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Fanfiction: An Absence of Memory - Part I

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S7 Revisions
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Jack/Team friendship. Sam/Jack UST.  Jacob/Selmak friendship.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

An Absence of Memory


Samantha Carter had zoned out of the debriefing.

Jack O'Neill frowned. She sat beside him, with an apparently attentive expression on her face - one that he knew was faked, gazing across the table at Daniel Jackson who was expounding mid-flow about the ongoing relocation plans for the refugees from 289 that SG4 were going to oversee. Jack was half-tuned out himself - he'd been at the two Council meetings and the previous debriefing where it had all been decided and agreed, and let his mind wander to what was bugging Carter.

She had been quiet all the way back from the planet. SG1 had handed over the reins to SG4 and made their escape. Relocation would take a couple of days. There was no real urgency given Carter had rigged a naquadah generator to help keep the dome stable for that length of time, plus the Link which had controlled the inhabitants of the dome was under their lead scientist guy's control and had stopped sending people off to die.

Jack could remember seeing her talking with the scientist, Pallan, in the garden when he had taken his brief catalogue of where his team were at. He absolutely refused to acknowledge how his memory conjured up the scene in perfect detail - the holographic sun lightening Carter's blonde hair to the colour of spun gold; the graceful stance as she talked to Pallan seriously about something; the tilt of her head; her hand reaching out to touch Pallan's arm in a way that made Jack's gut ache with a jealousy that he had no right to feel...

He repressed the sigh and dragged his attention back to the debriefing. Daniel was mid-flow, hands gesticulating wildly in the air, blue eyes bright with passion.

Quel surprise, thought Jack wryly. There was a contentment though humming through his veins at Daniel being Daniel. Just as there had been during the mission when it had occurred to Jack during one of their team huddles that SG1 had finally clicked back into place like...like something clicking back into place. What did click back into place anyway? A jigsaw? Either way, the way that their particular four pieces had all meshed together on the mission was very familiar and weirdly comforting in a way that Jack didn't want to think about too closely. He was just pleased that SG1 was back to its usual rhythm again after Daniel's return from glowy-land.

Not that SG1 had been wrong with Jonas Quinn; it had just been different; different personality; different dynamic; different rhythm. Jack even regretted that Jonas had been dragged back to Kelowna and wondered idly how Jonas was doing. They'd talked briefly when Carter had sent Jonas some instructions on accessing Goa'uld crystals. Their former team-mate looked well; enjoying the science projects they'd assigned to him even if his face had crinkled with tension at every mention of the Joint Ruling Council. Presumably the Council Meetings were stressful and boring. He considered whether Jonas zoned out in them the way Carter was zoned out beside him.

Jack let his eyes slide in her direction. She faced Daniel but her blue eyes gave away the truth; they were unfocused and absent; her thoughts elsewhere. Jack was aware that his chair touched hers. They sat close together. Too close, really. Somehow, he'd slipped back into the habit despite himself. Friends sat close together, Jack thought defiantly and ignored the small voice in his head that pointed out that he was essentially lying to himself.

Not thinking about that, he reminded himself briskly: he was thinking about Carter zoned out.

It was an unusual occurrence. Not unheard of because Carter was human, and God knew some of the meetings they lived through were just too horrendously boring for words. But Carter was usually more attentive than most. Daniel zoning out was usual because once Daniel had said his piece, his brain raced ahead to the next thing it wanted to do regardless that there was still a meeting going on around him. Daniel was the genius kid at the back of the room who couldn't be bothered to listen to lessons because he knew it already; Carter was the genius kid up front who listened anyway because she was too polite not to humour her teachers. And Jack believed that underlying personality difference was one of the reasons why Carter could handle being military. All of which simply underscored how weird it was that Carter had zoned out.

Had Pallan upset her? It had looked like an intense discussion. Or maybe it was just technobabble about the dome but if that were the case, she should have been vibrating with energy like she usually did - eager and earnest to tell them about it.

Daniel stopped talking and Jack forced himself to tune back in momentarily.

General Hammond smiled warmly at the archaeologist and Jack could see the same thought that had gone through his own head zip through Hammond's pale blue eyes; it was good to have Daniel back.

'Major?' Hammond turned to look over in their direction.

There was no indication that Carter had heard him.

Jack shifted subtly as though changing position to ease out his knees, and his chair nudged hers; the movement small enough that Hammond wouldn't notice but enough to snap Carter out of whatever daydream she was engaged in.

Carter seamlessly started reporting as though the momentary pause had been nothing more than a brief second of thought collection.

Jack glanced around to see if anyone else had noticed. Teal'c's dark eyes gazed back at him evenly from across the briefing table. The Jaffa tilted his head in a subtle acknowledgement of Jack's act. Daniel was busily scribbling into a folder. As Jack had expected, Daniel had zoned out with his own report completed and was listening as much to Carter's report as she had listened to his. Yet Jack knew if either were questioned both of them would know exactly what the other one had said. It was one of the reasons why as their CO he really wasn't worried about them paying attention. They had already talked it through with each other; bouncing ideas off their different perspectives and keeping up with each other's intellect in a way only a few people could.

Jack's fingers clenched around the pen he held and he forced himself to take a slow breath. It wasn't jealousy, he thought furiously. Not jealousy so much as envy. He envied that Daniel as a civilian could be friends so easily with Carter. No military protocol to worry about; no inappropriate feeling feelings. It was just a wonderfully platonic friendship. One that Carter had missed enormously in the year that Daniel had been Ascended, leaving Jack and Teal'c trying to fill the void.

His jaw tightened because he'd thought he and Carter had built a solid friendship themselves the past year. Their early relationship had been too hampered by their military ranks, and their awareness of appropriate distance despite the nebulous team bonding stuff, for friendship. And then there had been the whole not-talked-about attraction that had simmered between them. Not talking about it though hadn't prevented the long slide from attraction into caring and a love they couldn't afford; that placed them both at risk when they served on the same team and in the field together. Jack had a mental flash of Carter lying in a hospital bed, machines keeping her alive because he had killed her, and he pushed it out of his head again ruthlessly.

Jack had taken a step back after that; Carter had followed his lead, and the year that had followed had been hell while they'd tried to find the balance between too close and too distant. Jack figured they had just started to work it out when Daniel had gone glowy. Their shared grief over the loss of Daniel had allowed him and Carter to build something beyond the team bond they shared. There was a solid friendship underneath their continued working relationship and Jack's position as her CO. It showed in how Carter had simply accepted his save and hadn't flushed with mortification that Jack had caught her zoned out. Jack didn't want to lose that now Daniel was back.

His chair moved imperceptibly as Carter's bumped it, and it snagged his attention. She was returning the favour, Jack realised with a start - and he looked up from his folder to see Hammond looking back at him expectantly.

Crap.

What had been the question? Had there been a question?

Jack cleared his throat and took a guess. 'Nothing else from me, sir.' He waved his pen vaguely around the table. 'I think Daniel and Carter covered everything.'

Hammond nodded and Jack breathed a silent sigh of relief that he'd guessed right at Hammond's usual invitation to see if Jack wanted to add anything.

'Well, that's a good job, people.' Hammond tapped the table. 'I'll expect your reports by oh-ten-hundred tomorrow. Dismissed.'

Jack recognised the implicit order to go home and rest.

The General pushed his chair back, sending Carter scrabbling to her feet. Jack followed at a more leisurely pace, barely getting upright before Hammond was across the room and closing the door to his office.

Jack turned back and found the space beside him empty. Carter had slipped away. His eyes narrowed at the spiral staircase just behind them which provided a perfect exit. Sneaky. His chest puffed out with pride. He had taught her well. He considered going after her but if he knew her - and he prided himself that he did - he figured he'd find her in her lab, brooding.

He looked across the table. Daniel was still scribbling. Teal'c was looking at Daniel scribbling with fond indulgence. Had Daniel even realised the debrief had ended?

'Daniel.' Jack tossed his pen across the table and hit the other man squarely in the chest.

Daniel didn't even flinch as he continued writing. 'Jack.'

Teal'c raised an eyebrow and got to his feet. The Jaffa made a miniscule bow. 'I am scheduled to depart for the Alpha site with SG5.'

'Have fun.' Jack said. Teal'c was spending whatever time he could with his son, Rya'c, and Jack couldn't blame him.

Teal'c departed and Daniel finally stopped. He scooped up his folder, pushing away from the table and getting to his feet.

They walked in amiable silence to the elevators. Jack pressed the call button and they hovered expectantly in front of the doors.

Jack pushed his hands into his pockets and glanced over at Daniel. 'The house stuff go through OK?'

They'd spent the previous weekend looking for a house for Daniel to buy. It had been a good day; plenty of team bonding...Jack pressed up against Carter in the back of Daniel's small rental car. Daniel had insisted on driving, proclaiming he needed the practice; Teal'c had bagged the passenger seat, and who wanted to argue with the eyebrow? Jack had grumbled once for effect and after that had sat back and enjoyed the enforced closeness with Carter.

'Yeah,' Daniel nodded, 'we close next Friday or the one after.'

Jack nodded. 'Quick.' But then Daniel had the cash from the sale of his apartment after his Ascension. Jack had handed the cheque to him soon after Daniel's memory had returned completely and had smirked at the look of amazement in Daniel's eyes at the amount.

'Suits me.' Daniel admitted, his eyes casting around the SGC, saying without words that he was tired of living on the base.

'You want somewhere to crash until the sale goes through?' Jack offered. He had made the offer a couple of times after Daniel had returned and been cleared to leave the base, but he wasn't really surprised that Daniel hadn't taken him up on it given the issues with memory-loss Daniel had been wrestling with. He wasn't entirely certain he would have agreed to go live with someone he had only just remembered being friends with either.

'Maybe.' Daniel hedged. 'If it doesn't go through this Friday?'

Jack shrugged. It was OK with him or else he wouldn't have made the offer.

The elevator arrived.

'Oh, hey,' Daniel said as they both stepped into the compartment, 'did you talk with General Hammond about Teal'c's, uh, decision?'

Teal'c had decided to he wanted to experience living off the base. He no longer had a Goa'uld symbiote thanks to the tretonin the Tok'ra had developed and the symbiote had been the main reason to keep him confined to the base living quarters.

'Yep.'

'And?' Daniel pressed.

'And it'll take some time for them to make the decision.' Jack said mildly. And for them to argue about it when the inevitable 'no' came back. He and Hammond had already discussed how unlikely it was that the Pentagon and the IOA would agree. Teal'c wasn't human even if he could pass for one.

'Teal'c could live with one of us if they want a trial period.' Daniel suggested, nudging his glasses up his nose. 'I'd be happy to...'

'I said the same thing to Hammond.' Jack noted. 'Only, you know...' he'd be happy to offer Teal'c his spare room instead of Daniel. Jack wasn't surprised by Daniel's offer; the younger man and Teal'c seemed closer since Daniel's return. He was just pleased that Daniel's returned memories of Sha're and her death hadn't caused any issues.

Daniel shifted position, gazing up at the floor indicator. 'So...' his eyes shone with amusement behind the panes of glass. 'Did you pay any attention to the debriefing at all or was it just Sam's part you zoned out on?'

Jack's eyes narrowed.

Daniel smirked back at him.

'Actually, I was wondering why Carter zoned out on you.' Jack said pointedly.

Daniel's eyebrows shot up, disappearing underneath his hairline. 'She did?'

'She did.' Jack confirmed.

There was a crease of worry between Daniel's brows as he considered the question. He evidently came to the same conclusion as Jack - that something had upset her - because his lips twisted anxiously and his gaze darted back up to Jack's. 'You want me to, uh, talk to her?'

It was all Jack could do to swallow the snappish retort that sprang to his lips in denial because before Daniel had Ascended that was exactly what Jack would have wanted Daniel to do.

Jack took a careful breath and shook his head. 'I got it.'

Daniel frowned at him quizzically, and Jack could almost see him assessing the answer, but the elevator slid to a halt and Jack waved Daniel out.

'You're sure you...' Daniel asked hesitantly.

Jack's answer was to press the button to send him back to Carter's floor and smile tightly at Daniel as the elevator doors closed. The urge to say the sentence hovering in his mind out loud though, lingered: what the hell do you think we did while you were gone?

Caught up in his musings about Daniel, Jack didn't think about what he was going to say to Carter. He ambled toward her lab and knocked sharply on the door-frame before entering. She was at the central bench, reading a folder of papers she had distributed across the surface. She was half-turned toward the door but she stopped when she registered it was him.

'Sir.'

Jack tried not to think about how his mood automatically brightened at the sight of her smile. 'Hey.' He walked up to join her, rested his hip against the edge of the bench and crossed his arms over his chest. 'What'cha doing?'

'Reading the latest plans for the 'gate diagnostic overhaul.' Sam admitted.

'Really?' Jack grimaced. It didn't sound like much fun to him.

Sam looked at him expectantly. Right. He'd come looking for her so she was expecting him to ask her something or say something. His mind went blank. Maybe, just maybe, he should have practised in the elevator.

'You OK, sir?' Her expression had turned to concern.

Jack waved a hand at her, ignored his own feeling of glee that she cared about him enough to be concerned, and decided to take the opening she'd offered. 'Shouldn't that be my line?' He tilted his head. 'You kind of zoned out there.'

Her blue eyes widened with realisation before they dropped to the documents in front of her. She bit her lip and looked back up. Her eyes were guarded. 'I'm fine, sir.'

'And that would be so much more convincing if I hadn't had to just save your ass in front of Hammond.' Jack's brain caught up with his mouth. Maybe the ass had been a little inappropriate.

Her lips twitched and he was grateful that she thought it funny.

'I thought the, uh, ass saving was mutual, sir.' Her eyes were filled with repressed mirth and Jack had the insane urge to kiss her.

'That's what friends do, right?' Jack said instead.

She dropped her gaze.

'I'm also told that friends talk to each other when something's bothering them.' He said, keeping his tone light and trying not to feel hurt that she'd backed off at his words.

Sam traced the edge of the bench and, for a long moment, he thought she wasn't going to tell him anything before her eyes darted back to his. 'It's nothing really, I just...'

'Just?' prompted Jack.

'Pallan asked me to tell him about his wife Evalla.' Sam explained.

Jack winced. According to Daniel, Evalla had walked out of the dome apparently under the control of the Link computer thing and Pallan's memory of his wife had been erased.

She lifted a hand from the desk. 'It just got me thinking. I mean, he doesn't remember her and yet he's grieving for her and that's so...sad.'

She looked devastated and a part of Jack wanted to offer her a hug. Friends hugged, didn't they? He slid a glance toward the open door.

'And then I started thinking about Daniel and how he had lost his memory, and how he couldn't remember Sha're when we first found him and...' Sam sighed, her fingers absently tracing the edge of the bench. 'And then I was thinking about my Mom, and how little I remember about her now, and how my Dad never really talks about her.'

Jack felt a little dizzy. 'Dad?' That Jacob Carter didn't talk about his late wife, Sam's mother, didn't surprise Jack.

'Yeah.' Sam stared down at her feet again.

OK, so this was why he usually left the friend thing to Daniel, Jack thought ruefully; because he had no idea what to say to that. He took a deep breath and did the only thing that came to mind. 'C'mere.' He reached out and tugged her into his arms before he could question himself.

She hesitated for one heart-stopping moment and then sank against him, her hands shifting to hug him back. Her cheek pressed against the crook of his neck.

They stayed there for a long moment.

Jack enjoyed the press of her against him; the smell of her hair so familiar and comforting; the reassuringly thump of her heart and steady breathing. This was so wrong, Jack berated himself. And yet...it felt so right.

Sam shifted and he let her go as she stepped back. There was a hint of a flush across her cheeks; embarrassment, maybe, Jack mused from allowing him to see her upset or about the hug.

He opened his mouth to say something, anything, to make light of the whole hug thing with his friends justification when his eyes caught on her computer across the lab.

'Hey, isn't that the footage from the 302 training?' He'd gone to Nevada the week before to observe the live fire exercise. It had been a stunning sight to see multiple 302s gliding in and out of Earth's sky as though they were meant to be there.

Sam followed the direction of his gaze and turned back to him with a grin. 'Yes, sir.' She gestured back towards the screen. 'I made it into a screensaver for my computer here at the SGC.'

'Cool.' Jack grinned at her. He wondered if he could get her to put it on his laptop.

There was a beat of silence.

Jack cleared his throat and pointed his thumb back towards the door. 'Well, I should be...' he waved at her, 'you...'

'I'm OK, sir.' Sam replied with an easy smile that assured him she really was. 'I'll see you tomorrow.'

Jack nodded and turned back for the door. 'Don't work too hard on your science project, Carter.' He called over his shoulder.

His footsteps were lighter as he made his way back to the elevators. He'd hugged Carter and they'd saved a thousand people from death by computer mind-control. Seemed like a good day's work to Jack.

o-O-o

Jacob Carter wished he could zone out of the interminable Tok'ra Council meeting but his symbiote Selmak was silently fuming at the antics of Delek, a young Tok'ra who was rapidly becoming a dominant voice on the Council. Jacob had learned many things during his time as a Tok'ra host but how to block a silently fuming symbiote out of his own thoughts was not one of them.

He's an idiot, Selmak said. Her dislike for Delek coated her words with a dripping disdain.

Delek had moved on from what seemed to be a monologue about how the Council would be better if it was smaller and - presumably just him - and was at that moment complaining once again of the deployment of so many of the Tok'ra to the Tau'ri Alpha site. Jacob didn't think his immediate thought of 'just what the fuck is your problem?' would be helpful. He reached for his water glass because it was either that or he was going to say something.

It's a shame Daniel Jackson isn't here, Selmak mused, he would have said something scathing and appropriate.

Or Jack, Jacob replied. He couldn't see the leader of SG1 remaining silent either although knowing Jack it would be scathing but probably completely inappropriate. His lips twitched into a smile and he hid it by taking a sip of his water as Delek shot him a suspicious look.

He'll start in on the Jaffa next, Selmak thought sourly. Delek is nothing if not predictable.

Shame Teal'c isn't here, Jacob considered. Teal'c wouldn't say anything but he'd look. Or he'd strangle Delek which held a certain appeal right at that moment.

Selmak snorted at the mental image. I wish I could bring Bra'tac here; he would soon put him in his place.

You could be right, Jacob soothed. They had become good friends with the older Jaffa and Jacob had a high regard for Bra'tac's intelligence and wisdom.

Jacob let his brown eyes wander around the table and unhappily noted who was nodding along at Delek's speech and who was not. There seemed to be more and more succumbing to Delek's point of view every time the Council met.

In the absence of Per'sus, Delek makes a charismatic leader, Selmak conceded, and they are scared.

Anubis had hit the Tok'ra hard the previous year. So many of their bases were fallen; so many of their kind lost. They had grieved for the dead but Anubis had wounded them. The Goa'uld's defeat by the System Lords engineered by the SGC had been too late for many. Per'sus, the High Councillor, seemed beaten. His attendance at Council meetings was becoming rare and it was only a matter of time according to Selmak before someone challenged Per'sus for the position. Neither of them believed Per'sus would fight a challenge which depressed them even more.

Jacob repressed the urge to sigh. Garshaw was away on assignment and would be for some time. While he knew a few others on the Council - and Selmak knew them all - he didn't know them well. He needed to spend more time at the Tok'ra base; build some bridges with the other Tok'ra but he was also needed at the Alpha site and he could admit to himself and Selmak that he preferred it there with the familiarity of the Air Force command and the Tau'ri comforts. Not to mention that occasionally he'd get to see Sam there.

He felt a twinge of guilt.

Do not, Selmak said firmly. We are where we are most needed.

Are we, Jacob countered. Maybe if we were around a little more, we could help temper some of Delek's prejudices.

Perhaps, Selmak conceded, but perhaps not. As much as I hate to admit it, as a race we have never played well with others. We are too used to being alone against the Goa'uld. Allying with the Tau'ri and the Jaffa is new. With Anubis's sustained attacks on us, we have sustained many losses and we are facing the most danger we have in a long time. Delek simply voices what many feel. I'm not sure even if we were to return, we could counteract that.

Jacob kept quiet. Selmak knew her people best and her knowledge was his; he felt her certainty as though it was his own. The Tok'ra were suspicious of the Tau'ri and the Jaffa because they were used to working alone. Only working together as they did at the Alpha site would counteract that suspicion; that was why what they were doing there was important. Because both he and Selmak truly believed it was the way forward if the Tok'ra were to survive; if the Goa'uld were to be defeated.

So we continue doing what we're doing, Jacob determined. He felt Selmak's pleased agreement.

Delek sat down. Another Tok'ra stood to speak, returning the discussion to the agenda point: Ba'al's increasing strength.

Jacob tuned back in to the discussion, allowing Selmak to take control as she responded to a question and added their thoughts to the debate.

The Council meeting ended and Jacob rose smoothly from the table, ready to head back to the Alpha site. He would stop by Bra'tac's tent and see if Teal'c was there, maybe catch up on what was going on with Sam...

'Selmak!' Ba'ray, a mature Tok'ra with a thinning grey hairline and paunchy stomach made his way over to them.

Selmak knew Ba'ray well but they often disagreed especially over the issue of the Jaffa. Jacob only knew him through their minimal interaction during the Council meetings and through Selmak's memory of him. He mentally waved Selmak forward.

'Ba'ray.' She replied lightly.

Ba'ray smiled but there was tension in his face; white lines bracketed his mouth; his blue eyes darted around the emptying chamber warily. 'I wondered if you had time to take tea with me? It's been a while since we sat and caught up.'

Selmak narrowed their gaze on Ba'ray. Clearly the other Tok'ra wanted to discuss something of importance with them. 'I have some time,' she laid a hand on his arm, 'and I have missed Logon's tea.'

Ba'ray smiled at the mention of his host and gestured at the doorway. 'Then perhaps we should...'

'Ba'ray.' Delek said politely from behind Selmak.

Selmak looked over her shoulder at the young Tok'ra. Jacob sighed inwardly. Delek's host, Conor, had a slim build and attractive features that lit up with animation when Conor spoke which was rarely. Delek, by contrast, was expressionless even when impassioned.

But then, Selmak reminded Jacob, Delek was trained as one of our very best covert operatives in his youth.

'Delek, Selmak and I were just going for some tea.' Ba'ray said jovially, but Selmak could see the glint of fear in his eyes before he guarded them; hear the nerves that underscored his voice. 'Would you like to join us?'

'I'm afraid I must request your presence for an urgent briefing. Arho will be leaving shortly and I believe you have the best intelligence on the planet where he'll meet his contact.'

Jacob could feel how Selmak had smoothed their expression, revealing nothing of their belief that Delek wanted to prevent Ba'ray from speaking with them.

'Of course, of course.' Ba'ray turned to Selmak with evident regret. 'Perhaps another time, Selmak.'

'I look forward to it.' Selmak said formally.

Delek made a miniscule bow of goodbye and stepped toward the doorway. There was no doubt Ba'ray was expected to follow.

Ba'ray plastered a smile on his face and took a step away from Selmak. He stopped and reached out suddenly, placing a hand on Jacob's shoulder. 'It is good to see you. I confess I missed your counsel at the last meeting, my friend.' He dropped his hand and walked away before Selmak could comment.

What did he mean the last meeting, Jacob questioned as they stared into the empty space. I thought we were at the last meeting.

So did I, Selmak agreed.

We couldn't have forgotten a whole meeting, could we, Jacob joked lightly. His mind was whirring with what Ba'ray had intended to tell them.

No...I mean, no, I...and there in Selmak's uncertain stuttering he felt an abrupt blossoming panic and the barrier Selmak had been keeping between them, one that Jacob hadn't even realised existed, broke down. Thoughts cascaded through him in a rush that left him breathless.

She was old...her memory sometimes failed her...she was failing Jacob...aches and pains that she should fix easily but couldn't spare the energy to heal anymore...she was dying...

Jacob staggered back into the seat they had just vacated. He stared sightlessly into the vacant room, his heart pounding loudly.

Selmak was silent in his head and for one brief moment of terror, his chest seizing with a fierce pain, he thought he'd already lost her.

I'm here, Jacob, Selmak assured him swiftly; I'm here. There was a wave of apology and regret. She had meant to break the news to him in a much different way.

Dying, he questioned her gently, rubbing his head.

I'm old, Jacob, Selmak sighed. I have lived a long life for a Tok'ra. It's my time.

The oldest among them; Jacob remembered their first introduction as though it was yesterday. Dying though. He'd thought they would have more time, much more time...

Just me, Selmak insisted gravely; my time, Jacob, not yours.

And there in his head was her plan; she would die before her health became critical and save him. Just as the Tok'ra Jolinar had once saved Sam.

No.

Yes, Selmak insisted. I will not take you with me, Jacob. When you became my host, you did not agree to this.

Yes, I did, Jacob argued back. We're together in this. You've already given me more years than I imagined.

I will not kill you, Jacob, Selmak thought sharply. I will not do it. I will die and you will live on. You can stay with the Tok'ra or return to Earth; be a grandfather, be a father...

He knew she meant it. It was her duty to save him, her host. She would not be moved on her plan. But the thought of losing her...of living without her dry wit and lively spark in his head...

How long, Jacob asked.

I do not know, Selmak admitted. A year perhaps less.

Perhaps more, Jacob countered. If we take care of you.

Perhaps, Selmak allowed.

Jacob took a deep breath. He could feel her regret at how he had discovered the secret she had kept from him, guilt that perhaps if she had not stayed so long with Saroosh that she would have had more time with him, but he could also feel her relief that he knew. There would be time to come to terms with her death, Jacob realised; just as the cancer had given him time to come to terms with his before he'd agreed to Sam's crazy plan to become a Tok'ra host. It was so different from the abrupt death of his wife, Kathy and yet so similar in the void that would be left behind. He'd never even told Selmak how he felt about her...

I know, Jacob, Selmak said softly. How could I not know? She sent an answering wave of love and fondness. I am not gone yet.

No, you're not, Jacob replied, and we should enjoy our time together, whatever remains of it.

Selmak agreed.

So, Jacob pulled their thoughts back to the original question, there's nothing wrong with my memory and I remember we were definitely here for the last meeting.

Unless an emergency meeting occurred and we were not informed, Selmak mused. There was a stirring anger. Ba'ray suspected it; that's why he wanted to talk to us!

Or maybe the message to send for us went astray, Jacob suggested pragmatically. We shouldn't jump to conclusions. Things happen. And should you be getting this upset?

I am not a child, Jacob! Selmak retorted.

Jacob smiled at her spirit.

This amuses you, Selmak asked huffily.

Dying, my ass, Jacob replied.

Hmmph.

Jacob stood up and headed for the doorway again. If he had his way, Selmak would be around for a long, long time, because there was no way he was letting her go without a fight. There had to be things they could do to ease things for her. She didn't have to heal every single paper cut, for instance, and maybe she could let him take painkillers when they had a headache.

Selmak sniffed at his thoughts, as they made their way down the crystalline corridor towards the rings. Hmmm.

What, Jacob asked. He took position in the centre of the rings and nodded at the Tok'ra at the controls.

Does this mean you'll give up coffee for me, Selmak asked hopefully.

Damn.

Continued in Part II.
 

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