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But you tell me over and over and over again...

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But you tell me over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.

- Eve of Destruction, by Barry McGuire

The Official Welcome Back Daniel Party had to be delayed.

"Woolsey's trying to have you brought up on charges of kidnapping and grand theft spaceship," Jack said. "But don't worry. Landry and I have it under control."

Daniel was barred from the meeting which was "merely an inquest into Doctor Jackson's actions" and not a trial despite the fact that depending on the outcome Daniel might be looking at a long time in a very small cell.

Several people had left welcome back presents on Daniel's desk. Doctor Harris left him the exquisitely painted statue that they'd gotten on P9J-202 back during the first year of the program. Harris and Daniel had been fighting over it's ownership since the beginning, since they'd seen it sticking half out of the dirt at the exact same time. They regularly stole it out of each other's office when the other person was off world. When she'd given it back to him after his return from his ascension, she'd been crying freely. This time, there was note attached to it saying, "Don't make me keep it so long next time. It was starting to freak me out."

Daniel smiled and put the statue on a shelf near the door so she could grab it during his next mission. If he had a next mission.

There was also a collection of Goa'uld poetry with a small card signed by Captain Satterfield tucked inside the front cover. No one but the linguists seemed to get how funny Goa'uld poetry was. Maybe the humor was lost in the translation.

He wasn't allowed off base until after the inquest, but at least Landry had vetoed any attempt to have him put under guard. He thought about going for a walk, but word of the additional Ori ships had gotten out and the fear was so thick in the air it made it hard to breathe. In his office, at least, the only fear he had to deal with was his own.

He spent a while going through the mission reports, catching up on what he'd missed. When he read about P9C-882 he had to stop to catch his breath.

"Potentially fatal injury." "Recovery time of at least several weeks." "Captured by enemy forces."

It was all so tidy, but Daniel saw what was hidden behind black words on white paper with one inch margins. Vala's report, usually so colorful, was tersely worded and managed to say in five pages absolutely nothing about what had happened to her on the Ori ship.

He tossed all of the mission reports aside, suddenly exhausted.

"Hey."

Daniel looked over. Vala was standing in the doorway.

"Aren't you a material witness right now?"

Vala smiled. "I was dismissed for being disruptive to the proceedings." She picked up the volume of Goa'uld poetry. "I think General O'Neill is starting to like me," she said. It would have been a non sequitur except it wasn't.

"How's that going? Am I going to be sharing a shower with a dozen former NID agents or is Woolsey just planning to take me around back and have me shot?"

"Oh, I think you'll be okay. Taken over by an alien consciousness is apparently a pretty solid defense around here. And there's the matter of we need you out there."

Vala opened the book of poetry and read the first few stanzas. She laughed. "You know this isn't supposed to be funny, right? I mean, they're perfectly serious when they write this stuff."

Daniel smiled. "That's what makes it funny."

He reached over and took the book out of her hands. "Vala." She looked up at him, "When you were captured by the Ori on 882. It was Tomin wasn't it? The man who 're-educated' you. Who helped you escape."

Vala's gaze didn't waver. "Yes."

"You know there's always a chance they didn't kill him," Daniel said, gently.

"Oh, come on Daniel," Vala said. "We should be happy. One less Ori soldier out to enslave the galaxy. This is a good thing"

"You're allowed to care about him."

Vala was quiet for a long time. "He's not a bad man, Daniel. He is...but he's not, you know?"

Daniel's glasses had slid down his nose. He pushed them up. "When I lived in Egypt, I knew a boy. His name was Shakar. He was the son of one of the workers on the dig. I used to stay at his house a lot, play soccer while the adults were working." Vala was watching him, eyes startlingly vivid. Daniel looked away. "We stayed in touch, after. Letters. When I was about fifteen, his letters started to get...intense. He wanted me to come back to Egypt, study with this man who was teaching him the 'true Islamic path'. I stopped responding after a while." Daniel paused, still not meeting Vala's gaze. "A few years ago, I got curious for some reason. I did a search for him. We have access to pretty much everything here. The CIA has a file on him. Turns out he's now running a terrorist organization out of Syria. This is the same kid who would have taken in every stray dog in Cairo if his parents had let him and now he teaches people to kill innocent civilians. So, yeah, I know. But it doesn't make sense to me either."

Vala didn't say anything. She flipped through the book of poems, but she didn't laugh at any of them.

"You know what the worst part of these...extended absences is?" Daniel asked when the silence got oppressive.

"Hmm?" Vala asked, not looking up from the book.

"When I go home tonight, assuming I'm allowed to go home, I'm going to have to clean out my fridge."

"Oh, don't worry," Vala said, closing the book. "We thought of that."

Daniel blinked. "What?"

"We went to your house, cleaned out anything that would spoil. Took out the garbage. Sam's been getting your mail. We had your cable and your internet turned off since it seemed silly for you to be paying for something you weren't around to use. But the lights are still on. Mitchell and I went over when we could. Mowed the lawn. Dusted. That sort of thing."

Daniel stared at her, unable to speak past the lump in his throat.

"What?" Vala asked.

"You...dusted?"

"Yes," Vala said.

"Dusted."

Vala eyed him warily. "This isn't some sort of strange Tau'ri thing, is it? Dusting your TV doesn't mean we're married, right? Not that I'd object," she said with a wicked smile, "but I like to know these things."

Daniel shook his head. "It's just very domestic."

"What's domestic?" Jack asked and Daniel jumped a little, surprised.

"Vala dusted," Daniel said.

"Oh, that. Carter told me. You know you owe her money, right? A couple of your magazine subscriptions came due and she paid them out of her own pocket."

The lump was back. He'd been gone, they'd had no reason to think he was even still alive, and they'd taken the time to make sure he didn't miss an issue of The New Yorker.

"I'll make sure to ask her how much," Daniel said, because he didn't know how 'I love you all so much it hurts' would go over. He cleared his throat. "So what's the verdict? Am I going to jail?"

"Nah," Jack said lightly. "Woolsey was making a statement more than anything else. There's going to be an official reprimand. You'll get docked two weeks pay. But don't tell anyone I told you. It's all supposed to be a surprise when you get called into Landry's office and chewed out tomorrow."

Something cold and hard in his stomach that he'd hardly been aware of relaxed.

"Sounds like fun," Daniel said, careful to match Jack's light tone.

"You should have been there for the testimony," Jack said. "It was great. Teal'c did his staring thing and I thought Woolsey was going to have a heart attack. I'll see if I can get you a tape."

"I thought mine was especially good," Vala said and Jack smiled at her.

"So your welcome back party is getting started," Jack said. "Walter's been planning it all day."

"Walter was planning my party while Woolsey was trying to have me incarcerated?" Daniel said.

"Well, you know how it goes," Jack said and shrugged.

Daniel rubbed his forehead. "Jack, it's not that I don't appreciate the gesture, but I'm really not in the mood--"

"Daniel," Jack said, so sharply that Daniel looked up, startled. "There are over half a dozen more Ori ships in this galaxy and while we were off trying to figure out how to kill people on another plane of existence, SG-4 got attacked by the natives on an Ori-controlled world. Keller's dead and Menendez lost his arm. The people on this base need cake and streamers and stupid party hats and you're as good an excuse as any. So let's go, huh?"

Daniel blinked. "Yeah. I'll--we'll be right there."

Jack glanced between them. "Sure. Don't be late," he said on his way out the door. "It's still your party."

More ships. More planets going Ori every day. His hands were shaking.

"Hey," Vala said. "You were right back on the ship, you know. It was worth the risk."

"Tell that to the people on the planets that those re-enforcements are orbiting right now."

Vala opened her mouth to reply, but Daniel cut her off.

"Come on," he said. "I have to go cut a cake."

On the elevator ride up, Vala reached over and grabbed his hand. She looked at him like she expected him to push her away, but Daniel squeezed back instead. He didn't let go until they got to the party.

end