Sha're wraps her arms around her husband's neck, her breath tickling his skin. It's a moment before he feels her wet lashes flutter against him, and when he gently pulls away, she won't meet his gaze.
"You uncovered the chappa'ai." Her voice is soft, but there's accusation in her words.
"Because it goes other places. Because it's, it's, it's the discovery of a lifetime." Daniel shakes his head; Sha're's always understood before. She showed him the chamber with the forbidden writing when they hid from Ra. She understood what the writing meant, and how very, very important it was. She should understand now as well.
"Other places," she agrees, but Daniel can't excavate the layers beneath her words.
She steps away from him and finishes serving their evening meal, bread and a simple soup, food that after seven months still isn't quite filling.
"There are thousands of cartouches, Sha're, thousands, and if each one leads to a Stargate. . . ." The possibilities are endless. Worlds, thousands of other populated worlds, and Jack doesn't know about them, can't explore them. Daniel takes off his glasses, polishing them on his robes. There could be other pockets of Ancient Egyptian civilization scattered across the galaxy.
"Why do you need thousands of worlds?" Sha're slips into Abydonian and it takes Daniel a moment to make the transition and pick apart the sounds into recognizable words. "Is this one not enough?"
He sits down to his meal, poking at a piece of boiled meat. "It's not that."
Sha're nods curtly, and they eat in silence. When Daniel stands to clear away the dishes, she lets him—the first time she's not risen and told him, laughing, "Sit, you are my husband and it would disgrace us if people knew you did women's work." That is enough to let Daniel know how upset she is.
The dishes clash when he drops them; he resists the urge to throw them. "I'm not going to leave you. It's just research." The words sound familiar, but they're part of Daniel's other life, before being laughed out of academia, before the Stargate.
"You uncovered the chappa'ai," Sha're bites.
"Ra is dead!"
"There could be another!" It's the first time he's heard fear in her voice.
Daniel takes her in his arms, kissing her forehead softly, brushing back her soft hair. "Ra was the last of his race—the last. You're safe. I'm safe. The Stargate—the chappa'ai—it's safe. I know it. Trust me. The chappa'ai brought me to you; it gave us each other."
Her grip tightens on his arms. "You are the only good thing to come from the chappa'ai. I do not trust it."
"We'll be careful," Daniel says. "We'll post guards—and I'll rebury it, I promise, I just . . . I want to try. For a little while?"
He lifts her chin with a finger and she can never say no when he looks into her eyes. Maybe he uses that to his advantage too often, but it's never been more important than it is now.
"All right," she concedes, "but just remember to come home to me."
He kisses her softly. "Like I could ever come home to someone else."
* * *
"Hi," Jack says. "You heard that, huh?"
Daniel's eyes go skyward. "You did knock."
Jack steps forward and pulls off his jacket. "Lightly."
Daniel shuts the door, accepting defeat. "What is it this time? Did you forget a book or need to borrow a cup of sugar? Or is it that Teal'c suddenly had a burning desire to play Jackals and Hounds?"
Jack makes a face, throwing his jacket over the back of the couch. "Carter. She was worried you'd been over-feeding your fish."
Daniel sighs and shuffles into the kitchen to put on coffee. "I'm fine, you all realize. Really. Coping well and everything. You can stop babysitting."
"We know, just . . ." Jack picks up the vase from the end table—two weeks ago it held lilies from Dr. Fraiser and Cassie. "We don't like leaving you alone all weekend."
"I'm perfectly used to that." Daniel leans against the wall next to the opening between the rooms, the coffee percolating noisily in the kitchen. "The three of you dropping in at odd hours is what's not normal."
"Well, maybe that should be." Jack sets the vase down again, arranging it just so. "Look, Daniel, you . . . and Teal'c and Carter. . . ." Jack sighs, and Daniel understands because he feels the same way.
"I just need time to mourn," Daniel says softly. "I'm okay. She's free of the Goa'uld, and I—that's a good thing." He swallows because he's okay with it, really.
Jack steps close and there's a charge in the air, a thickening, like maybe he's going to hug Daniel, put a physical expression to the comfort he's been wanting and failing to give.
"I'm fine," Daniel repeats, his voice catching.
Jack's voice is hoarse when he says, "Then you're dealing with this better than I am."
Daniel nods, suddenly fighting to hold back tears—they come on him at the stupidest times. He clears his throat before speaking. "I have to. I have to find her son."
Jack hugs him at that, and it's too much for Daniel, too much to hold on and pretend that everything is the same in his life and between them. He can't help but hold on to Jack because he has to find Sha're's son, the product of her rape by Apophis. The goddamn Goa'uld took her body and her child—took her away from him—and now he has to find her son, because she's dead and she asked him to, because he still loves her, just as he'll always love her. The Stargate gave her to him, and it's because of the Stargate that she was taken away, because of the Stargate that he's here with Jack. Because of his own damn curiosity, she died.
"Why couldn't I save her?" Daniel’s fingers curl into a fist around a handful of Jack's shirt.
Jack grunts, not offering anything close to an answer, but he doesn't let go, holding Daniel through dry sobs, letting Daniel slowly put himself back together. The coffee grows silent in the kitchen, and Jack never complains about the snot on his shoulder, even though Daniel knows it would be the perfect joke to break the tension.
* * *
"It has been," he says evenly. He likes it better when Sha're isn't here, watching his failures with something akin to satisfaction. The others are unconvinced of Daniel's theory, some hesitant to have him succeed, but at least when Skaara stands guard with him, Skaara doesn't spread his legs and try to convince Daniel of better ways to spend their time. As though Daniel doesn't worship his wife every other chance he gets, no matter whether they’ve been fighting or not.
"You said you would rebury the chappa'ai after some time, husband. Four months is a long time." Sha're sits up, her hair spilling in front of her face.
"I have a few hours with the 'gate each day," Daniel mutters. "I've only been dialing addresses for a month. Just let me. . . ." He looks down at the dialing device, searching for the next glyph in the sequence, something that looks like a skinny Y.
"I think you should end this."
Daniel grits his teeth, pressing the glyph harder than necessary. "No. I'm on the verge of something." She looks at him questioningly and he translates into Abydonian.
Sha're shakes her head, standing and coming towards him. "Dan'yel, please, the chappa'ai is silent, as it should be. Come home with me."
"Just a while longer," Daniel starts to say, but when he presses the center jewel on the dialer, the Stargate sparks, the event horizon rushing outwards and reforming in the puddle Daniel hasn’t seen in nearly eleven months Earth-time.
Sha're stumbles away from the open 'gate, her hand over her heart, her mouth open. She bumps against Daniel and fumbles for his hand, her grip hard and clammy.
Daniel smiles, squeezing back. "See? I knew I could find an active one." He marks the address in his notebook with an open circle. Today is the first time he's tried it.
Sha're shakes her head slightly. "Don't go," she whispers.
Daniel pats his tunic, making sure his notebook is secure. "I'll be gone a minute," he says, and then realizes the colloquial expression means nothing to her. "I'm just going to see what's on the other side. I know how to find my way home." He kisses her on the head and pulls away.
"I promise, Sha're, I'm coming back." He steps through the Stargate, and the last thing he sees is Sha're's terrified face, and he desperately wishes he could turn back to apologize for being so callous or to ask her to come with him, but the Stargate is already pulling him in, transporting him away from her.
There's no one around the 'gate when he steps through and he still sees Sha're's terror etched on her face. He should have been paying more attention to her feelings and not been so wrapped up in—
Daniel blinks, wiping at his nose with his sleeve; he'd gotten used to the dry Abydonian climate and the few triggers for his allergies. When he first stepped through the 'gate he hadn’t even realized it was raining. Focus, he thinks.
The dialing device is just ahead, the setup similar to the Stargate room in the pyramid. He steps down the stairs and inspects the dialer, immediately moving to locate the point of origin for this new planet. When he mutters to himself about the meanings of the symbols, he wishes Sha're was with him, or Skaara, Jack, just someone he could talk to about this. The Stargate works! It goes to other places! He was right!
Leaning over to protect the notebook from rain, he jots down the address to return home, and then follows the footpath leading away from the Stargate, assuring himself that he is on another planet and just going for a look, but he'll be back as he promised Sha're. He'll be gone for only a minute.
The path widens as Daniel approaches a village. Brick buildings ring a well in the center of town, indicating a more sedentary—and consequently more technologically advanced—life than what they experience on Abydos.
The village is deserted, though, and looks like it has been for some time.
Doors swing open on loose hinges; a wheelbarrow sits in the roadway upside-down; a broken gutter spills water over the ground. Daniel leans into one of the open homes, calling, "Hello?" The interiors are just as deserted: tables left with dishes and overturned pitchers, a child's toy discarded by the door.
There are no remains, no indication of what happened to the human—or other alien life—that may have inhabited this village, and that's the thought that sends a chill up Daniel's spine. The feeling comes on him suddenly, like the Stargate coming to life: he shouldn't be here.
On his way back to the Stargate he sees the totem. He doesn't recognize the symbol—it looks like the head of a monster—but he understands its meaning. He breaks into a run, already thinking of the symbols to dial, his mind locating them in his memory of the dialer. When his foot catches on a root he curses and mutters, "Figures," but doesn't see the rock that his head strikes when he falls.
* * *
"Been looking for you. You getting out of here?" Jack, naturally.
"Yeah, just. . . ." Daniel gestures at the Stargate, not sure what he's trying to explain.
"Right," Jack says. "Come on, Carter said she'd pick up the tab if we meet her at O'Malleys."
"Huh. Generous." Daniel turns away from the window and falls in step beside Jack.
"Guilt, I think." Jack scrubs at his hair; maybe not what he meant to say.
"Then maybe I should be paying."
Jack rolls his head—probably because rolling his eyes wouldn't quite indicate the severity of Daniel's stupidity. "You were right about Ke'ra—to a point. And she—" Jack turns away, calling up the elevator. "She was a nice girl. She liked you," he mumbles.
Daniel scratches his neck, using that as an excuse to turn his head.
"You needed that."
And when Jack says it, it's true. Daniel had needed that. He needed someone to think he was special, someone to come on to him, kiss him, offer him . . . what he'd lost. He'd been trying to get over Sha're's death on his own, but it wasn't working. Of course that didn't stop him from feeling guilty. He’d let Ke'ra distract him from more than just Sha're.
"Maybe I should buy a round," he finally says.
"Cheapskate." Jack places a hand on Daniel's back and guides him into the elevator. "You know Teal'c doesn't drink."
Daniel chuckles and presses the button to take them to the surface.
"You could have picked someone better for your rebound, though."
Jack makes a face.
"Janet?" Daniel grins, leaning against the wall. "You?"
There's a sparkle in Jack's eye, but no other tell. "I would have treated you so well," he says with mock hurt.
Features carefully arranged to convey sincerity, Daniel pats Jack's shoulder. "With you, I'd want it to mean something. And I'm just not ready for that."
"So gallant." Jack exits the elevator and signs them both out, motioning over to his truck. As Daniel climbs into the cab, he can't help but smile, somehow feeling less guilty.
* * *
"I'm all right, I'm all right," he reassures them. He holds Sha're for a moment with one arm, unwilling to remove the pressure from his scalp. "I just fell."
Sha're finally pulls away and slaps his arm. "Don't do that to me," she snaps. "You were gone so long."
Daniel removes the makeshift bandage, revealing the gash in his forehead. "I fell," he reiterates.
She gasps and makes him sit, calling on the others to bring water and clean cloths. Daniel relaxes, finally able to breathe again since waking up on the other side of the 'gate, cold from the rain and disoriented from the head wound. He'd wandered briefly, trying to find the Stargate, before he sat down long enough to clear his thoughts and gather his bearings. There was a reason the military had gone to Abydos with a team, Daniel realizes, a reason why the Abydonians travel in groups. There really is safety in numbers.
"I can't believe you are so foolish," Sha're mutters as she fusses with his head. "And you're cold and wet. Bring fresh robes," she calls over her shoulder to Skaara. "You are an idiot, you realize. Stubborn and pigheaded."
Daniel smiles up at her, possibly still a bit rattled. "You wouldn't love me otherwise."
Sha're softens momentarily, and he knows what she's thinking, knows that she's agreeing with him.
"I won't do that again," Daniel says. "The world was . . . dead." He closes his eyes briefly. "There was no one there, no life. I'd really rather forget about it. Going there alone was a mistake." He smiles hesitantly, looking up at her, hoping that this admission will be enough of an apology.
"I thought you were dead," Sha're whispers. She kisses the skin above his wound. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
Daniel pulls her to him, kissing her mouth, burying his face in her neck, not concerned with the sticky blood on his forehead. "I will always come back for you," he promises. "Just like I did when Ra was here. Nothing will keep me from you."
She strokes his hair and pets his back, and Daniel can hear the pulse in her throat, feel the beat of her heart beneath his cheek, the steady thrum that tells him he's home. But when the Stargate disengages behind them, he turns and looks at it.
"You can't leave it alone," she whispers. "You won't bury the chappa'ai."
"No," Daniel confirms, "but I won't go through again. For now."
She nods, pulling away slowly, dipping a cloth into a water basin. "You are still looking for something else, aren't you?"
His brow furrows and he shakes his head. "No, just—there's something else out there, looking for me."
Sha're dabs the cloth across his head, and won't meet his eyes. "One day you will find it, Dan'yel, and then your wandering heart will find home."
He wraps his arms around her waist, pulling her into his lap. "I'm already home," he says, but when he falls asleep that evening, he dreams of being an explorer among the stars, stepping through the Stargate and on to new worlds with a team by his side, Sha're, Skaara, and Jack, because this isn’t something he can do alone.
* * *
"Out back!" Jack calls through the propped open back door and steps back behind the grill.
Daniel locks the front door behind him, depositing the groceries and his bag in the kitchen, before snaring himself a beer from the cooler and joining Jack on the deck.
"Oh, perfect." Jack plucks the opened beer from Daniel's hand and takes a long pull, the hint of a bastard-grin on his lips. Daniel raises an eyebrow and leans against the porch railing as Jack pokes the charring steaks.
"Have to make sure it's completely dead," Daniel jokes.
"Not all of us enjoy the nearly raw food the locals foist on us off-world."
Daniel snorts and looks over Jack's neatly manicured lawn. "Did you get a lawn service or something?"
Jack arranges the meat on a plate and then joins Daniel by the railing. "After the whole 'to hell' thing, I thought it might be a good idea to keep the house looking," Jack gestures futilely with the barbeque fork, "normal in case there are other 'extended absences'."
Daniel nods, wishing for the beer Jack took from him because it might help wash away the ash taste of the memories from Netu. "It looks good," he says around a dry mouth.
"Yeah, the polyanthus are really coming in."
An amused smirk plays on Daniel's face despite the harsh memories. "Polyanthus?"
Jack pushes into his shoulder. "I have depths." He leaves Daniel on the deck, taking the steaks and the beer inside.
The polyanthus, apparently, fill the flowerbed in the back corner of the yard. The last time Daniel had been here—maybe three months ago, definitely before Sha're died—the corner had been nothing but dirt. Now with the flowerbed and freshly cut lawn, the yard was completely different.
He leaves the door open when he joins Jack in the kitchen, the cool spring breeze too nice to shut out. Jack already laid the table, a simple spread of paper plates and napkins.
"Hope you don't mind." He waggles a fork. "Grilled food never tastes right if it's not casual. Sit."
There's an open beer at Daniel's place—his preference even, not what Jack had in the cooler by the door.
"Should I expect this treatment every time I come over?" Daniel jokes.
Jack grins before pulling from his bottle. "Only if you promise to do the dishes."
Daniel snorts at the comment, thinking of how difficult it will be to throw away the plates and load the dishwasher with utensils.
"So, Hammond asked me to talk to you." Jack casually takes a bite of salad, and Daniel can only play off that casualness with a half-interested noise. "Just to check in with you," he continues. "Nothing serious. The General just wanted me to make sure you're doing all right."
"And that's why we're doing this?" Daniel is more incredulous than he means to be.
Jack sits back, scratching his neck. "I'm not playing spy versus spy with you. Just . . . if you want to talk, talk. Otherwise. . . ." Jack points to Daniel's plate. "There's more where that came from."
Jack focuses on his plate, vigorously cutting his steak, and Daniel can only blink at Jack's open-ended offer. Hammond had wanted Jack to check in, probably 'get to the bottom' of what was happening in Daniel's head, but Jack . . . Jack just offered friendship. Leave it to Jack to know exactly what Daniel needed, and exactly what would finally get Daniel talking.
"I opened the Abydos Stargate one time," Daniel says, casually taking a bite of the black yet strangely tender meat.
Jack quirks an eyebrow.
Daniel shrugs, smiling sheepishly. "I lied, I know. But I promised her I wouldn't talk about it. It was . . . a bad experience."
Jack gestures with his beer bottle, as if to say, "Go on."
"I was obsessed with it—"
Daniel rolls his eyes. "Sha're was terrified of what would happen. She thought Ra would come back." Daniel snorts at his own arrogance and his ignorant assertions that the Stargate was safe just because that's what he wanted. "But if I hadn't kept searching, hadn't unburied the 'gate . . . we wouldn't be here."
Jack nods, eyes narrowed. "Why tell me about it now?"
Daniel sits back, thinking of Sha're's beautiful smile and how she always knew him better than he knew himself. He slides his hand forward on the table, not quite reaching for Jack. "Because I finally found what I was looking for."
They don't admit anything, or talk about it any further, but when their fingers brush Daniel promises himself that he'll never go it alone again.