I'm sorry this upload took so long, I went on holiday to New York last week and although I promised myself I'd get some writing done it didn't happen. But here it is, the final chapter. I hope you all enjoy :D
The Jumper was moving again, but barely. The space around Jack and the others onboard that had been littered with silent explosions and flashes of energy weapons had suddenly grown still. He gazed out at the enemy vessels floating powerless through space and allowed himself a smile, he didn't know how, but Daniel must've stopped the Beast.
'Can we survive re-entry?' He asked, putting his relief to the back of his mind; Daniel and Vala were still stranded on a dying planet.
'Just.' Sam replied, she'd taken the seat next to him from Shepherd to perform diagnostics.
'Good enough for me.' He responded and gently eased power in the Jumper's thrusters. He wanted to race down there and rescue his friends but the shockwave from the Excalibur column had taken it's toll on their vessel and they couldn't help them if they were as dead in space as the enemy ships.
They approached the atmosphere at half-speed, and as they went Jack opened a channel to the Daedalus. 'We're en route to Excalibur. Before we descend - is there any chance of beaming our two guys out of there?' He asked.
'I'm sorry General,' Caldwell replied, 'we still can't get a lock on them. It looks like the radiation in that hidden passage is messing with our sensors.'
'It was a long shot.' Jack replied and tried to get a little more acceleration out of the thrusters, they protested but he succeeded, the fact that the planet didn't have long was driving him.
'Be careful.' McKay reprimanded from the back, 'We can't help them if we don't have engines.'
'I know that,' Jack replied, 'but we can't help them if we don't get there in time, either.'
McKay fell silent for a moment, before speaking again. 'I'm reading a build up of energy in the planet's core!' He exclaimed.
'We're too late,' Sam said, 'the planet's going to blow. Sir, you have to get us out of the blast radius.'
Jack gritted his teeth, weighing up his options. He didn't want to leave Daniel and Vala, but he could already see nuclear weapon sized explosions blooming all over the Excalibur's surface. There was only one course to take, as the planet began to split apart he turned the Jumper and flew away as quickly as the engines would allow.
When the planet exploded, the shockwaves buffeted the Jumper but they were far enough out to avoid being harmed. Jack manoeuvred the Jumper back around to face Excalibur. There was nothing but rubble and debris where the planet had once stood, the pieces slowly drifting towards the maw of the black hole.
Navigating through the dense field of wreckage, Jack was inwardly hoping that Vala's plan would work. Both Sam and McKay had warned them that the device had never been tested in the vacuum of space and if by allowing her the chance to try it, Vala was gone as well… Jack tried not to think about it.
'You getting anything?' He asked after drifting passed a large chunk of what used to be the column.
'I'm still scanning,' Sam replied, 'nothing so far.'
Jack squinted his eyes, he knew the chances of them being visible to the naked eye were slim at best, but he couldn't stop himself from trying. Still, he saw nothing.
'Wait a minute,' Sam's voice grew excited, 'I think I've got something. Patching the co-ordinates of the life signs to you now.'
Jack followed the signal, holding his breath. It took them thirty seconds to negotiate through the rubble and locate the source of the signal. He finally breathed in when Daniel and Vala could be seen through the front view port.
'It worked.' Jack said in disbelief, relief flooding through him, 'it actually worked.'
Floating in space before them were Vala and Daniel's prone forms. A green haze seemed to envelope them; it was the glow of the Ancient's personal shield device, the one that Sam had gotten beamed from Animus just before it was destroyed.
'We have to move quickly.' Sam explained. Jack understood, he knew that although the shield would protect them from the cold and vacuum of space, it wouldn't provide them with any more air than had been within the shield when it was activated.
'Caldwell, you should find a pair of life signs ahead of our Jumper.' Jack said into the comm. 'Beam them straight to the infirmary and have your medical staff ready.'
'Tell them they'll be treating two patients for oxygen depravation.' Sam added.
'Understood.' Caldwell replied. There was a familiar blue flash as Daniel and Vala were beamed away, then Jack turned and began to fly steadily towards the Daedalus.
'Did anyone else notice how… snug they looked?' Jack asked with a smirk.
Daniel's thoughts were jumbled and incoherent as the darkness that had surrounded him was driven out by a brilliant white light. When he opened his eye lids he squinted instinctively at the bright lights of his surroundings until they finally adjusted.
He recognised the interior design of an Earth produced ship's med-bay. When he tried to sit up he felt fire in his blood as pain seared through him, every breath was torture but he was acutely aware that he was alive. With sluggish thoughts he tried to piece through what he could remember; finding Omega, defeating the Beast, kissing Vala. That last memory was powerful enough to break through the fog and he heard someone talking to him.
'Hey, take it easy.' Jack's familiar voice came from his bedside. 'The doctors are saying you went without oxygen for a few minutes, not to mention the fact that your immune system is in shock after the whammy the Beast put on you.'
'Why am I alive?' Daniel asked, noting that the IV drip in his arm accounted for his drowsiness. He hadn't mention the question to sound so blunt, but from the look on Jack's face that was how it came across.
'It was all Vala,' he replied, 'she figured the Ancient personal shield would protect you both from the explosion and cold of space, she was right.'
'That plan was crazy.'
'That's what I said, but it worked,' Jack responded, then looked at Daniel's position. '…Sort of.
'Where is she?' Daniel asked, and Jack pointed. Vala was lying in the bed beside him, hooked up to an IV as he was. Her eyes were closed and she wasn't moving.
Jack must have sensed his worry because he said. 'The doctors say she's going to be okay, but her injuries were more severe than yours.'
'Yeah.' Daniel remembered all too well the torture she'd suffered at the hands of the Beast, coupled with the lack of oxygen she had to be hurting. Daniel wished there was something he could do, but he knew she was in good hands.
'We're en route to home,' Jack explained, 'with most of the power drained it's going to take a while for the Daedalus to get back to the Milky Way but we're about halfway through the journey.'
'And everyone's okay?'
'As well as can be expected. Shepherd's down with Carter and McKay in one of the labs, they're studying the Ignis. Teal'c, Ronon and Mitchell are getting some down time.'
Daniel thought of all of the people that didn't make it. Seria and her crew, Elizabeth, and his heart felt heavy. Without their sacrifice everything would have been destroyed.
'Listen, Daniel,' Jack began, looking around almost conspiratorially, 'you got the bad guy, right?'
The image of the Beast burning up in the lake of blue flashed into Daniel's mind. 'Yeah, he's gone. What happened to the infected?'
'All dead.' Jack answered, his mouth set in a grim line. 'But they died the moment the Beast got to them.'
'Yeah.' Daniel replied, looking again at Vala, her stillness a mirror of death, and suppressed a shiver.
'She'll be alright, Daniel.' Jack assured him with a pat on the arm.
'Yeah, I guess…' Daniel trailed off as the painkillers rushed through his system, bringing a fresh wave of nausea and drowsiness. His eye lids began to flutter, despite his will to stay awake.
'Good idea, get some rest.' Jack said, his voice sounding as if it echoed from a long distance, 'it's been a long day.'
The briefing was scheduled for 0900 hours. The Daedalus had made orbit around the Earth sometime after midnight and both SG1 and the Atlantis team were given some time to rest before convening in the SGC briefing room.
Daniel hadn't spent a lot of that time resting, however. Vala had still not woken and despite the best efforts of Jack and Dr. Lam he refused to leave her side. Even now he wished he could be down there with her, finding it difficult to focus on the meeting when the woman who'd saved his life was lying comatose.
'I've read all of your reports and I have to say, you did well out there people,' Landry praised as he entered the room and took a seat at the head of the people, 'a lot of folks wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for you. Every one of you went above and beyond to avert this crisis.' Behind him Woolsey shifted uncomfortably. Daniel guessed his reaction had something to do with the IOA's reluctance to allow this mission in the first place.
'That being said, I'm more than a little apprehensive that this Beast character isn't as dead as we think, considering how long he's survived.'
'There's no question,' Daniel replied adamantly, 'The Ignis damaged him like nothing else we'd tried ever could.'
'You're sure?' Landry fixed his eyes on Daniel, who met them unwaveringly.
'Positive.' He confirmed. Landry seemed to mull that over before nodding.
'Also sir,' Sam added, 'myself and Dr. McKay have had a chance to study the device, it appears to work on a frequency that counteracts the Beast's own. Almost as if it was created to be his Achilles heel.'
'Did this… Omega say anything to that effect to you?' Landry's question was directed at Daniel.
'No,' he replied, 'to be honest I don't know why it was created or what for. I only know that it worked.'
'Well, I think - given what little we know about the device - that it should be taken to Area 51 for further study. Colonel Carter, Dr. McKay, you began this investigation, if you're happy to have it taken from your hands I'll despatch it immediately.'
McKay and Sam both gave their admission, and Daniel noticed McKay cast a sideling glance at Shepherd, but didn't understand it's meaning. 'I know you all must be tired,' Landry continued, 'but there is one more topic I want to cover; the Furlings.'
'You mean; can we expect to see any more of them?' Jack asked.
'I doubt it, sir.' Shepherd replied, 'They were xenophobic to begin with, and after revealing themselves to the galaxy after thousands of years their civilisation was almost entirely crushed.'
'We don't even know if they have any ships left that are capable of interstellar travel.' McKay added.
'That's not exactly good news,' Landry said, 'we seem to have far more enemies out there than allies.'
'I'm sure they'll be in contact if they feel the need,' Jack replied, 'judging by Seria and her crew they're good people. I wouldn't count them out entirely, but the ball's in their court.'
'Understood.' Landry nodded, then stood, 'I didn't want to keep you for long, I know you're all still tired. I assume they'll be a lot more to say on this subject in the coming days, I know the president wants to thank you all in person.'
'Ah, again.' Jack said airily, 'How many times have we saved the world now.'
'Well, we saved it a few times without you.' Sam reminded him as the group moved from the debriefing room.
'Yes.' Jack replied 'But never with the same sense of style, I feel.'
Their playful bickering continued up the hall, but Daniel had already disengaged from the group and was moving at speed towards the medical bay. He knew they all cared about Vala, but none of them including himself up until recently, knew how deep his own feelings ran.
He reached the bay quickly and greeted Dr. Lam with a nod, ignoring the look she gave him that suggested she thought he should be lying in one of these beds himself.
'Any change?' He asked, looking at the still, pale form of Vala lying on the medical cot.
'I'm afraid not.' Dr Lam replied. 'Her heartbeat is still regular, but she's showing some signs of shock from the ordeals she went through.'
'Isn't there anything you can-'
'Nothing more than the last time you asked me.' Dr. Lam interjected softly. 'I'm making her comfortable, but the rest of the healing process is up to Vala now.'
'Right.' Daniel allowed, and felt slightly defeated by the powerlessness. It was a feeling he had grown uncomfortably used to over the past couple of days.
As Dr. Lam continued to go about her work, Daniel dragged over a chair and sat by Vala's bed as he had done for the hours before the debriefing. He reached out with his fingers tentatively and brushed them against hers. She felt cold, and the imagery that brought into Daniel's mind was incredibly unwelcome.
His mind went back to the Fragarach, it seemed like a lifetime ago that Vala had helped him find his way out of the hellish mindscape of the Beast; all she had done was hold onto him. Why wasn't it working for Daniel now?
The Atlantis control room was teeming with activity, with teams still working to understand the hub of Ancient addresses that had been discovered, all of them certain that it would uncover the much sought out fountain of Ancient knowledge and wisdom that lay out there in the Pegasus galaxy.
As Shepherd watched the lights and displays of Atlantis, he felt certain that they'd already found that fountain here.
'Funny how thing's continue on as normal, isn't it?' Sam said as she came to stand next to him.
'Yeah.' Shepherd replied. They'd arrived back on Atlantis about three hours ago, and he could see on Sam's face that she was still concerned about Vala back on Earth, who still hadn't recovered from her coma. Shepherd knew all too well that responsibility and personal feelings were often at odds with each other in their line of work, and he sympathised.
'Did you get the gun back through okay?' Sam asked.
'Yeah,' Shepherd said, tapping his holster where the weapon was stored, 'when's he due to leave?'
'Now.' Sam answered, pointing to where Carson and McKay stood before the Gate, 'Give him all the best from me,' she continued, 'I'd do it myself but I'm beginning to realise the end of the universe adds up to a mountain of paperwork.'
Shepherd chuckled as she moved off, then headed down the stairway to join the two men who were sharing an awkward farewell handshake/embrace.
'Carson,' Shepherd called over, and shook the man's hand when he was in reach, 'you sure you want to go through with this?'
'This isn't my home,' Carson replied, 'it's close enough to almost fool me but…'
'I understand.' Shepherd nodded, 'But before you go I wanted to ask you; when your people arrived on Atlantis did you find a Jumper with some unusual abilities?'
'I don't think so.'
'Never met an age old Elizabeth stored in stasis?' McKay asked, thinking along the same lines as Shepherd.
'No, I think I'd remember.' Came Carson's bemused reply. 'What's this all about?'
'If we're right; then there's a Jumper capable of time travel sitting in the Jumper bay of your universe.' McKay explained, 'In our universe it was used to travel back and stop the Atlantis expedition from dying when the shield's failed underwater.'
'It's a long shot, but there's a chance that the time-ship still exists on your Atlantis, and with this,' He upholstered the weapon and handed it to Carson, 'you'll be able to go back and take out the Beast before he causes havoc over there.'
'Take out?' Carson asked with raised eyebrows, 'I'm not sure about your Carson Beckett, but I'm not a 'take out' kind of man.'
'Relax Carson, it'll be easy,' Shepherd replied easily, patting him on the shoulder, 'McKay's played with the gun-'
'Played?!' McKay exclaimed, sending icy stares Shepherd's way, 'I used the calibrations of the Ignis to reconfigure the firing crystal of the weapon to fire the exact frequency that would disable and kill the Beast in one shot!'
'You're sure?' Carson asked, gazing down at the weapon.
'As sure as I can be.' McKay answered.
'But, changing history. Isn't that dangerous?'
'Not in this case,' McKay explained, 'because we're not from the same universe, our timelines are intrinsically separated from each other and the only way we know of that they can be linked is by the Stargate. That means we have to remove all references to accessing your universe from the Gate.'
'Like I said, it's a long shot.' Shepherd said. 'You'll be trapped, and we haven't had a practical test of the gun, for obvious reasons.
Carson thought for a moment, finally he said. 'I'll take a long shot.'
'Alright,' Shepherd said, and called up to the Gate tech. 'Dial her up.'
When the shimmering portal was fully formed, Carson turned to both of them and shook their hands. 'Thank you.'
'Best way to thank us is by fixing you universe.' Shepherd commented. 'Good luck.'
And with that, Carson turned and moved through the event horizon, gone forever. Beside him, McKay began making preparations for removing all trace of the alternate dimension from Atlantis' databanks, but even as the Gate closed down, Shepherd stared towards it, hoping that Carson would succeed, that somewhere out there was a John Shepherd that was happily married, facing the universe with someone at his side.
'Are you okay John?' Teyla's voice brought him out of his reverie.
'Yeah, I'm fine.' He replied, taking one last look at the Gate before turning and walking beside her towards the stairs. He looked at her askance. 'Did I ever tell you about Ferris wheels?'
Teyla smiled, 'Yes John, many times.'
'Oh, that many, huh?'
Daniel couldn't concentrate on his work, and he rubbed his eyes underneath his glasses, looking away from the text in front of him.
If it wasn't thoughts of Vala still lying comatose in the infirmary that plagued his mind, it was the Beast's words about the human race and their lust for war that rang all too true, or the nagging curiosity about the race only known as the First, that had existed long before even the Ancients. He felt like he was drifting, unsure, powerless.
It had been three days since they had returned from Excalibur and SG1 were still off the active missions list. Daniel almost wished he could be out there, burying his mind in other problems than the same ones locked in continuous orbit, but he doubted his ability to do so.
When he slept - if he slept - his dreams were filled with images that left him cold, and he found himself reliving the moments of Sha're's capture as a Goa'uld host, and her death. He suppressed a shiver.
There was a knock at his office door, although he usually left it open, recently he'd been closing it, locking himself away in self-imposed exile. He'd seen Mitchell and Teal'c a few times over the past few days, but they seemed to understand that he needed his own space and busied themselves with other tasks, but he guessed it was one of them that was here now.
He reached the door handle and twisted it, barely paying attention as he swung open the door. 'Hey.' He said absent-mindedly, turning back towards his desk.
'Well, I must say I expected a warmer welcome than that.'
Daniel stopped, and his heart rose to his throat. Slowly he turned, afraid that he had finally cracked under the mental strained. But he hadn't, Vala stood in the hall, a hesitant smile on her face.
'Vala you're - how are you feeling?' Daniel asked, not sure of how to act. The moment they'd shared on Excalibur was strong, but they had both been facing death.
'Rather good, actually,' she replied and entered the office proper, as Daniel shut the door behind them he noticed Vala's step falter and rushed over to aid her from falling. He eyed her suspiciously.
'Fine, good was overstating the point somewhat.' She admitted.
'You should be resting.'
'You know that's exactly what Dr. Lam said, before she started quoting some medical directive from your planet - that woman really likes to talk when she gets going, not that she ever-'
'You saved my life.' Daniel interjected, and Vala stopped talking, looking him in the eyes.
'You saved mine.' She replied matter-of-factly. 'I always repay my debts.' She paused and smiled. 'Well, sometimes.'
Daniel returned the smile, and then they stood in silence for a few moments, the atmosphere around them was stifling, and eventually Daniel couldn't stand it any longer.
'I think we need to talk,' he began, choosing his words, 'about what happened back on Excalibur when we… when we kissed.'
Her expression changed, 'You kissed me,' she exclaimed, 'I was trying to get close enough to you for the shield to cover us both and then you kissed me.'
'But I… we…' Daniel stammered, taken aback by her attitude.
A few seconds passed, and then her lips broke into a smile. 'I couldn't keep it up.' She took his hand gently, and Daniel felt it's familiarity. 'I'm messing with you.'
Daniel's heart jumped. 'You're… messing with me?'
She nodded, 'Couldn't help it. Sorry.'
'So, what does this mean?' he asked, surprised that he wasn't angry at her for playing with him.
'It means… I think it means that someday, maybe, we can act on this.'
Daniel nodded. Although it hurt, he'd had the same thoughts himself. 'The Ori are still out there, and countless other enemies we have to fight.'
'We can't fight them if we're worrying about each other so much.' Vala agreed, but didn't drop her hand from his.
'So, someday, right?'
'Right.' She replied, and pressed forwards gently until their bodies were touching, Daniel could feel her breath against his lips.
He didn't intend to, but he pushed forwards and their lips met gently, an affirmation of the promise; that once the battles were done there would be a chance to revisit this moment, these feelings. He still held her hand in his own, fingers intertwined, soon all reason would be lost.
But then they broke apart, and it was one of the hardest things Daniel had ever had to do. The few feet between them felt like it may as well have been a mile. But he understood.
'I should get back to the infirmary.' Vala said, and he saw a single tear glisten in her eye. She moved off without another word, glancing back to him before heading off down the hall.
Daniel stared after her and unbidden, something Seria had said to him sprang to mind.
Existence sometimes has a design you may not be able to perceive right away.
For the second time, he hoped those words would prove true.
So that's it... for now. I've got a few ideas for some places to go to after this, but I'm not sure if I will. I hope you all enjoyed reading this story, let me know what you think.
Thanks again : D