Title: Audacity
Series: general xover series.  May be useful to have read the Fidelity
arc, Dream a Little Dream, Sanctuary and Non Nobis Domine too, but not
totally necessary. 
Author: akire
Email: akire@mailcity.com
Status: C/U
Category: Crossover: Highlander/ SG:SG1/ The Sentinel/Archetype
Spoilers: umm, got a basic grasp of the Highlander universe?  Fine.  Oh
yeah, we're a Clan Denial fanfic. SG: SG1, familiarity with first five
seasons.  Brief mention of The Broca Divide, Absolute Power and Point
of No Return.  The Sentinel, post TSbBS
Disclaimers:  D/P, Gekko, and the producers of TS really DO own them.
If you don't recognize it, its probably mine.  If it's silly or crazy,
definitely is mine.  But if anyone sends the lawyers after me, I'm
sending out the boys with swords ;)  Oh yeah, and imitation is the
sincerest form of flattery.  If you recognize a specific fanfic
creation, it belongs to its author (when this series is finished, I may
tally them up). 
Rating: PG, prob.  Hey, I'm not offended by much, if it should be rated
higher, tell me! 
Content Warning: purists beware.  Language may offend some readers. 
Summary:  The K-Bureau has a new head man, and a new target but the
same disregard for Immortals as people.  But this time they've picked
the wrong target...
Dedication: To Paula...here's that bit you asked for ;) 

On with the show!


Another Minoan bull cult – thankfully this time sans Broca virus – had
been a fascinating break from the death, destruction and Earth-bound
politicking that had characterized most of their missions to date this
year.  Daniel walked across the concrete floor, his booted footsteps
echoing in the underground chamber.  He ignored it, and all the other
background noises of the Mountain, eyes fixed on the book he was
thumbing through.  He navigated the fragile clutter of his office by
memory as he found the elusive reference he was seeking.

Jack watched this display from the open office door, his feet carefully
on the corridor side of the threshold.  Once upon a time he wouldn't
have thought twice about barging across that imaginary line, but that,
like so much else between him and the other man had vanished like mist
without him even noticing until it was gone.

They had made inroads, to be sure.  Slowly, painfully, they had started
rebuilding bridges from the rubble of their friendship.  Daniel, as
always, had found the courage of self to offer the tentative lifeline
while they were stranded in those off-world mountains.  Jack now felt
that the ball was squarely in his court.  

Cautiously, he rapped his knuckles against the wooden doorframe.
Ancient blue eyes flicked up to look at him over wire-framed glasses.

**Why does he even wear them?  Still trying to play the part of the
absent-minded professor?  He doesn't even wear them consistently.**


A tiny smile, Jack was sure of it.  "Hey yourself.  Whatcha doing?"

"Writing up my report on P4X 269.  You?"

So very cordial.  Jack did not move from his safe position in the
doorway.  "Just coming to see how you were."

Daniel, bless him, actually paused to think before answering.  "Good.
I'm good.   You?"

**Could this get any more awkward?**  "Good, yeah."  Jack found
himself wanting to scuff his boots into the concrete.

"Are you heading out now?"

"Yeah.  You?"

Daniel looked over the clutter of his desk with a tired expression.
"Much as I'd like to, I've really got too much work to do..."

Jack found himself stepping over the threshold before his mind caught
up with his feet and his mouth.  "That will still be there tomorrow.
Come on.  You, me, Carter and Teal'c.  Some takeout, maybe a video.
When was the last time we had a team's night in?"  Jack leaned against
the desk, unconsciously crowding in to lend weight to his offer.

Daniel shrugged, fiddling with some trinket on his desk.  "Well, I was
going to finish this translation..."

Jack moved in for the kill.  "Takeout.  Those eggrolls you and Carter
like so much?  We can even rent The Mummy."

Daniel laughed and caved.  "Make it The Mummy Returns and it's a deal."


Jack and Daniel strolled up and down the rows of videos, looking for
something else to rent.

"I can't believe The Mummy Returns is all rented out.  They have twenty
million copies of everything."

Daniel shoved his hands into his jacket pocket, a slight smile on his
face.  "What can I say, I've got great taste."

"Yeah, you're being seen with me."

Daniel groaned.  "That's the best you can do?"

Jack smirked and rolled on the balls of his feet.  "No, I can do
better."  He pulled a cassette off the shelf.  "John Wayne!"  But the
anticipated groan and comeback never came.  "Daniel?  What's wrong?"

Daniel was standing facing the glass front of the store, the expression
on his face alert and tense.  "Umm, get whatever you want Jack.
I've...I'll just be a minute."  Before Jack could question him further,
Daniel was striding towards the exit, his long coat flapping against
his legs.  Jack turned to look out the windows himself.  There was a
stranger standing under the lamp lights, an over-large trench coat
wrapped around his skinny frame.  He too looked tense and watchful, his
eyes tracking Daniel as he negotiated the exits and approached.

Jack jammed the case back onto the shelf and followed.

By the time he cleared the security scanner, Daniel and the stranger
had vanished into the night.  He turned 360 degrees on the spot,
searching between the well-lit store fronts for any sign of them.

"O'Neill!  We have egg rolls!"  

"We've got a problem?" Jack hissed.

Sam Carter was standing by her car, carefully stashing the bags of
food.  "Sir?"

"Daniel saw someone, got this weird look and vanished."

Sam locked her car quickly.  "Do you think it's another...you know?"

"I don't know," Jack snarled.  "They can't have gone far, anyway."

Teal'c was already scanning the area.  "Perhaps behind these

Jack nodded towards a narrow gap between the video store and the
bowling alley.  "Let's go."

It was dark off the main street, and the ground was uneven under their
feet.  They negotiated large dumpsters cautiously, the sound of pins
toppling loud through the wall to their right.  One following the
other, they moved in silence.  As they cleared the end of the bowling
alley, another sound became apparent.

Steel on steel.  As one, the trio picked up the pace.

The wide access alley was badly lit by a few naked light bulbs above
the back access doors for the businesses that lined the main street.
Dancing between light and shadow, Daniel and the unknown man were
moving back and forward, testing each other's defenses with lightning
fast thrusts.

Sam moved to push past the Colonel, to go to back up her friend, but
Teal'c held her back.  Nodding silently, but seething, Sam pulled back
to hide with her team mates in the shadows.  They would not create a
fatal distraction for Daniel now.

The Immortal combat was played out in silence, the ringing of steel on
steel the only noise.  The faces of both men were set in fierce masks
of concentration and determination.  Then Daniel saw something that no
body else could see, and pounced.  With a flurry of powerful strokes,
he battered the other man's defenses, trying to tire him, weaken him
enough to slip through and deliver the killing blow.

But his opponent this night was experienced and strong.  He weathered
this first attack easily, giving ground in slow, even steps before
breaking stride and ducking sideways, raking the tip of his blade
against Daniel's exposed shoulder.  Daniel tried to lean out of range,
but the very point of the sword, razor sharp, whispered through his
shirt sleeves to slice a shallow gouge into the arm below.

Hissing in pain, Daniel danced backwards out of range, buying himself
time to heal.  His opponent smirked, his confidence growing.  Not
giving Daniel those seconds he wanted, he pressed his advantage with a
series of exploratory parries, aiming the fine tip of his weapon at
Daniel's stomach, forcing him to execute a series of difficult
maneuvers to keep the deadly point away from flesh.  He was shuffling
backwards, wary of tripping up or getting backed against a wall.  But
the other Immortal knew this, and forced the advantage.

Apart from the slight grimace of pain when the sword had sliced his
arm, Daniel's expression had not changed.  He was totally focussed on
winning this Challenge.  All he needed was an opportunity to exploit...

The other man drove hard towards Daniel's solar plexus, over extending
his reach ever so slightly.  Daniel replied by sweeping his own blade
down and across, a sweeping stroke that knocked his attacker's weapon
clear and overbalanced its wielder.  As he stumbled to regain his
footing, Daniel let his forward momentum carrying him towards and to
the side his opponent, bringing his blade up in a backswing which
nearly disemboweled the challenging Immortal.

As he collapsed onto his hands and knees, Daniel let his blade rest
lightly against the back of the others' neck.  "There can be only one,"
he intoned with somber formality.  He then flicked up the blade and
brought it down cleanly between two vertebrae in his neck. The head
made that horrible noise of an overripe melon hitting the concrete, and
Daniel stepped back.  He rested the point of his own, heavier, weapon
on the ground, leaning to put his weight on it slightly.

A sound from his left had him flick the weapon back to the ready
position so fast it was a blur.  "It's just us Daniel.  You okay?"

Daniel's eyes widened.  How long had they been there?  But the vague
smell of ozone and the prickling of hairs on the back of his neck
alerted him to a more pressing need.  "Watch out!" He yelled.  Then the
Quickening rose to engulf him, and he knew no more.

His opponent had been old – at least one thousand years – and very
powerful.  He writhed in the electrical storm, guttural screams
wrenching from his body as the years of other memory and personality
and identity collided with his own.  But finally, finally, the storm
was spent and Daniel collapsed, barely conscious, onto the wet ground.

Hands were on his skin, taking away his sword, helping him to sit.
Voices, familiar voices that he still trusted, were whispering in
soothing cadences in his ears.  Giving over to that sense of trust, he
let them bundle him up in the familiar weight and smell of his coat,
and support him as they staggered back up the alley.


By the time they made it back to his apartment, he was outwardly
himself again.  Quietly, he unlocked the door and ushered his team
mates through.  "Just, umm, help yourselves to plates and whatever.
I'm just going to have a quick shower."

Not waiting for a reply, he walked up the small passage to his bedroom,
firmly closing the door behind him.

The three remaining swapped looks.  "Wow," Sam breathed finally.  "That

"Most impressive," Teal'c intoned with a small but meaningful tilt of
his head.

"I was going with amazing, but that works too."  She fetched some
plates and cutlery from the kitchen.  "I mean," she said when she
returned.  "The energy that the...body released, it would probably blow
up most of my sensors."

 "I was referring to the combat technique, Major Carter."

"I guess he's had a lot of experience," Jack said quickly, forestalling
what he could see might turn into a complex debate.  He was still in a
state of shock. He had seen men killed before, certainly.  People died
in horrible ways every day – hell, some days it was him doing the
killing.  But Daniel...?  It was one thing to be told that your
best friend could lop a guy's head off without barely breaking a sweat.
But to see him actually do it?  Jack was...numb.  He couldn't quite get
his mind around what he had seen.

"Should we call Janet?" Sam asked suddenly, breaking into Jack's train
of thought.


"Janet.  She's his Watcher, she should know about this sort of thing."

"It's okay," a quiet voice said from the doorway.  "It's all taken care
of."  Daniel shuffled into the room in a faded pair of grey sweatpants
and a threadbare t-shirt.  Head slightly bowed so he met no-one's eye,
he quickly piled a plate full of takeout.  "Why don't we all sit down?"

Daniel tucked his legs up underneath his body demurely as he curled up
in the corner of the couch, his plate balanced on the armrest.  The
four ate in silence for long minutes.  Actually, Daniel ate, the others
picked and their food and watched Daniel.

Daniel did not look up, but he could still feel their eyes on him.
"It's who I am," he said, finally looking up to meet each set of eyes
in turn.  "I will make no apology for it."

Sam managed a nervous grin.  "We're not...it's just taking a little
while to process, that's all."

Daniel's answering smirk was carrying the air of slight superiority.
"No longer an abstract, is it?"

"No."  Sam's tone was firm yet still amazed.  "No, it's very, very
real now."

"DanielJackson," Teal'c said into the silence that followed.  "I must
commend you on your technique."

"I've had a while to practice."  Daniel's voice was dry.

"Perhaps a sparring session soon?  When training to use the staff
weapon, we practiced maneuvers similar to those we just witnessed."

"I'd like that Teal'c."  

"Might be a good idea," Jack said severely.  "Keep those skills sharp."

Daniel grinned.  "Sharp is usually not a problem, Jack."

But Jack was having none of it.  "I'm more of a guns and ammo guy
myself, but I'd say that you and he were fairly evenly matched?"

Daniel shrugged, conceding the point.  "Well, he was certainly a little
more able than the usual kids that wander through and pester me, that's

Jack looked down at his clenched hands for a moment.  "Daniel, SG1 did
not survive Goa'uld's, creepy little mechanical bugs, black holes,
Destroyers of Worlds and everything else just for you to buy it in the
back alley between Blockbuster and the bowling alley!  Okay," he said
gruffly, sitting back.  "I get that you fight.  And I'm cool with
that."  He saw the look Daniel was giving him.  "Really.  But if you're
gonna do this, you're gonna get some regular practice in."

Daniel raised an eyebrow and Sam smiled at the expression.  "The
Colonel's right, Daniel.  It's always harder to maintain combat skills
when you have no one to practice with.  So we volunteer!"

"Sam, thankyou, but..."

"No buts!  Practice!  Lot's and lot's of practice!" Jack's tone made it
clear he was not backing down from this.  "If you're gonna do this,
you're gonna win.  You hear?"

"Yes, Jack," Daniel capitulated in a weary voice threaded through with
warm notes of humour.  "Practice."  He yawned broadly.  "Just not

As one, the three team mates were on their feet.  "We'll go now, and
let you, umm..."  Sam tripped over her own sentence.

"Do whatever it is you do," Jack rallied for his 2IC.

An honestly amused smirk graced Daniel's face.  "Okay, thanks guys."
He chewed his bottom lip for a moment as he unfolded himself from the
couch and rose easily to his feet.  "We'll...come round tomorrow.
We'll talk."

Sam moved forward and wrapped Daniel in a bearhug.  

Daniel returned the gesture, pulling her tight.  "It's okay, Sam.  I'm
fine.  Everything's okay."

Sam nodded into the crook of his shoulder.  "I know.  It's just..."

He kissed her hair and reluctantly disengaged.  "I know.  If you want
to talk..."

"Tomorrow.  I'll process and... you better answer all my questions!"  

Laughing, Daniel herded her towards the front door, where Jack and
Teal'c were waiting.  "I will."

After biding them goodnight, not missing Jack's concern and Sam's
lingering fears, Daniel closed and locked the door firmly.  He then
went looking for the leftover takeout.  

After a Quickening, some Immortal's wanted violence.  Some wanted sex. 
Some just wanted to curl up and cry.  Daniel always wanted to gorge
himself them sleep for a week.  He shrugged as he picked with
chopsticks through a box of what looked like chow mein before giving up
and digging a fresh carton of icecream out of the freezer.  Good thing
he didn't do this often.  There was only so much mint choc chip
icecream you could eat before people started getting suspicious.


The two man, one large one wiry, walked on either side of the pretty
blonde as they cleared the double doors of the building.  At this
distance, you could not hear their voices, but you could clearly see
them pause for a moment as they talked amongst themselves.  The wiry
one touched both his companions on the arms once, a clear gesture of
support.  The blonde nodded quickly, the big one stood like a stone
presence at her shoulder.  The pair watched as the wiry one turned and
walked away, hopping into an oversized old truck.  Only once he had
warmed the engine and had pulled out into the non-existent traffic did
the other pair jump into a small hatchback and drive away.

*Target is solo.*  The disembodied voice crackled out of the speakers. 
*Repeat, target is solo.*

The heavy set man in the black watchcap nodded to himself as he spoke
into the microphone taped to his check.  "Start the clock."


As Teal'c unfolded his long legs, Sam came around to stand at the open
door.  "Sorry, Teal'c.  I think I need a bigger car."

"Indeed," he intoned as he discretely stretched the muscles in his
back.  But any further conversation was halted by the familiar sounds
of Jack's truck pulling up into a parking spot a few places further

"Good morning campers," he called out cheerfully as he walked around to
the kerb.  Sam smiled broadly as the passenger door swung open and a
petite brunette jumped down onto the sidewalk.


"Morning Sam, Teal'c."  She smiled at the other two in turn.  "I
thought I'd hitch a lift with the Colonel here and see how the old
bastard is doing this morning."

"And take names, no doubt?"

Janet smiled and nodded to the doorman as they passed through the
lobby.  She waited until they were alone in an elevator car before
answering.  "Names I already have.  Uberspies, remember, Colonel?"

Jack had the good grace to at least look a bit embarrassed.  

Janet smiled once, a deliciously evil smirk.  "Exactly.  I just want to
talk with Daniel before I wrote up my report.  It's part of our deal.
He answers my questions and I don't follow him around like a two-cent

There was a pause.

"I could have phrased that better, couldn't I?"

Sam was trying not to giggle.  "Oh yeah."  But fortunately for Janet,
the lift chose that moment to arrive at the appropriate floor.  She
strode with dignity down the corridor, leaving three-fourths of SG-1 to
trail, grinning, in her wake.

Janet was already rapping on the door by the time they caught up.
"Daniel?  It's just us."  She paused, listening, then began digging
through her bag.  "Probably still asleep.  I swear, after a...a night
like that, he could sleep through the Second Coming."  Finding her copy
of his front door key, she slipped it in the lock.  "Let's just hope
he's forgotten to latch it again."  Her prayers were answered as the
door swung open easily.

Janet strode into the Immortal's domain, a smile on her face.  "Rise

Sam looked over Janet's shoulder.  "Oh my..."

The living room was a wreck, books flung everywhere, shattered
fragments of pottery across the floor.  The glass top of Daniel's
coffee table was a pile of crushed glass and blood, like a body had
been thrown onto it.  The trail of destruction continued down the short
passage and into the bedroom.  Jack looked around with dark,
professional eyes, seeing the tangle of bedsheets like someone had
struggled in them, the way the bedding was strewn halfway to the door. 
A shining stiletto lay like an accusing finger on the floor, pointing
directly at his feet.

Stepping carefully around the evidence, he slipped up to the bedside
table.  Using a handkerchief to cover his fingers, he slid open the
second drawer on the bedside table.  Daniel's service pistol, the one
Jack had made his sign out for before he knew anything, was still
there, loaded but apparently untouched.

"Colonel!"  With the same care he had shown coming in, Jack headed back
to the living room.  He could just see the top of Janet's head as she
crouched behind the sofa, Sam standing but looking down at whatever
Janet had found.  He circled the ruined furniture and stopped.

He was no expert, and he had only even seen it twice, but he could
still recognize Daniel's sword.

Janet was staring up at him, and saw recognition dawn.  "Yes, it's
his."  She pushed herself slowly upright and crossed over to the wall
that separated the kitchen from the living area.  "And here are the
other three."  The trio of old weapons that normally hung like art,
concealed in plain sight, were on the floor as if someone had reached
blindly for them but could not get a firm grip.  "If he had any more
swords in this apartment, I didn't know about them."

Jack was still taking in the scene of devastation around him.  "His
pistol was untouched, and there was a knife on the floor."

"Whoever nabbed him, they didn't get him without a fight."

"Ya think?"  O'Neill's voice could have etched diamonds.  "Another

Janet's lips were pursed as she slowly shook her head to the negative. 
"This isn't usual challenge MO, and if one of the psycho's was in town,
I would know about it."

If anything, Jack's voice got harder.  "You mean like little miss 'too
danger to watch'?  That kind of psycho?"

An accented female voice sounded from the doorway.  "I'm not a
psychopath, Jonathon.  Merely persistent." 


The razor-edged stiletto span idly in her hands as she looked out of
the balcony window.  "I'd started hearing rumours, worrying rumours,
from some of my contacts."  She turned back to look at the four faces
on the other side of the room. "When I hit his answering machine for
the fourth time, I came."  Her eyes dropped to the bloody wreckage on
the floor.  "Too late."

Jack was rapidly passing beyond pissed.  "What rumours?"

Reia met Janet's eye, an unspoken query in her eye.  Janet nodded once,

Reia looked up to take in the group as a whole.  "What do you know
about the Hunters and K-Bureau?"

Sam's eyes narrowed slightly.  "K-Bureau?  That was the name Daniel
asked me to research when his student went missing.  Is it the same

Reia nodded, turning again to look out the window.  One hand reached up
to idly scratch the back of her head as she thought of how to phrase
it.  "The word is that your government wasn't happy with the Bureau's
failure to capture and keep an Immortal test subject.  There was a high
level shake up, a lot of people got moved out and a whole new bunch was
brought in.  Hired for their lack of morals and their dedication to
duty, no doubt," she added drily.  "Of course, if I were brought in as
the replacement, my first item of business would be to ensure that I
did not repeat my predecessors failures."

Janet's eyes were dark.  "Capture and keep."  She turned sharply and
walked a few paces, hands on hips.  "Damn him..."

"I take it he shared his concerns with you?"

"What concerns?"  Jack looked ready to start busting heads.

"Daniel was beginning to wonder...he thought his cover might have been
blown." Janet said simply.  


"We have always known there was a possibility that our last little
rescue effort was caught on camera.  And Danya is in your databases and
a government employee, is he not?  He'd be very easy to find."

Jack was shaking his head.  "Why didn't he say something to me?"

Reia's smile was malicious.  "Still thinking he's told you ever dirty
little secret, Jonathon?"  She tsked slightly to herself and pocketed
the knife.

Jack opened his mouth, but Janet was already there.  "CHILDREN!  Now is
not the time.  We need to find Daniel."

"Of course," Reia replied smoothly.  "So if you'll excuse me, I need to
go talk to a man about a dog."  She walked confidently past the others.

Jack waited until she was just past him.  "Don't call me Jonathon."

She paused at the doorway.  "I'll call you sweetheart forever if you
help me get Danya back one second sooner."  The door opened enough to
let her slide past, and then she was gone.


Reia eased herself behind the wheel of her nondescript rental car,
closed the door and rested her forehead against the steering wheel.
"Oh Danya," she whispered to herself.  "Why didn't you get out while
you had the chance?"  She lifted her head and looked up towards where
she knew his apartment to be.  "What about them is so special you'd
risk it all to stay near them?"  

Swallowing against the sour taste in her throat, she turned the key in
the ignition and pulled out into traffic.  Eyes on the unfamiliar
roads, she reached over to her bag and pulled out her cell phone.
Flicking it open, she hit the autodialler.

"Cascade PD, Major Crimes.  Connor speaking."

Reia negotiated the turn one handed.  "Megan?  It's Reia.  Is Blair or
Jim there?"

There was a muffled pause as Megan called out to see where they were.
"Are you there?  Sorry, they're still at court.  Final day of the
trial, y'know.  Be a big deal if the perp goes down."

Reia cursed under her breath as she pulled up at a set of traffic
lights.  "Listen, Megan, do me a favour and give them a message?"

"Sure thing."

"Got pen and paper?"


"Write this down, spelt just the way it sounds.  K doa D su cha.  Ni
goa ni selama. Chio te.  Got that?"

She could hear the slight stress in the Inspector's voice.  "I think
so."  She read back the short message.  "Is that it?"

"Perfect, thanks Megan."

"I hope he knows what it means, cos I sure don't."

"Just make sure he gets it the minute he walks in."

"Will do mate."

"Bye."  Ending the call, she accelerated smoothly as the lights
changed.  She drove down the main street for a few minutes, then turned
off onto a quieter side street.  Pressing another number, she waited as
the phone rang and rang.

"Another bloody answering machine," she growled to herself.

"Hi," a very familiar voice said cheerfully.  "If you wanted to get in
touch with Adam Pierson or Richie Ryan, you've rung the right number at
the wrong time.  We're not here at the moment..." There was another
voice, right on the edge of recording range, that sounded suspiciously
like Adam.  Whatever he said had obviously set Richie off, because he
was laughing as he concluded.  "But if you were born sometime this
century, you'd know what to do next."  There was a long beep.

Reia was smiling despite herself.  "Hey Richie, if you get this first,
go find the squid in a sweater, peel him off whatever couch he's
lounging on and make him listen.  Oh, and by the way, cute message."
The smile dropped as she switched tongues again, to one that only a few
people still alive today understood.  "La te no di chai to laien coho
tia nahk. Kgah chai fhori ne.  Clock is ticking," she added in English.
There was no equivalent for that in a language that almost predated a
measured concept of time.

She closed the phone and tossed it into her bag as she pulled into the
motel parking lot.  Automatically checking for anything suspicious, she
crossed into the foyer and rented a room under one of her many

Driving around to her room at the back of the complex, she quickly
unloaded her small bag of cloths and the two dark suitcases she had
felt compelled to bring with her.

Throwing the bag on the floor, she put the larger case on the table and
the smaller one of the bed.  Like many women who had lived through pre-
Modern times, she had some training in spiritual matters – dream
interpretation, the use of what was now simply called instinct.

And her instincts were screaming that bad things were about to happen. 
Pausing only to make sure the blinds were firmly closed and the door
locked, she flipped open the smaller case and began putting together
her pistols.  They were custom made, designed to be undetectable when
dismantled and in this case.  Sliding the final bolt home, she checked
each piece carefully before pushing a round in the chamber and locking
down the safety.

The larger case she left unopened.  That was her 'last resort' box.
She had always had one, full of the best toys society and the period
could offer.

Adam may have been Death.  But she was once Pandora.

The box would stay closed.  

For now.


The world's oldest man padded barefooted and bare assed out of the
bedroom and into the kitchen.  Glowing in the late morning sunshine
streaming in through the windows on the other side of the apartment, he
pulled open the fridge door and pulled out a bottle.  Drinking deeply,
he rested the cold bottle against his bare chest, reveling in the shock
of the chill.

He smirked as he heard the shower start up and put the bottle back in
the fridge.  Walking back across the apartment floor, he noticed the
blinking light of the answering machine.  For some reason he couldn't
identify, his stomach turned to slightly at the sight of it.

He wasn't expecting any calls, and smiled as he heard the familiar
voice echo out of the tinny speakers.  It was just Reia...his normal
grin vanished as she switched out of English.
** La te no di chai to laien coho tia nahk. Kgah chai fhori ne. Clock is ticking...**
Richie came out of the bathroom still damp, a towel wrapped loosely around his waist. Looping his arms around his lover's lean torso, he leaned his head against the smooth back. "Hey Old Timer. I thought you were going to join me." He twisted himself around the body in his arms. "Methos?" Silently, Methos reached out and hit play. The message repeated. "That sounds...bad." "Very bad. Get dressed." "Where are we going?" "To war." ~~##~~ "You mind telling me what that gibberish meant, or am I gonna have to guess?" Blair moved purposely around his room, pulling things out of drawers and from little niches and stuffing them in a plain duffel. "It means trouble, Jim. Reia told me she was anticipating something bad, and that message meant that whatever it was, she's found it." "In Cascade? With Daniel?" Jim's arms crossed folded up across his chest. "Is he alright?" Jim had grown to like the other Immortal during their short meeting only six weeks earlier. His icy blue eyes radiated concern for Blair's old friend and his new one. "I don't know. She couldn't exactly leave me a full message, especially if she was on the mobile." Jim thought for a second. "What did that message say?" Blair sighed, his shoulders slumping as he zipped up his bag. "She said that she couldn't find Danya. The message translates something into 'bad dreams have become truth.' Very rough translation." Blair slung his bag over his shoulder, and paused only to grab his heavy jacket before pushing past Jim. "I know you're not totally comfortable with the whole concept of dreaming, Jim, but I trust it. If she thing something is wrong enough to call me and whoever else up, then I've got to go. Simple as that." Jim followed Blair out into the main living area. "I understand, Blair." He bent down to scoop up his own small bag. Seeing Blair's look, he flashed a little smile. "And where you go, I go. Simple as that." ~~##~~ Maps of the entire region were spread out across the floor of Jack's living room. Reia looked over the organized mess with a satisfied nod. "Since we've all but ruled out an evacuation to another location, he must still be nearby." Jack was nearly snarling. "Thankyou for reminding me of the obvious." "On the same side, remember?" Janet's voice was harsh, her fatigue becoming more evident then ever. Reia looked up, a snappy retort dying on her lips at the Watcher's expression. "Of course, Janet. How do you want to do this?" "We've got Carter's list of possible sites – places that either would be suitable, or which have been recently renovated. That's a start." "The list is extensive, O'Neill." Reia was nodding. "So we divide it up. Form teams for initial recon." Carter shook her head in reply. "Even in two groups, it would still take too long to get through them all." "Four," Reia corrected her, her eyes unfocussed. She blinked and turned to Janet. "We have company, Watcher." Jack was on his feet and at the door before Janet could react. "Jim, Blair," he greeted the first pair. He had only met them briefly during their last visit to Colorado Springs, but had found no reason to dislike them. The two men behind them, however, he did not know. Janet slipped by Jack. "Adam, Richie." She accepted a brief hug from the taller man. "I'm so glad you're here." "Where else would we be." He stretched out a hand. "Adam Pierson, and this is Richie Ryan." "Jack O'Neill." He stood aside to let his guest inside. "That's Sam Carter, our friend Murray, and I believe you know her." "Still making friends and influencing people I see?" Adam followed Janet down the step into the sunken living room. "So, what's the plan?" ~~##~~ "Okay, Carter. Head back here." Jack hung up the phone with a sigh. <"No luck?" It was probably the fatigue talking, but Jack thought the female Immortal sounded almost compassionate. "Another dead end!" The frustrations of the day boiled over and Jack planted his fist hard into the wooden bench. "Damn it! Where the hell did they take him? He can't have just disappeared off the face of the Earth!" "So we'll find him," she replied evenly. She opened her mouth to say more, but was interrupted by the door chime. "Does Sam always ring twice?" With a curious expression on his face, Jack stalked forward to peer through the spyhole. "What the..?" He pulled the door open wide. "General Hammond. Major Davis. To what do I owe the pleasure?" "May we come in, son?" Jack stood aside, his military bearing almost, but not quite, disguising the unease he was feeling at the unexpected arrival. Reia melted into the shadows of the kitchen doorway and watched with interest. "Sir, I wasn't aware we were having a visit from the Joint Chief's Office this week." The one O'Neill had addressed as Major Davis pulled off his uniform cap and swapped a look with Hammond. "I fabricated an excuse to be here, Colonel." Hammond stepped in. "Major Davis has come to me off the record with some information I think you need to hear." The Colonel favoured the Major with a measured look. "You'd better come in then." ~~##~~ "...and so I came here, and told General Hammond what I knew." Davis looked from face to face. "And since he didn't just throw me out of his office and into a psych review, I'm guessing I may be correct?" Nobody looked him in the eye. Janet glanced towards the doorway behind the new player, and saw Reia nod once. "Yes, Paul. You're absolutely correct." He took a deep breath, exhaled slowly. "He really is Immortal?" "I'm his Watcher." She unbuttoned her cuff and showed him her tattoo. "I'm sure," Hammond said in a cool, gruff voice. "That we can rely on your continued discretion, Major Davis?" Paul shook his head. "Absolutely. I may be an officer in the same military, but I cannot agree with these black ops policies. Anything you need, just let me know." Reia finally stepped out of the shadows. "Do you know where they might have taken him?" Jack smirked, enjoying the way the young Major almost leapt out of his seat. "Major Paul Davis, meet Reia." She ignored the hand, keeping her own arms folded loosely across her chest. "Well, Reia," he said nervously. "That's not exactly something that's published on a status report anywhere." She raised an eyebrow. "Do I hear a 'but' coming?" At that Paul smiled. "You do. As the liaison between the Joint Chief's and Project Bluebook, I hear about anything that happens in the Mountain." He turned to look at Hammond and O'Neill. "What do you know about the works being conducted in sublevel 38?" O'Neill pushed himself to his feet. "They're just fixing the sewerage, right?" He turned to his superior officer, who nodded. Paul was shaking his head side to side. "Well, I've never known a works upgrade to cost that much. I crunched some numbers coming down, the amount of money that's being poured down there is five to six times as much as prior works. And I can't trace exactly where it's all coming from." It was Sam's turn to shake her head. "But the kind of modifications we're talking about would involve all kinds of diagnostic and scientific machinery being brought down. We would have noticed that sort of movement." "Would you?" He challenged back. "They're using a dedicated service shaft, well away from normal personnel access routes. Do you really pay that much attention to the service staff?" Hammond was seething. "If he's being held against his will right under our nose, then I want to know about it." "Sir, permission to..." "Granted! I want our boy back, and I want to know who did this." He turned to Jack. "But keep it low-key, Jack. We don't want to tip our hand." ~~##~~ Reia closed her phone with a snap as she circled around the front of the car. "They'll meet us there." Jack nodded. "This better be worth the time." She smiled, showing teeth. "Oh I assure you, Jonathon, it will be worth it." Opening the door, she climbed in. Barely waiting for the others to close their doors, she revved the engine and reversed out onto the street. Checking her mirrors to make sure that Jack's truck was still following them, she also looked at Janet. "So, tell me, Watcher. Is this Paul Davis on to something, or is he just a patsy, or worse, on their side?" Janet, sitting in the middle of the back seat, shifted slightly and sighed. "We used to be assigned together. He was a good guy, back then." "And now?" There was an icy edge in the question. Janet met her eyes in the rear vision mirror. "I trust him." Reia held her gaze for a long beat. "Then that will have to do." ~~##~~ "So I hear the game's afoot?" Reia swept past, pulling out the key to the door. "I hope so. Are you ready to play hardball?" Richie rolled his eyes. "Geez, enough with the B-grade spy talk. Let's just go get him!" Smiling despite herself, Reia looked up as Jack's truck roared into the parking lot. "That's everyone." Pushing open the door, she walked straight to the bed and flipped open the smaller case. Jack walked in and whistled, a low sound. "I didn't think they were out of R+D yet?" "They made an exception for me. Murray, close the door please." Even as she spoke, she checked over the first weapon before handing it to Adam. "We need to check out Davis' intel first. But if he is there, we've got to move immediately." "Agreed." Jack was still eyeing off the pistols. "We can do that, we're meant to be there." "But if you want to pull him out, you're gonna need our help," Blair pointed out. "You cannot be seen to know, it would just put you in even more danger." "Oh, and you'd come off clean if you went in there?" "ENOUGH!" Janet snapped in a voice that cut through the room like a knife. "Daniel. Focus on him." Reia and Jack eyed each other off. In one voice, they announced their immediate course of action. "Recon." ~~##~~ "So as you can see, Major, if they don't put the lines in exactly the right places, it will completely disrupt all project experiments." Sam managed to sound both completely professional and thoroughly pissed off as she escorted Major Davis and a technician off the service elevator. "And I'm sure I don't need to explain to you, or the Joint Chiefs, exactly what kind of setback that would be." "Expensive," Paul intoned somberly. "Yes, Major. I'm surprised we didn't see this complication sooner. But hopefully we can fix it before it becomes a real problem." He caught Sam's eye, and she nodded discretely. She had seen them too. Guards, heavily armed guards if she wasn't mistaken. Even works in the basement of the most secret military facility in the world didn't need this much firepower. She tried not to show it, but all the small hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end. However, if Paul was feeling uncomfortable, he didn't show it. "You there," he snapped to the first person he saw. "Who's in charge down here?" The grunt snapped off a salute in the face of Paul's Class A uniform. "Colonel Perez, sir!" "Tell the Colonel that Major Davis from the Pentagon is here and needs to speak to him immediately." "Her, sir, and I think she's down the tunnels..." "Then call her out, airman," Paul replied in a tone of voice that made it clear he was having questions about the grunt's mental status. "Sir, yes sir!" Once the grunt was clear, Paul turned to Sam. "Now, let's see what that does." Sam had to smile. "Major Davis, remind me never to get on your bad side?" "I deal with politicians every day. These guys are just playing." He looked to the technician who had accompanied them down. "Ready?" The smirk was a fraction off pure cheek. "Sir, yes sir." Adam straightened the papers on his clipboard once more, then snapped to an appropriate stance for a subordinate as the grunt returned, trailing a trim, dark-haired woman in work coveralls. The two Majors snapped off salutes. "Colonel Perez? Major Paul Davis and Major Samantha Carter, maam." She looked at the pair of them with baleful eyes. "What's so important you had to see me straight away?" Paul gracefully deferred to Sam as she stepped forward and span a line of pure scientific bullshit about how the works would affect her experiments. "Now, I'm probably just overreacting," she concluding in a pacifying tone. "But if there is a problem, it would be easier..." "...and cheaper," Paul added, playing to the stereotype of a penny- pinching capital boy to the hilt. "Yes, and cheaper, if we deal with it now. It will take ten minutes just to go in, do our reading, and be gone." She looked like she was about to challenge them further, so Sam played a trump card. "General Hammond said if there were any problems, you could ring straight through and talk to him directly, Colonel." A part of her was wishing that Colonel Perez did just that. She knew the Texan would just love to start ripping shreds out of the woman. Perez's lip curled into a sneer. "That won't be necessary. But ten minutes only, alright? I've go a schedule to meet, and it doesn't include running guided tours." "Of course maam." "Noller, show them down the B-pipe." She waved casually to the grunt. "Noller will take you were you need to go. B-pipe should give you the best readings." "Thankyou, Colonel." Perez didn't even wait for the salute to fall before she was stalking her way back down the corridors. Noller did not speak beyond issuing curt directions like "follow me, please," and "this way, sirs." Sam tried to keep a veiled eye on Adam, but saw no reaction. With a heavy heart, she took the readings she needed to maintain her cover, then dutifully trooped after Paul back to the lift. "Well?" Jack asked as soon as they stepped through the door of her lab. She had blown the surveillance system a week before in a botched experiment, and had yet to fix it. It was as secure a location as they were going to find on base. "He's there," Adam said simply, his eyes flitting around the high-tech laboratory once before settling on the Colonel. "Are you sure it's him?" "Danya and I go way back. I know the taste of his Buzz. He's broadcasting it. Besides," he added with a look at Davis. "Are you guys really in the habit of making full-bird Colonel's clean out your sewerage system?" Davis nodded. "You noticed that too?" "I can't believe it," Sam muttered softly. "He's been under our feet the whole damn time." "Well campers," Jack smoothly took control of the situation. "It looks like we've found him. The only question now is – how do we get him out?" "I don't suppose ringing them up and nicely asking for our friend back is out of the question?" Adam meant his comment in jest, but a speculative gleam flashed across O'Neill's eyes. "Well, if you put it that way..." ~~##~~ "What if this doesn't work?" Richie's softly spoken question reached Methos' ears alone. "Then we go to plan B, you know that. What's the matter?" Gently, Methos placed a hand on his younger partner's shoulder. "You look more nervous than normal." He shrugged uncomfortably. "I dunno. I've just got this feeling, y'know. We've missed something." "If we have, we have. We're committed now." Richie looked past Methos, where Daniel's mortal friends were stripping and assembling their weapons in a ritual of preparation. "I guess we are." Methos turned to look also. "Don't worry so much about them, Brat. Just because they're mortal doesn't mean they don't know how to take care of themselves. Danya trusts them." "I just hope we don't get them killed. Danya would never forgive us." "Are we ready?" Reia's high voice called across the room. She stepped down into O'Neill's living space, still managing a semblance of grace despite the heavy combat boots and the unfamiliar uniform. O'Neill fixed his weapon and hid it in his clothes. "Let's hope they just hand him over." Blair stepped forward, his unruly curls hidden under a watch cap, making his face look angular. "Listen, man, if you're gonna hesitate in shooting your own people, then step back and let us do it." "What makes you think I'd hesitate?" O'Neill bristled. "I would," Blair said simply. O'Neill looked over his other two team mates. "He's our friend too. We're getting him back." Methos adjusted the fit of his own uniform, ensuring the sword was well hidden. "It's time." ~~##~~ Jim lay flat on the ground, hands under his chin, eyes fixed on the 'backdoor' into the Mountain. Nearby, Blair lay in a slight natural depression, one hand clamped over the earpiece jammed into his ear. Dialing up his hearing, Jim could make out the sounds that the microphone in Reia's collar picked up as they walked deeper and deeper into the mountain. He was amazed when Reia had produced the tiny piece of electronics. Any other type of transmitter would either have cut out by now, or alternatively been discovered. Silently, he hoped that neither would occur before they had finished their mission. Ready if they should be needed, Jim let the conversation that was taking place hundreds of feet below him occupy the rest of his attention. "I assure you, Colonel, you'll find all the documentation is in order." Hammond's booming Texan voice carried clearly. "But this is highly irregular, sir. My orders..." "...have changed. If you have a problem with that, I suggest you contact the Pentagon directly. But in the meantime, we'll be taking over down here." Perez eyed Hammond for a long time in uneasy silence. "One moment, please sir." Barely waiting for Hammond's approving nod, she ducked into a side workroom. Hammond stood tall. Behind him, Jack, Teal'c, Reia and Adam stood in escort, their faces betraying nothing. O'Neill watched as Perez closed the door slightly on the party, then turned to look at Reia. She nodded once. She had detected his Buzz as soon as they had walked down the corridor. No matter what, she would not be leaving without him. Finally a frowning Perez reemerged. "I trust all is in order, Colonel?" "Yes, sir," she replied dutifully, but all could see her barely concealed confusion and anger. "This way please, sir." Turning on her heel, she strode down the cramped corridor, not even checking to make sure they were following. Negotiating a tangle of pipes and plumbing, she led them to featureless a steel door set into the blank concrete walls. Pulling out a passcard, she swiped it pass a panel, then planted her hand onto the panel. Several heavy thudding noises preceded the door swinging open. "Sir." She stood aside to let the entire group pass over the threshold, then swung the door shut, sealing it behind them. "Straight ahead now, sir." Forward was the only direction they could go, down a white- walled, brightly lit passageway. With quick steps, they moved down the hall. Heavily armed special ops guards stepped in front of them, weapons drawn and ready. Behind them, more guards were moving in. "What is the meaning of this?" Hammond snapped in his best 'pissed officer' voice. One of the soldiers was whispering in Perez's ear. "Are swords part of the field uniform now?" she snarled. Reia looked over to the others with a raised eyebrow. Jack nodded. The swords whispered death as they were drawn with lightening speed from hidden sheaths. The closest two guards fell to the floor, blood pulsing out of the open gashes on their necks. Behind them, the three mortals opened fire on the front line soldiers as they dove for the meager cover of the featureless passage. For the Immortals, however, the location was well suited to their weapon of choice. Whereas the soldiers with their assault rifles could only move, point and shoot, move, point and shoot, they could be more fluid. The swords moved with deceptive grace, like extensions of their arms, as they dodged and parried. With a final deafening retort, the last shot was fired. Methos grabbed Perez, the only survivor, in a choke hold, as Reia efficiently searched her for weapons, passcards, anything of use. "Are you three okay?" "Fine. Sir, Teal'c?" "I'm fine, son." "I was grazed, but it is a minor injury." Reia stepped back with her booty taken from Perez's uniform. "Well, then, Murray, if you're sure, let's get going." Not looking back, she stepped daintily over the still bleeding corpses and headed down towards the final door. "Locked." "You were expecting a welcome mat?" Reia gave O'Neill a withering look. "Probably gone into lockdown as soon as we set off their sensor tunnel." Methos gave Perez a little shake. "How do we open this door?" She stayed silent. Reia drew her sword again and rested the tip in the little hollow at the base of her neck. "He was talking to you, meat. How do we open this door?" "Katrina Maria Perez. Colonel. 9567 845 6533." Methos and Reia swapped a look. She then ran the officer through. As Methos dropped her dying form like a sack of potatoes, Reia turned back to the door. "We'd have had to have killed her anyway. She knew too much." "What about the door?" "Maybe I can..." Methos knelt down to look at the featureless panel that was beside this access as well. "Perhaps the card and her hand print, or maybe just..?" The door opened, and everyone automatically pointed their weapons at it. "Hey, what took you so long?" Daniel slurred. He then collapsed heavily against the doorframe and pitched forward onto the floor. "General, help me," Methos snapped as he gently pulled Danya up. "You three, clear our retreat and make sure all the footage is destroyed this time." ~~##~~ "Blair," Jim hissed. "Heads up." Jim waited only until he felt Blair's hand clamp onto his ankle to ground him, before he extended his sensors towards the road access into the mountain. To him, the moonless night was bright as day, and the rumble of the truck warming up was loud. Confident in his Guide's ability, Jim extended his hearing further by piggy-backing it onto his sight. Gently, carefully, he refined the delicate focus until he could hear the words. **...I don't know sir. We've lost every line we had into the facility several minutes ago.** **What is the status of the test subject?** **Unknown, sir. Sir, it is my recommendation that we surrender this site as compromised.** Jim smiled to himself as he heard the second speaker growl in frustration. **At least we have already collated the data from our preliminary tests. But I would have rather reported back to my superiors with a complete battery of test results.** The smile turned into a grin as he eavesdropped on the stuttering flunky. **Ahh, sir? I've just had a report from our man in the Pentagon. All the data files have been lost.** **WHAT? HOW?! You guaranteed me personally that the data was untraceable and completely secure.** The stuttering was more pronounced now. 'Where did they get this guy,' Jim wondered to himself. 'Flunkies-r-us?' **Umm, it...it's unclear at the moment, sir, but it appears that....an automatic cleaning program mistook the files for...bad data and deleted them.** **What are the status of our backups, then?** **Unknown, sir.** **Well, find out, dammit!** Jim took personal pleasure in the way this guy was loosing his cool. **I've got to report to the Bureau, explain how the hell we fucked up when everything was handed to us on a silver platter.** There was a loud clunk as he yanked open the door with more force than necessary. **I want your full report by the time I get to Washington....what was that?** **What, sir?** Jim unconsciously held his breath. **Nothing. Get on that report, Lieutenant.** **Sir, Yes Sir!** Quickly Jim dialed his hearing back down, before the noise of the engine turning over could drown his senses. "Did Richie get 'em?" Blair whispered anxiously. "I think so." He automatically pressed himself further into the dirt as the car accelerated along the road. "Come on." The pair smoothly and discretely fell back and vanished into the night. ~~##~~ "How are you feeling?" Daniel's blue eyes flashed electric. "Like someone who's been locked up like a lab rat for the past few days. How are you, Janet?" She refused to be baited. "Very relieved that you're all right." She smiled at him, but frowned a second later as her small hand flashed out to caress his neck. "What happened?" His tone was flat. "I was uncooperative, so they decided to tie me to the table with garrotting wire." "By your neck? Oh man..." Blair turned and walked to the other side of the room, chewing the flat pad of his thumb, as he processed this. Jack, who had forced himself through to sit by his friend's side, looked at the spot Janet was touching. "It left a mark?" Reia, sitting on the step in lotus position like she was carved of ice, spoke up. "Sometimes, neck wounds can scar, even if you're Immortal. It's not common, but it happens." Daniel batted the hands away and stood up. "I'm fine, okay," he snarled as he stalked into the kitchen. Nobody was stupid enough to follow. Finally, Methos stood up. "I think there is nothing more we can do here," he told the room at large. As Richie, Jim and Blair also rose, he crossed Jack's living room to stand in the doorway to the kitchen. What he said was inaudible to the rest of them, but they watched as Daniel emerged to touch his shoulder gently in a gesture of gratitude. He then turned to favour the other three from out of town with a look. "Thankyou." "Hey, no problem D." Blair grinned as he swung his backpack on his shoulder. "All part of the service." Jim chose to simply shake Daniel's hand, before throwing off a casual salute in farewell to the others in the room. Richie grinned. "Hey, don't forget to let us know what the poon or the trace give back, okay?" Reia unthawed enough to smile. "Will do, Richie. Keep out of trouble, okay?" But she did not move from her perch as her four friends let themselves out and moved out of Buzz range. Daniel's expression was hovering between exhausted and confused. "Poon? Trace? What have you guys been doing?" "Sit down, rest," Janet said. "It's a long story, and I think we need all the players to tell it. The General should be here soon." Instead of sitting, he began to pace, not looking at anyone else. "Stop it," he said finally. "Stop what, Daniel?" Sam asked with concern. "Stop looking at me like I'm going to snap in two any second." "Well, take my head for being giving a damn about you," Reia drawled seconds before someone knocked on his front door. "It's them," she said, unfolding her legs and stretching slightly. "You a psychic too, huh?" Jack replied as he went to look through the peephole. "Come on in, we've been waiting for you to come and tell the story." He ushered them in then closed the door behind them. Davis looked younger, more innocent out of uniform, Reia decided. "Major Davis?" He nodded. "Dr Jackson, it's good to see you well," he said as he offered his hand to the man. His expression conveyed the sincerity of his words. General Hammond, still in his blues, nodded. "Damn good, son. We were worried about you." Daniel finally took his eyes off Davis to look at Jack. "Care to explain this?" Paul jumped in before Jack could reply. "Actually, I figured it out, and brought my suspicions to General Hammond." He stepped in to the younger officer's defense. "Without his help, we might never had been able to mount a rescue. And he's agreed to help keep your secret." Daniel's body language let everyone know loud and clear that he wasn't satisfied, but he let the topic drop. "So what happened down there?" Jack grinned from his perch against the wall. "It was Mr Green in the dining room with a candlestick." Daniel's lip curled into a slight sneer. "Actually, it was Major Black Ops, with a taser, in the bedroom." "Ouch." "Yeah." "Once we found you missing, we started looking for where they might have taken you," Sam said. "But we were only finding false leads until Paul came to us." "I had noticed irregularities with works taking place in Cheyenne Mountain, and so I investigated." He shrugged his shoulders, looking a little uncomfortable. "I've had suspicions about you for a while, Dr Jackson, but I saw no need to do anything about it until now." "Davis got us down there, we took Adam with us and scoped it out..." "I remember that," Daniel interrupted. "I thought they had snatched another one of us, and were going to try and recreate a Quickening." He looked at Sam, then looked away. "I think the energy flows fascinate them." "Ouch." "Yeah." "Well, that was us," Sam said, gesturing to herself and Davis. "So they know that you're involved? Great, that's just...great." Daniel's words were pure acid. "No, they don't know it was us." "How can you sound so sure?" "Because we left no witnesses?" Janet flashed a wicked little grin. "And because the Pentagon, the AirForce and the Watchers work very well together when they put their minds to it." "We hacked their lines. Everything...phone, data, electrical, everything...runs on cables. And those cables have to get by us to get to the surface. So we tapped them." "Actually," Davis said with a grin. "We took them over. Janet's people traced it back and cleaned out every file they had and we rediverted everything else to Major Carter's labs. And your office." He tried a smile. "Sorry, I had to borrow your desk for a minute and turn it into a fake Pentagon. I promise I didn't play with your stuff." Everyone was relieved when Daniel managed a laugh at that. "So when they thought they were phoning their superiors to check you out, they were actually phoning...you?" Sam was beaming, overjoyed at her technical success. "Exactly. Plus, we now have all their data, and they've got nothing." "Watcher's are pulling it apart now." Janet met his eye. "In case you've forgotten, we're in this together." "I know, I know...it's just," he sighed, one hand scrubbing tiredly through his hair. "You all took a huge risk." "Hey, that's what friends are for," Jack told him easily. "What did you expect," Paul added indignantly. "That we'd just sit by and let them do it?" "No," he said slowly. "I don't expect you would." ~~##~~ Jack had ordered pizza, but Daniel found himself without an appetite. Instead, he found himself prowling, moving from window to window. "They're not going to get you, Danya." "Huh?" He turned to face his old friend. "They're not coming for you again," she repeated as she rose to her feet. Crossing the floor, she grasped his arms. "So you don't have to pace the perimeter and check every shadow, okay?" He scuffed his foot, embarrassed. "I didn't..." She smiled. "It's okay. Me personally, I'd be setting up the barbed wire right about now." He dredged up an appropriate expression. "But you always went in for overkill." "That I did." "Thankyou..." he whispered. She grinned cheekily. "Just remember to return the favour," she told him. "But now I shall depart, and let you get your rest." She dropped the showy act and bent in to whisper to him. "Do you want me to stay in town for a few days, just in case?" He shook his head in the negative. "Go. Paris is probably languishing without you." True concern now. "Are you sure?" He looked over her shoulder to where Jack was trying to discretely eavesdrop. "Positive." She sighed. "Very well." Lunging in, she wrapped him in a bearhug. "You take care now, okay?" He returned the embrace. "I intend to." Releasing her, he watched as she turned and gathered up her things. "Well, it was nice meeting you all." Her gaze lingered for a moment on Paul, then she turned and gave O'Neill a shit eating grin. "It was fun, Jonathon." He met her sarcasm, measure for measure. "Yeah, we'll get together sometime and just hang, okay?" "Sure....2090 is looking free. I'll even give your tombstone a cleanup," she said sweetly. She gave a last wave to the group at large. "Take care, y'all." She then surprised everyone by diving in to give Jack a quick kiss on the cheek. "Look after my boy, sweetheart." The front door was slamming shut before Jack had closed him mouth. Everyone laughed, as much for the release of tension as for the expression on Jack's face. "I think you've grown on her." "Shut up, Janet." ~~##~~ Finally everyone had left, to their own homes or back to the base to continue with the final cleanup. Jack's snores echoed down the hallway, confirmation, at least for the next little while, that he would be undisturbed. He had a lot of thinking to do. His mind was turning over so fast that he couldn't sleep anyway. He could still feel the wire slowly cutting into the soft skin of his neck, forcing him to even breathe shallowly so he wouldn't end up decapitating himself. All around him, buzzing like flies, the scientists worked and prodded and poked and never once looked at him like a sentient being. He had once feared this end for Teal'c. Now he knew firsthand why it should never happen again, to anyone. Ever. He suppressed a shudder and pulled the blanket even tighter across his shoulders. He had not admitted it in words, but in that lab he was as scared as he had ever been in his long life. He had been trapped before, certainly. On this world and others, caught and held, tortured and tormented, made a slave and a prisoner. But he had never felt that all encompassing sense of...finality. He had known that he was under the Mountain somewhere from the moment he had revived – that background hum was an integral part of his personal landscape these days. To know he was so close to his friends, yet unable to reach them...he shook his head and tried to divert his mind. They had found him, and rescued him. All his friends, working together. But even then, it had almost not been enough. If they had reacted even just a few seconds quicker, they would have pulled that wire tight and taken his head clean off. No Quickening, no nothing. Just oblivion. Rearranging the blanket, he unlatched and slid open the glass door. It was cold out here, cold but amazingly clear. Bunching up the blanket like a toga, he carefully climbed the ladder to the little makeshift observatory on the roof. The stars were twinkling like diamonds above him. Mentally, he began cataloguing which one's he had seen close up. That one, yes, and that one. From here, he could not see the star that shone so brightly down onto Abydos, his second home. He felt a single tear brim over and roll down his cheek, and roughly rubbed it away. This, this was why he stayed, and why he would continue to stay, with the SGC even if it now almost certainly meant his capture and death at government hands. Sam, Janet and Davis were so proud of themselves for their hacking job. They were so pleased that they had taken all the Immortal files in the Bureau's possession. But that meant nothing in terms of human memory. Someone, somewhere, knew that he was an Immortal. It didn't matter that they had killed all the personnel who were working like the descendents of Frankenstein in that lab, it didn't matter that they had planted a tracing device on the officer Blaer and Richie saw leaving the compound. None of it mattered any more. Except the stars. They mattered. The stars, and what was out there among them. The Gouald, and all the other races out there. The Stargate. The people spread out among the Gated worlds like seeds waiting to blossom. He wanted to be there amongst it. He needed to be out there. Gate travel was like a drug, potent and addictive. He craved it, craved the knowledge waiting to be found, the mysteries just waiting to be unraveled. He couldn't walk away now, even knowing what he knew. It might end up costing him his head to stay, but it would kill him, slowly and painfully, if he knew what was out there but was denied access to it. Both outcomes were undesirable. There had to be a third option. He just hadn't found it yet. A soft noise and a slight shake in the platform jolted him from his thoughts. Roughly wiping his face on the edge of the blanket, he shuffled over to make room for Jack as he pulled himself onto the ledge. "Hey." "Hey. Couldn't sleep?" Daniel shook his head, negative. "Nightmare?" Jack's voice held no trace of pity, for which Daniel was grateful. "More like the possibility of nightmare." A slight chuckle. "Ahh, yes," Jack sighed knowingly. "That." "That." For a few minutes, the two men sat in companionable silence, looking at the sky. "So, Daniel," Jack finally asked. "What now?" There was a long, tense pause, then Daniel exhaled heavily. "I'm not running, Jack. Not from this." He freed an arm from under the blanket and waved at the expanse of sky. "I won't let them take me away from this." "As glad as I am to hear that...are you sure that's wise, Daniel?" The Immortal smiled. Of course Jack would have figured it out as well. "I think it's suicidal, actually. I was just trying to think of a third option." Jack rearranged himself on the cold wooden deck, rubbing his aching knee for a second before tucking his hands back in to the pockets of his coat. "Something that would let you stay with us without our having to always be alert for another kidnap attempt." "Any ideas?" Jack's tone was indignant. "I'm thinking, I'm thinking." "I'm sure that the governments...governments, really...don't want us dead. It's just elements within governments who want to see what use we are to them." Daniel laid back and looked up at the stars. He was thinking out loud now, and Jack was used to it by now. "That kid, Richie. He planted a tracking device..." "You honestly think they'd be nice enough to have a convenient address we can go to?" Jack snorted. "No, they'll be organized like Maybourne's group. Cells and agents, connected over the Internet, never knowing each other. No offices, no paper trails, nothing to cover up." The two men fell silent again, following their own thoughts. "Deny the battle." "Huh?" Daniel hoisted himself onto his elbows and turned to look at Jack. "Something Shifu told me that time. That's the key. Deny the battle. They're winning now, Jack, and nobody out there –" he waved vaguely at the surrounding houses "—gives a damn because all they know about us is what they've been fed in the media. And if the people don't care, then the government doesn't care because it won't cost them votes." Jack laughed incredulously. "Daniel? Are you talking about conducting a public relations war?" "Why not?" "It's...it's..." "Crazy, I know." He sighed. "There's got to be a way to circumvent them. Because if we take them head on, we can't win." He flopped back down onto his back. "I won't let them win, Jack. I won't run, and I won't live in fear." His words were strong, but his voice clearly carried his own nervousness. "I've got enough regrets, done enough things out of fear." He closed his eyes as Jack sat up to look at his face. "I'm sick of hiding in the shadows, Jack. I'm tired of being a living ghost for century after century, never achieving anything of importance because I've always got this damned secret." Jack reached out to put one callused hand on Daniel's shoulder. "You don't have to hide with me, Daniel. We'll figure something out, I promise. Stay." Daniel opened his eyes, met Jack's gaze, and nodded. "I'm not going anywhere, Jack. I'm not hiding any more." ~~##~~ fin