By:  Kylie Lee     



CATEGORY:  Action/Adventure

SEASON/SPOILERS:  Season 9 “Ethon” and “Icon”








"So...we've gone four miles," Cam Mitchell said, shoving aside a branch.


Daniel Jackson ducked, narrowly avoiding the branch as it slapped backward. "Four miles more or less," he said. "I mean, four miles as I translate their units of measure. Roughly four miles."


Mitchell said, in the exact same voice, "So...we've gone about four miles," and Daniel suppressed a grin. Both of them had been happy to go for a hike, leaving Sam Carter and Teal'c with their new friends, the Pelosians. Daniel had been excited to hear of an artifact with writing on it, and Mitchell had been happy to get away from the boredom that came with being on day three of a diplomatic trip, complete with ritual food and ritual sitting on stools for hours on end, looking polite while Daniel translated--that is, tried to translate. "Let's take a look-see." Mitchell stopped, and Daniel came up next to him, reaching for his pocket so he could grab his own field glasses. The Velcro sounded loud as it ripped. Yeah," Mitchell said, squinting a little as he thumbed the focus. "Trees. And whoa--over there. More trees."


"It's--it's like we're in a forest," Daniel said. "A big forest. A big alien forest."


"I was having that very thought." Mitchell pointed, not lowering his glasses. "Okay, I see the next cairn. And--could it be that? There's a stone over there. Take a look-see."


Daniel brought his own field glasses up, and the trees became huge as they sprang into view, disorienting him. Mitchell didn't say anything about the delay. Jack O'Neill would have said something--something sarcastic about Daniel's ability, or inability, to peer through field glasses. Cam Mitchell said lots of sarcastic things, but he rarely said personal sarcastic things. Daniel hadn't yet decided whether Mitchell was waiting until he knew them better before he teased them. He kind of thought so.


Daniel finally found it: the pale flash of rock, too regular in shape to be natural. "Could be. It's worth a look. Definitely worth a look."


Mitchell gestured. "After you."


"Uh--thanks." Daniel adjusted his pack and took the lead. He hoped he could find the artifact. It hadn't been very far away. But now the trees had gotten small again and he wasn't sure he knew where he was. Well, if Cam Mitchell had any illusions left about Daniel Jackson, they needed to get exploded sooner or later. Mitchell seemed like a nice guy. He was doing a good job. But Daniel missed Jack, because he knew and could predict Jack.


Out of force of habit, they didn't say much as they walked, the better to hear stray Jaffa or others who tended to shoot first and ask questions later, although to their knowledge, there were no Jaffa on this planet. It was like a million other missions, Daniel thought as he scuffed through the leaves, sending them, dry and crackling, into the crisp autumn air, breath pluming before him. Had he been on a million missions? It felt like it. He had needed some time off. He had wanted to work on his research. He needed to start publishing again. He'd wanted out, but here he was, with Mitchell, on a mission, out in the field. The momentary intellectual distraction of this people and this language interested him, but as always, he wouldn't be allowed to delve. He'd do the preliminary work, and some other lucky soul would get to do the real fieldwork, living among the people, gaining a real understanding instead of relying on gut and conjecture. He wanted to do that--focus on something.


He was done. Mitchell had joked about getting the band back together, but Daniel was just...done. After the momentary excitement of the Ori and Vala, the immediacy of the threats had receded, and now the repetition of offworld missions was just killing him. Of course, it didn't help that his slowness grasping Pelosian was driving him insane.


Daniel caught a flash of white stone, its square shape resembling nothing as much as a gravestone. "There it is," he said, pointing. "I'd say that's our artifact."


"Cool," Mitchell responded from behind him as Daniel scrambled through low bushes. "I can have me some lunch while you're doing your thing. A ration bar--yes, a ration bar. I can hardly wait. If I eat any more of that stew they keep feeding us--you know? I'm going to stop right there."


"Yeah," Daniel said, distracted by the stone. He circled it and found the inscription.


"Okay, Jackson, get to work and I'll phone Teal'c and Carter."


As Mitchell, back to Daniel, said something indistinct into his radio, Daniel knelt and brushed the artifact's top. Yes, words--this was definitely what Mulualem had been talking about. Some kind of moss or other droopy plant grew over the top of the stone and down, obscuring the carving. He held it aside to get a better look. "Yeah, this is definitely it," he said over his shoulder.


"Can you read it?" Mitchell leaned over, blocking Daniel's light, curious.


Daniel sat back, sending the moss cascading. "No."


"But you'll be able to?"


"Maybe." Daniel shrugged off his pack and pulled out the camcorder. He brushed at his sodden knees as he stood up. "Okay, let me get some video."




Mitchell backed up, and Daniel checked the battery and flicked the device on. "This is Dr. Daniel Jackson on the planet P2X-483, local name Pelos," he began, voice fast and automatic as he reeled off details. He circled the stone twice, then got in close to image the top, his boots sinking into the mud, giving his running commentary. "I'm handing over the camera to Lieutenant Commander Cameron Mitchell," he said when he was satisfied he'd gotten enough footage in situ. Mitchell, surprised, stuffed the rest of a ration bar in his mouth and took the camera.


"Roll 'em," Mitchell said indistinctly, bringing the camera up.


"Lights?" Daniel suggested, and Mitchell said, "Yeah, sorry," and flicked the light on. "I'm going to clear away this moss," Daniel said, kneeling again.


He used his fingers to gently dig and scrape away the growth of long, spangled moss that partly covered the inscription on the stone's front. It came away in a piece, like a ragged patch of thick fabric. He spared it only a glance before he tossed it aside: pretty moss, soft, thickly dense, with long, drooping whiskers of gold poking out of the green. That was better. Daniel ran his hands over the front of the artifact, roughly cleaning it, leaving smears of mud behind. He finally resorted to dousing it with water from his canteen to wash it clean, suppressing a smile as he considered his archaeology professors' reactions to his very inappropriate preparation methods.


"Okay." Daniel eyed the deeply incised inscription. "Preliminary thoughts. First, it's definitely not goa'uld. I can see a repeated character shape here and here." He pointed, and behind him, Mitchell shifted to get a better view. "These little doodles off them, here and here, are probably inflection markings. I don't see much exact-symbol repetition, so I'm thinking syllabary as opposed to alphabet..."


When he was done, an hour and a half had passed and the sun was slanting toward twilight. Mitchell stuck the camcorder in Daniel's backpack as Daniel held it open. "What a great lecture," Mitchell said, and Daniel looked up sharply, but he saw no sarcasm in Mitchell's eyes. "I don't know how you got that much stuff out of a rock with some carving you can't even read."


Daniel said, "I've found that if I talk long like that, I'm not asked as many questions about my findings by the later teams, and it helps remind me what I was thinking if I have do end up having to go back." He zipped the backpack shut. "Of course, sometimes I'm totally off and in retrospect I sound like a babbling idiot, but..."


Mitchell sounded pleased. "Yeah, well, I find that hard to believe. That kind of lecture you gave--that's why I wanted you. You're the best." He slapped Daniel on a shoulder. "See? Bet you're glad you're in the field and not behind some desk."


"Yeah." Daniel, flattered by Mitchell's faith in him, felt a pang of guilt. Mitchell was a nice guy. But it wasn't going to stop Daniel from doing what was right for Daniel, and what was right was moving off the front-line team. He had only meant for his time back to be temporary. He was just hanging on now.


"You ready to get back? It's going to be dark pretty soon. We should hustle."


Daniel couldn't meet Mitchell's clear eyes. Instead, he busied himself with putting on his pack, then retying the scarf around his head, which had come loose. "Yeah, sorry. I'm good. Let's go."


Right after the mission debriefing, he'd talk to General Landry, and then he'd tell Mitchell himself.




"I wish they understood us." Samantha Carter smiled at the woman who bent over to take their bowls from them. "Thank you," she said clearly, ducking her head. "It was delicious."


The woman ducked back, obviously pleased, and said something long and complex.


"It sounds so pretty," Sam said through her smile. All their smiles had grown stiff from overuse, but the Pelosians seemed pretty understanding about things like etiquette, although they were also quick to correct their visitors' behavior. "I'm so sorry. I can't understand a thing you're saying. But you are very kind."


"Thank you," the woman said, her accent strong--one of the English phrases the locals had picked up. She resumed collecting the wooden bowls.


"Thank you," Mitchell and Daniel murmured. As usual, Teal'c merely inclined his head. He had been even more silent than usual.


"They are cutting us some serious slack," Mitchell said as the server exited. Daniel knew that she would wash up in the kitchen in the next room and then leave. He also knew that very likely, she'd be questioned about their behavior--that's what he'd do, because how people treated social inferiors such as servants was often telling. "I can't figure out their word for 'thank you.' Sixteen syllables? What's that about? Say it again, Jackson."


Daniel obediently reeled off the phrase for "thank you" while Mitchell tried again. Daniel hadn't yet figured out what it meant literally.


"I'll get it," Mitchell promised. "Any word on whether they'll shelter some of the refugees from P2L-228? I saw you talking with Mulualem after today's session."


Daniel shrugged. "I've established some rapport, but mostly we've been exchanging personal histories. It's a common precursor to getting down to business. We all watch each other, see if we think we can trust each other, and then we negotiate."


"The thing that gets me is the goa'uld." Sam rose and headed for the fire. "It's like the one word everybody knows. And it's old news."


"The enemy of my enemy is my friend," Daniel pointed out, joining her on the rug, both of them warming themselves by the fire. Nights grew chilly. "When I mentioned the Priors, they didn't understand."


"I guess that's good." Mitchell stood up and stretched. "They're not here. Yet."


"Gou'ld--Priors--that's easy stuff," Daniel said. "Try explaining that the refugees need a particular spectrum in the sunlight or they can't metabolize vitamin D, so this planet is perfect while the last one we visited isn't."


"You are equal to the task, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.


Daniel gave a mirthless grin. "Well," he said. "Thanks for your support. It's taking a little longer than I'd like. But I kind of wish we could put the refugees on P3X-883 with a bunch of vitamin D supplements." He'd done things far more difficult. And really, it had been a while since the basis of a language had so eluded him. It probably seemed to the rest of the team that he was doing fine, but he hadn't yet grasped the underlying structure. "I'll show Mulualem the video tomorrow and see if I can get them to read it to me. That might help me once I've had a chance to better study the inscriptions. A root language would be so helpful right about now."


"That's it for me," Mitchell proclaimed. "All this being awake makes me sleepy. See you kids tomorrow."


"Night," Sam called.


Mitchell paused in the doorway. "Don't stay up all night telling ghost stories." He flicked his flashlight on and held it under his chin, so it cast a reddish, eerie glow. "It was a hook hand on the car handle!" he said with relish. "Oh, you've heard that one," he said when Sam started laughing. "I've got more. Lots more. Ask me tomorrow."


"A hook hand?" Teal'c asked as Mitchell left.


"That one's a classic," Daniel told Sam. "Don't you think?"


"One of the best," Sam agreed. "You going too, Teal'c? Sit with us and tell us a ghost story from Chulak."


"Perhaps later," Teal'c said. "Good night."


"Of course, ghost stories from Chulak are probably way scarier than ours," Daniel said as Teal'c followed Mitchell out. They all had rooms on the second level of what Daniel theorized was a guesthouse. They met in the common area for dinner, but other than that, they took all their meals downstairs with their hosts, during the interminable and meaningless talks. "Demon possession takes on a whole new dimension when Gou'ld are involved. The god--the demon--absolute power--branding--sarcophagi--vats of squishy symbiotes--wait. I think there's a whole study in this. I want to write a book. Several books."


Sam lay back on the rug. "Or a collection of short horror stories."


"Good idea. Didn't Stephen King start out as a member of SG-6? No?" Daniel lay back too and interlaced his fingers on his stomach. "I'm going to tell Commander Mitchell I'm off the team after this mission," he blurted. He hadn't meant to say anything to her until after he'd told the team leader, but this was Sam. He'd already requested some files so he could research a new posting--some archaeological dig on a nice planet somewhere.


"Yeah." Sam turned her head to face him. "I'm not surprised. You haven't been--I don't know. Happy. You haven't seemed that happy lately."


Sam had always been able to sense his moods. "I think I need a change. A desk job. Fieldwork where I actually stay in the field."


"Fieldwork. That sounds cool."


"I had a really good year once, doing intensive fieldwork," Daniel remembered.




"Excavated stuff. Learned a language." He turned to meet Sam's eyes. "Met a pretty local girl. Got married. Fell in love. You know."


Sam's gazed at him, her expression suddenly sad. "It's better than being kidnapped by South American rebels," she offered. "Isn't it?"


She was right. "Falling in love is way better than being kidnapped by South American rebels," Daniel agreed. "I'll give you that."


"Yeah," Sam said. "Yeah, it is."


Daniel asked Sam what he'd been wanting to ask her for weeks, but the time had never been right, and they were so rarely alone together. "And you're happy with him? With Jack?" It had been a long time coming, but from the beginning, it had been inevitable. Even Daniel had seen it, and he wasn't known for his insight in these matters.


Sam smiled, and he saw that she was. "Yeah. I am. Although I never expected Cassie to be living with us. And in my little Sam fantasy, I thought he'd be around more. And that he'd do all the cooking. It's--well, it's clichéd, that's how great it is."




"But what?"


"There's a but."


"There's no but."


Daniel frowned at her. There was definitely a but. He could tell. Was it the slight wrinkle in her brow? The tone of her voice? "There's always a but," he temporized, because very often, there was. His marriage with Sha're, which had happened in the order he'd listed to Sam--first marriage, then love--had had a big "but" hanging over it. Despite it, he'd been happy.


"No, really, Daniel, there's not."


"Okay, there's not," Daniel agreed. He changed the subject, because Sam's reaction to his question troubled him, and because now he was thinking about Sha're. Old wounds. "If you invite me over, he'll grill bratwurst."


Sam said instantly, "The Friday after we get back. Give Teal'c a ride."


"Deal," Daniel said. "Want to invite the newbie?"


Sam considered. "Nah," she said. "Just old friends this time. The real band. The original band."


"I used to be so young and handsome," Daniel said pensively. "People would rush the stage and ask me to autograph body parts."


Sam laughed. "Oh, yeah. Those were the days."


"Remember your go-go dress? The really short one with the fringe? And your tambourine?"


"The lead singer always needs to wear something eye-catching," Sam said. What I never understood was why you always wore sunglasses on stage. And the way you went through basses! Smashing them after each set!"


They stayed up late, making up outrageous stories about the good old days in the band, even casting themselves in the made-for-TV-movie version of their fiery breakup. But when he finally got himself to bed, Daniel found himself wondering why Sam had lied. Something was wrong with her and Jack, but she didn't want to talk about it. They'd waited so long--both of them. Daniel wished them the best.


There shouldn't be a but, but there was.




The word slipped away before he could catch it.


Daniel woke up, feeling hot. "God," he muttered, utterly disoriented. It was the middle of the night. He was on Pelos, in his sleeping bag on top of the bed. He'd been dreaming, that was all.


He had trouble making his fingers work well enough to unzip the sleeping bag. The cool air hit him, instantly soothing. They'd all been complaining about the cold in the rooms for three days, but now Daniel welcomed it. It immediately chilled the sweat on his skin. He grabbed his tiny flashlight and made his way to the lavatory. On his way back to his room, he noticed the crack of light underneath the kitchen door. Was Almaz still here, cleaning up after them?


Daniel tapped the door gently with the back of a knuckle. "Almaz?" he called.


The door opened, the light from the lamp flickering. Almaz, tiny and slight, like most of her people, ducked at him in the way the women, but not the men, did, and Daniel automatically ducked back, even though he thought men weren't supposed to do that. Force of habit, imitating what others did. He would probably just be perceived as overly polite.


"Is everything all right?" he asked her, knowing she couldn't understand a thing he said. She wasn't a member of the negotiation team; she was a servant. But a kind voice and a concerned face couldn't be misinterpreted. "It's late."


Almaz's voice bubbled, no iambic stress on words--no stress at all, iambic or otherwise. Somehow it reminded him of the first time he'd been in the Netherlands, hearing Dutch spoken: it sounded exactly like English, the same consonant-vowel combinations, the same stresses, the same hard a's, but it made no sense whatsoever. It had been disorienting, expecting everything to make sense. It was the same combination of familiarity and elusiveness here: he kept waiting for something familiar to emerge, a pattern. Eventually Almaz's language would resolve itself, the way Dutch had, and he would be able to distinguish words, but now, even after three days, he could only pick out a tiny fraction.

It was going frustratingly slowly.


Almaz gestured, and Daniel leaned over to peer through the door. To his surprise, he saw a little boy, maybe five years old, asleep on the floor.


"Your son?" he asked. "He doesn't look very comfortable. Isn't there an extra bedroom? Why don't you sleep in there tonight? Down the hall?" He gestured to illustrate.


Almaz's voice told him that such a suggestion was out of the question, but Daniel handed her his flashlight and bent down to pick the boy up.


"Hey, guy," he said softly as the boy opened sleepy eyes. "I don't know why you aren't home tonight, but let's move you to a bed, okay?" He nodded to Almaz, who unwillingly held the door open. "The one at the end of the hall is closest to the lavatory," he suggested.


Almaz's quiet, troubled voice followed them down the hall, but she shone the light so Daniel could see.


"I don't see why not," Daniel said, responding to her tone. "We don't mind, and you can talk to your boss tomorrow if it's a problem. It's an emergency, after all. Okay, here we are. Down you go, little boy." He leaned down to pull the blanket aside before he laid the boy on the bed, releasing the pleasant scent of the dried flowers they scattered on stored bedding.


Almaz handed him his flashlight back as she said something.


"No, I don't have any children," Daniel said. "My wife and I were just discussing it when she--" When she was taken by the goa'uld. The pain had faded long since, but he still felt hesitation, a dull pang. It was second pang tonight. "--when she died. Sam has a daughter and Teal'c has a son, but both of them are much older than your son." He gave Almaz the flashlight. "Here, you keep this. I have another one. No, it's okay. See how it works?" His fingers slipped. It was ridiculously cold in the rooms without fires. "On. Off. On. Got it? Good night."


Almaz followed him out. She gave him a tentative wave as he made his way back to his bedroom.


"Good night, Almaz," he said. "Sleep well."


"Sleep well," she repeated.




Daniel made a rolling motion with one hand, urging Teal'c on.


"Teal'c," Sam hissed, poking him.


"Rya'c," Teal'c said at last, face impassive. He crossed his arms to show he wasn't happy about answering such deeply personal questions. "My son's name is Rya'c. He is recently married."


Daniel translated as best he could, giving his hosts the gist of it. He had had to resort to gestures much less today.


Teal'c continued. "His wife's name is Kar'yn, of the Haktyl."


Their host, Mulualem, stirred and spoke. Daniel translated: "He says you seem displeased about your son's marriage."


"Not at all," Teal'c said, Daniel translating. "Originally I was against it. I thought Rya'c too young. I thought his marriage would sway him from his life's purpose. But I have seen that he was wise in his choice. She is a formidable woman."


Teal'c lapsed into silence, and Daniel said in his broken Pelosian, "Teal'c will likely say no more."


Mulualem spoke again. Daniel felt relief. He had made the breakthrough--his mind had gotten itself wrapped around the heavily inflected language, and suddenly it was, if not exactly making sense, easy to figure out the gist. "Teal'c, Mulualem wonders about your parents, their parents, and so on, as far back as you want to go."


"They are all dead," Teal'c said. "Most were leaders of the Jaffa. There is nothing else to know."


"Eh," Mulualem said when Daniel completed his halting translation, the little catch sound that all of the Pelosians made. He stood up, signaling that today's interview was over. Daniel and the rest of the team stood too. Mulualem pointed at Daniel. Although he spoke in Pelosian, Daniel could understand him as though he spoke English. "Tomorrow we will talk about you. And then we may negotiate."


"I look forward to it," Daniel said. "Thank you."


"Thank you," Mulualem said in English.


"What did he say?" Sam asked as Mulualem left.


"He said that tomorrow, I get to give my life story, and then we'll talk about what we want." Daniel scrunched his cheeks up and squeezed them. His face felt oddly stiff and unresponsive from smiling so much. "So I guess we head for the Gate for today's check-in and then head upstairs for dinner. I anticipate we'll be here three more days." He draped his arm around Sam in a half-hug and gave her a shake. He'd had a lot of fun with her last night, staying up late and being silly. "Sam, great job with your life story, but you left out all the good parts--Selmak, for example."


Sam leaned into him. "I figured the whole 'my dad was a good Gou'ld' thing would be too hard to explain. And Jolinar--just forget Jolinar. Was it my imagination, or did Mulualem seem interested in adoption?"


"He was interested," Daniel confirmed. "But maybe it was because Cassie came through the Gate--that kind of outsider goes beyond known clans. Maybe they perceive it as risky behavior." He let go of Sam. "I liked your story, Commander," he offered, because Mitchell was looking at him and Sam oddly, like he was puzzling through something. "I don't know much about you, so it was great to hear--to hear what you had to say." In fact, Mitchell had been pretty uninformative.


"Well, I went for short and sweet, but Teal'c beat me to it," Mitchell said. "So tell me this, Jackson: what's the deal with the inscription? Mulualem looked at the video but he didn't have much to say."


Daniel shrugged. He hadn't really been surprised at Mulualem's lack of interest, although it seemed at odds with his recommendation to visit the monument. Mulualem probably wondered why Daniel wanted ancient writing, rather than samples of the current writing system, of which there were many. Mulualem hadn't actually translated the stone. Daniel had the impression that he couldn't read it. "I'm pretty sure he said that the writing would make us understand."


"And will the writing make us understand?" Teal'c asked.


Daniel considered. "Possibly. There are several such stones--we just visited the closest. I thought I'd survey them and see how the inscriptions relate to the current writing. But mostly I was curious. I think the root is Semitic, but if that's the case, it's pretty idiosyncratic. Of course, many of the languages we encounter through the Gate are offshoots of the Semitic family--it makes sense when you consider the location of the Gate on Earth, in present-day Egypt--"


He broke off as Sam held up her hands and laughed. "Okay, Daniel!" she said. "Stop! Stop!"


"You ready to head for the Gate, Jackson?" Mitchell asked. "Who else wants to check in? Teal'c? Carter?"


"Wait a sec," Daniel said, spotting Almaz, who had been quietly and unobtrusively puttering away over in a corner, clearing the sideboard and stacking dishes in a basket. He headed over. "Almaz, is everything all right? Was there a problem with you and your son sleeping in the guesthouse last night?"


Almaz looked up quickly, her face registering surprise. "No," she said. "No problem. Mulualem is kind, as are you. It will not happen again."


"It's no trouble. If you need to use the bedroom, well, isn't that what they're for?"


"They are for guests," Almaz said firmly. "Your friends are waiting."


Daniel turned, only to see Sam, Teal'c, and Mitchell staring at him.


"I think our boy genius has cracked the code," Mitchell opined.




"Isn't it a little...weird?" Sam said, voice low. Daniel had to strain to hear her.


"The dude's a genius." Trust Mitchell to back him up. "So he had a breakthrough. Now he gets the language."


Teal'c's voice rumbled. "Daniel Jackson has never before exhibited such behavior when learning a language."


"What Teal'c means is, Daniel does not suddenly start speaking the language like a native. He kind of--he kind of goes slow. You know, like he was doing with Mulualem."


Mitchell sounded amused. "Yeah, Carter, I got it. But couldn't it be that he knows a similar language and his mind finally just clicked on it?"


"Such an explanation is unlikely," Teal'c noted. "He has studied the Pelosian language's structure in both its spoken and written forms--and in vain."


"When you know as many languages as Jackson knows--" Mitchell argued stubbornly. "I mean, you're bound to get a little confused."


Daniel backed away from the door and leaned against the wall, pondering. Well, it was a little weird, he had to admit that, but finally figuring out the language had been an incredible relief. So what if had been rather...sudden? When he was in the zone of another language, his mind thought it. He didn't translate per se; he just spoke, and it came out. That was what had happened today with Almaz, although he usually had an awareness of the language the other person spoke. He'd almost perceived Almaz as speaking English, but of course she had spoken in Pelosian. What was odd was that he hadn't perceived the exchange as odd.


Daniel took a deep breath, pushed off the wall, and opened the door. "Hey, guys," he greeted them as they looked up guiltily. He pulled up a stool and plucked a piece of fruit from a bowl in the center of the table. He needed to head them off at the pass by acknowledging their discomfort. "So I know you're probably worried about the whole language thing--"


"It's just--" Sam began, just as Mitchell said, "Jackson, no, we really don't think--"


Daniel overrode them. "--but I don't want you to get too excited. The exchange I had with Almaz might have sounded like I can meaningfully communicate, but keep in mind that I don't have a lot of vocabulary words."


"Vocabulary?" Teal'c prompted.


"I mean, I know the words for simple things that we've heard the people here say. But for complex ideas and negotiations--"


"You still don't know the term for 'vitamin D,'" Mitchell put in.


Daniel nodded. "That pretty much sums it up. Vitamin D, power struggle, Priors, strategic defense, the nature of wormholes--well, I can't do that one in English except by metaphor." He began peeling the fruit. "I made a breakthrough today, but it's not like we get to knock off early or anything."


"Fine by me," Mitchell said promptly. "The weather here is great, the people are nice, and I don't fear decapitation. It's like I'm on vacation."


Sam huffed out breath in exasperation. "For goodness' sake, Daniel, let me."


"Hey!" Daniel let her take the piece of fruit he'd been mangling and watched her deftly peel it. "Your fingers are smaller," he pointed out.


"Not that much smaller," she said. "These are good--kind of mango-y. Can I have half?"


"Sure." Daniel accepted what she handed him.


"It was just--weird," Sam said as he bit into the sweet fruit. "Hearing you talk to Almaz like that, her answering you--you were having a real conversation."


"And tomorrow I'll negotiate," Daniel said.


"You do what you do best." Mitchell slid his stool back. "And I'll do what I do best, which, on this mission, is basically sitting around, looking polite. I've got a book in my room calling my name. Holler if you need me."


"That's so sweet," Sam murmured as Mitchell left. "The whole hero-worship thing he's got going for you, Daniel. Sweet."


"Hero worship?" Daniel said blankly. Mitchell appreciated his contribution to the team, and said so. How was that hero worship? In fact, it was a nice change from Jack's sniping, affectionate as that sniping had become.


"He called you a genius, I believe," Teal'c pointed out.


Daniel swallowed a piece of fruit. "Maybe I am a genius."


"Yeah," Sam said skeptically.


"You and Dr. Carter are both geniuses," Teal'c said. "I believe General O'Neill has said as much a number of times. Admittedly, circumstances were usually dire."


"Hero worship," Sam repeated, grinning.


"Perhaps a wager, Samantha Carter?" Teal'c asked.


"How long it takes Colonel Mitchell to lose patience with Daniel here?"


Teal'c inclined his head. "Indeed."


"Very funny," Daniel said, but he was smiling. He stood up. He wanted to go over the inscription on that stone again. "Very funny."




First, he was aware of the scent of the dried flowers the Pelosians scattered on stored bedding. It wafted up from his pillow, released by the heat of his head.


Then Almaz gestured, and Daniel leaned over to peer through the door. He saw a little boy, maybe five years old, asleep on the floor.


"Your son?" Daniel asked, even though he knew it was. The lantern on the kitchen's worktable flickered, exuding sepia-toned light. Shouldn't everything be darker? It was the middle of the night. Everything was soft-edged, sepia, gray, like an old photograph. "He doesn't look very comfortable. Isn't there an extra bedroom? Why don't you sleep in there tonight? Down the hall?"


"That would not be appropriate." Trust Almaz to be worried about propriety. Well, maybe she would get yelled at if she slept in a guest room. Daniel handed her his flashlight. He'd take responsibility if there was trouble.


"Hey, guy," Daniel whispered as the boy opened sleepy eyes, hefting him up. "I don't know why you aren't home tonight, but let's move you to a bed, okay?" He nodded to Almaz, who unwillingly held the door open. "The one at the end of the hall is closest to the lavatory," he suggested.


"My husband did not arrive to pick me up," Almaz said. "It is most unlike him. It is too late for him to arrive now. He would stay at home, thinking me safe here." She flashed the light on the floor so Daniel could see to step, following him as he walked. "It is not appropriate for us to stay in a guest room."


"I don't see why not," Daniel responded. "We don't mind, and you can talk to your boss tomorrow if it's a problem. It's an emergency, after all." He nudged the door open with his foot. "Okay, here we are. Down you go, little boy." He tugged the blanket aside before he laid the boy on the bed, releasing the pleasant scent of the dried meyata the Pelosians scattered on stored bedding.


Almaz handed him his flashlight back. "You are most kind. Do you have children of your own?"


"No, I don't have any children," Daniel said. "My wife and I were just discussing it when she--when she died. Sam has a daughter and Teal'c has a son, but both of them are much older than your son." He gave Almaz the flashlight. "Here, you keep this. I have another one." The gift definitely made her uncomfortable; he had to wrap her fingers around it. "No, it's okay. See how it works?" His fingers slipped, but Almaz's were sure. "On. Off. On. Got it? Good night."


Almaz followed him out. She gave him a tentative wave as he made his way back to his bedroom.


"Good night, Almaz," he said. "Sleep well."


"Sleep well," she repeated.


The scent of meyata wafted up from the pillow, tickling his nose, and Daniel woke up. He'd been dreaming of Almaz and her son. He had forgotten to ask her son's name.


"Sleep well," she had said.


Had she said it in Pelosian or in English? Had she been mimicking his last words? He found he couldn't remember.


He rolled onto his side and settled his head deeper into the pillow. The meyata, light and pleasant, smelled earthy, like green twigs, underneath the slight sweetness of the scent. He liked cultures with soft pillows. The hard neck braces made of stone or wood were the worst; you had to lie on your back. The only thing they were good for, in Daniel's opinion, was saving hair from being crushed, and as a man, that was not high on his list of priorities.

"Sleep well," Daniel muttered, stretching out his arm. "Ayo ababeme."


Nobody was next to him. It had been a little over a year since someone had shared a bed with him, and much longer than that since someone had been there when he reached out, since someone had spent the entire night with him. He stroked the smooth fabric of the empty space next to him, remembering. His hand was icy. He drew it back into his sleeping bag and tucked it under his arm. When he got warm again, he would be able to fall back asleep.


Ever since Sam had teased him about it, he'd been thinking about hero worship.




Out of force of habit, Daniel stayed in the left-hand wheel rut as he ran. Farmers stopped their work and lifted their hands in greeting as he passed, and he waved back. The grass stayed short because the road was well traveled, but despite this, the footing was more uneven than he would have liked. The road had been roiled up by vehicles traveling during a rainstorm or something, and it had hardened into huge, bumpy ruts. He'd never been much of a runner, but the persistent chilliness, which he'd first enjoyed when he'd arrived on Pelos, seemed to have settled in his bones. Running made him warm again, made his

fingers flexible and flushed his face. The minute he got home, he was going to hop into a hot shower, and he was going to drain the hot water heater dry. Billows of wet heat would roil out of the room when he opened the door. He would resign from the SGC altogether and excavate in some desert somewhere. Egypt was good. He hadn't been to Cairo in about a year and a half.




Daniel slowed his pace and turned so he was running backward. "Commander Mitchell!" he called. "What are you doing here?"


Mitchell sped up so he could draw alongside Daniel. He took the right wheel rut, leaving the left for Daniel. "I didn't think it's a good idea for our chief negotiator to go off alone," he explained. "Consider me your jogging partner for the morning." Mitchell extended his left arm and tapped the watch strapped to his wrist. "And consider me your timer. Beep beep! Time to head back. Negotiations in forty-five minutes."


Daniel stopped. Mitchell ran a small loop and came back around. "Have you been following me this whole time?" Daniel asked. "Yep," Mitchell said. "But now it's time to turn back."


Daniel checked his own watch. He hadn't realized how long he'd been out. He took in Mitchell, who seemed to have barely broken a sweat, and contrasted his own sweat-stained T-shirt, wet at the neck and armpits. Daniel figured Mitchell was capable of a four-minute mile at the very least. He'd probably ramped himself back for Daniel, and he'd stayed far enough back that Daniel hadn't even noticed him.


"Good idea," Daniel agreed. "Sorry--I'm sure my pace is a little slower than you'd like."


Mitchell shrugged, hands on hips as he breathed. "It's not my run. It's yours. You ready?"


Mitchell kept pace with Daniel. When Daniel slowed, Mitchell slowed too, staying right beside him. Daniel found it disconcerting. He had no desire to race--that wasn't it--but having someone basically act as his bodyguard during an early morning run felt just a little weird.


"So your life story is today?" Mitchell asked after a few minutes of mostly silent panting.


"Yes," Daniel affirmed.


"Too bad I won't get to hear it--understand it, I mean."


Daniel looked sideways at Mitchell, but Mitchell was busy dodging a particularly deep wheel rut. What did that comment mean? "I'm sure you've read my file," he said. "I doubt I'll say anything that's not in there."


"I was just--struck, I guess, about how unrevealing everybody's little biographical sketches were," Mitchell said. "Just the facts, without any emotion behind it."


"You think the Pelosians are looking for emotion?" Daniel asked, curious. He'd been treating the exchange as an opportunity for each to take the measure of the other's culture, looking for hints that made the other acceptable, or unacceptable, as a trading partner.


"I think they're looking for our humanity," Mitchell said. "They're looking for a reason why they should talk to us, do us a favor."


"So why didn't you share when it was your turn?" Daniel asked.


"I figured something would get lost in translation." Mitchell shrugged. "But you talk, we can't understand, your privacy is retained, everybody's happy."


"I'll, uh, I'll take that under advisement," Daniel promised, because Mitchell made an excellent point.


"See, one thing I was happy about was getting to work with you guys," Mitchell said. "I figured you'd have a Three Musketeers thing going and I would be the odd man out, but I haven't really felt that way. You guys have all been great--really welcoming."


"Uh, thanks." There it was again, just like with Sam: a "but" that didn't follow, but that just hung there. He thought he could guess what it was: the three original team members had a rapport that Mitchell simply couldn't share, at least not yet. But of course Daniel planned to resign from SG-1 after this mission. "You're doing a great job." He'd probably waited a second or two too long to say that. It sounded false.


"Well, I'm no Jack O'Neill," Mitchell said.


"That's really no problem," Daniel assured him, and Mitchell laughed.


"How was it with he and Carter on the same team?" Mitchell asked.


Daniel gave him a sideways look. "What do you mean?"


"Aren't they...together now?" At Daniel's look, he added, "I know, don't listen to the rumor mill, but two team members dating--"


"It wasn't like that," Daniel cut in. "They were totally professional. Nothing went on while Jack was Sam's direct superior."


"Nothing?" Mitchell said skeptically.


"Nothing," Daniel repeated firmly. After all, he was pretty sure it was true. "You know the Air Force. Nothing." Daniel slowed, and Mitchell paced him. He couldn't talk and run at the same time. In the distance, he saw a farmer turn and look at them, then return to work.


"And now?"


"And now they're living together," Daniel said. "They don't really talk about it."


"Yeah, okay. I had to ask. When I saw you put your arm around Carter, it just made me wonder is all."


Daniel actually appreciated Mitchell's candor, even if he was way off the mark. He was doing just what he should do as team leader: he'd wondered whether he'd spotted a problem, so he was handling it. He said, "I understand. Sam and I are old friends. That's all."


"Okay," Mitchell said.


Daniel threw him a look. "What else?"


Mitchell shook his head. They'd slowed to a walk by now. "Nothing else. That's it."


"You're sure?"


"What, Jackson? I'm sure."






"We're going to be late." Daniel broke into a trot. He had to think about what to tell Mulualem today, but he couldn't shake the feeling that Mitchell had wanted to say or ask something, but hadn't, just as he was sure that Mitchell knew there was nothing between Sam and Daniel. So why had he asked? Or why hadn't he asked Sam?




Daniel set his mug down as Almaz held out a basket of something to him. They looked like roasted pepitas--pumpkin seeds. He took a few, because refusing food was rarely a good idea, and nibbled one. Strangely, it tasted sweet.


"Delicious," he told her. The sixteen syllables of "thank you" followed, now spoken automatically, as fast as the Pelosians could speak it, the inflection perfect. "Almaz, I forgot to ask your son's name. He is well?"


Almaz smiled. "His name is Tulelo, the same as his father, and he is well."


"Your husband didn't come to get you that day?" Daniel seemed to remember that this was the case, but he couldn't say how he knew. She hadn't told him. Had one of the other women mentioned it? That must have been it.


She nodded. "His horse had thrown a shoe and he could not repair it in time."


"I am pleased he is well. I was worried."


"Thank you. I was too." Almaz offered the basket to Sam next.


"Oh--sweet," Sam said in surprise as she politely tasted a pepita. She addressed Almaz, even though Almaz couldn't understand her. "Thank you. They're good, but I was surprised because we eat them salty at home, not sweet." She took a small handful.


Almaz, uncomprehending, smiled and ducked and moved on.


"Your words fall like water from your lips," Mulualem put in, addressing Daniel.


"Should I tell of my family?" Daniel asked. If they had time today, he hoped to ask Mulualem again about the inscription on the monument. It didn't resemble modern Pelosian writing, and Daniel hoped his host could provide some insight. Now that Daniel's language skills were better, another conversation about it was due.


"It would interest me," Mulualem said, the phrase he'd used continuously during negotiations. Daniel hadn't understood its literal meaning until today; he'd taken it to mean "tell me more."


"Unlike Sam and Teal'c, I have no children," Daniel said. "So I begin with myself." The Pelosians began with the youngest generation and worked backward. "My parents were scholars who died when I was young in an accident. I was cared for by my grandfather, Nicholas, my mother's father, also a scholar. I too am a scholar, of the words and actions of grandfathers and their grandfathers and their grandfathers. And grandmothers."




"Thank you, yes. Ancestors. The words and actions of ancestors. I learned of the Stargate, of how to make it--to make it alive." Daniel mimicked the Stargate's whoosh. "We went through, to Abydos. The people there greeted us, and it is there that I was given my wife. I remained when my people left, to live with my wife. Her name was Sha're."


"Sha're," Mulualem repeated experimentally.


"Time passed. Sha're and her brother were taken by the goa'uld. I went after them with the help of my people, but I was too late. She and her brother became goa'uld against their will, and they hid so I could not find them. I looked for her for several years, wanting my wife back, but she died." Daniel's limited vocabulary frustrated him. He wondered whether the Pelosians knew that the goa'uld were parasites and the people they appeared to be merely the hosts. He didn't know if he could explain that.


"Very sad," Mulualem said. "How did she die?"


"Teal'c killed her. But it was not my wife any longer. It was the goa'uld that had taken her body. My wife was long dead."


"Teal'c!" Mulualem turned to face the Jaffa, who, hearing his name, had leaned forward to listen. "This very same man?"




Mulualem pursed his lips. "Hard to see him every day."


"No," Daniel said. "He is my friend. He saved my life on that day, and on many days that followed."


"Your wife long dead, but her body remains, as if alive," Mulualem mused. "We have such stories, but they are not real."


"We have such stories too," Daniel said. "I never thought them real until I saw it with my own eyes."


"And her death touched your heart?" Mulualem reached over and, shockingly, because he had never touched him before in such a manner, laid the tip of index finger on Daniel's chest.


"It did," Daniel said, blinking in sudden confusion and dizziness. It was as though he could feel Mulualem's finger cutting through his body.


"None of you speak of your heart." Mulualem didn't move his finger. His black eyes glittered. "You have hearts?"


"We do," Daniel gasped.


"Permit the water to fall like tears," Mulualem said. "Speak to me of love. Show yourselves worthy."




Sam's voice sounded from far away. Unexpectedly, in a rush, Daniel's eyes filled with tears.


Permit the water to fall like tears.




He said, "I understand. Sam and I are old friends. That's all."


"Okay," Mitchell said.


Daniel threw him a look. "What else?"


Mitchell shook his head. They'd slowed to a walk by now. "Nothing else. That's it."


"You're sure?"


"What, Jackson? I'm sure."


Daniel stopped. The air was too clear; the sun was too bright. It was morning again. A bird wheeled overhead. When he looked up, the sun blinded him. His eyes filled with tears from the brightness, and he blinked them away.


"Nothing else. That's it."


"You're sure?"


"What, Jackson? I'm sure."


"What do you want to say?" Daniel spoke the words distinctly, felt his mouth shaping them, but the word that came out was, "Okay."


"Okay," Mitchell said.


And they stood there, sweaty from the run, small against the plain, standing in wheel ruts that wound through the grass, leading nowhere but the horizon, not speaking. Mitchell wanted to say something, wanted to say it so much that he shouted.


"Tell me," Daniel begged. He wanted to know. The sun glinted on Mitchell's hair. Mitchell's clear blue eyes reflected the sky.


"Speak to me of love," Mitchell said, but his mouth didn't move.


And he was running. "...Sam and I are old friends. That's all."


The mission report, about a year ago. You were on a planet--I can't think of the name. The Rand Protectorate. A woman named Leda cared for you after you were wounded. You spent a lot of time alone with her. A lot of time.


"Okay," Mitchell said.


Daniel threw him a look. "What else?"


She was young and beautiful, and her husband was out of town--I mean, for months on end. So what was the deal?


Mitchell shook his head. They'd slowed to a walk by now. "Nothing else. That's it."


"You're sure?"


You're telling me that the two of you weren't up to something? I read your report. It's clear you cared for her. I just want to know how far it went. I just want to know how far you go. I mean, you're on another planet, she's available, you're available...


"What, Jackson? I'm sure."




"Okay," Daniel said.


"Jackson, you okay?" Mitchell asked, concerned.


Daniel looked down at Mulualem's finger, then into Mulualem's face.


"Love," he said. Mitchell wanted to know if he'd had an affair with Leda. But he hadn't asked. He had tried to lead the conversation by asking about Sam, but then he hadn't followed through.


"Love," Mulualem repeated.


"Sha're was given to me as my wife, as a gift of friendship," Daniel said. "It is the way of her people, but not the way of mine. She was unasked for. My people ask. She was beautiful, a leader's daughter, intelligent. I had not thought to marry. I had not thought to love a woman. I had tried before. But Sha're showed me I was capable of it. When she was taken by the goa'uld, I searched because she had come to mean more than herself. She had come to mean that I could have a family and children."


"She opened a door for you," Mulualem said. "I understand. She is in your heart still?"


"She will always be in my heart," Daniel said. "But she is gone. I am still alive."


"And now?"


Who was in his heart now? The glint of sun on hair, blue eyes, hero worship. Daniel struggled to breathe. He knew now; he understood. It was another reason why he had to leave SG-1.


"I do not want to speak of now," Daniel said. "Now is too new."


"Now cuts," Mulualem agreed. "The past has healed." He withdrew his hand, and Daniel sat back.


"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, and Daniel, surprised, realized that Sam, Teal'c, and Mitchell were all standing up, and had been during his entire exchange with Mulualem. But he hadn't noticed them getting up or moving. Their faces looked grim.


"What?" Daniel asked, blinking up at them. "What's wrong?"


"You were just--uh--really quiet for a while," Sam told him. "Kind of a long while."


"Four minutes." Mitchell tapped his watch. "You and Mulualem here stared at each other for four minutes, and then I guess you told him about Sha're, because I heard her name."


Daniel reflexively checked his watch. Had it really been four minutes? He hadn't been paying attention to the time one way or another. He'd had that weird flashback about the morning run, and then he'd done as Mitchell had suggested: he'd revealed something about himself. Mitchell had been right. It seemed that Mulualem wanted something of them.


Daniel found he was shaking a little. "May we end for today?" he asked Mulualem. Maybe tomorrow you can tell me about your heart."


"My wife carries my heart, as Sha're carried yours," Mulualem said. "There is little to tell."


Daniel knew strategizing when he saw it. "It would interest me," he said, the syllables sounding strange coming from him instead of Mulualem.


"Eh." Mulualem stood up and theatrically threw his arms overhead. "Yes," he announced before stomping out.


"Guys--I'm fine." Daniel held up a hand to stop them, because of course they were all talking at once. Although he was little confused about what had happened, he was comforted by the simple fact of Mulualem being Mulualem. "I asked Mulualem if we could knock off early. If you don't mind, I think I need a nap. All that translating."


"It's almost lunchtime," Mitchell objected.


The thought of food made him feel faintly ill. "I'm not hungry." Daniel headed for the door. "Everything's fine. He asked about Sha're, and Colonel, I remembered what we talked about this morning. So I told him what he wanted to know."


"Which was?" Mitchell prompted.


"Kind of personal," Daniel said. "Excuse me."




The light leaked around the edges of the curtains. Daniel briefly considered finding his sunglasses and clipping them onto his glasses, but taking a nap in sunglasses seemed silly, plus he'd have to get up and walk across the room to pull them from his vest, and such an event seemed unlikely. Although he'd pled fatigue so he could be alone and think, he now found himself legitimately sleepy. Mitchell had theorized that Mulualem wanted something of the visitors to his planet, and he'd been right. Mulualem wanted self-revelation.


Daniel turned that around in his mind. He'd been asked about love, so the Pelosians were interested in that concept. They were likely interested in ascertaining their visitors' intentions, peaceful or not, so questions about love and empathy were to be expected. Evoking emotion from Daniel had proved that the Pelosians were dealing with people capable of experiencing empathy, love, and loss.


Mulualem's line of questioning made all the more sense because the Pelosians understood, in basic terms, that SG-1 was asking them to accept refugees. During today's check-in, Daniel planned to recommend to the SGC that leadership from the refugees come to the planet to meet with Mulualem, because Mulualem was assessing SG-1, and he needed to assess the refugees instead.


Preliminary analyses with the MALP had revealed favorable environmental conditions, but that was just the first step. SG-1 had been sent in because it was a first contact situation. Nobody needed an incident stemming from the dissimilarity of the two cultures. They agreed on the basics--the refugees and the Pelosians both came from monogamous cultures without slavery. But the refugees' level of technology was higher, and, like many technologically advanced civilizations, they had less rigid sex roles. That could result in tension.


And he should be worried about missing time--four minutes' worth of time, to be exact. Four minutes, during which time he'd apparently been running with Cam Mitchell, just as he'd had that morning, having the same conversation over and over again.


He couldn't possibly know what Mitchell was thinking. Did Mitchell want to know whether Daniel had had an affair with Leda last year? Or had Daniel just made that up in some kind of fever dream? There was no way he could know what Mitchell was thinking. But then again, he'd known that Almaz's husband hadn't picked her up, so she'd had to spend the night in an extra room in the guesthouse with her son, but someone had probably mentioned that--one of the other servants. Or maybe she'd mentioned it when they'd talked that night.


But he hadn't understood her. That had been before his ability to speak Pelosian had turned on--turned on like a tap, with words running out like water.


Daniel took his glasses off, folded them up, and laid them on the chair next to the bed that he used as a night stand, next to his flashlight. He reached out and, like he had last night when he'd awoken, he gently stroked the empty side of the bed.


And a plain, and two men running in wheel ruts, himself and someone else, someone with dark blond hair and blue eyes, a war hero, someone who smiled at him.


And Sam, blonde hair and big blue eyes, smiled at him. He'd always loved her expressive eyes. She was terrible at poker because of those eyes.


"Falling in love is way better than being kidnapped by South American rebels," Daniel agreed. "I'll give you that." He wiggled his toes and edged closer to the fire. The chimney smoked a bit, and his eyes teared a little at the acrid smoke.


"Yeah," Sam said. "Yeah, it is."


"And you're happy with him? With Jack?" He'd been wanting to ask her for weeks, but the time had never been right, and they were so rarely alone together. Now, Teal'c and Mitchell had gone to bed, and it was just the two of them.


Sam smiled. "Yeah. I am. Although I never expected Cassie to be living with us. And in my little Sam fantasy, I thought he'd be around more. And that he'd do all the cooking." Daniel had to grin at that one. Sam wasn't much of a cook, and neither was Jack, unless the cooking was being done over a manly grill. The two of them would probably starve to death if all they had to eat were Cassie's cookies. "It's--well, it's clichéd, that's how great it is."




Sam hesitated.


But he doesn't want to get married. Well, that's not true. I don't know whether he wants to get married or not. Actually, I'm afraid to bring it up. He hasn't said anything. I don't know what I expected. We didn't talk about it and I guess we should have.


"But what?" she said.


Daniel blinked. "There's a but."


"There's no but."


But then I think I should just be happy with what I've got. I mean, I've been engaged twice, and it didn't exactly work out either time. So what's the big deal? When it becomes an issue, a real issue, one of us will say something. Right now it's still new. Give it time, I think, especially now that I'm back in the field. Everything seems stable, and Cassie is doing well.


"Tell me the truth," Daniel begged, but what came out instead was, "There's always a but."


You want a "but," Daniel? Here's the biggest one of all: But I want kids. I want his kids. And then I'm overcome with my own selfishness. I'm not getting any younger, and neither is he. But then I think of Charlie and--oh, god, the guilt. You have no idea. What would it be like for Jack? Or for--for Sara? Would it be like negating his previous family? Because I don't want that. Of course I don't want that. But what about Cassie? It's a role model thing too. I want her to be part of a stable, committed family. It's not all about me, me, me. I get that. I so get that. It's about us--the two of us, and the three of us. But.


"No, really, Daniel, there's not." Sam's eyes were clear, as though everything were fine, as though she weren't obsessively worrying about something she had no control over.


"Okay, there's not," Daniel agreed, because he couldn't do anything else. He wanted he could help, but he couldn't do anything. "Maybe tomorrow you can tell me about your heart."


"Jack carries my heart, as Sha're carried yours," Sam said. "There's not much to tell."


"It would interest me," Daniel said, the Pelosian catch phrase dropping from his lips like water.


"Eh." Sam theatrically threw her arms overhead, stretching out long on the floor. "Yes," she said. "All right. I don't choose where to give it. I would have given it to Pete otherwise. If I could have chosen, I would have given it to Pete. I wanted to love him more than I loved him. I wanted the things he represented more than I wanted him."


"I know how you feel," Daniel said, thinking of Sha're.


"And your heart?" Sam's eyes looked dark, almost black, in the flickering light. Night had come. "Your heart now?"


He hadn't said it out loud yet. He tasted it on his tongue, clear like water.


"Cameron Mitchell," Daniel said.


"Cameron Mitchell," Sam repeated. "Well, I must say--I'm surprised."




"Yes, Jackson, surprised," Mitchell continued.


"What?" Daniel said, coming up onto his elbows. "What time is it?" It had gotten dark.


"Sleeping the entire afternoon away," Mitchell said as Daniel sat up and rubbed his face. "We have that tea ceremony thingie to attend. So up and at 'em, because it's in ten minutes."


"Right," Daniel remembered. "Tea ceremony. Good. Interesting. I'm--where are my glasses?"


"Whoa, Jackson, hold it." Mitchell intervened before Daniel could knock them off the chair. "Here."


Daniel slid them on. "Thanks." Mitchell had come into focus, and Daniel took him in. He was definitely having some crazy dreams. His subconscious was having a field day. Freud would be proud. This was all Sam Carter's fault. If she hadn't made that remark about hero worship—


"Can I ask you something?" Daniel said.


"Jackson, time's a-wasting."


"This is important."


Mitchell reacted to Daniel's intensity. "Yeah, shoot."


"And I need you not to lie."


"Okaaaay," Mitchell said. "No lying. Check."


Daniel took a deep breath. "This morning, when we were on this run. We were talking about Sam and Jack. I got the feeling you wanted to ask me something else. You didn't ask. What was it?"


"What?" Mitchell asked, looking at Daniel as though he were insane. "I don't--"


Daniel interrupted. He didn't have time for coyness. "Remember the no lying thing? And the important thing?"


"Okay. Okay." Mitchell moved Daniel's flashlight and a journal where Daniel had transcribed the writing on the stone, to try to translate it, and sat down in the chair. "I wanted to ask you about a mission report, maybe a year ago. I don't remember the planet designation--"


"P3X-811," Daniel supplied.


"--or maybe it was P3X-811," Mitchell agreed. "Could be, because I don't remember, but yeah, that sounds right. You were wounded. You were there for weeks, in the countryside, on their country estate. This woman Leda took care of you. This young, attractive woman Leda, with her husband in town, far away from home. You wrote a lot about her. And I wondered if you and she--"


"--had an affair," Daniel said in unison with Mitchell.


"Well, yeah." Mitchell fidgeted. "You left that part out, so I'm thinking no."


That was nice. Mitchell was giving him the benefit of the doubt. Either that, or he was embarrassed. Daniel unzipped his sleeping bag and threw it off. He'd tossed his trousers across the foot of the bed, and now he pulled them on. He felt Mitchell's eyes on him. He found himself keeping his back to Mitchell as he buttoned up.


"This is the thing." Daniel sat and felt under the bed for his shoes. "I had a dream about our run this morning, only instead of saying the stuff we said, you said...other stuff."


"Stuff like what?" Mitchell asked. "Stuff like, did you have an affair with Leda?"


"Yeah." Daniel shoved his feet into his shoes and began lacing. "Exactly that stuff."


Mitchell pondered. "That is pretty damn weird," he said at last.


"I thought so," Daniel said. "It's all cascading. I've had other memories--events--happen like that one. The one you just told me about took four minutes. You timed it. And I've been having--dreams." At least, he thought they were dreams. Visions? Maybe that was a better term.


Mitchell put his forearms on his legs and clasped his hands together. He looked earnest in that posture--earnest and worried. "So it's not just language. It's also the stuff we don't say."


"This goes way beyond subtext." Daniel got up and found his jacket. "I mean, I could maybe have inferred that you wanted to ask me about my romantic life, just from what we were talking about during the run, but nothing so--so specific. That planet. That mission. That woman, Leda." He dug through his duffel. "Don't forget your ceremonial hat," he reminded Mitchell. "For the tea ceremony," he added, putting his own hat on, because Mitchell seemed confused. "Are you coming?"


Mitchell twisted around in the chair. "Oh, nice, Jackson," he said. "Are you sure that ceremonial hat there isn't on backward?"


Daniel opened the door. "It wasn't Leda," he said. "Since you wondered. It was her husband. Jared Kane."


Mitchell stared at him. "Oh," he said. "I--oh."


"Yeah," Daniel said. It hadn't been an affair as much as a desperate coming together. In the end, Jared had suspected that Leda had fallen in love with Daniel. He'd had the body of one and the trust of the other. It had been more than a year ago. Daniel still remembered the intensity. It had consumed them. It hadn't mattered that Jared was married. Daniel had known but didn't care. The wife had been far away, until Jared sent Daniel to her, and the wife that didn't seem to exist had indeed existed: Leda, who became his friend. She was to be Daniel's salvation, and their punishment. A lot of emotion and turbulence had been packed into those weeks. "And no, I don't make a habit of this."


Mitchell stood up. "I, uh, I guess I need to go find my ceremonial hat."


Daniel nodded. Mitchell was trying hard to play it cool, but it was clear to Daniel that his revelation had been just that--a revelation.


"Good idea," Daniel said mildly. Mitchell would approach him when he was ready to talk--Daniel knew it. That was just the kind of man Mitchell was.




Daniel cupped his teacup in both hands, imitating Mulualem's posture. He inhaled the fragrant smoke from the tea as he watched the Pelosian woman pour. The teapot had a wooden stick for a handle, worn smooth with use, and a blackened bottom from being set in the ashes of the fire. The woman tipped it gracefully, with the ease of long practice. She lifted the pot up as she poured, so the stream of tea lengthened as it cascaded down, splashing a little. She handed the full cups to Almaz, who took them and presented them to the guests. Daniel was pleased to hear the correct pronunciation of "thank you" from each of his colleagues, each of whom wore his or her ceremonial embroidered and beaded pillbox hat. Sam had perched hers on the back of her head and bobby-pinned it into place. It gave her a vaguely rakish air. Daniel thought the hats clashed with their usual drab green military wear. Mulualem's and the women's loose trousers and long tunics looked better with the hats.


Pelosians did not wait for all to be served before partaking. Mulualem took a sip immediately upon being presented his cup, and Daniel followed suit. "A beautiful ceremony," Daniel offered.


"You have seen others?" Mulualem asked.


"I have. Tea and coffee ceremonies. I have not seen coffee here. It is not leaves but a--a--" Daniel didn't know the words for "bean" or “bush." He settled for, "A thing that grows on little trees that grows more little trees."


"I understand," Mulualem said, clearly amused at Daniel's workaround.


"All are different, and all are beautiful. It would interest me to know the name of the woman who does this ceremony." Daniel took another sip of pale, slightly bitter tea.


To his surprise, the woman who was pouring looked up and said, "Thank you. My name is Meseret."


"My wife--the mother of my children, and the light of my house," Mulualem put in. Daniel nodded. He had assumed that the woman performing the tea ceremony was their hostess, and they seemed to be inside Mulualem's house, in a living room with the ubiquitous backless stools arranged around the fire.


"May I?" Daniel asked, indicating the other members of the team, and Mulualem said, "Of course." Daniel introduced Meseret, then translated small talk about weather, health, children, and the status of the household. Daniel made particularly sure that he inquired about Almaz's son, Tulelo, whom Daniel hadn't seen since they'd spent the night in the guesthouse, and was rewarded by Almaz's smile, the usual duck, and the assertion that both her Tulelos were well. A little flustered at being paid attention to when there were others there of greater status, Almaz offered around a basket of pepitas. They were salty this time instead of sweet, which made Sam smile but which made Mulualem grimace.


When the conversation wound around, as Daniel had known it probably would, about the status of Daniel's health after the early end to their talks, Daniel handed his empty cup over for a refill and delivered the speech he had prepared on his way over: "Since I have come, such strange things have happened to me. A thing happens over and over again. It would interest me if you would tell me of this." He hated how stilted he sounded, how simple his words and phrases had to be, but his vocabulary was coming along nicely.


Mulualem cocked his head. "Such is to be expected, to speak the language."


Daniel pondered that for a moment. Mulualem did not seem concerned, and his lack of concern worried Daniel. "A thing happens, but the language is unspoken."


"Yes," Mulualem said, as if this were self-evident. "You understand."


Daniel did not understand. Or did Mulualem mean that the language was unspoken but Daniel understood the words underneath anyway? "This is new to me and makes me worry," Daniel persisted. "Am I sick? Will I make my friends sick?"


"No, no," Mulualem said. "Only you, to speak the language, so we might know you. I thought perhaps your friend who went with you, but I think it is only you."


"What's going on, Jackson?" Mitchell asked, breaking into the lengthy exchange of what to him was nonsense. "Everything okay?"


"Just a second," Daniel said in English, not looking away from Mulualem. His friend who went with him? What did Mulualem mean? Went with him where? They'd been so many places, all together or in smaller groups or two or three--the market; the square; a farm; workshops for weaving, pottery, and quilting; the incised monument; their runs. "How did this happen?"


"The water," Meseret said serenely, lifting the teapot high, the column of tea long and sparkling in the firelight. Her voice was unexpected. Daniel snapped around in response. "The water on the words." She extended the cup to Almaz, who brought it to Daniel.


"The water on the words," Daniel repeated, staring at the rippling of the tea's surface. The firelight glinted on the surface. The only words he had seen recently were on the monument he and Mitchell had videotaped the other day--and Daniel had been completely unable to make head or tails of it. And there had been water on the words, because Daniel had poured some on. But how would they know he was going to do that? And how did it relate to his stunning improvement in language acquisition?


"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said warningly, and Daniel made a rolling motion with one hand, urging Teal'c on.


"Teal'c," Sam hissed, poking the Jaffa.


"Rya'c," Teal'c said at last, face impassive. He crossed his arms to show he wasn't happy about answering such deeply personal questions. "My son's name is Rya'c. He is recently married. His wife's name is Kar'yn, of the Haktyl."


The light had changed. It was daylight now, but everything seemed bleached, like an overexposed photograph. Mitchell's hair looked blonder and finer, his eyes bluer as he observed, patiently sitting. Daniel pulled his eyes away as he automatically translated, and Mulualem stirred. "Please ask about this: He seems displeased about his son's marriage."


"Not at all," Teal'c said when Daniel had finished speaking. "Originally I was against it. I thought Rya'c too young. I thought his marriage would sway him from his life's purpose. But I have seen that he was wise in his choice. She is a formidable woman."


After he had translated, Daniel, recognizing the stubborn look on Teal'c's face, told Mulualem, "Teal'c will likely say no more."


"If he will not speak of his son, perhaps he will speak of his mother and his father, and their mothers and fathers, and so on. It would interest me."


"Teal'c, Mulualem wonders about your parents, their parents, and so on, as far back as you want to go."


"They are all dead," Teal'c said. "Most were leaders of the Jaffa. There is nothing else to know."


Daniel looked up at Teal'c, who was suddenly, inexplicably looming above him. His pillbox hat--his ceremonial hat--was red. The teacup had virtually disappeared in his large hand, but Daniel could see the steam rising from it.


"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c repeated.


"They are all dead," Daniel murmured. "Most were leaders of the Jaffa. There is nothing else to know." He took a sip of tea. It was still scalding hot.


There is nothing else to know.




"Look, I'm fine," Daniel said as Mitchell dropped his ceremonial hat on the table in the common area. "You're overreacting."


"I don't think so," Mitchell said. "I say we dial up and get you home ASAP, because you're all weird in the head. Mulualem as much as admitted it. And Jackson, that's a problem. You're our chief negotiator-translator-Indian chief."


"Mulualem is not worried," Teal'c put in.


Daniel said, "Teal'c's right. Mulualem thinks everything is fine. I asked him if I was sick, or if this was catching, and he said no."


Mitchell threw up his hands. "Okay, yes, that's great. I'm so glad that whatever bizarre alien...thing you've got going in your head that lets you speak the lingo won't take us all out. Thanks for checking on that. That's a huge load off my mind."


"Mulualem said I got it from the water on the words," Daniel said, ignoring Mitchell's sarcasm.


"The water on the words?" Mitchell repeated. "Does that make sense to you? Or is Mulualem being all poetic-like?"


"I don't know," Daniel admitted. "I thought maybe the incised monument, but I don't see how."


"Maybe he means it's a waterborne--uh--whatever it is," Sam offered.


"It sounds that way to me too," Daniel agreed. "I'm sure Dr. Lam and her staff can handle this no problem. I think we should just wait until the negotiations are over. Then I can just go home as scheduled, and Dr. Lam can test me to her heart's content."


Mitchell snapped, "Are you telling me that you really have no problem with these little, uh, flashbacks you're having?"


"They're a little disorienting, but they don't actually seem dangerous." Daniel crossed his arms. "It's useful for what I'm doing, and I really doubt the Pelosians are out to get us. I don't get that vibe. I think they thought we wanted this."


Mitchell sighed. "Daniel, I have this tremendous urge to--to--"


"What?" Daniel asked, frowning, when Mitchell froze. "Colonel?"


"--to, uh, to knock you unconscious and drag you through the Gate, and damn the negotiations," Mitchell finished.


"What's wrong?" Daniel demanded, because clearly something had struck Mitchell that Mitchell didn't want to mention.


"Nothing's wrong," Mitchell said. "I'm--I'm remonstrating with you, is all."


Daniel lifted his eyebrows. "You're remonstrating with me?"


"Guys," Sam broke in soothingly.


Mitchell ignored her. "Yes, it's a big word, but I happen to know what it means." He leaned in threateningly. "It means that I'm the team leader, and you have been deliberately infected with some kind of--of--bug or something, and I don't care if it's helping you. I don't care if you think the Pelosians can walk on water with no special shoes. You didn't see yourself zone out at the tea ceremony for two minutes, when you were out in la-la land. It was just...freaky. You're going back to the SGC right now, and you're going to submit to a medical examination. And if Dr. Lam clears you, then you come back and finish up."


"Of course I'll submit to an exam," Daniel said, striving for reasonableness. He had said nothing less than the truth: the flashbacks, or visions, or dreams were certainly disorienting, but he honestly didn't think he was in any danger. And really, they were almost done here. "Tomorrow, after the negotiations. In fact, I can tell Mulualem that you're worried and we need to cut them short, and just cut right to the chase. We could be done by, say, three hours after sunup. You guys can stay behind to mop it all up."


"Not good enough," Mitchell said. "Are you maybe not understanding that this is an order?"


Daniel was in the best position to read the Pelosians, to make recommendations, but Mitchell was stubborn--as stubborn, in fact, as Jack O'Neill. Daniel was only talking about maybe ten or twelve more hours on Pelos. And he felt fine. He wasn't sick--Mulualem had said so. How could he get Mitchell to let him stay on Pelos, with the mission nearly completed? He was about to start arguing when Teal'c spoke up.


"Perhaps a compromise," Teal'c suggested. "Hear me." He lifted a hand to silence Mitchell's sputtering. "We take blood, tissue, and urine samples and send them through the Gate tonight. Dr. Lam can analyze them. We each have a medical kit with the necessary equipment."


Why hadn't he thought of that? Teal'c was brilliant. Daniel nodded and said, "Yes, yes," as Sam said, "That's a good idea, Teal'c." She turned to Mitchell.


"I'm as worried about Daniel as you are, but he doesn't seem sick, and I don't think a few more hours will hurt. Dr. Lam would do all that stuff first anyway. She can contact us if she finds something. The town is near enough to the Gate for her to radio through. She would contact us immediately if she found something."


"That's true," Mitchell said unwillingly.


Daniel pressed their advantage. Sam and Teal'c were both on his side. "We'll take my temperature, blood pressure, all of it. A complete field physical."


"She'll want to know how you got infected," Mitchell added unwillingly, and Daniel knew they'd convinced him. "Water. We'll send water samples too."


"It's not the water," Mitchell said. "We've all been drinking bottled water, or water that's been boiled, like in the tea. And you're the only one affected."


"Mulualem said the water on the words, so we send water," Daniel said stubbornly.


"Fine. We send water." Mitchell turned. "I've got a medical kit too. Let's double up on everything so we know they have enough samples. And I'll send the videotapes through too."


"Fine," Daniel said. "And Colonel--thanks. I really want to see this through. We're so close."


"I know you do, Jackson." Mitchell said. "Me too."




"Here they are." Daniel set down a field medical kit down on the table. He'd emptied it; now it only contained his samples. "Stool, urine, saliva, and skin scrapings. Two of each. And a little form thing I filled out with all my vitals--temperature, blood pressure, that kind of thing." His temperature had been a little high, but he wasn't running a real fever. His handwriting had gone to hell, though.


"Whoa, thorough," Mitchell said, following Daniel into the common room. "I just finished sorting and labeling all the videotapes." He tossed a small duffle next to the field kit. "Are we good to go? Want me to run it out to the Gate?"


"No--I can't draw my own blood, so I need someone to help with that." Daniel unbuttoned his shirt and shrugged it off, so he was only wearing his black short-sleeved T-shirt. He sat. He felt self-conscious, and he deliberately didn't look at Mitchell. "Anybody? Anybody?"


"Yeah, I can do it," Sam said, which didn't surprise Daniel.


"The, uh, stuff is right there." Daniel pointed to the items he'd removed from the field kit, which he'd dumped on the table.


"So this is why we had to take all those field medicine workshops." Mitchell picked up the rubber tourniquet and snapped it. "This is my favorite part--all Sid and Nancy."


"Go ahead," Sam said, nodding at Daniel to indicate to Mitchell that he could help. She pulled on gloves and began sorting through collection tubes.


"Who and who?" Daniel asked, confused, but Mitchell just laughed as he wrapped it around Daniel's left arm. "Ow," Daniel complained mildly as Mitchell pulled it tight.


"Okay, ready here," Sam announced, seating herself on the stool next to Daniel. She'd laid out what she needed. "Let's find a vein," she murmured, bending over. "Uh, Colonel, you're in my light," she said, glancing up at Mitchell, who was leaning over them, interested.


"Oh. Sorry." Mitchell moved off and stood next to Teal'c.


"What is this, a spectator sport?" Daniel complained.


"Do you want us to go?" Mitchell indicated the door. "We can go. Because for us, this is like TV. This is what we call entertainment here on Pelos."


"Its interest rivals that I find for men in the football arena," Teal'c mused.


Mitchell shook his head. "Me, I was thinking more of reality TV."


"Fine, fine, stay, I don't mind," Daniel said, resigned, as Sam, her light unsullied by Mitchell, leaned in to find a vein.


"I hope this won't take too many tries," Sam said.


"Oh dear," Daniel said.


Sam flashed a grin at him. "Kidding. You have great veins." Alcohol wipe held ready, she touched the inside of his elbow with her thumb.


He looked up at the gentle pressure and saw Mitchell watching him, arms crossed, weight on one leg, a posture he'd seen Mitchell in a hundred times. But he'd never seen that look on Mitchell's face, simultaneously intent and worried, a slight frown on his face, and underneath--something Daniel didn't recognize. His eyes met Mitchell's, and from very far away, he heard Sam say, "Gotcha," and wet touched his arm, wet and cold, only it morphed into wet and heat, and someone licked the inside of his arm, circling slowly and tenderly. Daniel opened his mouth at the impact of the explosively erotic rush, and suddenly it was daytime. The shutters had been thrown open. The daylight had a bleached sepia quality. He didn't dare breathe, because of what he feared. He was afraid to move.


Mitchell sighed. His blue eyes didn't blink. "Daniel, I have this tremendous urge to--to--"


"What?" Daniel asked, frowning, when Mitchell froze. "Colonel?"


There were no words. Instead, there was sensation--the tickle of a tongue against the inside of his arm, the slight drag of stubble against the skin of his arm, and when he looked down, he saw what he feared, because he had not dared to think of it. He'd touched the emptiness of the bed next to him and he'd thought, Jared, because Jared had been the last person he'd been with. But he'd thought that because he didn't want to think about who he wanted there, or of how much he wanted it. Cam Mitchell's head, Cam Mitchell's mouth, Cam Mitchell's touch, Cam Mitchell's sigh, an exhalation of warm breath that chilled the wet on his arm. Through the press of Cam's mouth against his skin, he felt the hope. Daniel had said "Jared Kane." Daniel had said a man's name.


"Daniel, I have this tremendous urge to--to--"


Skin slid against skin, chest against chest, fingers against his face, sliding around neck, along his shoulder, then down his back to his waist, then lower, slow and exploring. Arousal didn't center in any one place but suffused his body. When Cam's lips touched his, he opened his mouth. He could not do otherwise. The kiss was as irresistible and necessary as breath. He had not known how numb he was, how numb he had been, until Cam tore it away with his touch. Heat flared where Cam touched, burning away the inertness, because he could not help but respond. He sensed Cam's desire, how much he wanted the touch, how much he wanted Daniel to respond.


"Daniel, I have this tremendous urge to--to--"


"What?" Daniel asked, frowning, when Mitchell froze. "Colonel?"


They rocked together, Cam atop Daniel, because Cam couldn't let Daniel get away, because Cam needed Daniel in this way, so much he couldn't bear it. Daniel understood. He felt the same way. Sweaty skin slipped, fingers gripped, mouths found each other and then broke apart to gasp in pleasure, to murmur a name, until Cam's blue eyes met his and Cam moved, rhythmic and hard. The searing heat that followed bleached the blue into a halo of white, and Daniel felt his heart beat, his blood pulse, in time to the throbbing. He couldn't tell if it was Cam's response or his own. It didn't matter. It was the same. At last. At last.


"--to, uh, to knock you unconscious and drag you through the Gate, and damn the negotiations," Mitchell finished.


"Oh, god," Daniel said, because he could still feel it: the need that had shattered him. He could hear how raw his voice was.


"Daniel?" Sam's concerned voice asked, and Daniel looked down at his arm, where Cam Mitchell and started making love to him. The tourniquet was gone. Instead, he wore a Band-Aid. He felt no pain. The explosion of heat had not been real, Daniel realized. Once again, he was cold. Teal'c was saying, "I believe he has had another episode."


There he was--Mitchell. They stared at each other. Mitchell looked stricken. It was as if he knew what Daniel had seen, what had caused Mitchell to freeze when he realized what Daniel would learn if he replayed a conversation and learned something that Mitchell was trying to keep hidden. He barely heard Sam and Teal'c discussing his latest zone-out, its short duration, what they had observed him doing--or not doing, because he had simply stared into space, unresponsive.


"I'm fine," Daniel said a moment later, when Sam broke into his and Mitchell's unspoken connection by pressing a gauze pad onto the covered wound, because a trickle of blood had oozed out. He didn't know what to say to Mitchell. He wasn't sure how to act. "It doesn't hurt. I'm fine."


Sam lifted the gauze, folded it over, and dabbed again. "You had a vision thing? A flashback?"


"Yeah," Daniel said. "Just a--a conversation I had with Colonel Mitchell earlier today."


Mitchell cleared his throat. "So if those samples are ready to go--"


"Allow me." Teal'c finished packing the sample tubes into the medical kit, and he added it to the duffel. "Colonel, I will join you on your sojourn to the Gate."


"Great," Mitchell said. To Daniel, his cheerfulness seemed false. "Saddle up. Let's ride."




It was late. From his window, he could see Mulualem and Meseret's house, and he'd watched Almaz leave. She had probably helped clean up. She'd hurried away, heading toward the city center, a white scarf tossed over her head and shoulders, like the women wore when they were out and about. She looked like a ghost as she flitted down the street, dodging back and forth, likely avoiding ruts, until she was out of view. Her husband was probably meeting her somewhere with his reshoed horse, to pick her up and take her back home, to their house and son. As she walked by the guesthouse on her way into the town proper, Daniel saw a shadow detach itself from the house across the street, and he heard a woman's voice and Almaz's quick response, but they spoke too quietly for him to hear, and Almaz didn't stop. Daniel stepped back from the window, so his pale face couldn't be seen staring out.


Of course the guesthouse was being watched. Likely they were followed as well. Daniel suddenly remembered the farmers during his run, leaning on hoes, standing around with baskets of something or other, watching him, lifting their hands in a wave. They'd been such a part of the landscape that he'd barely been aware of them. All of these were simple security precautions, but it seemed at odds with the friendliness of the people. A prickle of uncertainly touched him: he didn't know if the Pelosians were kind or hostile. He didn't know if they watched him because they cared for the safety of their visitors, or because they had something to hide.


The darkness of the town struck him: so many people lived here, but by about six hours after sundown, no lamps were lit. Everything was profoundly dark. It let him see the unfamiliar stars. He waited, half in dread, for another flashback, another vision, but nothing came. He wondered whether they perhaps needed to be triggered--a scent, a touch, something that would link what happened in real life with what happened in memory. But every time he tried to connect a flashback with an event in life, he'd think about Mitchell yelling at him and then abruptly freezing, about Mitchell thinking exactly about the thing he didn't want to think about, and Daniel would flush with heat--embarrassment or arousal or both--as he remembered the explosion of ecstasy, the intensity of the two of them together that Mitchell wanted.


Teal'c had come back a few hours ago, but Mitchell hadn't been with him. Teal'c had gone to his room to meditate. Sam had hovered over him in the common room until he couldn't bear her solicitude any longer, and he'd retreated to his room. He'd heard Sam's door shut, and later, as the large moon rose, he could tell that everyone was asleep. From his vantage point by the window, he saw Mitchell heading in, and he knew he'd been waiting for him, even though he hadn't consciously thought so. He grabbed his flashlight and headed downstairs, trying to tread lightly so he didn't awaken Sam or Teal'c. He managed to make it to the small foyer before Mitchell opened the door, and Mitchell froze, hand on

the latch, when he saw Daniel.


"You'd better come in," Daniel whispered. "Shut the door. We're being watched. Someone across the street."


Mitchell obeyed him immediately. "Jackson, what are you doing here?" he asked, voice weary but quiet. "Go to bed. Big day tomorrow. Last day of negotiations."


"Any word from SGC?" Daniel asked, ignoring him.


Mitchell shook his head. "They agreed with our call--to let you stay. They don't want to jeopardize relations so far--it's been so much trouble to find a Prior-free planet with the correct spectrum. But I'm supposed to shove you through the Gate at any sign of illness or instability. Dr. Lam had left for the day, but the lab is going to do all the tests. She'll review the results tomorrow." He looked over his shoulder, as though he could see through the door.




"Just your typical surveillance. I don't think anybody's in the guesthouse itself. They're more interested in our comings and goings than what--what we do in here." Daniel was glad of the dark, because inexplicably, he felt himself blushing. What we do in here--which was nothing, nothing at all. "I think it's just a safety thing. Did you notice anybody following you just now? While you were out?"


Mitchell considered. "No," he admitted. "Why? Got a bad vibe?"


"I don't know. I don't think I can tell."




"Yeah." Daniel felt hyperaware of Mitchell's proximity to him. The foyer was small. Daniel was backed up almost to the stairs that led to the common room.


"Uh--what about you? Bad vibe?"


"I don't know. I don't think I can tell."


Daniel blinked at Mitchell, confused: he thought he'd slid into a flashback there for a second, but Mitchell had just repeated his words back at him. "Oh," Daniel said inadequately, and the two of them just stood and looked at each other.


"I think I'll go on upstairs and get to bed," Mitchell said at last--a hint for Daniel to move out of the way, or lead the way upstairs, that Daniel didn't take.


"Colonel--" That was stupid, calling him "Colonel." But he couldn't call him "Mitchell," because that was his last name. "Cam" was somehow even worse. "I had a flashback while Sam was taking the blood sample, and--"


Mitchell cut him off. He clearly didn't want Daniel to say it out loud. "I figured," he said. "So I need to tell you that it's unprofessional of me, and I'm sorry. You're a member of my team. I hope we can continue working together. I hope it won't be a...a problem." He sounded like he knew it was a problem; he sounded like he was saying what he thought he should say, not what he really thought.


Daniel couldn't think of a response. It struck him that maybe Mitchell didn't understand that Daniel reciprocated, and then it struck him that it didn't matter, because not only was Mitchell career military, where he'd face dishonorable discharge if he was caught seeing men, but also Mitchell was the leader of SG-1, and he wouldn't become involved with a member of his team, much less a subordinate, even though Daniel wasn't military. Daniel remembered Mitchell's questions about Sam and Jack.


"Okay, so it's a problem," Mitchell said at last, when Daniel didn't respond or move out of the way. "You know how you think things, and the more you try not to think them, the more you think them? And the worse they get?" His words tumbled out, fast but still quiet. "It's like that. Us working together--at first it was just coworkers, and then when it wasn't any more--well, I thought it would end up being okay, that you wouldn't know and I would just, I don't know, get over it or something, but I guess now you know, and--it's not okay."


"I was going to resign from SG-1 when we got back from this mission." Daniel added, "Before I knew, I mean."


"Don't." Mitchell shuffled slightly, a dark shape in the dark foyer. "It's not--look, it's fine. We'll get you cured and--it's all me, it's nothing you should--I mean, it would be maybe a...a relief for me personally, but for the team--for the SGC--"


"No," Daniel said, overlapping into Mitchell's words. "It's not fine. You're upset."


"I'm not upset, I'm embarrassed." Mitchell stepped forward. "Look, we don't need to talk about this. I don't want to talk about this."


"No, we need to talk about this." Daniel put an arm out to block the doorway that marked the foot of the stairs. "Colonel." Damn it. "Cam."


"Daniel," Mitchell said, annoyed, pushing Daniel's arm aside, and Daniel stepped forward just as Mitchell tried for the doorway. The two of them collided. "Look, would you just--"


"Cam, would you please just--"


"Jesus, Daniel!" Mitchell hissed, and he shoved Daniel, none too gently.


Daniel grabbed the front of Mitchell's jacket and yanked. "Shut up," he said distinctly, and he leaned in and kissed Mitchell hard on the mouth, a signal, he thought, that even Mitchell should understand. "Shut up," he repeated.


Mitchell responded by grabbing the front of Daniel's T-shirt. "Don't," he said, breath warm in Daniel's face. Daniel could see the glint of Mitchell's eyes, the shape of his face. He sounded pissed off. "Just...don't."


Daniel pushed Mitchell backward a few steps, until Mitchell hit the wall across from the stairway. He put his hands on the wall on either side of Mitchell, pinning him, and leaned in. "Cam," he whispered, and he didn't give Mitchell time to run away. He kissed him again, feeling their teeth clash, but this time, Cam's mouth opened, and Daniel closed his eyes at the shock of warmth, the pressure of tongue, and the immediate arousal. He could feel that Cam reciprocated: in addition to the intensity and desperation of their kisses was the shocking warmth and hardness of Cam's groin as the two of them wound their arms around each other, pressing their bodies together. Daniel had no idea how long they stood in the foyer, locked together, feverishly kissing and touching and exploring, until they had to stop, or they had to go on, and Daniel couldn't stop. He cupped a hand over Cam's heat and said "upstairs," and Cam said, "That is such a bad idea," but he followed Daniel up the stairs.


They tried to be quiet, but to Daniel, every creak of the steps, of the floor, was magnified. When he shut the door behind them and delicately let the latch down, it sounded like it slammed, even though he knew that it didn't.


"We shouldn't--" Cam began when Daniel turned around.


"Come here," Daniel interrupted, and Cam came, so Daniel could kiss him again, could taste and smell him, so Daniel could strip off Cam's clothes so he could touch skin, so Cam could gasp at Daniel's touch, so Cam could stroke him, sending shivers through him, the lightest touch magnified. The moonlight through the window was just enough for them to make out expressions. It had been easy to start in the dark; now it was easy to continue in the half-light.


They couldn't use the bed because it was too narrow and creaky. Daniel unzipped his sleeping bag and laid it on the ground on the far side of the bed, so anyone coming in wouldn't immediately see them. When they lay next to each other, Daniel thought just for a second of Jared, but there had been few words between them. It had all been looking, then touching. This wasn't the same at all.


"You started by kissing me here," Daniel said, kissing the inside of Cam's elbow. He licked gently, tasting the saltiness of skin, feeling the crease. "And you moved up." Cam made a small noise as Daniel began moving up. "Here. And here." He felt the faint flex of Cam's biceps sliding under the skin, rubbed his cheek against Cam's shoulder. "And over." Next was Cam's neck, his ear, his jaw, until Daniel reached his mouth, and they knew each other now, well enough to lick and nip. They stayed that way for a long time, on their sides, twined together, kissing, until sensation began to cascade, and Daniel lost himself in Cam's body, and in the remembrance of what Cam had wanted to do Daniel. Skin slid against skin, chest against chest as Cam rolled to meet him. Daniel touched Cam's face, slid his hand around Cam's neck, along his shoulder, then moved down his back to his waist, then lower, slow and exploring. "There," Daniel whispered, cupping a buttock, feeling the strength of Cam's erection against his stomach. "You want to be on top of me." He wanted that, Cam over him, heavy, holding him down.


"Yes," Cam said, but instead, he pulled Daniel closer. He took them both into his hand, and Daniel moaned as he felt the press of Cam's hard, hot flesh against his own, the pressure of Cam's hand as he stroked. Each caress began at his center and traveled out, until he thought he might shatter. When both of them were breathing hard, when Daniel knew he would have to explode, Cam pushed him onto his back and straddled him.


Sweaty skin slipped. Every sound was subdued, muffled. Daniel's fingers gripped, keeping Cam on top of him. Cam leaned down; their mouths found each other, then broke apart to gasp in pleasure, to murmur "Cam" or "Daniel," until Cam's eyes met his, the color impossible to name in this light, and Cam moved, rocking against Daniel, unable to stop, until it became inevitable. When he came, he ground against Daniel, biting off the sounds he clearly needed to make, trying hard to be quiet as his body exploded. The pressure of Cam's belly moving against his cock so rhythmically, so hard, coupled with the sensation of Cam's body heavy on top of him, pinning him in place, drove Daniel over the edge. He came in a rush, hearing Cam trying not to say his name, but the roaring in his ears made Cam's voice seem very far away. When the searing ecstasy receded, Daniel was aware of his quick heartbeat, his blood pulsing in time to the throbbing. And he was aware of Cam, his scent, his touch, his weight, his heat.


At last. At last.




Mitchell sighed. "Daniel, I have this tremendous urge to--to--"


"What?" Daniel asked, frowning, when Mitchell froze. "Colonel?"


--the tickle of a tongue against the inside of his arm, the slight drag of stubble against the skin of his arm. Cam Mitchell's head, Cam Mitchell's mouth, Cam Mitchell's touch, Cam Mitchell's sigh, an exhalation of warm breath that chilled the wet on his arm. Sweaty skin slipped, fingers gripped, mouths found each other and then broke apart to gasp in pleasure, to murmur a name, until Cam's blue eyes met his and Cam moved, rhythmic and hard. The searing heat that followed bleached the blue into a halo of white.


"--to, uh, to knock you unconscious and drag you through the Gate, and damn the negotiations," Mitchell finished.


"What's wrong?" Daniel demanded.


"Nothing's wrong," Mitchell said.


"...And in my little Sam fantasy, I thought he'd be around more. And that he'd do all the cooking."


Daniel blinked at Sam, momentarily surprised by something, and then confused about his surprise. But had to grin at that one. Sam wasn't much of a cook, and neither was Jack, unless the cooking was being done over a manly grill. Sam continued, "It's--well, it's clichéd, that's how great it is."




Sam hesitated.


"But he doesn't want to get married." The words hung there for a long moment, bald and true. "But what?" she said, as though she hadn't just spoken.


Daniel blinked. "There's a but."


There's always a but.




"Don't," Daniel said. "Cam, I'm fine. Really, I'm fine."


"A flashback?" Cam withdrew, leaving just a hand on Daniel's wet belly.


It was hard to remember. He had a confused memory of making love with Cam--but that had just happened. That hadn't been a flashback. And then he'd been talking to Sam. "How long?"


"I don't know. Not long."


Daniel placed his own hand over Cam's. He felt suffused with warmth and joy. The place on the inside of his elbow where Sam had drawn blood hurt now, and as he and Cam interlaced their fingers, Daniel realized that the slight numbness that made him more aware of pressure than of things like pain had disappeared. He wanted to tell Cam he felt happy, even grateful; that what they had just done had brought him back to life; and that he had wanted to do this with a desire he didn't have words for. But he didn't, because it would lead to a conversation, the inevitable one that had to follow, about how they could never, ever do this again.


Instead, he said, "Have you ever had sweet pepitas--pumpkin seeds--before?"


Cam shook his head. He'd stolen the single pillow. "They had salty ones at the tea ceremony. But maybe it's like popcorn. Popcorn can be sweet, or it can be salty. Kids eat kettle corn--that's sweet."


Daniel had never heard of kettle corn. But now that Cam mentioned it, he remembered tasting sweet popcorn at a movie theater in England. He hadn't liked it.


"I had spicy ones at a party once--like curry or something," Cam offered.


"That sounds good," Daniel murmured. Something about the pepitas niggled at the back of his brain, but he couldn't think of what it was. "You like spicy."


"Yeah," Cam said. "Hot Tex-Mex. Hot Indian. Hot Thai. Hot Chinese. You name the nationality, I like it hot. You?"


Daniel grinned. "Medium hot, not hot hot. Not inedible hot."


"No such thing," Cam opined, grinning back, and their intertwined fingers tightened as Daniel rolled onto his side to kiss Cam. "Man, our pillow talk sucks."


"It does," Daniel agreed. He'd just been thinking the same thing. "Speaking of pillows--"


To his disappointment, Cam sat up. "It's all yours. I've got to get to my room. Not that I wouldn't love to spend the night with you on the floor. But."


"But," Daniel agreed.


In the dark, mostly in silence, with only an occasional whispered word, Cam got dressed except for his shoes, and Daniel, after wiping himself clean, put on a T-shirt and his pajama bottoms.


"Okay," Cam whispered at the doorway. "If you replay this, you'll know what I'm thinking. So I'll just say goodnight."


"Goodnight," Daniel said.


They didn't kiss. Instead, Daniel silently opened the door for Cam, and just as silently closed it after him. He waited a long few minutes, ear next to the door, but he only heard faint floorboard-creaking noises, which could have been someone tiptoeing in his stocking feet, or it could have been just general house noises.


Before he slid into bed, he peered out the window. He knew where to look now for whoever was watching, but although he thought he could see a slight thickening of the shadow, a human-shaped blob, merged with the side of the building across the street, he couldn't be sure.




He was heavy again. The electrical jolt that had come with Cam's touch had faded. He smelled the dried meyata on his pillow, tempered with the scent of Cam's hair. He smiled as he remembered how hard they'd tried to be quiet. And he smiled because Cam hadn't immediately said, "We can't do this," or "I can't do this."


Cam had said, "If you replay this, you'll know what I'm thinking." Daniel tried to imagine what it could be: other things they could do together? He followed that train of thought for a while, because he liked to think of what might come next, if they could do this again. The lethargy and inertness, the lack of sensation both mentally and physically, had lifted when Cam touched him. Experimentally, Daniel clenched a hand, but he didn't feel his fingernails bite into his palm. He clenched harder, and all he felt was pressure.


That wasn't right. When had he first noticed this lack of sensation? When had he gotten so clumsy, his handwriting so bad?


It was probably right about the time he suddenly became able to speak Pelosian.


During tomorrow's negotiations, he'd hear about Mulualem's love for Meseret--Meseret, who held Mulualem's heart. It would interest him to hear it. He'd liked Meseret, even if they'd only met during the tea ceremony. He knew they had children, because Mulualem had mentioned them in the abstract, in an offhand way, but he had no idea how many or how old they were. They were probably grown up by now, with children of their own.


"Do you have children of your own?" Almaz asked.


"No, I don't have any children," Daniel said. "My wife and I were just discussing it when she--when she died." He'd seen her heavily pregnant--pregnant by Apophis. It had been doubly hard for him: to see her in her right mind, free of the goa'uld influence, and to see her pregnant. He didn't want to talk about that. Instead, he wanted to remember Sha're turning to him one night and suggesting that they start their family. Every time he reached out and the other side of the bed was empty, he was struck by the memory of her turning to him and saying, "My Daniel. Just two of us? Surely three would be better."


He couldn't say any of this. Instead, he said to Almaz, by way of distracting her, "Sam has a daughter and Teal'c has a son, but both of them are much older than your son."


He could see the interest in her eyes. "Tell me," her eyes told him. "Tell me about people far away, ones you love, so I may know you." He gave Almaz the flashlight. "Here, you keep this. I have another one." She didn't want to take the unfamiliar piece of technology. He had to wrap her fingers around it. He wanted to tell her all about Cassie and Rya'c, both brave, both fighters, but in different ways.


"Rya'c," Teal'c said at last, face impassive. He crossed his arms to show he wasn't happy about answering such deeply personal questions. "My son's name is Rya'c. He is recently married."


Daniel translated automatically. He understood the words very well today, but still, they wouldn't come out of his mouth as smoothly as he would have liked. He was frustrated with himself.


Teal'c continued. "His wife's name is Kar'yn, of the Haktyl."


"Teal'c!" Mulualem turned to face the Jaffa, who, hearing his name, had leaned forward to listen. "This very same man?"




Mulualem pursed his lips. "Hard to see him every day."


Sam, stretched out on her back, warming her toes by the fire, sounded rueful. "And in my little Sam fantasy, I thought he'd be around more. And that he'd do all the cooking." Daniel had to grin at that one. "It's--well, it's clichéd, that's how great it is."


"But?" Daniel asked, because it hung there like a dark cloud.


Sam hesitated. "But he doesn't want to get married," she said. "I think I did something stupid. And then I think I did everything right."


"My wife carries my heart, as Sha're carried yours," Mulualem said. "There is little to tell. She opened a door for you. I understand. She is in your heart still?"


"She will always be in my heart," Daniel said. It no longer hurt to think of her. "But she is gone. I am still alive."


"And now?" Mulualem said. It would interest me.


"I do not want to speak of now," Daniel said. "Now is too new."


But Cam stood before him, hair bleached by the slanting sun. "You ready to get back? It's going to be dark pretty soon. We should hustle."


He zipped the backpack shut and looked at Mitchell. "Of course, sometimes I'm totally off and in retrospect I sound like a babbling idiot, but..."


Mitchell sounded pleased. "Yeah, well, I find that hard to believe. That kind of lecture you gave--that's why I wanted you. You're the best." He slapped Daniel on a shoulder. "See? Bet you're glad you're in the field and not behind some desk." "With me in the field," Daniel thought while his mouth said, "Yeah," knowing it was true, and he had a confused impression of touch, of he and Cam twined together, and he remembered unzipping the sleeping bag and laying it on the floor, and he remembered, oh god, he remembered, with a visceral immediacy, Cam on top of him, coming, saying his name but trying not to because they had to be quiet--Cam, ferocious and frantic.


Daniel swatted his knees. His pants were wet and sticky from kneeling in the mud by the monument. The scarf he'd tied around his hair had come loose, so he retied it. He remembered the slow fall of the leaves on the way back as he scuffed through them, as he and Mitchell broke into a run when the way became clear, just because it felt good to let go.


"So your life story is today?" Mitchell asked after a few minutes of mostly silent panting.


"Yes," Daniel affirmed. He saw a farmer look at them curiously as they ran past.


"Too bad I won't get to hear it--understand it, I mean. Because I would like to hear what you have to say. I want to know you. I want to know everything about you, Daniel Jackson. Everything."


Daniel looked sideways at Mitchell, but Mitchell was busy dodging a deep wheel rut. There was no water in the indentation, and the mud had dried into crumbling dirt. It was dry.


"I'm sure you've read my file," Daniel said. "I doubt I'll say anything that's not in there."


"I was just--struck, I guess, about how unrevealing everybody's little biographical sketches were," Mitchell said. "Just the facts, without any emotion behind it."


"You think the Pelosians are looking for emotion?" Daniel asked, curious.


"I think they're looking for our humanity," Mitchell said. "They're looking for a reason why they should talk to us, do us a favor. They're looking for good faith, or love, or both. Tell them who's in your heart, Daniel."


"Such a boy!" Almaz laughed, rolling her eyes to show what trouble her son was. "And my husband no better." She loved them both with all her heart. She gave a duck. "Both are well, and I thank you for asking." She looked a little afraid at her outburst, as Mulualem and Meseret were both looking on sternly, and covered her confusion by offering a basket of pepitas. Daniel smiled a little at her subterfuge as he took a handful. He expected the usual sweet honey taste, but instead, they were salty.


"Oh--sweet," Sam said in surprise as she politely tasted a pepita. She addressed Almaz, who held the basket lined with a jaunty green cloth. "Thank you. They're good, but I was surprised because we eat them salty at home, not sweet."


Daniel gently dug and scraped away the growth of moss that partly covered the inscription on the stone's front. It came away in a piece, like a ragged patch of fabric, like the napkin under the pepitas. That was better. Daniel ran his hands over the front of the artifact, roughly cleaning it, leaving smears of mud behind. He finally doused it with water from his canteen to wash it clean.


"Okay." Daniel eyed the deeply incised inscription. "Preliminary thoughts. First, it's definitely not goa'uld. I can see a repeated character shape here and here." He pointed, and behind him, he was very aware of Cam as he shifted to get a better view. "These little doodles off them, here and here..."




"Daniel," Sam's voice said insistently. "Come on. Are you with me? Teal'c, slow down a little."


"They're probably inflection markings. I don't see much exact-symbol repetition, so I'm thinking syllabary as opposed to alphabet," Daniel mused. His eyes teared at the sudden bright light, and he had to squeeze them shut. He had a sensation of moving, of jerking.


Sam said despairingly, "I think he's talking about language."


"At least he speaks," Teal'c said.


"Yo, hurry up, folks," Cam said, and Daniel was so happy to hear his voice that he tried to open his eyes again, but that was a mistake. "Dr. Lam is standing by. I'm dialing it up."


"The water on the words," Daniel said. "Cam, our trip to the monument. That's it. It all started then."


"It's okay, Daniel," Cam said, his voice coming nearer. Daniel could barely hear him over the rush of the Gate activating. He felt despair: Cam hadn't understood him.


He opened his eyes, squinting at the brightness. He reached out and grabbed the front of one of Cam's pants legs. "Video. Monument. Dry leaves. Wet mud." He spoke as clearly as he could, but he his tongue felt thick. He could barely feel his body. The numbness that he and Cam had dispelled together last night had settled into his core. "Cam. Please." He shouted through lips that didn't want to work. "Video! Monument! Dry leaves! Wet mud!"


"You want me to watch the video we took at the monument," Cam said. "And something about dry leaves and wet mud."


"Yes," Daniel said, releasing Cam's leg. "Yes. Hurry."


Sam and Teal'c picked up his litter again, and as they stepped through the Gate to Earth, Daniel wondered if he would again say to Mulualem, "It would interest me." He might never learn about Mulualem's love for Meseret. It would interest him to know about that.


He had been so close to making Mulualem understand. But then again, Mulualem understood far more than he let on. And so did Almaz.




"Fungus," Carolyn Lam said crisply. She held up a remote control and hit a button. "I didn't suspect it initially because Dr. Jackson's fever wasn't that high, and because it took a long time to grow anything in the blood sample you sent through the Gate. However, his white cell count was very high, so I knew he had some kind of infection."


Daniel, who had been wheeled to the conference room by Teal'c, looked with interest at the screen, which presumably displayed the fungus. It looked like modern art.


"The infection is responding well to intravenous amphotericin B." Another slide, also resembling modern art, apparently illustrated how much better Daniel's blood was doing. "I'm monitoring him closely to make sure there's no liver toxicity. I report that the patient's hallucinations have ceased, and he is well on the road to recovery." Lam set the remote down. "And Dr. Jackson, the tip you gave Colonel Mitchell helped us find out how to cure you."


"Good," Daniel said, looking over at Cam.


"Yeah," Cam said, picking up the thread of the narrative along with the remote. "Dr. Jackson told me to review the videotape we took of the monument we hiked out to our second, third day there." He frowned at the remote. "Okay, hold on. There we go." The video rolled. Cam had turned off the sound. "Okay, here, Daniel gives me the camera. And here--" Cam froze the image, got up, and pointed. "See the leaves here? Dry leaves? But here--" The video resumed. Daniel saw himself, his hair hidden under a kerchief, glasses glinting in the slanting light, lecturing silently to thin air as he knelt in the mud by the monument. The image froze again. "Mud. Now, between that and the Pelosians saying that Daniel's sudden ability to speak Pelosian was the result of 'the water on the words,' I figured there was a connection." He pointed at the mud. "Water." Now he indicated the incised letters. "Words." The video looped forward again. "And--here we have it. Jackson gets infected right here."


On the screen, Daniel scraped the moss aside, then began wiping the resulting mud from the face of the monument.


Lam resumed the story. "The moss had fine golden filaments in it--a fungus. Colonel Mitchell went back and collected a sample for me. That is what infected Dr. Jackson. Colonel Mitchell wasn't infected when Dr. Jackson was because he didn't touch it--and of course, when he collected the sample, he wore gloves." Her voice took on a dry tone as, on the screen, Daniel began shaking water onto the monument from his canteen. "It probably didn't help that about ten minutes after this, during his, uh, lecture, Daniel drank out of the canteen, the mouth of which, as we see here, touched the monument while he was cleaning it."


Daniel leaned forward. He didn't remember that part. "I just remember that it was wet there, but dry everywhere else," he said. "When Colonel Mitchell and I went running, the ruts had dried and left big ridges. We had to dodge them. And when we walked to and from the monument site, we were kicking up dry leaves. I don't remember it raining while we were there. The weather was sunny and beautiful the whole time. I spent all my time trying to translate the words on the monument, but now, in this context, I don't think the words were important. The water was important."


"One side effect of the fungal infection--besides enhancing Dr. Jackson's language abilities, apparently--was lack of sensation," Lam added. "That was why he was so hard to understand when he came in. His slurred speech was a result of his inability to control his mouth and tongue. And Dr. Jackson reported some loss of sensation and manual dexterity before his collapse."


General Landry, at the head of the table, swung back around to face everyone seated at the conference table. "The Pelosians have tried to contact us a few times, but they haven't tried to come through physically. They don't have radio, and if they tossed a note through, it hit the iris and was destroyed. They may want to follow up with what Colonel Mitchell told them while he was there gathering the specimen for Dr. Lam."


Daniel spoke up. "I'm willing to back and finish negotiations."


General Landry smiled. "I knew you were going to say that," he said, shaking a finger at Daniel as though he were an amusing child. "It's because you were only six or seven hours from completing the mission, right?"


"Well, yes, but of course," Daniel agreed. "But anybody can go back and finish instead of me, if you don't want to wait. Colonel Carter could do it."


Sam looked at him blankly. "Daniel, I don't have your ability with languages."


"Wait, you--you don't know?" He looked around at the polite looks of inquiry on everyone's face.


"Know...what?" Sam asked.


"Well, you don't think this fungal infection translation ability goes one way, do you?"


"Son of a bitch." Cam slapped the table. "They're infected too. They could understand us the whole time."


Daniel temporized, "Probably not the whole time, no. But I'm sure they could understand us sooner than we could understand them. Mulualem did all the formal negotiations and was their spokesman, but I'm sure you noticed who else was always around: Almaz."


"The servant," Teal'c said.


"I kind of doubt she's a servant," Daniel said. "I mean, think about it. If you met strangers and wanted to figure out their intentions, you'd find out what they said when they thought nobody could hear you." He crossed his hands on the table. "I also became aware that we were being watched. At first I thought it was for our safety, and they were keeping it from us out of politeness, but of course it was also surveillance. I noticed someone watching the guesthouse from across the street. I think they know everywhere we were."


"Mostly just trips to and from the Gate, which they told us we could visit and use at any time," Mitchell said. "Other than that, we were usually in an escorted group, getting the grant tour."


"Our runs," Daniel reminded him. "There was always someone watching."


"And our trip to the monument?"


"I didn't see anyone," Daniel admitted. "But that doesn't mean someone wasn't there." Daniel sat back in the wheelchair. "I knew Almaz could understand English when she offered us salty pepitas."


"Pepitas?" Landry asked blankly.


To Daniel's surprise, Teal'c spoke up. "The seeds of pumpkins or gourds."


Daniel added, "They'd been sweet before, and Colonel Carter said, in English of course, that we ate them salty at home, not sweet. The next time they were offered to us, at the tea ceremony, they were salty, which surprised Mulualem."


"Do you want me to go and finish negotiations, sir?" Sam asked Landry.


"I do," Landry said. "We need allies, and we need those refugees settled. They have some valuable intel, including some Gate addresses of a few remote worlds that they assure us are still Prior-free." He looked at each of the SG-1 team members around the table. "Please tell me you were polite and straight with them the whole time."


"Oh, we were, sir, we were," Cam assured him. "Best behavior. Eagle Scouts."


"Their little deception displeases me," Landry said with admirable restraint. "As does their willingness to infect strangers willy-nilly with this fungus stuff. But I don't know that I would have done any differently."


"They probably had no idea it would make Daniel so sick," Lam offered. "If they've been exposed, perhaps over years--or maybe their body chemistry has adapted to it."


"I don't think they meant to make me sick," Daniel put in. "I think they just wanted to communicate without tipping their hand."


Landry put his hands on the table and pushed himself up. "All right then. Dr. Jackson, you're on medical leave until Dr. Lam clears you. Colonel Mitchell, Colonel Carter, and Teal'c, head on back to Pelos. Colonel Carter, you're the lead negotiator. Get me a deal, would you?"


"Yes, sir," Sam said.




Daniel took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. It was hard to concentrate because even after a week and a half, he still wanted to sleep. "Hey," someone said from the door of his not-at-all-private hospital room, and Daniel slid his glasses back on as he balanced the small pile of files on his lap.


"Colonel," he responded, because he didn't want to say "Cam" when there were doctors and nurses about, even though Sam called him Cam. He couldn't hide the welcome in his voice. Cam had been by to visit twice. They had been very good visits. "You're back. How'd it go?"


"See for yourself," Cam said, stepping into the room, followed by a woman Daniel didn't immediately recognize, because now she was dressed up, in the style of her people, in a loose tunic and long, soft pants, with an exquisite white scarf wound around her head and shoulders.


"Almaz," Daniel said, extending his hands, and she came to his bedside, Cam trailing behind her, staying out of the way even as Daniel remained aware of every move he made, every shift of weight.


"Daniel Jackson," Almaz said, clasping his hands briefly. She pulled her scarf back, revealing her hair, now elaborately braided. "It's good to see you." Her English had only a slight accent. "We were worried when you left so abruptly. We learned later that you had been ill."


"The water on the words made me sick," Daniel explained.


Almaz nodded. "So I discovered. We didn't want that."


"I know."


"Your Samantha Carter talked to us instead of you. I am here now to negotiate with the refugees. I and the rest of the delegation from Pelos are to meet with them soon, here on this planet."


"Who else?" Daniel asked with interest.


"Meseret and my husband Tulelo. Mulualem stays behind with the little Tulelo."


She dimpled. "They are of course my parents."


Daniel smiled. Of course they were.


"They will come to see you--to meet you--later, when we are not in such a hurry." A look of concern crossed Almaz's face. "When you first came--we were afraid you were cold. I must explain. You came armed. We wondered why you spoke for others--why they didn't speak for themselves. Yet you treated me kindly when you thought I was worried and in trouble. You asked my son's name. You treated me, a servant, with courtesy. Once I knew enough to understand you, your words were the same to our faces as they were behind our backs. We thought you were people of honor. We thought we could deal with you. But just as we had decided this, you got sick and left. We were afraid for many things--your health, but maybe also something bigger: an alliance between our people." She leaned down to grip Daniel's hand. "I was so glad when Samantha Carter came through the Gate to let us know that you were all right, and that they had been sent back to talk to us."


"Well, I'm glad you came by. I want to ask you something." Daniel shuffled through the files on his lap and held up the photographs of the monument that he'd been unable to translate. "Maybe you can help me. Can you read this?"


Almaz took the pictures from him to get a better look. "No," she said as she turned over the last one. "I know that monument. The language is really old. Some of our scholars think it's not native to Pelos but imported. I do know what some of the scholarship says, though. Here's something that might help. Look."


Daniel watched as she traced a finger, not right to left, the way Pelosian was read, but left to right. Something in his head clicked: a Semitic language, read left to right--he'd read something about that. Ge'ez? Could it be an offshoot? Or a precursor?


Before he could express his thanks, Sam stuck her head in the door. "Almaz," she called. "Come on--it's time. The other delegation is sitting down."


Almaz leaned down and kissed Daniel on the cheek. "I'll come back later, and I'll bring everyone with me." She returned the photos to Daniel, then dug through a bag slung over a shoulder. "Oh, after something Samantha Carter said, I thought you might want these."


Daniel accepted the small bag. "Pepitas," he said, feeling them, light and crispy, through the cloth with his fingertips. "Thanks. Good luck with the negotiations."


Almaz turned at the doorway, and both she and Sam waved before disappearing.


"I thought they'd never leave."


Daniel turned his attention to Cam, who dragged a stool over and then drew a curtain, giving them a little privacy. "Want some pepitas?" Daniel asked, untying the bag.


"Sweet or salty?"


Daniel tried one. "Salty," he said.


"Ah, just the way I like them." Cam took a few, then sat down, knees brushing the edge of the bed. "Did she help you with a translation?"


"She gave me a place to start." Daniel stuck the photos in their manila file folder.


"Ah, you'll crack it, never fear." Cam popped the pepitas in his mouth. "I wonder if I told her I liked them spicy--?"


Daniel retied the bag. "I'm sure she'd make some."


Cam tapped the files on Daniel's lap. "A lot of files."


"Oh, yeah." Daniel tossed them all onto the ground. "I requested some files before I left about some offworld archaeological digs."


"You're not really thinking about resigning from SG-1," Cam said, a statement rather than a question.


"No, no, I'm not." Daniel adjusted the bed so he was reclining rather than sitting upright. "I really think my strengths lie in front-line work--my initial insights do seem to be on the mark more often than not." A little data mining on follow-up missions had proved that. "After this little, uh, vacation, I'll be ready to get back to work. So--do you want to tell me all about the mission?"


Cam shook his head. "Not really. You can read my report. I think it all happened pretty much like you'd expect."


Daniel summarized. "Sam convinced them to show their hand, they admitted they spoke English, negotiations went well, and everyone lived happily ever after."


"Pretty much," Cam admitted. "And now we are friends with a bunch of people who can learn languages in, like, two days flat. Oh, they say that they can't read thoughts or anything, the way you could. It's just language acquisition, and they need some native ability to work with patterns first--I guess it works better or something. After watching you in action, they figured you'd be a good candidate. But it doesn't explain your ability to hear unspoken thoughts."


"Dr. Lam thinks I was hallucinating, making it all up." Daniel shrugged. "Maybe she's right." Still, he'd been right about a few of the flashbacks. He hadn't dared ask Sam about Jack and marriage, though. Maybe Dr. Lam was right and he'd made it all up, using only what he'd observed, both consciously and unconsciously. Maybe he'd made up words for Almaz to speak that fit with his responses to her. Maybe dreams had gotten confused with reality. He really did think that the infection had provided him with insight, but Dr. Lam had ruled otherwise, and the doctor was always right.


"Well, anyway, the Pelosians are useful folks. You should have seen Almaz after she started watching the videotapes we brought. Like, zero accent in three days. And it's cute watching her sing Sesame Street songs." Cam dusted his hands off.


"Got any more of those things?"


"Sorry, no," Daniel said. He wanted to save a few to offer his guests when they came back later. "So before Dr. Lam throws you out again for disturbing me when I'm supposed to be resting, could you tell me one thing? Okay. On Pelos, when you--left--when you left my room--"


"Uh-huh," Cam said, smiling.


"--you said, 'If you replay this, you'll know what I'm thinking. So I'll just say goodnight.' It never replayed. So...what were you thinking?"


Cam looked struck. "It never replayed? Huh. How 'bout that."


Daniel looked at him expectantly.


"Oh, you know I can't tell you," Cam said. "Because even if I thought up something really, really good, it would never be as good as what you're imagining right this second."


"It could be better," Daniel suggested.


Cam considered. "No," he said. "No, I don't think so."


"Do you want me to tell what I imagined at first?"




Daniel wrapped his arms around his knees. "I imagined...that you were thinking that it had been a terrible mistake, that we would never do that again, that it was one night of bliss, and our seeing each other daily would be sheer agony, but we would pine--pine!--silently for one another, never to have fulfillment."


Cam pondered. "I ask myself in difficult situations, what would Jack O'Neill do? Like, for strategy. If we're surrounded on three sides by hostile Jaffa and a Prior has the Gate, what would Jack O'Neill do? In that case, it would obviously be something involving grenades. But in this case, I decided that Jack O'Neill would deny himself, that he would let the love of his life, Samantha Carter, slip through his fingers because of the whole military-rank and team-member thing." He paused. "I'm not saying he's wrong. He's right. But Jack O'Neill has so much more self-control and character than I do. Way more. Way, way more."


"Self-control," Daniel murmured as Cam bent down. Daniel felt absurdly happy.


"Way more of that," Cam said, and kissed him gently. "I'm an impulsive hothead. Everybody says so. Okay, this is what we're going to do when you're feeling better." He wove his fingers in Daniel's hair and put his lips right by Daniel's ear. "You're nude when this starts. Do you have a problem with that, or do you want me to back up?"


"I'm fine with it," Daniel assured him, and as he closed his eyes, Cam's voice began.


At last, he thought. At last.







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