Spoils of the Battle

Episode 13

Written by SGC Gategirl

Authors: SGC Gategirl
Status: Complete
Rating: 15+
Category: Angst, action/adventure, drama
Summary: When Sarah stumbles across some of Steven Raynor's recent work, Daniel discovers that it might have an otherworldly origin. Getting to see the artifacts is easier said than done, however.
Spoilers: Everything up to the end of S8, plus the first half of VS9.
Warnings: You know how Jack's mouth can get when Daniel gets on his nerves.
Authors' Notes:

SGC This fic far longer to complete than I originally thought. Much thanks to the girls in YIM—Steph, Aniko, and Yllek—and my wonderful beta, Lynette. All errors left are mine cause I probably didn't listen to my beta.

Archive: Jackfic. Otherwise, do not archive without the author's express permission.
Disclaimer: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Sci Fi and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles, and back story are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions, and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea, and the story itself are the sole property of the authors.
 

Spoils of the Battle
Episode 13

*~~**~*

"Friends are sometimes boring, but enemies—never."
—Mason Cooley, City Aphorisms

"Never explain—your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyhow."
—Elbert Hubbard, "The Motto Book"

"The loss of enemies does not compensate for the loss of friends."
—Abraham Lincoln, Letter to William H. Seward, June 30, 1862

***

Sarah Gardner sighed and slipped her fingers into the handle of her coffee mug, embracing the warm ceramic between her chilled hands. She never used to be cold, but ever since…

She shivered and shook the feeling off. That was something she didn't want to think about ever again. It hadn't been an easy road back to normality—if you called the SGC normal—but at least she had a job, some friends who didn't want to kill her, and she didn't have a parasite wrapped around her brain stem. All good things.

She still had flashbacks from when she was…possessed. There was really no other way to describe it. The incidents had gotten better, less frequent, but every now and then they'd catch her off-guard like the slap of ice-cold air in the middle of July.

A few years ago she could only imagine what it was like when men were treated like gods, of what it would be like to rule over the vast empires just like the Pharaohs of Egypt. She had always wondered what happened to Daniel Jackson, what had dragged him away from the archeological world.

Now she knew and that knowledge was both amazing and terrifying.

She took a sip of her coffee, inhaling the scent and enjoying the warmth against the palms of her hands. Sighing, she carefully placed it on her desk, picking up another page in her seemingly never-ending pile of paperwork, reports, and studies. She liked her job—she really did—but some days she wished she could just forget everything and go back to what she used to do, who she used to be, back to the museum in Chicago, her small apartment, and her life.

But that wasn't possible anymore.

Now, she spent her days reading up on the work of her so-called colleagues, the working archeologists, laughing at their conclusions.

Some of the gods they talked about she knew personally—from their quirks and their preferences to their hosts and all of their pasts. She knew the terrible power they had and how they'd wielded it—how she'd ruled—abusing and enslaving humans all over the universe.

She knew too much.

Her eyes skimmed the newest document—a clipping from an archeological journal about a dig in the Yucatan—but she wasn't paying attention to the words. They were all the same.

Honestly, she was bored.

Some mornings she missed the excitement and the adventure of discovery when a new artifact held some secret about the past. Other mornings she missed the feeling of space under her feet.

Her eyes stopped skimming the article, screeching to a halt when they drifted across a familiar name: Steven Rayner.

What was he doing in Mexico?

Leaning forward, she absently shoved a stray blonde hair behind her ear as she backtracked through the article trying to figure out what he was doing, what he was studying. It seemed as if he'd gotten a grant through the museum to do some research into the ancient Mayans and had discovered an unusual ruin in the middle of the Yucatan, something that wasn't Mayan, wasn't Aztec, or Olmec. He was still trying to place it and date it, but was getting conflicting readings—or so the article reported.

There were several images included with the article including pictures of the ruins and some of the smaller items he'd discovered. Looking carefully, Sarah could make out that there was some kind of writing on the objects, but the pictures weren't the best. She really needed the ones the museum used for archival purposes.

Pushing the papers to the side, she pulled her keyboard forward, her fingers already tapping away at the keys. She knew where on the museum system the images were kept and with the computer at her fingertips and her knowledge of Steven to guide her, minutes later she found herself looking through the archives.

The images were near the beginning, very recent additions to the museum's collection and high quality. The article had only hit some of the highlights. There were close to fifty different objects in this one section. Steven had hit the jackpot.

Each of the artifacts were covered with writing—mostly standard Mayan pictographs that she could read as easily as English. But three of them were different. There was writing, but it wasn't in any language she recognized. Thanks to Osiris, she had the ability to read Goa'uld and its various dialects, but this wasn't one of them. In fact, she couldn't make out any of it at all.

Her forehead scrunched in puzzlement and she quickly printed off the images on her office color printer before logging off the museum's server. This was something Daniel had to see.

***

"You found these where?" Doctor Daniel Jackson asked, his blue eyes squinting at the images scattered across his desk. Pulling off his glasses he picked up one sheet and brought it up close to his eyes. He wasn't sure what was better: the glasses or the distance. Neither was perfect.

"Steven found them in the Yucatan," Sarah said and Daniel heard her shifting in the chair across from him. He really needed to get a better guest chair. Jack always complained about it when he sat in it—which was rare, but it still happened; usually when his knees were bothering him. But then after sitting in the chair, he usually ended up griping about his back. That man was worse than an old woman sometimes.

"What was he doing down there?" Daniel asked, picking up another page to squint at one more image.

"It seems that he's switched interests, at least since the last trip to Egypt."

Daniel glanced up at the tone of her voice, meeting Sarah's clear eyes. Oh, that. "Well," he said, "I don't blame him. But I never thought he'd leave his first love—Egypt, that is," he concluded, stumbling at the end, realizing his statement could be misconstrued.

Sarah nodded, glancing at the shelves over Daniel's head, not even noticing his rushed words and the slight flush he could feel on his face. "He's always had a love for the Yucatan, even back in school. You should remember that."

He shrugged, leaning his elbows on his desk. "It's that Egypt was something special to him. I guess we kind of ruined it for him."

"You might say that," she conceded quietly. A few beats passed before she continued, allowing Daniel time to study his friend, former girlfriend, and former Goa'uld. What an interesting combination. She was doing well. The weight she'd lost after she got back had returned and she didn't look sickly anymore. She was exactly the way Daniel remembered her to be—except for her eyes. Those were different. They were old.

"This wasn't the first journal article he's published on the ancient inhabitants of the Yucatan," she said, pulling his mind back to the present. She had leaned forward and was poking through some of the papers under his elbows. "It's the third article he's done on the subject. Everything up 'til now, though, had been pretty mainstream."

Daniel moved, allowing her access to his paper-strewn desk. "He liked mainstream, so that's nothing new."

"No," she agreed, pulling out the sheet she was looking for, "but this is new—for Steven."

Daniel glanced at the journal article she'd photocopied, his eyes scanning the paragraphs. Steven had been busy from the looks of things and had stumbled onto an interesting cache of artifacts. Some Daniel recognized from his own digs in that part of the world. But Sarah was right, there were a few that didn't really belong.

"So, what does he think about all of this? Does he make any comments about where these out-of-place artifacts are from?" Daniel glanced up toward his friend as she answered.

"No. He just concludes that they're just different, some kind of experiment into new forms of art that wasn't accepted into the mainstream Mayan society," Sarah said, her hands refusing to stay still, her long fingers always moving. She had never been so jumpy before. There were times that Daniel wished he could just turn back the hands of the clock. Sarah's whole experience was one of them.

"That's always a possibility. It has happened before, but why did you think these items were so special, that they were different?"

"Did you look at the writing on them?"

"No," Daniel replied, shaking his head. He immediately picked up the papers again. "I was looking at the design and the shape as well as the wear on them." He paused, moving his chair so that he was closer to his desk lamp. Holding up the pictures, he focused on the writing inscribed on the stone artifacts.

He felt his eyes widen as recognition dawned. "I saw something like this a few months ago."

"You can read it?"

"No, at least not right now. But I've seen it before."

"Where? It's not Mayan in the strictest sense and I know it's not Goa'uld. What is it?" Sarah asked, confusion muddying her features.

"Here. I saw it at the SGC and it wasn't good," Daniel sighed as he put down the pages, trying to sort out all of his thoughts. "I'm not sure if you remember this or not, but several months ago we found a tablet and after translating it we thought that we were looking for the Mayan god Quetzalcoatl."

"And?"

"Well, that had links back to an earlier mission as well that involved my grandfather…we got to meet the giant aliens…" He trailed off as her confusion increased. "Anyway, we thought that we might try to build an alliance with his alien race, but we translated the tablet wrong."

"Wrong?"

"Yeah. Instead of Quetzalcoatl we found Tetzcatlipoca."

"Oh," Sarah said, her eyes widening at the name. Finally, someone else who understood ancient history.

"It went from bad to worse and the base was infected because the alien was trying to get Jack because he's part Ancient…needless to say things worked out just fine, but we know next to nothing about these aliens. If this is a link to them…we need to know more. I need to see these artifacts and examine them with some of the equipment we have on hand here."

"You think Steven will let us?"

"I doubt it," Daniel said, his mind already several steps ahead. "But I plan to ask."

***

Colonel Gary Reynolds stood and stretched. He'd only been here a day and he was already tired of babysitting the scientists. Carter had commandeered Sergeant Walter Harriman, dragging him deeper into the main structure in the center of the city that SG-3 had explored when they discovered the planet. Harriman had taken quickly to the gene therapy and that meant he was one of the official "turn this on" go-to people the SGC had in this galaxy.

Doctor Lee was dragging Sergeant Siler along as he rushed from one console to the next. Several other scientists—thankfully those with the gene or those who'd had the gene therapy—were swarming around some of the upper levels of the building, an SF with them at all times. It was a huge city that they knew absolutely nothing about. Caution was a good thing.

Thankfully, none of the scientists had asked any of his team about their experiences with gene therapy, although he knew it was going to come out sooner or later. Peterson was grateful that the therapy had worked on him, but dreaded working with some of the scientists on a one-on-one basis. Reynolds echoed his sentiments. Bosco and Ellis were clean and safe from the geeks. Right now SG-3 was only in charge of security and that's how he intended to keep it.

Clicking his radio, he spoke into the air, the sensitive microphone picking up his voice. "Bosco, report."

A moment later, the Captain replied. "All quiet, sir."

"Where are you?"

"Scouting with Ellis near the northern edge of the city. Nothing out of the ordinary. It's a little freaky. It's like they just picked up and left last week or something. No dust, everything in its place."

"Carter claims that there's some kind of field that keeps the dust off the machines, but I didn't think that applied to other stuff."

"Dunno, sir," Bosco replied and in his mind's eye Reynolds could see him shrug. "I don't know what half these buildings are for, but this is one huge city."

"I know," Reynolds said, narrowing his eyes and looking around as the power blinked in the main building. "Hold that thought, Bosco." He switched channels and spoke again. "Colonel Carter, we just had a power fluctuation up here."

"I know. Sorry about that," came Carter's reply a few seconds later. "We're down in what seems like the main generator room. We're trying to get everything up and running and it looks like we turned something off instead of on."

"And?"

"We should have full power to this building in a few minutes."

"What's the problem?"

"No problem. It seems the Ancients put the city into a sleep or stand-by mode when they left. Normally they would just power it up from one of the consoles upstairs, but they'd also know exactly what controls and what console to use."

"Next time give me some warning."

"I will," she replied and he could hear the smile in her voice. "Didn't mean to worry you."

"That's okay, Carter. Reynolds out." He switched channels again. "Bosco?"

"Here, sir. Everything okay?"

"Yeah, Carter's playing with the power cables. Looks like we'll be up and running with full power here in a bit. I have to head back to the gate for our daily check-in. I need Ellis to hold down the fort for a while. Can you two make it back?"

"Will do, sir," Ellis replied immediately. "It'll take up about thirty minutes to get back. We're pretty far out."

"See you in thirty. Report in if you see anything out of the ordinary."

Bosco snorted. "Sir, we're in an alien city on another planet on the other side of the galaxy. How much more out of the ordinary can things gets?"

Reynolds smiled. "Point taken. Now get your asses in gear. Reynolds out." He switched channels once again.

"Peterson?"

"Here, Colonel," came his distracted reply.

"What are you touching now?"

"Don't worry, sir, nothing big. It's amazing though what this gene can let you do."

"Don't let the scientists catch you. You never know what feats you'd be asked to perform."

"I think it's too late. Sawyers wandered through before and caught me poking at something or other. I saw the look in his eyes."

Reynolds laughed. "Cat's out of the bag, then. Bosco and Ellis are heading back in and I'm going to check in with the SGC. Carter also mentioned something about starting up the generator in a few minutes, so keep an eye out."

"Will do. I'm going to head up to the top floor. I think that might be where the main controls for the city are located. I saw huge windows from the ground."

"Either that or a restaurant."

"At the edge of the universe? I doubt it."

Gary shook his head. He should have expected that from the technology nerd. Why hadn't Peterson become a scientist again? "Just be careful. We're working with stuff way over our heads."

"I know, sir. I'll let you know if I find anything cool."

Reynolds clicked off and stood silently for a few minutes, his eyes scanning the room around him. The technology was amazing, but it also scared him in a way. There was something to familiar, yet so alien, about it. It was the air of familiarity that frightened him, reminding him that these people, this race, were very much like they were now. They had likes and dislikes, successes and failures. What would happen to the human race in a few thousand years? Would they follow the steps of those who had come before or would it be something different? It was exciting and terrifying, thinking about the vastness of time and space and how they all fit into it.

Maybe that's why he didn't try thinking about any of that kind of stuff on a regular basis. It just ended up giving him bouts of insomnia.

He moved slowly around the room, his left hand hanging onto the P90 clipped onto his vest, stopping it from bouncing as he walked. He wanted to reach out and let his right hand walk along the crystal-covered console. What would happen? What would he be able to find?

Swearing to himself, he pulled back his hand only an inch from the nearest surface, forcing it into a pocket.

Before he could berate himself, his name came over the radio.

"Carter? There a problem?" he answered, his tone clipped, caution in his voice.

"No. I'm getting ready to turn everything on and I wanted to let you know."

"Sounds good. Might want to do a general broadcast. The scientists will at least listen to you. I swear they've already tuned me out."

Reynolds could hear the smile in her voice. "Will do. Stand by."

A few seconds passed before her voice sounded on the radio, cutting across all of their radio channels. "Attention. This is Colonel Carter. We're going to be firing up the generator in the main building in a minute. Please stand back from any consoles or machinery. I'm not sure exactly how things will react."

A series of acknowledgements echoed through the link, every one of the teams checking in. And a minute later, all the lights came on and nothing blew up.

Reynolds called that progress.

***

It took some doing, but Daniel finally found a number for Steven Rayner. Google, unfortunately, hadn't been as cooperative as he would have liked, forcing him to dig deeper into government records. Daniel had discovered that the other man had moved several times, but was now based in Washington DC and attached to the Smithsonian Institution. From the research Daniel did, it appeared as if Steven was on the fast track to new grants and several book deals. But then, that was what Steven wanted—fame, fortune, and a high-profile career. From the looks of things, he might have gotten exactly what he wished.

Dialing an outside line, Daniel quickly entered the ten-digit number that would connect him with the Smithsonian Office of Fellowships. From there, he knew he'd be transferred several times before ending up at his old friend's desk.

And he was right. Bounced around to five different people, the sixth time seemed to be the charm, but when the line rang for the fourth time Daniel through that he'd just spent the last fifteen minutes on hold for nothing. This was not the kind of message that he wanted to leave on voice mail.

"Steven Rayner."

The suddenness of the greeting startled him. "Steven? This is Daniel Jackson."

The hum of the open line was loud in the pause before Steven replied. The dull tone of his voice only emphasized that the other man was not happy to hear from him. "Daniel, I'm surprised to hear from you."

"Yeah," he said, hesitating, not sure this was a good idea. He needed to see those artifacts though. "Sorry for not keeping in touch. Things have been…busy."

"Busy. You're busy," he laughed humorlessly, bitterly. "You left me in a hospital in Egypt with no explanation and then never returned any of my calls when I tried to find out what the hell happened. And then I find out that Sarah's dead, but no one can give me any information. We had a funeral for her, but that didn't even begin to explain anything. And now you call as if everything is just fine."

"Steven, I know I should have handled things differently, but my hands were tied. I couldn't tell you anything," Daniel protested. He remembered the…discussions he'd had with Jack and General Hammond after the whole incident. He'd argued with them until everyone was blue in the face and he still hadn't gotten anywhere. "It was classified," Daniel continued, "and you know how the government can be."

"Classified my ass, Daniel. Sarah was dead and the government just wanted to sweep it under the rug. I got the letters from the Air Force. I know a cover up when I see one."

"Fine, if that's what you want to think, go ahead, but that's not why I'm calling," Daniel finally replied, frustration and anger mingling in his voice. He leaned forward, cradling the phone between his shoulder and his ear as he reached for the pages strewn across his desk.

"If not about Sarah, then why?"

"I read about one of your trips to the Yucatan before you became affiliated with the Smithsonian."

"And?"

"And, as one archeologist to another, I'd like to see the artifacts you brought back."

"That's it? You want to see what I found? What, is it part of a control system for your alien's landing pads or something? Or wait—"

"Steven, I really don't have time for this."

"Really? What, are you publishing papers on the Maya, Daniel? What is it about you? Why do you have to take what I have, what I love? First Egypt, then—"

"Steven, listen to me," Daniel said, raising his voice. He paused, the hissing of the open line the only sound. "I have no intention of publishing any papers. I'm not an academic anymore. I'm not looking to usurp your rightful place in the archeological world. All I want to do is look at your artifacts. Is that so much to ask?"

"Fine," Steven said, the word forced out through gritted teeth. "You can see them."

"Great. Thank you," Daniel said, sighing in relief. "I'll arrange to have them transported—"

"Transported? You never mentioned anything about them leaving the museum. Daniel—"

"It'll be a week, tops, and then you'll have them back—"

"Absolutely not! I should have known you just wanted to get your hands on my findings."

"Would you stop being so damn territorial," Daniel yelled, eliciting a shocked silence from his old friend. Closing his eyes he tried to calm down. Channeling Jack right at this moment was not a good idea.

"Here's the deal," Steven finally said, this words rushed, his voice low. "If you want to see the artifacts I'm going with them. Take it or leave it."

"Steven, I can't arrange for—"

"You know you can. I know you have connections. That's the deal. If you want to see the artifacts up close and personal then you get a package deal because I'm coming with them. What will it be?"

Grimacing, Daniel leaned back in his chair, realizing that this was the only way to see the artifacts without causing more of a ruckus than he already had. "Agreed. I'll arrange everything. Can you leave within the next twelve hours?"

"Wow," Steven said, his voice showing his surprise. "You weren't kidding when you said you wanted to see them."

"Can you?"

"I'll be ready."

"Good. I'll see you at the Denver University Anthropology Museum tomorrow."

"Tomorrow then."

***

As Captain Chad Peterson stepped out of the stairwell and onto the top storey of the central building, his jaw nearly dropped to the floor.

It was gorgeous.

Now, he knew there were windows—those he could see from the ground—but the sheer amount of glass and light was not what he was expecting.

The room was huge, encompassing the entire top level of the building, the windows on all sides were a mosaic of clear and stained glass. Two staircases on either side of the room offered access to the upper level. Consoles were scattered throughout the space, the majority clustered in the center of the room allowing the operators to look out upon the city below. The etched glass controls sparkled as they caught the sunlight streaming down from the glass-enclosed ceiling.

Several transparent screens seemed to float in mid-air, suspended as they were from thin filaments from the high ceiling above. There was information flashing across several of them, awake now that Colonel Carter had turned the power on.

He could spend hours in this room, just looking, watching, staring at the city and countryside below. This must be what it felt like to fly. The Ancients sure knew something about architecture, form, and function.

Peterson forced his feet to take him forward into the bright, white room, his eyes focusing on the nearest console. He had work to do, but his eyes kept drifting to the scenery outside. How could the Ancients have left this behind?

Pushing his surprise and awe to the background, Peterson began walking around the room, carefully examining every surface. His feet, though, had other thoughts as they brought him slowly to the windows where he could look down at the city below.

He could see everything—including the Stargate and a lone figure walking toward the DHD. Moving slowly, his feet tracked in a wide circle, never straying far from the window where his fingers gently brushed the sun-warmed glass.

Here, at the top of the highest building in this Ancient city, Chad Peterson was on top of the world.

***

"No, Daniel," General Jack O'Neill said as he looked up from the report he held as the archeologist stood before his desk, his hands thrust deep within the pockets of his blue BDUs.

"But Jack," Daniel pleaded as O'Neill rose from his chair and strode out the door into the briefing room, papers still clutched in his hands. The other man followed him, talking non-stop as they descended the stairs into the control room. "Steven could bring so much to the program and you know that we're always looking for new archeologists and linguists. We've only been able to sign a few of them because most of the archeologists are leery of the military and, honestly, me too. Steven's as smart and they come. He can—"

"I thought we went through this a few years ago," Jack said, glancing over his shoulder. "Did you think the answer was going to change just because I'm in charge of the SGC? He was a security risk back then and I don't think that's about to change anytime soon."

"A security risk?"

"Look at his lifestyle, Daniel," he said, gesturing for Alberts to dial up the gate. It was time to get an update from Colonel Reynolds. "He's not exactly a mild-mannered archeologist. Answer me honestly: has he changed since you've seen him last?"

Daniel was silent for a moment as the chevrons began locking into place. Jack leaned against the main console and crossed his arms over his chest at he watched his friend. Something was up, that much he knew, but Daniel hadn't decided to share that part with him yet. He had all of a minute now, so it wasn't the best time to broach the subject, but…

"So, what's this all about anyway? I didn't think you'd had any contact with Steven since that whole…Osiris thing happened."

"It's Sarah."

"Oh?" Come to think of it, this might be a bad thing to do now.

"Chevron seven locked, sir," Alberts said quietly.

Jack held up his finger toward Daniel as the wormhole came to life behind him. "Hold that thought and don't go away. This won't take long." Daniel nodded once, wrapping his arms around his body, his blue eyes refusing to settle on Jack's face, instead they were moving constantly, looking at everything except Jack. Shaking his head, O'Neill turned and toggled the microphone on. "SGC to SG-3 niner. Do you copy?"

"Loud and clear, General," Colonel Reynolds replied, his voice coming out of the overhead speakers.

"How goes things, Gary?"

"Fine, sir. Quiet…relatively speaking."

"Gary," Jack growled, warning in his voice. "If something happened and you didn't alert us—"

"Everything is fine. I'm just surrounded by scientists, sir…arguing scientists."

"Ahhhhh," Jack replied with a knowing chuckle. "Finding anything?"

"Lots of stuff, sir. I wish we could borrow McKay and Zelenka from Atlantis for a few weeks to help us get through a lot of this stuff, but they're a little busy from what you've been able to tell me."

"You could say that. This isn't a life-threatening situation, Gary, and until it becomes one, there's no reason to pull them back. The group we've got here is pretty good. And the last time I checked, you do have Carter working over there. Don't you?"

"Don't worry, sir. Carter's fine. Up to her elbows in various systems. Walter and Siler have been a great help turning things on and a few of the scientists actually have the gene, but it's slow going. Not everyone is as fluent in Ancient as Doctor Jackson."

"Watch what you say. You wouldn't want to give Daniel a big head," Jack replied, throwing a grin over his shoulder to the other man, who it seemed wasn't even paying attention. "The linguists have to learn to be more fluent anyway, so this is a good experience for them. We can't send Jackson everywhere all the time. Anyway…have you been able to figure out what scared the Tok'ra away?"

"Not yet. Honestly, we're just scratching the surface."

"Any ZPMs?"

"None. It looks like the city was built before the Ancients came up with that technology."

"Too bad. We could really use one. We're putting too many miles on the Daedalus as is. I don't want to pay those overage rates if I don't have to."

Reynolds chuckled. "Don't blame you."

"If anything changes, let me know, otherwise we'll talk again tomorrow. Same time."

"Yes, sir. SG-3 niner out."

As the wormhole winked out of existence, Jack turned back to his friend whose scowl had just gotten deeper. "So, what's up with Sarah?" he asked, gesturing toward the stairs with the report in his hand. "I thought you told me that she was settling well into work at the SGC."

"Oh, she is," he replied, trailing a few feet behind Jack. "It's been great to have someone else that's fluent in Goa'uld."

"Okay? And? Therefore?" Jack waved his hand as he crested the top stair, trying to urge Daniel to continue talking when he trailed off.

"She found something."

"Yes?" At this rate it would be time for Reynolds' next check-in before Daniel finished.

They walked back into Jack's office in silence and it wasn't until they both found their seats did Daniel find his voice. "Sarah was doing some research, going through journals and reports from some of our colleagues and she stumbled across something interesting."

"And this involves Steven I assume."

"Yeah," Daniel replied, explaining about the archeologist's exploration into Central America and some of his discoveries. As soon as he mentioned the possible connection with the mask from a few months ago, he was interested. Very interested.

"So, we might be able to get some more information about this race that nearly took over my base?"

"Maybe."

"Maybe? I thought you said that Steven was sending the artifacts to the SGC."

Daniel had discovered something very interesting about his fingers and hands, his gaze fixed intently on the appendages as he picked at a hangnail. "He's bringing them to a museum in Denver, not sending. He insisted on coming with them. I don't think he trusts me at my word anymore—especially after…"

Jack nodded. "Ah. So he brings them by, you look them over and if we can use them to find out more about this race we use them. What's the problem?"

"He's not going to let us keep them, Jack," Daniel replied, his voice taking on a slightly condescending tone.

Jack bristled a little. "Why not? You know we can take them if we want to, Daniel."

"I don't think we have to. I just need to get a closer look at them, take a few pictures, check them with our equipment…alien equipment. You know, the usual."

"Usually we have the objects in storage so you can look at them anytime you need."

"I know." Daniel hesitated before glancing up. "I don't want to push him on this, Jack. I can't do that to him again. We're meeting at the Denver University Anthropology Museum tomorrow. I thought it might be a nice and neutral place. I've made all the arrangements."

"So, why are you in my office again?"

"With the research Steven has done on the Mayan—and on these artifacts specifically—I think he could be a great addition to the SGC. He—"

"Absolutely not. Pick his brain. Take your pictures. Hell, pick his pockets if you want while you're at it, but under no circumstances will you tell him anything about the program." When Daniel looked like he was going to protest, Jack raised his hand and glared. "No. Don't push me on this, Daniel, because you're not going to win. And if this does have anything to do with that race you had better make sure you get everything you need. If you don't, then I'm going to have to get involved and I don't think you want me to, if you get my drift."

Daniel's eyes widened a little, but he nodded. "I get it," he mumbled.

"Good. Then since we're on the same page and since I have hundreds of pages in front of me, I think we should both get back to work," he said as Daniel rose to his feet, a frown on his face. "Keep me informed."

"I will," Daniel replied, walking from the room, his feet dragging a little as he made his way down the corridor.

Jack sighed and shook his head. Sometimes, he needed to save Daniel from himself—as if that were actually possible. Pausing for a minute, his mouth formed a thin line as he quickly made a decision. Picking up the phone he punched in three digits that would connect him with the control room below.

"Alberts, I need to talk to Colonel Reynolds again."

***
Colonel Reynolds strode into the building, his eyes immediately scanning the interior. A few people were loitering—Bosco and Ellis making their rounds while the scientists poked and prodded the now active consoles.

Catching the eye of Captain Bosco, he waved the man over.

"Sir?" he said as he got closer, the one word conveying all the questions he knew the other man had.

"Where's Colonel Carter?"

Bosco shrugged, turning to glance around the room. "The last time I saw her, she was headed to the far side of the building with Doctor Lee. Ellis might know where she is since he's over there."

Reynolds nodded, switching channels on his radio before speaking. "Ellis, you copy?"

"Here, sir," came the quick reply.

"You seen Colonel Carter? Bosco thought she was headed your way."

"Haven't seen her. Maybe she headed topside? Peterson mentioned something that he wanted her to see."

"Thanks. I'll try upstairs." Reynolds sighed as he switched channels again. "Peterson?"

"Sir?"

"Carter up there with you?"

"Yes. Both her and Doctor Lee. You need something from her? I think she has her radio on."

"I'll come up to meet you. What's the best way?"

"Don't take the stairs, sir," Peterson replied, and Reynolds swore he could feel the frustration in the other man's voice. "There should be a set of door mid-way on the north side of the building. They're elevators."

"They have elevators here?"

"Among other things, yes. Once the power came on we found a few nifty gadgets."

Reynolds chuckled. "Nifty? What are you fifteen? Who uses the word nifty?"

"Apparently, I do," Peterson replied, a light laugh filling the open air.

"I'll be there in a few minutes. Reynolds out."

Turning back to the man standing silently beside him, a quizzically expression on his face, Reynolds decided to give him the short version. "General O'Neill needs Carter back on base. It seems that Doctor Jackson might have gotten himself into a wee bit of trouble back home. He wants us to keep it quiet though. So…" Reynolds wiggled his fingers and tilted his head, his eyes pinning Bosco with a single glance.

"Understood. Didn't hear a thing about Doctor Jackson's turn to the dark side." Reynolds shook his head and snorted as Bosco continued, "You might want to find that elevator. Stairs are murder on the knees."

"Keep an eye on the place while I'm gone, will you? And try to act like a grown-up," he said, heading for the north side of the building, his eyes scanning for the elevator doors—as if he knew that Ancient elevator doors looked like in the first place.

"Sir?"

The tone of Bosco's voice made him turn around. "Something wrong?"

"Maybe. This grown-up thing…was there a manual for it?"

Rolling his eyes toward the ceiling, Reynolds turned around again. "Just don't let the building blow up. Okay?"

After receiving a positive response, Reynolds strode across the room. It took him several minutes to finally locate the doors that Peterson had mentioned, the offending objects sighing open to reveal the small interior. Honestly, it looked like a closet.

"Let's see what happens," Reynolds muttered, eyeing the screen that appeared in the rear of the compartment nervously. He wasn't particularly good around anything technically advanced, which made his body's acceptance of the Ancient gene all the more puzzling.

He punched a finger at what looked like the top of the tower and began a silent prayer as the doors slid shut behind him.

About a minute later the door slid open and he was blinded by sunlight streaming into the dark elevator car. He thought he was in the right place. Maybe.

Stepping into the room, his hand raised against the glare, he found Peterson at his elbow a moment later. "I should have warned you about the sunlight. It doesn't look like the elevator is compensating for the increased light levels up here. It must be in the system somewhere, but we haven't found that yet," Peterson said, steering him toward one of the consoles. His eyes were adjusting faster than he thought they would.

It was the room itself that took his breath away.

"What is this place?" he asked a few beats later as his hand slowly dropped to his side, his eyes squinting against the brightness as he turned in a 360, taking everything in.

"Our best guess," Carter replied as she stepped close to the two men, "is a control room for the city. We're setting up a few laptops to translate from Ancient into English. Since there aren't many of us who are fluent in Ancient, it'll help to speed our learning process up once the translations are up and running." She paused, her eyes narrowing a little. "Captain Peterson mentioned you were looking for me."

"Yeah," he said, glancing at the other people forming a rough circle around them. Where were all these scientists coming from? There were no Volkswagons around. "If you have a minute?" He gestured to the far side of the room, allowing Carter to take the lead. A few moments later and they were alone, the rest of the scientists already turning back to their laptops and their new toys.

"General O'Neill has requested that you return to the SGC temporarily."

Carter's eyes widened immediately and her body stiffened. "What happened?"

"Doctor Jackson might need a…lighter hand than the General could provide. Something about Steven Raynor and Sarah Gardner. It seems that the Doctor has gotten himself into what General O'Neill fears in a big mess. He wanted you to handle it."

He could see her initial fear of something happening to the General or Doctor Jackson quickly fade, only to be replaced by anger and something else. Exasperation maybe?

Reynolds continued, trying to coax his voice into something more soothing than normal. He couldn't blame her for being angry. This was one of the first times she'd had the opportunity to do hands-on research into Ancient technology and Jackson was pulling her away from it. Reynolds had to admit though that she was better with the archeologist. If O'Neill had to do something himself, Jackson was in bigger trouble than he knew. "The General wanted me to tell you that it was temporary. That you could return here as soon as things were cleared up at the SGC."

The muscles in her jaw clenched several times before he replied. "Did he say when he wanted me back at the SGC?"

"The sooner the better. Doctor Jackson is supposed to meet with Mr. Raynor tomorrow morning."

Carter nodded once. "Well, then, I had better get moving. This shouldn't take more than twenty-four hours."

"Take your time, Carter. The city isn't going anywhere."

"Trust me, I'm not worried about the city. Whatever Daniel did will be cleared up in less than twenty-four hours."

As she headed for the elevator, anger in her steps, she paused momentarily to let Doctor Lee know that she was leaving. As the doors closed on her, Reynolds shook his head. If Doctor Jackson wasn't in trouble yet, he was going to be very shortly once Sam Carter got her hands on him.

***

"I still don't think that this is a good idea," Daniel said, glancing at the passenger in the front seat of his red Jeep Wrangler as Colorado Springs faded in his rearview mirror.

"Why not?"

"Well, for one, he thinks you're dead."

"Well, we can put that rumor to rest now, can't we? Besides, I wasn't wearing red that day," Sarah said, a wry smile on her face for a second before it settled back into a serious expression.

Daniel shook his head, keeping his eyes on the road ahead. Traffic was light and moving fast. A Z3 had cut him off a few minutes ago for no apparent reason other than he wasn't going fast enough—and he was already a good measure over the posted speed limit. "You've been watching Star Trek?"

Sarah shrugged. "Why not? The aliens make me laugh."

"You could just talk to Teal'c. He's a barrelful of laughs."

"He brings it a little too close to home for comfort," she said softly, the pain obvious in her voice. But by the time Daniel glanced over, her mood had changed, a small smile planted on her face. "The bony forehead on the Klingons cracks me up. I still don't understand the whole non-seatbelt rule though."

"That you'll have to ask Teal'c. He loves the show for some odd reason and he has an answer for everything. If he spent more time on Earth, I think he'd end up at one of those conventions. I can just imagine him there…" Daniel said, chuckling, the image of the Jaffa at a Star Trek convention too funny to ignore.

A companionable silence fell over them, the thump-thump-thump of the tires over the seams in the road the only sound. They used to do this years ago—just getting in the car and driving somewhere, anywhere, just to get away. But that was lifetimes ago, when they were young and the world uncomplicated.

Several minutes passed before Sarah spoke again, her voice a mixture of pain and determination. "I need to see him, Daniel."

"Why?"

He could feel her turning toward him and resisted the desire to turn as well. He didn't want to see the pain in her eyes that he knew was there. Even though they'd gotten her back, there were so many that they'd lost. Sometimes that pain was too much to bear. He could still see Sha're's smile, hear her voice, and on occasion, late at night, feel her touch against his skin. That ache, it seemed, would never go away.

"You have to ask that question? You of all people should know better."

He sighed, his eyes fixed on the road. "I still don't think it's a good idea."

"You've mentioned that, several times."

Why did she have to be so stubborn? Why hadn't he insisted that she stay behind? Why couldn't he say 'no' to her even now? Did she have any idea how this might affect Steven? It was still hard for him and he knew exactly what happened.

Frustration, and a little of his pain, flowed into his next words. "What are you going to tell him? It's not like you can explain that you were taken over by a parasitic alien for the past few years, but now you're feeling just fine. Oh, and thanks for asking."

"Daniel—"

Realization of just how big a bad idea this was finally struck. Damn. Damn. Damn. "You have no idea what could go wrong. If Jack finds out about you coming to Denver with me I'm dead. I'm so dead."

"You should have thought of that before you let me get into your Jeep."

"I did. I believe I tried to convince you to stay home," he said, flashing her an annoyed expression. "It didn't stop you."

***

After stopping at the University of Denver's Parking Services building to get a guest parking pass, Daniel made his way to one of the lots on Race Street, weaving through the maze of cars and trucks until he found an open spot.

Sarah was quiet as he pulled in and parked. Turning the engine off, silence descended upon them only interrupted by the soft clicks from the engine as it began to cool. They'd stopped talking a while ago, each retreating into their own world, their own memories.

Turning toward her, he leaned one arm on the steering wheel and really looked at her, taking in her tired eyes and far-away expression.

"You ready?"

She shook her head slowly, her voice quiet as the answer came to her lips. "No."

"You don't have to do this," he said a moment later, his right hand resting gently against her arm, the fabric of her sweater and coat rough against his palm.

She turned, her eyes bright. "But I have to see him. I'm not going to get another chance at this."

Daniel bobbed his head slightly, a grimace crossing his face. "We should probably figure out what you're going to say, what you're going to do. He's not going to take this whole appearing from the dead thing very well, you know. Steven was never big on surprises."

Sarah shrugged, settling deeper into the passenger seat.

"Going in without any kind of plan is a bad thing."

"Why don't we tell him the truth?"

Daniel shook his head. "Because we can't. You know the rules. This is supposed to be like the Witness Protection Program, but they let you keep your name and your identity and they let you walk around in the general populace. It's expected that you're going to see people you know from time to time, but you're not supposed to seek them out."

"I know."

He sighed. "Do you want to talk to him?"

"I don't know."

"Sarah," he said, rubbing a hand across his face, "you have to help me here. I let you come and I didn't want to push the subject before, but we need to know what we're going to say when we meet Steven."

"A case of mistaken identity?"

"You think he'll believe it?"

She shook her head. "Probably not."

"Amnesia and a wrongly identified body?"

"I wish that was the truth."

Daniel nodded, not saying a word. Why did it happen to Sarah? Why not someone else? Although, he wouldn't wish this on anyone else.

She spoke up a few minutes later. "I can do the amnesia thing. It's a good enough explanation as any."

"And I'll answer any question he has, that way you don't have to lie to him," Daniel said, the words 'any more than we already have to' hanging in the air between them, unspoken but clearly evident.

"Fine."

"You don't have to do this at all."

"I know, but I want to see him. I'm just not sure about the talking to him part," she said, glancing at him for the first time since he'd parked the car.

"So, walk with me. You can decide what to do on the way. If you don't want to talk to him, then just hang back. Try to be inconspicuous…although for you that was generally difficult." He offered a half-smile that was returned with a quick nod of her head.

"Let's go."

It was chilly out, but not too cold thankfully. The campus was quiet as they approached the museum. As Daniel moved to open the door, Sarah hung back, her face apprehensive. Glancing inside the lobby, he didn't see anyone waiting and he gestured for her to enter.

"We're the only ones here for now. No point in you standing outside in the cold." She didn't answer, but his words prompted her to step inside, shaking off the cool air. He reached for her elbow to move her along, but she shrugged him off.

"I'll just wait here for now," she said, indicating a small grouping of chairs off to the side, some of them hidden in shadow.

He nodded as she moved off, her dark coat helping her to blend in as she sat down, making herself comfortable. Daniel didn't have to wait long before he saw a figure approaching from down the hallway.

Steven.

He looked good, healthy; his suit clearly designer. Steven didn't smile, even as Daniel offered a half-hearted one.

Moving to close the distance, Daniel held out his hand which Steven grasped quickly, the contact perfunctory.

"Steven, it's good to see you," Daniel said, offering an olive branch as he shoved his hands into his pockets. "Thanks for agreeing to come."

"I didn't think I had much choice in the matter. As soon as I got off the phone with you I received another call from the museum. Your delivery service was very prompt."

Daniel could feel his eyes widen at the comment. They were supposed to have waited a few hours before they called. Apparently, someone was eager to get the job done instead of listening to the instructions Daniel had given them before his call to Steven.

"Sorry about that."

Steven nodded once. "It's fine. And thanks for making all of the travel arrangements."

"Everything went well?"

"Yes," he paused, his voice softening a little. "My flight was early so I have everything in a small lecture hall. I thought it would be a good place to set up. The faculty has been very helpful."

"Good. Professor Abrams said that he'd make sure you had everything you needed."

"He did," he replied, his eyes shifting to something over Daniel's shoulder. It took seconds before the color drained and his eyes widened, becoming as large as saucers.

Daniel knew what he was looking at even without turning around. There was only one thing that could have happened.

Damn.

Steven's shocked and pinched face turned quickly to Daniel. "Is this some kind of a joke?"

Sighing, Daniel shook his head and glanced behind him, reaching out a hand to pull Sarah the remaining few steps. "No. No joke."

Whatever little color was left quickly fled and he took a half-step forward before stopping abruptly. Shaking his head, he blinked several times as if that would change what he saw before him. "But, she's dead," he whispered, his hand rising toward her face.

Sarah stepped back, closing her eyes for a moment. Daniel could feel her shaking. "You were right, I shouldn't have come," she said, the words barely audible, but from Steven's reaction he knew that the other man had heard them.

She opened her eyes, apology shining in them along with tears. "I'm sorry, Steven, but I can't do this." Turning, she hurried toward the door leaving the two men alone.

Steven went to follow her, but Daniel put a hand on his chest, stopping the movement. "Let her go."

"She's alive?" His words were harsh, the red tinge of anger dotting his cheeks. "She's alive and you didn't tell me about it?" He paused, drawing in a breath, the anger adding heat to his words. "We had a funeral for her. We had a goddamn funeral for her and you knew…that's why you never came and why you never answered my calls. How dare you show up here, parading Sarah on your arm as if nothing happened, as if everything was fine!"

"Steven, slow down a minute—"

"Slow down? She's been alive and you didn't have the balls to tell me. You let me believe she was dead all this time. How could you?"

Steven turned, striding a few paces away, his breath coming hard and fast.

"I couldn't say anything," Daniel said, taking a few steps toward him, trying to explain, but he couldn't. There was nothing more he could say without causing a major incident—although something told him that it might be too late already.

"Couldn't or wouldn't?" Steven whirled back, his face lined with anger and accusations. "I don't know what to believe anymore."

"This is all a big mistake," Daniel admitted, meeting the other man's gaze. "I should have made sure I came alone. I'm sorry—"

"And just prolong the lie?" His words were bitter. "So, why did you contact me, Daniel? What do you really want?"

"Exactly what I asked you for. I wanted to examine the artifacts you discovered, nothing more," he said. He continued, his voice quiet, "I never intended this to happen."

"The road to hell, Daniel, remember that. And as for the artifacts, you can just forget about it. You've lost whatever little credibility you had left with me. Nice to see you, Daniel. Have a nice life."

Steven staked off, refusing to turn when Daniel called his name, urging him to reconsider.

As the other man vanished into the depths of the Museum's corridors, Daniel released the breath he'd been holding. He glanced toward the doors leading outside and back down the hallway. This had gone worse than he'd expected.

Jack was going to kill him.

***

"You did what?"

Daniel held the phone away from his ear, still hearing his friend's exclamation when the device was several inches from his head.

"What were you thinking?"

When Daniel was sure Jack was done ranting for now, he moved the phone back. If he didn't say something Jack would just continue to fume and yell at him. "Apparently, I wasn't thinking as…clearly as I first assumed."

"No shit, Sherlock" Jack replied, sarcasm dripping from his words. "Let's try this again. You brought Sarah—someone who for all intents and purposes is supposed to be dead—to meet up with someone whom I wouldn't even give my Starbucks order to. Did we or did we not have a conversation about this yesterday?"

"We did," Daniel admitted quietly as he walked toward his car, keeping an eye on his surroundings as he tried to find Sarah. "But I thought—"

"No, Daniel, you didn't think and that's the problem." O'Neill sighed into the phone. "Where are you and where is Miss Gardner?"

"I'm still at the University and I'm not sure where Sarah is. We kind of got separated."

"You kind of got…"

"She was upset," Daniel said, trying to explain.

"Upset. I wonder why she was upset, Daniel. Maybe seeing someone that thought she was dead might have stirred up some emotions, reminded her of her life before it got complicated and top secret."

"Well…"

"What are you planning to do about Steven?"

"What do you mean?" Daniel asked, not following Jack's train of thought. He rounded the corner and headed across Race Street spotting a solitary figure standing beside his jeep.

"I mean, what are you doing about the artifacts? That was the reason you were meeting with him in the first place, correct?"

"Steven's not really very cooperative right now," Daniel admitted, slowing down. Sarah didn't need to hear this conversation.

"Oh, I wonder why he's not cooperative," Jack said sarcastically. "Where do you think he's going to go now?"

"Maybe the airport. He doesn't have any other reason to be here."

"Good. I already have a detail on their way to Denver. I'll make sure they stop him before he boards the next flight out to Washington. Hang on a second."

Before Daniel could protest, it seemed like a hand covered the mouthpiece of the phone. He could hear some papers shuffling in the background and Jack saying something. He couldn’t make out the words, but it sounded as if Jack was issuing orders, his tone clipped and angry.

Jack came back a beat later, his voice cold. "I'd recommend that you and Miss Gardner head back to the base."

"But Jack, we can't just take those artifacts from him."

"Why not? Why don't you explain it to me."

"It's…it's not right. They're not ours to take. I don't even know if it has anything to do with the aliens we encountered a few months ago."

"I thought we went through this already. We can take whatever we need if it's going to affect the safety and security of this base and this program. Even if you're not sure we have to be certain and if that means we borrow the artifacts from Mister Raynor, then that's what we do. Don't argue with me, Daniel, I'm not in the mood. Right now I have to call General Hammond and explain what an absolute mess you've made. Return to base. O'Neill out."

Daniel glanced at his cellphone as if it would jump out and bite him. Walking the last few feet to his Jeep he stopped next to where Sarah was standing, leaning against the front grill.

"You okay?"

She shrugged. "You were right."

"About what?"

"I shouldn't have come."

"Come on," he said, moving past her to unlock the doors, "we have to get moving."

"Why? What happened with Steven?"

"He was a little…miffed. Decided that we can't see the artifacts. I had to call Jack and let him know what happened."

"Ouch."

"Very close to the truth. He apparently already has a detail on their way to Denver with orders to retrieve the artifacts."

"So where are we going?"

"To the airport to try and talk some sense into Steven before the soldiers show up."

"And you think this is a good idea?" she asked, sliding into the front seat and closing the door.

Daniel started the car and pulled his door shut, yanking the seatbelt into place. "No, but I'm not going back to the base until I talk to Steven again."

"General O'Neill agreed to this?"

"Not…exactly."

***

Colonel Reynolds yawned and stretched, his hands above his head. Glancing around the room he occupied in one of the nearby houses they'd commandeered, he was still surprised that there was so little dust. He felt like he was trespassing in someone's house. The only difference was that these people had been gone for thousands of years.

They'd moved—temporarily—into three of the houses adjacent to the building they were exploring, splitting the military personnel between each one. Thankfully, General O'Neill had sent another team through so his own team was able to stay under the same roof with only a handful of scientists underfoot.

Moving into the attached bathroom, he showered and got ready quickly, changing into a fresh uniform before heading down the stairs to the main room.

Even thought it was still dark outside, someone was up. He could smell coffee.

Rounding the corner, he discovered Bosco in the kitchen with what looked like an apron wrapped around his waist. He was whistling to himself as he puttered around, various cooking implements in his hands. The coffee scent was stronger here but it was mixed with the smell of breakfast—really good breakfast.

"Bosco?"

"Morning, sir," he replied, a smile on his face. He didn't seem surprised to find company in his kitchen.

"What are you doing?"

"Cooking. What does it look like I'm doing?"

"Why are you up?"

Bosco shrugged as he moved to a large cabinet behind him. He reached in and came out with a tray of eggs in his hands. "I was awake and I figured everyone could use a good breakfast this morning. Besides, General O'Neill was nice enough to send out some supplies overnight when he heard that we had refrigerators. The bacon and sausage are almost done, but I haven't been able to find a toaster, so we don't have toast." He paused, looking up at Reynolds. "How do you want your eggs?"

There was something very wrong with this picture, but right now, Reynolds couldn't quite put his head around it. Maybe it was the fact that Bosco was standing in an alien kitchen with a strange piece of fabric that was pretending to be an apron around his waist cooking an ordinary hungry man's breakfast. Or maybe this was just a dream.

Right now, Reynolds knew only one thing. Everything would be better once he'd had coffee.

***

Pulling into the airport, Daniel maneuvered to the terminal building, jumping out as soon as he could find a spot along the curb. He'd missed the exit and had gotten lost on some of the side streets, losing precious time. Jack's armed goons would be here any minute, he figured, and he needed to get to Steven first.

"Sarah, can you park somewhere? I want to make sure I can find Steven."

"Sure," she replied, immediately moving around the front of the Jeep and sliding into the driver's side as Daniel jogged into the terminal.

Glancing at the signs, he headed toward the ticket counter, stopping briefly to look at the departure screens. There was a flight heading back to Washington in an hour. Knowing Steven he was going to try and get on that flight back home.

Moving to the nearest counter, he cut the line, eliciting several curses from the waiting passengers.

"I'm sorry, sir, but you have to wait on line—" he woman began, but Daniel cut her off as he dug out his Department of Defense badge.

"Look, I don't have a lot of time, but I need to find out if a passenger has checked into his flight. Steven Raynor. He'll be on the flight for Washington DC."

After a brief pause, she picked up his badge, her eyes widening. Her fingers began typing quickly along the keyboard. "Raynor, you said?"

"Yes. Steven Raynor."

"He changed his reservation and is booked on the next flight. He should be preparing to board in the next few minutes—"

"Thank you," he shouted as he headed to the gates at a run. The line at security was another story entirely. Moving toward the front of the line, he approached the first security agent.

"Your boarding pass, sir," he asked, his eyes flashing as he caught Daniel cutting the line.

"I need to find someone—"

"I'm sorry, sir, but you can't go through security unless you have a valid boarding pass." A not so discreet wave and a security guard started to approach.

"Look, this is an emergency," Daniel said, "I have to find someone before they board their flight."

"Sir, can you please step out of the line?" the guard said, his hand resting lightly on his sidearm.

"You don't understand. I have to go through security. I have to—"

"Step to the side, sir," he said, his tone firm.

Daniel sighed, but complied. "I'm not crazy, but I do have to get through security," he said, digging out his badge once again. "This is an emergency."

The guard's eyes widened slightly, before narrowing as he looked at the archeologist. "This is not the time nor the place for a practical joke…Doctor Jackson, is it?"

"Look, this might be a little out of the ordinary, but I have to find a passenger who is boarding a plane in a few minutes." Daniel shook his head, muttering under his breath, "I don't have time for this." He continued a minute later, louder. "Come with me, if you don't trust me, I just have to talk to someone. It's a matter of national security."

By this time a second guard has approached quietly, taking up a position just behind Daniel's right shoulder. The two men exchanged some kind of silent communication before the guard standing in front of him nodded slowly.

"We'll all go together," he agreed and the three of them began walking to the special security lane reserved for airport personnel.

Several minutes later they were through and Daniel immediately began walking quickly, looking through the crowds of people milling about, trying to find the one among the hordes. As he approached the gate the flight was supposed to leave from, he spotted Steven's dark suit. He was standing off to the side, a special metal briefcase in his hand. He'd apparently decided to hand-carry the more delicate artifact.

"Steven," Daniel huffed as he got closer, catching the other man's attention. Steven's expression quickly turned from surprise to anger as he recognized who was headed for him—two security guards in tow.

"What the hell are you doing here, Daniel?"

"I came here to talk to you."

"Why? We're done talking as far as I'm concerned and your two rent-a-cops have no right to detain me. I haven't done anything wrong. You, on the other hand, have a lot of explaining to do."

"Sir?" the first guard asked, turning to Daniel, whom he ignored.

Steven, though, was not about ready to stop. "Why don't you ask him about government cover-ups, people presumed dead who aren't really. Or if you really want a good story, why don't you ask him about his theories about the ancient Egyptian pyramids, that they were landing pads for alien ships."

"I said I was sorry about Sarah. It's not like I could say anything about it. I wasn't allowed. I thought you understood about confidential and top secret, but that is apparently beyond your mental capacity."

Daniel didn't care that they were starting to draw a crowd. At this point, there wasn't much more that could go wrong.

"How dare you!" Steven shouted, lunging forward until one of the guards stopped him from making contact. "You took something away from me. You made me think she was dead and you didn't blink an eye. You outright lied to me."

"We've been through this, Steven," he said, but before he could continue a familiar voice cut in.

"Daniel, is there some kind of a problem?"

Turning he caught sight of Colonel Samantha Carter and several SFs in full combat gear. Her eyes were flashing and he knew that if she had a weapon he would have had it aimed fully at him.

When did she get back? She was supposed to be off-world. Did Jack call her back because of this whole thing? Crap and double crap. He was in a bigger mess than he originally thought.

"Sam," he squeaked. "What are you doing here?"

"Cleaning up your mess," she commented before turning to one of the SFs. "Please relieve Mister Raynor of his briefcase." She flashed Steven a sympathetic smile. "We need to take it back with us. We're sorry for the inconvenience, but rest assured that we will return it at the first available opportunity."

"You can't just take this," Steven protested as the SF grabbed the briefcase from his hand.

"Actually, we can. If you protest, we can also take you into custody, but I hope that it doesn't have to come to that."

"Sam, you wouldn't—" Daniel began, turning to his friend and teammate.

"It's up to Mister Raynor as to what we do. If he doesn't protest, he can board his flight and go home as planned—just without some of his luggage."

"The other cases?" Steven asked, all the fight drained from his body.

"Already being pulled from the plane."

He sighed and shook his head. "I won't do anything, Colonel."

"Good. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Have a safe flight home." Turning away from Steven, Sam aimed a single glance at Daniel. She wasn't happy. "I thought General O'Neill told you to go back to the base."

"I had to talk to him, Sam," Daniel said, walking beside Carter several steps, moving away from Steven.

"And make a public spectacle? If I hadn't shown up things might have gone pear-shaped."

"I know and thank you." He stopped, making Sam pause in their walk back to the terminal entrance.

"What are you doing now?"

"I need to apologize."

"That's the last thing you need to do."

"I can't just leave."

"Why not?"

"Sam, I'll be right there. I promise, no fireworks."

Her mouth in a thin line, she nodded once. "Don't be long. I think Sarah is still parked at the curb. I left one of the SFs with her."

Daniel nodded and turned back to Steven who was slumped against the wall, the airport security guards long gone.

"Steven…" he began quietly as he got close enough for the other man to hear him.

"What, Daniel?"

"I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I didn't want this to happen, for things to go this way."

"It's just like the last time. You've got what you wanted and I have nothing. Kind of a modern rape and pillage. You have what's rightly mine and all I have are a lot of questions that no one can answer and empty apologies that are supposed to make me feel better. Go home, Daniel. I don't need them, or you."

Startled by the vehemence in Steven's voice, Daniel merely nodded and turned around again. Carter was waiting by the exit, the SFs already moving toward the cars parked out front.

They had what they needed, what they wanted, but he felt dirty. Some days he hated what he did, who he'd become. Other days, he hated when Jack was right.

***

General O'Neill was good to his word and Carter was back less than twenty-four hours later. She'd stowed her belongings in one of the houses and then gotten right to work. They'd made a little progress over the past day, but it was slow going. The scientists didn't know where to begin and most ended up jumping from one project to the next, one console to another, one level up, one level down.

They were worse than kids in a toy store.

Carter, at least, stuck with one project until she figured it out, before moving onto the next. She'd drafted Reynolds to play with the Ancient technology. Someone had apparently mentioned his new abilities to the Colonel. So now it was "turn this on", "turn that on". He rolled his eyes, but complied. At least it gave him something to do besides stand around and try to look intimidating. That whole "look mean and scary" thing was lost on the scientists.

Carter had been sitting at the one console for some time now, totally ignoring him after he played with the keys to her satisfaction. He moved off to the side, stopping to gaze down at the city below him.

A hushed conversation from the other side of the room caught his attention and he turned, watching Peterson and Doctor Lee arguing about something or other. When it didn't come to blows he ignored them, turning back to the view. He could stand here all day just looking out at the city and the countryside.

Carter's in-drawn breath pulled his attention back to the Colonel. "That can't be right," she muttered to herself, her fingers flying across her laptop keys.

"Carter?" He walked back to where she was sitting, hovering behind her as he tried to read the screen over her shoulder. "What did you find?"

It took a few beats before she glanced over her shoulder at him. "It looks like I’m logged into the main computer system. It keeps track of everyone who accesses the files, from any terminal in the city."

"Okay, so you've managed to crack the administrator's password."

"No, it's more than that. I think I can find out what the Tok'ra accessed, if anything."

"That's a good thing, isn't it?"

Carter nodded, turning back to the screen. "The only thing I'm confused about is some of the entries. The most recent logins are from us, so I can ignore them for now."

"But?"

"I can also discount any readings from when you were here the first time."

"And?"

"But there are some other recent entries, in-between the times you were here. It looks like someone accessed the system from a remote terminal in one of the buildings at the edge of the city nearest the Stargate."

"Who?"

"I don't know, but the Tok'ra haven't been here, as far as we know, in months. We haven't been here either."

"So, who was it?"

Carter shook her head, glancing back at Reynolds, her eyes wide. "I don't know, but in order to access the system when it's in a power-down mode you have to have the gene. Whoever was here has that gene. And, at an initial glance, it looks like they come back fairly regularly."

"An Ancient?"

"They're all dead or ascended."

"What if they're not?"

***

It had been a few days since the incident in the airport. The talking-to he'd gotten from Jack when he returned was different than he imagined it would be.

Jack had been quiet.

Daniel had expected ranting and raving, much like what he'd experienced over the phone, but the man who sat before him was a stranger.

Sarah, he'd explained, was being moved to the Alpha site. It was safer, quieter, easier for her to concentrate on the job that she'd agreed to do. It was also a place where she wouldn't have to worry about meeting people she knew from her previous life. She'd resisted going there when she'd first been freed from Osiris and Daniel had supported her request to remain on Earth, but now…it might have been better for everyone if she'd gone when they'd asked her to before.

And then Jack had turned the conversation to him and his actions and his decisions, his reprimand all rolled up in five words.

"I'm disappointed in you, Daniel."

For some reason, that hurt more than the yelling Jack had done when he was questioning his lineage and his sanity.

Pausing at the entrance to O'Neill's office, Daniel raised a hand to knock on the doorframe, but Jack spotted him and waved him into the room, gesturing to the chair in front of his desk.

"You have a report for me?"

Daniel nodded, handing the report to O'Neill before he settled gingerly into his seat, perched slightly on the edge, his back straight. He didn't think this was going to be a long conversation.

"And?" Jack prompted, his dark eyes flashing annoyance as Daniel glanced up from his fingers.

"We've been able to determine that these artifacts are made up of the same material as the mask SG-3 discovered."

"So, not from Earth as we know it."

"No, definitely not."

"Were you able to find anything else out?"

Daniel shook his head. "Nothing yet. We're still working on it, but it's going to take some time."

"Fine," Jack said, glancing down at the opened report on his desk. When he spoke again, his voice was a little softer, less cold than it had been the past few days. "Sarah made a good catch finding these artifacts."

"I'll let her know."

"Good," Jack nodded. Daniel moved to get up, hearing the tone of dismissal in Jack's voice. He paused when O'Neill continued a few beats later. "Daniel?"

He turned looking back at the other man.

"While things should have happened differently, the outcome would have been the same either way. Remember that."

Daniel nodded once, slowly. "I know. Still doesn't mean I have to like it."

"No, it doesn't," Jack agreed. "But dwelling on it won't change anything."

"Maybe, maybe not. We'll never know now, will we?"

Turning on his heel, he walked out of the room and into the hallway, Jack not stopping him from leaving. It was time to get back to work.


The End


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