Ebbas watched his charges, vastly amused as they went about their business. Since Daniel's return, they had all quieted down. In fact, they spent most of their time quiet since Daniel appeared to need a lot of rest. While he and the other Avwand were worried about Daniel and the fact that he spent so much time asleep, Jack, Sam and Teal'c seemed to find nothing wrong. When Ebbas took Teal'c aside to ask him about this, Teal'c was ready with plenty off reassurance.
"Daniel Jackson will be fine," Teal'c told him. "Worry and stressful situations can be taxing for Tau'ri and usually after such a situation they rest more in order to recuperate."
"Tau'ri?" Ebbas questioned. He didn't understand the word.
"'Tauri' refers to people from the world of O'Neill, Major Carter, and Daniel Jackson," Teal'c explained.
Ebbas suddenly grasped the gist of what Teal'c was saying. "You're—Teal'c, are you telling me that you're from a different world? One other than the one your friends came from?"
"I am, indeed," Teal'c said. "My home is called Chulak, but for the past several years I have lived on Tau'ri. I have traveled through the Stargate as part of the team SG-1. We explore other worlds. When we arrived on your ship, we thought we had come to another world."
"I see," Ebbas said, his thoughts in a whirl. "Have you been many places?"
Teal'c nodded. "A great many. On many worlds, we have made friends."
"Amazing," Ebbas breathed, trying to regain his equilibrium. "Have all of these worlds been good places?"
"Some have, but not all," Teal'c said. "Not long ago we were on a very taxing world among people who wished to harm us. It was only Daniel Jackson's careful work that saved our lives. He convinced them that we meant no harm and that we should be allowed to leave without being harmed."
"I am glad that you were able to return home," Ebbas said, wondering just what had happened on that planet to make Teal'c look so grave. "Was your experience then as tiring as what Daniel's recent experiences have been?"
Teal'c looked thoughtful. "It may be so. When we returned home, we were given time to rest and recuperate. I recovered quickly, but with Daniel Jackson, Major Carter, and O'Neill it took longer. I remember Daniel Jackson spending a great deal of time asleep."
"So this is normal?" Ebbas said hopefully. He would like to be able to quit worrying.
"It is not," Teal'c said flatly. "Daniel Jackson is sleeping far more than I have ever seen him to do. It seems he is more tired than before."
"Why is that?"
Teal'c paused, looked at Daniel, and turned back to Ebbas. "I have a theory, but you may not like it."
"It doesn't matter if I like it or not," Ebbas pointed out. "Will you tell me?"
"Before, during stressful situations, Daniel Jackson had the support of his friends. We were with him through every difficulty and when he worried. During his recent separation from us, he worried and tried to get you to return him to us. He did not have our support then."
"Ah," Ebbas said, fully understanding what Teal'c was saying. "Thank you for explaining, Teal'c."
"You are welcome, Ebbas."
After Teal'c had returned to his friends Ebbas sat back to think about what he'd been told. In light of Teal'c's explanation, it all made sense. No wonder Daniel was tired! He'd been carrying worry during the entire time he was away from his friends! From what he'd learned during his lifetime, he knew that worry was a very heavy burden indeed.
Still, he wished Daniel would wake up and be his old self again. He was spending practically all his time asleep. He would wake in the morning, have breakfast, be awake long enough to wash up and talk some, and then he would fall back to sleep. He woke up at lunchtime long enough to eat something, then he would go back to sleep again. He woke up mid-afternoon and stayed awake. He would read with his friends, talk a while, they would have supper and talk some more, and by the time they were ready to go to sleep he was ready as well.
With Daniel asleep all the time, the Avwand were getting another look at the Dhanha-ahvti in their charge. Their behavior had changed yet again. They still worked at their lessons, but everyone could tell that their sole focus now was Daniel. They spoke quietly so they would not wake him and during meals they coaxed him to eat as much as possible. When he was awake they would slowly surround him as if to protect him from any attack and they were very careful not to let him do too much. They seemed to know instinctively when he would do better for being pushed to do a little more and they knew when he actually needed to rest.
"It's amazing," Maraba said, taking a seat next to Ebbas and watching the Tau'ri. It looked like Daniel needed to rest since all of them were guiding him toward the large cushion Daniel used for his naps during the day.
"How different they are," she said. "It's as if their whole concern now is Daniel."
"I was just thinking that," Ebbas admitted. "I'm starting to think that the situation was far more dire than we've understood. Otherwise, why would they be so concerned?"
"I hope that wasn't the case," Maraba said. "But I'm afraid you may be right. I suppose all we can do now is make sure we don't make the same mistakes again."
Jack settled on the cushion beside Daniel and kept his face as impassive as possible. Things were working out rather nicely. In fact, they couldn't be going better. Everything he'd observed so far told him that the Avwand had been very alarmed by Daniel's decline and his continuing fatigue. Right now, Jack had a feeling that if he told them Daniel needed the tears of stars to get well, they'd send people out in space suits to collect them. That, he'd pay big money to see. At the very least it would be as amusing as hell.
"How's Sleeping Beauty?" Carter asked as she left her project at the table and joined them.
"Still sleeping, not much of a beauty," Jack joked. "Do you think we've spooked our hosts enough?"
"Indubitably," Sam said, grinning. "You should hear Shansarra fret!"
"That's good. Now we just have to wait until Daniel's feeling more like himself before we can drop the whole worried act." Neither of them needed to remind the other that it hadn't really been an act. They had been very worried when Daniel was brought back looking like his own ghost and they were still worried, but the fretting was starting to abate. Daniel had put on some of his lost weight, his color was good, and he didn't look so exhausted all the time.
"You know, I think that when we get home, General Hammond will yell himself hoarse, welcome us back, unleash the infirmary on us, and then give us leave," Sam said happily. "It'll be good to unwind after this mission."
Jack looked at his 2IC, wondering if she'd finally flipped in the head. "Carter, don't get me wrong, but we're a long way from getting home. Don't you think it's a little early to be thinking about any possible leave?"
"Well, I've been thinking," she said.
Jack fixed her with a stare. "Thinking. That's good."
"Yes, sir," she said, smiling. "I think that we may actually have several options open to us."
Jack took in the words, but he didn't understand. "Come again?"
"Well, do you remember what Daniel told us about the Avwand using the Gate only to transport goods and the like?"
"Yeah," Jack admitted. Where was she going with this?
"Daniel told me that he learned that they'd modified several Gates and they use them to load their biggest ships. We're on one now. Well, even if we don't manage to get home before we get back to their planet, there's still a Gate on their planet. While we were on the bridge that night we met Maraba I got a look at what looked like maps. I didn't understand what I saw then, but I do now. We can use the same point of origin for our original destination to return home. It is fully possible that our original destination could have been the Avwand homeworld or one of its neighbors. Anyway, we're covered if my suppositions are correct and I'm fairly certain they are."
"What makes you so sure?" Jack asked, unable to help himself. Any error at all could mean they were stranded.
"Maraba," Sam said. "When she learned how interested I was in the ship and in astronomy, she brought me all kinds of books. Now that I know Avwand well enough to read it I've been able to do some research. Sir, I think that I'm right. In fact, I'm so certain I'm right that I know I'm right. We have a way to get home even if we miss our original arrival point."
"Do you think we should still try to make our original arrival point?" Jack asked. "You know, break out of here and hightail it for the Gate and dial? Not Earth, of course. By this point they'll have locked us out just in case we've fallen into the hands of enemies."
"We could dial the Alpha site," Sam suggested. "Or one of our allies. Then, we could dial home from there and let them know that we haven't been compromised."
"Sounds like you guys have a plan," Daniel's muffled voice said.
"Sorry, did we wake you, Daniel?" Sam asked.
Daniel shook his head. "Nah. I woke up on my own. I think I'm napped out or something. I can't go back to sleep."
"Sleeping Beauty's awake without a kiss," Sam joked.
"Never mind," Jack said. "Hungry? Thirsty?"
"Both," Daniel said, sitting up. "Homesick for coffee, too."
"Well, in the absence of coffee, we have Avwand fruit juice," Jack said. At his insistence, the Avwand had installed something like a minibar: it was a small refrigeration unit that held cold drinks and food. They'd given in and installed the thing when he told them that Daniel would often need small meals and that sometimes he would be hungry in the middle of the night. He had weight to put back on. At that grim reminder of how thoroughly they'd screwed up, capitulation was not long in coming. "You go sit at the table and I'll assemble a feast for you, all right?"
"Thanks, Jack," Daniel said, getting up and making his way to the table.
"Hey, my pleasure," Jack said, thinking of how Frasier would yell at him if he brought Daniel back in less-than-peak condition. The last time that had happened she'd accused him of not taking care of his archeologist. He didn't want to give her more ammunition, and besides, he'd feel better once Daniel ate. He still looked too skinny.
"So, you think we can get back from the Avwand homeworld?" Daniel asked quietly as Jack brought him his snack.
"I'm pretty sure," Sam said. "From the maps I saw in the bridge, we're still in the same section of space."
"Sounds encouraging," Daniel said thoughtfully as he took a sip. "We're still close enough to use the original point of origin, then. That's good."
"That's great, actually," Sam said, sounding very happy. "That means we'll be able to get out of here with a minimum of fuss."
"A low fuss factor is good," Jack said, leaning back in his seat. "I can't wait to get home and catch the latest 'Simpsons' episodes. I've got a lot to catch up on."
Daniel laughed, swallowed the wrong way, and two seconds later he was being pounded on the back by Jack. "Thanks," he said as soon as his throat cleared.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Daniel hurried to reassure his friend. "I laughed and something went down wrong."
"We just get you back and then you try to choke to death?" Jack teased. "Smooth, Daniel. Real smooth. You want to get me into trouble with Janet, don't you?"
"It's just so much fun to watch her get mad at you," Daniel teased back.
"It is especially amusing to listen to her tirade against O'Neill," Teal'c added as he joined the group.
"I get no respect," Jack muttered a la Rodney Dangerfield.
"On the contrary, O'Neill, we have great respect for you, as does Dr. Frasier," Teal'c corrected. "She just dislikes seeing us in less-than-peak condition."
"Ah, I think she really likes it if one of us comes back injured or sick," Jack said. "She just loves to yell at me over something."
Jack's tone made all of them laugh. They all knew that he counted Janet as a friend and really didn't mind being yelled at as long as there was a pretty nurse nearby. Two were even better.
"So, what do you guys think we should do today now that Daniel's up?" Jack said easily into the silence that followed. "Mayhem? Chaos? General discord?"
"We could drive Ebbas crazy by refusing to study today," Sam suggested. "We've been so diligent in our studies lately that the change is bound to make him go nuts."
"I feel that would be most amusing," Teal'c said, smiling. "More amusing, however, would be requesting to go to the dining hall."
They all looked at him. "Why would that be amusing?" Jack wanted to know.
"It is something he is reluctant to do, so we will insist," Teal'c explained. "That will keep us amused the better part of an hour. Besides, I find a have a craving for the salad bar."
Jack grinned. "Oh, Teal'c. You evil, evil guy."
Sam was grinning just as much and Daniel was trying to keep from smiling. He could just imagine Ebbas going nuts and he knew it wouldn't be nice to laugh at someone else's mental breakdown, but...well. The mental images his mind kept coming up with were hysterically funny. "I think I'd like to visit the dining hall, too. We could promise to be on our best behavior."
Jack snickered. "Oh, yeah. Best behavior. We'll be little angels and everyone of Ebbas & Co. will wonder just what the heck happened...again!"
Ebbas was very surprised when Daniel approached him with a request to go and have a meal in the dining hall. He was on the verge of refusing when Daniel told him that he was very, very hungry and he wanted a little more variety than he'd had in his meals up until now. Since the dining hall had a large selection available, Ebbas agreed. Anything that made Daniel want to eat was a good thing. He still had weight to put back on.
"Would you like me to call Sihrada?" Ebbas asked in a fit of sudden inspiration. "I'm sure she'd like to see how you're doing."
Daniel smiled. "I'd like that very much, thank you."
It took Ebbas, Shansarra, Bhanhana, and Lralda very little time to inform Daniel's friends that they were going to the dining hall that day for lunch. It didn't take them long to get ready and soon Ebbas and his friends were leading Daniel and his friends through the corridors of the ship toward the dining hall. Different Avwand greeted them as they passed by and before long they were in the dining hall with the smell of food tantalizing their nostrils. Maraba and Sihrada were there, and the first thing Daniel did was go to Sihrada for a hug. Jack saw him say something to her, but he couldn't hear it. It looked like "thank you." Sihrada said something back and then it was feeding time.
Once again, all four of them were a huge attraction. Jack could tell that the other Avwand were watching them surreptitiously all through their meals and found them fascinating. Daniel, however, seemed to be drawing the most attention since he had a small feast in front of himself and was slowly working his way through it. A bite or two of this, a bite or two of that, a little soup, some salad, a few tiny sandwiches...Daniel knew how to eat with variety. He could remember Daniel telling him about celebration feasts on Abydos and the key to getting through them was eating just a little bit of everything. If you refused a dish on Abydos then you insulted your hosts, so you had to at least eat a little of whatever they offered you. Now, it looked like learning how to eat through a feast was standing Daniel in good stead now.
"You look like you're enjoying that," Sihrada said while Daniel munched on what looked like a piece of fruit.
"Mmm," Daniel said, swallowing. "I didn't realize how hungry I was."
"You look a lot better," Sihrada said, deeply pleased. "And you're not so thin. I can't tell you how relieved I am."
"Oh, I can imagine," Daniel said. "Jack, Sam and Teal'c all probably feel the same way. They're always offering me things to eat and drink and encouraging me to nap. You'd think I was on the verge of dying or something."
Sihrada looked alarmed. "You're not, are you?"
"Oh, no," Daniel assured her. "I think I would know if I was dying. Actually, right now, I feel pretty good."
"Good to hear," Sihrada said. "The Council stopped by this morning."
Daniel could practically feel his friends' ears pricking up. "Did they?"
"Yes," she nodded. "They came to discuss with me what your futures will be once we return to Avwand. Apparently, they feel I am something of an expert when it comes to you since I spent so much time with you. I told them I couldn't really tell them anything about Jack, Sam or Teal'c, but they asked me several questions about you."
"What did they ask?" Daniel asked, feeling somewhat amused. If the look of mischief was anything to go by, then Sihrada had let them have it.
"They asked what your talents were and things like that. I told them that they would be complete and utter idiots not to have you lecture on sociology at one of our educational institutions."
Daniel laughed and nearly choked for the second time that day. It was clear she'd been thinking about what he'd told her about societies and how they could interact. "What did they say?"
Sihrada sat up straight and fixed an exaggerated scowl on her face. "A Dhanha-ahvti lecturing? Ridiculous!" Her very tone brought to mind one of the more pompous (and closed-minded) Council members.
Jack laughed. "So, what did the Council say about Daniel?"
"He will most likely be offered work in a school, library, or museum," Sihrada said. "Nothing too strenuous, according to them."
"Well, I'll fit right in, then," Daniel said calmly. "Would I be teaching in the school?"
Sihrada shook her head. "It's more likely that you'll assist the teacher."
"Daniel's good at teaching and...stuff like that," Jack said, filing the information away. "Did they tell you what kind of positions the rest of us will have?"
Sihrada nodded. "Altan told me once the Council told him. Sam will be offered work in one of our research facilities. You and Teal'c will be offered positions with either the peacekeeping forces or with the shipping fleet. They're trying to play to your talents."
"I see," Jack said quietly. "When we get there, where will we live? In an apartment or dorm?"
"Your living quarters will depend on your families," she said.
Jack dropped his spoon, sloshing soup over the table. "What? Our families?"
"According to the Council, you'll each be placed with a different family within our capital city. They will take the place of your human families and you will be given the opportunity to meet every few days."
"Oh, hell to the no," Jack said, getting to his feet in outrage. Realizing he was several feet shorter than the Avwand even while they were seated, he reversed tactics and retook his chair, only to stand on it. At least now he could look them in the eye. "There is no way I'm going to let anybody separate us! We just got Daniel back! He looked like somebody half-dead after being separated from us for a short time, so what do you think will happen if we're separated from one another?"
"I told them it was a very bad idea," Sihrada said. "I reminded them of Daniel's condition while he was away from you, but they said that they'll arrange for you to have regular contact."
"I don't find that reassuring," Daniel said. "Can this ship's Council actually make that happen on the planet?"
"They can suggest it to the World Council."
"But would the World Council follow through with that?" Sam wanted to know. She was beginning to get very worried. If they were separated on the Avwand homeworld, getting all of them home would be very difficult.
"That I don't know," Sihrada admitted. "I wish I did."
"As do I," Teal'c said, sounding grim. "Would the World Council listen to a recommendation from one of its citizens?"
"If they have experience in the matter at hand, then yes," Sihrada said unhappily. "I thought that the four of you should at least be warned."
Daniel felt relief flood through him. They had at least one Avwand on their side! "Thank you, Sihrada."
She smiled and gave Daniel's shoulder a squeeze. "You're welcome."
Ebbas wondered just what had happened to make his charges change yet again. They'd had a good meal at the dining hall as they'd requested and afterward he'd taken them to the conservatory so they could walk around in a semi-natural setting. After all, Maraba had suggested that they would enjoy being around growing and living things. It was clear they enjoyed themselves at first, but then they ceased to pay attention to their surroundings as they gathered into a tight little knot and began talking. He'd learned a few of their words simply from hearing them repeated over and over again, but now, he couldn't pick up any he knew. They were discussing something intently and he wondered if it had anything to do with what Maraba had told them. They'd found the fact that they might be split up worrying, but then, he didn't feel they really had anything to worry about. After all, it wasn't as if they would be living on different planets! They would be able to see each other any time they wished.
He sighed, wondering just what it was that made his charges so stubborn. As soon as they got an idea in their heads then he couldn't get them to think of anything else until they'd latched onto the next idea, which was usually something that caused him as much of a headache as the first one. What made them behave in this way?
Even more mystifying was Sihrada's behavior. She'd come to lunch, chatted with everyone in turn and then left, but not before slipping a note into Ebbas' hand. Why she wanted to talk to him in private was beyond him, but he was certain he could make the time once the Dhanha-ahvti were asleep.