Summary: Daniel comes to a reluctant conclusion, and it's one that could have deadly consequences for everyone he knows, including his beagles.
~Okay, where'd he go?~ Jack grumbled to himself while putting on his sweats and going on a search of the house for his wayward husband.
Jack and Daniel had made love earlier in the evening, but Daniel had been unusually quiet. Then again, over the last couple of weeks, he'd frequently been lost in his private thoughts, stewing over some inner problem that he hadn't yet chosen to share with his husband.
~Time to uncork his mind,~ the silver-haired man decided as he walked down the stairs. He didn't have to look very hard as both of the couple's beagles were sitting at the patio door, looking out the window. ~I can't believe he locked them in on purpose.~ With a sigh, Jack concluded, ~He was probably concentrating so hard that he didn't realize they were there.~
"Woof," Bijou told Jack quietly.
"Yeah, I know. He's got something going on in that brain of his," Jack responded. "How about we go outside and drag it out of him?"
The girls sat up, indicating their agreement to the plan.
In the backyard, Daniel was sitting cross legged in the middle of the lawn. The fact that it was cold and damp apparently hadn't deterred him from taking up the position. The archaeologist was facing the house, just staring at it.
"Daniel, it's cold out here," Jack pointed out needlessly, rubbing his arms and making a brrr-like sound with his lips. "Let's go inside and talk about whatever's on your mind."
The younger man was oblivious to Jack's comment. He wasn't looking up into his lover's eyes, but was staring straight ahead. When he spoke, he completely ignored the request to come in from the cold and dampness of the night. In fact, the only real acknowledgement that he wasn't alone was his automatic reaction of patting the beagles as they stood, one on each side of him.
"As curious as we are, we still believe we're superior. Fighting the Goa'uld has added to our arrogance. We think that, no matter what, we'll be victorious. We haven't learned anything," Daniel opined in a quiet but disturbed tone of voice.
"Yeah, well, we have big egos," Jack somewhat agreed. "Let's talk it over inside," he suggested hopefully, cocking his head towards the house. ~Why didn't I put on my slippers before coming out here? My feet are turning into ice blocks, and your cute little butt must be completely frozen.~
"We don't have a right to our arrogance, Jack. We have to help those people," Daniel put forth emphatically.
"Okay," Jack agreed hesitantly. "What people are you talking about?" he asked while reluctantly sitting down in front of his lover, mirroring his position. ~He's not about to budge until he gets this out. We'll warm each other up after this little chitchat.~
"The people in the other galaxy."
"*Which* galaxy?" Jack inquired, getting a sinking feeling about the direction of the conversation.
Daniel shifted his gaze and stared at his Love, knowing he wasn't going to like the answer; still, he believed in what he was saying and stated clearly, "The Ori."
"You're *not* serious," Jack responded sharply.
"Jack, we have plans. We're on the verge of starting a family. Do you really think we can just retire from the SGC and have a baby and pretend like the Ori aren't out there?" Daniel asked, pointing to the stars twinkling in the midnight sky.
"In a heartbeat," Jack claimed ardently.
"Well, we can't," Daniel declared with certainty. "Jack, there are billions of people doing the Ori's bidding. We can't turn our backs on them." Seeing his husband wasn't convinced, the archaeologist challenged, "What if the situations were reversed? How would you feel about ... about being *left behind* by a galaxy that had the capability to free us?"
"Don't try turning it into something it's not," Jack argued, not liking his lover's challenge.
"I'm not. That's exactly what we're doing, Jack. We're leaving behind an entire galaxy of people who are being forced to follow The Book of Origin because they don't know how to fight the Ori."
"*Neither* do we," Jack pointed out. Frustrated, he looked off to the side before turning his head back to face his husband. "Daniel, we don't know squat about those weirdos."
"We know more than most of our counterparts did," Daniel stated, while staring down into his empty hands.
"The wackos in that alternate universe."
"It was an alternate reality," Daniel corrected, his eyes burning into those of his Love. "And those wackos, Jack, were us, only they'd, we'd, had different experiences impacting our lives."
"We're not prepared to fight the Ori."
"Janet told me she's already prepared a small supply of the serum to cure the plague, and Sam says the scientists are working hard on some of the anti-prior technology that we learned about in the alternate reality."
"Daniel, listen to me," Jack implored as his leaned in close to his soulmate. "If we open the door and let in the Ori, how are you going to feel if it there's a difference between our bad guys and the bad guys of the other realities? What if that vaccine doesn't work? What if the guys in our universe have powers or technology we haven't learned about?" Jack paused and let out an audible sigh. "Look, I hear you, but we can't take the chance."
"They're going to come, Jack. We've been fooling ourselves into thinking they won't."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Khalek," Daniel answered, seeing his lover's grimace at hearing the name of Anubis' cloned son. "Jack, several things we were told about in the alternate reality have been happening to teams here since we came back. It's just a matter of time."
"It would be a mistake."
"We can't let those people continue to suffer, and we can't let ourselves be caught off guard. Jack, our child -- he or she could be a victim of the Ori. So you tell me. How would you feel if someday, knowing we could have acted now and didn't, our child ended up a slave, or worse?"
"That's not fair."
"Life isn't fair," Daniel retorted.
Groaning, Jack stood up and began walking back towards the house. Reaching the steps of the patio porch, he turned and called out.
"No, I think I'll ..."
"Daniel, the girls are freezing out here, and I'm tired. Let's get some sleep." Making a face, he acquiesced, "We can't talk to Hammond until the morning anyway."
"You'll talk to him?"
"We're a team, Angel, remember? We'll talk to him together, *after* we get some sleep." ~Plus, I would like to thaw out my frozen husband.~ He held out his hand and implored, "Daniel ... please."
After a moment, Daniel stood and walked over to his lover, taking Jack's hand. Their eyes met, locked into a silent but powerful communication.
"There's no way I can talk you out of this, is there?" Jack asked pointedly.
"No. I've been struggling with it ever since we got back from that reality," Daniel confessed. "I tried to let it go, but I knew when we found Khalek that we were lying to ourselves. Those people in that other galaxy may be strangers to us, but one day it could our child in need of, of protection an...and help, from people who are strangers to them. We have to do what's right, Jack, or we don't have a right to be parents."
"You realize there's a cost to this," Jack stated solemnly, not needing to speak verbally about the potential toll on human life that would undoubtedly take place.
"You're the best, Jack. I *know* that you will do everything you can to minimize the losses. You've trained most of the personnel. You've taught them how to survive." Daniel hesitated a moment, fully aware that no matter what, good men and women would most likely die in what would be in the future. "Because of you, the losses will be less."
With a nod, Jack pulled his Love close. They shared a tender kiss, both of their bodies responding to their closeness.
Bijou and Katie looked at each other, both somehow sensing what was coming. They considered making a dash for their warm doghouse, but decided they wanted the superior warmth of the house. They ran right up to the door in anticipation of their humans following. Then they'd cuddle in their roomy beanbag in the living room and try to sleep, in spite of those loud and funny sounds they knew would be coming from the master bedroom.
"Jack, are you really tired?"
"Not *that* tired," Jack responded.
"Good," Daniel replied, kissing his soulmate as the couple renewed their foreplay that would lead to the hot passion of their bodies becoming one.
The next morning, a yawning Daniel stopped cold, staring down at the steaming hot and delicious looking foods on the table in the kitchen nook.
"Uh, that's a ... a lot of food, Babe," the archaeologist observed. "Eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, pancakes, *and* waffles."
"And hashed browns," Jack piped, walking over with the skillet and pouring out a blazing hot batch of golden potatoes.
"I can't eat all that."
"Daniel, if we're about to embark on a war with some devil-like bad guys, we're gonna start out with full stomachs. This may be the last decent meal we eat in weeks," Jack warned as he returned the skillet to the top of the stove.
"It happens," Jack teased lightly, wiping his hands on a kitchen towel and then returning to where his lover was still standing. He stared at the younger man, dressed in black denim jeans and a dark blue and gray plaid shirt. It was open, the archaeologist not having fastened the top four buttons as yet. ~Inviting, but we don't have time,~ Jack lamented. "Plaid?"
"Huh?" Daniel responded. He followed his Love's gesture to the shirt and reacted quickly. "Oh? Uh, I don't know. It was just there, in the drawer."
"We can fix that."
"We don't have time," Daniel replied with a wishful smile.
Jack moved forward, taking Daniel into his arms. The soulmates kissed a few times as they said a proper 'good morning' to each other.
"Danny, I did a lot of thinking last night."
"That must have hurt," the blue-eyed man quipped, gently placing a kiss on Jack's temple.
"Smart-aleck," Jack retorted. He took a breath and continued with his thoughts. "What you said about our kid. I remember when Charlie was born. No one was going to hurt my kid. I swore I'd protect him from everything."
Daniel saw the pain in Jack's eyes. He could hear his lover's unspoken thought, that he had protected Charlie from everyone but himself.
Letting the past stay in the past, Jack stated, "We have to protect our kid, and that means going after the bad guys, again. You're right about that."
"But?" Daniel queried, seeing a hesitation in Jack's eyes.
The older man lifted Daniel's hand to him. He bowed his head, kissing the ring that adorned the archaeologist's finger.
"How long?" Jack questioned, his hands caressing Daniel's and running against the gold band as if it were sacred, which it was to both men.
"Hopefully, we'll win this war quickly, but if we don't, we've at least tried." Daniel withdrew his hand from Jack's hold and placed his hands on Jack's cheeks. His eyes bore deep into the brown ovals that he adored. "Our plan is unchanged. We're going to have a family, soon, very soon."
"So, not another ten years of fighting the villains," Jack whispered hopefully, afraid that Daniel's compassionate center would interfere with their future.
"Not even a year," Daniel promised. "All I'm saying is that we need to try, or we won't be able to say we've done our best. We have to try, Jack."
"Okay." Jack's agreement was sufficiently cut off by his growling stomach. With a laugh, he kissed his soulmate and then looked at the breakfast table. "Never go to war on an empty stomach. Eat!"
As both men began to sit down, Daniel rebutted, "The war isn't going to start today, Babe. We have a lot to do first."
"Oh, it's starting today," the general insisted. "Daniel, if you think convincing Hammond and the President that opening up the Milky Way to devils is a smart thing to do, you need to give your genius cells a bath. The dirt is clogging their cylinders."
Daniel grimaced as he tried to make sense of what his life partner had just said, but then he shook it off and decided to eat the meal Jack had gone to such trouble to prepare.
~He's right,~ Daniel agreed silently as he mulled over their discussion. ~This isn't going to be easy.~ Taking a bite of his waffles, he smiled and nodded. "Good, Babe. Thanks."
"Anything for my Angel," Jack replied happily.
As they ate, chatted, and smiled, both Jack and Daniel were well aware that this would most likely be their last semblance of normalcy for quite a while. They were about to suggest that Earth do battle with killers. Life would become hectic and deadly within hours.
"One more war, Jack -- the last one," Daniel stated out of the blue towards the end of the meal.
"One more *victory*, Danny. We go out on a high."
Daniel nodded as both men silently hoped they'd somehow find a way to achieve the win one more time.
After spending some quality time with Bijou and Katie, Jack and Daniel dropped by their neighbor's home. Mrs. Sophia Valissi was a long time trusted friend who had learned over the years not to ask questions about where the lovers sometimes disappeared to unexpectedly. For now, they wanted her to know that their schedules might get a little wonky and to ask her to make sure the girls were taken care of, should they not be 'out of town' and unable to communicate.
Naturally, the woman agreed, assuring the two that she'd take the beagles for walks and make sure their food and water supply were taken care of.
The lovers hoped their request was only precautionary, though inwardly both suspected Mrs. Valissi would be needed over the coming weeks.
At Stargate Command, Jack had successfully arranged for a briefing to commence at 1300 hours. While he attended to other duties, Daniel was in the conference room, making a rather long, detailed list on the blackboards he'd set up. Frequently, he referred to his notes, and a couple of times, he phoned Sam, who was in her lab, to verify details.
The calls intrigued the lieutenant colonel, but she still didn't know the reasons for the inquiries, except that a briefing was scheduled for later in the day.
Finally, the list was done. Daniel stood back and reviewed it. Nodding, he felt the list was as complete as it could be. Looking at his watch, he decided he had time for a cup of coffee before the briefing began.
"Ready?" Jack asked as he took a bite of his blue Jell-O.
As Daniel sat down, he asked, "How can you still eat after that giant buffet we had for breakfast?"
"I'm storing it, like a camel."
"Right," Daniel responded dryly as he raised his mug to his lips and took his first sip of coffee during this quick break.
"You didn't answer my question."
"What? Oh, yes, I think so."
"If Hammond and the President go along, this place is gonna be turned upside down real fast," Jack remarked.
"Jack, do you think I'm wrong?" Daniel stared questioningly towards his husband. "I mean, uh, am I making too much out of a ... a guess?"
"Daniel, I feel safer about your 'guesses' than most other people's facts," Jack assured.
"Thank you," the archaeologist acknowledged. He brought his mug up to his lips and was about to take another sip when he lowered the cup in a flash and whined, "Jack, that's Star Trek."
"Hey, you and Spock -- guesses, hunches, whatever. You think the Ori are coming, I'd bank everything I have on it." Finishing up his Jell-O, Jack stood and leaned over to whisper quietly into Daniel's ear. "And I am banking *everyone I love* on it and our ability to defeat them." Straightening, he stated, "See you at the briefing."
"Oh," Sam expressed in surprise as she caught sight of the list on the blackboard. Walking to her seat and sitting down, she commented, "This should be interesting."
"That's putting it mildly, Carter," Jack responded as he sat down opposite his second-in-command.
Teal'c simply stared at Daniel's writings as he took his position next to Sam. He pulled his copy of the written report closer to him and opened it.
At the same time, the airman in charge of taking notes took photos of the blackboard for reference.
When General Hammond entered, Jack and Sam stood out of respect, sitting back down only when the major general took his spot at the head of the rectangular table.
"Doctor Jackson, what's this all about?" Hammond questioned, staring at the blackboard with curiosity.
"Okay, well, this is a summary of what we learned while we were in the alternate reality," the archaeologist began, a report in his left hand while his right hand pointed towards his writing on the blackboard. "After talking with representatives from some of the different realities, this was pretty much how events went, beginning with Vala Mal Doran's unexpected arrival at the SGC."
Ignoring his lover's groan at the mention of Vala's name, Daniel spent the next bit of time reviewing the information in his report, using the blackboard list as his guide. He spoke rapidly, his right hand oftentimes waving off to the side. His glances moved from the blackboard to his report and to Hammond and his teammates as they listened. He paused only when a remark or comment was made.
"Ignoring the personal dynamics which were, uh, different from our reality, Vala Mal Doran arrived at the SGC with a tablet she wanted translated. She claimed it came from the Ancients and would reveal a buried treasure."
"And so the tale begins," Jack snarked as he scratched his chin.
"Not having a lot of trust, Vala placed a bracelet on Daniel's wrist and another on herself. This bracelet forced them to remain in close proximity to each other or suffer great pain."
"They were always together?" Hammond questioned.
"The maximum time they could be apart was thirty minutes."
"Restroom breaks," Jack snarked, tapping his fingers on the table in irritation. If Daniel, any Daniel, were going to be handcuffed to someone, it should at least have been to another Jack O'Neill. ~It would be unmentionable torture otherwise.~
"Anyway, Daniel identified the signature on the tablet as that of Myrddin, one of the Ancients, who had returned to Earth from Atlantis after the Wraith's first siege there."
"And we all know that Myrddin is King Arthur's Merlin," Jack interjected, trying to stay awake during the exposition part of the briefing. ~Necessary, but yawn-ful.~
"Correct," Daniel confirmed. "In Earth folklore and myth, Myrddin is Merlin. Uh, the other Daniel believed Merlin carved the tablet and encoded it to lead the reader to buried treasures within the magical stronghold of Avalon, England, specifically in a series of catacombs beneath Glastonbury Tor. Now, the Ancients had placed a shield over the catacombs to protect its location, but the Prometheus' sensors were able to detect them, and SG-1," he paused, closing his eyes as he continued, "and Vala," he opened his eyes, making sure to avoid his lover's stare, "beamed down to the planet."
"That's when they found the sword, right?" Sam questioned.
"Right," Daniel affirmed. "It was in the town square -- a large stone with a sword protruding from the top of it. Colonel Mitchell tried to remove it, but he was unsuccessful. Apparently, Merlin appeared and said that only those with 'truth in spirit' could have his treasures. The team split up in pairs, ended up trapped in separate rooms, and had to pass several tests to prove they were worthy. We don't have the details on the tests, but once the team ..."
"Vala Mal Doran has not been and never will be part of SG-1," Jack interrupted sharply.
"I'm just saying that once the ... personnel passed Merlin's tests, Mitchell was able to pull the sword out of the stone, although after that he had to fight the black knight. I don't really know much about him or this part of the story, but once Vala handed over the coin she'd stolen, the knight disappeared, and the treasure was revealed. Now along with the usual gold and gems one might associate with the treasure, there were books, a lot of books, and they're the real treasure."
"You would say that," Jack chimed, daring his Love to challenge his interjection.
"These books were full of valuable information. One of these was especially informative, and I suspect it's similar to, though more expansive than, the book I was given by Major Lorne that he found at Atlantis a while ago."
"Nice of him," Jack stated, his sneer saying the opposite of his words.
"This book gave a history of the Alterans, their travel to space over thousands of years, how they'd built a new world on Avalon, not to mention the Stargates. The point is, the Ancients didn't originate in the Milky Way Galaxy."
"Doctor Jackson, I assume there's a reason why we're reviewing this information," Hammond surmised, his question obvious.
"Yes, Sir. Please, if you'll just bear with me," Daniel requested politely. "SG-1 discovered a long-range communicator that worked with the Ancient telepathic stones. They link two people together psychically, allowing them to see each other's lives. Originally, the stones were intended to be used with the communication device found in the catacombs, perhaps only by the Ancients, but Doctor Lee was able to reset the devices to work for humans. All they needed to do was ... turn it on."
"And now we get to the lovebirds."
"Jack, this'll go quicker if you just let me review the history," an irritated Daniel pointed out. **Without the peanut gallery,** he added mentally.
"Go ahead; tell," the general agreed, smiling over at Hammond, who gave him a slight reprimand in the form of a 'be quiet' stare.
"Daniel and Vala each put one of the stones into the slots at the base of communicator."
"That is when DanielJackson and ValaMalDoran both collapsed," Teal'c interjected, his expression stoic when his teammates turned to look at him.
"Feeling left out, Big Guy?" Jack quipped.
With mocking disdain, the Jaffa replied, "I was merely completing DanielJackson's report of the situation."
"Right," Daniel replied, though his response was directed more towards his teammate's initial comment. "While their bodies were in the infirmary, their minds were transported into the bodies of Harrid and Sallis, a married couple who lived in a village occupied by Alteran' descendants. They were curators of their people's history and knew about the stones. They had to live there, undercover, if you will, for a few days or so."
"Cozy," Jack snarked jealously.
**Jack, shut up,** Daniel ordered via their unique communication ability. "Ultimately, things didn't go well. Again, we don't really have a lot of detail here, but somehow Vala ended up being put on display in the town square. She was burned to death, only a prior appeared and revived her." Before his lover could speak, the archaeologist again ordered, **Shut up, Jack.**
"Daniel, the communication device: it allowed for communicating with people of other worlds without transporting them, too? I mean, without a mind transference," Sam questioned.
"We don't know a lot about that, but it was mentioned by some of our counterparts in the other reality." Daniel took a breath and caught up to where he was on the blackboard list. "Okay, so for some reason, probably as a warning, the prior took Daniel and Vala to the Plains of Celestis, their city of the gods, and that's where Daniel spoke with the leader."
"Devilish fellow, with Spock-like ears and a fire fetish," Jack interjected while doodling on his notepad.
"Something like that," Daniel replied, turning a page in his report folder. "The prior showed them a chasm of fire they call the Flames of Enlightenment. Not unlike the Goa'uld, a ball of fire entered the leader, after which he spoke in another voice, telling them that the Ancients were protecting those in the Milky Way. They also shared their belief that the Ancients should have told everyone about ascension."
"Daniel, we're falling asleep here. The Ori say the Ancients are evil, and the Ori want us to buy into their version of the truth. Get on with it."
Sending his lover a glare, Daniel continued rapidly, "Daniel and Vala were returned to the village to become examples. Essentially, they were burned at the altar for heresy. Fortunately for them, it was at that point that Mitchell and Teal'c tossed the communication device into the Stargate kawoosh, destroying the device and breaking the link, which allowed Daniel and Vala to return to their own bodies. Not so fortunately, though, for Harrid and Sallis as they returned to their bodies right at the moment of ..."
"Becoming toast," Jack completed, motioning for his lover to move things along. "We've read the report."
"Actually, Sir, we were all there listening to our counterparts tell us about this."
"You *read* my report?" Daniel challenged his soulmate.
Jack paused before answering, "So, what's next?"
"Ultimately, the Daniel of that reality and many others took responsibility for opening the way for the Ori. Until he'd made contact with them, the Ori were unaware of how the Alterans had ... protected us. After the mind transference, the Ori began to show up on various planets in their, I mean our galaxy, preaching their religion."
Daniel paused in his explanation when his audience's attention drifted towards Jack, whose careless doodling had turned into a war, resulting in him viciously stabbing the notepad in front of him.
Noticing the glares he was receiving, the doodler slowly put his weapon back on the table and looked into the exasperated eyes of his Love.
"We're still with you, Doctor Jackson. Please continue," Hammond requested, still leveling a potent glare at his 2IC.
"Thank you, General. The focus of SG-1 became the bracelets that still linked Daniel and Vala. Vala admitted she'd stolen the bracelets from some old flame and apparently it took awhile until they got to the truth."
"Which was?" Jack prodded, just for kicks.
"... which was ... nothing. After all they'd done, the only thing they learned was that the effects of the bracelets *might* wear off in time, which meant Vala couldn't leave for ... for quite a while. When she did finally leave, she had to return to Earth right away because both she and Daniel had become ill. Doctor Lee speculated that the bracelet technology bonded with the Ancients' communication device, creating a third bond. It was just going to take a little more time for the effects to wear off."
"Sweet," Jack mumbled.
"General, if you'd rather be somewhere else, I'm sure we can find a replacement for SG-1 on this mission," Hammond chastised. ~Whatever this mission is. I'm sure Doctor Jackson will get to the point eventually.~
"No, Sir," Jack replied, sitting up straighter and looking over at his lover, waiting for him to continue.
"What happened after this point is sketchy. We know that the effects of the bracelet did wear off, and we know that the Ori introduced a plague that killed hundreds of people on Earth. Fortunately, we have the vaccine our counterparts created, as well as some specs on anti-prior technology."
Daniel paused, closing his report and putting it on the table. He looked at his teammates and then at Hammond.
"This seems like a lot, but it's really only the beginning of a war that many of our counterparts were still battling. No one at the time we were there had yet defeated the Ori," Daniel stated straightforwardly. Licking his lips for a second as he looked back at the blackboard, he stated, "To recap, the Ori and the Alterans were one human society, headed towards ascension. The Ori grew more fervent in their religious belief and tried to destroy the Alterans, and the Alterans chose to leave their galaxy and come to Earth. Both races did ascend as they evolved, but the how and why of doing it is vastly different, chiefly in that the Ori impose their wills on others.
"The Ori have a holy book, called the Book of Origin, and their representatives are called priors. They call themselves 'beacons on the road to enlightenment'. They wear long robes and walk with staffs that harness some source of energy.
"General Hammond, billions of people are being forced to live a life that isn't their choosing, and those who don't go along with the Ori are being murdered, just like Harrid and Sallis were burned to death. We have an obligation as human beings to help them," Daniel put forth.
Leaning forward, Hammond asked, "Son, you aren't suggesting that we open the door to these Ori?"
"Yes, Sir, I am." Daniel saw the concerned looks of everyone in the room. He focused on their leader and elaborated, "With all due respect, General Hammond, the Ori are coming. Many of the missions our counterparts told us about *are* happening to us -- Khalek, for one."
"That corn thing," Jack added, supporting his lover's position.
"Kassa," Sam recalled with a nod.
Hammond leaned back and then countered, "Doctor Jackson, isn't it the view of a cultural expert to not interfere in the lives of these cultures?"
"This isn't a choice about a way of life, General," Daniel replied. "We're not talking about a society that has norms and morals formed over the life of its existence; we're talking about false gods giving innocent people no choice ..."
"My way or the highway," Jack interjected, looking downward at the table and tapping his fingers against the wood finish.
"Sir, we're not being honest with ourselves if we think the Ori will never find us. Isn't it better for us to find them, on our terms, than the other way around?" Daniel challenged, trying to think in the military mindset since the argument had worked on his husband the night before.
"I'll have to talk to the President," Hammond responded. "What exactly is it you're proposing?"
Daniel looked at Jack, who then faced the general with determination.
"General," Jack began. "We're requesting that we put our resources into finding the Ori and ridding them from the universe, beginning with," he paused, sighing as he looked over at Daniel for a second, "finding Vala Mal Doran."
"Why?" Hammond questioned, perplexed that Jack would even suggest this, considering his strong dislike of this black-haired, leather-clad character.
"She's involved in this, Sir," Daniel answered. "While we already know the location of the catacombs, she has, or will have the stones that we need to make the communication device work. Of course, we have to find the device ourselves and we have to go to the catacombs as soon as possible."
"It's a bit of a guessing game, General," Jack admitted. "We don't want her here, but we suspect that in order to move forward, she's a ... necessary evil." Inwardly, he added, ~And I do mean evil.~
Hammond stared at Jack for a few seconds and then looked into Daniel's eyes. He knew his Head of Archaeology wouldn't give this up. He could tell from Daniel's expression and his eyes, which conveyed fierceness and even a sense of defiance, that Daniel wouldn't just drop the issue. If the President didn't agree, Hammond had a feeling SG-1 would find a way to accomplish their mission anyway, just as they had years ago with the Goa'uld.
"Very well. I'll call the President," Hammond advised as he stood up and then carried Daniel's written report with him to his office.
After the rest of the team stood, with his hands clasped behind his back, Teal'c inquired, "DanielJackson, are you sure it is wise to find ValaMalDoran?"
"No, but I think she needs to be here."
"Should make for an interesting time," Sam mused; that is, until she saw her CO's glare. "Excuse me, Sir. I think I'll pull out my notes on the anti-prior technology for review."
"You do that, Carter," Jack groused, watching as Sam and then Teal'c exited the briefing room. He walked up to Daniel, who was picking up his report and notes. "Daniel, are you ready for this?"
"I have to be, and so do you," Daniel answered firmly. "We don't have a choice, Jack."
~I guess not,~ Jack replied to himself as he followed his Love out of the room.
Two hours later, there still hadn't been any word on Daniel's request, but General Hammond had put a temporary hold on missions. This resulted in personnel buzzing about in wild speculation regarding the sudden stop in their normal routine.
"Jack!" Lou Ferretti called out, jogging a few steps to catch up with his friend. "What's the scoop?"
"Scoop?" Jack asked innocently.
"Something's going on. Hammond postponed all the missions and hasn't said why."
"You'll know when I know, Lou," Jack said, patting his friend on the back and then getting into the elevator, smiling as the doors closed. ~Hope I know soon.~
"You're gonna wear out that floor," Jack observed, having been standing at the doorway of his lover's office for the past minute, watching as the archaeologist walked back and forth.
"What's taking so long? I mean, uh, how long does it take to say 'yes', or even 'no'?"
"Daniel, the President is a busy man," Jack stated as he walked in. "Hammond has to give him all the information, and that little briefing of yours wasn't exactly brief."
"We had to review the history."
"I'm not arguing, but you have to give the man some time."
"What if we don't have ..." Hearing the phone ring, Daniel hurried over to his desk and picked it up. "Hello ... okay." Putting the phone down, he announced, "General Hammond wants to see us in the briefing room right away."
"Lead the way," Jack requested playfully, making a sweeping motion for Daniel to go past him and hurry towards the conference room.
SG-1, along with Janet Fraiser, was waiting for Hammond to appear. As soon as the major general entered, Jack, Sam, and Janet stood up, following Air Force protocol. The general walked to his chair, placing his hands atop the back. He looked at the group assembled for a moment and then focused on Janet.
"Doctor Fraiser, as of now, your priority is to prepare as much of that plague vaccine as possible. We don't want to be caught with an epidemic that we can't control quickly."
"Let's just hope there aren't too many differences between us and those other universes," Hammond spoke.
"Realities ... Sir," Sam corrected apologetically.
Hammond nodded and address the colonel, ordering, "Colonel Carter, you are to oversee all technological advances that may help us should we succeed in finding the Ori. You'll be with SG-1, but stay on top of your people, and keep me apprised." After Sam acknowledged the order, the general looked at Teal'c and stated, "Teal'c, the President is concerned that this Gerak,who Doctor Jackson mentioned in his report, might interfere with the new Jaffa nation."
"Gerak has not been a part of the transitional Council, GeneralHammond," Teal'c replied.
"Maybe not now, but if he appeared in the other realities with a force strong enough to be elected to head the Council and lead the Jaffa into following yet another group of false gods, we have to be prepared. Find Gerak, and make sure he's not planning something we don't know about," Hammond ordered.
Teal'c bowed his head in acknowledgment. From his time in the alternate reality, he know that those Geraks had read the Book of Origin and believed it held the answers for the Jaffa. The Geraks had become priors and attempted to convince the Jaffa to follow the teachings of the Ori. Fortunately, the alternate Teal'c's had been able to get their Geraks to see the truth by appealing to their emotions from past Goa'uld battles. Those Geraks had then used the Ori staff to cure those at the base, but having betrayed the Ori, a failsafe mechanism inside their bodies had been engaged, consuming the Jaffa in flames almost immediately.
Hammond faced Jack and Daniel and advised, "The President has authorized this command to allocate all available resources to finding and destroying the Ori threat to this galaxy. As of now, all missions are scrubbed, and all teams are being recalled. General O'Neill, you will spearhead the search for the Ori."
"Yes, Sir," Jack acknowledged, surprising himself by the enthusiasm he was feeling. ~Must be the razzle dazzle of Hammond's intensity. You'd think we were fighting the Russians.~ He paused. ~Crap! Fighting the Russians was a piece of cake compared to this.~
"Doctor Jackson, if you go after this Vala Mal Doran, you are to make sure she does not offer any threat to this base before returning her here. Is that understood?"
"Yeahsureyabetcha," Jack responded for his lover, earning himself a reprimanding stare from the other general in the room, as well as a glare from his soulmate.
"General, we'll meet at 2100 hours to review your plans," Hammond ordered. "Dismissed."
Once his commanding officer was out of sight, Jack stated, "That gives us two hours to make a plan. Doc, this vaccine will work, right?"
"From your reports, it did in the alternate realities."
"Get on it, and you might tinker with some alternatives, just in case," Jack suggested.
Nodding, Janet left the briefing room.
"Carter, how much anti-prior techno do we really have?" Jack questioned quietly.
"Not much, Sir. We do have a lot of information on what didn't work, and we have the specs on a couple of weapons that *might* work."
"Okay. Do your best," Jack responded. "Teal'c, make sure Gerak doesn't bite us in the behind."
"He will not, O'Neill," Teal'c stated and then walked out of the room.
"Okay, Daniel. Let's get our game plan together, and let's make sure we don't kill the planet in the process."
Daniel nodded, and the two men left for the privacy of Jack's office, where they could make detailed plans.
On the way out, Jack paused and called out, "Walter, I need the status of all teams, here and off-world, yesterday."
"Yes, Sir," Sergeant Davis acknowledged.
"Daniel, if we know where the treasure is, why do need this Vala character?" Jack questioned. "Not only that, but if the big find for us was that Ancient book, we know where that is, too, so why not just go in and get it?"
Just then the klaxons began to blare, and the warning of an off-world activation was heard over the public address system.
The lovers hurried to the gate room, somewhat surprised to see General Hammond waiting for them in front of the ramp.
"What's up, Sir?" Jack questioned. "I thought all the teams were back."
"SG-9 is concluding their negotiations with PX3-755 and should be back within the hour; SG-12 just sent through word five minutes ago. They should be arriving momentarily."
Over the intercom, Davis announced, "Receiving IDC. Opening the iris."
A few seconds later, a woman appeared.
~Dominatrix?~ Jack asked himself as he took in the form-fitting black leather outfit the visitor was wearing.
"Oh, gawd," Daniel bemoaned hesitantly.
Carrying her leather jacket over her shoulder, the black-haired woman glanced back briefly at the active wormhole where two members of SG-12, one of whom was carrying a silver case, were directly behind her.
The confident-acting woman stood looking at the SGC personnel with their fire power aimed at her and snarked, "Well. Don't you all have me surrounded."
"Welcome to the SGC. I'm General Hammond."
"Vala. Vala Mal Doran," the woman introduced as she strode down the ramp. "Thank you so much for the lovely greeting party. We all had a wonderful time searching each other, didn't we, boys."
Jack motioned with his hand, and the SFs in the room surrounded the newcomer. At the same time, he pulled his lover back and well away from the vixen he'd heard so much about.
"Nice outfit," Jack snarked. "O'Neill, with two L's," he introduced, cocking his head at the woman.
"Thanks," the oblivious newcomer responded. "While I would normally be thrilled to have so much testosterone at my disposal, I much prefer him."
~I really wish we didn't have to include her on this insanity.~ Seeing Vala's nod toward Daniel, Jack's dislike of the woman went up several notches. "Just ... right where you are," he ordered, his arm extending out, stopping the woman whose chest was physically touching his.
"While I love the hair, I really am devoted to Daniel."
"Search her again, and take a good look inside that case," Jack ordered, backing off. "We're looking for bracelets, two of them."
Vala was stunned by the statement, but kept her cool as she inappropriately quipped, "Daniel, did you know you're going to be a father?"
"Excuse me?" Daniel asked, his eyes raised.
"Lady, you're not that lucky," Jack interjected, pulling Daniel back another two steps from the woman.
"You're just jealous," Vala replied. Looking at the archaeologist, she stated, "Pretty sure it's yours, anyway. There's at least a one in," she scrunched her face, "hmm ... ten chance?"
"Only in your twisted mind," Jack countered, glaring at the vixen.
"Here's a tablet, General," one of the SFs announced, retrieving the item from the silver case that Vala had brought with her.
"I was bringing you a gift, Daniel," Vala claimed. She watched Daniel studying the tablet and added, "I need you to translate this for me."
"Uh, this would require a ... code," the linguist suggested leadingly, right at the moment the hidden bracelets were discovered.
"I have the code."
Playing along, Daniel asked, "Then why do you need me?"
"Well, reading it is one thing, understanding it is another. The individual I got this from assured me that the treasure it describes is here on Earth. Now, I could have come by ship and looked for it myself, but I know nothing about your fair planet, other than it seems to have a rather interesting, if somewhat limited, gene pool." Looking at the SFs, she stated, "Those are mine."
"I don't think so," Jack interjected.
Vala tried to walk towards Daniel, but Jack blocked her way, prompting her to question, "You really are fascinated by me, aren't you?"
"Not how you think," Jack responded. He waved over an SF and ordered, "If she makes one move towards Daniel, shoot her."
The SF instantly took a ready stance.
"Really, you do need to have sex. I can recommend someone on ..."
"No, thanks," Jack interrupted. "I get plenty of sex."
Daniel resisted the urge to close his eyes. He didn't want to react at all. Using all of his willpower, he simply stared straight ahead.
"Well, now, isn't that good to know," Vala responded, intrigued by the comment. However, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed more items had been removed from her things. "Those bracelets *are* mine," she insisted as she looked over at the ornate objects. "They belonged to the Goa'uld Nut."
"As in cashew? Pea?" Daniel responded, not responding to Vala's stare.
"These were her ceremonial marriage bracelets. She wore one and her husband of the moment wore one."
"Of the moment."
"Yes, she had many. It's one of the few admirable things about her," Vala stated about the Eyptian sky goddess. "I want those back."
"So you can snap one on Daniel and hold him prisoner?" Jack accused.
Surprised but not thrown completely, Vala answered, "Among other things."
"*Not* gonna happen," Jack promised.
Vala looked at Hammond and asked, "I thought you were in charge."
"This *is* my base," Hammond affirmed. "Let's take this to the conference room."
With the SF, not to mention Jack, still keeping a close watch on the woman, the personnel and their visitor headed out of the gate room.
"I don't understand. How could you know?" a confused Vala asked upon being told that Daniel already knew what the tablet said and where the treasure was. ~They're spoiling my plan.~
Hammond, SG-1 sans Teal'c, Janet, and two SFs filled the conference room. One SF continued to keep watch on Vala, while the other stood at the doorway. On the table were the silver case and all of the contents found in it, plus the two bracelets.
"Just accept it," Jack advised as he stared at the woman who sat to his right.
"Daniel, forgive me," Janet interjected. "I wasn't in on the original briefing. This is really the Merlin of King Arthur mythology we're talking about?"
"Yes," Daniel acknowledged. He proceeded to provide more information, talking rapidly. He reached the end of his story, explaining, "Arthur was then carried off in a barge by Merlin, saying that he was headed for the Vale of Avalon, which according to legend, was a magical place where the dead would meet. Now at the time, some said Arthur never actually died, but would in fact one day return. From what we know about the Ancients, it's possible that Avalon was actually a place where Merlin helped Arthur, a mortal, ascend."
"This is all quite fascinating, to you, anyway, but you haven't answered my question," Vala stated.
"Did you ask a question?" Daniel queried in return, his expression clearly saying that he had no intention of answering the woman.
"Doctor Jackson, aren't Ancients forbidden from interfering with the existence of mortals?" Hammond asked.
With a nod, Daniel responded, "Ascended Ancients, yes, for the most part; but it's possible Merlin was not actually ascended himself, but was, in fact, just a human, far along on the evolutionary path."
"How about the treasure, Daniel? Where'd he get it?" Sam asked, knowing the treasure existed and that they'd be going after it soon.
"Well, there are a number of conflicting interpretations, but certain threads point to the Knights of the Round Table gathering great treasures from the far corners of Arthur's domain and hiding them in a magical stronghold at Avalon."
"The Holy Grail?" Jack questioned.
"According to some," Daniel confirmed.
"So this grail, what's that worth?" Vala asked gleefully, ignoring the looks of contempt that followed the question.
The archaeologist elaborated, "In 1191, the monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have found the grave of King Arthur. On the stone burial was an inlaid lead cross was the inscription: 'Hic Iacet Sepultus Inclitus Rex Arturius in Insula Avallonis' -- 'Here lies the famous King Arthur, buried on the Isle of Avalon'. Now the claim was not taken seriously until 1278, when Henry II ordered the grave to be exhumed. Ever since then, Glastonbury, a small town about 125 miles west of London, has been a pilgrimage for believers."
"And Glastonbury is a stone's throw from Glastonbury Tor, yes?" Jack asked.
Nodding, Daniel affirmed, "Certain Celtic legend says that Glastonbury Tor, the hill overlooking the town, is actually hollow and that contained within it is the entrance to the underworld, Avalon."
"Do you always talk so fast?" Vala asked Daniel. "How do you breathe?"
Daniel simply glared at the unwelcome woman, as did the others in the room.
"Really, Daniel, that could present serious problems. How do you expect anyone to understand you? You should speak more slowly and enunciate."
"Hey, these briefings are long enough!" Jack exclaimed. ~If he talked slower, we'd be here forever.~
Daniel's glare switched to his lover, who simply shrugged innocently.
Finally, Sam took a breath and carried on, interjecting, "Well, we know the Asgard sensors aboard the Prometheus will get us where we need to go."
"Doctor Jackson, do we really need to make this trip?" Hammond inquired.
"I need that book, Sir," Daniel replied. "We have a good idea of what's going to happen there."
"We do?" Vala questioned in surprise, her interrogatory going unanswered.
"Very well. The Prometheus is on the way," Hammond advised. "What about our guest?"
"I'm going," Vala stated.
"I don't think so," Jack refuted, standing up. "Lock her up."
With the SF focused on Jack for a moment, Vala leaned forward, grabbed the bracelets and snapped them on, one on her and one on Jack.
"Jack!" Daniel called out.
"Oh, for crying out loud," Jack whined. "Didn't I tell you to shoot her, if she moved?" he questioned the somewhat unnerved SF.
"You're not Daniel, but you'll do, Brown Eyes. You are kinda sexy, in an odd sort of way," Vala proclaimed.
"Daniel, are you sure I can't shoot her?"
"Only if you want to end up ... dead," the archaeologist sighed.
"Sir, from the notes we have from the alternate reality ..." Sam began.
"Alternate reality? What alternate reality?" Vala asked, her frustration at its height from the mystery surrounding her. "What's that?"
"... you'll have to stay within a hundred-feet or so of Vala," Sam concluded. "More than half an hour outside that boundary and you'll both begin to feel the effects."
"Her I don't care about, but ..." Jack groaned, not finishing his sentence.
"Looks like I'm coming with you," Vala spoke smugly.
Jack grimaced and looked at his lover pleadingly. This was not the scenario he'd worked out in his mind.
~At least she's not close to Danny,~ Jack thought, giving himself a small amount of satisfaction. "Don't we know how to get these off?"
"Uh, no," Daniel answered. "I'm betting she knows."
"Search me," Vala challenged. "It would be so much fun," she said to the archaeologist.
"Daniel!" Jack objected strongly with a strained voice and taut face, stopping any thoughts his lover might have of following through with the search.
Assuming a self-hugging position, the archaeologist just shrugged as he stared as his lover.
The walls reverberated with the sound of knocks banged against it and a screaming voice that whined, "I'm bored in here! Come on, guys!"
In the next VIP room, his head in his hands, Jack groaned, "Daniel, I may kill her with my own bare hands."
"I'll stand up for you at the court-martial," Daniel replied.
As the pounding continued, Jack stood up, faced the wall, and shouted, "Muzzle it, or I'll have you muzzled."
"I like that idea," the archaeologist quipped.
"Daniel, this is so unlike yourself," Jack observed, curious why his normally understanding and tolerating husband was being a bit abrasive.
"You didn't spend time with her on the Prometheus, being thrown all over the bridge and then having to deal with her mouth for weeks."
"It wasn't weeks."
"It felt like it," Daniel sighed as he sat down in a chair.
"We should probably get some sleep," Jack suggested, though he wasn't all that eager to be separated from his Heart even by sleep.
"Jack, this mission ..."
"... is just like a hundred other missions, Danny," Jack interrupted, sensing his lover was about to go on a guilt trip for the peril that was present in their future. "It comes with the territory."
"Okay, well, I have some research ..."
"Sleep ... Daniel," Jack ordered.
Daniel nodded and headed for the door.
**I love you, Angel.**
Looking back, the younger man smiled softly and replied, **You have no idea how much I love you, Jack.**
"See you in a few hours."
It was in the wee hours of the morning when the Prometheus arrived in Earth's orbit. Soon thereafter, SG-1 and their unwanted visitor boarded the vessel.
Jack was definitely irritable, hating every second that he was bound by the decorative bracelet to Vala.
The team and Vala made their way to one of the control rooms where some of the crew were going about their tasks. Vala entered first with Daniel just inches behind her. She stopped short, and absentmindedly, Daniel did, too, as he continued to check his gear. Focused on his task, the archaeologist was virtually unaware of Vala's presence in front of him, although he was keenly aware that Jack was behind him and had been prevented from entering with the cessation of forward momentum.
"Ah, now this brings back memories," Vala said to Daniel.
"How's that?" Daniel asked.
"Isn't this where I beat you up?"
Looking around, the archaeologist answered, "No."
"No, I'm pretty sure that," Vala pointed to a specific spot, "right there is where I crushed your ..."
The woman reached up and caressed Daniel's cheek.
"Excuse me," Jack interrupted, barging in between the two and pushing them apart. "Daniel, I need your assistance," he stated, pulling his lover away from Vala. Suddenly, he stopped, causing Vala to run into Daniel's backside. "Where are you going?"
"Oh, that was fun," Vala claimed, shaking her body seductively.
"Stay!" Jack ordered.
"Your loss," Vala stated arrogantly, slinking her way over to Lieutenant Marks, one of the Prometheus' officers who usually worked one of the navigation and helm positions.
"Trust me, lady, I haven't lost a thing," Jack replied testily.
"Jack," Daniel interjected, motioning for him to follow in order to prevent an outburst of violence even before the mission got a head of steam going.
"What?" Jack snapped, looking over at Vala with stern and wary eyes.
"I don't know, what?"
"Daniel, no games."
"Ah, Jack, you wanted to talk to me, remember?"
Jack stared at his Love, replaying the last minute or so and began to respond, though nothing came out.
~Caught in the act,~ the younger man sighed inwardly. "Right, he drone while shaking his head. He knew the truth. ~He just doesn't want me around Vala. I have news for you, Jack. I don't want to be around her, either.~
~Okay, so I forgot my excuse. Sue me,~ Jack challenged no one as he watched his lover walk away.
As the Prometheus headed for their destination, SG-1 and Vala went to the ship's gym where two swords and fencing gear were present.
"Don't you think I should rest?" Jack asked when he saw the equipment.
"When's the last time you fenced?" Daniel questioned.
Jack reared his head back as he cleared his throat and answered, "College."
"Let's cover the basics," the archaeologist suggested.
"And what do you know about fencing?"
"Great," Jack sighed as he picked up a sword and began to wield it around. "Zzzzzzorro!"
"Not exactly what I had in mind."
It didn't take long for the Prometheus to get into position over continental Europe. Her sensors had easily detected the catacombs, and Lieutenant Marks was reviewing the scans. Jack's practice with the saber was thankfully brief in his view. He'd rather just deal with the big face off when it happened. Thus, the team and their bracelet-clad guest were back on the bridge.
"Now that we've found them, how do we get there?" Jack questioned. "Marks says it's a half-mile underground."
Thoughtfully, Daniel reasoned, "The catacombs were protected by the Ancients. They were the Gate builders and ..."
"Rings," Sam suggested at the same time Daniel did. She smiled and added, "It makes sense, Daniel. Our radios won't work, either."
"Let's go," Vala urged anxiously.
"Daniel!" Jack whined.
"She has to go, Jack, unless you want to stay here with her," Daniel responded.
Letting out a near growl, the general ordered, "I feel like Dorothy being taunted by the Wicked Witch."
"Dorothy?" Vala asked, having no clue.
"Dorothy ... General?" Marks asked as he looked up, gulping upon seeing Jack's glare.
"Daniel, what's the easiest way for us to get to the treasure?" Sam inquired as the group walked to the where the rings were located on the ship.
"Jack is going to have to battle the knight," Daniel put forth apologetically. **Don't hurt anything important.**
Jack just glared and replied, "Always wanted to be Lancelot."
"I thought you were Dorothy," Vala snarked, even thought she didn't really understand the reference.
"We're going to have to do the same thing the other SG-1's did," Daniel stated, going back to Sam's question. He looked at his lover and reminded, "When we find the sword, you'll have to try and pull it out. Merlin will appear and then we'll separate, be tested, and prove ourselves worthy."
"With *her* around?"
"Hey!" Vala objected. "Watch where you're pointing, and you still haven't told me how you know all of this. It's probably just wild speculation that will get us all killed."
"It's not speculation," Daniel rebutted. "Just do what Jack tells you to do."
"I wanted to do it with you."
Daniel just stared at the woman, whose facial expression definitely hinted at her double entendre.
With a smirk, Vala added, "Practice makes perfect, Daniel. There's really quite a lot that you could learn from me."
The archaeologist just shook his head and continued walking.
Once on the planet, Jack went through the motions of trying to pull out the sword and soon the hologram of Merlin appeared.
"Welcome, ye knights of the round table, men of honor, followers of the path of righteousness. Only those with wealth of knowledge and truth of spirit shall be given access to the underworld, the storehouse of riches of Ambrosius Aurelianus. Prove ye worthy and all shall be revealed."
Excited, and anxious to find the riches Merlin had spoken of, Vala questioned somewhat mockingly, "How do we prove worthy and get all to be revealed?"
"We already know, but you're not going to like it," Daniel replied.
"The 'truth of spirit' is something that might be a problem for you."
Irritated, Vala snapped, "You know nothing about me."
"Because everything that comes out of your mouth is a lie," Daniel accused.
"Daniel, we don't have time for this," Jack interrupted.
"No, we don't," Daniel agreed. "We have to let it happen like it did for our counterparts. Jack, you and Vala check out the tunnels. Sam and I will go into the caves."
"I might kill her."
"Daniel, you *do* care," Vala opined as she sashayed up to the archaeologist.
"About my ... best friend," Daniel corrected, backing away from the aggressive female. "That's Jack," he clarified. **Jack, you have to keep her honest. These tests are about honor.**
**Always,** Daniel responded, though he covered up his smile with a look of concern.
Sure enough, the two pairs were put through challenges in which they all nearly perished. Using all of his restraint, Jack managed to keep Vala on task, keeping the two from being crushed to death by a falling ceiling, while Daniel and Sam squeaked through a similar challenge.
Reunited, the four return to the sword's location.
**Be careful, Jack. According to the Mitchells, this knight is a tough fighter.**
**If Mitchell can beat the thing, so can I,** Jack argued bravely.
**Right,** Daniel agreed. **But be careful. You are a little ol...**
**Don't say it, Daniel, and don't think it either,** the Special Ops veteran interrupted. Moving forward with their plan, Jack ordered, **Daniel, get on your part of this thing, and don't waste any time.**
Jack pulled the sword out of the stone and smiled, until the knight appeared. He fought the hologram vigorously, knowing he had to defeat it in order for the team to move forward in their quest for the treasure. It took a lot of effort until, breathing heavily, he finally managed to swing the sword through the knight. It staggered and disappeared.
"Sir, are you okay?"
"Peachy," Jack gasped, collapsing to his knees from exhaustion. "We need a dozen of those for training at SGC."
"I'll put in a request to Merlin," Daniel teased. "Okay, Sam," he instructed, motioning at Vala.
"What?" Vala questioned as Sam approached her.
"You took something from the caverns when we walked through them," Daniel charged.
"I did not," Vala responded angrily.
"I'm prepared to do a full body search," Sam warned.
"I'll help," Jack stated, walking forward and staring the woman down.
"It was mine. I found it," Vala whined as she removed a coin from her bodice and handed it to Sam.
"Jack, listen to me. We have to get this back to its rightful place, and then Sam, Vala, and I have to ring up to the Prometheus. That means you'll be more than a hundred feet from Vala."
"Joy," Jack groaned, knowing what the separation could mean.
"I'll go put this back, and then we'll leave."
"You're sure that just me being here alone causes the treasure to appear?" Jack asked.
"I hope so," Daniel sighed and then hurried to return the coin to its original spot.
"Okay, I ..." Daniel began, jumping when he returned to the chamber and found jewels and riches were now scattered throughout. "Wow."
"Daniel, I don't think the general needed to be alone for the treasure to appear," Sam commented as she picked up some golden coins. "The reason they thought that in the other reality was ..."
"... Vala," the archaeologist sighed, nodding as he headed over for where some of the books were.
"Why are you always blaming me for everything?" Vala queried as she walked over and picked up a silver tiara. ~I am a queen,~ she thought as she placed it atop her head.
"Because you're usually at fault," Daniel answered.
"You're the liar," Jack spoke at the exact same time, exchanging a glance and shrug with his husband. "Okay, Daniel, find your book."
"Workin' on it," the younger man replied, staring at several tomes and then picking up one of them. Flipping open the pages, he muttered as he read. "This is it," he concluded a minute later.
"You sure?" the general asked.
"It's talking about the Alterans traveling for what I assume is thousands of years until they found a great belt of stars. They named their home Avalon and built many Astria Portas; uh, Stargates," the linguist translated brightly.
"The Ancients built the Stargates," Vala corrected.
"Well, it stands to reason they weren't always called 'the Ancients'," Daniel replied.
"Sir, Daniel, I think this is the communication device," Sam called out, brushing away some golden trinkets and unveiling a large, domed-shaped object with a blue crystal on top of it.
Jack, Daniel, and Vala all approached the object and studied it for a moment.
"That must be it," Daniel opined, running his right hand along the side of the device.
"Time to go, kids; and, Carter," Jack called out, smirking towards the black-headed female, "make sure she's not taking anything she didn't beam down here with."
Vala sashayed up to Jack, stopping only when she was in his personal space, and questioned, "You don't trust me, do you?"
"Are you just now figuring that out?" Jack countered. "Carter!"
"Yes, Sir," Sam acknowledged, patting Vala down even as the woman continued to stare as alluringly as she could into Jack's inexpressive eyes.
"You're good," Vala stated afterwards, realizing she hadn't been able to make any headway with Jack, not even an inch.
"That's what my significant other says, too," Jack boasted with pride, avoiding the temptation to make eye contact with his lover. "Let's go home," he said as he helped Daniel pick up the device and put it inside the rings.
The next morning in Doctor Lee's lab, SG-1 was present as the scientist studied the device. Providing the entertainment throughout the examination were an arguing Daniel and Vala.
"I have been around the galaxy long enough to know that knowledge is power, and understanding the technology that was left behind by the Ancients is the most powerful knowledge around," the woman asserted.
"And if you think I'm going to let my ... commanding officer stay linked with you for the rest of his natural ..."
"Daniel," Jack interrupted. "Don't those things look familiar," he suggested, looking at the stones and trying to get his lover to focus on their task and not the witch, as he thought of Vala Mal Doran.
"You're right," Daniel began, "which is why I went to the archives earlier and picked this up." Holding up a small, black stone that matched the one they'd found with device, he continued, "These stones are actually part of an Ancient communication device that links the users psychically, allowing them to see through each other's eyes."
"So, they're the stones that are meant to be used in conjunction with this terminal," Sam interjected.
"I really wish you'd share what else you learned in this alternate reality you've apparently been to," Vala complained, looking like an unhappy child who wasn't getting her way.
Ignoring the outburst, Doctor Lee noted, "These stones were originally set for General O'Neill and one Joe Spencer."
"Nice guy," Jack stated. "Not the best barber, but he's a good bowler," he commented about the man who had once shown up at the house and accused Jack of ruining his life. "And he gets 'The Simpsons'."
"Let's just leave that in the past," Daniel suggested, still finding the entire connection that had occurred between Jack and the civilian unbelievable.
"Well, anyway, after a lot of tedious, although, I must say, ultimately very brilliant work if I do say so myself ..."
"Bill, please," Daniel begged, placing his hand on the man's shoulder to urge him to continue.
"I was able to reset the stones. They only needed to be initialized, which they've already been," Lee explained.
"So ..." Daniel began.
"Whoa!" Jack interrupted. "Daniel, you're not going on a mental ride into someone else's body."
"We have to let the Ori know we're here, Jack."
"Why?" Jack asked.
"That's how they learn about us," Daniel replied.
"That's not a sound military strategy, Daniel," the general refuted. "Let's turn the tables and go after them."
"Catch them off-guard," Sam pointed out. "Daniel, we know what Daniel and Vala found out in the alternate reality. Our notes on that are pretty specific."
"See!" Jack exclaimed. "We can skip that part."
"What part?" Vala asked agitatedly. She walked in between the lovers, her bulging breasts shoving against the archaeologist's chest, causing Jack to bristle. "Come on, Daniel. We ..."
"That's it! I've had enough of this dog and pony show," Jack bellowed. "Take her to the brig," he ordered a nearby SF.
"Jack, you can't do that!" Daniel exclaimed.
"But, Sir ..." Sam began.
"No!" Jack called out. "Look, you said Merlin is all about 'truth of spirit'. Fine, I buy it. I also buy that this hocus pocus business," he lifted up his arm to reveal the bracelet, "is a bunch of hooey. I don't buy it."
"Sir," Sam began. "In the alternate ..."
While Sam tried to convince the general he was wrong, Jack began a private communication with his lover.
**Danny, the only mental link in the universe that I believe in is ours,** Jack asserted. **I love you.** He motioned over at Vala. **She doesn't know we're talking, that I love you, and that she's full of crap. Okay, maybe she knows she's full of crap, but that's just a fact.**
**Do you believe in us; in this special gift we have?**
**Of course, I do,** Daniel replied instantly.
**Then let me do my job, and let's get on with our mission,** Jack requested.
**The link ...**
**The only link that works is the one between us,** Jack insisted. **Danny, we haven't even tested this thing. Let's test it.**
**You're so certain.**
**Oh, yeah -- absolutely positive,** Jack declared.
"... and Daniel almost died," Sam concluded.
"Sam, Jack's right," Daniel averred. He looked over at the SF and ordered, "Take her to the brig."
"Hey! I don't want to die, you know."
"There's no link," Daniel avouched. ~Not the one you're hoping for, anyway.~
Shouting out as she was forced out of the room, everyone held a collective breath, their nervous stares going from person to person and continually landing back on Jack.
When nothing happened, Jack smiled smugly and smirked, "Truth in spirit." Just then, the bracelet inexplicably opened, falling off of Jack's wrist. "I told you," the silver-haired man said quietly to his Love.
"Yes, you did," Daniel acknowledged, picking up the bracelet for a moment before putting it over on the table, near the device. "Okay, so now what?"
"O'Neill," a deeply intense voice called out.
"Teal'c, you're back," Daniel observed.
"Indeed," the Jaffa responded. "GeneralHammond wishes us to meet in the briefing room immediately."
"You look ... tense," Jack observed.
"Tense?" Teal'c questioned. "Things are indeed tense, O'Neill," he advised, turning and walking away.
"Why do I have a feeling I'm not going to like this?" Jack asked and then hurried out of the room, followed by his teammates.
"Teal'c, what's the story on this Gerak fellow?" Jack inquired as he sat down at the conference table.
SG-1 was present, but they were still waiting for General Hammond to join them and officially begin the session.
"Gerak was First Prime of Montu, a minor Goa'uld who served Ra; then later joined with Ba'al when Ra was killed. After the fall of the Goa'uld, Ba'al's armada was led by Hubrok, an ally of Master Bra'tac's. He supports the establishment of a democratic Jaffa nation. Gerak remains a part of that process, though he has voiced concerns."
"He wants to be a republican?" Jack teased lightly.
Staring at Jack for a moment, Teal'c answered, "Gerak believes in more traditional ways of the Jaffa High Council. I believe he does understand the danger of siding with any potential new false gods."
"One can hope," Jack remarked, shrugging when the others looked in his direction.
At that moment, Hammond entered and sat down in his chair at the head of the table. His facial expression was serious.
"General O'Neill, the President wants an update," Hammond stated.
"It's only been a ..." Jack paused. For some reason, pressure was being applied to Hammond. He wasn't sure what it was, but he'd quickly picked up on the fact that this was not the time to joke around. "We have the communication device here and available if we need it, Sir."
"Do we?" Hammond questioned. "What's your plan?"
~Plan?~ Jack asked himself. ~Don't have one of those -- yet.~ Tapping his pen against his notepad, he began slowly, "Aaaaah ..."
"Sir, we have to use the communication device to make contact with the Ori," Daniel responded once his lover had hesitated.
"Didn't we just decide to go on the attack?" Jack questioned.
"Yes, but there's just one problem with that," the archaeologist stated.
"And that would be?"
"We don't know where they are," Daniel pointed out, resulting in several surprised looks being exchanged between those present in the present.
"Okay, there's that, but there has to be a way to find them," Jack suggested. He looked over at his 2IC and asked, "Carter, didn't one of your 'yous' tell you the location of the Ori galaxy?"
"They alluded to it vaguely, Sir, and every time I asked, the subject changed. We don't really know where they are," Sam admitted.
"Besides, I need to get a hold of their holy book," Daniel added.
"Try a library," Jack snarked.
"Look, I wish there were another way, but unless the Ori suddenly discover us on their own, which I have no doubt they will eventually do, the only way we have to protect ourselves is to open the door. At least this way we control when and how they find out about us."
"We don't know where the door is," Jack reminded his lover with a strained voice.
"The communication device is the door we need."
"And I suppose *you* want to open it," Jack responded.
"What do you propose we do?" Daniel asked harshly. "Sit here and wait for that Gate to open, a Prior magically walking through."
"It could happen."
The blaring of the klaxons and the announcement of an off-world activation caused Jack to smirk at his Love and then get up and hurry towards the gate room.
"It couldn't be," Daniel stated, looking towards Sam, who simply shrugged as she, too, left for the gate room. "That would be ... crazy."
"As is talking to oneself," Teal'c stated as he walked out the door.
"I suppose, but there's actually been a lot of speculation that ..." Daniel paused, looking around the now-empty room. He gave a nervous smile and sighed as he turned and trailed after the others. ~Maybe crazy wasn't the smartest word to use there.~
Aware that Hammond had entered the control room, Davis called out, "Receiving a message, Sir. It's text only." The message appeared on Davis' monitor, after which the Stargate shut down. "It's in Goa'uld."
"Doctor Jackson?" Hammond called out, twisting around to motion the linguist forward.
Daniel stared at the screen and began relaying the information, beginning with, "Uh, it's from ... Nerus."
"I am aware of his identity," Teal'c advised those present. "He was a minor Goa'uld who served Ba'al for many centuries."
"What else do you know about him?" Hammond inquired.
"He is a Goa'uld known for his many ... appetites," the Jaffa answered.
"He's also known as an inventor responsible for a host of Goa'uld technologies," Daniel added as he continued reading the message. "Interesting."
"What?" Jack questioned.
"Well, he's, uh, offering to work for us."
"Nerus is not to be trusted," Teal'c informed his colleagues.
Daniel chuckled slightly and, realizing the curious looks being directed at him, explained, "He says, 'I would consider it a great honor to meet the heroes of the Tau'ri who brought the Goa'uld to their knees'."
"That's nice," Jack responded.
"We'll set him up in the VIP suite," Hammond ordered.
"Hmm," Daniel expressed thoughtfully as he continued to read.
"Now what?" Jack questioned.
"Well, according to his communique, he's in possession of 'military intelligence of the utmost urgency'."
"Now why would he want to throw in with us? Ba'al lose his Bacchi coolness?" Jack quipped, though his reference fell upon either deaf or unamused ears.
"Well, all things considered, we must look like major players now," Sam put forth.
"By defeating Anubis," Teal'c expounded.
"Most of the System Lords were killed by the Replicators. Then, we defeated the Replicators."
"Wow, we look cool," Jack replied, a satisfied and pleased look on his face.
"Don't let it go to your head," Hammond retorted. "Doctor Jackson, send a reply inviting Nerus to join us in one hour." He paused and then stated, "We'll take care of our visitor first, and then we'll get back to discussing your plan, Jack. Colonel Carter, make sure Nerus' list of food requirements are met."
"Yes, Sir," both Jack and Sam responded, Jack smiling as the base commander headed out of the control room.
Then his face fell and Jack groaned, "Excuse me. While you're planning the menu, I have a plan to plan."
In one of the VIP rooms, Hammond, SG-1, and Nerus were gathered. From their new plump and food-loving Goa'uld ally, the Tau'ri had just learned that the Ori had arrived and were in the Milky Way Galaxy now, having found it on their own.
"I still think there's more to it," Daniel opined more to himself than to anyone else in the briefing room. "How could they just ... find us all of a sudden?"
"You said it was just a matter of time," Jack rebutted lightly, looking at his archaeologist.
"What must be," the archaeologist replied resolutely.
"Fate?" Jack questioned with raised eyebrows.
"Call it whatever you want," Daniel returned, standing with his arms folded across his chest. "We're just lucky we're as ready for the Ori as we are."
Using a device of his own creation, Nerus then showed Hammond and the team a holographic image of a Jaffa-inhabited planet called Kallana. Surrounding the planet was a small blue circle representing a forcefield that had been placed there by the Ori.
"Thus far, I detect only a single individual, no doubt a prior, inside the forcefield, but ... it is expanding," the Goa'uld pointed out as he turned off his invention.
"What of the Jaffa?" Teal'c questioned about the occupants of the planet.
Nerus simply shrugged, causing the others to exchange strong looks of concern.
"Okay, uh," Daniel began, releasing an audible breath, "so this ... forcefield is growing. Why?"
"If it continues to grow, it will soon be able to accommodate entire Ori armies," Teal'c put forth.
"Yes, and furthermore, the Stargate itself has not shut down since it opened," Nerus stated while sitting down.
"Wait a minute," Daniel called out in alarm. "You said this happened two days ago?"
"Yes," Nerus affirmed.
"That's impossible," Sam interjected, looking around at Hammond and her teammates. "Thirty-eight minutes is the maximum time a Stargate can stay open. That's a law of wormhole physics."
"Maybe someone needs to tell that to the Ori," Nerus replied a bit sarcastically.
"Which means they have a power source which can indefinitely maintain a wormhole from another galaxy, *plus* this forcefield. A ZPM can't even do that," Daniel stated.
"How are we to do battle with an enemy so powerful?" Teal'c stated.
"Maybe we're not so ready for them," the archaeologist sighed dejectedly.
"No, we're ready for them," Jack insisted. He turned to his 2IC and sought forcefully, "We *are* ready for them, aren't we, Carter?"
"We're utilizing all the manpower we have, Sir."
"I'll take that as a 'yes'," the hopeful general replied.
Sam shrugged at the assumption, wishing she felt more confident about it. Her team was hard at work, but they had a long way to go before they'd have anything to even test, and with this new information, she felt more unsure now than she had before.
A few minutes later, Jack and Daniel were walking down a corridor, discussing the meeting with Nerus.
"I don't trust someone who wants to be so helpful," Jack spoke as the lovers turned a corner.
"I know what you mean, but why he would he lie?"
"No clue," the general replied. "But he's after something, Daniel. He was a broken record in there, wanting us to attack Kallana with everything we have. Why would he be so insistent, and *why* does he care what happens to us?"
"I have no idea," Daniel returned, his head bowed slightly as the couple rounded another corner. Seconds passed and then he echoed, "'Like it or not, you're in a state of war.'"
"What?" Jack queried, looking over at his husband.
"That's what Nerus said, that we're at war now," the archaeologist explained, coming to a halt in the corridor and looking back at the direction just traveled.
"Daniel, you have that look."
"That 'I'm about to have a headache' look," the older man answered.
"He said the expansion started two days ago."
"So?" Suddenly, the general understood and groaned, "We just started this show a couple of days ago."
"Come on," Daniel beckoned as he changed direction and began to walk away speedily.
"Wha...whe...Daniel!" Jack called out, after which he let out a groan and began to chase after his archaeologist.
It was just minutes later that Jack and Daniel had reconnected with their teammates in Sam's lab to continue discussing their suspicions.
"You think the Ori have been in our galaxy all along and we just haven't known about it?" Sam questioned after being brought up to date.
"I don't know, but it would be a strange coincidence if they just ... showed up at the exact same time that we decided to seek them out," Daniel put forth.
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed.
"Does Gerak know something he's not telling us?" Jack queried, looking at the Jaffa. "You said he's voiced concerns."
"He has not mentioned the Ori."
"Yes, well, we know how forthcoming he was in that alternate reality," Jack responded with huge skepticism.
"I will speak with Gerak again," Teal'c stated, giving a slight bow of his head and then exiting Sam's lab.
"I hope this isn't about to blow up in our faces," Jack sighed.
"Me, too," Daniel agreed.
"Me, three," Sam added with a sigh.
Daniel adjusted the light in his office, which was pretty dark except for the lamp shining down on his desk. He looked at his watch to check the time and let out a sigh, seeing the date on the calendar.
~We have to focus on the Ori.~
The archaeologist looked down at the notes he'd made. While the Ori were apparently on Kallana, he wondered where else they might be in the Milky Way. He was hoping the information he'd collected from Arthur's library might help him pinpoint those locations as well as possible ways of getting the upper hand on the aliens.
~Needle in a haystack, as Jack would say.~
The sound of a sad sigh filled the office of artifacts. This was not the way he wanted to spend this special evening.
~Maybe it would be okay; just a few hours.~
Full of conflict between his professional obligation, moral compass, and personal desires, Daniel was churning inside. He was so driven to do what was right, and yet, he had a need. Was it wrong to tend to that need and leave the Ori problem behind for just a few hours?
The question weighed heavily on the archaeologist's mind. He knew he could leave the Mountain if he wanted. He had the authority, as did Jack. Most of the other personnel were on mandated duty. Personal time off was at a minimal. Everyone was searching for the Ori or involved in either the medical program for the vaccine or the technology arena, trying to ensure Earth had the weaponry to fight off their most fierce adversary ever.
~What right do I have to take time away when everyone else is working so hard?~
Just as Daniel resigned himself to continuing his work, he felt a familiar presence. Looking up, he smiled.
"Close it up, Danny."
"The book," Jack stated, pointing to it. "We have something to attend to."
"It's a matter of great importance."
"Urgent?" the younger man questioned curiously.
"It's an order."
"I see," Daniel replied, another smile slowly emerging to highlight his handsome facial features as he closed the book.
Jack reached over and turned off the lamp, a smile of his own shining through the dimness of the office.
"Just a few hours," Daniel stated.
"That's all we can afford, but it's what we're going to take," Jack returned, motioning for the door and then accompanying his husband out of the office, up the elevators, and to his truck.
As Jack drove towards their home, Daniel asked, "How's the plan coming?"
"It's getting there," Jack answered. "Developing strategies for fighting these guys when we don't have enough intel on their numbers and location isn't the piece of cake I'd like it to be, especially when we don't know what we have for sure to fight them with."
"There's still a chance I might be able to turn up something in the books I brought back from Glastonbury."
"Needle in a haystack."
Daniel chuckled, "I knew you'd say that."
Jack turned to face his Love for a moment and then smiled as he replied, "I'm just a predictable guy."
"At least I keep you guessing some of time," Jack mused.
The conversation remained light as the drove home continued.
Two hours after returning home, the couple had made love and were now downstairs, relaxing with their beautiful beagles. They were in their sweats, opera playing in the background. They were lying on the carpet in front of the fireplace, though there wasn't a fire lit. They wouldn't have time to properly put it out before leaving again, so the couple simply pretended to hear the soft roar and whistle of burning embers and see the colorful yellows and oranges of the logs burning.
The pair were situated in a crisscross pattern, with Daniel's head leaning against his soulmate's side. His right leg was bent at the knee, and he could see the virtual fire in front of him. Jack's hand gently caressed Daniel's forehead while sometimes sweeping back tenderly through the soft, short strands of his lover's hair.
In their beanbag, Bijou and Katie watched, happy to have their humans home again. They'd enjoyed a happy playtime with Jack and Daniel before the lovers had taken up their current positions.
"Two years," Jack sighed contentedly.
"It's like an ... an impossible dream that ... that became reality," Daniel spoke from his heart. "It's ... incredible."
"Nothing's perfect," Daniel refuted.
"We are," Jack insisted.
For a moment, the younger man considered the comment. He began to smile, the smile transforming into a grin. Then he let out a happy sound.
"What?" Jack questioned.
"You're right, Babe. We are perfect."
A bit surprised, but elated at the agreement, Jack remarked, "I'm glad you agree."
"Well, it's all about your definition of perfection. To me, it means having the opportunity to live my life with the love of my life."
"That had better be me," Jack teased.
"Of course," Daniel responded wryly. "Anyway, it doesn't have anything to do with not fighting or never having any problems. We do. We're human, and sometimes we disagree."
"You got that right."
"I know," Daniel chuckled. "But we're together, Jack. We're ... married, and when we disagree, we work through it."
"Which isn't always easy," Jack put forth.
"It's not about being easy; it's about being together and wanting to make it work, no matter how difficult it might be."
"You're my Angel, Danny. I love you."
"I never thought I'd get used to that, to being your ... angel, but now it's ... part of us," Daniel responded contemplatively. "I love you so much, Jack." He turned over, leaning on his side as he smiled at his husband. "We are perfect, right here and now, one-hundred percent perfection."
Jack smiled as the couple kissed passionately for several minutes.
"I wish we could enjoy some wine."
"I know," Daniel acknowledged, lamenting that their celebration could only be for a short time. Standing, he looked down and advised, "I'll be right back."
The general watched his archaeologist head down the hallway that went to his study as well as to the garage. Seizing the opportunity, he smiled at Bijou and Katie, winking as he headed for the room he still thought of as the plant room.
A minute or two later, the couple met face-to-face near the entranceway, each about to return to the living room. Both were holding wrapped packages in their arms.
"Shopped early?" Jack chortled.
"I've learned to plan ahead," Daniel responded.
The lovers shared another kiss and then settled in on the sofa to open their presents. Jack went first.
The Silver Fox laughed as he fingered through the first part of his gift, a set of love tokens.
"Hugs, massages, kisses ... striptease?" Jack called out, his face delighting in the use of that token.
"Make them last, Babe. There's only twenty."
With a seductive grin, Daniel answered, "You'll have to earn more in some very special and ... unique ways."
"I can do that," Jack responded confidently after which he kissed his husband and put the silver tokens back into their small red velvet pouch. Then he grinned and held out one of the tokens. "I'm claiming this now."
"It's on the house," Daniel returned, refusing to take the token and giving his soulmate a deep, passionate kiss.
The love tokens set the mood for the next hour, the remaining gifts not yet opened. Jack and Daniel had other priorities at the moment. When they refocused on their presents, they had to open them quickly, each happy to receive the loving gifts.
In addition to the love tokens, Daniel gave his husband a new shaving kit to replace his somewhat battered old one. The kit was full of toiletries and cologne, all of which were his favorite scents on his Love.
Jack's first gift to Daniel was a new railroad car that could be attached to his train engine, the Egyptian Express. That was followed by a photographic essay book by Abbas.
"And here's an I.O.U. for a box of chocolates," Jack added, the I.O.U. coming in the form of a kiss. "I was going to pick one up today, but ..."
"But we're lucky to have this time together, Jack," Daniel interjected softly, his eyes gazing into his lover's.
"Forever and always, Angel. I love you," Jack declared.
"Forever and always, and always and forever, Jack," Daniel replied. "The circle of our love just keeps growing."
"It'll never end. Happy anniversary, Danny."
"Happy anniversary, Jack. I love you with all my heart."
After another half-hour of enjoying their love, the couple spent a few more minutes loving on Bijou and Katie before locking up the house and returning to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. It wasn't the celebration they'd each envisioned for their second wedding anniversary, but it was something. In fact, for Jack and Daniel, it was perfect.
The next morning, SG-1 was walking down the corridor towards the mess hall. Jack had ordered a team breakfast, wanting to ensure his team had a good, full meal since this might be their only break for the immediate future.
"Carter, forget the Ori stuff from the alternate reality," Jack instructed. "What do we have that might be powerful enough to give us a shot at these guys?"
Rounding a corner, Sam inwardly reviewed the various weapons and technology in the military arsenal. Just as the group reached the food trays, she stopped.
"Carter?" Jack asked, looking over at her, having realized his 2IC wasn't moving.
"The Mark IX."
"Sounds technical," Jack responded and grimaced at the meat loaf that had just been placed on his plate. ~This guy is new,~ he lamented, wondering where the base's last chef had gone. The slab of meat on his plate was not enticing. "Care to share?"
Sam grabbed her tray and hurried to catch up with her teammates. She waited, though, until they'd sat down at the table to fill them in.
"I've been overseeing the development of something at Area 51 that might be our best chance to stop the Ori at Kallana," Sam began.
"I'm game for that," Daniel stated without knowing the specifics.
"We don't even know what it is yet," Jack responded with a stare.
"Well, if it can stop the Ori, does it matter what it is?" the archaeologist queried, arching his eyebrows.
Jack's stare turned into a glare, a fixed look that remained even as he snapped, "Carter."
"We're calling it the 'Gate buster'," Sam expounded.
"Sounds big," Jack surmised, his glare towards his lover having transformed into a subtle leer, causing Daniel to quickly take a sip of his coffee and look away.
"The Mark IX is a naquadria-enhanced nuclear warhead capable of a multi-gigaton detonation," Sam explained.
"Meaning ... fireworks?" Jack prodded. **I can think of a different type of fireworks I would love to see; a replay of last night's ... explosions would be good.**
"It's sole function is to destroy, well, vaporize a Stargate and anything else in a hundred-mile radius."
"Wait," Daniel interjected. "We need to find out more about the Ori. This is our chance to make contact without using the communication device, and I need to see their holy book."
"Daniel, we can't just let them waltz into the galaxy and take over," Jack argued sternly.
"I'm not suggesting that, but we can't just blow up Kallana's Stargate without talking to them, either." Daniel stared at his teammates and then continued. "Look, destroying the Stargate on Kallana is only going to close one door. What if they are on other planets already? And what's to prevent them from coming through some place else? Blowing up that Gate would only be a ... a plug. The Ori would still be out there."
Jack groaned and pushed back his plate, no longer hungry. He stood up and headed for the exit. Realizing he was alone, he turned back to face his team.
"Mealtime is over. Let's take this to Hammond."
"Sir, I recommend we send our teams out to as many worlds as possible and make sure these cretins aren't trying to open more than one door," Jack advised his superior.
Hammond nodded and replied, "All teams are on alert. We'll organize and initialize a grid pattern watch system."
"Uh, Sir, has anyone checked on ... Vala?" Daniel asked, evading his lover's surprised glance. "We know Jack's fine, but ..."
"She's under twenty-four hour watch," Hammond answered. "She's just fine, as long as you don't listen to her screaming at the camera, or ..."
"Or what, Sir?" noting Hammond's odd change of expression.
"We've switched to all-female SFs."
"Why?" Sam asked, seeing Daniel closing his eyes and looking at him with curiosity.
"Let's just say she's giving the Playboy Channel a run for its money in the provocative department," Hammond answered cryptically.
"Oh," Sam responded, smiling as she searched for a different topic of conversation. "Sir, we'd like to deploy the Mark IX from Area 51."
Hammond's eyes widened slightly as he sat back and listened to what his flagship team was proposing. He wasn't sure he was going to like it, but then again, he respected their suggestions more than any other teams' on the base.
Sometime later, as a result of not being able to dial into Kallana's Stargate, arrangements had been made for SG-1 to rendezvous with the Prometheus on P4C-452 and then proceed to the Jaffa world to complete their mission.
"Welcome aboard, SG-1," Captain Pendergast greeted as the team beamed aboard his vessel.
"Thank you," Jack acknowledged, looking around.
The captain picked up the communication phone and stated, "Flight deck, this is Pendergast. SG-1 is aboard. Engage hyperdrive, and proceed to Kallana, best possible speed."
"Is the Mark IX ready to go?" Sam asked.
"Standing by for your systems check. I hear you're in a hurry."
"Invasions usually necessitate speed," Jack returned matter-of-factly.
"These Ori sound bad," Pendergast replied as the group walked through the corridors.
"That's the intel," Jack sighed.
"The President has authorized any and all means to complete the mission," Sam added, seeing the captain look over at her with concern.
"Bad," Pendergast repeated more seriously.
On Earth, Hammond had another face off with the always-hungry Nerus and demanded a progress report from the Goa'uld.
"Now, here is the latest transmission from my satellite. As you can see, the forcefield continues to expand in phases, and as it does so, it weakens considerably," Nerus advised the general.
"Enough to penetrate with our beaming technology?"
"Yes, wi...with those nuclear devices that you were talking about."
"Or SG-1. They could talk to this prior, face to face," Hammond pointed out.
"Wh...why? Why would they do that?" Nerus asked anxiously.
"We resort to force only when necessary."
"Oh, I assure you it will be. It will be, General, and, and with the most powerful weapons in your arsenal."
Hammond stared at the Goa'uld. Like SG-1, he was wondering why the Goa'uld seemed so certain war was the only alternative.
"I'll forward this new information directly to Prometheus, and," Hammond gestured at the table, "I'll see if I can arrange for more chicken."
As they neared Kallana, the crew of Prometheus and SG-1 made a startling discovery. Not only was the forcefield now nine-hundred times its original size, but there was no sign of any life, except for a lone prior, inside the forcefield.
"They are murderers," the Jaffa stated, his worse fears realized, that the entire population of Kallana had been wiped out by this new menace.
"Teal'c, we're going to get them, but we all have to stay focused here," Jack stated as he tried to both soothe and calm his angry comrade.
~I shall focus on how I will dismember them,~ the Jaffa bristled internally, his gut instinct being to seek revenge. He calmed, though, and nodded in agreement, knowing that his commanding officer was right. ~As the Tau'ri say, revenge is a dish best served cold.~
"I don't know how he's managing it," Sam stated. "According to these readings, the atmosphere inside the field has become toxic, probably as a result of the Jaffa weapons fire on the forcefield."
"Send a subspace message to Stargate Command. We are over the enemy beachhead," Pendergast ordered.
"Gear up," Jack ordered, leading his team to the gear up room on the huge space vessel.
"Takes me back," Jack quipped as he finished getting inside his space suit.
"When's the last time you wore one of these, Sir?" one of the crewman questioned as she made sure the suit was secure.
"Several years ago. Daniel and Carter wanted to bring home one of their toys," Jack began. He chuckled, "Daniel thought the toy was like a message in a bottle. They had fun; had a slumber party; and then the thing nearly killed me." He brayed, "Some message."
Daniel and Sam exchanged a look, both recalling the incident with the Orb with crystal clarity. The situation had been critical, but they'd come through that, and they were determined to survive this as well.
"So," Daniel began brightly, "we're ready to go."
"Just about," Jack acknowledged. "Carter, you're gonna miss all the fun."
"I'll have my own fun here, Sir," Sam responded lightly. She moved closer to the Mark IX weapon and felt Daniel's presence as he approached and stood next to her. "If Nerus is correct, we should be able to punch through the forcefield with our transport beam."
"And if not?" the archaeologist asked.
"Then we're all dressed up with nowhere to go," Jack quipped.
"Your return window will be roughly sixteen seconds once on the surface, after which time you'll be committed until the next expansion phase in about half an hour. I'll be monitoring from the bridge."
Just as soon as Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c beamed down onto the planet, Jack placed the Mark IX into mode two. Then the three headed for the Stargate.
"There's the prior," Daniel stated.
"He's reading," Jack remarked in surprise.
"Perhaps it is one of Oprah's recommendations," Teal'c stated.
As Daniel blinked at the comment, Jack paused, shaking his head as he replied, "That's a joke, right, T?" When silence loomed, he repeated, "T, that was a joke, wasn't it?"
Not getting a response, Jack shook off the quirky statement and looked again at the prior, who was standing calmly by the Gate as he read. He wasn't even wearing any kind of special suit.
~He's breathing okay,~ Jack observed. ~Maybe it's some kind of personal shield, like the System Lords used.~ Now that the three men were within speaking distance of the Ori representative, he called out, "Hello. I'm General Jack O'..."
"I know who you are," the prior interrupted arrogantly. He shifted his focus and stated, "You are the one the Doci wishes to speak to."
"Hey, you're supposed to look at me when I'm talking to you," Jack spoke, noting the prior was looking directly at Daniel.
"Really?" Daniel questioned in surprise.
Suddenly, the prior's spear lit, and a moment later, a second prior appeared.
"We knew you would come," the second prior stated.
"Uh, how?" Jack questioned.
"The Doci awaits," the second prior advised. Both Ori raised their staffs, the objects glowing brightly. They raised their hands high and called out in unison, "Hallowed are the Ori."
"Daniel?" Jack questioned when he realized he and his soulmate had been taken to some unknown place without having gone through the Stargate, being beamed, or using the ring transportation system.
"Well, I told you that it was possible that the Ori here have powers that are different, unique, or enhanced. Obviously, their staffs have some ability to move us from place to place."
"Where are we?" Jack called out to the prior. "How'd we get here?" he added.
"Your minds are here, at the Plains of Celestis; your bodies are there," the prior answered.
~Ah, crap,~ Jack whined. ~This is turning out to be a bad day, although at least they brought me and not just Danny, which would have been infinitely worse.~
On the planet, Teal'c walked in front of his teammates, stunned that both were standing as still as statues. Their eyes were open, and they were breathing, but there was no indication that they could see or hear him.
"What has happened to my friends?" Teal'c questioned, wishing dearly that he had his staff weapon at hand.
"They are with the Doci, in the City of the Gods. They will return. Hallowed are the Ori."
Teal'c stared at the prior and then at his vacant teammates. For now, all he could do was wait.
Inside a great hall, Jack and Daniel were left on their own while the prior that had brought them to the City of the Gods went to inform the Doci of their presence.
"Jack, this is it," Daniel observed excitedly, seeing a thick book sitting on a large table.
The linguist sat down and opened the book, while Jack examined the basket of fruits that sat on the table.
"What's it say?" the general queried.
"Well, it seems to follow suit with many of the religions I've studied. They tend to weave their doctrines into simple fable-like narratives with characters that are meant to be identifiable to a common individual. They all seem to teach meditation on one's worth and significance, claiming that it's the path of righteousness towards a state of higher being."
"Of course," Jack replied in an automated sort of tone.
After continuing his examination a moment, Daniel noted, "The central icon of the religion seems to be fire, which would make sense. Fire is light, energy, warmth, and yet, on Earth, at some point, fire became associated with demonic imagery. Things that are evil. Hell, not heaven."
"Daniel, do you notice anything odd?"
"We're not in our spacesuits," Jack pointed out, patting his green BDU jacket.
"He did say our bodies are back on Kallana," Daniel reminded, finally looking up from the large book to stare at Jack.
"These look like our bodies," Jack replied. He looked around, still puzzling over how the Ori were able to create the current situation. Realizing he was thinking too hard, he turned off his ponder button and switched gears. "Why don't you stuff that thing in your jacket and see if it gets back to the planet with us."
"Assuming we do get ... of course, we'll get back," Daniel replied.
"The Doci will see you soon," the prior announced as he returned and stood by the table.
"So, uh, about the Jaffa on the planet we just came from."
"Unbelievers," the prior put forth.
"Perhaps in your Book of Origin, but they do, did believe in their own ideology," Daniel stated.
"Those who stray must be guided back to the path. When that is not possible, they must face their punishment."
"Excuse me?" Jack questioned pointedly. "Since when is it okay to murder someone for believing in a religion that's different from yours?"
"Devotion is rewarded," the prior answered evasively. "The Ori gave all men and women free will."
"The Jaffa on that planet used their free will to believe differently," Daniel responded.
"They rejected the true path. Do you know of others beyond your galaxy who need enlightenment?" the prior questioned.
"Hey!" Jack called out. "If the Ori are so powerful, why do they need us to tell them who believes in them and who doesn't?" He grinned and exclaimed, "Gotcha!"
"The Ori need nothing from us," the prior claimed.
With a small smile, Daniel spoke, "It is we who must seek the truth of the universe in order to achieve enlightenment."
Jack glared at his lover and whined, "Not that Oma crap."
Shrugging, Daniel replied, "Well, I have been down this road before."
"Yes," Jack acknowledged in a prolonged, drawing out of his one-word reply.
"The Doci requires you to be enlightened before giving you an audience," the prior announced and then began what would be a lengthy oration.
**Daniel, I may throw up soon,** Jack groused.
**I stopped listening a long time ago,** Daniel admitted.
**Oh, for crying out loud. Are you telling me that *I've* been listening to this crap, and you've been daydreaming?**
**Apparently,** the younger man acknowledged smugly.
**What have you been thinking about?**
**Actually, I've been thinking about what color sweater to get the girls? I saw a green one at the pet store that I liked, but there was also a purple one that would look great on Katie. Babe, do you think we should get them matching sweaters?**
Jack stared at his lover in surprise. He couldn't believe what his mental ears were hearing.
**No,** the older man finally answered.
**I thought you'd be thinking about how to get us out of here,** Jack explained.
**They'll let us go; remember, we aren't really here, anyway. Jack, we just have to go along with them. They don't know that we already knew about them.**
**I'd like to know how they found out about us.**
**Yeah, me, too,** the younger man sighed, his face scrunching up in worry over that part of the situation.
"... Amica was forgiven his transgression and found his way back to the path," the prior continued in a monotone recitation, totally oblivious to the fact he was being completely ignored.
**Seriously, I can't take much more of this,** Jack related, using the couple's special link yet again.
**Yeah, okay,** Daniel acknowledged, deciding to try the direct approach with the prior. "Um, sorry to interrupt, but if you brought us here to try and convert us, I think it's fair to tell you that we're really not in the market for 'new gods'."
"The will of the Ori brought you here."
"Fine. Isn't it time we spoke with this ... Doci you mentioned?" Daniel asked.
"You are not yet ready," the prior claimed.
A bit desperately, Daniel turned the page of the book and said, "Uh, 'like Egidius of Vil Dare, I need to speak things that can only be spoken in the light of the fire'. Really, we'd rather talk to the Doci ... privately."
"Come with me," the prior beckoned.
"Magic words?" Jack inquired of his lover. "Maybe you should have asked that an hour ago."
"I don't think it ..."
Daniel's words were cut off when the prior prevented Jack from continuing through the threshold that the archaeologist had already walked through.
"Why not?" Jack questioned, having a feeling that he was not going to like the answer.
Just as the archaeologist turned around, the door closed in his husband's face.
"He's not going to like that." Hearing Jack screaming, swearing, and pounding on the unmovable doors, Daniel added, "I told you."
Daniel turned around and observed a set of tall doors open. He walked through them and saw the Doci standing in front of a large statue. He noted one side of the room was adorned with an ornate, cast-iron fence, and beyond it was a wall of fire.
Like the priors that Daniel had seen, the Doci was dressed in a long robe, and his face was powder white, his eyes having an odd milky cast to them.
Once the prior left the room, Daniel greeted, "Hello. I'm ..."
"Daniel Jackson from the planet Earth."
"Okay, so you know my name and where I'm from. How exactly *do* you know that?"
"The Ori are all seeing."
"Sometimes, maybe," Daniel replied. "But ... we haven't really met before, your people and ... mine."
"It is the will of the Ori that we should spread Origin to all those blessed by their creation," the Doci responded. "Priors have already been dispatched to your place of origin."
~Okay, he doesn't want to answer my question,~ Daniel realized silently. "I think you should understand that there are many different kinds of people where I'm from who believe in many different things."
"They shall find the path to enlightenment."
"You should also understand that they may not see your way as the only way," Daniel replied.
"The power and the greatness of the Ori cannot be denied. Those who reject the path to enlightenment must be destroyed."
"Like the Jaffa on Kallana."
"The Book of Origin ..." the Doci began, quoting Ori gospel and continuing to relay their beliefs in the hopes of converting Daniel quickly.
**I'm okay,** Daniel responded. **Just doing some verbal sparring with the devil.**
**No,** Daniel sighed. As soon as the Doci paused for breath, Daniel seized the moment and jumped in. "I'm not denying the Ori are very powerful beings, but they're not gods. I suspect they simply have a greater understanding of the knowledge of the universe."
"What is a god, but a being that is worshiped by those beneath? Is great knowledge, power, understanding not enough for you to revere the Ori?" the Doci questioned.
"Respect, yes, certainly, but ... that doesn't mean I would murder innocent people in their name," Daniel argued sharply.
"Hallowed are the Ori," the Doci replied, ignoring the remark.
~This isn't going well,~ Daniel sighed to himself. "I can't speak for everyone in my galaxy, but in my own humble opinion, I don't believe that any individual or society can achieve enlightenment through fear-mongering and forced servitude, no matter what power is presented as evidence. That's something the ascended beings I know very clearly seem to understand." He took a brief moment and then expounded, "Don't get me wrong. I mean, we should all be trying to better ourselves. I mean, if ascension is the ultimate end we're trying to achieve, then so be it, but we should all be allowed to get there or not of our own free will. You can kill me for saying that, but that is what I believe, and nothing you say or do will *ever* change my mind."
"Come," the Doci ordered, walking to the gate, opening it, and stepping out onto the balcony next to the chasm of fire. "The Ori hear you."
The Doci spread out his arms and then a burst of flames entered him through his back. He turned and faced Daniel with glowing golden eyes.
~That's very ... Goa'uld-ish,~ Daniel opined, an observation that grew stronger when he heard the Doci's altered voice a moment later.
With an echo-like voice, the now-possessed Doci spoke, "We do not require blind faith, only that you believe what you see and know to be true. We are the Ori."
"And you instruct these people to worship you?" Daniel asked, though he already knew the answer. ~I have to learn as much first hand knowledge as I can.~
"We are their creators. All who follow the path will join us in enlightenment."
"Let's cut to the quick," Daniel suggested assertively. "I know that you know the Alterans have been protecting those in my galaxy for a ... a long time, although personally, I don't think they've really helped us all that much."
"The truth of the universe has been obstructed. All will know the power of the Ori."
A moment later, the fiery burst exited the Doci and returned to the wall of fire.
"Hallowed are the Ori," the Doci declared in his normal voice.
"No, not really," Daniel negated. "I think we're done here, don't you?"
The Doci nodded and a second later, the prior returned, leading the archaeologist back to where Jack was waiting impatiently.
"How'd it go?" Jack inquired.
"Bad," Daniel answered. "It's pretty much their way ..."
"... or the highway?"
"Something like that," Daniel returned. "Uh, actually, anyone who doesn't follow them isn't worthy of living and should be destroyed."
"That's a warped sense of enlightenment," Jack retorted. "Did you find out how they learned about us?"
"They didn't want to tell me; actually, they pretty much just wanted to say what they wanted to say."
"Follow us, or die?"
"Pretty much," Daniel affirmed with a bob of his head.
"So, this was a waste of time of energy,?" Jack sighed. "Sweet."
"No, we verified that they're still human. Now, highly evolved humans can have some pretty amazing abilities. They're using the secrets of the universe that the Ori have given them to spread word of the Ori's godliness, and when people don't see the light, it's going to be ..."
"... the end," Jack completed for his husband. "Now, about getting out of here."
"Oh, they'll let us go."
"And the book?"
Just then the prior returned, instructing them to follow.
"Uh, you don't mind if I take this, do you?" Daniel questioned, holding up the book. "It is the word of the Ori, right?"
"At least something is going our way," Jack opined quietly after the prior nodded permission for Daniel to keep the Book of Origin.
"Jack, what Nerus said about when the expansion on Kallana started," Daniel began with a hint of urgency, "The Doci said priors had been dispatched to our galaxy. They could be anywhere ... everywhere."
"We need a new plan."
"I didn't think we had an old plan."
"Technicality," Jack quipped.
The prior led the two men beyond the city, across the Plains of Celestis, and back to where they'd first appeared. When the prior stopped walking, he held out his arms dramatically, and his staff lit up. He mumbled a few words that the lovers couldn't distinguish.
"O'Neill, DanielJackson, you have returned," Teal'c stated, having seen his friends' bodies sway forward just slightly, though not falling.
"We're back," Jack acknowledged, patting his space suit and looking all around. "Has he moved?" he asked, looking over towards the prior who continued to stand in front of the Stargate.
"He has not," Teal'c answered. "Is that the Ori's holy book, DanielJackson?"
"Hey, they really transported it," Daniel replied, only now realizing the book was in his hands. "Uh, yes, this is it."
"Daniel, now that we've said 'hello', it's time to close the door," Jack declared, referring to their original mission.
Daniel nodded, and the three teammates approached the prior again.
"Hey, you," Jack called out to the prior.
Stopping his reading, the prior looked pointedly at SG-1.
"We're not letting you in," Jack advised firmly. "You probably don't know a lot about our little galaxy, but ..."
"The Ori are all-seeing," the prior put forward ardently.
"We've heard that before," Daniel interjected.
"Have it your way," Jack responded. "You need to know that we have in our possession a Mark IX naquadria-enhanced nuclear warhead, which was designed solely for the purpose of vaporizing Stargates and anything else in a one-hundred mile radius. If you attempt to disable this warhead, physically, electronically, or otherwise, it will result in an immediate detonation. Now, we have a number of these little babies at our disposal, and we will not hesitate to use them if necessary. If you do not disengage the Stargate within thirty minutes, we'll shut the Gate down for ya."
"The Doci didn't change our minds. Look, the Ori aren't who you think. They're not gods; they're just ... advanced." Daniel paused, uncertain what to say and fairly certain that anything he did offer wouldn't get through, anyway. "I don't know how you found out about us, but you should know we're strong, and we won't let you destroy us. We *will* fight you."
A couple of minutes passed, with the team standing by nervously, wondering if they were really going to have to allow the Mark IX to do its damage.
"Hey, bleached zombie," Jack called out to the prior, breaking the silence. "You do understand that you are within the hundred-mile radius and that personal shield isn't going to help you?"
"Death is only the beginning of the real journey," the prior averred.
"Sounds familiar," Daniel muttered.
"It should sound familiar, Doctor Jackson. When I die, I will ascend. It is the promise of the Ori."
"Even if you fail your task?" Teal'c challenged.
"Okay, enough," Jack decided. "They aren't going to change their minds. Agreed?"
Daniel sighed, but nodded his head in agreement.
"Agreed," Teal'c stated.
As Jack walked over to the Mark IX, Daniel called out to the prior, compassionately urging, "It's not too late! Just ... just give us a chance to explain the history to you. The Alterans and the Ori ..."
"Hallowed are the Ori," the prior interrupted, ignoring Daniel's plea.
"Give it up, Daniel," Jack suggested in a raised voice, having heard the plea and response. "He doesn't care."
"Apparently not," Daniel lamented, nodding to Teal'c and then walking over to where SG-1's team leader stood by the powerful weapon.
At that moment, Jack pressed a large button on the Mark IX and announced, "The weapon is now in Mode One." Into his radio, he advised, "Prometheus, we're ready for beam up." Turning to prior, he called out, "Last chance, fella."
As the prior turned his back on SG-1 to face the Stargate, the team was beamed back up the Prometheus.
On the bridge of the powerful ship, Pendergast announced, "We're sending the Ori a message which they should receive in about," he checked his watch, "ten seconds. Shields to maximum."
With SG-1 staring out the view screen, a large flash of light erupted, and the Mark IX exploded.
"It's working, right?" Jack asked, looking over at Sam as she stared in the controls. "Carter?"
"I don't understand this," Sam remarked in disbelief. "Sirs, the forcefield went into another expansion phase just as the bomb detonated, and it's a big one."
Jack and Daniel exchanged a look. Their non-plan plan just wasn't working. The forcefield was continuing to grow.
"That was a multi-gigaton detonation. There's just no way," Sam asserted anxiously.
"Maybe the Gate was destroyed," Daniel suggested.
"I doubt it," Jack replied. "If the field is still expanding, the Gate still has to be active." He shrugged when his lover looked at him questioningly. "I'm right, right?"
"Probably, Sir," Sam confirmed. "The environment inside the field has been turned into superheated plasma; makes it impossible to get a reliable reading."
"Carter, we *have* to destroy this beachhead. They're more powerful than we thought," Jack informed his 2IC, his gut giving him a nasty feeling about what was going down.
"No, they're not," Daniel rebutted. "We just weren't as ready for them as we thought we were, and we still aren't now." Glancing at Jack, he maintained, "But we still were right for wanting to find them."
Jack groaned, but didn't argue. Instead, he looked out the view screen, hoping something would change before it was too late.
"The detonation did weaken the forcefield," Pendergast stated. "Our combined weapons fire might just finish the job."
"Sam?" Daniel implored.
Shaking her head, Sam replied, "We just don't have enough information. Until I can explain how they're keeping the Gate open or powering a forcefield this large," she looked at Jack, "it's your call, General."
Jack let out a grunt, looked over at his lover, and then ordered, "Open up with everything we've got."
"Bring main rail gun on line and commence firing. Launch missiles," the captain ordered his crew.
Although the forcefield began to lose strength, it also continued to get bigger. At this point, it was nearly enveloping the entire planet. Suddenly, Sam swore and called out for the ship to cease fire.
Trusting his 2IC's judgement, Jack nodded to the captain and, once the ship's guns fell silent, questioned, "Okay, Carter. Why'd we just do that?"
"The greater the intensity of our weapons' fire, the greater and more frequent their expansion phases. There is a direct correlation. They're using the energy of our own weapons to build their beachhead," Sam explained.
"Sam, are you saying ... they planned this?" Daniel asked warily.
"There's no way to project the necessary power through a Stargate across galaxies, so they designed a forcefield that could be powered by our own weapons," Sam responded.
"The Ori must have known the Jaffa of Kallana would defend their home world and others would follow," Teal'c stated.
"And Nerus made certain we'd join in," Daniel surmised angrily.
"Which means he's working for the Ori," Jack deduced. ~Face-stuffing snake!~
With equal ire to her teammates, Sam added, "The Mark IX gave them almost seventy percent of the power they needed to envelop the entire planet."
"Oh yeah, we've been set up," Jack acknowledged unhappily.
"The forcefield is now covering the planet completely," Lieutenant Marks called out from his seat.
"Great," Jack sighed.
SG-1's worse fears came through a minute later when an undetermined number of objects accelerated from the planet's surface. They weren't ships; at least, there were no life signs registering from the objects, but whatever they were, they were blasting the Prometheus.
"We're under attack!" Marks called out as one of the enemy blasts rocked the ship hard and severely depleted their shields.
Having no choice given the damage done to his ship, Pendergast ordered the ship to retreat a safe distance so that they could make some repairs.
Full of ire, Hammond entered the VIP room and confronted Nerus. He plucked a chicken leg from the Goa'uld's mouth, tossing it to the ground.
"I want to know what you sent my people into," Hammond demanded.
"That was chicken, General, a rare deli..."
"Sergeant!" Hammond ordered furiously.
The SFs all drew their weapons, aiming them at the Goa'uld.
"I asked you a question, and unless you want that bite to be your last bite, you better answer it -- now!"
"Oooh. They say all good meals must come to an end. I assume, General, that by now, SG-1 has reported that the Ori, the closest thing to true gods in the entire universe, have successfully established a permanent foothold."
"What did you do?"
"Oh, it's not what I did, General. What I have done pales in comparison to your contribution, and by now, the forcefield has almost entirely enveloped the planet, which makes them unstoppable." Grinning wickedly, the Goa'uld began to speak in its deepened tone, saying, "And we couldn't have done it without you."
Hammond glared at the Goa'uld, wanting to order his men to fire, but knowing he couldn't. Reluctantly, he turned and stormed out.
Once its sensors were back online, the Prometheus returned to Kallana and were stunned by what they saw. The numerous objects they'd witnessed coming from the planet were now joining together, forming an object in space.
"Doesn't that look an awful lot like ..." a nervous Daniel began.
"Yeah, it does," Jack lamented.
"In fact, I think that's just what it is," Sam spoke regrettably.
"No, it can't be, because I was going to say Stargate," Daniel refuted.
"Try Supergate," Sam put forward. "I estimate it's three- to four-hundred meters across."
"Large enough for the passage of an entire armada," Teal'c stated.
Kallana was shrinking at a rapid pace, and the group finally figured out what was really going on.
"Only one thing in the universe could power a Gate that size," Sam began. "It's also the only thing that could allow them to keep the Gate open this long, and there's one on the other end."
~Oh, crap!~ Daniel sighed, realizing what his teammate was talking about. "A black hole."
"That's what the forcefield was for. It wasn't meant to keep us out. It was designed to collapse the planet into a micro-singularity."
"Why?" the general questioned.
"Well, this is how they can create a wormhole that can span such a vast distance. With a black hole at either end, they can maintain an open wormhole indefinitely," Sam explained.
"We need a plan," Jack stated urgently.
"One that's outside the box," Daniel elaborated. He looked back at the rest of the team, all of who were staring at him. "What are you looking at me for?"
"Face it, Daniel. No one thinks outside the box like you do," Sam asserted.
"But I'm not an astrophysicist," Daniel rebutted.
With a sigh, Sam put forth thoughtfully, "Okay, the Gate is composed of individual units. There must be some sort of energy linkage between them, like a, a chain."
"So, we need a big ol' set of bolt cutters," Jack interjected.
"Not that far out, Jack," Daniel responded.
Looking at the readout, Sam reported, "Planetary collapse is speeding up exponentially. I estimate singularity formation is minutes away, and there will be a significant shockwave. Whatever we're going to do, we have to do it now."
"Captain, are there F-302s aboard?" Daniel questioned suddenly, causing Jack to actually rear back in surprise.
"We have a full complement of eight," Pendergast confirmed.
Daniel looked at his lover hesitantly. He had the answer, but if he revealed it, Jack's life would be in jeopardy because although there were other pilots on the ship none had Jack's skill or experience.
"What are you thinking?" Jack inquired, fully aware his lover had an idea that required a pilot, meaning Jack.
"The objects are being held in some sort of energy field, like links on a chain," Daniel began.
Sam brightened as she picked up on the idea, but then she grew worried and replied, "Daniel, when that singularity forms, there will be a powerful shockwave. The F-302 wouldn't survive."
"We'd have to beam him out, and fast," Daniel responded.
"Would one of you *please* tell me what we're talking about," Jack implored.
Licking his lips and placing his arms around his chest, the archaeologist explained, "The F-302, Jack. You have to fly it into that ... Supergate."
"Why would I do that?"
"Sir, you have just enough time to fly the F-302 into place," Sam advised urgently. "The spacecraft will be the last piece of the Supergate. It should disrupt the energy field and stop the Supergate from being complete."
~Always the selfless one,~ Jack thought about his soulmate. He considered the plan for only the briefest of moments and then looked at Daniel, knowing how difficult it was for him to make the suggestion. He nodded, declaring silently, **I love you, Danny, always and forever.** He looked at Pendergast and stated, "I'm going in."
**Forever and always. I love you, too, Jack,** Daniel communicated, wishing with all his heart that his soulmate would return safely back to him.
"Good luck, Sir," Sam expressed with hope.
As he hurried for the flight deck, Jack chastised, "Carter, you *know* how I feel about luck wishing."
The blonde patted Daniel on the arm and then refocused on the controls.
"Shields to maximum," Pendergast order just a minute later.
"He's running out of time."
"Jack, hurry," Daniel urged over the radio.
"I'm just about there. Man, this thing is huge," Jack observed as he closed in on the Supergate.
Carefully, the general maneuvered the craft into its position, fitting the F-302 perfectly in the last space. The F-302 now formed the final link of the Supergate.
"It's working," Sam advised the crew with relief. "He disrupted the energy field holding the objects in place."
"We have to make sure it's holding. The general may need to maneu...no, it's working," Sam stated confidently. Verifying her readings and satisfied the plan had been successful, she called out, "Now!"
Pendergast nodded and Marks engaged the Asgard beam.
At the same instant, blue arcs began to engulf the F-302. The singularity formed, and Kallana disappeared into nothingness.
"Anytime, Carter!" Jack shouted over the radio.
"Marks!" Pendergast called out anxiously.
"I engaged the beam, Sir," Marks replied. "There must be some interference."
"Try it again," Sam ordered sternly.
Daniel stood by anxiously, his heart pounding and his ears ringing from the internal strife he was feeling. Had he sent his soulmate to his death?
Suddenly, the F-302 exploded, resulting in the Supergate pieces being scattered through space.
"He did it!" Sam exclaimed. "The Gate's been destroyed."
"Jack?" Daniel questioned, his mind unable to cheer in celebration until he knew his husband was safe.
"I ..." Marks began, waiting for confirmation. Then he smiled and looked over, nodding. "General O'Neill is on board. He's okay."
"I'll be back," Daniel advised, leaving the bridge with a desperate need to see his soulmate with his own eyes.
"Stargate Command, this is the Prometheus," Sam called out. "The Ori beachhead has been destroyed."
Back at the Mountain, Hammond had a field day taunting Nerus, who was being handcuffed in preparation for being transported. The Goa'uld had just been told that SG-1 had destroyed the beachhead, thereby preventing the Ori from following through with their plans.
"I've witnessed their power, General, power that will one day be mine; and if what you say is true, you've merely forestalled the inevitable." Smugly, Nerus added, "And when you put me to death for what I have done, I shall ascend."
With satisfaction, Hammond approached Nerus and replied, "You will descend, to a small, dark room in the basement of Area 51, and you'll stay there until you come up with a defense against the Ori. That was our deal."
Amused, Nerus asked, "What would possibly compel me to do that?"
"Hunger," Hammond snarked smugly before turning and leaving the room.
"Hey!" Daniel greeted, his racing heart finally settling, now that he could see his husband with his own eyes.
"Backatcha!" Jack responded as he walked forward, wishing he could hold his Love in his arms, but knowing he couldn't, considering the number of Prometheus personnel in the area, not to mention Sam, who was now hurrying towards them. While Sam did know about the eternal love affair between Jack and Daniel, they still tried to respect her position in the military and not put her in dubious positions. ~She could be admonished for knowing about us and not turning us in,~ he reminded himself.
"General, well done."
"Thank you, Carter." Jack cocked his head and asked, "And now what?"
"We have their book," Daniel stated.
"Which is going to help us ... how?"
"Knowledge is power, Jack."
"We need to get back to SGC. Carter, any word from our scout teams?" the general asked, referring to the SG teams who were continually being dispatched to check out various worlds for Ori incursions.
"So far, the reports have all been negative," Sam reported.
"It's logical to believe that if they found Kallana, they've found other Stargates in the Milky Way," Daniel pointed out.
"Wish we knew how they found out about us," Jack stated, beginning to head for the Prometheus bridge.
"Well, it may not be that important," Daniel replied, following his husband out of the room. "We wanted to open the door, remember?"
"I just hope we haven't opened it too far," the older man responded.
Daniel nodded, inwardly processing the information the team had learned on this mission. He knew they had a big fight ahead of them.
"Welcome home, SG-1," Hammond greeted his flagship team as they entered the conference room.
"Thank you, Sir," Sam acknowledged, being the first one to approach the major general. "Colonel," she greeted with a nod as she sat down next to the leader of SG-3, who was there along the leader of SG-2, Lou Ferretti.
Jack patted his good friend, Lou, on the back as he took the seat next to him. On the other side of him was Janet, who was the last to enter.
Daniel was situated across from his lover, sitting between Sam and Teal'c.
There was no time to rest from the Kallana experience as SG-1 was about to discover.
Getting to the point, Hammond looked at Reynolds and nodded, giving the man his cue to speak.
"SG-3 just returned from our recon of P8X-412. We didn't interact with the locals, but while we were there, we observed a man that sounds a lot like these Ori priors."
"Long robes, white skin, scarred faces?" Jack questioned.
Nodding, Reynolds affirmed the comment, adding, "Carrying a staff and a book. The people weren't putting up much of a fight. They bowed down and pretty much just listened to guy talk for a couple of hours."
"And you thought Sam and I could talk, Jack," Daniel interjected, teasing his lover.
"We observed pretty the same thing on 783," Lou stated. "From our vantage point, we couldn't hear much of what they were saying, but it was definitely a prior they were bowing down to."
"How do you know for sure?" Jack questioned.
"The one thing we heard clearly: 'Hallowed are the Ori'."
"That's them," Jack groaned. "How'd they get to these places so fast?"
"Well, it's what Daniel said earlier, Sir. The Ori could have been in our galaxy for months, and we wouldn't necessarily have known it," Sam responded. "Daniel, you said when you talked to the Doci that he told you priors had been dispatched."
"Yes, he did, and I now believe that based on what the Doci said and what we learned from Nerus that the Ori have been here longer than we realize," Daniel suggested quietly. "The Doci knew who we were. We're missing something." Silently, he lamented, ~We wasted too much time hiding in our ignorance. Why do we always do that?~
"Any sign of this Ori plague?" Hammond questioned the leader of SG-3.
"Not while we were there, Sir."
Hammond thought for a moment and then ordered, "Colonel Ferretti, tomorrow morning I want you to take your team to P8X-412 and make contact with the locals; see what they can tell you about the priors."
"Yes, Sir," Lou acknowledged.
"Doctor Fraiser, what's the status on the vaccine?" Hammond queried, concerned about the virus that very likely would come to Earth at some point. ~We have to be on top this. The medical staff must be prepared to handle whatever medical situation might develop.~
"We're producing mass quantities of it, General," Janet answered. "As a precaution, we've also created some variations of the vaccine. As long as we know what we're facing, we should be ready for it."
"I don't want to lose anyone, Doctor," Hammond stated forcefully.
"Neither do I," Janet replied, staring the man in the eye and speaking with equal force.
"Three other teams have returned with similar reports," Hammond advised the group. "Regardless of how they found out about our galaxy, the Ori are here." More gravely, he reported, "Teal'c, I'm sorry, but another Jaffa settlement has been destroyed."
Teal'c's head went back slightly as he took in the words.
"The entire city?" Sam asked.
"There were a handful of survivors, including a Jaffa named Tass'an. He and a few others were with the prior at the Stargate on Sartorus. The Jaffa there had refused to go along with the Ori religion. The prior opened the Stargate, placed his staff on the steps, and their city was destroyed in an instant. Tass'an and the others were told to spread the word of what they'd witnessed," Hammond informed his personnel.
"How do we fight them?" Reynolds asked, looking around the table for an answer.
All eyes turned expectantly to Sam.
"I'll let you know when I know," Sam responded. "Sir?"
Sam stood up and left. Her place at the moment was with her scientific team. Earth needed a way to defeat the Ori, and they needed it fast.
"I'm open to suggestions," Hammond told his staff seated at the table.
"Me, too," Jack stated, clearing his throat when Hammond glared at him. "Oh, from me?" he jested lightly. "We continue our grid search and gather as much intel as possible. We need to know where the Ori are and where they aren't. Maybe we can try and warn a few worlds."
"I don't think they'll listen," Reynolds interjected. "At least, not once of the priors arrive and do their thing."
"We have to at least try," Daniel insisted.
"Let's see if we can figure out something to help ourselves," Hammond suggested strongly, standing up, as did everyone else, except for Daniel. "Oh, and, Jack -- Vala Mal Doran."
Daniel's head dropped and he sank back in his chair slightly. He was certain the next words weren't going to be cheery ones.
"Yes, Sir?" Jack responded hesitantly.
"She's been putting on quite a show for the SFs. Try to get her to stop before we have to tie her down and gag her," Hammond instructed.
Jack nodded, watching Hammond walk towards his office. He looked at Daniel, who stood and led the exodus from the room, leaving behind the other two team leaders, who were comparing more information about their mission and sharing their thoughts. Teal'c passed his teammates en route to his living quarters, where he planned to meditate in honor of his fellow Jaffa who had lost their lives. Janet was trailing the lovers, lost in her own thoughts of what was transpiring.
"Sounds like the little witch didn't suffer any side effects from the bracelet," Jack mused with just a hint of regret in his voice.
"I guess some ties are more binding than others," Daniel replied, glancing only briefly at his lover. "I mean, human emotion should always be stronger than, say, ornate jewelry."
Jack noticed the smirk on his archaeologist's face, prompting him to tease, "How logical of you, Doctor Jackson."
"Unfortunately, I don't think that's something Vala can grasp," Daniel said as the three entered the elevator, though Janet's nose was buried in the report folder she was reading.
"Ya think?" Jack snarked as the elevator doors closed.
Daniel groaned. He could already hear Vala's outburst and her cell was still several yards away. The door was closed, with a female SF standing guard in front of it. He motioned for the woman to open the door, which she did, standing aside to allow the man inside.
"Oh, geez, Vala. Get dressed," Daniel instructed, turning around.
The naked woman sashayed her way up to the archaeologist, asserting, "Admit it, Daniel. You've been wanting to see this again ever since I got here."
"No, I really haven't," Daniel replied, his back still to the woman. "Get dressed."
"We could have twins," Vala teased, keeping alive her ruse about being pregnant.
As Daniel rolled his eyes, Jack barged in, gently pulling his lover forward while staring Vala straight in the eyes. He had gotten a glimpse of the woman's clothing lying on the small bed. His eyes still locked onto Vala's, he leaned over and picked up whatever he could.
"Brute," Vala accused playfully.
Jack held the clothes out in front of him and shoved them into Vala's chest, saying, "Put these on, now."
"I like my attire," Vala responded. She looked down at her body and said, "Perfection."
"Lady, put these on now, or we're going to move you to a dark, little hole where the only person you'll ever be able to talk to is yourself. Of course, you're probably the only one who can stand to listen to you, but that's a fine point."
Vala stared at Jack. He just wasn't any fun. He meant his threat, and she wasn't ready to leave yet.
"Your loss," Vala replied, taking the clothes.
Jack turned around, tapping Daniel's back to indicate he should walk into the corridor with him.
"Let us know when she's decent," Jack ordered the SF. He sighed and corrected, "Okay, that day won't come. Just let us know when she's dressed."
"She just doesn't know when to stop," Daniel told his husband.
"Perfection? She thinks that body is perfection?" Jack laughed.
"You looked?" Daniel asked pointedly.
"Daniel, eyes forward at all times."
"Why don't I believe you?"
Jack opened his mouth to reply, but then looked over at the door, hearing it open.
"She's dressed, General," the SF advised.
"Round two," Jack quipped as he headed for the door.
"You didn't answer my question," Daniel pointed out as he followed.
"What question?" Vala queried grumpily. "And when are you going to tell me about this alternate reality of yours?" She mumbled, "It spoiled my plan." More loudly, she demanded, "I want those bracelets back. You have no idea what it cost me to get them."
"Vala, why are you making life so difficult?" Daniel asked.
"I'm bored," the woman admitted, sitting down on the bed. Perking up, she padded the space next to her and asked the archaeologist, "Why don't you join me?"
"You never stop," Daniel groused as he placed his hands in his pockets.
"Let's not argue in front of the baby," Vala exclaimed, rubbing her abdomen.
"Oh, will you can it!" Jack exclaimed in a raised voice. "You're not any more pregnant than I am."
"You don't look pregnant," Vala retorted, causing Jack to raise up his hands and make a growling sound as he turned to face his husband.
"Why are we even here talking to her?"
"General Hammond," Daniel answered.
Jack stared and then recalled, "Yeah."
"Stop ignoring me," Vala whined. "What about the treasure?"
"It's where it belongs," Daniel responded.
"What does that mean?" Vala questioned. Seeing the two men just staring at her, she implored, "Oh, come on, fellas. Tell me something. Better yet, let me out of here. I can show you both things you've never seen before."
"I doubt that," Jack rebutted flatly.
"I didn't mean it like that."
"That would be a first," Daniel chimed.
Sensing she wasn't getting anywhere with her normal tactics, Vala sighed dramatically and put forth, "Maybe we can trade."
"For what?" Jack asked curiously.
"What do you need?"
"Information," the general answered.
"What kind of information?" Vala returned with curiosity.
"What do you know about the Ori?" Daniel asked.
"Power-hungry ascended types who hide behind a wall fire and send out egotistical missionaries with a whacked out holy book to convert the universe. The problem is, if you beg to differ with them, you die," Jack stated sarcastically. After a pause, he added, "Makes their conversion rate go up."
"I've never heard of them, except for what you were talking about before you had the audacity to put me in this drab, little room," Vala replied.
"They had to become aware of us somehow," Daniel refuted.
"Whoever they are, I had nothing to do with it, them, it -- whatever," Vala claimed ardently. Walking over to the door, she demanded, "Let me out of here."
"Can't do that," Jack replied.
"Why not? I haven't done anything."
"You tried to kidnap me," Jack smirked, holding up the wrist that had once had the bracelet affixed to it.
"Well, it didn't work."
"And there's still the matter of stealing the Prometheus," Daniel reminded.
"You got it back," Vala whined.
"No thanks to you."
"Sorry, gotta go," the archaeologist announced lightly, tapping on the door and then exiting when the SF opened it.
"He's changed." As an amused Jack walked by, Vala called out, "What have you done to my Daniel?"
Jack paused and turned around to face the woman. He grinned, widely, his eyes shining. Then he just whistled and walked away, leaving Vala very confused and curious.
For the next couple of days, Stargate Command continued to be on alert. Research was being done as well as recon missions to track and monitor the Ori insurgence.
Then Sam requested a briefing for SG-1. She finally thought she had something that might help in the battle against the Ori threat.
"I hope you've got something, Carter," Jack sighed as he sat down.
With a nod of agreement, Daniel put a file folder on the table and added, "We just got word of another world succumbing to the Ori."
"How many does that make now?" Jack questioned.
"Twelve," Sam answered as to headed for the front of the room.
"Fast movers," Jack noted darkly. ~Daniel was so right. They came in the back door without our knowledge.~
"Colonel," Hammond ordered, his rank a one-word command for Sam to begin her presentation.
"Yes, Sir; thank you," Sam replied, picking up the remote that controlled the transparencies shown on the screen in the back of the room. "Based on the research that was done on Anubis's genetic experiment, Khalek, we believe we may be close to developing a technology that could inhibit a prior's special abilities."
Flipping through the report, Jack questioned, "Are we talking about a big, huge honkin' anti-prior gun here? Because I don't remember seeing the word 'gun' anywhere in here."
"Well, it wouldn't be a gun exactly, but that is kind of what made us think it was possible," Sam answered.
"Because Jack was able to shoot Khalek while he was focused on defending himself from me," Daniel stated.
"Which meant he wasn't omnipotent."
"You think the priors are the same?" Hammond asked.
"We've identified specific portions of the brain that were active when Khalek was using his unique abilities," Sam advised.
"He had those abilities because he was in a much more evolved state, very close to ascension. Now we're hoping the Ori are affecting the priors in much the same way," Daniel stated.
"Doctor Lee and I are working on a way of targeting and neutralizing those higher brain functions using a field generator emitting fluctuating ultrasonic frequencies."
"How soon?" the major general questioned.
With a smile, Sam answered, "I don't want to sound overly optimistic, Sir, but I think we may be close to testing within a couple of days."
"That's your priority, Colonel," Hammond said. He looked at Jack and ordered, "Lieutenant Concannon will replace Colonel Carter for the time being."
"Yes, Sir," Jack acknowledged as Hammond got up and heading for his office.
As he stood, Jack opined, "I still think we should build a big, huge honkin' anti-prior gun."
Sam chuckled as she put down the remote control and continued on with her work.
"On my way," Daniel replied to his lover over the phone.
The archaeologist hung up the phone and finished making a notation on his legal pad. He sighed at the information he'd just written down and then closed the Ori holy book. It was time to put the Ori problem aside, just for a few hours and enjoy some time off the base.
SG-1's next mission was scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Except for the evening of their wedding anniversary, the lovers had spent the majority of their time at Cheyenne Mountain since the crisis had begun, which is why tonight would be just for them. The plan was to enjoy a relaxing dinner at home, spend some quality time with their adored beagles, and make love. After a nourishing breakfast, they'd return to the Mountain and proceed with the preparations for their the next recon.
Locking up his office, the archaeologist headed for the exit. He was still thinking about the Ori, unable to turn off his mind. Rounding a corner, he bumped into a man.
"Oh, sorry. I wasn't looking where I was going," Daniel apologized, reaching out to help steady the tall lieutenant and stop him from falling.
"No problem, Sir," the man assured. "Thanks," he added, releasing Daniel's hand that he'd grabbed onto for leverage.
"How's it going?"
"The Ori have 885," the lieutenant reported and then went on his way.
~That makes sixteen worlds now under the control of the Ori. Maybe Jack and I shouldn't leave the Mountain,~ Daniel pondered as he walked onward. ~I should keep reading the Book of Origin. The answer might be there, but if I don't take a break, I might start missing things, and I need to spend some time with Jack, Bij, and Katie.~
Daniel's internal conflict continued, though he ultimately knew that going home for a bit was the right thing to do.
"I love you, too," Daniel laughed happily as he held Katie's head, their noses touching. "Okay, one more time," he said, taking the ball and throwing it deep into the yard. "Good girl!" he applauded as the beagle took possession of the ball and then began running around the yard with it.
"Dinner's ready," Jack called out.
Daniel stood up, smiling at the beagles before turning around and joining his lover inside their home.
"Looks like they got their exercise," Jack observed, seeing the girls still playing, kicking the ball back and forth between each other.
"Yeah," Daniel agreed. "I miss them when we're not here like we should be."
"Mrs. V's been giving them lots of love."
"It's not the same thing," Daniel bemoaned.
"It's the best we can do right now, short of taking them to the base with us, and I don't think Hammond would approve."
"Neither would we," Daniel returned. "There's no room for them to run, unless we turn them loose in the corridors. That might actually be kind of fun."
Jack saw Daniel's mischievous expression and chuckled, "Daniel, sometimes you really surprise me."
"It's a gift," the younger man mused. "What's for dinner?"
"Hot dogs and beans," Jack stated as he headed for the stove to retrieve the food. He could feel the glare drilling through the back of his head. Twisting around, he clarified, "I was joking. I made a casserole."
"Oh," Daniel replied, sitting down. "We'd better pay the bills tonight."
"What a great way to spend an evening."
"Well, we don't have to spend the entire evening doing that; just part of it," Daniel suggested with a smile, his dimples showing for a moment.
"Now that's more like it," Jack spoke, placing his lover's plate in front of him and then sitting down himself, eager to enjoy a leisurely meal with his husband. Then he saw Daniel stretch uncomfortably. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine; just a little tired."
"A recon a day: who wouldn't be," Jack grumbled, referring to the fact that most frontline teams had been visiting a planet a day in order to monitor the Ori's growing presence in the Milky Way.
"You set up the schedule."
"The devil made me do it," Jack groaned and then laughed.
Daniel chuckled as he nodded and then began to eat his meal.
Two hours later, dinner was done and the bills were paid. The girls were curled up in their beanbag, while the lovers danced, something they enjoyed doing from time to time.
"Danny?" Jack called out in amusement. "Are you falling asleep?"
The younger man's feet had begun to drag, and his head had slowly become more of a weight on Jack's shoulder versus just resting on it.
In an instant, the archaeologist began to fall limply to the floor.
Jack caught his soulmate, easing him to the carpet as he called out more urgently, "Daniel!"
"Woof!" Bijou and Katie barked in unison as they hurried over, sensing something was wrong.
"J'ck?" Daniel gasped weakly. "Hot; chest hur...ts. So ..."
"You're burning up," Jack observed. He'd thought Daniel was warm in his arms, but he'd attributed that to their closeness. Now, though, feeling his husband's face, he knew that wasn't the case. "I'm calling the Mountain."
As Jack stood to get to the phone, Bijou and Katie stayed by Daniel's side, watching over him.
"They're on their way," Jack stated, returning to Daniel's side, only the younger man couldn't hear the remark, having fallen into a state of unconsciousness. "Crap."
"What happened?" Janet asked with urgency as she ran alongside the gurney Daniel had been placed on upon arriving at Cheyenne Mountain.
"We were ... talking," Jack answered, hating that the couple was still living in the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' world. ~Not for long, though,~ he thought, thinking about their future plans, and the future that was close at hand. "Actually, we'd had dinner. He was a little tired. He just dropped and I managed to catch him before he hit the ground."
Entering the infirmary, Daniel's gurney was wheeled over to a bed, and he was moved onto it. As the physician began her examination, Doctor Carolyn Lam walked over to see what was going on.
"You're working, too?" Jack asked the pretty, dark-haired physician. Normally, Carolyn worked shifts that Janet didn't, since she was Janet's number three, after Doctor Warner, who wasn't on duty at the moment.
"We're all working more hours right now," Carolyn pointed out as she quickly wrote a note down on a patient's file. "Besides, we're getting busy," she noted, motioning over at another bed.
"Barnes?" Jack questioned with concern.
Nodding, Carolyn explained, "Colonel Barnes came in about three hours ago complaining of fatigue. About an hour after that, he could barely stand -- high fever, chest pain, respiratory distress."
"That sounds like Daniel," Jack replied.
"And what SG-2 experienced on 412," Janet added as she continued to tend to her patient.
"Doc, do you think it could be that prior plague?" Jack questioned as his heartbeat raced. ~We're supposed to be prepared for that thing.~
Anyone within hearing distance turned and faced the general. They'd all thought it, but no one had yet voiced the possibility. If was as if they didn't say it, it wouldn't be true. Still, the medical staff had been operating with great care as they awaited Janet's pronouncement. Only then would they admit that the plague had hit Earth.
Earlier in the week, Lou Ferretti's team had traveled to P8X-412. While there, a prior had arrived and introduced a deadly virus to the inhabitants. Lou, himself, had come down with the unknown disease. Just as suddenly as the prior had brought the virus into play, he'd removed it, healing all, even those who had died. As the priors so often did in these kinds of situations, he had told the townspeople and SG-2 to tell others what they had witnessed.
"I'm afraid so," Janet sighed.
The staff exchanged looks. Their leader had just said all that she needed to. The plague was here, and it was up to them to eradicate it.
"Doctor Fraiser," Airman Ryan called out and then stumbled into the infirmary. "I don't fe..." the man began as he collapsed to the ground.
As Carolyn hurried to assist the fallen man, Janet looked over at one of the nurses and called out, "Monica, have Sergeant Davis call in all off-duty personnel." Facing Nurse Marie Hill, she ordered, "Call the research lab, and tell them we need the vaccine here stat."
"Yes, Ma'am," Marie responded promptly.
"Doc, one question," Jack interjected. "Daniel wasn't on 412, and SG-6's mission today was to 885. We haven't seen them."
"Okay, well, maybe you haven't seen them, but are you a hundred percent sure that Daniel hasn't?"
"I ..." Jack paused, thinking about it. The truth was, he and Daniel hadn't been together all day, nor had they discussed where either had been during the afternoon. "No, I'm not."
Jack walked over to his lover's bedside. Daniel had been moved to his special bed, the one he used whenever he was injured on a mission, which occurred all-too-frequently in the opinion of those who loved him. He pulled the white skirt divider closed in order to have some privacy, something that was getting harder to do as more personnel came down with the Ori plague.
"Danny," Jack called out, taking his Heart's hand in his. "Doc's getting the vaccine. They just want to do a couple more tests and then they'll be ready to go. It'll work. I know it will."
The younger man roused and became inexplicably agitated.
"J'ck ... got ... got to ..."
"Take it easy," Jack urged, disquieted by the patient's unrest.
"Girls," Daniel gasped. "The girls."
Jack stared into Daniel's eyes, wondering why his Love would be mentioning their beagles at this precise moment. Then it hit him like a cold burst of water. Intel suggested that the plague did not differentiate between species, which meant it was possible that Bijou and Katie had been exposed and infected.
"Oh, crap!" Jack exclaimed. "I'll be right back." Walking hurriedly away from his husband's bed, he searched the floor for Janet, finding her huddled in a impromptu conference with Doctors Lam and Warner, who had just arrived after having been called in. "Doc, excuse me."
"Jack, we're almost ready."
"Doc, the girls -- our beagles. Daniel was playing with them -- a lot."
"I'm sorry," Janet stated reverently.
"Sorry? Look, I'm gonna go get them. I'll ..."
"Jack, you can't leave," Janet warned sternly. "General Hammond has the base on lockdown, no one in or out until we get this under control."
"What about that vaccine?"
"We're going to test it on Colonel Barnes in about an hour," Janet advised. "He's the most critical case. If he responds, we'll try it on Daniel."
Jack turned around, angry and frustrated. He returned to his husband's side.
"They won't let me leave, Danny, and I can't call anyone."
"Jack!" Daniel returned forcefully, his eyes communicating what he didn't have the strength to say. He gasped only a weary, "G...our girls."
The general sighed, nodding at the same time. Daniel wouldn't rest until he knew that Bijou and Katie were safe. Then again, neither would Jack.
"I'll be back."
Jack leaned over and kissed his lover and then nonchalantly walked out of the infirmary. He was about to take one of the biggest risks of his career. No one knew Cheyenne Mountain like he did. The one thing he had to make sure of was that he didn't come into contact with anyone on the outside. He had to get to his house, get the dogs, and then bring them to the Mountain. He also decided he should limit his own contact with the canines, which meant making sure he had gloves on and that he kept them from touching his skin. In other words, no licks and kisses. He just hoped they would understand.
With a court-martial in sight instead of his planned retirement, Jack followed the will of his heart. It wasn't just because Daniel was demanding it. Rather, his own feelings were dictating his actions. Bijou and Katie were at risk, and he couldn't, and wouldn't, let them die because the base was on lockdown.
Forming a plan, Jack contacted a past colleague, one stationed at the Academy. The man might be curious, but he wouldn't ask too many questions, and in the end, he'd help, and that's what mattered most to Jack at the moment.
Under the cover of the night sky, Jack made his ways through the wooded top of the Mountain, certain he was home free. He and Daniel had mapped out 'escapes' several times over the years. Sometimes it had been necessary and a couple of times it was part of Jack's private training for his Love.
Brushing off his pants, the covert ops specialist moved to a tree and waited until two cars drove up and stopped. As he observed, he put on his gloves which would not only keep his fingerprints off anything he touched, but would also prevent his skin from contacting anyone else's. Jack also wore a surgical mask that he'd swiped from the infirmary. To do more would risk drawing dangerous attention to himself.
"I don't see anyone," one man called out to another after getting out of his vehicle and walking up to the driver's door of the car in front of his.
"And you won't," the second man replied as he got out of the car. He looked around and then closed the door to the car he'd driven to the location. "Let's head on back."
"Your friend has the keys to your car?" the first man inquired, a bit confused at what was going on at the moment
"Good friend," the second man assured as the two headed back to the first man's car. "You drop me off at home; I need to get some shuteye."
Jack waited for the car carrying the two men to leave and then, while looking around, went to the second man's car, got in, and smiled when he saw the keys in the ignition, just as planned. Starting the car, he headed for home.
An hour later, Jack opened the door to his home, seeing his contact approaching. The contact was the same man who had driven the car left for Jack earlier. The man was holding a bag.
Part of Jack's plan had included a shopping trip to the pet store, something he knew he couldn't risk himself. That's why he'd asked his friend to make the buy for him.
"Two muzzles, as requested," the man stated as he walked up the driveway.
"Just leave them there, on the step," Jack ordered. "Your friend the nosy type?"
"Nah. He knows not to get too curious. It's the not the first time we've left a car out in the middle of nowhere."
"You don't say."
"Don't bother to ask. I can't tell ya," the man mused, though his words were serious.
"Not a problem," Jack responded.
"Jack, there's more going on here than you've told me," the man surmised as he put the newly purchased items down.
"I haven't told you anything."
"That's true," the man responded. "There's scuttlebutt that something big is happening at CMC. This wouldn't be related to that, would it?"
"I appreciate the favor," Jack stated. "I'll get the car back to you and the money I owe you for this in a couple of days."
"I'm not worried," the man replied. "Jack, if there's ..."
"Just don't mention this to anyone."
"Mention what?" the man asked with a smile before backing away and then leaving.
Waiting for the man to clear the area, Jack walked outside and picked up the bag with the muzzles inside of it. Back inside his home, he walked to the patio door and gave the command, forceful and stern.
"Sit. No kisses." Jack opened the door and ordered, "Katie, stay. Bijou, in."
Though confused, the beagles did as ordered. Careful to avoid too much contact, Jack put the muzzle on Bijou. Then he told Katie to enter and did the same to her, ignoring the dogs' confused and somewhat reproachful looks.
"Sorry, girls. It's for your own protection," Jack stated when the muzzles were on properly. "Danny's sick, and you might be, too. Heck, maybe I have the thing, so we have to take precautions. Geez, I hope you understand because I really hate these muzzles."
After putting on the dogs' harnesses, Jack and the girls headed back to the Mountain. He left the car right where he'd picked it up, though this time, he locked it and took the keys with him. When this was over, he'd do a power wash on the vehicle and ensure it was safe before returning it to his friend.
After instructing the girls to be on their best behavior, Jack began to work his way back inside the Mountain.
~Well, there's no way to hide them,~ Jack determined as he peeked around the corner. The base was swarming with personnel. The lockdown hadn't occurred until after most medical personnel had been summoned. Plus, the majority of the base staff were working these days anyway. ~Might as well as just face it head on.~
Jack looked down at the dogs and said, "You're our dogs, and we're here, so why shouldn't you be here?" He stood up straight and ordered, "Command beagles at attention. Snouts up, tails high. We're off."
Undaunted by the strange looks he was receiving, Jack marched Bijou and Katie straight into the infirmary and to Janet's office. He waited as the physician, still agape at the sight, made her way there, closing the door behind her.
"Jack, what do you think you're doing?"
"I was careful, but our girls are at risk, and there's no way in Netu they're gonna deal with this on their own. How's Daniel?"
"I'm not a vet, Jack, and he's the same."
"Call Pam Lawrence," Jack demanded. "I haven't allowed them to come into contact with my skin. Am I clear?"
"We don't know."
"Colonel Barnes hasn't responded," Janet advised. "Jack, there was never a guarantee that the cure in one reality would work in another."
"You already considered that."
"We're testing, but we have to proceed slowly and cautiously." Softening, Janet walked over to the beagles and knelt down. "Either of you more tired than you should be? Fever?"
Bijou nudged her puppy slightly.
"Danny played with Katie more. He had direct contact with her."
"Woof," Katie responded, lying down as if expressing how she felt.
Janet looked up at Jack and instructed, "Leave Doctor Lawrence's number on my desk, and I'll see if I can come up with a cover that will work." Groaning, she mumbled, "Where are we going to put you two?"
"How about with Daniel?" Jack suggested, seeing Janet's instant scowl. "Doc, he ..."
"Yes, Jack, I know," Janet sighed. "Every time I check on him, he asks about the girls." Standing, she shook her head. She was beyond exasperation. "ISO-2."
Jack smiled, ignoring the glare that Janet had given him before leaving the room.
"She loves you two, too," Jack proclaimed.
"Uh, no, Monica," Janet called out anxiously, seeing one of her nurses heading towards ISO-2. She looked around at her staff and then called out, "Casey, Marie." She waited for the two nurses to approach. "This is a special case. I ... don't want anyone else going into ISO-2 but you two. Is that understood?"
"Of course," Marie acknowledged.
"Sure thing, Doctor Fraiser," Casey Hemmings agreed.
"No, you don't understand, but you will once you get Daniel moved. Go!"
Casey and Marie shared a confused look and then went about their task, relieving the other two nurses, Monica Evans and Debra LeFebra, from transporting Daniel from the general infirmary area to the ISO room.
"Daniel's special," Marie commented. "I wonder why Doctor Fraiser looked so funny."
"Maybe it's just all the ..." Casey had opened the door to ISO-2 and shook his head. "Now I understand. Hello, General."
Pushing the gurney inside, Marie was taken by surprise, but couldn't help smiling at the now un-muzzled dogs.
"This is Bijou, and that tired one there is Katie."
"K'tie," Daniel called out quietly.
Jack walked over to his lover and smiled as he said, "I brought the girls. They're going to stay here, with us."
"Katie might be," Jack answered truthfully. "I'll help," he said to Casey and Marie, assisting them in transferring Daniel to his new bed. "Leave that one here," he ordered, referring to the gurney.
Once Daniel was secured, Casey and Marie headed for the door.
With a smile, Marie assured, "General, there's a reason Doctor Fraiser asked Casey and me to bring Daniel in here. We both know that."
Jack nodded, grateful for the two nurses he knew could be trusted not to reveal to anyone that two beagles were being treated at the top security facility and allowed to stay with Daniel.
Before she was about to exit, Marie glanced down at the dogs. Her smile fled her face, and she frowned as she took a better look at Katie. She walked over and began to examine her.
"Marie?" Jack called out.
"My brother is a vet, and I know almost as much about veterinary medicine as I do human medicine," Marie explained. "She's sick. I need to talk to Doctor Fraiser. Who's Katie's vet?"
"Pam Lawrence," Jack answered. "Fraiser has her number."
"I know of her. She's good, very good," Marie stated, taking a moment to examine Bijou. "You're healthy," she announced with a smile.
"Can they interact?" Jack asked about Daniel and Katie.
"They've both got it, General. If it gives them strength and comfort, there's no reason why they can't be together."
"I've got it handled," Jack replied. With Casey and Marie gone, he maneuvered the gurney where he wanted it and placed the girls atop it. "Just be careful crossing over, and, you," he said to Bijou, "stay on the gurney."
"S'ry," Daniel whispered to Katie as she plopped down atop his chest. "So sor...sorry."
"Hey!" Jack interrupted. "You're both going to be okay."
"The Doc hit a glitch, but she's got backups. One of them will work. Trust me. We're just beginning, Danny. It's *not* ending here." Jack leaned over and kissed his husband. "I love you."
"Shouldn't ha...have ..."
"You can never stop me from kissing you. We're forever, you and me, and our girls," Jack reassured.
"Love ... you," Daniel gasped, struggling to breathe for the moment.
All of a sudden, a bluster could heard outside the ISO room door. Jack straightened. Things were about to get a little more interesting.
"I said I'd get him myself, Nurse," Hammond stated gruffly as he opened the door to ISO-2. "I just want to know where the leader of my flagship team has been ..."
Hammond ceased talking, having found himself facing Jack, Daniel, and two beagles. He had a choice to make. Going one way would mean he'd soon be searching for another person to be his second-in-command at the base. Going the other way would mean closing his eyes, which was something he'd already done a few times for Jack and Daniel.
Jack was standing, hands behind his back, just looking at the major general.
Daniel was just trying to breathe as he patted the sad-looking Katie.
Bijou had stood up in attention mode and was smiling brightly at the bald-headed man.
Speaking formerly, Hammond stated, "General O'Neill, you're needed for a briefing in five minutes. Don't be late."
"Yes, Sir," Jack acknowledged spiffily.
"Son, we're going to have this fixed in no time," Hammond told Daniel, who nodded and tried to get out a faint 'thank you'. Closing the door, the base commander nodded at Marie and ordered, "As you were."
With a slight smile, Marie acknowledged the order and returned to her work.
Inside ISO-2, Jack grinned, "Gotta love George."
By late morning the next day, Janet's staff had determined that the virus on 412 was the same as the plague that had begun on P2X-885. During a session of Ori prostration, the prior had walked among the locals, touching their heads. SG-6 had been disguised as inhabitants of the world, so their heads had been touched as well. None of them had thought it important enough to include in their reports until becoming sick with the plague. The lone exception was Lieutenant Fisher, who never became ill, but who Janet deduced was now a carrier.
So far, the plague hadn't spread outside of Cheyenne Mountain, and Janet and her team were determined to cut down the plague before it spread beyond the twelve infected base personnel who were now under quarantine and fighting for their lives.
"So far, the vaccines we've tried just haven't worked," Janet sighed. "They've had some measured effect, but everyone is still in danger, including," she paused, looking at Jack, who was seated on the opposite side of the conference table, "um, everyone."
"Look. I thought they gave us the formula in that alternate reality," Jack snapped a bit angrily.
"They did, but they didn't know if it would work here."
"Why?" Jack questioned. "What could be that different? We were all identical," he argued.
"Well, something's different. If it's not our DNA, then maybe it's something in the priors'," Janet responded, not really having a clue.
"Maybe we're just more potent than those other guys and need more," the general stated sarcastically.
"I don't ..." Janet began, stopping suddenly. "Maybe that is it. Look, in the other realities, the vaccine was prepared after the Jaffa, Gerak, cured those affected at the SGC. What if there was something more that went into the makeup of the vaccine that our counterparts weren't even aware was significant?"
"Like what?" Jack asked.
"That's what we need to find out," Janet suggested.
"And how do we do that?"
"I wish I knew, General," the physician sighed.
"So, they don't know," Jack told his lover after the briefing. He held Bijou in his arms, petting her gently. "Danny, our DNA is the same, but there's something else, something else our counterparts did, and we failed to get the information."
"Back," Daniel whispered softly.
"Alt'nate re...re...reality," Daniel stuttered in a whisper. "Get vaccine."
Jack stared at his Love, surprised and amazed at how well his mind worked even when he was so ill.
"I'll be back," Jack promised, standing and giving his lover a kiss. He put Bijou back on the gurney and then ran his hands along Katie's warm body. "Hang in there, Katie. It won't be long."
"Carter!" Jack called out, interrupting Sam's work with Doctor Lee on the anti-prior weapon.
"Can we go back to that alternate reality?" Jack asked urgently.
"Carter, the vaccine isn't working. We missed something with the information we brought back, so the only way to save ourselves is to get a sample of that vaccine."
"By going back to the alternate reality."
"Can you get us there?" Jack questioned.
"I'm not sure."
"Earth depends on it, but no pressure."
"Of course not," Sam sighed. "Bill, good luck," she wished as she rose from her seat.
"Where are you going?" the general queried.
"To find a black hole," Sam answered, cocking her head in uncertainty as she walked by her commanding officer.
"J'ck, love you."
"And I love you," Jack responded several hours later. "No worries. Carter's pretty sure we won't disrupt the galaxy too much. After all, we're all experts at this stuff now, or so she hopes ... says."
"If ... if you can, see if ... if that Dan'l has figured it out yyyet."
"It doesn't matter, Angel. You and I have it all figured it out, and that's what counts. I gotta go."
Jack squeezed his soulmate's hand and gave him a long, tender kiss. After hugging the beagles, he headed for the gate room.
"God speed," Hammond wished SG-1, which on this day was comprised of Jack, Sam, Teal'c, and Janet.
"Are you sure you wanna do this, Doc?" Jack questioned. "They need you here."
"I have to be sure of this vaccine, General," Janet responded. "Carolyn is totally capable of handling things here while we're gone."
"Carter?" Jack called out to the blonde as she joined the team after having overseen the firing of the energy weapon acquired from the Asgard. Once she was closer, he asked, "This is gonna get us where we want to go, right?"
"I had to make some rough calculations based on the position of the black hole I was able to find. If the blast worked, it created a bridge into the same reality we were at a couple of months ago."
"ColonelCarter, will not the same ripple effect that occurred then, occur now?" Teal'c questioned.
"It's possible, Teal'c. That's why we need to get in and out of there fast. When the rogue SG-1 team did a blast like this, it opened a funnel in one area of subspace that caused that one universe to become a point of convergence for numerous SG-1 teams. Hopefully, we didn't rupture anything, but like I said ..."
"In and out fast," Jack ordered, completing the sentence. Remember, they aren't going to be expecting us, so we'll have a greeting party on the other side. Take it light and easy."
With that, Jack led his team through the Stargate, where they were met by alternate versions of the same SFs that were protecting their own SGC.
"Hank!" Jack exclaimed, walking just a few steps down the ramp. "It's me, Jack O'Neill. You remember? I was the only me to come through when your reality decided to be the Grand Central Station of the multiverse."
"I recall. I'm not sure I appreciate your opening that door again," General Hank Landry replied through the open microphone.
"Believe me, it wasn't something we wanted to do. Sir, we need the vaccine, and we need it bad," Jack called out.
"Stand down," Landry ordered the Special Forces guards whose weapons were aimed at the visitors. "Sergeant, get Doctor Lam here pronto." He headed out of the control room and entered the gate room, looking over the surprising visitors. "Jack," he greeted, shaking the man's hand.
"What's going on?" the Daniel of the alternate reality questioned as he walked in, his teammates, Sam and Teal'c, right behind.
"Daniel," Jack acknowledged.
"Sir, if I may," Janet requested. "We've been hit with the Ori plague. So far, we've contained it to the base, but it's spreading, and it's only a matter of ..." She paused, seeing Carolyn entering the gate room. "I need a sample of the vaccine for the Ori plague," she stated strongly to her colleague.
"Doctor, we're not a pharmacy," Landry responded. He saw her glare and put up his hands, saying, "Don't start, Doctor. I already had this conversation with you."
"Not me, General Landry, but I'm ready to have it with you now," the five-foot, two-inch woman corrected, standing like an unmovable statue.
Landry let out a frustrated sigh. Janet was right. His debate over morals, ethics, and human rights of all the realities had been with the Janet of another reality. Her arrival at his SGC had caused quite a stir since the Janet Fraiser of this place had been killed in action.
"Hank, Little Napoleon here can stand up to anything you dish out, but are you really going to give us a hard time about this?" Jack challenged.
Landry stared at Jack and then shook his head, after which he nodded at Carolyn, giving her to go ahead to proceed.
"I want to go with you," Janet asserted as she began to follow Carolyn. "I have some questions."
"Didn't your team acquire the information you needed when they were here before?" Carolyn inquired.
"For the antibody, yes," Janet affirmed. "It's not working. There must be more."
"Orlin's process ..."
"Orlin?" Janet questioned.
"Yes, he appeared here as a small child and ..."
At that point, the physicians' conversation became inaudible.
"I, too, have questions," Teal'c told his counterpart.
The alternate reality Teal'c nodded, and the two Jaffa headed out of the gate room.
"Jack, I'd love to keep you company, but the President is expecting my phone call," Landry advised.
"Not another crisis, I hope," Jack replied.
"Budget," Landry clarified, rolling his eyes at the thought. "Colonel Carter, is it going to be a problem getting these folks home?"
"I hope not, Sir," the alternate Sam responded, staring at her counterpart.
"Actually, I believe I can help. The black hole is still there. We just need to contact the Asgard and get their energy weapon," Sam stated.
The other Sam saw Landry's nod of approval and motioned for Sam to follow her so that they could make the arrangements for SG-1's return to their own reality as soon as possible.
~Hope the universe doesn't implode with two Carter's running amok,~ Jack mused.
The room cleared, leaving Jack and the alternate Daniel at the bottom of the ramp.
"So," Jack began.
"So, uh ... I'm sure you'd probably prefer to ... uh ..."
"I want to talk to you," Jack stated. "Actually, I promised Daniel I would, and I never break my promises to ... Danny."
"Let's go to your office," the general suggested, his facial expression urging the scientist to turn around and head for Level 18.
"Looks like Daniel's playpen," Jack quipped as he looked around the archaeologist's office, surprising the scientist when he turned off the camera and closed the doors.
"I ... doubt he'd appreciate that description of his office."
Jack chuckled, "True. We'd banter about it, or he'd roll his eyes. Maybe we'd even fight. At night, we'd have great makeup sex."
The alternate Daniel's heart fluttered at the thought, but he covered it up, choosing to ask, "Where is he, Daniel, I mean?"
"He's got that nasty plague."
"So am I, but that vaccine is gonna fix it," Jack remarked with confidence. "You haven't talked to that idiot me of this universe, have you?"
"Whatever," Jack snapped. "You chickened out."
"He's a busy man," Daniel tried to explain, avoiding Jack's eyes.
"He's hiding behind a pencil," Jack claimed. Suddenly, he walked to this Daniel's desk and picked up the phone. "Call him." When Daniel shook his head, the general groaned and placed the call himself, using the Pentagon's main line. "Daniel Jackson for General O'Neill." As he waited, he smirked at this reality's Daniel. "You don't know whether to yell at me for making the call or ... well, I won't say the or."
"You and your 'or's."
"That's sounds more like a Dan..."
"Daniel?" the alternate Jack called out.
"Jack, it's Jack. You remember me? We had a face-off not long ago. You sounded like a pompous idiot, and I was telling you the truth."
"How'd you ..."
"We're just visiting. We'll be gone within a half-hour," Jack advised his other self. "Scramble this call, if you haven't already, which I suspect you have."
"Look, I don't have time for games."
"Neither do I. General, my Daniel is dying in his bed in our reality. How'd you like to get the same message about *your* Daniel? Don't answer. I already know the answer. The point is, you two are wasting time, and I don't like to waste time."
"Neither do I, and you're wasting mine," this reality's Jack claimed.
"Am I?" Jack challenged his counterpart. "O'Neill, listen to me. Where is your Daniel? Come on, tell me."
"At Cheyenne Mountain."
"Right. That should tell you something."
"I don't know what you mean," the alternate Jack replied.
"Yes, you do. He's not at Atlantis. Look, we both know our Daniels are pain in the mik'tas. They're irritating. When they want something, they don't let up. It's beat, beat, beat us over the head until we get the message, right? Right. So, if your Daniel *really* wanted to be in Atlantis, don't you think he'd *be* in Atlantis?"
Silence was all Jack heard over the phone and, looking at this reality's Daniel, he saw a man struggling to breathe, a man whose face was flushed with hope, and a man who was scared stiff of being abandoned and rejected one more time.
"Jack, I know everyone thinks you sold your house in the Springs, but I don't buy it, not for a minute. That house was everything you'd wanted when you found it after the separation. No way did you let it go. So, let me make a suggestion. Our favorite spot is the deck -- just us and the stars. You know something, Jack? There's room for one more there, so here's what I'm suggesting."
Jack was staring at this reality's Daniel intently. He saw the conflicting emotions, and he was praying that he was able to get through to his counterpart. Hurting a Daniel from any reality was not something he'd ever wanted to do.
"At 2200 hours tonight, you be on the deck. If I'm right, and I know I am, you will be there. Your Daniel will be there, too. He'll tell you he's cold, and there's another thing I'm sure of."
"And what would that be?" the alternate Jack asked in a harsh tone, covering up his true feelings.
"You know how to keep him warm," Jack answered. "You have nothing to lose, Jack. 2200 hours. Be there. You two can figure it out from there." Without warning, he hung up the phone. Standing, he explained, "Too much conversation would make him leery. He'll be there."
"And then what?"
"You heard," Jack responded. "Tell him you're cold, and he'll warm you up. Look, I know you want to go to Atlantis. That's why your Jack moved to Washington, so you could go."
"Why didn't you?"
"Daniel and I have been together for years. Why you guys didn't get together earlier, I don't know. I do know what Atlantis means for you. I've ... had doubts from time to time, but *my* Daniel has made me a believer."
"You're more important," the Daniel of this reality asserted quietly.
"I believe him, and you know why?"
Jack reached into his pocket and pulled out a velvet pouch. It was a precious package for a treasured item, one he always tried to keep with him, somehow or another. He opened it and pulled out the gold band.
"Read the inscription," Jack urged the scientist.
Daniel stared at the inner band and saw the words, 'Jack and Daniel, always and forever'.
"Always and forever?"
"It's not legal in the USA, but a few years ago, *Daniel* proposed, and we had a beautiful little ceremony in Canada. Carter and the Doc were there; Cassie, too."
"This'll blow your mind," Jack added. "We're getting ready to retire from the SGC, and once we do, we're having a family."
"We wanna a kid, or two, or three. We'll see what happens, but it's about to happen." Jack took the ring back and safely tucked it back into its pouch and his extra secure pocket. He moved closer to the other man, stepping into his personal space. "Daniel, believe in yourself and believe in him. You've wasted enough time. Heck, if Atlantis is so dang important, take him with you. There's gotta be a reason for him to go. You're smart. Think of something."
Jack smiled as he backed away and headed for the door.
"Hey," Daniel called out. "What if it's not cold?"
"Pretend," Jack replied. "It was always just an excuse. Think about ... your heart. It's colder now than it needs to be, right? Ten o'clock, Daniel. Be on that deck." With a final nod and smile, he opened the door and started to head out. Then he paused and turned back. "I haven't seen Mitchell around here."
"Oh, uh, I ... finally decked him for calling me 'Sunshine' all the time."
"He's not on the team?" Jack asked, unable to stop his grin.
"He's on SG-3."
"Reynolds must be loving that," Jack replied.
"I don't think so," the alternate Daniel chuckled.
"Who's leading SG-1?"
"Sam," Daniel answered.
"Way to go, Carter," Jack replied enthusiastically.
Jack was about to ask about Vala Mal Doran, when he was paged to the gate room.
"Good luck, Daniel."
"Thank you ... Jack," Daniel replied, adding a grateful nod to back up his words.
"Got it?" Jack asked.
Janet held up the briefcase and responded, "Yes, Sir. We have enough for fifty cases, and we can produce more, now that we have this."
"Thank General Landry for me," Jack requested of this reality's Samantha Carter.
"I will," Sam's counterpart responded. "Good luck."
"We're set to go, Sir. We've already used the Asgard weapon to recreate the bridge," Sam advised her CO.
"Let's go home, kids," Jack ordered his team as he began walking up the ramp towards the Stargate.
"Jack," the alternate Daniel called out. He walked up the ramp and handed the general a file. "These are copies of some of my notes and reports, about the Ori and Merlin. If you didn't have what you needed for the vaccine, some of what's in here might be helpful."
"Thanks," Jack replied happily, inwardly groaning at the large file he'd been handed. ~This is gonna take Daniel a month to go through.~
"Uh, some of Sam's notes are in there, too, from her reports. Don't read them; they'll give you a headache."
Jack chuckled and then urged quietly, "Don't forget."
"I won't," Daniel replied. He watched Jack head for the event horizon. "And," seeing Jack turn back, "I'll be there. Ten o'clock."
One final smile and nod later, SG-1 returned to their own gate room, and Janet hurried to the infirmary.
"How'd it go?" General Hammond questioned.
"They were very cooperative. Carter can explain it better, but they only had three other SG-1 teams get sucked in. We were in and out, and that was the key," Jack expounded.
"Daniel?" Jack called out upon entering ISO-2.
"Woof," Bijou replied sadly.
"Don't you worry, Bij. The cavalry's on the way," Jack sighed, his hand rubbing against the feverish skin of his unconscious lover. "Hang on, Angel." He walked over to the gurney to check on Katie. "Crap!" Picking up the beagle, he stormed out of the room and headed for Janet's office. He didn't care who saw him. "Doc! Doc!"
"Jack, what is it?"
"She can't wait," Jack said. "You have to give her something *now*."
"I just gave the first shot to Colonel Barnes, Jack. We really should wait," Janet advised, though she was gravely concerned about the limp canine.
Marie ran over and examined the beagle as Jack held her, finally declaring, "This is bad. She's been getting worse all day. I've been checking on her, General, and I've spoken with Doctor Lawrence." Looking at Janet, she implored, "Doctor Fraiser, this dog is going to die within the next few minutes if you don't give her some of that vaccine."
"Major, this dog is *not* going to die," Jack commanded formally.
Janet knew what the use of her rank meant. One way or another, Katie was about to be given the vaccine.
"Marie, what did Pam say about the dosage?"
As the doctor and nurse conferred, Jack whispered, "You'll be safe, Katie. Hang on. You're going to be giving Danny licks when he wakes up. Trust me on this."
Katie made a weak noise in response. It was all she could do.
"Hold her, Jack," Janet requested, meaning for the general to make sure he had a strong grip on the canine. "Okay, Katie. You'll be feeling better in no time," she said as she gave the beagle the injection.
"Thanks, Doc," Jack spoke appreciatively. "What about Daniel?"
"I'll be there in five minutes, Jack," Janet answered. "I'd really like to monitor Colonel Barnes first."
"I'll check on Daniel, Doctor Fraiser," Marie volunteered.
Ignoring the stares as he headed back for ISO-2, Jack held the precious pup close to his chest. She had to recover. Daniel would never be able to live with himself with she didn't. Besides, Katie and her mother were like the couple's children. Jack would be devastated if anything ever happened to either of them.
Several minutes later, Jack held Daniel's hand while Janet gave him his dose of the vaccine.
Janet looked over at Katie and observed, "She's responding."
"Hey, she's a fighter," Jack proclaimed proudly, noticing that Katie was more alert now. "How long?"
"He should wake up soon. Let me know when he starts to come to," Janet requested, patting Katie a couple of times before leaving.
"Wake up, Danny," Jack whispered. "I have a present for you," he chuckled. "I love you, so friggin' much." He leaned over and kissed his soulmate, unable to wait any longer. "I love you."
"Woof!" Katie barked, standing up on her own for the first time in quite a while.
"Hey!" Jack replied with a grin, just as Bijou gave her daughter a kiss.
Katie jumped over onto Daniel's bed and lay down at his side.
"He'll be awake in no time," Jack promised, reaching across to give the beagle some rubs.
Finally, late that night, Daniel began to wake. His gasps of consciousness gave way to small chuckles, though he wasn't aware of why as yet.
"If you don't know the difference by now, we're in real trouble," Jack mused, cupping his Heart's face.
His eyes fluttering open, Daniel became aware that it was licks of love that were causing his laughter.
"Katie? You're okay."
"Woof!" the beagle returned spryly.
"Our counterparts did good. They helped us out. Barnes is sitting up, and everyone's responding," Jack reported.
"Katie," Daniel sighed happily. "I was so scared."
"So was Bij," Jack pointed out as he rubbed the beagle's ears playfully.
"I love you, Danny."
"I love you, too."
The lovers shared a kiss and some quiet time together, talking about nothing but their love and their family. They were giving themselves a reprieve from the Ori battle and plague that would last until they took their beagles home. Actually, 'home' was going to be with Carolyn Ferretti for the time being as neither 'parent' wanted to leave their girls unattended. Bijou and Katie thought it was great; their own private vacation.
"Hey," Jack called out as he joined his lover on the roof deck of their home a couple of days later. "The girls are fine."
"It feels funny to be here and not have them be with us," Daniel replied.
"We spent the evening with them, and we have to get up and get to the Mountain early, so this was the smart play."
"Quiet, though. That doesn't make sense, does it?" Daniel asked.
"Danny, I'm going crazy knowing they aren't here," Jack admitted while putting his arms around his Love's waist. "How do you feel?"
"Good. Everyone's recovered now."
"I want some proof," Jack teased lightly, moving in for a passionate kiss.
"Mmm," Daniel sighed contentedly. "Let me give you more proof."
After some intensive 'proving', the soulmates settled down on the wooden deck, their backs against the house.
"Do you think they're together now?" Daniel finally asked, referring to their alternate selves.
"Yeah. I think I got through to both of them."
"I hope so. They've let so much time slip by," Daniel lamented. He reached over and pulled Jack's hand to his mouth, kissing the ring and then the palm of his lover's hand. "That was ingenious, showing him your ring."
"He needed to see something tangible so he'd know it was possible."
"He really hit Mitchell?" Daniel questioned.
"Apparently, Sunshine didn't see the light the way Mitchell did," Jack chuckled happily.
"It's hard to picture him, or me, doing something like that."
"Frustration," Jack explained.
"Maybe," Daniel agreed. "And loneliness."
"They met on this deck," Jack insisted. "They'll find their way now."
"The information Daniel gave you is going to help us. You should have seen Sam's eyes light up when she started to read the reports."
"As long as it works," Daniel suggested.
"Yeah." After a moment, Jack asked, "Angel, do you know what today is?"
"Thanksgiving," Jack clarified.
"We have a lot to be thankful for," Daniel replied thoughtfully.
"A lot," the older man agreed.
Suddenly, Daniel smiled and looked at his husband.
"What?" Jack asked.
"Babe, I'm cold. I'm very, very cold."
With a grin, Jack replied, "I think I can take care of that."
Putting the Ori war aside for a few more hours, Jack and Daniel made love, letting their nation of two light the sunshine of their hearts.
~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
Next: What Must Happen