Well, here it is, the final chapter and epilogue for this fanfic and the What You Already Know series. A very big thank you for all the reviews and to all of you have faithfully followed me on this long journey. At the end of the epilogue you'll find some facts and figures on this very long tale.
Oh, by the way, I chose this day to post the finale because it's my birthday. :-)
At 3:30 the next afternoon, Daniel and Teal'c stepped through the Stargate on Dakara. The archeologist was stunned by the sight that met his eyes. Thousands of Jaffa stood all around the gate. He hadn't expected this many.
What happened next really did not make Daniel happy. Every single one of the Jaffa that he could see crossed their arm over their chest and deeply bowed their head.
One of the Jaffa stepped forward. "It is a great honor that you have come, Dan'yar," he said, his tone one of quiet reverence.
"What's your name?" Daniel asked.
"I am Akdar."
"I'm honored to meet you, Akdar, but I am not Dan'yar anymore. My name is Daniel." He held out his hand to the man.
Akdar hesitated, clearly uncertain, then he grasped Daniel's forearm, and the archeologist did the same.
The two members of SG-1 walked across the courtyard, the mass of Jaffa parting to let them pass. They ascended the stairs leading up to the structure that sat nestled against the mountain. Just beyond the four columns at the entrance they found many familiar faces, including Bra'tac, Ka'ter, Raknor, M'zel, Har'tec, and, to Teal'c's delight, Ry'ac, his young wife, Ka'ryn, and Ishta. Teal'c stepped forward and embraced his son.
"Ry'ac, I did not know that you would be here."
"We did not wish to miss it, Father. This is a glorious day for all Jaffa."
Bra'tac stepped up to them with a smile. "Come. The others await us."
The group went into the main chamber of the building. Around thirty Jaffa already stood waiting inside. Daniel's eyes went briefly to the darkened entrance of the room that held the control console for a weapon that no longer existed.
As everyone except Daniel, Teal'c and Bra'tac joined the others, Tolok stepped to the fore.
"For the first time in the history of our race, we stand here today as a free people," he said as he walked slowly around the room, looking at those assembled. "All of our brothers and sisters across the galaxy are slaves no more. Their masters, the Goa'uld, are gone and shall never return." He turned and stepped up to Teal'c and Bra'tac. "These two men have fought long and hard for this day, for a goal that, in the beginning, they were the only ones to have the courage and determination to pursue. If it had not been for their actions, I believe that this day may never have come." Tolok then moved to Daniel and placed a hand on his shoulder. "This man, though he is not Jaffa, has battled as fiercely for the destruction of the Goa'uld as any one of us here in this room. Because of his actions and the power he possesses, we have seen a complete end to the Goa'uld far sooner than any of us could have hoped or imagined."
Tolok took a small step back, facing all three men. "Brothers Bra'tac of Chulak and Teal'c of the Tau'ri, for your enduring courage, vision and strength of will that was instrumental in gaining our freedom from the Goa'uld, and Daniel Jackson of the Tau'ri, for your mighty power that dealt the final blow against the Goa'uld and prevented the destruction of all life in this galaxy, I hereby bestow upon you the highest honor any Jaffa can know." He began touching the head of his staff weapon to each of their shoulders, much like a ruler awarding a knighthood. "From this day forward, you shall be known as blood kin to all Jaffa!"
Daniel was stunned. He'd been expecting something, but not this.
The other Jaffa began to cheer. Tolok raised his hand to silence them. He and the others then knelt before Teal'c, Bra'tac and Daniel, which upset all three of them. They look at each other. Bra'tac then walked up to Tolok and, taking his arm, made him get to his feet.
"Brothers!" he called out, causing the rest of the Jaffa to rise. "From this day forward, no Jaffa shall bow before anyone and never again before a false god."
Tolok turned to the assembled Jaffa. "Hail, Brother Bra'tac! Hail, Brother Teal'c! Hail Brother Daniel Jackson!"
The other Jaffa let out a shout, and someone blew a horn. Teal'c and Bra'tac, fists laid over their hearts, turned to walk out, Bra'tac gently taking Daniel's arm to bring him along.
"Be proud, Teal'c," Bra'tac said. "Today we are free."
His former student smiled. "Indeed we are, old friend."
"Um, did either of you know that was going to happen?" Daniel asked.
"We did not," Bra'tac replied. "We knew only that the Jaffa wished to honor all three of us." He looked at the human. "You should be greatly honored, Daniel Jackson. In the entire history of our people, no member of another race has been declared blood kin to all Jaffa."
"I am, Bra'tac. It's the highest honor I've ever received. So . . . what now? Do I, uh, have to do anything?"
Bra'tac smiled. "No actions are necessary on your part, except to respect what has been given to you this day."
As the three men stepped out into the sunshine, a mighty shout arose from the throats of every Jaffa assembled in the courtyard below. They lifted their staff weapons skyward and repeated the hail that had been given inside. Though Teal'c and Bra'tac handled it well, Daniel was a little overwhelmed.
"Oh, boy," he murmured under his breath. Well, at least this was a lot better than having them all calling him a god. He could handle being considered blood kin to all Jaffa.
Ka'ter, Har'tec and Ry'ac came up to the three. Ka'ter gave Daniel an embrace, smiling happily.
"I have heard about what happened," Ry'ac said, eyes filled with wonder. "Those who witnessed it said that it was a glorious sight."
"Indeed it was," Bra'tac confirmed. "Never in all of my one hundred and forty years have I seen anything more glorious."
Har'tec smiled at Daniel. "And this is the man that I dared challenge to Joma Secu. If I had but known what you had the power to become, I would have offered my allegiance to you along with all other Jaffa."
"Like I said then, Har'tec, I didn't want your allegiance, just your friendship and your help as an ally," Daniel responded. "That hasn't changed."
Har'tec rested a hand on his shoulder. "This you have, my friend, for as long as we may live."
Teal'c saw Ishta and Ka'ryn coming toward them. Bra'tac noticed who Teal'c was looking at and smiled.
"You need not keep us company, Teal'c," he said to his former student. "I am sure there are some here you would like to speak to."
Smiling slightly, Teal'c bowed his head and excused himself, going to Ishta. Ka'ryn came up and put her arm around her husband's waist.
"Daniel Jackson, may I speak with you in private for a moment?" Ka'ter asked.
The two men began descending the steps.
"I must confess that, when I witnessed your ascension, I had doubts that I would ever have the opportunity to embrace you as a brother," Ka'ter said. "I believed that, surely, you would not forsake the power and immortality of ascension for the life of a mortal again, at least not by choice."
"My place is not among the Ascended, Ka'ter. It's with my people and everyone I view as friends and allies."
The green-eyed Jaffa glanced at him. "Teal'c told us much, that you ascended to a plane above the others and that your power was far greater than theirs. They attempted to stop your actions but failed."
Daniel nodded. "Some of them tried to stop my attack on Anubis' forces. When they failed, they pretty much gave up. They realized that they couldn't stop me unless all of them worked together."
The two men reached the bottom of the stairs and began walking across the courtyard. Daniel noticed that virtually every Jaffa they passed bowed his head and cross an arm over his chest. A few crossed both arms, which really bothered the archeologist since the only time he'd ever seen that was when Bra'tac and Teal'c saw Oma on Kheb.
"There is something you should know," Ka'ter said. "You have been given the honor of being named a brother to all Jaffa, but there are some who believe that you are much more."
Uh oh. This was not sounding good. "More as in what exactly?"
"Some believe that you are still ascended, that you are merely taking on human form temporarily for some purpose."
"It doesn't work that way, Ka'ter. Yes, an Ascended can become corporeal for short lengths of time, a few hours at most, but if they stay in that form for too long, they will descend."
"Even so, it is a belief held by quite a number."
"Okay, is that the worst of it or is there more?"
"Some among those who believe this feel that such a being as you became must surely be like a god, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-seeing."
'Crap,' Daniel cursed in his head. "Okay, first of all, though the Ascended are very powerful, they are notall-powerful. There are limits to what they can do. Even on that plane I ascended to there are limits. Second, I can tell you that the Ascended are not all-knowing or all-seeing."
"This I know, Daniel Jackson. I am not among the ones who have this belief."
"So, is this going to be a problem?"
"I do not believe so. The number of Jaffa who feel this way is small. However, there is a large number who still view you with great reverence, far more than being named blood kin to all Jaffa would deserve. That feeling of veneration remains even though they know that you have descended. They believe that, even as a human, your power is mighty, and, more than this, that you have the ability to ascend again at will."
Daniel's gaze instantly fell to the ground, but Ka'ter saw the look that had been on the archeologist's face. He halted abruptly, causing Daniel to stop as well.
"It is true?" the Jaffa asked in wonder. "You can ascend again?"
"I don't know that for sure, Ka'ter."
"But you believe it is possible."
Daniel sighed. "Yes."
Ka'ter gazed at him in amazement. "Then you will never die."
"No, that's not true, Ka'ter. Though it is possible that I can ascend again, that doesn't mean that, if I received a fatal injury, I'd ascend before I died. When I ascended this second time, it took a conscious effort on my part. I consciously made myself ascend. If I was suddenly killed, there would be no time to do that."
"But if your death was not immediate, you could ascend before you died."
"If I was conscious, maybe. I don't know, and I hope I never have to find out, or at least not until I'm really, really old. I intend to stay human for as long as I possibly can."
The two men resumed walking.
"I was not anticipating this," Ka'ter said. "I had assumed that you would tell me this second ascension was your last, that you could never do it again. I intended to pass on that information to others."
"Okay, so you couldn't do that without lying, but that doesn't mean that you have to tell them they may be right about me."
"No, of course. I will speak of this to no one."
"So, what does this mean, that so many Jaffa feel that way about me?"
"It may mean nothing. Now that the Goa'uld are gone and we will be setting up our own government, our own leaders, how the Jaffa look upon you should have no effect to our future as a people. It is doubtful that a religion will be created with you as its deity."
"God, I hope not," Daniel said fervently.
Smiling, Ka'ter continued. "I just believed that you should know about this so that, if you encounter any Jaffa in the future, you will be prepared."
"Thanks for the warning. It is definitely better to know about something like this ahead of time."
The two men turned and began retracing their steps.
"Ka'ter, there is actually something I'd like to ask you personally," Daniel said.
"I've really appreciated the things you've done, the ways that you've helped me, and, at times, defended me. I think of you as a good friend."
"I think of you as a good friend as well, Daniel Jackson," Ka'ter responded softly.
"Samantha Carter and I are getting married, and I would like you to attend the wedding."
Clearly deeply touched by the invitation, Ka'ter stopped and clapped a hand on Daniel's shoulder. "My heartfelt congratulations, Daniel Jackson. It would be a great honor to be present at the ceremony. Thank you."
Daniel smiled. "I'll leave word for you here on Dakara before the wedding takes place so that you can get to Earth in time."
Around an hour later, Daniel, Bra'tac and Teal'c headed for the Stargate. On the way, Daniel gave an invitation to the wedding to the Master Jaffa.
Grinning, Bra'tac said, "This is, indeed, good news, my young friend. You and Colonel Carter are a good match. I would be pleased to attend your union."
"I will return to Earth in four days," Teal'c told Daniel once they'd reached the gate.
"Okay. Just don't be late. Cassie's party starts at three."
"I will return on time."
"There is something you and the Tau'ri must know," Bra'tac said to Daniel. "It has been decided by all the Jaffa that, before each Primta reaches maturation, it will be removed and killed and the Jaffa that carried it will begin using Tretonin. Many Jaffa have already said that they no longer wish to carry a Goa'uld in their bodies and want to remove it as soon as possible."
"I'm glad to hear that," Daniel responded.
"When the last Primta is gone, our bondage to the Goa'uld will truly be at an end for all time," said Teal'c.
Saying goodbye to the two Jaffa, Daniel dialed Earth and sent the I.D.C. code. Then he walked up the steps and entered the wormhole that would take him home.
"So, how did it go with Joe's wife?" Daniel asked Jack that evening after the general had returned from Indiana.
"Well, at first, she thought that I was some guy Joe had somehow talked into telling her all that stuff was true."
"How did you convince her otherwise?"
"I showed her photos of the gate and some of the planets we've been to, the ones that are way too alien-looking to be somewhere on Earth. She knew that it would have been way too elaborate a ruse for Joe to manage."
"So, how'd she take it, knowing all that stuff was real?"
"Oh, she burst into tears and started hugging the stuffing out of Joe, telling him over and over again that she was sorry."
Daniel smiled. "I bet that made him happy."
"Oh, yeah. I managed to squeeze in getting her signature on the nondisclosure statement between the hugging and kissing. She was quite delighted when she found out that there would be no more visions."
"So, what now? He lost his business, and none of his friends or former customers are going to know that it was all real."
"I offered him a job."
"Uh huh. Base barber. Part-time, of course. There aren't enough heads here to keep him busy forty hours a week. I figured he could set up a barber shop in town that caters to the military. He'll have to learn how to do a proper military buzz cut, of course."
"Did he accept?" Daniel asked.
"Are you kidding? As base barber, he'll have clearance to hear all about the missions. He'll be in heaven. His wife wasn't so easy to convince. Colorado Springs is a lot bigger than the town they live in. But she decided that a fresh start would be good for the family. I'm sure that once she takes in all the shopping opportunities here and in Denver, she'll adapt quite nicely."
"Good. I'm glad it's going to work out for them."
Jack's expression grew serious. "How's Jacob?"
"Coping. It's going to take a while for him to adapt to not having Selmak. Sam's spending as much time as she can with him. She understands what he's going through. After Jolinar gave her life for Sam, she went through that period of depression."
"Yes, but she was a host for just a short time, not all the years Jacob was."
Daniel sighed. "Yeah. It's rough."
"Well, Jacob's a tough old bird. He'll be fine."
Daniel nodded. "General Hammond called to give his condolences."
"Yeah, well, he's not the only one who called. About five minutes after I got back to base, I found out that while you and I were both gone, a couple members of the Tok'ra High Council came through. Though they didn't exactly say so, I'm guessing that they don't like the idea of a man who has all that Tok'ra knowledge staying here on Earth where he can share every little bit of it with us. They wanted him to come back and live as, and I quote, 'an honored guest' of the Tok'ra."
Daniel stared at him. "You're joking."
"Oh, no. I'm quite serious. Talk about balls. How they thought that Jacob would actually agree is beyond me. I gotta tell you, Daniel. I really wish I'd waited a day to go to Indiana, because I'd have given my eye teeth to see what happened next."
"Carter ripping them a new one. From what I understand, she just about peeled the paint off the gate room walls. The Tok'ra hightailed it back through the gate with their tails tucked between their legs."
Daniel started grinning, wishing he'd been there to witness that. He wondered why Sam hadn't told him about it. Perhaps she was embarrassed about her reaction.
Jack was also grinning. "Wanna see the tape?"
"There's a tape?"
"Uh huh. All the stuff that goes on in the gate room is taped. I was thinking we could make a big tub of popcorn, invite Teal'c and Jacob over. Not Carter, though. She'd be horrified."
"Sure. It'll have to wait until after Cassie's party, though."
"Of course." Jack shook his head. "Our little girl's goin' off to college. It's hard to believe, isn't it."
"Yes, it is. Sometimes, it seems like it was just yesterday that we found her. Other times. . . ."
"It seems like forever?"
Daniel nodded. "A lot has happened in those years."
"More than seems possible sometimes." Jack searched Daniel's face. "Any regrets?"
"Oh, Jack. If you only knew. There are too many to name."
The general looked at him sympathetically. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I just figured that, considering how it's all turned out, those regrets might not be so big anymore."
Daniel stared at the top of Jack's desk. "Some aren't. I know that some of the things that happened ultimately resulted in good things. As much as I wish that Abydos hadn't been destroyed, if I hadn't been stopped from doing something about Anubis and had succeeded in preventing him from using the weapon, I probably wouldn't have descended. I'd still be ascended, then all of the things I've accomplished since coming back wouldn't have happened. And I wouldn't have Sam."
"Well, that alone makes a lot of stuff all right."
Daniel smiled softly. "Yes, it does." The smile faded. "We've all lost a lot over these years, but, in the end, it's all turned out all right, better than all right."
Jack rested a hand on his shoulder. "That it has, Daniel. That it has."
The next morning, Jack got a call from the president. Upon hanging up with the man, he called Daniel and Sam to his office.
"Hayes would like you to come to the White House," he announced.
"What for?" Daniel asked.
Jack looked at him. "Do you really have to ask, Daniel?"
The archeologist's gaze immediately dropped. "Oh."
Jack smiled at the reaction. Yes, poor Daniel was going to have to suffer through still more praise and expressions of gratitude.
"He'd have liked Teal'c to be there as well," he said, "but I explained that he was on Dakara taking care of important Jaffa business."
"What about you, sir?" Sam asked.
"Oh, he did extend the invitation to me, but since I really didn't do much of anything, I politely declined."
"Sir, if it hadn't been for you and the others still here, the Replicators would have gotten off the base."
Jack shook his head. "About all we did was make it a little bit tougher for them. Regardless, if they'd gotten out, they would have been disintegrated before they got even halfway down the mountain. Nope, I didn't save a thing. All the credit goes to you two, Jacob, Teal'c and the other Jaffa. Hayes did also give an invitation to Jacob, but I thought he might not feel up to it."
"I'll ask him, sir."
"So, when does the president want us to come?" Daniel asked.
"You'll be on a flight out in the morning. Oh, and, this time, you get to spend the night in the White House. Cool, huh?"
After leaving Jack's office, Sam went back to her father's quarters. She told him about the invitation to the White House.
Jacob smiled softly. "I'm glad, Sam. You and Daniel deserve the recognition."
"You do, too, Dad. That's why the president also invited you."
Jacob shook his head. "It's Selmak who really deserves it, Sammie. What I did I couldn't have done without him."
Sam grasped his hand, giving it a squeeze. He squeezed it back. Having her with him during this time had been a godsend. He felt closer to her now than he ever had in his life.
"So, how's Daniel taking the news that he's going to be heaped with even more praise?" he asked.
"Pretty much as you'd expect. At least he doesn't have to worry about the president giving him another Medal of Freedom."
Startled, Jacob started at her. "Another Medal of Freedom?"
"Oh, that's right. I never did tell you, did I? Daniel was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction early this year."
A big smile lit Jacob's face, the first truly happy one she'd seen there since Selmak's death.
"That is wonderful news, Sam. It's about time he was officially recognized for everything he's done for this planet."
She nodded. "I agree. If the Stargate Program ever goes public, I'm sure that Daniel will get the Congressional Gold Medal, too. President Hayes said he'd do everything in his power to see that happen."
There was a brief moment of silence, during which Sam looked at her father closely.
"How are you feeling today?" she asked.
Jacob gave her a soft smile. "Better, Sam. It still hurts, but what really helps is that I have Selmak's memories right up here," he tapped the side of his head, "and, in a way, that makes it feel like a part of him is still with me. He may be gone, but he will always be a part of me."
The next morning, Sam and Daniel were on the flight to Washington. Like before, they were met at the airport by a limo, which took them the rest of the way to the White House. Unlike last time, they weren't subjected to an intensive search.
Hayes shook their hands warmly as they entered the Oval Office.
"Doctor Jackson, Colonel Carter. What can I say? I can't think of a thing that would even come close to expressing the appreciation we all have for what you did. This time, we don't just have the salvation of Earth to thank you for, but the whole damn galaxy. It doesn't get any bigger than that, well, unless you manage to save the whole universe one of these days."
Sam smiled. "Thank you, sir."
"Come. Sit down," Hayes invited as he walked toward the seating area. "Would you like something to eat or drink?"
"Thank you, sir, but we had lunch on the plane," Daniel replied.
Everyone took seats.
Hayes relaxed into his chair. "So, tell me all about it. I've gotten copies of all the reports, but that's not the same as hearing it first-hand from the people who lived it."
Daniel and Sam recounted all the events on Dakara, then the archeologist went on to tell Hayes about what happened with Anubis and the rest Goa'uld, and the other actions he took, including in the Pegasus galaxy.
"I just realized that I was wrong," the president said. "You didn't save one galaxy, you saved two."
Daniel shifted uncomfortably in embarrassment. "I wouldn't say that I saved the whole Pegasus galaxy, sir."
"Well, I would, or at least you saved a major chunk of the human population there. You know, if I could get away with it, I'd give you another Medal of Freedom."
"Uh-uh, no, that's fine, sir," Daniel quickly stammered. "I don't need another one. Thanks anyway."
Hayes chuckled in amusement. "All right. I will, of course, be sending both of you official commendations, as well as ones to Teal'c, Jack and Jacob. However, I really would like to give you something extra to express my gratitude. Anything you want. Just name it."
Daniel was about to say that they didn't need anything when a thought suddenly occurred to him.
"Anything, sir?" he asked.
"Well, within reason, of course."
Daniel nodded and leaned forward. "There actually is something, Mister President, something that only you can give."
Cassie's party took place Friday evening at Janet's. Just a few of Cassie's closest friends were there, so Jack, Janet, and the three members of SG-1 didn't feel too terribly out of place. Daniel did, however, have a bit of trouble with one girl who seemed to want to hang around him all the time. Sam had finally put a stop to that by linking her arm with his and giving the girl a long look and making sure that she saw the engagement ring on Sam's finger. Unfortunately, Teal'c didn't have that advantage. One of the other girls quite admired all his muscles and made no secret of that fact.
"So, you all packed?" Sam asked the Cassie at one point.
"Uh huh. I really had to squish it all into my suitcases. How's your dad? Mom told me about what happened."
"He's doing all right, better every day. He plans on visiting my brother next weekend. He wants me and Daniel to come along so that Mark can meet my fiancé. Daniel's pretty nervous about that."
"Oh, your brother will love him. How could he not?"
Sam smiled. "That's what I said. It's just that Pete, my ex-boyfriend, is a good friend of Mark's, so Daniel's afraid there might be some hard feelings. I don't think there will be."
It was around two hours later that Jack called for everyone's attention. By then all the guests except SG-1 and himself had gone home.
"Cassie, seven years ago, you came into our lives," he said. "Since then, you've become a part of our hearts. We've watched you grow, all of us proud of your accomplishments. Now, you're starting a new chapter of your life, and we couldn't be prouder of you." Jack raised his glass of sparkling cider. "To Cassandra Fraiser, may the years to come be filled with joy, success, love . . . and a whole lot of fun."
The others lifted their glasses and toasted Cassie.
Daniel and Sam exchanged a look, then the archeologist got to his feet.
"There's something that Sam and I have to tell you," he said.
"You've set the date!" Cassie cried excitedly.
"Nope, better than that."
Janet stared at the astrophysicist. "Sam, are you pregnant?"
"No!" she cried, blushing brightly.
"This has nothing to do with us," Daniel said, his cheeks also a bit pink. "When we were at the White House, the president asked if there was anything he could do for us in appreciation of the things we'd done. There wasn't anything that we wanted for ourselves, but there was something that we wanted for someone else." Daniel pulled out an envelope from his pocket and handed it to Jack.
"What's this?" the general asked.
Jack opened the envelope and started to read. Soon, his eyes began to widen, his mouth falling open. He looked up at the archeologist.
His best friend smiled. "With his compliments, Jack . . . and ours."
"What is it?" Cassie asked, dying of curiosity.
Not answering, Jack handed the document to Janet, who gasped loudly upon seeing what it was, a hand covering her mouth.
"Mom?" Cassie inquired worriedly when she saw tears forming in her mother's eyes.
"I-it's a special dispensation," Janet said, a quiver in her voice.
Cassie frowned. "A special dispensation?"
"It means that your mom and General O'Neill have the president's permission to have a relationship, Cassie," Sam explained quietly, smiling. "It'll no longer be against regulations."
"Oh. My. God!" the teenager exclaimed at the top of her voice. She bounded out of her seat and threw her arms around Jack and Janet, nearly knocking them off the couch. The three witnesses started laughing, including Teal'c.
Once Cassie was finished with them, Janet and Jack rose to their feet and got Sam to stand up as well. The doctor then hugged the astrophysicist and Daniel tightly.
"How can we ever thank you?" she whispered.
"By being happy together," Sam replied.
Next, it was Jack's turn. He put a hand on each of their cheeks, shaking his head and laughing. Then he pulled them into a three-way hug.
They ordered some Chinese food to be delivered and all sat down to enjoy it. Daniel and Sam were pleased at seeing the frequent looks Jack and Janet gave each other. Of course, Cassie noticed, too, and smiled every time.
Daniel, Sam and Teal'c left after the meal. Janet walked with Jack out to his car shortly after the trio had gone.
"I still can't believe it," the general said.
"Neither can I. I can't believe they did that. How did they know about the thing between us? I know that Sam suspected I had feelings for you, but. . . ."
"Oh, Daniel's known for quite some time that I had a thing for you. In fact, he figured it out before I did. I asked him just before they left what made them do what they did. It turns out that he overheard what happened between us that night."
Janet's eyes widened. "He did?"
"Yep. He'd gone out the side door for some air and heard a big chunk of our conversation."
"Uh huh." Jack looked into Janet's eyes. "Janet Fraiser, I would be honored if you would go out on a date with me."
Janet smiled. "I would be delighted General O'Neill."
Jack shook his head. "Not General O'Neill." He pulled Janet into his arms. "Call me Jack," he murmured before lowering his lips to hers.
Jack, Janet, and the three members of SG-1 waved to Cassie a final time as she passed through the airport security checkpoint and then disappeared into the crowd. Janet wiped away a tear from her face, feeling Jack's arm go around her. She looked up at him, and he smiled down at her.
"So, Teal'c," Jack said as they all headed back through the airport to the exit. "Are you heading back to you-know-where?"
"I am, O'Neill. There is still much to be done. Talks have begun regarding our new government and the leaders we will appoint."
The general nodded. "I gotta ask you . . . are we going to lose you at the SGC?"
"I have yet to make my decisions on what path I will choose to take, O'Neill. My people are at last free, a goal that has been most dear to my heart, and I wish to take part in the journey that lies ahead of us. Yet, after so many years, all that I have here has also become dear to me. The decision to leave would not be made easily."
"Well, you know what I want," Jack said. "I want you to stay. But, if you decide to leave, I want you to know that you'll always have a home with us."
"Thank you, O'Neill."
They'd all come in Daniel's SUV, it being the car with the most room. The archeologist first dropped Jack and Janet off at her place, which was where Jack's car was, the general having gone there early to help with getting the nervous Cassie settled down and ready to go. Daniel and Sam then took Teal'c to the base. Back at Daniel's house, the couple fixed lunch.
"So, I guess we should start discussing the wedding date," Daniel said.
"Yes, we probably should."
He looked at Sam, grinning. "So, long engagement or short?"
She appeared to ponder the question for a while, then they both said at the same time, "Short." They laughed.
"How short?" Daniel asked.
"Hmm. Well, spring would be nice since we could have an outdoor wedding, but that's too far away."
Daniel's eyes twinkled. "Well, we are still having some nice days now."
Sam laughed a bit. "As much as it appeals to me to marry you in the next week or so, I don't think that will work out. Don't forget that there is more than one off-world guest who will be attending." Sam's gaze widened a bit. "Oh! We haven't told Catherine yet! I completely forgot."
"Well, let's come up with a date, then we'll call her. Hey, maybe I can ask a favor from Oma, and she can give us some warm weather for the wedding. She is Mother Nature, after all."
"And she does owe you one for helping her deal with Anubis."
"Just what I was thinking."
The lovers laughed again.
"I suppose we should give ourselves enough time to actually plan the thing," Sam decided. "So . . . around three or four months?"
"Yeah, that sounds good. That would put it in December or January."
They got a calendar and took a look at the dates, discussing which one they thought would work best. They agreed that it should be after Christmas, but they wanted to make it easy for Cassie to attend, so they decided to make it on Saturday, January 1st, New Year's Day, that date having the added benefit that all of the civilians and a greater number of the military personnel on base would have the day off.
"Hopefully, not too many people will have hangovers from the New Year's Eve parties," Daniel remarked.
"Yes, well, I think that you and I will be skipping the parties that New Year's Eve."
They got on the phone and called Catherine. The woman was almost speechless with joy when they told her the news. In fact, she started crying right there on the phone.
"You have made me so happy," she said. "I only wish that Ernest was still alive to share my happiness."
"Us too, Catherine," Daniel said softly. "We've got a lot of other happy news as well, but it would be best to tell you most of it in person. Maybe we can come for a visit one of these days."
"That would be lovely."
"There is one thing we can tell you now, though."
They told the woman about Jack and Janet, which delighted the woman all over again.
"Please given them my congratulations," she said.
Daniel and Sam chatted with the woman a bit longer, then said goodbye. Daniel's refrigerator had not been stocked with fresh food since his return, so Sam decided to go do some grocery shopping for both him and herself.
"Although I don't know why I bother to stock food at my place," she said. "I'm here three-quarters of the week."
"Yes, the neighbors probably think we're already married. Do you want me to come with you?"
"Nope, you can get busy pulling some of those things out of the fridge that no longer bear much resemblance to food."
Daniel made a face. "Thanks for leaving that job to me."
Sam gave him a quick kiss. "Hey, it is your refrigerator."
Daniel pulled her to him. "For now. But, soon, it'll be both of ours."
Giving him another kiss, Sam went off to the store. With a sigh, Daniel headed for the kitchen.
He never arrived at his destination.
In the next instant, Daniel found himself not in his house, but in a place that looked exactly like Abydos. Shocked, he turned around and saw something that both stunned and delighted him. Before him stood a great crowd of Abydonians, Skaara and Kasuf standing at the front. The elder of the two smiled.
"My good son. It is with great joy that I greet you."
Daniel came forward. Unsure if he could touch them, he hesitated, so it was Skaara and his father who covered the remaining distance, wrapping Daniel in a big hug.
"I didn't think I'd ever see you again," Daniel said.
"We would have come to you long ago," Skaara said, "but the Others would not let us."
"So why now?"
"Because much has changed."
"You are now great in the eyes of many of the Ascended," Kasuf said. "You, a human, has lifted himself up to a place above all of their kind and can do so again by wishing it so."
"Then I can ascend again."
"Yes. You have the power to cross that barrier again, become one of us. There are some who would wish you to do so now and remain." Kasuf smiled. "But we who know you best know that it is not your time to be with us. That day will come, but not for many years." The man laid a hand on Daniel's shoulder. "Good Son, I must tell you that I rejoice in your upcoming union with the golden-haired woman whom you love. Sha're would be most pleased."
Daniel's chest tightened. "Thank you, Good Father. It means a lot to me that you feel that way. I wish that you could be at the wedding."
"We will be, my brother," Skaara said with a smile.
"There is something you must know, Good Son," Kasuf said, "but we will let another tell you." He nodded his head to the right. Daniel turned to see Oma walking toward him.
"Hello, Daniel," she said with a smile.
"What is Kasuf talking about?"
"I once told you that you must be the teacher instead of the student."
"I remember. I didn't know what you meant."
"You have taught your lessons well."
"Um . . . I have?"
"For many eons of time, the Ascended have lived under the rule that we must not interfere with the lives of those who are not ascended. The reasons for that rule are many. Some you have already guessed, others remain hidden from you. Among the reasons was the fear that, if we allowed ourselves to use our power to change things, in time, the power would lead us down the path of darkness. We had good reason to fear this." Oma touched his cheek very much like she did on that first day they met so long ago. "But then you came, Daniel, a human whose spirit was pure and good, who could find enlightenment and be one of us if he only understood that he was worthy. I helped guide you that day you first ascended, but you could have found your way to us without my help if you had but known it was possible and felt in your heart that you were deserving of it. You were not meant to remain one of us then. Your destiny was to take another path, a greater one."
Oma smiled at him. "During this time that you have had your power, we have watched you, seen your struggles, your triumphs and failures. We witnessed how the power did not corrupt you, that you remained true to the goodness within you. A lesson we learned. And then you found the ultimate power that dwelled inside you and became greater than us. You used that power to destroy a great evil. Yet, even in that act, you showed mercy to ones whom you had reason to hate and did not kill them. You then turned your power upon another evil, and, again, you chose to preserve life instead of taking it. Another lesson was learned. You could have chosen to remain Ascended and used your power to do anything your heart desired. You were right that we could not have stopped you unless all of us acted as one. You could have made yourself a god in the eyes of many, had all the riches of the universe. Yet, instead, you chose to lower yourself back to a mortal human for the sake of love and because you had the wisdom to know yourself truly. And a third lesson we learned."
"Oma, what are you saying?" Daniel asked.
"You have been our teacher, Daniel. You have shown us that power does not always corrupt, not even absolute power. Most of us, though they understood the lesson, will continue as before, for, even though they see the truth you placed before us, their minds are set upon their present path. But others, those who already questioned the way of things, are finding new courage to seek another path for the Ascended. None of us will be silent any longer, keeping our thoughts in secret."
Daniel felt something inside him tighten. "Oma, are you talking about a rebellion?"
"Rebellion is an act of defiance, to defy that which is. Some rebellions are small things, whereas others can change the course of history. I cannot say what your lessons will lead to, only that you have shown some of us that we need not fear the path that we have long looked at but that most of us have not tread upon."
Behind Oma, other figures began appearing, first, by twos and threes, then by dozens. Among them Daniel recognized the faces of Shifu and Orlin. Soon, Daniel could no longer hope to keep count. His mind reeling, he watched as they all inclined their heads, a gesture of acknowledgment and approval.
Oma smiled again. "Farewell for now, Daniel. There will come a time when we will meet again."
Before Daniel could say anything, he found himself back in his house.
When Sam returned, she found Daniel sitting on the couch, staring at nothing, a dazed look on his face.
"Daniel, what's wrong?" she asked, sitting beside him. He told her what happened.
"Holy Hannah," was Sam's response. "Do you really think that Oma was saying there was going to be a rebellion among the Ascended?"
"I don't know. Maybe it won't actually come to that. I hope not. A war between the Ascended would be a really bad thing."
"You're not kidding!"
"It could be that more of them are going to begin doing what Oma does, help people to reach ascension. And perhaps they'll start helping us 'lowers' in other ways, too. Nothing big, nothing that would affect an entire civilization, just little things. If a large enough number of them start doing that, what are the other Ascended going to do about it? They couldn't punish them all."
"No, I guess they couldn't." Sam smiled. "So, how does it feel to know that you were the teacher for such a prestigious class?"
"Overwhelming. I have to wonder what it's going to lead to." Daniel turned to her. "Sam, there are some things that Kasuf said that I've been thinking about. First of all, he confirmed that I can ascend again."
"He did? Well, I can't say that I'm surprised. I had a feeling that you could. It made sense that if you could do it once, you could do it again."
"Yes, but I have to wonder. How many times could a human body ascend, then descend before there was a problem? No one has ever ascended more than twice, and I don't think anyone besides me has descendedtwice. If I did ascended again, would I be all right when I came back? Every time I descend, I'm basically recreating my body from a . . . a genetic blueprint in my mind. There has to be a limit to how many times I could do that before something went wrong."
"I suppose you're right. Since no one's ever done it before, we can't know what the ramifications would be to multiple ascensions and descensions."
Daniel nodded. "And there's the flip side of the coin, too. I can't say that if I attempted to ascended again, I wouldn't screw up and not make it all the way, get stuck halfway like what happened to Anubis."
That made Sam shudder.
"So, I think that it would be best if we thought of it as an option only under extreme circumstances," Daniel said, "when there really is no other choice."
Sam nodded. "I agree."
Daniel took her hand. "There is something else Kasuf said. He told me that it was not yet my time to be one of them permanently. He said that day would come, but not for many years." He looked into her eyes. "Sam, as a human, I'm not ageless. I'll grow old just like the rest of us, and there will come a day when I'll die. When that time comes, I won't hold off until it's too late. I will ascend," he caressed her cheek, "and I'll bring you with me. Then we'll have forever together."
Sam smiled. "Forever."
Whistling a happy tune, Jack walked out of the house and looked up at the blue sky. Ah, another beautiful morning in sunny Colorado Springs.
Jack had good reason to be happy. Last night, he and Janet had their first date, and it had been fantastic. They'd talked for hours, something Jack had never thought he'd enjoy. He'd learned a lot of things about the SGC's chief medical officer that he'd never have guessed, such as the delightful fact that she enjoyed fishing and camping. She also didn't mind sports, and Jack figured that he could turn her into a hockey fan with just a little effort.
The general got into his car and stuck the key in the ignition, but when he turned it, nothing happened; the car didn't start. Frowning, he tried again with the same results. Did he have a dead battery? His mood no longer quite so cheerful, Jack pulled the hood release and got out. As he lifted the hood, his jaw dropped.
"What the hell?!" he exclaimed. "Oh, this is too much!"
Striding angrily back indoors, he went to the phone and called the police, staring out his kitchen window fiercely.
The moment the call connected, he barked into the receiver, "Yes, I'd like to report a . . . stolen. . . ."
Jack's voice faded into silence, his wandering gaze having fallen upon something in his backyard. Eyes widening, he gaped at the sight before him.
"Uhhhh . . . never mind," he said into the phone, then hung up.
Jack went out into his backyard, eyes remaining upon something he'd never in a million years have imagined he'd see. There, sitting nestled high up in one of the boughs of his oak tree, was the missing engine from his jeep. There could be only one explanation for this. Daniel had at last gotten his revenge.
"I am so going to get you for this, Daniel!"
A moment later, General Jack O'Neill began to laugh. He laughed until his sides ached, until tears came to his eyes. Still laughing, he went back in the house, thinking that life couldn't get much better than it was right now. The Replicators and the Goa'uld were gone, two of his best friends would soon be marrying, the Asgard had been saved from extinction, and the Wraith would soon no longer be a problem. On top of all that, Jack had taken the first step in what he hoped would be a new life with a woman he'd fallen completely in love with. Yes, it was a glorious day indeed.
Jack grinned wickedly. "But your ass is still toast, Daniel."
Watch for the upcoming sequel "What You Do Not Know".
Well, there it is, folks, the end of this story . . . at least until I get started on the sequel. Wow. It's almost hard to believe that it's all done.
For those of you who are interested, the total length of this series is over 700,000 words (over 598,000 for the Gen version). The Ship version is around 240,000 words longer than War and Peace, making it half again as long as that novel's approximately 460,000 words. On the world's longest novels list in Wikipedia (which includes multi-volume stories), the Ship version would rank No. 10 for novels written in the Latin or Cyrillic alphabets (Gen version would be No. 14). I do not know how complete that list is, and, of course, it does not include other fan fiction novels. There are likely other fanfic stories out there somewhere that are even longer than this series.
Thanks again to all my readers.