Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Summary: SG-1, The Fifth Element. The time for false gods is over, and more than over. 4600 words.
Spoilers: SG-1 post-"The Shroud" (10.14) and AU from there. Takes place during "The Fifth Element" (1997).
Notes: Daniel's behavior in "The Shroud", and other increasing examples of his arrogance and frustration, along with my general ambivalence toward the Ancients, have been bugging me all season. This fic was partially born from an attempt to work those out.
Daniel was permanently out of the war with the Ori, courtesy of Adria's not so tender attentions, long before the last shot was fired. She'd seemed willing to believe that his first escape and betrayal of her custody had been all Merlin's fault, but she wasn't endlessly forgiving; his second captivity at her hands ended in flames when he refused to put a dissenter to the torch.
The rest of SG-1 carried on without him as long as they were able, then flickered out one by one as they too were pushed beyond their limits by the grueling struggle to hold back the endless tide. Sam was the last to die, felled by a Prior at the Alpha Site as the Ori army finally began to move in on Earth, swelled by the numbers that had pushed in through the Supergate after Daniel's actions opened it to them again. Fortunately, she had already put the finishing touches on the weapon that Dr. Lee would use to avenge them all.
Good-old fashioned Tau'ri determination, ingenuity and luck won the day, just as they always had before. The costs were high-- the entire Milky Way 'gate network was rendered inoperative, a large percentage of the galaxy's population was killed, many of the SGC's best personnel were lost, and the general public was awakened to the existence of extraterrestrial life-- but virtually all of the existing Ascended of both affiliations, along with every one of their empowered lackeys, also perished. Given the odds they'd been up against, Daniel was inclined to believe that the exchange had been more than worth it.
Sink or swim, the scattered children of the Alterans were left completely to their own devices. The Tau'ri hastily built more spaceships to reestablish contact with allies and bases cut off by the destruction of the Stargates, and in the absence of any other surviving high-technology planets soon became the defacto heart of a new, loosely unified collection of world-nations. (Someone with a sense of humor dubbed it the "United Federation of Planets"-- a certain Sergeant Harriman, perhaps, making notations on General Landry's copy of the documents?-- but copyright laws ensured that the official designation was "The Federated Territories").
Not much else changed, however. Certain types of advanced technology became commercially and cheaply available, though the new, IOC-led world government kept most of the truly alien tech locked down; police powers were heightened at the expense of granting more personal freedom in other areas, in an effort to give the government a free hand in tracking down any Goa'uld or other malevolent alien forces still in hiding on Earth; and the average citizen quickly discovered more ways than ever before of distracting and endangering themselves in their pursuit of entertainment.
Daniel sadly watched it all happen, regretting more than ever the policy that forbade him to openly interfere. It didn't help that this time the policy was his own; there was so much pain, so much misunderstanding that he could have alleviated, but he still remembered all too well the lessons of Shifu's teaching dream and feared what might happen if the Tau'ri leadership came to rely on him as a guardian angel. Sooner or later, they'd ask more of him than he would be willing to give, and as they had reconstructed a near-complete model of Sam's weapon from her notes... well. He might be limited to subtle nudges and minor mechanical interference as he was, but he'd rather still be here to do what little he could than make some grander gesture and risk being annihilated when "they" decided that his policies weren't patriotic enough.
Besides, sooner or later someone was finally going to reestablish contact from Pegasus. Atlantis had been silent since the 'gate system had failed, but Daniel knew that even if the multinational expedition there had been eliminated, there had to be at least a few Ascended Ancients there still watching over their "flocks." Not to mention, there must have been a few refugees that managed to escape events in the warring galaxies. Someone needed to be here to tell those Others what had happened and make sure none of them got the bright idea to interfere again.
The age of the false gods was over, and Daniel was determined that it would stay that way.
The Mondochawan were bad enough; the "priesthood" that represented their interests on Earth had sprung up like a weed in the last few decades, reappearing from whatever underground niche it had been hiding in over the millennia. They were full of science-and-mysticism prophecies for the future, but gave absolutely no explanation for why the supposedly benevolent and powerful alien race had never tried to defend humanity from the Ori or the Goa'uld.
Even if the last five thousand year cycle they spoke of had been the first one-- which would suggest the Mondochawan had set foot on Earth for the first time a few hundred years after Ra departed-- they still couldn't have been ignorant of the parasitic alien's domination over the rest of the Milky Way. Evidence suggested that they'd been keeping a pretty close eye on the planet over the years; they'd known to return during the First World War to retrieve whatever treasure they'd left behind. Logically, therefore, they must have been aware when Earth came under threat again from outside-- and simply chose to ignore it.
"Brooding again, are we?" a sarcastic voice asked from somewhere close beside him. The default energy state of the Ascended and quasi-Ascended didn't come with any visible identifying features, but it was impossible to mistake the other being for anyone other than Jack O'Neill, former general and eternal pain in Daniel's backside.
"Not brooding," Daniel replied, slowly. "Going over some last-minute plans. That eclipse the Mondoshawan have been declaiming about is only a few days away now; they keep saying it'll mean the end of all life as we know it if they don't do their thing, whatever that might be, and I keep getting the feeling there's something more I should be doing to prepare."
"Aw, c'mon, Jackson," the insubstantial presence of Cameron Mitchell objected. "You've been complaining about that for months now. I don't care how much power you have, even you can't carry the entire galaxy on your shoulders. Sam and Teal'c are watching the planetary alignment; they'll let you know when it starts, and then you can worry about what to do next. In the meantime, there's a really sweet party going on over on Fhloston; I left Vala there, listening to the live orchestra. You wanna come?"
"Maybe later," Daniel murmured, still staring down at the swirls of white swathing the globe he'd once called home. Somewhere down below, the priest Vito Cornelius was a dim spark of anticipatory energy; not far from his position, the powerful businessman Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg was a countering well of darkness; and somewhere between them, a coruscating flare of irritation he couldn't yet put a name to was apparently about to become the third pivot point in a series of events too uncertain for Daniel to predict. He doubted he'd be able to relax until everything was over, one way or another.
"Whatever," Cam sighed. "Catch you in a couple of days, then. Daniel. Sir."
The energy that had been SG-1's last commanding officer zoomed away, and they were two once more.
"Don't suppose I can talk you out of this?" Jack asked, wryly.
Daniel radiated frustration and determination in his direction. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," he quoted by way of answer.
"With great power comes great responsibility?" Jack riposted.
"Yes, thank you, Aunt May," Daniel snorted. "I can't-- something this big, I can't just sit by when I could do something to stop it."
"Funny, that's not what you said the last time half the world went to war," Jack replied, radiating bitterness back.
A thousand rebuttals went through Daniel's mind, and were all discarded one by one as he schooled himself to patience. It was a very old argument between them, but one that wasn't likely to be resolved anytime soon; it wasn't worth fighting over. "I know it bothers you that I pick and choose," he finally said, calmly. "And the fact that I had to Ascend all of you without the proper preparations means it'll be awhile yet before you're capable of interfering in the material plane on your own. But I can't make the time go any faster, Jack. And I just don't feel it's appropriate for me to go sticking my nose into situations that could have been easily solved beforehand if only people would sit down and talk." He gave the mental equivalent of a shrug.
The knot of ugly emotion unraveled and flowed out of Jack's presence, leaving behind only an old, careworn blanket of muted worry and anger-- worry on Daniel's behalf and anger at the situation in general. "I get that. I do. But it doesn't make it hurt any less to just float up here, watching people die when they shouldn't have to."
"Well, I'll do my best to keep that to a minimum this time," Daniel replied, mildly.
Jack didn't reply for a long moment, and Daniel wearily resigned himself to seeing the crisis through alone. Jack had been the first human he'd lifted from a broken body onto the spiritual plane, only to discover that Daniel's incomplete memories and relative inexperience as an Ascended being meant he couldn't accelerate his friends' evolution and adaptation to that state the way Oma had done for him. The passage of time would cure the problem, but there was no telling how much time that would be-- and Jack was never the most patient of men. He hated being trapped on the other side of the glass, almost as much as he'd hated being trapped behind a desk during the Ori War. If the rest of SG-1 hadn't been there with him, Daniel knew he'd have discorporated himself and gone to join Charlie and Sara centuries ago.
Finally, however, Jack spoke up and nudged Daniel's presence with his. "Well, I guess I could stick around and help keep your ego in check while you wait. Mitchell's right, you know. You're not God. You're not even Atlas, and you shouldn't try to be. This saving-people thing of yours is getting out of hand."
"I know," Daniel said lightly, relieved and grateful, and settled in to wait. "I'll take a break soon, I promise. Just not today."
The next few days dragged by slowly, each second lasting longer than the one before it, as the moment of truth approached. Daniel, hovering around the blue-green globe of Earth, wasn't anywhere near the physical location of the eclipse when it occurred, and was not there to observe the physical coalescence of the dark spirit of the Enemy into a planetary shape. He'd been expecting that, however, and was ready when Sam and Teal'c brought word, stepping up his attentiveness on the main players he knew would be involved in the resolution of the crisis.
His tight focus, however, meant that he also wasn't there when the Mondoshawan ship bringing the five elements across the Federation's borders was shot down by rogue Mangalores. That, he hadn't been expecting at all.
By the time he reached the site of the crash, all aboard the ship were dead, including the fabled warrior Daniel had been rather looking forward to meeting. It was easy enough to tell which of the passengers it had been-- the only non-Mondoshawan being aboard had been shrouded in heavy armor, though that had proved no protection against the explosions that had torn the ship apart during the crash. Of the so-called Fifth Element only a few undamaged cells remained, already dying for lack of oxygen and nutrients.
In curiosity and dismay, Daniel reached out to investigate what was left--
--and recoiled in shock as a another presence reacted to his touch. An entire mind, an entire history was encoded into an absurd amount of extra genetic information replicated in each cell, more than even an entire humanoid brain should be able to hold. It was bizarre, and amazing, and undoubtedly engineered by the race the Mondoshawan referred to as "the ancients", which may or may not have been the same ones that had watched over humanity--
--and it was still dying. Hurriedly, Daniel wrapped his presence around the cells again, stimulating them with all the energy he safely could while they waited for the Federation's rescue ships to arrive. The being's consciousness was currently dormant, in some kind of storage state waiting its chance to reacquire a body like some kind of bizarre biological cross between a Goa'uld and a Replicator, but he could pick up enough of its structure to know its primary drive was an abiding need to protect. It was enough to confirm his decision for him; he would protect it in turn until it was able to fulfill its purpose.
Only one cell survived the rescue, the transport, and the trip through the cellular hygiene detector back on Earth, despite his best efforts. Fortunately, that one cell was enough.
Daniel maintained a fascinated watch over the being as the Federated government's scientists reconstructed a body for it, and listened in wonder as she-- a very human-formed she-- awoke fully aware and trying to communicate. The language wasn't one he'd ever heard aloud before, but as she continued to speak its origins became obvious; whatever she was, the Furlings had been responsible for her education.
It wasn't until she escaped to the outside of the building, trembling on a window ledge dozens of stories above the street below, that Daniel even remembered the others he was supposed to be keeping track of. He'd left Jack on Earth-watch when he sped off to check the Mondoshawan ship, and hadn't seen any trace of him after returning.
Until now. Far below, the disruption in the flow of possibilities represented by a not-so-simple cab driver slipped through the heavy aircar traffic, closely trailed by the watchful presence of a former Air Force general.
Daniel calculated trajectories hastily in his mind and gave the scantly clad woman a nudge.
Leeloo Minai Lekarariba Laminai Tchai Ekbat De Sebat, ultimate warrior and fish out of water, fell into the backseat of Korben Dallas' hovercab.
Korben Dallas ran from a police control, unexpectedly moved by his unlooked for "perfect fare", and took her to the parish offices of Vito Cornelius.
Vito Cornelius was kidnapped and taken in turn to meet with Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg, the chief agent of the Dark Presence on Earth.
Events continued to cascade like wildfire over the next few hours, one touching off another as the various parties in the conflict met, parted, and met again. Very little additional interference was required from Daniel; Korben Dallas proved to be an unstoppable force, always finding the one free path through every obstacle. From Earth to Fhloston and back, through gunfire, opera, intrigue and explosions, slipping through the jaws of one disaster after another, Leeloo and her self-appointed protector maintained a pace just one step ahead of the opposition, making it back to Earth with the four elemental stones required to activate the ultimate defensive weapon just barely ahead of the Dark Planet's advance.
The chaotic procession came near to crashing down more than once, but the closest call-- the one Daniel came closest to surreptitiously meddling with-- occurred in the hotel on Fhloston, when Leeloo, already worn from fighting several Mangalores, was shot and nearly killed by Zorg as he sought to steal the stones for himself. Only one thing stopped Daniel from interfering: the Mondoshawan contact at the hotel, the Diva Plava Laguna. She was more than she seemed; while near death herself, she managed somehow to advise Korben on the material plane and warn the Ascended watcher on the immaterial one at the same time.
"She is more fragile than she seems", the Diva told the former Special Forces soldier, her voice vibrant even as it failed her. "She needs your help. And your love."
The wordless message passed to Daniel was even clearer; the weapon was more than just a physical beam of light. It needed a spiritual energy source, as well-- one that would be fuelled by the developing connection between the Fifth Element and her chosen partner, and which might be irreparably disrupted if he tried to help things along.
That didn't make much sense to him-- Leeloo didn't seem aware of the full complexities of human emotions, so what had they used to activate her the previous time?-- but the Diva's conviction was clear. Daniel watched as Korben rushed to find Leeloo, and hoped the warrior's injuries wouldn't kill her before they got her to Earth. There wasn't going to be enough time left to regenerate her again.
Moments later, Korben and a handful of passengers blasted away from the exploding hotel, and Daniel sped on ahead of them, rushing to the temple site on Earth. Whatever was about to happen was going to happen there, and he was determined to at least be there, no matter what the Diva had said. The others-- all former members of SG-1, the only Ascended he'd been able to shelter when Sam's weapon had been activated-- all gathered around him as he went; it went against the grain for them not to be there when the world was at risk of ending.
They bore silent witness as Korben carried Leeloo into the pyramid and then the activation chamber. They watched as the mismatched group of saviors struggled with the elemental stones, trying to figure out how to place them and open them to produce the essential beams. Daniel had to resist the urge to nudge them again half a dozen times-- but each step fell into place, however awkwardly, as they all had from the moment Korben had entered the picture. Finally, Korben took his place in the center of the four beams with Leeloo clasped close, and the world held its breath as the clock slowly ran down.
"There's a lot riding on his being able to convince her to do this," Vala's quicksilver presence murmured, as Leeloo cried and objected in Korben's arms. "They've known each other for less than two days."
Daniel rippled at her with subdued amusement; he'd known her less than two hours before he was convinced she was going to drive him to distraction to the end of his days, and that had more or less turned out to be true. There was a reason first impressions carried such weight. Hopefully, the Diva's impression of Korben wouldn't be the exception that proved the rule.
"I don't know love," Leeloo said in a broken voice in the center of the room, and Sam made a sound of dismay.
"Well," she said, sounding strained, "to quote someone with a better understanding of people than I've ever had-- 'Time alone does not determine intimacy. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other and seven days are more than enough for others.' Or even seven hours, sometimes. Let's hope this is one of those times."
"I believe that to be from a Jane Austen movie," Teal'c intoned. His manner of speech had lost a little of its intimidation factor without the eyebrow to support it, but he more than made up for it with the firmness of his presence.
"Oh, I remember that one," Vala spoke up, her fond tone dissipating Sam's embarrassment. "Some things really are universal; the culture in the film didn't match up with anything I'd ever known, but she was dead on about the way men and women act around each other."
"Shhh!" Jack hissed, interrupting their attempt to break up the tension of the moment. "Pay attention. I think this is it."
"I love you," Korben whispered to the woman he clutched against his heart.
A tear rolled down Leeloo's cheek, and her lips and Korben's met in a kiss; overhead, Daniel was aware of the Dark Planet bearing down on him, and knew that if they were ever going to stop it, it had to be now.
Then Leeloo threw her head back, and the four pillars of color at the corners of the room lit up further, spearing her with brilliant energy. She screamed, and Korben screamed in sympathy as the Light of Creation burst from her throat, reaching up through the pyramid and searing through everything between it at the malevolence of the Dark Planet.
The two energies warred for a few timeless moments; Daniel lost track of the physical plane entirely as he was caught up in the waves of light and dark, and it finally became clear to him just what the Dark Planet was. He'd been a little dubious about the idea of a single intelligence the same size and constitution as a planet-- how would such a thing have ever achieved sentience in the first place?-- but as he glimpsed a fraction of its ambitions, a few more pieces fell into place.
Whatever mechanism was involved in opening the door to the alternate dimension the immense presence called home, it was artificial; the Dark Planet itself was but a fragment of a greater being, a vast creature of darkness and flame that waited in its infernal depths; and it had been placed there-- had grown from-- something the Ori sent after the Ancients long ago.
No wonder the Ori hadn't come looking in all the millions of years that had passed since the division of their species; he'd wondered why they hadn't sent ships full of Priors to all the nearest galaxies to investigate, since the required transit time wouldn't really have mattered in the long run. They'd thought the other Alterans' settlements long dead already.
It also explained how the association of fire with an afterlife of punishment had persisted over time in Earth culture, despite the fact that the Ori had not been a direct factor in all of humanity's recorded history. And it also explained why the Ori had been so adamant about conquering the entire Milky Way as quickly as possible after Daniel had brought it to their attention; they didn't just need the power of so many worshipers to enable them to fight the Ancients, they also needed it to locate and eradicate their ultimate weapon, should it prove still operational.
All of these thoughts flashed through his mind in an instant; then the brilliant glow emanating from Leeloo grew impossibly brighter. Daniel registered, dimly, that the dark presence melted away like shadows in the noonday sun-- and then the force of that glow was turned on him, and all he could see, all he could think of was: light.
Thank you, he seemed to hear, his whole being vibrating with the force of the communication.
You're-- you're welcome, he tried to reply, wondering if the others were hearing this, too. These were my people, once; I couldn't just let them be destroyed without trying to do something.
And you have done well, the bright presence said. Dimly, as he listened, Daniel registered that she wasn't speaking English anymore-- and that she was indisputably Leeloo, the same consciousness he had sensed lurking in the nearly-destroyed cells that had been left behind when the Mondoshawan ship crashed.
But it is time for you to go now, she said, firmly. My creators forced the Ascended to stop interfering with the corporeal world for a reason; the time for false gods is over, and more than over. I have my Champion now, and there is no one to cage me again; I will remain, and be the physical, present guardian for these people.
What? Daniel blurted, taken off guard and completely aghast at what she was saying. He'd been kicked out of the Ascended brotherhood the first time for meddling, and so had many others, but he'd always regarded that as an injustice; surely, there was a line there to be walked, a way to use their powers for the benefit of those left behind. He knew the risks of operating unfettered without anyone to tell him when he was treading over that line, but he also couldn't imagine not helping at all. It just wasn't in him. You-- you want me to leave?
The fate of this world is not yours to command, she said firmly. Nor the fate of the galaxy. You should never have tried to make it so. You already know what it is you should have done; go, and be what you are meant to be.
But, wait! Daniel objected, frantic to change her mind, but lost his grip on the astral plane as the light began fading. It dimmed, then vanished as though it had never been; only a dark, moon-sized hunk of rock hanging in orbit testified to the power the Fifth Element had briefly wielded.
He hadn't had time to even begin to digest what had been said to him, but the others were already flocking frantically around him. There was something different about them-- their energies were more solid, more present, than they had been before-- had she spoken to them, too? Given them what he hadn't been able to, so they'd be able to come with him?
He couldn't answer; he felt numb and hollow, the purpose he'd dedicated himself to ripped from his grasp.
After a moment-- after they all absorbed from each other what had been said and done, and the chaotic waves of emotion died down-- Jack heaved an immaterial sigh.
"Well," he said, "you did promise to take a break from your saving people thing."
Daniel trembled a little in reflexive laughter. "I did, didn't I?" he said.
"Well, then, let's go!" Mitchell spoke up, flexing his energy in anticipation.
"You do know where we're going, right?" Vala added, brushing up against him again.
Brushing-- touching. God, it had been so long since--
His earlier worries about Pegasus abruptly came back to him, and he knew instantly where Leeloo had meant for him to go. There were still a few Ascended battles left to be fought. And then-- well. He was pretty sure whatever had become of the Atlantis expedition could use another few pairs of hands.
"I know where we're going," he agreed, with a ripple of bleak humor. "Second star on the right--"
"And straight on 'til morning," Teal'c finished the sentence. "It will be good to live again."
"And don't you dare feel guilty about anything," Sam said hastily, as Teal'c's words hit Daniel with a pang. "We followed you this far. But whatever we do next? We do it together."
Together, Daniel thought, peering down at the forms of Korben and Leeloo, now moving against each other in the regeneration chamber inside the government's nucleo laboratory.
He'd been an island unto himself for so long, long before what Adria did to him. He'd let the others get close, but never actually inside his armor; for a time, he'd thought Vala might reach him as no one since Sha're had, but then the War had come, and there'd been no opportunity for anything more. He hadn't let there be.
Maybe it was time he did. Maybe it was time to let go, and trust.
"Together," he agreed.
The six of them joined together and sped off into the black.