Stargate Horizons

Five Weeks (Gen Version)
by Maureen Thayer

Categories: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Content Warning: Mild Profanity
Spoilers: Fire and Water, A Matter of Time, Out of Mind, Rules of Engagement, A Hundred Days, Meridian, Enemy Mine, Avenger 2.0, Icon
Author's Note: There is also a Daniel/Sam ship version of this story. Click here to go to it. This story was written long before the episode Ethon. In reading this story again after watching that episode, it makes me sad to think about how things turned out.

Daniel, Sam and Teal'c walked through the museum grounds to the Stargate.  The peace and quiet around them belied the fact that, in other areas around the country, there was fierce fighting going on between Rand's military and the fundamentalist factions led by Soren.  Sam and Teal'c were now returning to Earth to report to Jack and to do something that Daniel thought might help in the situation with the fundamentalists.  They were also going to see if they could get the president to send through a team of negotiators to talk with the Caledonians, who were still refusing to stand down their high alert even though the situation had not gotten any worse with the fundamentalists in the days that had passed since the high alert was initiated.  Though Sam and Teal'c thought that nobody could do a better job than Daniel, the archeologist felt like he was in over his head since he had never tried to stop a global war before.  He almost wished that Doctor Weir was still around since talking sense into world leaders was her field of expertise.

The archeologist was staying behind to keep an eye on the situation and to continue trying to cool things down between Rand and Caledonia.  He also didn't want to go back to the SGC in case Jack decided not to let him return.  It had taken a lot of talking on Daniel's part to convince Jack to let SG-1 return to Rand after the general found out that over a dozen cities were under the control of the fundamentalists.  Jack had reminded Daniel about getting out of there if things got "squirrelly".

"Daniel, I don't like the idea of you staying here alone," Sam said as they reached the Stargate, which was under guard by several soldiers.

"It'll be all right, Sam.  According to everyone I talked to, this city is secure.  The areas that Soren's people have taken control of are small, outlying municipalities, and both Commander Gareth and Kane are confident that they'll regain control of those soon.  So far, the fundamentalists haven't gained any ground.  As for the Caledonians, they aren't prepared to start an all-out war yet.  Both they and Rand know that it would be suicide, just as the U.S. and Russia did during the cold war on Earth.  You're planning on coming back day after tomorrow, right?  What could happen before then?"

"A lot could happen before then, Daniel, including this entire planet being wiped out if Caledonia suddenly decides to launch their missiles and Rand retaliates."

"Well, yes, but you heard what Minister Treydan said when we were in the bunker a little while ago.  Caledonia is still just threatening to act if Soren seizes control of the country, and it's not even close to reaching that point.  Do you see that happening by day after tomorrow?"

"No, not considering that it's taken a month and a half for it to reach this point."

"Then don't worry, Sam.  I'll be fine until you get back."

"If you wish me to remain with you, Daniel Jackson, I will do so quite willingly," Teal'c said.

"I'd like that, Teal'c, but you have to make that recording.  It's an important part of my plan."  Daniel looked at his other teammate.  "Sam, I'd go back with you, but I've got a few ideas that I want to discuss with Commander Gareth, suggestions that might cool the situation down between them and the Caledonians.  He told me that he'd set aside some time to speak with me tonight, and I really don't want to waste another two days.  The longer this goes on, the harder it's going to be to calm everyone down."

Sam thought about it for a while.  "All right," she said reluctantly.  "But if things take a turn for the worse, I want you to get through the Stargate ASAP."

Daniel gave her a nod.  "I will, Sam.  Don't worry.  I have standing orders from Jack that, if things get squirrelly, I'm to beat it out of here."

Sam's mouth turned up at the corners.  "Squirrelly?"

Daniel grinned.  "His word, not mine."

Sam returned the smile.  "Yeah, that's what I thought."  She turned and dialed up the gate, sending the GDO signal through once the wormhole was established.  Daniel watched her and Teal'c step through, then left the museum.  He headed over to the library.  He'd spent quite a few hours there over the last couple of weeks in an effort to learn more about the culture of the people of Rand and Caledonia and, in doing so, come up with an argument that both sides would listen to calmly and rationally.  A straightforward approach hadn't worked so far.  He'd even cited the history between the U.S. and Russia, but to no avail.  He was now trying to find another way to reduce tension between the two countries.  He'd come up with some ideas but had to double-check a few things first.

Of course the fundamentalists were another big concern, but, unfortunately, because they were being driven by their religious beliefs, it would be a lot harder to reason with them.  Daniel had come up with an idea, however, which was one of the main reasons why Sam and Teal'c had returned to the SGC.  Daniel had recalled how SG-1 got the young soldiers in the service of Apophis to stop their training battle by showing them an image of Apophis when he died on Earth.  Daniel got to thinking that, if they gathered all the footage they had on the Goa'uld, showing that they were not only not gods but also not the benevolent beings that this world believed them to be, they could get a lot of people to come to their senses.  Teal'c was going to play an important part in that.  They had all the footage taken of him when he and his larval Goa'uld were undergoing tests back when he first came to Earth.  They also had the briefings conducted with him when he told them all about the Goa'uld, what they were and what they did.  Adding to that, Teal'c was going to record a new statement about his people and their battle against the "false Gods", making it clear that the Goa'uld were not only very evil but also very mortal creatures.

Tucked away in the corner of the library, Daniel completely lost track of time.  Glancing at his watch, he realized that he'd been there for several hours and that the library would be closing soon.  He looked at the book he had been reading, wishing that this was the library in Colorado Springs so that he could take it with him.  Perhaps he could talk the librarian here into letting him borrow it.

Book in hand, he went in search of the librarian, noticing that there were very few people in the building.  He finally found the woman, who was putting books away on the shelf, though she looked upset about something.

"Excuse me."

Starting violently, the woman cried out and dropped the books she was carrying.

"I'm sorry," Daniel apologized.  "I didn't mean to startle you."  He helped her pick up the books.  "Um, I'm . . . not from around here, so I don't know what your policies are, but I was wondering if it would be possible for me to borrow one of your books."  He held up the one he wanted to borrow.  "I'd bring it back tomorrow."

The woman stared at him.  "You're one of the people who came through the Great Ring, aren't you?  I've seen you here before."

"Yes, that's right.  I've been studying about your people and culture."

"Are you doing this to try and help stop the fighting?"

"Um . . . yes, I am."

"Then take whatever book you want, anything that you need."

Surprised at the fervency in her voice, Daniel nodded and thanked her.

Leaving the library, Daniel headed to the inn he had been staying in throughout most of his time here in Rand.  He noticed that there were more pedestrians than usual and that most of them were walking rather quickly.  The traffic was also heavier than usual.  Daniel figured that it must be this world's equivalent of rush hour, and everyone was hurrying home from work.

Rather than going out to get something to eat, he got a sandwich from the food vending machine in the lobby of the inn and took it back to his room.  He read as he ate.  After a while, his eyes grew heavy, and he yawned.  He hadn't gotten much sleep the last few nights, and it was starting to catch up to him.

Rubbing his eyes, he rested his head in his hands.  Before he knew it, he was asleep.

Daniel awoke with a start, something having roused him from sleep.  Through the well-insulated walls and thick window glass he could faintly hear the sound of this world's version of horns honking on the streets below.  He looked at his watch and realized that it was now early evening.  The sun would be setting soon, and, if he didn't hurry, he was going to miss his appointment with Gareth.

Daniel quickly left the room, headed down the stairs, and out of the inn.  He was shocked by what he saw when he exited the building.  Everything was in chaos, people running down the streets, fear on their faces, while passenger vehicles tried to dodge around them.

An explosion off in the distance made Daniel spin around in that direction.  Just then, a military vehicle screeched to a halt before him.

"Doctor Jackson!" called the man who jumped out.  "Sir, it's not safe here.  I've got orders to get you to safety."

"What's going on?"

"There's no time to explain now, sir.  We need to go."

Though he wanted to know what was happening and did not like the idea of running, Daniel had promised both Sam and Jack that he'd leave if things got dangerous . . . and this apparently qualified as dangerous.

"You'd better take me to the museum.  I have to get back through the Stargate to Earth," he said as they got into the vehicle.

"I've been told that the Great Ring has been moved.  It is no longer at the museum."

"What?!  Where has it been taken?"

"I don't know, sir.  I was not given that information."

Wondering what the hell was going on, Daniel said, "Take me to the bunker.  I need to talk to Commander Gareth."

At the bunker, Daniel was given the alarming news that things had suddenly gotten a whole lot worse.  Soren's troops had taken control of every major city, including parts of the capital, the very city that Daniel was in.  Even worse, Caledonia had fully deployed and primed their missile systems, prompting Rand to do the same.  Daniel couldn't understand how things had gotten so bad so very quickly.

In a frighteningly short time, everything went to hell.  As missile impacts shook the bunker and Kane rushed Daniel out of the control room, the archeologist got a sinking feeling in his stomach that he should have listened to Sam.

Sam and Teal'c were standing before the Stargate, ready to head back to Rand.  In Sam's hands was a laptop computer with all the footage they believed would be the most effective in getting the message across to the fundamentalists and the rest of the population.  The clips had been edited together in a way that would have the biggest impact, ending with Teal'c's speech about the Goa'uld and the Jaffa.  They were hoping that Commander Gareth would agree to broadcast the footage over their version of television to the whole country.

The wormhole opened, and Sam and Teal'c were about to head up the ramp when Jack called to them, telling them to come to the control room.

"What's wrong, sir?" Sam asked when they got there.  Just then, she heard a burst of radio static and a jumbled mass of signals coming over the speakers that were broadcasting sounds coming through the gate.

"Beats me," Jack replied.  "As soon as the gate opened, this started coming through."

They all listened to the noise for a while.  They were all startled when an unfamiliar voice hailed them.

"This is Soren, representing all people faithful to the great gods.  Who are you?"

Jack shared a surprised glance with Sam and Teal'c, then bent over the microphone.  "This is General O'Neill, commander of Stargate Command.  What's going on there?"

"The final war is being waged, that which has already brought an end to many of the unbelievers."

"And what does that mean?" Jack asked, starting to get a really bad feeling in his gut.

"Caledonia has launched their missiles and Rand has retaliated.  Even as we speak, the destruction is continuing across both countries.  The planet is in ruins, but we will rebuild from the ashes and make a stronger world."

"Oh, God," Sam whispered, feeling like her legs were going to give out.  Daniel.  What about Daniel?

Stunned, Jack just stood there for a moment.  How could this have happened so fast?  Hiding his fear for Daniel, he said, "One of my people was there in the capital city.  Is he with you?"

"No, there is no one here but my troops.  I do not know where your man is or if he still lives.  Most of this city is no longer standing."

Sam closed her eyes, fighting to stay in control.  This couldn't be happening.  How could things have gone bad so quickly?

Jack looked at Sam and saw the fear on her face and the deep concern on Teal'c's.  He shared their feelings, but he didn't want to think about the fact that Daniel might be dead.  He could not accept that.

"What is your situation there?" he asked Soren.

"We are secure in the bunker.  The Stargate is here under our control."

"If I sent people through, can you guarantee their safety?"

"No harm will come to your people.  This I swear."

"All right.  I will contact you in a little while and make arrangements to send some of my people through to talk to you."

"We will await their arrival."

Jack ordered the gate to be shut down.

"I can't believe this is happening, sir," Sam said.  "The situation between Rand and Caledonia appeared to be maintaining an even keel.  I don't understand what went wrong so suddenly."

"Well, I guess you're just going to have to find out when you go there, won't you," Jack said angrily, his worry over Daniel making him short-tempered.

"Yes, sir," Sam said in a low voice.  She looked at the Stargate, hoping that, when they went through it, they'd find Daniel on the other side, alive and well.

Sam wearily unlocked her front door and entered the house.  Four weeks.  It had been almost four weeks since Rand and Caledonia virtually destroyed each other, and the SGC was no closer to finding Daniel than they had been in the beginning.  SG-9 had struck out again.  The negotiations were going nowhere, Soren refusing every request they made to search for Daniel.  All of his reasons for not letting them search would seem logical from Soren's point of view, but that didn't make it any less frustrating for Daniel's friends.  How much harm could it do to let a few SG teams search the area around the capital for some sign of the archeologist?  Maybe Soren had some other reason for not allowing anyone from Earth to go out beyond the confines of the bunker.

The general had finally decided that he needed to speak to Soren personally and had invited the man to come to Earth.  Soren had arrogantly told them that he would come when he had the time.

The SGC's continued inability to pick up clear radio signals had led Sam to suspect that both Rand and Caledonia had employed radio-jamming measures just prior to the attack and that the jamming was still taking place.  She had gotten the idea of changing their communications system to use spread spectrum frequency hopping, which was the principal anti-jamming technique used by the U.S. government's defense communications satellite system.  With it, they'd be able to bypass the radio jamming and might then be able to hear Daniel if he tried to contact them.  It was taking a while to implement the changes, but at least it gave them some hope, something that Sam had begun to lose.

This was only the third time Sam had been home since the events took place.  She'd been coming home just about once a week to collect her mail, listen to her messages and check to make sure everything was okay with the house.  Every other night she spent on base.  She knew that there was no real reason for her to stay there, but she just couldn't leave.  It didn't do much good to be at home anyway.  All she did was think about Daniel and dwell on what happened . . . and on the guilt that was eating her alive.

Sam sat at the kitchen table, head in her hands.  She felt the tears begin to burn in her eyes, tears she had been holding back all this time.  No.  She was not going to cry.  Daniel wasn't dead.  He wasn't.  They were going to find him, and everything would be okay.

She'd been telling herself that for weeks now, and every time she did, it became harder to believe.

"They are very determined to find this Doctor Jackson," Regar said to Soren after the team from Earth left.

"Yes, they are indeed.  After all this time, you would think that they'd have given up, especially just for one man."

"He must be very important to them."

Soren's expression turned thoughtful.  "Yes.  I wonder if we could use that to our advantage."

"You don't think he's still alive do you?"

"No.  I'm certain that he perished in the missile attack.  But that's not important.  What is important is that they think he may still be alive, though I do not know why they would hold onto such a foolish hope."  Soren smiled.  "Perhaps they might be willing to give us something in exchange for our help in finding him."

"What, for instance?"

"We need weapons if we are to take control of Caledonia and complete the revolution.  From what I have learned of these people from Earth, they have weapons technology that is superior to ours."

"You will ask for the weapons when you go to Earth?"

"Yes.  But I will not go there yet.  For now, I must focus my attention on purging this nation of the unbelievers and making sure that the citizens accept our leadership.  Once the situation is more secure, I will go to Earth and make my offer."

"And what if they do give us weapons?  Will you then let them search for Doctor Jackson?"

"Only until we've gotten all that we want from them.  I do not want them interfering with our plans.  This world will be ours.  I will not allow anyone or anything to stop us."

It took a week for Soren to finally accept the general's invitation and come to Earth.  During that week, the changes to the communications system were completed.  Since then, they'd dialed up the gate several times to listen in on the radio signals being broadcast from Rand.  So far, they'd heard nothing from Daniel.  That didn't necessarily mean anything, though.  It was all a matter of timing, hoping that Daniel would just happen to be broadcasting while the gate was open . . . if he was broadcasting at all.

As it turned out, waiting for Soren to come to Earth had been a complete waste of time.  The man was nothing but a power-hungry, religious zealot incapable of listening to reason.  He was still being totally uncooperative, having just turned down their offer to provide food and medicine in exchange for helping to find Daniel, wanting weapons instead so that he could take over Caledonia, too.  Teal'c was right.  The man didn't care how many people died.  All he wanted was to have total control of the planet.

After leaving the general's office, Sam stormed into her lab.  She had hoped that, because Soren agreed to stay at the SGC for a while instead of leaving right away, there was a chance he'd listen to reason, but the more she thought about it, the more she came to the conclusion that wasn't going to happen.  The man would only help them if they gave him weapons, and that's not something they could do, which meant that their best hope for finding Daniel was gone.  Being totally honest with herself, Sam knew that picking up a radio transmission from Daniel was just a shot in the dark.  What were the chances that Daniel would have access to a radio?  Next to none.

A fit of rage seized Sam.  "Dammit!" she yelled, picking up the mug on her worktable and throwing it across the room.  It shattered against the wall.  She collapsed into a chair, burying her face in her hands, fighting back the tears.  She felt so helpless.  The weeks just kept passing, weeks in which the fear that Daniel was dead kept building and building.  Even if, by some miracle, he had survived, how were they going to get him home if Soren never agreed to help them or even allow them to send people through to search?  Daniel would be stranded there, trapped on a world decimated by war, disease and starvation.  It was far, far worse than when Jack was stranded on Edora.  At least there, Jack was able to live a peaceful life on a beautiful planet once the meteor shower ended and the survivors had recovered.  What kind of life could Daniel have?  What if he had no life at all?  What if he really was already dead or ended up dying of some horrid disease or at the hands of one of Soren's men?

Sam didn't realize that she had started crying until a gentle hand was laid upon her shoulder.  She looked up to see Teal'c gazing at her with gentle eyes full of understanding and sympathy.

"Oh, Teal'c.  What are we going to do?" Sam asked in an anguished voice.  "It's been almost five weeks.  It seems like five months.  God, I miss him so much.  It's like it was back when he ascended.  I didn't know if we were ever going to see him again.  The difference is that at least then I knew that he was still alive in some form.  This time, I don't know anything.  He could be dead, and we may never know."  More tears slid down her cheeks.  "Up till now, I've been trying to convince myself that Daniel's okay, but I'm so scared.  If Soren is telling the truth, almost the entire population of the planet was wiped out.  What kind of chance is there that Daniel survived that?"

"Daniel Jackson has survived many things that would have killed others of lesser strength and determination," Teal'c said quietly.  "As O'Neill stated, he is a man of great resourcefulness.   He is also one of the strongest and bravest men I have ever known.  If anyone could survive, it would be him."

Though Teal'c believed the words he was speaking, he still feared for his friend.  He, too, was feeling guilt over having left Daniel on the planet alone.  He wished with all his might that he had remained with the archeologist, though it might have resulted in his own death.  Long ago, he had sworn to protect Daniel with his life, and, yet again, he had failed to fulfill that oath.

"If we don't find him soon, the general will have no choice but to declare Daniel MIA, Teal'c.  He's been putting it off as long as he can, but it's only a matter of time before he's given the order to discontinue the search.  Then it'll be over.  Even if Daniel is alive, he'll be stuck on that planet with no way to get home."

Sam was crying in earnest now.  "This is all my fault.  I shouldn't have let Daniel stay there by himself.  I should have ordered him to come back with us.  Why did I leave him there alone?"

"You could not have known that things would suddenly occur as they did.  As Daniel Jackson said, there seemed to be no imminent danger when we left."

"Yes, but I should have anticipated that something like this might happen.  A good team leader has to anticipate every possible outcome.  If they don't, people under their command die.  Daniel is on that planet, possibly dead, because I failed to do that.  General O'Neill knows I screwed up.  He knows this is my fault.  That's why he's so angry with me."

"I'm not angry with you, Carter," said a voice from the doorway.  Sam and Teal'c turned to see Jack standing there.  "I'm angry with myself," he finished as he walked the rest of the way into the room.

"Sir?" Sam inquired, perplexed.  She wiped the tears from her face.

"Carter, I'm the one who gave Daniel the green light to return to the planet, and I did it against my better judgment.  I shouldn't have let him talk me into it.  He's just so. . . ."

"Passionate about what's morally right?" Sam finished.

"Yeah, and he's too damn good at talking people into doing things they don't want to, though, when it comes to other people, that's usually a good thing."  Jack looked at Sam in the eyes.  "Teal'c's right that you couldn't have known that everything would go downhill so fast.  By what Daniel said when I talked to him last, there was no hint that would happen, and you said the same thing.  We don't know the whole story since that Soren guy was a bit stingy on the details, but it's pretty obvious to me that he's somehow to blame for this whole mess.  The guy's an idiot when it comes to what he believes about the Goa'uld, but the fact that he so quickly united all the religious nuts and took control of Rand tells me that he's no dummy when it comes to tactics and strategy.  I'd say that there's a good chance he sprang his big attack very suddenly and unexpectedly, which led to everything going to hell."

Sam stared down at the top of the table.  "Sir, do you really believe that Daniel is still alive?"  She lifted her eyes to Jack's.

"I have to believe that, Sam," Jack replied.  "I have to believe that Daniel's done it again and survived against all the odds.  We all know that he is really, really good at that."

Sam nodded, the tiniest of smiles on her face.  "Yes, he is, isn't he."

"Damn right he is.  Daniel's okay.  I won't accept anything else."  He laid his hand briefly on Sam's shoulder, giving it a little squeeze in an effort to pass on some of his confidence.  Then he patted Teal'c on the shoulder.  "Come on.  Let's go talk to Soren again.  Maybe we'll actually get through that thick skull of his this time."

Again, talking with Soren had been a waste of time.  The man refused to listen to them, so blind in his faith that nothing would sway him.  Sam had suggested that they show him the footage they had compiled for the Rand government, but Jack's instincts told him that if Soren saw exactly how the people of Earth were dealing with his so-called gods, he'd get really ticked off.  And, if that happened, Soren would probably kill Daniel if he ever found him.

Jack had been tempted to hold Soren hostage to force his men to go find Daniel, but, not only would the president never go for that, it could backfire.  Jack had no choice but to let Soren leave and hope that either Daniel got through to the SGC via radio or that Soren would eventually agree to let them search for the archeologist.  But how long would that take?  It had already been nearly five weeks.  How much longer could Daniel stay on that hell hole of a planet?

As Jack watched the gate dial up and waited for Soren and his men to arrive for their trip back to Rand, he thought about what he'd told Sam earlier.  His words of confidence had been partly for show.  The truth was that he was really afraid that Daniel was dead.  He'd seen the wreckage of cities destroyed by war.  He knew what a missile attack could do to buildings and to people.  Thankfully, Rand and Caledonia didn't have nuclear armaments.  If their war had been a full-scale nuclear attack, nothing would have survived.  Even so, the payload of a missile with standard explosives could cause massive damage.  If what Daniel had said about Rand's and Caledonia's stockpile of weapons was correct, and if they launched all of their missiles at each other, there probably wasn't much left standing.  The odds of surviving that kind of destruction would be pretty remote.

But Jack wasn't ready to give up hope yet.  He knew that, by now, a lot of commanders would have declared Daniel MIA and called off the rescue attempts.  General Hammond had called off the search for SG-1 after three weeks when they were taken by Hathor.  He had understood Hammond's reasons for doing so.  In that situation, the chances of finding SG-1 had been virtually zero since they could have been just about anywhere in the galaxy.  But Jack didn't have to search the whole galaxy for Daniel, only one relatively small section of a single planet.  And, until there was no hope left, or until the president ordered him to stop their attempts to find Daniel, he was going to keep trying.

As Sam watched the wormhole to Rand engage, she got the urge to scream in frustration.  She felt like beating Soren over the head with something to knock some sense into him.  How were they ever going to get Daniel back if Soren wouldn't let them search for him?

Suddenly, the technician at the console turned to her.  "Colonel, I'm receiving a radio signal!" he said excitedly.  "It's Doctor Jackson!"  He flipped a switch, sending the audio feed through the bigger speakers so that everyone could hear it.  And that's when Sam heard a sound that almost made her cry.

"This is Daniel Jackson calling Stargate Command.  Come in, please. . . .  This is Daniel Jackson calling Stargate Command.  Please respond."

Joy and relief burst through Sam with almost overwhelming power, nearly making her shout aloud.  'He's alive!' she cried in her mind.  She almost made a grab for the microphone, but curbed her desire, only letting the words, "Thank God," slip from her lips.  With a tremendous effort, she calmed herself, assuming the poker face that she'd learned so well from her three male teammates over the years.

"Tell him to hang on," she said, not quite squashing the smile that was threatening to split her face in two.

As the technician answered Daniel and told him to stand by, Sam looked out the observation window and saw Soren and his men disappear through the event horizon.  She called to Jack to come to the control room.

The expression on the general's face when he heard Daniel's voice over the speaker almost made Sam smile again.  There was a brief, bright flash of surprise and great joy in his eyes, then, he, too assumed a calm expression.  It would simply not do for the SGC to see their commander dancing with delight.

A while later, they were all in the briefing room discussing Daniel's plan.  Both Jack and Sam were surprised that Daniel had come up with such a sound plan of attack and was able to give them so much intel on Soren's forces.  While they had all been wondering how they could find the archeologist and get him home, he was busy joining forces with the surviving Rand military and planning an attack that would not only get him off the planet but might also get rid of Soren.  The man never ceased to amaze them.

Jack was also feeling more than a little pride.  Daniel had come a long way since he first joined the SGC, and Jack liked to think that he had a little to do with it.  But then, if he was really honest, Jack would admit that Daniel had always been a pretty amazing guy.  It's just that he was even more amazing now.  He'd turned into quite the soldier.  No, that wasn't true.  Daniel would never be a soldier.  He was too free-minded and strong-willed to follow the rules of a soldier, especially when told to do something that clashed with his morality.  No, Daniel was not a soldier; he was a warrior, a warrior who was finally coming home.

Jack paced the length of his office.  He was going absolutely nuts.  It had taken all of his will power not to say to hell with it and go with the SG teams to Rand.  He'd been waiting for what seemed like hours, but had, in fact, only been a few minutes.  Was this what Hammond went through every time an SG team was on an especially dangerous mission?  If so, it was a good thing the man already had no hair when he started the job.  Otherwise, he surely would have gone bald during his time as the SGC's commander.  Jack ran a hand through his own hair, thinking that Rogaine might be in his future.

Jack was about ready to climb the walls when the claxon warned that there was an off-world activation.  He was out of his office and in the gate room in an instant.  A moment after the wormhole was established, a blessed voice announced.  "It's SG-1's IDC, sir."

"Open the iris," the general called.  He then stood and waited.  A few seconds later, Teal'c came through, followed by Sam . . . and a whole and unharmed Daniel Jackson.  Jack couldn't quite stop the smile that spread across his face.

"Yeah," he murmured.  More loudly, he said, "Welcome home, Daniel."

"Thanks.  It's great to finally be home."

"I bet it is."  Jack looked his friend over.  "Are you okay?  Any injuries the doctor needs to know about?"

"No, not anymore."

Jack frowned.  "What does that mean?"

"I was, um, hurt in the attack on Rand."

"How hurt?"  When Daniel didn't reply immediately, Jack's frown deepened.  "Daniel?  How hurt?"

"Uhhh, it was pretty bad.  It took a while to heal."

"Okay, that's it.  You're going to the infirmary right now."

"Jack, I'm fine, all healed."

"All the same, I want the doc to check you out.  You never know if some medicine they gave you is just waiting to hit you with some nasty side effects."

Daniel rolled his eyes and let out a sigh, knowing that it was useless to argue.  He turned to his teammates.  Sam was fighting not to grin and not doing a very good job of it.  Teal'c wasn't bothering to hide his smile.  Daniel remembered a time when the Jaffa would have been standing there with not a shred of emotion on his face.  It was actually quite nice that Teal'c now felt comfortable enough to dispense with his years of training to show no emotion.

"Can I at least take a shower first?" Daniel asked.  "I promise I won't disappear, get kidnapped or get involved with anyone on the brink of world war while I'm in the shower, though it might be more of a challenge while I'm getting dressed."

"Wise guy.  Yeah, all right.  Go take your shower first.  But don't make me have to drag your butt down to the infirmary."

"Yes, Dad," Daniel said over his shoulder as he walked out of the gate room.

"That's 'yes, Dad, sir,' Daniel, and don't you forget it!" Jack called out to the retreating form.  He turned back to Sam and Teal'c, who were both grinning.

"It's great to have him home, isn't it, sir," Sam said.

"Yes, it is, Carter.  Yes, it is."

Doctor Brightman declared Daniel to be perfectly fit, though she did do an extra thorough check on his eyes when she found out that they had been injured.

The archeologist was now in his office.  He knew that Jack was going to want a full report on everything that happened on the planet, but, right now, Daniel just wanted to sit for a while and revel in the fact that he was finally home.  There had been moments when he'd wondered if he would ever make it back to Earth, especially when he didn't know if the Stargate had survived the destruction of the city.  Daniel now had an idea of what Jack had felt when the man was stranded on Edora.  Thank God he hadn't had to wait over three months to get back home like Jack did.  Five weeks might not seem like a long time to some, but, for Daniel, they'd been thirty-five of the longest, most frustrating days of his life, right up there with the two weeks he was stuck with SG-6 on P3X-808, wondering why they couldn't connect to the gate on Earth, learning afterwards that it had been because of a black hole.  Then there were the days that Daniel and his team were stranded on P3L-997 as the flood waters got higher and higher and seismic activity made things even more interesting when the entire gate network went down because of Felger's Avenger virus.  And let's not forget the lovely days he spent in the company of Nem on Oannes, wondering how he was ever going to get home if he couldn't get Nem to let him go.

This had been the fourth time that he was stranded on another planet without the rest of SG-1 and with no way to get home, and, as Jack would say, it was really starting to get old.

But the thing that made this time so much worse was the knowledge that he was stranded there on that world, surrounded by death and destruction, because SG-1 had stepped through the gate and inadvertently been the spark that set off a bomb that had been waiting to explode for decades.  Leda had told him that what happened wasn't their fault, that this was something that was bound to happen sooner or later.  Jared Kane had also told Daniel that it was not their fault, and Daniel had said that he knew it wasn't, but, deep down inside, he couldn't help but think that, if SG-1 had never come to their world, the people of Rand and Caledonia might have eventually settled their differences and ended the cold war peacefully.  Now, it was too late.  The war might be over, but it had cost the lives of countless millions, millions that might not have had to die.

Daniel was pulled from his dark thoughts by the arrival of Sam.  He stood up when he saw the expression on her face.  "Sam?  What's wrong?"

"Nothing.  Nothing's wrong.  I just wanted to, um. . . ."  Sam's voice trailed off.  A moment later, she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Daniel in a fierce hug.  Surprised, he just stood there for a second, then returned the hug.

After a few seconds, Sam pulled away a little, gazing at him as she blinked back the moisture in her eyes.  "It's really good to have you home, Daniel," she said in an unsteady voice.  "I missed you.  We all did.  Every time I came in this office and you weren't here, it made me think of . . . of when you were gone before, when you were ascended."

Daniel tightened his arms around her, drawing her in close again.  "I missed you too, Sam," he told her gently, his hand rubbing up and down her back soothingly.  "I have to admit that there were times when I thought I might never see you guys again."

Sam looked at him closely as they separated.  "How are you doing, Daniel, really?"

"I'm okay.  It's been a rough five weeks, though."

"Yeah, I bet.  I wish that we'd heard you sooner."

"Me too.  At least then I'd have known that the Stargate was still standing."

"You didn't know?"

Daniel shook his head.  "Not until Jared Kane and his men arrived at the house where I was hiding out.  Leda didn't know what had happened to the Stargate."

"Leda?" Sam asked curiously.

"Kane's wife.  She's the one who nursed me back to health."

Sam sat on the edge of Daniel's desk.  "How bad was it, Daniel?  The attack."

"Actually, I don't remember much.  I was at the library for several hours.  When I left, I noticed a lot more activity than usual and that everyone seemed to be in a hurry.  I thought that it was just, um, rush hour, people hurrying home.  I realize now that the real reason was probably because the people had heard of the fundamentalists taking control of the whole country, and they were getting scared.  Maybe some of them were trying to get out of the capital.  I fell asleep at the inn.  When I woke up, everything was in chaos.  People were panicking, and I heard explosions in the distance.  A soldier came to take me to safety, and that's when I found out that the Stargate had been moved.  I went to the bunker and learned that every major city was in the hands of the fundamentalists, and they were attacking the capital."

Daniel settled beside his teammate, his eyes staring off at nothing.  "It happened so fast, Sam.  How could Soren's troops have taken control so quickly?  Kane never explained."

"I don't know, Daniel.  Maybe we'll get some answers from one of Soren's men.  General O'Neill thinks that Soren planned it all to be a surprise attack.  It's possible that, while the military's attention was on reclaiming the cities taken over by the fundamentalists, Soren's forces were secretly moving into all of the major cities, waiting for the signal to strike."

Daniel nodded.  "It's possible that they had a lot of help from citizens who were sympathetic to their cause.  Ever since we came through the gate, more and more people have been wondering if the fundamentalist factions were right about the gods.  I remember that, shortly before Caledonia launched their missiles, Minister Treydan said that a lot of Rand's soldiers were on the brink of mutiny.  If those soldiers joined forces with Soren or even if they just ran, it would have been a major blow to the military's ability to stop the fundamentalists."

Sam nodded in agreement.  "So, what happened next?"

"Soren's troops got control of one of Rand's missile deployment facilities.  That's when Caledonia fired their missiles.  They were only planning on taking out the missile sites.  Kane told me later that, if that had been the only things hit and if Rand hadn't returned fire, it's possible that the destruction could have been contained.  But Soren's forces launched a counterattack on Caledonia."

"Which caused Caledonia to fire the rest of their missiles."

Daniel gave a sigh.  "Yeah.  I don't remember much after the first of Caledonia's missiles started hitting the capital.  I have a vague memory of Kane trying to get me to the Stargate, then a fight with Soren's troops, who had gotten into the bunker.  Kane told me that he was wounded in the leg, and I pulled him out of there.  We escaped to the surface, but there was an explosion, and I guess we were caught in the blast.  We were found by some of the surviving soldiers.  I was hurt a lot worse than Kane was.  He had me taken to where his wife was, in a house several miles from the capital.  The first few days were confusing.  I was in and out of consciousness.  My eyes were bandaged, so I couldn't see.  It wasn't until after Leda removed the bandages that I suddenly started remembering what happened.  The next few weeks were spent healing and trying to reach you guys by radio."

"Radio signals were being jammed on the planet," Sam explained.  "It wasn't until we implemented spread spectrum frequency hopping that we were able to get through the jamming and hear your signal."

"You have no idea how relieved I was when I got through to you."  Daniel smiled.  "Jack's voice was pretty much the most beautiful sound in the world to me right then."

"Why thank you, Daniel," Jack said from the doorway.  Teal'c was with him.  "I may not be able to sing worth a damn, but I like to think that I have a pleasant and distinctive speaking voice."  The two men came into the room.  "I thought that I'd fetch you personally for the debriefing," Jack told Daniel.  "But don't get used to it.  I'm a busy, busy man now with lots of important matters to attend to."

"Yes, like potato crises and plants turning the SGC into a jungle."

"And Ba'al.  Don't forget Ba'al.  Heaven knows I haven't been able to."  He motioned toward the door.  "Shall we go?  I'm just dying to hear all about your adventures."

They all went to the briefing room.  The first thing Jack asked for was a report on how the attack on the bunker went.

"Everything went perfectly, sir," Sam told him.  "There was only a small force guarding the bunker, just as Daniel said there would be.  We were able to take control with only one casualty among Jared Kane's men."

Jack turned to Daniel.  "So, how did you know that there would be only a few of Soren's men guarding the bunker?"

"Some of the intel came from Kane, but there were also some educated guesses.  You see, ever since the attack ended, Soren's troops had been spreading out into the areas beyond the cities, searching for people who were still loyal to the old government and executing them, terrorizing the rest of the surviving population while they were at it.  As the weeks passed, they were moving farther and farther out into the countryside.  Because of this, Soren's troops were spread pretty thin, especially since a big chunk of them died in the missile attacks along with everyone else.  Kane was able to determine that, during the day, only a small force was left at the bunker.  I timed the attack so that the troops who left that morning would be far enough away that, if Soren called them for help, they wouldn't get back in time to do any good."

Jack nodded.  "Good thinking.  SG's 3, 6 and 12 reported that about half an hour after you guys left, several dozen of Soren's men showed up.  As soon as they found out that Soren was dead and the bunker was in the hands of the loyalists and our men, they gave up pretty quickly.  It's going to take a long time to weed out the bad element from the populace, though.  Kane and his people are really going to have to be on their toes."

"We're not going to abandon them to deal with it on their own, are we?" Daniel asked, concerned.

"No, Daniel, we're not going to do that.  Helping Kane reestablish peace is the least that we can do for them.  Just the fact that they saved your life and have been protecting you all this time means that we owe them a big favor."

Daniel's gaze dropped to the table.  "Not to mention that, if we hadn't gone there, none of this would have happened."

"Daniel, I'm not going to lie and say that we bear no responsibility for what happened, but the truth of the matter is that Rand and Caledonia put themselves in this position.  If they hadn't been carrying on their little cold war, things would probably have turned out differently."

"Leda told me pretty much the same thing.  She's Kane's wife.  She took care of me while I healed."

"Well, she sounds like a pretty smart lady."

"Yes, and very brave."

At Jack's prompting, Daniel told them everything that had happened since he said goodbye to Sam and Teal'c at the Stargate five weeks ago.  It didn't surprise his friends that Daniel never once gave up trying to get back home, no matter how hopeless it appeared to be.

"Okay, I'd say that covers everything," Jack said.  "Have your reports on my desk by 1800 tomorrow."  He looked at his former teammates.  "So, how about if we all go to my place and have a little celebratory dinner?"  He quickly held up his finger when he saw Sam open her mouth.  "Carter, I swear that if you make some asinine comment that it wouldn't be proper now that I'm a general, I'll put you on cleanup duty in the men's rooms."

Sam fought down her smile.  "Actually, sir, I was going to say that having a get-together at your house sounds like a very nice idea."

Jack gaped at her.  "You were?"

"Yes, sir.  It's not like General Hammond never invited us over to his house."

A pleased smile lit Jack's face.  "Well, in that case, make it seven o'clock.  I'll take care of the food, you guys bring the beverages.  Oh, and dessert.  A cake sounds good.  And yes, Daniel, Carter, it can be chocolate."

Jack watched them leave, thinking that it was damn good to have all his "kids" back home and safe.

Daniel smiled as Jack recounted an amusing story from his first tour of duty.  This was one the archeologist hadn't heard before.  After all these years, the man still had a ton of adventures from his colorful past to tell them about, though he sometimes forgot which ones he'd already told them.

As Jack continued his story, Daniel looked about and realized that Sam wasn't there.

"Where's Sam?" he asked, interrupting Jack.

"I think she went out into the backyard."


Daniel kept listening to Jack, but only with a portion of his attention now.  After a few minutes, he excused himself and went in search of his other teammate.  He found her leaning against the railing of the back porch, looking up at the stars.

"Hey there.  Get tired of listening to Jack's old war stories?" he asked as he went to her side.

Sam smiled faintly.  "Well, we have heard some of them before."

"Yeah, but I always find it fascinating how the tales get more outrageous every time he tells them."

Sam's smile brightened for a moment, then disappeared completely.

"But that isn't the reason why you're out here, is it," Daniel said quietly.

Sam gave a sigh, her face turning away from Daniel.  "No."

"Feel like sharing?"

Sam was silent for a moment.  "I'm just indulging in some self-flagellation."

Daniel frowned.  "What?  Why?  What for?"

"For leaving you on the planet when I shouldn't have."

The archeologist shook his head.  "Sam, we all had good reason to believe that everything was going to be all right for at least the next several days.  There was no indication that things were going to go sour so quickly.  Besides, if anyone is to blame, it's me.  I'm the one who insisted on staying there.  If I had listened to you, I'd have been safe on Earth when the attack happened.  I've certainly kicked myself more than once over that."  Daniel looked at her intently.  "But you know what?  If I hadn't been there, if I had returned to Earth, then we wouldn't have been able to help get rid of Soren, and we wouldn't be in the position of being able to help Rand rebuild.  I don't want to think about what would have happened if Soren had stayed in power.  He would have systematically wiped out everyone who didn't bow down to him."

"Did you know that he refused our help?" Sam asked.  "We offered him food and medicine in exchange for his help in finding you.  He asked for weapons instead.  He wanted to take over Caledonia, too."

"No, I didn't know that, but it doesn't surprise me.  The man was a fanatic.  He might have ended up wiping out what was left of the population of Rand, either by execution or because of disease and starvation.  That's the future Leda thought was in store for them."

"How can someone be so fanatical that they lose all sense of reality?"

"I don't know.  I just hope that none of his men were as fanatical.  It's going to be hard enough as it is to rebuild the civilization.  The last thing they need is another zealot trying to rise up in Soren's place."

A noise from the kitchen drew their attention.  They turned to see the door open and Jack peek his head out.

"Hey, you two.  Are you going to stay out here all night?"

"No, sir.  We were just talking," Sam told him.

"Well, the cake's all cut, so if you guys want a piece, come and get it."

"We'll be right there, Jack," Daniel told him.  After the general left, he turned back to Sam.  "So, everything okay?  No more guilt trips?  Because if you're going to be taking another trip, I'll have to tag along with you.  We are teammates, after all."

Sam grinned.  "Okay, no more guilt trips."

"Good.  I think I'd like to stick around here for a while."

After the cake was eaten, Sam and Teal'c decided to head home.  Daniel was going to go, too, since he was pretty tired, but Jack had been sending him little hints that he wanted the archeologist to stay for a while.

"See you tomorrow, guys," Daniel told his two teammates.

"It is good to have you back with us, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c told him.  "Your presence was deeply missed."

"Thanks, Teal'c.  I felt the same way about you guys.  It's good to be home."

Once they were gone, Daniel turned back to Jack, who was busy straightening up.  The archeologist went and gave him a hand.

"Want another beer?" Jack asked.

"No, I'd better not.  I've got to drive home, you know."

"Well, you could always sack out in the spare bedroom."

"Thanks for the offer, but, after five weeks of sleeping in another bed a few thousand light-years from home, wondering if I would ever get back, I'd really like to be in my own bed tonight."

Jack didn't say anything for a while, then, "Daniel, I—"

"Jack, don't," Daniel interrupted.  "Don't say it."

"Say what?  What do you think I was going to say?"

"Oh, that you're sorry.  That you should never have let me stay on the planet, and it's your fault I was stuck there and almost got killed.  That you wish you could have done something to get me home sooner.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera."

Jack's mouth turned up at the corners.  "Let me guess.  You already had this discussion with Carter."

"Yep, and I'll tell you the same thing I told her.  It wasn't your fault.  I'm the one who insisted on staying.  I put myself in that situation.  Jack, you know me.  If I'm determined to do something, it's pretty hard to keep me from doing it."

Jack snorted.  "Try downright impossible most of the time."

"Exactly.  I didn't want to leave because I thought I could help.  Unfortunately, it turned out that I was wrong."

Jack shook his head.  "Don't blame yourself for that, Daniel.  If it hadn't been for Soren, I have every confidence that you could have eventually talked some sense into Rand and Caledonia.  You forged a treaty with a bunch of Unas, for cryin' out loud.  If you can do that, you can do anything."

"To be honest, Jack, the Unas were a whole lot more reasonable than Minister Treydan was."

Jack looked at Daniel closely.  "You're not still feeling guilty over the fact that SG-1's arrival triggered the war, are you?  Because, if you are, I'll say it again.  Half the times we step onto another planet, we're involving ourselves in a situation that's really none of our business.  That's just a part of what we do, and there's nothing that we can do to change that.  Unlike in Star Trek, we don't have the luxury of not interfering with the cultures we meet.  Usually, the second we meet people on other planets, something is going to be changed in their lives.  Now, most of the time, the changes are good ones, like when we free people from the Goa'uld.  But, sometimes, it's the opposite.  This just happened to be one of those times."

"In my head, I know you're right, Jack, but that doesn't stop me from feeling terrible when I think about the fact that the war might never have happened if we hadn't gone there."

"Maybe, maybe not.  It could be that they'd have blown each other to hell sooner or later anyway.  That's something we'll never know.  The point is that they all made the choices they did without our help.  We didn't make the fundamentalists mount a revolution.  We didn't make Caledonia send their missiles, and we didn't make Soren's forces fire Rand's missiles at Caledonia.  And, most importantly, we didn't start the hostilities that made Rand and Caledonia enemies in the first place.  They did all those things on their own, and, now, they have to live with that.  Maybe this taught them all an important lesson about how stupid war can be."

"I hope so.  I hope that Rand and Caledonia will finally be at peace."

Jack patted Daniel's shoulder.  "Well, I'm sure you'll do all you can to see that that happens."

Daniel smiled.  "Thanks, Jack."

"Think nothing of it.  I may no longer be your team leader, but I'm still here to give a listening ear whenever you need one."

The archeologist nodded.  "I know."  He looked at his watch.  "Well, I'd better get going.  See you tomorrow."  He went to the door, then paused.  "It works both ways, you know."  He looked at Jack over his shoulder.  "I'm still here to give a listening ear, too."

Jack's mouth turned up in a small smile.  "I know."

Giving him a short nod, Daniel left.  Jack watched him leave, the smile still on his face.  He may no longer be on SG-1, but they would always be his team and his friends.  And, now that Daniel was back with them, his team, his family, was whole.

With that thought in mind, Jack went off to bed, looking forward to what tomorrow would bring for the first time in five long weeks.

The next several days were busy ones for Daniel, who was coordinating the relief aid to the people of Rand.  He was also working on a peace proposal for Rand and Caledonia, wanting to lay the groundwork right away while he figured that the two nations would be most amenable to putting a complete end to the hostilities.

Fortunately, in regards to Rand's government, Daniel would be dealing with someone he already knew, namely Jared Kane.  Being the highest ranking member of the surviving Rand military, Kane would presently be acting as the country's leader.  Though he lacked the experience of Commander Gareth, Daniel believed that Kane would do a good job.  He just needed to learn how to be a little more positive in his outlook.

As for the Caledonian government, Daniel didn't know who would be in charge.  They had learned that Minister Treydan was dead, having died when the facility he was in was severely damaged by one of Rand's missiles.  Though Daniel was sorry that the man was dead, he was not sorry that he wouldn't have to deal with the minister's inflexibility.  Hopefully, whoever took Treydan's place would be more reasonable.

It was Thursday morning when he, Sam and Teal'c returned to Rand.  They met Jared Kane on the other side, who immediately thanked them for the food and medicine that were being distributed among the people.  He also thanked them for the continuing presence of SG teams on the planet.  Having a military presence from Earth there had dampened any desire Soren's troops might have had to continue the revolution, especially since Colonel Reynolds of SG-3 had made it clear that any acts of hostility against the SG teams or the Rand military would be met with the full force of the U.S. military.  He had been exaggerating, of course, but as he said to General O'Neill, nobody was going to be enlightening the fundamentalists to that fact.  Jack's response to that had been, "I like the way you think, Reynolds."

For the first time, Sam and Teal'c got a look at the devastation wrought on the capital.  It sent a shiver down Sam's spine to think that Daniel had been in the middle of that when the destruction occurred.

Kane took them to one of the centers that had been set up to distribute medicine, food and other necessities.  The place was packed with people who, quite understandably, looked like they'd been through a war.  Many of them were undernourished, others were clearly ill.  It upset Daniel tremendously to see the suffering.  He wished that there was something more they could do to help.

Seeing a familiar face among the group passing out food, Daniel smiled and headed over there.

"Hello, Leda," he said.

Kane's wife smiled.  "Daniel.  It's good to see you."

"I see you're keeping busy."

"Yes.  There is so much to do.  But we are all so grateful for the things your people have given us.  I don't know what we would have done without your help."

"Well, I'm glad that we're able to do so."  Daniel beckoned to his team.  "Leda, I'd like you to meet my teammates, Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter and Teal'c.  Guys, this is Leda.  She's the one who took care of me while I was healing."

"It's nice to meet you, Leda," Sam said.  "Thank you for caring for Daniel.  He's very special to us, and we're grateful to you for helping him."

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed.  "We owe you a great debt of gratitude."

Leda smiled.  "Not at all.  I gained as much out of it as Daniel did."  She looked at the archeologist.  "Daniel gave me not only his friendship but also hope for the future.  That more than paid me back for the care I gave him."

Embarrassed, Daniel ducked his head.

Leda studied the man she had come to care deeply about in the weeks they had known each other.  She knew that they needed to talk, to settle some things.

"Will you be returning to your world today or do you plan on staying the night?" she asked.

"It all depends on how much we get done," Sam replied.

"Well, if you do decide to stay the night, you are more than welcome to stay at our house.  I'm sure that Jared would be pleased to have you."  She called her husband over, who said that he would be honored to have SG-1 stay with them.

After leaving the center, SG-1 split up.  While Sam and Teal'c continued checking out the situation in the city and touching base with the other SG teams there, Daniel went back to the bunker with Kane and sat down with him to discuss the relationship between Rand and Caledonia.  Kane was more than willing to stop all hostilities with Caledonia, wanting to put an end to the thing that had nearly wiped out the entire population on the planet.  He had spoken with the man who took Minister Treydan's place and believed that the new leader of Caledonia was going to be a lot easier to deal with than his predecessor had been.  Delighted to hear that, Daniel began discussing his thoughts and ideas for both nations.

Before they realized it, it was late in the afternoon.  Sam and Teal'c joined them.

"So, how's it going?" Sam asked.

"Good," Daniel replied.  "We've still got a lot to discuss, and we need to get Caledonia involved in the discussion, but we're making progress.  How about you?"

"There is a lot of work to do.  Our people have started organizing some of the locals to help build shelters for the homeless.  They're using materials scrounged from the ruined buildings.  They're also working on the water problem.  There's a definite lack of clean water here."

"I'm afraid that the year to come will be a long, hard one," Kane said.  "I am concerned about what the next winter will bring.  As it is, the weather is presently cold enough at night that there have been a few deaths from exposure.  The weather will be growing warmer soon, though.  Hopefully, by the time the cold weather arrives again, everyone will have shelter."

"Don't worry, Jared.  We'll make sure all your people have places to stay before next winter," Daniel assured him.  He looked at Sam.  "So, are we heading back home?"

"There are still some things I want to check on, so I think it'll be easier for us to stay here for the night and head out first thing in the morning."

A few hours later, Daniel, Sam and Teal'c were at the house that had been Daniel's home for five weeks.  Over dinner, everyone talked about things other than the war and its consequences, wanting to get their minds off it.  After the meal was over, as everyone else went to the living room to talk, Daniel helped Leda wash the dishes.  There were things left unsaid between them that needed to be spoken.

"Leda, we never really got a chance to talk before I left," Daniel said after a few minutes.

"I know."  Leda looked at him.  "I'm sorry, Daniel.  The way I acted . . . it was wrong of me.  I was just so lonely.  Jared and I had been drifting apart for so long, and it felt good to have a man's company, to have someone there that I could talk to.  I fooled myself into thinking that I was developing . . . feelings for you.  I do care about you, Daniel.  You have become a dear friend to me.  But I still love my husband very much.  I realized that when I thought I might never see him again.  I think that things are going to be better between us now."

Daniel smiled in relief.  Though he cared a lot about Leda as a friend, that was the extent of his feelings for her.  "That's good to hear, Leda.  I'm glad."

They finished the dishes in silence, then joined the others.  A short time later, they all went to bed.  As Daniel lay in the darkness of the room he'd spent so many sleepless nights in, he thought about this world and what lay in its future.  It would be a very long, rocky road for everyone, but, in the end, he hoped that they would all learn a valuable lesson from this.  If the horror of this tragedy taught them never to wage war again, then maybe someday, future generations would look upon this time as the dawning of a better day for their world.  Daniel knew that he would not live long enough to see that day, but the thought still gave him hope, and, sometimes, hope was all anyone needed.

With the hope that the people of this world were going to be all right, Daniel closed his eyes and drifted off into a dreamless sleep.


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