Mathématique: The Graveyard: Part 2

Beauty is no defense against evil.

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

Text iteration: None.

Additional notes: I can’t believe I’m finally in this arc. Been prepping it for over a year with those FoD rewrites.

The Graveyard: Part 2

For a long moment under the time-stripped sky, no one moves.

And then.

“Fabrice,” Sam says. Fabrice says. She takes his hand. “But I don’t mind if you think of me as Sam. She’s as much me as I am.”

They shake.

Daniel’s impulse is to question. To rephrase. To translate. To pare meaning from words by offering attempt after attempt until he’s right, until he can describe Fabrice to Fabrice in such a way that Fabrice herself will tell him he’s understood correctly.

He takes a breath. The wind is stronger with Everett here. A little life creeps back into horror-struck pines.

“Nice to meet you,” is all Daniel says. They shake hands.

Fabrice gives him a hint of Sam Carter’s sprite-like smile, like she knows he’s restraining himself.

Daniel turns to Everett, hand outstretched.

Everett looks at it. “We’re not doin’ that. But. I am gonna call you Dan.”

“Dan?” Daniel squints, trying to read the fine print of the moment. “Why ‘Dan’?”

Everett, hands in pockets, tries not to smile. “I’ve got my own Daniel, who, I admit, I called Jackson. Point is, you gotta get in line.”

“No one’s ever called me Dan. It just—doesn’t work out somehow.”

“We’ll see. You need your own designation.” Everett scans the clouds for rain that’ll never come. “I’d rather not put a number on you. Jackson 2.0? Feels wrong.”

Fabrice gives Daniel a Sam Carter “yikes” face.

Daniel scrambles in the dirt of the moment for any kind of bearing. “You’re—you are Everett Young, right? Born in Wyoming? USAF colonel?”

“Sure. I’m just not your Everett Young.”

“Did you come from this—place?” Daniel sweeps an arc that encompasses half of Dead Minnesota.

“Brane,” Fabrice says at his elbow, improving his scientific argot like Sam does, across an SCG conference table.

“Nope,” Everett says. “My brane isn’t in the Graveyard.”

Daniel turns to Fabrice. “So—why this brane?”

“We’re deep in the Folia Sepulcri,” Fabrice says. “The canonically ascended never come here.”

The implication is safety.

The implication is that they’re safe here.

And we haven’t raided the local wine.” Everett starts in the direction of Jack’s cabin. “C’mon. We’re annoying the trees. And the chef.”

The chef?

Daniel follows, not liking the sound of the word or the concept. Riding high in his river of memory, like a boat of mist and shine born aloft by subtler waters, he recalls Anubis’s insatiable appetite: contained in an American diner of glowing laminate where Oma, waitressing, had brought food at the sound of cheap bells.

Does Oma battle on more than one brane?

She must.

But does she battle here?

His unease intensifies. “The chef?” he asks, small words, neutral tone.

“You know him,” Everett says. “Nick Rush.”

As moments go, it’s a watershed.

But Daniel, walking, doesn’t react.

His mind is full of stone, broken again and again by his falls to Earth. To Vis Uban.

Since his first night, naked and alone in alien mud, carven fragments of instinct have choked the river delta of his mind, buried in its silt. But now, the water’s turning clear.

Memories of Anubis run clear in his mind. He who rose from death at Dakara. He who climbed the Bright Ladder. He who blasted Abydos to nothing. Relentless devourer. The crime, the punishment, the eternal prison of Oma Dasala. Anubis with the head of jackal. The Protector of the Dead. The Guardian of the Scales.

“Daniel,” Sam says. Fabrice says. “What’s wrong?”

Is it possible that Anubis, God of Death, had never walked the Folia Sepulcri?

He forces a smile. “Nothing,” he says. “Lead on. I know how Nick can be.”

Cold with dread, he follows Everett Young across Jack’s overgrown lawn. The white water lilies and lady-slippers around the pond are missing. All he can see are reeds and cattails. The house is just like he remembers it: in need of a paint job. The cement of the back patio is cracked.

They enter the house. Everett doesn’t say anything. Doesn’t announce Daniel, just steps aside, holding the door.

Nick Rush, in designer glasses, jeans, and a crisp white shirt, stirs something on a stove. He’s lending his life to Jack’s dead kitchen, and Daniel can almost forget the horror of the pines along the road. The feeling is wholesome. Generous, even. If there’s a devouring note beneath the smell of browned butter and roasting squash, he can’t hear it.

Daniel’s lived a thousand bright moments, turned dark.

He’s ready, but no turning comes.

Nick Rush works over the stove, the melody of his partial descent is a chanson du bon choix, maritime and bright, like a ship of fire on a living sea.

Daniel pulls his energetics away from what he can hear of transformed melodies, tries to feel his own descent, his feet on the floor, his arms, wrapped around himself, his own breathing of time-quickened air. There’s sage on the counter.

“So, it is fall,” he says. “Hi Nick.”

Nick pours butternut squash puree from a blender into a saucepan. He glances up at Daniel like they do this every day. “Well-spotted.”

“What happened to you?” Daniel asks. “Or, rather, what happened to you that you’re here?”

“You’re one to talk. I see you’ve died again. Poor form.”

Daniel steadies himself, tries to draw some Jack O’Neill equanimity out of the drywall under his hand, and says, “Everyone’s a critic. Plus, aren’t we all dead, in the Folia?”

Nick gives his saucepan the ghost of a smile. “Oh, only by definition.”

Daniel smiles back. He thinks of the rolled scrolls of the Herculaneum papyri, entombed under ash, too fragile to come open ever again.

“Can I help?” he asks.

“I don’t know, can ya?” Nick’s grin is quicksilver and even. “These two are bloody useless.” He tips his head to Everett and Fabrice.

“Chemistry’s not my strong suit,” Fabrice says, both hands open, like Daniel hasn’t seen Sam Carter ruin every meal she’s ever tried to make. She pulls Kipp’s wine off the counter and presents it to Nick with a little flourish. “Daniel’s pick.”

“We’re callin’ him ‘Dan’.” Everett takes a seat on Jack’s kitchen table.

Nick takes the bottle from Fabrice and studies the label, brow furrowed, like he’s translating from Sanskrit. “Open it,” he decides. “We’ll see.”

“You got it.” Fabrice pulls a corkscrew from a drawer.

Nick looks disapprovingly at Everett. “‘Dan’?”

Daniel goes to the sink. The water runs warm over his hands and the soap lathers. Like everything here, it’s full of borrowed song.

“We’ve already got a Daniel,” Everett says. “This one’s got his own thing going. He needs his own name. It’s a mark of respect.”

“I’m not worried about it.” Daniel dries his hands on a kitchen towel.

Nick points to the pureed butternut squash on the stove. “Stir.”

“Okay,” Daniel says.

“Don’t let him push you around.” Young crosses his arms, warm and amused.

Daniel looks into the soup. It smells of butternut squash and coconut. Of meals cooked with fire, a long time ago.

Fabrice pours a splash of red wine into a stemless glass and hands it to Nick. He moves to the window, examining the color against the gray sky. The maritime note in his lifted crystal recalls the songs of their planet. Homer’s οἶνοψ πόντος. 

“Why this one?” Nick’s eyes carry glints of amber, improbable under Minnesota clouds.

“I heard about the Willamette Valley from an unimpeachable source,” Daniel offers.

Nick quirks an eyebrow and sniffs the glass.

The Girls’s Guide to Sensational Wines.” Daniel quotes a scrap of life from a brane volumes and volumes away. He wonders how Vala will get along without him if he ends his journey in this Quantum Graveyard. Knows she’ll make a way for herself with sharp elbows and star-bright smiles.

“Well done.” Nick sips the wine.

Fabrice, eyebrows sky-high, pulls three glasses from the cupboard.

Damn,” Everett says. “‘Well done’?” He looks at Daniel, eyebrows up. “We call that a five-star review around here.”

“Control yourself.” Nick tries not to smile.

“Last wine I brought back,” Everett says, still looking at Daniel, “he called ‘barrel-aged syrup with notes of burning rubber’.”

Fabrice snorts. “It was pretty bad.”

Daniel accepts his stemless glass of gem-dark wine. Maybe, one day, if he survives all that’s collapsing around him, he’ll take Vala to the place in Oregon where these grapes are grown. South of Portland. A few hours from the Pacific. They’d looked it up, in VIP Suite #4, days ago. It’s a two-day drive from Cheyenne Mountain along I-84. Fire season is over. The days will turn shorter, full of wind and rain.

He smells the wine. Red cherry. Forest floor. Rose petal. He doesn’t taste it. He stirs the soup.

Everett takes a sip. “Yeah,” he says, the word full of good-natured grudge, “this is pretty good.”

“There’s a whole selection of Oregon Pinot Noir.” Fabrice perches on the end of the counter, Jack’s stemless glass cupped in her hand. “Weeks worth of good stuff. New good stuff.” She smiles at Daniel like Sam Carter smiles, glad of his presence, burning a little warmer when she’s surrounded by friends.

Next to him, Nick Rush slicks a pan with oil, coats wild rice with time-rich wine, and starts a risotto.

As he stirs the soup, Daniel angles himself so he can see all of them.

The heat rises from the stove.

No one says anything. They’re waiting for him to brush sand from bone and stone, unearthing the importance of this place, piecing together who they are, inferring their intentions from the place and the manner in which they’ve been buried.

As usual, his tools are crude.

He can recall only one relevant word. It pertains to eating, to his worries about Nick’s connection to Anubis. It’s a word the river of his memory appends to the name Fabrice. To what he can recall of all she’s done and built. To the nine chevron address. The ghost ship beyond.

“Anathema,” he says to the room, clear and with the best of intentions, the same way he’d pointed at a golden necklace and spoken the name of Ra to the people of Abydos, that first time beneath alien skies.

Everett freezes.

Fabrice drops her wine glass. It’s too cheap to break against the floor, but wine splashes across the off-white linoleum like watered-down blood.

Nick stirs hot broth into risotto. “Are you addressing someone?” His voice is cool.

“No,” Daniel says. “My memories of my time among the ascended are coming back. Eating. Eating in ascended form is anathema.”

No one speaks.

Everett slides off the table and wipes the floor. Wine stains a green and white kitchen towel. Fabrice, numb, bends to help him, nothing in her hands. Daniel abandons the soup. He rescues Fabrice’s glass and washes it in the sink. He pours more sea-dark wine from the open bottle next to Nick.

His mind resonates with the memory of the Carmen Fabri: an excavated song heard only in the crystal of the Quantum Pylons. It describes the launch of a nameless ship. The construction of the Pylons themselves. The splitting of the multiverse.

Fabrice herself is anathema.

He’s certain of it now.

“You split the universe,” Daniel says, her glass of wine in his hand. “You built a weapon.”

“Hey,” Everett snaps, tight and hard. “Cut it out.”

Fabrice scoffs wordlessly. She wipes an eye. “A weapon.”

Daniel pushes through the discomfort, hanging onto Fabrice’s wine. “You were punished for it. But I understood when I heard the Quantum Pylons sing your song that I’d known and loved a displaced fragment of you.”

She doesn’t look at him.

“I visited your ship,” he whispers, recalling Morgan Le Fay guarding his passage, her gown silver-white in the Alteran starlight, “because it was yours.”

“I know,” Fabrice whispers. “Thank you for doing that.”

“You’re welcome,” Daniel says, and presses her wine into her hand.

All through their exchange, Everett watches Nick.

Nick, expressionless, stirs the risotto. “Eating in descent isn’t anathema.” He doesn’t look at Daniel. He ladles hot broth into softening rice. “Which you’d realize, if y’use your critical faculties for once, rather than ‘feeling’ your way through everything?”

“Eh,” Daniel says. “Critical faculties are overrated.”

“Is that what you tell the worlds crushed beneath the War Engine of the Ori?” Nick asks, sliding the words beneath Daniel’s skin like blades of sugar. He feels ill with the psychic pain of it.

Across the room, Everett winces, tries to hide it.

Fabrice shuts her eyes, her lips pressed together.

Daniel can take the words. He’s hurled worse at himself. He doesn’t take Nick’s bait. He quotes Oma Dasala. The first rule she taught him. “To take the energy of any living thing into yourself is anathema.”

He wishes she were here, so he could ask her about Dead Grapes on a Dead Brane, suffused with communal time, leaking from four living entities. He swirls the glass as Nick had swirled it, spinning his essence into it.

He remembers the people of Abydos. Eating lizard that smelled and tasted like chicken.

Amber eyes glinting, Nick, provocatively, drinks his wine.

These three are transgressors.


Here is the harsh, wild truth that Telford knows: of any character in the Garden of Eden, Daniel Jackson has most in common with the snake.

Daniel tempts. Daniel is tempted. Daniel crosses boundaries. Opens doors. Invites. Suggests.

David Telford, set before Eden with a flaming sword, would suffer no one to pass.

Daniel lifts his wine to Nick. “I rarely say no to local custom.”

He takes a sip. It tastes of raspberry and candied violet, crushed shell and ground clove. Of secret things, rained onto the slopes of a valley, pulled through roots, processed as fruit.

Had Anubis begun this way?

He can’t picture it.

They eat at Jack’s kitchen table. Beyond the windows and the glass-paned door, the unchanging late afternoon takes on the psychological quality of twilight. Daniel works through a bowl of the best butternut squash soup he’s ever eaten. It’s troublingly good, carrying the quality of supernatural art, coming through gates of taste and smell and texture. His mind fills with the table of Circe, the land of the Lotus-Eaters, the flower of Utnapishtim, the burnt thumb of Fionn mac Cumhaill.

What does it mean to eat a meal prepared by Nick Rush in the heart of the Folia Sepulcri?

He’ll find out.

“You gotta put this one in the rotation.” Everett scrapes the bottom of his bowl. “The toasted pumpkin seeds are a nice touch.”

“Beautiful plating,” Fabrice agrees.

Nick tries not to look pleased, and despite all the buried myth he can recite, Daniel can’t bring himself to believe this meal is an evil. He studies his last spoonful of autumn and takes his finishing bite, a blend of sweet and savory, with hints of caramelized onion and coconut.

Nick clears their bowls and starts plating risotto. Fabrice stands to retrieve the wine.

For a moment, he and Everett are alone at the table. “How’d you end up here?” Daniel asks.

“Took a lot of work.” The colonel’s voice is rough.

“What kind of work?” Daniel presses.

Young’s eyes flick to the kitchen. “Those two pulled me in. I’m the least important guy here, Dan. I run the errands.”

Daniel catches Nick and Fabrice rolling their eyes at each other, like he and Sam used to do, behind Jack’s back.

“Errands. Right.”

Everett shrugs. “Butternut squash isn’t growing in the back yard. You gotta go get this stuff. From stores.”

Nick sets plates in front of them, full of dark risotto, made from wild Minnesota rice and local mushrooms, sautéed in butter. The air is redolent with a wine reduction, with caramelized pearl onion, and the sharp note of fresh-ground pepper. The rice has a subtle crunch and a nutty flavor that complements the sweetness of the onion and the earthy flavor of the mushroom. Daniel tastes parmesan. An herb he can’t name.

“Oh c’mon.” Everett eyes Nick like he’s been wounded by flavor. “This is ridiculous.”

“You’re ridiculous.” Nick doesn’t miss a beat.

“Outstanding.” Fabrice’s eyes are warm, like the sea off the Costa Dorada.

Daniel shuts his eyes and tastes the life pulled out of a dead land. It’s what he’s best at.

Dessert is poached pears in spiced wine. As Daniel forks his way through cinnamon-infused fruit, Fabrice asks him to share what he remembers of his time amongst the ascended. The texture of the pear on his tongue is sugar-soaked sand.

Like all exchanges, he’ll need to give information to get it.

So he begins his tale on Kheb, where his human memories lie in a neat line. He describes Oma Dasala’s blazing presence, her subtle lessons. The way she’d traced his steps from Kheb until he’d shot through protective glass to embrace his own death on Langara. Her offer. His burden. The days beyond his death, suffering a mind tethered to a life that was over, so weighed down by grief that it’d been impossible to call the ventus verus or sing the gate open.

He speaks of Morgan Le Fay, Queen of Avalon and High Priestess of the Winter Moon, her gown of mist and starlight. Her friendship with Oma. Her sympathy for the grief of lower planes. The way she’d mentored him, in secret, to cloak his passage from the eyes of the Council. How to tread the line between observation and interference. Using nothing but words and dreams to save Jack from madness, to save Teal’c from despair. He describes his longing to ease the worst of Samantha Carter’s grief, the way even Morgan had warned him away.

He says nothing of his visits to a derelict starship, uncertain, after his faux pas in the kitchen, how a mention of Fabrice’s proscribed weapon would affect the mood in the room.

He describes Anubis in detail. His cloak, his hood, his formless form. His pursuit of the Eye of Ra, his destruction of Abydos, Oma’s interference. The way, years later, they’d met in a ghostly diner housed inside the Citadel. His finger tracing the rim of his bowl of spiced pear, Daniel describes the way Anubis had taken energy into himself. His hunger. How he had eaten. How it was Oma herself who fed him. Until the moment of her sacrifice and the endless battle that followed.

He tells them of his encounter with the Ori: an accident of Ancient tech with transgalactic ramifications. He describes the sweep of Origen across the Milky Way. The broken Ori beachhead. Vala and her daughter. The Nine Chevron address. The work of Unnamed Committee Number Four. Anubis’s Lab in the hands of the Lucian Alliance. His own illness. The presence of Morgan Le Fay at his bedside, calling him to a higher plane.

When he finishes his story, he returns to his half-eaten pear, cool, now, in the light of an unending afternoon.

Nick and Everett look at one another as though they’re having a silent conversation.

“We may be able to help you with some of this,” Fabrice says. “Not directly, you understand. But with information.”

Daniel keeps his face still. He can feel the intensity of his own gaze, tries to turn it down, fails. “This is my fault,” he says. “I opened the door for Origen. I’d do anything to fix it. Anything.”

“Would you—” Everett begins.

“Not now,” Fabrice says, sharp as sharded naquadah. She stands. “You finish,” she says, softening as she looks at Daniel. “We’ll do the dishes.”

Daniel watches the three of them expertly navigate around one another, cleaning the kitchen, washing the pots and the glassware.

He can’t figure them out. Not even their hierarchy; which is unusual, because the ladder is woven deep in Ancient relational norms. Fabrice speaks the few words that drive the clean-up: things are restored to her specifications. Everett controls the choreography, turning the work into a wordless dance, weaving between Fabrice and Nick, pulling dried dishes out of hands and taking up tasks when they turn difficult. Strangest of all is Nick, not in full descent. Daniel can hear the shift in the song of his presence, turning familiar, like a slowed, embellished melody Daniel would know, if only he could hear it in its original form. His clothes shift in the gray light. His dark-wash jeans turn charcoal. His white shirt, cuffed nearly to the elbow, embroiders itself with Lantean detail. Fabrice and Everett touch Nick more gently than they touch each other. The contact lands lighter. Comes slower.

Daniel swallows the last of his pear.

Everett takes Daniel’s bowl and looks to Fabrice. “Let’s do it outside. It’ll make more sense.”

Fabrice nods, drying the last dish.

“Not sure it makes sense anywhere.” Nick crosses to the back door and looks out at the clouded day, his eyes full of amber, his crystal singing of water and fire.

“At least, outside, you can see what’s happening,” Everett says, handing the last dish to Fabrice.

Fabrice dries the final bowl, her expression tender as she replaces it in Jack’s cupboard. “Daniel,” she says. “You’re with me.”

“Guys,” Everett grumbles, “it’s Dan.” He moves to join Nick at the door.

As Everett passes, Daniel whispers, “For some reason it never sticks?” All lacquered innocence and scholarly skepticism.

Everett looks over his shoulder, eyeing Daniel like a thrown gauntlet. “We’ll see about that.”

Outside, the painted cloudscape doesn’t move. Beyond their bubble of living time, he feels the unease in the forest. Ahead is the lonely dock and Jack’s half-built shed. Cattails, too still, line the edge of the pond.

“I’m gonna request ‘not dead,’ ‘night,’ ‘nothing we have to kill,’ and ‘no War Song’,” Everett says, as though he’s ordering off a menu.

Like always, Daniel repeats what he doesn’t understand. “Nothing we have to kill?”

No one answers.

Like the list means something to her, Fabrice looks at Nick.

Nick nods, but doesn’t speak. The detailing at his shirt cuffs is silver blue, and flows like living water, catching the slate-white light of the dreary day. Beauty weaves itself into his clothes, his stance, the sound of his sung crystal.

Beauty is no defense against evil.

Purity is no defense against evil.

Curiosity and joy, hope and song, light and love, are no defense against evil.

There is no defense against evil.

Like the coils of the snake in the garden, like the rise and fall of the Taijitu, creation requires destruction.

Daniel himself has come like a dark arrow, fired into the open hearts of countless cultures on countless worlds.

“He tired.” Everett’s words come soft and short, like he wishes Daniel didn’t have to hear them.

“Yep,” Fabrice says, a stoic Sam Carter monosyllable.

They’re talking about Nick.

“Tired,” Daniel repeats. “How is that possible?”

“Daniel, fuck off for once in yer life?” Nick says, with the hint of a smile.

Everett snorts. “It’s Dan.”

And the world splits.

An invisible fault line opens at his feet. Through the gap in the Folia Sepulcri, the space that isn’t space between stacked graves, Daniel hears the Carmen Fabri.

Half the day is gone. Ahead of him is a curtain of night, where starlight glimmers in rippling lake water and moonlight rains on the leaves of the trees. Behind him and beneath his feet, the day is gray and dead.

Fabrice cocks her head, listening for something beneath the lament of the singing Pylons. “I think we’re good,” she says. “Nick, you hear it?”

Nick looks into the dark. “If it’s there, it’s faint. We’ll have days.”

The life beyond the split calls to the forever lift in his own resonant crystal. A flock of geese fly overhead. The moonlight shines on their wings as they vanish into the fissure that splits day from night.

“Good enough for me,” Fabrice says. She takes Daniel’s arm. Together, they step into a still-living world.

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