Daniel rolled over, restlessly kicking at the thin blanket covering him. Bunching up his small pillow, he tried to find a comfortable position. He groaned in frustration, what was that under his hip? He thought he had cleared the ground of all possible irritating objects before he'd pitched his tent. Sighing, he flopped onto his back, giving up on getting comfortable. He checked his watch; the luminous dial reading 0330. His turn at watch started in thirty minutes...might as well go ahead and get up, he decided. Pulling his boots on, he acknowledged only part of his sleeplessness was due to the hard ground. He was used to sleeping out-of-doors, after all. No, he was still trying to wrap his mind around the time loops Jack and Teal'c had experienced...as well as the sad story of Malakai. A story he could identify with only too well. Grabbing his jacket and weapon, he crawled out of the tent.
"Hey, Daniel." Jack greeted him as he joined the other man by the campfire. "You're here a little early, I haven't started the coffee yet."
"S'okay," he replied, watching as Jack proceeded to fill the small coffeepot with water and grounds, and then set it on the fire. Sitting down himself, he stared at the fire.
"Couldn't sleep?" Jack asked, as he poked at the fire with a stick, stirring up a cascade of sparks.
"Not really." He sighed, "Maybe it's just me, but does the ground around here feel exceptionally hard?"
Jack chuckled. "I think it's just you. Personally, I'm glad to have a change - hard ground and all."
"Right...." He glanced at Jack, who continued to stare at the fire. "That whole looping thing must have been really strange."
"You can sure say that again."
Both men sat quietly then, gazing into the flames. "Kind of reminds me of what happened on P4X-639 when we found Malakai."
"What?" Jack asked.
"The flames, remind me of the geomagnetic storm."
"Ah, that...." Jack poked at the fire again. "Your coffee's probably done," he added.
Looking around the small area illuminated by the fire, Daniel spotted his mug and a hand towel. Retrieving both items, he poured himself a cup of the hot brew. Sitting back down, he took a sip-strong, just the way he liked it; he sighed appreciatively. When Jack showed no sign of leaving, Daniel commented. "Do you ever wonder, Jack, what it would be like if you could somehow go back and change history, liked Malakai wanted?"
Jack glanced at him sideways. "Can't say I'd thought much about it, Daniel. At least before all of this...."
"Well, I guess I never had either-until now" Taking another swallow of his coffee, he mused. "Just imagine if the time travel device had actually worked, you would have the potential to change anything in your past, or your world's past."
"Yeah, I suppose you could. But according to Carter, changing past events is not a good thing. That whole grandfather parable business...."
"Paradox," Daniel corrected automatically.
Jack frowned at him. "You know what I mean. In the wrong hands...well, look what happened with Malakai."
Daniel sent him a questioning look.
Jack continued, "Basically, I don't think that Malakai was a bad guy. He just wanted something so bad that he lost all perspective." Jack paused then. "I do understand though, what he wanted to do."
Daniel studied his friend before commenting, cautiously. "I think I understand him too, Jack. And even after seeing the futility of his desire, I can't help but wonder - what if it worked? What if we could somehow figure it out? I mean, Sam might be able to make it work...."
"Daniel," Jack interrupted. "Don't go there."
But Daniel ignored him, warming to his subject, even though he knew the machine would never work. "Think about it, Jack. We could prevent Apophis from attacking Abydos, from taking Sha're." He gestured around him, "Maybe even stop the Goa'uld altogether!" Daniel looked at Jack, hoping to see understanding. What he saw though was a profound sadness. "Jack...?"
"Daniel," Jack's voice was calm and controlled. "Don't you suppose that I didn't have those same thoughts? That if it worked, I could go back and prevent my son's death?" Jack rubbed his eyes, the gesture one of extreme weariness. "Or at least his death at that point in time."
"But, wouldn't it be worth it, Jack?" Daniel persisted.
"Daniel, give it a rest," Jack replied sharply, getting to his feet. "I'm going to bed."
Daniel watched as Jack crawled into his tent. Sighing, he turned his attention back to the fire. He hadn't meant to upset Jack, but he couldn't help but wonder what his life would be like if he and Sha're were still together. Of course, in his little scenario, he'd probably still be on Abydos. More than likely he wouldn't have met up with Jack again, or even met Sam, or...Teal'c. Teal'c, he realized slowly, who would still be First Prime to Apophis. He began to sense the futility of his exercise in 'what if'. As much as he might like to think otherwise, he didn't exist in a vacuum. How could he ever decide which moment would be 'the' defining moment to change? He refilled his coffee mug; thinking about time travel gave him a headache....