zorb: (S/D cute - SG)
zorb ([personal profile] zorb) wrote2007-04-23 11:26 pm
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Fic - SG-1 - Clinging as Condition (Bhava Rising) - Part 2/2

Title: Clinging as Condition (Bhava Rising), Part Two
Rating: R, for teh pr0n
Characters/Ships: Original team, Sam/Daniel, Daniel/Sha're
Spoilers: Through "Tin Man." I know, I make it so tough to follow along.
Disclaimer: There are a lot of references to other works in this fic. I don't want to spoil them in advance, but if you recognize it, it's not mine, and I'm not making any money from it. That goes especially for the Stargate universe and all it encompasses. When in doubt, Wikipedia.
Summary: "With clinging as condition, bhava arises." What happens when you're cut off from everything and almost everyone you know, down to yourself? How do you reconcile who you were and who you are? How do you become?

None of them need a calendar to mark the day their world gets a lot smaller. The newly-sealed bulkheads that offer physical protection from intense radiation cut their wandering space in half, and Harlan worries that they’ll have to seal off the sub-levels, too. The pressure situation isn’t as critical as when they first arrived on Altar, thanks to Sam’s improvements, but it’s the most time-intensive. They have to manually open and close the valves, in turn, rotating periodically around the complex. With monitoring systems out of commission, someone needs to inspect every working system, twice a day.

Of course, they have fewer working systems to monitor. Radio’s about the only thing left; Sam built a separate power circuit for that.

In what spare time remains, they recharge. Somehow, power has dropped to twenty percent of normal, leaving behind minimal artificial life-sustaining capacity. They reduce power demands wherever possible, shutting down the maintenance room and leaving minimal lighting. They work out a staggered recharging cycle and set eighty percent maximums – they’re covering less territory now, anyway. And Harlan constantly reminds them to be careful and not exert themselves unless necessary.

Daniel privately thinks Harlan would save a lot more energy if he stopped reminding them. The man’s got enough going on with Sam constantly questioning him about the compound’s power systems. It all sounds like the same thing over and over to Daniel, and he’s almost grateful for pressure check rotations with Jack or Teal’c. It helps drive Sam’s face, more tired and creased every time he sees her, from his mind. Every time they repair one area only to have another break down adds another weight on her shoulders.

At least he’s spending more time with Jack. They’re at B-Junction on…some number rotation, he’s lost count (not really, but making it conscious would be exertion, right?), working at a conservative pace.

And a silent one. In their former lives, Daniel would have treasured a break from Jack being Jack, but the task and the silence in which they perform it serves to emphasize that "robotic" is the perfect descriptor. He's got two options: provoke Jack with argument or unsolicited information, or try to commiserate.

He's too tired for an argument today. "I feel like we're in the caves back on Abydos."

Jack doesn't respond.

"You know, darkness, close quarters..." Sand in your eyes and hair and places you don't want to think about being sand-accessible.

Jack snorts and turns down the hallway, Daniel following behind.

Fuck it. "Of course, the company was a lot better there."

"I'm sorry, am I not meeting your social needs, Doctor Jackson?"

There we go.

"That was a joke, you know. You used to have a sense of humor," he replies, just keeping things going.

Works like a charm. "He had a sense of humor. I'm a fucking machine. Or did you miss that memo?"

"Jack, you can't keep doing this."

Jack stops dead in his tracks and whirls around. "You bet your ass I can. This is all just some grand social experiment to you, isn't it? Christ."

"We're going to be here for a very long time, you know. You can't shut us out forever."

Jack waves the wrench in a grand circle. "Take a look around, Daniel! Forever don't seem so long anymore, does it?"

He's trying to rile him up; nothing irritates Jack more than a calm, collected Daniel. "We'll fix it. But your attitude, Colonel, isn't helping. We need you to be present."

He's grateful that Jack doesn't insult either of them by picking at his word choice.

“If you're trying to blame me, need I remind you, I wasn’t the one fucking around with things I don’t understand?”

“It wasn’t her fault.”

“How the hell do you know that?”

“She said so.”

Jack's tone pierces. “Jesus Christ. You’d jump off a bridge if someone told you to.”

“Don’t you trust her anymore?”

How could Jack glare steel at him in the dark? What sense told Daniel he was doing it? “I trusted the real Carter. I don’t know the copy.”

He stalks off, leaving Daniel to sort out the truths from the beliefs.

*

Jack’s still stomping around when they get back, much to Harlan’s distress. Daniel makes a quick decision. “I’m still feeling all right, I think I’ll check the filtration systems. Sam, join me?” He gives her a hand up from where she’s crouched over the compound schematics, and she needs no persuasion. Daniel can feel Jack's eyes on his retreating back.

Down the corridor, he pries open the cover at the first relay station and holds a penlight so she can adjust the gauges. “Thanks,” she murmurs.

He shrugs. “In any other situation, I’d say you were ruining your eyes with all that close reading.”

It’s a feeble joke, but it makes her smile. “Reading the same thing over and over probably isn’t helping me anyway. I’ve had them memorized since before we started."

They turn the light off between stations and walk in the dark. It’s been a lot quieter amongst the group since the failure, despite their closer conditions. Something about the dark signals silence. Given Jack’s outburst, Sam’s frustration, and Harlan’s endless twittering, he can’t say he really minds. Teal’c, of course, is a perfect companion.

Between the second and third stations, Sam breaks it with a loud sigh. “I’m not ready to go back yet.”

“So we won’t. Sit.” He finds the back of her neck and gently pushes down between her shoulders, and she practically crumples. The corridor is as good a place as any, and they’d hear someone coming in time not to be tripped over.

He settles in behind her, back against the wall, and slides his hands across her upper back. When she doesn’t protest, he starts to knead the tight muscle. She hisses, the good kind. He works inside and out, using his thumbs, feeling synthetic tissue react just like the real thing as he goes.

“Where’d you learn how to give massages this well?” Sam says after a few minutes.

He smiles in memory. “As a post-doc. I had a girlfriend who took classes on the weekend and liked to practice on me.”

Sam snorts, and it's nothing like when Jack does it. “What classes were these?”

“Full body massage. Scared her proper English parents, but then, she did enjoy studying other cultures, and it brought her enough cash to pay for drinks.” Her shoulders start to shake, and he redoubles his efforts. “Don’t get any ideas, I only learned the easy stuff.”

She laughs, and the back muscles he was pressing with the heel of his hand finally relax. She reaches back to pat his knee. “That’s good enough for me. How much do I owe you?”

“Hm, that’s a tough one. The nearest bank is uninhabitable.”

“So’s the nearest store.”

“Good point. How about not telling the others that I’m giving free massages?”

“Done. Your secret talents are safe with me.” She sighs. “Not that it’ll be hard. I think you and Teal’c are the only ones still talking to me. Harlan’s started running the other direction, and the colonel only wants status reports.”

“They know you’re trying.” He doesn’t think it’s a lie, deep down. Her head is bent forward, body fully given up to his molding hands. And that's a startling thought - even in her lab on an Earth-bound day, Sam was always the model soldier, poised to spring into action.

He realizes that he doesn't know pliant Sam that well. He's seen hints of her (unconscious, with Cassandra, when she thinks no one's looking), but the woman who defeated a Mongol chieftain in single-handed combat was never far behind. He slides his hands over her shoulders and knows the strength there is unchanged. But what of the spirit?

She’s quiet as his hands just smooth over her back and down her arms, then: “The thing is, I’m pretty sure there’s only two alternatives.” She braces her hands on the floor, lifts herself just slightly, and slowly spins in place with his hand still on the back of her neck. He keeps up the gentle circling patterns on her neck to encourage her as she avoids his eyes. “One: It really was my fault, and something I did caused a failure that neither Harlan nor I can figure out.”

“But I thought you weren’t working anywhere near the main systems.”

She nods. “I wasn’t, but maybe I just didn’t understand them. But the other choice worries me more.”

“And that is?”

She looks up at him. “Two: Time’s up. Nothing can exist forever, and even this compound has an expiration date.”

His hand stills; her breath stops while she waits for his response.

He slides the hand across her shoulder and down her arm to hold her hand. “So much for immortality.”

*

Daniel wasn't surprised when the approach of Abydos's annual solar eclipse sparked debate among the tribe. Along with all other phenomena (natural and otherwise), the eclipse had always been attributed to an act of Ra - specifically, his yearly rejuvenation. What did surprise him was the even split of opinions in the major factions. One group believed, now that they knew that their ancient faith had been a construct and its leader overturned, that the darkness would return as scheduled. Just as many claimed that the phenomenon had been a mystical portent of Ra whose origin was not Ra himself, but some other, less anthropomorphic, higher power, and therefore would disappear along with the god. A minor cult sprang up in addition to these, claiming that the sun would indeed vanish, and so would the rest of the world. An equally minor but no less fervent group said instead that the darkness would come, but without a god to end it, never go away (and again, bring the end of the world).

It had been months enough since Daniel's arrival that he was able to stay out of the debate. After Sha're had alerted him to the pedestal on which many of the people placed him, he started noticing signs of it where he hadn't before, being too wrapped up in exploration of the culture and unaware of normal newcomer treatment. He'd spent a few weeks kicking himself for his ignorance, the words of old anthropology professors running through his head, and slowly cultivated a retreat. The itch of wanting to share his knowledge was outweighed by his most extreme fears of what he could become, and Sha're always provided an eager and private outlet. Now, the few that did ask for his opinion on the eclipse were close family and friends alone, and Daniel could tell they did not take his rational explanation as gospel. He didn't feel bad; they'd soon have their proof, anyway.

More interesting to him was Kasuf, and how seriously he took the matter. The chieftain wasn't concerned with the eclipse's theological implications, but its administrative ones. The Abydonians' tents and caves belied a deep infrastructure with a regulatory calendar system. Of late, Ra's forces' activities had played a large part in determining benchmarks, and the eclipse had represented a significant demarcation. Kasuf spent much of his time in council, despite Daniel's reassurances (being a good anthropologist had to come second to being a good son-in-law), leaving the younger family members to their speculation.

Sha're, of course, put her faith in Daniel's opinion. She scoffed at the extremists, though preparing as usual for the celebrations surrounding the event. If by some chance the world did come to an end, she said, they might as well enjoy themselves while they could; and in the more likely event that it didn't, they could rejoice that they were all still alive. When Skaara returned one day to tell them about how the apocalypse cultists were planning a mass pyre of their worldly goods, she chased him out of the tent with a damp towel.

"Fools," she muttered fondly, returning to her work. "Won't they be ashamed when the sun returns and they find themselves still breathing the same air."

Daniel laughed softly. "Let them enjoy it while they can, then."

"Enjoy it? My Daniel, how can they find joy in this incessant arguing?" She had one hand on the towel still.

Daniel shrugged. "Every culture I've studied has its end-of-the-world theories. For all our human arrogance, no one ever seems to believe that they'll go on forever - at least, not in the real world. So they construct myths about it, and when the end is put off another year, it's all that more powerful. The real end of a culture usually comes with much less of a bang."

Sha're eyed him. "But you do not find it harmful to them, Skaara and the cousins, to believe such things?"

"Not in the long term. That's what young men do; they want to believe that they're living in the most exciting time there ever has been and will be. Ra's defeat probably didn't help. Everyone grows up thinking thinking of their youth as some sort of end point to an age."

"Ah, but we settled elders know better than that, do we not?" she teased. Her face was smooth and glowing in the sunset light.

"Sha're, you will never be old," he assured her. "Now me, on the other hand..."

She laughed, and he mentally noted to remind her later that she'd never rejected his claim. If she needed reassurance of his own youth, he would be happy to provide it.

*

The clock in their room shows the hours slipping into days, but the demarcations have lost whatever little meaning they had. They live in recharging cycles and maintenance rotations, and Daniel goes from one task to the next with only a sublimated sense of continuity. He shuts down when it's time to rest and goes out when it's time to go out, and in between, he clings to sentience with a recitation of the epics in their original languages. Gilgamesh and Odysseus, Arthur and Rama. Even Harlan's stopped questioning their silence.

He likes going on rounds with Teal'c. The Jaffa radiates calm, tranquility, with none of Jack's buried tension or Sam's anxious distress. Watching him pry open a gauge cover that's collecting muck (gathering faster now between shifts, the filters in this sector must be clogged), Daniel realizes, with a stab of guilt -

"Teal'c. How are you...I mean..." Wow, nice opener. His throat is thick with disuse, and is it his imagination, or did his jaw actually creak? Oil can!

Teal'c doesn't pause in his work, but he's listening, open in a way certain mechanical colonels aren't. Maybe the second attempt will work. "You seem to be doing better than the rest of us, but I know you must miss your family." And the cause for which you abandoned them.

Teal'c sighs. "No more than you do yours, I am certain."

"Well, yes, but mine was always more of a...hopeless situation." A sign, a glimmer of hope, just around the corner, just through the next gate, maybe today...

"A Jaffa warrior knows he is one of many, Daniel Jackson. His place, even as First Prime, is never secure. His god can always find a new servant. There is another fighting my battles. His will to fight and win could be no stronger than my own."

If - when - they get the power back, he's going to have to grill Teal'c more about Jaffa culture. "I guess the culture of individuality has its downsides," he comments, and god, did something get into his linguistic circuits today?

Teal'c, wisely, doesn't respond, and the rest of their cycle is spent in silence. As they wend their way back to the resting room: "Extensive meditation is beneficial, as well."

*

It’s another few rotations before Sam wastes precious reserve power to call them all back to home base. Daniel and Harlan finish up their task and make their way back. It’s easy to follow Harlan in the dark; he’s broken recent habit and has been talking non-stop at Daniel out of some stored notion that Daniel wants to know every detail about his people’s culture. Normally, he wouldn’t mind, but he’s low on energy and keeping as much as he can in reserve, sick of never being at full strength.

Sam’s face in the control room perks him up, sort of. He hasn’t seen certainty in her eyes in weeks, but it’s hedged with something that sets him on edge. Jack and Teal’c arrive a few seconds later, from the corridor behind Sam.

She doesn’t hold back. “I know what caused the power failure, and it’s not the compound failing.”

There’s a perceptible decrease in tension – they’ve all had that weight on their minds – tempered by her unspoken “but.” Beside him, Harlan almost jumps for joy, but SG-1’s silence stops him after the first clap.

Sam continues. “A month ago, I started working on a backup switchboard for the pressure valve regulator. What I didn’t realize was that the system actually does have redundancy, just not the kind we’d expect. Things are connected that shouldn’t be. Even though it wasn't the primary controller, the new system produced a slight overflow that percolated out into environmentals, and from there to main power. Over time, it built up, and when it reached critical mass…”

“Kablooey?” suggests Jack, dead serious.

“Pretty much, sir. It caused a cascade failure that affected almost every system.” Finished, Sam crosses her arms across her chest and looks everywhere but at them.

“For cryin’…” Jack mumbles. Before Daniel can step in, he continues, “All right, now we know what’s wrong. How do we fix it?”

She straightens and finally turns to face him. “Very incrementally. We can’t just take out the backup controller – it’s entwined with the other systems now. With Harlan’s help, I can work out a dependency chart that should give us the right order for repairs. I think we can work it out in less than a day.”

Harlan nods. “Yes, certainly.”

“Get to it, then.” He pauses. “Good work, Carter. Daniel, go recharge, you look like hell.”

He’d like to make a smart-ass comment about the validity of Jack giving him orders, but he’s too wiped out to care. He takes a moment to smile at Sam before Teal’c gently leads him away.

*

Harlan and Sam do indeed work out a plan, and by the time Daniel's back up to speed (for the most part), they're ready with instructions. Sam actually looks excited when he joins them, and if Jack's still glowering in the corner, Daniel doesn't care.

"It won't be an immediate restoration," she warns, once the path is laid out. Daniel doesn't know if the ease with which he followed the discussion comes from his robotic mind or from having been over every fucking inch of their reduced domain. "There's a lot to do, and I don't want to rush things. I want to make sure each stage is secure before going to the next."

"Hey, we've got time," comes Jack's voice, and Daniel can't quite read his tone.

Screw Jack, anyway. "Well, I just got up, so I can get started if you tell me what to do."

Sam's smile is a beacon in their dim workstation. "Thanks, Daniel. I'll stay with you, and everyone else can get some rest. We won't need more than two."

They split up, and Daniel's amused to see an actual spring in Sam's step as he follows her upstairs. Their target is the control box above the central hub. "The capacitance problem has to be fixed first," she reiterates. "Fail-safe for everything else depends on it."

"So you told us." He quirks an eyebrow. "Eidetic memory, you know."

She laughs softly. "Ah, but with you, I can get away with the lectures."

They pry open the pertinent panel together. By silent agreement, Daniel will do the hands-on work while Sam directs him and feeds him tools. Getting to the work is half the job, and he can proceed methodically for the first stage and listen to Sam's chatter behind him, too.

"So I was thinking, when we've got light and a regular schedule again, we should do Blade Runner," she chirps.

"Haven't seen it."

He can tell without looking that she's agog. "It's a science fiction classic!"

"Ironically, I was never that much of a sci-fi fan. But isn't that about cyborgs or something? Are you sure we should use it?"

"Yes, but I think it's time we started embracing our situation. I mean, for real. We're not going anywhere, you know?" she insists.

"I don't disagree, Sam, but other people will." Like-

"The colonel. I know. But I don't think I care anymore."

"Wow. What happened to the proper Captain Carter I know?" he teases, handing her a pile of screws.

She shrugs. "She's off touring the galaxy. I've been, uh...re-evaluating a few things."

"Like why we bother with the command structure anymore?"

There's a pause he almost doesn't notice before she says, "Yes, exactly. Here, let me get that one." She scoots in beside him, ducking underneath his arm to grasp at the latch his fingers are too big to handle. There's not really room for him to back away, so he leans forward instead to form a brace. There's something about looking down on her while she works, but any deeper thoughts are cut off as she jerks back with the panel's release and he narrowly avoids getting a mouthful of (dirty) blonde hair. They tumble backwards, stopped by the wall, and her quick laugh rumbles through him before she rolls off of his chest.

"Sorry, I should've warned you," she says, placing the panel aside. "But thanks for the cushion."

"Glad to be of service," he quips, getting back up. He picks up the thread of their previous conversation. "I've been thinking about that, too. We're really more of a collective than a hierarchy now. But just try calling him Jack and see what happens."

She snickers. "Yeah, I'm sure that'll go over really well. Maybe after we've got the lights back on."

"Always looking on the bright side," he murmurs, and she smacks his shoulder.

"Concentrate, you. That's the last one - we can start replacing the resistors now." She lays the pieces out in front of him and points. "That one first." She rattles off the instructions, he gets started, and she goes on: "Sci-fi or not, I think you'd like Blade Runner. The tech stuff is really just a backdrop for the metaphysics. My brother and I saw it together and spent about a week afterwards arguing over the ending. It could even be therapeutic, in a way."

"All right, you've convinced me. Hand me the next one?"

She drops it in his outstretched hand. He glances at her and nods in thanks, but she shakes her head. "Keep your eyes on the plating in there. There's no telling what charges are - "

A blinding flash -

- sparks -

- shock that freezes every muscle and circuit in him -

- dim echo of a voice calling for help -

Dark.

*

Reboot.

Sound: Faint humming. Closer, fabric shifting. Air movement - breathing, irregular.

Scent and Taste, always together: Sterile. Metallic.

Then, Proprioception. Limbs, two lower, two upper, stretched horizontal. Almost-hard surface at the back, softer behind the head, all flat. Tingling.

To regain sight, he has to do something. What's that? Oh...

Eyes open.

Close. Hurts.

Open again, slowly. Light resolves into shades and shapes. To the right, it's -

A gasp and a start. "Daniel?"

Isolated sense modes concatenate input, integrate functionality, repair, process, repair... "Sam."

Positive identification. New data include hollow eyes, a creased face, and a tight jaw. Integrate.

She reaches out and clasps his hand where it lies on the table, and with a slip and a snick, his conscious mind slides into place. "You're awake," she continues. "I wasn't sure..." She looks away momentarily.

"What happened?" Bone tired in any form.

"What do you remember?" she asks.

Access memory - no, rack the brain. "Um, we were fixing the, uh, capacitance, right?" At her nod, he goes on. "I was replacing resistors, but something happened...I don't know what, but waking up here is the next thing I remember." He would shake his head, but the tingling wards him off it.

Sam nods again. "That's right. There was a short circuit, and it gave you a shock. You were knocked out."

That's it? "Er, okay, but why am I back in here?"

She shakes her head. "I don't think you understand. A shock like that would hurt an organic life-form, but they'd stay conscious. Our systems run primarily on the same form of electricity running through the compound. For us, a simple shock is more like a power surge to a PC."

Oh. No wonder he was so sore. "How long...?" She hesitates. "Sam, how long?"

"Two weeks." She bites her lower lip and looks away.

"Two weeks..." He takes a moment to process it. "And I was just...out, the whole time?"

Her fingers curl tighter into his palm. "Yeah. We tried to - well, jump-start you - "

The door swishing open cuts her off, and Daniel thankfully doesn't have to turn his head to know it's Harlan, who begins with an anxious, "Captain Carter, perhaps you should - he is awake?!" Sam's grip relaxes as Harlan rushes over, seizing Daniel's shoulders. "Doctor Jackson, you are working! And your memory?" He gives Sam a worried look, but she shakes her head reassuringly.

"It's fine, as far as I can tell. No loss." She turns to Daniel. "We were worried that without the original template to copy, you might come back with a, er, clean slate."

"But you did not!" Harlan exclaims. "Oh, I apologize for ever doubting you. I told Captain Carter that the technology was not designed to be restored in this way, not after so many charges, but she insisted that we wait and see if you would recover on your own. And you have! I must go inform the others. Com-traya!" He's halfway out the door by the end of his speech.

Sam keeps her eyes on the door as she explains, all apologies, "I thought maybe there was some residual flow, and that it might build over time if you stayed near a power source."

"Thanks." She shrugs. "Sam, look at me." He channels all the strength he can muster into raising his arm, touching her cheek. She's startled into doing as he says. "Thank you. You saved my life."

And maybe things aren't all back the way they should be, because he can't figure out why her face falls and her eyes shine with what would be tears, if they produced them. He doesn't get a chance to ask; the door swishes again, and Jack, Teal'c, and Harlan soon crowd around him, all smiles and relief, undercut by exhausted worry. By the time they get him sitting up again, there's no telling where Sam has gone.

*

Recovery, once begun, is swift, and nothing like his human experiences. He's aware of every part of the process like never before, able to focus on individual circuits as they fire up again. If he concentrates, he almost thinks he could direct the healing, if he wanted to. It's somewhere in between human healing and the sarcophagus's rejuvenation, but nothing like them at all.

While he's been sleeping, the rest of them have been putting Sam's plan into action. Or so they tell him, but it doesn't explain why things aren't yet back up to speed. He asks Harlan, who only gives him, "There was a delay," before scurrying off to shoo Jack away from his controls.

As entertaining as their squabbles can be, he's not in the mood and turns to reorient himself, starting a circuit around the compound. He can put the pieces together. It only makes sense, after all, that with an accident like his, there'd be delays for re-checking procedures, safety precautions, and probably a change in operating order. Plus, there was his sorry self - hardware? - to care for. Daniel wonders idly what his mother would have said if she could see him now. What did I tell you about putting your hand on the stove? Or Now you see why I didn't let you use the toaster?

The words are hollow. He has no idea what she would have said.

He walks faster. Shit, he has no idea what she would have said, or if she ever said anything remotely like that. Maybe it was someone else? Not Sha're, she would've laughed at his despair and kissed it away, once he was recovered. He was never seriously injured on Abydos, after Ra, though the possibility nagged at the back of his mind. For the minor scrapes and bruises, his and others', she was a tender nursemaid, but always practical.

Except the one time. He'd developed a fever, a children's illness on Abydos for which he, of course, had no immunities. He didn't remember much of the few days it had lasted. Someone dabbing his brow with a cool cloth, face fading in and out during his moments of lucidity, there when he slept and woke, holding his hand....

Oh.

*

He finds her in the storage locker of the current uppermost level. Her back is already stiff with his approach.

"You were there."

She doesn't seem to know what to say to that, not that he blames her. "Could you get me a stepladder? I need components from the top shelf."

Sure she does. He steps closer. "The whole time?"

"It'll only take a minute, I'm sure Teal'c could use your help downstairs afterwards." All he gets is half a glance.

"Sam, don't."

She stops, cable in one hand and palm flat on the wall in front of her. "I have to."

It's nothing to land beside her and instinct to touch her shoulder, ignoring the reflexive flinch. He can hold her there with no effort at all (another circuit flashes in him, and he decidedly does not look for it); he knows she could break away, but she doesn't.

"You know I'm okay, right? I owe you my life. Sam, I owe you..." Her shaking head stops him. "Okay. I get it. But it's over now."

She whuffs a laugh. "It'll never be over. Immortal, right?"

He doesn't voice another thanks to her, just grins and brushes the grease smudge on her cheek. "Brave new world."

Her eyes are clear and glowing in the dim. How did he never notice how close in height they are, and how much difference the few inches separation makes when you're toe to toe and marking the distance between? That their mechanical forms maintain the fuzz of human skin? That-

She stops his wrist, and now her eyes are narrowed, calculating. "Do you mean that?"

He does. He opens his mouth to tell her so and nearly short circuits again when she captures his lips with her own, palming the back of his neck to pull his head that one inch down to hers. The shock fades with digital precision and it's no time at all before he joins in the game with a hand on her cheek and another on her back to draw her in, tilting his head when their noses gently collide. It's just like a kiss, with the bonus of feeling every electrical nerve in his body light up and sing, and knowing she's encountering the same response.

Not actually needing to breathe has its advantages; he has no idea how much time passes before she finally lets him go and they rest their foreheads against each other's.

"That's why," she whispers, hoarsely.

God, he's so fucking stupid. "How come you're always right?" he mumbles against her cheek as his face slips down for the sensation of skin on skin.

His nip on her neck interrupts her response with a gasp. "Talent," she manages. "Do that again."

"Yes, ma'am." He obliges, sending her bending back against the cabinet door, and goddamn, why aren't there any tables in here, because he can see where this is going and a cold metal floor isn't his first choice. Her fists in his shirt and hair prevent him from looking around for a substitute. Every spot where the cloth tightens against his skin or creases around a joint, where her nails dance lightly over the follicles in his scalp, ignites a firestorm that puts metaphorical description to shame. Insanely inappropriately, his mind drags up the homunculus sensation diagram from high school biology. It's dead on.

As every part of him will agree. A surge of activity jolts him forward to press her more firmly against the wall, leading with the hips and inspiring her muffled grunt of appreciation. She hooks a leg around his to anchor him there. He's got nowhere to go and can only relieve the building pressure with insistent rubbing, up, down, circling, never far from where she has him tied down.

And now her hands are under his shirt and the sparks fly across his back as she tugs it upward. It nearly kills him to release her momentarily to shrug it off. He stops a moment, because her eyes are boring into his chest, and as heated as his core temperature has become, he can still feel a blush coming on. He's seen the other guys in the locker room, after all, and they all met her crazy ex...

And any feelings of inadequacy fly from his mind when her lips attack his exposed nipples with enthusiasm. "Sam...I hate to interrupt...but where..."

She lifts her head (damn), meets his eyes, plants her palm on his chest, and with calculated pressure, shoves him down, straddling him where he lands.

He can go with that.

She reaches for his waistband as he finds the back of her shirt and pulls it over her head, pulling her down for another searing kiss as he goes. He finally gets an answer to something he's wondered; she's wearing a sports bra with the same pattern of black and white stripes as her shirt. While he's paused to marvel, she stays leaning down, balling their two tops into a pillow that she places under his head. He misses the eyeful when she sits back up but gets a whole new revelation when she shucks the bra and puts his hands in its place.

Like he needed more inspiration. He picks up the pace of exploration, rolling a nipple with one hand while the other seeks out the lining of her remaining undergarments. She rocks back with his rhythm, right over him, and the oddly-forgiving material of his pants has been too tight for a long time now, so it, too, comes off, along with the rest of what she's wearing.

Every. Last. Detail.

"If I didn't know better, I'd think you'd never seen one before," she teases while he gapes. Her long kiss and probing tongue bring him back to the matter at hand. His only response is to grab generous handfuls of her ass and grind up into her. He's aching again, but nothing like before, and she's slick against him which maybe will get analyzed later, but he's kind of busy now and can't be bothered.

With a short groan, she lifts away from his hands and positions herself above him. She takes it slow, sliding down carefully so he can help guide her into place. Slow, careful, not for fear of damage (and how to explain that) but for the new-found pleasure of nerves lighting up. God, they could map their fucking brains with this kind of data, which again, is not something he wants to think about as she takes him all the way, stretched tight and trembling.

He lets her set the pace in this position, rolling in time with her and reaching between them for moisture to paint in amorphous designs on her breasts. She gasps as it lets her feel the cool air and picks up the pace. He wants to kiss her and settles for what hints of flesh he can capture as her motion dictates.

But it turns out he doesn't need it at all - something shifts inside and all of the impulses rocket straight to his groin, exploding in an orgasm that jerks his head back into the makeshift cushion behind it and makes Sam grunt when his hips thrust her upward. The action potential cascades throughout his body, and there's no question in his mind that all of his circuitry is back to normal. Somehow, he has the presence of mind to keep moving with her, one hand on her breast and one where they're joined. A little more stimulation and she follows him down. He can almost see the flash behind her eyes as she reacts to each firing nerve. It goes on and on; she's still shuddering when she collapses on top of him, claiming one messy kiss before rolling off onto the discarded clothing.

She stays pressed to his side with one leg flung between his as they both come down. After a long moment...

"So," he says, clearing his throat. "Fully functional, huh?"

Her shaking shoulders belie her suppressed laughter. "Hypothesis confirmed," she agrees.

"Good thing we didn't short out."

She gasps. "I didn't even think of that! Some geniuses we are."

"I can just imagine Jack and Harlan coming to find us passed out like this."

The laugh that bubbles its way out of her echoes in his chest. She raises herself up, slowly, and winces. "Okay, I think I just discovered the downside. I need to go recharge." Realization passes over her face. "Are you all right? You're still recovering."

He nods and follows her upright. "I'm tired, but I can make it back." He drops a kiss on her temple before gathering his clothes together. When he turns to see if she's ready to go, she's standing just as he left her, arms crossed over her middle and expression just like the one he woke up to.

Before he can ask, she starts, "Daniel, I..."

"Don't," he says, handing her shirt over. "I know. I need some time to think."

She swallows, hard, but nods. He can't leave without her, with the buddy system intact, but their walk back to home base is a silent one. He doesn't notice or care if any of the others see them on the way in favor of settling into blissful stupor.

*

They're all working in the control room, and when passed a wrench, Sam says, "Thanks, Jack." The look on the colonel's face makes Teal'c burst into an echoing guffaw that sets them all off.

*

Daniel makes a "Danger, Will Robinson!" wisecrack as they discuss the next task that doesn't make anyone bristle.

*

To celebrate the return of full power, Teal'c challenges Jack to a footrace that goes twenty-four hours before ending in a draw.

*

Sam babbles on about the crisis giving her a much better understanding of Altari technology design. She's got an idea for independent power supplies that would expand their travel radii. Harlan looks fretful, before the discussion turns to using their hypothetical battery powers to seek out new resources in the compound and learn more about the planetary conditions.

*

They don't dream, but Daniel does drift into flights of "What if?" when left alone. He thinks, sometimes, about the other SG-1. Are they alive? (Assume yes.) Working together? (Naturally.) On a mission, uncovering the lost remnants of an ancient Earth culture? (Odds are good.)

He realizes, one night, that the Teal'c, Jack, and Sam he thinks about when he wonders these things aren't his teammates. Their Teal'c doesn't demonstrate his sense of humor with long, rambling anecdotes that somehow leave them all in stitches. Their Jack doesn't test Harlan's nerves by jumping off high places, just to declare how great his knees feel when he lands. Their Sam doesn't...

...well, there's a lot he knows about his Sam that he never knew about the other one. And doesn't care.

Not one day after that first time, he turned a corner and found her working alone to patch a light. She looked up momentarily, did a double take, and dropped her screwdriver. The color rising in her cheeks when he handed it back to her came through even in the dim corridor. Without so much as a preamble, he said what he'd come to say. "Thinking is overrated."

She stared at him.

"I thought I needed to, I should have to, but I realized I've spent every moment we've been on this planet doing just that."

Her tongue flicked out to wet her lips before she spoke. "So..."

He tucked her hair behind her ear. "So." His thumb lingered, tracing the line of her earlobe before falling away.

She smiled, and the room was brighter. "Okay."

*

Sha're always liked to question him about the idioms he used when they spoke in English. "'In another life'?" she asked once. "My Daniel, what is the matter with this one?"

Nothing, he wants to tell her now. But it's not mine anymore.

*

He's wandering the halls one "night" when he follows the noises of someone working to the gate room.

Jack's taking down the stargate.

Daniel freezes too late; Jack meets his eyes.

Then goes back to work.

Daniel turns and walks away.

*

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