closing up the bag and crawling in himself. He rolled her so her back was toward him and spooned up against her so the heat of his body would continue to warm her back.

‘Well that was nice,’ he thought as he drifted off. ‘I can touch her without exploding. How can she be so unaware of what she does to men? Even Maybourne broke cover and came to help when he found out she was in trouble. That’s part of what makes her so special, I guess, because she doesn’t realize her power.’

***

Teal’c returned from the village with enough supplies to last them for several days. He didn’t like intimidating people, but he had nothing to barter. Actually, everything he asked was given freely, as soon as the people saw his gold tattoo. It seemed Jaffa had been here before, though not recently.

He lifted the death glider into the air and landed again in a remote location so that they would not be disturbed. Lonny had been aboard for almost forty-eight hours and needed time to relax and run. Some of the food he had acquired needed to be cooked to preserve it, so he began to gather firewood as Marissa made preparations for the meal. Lonny skipped along beside him and began to gather kindling under his direction, asking questions about anything and everything as fast as he could answer them. She reminded him of Cassandra when she had first come to Earth and learned that questions were encouraged. Lonny’s enthusiasm was boundless.

When they returned to the campsite, Marissa had already constructed a fire pit, collected water from a nearby stream and was washing vegetables.

Teal’c laid the fire, instructing Lonny in how to place the kindling. When she was finished she asked if she could make mud castles by the stream.

Teal’c sat where he could watch Marissa as she prepared dinner and still keep an eye on Lonny.

"Master Teal’c, if we reach Earth safely, will you take us into your household?" Marissa asked.

"Lady Marissa, my name is Teal’c. I am not a master Jaffa, nor am I your, or anyone else’s, master. Also, I do not have a household, only a room where I rest and keep my personal belongings. When we reach Earth, I will introduce you to General Hammond who commands the SGC. He will help you to decide what you want to do."

"Mas . . . Teal’c, very well, if you are not comfortable with the title of master, I will not use it. However, I have never been called lady before, so would you please just call me Marissa?"

Teal’c nodded.

"Is there work I could do on Earth, perhaps laundry or cooking?"

"There are many types of jobs available to you, or you may wish to learn a skilled trade. There are also several other planets where you would be welcomed if you do not wish to make your home on Earth. However, I think it would be unfair to Lonny to deprive her of the education she could receive on Earth."

"Mas . . . Teal’c, how would I pay for Lonny’s education? Surely I could not find work that would pay enough for this."

"That question would be best asked of Daniel Jackson, who is a highly educated man himself."

Marissa hung a pot over the fire. "There, now we must wait for our dinner to be ready. Will you now teach me this unarmed combat?"

"Yes, but the first thing you must learn is how to fall without hurting yourself."

Teal’c demonstrated and Marissa copied his actions. Lonny came over to watch and soon Teal’c had two students learning to fall. Next, he taught Marissa how to shift her weight and duck, to throw someone over her shoulder and to use a knee to free herself from a frontal attack. They continued to practice for an hour, with enthusiastic assistance from Lonny, until Marissa announced dinner was ready.

As darkness fell, it began to rain and Marissa decided that Lonny must sleep inside the glider to protect her from the damp night. Teal’c unrolled Jaffa sleeping gear underneath the glider’s belly and placed the sleeping bags on top, while Marissa cleared up the remains of their meal and packed their supplies again in preparation for departure the following morning.

When Marissa was in her sleeping bag Teal’c sat down on top of his and prepared to kal-no-reem. As he settled himself into meditation he sensed a presence and opened his eyes. Marissa was kneeling in front of him.

"What troubles you that you cannot sleep?" she asked. "If you are in need, I will serve. You have done so much for us, I offer myself freely." She placed her arms around his neck and kissed him.

Teal’c reached up and gently removed her arms and sat back, continuing to hold her hands.

"Marissa, I do not require service. You are under no obligation to me." He sighed. "I am not as other men."

"Oh," she blushed. "I am sorry. I did not realize that you preferred the company of another man."

"I do not!" Teal’c said more forcefully than he had intended, causing her to shrink back from him and pull her hands free.

"Do not be afraid," he said more quietly. "Do you not remember what you saw when you were a child, when the Goa’uld fell to the beach and a snake crawled out of him?"

Marissa nodded as she said, "I do."

"All Jaffa carry a snake inside. I have one here." He touched his stomach. "If I remove it I will die."

"I know this. What does that have to do with enjoying a woman? Will the snake not allow you? No, that cannot be true. You said you have a son and you once had a wife. I do not understand."

"My wife was Jaffa, she also had a Goa’uld inside."

"Ah, I see, you can only have relations with a Jaffa woman."

Teal’c wished this lovely and desirable woman would stop tempting him. "Human women find the thought of relations with a Jaffa disgusting. Some are taken against their will. I have seen some end their own lives to prevent it."

"I’m sorry, I still do not understand. Would you let your snake harm me or take over my mind?"

"No, of course not!"

"Well, it is beyond my comprehension, but I will say no more, as you obviously want nothing to do with me. Good night, Master Teal’c." She returned to her bed and settled herself for sleep, a little disappointed that he had not taken her up on her offer. It had been a long time for her, the last time had been before Norel was injured. She was glad he had not taken her as payment, but it would have been nice if he had desired her.

Teal’c did not reach a true state of kal-no-reem for some time. He continued to think of Marissa’s words, her obvious lack of disgust concerning him, and most disturbingly, the feel of her lips against his, in the brief moment he had allowed them to linger there.

***

Daniel woke up when Sam coughed. She was still spooned against him and his hands were wrapped around her waist. "You awake?" he whispered in her ear.

"Yes," she sniffed.

"Hey, you’re crying. Are you hurting again?"

"No." Her hand came up to wipe her face. "When I woke up I was feeling wonderful. I was just lying here listening to the birds singing and thinking what a glorious morning it is and how much fun this is turning out to be, when I realized I hadn’t even thought about the Colonel all day yesterday and I thought how awful I was to be enjoying myself. I’m just ashamed."

"Sam look at me." She rolled over and eyed him.

"You look me straight in the eye and tell me that Jack O’Neill would want you to be miserable. You know he wouldn’t." He smiled at her. "Besides I thought of him yesterday for both of us. I thought it was a good thing you had never gone fishing with him."

"Why?"

"Because he would have been so jealous of all the fish you catch without any effort, he would have wanted to kill you."

Sam started to laugh. "Thank you, Daniel, you always make me feel better."

"Good, now let’s get to work. We’ve got lots of weaving to do today." He let go of her and popped out of the sleeping bag, wishing he could continue to hold her for a little longer.

They spent the day collecting and weaving their basket, strengthening the reeds with rope, but setting enough aside to cover the air bag and connect it securely to the basket.

***

Teal’c lifted off the planet’s surface while the rain was still falling in a fine mist. When he reached orbit he was startled to see a Goa’uld mother ship also in orbit. He entered hyperspeed quickly, but had been spotted by the Goa’uld, who sent three death gliders in pursuit.

 

He changed course several times without losing his pursuers, but he was finally forced to drop from hyperspeed and enter an asteroid belt. Two of them followed him in and he managed to out maneuver them and force them into a collision with each other. The explosion caused when they blew apart was very satisfactory and, he hoped, would make the pilot of the third ship believe he had perished as well.

When he finally exited the debris field the other glider was waiting for him and managed to damage his ship. Fortunately, his weapons were not damaged and he put a kill shot into the enemy. Even more fortunate, there was a habitable planet in this system. Teal’c landed and, with Marissa’s help, managed to move the death glider under a rock ledge and cover it with brush, in case there were more pursuers on the way.

They took their supplies and hiked some distance from the glider. This planet had plenty of empty caves and after a fairly strenuous climb, they selected one where they could watch and wait. Lonny discovered a smooth wall and some material which she could use to make lovely black marks, so she busied herself with drawing pictures for a while. Meanwhile Teal’c and Marissa crouched at the cave entrance, watching the skies for approaching death gliders.

"Do you really think more will come?" Marissa asked.

"That is unknown. They should not have followed me at all unless they recognized my machine. We will wait and see."

Marissa nodded and started to knead her shoulders.

"Have you injured yourself?" Teal’c asked.

"I am not used to the physical activity. The training yesterday, and crawling through the hills today have stiffened muscles I did not know I had."

"I should have anticipated that. After a few days of steady practice, your muscles will become more used to the activity. In the meantime I believe I can help." He knelt behind her and began to work her shoulder and back muscles, finding and loosening the knots. It was late in the planet’s afternoon and, as the sun began to set, he stopped, resting his hands on her shoulders.

"I believe we are safe for now. We will rest here tonight and in the morning I will return to the glider to see what repairs are needed."

She leaned back against him, her hair, still smelling of apples and spice, brushed against his cheek. "It is a beautiful sunset," she said.

"It is indeed," he agreed.

They sat there like that for several minutes, neither wanting to break the spell. As the sunset settled into twilight, Marissa turned to him. "I have been thinking of the things you said last night. I want you to know that you do not disgust me. I also want you to know that I offered myself, not because I felt a debt, but because I believe you are an honorable and good man. I understand that you reject me because I am not Jaffa, and I am sorry, but I would like to consider you my friend, if that is permitted."

"Marissa," Teal’c whispered, "I would be honored by your friendship and, perhaps, if you truly wish it, something more." He took her face in his hands and kissed her gently and then pulled back to look at her and assure himself she was not offended or afraid. When she smiled up at him, he put his arms around her and kissed her again.

He was just thinking that perhaps they both needed to breathe when Lonny appeared beside them and said, "Oh, good. I’m glad you and mommy like each other, Teal’c. Its too dark to draw anymore. Can we have dinner now?"

***

Sam and Daniel were sitting cross-legged working on the basket which was beginning to take shape between them. Sam was reaching into her vest for her Swiss army knife with the marlinspike tool attachment when her fingers found one of the Goa’uld staff weapon power devices she had picked up at the Goa’uld encampment.

"Oh my God!" She jumped up and ran to her pack and started searching through her gear. "I’ve been really stupid. We don’t need to build a fire under the balloon. All we need to do is heat the air."

Daniel stopped what he was doing and gave her his attention. He knew from experience that when Sam went into ‘eureka mode’ something really cool and important would follow.

She sat and started pulling gadgets out and muttering to herself as he wandered over to watch her work. He loved to watch her do this. Sometimes the things she put together with a few wires and electrical gizmos seemed magical. It was like watching old MacGyver reruns, only Sam’s delicate fingers were much more fun to follow as she taped and cut and connected things.

After a while his curiosity got the better of him and he looked over her shoulder, doing his best imitation of Jack and said, "Whatcha doin?"

Sam sat back and wiped her hand across her face, leaving a gray-green smudge on her cheek. He desperately wanted to lick a finger and wipe it off, but he restrained himself.

"I’m using one of the staff weapon power supplies to create a motor that will suck in air and heat it. Now all we have to do is create the funnel to get the air up into the balloon. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. And while I was looking for the parts I need, I found some glue I think we can use to make the slickers into a balloon. Here." She tossed him a tube.

"Okay, I’ll start on that first thing in the morning. I’m going to go work on dinner. I think I’ll have some surprises for you too."

***

"Lonny is sound asleep and snug and warm in the inner cave." Marissa sat down next to Teal’c at the cave entrance and looked out at one of the planet’s moons which was high in the sky. "I have been thinking that one of the things I must learn, if I am to live there, is the language of Earth. Will you teach me? I have already learned two words, Earth and deathglider."

Teal’c chuckled softly, "Earth has many languages. Daniel Jackson is proficient in more than twenty of them and I believe there are at least that many more, but do not be discouraged. The language I speak is English. It is spoken by the people of the United States and also many of the people of Canada, which is the country immediately north of the USA. USA is what the people of the United States of America call their country. It is an acronym, that is an English word, made up of the first letters of the three words which make up the country’s name. The people of Canada call themselves Canadians. They too are Americans, for both countries, along with Mexico to the south, make up the Continent of North America." Teal’c drew an outline on the dirt floor, easily seen in the light of the full moon.

Canada has two official languages, French and English. French is a beautiful language, I am told by Daniel Jackson, Major Carter, and Colonel O’Neill, who all speak it. You need to know a little about Canada as well as the USA, because the Cheyenne Mountain complex where I live and work, has Canadian personnel as well as those from the US. These two countries share the defense of North America.

Now death glider is actually two words, the name was given by Colonel O’Neill, who frequently gives English names to off-world technology. Death means to cease to live. A glider is a type of metal flying dragon which moves through the air because the wind pushes it. A true glider has no mechanism driving it, no engine, and may not even be made of metal, but a death glider of course does have an engine. That is one of the confusing things about English. Many words have several meanings."

Teal’c went on talking and explaining for several hours, stopping to have Marissa repeat words and going back to review them periodically. She had been leaning against his shoulder, and when he felt her breathing change, he placed her on her sleeping bag and covered her with a blanket. Then he sat down beside her to begin his kal-no-reem. He had always enjoyed kal-no-reem off-world with his sleeping teammates nearby. He found having Marissa sleeping near was calming and aided in his concentration.

***

"Daniel, you are a culinary genius. You made cornbread out of just corn and water?"

"Well, I used another sugar packet, too."

"And blueberries! That was great. Thank you."

"You’re welcome. I’ve got more though. First of all, happy birthday."

"What?"

"Check the date on your watch. Its your birthday. Also, I have these." He handed her a bar of hotel sized face soap and tiny bottles of shampoo and hand lotion. "I found them buried in the bottom of my pack. And for the biggest surprise of all, you need to bring your towel and clean clothes and come with me." He led her up a nearby hill and into the tiny valley on the other side. "This is why I made dinner early, so I could bring you here before dark." He stopped near a small body of water, no bigger around than a good sized swimming pool, with a waterfall cascading down into it.

"Its a lovely pool, Daniel."

"Its a warm spring, Sam. If you notice, the air temperature is warmer here and the water temperature is about right for bath water. I think its really a hot spring, but the falls cool it down. Have fun."

He left her then and crossed back into the valley where they were camped, resisting the urge to stay and watch her bathe. While he waited for her to return he continued working on the basket.

Sam was gone a long time. It was dark when she finally returned using the flashlight on her P-90 to guide her way.

"That was heavenly. Its wonderful to have really clean hair again. I saved most of the soap, but it took half of the shampoo to get the grime out of my hair. I saved all of the hand lotion. I figure we might need it more this winter when our hands get really chapped." She headed toward the tent.

"Oh, one more thing," Daniel pulled the tent flap back for her, "I aired out the sleeping bag so it should smell fresh too. Now I’m going to take a shower. I’ll be quiet when I come back, in case you’re asleep." He took the battle lantern and went up the hill whistling.

He tried to be quiet when he crawled into the tent later to take off his boots, but found Sam was still awake.

"Daniel, you need to know something before you come to bed. Everything else is so nice and clean in here and I even found a clean T-shirt to put on, but my fatigues are all dirty and smelly so I took them off. I do have clean underwear on though."

"O-Kay, uh, I was going to tell you that I would wash all our clothes in the spring tomorrow, since we’ll be here a few days."

"That would be great. You would make a wonderful house husband for a career woman. Do you sew too?"

"As a matter of fact. However, my house cleaning skills leave a lot to be desired. I’m the typical messy male in that respect."

Sam laughed. "I know, I’ve seen your apartment. Anyway, I just wanted to warn you there’s a lot more me than you’re used to finding in here."

"Okay. I’m sorry I don’t have either a clean T-shirt or pants. On the bright side, I did manage to come up with clean underwear. There is a blanket I can curl up in out here, but I’m staying in the tent."

"Daniel, don’t be stupid. Get in here with me. I don’t want you getting sick again."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, in fact I insist."

"With or without yucky clothes?"

"Your choice, but if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, without."

"Okay, you do remember you’re my sister? You’re not going to ravish me in the middle of the night?" ‘Don’t I wish,’ he thought, as he sat to pull off his boots and socks, shucked his T-shirt and then stood to take off his pants.

"Too bad its dark in here, I don’t get to enjoy the show," Sam said.

"Uh huh, well, you’ll be able to answer the boxers or briefs question for the rest of the base now, anyway."

Sam giggled. "Oh, I’ve known the answer to that for a very long time. Its briefs."

Daniel eased himself in beside her. "How can you possibly know that?"

"Daniel, how many times have you been unconscious and I had to give you first aid. Loosening clothing is a basic first aid procedure."

"So my naked body is no mystery to you. Shit! That’s really embarrassing."

"I didn’t say naked. I guess I missed my opportunity when we had that foothold situation and I ended up wearing your body. I could have looked then, but I never thought of it."

"I bet that was really weird. What did it feel like? I remember when Machello took over mine and I was in his. That was awful."

Sam thought for a minute. "It wasn’t really like I was you, it was sort of like wearing a Halloween costume. It was still me inside, but everybody else saw you."

"Hmm, I’m sorry I was unconscious for that one. I seem to miss most of the body switching fun." Daniel suddenly realized that they were lying face to face, practically naked, having one of their fascinating conversations. And then he realized that he would be happy to stay here for the rest of his life, even if he could never touch her.

His dreams that night revolved around building a house for Sam with a restaurant attached, where he would cook marvelous meals for her alone.

He woke up somewhere in the middle of the night. They had both migrated to the center again while they slept. One of her arms was wrapped around his neck and the other was around his waist. She was laying with her head on his shoulder, her breasts beneath the thin T-shirt pressed against his chest. His other arm wound around her back holding her close. He felt her eyelashes flutter against his shoulder and knew she was awake too.

Before he could decide what to do she whispered, "Danny?"

When anyone else called him that he bristled, but when Sam did, he melted. She didn’t do it often, mostly when she was very afraid for him, and never when anyone else could hear.

"I’m awake Sam. Are you all right?"

"I was dreaming that it was you that crashed in the glider and that you were still alive but it was on fire and when I tried to get you out I couldn’t move, and then I woke up and I couldn’t move."

"That’s because I’m holding you so tightly." He tried a little truth again. "I usually sleep with my back to you for a reason. It seems, if I’m facing you, I just naturally end up holding you."

"Um!" She stretched and that drove him to the edge.

"Sam, I really need my arm back. Its asleep," he lied desperately.

"I think we’ve played this scene before, Daniel. I can’t move until you let me go."

"Oh, right!"

***

"Daniel!"

"What?" He opened his eyes and saw daylight. They were still wrapped in each others arms.

"We really have to stop meeting like this," Sam said into his shoulder.

"Ya think?" He said in his Jack voice. "Was I dreaming, or did I actually fall back asleep in the middle of untangling us?"

"Yes you did, and since it wasn’t my arm that was numb, I did too."

"Okay, I’m moving," he said. "Turn around."

"Oh, please! Just get up."

"Yes, Major, but when we get back I’m filing sexual harassment charges." He stood and fumbled for his fatigue pants.

"Mmm, nice legs!"

"All right smart ass, now you get up and let me see yours. Fair is fair."

Sam slid out of the sleeping bag and lifted one leg straight in the air, toe pointed at the sky, brought it down and did the same with the other. Then she put both in the air and slowly slid her fatigues down them until she reached her waist. She sat up and reached for her bra, hooking it around her waist, sliding her arms out of her sleeves and inside the straps all in one motion, then back into the sleeves. Daniel got no more than a flash of midriff during the entire process.

"That was pretty neat," he said.

"The whole birthday was pretty neat. I’ve never had a birthday sleepover before. Thank you for a wonderful day." She planted one of her feather light kisses on his lips and was out of the tent and sitting by the fire putting on her socks before he could move.

‘And that was definitely the best unbirthday I’ve ever had,’ Daniel thought as he sat back down to put his own socks on.

***

Teal’c checked the area around the cave one last time, prepared to slither out into the underbrush to work his way toward the death glider to make repairs.

Marissa touched his shoulder and he turned toward her as she moved into his arms.

"Be careful, Teal’c," she said between kisses. "Come back to us safely."

"I will be safe now," he said with a smile as he disengaged her hands from his neck. "You have given me the traditional warning. In Earth drama that is a guarantee of safe return." He kissed her once more and then crawled out of the cave.

Making his way to the glider with all senses alert for danger, he managed to also think of the marvel of Marissa, a human woman who did not fear him, and, in addition, desired him. He thought about asking her to stay with him when they reached Earth, but decided, once she discovered human men would want her, she would no longer desire him. He suppressed these thoughts as he reached the glider and began to remove the camouflage so he could access the damage.

He was underneath the glider some hours later, completing his makeshift repairs, when he heard a twig snap nearby. He had not brought his staff weapon, instead leaving it in the cave with Marissa as it was too big and clumsy and caught in the underbrush. He did have his zat and his hand was on it now, ready to extend it into firing position.

Nothing happened for a few minutes and he was beginning to think a forest creature had caused the twig to snap, when he heard voices approaching.

"My sensors showed it close by," one said.

"How anything as big as a flying metal dragon could land in this forest is beyond me," the other remarked.

"Maybe it is an old crash and the forest has grown up around it," the first voice replied.

They were right on him now and he lunged from under the glider, firing as he went. The two approaching Jaffa each received two zats and crumpled to the ground. Then a staff blast from an entirely different direction went thundering by his head, barely licking the top of his shoulder. He dropped and rolled and was ready to come up firing again, when he heard two more staff blasts directed toward his new attackers, followed by dead silence.

Teal’c worked his way toward his latest attackers’ position and found two more dead Jaffa, blasted by staff weapon fire.

Behind him, he heard Marissa gasp as she came to the first two dead Jaffa, and then her tentative whisper, "Teal’c?"

"I am here," he said, standing up. "It is safe now. You have killed them."

She ran to him, still carrying his smoking staff, and threw herself into his arms. "I saw them from the cave after you left. There were four of them sneaking toward you. I had to stop them." She continued to hold on to him tightly.

"You did well Marissa. I am proud of you. You have done a warrior’s work this day. Come, let us see what method of transport our attackers used and what supplies they may have."

Teal’c and Marissa backtracked the Jaffa to a deserted teltac. "This ship is much slower than the death glider but it has an air supply that will sustain us and room to move about. This way we will not need to land again until we reach a stargate. This is a fortunate circumstance also, for our glider is again without hyperdrive capability. We will take this teltac. I believe I can land it closer to the cave so we can pick up Lonny and be on our way."

Marissa investigated the roomy teltac, while Teal’c made the short hop back to the cave. She found sleeping areas, a place to wash and relieve oneself and plenty of foodstuffs.

Teal’c hovered next to the cave as Marissa hopped out and collected Lonny and their belongings, then he lifted off and entered hyperspace, unpursued, as far as he could ascertain.

***

Daniel divided his day between laundry and balloon making in the valley of the warm spring, switching back and forth on the two tasks. Meanwhile, Sam perfected her heat engine and designed a system to force the hot air into the balloon.

That evening they dined on elk and afterwards took turns in their luxurious bathtub. Just before Daniel returned to the campsite, he checked the clothes he had hung up to dry.

When he got back to Sam he said, "I have some bad news. Most of our stuff won’t be dry until tomorrow, so I guess we have to sleep bare legged again. I do have a dry T-shirt to wear now, however."

"I don’t mind, if you don’t," Sam said, as she arranged herself against his shoulder. "In fact, its probably healthier. Its certainly more comfortable."

"Uh, right, um, I think it will take two or three days for the balloon to be ready. I want to give it several coats of pitch and let it dry between each coat."

Sam draped her arm around his waist. "Daniel, I’ve been meaning to ask you something, I just don’t quite know how to approach it. I don’t want to offend you or upset you."

"What is it? You know you can ask me anything," he said in that deep rumble that made her heart rate quicken.

"Okay. Promise you won’t be upset?"

"I promise."

"Have you ever thought about, uh, um . . ."

"Have I ever thought about what?" he asked in his most patient voice, the one with the smile she could hear in the dark.

"Did you ever think another guy was, well, good looking?"

"As in, who would I think was good enough to date you?" The smile was still there.

"No, more like did you ever meet a guy you would want to spend time with?"

"Sam, I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking. I can think of many men I’d love to sit down and talk with, historians, astronauts, even a couple of ex-presidents."

Sam sighed. "Okay, that’s interesting and maybe we can have that discussion on the march one day, but that’s not where I’m going with this. Uh . ."

"Wait a minute!" He turned on his side toward her, dumped her off his shoulder and groped for the battle lantern, switched it on and turned it toward her. "Are you asking me if I’m gay?"

"Well, not exactly. I guess I’m asking if you ever thought about trying it."

"Good God, no! What would make you ask me something like that, unless . . ." He turned off the lantern and said softly, "unless there’s a woman that you’re thinking about, maybe somebody you miss a lot?"

"No, nothing like that!" she said with exasperation.

"Well then, why?" He slipped his arm back around her and she leaned her head against his shoulder again. He began to play with her hair, winding it behind her ear. "Sam?" He was using that soft, sexy rumble again.

"Its just that we’ve been in this sleeping bag for what, ten nights now, and we’ve been sleeping wrapped together and you never, well, except for kissing my nose . . ."

"So nose kissing is acceptable?" He kissed her nose and quickly drew back.

"Daniel!" She batted his arm.

"And that means what, that nose kissing is no longer acceptable?"

"Okay, I guess you really do think of me as your sister, don’t you?"

"Well, you know I never had one, and I can’t think of anyone else in this world, no pun intended, I care about as much as you. I can tell you my secrets, my fears, my ambitions, and you always listen and sympathize."

"Daniel, lovers do that all the time."

"Sam, is that what this is about? Do you need sex?"

"No, yes, no! God, Daniel, you touch me like you love me!"

"I do love you, Sam."

"I know you do, but I mean you touch me like a lover. You’re playing with my hair right now."

"Oh!" He stopped and moved his hand. "That’s just a nervous habit, I guess."

"Goodnight, Daniel!" She rolled on her side away from him.

"Goodnight, Sam." He sighed inaudibly and turned his back, trying to focus on Teal’c’s breathing techniques. It was no use. After that conversation, they wouldn’t come. After that conversation, nothing settled him down for a long time. Finally, he hit on deciding how much weight they could carry in the balloon and what they would have to leave behind. He was counting potatoes when his brain finally shut down.

***

Teal’c had the automatic pilot engaged and was teaching Lonny to play checkers with a makeshift playing set he had created. Marissa was struggling to cook a meal in the Jaffa version of a galley.

"How long will it take us to get to Earth?" Lonny asked as she moved a checker.

"A very long time. I calculate it will take about five to five and a half months, as the Tau’ri reckon time, to reach a stargate we can use. From there we can go directly to the SGC on Earth."

"Are there any children in the SGC?"

"Not usually, but we will find you a school with many children for you to play with."

"Will we live under the ground in your SGC?"

"No, Lonny, we will find a nice house for you and your mother to live in, with a yard and a swing and, perhaps, a dog."

"Will you live there with us, Teal’c?"

Teal’c saw Marissa eyeing him over Lonny’s head. "Perhaps. We will see."

"What is a dog?" Lonny asked as she jumped three of his checkers and reached the king row.

"Dinner’s ready," Marissa called.

"I concede defeat, Mistress Lenore. Come, I will carry you on my shoulders to the dining room, where I will regale you with stories of famous dogs like Rin-Tin-Tin, and Lassie, and Snoopy."

***

When Daniel opened his eyes, he was relieved to find he and Sam were still facing away from each other. In fact, he discovered, he was clutching the side of the sleeping bag in both fists, apparently to hold himself in place. Sam was still asleep, so he slid out, grabbed his pants, socks and boots and headed for the fire pit. He lit the fire and put the water on to boil. He took a tea bag he had only used twice out of its plastic bag and put it in the water to steep while he peeled an egg for breakfast. By the time he figured he had gotten all he was going to get out of the tea bag, Sam was out of the tent and approaching the fire.

"Good morning," she called. "You’re up early."

"Yes, I wanted to get an early start on the balloon. I’ve been thinking I might want to stay in the valley with the warm spring and not keep coming back and forth. I can get the balloon ready quicker that way."

"Okay, I’m pretty much done with the power source. I’ll start working on attaching the ropes to the basket and putting the lines in place. Then all we have to do is move the basket to the other valley and attach the balloon when its ready."

"Sounds good. I’ll be on my way then, as soon as I clear out a pack for our clean clothes."

***

In the little valley, Daniel gathered pine pitch, heated it with a zat blast and began spreading it over the joined and shaped slickers. When he was done with the first layer, he washed the pitch out of his hands and folded the clean laundry and put it safely away in the pack.

He would let this layer dry in the sun until noon and then put on the next one. He really had no reason to stay in the warm valley overnight but figured he needed to spend a night or two away from Sam. She was getting very close to the truth and he could not decide if she just had a physical need, or if there was more behind her prodding. He knew he couldn’t keep himself from telling her how much he loved her, if he let himself service her need. God, that was a cold, clinical term! He shouldered the pack and trudged back to the campsite.

He found Sam crouched by the stream, with her left hand plunged in the icy water and tears streaming down her face. She was shivering uncontrollably. "What happened?" he asked as he dropped on his knees beside her.

"Nothing important," she answered, wiping angrily at her face, "I just did something stupid. I was charring the rope ends so they wouldn’t unravel and I picked one up while it was still hot."

"How long have you had your hand in the water?"

"About twenty minutes, it still hurts."

"Let me see." He gently lifted her hand to see her palm and the inside of her fingers which had angry red welts and some small blisters. He replaced it in the cold water and reached in his pocket for the plastic bag containing the used tea bag. He flicked the tea bag out on the ground, rinsed the plastic bag, and chopped some ice from the frozen stream into it. Then he wrapped it in a clean handkerchief.

"Okay, take your arm out. I want you to lie on my lap with your left arm toward my body. Lift your arm and lean it against my shoulder." He placed the wrapped bag gently against the palm of her hand. "Now just relax. Elevating it should take some of the pain away and we’ll continue to keep it cold for another few minutes with the ice, although I think that’s done about all the good it can. Why didn’t you call me on the radio?"

"I didn’t think it was that bad at first and then it hurt too much. I guess I’m just being a baby but it really throbs. God, I’ve been tortured and it didn’t hurt this bad!"

"I’m going to set you down for a minute and get the first aid kit. Can you hold your left hand up in the air with your right for a minute?"

"Okay."

"I’ll be right back." He slid out from under her and laid her gently on the ground. He grabbed the first aid kit and the spare blankets from the tent, smoothed out the ground next to a big rock and put down a blanket and then moved Sam to the blanket, sitting down with his back against the rock and her bad arm against his shoulder, cradling her head against his knee. He fumbled in the first aid supplies for some painkiller and put the pills in her right hand.

"Okay, I’m going to sit you up a little so you can take the pills and wash them down." He held the canteen for her as she swallowed a little water. When she was done, he wrapped all but her left arm in the other blanket. He reached up with his left hand and held her arm in place against his shoulder. "The pills should help soon, I gave you the strongest stuff we’ve got. Just stay still for a few minutes."

"Daniel, how do you always know what to do? I’ve taken lots of first aid courses, but its instinctive with you, isn’t it?"

"Your training is in broken bones and bullet wound care. I’ve spent most of my life in the bush in one place or another, and the rest in foster homes, where kids get into anything and everything."

He began to tell her a story of a playground disaster where a swing set had collapsed on a bank of teeter-totters with bloodied and broken children thrown in all directions, and he was the only one uninjured.

"It was in Israel, Sam, and the terrorists had set a bomb in the playground. I was seven at the time. I was saved because the swings were all taken by the big kids and nobody wanted to let the four eyed geek on the teeter-totters."

He watched her eyes flutter closed and knew the pain medication he had given her was doing its job. He reached up and very gently removed the handkerchief covered plastic bag from her hand and tossed it aside, while carefully keeping the hand up and open to the air. He leaned back against the rock at an angle that should keep her arm in place for a while without him holding it.

"Oh, Sam," he whispered, "I wish there was a way to keep you from ever being hurt again. I’ve seen the scars you bear, the stripes on your back from Turghan’s lash, the knife wound across your stomach, the one on your hand where you disarmed the convict near Cheyenne Mountain. I know there are some I can’t see, bullet wounds and staff scorches and God knows what all." He sighed and slowly lowered her arm so the upper part was resting on his leg and only the lower portion was raised. He continued to hold this in place against him as he leaned down and gently kissed her.

"I love you baby. I’m sorry. If I hadn’t been so concerned about my own feelings I might have been here with you, and this wouldn’t have happened." He raised his head and examined her hand. Some of the redness had gone and her fingertips had returned to normal. There were still some angry welts on her palm and one of the blisters was much bigger.

Sam lay quietly on his lap for about an hour and then began to whimper. Suddenly her eyes flew open and she sat up clutching her left hand with her right, trying to peel the skin off with her nails. Her body began to jerk in a rhythm that reminded him of Orthodox Jews dovening in a synagogue. She was crying silently and biting her lip. "It hurts, it hurts, it feels like acid is eating me! I can’t stand it!" Her voice started as a whimper and rose almost to a scream.

Daniel grabbed her hand and held it as she tried to scrape at the blisters. The big one had already burst open. When he looked in the open wound he saw something alive inside, a worm or a bug, he couldn’t tell what it was.

"Sam, stop!" He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. "Listen to me! There is something alive in your wound. You have to be still so I can get it out. Do you understand?"

"Y-yes," she sobbed.

"Okay, put on your officer face, lay back and hold your left hand with your right, palm up. I’m going to have to dig it out."

He pawed through the first aid kit, finding forceps and alcohol. He poured alcohol over the forceps and then over her hand. Then he began to probe the open sore. He dragged a wormlike creature about a quarter inch long out of the wound and flipped it away. Then he poured more alcohol in the wound and on the forceps and opened the other two blisters, which were not infested. Once he was done, he wrapped her hand loosely in gauze that had come pretreated with antiseptic.

"Okay, its done. You can relax now."

Sam had remained perfectly quiet during the entire procedure, except for her shaking body and the tears that had continued to pour down her face past her clenched lips. As soon as he told her she could relax, she wilted against him. Daniel thought she had fainted until she whispered, "the horrible pain is gone. It still hurts like crazy but nothing like before."

After a minute she turned and sat up so that she was resting between his legs with her head laying back against his shoulder. His right hand was around her waist to steady her and his left was smoothing the hair away from her face and picking at the dead leaves that had found their way into her hair when she was laying on the ground. Each time he pulled a leaf free he kissed that spot on her head. This went on for some time. Sam was half awake and enjoying the sensation. When the ache receded, she began to be more aware of her surroundings.

"Daniel," she asked softly, "what are you doing?"

"Just picking dirt and leaves out of your hair."

"And what else are you doing?"

"Nothing."

"It feels to me that you are kissing my hair, too."

"Well, now that you mention it. Um, is that not allowed either?"

"That’s not the point." Her voice was still soft and lazy. "Why are you kissing my hair?"

"Because that’s the only part of you that’s not off limits," he said before he could stop himself.

"And what parts would you like to kiss?"

"Oh, Sam, don’t start. God, I was so scared I didn’t know what to do."

"You did all the right things. I think that creature must have been on the rope and somehow got into me through the burn. It felt like acid in there. That’s probably how it breaks up its food so it can eat."

She was quiet for a minute. "I think I can get up now."

"You sure?"

"Let’s try it."

He helped her to her feet and she leaned against him, getting her balance. When he let go of her she started to fall and he scooped her up in his arms and carried her to the tent. "Okay, you took care of me when I was sick. This is going to be your sick day." He put her down on top of the sleeping bag and began to untie her boots. "I want you inside. You’re in shock. You need to lay down and relax for the rest of the day. I’m going to heat up the last of the pheasant broth for you. Then I want you to take a nap." He loosened her belt and pulled her fatigues off. "I need to get you up for just a second while I open up the bag. Can you do that for me?"

"Daniel, I’m not an invalid. I can stand up on my own." He helped her to her feet and she stood, feet braced wide apart to steady herself as he opened up the sleeping bag. Then he eased her down on it and closed it up again.

"Now just relax. I’ll be back in a few minutes with the broth and I’ll bring you a full canteen of water, too." He backed out of the tent and made his way to the fire pit to heat the broth.

When he returned Sam was almost asleep. He helped her to sit up and held the cup as she slowly drank the broth a sip at a time. While she was doing that he told her about a dig in North Africa where the camp cook refused to cook anything that didn’t involve chicken. "We had chicken soup, chicken stew, boiled chicken, baked chicken, chicken burgers, chicken steak, chicken fritters, fried chicken, barbecued chicken, and chicken omelets. That’s another reason I didn’t want to have anything to do with those chickens we found." He continued to talk about the cook until she finished her broth and was laying down again.

"Now I want you to take that nap baby. I’ll sit with you until you fall asleep, but don’t be alarmed if I’m not here when you wake up. I’ll leave your radio right here so you can reach it. I’m just going to go over to the other valley and put another coat of pitch on the balloon. Okay?"

"Okay," Sam said sleepily. She reached out with her right hand and took his. "You promise you’ll come back if I call?"

"I promise." Daniel sat quietly waiting for her to fall asleep, remembering the first time he had carried her in his arms. She had cut her hand that time, too.

***

She was on her way home from work when her car died, barely out of sight of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Station Complex. She managed to get it to move on to the shoulder and got out to take a look under the hood and was checking the distributor when she heard a voice behind her say, "You need some help little lady?"

She turned to see a disreputable looking man in his late 30s or early 40s, with greasy hair and dirt smudges on his shirt and pants. Behind him was an aged pickup truck pulled off on the shoulder.

"No thanks," she said, giving him a polite smile. "I can handle it."

She started to turn back to the car when he grabbed her and put a knife to her throat. She grabbed his knife hand, bent his thumb the wrong way, stepped on his foot, swung around, kicked him in the kneecap and smacked the handle of the knife up under his nose, breaking the nose and cutting her hand in the process. She grabbed her cell phone and speed dialed the guard shack at the Mountain and then dialed 911, for the local police.

Daniel had stopped at the gate to talk to one of the guards and heard her call. He left his car in the middle of the road and jumped in with the SFs who were going to assist and borrowed a sidearm from one of them. When he jumped out of the jeep he was already pointing his weapon at the attacker and kept it on him until the SFs had him handcuffed. Then he safed it, stuck it in the back of his belt under his shirt and went to Sam.

"You all right?" he asked.

"I’m fine, but that was impressive."

"What?"

"You did the cop thing perfectly. You even put the gun away in the small of your back and covered it with your shirt."

He blushed. "Well, I’ve been watching a lot of cop shows I guess. You know you’re bleeding. Let me see that."

He took her hand and examined it. There was a two or three inch long, deep gouge. He grabbed a big white handkerchief out of his pocket, mumbled, "Its clean," and wrapped it around her hand.

Just then they began to hear sirens coming up the mountain and three vehicles, two of them with police markings, slammed to a stop. The middle vehicle was Jack’s pickup truck. The police surrounded it and yelled for him to put his hands on the wheel and not move.

"Its all right," Sam called, "I’m Major Samantha Carter, US Air Force." The SFs nodded affirmatively to the police. "That’s my commanding officer, Colonel Jack O’Neill. He was responding to my distress call."

The police holstered their weapons and Jack climbed out of his truck and came over.

"So what you got, Carter?" he asked.

"Just some creep who tried to take advantage of me when my car stalled out, sir."

"Excuse me, Major," one of the police officers joined the group. "What you got is an escaped convict who is being hunted in three states." He looked at Daniel. "Congratulations sir, nice take down."

Daniel laughed. "Not me, officer, Major Carter was alone on the road. The rest of us got here just before you did."

Jack and Daniel took her back to Cheyenne Mountain and Janet stitched and dressed her hand and invited them all to her house for dinner. Cassie was making spaghetti with home made meat balls and they would be her guinea pigs. They grabbed Teal’c and Jack drove them to Janet’s.

Aside from the fact that the meatballs came out more like mini hamburgers, dinner turned out to be pretty good, Daniel remembered. Teal’c insisted guests were supposed to bring the wine, so they had stopped at a carryout to pick up some, and some sparkling grape juice for Cassie. She overdid the garlic bread a little to the point where they were all waving their hands in front of their noses when any of them got near each other and everyone drank a little too much wine to soften the garlic’s bite, except Teal’c of course.

They had all gone to bed pretty early. Teal’c took Jack home and drove his truck back to the base. Sam got the spare bedroom and Daniel took the couch.

She woke up about 0200. Her hand was aching badly and her mouth was, well, garlicky again, she said, so she wandered to the kitchen for some milk and to take the pills Janet had left for her.

Daniel was standing at the sink drinking ice water.

"Try milk," Sam said. "It will soothe your tongue." She reached in the refrigerator and grabbed a carton and then went for a glass with her sore hand. She didn’t break the glass, but the milk ended up splattered all over the floor. She started to turn pale and looked like she was going to collapse so Daniel pushed her into a kitchen chair with her head down and knelt in front of her holding her shoulders.

"I’m fine, really," she assured him and then brought the bad hand up and banged it against the table, hard!

She did faint then and he scooped her up and carried her back to the bedroom, placed her gently on the bed and said, "I’m going to get Janet."

"No," she protested. "I’m fine. I just whacked my hand on the table."

"Baby, you’re bleeding all over the place," he stated as he ripped the case off a pillow and wrapped her hand again. "Here, hold this in place with your good hand. I’m getting Janet now."

Janet redid the stitches that had popped loose and made Sam promise not to leave the bed again without permission.

When Janet was done, Daniel brought Sam a glass of milk and laid a sleeping bag out on the floor. He had stayed there the rest of the night, just in case she needed anything, he remembered.

***

He stayed beside her in the tent, until her hand dropped out of his. He tucked that arm inside the sleeping bag, kissed her forehead, and headed for the other valley, remembering to turn on his radio. He figured she would sleep a couple of hours, based on the dosage of the pain medication, and he knew he had enough time to put another coat on the balloon and get back before then.

***

Lonny was enchanted with the bunkroom in the teltac and made no complaint about going to bed. When she was settled in, Marissa rejoined Teal’c on the bridge.

"I thought you had gone to bed with Lonny," Teal’c said as she sat down. He had removed his shirt and was trying to put some salve on the staff burn on his shoulder.

"Here, let me do that." She took the tube away from him. "Sit down so I can reach the burn."

"It is not really necessary. My symbiot will heal me. The salve is only to keep it from itching as it heals."

"Nevertheless, it is easier if I do it. Sit."

Teal’c subsided into the pilot chair as Marissa very gently rubbed the salve on his shoulder. "There it is done. It would probably be best if you left your shirt off until it dries." She came around in front of him. "Are these marks the opening where your symbiot resides?"

"Yes."

"May I see it?"

"No. I would not subject you to such a sight."

"Do you and the symbiot communicate?"

"No. It is a Goa’uld. It does not communicate with the Jaffa that carries it. I once knew a Jaffa who had learned to communicate with her symbiot and it tricked her into thinking that it wished to change its ways. It killed her instead, but before that she had convinced me to communicate with mine. It is pure evil, a vile, unclean creature. I do not wish you to ever have to see it. I will wrap myself so that it may never come out in your presence." He rose and went to a compartment containing first aid supplies and found the wrapping he needed and put it on.

"Teal’c, I sense that you still feel I am repelled by you because of this symbiot. I am not. It is not your fault that you must bear this burden." She put her arms around him and pulled his head down to kiss her. "There is more than one sleeping compartment. Come to bed with me."

"I do not sleep."

"Then come to bed with me until I fall asleep." She looked into his eyes.

"Very well," Teal’c said softly as she led him by the hand to the sleeping compartment.

***

When Daniel returned Sam was still asleep. He finished up the basket, finding several more of the worms imbedded in one of the ropes. He laid all the rope out very carefully, using forceps, and zatted each one twice, going back to pick out the dead worms when he was finished. Apparently, he thought, the worms had decided the rope was a wonderful place to make a nest, which just proved that not everything on the planets they visited had its origin on Earth.

Sam woke up late in the afternoon feeling much better. He allowed her to get up and sit by the fire, wrapped in a blanket, while he made dinner and told her how he had exterminated the worms. "Who knows when they crawled in there," he said. "They might even have come from one of the other planets we visited. We haven’t been in that part of our gear since we left Earth."

After dinner he told Sam the story of Camilla, the Amazon warrior in the Aeneid. "She reminds me a little bit of you Sam. ‘The warrior girl whose hands were never deft at distaff or wool basket, skills of Minerva, she was hard and trained to take the shock of war. Men and women thronged her passage way and stared with wide-eyed admiration at the style of royal purple, robing her smooth shoulders, then at the brooch that bound her hair in gold, then at the Lycian quiver that she bore and shepherd’s myrtle staff, pointed with steel. Her Volscian squads behind her, Camilla came, hard-riding warrior queen. Before the gates she lept down from her mount, and her whole troop, taking the cue, dismounted at the same instant slipping to the earth. She spoke then, saying, ‘Turnus, as confidence goes hand in hand with bravery that earned it, now I dare and undertake to meet Aeneas’ horsemen, charging the Tuscan cavalry alone. Let me first risk the combat at close quarters.’ His eyes intent upon the awesome virgin, Turnus answered: ‘Virgin, glory of Italy, how tell my gratitude, or how repay my debt? Courageous spirit, towering above all here, now share the toil with me. You take the field, engage the Tuscan horse; Messapus and the Latin cavalry will be there with you, and Tiberius’ troop. Plan your battle as my co-commander.’

Then there’s a section where Camilla’s childhood is discussed. ‘Here in the undergrowth amid rough haunts of beasts he nursed his daughter, putting her to the breast of a wild mare whose teats he milked into her tender mouth. When the small child took her first steps, he armed her hands with a sharp javelin, and hung a bow and quiver from her infant shoulder. No gold headband, no flowing outer garment covered her, but a tiger skin hung down her back from head to foot; and as a child she flung play darts with her soft hands and whirled a sling-stone on a strap around her head to fell a crane of Strymon or a swan. The girl remained untouched and ever cherished passion for arms and for virginity.’

After that Virgil goes back to describing the battle. ‘Camilla’s wing came into view, defenders in the field, with lances drawn back, then in forward thrusts and with a brandishing of javelins. Amid the carnage, like an Amazon, Camilla rode exultant, one breast bared for fighting ease, her quiver at her back. At times she flung slim javelins thick and fast, at times, tireless, caught up her two-edged ax. The golden bow, Diana’s weapon, rang upon her shoulders; yes, when she gave ground, forced to retreat, with bow unslung in flight she turned and aimed her arrows. At her side rode chosen comrades, virgins all. So ride the hardened Amazons of Thrace with drumming hooves on frozen Thermodon, warring in winter, in their painted gear. Women warriors bearing crescent shields exult, riding in tumult with wild cries.’

There is a lot more of that sort of thing, and as I told you before, she dies on the battlefield."

"And she reminds you of me?"

"Well not all of that, I can’t really picture you swinging a battle ax, but as we told Turghan all those years ago, you are a warrior chieftain. I’ve watched you go into battle, with sunlight shining on your golden hair."

"Oh my God, the poem was about me!"

"Now don’t jump to conclusions, Sam. Its true your hair did give me the idea for that line, but it is appropriate for any blonde. I think that’s enough about Amazon warriors for tonight. I’ll regale you with stories about the Amazon warrior Diana Prince some other night. Its time for you to take another pain pill and go to bed. I can see you wincing every time you forget and touch anything with that hand." He handed her the pills and then passed over the canteen.

"Okay, but why does that name sound familiar?" She took the pills and washed them down, then stood and made her way toward the tent mumbling, "Diana Prince."

She turned as she reached it. "That’s Wonder Woman!"

"Yes it is. I was a big Wonder Woman fan, because she was based on the Amazon legend, and also I must admit, because the Wonder Woman reruns were great. Linda Carter was a knockout in that costume. Did you know that Wonder Woman’s mother was Queen Hippolyta?"

"No, I must admit I didn’t." Sam sat down to take her boots off and began to fumble with the laces using her right hand.

"Here, let me help you." Daniel removed the boots and her fatigue pants and set them aside. She turned her back and lifted her shirt so he could unhook her bra. Then she did her magic act again and her bra appeared in her hand. As he was shedding his own clothes, he added. "The coolest comics were when Diana went back to visit her mother and the other Amazons. One of the museums I studied at had a Wonder Woman comic book collection that went all the way back to the beginning of her career. I thought her invisible plane was cool too."

He wormed his way in next to Sam. "Now, how do you want to sleep tonight so neither one of us will touch that hand?"

"I think like this." She came into his arms, with one of her hands around his neck and the bad arm extended above her head outside the sleeping bag. He put his hands around her waist and held her against him.

"Is this okay?" he asked.

"Mmm," she mumbled sleepily, the pills already beginning to do their job. "Good night, Daniel."

"Good night, Sam," he whispered. He decided he must be getting used to her sleeping in his arms, for he was able to control his body and just enjoy the feel of her next to him. He found himself drifting quickly into sleep as well. His last thought was that the afternoon’s ordeal had drained him more than he realized.

***

Sam was moving restlessly when he came awake, with the moon shining into the tent. "What’s wrong?" he whispered.

"My arm’s cold and I want it inside, but I’m afraid one of us will touch it."

He thought for a minute. "Okay, let’s try this. He turned on his back.

"Lay on your back with your head on my shoulder and your arms on your stomach, right hand holding the left wrist. I’ll lace my fingers lower down so they don’t touch your hand."

She moved into position and carefully brought her hand inside.

"Is that okay?" he asked.

"Mmm, it seems to be, unless you decide to scratch your nose or something."

"I promise I won’t move my hands until morning."

"How can you control your hands when you’re asleep?"

"Strong will? Seriously, that’s probably another story you really don’t want to know. I learned to sleep perfectly quietly and without moving so as not to attract the attention of some of the other foster kids who were bullies, not to mention the foster parents who had designs of one kind or another on the kids."

"Daniel!" That really woke Sam up and took her mind off her hand. "Were you abused?"

"No, but I saw a lot of it. I learned quickly how to make myself inconspicuous. Go back to sleep baby."

"Tell me more about your life."

"No, not tonight. How about I tell you a nice story about a kid I knew back then?" He began to tell her about a little boy who had been sent to foster care after his parents, archeologists working in the jungles of Columbia, were presumed dead in a flood. The other boy, Billy, had become his best friend in no time. They had shared the same interests and were equally intelligent. The story had a happy ending when the parents found their way to the coast and returned home to claim their son.

By the time he reached the happy ending part Sam was asleep again. He turned his head into her hair, feeling its texture against his skin as he closed his eyes to dream of Sam walking beside him holding the hand of a small child. The child looked up at him and said, "Daddy, I love you."

***

Teal’c waited for Marissa to fall asleep and then left her side to begin his kal-no-reem. Thoughts of their lovemaking disturbed his concentration until he gave himself a mental shake and settled into his routine.

When he had completed all the requirements, he returned to Marissa’s bed, gathering her in his arms, and spent the remainder of the sleep cycle enjoying the sensation of her body sleeping next to him. This was a completely unique experience for him. He and Drey-Auc had of course had a platform used for comfortable sexual activity, but since implanted Jaffa did not require sleep, they had never lain together in this manner.

***

The child’s voice was still echoing in his brain, when Daniel awakened. He lay quietly for several minutes replaying the dream.

Sam began to stir in his arms and he brought his mind back to the present, focusing on what needed to be done this day.

She stretched, arching her back against him and he closed his eyes, relishing the feel of her body as she moved.

"Good morning," she said as she finished her stretch.

"Good morning. How did you know I was awake?"

"I felt your body move as I stretched against you."

"Oh, I guess I didn’t know I was doing that. How’s your hand?"

"Its still stiff and sore, but now its just a burn and a cut. I’ll be okay." She unfastened the bag and moved off to the side of the tent to find clean socks and get dressed. "I want to thank you for taking care of me yesterday. I’m pretty ashamed of how I behaved."

"Oh please!" He crawled out of the bag and pulled his pants on. "Don’t start that I’m an Air Force Major and I’m too tough to let you know I’m in pain stuff with me." He stuck his tongue out at her and ran for the fire pit as she threw one of his boots at him. He caught it and turned.

"Nice pass, now send me the other one." The second boot was a perfect throw and he juggled the two boots for a minute, before putting them down. "Bring the socks when you come and I’ll have breakfast in a minute," he called as he poured corn meal into a pan to make corn cakes.

A minute later Sam sat down by the fire and handed him a pair of socks. "Aren’t your feet cold?" she asked.

"Yes, but I was afraid to go back in the tent. I didn’t know what else you had in there to throw." He finished the breakfast preparations and then sat down to put his socks and boots on. He warmed the plates and divided the food, while Sam poured their weak tea.

He blew on his tea. "I’m going to put the last two coats of pitch on the balloon today. While the first one is drying, I’ll load up the basket with whatever we are taking and start moving it up the hill and down into the other valley. I’ve remembered a way to do that easily. I just need to find some round logs a little wider than the basket. We just keep rolling it along the logs and when we run out of logs we take the ones from the back and move them up front. What I want you to do is go through our gear and decide what we can leave behind. Make three piles. Put everything we absolutely need in the basket, everything we don’t need in one pile, and the stuff that isn’t essential but would be nice to have in a third pile."

"Daniel, I didn’t bring anything we didn’t need to begin with."

"Well I did. You can start by tossing out the Aeneid. I’m sure you’ll find some other stuff."

He finished his breakfast and laid the plate on the ground.

"Do not wash the dishes. I’ll do it when I come back later. Don’t get that hand wet. And don’t pick up anything heavy. Be careful."

He started over the hill whistling.

***

Teal’c had found blank paper and writing materials in one of the ship’s compartments and had made careful drawings of the English alphabet in both upper and lower case letters. He had searched through all his equipment and come across a small first aid manual and the instruction books that came with his handheld radio and his hazmat gear. These would have to do to teach Marissa and Lonny written English.

He had already discovered that Lonny’s drawings were very good, so he decided to have her draw pictures of various common objects, which he would label in English. They would need to think of other ways to pass the time as well, but this would be as good a start as any.

When he had told her of his plan, Marissa was delighted and suggested he also teach them the numbering system used by the Tau’ri.

Teal’c enjoyed teaching. It had been one of his most pleasant duties as Apophis’ First Prime. He decided he would also continue his instructions in self defense for both Marissa and Lonny. Lonny would also need other physical activity to keep her young body active.

A jump rope would be easy to make and he should be able to devise a swing to hang from the ceiling of the cargo hold. Other ideas would occur to him, he was sure.

Today he planned to teach Marissa, and perhaps Lonny as well, the rudiments of piloting so they would know how to handle the teltac if an emergency occurred.

He had reached this point in his musings, sitting in the pilot chair, when Marissa appeared beside him and slid into his lap. "Lonny’s still asleep," she whispered.

All thoughts of training disappeared from Teal’c’s mind for a while.

***

It was almost dark when Daniel and Sam were satisfied that everything was ready to go for their balloon launch the next morning. They had finished dinner and most of the cooking gear was packed.

They managed a last bath in the warm spring, this time together, Sam with her left hand encased in a plastic bag, held out of the water. She had actually asked him to wash her hair, to get the residue of the dirt and leaves out and make sure none of the acid spewing worms had found their way to her scalp.

Kneeling in the water behind her, working shampoo into her hair, he thought again of his dream. He and Sam had shared so much of their lives for so long, maybe when they got back to Earth he would talk to her about sharing the rest.

He was the first one in the sleeping bag that night. When Sam entered the tent, she sat down beside him so he could help her with her boots. When he was done she drew her knees up and continued to sit there. That was a sure indication that there was a problem or she wanted to discuss an important issue.

He sat up as well, turned on the battle lantern and waited.

"Daniel, there’s one thing about using a balloon to get over the mountains that we haven’t talked about," Sam began. "If we were on Earth and had to cross the Rocky Mountains, I would be pretty confident we would have no problem. Even Pike’s Peak, which is practically next door to us at Cheyenne Mountain, is less than 15,000 feet. I’m estimating from the size of the planet and the fact that the gravity is approximately Earth normal, that the topography here is about the same."

"But you don’t know for sure," Daniel jumped in. "And that’s causing you some doubts about whether we can safely do this. I get that. What does the height of the mountains have to do with it?"

"When we fly, we can go up to 12,000 feet without oxygen. We can probably survive without problems up to 15,000 feet for a time. We might get a little sleepy, but we should be all right. But if the mountains are much higher than that, especially if we have to stay at that height for very long, or if I’m off on my estimation of the planet’s size or the gravity equation, we could be talking about oxygen deprivation or possibly brain damage."

"Okay, so what can we do about it?"

"When we took the death gliders we threw all our equipment in them haphazardly. Somehow three of the hazmat suits ended up in Teal’c’s. We have only one oxygen bottle and one suit."

"Can’t we share?"

"No, the bottle feeds into the hazmat hood of the suit. If we tried passing that back and forth, we would lose most of the oxygen. I want you to wear the hazmat. You’re stronger than I am and haven’t been injured and are more likely to make it all the way to the gate by yourself. If I come out of this suffering brain damage, you need to leave me behind. I’d ask you to zat me twice, but I know you couldn’t do that. You will have to leave me though, don’t try to drag me along with you. You have to promise me that’s what you will do."

"NO!"

"Daniel, I’m not saying it will happen, I figure its only maybe a 15 percent chance."

"No. I won’t do it. You wear the suit and leave me if you have to."

"Daniel!"

"Sam, I was going to wait until we were safe in the SGC to tell you this, but I can see it will have to be now. You need to know why I absolutely can’t do what you are asking me. It wouldn’t matter if my refusal would automatically mean everyone on Earth would be wiped out." He paused.

"Would you please come in here with me first. We seem to have all our best conversations in bed anymore."

She took off her fatigues and joined him, settling against his shoulder with one arm around his waist. His free arm went into her clean hair and he turned his head to smell it one last time, for he knew what would happen after he made his confession. The battle lantern was still on and she looked expectantly into his eyes.

"Sam, we’ve been waltzing around this for a few days now. You were right. I touch you like a lover. I can’t let you die, or be brain damaged because I’m hopelessly in love with you. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, or pressured, or think that I expect anything from you, except to understand why I can’t do this. I’ve tried not to respond to your gentle teasing and flirting because I thought I’d give myself away." He stopped playing with her hair and moved his hand to his side. Immediately her hand, which had been at his waist, began to move up and down his arm slowly, but she remained quiet.

"Sam, say something," he finally requested.

"All right, Daniel, I understand. I won’t ask you to do it. And if we both come out of this, I promise not to flirt with you any more. Go to sleep. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow." She let go of him and rolled with her back to him.

"Good night, Sam," he said softly as he rolled so they were back to back. After a minute he asked, "we are still friends, aren’t we? I wouldn’t want to spoil that."

She turned back over and gave a gentle tug to his shoulder. "Come here. Of course we are. We’ll always be friends." Her arms went around his back to hug him tightly and one of her feather kisses touched his lips. "Now turn off the battle lantern and let’s get some sleep." She turned away from him again as he reached to turn off the light.

***

Teal’c and Marissa and Lonny were settling into a routine. In the morning they had breakfast, followed by piloting training. Teal’c had them bring the teltac out of hyperspeed, fly at sub light and then return to hyperspeed and he drilled them in what to look for on the control indicators. Next, they practiced self defense and then had an English lesson. After lunch they practiced reading English. Then Lonny had an ‘art lesson.’ This was followed by mathematics and then dinner. After dinner, Lonny was allowed to swing or jump rope and later they played games. The last activity of her day was a bedtime story. Marissa and Teal’c took turns with this. Teal’c’s stories came from his experiences with Cassie and from some of Earth’s fairy tales he had learned. Once Lonny was asleep, Marissa and Teal’c spent time together, sometimes making love, sometimes just talking. Once Marissa was asleep, Teal’c began his kal-no-reem. Teal’c thought the most pleasant part of his day was returning to Marissa’s bed once his kal-no-reem was completed and holding her while she slept.

***

Daniel and Sam both woke shortly after dawn and completed their preparations. Sam surprised Daniel with coffee to go with breakfast, the first time she had allowed this luxury since they had begun their journey.

When he lifted his eyebrows in a question, she said, "I thought it would help keep us awake if the mountains are a little high."

Daniel downed three cups of coffee and then Sam took the pot away from him. He thought it tasted bitter, but it had been so long since he had any that maybe his recollection was off, he figured. Either that or Sam had burned it.

They climbed into the basket and Sam started her heat engine. Soon the balloon was filled with hot air and they lifted off the ground. The prevailing westerly carried them higher and higher. Daniel thought things were going well, until he began to be dizzy. He sat down in the basket and shook his head back and forth. "I don’t understand," he said as his vision began to blur," we’re not anywhere near 12,000 feet high."

"Maybe you just have a bad reaction to heights," Sam said kneeling beside him.

"N-no, I like high places." He grinned owlishly at her. "I want to fly with you baby." His arms wrapped around her and he pulled her into a kiss. Then his hands fell to his sides and he was out cold.

Sam removed the hazmat helmet from her pack and laid it beside him, ready to pull it over his head if the mountains proved too high.

She looked east, seeing nothing but more mountains ahead. The range was much wider than she expected, but, so far, not nearly as high as she feared. This was going to take a while, she decided, crouching down beside Daniel and taking his hand. She had nothing to do now but wait.

***

It was almost sundown and Daniel was beginning to stir, when they reached the eastern edge of the mountains and she began to decrease the temperature so the balloon would slowly sink toward the ground.

The eastern slope was windier and there was a cross current, which was now blowing them northeast. It had started to snow as well.

Daniel sat up and shook his head. "What happened?" he asked. "I remember getting in the basket and then nothing." He looked down at the hazmat hood. "Did we go too high?"

Sam crouched down beside him. "No, we never got to 12,000 feet even. We’ve crossed the mountains and I’m bringing us down now slowly."

He put his hand on the back of his neck. "I’ve got a killer headache. What happened?"

Sam said nothing.

He looked at the hazmat hood and then at her and then back at the hood and remembered the bitter coffee. "You drugged me!"

Sam nodded. "I couldn’t let the mission fail. If we’d gone too high I would have put you in the hood and started the oxygen."

"You drugged me!" he said again. If he had been on the ground, he would have been jumping up and down in agitation. "Why, why, why would you do that to me? Don’t you know I wouldn’t have gone on without you anyway? I would have laid down and died beside you rather than leave you."

"I thought of that too. I had a cyanide capsule to take after I got you hooked up to the oxygen."

"YOU WHAT!" He was screaming now and his expression was as insane as when Machello’s Goa’uld killer had infested his body. He kicked out at the kettle in the middle of the basket. The basket lurched and then began a violent back and forth vibration. They both looked up. The balloon was deflating rapidly and they were going down fast.

Sam crawled to her heat engine. "Its lost power. Some of the wiring has pulled loose. How high are we?"

Daniel stood and looked over the side. "Not high enough. We’re going to hit the ground pretty quick, and we’re on a mountain." He dropped on top of her as the basket slammed into the ground and then started to roll. It bounced and turned and gyrated and equipment was flung out in all directions. Daniel had his hands firmly anchored in the webbing at the bottom of the basket and Sam squashed in place beneath him.

When the basket finally came to a violent stop against a large rock, snow was swirling in all directions and the wind was howling. Daniel released his grip, flexed his fingers a few times to get the circulation going and got to his knees. The snow was blinding him so badly he couldn’t tell if Sam was awake, so he reached down to check the pulse point in her neck. Her strong right hand gripped his left and she pulled herself up into a sitting position.

"Sam," he shouted over the wind, "are you all right?"

"Yes, are you?" she shouted back.

"Never mind me. Did you take the damned cyanide pill?"

"No, I didn’t have to. Are you injured?"

"I’m fine." He pulled her to him and held her for a minute.

"Daniel, I’m cold," Sam said into his ear. "Let’s get out of here."

He stood and stepped over the rim of the basket into the snow. They were still wearing their packs, but everything else was gone, except the heavy kettle with the heat engine inside. Sam lifted that out to Daniel and then jumped out herself.

"At least we’re in the tree line," she shouted in his ear. "Maybe we can find a dead fall to shelter behind."

They started picking their way down the slope, each with a hand on the handle of the kettle so they would not get separated. Just as they reached the bottom there was a break in the snow and they saw a structure ahead. They continued moving in what they thought was a straight line after the gap in the snow closed up and a few minutes later found the building when Daniel walked into it. He put his right hand on the stone wall and continued to walk, sliding his hand along until he came to a corner. When they rounded the corner they were on the lee side of the storm and, through the swirling snow, they could make out an opening ahead in the wall.

They ducked into what turned out to be an open doorway and, with great effort, managed to close the door behind them. They found themselves in complete darkness until Sam switched on the light attached to her P-90.

They were in a large stone room with doors opening straight ahead and to their left. Daniel switched on his light as well and Sam gestured he should take the left hand opening while she went straight ahead. They separated and each discovered another opening, Daniel’s to the right, and Sam’s to the left. They came together again in the fourth room of the deserted house.

Daniel looked around. "This is the same sort of construction as the building we found on the other side of the mountain, only its in much better shape. I’d say this is the bathroom and the room I just came through must have been the bedroom. We came in through the living room, so the room you were just in was the kitchen, I bet. Did it have a big fireplace with an iron hook?"

"Yes."

"Okay, did the door have brackets for a bar?"

"Yes, and there was a bar already in place."

"Great, then let’s go bar the front door and then we can relax."

They made their way back to the living room and Daniel picked up the heavy wooden bar and set it in place in the brackets.

Sam set up her heat engine on the only piece of furniture in the house, a small table in the bedroom. While she was reconnecting it, Daniel shoveled the snow in the living room out the door, using the coffee pot as a shovel. Then he laid out everything they had salvaged and took inventory.

"Its starting to warm up in here," she announced a few minutes later. "Come in here and shut the door. This thing is only big enough to heat two rooms. I’ve left the bathroom door open."

Daniel joined her with his inventory list in hand. "This is what we have left: one sleeping bag with two blankets rolled up inside it; all our clothes, including jackets and flack vests; the battle lantern which, fortunately, was wrapped up inside my clothes; the rest of the vegetables and corn meal; the MREs and condiments; two P-90s; two zat guns; two berettas; my razor, toothbrush, paste, meds, contacts, glasses; two radios; two GDOs; two sets of binoculars; two compasses; two small flashlights; a pad of paper," he waved it in the air, "a pen; the big pot; the coffee pot, but no coffee; two mess kits and utensils; two canteens; water purification tablets; two pair of sunglasses; two survival knives; the first aid kit; and, oh, yes, one cyanide capsule. Did I miss anything?"

"I’ve got the ammunition; a utility pan; a frying pan; the coffee; a small tool kit; the survival kit; some odds and ends to repair the engine; a sewing kit; another pad and pen; a lighter; some waterproof matches; a nail file; toothbrush, paste, shampoo, soap, hand lotion, personal stuff; and a can of hairspray. Oh, and you forgot, we both still have out watches."

"Right. A can of hair spray! You’ve got a can of hair spray and a cyanide capsule! By the way, where did you get a cyanide capsule?"

"I took it from Lieutenant Tolinev when we were in the ziggurat. She thought she was going to die in horrible agony and she wanted to take it."

"And you’ve, what, kept it in your pocket all this time, just on the off chance that you might need it someday?"

"Yes. I didn’t want to be tortured again."

Daniel opened and closed his mouth. "I guess there’s nothing to say about that." He unfastened his P-90 and put it down in a corner. "I’m going to take the fresh food into the kitchen where it will stay cooler." He left the room.

Sam unfastened her own P-90, shrugged out of her pack, unzipped her jacket, took it off and removed her vest. She was sorting the equipment she removed from her pack when Daniel returned.

"Give me the cyanide capsule," he said, putting out his hand.

Sam reached into her vest and handed him a foil wrapped capsule.

Daniel took it and stalked out of the room. She watched him take the bar off the door, open it, and fling the capsule out into the snow. Then he rebarred the door and went into the kitchen. Sam found him there a while later, sitting on the hearth, playing with the plastic instruction sheet attached to his flashlight and staring at nothing. She could see his breath in the cold air when he exhaled.

"Daniel, come in the other room where its warm, please."

"Why?" he said in his I smell a trap voice.

"Because its cold in here and we need to talk."

He sighed and followed her into the warm room, sitting in a corner with his knees drawn up.

"Daniel, I’m sorry."

"No you’re not. You’d do the same thing again."

"Yes, I would, but I’m still sorry."

"Right, I tell you I love you and I don’t want you to die and you make plans to commit suicide and you’re still willing to do it."

"This isn’t about you, Daniel."

"That’s the whole point. Its not about me. Its never about me. Its always about saving the world or maybe the galaxy. Its about what the Air Force, or the Asgard, or the Tokra want. And that’s okay for me. But what about you? Don’t you ever get to be happy? Do you have to sacrifice yourself? Haven’t you done enough for the cause?"

"Daniel," she went to him and pulled him to his feet, "I really am sorry. I couldn’t let you die for me. I am the Air Force officer and what I did was in the line of duty. I took an oath to protect my country, and by implication, the human race." She put her arms around him, but he stood stiffly, not responding to her embrace.

"Besides," she added, "I love you too much to let you die! You are my best friend."

He finally put his arms around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. "You know I can’t stay mad at you ever. Let’s hope the situation never comes up again." He kissed her forehead and stepped away. "Let me see what I can find for dinner. Then we can decide what to do next."

Daniel rummaged through the MREs and added some sliced onion and soft corn tortillas. When they were finished eating, he unbarred the door and took another look out into the driving snow, then he rebarred it and returned to the bedroom.

"I don’t think this is going to let up anytime soon," he said.

"We’ve got enough supplies for a few days and, as soon as we get a clear night sky I can figure how far we’ve come. In the meantime we might as well stay here where we can be warm and dry." Sam yawned. "I know you got to sleep most of the day, but I’m whipped. Could we call it a day?"

"Sure," Daniel winced. "I’m pretty battered and bruised anyway from rolling down that mountain."

"Hill," Sam corrected.

"Whatever. You want the sleeping bag or the blankets?"

"We’re not sleeping together any more?"

"There’s no need in here. Its nice and warm. At least I don’t have to lay next to you and pretend you’re not driving me crazy when you move."

"Oh, Daniel, I’m sorry."

"Please, Sam, stop telling me you’re sorry. Its not your fault. Its mine. And while we’re at it, its my fault we ended up in a heap. If I hadn’t kicked the engine, it wouldn’t have come apart. Let’s just go to bed. I’ll take the blankets."

He sat down and removed his boots, vest and jacket, and dumped the blankets on one side of the room.

Sam opened the sleeping bag and sat down on it. "I guess I still need help with my boots," she said, after struggling for a minute.

Daniel, who had been on his knees spreading out the blankets, knee walked across to her and started loosening her laces. "We probably should check your hand before lights out, too." He pulled off her boots and picked up her hand, peeling the dressing off. "That’s looking pretty good, its starting to scab and there are no angry red lines." He patted the dressing back in place. "Let’s try leaving it open to the air tomorrow, since you should not be doing anything strenuous. Good night, Sam."

He moved back to his blankets, taking the battle lantern with him. "Let me know when you’re ready for me to put out the light."

Sam arranged herself on the open sleeping bag and shed her fatigue pants and did her bra trick. "Good night, Daniel. You can turn off the light now."

Daniel flipped his fatigues out of the way and snapped off the light, leaving them in total darkness.

"Wow," Sam said, "this is like sleeping in a mine, no moon, no stars, no nothing."

There were a few rustling noises as they both tried to get comfortable.

"Sam, I have another question. Hairspray? I didn’t even know you used the stuff, much less that you would put it with the absolutely essential items we couldn’t leave behind."

"Its a blow torch. Spray it and light it and it burns. Its come in handy many times. It also has the added advantage that the enemy doesn’t think of it as a weapon and sometimes doesn’t take it away if you are captured."

"Huh!" was Daniel’s only answer.

A few minutes later he heard her turning restlessly. "So you put the knockout drops in the coffee."

"Yes."

"No wonder it was so bitter. I thought you burned it."

She threw a boot at him.

"Ow! It did taste awful."

There was another long silence.

"Daniel?"

"Hmm?"

"I think I wrenched my shoulder when the balloon hit. Could you come over here and work out the kinks for me?"

"Sure." He turned on the lantern and brought it with him as he padded over and knelt on the floor beside her. "Which shoulder?"

"Well, they both hurt."

"Okay." He began rubbing her shoulders and the back of her neck as she lay on her stomach. "How’s that?"

"That doesn’t seem to be getting it. Maybe if I sit up."

She sat and leaned back toward him. He moved to sit on the padding with her sitting between his legs. He began to work over her shoulders and neck again.

"Is that any better?" he asked.

"Oh yeah. Keep it up."

After a while she said, "that’s enough."

His hands dropped to his sides and he moved to get up, but she took his hands and put them around her, leaning into his shoulder.

"Sam?" he asked, as his heart began to pound.

"I want to ask you something and I want you right here with your arms around me thinking about me while I ask it."

"Okay."

"You said before that you wouldn’t let me die, even if it meant everyone else on Earth would be wiped out."

"Yes, and I meant it."

"Okay, what if it were a choice between me and Cassie?"

There was a long silence and a quiver in his voice as he sighed, "I’d have to save Cassie."

"I know you would because she’s the future."

"Right."

"Okay, what if it were Shi’fu or Rya’c?"

"Same thing, same reason."

She squeezed the hands that were holding her. "Last question. What if it were a baby you came across somewhere. Would you save the unknown baby or me."

"The baby."

"There, when you say you would let everyone die to save me, you’re including thousands of babies and children. That’s why I couldn’t let you do it. Someday we may have a situation where I have to let you die. I won’t want to do it any more than you did, but it won’t change the facts. Remember when the Colonel "killed" me. How do you think he felt?"

"I know how he felt. It destroyed him."

"I’m sure it did. But he did it anyway to save the rest of the world. Please, Daniel, I don’t want this to come between us."

He kissed her cheek. "Its hard, but I do understand. Let’s decide together next time. Yes, I know you tried to talk to me, but I will listen if it ever comes up again. Now, we really do have to get some sleep."

He tried to remove his arms again, but she held on to them. "Please stay with me tonight, Daniel. I need you next to me. I’ll move so we don’t have to touch." She let go of him and moved out of his arms to lie on the mat with her back to him.

He switched off the battle lantern and then stretched out his arms and pulled her against him. "I think I can stand it for one more night," he said into her hair. "Go to sleep mon petit soldat."

***

Once again he woke up in the dark. Sam had turned over and was nestled in her usual spot, her good arm around his neck and her left hand resting on his hip, while his right was on her hip. He inhaled the scent that was unmistakably Sam. It didn’t seem to matter whether she was fresh from a bath or covered in mud, she still smelled the same to him. He had tried to describe the smell in his mind, but had never been able to give it a name, it was just Sam.

Sha’re had her own scent, he remembered, an exotic spicy smell. Sam’s scent was lighter, with elements of summer rain. Maybe that was the difference, Sha’re had been a child of the earth and Sam was a child of the sky.

He moved a strand of Sam’s hair that was tickling his chin and, as he brought his hand down, it brushed against her breast. She moved, thrusting it against his hand and her nipple sprang erect inside her thin T-shirt. Without thinking, his thumb flicked back and forth across it and he heard her moan softly.

He quickly moved his hand back to her hip and began searching for something other than Sam to occupy his mind. Her hand grasped his and moved it back to her breast. This time his fingers stayed perfectly still. "I gather you’re awake," he said in what he hoped was a neutral tone of voice.

"Mmm!" She began to move against him, her good hand stroking the back of his neck and her lips reaching for his.

He didn’t move. "Sam, I can’t do this." He tried to move away from her, but she wrapped both arms around him and held on.

"What’s wrong?" she whispered. "Didn’t you say you loved me?"

"Sucre coeur, mon bijou, moi miel!"

"What?"

"Te amo, Samantha, te amo."

She began to kiss him and he pulled away from her.

"I can’t. If I make love to you I will never want to give you up. I can’t just service your need. I want you with me forever. Please, Sam, don’t make me do this."

Sam had been kissing his chest, his neck, his chin, while he was talking and finally she reached his lips again, as he stopped. That kiss finished him and he began to respond, his hands and his lips moving desperately on her body as hers explored his. Both T-shirts flew across the room simultaneously, as they found more bare skin to touch.

"Whoever spread the rumor that you were glace bonni was crazy," he panted between kisses.

She backed off for a minute. "Ice maiden! Someone called me an ice maiden?"

"Never mind. I always knew it wasn’t true. Te amo, te amo, te amo, Samantha."

"Te amo, Daniel."

"QUID? I mean what? Did you just say you loved me?" His hands stopped moving and settled on her shoulders.

"Yes, Daniel, I’ve been in love with you since we started finishing each other’s sentences in the map room back on Abydos."

"You’re not just saying that?"

She kissed him again. "No darling, I’m not just saying that."

"But you never said anything, and what about Jack and Narim and Martouf?"

"I never said anything because an hour after I fell in love with you your wife was kidnapped by Apophis and you spent two years trying to get her back. Jack was safe, we couldn’t have a relationship. Narim was mostly him and Martouf was mostly Jolinar’s memories. By the time Sha’re died, the thing with Jack had grown and I was used to it, I guess, and you seemed content to be my best friend."

After another long kiss, she asked, "and when did you fall in love with me?"

"In the map room on Abydos. And then Sha’re was kidnapped and I blamed myself for enjoying your company and not rushing back to her. I felt so guilty. I never fell out of love with her and I loved you both until she died. And then it was worse, for she died because of me. If I hadn’t been there, Teal’c would not have had to kill her. And there you were being sweet and kind and sympathetic and I felt I didn’t deserve to ever have someone again, especially you." He stopped and took a deep breath. "And then Jack died and you were so distraught I didn’t know how to help you, but I knew telling you I loved you wouldn’t have helped you get over your grief."

Sam’s feather kisses had been moving around his body as he talked. Now they stopped and she pulled back. "Daniel, the reason I was so distraught was because I should have been in the second seat of that glider. If I’d been there doing my job he probably wouldn’t have collided with the other ship and crashed."

"So we’ve both been suffering from survivor’s guilt," he mused.

"Mmm. Could we stop suffering and start celebrating each other now?" she asked.

"I think that could be arranged. Je adore."

"God, I love it when you whisper French in my ear, but I can think of some other things you could do with your mouth that I’d love just as much."

"Oh, really! Please demonstrate."

Sam did, enthusiastically.

"So let me get this straight," Daniel said a few minutes later. "You want me to do this . . ."

"Oh, yes!"

"And this."

"Yes!"

"And then this."

"OH, Daniel!"

"Okay, I’ve got it now. Let’s try that last one together."

A few minutes later, when he could speak again, he said, "Every part of your body, your mind, your spirit delights and amazes me."

After another long interval he added, "Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely the icing on the cake and I never want it to end, but if you had never let me make love to you, you would still be in my heart forever."

"I know, Daniel, I feel the same. Now you know why I couldn’t let you die for me."

"I got that, sucre coeur." He began to inspect her body again, beginning at her ears and working his way down. Along with all the other new sensations, he was enjoying all the sounds he was producing from Sam with his actions.

On her part, Sam, when she could think at all, had decided she had just stepped from the Wizard of Oz to Sleeping Beauty and just been awakened by Prince Daniel’s kiss. Come to think of it, Shyla had made him a prince, although she had probably taken the title back. Sam’s thoughts dissolved as they soared together again.

Shortly after they returned to earth, Daniel heard a tiny giggle escape from Sam. "Okay, what’s so funny?" he asked. "And do you want me to do whatever it was again?"

"We haven’t done it yet. I was thinking it might be fun to make love in zero G."

"Save that idea for the next time we have a teltac at our disposal. We’d beat all those people who belong to the mile high club all hollow."

"How do you know about the mile high club?"

"Oh, just locker room talk. I can tell you all the guys at the SGC who claim they belong. Jack wasn’t one of them, by the way."

They had settled in their usual position with her head against his shoulder and continued to randomly touch and kiss as they talked.

"We’ve wasted two years," Sam remarked.

"No, we haven’t. We’ve been together, sharing almost everything all this time. I think what we need to decide now is what we want to do when we get back home. In other words, will you marry me? Before you answer, let me say I think we’ve been married in all but the physical sense for years. We’re much closer than most of the married couples I know. We . . . "

"Finish each other’s sentences, look after each other’s emotional needs, back each other up. Yes, Daniel, I would be honored to be your wife."

"Cara mia," he whispered in her ear.

They began to make love for the third time; this time Sam tentatively took charge and Daniel encouraged her.

When they were again resting in each other’s arms Daniel fell quickly asleep. Sam’s mind continued to work through the ramifications of what they had decided. "Dorme, Daniel," she whispered.

"God, I love it when you whisper French in my ear," Daniel replied. "How long was I asleep?"

"Just a few minutes."

He flipped the rubber cover off his watch and turned on its light. "I think its mid morning outside. I’m going to check and see if its still snowing. I’ll be right back."

"Daniel, there’s a window in here, just open the shutters."

He turned on the battle lantern and made his way to the window, fumbling with, and then opening the shutters. Some light filtered into the room, but the snow storm was still in full force.

"Its still coming down. I think we could safely refer to this as a blizzard."

"Good! Come back to bed."

"Sam, my God, you can’t possibly want to start again! Aren’t you even tired?"

"Yes, but I keep thinking some Jaffa will break down the door, or General Hammond will call on the radio, or Thor will beam one of us out of here. Besides, I haven’t done this for a very long time."

"Really, how long?" Daniel laid back down beside her and gathered her into his arms.

"Seven years." She sighed. "It was just about seven years ago that I broke it off with Jonas."

"There’s been nobody since?"

"Just you, but that was only in my day dreams."

"God, Sam, with all the passion you’ve shown me tonight, how could you . . .?"

"To tell you the truth, making love with Jonas was nothing like this. Most of the time it was boring and sometimes he scared me."

"Well, what about before? Didn’t any of your other lovers . . .?"

"There were no other lovers."

"You mean I’m the only one who . . .?"

"Made my heart jump out of my body, made me scream with ecstasy, cry with joy? Yes. The touch of your hands is like velvet. When you kiss me I feel I’ve tasted fine wine or Champaign and having you inside me makes me complete. Its like part of me has been missing all my life and you put the last piece in place."

"Wow, and Jack used to say I was eloquent. I can only say you make me feel the same way, except substitute around for inside. Nobody ever said anything like that about me before."

"So Daniel, when did you last . . .?"

"Shyla, that was four years ago."

"And before Sha’re?"

"Well, I don’t want to brag, but mostly whenever I felt the need. All I had to do was take off my glasses and go where nobody knew I was a geek and keep my brain pretty much disengaged. Sara was the only other one who I was serious about and she left me pretty quickly when she found out my work came first."

"So you’ve always been studly?"

"Up until Sha’re was taken. Then I just shut down, except for Shyla and, of course, Hathor, and neither of them was really my fault."

"And how many little Jackson’s are running around out there?"

"None!" He looked horrified. "I always took precautions. I never wanted to be the cause of a child growing up without a parent."

"That’s sweet, but darling, you didn’t take any precautions this time."

"I know," He gave her a big smile. "I guess we should have talked about it first, but I’d love to see several little blonde haired, blue eyed Jacksons running around."

"So you want me to waddle back through the stargate six months pregnant?"

"I guess I didn’t think about that."

"That’s okay, I did. Janet gives me a birth control shot every six months."

"Uh, Sam, if there’s been no one, why?"

"Its going to upset you."

"Tell me anyway."

"In case I get captured and raped."

"We’ve been best friends for five years and you’ve never even mentioned this before."

"Up until now, my method of birth control wasn’t really something I needed to talk to you about, dear."

"Not the birth control, the possibility of rape. Did Jack know?"

"Of course, he was my commanding officer."

"Cyanide pills and birth control to prevent pregnancy from rape, I guess I’m just overwhelmed by what you have to deal with every day."

"Well, I must admit I never told the Colonel about the cyanide pill."

"He would probably have thrown you out of the balloon, instead of just kicking something," Daniel said as his hands began to move again and Sam started to make a purring sound. "You haven’t done that before," she gasped.

Daniel stopped, kissed her gently, and sat up. "No, and that activity should result in exquisitely slow pleasant torture for both of us. I’m going to save it for now and go make breakfast." He began to get dressed. "Jonas was an idiot. I should have run down the hall naked and belted him. I’m sorry I didn’t kill him myself."

"Daniel, what’s wrong?"

"Sam, that pig used you for his own gratification and gave you nothing back." He took her face between his hands and kissed her tenderly. "Te amo." He stood. "I’ll be back in a few minutes with breakfast."

***

Marissa had just thrown Teal’c to the floor and shoved the butt of his staff weapon into his neck when the proximity alarm went off. Teal’c jumped up and was in the pilot’s chair, checking his instruments, when Marissa slid into the seat beside him. He had already dropped from hyperspeed.

She began scanning the instrument panel as well, trying to bring to mind everything Teal’c had taught her.

"I am not seeing any unusual readings," she volunteered.

"Nor am I," Teal’c acknowledged. He switched the viewing screen from shots of the space immediately ahead, bringing up each camera in succession, He had completed a 360 degree lateral sweep and had checked the view from above. Finally, the last shot of the belly of the teltac showed something, larger than an escape pod, but much smaller than a death glider.

"What is it?" Marissa asked.

"I do not know. Take Lonny in her room and lock the door." He handed her his zat gun. "Do not open the door unless you know it is me."

He waited for Marissa to comply with his instructions, then moved to the ring activation control panel and started the sequence. Once the cycle had finished, he drew his beretta and opened the cargo room hatch.

He found a large heavy duty Goa’uld transport crate on the ring platform. Its markings indicated it was the property of an obscure system lord, who had been wiped out by Apophis’ forces when Bra’tac was still First Prime. This crate must have been floating around in space for a very long time, Teal’c thought.

He debated opening it for some time, but finally let his curiosity get the better of him. Also, he reasoned, he needed to make sure it was not harboring replicators, or something worse. Inside, he found two compartments. One was filled to the top with written material in single sheets. Checking through them, he found writings in several Goa’uld dialects, Egyptian, English, and other Earth languages using the English alphabet; some written in oriental script; and more using alphabets he had never seen before.

He picked up several of the sheets written in English. Most of these seemed to use a dialect and sentence structure he could barely make out, although many of the words were familiar. One seemed to be a copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, written in longhand. He put these all back and reclosed that section of the crate. On the other side he found many artifacts, each packed carefully in its own container.

After assuring himself that there was nothing dangerous hidden inside, he moved the container off the ring platform and went to release Marissa and Lonny.

***

After breakfast, Sam and Daniel went through the rooms opening all the shutters to let in as much light as possible. As Sam peered out the living room window, she squinted and then dragged her binoculars from her vest and checked again. "I think I see an outline of another building out there."

Daniel came to stand behind her.

"Watch," Sam pointed, "every time the snow slows down it shows up there."

"Yes, I see it and there’s another over to the left. This may be a whole village. When the snow stops we should go take a look. In the meantime, since there’s absolutely nothing else to do . ." His voice trailed off and he circled her from behind with his arms.

"Why Doctor Jackson, I thought you were worn out."

"Yes, well, I refueled and I’m ready to fly with you again."

"Um, nice metaphor." She turned in his arms and rewarded him with an extended kiss. "I have another idea, however. If we fill the water tank in the bathroom with snow, I can heat it with the spare staff weapon power source in my pack. Then we could take another bath together, this time without clothes."

Daniel let go of her and reached for his jacket. "Okay, I’ll start filling the kettle with snow and you rig up the heater. How long do you figure it will take to melt and heat up?"

"Oh, an hour or so."

"Good, that will give us time to finish what we started before breakfast."

***

Marissa was sorting through the Egyptian documents in the crate. She had placed a large pile on the floor beside her and was reading them one by one. Her hand brushed a slight protrusion near the bottom of the crate and when she bent over to get a better look, she found an almost invisible crack running all the way across the front of the crate. She stood and moved to the wall to depress the intercom. "Teal’c, can you come to the ring room? I believe I have found something you would like to see."

"I will be there shortly," Teal’c responded.

"What have you found?" he asked, when he arrived.

Marissa pointed out the crack and the button. Teal’c pushed it but nothing happened. Marissa examined the other end of the crate. "There is another one down here. Should I push it?"

Teal’c nodded and Marissa tried the button, with no result. "Perhaps if we both push together?" she asked.

"An excellent suggestion."

A slim section, the length of the crate, popped open as they pushed. Teal’c pulled the shallow drawer open. "These appear to be maps. The top one is of the stargate system. Below that, there are charts of various solar systems. Here is another star chart which depicts the location of many . . . I do not know this symbol. There are several more which incorporate this same symbol. These will certainly give us something to decipher on our journey. However, I believe there is nothing more for us to do in this region of space. I am going to start the hyperspeed engine again."

***

"And what did you think about that, as if I didn’t know?" Daniel asked.

"You were right. It was exquisite torture. I really do love you."

"Te amo pulcra puella."

"Daniel, why do you always say it in Latin?"

"Because you come first. If I say ‘I love you,’ its about me. When I say ‘you I love,’ its about you. And you really are a beautiful girl, every inch of you." He kissed one of the scars on her back. "Every time I feel these scars I think of how you got them, sacrificing yourself in defense of a woman you barely knew."

"Look who’s talking. You’re the real hero. You almost died to save us on Klorel’s ship. If you hadn’t found the sarcophagus . . . I don’t think I would have been tough enough to leave you then."

"Jack almost wasn’t. I had to beg him. He wouldn’t do it until I pointed out that you would all die on Apophis’ ship in a few minutes anyway."

"How did we get on this topic?"

Daniel ran one finger down the center of Sam’s back. "I was just telling you how beautiful you are with your clothes off, or on for that matter." He kissed her shoulder blades, one at a time. Then his attention was attracted to the window. "Hey, its stopped snowing. Maybe we should postpone our bath and, much as I hate to say it, get dressed, and check out the village."

"As your commanding officer, I agree with that suggestion, but I’m ordering you to remember exactly where you were so we can resume when we get back."

"Yes, ma’am, Major Carter. You know hearing you referred to as Major Jackson will really sound strange. Do you want to keep your name?"

"No, I like the sound of Major Jackson. Of course, Colonel Jackson would sound even better." She began dressing as she talked, while Daniel sat up and leaned against the wall watching her lazily.

"Its more fun watching you take it off," he remarked, "but this is fun too."

"Hey, am I going out in the snow alone here? Get moving, Doctor Jackson."

"Hang on. He grabbed her hand and pulled himself up. I just need to kiss that little spot behind your ear, on the left side. I missed it before."

Sam blushed prettily.

"Oh, now you blush, you vixen. You couldn’t do that when you had your clothes off?" He began to get dressed while Sam leaned in the doorway to watch. "You’re right," she said, "it is fun to watch you put it on, but seeing it come off is even more fun."

Daniel cocked his head on one side and grinned. "You know in the movies how the call girls wear those garter belt things?"

"Yeees?"

"I think I want to make love to you while you’re wearing nothing but your gun belt."

"Oh, that’s a little kinky, isn’t it? What if I make you wear yours too?"

"Sounds like a plan to me." He grabbed his jacket and vest and attached his P-90. "Let’s go."

"Hold it." Sam put on her Major Carter face. "Let’s not get careless out there. We don’t know what we’ll find and, right now, when we go out that door, we are SG-1 again, agreed?"

"No argument from me."

"Okay, I’ll take point."

The snow was several inches deep and, as they made their way to the next structure, they could see no tracks in any direction. This structure proved to be another house, much like the first. The door facing the hill was locked, so they circled the house and went in the other side. They found everything exactly the same as in the house they had left, except there was no table in the bedroom.

They proceeded through the village, finding no tracks and nothing else of use. One house had a pile of wood near the door, in another they found a pot with a hole in it, a third produced a shovel. When they reached the center of the village they found a much larger building.

Inside the front door there was a long corridor which appeared to circle the interior rooms. Sam signaled Daniel to go left, while she circled to the right. Daniel checked each room as he went. Most were empty offices, with a few smaller rooms which might have been storage areas, and a small bathroom. Halfway around the building he came to the back door, which was barred in the same fashion as the houses. He had expected to meet Sam here, but figured she must have found something interesting in one of the rooms on her side of the building and had stopped to investigate. He continued his search, moving around her half of the building and back toward the front. When he reached a point where he could see the front door, he began to worry. He checked the last room and found nothing and then clicked his radio. "Sam, where are you?"

There was no answer.

"Sam, answer me!"

He fought down his panic. She was still in the same building. His special sense told him she was still alive and she was below him. He just had to find a way to get to her. He began with the corridor, checking the floors and walls carefully for hidden stairs or trap doors. When he found nothing he searched each room the same way. Then he returned to the corridor and stopped every few feet trying to pinpoint her exact location with his sense. After a time he began pacing back and forth, stopping and turning in approximately the same location at the end of each leg. He thought Sam must be pacing below him in about the same location.

Eventually, he thought to look up and found lines in the ceiling which indicated a ring transporter might be concealed above. The lines were not quite the right configuration, but they were close. Now all he had to do was find the control panel. It would need to be close by, so the user could activate it and then step to the correct location.

A nearby mural caught his eye. It showed a series of concentric circles, perhaps an artists rendition of this solar system, but each circle had several balls at odd intervals in the orbital pattern. He touched one and it was depressed into the wall, springing back into position after a few seconds. There were thirty-nine balls in all in five rings and most ring transporters took a combination of six, although he had seen some which only used four.

Using six digits and not repeating any button and only going sequentially, there were 600 combinations. He couldn’t begin to calculate how many combinations there could be if the same button was used more than once, but he had a feeling Sam could starve to death before he tried them all.

There had to be another way. Maybe he could blast a hole in the floor, but they had no explosives and no staff weapons. A zat wouldn’t do the job.

Did Sam do this herself, he wondered, or had it been a booby trap. Wait a minute, he thought to himself, he had heard nothing. If this was a normal ring device he would have heard it activate. Maybe something else was going on here.

He again searched the walls of the corridor, this time looking for some sort of trip mechanism, and found it. There was a small hole in one side of the corridor, about waist high, and a corresponding hole on the other side. When he flipped the infrared lenses on his binoculars into place, he could see the beam.

He waved his hand back and forth through the beam several times, but nothing happened. That might mean the trap only worked once, or - panic gripped him - it was a Goa’uld trap and it had picked up the naquada in Sam’s blood.

He did his best to calm himself and began working his way through the problem again. First, a Goa’uld breaks the beam, that activates the ring transporter which takes the victim to the basement. No, that couldn’t be right. The rings are in the ceiling. They would have to transport the victim up. So how had Sam ended up below him? Could his special sense that told him where she was have gone haywire since he had made love to her?

No, that wasn’t right either. He knew she was below him. In fact she had just stopped pacing and settled in one spot.

Okay, let’s forget the rings for now. Suppose breaking the beam set something else in motion like an Asgard transporter. That worked through solid rock. Hell, it had even transported Jack from inside Cheyenne Mountain.

He had to be missing something else. What about the building and the offices? Was there something that didn’t quite fit about them? Yes there was, but what? It was nagging at the back of his mind, but he couldn’t quite dig it out.

He sighed and began going through the rooms one by one again. The place was absolutely symmetrical, if one side had an office in a certain spot, so did the other, if there was a storeroom on one side, there was a storeroom on the other. Except for the bathroom, and the ring transporter, it was all the same. Wait a minute, maybe there was a ring transporter on the other side of the building. He raced around to the other side and found nothing, no transporter, no holes in the wall, nothing.

The bathroom was another anomaly, it had running water, unlike those in the houses, and it had no counterpart on the other side of the building. He checked every inch of the bathroom, but could find nothing unusual. As he left the room discouraged, he could feel Sam moving again on the other side of the building. He returned to her location and began to pace with her, wishing she could sense his presence as he could hers. His mind drifted back to Robert Rothman’s wedding, when he had told her of his unique ability.

***

It had been a lovely wedding. Robert Rothman, Daniel’s assistant, and Sandy Schuman, one of the civilian scientists Sam supervised, were married under an arch of flowers in General Hammond’s garden. Daniel had been the best man and Sam was the maid of honor. Daniel had made the traditional toast to the bride and groom and then Robert requested everyone fill their glasses again while he said some very nice things about Daniel. General Hammond made a third toast to the happy couple.

After the bride and groom did their solo turn around the floor, Daniel and Sam joined them. It was the first time he had ever danced with Sam and he remembered how perfectly she fit in his arms.

Later, he had watched her down two more glasses of Champaign and then Jack led her out on the floor. By the end of this dance, Sam’s lips were pressed against Jack’s neck, his hands were resting on her posterior, and hers were wrapped around him with the fingers of one hand running through the hair on the back of his neck. Daniel had known Sam was drunk, but he was in agony by the time General Hammond claimed her for the next dance. Then she fast danced with Cassie for a while and downed some more Champaign.

As she finished a set with Major Davis, Lieutenant Simmons, who had a gigantic puppy love crush on Sam, appeared and offered her another glass of Champaign. She had sipped this one slowly, trying to make small talk. When the band started playing another slow tune, she had looked around the room in desperation for someone to save her.

Almost as soon as Simmons turned Sam into his arms, Daniel had tapped him on the shoulder and cut in.

"How do you do that?" Sam asked as they moved away from Simmons and out on the dance floor.

Daniel pulled away from her a little to look straight into her eyes.

"Do what?" he asked.

"Know when I need you. You do it all the time. I can come into a room and not make a sound. Sometimes you have your back to me or your head down concentrating, but I always get a ‘Hi, Sam,’ before you look at me. You knew I wanted to be rescued from Lieutenant Simmons just now, didn’t you?"

He chuckled. "It was pretty obvious from the look on your face."

"And all those other times?"

"I don’t honestly know. But you are right. I always know when you’re there and precisely where you’re standing. It started long ago when I consciously made myself aware of where you and Jack and Teal’c were at all times during a mission. Its something I’ve heard them talk about before. It is one of those things you learn in combat or you die. To the rest of you it is second nature, but I had to work to get it. I suspect part of it is an instinct you all picked up flying formation."

He pulled back and looked at her again as the music stopped and they waited for the band to begin the next number.

"Its different with you, and I don’t know why. I always know where you are when you’re on base, or whenever I’m in the same structure with you." He raised a hand and ran it down the side of her face gently, stopping to trace her lips with his thumb. Then he dropped his hand to his side. "I even know when you leave at night or come in in the morning. I’ve written down the times and checked the logs later and I’m always right. If you think its creepy, believe me, so do I. It comes in handy sometimes though, like just now."

He waited for her reaction. "Daniel this is not the time for this discussion. I’ve had six glasses of Champaign."

"Eight," he corrected.

"What?"

"You’ve had eight glasses, including the toasts, and you probably won’t even remember this conversation tomorrow. I don’t know why I told you all this, but I’ve had three myself."

"Hey kids!" At that point Jack had stepped up and put a hand on each of their shoulders. "You two all right? The band’s been on a break for ten minutes and you guys are just standing in the middle of the floor."

"We’re fine, Jack." Daniel said, "just having another scientific discussion."

And that had been the end of it that night. Daniel remembered kicking himself mentally for revealing his secret.

The next time it had been brought up they had been sitting by the stargate waiting for Jack and Teal’c to return from a scouting expedition.

"Daniel," she began, "you remember that conversation we had at Robert’s wedding about you knowing where I am?"

"Oh my God, I didn’t think you would remember. I shouldn’t have told you. It must make you feel creepy to be around me." He looked stricken and started to edge away from her on the step.

"Oh, I remember, and no, it doesn’t creep me out. Stop sidling away from me! I have been trying to figure out what’s causing it though. When did you first notice it?"

"I don’t know. I felt your presence on Klorel’s ship and knew when you ringed out of there, just before I crawled into the sarcophagus."

"Maybe Hathor had something to do with it. Maybe because I’ve got the protein marker from Jolinar. No, that’s not right. I didn’t have the marker when we blew up Klorel’s ship."

Daniel finally looked at her. "The strange thing is I can track you anywhere off planet, but I have to be in the same building with you on Earth. As soon as we are outdoors on Earth and you’re out of my sight, it goes away. It was no help when you were trapped in Antarctica, because you were on Earth and not in the same building, go figure." He shrugged.

"Keep thinking. Let’s go over our missions. We were never separated on Abydos or the first time we went to Chulak. Did you know when Abu kidnapped me?"

"No, and I couldn’t track you when Jonas Hansen had you. We knew you went into a cave, but he could have taken you anywhere after that. Here’s another one, when the Touched attacked us in the dark, I had no idea after the first few seconds where you, or anybody, was. We were separated on Kynthia’s planet and I had no special sense then. This is tough. You’re asking me to think of stuff that happened years ago."

He put his chin in his hands and stared off into space for a few minutes. "You mentioned Hathor. I did have it then. I knew you were coming and if Hathor had asked me, I would have told her, but she never did."

"So it happened between our visit to Kynthia’s planet and Hathor’s appearance." She thought for a minute. "It couldn’t have anything to do with Thor. We were never separated and nothing unusual happened to us except..."

"Except we were both scanned," he finished, "but so was Jack and I don’t sense him."

"You don’t sense me what?" Jack asked appearing behind them.

"Sneaking up on me, damn it!" Daniel jumped up and pointed a finger at Jack while looking at Sam. "I told you he was going to do that. How come every time you teach me one of your stealth tactics, you come up with a new one to make me jump out of my skin, Jack?"

"Because you’re only absorbing half of what I’m teaching you, Danny. You not only have to learn how to sneak up on people, but you have to interpret it to learn how not to be surprised yourself. Carter knew I was coming."

She nodded her head. Daniel threw up his arms in frustration and stomped down the steps to the DHD, where Teal’c was waiting.

"Can we go home now?" he asked.

"Dial away," Jack answered.

Sam had waited for Jack and Teal’c to go through the gate and then turned to Daniel. "Nice diversion," she said, "I think you’ve picked up on a lot of the Colonel’s tricks."

After the mission Sam had gone back to her lab to brainstorm the problem. When Daniel showed up and asked her how she was coming, she claimed that he was able to sneak up on her any time and asked if he could read her mind.

"No, nothing like that. I’m just good at reading body language. You were frowning and doodling with your cursor, so I figured you were deep in thought. The only thing you have on your desk is mission reports, so . . ."

Sam looked down at her notes. "When Nem had you trapped, you say he used some kind of device on you to help you recall the information he needed. How did he prompt you?"

"Actually, I did it myself. I just kept repeating Omoroca. It hurt a lot and every time he turned it up a notch it got harder. I tried to put a face to the name to help me remember, and it was your face I concentrated on. Does that help?"

"Well, looking at your report and comparing it to mine, I think I may know what happened. As near as I can tell, at the same time Nem was using a memory device on you, Doctor McKenzie was hypnotizing me and I was remembering being in Nem’s lab with you. That’s got to be the connection. His device was imprinting my, uh, essence, for want of a better word, on your memory, while my thoughts were reaching out to you. Why it doesn’t work outdoors on Earth, I don’t know, unless Nem’s equipment was built to be used indoors. Maybe it works anywhere off-world because of the dangers inherent in any off-world activity, or because your mind thinks of it that way. See, not creepy, at all! The only thing I haven’t figured out is why it took you all these years to tell me and why you didn’t want the Colonel to know."

"There were a lot of reasons. First, I thought I was imagining it or going crazy and then because I thought you would think that. Later, I began to wonder what the NID would do to me if they found out. Also, for a long time I thought I was being disloyal to Sha’re."

"Sha’re?"

"Yes, I thought I might be falling in love with you. After Sha’re died, and especially after she sent me her last message at Newgrange, I thought she wanted me to fall in love with you. I thought maybe this sense was Sha’re’s gift to me so I could keep you safe, to prevent what happened to her from happening to you. I could never burden you with that. I know how you feel about Jack and how he feels about you."

"When did you decide that wasn’t the reason for your special ability?"

"Uh, when you figured it out just now."

"So you’re telling me you’ve been in love with me for four years and never did anything about it because of the Colonel?"

‘That’s not what I said. I said that’s what I thought might be causing the psychic link."

"Let me get this straight. You’re not in love with me but, because you have this ability, you thought you might and not be aware of it?"

"Oh, I was aware of it."

"Daniel, I am completely lost here. Help me out."

"Okay," he held up a finger. "Number one, Jack’s in love with you, right?"

She nodded and shrugged. "As far as I know. A few weeks ago, he said he wished he could marry me, but he can’t until the Goa’uld are defeated, so, yes."

"Point two," Daniel held up a second finger, "You’re in love with Jack."

There was dead silence in the room for a minute. He could hear the second hand on her wall clock clicking.

"Sam?"

The clock continued to click.

"Okay, we’ll get back to point two. Point three, Sha’re will always be in my heart." He thought for a minute. "Now back to point two, which I thought was a rhetorical question, do you love Jack?"

She had given him a big smile. "Oh yes, the Colonel and Teal’c and you and Janet and Cassie and Mark and dad . . ."

"Yeah, I get the point. Are you in love with Jack O’Neill? Yes or no, or tell me its none of my business." He had pushed it too hard and got an unexpected answer, the one that had given him hope for the first time.

"Waiting is getting a little hard. I guess if he’d asked me to marry him, I would be able to answer your question, but I don’t honestly know what the answer would be any more."

"Okay, I guess that’s fair. I didn’t completely screw you up, did I? I mean, you’re not in love with me, are you?"

"A little."

"What!" His heart speeded up.

"Ask me if I’m in love with Teal’c."

"Wh-what?" Daniel was completely confused now. "Well, are you?"

"A little."

"And that means?"

"Oh, come on, its the danger and the romance and the proximity. Admit it, haven’t you at least once, wanted the music to swell while you carried me off into the sunset on your white horse?"

"Well maybe without the horse, could we substitute a white convertible?"

"Okay, and I bet Teal’c has too, only in his case he would probably sweep me off my feet and carry me into a tent like the sheik."

"If that’s what you imagine we would do, how would you want it to happen?"

"When I imagined a happy ending with the Colonel, I thought of us firing zats into the last remaining Goa’uld simultaneously and then rushing into each others arms, where he kissed me and dipped me backward. Teal’c is harder. We’re in a death glider with side by side seating so we can look at the stars together after we shoot the last remaining Goa’uld out of the sky."

"And me?"

"It start’s the same as with the Colonel, we zat the last Goa’uld together, only we’re wearing what we wore at Robert’s wedding and we tango away after the Goa’uld vaporizes."

"Oh, come on Sam, you never saw me in a tuxedo before that. What was your original fantasy?"

"Okay, I’ll give you the honest truth. The one and only time I thought about you romantically was when you came back from flight school, climbed out of your F-15, came striding across the tarmac like Tom Cruz, picked me up and spun me around. You were so happy I thought my heart would burst. I waited for the kiss, but it never happened. You just went on babbling about the F-15 and I got over it pretty quickly, seeing you so happy."

"You know, I thought about kissing you then, but I figured it would really spoil things if you punched me or threw me on the floor, so I stifled myself."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously, no lie!" That had been the honest truth.

***

Oh, yes, he remembered that conversation all too well. They had both told a lot of the truth and left out a lot as well.

This wasn’t helping - there had to be something else. What else was not symmetrical - the ring transporter, the light beam, the bathroom, and . . . Of course! The room on the other side of the building from the bathroom, what was it?

He opened the door and saw a storeroom with empty shelving built into the back wall, except the shelves were a little scratched near the ends. Now why would that be, unless they had been moved a lot. There were five shelves and they all lifted easily up and out. He set them on the floor and gave an experimental push to the back wall behind them. That was fruitless, so he began a meticulous search of the wall, finally finding a small stud. When he pushed it the wall opened up with a loud squeak. There was a stairway going down into the darkness.

He stopped himself from rushing down the stairs. If nothing else, he might get blasted by Sam’s P-90, if she was still armed. Instead, he keyed his radio, "Sam, can you hear me?"

"Loud and clear. I’m in the basement locked in a cage. I just heard a loud raspy squeak."

"That was me. I just got the basement door open. Stand by. I’m on my way to you."

He switched on the P-90 flash and checked the back of the door to make sure he could open it from the other side before he went down the stairs. The basement was clear and he reached Sam’s large cage, finding no obstacles in his path. The mesh of the cage was heavy duty with very small holes. The door was only about three feet high and appeared to open with a key lock.

"How did you find me?" Sam asked.

"Remember that sixth sense of mine, the one you never really believed existed. I knew you were down here. It just took me a while to get to you. How did you get down here? Was it an Asgard device?"

"Actually, I think it was another of Machello’s devices. This time there was a recorded message. Then there was some kind of light show. I think there was probably some UV as well, but whatever it did, the system must still detect the naquada in my blood and it didn’t let me out. This is probably the solution to the mystery of why the Goa’uld left. Somehow, one of Machello’s inventions was either forcing them off the planet or forcing them in here to be un-Goa’ulded."

"Too bad you’re on the inside, you could probably pick the lock."

"Try zatting it."

"Okay, but it looks like a mechanical lock. I don’t think that will help." Daniel fired his zat gun at the lock. When nothing happened he shot it again. Then he kicked it. There was still no change.

"Well, its dead now, but it still won’t open. Any other suggestions?"

"Did you check out the rest of the basement?"

"No, but I’ll do that now." Daniel continued through the basement. "Well, that’s interesting," he said over his radio a few minutes later.

"What did you find?"

"Nothing important so far, but it appears the inhabitants didn’t bother to clean out the basement when they left. There’s all kinds of junk down here. Hold on, I may have found the guard room."

There was silence for a few minutes and then the radio came to life again. "I’ve found a big ring of keys. I’ll be right back."

As soon as he reached the cage, he began to try keys. The fifth one did the trick and she crawled out to join him.

"What took you so long?" she asked as she stood up.

"The stairs were hidden. Come check this place out and see if we can use any of this junk."

Sam and Daniel explored the basement thoroughly, finding large quantities of dehydrated foodstuffs, weapons of various kinds, Jaffa uniforms and equipment and a number of maps, including one which covered an entire wall in one of the underground offices and showed their exact location. They took down the wall map and rolled it up with the others, packed up as much of the food as they could carry, added some miscellaneous items they thought might be useful, and returned to their house for the night. It began to snow again just as they reached it.

"I should go back for the wood we found," Daniel suggested.

"We could bring back the shovel, too," Sam added, "but let’s wait till tomorrow. I think we’ve done enough hiking through the snow for one day. According to the map, we are a lot closer to the stargate than I thought we were, but it looks like the weather is going to keep us here for a while, so we might as well get comfortable."

"Okay, let me inventory what we’ve collected and then I’ll get dinner started."

"In the meantime, I’ll spread out the maps and see what else I can discover."

***

Marissa was again sitting on the floor in front of the crate, this time with various artifacts spread around her. Lonny was busy drawing a picture of her doll. Marissa had just unwrapped a statue of some kind of strange animal and was currently working on something that looked like a cross between a machine and a piece of fruit, when Teal’c sat down beside her.

"Have you found anything familiar?" he asked.

"No," she said, practicing her English. "Look at this." She pointed to a small machine like object. "It reminds me of the symbols on one of the maps we found." She had switched back to Egyptian.

"Indeed it does." Teal’c picked up the small object and carried it to the table where he had spread the maps. He turned it around and around in his hand and finally decided that it was a non working representation of a much larger object. Its function was a complete mystery, and there were no markings to indicate its use. The symbol on the star chart, however, did have some kind of writing close beside it. It was not any Goa’uld or human language, of that he was certain, nor did it resemble any of the languages Daniel Jackson had documented. It was definitely not Ancient, but the markings did bear a slight resemblance to those used by the Ancients.

He continued to study the various charts and had determined that the units of distance used on them were all the same, with the possible exception of the charts with the mysterious markings.

Lonny paused in her drawing and came over to stand beside Teal’c. "What are you looking at?" she asked.

He picked her up and put her down on the table beside the charts. "I am endeavoring to determine what is depicted on this chart. The symbol is the same as the object I am holding." He showed her the machine model in his hand.

"Are these the planets with stargates?" She pointed to another chart.

"That is correct."

"And are these planets without stargates?" She pointed to the first chart.

"That is also correct. Thank you, Mistress Lenore, I believe you have been of great assistance." He put her back on her feet and began checking back and forth between the two charts. "Marissa, I believe Lonny has solved part of the mystery. The chart with the mysterious marking is only concerned with planets without stargates. Perhaps this symbol refers to an alternate means of transportation between planets, or it may be a means of summoning a vehicle for transportation to a planet with a stargate."

Marissa came over to him and began studying the charts. "From what you have told me of how these charts are used, that would seem to be a reasonable deduction. That would mean this thing is either capable of transporting someone or it is used to summon someone. Is that correct?"

"Exactly!" Teal’c smiled. "You are learning very quickly. However, I think we have all worked long enough this day. Also, since we have all been studying very hard, I believe tomorrow should be a holiday. Would that be agreeable to you both?"

"Yes, please," Lonny answered in English. "I would like that very much."

"Okay by me," Marissa said, practicing her English slang, and giving Teal’c a big smile. "I will start our holiday by making something special for dinner. You both must stay here until I call. It will be a surprise." She left them huddled over the drawing board with Teal’c labeling the legs, arms, eyes, mouth and ears of the doll.

***

Sam was closing the bedroom shutters when Daniel came up behind her and put his arms around her. "Are we done being SG-1 for today?" he asked.

"I’d say so," she answered, leaning into him.

"Good," he nuzzled her neck and turned her to face him. "I have a surprise for you. When I opened the box that was labeled water purification tablets I found this." He held up a small CD player. "I don’t know where it came from. Another SG team must have turned it in after a mission. There were three CDs with it, all with slow dance music. I put in the solar battery from my razor and it works. So, Doctor Carter, would you care to dance?"

"Doctor Jackson, I would be delighted."

He started to turn on the CD player.

"Wait a minute." She sat down and took off her boots. "Dancing in combat boots isn’t very romantic. Okay." She gave him her hand and he swept her into his arms. They began moving around the floor to Shania Twain’s ‘From This Moment On.’

As the song finished, Daniel whispered in Sam’s ear, "my dreams did come true because of you and I will love you as long as I live."

They kissed as they continued to dance. "Do you remember the first time we danced?" Sam asked with a smile.

"Oh, yeah, I was just thinking about that today when I was looking for you. That was the night I told you I could sense you."

"It was also the night the Colonel didn’t ask me to marry him." Sam was still smiling.

"What?" He leaned back to study her face. "You are going to explain that, aren’t you."

She moved her hands to his buttocks as they danced. "Do you remember him dancing with me like that?"

"You betcha! I wanted to grab him and throttle him, I was so jealous."

"And I was pretty drunk on Champaign. Later he came back to dance with me again to the ‘Anniversary Waltz’ and he said, and I quote, ‘It would be wonderful to be dancing with you to this someday, celebrating our own anniversary.’ I said, ‘Is that a proposal?’ and he said, ‘I wish it were.’ Then he went on about the Goa’uld. By the time he left me I was ready to cry and, fortunately, Teal’c picked that moment to dance with me. I started to cry buckets and he danced me outside and took me home."

"I remember Teal’c coming in to tell us he was going to do that."

"When we got there I started drinking Champaign cocktails and then I told him about the proposal and about what you had told me. Then, drunk as I was, I told him a lie. I said I was upset because I was in love with the Colonel. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him the truth. Anyway, then I passed out and he put me to bed and never mentioned it again. I really think he knew I lied though. Maybe it was my imagination, but after that, whenever you and I interacted and Teal’c was around, he got this funny look in his eyes, like he was trying not to smile."

Daniel led Sam through an intricate dance step and then stopped as they waited for the next number. "I think you’re right. The next day I asked him if he had enjoyed the wedding and he said it was very informative. Then he didn’t quite smile. By the way, I’ll never be jealous of Jack again. If you still called him Colonel after that, he never had a chance." He reached over and turned off the CD. "I think that’s enough mood music for one night. Don’t you think its time we went to bed?"

***

The next morning, as they were finishing breakfast, Sam said wistfully, "we never did have that bath together."

A few minutes later they were sitting side by side in the roomy bathtub soaking in the warm water. Sam turned and began making soap designs on Daniel’s chest with her fingers. "Have you noticed that we can’t seem to stop touching each other?" she asked as she kissed his shoulder.

"Mmm. Stop that. I need your lips up here to keep me from talking."

She worked her way up to his mouth.

"That’s better," he said when they came up for air. "Why should we?"

"Why should we what?"

"Why should we stop touching?"

"I can’t think of any reason."

"Good, now that that’s settled, I have a serious question. I made an assumption I shouldn’t have. I know we both love children, but do you want us to have any? I can understand if you don’t. I’ve helped three women give birth so far and I could see the terrible pain they went through, not to mention all the discomfort involved in pregnancy. You know I would be there to help every minute after the child was born, but it would put a crimp in your career, especially at the beginning."

"Daniel, you think too much. You’re worse than I am. Of course I want to have your children. I even have names picked out."

"Already? You work fast lady. What are they?"

"The first girl would be Jackie."

"Yes, Jack would like that. I know he wouldn’t like Jonathon for a boy. And the boy’s name?"

"I was thinking Nicholas, for your grandfather."

"That would be perfect. So how many children are we talking about here?"

"Oh, at least two and then we’ll see. At least we know you’ll be around a long time for them."

"What?"

"Cassie told you."

"Sam, one of three things has just occurred. Either I’m going into hypothermia because this water is getting cold, I’m so blinded by lust I can’t think straight, or you know something I don’t, because I have no idea what you’re talking about now."

"Really? Okay, let’s get dried off and take care of your lust problem and then we’ll talk."

"The drying part is easy," he said as he climbed out of the tub and helped Sam out. He wrapped her in one of the large linen squares they had found in the basement of what they were calling the town hall and grabbed one for himself. "However, I don’t think the lust problem will go away any time soon. We’ll just have to work around it."

"That could be fun," she purred, discarding her towel and moving in to share his. "We haven’t tried standing up yet."

"You are absolutely sex crazed, woman."

"And you’re not?"

"I’d say we’re about even there," he said, as he worked his way down her neck, "but who’s keeping score."

There was a large thump which appeared to come from the front of the house. Sam held up a hand indicating Daniel should wait. She glanced into the bedroom and saw a P-90 near the door. One arm snaked out to grab it and withdraw. She tossed it to Daniel and motioned him into the kitchen. She dropped and rolled into the bedroom coming up under the window with one of the zat guns. Then she waited. When there was no other sound she moved toward the living room, staying low. By the time she got there, Daniel was waiting under the living room window.

He shrugged as she entered the room to show he had discovered nothing. Sam reached for the door handle miming 1-2-3 and then pulled it toward her. Daniel was crouched and ready when the door opened. As he moved into the entry way, an enormous mound of snow cascaded through the door and buried him. Sam came from behind the door and looked outside. The snow had stopped falling and the sun was beginning to melt it. There was nothing else, anywhere around.

She looked down to see Daniel trying to dig his way out of the snowbank in the living room. He was coughing and spluttering and spitting snow. She helped him up and then began to laugh. "What is so funny?" he asked, as he stomped back into the bathroom for his towel.

"You, wearing nothing but a P-90, going to confront the enemy."

He turned around and handed her a T-shirt. "Yeah," he said with a smirk, "I hate to tell you, but a zat gun covers up even less. What was that anyway?"

Sam looked outside again. "I think the snow fell off the roof and when I opened the door it just collapsed inside."

"Wonderful! As soon as I get some clothes on, I’ll go get the shovel."

"I’ll be right behind you. Neither of us is going out alone. We still have half the village to explore."

After shoveling the snow out of the house and drying up the living room, they began to check the rest of the village. Sam found a large bottle of shampoo in a bathroom, and several lanterns which smelled like they were fueled by kerosene. Daniel found the kerosene storehouse, several books, and what he thought might be a diary or journal. In a shed at the far end of the village they found a vehicle, somewhat like a Sno-Cat. Sam determined it ran on solar power, so she set it up to charge and they returned home for the night.

As soon as the door was barred, Daniel turned on one of the lanterns and sat down to pour over his find. Sam busied herself filling the other lanterns and placing them in convenient locations and then wandered out to look at their assortment of food.

She stuck her head back in the bedroom to ask, "I suppose you want me to make dinner tonight, since you’re so absorbed in your reading?"

"Oh God, no!" Daniel jumped up. "I’ll be right there!" He looked in a box. "How about chili, if you’re hungry right now? Or maybe chili mac? There seems to be a kind of pasta among the Jaffa packets."

"That sounds good. I think we’ve got some peaches for dessert." Sam rummaged around. "Yep, here they are."

Once dinner was over, Daniel sat down again to puzzle over the books. Sam dropped beside him and laid a hand over the page he was studying. He looked up at her and frowned. Then he took her hand and kissed it. "Sam, you are the sun, moon and stars for me, and I love you to distraction, but I’ve just found a new puzzle and you’ve got to let me play with it for a while. I promise I will be just as understanding when you find a new mechanical gizmo to enthrall you."

Sam laughed and took her hand back. "I’m sorry, I’ll let you go back to your puzzle in a minute but this is important."

"Okay." He put the book down.

"Daniel, we can never be caught again like we were this morning. Even though we are locked inside here, we are still off-world and need to stay alert for danger. Its my fault, I let my guard down, but we have to set up some rules. Number one is: no more bath’s together. One of us needs to be armed and alert at all times, except when we’re sleeping. Number two: our weapons must be close to hand. It was really stupid of me not to take a weapon into the bathroom today. Number three: we should both have our radios close at all times. I should have been able to share intelligence with you when we were in separate rooms. And last, but not least, number four - no more sleeping nude. My T-shirt and your briefs stay on," she blushed, "or at least go right back on afterward."

Daniel nodded. "I agree with you. We will have the rest of our lives to sleep naked and bathe together. There is another consideration. Since I’m not military, I think we can talk General Hammond into letting us stay together on SG-1, but we will have to convince him we can do our jobs without letting our feelings get in the way. By the way, he had better give you command of the team this time. I won’t work for anyone else."

"Okay, Major Carter is now going off duty." She leaned over and gave him a long lingering kiss. "You are officially allowed to submerge yourself in that alien text now. You know where to find me when you’re ready for bed. I’ll go field strip a gun or something."

"Work on figuring out those maps. I have a feeling there is something we’re missing," Daniel said in the voice which told her he really wasn’t there any more, but was already far gone in deciphering whatever mystery was absorbing him at the moment.

"No wonder Sara left you," Sam mumbled as she started to walk away.

"Hey!" He was up and had her in his arms in an instant. "I will never let that happen with you. I will fight my way through ancient texts, relics, and artifacts, ripping them apart with my bare hands, to keep you with me always." He kissed her tenderly. Blue eyes met blue as he asked, "Do you believe me?"

"After that declaration, how could I not?" She returned the kiss and then pushed him away. "Get to work. I’m only giving you a couple of hours to uncover the secrets of the universe before bed time."

***

Teal’c was again studying the mysterious charts with Lonny, who was sitting on the table practicing her English on him. "Teal’c, can we go there?" she asked, pointing to a planet represented with the strange symbol.

"No, that planet is far away in a direction we do not want to go."

"Where are we?"

Teal’c pointed to a vacant spot on the chart. "We are approximately here."

"Then why can’t we go here?" Lonny pointed to the nearest planet showing the symbol.

"That is the wrong direction. We want to go this way." He indicated the direction of their flight.

"Then why can’t we stop here and see what that is?" Lonny’s finger stabbed the next planet on their route showing the symbol.

"Mistress Lenore, I believe you have again been of great assistance." He picked her up and carried her to the bridge, where Marissa was sitting in the co-pilot’s chair letting the hem down on one of Lonny’s dresses. "Lonny has made a practical suggestion," he said as he seated himself, placing Lonny on his lap. "Lonny, tell your mother what you said."

Lonny sat up straight and said in her best English, "I asked Teal’c why we can’t visit a planet on the special chart," she said proudly.

"It might be dangerous," Teal’c cautioned, "but it may prove very useful to the Tau’ri and the Jaffa resistance. It will not take us much out of our way. What do you think?"

"I trust you to keep us from harm Teal’c. From what you have told me of the war and what I know of the Goa’uld, I believe we should do anything we can to help. Let us investigate your mystery."

Teal’c bowed his head to Marissa and began the calculations to reach the nearest planet marked with the cryptic symbol.

***

Sam’s hands settled on the back of Daniel’s shoulders. Her right began to work on his neck muscles. He turned his head and smiled up at her, then reached around to pull her onto his lap, setting the book he was reading aside. "Time’s up already?" he asked.

"Well, no, but I have some information you might want."

"And what’s that?" He nuzzled her neck.

"I missed you," she sighed.

"An important piece of intel. I missed you too."

Sam shook him off. "God, we’re like teenagers. Stop it Daniel! I really do have something to tell you."

"Okay, I’m listening. However, I’ll probably pay more attention if you’re not sitting on my lap."

"You put me there," Sam pointed out, as she stood and helped him to his feet. "Come look at this." She led him over to several charts she had spread out on the floor.

Kneeling in front of them, she began to show him points of interest. He crouched beside her listening intently. Instantly the romantic fog they had been in peeled away, and the two SG-1 scientists began to work as one to solve this new problem.

Daniel stood and returned to his previous location, rooted through the stack of books he had found, and brought one to Sam to show her illustrations in the text which matched those on some of the charts.

Finally, he sat back on his heels. "Okay, let’s summarize what we think we’ve discovered. Number one, these are all star charts. Number two, these on the left are charts of systems which contain known stargates. Number three, the pile on the right is of systems we have never visited. Number four, the right hand pile shows a symbol which is somewhat like the stargate symbols in the left hand stack, but not quite the same. Am I correct, so far?"

"Yes, and the two symbols remind me of something I’ve seen before."

"You know, now that you mention it, they remind me of something too. Both symbols appear in the book I showed you, but I’ve never seen this word before. And those strange charts are marked in a language I’ve never encountered. It has a very slight relationship to Ancient but I can’t get anywhere with it."

They both continued to stare at the charts. Finally Sam picked up the book Daniel had referenced and started flipping through it, stopping to study the illustrations. She looked back at the charts again. "I think I might have an idea. At least I figured out what these symbols remind me of. Think about an aeronautical chart. Remember the symbols for small airports, and the airport symbol with a little anchor inside it to show its a seaplane landing area?"

"So you’re saying both symbols represent stargates, but these are a different kind of stargate? It makes sense, but what kind of different stargate could there be?" He scratched his head. "I need more reference material. Let’s go back to the town hall tomorrow. Maybe we missed something."

"Okay, but I get the left hand corridor this time."

"That sounds like a deal. Um, Major Carter?"

"Yes, Doctor Jackson?"

"Would you care for another dance or two before bedtime?"

She removed her boots and stood. "I would be delighted. Find something really romantic."

"They’re all romantic. Let’s see."

***

"We have reached the nearest star system marked on the chart," Teal’c said as he brought the teltac out of hyperspeed. "My instruments do not show any other ships in the system, but we must be prepared. You are sure Lonny is safely strapped in?"

"Yes," Marissa answered. "I have explained that she must stay in her seat until I tell her she can move."

"Very well. I am checking the planets now. We can most likely eliminate those that can not support human life, at least on our first pass. There, this is the only Earth type planet in this system. I have configured the sensors to search for naquada. If there is any there, the sensors should detect it. If whatever we are looking for contains no naquada, we will have to devise a different search procedure."

Marissa kept her eyes on the instruments, as she had been taught, while Teal’c concentrated on looking for naquada. They had completed several orbits, spacing them as far apart as possible, with the sensors extended to their maximum range, when Teal’c brought the teltac to a stop and pointed.

"There! There is naquada in this location. I will bring us in for a closer look."

He maneuvered the teltac out of orbit and brought it into a hover close to the ground. "The naquada should be here, but I do not see anything. This a barren location. There are no trees or greenery of any kind, just mountains in varying shades of grey. Objects made of naquada are also usually grey. Perhaps that is the difficulty. I will come in from a different direction. It is possible a different angle of the sun will help. While I am doing that, you may release Lonny and let her come forward. This planet is not inhabited and should not prove dangerous."

A few minutes later Lonny was standing between the pilot seats looking through the view port. "What are you looking for?" she asked.

"I do not know exactly, something large and man made," Teal’c explained. "I believe it is the same color as the mountains, and therefore hard for us to see."

Lonny looked carefully around. "Could that be it?" she asked pointing.

"No, that is a stone arch. What we are looking for is not made of stone."

"What is that shiny thing?"

Teal’c narrowed his eyes and looked where Lonny’s finger pointed.

"I do not know, but it is the only anomaly in the area. I will land nearby and we will investigate."

***

Sam and Daniel had hiked to the other side of the village and then driven the snowcat back to the town hall. They had explored the first floor of the building again, and found nothing to interest them, except a large supply of toilet paper, so they had returned to the basement.

"Why do you suppose this is the only building with a functional bathroom?" Sam mused.

"My guess is that this was Goa’uld headquarters and they didn’t stay in the village at night. I think they used the ring transporter to return to a ship in orbit when they were here."

"Okay, so we have Goa’uld who worked in this building, or maybe just occasionally popped in to see how their slaves were doing. Why was there a village here to begin with? Its not a garrison. Its not a mining operation. Its not a repair station. Its just offices. And why is there so much junk in the basement? Its almost like a supply depot. Maybe that’s it. Maybe Goa’uld mother ships stopped here to pick up equipment." Sam sat down at the desk in the guard room and started looking through drawers.

"What are you looking for?"

"I’m not sure. Maybe duty rosters, or work assignment lists. What’s this?" She handed him a clipboard.

"Well, first off," Daniel said, turning it over in his hands, "this is another item that appears to be universal throughout the galaxy." He glanced through the papers attached to it. "This is a list of names and duty assignments. There appear to be two types of workers listed, soldiers and, maybe, scientists. The scientists, for want of a better term, were working on, oh, this is interesting, cataloging material from an excavation. So where is the material?"

"That’s a good question. I have another. If they were storing supplies in the basement, how did they get them down here? It makes no sense to have a ring transporter which works from the first floor and have to carry everything from there to the basement and back again. Here’s another question. If the Goa’uld built this place, they certainly didn’t build Machello’s device into it. If they didn’t, and it was already here when they moved in, why didn’t it go off before? And that brings me back to my original question, if the Goa’uld didn’t build this place, why is it the only building with a functional bathroom?"

Daniel sat in another chair, put his chin in his hands, stared at Sam and frowned. Sam stared back. They sat in silence for several minutes.

What if , , ," they said together, and then laughed.

"Okay, beautiful, you go first."

Sam dimpled. "Let’s assume that the Goa’uld did build this supply depot and that there is a way to move supplies from the first floor to the basement and back."

"Uh huh. Where were you standing when you got whisked to the basement?"

"Right under the ring transporter. Which means that if someone wanted to move cargo after it was received from the ship . . ."

"They would wave their hand through the beam and the cargo would be moved to the basement."

"So there’s probably another beam down here to move the cargo upstairs again."

"And its got to be right outside the cage." They moved back to the vicinity of the cage and started inspecting the walls. "Here it is," Daniel stuck his finger in the hole.

"Fine! Now we know how to transport cargo, but if that’s how I ended up in the cage, why did I hear Machello?"

"Were you down here or upstairs when you heard his voice?"

"Down here."

"Was there anything else in the cage?"

"Yes, it was as cluttered as the basement."

Daniel handed the key to Sam. "Let me take a look inside. A Goa’uld killer isn’t going to do anything to me, but just in case it locks me in, you can get me out."

Daniel ducked through the low doorway and began to investigate the items in the room. "Its got to be something that would spread. If they could confine it to just this basement, they wouldn’t have abandoned the planet. There’s a trunk full of books here. I’m going to shove them out the door when I’m done. Sam, is there anything that would kill a Goa’uld but not hurt the host at all?"

"Nothing I know about, except Machello’s little nastys."

"Well, its got to be something in this mess of junk. Let’s jam that door so it can’t close and then you come take a look. If we’ve got a Goa’uld killer, we’re going to have to figure it out. We certainly can’t ask the Tokra to do it!" Daniel jammed the trunk full of books under the door. "That should hold it. What about this gizmo over here? It looks like its in one piece anyway."

"I’m going to go back upstairs and beam myself down again and you watch what happens. See if anything lights up or hums."

Daniel moved as far away from the center of the cage as he could get and waited. A few minutes later Sam appeared beside him.

"Well, what did you see?" she asked.

"Just you appearing in a circle of light. But I did hear Machello and something humming, I think over this way."

Sam studied the object in question. "Uh, oh! I think this is a biological weapon. It shoots a fine mist. I’m guessing, because the stairs weren’t normally used, that the cargo handlers rode down on the beam with their merchandise. I think this must have been in the last shipment and whoever opened the crate got zapped and contaminated everyone else in the facility. If the Goa’uld inside died, maybe the host rounded up all the humans on the planet and used the ring transporter to go to the mother ship and take it over or maybe he contaminated everyone else by accident first. I think we better leave it here. Let’s take your crate of books and go home for the night."

"Wait a minute, Sam. Why is there a cage if the Goa’uld killer got here accidentally in a supply or artifact shipment?"

"Maybe the freed hosts built it to make sure the Goa’uld got a dose of whatever this is. The mesh is fine enough to prevent a symbiot from escaping."

"Okay, and it does look fairly new. I think I want to shove the crate back in the cage and transport it up. If you’ll come out and activate the beam, I’ll ride up with it."

Sam crawled out of the cage and helped Daniel shove the crate inside. Then she waved her hand through the beam and watched him disappear with it. When she reached the upper level he had pushed it almost to the front door. Together, they managed to get it aboard the snow cat and later, maneuver it into their house.

***

Teal’c, Marissa and Lonny stood near the teltac and stared at the object they had discovered. "I do not understand," Marissa said. "It appears to be a gigantic mirror. I see the rocks behind us reflected, but I do not see us. Do you know what it is, Teal’c?"

"Indeed, it is a quantum mirror, but many times larger than the ones I am familiar with. It is big enough for a death glider to pass through. It might even be large enough for a stargate to fit inside."

Lonny had been picking up and discarding stones of various shapes and colors, gradually making her way closer to the mirror. Now she stopped in front of it. "Teal’c, why don’t I see myself?" she asked, as she reached a hand out to touch the mirror’s surface.

Teal’c screamed, "No!" as he launched himself through the air toward her. Marissa screamed as Lonny disappeared and appeared inside the mirror. Her maternal instinct went into overdrive as she rushed to rescue her child. By the time she reached the mirror, Teal’c was already on the other side with Lonny. She watched in horror as a staff blast was directed toward them from the enemy within the mirror. Teal’c scooped Lonny into his arms and dove back through the mirror, rolling to his feet and grabbing Marissa’s hand, racing with her back to the teltac. He shoved her inside, dropped Lonny in her arms, slammed his hand on the door control and raced for the pilot’s seat. He did not speak until they had lifted far above the mirror.

"Prepare for hyperspeed," he ordered as he cleared the atmosphere.

Marissa buckled herself into the co-pilot seat with Lonny on her lap. "Ready," she gasped.

Teal’c quickly calculated and entered a new course and started the hyperspeed engine. After a check of his instruments, he turned to Marissa and Lonny. "Are you both uninjured?" he asked.

"We’re fine," Marissa assured him.

"Those were mean Jaffa!" Lonny declared.

"They were, indeed. I believe you have learned a valuable lesson, today, Mistress Lenore." Teal’c cocked an eyebrow at her.

"Ask before I touch things?"

"That is correct. There is another lesson as well. Until we reach the safety of Earth, you must assume that even the most innocent looking situations may be dangerous. You must be cautious. Can you remember that?"

"I will try."

"Good. Now you may unbuckle your restraints and I believe it is time for your lunch."

Lonny and Marissa left the bridge and headed for the recreation area. A few minutes later Marissa returned to ask Teal’c what he would like for lunch. She found him sitting with his head in his hands. When she touched him, she felt a tremor run through his body. She crouched beside him and took his hands from his face.

"What is it? Are you injured?"

Teal’c pulled her up onto his lap and crushed her against him. "I am ashamed of my weakness. I have never felt this way before. When Rya’c was small and became involved in dangerous situations, I knew they were part of the rite of passage that would help him develop into a great warrior one day. They did not terrify me as this did. I do not think I could bear it if something happened to Lonny, or to you."

"Teal’c, thanks to you, nothing happened. She is safe and uninjured. It is true that this was an unusual situation, but, as you have just said, children get into dangerous situations. All we can do is prepare them as best we can. You are looking out for her as if she were your own. I could not ask for more. It is just one of the many reasons I love you."

Teal’c had been holding her and taking comfort from her presence and her soothing words. Now he loosened his hold and looked into her face. "I thank you for your confidence in me and for the comfort you have given both my body and my spirit, but you must not mistake the security I offer to you and Lonny for love."

"Is it an offense to offer you love?" Marissa asked quietly. "If that is the case, I humbly beg your pardon and I will not mention it again."

"No, you misunderstand me. I am honored that you consider me worthy of your love. You do not know what awaits you on Earth. There are many men who will vie for your affection there. On Earth I am an outsider. My teammates and friends in the SGC treat me as an equal, but others think of me as a dangerous alien. At worst, I am thought of there as a monster, or at best as a freak. If we were to pursue a relationship on Earth, you would also be shunned."

"I am used to being shunned. You forget that those in my village thought of me as a heretic. The only reason I was allowed to stay was because of Lonny."

"And what of Lonny? Do you wish her to grow up with no friends? Parents will not want their children around me."

"Then we will not live on Earth!"

"Marissa, you truly will find a more suitable mate when we reach Earth. I can guarantee that."

"Teal’c, I do not want anyone else. I do not care if I were to meet a man who would buy me a palace, I love you. The question is, do you care for me? I know you love Lonny, but if you do not love me, or don’t think you will ever be able to love me, I will understand." Her green eyes stared deep into his brown ones, reaching into his soul.

Teal’c sighed and looked away from her. "Marissa, it is not proper for me to love you. I do not believe it is honorable for me to do so." He turned back to look at her again and said, barely above a whisper, "but I do love you. I vow to care for you and Lonny as long as you wish me to."

"Then I am content." She kissed him quickly and stood. "Let us join Lonny for lunch."

***

Thump, bump! Thump, bump! Thump, bump! Sam looked up from the map she had been studying and glanced around. The sound was coming from the living room, where Daniel had gone a few minutes ago. She grabbed a zat and took the long way around, through the bathroom and the kitchen. When she reached the door to the living room it was standing open as usual. She could see Daniel standing with his back to the bedroom door. He reached down, scooped something up and hurled it against the far wall. Thump! Bump! A ball bounced back toward him and he reached, scooped and threw again. Thump, bump!

"I thought you were working," Sam laughed, as she stepped in front of him and caught the ball.

"I am. I’m allowing my brain to process information, while I get a little exercise."

"Oh, you’re not getting enough exercise? I think I can do something about that."

"Really! Get your coat. We can have a snowball fight."

"That’s not quite what I had in mind, but you may be right. We don’t want to get soft, while we’re waiting for the weather to break." She grabbed her jacket and gloves, holstered her zat, and zipped up her vest. "Okay, five minutes to make ammunition and the fight is on." A few minutes later she slid out the door while he was still searching for his jacket.

Twenty minutes later they were both soaking wet from ducking and dodging in the snow. Sam had just gotten Daniel in the heart area with a monster of a snowball and he decided to end the battle by tackling her and rolling her into a snow bank. Sam’s superior hand to hand skills allowed her to turn the tables on him and he found himself flat on his back with her standing over him laughing. One of the techniques Jack had been trying to teach him for years flashed through his mind and his leg shot out, tripping her and causing her to land face down on top of him. He immediately grabbed her and rolled himself on top, hoisting a handful of snow above her face.

"Truce?" he asked.

Sam eyed the snow. "Truce," she agreed, as she pulled his head down to hers for a very wet kiss.

"Mmm!" Daniel slowly opened his eyes and did a pushup to remove his weight from Sam. "I really thought I could make love to you anywhere, but this is a bad idea. Let’s go inside." He rolled to his feet and reached out to pull her up. Sam came into his arms and her right hand went behind his neck. He knew he would soon feel her soft fingers against the short hair there. Since she had told him that was a turn on for her, he eagerly awaited that touch. This time he received a rude shock, as her hand was full of snow and she reached inside his collar and dumped it down his back. Then she ran for the house while he was spluttering. By the time he got inside Sam was standing there holding a towel in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

"I thought you said truce," he complained as he started to shed his wet clothing and towel himself dry.

"I did, but it was just too tempting. I distinctly remember the Colonel telling you that you get too smug when you execute a maneuver perfectly. He said you always let your guard down afterward and he was right."

"I didn’t know this was unarmed combat practice," Daniel said grumpily, as he reached for the coffee she was holding out to him. "Is this honest to God just plain coffee this time, or am I going to wake up on another balloon?"

"Its real coffee. I put it on before we went outside. I thought we would be cold when we came in."

"You got that right lady." He took a long swallow. "Hey, this is really good! It actually tastes like coffee. Its been so long I almost forgot what it really tastes like. Give me a couple of minutes to savor this and then we can take up where we left off in the snow."

Sam began shedding her wet clothing as they talked and draping it across a line they had set up. She added Daniel’s and both their flak vests, then picked up the maps to move them to another location so they would be safe from the dripping water.

"Daniel, we agreed these symbols both represented stargates and they have some kind of writing next to them on the charts. Part of the marking is the same on both charts, so shouldn’t that be the ‘gate’ part?"

"What? Let me see that." He looked over her shoulder as she spread out two charts.

"Darn! They keep rolling up. Where’s that book?" She started to rummage through the large pile of books they had accumulated.

"Here it is." Daniel grabbed it and sat on the floor, searching for the right page. Sam sat beside him and burrowed under his arm to see. "Yes, you are absolutely right." He turned and kissed the top of her head. "Tua cerebrum te amo."

Sam laughed. "I don’t think that’s the most romantic thing that’s ever been said to me, but coming from you, I will take it as a high compliment. What can I do to help?"

"Take a stack of books and start going through them looking for the ‘gate’ word or the prefixes and put a bookmark on the page. I’ll do the same. Once we have all the passages marked, I may be able to figure something out."

Sam moved under the window so the light would fall over her shoulder and picked up a book.

"And Sam," Daniel moved across the room and knelt in front of her, "its wonderful to be able to say things like that out loud to you. I’ve been thinking them for years." He leaned forward for a brief kiss and then settled beside her with a book of his own.

Several hours later they were still sitting there. They had paused briefly to light the lanterns and grab a quick meal and then returned to their task.

"Well, that’s the last one." Sam closed the book in her hand and added it to a large stack. "The short stack on the right has ‘gate’ references. Stack two has the prefix we think is star, stack three has the other prefix and the one in the back has nothing. There were only two books like that."

Daniel looked at his stacks and then at hers. "They seem to match up pretty well. Wow, the stack with the other prefix is a lot bigger than any of the others. Now its time for me to get down to work."

"Okay, just for fun, I’m going to go through the books you found earlier, just to see if there might be a reference. Do you know what they’re about?"

"One’s a cookbook, the one with the grease stains is a service manual for some sort of vehicle, the green one is a first aid manual, and the blue one is a textbook on interstellar navigation. That’s the one we found the illustrations in. I haven’t looked at the journal yet. Its handwritten and much harder to read." He sighed and picked up the first book from the largest stack. A few minutes later he put it down and started rubbing a hand up and down the bridge of his nose. "That’s it. This pair of extended wear contacts is coming out right now." He reached up and popped out both lenses, closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall. "Oh, that feels good."

"Daniel, I’ve always wondered, why don’t you have eye surgery?"

"I’m afraid," he said without opening his eyes.

"Oh, come on, you’ve withstood Goa’uld torture! I don’t believe you could be afraid of eye surgery."

"Um, no, I’m not afraid of the surgery, I’m afraid of blowing my cover as the harmless archeologist."

"What?"

He reached in his vest and pulled out his glasses. "When I was growing up these kept me out of a lot of trouble. They helped me fade into the background and not be a threat to anyone. By the time I no longer needed to hide, my trust fund had run out and I had no insurance so I couldn’t afford the surgery. Then I ended up on Abydos for a year. When I came back, well, I told you when I fell in love with you and how guilty I felt about it. I didn’t want you to notice me and I certainly didn’t want Jack noticing me noticing you. Does that make sense?"

"It makes perfect sense. I think when we get back, its time for you to stop being harmless."

***

Teal’c found Marissa trying to wash clothes in the inadequate Jaffa facilities. "Don’t Jaffa have need of clean clothing?" she asked when she saw him enter.

"Most of their clothing is armor which can be sponged off. Each Jaffa washes his own personal clothing while aboard. There is not much need for laundry facilities. I will show you a marvelous device when we reach Earth. It is called a washing machine. You simply throw the clothes and some powdered soap in, close it and the machine does the rest. Then you take the clothes out and put them in a companion machine called a dryer. You will love that too."

"I look forward to seeing these marvelous machines."

"I have come to discuss something with you. I believe that we should investigate more of the systems listed on the special charts. There are several on our route. I have no way of knowing if the giant mirror we found is going to be on every planet we visit, or if this was an anomaly. I do not want to put you and Lonny in danger again, however."

"We can stay aboard the teltac while you investigate, Teal’c. I think you should show me how to use the ship’s weapons though."

"An excellent idea. Leave this and let me give you a lesson now."

***

Daniel’s eyes opened to a blurry grey and white image. He didn’t need his glasses to know it was snowing heavily again. He lay quietly relishing the feel of Sam sleeping in his arms. He knew he would never tire of waking up with her close to him. She began to stir and stretch and her beautiful eyes slowly opened. "Tua oculi te amo," he whispered as he leaned in for the first kiss of the morning.

"Mmm! Where is that toothbrush when I need it?"

"Tua spirare te amo."

"Daniel, stop it! There must be something about me that you don’t love."

"A long time ago, I might have said you work too hard, but I’ve grown to love that about you, too. Besides, that would be like the pot calling the kettle black." He ran the back of his fingers down her cheek. "I want you to know, in plain and simple English, that I pledge myself to you for as long as we both shall live, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, in war and in peace, in laughter and in tears and in any other instances that you can think of. I love your brain, I love your soul, I love your body. Every moment I spend with you makes my heart sing with joy."

Sam stared at him for a moment. She took the fingers that were touching her cheek and kissed them. "I, Samantha, take you, Daniel, to be my husband. I promise to share with you all the good and bad that will occur until we die. I promise to love you for all eternity and do my best to make your life happy."

"Meus uxor es et te amo."

"I’m sorry, I didn’t get all of that one. My Latin tends more toward mechanical objects."

"I said, ‘You are my wife and I love you’."

"What’s husband?"

"Maritus."

"Mea maritus es et te amo."

"Oh, Sam!" He began to touch her in spots he know knew would arouse her, enjoying every movement she made, every response she offered him, his pride in being able to please her, almost overcoming his own need.

Later, as he lay dozing beside her, she began to idly run her fingers across his chest and down his side. "Hey, that tickles," he said, gently grabbing her hand to stop her and pulling her fingers to his mouth to kiss them.

"Daniel," Sam touched his dimple and ran her hand up into his hair. "I have a question about sex."

"What?" He started to laugh. "You’re doing it right, believe me. I have no complaints."

"No, its not about me. Its about you."

"Okay!" He rolled over and reached for his glasses, slipping them on and sitting up to look at her. "What am I doing wrong?"

"Its not what you’re doing wrong. You’re, um . . ."

"I’m what?"

"Uh, marvelous, magnificent, I don’t know the right words."

He blushed and cleared his throat. "Okay, so what’s the question?"

"Well, Jonas, um, was not as gentle as you are. Do you ever, uh . . .?"

"Play rough?"

"Yes."

"Sam, I won’t lie to you. It sometimes gives a man pleasure to dominate a woman. I have tried that way, and I never got much satisfaction out of it. I don’t think I could do that to you if you asked me to. I told you long ago that I thought Jonas Hansen was little more than a beast. I don’t think he cared about you or your feelings. I think you had figured that out for yourself when you dumped him."

"You are right about that. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t keeping you from getting everything you needed."

"No, baby, I’m getting more than I ever dreamed possible. However, I do have a question for you. The other day you said something about me being around a long time for our children. Then you said something about Cassie. What did you mean?"

"Do you remember when we got sent back to 1969?"

"Yeah?"

"We entered the wormhole too soon and got flung into the future and Cassie met us in the gateroom and sent us back to the present."

"I’m with you so far."

"Cassie said she didn’t recognize you with hair."

"I thought she was talking about Teal’c, who was wearing a wig."

"No, she had already greeted Teal’c and she was looking at you when she said it. She inadvertently told us something about your future. You are going to go bald someday and, judging by your beautiful, luxuriant hair, its going to be a long time from now."

"So I’ll be around a long time for our kids. Got it."

"Daniel, I didn’t really mean to tell you that. Please don’t let it make you feel invulnerable. You already take too many risks with your life. The danger of time travel is that, if you know the future, you might be able to make it change, consciously or unconsciously. As far as we know, the members of SG-1 are the only people to ever travel through time. We really don’t know what effect we had on 1969. We might have changed our future then, and we wouldn’t know it."

"I promise not to be any more reckless than usual. Speaking of the future, I had a dream about us. Actually I dream about you every night, but this one wasn’t erotic. It was the day you hurt your hand, the day I really gave my feelings for you away. I was so afraid when I saw that thing eating into hand. Anyway, that night I had a dream about the two of us walking down a street holding the hands of a small boy who looked just like you. I decided then that I would tell you how I felt when we finally got home."

"And the night before, I was trying to get you to admit your feelings. I thought the gay question would do it, but you thought I just wanted sex. That’s one of the few times our minds weren’t right in sync." She leaned into him and traced his collarbone with her fingers. "I can’t decide what makes me happiest, touching you, making love, listening to your heart beat, talking, working on a problem together, or just knowing that you love me as much as I love you. You were right when you said long ago that I had never known love."

"Oh, Sam!" He buried his face in her neck. "I never forgave myself for that cruel remark. Even in sarcophagus withdrawal I had no right to lash out at you like that. Part of me wanted to fall on my knees and ask your forgiveness."

"Okay, that’s enough angst for today. You can earn my forgiveness with one of your wonderful breakfasts and then get back to work. The Air Force isn’t paying you to make love to me."

"No, but six months back pay for both of us will pay for a great wedding." He jumped up and started for the kitchen. "Do you want a big wedding?"

"Not unless you do. I’d like to get married on a wilderness planet in front of the stargate. Everybody I would want to be there knows what we do, except Mark."

"What’s wrong with this planet? Once we finish the mission we could come back here for the wedding. It would make me feel Jack was part of it, too."

Sam went into his arms, her eyes filled with tears. "That would be perfect. Thank you for thinking of that."

"No more angst, Major. I have galley duty now. Go do something military." He pushed her out of the kitchen.

***

"Marissa, can you swim?" Teal’c was flat on his back, having just been thrown over Marissa’s shoulder again.

"Yes. Why do you ask?"

"To distract you," he informed her as he swept her feet out from under her and dumped her. "You must learn not to lose your concentration. Can Lonny swim?"

"No, we did not live near a stream after her birth." She held out a hand for him to help her up.

"I will look forward to teaching her, then. It is a skill every child should acquire. Do you wish to have another child?" He took her hand and pulled her to her feet.

"Do you?"

"Children are the reason we exist, but I do not have to bear them and care for them constantly until they are old enough to look out for themselves."

"Then yes, I would like to bear you children."

"Then we will speak to Doctor Fraiser when we return to Earth. I believe she now has enough knowledge of Jaffa physiology to genetically engineer a child so that it will not be Jaffa. In the meantime, you do not need to worry. Because of my symbiot, I have the means to control my ability to make you pregnant."

"Teal’c, you are going to need to explain what you just said. What is physiology? For that matter, what is genetically engineer?"

"Ah, it is time for a science lesson. Let me find the first aid text. Perhaps we will follow the classroom lecture with a practical demonstration." He started to walk away and then turned back. "I believe you and Lonny are helping me develop the sense of humor O’Neill says I lack. Thank you."

"Daniel, I think you should take a look at this journal. I have learned to read a little Goa’uld, mostly instrument markings, but this longhand is driving me crazy. I can read the dates though and there are a lot of other numbers. I think its mostly about weather and it goes back several years. See what you think."

She dropped down beside him and handed him the journal. He passed her the book he was reading to hold. Sam stuck a bookmark in his place and began to turn pages, looking for marked passages.

"I think you’re right. Its a weather and crop diary. Apparently there are some vegetable gardens under the snow. It says here that once the snow covers the, I can’t make out that word, it starts to thaw within a week and spring comes three weeks later. Its been the same for six straight years. Let me see if I can figure out that word from the rest of the text."

"Okay, I think I know what that prefix is before gate in the unknown language."

"Oh really! What is it?"

"Time."

"Time? Time? Time!" He snatched the volume out of her hands and started shuffling through the pages. "Sam, you’re a genius! Well, we already knew that, didn’t we. But you’re a genius in a whole new area."

"You mean I’m right?"

"I think so. Let me work this out for a few minutes." He started paging through the books muttering, "time, time of day, time to go, day time, time of the year, time gate, time gate! These are time gates!"

"Time gates? You mean time travel gates? How could there be a whole network of time travel gates? That’s impossible, unless . . ."

"Unless someone figured out a way to predict solar flares."

"Oh my God! Daniel, we can go back in time!"

"Sam, we can go into the future! We know this can happen. We’ve already done both."

They sat staring into each other’s eyes. Their expressions changed simultaneously from excitement to triumph and slowly transferred to horror.

Sam looked away and found her voice first. "This discovery is more important than the discovery of the stargate itself."

"And more dangerous," Daniel added. "Can you imagine what the NID would do with a timegate?"

"What if we just used it once, to go back and save the Colonel?"

"Major, you know the answer to that."

Sam looked back at him sharply. He had used her military title on purpose she knew, to remind her of her duty. "I suppose. We could work our way backwards, saving all our friends, Kawalsky, Sha’re, my mother, both your parents."

"Yes, and before we knew it, there would be someone rushing to save President Kennedy, Buddy Holly, Glenn Miller, Abraham Lincoln and everyone else who didn’t die in bed at 95."

"Exactly. History would have so many twists and turns we wouldn’t have a clue. And then there would be the faction that would want to go back and assassinate Hitler, or strangle Apophis before he could take a host, or smother Einstein in his crib so he couldn’t pass on his theory of relativity, or poison Alfred Nobel before he perfected dynamite, or shoot Van Braun and Goddard before they built their first rockets."

"On the other hand, we don’t dare destroy this and not take it back. If we do, someone else will eventually find out. We now have custody of the most dangerous knowledge ever in human history. Come here." He opened his arms and she burrowed against him. "We’ve had the fate of the universe in our hands before, but now we control the fate of every creature who ever lived or will live. I think we’re in way over our heads on this one."

"Its not like the charts are the only clue. Even if we had the only copies and these books had the only references, the gates are still out there. There are probably people living on those planets. The only reason chaos hasn’t descended is because nobody’s figured out how to make them work."

"Well, somebody knew how to make them work once upon a time or they wouldn’t be spread all over the galaxy. Maybe they’re being used right now and we don’t know it because our memories change when time is altered."

"Daniel, don’t! We’ve had only four days to be happy. I can’t take the thought that I might wake up tomorrow and not even know you ever existed. And I had to be the one to figure out the word. Why did I have to stick my nose in it?"

"Don’t beat yourself up about it, I would have figured it out if you hadn’t. There is nothing we can do about this until we get back home. Let’s just wrap this stuff up and take it along and worry about it then."

"You can do that? Just hide that knowledge away in your brain and forget about it?"

"Kind of. Besides I think I have an idea. Who do you trust more than anyone else?"

"You."

"Okay, besides me?"

"Teal, and the Colonel, if he were still here."

"Well, Teal’c is certainly level headed and I see no reason not to bring him into this discussion if we ever see him again. Who else do you trust?"

"General Hammond, but not with this. He would have to pass the information on to the president."

"Okay, anybody else?"

"Janet, but this isn’t her area of expertise. Who are you thinking about?"

"Your father and Selmak. I think they are our only hope. Selmak isn’t compelled to pass on what she finds out and she and Jacob together may be able to come up with a solution. On that basis, can we set this problem aside for now and not let it crush us?"

"I guess there’s nothing else we can do. Can I just sit here with you for a while and listen to your heart beat?"

"Sure baby. You know I used to wake myself up in the middle of the night just to listen to you breathe and feel you exhale on my face. My conscious told me I was stalking you but I couldn’t help it."

"I remember the first time you called me baby. Do you?"

"Oh, yeah, it was at Janet’s, when you busted open the stitches on your hand and were bleeding so badly I thought we would have to rush you to the hospital for a transfusion. It was also the first time I carried you in my arms. I didn’t think you noticed, you were in so much pain."

"I noticed. I’ve noticed a lot of things over the years."

"Such as?"

"Such as on our very first mission when I thought I was protecting you from the staff weapons by pulling you down and then you shielded me with your body. That was pretty impressive. Such as how you stayed on my six when we ended up on the prison planet. That was the first mission after Jolinar and you knew I was still a little shaky. You’ve spent a lot of time unobtrusively watching my back and supporting me when I was down."

"Yes, well, you did the same for me, more times than I can count. That’s what best friends do, protect and support each other. And now we’ve got even more going for us. Are you done listening to my heart baby?"

"Almost. Why is baby your pet name for me?"

"Oh, boy, here we go again. I can’t keep any secrets from you. Its like the six thing. I want to watch over and protect you always."

"But you know I can take care of myself and we already agreed that we wouldn’t let our feelings interfere with our missions."

"Yes, but you can’t imagine how protective you make me feel, just by smiling at me. I’ve only had one other experience that compares to it."

"Really, only once! Who was she?"

"She was an F-15. Remember the time we all went out to test the death glider staff weapons you mated to our F-15s? You and Jack made a pass at the targets and then Jack sent Teal’c and me in. We were in perfect alignment and hit our targets dead center and I pulled up and let out a cowboy whoop over the radio."

"And then you said, ‘permission to express my enthusiasm, sir?’ and the Colonel answered, ‘permission granted.’"

"Then I did victory rolls all the way down the range. I thought that was the greatest thrill I would ever experience and I wanted to take the F-15 home with me to keep, until I landed and got one of those thousand watt smiles from you."

"So you really are a hot fighter jock at heart. That’s another interesting aspect of your personality."

"Like you’re not! Would you rather be flying or building a naquada generator?"

"Flying."

"Uh huh. See. Okay, that’s enough heart action to keep you going until bed time. I still have to figure out what gets covered up with snow. Give me back that journal."

***

"Teal’c, we are approaching the star system you wanted to explore."

"Excellent timing. I have just completed bolting down the seat so Lonny can safely join us on the bridge. Mistress Lenore, if you will take your station, I will adjust the restraints."

Lonny giggled and climbed into her special chair as Teal’c threaded the belts and adjusted them to her size. "How does that feel?" he asked.

"Nice and snug." Lonny smiled and giggled again. "I like to be up front so I can see what’s happening. Its scary back there alone sometimes."

"Now you will no longer be alone." Teal’c dropped a kiss on her head and then settled in the pilot’s seat. "I am coming out of hyperspeed now," he stated, "and preceding toward the inner planets. Most planets with stargates are located within 200 million miles of their suns, using Earth measurements. We will start there and work our way in. I have recalibrated the sensors to look for the combination of naquada and other elements we found in the first mirror. This may take some time. I am seeing no sign of ships or satellites so I believe it is safe for you to both unstrap now and go about your normal activities."

***

"Well, I give up! I’ve been wrangling with this all day and I still have no idea what gets covered with snow. Its probably a nickname or a made up name for some local landmark. I guess we’ll just wait until the snow starts to melt and we’ll find it."

"Yes, and I think we can afford to do that now. That manual you found is for the ‘snow-cat.’ The specs say it can do pretty much the same things a real Sno-Cat can do, including run on dirt and gravel and up and down hills. Furthermore, being solar powered, its not going to run out of gas. We might be able to take it all the way to the stargate if we plan our route correctly."

"No more mountains?"

"Nope, and I think we can find a way around most of the rivers I see on the map. We might be able to build a raft to cross those we can’t go around. In fact, we could build the raft now and just attach it to the top of the cat and carry it with us."

"Yes, and even if the three weeks until spring started right now, we would have plenty of time to do that. Looks like we’re going into the construction business."

Sam smacked herself in the head. "We only have one problem. All the houses are made of stone because there is no suitable wood around here. Those skinny pine trees on the mountain are not going to be useful."

"No, but the Goa’uld make excellent heavy duty wooden packing crates and the basement is full of them. Okay, we can start that project tomorrow. Let’s take the rest of the afternoon off."

"And what would you like to do with your afternoon off, Doctor Jackson?" Sam batted her eyes.

"Oh, don’t do that, or I’ll forget what I had in mind!"

"Very well, sir," Sam, who at the time was wearing only a T-shirt, came to attention and thrust out her chest.

"That’s worse! I was thinking we could give each other haircuts, but if you keep that up, I won’t be responsible for how yours ends up."

"That’s not a bad idea. Let’s do it in the living room, now that I have enough power supplies to heat the whole house. Take off your clothes and grab a towel to sit on."

"Excuse me? You want me naked while you cut my hair?"

"Of course, and no, whatever you’re thinking is not the reason."

"Oh, darn! Okay, what is your practical reason for this?"

"We have only a limited supply of clothing and every time we wash we come that much closer to wearing it out. I expect we’ll be in rags by the time we reach the gate, so if we don’t have to wash it to get the hair off . . ."

"Hmm! Only you could come up with that! I’ll get the scissors out of the first aid kit."

***

"There it is!" Lonny pointed through the viewport.

"You have very good eyes, Mistress Lenore."

"The better to see you with, my dear," Lonny answered, quoting one of the Earth stories Teal’c had told her.

Teal’c chuckled to himself as he brought the teltac closer to the ground to inspect the quantum mirror. This one was located near a wooded area and the giant trees almost hid it from view. He landed on the other side of a hill and set out on foot alone to scout the territory.

When he finally approached the mirror he had found no sign of any activity in the area. The grass in front of the mirror was not flattened and there was no sound to alert his senses. He crawled below the mirror and cautiously raised his head to look into it. He saw the same grassy plain that was behind him and nothing else. He cautiously touched the mirror and found himself on the other side in the same position. He could hear bird calls and animal sounds, wind in the trees and, very faintly, the sound of water flowing, all sounds he had heard on the other side of the mirror. He had no hand controller and dared not leave the vicinity of the mirror. If he did not make his way back to his own reality Marissa and Lonny would be stranded. He had seen some controlling devices at the side of the mirror in his reality and the same devices were attached on this side as well. He would have to leave these for Major Carter and the other scientists to examine at some future time. There was nothing else to learn here so he touched the mirror again and was back in his own reality he hoped. He did not breathe a sigh of relief until he came around the hill and found the teltac exactly where he had left it.

***

"Sam, I’ve found something!" Daniel shouted.

Sam ducked into the cage and dropped a load of wood on the transport spot. "What have you got?"

"The Goa’uld killer was sitting on top of a crate I hadn’t investigated so I put it on the floor and opened up the crate. It must have been designed especially for the Goa’uld killer. See the depression inside. The cover had a pocket and there was a hand written document in it and a journal. I think this is Machello’s personal journal and the document might be the specs for the Goa’uld killer. Do we have about everything we need here? I want to take these home and study them."

"Yes, I’m ready to go. I think we have enough wood to make the raft. We can always come back if we need more. Send me up."

"Right now, or do you want to wait until we get home?"

"Daniel! Go outside and activate the beam. What did I say about sticking to business?"

"I only said," Daniel grumbled as he ducked through the doorway and waved his hand over the hole.

When he reached the upstairs hallway, Sam was already beginning to move their wood pile to the front door. "Its too bad we don’t have a fork lift," he said as he grabbed a stack. "The staff here must have had something to move all that stuff around in the basement."

"Maybe they took it with them. They seem to have taken all the furniture in the village. They could have used it, or them if they had more than one, to bring all their stuff to the ring platform."

"But how did they get them up and down the steps outside?" He had just loaded a stack of wood in the cat and turned to look at the front door of the town hall. "Wait a minute." He began to dig to one side of the steps. "Nope. Nothing there." He went around to the other side of the steps and began to dig and kick his feet around. "Aha! There are several heavy planks here, buried in the snow. That’s how they made the ramp. We can use these for our raft. Let’s dig them out."

A few minutes later, as they were both digging away, Sam fell backwards and sat down hard in the snow. "Ow!" she said as she looked behind her to see what had caused her to fall.

Daniel was quickly at her side. "Are you all right?" he asked as he helped her up.

"I’m fine. But whatever is under the snow here is mighty hard." She turned and began removing snow from an oddly shaped mound. Daniel started working on the other side and soon they had unearthed a metallic mushroom shaped object about three feet tall.

"It sort of reminds me of a DHD," Sam mused. "Its got that shape anyway."

"I think this must be the object referred to in the weather journal. Well, we won’t know when the snow melts off the top now, but I guess we can get a pretty fair idea when the stuff nearby goes down. I wonder if its composition makes it thaw out sooner or later than the snow around it. What do you think Sam?"

"Well, the fact that it is perfectly round means the snow would slide off it when it was coming down so it would be the last thing to be buried. Also, when it starts to melt, it will run off more quickly, so I’d say it would be the first thing thawed. Let’s shove a stick in the ground at the same level as the snow we didn’t disturb here and when the stick starts to show, we’ll know we probably have three weeks or less until spring."

"Hang on, I’ve got just what we need." Daniel went back into the building and appeared a few minutes later carrying a metal pole with a base attached. "I think this was the base of a fan or maybe a coat rack. Anyway the base screws off so we can shove it in the ground. There! How’s that?"

"Perfect. Let’s get this last piece of ramp in the cat and head home. You know, I just realized something. If what we have surmised about the humans taking over a Goa’uld mother ship is true, there is a Goa’uld mothership out there somewhere piloted by humans who know all the secrets of the Goa’uld. If we can find them we will have a powerful ally."

"That would be fantastic! What do you suppose they would do? Would they go somewhere and hide? Or would they try to attack the Goa’uld?"

"Or," Sam speculated as they wrestled the last plank aboard, "would they come looking for us or the Tokra to help them?"

"Or," Daniel swung into the cab and started the engine, "were they defeated when they tried to take over the mother ship?"

"I don’t think so. The Goa’uld would have blasted this planet apart to destroy the Goa’uld killer. I don’t think they would try to attack the Goa’uld. I think it would depend on who among them had knowledge of the Tokra or Earth. If they didn’t know much about their potential allies, they would have to hide out. The next question is, where would you hide a mother ship?"

They continued to discuss that question as they unloaded their cargo and prepared dinner that night.

***

"Teal’c, it is your turn to tell me a story tonight," Lonny stated as she crawled into bed.

"Tonight, I think you should tell me a story." Teal’c sat down on the side of her bed and cocked an eyebrow at her. "Tell me the story about the wolf, in English."

"Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was given the assignment of visiting her grandmother and bringing her food," Lonny began.

Marissa stopped outside the door to listen, smiling proudly at her daughter’s command of this new language, and at the bond that had developed between Lonny and Teal’c. She thought that Norel would be proud of the father she had found to help her raise Lonny. And, she admitted to herself, she was beginning to enjoy the excitement of this new life. Once Lonny was safe on Earth, she wouldn’t mind sharing more adventures with Teal’c. The technology enthralled her and the danger exhilarated her. Lonny seemed to be taking it all in stride and that made her proud as well. She made her way to the bridge to sit in the co-pilot seat and check the instrument readings as she continued to speculate on her new life.

***

"Sam, the tech book on the Goa’uld killer says the residual effects last about two weeks, give or take."

"Residual effects?"

"Yeah, it seems that after about two weeks the person is no longer contagious and won’t kill the Goa’uld in anyone they encounter. That means we won’t kill any Tokra we meet when we get home. I also know how to shut it off now, but I don’t think I should until we’re ready to move it to the SGC."

"I agree. We could move it and hide it somewhere else, but its protected where it is, unless they blow up the planet from space, so there wouldn’t be any point in moving it. What’s that journal say?"

"I haven’t got to that yet. I’d say Machello was quite old when he wrote it, the writing’s pretty shaky. Its going to take me a while. I figure I’ll work on it in the evenings, a little at a time. I think its bath time. Your turn to go first."

"You just want to wash my back!"

"That and any other parts you’ll let me wash."

"Don’t forget to bring a gun." Sam started to shed her clothes and moved into the bathroom to fill the tub. "I’m glad we found more soap in the supply depot. Too bad Jaffa aren’t big on shampoo."

"You know, throughout history shampoo was reserved for the aristocracy. Troops in the field used coarse soap, even on their hair, when they bathed at all. That’s why the Roman soldiers all had short hair. Its also why many cultures used wigs. The hair underneath was really short."

"You have an endless store of historical knowledge."

"Do I drive you as nuts with it as I used to drive Jack?"

"Oh, no! I love to listen to you. I almost always learn something new and I love to watch you when you’re talking about something that really interests you. You get this faraway look in your eyes like you’ve gone back in time and are watching events unfold." Sam stepped into the tub and ducked her head under water to get her hair wet.

Daniel knelt on the floor and began to shampoo her hair. "You know, you get that same absorbed look when you’re explaining scientific phenomena. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to get up and grab you in the middle of a briefing. That look used to drive me crazy."

"Used to?" Sam asked as she came up after ducking again to rinse out the shampoo.

"Well, it still drives me crazy, but I can do something about it now." He kissed her soapy lips and then wet his hand to wipe the soap out of his mouth. "I must remember not to kiss you when your mouth is surrounded by soap."

Sam laughed and then reached up to grab him and kiss him again.

"Hey, cut that out!" he spluttered, "or I won’t wash your back." He wiped his face again. "That’s not true, I wouldn’t give that up, even if you stuffed the whole bar of soap down my throat." He reached for the soap and a rag and started to soap her neck.

"Did your mother ever wash your mouth out with soap?" Sam asked. Then she whipped around to look at him. "Oh, Daniel, I’m sorry, I forgot. How thoughtless of me."

"Hey, its okay. As a matter of fact, she did. I was five, I think, and I had been hanging around with the Egyptian diggers and one night at dinner I spilled a whole jar of jelly all over myself and I let out with a string of epithets in Egyptian. Mom picked me up and hauled me into the bathroom, stripped me and washed my mouth out before she put me in the tub. Looking back on it now, I think she was trying not to laugh as she explained to me what I had done wrong." He stood and handed Sam the soap. "You can do the rest. If I do any more, I’ll be in there with you and we agreed that wasn’t a good idea. Did your mom ever do that to you?"

"No, but she did it to Mark a couple of times. I learned what not to do by watching him get in trouble. So your mom handed out the discipline in your family?"

Daniel sat on a small crate to watch Sam as she completed her bath. "Mostly, dad spanked me a couple of times, when I got into something really dangerous. By the way," he said very quietly, "you do know I was adopted, don’t you? My original name was Daniel Garrett."

"What? No! You said you were in foster homes after your folks died."

"Before and after. My real mother died of a fever just after I was born. Nicholas Ballard was her father. My father died of the same fever just a few weeks later. They were also archeologists and were on a dig somewhere in South America. The Jackson’s were also part of the expedition and they brought me back to civilization. They wanted to adopt me at the time but they were denied because they didn’t have a stable home environment, since they were always traveling to foreign parts. They kept trying and finally got the court to change its mind. My trust fund came from my biological father’s estate. Part of the adoption agreement was that the money could only be used for my education. I only got that amended once. When I was fifteen, I petitioned the court to allow me to use some of the money for flying lessons so that I could fly around the country to various class locations and archeological sites."

"Wait a minute! You wanted to fly around the country to classes at fifteen?"

"Well, they didn’t let me solo until I was sixteen. By then I had my first undergraduate language degrees and I was concentrating on archeology."

"You had bachelor’s degrees at 16?"

"Just language degrees. Come on, Sam. you’re just like me. The only reason you didn’t have any was because you wanted to go the Air Force Academy. I snooped in your personnel records, too. You had finished enough science and math course for several degrees before you entered the Academy. In fact I know you were teaching there in your junior and senior years."

"I’m not even sure the Colonel knew that, although General Hammond did. In fact he was the one who suggested it to the administration." Sam stepped out of the tub and Daniel wrapped her in a towel. "When did you ferret that information out?" she asked.

Daniel blushed. "After I saw you in the blue dress."

"So it wasn’t the scientist in you that was curious."

"Actually, it was my conscious telling me I had to find a way to look beyond your body, if I was going to be working closely with you. You and Sha’re keep going around in circles in my heart. I was trying to find a way to force you out. I was desperately trying to find a way to hate you, or at the very least to be indifferent to you and I couldn’t, so I finally came up with the idea of relating to you on an intellectual basis only. That worked out better, until Nem screwed things up."

"Daniel!"

"What?"

"Shut up and raise your arms."

"What?"

"Raise your arms!"

He put his arms in the air and she took off his glasses and then pulled his T-shirt up and off. He had already taken off his boots and socks so they wouldn’t get wet if the water splashed out of the tub. Sam reached down and removed his holster belt. Then she planted a lingering kiss on his open mouth and released him.

"I was going to do the rest, but I have to get dressed now so we can be within the rules. I’ll be back to wash your back." She started out of the room.

"Hold on." He stopped her and turned her back to face him.

"What?"

"Nothing."

"Daniel?"

He ran his hand down her cheek. "Sometimes I just need to make sure we’re really here together and this isn’t some dream or Goa’uld inspired delusion."

"Well, if snow down your neck and soap in your mouth doesn’t convince you, I guess I’ll just have to zat you and have my way with you while you twitch."

"Ouch! I think I’d just as soon forego that sexual pleasure. Go get dressed." He pulled the plug and watched the water drain, thinking idly about Roman drainage systems. Then he wandered back into the bedroom to ask, "Sam, what did you do with my glasses?"

"I thought you were taking a bath," she commented as she handed them to him.

"Yes, so did I. Where’s that local area map? Never mind, I found it." He sat on the floor and spread the map in front of him. "It occurs to me that the drainage system for this village must end up in a nearby stream or river. Yes, there it is. Actually, its not far away, just outside the village."

"Okay, and that’s important because?"

"Its not really important. I just thought it might be fun to do a little skating while we wait for spring."

"That would be fun if we had any ice skates."

"I think we do. The Jaffa uniforms included boxes and boxes of cold weather gear and I think I saw some skates. We can take a look next time we go back for more wood. Now I will go take that bath."

***

"We have found two quantum mirrors in the locations indicated on the chart. I believe we should investigate one more location, just to be sure. The next system we will reach is several weeks away, however. In the meantime I would like to have you practice takeoffs and landings, when we find a suitable location."

"I would like that, Teal’c. I enjoy flying the teltac."

"When we reach Earth, I will arrange to take you flying in an airplane. That is even more challenging and can result in great satisfaction. You must take into account weather conditions, as well as gravity." Teal’c smiled at Marissa. He found her thirst for knowledge pleased him almost as much as her bravery. "Now, I believe it is time for your sleep cycle."

"Aren’t you coming with me?" Marissa asked.

"Indeed, I will be there as soon as I activate the proximity detectors."

***

"Okay, you win!" Daniel panted as the puck sailed by him and into the goal. How about a little passing drill for a change?"

"I don’t know." Sam flipped the puck out of the goal with her stick and reached down to pick it up. "I think this puck’s about had it. We really need something stronger."

"True, but if either one of us got hit in the face with a real puck, there would be no trainer to patch us up or dentist to fix our teeth. Want to try figure skating?"

"You’re a figure skater, as well as a hockey player?"

"Well, no, but I have ‘The Cutting Edge’ on DVD and I’ve watched it a million times. How hard can it be?"

"So have I, " Sam laughed, "but that stuff is dangerous. Besides we don’t have toe picks. Let’s just do some drills. I’ll set up the cones."

"I’ll help. God, I miss Jack sometimes. I was just thinking how tickled he would be if I could tell him we had spent some of our free time off-world playing one-on-one hockey and running skating drills."

Sam skated up beside him and linked her arms with his. "I’ll never forget the look on his face when we told him after we’d been on SG-1 almost a year that we both played hockey."

"Yes, and we told him when he still had his leg in a cast. He threw us out of his house that night, as I recall."

"And he didn’t forgive us until we offered to help him convince General Hammond that Cheyenne Mountain needed a hockey league."

"Teaching Teal’c to play wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and now I see why." Daniel lifted one of his Jaffa skates to illustrate his point. "Okay, speed drills!"

He dropped her hands and skated away to the end of their rink.

As he slid to a stop, he looked off into the woods and then dropped to one knee, pulled his zat and fired.

Sam, approaching the other end of the rink, turned when she heard the zat and started to skate back toward Daniel. She saw something very large streak out of the woods heading straight for him. The zat fired again and then he pulled his beretta and emptied it into the charging beast. He was buried underneath it when she heard the last report.

As she stopped beside the pile there was no movement. She could see blood seeping from underneath the creature but didn’t know how much of it might be Daniel’s. She fired her zat next to the creature’s head and then, with great effort, managed to roll it over. Daniel was lying perfectly still. His hand still clutched the beretta. His eyes were closed and he was soaked in blood from the top of his head to his waist.

She reached for the pulse point in his neck just as his eyes snapped open. "Where are you hurt?" She was the consummate professional, checking his head, body and arms for injuries, fighting down her panic.

He lifted his head and reached to rub the back. "I hit my head on the ice." He glanced over at the furry mound beside him. "Is it dead?" he asked as he grabbed another magazine from his vest, dropped the spent one and slammed the fresh one into his gun.

"Easy," I zatted it in the head. "Stay still. I don’t know where you’re bleeding."

He checked his body as he scrambled to his feet, then looked down at his blood covered hands. "I think this is all his." He pulled his vest and jacket off and lifted his T-shirt. "See, no wounds. I’m fine. What the hell is it?"

Sam prodded it with her skate. "I have no idea, but I hope I never see another one."

"You? I’m the one it jumped. By the way, it doesn’t smell any better than it looks. It wouldn’t have reached me if I’d used the beretta first. The zat didn’t have enough range." Daniel put his bloodstained jacket and vest back on and reached down to pick up the empty magazine. "I guess these clothes get soaked in the bathtub tonight. I don’t think we want to eat this thing. I’m going to put a couple more zat blasts into it so it won’t mess up the rink. He fired one zat and then stopped. "You know what it reminds me of?"

Sam looked at the beast and shuddered. "No, what?"

"A mugato!"

"A what?"

"Mugato, that creature that attacked Kirk and made him sick. See, its sort of apelike and it has a horn on its head, although the fangs on this thing are way bigger than the Star Trek critter and this has a tail."

"I don’t know, it sort of reminds me of the monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, only a whole lot bigger."

"Well, it attacked me, so I’m going to call it a mugato." He zatted it again and it vaporized. "I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve had as much outdoor activity as I can stand for today. Let’s take off our skates and go home."

They removed their skates, laced up their boots and trudged back to their house through the snow, Daniel’s jacket so blood-soaked that it continued to drip as he walked.

Once they were inside, Sam slammed the bar across the door and made Daniel strip down to his briefs so she could check him again for injuries. Other than a knot on the back of his head, he had escaped unscathed. When she had assured herself of this, she left him to change and rinse out his blood soaked clothing.

Daniel went looking for Sam when he was finished and found her huddled in a corner of the kitchen, with her head down on her knees. "Hey, baby, what’s wrong?" he asked as he moved to sit beside her and put an arm around her shoulder.

"You could have died." He looked closely at her face. She hadn’t been crying but her complexion was ashen.

"Sam, I didn’t. I’m right here. I’m fine."

"It wasn’t even a Goa’uld!" She did start to cry then.

"So you’d be less upset if I’d been attacked by a Goa’uld?"

"Yes! No! It was just so unexpected."

"Sucre coeur, you said it yourself. We’re off-world and we can’t let our guard down ever. We wouldn’t be skating with berettas and zat guns smacking against our legs otherwise."

"But I wasn’t there to protect you. You had to save yourself."

"Okay, Samantha, come here." He moved her so that she was sitting on his lap. "Let me try explaining this in plain simple English. I bought your U.S. Air Force officer line about saving the world, but this is just you and me here. You do not have to protect me from danger. Actually its supposed to work the other way, but we’ll leave that out of the equation. Anyway, I am not supposed to protect you from danger on SG-1, either. What we are supposed to do is back each other up. You backed me up. If the mugato had come from the other end of the rink, I would have backed you up. I would have been scared to death for you, but I would have had confidence in your ability to defend yourself. Its not 1997 anymore, when you had to pull me into cover and remind me to get my head down. You have to have confidence in me now, or it will put us both in greater danger. And we have to get this right before we go home, or we will be separated. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of any way to get myself killed faster than by spending my off-world time worrying about you on another team."

Sam sat up and ruffled his hair. "How can you look like you still belong in college and be so old and wise?"

"I was born old and wise. My question is how come you look sexier with a gun in your hand than most women do in a bikini?"

Sam dimpled. "I was born beautiful and tough?"

"Okay, how come I can’t look rugged and tough, instead of cute and studious?"

"I like cute and studious!" She pulled him into an extended kiss. "Mmm!" She sighed as she released him and stood. "You know you have to clean that gun, now that you’ve fired it, and don’t forget to reload the spent magazine."

"I don’t get any slack, even when I’m a hero. That’s not fair." He collected the gun cleaning kit and settled in his favorite spot under the bedroom window, where the light was strongest. "Just for that, you can clean the blood off my skates!"

Sam picked up both sets of skates and took them into the kitchen, setting them on the sink counter while she pumped some water into a pan. She had managed to get one skate boot cleaned off and had just picked up the other when she heard a tremendous crash and an assortment of growls from the front of the house. Sam had removed her flack vest, but not her gun belt, so she was still armed when she rushed into the bedroom. The window was broken, and another mugato was in the room. It had Daniel backed up against the far wall. He had his partially dismantled beretta in one had and a rag soaked with gun oil in the other. Apparently, the mugato did not like the smell of the gun oil and it had not moved in to attack again yet. Sam moved to the side so she would not hit Daniel. She put a zat blast into the creature and followed it with two more, as soon as she was positive Daniel was not in her field of fire.

"See," Daniel said. "You backed me up perfectly." Then he slid down the wall and collapsed on the floor. This time when she reached him she knew the blood was his, because she could see the deep slashes on his arm.

She grabbed the first aid kit and cleaned out the wounds. There were three of them, two quite long and deep. She knew she would have to put in some stitches and was glad he was unconscious, at least momentarily. She found the right preloaded hypo and injected a local anesthetic near the wounds. Then she began to close them. She had completed the first and was preparing to do the second when Daniel moaned and opened his eyes.

"I gather that was momma mugato," he croaked. "Ouch!" he said with a little more vitality. "Please don’t tell me you’re going to use that needle and thread on me!" He pulled himself into a sitting position with his good arm.

"Well you said you wanted to look rugged. Now you’ll have a nice scar to show off, at least you will if I don’t do a good job. Do you want me to give you something to knock you out first?"

He poked himself near the wound. "You’ve already got a local in?"

Sam nodded.

"No, go ahead and finish it. I’ll be okay." He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall. "I can’t feel it at all right now. Just let me know when you’re done."

Sam finished stitching the second cut together and bandaged both securely. Then she leaned down to kiss him. "I’m done, except for putting a bandaid on the scratch. You can open your eyes now."

"Mmm, I like your bedside manner."

She adjusted a bandaid over the small cut. "Do you want another kiss for that?"

"Absolutely, that hurt more than anything." He wound her hair in his good hand and pulled her down to him. They continued to hold each other until Daniel shivered. "I think we have to do something about that window."

***

Sam scrambled to her feet and moved to the window to swing the shutters closed. Daniel pulled himself up and went to help her. He took two steps and fell to his knees. "Oh, boy! Everything’s going around in circles."

Sam slammed the bar down on the shutters and was on her knees beside him easing him down on the floor. "Be careful. There’s still glass all over. Let’s get you into the living room." She put her arm under his good shoulder and helped him walk into the other room and propped him up in the corner by the fireplace. "Let me shake out the sleeping bag and bring it in."

Sam grabbed the bag and stepped outside with it, shaking it out into the snow. She was pretty sure none of the glass had made it that far across the room, but she didn’t want Daniel to receive any more cuts, so she beat it as thoroughly as she could before she brought it back in and spread it out. He was sitting just where she left him.

He looked up as she dropped beside him. "You remember the plot of the Star Trek episode with the mugato, Sam? Its scratch or bite was poisonous. Guess what? I think maybe this one’s scratches are poisonous too. Check my pulse. I could be getting a bad reading."

Sam took his pulse. "Oh shit!" she said under her breath.

"Yeah, that’s what I thought too. How are my pupils?"

"Oh boy!"

"I figured as much. I don’t think its going to be fatal, but the only thing we have to counteract it is caffeine. Bring me as much coffee as I can hold and, if I start throwing that up, force water on me, two cups of water to each cup of coffee.

Sam raced to fill the coffee pot and put it on to boil. When she returned Daniel was unconscious again. She grabbed a pan full of snow and put some on the back of his neck. That brought him awake. "Good idea," he mumbled. "Feed me some snow while we’re waiting for the coffee."

She placed some snow in his mouth and he rolled it around before swallowing it. "That’s it," he mumbled. "Get me outside."

"You’re becoming delirious. You can’t go outside."

"No. That’s not a symptom. Put cold on arm. Stop poison from circulating. Hypothermia."

"How about I just fill the kettle with snow and stick your arm in it? Won’t that work?"

"Okay, need glove."

Sam raced outside again, scooped snow into the kettle and brought it back to Daniel. She unfastened his watch and shoved his hand into a glove and then carefully inserted his arm in the snow filled kettle. Then she wrapped him in a blanket.

"That’s better. Now feed me coffee."

Sam poured coffee into a canteen and held it for Daniel to drink. He took a couple of swallows and coughed. "If I pass out again put more snow on the back of my neck. Save the ammonia capsules as a last resort." He took another mouthful of coffee and leaned his head back against Sam, who had slid in behind him to support him. "Take my arm out of the ice in about 20 minutes." His eyes closed.

"Daniel?"

"I’m still with you, but everything’s out of focus. That might be good news. My head really hurts from the smack on the ice, so these symptoms might also indicate a mild concussion. Well, we can’t get an x-ray, so just continue the prescribed treatment. Where’s that coffee?" He opened his eyes.

"Here," she held the canteen while he took a long swallow. "Daniel, you do talk like an MD sometimes. Are you sure you never went to medical school?"

"No, just pre-med, and then I worked as an EMT for a while, between grants."

"What? Does anyone at the SGC know that?"

"Just Janet. She figured it out one day when I gave her a response that was a little too technical."

"So why didn’t you become an MD?"

"I didn’t want to. I just wanted the information. The pharmacology and anatomy were helpful in my work." He swallowed more coffee.

"Just what is your IQ, Doctor Jackson?"

"About the same as yours, Doctor Carter, within a point or two." He sloshed the canteen. "Can you fill this up again?" He tipped it up and emptied it down his throat.

Sam slid out from behind him and refilled the canteen. "I think its about time to take your arm out of the ice. She gently extracted it, patted it dry with a towel and removed the glove. "Your fingers are okay, no frostbite and the nails are still pink." She peeled back the dressing. "The stitches are okay and the wounds look good. Let me put on a dry bandage." She laid his arm down and went to grab the first aid kit.

When she returned she caught Daniel taking his own pulse again. "The pulse in both arms is about the same and its a little faster than before. My eyes are starting to come back too. I think the venom must be a mild sedative, just enough to slow the victim down. It seems to be wearing off. Don’t know about the concussion though. I guess you’ll just have to wake me up every hour if I go to sleep. Meantime keep talking to me and making me respond."

"Okay, I suppose the second creature followed us home?"

"Yeah, I figure all that blood dripping in the snow left a good trail. I’m glad it didn’t like the smell of gun oil though. I waved that rag in its face and it backed up a step after the initial attack."

"You don’t suppose there’s a whole pack of them out there waiting to menace us? I think I should bar the rest of the windows, just in case." Sam stood and closed the living room shutters.

"Probably a good idea, although I doubt the rest of the pack would take revenge. That’s usually reserved for the mate, in most animal cultures. How much blood did I lose?"

"Not a whole lot. Less than a pint. Energy bar?"

"Good idea."

Sam rummaged through their supplies, ripped the wrapper from a food bar and handed it to him. "Do you want me to make another pot of coffee?"

"No, I think this will be enough, thanks. You know, when we get back, the first thing I want is a gallon of OJ and the next thing would be a pizza."

Sam came back from barring the kitchen window and sat down beside him. "That sounds pretty good, but I would like a fresh garden salad and a diet Coke."

"Another thing I would like to do is make love to you on a nice warm beach some where, maybe with some steel guitar music in the background." He nuzzled her neck.

"Daniel," she said, trying to sound as sexy as she could, "I think you’re cured. Since I have to keep you awake, I will give you a choice. You can either come and watch me clean the glass out of the bedroom or . . ."

"Or?"

"Oh, I’m sure you can think of something to keep me from getting up."

"Hmm!" He stretched himself out on the sleeping bag and pulled her down to him. "Something like this maybe?"

"That’s what I had in mind."

***

Marissa completed the engine shutdown sequence, sat back and took a deep breath. She had just made her third landing under Teal’c’s direction.

"How was that?" she asked.

"Much better, I believe you have now mastered this maneuver. Since we are here, and this planet appears to be uninhabited, we should take this opportunity to let Lonny play in fresh air, at least for a few hours. I will stand guard while she plays."

"Yes, I know Lonny would like that, and so would I. I do enjoy flying, but I must admit, I feel more comfortable with ground under my feet."

"I, too, was born on a planet, and prefer the feel of real gravity. I will go and find Lonny. Marissa," he stopped and turned back to her, "you are an excellent student."

"Thank you, Teal’c."

"It is not the custom on my home world, for a man to continue to declare his feelings, once he has made them known to his chosen mate, however, I have learned that it is a custom on Earth. Therefore, I want to tell you again that I am very proud of your achievements and that I care deeply for you." He leaned down to kiss her. "Now I will get Lonny."

***

Several weeks passed as Sam and Daniel continued to work on their raft, skated, and played in the snow, when the weather permitted. Daniel read the books he had found and transcribed Machello’s journal while Sam studied the Goa’uld killer, tweaked her heat engines and upgraded the snow cat. They continued to explore the massive basement in the town hall which was crammed with technology stolen by the Goa’uld from all over the galaxy. Sam’s hand was completely healed and she had removed the stitches from Daniel’s arm.

They were in the basement again, sorting through ribbon devices, hoping to find a palm healer to take with them.

"Have you read The Lord of the Rings?" Daniel asked.

"Several times. Why?"

"This basement reminds me of the mines of Moria. The deeper we dig, the more evil we find. I just found a whole bundle of those nasty torture sticks."

Sam stopped and sat down on a convenient crate. "Funny you should mention that. I’ve thought of SG-1 as the Fellowship many times."

Daniel sat down beside her. "There were only four of us. The Wizard of Oz fits better."

"Yes, but there was already a Sam in the Fellowship."

"I suppose Jack is Frodo and I could see myself as Legolas, but what can you do with Teal’c? Boromir is the logical choice, but he turned out to be a bad guy for a while."

"Oh, no! You’re Frodo. If it weren’t for you, the rest of us might as well give up and go home. Teal’c was Aragorn, being a First Prime, and our guide and protector. The Colonel was both Legolas and Gimli. You must admit he had the qualities of both.

"You mean a little fey and a little grumpy." Daniel laughed. "I suppose that means General Hammond is Gandalf?"

"Now you’re catching on."

"There’s still Merry and Pippin. What are you going to do about them?"

"Sergeant Davis and Sergeant Siler?"

"Don’t you think Siler is a little too tall to be a hobbit?"

"Okay, Sergeant Davis and Major Davis, and Janet is the Lady Galadriel. Apophis was Sauron and Senator Kinsey is Gollum."

"I like that last one. Kinsey does sort of look like a Gollum, kind of weasely. Colonel Simmons is definitely Saruman and we might cast Maybourne as Boromir. He has some redeeming qualities, even though he does keep changing his allegiance." He stood up. "Well that was a nice break. Let’s finish sifting this junk and get home before dark."

Sam didn’t move. "Daniel, we are the last of our Fellowship, you know. Its not just the Colonel that’s gone. Teal’c never made it back to us either." She sighed and stood. "It might be nice to have a memorial service for them both here, before the wedding. You know, I remember you saying something about maybe not wanting to do this any more without the Colonel. I think I’m beginning to agree with you, especially since both of them are gone now."

"Sam!" He started to reach for her, and changed his mind, remembering the rules they had established. "I think we should talk about this at home tonight, but I honestly don’t think we have any choice, especially with what we know now. We need to get that ring to the crack of doom. I don’t know what the ring is or where to take it, but we’re all humanity has left to save it from itself." He frowned and then smiled. "Or, to look at it from another perspective, you’re Buffy and I’m Xander. You keep slaying and I’ll keep watching your back."

Sam giggled, "Okay, but Buffy never made out with Xander."

"Yes, well I’m pretty sure Frodo never made out with Sam either. What’s in that crate?" He reached inside and pulled out a palm healer. "Got it! Let’s go home. We can sort through more junk tomorrow."

They locked the cage and used the stairs to leave the basement and make their way to the front door. Both stopped at the foot of the steps to check the spring counter, as they had started to call it. "Wow," Sam said, "I think spring is on the way. Its really starting to melt near the counter."

"We’ve got everything we need to leave. Its just a matter of time now." He swung up into the cab as Sam started the engine. "I will be sorry to leave our first home together, but . . ."

"The fate of humanity, yada, yada, yada. Yeah, I got it. I’ll tell you what, you be Riley and I’ll be Buffy, and we’ll just kick ass all the way to the stargate."

"I don’t want to be Riley, I want to be Xander. Actually, my background’s better suited to Willow, but let’s not go there."

"Why don’t you want to be Riley? He was macho and tough."

"Yeah, but he left her. He was too dumb to know what he had. That’s definitely not me."

Sam parked the cat and they climbed down and went into the house.

"You know, DJ," Sam mused as she set the bar in the door, "You really should be Giles. He was the smart one who had all the archaic knowledge."

"Oh, ho, your secret’s out now. You want to make out with Giles."

"I hate to break this to you darling, but you are Giles, at least you will be in a few years."

"I’m not sure if that was a compliment or an insult, but I’ll bet Giles isn’t as good at this as I am." He divested himself of his P-90, moved in, unhooked hers and laid it next to his. Then he unzipped her flack vest and slid it off her shoulders. He slid down the zipper on her jacket, walked around behind her, took it off and dropped it, picked her up and seated her on a crate. Next he knelt in front of her and untied her boots, removing them and setting them aside. He peeled off one sock and gently began to massage her foot.

"Daniel, what do you think you’re doing?"

"I’m starting at the bottom for a change. Don’t worry, I’ll work my way up. relax."

"Stop it! At least let me take a bath first. I’m all sweaty and dirty."

"You don’t get it. I don’t care. To me you are always radiant and beautiful."

"No, you don’t get it. I am not your princess. I’m just a sexually inexperienced career military officer, five years older than you, who’s scared to death that you will wake up one day and discover I’m not your dream girl. I’m especially scared that when we get home this will end, and that what we’ve done here will end our friendship. I want to be at my best when you touch me, not covered with cob webs and with dirt streaks running down my face."

"Oh, Sam!" Daniel gently pulled off her second sock, stood and pulled her to her feet. He unfastened and removed her gun belt and kissed her dirt streaked cheek. "Go take your bath."

***

When Sam returned to the living room, wrapped in a Jaffa towel, Daniel was hunched over a crate, writing. He stood up as soon as he saw her. "I thought we did this already, but it occurred to me that it would be more permanent if I put it in writing. Its exactly how I feel and how I will always feel." He handed her the sheet of paper.

Sam looked down to read: "I, Daniel Garrett Jackson, take you, Samantha Carter, to be my lawful wedded wife. I pledge to be faithful to you and love you as long as we both shall live. I consider this document to be binding in any court of law in the universe."

He touched her cheek and looked deep into her eyes. "Te amo in perpetua, Samantha."

Sam took the pen he was still holding and leaned down to write her response below his declaration, signing her name with a flourish. Then she stood and came into his arms. "I’m sorry, I guess I was just feeling particularly gritty and grumpy and stupid."

"Stupid, you!"

"Stupid about sex. You know so much and sometimes I don’t have a clue how to respond. I just feel so inadequate, like I’m not doing my part."

"Have I complained? Your responses are beautiful and innocent and perfect." He took her hand and led her to the soft blankets. "Let me explain something." She settled beside him. "Most of the material I translated before the Goa’uld came into my life dealt with genealogy, religion, crops and wars, but a good portion of it dealt with sexual activity. Have you ever heard of the Kama Sutra?"

"Its a sex manual, isn’t it?"

"In a way. Its original intent was religious. Anyway, it was written in Sanskrit, between the 1st and 5th centuries, A.D. Its probably the oldest complete "sex manual," but there are fragments of much older works. My point is, that I have been translating this kind of stuff since I was twelve. I am just trying to use what I know to please you. If you like, when I remember something I think you would enjoy, we can talk it over first and then you will know as much as I do about it before we start. That does kind of take some of the spontaneity out of it, however. Or I can stick to what you’re already comfortable with and save the exotic stuff for anniversaries and birthdays. I do have to say foot rubbing is pretty conventional, though, and you will have to get used to it sooner or later, especially when you’re pregnant. Believe me, you will appreciate it then."

"Okay, you’ve made me feel better already. Do any of these ancient manuals talk about what women can do to please their men?"

"Some, but a lot of them are pretty brutal for the women. Tell you what, when we get back, I’ll find translations of some of the passages for you to read that deal with activities we might both enjoy. In the meantime, all this sex talk with you right beside me in nothing but a towel is driving me crazy. Would you like to help me out here?"

"I know I said once I’d like to make love to you when you’re wearing nothing but a gun belt, but I’ve changed my mind. Your beretta is poking me in the ribs. Besides, you still have all your clothes on underneath it."

"Oh, right!" He sat up to unfasten it and pull off his boots. "Maybe I should take a bath, too."

"That won’t be necessary," she said as she helped him with his T-shirt.

***

They were making one last check of the basement when they heard the ring transporter activate on the floor above them. Sam slammed the gate on the trap and locked it. Then she moved quickly to a spot where she and Daniel would have anyone emerging from the cage in a crossfire. They waited for several minutes, hearing nothing else through the well insulated ceiling.

Finally, a white flash and the voice of Machello indicated that someone with Goa’uld protein markers had arrived in the cage. Sam could hear three voices, but the only word she recognized was kree. Meanwhile, Daniel was listening intently to the conversation, which was getting progressively louder. They were arguing about why nobody had answered their radio call or met them at the ring platform. He moved cautiously to Sam’s position and motioned her further back into the shadows of the basement where they could talk without alerting the enemy to their presence.

"I think they’re all Jaffa. Its not going to take them long to die, but I bet more will show up when these three don’t come back. I’m going to the guard room and see if I can’t pick up their radio frequency. Maybe I can find out who’s up there."

Sam watched him fade into the shadows again. She saw the light flash and heard Machello’s recording twice more before Daniel returned.

"Okay, here’s what I think is going on," he whispered. as he reached her side. "That’s probably a small transport ship up there, which has come in to pick up supplies. The guys in the cage can’t figure out why they’re locked in or why nobody’s come to let them out again."

"The cage is filling up pretty fast," Sam said. "I think I have an idea. Can you go out and pretend you are Jaffa and spin a story about this place being shut down because of the terrible winter and maybe tell them you’re the caretaker? Send them back upstairs and tell them to transport back to their ship. They will pass on the Goa’uld killer to their shipmates and wipe out everybody on board."

"Great idea!" He reached down to grab a dusty cover from one of the machines that littered the basement, cut a neck hole with his survival knife and put it on like a poncho. Then he ran his hand through a grease spot and wiped it on his forehead. "They can hardly see through the mesh so this should work pretty well." He backed off quietly and then trotted toward the cage jabbering in Goa’uld.

Sam stayed on alert, keeping an ear cocked to Daniel’s performance and trying to creep closer to the stairs, just in case there were more Jaffa above. She saw the white light again, but did not hear Machello, so she figured Daniel had succeeded in transporting the Jaffa upstairs. Then she heard the ring transporter activate. Daniel joined her a few minutes later.

"I think they’re all gone," he said, "but we’ll have to check it out. Too bad we couldn’t figure out a way to take their teltac."

Sam started up the stairs. When she reached the top she indicated that she would go right and Daniel should go left. They carefully searched the entire structure, but found nothing out of place.

"Now what?" Daniel asked, when they came back together near the transport platform.

"I think we should wait until dark, to make sure nobody comes back here. Then we should take the cat and bug out."

"Bug out?"

"Yeah, that’s a military term. Don’t you ever watch M.A.S.H.?"

"No."

"Well, as long as we just have to sit and wait for a while, what TV shows did you watch besides Buffy?"

"You mean recently?"

Sam nodded.

"Nothing comes to mind."

"Okay, why Buffy?"

Daniel blushed. "I think I already told you, she reminded me of you, only shorter."

"DJ!"

"Well, you asked. And why are you all of a sudden calling me DJ?"

"I’m practicing. I can’t call you darling when anyone else is around."

"So what do I get to call you in public?"

"Sam is really sexy and intimate when you say it."

"Really?"

"Oh, yeah!"

"Is it obvious to everyone?"

"No, I thought I was imagining it myself until quite recently." She gave him one of her brilliant smiles. "Is there anything else we need from the basement, or are we good to go?"

"I have everything I need."

"Okay!" Sam checked her watch. "I don’t think anyone’s coming back and it should be dark in a few minutes. Let’s head for the house and load up. I was thinking of going to the crossroads and heading out that way, but I think there is more cover if we take the southern route. What do you think?"

"I agree. We’ll be covering new ground either way, once we get through the pass." Daniel opened the front door and cautiously peered outside. "Clear!"

He vaulted down the steps and jumped into the cat while Sam covered him from the doorway. Once he had the engine started she quickly followed him. They moved at the cat’s top speed, thirty-five miles per hour, to their house where they quickly loaded their belongings and drove out of the village.

"This was not how I planned our last evening here," Daniel said as he slowed the cat at the beginning of the pass. "I was going to make you something special for dinner to begin with. Oh, well, I guess we will have plenty of time for that when we get home."

"Yes, and I have a present for you. I was going to give it to you at the ice rink, but I’ll save it and show it to you later when we stop."

They traveled until shortly before sunrise, when they found a convenient rock overhang to shelter beneath. Sam had equipped the cat with a powerful radio and she scanned the Goa’uld frequencies continually as Daniel drove through the night. She left the radio on the main Goa’uld long range frequency when they settled down to sleep at dawn.

They slept until late afternoon. Sam shot awake when she heard a strange rumble. She lifted her head from Daniel’s chest and heard the sound again, this time not quite as loudly. She smiled to herself as she realized it was his stomach rumbling. She didn’t often get a chance to watch him sleep. His sixth sense seemed to include knowing when she was awake, but she knew he had been exhausted from driving throughout the night. He looked so young when he was asleep, she thought. She gently brushed his hair back, barely touching him. Immediately a small smile formed at the corners of his mouth and his fingers found hers.

"Good morning, beautiful," he mumbled as his other arm reached to pull her against him. "Te amo." His stomach growled again. He chuckled and his eyes opened slowly. "Well, I guess my stomach is dictating priorities this morning. However . . ." His mouth joined hers in a lingering kiss.

"Actually, its afternoon," Sam glanced at her watch as she sat up and handed Daniel an MRE. "I think we should stay here until morning and then travel by daylight. There was no chatter on the Goa’uld frequency overnight. I think they’re gone."

"So have you figured out how much ground we need to cover each day?"

"Not exactly, its going to depend on how much time we waste going around wide rivers and other impassable objects. I figure we should just start out at dawn each day and get as far as we can. We can switch off driving every couple of hours. We should still make it back to the gate within the six month limit, now that we have the cat."

"Sounds like a plan. Since we have the rest of the afternoon, let’s get all the supplies we threw in here last night organized so we can find them when we need them. By the way, you said you had something to give me?"

Sam reached in her pack and brought out a black object and handed it to Daniel.

"Its a real puck! Where did you get a puck?"

"I made it in the basement with one of the Goa’uld machines. Its not as heavy as a real puck and it bounces a lot, but it won’t disintegrate, and it shouldn’t knock our teeth out if we get hit with it. I thought it would be a nice memento for you."

"Thank you. My God, you do love me, don’t you? No woman in history has ever given her man a hand made hockey puck, I bet."

"’Her man,’ I like the sound of that. Does that mean you belong to me?"

"Always! I am yours to command. I will cook and sew and clean, well, maybe not clean . . ."

"I get the idea. Right now let’s clean up this mess."

***

"We are coming up on a star system where we should make a quick stop. I believe it should be deserted."

"Why are we stopping there?" Marissa asked.

"The second planet has an abundance of fruit of many kinds. I believe we should gather some so that Lonny may have fresh food in her diet. I do not want her to loose health and vitality because she has been confined to a Jaffa diet."

"May I land the teltac when we reach the planet?"

"Yes, you have become very proficient. My scans show no ships in the system. Go and get Lonny and prepare her for landing while I check the planet for life signs."

Sometime later Marissa brought the teltac in for a gentle landing. After Teal’c declared the area safe, he carried Lonny outside on his shoulders to pick pears from the trees growing nearby. When they had collected a good supply, Marissa moved the teltac to another orchard several hundred miles closer to the equator, where they gathered oranges. Finally, they moved to yet another location and harvested pineapple. Lonny was delighted with this activity and declared she wanted to be a fruit farmer.

***

Sam and Daniel made their way slowly across the continent in their snow cat, stopping to launch their raft at each river crossing and pulling it back atop the cat on the other side. They found occasional farms and orchards, all abandoned, and no signs of life.

They had reached yet another river, late in the afternoon on a rainy day, and decided they would camp for the night and attempt the crossing the next morning. They finished dinner and climbed back inside the cat just as the skies opened up and a violent thunderstorm erupted.

"I’m glad we decided to make camp on this bluff, instead of near the water’s edge," Sam said. "We could be stuck here for a while if that river continues to rise."

"Well, we can catch up on our sleep and relax for a while, if that happens. We’re ahead of schedule, so we can afford to wait. What would you like to do tonight?"

"I don’t know, we seem to be pretty evenly matched at most of the games we’ve come up with. Is there anything available to us we haven’t tried?"

"You could tell me you pool secrets. You seem to wipe the table up with your opponents every time you play."

"That’s easy, you just have to compute the angles correctly. There’s really no trick to it."

Daniel sighed. "Well, if we’re ever broke and need money, I’ll just send you down to the local pool hall."

There was a particularly brilliant flash of lightening, followed by an enormous thunderclap. The area lit up like Yankee Stadium during a night game. Sam and Daniel were facing each other and each saw something moving outside over the other’s shoulder. "Look behind you!" they both said at once.

Then the lightning faded.

"What did you see?" Daniel asked.

"Something cat-like and very large, bigger than a tiger. What did you see?"

"A dog, a medium to large dog, staring at us and snarling."

"Maybe it was snarling at the tiger." Sam climbed into the driver’s seat and switched on the searchlight, pivoting the cab around to look in all directions. "Do you see anything now?"

"Nothing, but the rain is coming down so hard I can barely see six feet."

Sam switched off the lights. "Well, they can’t get at us in here. We can check it out in the morning, I guess. That was kind of weird though, don’t you think? We see nothing but a few birds and rabbits and squirrels for hundreds of miles and then we run into a tiger or at least what looked like a tiger. Actually it looked more like a saber tooth tiger, you know, the one that’s usually pictured attacking a woolly mammoth."

"I guess that’s no worse than a mugato. The dog looked like a regular dog though. It definitely wasn’t a wolf. Let’s put out the lantern. Maybe we can see some more animals when the lightning flashes again."

They lay down on their stomachs side by side, facing in opposite directions, looking out the side windows of the cat. There was silence for some time.

"Daniel," I’m going to fall asleep in a minute if we don’t talk."

"Okay, I was just thinking about all the rainy nights we’ve spent off-world on missions, not to mention the rainy days."

"We certainly haven’t found many tropical planets. Which experience do you think was the worst?"

"Meeting Apophis during a downpour. I watched you die that day. I still have nightmares about that one. I remember waking up afterwards and realizing I was alive. There was a moment of despair, thinking that I would never see you again and then I found you." He cleared his throat. "Sorry, I guess that’s not the kind of rainy day experience you were thinking about."

Sam sighed. "My worst was when Chaka kidnapped you and we thought you were going to end up as the main course at an Unas banquet. Actually, we thought you could already be dead. Then Teal’c told us that we might have been taken over by Goa’ulds. I immediately thought that you may have been, too, and I was frantic until we found you and I touched you."

"I wondered what that hug was for, but I wasn’t about to question my good fortune. Oh, I do have a favorite rainy day mission!"

"The mud hole, no doubt!"

"Of course! You do know I wasn’t laughing at you, just Jack?"

"I didn’t think it was very funny at the time."

"But you didn’t see it from my point of view. I’m usually the one who steps in the snare or falls down the hill. If I hadn’t stopped to put on my raincoat, I would have been in the hole with you guys. When I stepped out of the gate onto that narrow ledge, Jack was already face down in the mud hole and you were on top of him. I just caught a glimpse of Teal’c turning himself in midair so he would land on his feet beside you. By the time you and Teal’c dug Jack out, all three of you looked like mud people. Then, when I followed you back to the infirmary, seeing you all drop mud behind you at every step, I just couldn’t stop laughing. It was like watching a live version of Pigpen from the Charlie Brown comic strip, only there were three of you."

"Daniel," Sam purred seductively, "would you like to sleep in the driver’s seat tonight?"

"Uh, no, um, I’ll shut up now. Tell you what. Why don’t you tell me about your funniest mission."

"Well, your German accent made me want to crack up, and of course there was Urgo, and Marty’s house was something else, but the talking birds were the best. I’ve never felt safer off-world than I did with the eagles flying on guard over us. The ducks quacking for snacks and Tangi sitting on my shoulder, and you holding a serious conversation with a macaw in Egyptian, are some of my fondest memories."

"And Jack discussing flight maneuvers with a raven was a hoot. I agree. I always wanted to go back and spend a night with the owls on duty. I’m sure they would have had some interesting stories to tell."

There was silence for a few minutes as they listened to the rain. Daniel switched direction so he could put his arm around Sam. "What is it?" she asked as he kissed her forehead.

"I was just thinking about other times I thought I had lost you. Most of the time I could still sense you somehow, even when the entity stranded you in the computer. Twice I really thought you were dead. Once was when Hathor captured us and put us in stasis. There were so many drugs in my system I couldn’t feel you and when they told me you were dead, I just went numb. Then I woke up and you were standing beside me and I still couldn’t feel you in my mind. I thought it was a dream."

"That one was bad for me, too. They said you and the Colonel and Teal’c were all dead and I was far in the future. I don’t think I had really absorbed what that meant when the Colonel found me. What was the other time you thought I was dead?"

"That was the worst of all." He hugged her tightly for a minute.

"Daniel?" She could feel his tears.

"When I stepped through the wormhole into the alternate reality, I could feel you. That’s one of the reasons I was so confused. You were there and you didn’t recognize me. When the Jaffa entered the briefing room I could see you standing there. I watched you blow apart." He stopped and gulped. "I felt you blow apart," he whispered. "I can still feel it. I know it wasn’t you, but it was."

"Oh, Daniel!"

"And then Teal’c hit me with a staff blast and I jumped through the gate and ran to the mirror and touched it and then I could feel your presence again. At that moment it didn’t matter that the world was in grave danger or that I was wounded and it hurt like hell, my heart was singing ‘Sam’s alive, Sam’s alive.’ And then I passed out."

"You can still feel her death?"

"It was a long time ago. My mind only brings it to the surface now when I think you’re in danger."

"It must be horrible for you."

"Sometimes I think I’m the luckiest man who ever lived. I not only can make love to the girl of my dreams, but I can have you with me even when we’re not touching. I will always have you inside my mind. Speaking of touching . . ." His hands began to move down her body as his lips covered hers.

***

A loud thunder clap woke Daniel. He glanced outside to see a gloomy dawn, rain drizzling down the windows, and wind whipping through the trees. Sam was still asleep in his arms. He smiled, adding one more mental photo to his store of memories. She looked about sixteen when she slept, he thought, with her beautiful tomboy hair ruffled in charming disarray. The only trouble with watching her sleep was that he couldn’t drown in her gorgeous eyes.

As he continued to watch her, a small smile began to appear at the corners of her mouth and her eyes drifted open. "Good morning, Doctor Jackson," she said as she stretched up to kiss him.

"Good morning, Major Jackson," he mumbled as he tightened his arms around her to pull her to him. "Actually, its a pretty dark and dreary day outside, but the sun is shining brightly in here since you woke up and smiled at me."

"Daniel, you have got to stop dripping syrup all over me every time you talk!"

"Why? Is it beginning to annoy you?"

"Oh, no, but when we get back to civilization, its going to annoy everybody else. Do you remember when you were a kid and you happened to see teenagers necking?"

"You mean the, ‘Oh, puke!’ reaction?"

"Yep, that’s the one!"

"Okay, what if I apply the rule of fours?"

"The rule of fours?"

"Yeah, every fourth time I think of something like that, I get to say it in public. I’ll save the other three for when we’re alone."

"That sounds fair." She pulled her T-shirt off and wiggled out of her panties.

Daniel reached out for her and she shoved a P-90 into his hands.

"Down boy!" She laughed. "I’m going outside to take a rain shower." She stepped out onto the treads and began to lather her body with the coarse Jaffa soap. "Remind me to explain the joys of soft soap to the next Jaffa woman I meet and to pass on some samples. Maybe I can start an economic revolution in the Jaffa soap industry." She rinsed the soap out of her eyes and looked down. "There are a lot of animal tracks out here in the mud. They head south along the bluff." She came back inside and grabbed a towel. "Maybe we should take a look after breakfast."

"Okay!" He started pulling his T-shirt off. "My turn in the shower." As he swung open the door, there was a loud animal scream, followed by a series of growls and shrieks, ending with a pitiful moan.

Daniel slid his shirt back on, grabbed his pants and jumped into the driver’s seat, starting the motor and swinging the cat toward the sounds. Sam dressed herself quickly and then switched places so Daniel could get his boots on. They arrived at a cave opening in the bluff in time to see the tiger-like creature grab a dog in its jaws and rip it apart. Then it bounded into the cave.

They could hear more screams and growls. Sam stopped the cat so that its headlights illuminated the inside of the cavern. They could see another dog backed into a corner on a narrow ledge while the tiger prowled below, its saber tooth fangs dripping with the blood of the animal it had killed.

Daniel had his binoculars out and trained on the dog. "I think its got a collar," he said.

Sam focused her own binoculars. "Yes, and its very pregnant and its been injured, too. It can barely move."

Daniel opened the door and jumped to the ground. "I can’t stand this. I’m going to zat the tiger. He moved toward the cave entrance, as Sam followed behind him, her P-90 at the ready. As he approached, the tiger eyed him warily and then jumped for the ledge. He fired and missed and the tiger landed beside the dog, batted it with its paw and sent it tumbling off the ledge to the ground. Then it turned its attention to Daniel, leaping back toward him. Daniel and Sam fired together and the tiger landed in a heap atop the dog.

When he reached it, the tiger was dead. He rolled it over to expose the dog beneath, which was still alive, but badly mauled. "Easy, girl," he whispered, as his hands moved through her fur, checking for injuries. "Sam, can you get the first aid kit? She’s pretty bad."

"Should we put her out of her misery?" Sam asked as she dropped beside him with the medical kit and a blanket.

"Oh, I hope we don’t have to. She was in the processes of giving birth when the attack came. There’s one dead pup on the ledge and another in the birth canal, also dead, but I can feel movement inside her. There are still some alive, waiting to come out. Her pelvis is crushed and I can’t get to the pups unless I do a cesarean."

"What else can I do to help?"

"First, I need my razor and we’ll need a box lined with a towel for the pups and some more towels to wrap them in to warm them. Bring the cat as close to the opening as you can get it to block it, so we won’t get surprised by any more tigers and turn the heater way up. It will have to serve as an incubator. Get the razor now and you can do the rest as I’m getting started."

As Daniel talked quietly to Sam, the dog raised her head and licked his hand twice. "Good girl, you just relax now," he soothed. "We’ll take care of you and your babies." He injected a local anesthetic in her belly, close to where he would have to cut.

When Sam returned with the electric razor, he began to shave the dog’s stomach. She seemed to like the soothing vibration of the razor and did not object to its movement. When he was done he used some hand wipes to clean the area and then sterilized a scalpel.

He heard Sam moving the cat and then she was beside him again setting the box on the cave floor. "What do you need me to do now?" she asked.

"I’m hoping she won’t feel it when I cut, but make sure she stays still. When each pup comes out, you need to put it in a towel and rub it vigorously to get it breathing. You probably will have to shake them gently to remove fluid from their lungs. As a last resort, if they’re not breathing, you could try mouth to mouth, or rather mouth to nose, using the same force you would use on a newborn. Once the pup is breathing on its own you can tie the cord and cut it. I’ve put a pair of sterilized scissors and some surgical cord over there for that."

"Daniel, have you ever done a cesarean before?"

"No, but its the only chance she has. I’m going to make a small incision now, just big enough to squeeze the uterus through." He began to cut as he talked. "Okay, I’ve got the uterus. Its has two horns, just like the textbooks say. Hand me the second pair of scissors. There, I’ve snipped a hole and I’ve got a pup coming out. Here you go." He handed her the first pup and began to work another out of the opening. "Have you got the first one breathing?"

"Yes."

"Okay, wrap it and put it in the box quick. Here comes the second one. "That’s all on this side. Now let’s see what we’ve got on the other side. I can feel two more over here. How’s mom doing?"

"She isn’t fighting me, but she’s still with us."

"I’m trying to limit the blood loss. There’s not much we can do to help her with that."

"Actually, there might be. I’m thinking I could try the palm healer on her when you’re done."

"Great idea, cause I don’t know how to get that dead pup out of her birth canal without killing her. If you heal her, her pelvis should open up and I’ll be able to get at it."

"Either that or it might be absorbed back into her body. I’m not sure how the healer will handle that."

"Here’s number three!"

"Good, number two is breathing on its own."

"And here is number four. That’s the last one. I’ll take care of it until you’re ready for it." He placed the tiny pup in a towel and began to rub it vigorously to get its circulation going. When he had handed it off to Sam, he began to stitch up the uterus and then the abdomen. "I’m done. I’ll take the pups to the cat while you work you magic with the healer. Be right back."

Sam slid the healer on her hand and directed it toward the dog’s hind quarters, concentrating as hard as she could. She had practiced with the healer before, with mixed results. This time she could see a steady yellow light coming from her palm and could feel the gentle warmth of the ray it gave off.

Daniel returned and watched for a few minutes. Then he gently ran his hand over the injured area. When he pulled it back, he chuckled softly. "Its working. I nicked myself with the scalpel earlier and you just healed it."

He ran his hand up to the dog’s head and examined the collar around her neck. "Is your name Katy?" he asked.

The dog’s tail gave a gentle thump.

"Where did you get that name?" Sam asked, as she removed the palm healer and flexed her fingers. "I think I’m done."

"The name is on her collar in Greek. Its says Kappa Tau is the property of Ruin. Your name’s not Kappa Tau, is it?"

The dog looked at him inquiringly.

"Katy?" he asked.

Her tail thumped again.

"See. Her name’s Katy. Now let me clean out the birth canal. Yes, I’ve got the dead one and its coming out. Okay, let’s wrap her up and get her into the cat with her babies."

Sam backed the cat up a few feet and Daniel carried Katy inside and gently placed her with her pups, who immediately began to root around her stomach looking for their first meal.

Sam sat watching them while Daniel went back out to clean himself up and dispose of the dead animals. He placed the dead pups with their father and, after removing the dog’s collar, used his zat to disintegrate them. He disintegrated the tiger as well, after giving it a thorough scrutiny. Then he carried the med kit back to the cat and slumped in a corner.

"Now I know why I didn’t want to be a surgeon. I’m exhausted. I don’t know how Janet does it."

Sam crawled in behind him and began to work on his shoulders and back. "You were amazing. It was just like watching one of those doctor shows on TV. I was impressed when I saw you deliver Thetys’ baby five years ago but this was so far beyond that. I’m beginning to think that you’re just like Dr. McCoy."

"Dr. McCoy?"

"Yeah, remember what he said when he troweled cement into the Horta to heal it? He said something like, ’I’m beginning to think I can cure a rainy day?’ We’ll I think you probably can, too, if you set your mind to it." She stopped talking as she realized he had fallen asleep. She leaned back and eased them both down, content to hold him and watch the pups as the rainstorm picked up again.

***

"Teal’c," Marissa called over the intercom, "I believe we have reached the coordinates you requested.

Teal’c looked up from the document he had been studying. "I will be right there." He collected Lonny and made his way to the bridge, making sure she was secured in her seat before he took his own position.

"I do not believe we will land this time, if we find another mirror. This should be the last time we need to drop out of hyperspeed, until we reach a stargate. I am decelerating now."

Teal’c brought the teltac out of hyperspace. Around them appeared the usual beautiful starfield shining against the black velvet of normal space between planetary systems.

Marissa sighed. "I think this is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. It is so peaceful looking."

"It can appear so, but it is cold and airless. I would not like to live my entire life between the stars." He began to set up his instruments to scan for mirror elements as they moved toward the inner planets of the system. "The Tau’ri, long before they discovered their stargate or knew of space ships or Goa’uld, wrote stories about space travel. In some of them they sent their people out to colonize other worlds using generation ships. In those stories, whole generations were born, lived their lives, and died aboard the ships."

Marissa glanced at Lonny. "That does not sound like a healthy place for a child to grow. But, perhaps, the children could be kept safe and the parents could watch out for them. I am just glad that Lonny will have a place to live and be able to run and play in the sunshine when we reach Earth."

"That is my wish also. Let us try this planet. It seems to be mostly a water world. I see only three large land areas. This scan should not take long."

Teal’c concentrated on the instrument readings for a few minutes.

"I believe I have found another mirror, but it appears to be under water. That leads to an interesting speculation. I wonder if fish would move back and forth between the alternate realities by touching the mirror if it was on. That will be something more for the SGC scientists to determine. Let us head for home."

***

The snow cat continued to move slowly across the continent. Some days later, Daniel was driving, as they speculated about how two domesticated dogs had found their way into the wilderness. He had kept the collar from the dead dog. When he showed it to Sam she was surprised. "This looks like a Roman numeral two. The dog’s name was two?"

"I don’t think so." He slowed as he turned and showed the collar to Katy, who whined softly. "Katy, two?"

Katy cocked her head on one side.

"Did this collar belong to Pi?"

Katy whined more loudly.

"That’s a Greek symbol for the letter p-i. I don’t want to say the word again because it makes her unhappy. He placed the collar in the dog bed and Katy rubbed her jaw against it. Then she laid her head on top of it and closed her eyes.

A few minutes later Sam glanced into the box when she heard one of the pups squeak. "Oh, look, that one has its eyes open!" The pup turned toward the sound of her voice, blinked a few times and then rooted against its mother again, looking for another meal.

"Uh, Sam!" Daniel brought the cat to a complete stop. "Here’s something we haven’t seen before."

He had just driven around the edge of a small wood and come out on a dirt road which continued beyond closed iron gates.

"Wow! That’s kind of creepy. It reminds me of the gates to a hundred haunted mansions in those old Hammer horror movies, especially since its getting dark." She opened the door and slid to the ground to examine the gates. "Well, they’re not locked and they are incredibly rusty. I’d say nobody has opened them for a long time." She scuffed her toe through the dirt. "And there are no tracks in the road that I can see. Come on down and see what you think."

Daniel hopped down on his side, leaving the motor running. "I don’t see much of anything." There was a distant rumble of thunder. "Do you want to do a recon first, or shall we take the cat in?"

"Let’s take the cat. It sounds like its going to rain again soon. We can get away faster with it, if we have to run." Lightening flashed overhead and the rain began to fall.

"Run from what?" Daniel asked as they pulled the gates wide open and climbed back in the cab. "There’s nobody on this planet but us."

"That makes the perfect beginning," Sam grumbled.

"Huh?"

"You know, it was a dark and stormy night! And the skeptic says, there’s nobody here, and then he gets attacked."

"Oh, right, and then Bela Legosi greets us at the door and says, ‘Gut evening. I vant to drink your blood!’"

"No, Christopher Lee greets us with a charming smile and a delightful English accent and invites us to come in and warm ourselves by his roaring fire. Hammer films were even in Technicolor! Here’s an interesting thought. Do you suppose that vampire legends might have started with the Goa’uld? Seth escaped notice for several thousand years. Maybe some of the lesser Goa’uld hung out in Transylvania or Rumania."

"Anything’s possible. I suppose Vlad the Impaler might have even been a Goa’uld."

As they talked, Daniel continued to drive slowly down the road. Through a screen of trees they began to make out the outlines of what could only be described as a mansion. It was not quite dark yet, but the sky was filled with rain clouds. There were no lights inside the building, at least none that they could see from the road. Daniel drove up the driveway and parked at the front entry under a portico.

"You know, in some of the more recent movies, the girl who had sex with her boyfriend was always the first to get killed. Well, at least we won’t get wet," Sam said, as she jumped down, leaving her door open for a quick getaway.

"As I recall, the boyfriend usually bit the dust, too." Daniel remarked as he joined her. They approached the front door, zats in hand. Sam tried the handle and the door opened silently. She left it standing open as she moved to the right. Daniel went left. They found themselves in a short wide room with a door to the right and double doors straight ahead. Through the open doors ahead, they could see a broad staircase descending into a hall which continued into the darkness behind it on each side. The room they were in had a fireplace on the left-hand wall, a couple of small tables, and not much else.

Sam holstered her zat, brought her P-90 into firing position, and flipped on its attached flashlight. She opened the door in the right hand wall and peered out. She could see tiled floor extending in all directions, another room across from her and several more doors on the right side of the corridor. She eased the door closed again. "I think we should stick together this time. This place is too big to split up."

"Okay, where do you want to start?"

"Let’s go out this side door and work our way around the downstairs. Leave the stairway for last." She returned to the side door and pulled it open again, stepping out into the corridor. Daniel had also switched his zat for his P-90 and turned on the flash. He stepped out behind her and faced left down the corridor as she crossed it the next room. As Sam opened the door Daniel backed up toward her, covering her six. Sam stepped inside and then retreated to the corridor and closed the door. "Corner room, another fireplace and a moldy couch," she reported. Your turn."

Daniel continued to the right of the staircase and opened the next door, as Sam watched behind him. "Uh, Sam, you’ll never guess what I found."

"That’s not a report! What’s the matter with you?" she hissed, backing into the room with him. She glanced quickly into the room behind her and then turned and closed the door, backing up against it as she started to laugh. "Leave it to you to find a library. All right, if this place checks out, we’ll spend the night in this room. Its got a fireplace and two exits. What’s on the other side of that door?"

Daniel opened a door in the left wall and stepped out onto the tile floor again. He saw another door across this short hall and a little to his right. Inside he found a pool table with a crooked leg, a dart board fallen from the wall and yet another fireplace. There was another door to his left. Sam followed as he crossed the room and started to come back out into the main hall behind the stairs. "There’s another stairway here, leading down," he called over his shoulder as he peered down yet another cross hall behind the stairs. He heard a strange noise from the room behind him and turned to find Sam trying to push the dart board under the bent leg of the pool table to level it. "What are you doing?" he hissed.

"I thought we could shoot some pool later."

"Sam!"

"Okay, my turn," Sam sighed as she crossed behind him to enter the last room on the right side of the original corridor, glanced around, and came back out. "Corner room, full of dead plants and no fireplace. I’ll check the one right across the hall. You stay here so you can guard all the approaches." She took a few steps and entered another door.

Daniel dropped and ducked around the edge of the stairway as another door opened.

"Its just me," Sam reassured him. "Come take a look in here."

Daniel entered a huge room with doors on three walls and French doors on the fourth wall. There was a gigantic fireplace behind him between two of the doors and what looked suspiciously like a grand piano in one corner beside the French doors. The floor was hardwood, badly warped and stained. He walked over to the ‘piano.’ "Its not really a piano, I guess," he said. "I’m not sure what it is, but its a musical instrument of some kind." He touched a key and a musical sound reverberated throughout the room. "Wow, that was loud!"

"Fool of a Took," Sam mumbled under her breath. "Don’t do that again, Daniel!" she said a little more loudly, as she moved to examine the instrument. "I am beginning to smell a rat. These keys, or whatever they are, appear to be made of naquada. Have we ever come across anything like this made with naquada before?"

"No, but then we’ve never observed the Goa’uld, or for that matter, the Tokra, relaxing. Has it occurred to you to wonder why none of these rooms share a common wall?"

"No, what does that mean?"

"I have no idea. I’ve never seen any architecture like this anywhere."

"Well, lets finish our recon." She exited using the door on the other side of the fireplace from the one Daniel had entered and found herself in the cross corridor behind the main stairway again. Around the corner to her right was another door, which she knew led back into the large room. She followed that short hallway to a window overlooking a terrace. Turning around, she retraced her steps to the corner and this time turned right to enter the kitchen of the mansion. There were pots and pans scattered on the counters and the kind of fireplace she had read about in medieval novels, with a large spit for roasting and ovens at the side for baking. There was a sink with a pump, similar to the one they had used in their house near the mountains. Sam filled a pot at the sink and stepped back into the hall.

"What are you doing?" Daniel asked, stopping her as she started back toward the other side of the house.

"I’m going to water the plants."

"What? I thought you said they were all dead."

"Oh, right!" She returned to the kitchen and dumped the water down the drain.

They retraced their steps to the main hallway, but now they were on the other side of the main stairway. Daniel entered a door on the right to find an immaculately clean dining room with one place setting at the table. Another fireplace was on the left wall, next to a second door. Sam followed him through the room and out the second door into the cross corridor at the front of the stairway.

"There should be only one more room on this floor," Daniel said as he closed the dining room door behind him.

Sam reached for the door across the hall and Daniel stopped her. He motioned her to follow him to the end of another short corridor ending in a window. "That rat you smell is pretty big," he commented softly. "I think I know where we are."

"What? How could you possibly know that?"

Okay, let me rephrase. I think I know what we’re in."

"What?"

"We’ve seen eight rooms so far, and there’s one more to investigate. We’ve been in the kitchen, the dining room, and the library."

"Yeah, so?"

"We’ve also been in the billiard room, the ballroom, and the conservatory."

"Okay, I guess. Billiard room?"

"Bear with me. Let’s call the other two rooms the hall and the study."

O-kay! What’s your point?"

"The last room’s going to be the lounge."

"What’s a lounge?"

"Sort or a living room."

"And if it is?"

"Nine rooms in a mansion, none of them connected by a common wall, and a stairway going up, doesn’t that remind you of anything?"

"What about the stairway going down?"

"That wasn’t in the game. It was covered up with the deck."

"Deck, what deck? You’re not making any sense. How did a ship get into the conversation?"

"Deck of cards."

"Deck of . . ., oh my God! That’s impossible. It has to be a coincidence."

"Let’s go check the last room."

They moved back down the hall and entered a door on their right, closing the door quietly behind them. They were in another corner room, this one clean and neat, with couches and comfortable chairs and another fireplace, with a cheery fire lit. Several soft lights made the room look pleasant and safe. There were pictures on the walls, a seascape, a tall tree, a field of flowers, and a mountain scene. On a table, between two comfortable looking chairs, two mugs steamed.

"Daniel sniffed. "Smells like coffee!" They walked toward the table. "Great!"

"Daniel, haven’t you learned your lesson about coffee!"

"Huh? Oh, right!"

"That’s too bad. I had hoped we could spend a pleasant evening," a voice said behind them.

"They turned around to find Christopher Lee standing in the corner near the fireplace, a trap door open behind him.

"Of course," Daniel smacked his head, "the secret passage to the conservatory! How could that have slipped my mind."

"Sit down!"

"I don’t think so," Sam said, as she brought her gun to bear.

"I do think so," the man said, his arm coming up to show a ribbon device in his palm. Sam’s gun was pulled from her hands and went flying across the room. Daniel’s followed instantly.

"Now if you will take off your vests and gun belts and hold them out please, one at a time. You first, young lady."

Sam did as she was told and her equipment was pulled from her hand as she held it out. Daniel’s was ripped from his hand by an invisible force as well.

"Now, sit!"

They took seats on a small couch across from the secret passage.

"Drink your coffee."

"No, thanks, we’re fine," Sam said.

"You think it is drugged or poisoned. Let me reassure you on that point." He picked up another mug from the mantle and poured a little from each of the steaming mugs into his. Then he drank it down. "There, you see. Now, please, drink your coffee." He picked up the mugs and handed them to his guests.

They looked at each other, Daniel shrugged and tasted the coffee, shrugged again and drank it down. Sam sniffed suspiciously at hers for a minute and then followed suit.

"Now, let me introduce myself." The form shimmered and coalesced into the figure of an ancient woman. "My name is Ate. I am the goddess of this world and you will be my new servants. Perhaps in time one of you will be my new host, but in the meantime you will produce many children to serve me."

"Oh, I don’t think so!" Daniel said.

"Oh, I do think so. You, young man, are madly in love with this woman and you want her right now."

Daniel reached for Sam.

Sam pushed him away. "Stop it Daniel! What’s wrong with you?"

"You, madam, are madly in love with Daniel and you want him right now." Ate stepped forward to watch as the mugs crashed to the floor and Sam and Daniel began to grope each other and tear at each other’s clothing.

"Stop! This bores me. I see in your mind, madam, that you do not enjoy rough treatment. Therefore, you will fight him, but you will not use any of your military skills. Daniel, you will subdue her and take her by force using the most brutal method you know."

Sam tried a judo move but her body wouldn’t cooperate. She screamed as Daniel reached for her again. She began to scratch at him and try to bite him as his arms pinned her against the couch. She screamed once more straight into his ear. His head came up and he shook it and then his mouth came down on hers in a gentle kiss. He moved his lips to her ear as he held her mouth closed with his hand. "Stop it you bitch, or I will gag you," he growled and then said softly in her ear, "te amo, baby."

He rolled them both off the couch and spread-eagled her on the floor closer to the door and their weapons. "Wait for it." He whispered.

Ate leaned down to fill a wine glass as Daniel rolled and grabbed his P-90, spraying it back and forth across Ate’s location. Sam came up beside him with a serious of zat blasts.

Ate laughed as her personal shield protected her.

"Do you think I am a fool?" she spat. "Although, it appears that I have miscalculated. The liquid you swallowed should have made you completely open to my every suggestion. How have you resisted me? I tested you earlier and you both followed my harmless suggestions. Those were achieved only with the resonance given off by my house. You could not have resisted my potion unless you knew. You knew! How?"

"Thank you Ate," Daniel smiled. "Now Sam knows the score as well, and she won’t be afraid of me any more."

"Oh, I have more powerful drugs that will achieve the same results. This will only make it more fun for me as you will both know you are acting against your will. Now let me see."

"No!" Sam shouted. "I won’t let you tear him apart like that."

A streak of fur erupted into the room and landed on Ate’s back, throwing her to the ground. Katy grabbed the wrist which housed Ate’s controller and bit down hard. Ate screamed as Daniel slammed his P-90 into the side of her head. Sam grabbed a curtain cord and pulled it loose from the wall. She knelt on the old woman’s back and tied her arms and legs together as Katy finally let go and backed away, still growling. Daniel pulled the controller from Ate’s bloody arm and flung it across the room.

"Good girl, Katy!" Daniel praised her. "Good girl!" He looked over at Sam. "Are you all right?"

"Oh, the dog gets praised first! What am I, second choice? I suppose you’ll want to sleep with the dog tonight!"

"Sam!" Daniel looked shocked for a minute. "Oh!" He crawled to the controller and stomped on it. Then he threw it into the fire. The room began to dissolve and change. When it settled down again it looked more like one of the rooms in Apophis’ palace than an English mansion.

"What just happened?" Sam shook her head.

"The controller was still working and affecting our minds. Its off for good now." He moved to take Sam in his arms and rock her back and forth a few times. "Remind me to never piss you off. That scream would have stopped any attacker. I think my ear is still ringing. How did you manage that when she ordered you to not use any of your military training?"

"I got that from a policewoman who was in a self defense class with me. She wasn’t military and it wasn’t formal training so I guess it didn’t fall into Ate’s criteria of things I wasn’t allowed to do. Who is she anyway?"

"I am the daughter of Zeus and Eris," Ate said. "I am the goddess of evil and misfortune. I cause delusion and confusion."

"Yeah, she’s also known for causing people to do stupid things on the spur of the moment, like you trying to fix the pool table and water the plants, and me wanting to sit down in the library or play the piano. She’s also known in Greek mythology as Ruin. The story is that Zeus kicked her out of Olympus because she really pissed him off. Let’s see, I believe he seized her by her hair and dropped her on the site of the future Troy. I suppose what really happened is that she annoyed Ra almost as much as Hathor so he made her leave Earth. Am I close?" Daniel sat down beside Ate.

"You are correct human. I see you have learned much about your gods in the last few thousand years."

"You might say that, but you’re not our gods, you’re Goa’uld, nasty, smelly, snaky Goa’uld, and our mission in life is to wipe you all off the face of the universe."

"You do not have the strength to do so. You may kill me but I will be avenged. Ra will . . ."

"Ra’s dead," Sam cut in. "Daniel killed him. We also killed Apophis and Hathor and several others. And we’re not going to kill you. We’re going to take you home with us. We’ve been looking for a Goa’uld to study for a long time."

"You will not take me. I will not allow it."

"And how do you plan to stop us?" Daniel asked.

"Like this!" The Goa’uld inside Ate shot out of her mouth and jumped toward Daniel. Katy was faster and caught the snake in mid air, snapping it with a loud crunch and dropping it on the floor. Then she nosed it into the fire.

Daniel cleared his throat and said shakily, "so much for taking it home to study." He looked down on the old woman huddled on the floor. "She’s dead," he confirmed after checking the pulse in her neck.

Sam sat down on one of the couches which had not changed form when the room morphed. "I think I get most of what happened, but how did she know about Clue? Did she read our minds?"

"No, her resonating device picked images that we both shared from our childhood. I’ve seen writings that talked about such a device, but I’ve never encountered one before. I kind of knew that was what it was but it wasn’t until she told us her name that it all clicked together."

"And you weren’t trying to rape me?"

"God, Sam, no! As soon as she told me to hurt you she freed me from my compulsion. That was her mistake. As long as she was telling me to do something I wanted to do anyway, she was in charge. I told you I would gladly make love to you anywhere, well, except for in the snow."

"And how did Katy get in? I know I left the cat open and the front door, but how did she get in the secret passage?"

"You must have left the door to the conservatory open and Ate must have left that secret passage open. Katy’s a clever girl. I also think she must have had something to do with this place. Her collar did have Greek lettering and Ate was playing a god from the Greek pantheon and her alternative name was Ruin."

"Let’s leave the rest of this mystery for now. We can send a team back to check this out later. I’d just as soon go back to the cat and put some miles between us and this place before I sleep again."

"I agree. I don’t even want to go back and check out the library, if there ever really was one. Come on, Katy. Let’s go see how the pups are doing without you."

Daniel zatted the body twice more and they exited the building and climbed back into the cat. Katy rejoined her brood who were impatiently waiting for another meal, Sam started the cat and turned it around to go back out the way they had come. Daniel moved to the back of the cab to fix dinner as they rolled along, passing a few bites down to Katy as he cooked.

***

Teal’c brought the teltac in for a landing close to the stargate. Marissa and Lonny were ready and waiting at the door. "Mistress Lenore, I want you to be very brave. You will be meeting many new people at the SGC, but they are all my friends and they will soon be your friends." He dropped on his knees beside her to give her a hug. "They will all treat you with kindness and," he opened his eyes very wide and gave her an exaggerated smile, "if you remember the magic words ‘ice cream,’ you should get a very pleasant treat."

He stood and kissed Marissa quickly. "As for you, my lady, the magic words, which you must speak only to Doctor Janet Fraiser in private, are: ‘Teal’c said you would take me shopping and he gave me his credit card.’ Doctor Fraiser will be delighted."

They crossed the distance to the stargate and Teal’c dialed Earth and entered his iris code. When the gate whoosh subsided he picked up Lonny and carried her to the event horizon.

"Place your hand on the blue light, Lonny," he requested.

Lonny flattened her palm against the event horizon. "Its kind of cold and it tickles," she said, "but its not wet."

"That is what you will feel when you walk into it. It will not hurt you and it will only last a very short time." He set her down. "Take your mother’s hand. Are you both ready?" He glanced at Marissa, who reached up to touch his cheek. He took her hand and kissed it and then placed it in Lonny’s. "I will step through first. Follow immediately behind me." He entered the wormhole.

***

Daniel was laying on his back in the grass, with pups crawling all over him while Katy watched. Sam had removed her vest and was underneath the cat trying to repair a tread, when she heard their hand-held radios activate. "SG-1, SG-1, this is General Hammond. Do you read? Over?"

Daniel responded immediately, "this is SG-1, have you weak and barely readable. Over."

"Unit calling, this is SG-1 Air. Say again, you are breaking up. Over."

"SG-1 Air, this is SG-1 Delta. Can barely read you. What is your location? Over."

"SG 1 Delta, SG-1 Air, our locator shows us about twenty clicks east of your position. I say again, we are twenty clicks east of you. We should be with you shortly. Do you need medical assistance? Over."

SG-1 Air, SG-1 Delta. Your signal strength is increasing. We have negative casualties. I say again, negative casualties. Over."

Sam had been worming her way out from under the cat as the conversation went back and forth.

"SG-1 Delta, say names of all in your party. Over."

"SG-1 Air, SG-1 Delta. Party consists of Major Carter and Doctor Jackson."

"Daniel, tell them we’re in open country and have no flares, but do have a vehicle."

"Stand by one. Sam says to tell you we are in the open and you should be able to see us easily when you come up on our position. We have no flares, but we have a large vehicle."

"Ask them what type of aircraft they are flying?"

"What? Oh, say type of aircraft. Over."

"Uh, Daniel, we’re in a small helo. Pilot wants to know if we can land near you. Over."

Sam finally reached her vest and grabbed her radio. "This is SG-1 Sierra. That is affirmative. You can land right by us. Terrain is flat. No trees nearby and definitely no high tension wires. Have you heard from Teal’c? Over."

"SG-1 Sierra, this is Air One. Teal’c is in another search craft several hundred miles behind us. Stand by while we contact him."

Sam let go of her radio and reached for Daniel. "Its wonderful that Teal’c’s all right." She hugged him hard. "I guess the honeymoon is over." She sighed.

Daniel lifted her chin and kissed her. "The honeymoon will never be over, baby. Things will just get better, I promise."

"But the timegates . . ."

"If they start fooling with the timegates we will move to an alternate reality. Okay?"

"Okay. I think I hear the helo." Sam started to move away from Daniel but he put his arm around her waist and held on tight.

"We will meet them together. No lies, no pretense. Everybody is going to know about us right away. I’m too proud of you to wait a minute. Just remember, te amo in perpetua. I’ll keep reminding you, in case you forget."

"Got it! Te amo in perpetua! I’ll have that embroidered on our guest towels."

 

PART 2 - ANOTHER MATTER OF TIME

(SIX MONTHS EARLIER)

Jack O’Neill jumped down from his pickup truck and arched his back to stretch his tired aching muscles. He pulled the garage door closed and walked to his mailbox to collect the junk mail that always seemed to accumulate. As he unlocked the front door and went inside he was debating whether he wanted to grab a beer and watch the hockey game he had taped, or just go straight to bed. It had been a long, boring, and tiring mission and the bed was beginning to win the debate.

He tossed the junk mail on the table near the door, shed his jacket and wandered toward the bedroom thinking he really should have checked his answering machine first. On the other hand, everyone he would have been interested in listening to had either been on the mission with him, or had talked to him before he left Cheyenne Mountain, with the possible exception of Cassie, and Janet would have told him during his post mission exam if there was anything important going on with her.

He stepped into the bedroom, opened the door to his closet, and found himself face to face with himself. Before he could react, his duplicate zatted him. As he fell quivering on the floor, his twin whipped out a hypodermic needle and plunged it into his neck.

“Don’t worry, Jack” he heard, “this will only hurt for a minute. You’re going for a nice long vacation.”

That was the last thing he remembered until he woke up in a dark box. He could hear creaks and groans around him and faint voices, Sam and Teal’c and Daniel and Harlan, he thought. “Harlan! Oh, crap! Get me out of here!” He started to yell and pound on the side of the box. That hurt, so he tried kicking the end instead. That didn’t hurt as much, but it didn’t help either.

“Get me out of here!” he shouted again.

“We are endeavoring to do so, O’Neill.” That was Teal’c.

“Calm down, Jack,” came from Daniel.

“We’ll have you out in a minute, sir,” Sam added.

He felt the vibrations as a hammer hit the end of a screwdriver and heard the squeak as nails started to rip loose. He began to see light as the crack widened and lengthened.

“Okay, Teal’c, you’ve almost got it.” That was Danny again.

A minute later, as Sam had predicted, the whole top of the box was lifted away and Jack sat up and blinked. The first thing he saw was Harlan who, of course, said, “Comtria!”

“Yeah, right, aloha to you too Harlan.” Jack stood and vaulted to the floor. “What the fucking hell is going on here?”

Everyone began to talk at once and Jack held up his hand. “Eh, eh, eh! Carter, explain, and it better be good.”

“Colonel O’Neill, sir, we have a lot to tell you. First of all, you’re on Harlan’s planet.”

“Ya think! I figured that out myself, Carter. I also assume you’re the robots.”

“Yes, sir, we are. Our Colonel O’Neill . . .”

“I know that too. He stepped out of my closet and zatted me, and I presume, crated me and sent me here. Now tell me something I don’t know. Where is the slimy bastard?”

“He’s not here,” Daniel said. “He didn’t come through the gate with you. He just shoved the crate in.”

“Why?”

“We’re not exactly sure, sir,” Sam continued. “He told us he was going to go and get you and send you here. He has been really restless and dissatisfied lately. He said we needed current intel on the fight against the Goa’uld. He ordered me to disable the DHD so you can’t activate the gate and told us we should entertain you for a few days, a week at most, and then he would come back and you could go home. You’re free to do anything you want, go anywhere you want, except our armory, as long as you are here.”

“He sent some stuff for you too, Jack.” Daniel pointed to a smaller crate.

“Let’s see what kind of stuff. Teal’c would you open that crate please?” Jack asked.

Teal’c attacked the crate with hammer and screwdriver.

“So how you been Harlan? Got any new recruits?”

“I am pleased to see you again Colonel O’Neill. I am as always. No one has come here since your last visit. I am delighted to tell you though that, with the help of your duplicates, especially Captain Carter, the facility is in better shape than its been in many hundreds of years.”

“Well, that’s good news. You know, you really should promote Carter. Mine’s a major now.” He looked at Daniel. “My Danny finally got a haircut too.” His gaze passed to Teal’c, who was lifting off the top of the crate. “T, what we got in there?”

Teal’c looked in the crate. “It appears he has sent survival supplies. There is food, a sleeping bag and several changes of clothing, some reading material, and a first aid kit.”

“Wonderful, all the comforts of home. Harlan, you got a place for me to bunk and stash my stuff? Since I’m stuck here for a few days, I might as well make myself at home. After that, I’ll bring you up to speed on what’s going on with the Goa’uld, if you like.”

“Come this way please,” Harlan said, leading the way.

Jack followed him down a hallway, with Teal’c bringing up the rear, carrying the crate.

“That went well,” Sam said.

“Maybe a little too well,” Daniel responded. “If he’s anything like our Jack, and we know he is, he’s up to something.”

“Let’s go get that briefing and see what we can find out.”

***

They found Jack unpacking books, with Teal’c’s help, in the room Harlan had assigned him. “Let’s see, ‘Paradise Lost,’ ‘2001,’ ‘The Hobbit,’ ‘Fail Safe,’ ‘War and Peace,’ ‘Rhubarb,’ quite a collection.” He lined them up on a shelf.

“Ah, there you are.” Jack beamed at them. “You know the last time we met, we didn’t have much opportunity to catch up.”

“I lost my head pretty early on in that one, so I didn’t get to interact at all,” Daniel pointed out.

Jack had been playing this pretty much tongue in cheek since he got over his initial anger at being kidnapped, but he figured he had an obligation to be straight with this Daniel. “Danny, I have some bad news for you. Sha’re is dead. Ammonet had you in a ribbon device and killing her was the only way to save you. If it makes you feel any better, we also killed our nemesis, Apophis.”

The Daniel robot slid down a wall and put his head in his hands. Sam sat down beside him and put her arm around him.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. She looked up at Jack. “Searching for Sha’re was one of the main reasons we started going on missions. We hoped, if we found Sha’re and freed her, we could make a duplicate for Daniel.”

Daniel looked at Jack. “Thank you for telling me. How is your Daniel doing?”

“Well, he was naturally pretty upset, but somehow Sha’re managed to communicate with him through the ribbon device as Ammonet was trying to kill him. She told him to forgive us for killing her and to go on with his life, that he still had a purpose to fulfill.” Jack saw no need to further complicate the issue with information about the Harsesis child. “It was a couple of years ago and he’s doing pretty well now.”

“I’m glad he recovered.” Daniel stood and started toward the door, giving Sam’s hand a squeeze on the way. “If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to be alone for a while.”

As Daniel left, Sam turned to Teal’c. “Teal’c, would you keep an eye on him?”

Teal’c nodded and followed Daniel out of the room.

“Well, let’s see Carter, what news I have for you.”

“How are dad and Mark?” she asked. “Its stupid - intellectually, I know I’m a robot, but I really miss them.”

Jack smiled. “Have I got a story for you. This is going to take a while. Have a seat.” He slid down a wall as Daniel had done.

He began by explaining Jolinar’s invasion of Sam and went on to describe the Tokra and their alliance with Earth.

“Okay, you got all that?”

Sam nodded.

“Shortly before we met the Tokra, we found out your dad had cancer.”

“Oh my God!” Sam’s hand went to her mouth and she started to tremble.

“Hey, he’s all right.” He put his arms around her and squeezed her. She felt just like his Sam and he instinctively wanted to comfort her. “The Tokra convinced him to be a host. He’s cured and he’s having a wonderful time.” He let go of her and leaned back against the wall. “There’s a funny story about that. His Tokra symbiot is a female. Her name is Selmak and they get along great. Jacob has mellowed out and even patched up his differences with Mark, thanks to Selmak’s nagging, I hear. Selmak is a pretty important Tokra and they go on a lot of top secret missions and have worked with SG-1 several times. Jacob flies around the galaxy in his own space ship now.”

“Wow! I wish I could meet Selmak!”

“Well, maybe when I get done killing that slimy rat bastard duplicate of mine, we can work something out, if you guys promise not to duplicate Jacob.”

“That sounds like a deal,” Sam agreed. “I don’t actually think we can duplicate a joined creature. Look what happened when Harlan tried it with Teal’c, and he wasn’t really joined.”

“So how you doing?” Jack asked.

“Aside from missing dad and Mark, pretty good. There are all kinds of fascinating machines here and we bring back some pretty cool off-world stuff for me to tinker with. Also, I have something you and your Sam can’t have, a relationship with my Jack. We were pretty happy until he got this urge.”

“So can you guys do, um, everything we could?” He wiggled an eyebrow at her.

“Oh, yeah, well except I can’t get pregnant of course. Here let me show you.” She leaned over and kissed him.

When he got over being surprised he began to respond, but finally had to grab her shoulders and push her back. He gasped for a minute. When he could talk again he explained. “Sorry, I had to breathe.”

“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I forgot.” She showed him her dimpled smile. “Don’t tell him I said so, but you kiss better than my Jack.”

Jack smiled back. “That is probably because I’ve never had the opportunity to do that with my Sam when we were both in our right minds. I had to fully enjoy the opportunity.”

“We can do it again if you want. Just tap me when you want to breathe.”

“While that is a tempting offer, I’d better not. If I got used to it, I’d want more when I got home and then I would be in deep trouble.”

“Okay,” Sam said as she stood up, “but if you change your mind, let me know.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. In the meantime I need to get some sleep. I was on my way to bed when I was kidnapped by your scumbag Colonel, and being unconscious is not the same thing as sleeping. I’ll catch up to you guys later.”

Jack laid out his sleeping bag and prepared for bed.

 

The next morning Sam took him on a tour of the facility. There was a large lab where she played with her gadgets and dohickeys and another just for large machines in various stages of completion.

Daniel had an area just as large, full of books and papers and artifacts and, beyond that, what he called the museum. Jack wandered aimlessly through the museum after Daniel left him to his own devices.

He was looking for a weapon, something he could use to compel them to let him go if necessary, when he found a quantum mirror. It even had a hand controller next to it. He was pretty sure Daniel had no idea what it was, or he wouldn’t have been allowed near it alone. That made sense, as the real Daniel had found his mirror after the robots had been created.

Okay, he thought, this means there can be more than one quantum mirror in a reality, so how was he going to use it? It seemed pretty obvious he couldn’t just dial the mirror in Area 51. This one would have to take him to an alternate reality, but maybe he could use that mirror to dial back to Area 51.

He still needed a weapon though. Stepping into an unknown reality without one was just plain suicide. He would have to find their armory. Sam still had Teal’c dogging Daniel most of the time, to make sure he didn’t do anything drastic. That meant he just had to be sure Sam wasn’t near the armory when he raided it. Step one was still finding it, however.

He discovered Sam underneath a large piece of machinery that faintly reminded him of a jet engine. He had no idea what it really was.

“So, Carter, what do you do for fun around here?” he asked.

She crawled out and wiped her oily hands on a rag. “Well, I told you I actually got a life.”

“Okay, let me rephrase that. What do you do for fun when Jack’s not around, besides take stuff apart and put it together. You can’t fly here. What other fun things are there for military types like you and me?”

She thought a minute. “Well, Daniel has a lot of books, but none are in English. Other than a few in Latin, I can’t read any of them. No movies, no TV. Sparring and combat training with Teal’c is not very useful, and Daniel hates it. He only does it when Jack makes him. Daniel and I sometimes tell each other the plots of books or movies we remember. Jack and Teal’c are pretty much bored all the time when we’re here. Teal’c sometimes hangs out with Harlan and Harlan tells him about when he was a child. There really isn’t much to do.”

“What about sports or target practice or, I don’t know, painting a picture or playing music?”

“There’s nowhere big enough for most sports, none of us is artistic and there’s no piano to duplicate so Daniel can play. Yeah, we do have target practice, and we can duplicate all the ammo we want, but you can only shoot so long.”

“I suppose you still carry MP-5’s? We have P-90’s now. They have a downward ejection mechanism and a fantastic rate of fire. I’ll have to send you one to duplicate. Hey, why don’t you let me have a look at your armory and I’ll see what other upgrades you need?”

“Now, Colonel, you know I can’t give you access to any weapons.”

“Carter, I’m hurt. I’m not going to grab a gun and point it at you. I give you my word as an officer. Besides, I could never do that to anyone who kisses like you do.”

“Why, Colonel, you certainly know how to sweet talk a girl. Come on, I’ll show you what we’ve got.”

***

‘Well that was easy,’ Jack thought a few hours later when he snuck back into the armory. ‘Its not even locked.’ He grabbed an MP-5, a vest, several extra magazines and a few grenades. The vest came with binoculars and a radio, not that he figured he’d have anybody to talk to where he was going. Earlier, he had changed from his civvies to the combat clothing so thoughtfully provided by his duplicate.

Now it was time to go. The museum area seemed to be deserted and he reached the mirror with no problem. As a precaution, he had lifted a roll of duct tape from Carter’s workroom and made a big X in front of the mirror where he figured he could see it from the other side, just in case he had to come back. He picked up the controller and stuck it in his vest as he activated the mirror and then touched it.

 

 

On the other side now, he saw this mirror was hanging on a wall in a large room. He was about to pull the controller out and start searching for the mirror locked up in Area 51 in his reality, when he heard the unmistakable sound of P-90 fire and his radio activated.

“SG-3, SG-3, this is SG-19. We’re pinned down in the palace. Can you assist? Over.”

“SG-19, SG-39 negative, negative. We’re holding the stargate, but we can’t break out. Over.”

SG-19 in this reality sounded suspiciously like Lou Ferretti, O’Neill thought.

“SG-1, this is Colonel Jack O’Neill. Do you read? Over.”

“Jack?” from Ferretti.

“Is it you Jack?” Vaguely familiar female voice.

“Colonel O’Neill?” That was Teal’c.

“Yeah, Ferretti, its me. Well, probably not the me you know. I just came through the quantum mirror from another reality.”

“The what?”

“Long story. I’m in a big room with a mirror on the wall. I see an interior balcony on my left through big open double doors and there are French doors on my right leading to an exterior balcony. Give me your location.”

“Jack, we’re right below the balcony in the throne room, in between two fires,” the female voice came back. “We have Jaffa on the balcony and outside in the square.”

“Roger that. Let me see what I can do.” Jack crept to the open doors and took a peek. There were three Jaffa to the left, firing down into the room below and three more at the head of the stairway, about to descend into the room. He also heard a large contingent of Jaffa approaching and, looking back into the mirror room, he could see them about to enter through the French doors.

Jack rolled out the open doorway onto the balcony and lobbed a grenade to his left. Then he scrambled to his right and opened fire on the three Jaffa on the stairs, who went down like bowling pins.

“SG-1, I’m coming down, I think the troops outside flanked you and are coming in through the French doors up here. Check your exit route again.” He stepped back to the door, rolled two grenades into the mirror room and then headed for the stairs as fast as he could hump it.

“Colonel O’Neill,” Teal’c called from the street door, “You were correct. Our exit is clear. I would advise you to hurry.”

Jack followed Teal’c’s lead, double timing it all the way to the stargate, which, fortunately, was only about a quarter mile away. When they reached it they found SG-3 had taken cover in some rocks at the base of the ramp. They were under siege from an undetermined number of Jaffa.

“Hey Marines,” Ferretti called over his radio, “SG-1 has come back to bail your asses out. Stand by to dial when we clear out the riffraff.”

Ferretti motioned Jack and Teal’c to go right, while he and the female went left. Jack still hadn’t gotten a good look at her. All he knew was she definitely wasn’t Carter or Doc Fraiser.

He stopped when Teal’c motioned him to take out the two nearest Jaffa, while he continued to circle to the right. Teal’c held up his watch and two fingers so Jack figured he wanted attack in two minutes. While he waited, he wondered if they reckoned time exactly the same in this reality. The question had never come up before, but he sure hoped so.

When the time expired he came out shooting and heard staff weapon fire off to his right, which he hoped was Teal’c. He heard automatic weapons fire on his left as well.

The radio came to life. “This is Ferretti. I got mine. SG-1 report.”

The female voice, which he now noticed had an exotic accent, said, “my targets are neutralized.”

“Mine as well,” Teal’c reported.

“Got mine,” Jack added.

“Okay,” Ferretti called. “Let’s go home. Marines, dial the gate.”

Jack looked behind him and saw about a dozen Jaffa pounding toward their location. “Move it folks. The Jaffa are on our six.” He hurried toward the gate as he spoke.

As soon as he stepped through with Teal’c, the iris slammed shut and the gate disengaged.

Ferretti approached him, gun drawn. Jack saw all the weapons in the gateroom were now pointed at him. “I don’t know who you are, fella. I want to thank you for your help, but you’ll have to surrender your weapons now.”

Jack handed over his MP-5, removed his vest and gun belt and passed them to a waiting SF.

Just then, General Hammond entered the gateroom. “Colonel Ferretti, report! What happened?” Then he saw Jack. “Colonel O’Neill? What is this?”

“Good morning General. I gather you’re surprised to see me.”

“Colonel O’Neill, you’ve been dead for three months!”

“Ah, well, that certainly explains why everyone’s so surprised to see me. I’m from an alternate reality, sir. I came through the quantum mirror in the palace we were just in.”

“The quantum what?”

“Oh boy! You don’t by any chance have a Captain or Major Samantha Carter under your command, do you? I’m sure I could explain it to her.”

“Jack,” Ferretti said quietly, “your wife died in your arms just before you got hit.”

“I am sorry to hear that.” He paused for a minute. “Is Daniel Jackson here?”

“Danyel?” The woman, who had been obscured by the SFs, now came forward. “Danyel died on Abydos several years ago when Apophis kidnapped my brother Skaara.”

“Sha’re?” Jack was astounded. Two of his team were dead here, but Sha’re was alive. He hugged her. “In my reality you died when Apophis came, but Daniel is still alive. It is wonderful to see you alive.”

“And I you, my good friend.”

“Let’s take this to the briefing room people,” General Hammond ordered.

Jack and Sha’re headed there, arm in arm, exchanging information about past events in their realities. Jack learned that Skaara was Klorel in this reality too. He told Sha’re how he and Daniel had been instrumental in getting Skaara back and returning him to his father in his reality.

“And how is your father, Kasuf?” he asked as they sat down at the briefing table.

“I am sorry to say he also died when Apophis kidnapped Skaara. That is why I joined the SG-1, to look for Skaara. I had no family left on Abydos. You and Samantha were my dearest friends. When you both died I stayed on with SG-1 to continue to hunt for Skaara. I have nothing else to do with my life.”

General Hammond began the briefing then and Jack did his best to explain about the quantum mirror and alternate realities. Nobody seemed to believe him but Sha’re and Doctor Fraiser, who took a DNA sample and returned to state that this was indeed Colonel Jack O’Neill.

“How about Catherine Langford?” Jack asked. “I suppose she’s retired in this reality, but in mine she understood.”

“You mean Catherine Littlefield,” General Hammond smiled. “She is here in the SGC. She had retired and married Ernest after you and Sam found him and brought him back to her. We asked her to come back and help us out when Sam died.” He picked up a phone. “Have Catherine Littlefield come to the briefing room immediately please.”

Jack raised his hand. “While we’re waiting, can I ask a question?”

Hammond nodded.

“What were you doing on that planet anyway? And what happened to the fourth member of your team?”

Ferretti fielded that one. “That planet is Klorel’s headquarters. We were trying to take him prisoner, but he escaped. Lieutenant Hailey is the fourth member of our team. She was helping out another unit, so we went without her.”

“Teal’c, you know better than that, even if the rest of these people don’t. I can’t believe you went along with compromising safety like that.” Jack was disgusted. “If I hadn’t come along, you would all have been killed or captured.”

“It was my fault, Jack,” Sha’re said. “I begged them to go to rescue Skaara as soon as we learned the location of his headquarters.”

“Colonel O’Neill, I don’t know how things are done where you come from, but in my SGC, I hand out the reprimands and demand the explanations,” General Hammond thundered.

All heads turned to the stairway as Catherine came up. “You wanted to see me, General?” she asked. “Jack! Oh my God!” She ran to him and threw herself into his arms. “This is a miracle. How did this happen?”

“Catherine, its good to see you too. I’m not your Jack O’Neill though. I’m from an alternate reality. Nobody here seems to be able to grasp that concept, but I knew you would.”

“Yes, of course, but how did you get here?”

“I came through a device the Sam in my reality calls a quantum mirror. It looks like a regular mirror, until you touch it, then you’re on the other side, sort of Alice through the looking glass. There’s a controlling device that goes with it so you can pick which alternate you want to go to.”

“Catherine, is this possible?” General Hammond asked.

“Oh, yes, in theory, well I guess not in theory any more.”

Ferretti interrupted. “This is all well and good and I’m really glad to see you Jack, but we’re missing the point here. We have to get reinforcements and go after Klorel.”

“Do you know where he is?” the general asked.

“We know the coordinates he used when he left.” Sha’re brought out a piece of paper. “I was hiding near the gate and saw the symbols he punched in through my binoculars.”

“Then how did you end up in the palace?” Jack asked.

“Skaara was not the only one taken. We are also trying to find several very small children taken with him. We’ve learned that the Goa’uld usually do not take small children as hosts. They like to keep them as slaves and brainwash them so they will become willing hosts later. We had hoped they were in Klorel’s palace, but they were not.”

“Catherine, do you recognize the coordinates?” Jack passed them to her.

“Colonel O’Neill,” General Hammond spoke in his command voice, “In your reality, is there a chain of command?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And who is your commanding officer?”

“You are, sir!”

“Then will you kindly remember that and let me run my own briefing. You are a guest in this facility, not the OIC of SG-1.”

“Yes, sir, I only wondered if we had any intel on Klorel’s destination.”

“No, we don’t,” Catherine said. “We’ve not been to this gate address before.”

“Teal’c, you know anything about this place?” Jack asked.

“All right, Colonel, this is my last warning!” General Hammond stood, leaned on the table, and glared at Jack. “One more word out of you that’s not in response to a direct question and you’re out of here and into a holding cell. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir,” Jack answered.

“Very well. Catherine, please pass the gate coordinates to Teal’c.”

Catherine slid the page across the table. Teal’c studied it for a moment.

“I believe, General Hammond, that these coordinates are for a protected planet, one that, according to legend, holds many secrets of the Ancients. Apophis tried several times to gain access to the planet, both by stargate and by space craft and was unsuccessful. Those sent through the stargate, whether human, Jaffa, or Goa’uld, were never heard from again. The death gliders which tried to land on the planet and any mother ship which went into orbit around the planet mysteriously exploded without warning.”

The room was completely silent as everyone thought this information over.

Finally Catherine asked, “should I have a MALP or UAV prepared General?”

“Opinions people? Ferretti?”

“MALP first,” Ferretti answered. “We need to know what’s happening at the gate.”

Sha’re, Teal’c, and O’Neill all nodded their agreement.

“Very well, Catherine please prepare a MALP for deployment. We’ll meet back here in three hours to discuss its findings. Also, get Lieutenant Hailey back here to help you. Dismissed. Sha’re, I’m making you responsible for Colonel O’Neill. See that he behaves himself.”

“Yes, General,” Sha’re responded as she and Jack stood. “Let’s go to my quarters and you can tell me what has occurred in your world,” she said as they started down the stairway. “Tell me of your Samantha. Is she well?”

“Yes, Sam’s fine. I don’t know what I would have done all these years without her. You should know that in my world we are not married and do not have a romantic relationship. Strangely enough, in the two other realities we encountered, there was one. In one reality they were engaged and they both died defending Cheyenne Mountain. In the other, they were married and I died but Sam survived, thanks to some help from the team from my reality and the Asgard in that one. You do have the Asgard here, don’t you?”

“Oh, yes. They have been good friends to us, especially Thor.”

“Yeah, Thor and I have a great relationship in my reality too. But don’t you want to know about Daniel?”

“Danyel died so long ago for me, his memory will always be dear, but I had to go on. Was he also in the alternate realities you encountered?”

“No, we believe he was dead in both of them, but in my reality he searched for both you and Skaara for years.”

“I thought you said I died when Apophis came.”

“Not exactly. He turned you into a Goa’uld. In fact you became the host to his queen, Ammonet. We found out a couple of ways to separate the Goa’uld from the human host, but never had the opportunity to try with you. Daniel found you about a year after you were kidnapped. Apophis had you pregnant and it seems when a Goa’uld host is pregnant, the Goa’uld has to hibernate so the pregnancy can proceed normally. Apophis sent you back to Abydos and that is where Daniel found you, in fact he delivered your baby. He’s quite good at that, by the way. He’s delivered three so far. Anyway, he stole the baby, when Ammonet took over your body again, and sent it off with your father, but Ammonet escaped. It was almost another year before he found her again. That time she had him under a ribbon device and he would have been dead in a few seconds. Teal’c killed Ammonet with a staff weapon. She died first, and Daniel had a few seconds to say goodbye to you. Somehow you managed to send a message to him through the ribbon device. You wanted him to forgive Teal’c and to take care of your child, which he did. The child ended up with Oma Desala, an ascended being, who has kept him safe.” By the time Jack finished, they were seated in Sha’re’s room.

“And how is Skaara doing now?”

“I haven’t been back to see him since we rescued him, I’m ashamed to say. As soon as we finish one mission, another starts. Teal’c’s the only one of us who has a life. His wife died, but his son is still alive and they spend time together whenever Teal’c can get off-world to visit him. He is training with the Jaffa rebels who are our allies.”

Sha’re sighed. “Rya’c is dead here, as is his mother. They were both killed by Apophis’ troops when we tried to rescue them. But tell me more of Samantha. You do not love her?”

“Uh, Sha’re, that’s kind of hard to explain. I do care about her, but she has a career in the Air Force and its against the rules as long as she’s on my team. We’ve talked about it and the thing that really scared us both is that in every alternate reality, including this one now, we have been together and one or both of us died. She needs to have a relationship and I think she’s in love with someone else, but she won’t let herself fall. I think I’m just holding her back. I don’t know why I’m spilling my guts to you, but its nice to actually say it out loud to someone finally.

Getting back to Daniel, he’s still with us and is a big reason our SG-1 is still going strong. He never remarried or even had a serious relationship after your counterpart died. He’s still idealistic and enthusiastic. Sam and I sometimes refer to him as our moral conscience.”

“Why did you come through this mirror to my reality Jack, and why didn’t the rest of your team come too?”

“That, Sha’re, is a long story which I will tell you over lunch or dinner or whatever meal comes up next here. I haven’t eaten in 24 hours. Let’s go to the mess hall.”

Sha’re led Jack through the SGC to the mess hall where his appearance caused a ripple of conversation in the room. He loaded his tray and managed to demolish everything on it while he explained, between bites, what had happened to him. As he was finishing his third cup of coffee an SF approached Sha’re and announced that their presence was again required in the briefing room.

***

“Here’s what we’ve learned.” Catherine clicked on the monitor. “When the MALP first exited the gate we took temperature and atmospheric readings, which showed Earth normal for oxygen and other gasses and a balmy reading of 82 degrees F. It appeared to be about noon by the position of the sun in the red sky. As you can see by the photos, there was no activity around the gate, also no structures or any sign of habitation. The ground around the DHD is soft, so any tracks should show up, and there are none.”

“Smoke and mirrors,” Jack mumbled.

“But we know Klorel gated here,” Sha’re mused.

“Yes, and to reach the DHD to dial another destination the person doing the dialing would have to leave tracks. Again, there are none.”

Catherine clicked the remote. “This was taken a few minutes ago.” Now the ground was covered with footprints.

All eyes turned to the stairway as a diminutive blonde lieutenant appeared.

“Lieutenant Hailey, glad you could join us. What have you determined?” General Hammond asked.

“Good morning, sir. I’ve been studying the MALP readings ever since I got back. I think I may have an answer.”

“Have a seat, Lieutenant. This is Colonel O’Neill, he’s from an alternate reality.

“Colonel,” Hailey acknowledged.

“Lieutenant, I have met your counterpart. I assume you were Carter’s protégé here as well?”

“Yes, sir, Major O’Neill recruited me for the SGC before I left the Academy.”

Jack winced.

“Proceed with the briefing, Lieutenant,” General Hammond ordered.

“Yes, sir. What I think has happened is that when the gate is activated at this location a time delay occurs. We haven’t got the timing down yet. We just sent a rabbit through the gate and should have a better idea of the timing when it emerges on the other side, however, we have to maintain a constant wormhole to do this and that’s going to attract the attention of anyone in the vicinity. Also, we won’t be sure if the time delay keys on size or body weight unless we repeat the experiment with another creature, probably one of our guard dogs.”

“Well, that explains one mystery,” Ferretti commented, “but where did they go? Maybe the next time the wormhole shuts down and we have to reboot, we should send a UAV.”

“I agree,” General Hammond said. “In the meantime, have the Asgard or Tokra responded with any intel on this location?”

“The Tokra have nothing. The Asgard agree with Teal’c, but they did not protect the planet. They don’t know who did, but do not believe it was the Ancients.” Catherine put down her notes. “That’s all the information they sent.”

“If you’ll excuse me, sir,” Hailey stood up. “I will go and program a UAV.”

“Go!” The general dismissed her. “It looks like we need to take another break. I’ll have you informed when we’re ready to reassemble.”

This time Jack and Sha’re stayed at the conference table.

“Sha’re, I’ve been wondering. You obviously belong here now. I saw you in action and you conduct yourself like a well trained officer. Who trained you?”

“I had help from many at the SGC,” she replied, “but mainly you and Teal’c and Samantha, especially Samantha. And of course, Danyel taught me the languages I would need to know and much about ancient civilizations when we lived on Abydos. That is how I originally secured my position. I was the only one besides Teal’c who had knowledge of the language spoken in ancient Egypt and of the Goa’uld dialects and, at the time, no one trusted Teal’c but you and Samantha and I. The NID almost took him away from us.”

“Yeah, the same thing almost happened to our Teal’c as well. They have been the bane of our existence. I bet it was Sam who found Ernest, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, she had old films from the Pentagon archives.”

“On my world, Danny found them.” He paused and took her hand. “Sha’re, I want to stay and help you and Skaara, but I need to get back to my team. I don’t know what kind of trouble the robot has created. They would have no reason to suspect him unless he is wounded. He even greyed up his hair to match mine. Did you find the robots in this reality?”

Sha’re shook her head. “I believe, from your description, we visited the planet but it was desolate and forsaken.”

“So Harlan must not have survived here. Did you encounter the Tollin?”

“Oh, yes, in fact one of them, Narim, wished to pursue a romantic relationship with me, but it was too soon, Danyel had only been dead a few months then.”

“Really! On my world, Narim fell for Sam.”

They chatted back and forth and continued to trade stories of their experiences until the conference room filled up again.

General Hammond called the room to order. “Lieutenant Hailey, you have the floor.”

“Sir, the rabbit appeared exactly 90 minutes after we sent it through. Nothing happened to it when it emerged, in fact it is still quite close to the gate, cropping grass. The UAV did a sweep around the area and found nothing moving, except the rabbit. The tracks lead northwest and stop at a cave entrance. We estimate between 20 and 30 sets of prints which appear to have been made by booted humanoid feet. Since we know Klorel and a group of Jaffa of approximately that number went through the gate, our best guess is that it is the same group. Also, the temperature on the planet continues to climb and we have revised our estimate as to local time of day. The sun is still quite high in the sky, so we believe that the planet’s rotation is much longer than ours. We now calculate the days to be about 50 hours long and believe the high temperature will reach about 95, which should be in about another hour.”

“Thank you Lieutenant. Well, that appears to be all the intel we’re going to get. I’ll take comments and suggestions now. Let’s begin with you Teal’c.”

“General, it would appear that Klorel has found a way to deactivate the device which made previous visitors to the planet disappear. The question remaining is, did he deactivate it permanently, or only for himself and his troops. There is also the possibility that the trap is inside the cave system.”

“Good points. Sha’re?”

“I believe someone will have to go through to find the answer and I volunteer.”

Jack raised his hand and General Hammond nodded in his direction. “I’ll go sir. She’ll need someone to watch her six.”

“I volunteer sir,” Ferretti added.

“And I as well,” Teal’c added.

“I volunteer too, sir,” Hailey chimed in.

“If I may, General,” Catherine interrupted. “I’ll need Jennifer’s help on this one, to continue to monitor developments.”

“Very well. Colonel O’Neill, you have been remarkably subdued in this briefing session. Do you have any comments?”

“Only to say it would be nice to know how long it takes to get back. Maybe you could send one additional person with us who would turn around and come right back, maybe Lieutenant Simmons, who in my reality, has been itching to get off-world and hasn’t made it yet.”

“I agree,” Ferretti said.

“All right, Colonel Ferretti, your team, minus Lieutenant Hailey and with the addition of Colonel O’Neill, has a go. Get geared up and be prepared for departure in 30 minutes. I will inform Lieutenant Simmons of his good fortune. And Colonel O’Neill . . .”

“Yes, sir?”

“Colonel Ferretti is in charge of this mission. You will take your orders from him. Is that understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very well. Dismissed.”

 

As soon as they stepped through the wormhole, Sha’re went to the DHD and began dialing, while Jack and Lou Ferretti flanked her. Just as the stargate whooshed, Jack bent down and picked up the rabbit and handed it to Lieutenant Simmons.

Ferretti called the SGC to report their arrival as Jack asked, “Well, Graham, what do you think?”

“Awesome, sir!” Simmons grinned. “I was always afraid I’d puke my guts out, but this was great. Next time there’s a team opening I’m volunteering.”

“I’ll be sure to relay that to the Lieutenant Simmons in my reality. Stick the rabbit in your vest so it won’t squirm away and send it to Doctor Fraiser to be examined when you get back.”

Simmons gave Jack a nonchalant salute as he stepped into the event horizon. After the wormhole closed down Ferretti reported, “Ninety minutes on the button for us coming and the usual instantaneous return for Simmons. Well, let’s get started for the cave as soon as I pass out some snacks. He reached in his pack and handed energy bars all around. Sha’re whispered to Jack that this was Ferretti’s latest compulsion. He practically forced everyone on the team to eat constantly from his endless supply of energy bars, candy and nuts.

It took them 15 minutes to reach a point where they could observe the place where the foot marks disappeared into the cave. Ferretti passed out more food and continued to do so whenever the mood struck him. They watched the cave for two hours, drowsing intermittently in the heat, but there was no indication of any activity.

Jack used his binoculars and searched the surrounding terrain as well, but came up with nothing for a long time. Finally he passed them to Ferretti and pointed to an irregular spot on the summit of the mountain above the cave.

“You got Tollin in this reality, right?”

Ferretti nodded.

“Does that bump on the mountain look like an ion cannon to you?”

“Sure does,” Ferretti agreed.

“Indeed,” Teal’c added.

“Well, in that case, I think we solved the enigma of how the gliders were shot down and the mother ships blown up. It looks like the Goa’uld aren’t the only ones who have adapted - read stolen - technology from other cultures. Too advanced to share technology my ass! Now the next question is, what happens if we go in the cave.”

“Maybe we should have kept the rabbit,” Ferretti mumbled.

“Or we could send back for one of those little mechanical dohickeys Danny uses to scope out tight places in ruins. Sha’re you got any of those?”

“Yes, Jack.”

“Well that’s an option then. Of course, whatever was zapping people probably won’t bother it, but it might show us some bodies lying around. Maybe we could get Hailey to rig it for sound, too.”

“Okay,” Ferretti said, “I’ll go. While I’m waiting I’ll grab dinner and bring you guys take out and collect some more snacks to keep us going. You keep this pack, I’ve got more in my pockets. What do you want to eat?”

 

After Ferretti left, Jack and Sha’re continued to talk and munch while Teal’c checked out the ion cannon. Sha’re began asking questions about Jack’s experiences outside the SGC.

Jack discovered that both Sha’re and Teal’c spent most of their time inside the mountain.

She said that Sam had taken her shopping so she would have some off duty clothing and they had gone out to dinner with Sam and Jack or Janet and Cassie, but aside for some outings with Cassie, that was it for their social life.

Jack thought this over and realized that since the Sam and Jack in this reality had been a couple, they would have spent much less time with the rest of the team than he and his Sam did.

Sha’re said she had learned a lot about Earth from television, but would love to see some of the fabulous places in person. Las Vegas really intrigued her so Jack began telling her about trips SG-1 had made there.

He said that Sam was a big NASCAR fan and, after he explained NASCAR, he told Sha’re that Sam had obtained tickets to the inaugural Las Vegas NASCAR race for the team.

They had flown their F-15s into Nellis Air Force Base, located right across the road from the speedway. When the NID found out about it, they arranged for SG-1 to do the fly over for the National Anthem for the Busch race on Saturday, thinking that SG-1 would do a poor job and be embarrassed.

Jack told her Daniel and Teal’c had both had F-15 training and they had been practicing formation flying for a year at that time. He also told her how Sam had backwards engineered death glider staff weapons to mate with F-15s.

“Of course we didn’t have them mounted for the trip to Nellis, but we did the fly over and when we landed, they sent us back to the track in a helo. Danny and Teal’c thought the race was pretty neat. So did I, actually, but I couldn’t let Sam know how much I was impressed. We went back to the BOQ at Nellis for the night and then saw the Winston Cup race the next day. That was even more impressive. The roar of 43 deep throated engines coming around at speed when they were all still jammed in a pack, rivaled the sound the Thunderbirds made when they did the fly over for the National Anthem that day.

Sunday night we got a car from the motor pool and went into Las Vegas. You have got to make Ferretti take you there. Its a fabulous place.”

Sha’re shook her head. “I have learned to face danger and to fight on my own, but I don’t think I would have the courage to visit a place like Las Vegas. It is so crowded and there is so much noise.”

“Tell you what, Sha’re, when we get this mess cleaned up, I’ll take you there in my reality. But let me tell you what happened when SG-1 went into Vegas that first time. Sam had made reservations at the Tropicana and we had rooms on the 20th floor overlooking the strip and McCarran Airport. That alone blew Teal’c’s mind away. He just wanted to sit in the room and look out the window.

The Luxor was practically right across the street, that’s the one that’s shaped like a Egyptian pyramid, and Danny just had to go there. We made him wait till the next day though. I told him no Egyptology on Sunday night. I made them go to the Rio for dinner, where you look out the window of the restaurant into the casino to watch performers move through the room in vehicles attached to the ceiling.

That restaurant was so fancy the waiters pulled out, not only Sam’s chair, but all of ours, too. Teal’c almost decked the guy when he tried to unfold his napkin and put it in his lap for him. Sam said when she got up to go to the bathroom the waiter practically held her hand on the way and waited outside the door to escort her back. After that we were all afraid to try to use the john there. Danny would have probably talked the guy to death, but I was worried if he touched either Teal’c or me we would have killed him.

After dinner, we went by the casino stage to watch the free show. You’d have thought Danny was born on Abydos, from his reaction to the show girls, and Teal’c was speechless. Sam wasn’t a whole lot better. I found out she’s not quite as sophisticated as she thinks she is. It was fun to watch them all gawk like farmers in the big city for the first time.”

“I would gawk as well,” Sha’re admitted. “You would be ashamed of me.”

“Sha’re, if I took you there, the people would be gawking at you. You know you are a very beautiful woman. Danny used to tell me that you and Sam were the two smartest, bravest, most beautiful women he had ever met and I agree with him.

The next day we turned Danny and Teal’c loose in the Luxor and they spent the day complaining about all the inaccuracies they found, especially Danny. He was almost livid with rage. He pointed out a line of hieroglyphics which he said translated as, ‘My sister’s cat ate your gravy boat,’ or some such nonsense. We had to drag them away from there and take them to the dolphin habitat at the Mirage to calm them down.”

At this point Ferretti returned with two more packs full of food and the little robot, which Lieutenant Hailey had equipped with a microphone and infrared lights. By this time Teal’c had returned and reported the weapon on the mountain was an ion cannon, somewhat different in design and very old, but an ion cannon, none the less. They placed the robot at the cave entrance and backtracked into cover to observe with a remote monitor and headphones.

The robot entered the cave slowly, and Sha’re stopped it every few feet to listen. The passageway turned several times before they saw anything on the monitor except rocks. Around another corner the walls became smooth and the floor leveled out. The next corner was a right angle, and when their robot turned this corner the signal started to fade. Sha’re backed it up and stopped it, so the team could enter the cave and get close to its signal.

Jack sighed with relief when they crossed the threshold and nothing happened. Just to make sure, he stepped back outside and returned to the cave again. Then they started to follow the robot deeper into the cave. When they caught up with it, they again sent it ahead. After the first right angle, the passage continued in a straight line for what seemed 20 miles. It also began to angle slightly upward and there was water running in a sort of gutter along the left side of the passage. Jack figured they were way above ground level now. They found they had to stop and rest about every 15 minutes and frequently found they had fallen asleep during the rest stops. No one could explain it, but it kept happening. Teal’c said he had to kal-no-reem each time, as well. So far there had been no audio picked up by the robot. The entire tunnel system was pitch dark and Jack was glad they were wearing infrared goggles. Finally, Sha’re stopped the robot, and when they caught up with it they decided to take a longer break. Ferretti passed out the sandwiches he had brought back and they set up a silent perimeter alarm which allowed them to sleep without posting a guard.

Ferretti conked out immediately and Teal’c began to kal-no-reem again, but Jack and Sha’re continued to talk in whispers and munch snack bars for a while. The cave was room temperature so they were using the sleeping bags as mattresses. There was no need to crawl inside them.

Jack began to tell Sha’re about his cabin in Minnesota and how much he enjoyed his trips there. She said the Jack in her reality had no cabin, instead he and Sam had a time share in a condo in ski country.

When Sha’re fell asleep Jack set his mental alarm to wake himself in an hour to check the perimeter security system. When his eyes snapped open, he found that much less time had passed and that Sha’re was holding his hand. She was curled on her side using her other arm as a pillow. He gently disengaged himself, snapped on his infrared goggles and checked their position. Teal’c silently acknowledged his passing, but Ferretti slept on undisturbed.

When he was done, he stopped by Teal’c, who also had his goggles in place, tapped his watch, pointed to Teal’c and held up one finger. Teal’c nodded and Jack settled himself back down to sleep. He surprised himself by taking Sha’re’s hand again.

He woke when Sha’re’s fingers tightened on his hand. Then he felt her move closer as she whispered in his ear. “Teal’c has heard something.”

He squeezed her hand back and sat up, listening intently.

A minute later he heard Teal’c deactivate his staff weapon. “There is no cause for alarm,” Teal’c reported. “What I heard was falling water. I have investigated. There is a branch about 100 yards ahead, To the left there is a natural tunnel with a stream running below it. It appears to be deserted. That is where the water is coming from.”

Ferretti checked his watch. “We’ve been here long enough. Let’s fill the canteens, grab some chow and move on. I brought some extra sandwiches, just in case, but after this we’re going to be eating snacks and MREs. I don’t know about you guys, but something is extremely weird about this place. Its just not natural to be eating and drinking so much, not to mention the frequent naps.”

Ferretti passed out the wrapped sandwiches. Jack took a bite from his and spit it out. “This bread is really stale and the ham and swiss are dried out.” He turned on the flashlight attached to his P-90. “In fact they are moldy.” He flashed the light on Ferretti’s sandwich. “Yours is too.” He flicked the light higher. “And you now have a beard.” He felt his chin. “And so have I. If Sam were here, I know she would come up with a theory to explain everything, but my gut feeling says we’re in a time dilation of some kind. So now we know what killed those who came through the gate, either old age or starvation, especially if they entered the cave, which is the only feature on the planet worth exploring. Klorel and his people are most likely dead, if they haven’t figured it out. We have to get out of here as fast as we can, and I don’t think we need to be quiet about it.”

They turned on their flashlights and started for the cave mouth, still stopping to sleep for five minutes out of every fifteen. On the way Jack suggested they get the robots to come back and see if they could save Skaara, since they didn’t have to eat or sleep and could move much faster than humans.

Just as they came in sight of the gate, it activated and a 12 man squad of Jaffa poured out. Ferretti motioned his team down and they took cover to decide what their next move should be. “We’ve got about the same situation as we had on Klorel’s planet, except we don’t have any time to waste,” he said. “Let’s spread out and take them by surprise. Everybody lob a grenade into their ranks and then we’ll rush them. Two minutes from 3-2-1 now!”

The team separated and easily found concealed positions in the twilight. When the time was up, four grenades plopped into the center of the Jaffa formation, killing three and seriously wounding two others. Teal’c got another immediately with a blast from his staff weapon, but one of the wounded managed to zat him twice. As Teal’c went down, Jack grabbed his staff weapon and poured fire into the Jaffa as fast as he could. Sha’re had found a slightly elevated position and sprayed her P-90 back and forth across the line. Ferretti got in close and gutted a Jaffa, just before another took him out with a staff blast.

When the firing stopped, Sha’re was the only one left uninjured. She made her way through the carnage zatting all the Jaffa into oblivion. Then she checked her teammates. Teal’c was dead, as was his symbiot. Ferretti was dead, too. When she stopped to check Jack she was relieved to see him moving.

“Jack, stay still. Where are you injured?”

“My leg’s got a staff wound and its broken in two places. One of the Jaffa I shot fell on me. What’s our status?”

“All of the Jaffa are dead. Ferretti and Teal’c are also dead. I will bring the MALP to you and if we can get you up, you can ride back on it. Stay still.”

Sha’re maneuvered the MALP to Jack’s position and helped him climb aboard. Then she dialed Earth and sent the MALP through as soon as the recognition code was received. By the time she emerged in the SGC, Jack was already explaining to General Hammond and Lieutenant Hailey what had happened.

“All right people, break it up!” That was Janet Fraiser’s command voice. “Colonel O’Neill is on his way to the infirmary. You can continue the conversation after I have treated his injuries.”

“NO! STOP!” That was Jack’s command voice. “This can’t wait. I’m not dying here, but Skaara is. We have to send someone through the quantum mirror to the robot planet and get them to come here and go into that cave. They live thousands of years, a few months extra won’t bother them.”

“I’ll go,” Hailey said. “I have to go to explain it to them.”

“I’ll go too,” Sha’re said. “I will be a familiar face, at least to Danyel.”

“All right Sha’re. Have SG-3 and SG-5 report to the gateroom in full combat gear immediately,” General Hammond ordered. “In the meantime, Colonel O’Neill, you are on your way to the infirmary.”

“Hailey,” Jack yelled as they began to roll him away, “remember to put some duct tape down so you know which reality to come back to.”

***

Within 30 minutes, the Marines, Sha’re, and Lieutenant Hailey were gating to Klorel’s palace. As soon as they left, a body retrieval team went to collect Ferretti and Teal’c’s remains.

 

When Sha’re and Hailey reached the palace, they found it deserted so they went right to the quantum mirror and used the control to find the right alternate reality. They arrived in Daniel’s museum, which was just as Jack had described it.

Daniel was at work in the next room translating a scroll. Sha’re motioned Hailey to stay put and stepped into the room. “Danyel,” she said softly.

He looked up at her and just stared. She came around the table and took his arm, which made him jump.

“Robots don’t have hallucinations and we don’t dream.” He touched her wrist at the pulse point. “You are human! How is this possible?”

“I am human, but from an alternate reality. In my world when Apophis came, I did not die. You did. Now I need the help of you and your team. This is Lieutenant Hailey. She will explain.”

Hailey came forward. “Can you call the rest of your team here?”

Daniel nodded. “I already have. Teal’c and Sam are on the way. You should know Jack left us several months ago and has not returned.”

“Yes, we know he kidnapped the Jack O’Neill from this reality,” Sha’re said.

At that moment Sam and Teal’c entered the room and Sha’re and Hailey began their narrative. “So you see,” Hailey concluded, “the only way we can get Skaara out of that cave is if you go in after him. Not only will you survive the time lag, but Jack tells us you can move much more quickly than we can.”

“We need to go immediately,” Sha’re added. “Will you do it? Jack says you want to clone me. I will allow you to do this if it will help.”

Daniel looked at his teammates who nodded. “Of course we will. Skaara was my friend too. I would be grateful to have a companion, but that’s not a condition of our cooperation. Let’s go.”

The palace was still deserted when they returned through the mirror and proceeded back to the stargate under the Marine’s protection. Sha’re speculated that when the Jaffa had left to follow Klorel, the slaves had taken the opportunity to flee.

Back at the alternate reality SGC, the robots were given equipment and supplies to sustain Skaara/Klorel until they could get him back to the SGC. Hailey also gave them portable naquada powered generators to sustain them for 100 years away from their home planet.

When the robots stepped through the event horizon everyone at the SGC relaxed. They knew they would have to wait 90 minutes for the robots to reach the other side and then several more weeks, or possibly months, for news of Skaara.

Sha’re went immediately to the infirmary where Janet told her Jack’s fractures had been set and his staff blast treated.

“I’ve given him a healthy dose of sedative,” Janet said, “so he should be out for a while. If he’s anything like our Jack O’Neill, that’s the only way to keep him quiet. Otherwise he would be demanding news of Skaara or his team every five minutes.”

“May I sit with him?” Sha’re asked.

“Yes, but I’m ordering some food sent up for you and I want you to eat it all. Even with your MREs and snacks, you almost starved to death in the time distortion. I believe Ferretti saved your lives with all the junk food he carried with him.”

Sha’re pulled up a chair next to Jack’s bed and stayed there, holding his hand when she wasn’t eating the food Janet kept sending. She left him only for brief bathroom breaks and once to take a shower.

That evening as Janet was making her last rounds before completing her shift, she found Sha’re asleep with her head on Jack’s bed.

“That’s it, young lady, its time for you to go to bed,” Janet ordered.

“No, please, Janet,” Sha’re pleaded. “I only fell asleep for a minute. He’s so restless, I’m afraid he might hurt himself.”

“Well, I am going to lighten up his dose a little now. I’ll tell you what, if you want to use the next bed over, I’ll let you stay. But you have to promise to get in bed.”

“Oh, yes, thank you, I’ll go get my pajamas from my room and be right back.” Sha’re hurried out the door.

While she was gone, Janet checked Jack’s vitals, hung a new bottle of glucose, and adjusted his meds. Then she strapped his arms and good leg so that he wouldn’t injure himself, if he woke up.

When Sha’re came back, she was startled to see Jack tied to the bed.

“Oh, Janet, he looks so uncomfortable. Does he have to be strapped down?”

“I don’t want him to injure himself. It really doesn’t hurt him.”

“Could I not do what Samantha did at McMurdo?”

“You know about that?”

“Yes, Samantha and Jack told me about it once. Jack said she saved his life twice that day, once in the ice cave and once in the hospital.”

“All right. I’ll leave orders for you not to be disturbed for a while. You use that call button right away if you have any problem. Doctor Warner is on duty now. Good night.”

“Janet, you said earlier that we would have starved to death without Ferretti’s junk food. Does that mean you think Skaara is already dead?”

Janet sighed. “I didn’t want to bring it up, but unless they had a food source, I’m afraid so. I’m sorry, Sha’re. I know how hard you tried to bring Skaara home.” She hugged Sha’re for a minute and then left, closing the door behind her.

Sha’re unfastened Jack’s arms and leg and grabbed an extra blanket to cover herself and climbed up on the bed beside him, laying against the shoulder on his good side and holding his other hand. The arm she was leaning against trailed down her back and rested on her hip. He smiled in his sleep and turned his head toward her. His breathing continued to be slow and regular. Sha’re pulled the blanket up and lay crying quietly thinking of Skaara.

Jack was dreaming of Antarctica. He remembered falling asleep in the ice cave with Sam beside him and waking up in the McMurdo infirmary with her still there snuggled against his side.

Sha’re woke up when she heard Jack mumble, “Sam?”

“No, Jack, its Sha’re. We’ve removed the restraints but you have to lie still.”

“De je vu?”

“Yes, Jack, de je vu, but you’re in the SGC and the robots have gone to look for Skaara.”

“Um. Ow! I do that with Danny a lot, the de je vu thing. God, I wish I knew what the robot Jack was up to. I’ve got to get back to my reality.”

“Jack, you must rest. Janet says you will not be able to get out of this bed for several weeks, you have two fractures, plus the staff wound, all on the same leg. She says if you do not stay still, I must put the restraints back.”

Jack subsided, laying his head back on the pillow as Sha’re pushed him down.

Just then the door opened and Doctor Warner entered the room.

“I thought I heard voices in here. Why aren’t you asleep, Colonel?”

“He just woke up, doctor, and asked for a drink of water. I was on my way to get it when you came in.”

“That’s good. He should take as much liquid as he can tolerate.”

“I don’t suppose that includes beer,” Jack said wistfully.

“Not until you’re off all medication, however I will authorize all the juice and clear soup you want. What would you like?”

“Apple juice would be good.”

“I’ll get it.” Sha’re padded out of the room.

“How’s the pain?” Warner asked.

“Almost none, so far. Course I still feel pretty spacey. I’d appreciate it if you cut back the meds.”

“Well, Doctor Fraiser already did that once. Let’s leave it this way tonight and we’ll see in the morning. You know you can’t expect to snap back overnight anymore. You’re not as young as you used to be and that’s the second time you’ve broken that leg.”

“Yeah, well you’re not as young as you used to be either, Doc, but thanks for reminding me.”

Sha’re reentered the room balancing a large glass of apple juice, a pitcher and an empty cup. “Here you are. I brought a pitcher of water too.”

Warner dropped his stethoscope around his neck after listening to Jack’s lungs and turned to leave. “You two both need to sleep now. No more talking. Good night.”

Sha’re moved beside Jack and raised the head of the bed. She put a straw in the juice and held the glass so he could drink. He took several slurps. “Okay, that’s enough, I need to sit up for a minute. Everything’s all wrinkled up behind me and the ties on the hospital gown are giving me bruises,” he complained. “By the way, thanks for covering for me with the water excuse. Warner’s a worse tyrant than Fraiser.”

As he sat forward, Sha’re reached behind him and untied the hospital gown and smoothed out the sheets. Then she fluffed the pillows.

“Whoa!” Jack leaned his head into his hands. “I think I better lie back. Everything’s going around in circles.”

Sha’re eased him back against the pillows and pushed back the hair that had fallen across his brow. She wet the corner of a washcloth and wiped it over his face gently. “Are you feeling any better now?”

“Yes, thank you. Its just the meds, they throw off my equilibrium. I spend all my time fighting them whenever I’m in here. I’d rather have the pain most of the time.”

“I’m going to put your bed back down and turn out the light so you can sleep. I’ll be right here in the next bed.” She clicked off the light.

“Uh, Sha’re, I know I shouldn’t be asking this, but could you come back over and sleep in my bed? I’m still really disoriented and having you here would give me something concrete to hold on to, so to speak. I promise I’ll be a perfect gentleman.”

Sha’re laughed. “Oh, I know you will.” The sheets rustled as she slid in beside him and laid her head against his shoulder. “Good night Jack.” She raised up and kissed his forehead.

“God, you smell good,” he mumbled as he interlaced his fingers with hers.

Sha’re giggled. “Sh! Go to sleep.” ‘You also smell nice,’ she thought. Tomorrow or the next day she would cut his hair and remove the beard that had grown during their extended stay in the cave. Her thoughts continued to drift as she listened to Jack’s breathing settle into sleep again. She had never lain next to any man but Danyel, but this felt comfortable and somehow right.

She woke again when a nurse appeared to check Jack and add more medication to his IV about 0600, but he didn’t stir. After the nurse left she started to ease herself from the bed, but Jack’s arm tightened on hers. He was back in McMurdo again. This time, instead of the soft, sweet kiss he had shared with Sam, his dream took a new turn and Sha’re’s face floated in front of him.

“Don’t leave me, I need you,” he whispered, still half asleep. All of a sudden his hands were in her hair and his lips were on hers.

Sha’re was surprised, but she didn’t fight him. It was rather pleasant she thought. By the time she had decided to participate, he had released her and was asleep again.

This time she made it off the bed and took the clean BDUs she had brought the night before, into the bathroom so she could take a shower. After all these years, hot showers were still high on the list of her favorite things about Earth. When she came out, Jack was awake again and had raised the head of his bed.

“Good morning,” he said cheerfully. “Listen, Sha’re, thanks for all your help last night. I really appreciate it.”

“I enjoyed it also. Especially the last part.” She leaned down and kissed him. This time she had surprised him and she released him quickly when he did not respond.

“Okay, that was nice, but what did I do to deserve it?”

Sha’re was embarrassed. “I did not have time to do my part when you kissed me earlier. You fell asleep too fast. Should I not have done that?”

“Oh!” Now Jack was embarrassed. “No, you were fine. Its my fault. I remember having a dream about being back in McMurdo with Sam.”

“I see. Well, in that case I will compliment you on your kissing ability and we will say no more of it.” Sha’re smiled.

“Likewise. Do you suppose you could go see if you can find Janet so I can get this out of my arm and maybe get some breakfast?”

“Well, I see you’re almost back to normal,” Janet said as she entered the room before Sha’re could leave. “I’m not ready to pull the IV yet Colonel, but I will cut the pain medication out and let you take it by mouth as needed. I want to leave the glucose drip in until we get some solid food down you. You can have scrambled eggs and oatmeal for breakfast and all the toast you want. Let’s see how that works out.”

“Fair enough. When do you think I can get out of here?”

Janet pondered that a minute. “Two weeks minimum, but then only if you have someone to stay with you.”

“I will do that,” Sha’re stated.

Jack held up his hand. “Let me rephrase the question. When can I go home to my reality?”

“Your leg should be healed in six weeks. Then you can start therapy.”

“Unacceptable! I need to get back to my team!”

“Colonel O’Neill, if you do not calm down, I will not only not decrease your medication, I will have you sedated into unconsciousness so your leg has a chance to heal.”

“Will you at least let me talk to General Hammond?”

“I think that can be arranged. Wait here.” Janet swept out of the room.

“Ha, ha, very funny doctor,” Jack mumbled.

“Sha’re, if I can talk General Hammond into it, will you go through to my reality and explain to my General what happened here? I’d ask for Lieutenant Hailey to go, but she exists in my reality and would be subject to entropic cascade failure.”

“I will be glad to do whatever I can to help, but I would like to wait until after the memorial service for Teal’c and Lou Ferretti. They were my friends and I will miss them very much.” She sniffled and began to cry.

“Oh, Sha’re, I’m sorry. They were my friends in my reality too. Come here.” She sat on the bed and buried her head on his chest for a few moments. “Thank you,” she said as she sat up and wiped her face. “Now here is your breakfast.” She took the tray the orderly was just bringing into the room, put it on his table, uncovered the dishes and set the covers aside. “Here is General Hammond to see you as well. I will leave you two alone to have your talk.” She slipped out into the corridor where she leaned against the wall and listened to the two officers shout at each other.

When General Hammond came out he gave her permission to visit the alternate reality after the memorial service the next day.

Sha’re spent the rest of the day trying to entertain the restless Jack O’Neill, but returned to her quarters for the night.

***

Early the next morning the base barber came in to cut Jack’s hair and shave the beard he had acquired. Janet had allowed him to put on a dress blue shirt and jacket and sit in a wheel chair covered in a blanket from the waist down, to attend the memorial service held in the gateroom. At the end of the service, Teal’c’s body was escorted through the gate by the Marines. Ferretti’s would be flown to Arlington for burial.

Afterward, Sha’re wheeled Jack back to the infirmary and helped him get undressed and back into bed. Then she left him to begin her mission. As soon as the Marines returned, they changed from their dress uniforms to battle dress to escort Sha’re as far as the robot planet. Klorel’s palace continued to be deserted and they found no one on the robot planet but Harlan. Since the robot Sam had reactivated the DHD, all Sha’re had to do was dial and punch in the SG-1 code, using Jack’s GDO.

She had been warned that she would be treated as a hostile until she was recognized, so she was prepared for the weapons pointed as her when she emerged from the wormhole. For this reason she had gone unarmed. The reaction was a little more hostile than she had expected though.

Lieutenant Simmons was the OD and he called General Hammond at home before he entered the gateroom. Sha’re had been thoroughly searched and her GDO confiscated. Simmons began interrogating her immediately, demanding to know where she obtained the GDO.

Sha’re asked to speak to Major Carter, Doctor Jackson, or Teal’c and was informed they were all off-world. Then she asked for Colonel Ferretti and was told archly that Major Ferretti was at home and wasn’t going to be bothered unless she explained how she knew his name and how she got the GDO.

Simmons was totally confused. The GDO the stranger carried was from SG-1, but how could she know about Ferretti, who commanded SG-2, and was still safe on Earth.

Sha’re was sitting in a holding cell when General Hammond found her. She explained who she was and how she had come to be there and said that Ferretti would recognize her.

The General immediately sent for Ferretti and took Sha’re to the briefing room, after Doctor Fraiser ran the usual tests. He was already pretty sure she was telling the truth. He had often seen the picture Doctor Jackson kept on his desk.

“Now let me get this straight,” General Hammond was saying, as Ferretti entered the room. “You’re from another reality. Our Jack O’Neill was kidnapped by his robot double and taken to the robot planet where he escaped and went through a quantum mirror to your reality. He is presently in your infirmary with a broken leg he suffered while saving your team. And our robots, minus O’Neill, are now on a mission in your reality requested by your General Hammond.”

“Yes, sir, that’s essentially the situation. Jack wanted me to come and report to you. Since I don’t exist in this reality I am not subject to entropic cascade failure. He is worried that the robot Jack may get your SG-1 in trouble.”

“He has good reason to worry. SG-1 has been missing for about four months. We can find no trace of them. Major Ferretti, come and join us. Do you know this lady?”

“Sha’re? How?”

“I’m from an alternate reality, Lou.” She hugged him. “It is good to see you alive and well here. I just came from your memorial service in my reality.

General, I must return and make my report, as soon as you give me the details of the mission SG-1 was on when they disappeared. I promised Jack I would bring him the information. May I take Lou as far as the robot planet, so that he will know how to find the quantum mirror? He could come and tell us if there is any news of your SG-1, since he is now not subject to entropic cascade failure either. Also, when Jack is sufficiently recovered, Lou would be able to come and help him get home.”

“That’s an excellent plan Sha’re. Major Ferretti, you have a go as soon as I get her the report on SG-1’s mission and she briefs you on the situation on her world.”

When they reached the robot planet Sha’re found Harlan and had herself duplicated, but made him promise he would not activate the robot until Daniel returned.

Back in her own SGC, she was reluctant to tell Jack what she had learned, so she properly reported the situation to General Hammond first.

Jack was just finishing his breakfast when Sha’re came in to his room. She saw that all the IVs had been removed and that he was sitting on the bed with his good leg dangling as he ate.

She gave him a quick synopsis of what she had learned and waited for the explosion, which didn’t come. He just laid back on the bed and stared at the ceiling.

Finally she could stand it no longer. “Are you all right?” she asked.

His eyes tracked down from the ceiling to her face. “Its my fault. If I had disabled those robots, this would not have happened.”

“You don’t know that. Whatever happened to them might have occurred even if you had been along. General Hammond gave me the details of the mission SG-1 had been on and what he has done to follow up. Maybe you can think of something. Would you like me to brief you in detail?”

“Yes, please.”

Sha’re passed on everything she learned from General Hammond about SG-1 and said Ferretti had volunteered to bring him any updates.

“You must rest and get well Jack. Once the robots have finished their mission, they will help look for SG-1.”

“I know you’re right, but I feel so helpless. I need to be able to do something.”

“Perhaps you can tell me more of your missions,” Sha’re suggested. “We can compare them to ours and see if the differences might give us a clue to this Goa’uld plot in your world, for we have had no intelligence of such an occurrence here.”

“Okay, that might help. Maybe we could also send for Sam’s dad. He might have some ideas.”

“Sam’s dad?”

“Yeah, General Jacob Carter. He’s with the Tokra.”

He saw a blank expression on Sha’re’s face.

“Or maybe he died in this reality and was never blended. Can you go get a pad so we can take notes on the missions and can you also ask General Hammond about Jacob?”

“Yes. I will be back soon. Finish your breakfast and rest a few minutes while I am gone.”

Jack finished off his meal and then leaned back against his pillow and started to replay missions in his head. The next thing he knew the orderly was placing his luncheon tray on the table. Sha’re was sitting quietly by the bed. She had a small table in front of her and was finishing her own lunch. She jumped up to help him adjust his tray table and get the dish covers out of the way so he could eat.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” he asked.

“Janet told me you needed to sleep. I have brought our mission logs so we can more efficiently compare experiences when you are ready. Also, General Hammond says Jacob Carter died of cancer before we met the Tokra.”

“That’s another reason my reality has fared so well. Jacob and his symbiot Selmak have been an enormous asset in our fight against the Goa’uld.”

He finished his soup and took a bite out of his sandwich. “Ummm tuna! I remember telling a patient here once that all hospital food is poison, but this is pretty good.”

“Yes, Janet said she would have a difficult time getting you to eat the food here, so she is sending out for your lunch and dinner meals, since you conceded that the breakfast menu was okay. The sandwich is from Subway and I made the soup in Sam’s lab. I share the lab with Lieutenant Hailey now. I could never go into Danyel’s. Robert Rothman and Nyan work out of it.”

Jack polished off his lunch and Sha’re whisked the tray away.

“Okay,” he settled himself so he could write on the tray table. “Give me the pad and we can get started.”

“If you wish, but I can take the notes for you.”

“I’d like to be able to read them over when you’re not here and I don’t read Abydonian or Egyptian.”

Sha’re laughed. “I write English, Jack. However, that gives me a better idea. I will have them roll in a computer and printer. Then you can just read the printout whenever you feel like it.”

She picked up the bedside phone and made the arrangements. A few minutes later she was set up and ready to go.

They spent the afternoon discussing their missions and the differences between them. They were both laughing heartily when Janet came in to check on Jack, late in the afternoon. She sent Sha’re out of the room so she could examine Jack. When she was done she pulled a chair up beside his bed and took his hand.

“Colonel, I need your help,” she began.

“Of course Janet, anything, but what can I possibly do to help you?”

“Two things actually. You’ve already started doing one of them. Sha’re has told you that she has no one, that the search for Skaara was the focus of her life?”

Jack nodded.

“Now she’s lost her team as well. And there is almost no hope that the robots will be able to rescue Skaara. I am really worried about her. She seems to be keeping herself together by helping you. That’s going to be even more important if Skaara is dead. You’ve told us that Daniel Jackson is still alive in your reality, as well as Skaara and Sha’re’s father. I wonder, could you take her back to your reality to live?”

“Of course, if she wants to go. She seems to understand better than most that the people in each reality are not exactly the same. She hasn’t expressed much interest in what my Daniel has been up to, but she has asked about my version of Earth.”

“Good, in the meantime, keep her busy looking after you. It will occupy her mind and you might suggest taking her to your reality, at least for a visit.”

“All right, I already offered to take her to Vegas. But you said two favors, what’s the other one?”

“Cassie. She was devastated when you and Sam died and now I’ve had to tell her Teal’c and Lou Ferretti are gone also. Would you mind if she visited you here?”

“Of course not, in fact maybe she could come visit my reality for a few hours when this is over. It takes 48 hours for entropic cascade failure to begin and we would make sure she’s back long before that - of course that’s provided that we find my Sam and Danny and Teal’c.”

“That’s a possibility. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime you are doing really well. Your wounds are not infected, and for an old man, you are reacting remarkably well.”

“Hey, Doc, who are you calling old? Seriously, I’ve been meaning to bring this up to my Doc Fraiser, but I bet the fact that I’ve been in a sarcophagus once or twice is helping the healing process along. Doctor Jackson had several experiences with a sarcophagus and his recuperative powers were remarkable. That was fortunate, because he’s really accident prone. If there was a hole to fall in, or a cliff to fall off, or a bullet to catch, Danny was your man. Anyway, you ought to do some research on that.”

“Thank you for the tip, Colonel. I’ll send Cassie down to see you tomorrow, since its Saturday. In the meantime I want you to take a nap before dinner. No option on that. I want Sha’re to go lie down for a while too. She was up all night on her mission to your reality.”

“Gotcha, Doc, thanks.” Jack put his bed down and tried to sleep, figuring he would fake it, if Sha’re peeped in before she went to take her own nap. When he woke up the SGC was quiet, so he rang for the nurse.

Sha’re answered the call. “Good morning,” she said cheerfully. “You missed dinner. You’ve been asleep for almost 12 hours. Would you like breakfast first, or a bath?”

“Depends on who is giving the bath.”

“Moi.”

“Wow, you speak French now, too. You continue to amaze me Sha’re. It would really be an interesting experience to have you give me a bath, but I think I can do that myself.”

“Will you at least let me wash your back and shave you?”

“I believe I would enjoy that. I want to look good today. Janet is sending Cassie to visit me.”

Sha’re brought a basin of warm water, a wash cloth, a towel and a bar of soap and put them on the table. “Press the call button when you are ready for me,” she directed as she left the room.

Jack slowly washed and rinsed himself, wincing as he discovered several bruises. When Sha’re came back he sat forward so she could do his back. When she was finished and he was dry, she massaged his shoulders and the back of his neck for a few minutes before she picked up the razor.

He found her touch soothing and was disappointed when she stopped. Her hands moving over his face as she applied the shaving cream and later, aftershave, made up for the disappointment. She had shaved him very efficiently and competently.

“Where did you learn to do that?” he asked. “I didn’t know men on Abydos shaved.”

“Danyel sprained his wrist once and that is when I learned. He shaved every day he was on Abydos. He used to say he couldn’t stand the itchy feel of his skin when he didn’t.”

She ran her hand again over his smooth skin. “It has been a long time since I have done this. I enjoy doing it.”

“And I enjoy having you do it.” He reached up and covered the hand that was still on his face with his own. “Sha’re, you know there is little hope that Skaara will be found alive.”

She nodded.

“If it turns out that way, would you like to come back to my world with me? We would be happy to have you there.”

She picked up his hand and kissed it. “I would be happy to visit your world. And you will keep your promise to take me to Las Vegas?”

“I am looking forward to it.”

“Good. Now I will get your breakfast. While I am gone you can put on the clean gown and after breakfast the nurse will come and help me change your bed.”

 

Cassie came that afternoon and after a tearful ‘reunion’ she settled in to tell him her adventures in this reality and he told her some of the different experiences of the Cassie in his reality.

***

His days began to blend together after that, with Sha’re an almost constant companion, shaving him and helping him to bathe every day, taking notes on their experiences, and reading or chatting or playing chess with him when his brain couldn’t drag up any more inconsistencies.

He missed her when she left him each night and eagerly awaited her return each morning, anticipating the back rub and the touch of her hands on his face.

During their conversations she frequently talked about Sam and Teal’c and sometimes Ferretti, but Daniel’s name was not mentioned unless he brought it up, except once. She told him she had allowed Harlan to duplicate her so the robot Daniel would have a companion when he returned.

He hadn’t realized a week had passed when Cassandra came for her second visit.

On Sunday, Doctor Fraiser announced that he could go home on Monday, to the house his counterpart had owned in this reality. He learned that the house had been left to his SG-1 teammates. Sha’re had been using it once in a while since this Jack’s death.

Janet made arrangements for a van with a power lift and accompanied him home. They had some SFs put down a ramp from his patio to the ground and had him up and into the house and in to his bed in record time.

“Colonel, I know you’ve used crutches before, but you need to be careful. Take your time walking. You are only allowed to go from your bed to the bathroom for another week, then we’ll see how you’re progressing. Obviously, you can’t take a shower yet. You can sit in a good sturdy chair to wash yourself, but only if you have help. Sha’re knows what to do. I’ll stop over once a day to check on you. Any questions?”

“No. I think I’ve got it all. Thanks Janet. See you tomorrow.”

“Bye. Sha’re make him take a nap before dinner.”

As soon as he heard the front door close, Jack was sitting on the side of the bed.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Sha’re asked, entering the room. “Do you have to go to the bathroom?”

“No, I have to go to the living room and lay on the couch and watch TV.”

“No you don’t. If you want to watch TV, I’ll move it in here.”

“If its the same as mine, its connected to a satellite dish and a DVD/VCR. You’d have to disconnect all that and move it in here.”

“And your point?”

“My you certainly have gotten the hang of English! My point is you don’t know how to do that.”

“Jack, I am no longer the sweet innocent little girl from Abydos.”

“Well, that’s the impression I’ve been getting.”

“What gave you that impression?” Sha’re shouted.

“Maybe all that stuff about never leaving Cheyenne Mountain and being afraid to go to Las Vegas.” Jack shouted back.

“Just because I don’t like crowds, doesn’t mean I am stupid, backward, or primitive.” Sha’re walked out and slammed the door.

Jack banged his head against the headboard. He was about to try and get up to go apologize when his door banged open and Sha’re wheeled a 38 inch TV in on a microwave roll around table. A few minutes later she was back with the DVD/VCR and hooked that up to the TV. She opened his window and left the room, slamming the door again. The satellite connection came sailing through the window. She came back, slammed the window, connected everything and slammed the remote into his hand.

As she picked up a pad and pen from his nightstand she said, “Now, what do you want to watch?”

“Sha’re please, come here and sit down.”

She sat on the edge of the bed, pen poised. “You want to give me a list?”

Jack took the pen and pad away from her and picked up her hand. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you. I just think of you as the sweet innocent girl I first met on Abydos all those years ago. Don’t forget I haven’t been here to watch you learn and stretch yourself. Please forgive me. I’m just a grouchy old man who doesn’t deserve your help.” By the time he had finished speaking his hand had moved up her arm to her shoulder and was playing with her hair.

She leaned toward him. “I am sorry also. I should not have lost my temper. I feel I must prove to you that I am worthy of your friendship.”

“No, no, you don’t have to prove anything to me, Sha’re.”

As she leaned toward him, his other hand came up to cup her face and apply just a hint of pressure. With that small encouragement, her soft full lips came down on his. This time they both participated in the experience. When she finally drew away from him she curled up on the bed beside him and sighed.

“This seems right. I feel I belong with you Jack.” She laid her head against his shoulder.

He turned toward her and again ran his fingers through her long dark hair, then around her ear, and down her cheek to her mouth.

“Sha’re, even your name is beautiful. You are a vibrant, exciting woman and you deserve more than a crotchety old man like me.” He blinked and his hands dropped to his sides. “And then there’s Danny.”

“Jack, my Danyel is long dead, as is the Jack from my reality. We are two people who have no ties and are attracted to each other. Is that not so?”

“Yes, it is so.”

“Then let me be with you, for whatever time we may have. That is, if you want me?”

“What I want is for you to be happy. Let’s get you back to my reality and get you reacquainted with Daniel. You need to visit with Kasuf and Skaara and I want you to see my world too, before you make any decisions.”

Suddenly he groaned and rolled away from her, writhing in pain.

“Jack, what is wrong?”

“I’m just getting spasms in my leg. I’ve had too much excitement for one day. Can you get me one of those pain pills Doc Fraiser left and a glass of water?”

“Of course.” Sha’re jumped up to get his medication and helped him sit up to swallow the water, then laid him gently back against his pillows.

“I will leave you now to rest.”

“No, please stay with me. Read a book or something, but stay in the room.”

“All right. I’ll be right back.” She was gone only a few minutes and came back with a dog-eared volume. She settled on the bed beside him on her stomach with a pillow under her chin and the book on the bed above it.

“What are you reading?”

“Tom Sawyer.”

“I love that book.”

“I know, its part of a series of American literature the Jack from my reality recommended. Would you like me to read it to you?”

Jack closed his eyes. “That would be nice.”

“Tom!”

No answer.

“Tom!”

No answer.

“What’s gone with you boy, I wonder?”

“You Tom!” Sha’re began.

**

Two days later, Sha’re was preparing Jack’s lunch when the doorbell rang. When she opened the door, General Hammond was standing there with Sam, Daniel and Teal’c. She ushered them in and led them to Jack’s room, knowing what they were going to say.

“Colonel O’Neill,” Sam reported, “we reached the remains of the Goa’uld and Jaffa party. We left them in the tomb. They had been dead a very long time. We went to the end of the tunnel but found nothing. It was just a trap.”

“We found Skaara’s remains and brought them back for burial on Abydos,” Daniel said, looking at Sha’re. “I understand Kasuf is dead in this reality. If you want me to, I will perform the burial ritual for you.”

“Yes, please. I would be very grateful for that,” Share said.

“After that is done, we will proceed to your reality, Colonel O’Neill, to search for our missing teammate,” Teal’c added.

“General,” Jack scooted himself up so he was sitting against his pillows. “I know your Doctor Fraiser wants to keep me here, but mine can take care of me just as well. Since the robots are returning to my reality, they can take me home, if its all right with you.”

“I think we can work that out,” Hammond said.

“I have one more request, sir. I’d like to take Sha’re home with me. She has a father and a brother in my reality who miss her very much.”

“Oh, please, sir, may I go?” Sha’re asked.

“Of course you can. We will arrange for you to go to Abydos tomorrow for Skaara’s memorial and you may all go home to your reality. In the meantime, if you robots will come back with me to the SGC for tonight, our Doctor Fraiser would like to study you for a few hours.”

***

After General Hammond and the robots left, Sha’re brought in Jack’s lunch. Usually she brought something for herself as well and they chatted as they munched. This time she set up the tray beside his bed and told him she would go and pack her things while he ate.

He knew she was going off to cry by herself and he refused to let her. He carefully moved the tray table away from the bed so he could reach his crutches and stand. Then he slowly made his way to the spare bedroom Sha’re had adopted as her own. He was right. She was huddled on the floor up against the bed, crying into the mattress.

“Sha’re,” he said quietly, “unless you want me to break my leg again so I can get to you, you have to come to me.”

She didn’t move and her shoulders continued to shake.

“Please, honey, let me hold you, I want to help.”

She slowly stood up and came into his arms. They stood there for a very long time as she continued to sob. Jack had one arm around her while the other held the crutch next to his bad leg. The second crutch had fallen to the floor when she had come to him.

Finally, her tears slowed and she said, “Janet warned me the first day to expect this, and I knew when I saw the General’s face, but I didn’t want to believe it. Skaara was such a brave boy. He fought so hard to save us when Ra had us enslaved. He did not deserve his fate.”

“He was a brave fighter and the robot Daniel will see that everyone on Abydos knows. We will have a proper monument built for him.”

“I know.” She looked up and wiped her face. “Let me get you back to bed. You should not be standing so long.” She reached for his other crutch and handed it to him.

“I will go only if you come with me. Crying is good, but you should not be alone.”

They walked slowly to the bedroom, where Sha’re settled Jack back against the pillows of his bed and slid his lunch tray into place. She sat in the chair next to the bed to wait for him to finish.

Jack patted the bed beside him. “Come and sit with me.”

She gingerly sat down beside him.

“You have to eat, you know.” He handed her half of his sandwich.

She took a small bite and chewed it slowly, then stood and started for the door. “I will be back shortly, I promise.”

Jack waited, listening as the refrigerator opened and closed. A minute later she was back on the bed with a can of diet coke. “If you must make me eat peanut butter and jelly, I need something to wash it down with.”

“I’m amazed you never picked up the coffee habit,” Jack said, grasping at a neutral topic.

“No, we did not have any such beverage on Abydos. Danyel used to complain about the lack of coffee there. We drank a lot of tea. I find I like the bubbles in the soft drinks here, but the regular drinks are too sweet. Sugar was almost nonexistent in my world.”

“The Sam in my reality drinks diet for the same reason. She can tell the difference between regular and diet with one taste.”

“So can I.” Sha’re took another bite of her sandwich and swallowed. “Jack, I know you said you would take me back with you, but I do not wish to be a burden. What would I do there? You have your Danyel and I’m certain he knows ten times as much as I about the Goa’uld. I would be in the way.”

Jack finished his coffee and shoved the tray away. “Come here.” She snuggled against him and he wrapped his arms around her. “Listen to me and believe me. You can continue to travel through the gate, you can work in the SGC, or you can leave and have a life outside, its up to you. As far as Goa’uld knowledge is concerned, we’ve learned from comparing our mission logs that you have been to many places and seen many things that the teams from my world have not. Do not ever think you are a burden. Whatever you need, whatever you want to do, if its in my power, you will have it.”

That evening, Janet brought Cassie over to say good-bye to Jack, while Sha’re went back to the SGC to pack up her belongings. When she returned, she found Jack was teaching Cassie to play poker, using potato chips for currency. Cassie was cleaning him out, but wasn’t too far ahead because she was eating her winnings. Sha’re suspected that Jack was letting her win.

When Sha’re bought her way into the game by upping the stakes to cookies, Jack started to win and wiped them both out quickly.

Janet arrived to take Cassie home and Cassie extracted a promise that they would come back and visit her when Jack’s leg was healed and the current crises resolved.

***

The next morning the SFs and the van arrived again to take Jack back to the SGC. He said his good-byes to Catherine, General Hammond, Lieutenant Hailey and Lieutenant Simmons and rode through the wormhole on FRED, accompanied by the two SGC Marine teams, the robot team and Sha’re. When they reached the deserted palace, the Marines unfolded a stretcher and Daniel and Teal’c carried him up to the mirror room. Teal’c stepped through the mirror first, while Daniel steadied Jack. Then they went through together. Two Marines carried the stretcher through the mirror and then returned to the palace. Finally, Sha’re and Sam touched the mirror and were transported to the robot planet. Harlan greeted them with his usual hearty, “Comtria!” Then he led them to a room where Jack could relax for a while before proceeding. The robots took the opportunity to bring Harlan up to speed and explain about their new power source and their new mission.

When they were done, Sha’re whispered to Jack that she must have a private conversation with Daniel about the Sha’re robot.

She took him into another room. “Danyel, I have had Harlan make a copy of me for you. However, I want you to know that she will not be the same as the person you knew. She has lived many years with the memory of your death. Also, she will know when she wakes up that she is a robot. You will have to watch her very carefully to make sure she is adjusting.

There is one more thing. She is me, with all the knowledge and feelings I had just a few days ago. I was already beginning to fall in love with the Jack O’Neill from your reality when she was copied, but you can change that. Make sure your Sha’re imprints on you and I think you will be fine. Do you understand?”

“Yes. I’ll take care of her. I don’t plan to activate her until I get back from searching for our real counterparts. Thank you. This means a lot to me. You can’t imagine how lonely I’ve been watching Sam and Jack develop their relationship. Until a few days ago, I thought the real Sha’re in my reality was still a prisoner of the Goa’uld. Freeing her and getting her back for the human Daniel has been the whole focus of my existence.

You have done so much for me. I can’t thank you enough. If ever I can do anything else, let me know. Now, I think we better get Jack back home and then you and I have one more duty to perform on Abydos.”

They returned to the room where Jack was resting and Daniel and Teal’c lifted the stretcher and carried it to the gate. Sam punched in the code and everyone except Harlan entered the wormhole.

Doctor Fraiser was waiting on the other side. The robots transferred Jack to a gurney and Sam and Teal’c went off to confer with General Hammond.

Sha’re waited for the reverse wormhole to be established, holding Jack’s hand until she heard the whoosh, bent down to kiss him lightly and then crossed the event horizon with Daniel.

“Colonel, is there something you want to tell me?” Janet smiled at him as the gurney was rolled toward the elevator.

“None of your business, Doc. You’re my MD, not my shrink.”

“Just for that, I’m not going to tell you the wonderful surprise waiting for you in the infirmary,” she said as the elevator started its ascent.

Jack sat straight up on the gurney. “SG-1 is back?” he asked.

The smirk on Janet’s face instantly disappeared. “No, Colonel, I didn’t mean to get your hopes up. Its nothing to do with your team.” The door opened and Jack was rolled into the infirmary.

“Hello, Jack,” Jacob Carter said as the orderlies stopped the gurney. “Okay, I’ll take it from here. Jack, I believe we can finish repairing that leg for you with a Tokra healing device.”

“That’s great, Jacob, as long as there’s no sarcophagus or snake involved. Ah, sorry, Selmak, no offense intended. You know you’re my favorite snake.”

Jacob’s head went down and then came up and Selmak’s distinctive chuckle was heard. “No offense taken. Its good to see you alive and well, so to speak. Jacob and I hope by combining our efforts with yours, that we can have a better chance of finding SG-1.”

The head went down and back up again. “Okay, let’s get started. Doctor Crusher, the bone saw please.”

“Hey!” Jack protested, “When did you get a nasty sense of humor?”

“Take it easy Jack. Selmak’s been watching too many Next Gen reruns. She thinks Crusher’s cool.”

“Yes, and she’s much taller than I am,” Janet mumbled as she pulled over a raised platform to stand on. “I need to cut off your cast before Jacob and Selmak go to work. This won’t hurt, I promise.”

***

While this was going on, Sha’re and the Daniel robot had returned to the alternate SGC and were waiting for the wormhole to Abydos to be established. They crossed the event horizon in the wake of the Marines, who carried Skaara’s remains.

When they reached the Abydonian gateroom, they were met by Skaara’s ragtag brigade, who escorted them to the burial site.

While Skaara’s body was being prepared in the Abydonian tradition, they were shown to a tent to rest and refresh themselves. The Abydonians did not know that Daniel was a robot, and Sha’re did not tell them. It was easier to say he was from an alternate reality, which was the truth.

The Marines remained outside as a ceremonial honor guard and, after placing refreshments on a table, their Abydonian escorts left Sha’re and Daniel alone.

“You do not eat, do you?” Sha’re asked as she nibbled on some cheese.

“No, and that’s something I miss. Tasting new foods was always fun for me. I miss drinking coffee, too. Sometimes I wish Harlan had made clones, instead of robots. Then we would be human.”

“But you wouldn’t be as fast or as strong and you would have less than 100 years to live.”

“I think it would be worth it. Maybe I’ll change my mind when my companion is activated. Speaking of companions . . .” He took her hand and looked into her eyes. “Are you sure about Jack? He’s a great guy, but what about Sam, not to mention the real Daniel?”

“As I told Jack, my Danyel is now a faded memory. I had to leave his ghost behind or die myself. I hope you can help my robot overcome that feeling.” She touched his face. “Somehow, I think you will be able to bring her to you. I remember you as such a gentle, caring man. From what Jack tells me, the ‘real Danyel,’ as you call him, has been through much hardship and many adventures since his Sha’re died, many more than you have. I do not think he would be the same. You are much closer to the Danyel I remember.

Jack will not let himself love me. He believes he has found me for his Danyel, but I love Jack with all my heart. Do not be offended, but when I was married I was still very young, and so was my husband. We did the things all young lovers do. We did not have a chance to grow and mature together.”

“It wasn’t me.” Daniel smiled. “But I know what you mean.”

“With Jack, I see a mature man who has seen the world, the universe even, and desires me, both my body and my mind. Danyel did also, but it is somehow not the same with Jack. He is both stronger and more vulnerable than my Danyel. He does not believe I could want him.

And you, you are not the same as either Danyel, both because you are not human, and because you have had different experiences. Jack tells me you actually had your head torn from your body once.”

“Yes, that was strange. I imagine its what humans feel when they die. Everything suddenly stopped. Of course I knew it was coming so I had a split second to prepare, more than enough time for a robot. Still, I did not know then that I could be restored. It was a shock to be brought back to life, so to speak. I do remember what the real Daniel felt the first time he came back to life in Ra’s sarcophagus. The feeling was similar, but Harlan was there to help me adjust.”

“Hey, kids, how you doing?” Jack entered the tent accompanied by Lou Ferretti.

“Jack!” Sha’re ran to him and kissed him. “You’re walking! What happened?”

“Remember I told you about Sam’s dad, General Carter, who joined the Tokra? He was waiting for me and used a Tokra healing device on my leg. Janet said I can’t do anything strenuous yet, like climb mountains, but she did let me come for Skaara’s funeral, provided I brought a keeper.” He pointed to Ferretti.

“Lou, it is good to see you again. I’m glad you came.” Sha’re took his hand and led him to the food table. “Please help yourself. There is plenty here.”

Daniel stood up. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go and make my preparations for the ceremony.” He left the tent.

Jack settled himself on a comfortable couch and Sha’re raced to put cushions under his leg.

“Sha’re, I’m no longer on the sick list. You don’t have to wait on me. Come and sit down.”

She joined him on the couch, curling her feet up under her. Ferretti plopped down on the other end with a plate full of food on his lap. Jack reached across Sha’re and snagged a chicken leg from the plate.

“Hey, get your own,” Ferretti groused, moving his hands protectively around his food.

Jack and Lou continued to banter back and forth while Sha’re absorbed it with a smile. This was the sort of thing that used to go on at the SGC in her reality and she hadn’t realized how much she had missed it. She was almost asleep, leaning against Jack’s shoulder, when Daniel came back to announce they were ready for the ceremony.

Outside, Skaara’s body had been wrapped in the prescribed manner and had already been placed in the open grave. Sha’re took her place with Daniel at the end of the grave, above Skaara’s head. Jack and Lou, along with Skaara’s battle comrades, lined the sides of the opening. Other friends grouped themselves around the grave site while Daniel performed the rituals and said the funeral prayers. At the end of the ceremony, Jack, Lou, and Skaara’s friends backed off the outer wrappings which had been covered with the dirt from the grave, picked them up, and walked forward, dropping the loose dirt into the hole to cover Skaara’s body. When they met in the middle, the wrappings were folded over to seal the dirt inside. Later, the grave tenders would return to add additional soil and smooth out the mound.

Sha’re spent a long time talking to Skaara’s friends and exchanging kisses and embraces. Daniel stood with her bowing and exchanging the Abydonian version of a handshake.

Lou wandered back into the tent for refreshments while Jack stood quietly off to the side. When Sha’re noticed him, she held out her arm and he came to her, putting one arm around her waist. She continued to greet people, introducing Jack to those who didn’t know him.

When everyone had filed by, they collected Ferretti and made their way back to the stargate as the sun was setting.

“I expect this is the last time any of us will see Abydos in this reality,” Jack said as they reached the gate.

“Yes,” Sha’re agreed, “it will be strange to go to your Abydos and see my father and brother still alive.”

Sha’re dialed the SGC and they met General Hammond on the ramp. They waited for their Marine escort to change from their dress uniforms and Sha’re took the opportunity to say goodbye to her friends, Janet, Catherine, General Hammond, Lieutenants Hailey and Simmons.

General Hammond pulled Jack aside for a minute. “We didn’t get off on the right foot, son, and for that I’m sorry,” the General began. “I just want you to make sure you take care of that little girl.”

“I will sir. I give you my word of honor I will do my best to see she never comes to harm.”

“I know you will.” He motioned Daniel to join them. “I want you to know I have ordered the Marines to bring the mirror back here after you go through. We will set it up under guard and lay out your duct tape symbol so Sha’re can come back whenever she wants. If something goes wrong and its no longer safe, I have given orders to pull up the duct tape and randomize the controller so no one will be able to find your reality from here.”

“We will set up the same procedure, sir,” the Daniel robot said. “And anyone who comes through will end up in a cell, since we do not have enough manpower to guard it on a regular basis.”

When Sha’re was done with her goodbyes, the four travelers and their escort marched back to the palace one more time and entered the quantum mirror.

The Sam and Teal’c robots were waiting for Daniel in the SGC gateroom. They had worked out a search pattern and were anxious to get started.

Meanwhile, Jack had one more trip to the infirmary and one more physical to undergo before he was released. While the physical therapist checked him out, Janet took Sha’re into her office.

“SG-1 has been gone a long time,” Janet began. “Even with Jacob and the robots out hunting, there’s probably not much hope of finding them alive. I don’t think the Colonel has realized that yet, but when he does, having you with him may be the only thing that keeps him sane. This has happened to him before. You know about his son?”

“Danyel said he died.”

“It was more than that. Charlie shot himself by accident with Jack’s gun. Jack has blamed himself for that ever since. In fact that’s why he was sent to Abydos the first time. He was suicidal and the Air Force knew it. They sent him to sacrifice himself. Skaara, and to a lesser extent, Daniel, saved him from himself.”

“What a horrible thing to have to live with. No wonder he was so upset when Skaara and the other boys took the guns to fight the Jaffa.”

“That’s not all. The first year they thought Daniel had been killed on two separate occasions. The first time the rest of the team had been brainwashed. The second time Jack had to leave him behind to die and he managed to crawl into a sarcophagus, but they didn’t find out until later. Then Sam got taken by what we all thought was a Goa’uld.”

“Yes, Jack told me about Jolinar.”

“He probably didn’t tell you how sick we all were that one of our own had been taken again. Kawalsky was taken right after they came back from Abydos, just after they learned your counterpart here was a Goa’uld.

Then there was the time he had to kill Sam because she was taken over by a computer entity, and the time Apophis brainwashed Teal’c into thinking he was his First Prime again.

I could go on, but my point is, I don’t know if he can absorb the loss of his whole team after all he’s been through, without a lot of help. I think you are strong enough to give him the support he will need. I’ll be here to give you any backup you need. Okay?”

“Yes, thank you Janet. I believe Cassie and Skaara will also help. They are the future and both are safe in this reality. Will you let Jack participate in the search now?”

“Yes, he’s ready. I do want him to take a couple of days off first. Just rest and sleep, go to a movie, have him take you to a hockey game, do something to get his mind off this place for a few hours.”

And that’s what Sha’re did. They went home to Jack’s house, completely different from his home in her reality, with a deck and grill out back and a big stone fireplace in the living room. It was all Jack, she thought, whereas the other house had been Jack’s and Sam’s together.

Sha’re inventoried the refrigerator and cupboards and made Jack take her to the grocery store immediately. She was delighted to find the store in the same location in this reality and discovered it even carried most of the same brands. One or two of the employees were even the same.

That night she cooked a traditional Abydonian dish and followed it with a cherry pie for desert. The next day they drove to Denver. Jack had shown Sha’re the movie ‘Pretty Woman’ the night before and told her he was taking her shopping, just like in the movie.

“Will you tell the shopkeepers to suck up?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah! I will wave my credit cards and demand major sucking up. You know I’ve had absolutely nobody to spend money on, except Cassie. I am filthy rich, relatively speaking. This is going to be fun.”

They went from store to store, buying shoes, purses, coats, ski outfits, daytime and evening attire for Sha’re. She had never tried on so many clothes in her entire life she thought, but every time she came out of the dressing room to show something to Jack, her heart speeded up, just seeing the pride and desire in his eyes.

That evening they went to a Denver Avalanche game and Jack patiently explained the rules and the various combinations of lines and the strategies involved. Sha’re was fascinated and asked if Jack would teach her to skate.

“I’ll not only teach you, but I’ll have you playing pickup hockey with SG-1 before you know it,” Jack said. Then the smile left his face. “At least I hope so,” he added, just as a fight broke out on the ice and diverted his attention.

That night they stayed in a suite at a Denver hotel, had room service bring in breakfast and then drove back to Colorado Springs.

Later Cassie and Janet came over so Sha’re could display her new wardrobe for them, while Jack cleaned out the eaves troughs. They reported back to the SGC the following day to begin their search for SG-1.

 

They spent the next month following leads which went nowhere, returning to the SGC and back to Jack’s house periodically to rest and regroup. The Goa’uld were pretty quiet, except for that report of a plot that had started this whole chain of events. Whatever that was about, it seemed to have vanished, at least off the Tokra radar.

***

As time went by, Jack had less and less hope that his team would be found alive. Now he and Sha’re and the robots were the only ones still searching. Even Jacob had taken another assignment.

Sha’re had continued to shave Jack, even though he no longer needed her assistance. He told himself it was to make her feel needed.

She continued to display her affection for him and it became harder and harder for him to remember she was Daniel’s wife, or at least the widow of the Daniel in the other reality.

One morning, Sha’re returned to the bathroom after shaving him to bring him coffee. He had just stepped from the shower and quickly wrapped a towel around his waist.

Sha’re had made a decision. She walked in wearing only a bathrobe, which she discarded after placing the coffee on the bathroom sink. “I’m sorry, Jack, I need your help to wash my hair. I must have strained my arm yesterday. Would you help me, please?”

She pulled him into the shower with her and handed him the shampoo. She adjusted the spray, and put her head under it to get it thoroughly wet and then leaned back against Jack.

His brain had gone into meltdown as soon as her robe came off and he looked stupidly down at the shampoo she had placed in his hand and then tipped the bottle over her head and automatically began to work the shampoo into her scalp. “Don’t forget to do the front,” she said, turning to face him.

She took the bottle from his hands. “Lean over and I will wash yours too,” she suggested. He closed his eyes and leaned forward as her hands went into his hair.

“You have the most wonderful soap here. I have also found body wash, and baby oil and scented soaps. Let me show you the body wash.” Her hands, filled with a silky bubbly lotion, started to move over his body. Then she squeezed some into his hands. She was still facing him as she said, “will you wash my back?”

His hands automatically moved around to her back for a minute and then what he considered his stupid military brain finally caught on and he began to take charge of the situation. First he said tentatively, “Wouldn’t you rather wait and try this with Daniel?”

After Sha’re raised herself up to whisper “no” in his ear and pulled him into a long, lingering kiss, he began to apply the silky lotion in several strategic locations.

They continued to do pleasant things to each others bodies as the water washed the soap down the drain. They came out of the shower only when the hot water began to run out.

“Huh!” Jack exclaimed as he wrapped Sha’re in a towel and began the enjoyable task of drying her off. “I didn’t know that water tank ever ran dry. I guess I’ve never taken a 45 minute shower before.”

***

Several days later, General Hammond, the robots, Jack, and Sha’re were again in the briefing room. They had pretty much run out of leads and were brainstorming ideas on where to search next. Jack and Sha’re had shared their research on the missions SG-1 had not undertaken in both realities and the discussions they had had about the new Goa’uld threat.

Daniel asked, “how could anyone infiltrate the Asgard? I think that’s the key. Think about it.”

“Reetou!” Teal’c commented.

“Invisibility shield?” Carter asked.

“Mind control?” Sha’re added.

“Come on guys!” Daniel looked around the table. “The Asgard have sensors to detect Reetou and shields and their minds are so superior to everyone else’s that mind control just wouldn’t work.”

“So what’s your suggestion?” Jack asked.

“What have we been playing around with lately?” Daniel shot back.

Everyone stared at him.

“Doctor Jackson,” General Hammond ordered, “get on with it. This is not Jeopardy.”

“Sorry sir. Its how Sha’re got here, by quantum mirror. If the Goa’uld have one strategically placed, they can spy on the Asgard and learn their secrets.”

“But they can’t hear anything, “ Jack objected.

“Well, maybe they sent somebody through when nobody was looking to plant a microphone.”

“And how does this help us find SG-1?” the General asked.

Just then the incoming wormhole alarm went off. Then they heard Sergeant Davis yell from the control room, “receiving SG-1’s iris code.”

“Open the gate,” Hammond shouted, as they all pounded down the stairs.

The iris spiraled open, the familiar whoosh was heard, and Teal’c, Marissa and Lonny stepped out of the blue pool of light, Lonny holding tightly to her mother’s hand. Teal’c scooped her up as they descended the ramp.

“Teal’c old buddy,” Jack said, as he rushed into the gateroom, followed by the rest, “Its good to see you. Where have you been?”

“It is a long story, O’Neill.” He spotted the robots. “I am glad to see you Daniel Jackson, Major Carter. Ah, I see why there is another Teal’c. You must all be the robots, since this is Captain Carter.”

“That is correct, Teal’c,” the General acknowledged. “Do you have information on the whereabouts of Major Carter and Dr. Jackson?”

“I will give you the coordinates of the planet where I left them with Colonel O’Neill.”

“Actually,” Jack cut in, “I’m the real Jack O’Neill. You left Carter and Daniel with my robot duplicate.”

“Indeed. That would explain several anomalies. The planet on which I left them has a stargate, but it is on the other side of the continent. If they have not yet returned, they must be trying to reach it on foot, unless they were made prisoners by the Goa’uld.”

“We don’t think so,” Jack answered. “We’ve been searching for intel and have come up with nothing.”

“General Hammond, I also have information on the Goa’uld plot. I have the coordinates of a planet which is supposed to contain all the knowledge of the Ancients. The Goa’uld believe that, once there, they will gain the information to disguise themselves and be able to blend in with any race, and their ruse will be undetectable. Here are the coordinates.”

He handed a sheet of paper to General Hammond, who looked at it briefly, snorted, and then passed it to the Daniel robot. “Is that the planet I think it is?”

Daniel looked and handed it to Sam. “I believe it is,” he said.

“Yes, it is.” Sam agreed.

“And the planet is?” Jack demanded.

“The time trap planet,” Daniel supplied. “Well so much for my theory. Either somebody suckered the Goa’uld into the trap or the Goa’uld were using it to get us, or rather you, killed.”

“I do not understand,” Teal’c said.

“We’ll explain it all to you, but right now we have to dial up the planet where you left Carter and Daniel and see if we can find them. And by the way, who are these lovely young ladies?” Jack bowed to Marissa and wiggled his eyebrows at Lonny.

Teal’c took Marissa’s hand, “This is the Lady Marissa and this is Mistress Lenore, better known as Lonny. Ladies, may I present General Hammond, Colonel O’Neill, and the robots of SG-1, Captain Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson, and my counterpart, Teal’c. The other lady is called Sha’re, but I do not know her origin.”

“Hello, Teal’c,” Sha’re replied. “I am from an alternate reality. Greetings Marissa and Lonny. Let me take you to see our Doctor Fraiser. You will like her Lonny, she has a little girl just a few years older than you.”

Teal’c nodded to Marissa and put Lonny down. Sha’re took her hand and the three ladies left the gateroom as the others returned to the control room to begin the dialing procedure.

General Hammond ordered Sergeant Siler to prepare a MALP and a UAV immediately. “And get some all terrain vehicles down here. We may have to mount a search on the other side of the gate.”

“What about a helicopter?” Jack suggested. “We should be able to get a small helicopter into the elevator, if we take off the rotor.”

“Good idea. See if Fort Carson has two helicopters we can borrow, along with their flight crews and people qualified to take them apart and put them back together. Make sure you get people we can clear to be briefed on the stargate.”

“Yes, sir!” Jack headed for the nearest phone.

“In the meantime, Sergeant Davis, alert Doctor Fraiser to have a medical team ready to deploy, if necessary.” He turned to Teal’c. “While we’re waiting, you need to report to the infirmary for your post mission physical. I think you have time to get your friends settled in guest quarters as well. Is there anything we need to know about them?”

“They are human, General. Lady Marissa saved my life. I have much affection for her and her child and have promised to protect them and establish them here on Earth, if that is their wish. I told her that you and Daniel Jackson would be able to advise her on her future here. She knows much of our war with the Goa’uld and our activities. It was a long journey home.” He bowed and made his way out of the control room.

“If you will excuse me, sir, I will see if I can assist Sergeant Siler,” the Sam robot said.

“I will assist as well,” the Teal’c robot added.

General Hammond nodded and the two robots descended to the corridor, leaving Hammond and the Daniel robot alone with the control room crew.

“Sergeant Davis, send a message to Jacob Carter and let him know what’s going on and send him the planet’s coordinates. We may need his teltac there.”

“Yes, sir,” Davis replied.

“Excuse me, sir,” Jack dropped the phone on its hook and turned to General Hammond. “The Army says they have nothing small enough to fit in our elevator.”

“Well then get me police choppers or something from the local TV stations. Hell, I don’t care, get Piper Cubs if you have to. I know they will fit in the elevator!”

“Yes, sir!” Jack headed back for the phone.

“Well,” the Daniel robot began, “it looks like its going to be a while before we will be able to check out this planet. In the meantime I would like to talk to you privately, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Let’s go up to my office then.” He gestured toward the stairs. “Sergeant, let me know when the MALP is ready.” He followed the robot up the stairs, through the conference room and into his office, grabbing a cup of coffee and indicating the pot to Daniel before he sat down. Daniel shook his head. “What can I do for you son?” the General asked.

“I need your advice. You know as robots, we can’t do some of the things real people do, like eat or drink, for instance.” He gestured toward the coffee. “However, somehow all the human emotions have been given to us. We can touch and feel things. All the tactile sensations are there, our noses work, for instance. Um, we can have and enjoy sexual relations. Sam and Jack discovered that long ago. Teal’c doesn’t seem to mind, or at least he’s never said anything, but I kept hoping Sha’re would be found in this reality and the Goa’uld could be removed and she could be restored to your Daniel. Selfishly, I had hoped that she would consent to have a robot duplicate made for me. I only found out that she was dead when your Jack was forced through our wormhole. Then we went to the alternate reality and there was Sha’re, alive and human. She offered to be duplicated so that we would help her find her brother, and I said we would help, she didn’t have to do that.”

He paused. “Skaara was my friend too and I felt almost as bad about his abduction as Sha’re’s. You know, I should probably be telling this story to Doctor McKenzie, but I just don’t think he would take the emotional dilemmas of a robot seriously. You’ve worked with us several times now, and you seem to treat us like we’re real. By the way, all three of us appreciate that, sir.”

Hammond nodded. “Most of the time I forget that you aren’t human. Go on with your story.”

“Okay, here’s the problem. While we were off in Sha’re’s reality trying to rescue Skaara, Sha’re came here to see you and tell you about Jack. She had to pass through the quantum mirror on our planet going and coming, and she and Harlan took the time to have a duplicate of her made. It is ready to be activated, but I told her I would wait until we had completed our mission here to do so.” He stopped at this point and put his head in his hands.

“Sometimes I wish I could cry. I feel like I should be crying now.” He ran his fingers through the long hair that never needed cutting, and then looked up at the General again. “This is agony. Within a few months I found that Sha’re was dead, then met her alive and well, more beautiful and vibrant than ever. She was always courageous. Hell, she picked up a gun and tried to shoot a Jaffa to save me when Ra invaded Abydos. But now she is such a strong woman, and yet still gentle, sweet, and caring and she is in love with Jack. We had a long talk and I understand about that. That’s not my problem. Its just that I don’t know, now that I’ve thought about it, if I have the right to bring a duplicate to life, knowing that she was intended for my pleasure. This Sha’re will be a sentient life form and should have a right to her own life, not be my, excuse the expression, love slave. On the other hand, if I don’t activate her, its almost like I’d be performing an abortion. I don’t know what to do.”

He looked up at the General, the pain showing in his eyes.

“Have you talked to anyone else about this?” Hammond asked.

“Teal’c’s got no one. How could I ask him? And Sam, Sam would listen, but she’s been going crazy worrying about Jack since this started. I’ve been trying to keep her from melting down. She’s also feeling guilty because she flirted with your Jack when he first came to us. I can’t lay this on her. There’s the real Sha’re, but she thinks she has done something wonderful for me. I might have gone to your Jack, but I think his ties to Sha’re would cloud his thinking.”

General Hammond studied his hands for a minute and then looked up as the phone rang. “Hammond,” he said as he snatched it up. “All right, we’ll be down in a minute. Establish the wormhole and send the MALP.”

He stood up. “The MALP is ready to go.”

Daniel stood as well and reached for the door.

“Daniel, I will think about this and we will talk again before you return to your planet.” He came around the desk and placed his hand on Daniel’s shoulder. “Let me say this now. I am proud to know you, young man. You and your counterpart share an enormous compassion for all living creatures and have a unique way of looking at life’s adversities. Whatever decision you finally make will be the best for Sha’re. You could not make a selfish decision. Its not part of your makeup. Now let’s see what the MALP can show us.”

They made their way back to the control room, where Jack, both Teal’cs and Sam were waiting. Telemetry was coming in from the other side of the wormhole. They could see wind blowing gently through tall grass, a clear blue sky, occasional birds, and no other activity.

Hammond switched on the microphone. “SG-1, SG-1, this is General Hammond. Do you read? Over.” He repeated the call several times at intervals, switching on the recorder for the last call.

“Keep sending that. I want them to hear my voice.” He turned to Siler, “How soon will the UAV be ready?”

“Its ready now, sir.”

“Send it and patch that recording into it. I want it broadcasting as it searches.”

“Yes, sir. Launching now.”

The UAV flew through the wormhole and almost immediately started transmitting pictures of the same grassy plain to the west and an ocean behind the stargate to the east. It made a large circle around the gate and then headed west, broadcasting as it went.

“If they are together and in no danger they may no longer have their radios on,” Jack speculated.

“Or they may even have lost their radios somehow,” one of the Teal’cs added.

They waited in silence for several hours, Jack and General Hammond eventually finding chairs. The real Teal’c perched on a stool. The robots continued to stand patiently. Sha’re slipped into the room and found another chair which she drew up beside Jack’s, reaching for and holding his hand.

Eventually Siler looked up from his control panel. “The UAV is reaching its point of no return, sir. It needs to come back now if you want to refuel it and send it out again.”

“What good would that do? It can’t go any farther with another load of fuel. Keep it going,” the General ordered.

More hours of scenic pictures were sent by the UAV. Davis continued to redial the coordinates every time the gate reached its automatic shutoff point. One of the gate technicians passed coffee around and sandwiches were sent up by the mess hall. Once in a while someone got up to use the bathroom located just outside the control room. Jack absently stroked Sha’re’s fingers periodically as he held her hand. The Daniel robot had long ago moved behind the Sam robot and was holding her as she leaned back against him. Once or twice the two Teal’cs glanced at each other and an unspoken message passed between them. Each knew the other felt the UAV search was useless, but neither wanted to voice this to the rest.

Finally, Siler looked up at the General again. “The UAV is about to run out of fuel, sir. Do you want me to land it or let it crash?”

Hammond sighed. “Land it. The helo can use it as a marker for the extent of its search and can then retrieve it for us. Once you’ve done that, close the gate for now. We’ll wait for the helos. I understand they are being disassembled in the parking lot now.”

Just as Davis closed the wormhole, the gate activation alarm went off.

“Incoming communication, sir,” he announced.

Everyone tensed and then relaxed as he said, “Its SG-14 calling from Kelowna.”

“SG-14, this is Hammond. Go ahead.”

A raspy voice came back through the wormhole. “General, this is Captain Lucas. There has been a massive explosion here. We believe the naquadria bomb blew up in the lab. The gate is still intact, but most of the city has been destroyed and a chain reaction is building in the pockets of raw naquadria that is threatening to destroy the planet. The rest of SG-14 is dead and I am dying of radiation poisoning. Everyone not dead, will be shortly. Do not, repeat do not, send anyone through to help us. In fact, I suggest removing this address from the dialing computer.” He began to cough.

“Sorry about that. I don’t think I have much time left.” He coughed again.

“I couldn’t find anyone left from the high council, but the few minor officials still conscious asked me to request you offer asylum to the Kelowna representatives now at the SGC. The people here believe that they will be the only survivors from their planet. Over.”

“I’ll make sure that request is honored, Captain. Is there anything we can do for you?”

“Just the usual plaques at Arlington, sir, and commendations for my team. And tell my mother I love her. Captain David Lucas for SG-14, out.”

The worm hole deactivated.

General Hammond looked around the room. “Doctor Jackson, Doctor McKenzie is on leave at the moment, so would you collect Doctor Fraiser and find the Kelowna delegation and inform them of the disaster.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Doctor Jackson, General,” Sergeant Davis interrupted, “most of the delegation had just returned to Kelowna before Teal’c arrived. I believe the only person still here is Jonas Quinn.”

“I expect he’s up in the real Doctor J’s office,” the robot Daniel said. “He’s an archeologist, and has been fascinated by everything he’s learned about other planets from us. You might even want to keep him here and add him to one of your teams. I’ll get Janet and we’ll go talk to him.”

***

A few minutes later Janet Fraiser and the Daniel robot found Jonas Quinn mumbling to himself as he compared textual material, notes, and photographs in Daniel’s office. He looked up and smiled as they entered. “Doctor Jackson, I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve got pages of questions for you, if you have some time. Doctor Fraiser, its always nice to see you.” His eyes softened and he flashed his dimples at her.

Janet took the lead. “Please call me Janet. Come over here and sit on the couch with me. I have something I want to discuss with you.”

Jonas followed Janet to the couch. Daniel perched on a stool nearby, as Janet took Jonas’ hand.

He looked at the hand she was holding and then up at her face. “This must be something really serious. Is somebody sick?” He looked again. “Somebody has died, somebody from home.”

“Oh, Jonas, I’ve had to break the news to so many people, but I’ve never . . . .” She started to cry and he put his arms around her.

“Doctor Jackson?” Jonas looked questioningly over Janet’s shoulder.

Daniel cleared his throat, an unnecessary human gesture he had found was reassuring to his human audience sometimes. “Jonas, we just got word from Kelowna that there has been a terrible accident. The naquadria bomb your scientists were creating exploded in the lab.”

“Oh, no!” He continued to soothe Janet absentmindedly as his eyes widened in shock. “How bad?”

“One member of SG-14 made it back to the gate to send a report. He says the initial blast took out the whole city and a chain reaction has started in the naquadria ore deposits. He believes the whole planet will be a radioactive wasteland within a few hours, if it doesn’t blow apart completely.”

Janet sat up and wiped her eyes. “Jonas, I’m so sorry for your horrible loss and for breaking down like that. I’ve never had to announce the destruction of an entire planet to its sole survivor before.”

“I’m the only one left?” he asked, hardly above a whisper. “What about the rest of the delegation?”

“They went back through the gate earlier today,” Daniel replied.

“I’m the only one left from the entire planet?” His eyes closed and his head went back against the couch as his hands closed tightly on Janet’s.

Janet made a decision. “Tell General Hammond I will be off base for a while. Get Doctor Warner to cover for me. I’ll take my beeper. Let the General know I’m taking Jonas outside to see our world.”

Daniel nodded.

Janet stood up, pulling Jonas to his feet. “Come on Jonas. I need to show you something.”

“But my people,” he protested. “I have to go back.”

“Jonas,” Daniel stood in his path to get his attention. “There is nothing to go back to. General Hammond has ordered the dialing coordinates removed from the computer.”

Jonas blinked and nodded, lowering his eyes. Janet led him to the elevator and then into the infirmary. Here Marissa and Lonny had just completed their delayed physicals.

“Jonas, I would like you to meet Marissa and Lonny. They are friends of Teal’c, who have just escaped from another planet.” She hurried into her office to change as Jonas bent down to talk to Lonny.

Lonny grabbed his hand and shook it. “That’s how you greet people here, isn’t it?” she asked. “Oh, yes, then I say, ‘how do you do?’”

Jonas smiled in spite of himself, “I’m very glad to meet you Lonny. And I do believe that is the proper form of greeting here.” He lowered his voice and whispered in her ear, “I’ll let you in on a secret though. I’m an alien too. Its nice to meet another alien.” He stood up and shook Marissa’s hand. “I just told Lonny that I’m a stranger here on Earth, too. So I hope, as fellow aliens, we can all be good friends.” He looked down at Lonny. “Would that be all right with you?”

“Oh, yes, I’ll even let you play with my new dog, when I get it.”

“What’s a dog?”

Lonny opened her mouth to explain everything she knew about dogs, just as Janet, now dressed in civilian clothes, swept out of her office, took Jonas by the arm and led him out of the infirmary.

He turned and waved at Lonny, as Janet led him to the elevator.

“I just made a new friend,” he said. “Its nice to know I’m not the only alien human here.”

“Did you know Nyan is also an alien?” Janet asked.

“No.”

“I’ll have to introduce you to my daughter, Cassie, soon. She’s from another planet, too.” Janet continued to talk about Cassie and how well she had adjusted to Earth until they had reached the surface and completed their shuttle ride to the parking lot.

“Where are we going?” Jonas asked as Janet started her car.

“Right now I’m just going to show you some scenery.” She drove to a rural park and led him to a deserted wooden foot bridge over a meandering stream.

“This is it,” she said, leaning on the bridge rail. “I wanted to show you a little piece of this planet. Come on.” She took his arm again and led him off the bridge to some rocks, conveniently placed for sitting and staring over the water. “This is your home world, you know. All the humans in the galaxy came from here. It can be your home again.”

He continued to hold her hand as he watched a mother duck and her brood float by. “Its spring here. It was autumn in Kelowna when I left. I guess that’s appropriate. I just don’t know how I can go on with my life, knowing everybody I ever knew is dead, even the animals. The flowers and the trees will be gone soon.”

“Cassie was the only survivor of her world. All living creatures were wiped out there by a plague started by the Goa’uld. I don’t know, maybe the plants survived, but the ground was so contaminated nobody could live there.” She sighed.

“You have a great responsibility, one that Cassie wasn’t burdened with, thank God. As an adult, you are the only one who can document the history of your planet, the achievements of your people, and their mistakes as well. Maybe your story will have an effect on other cultures. It could help, you could help, other worlds keep from making the same mistakes your people did.”

Jonas looked up at the sky, watching an airliner move overhead. “Its just so hard to believe.” He stopped. “Do you really think I can make a difference, that I can help people on other planets?”

“All any of us can do is try. We’ll all help you. I promise to be there for you any time you need me.”

“That sounds like an offer I can’t pass up. Thank you.” He looked at her and hesitated.

“What is it?” Janet asked.

“We have a custom in Kelowna, but I don’t know if it would be appropriate here. May I show you?”

“Of course.”

He leaned over and kissed her cheek. “Thank you for caring.” He backed off and looked into her smiling eyes.

“We have the same custom. Your welcome.”

“Really! Do you also have this custom?” He kissed her lips, pulling back quickly to see her reaction.

“Yes, we do, although I wouldn’t recommend extending the time involved beyond what you just did, unless you’re involved in a romantic relationship with the woman.”

Jonas looked at her thoughtfully. “The most horrible tragedy of my life has just occurred and I don’t want to trivialize it, but I think I need to clarify this, so I don’t make a mistake in the future. You’re telling me that this is appropriate,” he brushed her lips with his, “but this isn’t.” He took her in his arms and kissed her again, stopping only when her pocket pager went off.

As he let her go, she reached for him again, “Yes, that was totally inappropriate. So is this.”

Eventually she dropped her arms and reached for the pager. “I’m wanted back at the mountain.”

As he helped her up, he stammered, “I-I want you to know I’ve never done anything like that before. I just wanted to be physically close to someone, to know I’m still alive. I’m so sorry.”

“Jonas, we have a term for it, at least for the extension of what we started here, its called comfort sex, and its one of the many methods of overcoming grief. Don’t feel ashamed. We can talk about it more later, but I really need to get back to the SGC now. Come on.”

As they reached her car and sat down, Jonas began to shake. He put his head in his hands and doubled over in the seat. Janet had been about to start the car, but now reached instead for her cell phone and speed dialed the SGC infirmary. “This is Fraiser, what’s the emergency?” she asked when the phone was answered. After listening for a minute, she said, “Have the SFs take him to a local hospital. That is not life threatening and he does not need to go inside the mountain. Do not bother me again, unless you have a life threatening emergency, you need me to go off-world, or SG-1 is coming through the wormhole. Is that clear, Lieutenant?” She slammed her phone shut, got out of the car and ran around to the other side. She opened the door and reached for Jonas, turning him to face her and pulling him up and out of the car and into her arms.

He wasn’t crying, just shaking all over. She knew he was in shock. She walked him the few steps to the back door, forced him down into the back seat and got in beside him, where she again took him in her arms. Janet knew nothing she said would penetrate at this point, but she hoped the physical contact would get through to his numbed brain. Her hands moved aimlessly on his back, just to give him another indication that he wasn’t completely alone.

She had left the front passenger door open and a few minutes later a police car rolled to a stop beside their parking space and an officer walked over to the car. “What’s the trouble?” he asked. He looked inside the car. “You people want to take that indoors, or at least close the doors. There are children in this park, you know.”

Janet stared over Jonas’ shoulder at the policeman. “I’m Doctor Janet Fraiser, U.S. Air Force. Check my plates, close the door and go away. This man has just lost his entire family in a horrible accident.” Janet stared at the man until he stood and walked back to his car. A few minutes later he returned, quietly closed the door and left.

Janet had thought Jonas had been oblivious during the entire incident until he raised his head. His shaking had subsided and he now began to cry quietly, “That’s not really true. I have no family. I always envied the other kids who had mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, now I think I may be lucky in that respect. At least I don’t have to think about them being destroyed by radiation sickness or blown apart in an explosion, just everyone else, old people and young mothers and children and babies.” He stared at her in horror. “I told them it wasn’t safe. They wouldn’t listen. Kelowna was afraid its enemies would invade. They wanted the naquadria bomb to protect themselves. They took desperate measures and just wouldn’t listen.” He doubled over again. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Janet opened the door and slid out of the car, turning Jonas so that he could be sick on the ground. She stayed beside him, rubbing the back of his neck when he was finished. “Okay, I need to get you back to the SGC and give you a sedative. You need to relax.”

“No! No sedative.” He sat up and wiped his face on his sleeve. “If my people are dying, the least I can do is suffer with them.”

“Jonas there is nothing you can do to help.”

Jonas slid out of the car, stepped over his own mess and climbed back in the front seat. “Let’s go, Janet. If I can’t help my own people I will find something to do to help yours.”

As she got back into the driver’s seat she turned to look at him. His usual twinkling eyes were like steel, the dimple that was almost always present in his cheek was erased, and his lips, normally curved in a smile, formed a straight hard line.

She started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. As soon as she was on the road, her right hand came off the steering wheel and reached for his left, giving it a squeeze.

He cleared his throat. “So, tell me about your phone call. What was the emergency?”

“One of the technicians who are in the parking lot taking a helicopter apart fell off the top of the chopper and injured his knee. Since he’s not one of ours, I told them to take him to a local hospital.”

“What is a helicopter and what is a chopper?”

“They are two names for the same thing. Its a powered aircraft that can take off and land straight up and down, unlike our airplanes which need a runway to do so.”

“Oh, yes, I have seen pictures of them on your TV. Why is it being disassembled in the parking lot?”

“We need to take it through the stargate to another planet to search for some of our people who are missing and they have to take it apart to get it in the elevator to lower it down to the SGC.”

“Tell me about your missing people. That sounds like a job I could help with.”

“Well, I can’t give you all the details but I can tell you they were stranded on another planet far away from its stargate. We think they may be trying to walk to it from thousands of miles away. What we will do is leapfrog the helicopters, loading them with extra fuel and establishing fuel dumps along the way.”

“What does leapfrog mean?”

Janet continued to explain the search procedure as they made their way back to the SGC. They found General Hammond in the briefing room with Jack, the robots and Teal’c.

“We have found ancient charts showing the locations of many large quantum mirrors,” Teal’c was explaining as they entered the room. Hammond looked up and then stood and came over to Jonas. “Mister Quinn, I am deeply sorry for your loss. I have spoken to the President of the United States and he has given me his personal assurance that you are free to stay here as long as you wish and become a permanent residence if you would like to. He also asked me to express his personal condolences.”

“Thank you General, I appreciate it very much. Now I have a proposal for you. Janet has told me that you are currently conducting a search mission for some of your people who have gone missing. I would like to join that search if I may. As I explained to Janet, there is nothing I can do to help my people, so I would like to contribute and help yours.”

“Well, we can always use another pair of eyes on a search. Sit down, Mister Quinn. Let me introduce Colonel Jack O’Neill, my second in command, and Teal’c, who is a member of his team.”

Jonas nodded to Jack who had raised his hand when he was introduced and then looked back and forth between the two Teal’cs with a puzzled expression.

“I am Teal’c,” Teal’c explained. “This is also Teal’c. He is a robot duplicate.”

“How do you tell them apart?” Jonas asked as he seated himself at the table.

“It is easy for us,” both Teal’cs said together.

Hammond chuckled. “It is not easy for us humans. We generally have to ask. The people you have been introduced to as Captain Carter and Doctor Jackson are also robots. It is their human doubles who are missing.”

Sha’re entered the room and slipped into a chair beside Jack.

“And this is Sha’re,” the general continued. “She is from SG-1 in an alternate reality. Sha’re, this is Jonas Quinn, a human who has just joined us from another planet. Now let’s get back to business. We are still waiting for the helicopters, which, I am told, are almost ready to be placed in the elevator. In the meantime, Teal’c has been telling us about a discovery he made on his way back to Earth. Please continue, Teal’c.”

“As I was saying, during our journey here we discovered an object floating in space. We brought it aboard and discovered it contained many ancient artifacts, both written and tactile, and several sets of star charts of various kinds. We investigated and discovered that one of these sets shows the disposition of gigantic immovable quantum mirrors, or at least their location at the time the charts were drawn. The charts are ancient beyond belief.”

“We had the paper and ink analyzed,” Sam cut in, “and they are of alien origin and ancient beyond the ability of our methods to date them.”

“You’re telling me there are more than two quantum mirrors?” Hammond asked.

“According to these charts, there are at least several hundred,” Teal’c stated.

“Why? What could they possibly be used for?” He looked at Sam.

“Well, sir, I’m just guessing, but I think each quantum mirror is designed to hold the coordinates of a finite number of realities, just as a computer can only hold so much memory. Instead of putting the coordinates on discs, whoever designed the mirrors apparently decided they would rather make a mirror for each group of realities.”

“Do we have any idea who designed the mirrors?”

“No sir, the Tokra and the Asgard have both come across them before but have never determined their origin. This was the first they have heard about a chart showing their locations. The only thing both groups are sure of is that they were not designed by the Ancients.”

“Well, that’s an interesting puzzle, but let’s get back to the present problem. I would like . . .”

Sergeant Siler came up the stairs from the control room, two at a time. “The first helicopter is now on level 28 and is being maneuvered into the gateroom, sir,” he reported.

“Good. As soon as you get it through the gate, have your team start putting it back together. Do you have your naquada power sources adapted for the helicopters and ready to install, Captain Carter?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Dr. Fraiser, are your medical teams in place?”

“Yes, sir, they have set up on the other side of the gate and are ready to move out. We also have some ATVs ready to go.”

“Good. At this point I would suggest the humans get some sleep. We’ll let you know when the helos are ready. We are estimating about 12 hours. You robots may proceed through the gate now if you like, or wait for the helos, your choice. Dismissed people.”

Jack and Sha’re left the briefing room to find a quiet spot. Teal’c went off to find Marissa and Lonny. Janet suggested Jonas spend the night in the infirmary where there would be other people and he said he would join her there shortly, after he asked the robots some questions. He asked the Daniel robot to stay and talk with him a minute, as the Sam and Teal’c robots were going to gate to the other planet to help with the helicopter assembly.

Jonas and Daniel sat across from each other at the briefing room table. “I didn’t realize you were a robot before,” Jonas began. “You seem no different than the other people I’ve met here.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that many times. Apparently, the people that constructed us had very sophisticated technology at their disposal. The original robots were copies of existing people who were dying. After many thousands of years only one robot remained. His name is Harlan. When SG-1 came to his planet he made copies of the team to stay and help him care for the planet. We are those copies. We were constructed so perfectly that we did not realize we were not the real SG-1 until much later. That’s an interesting story, but I suspect its not why you asked me to stay and talk to you.”

“No, I’m not exactly sure what I want. I guess I just wanted to not be alone. On the other hand, I need to be with someone who has no emotions. The compassion I see in everyone’s eyes should be for those who died, not for me. Nothing happened to me.”

“Jonas, contrary to what you may have heard about robots, my teammates and I were constructed with emotions. We don’t cry, but we can care deeply. And something did happen to you, something horrible, and you’re going to have to learn to live with it and go on. No matter how much anyone else tries to help, you are the one who will ultimately have to help yourself get through this. I know it was a mind numbing shock.”

“How could you know about mind numbing shock?”

“Remember, I told you that we didn’t know we were robots when we were first created? We had all the memories of the real SG-1. When we woke up we went back through the gate to the SGC and to the infirmary for post mission physicals. That’s when we found out. Janet listened to Jack’s heart and there was no sound. A few minutes later he ripped his arm open with a scalpel and we all saw pulleys and tubes inside. That was a mind numbing shock. Imagine waking up thinking you were human and had been walking around for twenty some years and then find out you were a monster, just created that day. Maybe we were a little luckier than you. We were a team and we did have each other to rely on. Once Harlan talked to us and gave us the whole story a compartment opened in my mind and I saw the people on my planet die, not all at once like yours, but one by one, until there were only a handful left. That’s when the original robots were created. I can’t share your pain and grief. I can only tell you that you are not alone. I don’t know if that helps at all.”

“Yes, it does. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thank you. Can you tell me your personal story now?”

“You mean Daniel’s story or mine?”

“I don’t know, maybe some of both. Was he here at the beginning?”

“Almost, the people working on the project had the stargate and a capstone which had covered it, but no DHD, that’s the device that activates the gate. They really didn’t know what they had. Daniel came along and deciphered the hieroglyphics and figured out how to dial another world. Catherine Langford and Sam figured out how to make it work with a computer instead of a DHD.

Jack was chosen to head the first mission and Daniel and Major Ferretti were part of the team. Long story short, they found Abydos and Daniel found a wife, Sha’re. A Goa’uld named Apophis captured her and made her a Goa’uld host and Daniel joined SG-1 to try and get her back.

About a year into their missions they gated to Harlan’s planet and that’s when I was created. After that I don’t know much more about what they did than you do. They went on fighting the Goa’uld and looking for Sha’re and so did we. The two teams met again not long ago and managed to destroy another Goa’uld together. All of my team was deactivated during that battle, but Harlan put us back together again. That’s the short version. There are mission logs in Doctor J’s office if you want to read the details. I have some for our missions too.”

“So what happened . . .”

“Jonas, you need to sleep. Its going to be a long time before we will be ready to start searching. If you want to help, you need to sleep. Let me take you to the infirmary.”

“No, I don’t want to sleep. I-I’m afraid to sleep. I’m afraid of what I will see in my nightmares.”

“Tell you what. Let me take you to guest quarters and I will find some videos. You can learn a lot about Earth that way. I might even scare up some pizza.”

“Pizza?”

“Interesting Earth food. Doctor J. loves it. Come on.”

Jonas allowed himself to be led to a room and Daniel promised he would be back in a few minutes.

When there was a knock at the door Jonas opened it to find Daniel loaded down with videos, and Janet, wearing jeans and a sweater, carrying a pizza, a carton of coke, and a package of cookies.

“Listen, Sam called and she needs my help deciphering the Japanese instruction book that came with the police choppers, so I brought Janet to keep you company.” He handed the videos to Jonas and hurried away.

Janet entered the room and placed the pizza on a table. “This is frozen, but since you’re in the VIP quarters you have an oven. It will take about 20 minutes. Pizza and coke go together.” Janet busied herself preheating the oven and finding a pan for the pizza.

“Janet, I’m really not hungry,” Jonas began, “I had a big lunch just before I found out what happened in Kelowna. That’s one of the reasons I got sick.”

“Well, I am. I haven’t had time to eat all day. Come and sit down and let’s see what videos we have. Hmm. I wonder where he found these. ‘Francis, the Talking Mule!’ That’s too far out. ‘The Money Pit,’ that’s funny, but maybe a little to Earth specific. ‘Top Gun,’ no, not tonight. ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ I think we’ll start with that. This is what we call a cartoon or an animated picture. Its based on an old Earth legend, Actually its a movie made for children. The man who started this company was named Walt Disney. He was an artist and came up with the idea of short funny animated stories to be shown between feature films. His first famous character was a talking mouse named Mickey and he made an enormous amount of money and has delighted millions of people with his stories.”

She popped the pizza in the oven and arranged some of the cookies on a plate.

“Okay, that should take about 20 minutes. In the meantime have a chocolate chip cookie.” She found two glasses, filled them with ice and opened two cans. She poured the coke into the glasses, handed him one and took hers with her to the kitchen where she collected paper plates and napkins and searched for a spatula.

Jonas went to the TV set and started fiddling with the channel changer as Janet returned with the plates. “I should have brought milk to go with the cookies, but I couldn’t find any in the infirmary and the mess hall is closed.” She stopped to hand the remote to Jonas and explain its use.

He flopped on the couch and started flipping through the channels, quickly activating the mute button. He really wasn’t interested in listening to people talk right now, he decided. He finally settled on a sports channel which was showing a skiing competition. Many of Earth’s athletic contests were strange, but skiing was a familiar activity and he immediately caught on to the system of gates and flags. He had no idea who the skiers were, but critically watched their form as they shot down the mountain.

Janet brought the pizza in and placed it on the coffee table in front of him, sliding a couple of pieces on a plate and putting it in his hands. “This isn’t the best, but its not bad for frozen. We’ll take you to a real pizzeria one day, I promise.” She started the VCR, sat in a nearby chair, filled her empty glass, kicked off her shoes, and pulled her feet up under her.

Trying to be polite, Jonas tasted the pizza. He had previously eaten a sandwich, some fruit and some jello in the cafeteria, but this was the first cooked Earth food he had tried. He began to chew and then his eyes opened wide. “This is really good,” he said, trying to talk around a mouthful of food. He began to eat in earnest, piling more slices on his plate when he finished the first two.

“Drink your coke,” Janet suggested. “It helps to wash it down.” She placed a slice of pizza on her plate and took a bite, following it with more coke, and then set the plate down.

“Thanks.” He took a drink. “This is very refreshing.”

Janet curled back up in the chair. Jonas handed her plate to her. “Eat some more of this. You’re the one who said you were hungry.”

Janet took another bite and then finished her coke. “I don’t know why I’m so thirsty all of a sudden.” She paused. “That’s not true. I get thirsty when I’m nervous, and I always get nervous when I know ahead of time that I’m going off-world. Its different when the alarms go off and I just have to suit up and go. I guess I’m babbling. We’ve been so worried about Sam and Daniel. We don’t even know if they’re still on that planet.”

“Tell me about them. The robot said Daniel has been with this project since the beginning and that his wife was kidnapped by a Goa’uld.”

“Yes, she died a couple of years ago, but he stayed with the team. I think SG-1 has become his family. They are all very close. Colonel O’Neill thinks of them as his kids, although Teal’c is actually about 100 years old.”

“Wow! That’s amazing. So they’ve all been together since the beginning?”

“Not quite. Sam was here before Daniel, but she got reassigned, and didn’t come back until Colonel O’Neill returned to Abydos to retrieve him. That’s when Teal’c joined us. Major Ferretti has been here since the beginning, too.”

Jonas polished off the last of the pizza and leaned back against the cushion. The movie had reached the scene where Belle races into the forest and is confronted by wolves. He stopped the tape. “Janet, please come over and sit with me.”

She stood and moved to sit beside him on the couch, laying her head on his shoulder. He started the tape again.

“Oh, did you see the wardrobe dive into the swimming pool?” She giggled. “Walt Disney always makes me laugh.”

“You have a nice laugh.”

“Why thank you Jonas. Oh, here comes a romantic part. Shh!”

She took his hand. He traced her fingers with his and then brought them to his lips for a soft kiss. Then he put his arm around her and sighed as she snuggled against his shoulder. The warmth of a body next to his began to thaw the ice that had been forming in his veins. They sat in companionable silence through the rest of the movie. When it was over Janet started to get up. “We both need to sleep. If I stay here much longer I’ll go to sleep right here.”

“Janet, please stay. I’ll put in another movie. I can’t sleep. Just lay down on the couch and I’ll go sit in the chair.” He grabbed another tape without looking and slid it into the VCR. “This one is ‘Simply Irresistible.’ Is that all right?”

“That’s fine, but if you really want me to stay, you need to sit with me.” Janet patted the seat beside her. He sat back down and she moved onto his lap, putting her arms around him. He ran his fingers down her cheek and then leaned in to kiss her, pulling back after a minute to look into her eyes. He could almost feel those beautiful brown eyes looking into his soul. His hands trailed down her neck and traced her collarbone and then moved up to touch her hair. Her hair smelled of strawberries and felt like silk, he thought.

“I think its time for that comfort sex I was talking about earlier,” Janet whispered. Her lips found his and pulled him into a searing kiss.

“Janet!” He pulled away from her. “Please don’t do this just to make me feel better. If you don’t really want it, its not right.”

“Oh, I want to do it. Its just been so long that I’m afraid I won’t get it right.”

“Are you sure this is what you really want? I don’t want you to hate me tomorrow. I-I don’t want to lose you because we moved to fast.” His heart was beating so rapidly, he thought it would jump out of his throat. He couldn’t believe she truly wanted to weaken the unbearable loneliness that was gripping him, but he did not want her to regret her decision.

Her lips and hands gave him his answer. They began to explore each other’s bodies and discard clothing in the process. Finally Jonas picked her up and carried her to the bed. Soft music came from the TV to form a background to their lovemaking. Janet’s body was unbelievably soft and conformed perfectly to his, Jonas thought. This petite woman had given him so much already. Her strength and kindness and compassion were giving him the strength to go on. He was determined to make this experience beautiful for her. He moved slowly to discover the best ways to please her, losing himself in his desire to make her happy. They moved together in perfect rhythm, her responses encouraging him to greater efforts.

Janet began to float, beginning to believe this was a dream, until Jonas lifted her to an orgasmic cloud she had never reached before. As she reached her peak, she pulled him in with her, soaring again when he released inside her. Afterwards they both drifted contentedly into sleep still entwined in each others arms.

***

When they were finally called to the gateroom to begin the search mission, Janet and Jonas were both relaxed and well rested. Just before they left his quarters, Jonas turned to Janet and placed his hands on her shoulders. “I want you to know that I appreciate every moment you have spent with me. If this was truly just comfort sex, I will always remember your kindness, and I will back away now. If, on the other hand, you feel the same way about me as I do about you, I’d like to spend more time with you. Maybe we could back up a little and go out to dinner.” He looked into her eyes.

“I can’t answer that, unless I know how you feel about me,” Janet answered with a wide smile.

Jonas touched the side of her face. “I think I am falling in love with you. If that makes you uncomfortable, . . .”

She stood on tiptoe to kiss him. “In that case, dinner would be very nice, but right now, let’s go find SG-1.”

When they reached the gateroom, Teal’c, Jack, and Sha’re were waiting for them. The medical team and the robots had already gone through. When they all emerged on the other side the helicopters were prepared for takeoff. Jack would pilot one, with Sha’re, Janet and Jonas as passengers Teal’c would pilot another medical team and the robots would move out as far as they could in an ATV. Then they would continue on foot. Jack maneuvered his ship straight west on a line search using the location Teal’c had provided as their original landing coordinates. Teal’c flew a pattern quartering this line back and forth covering about twenty miles on each side of the line at five mile intervals. Both pilots knew that this pattern was way too wide to find an injured man, unless he could make a signal easily seen from the air, but they were hoping to at least make radio contact. The robots would parallel the line search as much as possible and be ready to cover areas with heavy foliage the helos couldn’t penetrate.

They had started out at planet dawn and reached the point where the UAV had landed early in the afternoon. By nightfall Jack had left the coast far behind. He had good communications with Teal’c and the robots, but nobody had anything positive to report. Jack brought his chopper down for the night in the middle of a wide open plain, near a shallow stream. He had resigned himself to sharing a tent with Jonas instead of Sha’re, so he was pleasantly surprised when Janet spread her sleeping back and Jonas’ in the same tent.

Jack approached Janet and smiled, “Doctor, is there something you want to tell me?” he asked.

“None of your business, Colonel,” Janet replied, returning his smile, “you’re my colleague, not my CO.”

“Touché, Doctor! However, just for that, you have first watch.” Jack placed his sleeping bag and Sha’re’s in the second tent and set up the sterno stove to heat coffee and broke out MREs for dinner. “Ladies and gentleman, tonight’s menu features beef stew with crackers and cheese spread and concludes with pears for dessert. This will be accompanied by my own special coffee. Now go and wash your hands and prepare for this culinary feast. Jonas, you’re going to get a whole new perspective on Earth food after this meal.”

Jonas had been the only one to really enjoy the MREs, Jack mused as he lay in his tent that night with Sha’re asleep beside him. No surprise there. The rest of them had been choking down MREs for years. Janet and Jonas was a surprise though. Well, Jonas was not part of the SGC and Janet’s private life was her own. He just hoped they would be happy. He was still a little nervous about how Daniel would take his relationship with Sha’re. His conscious bit him again as he remembered the look on Carter’s face when he had said goodbye to Lara. He wasn’t looking forward to explaining this situation to her either. On the other hand, Sam and Daniel had been alone together for six months, except for the robot. Maybe they had finally discovered each other. That would certainly go a long way toward solving his problem. He just hoped they were found alive and well.

They continued west for several days, broadcasting General Hammond’s message automatically as they went. Teal’c and the robots were now far behind, continuing to search. The plan was, when Jack reached the west coast he would investigate the initial landing site and then start back, using the same search pattern as Teal’c. Eventually, Jacob Carter would show up in his teltac and start scanning from space. That should speed things up considerably.

Jack was flying along, daydreaming about Star Trek locators which worked even when the crew’s communicators weren’t turned on, when the radio crackled to life. It was Jonas’ turn to fly right seat and he picked up the mike to return the call. That boy was pretty good, Jack thought, he had memorized the radio procedures before they had even left the base.

“Unit calling this is SG-1 Air. Say again, you are breaking up. Over.”

They all figured it was the robots, as their ground based signal was weaker than Teal’c’s, when he was in the air.

“SG-1 Air, this is SG-1 Delta. Can barely read you. What is your location? Over.”

“SG-1 Delta, SG-1 Air, our locator shows us about 20 clicks east of your position. I say again we are 20 clicks east of you. We should be with you shortly. Do you need medical assistance? Over.”

“SG-1 Air, SG-1 Delta. Your signal strength is increasing. We have negative casualties. I say again, negative casualties. Over.”

“That was Daniel,” Jack yelled. “Yes! Ask him who’s with him.”

Jonas showed off more of his radio knowledge. “SG-1 Delta. Say names of all in your party. Over.”

“SG-1 Air, SG-1 Delta. Party consists of Major Carter and Doctor Jackson. Stand by one. Sam says to tell you we are in the open and you should be able to see us easily when you come up on our position. We have no flares, but we have a large vehicle. What? Oh, say type of aircraft. Over.”

Jonas looked at Jack. “Tell him we’re in a small helo and ask if we can land nearby,” Jack requested.

Jonas keyed his mike. “Uh, Daniel, we’re in a small helo. Pilot wants to know if we can land near you. Over.”

Sam returned the call this time. “This is SG-1 Sierra. That is affirmative. You can land right by us. Terrain is flat. No trees nearby and definitely no high tension wires. Have you heard from Teal’c? Over.”

‘SG-1 Sierra, this is Air One. Teal’c is in another search craft several hundred miles behind us. Stand by while we contact him.” Jonas switched to air-to-air. “Sierra Gulf Air 2, Sierra Gulf Air 2, this is Sierra Gulf Air 1, Over.”

“Sierra Gulf Air 1, Sierra Gulf Air 2, go ahead,” Teal’c responded.

Jack clicked his mike. “Teal’c, we found them. They just answered us on VHF and we’ll be landing near them in a few minutes. They do not, repeat do not, need medical attention, so take your medical personnel back to the gate and then proceed to our transponder location empty. We can’t get everyone in one helo and, since nobody’s injured, we’ll wait for you to come to us. Tell the robots to head back to the gate. Over.”

“Understood O’Neill. SG Air 2 Out.”

“I see them.” Sha’re pointed out the window to the left.

“Okay, I’m going to land as close to them as I can get.” He slipped the little helicopter in to land about 50 yards from his team. After he shut down the engine he turned to Janet. “Listen, maybe you and Jonas should go out first. I don’t want Daniel to have a heart attack when he sees Sha’re and they might think I am that son of a bitch robot. We don’t know where he is.”

“Good idea,” Janet said as she slipped out the rear door of the chopper. Jonas was already waiting on the ground and helped her down. They started walking toward Sam and Daniel, who were running to greet them. Both grabbed her and hugged her at once. “Janet, its so good to see you.” Sam kissed her friend’s cheek. Then Daniel spun her around and kissed her too as Sam turned to Jonas. Katy and her pups circled the newcomers with happy barks and wagging tails.

“Hi,” Jonas said. “I’m Jonas Quinn. I just recently arrived at the SGC. I’m really glad to meet you both.”

“Nice to meet you too,” Sam acknowledged. “Are you the pilot?”

“No, Sam,” Janet took her arm and held her back from the helicopter. “The pilot’s still aboard.”

Daniel also stopped at the tone of her voice. “Janet? What’s going on? Why didn’t the pilot come to greet us?”

‘Uh, guys, Colonel O’Neill is piloting the helo.”

“What?” Sam and Daniel said together. “He’s dead!”

Daniel cleared his throat. “We left his body on the west coast months ago.”

“No, that was his robot duplicate. The robot kidnapped the Colonel and took him to Harlan’s planet. He eventually escaped and found his way home, but it wasn’t until Teal’c showed up that we knew where you were.”

By this time she was speaking to empty air, as Sam and Daniel raced for the chopper. As they approached, Jack swung his door open and jumped down, only to have Sam and Daniel grab him so hard all three of them ended up on the ground.

“Hey guys, take it easy, I didn’t do this to you. Didn’t Janet explain I’m not the robot?”

“Jack we thought you were dead.” Daniel had tears in his eyes as he helped Jack to his feet.

Sam was crying openly as she threw herself into his arms. “We’re so glad to see you alive. You crashed, I mean the robot crashed, after a dogfight. We left you in the plane because we couldn’t carry you with us. We planned to go back for you.” She began to sob.

“Hey, its all right kids. I’m right here. Honest.” He kissed Sam’s forehead and drew Daniel into a bear hug, squashing Sam between them.

When he turned them loose, Sam wiped her face on her sleeve and smiled. Then her face changed and she turned to Daniel. “Oh my God, Daniel!” She groped for his hand. “We have to tell him.”

Daniel looked back at her and nodded. “I’ll do it.” He started to turn toward Jack when the rear door of the helicopter opened and Sha’re stepped out and jumped to the ground. Daniel’s mouth opened and stayed that way.

Sam turned to see what had startled him so. At first she did not recognize the striking brunette wearing SG-1 insignia on her jacket. Then it hit her. Daniel’s hand had tightened on hers and she now released it, taking a few steps backward, out of his line of vision. As soon as she released him and stepped away, Daniel’s spell was dissolved. He choked, “Sam,” brokenly and immediately stepped to her and took her hand again. He tore his gaze away from Sha’re and looked into Sam’s eyes. “Te amo,” he whispered.

“No!” Sam looked down. “She is your wife. You must go to her.”

Daniel wrapped Sam in his arms and held her close. “That is not my wife. My wife is dead,” he said in a clear ringing voice. He put his hand under her chin and raised her head so she was looking into his eyes. “Even if she were, it would make no difference. Te amo, Sam. Its the te that’s important. In perpetua te amo.”

Janet and Jonas stood hand in hand watching the scene unfold in silence. Jonas sensed something profound was occurring but was unsure just exactly what.

Sha’re eased the tension by moving to stand beside Jack, who immediately put an arm around her. He had pretty much figured out what had happened and was breathing a mental sigh of relief as he said, “Kids, this lady probably looks familiar to you. Her name is Sha’re and she is from a quantum mirror reality.” He poked Sam in the arm. “Breathe, Major.”

Sam’s head turned sharply to look deep into Jack’s eyes. She eased herself from Daniel’s arms and moved to stand directly in front of Jack.

“Colonel . . .” She stopped. “Jack, we didn’t mean for this to happen. We thought you were dead . . .”

Jonas turned to Janet. “Comfort sex?” he asked.

“No, they’ve loved each other for years. They just didn’t know it till now,” she replied.

“Excuse me!” Sam and Daniel said together, turning toward Janet.

Jack started to chuckle. “She’s absolutely right. I saw the sparks on Abydos. I can even tell you when the tinder lit.” He reached down absently to pet Katy who was sniffing his hand.

Everyone turned to stare at him. “Daniel took fire in the control room when I told him Sam tried to rape me. It took Sam a little longer. Her subconscious picked it up when Nem brainwashed us and told us Daniel was dead. That’s why Teal’c and I had to practically carry her back through the gate. It took me a long time to figure it out and I just didn’t want to believe it until I performed a scientific experiment during the time loop.”

“Well actually, Jack,” Daniel’s smile was a mile wide, “I took fire when I saw Sam in the blue dress.”

“No, Daniel, that was lust. Teal’c and I felt it to.”

Sam turned beet red and several pairs of eyebrows went up. Sha’re and Jonas were completely puzzled.

“Tell you what folks, we are going to be waiting here a while for Teal’c to catch up. Let’s make camp and we can complete the explanations later. Carter, come help me secure the helicopter. Daniel, you and Jonas can set up camp. Janet and Sha’re can work on lunch, if that’s okay with everyone.” Jack started back toward the helicopter. Daniel squeezed Sam’s hand and let go to follow Jonas to the cargo section of the helo. Sam trailed along behind the three men as Sha’re and Janet started clearing an area to build a fire ring.

“Hold it!” Jack stopped suddenly. “If I could have everybody’s attention, please.” Everyone stopped and looked at him. “Well, not you Jonas, this is just going to confuse you. Carter, come here.”

Sam stopped in front of Jack. “Sir?”

“I need to do this right now, in broad daylight with everybody watching, especially Daniel and Sha’re. The first time I did this is when I realized just how much in love with Daniel you were.” Jack took Sam in his arms and gave her a long lingering kiss, dipping her at the end. Her arms stayed at her sides until the dip, when they went up around his neck to keep herself from falling. He released her and set her back on her feet, giving her a big smile.

“That’s what I did in the time loop and I got the same startled reaction. I timed it perfectly so the time loop ended and she didn’t have time to slap me. This time she was too startled and probably still too glad I was alive to hit me. Am I right Carter?”

“Yes, sir, you are, but don’t try it again or you won’t get away so easily.”

“Oh, I get to do it one more time for free.”

“Don’t count on it Jack!” Daniel moved up beside Sam.

“Now, now, calm down Danny. I plan to kiss the bride at your wedding. I’ll even let you kiss mine at my wedding.”

“What!” Daniel and Sam said together.

“Sha’re has agreed to marry me. I think she’s crazy, but I’m not about to have her committed. Now, let’s get that camp set up.”

***

That evening as they sat around the campfire exchanging stories about their experiences during the last six months everyone began to relax and settle into the new team dynamic. Once Teal’c rejoined them the balance would be completely restored, Jack thought. He had saved the information about Marissa and Lonny until Teal’c could tell that story himself. There was still one point of tension. Sha’re and Daniel had not spoken one word to each other throughout the day. He decided it was time to bridge that gap.

“Daniel, Sha’re has been asking me how Skaara has been adjusting to life back on Abydos and I wasn’t able to give her any information since I haven’t been back there since he returned. Could you tell her about him?”

Daniel smiled, “As a matter of fact, he’s been adjusting very nicely. One of the few positive things that came of his enslavement within Klorel was the amount of time he had to think. He told me some of his experiences were horrible, but when Klorel was not being a bad ass Goa’uld he felt rather sorry for him. He was pretty young to take over a host and once in a while Skaara was able to control his mind for a few minutes. He could never achieve any long-lasting change but he said he thought Klorel became a little more vulnerable each time. Anyway, Skaara said he thought a lot about what he would like to do if he ever got free. One of the things he wanted was to get married. It seems there was a young girl back on Abydos . . .”

“Duna!” Sha’re interjected. “I knew it. He was always following her around, even when they were very little.”

Daniel smiled again. “Yes, it was Duna and she was still waiting for him when he got back. Her parents had been trying to marry her off for years, but she couldn’t forget Skaara. They had a lovely wedding.”

Sha’re moved from Jack’s side to sit beside Daniel. “Were you there?”

Daniel nodded.

“What did she wear? Where are they living?”

He laughed. “One thing at a time. First of all you should know they have a baby now.”

“Did you deliver that one too? I hear you are very good at that.” Her voice softened. “I heard you even delivered one for,” she hesitated, “for your wife.” She looked into his eyes and saw a flicker of sadness.

“No, I didn’t deliver Duna’s baby, but I was called to come and be properly appreciative soon afterward. They had a little girl and they named her Sha’re. Fortunately, as far as I can tell, she looks just like her mother, and nothing like her father or grandfather.”

They continued their animated discussion as Sam moved to sit beside Jack and whisper, “Thank you.”

He stood and took her hand using a head motion she recognized which meant, ‘We need to talk privately.’ They moved away from the fire and went to stand near the helo.

“Sam, you need to know this is not the same Sha’re. She looks the same but she’s been with SG-1 in her reality for almost five years now and has been a widow since Apophis first came to Abydos. She has a lot of your strengths and, most importantly, she is not in love with Daniel. Its not just because she loves me, or at least she thinks she does. I’m still not convinced of that. Anyway, she buried Daniel long ago. When she first appeared, I immediately thought of what it would do to Daniel, and ultimately do to you, but I do believe it will be all right. Can you trust me on this?”

“Colonel, I’ve always trusted your instincts, except sometimes when they conflicted with Daniel’s, but even more importantly, I trust Daniel. When the two of you agree on something its a 100% sure thing. That’s why I know this will be right for all of us. Let’s get back to the fire.” She started to move and then turned back to him. “There is one more thing. You do know I’ll always love you too, just not in quite the same way?”

“Yes, Sam, I know. Come on, its getting cold out here.” He continued to talk as they walked. “So you made a hot air balloon to get over the mountains?”

***

As Jack entered the tent he shared with Sha’re, he found her brushing her long lustrous hair. He sat down behind her, took the brush from her hand and began to run it through her hair. “I thought it was about time I did something for you,” he explained when she protested that she could do it herself. “Its about time I took some other actions as well,” he added after a minute. “I wanted to wait longer to be sure, but after seeing you with Daniel and after talking to Sam, I . . .”

“You are getting over feeling guilty about me?”

“Something like that.”

She turned into his arms, taking the brush from his hand and tossing it in a corner. Her eyes in the light of the lantern, looked deep into his. “So now you are free of your ghosts. You must now decide. I will not trick you into making love to me again. I am grateful for the first time and I will remember it always, as I will remember with joy all the time we have spent together. Please do not think you owe me anything more. I have spoken to General Hammond and he assures me that there is room for me at the SGC. I will be fine.” She kissed his cheek and dropped her arms. “Now we should sleep. Good night, Jack.”

Jack’s arms stayed around Sha’re. “Does this mean you don’t love me any more, that you don’t want to marry me?”

“It means I give you your freedom,” she said, keeping her head down so he couldn’t read her emotions.

“Sha’re, you did not answer me. Do you love me?” He raised her chin.

“Yes, Jack, I will always love you.”

“Okay, Carter said the same thing a while ago, but somehow I don’t think it had the same meaning. Let’s try this. Do you love me because I am someone who cares about you, someone you can count on, maybe a substitute father figure?”

“No, Jack.”

“Well then, what?”

“How does one say what they love about another person? Do you want me to say I love you because you are dashing and handsome and witty, because looking into your eyes makes me want to melt in your arms, because you are intelligent and a great leader? You are all those things, but I do not know if they are why I love you. I only know I do and that I can’t force you to marry me just to protect me and because you feel obligated, now that you are sure Danyel does not want me.”

“Is that what you think? Oh, Sha’re!” His lips came down on hers with more force than he intended, shocking them both with the intensity and urgency of his need for her.

A long time later, just as he was about to fall asleep, Jack’s eyes shot wide and he touched Sha’re’s cheek tenderly with his lips. “Are you asleep?” he whispered.

“Not quite,” she answered, as she ran her hand down his chest.

He caught her hand and brought it up to his lips to kiss it. “I’m not quite ready, honey. You need to give me a little time to recover at my age. My stamina is not what it used to be, but I want to ask you something.”

“Hmm?”

“Did you say you thought I was intelligent?”

Sha’re’s laughter rang out loudly throughout the camp.

“Yes, Jack, very intelligent,” she murmured, as she began to change his mind about his stamina.

***

Sam and Daniel were busy in their own tent. As Sha’re’s laughter rang out, Sam and Daniel were drifting back to earth. Sam could feel the smile that appeared on Daniel’s face in the middle of a kiss. “Do you think they are as happy as we are?” he asked as he released her.

“It certainly sounds like it,” Sam answered as she snuggled against his chest. “Daniel?”

“Yes?”

“What happens if I do this?”

“Oh, baby! I thought you said you had no experience at this?”

“I had a talk with Janet this afternoon.”

“Mmm! Show me what else she told you.”

***

Next morning over breakfast Daniel was describing the balloon landing. “Anyway, I accidentally kicked the engine apart and we lost buoyancy and came down really fast and rolled down this mountain . . .”

“Hill!” Sam interrupted.

“Yes, well, we seem to have a small disagreement on that. When we came to a stop we were in the middle of a blizzard. Fortunately there was shelter nearby.”

Jack raised his hand. “I have a question. How could you accidentally kick the engine apart? Wasn’t it protected in something?”

“Well, yes, but I kicked it pretty hard.”

“Why?”

“Um, I was mad at Sam.”

“Ooo, lover’s quarrel!” Janet gave them her wide smile. “Details please.”

Sam and Daniel looked at each other. “Uh, I don’t remember,” Daniel mumbled.

Jack looked at both of them. “Okay, this has suddenly become part of the official debriefing. The rest of you butt out. I want an answer now, Doctor Jackson.”

Daniel looked at Jack stubbornly. “Its none of your God damn business, Jack!”

“Yes, Daniel, it really is his business. I would have to tell him eventually anyway. It was about a cyanide pill, sir.”

“A what?”

“A cyanide pill I took away from Lieutenant Tolinev in the ziggurat.“

“Go on Major.”

“Well, I thought the mountains might be so high that we could suffer from oxygen deprivation and I knew one of us had to get back to the stargate with our information about the Goa’uld. We thought you were dead and we didn’t know what had happened to Teal’c We only had one oxygen bottle which was built into the helmet of a hazmat suit and we couldn’t share it. I had been injured and I knew it was more likely Daniel could make it back to the gate on his own so I told him he would have to use the oxygen if we got too high and let me take my chances. I said if I ended up brain damaged he would have to leave me behind and go on without me. He refused, and said he wouldn’t leave me behind.”

“I said I’d rather lay down and die beside her than leave her behind, even if it meant everyone else on Earth would die,” Daniel interrupted. “Sam has now convinced me that was not the right option, but that’s another story. Anyway, she decided to drug me so she could get me on oxygen without a protest if she had to. She had planned to take the cyanide pill after she did that so that I wouldn’t try to drag her along with me. When I found out about it later, after we were safe, I took it away from her and threw it away.”

“Major, I approve your action. It was the correct procedure.” Jack swallowed. “However, on a personal note, don’t you ever even think about doing something like that again. Daniel showed an enormous amount of restraint. I would have probably kicked you out of the balloon instead of kicking the engine. And then I would have kicked you the rest of the way down the mountain.”

“Told you so!” Daniel smirked.

“Colonel O’Neill, SG-1, do you read? Over.” Six hand held radios came to life simultaneously.

“Unit calling, this is O’Neill. Over.”

“Jack, its Jacob. Teal’c says you found Sam and Daniel. How are they? Over.”

Sam keyed her mike. “I’m fine dad. So is Daniel. Over.”

“Good to hear your voice kid. I’ve got Teal’c and the robots and am on my way to you. I’ll join you in a few minutes. Out.”

“Robots?” Sam and Daniel said together.

“The robots have been very helpful. They joined us to search for you.”

“They also tried to save Skaara in my reality,” Sha’re added. “But he was already dead.”

“You’ve got robots in your reality?” Sam asked.

“Things are getting curiouser and curiouser, Alice said,” Daniel added.

“Actually they’re from your reality,” Sha’re explained, “they just ended up in mine for a while. I think they want to get their colonel back too.”

“Funny story about that,” Jack was close to blushing. “Its seems the Carter and O’Neill robots have developed a, um, relationship, is how the Daniel robot put it. They were programmed with emotions and have the ability to feel physical sensations. We didn’t bring them up to speed when we last worked with them. Apparently, one of the reasons they have been going on missions is to find Sha’re for Daniel. We never bothered to tell them she was dead.”

“Well, that was certainly altruistic of them,” Daniel commented.

“Kind of. The Daniel robot was hoping for a Sha’re copy, if we got her back.”

“Oh!”

“I let Harlan make one for him before we started out.” Sha’re added.

“Okay, and how did that turn out?” Daniel asked.

“She won’t be activated until he returns,” Sha’re answered.

They all looked up as Jacob’s teltac descended and settled nearby. Sam was the first to reach it and her father grabbed her in a hug as soon as he stepped out. Teal’c was right behind him. He picked her up off the ground and swung her around before putting her back down on her feet. “I feared we had misplaced you and Daniel Jackson permanently this time,” he said, as he released her.

Sam smiled and turned back to her father as Teal’c bounded through the grass, grabbed Daniel and pummeled him on the back.

The robots joined the group of friends, hanging slightly back as everyone began to talk at once. Sam and Daniel gravitated toward each other and Daniel’s arm went around her to give her a hug. Then he touched her face to wipe away a tear. “I always feel better when I know dad is still all right,” she confessed, speaking so only Daniel could hear.

“I know,” he answered, “that’s just another thing I love about my tough Air Force major.”

Jack introduced Sha’re and Jonas to General Carter, smiling proudly as he announced that Sha’re had agreed to marry him.

Teal’c reported that he had dropped off the medical team at the gate and had begun his return journey when Jacob had found him, still close to the stargate.

Jonas began to ask Jacob endless questions about the teltac and Jacob promised to give him a complete tour.

Eventually the flow of conversation subsided and the Sam robot stepped forward. “We would like to request your assistance General Carter in retrieving our teammate. We have been told that he is still on the west coast of this planet. While we could eventually reach him on foot, our mission could be accomplished more quickly and efficiently if you would take us in your ship.”

“I don’t see why not.” Jacob looked across at Jack, who shrugged and nodded. “It may be a little crowded with all of us aboard and a helicopter in the cargo hold, but we’ll manage. Grab your gear folks and lets go. Doctor Jackson, you take the co-pilot seat. Everybody else, off the bridge.”

“Jacob?” Jack raised an eyebrow.

Jacob stopped and pulled Jack aside as the rest were scrambling to collect the equipment, put out the campfire, and coax the pups aboard. “Jack, from what I’ve seen in the last few minutes, it appears that my daughter and Doctor Jackson have come to an understanding while they’ve been alone in the wilderness. Would you say that is an accurate estimation?”

“Oh, yeah!”

“Well then, I’m going to take the opportunity to find out his intentions.”

“You know Sam will be outraged.”

“She’s been outraged before, she’ll get over it. This is my only daughter here.”

Jack smiled and shrugged and moved away to help stow the tents.

***

Once they were airborne Jacob set the automatic pilot and turned to Daniel. “I suppose you’re wondering why I asked you to take second seat.”

“Oh, I have a pretty good idea, being a cultural anthropologist and all.” He turned his brilliant blue eyes to stare straight into Jacob’s brown ones. “Yes, I love her very much. I will cherish and care for her always. I will never intentionally hurt her. I will lay down my life for her.” A small smile began to tug at the corners of his mouth. “I can’t promise to protect her from harm, she spends too much time doing that for me, but I will try. What else would you like to know?”

“Is it too soon to talk about grandchildren?”

“Yes, unfortunately. We agreed that if we had to walk all the way back to the gate, Sam would not have to waddle through it, but I expect we will work on that as soon as we are home and have a formal wedding.”

“Formal wedding?”

“Well, we already pledged ourselves to each other. I have a question for you now. What does Selmak say about this?”

Jacob grimaced. “Selmak has been observing you and Sam, Jack and Sha’re, and Janet and Jonas and decided that I need a girlfriend. I’ve been trying to talk her out of matchmaking, but I don’t think I am succeeding. Hopefully, we won’t be back at the Tokra base for a while. Maybe she will forget about it by then.” He turned back to his instruments. “We are getting close to the mountains. There appears to be a settlement of some kind down there.”

“Yes, its deserted. Stay high and well to the south of it. We waited out the worst of the winter there. Its hard to believe we retraced months of our journey in just a few minutes. At this rate the coast should be coming up quickly. When you see the settlement there, turn north and you should be over the crash site almost immediately.”

Jacob followed Daniel’s directions and put the teltac down close to the crashed death glider. Everyone began to pile out of the ship until the Daniel robot held up his hand and motioned everyone back except the other robots. He caught Daniel’s eye. Daniel nodded, and the twins cooperated in shooing the humans back into the teltac. Only Teal’c, carrying a new robot powerpack, remained with them.

The Sam and Teal’c robots scrambled through the wreckage to the intact pilot compartment and opened it up, revealing the Jack robot, still secured in the sleeping bag. They carried him out to a flat spot and laid him on the ground. Teal’c and the Daniel robot joined them and the Sam robot attached the new power supply. She made a few entries on a hand held device and then sat down, pillowing Jack’s head on her lap, to wait. Teal’c and Daniel, by unspoken consent, moved closer to the teltac to give the robots some privacy.

Sam reached down for his hand, knowing that he would be able to feel her presence tactilely, as well as through their common internal radio link. All three of the active robots concentrated on sending a reassuring signal through the link, if his radio was active.

Jack’s eyes came open at the same moment he returned the pressure of Sam’s hand. “How did you guys get here?” he asked.

“Its a long story,” Sam replied.

“The short version is, we had help from SG-1,” Daniel added.

“Maybe not so long after all,” Sam murmured, as she bent down to kiss Jack.

Robots do not need to break for air, but Jack had other things on his mind and gently released Sam, who helped him to a sitting position. “Daniel, I’m sorry. I thought I could find out more information about Sha’re if I worked with SG-1, but we never even came close to anybody that knew her location.”

Daniel squatted down beside him. “That’s okay, Jack. Its over. She’s dead. SG-1 told us all about it.”

“But there is good news,” Sam added. “They found another Sha’re in an alternate reality and she agreed to have a robot duplicate made. Not only that, but General Hammond has agreed to let us work with the SGC on assignments.” She helped him to his feet. “We can actually leave the factory and go home and we can take Harlan with us.”

“That’s great news for all of us. Is Colonel O’Neill all right?”

“Yes, he’s aboard the teltac.” Sam explained what had happened after the glider crash.

“I guess I’d better make my apologies.” He trudged toward the teltac, where he was met by Daniel and Teal’c. “Daniel, I especially want to apologize to you and Sam for leaving you here all alone thinking your Colonel was dead. I tried to tell you over the radio, but I guess you didn’t get my message.”

“All I heard was ‘tell . . . , sorry . . . , love her.’ Which I assumed meant, ‘tell Sam I’m sorry and I love her.’”

“What I actually said was, ‘tell Colonel O’Neill I’m sorry and tell my Sam I love her and to let the Colonel go home.’ I couldn’t have messed this up more if I’d tried. I’m glad you guys are safe and I’m especially glad to hear you found another Sha’re. I know how lonely you’ve been all these years.”

Daniel looked embarrassed. “Ah, thanks. That’s not exactly the way it worked out, however.”

The robot O’Neill cocked an eyebrow.

“You’ll see. Tell the rest of the robots to join us in the teltac. You might as well come in and face Jack now.” He stepped aside and motioned the robot into the spaceship.

The real Jack O’Neill stood waiting for his counterpart hands on hips and a glare in his eyes. The robot came to attention in front of him. “Reporting for disciplinary action.” It stated.

Jack walked completely around him slowly, as if inspecting him in formation, stopped in front of him and stared straight into his own eyes. “I hear you destroyed an enemy death glider.”

“Yes, sir!”

“I also hear you destroyed the one you were flying.”

“Yes, sir!”

“Well, we’re even on that one. You saved my team and I brought a rescue mission to save your worthless ass.”

“Yes, sir!”

“General Hammond has put your team under my direction. From now on you will take your orders from him or from me and will not undertake any unauthorized missions. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Good! Your team will be designated as SG-1 Red. Your call names will be Red Jack, Red Sam, Red Dan, and Red T. Collect your team and be ready to leave here in 15.”

“Yes, sir! Question, sir?”

“What?”

“Red?”

“Its better than Romeo. Now, get going. And I still owe you for the packing crate caper. Don’t get complacent.”

“No, sir!” Red Jack turned on his heal and beat a quick retreat.

***

While this was going on, Daniel had found Sam and Jacob and led them some distance away from the teltac where they could speak privately. He found a rocky promontory near the shore where he could see in all directions and make sure they could not be overheard, seated himself on a rock and motioned Sam to join him, waving Jacob to another rocky seat.

“What’s this all about?” Jacob asked. He turned toward Sam. “I already gave Daniel my blessing, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Sam smiled. “Thank you dad. I appreciate that, but right now we have a very serious problem and, quite frankly, we think you and Selmak may be the only ones who can help us.”

Yes,” Daniel put his arm around Sam as he took up the tale, “we really need to talk to Selmak.”

Jacob’s head went down to his chest and then came up again, as Selmak began to speak. “I, too, want to congratulate you both and give you my blessing, for whatever you may think it is worth. Now, how can I help you?”

“Selmak, your approval means a lot to me, and I thank you both for trusting me to love and care for Sam. Unfortunately, what we have discovered makes our happiness insignificant in the grand scheme of things.”

“We have made two separate discoveries,” Sam added. “We found one of Machello’s devices in the village where we spent the winter.” She went on to explain what they had determined and described their encounter with the supply ship crew. “If there were no Goa’uld aboard, then they all died in space somewhere. If there were any Goa’uld aboard, then there may be some humans floating around in a teltac, as well as the group that took over the mother ship when the original incident occurred. You should tell your people to keep an eye out for these two ships. We also have to decide how to dispose of the Goa’uld killer so no Tokra can ever be infected.”

“But that’s not the most significant discovery,” Daniel said. He exchanged a look with Sam. A single tear rolled down her cheek and he raised a hand to wipe it away before turning back to Jacob/Selmak. He gulped and cleared his throat. “We have discovered a star chart which has markings in an unknown language. It lists certain planets which we are pretty sure house gates not listed on any other charts. We are almost positive these are timegates.”

“We are horribly afraid that, if this information falls into the wrong hands, life throughout the galaxy will become chaos,” Sam added. “We don’t know what to do and don’t dare tell anyone else, yet we can’t just destroy the charts. If the timegates exist, someone else will stumble across them eventually.”

“We are aware of the timegates,” Selmak stated. “They were created by a race so old that the Ancients would be considered infants at their feet. In fact, we believe that the Ancients discovered the laws of physics which allowed them to create the stargates from their artifacts. The gates can be used to go back in time, but the time traveler can not be seen by anyone in the past, nor can the traveler do anything to change the past.” Selmak’s head went down and Jacob’s came up. “In other words, relax kids. The worst thing that could happen using the gate is that someone would find the location of buried treasure and dig it up when they came back to the present. And they can’t be used to go into the future, nor can they be used to check out the past on a different planet. They only go into the past on the planet where they’re located.”

Sam and Daniel both realized they were holding each others hands so tightly their knuckles were turning white and relaxed their grips.

“How long have you kids been living with this over your heads?”

“Maybe five months,” Daniel ventured.

“Well, I’m glad we cleared that up. Let’s get back to the others.”

***

When they returned to the teltac everyone was aboard. A short flight brought them back to the stargate where the helicopter was unloaded. Jacob left the teltac hidden near the gate so it could be used later to dispose of the Goa’uld killer.

Jack activated the DHD himself, something he seldom did, and proudly let his reunited team back to the SGC, with Katy trotting at Daniel’s heals. Jacob, Sha’re, Jonas, Janet, and the four robots followed a moment later, each of the robots carrying a pup inside a vest.

Most of the SGC staff was lined up in the gateroom. As soon as they saw Sam and Daniel, a loud cheer went up and there was a thunderous round of applause. Sam paused at the base of the ramp, handed her P-90 off to a waiting SF, came to attention and saluted the crowd. Daniel passed over his P-90 to the SF, waved to the crowd and then tapped Sam on the shoulder. She turned to look at him and he took her in his arms for an extended kiss and then dipped her. The room became silent and then erupted in cheers and whistles as he set her back on her feet.

General Hammond stepped forward and Sam came back to attention to exchange salutes with him. He reached out to shake her hand and then pulled her into a bear hug, reaching out his other arm to Daniel and pulling him in as well. “Its wonderful to have you both back safe and sound,” he said.

“You know, sir,” Jack said, stepping up beside them. “I don’t recall Teal’c or I getting that kind of welcome. I’m not complaining, mind you, I’m just saying.”

Hammond started to laugh. “You are absolutely right. There is a party being set up as we speak to celebrate the safe return of all of SG-1. I put Marissa and Harlan in charge. We’ll all adjourn to me house for it as soon as we finish our debrief. In the meantime, I want you all upstairs. Jacob, would you care to join us? You’re the only one here I can’t order around.”

“I would be delighted, George. I haven’t heard all the details myself yet.”

***

A few minutes later everyone, including Katy, was assembled in the briefing room. The pups had been handed over to the base dog handlers so they could be given a flea bath, a good meal and a warm bed.

General Hammond opened the meeting with a formal welcome back for all of SG-1 and RSG-1. “Doctor Fraiser, Mr. Quinn, and especially you, General Carter, have my sincere thanks for your participation in this mission,” he added.

“Dr. Fraiser, do you have a medical report?”

“I haven’t had time to run post mission physicals, but as far as I can determine, Major Carter and Doctor Jackson are in perfect physical and mental health. They tell me that they both sustained injuries on the planet, which appear to have healed without problems.” She pointed to the faint scar on Daniel’s left arm. “As for RJ, Captain Carter assures me he is fully restored.”

The robot Sam nodded her head in agreement.

“That reminds me!” General Hammond stood and picked up a small box. “Captain Carter, front and center.”

The robot Sam stood and marched to his location, standing at attention in front of him.

“Colonel O’Neill, RJ, would you join me please.”

The two Colonels stood and moved to Hammond’s sides. He handed each of them a gold oak leaf. “By the power invested in me as commander of this facility, I hereby promote the robot Samantha Carter to the rank of major. She shall henceforth be referred to as Major S.”

Each of the Colonels pinned an oak leaf on Sam’s fatigue collar.

“We’ll do this properly with dress uniforms a little later, Major. Congratulations. Its long overdue.” He exchanged a salute with her and shook her hand. She saluted and shook hands with both Colonels, received a kiss on the cheek from each, and returned to her place at the table. As the Colonels and Hammond seated themselves, she received congratulations from the others.

“Next, I want to assure you robots that you have a permanent home here now. Harlan is in the process of dismantling his equipment and moving it here, along with the contents of your workrooms. RJ, you are on probation. I believe Colonel O’Neill has already explained your position, but let me reiterate. You will continue to command your team, under our direction. You will report directly to Colonel O’Neill, and you will follow his orders without deviation. Now, I would like you to explain how you managed to kidnap him and sneak him through the stargate.”

“Yes, sir. I just gated to the Land of Light and told Tuplo that I was on a secret mission. I asked him to send a delegation to the SGC requesting medical supplies and some sports equipment, including baseball bats and hockey sticks, something that would require a crate large enough to hide a man. Then I had them dress in long flowing robes and joined the delegation, staying in the background until I arrived at my guest quarters. I changed into civvies and hitchhiked to Colonel O’Neill’s house. I had already learned that he was off-world so I made myself at home. I used the yellow pages to order two crates and made arrangements to pick them up later. When he got home I zatted him and then injected him with something I had stolen from the infirmary. Then I used his truck to get the crates, filled one with a care package for him, and stuffed him in the other. I drove back to the base and had the crates transported to the gateroom. Then I slipped back to the delegation, gave them the coordinates of where to send the crates when they got home, and sent them on their way. Since I had no idea when SG-1 would be sent out again, I just hung around in Jack’s office or in the cafeteria until I found Daniel, who told me the time of the next briefing.”

“So you were with us when the Tokra told us about the Goa’uld plot?” Sam asked.

“You betcha! I was delighted that my first mission with you guys promised some action. I was worried that it would be one of those rock collecting expeditions.”

“Doctor Fraiser, why wasn’t RJ’s ruse detected when the delegation from the Land of Light received their physicals?”

“I don’t know sir.”

“If I may,” RJ raised his hand. “I had that worked out so that other members of the delegation switched with me for various parts of the physical. The only tricky part was the blood test. If you go back and check the records, doctor, you will find you have two samples of the same blood. I was worried about the post mission physical after my first mission with SG-1, but we never came back to the SGC. We just kept expanding our search and reporting in by radio from various planets.”

General Hammond continued to ask questions and take reports from all those who had participated in the mission for some time. There was much discussion about the quantum mirror planets and agreement that follow-up missions were needed. Daniel suggested that the timegate planets be considered for future missions, when transportation was available. Everyone agreed that helicopters with naquada power sources were very useful and recommendations were made that they be added as a line item to the next SGC budget request.

“I think that’s enough for today. Unless anyone has an urgent matter to discuss, I think we should adjourn to the welcome home party.” General Hammond looked around the table.

“Actually, General, there are several personnel matters which need to be resolved,” Jack stated. “First of all, I would like to expand the size of my team, at least temporarily. I would like to add Mr. Quinn, so that he can get used to how we operate. I believe he will be a fine addition to the SGC and I’d like to take him under my wing, so to speak, and give him a few pointers.”

“That is agreeable to me. Mr. Quinn, what are your feelings?”

“I would be honored, sir, to be a part of SG-1, even temporarily.”

“Good! That’s settled. Anything else, Colonel?”

“Yes, sir. I would also like to keep Sha’re on the team permanently. Before you make a decision on that, sir, you need to know that Sha’re has agreed to marry me.” He reached over and took her hand. “I believe she is well trained, has good instincts, and I honestly feel we can both keep our feelings out of our missions. As you know, some of our science teams already have married couples assigned together.”

“That is true, Colonel. What does the rest of the team think about this? Teal’c?”

“I have great confidence in Colonel O’Neill’s leadership ability and also his ability to keep his personal feelings separate from his command function. I would be comfortable with this change in our team.”

“Major Carter?” the General turned to Sam.

“Well, sir, I have no problem with it, but you should know that Colonel O’Neill is not the only member of the team who has established a relationship.” She blushed.

Daniel covered one of her hands with his. “As you may have guessed by my performance in the gateroom, Sam and I have also established a relationship.” He smiled at her and then turned back to General Hammond. “In fact we have made a written marriage agreement and are planning a wedding ceremony.”

“I see. Jacob, did you know about this?” Hammond turned to the other general at the table.

“Yes, they told me about it shortly after we found them.”

“Sir, if I may,” Sam interrupted. “Daniel and I have discussed the implications of our relationship and have worked out an arrangement which, we found through practical experience during our last mission, minimizes the danger of, um, distraction.”

“Part of our agreement with each other is that we will treat each other only as teammates when off-world,” Daniel added. “We learned and applied several valuable lessons during our ordeal.”

“Jack?” General Hammond asked.

“What’s sauce for the goose, sir. I have confidence in all four of us. Also, we will have two independent observers in Teal’c and Jonas. I’d like to suggest that you appoint the two of them as our watchdogs, to let us know immediately if they observe any problems and report back to you if they have concerns that are not corrected.”

“Mr. Quinn, Teal’c?”

“As long as I have Teal’c to guide me in any situations I don’t understand, yes, sir,” Jonas stated.

Teal’c just nodded.

“Very well, recommended changes in SG-1 composition will take place immediately. Anything else?”

There was silence for a moment.

“I don’t want to push my luck, sir,” Daniel said, “but we have four pups who need good homes. Teal’c tells me he has already promised a dog to Lonny. Jack says he’ll take one and I have persuaded Jonas that he needs a pet. That leaves one. I wondered, General, if you would be interested in adopting a lovable puppy. I’m sure your grandchildren would be charmed.” He raised his eyebrows in a question.

General Hammond started to laugh. “All right, doctor, you’ve sold me. Now, let’s go to the party.”

***

General Hammond glanced up as he heard a knock on his open door, waving his hand to indicate entrance. “Sit down son. I’ve been expecting you. I see you got that haircut.”

“Sir?”

Hammond looked up sharply. “Which one are you?”

“I’m the human one, sir.” Daniel smiled. “I came to talk to you about Sha’re.”

“So he talked to you about her. I was hoping he would.”

“No, sir, he didn’t. I just know him too well. He needs her with him, sir, just as I need Sam. Sam and I had almost six months to work out our position and we are confident that we can work together without jeopardizing the team in the field. What we can’t handle is worrying about each other if we’re on different teams off on different assignments. We are grateful that you have enough confidence in our integrity to let us stay together, but Sha’re is still worried she won’t live up Jack’s standards.”

“What are you . . .?” Another knock interrupted the General’s question and the second Daniel stuck his head around the corner.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said. “There was a line at the base barbershop.” He hesitated. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize . . . Hi, Dr. J. Uh, I’ll come back later, General.”

“No, come in and sit down. I was going to recommend that the three of us have a talk about your problem, if that’s all right with you.”

The robot came in and closed the door, before sitting in the vacant chair. “Sure, I never thought about discussing it with him, since he and Sam are, well, uh, sure.” He turned toward Daniel. “I have an ethical problem I asked General Hammond to help me with.”

“Ethical problem?” Daniel asked incredulously. He looked at General Hammond who nodded.

“Is that so hard to believe?” the robot asked. “You and I are basically the same. We have the same beliefs, the same background, the same work ethic. Up until your Sha’re died, we had the same things motivating us, the same needs and desires, the same dreams. The only difference is that you’ve had a couple of years to get over her and I just found out she died a few months ago. Not too long after that I met her alive and well. We explained to the General and to Jack that we started going on missions because, essentially, we were SG-1 and were compelled to do so. But I had an additional reason. I wanted to find Sha’re and get her back for you just as much as you wanted to get her back yourself. As the years went on, I began to think that if we found her and restored her to you, maybe she would allow herself to be duplicated so that I would have a companion.” He stopped and dropped his head.

General Hammond looked back and forth between the two. With the robot’s new haircut, it was impossible to tell the difference between them now.

“I think I understand. I remember the fire that burned within me to find Sha’re. But why do you think I would have any influence with this Sha’re? From what I’ve seen of her, I believe she would allow you to make a duplicate, but you have to ask her yourself.”

“No, that’s not the problem. She’s already been duplicated.”

“Well, then I guess I don’t understand. What’s your problem?”

The robot’s eyes came up to meet his twin’s. “How can I activate her to be my companion without her becoming my slave? What if she doesn’t want to be with me?”

“We all face that fear.”

“No, I don’t mean, what will I do if she rejects me. I mean what can she do if she wants to reject me, but she can’t because of her programming? That’s slavery. I’ve thought about not activating her at all, but, as I told General Hammond, that’s the same thing as abortion. She has a right to a life now that she’s been created, but she has a right to lead her own life. Its also been pointed out to me that, unlike any of the SG-1 robots, she will know she is a robot as soon as she is activated, because Sha’re knew when she let her mind be imprinted.”

General Hammond cleared his throat. “RD came to me with this problem before he left to search for you and I promised I would try to help, but, quite frankly, I don’t have an answer, either.”

Daniel stood and looked through the General’s window out into the conference room and beyond into the gateroom. He could see the top of the stargate from his position. He continued to stare at it for some time. Finally he turned and leaned against the glass, folding his arms and frowning. “I might have an idea. You robots can talk to each other on your internal radios, right?”

The robot nodded.

“Can you control what you transmit, or do all your thoughts go through the link?”

“They’re just like your radios, but they’re internal. We only send what we want to send and only when we want to send it. Why?”

“Is there a carrier signal, so the other’s know you’re still activated when the radio’s not on?”

“No. It really is just a radio. If its off, its off.”

“Okay, the Sha’re robot isn’t going to know about the internal radios when she wakes up anyway, is she? How did you find out?”

“Harlan told us. What is all this about?”

“I just want to make sure she won’t get any information from an outside source until we’re ready to give it to her. Here’s what I want to do . . .”

***

The robot became aware of her surroundings. She could feel that she was on something soft and comfortable, probably a bed. There was a strong hand holding one of hers. She could hear some faint noises, which she recognized as the usual creaks and groans of Cheyenne Mountain. She opened her eyes to see Teal’c sitting beside her. He helped her sit up on the cot and then dropped her hand.

“I am pleased that you have been activated. Are you functioning normally?” he asked.

“I believe so. Where are the rest of the robots?”

“I am not a robot. I am Teal’c. You will meet the robots soon. I have been sent to explain some things to you as I have no emotional involvement in your situation. First, I must tell you that all of us, the humans, the robots, and myself, wish only for your well being. Sha’re allowed herself to be duplicated because she felt that RD, as we are calling the Daniel robot, deserved a companion. She did this without his knowledge and consent. He feels that you should be allowed to make your own choices, that you should not automatically be drawn to him as a companion. General Hammond has allowed the robots to become part of the SGC. They will not have to stay on Harlan’s planet any longer. Sha’re, herself, is now the companion of Colonel O’Neill. Major Carter and Daniel Jackson have formed a permanent relationship. You have several choices. You may take as much time as you wish and make whatever decision you wish. I understand you will live several thousand years, so time is of no importance. Do you understand?”

“I believe so. You are telling me that I may choose Danyel or I may choose independence. What other choices are there?”

“Currently, there is Harlan or the Teal’c robot. That does not mean other robots will not be created at some time in the future.”

The door opened and both Daniels stepped into the room. “Or,” one said, “you can choose both independence . . .”

“And a relationship,” the other finished. Teal’c backed out of the room and quietly closed the door as the two Daniel’s pulled up stools in front of Sha’re and began to alternate their conversation.

“We both know that your heritage and the customs of Abydos tell you that your husband is your lord and master.”

“But, if you search your mind, your will see from your experience at the SGC that this is not the custom on Earth.”

“Nor was it a custom followed by your late husband.”

“Both of us care about you very much.”

“And we will both continue to care about you, whatever you decide.”

“One of us loves you and the other reveres your memory.”

“We want to give you time to adjust to this life, to let you work with the humans and get used to all of us.”

“Stop!” Sha’re raised her hand. “I do not even know which of you is real and which is the robot.”

“We don’t want you to.”

“We figure you can’t bond with one of us if you don’t know which one is which.”

“We’re going to rotate in and out of the team for a while until you get comfortable with your situation.”

“Now, we’re going to send in the rest of the robots. One of us will be back later.” They exited the room and shooed the other robots in to meet Sha’re. “Do you think this will really work?” RD asked.

“I think its our best shot. We’ll just have to give it some time.”

 

 EPILOGUE

Several weeks later most of the SGC personnel who were not on duty were grouped around the stargate on the planet where Sam and Daniel had spent six months. The Cheyenne Mountain base chaplain stood between Jack and Daniel. Their friends were grouped around them in a circle. Janet and Jonas held hands, as did the Jack and Sam robots. Cassandra was holding Katy’s leash. Catherine and Ernest Littlefield had been given seats of honor. Two vacant chairs waited next to theirs. Skaara and Duna were receiving congratulations from everyone who came up to see their baby. Teal’c and Marissa, who had just returned from their honeymoon, watched as Lonny received permission to touch the baby.

The Teal’c and Daniel robots were conversing quietly off to the side, staying out of the flow of traffic. The Sha’re robot approached them and touched RD on the arm. He turned to her as RT excused himself and moved away.

“Danyel, this is the first time I have been able to talk to you alone. Please, may we have a private conversation.” She took his hand and let him away from the group. “I understand why you and your twin did what you did, but it was not necessary. I did not need time to make a decision. Something within Sha’re always loved Danyel, part of her never gave him up, and that is the part of her that she passed on to me. I remember the year they spent together, as I am sure you do, and that year was the most beautiful, exciting, time of her life. I do not want to lead a life separate from you. I can’t imagine such a thing.”

“See, that’s what we were trying to avoid. If you can’t imagine a life without me, you may be missing out on a lot.”

“Danyel, I can tell the difference between you and your twin. I learned there were differences almost immediately. You treat me like you love me. He treats me like a friend.”

“What? I do love you, but how could you tell the difference? I can’t tell the difference between the others unless we are communicating.”

“You’re not in love with any of the others. Can you tell the difference between me and Sha’re?”

“Yes, now that you mention it. Hmm! So you’re saying the only reason we can tell us from our twins is because we love each other?”

“Yes!”

“Well, in that case, I guess I won’t have to wear an RD tag so you will know me.”

No, you won’t.” She smiled up at him.

“I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time.” His arms closed around her and he leaned down to kiss her. Her arms went around his neck as she returned the kiss. “You do realize this could go on for several thousand years?” he murmured.

“I’m looking forward to it,” she answered.

***

Back at the SGC the gate whooshed open and General Hammond, Catherine and Ernest Littlefield, Doctor Janet Fraiser, Cassandra Fraiser, Lieutenant Jennifer Hailey and Lieutenant Graham Simmons emerged.

“Welcome to my reality,” General Hammond stepped up to shake hands with his counterpart. If you will all step to the bottom of the ramp, we will dial our destination.” He took his counterpart aside as the others waited for the wormhole to open. “We will be moving the quantum mirror here to the SGC soon, so your next trip will be shorter. We will set up the same procedures you outlined to my people. My President hopes that our two realities will become allies.”

“My President has expressed the same wish.”

The other visitors exited through the wormhole as Kasuf entered the gateroom. “General Hammond, the brides are ready,” he announced.

Sam and Sha’re, both wearing cocktail length dresses, entered the gateroom. Sam’s was off-white, Sha’re’s the color of pale sand. Each carried a bouquet of flowers Kasuf had brought from Abydos.

The Generals, Kasuf, and Jacob Carter took their places behind the brides. Sam and Sha’re stepped through together, Sam followed by her father and her own General Hammond. Kasuf and the other General Hammond followed Sha’re. When they exited the wormhole the men ranged themselves on either side of their wards and the six walked down the steps together. As the stargate shut down they reached Jack and Daniel who took the hands of their respective brides. Then Sam reached out to take Jack’s hand, as Sha’re reached for Daniel’s and the four formed a circle around the chaplain, who was standing on a raised platform so that he could be seen by the wedding guests.

Katy tugged herself free and moved to sit quietly between Sam and Daniel.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here to celebrate the union of two couples in marriage. They have elected to compose their own ceremony and vows. I am merely here to make it official. Who has guarded these women and brought them forward to this day?” the chaplain asked.

“We are here as Sha’re’s guardians,” Kasuf and one of the Hammonds stated.

“We are here as Samantha’s guardians,” Jacob and the General Hammond from this reality stated. All four men stepped back to join the spectators.

“Who has guarded these men and brought them forward to this day?” the chaplain asked.

“I have!” Teal’c stepped forward and placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder and then moved to place the hand on Daniel’s shoulder. Then he stepped to the center of the circle, ducking under the joined hands that Sha’re and Jack raised. He stepped up on the platform with the chaplain. “These four have come here to formalize their pairings, but they are much more than mates. They and I share a bond that transcends friendship and has not been affected by death or even a shift in realities. As they pledge themselves to each other, I also pledge myself to them to continue as their guardian and their friend.” He stepped down from the platform.

“Daniel.” the chaplain prompted.

Jack said, “About face!” quietly and the four dropped hands and turned 180 degrees to face outward, as did Katy. Daniel took Sam’s hand again as he raised his voice so he could be heard by the assemblage. “I, Daniel Garrett Jackson, choose you, Samantha Carter, as my lawful wedded wife. I pledge myself to remain faithful to you, to love, and cherish you as long as we both shall live.”

“I, Samantha Carter, choose you, Daniel Garrett Jackson, as my lawful wedded husband. I pledge myself to remain faithful to you, to love, and cherish you as long as we both shall live.”

Daniel reached out and Teal’c placed a ring in his palm. He placed the ring on Sam’s finger saying, “With this ring I thee wed. I place it on your finger as a symbol of our union of body, mind, and spirit.”

Teal’c placed another ring in Sam’s hand. She put it on Daniel’s finger saying. “You will carry this ring for me not to the crack of doom, but to seal our life together.”

Jack cleared his throat. “Sha’re, I, Jonathon O’Neill, take you as my lawful wedded wife. I pledge to remain faithful to you, to love and cherish you as long as you can stand to have me around, and, probably, a long time after that.”

There was laughter from the crowd.

“I, Sha’re, take you, Jonathon O’Neill, to be my husband. I promise to remain faithful to you, to love and care for you, to honor you in all things, for as long as I live.”

“Teal’c,” Jack reached for a ring and placed it on Sha’re’s finger. “Sha’re, you know I love you, so whatever Daniel said goes for me, too.”

Share took the last ring from Teal’c. “This Earth symbol of marriage I give to you as a symbol of my love,” she said as she placed the ring on his finger.

The chaplain completed the ceremony by saying, “by the power invested in me as a chaplain in the U. S. Air Force, I now pronounce you husbands and wives. You may kiss your spouse.”

As they watched the newlyweds kiss, Janet leaned back against Jonas. “That was really sweet,” she whispered.

“Is it too soon to start writing vows?” he asked.

“Why, Mr. Quinn, was that a proposal?”

“Only if you want it to be.”

“Break it up, you two,” Cassie hissed. “You’re embarrassing me.”

“We’ll finish this conversation later,” Jonas promised as he led Janet forward to congratulate the happy couples.

 

STARGATE NAMES AND TERMS:

Abydos - A planet where Daniel Jackson spent a year with his wife Sha’re, before she was kidnapped and turned into a Goa’uld by Apophis.

Accretian disk - Don’t ask, its got something to do with astrophysics. You have to watch the episode Singularity to get the explanation.

Apophis - A bad ass Goa’uld, with nine lives. Every time SG-1 things they’ve finally killed him, he shows up again. We’re all pretty sure he’s dead now.

Ammonet - Apophis Goa’uld Queen, she took over Sha’re’s body. Teal’c killed her to save Daniel.

Area 51 - An adjunct of Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, Nevada. In Stargate, its where some of the artifacts brought back by SGC teams are stored.

Asgard - One of Earth’s important allies. They look like the little gray men of Roswell fame, are very smart, and have way cool space ships.

Beretta - Hand gun used by the US military as a sidearm.

BDU - Battle dress uniform, the blue uniforms without insignia worn on base.

BOQ - Bachelor Officer’s Quarters; where you sleep when you visit a base.

Cassandra - Janet Fraiser’s adopted daughter.

Cassie - Cassandra.

Cheyenne Mountain - This is a real USAF facility located near Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is home to NORAD (the North American Air Defense Command); Space Command and several other Air Force Commands. It is also home to the SGC. The stargate is buried deep within Cheyenne Mountain. The inside of the real mountain looks nothing like what you see on Stargate.

Death glider - a Goa’uld fighter plane, can function in space or in atmosphere.

DHD - Dial home device - looks like a 4 to 5 foot tall mushroom, with concentric rings on the top. Used like a telephone dial to select a stargate destination.

Embarkation room - See gateroom.

Entropic cascade failure - A condition which occurs when a person from one reality goes through a quantum mirror to another reality and meets themself. The person in the wrong reality begins to suffer after 48 hours and will eventually die. This does not occur if the original inhabitant of the reality is dead, nor does the problem occur with robots.

Event horizon - The surface of a black hole. In Stargate the term its used to mean the spot where you step into the stargate.

FRED - Field remote Expeditionary Device. A remote controlled vehicle used to carry equipment through the stargate.

Gate - Stargate

Gateroom - The room at the SGC where the stargate is located. Also called the embarkation room. The control room overlooks the gateroom. The conference room is immediately above the control room and also has a window overlooking the gateroom. A blast shield comes down from the gateroom ceiling and covers the windows of both the conference room and control room to protect these rooms from unfriendly fire coming through the stargate or within the gateroom.

GDO - Garage door opener. (No lie, that’s what it stands for.) It looks like a TV remote control and is used to let Stargate Command know who is calling them on the DHD so they don’t let the bad guys through the stargate by mistake. A GDO can be strapped on the arm or carried in a pocket.

Glider - Same as death glider.

Goa’uld - The bad guys! Basically short snakes which slither inside people, crawl into their minds and take over their bodies. They live thousands of years and their host bodies do as well, but the hosts have no will of their own. (Hey, I didn’t invent them!)

Harsesis Child - A human child born to two Goa’uld hosts with all the knowledge of the Goa’uld, Shi’fu is a Harsesis child born to Ammonet (Sha’re) and Apophis.

Hathor - A bad ass Goa’uld. Nasty lady.

HAZMAT suit - Hazardous materials. (A radiation suit.)

Hyperspace - What you’re in when you’re at hyperspeed.

Hyperspeed - Faster than light speed.

Intel - Intelligence; information.

Jaffa - The soldiers of the Goa’uld. A Jaffa soldier carries a larval Goa’uld in a pouch in his stomach area. The Goa’uld gives him good health, a long life, and rapid healing ability, but these Goa’uld do not control the Jaffa who carry them. When the Goa’uld matures it must seek a human host and the Jaffa either gets a new larva or he dies. For years we couldn’t figure out why the Goa’uld let so many of the Jaffa be slaughtered in battle (since they were carrying the Goa’uld larva), until Daniel discovered the Goa’uld rulers wanted to keep their own population down so they didn’t loose control of the galaxy.

Jolinar - A Tokra who took over Sam’s body for a short time in an emergency. She died to save Sam’s life.

Jonas - There are two. The first was Sam’s fiancée at one time, Jonas Hansen, a real jerk. The second is Jonas Quinn.

Kal-no-reem - A Jaffa meditation technique which replaces sleep. Humans can not kal-no-reem but can use some of the techniques as a calming ritual.

Klorel - The Goa’uld who took over Skaara’s body.

Machello - An enemy of the Goa’uld. He came up with lots of scientific inventions to destroy or harass them.

MALP - Mobile Analytical Laboratory Probe. A remote control ground vehicle which precedes humans through the stargate to check out a new planet. Equipped with a TV camera and radio; can be used to relay signals through the stargate from teams on other planets.

Mark Carter - Sam’s brother; Jacob’s son.

Mile High Club - Probably was started by the first pilot to have sex in the air.

Mother ship - Biiiig Goa’uld space ship

MP- 5 - The original automatic rifle carried by SG teams. Shells eject sideways.

MRE - Meals ready to eat - What you eat in the field.

Naquada - Used to create enormous amounts of power in various ways. Think uranium only better. Liquid naquada is in the blood of modern day Goa’uld and Tokra, enabling them to use a variety of special hand weapons and devices. Sam, who once hosted a Tokra for a short time, has naquada in her system and can also use these weapons and devices.

Naquadria - An enhanced version of naquada, artificially created. Very volatile.

NID - A fictitious civilian intelligence service of the US, invented solely to harass the SGC. NID personnel are mostly bad guys. They have a unit at Area 51, which is an adjunct of Nellis Air Force Base, and also one at the Pentagon.

OD - Officer of the Day; the person in charge until the OIC gets there.

OIC - Officer in charge.

Oma Desala - Mother nature. A super being made of light. A good guy, ur girl.

P-90 - An automatic rifle now carried by the SG teams. Ejects shells downward (so the actors don’t get hit in the face with the spent shells.) I also hear it has a more rapid rate of fire than the MP-5.

Quantum mirror - A doorway to alternate realities.

Replicators - Nasty little metal spiders that can eat through anything and don’t like anybody, even the Goa’uld.

Reetou - Strange looking great big spider like aliens who live out of phase with humans and are invisible to us, unless looked at through a special device. Some are good guys, some are bad guys. They kind of reminded me of some of the bug soldiers in the movie ‘Starship Troopers.’

Ring transporter - Like a Star Trek transporter, except there are rings around the transported thing or person to protect them during transport. The rings are stored in the ceiling or floor of the compartment when not in use.

Rya’c - Teal’c’s son.

Sara - There are two. One is Jack’s ex-wife. She’s actually not mentioned in this novel. The second is a colleague Daniel had a short affair with before he went to Abydos. Unfortunately, she’s back now in the series. Boo! Hiss!

Sarcophagus - A device used to regenerate a dying being. Use of the sarcophagus allows the Goa’uld to live thousands of years and makes them inherently evil. Humans can use them but overuse fries their brains. The Tokra would rather die than use one. They believe their refusal to us a sarcophagus is what separates them from the Goa’uld.

Senator Kinsey - A human villain, a crooked politician who makes life miserable for the SGC whenever he can. He really hates Jack.

SF - This appears to stand for special forces, its the police force of Stargate Command and maybe of Cheyenne Mountain.

SG-1 - SGC Flagship team: Colonel Jack O’Neill, commands; Major Samantha Carter, a doctor of theoretical astrophysics; Dr. Daniel Jackson, a civilian with doctorates in archeology, anthropology and linguistics - speaks and reads at least 23 Earth languages, plus various Goa’uld and other alien languages; Teal’c, a Jaffa who used to be a general (First Prime) in the service of Apophis.

SGC - Stargate Command, the operating authority for the stargate program

Shi’fu - Sha’re’s child. Daniel’s step-son. A Harsesis child.

Sho’va - (or it might be Shol’va) - Traitor.

Shyla - a princess who turned Daniel into a love zombie for a short time.

Sidearm - Handgun

Six - Back. I’m on your six means I’m watching your back. Aviation term based on a clock face. 12 o’clock is straight ahead and 6 o’clock is straight behind.

Skaara - Sha’re’s brother.

Staff weapon - a device which looks like a staff and shoots fire. Think of it as a rifle that shoots fire. You can also turn it around and use the butt end to smack people down or hold it in the middle and use it like a quarterstaff.

Stargate - what this series is all about - a round ring, which when activated, can send people to other planets, or ships, with another stargate. When its turned on, it looks like a round swimming pool full of blue water, standing on its side.

System Lord - A Goa’uld ruler.

Tau’ri - What the Jaffa call the people of Earth

Teltac - Small space ship used by both the Goa’uld and the Tokra.

Thor - Asgard battle commander. A good guy.

Tokra - Allies of earth, they come from Goa’uld stock but are good guys and share bodies with their human hosts, rather than taking them over. Sam’s dad, General Jacob Carter, is a Tokra.

UAV - Unmanned Aerial Vehicle - A tiny remote control reconnaissance aircraft flown through the stargate to explore other worlds.

Vest - Flack vest with pockets to carry handy items like radios and binoculars.

Wormhole - Comes into being when the stargate is activated. Its got nothing to do with worms.

Zat gun - A Goa’uld hand gun which fires an electric charge. One shot stuns, two shots kill, and three shots disintegrate.

FOREIGN PHRASES

Amo - I love (Latin)

Cara mia - My dear (Italian or Spanish)

Dorme - Sleep (French)

Glace bonni - Ice maiden (French)

Je adore - I adore you (French)

Joie de vie - Joy of life (French)

Moi - me (French)

Moi miel - My honey (French)

Mon bijou - My jewel (French)

Mon petit soldat - My small soldier (French)

Pulcra puella - Beautiful girl (Latin)

Quid - What (Latin)

Sucre coeur - Sweetheart (French)

Te - you (Latin)

Te amo - I love you (Latin)

In perpetua te amo - I love you forever (Latin)

Tua cerebrum te amo - I love your brain (Latin)

Tua oculi te amo - I love your eyes (Latin)

Tua spirare te amo - I love your breath (Latin)

Meus uxor es et te amo - You are my wife and I love you (Latin)

Mea maritus es te amo - You are my husband and I love you (Latin)

 

STARGATE EPISODES - Seasons 1 through 6 (Number indicates season)

ABSOLUTE POWER 4

ABYSS 6

ALLEGIANCE 6

ASCENSION 5

 

BANE 2

BEAST OF BURDEN 5

BENEATH THE SURFACE 4

BETWEEN TWO FIRES 5

BLOODLINES 1

BRIEF CANDLE 1

THE BROCA DIVIDE 1

 

CHAIN REACTION 4

THE CHANGELING 6

CHILDREN OF THE GODS 1

COLD LAZARUS 1

COR-AI 1

CROSSROADS 4

CRYSTAL SKULL 3

CURE 6

THE CURSE 4

 

DEADMAN’S SWITCH 3

DEMONS 3

DESCENT 6

DESPERATE MEASURES 5

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW 3

DISCLOSURE 6

DIVIDE AND CONQUER 4

DOUBLE JEAPORDY 4

 

EMANCIPATION 1

ENEMIES 5

THE ENEMY WITHIN 1

ENIGMA 1

ENTITY 4

EXODUS 4

 

FAIL SAFE 5

FAIR GAME 3

FAMILY 2

THE FIFTH MAN 5

THE FIFTH RACE 2

FIRE AND WATER 1

1ST COMMANDMENT 1

THE FIRST ONES 4

FOOTHOLD 3

FOREVER IN A DAY 3

FORSAKEN 6

48 HOURS 5

FROZEN 6

FULL CIRCLE 6

THE GAMEKEEPER 2

 

HATHOR 1

HOLIDAY 2

A HUNDRED DAYS 3

 

IN THE LINE OF DUTY 2

INTO THE FIRE 3

 

JOLINAR’S MEMORIES 3

 

LAST STAND 5

LEARNING CURVE 3

LEGACY 3

THE LIGHT 4

 

MATERNAL INSTINCT 3

A MATTER OF TIME 2

MEMENTO 6

MENACE 5

MERIDIAN 5

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE 2

METAMORPHOSIS 6

 

NEMESIS 3

NEED 2

NEW GROUND 3

NIGHTWALKERS 6

1969 2

THE NOX 1

 

ONE FALSE STEP 2

THE OTHER GUYS 6

THE OTHER SIDE 4

OUT OF MIND 2

 

PARADISE LOST 6

PAST & PRESENT 3

POINT OF NO RETURN 4

POINT OF VIEW 3

POLITICS 1

PRETENSE 3

PRISONERS 2

PRODIGY 4

PROMETHEUS 6

PROPHECY 6

PROVING GROUND 5

 

RED SKY 5

REDEMPTION Pt 1&2 6

REVELATIONS 5

RITE OF PASSAGE 5

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT 3

 

SCORCHED EARTH 4

SECRETS 2

THE SENTINEL 5

SERPENT’S LAIR 2

SERPENT’S SONG 2

SERPENT’S VENOM 4

SETH 3

SHADES OF GREY 3

SHADOW PLAY 6

SHOW AND TELL 2

SIGHT UNSEEN 6

SINGULARITY 1

SMALL VICTORIES 4

SMOKE & MIRRORS 6

SOLITUDES 1

SPIRITS 2

SUMMIT 5

 

TANGENT 4

THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD 1

THOR’S CHARIOT 2

THOR’S HAMMER 1

THRESHHOLD 5

TIN MAN 1

THE TOKRA Pt 1&2 2

THE TOMB 5

THE TORMENT OF TANTALUS 1

TOUCHSTONE 2

2001 5

2010 4

 

UNNATURAL SELECTION 6

UPGRADES 4

URGO 3

 

THE WARRIOR 5

WATERGATE 4

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY 4

WITHIN THE SERPENT’S GRASP 1

WORMHOLE X-TREME 5