After a boisterous lunch with the two little boys keeping everyone, even Johnny and Jake in spite of themselves, laughing over the Tauri food, Teal'c, Jack, and Daniel walked alone to the end of the island at Teal'c's instigation. Teal'c was very serious. It required long years of friendship to be able to tell since his habitual expression was already appropriate for a funeral director or someone who read financial news on television. "There is something that I have not told Samantha. I want you to promise that you will speak of it to no one." Both Jack and Daniel promised faithfully. "The tretonin is hardly working any more. I saw Dr. JeffWeber who is leading the continued investigation into tretonin last month. He has given me 2-4 months. As Jaffa who have taken this since the early days are starting to demonstrate, there is not a gradual decline. All your systems suddenly fail, spectacularly and at once."

Jack said, "We don't have to accept that Teal'c." Daniel agreed vigorously. Jack continued his theme, saying, "Remember how we thought you were a dead man when you lost your symbiote? Who is this Weber guy anyway?"

Teal'c responded gently, "JeffWeber actually reminds me of you, Jack. I believe he knows his business. Everyone dies someday and I have lived long for a warrior." Daniel drew Teal'c into a hug and then Jack took his turn.

Jack said, "We're not accepting this. Doctors are always saying stuff like this and being wrong."

"I want to die in battle," Teal'c said, "The Jaffa on Kartyn, P3J890, are in a serious fight and I can be of real value to them. Until Sam made her peace with her boys and now with you, I did not feel free to go."

Daniel had his arms wrapped around himself. "Just what is it you expect us to do for Sam, Teal'c?" he asked, sounding distant and faintly hostile. He moved a few paces back off the path and closer to the water.

"DanielJackson," Teal'c said with just a hint of scolding in his voice, "Do you remember that you and GeneralO'Neill both asked me to take care of Samantha?"

"We should never have done that to you, Teal'c. You've never complained but I know from experience how unpleasant it is being with someone who is only happy when she can pretend you're Jack," Daniel said bitterly.

Jack studied a small boulder next to the path with the fervor of a geology graduate student while Teal'c shook his head slowly. "You put limits on people Daniel that are not fair. When you were with Iona, were you thinking about Samantha?"

Daniel snapped his head up angrily, "Never. I loved Iona completely."

"But, at the same time, Daniel, you so clearly still love Samantha. I saw the way you looked at her earlier."

Daniel started to protest but Teal'c talked over him. "There is no dishonor in this. You did nothing and I know you would do nothing while she is my wife. But do not tell me that you do not love her. You loved both women at the same time. Why do you think Sam is incapable of loving more than one man at once?"

"Don't go there, Teal'c. I will NEVER be with Sam again. I don't care if she's the last woman on Earth or Lisseth or anywhere populated by humanoids. Things have changed. Sha'ree was just teenager. I suspect instead of full-out adult love, she had something closer to a crush on me because I was exotic and a figure of power for her people. We didn't have children or our own home. Hell we lived with her family. We were still on some sort of extended date when I lost her. So when I was with Sam, I didn't know what the kind of marriage that makes two people one is like. Now I do. I had over a decade of it with an incredible woman who wasn't comparing me to anyone else, after the first year anyway. I'd rather be alone or, God help me, even consider wearing a beard, than put up with that again."

Jack decided to get involved at that point. "Look, Daniel, Teal'c is not asking anyone to marry Sam. He's just asking us to be there to support her when she looses him, right Teal'c?"

Teal'c nodded and Jack pivoted to focus on Daniel. "You can get behind that, right? I can." Daniel nodded. It was reluctant but a nod.

Jack raised a hand then, suddenly struck by something. "I've got to ask. What was that part about wearing a beard? Why is that so hard to contemplate."

"Oh, that," Daniel said. He cleared his throat. "That's something we're going to have to clear up with my daughters. It's why they're comfortable with Johnny and not Jake."

"Huh?" Jack said, raising an eyebrow.

"On Lisseth, at least with the Blues, there's no allowance at all for being bisexual but a man can choose to be gay without severe consequences. There are a fair number who think that it's wrong but most people who disapprove keep it to themselves and are tolerant of the bearded men as individuals. In any case, if a man chooses to be gay, he must wear a beard. The taboo is extremely strong and there are real penalties if it's breeched."

"Sooooo," Jack said with dawning comprehension, "Chiona, Trina, and Seline think that Johnny is gay. That makes him unmarriagable and there is no custom against having casual physical contact with him." He began laughing. "I don't think we ought to tell them. He could use a puncture or two in his rock star ego."

Daniel looked askance at Jack. "You're not serious?"

Jack sobered up. "I suppose not but the kid is nigh on to insufferable. A major attitude adjustment is definitely in order but I have no idea from where. But, getting back to the topic at hand, when were you planning on going, Teal'c?"

Teal'c leaned back against a large pine growing near the path. He closed his eyes and looked very tired for a moment. "It needs to be soon. I think I will be 2 months, not 4. I will not tell Sam that I am dying. I will only tell her that I need to do this for Rylac, for my son."

"Rylac is on Kartyn?" Jack asked surprised. "I thought he was still leading the effort in Dandoine."

Teal'c shook his head. "Not any more. I am going to tell Samantha today and, hopefully, I can leave tomorrow. Rylac, as the leader of roughly half the Jaffa, has been able to arrange that I will get passage through the gate without a problem whenever I ask to Kartyn."

They walked slowly back to the house, not talking, each mired in their own sorrow.

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

Chiona and Seline sat at the edge of the water with the baby and were delighting him by letting him pat it with his hand. They were both getting a little wet but the late spring day was mild. The ground was slightly lumpy underneath but they were not used to a great deal of physical comfort and barely noticed. "What do you think of your brother and his brothers?" Seline asked.

Chiona said, "I watched Jake more than I talked to him. He looks so much like our Danil that at first I found it very odd that he acted so differently. But I observed him with the people he loves, with each of his brothers and with his mother. I saw Danil's tenderness and caring. And something else. When he really gets absorbed in something, it becomes clear that he is very intelligent but the rest of the time, I think he hides it."

Seline nodded in agreement. "Did you notice how he changes when Johnny is around?"

Chiona reflected for a moment and then agreed. "Johnny is a major problem, isn't he?"

"Oh yes," said Seline who was still irritated by Johnny's nastiness when they had been meeting the new arrivals.

"It's a pity about Johnny really, being both bearded and a truly nasty person," Chiona said dreamily, "I mean he is truly beautiful, isn't he? I wonder what his boyfriend looks like?"

"I suppose he would have one. Jake has that beautiful girl in the video," Seline said with a barely detectable edge of irritation in her voice.

"Actually, he doesn't," Chiona corrected her. "Jonas told me they broke up." She looked over at her sister. "Seline, are interested in Jake?"

Seline took a pebble away from little Danny who was about to put it in his mouth. "No love," she said softly. "Are you hungry?" The little boy had his hand in his mouth now. She moved him into position and pulled up her oversized t-shirt so he could nurse.

Chiona persisted, "Well, are you?" She took Danny's free hand that was scrabbling at his mother and waited for Seline's response.

Seline was blushing when she finally answered her sister. "That video. It put pictures in my head. I've never seen that much of a man, any man, except Mindo. And the things they were doing. I mean, I did more but I wasn't watching myself. And he is so handsome. I think if it wasn't for the blonde hair it would make me uncomfortable because he looks so like Danil in the face. But the blonde hair is so exotic, isn't it? You just want to bury your hands in it, have it trailing across your body, your.." Suddenly she realized where she was taking, this talking to her innocent, never married sister and caught herself. "Anyway, when I first saw Jake, I felt really funny. I hope Mindo doesn't know."

"Oh Seline," Chiona said, stroking the baby's silky head. "You don't think Mindo expects you to never feel like a woman again, do you? But not to worry. Johnny isn't going to let you get anywhere with Jake. Haven't you noticed that he's got fences a mile high around him."

"More like stone walls," her sister agreed. "Still, I guess I can look. It is sort of nice to feel those things again. I just hope he doesn't notice me looking."

Chiona got a determined expression on her face. "Maybe I can distract Johnny somehow so you have a chance to spend some time with Jake."

"How in the world will you do that?" Seline asked. True, Chiona's inventiveness was amazing. Trina and Tealk were very straightforward, like Danil, but Jak and Chiona instinctively thought in convoluted paths and had a dozen plots going all the time. "And, Chiona, he's so damn unpleasant. I couldn't ask anyone to spend time with him."

Chiona shrugged. "You'll owe me. I'll find a way to make it worth my while."

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

The sounds were very loud. They cut through the audio from another Macgyver DVD playing in the living room, Chiona and Trina arguing about what had happened to a bracelet Chiona had borrowed from her sister, Johnny's noodling on a guitar Jake had brought with him, the friendly banter accompanying the card game Jonas and Jake were teaching Seline, and an explanation Daniel was giving Jack, and Jack was trying valiantly to derail, about some Egyptian something or another.

At first there was a loud crash of something breaking. Then Sam wailed a long, drawn out "No." Jack and Daniel knew exactly what this was about. It was raining and Teal'c hadn't been able to go outside to talk to Sam. They had seen him follow Sam into the kitchen and had been tense, waiting for something like this. They both sped into the kitchen ahead of her sons who, not forewarned, reacted more slowly. There was broken china littering the floor, spewing out from an epicenter directly in front of Sam. She must have been holding something when Teal'c told her about his departure. Teal'c was trying to hold her but she was raining blows on him with her fists, making it difficult. She was crying now and yelling at him, "You bastard. I married you because I thought I finally found someone I could trust not to run out on me. Not to want to go off to God knows where and not care if I wanted to go or not."

Jack and Daniel had arrived first but they wasted the advantage because they had no idea of what to do. By contrast, Johnny didn't hesitate. Still holding the guitar in one hand he advanced on the couple and pushed Teal'c away from his mother. "What did he do to you, Mom? Did he cheat on you?" he demanded.

Sam looked at him confused for a moment. His wide of the mark question calmed her down a little. "Do to me?" Teal'c was shaking his head and leaning back against a counter with his arms folded. Suddenly Sam was energized anew and literally screamed out, "The bastard is going to Kartyn to fight in some Jaffa war."

Johnny looked somewhat abashed. "Oh," was all he said and he raised his hands and backed off a little. In the other room, Sara started to cry. She didn't know what the problem was but she picked up on the atmosphere. Jack immediately left the kitchen, not thinking it right to leave comforting her to the helpful Jackson children.

Jake and Jonas came forward now and Jake tried to put his arm around her but she shook him off. "Talk to him. Tell him he shouldn't do this," she commanded them.
Jonas looked at Teal'c with his own pain added to the pain he felt for his mother. "Please, Teal'c. You might not come back. My mom needs you and I need you. Please," he trailed off brokenly.

If there was ever a moment when Teal'c wavered, Daniel was sure this was it. He was also sure that his resolve was strengthened by his belief that if his leaving was painful, watching him die, possibly right in front of them would be worse. "Rylac asked me. He needs me and he is also my son," Teal'c stated gently. The way he spoke to Jonas, it didn't sound as if he was invoking a superior claim but rather putting Jonas in the class of being his son as well.

Jonas took it that way and teared up. He put his arms around Teal'c and whispered, "Be as careful as you can, okay. Try to come back to us."

Sam was enraged. "You're giving up just like that. Giving up the only real father I've been able to give you?" She looked like she was going to attack Teal'c again.

Jake put his arms around her now and didn't let her shake him off. He showed surprising insight when he said, "Teal'c is a Jaffa warrior. He's been one all his life. You can't love him and not let him be what he is, follow his own code." He looked down at her from his superior height. "Mom, don't make him leave carrying a memory of an angry face and angry words into battle."

Sam looked up at her handsome son and the kindness in his eyes and she broke. She began to sob in huge, gulping sobs, and groped her way to Teal'c who held her and rocked her. Everyone else had the good grace to leave the kitchen at that point.

When the chopper came for Teal'c in the morning, he had the necklace he had given Sam years before around his neck and her tear streaked but loving face to remember. Her sons were clustered around her, holding her as the chopper lifted off. Daniel felt relief mixed with something he didn't want to examine too closely. There wouldn't need to be any sacrifice to fulfill the promise to Teal'c. Sam had her boys and they would be there for her.

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

Later that day, Jack asked Sam and Daniel to go for a walk with him. Stubbornly refusing to believe in bad luck, he led them to the same fateful spot where Teal'c had told Daniel and Jack that he was dying. Jack was carrying a small box. He set it on the ground and pushed a button to turn it on when they reached the point. "Supposedly, if you believe the internet, it'll jam remote listening."

"Jack," Sam protested faintly. "Isn't that just a tetch paranoid?"

"Not at all, Sam," Daniel affirmed. "The Tauri have to control everything and everybody."

Sam looked at him like he was crazy. "'The Tauri', Daniel?"

Jack made a dismissive gesture. "I've already been over that with him, Sam. He's seceded from his own planet. But this time he's right."

Daniel made a sardonic victory gesture and Sam rolled her eyes. "About four months ago, an old, old friend called me out of the blue, Larry. He and his wife, who died of cancer just a few months ago, were Sara's and my closest friends the first few years we were married," he looked to make sure they were paying attention and added, "that is the first time. He asked if he could come and see me, made it sound like it had something to do with a request Selma had made before she died. What could I say, right? So he shows up by chopper, comes in the house, and starts writing me notes that have nothing to do with the banal conversation he's having out loud. While he's talking, he does a bug sweep and shows me maybe, I don't know, a dozen but he leaves them in place. For the sake of whomever's listening, he takes this cell call and says something's come up and he has to leave but he wants to come back the next day and finish his visit. Actually, I switch clothes with him and he stays with Sara while I leave on the chopper." He paused and sat down on a boulder, looking at Sam and Daniel expectantly.

"What you want us to beg you to go on?" Sam asked. "I never knew you were such a ham."

"I just want to make sure I have your full attention. Anyway, I go to Minneapolis and have this clandestine meeting with three vey highly placed government types who are representing even more highly placed government officials. There is a very strong, well-financed, and almost unbeatable coalition that is about to make a move to end the policy that allows worlds like Lisseth, worlds with desirable resources that we want, to tell us to get lost even though we have the technology to conquer them."

"That would make us no better than the Goa'uld," Daniel sputtered and was about to go off on one of his little speeches but Jack forestalled him.

"They have other things up their sleeves but they want us to be part of a campaign to keep the public firmly against this. Others have already started."

Sam said, "Kate Deluise and Kevin Oshimi, right?"

Jack nodded, approvingly. "Right. But they think we could get more attention and be more convincing if we talk about the original dream, draw the comparison Daniel just made to the Goa'uld, and Daniel makes the people of Lisseth and other such worlds seem real so what they would suffer is convincing. A lot of people automatically assume that if you bring modern medicine and conveniences somewhere, people will be so much better off, it's worth the loss of their freedom and their culture."

Jack subsided and let this all sink in. Daniel and Sam were each remembering a host of other worlds, peoples that had had value but less technology. He let them speculate about what military conquest would do. Finally, he resumed. "A compromise position that would help, they think, and I agree, would be to push those worlds to take more help than most of them do now. Get rid of some of the worst public health problems. Let baby steps be made toward convincing them to be more enlightened about things like racism and unequal treatment of women. But we have to convince the public that the way to do this is not military conquest and subjugation, conversion at sword point and an armed presence that can never leave because the hearts of the people aren't won. If there is a genuine oppressor and the people want us… well," Jack shrugged. "how often does that happen, really?"

Daniel said, "You're not going to tell us who these people are?"

Jack responded with a crooked smile, "I promised I would say nothing until you were actually on board." He made a face. "There's one more thing to put to you, and don't shoot me because I'm just the messenger here."

"Well?" they both asked, a trifle aggravated.

"They want us to ask our kids. Jake, Johnny, Jonas, they've got a real fan base and your kids from Lisseth, Daniel, they'd be giving faces to the potential victims for the world. Wouldn't hurt that everyone of them is tremendously photogenic."

Daniel looked absolutely disgusted. "Not happening, Jack. Not for any of my kids, including Jake."

Sam said, "Daniel, Jake's a grown man. He's had enough of Johnny making his decisions. Don't you start." She turned to the fit, silver-haired man sitting on the boulder. "Is there any danger to them? How nasty are these people?"

Jack stood up and brushed off his jeans. He was deliberately taking his time about answering, thinking the question through. At last he said, "There's a lot of money involved. Some of those worlds have some pretty juicy stuff. I'd say murder is possible, although not likely."

He turned to Daniel. "Let's say you do nothing and go back to Lisseth with them. Well, Lisseth is one of the first places they'll move on. Something could happen to them anyway. AND there's a real possibility they won't let you go back to Lisseth. Don't you think they know how much influence you have there? How much trouble you could make for an occupying force? Maybe," he said, warming to his topic, "Just maybe the safest place to be is in full sight where anything that happened to you would be in full view of the public and maybe avoided because of the questions that would get raised."

Sam and Daniel exchanged a look. Daniel said, "Personally I just love it when I don't have any option but to do what someone else wants me to do, no matter how I feel about it."

Jack sighed. "I hear you but, Daniel, this could be your swan song. Solve this and go back to Lisseth and you can safely stay there forever."

Daniel said, sounding improbably amused, "Or until I die, again and for, finally, the last time."

They all laughed because it was either that or cry and they turned to go back to the house and, ultimately, back into the fast lane one last time.