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Cultural Drift

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**

The tablet is old. Exactly how old, Daniel can't say, though he's fairly sure that when they brought it back from P3X-324 two years ago, he sent it off to the labs to be dated. A thousand years here or there would matter more if Daniel could place the tablet in some kind of cultural context, but there is none. They stepped through the gate and landed on an ancient piece of stone into which a civilization long dead or long gone had etched lines and shapes unlike any Daniel had ever seen; the rest of the planet was barren.

He should be working on the translations from their recent mission to P3X-477, but they are too easy to occupy his attention. It had been a lovely planet, actually; the Goa'uld had left it behind in the wake of Anubis' defeat and the natives had been enthusiastic about sharing their culture, their writings, and their homebrew. Daniel wasn't sure when he had last seen Sam laugh quite as hard as she had when Mitchell, after at least one glass too many, had inquired after the ingredients in the moonshine and found the response somewhat less than satisfying. On the next two trips through the gate, Mitchell had packed ipecac and immodium and they had embarked to Teal'c's amused smirk.

But the brewers' language was merely a variant on ancient Goa'uld, the people enslaved so long their original characters and utterances had fallen from use and memory, and Daniel can't focus on it.

This relic without a past fascinates Daniel, though it's on nobody's list of priorities and the time he spends on it—an hour or two off and on since they fell over it six days before the shit hit the fan and nothing was ever the same—would be deemed a waste of SGC resources. But Daniel likes the puzzle, likes the way the etching hasn't degraded over millennia though wind and rain and Goa'uld should have erased this language like they did its civilization. Likes to think that if he figures this out he will gain the barest insight into people he has never met and knows nothing about. A community that chose these lines to indicate meaning; chose this meaning as the last remnant of their lives.

He pulls it out from time to time, an hour or two off and on, because it reminds him of the days before.

Daniel turns the tablet over in his hands, seeking patterns in the lines. He peers at it—it almost looks like—.

SG-1 is paged to the briefing room, and he puts the tablet down. He runs into Sam in the hall.

"Hey," she says. "What's up?"

Daniel shrugs. "I think I've almost got it." She sends him a quizzical look over her shoulder as they step into the elevator. "That tablet from—."

"Yeah," Sam says, nodding. She remembers; how could she not? From the last mission before. Before Janet, before Jack, before everything. "Let me know when you figure it out."

They ride the rest of the way to level 28 in silence, and Daniel wonders if the tablet wasn't placed as a warning to errant travelers: Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

**

Jack's in town, but Daniel didn't know until he took his seat at the briefing table and General Landry wasn't at the head. Daniel looks down at the folder at his place, leafing through; there must be something of significant strategic value on P4X-579, because the only reason Jack would be here is if the president sent him, and the president doesn't send the Head of Homeworld Security to the SGC for ancient languages or potential scientific breakthroughs.

The briefing begins, but Daniel stops listening when Sam starts detailing their plans for this much weapons-grade naquadah.

SG-1 has a go, but not until sometime next week. Sam has to requisition something from Area 51, and SG-13 and its mining expertise won't be available until Major Thomas recovers from a sprained wrist. Daniel stays in his seat as everyone else leaves, talking together. He can't decide if he wants to roll his eyes or pat Mitchell on the back for his enthusiasm for everything. That was him, once.

Jack stands, raising an eyebrow in a gesture he surely learned from Teal'c.

"You're here," Daniel says, stating the obvious. He hasn't seen Jack in four months, and they've talked three times in that span, conversations that have all been cut short by klaxons or ambassadors or, once, a smoke detector objecting to burnt microwave popcorn.

Jack shrugs, waves a hand. "I go where they send me."

"Yeah," Daniel says. "In town long?"

Jack shoves his hands into his pockets, rocking back on his heels. "Nah," he says. "Day or two, maybe."

Daniel nods. "Can't function without you?"

"Something like that," Jack says, pursing his lips. "I got a thing, though. Phone call. The wheels of bureaucracy keep on—."

"I get it," Daniel says, holding up a hand to stop Jack before the metaphor continues and he is subjected to some kind of NASCAR imagery. "Catch up with you later?" It shouldn't be a question, but they've talked three times in four months, if you don't count a briefing about naquadah and if you do count two and a half minutes before the Japanese ambassador barged into Jack's office demanding an explanation about—Daniel doesn't know what, actually—and Daniel can't read the look in Jack's eyes.

Jack shakes his head and waves his hand. "Probably not," he says. "I got a thing."

**

Language is as old as civilization—or perhaps civilization is as old as language—but the Greeks were the first to consider it a discipline unto itself. Plato believed that the names for things stemmed from their very nature and he knew that a line on an ancient stone, whether warning or welcome, was not merely an exercise in communication but in cognitive realization and choice. He knew that words, and the grammatical structures that followed them, had meaning from which listeners or readers could infer more than mere content. There was truth in words and each word was immutable truth.

Perhaps that is why Daniel likes his ancient tablet, his dead languages; set in stone, the words are unmoved by time and wind.

Plato believed in absolutes: people were created from the dust of the earth and the metals that imbued their blood determined their character and their worth. Those soldiers, those workers, those golden philosophers; each had a place in his society, segregated but content in his lot. No one in the ideal Politeia wanted to be more or could grow beyond his metallurgic destiny; citizens like words, unchanging.

As much as Daniel doesn't want to appreciate the ideology, knows it is at best incomplete, he wraps himself in it. The philosopher king, thrust into a position he doesn't want because only he who does not seek the duties can exercise them, only the most golden of men—he stops himself, doesn't want to complete the thought. Daniel pushes away from his desk, climbs to his feet, and is in Sam's lab before he is aware of the impulse behind the move.

Sam is exactly where she should be, slouched over her laptop with her brows furrowed in concentration. "Hey," she says before he can greet her. She probably knew he was there before he did, and he likes that.

"Hey," he says, glancing around the room. There's a half-built or half-destroyed something on the lab table and every other available surface is covered in wires or paper or, most notably, equations scribbled onto the tabletop in smudged pencil. "How's it going?"

She spares him a glance. "You didn't pay any attention at the briefing," she accuses lightly, turning back to the computer and typing something in. Math, he supposes, but there are letters and symbols and he wonders if he thought of her work linguistically, he might understand it.

"No," Daniel says, drawing out the word. "Not really into—."

"A way to ensure our defense capabilities remain at their current capacity for another forty years?" It's a rebuke, but a soft one; she knows he understands the importance of such finds even as he finds them boring.

"That," Daniel says, coming to stand by her. He rests against her desk, folding his arms over his chest. "Jack's here," he says, and wonders what Plato would think of everything he isn't saying.

Sam nods. "Yeah," she says. "I think they wanted him to finalize the plans for securing the mining site. Why they don't just have—." She cuts herself off, and her eyes flicker up to meet his. "Yeah," she says again.

"I thought we could all get together," Daniel says, and as the words tumble through his lips he thinks that maybe he hopes that if Sam and Teal'c come, Jack will be able to make it. They were friends, are friends, of a certain sort. More like family, maybe, brothers who see each other at Christmas and care no less for each other though they've run out of things to say.

Jack transferred four months ago, but it's really been a year and a half, a language of silence between them.

"I can't," Sam says, bringing Daniel back. "I have to—," she trails off, poking furtively at her laptop. "This really has to get finalized before the general returns," she says. The note in Sam's voice isn't apologetic, Daniel thinks, and he wonders if maybe she doesn't want to see Jack, or if—and he likes this option better but finds it no less likely—she really is that enthusiastic about the half-life of the mineral deposits of P4X-579.

"Yeah," Daniel says. "I'll be—." He gestures toward the door, pushes away from her desk.

Sam's attention is already back on her computer.

**

It is 3:47 a.m. when Daniel has a breakthrough. He has spent hours tracing these symbols under his fingers, finding by touch what he has not by sight. Each third line, the same feeling if not the same look; a cadence he could hear if he knew what sounds the lines signified. A cadence as old as it is familiar; every civilization has it, Daniel has found, in its own way.

And God called the light Day and the darkness He called Night.

Not a warning, but a history. Their beginning, placed before the Gate on the occasion of their ending so that some wayward traveler would know that once lived a people with a past.

He will never know the exact words, not in the way he can still recite the stories of Abydos, gone now in the same way but never forgotten, but he will know the past. He will share the past.

Daniel jumps up from his desk, hands flailing wildly for his glasses, and races to Sam's lab, because he's figured it out, now, and she asked. "Sam!" he says, and he can hear his own excitement echoing through the room. "You'd never believe—."

The lab is dark. Paper everywhere, still, the laptop nowhere in sight. Odd, but not unheard of, for Sam to leave the base to sleep or work in a more comfortable chair. He smiles at that, because he should follow her example and leave his office more often. Still, they find their common ground on sleepless nights over stale pastry and problems that need the kind of solutions they can only reach riled up on exhaustion and adrenaline. He reaches for the phone, dials her home number.

Four rings. "O'Neill," the voice on the other end says, tired and annoyed and—.

"You're not Sam," Daniel accuses, because it's the only thing that comes to mind.

There is a long pause while, Daniel thinks, Jack parses that comment and who delivered it. "Daniel," Jack says, voice dangerously calm and suddenly much more awake. "Hang on."

Daniel hears rustling and a whispered groan before Sam takes the phone. "Colonel Carter," she says, though she must now know it is him, must know that he's had enough time—ten seconds, perhaps—to deduce that she's in bed and Jack is there with her and it's 3:54 a.m. and that unless the world is ending, there is nothing he can possibly say.

"Never mind," Daniel says quickly. "We can do this tomorrow."

He hangs up before she has a chance to respond.

**

Daniel still talks to Janet, but he's fairly certain those conversations are all in his head. He can hear her voice at its most gentle, but Janet's language was never in her words, but in her manner and her knowledge and her touch. Those marines who never spoke with her, didn't know her at all, mentioned her with nothing but respect; communication of a different sort.

Now he wishes he could see her face during their conversations. The last time he spoke to her they were both shouting and distracted, ducking staff blasts and worried about so many things that weren't their own safety. That was the last moment, and then she was dead.

Once, years ago, before, they met in the commissary, nursing cold coffee and headaches after another near miss for SG-1, and it was probably the middle of the afternoon but felt like early morning because he had been awake and under fire for three days.

"You should sleep," Janet said, nudging his cup with hers. "All this worrying won't get you anywhere."

Daniel shrugged. "I can't sleep," he said, sipping at the coffee because it was better than any of the pre-packaged crap they'd been living on, even if he was spitting grounds through his teeth back into the cup.

"They'll be fine," Janet said, and he wondered if she wasn't just as exhausted as he was. Hadn't been there, whatever planet it had been with all those Jaffa patrols guarding the gate with staff weapons and cannons and a hovering ha'tac, but had spent the last twelve hours on her feet. Another knee surgery for Jack, a broken arm for Sam, a concussion for Teal'c that Janet had insisted needed more attention than Junior could provide.

Daniel stared at his coffee. "We always are," he said finally, and there was nothing left in his cup but he swirled it in his hand anyway. "Always have been."

Janet's hand on his stilled his movements and he let the Styrofoam settle back on the table. "But?" she asked gently.

He laughed, then, that half-snort that is the hallmark of irony and exhaustion. "But when we're not?" he asked.

Daniel still isn't sure he knows the answer to this question, because they've still managed, every time and by nothing short of the skin of their teeth, to come back through that gate alive. Some days, he wishes he hadn't solved the mystery of the stargate, but then they would all be dead.

Janet had smiled. "Then we explore other options," she said.

Plan B, but he had no idea what she meant. He must've looked curious or quizzical or, as was his bent, terribly confused, because she shifted her hand on his, turning the palm over to study it. To avoid looking at him, he thinks now, but at the time he had believed in affection.

"Some people imagine life beyond the SGC," Janet said.

Daniel sat back in his chair. "You do?" he asked.

She shrugged. "Sure," she said. "More time to spend with Cassie, maybe meet someone whose life doesn't revolve around alien parasites or death or better ways to build explosives."

"Would it be better?" he asked her, because he didn't think, even then, that she was making a point about herself.

"Maybe," Janet said. "If I couldn't have this." She gestured expansively around the empty commissary. "Why?" she continued. "You don't ever think of something else?"

Now it was Daniel's turn to shrug, and he smiled into the Formica tabletop before shaking his head lightly. An unpublished academic, a geek. He wouldn't know how to shoot a gun, but he wouldn't know the sun beating down in the Land of Light, either, and he wouldn't trade one for the other.

"Most of us do," Janet said, finally, interrupting his musings. She sat back from the table, releasing his hand.

He was so tired, because he didn't stop, couldn't stop, the words that tumbled from his mouth. "What," he said. "You think Sam could give this all up? That Jack could?"

Janet shook her head. "No," she said. "Not willingly. But many more injuries like this one and Colonel O'Neill will be off the front lines. And some day, somebody's going to figure out that Sam's more valuable in a lab than firing a gun."

The end of SG-1, she meant. It had happened, of course, much the way Janet had predicted, but he hadn't thought of this conversation then, because he had Oma ringing in his ears and they went fishing and he realized, later, just how nice it had been.

"And then?" His voice was petulant, because he couldn't contemplate her words, the implications, the endings. He had lost Sha're by then, but he hadn't lost Janet. Hadn't lost Jack.

Janet shrugged, moved to stand from the table. "I think things will change," she said, glancing out the door toward her infirmary. "But I've got to get back, and you," she said emphasizing the word as if she had pointed at him in that way she had that he hated then and missed now, "you need to get some sleep." A small sparkle in her eye, one more comment before Janet slipped out the door. "That's an order, mister."

He stood at the table and watched her leave.

**

The words from which friend and enemy are derived are so similar that errant grammarians have long linked them together. Daniel knows that freond and feond are merely homophonic, but that knowledge doesn't help him today.

He barges in, and the office door bangs against the concrete wall with an unsatisfying thump. Jack looks up, unsurprised. "Daniel," he says.

"Jack." Daniel crosses his arms over his chest, stands before the desk that should not have been so messy after only a day's use.

"Daniel." Jack raises his eyebrows.

"Jack."

Jack looks away, shuffling through papers in what Daniel knows is an aimless gesture designed to refocus his attention and give him something to do. "You gonna be a dick about this?" Jack asks, standing.

"Are you?" Daniel returns.

"You're the one who barged in here," Jack points out. "And close the door."

Daniel turns, pulling the gaping door shut. "You were going to tell me," he says, because it should have been a foregone conclusion.

"At some point."

"Which was when?" Daniel asks. "Three days before the wedding?" The sarcasm is heavy, and Daniel wants to kick himself, not for the sentiment, but because he got that from Jack.

Jack rolls his eyes at what Daniel hopes is the absurdity of the question. "You don't get to dictate the terms of my life," Jack says.

"Oh, come on, Jack. I'm not trying to dictate a damn thing."

"Then why are you here, Daniel?" Jack says. "Because the way I see it, you're pissed because there's something in our lives that isn't about you."

"No, Jack," Daniel says, sighing and dropping into one of the uncomfortable chairs that faces Jack's borrowed desk. He shakes his head. "I'm assuming this isn't just some—." Daniel waves his hand, a gesture he hopes captures all the things that something between Sam and Jack would never be—casual, irrelevant, easy—and Jack's jaw clenches at the implication. "Didn't think so," Daniel says.

Jack doesn't respond, picks up a pencil and twirls it between his fingers before tossing it back onto the desk. The pencil bounces badly, and Daniel can see the tip break against something he assumes is important to someone else; a meaningless scratch of graphite on paper. Jack turns away, staring at a point on the gray wall.

The silence stretches between them, and Jack scuffs his foot against the floor, impatient or frustrated. "There something else you want to say, Daniel?" Jack finally asks.

"Because you have nothing to say to me," Daniel returns.

Jack spins around at that, jerking his eyes to Daniel's face, angry now. "You wanted a morning after phone call, is that what this is?" he accuses, looking closely for any reaction Daniel might have. Daniel doesn't know what Jack sees in his face, but he flinches a little under Jack's glare. "Because you're not my best girlfriend, and we're not sixteen."

Daniel lets out a bark of laughter. "Thank you for that image, Jack," he says.

"You would have hated me at sixteen," Jack says, almost wryly, but his eyes are still dark.

"Probably," Daniel responds and wants to smile, but neither of them is making this easy. It isn't what they do. "But—."

"No," Jack says, interrupting firmly. "It doesn't work like that, not with this."

It's supposed to be Jack's final word on the subject, but Daniel doesn't like it. "And that's it?" he says.

Jack rolls his eyes again, letting out a sigh. "Look, Daniel," he says. "I'm sorry—very sorry—that you found out like that. But I'm not gonna apologize to you for a damn thing." Daniel hears the command: Let it go. Now.

"Yeah," Daniel says. "Whatever." He takes a deep breath, lets it out.

He wonders when he last really talked to Jack; he has always dated the rift from that moment when Jack got that first star, when his obligation and pride and stubborn hope took him away from Daniel's side—and Teal'c's and Sam's and theirs—to somewhere they couldn't tread. But maybe it was before then. A time when Daniel wasn't really there and Jack was dying over and over again and there was nothing either one of them could do.

And even then, the language between them has always been one of glances and gesture, and Daniel's never been very good with that. He needs sentences to parse and categorize, words in which to find truth.

Daniel has never followed Jack's orders, not really, but this is a fight he will never win. He takes a deep breath. "You ever hurt her, I'll kill you, you know," he says. And if Daniel's tone isn't quite as conversational or easy as he wants it to be, Jack pretends not to notice.

Instead, Jack laughs, a sharp, rare sound. "I ever hurt her, she'll kill me," he says, and Daniel can see the barest smile in Jack's features.

"Yeah," Daniel says again, watching as Jack taps a finger against the desk before settling back into his chair.

Jack looks at the paper spread before him, picking up the broken pencil and spinning it once more. "We done?" he asks.

Daniel snorts. "Yeah, Jack," he says. "We're done."

**

Before it meant family, famulus meant servant. It evolved, as words do, to indicate those who served the same household, those under the same roof. And it evolved again, to mean those joined by bond or blood.

He has no kin in the true sense of that word (cyn, kundr, kind; family, son, child, and back again into modern English usage), but he is joined by a bond he could never explain. Family: he serves them and they return the favor; not obligation or a shared roof, but love. Each of them, the old them, the them that makes Mitchell a little wide-eyed, the them about whom legends will be written, they are his kin.

Daniel was awake at 3:47 in the morning, translating an ancient tablet from a dead culture, and he thinks there's nothing legendary about that.

He hesitates in the doorway, head down and hands jammed into his pockets. But Sam's got that uncanny knack that she shares with Jack and Teal'c and probably Mitchell, and she heard his breathing or his thoughts. She says, "You called?"

"Uh, yeah," he says. "The translation from P3X-324. I figured it out." He pulls his hands from his pockets, but doesn't know where to put them. "It's their creation story," he says.

Sam nods, still staring at the computer, but Daniel notices that her fingers are still and her vision isn't focused. "Cool," she says.

"I thought so," he says, because it is cool, even if he wouldn't have chosen that word, because he wouldn't have called her at three anything in the morning if it wasn't. She nods again, and moves her hands off the keyboard and into her lap, holding that position for a moment before turning her head over her shoulder to look at him sidelong. Waiting, because he's not here about P3X-324 or its mythology.

The silence hangs between them. Though she is someone whose life is built on constant activity, Sam can sit completely still with ease. Jack can do it, too, but only under duress, and Sam's calm in quiet moments always surprises Daniel. He moves into the room, and his footsteps echo on the poured concrete floor. Billions of dollars in their budget, and yet the whole complex is concrete and steel.

"So," he says, and Sam raises an eyebrow. He thinks she knows that she has—that she and Jack have—shattered his conceptions about the way things are, though he refuses to consider the way things should be. SG-1 is all he has, and it used to be like that for all of them.

"So?" Sam echoes, turning to face him.

"Yeah," Daniel says. "You and Jack, then?" She nods but does not blush. She carries none of the uncertainty she had with Pete, and Daniel relaxes a fraction. "How long?" He takes another step into the room.

Sam shrugs one shoulder. "A while," she says. He would like to think of it as a phrase without meaning, words imbued with little truth. Yet Daniel knows, as Plato did, that every word had a purpose; Sam's is to avoid, perhaps to spare Daniel an answer he doesn't want to hear. But the truth of the words yet unspoken cannot be denied, and he pushes her to answer.

"A long while?"

She narrows her eyes at him for that. "Daniel," she warns.

He holds up his hands. "I don't want dates, Sam," he says, thinking about it. Despite Jack's crack about morning after phone calls, he can't think of information he would appreciate less.

His feelings must make it to his face and he wonders how disgusted he looked just then, because she raises an eyebrow. "A few months," she says.

Daniel shifts, steps a bit closer. "Good months?" he asks.

She ducks her head to her chest, and though he can barely see it, he knows what smile she's wearing. It's beautiful, and she nods. "Yeah," she says, almost a whisper.

"Okay," he says, and maybe it is. Maybe they deserve this. Something that's not about all of them.

She raises her head, fixes him with a sharp look. "No, it isn't," she says. "You don't think so."

He shrugs a little, finally close enough to lean against her desk. He looks down at the equations and notes etched into the tabletop. "Why now?" he asks, because he always thought—no. He never thought about them, not really, because whatever might have been there was so much less important than everything else they were doing. Saving the world. Teal'c kept a count, and it kept rising, and they did it together.

"Why not now?" Sam asks, interrupting his thoughts and turning away from him.

"I never knew it was that big a deal," he says. He knows them better than he knows anyone, better than they know themselves, and they return the favor. It's what makes them—made them, made them—a good team, the best. But he never knew.

Sam smiles at that, a quiet, ironic look that doesn't sit well on her face. "Then we fooled you almost as well as we fooled ourselves," she says. She looks back to her laptop, where something about naquadah blinks on the screen. She doesn't begin to type, but traces a finger around a key. "We've been falling in and out of love with each other for years," she says.

"And now?" Daniel prompts, because he doesn't want to think about the past that he missed while he translated the writings of civilizations he will never know about people he will never love.

She doesn't answer his question. Maybe there isn't an answer other than the one she's already given, or maybe it's long and complicated and she'll never tell him because she's like Jack in that way, and they don't talk about emotions or share conversations from behind closed doors. He isn't sure he really wants to know, thinks maybe he knows everything he needs to; they're both smiling, though not at him.

"You going to be pissed at us for a while?" Sam asks.

"Yeah," he says. "It's just—you could've said something."

She looks up, directly at him. "Maybe," she says, before turning back to her computer. "But you'd still be pissed at us." He wants to protest, but she's dismissed him as effectively as Hammond ever did.

**

"When you first ascended, Samantha Carter expressed to me that though she understood your desire to achieve something greater for yourself, she would have preferred you remain behind. Because you were one of a few people who understood what we mean to each other and what we had experienced together."

"What are you saying, Teal'c?"

"Do not begrudge them their happiness. And do not infer from it that their affection for you has waned, Daniel Jackson. It has not."

Teal'c leaves as quietly as he entered. Teal'c has been on Dakara, building a new society from the remnants of the old, moving forward to achieve something that was once impossible. A past without a civilization; a culture with a future. The words they use have not changed, but freedom means something more to a people who can believe in it.

Some future linguist on some future planet in some future where Teal'c and Bra'tac are successful will trace the history of the Jaffa on tablets and papers and great oratory recorded for future generations. They will point to Teal'c as the man behind the movement. They will not know that it was SG-1 who built the foundations upon which the free Jaffa society thrived, but Daniel does not mind. Their triumphs are more important than any legend.

Teal'c is gone now more than he is not, and though she has fit back into her space as if she never left, Sam went away for weeks. Jack transferred four months ago, but it's really been a year and a half.

Daniel ascended a little less than two years before he stepped on a tablet on P3X-324, which was six days before Janet died, which wasn't so long before they lost Jack. In all his concern for what came before, for the origins of the words, Daniel never wanted to think about what came after, the sentences they might form.

**

The mining plans have been finalized and Jack is leaving. Daniel hovers outside the door. He doesn't mean to eavesdrop.

"Daniel freak out at you?" Jack asks.

"A little," Sam responds.

There is a pause, and he wonders if they know he's there, listening. Probably, but he can't bring himself to move.

"He'll come around," Jack states.

"I know," Sam says.

Daniel walks away.

**

There can be no language without society, Daniel knows, because one person need not form shapes in the sand or with his lips when there is no one with whom to communicate. Language requires at least one other.

The philosophy he so loves, not only the Platonic ideals, but conceptual and associative language, synonymy, truth-conditional theories of meaning—these concepts would not exist, could not exist, without at least a unit of two individuals that needed to communicate.

And the language he so loves requires something Plato refused to acknowledge but that those who followed him understood innately: the truth of a word can change over time. This philosophy, the one he would like to reject in favor of that older, less studied ideal of immutable truth where the name of a thing, the sense of a word, the path a man will take in his journey, is derived from unyielding innate characteristics—this philosophy concerns itself with the way a word evolves, the way a culture begins to shape sounds previously unheard in response to events previously unimagined.

Daniel has spent his time on the past, on truth unchanged because it could not be changed. He has ignored the truths that have developed, but even Plato, for all his insistence on a world unmoving, came to understand that words and language and the people who used them were influenced by context.

Plato began the study of linguistic theory, wrapped his ideas in forms and stone, but in the intervening years others built upon it, made it their own. Not semantic differences—and Daniel would laugh at the use of that word, so ironic for a man in his field but he has no one to laugh with. This isn't a discussion, isn't a conversation, because those, like language itself, require at least one other person and he is alone in his office.

He wonders if the thoughts he shares with Janet would qualify to anyone as discussions, and he thinks, perhaps, they do not. The words he doesn't say to Jack probably do.

But what he wants to say to both of them has changed. Ever-evolving, the words between them; the great tragedy of P3X-324 is that its people, now nothing more than the dust of their own determining ores, never had that chance.

They have a language, all of them who remember before, a language of silent gestures, shared emotion, inside jokes. Daniel hates the Simpsons, but he can never bring himself to change the channel when he finds it on his old TV, because he's still working through Burns as Goa'uld, because he isn't talking to Jack. And he doesn't know much about science—certainly not of the equations that look like sentences that Sam types into her laptop—but he will always think of her when he hears the phrase theoretically possible.

He wonders if she calls him Jack. He knows he calls her Carter. The meaning of the word has changed, and there is a theory for that, too, one tied to social evolution and cultural drift. Now a referent, affectionate and respectful and unique.

Noises and lines, and perhaps adding to the lexicon does not degrade the language but improves upon it.

**

She's tinkering with the half-built or half-destroyed something—naquadah reactor, maybe, if it's a new and improved version he hasn't seen yet. Doesn't look up or acknowledge him in any way.

"I'm sorry," he says.

"I know," Sam replies, turning the wrench in her hand, tightening a bolt. "But I'm not the one you need to tell."

**

Two rings. "O'Neill." Tired, but not asleep, and Daniel doesn't know what time it is.

"You're not Sam," Daniel says.

"Neither are you," Jack replies. "More's the pity." And Daniel laughs at that, listens to Jack shuffling through his house. He opens his mouth to speak, but Jack gets there first. "That was pretty quick," Jack says

"You ever hurt her, I'll kill you, you know," Daniel says.

This time it's Jack that laughs. "I know, Daniel," he says. "Don't worry."

They talk about nothing.

***