As they exited the Stargate, Gennae's eyes darted about, looking at everything. General Hammond came forward, and the old man's gaze rested on him.
"Major Carter? Where are the colonel and Teal'c?" the general asked.
"They stayed behind on the planet, sir. I'll explain everything later. This is Gennae. He's the chieftain of the village we went to. Gennae, this it General Hammond. He is our leader."
"Welcome to Earth, Gennae," Hammond greeted. "We are pleased that you agreed to help us."
The native man bowed. "I must do what I can to help your Insharra."
The general looked at Sam inquiringly.
"He's talking about Daniel, sir," she explained.
"I see." Hammond turned back to Gennae. "We appreciate that. Some of my people will take you to where our doctor will look at you. Major Carter, I'd like a report on what happened on the planet."
"Sir, is it okay if I go see Daniel first? I need to tell him what's going on. Otherwise, he's going to be worried."
"Very well. Come see me in an hour."
"Thank you, sir."
Sam led Gennae to the infirmary. The old man's eyes took in everything.
"This building must be very large, far greater than anything on my world."
"Actually, we're deep underground, inside a mountain."
"Your people must have great skills in building."
Sam smiled. "Yes, we do. You would be amazed by some of our architecture. We have buildings that are many times higher than the tallest trees and cities hundreds of times larger than your village."
"If I live, I will have much to share with my people of this experience."
As they entered the infirmary, Sam immediately looked over at Daniel.
"Sam. Thank God," Janet said, hurrying up to them. "I see you got one of them to come with you."
"Yes, this is Gennae. Gennae, this is Doctor Fraiser."
Gennae bowed. "You are the medicine woman?"
"Yes, yes I am, and I am very happy that you're here."
"How's Daniel?" Sam asked.
Janet met her eyes and shook her head, her expression telling the major all she needed to know.
"I wish to meet your Insharra," Gennae said.
"Of course." Sam led him over to Daniel. Gennae's eyes widened.
"But he is so young. How can one so young have enough knowledge to be an Insharra?"
Sam smiled softly. "Daniel is very special. Even as a child he knew more about many things than most adults do."
"Then he is, indeed, of great value. I am pleased that I may be able to help him."
Sam looked at the archeologist, her smile disappearing. He looked terrible. There was a tinge of yellow to his skin, and his face looked drawn and haggard. His breathing sounded raspy. He was now wearing an oxygen mask. His condition had obviously deteriorated more while they were gone.
Sam touched his shoulder. "Daniel?"
The linguist's eyelids fluttered open, revealing slightly unfocused eyes. "Sam? You're back?" The archeologist's voice was muffled by the mask. He attempted to remove it, but it was clear that he couldn't get his hand to move properly. Frustration knit his brow. Sam took the mask off for him. "Thanks."
The major nodded, keeping the worry off her face with an effort. "Yeah, we're back, and we brought someone with us. This is Gennae. He's the chieftain of the people we met."
Daniel's gaze went to the native man. "Hello. It's an honor to meet you, Gennae. Thank you for coming."
"The honor is mine. Your people have told me that you are an Insharra of great learning and skill."
"A wiseman, Daniel," Sam explained. "From what Gennae told us, it sounds like an Insharra is their version of a historian and possibly an anthropologist or maybe a philosopher."
Janet came up to them. "We need to get started right away. Gennae, please come with me." She led the old man away.
"Sam, where are Jack and Teal'c?" Daniel asked as he watched her settle in the chair beside his bed.
"They're still on the planet."
"The colonel thought it best to stay there. As soon as we take Gennae back, they'll come home."
Daniel studied her face. "What aren't you telling me? Did something happen to them?"
"No. No, they're fine." 'I hope.'
"Tell me what's going on," Daniel insisted.
Sam gave a silent sigh and filled her friend in on what happened.
"Jack and Teal'c stayed behind to offer themselves to Bendrak if he attacks?" Daniel asked, his voice rising.
"It was the only way to get the natives to cooperate, Daniel."
He shook his head as emphatically as his weakened condition would allow. "No. God, no, Sam. They shouldn't have done that. All of you should have just come back. If something happens to them, it will be because of me."
"Daniel, both the colonel and Teal'c were willing to take that risk. I would have, too, and so would you, if you'd been in their place. You know that."
Daniel closed his eyes. His breathing was growing progressively more labored, and Sam quickly put the oxygen mask over his mouth. She removed it when he indicated that he wanted to talk.
"Sam, please. You need to contact them, tell them to come back before it's too late. It might already be too late."
"They won't come back, Daniel. They're doing what they feel they have to."
"At least dial the gate up and get in touch with them, make sure they're all right."
Sam nodded. "Okay, I'll call down to the control room." She picked up the phone near Daniel's bed and made the call. She then waited as the gate was dialed up and the wormhole established. A moment later, she turned to Daniel. "They're talking to the colonel and Teal'c now, Daniel. The colonel says that everything is all right, no sign of Bendrak."
"Is there a way to patch Jack into the phone?"
"Uh, yeah, sure." She gave the technician some instructions. A short while later, she said, "Colonel? Can you hear me? I'm talking to you from the infirmary. Daniel wants to talk to you." She put the phone up to Daniel's ear.
"Jack, what do you think you're doing?"
"Well, that's a fine hello, Daniel. What? No 'hi, how are you?'"
"Jack, you shouldn't have done this."
"Daniel, I told you before that I was going to do what I had to to fix this."
"It isn't going to fix anything if you and Teal'c get yourselves killed. I don't want things to be fixed that way. It's too high a price."
There was a long pause. "Not for us, Daniel."
Daniel closed his eyes and swallowed tightly. "Jack," he whispered.
"Look, Daniel. It's going to be fine. If Benny was going to show up, he'd have done so by now. He probably has no idea that Gennae's gone. You just lay there and relax, save your strength. Teal'c and I will be back as soon as Janet gets through dissecting Gennae."
Seeing that Daniel was having more trouble breathing again, Sam put the mask back over his face. She told Jack that they'd contact him again in a while, then hung up the phone and resumed her seat.
"I should never have gone into that temple," Daniel said after she removed the mask. "I should have listened to my instincts and refused to go in. But I was upset and angry with Jack because of what he said, and I let my emotions control me. Now, I'm dying, and Jack and Teal'c might die, too."
"Nobody's going to die, Daniel. You have to believe that. Janet will find a cure."
"I said some awful things to him, Sam. He came to my office, and I . . . I really lost it. I don't ever remember being that angry in my whole life. I hurt him, and, even though I knew that I was hurting him, I couldn't stop. I was out of control."
"I'm sure he understood, Daniel. I'm afraid that I said some really nasty things to him, too, stuff I'm not so proud about now."
"You did? What about that whole showing respect to your superior officers thing?"
"Um, that sort of when out the window. I, uh . . . called him a son of a bitch."
Daniel's eyebrows lifted dramatically. The corners of his mouth turned up. "I almost wish I'd seen that."
Sam gave him a smile. "After that, I just about verbally castrated him."
"Ouch. Poor Jack."
All of the humor disappeared from Daniel's face. "I hope so." His gaze drifted away to a spot across the room. He was silent for a long moment. "Since I descended and got my memories back, I've spent a lot of time thinking about my life. Though I can't remember most of the stuff I did while I was ascended, I do remember all the things that happened as I was dying, and I remember those first few moments after I ascended, before I left. Talking with Oma, I was forced to be totally honest with myself, and the things I thought and felt. . . . Let's just say that, when you really look at yourself and your life, you don't always like what you see."
"Daniel, what are you talking about?"
"There are things I've done, decisions I've made that I was wishing I'd done differently. I felt like I hadn't done enough, that I didn't make a difference."
"Daniel, you have made a difference. Your presence, knowledge and abilities have been so important in our battle against the Goa'uld. We wouldn't be anywhere near as far along if it wasn't for you. In fact, I am certain that we'd all be dead. You have contributed more to this program and to our ongoing efforts than just about anyone."
Daniel shook his head. "Not as much as Jack or Teal'c, definitely not as much as you."
"Well, I don't happen to agree with that. The truth is that, if it weren't for you, I don't know if I'd have been able to do some of the things I did. More than once you enabled me to see things that I'd probably have missed if I'd been on my own. You taught me how to think outside the box, Daniel, how to look for solutions in ways that I never would have before we met. And every time we worked together, it was phenomenal. There were times when we were so in sync with each other, finishing each other's sentences, communicating whole pages of dialog with no more than a few words or just a look, knowing instinctively what each of us was thinking. I have never had that with anyone else, and it feels really good. I feel sorry for the Carters in those alternate realities who didn't have you, for they missed out on having something precious in their lives.
"The year that you were gone, I missed you so, so much. It was like there was this huge hole in my life, an emptiness that no one else could fill. There were times when I needed you so badly, when I ached to be able to talk with you, times when just having you there with me would have made all the difference in the world."
Sam realized that she was crying. She didn't know when the tears had started, but, now that they'd come, she wasn't going to stop them. She saw that there were tears in Daniel's eyes as well.
"You—" Sam's voice caught, and she cleared her throat. "You are the best friend that I have ever had, Daniel. Whenever I need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, you're always there. You help give me strength when I'm weak; you give me confidence when I feel like a failure. I see your courage, and compassion, and goodness, and it makes me feel honored to have you as a friend. I am a better person because of you, for I see in you someone with a strength of morality so powerful, so unwavering, that it makes me want to be more like you. You are the finest, most . . . most beautiful person I have ever known, and I love you. I can't lose you again. I just can't."
Daniel felt like his heart was breaking. "I love you, too, Sam," Daniel whispered. "The things we've shared, our friendship and companionship, have meant just as much to me. Being a part of the SGC has given me a lot of good things, but the one thing that I am most grateful for, that means more to me than anything else, is that it gave me the three best friends I could ever have, Jack, Teal'c and you. I never knew what it was like to have friends like you. For most of my life I was a loner. Except for Sarah and Doctor Jordan, I didn't let anyone get close to me."
The smallest of smiles curved Daniel's lips. "But then I went through the Stargate, and everything changed. Because of it, I had a wonderful year with a woman and people I loved and who loved me, people I could let myself love without fear of being abandoned. I've . . . I've lost them now, but having Sha're and the people of Abydos taught me something. I learned that I didn't have to be alone, that I could let myself love people."
Daniel drew in a long, difficult breath. He knew that he shouldn't be talking this much, but there were things he still needed to say. "My life has changed so much since that day I first opened the Stargate, in both good ways and bad. There was a time when I wished that I'd never unburied the gate on Abydos because it resulted in Sha're's death, but I've done some thinking about it since then, and I realized some things. If I hadn't done that, if things had gone differently, it is very likely that SG-1 would never have gone to Chulak, and Teal'c would still be Apophis' First Prime. Not only that but I wouldn't have ended up going to that alternate reality and finding out about the attack by the Goa'uld. Our Earth might have ended up being destroyed just like that one." He looked at her closely. "And if I had never unburied the gate on Abydos, I'd never have seen Jack again, and I wouldn't have met you or Teal'c, and having you guys in my life is something I would never want to change.
"I made a mistake when I transferred out if SG-1, Sam. I was hurt and angry, and I thought that I no longer had a place with you guys, but I was wrong. I don't know what's happened between Jack and me, but running away from it isn't going to solve anything. We need to talk about it and try to fix things, to rebuild the bridge between us. I hope that I'll get that chance because I don't want to leave this life with things as they are now. I have a lot of regrets, and I don't want to add that to them." He looked deeply into her eyes. "Sam, I don't want to die. There are so many things that I still want to do with my life. I want to stay with SG-1 and continue to fight the Goa'uld. I want to live to see a day when we defeat them and free the galaxy from their evil. But if I can't, if this really is it for me, then you need to know that I don't regret the path that I chose, and that I am grateful for every moment I spent with you and the other people I love. You all mean more to me than anyone or anything."
Sam was crying again, trying not to sob openly. She was holding onto Daniel's hand so tightly that she feared she might be hurting him. She leaned forward and kissed his forehead.
"I'm going to let you get some rest, okay?" she said tremulously.
Daniel nodded, and she put the oxygen mask back over his face, telling him that she'd be back later. He watched her leave, then closed his eyes and attempted to relax, finally managing after a few minutes to drift off to sleep.