Title: Moebius Man
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Summary: SG-1, Highlander. 2000 words. SG-1's attempt at meddling in time had more consequences than were at first apparent...
Spoilers: Stargate SG-1 through 8.20 "Moebius, Part II"; Highlander in general.
Notes: I owe part of my inspiration for this to Sophie on the Crossgate list, whose "Moebius Revisted" drabble served as excellent plot-bunny nourishment.
CARTER: Didn't that tape say there were no fish in your pond?
O'NEILL: Close enough.
~Moebius, Part II
Daniel stared down at the red line of parted flesh on his rescuer's palm, watching in disbelief as little flashes of electricity, like miniature zat'nik'atel blasts, sewed the wound back together.
"You're an Immortal," Melbourne said, patiently repeating himself. "So am I. We all start out mortal, like any other human, but after our first deaths everything changes. If you die, you'll come back, unless your head is cut off; if you're wounded, no matter how badly, you'll heal. If..."
Daniel shook his head, rubbing absently at the too-smooth skin exposed by the bullet hole in his favorite dress shirt. "I heard you the first time," he said, speaking a little too quickly, his words tumbling over themselves with impatience and frustration. "It's just that I don't believe you. I mean, it's all very well and good for you to say that you're my father, and that somehow you survived the museum disaster and have been in hiding all these years. It could very well be true. Though I don't understand why you wouldn't have come back for me then--I was eight years old, for Christ's sake, and after Nick declined to take me..."
He shook his head again, squelching the temptation to continue with that tangent. "But that's a topic for another time. The point is, stranger things have happened. Usually to me. I could suspend my disbelief that far. But this immortality thing? There's no way it could apply here. It just isn't possible; there's got to be some other explanation."
The elder archaeologist frowned. "Look, I know this must come as a shock. Most new Immortals have trouble accepting the idea that they were truly dead at all; it can take quite some time for the rest of the details to be fully absorbed. However, I must admit I had expected a more positive response from you."
In the three decades since a collapsing exhibit had stolen Daniel's parents from him he'd only heard their voices once, in the callously constructed virtual game world on P7J-989. They'd been so absorbed in what they were doing, so focused on their work, that they hadn't paid any attention to what he tried to tell them; the note of dismissive annoyance in his father's voice had been impossible to miss. He couldn't help but flash back on that experience now--the tone was exactly the same. This was Melbourne Jackson, all right. Clone, copy from an alternate universe, his actual father revived--Daniel didn't know how this man had come here, but he no longer doubted his stated identity, nor his conviction that what he was telling Daniel was the truth.
Sincere or not, however, the elder Jackson's explanation was still impossible. Daniel wasn't sure what *was* going on--a hidden sarcophagus? Asgard intervention? Shi'fu watching out for him?--but there were a few aspects of his story that directly contradicted the evidence.
"That's just it," Daniel burst out, throwing his hands up in the air. "It's not a shock to me. Your being here, in fact, is much more of a shock than the idea that I was shot to death a few hours ago. Why? Because that was *not* my first death. And I've never seen any evidence of this Quickening thing before, any of the times I've come back. No cessation of aging, no 'buzz', no quick healing--more's the pity--"
"Wait, wait," Melbourne cut him off, brows drawing together in a distressed frown as he processed what Daniel was saying. "You've died before? But that's not--This isn't the first time I've seen you this year, and you weren't Immortal until yesterday--"
"Several times." Daniel frowned, momentarily discomfited by the knowledge that someone, father or not, had been following him around without him noticing. Jack would not be pleased to hear that. If he ever got to tell him, that is--if Daniel wasn't forcibly removed from his previous life, as his father had apparently been taken from his. "I've been fatally shot twice before. The first time, I guess you'd call it my first death, happened more than nine years ago. The methods used to revive me then are still classified, of course, but we're not talking drowning here, or anything else that could be fixed with a little CPR. I was definitely dead."
He contemplated that a moment, ticking off the deaths on Abydos and the Nox homeworld on his fingers. "I'm pretty sure I was crushed to death in a rockfall once, though I might have just been fatally wounded; Shyla never said if I'd crossed the line or not, just that I wouldn't have survived." He wrinkled his nose at the reminder of his experience with sarcophagus addiction, and ticked off a third finger. That wasn't the only time he'd experienced death in close association with an addiction, either. "Mm, and I flat-lined at least once while in withdrawal from something unexpected I encountered on a dig.
"That's four so far," Daniel continued. "Then there's the time I dove in bare-handed to defuse a naq-, ah, a nuclear bomb; take it from me, radiation poisoning is a really unpleasant way to go." He shuddered. "And then a few months ago, I was run through the chest with a thick metal spear. I don't recommend that one either; it's much more painful than you'd expect." He'd relived that event several times in his nightmares since, all mixed up with images from the Terminator movies. If the films hadn't aired before the SGC had ever encountered the humanoid Replicators, he'd have been inclined to think that they had another Martin Lloyd out there, spilling secrets to the entertainment industry.
"So," he concluded, waggling six raised fingers in his father's direction, "that would make our little encounter with The Trust my *seventh* death, unless this all turns out to be just an elaborate hoax on your part, which, frankly, would not surprise me either."
"Your--your *seventh*?" Melbourne spluttered. Daniel could not recall ever seeing such a flabbergasted expression on his father's face before; it seemed to be composed of equal parts shock, disbelief, and chagrin, as though the man could not decide whether to discard Daniel's count of woe as a fabrication, or castigate himself for not having been there when his son was so repeatedly abused. Daniel didn't blame him; he himself could not decide whether to be happy his father had returned, or suspicious of the man's motives, or angry at his abandonment, or...
Daniel clamped down on his turbulent emotions and raised an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest, waiting for a more plausible explanation. He'd already given more detail than he should have; he didn't think the Air Force would forgive him if he started explaining the resurrective powers of a Goa'uld sarcophagus, or the rituals of the Nox, or his two brief forays into Ascenscion. Especially if it turned out that his gut instinct was wrong, and this too-youthful man standing before him wasn't his father after all.
They might have stood there, staring at each other, for the rest of the evening if a lazy, amused voice hadn't intruded then, from the doorway of the hotel suite's bedroom.
"You sound so surprised, Mel. Don't you remember the story? Dan'yel of Abydos, the only one of us to have died more times before crossing the threshold to Immortality than he did afterward."
Daniel gasped. "Adam?" He turned toward the sound of the voice, astonished to find another familiar face in the midst of this impossible situation, and stared at his old friend. Adam Pierson had attended the same graduate school with him for a time, and had been an entertaining, if somewhat intermittent, correspondent in the years since. "What are you doing here?"
Adam didn't answer his question, or even look at him; he was watching Daniel's father with a knowing expression, propping his lean frame against the doorjamb while he waited for the elder Jackson to respond.
Melbourne didn't disappoint. "But Dan'yel of Abydos was born more than five thousand years ago! You told me yourself, he spent his entire life in North Africa and died in the Third Punic War, millennia before I adopted my Daniel. What does his story have to do with my son?"
Daniel tensed at the repetition of his Abydonian name. He'd never used it himself; Sha'uri and her kin had been unable to pronounce his modern name properly, and had given him instead a near-equivalent in their Ancient Egyptian dialect. To his knowledge, no one on Earth had ever referred to him that way, not even in jest. Nor had he heard of any famous man by that name living in the historical, Tau'ri Abydos. What could they possibly...
Oh. Daniel swallowed, suddenly certain what Adam meant, and cleared his throat. "Uh, five thousand years ago? How exact is that figure?" It certainly fit the timeframe on that video footage they'd found...
Adam shook his head, a smirk curving his lips as he turned his attention to Daniel at last. "You know, I've been waiting for this day for years, since I was first introduced to you by Dr. Jordan and realized who you must be. Of course you're Immortal; this is just the first time you've been physically dead long enough to trigger it. At least, that's how you explained it last time, when I finally got you drunk enough between rebellions to talk about the life you'd led before."
"So, so, you're saying... some version of me actually did wind up in Ancient Egypt? And survived until the fall of *Carthage*?" The implications were astounding.
"Not that I believed you at the time," Adam acknowledged, laughing ruefully. "Running into your completely unaware, pre-Immortal self two millennia after I buried your corpse was something of a shock to my system."
"I'll bet," Daniel muttered. It was starting to sink in that he was actually standing in a hotel room with a man at least five thousand years of age, not to mention the father he'd thought he'd lost when he was eight years old. He was beginning to feel a little shocky himself. "So... this *isn't* a hoax, then. Everything he said was true?"
He glanced back at Melbourne, and was unsurprised to see him looking as pale as Daniel felt. "Are you sure, Adam?" the older man asked. "What are you saying, he's going to find some time-travel device in the future?"
"Uh, I already did, actually," Daniel clarified, thinking quickly. "But apparently, my little trip to the past somehow negated the need for me to actually, ah, make the trip, hence my still being here--the explanation is very complicated, and involves a lot of alternate universe theory. I *never* expected..." He let the sentence trail off, at a loss for words.
Adam glanced back and forth between the two Jackson men, still wearing an amused smirk. "You know, I think this calls for beer," he said. "And then perhaps a round of which came first, the teacher or the student? We can get into the details again tomorrow."
"You think *every* occasion calls for beer." Melbourne rolled his eyes, though he seemed relieved at the suggestion.
"You certainly didn't learn *that* from me," Daniel rallied, quirking a tired smile. Five thousand years of life--since the original rebellion against Ra, at the very least. And Adam had implied that Daniel had actually been his teacher--he couldn’t imagine it. Except--
"Wait a minute," he said, perking up. "You lived through the Goa'uld occupation? And you met me during the rebellions?" He patted his pockets absently, then glanced around the room for paper, pen, anything-- "I have so many questions. Did I--did the other Dan'yel leave any other permanent record behind? What did I--"
Adam laughed again. "You know, if I had any questions left about your identity, that would have answered them. Still the same Dan'yel, no matter what century you're in."