“It’s time for us to leave.”
Jack and his team were standing by the Stargate with Pembi-Keran. He had met Teal'c on his way back to the village, the Jaffa himself headed for the ‘gate and anxious to get off Jinileme. Together they had collected the two remaining members. Daniel they had found in the meeting house, and he hadn’t objected much to departing. He said it was because he had everything he needed from the carvings, but his lack of protest made Jack think there was something else on his mind. Sam on the other hand had been very disappointed to be torn away from her conversation with Batbayar, even if her military mind silenced her objections when Jack ordered her to come.
Pembi-Keran nodded and smiled her open-hearted host smile. There was no sign of the altercation between them earlier, and Jack pushed the affair from his mind as well when she responded to his statement.
“Yes, it is time to say farewell. And it is time for the ceremony of Hediye – the Gifting. Our gift to you is a single granted wish each. I trust you have considered your choices with care. Who will be first?”
“Me!” Jack hurriedly exclaimed. “My wish is for Daniel to be okay; running-jumping-back to rushing into danger before I can stop him-okay.”
Pemi-Keran tilted her head and regarded him.
“He will heal with time,” she cautioned. “I tell you this as a favor, not your wish granted, so that you may consider your choice again. Is your wish that he be healed in advance of time? Is there nothing else you desire more hotly?”
“Yes! I mean no…I mean, I want you to heal him.” His response was confused, but Pembi-Keran nodded in understanding.
“Your wish is granted,” she said.
She accompanied her words with a sweep of her hand and a pink mist shot out from it to envelop Daniel’s lower body. For a moment he resembled a Jihnnsai, with smoke instead of legs, and then the mist dispersed. He felt the difference at once. His legs felt stronger, steadier. Wordlessly he stretched out his hand to Teal'c, who just as silently grasped it and prepare to help him to his feet. Unlike the many times he’d done the same since Daniel’s accident, Daniel rose without need of the assistance. He straightened up, without swaying; his legs held him steadily upright as if his injury had never happened. A few trying steps proved his feet easily obeying, with no effort to willfully force them forward. Unable to contain the joy he flung himself at Jack, hugging him tightly well beyond the comfort zone of the colonel.
“Thank you, Jack,” he mumbled and whipped around to face Pembi-Keran. “And thank you,” he said with a grin that overflowed with gratitude.
“Who is next?” Pembi-Keran said, and Sam stepped forward after just a moment of hesitation.
“I’ll go,” she said.
“What is your wish, Samantha Carter?”
“I want to be able to understand the data base; the language and all your advanced technology.”
“Your wish is granted.”
This time the mist from Pembi-Keran’s hands incased Sam’s head in a swirling pink cloud. Nothing seemed different when the smoke dispersed, and Sam’s puzzles eyes silently inquired an explanation.
“This wish may take some time in realization,” Pembi-Keran replied, “but I assure you will find understanding once you have returned home to resume your work.”
Sam stepped back, not entirely sure she believed the Jihnnsai’s words but figured she’d find out soon enough. Teal'c was the third to step forward for his request. If it had been in his nature to show anxiety he might have glanced at his teammates when he uttered his request, its subject something they all knew was very sensitive to him.
“My wish is to regain the strength I once had; the strength given to me by my prim’ta.”
“Your wish is granted.”
Pembi-Keran waved her hands for the third time to conjure up her mist. This time it snaked its way along Teal'c’s entire body like little rivets of smoke, striping his dark skin with pink and seeping into his veins. It lasted for no more than a moment before the mist evaporated. Teal'c bowed his head in thanks and stepped back.
“You remain,” Pembi-Keran said and she turned to Daniel, who was still testing walking around on his healed legs with an overwhelmed look on his face.
He quickly collected himself and stepped up to face her, distantly noting that she was shorter than he had imagined. Then he considered and realized; he didn’t know what to wish for. Jack had picked his most pressing need and had him healed, and with Sam wishing to understand the data base he needn’t ask for that either. It might take him a bit more time but she could help him learn the Jihnnsai language so he would understand as well. Besides, he preferred to learn the old fashioned way anyways. There were other things he wished for, longed for with heat beyond words, but they were all well out of the rational possible range of grantable wishes. Even if magic was real there is no way she could bring Sha’re back to me – or any other of the family and friends I have lost.
“I don’t know what I want,” he said, the revelation at last taking its full turn to words.
Pembi-Keran stared at him. Her dark eyes were wide with chock, and for a moment she could not utter a word. When she finally spoke her voice was rimmed with awed suspicion.
“There must be something you desire?”
He shook his head, but to humor her he gave it another thought. Of course, there was his memory. There were still some parts that were sketchy, and the year he had been ascended remained a complete blank. On the other hand, those memories had to have been erased for a reason. Perhaps it was Oma’s way of protecting me. Daniel had witnessed firsthand the effect Ancient knowledge could have on a human being. He still shuddered at the memory of watching the Ancient Repository slowly taking over Jack’s mind. He wasn’t about to take the risk of that happening to him by having all his ascended knowledge returned to him in a flash.
“Can I save my wish for another time?” he asked instead. Pembi-Keran nodded, with a hint of disappointment.
“It is possible, although it is not a request many make. Surely you will soon discover what you crave, and you may return to pose your wish at any time.” She seemed to brighten at her own words, certain that he would in fact return soon. Daniel however recalled her statement from earlier that he would not be back.
“Righty then,” Jack’s voice cut into their mutual regard of each other. “Let’s get going. We’ve got things to do. You know; people to see, research to do and reports to not write.” He flashed Pembi-Keran a grin. With a tip of an invisible hat he said, “P-K. Thanks for your hospitality and all that. Daniel, dial it up.”
It was late evening, local time, when they stepped through the ‘gate onto Earth soil. General Hammond was stunned to see Daniel walking through the event horizon, but while the sight was unexpected it was not alarming. After ensuring himself that the mission had gone well he set the debriefing for the following morning. He could wait for the whole – and certainly entertaining – story of Daniel’s miraculous recovery.
SG-1 headed for the locker-room to get out of their sweaty uniforms. Their heads buzzed with the experiences from Jinileme, each of them dwelling on what they’d learned and varying degrees of hopeful expectations for the fulfillment of their wishes.
“Anyone up for a run?” Daniel suddenly said while shedding the desert camouflage material from his body.
The rest of his team looked at him with what could only be described as shock. Daniel wasn’t lazy, or even out of shape like most of his fellow geeks on the base. He was however not someone known to go for spur of the moment runs practically in the middle of the night. Daniel gawked back with exaggerated innocence.
“What?! I feel like going for a run. Just figured I’d be nice and ask if anyone wanted to join me.”
Jack exchanged a look with Sam and Teal'c. Their faces told him that he was unanimously chosen as their spokesperson. With a sigh he stepped closer to his geek friend, who had already pulled on his SGC standard issue sweatpants and a black tank top.
“You think that’s wise, Daniel?” he said, imbuing each word with concern. “Maybe you should rest first, or let Fraiser check you out and make sure that P-K got everything back together right?”
Daniel waved of his worry and sat down to tie the laces on his running shoes. The shoes had been a gift from Jack not long after his arrival from Vis Uban. As always with Jack and these things it had been an awkward moment, but luckily Daniel had regained enough of his memories to understand the deep unspoken emotion behind the blundering presentation. He finished the knot and looked up; the emotion awoken from the memory shining in his eyes.
“Thank you, Jack, for your concern, but I’m sure she did. I feel great. I can stand, I can walk, and now I want to run.”
Daniel slammed his locker shut and headed for the door. Jack gestured for Teal'c to stop him but the Jaffa stepped out of the way and let him leave.
Teal'c left the locker room right after Daniel and headed straight for the gym. He was anxious to find out if Pembi-Keran’s wish-granting had worked as well for him as it had with Daniel. Some people might not understand why he had made the wish he did. He was already the strongest man in the SGC, even without a Goa’uld symbiote in his pouch, but after he had begun to use tretonin he had noticed that his superhuman strength had lessened. In comparison to his human colleagues he was still incontestably the strongest, but in his own eyes he was weak.
He loaded up the barbell with his usual amount of weights, and paused for a moment before adding another ten kilos. It was still not up to the amount he had once been able to lift but it was above what he had maxed a few days ago. Just as he lay down to attempt a first set, someone stepped up next to the head end of the bench.
“Need a spotter?” Sam’s voice fell down as her face appeared in his view. He gave a silent agreement by simply gripping the bar without declining.
It was heavy, somewhat disappointingly heavy, but he did manage five repetitions before Sam had to help him place the bar back on the rack. He erected himself to sitting position and reached for a towel to try his hands. Sam saw the disappointed frown creasing his brow and sat down beside him with a pat on his arm.
“She said it might take a while for my wish to come true. Maybe that goes for yours too.”
Teal'c straightened his back and wiped the frown from his face. Sam could still see the concern in his eyes, but his body language was clearly conveying that he didn’t want to talk about it. Changing the subject she let him off the hook while she at the same time led the conversation into why she had followed him to the gym in the first place.
“How did it go with asking the colonel about the secret?”
The hint of gratitude in Teal'c’s eyes mingled with regret, the two emotions almost blocking out the frustration from before.
“I was unsuccessful,” he said. “ColonelO’Neill is most obstinate on this subject.”
Sam’s frown of disappointment echoed the one on Teal'c’s face just a moment ago.
“Yeah, and Daniel too. It really seems to be mostly the colonel’s secret though. Daniel told me that if I wanted to know I should ask him about it. It’s so weird, though. It isn’t like it’s really much of a secret. Pretty much everyone on the base knows by now that Daniel lives. All it does is creating a breeding ground for speculation on the reason.”
Teal'c inclined his head in his standard gesture of concurrence.
“Perhaps a trade of target will prove fruitful.”
“Yeah maybe that will work. You go talk to Daniel, and I’ll see if I have any better luck with the colonel.”
Teal'c rose and gave her an affirmative nod.
“I am confident his heart will compel him to hear you,” he said and left the gym, and a blushing major.