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Life According to Daniel Jackson

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It was getting, Daniel thought, to the point where he could sleep through Walters's voice on the loudspeakers announcing "unauthorized incoming gate activity" easier than he could snooze through his actual alarm clock, and just maybe that wasn't the healthiest state of affairs. Likewise, he was fairly certain there was a universal law that he, Daniel Jackson, should not know how to load a P-90.

In the dark.

Before he put his glasses on.

There were times, when he was jotting down alien glyphs in a notepad while drinking something that only looked like coffee out of a ration pouch, when he wondered where the man he had been had gone. He wondered when he had gotten use to adrenaline, and the sound of gunfire, and the kick of the stock when you pulled the trigger. He wondered when all of the languages of his native planet had become secondary to the languages found elsewhere, and when, exactly, the phrase "native planet" had started rolling so easily off his tongue.

He wonders, sometimes, when he's looking up at a sky with two moons and not enough stars but with the same damned rocks digging into his back that he remembers from every dig he's ever been on, if maybe there isn't some other race out there, somewhere, with a big round gate found under a forgotten ruin that they've rigged in some out of the way secret location for exploration and where his own planet's gate address is one in a long list of unknowns in alien characters, the equivalent of P3X-282.

It's the kind of thought brought on by the coffee that isn't coffee, because his body knows the difference between instant in a pouch and actual grounds. Or it's the air. Or the water. Or the alien rock that's digging into his back. It's unlikely, he has to admit - the Goa'uld made certain of that. He could ask Sam for the actual probabilities, but it's just a passing fancy brought on by too much alien everything.

And not enough coffee.

A rock bounces off his chest in the dark and for a second he doesn't know if he's supposed to reach for the gun or the glasses, but the hiss that follows tells him neither. "Daniel," Jack tells him, "go to sleep."

And Jack has a point, because these are the only chances he has to sleep without the threat of Walter, or the alarm clock, or unauthorized gate anything. There are entire academic papers, he thinks tiredly as he rolls over to dig the rock out from under his back, to be extracted from analyzing the human ability to adapt to the unknown, the strange, and the implausible.

It troubles him a little, sometimes, that he can't remember when it stopped being strange. It would probably trouble him more if it wasn't for the coffee that wasn't, and the fact that he's gotten used to knowing where his glasses are in strange environments, and that in the right company P-90's make tolerable pillows. He thinks, dimly, that he misses the man he was... but he's fairly certain he remembers the man he was would have sold his left kidney for the chance to know half of what he knows now, gunshots or no.

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Jack tipped his head slightly to one side, fork rising to sketch a lazy figure eight through the air. "Is this one of those nature versus nurture sort of questions? Because I've never really been able to keep those two separate..."

"No, Jack, it's a question of concentration." Daniel talked with his hands, even when his hands were occupied and crumbs rained down across the mess table. "Solidity, mass, the concentration of a single element..." He broke off with a sigh when the other man failed to blink at regular intervals and lowered his hands. "It changes the taste."

The fork reoriented on Daniel like a conductor's baton as Jack lowered his matter of fact voice. "Daniel - it's a chocolate chip cookie."

"Chunk," Daniel corrected. "It's a chocolate chunk cookie, Jack, that's what I'm trying to explain to you. The mass of the chocolate, compared to the mass of the dough, changes the taste..." He trailed off again with another exasperated sigh. "You're doing this deliberately."

"I'm not doing anything," Jack replied. "I'm just sitting here... eating lunch... watching you take apart a perfectly good chocolate chip cookie." He raised a finger to forestall Daniel's protest. "Several of them."

Daniel dusted crumbs off of his hands, straightening. "Right. How long...?"

"Two hours, thirteen minutes," Jack answered reflexively around a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

"Two hours, thirteen minutes," Daniel repeated, dragging his fingers through his short cropped hair before dropping his hands back to the table top. He tapped, sharply, twice, three times, before catching himself and stopping. "And we're doing this...?"

"Fifty dollars and the chance to see Carter in her own personal workaholic hell," Jack said succinctly.

Daniel was rocking slightly, forward and back, his hands groping of their own will across the empty table top to either side of his lunch tray. "Right," he said sharply. "Right. Two hours, no work, no work..." Finding no pencils, no books, no notepad, his hands abruptly stilled once more, the frantic motion collapsing back into the semblance of make believe relaxation as he leaned back in his chair with an exaggerated stretch. "So... how's fishing?"

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He wonders - that's always the danger, the sharp mind that doesn't ever quite stop, doesn't idle, just clicks along at its own relentless pace, filing cabinets of trivia falling randomly into place by the Dewey Decimal Daniel system of mental cataloging - what other worlds, other cultures, make of theirs.

Daniel stands in the middle of the twenty four hour grocery at 0200, a bag of coffee beans in either hand, and looks at the logos emblazoned across them and wonders. Teal'c has come a long way since the alien Jaffa warrior who first stepped through the Tau'ri gate - he's learned their culture by immersion, constant exposure, and if he is never 100% perfectly at ease then he also doesn't let it bother him any more. But he is also not the first, last or only offworlder to make it beyond the Mountain and Daniel wonders, idly, looking from green label to red and back again, how it looks - all of the things they all take for granted - to someone seeing it for the very first time, who's native culture isn't even Earth bound at all.

He wonders what Baal makes of grocery stores. Brand names. Commercials, and the consumerism they support. He wonders if Baal, once Goa'uld false god, has developed or can even understand a concept like brand name loyalty or free trade. Oh, Baal makes use of capitalism, surely, but does he understand it? Or is it like a language that hasn't quite set right, the one that you always have to think the translation to in your mind, word by word, to piece the sentence together?

Do Goa'uld, he wonders, check consumer reports before deciding on a sports car? Or, after thousands of years of simply telling their worshipers what they would like brought to them, can they even understand the idea of free will and choice? Do they look at the Tau'ri and see amusingly trained inexplicable pet primates, or a complex alien culture?

It's a moot point, but there are times, at 0200 in the aftermath of a mission, belatedly realizing the barren state of his cupboards, when Daniel could do with a little less free will himself.