"We have two problems and two opportunities, Daniel," his mother said and then paused, waiting for what he would say.
Daniel knew that he was expected to make a guess. Over the past three weeks, he had learned her technique for schooling him well. She liked to talk in contrasts and dualities. Everything had two sides and nothing was all good or all bad. "There are two circumstances, each of which is an opportunity and a problem," he said slowly, hoping for inspiration.
"Yes," she said impatiently. "A problem is always an opportunity and an opportunity is always a problem."
Where were there balancing problems? He remembered the message he had had earlier in the morning from Jack. When he and Cam had come to court, they had worked out a code to communicate with Jack and Sam. Jack's true message had been something like "Approached by Jaffa haters who want to do you ill. Pretending to go along."
Daniel continued, "We are surrounded by extremists who pull us in opposite directions, the pro-Jaffa symbiote party and the humanocentrists," he said, and was rewarded by a slight smile and an encouraging nod. "These problems have been with us for a long time so the problems to which you refer must relate to very specific circumstances that have recently arisen."
His mother nodded again and looked like she was about to speak, that Daniel had gone far enough and she'd fill in the rest, but Daniel enjoyed surprising her by going on to say, "One problem is a move against me by the humanocentrists. Jack O'Neill has been approached by them and he's playing along to see what he can learn. I would suggest we look at Jack going undercover. I assume the other problem is a move by extremists in the pro-Jaffa symbiote group."
His mother, nodded, suppressing a wide smile, and said, "Our operatives have identified a plot by the most radical factions within that group. Most are content to at least give you a chance on the throne before they move against you."
"You had in mind that Vala might be able to flush them out, did you not, Mother," Daniel asked, everything falling in place.
"Yes, my clever boy." She settled back against her cushion and adjusted the heavy silk of her robe. "I must require that you be under guard again when you go back to Paix and that you both wear the surveillance bracelets." She saw the look Daniel and Cam exchanged. "I want to protect you from being placed in a difficult place by your friends. If you are free to help them escape, it will make it very hard for you to honor your promise to me." They talked of various things and all the while Daniel thought about how to work Jack going undercover and how to protect Sam. She might be an Air Force officer but he was not going to allow her to be put in the face of the risks Jack would undertake. "Mother," he said slowly, "Ruth told me that anything between Colonel Carter and myself would cause loss of face because of her prior involvement with Jack O'Neill. Is this true?"
His mother looked at him narrowly. "What are you playing at, boy?" she demanded.
"I beg you, Mother, please answer my question," Daniel said evenly.
"It's a subtle thing. If you were to become involved with her after it was over between them, it would be a great loss of face. If you were to take her from him, it would be seen as exercise of your prerogative and admired. It also would grant her great status to be so desired by the crown prince. Of course, officially, none of this would be approved. Imagine what the priests would say! But as long as you maintain public discretion, the rumors about your love life are a matter of great interest to the general public." He nodded and started to speak, "BUT the affair with O'Neill does make her unacceptable as your consort no matter what the timing, is that clear?" she admonished. In a very, very soft voice, she said, barely audibly, "I let love lead me to your father and it cost this dynasty dearly."
Daniel has seen Cam's lively interest throughout the entire exchange and almost feared that if he didn't answer his friend's questions very quickly after they bowed out of his mother's presence, Cam would explode. However, he also knew now that there were very few places in the palace where conversations were not likely to be monitored and so did Cam. They almost double-timed it to the nearest courtyard and splashing fountain.
"You gotta to tell me what you're thinking, Daniel," Cam said.
"I don't want Sam involved in whatever Jack is going to do. These are nasty people. And Jack needs a believable motivation to completely betray me," Daniel said, not taking any pleasure from his solution.
"You think Jack is going to stand still for a moment for you even pretending to take Sam away from him? The man is more than a little on the possessive side," Cam said, sounding extremely dubious.
"I think he might to protect her and to do this thing. Something has gotten him personally engaged."
Cam snorted, "I'd make a wager but at this point all the money is yours."
Daniel said, "We'll fix the money thing but don't waste it betting against me."
Cam changed the subject. "What do you think about going back under guard and in the bracelets?"
Daniel sighed. "It's not as if we've been out of the palace grounds, is it? The whole time we've been here, they've known where we were every moment. Our relative freedom was only an illusion."
Cam and Daniel returned to Paix bringing Vala with them. The next day Cam, Daniel, Jack, and Sam sat at the head of the waterfall with the loud noise of the water making it difficult even to hear each other and no one in sight anywhere. It made Vala crazy that she wasn't out there with them and Daniel had left specific instructions to make sure she couldn't follow if she decided to. Jack laid out what he had observed so far and Daniel added in additional information about the humanocentrics and their conspiracy he had learned from his mother.
Jack said, at last, "I've got to do this. I have no love for these people of yours Daniel, but something about what happened to Julia won't leave me alone. Sitting here, a prisoner and able to only make the most meaningless gestures of defiance is making me crazy and," he said looking at Sam nestled in the crook of his arm, "my defiance is making my lady crazy."
Daniel bit his lip. Jack's words and Jack and Sam's cozy pose was the most open Jack and Sam had been to date about their relationship. He asked himself again, and as Cam had already asked him once or twice, "Are you sure you came up with this plan because this is the best idea or are you just jealous of Jack? You keep telling yourself that you've prevented yourself from falling for Sam. You know you lie."
He stood and requested, "Jack, can I talk to you, just the two of us, for a moment?"
Jack looked at him quite oddly and Sam seemed about to protest. Cam laid a light hand on Sam's arm as Jack rose and followed Daniel a short distance. He was careful to turn away from Sam. He'd always suspected she had some lip reading ability. "Here's the thing, Jack. I don't want Sam involved at all. These people are awful and if she's around you or working with you on this and they realize you aren't being honest with them…"
Jack looked angry for just a flash and then he nodded reluctantly. "Yeah." He laughed ruefully. "I realize why you didn't want to have this conversation in front of her. Nothing makes her madder than to think we're being all male and protecting her."
"And we're talking about you making them think you would be willing to kill me. I think one reason things haven't gotten that far yet is that although there's been definite strain at times, it's also plain that there is still a friendship between us."
Jack nodded again. "Okay. What do we do to give me motivation?" Daniel used his mother's technique, knowing Jack was actually a very bright man who kept it well hidden. He waited for Jack to put it together. "You are going to take Sam!" Jack exclaimed and actually advanced a step on Daniel which put him right in his face.
"Pretend to take Sam," Daniel said. "She's in love with you and I respect that."
Daniel stood and gazed out over his balcony in that evening. He looked for peace in the landscape before him to counterbalance his turbulent thoughts about his life. The only relationship Daniel had that was truly what it appeared to be at the moment was the one with Cam. He was living lies on various levels with Jack, Sam, and Vala. He was quite sure that his mother was not telling him everything and as for Caius and Ruth, they had their own agendas. "Please, please," he prayed to he didn't know who, "let me at least keep the friendship with Cam." He'd spent most of his childhood and much of his adulthood very alone. For awhile, he'd had a family in SG-1. Now he was isolated again in the midst of some huge web, the way he thought from what he knew of history, kings and princes always lived. He devoutly hoped he was a spider at the center of the web but feared he might be the fly. "Do what you've always done, Daniel," he told himself. "Somehow, it always comes out all right in the end."