Mathématique: The Graveyard: Part 1

“Hi. I’m Daniel Jackson, peaceful explorer.”

Chapter warnings: Stressors of all kinds. Grief. Physical injuries. Mental health challenges.

Text iteration: Witchingest hour.

Additional notes: Having read Force over Distance will make this little arc of Maths richer, but it’s not necessary.

The Graveyard: Part 1

He’s nothing but reach: hot brick under ageless sun, faint impressions of sand-blasted text fading to thousands of years of wind and sky. Vaults of gold and alabaster. Lapis lazuli on wrists and ankles, around necks, adorning the hair. The flood of the Nile, marked by stars and seasons, preserved on the pith of the papyrus plant.

“Daniel,” Sam whispers his name. She blazes at her edges, her hair feathering to fire at its white-gold tips. “Take my hand.”

He’s nothing but sustain: hot summers beneath dripping leaves, following at his grandfather’s heels, searching beneath dirt and loam and tropical flowers, looking for Mayan stone beneath a living jungle. Every afternoon, it rains. He’s learned never to touch the jewel-colored snakes.

“It’s important,” Sam says, her eyes the blue of the Western Mediterranean.

He’s nothing but yearning: the wind in his hair at the top of the Roman Amphitheater in Tarraco, he looks to the southeast, toward the ruins of Carthage. The sea and sky are the same gemstone blue. His advisor worries he’s going mad, like his grandfather. Like his mother might have, if she’d never been crushed by stone.

“Daniel, please. Before it goes to completion.” Her hand is in front of his face, misting at its edges. Like his own.

He’s nothing but effort: coming out of empty lectures, drowning in a lifetime of notes he’ll never synthesize, that no one will ever read. He’s lost his apartment, he’s lost his car, he’s spent the last of his money on a ticket to Egypt, hot sun, cool stone, the epicenter of everything that only he can see. His grandfather, too, had lost everything. Given it all in pursuit of the Alien Other he traced through sinuous Mayan script, tracked through the jungles of Belize.

“Now,” Sam says. “I’ve opened the door. You have to step through.”

“Daniel.” He recognizes the dark eyes and dark hair of Morgan Le Fay, opposite Sam, on the other side of his bed. She’s more immediate than Sam. Her words are full of Celtic rain and wind, stormy seas, the green and violet of thistle, the gray of clouded skies. “Take my hand. Do it quickly. There’s another presence here.”

“Don’t choose her,” Sam says, desperate. “Daniel. Please. Choose me.”

There’s no contest. The energy he’s becoming can sense the bright core of Samantha Carter’s true heart, opening the fabric of existence. He’d know her anywhere. Realities to the left and right. Captain Doctor Major Colonel Carter. In his memory she turns a circle, her chin tipped up, her eyes tracing cartouche after cartouche on the walls of an Abydonian temple, knowing, as he does, exactly what they mean.

He reaches for Sam, forcing his self through the strata that separate them. He digs for her, through layers he can’t see.

The heart monitor wails as he leaves his body, sheds himself, steps into the light.

They stand facing one another. He wears a white sweater. She wears Jack O’Neill’s flannel. There’s fresh grass beneath their feet. He knows this place. He’s been here. It’s Jack’s lake house: unfinished shed, peeling paint, a pond full of cattails and fish that come and go with the timeline.

Their hands stay clasped.

Sam smiles, half there, half gone, and her expression breaks.

Daniel pulls her into a hug and finds her body different than he remembers. She’s thinner. Frailer. Carrying a only a shell of the burning presence he can feel in his own hands and heart.

He’s met many Sam Carters over the years, but he can always pick his own from a lineup. This one isn’t his. She’s someone else. If the day weren’t so unnaturally still, it would blow through her, unmaking her warp and weft. 

“What happened to you?” He murmurs, his fingers in her feather-light hair.

“Nothing.” But the word is full of tears. “Thanks for coming.”

“Always,” he says, and holds her as she cries.

They don’t enter the lake house. They walk the familiar road into a small Minnesota town. He’s driven this route a handful of times. With Jack. With Teal’c. With his own Sam Carter, strong and vibrant, like a chipped-off chunk of star.

The memories of his time among the Ancients leach from the clay of his body, leach from the clay of the land, sing in the rays of the sun. He can recall a day and a night spent with Teal’c, on the shore of a treacherous sea. He can recall a week with Jack in a gravity well oubliette: Ba’al above, death below. He recalls crystal windows, naquadah arches, the seas of grass on Altera, where Oma had sent him to learn the Cantascendis. Where Morgan Le Fay had met him, welcomed him, showed him towering libraries of spirit and song.

“Do we know each other?” Daniel asks.

Sam gives him a hopeless, stricken little smile, and a tear escapes her overflowing eyes. Jack O’Neill’s flannel hangs off her narrow shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I had to ask.”

I know you,” she says. “Every facet. All you’ve been and done.”

“How is that possible?”

She gives him a small smile, a small shrug, and wipes her eyes with the back of a hand, a gesture he knows, a gesture he’s seen a thousand times from his own Sam Carter.

“Where are we?” It’s as good a start as any.

“Minnesota,” she says. 

Daniel looks at the road, at the pines, at the wall of low-hanging clouds above. It could be spring. But there’s a bite to the air that feels like fall. “Uh huh. And where is Minnesota?”

“You haven’t guessed?” Sam asks. “They sing about it on Altera.”

He searches for his memories of lost time and they flow back to him like a river: experientially and without order. He catches and holds a glimpse of silver arching halls. A sung story of grief, of loss of life and hope. Of weapons, too dangerous for use, secured with the most arcane energetic locks in existence.

“This can’t be The Vault.” He studies the sky.

“The Vault,” Sam says hollowly. “No. But you’re on the right track.”

As Daniel walks, he feels the slight spring of new-poured asphalt beneath his shoes, feels the texture of the sweater resting over his shoulders. He smells the nearby pines. “This feels very corporeal.”

“It is,” Sam confirms. “You’re in descent.”

Again he asks for memory, and, again, it comes. Whispers of a prison, soundproof, lightproof, full of the War Song of the Ori, of eternal combat, of devouring silence. With a pang, he understands that the Citadel is the fate Morgan fears. The Citadel contains a diner where the only mother he can remember, dressed in waitress blue, is locked in eternal battle with a ravening monster. His eyes prick with tears.

“I can’t imagine The Citadel would contain Minnesota in descent,” he says.

“It’s not The Citadel.” And the words are kind.

“What are we doing, Sam?” he rasps, his eyes burning.

“We’re going into town. To pick out a bottle of wine.” Sam gives him a small smile and shoves her hands in Jack’s pockets.

“Eating is forbidden.” The words come like reflex, like an Afterlife Rule he’d learned by rote.

“Not here.” Sam looks up at a slate gray sky.

They walk.

Ahead, unmoving in the road, is a car. 

Daniel stops.

Sam stops with him.

The day is eerily still.

No birds sing. No insects chirp. There is only the wind and the smell of the pines and the frozen car on the road ahead.

“That car has been temporally stripped,” Sam offers. “So has everything in the world. The breeze you feel comes from atmospheric shifts triggered by the living time we drag with us. It stirs the atmosphere. You have to carry your own time to move through this space. The rest of this universe is dead. Forever. In every direction.”

“Okay,” Daniel says, admirably collected. His thoughts splinter like a broken tablet and all the grief, the worry, the urgency of the life he’s just stepped out of press into his mind. Worn down friends, the march of the Ori, the way Carolyn Lam had cried when she’d told him she couldn’t save him. He’d forgotten how exquisitely piercing he’d found his human life, even in ascension. He recalls days on end with Oma, doing nothing but tolerating the pain.

“Don’t touch anyone you see,” Sam says.

“What happens?” Daniel’s eyes are on the motionless car.

“Your touch will restore local time, but it’ll leave when you do. The most common response to temporal restoration is overwhelming fear.”

“Is Jack here somewhere? Am I? Are you? Where’s Teal’c?” He grasps for what he knows.

“On this brane, our facets are dead. Buried under what remains of Cheyenne Mountain.”

The river of his memory brings him nothing to explain Minnesota. Nothing time-stopped. He’s never seen anything like this. But in the Star Hall of Altera he recalls a song of the cleaving of a transgalactic empire: half its people lifted to light and song, half dead and rotting in the soil of countless worlds. A time of plague. A time of machines. A time the universe itself had been torn open.

“We’re walking the Folia Sepulcri,” he breathes. “The Leaves of Graves.”

“Yes,” Sam says.

He recalls whispers of it from his time among the ascended. He’d thought it was a metaphor: dead universes bound like book pages to the spine of the cosmos. Realities too dangerous to persist, culled from the quantum multiverse, pressed into timelessness by powers beyond the Ancients.

“You’re a Breaker,” Daniel whispers, eyes wide. “There were stories. Songs. Of another plane up. Another plane deeper. Those who bind and edit all existence.”

“Even higher dimensions have higher dimensions,” Sam agrees.

They’ve drawn even with the car. Daniel looks inside. He sees an old man, his expression tight with concern, arthritic hands gripping the steering wheel, as though supplementing a dead engine with all his heart. Out of instinct, because he can feel the life in his own hands, Daniel reaches for the door of the car.

Sam stops him. Her fingers close around his wrist. “It’s cruel,” she says, looking into his eyes. She lets him go, and turns away, continuing down the road.

Daniel hesitates. He looks at the man in the car. He follows Sam.

The main street of the little town is full of people caught in the middle of their lives: shopkeepers and single moms, silent cars with still-lit turn signals, pedestrians caught mid-stride, men loading handmade furniture onto a truck. Sam leads him on a winding path, swinging wide of any frozen life, even dogs, birds, a midair butterfly.

They pass into an alley between Kipp’s Bait and Grocery and 10,000 Lakes Wickerworks. Sam pulls a lock picking kit out of a pocket, and jimmies Kipp’s back door.

Daniel’s been here. He’s met Kipp. He recognizes him, standing behind the front counter. His jovial smile is nowhere to be seen. The man stares at a fixed image of a small TV behind a counter: the gray robes and pale eyes of an Ori Prior. He shivers.

“Yeah,” Sam says, following his gaze. “If this brane were alive, you’d hear their War Song.”

“Oh god,” he says, pulling the sleeves of his sweater over his palms as the unruly river of his memory brings him drums, the brassy quality of crystal, pushed to breaking.

“It’s okay.” She looks up at him with a Sam Carter smile, still glossed with impish sparkle, even here, in this frozen graveyard. “You haven’t lost.” She gives his arm a small shake. “Really, Daniel. You haven’t.”

He looks at Kipp, locked forever behind his counter. “I lost here.”

“C’mon,” Sam says. “Find me the best wine in the back half of this store. We have someone to impress.”

“We can’t really be here for wine.”

“Really and truly,” she says solemnly, “we’re here for wine.”

Daniel wanders through the racks, letting the life in his hands pass into inanimate bottles because it wants so badly to leave him. It wants to be for Kipp. For the woman in ten-years-ago spandex and for her black dog, straining at its leash. For the old man in the car.

Instead, he gives his life and spirit to objects covered with dust.

He’s next to useless in a place like this. The only wines he knows, the only ones he can name, are bottles with historical significance, that he’s come across as part of his work. He doesn’t drink for pleasure. He doesn’t do anything for pleasure anymore.


It just so happens that, in addition to finishing The City of God and refreshing his memory on the legends of the Third Dynasty of Ur, he’s recently read The Girl’s Guide Sensational Wines (On a Budget!) in the October issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine.

He wanders away from Kipp’s European section and finds America, then Oregon, then the Willamette Valley. They’re all grouped together. Kipp’s better than most card catalogues he’s used. He runs his fingers over each label until he finds one that’s slate blue and embossed with the image of a shell. He lifts the bottle, studying it.

Sam joins him, standing at his shoulder. “American wine? Really?”

He thinks of Vala, holds her in his mind. Her eye for beauty. Her mind for detail. “Good terroir. Mild winters. Cool summer nights. Strong sun.”

Sam takes the bottle. Hefts it. Studies the label. “Huh. I never go for the New World.”

“I’ve got a good feeling about this one,” Daniel says.

He doesn’t ask any questions on the walk back from town. He lets the parts of himself that have been held away, energetically separated, run back into who he’s become since his time amongst the ascended. He recalls the shine of Alteran glass, the melody of the living Cantascendis, the glowing mass of the Ancient host haunting the crystal-lined halls of Altera, reclaimed by streams and birds and seas of flowing grass.

They’re halfway back to Jack’s cabin when the rhythm of Daniel’s step falters.

Someone stands in the road.

Dressed in black.


Visible from a long way away.

“It’s all right,” Sam says, the pinot noir under her arm. “He’s a friend.”

It takes far longer than it should for Daniel Jackson to place Everett Young.

The Colonel holds himself differently. There’s no pain in his stance. He’s planted in the road, unmoving, but life pours off him, the way it leaks from Daniel’s own hands. He wears a faded uniform, its black turned charcoal by sun and wind and weather.

“He can’t be a Breaker.” Daniel murmurs. “He’s—human. Isn’t he? I know him.” Already he isn’t sure. Already he can’t say why he stood in the autumn wind atop Cheyenne Mountain and called Everett when he couldn’t speak with the weight of his own grief. His own stupidity.

“His status is unique,” Sam says.

“How is he here?”

“If you already know the candlelight is fire—” She shrugs.

Daniel sighs.

“Jackson,” Everett calls as they approach. Instead of the handshake Daniel’s expecting, Everett clasps his forearm and pulls him into a hug, complete with a USAF back-slap for good measure.

“Uh, it’s Daniel, actually.”

“Yup,” Everett says, and lets him go. “Nice sweater.”

“Thank you?”

Everett turns to Sam. “What you got?”

Sam offers the bottle for his inspection. “Daniel picked it. What do you think?”

Everett studies the wine. “Hell if I know,” he decides. He looks back at Sam. “You tell him anything?”

“No,” Daniel says.

“A little,” Sam clarifies. “He knows where he is.”

“I guess,” Everett says, standing in the road, studying Daniel like he’s trying to remember a word on the tip of his tongue. “I guess if I were you, my next question would be: how permanent is this?”

“This dead Minnesota? Yeah, that’d be nice to know.” He keeps his tone mild.

“Not permanent, but you’ve probably noticed we’ve got a time problem. The good news is: it’s not passing. The bad news is: it’s not passing.”

“I’ve got a living reality I’d very much like to get back to,” Daniel says.

“Very doable,” Everett replies, and they continue along the road. “You’ll be dropped back into the instant that you left. Morgan Le Fay’s nearly killing herself and you, just to tell you to go to Pegasus. Gonna feel really anti-climactic, after our little detour.”

“But what am I doing here?” Daniel asks.

“You been around an ascended block or two,” Everett says, his eyes on the trees. “You ever get quick answers?”

“But I am gonna get answers,” Daniel says, thinking of his own galaxy, the religious conquest, coming like a wave. “Right?”

“Do more questions count?” Everett shoves his hands in his pockets and smiles down at the road. Like he’s the man Daniel knows, full of the wisdom that comes from loss and the humility that comes from pain.

“No.” Daniel can’t help the tart delivery.

Sam and Everett look at him in surprise, like he’s subverted their expectations. He feels a jolt of dark satisfaction because his whole being, every particle of him, for months now, has lived under the tyranny of the unseen, the guessed at, has lived with the knowledge that he, he personally, opened the door for the Ori, for the destruction of his species, of free inquiry, of all he loves.


He looks at himself under the waterfall of still-coming memories of his ascension and he sees what he is, what he always has been, a galactic micromanager with a metaphorical clipboard ticking boxes: right, wrong, good, bad, too fast, too slow. Telford is right about him; Telford has always been right. Viewed from the vantage point of a higher plane, Daniel is a hypocrite, extending tolerance only to what he thinks he understands. Worse than hypocrisy, he’s bought into his own hype.

He thinks he’s special? He’s not special. He’s not even himself, he’s an aspect, because this is a “brane,” the implication being that it’s one single brane in an endless doomed series.

This is new.

This is not Altera.

This is not the plane or brane he knows.

He stops.

They stop with him.

“I’m sorry,” he breathes. “Let’s try this again.” He pulls himself together, digs into his poise, turns to the person who isn’t quite Sam Carter, and says. “Hi. I’m Daniel Jackson, peaceful explorer.” He offers his hand.

He’s surprised them.

They look at each other.

The ground beneath their feet is dead. The woods are dead. The air is dead. The clouds don’t move overhead. The world is a frozen, endless snapshot.

Daniel Jackson waits, his hand extended.

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