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Fanfiction: An Absence of Memory - Part II

For author's note and disclaimer see Part I.

 

 

'Hold the elevator!' Daniel yelled, hustling down the corridor and trying to keep hold of the stack of papers under his arm.

An arm shot out and held the doors open for him. He leaped inside and breathed a thank you before his eyes widened at the sight of an elevator full of Colonels. His gaze skipped over Dixon, Kirkland and Riley before landing on Jack.

Daniel adjusted his glasses. 'Senior staff meeting?' Military only, he mused.

'Yep.' Jack replied, grumpily, adjusting his stance to try and hide the laptop he carried under his arm.

Daniel hid a smile.

Jack's eyes narrowed on him. 'I thought you were doing the briefing for the group from 289?'

'I am,' Daniel said primly, 'I'm just, uh...'

'Late?' Jack suggested mildly, rocking back on his heels.

Daniel shot him a look. Jack raised a scarred eyebrow.

The elevator doors slid open.

Daniel stepped out with a grateful sigh. 'Have fun!'

Jack smiled at him insincerely and leaned over to press the floor button again. The elevator doors remained open. Jack pressed it again hurriedly and rolled his eyes as the doors finally closed.

Daniel tried not to smirk as he hurried down the corridor and into the conference room. The twenty people gathered there all stopped talking. Daniel made his way to the lectern and dumped his papers onto the wooden surface. He was briefly reminded of lectures he'd performed in the past in academia. He'd always been late and ill-prepared for them too, Daniel thought with amusement as he looked up and met a wall of expectant faces looking back at him.

'Hi,' Daniel began awkwardly. 'Well, firstly, welcome to Earth. You've chosen to remain here rather than live...' he gestured, 'elsewhere.' He smiled brightly.

'As some of you already know, I'm Doctor Daniel Jackson, and I'm going to be giving you a brief overview of Earth culture and what you can expect before you'll be issued with your new documents and, uh, cover stories by your...' he waved at the SGC personnel sitting to one side, 'new liaisons.'

Liaison was a much better term than handler, Daniel thought to himself absently. 'So, OK, let's get started...' he picked up the remote and pressed the button to begin the presentation.

An hour later, the room slowly emptied and Daniel gathered up his papers carefully. His mind was already considering whether to tackle the translation SG7 had brought back or to hunt out Sam for some coffee and a chat.

'Doctor Jackson.'

Daniel looked up and smiled at Pallan. The tall thin scientist had worked with them on 289 to help inform his people of the truth of the dome's imminent structural collapse and to overcome the computer mind-control that held the people in its sway. 'Pallan. Sam told me you had requested to stay with the Stargate programme and share your knowledge on the dome.'

Pallan smiled tightly back at him. 'I am looking forward to beginning work.' He didn't move or say anything else.

'So, uh, what can I do for you?' Daniel asked, glancing at the handler hovering just behind Pallan.

Pallan fidgeted. 'I spoke with Major Carter about Evalla, my wife, on the planet a couple of days ago.'

Daniel stilled at the mention of the woman he had seen walk out of the dome. 'Ah.'

'I remembered that she mentioned you had spent some time with her.' Pallan hinted heavily.

'Yes.' Daniel admitted reluctantly, despite the compassion bubbling up. 'I did.'

'Would you be able to spare some time to talk with me about her?' Pallan asked bluntly.

Daniel darted a look at the handler again.

The Lieutenant shifted uncomfortably. 'Pallan is scheduled to leave for Area 51 in thirty minutes, Doctor Jackson. Given he will be remaining with the programme, his briefing is...different. I can cover it on the way there.'

'OK.' Daniel gave in gracefully. He motioned at Pallan. 'Why don't we head to my office? It'll give us more privacy.'

The Lieutenant agreed to pick Pallan up from the office, leaving Daniel to lead Pallan through the SGC alone. Daniel closed the door and waved Pallan onto one stool by his central work table before he shoved the papers onto a side bench and pulled up his computer stool, perching awkwardly on the edge.

'I'm not really sure what I can tell you that Sam hasn't.' Daniel said, folding his arms over his chest.

'Anything.' Pallan said eagerly. 'Whatever you can remember.'

Daniel felt a wash of sympathy. He had lost his memory completely. He could still feel the rush of excitement that had flooded through him when he had remembered Sha're's name; that he loved her.

'I know her.' The picture was cold and hard in his hand.

'Really?' Jack's voice, warm and hopeful behind him.

Reality intruded, because Daniel didn't know her right at that moment even if she seemed familiar with her dark curly hair and laughing eyes. 'I mean I must, right?'

'Yeah.'

'Who is she? What's her name?' He was so hungry for information about her; about himself.

'You tell me.'

Daniel dragged himself out of the memory and searched for what he could tell Pallan. He wet his lips and motioned at the scientist.

'We were introduced to you and Evalla after our first meeting with the Council,' Daniel began, 'because of your work with the dome.'

'I remember.' Pallan's face creased with confusion.

'We were about to head back to the garden to pitch a tent,' Daniel paused at the blank look on Pallan's face, 'ah, construct a temporary dwelling which would provide us with cover for the night.'

Pallan nodded.

'And Evalla immediately offered us a bed.' Daniel continued. 'She wouldn't take no for an answer although you mentioned you only had enough room for two of us.'

Pallan frowned unhappily.

Daniel stopped. 'Are you OK?' he winced, recognising how idiotic the question was given the circumstances.

'I remember our first meeting, but it was I who offered you room and...' Pallan trailed off abruptly. He shook his head. 'Major Carter told me the same thing and since then, it's been all I can think about. How can I trust any of my memories? How can I know what the Link may have changed?'

Daniel sighed heavily and adjusted his glasses. 'I know how you must feel...'

'How can you?' Pallan argued, lurching out of his seat to pace. He gestured at Daniel. 'My memory has been altered! Erased! I don't remember my wife!'

'And I didn't remember mine!' Daniel retorted. He took a deep breath and tried not to let the anger that had suddenly bubbled up, erupt. It wasn't Pallan's fault that Daniel had lost his memory when Daniel had returned from Ascension. Dnaiel wasn't even sure if it was anyone's fault. It may well have been something that he had agreed to with Oma.

Pallan stood, staring at him from the other side of the room. 'I don't understand.'

'I recently lost my memory.' Daniel explained, calmly. He crossed his arms tightly across his chest. 'I think I've recovered everything apart from the last year but I don't really know for certain. I mean, it's not like I could remember every single moment of every single day before...but...' he shrugged. 'Actually, it's not the first time I've lost my memory. Although really the last time was more like my memory was just suppressed and another memory put in its place but even that was...' he stopped abruptly, realising Pallan didn't need to know about his previous experiences.

Pallan grimaced contritely. 'I am sorry. I had no idea.'

'Well, there's no reason why you should.' Daniel softened the words with an attempt at a smile.

He sighed and took a step toward Daniel again. 'I just don't know how I'm supposed to mourn a woman I can't even remember?'

'I think it's honourable that you're trying.' Daniel said softly. His eyes drifted to the picture of Sha're across the room.

Pallan followed his gaze and pointed. 'Is that your wife?'

'That's Sha're.' Daniel confirmed. 'She died a few years ago now.' He motioned at the picture. 'When I lost my memory all I had of her was that picture. I had no idea who she was.' He paused. 'I remembered she had died before I remembered our life together.'

'I do not even have a picture.' Pallan commented sadly.

Daniel's head snapped towards the scientist. 'Pictures...pictures...' he gestured at Pallan and jumped off the stool hurriedly. 'Stay here! Just...' he held up both hands, 'stay here!' He ran out of his office and down the corridor to Nyan's office.

The Bedrosian archaeologist had resumed his role as Daniel's research assistant and had taken Daniel's notes, film and anthropology report from the mission to file. Daniel rapped quickly on the door before he entered.

Nyan looked up from his study of an ancient statue. His large plastic goggles gave him an eccentric look despite the plain blue jeans, buttoned up check shirt and white lab coat. 'Daniel!' He smiled. 'You should...'

Daniel waved away the offer immediately. 'Sorry, Nyan. Do you have the file on 289?'

'Of course.' Nyan walked over to his side-table and pulled out a thick blue folder from the stack. 'Here it is.'

'Thank you.' Daniel set it on the central table and flipped through the contents hurriedly. He frowned. There were no pictures.

'Is something wrong?' Nyan's face shone with curiosity.

'The photos aren't here. Has the film I took on the planet been developed yet?' Daniel asked urgently.

Nyan pursed his lips together in contemplation. His eyes widened. 'I think the lab delivered them this morning...' he searched the inbox and held aloft a slim white envelope with a triumphant, 'aha!'

Daniel almost snatched the envelope from him and quickly thumbed through the photos he had taken of the inside of the dome after the Council meeting; Nevin in Jack's uniform...Jack, Sam...Teal'c looking serious...Evalla and Pallan outside their home...

He plucked the last picture from the rest and thrust it all back at Nyan. 'Thanks!' He rushed from the room with an absent-minded promise to explain later. He strode quickly back into his own office and held out the photo to a bemused Pallan.

'I forgot that I took some pictures,' Daniel said with an ironic smile, 'I took this on the planet.' He motioned for Pallan to take it.

Pallan stared at it. His fingers traced over the dark-haired woman who smiled at him in the picture with a wide, loving grin and merriment in her dark eyes. He glanced at his own picture; at the way he smiled back at her, the love in his face. 'I have no memory of this and yet she seems so familiar to me.'

'Perhaps the Link was only able to affect your conscious memory.' Daniel murmured. 'It's possible that you still have some memories buried deep down.'

Pallan nodded. 'She is...was beautiful.' His fingers tightened around the photo. 'She deserves better than to be forgotten.'

'But you haven't forgotten her.' Daniel said kindly. 'You're doing everything you can to remember her.'

'It does not seem like enough.' Pallan murmured.

Daniel slid back onto his stool. 'Evalla was very vivacious. She loved life and she loved you.' He pressed his lips together. 'I think if the Link had offered her a choice of dying so others could live, I think she would have walked out of the dome of her own free will.'

Pallan nodded slowly. 'And how do I live with knowing that I once loved someone so much but that I no longer remember them?'

'I don't know.' Daniel admitted. He folded his arms around his torso. Sometimes he wondered if he had met anyone during his Ascension; if he had loved someone. He didn't think he had but the question lingered in the back of his mind.

'At least I know I loved her and that she loved me.' Pallan acknowledged sadly.

A noise by the door had both men looking towards the open doorway. The Lieutenant looked back at them apologetically.

'I should leave you.' Pallan said.

He made to hand the photo back and Daniel motioned for him to keep it.

'It's yours.' Daniel said.

'Thank you.' Pallan replied. 'Perhaps we will meet again, Doctor Jackson.'

Daniel nodded. He watched as the Lieutenant deftly escorted Pallan out of the office and into the corridor. He listened for some time to their footsteps walking away. He got up slowly and closed the office door. He wandered over to the photo of Sha're and picked it up.

He missed her.

His finger stroked over the image of her face. In hindsight he could see the years between her death and his Ascension were fogged with the grief of losing her. She had known him better than he had thought, Daniel mused, thinking of her last desperate message to him sent through the hand device as Ammonet tried to kill him. Sha're had known that her death would send him spiralling into an uncertainty of purpose; that he would want to leave the SGC. Ultimately Sha're had known he belonged at the SGC, going through the Stargate. Daniel wondered at how long it had taken him to realise the same thing.

He didn't think he had met anyone in the year that he couldn't remember. His grief for Sha're had been too raw when he had Ascended. Still was. He doubted whether he would have pursued anything romantic with anyone. He wasn't ready for something - someone - else in his life and couldn't imagine that he had been when he had been Ascended. That he couldn't remember the past year niggled at him again and he pushed away his discontentment at the absence of his memory.

'I miss you.' He murmured, speaking to the image of Sha're in her native tongue. He set the photo down and walked back to his computer.

He stared blankly at the screen for a long while before he slowly moved and brought up the translation notes for SG7. Work seemed like a perfect escape to him.

o-O-o

'...and now, if anyone is agreed, we'll move onto the next item on the agenda.' Hammond said. He picked up his pen and ticked off the item they had just covered - the fit reps on all current Air Force personnel assigned to the SGC.

Jack smothered the urge to stretch and roll his head to ease out the ache in his neck. He didn't honestly didn't mind these particular meetings but they went on so long that he would swear he could feel his muscles atrophying. He surreptitiously sneaked a look at his laptop instead where the 302s zoomed happily across a blue sky. He pressed his lips together to prevent the grin from forming when he thought about how he'd found his laptop the previous morning in the office he shared with Dixon with a post-it note stuck to it.

'Took the liberty of loading the screen-saver for you, Carter.'

It was a great gift. From a friend, his mind pointed out ruthlessly. She had just been grateful for the hug; that's all it was. Jack shouldn't read anything more into it than that. Dixon had been green with envy when he'd seen it and even Kirkland had oohed and aahed at it.

'Colonel.'

Hammond's tone penetrated Jack's head and he glanced at the General startled. 'Sorry, sir, I, uh...' he motioned vaguely with a hand.

Dixon smirked at him across the table. Dave always reminded Jack of Kawalsky; of how Kawalsky could have been if he'd lived long enough to earn his full bird. Just enough bravery to offset the bravado.

'We're discussing the 302 situation, Colonel.' Hammond said mildly. 'You recommended to General Kerrigan that the squadron be sent on Special Forces survivalist training?'

Jack nodded briskly. 'In the absence of off-world training, I think it's the best option. There's always the risk that a 302 will crash land somewhere...'

'Or end up in another galaxy.' Dixon drawled.

Jack tilted his head in agreement. 'Or that.'

'General Kerrigan and I agree with you.' Hammond stated. 'The pilots will be scheduled for the training ASAP.'

'Can't we send them off-world?' Dixon asked.

'The Pentagon is reluctant to send the only trained 302 pilots off-world at this time.' Hammond answered. 'However, once the beta site facility is up and running next year, the next 302 training will take place there and survival training will be included.' He looked down at his notes. 'Major Cameron Mitchell has been recommended by the General as the squadron leader.'

'Highest scores both in the simulator and in the live exercise.' Jack confirmed. 'Good leadership qualities.' His fingers tightened around his pen at the mention of Mitchell. The pilot had been friends with Carter at the Academy and no matter how much Jack tried to ignore it, every time he thought about Mitchell, he couldn't quite help the small pang of jealousy that rippled through him.

'He's a bit of a risk taker.' Kirkland commented, looking down at the briefing folder. The lights bounced off his thinning hairline. Kirkland was older than Jack; he'd been Hammond's XO for the past year. A good man if a little stuffy in Jack's opinion.

'Heck, that's a good thing.' Dixon argued. 'We need someone who's going to take some risks.'

'He got shot down just before he transferred.' Kirkland argued.

'Saving another pilot from getting blown out of the sky.' Riley countered, leaning forward earnestly. His freckles and the pink tinge of sunburn across his nose stuck out starkly in the artificial lights of the briefing room.

'Mitchell was cleared of any inappropriate action during the inquiry.' Hammond confirmed. 'I'm inclined to agree with the recommendation unless there's another objection.' He looked around the group and received nods of agreement. 'Moving on then...'

Jack sneaked another look at his laptop.

'The 303 situation.' Hammond stated loudly.

Jack's attention jerked back to his CO.

'As some of you may be aware Colonel Ronson has requested reassignment once he brings the Prometheus back to Earth.' Hammond informed them crisply. 'Several candidates have been put forward by the Pentagon. Any other candidates should submit their applications ASAP.'

'What's the status on the Prometheus's return?' Riley asked.

'According to Doctor McKay, the ship should be ready within a month.' Hammond reported. 'Colonel Ronson has requested the presence of Major Carter during the flight home.' His eyes flickered to Jack.

Jack shrugged, trying to dismiss his uneasiness at the idea of Carter alone on the Prometheus without the rest of SG1 watching her six. 'I'm not sure why McCoy can't do it, besides Ronson not liking the guy.'

'Besides anyone not liking the guy.' Dixon quipped.

Hammond made a note and nodded. 'The next item on the agenda is open assignments and new deployments.' He picked up a report. 'Colonel Edwards notes that Major Lorne is settling in well to SG11 although, and I quote, 'as a flyboy he doesn't know a hill of beans about naquadah mining.''

Dixon grinned. 'I told Edwards that Lorne would be a good addition. Give him a couple of months under Edwards and he'll be ready for his own team.'

Hammond set aside the report. 'Well, it seems as though we won't be looking for someone else so we'll count that position as filled.' He picked up another folder. 'Major Pierce is being invalided out following the accident on P8X654. Colonel Reynolds is doing well in his temporary position as SG3 leader and I'm confirming his appointment.' He nodded at Kirkland.

Kirkland shifted in his chair. 'Both the leader positions on SG16 and SG17 are open. We have two newly promoted Lieutenant Colonels being assigned: Everett Young and David Telford.' He began to push service record copies out to the group.

'Anyone serve with these guys?' Jack asked.

'I served with Young.' Dixon said. 'Tour of Iraq back when I was a light and he was a Major.' He pressed his lips together. 'He's good with cadets; greenhorns.'

'And Telford?' Hammond inquired, looking around the group.

Riley raised the folder. 'I served in the same squadron two-three years ago? He's a great pilot; good at undercover work.'

'I'm inclined to let these gentlemen choose their own teams from the list of potential transfers.' Hammond said. 'Unless anyone has someone they want to put forward?'

Riley raised his folder again. 'Captain Grogan is ready for a transfer to a SG team.' He glanced at Jack briefly. 'As some of you may know, Grogan was the only survivor of SG9 a couple of years ago. He's been serving on the Alpha site since. He's more than ready to return to a frontline team but he's been rejected to date by five different team leaders.'

'And we have a Lieutenant Ford to assign following the recent training.' Kirkland added.

'Put them on the list for Young and Telford to consider as definite to be assigned to one of their teams.' Hammond ordered. 'Any others?'

They all shook their heads.

'Then I think we're done here, gentlemen.' Hammond ticked off the final item, slapped the folder shut and got to his feet, ignoring the scramble to follow him. 'Colonel O'Neill, if I could have a word? The rest of you are dismissed.'

Dixon shot Jack a sympathetic look as Jack picked up his laptop and made for Hammond's office. The General closed the door and waved Jack into a leather seat in front of the desk.

'Sir?' Jack asked, sitting down gingerly.

'I received word from the Pentagon about the request for Teal'c to live off-world.' Hammond began, sitting down himself with a small huff.

'They didn't go for it.' Jack read the answer in Hammond's pale blue eyes.

'They've referred the matter to the NID.' Hammond sighed. He leaned forward and clasped his hands on top of his desk.

'Great.' Jack leaned back and heard the leather creak under his weight. 'And the NID?'

'Are considering the matter.' Hammond lifted one hand and dropped it again. 'I don't have to tell you how suspicious they are of any alien or non-Earth born human living as part of the general population.'

'But don't they have that new division dealing with all of this kind of stuff?' Jack wondered out loud.

'They do for normal relocations.' Hammond agreed. 'But Teal'c is a special case. His physiology is different, Jack.'

Jack clamped his lips shut. He knew Hammond was right and their side; that his CO was only voicing what would be the main factor in the discussions outside of the SGC.

'You'll inform Teal'c?' Hammond said, reading his sour expression correctly.

Jack nodded. He motioned with his head toward the door. 'If that's all, sir?'

'Dismissed.' Hammond confirmed.

Jack pushed himself out of the chair with one hand, the other clutching onto his laptop. He stowed the laptop before he went in search of his Jaffa team-mate. He found Teal'c in the mess. Jack grabbed a slice of pie along with a mug of coffee and sat down opposite him. He decided not to waste time on pleasantries knowing the Jaffa wouldn't want the news sugar-coated. 'The Pentagon has sent your request to live off base to the NID.'

Teal'c looked up from his afternoon snack of what seemed to be half the food available and inclined his head a little. 'You are upset, O'Neill.'

'Pissed,' agreed Jack, stabbing his fork into his pie. 'You've saved Earth, how many times now?' he held up the fork before Teal'c could answer because he knew Teal'c kept count. 'Metaphorically speaking.'

Teal'c simply stared at him.

'You wouldn't do anything to endanger Earth or the programme.' Jack grumbled. 'The decision should be a slam dunk.'

'I am certain that I will have the opportunity to experience living on your world eventually, O'Neill.' Teal'c picked up a sandwich and took a large bite.

'Well, you shouldn't have to wait.' Jack said around a mouthful of pie. It occurred to him that Teal'c was taking the news much better than he was. He swallowed hurriedly and had to wash down the pie with coffee or choke. He lowered his mug. 'You don't seem too upset at the delay.'

'Earth is not my home and I am used to living on the base.' Teal'c pointed out placidly.

'Yeah.' He murmured in agreement. He frowned, realising for the first time since he had sat down that Daniel and Carter weren't present. 'Where are the others?'

Teal'c lowered his turkey sandwich. 'Major Carter is attending a meeting regarding the diagnostic overhaul scheduled for next week.'

Jack grimaced in sympathy.

'Daniel Jackson expressed a desire to remain working on his translation.' Teal'c stated. He picked up his sandwich again. 'He informed me that he had spoken with the scientist Pallan from P3X289 regarding loss of memory.'

Pallan? The guy who had upset Carter before they left the planet? Jack scowled.

'Their discussion reminded Daniel Jackson that he still is unable to recall events that occurred while he was an Ascended being.' Teal'c continued.

Crap.

That wasn't good. Jack pushed away the rest of his pie, his appetite gone.

'I believe Daniel Jackson is in need of...'

'A hug?' suggested Jack, thinking of the way he'd comforted Carter.

Teal'c raised an eyebrow and Jack flushed as he realised what he said.

'Never mind.' Jack muttered. 'You were saying?' He gestured at him. 'In need of...'

'Information regarding the year he has lost.' Teal'c paused. 'I informed him of the time he stayed with me following the attack at Kresh'tar.'

Jack sat back and crossed his arms over his chest. He didn't mind talking to Daniel about Abydos. Of course there was more Jack couldn't tell Daniel than he could; he couldn't tell him what Daniel had said to Anubis or how that whole deal had gone down except for the crappy result.

And then there was what had happened with Ba'al...

Jack shuddered and pretended he didn't see Teal'c's brow lowering in concern. Jack really didn't want to talk with Daniel about that. He couldn't tell Daniel about it; the cell, the torture, the constant dying, Daniel's comforting presence.

But if Daniel needed to talk...

As much as Jack wanted to ignore the whole thing, he knew he should talk with Daniel. He sighed heavily and rubbed his hands through his short hair sending the grey strands into disarray.

'I should...' Jack stood up as Teal'c bowed his head in agreement.

Jack made his way out of the mess. He paced the empty elevator and tried to think of what he would say to Daniel. He wondered briefly if he could just get away with giving the other man a hug; it had worked for Carter. Not that he wanted to hug Daniel but if the alternative was talking...

He rubbed the back of his neck, trying to ease the tension that had settled there as he made his way to Daniel's office.

It was empty. The light was off and the computer dormant. Jack tapped the central table as he considered his options, spun on his heel and made for Daniel's quarters.

A knock didn't raise any response and Jack used his security card to override the lock and enter. The room was empty.

Jack picked up the phone and dialled the security check-point at the top of the mountain. It took less than two minutes to confirm that Daniel had left the building with a suitcase and had secured the use of a base vehicle.

OK, so Daniel had evidently decided to get out of the mountain for a while, Jack mused. He could understand that. He checked his watch and decided to call it a day. He'd talk with Daniel in the morning.

An hour later, Jack parked his truck in front of his house and contemplated the base car parked on the other side of his driveway. He sighed loudly in the privacy of the truck. He guessed it was back to plan A. He pushed his door open and got out. He was almost at the front door when he heard a sound from the roof. He looked up and caught movement by the telescope he had set up.

He frowned but climbed the ladder to the roof. He found Daniel immediately. The archaeologist was sprawled beside the look-out chair, long denim-clad legs stretched out in front of him, a green parka over his blue checked shirt, staring into the sky and the imminent sunset.

Jack made his way over and sat down. Jack considered Daniel's closed I-don't-want-to-talk-about-it expression with amused exasperation. For a man who often advocated talking, Daniel could be surprisingly tight-lipped when it came to discussing his own issues. Jack figured it was one of the reasons why Daniel had ended up so unhappy before his Ascension; that he'd kept his grief bottled up; his feelings of not making a difference hidden from everyone. If Daniel had talked to them, maybe they could have done something before Daniel had gone glowy. But then Jack knew he wasn't exactly the poster-child for talking about stuff himself so he couldn't complain about Daniel's reticence when he was guilty of it as he was.

All of which meant the silence between them stretched as the last light began to fade behind the horizon sending a wash of pink through the clouds.

Jack heaved a sigh. 'Daniel.'

'I thought I'd take you up on your offer; crash here.' Daniel glanced over at him, his blue eyes wary behind the panes of glass. 'If that's OK?'

'Sure.' Jack traced a finger through the faded fabric of the chair. He could ignore it, his mind whispered; pretend that everything was OK. Jack's lips thinned; he wasn't a coward. 'You want to talk about what's bothering you?'

'Not really.' Daniel shifted, drawing his knees up and leaning forward over them, to clasp his hands in front.

Jack didn't need a body language expert to point out defensive for him. 'Teal'c told me you talked with Pallad.'

'Pallan.' Daniel automatically corrected. He glanced over his shoulder at Jack. 'I'm fine.'

'Teal'c doesn't think so.' Jack said, sacrificing the Jaffa to the need to get Daniel talking to him.

Daniel shot him a knowing look and turned back to the sky.

Jack sighed and tried another tactic. 'Pallan upset Carter the other day.'

Daniel's eyes snapped back to him and Jack kept his face expressionless rather than giving into the urge to smile smugly.

'He upset Sam?' Daniel sounded as angry as Jack had felt.

'She said it wasn't his fault,' Jack said, 'just that he'd asked her about his wife because he couldn't remember her and wanted to know all about her, and Carter was sad about it.'

'Yeah,' Daniel murmured, 'I can relate to that.'

'So you're sad about Pallan?' Jack paused. 'Or are you sad about not remembering the last year of your life?'

Daniel sighed and shifted to rub his forehead. 'Both, maybe.'

Jack didn't say anything for a moment.

'I was wondering if I, uh,' Daniel waved vaguely at the darkening sky, 'met someone as in, you know, met someone.'

Jack's eyebrows shot up. 'When you were glowy?'

Daniel shot him another look.

'Sorry,' Jack held up his hand, 'it's just that...' he waved at him, 'you were, you know, energy.' As in non-corporeal. He waved again. 'My shoe went right through you.'

'It did?' Daniel blinked at him and frowned. 'You threw a shoe at me?'

'Not the point.' Jack snapped.

There was an awkward pause.

Jack sighed again. 'OK, so why do you think you were, you know, with someone?'

'I don't,' Daniel replied, 'I just don't remember.'

'Ah.' Jack wondered when he had lost track of the conversation. He rested his head back on the cushion.

Daniel gave a harsh laugh. 'I'm not sure I want to remember.'

'Why not?'

'Teal'c told me about Kresh'tar.' Daniel said quietly.

'And? So?' Jack pressed.

'I stood by and did nothing while he and Bra'tac...' he stopped abruptly and looked up into the sky.

Jack shifted position restlessly. His mind unwillingly flashed back to Ba'al's cell. He still didn't want to talk about it. He focused on Teal'c's experience. 'You know Fraiser couldn't work out how Teal'c had managed to keep bringing himself to consciousness to transfer the symbiote between him and Bra'tac.'

'And you think I had something to do with it.' Daniel stated.

'Don't you?' He sighed when Daniel remained silent. Teal'c had talked about Kresh'tar. Jack took a deep breath. 'Do you, uh, want me to tell you about...'

'No!' Daniel replied. 'God, no!'

Jack felt relief swamp him and for a moment that's all he could feel; overwhelming relief that rushed through his veins better than any shot of alcohol. He felt giddy.

'Because I did the same thing to you too, didn't I? Just stood by and did nothing.' Daniel said.

Jack sobered up abruptly at the bitterness in Daniel's voice and suddenly the words tumbled out of their own accord. 'Daniel, have you considered that maybe, I don't know, we were just grateful you were there at all?'

Daniel turned to look at him and Jack held his gaze for a second before looking away.

The silence seemed loud; a vast gulf between them. The wind picked up and Jack shivered as it bit through the layers of clothing and chilled his skin.

Daniel sighed eventually. 'Sometimes I think I don't want to remember because if I remember and I didn't help you like you think I did... I'm not sure I'd be able to live with that. But then,' he gave a short, hard laugh, 'I get angry because I don't remember. I wanted to come home so I could save Bra'tac and Rya'c and so I lose a whole year of my life?'

'Maybe it isn't a punishment.' Jack suggested.

Daniel looked at him quizzically.

'You chose to come back right?' Jack pointed out. 'So we know it was your choice. And you said these Ascended beings were originally Ancients? The ones who built the sucky thing that downloaded all their knowledge into my head?'

'You didn't remember what happened to you after the Asgard removed the knowledge.' Daniel realised. 'You think this is the same thing? That I don't remember because I've had the advanced knowledge removed or suppressed to prevent it from overwhelming me?'

'Just a thought.' Jack could see the idea beginning to tick away in Daniel's vast brain.

'You could be right.' Daniel mused out loud.

'It's been known to happen.' Jack said dryly.

A smile pulled at Daniel's lips, giving away his intent before he even opened his mouth. 'You know I don't seem to remember that.'

Jack smiled back, and something loosened in his gut. 'The Pentagon has referred Teal'c's request to live off base to the NID.'

'You're trying to distract me.' Daniel said knowingly.

'Is it working?' Jack asked bluntly.

'Yeah.' Daniel's face screwed up in disgust. 'The NID? Really?'

'I know.'

'Because: really?'

'I know.' Jack shivered again and saw Daniel huddling into his coat. He reached forward and patted Daniel's shoulder. 'Pizza?' he pushed out of the chair and stretched.

Daniel's nose wrinkled as he got to his feet. 'Chinese?'

'OK with me.' Jack turned for the ladder with a grin. 'You're buying.'

'Jack.'

Daniel's quiet word stopped him and Jack looked over his shoulder questioningly.

Daniel gestured. 'Can we call Teal'c and Sam? Invite them over?'

'Sure.' Jack allowed himself a small wry smile as he made his way down the ladder.

Yep, it was good to have Daniel back.

It was good to be the old SG1 again.

fin.

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