Jackfic Archive Story

 

Making the Attempt

by Offworlder

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).


Making the Attempt

She'd known from the moment the mission had begun it was a mistake. Before even. Time travel was a horrible disaster waiting to happen. It was a given that anytime you resorted to it, you were making a mistake...a big one. That was why she'd insisted they not even consider using the TimeShip when they'd first brought it home. So why had she agreed to this insane mission when Daniel suggested going back to Giza? Had the hope of finding a working ZPM really been enough to blind her to the dangers? She could still hear the general's astonished, "You're onboard with this?" and she knew her willingness to consider it had largely made the decision for him. He'd trusted her, and she'd brought him 5,000 years into the past and stranded him without any hope of escape or rescue.

Worse, in his opinion, was the fact she wouldn't allow him to do one thing about it. She could feel his anger and frustration radiating from him as he stomped off through the desert sand. With resigned sighs, she, Daniel, and Teal'c dragged behind him in the hot sun. She'd begun the mission with great reservations about his ability to keep quiet and let events unfold without interference, and now that the mission stretched on until their deaths...she thought the odds of the future surviving with them mucking around in the past were astronomical to say the least. Maybe, and she hated that maybe, the Russians were right: cyanide, never leave home without it. But, that wasn't the way it worked at the SGC, and there was no way she could imagine any of them deciding it was the better course.

"So, Carter," he snapped over his shoulder at her, anger making his voice too quiet and brittle, "who's to say we didn't already jump those Jaffa and take back our ship?"

"Sir," she sighed. They'd already discussed and shouted and yelled their way through all of her arguments, fears, and warnings, and they hadn't even made it back to the camp yet. How could she possibly hope to keep him from wearing down her resistance through the next...what, he was closer to fifty than not so-30 to 40 years?

"Don't, Sir, me," he snarled back. "We could be in one of those time loop thingies. You know when we went back to 1969, if Hammond hadn't already lived it once, we'd never have gotten home. Well, maybe the same sort of thing is working here."

"We can't take that chance, Sir!"

"Why not? I'm telling you, you can't guarantee things won't change for the better if they change at all-you don't know squat!" he accused her in frustration. Raising his voice ever higher and continuing to glare at her wasn't changing anything, but that didn't stop him.

"No, Sir, I don't! But, are you really willing to take that chance? Do you really think what we want is so important we can risk everyone and everything we know to get it?"

He huffed at her, but what could he say? They'd spent years proving they believed the exact opposite of that, putting aside their personal concerns and desires in order to serve Earth, risking their lives for everyone and everything they knew. He whipped back around without answering.

It was Teal'c who broke the silence. "The GateShip will not always be so heavily guarded...it is possible, if we are patient, a time may come when we can safely recover it."

"That would be nice," Daniel said. Jack didn't bother to reply. There was nothing Daniel could say that would wipe away the predicament they found themselves in or make up for the fact it had been his idea to come here in the first place. Besides, even though Jack knew Daniel shared Sam's concerns for the future, he also knew this was a dream come true for the archeologist. He might wish it hadn't come at the expense of his friends, but he'd relish every minute of it.

"At least," Daniel said with relief, "the mission isn't a total loss. We can bury the ZPM where we know it will be found in the future. Even if we never make it back, at least Earth will benefit from it."

"Sure," Sam said, and Jack could clearly hear the defeat in her voice, "assuming we don't do anything back here which will cataclysmically affect something back there."

Jack ignored them both and instead snarled at Teal'c, "Time, always time...seems we have plenty of time to wait. And wait. And wait..." They'd been together so long he didn't need to see them to know his teammates were rolling their eyes at his back. If they thought that would faze him, they were wrong.

"Well, in the meantime," Sam said, "we've got to agree on what to do to minimize our influence on events and people."

"No, we don't have to agree on anything, Colonel!" Jack said, pulling rank. 'They' wouldn't be deciding anything; he would. They were a military unit in enemy territory not a group on vacation. "I'll make the decisions from here on! We are not moving out to the middle of the desert and avoiding contact for the rest of our lives...it just won't work." She shut her eyes against his ranting and acknowledged his reprimand and order with a nod of her head. He ignored the angry tears in her eyes.

He also ignored the fact he was the one who had given the mission a 'go'. She was receiving the brunt of his frustration and anger, but they both knew he was the one who deserved it. He'd let his desire to get away from his responsibilities and duties at the SGC make the decision for him. Yes, a ZPM was an acceptable risk, but it wasn't one he would have taken if things hadn't been pressing in on him quite so hard. Not the job itself. Things at the SGC had probably never looked quite as rosy as they did right now with the System Lords in chaos and Anubis gone for good. Other things...well, one other thing in particular. One decision he hadn't wanted to face and had, or doubtlessly would, manage to screw up history to avoid only to find himself staring into its blue eyes anyway. Blue eyes that were as out of place here as his P-90.

As though their position wasn't precarious enough, she and Daniel advertised the fact they didn't belong here every time they opened their eyes. How long before Ra and his forces discovered them? And what chance did they stand when he did? For all his bluster, he was well aware Carter was right. They couldn't chance messing things up for the folks back home. But, he couldn't, none of them could, sit back and let the others be taken. If it came down to it, he knew he'd fight for them and risk the timeline. He'd been so ready to take out the creep in the temple for threatening a stranger; there wasn't a chance he wouldn't do it if it was one of his people on the other end of a staff weapon.

And what about Teal'c? Did she really think they'd be able to sit around and watch him die when his tretonin supply ran out...just how much of it did she think he carried with him anyway? As the man who ordered him on and off the field, he knew: exactly three months worth. The 'they' who decided these things had felt two weeks was more than enough for any mission, but he'd insisted on 12 instead. As they'd proved more than once before, there were just too many ways to get lost and still return from a mission to lay Teal'c's life on the line for a bit more room in his pack. He'd pushed for and gotten the extra supplies, but what were those other 10 weeks when this mission would be measured not in days or weeks, but years and decades? He threw another glare back over his shoulder at her. She was worried about stepping on a bug, no way would she go along with 'appropriating' a symbiote from one of Ra's boys. Not even for Teal'c.

He turned back to the front and knew there wasn't going to be an easy solution to their problems. First things first then. Priorities: food and shelter. The group they'd camped with the night before had already offered them a place in their camp for as long as they stayed. However, after the poor reception their offering had earned, their stay probably wouldn't be long. Hopefully at least a day or two, but then they'd be on their own. Unless, he convinced them to take his team with them. They were all healthy and strong and surely would have plenty to offer in exchange for their keep.

"Daniel, what's your take on Katep's group? Will they take us with them when they move on?"

"They seem friendly enough, Jack...we could make ourselves useful. I think they'd take us in, but I really would like to stick around here a while. I've just begun to take notes on-"

"Daniel!" Jack cut in, "This is not a research trip! I'd like some distance between us and Ra. The more chances we have to run into him and his Jaffa, the more chances we'll have to ruin everything."

"Sorry, Jack, you're right."

"You'll talk to them then, see what you can arrange?"

"Yeah, sure. Then we need to get the ZPM hidden where it can be found."

"Right," Jack agreed.

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Daniel had no trouble acquiring them a spot in Katep's little tribe of nomads: there was safety in numbers. In the small tent they were given they made plans for burying the ZPM. Daniel decided it wouldn't do to just leave it. They had to explain their predicament and then, just in case they'd changed things, they had to explain how things were supposed to be. Then he decided, over Sam's protests, they should explain how others could come back from the future and try to undo the mess they'd made of the past. Jack thought they might have been there recording for the intervening 5,000 years, but, fortunately, the camera batteries finally died.

With relief, Jack asked, "So how far is this tomb we're raiding?"

It wasn't far, and Daniel had no problem directing them to the spot of the future dig. One nice thing about getting stranded in Ancient Egypt...there were plenty of landmarks available to mark their way. From the cover of nearby sand dunes they were able to see it was unguarded except by the want-to-be Sphinx at its entrance. The Sphinx didn't cause them any trouble. The ZPM was safely tucked away, and the mission was as over as it was ever going to get.

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Katep's subdued group accepted them without fanfare and without question. As he had suspected, they were ready to leave the area. They moved out early the next morning. He, Daniel, and Carter found their feet blistered and swollen after the previous day of tracking through the hot sand in open sandals, but they weren't raw recruits, and they moved along at a pace which wouldn't slow down their companions. The desert stretched on before them like the open ocean, the sun beat down on them relentlessly, and the sand proved everything he'd ever said about sandy planets true.

The group traveled from early morning until close to noon when they took a midday meal and an afternoon siesta before marching off again until darkness fell and the heat of the day evaporated away. Their pace was dictated by the goats and children they herded along with them. No one seemed to be in much of a hurry, and Jack found it grated on his nerves. He'd spent the past year being the General. His day was full from the moment he checked in at the gate until he checked out usually way later than he'd planned. Slowing down to the easy pace of his new, involuntary posting was like coming off the interstate into a school zone.

As far as Jack could tell, Daniel was delighted with the chance to live his favorite subject. He didn't even seem particularly bothered by the sand mites which swarmed over them in the nights and left small red welts covering their legs and arms or the sun burns that blistered their cheeks and back of their hands when their supply of sunscreen ran out before their skin had tanned as dry and dark as their traveling companions. Everything fascinated him: milking the goats, setting up the tents, digging leeks...it was all living history for him. He probably didn't even mind squatting in the sand though Jack didn't want to know either way.

Teal'c took it all without complaint, no surprise there. Their new-found friends were cautious of the big Jaffa, but that, too, was nothing new. Jack wanted to promise him he'd find a way out of this before it was too late, but it was a promise he was afraid he couldn't keep and he never was one for bringing up things more easily avoided. If Teal'c was worried about his supply of lifesaving meds, he kept it to himself.

Things were probably hardest for Carter who'd made the mistake of being born female and therefore found herself regulated to travel and work with the other women. As far as he could tell, the women were leery of the blue-eyed stranger among them and left her isolated in their midst. He and Teal'c at least had Daniel to do their talking for them and they could talk amongst themselves while they worked, but Carter was on her own for a good part of each day. Not an ideal situation for someone who'd just buried her father and lost her future. But, she kept any complaints she had to herself.

This left him the dubious pleasure of being the complainer among them. He hated the whole situation, and he didn't mind reminding them of it at every opportunity. He didn't want Daniel becoming complacent in his new-found world of the past, or Teal'c fatalistic about his coming doom...he wanted them all determined to find a solution and to find it now. If he drove them all mad with his grousing, too bad. It might just be the ticket home. Carter, for one, always worked just that little bit better when he put the pressure on.

Their tent was big enough for the four of them to stretch out in but little else. It was fine for the nights when their work left them exhausted and they were asleep as soon as they lay down; but when the sun grew too hot for work and they had to retreat to it in the middle of the day, it was frequently on the crowded side. Daniel needed room to write his notes on life in ancient Sand City. Teal'c had a tendency to glower when he wasn't otherwise occupied and seemed to expand to twice his usual bulk in the tight quarters. Sam, he could tell, was still feeling responsible for bringing them all to this point and for the future they could so easily damage or destroy. And he was still angry at the whole situation and had no interest in small talk or making nice.

There was little to do in the heat of the day. Tempers tended to get a bit touchy in the circumstances and arguments abounded. On a typical afternoon, before it was half over, he and Carter had already had one spirited argument and would have moved on to the next if he hadn't chosen to just not bother talking to her.

"Listen," Daniel began.

"Stay out of it, Daniel!" Sam told him.

He looked at their tight-lipped faces and said, "OK. One of the guys was telling me there's an interesting rock formation not far away...I think I'll brave the sun and have a look."

"I will join you, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, taking the opportunity to escape the angry silence in the tent.

Jack looked after them in disgust. Some friends they had turned out to be. He chanced a glance at her. Her face was set in the angry scowl which was quickly becoming her normal expression and was far removed from the smiling, good-natured looks he'd grown to love over their years together. He sighed. He knew he needed to stop sparring with her and find out where things really stood between them.

He'd come half way around the world and 5,000 years to avoid this moment only to find it was still before him. But, the rules had changed and maybe the no-win situation they'd always found themselves in had changed with it. He turned to her but before he could speak, she answered the angry accusation he'd made right before he decided to give her the silent treatment. He couldn't remember what it had been exactly, but he could guess the gist from what she was saying.

"I'm sorry, Sir. I should never have backed Daniel on this." It wasn't the first time she'd apologized, and he doubted it would be the last. He'd run out of ways to tell her it was okay when it was far from all right. "I know you want to be home, I know you and Kerri..."

"Kerri called it off," he said nonchalantly. Her calling it off hadn't bothered him all that much. It was what she'd said afterwards that had left him confused and feeling as though he was out in the ocean without an idea which way to swim for safety.

"She did?" She blinked at him in surprise. "I'm sorry, Sir."

"Yeah, you said that...it wasn't that big of a deal."

"Oh, you seemed..."

He shrugged. "You're the one who's supposed to be ordering cake and looking forward to the Big Day."

"Oh," she said again, "I...uh...I called it off."

"You did?" he asked, but, of course, he knew. He'd noticed the missing ring and the relief which was almost palpable around her once she'd made up her mind. "Seemed to be an epidemic of that going around. What was your excuse?" He knew that too, of course. The same reason Kerri had called off their relationship. He'd known the minute she'd said she'd been working up the nerve to talk to him. She'd yelled it out with him over just about everything in the universe-at least the galaxy-in the course of their 7 years on the field together, there was only one thing she'd ever been afraid to discuss with him. The one thing he'd been dreading dealing with for years. Right up until she had stepped into the elevator humming and he understood things had changed. "I mean I know you said you had some second thoughts, but I thought you were happy."

It was her turn to shrug.

"Tell me something, Carter," he said to her. "What were you trying to say there at my house? When Kerri showed up." He watched the blush spread over her face as she cringed and bit her lip. He took a step closer to her and said, "Tell me."

"I was just...I was just going to..."

"What was the good reason you were bothering me with whatever it was?" he prompted. He watched her look for an escape, but he wasn't going to make it that easy. He moved closer. It had, up until now, been all about distance. From the time, he'd leaned over her in Hathor's fortress and his relief at finding her alive when he'd been told she was dead had turned to something else entirely, earlier even if he were honest with himself. Much earlier. But, that was all out the window. If there was no going home, no rescue, no hope; well then, there also were no regulations, no rules, and no reason for the careful distance they'd always maintained. She took a step back from him and ended up pressed against the soft wall of the tent. He followed her and said, "What did you need to tell me?"

"You know, Sir," she stammered out.

"Say it anyway," he ordered taking one more step closer. "Just like you would have if Kerri wouldn't have come through my door."

"Please, Sir. Let's drop it." She twisted around measuring the distance to the tent flap, but he had moved too close for her to make the break without pushing into him.

"Carter," he said without an inch of give in his voice.

"I was going to tell you," she said and after all her hesitation it seemed to come pouring out all at once, "I wasn't sure about marrying Pete because of how I feel about you."

"And how do you feel about me?" he said, closing what little distance he'd left between them and coming to a stand where she was forced to look up to see him.

"I...," she began and then faltered to a stop.

"Yes?" he encouraged her.

She frowned at him and gathered what courage she had to say almost in a whisper, "I love you, Sir." He smiled at her then and kissed her.

"Well, why didn't you say so?" he asked, though he didn't expect an answer and didn't get one. They both knew why things had been left unsaid, why things perhaps would have been left unsaid forever if they hadn't made this ill-begotten trip back in time. And it had been his choice as much as hers. Kerri had told him he was making a terrible mistake and he'd known she was right. But like so many bad choices in his life, he seemed helpless to change it. Kerri had made it sound easy, but as far as he was concerned, she'd been delusional. There was nothing easy about it.

Resign. Resign, get out of her chain of command, and...and what? He'd sat watching Jacob Carter's daughter lose her father and known he'd do whatever it took to be there for her when she needed him. He'd seen her bare finger where Pete's ring had sat and wanted to put his own there...not some big diamond she'd never feel comfortable wearing, but a simple gold band like he knew she'd prefer. And still he'd hesitated, trapped in a web of his own making and afraid to break through.

Now fate or ill-wind or just downright bad judgment on his part had changed all that. "I'm glad to hear it," he whispered in her ear. Then, because he'd been choking the words down for so long and couldn't wait any longer, he said, "Because I love you, too, Carter." The anger that had stood between them melted away. Careful not to lean too heavily on the fabric wall, he held her close and kissed her some more.

Daniel and Teal'c ambled into the tent and faltered to a stop. Daniel cleared his throat and had the grace to look embarrassed. Teal'c cocked his head and asked, "Are we to understand the impediments which stood in your way as far as forming a personal relationship with Colonel Carter are no longer a problem, O'Neill?"

Jack smiled at Carter who was too busy looking embarrassed to smile back and said, "That's right...and they won't be for another 5,000 years." He pulled back from her and looked at their teammates, "It won't be a problem with you guys, will it?"

"It is acceptable to me, O'Neill. I have told you numerous times you should find a way to overcome the obstacles before you," Teal'c answered in his smug, I-told-you-so voice. Sam and Daniel looked at him in surprise, but he was nonplussed.

"How about you, Daniel?" Jack asked.

"Um...like you'll get your own tent, right? This is...you know, kind of awkward."

"Yes, Daniel, we'll get our own tent! As I recall you weren't supposed to be back right away...don't blame us."

"Well, how were we supposed to know what you were doing? You weren't even talking when we left!"

Jack growled at him. "Oh, forget that. So if Carter and I..." he paused and looked questionably at her. Whatever he was looking for in her face he didn't find. They'd never talked about what they believed about marriage or much of anything else on a personal basis. She knew his favorite TV show and hockey team; he knew she liked blue Jello, motorcycles, and little else outside of work. But she'd been willing to marry that worm Pete, so he took the chance, "...get married, it would be ok with you?"

"Sure, Jack. I'd be happy for you," Daniel answered.

"All right then," Jack said, turning back to her, "give us a minute, will ya?" He held her gaze as Daniel and Teal'c stepped out. "Well? What do you think?" he asked quietly. He thought he knew her answer, he hoped he did; he assumed he did, but...it was a big mistake to assume anything.

She grinned at him and all his fears melted away. She asked, "About what, Sir?"

He grinned back, "About us...getting married."

"Oh that," she said. "If that's what you want?"

"It's not about what I want...well, not only about what I want. What do you want?"

"I don't want to have to drink chicken blood or some other weird marriage rite."

"Ok. No chicken blood."

"Ok."

"Ok?" She didn't bother to answer him with words. Her kiss told him everything he needed to know.

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Being with Carter could have made the whole trapped-in-time scenario worth it, if it weren't for Teal'c. The time the worry there would become critical approached far faster than he had imagined it could. The days in the desert seemed to drag on forever, but somehow Teal'c's time was running out like water down a drain. He didn't know how to slow it down, and he didn't know how to fix the problem. But somehow he had to do something. To sit back and watch Teal'c die was unacceptable and unthinkable.

In the end though, it was fate, not Jack, that intervened and bought Teal'c more time. Their wandering group of sand dwellers ambled across a squadron of Ra's Jaffa a long way from home. It was anyone's guess what they were doing out so far from the StarGate, but Jack would always consider it an answer to prayer. A fight had apparently broken out among them, and even as they watched, the Jaffa marched away leaving a fallen comrade behind.

Katep's group kept on their previous path to avoid running into any of the Jaffa, but Jack immediately signaled Teal'c and Daniel to fall back with him. Though he occasionally managed to extract Carter from the women in order to sneak away and give her a break from their stiff-necked presence there wasn't time for that now. They needed to get to the symbiote quickly. IF, and he knew that was a big if, the symbiote itself had not been injured, but left to die when the Jaffa died...well, even Carter couldn't argue against making use of it-as long as they made sure it died before it could take a host.

"What's going on, Jack?" Daniel asked, nervously watching their group move on without them.

"We need to get to the Jaffa, Daniel."

"What for?" Daniel asked suspiciously.

"Because, we need that symbiote...if they left it behind and it's uninjured."

"Really? And just what do we plan on doing with it?" Daniel asked, and Jack glanced at him in surprise. Had he really been enjoying life in Ancient Times so much, he'd failed to consider Teal'c's tretonin supply couldn't last forever? He shook his head in amazement and set off at a fast march to the Jaffa. Daniel was smart. He'd figure it out eventually.

Teal'c was already ahead of them. He bent over the Jaffa and reached down. When he stood back up, he held the wriggling symbiote in his hand. Jack came to a stop next to him.

"Well?" he asked catching his breath and wiping away the sweat running down his neck.

"It will do, O'Neill. It has perhaps three years before maturation." Jack watched Teal'c stare at the creature with revulsion. He understood. The Jaffa had thought he was finally and forever free of the servitude carrying a symbiote brought with it...he could not have any desire to place himself back under the bondage to which he'd been born.

Jack gave Teal'c's arm an encouraging pat. "I'm sorry, T," he said. "What choice do we have?"

"None," Teal'c said with finality. He had thought he'd die in battle striking a blow against the Gou'ld. That would have been a good death, a worthy one. Instead, he faced an end he would not willingly accept. Not a glorious death in battle with his enemies, but a quiet one in defeat and weakness. This symbiote could be his redemption and give him a chance for a worthy death. As the Tauri would say, it was a bitter pill to swallow, but he decided the day he had planned to go alone into the desert and let things take their course was not, after all, a good day to die.

"What do we have to do?" O'Neill asked him. His pouch had been surgically closed off, but it remained beneath his abdominal wall. They would have to cut through and trust the symbiote would be able to stop any bleeding they could not control before it became fatal. Teal'c thought even if he should die from the attempt, it would be better to die fighting to survive rather than lying down and accepting death like a weak, old man.

He looked at his friends. O'Neill's face was unreadable as he slipped his combat knife from his belt and sharpened it. Teal'c knew he would do what had to be done. Daniel's face was pale beneath the tan he'd developed from their weeks in the sun. Teal'c knew, even so, he too, would do what was required of him. They were friends he could trust with his life, and he did.

The pain was worse than when he'd undergone the prim'tah and been implanted with his first symbiote. That had been done by a trained priest with careful ritual and his father's eyes holding his. The pain from the cut had been nothing next to his father's pleasure in him. The boy Teal'c had felt only his father's pride at his son taking his place among the Jaffa. This time it was Daniel whose eyes held his, and instead of pride there was only sympathy and understanding. For a time, he didn't think they would be enough to hold him above the pain, but then it was past. He could feel the symbiote's strength building in him, the bleeding slowing, and the tissues already beginning to heal.

He blinked into Daniel's eyes and nodded his head. "I am all right, Daniel Jackson," he said.

Daniel grinned at him in relief and turned to Jack who was quietly wiping his knife in the burning sun. "Let's not do that again," he said. He waved his hands slowly in the air, and Teal'c realized he must have crushed them to keep from crying out during the procedure.

"No, let's not," O'Neill agreed. Teal'c wondered what was going on behind the closed mask his friend was wearing. Often he knew. They were very much alike, he and O'Neill. Both warriors committed to the cause, both accustomed to acting and reacting in battle, both chafing under the endless, monotonous days of inactivity in which they found themselves trapped. But today he could not begin to fathom his thoughts. He would be pleased he'd found a way to prolong his life, that he knew. He would be relieved the symbiote (and he awaited with interest the name O'Neill would grace this one with) was so quickly making repairs. But, he did not know what else was going through his mind.

Revulsion that he once again carried the young of his enemy within him? Disgust that he's weakness had necessitated such a disagreeable task? Or simply a cold calculation of how long they must remain separated from their companions before he would be strong enough to move?

"I am sorry for this, O'Neill," he said because he was.

"Think nothing of it, Teal'c," O'Neill answered him. "I'm...sorry I had to hurt you like that," O'Neill swallowed hard and still didn't meet his eye and finally Teal'c understood. Realized he should have known from the beginning. Behind his mask, O'Neill was hiding only his own feelings of shortcoming as a commander. He blamed himself any of this had been necessary, that his leadership had brought them all to this point.

"It was of no concern," he said, but he knew there was nothing he could say to wipe away the guilt his friend carried for him. He'd led men to their deaths himself and understood there were no words to wipe away the burden of leadership. "I will be ready to travel soon," he said instead of platitudes which would mean nothing and change nothing.

To prove his words, he tested his strength and found he was able to sit up. Weakness washed over him like a wave, and both of his friends reached out steadying hands. He motioned them aside. O'Neill would be in a hurry to rejoin the others, he would make sure he did not hold his friends back from catching the group before they broke camp again after the midday meal and rest.

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The days were much alike. Little broke up their dulling monotony and sometimes Jack thought he would go mad from boredom. It wore down his defenses until he didn't trust himself or his team to be ready for anything. The heat made them lazy and slow, and the occasional reports they heard of Ra's evil doings weren't enough to pull them out of their lethargy for any length of time. He thought that was perhaps for the best. If trouble was to come, then it would be easier to meet it without resistance in their current state. They couldn't react in anyway, couldn't strike back or even defend themselves. That more than anything ate into him. He was a soldier, and he itched to make a difference, to rub Ra's face in the sand and out of existence.

She'd accused him of being arrogant and self-centered when he'd wanted to act without regard for the future they knew, but wasn't it just as self-centered to think their future was the one that needed preserved? By acting now they could stop 5,000 years of Ra's tyranny. Wasn't it possible that could be a greater good than preserving the timeline? How many countless human slaves could they spare by acting? How many would die or suffer unimaginable atrocities because they refused to take the chance?

He remembered watching a Star Trek Voyager where the captain had stated, "Time-travel gives me a headache!" He couldn't agree more. The arguments chased themselves around and around in his head until one morning he woke up next to her with the realization he'd made the decision to act sometime between falling asleep and waking up.

He lay as still as possible feeling her soft presence beside him. Like Sarah she turned from him in the night and worked herself as far to the opposite side of the bed as she could. Funny, the women he hadn't married tended to crowd him off the bed while the two he had...he wondered if there was some significance in that. Regardless, she was still near enough for him to feel her heat and sense her quiet breathing. He moved closer to her and gently encircled her with his arm. He pressed his head to her back and breathed in her smell and thought about decisions.

If he made a decision which would wipe her out of existence in the future, would she still go on sleeping quietly beside him here in the past or would she fade away before his eyes? He instinctively tightened his arm around her. Because he believed the decision he'd come to in his sleep would change everything. If it didn't make her disappear into thin air, he was certain it would nevertheless propel her out of his arms, out of his bed, and quite possibly out of his life. She'd never abide by it.

She wiggled under his embrace. He willed her to go back to sleep and give him a few more minutes of contentment before his world fell apart, but she twisted around to face him and blinking the sleep from her eyes smiled a good morning. He ran a finger down the side of her face and gave a sad shake of his head.

"What?" she said, suddenly and completely awake.

"I'm sorry," he answered, and she knew before he said another word what he was saying. Fear sprang up in her chest and tightened her throat. She'd known this moment would come. Known it since they'd seen the Jaffa swarming all over the GateShip and found their way home cut off. It had hung over her head and she felt like she'd been holding her breath waiting for it to fall all of her life.

She choked out the words, "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know, but something. I'm done sitting back and letting things take their course. We know the rebellion happens sometime soon...we know we win. Maybe because we're here. Maybe not. But either way I say we make it happen. There's not one sign the people here are getting ready to overthrow Ra...it's not going to happen over night. They need weapons, training...even a realization Ra is slimeball and not a god would be nice. Someone has got to get things going."

His arm was still draped over her, and she could feel his tenseness. She dreaded the moment his agitation would force him to his feet and leave her lying there all alone. "Always," he'd said in the observation room while her father lay dying in the room beneath them. "Always," he'd said in her hallucination on board the Prometheus. And 'always' he'd said when he'd held her in the nights and told her he loved her. But she was afraid 'always' ended here, now, at this moment, when he made a choice that left her behind.

She'd known she couldn't hold him back when the time came. No more than she could stop him from trapping Fifth in the time-dilation field or giving the order to blow up the generation ship with Daniel on board or stop him from shooting a man in cold-blooded revenge under a red sky. She had no control over him, no power to stand up to the whirlwind that was the will and determination of Jack O'Neill.

She gazed into his obstinate, unblinking brown eyes and understood 'always' depended not on the choice he had already made, but on the choice she would make in return. She could argue, and rightly so, until they were both screaming at one another and the fabric of their life together was inalterably destroyed. Yet, he would still do what he would do. She couldn't stop him.

Or she could bite back her useless arguments and let her silence say what her words couldn't. She could never, would never, condone what he was doing, but in truth, she didn't blame him...she was just as frustrated in this life as he was. Every decision, every word having to be measured for the danger it might pose to a future they'd never have a share in again. The most innocent thought or action carrying with it the potential to leave Earth ensnared by the Gou'ld or worse destroyed and left wasted. It was no way to live.

She turned her gaze from his and stared instead at the billowing fabric over their heads. In all honesty, she'd made the same choice several months back. The contraceptive implant in her arm had lost its effectiveness then and every time she'd let him make love to her since she'd knowingly chanced the future. To bear a child in this time would cause irreparable damage to the timeline or condemn that child to an isolated and desolate life. "No man is an island," she'd thought, but she hadn't moved to a separate pallet. Hadn't found the strength to turn from him back to her lonely existence.

She'd talked quietly to the other women and only found herself more ostracized than before...none of them could understand her unwillingness to bear her husband a son. They'd offered no solution except for one old woman who assured her if it came to it, she could take care of the 'problem' for her. She'd shuddered at that thought and known that was one solution she wasn't willing to accept, but she hadn't come up with another one. Instead, she'd rolled the dice of fate and held her breath each month and if he was tired of playing it safe, she couldn't condemn him for doing the same.

He waited for her to speak. He knew what she'd say. She'd said it often enough, and he knew she was right. But, he'd made the decision, and he'd find a way to live with its consequences because he simply didn't know what else to do. He couldn't live like this any longer, and he'd come to the belief that intentionally or unintentionally the only way they could have safeguarded the timeline was to kill themselves when they were first trapped here. Even gating offworld wouldn't necessarily have protected the future then, and by now the damage, he hoped, was already done. Whatever actions came from his decision would just fulfill what fate had already decreed would happen. They could all avoid stepping on bugs until they were as gray as he was and the future could be just as changed as if they'd stomped on every one they'd seen. So they might as well stomp on a few.

He didn't tell her that though. He merely lay beside her and waited for her to throw him out. Instead, she gave him a sad smile and nodded her head, and it took him several minutes before he realized that was it. Whatever she had to say about it was going to remain unsaid.

He cocked his head at her and tried to read what she was thinking, but it remained a mystery to him. He tried to recall the last time, or any time for that matter, she'd let him have his way without rehashing possibilities for things to go wrong. Or even right. It was her nature to look at every action and extrapolate the next moves like a chess player in a champion match. It was also in her nature to not keep her thoughts to herself without a direct order, and even then, she didn't always manage to shut them off. Yet, she wasn't saying anything. Perhaps, he thought, she figured she'd said it all and it wasn't worth going over again knowing his mind was made up. He could see that.

But not her lying here quietly beside him as though his intentions didn't violate everything she'd been fighting for these past years. For a minute, he was tempted to force the issue. Instead, he decided to just be grateful and keep his mouth shut. Whatever the reason, he'd hold onto every moment he could have beside her. Because, if she couldn't live with his choice, she wouldn't be back when the evening fell.

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Teal'c's reception of his announcement was unequivocal relief and happy acceptance. He was almost exuberant as he quickly threw out different ideas and plans he'd been formulating for just such a day.

Daniel didn't take it so easily. He brought up all the arguments she'd failed to and tossed in a few more for good measure. But, Jack thought his heart wasn't really into it. Daniel wanted to act just as much as they did.

He and Teal'c spent the next several days discussing plans and possibilities. Daniel shook his head over them but occasionally couldn't resist contributing an idea or two of his own. Only Carter stayed away from their planning sessions. She shut herself away in their small tent through the midday rest while they argued and discussed in the other. At night, she talked about anything and everything except what they were planning or just let the heavy silence fill the night around them.

He would have liked her input. She was as capable a soldier as any he had ever served with and he valued her insight. But he didn't ask her for it. Every evening he was surprised to find her still in his tent, every morning he was amazed to wake up beside her. He understood she loved him, but he couldn't believe her love was strong enough to make her go along with his plan when she so strongly believed it was wrong. He didn't believe it, because he knew he loved her; and his love wasn't stopping him from doing what she desperately thought he shouldn't. He'd watch her sleeping and wonder if the reason he held back from asking, ordering actually, her to share her thoughts on their plans was really fear she'd accuse him of not loving her enough and he'd have no answer for her. Because he was going ahead against her wishes.

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They'd begun to speak to the natives...those in their group first and slowly others they came across. They'd moved back close to Ra's stronghold near the Gate and by stealth and guile began to amass staff weapons and zat guns. Always moving cautiously. It was a painstaking process, and unbelievably slow. At first, he'd been relieved to finally be doing anything at all, but the longer things drug on the more he felt as though he'd snap. He'd given up all pretense of helping with the herds or food gathering. Instead, he spent his time planning and training those they'd managed to sway their way. They needed people in all the camps able and willing to spy out the movements and routines of the Jaffa. They needed to assess those who might be turned to their side and to find those who would have to be eliminated. He sent Teal'c into the desert to train their converts in the use of weapons and in hand-to-hand combat.

Daniel, he put to work diagramming the area around Ra's temple and mapping out the temple itself as best as he could. He would have sent him in to infiltrate those closest to Ra if it wasn't for the blue of his eyes...when the time came, he'd have to go himself or trust one of their converts. Teal'c would have been ideally suited for it but for Apophis' brand on his forehead. They couldn't take that chance.

And still, she didn't ask any questions or offer any suggestions. She grew quieter and quieter as time went on, and he found himself incapable of breaking through her silence. He wondered if she had come to hate him, but she never drew away from his touch, never avoided his look, never didn't return his smile with one of her own. So then he wondered if she had come to hate herself for staying with him while he planned to chance everything she believed in. But, he kept his wondering to himself. If her silence kept her beside him, he would be the last to snap her out of it.

Daniel broached it with her while they were sitting in the dusk of the day soaking in what little bit of breeze there was. It was only the two of them as far as they knew. Teal'c was off on a training exercise. Jack had been meeting with some contacts. He was about to step into their line of sight when Daniel asked his question, and he found himself frozen in place waiting for her answer.

"Will you come with us when it's time?"

She looked beyond him where the circle of the sun hung just barely above the horizon. Would she? "I don't know," she answered with a sigh. "It is so wrong, Daniel. But, if...I don't think I can sit back and let you guys move without me...if he's going to do it anyway, I tell myself it won't make any difference if I go along with him. But, then why do I think I should be there, except I hope if things go wrong, I can make a difference, you know what I mean?"

"I think so. You want to go along to watch our backs."

"Exactly...so obviously I do think I can make a difference...and if so, how can I? How can you?"

Daniel had thought about that a lot. They were all aware of the chance they were taking. Teal'c was unconcerned with it. He had always believed the only timeline/alternate universe which could matter was the one they were living. They had jumped ship in midstream, but as far as he was concerned the ship in which they now found themselves was the one they had to keep afloat. Daniel was beginning to believe him...it was just too difficult to live afraid of making a move which would cause irreparable damage somewhere down the line; especially when they'd apparently never know what they'd done or what the result had been.

"I guess I'm hoping if we're careful the changes will be small enough the future won't be that affected. And maybe another SG1 can come back and fix what we've done."

"And what? Get stuck back here making the same mistakes we made? This could circle around forever until someone along the way makes too big of a ripple and everything comes to a stop!"

"Maybe. Or maybe Jack's right, and we're here doing exactly what we need to do to make the future happen."

She shook her head. "Maybe," she said, but she didn't sound convinced. The sun slipped beyond the horizon, and they sat quietly in the darkness waiting for answers that wouldn't come. "Daniel," she asked him, "is he...tell me, he isn't just seeking a way to die in a blaze of glory instead of wandering around in the wilderness for the rest of his life?"

Daniel blinked through the darkness at her. Was that her fear? Is that what kept her quiet while Jack made his plans? Did she fear the life they had wasn't enough for him? That he was intent on suicide? And was she right? His immediate gut reaction was a loud and emphatic 'no'. But. Jack O'Neill hadn't blinked at the thought of blowing himself up on Abydos. He thought Jack had come a long way from Abydos, but...

Jack was surprised when Daniel didn't answer immediately and negatively. He wasn't looking for a way out, and Daniel should know good and well he wasn't. After all, he'd known him when he had been. And Carter...how could she think that about him? She knew him better than anyone. Always had. From the very first, she'd understood his thoughts and intents on the field better than anyone he'd ever served with. And now...she slept with him for goodness sake!

Daniel said quietly not answering her question but perhaps the fear behind it, "He loves you."

"Yea," she said just as quietly, "but not enough."

"Sam?"

"He thought he'd lose me when he made this choice, but it didn't stop him." Daniel had no answer for that. "We've got the opposite problems," Sam continued. "He doesn't love me enough and I love him too much."

"Sam-" Daniel began but she cut him off.

"I hate what he's doing, Daniel. I hate it. I believe it's wrong in every sense of the word. But, I'm too afraid of losing him to do anything about it...do you know how long I've been in love with him? It seems like forever. Sometimes I think I was in love with him before I ever met him. All those years not doing a thing about it because fighting the Gou'ld and protecting Earth was a whole lot more important than what I wanted...now...I don't know. It just doesn't seem important enough anymore. So yea, Daniel, when the time comes I think you can count me in."

Then she dropped the bomb, "I guess I'm wondering about that other thing, because...because I feel that way myself...not the blaze of glory, but just the need to get it over and done with. I'm tired of living like this."

Her words detonated in his soul. Daniel's, too, by the silence that met her statement. Jack could hear shuffling and knew Daniel would be drawing her into a comforting embrace. He should have stepped forward and taken his place, but instead, he turned away and slipped off into the night.

How could he not have known? How could he have lain beside her every night, woke up next to her every morning and not have known? And how serious was she? She said she'd be with them when they made their move, so surely...the P-90's were too bulky to hide beneath their robes, but she still had her handgun and combat knife. If she was serious, she could have ended it all any time she had so chosen. Maybe it was a passing thought, a temporary melancholy. If he thought about it, maybe it was the anniversary of her mom's death or the day she broke up with Pete or something. Surely if she'd been feeling like this all along he would have known.

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When he finally made his way back to their tent she was lying quietly in the dark. He lay down next to her and knew she was awake...eight years on the field had made sure she'd never sleep through his comings and goings.

"I heard you and Daniel talking tonight," he said without preamble.

"Oh," was all she answered.

"I'm sorry," he said and wasn't even really sure what he was apologizing for. She couldn't have been either, but she didn't say anything. He heard the tight swallow she made and under his arm felt the wavering breaths she drew in and knew she was trying not to cry. He wanted to promise her things were going to be all right. He wanted to assure her he'd do anything to make her happy. But...none of it was true, so he swallowed down the empty words like she tried to swallow down her tears.

She turned into him and he could feel her tears hot and wet on his chest, burning into him. "I'm pregnant," she said into the quietness that surrounded them.

He let her words sink in and fought for something he could say to make things better, but he couldn't promise her things were going to be all right. No more than he could whisk her away to a house with a fenced yard in a nice neighborhood just down the street from a great daycare right on the way to the mountain. Because happy ever after wasn't happening here.

"What are you going to do about it?" he asked knowing there should be a 'we' there but unable to put it in. One night he'd made a decision, and they had stopped being a couple and became two individuals again. It wasn't how marriage was supposed to work, and that 'you' in the dark sounded hard and very alone.

She shrugged against him. "Nothing. What's one more ripple?" Her voice was thick with tears, and he thought he could make out their shine in the dark. He knew she believed this was one ripple too many. He didn't know what to say, didn't even know what to feel. He placed a tentative hand low on her stomach and, now that he knew it was there, thought he could feel the round swell of her growing uterus. They lay in the dark without words. Her tears cooled against his chest and made him shiver.

He'd stood beside her as she was about to go through the Gate for the first time and listened to her babble on in excitement until he had literally pushed her through it to shut her up. And he'd been listening to her babble on every since. Until sometime under the hot sun of Ancient Egypt her words had run out. He'd been telling her she talked too much for years, but now he lay in the silence and missed her excited prattle. What had he brought her to?

The answer came in the loud clanging of Jaffa boots and armor coming for them in the early morning hours. He'd known that last contact had been chancy, that every contact they made might be the wrong one. And now there was no where to run. Daniel had had orders to slip out early this morning with a few of their men and meet up with a group north of their camp...it was possible he was already gone. But, Teal'c was back. He'd run into him on his on way in the night before. He looked into her blue eyes and said it one more time, "I'm sorry."

She gave him a sad smile back and said, "I love you."

Then the Jaffa were there and they were in the hands of the enemy. As they were hauled rudely to their feet, he answered her, just in case there wouldn't be a chance to ever say it again, "I love you."

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Jack had thought Teal'c's philosophy about alternate universes or timelines not mattering was based on arrogance, self-centeredness, and unbelievable selfishness. They were feelings more often attributed to himself than Teal'c, but he'd never ascribed to Teal'c's theory. Never believed they could put more value on their own lives than those of others: not until this moment when the staff blast tore through the air and into Carter. At that moment he knew Teal'c had been right. This was the only timeline that mattered. The blast threw her back and tossed her to the ground like a puppet. He could see the smoke rising from the wound and by her stillness knew everything was over. He didn't even blink when the weapon turned on him and the timeline that mattered as far as he was concerned ceased to exit.

The natives supported Daniel between them as he watched his friends' executions. They had not made any last minute appeals or pleas. Up until the end, Sam had stood silent and calm. She'd looked down the handle of the staff blast as though it held no threat to her. Almost as though she welcomed it, and she hadn't flinched when it had fired.

Jack had been Jack up until then. Taunting his guards and yelling insults at Ra. It was almost as though he had expected to be miraculously released. And maybe he had: it had happened at the last minute more than once before. Not this time though. When the blast hit Sam, it might as well have hit him too. All the fight died out of him, and it seemed to Daniel in the few seconds Jack had before the weapon turned on him, his life had drained away as well. "It is a good day to die, O'Neill!" Teal'c had called to him, but he had not responded. The shot that struck him was redundant; he was already gone.

Teal'c had torn his arms from his captives and pulled the symbiote from his pouch. With a violent motion, he'd torn the creature in two and shouted at Ra, "I die free." Several blasts tore into him, and he was dead before the echo of his words had died out.

Daniel turned his eyes from the smoking bodies of his friends and wanted nothing more than to join them. Yet, he didn't. He would bide his time. He would find a way to strike at Ra again. He would continue to make the attempt.


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