After everyone had finished their lunch, Daniel began showing them around. Sam found several small devices that she decided she wanted to take with her to study. After Daniel assured them that they'd be safe from the Ur-mah-gal as long as they made no threatening moves, Jack took Teal'c and Sanderson with him to check out a building that looked like it might have been a military installation while Daniel took Sam to a lab he'd found.
Eyes bright with excitement, Sam wandered around the lab, fascinated by the equipment there. Daniel just stood back and watched her, a soft smile on his face. It was so good to see her, to see all of them. When he'd come running to find out what had set off the alarm and saw his ex-teammates, he couldn't believe it. Out of all the worlds in the galaxy, what were the odds that they'd show up on this one at the same time as he was here? It was almost enough for Daniel to believe in divine intervention.
Seeing them again was both heaven and hell, heaven because he'd missed them so much that it made him feel like grinning from ear to ear to be with them, hell because the thought was never far from his mind that they'd be here no more than a few days, then they'd be gone and he'd be all alone again. But being alone had been his choice, hadn't it? This isolation had been self-imposed. He could have stayed with the Nox or the Tollans or gone to the Land of Light or to any of a number of other planets where he knew friendly civilizations resided. Instead, he'd chosen to come here, to a world devoid of human life. Why? Because, here, with no one but the Ur-mah-gal for company, he didn't have to hide how much he was hurting inside, because, in this place, he could bury himself in the crumbling remains of a long-abandoned city and try to forget that, yet again, everything he cared about had been taken away from him.
"Daniel? Are you okay?"
Sam's concerned voice snapped him out of his depressing thoughts.
"Huh? Oh, sorry. I was just thinking."
Sam came up to him and rubbed her hand up and down his arm. "How are you doing, Daniel?" she asked. "And don't tell me you're fine unless you really mean it."
Daniel sat on a nearby bench, his gaze on the floor. "I'm . . . okay, better than I could be, I guess." He lifted his eyes to hers. "I miss you guys like crazy."
Sam sat beside him. "We miss you, too, Daniel, a lot. The colonel has been an ogre since you left."
Daniel's lips quirked upward. "He has?"
"Uh huh. So has Teal'c."
Daniel's smile grew a little. "And what about you?"
"Um, well . . . I haven't been in that great a mood either."
Daniel's smile widened to a full-blown grin, but it lasted only a few seconds, then he was serious again. "It hasn't been easy. The first few days were really hard. The Nox helped as much as they could, but I still felt lost, cut adrift. I finally realized that I needed to throw myself into work. It's the only thing that keeps the feelings at bay."
Sam nodded, having figured out long ago that Daniel escaped into his work when life got too painful. "Is it better now?"
"Yeah, during the day, when I'm working. At night. . . ."
Sam couldn't imagine how lonely Daniel would be at night, all alone on this planet. She knew that she wouldn't be able to stand it.
Daniel sighed. "But the Ur-mah-gal are good company, even if they can't talk."
"But it's not human company."
"Are you going to stay here until you go to Abydos?"
"No, it'll get too cold before then. I'll stay here as long as I can, then move to another planet. I'm thinking of going to P9K-173. That was the planet where SG-6 found the Aztec ruins. I always wanted to explore that place. And it's safe. The natives are peaceful."
Sam's eyes dropped to the floor. "I guess this must be nice, finally being able to explore alien ruins to your heart's content, not having to leave when the colonel says so."
"Yeah, it is. After all, I am, above all, an archeologist. That was my life's work before I opened the Stargate, and, out here, I can explore ruins that most archeologists on Earth could never dream of."
"Are you going to keep doing this even after the Abydos gate is unburied?"
"I'm not sure. I've been thinking about it. But it's too early to be making a decision like that. I'll see how things go once I get to Abydos."
Sam fell silent. She wanted to ask Daniel if he would come back to Earth if he could have his job back, but she was afraid of the answer. He seemed to be adapting to his new life, learning to enjoy it. Like Daniel said, he was an archeologist, and he now had an opportunity that many of his peers would kill for.
Maybe if Daniel was going to be on this planet for a few more months, he'd still be here when they got his job back, if they got his job back. Then they could ask him if he wanted to come home.
"So, other than being grouchy, how have you guys been doing?" Daniel asked. "How's, um, Lieutenant Sanderson working out?"
"Oh, he's all right. He's a nice enough guy, but he's not you, Daniel, not by a longshot. He can't hold a candle to you intellectually, and he doesn't have your passion, drive or determination. He does what he's told, when he's told."
"I bet that makes Jack happy."
Sam looked at him sharply. "No, Daniel, it doesn't. The colonel wants you back just as much as Teal'c and I do. Our first mission with Sanderson was almost a disaster. He was trying to talk with the natives and accidentally insulted the leader because he didn't understand certain customs of theirs. If it had been you, even if you had done the same thing, you'd probably have been able to calm them down, and everything would have been fine. Sanderson was in way over his head, and we had to beat a hasty retreat."
"I'm sure he'll learn," Daniel said quietly.
"Maybe eventually, if he survives that long and if the colonel doesn't boot him off the team. But, no matter how long he's on the team, he will never have the skills you possess or what made you so valuable to the SGC and SG-1. And we're not the only ones who miss you, Daniel. The SGC has been unable to get anyone with your linguistic skills. Three different missions couldn't be completed because they hit a stumbling block in regards to a language that couldn't be translated. A trade agreement fell through because of a cultural problem that you could probably have gotten around. The archeology and linguistics departments are buried under uncompleted work, which has affected even more missions because of major delays. General Hammond is not at all happy. Even some of the Marines who thought you shouldn't be on SG-1 have grudgingly admitted that you're needed at the SGC."
Daniel stared at the floor for a long, silent moment, not knowing what to think or say. It gave him satisfaction to know that he was missed at the SGC, that his contribution had some importance, but it was not something he wanted to think about, not now when it didn't really matter anymore.
He rose to his feet. "Well, we'd better get back to Jack and the others before they go wandering off."
Sam grinned and stood up. "Daniel, if you'll recall, you were the one who tended to wander off when there was an archeological site to explore."
"Yeah, but Jack might just decide to do some exploring of his own this time, and I forgot to tell him that some of the buildings are used as dens by the Ur-mah-gal. They might not take kindly to having Jack and the others drop in unannounced."
They made their way to the structure that the others were going to be checking out. Jack, Teal'c and Sanderson were just exiting the building when Daniel and Sam arrived.
"Find anything, sir?" Sam asked her C.O.
"I'm not sure. There is some stuff in there that might be promising, but I wasn't about to start fiddling with it and maybe blow myself up. I'll let you take a look at it tomorrow. Right now, we've got to get to the Stargate for our scheduled check-in."
"Jack, don't tell the general about me," Daniel said.
"Because he'd be required to report it, and he might get orders to make you take me back."
"We wouldn't take you back against your will, Daniel."
"But then you'd be defying orders, and I don't want you to get into trouble over me. After you go back home, you can tell him about me. If anyone gets the bright idea to send someone after me, you can tell them that they wouldn't like the welcoming committee." Daniel pointed at an Ur-mah-gal.
"Right. Okay, Daniel, you have a point. I won't tell Hammond that you're here. Teal'c, you're with me. Sanderson, Carter, check out a few more of these buildings with Daniel, then go back to his house and set up camp." Jack stared at the Ur-mah-gal. "Daniel, are you sure those things won't bother us?"
"They know now that you're my friends, Jack. They'll leave you alone."
As Daniel had promised, the Ur-mah-gal didn't bother Jack and Teal'c as they traveled to the Stargate, though two of them did shadow the men.
"O'Neill, what do you intend to tell General Hammond about the planet?" the Jaffa asked.
"I'm going to tell him the truth, that we've found some promising technology in the ruins and we want to check it out further. I'm going to ask to extend the mission two more days."
"You will not speak of Daniel Jackson or the Ur-mah-gal?"
"No, not until the debriefing when we get back."
"Since your government is seeking to obtain technology, will they not want to take what is here?"
"Yes, I should imagine so, which is the problem. Nobody but Daniel can control the Ur-mah-gal, so he would have to be here when they sent a team through to collect the stuff, which means that Maybourne would find out that he's here. Daniel may be right about them trying to force him to return to Earth. We need to find a way to guarantee that he will be left alone."
"Daniel Jackson is well protected by the Ur-mah-gal. Could he not use that to his advantage?"
A smile came to Jack's face. "You're right. As long as Daniel's in the company of at least one of those things, he's pretty safe. Only a complete idiot would try to forcibly remove Daniel from the planet as long as those things are guarding him. We'll just have to be sure Daniel keeps his new buddies close by."
General Hammond was excited by the news about the technology and agreed to give SG-1 two additional days on the planet. When Jack and Teal'c got back to the house, they found that Sam and Sanderson had laid out the sleeping bags in what must have been a bedroom. Daniel was already set up in the other bedroom.
"We've got two additional days, kids," Jack announced, seeing a pleased smile briefly touch Daniel's face.
That evening, as they ate their dinner, Daniel told them a little more about what he'd done over the past four weeks.
"So, how are the Tollans doing in their new home?" Sam asked.
"All right, I guess. I only saw them once, shortly after I arrived. They're living in the floating city we saw."
"And what about Anteaus and his family," Jack asked.
"They're good." Daniel smiled. "I was teaching Nafrayu how to read and write hieroglyphics before I left." He fetched the parchment that the boy had given him and showed it to the others.
"It sounds like they took you right into their family," Jack said, remembering how Anteaus had been so insistent that they leave when SG-1 was on the Nox world.
"Yes, they did. I learned a lot from them, about their culture and beliefs. They are so incredible. There's no crime on their world at all, no war, no hunger or poverty. Hardly anyone dies of sickness or injury since they are able to heal each other. They live in complete harmony with each other and nature."
"It sounds wonderful," Sam said.
"It is. If only Earth could do likewise."
As Daniel talked about his exploration of the Hetaran ruins, everyone could see the excitement on his face. It was clear to see that he was totally wrapped up in the work he was doing there.
"I've already almost filled up a whole journal, and I've barely begun," he told them.
"That's good, Daniel. I'm glad that you're enjoying yourself here," Jack said, trying to sound completely sincere. "There is something we need to talk about, though." He told everyone what he and Teal'c had been discussing.
"So, what do you think, Daniel?" he asked. "Are you going to be okay with people coming in and pulling out all the gadgets? I mean, I know how you feel about archeological sites, and you were the first one here, so. . . ."
Daniel looked at him in surprise. "Jack, are you asking my permission to let teams come in and strip this place of all the technology?"
"Well, no, not really. I mean, since you got here first, I think that you should have a say in what goes on here, sort of like finders keepers, but once the higher-ups find out about this place, what I think probably won't matter. I just want to know how you feel about it."
Daniel thought about it. "The technology in this place is a part of the Hetaran history and culture, but, for me, it's not what's most important. The history of the Hetarans as a people, their language and their art, their architecture and the way they lived their lives is what matters to me. So, yes, it's fine with me if someone takes all the technological gadgets as long as they do no damage to the city." He paused. "With one exception. They are not to touch the educational center. There is nothing there that they need to take, and it is a priceless record of the history and culture of these people."
"I think we'll be able to arrange that. If all else fails, you could put the Ur-mah-gal on guard duty. That would keep the vultures in line."
A couple of hours later, everyone had gone to bed except for Jack, who was taking first watch. He'd been sitting outside the house for about half an hour when he heard soft footsteps approaching from inside. A barefooted Daniel appeared in the doorway and sat down beside him.
"You know, I told you that it wasn't necessary to take watches," the archeologist said. "See out there?" He pointed toward several Ur-mah-gal, who were curled up on the ground a few yards away. "They'd be aware of something coming long before you would."
"Yeah, I know. I just wouldn't be able to sleep if I didn't know that there was one of us keeping watch." He glanced at his friend. "So, how come none of those things are house guests tonight?"
"Oh, I told them that it would be best of they all stayed outside tonight since I have company."
Jack shook his head. "It's almost creepy how well you get along with those things and how they obey you so completely."
Daniel looked at the group of big cats. "For hundreds of years the Ur-mah-gal were protectors and companions to the Hetarans. They were treated with love and respect and loved the Hetarans in return. Those memories survive within this generation even though I was the first human these Ur-mah-gal had ever seen with their own eyes."
"So, to them, you're a Hetaran."
"Yes." Daniel looked at the cats. "But I think it's more than that. I think they can sense that I respect them, that I wish to be their friend. I have a theory that they're at least a little bit empathic."
"So, tell me a little more about when you first saw them."
"Well, needless to say, I was pretty scared. For a while, I was positive that I was going to die."
"Let me guess. You did what you always do. You stepped forward and gave your peaceful explorers speech."
"More or less. I had learned a little bit about the Ur-mah-gal at the educational center. From what I'd read, it sounded like they were very intelligent. I figured that I had nothing to lose by trying to talk to them. I wouldn't be any more dead if I failed and they attacked me than if I did nothing and they attacked me. So, I did a variation of my peaceful explorers speech in Hetaran."
"And so started a beautiful friendship."
"I have to tell you, Daniel. You've surprised me. You seem so . . . comfortable here, like you really are a native. I haven't seen that since Abydos."
Daniel was staring at Jack with a surprised look on his face. "You really think that? That I feel comfortable here, like it's my home?"
"Well, no, not like it's your home. You just seem at ease and well adapted."
Daniel looked away, gazing off into the darkness. "Growing up, I had to learn how to adapt quickly, to learn the rules of each new household so that I could fit in. After I got out of school and began going on digs, I found out that I was different from a lot of archeologists. Many archeologists on a dig are still very much foreigners. They may know the native language, eat the local food, but if they are from the U.S., they're still very much Americans, if they're from England, they're still as British as ever, and so on, and so on."
"But not you."
"I'd immerse myself in the culture, with the people, learn and respect their customs and beliefs. I'd often dress like the locals. I would always make sure to speak the native tongue of the workers and other locals when I was talking to them. I would become a part of their world."
"And that's what you've done here?"
"Yes. Granted, there aren't any other people around, so I don't have to worry about fitting in with their culture or dressing like them, but I still try to adapt and fit in with the place in general. Since the Ur-mah-gal are an integral part of all this, I'm trying to become as much a part of their society as I can so that we can coexist peacefully and without misunderstandings. I've even been to one of their dens and played with their cubs."
Jack thought about what Daniel was saying, a question coming to his mind. "So, why didn't you try to fit in with the military world of the SGC? It took me forever to get you to go to a firing range so that you could learn how to shoot better, and right up to the end you fought against learning much in the way of hand-to-hand combat. You certainly didn't follow the military hierarchy. What's the difference?"
Daniel didn't answer for a few seconds. "Because to fit in with the military world, to become like that, I'd have to change who I am, the kind of person I am. When I went on a dig and immersed myself in the culture, adapted to it, I was still me. I wasn't changing who I was on the inside. It was different at the SGC. I didn't want to learn how to shoot better so that I could more easily kill someone. I didn't want to learn how to break somebody's neck with my bare hands. Those things are in opposition to the kind of person I am. As for following orders, well, that's something I've always had trouble with, especially when the orders were something I didn't agree should be done. Probably, in time, I'd have learned, yet again, to adapt, to fit in, even if it was only for the sake of my own safety and yours, but there are ways that I could never have fit in, no matter how many years I was with the SGC."
There was silence for a long time as Jack tried to decide if he had the guts to ask the question to which he needed to know the answer.
"So, you're happier here, doing this kind of stuff, things that don't make it necessary for you to change who you are?"
"In a way, yes."
Jack felt a sudden weight pressing down on his chest in the vicinity of his heart.
"But I'd still give it up in a heartbeat if I could have my place back on SG-1," Daniel said quietly.
Jack's head jerked around, and he stared at Daniel, the heaviness in his heart lifting. "What? But I thought. . . ."
Daniel looked at him. "Jack, I may love archeology. Exploring these ruins may be like a dream come true for me, but it isn't where I need to be. I need to be on SG-1, looking for Sha're, helping to fight the Goa'uld, and exploring new worlds and cultures, at least until the day I can free my wife and take her home." He gave Jack a smile with a touch of sadness. "Not only that, but I miss you guys. There's a whole lot less joy in seeing all these wonders when I can't share it with my friends."
Jack's hand came out and laid on Daniel's shoulder for a moment. "We've been trying to get your job back, Daniel. Carter, Teal'c and I went to D.C. and pounded on a few doors."
"A little. We'll get you back, Daniel. We won't give up until we do."
"Thanks, Jack. I appreciate it."
"If we just had some leverage, we could do it."
Daniel looked out into the darkness of the night. All at once, an idea hit him, and a smile slowly formed on his face. "Jack? I think I just might have the leverage we need."
SG-1 walked down the ramp as the Stargate shut down behind them. They approached General Hammond.
"SG-1, is there a reason why you decided to come home ahead of schedule?" he asked. "You had requested two additional days for the mission."
"Yes, sir, there is a very good reason, and we'll tell you all about it in the debriefing," Jack replied.
"Very well. We'll debrief in an hour."
SG-1 quickly went through the standard post-mission physical and got cleaned up.
"All right, Colonel, what's this all about?" Hammond asked as they were all seated.
"Sir, Daniel's there," Jack told him.
The general was silent for a couple of seconds. "Doctor Jackson is on P5R-735?"
"Yes, sir. He was already there when we arrived."
"Why didn't you tell me this during your check-in?"
"Because Daniel was afraid that if certain people found out that he was there, they'd order you to have us bring him back."
"I see. Go on."
Jack and Sam explained to Hammond about Daniel, the city, the Hetarans and the Ur-mah-gal. By the time they were finished, the man was shaking his head in amazement.
"That young man never ceases to amaze me," he said. "So, these Ur-mah-gal. Doctor Jackson is the only one who has any control over them?"
"Yes, sir," Jack confirmed. "With him around, they're like a bunch of big dogs, but without his influence, they're deadly killers."
"Which means that we couldn't send any teams though to Hetara without Daniel acting as the . . . liaison to the Ur-mah-gal," Sam added.
Hammond frowned. "I see. All right, I can make a few phone calls, explain the situation, and do what I can to see that Daniel is allowed to remain on the planet and will not be forced to return to Earth."
"Um, no, sir, we don't want you to do that," Jack told him.
"I don't understand."
"Well, you see, sir, Daniel has a plan."