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A Star to Steer By

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#...We might have made a miscalculation,# Selmak admitted reluctantly, trying not to gape in shock at the impossible display of telekinesis. It helped that it was Colonel O’Neill sitting there, defiant and smirking, waiting for just that. Lips thinning, she drew their body up straighter.

She had been certain that this could not be a goa’uld. Not having a naquadah signature… It was impossible. If the System Lords got it into their heads to find a way to create an undetectable ashrak, the Tok’ra were likely done for.

This was unprecedented, and terrifyingly fascinating.

#You think there’s a branch of the family that can hide that signature?# Jacob sounded skeptical, and she appreciated that. His cynical moments could be frustrating, but it also meant he had a sharp eye for flaws, especially in logic.

#We have probably heard stranger things.# It was no answer and they both knew it, but she was still trying to process what she had seen. It was of all things the most impossible that had convinced her. When this General had levitated the penlight to himself, Colonel O’Neill’s eyes had glowed almost precisely in the way a goa’uld’s would, though the irises had also been lit glowing blue, instead of becoming backlit circles. It had been so offhand, not played up in the least.

#Ribbon devices also don’t give that kind of precision,# Jacob pointed out, and she bit back a sigh. Little added up, and she was even more uncomfortable with the resulting picture than if this was indeed a shapeshifter, or holographic disguise, or any number of other things. For one thing, in her panic about an ashrak, System Lord, or some other stripe of goa’uld being loose in Stargate Command, she’d been rude, even offensive. Damn.

#We’re off to a wonderful start, aren’t we,# she commented, feeling a headache forming.

“Well.” Dr. Fraiser cleared her throat, breaking the delicate silence. “It, ah, will take a bit for the MRI results to be ready, but the ultrasound was pretty clear. There’s a goa’uld in there.”

“Thank you!” O’Neill grumbled.

The doctor hesitated, then glanced over at the man. “Or is ‘symbiote’ considered more acceptable?”

That impressive, subtle transition occurred again. “Jedi, please,” Kenobi said. “It is both my species and my affiliation.”

“How is it that you don’t need a ribbon device?” Sam asked, shaking her head in disbelief and remaining admirably dedicated to the newest wrinkle. “There’s very little evidence for innate telekinesis in pretty much any of the cultures we’ve run across.”

Kenobi raised his bound hands, giving them an annoyed expression when he couldn’t readily reach his chin. “Training? Lack of exposure to this naquadah? I don’t know. It would not surprise me if these ribbon devices focused innate power, rather than generating it, but I’ve never run across them before.”

Sam seemed to think the Jedi enough of a neutral figure that she could take a step back and not keep her firearm leveled at him. “I haven’t been able to determine the ‘how,’ but we certainly know the ‘what.’ And straight up TK – especially that delicately – is a new one for a goa’uld. Jedi. Sorry.”

Dr. Fraiser let out a soft noise. “I have an idea.” She cast a speculative look around the occupied room, then met Kenobi’s eyes. “As far as I’m concerned, you’ve proven your credentials. However, for purposes of comparison, healing done by ribbon device looks very distinctive. Perhaps if we could get one of your men in here, you’d be willing to demonstrate that?”

Damned if the Jedi didn’t give off a faint air of amusement. “You believe me capable of that?”

“You aren’t?” the doctor challenged, and she got a bright smile for it.

“I would find that reasonable, and a lovely gesture of goodwill. Admittedly I’m also curious about the results. Please, let’s.”

Daniel was braced against the table, face in hands and the world a fuzzy presence of white noise beyond the sound of his breathing. Maybourne was probably still in the room, scribbling away at notes, and Daniel was hoping the man would just go away and leave him alone for a while.

His head hurt, both from the coffee and the bizarre Jaffa. His body had gone from ‘weighted down’ to ‘stuck underwater,’ and breathing took too damn much effort.

He really, really needed some sleep.

Or a few espressos.

A touch on his shoulder jerked him out of the numb state that might have been a twenty-second catnap, and he looked up at the airman standing next to him, concerned expression on his face. The man was saying something, meaningless syllables, which Daniel finally realized was English.

Ah. Right. Not Ancient. He held up a hand, scrubbing his face with the other and inhaling sharply. “Sorry, what?” he asked, only somewhat sure he was speaking the same language.

From the way the man looked apologetic and concerned, Daniel probably was, and it wasn’t the first time the soldier had repeated words. “Dr. Jackson, you’re wanted up in the infirmary.”

The flare of anger was sharp, but exhaustion pulled it back down, leaving dull resentment and frustration that yet again Dr. Jackson was the weedy useless academic who could not handle himself and needed everyone else on the whole fucking planet to mind his business. “I told Janet that I’m fine.”

If anything, the soldier looked even more apologetic. “Sorry Doc, but they need you there to translate between prisoners.”

Prisoners. Infirmary. Scheiße. “I didn’t think any of them were injured that badly.”

There was something off about the way the man was standing, but he couldn’t figure out what. “We’re taking the worst injured one for a checkup.”

Worst injured. The guy with the arm. Mohawk. Sideburns like it was the seventies. Zeffir, that was it.

That made no sense.

“Zeffir wasn’t hurt that badly. And you said prisoners, plural – who else?”

Yeah, the airman was shifting uncomfortably, like he had too much sand in his boxers. Both he and Daniel jumped when Colonel Maybourne almost growled. “It’s the damn goa’uld, isn’t it.”

Fuck. Maybourne was still there. And –

Daniel blinked. “What the hell is Jack doing in medical with the goa’uld?”

The airman had pulled himself up almost to attention. “I really couldn’t say, Dr. Jackson. I’m just supposed to fetch you.”

Maybourne’s smile was cold. “Let’s get moving, Jackson.”

They were halfway to Medical by the time it sank in that he’d made a mistake. The soldier hadn’t meant for Maybourne to come along. Whoops. Well, too damn late now.

Daniel stumbled a little as he went into Medical, Maybourne marching in and yammering at Janet. It was Janet, this was the Infirmary; she’d be fine.

It was Jack that concerned him. Jack sat on one of the examination tables, holding a penlight of all the damn things. There were a batch of cut zip ties on the table next to him, and Sam and her dad were standing nearby, both with weapons ready but neither of them on edge.

It was like some unholy farce, with the role of Jack O’Neill being played by a poor understudy. His posture was all wrong, the expression was all wrong, the –

What the hell. The eyes were all wrong, too. They didn’t have the slightest bit of glow, either, which made no sense.

Hell, the way everyone was sitting around like they were waiting for the movie to let people in to sit down made no sense. Daniel desperately wanted to hit something, or have something try to hit him, because as un-fun as violence could be, at least it made sense.

The clone’s entrance disrupted the fragile weirdness. Due to his injuries he wasn’t cuffed, but he had three MPs around him, and they at least had the sense to be ready to use their guns.

It was strange, how the man’s posture went from stoic military precision to a slightly tense, but relived slump on seeing Jack.

No. The goa’uld.

Zeffir let out an oath. =General? Is that you?=

The goa’uld hopped off the table with a smile that was too small, didn’t touch enough of the face the way Jack’s did. =No, it’s Vos and now I am required to kick your ass.=

Daniel blinked. He shouldn’t be hallucinating yet, should he?

Zeffir looked relieved. =It’s good to see you, General.=

...No, no this really was happening. Daniel took a careful step back, removing his glasses and giving them an absentminded scrub on his shirt. Visual details weren’t important here, body language and words were. They’ll know, an ugly voice whispered in the back of his mind. Jack knows you can see reasonably well without the glasses, and it will be able to read his mind and know He blinked instead of shaking his head, squashing that voice as ruthlessly as he could. Now was not the time for doubts like that.

He had to move quickly, to get his glasses back on before his hands were shaking too visibly.

The goa’uld motioned his Jaffa over. =So. How are the accommodations?=

Zeffir gave a one-sided shrug as he sat where the goa’uld had been. =Spacious enough, but everyone is starting to twitch a bit. Rex is not happy.= The Jaffa gave the goa’uld a cautious look as it started to unwrap his bandages. =Speaking of the bantha in the storage locker, how, ah, are your accommodations?=

Bantha. Daniel took mental note; that was a new one. Name? Animal? Religious object?

Far better to consider the linguistics of that than what the Jaffa was talking about.

The goa’uld made a small humming noise, bobbing his head a bit. Not quite a Jack move – not casual enough. =Jack and I are making this work, but feel free to tell Rex that this is not long term in the slightest, and Jack wants to interject a significant amount of profanity to that.=

Zeffir looked relieved again, his arm held in place but the rest of him slumping back to the casual pose he’d had in the interrogation room. He let out a sigh and the ritual oath of thanksgiving again. =I am not the one you heard it from, but if Rex doesn’t ask for a transfer of allegiance you need to check him for serious head injuries.=

The goa’uld went still for a moment, then grinned. It was – what the hell, it looked almost shy. That was so very, very wrong, never mind that sort of a smile on Jack’s face. =You think so, do you?=

That earned him a reproving look, which was even odder. =I lost a bet before last freeze and ended up on scutt duty ferrying candidates to the Temple. Fives still owes me money from that trip, and I saw him after he and Walker in the Sky partnered up. Never seen such stupid grins as them, but for the once.=

The attempt to hide a smile was all wrong, and didn’t work on Jack’s face at all. =Do shut up. I do not have to heal you, you know.=

The Jaffa perked up, while Daniel went still. Wait, what? What were they doing? And why? Who authorized giving a goa’uld a damned ribbon device? =Someone finally explained bacta?=

The grin in response was impish, almost proper on the face. =No, I have to prove I am a Jedi.=

Of all things, that made the Jaffa sober. =Balding and Bitter over there won’t like it. He’s been trying to get any information he can claw away.=

=Mm.= Neither of them once glanced over at Maybourne, but when even Daniel in his state thought the description was obvious- well. =Hold still so the Healer can see what I’m doing.= The goa’uld moved to the side, looking like it was being gentle as it pulled Zeffir’s arm straight, turning the limb so the raw staff blast wound was topmost.

Daniel wasn't sure what bothered him more - the goa’uld’s pretense of caring about his Jaffa’s comfort, or the Jaffa’s stoic acceptance of pain.

Janet moved in, watching closely as the goa’uld moved a naked hand above the Jaffa’s arm. =Balding and Bitter is greedier than a Hutt and feels worse than Hondo. Not as erratic, but certainly that self-serving. I am aware of the dangers.=

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck the goa’uld’s eyes were finally glowing, including a brilliant blue through the irises which last Daniel knew goa’uld didn’t do what was this –

Daniel made a soft noise as the mangled flesh of the Jaffa’s arm started to repair, as if a ribbon device was actually in use. This was not possible. This could not be happening.

=Please tell me we don’t need to purchase weaponry from him, too.=

Daniel yanked his eyes up from the spectacle to see the goa’uld give his Jaffa a long suffering look. =You are never going to let me live that down, are you.=

=Hondo,= the Jaffa said plaintively. =Absolutely not.=

This was not how the universe was supposed to work. Daniel watched as the goa’uld possessing Jack grinned a little, continuing to move his hand over the clone’s arm. It was slower than a ribbon device’s healing, however this was happening.

He felt completely adrift, the underwater sensation increasing as a goa’uld acted compassionately towards a Jaffa that didn’t seem to be brainwashed but sure as hell acted like it. A goa’uld possessing Jack who said–

Daniel scrubbed a hand through his hair, trying to ground himself on something, anything. This. Was. Madness.

=There,= the goa’uld declared. =How’s that?=

Zeffir flexed his arm, twisting his whole body to check his range of motion. =Good. Damnable stupid waste of healing. Bacta– =

=Would stink for a long time in here. Worse than on the Resolute One.=

The Jaffa paused to consider, then nodded. =The system of airing is awful.=

Maybe he was in the hallucination phase. This was too fucking surreal, too insane, just – the system lord and his Jaffa were joking around and complaining about the air flow.

=So.= Zeffir gave the goa’uld a mischievous grin. =Can you get the cute Healer to check my abdomen again? She only seems to be interested in my arm.=

Said goa’uld didn’t look impressed. =I can stab you with something.=

The grin only got cheekier. =No you can’t; they would flail like gungans if you do. I love this diplomatic crap.=

The attempt the goa’uld made to frown was an absolute failure. =You have been learning far more negotiation from Anakin than is good for any of us.=

Zeffir shook his head. =Padmé. She would find a way to stab me and make it work.=

=And that is why she is a Senator, and we mere mortals need to behave well.= The goa’uld turned, and looked over at Daniel. “I hope we’ve been minding our manners well enough to meet your standards, Dr. Jackson?”

Daniel went still. The question, in a polite tone with a funny accent that was almost Queen’s English, was amused, friendly. It was inviting him to join in the bantering conversation.

He was having none of that.

The goa’uld frowned, then his posture changed and his eyes faded from that strange blue to Jack’s normal brown. “Shit Danny,” it said, imitating Jack flawlessly, “when’s the last time you got some sleep?”

Selmak’s lips thinned as Dr. Jackson looked at O’Neill for a moment, then turned and walked out without a word.

“Great,” Colonel O’Neill muttered, hands going to hips and a look of bafflement crossing his face. “What’d I say this time?”

Dr. Fraiser shook her head, glaring at everyone as if they were personally responsible for cluttering up her infirmary. “Well, I couldn’t follow most of what you said, but I can confirm – this type of healing is consistent with healing done by a ribbon device.”

#...We really might have made a miscalculation,# Selmak muttered, wondering how much worse this day could get. Wonderful. It had been awhile since she’d been involved in causing a mess of this magnitude, rather than cleaning it up. It looked like some serious apologies might be in order.

#Doesn't mean the rest isn't crap,# Jacob reminded her stiffly.

#You don't believe that any more than I do. I just…don't understand HOW.#

All she got from him was the sense of unease with a hint of wonder, tinged with a cold calculation of the old soldier who wanted the abilities of a ribbon device without the potential problems of actually carrying one.

She bit back a moment of amused fondness. As much as she liked him being her host, there were times when Jacob was such a damned General.

“It’s settled, then.” Everyone turned to look at Maybourne, who had his arms crossed and a grim expression on his face. Even the Jaffa was watching him warily, which given his warnings about “Balding and Bitter” was no surprise.

Maybourne glanced around at his audience, and lifted his chin. “We have an invading goa’uld, who brought a military force here, and it not only compromised the best and brightest of the SGC’s lead team –”

“Hey, excuse you,” Jack snapped, looking more irked that Selmak would expect.

She was not however surprised that Maybourne ignored Jack. “–and has routinely been proven to possess not only unknown capabilities way beyond the scope of SGC’s ability to handle, but also that it can lead you all around by the nose.”

O’Neill looked to be a hair away from protesting with more than words. Sam wasn’t too happy. Dr. Fraiser looked like she wanted to hit something, and the Jaffa looked ready to help.

Selmak knew the Jaffa didn’t understand a single word that was being said around him, and still, the sheer damn loyalty he showed, the camaraderie that Selmak had difficulty conceiving of coming from any being but a host –


#You ever just want to yell ‘kree’ and bring that fucker to heel?# Jacob groused.

#You know he'd only mistake that order and try shooting us.#

#Gives a good reason to return fire.#

Such a damn soldier. She couldn’t quite tell if Jacob meant it. #Unfortunately, GOD doesn't outrank Maybourne enough to get his attention, and I think your Colonel O’Neill there is in pretty deep trouble.# She took a deep breath, standing tall as Maybourne strutted a few paces towards O’Neill. #I'm about to do something stupid, and everyone's going to dislike us more than usual.#

#A whole three seconds worth of warning,# Jacob said, dry and pretending awe. #More than I usually get.#

“I was unaware that you would call a friendly force looking for shelter from a common enemy ‘invaders.’” She let disdain curdle in her words, pitching it so that it was an unequivocally Tok’ra voice shattering the tension.

Maybourne rounded on them, giving her and Jacob a look as if they were less than scum. “It’s always rich hearing you get high and mighty.”

#Mine!# A swift head-dip, and Jacob was glaring right back, the military bearing practically a cloak around them. “Colonel, in case you’ve forgotten, I didn’t leave this military, I just took an alternative career path. You wanna reconsider what you just told a superior officer?”

That only made the man hesitate for a slight moment, pity. Then Maybourne stepped up close, dropping his voice in the mockery of privacy and to lend an extra little threat to his tone. “You snakes are all in this together, so don’t think I’m not well aware that you’re just as compromised as he is!” He jabbed a finger towards O’Neill, and Selmak used her disdainful look at it to visibly swap control. “I will not stand for this sort of threat to –”

“Stargate Command?” she demanded, tone just as cool but projecting for all to hear. “America? The world? Colonel, I lead the Tok’ra. We have been declared friends and allies of Earth, so if you really want to create the biggest interstellar diplomatic incident you can imagine, go right on talking. In the meantime.” She turned to face the – oh, fang fracture, it was the goa’uld again. How does he do that eye transition? It was nicely subtle, and to be able to travel anywhere and not need a very visible ribbon device which was a death sentence if found with a non-goa’uld–! “It...seems we owe you an apology. We have never encountered a fellow symbiote we could not detect before. It seemed far more likely that you were something else in disguise.”

Maybourne sputtered, while the goa’uld held her eyes. The control to use O'Neill’s very open face to convey closed off distrust and disdain was…impressive. Not reassuring, but impressive.

Unfortunately, it also gave Maybourne enough time to rediscover words. “Which is yet another reason why —”

It was Jacob’s reflexes that had them turning and snapping at the man from a position of Military Authority, but it was all Selmak’s carefully crafted Tok’ra hauteur in her dual-tone roar. “This is a goa’uld who has pledged to fight the System Lords! He has proven his identity to our satisfaction, though multiple means, and he has been consistent about his claims! By all our standards, save proof under fire, which I think multiple dead Jaffa not three floors away substantiate, this is a Tok’ra.”

The silence held for a delicate moment, even Maybourne taken aback enough to be quiet.

“If your concern is that a potential saboteur cannot be limited here in SGC, then I would like to remind you that we Tok’ra are well used to the notion of having to limit the activities of a goa’uld who is suspect. As allies to the Tau'ri, we are willing to offer access to those facilities, but in the meantime we do not appreciate an ally being treated like a System Lord who waltzed through the gate blasting all and sundry”

Jacob snorted. #Ten bucks he goes purple before he realizes what's best for him#

#Done. Easy money.#

Their usual joking aside, Selmak was worried that the…Jedi, if that was the title he would continue to claim – wouldn’t take well to being adopted. She watched Maybourne, who sputtered his way through regulations which she was just as happy to headdip and let Jacob shoot down.

Sam meanwhile had the “really, Dad?” look they’d gotten used to. The Jaffa still looked ready to murder something, or more likely end up between his leader and anything else. Dr. Fraiser and the various guards were watching with military-trained, neutral expressions she’d never quite figured out how to read.

The Jedi, however, looked almost amused. There was still a tenseness around his eyes, but he stepped forward and returned her nod of recognition. “My thanks, Selmak of the Tok’ra. I hope the change in venue is not required, but your gracious offer is quite appreciated.”

That managed to cut through Maybourne's ranting, because it had an official ring to it, a declaration of a united front that she could see made the Jedi squirm. That was all right; she was used to that sort of enemy-of-my-enemy-but-I-still-hate-your-fucking-guts politics.

#That's another ten you owe me,# she informed Jacob as she head-dipped her way back to the forefront.

#Add it to my rent.#

The Sith made his skin crawl, even as Obi-Wan tried to keep a calm, reasonable facade.

It did not help in the least that Jack was sputtering all sorts of mental invective that basically came down to “that is not a family I want anything to do with thanks so much bye!”

Obi-Wan suspected he would’ve been doing the same, if he hadn’t been able to feel the lessening of the Dark side, the Sith’s angry defensiveness melting into cautious curiosity, a willingness to learn, an interest in understanding. Thankfully, while the offer had been made, and appreciation spoken, nothing was agreed to.

As abhorrent as being named a Sith was, the notion of leaving his men at the mercy of Maybourne appealed to him even less.

It is just a name, he reminded himself. Jack has sworn these are allies. First blushes are not final decisions. Force, but this was ugly.

“Colonel Maybourne,” the Sith finally declared, “we are clearly at an impasse. Our fellow Tok’ra –”

Obi-Wan wasn’t sure if it was the mention of more Tok’ra, or the implication that she considered Obi-Wan to be one of them, but it was too much for the local. “This is not over,” he growled, glaring first at Selmak, then around the room. “Do not for one minute think that your usual approach of blatant disregard for logic, reason, and facts is going to get you anywhere.” He turned and stormed out, leaving an uncomfortable silence.

=Told you he wouldn’t like it,= Ion finally declared.

=Should have wagered some credits on it,= Obi-Wan mused back, trying not to twitch as attention sprang back to them. He forced a polite smile, nodding to the Sith. “So,” he managed, thoroughly dry and hopefully keeping his mental distaste under wraps, “have I really just been adopted?” Please, please, PLEASE let that have been a tactic, rather than earnest.

The Sith glared at the door. “I’m afraid not. I have some pull with our leading Council, but I may have been overstating the case when I said I was in charge of it. I can guarantee sanctuary, and if you want to join up I’m sure something can be arranged.” She gave a half-shrug. “Especially if we can figure out your little trick with the ribbon-device-that-isn’t.”

“...Quite,” he managed, though inside the notion of teaching Sith to use the Force was warring with the continued urge to grab his lightsaber and do something.

General Hammond appreciated that today – tonight, really – all personnel got the hell out of his way. He marched down to Medical, ignoring how his pager was buzzing yet again, because so help him it wasn’t as if the last three weren’t from Maybourne, and damned if he was going to answer this one either.

He was not at that man’s beck and call.

Not yet, anyways.

He shoved the door open, making the assembled miscreants jump. “What. Is going. On?” he growled, glaring around.

Fraiser looked uncomfortable but resolute. Not the instigator, but in it up to her neck. Major Carter was standing at attention, but not avoiding eye contact – responsible for trouble, but not the source. Assorted personnel were at attention, avoiding eye contact, so they were tangentially involved at best.

The snakes in the room, however, were looking at him. Selmak in Jacob was polite and attentive. The new guy was standing –

“What the hell is he doing up here?” Hammond demanded, jabbing a finger at one of the cloned Jaffa. The man was sitting upright, shoulders back and doing a damned good imitation of the airmen around the room.

“General Hammond.” The snake possessing Jack bowed a little, looking far too damn composed. “It was decided that a demonstra–”

“Right now I really do not care.” He glared, trying to hide the disgruntled surprise that all the damn snake did was incline his head. “You are going back to your cell. He is going back to his.” George turned his glare on his subordinates. “I have a certain colonel making even more trouble, and I can only imagine what you have been up to. Carter, Fraiser, you are going to my office now, and you have a lot of explaining to do.” He motioned the MPs to escort the prisoners out. He was trying to not be gratified that Jack went quietly, as well as the Jaffa after a few quiet words.

Hell with it. He’d been awake too damn long, he really was getting too old for this shit, and if it really was Jack, the man would understand.

If it wasn’t, then this most certainly was the right thing to do.

He pointed to Jacob. “You’re coming too, General. Let’s move, people, there’s still almost four hours before we’re supposed to be back on duty.”

Daniel wasn’t sure how long he’d been wandering the halls. His temper had cooled some, but there was still the gnawing anger in the back of his mind. This polite, oh so civil goa’uld was impossible, but everyone was buying the act. Allowing the test of healing at all was proof of that.

Please, if there really are any gods out there, let that be impossible. If the System Lords could – just do all the horrific things they did, with no means of containment or influence or– Earth, and everyone else, would be screwed, but good.

By the time he finally paid attention to his surroundings, there was a part of him that wasn’t too surprised to find he was near the cells they’d been holding Jack in. It figured that his subconscious still wanted to go yell at a goa’uld.

Well, since we’re here...

He took a sharp turn down the hallway, speeding up because he’d had enough. It was a direction to move towards rather than this endless circling. There was a set of guards at the end of the hallway, and they shared a look with each other before the higher ranked one nodded to him.

“Dr. Jackson. We were told the prisoner is snaked and shouldn’t be trusted.”

“I know.” The man nodded to him again and stepped aside, the two ambling a little further down the hallway.

Ooo, nice, they were giving him some privacy. He flexed his hands and marched in, ready to face the little demon.

#That went well.#

Jack ignored him, which wasn’t really a surprise. The man sighed and flopped down on the cot. “This is the best day ever.”

#Indeed. Getting pseudo-adopted by a Sith Order has always been one of my life goals.#

"Better than being dissected, but only just, huh?"

#Quite.# He didn’t try to block any of the exasperation he felt from trickling over to Jack. #Anakin is never going to let me live this down.#

Well, at least it got a snicker out of his host.

An approaching presence declared itself by a wave of emotion in the Force. That transmitted to Jack, who sat up.

#Okay, what was that?#

#A visitor,# Obi-Wan said, gratified that all Jack had gotten was the impression of someone approaching without the actual emotions involved. #Your friend Dr. Jackson.#

As the man stalked around the corner, Jack had an easy smile for him. “Hey, Danny. I’d hoped–”

“Stop,” Dr. Jackson ordered, voice curt and tone clipped. “I’m not in the mood for pretending. I’m talking to the goa’uld right now.”

Jack blinked. #Uh. Danny’s...Danny, right?#

#Having never met the man before today, I can only guess. But I suspect so.# Obi-Wan strengthened his shields under the fury and bitterness battering at his emotions.

#Oh..kaay. Your show then, I guess.#

Jack relinquished control, leaving him to meet the archaeologist’s furious gaze. “Dr. Jackson.” As the human’s hands clenched, Obi-Wan stood tall. “What can I do for you?”

“Let him go,” Dr. Jackson growled, stepping closer to the bars and the duraplast between them. “Now.”

“I’m afraid that for the moment, my preference is to be someplace safe, and unfortunately for us all, he seems to agree.”

“I don’t care what you’ve convinced him of, I don’t care what you’ve brainwashed him into thinking, I want him free!

#What the HELL, Danny?# Jack sounded absolutely bewildered, and the bafflement from one side and the maelstrom of Dark emotions on the other was giving Obi-Wan one hell of a headache.

“That is his decision, not mine.”

Dr. Jackson gave a sharp bark of laughter, the sound a little manic and more than a little broken, if the emotional storm was any cue. “Stop playing dumb. We all know better by now, and not only are you not fooling anyone, you’re only making your situation worse.”

Obi-Wan crossed his arms and sighed. “Dr. Jackson, the last rotation – day – began with a shootout and my understanding that my men were at high risk of ending up missing or dead. I have had several very unfortunate encounters with your damned stargate. Repeated threats of dissection and who knows what else have been heaped upon my head. My identity has been called into question more than the times I have been declared dead. I am well aware things can get worse, and while I understand the prejudice and suspicion against me, from the moment we arrived I have given no cause for it, and have actively co-operated with your people even in the face of imprisonment or potentially worse. The offer to keep me out of Colonel Maybourne's clutches came from Jack, of his own free will.”

“Being compelled is not free will, no matter what language you’re using.”

Obi-Wan let out a hiss of pure exasperation. “I am Jedi, not goa’uld, thank you very much. Culturally speaking, we might as well be two different species.” Oh, he could not wait to be back hosted with Rex, and the possibility of reasonable meditation was only climbing the list of reasons why. “We co-exist symbiotically with our hosts. We aren’t parasites.”

“Is that supposed to impress me?”

Jackson’s brittle fury with its undercurrent of despair made a toxic mix against Jack’s stunned concern. “I neither know nor care, Doctor Jackson, but from my point of view, the hostility shown against myself and especially my troops, who have even less cause to draw your ire than I do, makes me wonder if you-” He swallowed his tirade before it could become truly biting. Dr. Jackson did not deserve that, not with the mental wounds he carried.

#What the hell is going on with him?#

#Long standing hurts often bleed bitterness.#

#Bitter – Whoa whoa whoa. Hang on there. Danny doesn’t do bitter, what are you talking about?#

Oh, for– Obi-Wan scrubbed a hand over his face. The two men were friends, yet Jack had absolutely no idea what was going on with Dr. Jackson. #He’s rather remarkably well versed in it.#

#Prove it.# Jack’s tone was stubborn.

Obi-Wan wavered for a moment, then obliged his host and shared the empathic impression of Dr. Jackson’s mind.

Daniel knew he had the goa’uld on the ropes, the way it was quiet and not challenging him. It managed to surprise him, though, as it paled and blanched. The eyes darkened from the surreal blue to normal brown, and he could almost swear it was Jack looking at him.

“Jesus, Danny, what the hell is going on?” he breathed, and Daniel pulled back. He was caught, square between wanting to unload it all upon the damned snake and demanding it stop pretending to be Jack.

“Just stop,” he said instead, the words more than half snarl. “You can say all the things you want, you can fake it as much as you want, but I’m not going to believe a single. Damn. Word unless and until I’m talking to Jack, only Jack, no goa’uld, and I’m damn well convinced he isn’t fucking well brainwashed!”

The goa’uld masquerading as Jack gave him a look, and it was Daniel’s turn to blanch. He knew that look. He could not figure out why the goa’uld would mimic Jack’s “to hell with this, I think it’s time for something a little crazy” expression. Sure, it never boded well for whoever Jack was glaring at, but that wasn’t reason enough to use it. Jack’s eyes flickered back to blue, then the being with a completely different posture and body language gave Daniel a cool, assessing look that extended to the room around them.

The goa’uld took a precise half step to the left, murmuring a polite – absurd! – request that Daniel not move. By the time it had positioned Jack, Daniel had figured out he was now standing between it and the security camera with the best view.

This could not be good.

Jack hunched over a little, the manic light still in his brown eyes, and –

Daniel yelped, reaching for the sidearm he didn’t carry except on missions. He couldn’t look away, no matter how horrifying it was as one of the damned fanged nightmares emerged from Jack’s mouth. The orange and tan thing slithered into Jack’s hands, coiling around to look at him with blue eyes.

Jack was all kinds of graceful, hacking and spitting off to the side. “Oh, man, that is disgusting!” He grimaced and glared at the snake. “You!” He shook a finger at it. “Don’t go far; this is temporary, you hear me?”

It made a little “weh!” noise and some hisses that somehow sounded exasperated, before lightning quick it slithered down and over to the cot, ending up wedged under the mattress and reasonably in hiding.

“Ok, Daniel, we’re going to have a little talk.”

Daniel’s eyes flicked over to Jack as the man stepped up to the bars. That mad, faintly manic look was still on his face, but so was a more normal concern.

“’re still brainwashed,” Daniel said angrily, scowling.

Jack rolled his eyes. “I am not, nor have I been, brainwashed any time in the last two –no, the last month and a half!” He stopped a small ways from the edge of the cell, and Daniel still didn’t know if he should be watching Jack, keeping an eye on the evil blue gleams lurking under the mattress, or just be thanking every speck of luck he’d ever had that there was plastic or whatever between the bars, because it was on the other side of them.

“You’re angry, Danny. What's goin’ on, man? You’re – ” He flailed for words, hands waving in the air. “You’re like, this close to trying to blow something up, you’re…” Again, he went searching for words, until he shook his head and just gestured in defeat. “Angry! You’ve got a goa’uld –” He turned and called a quick "sorry!" in the direction of the mattress. "- all but rolling over to co-operate and now you’re suddenly against making friends? What’s going on?”

Daniel stared at him. There was that annoying ringing in his ears that could be sleep deprivation, or could be rage. “What’s going on?” he repeated blankly. There was the faintest noise and some rustling from the mattress, and he can see the snake pulling a little further back. “Are you joking? What’s ‘going on’ is that I want my friend back. Want my life back. I actually had one, Jack! I had a wife and a home and a family that I loved, and that loved me, and those monsters took it all away, and now I’m stuck in this damn limbo of trying to get Sha’re back but even if I do the danger doesn’t go away, does it! And SGC’s made almost no useful progress in dealing with the goa’uld. Our allies are pretty much anything but! Every day I can feel more and more slipping through my fingers and I know that as soon as the SGC finds someone else with my skill set and less issues with the chain of command and how the US military does things, someone with less complaints about what we’re doing and how, then I’m getting the boot! I know I’m going to lose any chance of getting back anything, and in the meantime we’re all really just five minutes away from death, dismemberment, or worse!”

What?” Jack yelped, rearing back and shaking his head. “No! Hell no! Goddamn, are you crazy?”

“Yeah, that’s happened too!” Daniel yelled back, fighting down the usual shudder. If he never saw another honest-to-god straitjacket, it would be too soon.

“No, I mean – Daniel, listen to me! You are a part of this, and the skills and stuff you think might lose your job won’t; they’re assets, not problems! And ignoring that, you’re a friend. We are not abandoning you, we are not giving up, and if anyone is monumentally stupid enough to try, all of SG1 and Hammond would revolt, just for a start.” Jack stepped closer to the bars, and the expression on his face shook Daniel. “Helping you has always been one of our priorities, and that is not going to change! So help me I swear I have not been brainwashed, and that snake can honestly, really help us all!”

Damn it all. Jack had to go there. Daniel jabbed a finger at the goa’uld lurking under the mattress. “It’s monsters like that that have my wife. It’s monsters like that who hurt Skaara. You don’t even trust the Tok’ra, and now suddenly you’re willing to let that thing slither into your brain? We’ve been to other planets! We have literally traveled the stars, met new species, encountered alien civilizations, and every! Last! Goa’uld! Hates our guts! They want to enslave us, or use us, or control us! Even the Tok’ra are only interested in us as hosts, or did those little hiccups with Jolinar and Selmak slip your mind? At best they’re condescending assholes who think we’re stupid monkeys who don’t rate a seat at the table!”

Jack looked entirely too stubborn. “These folks aren’t like that –”

Please. You expect me to just buy that? You really expect me to believe that you managed to stumble across an entirely new group of goa’uld, one that’s willing to work with us, that sees us as reasonable thinking beings?” He shook his head, a movement both disgusted and dispirited. “That’s a nice fairy tale, Jack, but we outgrew those on Abydos.”

Jack was already shaking his head. “Aren’t you the guy who’s always saying we should give people a chance? Danny, I don’t know what the hell is going on inside your head, but I’m a little worried –”

“A little worried? A little worried is enough to ditch your new –”

Friend, Danny, so help me God that’s a friend sitting over there and don’t look at me like that, I know it’s nuts and I’m the one saying it, and yes, of my own free will!”

They glared at each other for a moment. He hated this, hated that he didn’t know what to think. He wasn’t sure of anything.

Jack finally sighed and leaned in closer, lowering his voice. “Okay, listen. These guys? They’re part of a little something called the ‘Galactic Republic,’ which has, ohhhh, something like eighty-thousand systems. Earth is one planet. These guys have even less reason to make nice with us than the Tok’ra do – they don’t need a single solitary thing from us. Not hosts, not resources, nothing. But they’d appreciate intel on how to fight the goa’uld. I heard the clones call goa’uld ‘abominations,’ Danny. These Jedi want to help. Because the goa’uld are as much monsters to them as they are to us.”

“They’re evil, Jack. You’ve seen that, time and time and time again!”

Jack hesitated, then got the stubborn expression again. “Look, how do you know that?” He rolled his eyes and waved off the incoming explosion. “I mean usually, overall, throughout history, how do you know? You look at how they treat the people working for them.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “This idiot didn’t want to leave a dying host that was missing most of his digestive system plus the wrappings, because Kenobi was the only thing keeping him alive, and they were hoping they could find Medical. Or a miracle. Talk to the clones. If they’re brainwashed, they’ll all have the same damn stories, too much overlap. They’re legit, and they’d follow him the –” He hesitated. Shrugged. “The same way I’d trust you with my life.”

Silence settled back for a fragile moment.

Footsteps sounded, coming down the hall. Jack cursed and dove towards the bed. Daniel turned away because – because he knew, and he could not watch it. He was just thankful that it was god damned silent.

By the time the soldier made it to the cell area, everything looked like normal. “Everything all right here?”

Daniel hesitated, but what the hell could he say?

Jack did say something. Flippant, probably, but the tinnitus had gotten bad enough all he could hear was the tone.

“We’re...fine,” Daniel managed after Jack fell silent. He nodded to all of them as he walked past, not meeting anyone’s eyes. He couldn’t bear it right now.

He needed sleep. Everything else could damn well wait.