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His eight-year-old fingers are still chubby with baby fat. They only let him handle the artifacts they think he won't break, the less valuable finds. He thinks it isn't fair – he's much less clumsy now that he finally has glasses.

They didn't want him here, underfoot and too close to the priceless artifacts, but the babysitter was sick and there was no time to make new arrangements. He tried to help until his father got frustrated and sent him away.

The pointer finger of his left hand traces the hieroglyphs on the tablet in front of him, indentations made by a scribe thousands of years ago. He knows he shouldn't touch this, not without gloves, but maybe they'll care enough to notice.

************

Knowing it's a dream makes him cling tighter. Abydos was a world without showers and while Daniel grew to love Sha're's scent, she never smelled this clean. He knows, in that dream-way of knowing, that this memory of the softness of her hair, the firmness of her breasts is exaggerated, but he excuses himself because it's been too many years since he had the reality.

Sha're sighs and curls up into his body as he clings to her. He wraps arms and legs tightly around her, pressing as much flesh to flesh as he can, trying to shield her from the world. Even as he prays to stay here forever, he knows it will end all too soon.

"I must go, my Dan-yel," she whispers into his neck, breath ghosting over his pulse. She only laughs as he squeezes tighter, fading away into nothing within his arms just before he wakes to sweaty sheets and an empty house.

***********

SGC brings in three different counselors to work with Sarah. They move her from counselor to military officer to questioner, simultaneously putting her together and tearing her apart. Each time she becomes Sarah again they milk her for information until Osiris's ghost rears in her head.

Daniel sits with Sarah each evening in the tomb-like VIP quarters. She shatters in his arms, fragments spiraling away faster than he can collect them. It's like putting together an ancient piece of pottery, catching the edges on the pads of his fingers, finding where each potshard fits until he discovers the shape of the whole. By the time a dawn they never see lights the mountains, he always has her glued together.

Sha're, Skaara, Sam, Jack, Sarah have all been somewhere he has not. He'll never know the feel of an alien consciousness wrapped around his spine, stealing him away to be forever trapped in his own flesh. They'll never know the ecstasy of release from a physical body.

**********

Sam lies on her stomach, face turned away from him so all he sees is messy blonde hair that flattens a little with sweat near the temples and curls damply at the base of her neck. Daniel knows her eyes are open, staring at nothing in the dark.

His fingers, long and steady, trace hieroglyphs, letters, runes, ideographs into her back, fingertips rubbing against warm, smooth skin as he imprints the protective charms of twenty-three languages into her flesh. She doesn't move, doesn't shiver, barely breathes.

"Sam?" She stiffens at his voice, even though he keeps it pitched low in the silence of the bedroom. They aren't supposed to talk, but he's never been good at following the rules. Never been good at staying silent.

*********

They love him but they also love freeing history from the ground and sometimes he wants to shake them away from the dusty, dead past and make them just be parents. They found these artifacts over the summer, digging in deserts half a world away while he was shuffled between the spare bedrooms of three different family friends.

If he were older he might wonder if part of them sees him as half miniature research assistant and half stumbling block on their quest for knowledge. But all he knows is that when Alex at school talks about everyone doting over his baby sister, Daniel pictures canopic jars and death masks.

The statue is heavy in his hand and the crocodile mask grins at him without the tip of its nose. He balances it in his palm and imagines throwing it against the wall, smashed fragments scattering across the floor. Instead he hands it whole to his mother, who smiles her thanks before carefully taking it to add to the half-finished display case.

********

Sha're doesn't expect him to be perfect, to write award-winning papers, discover new linguistic connections, or make the archaeological discovery of the century. He thinks this is almost funny since telling the academic community about Abydos would do most of those.

Daniel is a night owl and Sha're often has to drag him, un-resisting, to their bed. When he loses himself in her, in her warmth and beauty and sheer joy of living, he marvels at a universe which brought him this perfection, this person who loves him for who he is, expects nothing more and nothing less. He promises to give her all she needs.

All she asks is that he love her completely, and all she gives is the same in return. He manages for a year. Later he finds irony in how badly he failed at a task that should be so elementary.

*******

Sarah used to want more than he could give. She wanted to parade her boyfriend, the brilliant new archaeological mind, around campus and bask in the glory of his discoveries. She wanted him to be constantly attentive in every detail of their relationship, to always place her ahead of his work.

Now she asks for nothing and, always skinny, feels so fragile she could shatter at the smallest wrong touch. Repaired artifacts always break in new places because the sealed area is stronger. One day he'll have patched so many cracks that she'll be all glue, no places left to fragment.

Only now that she asks for nothing can he give her what she needs. It will never be enough.

******

Sam asks more of him than anybody ever has and ever will, but she offers far more in return. She pushes his boundaries and abilities, asking that he save the planet, the galaxy, the universe, and sacrifice himself again and again. Standing by his side, she asks for nothing she does not willingly give.

Arrom was not lied to. They never came together before. When they finally do, the mingling is anti-climatic, an afterthought to a relationship that had already delved far deeper. They combine bodies that have grown both more and less real after death and symbiotes and downloaded consciousnesses, and relish in the alien distance along with the reality of rushing blood and surging heat.

The others would not understand, but it is not an infidelity to her feelings for Jack, the memory of his wife, her promise to Pete. Nothing truly changes between them and there always will be a place only the other can fill, just as there always was.

*****

The display case is done, and Daniel's mother even took some of his suggestions on how best to arrange it, when his father calls for her. She takes his small hand in her own and they share a smile as she leads him to the main room of the new exhibit. It makes him feel warm and happy deep inside.

They are proud of this exhibit and of their finds, and he is proud of them. He likes to watch his mother's face as she reverently pieces together a broken artifact, the way his father's forehead creases when he works on a translation. Someday maybe he'll love the past like they do. Someday maybe they'll be proud of him.

The structure is the centerpiece of the exhibit and only the cover stone is left to be assembled. Because they are letting him watch, he stands quietly to the side as they guide the heavy stone into place. When the chain creaks, his mother's knuckles whiten slightly around the blueprint, but she relaxes when his father's hand rests on her shoulder. Daniel thinks they are most alive here, surrounded by treasures from the past.

****

This is love and grief and relief and guilt and loss and discovery, and the heavier gravity of this alien world plasters him to the floor of the tent. Teal'c is an ignored presence behind him and the sounds of battle outside go unheard. His entire universe has focused to this single spot in space and time.

Sha're speaks quietly and her words wash over him with the beautiful simplicity of a desert. Daniel is lost in the reality lying before him, the smoking burn in her chest and the fatal knowledge in her eyes. All he can do is watch numbly as she fades.

Only after she is gone does he emerge from his fog enough to realize he can talk, can move his arms, can answer her and reassure her and love her. Only after it is too late to do anything at all. He still reaches, but can't quite touch.

***

When Sarah is released, Daniel takes her home with him. He cooks her dinner, tucks her into his spare bed, and sits with her until she falls asleep. She never steps into his bedroom, where Osiris visited night after night to use his mind for selfish purposes. He tries not to think Osiris got the idea from Sarah.

For three days she is a silent presence whenever he is home. She eats what he cooks, drags fingers along the spines of his books, and sits quietly as he rubs circles between her shoulder blades. The third night she pulls him into bed with her and sleeps curled against the wall so nothing touches him except the hand in his hair. He stares at the ceiling the entire night.

The fourth day he goes off-world and when he returns, alien pollen still clouding his glasses, his house is empty. A simple note on his table reads "Don't look for me." He doesn't.

**

He thinks, head pillowed on Sam's breasts, that it was inevitable. They couldn't avoid the slow slide from seeking each other out after a hard mission to finding new ways to help each other forget, if only for a while, that neither of them will ever fit into who they once were. His hand finds the muscles on her thigh as her fingers trace the scars that mark him as more soldier, less scientist, and she kisses him before he can forget he shouldn't talk.

It doesn't always happen. Sometimes he shows up at her door and she pulls him to her backyard where they lie on their backs to stare at the stars and discuss the secrets of the universe. Sometimes she appears at his door with a bottle of wine and a Marx brothers movie and they laugh until they cry.

On the bad nights there are no stars in the darkness, there is no wine, and there is no talking, laughing, or crying to shatter the silence. There is only need. Deep down, Daniel knows it will end, that one of them will be lost forever, or the presence of the other will become too much. He wonders if it might be what could finally break him.

*

The cover stone crashes with a sound he hears in his spine. He stands, silently gaping, while his brain refuses to understand, and the noise echoes in his ears long after it has stopped reverberating off the walls. It is the first, but will be far from the last, time the world pulls the foundation out from under Daniel's feet.