the fourth kingdom

And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things; and like iron which crushes, it shall break and crush all these. [Daniel 2:40]

Jack would have expected to find him in Egypt: tanned, sunbleached, covered in the dust and dirt of centuries long gone, tongue unpracticed in English, melting back into the anonymity of the desert with the ease of a native son. But the world's eyes have turned to Egypt now, and secrets that have been buried in the desert for fifty centuries are being held up to the light. The Middle East isn't a place anyone can hide anymore.

Carter's playing the grieving widow in Boston, engineering widgets for some widgetorium and pretending she's spent the years since her degree raising a family and not bothering her pretty little head with things from the outside world. They don't talk much; it's not safe. Two years ago, the day after one of Focus on the Family's rebroadcasts of the Most Wanted documentary, someone took a potshot at her as she was walking to her car. After the resulting flood of publicity, she'd demanded a public DNA test to prove she wasn't Major Samantha Carter, the woman still at large despite the best efforts of the duly-elected American government to bring her to justice. Jack had broken into the Armed Forces Repository of Specimen Samples and swapped their DNA cards for random samples taken from strangers; Carter still knows some people at AFDIL, people she says she'd trust with her life, but Jack doesn't trust anyone. Even with the results to back her story, Carter says she sees men sitting in nondescript black cars parked on the street outside her apartment sometimes, not even trying to hide.

Jack answers to a different name now, carries a fresh passport and wears someone else's face, tiny incremental adjustments for which he can only see the scars if he looks too closely. He knows how to make eyes slide over him, how to look frustrated and weary when someone says hey, you look like --. It's enough. He's been playing missionary for four years, making sure he does his tours overseas, everywhere a hunted exile with a flair for languages and a fondness for the desert might have tried to go native. He leaves the vaguest of messages with the expatriate underground where he can, when he can make contact, when they don't refuse to talk to him completely. It's frustratingly slow going, but he's spent so much time overseas that if he weren't with the Praise Corps, Homeland Security would have revoked his citizenship years ago. These days, when you leave, you leave for good.

Jack murmurs words polished bone-dry with repetition, a handful of carefully-memorized verses he can shuffle out beneath his fingers for audiences of sunken-eyed, gaunt children. He palms antibiotics and analgesics from the Corps pharmacy when he gets the chance, slips them to the MSF workers who labor on, grimly, underfunded and undersupplied. They've been trying to contradict the Corps propganda for a while, but nobody's listening.

This is life after the War: broken days of crawling through refugee camps, searching for the one face he's almost forgetting to remember, paying lip service to a God he stopped believing in long ago and bearing witness to how His power stopped the false gods called down upon Earth by the criminal actions of a misguided few. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. He'll keep looking forever, if he has to, or until his new papers don't stand up anymore and they come for him like they almost came for Carter, or until the day one rumor leads to another and he can find what he's looking for.

Jack's been a lot of things, but he's never been a war criminal before. It's not even any comfort knowing he's not top on the list. Not when he hasn't seen the man who is anywhere in five years but in newspapers and on television, the media endlessly replaying those two disastrous interviews, that slightly baffled smile perpetually rewinding across the most famous face in the world.


[Partial transcript. CNN News roundtable discussion, "The Hidden War". Broadcast date: 8/24/04. Studio guests: President Robert Kinsey, Dr. Daniel Jackson.]

[Timecode: 01:21:47]

KINSEY: And let's talk about you, Dr. Jackson --

JACKSON: Oh, please, let's not.

KINSEY: You were the one who opened the Stargate, were you not? The one who called Earth to the attention of the Goa'uld. The one who repeatedly, recklessly, dragged us into a war you knew we had no chance of winning --

JACKSON: A war they brought to us. A war humanity has been fighting since long before you or I walked this Earth. The SGC prepared Earth, held the frontlines for seven years, fought back and won --

KINSEY: I hardly call millions of casualties 'winning'.

JACKSON: [unintelligible]

KINSEY: What was that, Doctor?

JACKSON: I said, 'they died free'.


Jack had wanted to cut and run the minute he'd gotten out of stasis, use the chaos and the confusion to cover them through the Gate and away from the shit that had already started to hit the fan. He'd been listening to those gut instincts for his entire life. He'd thought the kids had been learning to trust them; Teal'c had listened, slipping back through the Gate to Chulak in the middle of the night, and Carter had thought him paranoid but played along, but Daniel had insisted he'd be able to make people see reason, had been determined to stand and fight the battle of public opinion.

Jack hadn't wanted to leave him. In a perfect world, if all of them didn't go, none of them would go, but he couldn't ask Teal'c to stay and he knew what they'd do to Carter if they got their teeth into her. But he wouldn't leave Daniel until Daniel had kissed him for the first time ever, bright and savage, and said, "Go; we don't need more than one of us and I'm the most qualified for the job."

Walking away had been the hardest thing Jack had ever done.

He'd watched the first broadcast from a tiny motel room in upstate New York, wanting a drink so badly he could taste it, not daring to let his guard down. Desperately hoping Daniel had been right, that reason and logic would win, and knowing there was no fucking way. Kinsey had demolished all Daniel's arguments within the first half hour, and by the second had moved on to blatant lies and spin. Jack had watched Daniel getting more and more frustrated, recognizing Daniel reining in his temper with a firmer and firmer hand as the debate raged onward. By the third half-hour, when Kinsey had taken the attack to the personal, Jack already knew it was all over but the shouting.

He hadn't expected Kinsey to bring up Daniel's death. His Ascension, his return -- his resurrection, as Kinsey put it, the disdain written across his face -- but the minute he heard Daniel spluttering and fumbling for something, anything to use to reclaim control of the situation, Jack had turned off his cell phone, pried out the GPS locator and flushed it down the toilet, and started making arrangements.

Two days later, he'd broken as many of the links between their records and them as possible, re-activated one of his old identities from his SpecOps days -- it wouldn't hold for long, not if Kinsey dug into the records, but it would carry him far enough to get to the clinic he remembered in Bangkok, the one where they took cash and didn't leave records -- and left detailed instructions for Carter. He'd been on his way to extract Daniel when he heard the second broadcast, heard the shots fired and the crowd screaming, and the minute he'd heard Kinsey shouting that of course he didn't support violence, even against creatures of Satan, he'd known he should have tried harder to get Daniel to see the light.

It had been too late by then, of course. By the time he'd figured what hospital they'd taken Daniel to, the news reports were coming in that Dr. Jackson had disappeared from his hospital bed, and the speculation had been fast and furious. Jack had waited for a message, any message, to reach him through the channels he'd made them all memorize before they'd scattered. It hadn't come.

In the middle of the night, when the memories grow too large to hold, Jack can't help but wonder if he's searching for a dead man. If Ascension only works once, and Daniel played that card already, and now he's nothing more than dust. But death is swallowed up in victory (where, O grave, is then thy victory?) and at least Jack's sure they don't have him rotting away in a cell somewhere, because Kinsey wouldn't have been able to keep from gloating. And anyway, Jack's still got a few contacts in the right places.

Wherever Daniel is, Jack hopes he's safe. Five years is a long time to be running without some kind of safety net.


[Partial transcript. CNN News roundtable discussion, "The Hidden War". Broadcast date: 8/24/04. Studio guests: President Robert Kinsey, Dr. Daniel Jackson.]

[Timecode: 01:28:19]

KINSEY: Tell me, Dr. Jackson, isn't it true that you've died?

JACKSON: Excuse me?

KINSEY: Died. Three times, in fact, or is it four?


KINSEY: I beg your pardon. The information I have clearly states --

JACKSON: I've been injured, sometimes severely, while performing my duty to my team and to my planet. And I fail to see what relevance this has to --

KINSEY: What can you tell us about your resurrection, Dr. Jackson? Excuse me. Ascension.

JACKSON: Oh, God --

KINSEY: My point exactly.


Cairo is little more than heaps of brick and sand these days. Jack still doesn't know why Anubis selected it as a target; perhaps it was some lingering resentment of Ra, some way of asserting his supremacy over the territory Ra had once held. Jack supposes he should be glad the Mountain didn't fall, but he can't quite bring himself to celebrate, because Kinsey had been down there and if he'd died in the rubble of Cheyenne Mountain the way Hayes had died in the rubble of D.C., none of this would be an issue.

But he hadn't learned what had really happened until long after Kinsey had given the orders to wake him from stasis. Daniel had said, "I tried to talk him out of it," which Jack knows is Daniel-code for "if I'd had a gun I probably would have shot him," because everyone had assumed that waking Jack would have killed him. Jack had thought it himself. It hadn't been until he found himself opening his eyes and blinking at a squadron of SFs staring back at him, opened his mouth and heard English, blessed English, that he'd realized the stasis chamber had rebooted his brain.

He still wishes the Asgard had come to save them; if they had, Jack's sure Thor would have been able to talk Daniel out of his suicide, been willing to sit in orbit as long as he could and scan the entire planet for him if necessary. But they haven't heard from the Asgard in years, and Jack's starting to wonder if they ever will again.

Sunrise in Egypt is still beautiful, even through the destruction; he's almost starting to understand what Daniel loves so much about the desert. Sunrise brings sunrise services, though, and so Jack brings his Corps-issued Bible along with him to the refugee camp, where the children peek their heads outside their tents and come running when they see it's him. He feels dirty when he preaches to them, when he uses their trust to teach them the party doctrine. The Middle East had been devastated by Anubis's attack, though, and the destruction had been made even worse by the Five-Day War afterwards, and Kinsey's insistence that the U.S. fill the power vacuum left behind -- with Godly Christian values, at that -- had left Jack with no choice but the Corps as a route in.

He does his best to answer the children's questions with as much of a message of tolerance and love and understanding as he can still remember from his early days of Sunday School. It's dangerous, if his Ministerial Supervisor ever hears him or if any of the children ever repeat what he's said where one of the other Corpsmen can hear, but Jack's used to dangerous. He knows the terrain well enough by now to know that he can disappear if he needs to, even if it will mean they'll never let him back.

Then again, he doesn't exactly want to go back. His new papers will hold under careful scrutiny, true, and he doesn't think there's much chance he'll be recognized, but he's safer outside the borders than he would be back in the country he served for so long. At the very least, they'll have him for desertion; at worst, they'll put him on trial for his part in Anubis's attack, and no amount of testimony about the way he risked his life to destroy the motherships in orbit will be enough defense, not when Kinsey's had five years to rewrite the history books. Jack's met too many people who are utterly convinced now that the SGC had been the ones to lure the Goa'uld to Earth; the climate of political fear is so sharp that no one would dare speak up for him.

So he bides his time. His progress is frustratingly slow; this man has heard rumor of an American living in a village outside Abydos, who turns out to actually be a fifty-year-old German professor of history; that man tells of someone fitting Daniel's description on a kibbutz, in the hills around what is left of Jerusalem, whom Jack discovers is Daniel's twin in all but eye color (which is easily changed) and height (which is not). He knows Daniel might have gone to ground anywhere in the world (if Daniel is still alive) (but Daniel is still alive, Daniel must be still alive) but something in his bones tells him he should be searching near a desert, because Daniel has always found sun and sand more comfort than green and growing things.

Sometimes Jack walks out into the desert, at sunset when the sky is thousands of shades of russet and gold. It's the closest he can get to Daniel, wherever Daniel is, whatever Daniel's doing; he imagines Daniel sitting somewhere and looking at the same sunset. He'd take comfort in the fact that they sleep under the same stars, were it not for the fact that no one dares to look up at the night sky anymore.


[Partial transcript. CNN News roundtable discussion, "The Hidden War". Broadcast date: 8/24/04. Studio guests: President Robert Kinsey, Dr. Daniel Jackson.]

[Timecode: 01:38:44]

JACKSON: You can't make this into your God versus false gods. The Goa'uld only assumed the identities of humanity's gods. You must understand -- it was the easy way for them to assume a form of power. Of control. Just saying something doesn't mean it's true. They were no more divine than -- than I would be, if I claimed to be -- oh, Vishnu, or Allah, or Jehovah.

KINSEY: And in all your travels, all the times you've claimed to have died and been reborn, have you ever met the true God?

JACKSON: We aren't talking about my religious beliefs here. We shouldn't even be talking about yours -- we're here to be talking about what actually happened --

KINSEY: Answer my question.

JACKSON: It's not a fair question! You've done nothing for the past two hours but attack me, and I'm here to explain what actually --

KINSEY: Answer my question!

JACKSON: --no, but I'm trying to tell you, what happened to me wasn't actually --

KINSEY: "Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all --"

JACKSON: This isn't about me. This is about Earth, this is about the men and women who died saving this planet from an evil so immense that you can barely even begin to understand it -- Charles Kowalsky, Robert Rothman, Janet Fraiser, they have names, they died protecting us --

KINSEY: I have to disagree; this is completely about you. You and the other heathens who brought this curse down upon us all.

JACKSON: The people who gave their lives to do their duty, to protect this world, to fight a fight that first started thousands of years ago and win it, you can't possibly blame --

KINSEY: Who opened the Stargate, Dr. Jackson? Who opened Pandora's box? I can blame him, can't I?


And in the end, after all the searching -- all the years of scavenging after each tiny rumor, all the years of chasing down someone who might know someone who might know, after five years and hundreds of camps and more countries and timezones than Jack can count -- he is in New Mexico for regional Corps training when he overhears someone at the gas station talking about the outsider wise-man at the village of Walatowa, seat of the Jemez tribe. Jack's been listening to rumors for years, but the hair on the back of his neck has never stood up before.

He's out on the reservation the next day. The Jemez are insular -- they open their doors to the public only on feast-days, and the polite young woman at the visitor center informs him that the next one won't be for weeks -- but he stands his ground and repeats himself, over and over again, until she finally sighs and sends one of the children scampering through the reproduction of the field-house on some mysterious errand.

Fifteen minutes later, a man Jack's never seen before is standing in front of him and asking him why he's come, and Jack looks as unassuming as he can and repeats that he's trying to find a friend.

It's an unforgiving country, harsh and mountainous, but something of the sandstone cliffs, the scrubby land, seems to breathe peace. Jack's guide walks him along a thin-packed dust trail, brings him up to the gates of Walatowa and says, "Wait here."

Ten minutes later, Daniel is saying "Hello, Jack," and Jack is stepping forward, as though he's dreaming, as though he's been blessed, and Daniel's shoulders are broad and warm underneath his hands.

"I thought you were dead," he finally says, when he can speak again, because he doesn't know how to say anything else.

Daniel nods. "I almost was. Come inside with me."

Jack's guide says something in a language Jack doesn't understand, and Daniel responds in kind, putting a hand on the small of Jack's back as though he's bringing Jack into his personal sphere of protection. Daniel leads him to a tiny home, nestled back against the cliff like it's grown there, and leads him inside.

"Be welcome," Daniel says, at the doorway, and Jack knows that no matter what, he is.

Daniel settles him down at the kitchen table, offers coffee (which Jack accepts) and food (which Jack doesn't think he could choke down past the emotion rising in his throat). "I liked your old face better," Daniel finally says, brushing his fingertips against Jack's cheek as he takes the other seat at the table. "It suited you more."

"Didn't have much choice," Jack says. "You look good." He does; Jack would swear he hasn't aged an inch, the way he hadn't seemed to age in the years Jack knew him, the way that means if he ever leaves this reservation he'll be a dead man in minutes.

Daniel smiles a little, ruefully, and looks down at his hands. "I tried to contact you," he says. "I assume none of the messages made it."

"Why's that?" Jack asks.

"Because if they had, you would have been here earlier."

The simple faith in Daniel's clear gaze nearly makes Jack stop breathing. "I've been looking for you for years," he says, and God damn it -- all the gods, any gods -- he can feel the tears in the backs of his eyes, hot and tight.

Daniel reaches across the table and takes one of Jack's hands in his, turning it over and settling his palm across Jack's own. "I couldn't leave," Daniel says.

"I know," Jack says. "They're calling you the Antichrist now. They'd stone you to death as soon as look at you."

Daniel shakes his head. "No, that's not why."

"Then what is?"

When it comes, Daniel's smile is beautiful as desert sunset. "I've got things I'm doing here." He pauses for a second, just enough that Jack almost asks, and then continues, "The Jemez believe that their language can't be written down. There are fewer than three thousand people who speak it, these days, but their cultural identity is strong, and the children learn to speak Towa before they learn to speak English. And the ruins -- there's so much work here for me to do, so many stories to uncover."

Pure Daniel. Jack knows. He also knows it wouldn't be enough to hold Daniel here.

"And," Daniel adds, "I've been teaching them what Oma taught me."

For a second, Jack feels as though he's been punched in the chest, like all the air has been sucked out of his lungs. Daniel takes his hand back, props up his chin with it; Jack wishes he hadn't, because without that anchor, Jack's drifting blind. "You're teaching them Ascension," he manages.

"Sort of. Almost. I'm teaching them what I've learned about the Great Path. It's amazing how much it meshes with their beliefs, you know?" Daniel's eyes are bright, and Jack can read the passion across that face as easily as though five years apart had never happened. "And it's my way of trying to counterbalance what's -- what's happening out there, what this country is doing in the name of God --"

"What I've been doing for four years." Jack keeps his voice flat. Even. Better to get it over with. "I was looking for you in Egypt. Daniel, I've been working in the Praise Corps for the past four years."

Daniel's eyebrows draw together and he looks startled, like Jack's just confessed to killing kittens, but all he does is reach back across the table and take Jack's hand again. "Well," he says -- serious, pragmatic -- "you've found me now."

They sit in silence for a minute. Jack catches his thumb tracing lines over Daniel's knuckles, but he can't stop himself. "Carter's in Boston," he says, abruptly. "She's okay. Worried about you."

Daniel nods. "I saw the news reports, two years ago. I didn't dare contact her, not with people still watching. I didn't want to put her in any more danger."

Jack closes his eyes. "What are you --" he starts, but it's the wrong question, so he changes it to "What are we --" and stops again, because he doesn't know how to finish that one any more than he knew how to finish the other.

"It's all right," Daniel says. He's always been able to read Jack's mind. "Stay. There's plenty of work to be done. The War Captain of the tribe is running for Senate next year. He's already getting donations from people across the country who think he's one of the best chances we have of starting to break the stranglehold Kinsey's people have on Congress. We can use every pair of hands we can get."

"I don't think they'd take me," Jack says.

"Jack," Daniel says, and when Jack looks up, Daniel's studying his face, serene and unreadable. And then he smiles again, tiny and hesitant. "It's all right. This house is big enough for two."

Jack's breath catches in his throat again. His blood is singing yes, yes, YES, and he's had years of practice in hiding what he wants, and he's spent the last five of them never even letting himself think, never breaking cover, never daring to breathe one word that might lead the people around him to suspect that desire, and the very thought that it might all be over now is so immense he can't even begin to fathom the edges of the shape of it. It takes every inch of courage he can summon to ask, "How big's the bed?"

And when Daniel throws back his head and laughs, actually laughs, Jack wonders how it's possible to come to a place he's never seen before and find it's already his home.


The United States government never did find the last remaining members of the team known as SG-1. After a while, they even stopped looking.


But go your way till the end; and you shall rest, and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days. [Daniel 12:13]

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