Highlander-Stargate XOver, Daniel Jackson remembers some advice his old college roommate, Adam, once gave him.
AN1: For some reason I have discovered in my head half a dozen or so plot bunnies that get Methos involved with the SGC in some way or another, as ally or enemy or just someone really annoying sitting back and mocking their struggles. This was the shortest smallest plot bunny that's sort of me testing the waters of this crossover universe. I hope you enjoy.
AN2: And, of course, I own neither Stargate nor Highlander nor anything much else. Don't sue.
"I'm sorry, Daniel. Even without a body, they're sure he's dead. I asked around to learn more about the circumstances. He'd been drinking heavily all that evening and then apparently decided to go for a walk, right before the sandstorm hit. The tour guide was apologetic but pretty much everyone agreed that, well," Sam looked nervously around trying to think of a way to soften the revelation, "even without a note, it was probably intentional."
He actually laughed at that. Of course it had been intentional. At least the start of it had been. The death certificate, certainly. But the sandstorm? Had that been part of the plan or just an extra?
He bit back the laughter before it could turn to tears or make Sam nervous enough to call for help. She was trying to look sympathetic and he didn't even know if he needed the sympathy. If Adam had died in a car accident, had left a body to be buried, then he'd know for sure. But this, wandered out into the desert and never found? That was a sign.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Daniel laughed again. He did want to talk about it, quite desperately, he just wasn't sure if he should. Adam had been something else.
"I don't even know how to explain him. I certainly didn't at the time. But he was my roommate for three years of college. There I was, fifteen, could speak twelve languages and couldn't always remember how to stick to just one. And the only thing I was interested in was the distant past and how to learn more about it. And he was this laid back, cool poli-sci major. He thought everything was funny, stayed up late drinking beer, and thought the past was boring. Archeology was looking at the dregs of dead people, he said. But he always listened to me. With beer in hand, of course."
"Hey Daniel. He sounds like my kind of guy." Jack stood in the doorway and looked uncomfortable as he tried to figure out what to do now. How to offer sympathy for the death of his friend. No, not the death, the loss. The loss of his friend. When Daniel had gotten the notification, he had asked Sam to look into it for him. To go through the red tape to try to find the specifics. She must have given Jack the heads-up and here he was.
"Sorry for your loss."
"Yeah, yeah." He waved it off, because hell, what else did he do when he lost somebody important to him and someone at the SGC offered him sympathy? "It's not like I had any regular contact with him."
"Did he desert you after that lecture?"
Ah, apparently that had struck at Jack's sense of loyalty. Almost amused, Daniel said, "No, no. We were just both busy. He had gotten a classified job in France and I was too poor and obsessed with aliens to visit him. But I did send him the written form of my lecture before I gave it. Asked him to look it over for me. No one else would take me seriously. But he never took my theories of history any more or less seriously than any others."
"And did he give you good advice, Daniel Jackson?"
Hail, hail, the gangs all here. Teal'c as well.
"Excellent advise. I just didn't take it. He was always so disconnected from the world when I wanted to change it. I wanted to set the world on fire and he just sat back with his beer and told me not to burn myself up in my own conflagration." Daniel brooded for a bit on that old piece of advice given to him so many times over the years of their friendship.
Adam had told him, time and again, 'People who set the world on fire get burned, Daniel. And burning is a nasty way to die.'
"He told me to introduce the lecture as a joke. He told me that the only way to get the knowledge out there was to put my audience in a position of having to prove it themselves. He even drafted an introduction for me. All about how I had set out to see what the actual evidence was for and against a headline article in the National Inquirer, how it had been an amusing experience to hone my research skills and test the scientific method in archeology and how I challenged any of them to find fault in my arguments or my evidence that aliens had built the pyramids. As I look back, I realize it would have gotten their attention. A challenge like that would have sparked interest in undergrads and professors alike around the world. But I was the archeologist wonder-boy and I wanted to shine, I wanted to turn the world upside down and I wanted to do it today. So I gave my talk as a serious talk and nobody even looked at the evidence."
"Except for us. We looked."
"Yeah. You looked. No, no, you didn't. You already had your own evidence, your own proof. You didn't need to look at mine."
"His advice showed sound tactics." It was Teal'c who refocused his attention on his dead friend rather than his own sorry life history. Teal'c knew how a proper memorial went. Teal'c was a good guy. Daniel wondered what Adam would have thought of him.
"Yeah, his advice was always good." Daniel paused as he thought about one of Adam's last pieces of advise before he had left for his new job. It had been about joining organizations that require oaths of loyalty. The kind of oaths backed up with threats of death or imprisonment. The night Adam had given him that advise had also been the only time that Daniel had ever seen him truly drunk. There had been enough hard liquor bottles to kill off an entire fraternity.
Daniel spoke to prevent his friends from asking what he was thinking, "He even kept me sober through college. Every time I came in contact with any alcohol it went down his throat rather than mine. God, that man could and did drink like a fish." Then he realized that Sam probably knew how much Adam had drunk before that last walk of his out into the Sahara. If he kept stressing Adam's drinking, for all that it was astonishing, she would realize that there was no way that Adam had been drunk enough to do anything unintentional.
He hurried on, "Adam convinced his roommate to change places with me halfway through my freshman year. It was pretty clear it was a pity move but I was grateful. I don't know what he offered because I was in a four-person room and he and Adam had a two-room suite, but it was a lifesaver. Maybe my three original roommates offered a bribe as well. Because I was young and awkward and was periodically code switching."
"Code switching? I do not know that term, Daniel Jackson."
"Oh," Daniel blinked, trying to clear his thoughts from the many memories and trains of thoughts that had hidden under his babble. "It's when you use words and grammar from multiple languages all at the same time, more or less. Sometimes it just means switching languages every other sentence or so, more often it means using the words from one language with the grammar from another, or some more intimate combination of languages. But when you speak twelve languages, eleven of which your roommates don't know and you keep on forgetting that, they can get really annoyed."
"But this Adam did not. He sounds like a compassionate and understanding man."
"I don't know about compassionate, but understanding is just about right. He spoke every language I did and more. He could understand me even when I was code switching between them and half-hysterical from nightmares."
"Um, Daniel, if he knows all of these languages, and he's friend of yours, why didn't you bring him in here? To the SGC?"
"He had a job." Daniel blinked up at Jack, rather surprised at the question.
"A job as important as saving the world?" Okay, phrased that way, Jack might have a point, Daniel thought.
"I don't know. It was secret, confidential. He had to swear an oath to not talk about it." Daniel paused to think about it. "It was important enough to risk his life for."
Daniel wondered why he was dropping such huge hints. Surely he wasn't always this obvious when he knew a secret. But then again, this time, he wanted them to ask him the right questions. He couldn't just tell them but surely if they asked him, then he would be forced to answer. He couldn't lie to his friends now could he?
"It does not matter now, Jack O'Neil, because this Adam has died. Whether it is for his world or for some lesser but still important study of history and politics no longer matters." Teal'c, in his own subtle manner, completely left out the option of the death having had nothing honorable about it. A man who was willing to die for something had died, thus his death must have been honorable. At least while that man was a friend of one of his friends.
Daniel half wanted to smile at Teal'c for diverting the conversation and half wanted to smack him for it.
He wouldn't tell them about that one talk with Adam, the important one, the one about oaths and dying to get out of them. Daniel had gotten back to the dorm room only after the library had closed for the night. It was then that he found Adam drunk on at least ten bottles of tequila and with a gun set next to him on the floor where he sat propped up against the side of his bed.
Daniel had been nervous about the gun but not sure whether to be nervous for himself or for his friend. And even if the gun weren't an issue, Daniel knew by now that people couldn't drink that much without getting alcohol poisoning. As long as Adam was conscious he wouldn't do anything, but as soon as his friend fell asleep, he was determined to call an ambulance. But Adam hadn't fallen asleep. Instead he had spoken more seriously than he ever had to Daniel before.
"Daniel. You're a genius." The words had been a statement of fact rather than a compliment. "You have to know that. Someday if you're lucky you'll do something with all that potential and achieve something spectacular. But other people are going to know that too. They'll want that potential to be theirs, that spectacular something to be theirs too. Think very hard before you ever join an organization that demands an oath of loyalty. Not like a fraternity. Real oaths. The kind the military, legitimate and illegitimate both, make you take. The kind that are backed up with threats of imprisonment or execution. They'll almost always betray you in the end and call it your betrayal of them. They'll want to kill you. Cut you into two pieces and watch you die. Fuck! What am I going to do, Daniel?"
At eighteen, Daniel had never been particularly good at social interactions and it had only just occurred to him with that last outburst that maybe Adam drunk wasn't the real problem, maybe the real problem was what had made Adam get drunk in the first place.
"I got approached. I got offered a job. It's not really poli-sci like I had planned, at least not the modern kind. They just want me for the languages. It's dangerous and it's stupid of me to even think of. Hell, even if I didn't have secrets, it would be dangerous. But, it's too good an opportunity. I have to take it. I already did take it, in fact. This summer I have my orientation, and from then on, I'm theirs. Body and blood."
"Who approached you, Adam? If they're dangerous, get out of it."
"No. They're a secret. Or at least they think they are. They follow you around and try to know everything but all they know is just enough to make them dangerous. And they require an oath. Be very, very careful of people who require oaths. But it's not like I don't know the way around that. It's not the oath after all, that's dangerous, it's the people who want it. They're the ones you have to have an escape from. Just in case it all goes bad. If it all goes bad, when it all goes bad."
"Adam, tell me who approached you. You just said I'm a genius. And if you aren't, I don't know what you are. Together we can get you out of the situation, no matter how bad it is."
God but he had been naive. Adam had certainly thought so too, and had said as much on previous occasions. But this time he had just looked at Daniel and said, "No. I can get out at any time. I can't get in whenever I want, however, so I needed to take the chance when it arose. And now, for the danger to be worth it, I need to stick to it. I can't leave now. I don't normally tell people my escape routes, you know, but I'm drunk and you're too smart for your own good. I have a sneaking suspicion you might want to know this one day yourself. Shit, I'm not as drunk as I want to be. Where's the next bottle?"
Adam had groped around and found an actual full tequila bottle. Daniel had thought about taking it away but Adam had given him a look and said, "don't even think about it."
So Daniel had sat back and hoped he wasn't watching his friend kill himself.
"Most oaths end at death. Dead men tell no tales and all that crap. No point in imprisoning or executing a dead man. Dying believably gets harder and harder to do as science gets more exact, as society becomes better recorded. But it's still possible. There are places in this world that are still dangerous enough that people can die and their bodies never be recovered. And there are people in this world who still live in nomadic societies without the paperwork and personal history kept on each individual. Find a point where these two things overlap and disappear there. You get declared dead. You travel for a few months or a few years with whoever you can find. Then you come out someplace else with a new family and history."
He and Adam had stayed up all that night and ended up watching the sunrise together. Daniel had never again seen Adam drinking hard liquor and Adam had never again spoken about faking a death. But that conversation had stayed with Daniel. He had thought about it when he had stood out in the rain with nowhere to go after that last talk. He had thought about it when he had decided to stay with Sha're on Abydos.
"What are you thinking about?" Jack interrupted his thoughts.
"Just one night when we stayed up till sunrise. He did his best to keep me balanced as an undergrad."
As he went on to tell his friends the story of when Adam had first dragged him to a campus dance, he thought some more about life and death and oaths and peace.
He wondered if, in a few months or a few years, he should start keeping an eye out for a middle-aged Bedouin guy with hazel eyes and a roman nose who spoke a lot of languages.
And he wondered when the SGC, the NID and even his friends would finally become too militarized, too vicious, too fanatical, and just too much for him to take. Perhaps he should also keep an eye out for a good place where fatal accidents happen and nomadic tribes journey. He wondered how hard it would be to convince his friends and colleagues of his death given how many death certificates he had already collected.
He wondered if should look somewhere cold, maybe, for a change. Perhaps Siberia?