Daniel pulled his hood a little further over his head and hunched his shoulders against the chill that inevitably settled over the dunes after nightfall. He wrapped his arms around his knees a little tighter as the dry, desert air seeped in around the edges of his robes, raising goose bumps over his entire body.
Despite the cold, this was Daniel's time and place. These were the only moments of relative peace he could steal. He knew no one would bother him out here; he'd acquired a reputation for being a moody, sarcastic bastard. Even he would admit that the reputation was not entirely undeserved. The sarcasm he blamed on prolonged exposure to Jack. The moods...well, he had a lot on his mind these days.
One of his chief worries was whether or not he and the alternate version of SG-1 had managed to restore the timeline to some sort of normalcy. The trouble was that there was absolutely no way for him to know the answer to that question. All he could do was wait and see if any more alternate SG-1's showed up to fix the past. He hoped not--it might start feeling a little crowded.
A more immediate, and more controllable, concern was the question of how he was going to spend the rest of his life stuck five thousand years in the past in the company of a Jack O'Neill and Sam Carter he still didn't really know. Teal'c, despite his differences, still possessed a certain, essential Teal'c-ness that Daniel found familiar. But Jack and Sam weren't at all like the people he had known, and he wasn't sure he really wanted to get to know this version.
Daniel turned his head at the sound of the hesitant voice, peering out from the concealing folds of his hood. Ahmet was standing a good ten feet behind Daniel, his expression almost fearful. Daniel smiled and motioned the boy to him.
"What is it?" Daniel asked.
"Father said.... It's Master Teal'c."
Daniel was on his feet and running down the dune toward the settlement before Ahmet could say anything more. Teal'c's symbiote had died two days earlier; Teal'c's own death was now unavoidable. With the success of the rebellion and Ra's departure there were no more infant Goa'uld for the Jaffa who depended on them.
Still running, Daniel pushed through the entrance to the tent that he shared with Teal'c. A small brazier in the center provided a low, warm glow to the interior. Teal'c lay on a pallet on the far side of the tent, and Daniel immediately crossed to kneel beside him. Teal'c's dark skin was dull, ashen, and covered with sweat.
"Will he be okay?"
Daniel looked up at Ahmet. The boy stood just inside the entrance, staring at Teal'c.
"Go home," Daniel urged. "Your father will be waiting."
Ahmet hesitated a second then nodded. Daniel reached for a strip of cloth and a bowl of water as Ahmet left, thinking that not so long ago Ahmet's father would've been waiting for Daniel, too. But, of course, that was when Daniel had expected to be the sole survivor of SG-1, living out the rest of his days in Ancient Egypt and believing--hoping--that the future had been restored.
"Where will you go now, Daniel Jackson?"
Daniel froze in the act of wiping the perspiration from Teal'c's face. Teal'c looked like hell, but his gaze was still acute and knowing.
"Perhaps it would be more accurate to say--when will you go?"
"Teal'c, I...." Daniel resumed bathing Teal'c's brow, keeping his expression blank.
"You will not stay here," Teal'c said with certainty. "There is no reason for you to do so. In fact, I believe you have only stayed this long because of me. And I thank you for that."
"I'm sorry, Teal'c. If there was anything I could do to change this, I would."
"Not would--you will," Teal'c said. There was the hint of a smile on his lips, and it reminded Daniel of the Teal'c he'd known so well.
"Yes, I will," Daniel said, trying to answer Teal'c's faith with a smile of his own. "I'll try anyway. And in the future you should have had, you will be a brave and honorable man."
"And free," Teal'c said, his voice little more than a sigh.
"And free," Daniel promised.
The eastern sky was just beginning to lighten as Daniel left his tent for the last time. He'd prepared Teal'c's body in accordance with what he knew of Jaffa rituals, and he'd left written instructions for the villagers to build a pyre and burn the remains. Not long ago the human villagers would've been bewildered by the request, but as the Jaffa left behind by Ra had begun to die, cremation had become a part of the local culture.
Daniel moved quietly to the entrance to Jack and Sam's tent. Slipping inside, he was relieved to find Sam absent. He knew she had a habit of rising very early, usually going to the pyramid to study the technology left behind in Ra's rush to escape, but he'd had no way to ensure that she would be gone on this morning.
"Get up," Daniel said, nudging Jack with his foot. Unlike Sam, Jack was a lazy SOB who'd sleep half the day away if allowed. Daniel shook his head, wondering how this Jack could be so fundamentally different from his own. "Jack, get up."
"What?" Jack rolled over on his pallet, squinting up at Daniel. "What do you want?"
"Really? Huh." Jack sat up, rubbing at his eyes. The coarse cotton sheet slid down Jack's bare chest and he quickly grabbed it, snugging it tight around his waist. He looked around for his clothes, then gave Daniel a little nod, urging him to turn away. Instead, Daniel planted his feet and crossed his arms over his chest, making it clear he didn't intend to move an inch. He had his own reasons for keeping an eye on Jack, they just weren't the reasons this Jack would expect. To be fair, they weren't reasons his Jack would've expected either.
"Do you mind?" Jack asked, making a more pointed gesture.
"It's nothing I haven't seen before, O'Neill," Daniel said.
"Not on me, you haven't," Jack said. He finally slipped the robe over his head while he was still sitting on the ground. Apparently confident that he wouldn't be giving Daniel an eyeful, Jack got to his feet, tugging the robe down as he rose.
"Trust me, O'Neill. I've seen it all," Daniel said. He certainly had. He'd seen everything there was to see about Jack, including the way his mind worked. Which was the reason Daniel pulled a zat from within his robes and pointed it at Jack. "You're coming with me."
"Whoa, hey." Jack stepped back, his hands held up in a mild warning. "Sorry, Daniel, but I'm just not that kind of colonel."
"Actually, you are," Daniel said. "In the future we're supposed to have you're not only that kind of colonel, you define that kind of colonel."
"What?" Jack's hands dropped, his expression stunned.
"In our future--our real future--you and I had been in a relationship for several years."
"Relationship?" Jack asked, obviously staggered by the thought.
"Do I have to draw you a picture?"
"No, really, that's not necessary." Jack stared at the zat, then looked up at Daniel's face. "Um...so...the zat...?"
"I'm not going to zat you for sex," Daniel said. "In fact, I'm not going to zat you at all if you cooperate."
"No," Daniel said sharply. "I don't need to knock someone unconscious in order to get a date. And frankly, you're not my type."
Daniel let out an exasperated sigh. Apparently Jacks of any reality suffered from surprisingly fragile egos. Under different circumstances, and with a different Jack, Daniel might've taken the time to offer reassurance. But frankly he thought that this Jack had already had more than enough reassurance in regards to his desirability.
"I need you to use the time machine to take me back to my past," Daniel explained.
"Because you're the only one who can fly that thing."
"No, I meant why do you want to leave?" Jack asked. His confusion appeared genuine.
"Because this is no longer my time." Daniel shrugged. It was nearly impossible to explain to himself; he'd never be able to find the words to make Jack understand. Somehow the presence of this other SG-1 had changed this place. "I want to be with my SG-1."
"With your, um...?" Jack's expression was a strange mixture of morbid curiosity and indignation.
"With my Jack? Yeah, that, too," Daniel said.
"But aren't they dead?"
"I want you to take me back to before they died."
"Won't you just have to watch them die again?"
"I'm hoping to find a way to prevent that. If not...." Daniel shrugged. He wasn't suicidal by any means, but over time he had developed a certain fatalism about his chances of surviving into old age. "I suppose a failed rebellion is as good a way to die as any."
"Far be it from me to hinder your quest for self annihilation, but I like it here."
"You can come back."
"I don't see why not."
"Oh. Okay then," Jack said. He walked toward the entrance, then stopped suddenly. He turned, looking at Daniel with a puzzled expression. "Won't it change my life if you go back and start messing with events again?"
Daniel raised the zat again and fired. Jack dropped to the ground in an awkward heap, unconscious. Daniel tucked the zat back into his robes and stood over Jack with a resigned expression.
"Why do you have to make everything so difficult?"
"You didn't have to zat me," Jack complained. He shifted position slightly as he made himself comfortable in the pilot's chair. Daniel raised the weapon, pointing directly at Jack, as he sat in the other chair.
"Okay, okay," Jack said, reaching for the controls. "You want to go back, we're going back."
Daniel waited until the ship was in the air before lowering the zat until it was pointing at the floor. Jack glanced over at Daniel, then steered the ship up and away from the settlement.
"You're going to screw with my life, aren't you?" Jack asked.
"It's not your life. At least, it's not the life you were meant to have," Daniel said.
"Well, it's the only life I've had, and I like it," Jack said, sullen.
Daniel sighed. He understood Jack's position. He even empathized. He did feel some guilt over the fact that he would be taking this Jack's life away from him. But if Daniel was successful, this Jack would never exist and wouldn't know that he'd had his life taken away. At least, that's the way Daniel thought it would work. All he knew for certain was that he had to maintain control of this Jack long enough to get back to his own past. The rest would have to sort itself out.
"Would it make you feel any better to know that in the original timeline you're a general?" Daniel asked.
"General?" Jack repeated, mulling over the information. "That's good, I suppose."
"A hero, too. Saving the world and stuff."
"That's what they pay me for," Jack said, not sounding very impressed. "What about my boat?"
"No, no boat. No fish at all," Daniel said. "You may, in fact, be the world's worst fisherman."
"Sounds like a loser to me."
"And you've been having a full and extremely active sex life for years," Daniel added. When all else failed--stroke Jack's ego and libido at the same time.
"Extremely," Daniel said.
"Cool," Jack said with a smug grin. Then he frowned. "No, wait. You mean with...you."
"Yes, with me," Daniel said.
"I can't imagine that."
"No, I don't suppose you can." Daniel wondered if there was the slightest possibility that this Jack was in denial. He doubted it. This Jack didn't seem to have any frame of reference for imagining himself in a relationship with Daniel. In contrast, his own Jack might be operating from deep within the closet, but that was purely out of necessity. He was fully aware of who and what he was.
"Don't you think it's a little selfish to try and remake the world just so you can have...you know?" Jack asked, interrupting Daniel's musings.
"I'm not doing this because I want my Jack back. I'm doing this to try and restore the original timeline." Which was mostly true. Daniel stared at Jack. "And isn't it a little selfish of you to resist repairing the timeline just because you want to boink Sam?" Jack just grunted a sort of vague agreement. "Look, the fact is that even if I go back there's no guarantee that I'll be successful in restoring the timeline."
"That's true, isn't it? You might not be able to change anything."
"Entirely possible," Daniel agreed. "But I have to try."
"Okay, I'll take you back," Jack said with a decisive nod of his head. "And may the best O'Neill win."
Jack closed his eyes, concentrating. Daniel looked back and watched as the time machine slowly lit up.
"Good, that's good," Daniel said, encouraging Jack. "Now, we only have to go back a little over five years."
"Easy for you to say, Geek Boy," Jack grumbled. He kept his eyes closed and his hands tight on the controls. Daniel looked out at the stars, waiting for some sign that they'd made the jump back. Daniel felt a slight 'shift,' and out of the corner of his eye Jack simply...ceased to exist.
"What the...?" Daniel started to reach for the empty chair as the ship accelerated toward the ground. In that same moment he realized that the only person who could operate the ship had just...vanished.
Daniel looked around quickly, but apparently the Ancients didn't believe in seatbelts any more than the Tok'ra did. He wasn't betting on airbags either. He scrambled toward the rear of the ship. He wasn't sure why, it just seemed like getting as far away from the point of impact as possible was a good idea. He was still searching for a way to brace himself when they hit. The ship stopped moving. Unfortunately, Daniel didn't.
"Daniel? Hey, Carter, I think he's waking up. Daniel, you waking up?"
"Jack?" Daniel opened his eyes and peered up at a very blurry Jack.
"Hey." Jack's grin was apparent despite Daniel's fuzzy vision. "How're you feeling?"
"Headache," Daniel said. He closed his eyes again, trying to remember. "What happened?"
"We think a Jaffa might've jumped you."
"What?" Daniel rubbed his eyes before opening them again. Jack was still a little blurred around the edges, but better.
"We found you in the dunes a few klicks from the village, out cold and bleeding from a head wound." Sam leaned over and studied Daniel. "A Jaffa seemed the most likely explanation."
"No, that's...." Daniel put a hand to his head, wincing when his fingers brushed over a swollen lump. He dropped his hand and looked around. He was in the tent that he'd shared with Jack. Jack himself was hovering just behind Sam on Daniel's right. Teal'c was sitting quietly to his left. "What day is it?"
"Does it matter?" Jack asked.
"The rebellion," Daniel said. Jack immediately put a finger to his lips, urging silence.
"Our plans proceed apace," Teal'c told Daniel.
"You can't," Daniel said.
"Daniel, we've had this argument," Jack said.
"Yes, I know, but now I have proof that it's a bad idea." Daniel struggled to a sitting position, his head pounding even harder as he forced his brain to connect all the rather scattered dots. "I've been to the future. I know what happens."
"You've been to the future?" Sam said skeptically. "How? Ra has the time ship."
"I didn't travel to the future, I...lived into it. Then I came back."
"If that is so, where is the time ship in which you returned?" Teal'c asked.
"I don't know," Daniel admitted. "Sam, isn't there some law of physics that governs the existence of multiple incarnations of a single being within a single timeline? I mean--where's the other me?"
"Other you?" Jack said.
"Yes. The me who was still here. The one who hasn't yet lived the future," Daniel said.
"Okay, aside from the fact that this conversation is making my brain bleed, there's a huge problem with your scenario," Jack said.
"Which is?" Daniel asked.
"You can't operate the ship, Daniel. You don't have the Ancient gene," Sam said.
"No, I know that. I made the other Jack O'Neill bring me back."
"We did not find another O'Neill," Teal'c said. "You were alone."
"That's because he disappeared," Daniel said.
"Disappeared, right." Jack threw up his hands and walked away.
"Jack, I'm telling you the truth," Daniel insisted. "Sam?"
"Why would the other Jack 'disappear' but not you?" Sam asked. Her lips pursed as she focused her attention on the problem. "Given what I know of current time travel theories, and with my own very limited experience.... It's almost impossible to say with any degree of certainty.... But maybe...."
"Carter, this is not the time to be going all physicist on us," Jack said sharply, turning back toward the group.
"I think this is exactly the time," Daniel said. "I mean--what better time could there possibly be?"
"You took a hard shot to the head. You're not thinking straight," Jack said, pointing his finger at Daniel. "Now we're going to do something, rather than just theorizing about it. Because if we don't, Teal'c is going to die."
Daniel looked at Teal'c, stricken by the thought of losing him again...sort of. But he was just as horrified by the life Teal'c would have when Jack's plan failed.
"Could you two excuse us for a moment?" Jack asked, ignoring Daniel for the moment. Sam frowned, but walked to the entrance without argument. Teal'c nodded to Jack and followed Sam out of the tent. Jack paced back and forth at the foot of Daniel's bedroll for a few moments.
"Daniel, you've come up with some pretty harebrained stories to try and get your way before but this takes the cake," Jack said. He stopped directly in front of Daniel, his hands planted on his hips.
"You really think I...I banged myself on the head hard enough to knock myself out just to make a point?" Daniel asked, incredulous at the idea.
"No, but you do have a tendency to get carried away."
"You have to believe me, Jack. You have to trust me."
"It's not that I don't trust you...."
"Oh, god." Daniel grabbed his aching head in his hands, overwhelmed by a bad sense of déjà vu. "This is what we fought about last time."
"Last time I lived this we fought--again--about the rebellion. About trust. Then you stormed out of here...."
"I don't 'storm'," Jack said.
"We barely spoke over the next few days and then you were dead and I was alone," Daniel continued, because whether or not Jack 'stormed' was not the relevant issue.
"I'm not dead," Jack said.
"You were. Will be." Daniel looked up at Jack. "I don't want to go through that again."
"All right," Jack said, crouching down next to Daniel. "Let's assume that you're right."
"Whatever. My point is that if you really know what happened, you can help us avoid the same mistakes."
"That's what I'm trying to do," Daniel insisted.
"Not by stopping the rebellion," Jack said. "Tell us how to avoid losing."
"That's just it--I can't. The rebellion was betrayed. Ra knew you were coming and he was prepared. You never had a chance."
"Then tell me who the traitor is," Jack said.
"I don't know, Jack. I never knew."
"Oh, for crying out loud," Jack muttered, getting to his feet again. "Look, I'm not going to sit here and let Teal'c die. I'm not going to just sit here until all of us are dead."
"You may have to, Jack, in order to preserve the lives that we're supposed to have in the future."
"Teal'c." Reluctantly, Daniel pulled his mind back and braced himself. This was the same spot out among the dunes that he'd used as a refuge in the future. And for the most part he was left in peace here just as he had been...or would be, in the future. But not always.
He looked up as Teal'c lowered himself to sit at Daniel's side in the sand. He'd been expecting this conversation. Teal'c was an astute man. He had to have picked up on some of what Daniel hadn't said.
"In the future you believe will follow our attempt to revolt...."
"You're still First Prime of Apophis," Daniel said. "It isn't until SG-1 goes to Chulak, eight years later than we did, that we're able to convince you to betray Apophis. Well, you manage to convince you...on the tape that we made."
"I see," Teal'c said, deep in thought.
"And then you killed me." Daniel almost laughed at the shocked expression on Teal'c's face, but it just wasn't quite so funny this time. Dying had become something of a joke with him, but the snake thing sucked all the humor out of the situation. "It's okay. Apparently I was a Goa'uld."
"That is most disturbing."
"Trust me--that future is all very disturbing."
"Are you certain that these are true memories?" Teal'c asked. Teal'c's tone was merely questioning, not at all dismissive or patronizing, but Daniel could still be stung by the perceived reluctance to believe anything the 'flaky' doctor said.
"Remember when I accidentally ended up in another dimension?" Daniel asked. "No one believed me then either."
"You were proven to be correct."
"Yes, and I'm right now. And I don't want to wait until it's too late to fix it."
"With your knowledge of how the rebellion failed, perhaps we can avoid that future," Teal'c suggested.
"Yeah, that was Jack's argument. The problem is that your plans have been or will be betrayed to Ra, and I don't know who the traitor is." Daniel shrugged. "Without knowing that I can't prevent what happens."
"Is there no other way?" Teal'c asked.
"Believe me, Teal'c, I've tried to think of one," Daniel said.
"If we do not succeed in provoking a rebellion, I will die," Teal'c said.
"And if you don't allow events to follow their natural course, you will spend many more years serving Apophis, possibly the rest of your life," Daniel said. "And the Jaffa rebellion will be at the very least delayed."
"As well as a number of other unwanted consequences," Teal'c said.
"It's not pretty," Daniel confirmed.
"It would seem then that we have no choice."
"What happened to me?" Daniel asked, leaning toward Sam.
"You're asking me questions I can't possibly know the answers to," Sam said, glaring at him across their simple midday meal.
"You must have some idea."
"Daniel, aside from everything else, I have no way of knowing what limits the Ancients may have built into the machine."
"You must have a theory. A hypothesis. A...guess."
"Fine," Sam said with a roll of her eyes. "Guessing.... I think the two of you merged somehow."
"Me and Jack?" Daniel asked, slightly alarmed. Merging with Jack had its place in Daniel's idea of a desirable universe, but he was pretty sure that wasn't the kind of merging Sam was talking about.
"No, Daniel. You and the other you," Sam said. She dumped the scraps of her meal into the fire, and licked her fingers clean. "The two versions of you became one."
"Merged?" Daniel thought about that for a moment, but it brought up more questions than it answered. "Then why didn't Jack merge? Or...did he?"
"I don't think he did," Sam said. "But he's a different case."
"Because that Colonel O'Neill was from a different timeline. He was an alternate version of the one we know. The two of you, on the other hand, were the same person."
"Same timeline," Sam said.
"So when I traveled back within my own timeline, I either merged with or supplanted the earlier me," Daniel said.
"Like overwriting a file on your hard drive," Sam agreed.
"But Jack.... Where did the other one go? Did he go back to his timeline?"
"Maybe. Or maybe he just ceased to exist."
"Oh," Daniel said softly. "Er...what about the ship? Where did it go?"
"That's more like your scenario--there can't be two of the same being or object at the same point in time. The Ancients programmed the ship to deliver its passengers safely, before merging. Or ceasing to exist," Sam said.
"You're just making this up as you go, aren't you?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah, pretty much," Sam admitted.
"You do believe me, though, don't you?"
"In spite of the obvious problems with your story... Yeah, I do." Sam shrugged. "I don't think I have any choice but to believe you."
"Then you know that we have to stop Jack and Teal'c." Daniel got up and started pacing around Sam's tent.
"I know, Daniel. I've been trying to stop them since we got here. But the colonel isn't in a mood to listen."
"We have to make him listen."
"Good luck," Sam said. Daniel sighed. They both knew how stubborn Jack could be. Once he'd decided on a course of action it was nearly impossible to dissuade him.
"We may have to consider drastic measures," Daniel said hesitantly.
"It could come to that," Sam said. "I don't suppose.... Did you have anything in mind?"
"It was you, wasn't it?" Daniel asked, watching as Sam's posture suddenly became one of discomfort, stiff and twitchy.
"You told Ra about the rebellion."
"Are you serious?" Sam sounded appropriately offended, but she wasn't meeting Daniel's eyes.
"You didn't want Jack and Teal'c to change the timeline so you sold them out. Will sell them out," Daniel said. He knelt on the ground next to her. "How could you do that?"
"Daniel, you don't want them changing the timeline any more than I do," Sam said. "In fact, if what you say is true about having seen that future, you know it goes badly."
Daniel simply stared, too stunned to respond.
"And you came back here to change events yourself," Sam added.
"That's true," Daniel admitted. Not to mention that he was guilty of kidnapping Jack and possibly ending his existence. He hadn't had any choice, and it wasn't his Jack, but still--he couldn't pretend that his own hands were clean. "It just never occurred to me.... You waited until the last minute, didn't you? And then Ra's Jaffa came for you. They killed you just a couple of days after the failed rebellion. That's why I never knew."
"Well, I don't know what I did, but my plan is to keep trying to dissuade the colonel."
"Betraying the rebellion to Ra only as a last resort," Daniel said.
"Daniel, you know I have to do it," Sam said.
"Stop Jack and Teal'c from changing the timeline," Daniel said, nodding vigorously. "But the problem is that what you did--are going to do--still changes the timeline."
"Well, I'm certainly open to suggestions," Sam said, throwing her hands up in frustration. "But frankly, short of tying the colonel up, I don't know what else to do."
Daniel looked at Sam with wide eyes, then grabbed her in a hug.
"Sam, you really are a genius."
The locals milled about, frightened and frantic. The Jaffa were closing in from all directions, corralling the people, driving them toward the center of the settlement. Daniel knew Jack would be in the thick of the action, just looking for an excuse, an opening to set off his revolution. Daniel forced himself to be patient and wait for his chance to intercept Jack.
Fortunately, Jack made it easy for once. He moved along the outer fringe, just in front of the tents that faced the central communal area. Daniel waited until Jack was crossing the space right in front of him. He reached out and yanked Jack out of the chaotic mob and around the side of the tent. Jack's hands came up, instantly defensive.
"Oh, there you are," Jack said, relaxing his stance when he identified Daniel as his attacker.
"Yes, I am. Come on."
"Just...." Daniel grabbed Jack's sleeve again and pulled him along as Daniel led the way around and even through the tents and out of the settlement under the Jaffa's noses.
"Daniel, we're going the wrong way," Jack said as he hurried to keep up with Daniel, staggering slightly through the loose sand. "The action is back there."
"We're not interested in that action."
"Well, then what.... Whoa," Jack said as they crested a dune. "That's...?"
"Why all the Jaffa are going nuts?" Daniel said. He was holding the remote with which he had just deactivated the cloak on the gate ship. "Yes."
"You've got balls, I'll give you that," Jack said, slipping down the face of the dune behind Daniel. "So, now that we have it, what are we going to do with it?"
"We're leaving." Daniel opened the rear hatch and motioned for Jack to go in.
"I'm entirely cool with that idea, but in case you hadn't noticed--we're missing a couple of people," Jack said, standing firmly outside the ship.
"Doesn't matter. As long as you're not here everything will be fine."
"No, no, no," Jack said, wagging a finger at Daniel. Daniel pulled his sidearm out from under his robes. Caught off guard, Jack took a second too long to free up his own weapon. Daniel could've killed him easily, but of course that wasn't his intention. Jack took a pointed look at both of their weapons. "We seem to be at a standoff."
"No, we're not. I took the bullets out of your gun," Daniel said, his hand steady as he held the gun on Jack.
"Didn't," Jack said, risking a glance at his weapon.
"I'd know if anyone was messing with my gun."
"Not if you've just had an orgasm," Daniel said. "Really, Jack, you're completely oblivious for a good five minutes. I only needed one to unload your weapon."
"You do realize there's a whole kinky subtext to this conversation?" Jack said.
Daniel bit his lip and used his gun to wave Jack into the ship. Jack raised his own gun and checked. He closed his eyes and sighed when he found it empty as promised.
"You hijacked the other Jack, and now you're going to hijack me?" Jack said, finally entering the ship.
"I seem to have a problem getting my Jacks to listen," Daniel said. He jerked his head, urging Jack into the pilot's seat.
"So what--you shoot them?"
"Listen, Daniel, if I don't want to do this, we go nowhere," Jack said, He eased into the pilot's seat, keeping one eye on Daniel.
"Then we can sit here until the Jaffa find us."
"Wouldn't that be as damaging to the timeline as starting the rebellion?"
"Maybe, don't know," Daniel said. "Which is why I strongly suggest that we leave before Ra or his Jaffa discover us."
"You haven't left me with any options here," Jack complained.
"Okay, so we're here. Wherever here is," Jack said, staring out the front screen. Daniel had guided them to a valley at the far edge of a mountain range. Stark gray rock and clumps of sparse vegetation filled their view. It was not the most hospitable place Jack had ever seen.
"Yes, we are."
"Look--you made your point," Jack said. "The rebellion is a bad idea. I get it now. Can we go back?"
"Screw that. I'm going." Jack reached for the controls and Daniel pointed the gun at him. Jack held his hands just inches from the controls, studying Daniel carefully. "You wouldn't."
"I don't want to, but I will," Daniel said.
"We've been lovers for...."
"And that's never stopped you from doing what you believed in," Daniel said. "I can't let it stop me from doing what I know is right."
"You're serious, aren't you?" Jack said, finally sitting back, allowing his hands to fall to his lap. "You'd kill me?"
"Well, I'd start by wounding you."
"Son of a bitch," Jack muttered.
"If I don't stop you, the future Teal'c will still be the First Prime of Apophis, I'll be teaching ESL, Sam's some beaurocratic fact-checker, and you're wasting your life on a fishing boat."
"I like boats," Jack said defensively.
"Jack!" Daniel snapped. "In that timeline I got Goa'ulded and died."
"You die in every reality," Jack pointed out.
"Yeah, well...in that one I didn't come back," Daniel said. "And you and Sam nearly miss the rebellion because you're too busy screwing each other blind. And I can't believe that even the other Jack, conscienceless bastard that he was, would take advantage of the 'I don't want to die a virgin' scenario."
"That's just so wrong," Jack said, clearly disconcerted. "I mean...you were there, right? And I still went for Carter?"
"Apparently he met two me's, and wasn't impressed by either," Daniel said with a shrug. "He was a completely different you."
"I'll say." Jack stared out the front window, thinking. "We planned the rebellion for about a week from now. So we wait a couple of weeks and we can go back, right?"
"The rebellion has to be allowed to occur naturally, five years from now, and I can't trust you to wait for that to happen."
"Five years?" Jack asked. "We have to stay here five years?"
"Afraid so." Daniel waved vaguely toward their surroundings. "It's not as bad as it seems. I happen to know that there's a settlement not far away. We'll have food and shelter."
"What about Carter and Teal'c?" Jack demanded.
"Sam will be fine. Teal'c...will probably be dead before we ever return."
"You'd leave Teal'c to die just like that?"
"There's nothing I can do for Teal'c now. But allowing history to play out as it should will make a difference in the future. In Teal'c's future."
"Who gives a crap about the future?" Jack snapped.
"We do. That's why we're here in the first place."
"Whatever," Jack said. "And even if you're right--Carter's going to be alone once Teal'c dies."
"I was alone after all three of you died and I survived. I had to," Daniel said coldly. "Sam will, too."
"You can't stop me if I decide to go back," Jack said. He gave Daniel's gun a pointed look. "You have to sleep sometime, and when you do...."
"You'll be tied up," Daniel said.
"It's better than the alternative."
Daniel struggled to awareness. As the fog began to clear from his brain he reassessed the situation. As it turned out, waking up wasn't really the problem--movement was. He opened his eyes a tiny bit and observed that his hands and feet were tied.
"I know you're awake."
Daniel looked up as Jack walked over and crouched down next to him. Daniel groaned. Not only had Jack gotten free but he'd used the same ties to bind Daniel. The gag was new, though.
"You had to know you couldn't keep me down forever," Jack said, his tone conversational. "Certainly not for the next five years."
Daniel closed his eyes. They were past the point of the first failed rebellion, which meant that that timeline wouldn't happen. It also meant that he would have no idea of how Jack's plans might affect the future now.
"Now, don't be that way," Jack said. He sat down and laid his hand on Daniel's chest. "Just hear me out, okay? But before I start--I just have to say that this is pushing every kink button I have."
Daniel's eyes shot open.
"You, too, huh?"
Daniel struggled with the gag, working his lower jaw in an attempt to loosen it. There was a time and place for everything, even Jack's fantasies. This was not it.
"Sorry, but you're going to have to listen to me first," Jack said, refusing to remove the gag. "No rebellions, no futzing with the timeline any more. We don't need to. We've already taken care of the ZPM, right?"
Daniel nodded. They'd intended to take the ZPM back with them, but it wasn't necessary. As long as the ZPM was in place, ready to be found by a future excavation in time to answer Atlantis' distress call, they could leave well enough alone.
"And we've got the time travel ship. Something, by the way, that Carter did not want us to do."
Daniel shrugged. Sam didn't want them to do a lot of things. She wasn't always right.
"Yeah, that's kind of what I thought. I mean--isn't it worse to leave the damn thing here than to get it and vamoose?"
Daniel shrugged again.
"Exactly," Jack said, nodding. "So you've already taken care of retrieving the ship and we're good to go. You and I go back, pick up Carter and Teal'c, and head back to the future."
Daniel frowned. He wasn't entirely sure how that would work. Would they go back to the same moment they left? Or before? And would they remember having gone back in time or would it all seem like the natural, uninterrupted unfolding of events?
"I know, but Carter will have it figured out," Jack said. "I mean that was the original plan. We never meant to stay in ancient Egypt."
Daniel raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, I promise," Jack said, raising his left hand and placing his right over his heart. "I won't do anything to start a rebellion."
Daniel held up his bound wrists. Jack stared at them for a moment before pushing Daniel's hands down and reaching to unfasten the gag.
"Okay," Daniel said as soon as his mouth was free.
"Okay?" Jack asked warily.
"Okay. The ZPM is accounted for, and we've got the ship. There's no reason we can't go home."
"Cool," Jack said, smiling.
"You want to untie me now?" Daniel asked, holding his hands up again.
"Well...remember those kink buttons I was talking about?"
"You're kidding," Daniel said.
"No, I don't think I am."
"Beer's here." Daniel helped Teal'c settle the cooler on the grass next to Jack's cabin, then walked out onto the dock.
"About time," Jack complained, sprawled carelessly in his fishing 'throne' at the end of the dock. Daniel hesitated, studying the hand Jack had raised to receive his beer. He chose to ignore the hand and slid the ice cold bottle down the back of Jack's neck. Jack jumped so hard he nearly went over the end of the dock into the lake.
"Hey, Daniel," Sam said, grinning at Jack as he resettled himself and his pole. She got up from the chair next to Jack's and handed Daniel the fishing pole. "Sorry, I didn't get so much as a nibble."
"I would've been surprised if you had," Daniel said, plopping down in the chair. "Given that the hook isn't baited."
"Excuse me?" Sam said. She threw an irate glare at Jack, who was sniggering into his hunched shoulder.
"There are no fish here," Daniel said. "Why would I bother with bait?"
"Are you telling me that you had me sitting here watching your un-baited line?"
"Are you telling me that you weren't enjoying sitting here watching my un-baited line?" Daniel asked. Jack snorted out loud at Sam's perplexed expression.
"But...that's not the point," Sam argued.
"Really? I thought it was," Daniel said, giving Sam his most innocent smile.
"Zen and the art of colonel maintenance," Teal'c said, provoking a louder laugh from Jack.
"What?" Sam said, turning to Teal'c. He'd made himself quite comfortable on the grass, near the beer and far from the fish.
"O'Neill assures me that grasping the Zen of fishing is necessary to cultivating greater leadership skills."
"Well, that's a load of crap," Sam said.
"Carter," Jack said, still laughing.
"I just wasted an hour fishing without bait," Sam said, indignant.
"You just spent an hour relaxing with a friend," Jack countered.
"Your idea of relaxing, sir, not mine."
"Oh, fine," Jack said. "Tell you what--Daniel will buy you dinner tonight by way of apology."
"I will?" Daniel asked, his eyebrows raised in surprise.
"You will," Jack confirmed.
"He'd better." Sam walked toward Teal'c, muttering, "God knows there won't be any fish to eat."
"I was buying dinner tonight anyway," Daniel remembered.
"I won't remind her if you don't."
Daniel nodded and started to settle back into his chair when something splashed in the water, glinting in the sun for just a moment.
"Er...Daniel. Did you see...that?"
"Yes, I did." Daniel glanced sideways at Jack, who looked as stunned as Daniel felt. That was not good news. "I thought there weren't...."
"There aren't," Jack said immediately. "There couldn't be. You don't think...are we sure that was a...fish?"
"I didn't get a good look but I think we can safely rule out birds, squirrels, dogs...."
"Could've been a turtle," Jack said, his expression hopeful.
"Do turtles normally leap out of the water?"
"No," Jack admitted with obvious reluctance. "Turtles aren't known for their leaping abilities, in or out of the water."
"Frog?" Daniel suggested, wracking his brain for any explanation. Any other explanation. Jack's hand shot out and grabbed Daniel's arm, his fingers digging in so hard Daniel could feel the bruises forming.
"Yes!" Jack said.
"O'Neill, is there a problem?"
Jack and Daniel both looked over their shoulders at Teal'c and Sam. Teal'c and Sam were looking back, suspicious. Jack slowly released his grip on Daniel's arm, stroking away the wrinkles in his sleeve as he withdrew his hand.
"No problem, Teal'c," Jack said in determinedly casual tone. "Just watching the frogs."
"No fish, but lots of frogs," Jack explained, waving his hand at the lake. Sam stared at him for a moment longer then turned back to her conversation with Teal'c. Jack let out a sigh and looked back over the lake.
"Jack," Daniel began.
"Don't know, don't care," Jack insisted. "Refusing to consider the possibility."
"It is a nice reality," Daniel said.
"Better than we deserve, most likely."
"Yeah sure you betcha."
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