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A Star to Steer By

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It was standing room only at the SG teams’ meeting. Daniel closed the door behind him and nudged his way past Sands, homing in on Jack’s voice. It wasn’t often that General Hammond held a mass-meeting like this, but Daniel could understand why Hammond would want to bring all of his Stargate teams up to speed as quickly as possible. It would have been much more convenient in a lecture hall, but space was at a premium under the mountain, and so all eighty-plus people had to pack into one of the larger meeting rooms. Well, whatever got the job done.

Daniel edged past Spencer, nodding to him as he bumped elbows with Altman. He had one ear tuned to what Jack was talking about, which turned out to be the tail end of a very interesting bit of culture regarding the clones and the importance of individual customization of their armour in general, and the helmets in particular.

Teal’c angled his body to open up a space for Daniel to slip through to an empty seat at the table. Exasperated - he wasn’t made of spun glass! - but grateful, Daniel plopped down into the chair. He would, if forced, admit that he was still a bit wobbly from two weeks of little to no sleep, followed by the stress of having Jack host a goa’uld, and then a mindmeld with a goa’uld Queen. He glanced around the table, seeing the leaders of the teams, and Janet, occupying the other chairs, with General Hammond of course sitting at the head.

SG-1 was usually neck deep in whatever was exploding on any given day, so it was strange to get an update on momentous diplomatic talks after the fact. Then again, things didn’t seem to be exploding, either. Daniel wryly wished he could consider it a nice change instead of the calm before the storm. He was less on edge about the Jedi now, but trauma-induced habits died hard.

Jack wrapped up his presentation and sat down, giving Daniel a Look for being up and about already, which Daniel returned with as innocent an expression as possible, as if he didn’t have any clue what Jack was trying to communicate. It was a normal exchange, as if this were just a normal mission, and who knew, if he acted normal long enough, maybe things would go back to it.

“Thank you Colonel O’Neill, that was very informative, and welcome back, Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said as he stood up, quieting the low murmur of discussion that had sprung up around the room. Daniel ducked his head and waved awkwardly back. “Now, I thought you’d all like to know how things are shaping up. Our new allies have finished talks with the brass, and are scheduled to head home in a day or two. We officially have their support against the Goa’uld System Lords.” A smattering of applause sprang up, and a couple of enthusiastic whoops rang out. Hammond grinned, then gestured for quiet. “Now, seeing as they don’t have gates, like we do, that’s going to be a bit of a slog for them. They also still need to report to their Council and their Republic’s Senate, so it’ll be a while before we find out how much support we’ll be getting. To that end, Kenobi has approached me about sending one of our SG teams along with them, to help plead our case.”

Daniel’s mind stuttered. It really shouldn’t have come as a shock, it was perfectly logical that the Jedi would request people from Earth to come with them to speak to their authorities. Part of it was that nobody had ever...done that, before – not the Asgard, who tended to treat humans like dogs with slightly higher intelligence than usual, and certainly not the Tok’ra, who tended to come to them, not the other way around. The other part of it was that SG-1 tended to be the ones who inserted themselves into situations without being asked, via the gate.

Speaking of stargates, they’d be very, very far from the nearest one, if they went with the Jedi. They’d also be leaving SGC without its flagship team. The particular team hadn’t been specified, so it was theoretically possible that it wouldn’t be SG-1. Daniel shifted in his chair. Nah, who was he kidding? Of course it would be SG-1. That made his suspicions stir a bit, again – getting SG-1 away from backup and completely into their own power was something a goa’uld would expend a lot of Jaffa to do.

“So when you say, ‘an SG team,’ you mean mean SG-1, right?” Jack asked laconically, but Daniel could hear the enthusiasm lurking in his voice. Jack trusted them, Daniel reminded himself. And if the trust turned out to be unfounded, they’d gotten out of worse spots. Probably.

“I’ll need to get some people to sign off on that – this is a lot longer range than we usually send people,” Hammond said, but everyone knew it would be SG-1 anyway. “I think that about wraps it up. Unless anyone else has something to add...”

“Actually,” Daniel said, raising his hand a bit, by habit. “I do, ah, have one thing.” And given that this was shaping up to be a longer term alliance, his information was all the more relevant.

“Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said, nodding as he sat down, ceding the floor.

Daniel stood up, and the eyes of all the SG teams swung to him. His hands twitched, instinctively wanting papers or a mug or something to fiddle with. “Thank you, General Hammond. It’s about the Jedi, or Galactic Republic culture in general. I suppose it could be particular to their armed forces but,” Daniel took a breath and brought himself back on track, “I was speaking to one of the clones, and it came up that the Republic doesn’t consider same-sex relationships to be taboo.”

He could see the little ‘oh’ moment of realization in face after face, and Daniel wondered if he was needlessly expecting the worst. They were all professionals here; they stepped out onto new planets and into new cultures on a weekly basis. They’d all passed the army’s psych profiles to be here, and working in SGC inculcated a certain flexibility.

Which was all fine and good, but it was still illegal to be gay or lesbian in the US military, and even though Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell afforded gay and lesbian servicemembers a smidge more protection than before, straight soldiers (and officers) could take very, very badly to openly queer people. The clones might consider it a non-issue, but Daniel really didn’t want anyone ending up dead due to homophobia and narrow-mindedness. It might not be the clone that ended up dead, but it’d probably be an intergalactic incident, either way.

“Thank you for informing us, Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said, and Daniel sat back down, relieved. “I’ll be sure to include that in my report, so that we can avoid any unnecessary conflict. Now–”

“You’re joking, right?” Lt. Castleman blurted out, scowling angrily and shoulders tight. He was one of SG-3’s people, so Daniel would have recognized his unit even if he hadn’t been standing behind Maybourne’s seat. “That’s its? We gotta work with some fagg-”

“Lieutenant Castleman!” Hammond rapped out sharly, overriding the angry slur. “If you have a problem with our new allies, you can address the issue with your superior officer and myself in private.”


“I know our command structure here at SGC is a little more lax than some other postings, but now would be a good time to stop digging your own hole.” Hammond glared at the man, who settled into sullen submission.

“Uh,” someone from SG-4 ventured. “Sir, I agree that what they...get up to in private is none of our business, but what if it doesn’t stay private? I mean, what if – what if one of them makes an advance on us?”

There was a bark of laughter from SG-9’s area. The woman tried to morph it into a cough, but with little success. Hammond raised an eyebrow at her. “Captain Buckley, do you have something to add to the discussion?”

“Ah, not really, just...I don’t think Captain Marvin has anything to worry about,” she said, looking entirely too innocent and conspicuously not looking at the man in question. “And in the...unlikely event that he does get hit on, he can always employ the age-old strategy – Just Say No.”

“Yeah? And what if they don’t take no for an answer?” Castleman butted in, earning him a quelling look from General Hammond.

“That’s actually–” Daniel interjected, collecting his thoughts, “I mean, given what I’ve seen from their culture when it comes to respecting consent and bodily autonomy,” he rattled off, flashing back to a clone telling him that they signed up for ten year hosting terms, “that’s not likely, and if it does happen, telling their commanding officer or your commanding officer should get them in pretty deep trouble.”

“Yeah,” Jack said laconically, waggling a pen distractedly, “just remember,” he grinned at Castleman, showing a few too many teeth to be friendly, “the Jedi can tell when someone is lying.”

Ahsoka hadn’t done a language exchange before. Sure, she ‘remembered’ how it would go, but there’d been many times in her life so far when inherited memories were very different from actual experience.

For one thing, she didn’t ‘remember’ it leaving a feeling like five wookies in a two-person starfighter, where the starfighter was her poor abused head.

“That...feels like it should be a headache,” Echo said faintly, pinching the bridge of his nose and struggling to not blink repeatedly.

Anakin was massaging his temples. “Give it a few hours, and then you get the headache. It’ll be a slow build, but meditation helps.”

“It’s a little difficult to meditate if we have to go to a dinner function. Why do we have to do that, anyway? And couldn’t this have waited until after?” Ahsoka asked, trying for serenity instead of whining. She wasn’t sure how successful she was.

Master Kenobi frowned apologetically as he stood up from the lotus he’d been in. “We need to be diplomatic tonight, which means a shared language is a bit useful.”

Anakin grunted, dropping his face more fully into his hands. “Yeah, that was not fun the last time we tried having only the one interpreter. We still have another hour or so before dinner, Snips, if you want to meditate until then. It does help.”

Right, Anakin had probably done this before. It was weird to be reminded that her master probably didn’t know as many languages as she did, because he wasn’t creche-born. Ahsoka nodded, and Fives lifted his head to give her a wry smile. “There’s a reason we do it the old-fashioned way most of the time.”

Echo gave a snort of amusement. “I seem to recall you saying differently last time you mentioned this.”

“The only time I mentioned this!” Fives shot back, going back to trying to massage pressure points. “And that was before actually having Shyriiwook inserted into my brain. I can and do learn from experience, thank you very much.”

Master Yoda and 99 were still sitting in full lotus, eyes closed and only a pinched expression around their mouth indicating this was more than normal meditation. The whole thing had been a little unusual, sitting down in a circle and meditating in a way that made them receptive to Master Obi-Wan’s broadcast of the native language he’d learned from Colonel O’Neill. She felt like she’d jogged several hard rounds of an obstacle course, complete with a few blows to the head, rather than a long, intense meditation session.

Hopefully, they could refine their English and learn other languages from these folks the normal way.

#General Kenobi still looks worried,# Echo quietly pointed out.

#Yeah,# Ahsoka agreed. #He’s been tense since before today’s negotiations.#

“Master Kenobi, have something to say, do you?” Master Yoda asked, opening his eyes a bit.

Master Obi-Wan took a deep breath and let it out in a huff. “Be on guard tonight. The Tok’ra struck me, but determined. They may well try to approach us each individually tonight, either about our troops and hosting, or about doing a, ah, cultural exchange.”

Hostage exchange, he meant. #Told you that’d be trouble,# Ahsoka sighed, getting a mental nod of acknowledgment from Echo.

It agitated Fives a lot, and it was Echo’s turn to sigh as his brother hauled himself to his feet and started pacing from one end of the room to the other. #Kark it. Why’d it have to be the Sith?#

#These ones aren’t technically Sith,# Ahsoka said, but it was a weak protest at best, and Echo’s snort of mental derision told her what he thought of that.

#Close enough for government work,# he said. #And after what Palp- Sidious tried to pull....#

Ahsoka made a noise of acknowledgement, feeling a prickle of revulsion and dismay, even now. She didn’t like to think about the Sith Master trying to subvert or control her Master. She wasn’t sure how Sidious intended to get Fives to go along with any of it, or if Fives would have survived it at all, and she didn’t like to think about that, either.

Echo kept the frown inside, giving his brother and Anakin their space. He also kept one ear on the discussion between Masters Obi-Wan and Yoda about the pros and cons of the matter.

#Well. They’ve started to argue in circles, think we should give them another round or say our piece?#

“So Echo and I would be best choice to remain for cultural exchange with the Tok’ra and the Stargate command.”

Anakin whipped around to stare at his padawan, who was sitting serene as could be – minus the language headache – and watching them as if she hadn’t just proposed putting herself into horrible danger. Fives was cursing in several languages inside, while Obi-Wan just did the brow thing. That usually meant he didn’t agree but was keeping it quiet, but sometimes it meant he was neutral and waiting to see more evidence.

Ahsoka. At the mercy of these insane Sith who thought–

“Mm, and your logic would be?” Yoda asked, calm as if they were discussing meditation techniques.

She pointed at Yoda. “Well, it’s not safe to leave a queen here, not if Dr. Jackson’s warning is accurate.” She pointed at Obi-Wan. “Master Kenobi is going to be the best liaison with whoever comes back with us, now that we know the language. None of the clones have appropriate clout, except for Cody or Rex – and given that Rex is hosting now, that means Cody is going to have his hands full making sure everything’s organized properly between the two legions.”

Ahsoka pointed at Anakin. “That leaves Master Skywalker and me. He has the clout, but he has too much clout – anything he says or does reflects on the Order as a whole. I’m just a padawan, so I can’t be maneuvered into negotiational corners because I can’t bind us on anything, but as the 501st’s commander, I’ve got the prestige and...well, enough experience that I can impress people if need be.”

Okay, he could grudgingly admit that Ahsoka’s logic was sound, but he was still caught between two very conflicting instincts. He settled on the positive one that wasn’t yelling at his padawan about putting herself in this kind of danger.

“Technically, your training’s been intense enough you could probably be knighted before too long.” Okay, fine, the words sounded rather strangled, and he didn’t like admitting that, but still. “I mean, you need to be cleared on a lot of the annoying generalist stuff, but a combat field Jedi? Less than two years, maybe. Which is not a vote for this, by the way.”

Frustratingly, Ahsoka swapped off with Echo, who shrugged. “Meanwhile, I know more than enough trivia and protocol that I’ve got weight to bring to the table. Give us a squad or two, and worst case scenario we can probably go to ground without too much difficulty.”

#I hate it when they conspire,# Fives grumbled, but Anakin wasn’t listening. He wanted to protest, but he’d seen how Obi-Wan’s expression had gone from ‘I’m listening but don’t hold your breath’ to ‘I don’t like it but it’s a solid plan.’


There was only so much hobnobbing with the brass that Louis Ferretti could stand before he had to step away instead of causing an incident. It wasn’t that he couldn’t handle it, it was just that he really, really preferred not to.

It was easy enough to amble over to the buffet table, then take his plate of finger food off to the far side of the room. The other three members of SG-2 were clustered by a plant, and Ferretti was greeted by a glare from his team’s current second-in-command. “You’re eating the food,” Spencer accused, and Ferretti took a slightly ostentatious bite out of a fish-pastry thing.

“Yup. We’ve got at least another hour and a half to go, and I don’t want to stumble out of here starving.”

Spencer rolled his eyes, and Bell passed Sands some money. “Have you never heard of snacks? You have pockets, do you not know how to use them?”

He ate the rest of the pastry thing – not bad, for once – then shrugged. “Unlike some people, I had meetings all afternoon.” Also, it was always fun winding up his teammate.

“Shoulda told me,” Spencer grumbled, subjecting the room to one of his squinty glares before brushing hair out of his face. It went down past his shoulders, totally not regulation, but that was apparently one of the benefits of being a contractor. “I’m serious, the hacks they get in here–”

Bell rolled her eyes. “Are enlisted service members too, Eliot. Cut ‘em some slack, not everyone can work culinary magic like you.”

“There’s magic, and then there’s basic competence. This? Is neither of those.”

Sands never had much patience with yanking Spencer’s chain – there were reasons her specialities were engineering and languages instead of people. Her sigh was more melodramatic. “God, Spencer, will you not be a foodie just once?”

Spencer gave her a look. “Well, I can stick to my other job and just start punching things.”

Time to be the adult in the room again. “With the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the National Security Advisor, and several aliens in the room, could you maybe not?”

Spencer gave Sands a look. “Then I guess it’s back to the food, right?”

Bell diverted, the way she usually did – she’d been Coast Guard once upon a time, quit to be an air stewardess, and then left handling angry people in an enclosed tin can for applying Anthropology to alien cultures. Woman knew how to defuse a situation. “What I want to know is how did all the aliens pick up English?”

Yeah, that had bugged him too. “I caught something about a Vulcan mind meld, but all I know is Kenobi picked it up from O’Neill, so who knows what that actually means?”

“He might,” Sands murmured, her eyes darting over towards the recently arrived clone in dark red. The man had given the buffet a polite look, but was now drifting along answering quick questions from the little clusters of dignitaries that weren’t quite comfortable talking to the higher-ups at all, or this guy for long.

Ferretti also noticed the meandering path was leading towards them.

“Excuse me,” Bell called out, catching the clone’s eye. “But I was wondering...ah.... What exactly is your title again? It slipped past those of us without the best ears for your accent.”

The man gave up on the pretext that he was just pacing aimlessly, a few strides of the military ‘looks unhurried but will move right along’ style walk getting him into their little cluster. “Me, or my Jedi?” he asked, looking just a hair amused. Not the best cover in the world for not knowing the man’s name, but he was willing to play along. It’d do.

“Both, of course,” Bell said, with the charming smile that she must’ve picked up working for airlines. Little too happy for the Coast Guard, little too empty to be real.

The clone gave the formal little bow that was starting to get familiar. “Host Zehrzahk.” His eyes went green, and he repeated the bow.

“Padawan – Learner – Ahsoka Tano, at your service,” a completely different voice said, and Ferretti could feel a whole body twitch trying to escape him. He hadn’t heard this guy talk at all, and the voice – this voice – was a woman’s. Hell, if he’d overheard it around a corner, he’d peg it as a young woman’s, and this guy was...very not.

Spencer’s brows flicked up just a little, while Bell gaped. Sands – second generation Air Force engineer that she was – recoiled a little, a shocked expression crossing her face.

Tano didn’t help the situation, because – she? He? – scanned the four of them as – as he stood, body language uncertain. “I’m sorry, is something wrong?”

Spencer jumped on the metaphorical grenade, flashing Tano a quick smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “’Course not,” he reassured the alien. “We just weren’t expecting you to sound like that, is all.”

Tano’s brow arched, and it was damn strange to see the polite guy that had walked over looking all precise instead take a hip-shot stance, arms crossing over the tunic-y thing. “What’s wrong with the way I talk?”

Bell’s smile warmed as she turned on the charm. “Nothing’s wrong, it’s just we are very not used to Jedi, sorry.”

Tano’s unimpressed, curious look dialed up to eleven, and Sands jumped in feet first. “You’re a man and you’re talking like a girl,” she declared, blunt and diplomatic as a brick to the face.

The Jedi’s posture straightened as the eyes went brown, expression going differently skeptical. “I’m a male human, and Ahsoka is a female Jedi. I’m not sure I see the problem here.”

There were times when he wondered how SG-1 got anything done, and then there were times he was reminded not only why SG-2 was not the first line of defense and Earthly interaction with the universe, but also why his unit had a rotating roster.

Spencer casually stepped on Sands’ foot, keeping her quiet while he did the disarming ‘I’m just a simple country boy’ smile that worked more often than it had any right to. Bell meanwhile kept at the conversational fall out. “We’ve only got the one species here, and we humans are used to a more...precise division of gender.”

Host Zehrzahk blinked a few times, then his shoulders slumped and he face-palmed. “You have a binary system. Oh gods, this is going to take some getting used to.”

“What else is there?” Sands scoffed, ignoring another attempt from Spencer to distract her.

Definitely time to be the adult in the room. “Ok, people, let’s not have an interstellar incident on our own home turf, all right? We can swap cultural oddities some other time.”

Tano – and he was pretty sure it was Tano, not the host – hesitated, chewing on her lip. Then she seemed to come to some sort of decision. “I’d like that. You’re SG-2, correct?”

She instantly had their attention. “Yeah?” Ferretti drawled, wondering what angle she had.

“So if SG-1 is busy – away on a mission – then you would be the next point of contact, correct?”

It was predictable – frustrating, but predictable – that Spencer tensed a little, sliding just a little into a stance better suited to tackle the Jedi. Man was paranoid like that. Ferretti nodded. It wasn’t like it was a secret or anything, and how people reacted to things was often damned useful. “That’s us.”

Tano looked a little relieved, and surprisingly pleased. “Then I hope we do have time to swap cultural details. I’ll be spending some time here to liaison with the Tok’ra, but we’d both like to learn more about your planet and people as well.”

It was both hilarious and sad how the team exchanged a startled look. Now, it wasn’t that SG-2 was a bad posting, and Louis Ferretti was damn proud of his people. They just looked even less intimidating than SG-1, which was sometimes saying a lot.

Ferretti and Sands were the only career military of the group. He didn’t even make six feet, though Karen Sands was at least an inch over. Both of them could blend into a crowd – to be honest, height aside, Sands could do a better job being nondescript than he could. Bell was almost a foot shorter than her, a drop-dead gorgeous African-American woman who might have had a reputation for beating off unwanted advances with a stick – literally, if need be.

That might’ve been helped by Spencer – they went way back, and Spencer was one of the deadliest people Ferretti knew. Sure, the guy looked like he belonged in the academics’ wing of SGC, with long brown hair and a pretty face, not to mention the ability to turn on terrifying doses of charm at the drop of a hat, but his hand-to-hand skills were unparalleled on base.

When he was on base: Spencer was a contractor, which meant they only got him a few months a year, when he wasn’t off doing whatever the fuck he did for an actual living.

So not the most intimidating appearing people around. Ferretti wasn’t sure if he should be insulted that Tano wanted to spy on a perceived weak link, or pleased that she gave them unquestioning credit.

SG-1 was fashionably late to the ‘dinner function.’ Jack still wanted to go out for a good slab of steak, but after weeks of sock-nuts and fish (and a few days of jello and cafeteria cuisine) the half-decent buffet they’d had catered smelled heavenly. It was a tossup as to who SGC was trying to impress – the brass or the aliens, but either way, Jack intended to take full advantage of it.

“Okay, kids-” It was something in his hindbrain that made his attention catch on a movement in the crowd, and he turned to see one of the clones, Rayshe'ase, start making a beeline towards SG-1. Rex – or maybe Kenobi – caught the other Jedi by the arm - where had they even come from? - and stopped him, glancing over to SG-1- Jack turned to his right, knowing who was there. Teal’c. Aianste and Rayshe’ase had been heading for Teal’c. Fuuuuuuuuuck, he knew he’d forgotten something.

“Uh, Jack?” Daniel asked into the long pause.

“Yeah, so, it looks like Kenobi and I both forgot to give the new arrivals a tiny,” he held up one hand, holding thumb and forefinger barely apart, “tiiiny bit of information.”

“They are aware of Jaffa and prim’ta,” Teal’c pointed out.

“Yeah, but not that you’re, y’know, on the team. I mean, they know now.” He looked back at the Jedi, where Yoda and Shek’eta-She’cu were joining them, and Obi-Wan was giving a quick, hushed conversation. Ahsoka and her host were both off to one side, involved in a conversation, and it looked like she was taking the lack of whooshy lightsabers to mean that everything was under control. Smart kid.

The other Jedi had finished their discussion, and were now all three headed SG-1’s way, with Obi-Wan heading the pack. Jack spared a mournful thought for the food he wouldn’t be eating for a while yet.

“Should we be worried?” Sam asked, only mostly joking.

“Nah, it’s just gonna be a kind of sucky conversation,” Jack said.

“I think this conversation was always going to happen,” Daniel opined, then looked at Teal’c and shrugged. “They seem kind of invested.”

Teal’c raised an eyebrow at Daniel. “Indeed.”

The three Jedi reached SG-1 and halted. Kenobi inclined his head respectfully.

“It seems I have been remiss in some of my introductions. Anakin,” he said, turning to look at Aianste while gesturing towards Teal’c, “This is Teal’c. He is a steadfast warrior, who fights alongside the Earth humans for the freedom of his people.”

Kenobi turned to Teal’c, and gestured towards Aianste. “Teal’c, this is Anakin Aianste, my former student. He is a cunning warrior, and one of the best pilots in the Jedi Order.”

“It is an honor to meet you,” Teal’c said, observing social rules and assuming a polite position that would allow him to defend should the Jedi decide to express offense. It was not quite a declaration of strength, but he was not in the mood to spar with words.

Jedi Aianste shifted his weight the way a man does when uncertain if he will need to attack or defend. He took a step closer instead, though that was of little reassurance. Between one blink and the next, Aianste’s eyes went from vibrant blue to regular brown. “Is it true?” the Jedi’s host asked, voice low and intense. “You carry a larval goa’uld? Not as a host does, but–”

“Yes,” Teal’c declared, not wanting to wait through a list of grievances that he was neither responsible for nor guilty of.

Host Reyshe’ase had to pause a moment for self-control, eyes closing and hands clenching tight. When he opened his eyes and spoke, it was with the halting voice of a person who was not sure of their own self-control. “Is there – are you able to communicate with them in any way?”

Teal’c raised a brow. He had not expected that question. He weighed his options, then settled upon truth. How the Jedi might react had caught his curiosity. “In theory it is possible, but in practice it is forbidden.”

Host Reyshe’ase blanched. “Gods. They know – that’s – fucking Sith.” A few deep breaths calmed the host, then he turned a determined look upon Teal’c. It reminded him far too much of the kind of expression Daniel Jackson would wear. “I don’t suppose you’ve broken that rule, have you?”

This time, his inquisitive expression was paired with cold hauteur. “I was First Prime to Apophis. I was the first weapon to his hand, the fist he employed against his enemies. He was not a false god who prized shows of creative thought or individuality.”

He was studied for that, a long searching look though he did not know for what. Then Host Reyshe’ase’s eyes turned blue, and Jedi Aianste’s face went closed and hard. “I see.”

“A private conversation, is this?” an older man’s voice asked, and Teal’c turned to see the Jedi elder studying him. This one set his hackles up, because he reminded Teal’c far too much of his teacher Bra’tac. That would mean he was old, vicious in battle, and expected others to underestimate him.

Given the respect that Jedi Aianste gave him, and the cane of sturdy wood he carried, Teal’c suspected that the one called Yoda could be formidable indeed.

He let himself wonder for a moment if this one would be a worthy opponent for Bra’tac or not.

“Uh oh,” Sands murmured. “Aianste found Teal’c. Are we going to need to duck and cover?”

Spencer glanced over at the budding confrontation, then at Tano. “Or does someone need to babysit him?”

Tano was alert and tracking the confrontation, but not overtly. Ferretti had to give her credit, the Jedi could honestly do subtle. “No. Reyshe’ase and Anakin won’t start a fight unless your guy does. And it looks like Master Yoda’s joining the conversation. He always knows what to say. Master Yoda. Sensei Yoda? Are there...cultural connotations I’m not getting about those titles?”

Ferretti wasn’t sure if he wanted to facepalm or snicker at that, but thankfully Spencer did the facepalming for him while Bell jumped into the explanations with a cheery grin and that look of someone who loves her job.

Gave him a nice opportunity to watch the situation with Teal’c. Yoda had stepped in, and was doing the doting old grandad thing that Ferretti didn’t trust for a single minute. You don’t send doddering infirm grandad types out to diplomat, and the way the Republic folks acted around him, it wasn’t the kind of respect you got for having used to be good at shit. That was someone who was still getting things done.

“Wonder what they’re discussing,” Spencer speculated as Yoda – Tano seemed to have settled on no title being less confusing than picking a title – joined in conversation with Aianste and Teal’c, while Yoda’s bodyguard hovered a polite distance away.

Tano hesitated, then folded his – her, right – arms in a way that looked almost formal. “Probably his prim’ta. Yoda was hoping he could talk to them.”

He gaped a little. “Talk to it.”

Tano’s eyebrow communication was almost in Teal’c’s league. “You have a better idea on how to deal with them?”

Thank God, no one was tactless enough to say anything, though his whole team was a little too blank-faced to be believed. A sharp gesture from Aianste, and him taking a wider stance, brought everyone’s attention back to the discussion. Teal’c drew himself up, face closed, eyes half-lidded. Kenobi put a hand on Aianste’s arm, only to have it shrugged off. With only a short phrase in Ancient, and not a happy one, Aianste stalked out of the room, trailing his poor guard, a young airman who looked like he’d honestly like to be anywhere else, including the middle of active combat.

Conversations around them lulled, then picked back up when it became clear the situation was settled, for now. Zehrzahk broke the uncomfortable silence around SG-2, clearing his throat and politely asking basic questions about SGC and the team’s role in things.

Ferretti had to give it to him; he was good. It didn’t take long before they were trading No Shit stories, and Zehrzahk segued that neatly into getting the team to talk about themselves.

“Yeah, well, our team’s a little bit cursed. Guy who had my job first, he died on one of the early missions in the program – we found out if prim’ta are old enough, they can possess a person. Poor Kowalsky got ganked. We can’t keep Sands’ position filled, and both Spencer and Bell are contractors – they’re only here part time.”

A horrible expression crossed Tano’s face. “I’m so sorry about your friend.”

Spencer gave her a wary look. “Given what I heard about Kenobi flipping tables over the prim’ta, I’m a little surprised.”

“I know...what it’s like to be alone and surrounded by death. But you have to understand, taking an unwilling host like that? It’s a death sentence, and we are born knowing it. More importantly, we know why it’s a death sentence. I would never, and to imagine lashing out like that...” Tano shuddered, looking physically ill. “It’s fundamentally wrong.”

Bell looked like she lost the personal debate whether to ask or not. “So what happened, in your case? If you don’t mind.”

Tano’s eyes went back to brown, and Zehrzahk shrugged. “I offered to host her. We both expected it to be temporary, but we work well together, so it’s become long term.” He hesitated, then raised a brow at their expressions. “What?”

“Just like that,” Spencer said. “You just – offered to let someone else share your brain and body.”

Tano rolled her eyes. “You make it sound like I’d go snooping or something. I know not to be a nosy parker!” She blinked. “That is a very odd saying.”

Ferretti jumped in before there was a linguistic safari from members of his team. “Nosy isn’t the problem, so much as tyrant. We tend to run into a particular type of goa’uld.”

Zehrzahk looked him in the eyes, then swapped over to Tano. “Is that going to be a problem, if we’re working together?”

“Hope not,” he answered, trying for laconic and casual. For all that, he had surprisingly high hopes for their new allies. SGC didn’t advertise or aim for it, but gut instinct took you pretty damn far in the program – and he had a good gut feeling about this.

Most of the time the Earth guard assigned to every member of the Republic team (including Oddball, who found the fact that he had a guard hilarious) was unobtrusive and faded easily into the background.

“Wait – wait up!” the young man called.

Throttling back his impatience, Obi-Wan held the elevator for his guard. “I won’t be gone long, you can wait here,” he tried, but without much hope.

“Sorry, regulations,” the guard huffed as he caught up, leaning against one wall and heaving for breath. “Damn, you’re fast.”

Obi-Wan hit the button to close the doors, and then what he hoped was the button for the ground-level floor. “Yes, well, Jedi,” Obi-Wan said.

#You weren’t augmenting my speed that much,# Rex pointed out, trying to distract Obi-Wan from his worry.

#Needlessly antagonizing the natives is never a good policy. Besides, it’s always good to have an ace in the hole.# Obi-Wan bantered back, but it was tense and distracted. Anakin’s roiling emotions had settled into a slightly askew calm, like a note just out of tune.

“Look, I’m not sure you’re allowed aboveground,” the guard said, eyeing the bank of buttons.

“Anakin’s already outside,” Obi-Wan pointed out, “and we are guests, not prisoners. You’re welcome to keep guard over us, but I am going to...’check up on’ Anakin.” Couldn’t this elevator go any faster?

The guard looked conflicted. “I’m going to have to double-check this with my C.O. – my superior officer.”

“That’s fine,” Obi-Wan said, keeping his voice calm.

#Is Anakin okay?# Rex asked. #I don’t have a lot of experience with empathic bonds.#

#Yes,# Obi-Wan reassured Rex as much as himself, #Anakin feels his emotions keenly, but that’s just...Anakin. He knows himself and his limits.# Obi-Wan was mostly confident of that.

Finally, finally the doors opened, and Obi-Wan jogged out past dimmed lights and checkpoints with confused looking guards. He found Anakin and Fives’ guard a short distance away from where the Twilight stood, talking into his short-range com. “Yes, sir, he’s not – No–”

“Anakin is fine. If you two would wait here, please, we’ll be back shortly,” Obi-Wan said, implicitly stationing his guard with Anakin’s. Neither looked happy, but they were at least willing to stay where they were put, as Obi-Wan headed through the scrubby growth and rocks for the dark bulk of Anakin’s ship.

The ramp was shut, and when Obi-Wan laid a hand on it, he knew Anakin wasn’t inside. He looked up and took a step back, then, with a bit of Force assistance, made the jump to the Twilight’s roof. He landed on one knee, softening the impact and the sound.

There they were. Obi-Wan sighed softly, and made his way towards the front of the ship, where Anakin sat, knees drawn up to his chest, arms wrapped around them and hiding the bottom of his face against his sleeves. It was a defensive huddle Obi-Wan had seen before, from time to time, mostly when Anakin was younger.

Obi-Wan sat down beside Anakin in silence, a comforting presence if Anakin needed it.

“The stars look all wrong,” Anakin muttered, glancing up at the glittering specks of light, then back down again.

“We are rather far from home,” Obi-Wan said with the kind of wry resignation that had become so commonplace during the war.

Silence fell again for a while, until Anakin’s shoulders drew in even tighter. “Obi-Wan–” he choked out.

Obi-Wan leaned in, putting one arm around Anakin’s shoulders. “Fives, Rex, could you give us some privacy, please?” he asked softly. There was a sense of acknowledgement, and he felt Rex’s attention close off. “Anakin–”

“What if that had been me?” Anakin asked, turning anguished eyes full of unshed tears to Obi-Wan. “What if this is where I’m from? I didn’t have any memories; they don’t have any memories. What if- what if I was born a Sith?”

“You’re not a Sith.”

“I’ve always been too emotional, what – what if that’s part of it? Is that why Sidious was targeting me? Am I meant to be a Sith–”

“No!” Obi-Wan barked, making him break off his litany. “Anakin, listen to me, you are not a Sith,” Obi-Wan said, meeting Anakin’s wide-eyed look steadily and with conviction. “It does not matter where you’re from. What matters are the choices you make. If you were ‘born’ to be a Sith, Sidious wouldn’t have needed to spend time trying to corrupt you. He targeted you because you’re an incredibly strong Force-user, and because he could. And he failed.

Anakin ducked his head, pressing it into Obi-Wan’s shoulder. “...He almost didn’t,” he admitted, shoulders tense under Obi-Wan’s arm.

There wasn’t anything Obi-Wan could say to that point, much as he hated to admit it. “The Tok’ra aren’t Sith,” he said, trying for another tack. “They may not know the way, but they are trying to turn away from their heritage. If even they can seek to change, then how can anyone be ‘born’ a Sith?” Silence. “Anakin. Whatever happens. Know that you will always be my brother, and that I will always love you.”

“No matter what?” Anakin asked wetly into Obi-Wan’s tunic.

“No matter what.”

“Promise me something?” Anakin asked without looking up.

“All right.”

“Promise me that, that if I need to be stopped…that you’ll stop me.”

Gods. It tore at Obi-Wan’s heart to hear Anakin like this. He wanted to shake the boy, to tell him again that he wasn’t ‘born’ anything, that he wasn’t a Sith, that he never would be...but that wasn’t what Anakin needed to hear right now.

“I promise,” Obi-Wan said, voice breaking a little, “if anything happens, I won’t let you hurt anyone.”

Some of the tension bled from Anakin’s shoulders, and Obi-Wan gently combed his fingers through Fives’ short hair as they sat in silence, taking in each other’s presence.