CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Whistling a slightly off-key tune, Major Louis Ferretti strolled down the corridor. Up ahead, he saw two men in a conversation. One of them handed the other some money, who then walked away.

"Hey, Tooms," Ferretti called. He walked up to the marine. "What's up with that wad of cash you just laid on Dreyer?"

"I was just putting some money in the latest pool."

"Which one?"

"The one about Doctor Jackson and Major Carter's relationship."

"Oh. That one." Ferretti had heard about it just this morning. Out of respect for his friendship with Daniel, he had chosen not to get involved, but he was still curious about it. "So what are the odds now?"

"Forty to one in favor of it going up in flames like the Hindenburg within the next three months."

"Forty to one, huh?"

"Yep." Tooms looked at his watch. "I gotta get to my post. See you later." He hurried away down the corridor.

Ferretti turned and continued in the opposite direction. He went around the corner and froze in his tracks at the sight of Daniel standing there, staring at him, an expression of pain and anger on his face. Ferretti instantly knew what that meant.

'Oh, shit,' he said to himself.

Without saying a word, Daniel spun around and strode away.

"Daniel! Daniel, wait!" Ferretti ran after the archeologist, knowing that if he didn't say something, their friendship would very likely be over.

The major failed to catch the same elevator and took the stairs instead, guessing that Daniel was going to his office. He got there just a few seconds after the archeologist did.

"Daniel, listen to me," Ferretti said. "I have no money in the pool. I swear. I was just asking about the odds."

Daniel's voice, when he spoke, was tight and full of hurt. "And how many people do, Ferretti? How many people are betting on how long it will take for my relationship with Sam to end? I figured a lot of people would think that it wouldn't last long, but to make wagers on it? I thought that most of the people on this base knew what honor and decency meant." He turned away. "Apparently, I was wrong."

Daniel's words made Ferretti feel terrible. Though he had chosen not to get involved in it, he hadn't really thought that the pool was a rotten thing to do. Now, he realized how shameful it was.

"I'm sorry, Daniel. You're right. It should never have gotten started."

"I just pray to God that Sam never finds out. She'd be really hurt to know that people she serves with have that kind of disrespect for her."

Not knowing what else to say, Ferretti left. He didn't know what to do about this, though he felt like he should do something. What should really happen was for someone to put an end to the pool, but he'd have no way to do that. A thought came to him. Though he couldn't stop it, there was someone else who probably could.

Oh, man. He really did not want to do this, but if he didn't, his conscience would rag on him endlessly.

Preparing himself, Ferretti made his way to another office. If he was lucky, the person to whom it belonged wouldn't be there, and he could put this off for a while.

As it turned out, luck was not on his side.

"Um . . . hi, Jack."

"Lou. What's shakin'?"

The major stepped further into the office. "Uh, well, you know about the pools we have around here. You've put money into some of them yourself."

"That I have. Is there a new one that I'd be interested in?"

"Uhhh . . . sort of."

Seeing how nervous Ferretti was, Jack focused a hard gaze upon him. "Spit it out, Lou."

"It's about Daniel and Sam."

Jack already felt himself starting to get angry. "I see. And what, pray tell, is the exact nature of this pool?"

"It's . . . it's on how long it'll be before their relationship crashes and burns."

Ferretti could no longer look at Jack. The man's eyes would probably turn him to stone if he did.

"And do you have money in this pool, Ferretti?"

Shit. Forget the eyes. That voice could probably curdle a man's insides.

"No! Absolutely not."

"Well, that's good. I'm glad to hear it. So why are you telling me about this?"

Figuring it was safe to do so now, Ferretti looked at his former C.O. "Daniel found out."

"Crap. I'm betting he didn't take it well."

"No. It really upset him. I was thinking that maybe you could do something about this."

"You mean talk to Daniel?"

"No, I mean put an end to the pool. It should never have gotten started in the first place."

"No, it shouldn't have. Do you know what ass is responsible?"

"I think it was Jenkins. Dreyer is the banker."

Jack's face darkened. "Jenkins, huh. That's no surprise." Though Major Jenkins had a spotless record and, on paper, was an excellent Air Force officer, when it came to personality, he would not get any commendations. It was also no surprise that Captain Dreyer was the one holding everyone's money. He was one of the few people Jenkins could call a friend.

Jack got to his feet. "Thanks, Lou. I'll take care of this."

As Ferretti watched Jack stride away, he almost felt sorry for Jenkins. On second thought, he didn't feel sorry for the man at all. In fact, he was wishing that he could watch Jenkins get his head handed to him. Hell, he wished that he could sell tickets. It would probably be worth the admission.


Jack spotted his quarry in the commissary. Putting a lid on his anger, Jack went up to him.

"Major, you and I have something to discuss."

Clearly surprised, Jenkins looked up at him. "About what, sir?"

"I'll tell you after you come with me."

Jenkins looked down at his barely eaten meal. "Right now, sir?"

"Yes, right now. That's an order, Major."

Jenkins got up from the table and went with Jack to the colonel's office, where Jack firmly shut the door.

"Sir, is there a problem?" Jenkins asked, still completely clueless.

"You bet your ass there is. It's about the pool you got started regarding Doctor Jackson and Major Carter's personal relationship."

"Oh. With all due respect, Colonel, it's just a pool."

The man's remark made Jack's anger go up another notch. He took a step toward the man. "No, it is not just a pool; it is a gross lack of respect for the man who made this place possible and for a woman who is a fellow member of the Air Force. I don't care what you think about their relationship and its chances of survival. That is your business. But when you turn it into something to bet money on right here on this base, of which I am the second in command, it become my business. You're damn lucky Hammond doesn't know about this. He'd rake you over the coals." He took another step toward the man. "So this is what you are going to do, Jenkins. You are going to end this pool. You and Dreyer will give back every cent that was wagered and tell all the pieces of crap who made those wagers that they are not to even think about getting a new pool started on this subject." He took a final step, bringing himself to within a foot of the man. "If you do not do those things, if I hear one word about this pool continuing or starting up again, I will make it my mission in life to have you permanently transferred to Eielson Air Force Base near Moose Creek, Alaska! Do I make myself clear?!"

Jenkins' back was now ramrod straight, his eyes staring over Jack's shoulder. "Yes, sir."

"Good. Now get out of my sight before I forget about the regulations regarding assaulting a junior officer."

The major quite hastily left the office.

Jack sat down, letting his anger cool. Once he was no longer thinking murderous thoughts about Jenkins, he went to Daniel's office. The archeologist, who had been frowning down at a report, looked up as he came in.

"Ferretti told me about the pool," Jack said.

Daniel's eyes immediately dropped to the desktop.

"If I was in your shoes, I'd be pretty pissed. Actually, I'm pissed anyway. Just so you know, it's over and done with."

Daniel's head lifted. "What?"

"I put an end to it. As we speak, all the people who had money in it are being given back that money."

Surprised, Daniel said, "You didn't have to do that, Jack."

"Yes, I did. It's a pool that had no business getting started. I gave a piece of my mind to the person responsible for it."

"And who was that?"

"You don't need to know that. Suffice it to say that he will never consider doing something like that again."

Daniel searched the colonel's eyes. "Thank you."

Jack nodded. He pulled a chair up to the desk and sat down.

Daniel was staring at the top of his desk again. "Sam and I knew that some people here would think this thing between us wouldn't last. We thought that we were prepared for that. But it seems like nobody believes that our relationship could be a success, not you, not Janet, not anybody. I'd hoped that at least some of our friends would have faith in us."

"Hey now. Daniel, this has nothing to do with not having faith in you and Carter personally."

"You just don't have faith in the two of us together."

"I'm trying, Daniel, and I will be delighted if you prove me wrong and make all those jerks who bet against you look like idiots. In fact, I just might personally announce it over the P.A. system. Then we can all have fun watching the monitoring station recordings of everyone's reactions."

That statement made a little smile come to Daniel's lips. He studied the man standing before him. "Do you really mean that?"

"What? That I'd announce it publicly to the whole base? Hammond might have something to say about that."

"No, that you'd be delighted if Sam and I proved you and all the other naysayers wrong. Would you really be happy about it?"

Jack stared back at him for a moment, then went to the door and shut it so that no one would overhear the rest of this conversation. There was already too much gossip going around about this. He grabbed a chair on the way back to Daniel's desk and sat down.

"I think it's time we clear the air on this once and for all," he said. "Yes, I have feelings for Carter that are more than friendship. Yes, it did bother me when I found out that you two had become a couple. But like I told you before, I've had a lot of time since then to get used to it. You make Carter happy, which is a good thing. Just the other day, I found her humming in her lab? By the look on her face, I'd say that she was thinking about you. I'd much rather see her happy and with you than unhappy and not with you. So, yes, I will be delighted if you two stay together."

Daniel searched his friend's eyes for a long moment, seeing there the truth in that statement. Then he nodded. "Okay."

Jack got to his feet. "Speaking of Carter, I'm assuming that you'll be spending the night with her, so give her my wishes for a speedy recovery."

"Will do."

Daniel watched Jack leave, happy that one weight had been lifted from his mind.


The next morning, Sam called Janet and begged the doctor to let her come back to work, promising that she'd stay off her feet as much as possible. Janet reluctantly agreed, extracting a second promise from Daniel that he'd make sure Sam kept her promise. The way he did so was to set up a temporary office space for himself in Sam's lab. Every time she needed something that would require getting up, he got it for her. It resulted in him not getting a whole lot of work done, but it kept Sam off her feet most of the time.

It was a while after noon when Jack came into Sam's lab. Daniel was tucked in a corner, hunched over a stone tablet with some kind of writing on it, and Sam was at her worktable, hunched over some doohickey. They were completely engrossed in what they were doing and hadn't noticed him, so he spent some time looking back and forth between them.

"Is there any chance that you two are twins that were separated at birth?" he finally asked, startling them both.

"I certainly hope not," Daniel responded. "This would be a very . . . awkward situation if we are."

Jack grimaced. "Yeah, um . . . I'm not gonna think about that. So, are you two planning on stopping for lunch any time soon?"

Sam looked at her watch. "Is it that time already?"

"Yes, it is, Carter."

"I am getting kind of hungry," Daniel said.

"Well, I know just the cure for that."

The three of them went to lunch, where they met Teal'c. During the meal, Jack noticed a few people looking their way.

"What's up with the looks?" he asked his teammates and Daniel.

The archeologist didn't even glance up from his food. "It's been going on since word got out about our relationship. Sam and I mostly try to ignore it."

Jack wasn't satisfied with just ignoring the looks, so he subjected each person to his Colonel O'Neill glare, and every one of them instantly found their food to be more interesting.

"I wish I could do that," said Sam with a sigh. "My glares don't work like yours do."

"It takes years of practice, Carter. Of course, having been in Black Ops does help."

"As does being a colonel," Daniel added.

"Yes, there is that, too."

"Hopefully, it will stop once everyone gets used to us being a couple."

Jack took a bite of his lunch. "I heard about that unexpected delivery Fraiser had to deal with last night."

Daniel frowned in confusion. "What unexpected delivery?"

Sam was the one who answered. "Doctor Patterson suddenly went into labor a month early. She was going to be starting maternity leave at the end of the week, but I guess the baby got impatient. Janet had to deliver it."

"Is the baby okay?"

"Yes, he's fine. He's a little small, but that's to be expected for a preemie. Janet's going to keep him and his mom here through today to make sure there are no problems."

"I bet the father is climbing the walls," Jack said. "He wouldn't be able to come on base to see them. I was out of the country when Charlie was born, and it took three days for me to get home. Those were a long three days."

Sam smiled. "I went to see the baby this morning, and he is so adorable. He's got black hair just like his mom." She glanced at Daniel and instantly knew that something was wrong. He was staring at his plate, but he wasn't eating. "Daniel, what's wrong?"

He shook his head. "Nothing." He put a smile on his lips, though it appeared a little forced. He then got to his feet. "I'm, uh, going to take this back with me to the lab so I can get back to work on that translation. I promised that I'd try to get it done before I go home today."

With tray in hand, Daniel left the infirmary.

"What was that about?" Jack wondered aloud.

"I believe that our discussion about Doctor Patterson's baby caused Daniel Jackson to think about his wife's missing son," answered Teal'c.

Sam gasped. "Oh my gosh. I didn't even think about that. What with all the stuff that's been going on, I hadn't even thought about Sha're's baby." She stood up and grabbed her crutches. "I need to go talk to him."

Sam made her slow way to her lab, cursing the crutches the entire distance. When she got there, Daniel's tray of food was there, but he wasn't. Guessing that he'd gone to his office, Sam headed over there. She found him standing before one of his bookshelves, holding a book that he wasn't really looking at.

"Daniel?"

The archeologist started violently and turned to her. "What? Oh. Sam. I realized I needed a book for the—"

"Daniel, stop. Stop pretending you're fine. You're thinking about Sha're's son, aren't you."

Daniel's gaze dropped back to the book in his hands. "All these weeks, and I've barely given him a thought. I didn't want to think about him, about yet another way that I failed Sha're. I should have kept him safe. I should have brought him back with me to Earth instead of leaving him with Kasuf. Then he'd be okay instead of out there somewhere, in the hands of God knows who."

"Daniel, we all thought that he'd be safe with Kasuf. We couldn't have known that Amaunet would figure out he was still on Abydos."

"If only I knew where he was, had at least some idea."

"Amaunet didn't give you any kind of clue on his whereabouts?"

"She only said that he was someplace where we and the System Lords wouldn't find him. It's a big galaxy, Sam, and he's one tiny baby. What hope would we really have of finding him?"

"I don't know, Daniel, but that doesn't mean we won't try. Now come on back to the lab and finish your lunch."

The couple returned to Sam's lab. When they got there, the astrophysicist found her own unfinished lunch sitting on her worktable. Guessing that she had her C.O. to thank for that, she sat down to finish it. As she ate, she glanced at Daniel often. He just picked at his food for several minutes before finally finishing it.

He spoke very little the rest of the day, and Sam knew that he was thinking about his wife's son. She wished that there was a way to bring him comfort. More than that, she wished that she could promise him they'd find the baby. But Daniel was right about that. It was a very big galaxy with thousands upon thousands of planets. Where would they even start the search?

Daniel didn't stay with Sam that night. Normally, she wouldn't have thought much about it since they weren't supposed to be spending every night together, but she had a feeling that he wanted to be alone tonight.

The next day, Sam's ankle was feeling strong enough that she dispensed with the crutches. Daniel had moved his stuff back to his office, so she had her lab to herself - that is until the object of her thoughts came striding in. He looked like he hadn't gotten a wink of sleep and was running on around a gallon of coffee.

"Did you get any sleep at all last night?" she asked.

"No, not really. I spent the whole night thinking about the baby and what Amaunet said." He began to pace. "I-I never thought about this whole thing before, not in all these months. And I should have. I should have realized that something didn't fit."

"Daniel, what are you talking about?"

He stopped and stared at her. "Why does that baby even exist, Sam? It certainly wasn't an accident."

She frowned. "I don't follow you."

"Sha're told me that Apophis intended to make the baby his new host. With all the billions of humans available out there in the galaxy, why go through all the time and trouble of producing a baby, then wait for it to grow up? On top of that, why would Amaunet bother to go get him from the Abydonians and then hide him from the System Lords?"

"You're right. That doesn't make sense."

"And then there's Heru'ur. I had believed that he went to Abydos to grab both Amaunet and the baby, but now I think what he really wanted was just the baby. So what is it with that baby? What's so special about him? Do you have any memories from Jolinar about Goa'uld hosts producing children?"

Sam shook her head. "Not that I can recall."

"I need to talk to Teal'c."

Daniel went to the Jaffa's quarters, Sam tagging along. The archeologist asked Teal'c if he knew anything about the children of Goa'uld hosts.

"I only know that I have never before heard of the existence of such a child," Apophis' former First Prime answered. "I do know that when a Goa'uld takes a female host, it puts a halt to the woman's reproductive cycle."

"So you're saying that Amaunet would have had to choose not to do that."

"Yes."

There was a frown on Daniel's face. "Teal'c, do you think that Bra'tac might have more answers?"

"It is possible."

"We should ask the Tok'ra, too," Sam said. "We didn't say anything to Dad about the baby when he was here."

Daniel nodded. "It looks like I'm going to have to talk to the general."

Before doing that, Daniel got hold of Jack and told him what was going on. It ended up being all four of them that went to see the general.

Hammond agreed that the mystery was worth solving and said that he'd send a message to the Tok'ra saying that there was a matter of possible importance to discuss with them.

"Do you know where Bra'tac is?" he asked Teal'c.

"It is my understanding that he is on Chulak, searching for Jaffa who are willing to rebel against the Goa'uld."

"Could you get a message to him?"

"Yes, it would be possible to do so through one of the rebel Jaffa that still reside there, although, in order to do so, I would have to go there."

"Teal'c, if someone loyal to Apophis saw you, you'd be captured or killed," Daniel said.

"Then it will be necessary for me to disguise my appearance."

"I'm not liking this," Jack said. "I don't think that finding out the mystery of that baby is worth risking Teal'c's life."

"I agree that Teal'c shouldn't risk his life, Jack, but this must be important," Daniel told him. "Amaunet relinquished control to Sha're for all those months so that the pregnancy would go to term. What would make a Goa'uld do that?"

"Daniel's right, sir," Sam said. "No Goa'uld would willingly give up control of the host's body unless it was really important, especially for that long."

Hammond turned his gaze upon Teal'c. "What do you believe your chances would be of contacting someone on Chulak without being identified?"

"It is the gold emblem on my forehead that is most identifiable. If it could be hidden, only those Jaffa who have seen me before would be aware of who I am. If I avoid the village in which I and my family lived, there would be less danger of that."

Daniel stared at the emblem. "How about some black paint? Regular Jaffa have the emblem tattooed on their skin. If it was painted black, it would look like just a tattoo, unless you got really close."

Sam nodded. "And if Teal'c also wore a wig, it would help even more."

Hammond's gaze focused upon Teal'c and Jack. "All right. The decision is up to the two of you."

"I am willing to undergo the mission, General Hammond," the Jaffa immediately responded.

Jack was a lot slower in replying. "Okay, but he's not going alone. I'm going with him."

"And me," Sam said.

"I am, too," said Daniel. Everyone turned to him.

"You are no longer a member of SG-1, Doctor Jackson," Hammond reminded him. "In your position as a consultant, you are not permitted to go through the Stargate unless your presence is required on a mission or would be of particular benefit to it."

"But this is about Sha're's son."

"I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is."

Daniel looked at his ex-teammates. This would be the first time they'd be embarking on a dangerous mission without him. How would he handle that? He already knew the answer. He'd go crazy worrying about them, worrying about Sam.

Daniel thought about what Jack had said to him, that perhaps he needed to find a new reason to be on SG-1. If he was on the team, he wouldn't be stuck on base worrying about his friends' safety. He'd be right there with them on missions, helping to make sure they all got home safely.

In that moment, Daniel realized that, even if there was no other reason for rejoining the team, that was reason enough.

"I want back on the team," he declared firmly.

"Doctor Jackson, I cannot reinstate you to SG-1 simply because you want to be on this mission."

"I understand that, sir, but I know now that I don't want Sam, Jack and Teal'c going on missions without me there to help in whatever way I can. I need to be with them instead of sitting here, wondering what's happening."

Making an effort to hide how pleased he was, Jack turned to Hammond. "Sir, I want Daniel back on my team. I know you may have reservations because of his and Carter's relationship, but I think they can keep it from interfering with their jobs."

The general sat silently as the seconds ticked by, every pair of eyes upon him.

"Very well," he said at last. "You are now officially back on SG-1, Doctor Jackson. See that you don't make me regret it."

"I won't, sir."

"As for this mission," he turned to Sam, "will your ankle be well enough by tomorrow?"

"I think so, sir. It barely hurts at all now. I'll rest it as much as possible today."

"Even so, you'll need to get a medical release from Doctor Fraiser. If she agrees that you're fit, we'll schedule the mission for tomorrow morning, 0800 hours. If we hear back from the Tok'ra before then, and they tell us what we need to know, the mission will be canceled."

"Yes, sir," Jack said. "Thank you."

Sam waited until they were on the elevator before giving Daniel a big hug.

"It's going to be so great having you back on the team," she told him.

Jack patted Daniel on the back. "What she said."

"I, too, am pleased that you will once again be on SG-1, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c stated.

"Thanks, guys."

Wanting to rest her ankle as much as possible, Sam went straight to her lab, intending to call Janet from there. Daniel went to his office. He'd been there for around fifteen minutes when Jack came in.

"Tell me the truth, Daniel. The real reason you wanted back on the team isn't that you want to be there in case we're in need of your help on a mission. You want to be there in case Carter gets in trouble."

Daniel shook his head. "Every time you guys went on a mission since I quit the team I worried about all of you, Jack, not just Sam."

"But she's the one you worried about the most."

Daniel didn't reply, which gave Jack his answer. He studied his best friend's face. "You're afraid that you're going to lose her, too."

The archeologist paused before answer. "I've lost a lot of people in my life who meant a great deal to me. Losing Sha're hurt more than anything I've gone through since the death of my parents, and the thought of losing Sam, too. . . . What we have together has come to be very important to me. She is very important to me." He met Jack's eyes. "I know that you still think our relationship is doomed to fail, but I hope that you can at least believe me when I say that."

"I do, Daniel. As for your relationship being doomed to fail. . . ." Jack paused before saying the next words. "I'm beginning to think that maybe the odds aren't quite as much against you as I originally thought."