Chapter 27 - in which Jack and Daniel come to a decision
That afternoon, the pair visited Ilarion and Verenos who were back in Mantinea. Jack felt that the two Arcadians went rather over the top in their congratulations on their forthcoming parenthood.
"You mean you didn't know?" he asked, disbelieving. "I thought we were the only ones in the dark here."
But it seemed that the Arcadians held to similar medical ethics as the Tau'ri.
"What is her name?" Ilarion asked.
"Oh, fer crying out loud! I haven't gotten used to the idea of being..." Jack gestured vaguely, "...yet."
"She must have a name," Verenos exclaimed, sounding slightly shocked.
"Hey, there's plenty of time to think of a name!"
Daniel felt the volcano rumbling.
"So How's Eleni?" he asked quickly, hoping to divert an impending eruption.
This set the two ministers off on a long effusive ramble which didn't seem to help. Business then called them away, and dinner was hastily arranged, leaving the two Earthmen with half an hour to fill.
Once they were out of earshot, Jack just had to vent a little.
"Daniel, if I ever get to talking about..." he gestured again, "like that, I beg of you, shoot me. Please shoot me."
"Actually, they have a point. If she had a name, you wouldn't have to keep.... " Daniel grinned, mimicking Jack's hand wafting.
"Okay, let's call it Fred," Jack shrugged as they left the Megaron for a stroll through the gardens surrounding the complex.
He laid an arm across Daniel's shoulder and let him take a little of the weight off his newly mended leg.
"'It' is a she, Jack, and Fred is not a girl's name." Daniel said severely.
"We are not calling her after the Field Remote Expeditionary Device."
"So you think of something then."
"Eirene? Greek goddess of peace?"
"Oh, I don't think that's a good idea. Mom always used to say that children always give you the lie with the names you choose for them. She was at school with a girl called Gloria, and said that anything less glorious would be difficult to find! And then there was Amelia, which means 'industrious and striving' according to Mom, and she was as lazy as all get-out. Eirene? Peace? I think not."
"So Cruella, then?" Daniel said, rolling his eyes.
Looking around the elegantly laid-out flower beds, the two exchanged looks.
Daniel began, "We could call her"
"after a flower," Jack joined in.
"Lily?" Daniel suggested, looking at a group of tall stately white flowers.
"Fine. Problem solved."
Daniel looked forward to dinner with some trepidation, but it seemed that Ilarion and Verenos deemed that the subject of offspring had been dealt with for the day. The discussion over the meal proved to be most useful.
"Ilarion tells me ye are going to live in Tegea. This is a good choice," Verenos said with a teasing smile. "A little of my swass Ilarion goeth a long way methinks!"
Jack joined in the laughter just a little late.
"I guess we're going to have to build ourselves a cabin," he said, thinking fondly of the one in Minnesota. "Cabin. Er, a little wooden house. By a lake?"
"With no fish?" Daniel grinned.
Verenos and Ilarion exchanged puzzled looks.
"There is no need to do that unless ye will it," Verenos said.
"No...?" Jack asked.
"Well, we must seek her lairf first, but she will be pleased. Izmini," Verenos explained. "She is kin to Athnasia. Her husband died last year. That is why we can have our Eleni. Her house is big enough for the three of you, and she would be glad of your yefairship."
"Our company," Daniel smiled.
"If she's a widow, isn't she a little old to be taking in waifs and strays?" Jack asked.
"Her age is but one hundred and ninety eight summers," Verenos replied, "and her health is very good. She will not pass on just yet."
"Oh. That's good."
"Yes," Daniel agreed. "A hundred and ninety eight. That makes her"
"Nearly twice as old as Teal'c."
The two looked at each other.
"We're gonna have to behave, aren't we?" Jack asked glumly.
"Ye forget, we are not like your folc. It would be better if ye were handfasted though," he said thoughtfully.
"Ah yes, about that. Jack and I would like to get marr er, handfasted here, if that's possible?"
"A wedding?" Ilarion exclaimed, clapping his hands delightedly.
"Oh, here we go..." Jack sighed.
After dinner, Jack and Daniel spent another night of pleasure in what they had rapidly come to think if as their little love nest in the Megaron. Having stripped off with great alacrity, Daniel got on the bed.
"C'm'ere and get your ass in the air," he growled as Jack hopped about on one foot pulling off his last sock.
He shot Daniel an indignant look, followed by a more thoughtful one.
"You don't think that might - er - harm... um..." he suggested, gesticulating.
"Lily? I doubt it. Ilarion and Verenos seem to go at it like minks on viagra. And surely Arrelambros would have warned us if there was likely to be a problem? Or Ilarion for that matter. It's not like he's shy about discussing that sort of thing. Unlike some..."
"I'm not shy. Exactly. It's just..."
"You any idea how this - um - 'thing'... works?"
"The mechanics of it?" Daniel asked.
"Well... yeah and do not refer me to Carter about this!"
"Funny you should ask. I picked Ilarion's brains about it last time I was here. Seems the embryo floats in a sort of multi-layered membrane that has a network of blood vessels on the outside - a bit like those string bags your oranges are packed in, so it expands as the - the fetus grows. It's anchored top and bottom to the wall of the abdomen so the shared blood supply circulates. The membrane also contains the right mix of hormones, kept separate from yours, that the fetus needs. It takes nourishment by being connected to this membranous sac by an umbilical"
"Yeah, okay. That's enough," Jack cut in. "And I've had an idea about avoiding any damage."
"You can bottom for a change!"
Chapter 28 - in which Jack and Daniel take up a new option
Next day, Wednesday, and with Jack in a much better mood, the pair returned to the Stargate to check in, and to wish Teal'c and Sam good luck for the test flight. After looking in at the kliniki to say hello to Demris and Zephra, they strolled over to Tegea to familiarize themselves with the route. As they were taking it easy, it took about three quarters of an hour.
"Bicycles," Jack said as they reached the outskirts of the town.
"Hm, good idea," Daniel agreed and, quick on the uptake as ever, added, "You know, we might be able to start a trade in bicycles. I haven't seen any here, and as they're a non-polluting mode of travel, they should appeal to the Arcadians."
"And I could make us a cart each to fasten on the back to carry necessities," Jack suggested, not to be outdone. "Ya know, Daniel, I'm really beginning to think this might work after all."
Once in the town, they wandered around gently, getting their bearings and learning the layout of the place. It was a smaller version of Mantinea, and like that city, it consisted of neat, single-storied buildings with natural-looking gardens around them. The people of the town looked similar also.
Jack and Daniel then made their way to the town's Megaron to meet Thalia. She presided over the town's Simboulio. Athnasia was there already, so she joined them and Thalia for lunch before taking them to meet Izmini.
Izmini lived beside a pretty park in a large house that had been extended several times by previous owners. She herself was a tall stately lady. Her hair, like Athnasia's, was a dark reddish-brown, but liberally sprinkled with silver strands, and her eyes, which had a fine collection of smile-lines, looked sad now. She welcomed the three with warmth and kindness however.
"So these are your little Tau'ri, Athnasia," she smiled.
Jack and Daniel exchanged glances, Jack mouthing 'little?'
"Seems our fame goes before us," he said aloud, smiling too.
"Indeed. Nothing like your coming here has ever happened in my lifetime, nor is there any knowledge of such things since the Time of Myths."
"I guess that would make us seem a little out of the ordinary. Wunnelich," Daniel smiled.
"Like a bunch of Neanderthals dropping in on us?" came a rather vinegary mutter from his left.
"Well, in your case, more like the descendants of Fin MacCumhail," Daniel said with more than a hint of gritted teeth behind his smile.
"Fin MacCumhail? Cool!"
Daniel was relieved to swap grouchy O'Neill for cocky O'Neill, at least for the moment. Izmini was chuckling.
"And thou sayst they are not yet handfasted?" she said to Athnasia with an impish twinkle in her eye. "Art thou yewiss?"
It broke the ice nicely. Daniel and Jack looked at each other and cracked up.
After refreshments, Izmini showed the plighted pair around her home, then terms were discussed. Jack and Daniel were to move in at the end of the week for a three month trial period. There was no rent as such, just an undertaking to share in the chores and such heavy work as Izmini struggled with these days.
"Looks like we really landed on our feet for once," Jack commented as they walked back to the 'Gate in the early evening sunshine.
"You've changed your tune very quickly," Daniel said suspiciously. "Sure you won't change it again by tomorrow?"
Jack grabbed him by the shoulders and swung him around to face him."
"Daniel, I can spot a good thing when it's right under my nose. I don't say this is perfect, but Izmini seems a nice old bird, and this way, not only do I get to keep my job and stay out of the clutches of the N.I.D., but best of all, whenever I want to, I get to do this......."
He pulled Daniel into a close embrace and kissed him, gently and sweetly. "I get to keep you," ...kiss... "and love you," ...kiss... "now and always," ...kiss.
"And fuck you, Jack O'Neill," Daniel grinned fondly and returned the kisses with interest.
"So... how went the test flight?" Jack asked as the pair ambled down to ramp towards General Hammond in his usual 'welcome home' mode.
"It didn't," Hammond said sourly.
"Are Sam and Teal'c all right?" Daniel asked, alarmed.
"Oh, they're fine. Nothing went wrong on the test flight. It didn't happen."
"Oh? Carter get cold feet?" Jack asked as they followed Hammond up to the briefing room.
"In a manner of speaking."
"There y'are, you see. Ya shoulda left it to me."
"If we had, I doubt you'd be here right now," Hammond responded with a sort of grim satisfaction. "Just after you checked in, Jacob arrived to pick Major Carter's brains over the - erm - subspace bubble, and had a conniption fit when he heard what she was going to do."
"Really?" Jack asked, looking surprised.
"Oh yes. They had a real knock-down, drag-out argument about it in my office. Jacob took her to task for retrofitting a death glider in the first instance, on the grounds that she was in way over her head. Major Carter accused him of being arrogant. Jacob pointed out that compared to the Tok'ra, the human race is infantile"
"Infantile?" came an indignant exclamation in stereo.
"then said there was nothing wrong with being young, which I found rather patronizing. 'You can't just slap a US Air Force sticker on the side of a death glider and call it yours,' he said, just as General Vidrine walked in..."
"Oy! Isn't that just like those goddamned snakeheads," Jack said in disgust, "but I thought better of Jake."
"Unfortunately, he was right. Or do I mean fortunately? Anyway, the upshot was that he dragged her off to the airbase and stripped the whole thing down."
"And?" Daniel prompted.
"And found a nasty little gizmo designed to take control of the X-301 and return it."
"Excuse me - 'return it'?" Jack asked.
"Yes. There was an audio message for Teal'c. From Apophis. Something about dying in the cold of space and that the damn glider would now return to him as rightful owner."
"Well thanks to Jacob, it didn't happen, but the X-301 has been grounded for the time being, just in case there are any more unwelcome surprises."
"We miss any more excitement?" Jack asked.
"Oh yes. After I instigated inquiries into that hoo-ha with the press, two people failed to show up for work on Monday - Lieutenant Sheldon from the infirmary and Sergeant Fielding from the switchboard. We were unable to contact either of them and home visits revealed that both had left - no trace and no forwarding address - and when we rechecked their files, they were found to be bogus... Makes me wonder how many more moles we're harboring under the mountain."
"Well sir, it is bigger than the average molehill..."
The new arrangement worked out very well. It didn't even occasion overmuch comment around the base. Most people were familiar enough with the vagaries of the S.G.C. in general and S.G.-1 in particular. Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson living off-world was just another part of what passed for normal.
It was given out that the good doctor was engaged in vital research on Arcadia. Colonel O'Neill, having escaped a bizarre plot staged by enemies of the great U.S. of A., was combining keeping a low profile on Earth with keeping an eye on Doctor J., whose penchant for dicing with death was legendary. Life went on.
Or rather, didn't, in the case of Daniel's quondam mentor, Doctor Jordan. Daniel, naturally, went to the funeral to pay his last respects, and met up with a beautiful woman from his past. This culminated in a painful sense of déjà vu when he discovered that she was a goa'uld.
Sam and Janet accompanied him in pursuit of the new threat, achieving nothing but bruises for them and another ribboning for Daniel. The whole ill-thought-out jaunt brought General Hammond in for official criticism from higher up the food chain for unnecessarily sending the base's C.M.O. into a potentially lethal situation.
A few weeks later, Hammond was intimidated into taking early retirement by the N.I.D. Whether it had any connection with that violation of Standard Operating Procedure, or whether it was a response to the loss, through death or injury, of four of their field agents, and the removal of the two agents in the S.G.C., was never discovered.
The subsequent imposition of a complete incompetent as base commander resulted in Jack's enlisting the assistance of Harry Maybourne in thwarting the N.I.D.'s machinations. Not surprisingly, Harry wasted no time in taking advantage of the arrangement, but at least he fulfilled his side of the bargain first.
During late October, Jack, Daniel and Sam had three weeks 'holiday' on the muddy windswept coast of a godforsaken planet courtesy of a goa'uld entertainment center. Had Sam and the planet's only known resident, Loran, not been there, Jack and Daniel might have enjoyed the break. As it was, it was three weeks of unrelieved sexual tension punctuated by Jack bitching that Lily was stopping him from getting to sleep.
"She just keeps kicking the same damn spot over and over," he grumbled, "and when she finally decides to stop, and I begin to drift off, she starts up all over again. I tell you, Daniel, you are definitely having the next one!"
"That's a joke, yes?"
Chapter 29 - in which Jack makes a discovery
While Sam was over at the Air Force Academy giving a series of lectures, Jack and Daniel were given time out to finalize the plans for their handfasting ceremony. It was to be a small affair that would take place on Friday, 15th December.
"Bill of Rights Day," Jack said, a little defiantly, when notifying General Hammond of their intentions.
"It seemed appropriate," Daniel added. "Maybe one day, we'll be able to add the right to marry whomsoever we choose, regardless of race, color, creed or gender."
Hammond didn't demur. He also accepted their invitation to the ceremony, but didn't feel he could attend the party afterwards.
"We can't both be off base for too long," he said regretfully. "Somebody has to mind the shop."
Four days before the happy event however, it looked as if it would have to be postponed. An alien electronic entity with an attitude problem built a nest in the basement. When it needed more computer capacity, it took over Sam's brain.
At one point, it looked as if they would be attending a wake instead of a wedding until Jack, still short on sleep, threatened to wipe out the entity's entire race unless it left Sam. It was still touch and go for a while. Janet, not finding any actual brain activity, was set to turn off life support, when Daniel realized where 'Sam' was.
"Gonna redraft that living will," Sam said when she realized how narrowly she'd escaped being stuck in the base computer system.
"Kinda gives a new meaning to 'The Ghost in the Machine', doesn't it?" Jack commented. "Koestler," he added on getting surprised looks from Daniel and Sam.
"What? I can read, y'know," he snapped.
"I know you can, Jack. It was the evidence that you read books that came as a surprise," Daniel grinned.
No further alarums or excursions prevented the handfasting which took place at the Megaron in Mantinea. Izmini, with whom the couple had developed a warm friendship during their stay, presided over the event. There were fifteen others present; five from Earth including Janet and Cassandra, all their Arcadian friends, and Edda, Linnet and Keane representing the Furlings.
It all passed off very smoothly despite Daniel's surprising Jack by presenting Izmini with matching rings for the ceremony. He'd managed to sneak out into Colorado Springs without Jack knowing, bought the rings and had them engraved around the inside with 'Love forever' and each other's name. Jack made no comment but his eyes looked a little watery.
General Hammond then left by the usual conveyance, taking Janet and Cassie with him, and the party began. Leandros had laid on musical entertainment with dancers, jugglers and a magician, and a feast was spread in the dining chamber.
The whole event went with a real swing. Daniel and Ilarion both over-indulged somewhat to the irritated envy of their partners and the amusement of the rest of the guests. Their ribald and raunchy exchanges brought the color to Sam's cheeks more than once. Halfway through the evening, it was noticed that she was missing. So was Keane.
"IIIIII. know," Daniel grinned, "let'sss play 'Hunt the Assstrophys-is-is-is-is-is... Ist!"
Ilarion and Daniel, hand in hand, led the rest of the party, conga style through the Megaron, round the gardens, laughing and singing, not noticing the evening chill of Arcadia's mild winter. On they danced into the accommodation buildings where they finally tracked down the missing couple. On Sam's bed. But much to one or two people's disappointment, they were merely sitting sedately on the edge and talking. Sam was faintly pink nevertheless.
"Carter?" Jack said suspiciously. "What are you doing?"
"We're discussing the Principle of Complementarity and wave-particle duality, sir. Keane's just confirmed that photons don't actually exist which means we're going to have to do a complete rethink about"
"For crying out loud, Carter," Jack exclaimed, "this is our wedding party. So come on, let your hair down and have some fun."
"Erm, I am having fun, sir," Sam replied with a pained expression that plainly begged not to be dragged off to do something frivolous.
"Only you, Carter, only you," Jack grimaced. "Okay folks, move along now. Nothing to see here..."
He shooed the rest of the guests away like he was directing rubber-neckers away from a train wreck.
"Daniel, that means you too," he insisted, "and don't pout."
Following everyone else out, Jack turned around in the doorway and hissed, "Don't suppose this means we'll get any honkin' big...?"
"Can't blame a guy for asking. Just don't get too carried away, 'kay? And you, young man, don't um... Oh never mind."
"Is he always like this?" Keane asked as the door closed.
"Worse usually," Sam grinned. "Now, where were we?"
"Round about here, methinks," the Furling replied, gently kissing her neck below her ear and working south. "Hath no one ever taught thy people about stealth?"
"That would be a yes," said Jack, passing the open window.
A week later, Eleni was 'brought forth', which naturally resulted in a total sap-fest, not just from Ilarion and Verenos, but from the entire Arcadian nation, or so it seemed. The following two days were given over to a kind of Festival of New Life, celebrating not only Eleni's arrival but the rebirth of their sun just after the shortest day.
As chief Tau'ri representative, Jack got through the first day with oft gritted teeth, but he could only take so much. Next morning, well before the second day's frolics began, he took off on one of the mountain bikes.
They'd brought a couple through a few weeks back - and suffered as a new set of muscles were broken in to more regular usage. As they'd surmised, these strange contraptions created much interest with the Arcadians, and Major Kovacek had made several visits to arrange a trade agreement.
When Jack returned around midday, he was in a serious mood. With more urgency than politeness, he managed to detach Daniel from the crowd of admiring friends and drag him off for a private word.
"Get your bike, Daniel Bring that video camera as well. Oh, and we might need flashlights too. I found something you have to see."
"Won't it wait?"
"In this case, I think there's a chance it might not. I mean, what I want you to see will still be there. Whether or not we'll be allowed to go there again is up for speculation."
"But we've never been stopped from going anywhere we've wanted to ever since we arrived," Daniel protested, unwilling to be dragged away from the celebrations.
"Maybe that's because we've never been in any sensitive areas before."
"If there are 'sensitive areas', surely they would've mentioned it?"
"Maybe they've been working on the principal of not crossing bridges till they come to them?"
"What?" Daniel asked, mystified.
"Think about it. The Tau'ri are pretty well known around the galaxy as a very curious race by now, and what piques our curiosity more than anything else?"
Daniel looked momentarily blank.
"Jeez, Daniel! Garden of Eden? Tree of Knowledge...?"
"But that's just... Oh, I see. Tell us not to go there and we'd want to know why, and if we didn't get satisfactory answers"
"We'd go and look for the answers ourselves. Right."
"You're talking about the Furlings, not the Arcadians, aren't you?"
"Bingo! Give the man a cigar! Now, grab your bike and let's go."