Rating: G

Every time Daniel takes a long trip in a goa'uld or Tok'ra cargo ship he tells himself Never Again Without An Air Mattress, but somehow when it comes time to do it again he never remembers. No padding, and only two seats; this variation on the tel'tak is like the world's worst commuter car, and he still can't figure out what the hell the designers were thinking.

Bra'tac's currently in the co-pilot's seat, pinned there by Teal'c's disapproval despite his protestations that he feels quite well, thank you, and the wound is completely healed. Teal'c, in the pilot's seat, is monitoring Bra'tac and the ship's systems. Sam's been leaning over Teal'c's shoulder for a good forty-five minutes now, fretting over the possibility of problems with Jack's engine adjustments and pretending she isn't fretting over Jack. Ronan, or anyway the Jaffa-shaped lump of flesh formerly known as Ronan, has been moved to an out-of-the-way corner where he lies facedown and hopefully isn't going to start stinking anytime soon.

They'd planned to space the corpse, but by the time they went to do it Jack was already digging into the guts of the rings. Sam's attempt to get details on what he was doing met with blank incomprehension. Daniel abandoned English altogether and managed to get an irritated glare and the word "rings" out of him, which was something, he supposed, but not much. He persisted for a little while, but Jack shut them out completely and eventually they retreated to the front of the ship.

That was three hours ago. Daniel had asked whether they shouldn't find a closer planet with a Stargate and return from there; Sam had pointed out that then they'd have to get to Antarctica from Colorado Springs, and besides, did he really want to go back to the SGC without knowing they had Hammond there to back them up? Besides, she was pretty sure they'd get back in enough time. If Jack had been there, he'd have drawled "pretty sure?" and she'd have said hurriedly "very sure, sir." But Jack had lost his vote along with his voice back in Teonas, and so after an awkward pause Daniel had just shrugged and said "you're right" and settled in for the long haul.

Now, though, he feels cramped. Whether or not you count Ronan, there are too many people in too small a space, and too much anxiety in the air, enough that even Daniel is a little overwhelmed by it. He risks a look back into the hold, and sees one long leg protruding into the center of the rings. Beyond it, one of the benches is mostly clear of the piled supplies that had filled it--Jack must be doing something significant back there. There's enough space for a nap, if he scrunches a little, and after the events of the past five days he's tired enough that he can't imagine a little welding will keep him up.

Jack doesn't even look up when he comes in, absorbed in... something. Daniel has no idea what it is, and frankly wouldn't have had any idea even if Jack were in his right mind, capable of explaining what he was doing, and feeling patient enough to try to do so, so he doesn't bother trying to figure it out. The bench is no more comfortable than the floor was in front, but at least the atmosphere is better. Almost peaceful.

Or blank, depending on whether you were in a half-full or half-empty kind of mood, Daniel supposes.

He pillows his head on one arm, facing in toward the wall and out toward space, and translates The Three Little Pigs into Ancient, whispering the words to himself under his breath. He reads it fluently, has since his return from Vis Uban, but speaking and hearing it is a different matter, and that's important just now. Once he's done with the fairy tale, he switches to translating his first Latin textbook: Roma in Italia est. Italia in Europa est.

Daniel's one high school Latin class was more of an SAT prep course than anything else for most students, but he loved it for itself. Even the conjugations fascinated him.

(Sam had told him, once upon a time, that if he liked that sort of thing he would've loved math, if only he'd had the right teacher. She'd been really passionate about it, actually. Daniel had tried to explain to her that you couldn't solve the problems that interested him with math, and they'd engaged in a low-voiced but tense-jawed argument over the proper content of a liberal arts education until Jack threatened to split them up if they couldn't behave themselves.)

Most of all, though, he'd loved the sound of Latin, and the sense that by speaking it aloud he was performing a kind of resurrection. It was beautiful.

Ancient is a beautiful language too. There's no one he can speak it with at a high level, of course, though some of the other linguists at the SGC are picking it up, but Daniel knows it's beautiful because he can hear it in his own mouth, and because he's made tapes of himself speaking it. He's never liked the sound of his own voice much--who does?--but he'd been able to look past that and drown himself happily in the syllables of a language that hadn't been spoken aloud for possibly millions upon millions of years.

So yes, Ancient is a beautiful language, but you wouldn't know it to listen to Jack speaking it. It seems unfair that Jack, who can wield words as surely as any other weapon when he has to, is being denied even that grace.

Daniel likes to pretend that he's completely grown out of the belief that the universe should be fair, but he knows that's a lie.


He drowses for a while, dreaming vivid dreams that are all the stranger for having nothing whatsoever to do with his current situation. Daniel's a literal dreamer by nature; if he's anxious about, say, the world being destroyed, his dreams generally feature the destruction of the world in glorious technicolor. Today, though, he's dreaming of flower vases and fossils and a remarkable collection of stoves, none of which makes any sense.

Eventually, even the ability to drowse in and out leaves him, and he shuffles himself into dozens of different positions on the bench, trying to convince himself that he's going to get back to sleep. When the sounds coming from behind him stop, he presses his lips together and his eyes closed, but it doesn't do any good. He can hear Jack stomping across the floor, flinging back the flap of one of the packs, rummaging noises combined with an irritated grunt, and by the time Jack's coming back across the room Daniel gives in and turns over to apologize for disturbing him.

Jack's standing not two feet away, looking down at Daniel with the same distant, irritated expression he's been wearing for the better part of two days now. Before Daniel can engage his mouth, Jack drops something onto his chest and sticks his hands in his pockets, watching him. Daniel grabs his glasses from their position on the floor, perilously close to Jack's left boot--that's exactly the kind of situation that's led to him including a spare pair on his regular packing list--and catches the PDA with his other hand as it slides across his chest and makes a break for freedom. It's already been turned on; he squints at it, and determines that yes, it really is set to a game of Freecell.

"Um. Is this..." Daniel pushes himself up to a sitting position, looks around the room a little helplessly, then remembers and switches to Ancient. "Jack, is there something I'm supposed to do with this?"

He regrets the question mark as soon as he sees that struggling look come over Jack's face, but Jack holds up a hand to forestall any attempts on Daniel's part to guess what's coming next, and he waits quietly for a few seconds until Jack forces out "bored."

"Okay, so... oh, you mean me? Look, I'm sorry, I bothered you, I'll move back up front..." It's obvious that Jack's having to work hard to follow him, and Daniel flinches a little, looking down briefly before frowning and looking back up. "Wait. Jack, your subconscious was so worried I'd distract you that you packed my PDA so I could play Freecell?" That's kind of embarrassing, if true. He's been keeping out from underfoot as much as he can, really, and no, that's not out of guilt. Well, not just out of guilt, anyway.

"No," Jack says. He snatches the PDA out of Daniel's hands, fiddles with it for a moment, then hands it back with a triumphant air, pointing to the screen.

The winning streak is two games longer than it was the last time Daniel played.

Jack is very proud of his Freecell talents. Daniel's taken to actually hiding his PDA just so Jack can't mess with his statistics, half for competition's sake and half because Jack is just that insufferable when he manages to get one up on Daniel. "You bastard," Daniel says in a burst. "Do you have any idea how long it took me to get that streak?"

Jack shrugs, one-shouldered, and raises his eyebrows challengingly. For just a moment he's Jack again, and Daniel feels a ridiculous urge to grab onto him and make him stay. Except that even if he were able to do that he couldn't, because right now everything depends on Jack's slow fade.

He can take the gesture for what it is, though, and so he smiles and nods his head and says "Thanks." He pauses for a bit, long enough that Jack starts to turn away, before thinking to add, "You know, you're really better at this game than I am."

Daniel can see the way the needed work on the rings is calling in every line of Jack's body. He turns back anyway and shakes his head minutely. "Jellyfish don't."

"Well, yeah, I guess I did lose that year of practice. Though I'll bet I would've been great at it. I mean, what's unlimited cosmic power good for if you can't use it to cheat on electronic card games, right?" Daniel rubs at his forehead, and even now--damn, he'd thought he was done with this!--even now he can't meet Jack's eyes as he says, "Or, you know, there are other ways that kind of thing could be useful, if only it were... usable."

"No. This version is better," Jack says easily, the Ancient rolling off of his tongue more clearly than it ever has off of Daniel's.

By the time Daniel looks up, though, he's gone.

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