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fic: In the End Is the Beginning 2/3

Title: In the End Is the Beginning
Author: ocean gazer
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Season: starts in season 8, jumps to season 3, ends up in season 4
Spoilers: major spoilers for Shades of Grey, Jolinar's Memories, The Devil You Know, 1969, 2010; minor spoilers for Serpent's Song, Point of View, Fair Game, and The First Commandment
Pairing: Sam/Janet, both established relationship and first-time
Summary: How do you stop the zombie apocalypse? Time travel, of course!
Category: AU, mild horror, drama, angst, hurt/comfort
Rating: 18+, please
Warnings: violence, occasional language, minor gore, after-the-fact descriptions of torture – nothing too graphic, but read carefully if that's a squick
Archive: Passion and Perfection, Pink Rabbit; others, please ask first
Disclaimers: I think we all know I don’t own the characters, the show, or the concept; that honor belongs to Showtime, MGM, Double Secret, Gekko, so on and so forth. They're just nice enough to let us all play in their sandbox. I write for my own entertainment and – occasionally – edification, and make no money from it.
Author's Notes: I'm not even sure where to start with this one. The story is not at all what I intended – it was supposed to be a short and somewhat tongue-in-cheek story for a zombie ficathon. That didn't happen. First, the ficathon was more than a year ago – I might be a little late for it...lol. Second, all these unexpected references to a somewhat dark back story kept popping up. Somehow, I ended up with three acts and a story that was only partly about zombies. The story got shelved for a while, then I started the editing process, added about 7000 words, and ended up with a short novella that still was only partly about zombies. Shrug. In the process of writing this story, I've discovered that time travel gives me a headache, that story research can lead you down interesting paths, and that the CDC has a blog entry about the zombie apocalypse (no, I'm not kidding). I'd like to thank the folks at Stargate Wiki – they've compiled a wealth of useful information and their episode transcripts were particularly helpful. I also want to give a special thanks to Pink Rabbit Productions for some helpful feedback on an early draft of the story, and for coming up with the acronym MHD (and letting me use it). What else? I guess that's about it, other than to say that I hope you enjoy the story. Feedback is, as always, adored, but never required.
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Act II – Past

"Trees. Why are there always trees?"

Sam fought the urge to roll her eyes at the colonel's question. Beside her, Daniel had no such compunctions. He said, "Why do you always ask that every time we go through the Stargate? It's not like we went to an alien planet or anything – the wormhole sent us back to the SGC and Thor's device beamed us straight here. You already knew what to expect."

"Did not."

"Did so."

"Didn't."

"Did."

Sam was grateful when Teal'c stepped forward and said decisively, "Enough. Though I am pleased to see that your camaraderie remains intact after all this time."

She was, too, honestly, but at the same time, she was tense enough with the enormity of what they were undertaking to not want the distraction. She'd feel differently, she knew, once they'd gotten things set up for Ba'al's arrival and she could stop worrying that their cordon wouldn't be in place in time.

She felt Janet's hand on her back, rubbing gently, and sighed softly, grateful that her lover was here with her. She knew Colonel O'Neill was confused about why a non-team-member had come along on this mission, but he'd accepted Teal'c's terse "Doctor Fraiser's skills may be needed" at apparent face value. None of them were about to explain that those skills weren't really related to medicine, but rather to Janet's ability to calm the nightmares that both Sam and Daniel had suffered since their ordeal at the hands of Apophis. Not that either of them had had nightmares lately, but given the gravity of what they were doing and the pressure they were feeling, it was better to be safe than sorry. They all needed to be at the top of their game. But still, even though he was in the field with them now, it fell under the category of things her former CO no longer had the right to know.

Sam was relieved when the colonel didn't argue the point or continue his supposed banter with Daniel. Instead, he simply smiled winningly at the archeologist and clapped Teal'c on the shoulder. "Right. Zombies to stop and all that. Who wants to drive the backhoe?"

She saw Cam's face scrunch in confusion and heard Daniel's soft snort. Teal'c was the epitome of patience as he replied, "There is no backhoe, O'Neill, a fact of which you are well aware."

Sam wasn't surprised when the colonel's gaze swung accusingly over to her. He responded, "I know that, T, but I'm still saying that the tools we brought with us just aren't going to cut it. Not without us breaking our backs in the process, anyhow. We should have brought a MALP or a FRED – at least we could have used it to pull a plow or power an auger or something."

Once again stifling the urge to roll her eyes, Sam sighed in exasperation. "Sir, you already know we could only bring along whatever supplies we could fit in our packs or carry by hand in order to ensure that we don't leave anything behind. That's why we arrived so much earlier – to give ourselves plenty of time to dig."

Really, had none of them paid attention to her conversation with Thor while they were packing up the supplies? Well, come to think of it, Cam and the colonel probably hadn't. Even though the conversation had been more mundane than scientific, they'd probably both tuned out at the first hint of what they called techno-babble. Still, she thought they might have listened to the part where she and Teal'c had talked about the need to destroy or bury their zats and his staff weapon if it appeared their mission wasn't going to be successful.

Cam shook his head. "Yeah, I still don't get that. We're already going to completely mess up the timeline if this works. Who cares if we leave some stuff behind in the woods?"

Sam focused on Janet's hand caressing her back and took a deep breath to calm her rising annoyance. Still, she couldn't quite keep the edge out of her voice as she said, "There's a huge difference between fixing the effects of outside interference in the timeline – such as Ba'al violating the Protected Planets Treaty and bringing infected slaves to Earth in the first place – and messing up the natural development of the timeline. Bringing along some of our top-secret technology and then leaving it lying around for just anyone to find would definitely have qualified as messing up the natural development of things."

She paused, searching for the right words to get her point across. "The bottom line is that we need to do everything in our power to minimize our impact. You've all heard of the butterfly effect--"

"Uh, uh, uh," Colonel O'Neill broke in, waving his hands around the way he always did when he wanted to get her attention. "You are not explaining that to us again. Look, all I'm saying is that if we can find a nearby logging or construction site and...uh...borrow some equipment and bring it back here, then we'll get the job done a lot faster. It'll give us more time to get rested up and ready for action. And since anything we borrow is already in the past...present...whatever, it can't really change things in the present...future..."

Despite her frustration, Sam nearly laughed when the colonel scrubbed his forehead with a fist and continued, "For cryin' out loud, you all know what I mean. Damn, time travel makes my head hurt!"

Before she could respond, Daniel spoke up hesitantly. "You know, Sam, he's got a point."

Sam looked around, taking in the scenery. They were standing in a good-sized clearing on top of a hill in the forest – the projected landing spot of the Tel'tak. A ring of Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine trees surrounded the clearing. While she wanted as wide a perimeter as possible, given that they didn't know for sure that the Tel'tak would touch down in the clearing, the terrain itself might make that impossible. Digging their trench in the open space right along the treeline might have to be good enough, especially if it allowed them to use machines that otherwise wouldn't be able to maneuver through the trees.

She nodded at her friend. "Actually, he does. Though we should probably return any equipment after we're done with it, because otherwise it might have unintended and unwelcome consequences."

She glanced back over at the colonel. His eyes gleamed and he pumped a fist in the air. "Sweet!"

******

Remaining calm and ready while waiting for the battle to begin was a skill every true warrior learned. But two weeks of waiting was testing even Teal'c's patience. He leaned back against a tree trunk, fighting the urge to sigh as O'Neill and Daniel Jackson once again began arguing over some inane detail.

The trench to contain the zombies was long finished and the force field was working to conceal it. Cameron Mitchell and O'Neill had come across an idled road construction project and helped themselves to both a backhoe and a mini-excavator. They hadn't had to dig at the edge of the clearing after all. Scouting around the forest had revealed breaks in the trees where the machines could maneuver without doing harm – a dammed-off and dried-up branch of a stream, a weed-choked dirt road, and the churned-up remains of a several-year-old clear-cut. Their perimeter was roughly an oval, its distance from the center of the clearing ranging between a third of a mile to just under a mile.

They'd rigged several groups of trees – some near the clearing and some near the edge of the trench – with climbing ropes, which would allow them to attach their harnesses and scale the trunks quickly to escape the zombies. They were all armed and as ready as possible for the arrival of Ba'al's Tel'tak. Their encampment was well-hidden in the underbrush. Even the daily chores of collecting water and looking for food to supplement the rations they'd brought had already been completed for the day. There was absolutely nothing left to do.

It was boring.

He understood that to be the reason his friends were arguing; it gave them some entertainment and relieved the anticipation of what was to come. He also knew it to be a sign of how much they'd missed one another during O'Neill's time away from the SGC. While Cameron Mitchell and Daniel Jackson had grown to be friends, there was not the same type of bond between them. Teal'c had grown to enjoy the company of Cameron Mitchell, but he, too, had missed O'Neill's presence, grieved as he still was by the choices his former teammate had made.

Perhaps if they survived this mission and returned to whatever time the Asgard thought appropriate, he would have the opportunity to either tell O'Neill his thoughts or guide the other man's actions so that he would not leave them again.

If they survived...

Despite O'Neill's optimism, Teal'c was not at all certain how successful they would be. He had no fear that the zombies would be stopped, one way or another. He was less certain that he and all of his companions would survive. Slow and stumbling the creatures might be, but they were strong in the sense that they were impervious to pain and fear, had no sense of caution or self-preservation, and were driven solely by hunger.

Until this outbreak on Earth, Teal'c thought he'd fought every type of opponent there was. He'd never, however, fought an enemy who had no wants, needs, or motivations that could be made sense of or reasoned with. The zombies' hunger might be a need, but unlike any other type of hunger, it could not be assuaged except with human flesh. There was no room for negotiation or for any tactic he'd ever learned, save that of doing whatever was necessary to survive.

He looked at his companions. Daniel Jackson and O'Neill continued their argument. Cameron Mitchell was sharpening his pocketknife and muttering to himself. Major Carter and Doctor Fraiser sat side-by-side, their arms touching, while they both stared off into the distance, watching for any signs of disturbance.

There was a simple innocence in the women's affection that made his heart beat a little faster, even though he'd seen such displays from them a hundred times in the past.

Samantha Carter had survived so much already, could easily have turned bitter or jaded, and yet she still opened her heart to love, still focused on the good and the positive.

Teal'c took a deep breath. While he lived, he would protect that love and their lives at all cost. If he died amidst a sea of zombies, so be it, as long as these two women and his other friends remained safe.

******

Janet was in the middle of explaining to Cam, yet again, why she'd never liked camping, when Teal'c held up his hand. She instantly fell silent, listening for what had caught his attention. She didn't hear anything, and judging by the blank looks on their faces, neither did Mitchell, O'Neill, or Daniel. Sam didn't appear to be listening for anything in particular; instead, the blonde was intently peering up through the tree canopy, looking for something. The doctor's gaze followed her lover's, but she didn't see anything at all, just as she didn't hear anything at all.

Teal'c's whisper caught her attention and she looked over at the Jaffa. "Ba'al's Tel'tak is arriving."

She still couldn't hear or see anything, but she trusted him. And Sam seemed to be tracking something – if not the naquadah in the cloaked ship itself, then some disturbance in the atmosphere that the rest of them couldn't follow. Instantly, Janet felt a surge of adrenaline. This was it.

She felt a sudden shift in mood in their little circle. Almost as one, they all stood. Cam and O'Neill already had their swords in hand. Teal'c's staff weapon was at the ready. Sam and Daniel were patting themselves down, presumably making sure the rope harnesses that each of them wore were actually still attached. For her part, Janet just stood still, mentally running over their plan – such as it was.

It was pretty basic. Retreat to the trees to stay out of reach of the zombies. Climb down and use the swords if a zombie was near but in a vulnerable position. Let Teal'c blast as many as possible with his staff weapon. Allow the rest to wander around and fall into the trench, to be dealt with at the team's leisure. And finally, set fire to the bodies to destroy them.

It was brilliant in its simplicity, and yet she still felt fear pounding through her veins, knowing that things rarely were quite that easy. Especially not when SG-1 was involved.

O'Neill's whisper pulled her attention fully back to the moment. "How far away is the ship?"

She watched Sam and Teal'c look out through the treeline and then glance back at each other. Sam hesitantly said, "I'm not sure...maybe about a quarter mile..."

Teal'c nodded decisively. "Indeed. The Tel'tak is now hovering over the clearing where Major Carter projected it would land."

How he could tell that, Janet had no idea. The ship was still cloaked, to begin with, and between the underbrush and the tree trunks and branches, there was no straight line of sight. Still, Teal'c didn't say things unless he knew them to be true, and the Jaffa's senses were far sharper than their own.

O'Neill gave a profoundly relieved sigh. "Well, that's one worry off my mind."

Janet sympathized heartily. The perimeter wouldn't have done them any good if the cargo ship had landed outside of it. At least now, they knew that the zombies wouldn't be able to escape.

Even if their plan went horribly awry and none of the team survived, she knew that sooner or later all the zombies would wander far enough to fall into the trench, driven by the need to find food, and they would – eventually – rot completely away. While they still had no idea how, exactly, the virus worked, despite five years of studying it when they could spare the time, the one thing Janet had managed to determine was that the zombies depended on living human flesh in order to sustain their...er...lives. Without it, their bodies would eventually lose all motor control and they'd lie where they fell until their corpses returned to the dust.

Before she got too sidetracked by that train of thought, she heard Cam whisper, "Let's move in. It'd be a good idea to see what we're up against."

Janet felt Daniel tense beside her, and automatically reached out to place a hand on both his back and on Sam's, massaging gently. The habit was so ingrained that she didn't even realize she'd done so until she caught O'Neill's confused – and concerned – look. She didn't bother to explain, just stared him down until he flushed and turned away. Concentrating again on her two dearest friends, she felt them each draw in a deep breath and knew they had nerved themselves up for what was ahead.

She glanced around and saw that Cam had been watching the duo out of the corner of his eye, waiting for this moment. He didn't say anything, simply moved forward, O'Neill right behind him. Teal'c appeared beside Daniel, curving his hand to the archeologist's shoulder, and they both moved to follow the other men. Sam turned back and gave Janet a soft, sad smile and whispered, "Thanks." Then there was no time for more words as they followed the others.

The group flitted quickly from tree to bush to tree, keeping hidden in the foliage. Even knowing it was unlikely that Ba'al would detect their presence, or suspect them of being anything other than random campers if he did, Janet felt the hairs on the back of her neck standing up. She saw Cam hold up his hand and stopped along with the rest of them. She edged her way to the front of the group, standing hidden behind a dense cluster of shoulder-high huckleberry bushes growing at the edge of the treeline, and looked out into the clearing. She still didn't see anything.

Then, abruptly, she saw a human – well, what had once been a human. It was now a ragged, vacant-eyed, rotting creature. It was a zombie.

Her blood ran cold at the sight. Even though she'd gotten used to seeing the undead over the years, inured to the rotten flesh and filthy appearance, this struck fear into her in an all-new way. This was one of the originals; this might well be patient zero. And the Goa'uld who brought this monstrosity to Earth was sitting right there, no doubt laughing at them.

More human shapes appeared, seemingly shuffling into existence out of thin air. Even knowing there was a cloaked ship in front of them, that there was a rational explanation for their sudden appearance, it still looked like magic. Oddly, or so it seemed to Janet, the zombies stayed in one spot, not wandering off, not heading towards their little group, drawn by the smell of flesh and blood.

Behind her, she heard O'Neill mutter, "What the hell?" and knew she wasn't the only one confused by their docile behavior. Automatically, she and the others looked to Sam for an explanation; the blonde simply shook her head in response.

Before long, there were ninety-odd zombies standing around in the middle of a clearing in a forest in northern California.

Janet swore under her breath. There were a lot more of them than she'd expected. A lot more. They must have been packed like sardines into the cargo space of the ship. And then she swore again as a gold-cloaked figure appeared out of thin air. Ba'al. Her lip curled in disgust at the sight of him. In his hand was a long rod with two metal prongs at one end, which looked suspiciously like a cattle prod to her, and he held it up to the back of the neck of one of his slaves.

Watching as he repeated the motion with a second slave, Janet suddenly realized that the rod must somehow "activate" the zombies. They were clearly already infected with the virus, but it must be a two-stage process, at least for the original creatures, where simply dying and being reanimated didn't lead to the violent hunger. Once the virus became fully active in these zombies, then anyone bitten would be infected by the current version of the virus, and...

Taking a deep breath, she shook off the thought. Interesting as it was, it was also irrelevant, since there was nothing she could do about it. She heard Cam's whispered, "So...what...they're like robots? They're zombies, but not quite zombies, and now he's turning them on and setting them loose?"

She nodded, without bothering to turn and look at him, and heard O'Neill's muttered swearing as they watched Ba'al move from slave to slave with the rod.

Then she jumped when a blast of energy went whistling past her ear and nailed Ba'al squarely in the chest. The Goa'uld looked profoundly surprised, and even as he began to crumple in place, another staff weapon blast tore open his throat. Ba'al fell to the ground in a bloody heap, and Janet didn't need to be up-close-and-personal to know that both host and symbiote were dead. She knew exactly where the symbiote was located in a host body, and Teal'c's aim had been dead accurate.

She turned in surprise and saw a grim smile on the Jaffa's face. O'Neill was grinning from ear to ear, and Cam looked suitably impressed. Not surprisingly, Sam and Daniel both looked a little shell-shocked. Teal'c's words were calm and matter-of-fact. "At least now he will no longer prove a threat."

Janet found herself wholeheartedly relieved by that. While they'd worked with Ba'al before during the past few years – both parties subscribing to the motto "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" – he was also the Goa'uld who posed the biggest threat to Earth and the galaxy. That had been their opinion before they discovered he was the one responsible for the zombie plague. Not because he had grandiose plans for galactic domination, like Apophis, or because he delighted in death and destruction, like Anubis, but because he was affable and calculating and took the long view of things.

"What the fuck are they doing?"

O'Neill's question pulled Janet's attention back to the group of zombies and she shook her head in puzzlement. She had no idea what they were doing – or rather not doing. There was fresh meat in front of them, so to speak, and yet they were all just standing around, shuffling aimlessly in little circles. Even though the Goa'uld hadn't managed to activate all the zombies before Teal'c killed him, he'd gotten to at least a quarter of them. And yet even those were still just standing there docilely, paying no attention at all to Ba'al's bloody body. Where was the biting, the chewing, the gnawing?

She cleared her throat and responded, "I have no idea what's going on. I don't understand why the ones he touched with the rod aren't doing anything. The only thing I can guess is that he set it up so that the virus activation is on some kind of delay, giving him plenty of time to get away from here before they turned violent."

Cam spoke up. "So they're not the ravenous zombies we all know and love."

Janet shook her head. She was about to say more, when Sam beat her to it. "Not yet, anyway. Knowing how Ba'al thinks, he's probably built in a secondary trigger as well – so that his plan would still succeed even if something prevented him from using the activation device. I wouldn't be surprised if the virus is coded to become fully active after a set number of hours."

Glancing over at O'Neill, Janet saw him nod as he said, "Right. So we'd better take care of these guys now, while they're still acting like sheep."

******

It was the most anticlimactic fight Daniel had ever witnessed. He, Sam, and Janet stayed back in the trees, while Jack, Cam, and Teal'c dispatched the zombies. It wasn't for lack of fighting prowess that the trio stayed clear, but rather the reality of the fighting field – the passive undead were still bunched together in one spot, not straying too far from each other, and too many sharp blades swinging in such a tight space could lead to catastrophe.

Jack and Cam used their swords with deadly precision, while Teal'c opted to swing an ax, his staff weapon not a good idea in such close quarters. The doomed slaves didn't even fight back, just milled around aimlessly until their heads were separated from their bodies.

Daniel was feeling a little queasy, and as he glanced at the women beside him, he realized he wasn't the only one. While Janet looked only mildly shocked at the carnage, Sam had averted her eyes and was looking distinctly green.

Even knowing the creatures were already dead before being decapitated, that they couldn't feel any pain, he still felt sorry for them. Had they been attacking, coming after the team intent on dinner, he wouldn't have wasted a single thought on compassion. He knew the zombies had to be destroyed for the good of the human race. And yet, watching as their heads were chopped off, one by one, he couldn't help but feel it was more of a slaughter than a fight.

It was gruesome and grisly and over in less than an hour

Daniel turned his eyes away from the killing field, watching as Janet gently massaged Sam's back. After a few minutes, he noted that the doctor's eyes were still fixed on the scene in the clearing. Following her gaze, he saw that Jack, Cam, and Teal'c had donned medical gloves and were dragging the bodies and heads into one big pile. It struck him as morbidly funny that they were so concerned about sanitation, given that all three were splattered with blood. When the three of them were mostly done with that task, Teal'c walked over to where Ba'al's body lay. Taking a stick, the Jaffa poked around, and Daniel wondered what in the world he was doing. When Teal'c held up a small lump of blue, speared on the end of the stick, he realized his friend had been checking to make sure the Goa'uld's symbiote was truly dead. Without ceremony, Teal'c picked up Ba'al's body and tossed it onto the pile.

Daniel blinked as he realized Jack was motioning for the three of them to come out of the trees. He nudged Janet, who whispered something into Sam's ear, then took a moment to stretch, his limbs stiff from standing in one spot for so long. He walked over to where the other men stood waiting, washing themselves off as best they could with the contents of their canteens. He pointedly looked away from the pile of bodies, instead focusing his gaze on Sam and Janet, who were making their way towards them.

Once the whole group was reunited, Cam said, "So, we need to burn these bodies and then figure out what the hell we're going to do with the cargo ship, since we obviously can't leave it here."

"Indeed." Teal'c's tone was thoughtful. "We also must find a way to ensure that this blaze does not burn out of control."

Daniel wanted to groan in frustration, since he knew as well as the rest of them that they didn't have any fire-fighting supplies. Yet he also knew that even if a bonfire was the only way to be sure the human race was completely safe from these creatures, they still couldn't just leave the forest to burn. But then he saw Sam's eyes light up; it was such a rare sight these days that it made him feel as though anything was possible.

Sam smiled. "We do have the force field generator. Now that we don't need it to hide the perimeter trench, I can configure it to cover this area and keep the fire contained. Once it's out of fuel, it will burn itself out."

Jack said, "Do it," and Daniel smiled. Despite the surreal circumstances, it almost felt like old times.

******

Some weeks later, Sam stepped out of the Tel'tak and winced at the bright desert sun. She pulled her cap onto her head and took a few more steps out onto the sand, waiting for her teammates to catch up with her.

After much debate, they'd decided to take the Tel'tak to Dakara. The line of reasoning that finally won the debate was that since they had no idea how their trip to the past would change their present or their future, the Tel'tak needed to be left somewhere strategically neutral. If the Jaffa became free and settled on Dakara, which Teal'c said he and Master Bra'tac had always hoped for, then they could use it. If the team retained memories of their trip to the past, then they could find a way to recover the Tel'tak and bring it to Earth. If it fell back into Goa'uld hands, then it wouldn't really matter one way or another in the cosmic scheme of things. Of course, that assumed anyone actually found the cloaked vessel in the first place.

Even knowing they were on the far side of the planet from the Stargate and that there hadn't been any life signs anywhere near their landing spot, Sam's eyes swept the horizon, her zat in hand, looking for any signs of trouble. From the corner of her eye, she could see Cam, Teal'c, and Daniel doing the same thing. When she was certain they were safe, she turned back towards her companions, frowning slightly to see that Colonel O'Neill was completely nonchalant about their arrival on the planet. His zat was out, but dangling negligently from his fingers, and he wasn't looking around with anything other than mild interest.

A sudden sense of dislocation hit her hard and she actually swayed on her feet, grateful for Teal'c's quick, steadying hand on her elbow. Her former CO had been in Black Ops long before he joined the Stargate program – caution and suspicion were his middle names. Even though he was no longer military, the constant threat from the MHDs should have kept his paranoia in full force. She couldn't imagine how he'd changed so much in five years – how any of them had changed so much in five years. She was a soldier who'd nearly gotten sick at the sight of MHDs being decapitated to save the world.

She felt Janet's hand on her back, felt twin pairs of brown eyes and a set of blue eyes assessing her. She shook her head and managed to smile up at Teal'c, Janet, and Daniel, who'd formed a semi-circle around her, their eyes on her, clearly concerned.

There was so much good that had come out of the MHD timeline, despite the horrors – her relationship with Janet, her deep friendships with these two men she now counted as brothers – and she couldn't bear the thought of losing those things. Yet she knew in that instant that too many things were wrong – that this wasn't how the timeline was supposed to go. The people they'd become weren't the people they were supposed to be. Not all the changes in them were bad, but they'd all lost some indefinable spark, some piece of their soul...and she couldn't put it into words...couldn't explain why she was so certain of that.

Then she laughed, shakily, at the realization that it didn't matter anyhow, because they'd already changed the timeline. It was going to unfold in the only way it could from that point on – based on whatever choices they made, whatever choices other people made. And they couldn't be anything other than the people they already were, already had been.

Softly, so that neither Cam nor Colonel O'Neill could hear, she said, "I'm okay, really. Just thinking too much."

She straightened her shoulders, tucking her zat away and pulling out the device Thor had entrusted to her care. She held it in her left hand, reaching out to hold Janet's hand with her right. This time, she pitched her voice to carry beyond the semi-circle around her. "Let's signal Thor and finish what we started."

Janet, Daniel, and Teal'c nodded, and Sam looked past them to where Cam and the colonel stood. They nodded as well, and she thumbed the switch that would signal the Asgard.

In a flash of light, they were gone.

******

Thor took the device Samantha offered him and read the holographic message it displayed. He studied the group of Tau'ri in front of him for a moment, then read the message again, slowly and carefully.

He'd been startled to receive a summons from the planet Dakara on a frequency used only by the High Council of the Asgard. It had been even more of a shock than the mysterious message that had come via the Nox mere days before, requesting that he go to Dakara and wait.

Now it all made sense.

Ignoring the impatient Tau'ri staring at him, Thor read the message one more time. He nodded to himself. Erasing their memories was an obvious step. Merging their past and present consciousnesses at the point of return, rather than submerging the present consciousness in the past one, was not the usual way, but it had been done before. Clearly, there was something in each of them that his future self thought important to preserve.

He pressed the controls that would set his ship on a course back to Earth. There was little time to waste. If he wished to return the Tau'ri to their world at the moment specified in the message, and then trigger the Ancient device that would merge their current selves with their selves in the present timeline, he needed to act quickly.

His voice echoed through the control deck of his ship. "It will not be long now. Do not fear. I know what needs to be done."

Before any of them could ask any questions – he could see from their expressions that they all wanted to – he pulled a device out from the console in front of him and turned it on. A beam of light swept over all six of them and they collapsed where they stood.

******
Tags: fanfic, stargate sg-1
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