"No Creeds for Mathematics" by surreallis
Spoilers: Metamorphosis, Fallen
Your recipient: Karen T poohmusings
Request Details: Thing she wanted: Post- “Full Circle” – Sam finds herself fixated on the fact ascended!Daniel visited both Jack and Teal’c, but did not visit her.
Things she didn’t want: Mini!Anyone; Any of the characters introduced in S9; Unases.
A/N- I took a few liberties with canon in season 6, but nothing that you couldn’t justify by just squinting a little bit.
Title from a quote by Peter Drucker.
Abydos was ascending.
The air was filled with misty tendrils, all of it former flesh, once solid and now ethereal. Sam ran through it all, her boots sticking to the cavern’s floor. She couldn’t find the rest of SG-1. Where were they? Why were they leaving her behind?
“Wait!” She tried to shout, and her voice sounded distant, weak. “Where are you?”
There was smoke now, filling the room. The pyramid was shaking, and she could hear the blasts that Anubis was dropping upon them from above. She was being covered in a fine rain of pulverized stone.
Her boots slipped, grabbed, slipped again. Suddenly Daniel was above her, body lifting, turning to mist, smiling as he met her gaze.
“Daniel!” She reached for him. He shook his head at her, silently, and turned to glance behind him. Sam saw the Colonel rising there, eyes piercing, expression grim. Teal’c rose beside him, wrapped in fog.
“Wait!” she demanded, reaching.
They rose together, away from her, and Daniel turned eyes full of pity down on her. “Too late, Sam.”
The ceiling came down.
Sam woke with a gasp, lungs aching for breath. She jerked upright and stared at the wall at the foot of her bed. The room was silent and still and dark, her curtains flipping slowly and gently in the night breeze. Her legs ached from tensing in her sleep as she tried to run.
The nightmare again. Her breath slowed as her mind accepted the reality of her bedroom and Earth and consciousness. She was alive and real, and so were Jack, Teal’c and Daniel. Yes, she reassured herself, even Daniel, back from the dead. She would see him tomorrow just like she had everyday since he’d come back to them: smiling and sarcastic and very corporeal.
She really needed to get over this. She couldn’t keep avoiding Daniel. She sat up on the edge of her bed and scrubbed at her face with her hands. Sweat prickled over her skin and made her feel uneasy.
”Kill me! Kill me now! Please!” Alebran convulsed before his body burst into a wet spray of water molecules.
She rose and walked quietly into her kitchen for a glass of water. She needed to break that tenuous hold on the dream world so she wouldn’t go back there once she fell asleep again.
If she fell asleep again.
The Director of Religion for PTX-999 was an older, slender woman with long, dark, graying hair and a very direct gaze. She was soft spoken and pleasant. Quite a refreshing change from the usual religious leaders they found through the gate, Sam thought, facing the woman over the SGC’s briefing room table. She was hoping the very sane, understated personality of the religious leader would convince General Hammond to let them return to her planet. PTX-999 was experiencing a rare spatial phenomenon, not to mention a severe solar storm. Fascinating stuff, unless you happened to be one of the religious populace.
General Hammond leaned forward over the table, interlocking his fingers. “Are you sure it’s safe for my team right now, Ara? It sounds to me as if your planet has undergone some sort of upheaval that might be better left alone by Earth.”
Ara gave a reassuring smile. “The upheaval is really more of a small, isolated event, General. The Atavists are a very small religious sect. They follow the prophecies of the Ancients. Their doctrine is mostly based on very suspect tomes and religious texts and over the centuries has grown to embrace the more… unrealistic aspects of faith.”
That was putting it lightly, Sam mused. She wanted to smile when Daniel suddenly lifted his brows and a finger at the same time. There was no way Ara was getting away with sugarcoating anything around Daniel.
“Um, excuse me, but don’t the Atavists believe that the world is going to end tomorrow night?” Daniel pinned the woman with a stare.
Ara looked slightly frustrated but seemed to cover well. “Well, to be completely accurate, they don’t actually believe the world will end, they simply believe that the Ancients will return to release them from their corporeal forms and take them to Utopia. The people who are going on about the end of the world are really just fringe-dwellers who were drawn in by the excitement or their own warped idea of reality.”
“Well, either way we’re not really helping matters, are we?” Daniel kept the eyebrows raised.
They all looked at Ara over the briefing table, and she licked her lips nervously, her gaze settling on Colonel O’Neill. “I’ll admit that your sudden appearance was… unfortunate, not to mention your… interference, but the council feels that the current situation is very manageable and shouldn’t affect our good relations.”
Sam couldn’t help herself, she really did want a chance to study this rare phenomenon. “General, it really would be a valuable bit of research to continue. We’ve never seen solar storms like this anywhere else, and with all the moons on 999 and the rare alignment… it’s really an opportunity not to be missed if we can help it.”
Hammond shifted his gaze to her. “I understand that, Major, but it’s also my understanding that these people see SG-1 as some sort of… gods, and that’s not a situation I’ll tolerate.”
“Not gods, sir,” Jack quipped from across the table. “More like messengers.”
Hammond furrowed his brows and glanced at Daniel for explanation. Daniel tapped his pen against the table and then shrugged. “Jack’s right. They don’t see us as gods. It’s more that we happened through the gate at the right time. With the rare alignment of the planet’s moons, plus the solar storms causing the aurora in the sky… we picked a lousy time to appear through the Ring of the Gods.”
“The appearance of heralds is an ancient prophecy foretelling doom, sir,” Sam added.
Hammond still looked confused, but she could see long-suffering resignation there too. “Whatever it is, it’s interfering with the beliefs of these people, and you know as well as I do how dangerous that can be. People do all sorts of crazy things in the name of religion.”
“Agreed,” Daniel said. “But it’s not so much interfering as it is… re-enforcing, maybe. Plus, well…” He hesitated and his eyes flitted toward Jack. Sam nearly grinned when she realized what was coming.
“What?” Hammond sounded vaguely irritated now.
Ara interjected with her own note of irritation. “It was most unfortunate that your Colonel O’Neill decided to converse with a delegation of the Atavists on his own. I’m afraid they’ve developed some mistaken impressions about him.”
Hammond’s expression changed completely, from confusion to sudden suspicion. “Okay, what did Colonel O’Neill do?”
Jack tilted back in his chair, expression angelic, annoyingly silent. Daniel’s gaze flickered to Sam, and she pressed her lips together as he met his eyes. It really was amazing how she and Daniel could have a whole conversation without words sometimes.
“Dr. Jackson,” Hammond prompted sternly.
“They think he’s a sage foretold in prophecy.”
“I’m their Oma, General!” Jack smiled.
Hammond blinked at him and then jerked his gaze back to Daniel. “Excuse me, they what?”
Jack managed to look pleased and freaked out at the same time. “C’mon, General, you know. The wise man at the mountain top who knows the meaning of life.”
Hammond deliberately ignored him, focusing his attention on Daniel. “How did this happen exactly?”
“He, uh…” Daniel looked pained, as if even he couldn’t believe what he was about to say. He cast a weary glance toward Sam that she shared without reservation. “He quoted Rolling Stones lyrics.”
There was a brief silence around the table, and Sam felt an irrational need to giggle rising up in her throat. Ohhhh. Stopstopstopstopstop…what are you, five?
Hammond turned his gaze on Colonel O’Neill. “Jack?”
“The Rolling Stones, sir. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need.” There was a sing-song quality to Jack’s voice that made Daniel glance toward Sam again. She cast a grimacing smile at him in return.
Hammond seemed flabbergasted. He shook his head a bit and looked toward Ara. “Director…” He seemed at a loss for words.
Ara gave a tight smile. “General, I assure you, we’re doing everything we can to minimize the event. SG-1 should be perfectly safe. We’d appreciate the opportunity to learn more about our own world and share that knowledge with you.”
The general looked toward Jack. He shrugged. “Sir, the observatory is not open to the general public, I think it’ll be fine.”
“What happens when the Atavists don’t meet the Ancients and don’t leave their mortal bodies?” Daniel asked worriedly. Hammond indicated his agreement by looking to Ara and waiting for an answer.
“We have many Samaritans trained to deal with this sort of thing. They will make themselves available tomorrow in the event that some Atavists need help dealing with reality.” She glanced around at them. “Truthfully, I know you wonder why we don’t put a stop to all of this, but our planet believes in religious freedom. We have, at last count, 228 different religions, worldwide. People are free to believe anything or nothing as long it doesn’t harm another person. Their bodies and their minds are their own. Tolerance of even the most bizarre beliefs is a part of that. Whatever the ending is for them, we will accept that and offer help when needed.”
Sam watched Daniel carefully during that last bit of speech. He was struggling with it, she could tell. These were people who had a very specific belief, especially about ascension, something Daniel had intimate knowledge of. He knew ascension didn’t work this way, but he was also loath to crush someone else’s beliefs.
“Alright, SG-1, you have a go, but I want you out of there if these people start turning violent, understand?”
“Yes sir.” Jack gave the response for all of them.
“And Colonel?” The general stopped them on their way out. “Ease up on the sage advice, okay?”
Jack managed to look slightly affronted. Daniel rolled his eyes at her over the Colonel’s shoulder.
The voice was startling in its proximity. Sam jerked her head up, heart racing, as Daniel walked towards her from the doorway of her lab. She blinked at him, confused and a bit embarrassed as she realized she’d fallen asleep at her worktable. She tried to subtly brush at the corner of her mouth in case she’d drooled. “Hey.”
Daniel held up a white Styrofoam cup. “I brought you some coffee. You’ve looked a little tired the past few days.”
Swell. Sam took the cup. “Thanks.”
He set his own coffee down on her table and leaned against the edge, studying her. She didn't look at him. She sipped the hot, sugary coffee and stared at her laptop. Daniel cleared his throat. "So... what's going on?"
She glanced up at him. "What do you mean?"
He paused and then licked his lips. "I mean are you doing okay? You seem a bit... distant lately."
Shit. She shrugged. "Yeah, I'm fine. I mean, this whole thing on PTX-999 is a bit..." She trailed off, searching for the right word.
"Freaky?" Daniel offered.
She huffed out a tired laugh. "Yeah. Freaky."
"Their religious director doesn't seem too worried."
Sam set her coffee down. "Which worries me."
Daniel hesitated. "Yeah. Me too."
They were silent for a long moment and then Daniel gave her a tentative glance. "Sam…"
"Are you sure there's nothing else bothering you?"
She tried to look surprised. "Something else?"
"Something more personal. I mean, maybe something to do with me?"
She felt her heart sink. This was her own issue, she knew that. They'd discussed this already. She gave a half-hearted smile. "You know, right after you were... um... gone- ascended- when I used to work late and glance up, I was always surprised when you weren't standing in the doorway to my lab."
He smiled faintly at her, and she had to glance away from him. She continued, "And now, sometimes you walk through my doorway and I look up, and I catch myself thinking, 'Oh my God, he's back. He's alive.' As if I can’t quite believe it yet."
They were all still easing into his return.
He leaned down onto his elbows and tilted his head to gaze up at her. "I knew it was difficult on you, my ascension."
She looked up at met his eyes. "Did you?"
He nodded. "Yes, of course.” He gave her a long, speculative look. “Look, I know I don’t remember everything, but I remember some things. I didn't leave those bonds behind when I ascended. If anything, they became stronger, and I was more connected to the people I loved. I knew when they were in trouble, when they were in pain."
She couldn't help herself. "Like Jack and Teal'c, when you visited them?"
He nodded again. "And Kasuf and Abydos."
But not me. She didn't say it out loud. It was a ridiculous way to feel, and she knew it. Daniel cared about her, of course he did. But...
Nirrti’s machine felt like a human press. It paralyzed her and sucked the air from her lungs. She felt herself being folded like a paper airplane, delicate fingers running along her edges, finding the exact angle, pressing down and sealing her fate, changing her molecules forever.
It was nothing like a bullet or a zat or even being blown up in a ship. It was personal and painful, a vivid dissection and proof that even a brilliant mind was still made of the same blood and tissue, the same infallibility that every other human being had to accept as well.
It scared the hell out of her.
She glanced up at Daniel, the question on her lips. Why not me? Why wasn’t my death as important?
He saw it there, even if he didn’t catch the meaning. “What’s wrong?”
She couldn’t go right at the thing she wanted to know most. She wasn’t sure why she always had to walk around things like this. Tiptoe and poke and prod, coming at it from different angles as if it might explode should she just pick it up. She chewed her lip. “Nothing. I’m just, I’m glad you were there for them. I almost became the sole surviving member of SG-1 this year. “ She grinned, tried to joke. “You guys could have been the three ascended musketeers.”
Daniel saw through her. He always did. His shoulders sagged a bit, and she saw the distress in his body language. He’d thought this discussion was over, that she was okay with it, and now she felt like an idiot.
“Sam.” He looked into her eyes, expression a touch pleading.
“I know!” She cut him off before he could repeat all the reasons why he hadn’t visited her. “I know, Daniel.” She sighed. “God, forget I said anything. I’m an idiot, and I’m tired.” She pinched the bridge of her nose; half hoping he’d just laugh it off and leave.
A hand closed around her wrist. She opened her eyes but didn’t look at him.
“If it had been you in Ba’al’s hands, I’d have done the same,” Daniel said quietly.
“I know,” Sam replied, just as quietly. “But what about Nirrti’s?”
She looked at him now, and he gazed back, broken. His mouth moved a few times, silently. He shrugged helplessly and looked miserable.
Sam felt like an ass.
Repent! The time of your demise is nigh.
Sam glanced at the signs among the crowd as they passed through the temple commons. There was an urgency to the congregation today. A tenseness that seemed to be hanging on edge, a pendulum stretched to its furthest point and paused there in one interminable moment before swinging back down and striking the hour.
Sweat rolled uncomfortably down Sam’s collar and between her shoulder blades, the only place the TAC vest didn’t press her shirt tightly to her skin. The strong solar winds were messing a bit with the planet’s weather. The humidity had skyrocketed as the planet’s oceans had evaporated into the air.
Her skin itched like crazy.
“The gods know your soul! You cannot hide it from them!” Voices were crying out from the crowd. She watched the wavering violet bands of light sweeping back and forth against Daniel’s back as he walked in front of her. The sky was awash in purple aurora as the solar winds and the planet’s strong magnetic fields came together, exciting electrons. It drenched the air around them and cast a twilight glow on the white stone buildings and the smooth sandstone streets.
Sam felt Teal’c press a bit closer behind her. The crowds of PTX-999 were still relatively well behaved, despite the fact that some thought it was the end of the world. To the rest it was simply a big party.
A man approached, dressed in the purple robes of a pious Atavist. “Deliver us to the sky! This life means nothing to us!”
She saw O’Neill’s head jerk up. Watched Daniel’s hand go immediately to the Colonel’s shoulder, restraining and comforting.
Jack eyed the robed man and kept walking. “All we are is dust in the wind,” he said in reply.
“Yes!” The man dropped to his knees and bent his face to the violet, tempestuous sky. “Yes!”
Jack shot a look back toward her and Daniel. “Kansas,” he mouthed, telling them the name of the musical group.
“Jack, cut it out,” Daniel said, before he glanced back at her automatically. His expression was a startled mix of alarm and amusement and exasperation with Jack’s seeming insistence on sagehood. Dust in the wind?
Sam met his gaze, but the tension now between them crackled a bit, and she watched him catch himself, turning away from her. She trudged forward, wishing she’d never brought any of it up. Did it really matter that he didn’t visit her? Things worked out fine, and she’d had Jack and Teal’c and even Jonas there beside her during her ordeal. Neither Jack nor Teal’c could say the same.
Get a grip, Sam. Let it go.
A hand brushed her sleeve, petted her arm, begged for deliverance. She tried not to jerk away. When she looked, she met the eyes of a young woman, her head draped in purple linen. Teal’c was already pushing her away, gently, with the handle of his staff weapon. “Leave us, child.”
The girl stepped back, but looked at him with enraptured eyes.
Sam turned her head until she could roll her eyes sideways and see Teal’c. “That ‘child’ stuff probably isn’t helping,” she told him quietly.
“Most of them are children,” he insisted in his logical way. “They mean no harm.”
“Ahh!” Jack’s voice was sharp, and Sam glanced up to see him pushing away eager hands tangled in Daniel’s vest. Daniel extricated himself, and Jack held a finger up to the offending worshippers with an expression that bordered between amusement and cold warning. “No touching! Don’t make the big, bad alien use his ray gun!”
The people dropped back. Jack looked over the rest of his team, trying to gauge their safety. For a moment Sam feared he’d make them turn back, but they were so close to the temple now.
They made their way through the eerie morning light and into the temple.
The evening settled into a hazy state between dark and light, the wavering, purple bands of light intensifying in the night sky. Sam had never seen such an incredible display of aurora before. The mixture of the intense solar storm and the magnetic fields had created a stunning show. Above her the planet’s three moons were positioned next to each other, slightly fanned, moving into direct alignment, an event that only happened once every 817 years.
The observatory was high above the city, open to the air and the sky, and she could see the pinprick fires of the masses camping below on the streets. The swell of their voices would occasionally rise to her ears, and she couldn’t blame them for taking all of this as a sign. The universe was pretty amazing, and even knowing the science behind a lot of it didn’t make it any less impressive. In fact, it sort of made her feel even more spiritual. Too many things had to go exactly right in order to start life, or to put on a display of this magnitude.
Sometimes she wondered…
“Carter, come in.” Her radio crackled to life with the Colonel’s voice.
She thumbed the talk button. “I’m here, sir.”
“How’s it going?”
“Fine, sir. The magnetic shielding is sort of touchy, but otherwise I think I’ll get some good readings.”
“Nobody bothering you? Trying to sacrifice you to the gods or anything?”
Sam grinned. “No, sir. I’m fine. How about you?”
“Ehh, I tried a line from Stairway to Heaven. I don’t think they got it.”
Sam shook her head. “Sorry, sir.”
“I think I’ll stick with the Stones.”
“Have you tried Sympathy for the Devil?”
There was a long pause, and Sam winced. Then, “That was funny, Carter, really. You’ve been hanging around Daniel too much.”
She lost some of her smile at the mention of Daniel’s name. “I’ll call if I need anything, Colonel.”
“Right. O’Neill out.”
She sighed and checked the portable equipment around her. The scanner reading the geomagnetic field was flickering from time to time, but otherwise everything seemed to work fine. Without a satellite in orbit to get close to this solar system’s sun, she could only take some limited readings, but it would still be an amazing collection of data.
She jerked her head around and found Daniel standing behind her. “Oh! Hey.”
He walked toward her, hands stuffed in his pockets. “How’s everything going?”
The awkward tension between them made her stomach hurt. “Fine,” she said through a dry mouth. Why did this matter so much to her? What the hell was her problem? “A little technical interference, but that’s to be expected.”
He leaned down to look through the portable, deep space telescope she’d set up. It was aimed at the planet’s moons right then. She’d change the focus once the sun came into view again in the morning. “The solar storm definitely peaked this afternoon, and I got some great readings and footage. It should be over by morning actually. I’ll have a quick look before packing up to be sure, but I think most of this will be finished.”
Daniel eased himself onto one of the military field chairs she’d set up and nodded with relief. “Good. These people can get back to their normal lives.”
Sam glanced out at the flickering points of firelight at the outskirts of the city, where the pious Atavists prayed and readied themselves. “Well, most of them anyway.”
Daniel followed her look. “Ascension isn’t about proving your worth to the gods, it’s about proving your worth to yourself.”
Sam felt a twinge at those words. A small ache at the notion that Daniel, maybe more worthy than any of them, hadn’t felt himself worthy of ascension at first. He didn’t talk about it much, but she’d gotten the gist of it. “Well, it’s a lifelong journey, right? Maybe they’ll get there someday.”
There was a strained silence. Sam glanced at him, watching the livid and fluctuating glow of the aurora paint his face and reflect off his glasses. “How close was Jack to ascension?” She asked suddenly.
He didn’t look surprised. “Not very,” he answered dryly. “I don’t think he ever really considered it. For Jack, you fight until you die. I think ascension would have felt like… giving up to him.”
Sam sank down on the field chair next to him. “Yeah, I suppose so, but you still helped.”
“Not as much as I wanted to.”
Sam swallowed her questions. “If you had broken the rules then, you wouldn’t have been around to help Abydos.”
Daniel’s eyes darted toward her and away. He licked his lips and shrugged. “By the time Abydos was in danger, I was already on my way out. It was only a matter of time before they found me, so I didn’t care if I broke the rules.”
Sam blinked at him. “But, I thought… what happened?”
He gave a small, bitter smile. “Sometimes the smallest rule…”
“Teal’c?” she wondered.
“No, I followed the rules, mostly, with Jack and with Teal’c. My descent had nothing to do with them. By the time I appeared to Teal’c and then later fought Anubis, I had already broken the golden rule and interfered. I was living on borrowed time. I could feel the direction of the others’ judgment. I figured that if my time was coming to an end, then I might as well do what I could for my friends.” At her confused expression, he added, “Actually, one little whisper did me in.”
“A whisper…” She frowned.
“It doesn’t matter how you say it, it’s the act that counts,” Daniel said quietly. “I just, I had to do it. I didn’t think they’d throw me out just for that, but…”
Sam swallowed, hard. “Ah.”
Her skin felt heavy, slippery, thick like rubber. The water pooled everywhere, seeping from her pores and seeming to run in rivulets down her bones. She could feel the wrongness of it, the tight twisting as her cells writhed, the sharp, frequent pain of a body put back together in the wrong sequence. She felt like a jigsaw puzzle tilted on its edge, pieces slipping and catching, the whole thing only minutes away from total destruction.
The Colonel leaned over her from time to time, worried eyes becoming more desperate. She could feel the vibration of Teal’c’s deep rumble as he questioned Jack about her status, and Jack’s voice imploring Wodan and Eggar to help her, help themselves, and turn against Nirrti. It was going to hurt when it happened. Colonel Evanov had been in pain, choking on his own liquefied molecules before exploding into a puddle.
She could feel it happening. No last minute miracle this time.
She consoled herself with the thought that if there were an afterlife, she’d see Daniel.
Daniel. Yes! She smiled, and then it faded. Daniel wasn’t dead; he was ascended. Wherever she was going, she was going alone…
“Did you think I wasn’t capable of ascension?” Sam blurted out.
Daniel hitched his head up and stared at her. “What?”
“You went to Jack and to Teal’c and to an entire tribe of people when they were in need. Why not me?”
He looked blind-sided, and she took a moment to feel guilty about her own obsession, but she couldn’t hold it in anymore, and she didn’t want to pick at him for the next two years trying to heal something inside of her that wouldn’t lie still. Daniel held her gaze steadily, but she’d shaken him a bit. “Sam, I’ve already told you, you had Jack and Teal’c. You didn’t need me. You’re so strong already, and…”
“That’s bullshit, Daniel.” She knew the ache was showing in her eyes, but she didn’t know how to cover it up. “Jesus, I was dying, and you only had to be there for a second, just one second, and tell me it was going to be okay.” She hated that she was doing this. She leaned forward, elbows on knees, and stared at the floor of the observatory, hiding her expression from him.
It was silent for a long moment before she heard the rustle of his jacket as he mirrored her position and bent down beside her. “Sam, I was there,” he said softly. “ I promise you, I was there. I had rules to follow, and Jack was doing his best, and I thought, for a moment, that it was going to be alright, but then…” He trailed away, and Sam glanced over at him. His eyes were closed, his forehead resting against one fist. He was rocking slightly.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “This shouldn’t matter.”
He opened his eyes and looked at her. “But it does.”
She nodded, miserable. “But it does.”
He nodded and leaned back in his chair, staring up at the dark, rolling, violet sky. There was a rising swell of voices in the crowd below them. Singing, chanting, both joyous and despairing. Sam looked up to see the moons aligning perfectly. The end of the world.
She felt the possibilities of that moment. The weight of faith and the unknown. She waited as the human noise wavered and the aurora flickered. Maybe science was wrong, and there really were mystical signs out there pointing to their judgment and demise.
“You can’t let this go, can you?” he asked her quietly.
Her own shoulders sagged a bit. She hated needing anything like she needed this. “No,” she answered regretfully, and she slid closer to Daniel and pressed her shoulder against his. “Maybe it is the end of the world,” she said.
She felt him looking at her as she gazed upwards. He leaned over and kissed her cheek, chastely and affectionately. “I’m sorry, Sam,” he said quietly. “I couldn’t break you out of Nirrti’s cell, and I couldn’t comfort you.”
She tightened her jaw, biting down hard, trying to head off the tears she’d been fighting since he returned. Stop it! Idiot. “Daniel…“
He cut her off, “I couldn’t yell and demand your freedom…” He hesitated, mouth working, eyes gleaming with something that seemed like pain. Sam stared at him, waiting, and his expression sank. He continued, “… but I could whisper.”
The breath caught in her chest and burned in her lungs. She felt her eyes start to water, and she felt paralyzed. He leaned over, his mouth right next to her ear as he whispered, “Eggar, this is my friend. Don’t let her die the way Alebran did, with Nirrti’s betrayal in his heart. O’Neill is right. Look into Nirrti’s mind and see. I’ll protect you from her. Please!”
“Daniel!” She choked on his name, the words dying in her throat.
“I didn’t want you to have to carry this weight,” he said quietly, resigned and regretful. She reached for him, but he slipped away from her, the cool night air replacing the sudden missing warmth of his breath on her ear. She listened to his footsteps on the stairs, as her skin grew wet with silent tears.
The next day dawned gray and cool and raining, the atmosphere expunging the ocean from the air. There was only a slight tinge of purple in the clouds, and when Sam checked the sun, the solar storm was over. With the rain tapping on her plastic poncho, she quickly packed up the equipment in silence as the rest of SG-1 slept. She was pretty sure Jack would demand they make an early exit from this planet in order to head off any feelings of bad faith toward the now-false messengers.
Daniel came up as she was disassembling the telescope, and he hunkered down next to her, hands reaching for the padded cases that would hold the various delicate parts. Sam hesitated for a moment, holding his gaze. “Do you regret coming back?” she asked, quietly.
He searched her eyes, and she didn’t shield them, not that she ever could with Daniel anyway. He shook his head. “No.” He smiled faintly. “This is where I belong.”
She nodded and then resumed the disassembly of the telescope, removing each piece and handing them to Daniel, letting him carefully pack them into the foam cases.
“I didn’t want you to think it was your fault,” Daniel murmured.
She hesitated again, glancing at him. “I know.” She lifted one corner of her mouth. “I can hardly feel too guilty considering you saved my life.”
Daniel shrugged. “It might have been Jack. He was really pressing Eggar about looking into Nirrti’s mind. He had the right idea, he just didn’t have the time.”
Daniel smiled at her.
“Hey!” Jack’s voice split into their quiet moment. They turned to find him at the top of the stairs. He motioned toward them. “Let’s go! I want us out of here before the mob shows up.”
The’mob’ was more of a sodden cluster of dejected refugees. Most of the people had gone home as dawn broke with rain. Those remaining were the faithful, some of them huddled in rain-drenched tents, their disappointed gazes following SG-1 on their way to the stargate.
Sam trudged along, glancing back at them. She wondered if they’d given up everything in order to be here last night, certain that they’d no longer need earthly possessions. That was a lot of faith. More than she could imagine having.
Except… she ran on faith everyday, she realized. Faith that her math was correct, faith that the universe worked the way she had learned, faith that a one percent chance of a miracle would work. This time and the next.
Faith that her teammates cared and would never leave her behind. Even if she couldn’t hear their voices or see their faces.
She walked over a muddy sign that had once read Are you worthy? It felt like a trick question to her. If you answered ‘yes’, did that make you unworthy based on pride? She wondered what Daniel would say about that. Maybe next coffee break…
“What are we supposed to do now?” A huddled group in purple robes stared at Jack. Sam felt sorry for them.
“Learn to live your lives,” Daniel answered. “Ascension is something you do to yourselves, not something the gods do to you.”
The group turned their gazes on Daniel. “You could teach us!”
“Uhhh…” Daniel shifted nervously.
“Okay, we don’t need another prophet here, Daniel,” Jack shot him a glare. “Let’s just lay low until we get home. Cool?”
“Well, what do you want to do, drag out some more Stones lyrics?”
Jack blinked at him. “No.” He looked a bit thoughtful. “Something… different.” He turned to the group. “Look, folks…” He hesitated, taking a breath, before continuing very matter-of-factly, “Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother, you’re staying alive. Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’, you’re staying alive.” He stared at them. “Staying alive. Get it?”
Daniel turned slowly and held Sam’s gaze with wide, disbelieving eyes that clearly asked, Did he just quote the Bee Gees or did I just lose all of my marbles? She had to casually clamp a hand over her mouth to keep from laughing out loud.
“We must live to keep the faith,” one of the men in the group mused, thoughtfully. He nodded. “It is wise advice.”
Jack glanced back at Daniel with a pleased smile. Daniel rolled his eyes.
The rain came down harder as they approached the gate. There was a steady trickle of people traveling along the road, moving out of the city. Sam hoped they were going home, that they had a home to return to. A small crowd waited silently at the gate. Maybe they thought it was the way to Utopia, that when the Ancients returned, they’d come through the Gate of the Gods.
She walked with Daniel to the DHD and waited as he pressed the symbols for Earth.
“We are alone,” a woman said, sadly, passing by them as she trudged down the road.
Sam looked up at her, meeting her desolate gaze and feeling a bit overwhelmed.
“No, you’re not,” Daniel said from beside her. The woman only glanced at him and moved on, but Sam looked up and met his eyes. He held her gaze steadily. “You never were.”