Happy Birthday, Daniel Jackson
by Winter S. Jameson
Spoilers: Thor's Hammer, The Gamekeeper, The Curse, Crystal Skull, Meridian, Reckoning Part 2, Threads
Season: 5, at the beginning of Revelations/8, after Moebius Part 2
Summary: Sam and Teal'c are sent back in time to protect an unborn Daniel from a time-hopping enemy.
Samantha Carter stood in the doorway of Daniel Jackson's office, Jack O'Neill's damning words echoing in her memory. Her blue-grey eyes had a sheen of tears that she refused to let fall, not until she was alone that night in the comfort of her bedroom. He should be here, damn it. He should be here going over his notes about the Kelownan temple where Jonas Quinn's people found their Stargate, squinting at the pictures he'd been shown and most likely would have somehow managed to keep. But the room was empty, devoid of life.
"Just let him go."
She couldn't. She just couldn't. He was her best friend, her... Sam sighed. Only her best friend. She'd never realized until she watched Daniel's body dissolve into light and his bandages collapse to the infirmary bed empty that there was... something more. That there was a double meaning to what she'd told him as he lay dying that she wasn't even aware of, but that she couldn't help but hope he understood.
"You have an effect on people," she murmured quietly, quoting herself, stepping into the lab and over to the table. Her eyes devoured the organized chaos that looked like it was just waiting for its owner to come back and dig back in to its mysteries. It would need to be cleared soon, organized into a filing system everyone could understand. "I guess I hoped that you always knew." She squeezed her eyes shut and gave a short, self-depreciatory laugh. "How could I expect that when I didn't know the real truth myself?"
Sam released a deep sigh and turned to the bookshelves. A gentle hand ran lightly along the spines, slowing when a title caught her eye and a memory of Daniel holding it, reading from it, gesturing with it briefly overwhelmed her. "Oh, Daniel..." she whispered, the tears that much closer to falling early.
"He needs you."
"What?" Sam straightened sharply at the sound of the low female voice on the other side of the table. Her head snapped around to see a woman about as tall as she was, with long, straight, dark brown hair that hung just past her shoulders. The stranger wore a light blue dress suit and held herself almost regally. "Who are you? How did you get in here?"
"Don't bother to sound an alarm, Samantha Carter. I would only make myself invisible before anyone could arrive. Even now, your security cameras aren't able to capture my image."
Sam's eyes narrowed. "That's like what happened with Orlin. Does that mean... You're one of the ascended, aren't you? Why are you..." She gasped as a thought occurred to her. "You're Oma Desala! Is Daniel all right? Where is he?" Her voice was steeped in desperation.
Oma held up a hand to stop the questioning. "There is only so much I can say, and only so much time to say it. But first you must come with me. Daniel needs you." She smiled. "And you as well, Teal'c."
The blonde major looked over at the doorway, startled. There, just inside the room, stood her Jaffa friend, eyebrow raised in surprise. "Teal'c? How long have you been there?"
"Only moments, Major Carter. I had come to see if you required anything when I heard voices." His focus shifted to the brunette. "If you are truly Oma Desala, what news do you have of Daniel Jackson?"
"Will you come with me? We don't have much time," the Ancient woman said as she turned her body to include them both. "I will explain as much as I can when we reach our destination."
Sam and Teal'c shared a look. "What of O'Neill? Were he were aware of Daniel Jackson's need for assistance, he would insist upon joining us."
Oma shook her head. "He isn't ready for this now. His path must take a much darker route before he may begin to see the light. Please, we must hurry."
"For Daniel, anything," Sam blurted out, one lone tear streaming down her cheek. There was no way she could leave Daniel in trouble when there was something she could do about it. And from the look of subtle agreement on Teal'c's face, he agreed with the sentiment wholeheartedly.
"Then come closer. I must conserve as much strength as I can." Oma waited until the two teammates stood side by side before her, then slipped back into her natural energy form. A moment later there was a blinding flash, and when it cleared, the room was empty.
When Sam managed to blink away the retinal burn, she was surprised to see nothing but dunes of sand. The sun was high in the sky, and the heat was intense. The last time she'd felt like that had been a little over a year previously, when she, Janet, and Daniel had gone to Egypt to track down Steven Rayner and the Goa'uld Osiris. "Where are we?" she asked.
"Five miles west of your Great Pyramid," Oma replied, retaking human appearance.
That explained the feeling of Egypt. "But why? Is Daniel here somewhere?"
The Ancient smiled. "You could say that."
"What of the tents in the distance?" Teal'c asked from Sam's other side, pointing off to his left toward what appeared to be some kind of encampment.
"Let me explain everything at once. Time is short." Oma took a deep breath and gave each of the two people before her a thorough once-over. Figuring they were as ready as they were ever going to be, she began. "Those tents represent an archaeological dig. There is someone very special there that you must protect at all costs. Or, more appropriately, you must endeavor to keep this person on the path that shall lead him to an important place in the future. There is one who has traveled here to prevent just that from occurring."
Sam and Teal'c shared a confused look. "What does this have to do with Daniel Jackson?" the Jaffa asked.
Oma smiled enigmatically. "Would it help if I told you today is July fifth, 1965?"
Blue and brown eyes widened. "We've gone back in time?" Sam asked incredulously. "But we can't do anything! We can't take the chance of changing the past!"
"Which is exactly why I chose you, Samantha Carter. You fully grasp the seriousness of the situation I have been forced to put you in." The brunette grew serious. "There is another who I have been... attending to. In a moment of brief respite he disappeared, and I tracked him through time to here. When I realized his intentions, I sought to stop him myself, but I was prevented. I was allowed, however, to seek out ones who would be freer to act."
"You said there was little time. Who are we to protect, and who are we to protect this person from?" Teal'c queried succinctly.
Oma nodded with a small smile. "Quite right, Teal'c. There truly is little time. I can't tell you your enemy's name - it could affect your future detrimentally - but you should know he is capable of overwhelming a host in a way similar to a Goa'uld."
Sam pursed her lips in thought. "But it's not a Goa'uld?"
"This creature has no physical form currently, and can transfer hosts relatively easily. A host grows ill from the contact. This may assist you in determining the threat."
"And who are we to protect?" Teal'c asked again.
"The two archaeologists in charge of the excavation go by the names of Claire and Melbourne Jackson."
Sam's breath caught in her throat. "Daniel? This creature's going after Daniel?"
Teal'c considered it. "It appears the creature's goal is to eliminate a threat before it becomes one."
Oma nodded. "That's correct. He knows what kind of impact Daniel is going to make and wants to prevent it. He managed to slip through the timeline before the Others noticed, but now that he's here they've decided I need to deal with it. Thus, you're here."
"Can you help us?" Sam asked.
Sam thought hard. "We'll need disguises, especially for Teal'c's tattoo. And cover stories. Neither one of us knows a whole lot about archaeology, only what..." she choked on a shallow breath for a moment, "Daniel mentioned."
Oma nodded again. "Easily done." A wave of her hand and the golden tattoo in the middle of Teal'c's forehead was invisible. Both teammates also found themselves dressed in appropriate clothing and carrying full backpacks. "I will watch over you as best I can. Whatever story you tell them I will ensure will not be seen through. But I must be as subtle as possible. If the one I seek senses my presence at any time, he may decide to forgo stealth and slaughter anyone who gets in his path to eliminate Daniel. Your only advantage is that our previous encounter has left him weak and singularly focused. Otherwise it is possible he would recognize you." She considered her statement. "At least, the people you will become."
"Are you saying you're from our future?" Sam asked.
"I have said nothing. Now, you should go to the encampment. We have spent too much time in explanation as it is." And she was gone.
Sam sighed and began to walk toward the tents. "Have you thought of an explanation for our presence here, Major Carter?" Teal'c asked as he joined her.
She frowned slightly. "I think so. It's a little weak, but Oma said she'd make sure it wasn't seen through."
She had completely filled the Jaffa in by the time they reached the dig site. Once there they laid down on top of a sand dune and observed what was going on through a pair of binoculars Teal'c had found in his pack. "I believe I have discovered Claire Jackson." He handed the binoculars to Sam.
She bit her lower lip as she looked through them at an obviously pregnant woman with long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail standing outside a large sand-colored tent with a clipboard in her hands. She appeared to be looking for somebody or something. "That's her," the blonde confirmed. "She looks just like she did in the Keeper's virtual reality."
"Do you believe it to be best to approach her or Melbourne Jackson first?"
"Whoever we run into first. It'll be more natural that way."
In the end, it was Claire the pair were directed to see by the other workers. By that time she had returned to the inside of the tent. "Doctor Jackson?" Sam called from outside the entrance flap, giving it a little scratch in leu of a knock. She couldn't help but shudder as she said the name, used to it being used in reference to her missing and now threatened friend.
There was a sound of shuffled papers. "Come in," a woman's voice returned distractedly.
Teal'c followed his teammate inside and looked around warily. He couldn't help but be reminded of his friend's apartment when he saw the various artifacts that were carefully placed around the space. He refocused on his friend when he heard her clear her throat. "Excuse me, Doctor Jackson? Doctor Claire Jackson?" Sam asked.
The other woman in the tent didn't even look up from a tablet she was examining. "Yes? How can I help you?" Claire replied.
"My name is Major Rose Grayson. I'm with the United States Air Force. I need to speak with you about a favor."
That got the archaeologist's attention. She looked up from the tablet, hazel eyes wide behind her thin wire-framed glasses. "The Air Force? What would the Air Force want with an archaeological dig in the middle of the Egyptian desert?"
Sam shared a look with Teal'c before continuing. "It's not the dig itself we're interested in, Doctor Jackson. We're currently searching for a fugitive who has stolen some top secret information about an extremely classified project. The latest intelligence we were able to gather placed him in this area."
"But why do you think he's here?"
"He may not be here," Teal'c answered. "However, your encampment would provide a remote place for him to conceal himself until arrangements could be made with his employer. You have many workers here, do you not?"
"Yes, of course. Melbourne and I could never do all the necessary work alone, especially not now." Claire rubbed a gentle hand over the large swell of her stomach, a happy, far away look on her face. She quickly brought herself back to the matter at hand. "I'm sorry. I didn't catch your name."
Teal'c drew himself even straighter if that was possible. "You may call me Teal Carimo. I have joined Major Grayson in her quest as the fugitive is also wanted for crimes in my home country."
Claire's head cocked to the side in such a familiar way that both Sam and Teal'c were taken slightly aback. Pain in their hearts flared anew. "My guess would be eastern Africa, perhaps along the coast. There's something in your inflections..." Her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed in thought. "The closest I can come up with is Mozambique. But I'm not entirely sure I'm right."
Teal'c bowed his head. "That is correct, Doctor Jackson. I am impressed by your linguistic skills in determining this fact merely from my speech."
"That's what a linguist does, Mister Carimo." She smiled and turned her attention back to Sam. "What is this favor you wanted to speak to me about?"
Sam blinked, still surprised at the uncanny accuracy. Teal'c had insisted his cover story include his being from Mozambique, stating that Daniel had cited that as the closest Earth equivalent to the Jaffa's Chulakian dialect as well as accounting for the darkness of his skin. Why Teal'c and Daniel had that conversation she wasn't sure, but she couldn't help but be glad for it now. Maybe she could find out later. "Um, yes. I was wondering if it would be possible for us to join your dig for a week or two, until our people can track down our fugitive." She smiled at the other woman. "It's just as easy for us to hide here as it is for him, and we'd be in a much better position to help you if it turns out he does show up."
"And what would be expected from us if I said yes?"
"All we'd need is for you to provide us with a list of names of all your workers and to let us know if you or your husband notice anyone acting... out of character. We've found that our fugitive has ways of influencing other people's behavior to his benefit without them knowing about it. It's one of the main reasons we're going to so much effort to hunt him down." Sam watched Claire expectantly, hoping she'd said enough to convince the linguist.
"Can you tell me this fugitive's name?" Claire asked.
Sam shook her head after a quick look at Teal'c. "I'm afraid not. The less you know about him, the better. The organization he's connected with is classified top secret, placing him in the same category. I'm sorry."
Claire nodded. "No, that's all right. I just wanted to know. You're probably right, though. It would be best if you didn't say. What exactly can you do around here? From outward appearance, it's obvious that Mister Carimo would be more than capable of joining the men doing manual labor - no offense, sir," she added quickly.
"I have taken no offense, Doctor Jackson," Teal'c said with a tiny smile.
"Call me Claire. It'll make it easier to tell the difference between myself and my husband."
"As you wish."
She cocked her head to the side again. "Is there anything else you'd be qualified to do, Mister Carimo?"
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "Nothing I believe would be useful to you at the present time, Claire Jackson."
Claire grinned. "That two name thing is a cultural thing, isn't it?" she asked almost playfully. Teal'c merely bowed his head. "What about you, Major? I don't think you'd fit in with the men out there, and a woman wouldn't be exactly welcome with the Egyptian militia members we hired as security."
"Actually I'm a theoretical astrophysicist," Sam said. "I can help out with the scientific side of things if you just tell me what you need."
"An astrophysicist? Really?" The hazel eyes were wide behind the slightly-skewed glasses. "Would you be willing to look over something with me?"
Before Sam could answer, a familiar-looking man came into the tent, clip-on shades attached to a pair of brown plastic frames. "Claire? Asim said two strangers had come into the camp..." He looked at Sam and Teal'c. "Ah. They're here."
"Oh, Mel, this is perfect!" Claire exclaimed, practically jumping to her feet. "Major Grayson here is an astrophysicist! She can help me figure out the significance of the scrolls we found in the side chamber on the west side of the..."
"Claire..." Melbourne said patiently, cutting her off.
"Oh, yes, of course! How rude of me! Melbourne, this is Major Rose Grayson, United States Air Force and her companion, Mister Teal Carimo, an attache of sorts of the government of Mozambique. They need to join the dig for a couple of weeks."
The newcomer eyed the strangers warily as he took the shades off his glasses. "A pleasure, I'm sure. What's brought you to our little corner of the desert?"
Sam smiled, recognizing the true meaning of the statement. She briefly explained what she had told Claire. "You would be doing the people of many nations a great service, Doctor Jackson, by allowing us to join you. We'll do our best to stay as out of the way as possible. It was never our intention to interfere in your work in any way," she concluded.
Both members of SG-1 recognized the familiar set of Melbourne's jaw as he considered it. "For the greater good, I'll agree. But please see that you don't interfere. I think we may be close to a break-through. Not to mention my wife's due date on the thirteenth."
"You worry too much, Mel. The little one and I will be just fine."
"Congratulations," Sam said with a wistful smile, her eyes falling to the roundness of the other woman's stomach. "I'm sure he'll be a wonderful child."
Claire laughed. "We're not sure if it's a boy or a girl yet. It's made picking out a name rather difficult, as you may imagine."
Teal'c bowed his head briefly, his eyes also on her stomach. "Of course."
"Well, I suppose we should get back to work," Mel said, his tone lighter in response to the obvious sincerity of the visitors' well-wishes. "Things will seem less suspicious that way. Major, you can stay here with Claire since she obviously has plans for you." The couple shared a playful smile at that as Sam and Teal'c finally managed to tear their gaze up to their hosts' faces once again. "I'll show Mister Carimo to where the workers are extending a site we just recently stumbled across a few weeks ago."
"That will be fine, thank you," Sam replied. "But you should probably call me doctor instead of major, and preferably just Rose. We don't want to give anything away."
"Of course, Rose." Mel looked at Teal'c. "And may I call you Teal?"
"You may, Melbourne Jackson."
Mel shot his wife a confused look. "It's a cultural thing," Claire said in reply to the unspoken question.
He nodded. "Ah, I see. If you'd come with me, Teal?" The two men left the tent.
"I guess that just leaves you and me," Sam said with a small smile. "You said something about some scrolls?"
"Yes, I did," Claire said, her earlier enthusiasm returning with a vengeance. Sam couldn't help but inwardly flinch at how familiar it was. "Everything I've managed to translate so far suggests they're speaking of astronomical calculations, but I'm having a hard time figuring out the significance. That's where you come in."
Sam laughed. "I'd be glad to help, Claire. Where do we start?"
Sam lay that night in the tent she shared with the cook and midwife the Jacksons had hired listening to the other women sleep. Tears streamed silently down her cheeks as she thought back on the day. It was amazing how much like his mother Daniel would end up becoming. There had been times when she almost forgot who she was working with. Then Claire would flit to another project she had going, asking for Sam's opinion, her swollen abdomen causing her to shift her weight awkwardly and practically screaming for the other woman's attention.
Daniel's complete and utter focus must have been a gift from his father, Sam mused, sniffling as quietly as she could in the darkness. She'd lost count of how many changes of subject or project they'd gone through before Mel had returned and dragged them off to supper and introductions for Sam to the rest of the workers. Everyone had seemed quite friendly, and accepted both her and Teal'c with an openness that reflected that of their employers, something she should have expected from the parents of the most giving and forgiving man she'd ever met in her life.
She'd caught up with Teal'c after they'd finished eating. No one seemed to be acting strangely, although they both admitted that they couldn't be sure after so short a time at the dig. Even more telling was that no one appeared to be ill in any way, and that let them breathe sighs of relief, at least temporarily. They arranged to mingle a bit more the next day, as much as possible without drawing too much attention to themselves.
Sam had then gone back to the tent where she'd been working with Claire to check on how the pregnant woman was doing. She and Mel had been going over the day's finds, and had gladly included Sam in the discussion. When they were just about finished, a strange look had crossed Claire's face, and the brunette had then quickly grabbed Sam's hand and pressed it against her rounded stomach. "The little one is moving," she whispered.
The blonde's eyes grew wide, and she stared at her splayed hand. Claire had been right; the baby was moving. A baby that would someday grow to be a handsome, intelligent man who meant more to her than she could say. This was Daniel she was feeling kick and shift in his mother's womb. A living, whole Daniel who had his entire life ahead of him. She couldn't help but realize that wouldn't be the case the moment she and Teal'c had succeeded in their mission and Oma had returned them to their time and place. She'd had to quickly blink away the tears that thought produced.
Sam buried her head in her pillow as a sob escaped her throat. Either way, Daniel was out of her reach. She couldn't tell him about her revelation. She couldn't hold him and tell him clearly how she really felt. All she could do was ensure his safety, preserve his history, his future... and her own in the process, even knowing how filled with loneliness it was going to be. She knew then why Colonel O'Neill had not been permitted to come along. There was no way he could have sat back and allowed the tragedies of the future to happen, starting with the deaths of Melbourne and Claire Jackson eight years hence. She doubted if she could have ever been able to talk sense into him, especially in his current frame of mind. What truly scared her, however, was that she wasn't sure she would have fought him as much as she should have. It was definitely best she didn't have his arguments forcefully before her. This was hard enough as it was.
She continued to cry into her pillow. It wasn't much longer before sleep claimed her.
In a larger tent not far from where Sam struggled with her thoughts and emotions, Claire and Mel snuggled together beneath their blankets asleep. Suddenly, the mother-to-be woke with a gasp, adrenalin making it easy for her to shift her bulk into a sitting position. "Oh my God," she breathed, eyes wide as they darted around, searching for something.
"What is it?" Mel asked, instantly awake. "Is it the baby? Is the little one coming?"
"No, no, that's not it. I... I had the strangest dream. It felt like something was... trying to... blend with me, invade my body. And I could sense that whatever it was wanted to hurt the baby." She turned a panicked, teary face to her husband. "I couldn't stop it, Mel. I was trying, but I couldn't stop it."
Mel narrowed his eyes briefly. He knew he needed to tread lightly. "Then what happened?" he asked gently as he sat up.
Claire swallowed, regaining control of herself. "I heard a voice say to the creature that it would not be allowed to commit the evil it was intending, and a bright light drove it from me. I saw the light surround you, too." Her brows furrowed in confusion. "The voice spoke in Mayan, Mel. And then I felt a gentle hand on my forehead and a light brush of lips against my nose, just like my father used to do when I was little. In the next instant, everything was gone. That's when I woke up."
"That sounds like quite a dream."
"Yeah." Claire's gaze dropped to her lap. "I have a feeling something big is about to happen, something centering on our baby." She looked at Mel. "Do you think it's just something leftover from the dream?"
"No," Mel said quickly, taking her hand. "I got that feeling the second I saw Rose and Teal with you in the central work tent. They're part of whatever's happening, Claire. I just know it. And I think they're here to help us. That's why I didn't say too much about them joining the dig."
The brunette smiled. "I wondered why you weren't more upset. I know what you think of the government interfering with our work. So, we let them do what they came here to do?"
Her loving husband nodded and kissed her cheek. "It's probably for the best. But I don't think we should tell them we suspect anything. I think they were right about the need for secrecy."
Claire nodded, and the both of them laid back down. Snuggling together once again under their blankets, they took comfort from one another. It was slow in coming, but eventually they slipped into peaceful slumber.
The first overt attempt on Claire and Daniel's lives happened late the next morning. Sam was walking with the pregnant woman to where Mel and the laborers were uncovering their latest find, a radio message that it was absolutely incredible spurring the women into motion, when the WWII-surplus steam shovel the Jacksons had managed to acquire began to turn in their direction instead of the opposite way where the rest of the sand was being dumped to widen the new site to allow for greater access. At a shout from Teal'c, Sam looked up in time to see the dipper start to unload its burden. She yanked Claire back out of the way just in time to see the pile of sand land right where they had been moments before. The driver claimed he didn't know what had happened, but thought there had been an electrical problem of some sort. When Sam and Teal'c saw the lost, bewildered look on his face, they let the explanation stand.
Trying to let the camp go back to its normal routine, Mel ordered everyone to take an early lunch and work would go on afterward. Sam took Claire back to the central work tent, where both Mel and Teal'c came to check on them, the former bearing plates of food for the ladies. "Thanks for the warning, Teal'c," Sam said upon his arrival. "That was a little too close for comfort."
"Indeed it was, Major Grayson. I am grateful I observed the odd behavior of the machine in time."
"So am I, Teal," Mel said, sitting with his arm around Claire's shoulders as she ate. "I was too focused on an archway that diggerful had just revealed."
Claire swallowed and gave the Jaffa a wide smile. "Add my thanks to the rest, Teal." She placed a startled hand on her abdomen. "And the little one's too, I guess." She laughed.
Sam shook her head. "That was too close."
Mel frowned. "Do you think this happened because of your fugitive?" he asked.
Sam considered it. "It's possible." She shared a look with Teal'c. "More than possible. Your driver doesn't seem to be affected any longer, but he might want to see whoever you have here to deal with minor injuries. We've been told that the method used to influence a victim can make him ill."
"Of course," Claire said after glancing at her husband. "We'll see to it as soon as possible."
"Why do you think this happened?" Mel asked.
Sam knew she had to chose her next words carefully. She didn't want to alarm the couple. "It's possible I've been recognized. Either that, or the fugitive is trying to create some chaos to cover any possible contact with his employers. I'm leaning toward that last one at the moment. I haven't had a lot of contact with the other workers, and there's no reason I can think of to threaten either one of you."
Mel smiled, steadfastly refusing to return the look he knew Claire was giving him. "That's good to hear, Rose. I'd hate to think anyone here is in danger." He glanced around, still avoiding looking his wife in the eye, and noted that everyone had finished their meal. "I'll take these empty plates back to the kitchen tent, and then I need to get everyone back to work. You'll stay with Claire?" he asked Sam.
"We have more work to do anyway," Sam assured him.
"I will join you, Melbourne Jackson," Teal'c said with an inclination of his head.
"Keep in touch," Sam told her friend as he was leaving, gesturing toward a radio she had tucked away in a vest pocket.
Teal'c patted the pocket of his own vest that held the match. "Of course, Major Grayson." With that, he and Mel left the tent.
Claire sighed once they were gone. "He worries too much."
"He loves you," Sam replied. "You and the baby."
"I know. That's one of the reasons I love him so much."
Sam swallowed a surge of emotion at the shy smile Claire Jackson wore. "Have you narrowed down your choices for a name for the baby?" she asked.
Claire laughed. "Not exactly. We do know a few names that we won't be using, though."
The blonde couldn't help but smile. "And what are those?"
"Nicholas is right out. So is Alexander, although I was kind of hoping to talk him out of that decision."
"Why is that?"
"Mel's father was named Alexander. He died right after Mel got his doctorate in archaeology. I was hoping to honor him, but Mel isn't comfortable with the idea. He says his memories are enough." Claire sighed. "Mel loved him very much, but those two had some unresolved issues they never got around to dealing with. And now they'll never have the chance."
Sam's eyes closed briefly. "I understand how he feels," she said softly. The image of Daniel disappearing through the ceiling of the isolation room as a being of energy replayed in her mind.
Claire gave her a sympathetic look. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Sam said with a shake of her head to clear it. "Now, don't we have some more scrolls to go over?"
"Of course," the other woman replied, allowing the change in subject. The two quickly buried themselves in their work.
Teal'c was walking back toward the central work tent just before supper when he just made out a figure outside the door flaps listening intently. Unsure of what this could mean, he silently crept nearer. Inside, he could hear Major Carter and Claire Jackson discussing the likelihood of a star having gone supernova accounting for a fluctuation in the recorded results the linguist had translated. The man before him seemed totally enthralled by the conversation, earth-tone robes camouflaging the stranger almost perfectly.
"I think I agree with Sam." The Jaffa blinked at the familiar voice, and then at the smiling face of the friend he never thought he'd see again as the man in the robes turned around. "Hi, Teal'c."
"Is it truly you, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked breathlessly, his voice almost cracking in a surge of emotion.
Daniel's smile grew soft. "It's really me, Teal'c. I promise." He gestured toward the tent. "I came back to see them one last time, working at a dig, happy the way I always wanted to remember them. I didn't have any particular dig in mind when I headed back and ended up here. And then I found you and Sam." He gave his friend a curious look. "I take it there's a reason Oma brought you back to this specific time and place."
Teal'c inclined his head briefly. "Indeed."
The recently ascended archaeologist held up a hand. "You don't need to tell me specifics. I think I might already know. It's weird, but I get a feeling of danger. I'm willing to bet you two are here to prevent anything bad from happening to my parents." His expression sobered. "This isn't when or where it's supposed to happen."
"Do you not know when or where you are, Daniel Jackson?"
"Not specifically, no. I haven't seen myself running around though, so that narrows things down a bit. I'm trying not to look too closely. I don't want to draw too much attention to myself quite yet." Daniel gave a brief laugh. "I'm still getting the hang of everything, and there are a lot of rules to take into consideration."
"I see." Black brows furrowed in thought as Teal'c considered what he had just been told.
Daniel looked back toward the flaps of the tent. "I can't stay long. I can sense Oma's presence. And I don't think I should visit Sam right now." He sighed. "I actually wasn't planning on talking with you, either. It makes leaving very difficult, for both of us I'm sure."
"It does, but knowing you are well relieves some of the pain in my heart. I am certain it would be the same for Major Carter."
Daniel shook his head. "Her grief is more than that, I'm not sure just what. I don't want to cause her any more pain than I already have. And I really don't have time. I need to look in on my father and then I need to go." He looked back at his friend. "I doubt I'll have time to come back and say goodbye."
Teal'c straightened to his full height. "Then I will wish you farewell now, Daniel Jackson. May you find what you seek along your new path, and may we someday meet again."
The brown-haired man smiled slightly. "I hope that, too, Teal'c, and thank you. Take care of Sam and Jack for me, okay?" In the blink of an eye, Daniel was gone.
"I will miss you, my friend," Teal'c whispered to the empty space where Daniel had been. A light breeze blew by him almost soothingly. He then took a deep breath and headed into the tent.
After the evening meal that Mel had brought to the ladies and Teal'c, Claire decided that she wanted to take a walk. She was feeling restless and trapped in the work tent, especially after her close call that morning. Her husband had gone, a problem with the support structure for the new section demanding his attention. Sam was caught up in the equations the two women had been discussing earlier, trying to see if there was any connection with theories and situations that would only start to become relevant over thirty years in the future. That left Teal'c. Claire wasn't foolish enough to think she should wander out alone.
"Um, Teal," the brunette said a touch hesitantly. "May I ask a favor of you?"
"What is it you require, Claire Jackson?"
"The walls of the tent are beginning to close in on me. Do you think you might be able to accompany me for a walk around the dig site? I never did get to see what Mel uncovered today." Her hazel eyes were wide behind her round-framed glasses.
Teal'c gave her a small smile. "I would be honored." He offered her his arm, and the two of them exited the tent.
The Jaffa, like Sam had before him, saw an amazing number of similarities between Claire and her son in regards to her enthusiasm for her work. She gave quite a few exclamations of delight when they came to the new section. "Oh, Teal, do you see that wall? The images I can make out suggest the worship of Sekhmet." She never noticed the slight stiffening of her escort.
"I thought you might be interested in that."
"Mel!" Claire cried with a wide grin as she spun around to face her husband. "You didn't tell me things were so clear!"
"I never had a chance at dinner, darling. You and Rose were still arguing the finer points of astronomical theory."
She rolled her eyes. "Like you haven't interrupted me before."
Mel laughed. "And I've paid the price. Besides, what would our guests think?" He winked at Teal'c, who merely raised an eyebrow.
Claire drew herself up haughtily. "Since when did anyone else's opinion matter?"
"Since we started living off of grants and the donations of rich investors. But there's something else you should see." Mel took his wife's hand and started to lead her away, Teal'c immediately following.
"Would this be the opening we discovered just prior to supper being announced?" Teal'c asked.
The male half of the married couple grinned as the three of them reached the tent where he ran the active work of the dig. "Yes. We discovered a set of rough-hewn stairs leading down into the earth. My guess is we're looking at an ancient excavation site. It's the only thing that would explain its odd positioning in comparison with the rest of the city as well as some of the markings we've found."
Claire frowned, peering closely at the sketch of the new section laid out on a table in the center of the space. "This isn't random," she said confidently.
"It appears whoever oversaw this excavation was searching for something," Teal'c added, also looking at the site map with a critical eye.
"You two think so too, huh?" Mel asked. "Now the question is what were they looking for. And what kinds of tools were they using? Things may be a bit rough-hewn, but that has more to do with a rushed job rather than crude tools like I'd normally expect. Not that we've found any tools of any kind. It's a mystery."
"What do you think you'll find at the bottom of the stairs?" Claire asked.
Mel shook his head. "I have no idea. I'm hoping for answers, that something in whatever kind of chamber or room is down there will explain what the great hunt was all about. But we won't be able to check things out until we get some support in place. Things don't seem entirely stable around the steps. I'm thinking that should take most of the day tomorrow, maybe even into Thursday."
Teal'c bowed his head in agreement. "That seems most wise, Melbourne Jackson."
"Can I take a look at some of those wall paintings? They seem out of place in an area with such a practical purpose." Claire looked toward the new stairway with longing.
Mel considered it for a moment then nodded. "Things are pretty secure for the night as long as you don't go down the steps. We'll come with you, though. Just in case."
Claire waved the last off as a given. "Then let's go."
Teal'c looked over the woman's shoulder with more than one kind of different perspective once they'd reached the wall to the left of the stairway. He needed to remind himself not to inform the pair of archaeologists of the true significance of the images they were looking at. "These are representations of both Ra and Sekhmet," Claire murmured. "Most of the writing is a language I've never seen before, but what I can make out suggests that whoever was here was an emissary of both gods, here to pave the way to enlightenment." She smiled at the dark man looming over her. "History is filled with such pompous statements. It's amazing what lengths some people went through to make themselves seem greater than they were."
"It's not like that's a thing of the past," Mel said from her other side.
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed.
"Doctor Jackson!" one of the workers called from above. The man flushed slightly in embarrassment when both Mel and Claire turned to look at him. "I mean, Mel. Jamal said to come get you. He found one of the new workers trying to get into the secure storage tent. The man appears to be acting totally out of character." He shrugged. "You said you wished to be informed."
Mel nodded. "I did indeed. Tell Jamal I'll be right there." He turned to face his wife and Teal'c. "Could you two go back to the central work tent? I'd feel better if you were further away from this man, even if he is just under the influence of the fugitive."
Teal'c bowed respectfully. "I will guard Claire Jackson and your child with my life," he pledged.
"Thank you." Mel kissed Claire and hurried off.
"You didn't have to make that kind of promise," Claire said softly once Mel was gone. "I'd never want to trade your life for mine, or even my baby's."
"I did what I felt necessary. You underestimate your importance, and that of your child." He gazed at her intently. "It is a matter of honor."
Claire nodded. "I see. We should go."
They took a circular route to return to the tent where Sam was presumably still working on her calculations to avoid the large security tent where Mel had gone to meet with the strange-acting worker. Teal'c took care to guide his companion's steps while she watched the sky. "The stars are beautiful, aren't they? They represent everything, the past and the future, where we've been and where we're going." Claire sighed. "I'm looking forward to sharing it with my baby, and listening to Mel teach the little one about the constellations. We'll both share the myths behind them. It'll be something we can do as a family." She looked at Teal'c. "Did you ever do things like that with your parents, Teal?"
The corners of the Jaffa's mouth turned up slightly. "I wish I could say I had, Claire Jackson. Circumstances were such during my childhood that it was not often even an option. It sounds like a pleasant tradition, however. I believe your child will treasure memories such as those very much."
"I hope so."
As Claire bowed her head, a tiny smile hovering on her lips as she allowed herself the fantasy, Teal'c's sharp ears caught an odd grinding noise from the pile of stones they were passing. He tensed as his head snapped to the right, eyes searching for the source. His breath caught in his throat as he realized the stack was beginning to lean in their direction and would soon lose the battle with gravity. Without thought, Teal'c grabbed the daydreaming woman and made a flying leap away from the falling rocks. When they landed, the big man continued to shield her from the danger against her screaming protests, concentrating his efforts on her head and abdomen as much as possible. Claire made it easier when she stopped fighting him and curled into a ball as tightly as she could, covering her head with her arms.
Finally the crash of collapsing sandstone ceased and the dust began to settle. Claire gazed up at her savior, fully intending on thanking him effusively, when she saw the strain in his features and his arms shaking on either side of her head. Looking past him she saw a large slab of rock balanced against him, one she knew would have crushed both herself and the baby without any hope of survival. "Teal, no," she whispered. "Are you going to be okay?"
"I will be fine," Teal'c said through gritted teeth. "Others are coming."
He was right. It wasn't long before a group of men had managed to haul the chunk of sandstone off of him, freeing both him and Claire. Sam, who had rushed to the new section at the sound of all the commotion, hurried over and grabbed the medical supplies from the nurse who worked at the dig. "I can take care of Teal, thanks. I have medic training. There are special... tribal markings that only certain people are allowed to see." The nurse smiled in understanding and moved over to check on Claire.
"More classified things?" the pregnant woman asked with a wince as the nurse dabbed at a cut on her forehead with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol.
"Sorry," Sam said sincerely.
"Don't be. You warned me about it when we met." She smiled ruefully. "And right now I have no right to ask you for anything. You've both saved my life today, and more importantly my child's. Thank you for that."
Tears welled up in the blonde physicist's eyes. "You're welcome. More than welcome." She turned her face away and whispered, "I wish I could have done that after Kelowna."
A dark hand on her fisted fingers made her look at her teammate. "As do I," he agreed softly, his own dark brown eyes moist.
Sam and Teal'c shared a moment of brief commiseration then returned to the matter at hand. "I need to take care of those cuts and bruises," the major said pragmatically. "We should go somewhere a little more secluded."
"I understand," Teal'c replied, pushing himself to his feet.
"Are you sure you should be moving?" Mel asked as he finally made his way through the crowd. "I saw the slab they took off you. I'm surprised you even survived."
"I will be fine," the Jaffa assured him. "I must now let Major Grayson tend to my wounds." He and Sam went behind a nearby tent.
Sam breathed a sigh of relief once they were alone. "I was afraid I wasn't going to get to you in time to prevent anyone from seeing your larval pouch," she said quietly as she examined Teal'c's back. She winced in sympathy. "These bruises look nasty."
Teal'c glanced at her from over his shoulder. "They are painful, but they will improve once I am able to perform kel'no'reem."
The woman nodded. "Thinking of that, you'll want to leave these bandages on even after you've healed. Most of this should be covered by your shirt, but just in case we don't want anyone to get suspicious."
They discussed the recently-discovered stairway and the carvings and paintings on the wall to its left as Sam finished her ministrations. "What I don't understand is why we don't know about this find, especially Daniel. If they truly found this kind of clear evidence of an unknown language and an ancient dig site that didn't use primitive tools, why isn't this something Daniel pointed to as evidence for his theories? Even if it was publicized then dismissed as a hoax, Daniel would have known about it and come back here once he knew what that language really was. And what else is down there? What were the Goa'uld looking for?"
Teal'c considered it. "I do not know. It must have been something believed to be very powerful if Melbourne Jackson is correct in his theory that the work at this site was hurried. Ra was regularly engaged in battle, and was known for his quests for more powerful technology."
"Maybe we should keep our ears open for a date when they think this dig took place. It might help us figure out what Ra and Sekhmet were looking for."
"You may be correct. Perhaps the Tok'ra will have the knowledge we seek as well."
"I'll try to get a hold of Dad once we get back."
It wasn't much longer before Sam and Teal'c rejoined the others. "I didn't get a chance to thank you before you left," Mel said as soon as he saw them. "Both of you have done so much to help us. I want you to know I appreciate it."
Sam gave him a small smile. "Neither one of us could have done any less. You've both been wonderful about letting us... work here, taking the chance that we'd disrupt your excavation. You've even gone so far as to share some of your personal life with us. Besides, you'd do the same for us."
"All of that doesn't come close to evening the score," Claire said, a pained look on her face. "But we won't worry about it if you won't."
"Of course not," Sam replied distractedly. "Is something wrong?"
"With all the stress..." Claire took a deep breath and released it. "I feel a bit of a painful tenseness around my stomach."
Mel's eyes grew wide behind his glasses. "Do you think the little one's coming?"
Sam gasped. "But it's not the eighth!" Fortunately for her neither expectant parent paid her any attention.
Claire gritted her teeth for a long moment. "No, my water hasn't broken yet."
"She needs to relax," the midwife said, joining the quartet. "We can keep the baby from coming if you just relax. Let's get her back to your tent, Doctor Jackson, and I will give her a massage. Your child will not come tonight."
Sam and Teal'c followed the couple and their caretaker, feeling particularly helpless. Once they were inside, the two teammates shared a look. "One of us should check out that rock pile," Sam said.
Teal'c shook his head slightly. "I believe we both know what occurred. Confirming this fact would be of no assistance in our quest to keep Daniel Jackson from harm, and would only serve to separate us unnecessarily."
"We can't stick together all the time, Teal'c," Sam refuted. "It would look strange. Considering we came into camp together, us seeking each other out and talking every now and again is natural, but any more will draw unwanted attention. That, and we're supposed to be sleeping in separate tents." She smiled at that.
"Then we will continue as we have since our arrival. One of us will be with Claire Jackson at all times. Melbourne Jackson will care for her during the night."
Sam frowned. "What's to stop whoever's doing this from taking us over, or just Claire or Mel? That would be the easiest way to do this."
A black eyebrow rose. "Perhaps Oma Desala is able to directly protect those closest to Daniel Jackson, while we are needed to prevent others from harming him."
The blonde head nodded. "That makes sense." She let loose an explosive breath and lifted her head to the sky. "I wish you could tell us how long we have to be here. How are we going to know when the danger's past?" Only silence answered her.
They waited outside the tent until the midwife left and Mel admonished them to go get some sleep. The night went by uneventfully.
There was an urgency behind the work to shore up the newly-revealed stairway that no one could explain, especially Mel. He just seemed to understand, with an intuition stereotypes tended to associate with women more than men, that whatever chamber lie at the bottom was extremely important and needed to be uncovered as soon as possible. Claire shook her head at such a belief, although she didn't try to talk her husband out of it. "But how do you know?" she asked after breakfast that morning.
"Haven't you ever had a feeling that made absolutely no logical sense, and it turned out to be right?" Mel asked in return. Neither husband nor wife saw Sam stiffen when she recognized the question Daniel had asked her while they were following Kendra to the exit of the Labyrinth on Cimmeria. Apparently Daniel had inherited that amazing intuition of his from his father as well as his focus.
"I will never understand," Claire said with a sigh and a smile. "Go do your shoring up. I'll see you at lunch."
There were no attempts on Claire or Daniel's lives that day, although Sam would have sworn she could feel a malevolent presence nearby, just out of arm's reach wherever she and Claire were working in the central work tent. Mel and Teal'c came by at mealtimes with plates for the both of them, and filled them in on the amazing progress the team was making. "I think we may be ready to go late tomorrow morning," the male archaeologist said as the four of them ate supper that evening, excitement flaring up in his light brown eyes.
Sam looked at Teal'c who silently confirmed the estimate. "Who'll be going down there?" the blonde asked as she returned her attention to her friend's father.
"I will, definitely," Claire said before Mel could respond. "I don't think any of the other linguists we have here would have any hope of deciphering such an ancient Egyptian script, at least, not without a whole lot of time. We have our grant review coming up at the end of the month - we need something to show them, something different and exciting."
"You've had this argument ready to go all day, haven't you?" Mel asked, slightly annoyed.
"You bet I have," the brunette confirmed. "I know I'm close to the baby's due date, but I'm perfectly healthy. Janelle confirmed that last night. I'm not sure how much I'll be able to do after the little one arrives, and seeing this kind of thing in person is always preferable to pictures or sketches. Rose and Teal can come with us to make sure I stay safe." She looked at the two teammates, her hopeful gaze begging for their support.
Sam bit her lower lip as she considered it. She didn't want to disappoint the woman she'd grown fond of in such a short time, but at the same time she didn't want to take a chance with her safety - and by extension, Daniel's. The knowledge that the next day was the eighth didn't help matters either. "How secure do you think the stairway and the chamber will be?" she asked Mel, determined to be fair.
Mel sighed and dropped his head. "I couldn't make it any safer if I had a month more time," he said in a resigned tone of voice. "I've done this kind of thing too many times before." He brought his eyes up sheepishly in yet another familiar expression. "I was hoping you wouldn't ask that."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow at that, but chose not to comment. "I have faith in your construction, Melbourne Jackson," he said solemnly. "Major Grayson and I will do everything in our capabilities to protect you and your family. You cannot let fear prevent you from completing the task you have set before yourself in this place. If you do, the fugitive will have won."
"You're right," Mel said softly, completely raising his head. "I can't let fear control me. And you're right, too, Claire. There's no one here that has a better chance of success with this new language than you. We'll go down after lunch if everything goes according to schedule."
"Thank you," Claire whispered before giving him a loving kiss.
Sam pulled Teal'c aside for a moment. "You do realize that tomorrow's the eighth, right?" she asked him in hushed tones.
Teal'c bowed his head in acknowledgment. "Indeed I do, Major Carter. I believe that no matter what actions we take the future will unfold as it should. This will likely include Daniel Jackson's birth at the appropriate time. It is more important that Melbourne and Claire Jackson do not grow accustom to hiding from their fears when concerning their son. What we know of Daniel Jackson's future with them suggests they cannot do so for our friend to become the man we know and care so much for."
The major nodded. "I see your point. And a threat can happen here just as much as anywhere else, especially if Claire is in the middle of labor. I think everyone's going to be a little distracted at that point."
"So what do you say?" Claire asked, interrupting the quiet discussion.
"I say it's a plan," Sam said with a smile, settling the matter. There were smiles all around as the quartet began to anticipate the day to come.
Sam was surprised she didn't have self-inflicted whiplash by the time lunch rolled around the next day. She constantly found herself snapping her head around to watch Claire every time the other woman so much as shifted in her chair as they worked. Unbeknownst to the pregnant woman, Daniel was due to come at any time now, and Sam was just a bundle of nerves waiting for it.
The two of them made a good amount of progress on the astronomical scrolls in spite of it all. Sam was confident that Claire could easily take things the rest of the way herself once the astrophysicist and her Jaffa friend had been returned to their own time. She couldn't help but smile. What people didn't know...
"What's so funny?" Claire asked, catching the lighthearted expression. She'd been amused by the mother hen act from her new friend, but was happy to see the other woman's focus shift elsewhere.
"I think the people I work with would find it amusing to know I've been working so closely with you on an archaeological find," Sam said honestly, knowing Claire would misinterpret why.
"The old hard/soft science debate in action, huh?" The brunette grinned. "I had a friend in college who had to deal with that. She was a chemistry major, and was helping me out with some preliminary carbon dating. The other members of the chemistry club were about ready to burn her at the stake for heresy." She laughed.
Sam joined her. "So how did your friend get herself out of that one?"
Claire's expression turned smug. "Following a suggestion of mine, she reminded them who was working as a TA for a professor they all had for a class that was a requirement for their majors. And that said professor really liked her and respected her opinion. They backed off."
The women were still laughing when Mel and Teal'c joined them moments later. "Do I want to know?" Mel asked, eyebrows raised.
"Oh, just sharing the tale of Jean and the chemistry club at Columbia," Claire explained.
"That was funny," the brown-haired man said, smiling in remembrance. "You were a genius."
"Were?" she asked in disbelief.
"Were, are, and always will be." Mel stepped over to his wife and wrapped his arms around her as best he could before kissing her thoroughly. "Now hurry up and eat. We have a chamber to open and explore," he said once he'd let her go.
The chatter was lighthearted throughout the meal, and once it was over everyone started to get ready to do some work down in the new chamber. "Oh, wait a minute," Mel said with a distracted look on his face before heading out of the tent, snatching the camera as he went. He came back a moment later, pulling in one of the European workers. "You're familiar with this kind of camera, right?" he asked his employee.
"Of course, Doctor Jackson," the man said with a smile. "All of you gather around the work bench."
"What? All of us?" Sam blurted out, surprised.
Claire laughed. "This is a wonderful idea, Mel. It'll be nice to have at least one picture of our new friends. Come on, Rose, Teal. We'll even make sure you each get a copy." She tried to wave the reluctant pair over.
The major shot Teal'c a panicked look. She didn't think leaving behind evidence of their presence in the past was the wisest of moves, even though Daniel had never mentioned recognizing either one of them. "I'm... not very comfortable with pictures," she said hesitantly.
"Oh, it's just one," Mel said, coming over to drag her over to where his wife sat waiting. Teal'c followed silently. "We want something to remember you by after you've gone."
Realizing any further protest would most likely hurt the Jacksons' feelings, Sam sighed and gave in to the inevitable. She was seated next to Claire, with Teal'c and Mel standing behind the two women. It wasn't long before the picture was taken and the worker was on his way.
"Now that that's done, let's get to that chamber!" Claire said excitedly, grabbing the pack she'd filled with reference materials and recording implements.
"Can't keep a pregnant woman waiting," Mel agreed with a grin, gesturing toward the open tent flaps. Sam and Teal'c grabbed their packs and followed the round, bouncing woman out into the desert heat.
Sam was just about to follow Claire down the ladder to reach the floor of the excavation site a short while later when one of the security guards called out. "Doctor Jackson! Can I speak with you for a moment? The little thief is acting up again."
Mel rolled his eyes and gestured for the two teammates to keep going. Once again, this man's timing was horrible. He knew there was no way to keep his wife from that chamber, especially now that she was right there above it, and the man who had earlier been truly trying to steal some of the artifacts that had been documented and catalogued with no outside influence whatsoever controlling his actions had to pick now to act up enough to worry his security force. They were competent, but Mel had left specific orders not to rough the man up before the authorities arrived to take him into custody. What happened after that, he couldn't control.
"What's he doing, Jamal?" Mel asked, resigned to the inevitable.
Sam reached the bottom at that point and missed the rest of the conversation. Looking around she saw Claire hurrying toward the shored-up entrance, excitement definitely lending her speed. "Claire! Wait up!" she called, running after her. The brunette merely gave her a smile and a wave before beginning down the stone stairs.
Teal'c caught up with Sam soon after, and the two of them hurried on, a matched feeling of dread growing in each of their stomachs. "Claire Jackson!" the Jaffa shouted as they reached the top of the surprisingly long set of stairs.
"I'm fine!" Claire's response echoed back to them.
A subtle rumbling combined with muffled cracks of wood sure to be coming from the beams used in the strengthening of the stairwell cut off any possible rejoinder. The big man flew down the steps, eliminating the distance between himself and the pregnant woman in no time at all. Sam wasn't too far behind. They converged together at the door that had closed off the underground chamber just as Claire pressed a small panel to the right of it, causing it to slide to the side.
It was just in time. The ceiling began to crumble down, rocks and splinters of wood raining on the three people at the room's entrance. Claire didn't even have time to gasp before Teal'c grabbed her and dove into the open space beyond the archway, Sam on their heels as well as an enormous amount of dust and rubble that quickly cut off the way they'd come. All three of them looked around swiftly, hoping that whatever had made the supposedly secure tunnel collapse wouldn't do the same to the chamber they now found themselves in.
When it was apparent they were safe for the moment, Sam got to her feet and hurried to check Claire over. The other woman had some more cuts and bruises to go with the ones she'd picked up two days previously, but they all seemed relatively minor. What worried the major more was Claire's rapid breathing and panicked expression. "Claire? What's wrong?" she asked gently.
"It was a set-up, I know it was. Someone was just waiting for me to come down here to bring all that down on me and my baby. Someone's trying to kill me and my baby!" The hazel eyes got even wider and her entire body was shaking.
"You have to calm down, Claire!" Sam cried, starting to get panicked herself.
"Calm down! How can you say that? Someone's trying to kill me! Someone's trying to kill my baby!"
Teal'c helped the scared woman to her feet, having cushioned as much of her landing as possible. "A baby which you will proceed to deliver in this chamber if you do not gain control of your emotions," he said firmly.
His words were like a slap in the face. Claire gasped. "You're right," she whispered. She squinted her eyes shut and pinched the bridge of her nose under her glasses which had somehow managed to stay on her face. "This whole situation is driving me crazy." Her hand fell back to her side and she opened her eyes. "Do you think there's any way out of here?"
"There has to be," Sam said positively. She actually had no idea, but she wasn't going to say anything that might set Claire off again. Yes, Daniel was supposed to be born sometime that day, but it wasn't going to be because of her.
"Perhaps there is something in the writings on the walls," Teal'c suggested.
Claire's eyes widened for a totally different reason this time. "Oh my God," she breathed. "This is incredible! The script and pictures are almost perfectly preserved." She wandered over to the nearest section of wall across from the landslide that filled the doorway. Her fingers lightly brushed over the carved symbols. "It's that language from outside the stairwell, the one I didn't recognize. It seems similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs, but it's not that at all."
Sam gave Teal'c a silent request for a translation. They went to the far side of the room, leaving Claire totally enthralled with her find. "The walls speak of a quest to uncover a weapon of mass destruction believed to be left here by a race that fled upon the arrival of the Goa'uld."
Blonde eyebrows lifted. "If this mysterious race fled instead of using the weapon, it can't be all that reliable. What good would it do anybody?"
"As we have seen in the past, tales such as this tend to merely be propaganda to espouse the all-knowing, all-powerful status of the false gods. This was most likely written for the benefit of the slaves and Jaffa working at the site, to remind them who and what they worked for."
"So there really could be a weapon of some sort here."
Teal'c inclined his head briefly. "Or a device that would be perceived as such."
A groan from where they had left Claire made them both turn around sharply. The woman was hunched over clasping her swollen abdomen. "I think... this time it's... the real thing," the brunette said, gasping. A strange odor and a growing puddle at her feet said louder than words that Claire's water had broken.
Sam and Teal'c rushed back to her side. "Okay, stay calm," the blonde said as she and the Jaffa helped her to the floor away from the damp stone, Sam's backpack becoming a cushion for the cringing woman's head. "Millions of women go through this all the time."
"Well, they're not here right now, are they?" Claire snapped. "God, this is happening so fast!"
"Sounds like the baby wants out and he wants out now," Sam quipped, ignoring the harsh question.
Teal'c pulled a blanket out of his pack and handed it to his teammate, who managed to get it under Claire without too many threats on her life. "You are confident you know what must be done?" he asked.
Sam shrugged as Claire began to lose herself in a crying jag. "After Argos I had Daniel teach me what he knew about midwifery. I never imagined I'd need to use that knowledge to deliver him!"
A gentle hand was placed on her shoulder. "You will be fine, Major Carter. I will assist you in any way I can."
"I know you will, Teal'c."
"Make it stop!" Claire cried.
Sam quickly soothed her, using water from her canteen to dampen a handkerchief to lay across the sobbing woman's forehead. "The little one will be here soon," she said after a quick examination. "Let's focus on that. Just remember that the pain won't matter once it's over and you're holding your child in your arms." That's what she'd been told anyway. Sam couldn't help but cross her fingers and hope it was true. She just might be in trouble if it wasn't.
Everything was over in an amazingly short amount of time. Two and a half hours later, Claire gave one final push and Sam found her hands full of one future galactic explorer. Even as she automatically cleared his airway and tied off his umbilical cord, her mind buzzed with the reality that she was holding her best friend in her arm, the child who would become the man she had finally realized she was in love with. Blue-grey eyes filled with tears as the baby cried.
"Rose?" Claire asked, tired and slightly worried. "Is everything okay? Is my baby okay?"
"What?" Sam asked, dragged back to reality even as the tiny person in the crook of her arm quieted down. "Oh!" She smiled at the new mother as Teal'c silently cleaned the newborn and wrapped him in a small blanket that had been a surprise find at the bottom of his pack. "Congratulations, Claire. It's a boy." She knelt down at the brunette's side and showed the new mommy the fruit of her efforts.
A trembling hand reached out and lightly brushed the tiny cheek. "He's beautiful," she whispered.
Sam brushed away a damp strand of hair from the other woman's forehead. "Just one last thing to accomplish then you can hold the baby until your arms fall off," she declared with a warm, almost impish smile. "We'll see if we can get him his first meal, too."
Another half hour brought about the end of the birthing cycle. Claire held her little one in her arms, the blanket from Sam's pack covering her, and Teal'c gripping the last blanket from Claire's pack with its bundle inside. "What in the world are we going to do with this?" Sam asked. "The floor and walls are stone so we can't bury it. And we don't know how long we're going to be stuck here so I don't think we just want to leave it lying around." Her nose scrunched with distaste at the smell and the thought of it getting worse as time went by.
"In the far corner," Claire said distractedly, her eyes glued to her baby. "That urn should be large enough to hold it and keep it out of the way."
"She's got a point," Sam agreed after spotting the pottery in question. She brought it over and, finding it surprisingly empty, had Teal'c deposit his package. The Jaffa seemed inordinately pleased to be rid of it. "Too bad we don't have any way of sealing it. We're still going to end up smelling it if we're down here too long."
"Check my pack," Claire said, again distractedly. She was just getting the new addition to take his first meal.
Sam started to dig through the random contents. "What am I looking for?"
Claire shifted a bit to get more comfortable. "Candles."
"Why do you carry candles?" Teal'c asked. "Do you not use flashlights for illumination?"
"You never know when your batteries are going to go out on you and you still need light. They're my back-up plan."
"Will this work, Major Grayson?"
Sam shrugged. "It'll be crude but effective. It's not like we're trying to seal this off for the rest of eternity. Just long enough for us to get out of here without having to smell it again."
Teal'c's expression was as eager as Sam had ever seen it when she pulled out the package of thin tapers. He helped her put the wax in place then returned the urn to the corner they'd found it in. "We should return to our search for an alternative exit," he said once he'd rejoined the ladies.
"I know, but I've got one question for Claire first." Sam smiled as Claire looked up at the mention of her name. "Have you decided on a name?"
"Not yet, but now that the little one's here I don't want to wait any longer. It should be something appropriate..." The nursing mother's voice trailed off as she considered it.
Both Sam and Teal'c wanted to tell her what they knew the result should be, but felt it best if Claire came to that conclusion on her own. The blonde major looked around at their surroundings, hoping to see something that would push the other woman in the right direction. She snickered as an idea occurred to her.
"What's so funny?" Claire asked, straightening her clothes now that her son was finished.
"I couldn't but help but think of a story from the Bible, with all the pictures of lions that are all over the place. Have you considered the Bible as a source for names?" Sam blinked innocently.
"Well, no. Neither Mel nor I are all that religious..." Hazel eyes grew wide and she looked around intently. "Lions... This place does make me think of a den..." She gazed at her son and smiled. "It's perfect. Absolutely perfect. Welcome to the world, Daniel Alexander Jackson." She kissed his forehead as he sighed, almost as though he were satisfied with his mother's choice.
Sam wanted to crow in triumph. She turned to look at Teal'c as a tremor shook the chamber. "What's going on?" she asked, worry suddenly foremost in her thoughts.
Teal'c's eyes darted back and forth warily. "I do not know, but I do not believe it is a good thing."
"No, it isn't," a voice the two teammates hadn't heard since this whole adventure began said urgently. "You must find the device the engravings speak of before the one who seeks Daniel finds him. He's especially vulnerable right now, and I'm not sure I'll be able to protect him."
"Where do we start looking," Sam asked, turning around with her friend to face Oma Desala. "This chamber isn't exactly small."
Oma pointed to the wall they'd been examining earlier. "You were so close. You'll find the passage through there."
Teal'c gazed over at Claire then back at the Ancient woman in confusion. "What has happened to Claire Jackson?" he asked, gesturing to the now-sleeping woman.
"She can't be allowed to remember this. It could change everything. When you reveal the passage one of you will have to take Daniel in with you. The creature will not be able to harm him once he's inside the room you'll find."
"Why is this device so important? Is that what will stop this creature once and for all?"
Oma locked gazes with Sam as Teal'c returned to the indicated wall. "It will allow me to finish what I've started, and in the process keep Daniel safe. That's all you need to know."
The grinding noise of a stone button being pressed barely could be heard over a renewed rumble from all around them. "I have found what we seek," Teal'c announced.
Sam and Oma looked over to see a panel of rock slide to the side to reveal a metal corridor softly lit by blue-tinted light. "Someone should probably stay with Claire," the blonde said, the hint of a room at the end of the hall peaking her curiosity.
"I will stay," Teal'c offered. "It would be best if you were to be the one to retrieve the device in any case, as your technical knowledge may be needed to operate it."
"If you're sure, Teal'c." The Jaffa nodded, and Sam went over and picked up baby Daniel, cradling him close. "We'll be back as soon as we can." Woman and child quickly disappeared down the hallway even as another tremor shook the room.
"You must hurry," Oma said, appearing suddenly as Sam reached the expansive room at the end of the corridor a few moments later. "He comes ever closer."
Sam took a deep breath and released it, looking around at the futuristic space, backlit panels almost randomly spaced along three of the walls, the fourth given over to a stark space that suggested banishment, separation. She looked down at the child she held. "Where do you think I might find the device, Daniel?" she asked softly after a pause she needed to get a startling wave of emotions under control.
Another close search of the room led Sam to the wall opposite the empty space. "What is this place?" she wondered aloud.
"A Hall of Justice," Oma answered unexpectedly. "Only Judicars are allowed to take action here, and that creature knows it. That is why you're safe here."
Sam nodded, glad for the explanation. Her eyes narrowed as she glanced over the script etched into the wall. "This is in the language of the Ancients. I can't read it." Her shoulders slumped and she leaned her face down to plant a soft kiss on the top of Daniel's blond fuzz-covered head. "I don't think randomly hitting buttons is going to accomplish anything either."
Oma came to stand to the blonde's left. "Close your eyes and let your instincts guide you. Let Daniel's instincts guide you."
The physicist shot her a look of disbelief then shrugged. Apparently Oma could do no more for her. It couldn't hurt. She did as she'd been told, stretching out her free right hand to drift back and forth across the wall, a fraction of an inch above the surface. She paused when she felt an odd tingling in her palm and opened her eyes. Her fingers were positioned over a lit green button on the right side of one of the central panels.
"What do you think, Daniel? Should I push it?"
Instinct and familiarity had caused Sam to ask the question, but they didn't prepare her for the response. For the first time that she'd seen, Daniel opened his dark blue eyes and appeared to be looking deep into her own. He then sighed and snuggled comfortably into her embrace.
Sam blinked. "I'll take that as a yes," she said breathlessly. Then she pushed the button.
A deep drawer just below the panel slid out, bumping Sam's hip and causing her to step aside to allow it to extend completely. Inside was a white and silver handheld device, sized and shaped almost exactly like a buckler. On the side facing the holder where a line of five buttons, each a different color. The green one at the right end of the line was blinking. She carefully removed the device and headed back the way she'd come, Oma nowhere to be seen.
Sam paused as she reached the portal to the hallway. "I think this might be my last chance to say this to you in person," she said to the child resting in the crook of her arm. "I have a feeling that as soon as I use this and stop the creature that's after you Oma's going to take Teal'c and me back to our time. So here goes." She took a fortifying deep breath and continued. "I love you, Daniel Jackson. Not just because you're a baby I can hold so close right now, but the wonderful, intelligent man you'll become. My best friend. My soul mate." She choked out a short bark of a laugh as her eyes filled with tears and her throat threatened to close. "I didn't even realize that last one until watching you ascend left my own soul raw and bleeding. Somehow I knew that all it would take is you coming back to heal it."
She paused to hold back a deep sob. "Anyway, I just want you to remember that. Somewhere in the back of your mind for all the years to come I want you to know that Samantha Carter loves you with all her heart and soul. You may have to remind me someday." Daniel looked at her one more time, and Sam smiled. "Now let's go put this baby to bed." She hurried down the hall.
The sight that awaited her made Sam's heart skip a beat. The pile of rubble that had followed her into the chamber when she'd first dove in had been forced even further into the room and was filling more and more of it even as she watched. Teal'c had Claire cradled in his arms as he dodged random fist-sized rocks that flew from the heap without a visible source. Every now and again the Jaffa was forced to turn his back and absorb the blow when he knew he couldn't get out of the way in time. As soon as her presence was made known by a startled gasp, the mini-mountain of stones rushed toward her like a tidal wave.
Sam only had time to close the door to the hallway with a right elbow to the panel Teal'c had used to open it in the first place before she was forced to jump toward her friend. Daniel grew stiff in her arm at the sudden motion, but by some miracle didn't start to cry. "Where is it?" she asked the only other person in the room who would answer. "Who's doing this?"
"The creature has not shown itself. The debris began to fill the room immediately following a flash of bright light from the room where you and Daniel Jackson had gone. I could only defend Claire Jackson from the flying rocks until your return with the device."
"Well, I've got it," Sam confirmed, briefly holding up the item in question. "But I don't know where to aim it."
Just then a disturbance in the air that was somehow tainted black flew straight at Sam's face. She let out a choked scream and ducked just in time. The device was brought up in response, but the thing had moved out of sight.
"Behind you, Major Carter!" Teal'c warned.
Sam spun around, arm holding the device still extended. Pure instinct had her thumb pressing the button on the end of the hand grip, causing a wide pulse of light to shoot out of the silver rectangle in the center of the shield. It just missed the creature, sending it off target. The thing disappeared again. "Why do I get the feeling we're not protected anymore?" Sam asked, a touch breathless. The thing had come close enough for her to sense that it was pure evil.
Teal'c's eyes were carefully scanning the room, waiting for the next attack. "Perhaps our benefactor cannot be revealed at this time. We were informed that we were the ones who would be able to take action."
Sam nodded. "Of course. We've had our warning."
Just then Daniel, who had amazingly enough stayed quiet, started to squirm, his eyes scrunching up and whimpers escaping his throat. When Sam looked down at him in concern, rocking him and muttering nervous sounds of comfort, those big blue eyes opened and shifted slightly toward the ground. Sam's eyes followed. That's when she saw the black-tinted distortion moving like a jellyfish through the water toward her feet. With a wordless yell she brought the device in her right hand around and fired, this time the bolt hitting true, the light rippling across the shapeless blob of energy and freezing it in place. The intermittent rumbling of the chamber stopped immediately.
There was only the sound of harsh breathing for a long moment. Then a flash of light heralded the arrival of Oma Desala. "You've done it," she said with a wide smile. "Now I can return with him and... continue where I left off."
"What about Daniel and his parents?" Sam asked, an inner warmth filling her as the child she held snuggled once again into her embrace. "What about their dig?"
"That will be taken care of so that the timeline is not affected. I will alter people's memories to account for your departure."
"Then I guess we should say goodbye," Sam whispered, looking down at little Daniel. She laid a gentle kiss on the top of his head. "Goodbye, Daniel," she said even more softly. "Thank you for giving me back my hope that I'll see you again. I mean, why go through all this trouble if I'm not, right?" Her brief laugh was marred slightly by a sob, but she still managed to smile and give the tiny form one more kiss.
Teal'c stepped over after laying Claire down carefully. His hand was gentle as it cupped Daniel's head. "Goodbye, my friend," he said quietly. "We did not have much time together here, but we now have the future. Be well until we meet again, Daniel Jackson." He smiled slightly as Daniel once again opened his eyes and looked up at him for a moment.
Oma sighed, knowing the pain these two would be returning to. "We must leave now. We can't take the chance of damaging the timeline." Sam swallowed and between herself and Teal'c managed to arrange Claire so she was once again holding her son. Then they stepped back over to the standing brunette. "Again, stand near me and close your eyes." A bright flash again filled the room once they had done so, and again it left behind no trace of anyone outside their appropriate time.
Sam opened her eyes and blinked down at the well-used book she held. Tears formed as she thought once again of its beloved owner. Why couldn't she have figured out how she truly felt about him before she lost him? Why did it take this loss for her to see it clearly?
The thought made her stop in her mental tracks for a moment as a feeling of deja vu overcame her. She'd been thinking that before, hadn't she? Before she came over to the table, before she... took down the book? When did she do that? Sam quickly put the book back on the shelf and turned to face the table. It didn't matter how many times she thought about it, it didn't change anything. She knew how she felt, and Daniel was gone. She could only hope she could hold herself together long enough to make it to her bedroom where she could cry herself to sleep like she had every night since Daniel's ascension. It was the only hope she felt she had left.
Teal'c blinked as he gazed into Daniel Jackson's office and saw Major Carter hesitate for a moment before replacing a book on its shelf. He knew she struggled to keep her emotions in check, knew how much it meant to her to be able to do so until she could be alone. He understood the battle for he fought it himself.
He was suddenly overwhelmed by the need for kel'no'reem, feeling battered and bruised, if not in body than in spirit. Major Carter would not appreciate a witness to her grief. He continued on silently back to his quarters, his own grief at battle with the pride he had in his friend for achieving what every Jaffa strived for. He had a feeling the grief would win.
And somewhere, sometime in the not too distant future, on some other higher plane of existence, an eternal battle was rejoined.
"Ha! What do you think of that, Carter?" Jack O'Neill said triumphantly, holding up the net he held in his left hand that contained the crappie Teal'c had just caught.
"It's a fish, sir." Sam's voice was emotionless.
"It seems rather small, Jack."
"It's a crappie, Daniel. They don't get much bigger."
"It's barely a foot and a half long." Annoyance was thick in Daniel's tone.
"Doesn't seem to have affected its thrashing ability."
"Oh, yeah, sorry about that, Carter. You too, Daniel. Maybe you two should go inside and change. The sun's setting and the temperature's going to drop." Jack gave the two soaked scientists a sheepish look. He'd been too thrilled with the catch to notice how close the struggle was to his other two friends.
Daniel looked at Jack like he'd grown a second head. "We're going to be outside that much longer?"
Jack returned the look with a blank one of his own. "Where else would you suggest grilling the fish once I've taught Teal'c how to clean it? Your bedroom?"
"It is not necessary to instruct me on how to clean the fish, O'Neill. The water in the lake appears to be quite clear."
Jack sighed as Sam and Daniel fought back snickers. "I mean preparing the fish, taking out all the parts people don't normally eat."
Teal'c inclined his head briefly. "I see."
Daniel schooled his face first. "Then we'll go change. Let us know when everything's ready."
"We'll bring out the rest of the food." Sam gave a little wave and took off for the cabin before her commanding officer could come up with a retort. Daniel was close behind.
It didn't take either scientist long to change, but Sam was a bit quicker and joined Daniel as he was finishing buttoning up his new, dry shirt. "You shouldn't leave your bedroom door open like this. Who knows what kind of strange woman could wander by and do who knows what to you?" She grinned.
He glanced over his shoulder and smiled. "Is that an offer?"
"Would you like it to be?"
Daniel snickered and turned around completely. "You do realize you just admitted to being strange, don't you?"
Sam's jaw dropped, about to throw out a quip, when she realized he was right. It stayed open for another long moment. "You snot!"
The snicker turned into full blown laughter. "I didn't say anything! You set yourself up!"
"Argh! You had to be right about that too!" Sam stepped into the room and shoved Daniel back onto his bed. "There," she said with satisfaction as the archaeologist lay there still laughing. "I feel better now."
"Yep, you were right," Daniel finally managed to gasp out. "I need to shut my bedroom door, or strange women are going to come in and push me around when they insult themselves."
"If you're lucky, I'll pretend I didn't hear that." Sam lifted her head haughtily as she turned it away from her recovering friend. She dropped the act when she saw an old, slightly battered shoebox on the dresser. "Hey, Daniel, what's that?" she asked, pointing at it. "I don't think that was here earlier."
Daniel sat up and looked at the item in question. "Oh, that. I pulled that out of my bag when I was looking for a dry shirt. I thought I'd look through it later before I went to bed."
Sam raised her eyebrows. "But what is it?"
The brown-haired man sighed. "When my parents died, a bunch of their things got shipped over to New York from Egypt, but they didn't arrive until after I'd been in the foster care system for over six months. My social worker made arrangements for a law firm to set things up for the storage of everything, a stipend from the estate covering the expenses. I had no idea this had happened until after I got back from Abydos. When General Hammond had me brought back to life so to speak, the government tracked down everything connected to me to let everyone concerned know that I was indeed alive and well and able to take care of any and all accounts. I'd been living at my first apartment for a couple months when I got a letter from this law firm telling me about the storage unit, that they'd lost track of me by the time I turned eighteen and hadn't known my whereabouts until the government contacted them."
"So if you didn't know about this law firm and the storage unit, how did the general's people know to get a hold of them?" Sam asked, moving over to the dresser and running a light finger along the cover of the shoebox.
"I guess they tracked down everything connected to my social security number. Or at least that's how things got explained to me when I asked. I'm figuring the law firm thought it was too much trouble to have done that in the first place to track me down originally."
Sam turned her head to look at her friend. "Why haven't we heard about this until now if you've known about it for almost as long as I've known you?"
Daniel sighed again and dropped his gaze to his lap. "I had everything moved to Colorado Springs, but I never went through it. I think I was afraid of the memories it would all call up, and I didn't want to face them." He looked up again. "But now, after this latest... incident..." He paused when he saw Sam flinch. "It wasn't you, Sam. I've always known that."
"You never should have been in that situation in the first place. And it used my knowledge of you to manipulate you. We won't go into what I think of you having to see my twisted face as your killer." Sam squeezed her eyes shut as she frowned.
"You're right, we won't. We already have. I never saw her as you. The replicator was never you to me. It was a situation totally out of everyone's control." He released an explosive breath. "I thought we talked about this. I don't blame you. I never will."
"It's just hard knowing, Daniel." She took a deep breath and released it slowly, regaining control of herself as she did it. "But you're right. It's over, and you're back. Nothing else is more important." She glanced at the shoebox again. "Do you know what's in here?"
Allowing the change of subject, Daniel nodded. "Pictures. I haven't looked through them, just a quick glance to confirm what was inside. I didn't want to miss the chance to relive the happy memories, especially after Catherine and... Jacob passed away."
Sam smiled sadly. "That makes sense. I may have to do that myself when we get home."
Daniel stood and joined her at the dresser, taking her into his arms. "I'm sorry I couldn't be here for you when it happened, Sam," he whispered. "But I'll be there if you need me when you air out the old memories."
The blonde woman returned the embrace wholeheartedly. "Thank you. I'll probably take you up on that." Tears welled up in her eyes like they always did of late when she thought of her father. "I miss him, Daniel. Selmac gave me a second chance at a real relationship with him, but there are times when I think it just wasn't long enough."
"That's perfectly natural," Daniel said gently into her hair as sobs began to shudder through her. "Nobody wants to say goodbye to someone they love. And I miss him too. He was a good man, to the very end. A good friend." She nodded and continued to silently cry.
A few minutes later, the tears trailed off, but Sam didn't leave Daniel's embrace. "Thank you," she whispered.
"For what, exactly?"
"For being here, for understanding... for coming back."
Daniel barely caught the last one. "I left once, and, while I managed to do some good things, all in all it wasn't where I belonged. And I had to break the rules to do those good things. Over a year ago I figured out here is where I belong, where I'm home. Everything fell into place for me. I'm not going anywhere as long as I have any say in the matter." He pulled back to look her in the eye and smiled. "You're stuck with me, Sam."
She smiled back. "I can think of worse fates."
Excitement lit Daniel's summer blues as realization dawned in his features. "Thinking of fates..." He gave her shoulders one last squeeze and went over to his bags. "I was reading another one of the books Catherine left me, and there was something interesting about the role of fate in various mythologies that might tie in to a few of the different cultures we've run into. Let me dig it out." He started to search his suitcase.
Sam couldn't help but chuckle. "Well, do you mind if I peek in your shoebox while you look?"
"Um..." Daniel started, his hunt halting abruptly as he straightened and looked at her. After a moment he smiled. "Sure, go ahead. If there's anybody I'd want to share those memories with, it's you, Sam." He went back to his luggage.
Sam blinked at the response, realizing right after she'd asked that it was asking a lot. Daniel hadn't even gone through them yet. But there was something in his eyes when he said yes... Blinking away the odd feeling, Sam took the box and went to sit on the bed. "They really loved each other, didn't they?" she said wistfully after she'd begun to sort through the stack.
"Yes, they did," Daniel said softly, his search slowing for a moment.
"It's wonderful that they obviously shared that with you."
"Yeah." The exploration came back up to speed, the smile quite apparent in the affirmation.
Sam continued to flip through the pictures as Daniel grumbled to himself. It was interesting to see little pieces of Daniel's childhood, the various exotic places he'd been and the unique foreign people he'd seen and lived with. No wonder it was so easy for him to see the people of other worlds as equals, as actual people worthy of respect. Not that anyone else on the team didn't, but every now and again everyone needed a little reminder.
Daniel released a loud explosion of breath. "Maybe I packed it in someone else's bag," he mused in frustration before going over to the dresser.
Sam laughed and reached in to the shoebox to grab more pictures. Her hand stilled before she even touched them at the sight of the photo on top of the stack. It was a black and white shot of four people inside a large tent, two women sitting at a table with two men standing behind them. One woman had her long darker hair pulled back into a ponytail, wore thin, round wire-framed glasses, and was obviously very pregnant. The man behind her had somewhat shaggy dark hair and wore thicker framed glasses. But it was the other two that captured Sam's attention. The man had dark skin, a clean-shaven scalp, and an almost regal bearing that didn't quite play down his huge musculature. And the woman seated in front of him had short light-colored hair, a lean, muscular build, and an almost panicked look in her eyes. Even after looking through all the pictures she had, that second pair was the more familiar of the two.
"Oh my God," she whispered. Memories began flooding back into her mind in a jumble, making her blink furiously and lean back on an outstretched arm for balance, the other hand coming up to splay against her forehead. "Oh my God."
"What is it?" Daniel asked, worried. He turned around sharply. "Sam, what's wrong?"
Sam was speechless as the archaeologist quickly sat down next to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Daniel," she gasped once she found her voice, "would it be possible for an Ancient to block all the memories of an event for almost three years?" She shook her head in irritation. "Of course it is," she answered herself crisply.
Daniel blinked. "What are you talking about?"
The blonde major straightened herself and took out the picture that started it all, handing it over to her friend. "I think this might start to answer your question."
"What the..." Daniel said, staring at the impossible. "Sam, this looks like you and Teal'c with my parents."
"I'm pretty sure it is."
Daniel stared at her for long moment, his mouth hanging slightly open. "How?" he asked finally. "When?"
Sam shook her head. "I don't remember everything. Well, actually I think I do, but it's all jumbled up right now, so nothing's very clear. I do know that it wasn't long after you'd ascended. I was in your office. They hadn't cleared it out yet, and I wanted..." She took a deep breath and released it. "I wanted to feel you again, to somehow be close to you again. Oma appeared out of nowhere and said you needed me. Teal'c had just happened to come by to check on me, and Oma took us both back to protect you from somebody who'd gone back in time to kill you before you ever made much of an impact on anyone."
Daniel nodded slowly. "Before I was born." He looked at the picture again. "Looks like you got to know them pretty well. They look happy to have their picture taken with you."
"It was their idea. I didn't want to leave any evidence that we'd been there, but it would have hurt their feelings to say no. And..." Sam sighed and looked away. "I remembered you had said that you never had many pictures of your parents. Since you never said anything about Teal'c and I looking familiar from one you did have, I decided it was worth the risk."
"Talking it out is helping straighten it all out for you, isn't it?" Daniel asked with a small smile.
"Amazingly enough, it is."
"So were you there when I was born?"
Sam considered it for a moment, then her eyes grew wide as they returned to Daniel's face. "Uh, you could say that. Daniel, have I ever thanked you for teaching me what that midwife from the Yucatan taught you?"
Daniel's jaw dropped. "You mean... you delivered me? What happened to the midwife my mom said they'd hired to come with them on their dig?"
"I get this feeling we were trapped somewhere away from everyone else. And I didn't do it alone. Teal'c helped."
"You know, I'm waiting for the Twilight Zone theme to start playing. Where was Jack during this whole thing?"
"He wasn't there. Oma didn't bring him."
Sam's eyebrows rose. "Daniel, think about it. You've heard from a lot of different people what he was like after you left. Do you really think he could have kept himself from tampering with the past if he'd come along?"
Daniel's forehead furrowed. "But you..."
"Would never have had the strength to tell him no for long, Daniel," Sam interrupted sadly. "I was grieving too."
"Oh, Sam," Daniel whispered, reaching out with his left hand to lightly brush her cheek. "I can never tell you enough how sorry I am that I had to leave. I never wanted to hurt any of you like that."
"You were just staying true to who you are, Daniel. I have no right to expect anything less." As she looked into the blue eyes staring steadily into her own, the feelings she'd felt at that time, the feelings she'd worked so hard to deny, the feelings she'd succeeded in convincing herself were for another man, began boiling once again through her veins. Tears threatened to overflow down her cheeks. "Everything's so confusing, Daniel. Remembering this has brought back feelings I thought I'd originally felt because I'd lost you. But now..."
Realization flared up in Daniel's expression and he smiled. "Sam, I know you're mixed-up right now. I don't want to do anything to make things worse for you. But I also want you to know that I came to a few realizations of my own when I descended and my memories came back. Whatever you decide, however you want our relationship to move forward, I'm willing to make it happen. Don't let any worries about me and what I want stand in your way of discovering what will truly make you happy."
The tears fell, and a choked sob escaped Sam's throat. "I couldn't ask for anyone better, could I? Thank you, Daniel. Thank you so much." Her eyes traveled over his features, finally settling on his lips. "I just want one thing. It just might make everything easier." She leaned over and brushed those lips with her own.
The kiss lingered, gentle and sweet, yet restrained. Daniel returned it, allowing Sam to take the lead on how far things would go. Finally they separated and sat back, their eyes immediately finding each other. "That was wonderful, Sam," Daniel whispered. "Did it help?"
Sam smiled at the hope Daniel tried to hide in his question. "It's given me a lot to think about. But I don't want to rush into anything. I want to be sure. It's the only thing that would be fair to you. No matter what, we'll still be friends, right?"
"Of course, Sam. You never had to ask." He brushed his hand once again across her cheek. "Now I think we should go back out there, or Jack's going to send out a search party. He's got to be driving Teal'c crazy by now."
"No doubt," Sam agreed with a laugh. "Let's go join the rest of our friends."
"Let's. And Sam," Daniel said as they reached the door of the bedroom, "thanks for being there for me when I needed you, when my parents and I needed you. We'll talk about it again when everything's settled in your mind, have Teal'c join us, too."
"I'm looking forward to it, Daniel. Now let's go."
And the two of them went back out into the Minnesota night, and the promise of a wonderful time with their friends.