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* TITLE: Marking Time
* AUTHOR: Redbyrd
* EMAIL: redbyrd (at) mindspring (dot) com
* RATING: PG
* CATEGORY: drama, action, h/c some humor
* SUMMARY: During Watergate, Daniel thinks about what he and Teal'c did while waiting for Sam to build the particle accelerator and bring Jack home from Edora. Warning- this has no real plot content- just a long series of unrelated scenes set during One Hundred Days that try to provide some backstory for later episodes in season 3 and 4. Daniel's POV.
* SPOILERS: Solitudes, Serpent's Lair, FIAD, Foothold, One Hundred Days, Watergate
* AUTHOR'S NOTE: This started with me wondering in Watergate why Daniel made no serious objection to jumping out of the plane. It occurred to me that there had been a lot of changes in Daniel's role at the SGC in Season 4, and perhaps some of the changes had originated in the three months that Jack was away and Sam was busy building her gadget.
* DISCLAIMER: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
Daniel Jackson stood in the hold of the Air Force cargo plane and listened attentively to the instructions that Jack was giving over the noise of the engines. 'Never a dull moment in this business.' He never thought when he'd learned to skydive that he'd ever be using it on the job. Then again, he had possibly the most unpredictable job in the universe. He should be expecting the unexpected by now. He wished he didn't know exactly how dangerous this was. They were at 7000 feet and just under the clouds. There was a brisk crosswind blowing and it looked like it could snow at any moment. A far cry from the sunny July day he'd first done this at the Air Force Academy.
Teal'c was looking as apprehensive as Daniel had ever seen the Jaffa as he protested the wisdom of jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane. Jack was kept busy reassuring him as the pilot opened the door and they prepared to leave. As cold as it had been in the airplane, it was clearly colder outside and Daniel grimaced at the cold blast on his face. He'd jump out of anything if it meant that he'd be going someplace warmer. At this rate he was going to be an archeologist-sized popsicle. He watched Sam and Markov jump without hesitation and Jack finally helped Teal'c depart with a shove. Jack turned to Daniel with a questioning look in his dark eyes, as if he expected Daniel to be equally difficult. Huh, come to think of it, had he ever gotten around to telling Jack about the skydiving thing? No time to think about it now. He met Jack's eyes with what he hoped was a reassuring look. 'Don't worry, Jack, I can do this.' Then he walked to the edge of the door and jumped forward, feeling the familiar piercing jolt of pure adrenaline and a blast of cold as he fell into endless space.
Jack's instructions notwithstanding, he wanted to freefall as far as possible. They had jumped almost on top of the Russian facility, and the wind was strong. Pulling the cord early and having his parachute blown halfway to the North Pole would be a nuisance. Hiking over miles of frozen Siberia wasn't his idea of a good time. He pulled the ripcord at three thousand feet and felt the powerful yank as the chute started to decelerate him. He craned his neck back to see the chute, one of the required safety checks, and was relieved to see it had opened normally. He'd never had to use the backup chute, and today wasn't the day he would have chosen to start. Now that he wasn't screaming toward the ground at over a hundred miles per hour terminal velocity, he had a few moments to look around for his teammates. Teal'c was just landing in the clear area in front of the main building of the Russian base. Daniel wondered if he had had trouble opening the chute.
He caught a glimpse of Sam coming down way off beyond the trees. She must have opened her chute higher and tried to maneuver in the wind. Some way above him, he could see Jack. It looked like he was steering to come down near Sam. Svetlana Markov was nowhere in sight. Daniel was starting to be blown off course himself, but quickly found the steering straps and started a long series of tight spirals that kept him circling over the plant. Teal'c was already on the ground near the building and was gathering up his chute.
Daniel lost sight of Jack and Sam and suddenly the ground was rushing toward him. He made one last half-turn that lined him up over the large clear area and glided in, feeling a certain pride that he managed to flare the chute at just the right moment to spill out the last of the air. Bent knees, he remembered and didn't try for a fancy landing, just stayed loose and rolled as he hit the snow-covered surface. There were only a few inches of fluffy powder over a harder surface, and he got back up easily, hurriedly grasping the lines and gathering the chute to his chest before it could catch a gust of wind and drag him off his feet.
Clutching the untidy bundle of the chute, he walked over to Teal'c. "You okay?"
Daniel wasn't sure he had actually ever seen the Jaffa freaked out before, but that was the only word he could think of for the expression on Teal'c's face. "That was not wise." His friend told him. "I do not wish to do that again."
Daniel suppressed a smile and gave Teal'c's arm a sympathetic pat. "You did great, Teal'c. And notice that the two neophytes were the ones who actually landed in the right spot." He pointed up the hill. "I saw Jack and Sam coming down over there. Why don't we go inside and start looking around? It's freezing out here." Teal'c nodded and led the way into the facility after they donned their hazmat gear. The doors were not locked, and the place was apparently deserted. They dumped their chutes behind the door and got out flashlights to start exploring. Daniel motioned to a metal staircase leading to catwalks that would give them a good vantage point to look for signs of life.
As he led the way, Teal'c looked back at him. "O'Neill claimed that this was fun." 'Ah, he's still thinking about the jump.' It was clear that Teal'c was seriously questioning his commanding officer's ideas about what constituted a good time.
Daniel said, "Yeah. A lot of people do skydiving for fun. And the military uses it to get people into places where they can't land a plane." He waved a hand back toward the door and by implication at the icy runway outside.
"You had done this before." It was hard to tell with the mask, but Teal'c was looking somehow accusing. Or possibly like he was suddenly unsure of Daniel's sanity.
Daniel replied, "Yes, with Ferretti and some of the guys from SG-5. It was-" He wondered exactly how to describe it. "A good distraction," He finally said.
"Ah." Teal'c evidently remembered the occasion. "This was when O'Neill was stranded on Edora, was it not?"
"Yes." Daniel had been seriously in need of distraction at the time. It had been only a few months after Sha're's death, and he had been plagued with worry for his missing friend. "Look at this." He and Teal'c knelt down to examine the first body. In the corona from his flashlight, he could see several others.
He heard a burst of static from the radio. "Teal'c, Daniel? Do you read?"
Daniel heard Teal'c responding as he wrestled the front of his jacket open to get at the radio. "I am here."
"Where?" Daniel started back toward the door while he waited for a chance to break in.
"In the facility."
Daniel chimed in. "Yeah. I'm here, too."
Great, Jack was being his usual pain in the ass self. Daniel felt a little guilty for the uncharitable thought. He'd missed this like crazy when Jack was stuck on Edora. He tried for patience. "Well, I don't know, exactly. Where are you?" Probably coming in the main door, was Daniel's guess, so he kept heading in that direction, listening for footsteps.
"We just got inside. Hang tight." In a couple of minutes, Jack was flashing a light in his eyes and he was showing them the first of many bodies in the facility.
After the initial survey of the puzzling evidence, Jack assigned him and Teal'c to the grisly task of taking inventory of the dead. Daniel accepted the clipboard and suppressed a shiver. Not for the bodies, but for the rather disturbing realization that he was pretty accustomed to seeing them these days. While he and Teal'c meticulously searched the facility, checking each body and noting its condition and location on the personnel list, he tried to think. How many non-archeology-related corpses had he seen now? He couldn't even count them all. That was just sick. Crushed, shot, blasted and burned, he'd seen them all.
Blasted and burned- his mind went back to Edora, not that he'd seen the dead of Edora. They'd been long buried when they finally reopened the gate. He matched another name on the list to a freckled young man, blue eyes staring up at him in eternal surprise and wondered if Jack had helped to bury the dead Edorans. Just one more on the long list of things they hadn't talked about since Jack's return.
Daniel had been sitting at the table in the briefing room, head down and hands laced behind his neck when the General came in. Hammond had taken in his defeated posture and looked disappointed and a little surprised. "They won't help?"
"On the contrary," Teal'c had assured him. "The Tollan have promised to send a ship as soon as they are able."
"Which is when?" Hammond asked.
"Which puts Jack back on Earth a year from now." Daniel shook his head. "And I've tried everything I can think of to get a hold of the Asgard. They seem to be completely unreachable at the moment." He hoped that Teal'c hadn't told Hammond about him standing in the Hall of Thor's Might on Cimmeria, losing it and screaming at the stupid hologram to answer him. He really needed to pace himself. Getting Jack home was clearly not going to be a quick process.
"And the Tok'ra?" Hammond asked.
Daniel sighed. "They say they haven't got anything that could help any sooner than that. The problem is that Edora is on the other side of the galaxy. Physically it's as far away as any place we've been. Jack's trip to the Asgard excepted."
Hammond squared his shoulders. "Then we go with the current plan. Major Carter will build the particle accelerator, and if that doesn't work out, we accept the Tollan offer."
Daniel nodded wearily and Teal'c indicated his own assent with a dignified nod. "In the meantime, I would like to assign you two to other duties." He held up a hand to still Daniel's expected protest. "I expect you to keep following up with our allies, to help get the Edoran refugees settled, and I know that you have a lot of translation work backed up. But with Colonel O'Neill- away- and Captain Carter busy with the particle accelerator, I would like the option to utilize the rest of SG-1 in the field as needed."
Daniel looked at him. "That's fine, sir. I-" he paused and looked at Teal'c, "we, would rather be busy in any case."
Teal'c agreed, "Indeed, we would."
Hammond nodded, pleased. "Very well. Teal'c, I'm going to assign you to SG-7. Dr. Jackson, we'll let you float, and assign you to teams where the preliminary MALP data suggests that we have either a tricky first contact or a need for an archeological evaluation." He gathered up his papers. "In the meantime, get some rest. You look like hell, son. Dismissed."
Daniel took the elevator up to level 5 where the refugee Edorans had taken up temporary residence. They were mostly sitting in small, subdued groups, talking quietly or trying to sleep. They had settled down since their arrival, when nearly everything about the underground complex had seemed cold, unfriendly and fearful. Now they were simply waiting for news. Eyes turned toward him, a sea of eyes full of hopes and desires that he could never have imagined in his days as a college professor. No one here was thinking about classes, coffee, girlfriends or- god forbid- archeology. They wanted to hear that they were going home. He wished more than anything he could tell them that.
There was no need to call people together to hear what he had to say. They packed in tightly to hear his words. He supposed they could tell from his expression that it wasn't what they were hoping. "You already know that the Stargate was hit by a meteor just after we came through. Dr. Fraiser told you that the gate is blocked and buried?"
Heads nodded. Daniel ploughed on. "That's not as bad as it could be. If the gate were completely blocked, we wouldn't be able to open it at all, and we can. We think that the gate stayed open long enough for the debris to form a pocket around the gate, just big enough for it to open."
"When can we go home?" Bairel, one of the older men, asked. There was a rumbling of agreement as he voiced the question foremost on all their minds.
Daniel nodded. "I'm getting to that. Right now, the pocket around the gate isn't big enough to let anything through. We sent a MALP- a machine to let us see what was there, and it did not make it through, it was destroyed. That means that nobody can go back through right now. We have a plan, several plans really, for what to do next." He looked around. They seemed to be following the explanation; he didn't see any of the blank stares that warned him when he was losing an audience. "The first one is, we have talked to our allies who have ships- like large boats- that travel between the stars." Boats they understood, he saw. "They have agreed to go to Edora and find the people left there, but it would take them a long time, a year, before they could return."
There were several indrawn gasps and a few covert glances around the bunker as the Edorans thought about waiting a year to go home and a rising rumble of discontent began to grow.
Daniel raised his voice and continued. "That's too long, you shouldn't have to wait that long." That earned him a few relieved glances and they quieted again. "We have a plan to build a machine to help us reopen the gate. We haven't build this kind of machine before, but we know that it can be done. That will take time, weeks or perhaps months, but will probably be faster than waiting for a ship." The Edorans absorbed that. "There is also the possibility that the gate could be opened from the other side." That got a lot of looks of surprise and Daniel smiled faintly. "Jack- Colonel O'Neill- was still on Edora when the gate was closed. If he survived, he'll try to dig out the gate. If he can do that, we'll be able to open a passage from this side and send through supplies to repair it."
Bairel asked skeptically. "How do you even know he survived? How do you know that any of them survived?"
Daniel looked him in the eye, feeling their pain and uncertainty as keenly as his own. "We don't. The last thing we saw was the fire rain crashing down, and starting fires in the forest. Even if the village wasn't hit, the fires could destroy everything. But we won't stop trying until we know for sure."
An older woman looked at him with a mixture of fear and distrust. "How do we know that you speak the truth? How do we know that Paynan wasn't right, that you sought to take our land from us?"
Daniel shook his head in frustration. "We wouldn't do that. Ask yourself this; If we wanted to harm you, why are you still alive? Why have we given you food, clothing, shelter? We want only to help you. If we didn't care, than why would we even try to save you from the fire rain? Why would Jack have risked his life to go back after Garan and the girl? Believe me, if this had been our intention than we wouldn't have left Jack behind." He had been trying to put his sincerity in his tone, but knew that the last statement had been filled only with misery and his own sense of failure. Amazingly, it seemed to reach them as his logical arguments hadn't.
Bairel asked, "What if Edora is a burned wasteland when we return?"
Daniel said, "Then we'll help you to find a new home, somewhere like Edora but without the fire rain, where you can live as you always have."
The woman spoke again. "And must we stay here, cooped up in these rooms until we can go home?"
"No." Daniel was grateful to at least have that news for them. "We will send you through the gate to a world where you can wait in safety." Hammond was already setting up a resettlement team to bring them to the alpha site, where they could live in temporary quarters but have access to the outside, to woods and fields like their home, while they waited. They'd even made a first pass selection of worlds that could become the new Edoran homeworld if the rescue mission didn't work out. 'Please, let it work out. We can't lose Jack, not so soon after-.'
Daniel drove the familiar route to Jack's house, thinking of the last time he'd been there. They'd eaten pizza and played chess and Jack had tried to get him to talk about Sha're. He'd resisted, the loss still too raw and painful to talk about. Now he wished that he had. After Jack, Sam was the next person he'd have chosen to confide in, but he couldn't ask her to listen to his problems when she was already under so much stress trying to build the particle beam accelerator. And Teal'c was the one person he couldn't talk to about Sha're. His teammate still bore a heavy weight of guilt over her death, and Daniel refused to add his own grief to that. He would manage; he always did. He hadn't realized how much he'd come to count on the support of his friends though, until they weren't around. He pushed the thought aside.
It was a late spring afternoon in Colorado and the wildflowers were blooming gloriously. Not to mention every other kind of plant life under the sun. Daniel sneezed as he got out of his car at Jack's house. His current allergy medication was pretty good, but the amount of pollen in the air this time of year tended to push its limits and drive him indoors. Daniel looked unenthusiastically at Jack's ankle high lawn. Not that that looked like an option at the moment. Jack would hate it if they let his lawn turn into a hayfield.
Daniel collected a bunch of advertising flyers from Jack's mailbox, and made a note to stop by the post office and check the box there. They had both changed over from home mail to the PO boxes after their first year at the SGC, so they wouldn't have mail piling up in outside their homes when they were off-world. They'd also set up most of their bills for automatic payment, but that didn't mean that Jack might not have some that weren't. Daniel had only the vaguest idea of how things like property taxes got paid. He'd better make a list. He grimaced. He was the original expert on the aggravations of returning from the dead, having done it twice now- at least Jack wouldn't be facing the legal crap- but even Daniel knew that you couldn't just walk away from a house for three months and think it would be fine when you got back. Taking care of the place for him was the sort of thing friends did. Not to mention being the only remotely useful idea Daniel had had to help him so far this month. Damn, he wasn't going think about that.
Daniel took out the small pad he carried and started numbering tasks. He was pretty sure that the car registration was okay, but he'd check. He should probably also take Jack's truck home once every week or two, to keep the battery charged and things running normally. The fridge- the fridge was pretty empty anyway. While the condiments would probably last 3 months of refrigeration, with so little in it, Daniel figured he'd clean it out before he left and turn it off. It would save Jack a little money in electricity. Trash was out, Jack had taken care of that. A little dust, which Daniel wasn't going to worry about, plumbing still worked fine. Daniel made a childish face. The lawn.
Three hours later, Daniel was flushed, drenched with sweat and starting to wheeze rather alarmingly. It had taken almost twenty minutes to get the mower started. He could only remember one of his foster families that had ever even tried to get him to mow a lawn, and that had not been a rousing success. Most of them had realized from the start that with his allergies, it wasn't a great idea. So Daniel had felt remarkably stupid surveying the mysteries of the gasoline engine, and briefly thought of calling Sam. He spoke aloud to the recalcitrant mower. "No, that's moronic. Even if she wasn't busy, I don't need an astrophysicist to start a damned lawnmower! I have two PhD's for god's sake, how hard can it be?"
He had finally gotten the machine started. He wasn't ever going to tell anyone, let alone Jack, that he had only succeeded thanks to the cheat-sheet of instructions under the grime on a plate near the handle. "Who says archeological skills aren't useful around the house?" he muttered as it started with a roar. And he hadn't even cleaned out the fridge yet.
It was hard work with the grass as high as it was. By the time he returned to the house, the light was starting to go, and Daniel was feeling rather unwell. Something about breathing in the cloud of particles kicked up by the lawnmower was making his head blow up like a balloon. He couldn't tell if his allergy medication was still doing anything at all. If it was, he'd probably be having trouble breathing without it. A handful of tissues did not noticeably improve the situation. Daniel actually considered calling Janet, but decided to check first to see if he had left any useful pharmaceuticals in Jack's spare bathroom.
In the end, he had taken two of the Benadryl he found in the cabinet and propped himself up on Jack's couch as the drug acted quickly on his empty stomach. He was considering getting back up and calling for a pizza when he fell asleep. He awoke at dawn, feeling mostly recovered. That had been the worst allergy attack he could remember having since he was a teenager, he thought. In retrospect, he probably should have called Janet. And he was going to have to figure out some other way to deal with the lawn. No way was he going through this every two weeks for the rest of the summer.
A pot of coffee and a shower made him feel somewhat more human. Not to mention grateful that he still had some clothes at Jack's place. He took his cup out onto the deck and surveyed the somewhat uneven tracks of the mower across the lawn. Obviously there was some practice involved in getting things straight. He caught a glimpse of a woman's head in the yard next door. Number 6 on his list with a question mark- tell Jack's neighbors he was out of town. He flipped a mental coin and set off across the yard, relieved that the dew was keeping the pollen down.
"Good morning!" He called. The elderly woman looked vaguely familiar, he'd probably seen her before driving to or from Jack's place.
"Good morning." She returned pleasantly enough. "Are you looking for the Colonel?" She looked curiously at the cup in his hand.
"Uh, no." Daniel hastened to explain. "I'm a friend of his. Dr. Daniel Jackson." He put out a hand. She seemed to find the respectable title and his harmless appearance reassuring.
"Greta Anderson." She replied, and turned to an older man who was joining them. "My husband Harold."
"Very pleased to meet you." Daniel gave them his best peaceful explorer smile, and explained what he was doing. "Jack- Colonel O'Neill- is on TDY, that's detached duty-"
"We know that." The clean-shaven older man nodded briskly. "I served in the Army for thirty-three years."
"Oh. Good. Well. Jack was sent, um, overseas, very suddenly. So I'm closing up the house for him and I thought I'd let his neighbors know that he was going to be away."
"How long will the Colonel be gone?" Greta asked.
Daniel winced. "Three months at least. A year if he's unlucky." Let's not even talk about the possibility that those caves took a direct hit like the Stargate and there's nothing left at all. He continued. "I'll stop by every couple of weeks to check on the place."
The Andersens assured him that they would keep an eye out and Daniel left them with both his number and that of the base in case of emergencies. "Thanks, that's great. A-Achoo." He sneezed repeatedly and fished tissues out of his pocket.
"Bless you." Mrs. Anderson said, looking concerned.
"Sorry. Allergies. I really shouldn't have gone near that stupid lawn. I don't suppose you know anybody I could hire to deal with it?" Daniel looked at them hopefully.
Anderson nodded. "You want a lawn service. Those people down the street use one."
"The Lewises." Mrs. Anderson said. "I'll call Eleanor now and ask her. She's always up early. "
It was pleasant if weird to solve a problem simply by throwing money at it, he decided. And even stranger to have the money to do it. He'd spent most of his life before the program broke or on a tight budget, and was still not accustomed to simply walking into a store or restaurant and buying what he needed. Of course he seldom needed anything you could just find in a store- he hadn't seen any ha'taks advertised lately. Or a sale on miracles would be nice. He'd stock up.
Half an hour later, Daniel was putting out the trash with the remains of the stuff from the fridge and then pulling out of the driveway, the number for the lawn service in his pocket. Without even the hum of the refrigerator, Jack's house was more empty and quiet than he ever remembered seeing it.
It was less than a week before he was scheduled for his first offworld trip. Daniel was a bit relieved that it was going to be with SG-7. He had taken the opportunity before the mission to sound out Ferretti as to whether he minded having him along. Being routinely assigned to accompany other teams wasn't quite the same as going along to fulfill some clear function like deciphering an ancient script that nobody else had a clue on.
He'd been pleased and not a little flattered when Feretti had looked at him like he had grown a second head. "Are you kidding, Daniel? The other SG teams would be asking to borrow you all the time if O'Neill wasn't such a pain in the ass about it."
"Oh. This would be the lecture about how even he can't keep me out of trouble, how do you expect to?" Daniel said jokingly.
"More like the get-your-own-damn-graverobber, and if Hammond makes me let you borrow mine, you better return him in the same condition you got him lecture." Ferretti replied with feeling. "Hey, my guys are pretty good, but we all know you're in a class of your own on the culture stuff."
"Oh." Daniel was doubly surprised. "Now I am gonna blush. Uh, thanks."
Ferretti grinned. "Any time. Briefing at 1400, okay?"
Daniel had resolved to be on his best behavior. If pressed, he had to admit that Jack was actually pretty patient with his tendency to forget whatever else was going on whenever he was working on something interesting. He had no intention of making himself unpopular with the other teams he would be working with by being late or distracted. He got to the briefing room several minutes early, though not earlier than Ferretti's teammates. He paused on the stairs as he heard his own name.
"So why the heck is Jackson being assigned to *us*?" Daniel winced. The tone was rather affronted. That was Thompson, Daniel guessed, the newest member of SG-7 and the only one he'd never had occasion to speak with.
Mendez, Ferretti's 2IC, was the one who answered. "Because the culture on P4C-890 looks from the MALP footage to be a mixture of Greek and Egyptian, and Jackson speaks them both fluently." Then he said a little apologetically, "No offense, Verrazano."
"None taken." Lieutenant Linda Verrazano was the team's regular translator and had a background in anthropology. She spoke several languages and was studying Abydonian Egyptian but she wasn't yet fluent and didn't know any Greek at all. "I'm actually glad we'll have Dr. Jackson along."
Daniel figured that was probably the best entrance line he was going to get. Besides, if he stood here any longer, Ferretti was going to come along and find him eavesdropping. He climbed the rest of the stairs. "Hi, Mendez, Thompson, Linda." He had often thought what good training his childhood upbringing had been for meeting and greeting alien cultures, a category in which he included the US Air Force. He felt absurdly as he had as a child entering yet another new school. He knew that he was going to be different from all the other kids, that most of them would be predisposed to dislike him, and that his best chance of getting through it was to look harmless and see if he could get a few people to like him.
He spoke into the sudden silence as if he hadn't heard any of the earlier conversation. "I'm glad I'm getting a chance to go out on a few missions. I'd have been stir crazy if all I was allowed to do was sit in my office until- for the next three months." He gave them a pleasant, harmless-professor look. "Hopefully, I'll be some help." He really was hoping for that. SG-7 was about as friendly a team as he could have asked for. Ferretti of course knew him from the two Abydos missions, and Verrazano had worked with him enough to respect his abilities. Daniel was ruefully aware that his famous 'arguments' with Jack had given him a not entirely deserved reputation for being difficult to work with.
When Ferretti and Hammond arrived, Linda offered to let him do the briefing, but he had told her to go ahead as she normally would. He had added only a couple of comments to her presentation and she had looked cautiously pleased that he wasn't trampling all over her usual role.
He managed to turn up early in the gate room, fully geared up. He even checked out a MP-5. He usually didn't when he was loaded down with camera gear, but this mission was probably going to be more talking than anything else. And it was a Goa'uld world. And, okay, he might not have bothered if even one other member of his own team was going to be along, but without Teal'c or Sam watching his back, he felt like he'd prefer to be better armed.
The other team members filed in, looking a bit surprised to find him already there. "Guess you are a little stir crazy, eh, Doc?" Thompson commented.
Daniel smiled. "May be a little," he agreed in friendly tone, ignoring the implication. Am I really late all that often? He wondered. He probably did need to be more conscious of the time. Jack had certainly complained about it often enough. He remembered a little guiltily that he tended to tune out Jack's complaints without actually thinking about them, mentally putting them in the same category as his incessant teasing and terrible jokes.
Ferretti took in the extra armament without comment, but Linda looked at the MP-5 in some surprise. "Are you checked out on that?" She blurted, then heard what she had just said and backpedaled, "I mean-"
Daniel was pretty sure he didn't show his irritation. He bit back a sarcastic comment about the hours he had spent on the range with this and the other weapons that the team used and replied neutrally, "Yes, I do know how to use it. It's a Goa'uld world. Better armed than sorry."
That got him a few more glances from the military personnel within earshot. Evidently, he wasn't behaving in character. Ferretti, bless his heart, just looked over and said. "I know you've taken out Jaffa with that 9mm, Daniel, but I'm glad to hear you don't object to bigger guns." The gate was starting to turn, the first chevron locking.
Talking about weapons seemed to be good for bonding with a military team. Daniel shrugged; he could do that. "Someday I need to learn how to throw a knife though." He told Ferretti. "I keep running into Goa'uld with personal shields. They stop kinetic and energy weapons, but a slow projectile, like a rock, knife or arrow would go through." Fourth chevron, it was nearly time to go.
Ferretti nodded, with only a faint shadow of a smile betraying that he knew what Daniel was doing. Mendez, Thompson and Verrazano were trying not to look impressed that he spoke so casually of meeting Goa'uld. It wouldn't hurt to remind people that scientist or not, he'd stood beside the other members of SG-1 in a number of sticky situations and they'd all made it out. The wormhole opened with its usual splash of light and sound. They walked up the ramp and through the circle.
They stepped out into a warm, almost Mediterranean climate. Daniel could see olive trees on the slopes surrounding the Stargate. The scent brought back childhood memories of trips to Greece. Thompson was checking the DHD and finding the local point of origin, but Daniel unobtrusively glanced over and memorized it as well. Ever since the first trip to Chulak, he'd made a habit of memorizing gate addresses. He'd had to use mnemonic tricks to get the addresses into memory the first few times, but after three years with the SGC, practice and his formidable memory had made it second nature. Their arrival was already attracting attention from workers picking olives, and there seemed to be a strong undercurrent of fear. Ferretti grinned at Daniel. "Okay, pal, you're on."
Daniel smiled reminiscently, remembering the first contact on Abydos. "Who, me?" He stepped forward and started trying languages.
He'd found a young man who was willing to talk, and he had sat down with him to try and nail down the tongue. They boy didn't speak Egyptian after all, it turned out to be a mixture of ancient Persian and a bit of Greek. Once Daniel had the pattern for which words came from which language and his ear started making adjustments for the local accent, he was able to converse with relative ease. The members of SG-7 were crouched around them in watchful but unthreatening poses. Ferretti was looking pointedly at his watch. Daniel turned to him, "I think I've got it now. Sorry for the wait."
Ferretti laughed. "Sorry for the wait? You're a trip. That was ninety-two minutes to learn a new language. Nobody ever believes me when I tell them this shit. They have to see it." He nodded at his teammates, who were in fact looking impressed. Actually Verrazano was looking more like awed.
Daniel was starting to feel uncomfortable. Sure, he wanted to be useful, but, "Yeah, but I didn't learn it just now. I mean it's a mix of a couple of other languages I already know, with a weird accent. I really just had to get used to the sound of it."
"Like you did with Abydonian? You knew the written form, you just had to learn the pronunciation." Ferretti said.
"Exactly." Daniel was relieved that Ferretti got it.
"And that took several hours." Ferretti said.
"Yeah. Most of a night." Daniel wasn't quite sure what Ferretti was getting at.
Verrazano said, "I couldn't do that, sir. Not even with languages I know well."
Daniel gave a self-deprecating shrug, "Don't sell yourself short, Lieutenant. It gets easier with practice." He turned back to the native, who was sitting patiently through the incomprehensible chatter. "Do we want to ask this fellow some questions about the Goa'uld?"
The world was one regularly visited by the Goa'uld, or at least by Jaffa, but it seemed to be an agricultural supply base rather than anything more strategic. They were able to gather a fair amount of useful intelligence and the mission was largely successful, despite them having to take cover and hide for a day while a large group of Jaffa took delivery of some foodstuffs. They withdrew and hid some distance away. "At least we've found out some useful data." Ferretti commented quietly, lying on his stomach to look over the ridge at the Jaffa milling around the Stargate.
Beside him, Daniel peered through his own field glasses. He had a good vantage on the DHD, so with luck he'd be able to tell where they went. "With the regular visits, it could be a source for ongoing intelligence, may be even infiltration."
Ferretti rolled his eyes. "We're planning to leave the really nutso stuff to SG-1, thanks very much. You're not going to catch me taking on a pair of Goa'uld motherships with small arms."
"Don't forget a couple cases of C4." Daniel pointed out. "Very important. Besides, we didn't know there was a ship when we went there. We thought it was just a recon."
"And you took the C4 because?" Ferretti inquired.
"We'd have felt underdressed without it." Daniel assured him, realizing that they'd fallen into the sort of easy banter he'd have had with SG-1. "Ah, here's the party leaving now. And they didn't even sign our dance cards."
"Shocking." Ferretti replied dryly.
Daniel smiled. This was going better than he thought it would. He should have remembered how helpful Ferretti had been when he had first returned to Earth. He didn't spend time with the other man often, but he realized that he should definitely not forget to number him among his friends. "Got the gate address." He memorized it, but also scribbled it into his notebook.
"Then we're good to go." They watched the wormhole disappear from the gate. Ferretti slid back down the bank to where the other team members were guarding their backs and Daniel followed.
"I'm surprised you could see the symbols on the gate from here." Thompson remarked. "Even with field glasses."
Daniel replied. "I couldn't quite, but I could see the dial positions when they lit up. It's a standard DHD- nothing funny about the setup, so I know which glyphs they were using."
"Oh." The man's tone was quiet.
Verrazano spoke up. "It was a good thing you were here, doctor. I don't know much Greek and forget Persian."
Daniel shrugged. "My pleasure."
Ferretti was looking amused again. "And here, people, we have the real reason why O'Neill bitches about loaning Daniel out. He's afraid if we find out how damned useful he is, we won't give him back."
Mendez, who'd seemed to be reserving judgment on Daniel throughout the trip finally voiced his thoughts. "Well, I'm impressed." He looked at Daniel a bit apologetically. "Most of the civilian scientists don't make a lot of effort to fit in with us military types but you've more than pulled your weight."
Daniel was pleased to have won a convert, but was too honest to just wallow in praise. "Thanks. But I have been on a first contact team for three years." His glance at Mendez was mild, but there was no mistaking the firmness in his voice. "And this was a pretty unambiguous situation. In a difficult mission it would be my job to bring out the non-military perspective, even if it pisses people off. Diversity of viewpoints makes for a stronger team and for better decisions."
Mendez gave him an odd look, and then nodded thoughtfully.
They stepped through the gate a full day late and a bit dusty, but quite undamaged. Hammond was standing at the end of the ramp looking relieved as they walked down from the gate. Daniel didn't miss the extra glance in his direction. "What happened?"
Ferretti gave him a quick summary of what they had learned and why they were delayed. Daniel stayed silent, but poignantly missed Jack's humorous and often cryptically brief summations of their missions. He tried to imagine what Jack would have said.. 'No real problem, sir. The Stargate was overbooked so we had a long layover.' Something like that. The general was looking pleased and responded to Ferretti's report with a quick "Well done, SG-7. Debrief in one hour."
And Daniel had to admit that the trip had been an unqualified success for the Daniel Jackson Public Relations Committee as well. In the cafeteria later that day he'd overheard Thompson and Mendez talking about the mission with a couple of guys from SG-5. The few words he'd gotten were encouraging. "-ninety-two minutes, I'm not shitting you." That was Thompson and Mendez had chimed in "Never occurred to me that he's a civilian on purpose- I mean it's his job to bring up stuff that us military types wouldn't think of."
Daniel had hastily reversed course and gone down to check on Sam in the lab. Of course he was glad the mission had gone well, but the whole wide-eyed respect thing was pretty embarrassing. He was more accustomed to being the civilian only there on sufferance. Besides, there was no guarantee it would last past the first time he butted heads with the military viewpoint.
It was after midnight at the SGC and Daniel decided to stroll by the gate room before turning in. He'd stopped by Sam's lab and was relieved to notice that she'd finally left. He was planning to stay on base himself because he was leaving early tomorrow with SG-7 to look at the site of what might be an Ancient city.
In the briefing room, he found Teal'c staring out the window at the stone circle that dominated the room. He went over and stood silently at the Jaffa's side.
They watched the gate in comfortable silence for several minutes before Teal'c turned to him. "It is late, Daniel Jackson, and we have a mission tomorrow. Should you not rest?"
"I will," he replied, and returned in the same tone, "And should you not be performing kel-no-reem?"
"I need only a few hours to be completely rested." Teal'c assured him.
"Why are you here?" Daniel asked.
The Jaffa hesitated. "I have often observed you and O'Neill come here to gaze at the Stargate when a member of the team is in trouble offworld. I wished to see-"
After a moment, Daniel finished the thought for him quietly. "-if it were comforting?"
Teal'c didn't reply, but Daniel was sure he had understood correctly. He waited for Teal'c to continue. After a moment the Jaffa spoke again. "Among Jaffa, it is understood that warriors will strive against one another for position and status. To have a friend is a sign of weakness."
"We believe that to have friends is a strength." Daniel offered. "But you know that."
Teal'c nodded. "I do. I have even come to believe it. But-"
'But it hurts like hell to lose one.' Daniel let the thought remain unspoken. "We're going to get him back." He felt a sudden flash of dŽjˆ vu, himself and Teal'c standing on this spot while they searched for two missing teammates, Sam and Jack both.
Teal'c still gazed at the Stargate. "How do we know that he still lives to be rescued?"
Daniel swallowed, touched that Teal'c was allowing him to see his worry for their mutual friend. Teal'c was voicing the question that haunted Daniel and filled his nights with restless dreams. He tried to find the answer for his friend that he hadn't for himself. "We don't. We just have faith. We believe because we want to, until we have no other choice."
Teal'c turned to look at him intently. "As O'Neill often believes that a solution exists, even in the most hopeless situation. He wishes to believe."
'And as I believed that I would find Sha're, until there was no other choice.' Sometimes, Teal'c could be perfectly opaque, but tonight he was as easy to read as Jack or Sam. Daniel said. "Yes. And because if there is no solution, we have nothing to lose by trying to find one. If there is, and we give up before we find it, we fail." 'And if we fail, we never know whether it was really hopeless or we just didn't try hard enough.' Daniel knew that was the thought driving Sam as she worked feverishly on the particle accelerator. The thought that fuelled the dreams where he watched Sha're enter the tent and stood paralyzed, unable to leave her, unable to go in and see her die.
Teal'c was nodding as though he had finally fathomed something that had puzzled him about the Tau'ri. "What is the probability that O'Neill has survived?"
Daniel knew the answer, or rather the non-answer, to that. It was one of the first things that he and Sam had discussed after their return from Edora. "There's really no way to tell. We didn't have anything like the instrumentation to tell how big the asteroids coming down were. A big enough one could destroy much of the planet. Or we could have just had an unlucky strike that buried the gate. Most likely the situation is something in between. If Jack was in the caves, though, he had a chance."
"Then we will believe he is there, waiting for us." Teal'c said firmly. "Until there is no other choice."
Daniel pushed a cart through the aisles of the grocery store, feeling bizarrely disconnected. That morning he had been up to his armpits in a swamp with SG-7, wading back from the remains of the city site. It hadn't been Ancient, just ancient and in such poor condition that little could be learned from it in a hit and run survey like theirs. He'd managed to film a few fragments of writing, but for the most part, the mission was a bust. Three days of thrashing through stinking swamp for nothing. He scratched at his ribs reflexively. Well, for insect bites, dehydration and heat exhaustion, to be precise. He had gotten off lightly- one of the SG-7 guys had sprained an ankle, and Teal'c had been bitten by a snake. Fortunately the poison had been nothing his symbiote couldn't handle. And now here he was, strolling through a bright, air-conditioned supermarket hundreds of miles-or a step through the Stargate- from the nearest jungle. Sometimes he wondered why they didn't have more personnel going crazy. The cognitive dissonance of their daily life-and-death struggle juxtaposed with the innocent normality of a suburban supermarket was enough to give the most stable personality a splitting headache. And to think he used to find it amazing that an airplane could whisk you halfway around the planet in a single day.
Daniel stopped in the frozen foods section. Sam was still maintaining a killing pace working on the particle beam accelerator. His chances of convincing her to take an evening off were just about nil, but perhaps he could haul her out of the lab for an hour and a dish of chocolate double chunk ice cream. And after the stinking humidity of P5G-873, he was the last person to deny that ice cream was going to taste good. He selected a carton, peering over his sunglasses to check the label before putting them back on. The day was all too bright after the gloom of the dripping planet they had just left.
He headed for the checkout, remembering Teal'c's surprised expression when he had joined in with the general team grousing about the climate. "I thought you liked hot planets, Daniel Jackson."
"Desert planets, Teal'c. Not this stinking humidity." Daniel had wiped his streaming face with a not very clean cloth, probably transferring streaks of mud to it, and not really caring. It had reminded him of that dig in the Yucatan, only even more uncomfortable. Give him a nice dry desert like Abydos any day. More comfortable and it preserved artifacts better too.
He smiled faintly. The team had stayed in fairly good spirits, despite the crummy conditions. Even after several missions together, the team had been still a little wary and uncomfortable with Teal'c. The general hilarity that had ensued when Daniel had produced graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows around the fire, the evening after their first long day in the swamp, had broken the ice considerably. He had gotten them all to join in explaining s'mores to Teal'c, and persuaded Teal'c to participate in the round of camping reminiscences and childhood stories that resulted. Teal'c's rather grim story of the stringent training of a young Jaffa had surprised and sobered the members of SG-7. To follow it, Daniel himself had dredged out the memory of a ghastly charity camp he had been sent to while between foster placements.
His childhood was something that he rarely mentioned, but he was determined to try and break down some of the barriers he saw between Teal'c and the others. His teammate was respected and even feared, but his reserve and the natural exclusivity of a closed military society kept him from being regarded as an insider. With O'Neill gone, Daniel clearly saw how dangerous that was for Teal'c and how desirable it was that he build some bridges with members of other teams. The somewhat exaggerated story of young Daniel trying to make logical sense of the religious instruction at the church camp in the context of Egyptian mythology had reduced the whole team to helpless laughter, especially when he had drawn Teal'c into adding descriptions of Chulakian theology to the narrative. He had blinked in a little surprise. He wasn't usually that good at funny, but it probably had helped that everyone was tired enough to be a little punchy. Not to mention buzzed on chocolate and marshmallow.
The mission had started with he and Teal'c walking together through the gate with a small but distinct separation between them and the members of SG-7. It ended with the six of them stumbling out of the gate dripping foul-smelling slime, the two largest members of the team supporting a feverish but protesting Teal'c while Daniel and Jimenez assisted Howard in limping painfully down the ramp. Daniel had felt absurdly gratified at the approving look General Hammond had given him as Howard waved off the stretcher and they helped him walk to the infirmary.
The supermarket checkout line seemed to be unusually full of women with young children, and he glanced at his watch in puzzlement. Oh, it was early- 9 AM on a weekday. The time differences between local planetary days and Earth time could put the worst case of jetlag he had ever experienced in the shade. They had spent a full day wading through the swamps in the grueling heat and reached the Stargate only barely before dusk. But when they returned to the SGC it was dawn. Even after the really long shower, medical checks and debriefing, the day was still spread out ahead of him. Daniel thought tiredly that a short nap when he got home wouldn't be out of order.
Finally he reached the checkout and unloaded his cart. The teenager behind the register smiled and pushed the items past the scanner with practiced efficiency. Daniel fished out a credit card and swiped it. Really, homegrown Earth tech could be pretty amazing. The attitudes of the Tollan and the Nox made them feel like idiot children sometimes, but Earth was technologically a lot more advanced than most of the planets they visited.
The girl behind the register was staring at the screen and said. "I'm sorry, I can't accept that card." Then again, sometimes Earth technology was damned annoying.
"What's wrong with it?" Daniel asked, trying not to sound impatient. She looked rather nervous, he thought. Probably was afraid he was going to yell at her.
"The machine just says not approved." The girl was increasingly uncomfortable.
"That's okay, not your fault- Lisa." Daniel read her name off the tag on her shirt. "I'll have to call them and get it straightened out later. Let's try a debit card." He fished through his wallet for a several minutes. "It's in here somewhere." He smiled apologetically and finally handed the girl his card and driver's license.
Behind him, he heard an official sounding voice say, "Sir, could I please ask you to come with me?"
Daniel turned around to see a rather young uniformed officer standing behind him with his hand on his weapon. Daniel moved slowly and unthreateningly, keeping his hands in sight. "Of course. May I ask what the problem is, officer?"
"Sir, we have a report that you tried to use a stolen credit card. I'm placing you under arrest." The officer wasn't relaxing any, but he at least he wasn't getting more tense.
"Stolen?" Daniel took a deep breath. The idea of getting arrested on Earth was surprisingly intimidating. It was as if it were more real than being locked up on some alien world they'd only just arrived at and would probably never visit again. 'You can handle this, Jackson. It's way less dangerous than Jaffa with staff weapons or primitive natives who want to barbecue you.' "There must be some mistake."
"Yes, sir, but I have to ask you to come down to the station. Please put your hands on your head and turn around." The young officer was obviously determined to do this by the book.
Daniel followed the instructions, trying to ignore the stares he was getting from clerks and other shoppers. He'd definitely been hanging out with the military too much, since his first thought was that he'd rather be shooting something. As Jack would say, this was so not going to be a good day.
By the time they got to the station, Daniel had two theories about why his card was showing as stolen. The first was simple error- a typo or something at the credit company. The second was more irritating.
"According to the credit card company, Daniel Jackson, the holder of this card, is dead." The police officer told him. "Would you like to tell me your name, please?"
Daniel sighed. "Oh, not this crap again. I'm Dr. Daniel Jackson, and the rumors of my death have been- obviously- exaggerated. " He looked at the impassive policeman behind the desk. "I was reported dead a couple of years ago. It was a mistake, but it took me forever to get the banks, credit cards, and so forth straightened out. Everybody but the IRS." He tried for a little humor. "They were okay with me paying taxes whether I was alive or not." The man's expression didn't change, and he sighed again. "Every so often, the report gets reentered into the system for some reason, and one or another of my accounts gets screwed up."
The contents of Daniel's wallet were spread out across the table. The officer picked up Daniel's Colorado driver's license and looked at the photo. Daniel tried not to wince. Three years old, it had been issued a few weeks after his return from Abydos. Not only was it a typically bad photo, but his hair was still nearly blonde from the desert sun, badly cut and hanging in his eyes. It was easy to tell why the officer was seeing only a superficial resemblance to his current appearance. The officer took down the information Daniel gave him noncommittally and went away. When he came back, he wasn't looking any friendlier. "I'm afraid we're going to have to book you, sir."
"Huh?" Now that was really surprising. "Why?"
"We're having trouble confirming your story." The officer didn't seem in the least sympathetic.
Daniel was starting to get really annoyed. "Great. My tax dollars at work. Do I at least get a phone call?"
"Sure." The officer handed back Daniel's cell phone.
He opened the phone, then paused a moment to think. Ordinarily, Daniel would have called Jack; that was obviously out. He didn't want to disturb Sam if he could avoid it. Teal'c would not be useful backup in this situation. It would have to be General Hammond, he guessed. He punched the numbers for Cheyenne Mountain. Of course this would be the morning that Hammond was completely incommunicado. "I can have him call you right back, Dr. Jackson," offered his personal assistant.
Daniel was pretty sure he wasn't going to get to keep the cell phone much longer. "No, that won't work. Um, is Major Ferretti around?"
"No, sir, he's on assignment." Yeah, that was right. SG-7 was off on another of the eternal mineral surveys that seemed to tie up so many SGC resources.
He really wanted to speak to someone who knew him, would have enough authority to get things moving and would be on the base. Then he hit on the perfect person. "Um, how about you transfer me to Doctor Frasier."
He looked at the door to the interview room and the officer standing impatiently in front of it, and held up his hand in a one-more-minute gesture. Please let Janet be on duty right now. Then her voice came on the line. "Hi, Janet, it's Daniel."
"Daniel." She sounded worried. "What's the matter?"
"I couldn't get through to the general and I can really use a hand here. I'm under arrest." Daniel winced. He was starting to wish he didn't have to get the SGC involved in this. He was going to be hearing about it for weeks.
"Arrest! What on earth for?" Janet sounded pretty startled.
"Being dead, apparently." Daniel gave her a brief explanation and she assured him that she would see that he got some help.
Being fingerprinted reminded him of the last time that had happened, when he had filled out the reams of military paperwork to join the SGC permanently after he returned from Abydos. The prints could be useful, though. "You know, the government can verify my identity." He pointed out to the booking officer. "I was fingerprinted when I got my security clearance. " The actual clearance itself had taken almost a year to be formalized, coming in just after the destruction of Apophis' ships in orbit over Earth. He had asked at the time why it had taken so long, and been told that they had had a lot of trouble verifying his background because he had moved so much.
"Yes, sir," The officer didn't seem very impressed. It seemed like Daniel was just going to have to wait for backup. As he was escorted to a cell, he reflected that it was really quite civilized. A much better class of place than Hadante, or the cell they had occupied on that medieval planet. And it was far, far better than Sokar's hospitality on Netu. Come to think of it, it bore a more than passing resemblance to his quarters on base. 'Could be material there for a guidebook, 'Prisons I Have Known.' "I give it four and a half stars," he pronounced, stretching out on the metal bunk that was the only furniture. He instantly fell asleep.
Backup did in fact arrive quite promptly. He was awakened two hours later, given back his wallet, watch and cellphone, and told he was free to go. He turned to his rescuers, a captain from the base legal office and surprisingly, he had Major Paul Davis in tow.
"Captain, Paul. Thanks for the assist. That was fast." He shook hands with both of them. "Paul, how did you get in on this?"
Davis grinned. He clearly enjoyed getting out of DC and had been especially friendly toward the SGC personnel since the alien invasion that had nearly gotten them all killed together. "General Hammond knew that we used to, uh, hang around together. And since I really came out from the Pentagon to see you as much as him-" He shrugged. The cop was watching them with interest and a trace of barely disguised curiosity.
Daniel smiled, 'hang around together'? Very funny. He looked from him over at the police officer he had talked to earlier. "What I don't understand is why I needed help at all. Why wouldn't you believe me? The whole reported dead thing must be in a hundred databases by now."
The officer looked half apologetic and half suspicious. "The date discrepancy confused us."
"What?" Daniel didn't follow.
Paul Davis was grinning. "They had the wrong death, Daniel. Somehow, the credit company managed to pick up the death report from four years ago. Since your credit cards have been in use since then, they were flagged as stolen. And when you told them you'd been reported dead year before last, the date didn't agree with what the credit company was reporting."
The police officer was looking at him rather severely. "You didn't tell us that you'd been reported dead twice, sir."
Daniel stifled a smile. "Ah...sorry. I keep telling these guys not to report me dead until after the autopsy, but they never listen." He turned to the two Air Force officers. "I have to say, grocery shopping didn't go so well for me, and I'm damned hungry. Can I buy you lunch? After I stop at a cash machine, I mean."
The military lawyer excused himself, but Daniel and Davis found a restaurant down the block where Daniel ordered a quite substantial entree. They had gotten a table on the sidewalk and Daniel looked around with some satisfaction at the pleasant summer scene while Davis chose a sandwich. The waitress brought them drinks and a plate of rolls, which Daniel immediately grabbed.
Davis raised an eyebrow. "You must be hungry."
Daniel buttered a roll and restrained the urge to take an enormous bite in favor of pacing himself. He said circumspectly, "I'm way out of my time zone at the moment. My stomach thinks it's about five hours past dinnertime."
"Ah." Davis said. "I should have expected that, with all the travel you guys do."
Daniel nodded through a mouthful of roll. "So why did you want to see me? Or will that have to wait until we get back to the office?"
Paul sipped his Coke. "The details will have to wait. In general though, we're thinking of initiating treaty negotiations with, ah, Jacob's people."
A formal treaty with the Tok'ra? Daniel's eyebrows went up. "About time, I'd say."
Davis said, "It will take a while. First we have to figure out what we're asking for, then we do the pre-negociation negociations."
Daniel raised his eyebrows. "Then the pre-pre-negociation meeting, the pre-negociation meeting, the protocol meeting..."
Davis laughed. "I'm glad to see you understand how these things work. It will be months before we're actually ready to sit down face to face."
Daniel remembered the Asgard-mediated treaty talks with the Goa'uld system lords. "It can't be worse than the last time, right?"
He looked at the suddenly silent major. "Right?!"
Davis shook his head. "I hope so. But I've learned not to underestimate the perversity of the universe."
"I see." Given some of the whacked out stuff that happened around here, Davis had a point.
Davis put his soda down straight-faced. "I mean, I'm having lunch with a man who got arrested for buying groceries."
Daniel rubbed his burning eyes as he went over the inscription again. His concentration was shot, and he felt tired and grumpy. Any minute now, Jack would be sticking his head in to say "Whatcha doin'?", not listen to the answer and haul him off to lunch. After a few seconds he remembered that Jack wasn't here. "Shit." Which probably meant that it was way past the time Jack would have shown up and reminded him to eat and he really ought to get himself down to the cafeteria and make a deposit in the calorie bank. He looked at his watch. Not only was it too late for lunch, he was going to miss dinner if he didn't hustle. He didn't want to get stuck eating the sandwiches from the machines again; he'd been doing that far too much lately. He headed for the door.
Then maybe he should take a break from the annoying translation and put in a couple of hours of research on the Tok'ra treaty proposal that Davis had talked to him about the week before. Or not. What he really needed, he decided in the elevator, was to get out of the mountain for a few hours. Assuming he could avoid spending the time thinking. 'Jack, Sha're, Sha're, Jack.' Whenever he relaxed it seemed like his brain started chasing its tail, worrying at things he had no power to change. Tok'ra research next, he decided. At least there was never any shortage of work to do.
In the cafeteria, Daniel selected the least uninspiring of the institutional food choices and looked for a table. He saw Ferretti sitting nearby and went over to say hello. "Hi, Ferretti. You know, I've got requests for assistance from a third of the teams in the SGC on my desk at the moment."
Ferretti laughed. "I did warn you." He gestured toward the empty space across from him, and Daniel put down his tray and pulled up a chair.
"Yeah, thanks. Nice to feel wanted." Daniel was only half-joking.
"Better for archeology than petty larceny." Linda and the rest of Ferretti's team came up along with one of the guys on SG-5.
Daniel groaned. "Am I ever going to hear the end of that?"
Mendez grinned. "You'll have to wait for someone else to do something interesting enough to push it off the grapevine."
Daniel did his best to look put upon. "The worst of is going to be the whole thing getting rehashed when Jack gets back." Actually, he wouldn't really care if Jack gave him grief about it for a year, if he was just here to do it. Crap, he really wanted to not dwell on that. Which didn't stop him a moment later from wondering what Jack was doing right now on faraway Edora.
"Major." Thompson said. "We still on for that parachute training tomorrow?"
"Absolutely." Ferretti replied. "The weather's going to be great, you'll love it." He turned to Daniel. "A bunch of the guys want to try it, it'll have instruction for beginners. Want to come?"
Daniel didn't even hesitate. "Sure." As a method for distracting himself from thinking too much, he was positive it would be first rate. Sheer terror had a way of doing that.
Even Ferretti looked startled at Daniel's ready acceptance, but he clapped the younger man on the shoulder as he got up. "Great. We're meeting here in the morning."
The parachute training had been far more intensive than he had really expected, taking most of the day. And he had been a bit startled also to find that it had involved a relatively brief set of instructions on what to do for normal jumps. Nearly all the training had involved drilling the emergency procedures for when things went wrong.
When they were finally pronounced ready to approach an actual airplane, they were all tired of jumping off the large crate that was the landing practice area, and Daniel was well through first, second and third thoughts and up to thirtieth. They were offered several opportunities to back out, but none of the others had. That would be military bravado at work, he was sure. So why was he still here again? He was pretty sure he was too mature for bravado. Uh, right. Of course he didn't really want the gossip item that pushed his adventures with Colorodo Springs' finest off the hit parade to be him chickening out of the parachute jump. "Great," he muttered under his breath. "Turns out I'm just as male and stupid as the next guy." On the other hand, he had been absolutely correct. Terror was a great distraction from other thoughts.
He'd almost frozen in the plane. In fact, he was pretty sure that four years ago, he would have frozen, assuming he would ever have agreed to jump in the first place. But he drew on the stubborn resolve that had sent him through the gate, into firefights and brought him out through the other side, and walked steadily to the door with the instructors, waited for the signal and they jumped together.
The feel of it was nothing like what he had expected. There was no sense of falling, just a strong pressure of air blasting up from the ground and almost supporting him with its force. He glanced at his instructors and they gestured with the hand signals he'd learned in training. The rushing wind made even the loudest shout inaudible. He adjusted his posture as they signaled, hips thrust down and back arched, and felt more stable. There was only time for one more quick glance around before he hit the altitude to pull the ripcord. Then he was floating down in a leisurely fashion, obeying the instructions he was receiving over his helmet radio. The spectacular Colorado scenery filled the horizon, and he could hear only the sound of the wind and the flapping of the chute overhead.
He was stunned to realize that at no time had he been bothered by the height. Jumping had been the worst part, but the patchwork world below had been so abstract that he had never felt any acrophobia. He was beginning to see why people enjoyed this.
When he reached the ground, he dropped and rolled perfectly, less because he had remembered to flex his knees and mostly because they had turned to water when his feet touched the earth. He released the chute as he had been taught, and sat up to see Ferretti walking across the field to give him a hand up. "How'd you like it?" he asked as he pulled Daniel to his feet.
Daniel stood on wobbly legs, feeling his heart race and filled with a weird sort of euphoria. This is what adrenaline junkies felt, he knew with utter certainty. He replied to Ferretti a bit breathlessly, "Better than a firefight, but not as much of a rush as blowing up a Goa'uld mothership." He watched Ferretti's amused countenance. "Can we do it again?"
Daniel matched up a pair of dog tags with yet another name on the list, and he started looking for the next body. A ghost of a smile flitted over his face as he recalled Ferretti's stunned expression. He'd really thought Daniel would have had enough after one jump. Truth to tell, Daniel wasn't at all sure that he'd care to skydive as a permanent hobby. But at that time and place, it had been exactly what he needed.
Of course the normal routine of SG-1 usually gave him more than enough adrenaline highs to be going on with. It was clear to him that he had become more tolerant of the breathless heart-pumping excitement- or stark terror- that so often punctuated missions at the SGC over the last three years. He even understood better Jack's impatience when they had a string of routine missions. After all, Jack had been doing this for how many years? Twenty or more, from flying jets to special ops to the Stargate.
Jack really was addicted to the action, he suspected. The peaceful bucolic life on Edora must have been torture- but then it was a low tech agrarian world, one that was woefully short of able-bodied workers with two thirds of its population trapped offworld. Jack would have substituted hard physical labor for the action he craved, and then pushed himself harder digging at the blasted site of the Stargate. When they had returned to Edora, the area had been pockmarked with holes, heartbreakingly far short of the depth he would have needed to reach the buried gate. The Edorans had probably thought him a little crazed. The refugees in the care of the SGC had displayed a patient acceptance of their fate that he could never have emulated.
Daniel stepped out of the wormhole at the alpha site, looking around at the changed landscape. It felt decidedly odd to be traveling through the gate alone, and odder still to revisit the planet he had only seen once, filled with the dazed and hastily evacuated people fleeing the attack of Apophis. His arrival this time was a lot more sedate than the last one. The first time, he had dived into the gate on Apophis' mothership seconds ahead of the explosion that blew it out of the sky, and had arrived at the alpha site headfirst, rolling down the wooden ramp on the other side in an awkward sprawl.
The temporary wooden ramp had been replaced by a metal one similar to the ramp in the gate room at the SGC, he saw, and the original cluster of canvas tents had been supplanted by more permanent metal structures. Past the buildings, he could see that some fields had been planted. He headed toward the structures assigned to the Edorans.
"Fair day," Bairel caught sight of him as he approached. "It is good to see you, Daniel. Is there news?"
Daniel smiled. "Fair day, Bairel. Nothing new. The machine will be completed in a few more weeks, we hope. I just came to see how you were doing."
The man hefted the hoe that he was using. "Very well. We have been learning about Tau'ri methods of agriculture, and trying some of them out in the fields. Your Lieutenant Collins has been instructing us. Though we have found a few things to teach him as well."
Daniel blinked. "Oh, are you cultivating those? You don't have to do that, you know."
The man smiled. "Your people have provided food for us. But we need to keep busy, and this lets us learn things that will help us when we are ready to rebuild Edora."
Daniel supposed that made sense. Heaven knew that he preferred to be busy.
Bairel clapped a friendly hand to Daniel's shoulder, "Come, let me show you what we are doing. Your people have not the time to grow food, and our gardens are already yielding fresh produce to supplant these-" his nose wrinkled expressively- "MREs."
Daniel smiled a little. The MREs and other rations provided for the refugees must have been a shock for someone used to fresh food. 'They certainly were to me.' Time had not made military rations taste any better to him. "I'm afraid they're only supposed to keep you alive, not make you happy about it."
Bairel laughed and led him toward the rows of healthy young plants, explaining what was planted where.
Daniel stood in the lab watching Sam throw a pencil at the prototype particle accelerator in frustration. "Why won't you work, damn it!" she cursed.
She jumped and snarled, "What?!" before she saw it was him. "Daniel. Sorry, you startled me."
"Not going well?" he asked sympathetically.
She shook her head. "There's bug in the control system, and I just can't seem to track it down."
"It's nearly ten, Sam. Why don't you get some rest?" he asked.
"When I figure this out." She said stubbornly. Daniel felt like this was a mirror image. Usually it was Sam saying this sort of thing to him. Of course, he often did have inspiration strike in that white space beyond pain and exhaustion. Sam was usually more productive when rested.
"How late did you work last night?" he asked. She'd still been there when he left at eleven.
She wasn't quick enough to respond, and that told him something in and of itself. "Did you sleep at all yesterday?"
Silently, she shook her head, and gave in, collecting her jacket.
"I'll drive you home," he told her. She looked rather out of it, he thought.
"You don't need to do that," she protested.
"It's save me following you down the mountain, worrying about whether you're safe to drive," he said, knowing that she'd give in faster to save him worrying than she would admit that she was fading out. 'Yet another thing we have in common', he thought wryly.
She dozed off as soon as she had her seat belt fastened and was sound asleep when they reached her apartment. After a thoughtful look at his sleeping teammate, Daniel went inside and checked the fridge. No food, as he had expected, it looked like she hadn't been home in a month. Possibly she hadn't. He frowned and made a mental note to check the security log to find out. Then he packed her a change of clothes and took her home with him.
He heard her in the shower a few minutes before nine, just before he would have had to reluctantly awakened her anyway, and he started the omelets. The second one was hitting the plate as she came out of the bedroom wrapped in his bathrobe. "Perfect timing." He congratulated her.
She took the plate, looking rather surprised. "I don't even remember coming in last night. I thought you were driving me home."
"I did." Daniel told her. "You didn't notice. When I saw what you didn't have in your fridge I decided you'd be better here. I did grab you a change of clothes- they're on the chair in the bedroom."
"Oh." She forked up a bite of omelet absently, then with definite enthusiasm as her stomach let out a loud rumble. "Don't tell me you carried me in here."
"Okay, I won't." He replied and she made a face.
"I can't believe I slept through that."
"You must have needed it." They ate for a few moments in silence. Daniel dropped his plate and cup in the dishwasher and picked up the sheaf of papers on the counter.
"I'll just change and we can go back to the base." Sam said, gulping the last of her juice.
"I called you a staff car." Daniel told her.
She looked at him blankly. "Why?" And then did a double-take and asked, "And why are you wearing a suit?"
"I'm on a plane to Washington in-" he looked at his watch. "Two hours. Which means I need to get going." He stuffed the papers into a sturdy professional-looking briefcase and locked it.
Sam asked, "What's going on?"
Daniel said, "Planning meetings for the proposed treaty with the Tok'ra. I get to play cultural interpreter for various military and State department people. Oh, joy."
"I see." Sam yawned and then looked sharply at him. "You called a staff car? "
Daniel was puzzled. "Yeah, I just told you that."
"To pick me up *here*?" Sam still seemed a little tired, he thought.
"Yes." Then the shoe dropped. "Um. I don't think anyone will really care where you slept last night, Sam."
She cursed under her breath. "Yeah, but it sure will keep the gossips interested."
Daniel pointed out helpfully. "Not as interested as they will be if the airman gets here while you're still wearing my bathrobe."
She gave him an evil look and went quickly back to the bedroom to change.
In the elevator, he said. "I could explain that I brought you here because I couldn't face the thought of carrying you up the stairs at your place." It struck him that he was playing Jack's usual role, using humor to try and lighten her mood.
Her mouth twitched. "Not funny, Jackson. And I don't want to hear any remarks about my weight."
"Look on the bright side, at least there will finally be a hotter topic around the water cooler than my ignominious arrest." He continued.
She almost laughed at that one, but kept a straight face. "Lucky for you, you mean."
He held the door for her, feeling absurdly dressed up next to her jeans and sweatshirt. As they reached the sidewalk, her almost-smile faded and she turned to him. "Daniel?"
"Thanks for everything." She suddenly hugged him fiercely.
He put his free arm around her and squeezed her back gently. "You're welcome. Sam?"
"Your ride is here." He told her in a helpful tone.
"Oh!" She quickly released him and stepped back to see that he wasn't joking and started to flush.
Daniel smiled. "Try not to work yourself into the ground while I'm gone, okay?"
She smiled back. "No promises. Have a good trip." She laughed at the face he made as he turned down the sidewalk toward the parking lot and she got into the staff car.
Daniel emerged from the Stargate on the heels of Major Lovett. He put on his sunglasses and glanced around at the hot dry landscape. Another desert world, though this looked less like Abydos and more like parts of the Gobi. He noted the glyphs for the return address to Earth as Lieutenant Hughes checked the DHD and sent the MALP back. They waited for Lovett's order to move out. The UAV hadn't shown anything in the vicinity of the Stargate, but there was a fairly large town on a river a couple of miles away. The UAV had shown signs of irrigation and agriculture near the river, but no mines or anything especially useful. SG-10 had been detailed to do a routine survey and meet and greet the natives.
Daniel wondered a bit why Hammond had sent him on this mission. It didn't look like anything out of the ordinary. Probably just that the team was still fairly new and Hughes, their translator, hadn't done a first contact yet. Lovett had suggested that Hughes handle the contact and Daniel only back him up as necessary. Daniel had agreed politely and resigned himself to a really boring trip.
Lovett motioned to Lieutenant Cameron to take point. Daniel fell in behind Lovett and Hughes, with Meier bringing up the tail. Might actually be worth the trip to get some sun, he thought mildly. He was relishing the familiar desert heat, though the members of SG-10 were already sweating and starting to look uncomfortable. It was Meier who called out the warning as he spotted the attackers, but Daniel was the first to dive over the embankment into a niche in the rocks as the spears rained down around them. The attackers were yelling something barely comprehensible and Hughes called out, "They think we're demons!"
"No, that's not it." Daniel muttered, extracting his 9 mm and slithering down the slope toward Lovett as he tried to hear clearly what they were shouting. Not demons, exactly, but what? The cognate was similar... The members of SG-10 were returning fire and Cameron swore as a spear deeply penetrated his calf.
Daniel tried to get a better view of the spearmen, but Lovett grabbed he shoulder and forced him to stay low. "Keep your head *down*, doctor!" he yelled. "How can they get that much range with spears?"
Daniel thought it was probably a rhetorical question, but he answered anyway. "They have atl-atls- throwing sticks. What cavemen used to bring down mammoths. They give the spears a lot more range and power." He stopped talking at Lovett's impatient nod and looked around, staying low.
He didn't need to be a soldier to see that their tactical situation sucked. The ambush had been staked out on the most likely path to the town, and their attackers had them outnum bered and completely surrounded. On the plus side, they'd managed to take cover, but they were clearly pinned down. He listened; a bunch of the yelling seemed to be coming from his left and he saw what looked like a protected channel among the rocks leading in that direction. He belly-crawled toward what sounded like the leadership of the attackers. As he got closer, he could make out this world's heavily accented version of Egyptian, and realized with some relief that he understood it. He wiggled forward in the shadow of the protecting rocks, listening intently, grateful for the desert camo that had to make him nearly invisible. Suddenly he deduced the meaning of the unknown word and keyed his radio. "Lovett, this is Jackson. They attacked us because they think we're Goa'uld! We've got to stop this." He waited but didn't get a response, probably the man couldn't hear the radio over the noise of his gun.
Daniel cursed under his breath and hoped that he wasn't about to make one of the spectacularly stupid mistakes for which he was so justly famous. He holstered his pistol and crawled forward toward the top of the rise that concealed the spearmen's leader. He had almost made it to the crest when the motion attracted the attention of someone behind him. He heard the yell and glanced around as the man stood up to hurl another of the deadly short spears with devastating accuracy. Then the spearman screamed as one of the SG team took advantage of his exposure to shoot him.
Daniel was already rolling over the top of the gravel bank, taking the spear in the shoulder instead of somewhere more vital. He slid down the banking on his britches into the arms of the startled natives. A round half-dozen men turned and leveled their weapons at him. He stayed flat on his back and showed empty hands as he sought the surprised and fearful gaze of the leader and started talking for his life- for all their lives. "Please, we are not your enemy, we are not Goa'uld. We come seeking allies to fight against them."
The man met his eyes with a trace of uncertainty. Daniel thanked the false gods that the Goa'uld weren't sneaky enough to pretend to be human under most circumstances. The behavioral differences between the Goa'uld and the Tau'ri were often their most compelling argument that they were different. "We mean you no harm." He persisted, trying to get his accent closer to what he had heard them use. He tried to put all his sincerity and hope into his face and voice. "Please, I beg you. Stop the attack and let us speak together."
Daniel let his head drop back to the sand with relief as the man turned and called out to the spearmen to stop attacking and he himself bellowed "SG-10, Cease fire!" in English. He keyed the radio. "Lovett, come in."
Lovett sounded remarkably like Jack as he snarled, "Jackson, what the hell are you doing?!"
"I've got them to stop attacking while we talk. Cease fire and hold your position. Nobody, and I mean nobody move. They attacked because they thought we were Goa'uld. Give me a few minutes to convince them we're friendly." Daniel told him.
He thought that noise that came back though the radio sounded rather like a chicken being strangled, but possibly Lovett was just clearing his throat because he said. "Right, okay, Jackson. Fifteen minutes and only if they don't move either." The weapons fire and clatter of spears had completely stopped.
Daniel didn't acknowledge that, just turned back to the native man. "Hello, I'm Daniel."
The man looked back at him with a mixture of wariness and hope. "I am Tarka."
Daniel told him that they were explorers and enemies of the Goa'uld, thinking that for once it was probably better that Teal'c wasn't here. This particular situation was a lot easier to defuse without the Jaffa present.
Tarka explained that Jaffa sometimes visited this planet to capture hosts or slaves, but that the natives had taken to watching the gate and lying in ambush for them. They had taken casualties but none of their people had gone back through the gate alive in several years. Daniel sincerely complimented their bravery. Facing down staff weapons with spears was no small accomplishment. Daniel was profoundly grateful that the young man seemed to be both intelligent and flexible. He was relatively easy to convince that they were not on the side of the false gods.
It was only because Tarka insisted on pulling out the spear and binding Daniel's wound himself that it took him the whole fifteen minutes before he and Tarka climbed the rise and called the members of both forces to come out of cover.
The damage to the SG team was light despite the deadly accuracy of the spears. Daniel's wound was deep but clean. His shirt was somewhat bloodied, but it hadn't soaked through his jacket. They got the spear out of Cameron's leg without too much trouble and Lovett had a deep scratch on the neck. Tarka's man was in a lot more serious trouble. He'd taken a bullet high on the chest. Probably high enough to miss the lung, but bleeding copiously and they were having trouble stopping it. Daniel turned to Tarka. "He is badly wounded."
Tarka was looking at the boy sadly, "I fear he cannot live."
Daniel said, "We have healers who might be able to save him, but we would have to take him through the Chappa'ai. He would be gone many days before he could return." He met Tarka's eyes with a mixture of hope and despair; he was already bracing himself mentally for this boy's death, not because they couldn't save him, but because there wasn't enough time to convince these people they could be trusted. Tarka looked back at him for a long minute and said. "Take him. If he stays here, he will die. Perhaps you can help him." Daniel felt a flood of relief and turned to the others. Hughes had understood, he saw, his eyes had widened. Tarka caught Daniel's arm. "Please."
Daniel put his hand over Tarka's. "We will do the best we can. You can come with him if you want." Tarka shook his head. Not enough trust for that, not yet. But they had a chance with the boy. "Whether we can help or not, we will bring him back." Daniel promised.
SG-10 came back through the gate bearing the native boy on an improvised stretcher. Daniel was yelling for medics as he cleared the event horizon but they were already en route - standard procedure when a team came back early or late. Lovett pointed them at the boy and Cameron and went to explain what was happening to an anxious-looking general. Daniel knew that an early return like theirs was one of the most stressful sorts for the personnel waiting in the control room. It nearly always meant some kind of disaster or injury.
Hammond called for an immediate debrief of the remainder of the team while Cameron went to the infirmary. Hughes asked for and got permission to go with the boy and translate for him and the medical staff.
The debrief was short but tense. Lovett related in a carefully neutral tone the events of the last hour. Hammond turned to the others. "Do you have anything to add?" A rather strained expression had crossed his face as Lovett described Daniel taking the initiative to open negotiations with the natives.
Meier shook his head. Daniel hesitated. "Dr. Jackson?" Hammond prompted.
Daniel looked at him earnestly. "Just that the language these people were speaking is another flavor of Egyptian, and it was clear from their conversation that they were not intentionally hostile. They were very afraid of us."
"Hughes said they thought we were demons." Lovett interjected. "What made you decide you could reason with them, Doctor?"
Daniel suspected that only the fact that he clearly *had* reasoned with them was saving him from a lecture that would have equaled any he'd ever had from Jack. He frowned but answered honestly, "It was an understandable error in translation," he said. "The word they used for Goa'uld is an older form, from the same root as 'demon'. Not something we've heard before."
Now Hammond was showing signs of excessive patience. "You hadn't heard this word before?"
Daniel could see where this was going but not how to stop it. "Not exactly. No. But the meaning was obvious in context."
Lovett said incredulously, "You mean to say, you risked your life on the translation of a single word you've never heard before but decided you understood *in context*?"
There was a short silence while Daniel tried to come up with a justification for the gut-level certainty that he had gotten it right. Finally, he said feebly. "Um, well, the last time I checked, that was why I'm here. Translating stuff we've never seen or heard before is my job."
Lovett leveled a deadly glare at him, while he tried to figure out exactly why the man was so pissed off. He had been right, after all, and hadn't risked anyone but himself. Lovett was turning back to Hammond. "I think I'm beginning to see why O'Neill has gone gray, sir."
Hammond fixed a stern look at Daniel, "Dr. Jackson, if you could exercise a little more caution in testing your theories in the future, I'm sure we would all find it a lot less stressful." He looked around the table. "We'll do the detailed debrief at 1600."
As he got up, Daniel looked across at Lovett and offered him an apology for the only thing he could see that he'd done wrong, "I'm sorry, Major, I did try to let you know what I was doing, but I don't think you could hear the radio over the gunfire."
Lovett shook his head. "All's well that ends well. I think. But I'll be just as happy if I don't get any more experience with your brand of diplomacy-under-fire, Doctor. However effective." He got up and followed Daniel toward the door. "Infirmary for us, I think." He patted Daniel on the injured shoulder.
Daniel flinched and said, "Ow!" and Lovett pulled back in astonishment, "Hell, are you injured?"
Daniel slipped a hand inside the jacket to the dressing that Tarka had put on, and it came back bloody. "Got cut on one of those spears, it's just a scratch." He resumed walking toward the infirmary with Lovett at his elbow. Actually, now that the adrenaline was wearing off, it was starting to hurt rather a lot.
Lovett was looking pissed again. "Damn it, I saw you take that spear, but when you didn't say anything I thought it was just a near miss."
"Tarka bandaged it for me. I'm fine. Really." Daniel told him. "Look, you should get that cut on your neck looked at," he continued as they entered the infirmary.
The glare from Lovett would have been enough to melt a junior officer into a quivering puddle. Daniel thought irrelevantly, 'Good thing I'm not military.' He turned to Janet Fraiser as she came toward him. She pushed him in the direction of a bed as Lovett told her he was injured and eased off his jacket, revealing the blood-soaked shirt. Daniel looked at it in astonishment, starting to feel a bit lightheaded. Surely there was a lot more blood than there had been before. "Oh, rats, I thought the bleeding had stopped," he said to no one in particular.
"Lie down, doctor." Janet instructed him tersely and issued crisp instructions to her medical staff.
"It's just a scratch, really." Daniel tried to tell Janet. "I'm fine." Things grayed out for a bit. When Daniel started to feel more alert, he realized that there was a needle in his arm and a bag of blood hanging from a hook over his head. The sore shoulder was blessedly numb in that familiar local-anesthetic sort of way and it looked like Janet had done her usual neat job of stitching. She was talking to someone that looked like Lovett only blurrier. Huh, when did they take his glasses off? He resisted the urge to grope around for them until Janet was done with the bandages. "-need to know about Dr. Jackson," she was saying acerbically, "Is that fine does not mean fine. It means that while he may be feeling like death warmed over, he still thinks he can walk and talk and he doesn't feel like he ought to bother anyone with his impending demise unless he's actually about to collapse somewhere inconvenient. Then it might occur to him to let you know, along with an apology for troubling you to step over his unconscious body."
Daniel started to flush a little and swallowed to wet his dry mouth. "Janet. I'm sorry-"
She gave him basically the same glare as Lovett. What was with everybody today? "Daniel, shut up. Stay in that bed. Do not move. I'm keeping you overnight- Ah!" She cut off his attempt to speak. "Not one word. Nothing you can say is going to convince me to release you before tomorrow morning, you've lost too much blood."
Ooh, yeah. He was definitely in trouble. Conciliatory, go for conciliatory. "Janet-"
"Thanks." He gestured feebly at the shoulder. "It feels better." He watched her cautiously.
Janet was obviously having trouble staying mad, but she didn't soften. "Daniel, when you walk back through that gate with an injury, you come to the infirmary first. I don't care if it's a hangnail. You let me be the judge of what is or is not serious. Capicse?"
"Got it." Yeah, he was so not getting out of the infirmary today. He sighed as she crossed to her office, and looked back at Lovett, whose neck was now bandaged. "How are you, Major? Neck okay?"
The man stared at him and said in a strangled tone, "Fine. Just fine, doctor," and walked over to check on Cameron.
"What? What did I say?" No one answered the plaintive question, and Daniel looked back at the familiar ceiling, waiting in resignation for the next medical indignity he was going to have to endure. He heard a familiar step at the door. At least the injury had lured Sam out of the lab for a break. She hustled in looking anxious. "Daniel! Janet said you'd gotten hurt."
"I'm fine." He had responded automatically, then realized that here was another person for whom he had abused the word until it lost its meaning. "Um, really, I feel okay." At Sam's disbelieving look, he added, "At least until the local wears off," and was rewarded with a laugh.
"What happened?" Sam perched on the chair beside his bed, seeming reassured to find him awake and alert.
He related the story of the brief mission, finishing with, "And I'm afraid I've trampled the chain of command or something again, because Lovett is acting kind of pissed off."
She shook her head. "Daniel."
"Sam?" He gave it the inflection that meant, "What?"
"Lovett is pissed off because you could have gotten killed out there," she explained, clearly exasperated.
"And it would look bad on his record?" Daniel asked impatiently. "Sam, I could get killed out there any given day of the week. It's a dangerous job, I accept that."
Sam winced. "You know, it's not like we've never talked about this before. The problem is that your idea of acceptable risk when applied to your own safety is a lot more liberal than his. Or anybody's. And try to keep in mind that nobody in this mountain wants to have to explain you getting killed to the colonel when he gets back. Nobody."
Daniel thought about that one for a moment. "Well, I'm not planning on it. But if it happens and I survive, we should probably consider just not telling him." Drat, now Sam was glaring at him, too. So much for humor, Daniel sighed again. This was so not his day. He took another stab at explaining. "Look, Sam, this time I didn't screw up. I did what I was supposed to."
She looked disbelieving. "What?"
"We were in deep trouble. Surrounded and outnumbered with only so-so cover. We were a lot better armed, but all that meant was that we'd take more of the natives with us before we got overwhelmed. If Lovett had a military solution that would have resolved the situation, he hasn't said anything to me. The only option that I could see that didn't involve a lot of people dying was to stop the shooting and start talking." Daniel was aware that this was a lot more articulate than his actual assessment of the situation at the time, but it was essentially accurate.
Sam wasn't buying any. "Daniel, you put away your weapon, walked into the line of fire-"
"Crawled, Sam. Crawled into the line of fire." Daniel wasn't going to let her think he'd been stupid enough to stand up in that mess.
"Crawled into the line of fire, then. And delivered yourself to your attackers. They could have used you as a hostage." Sam was doing a good line in exaggerated patience herself.
"And that *was* an acceptable risk." Daniel fired back. "I could hear them talking. They weren't Goa'uld. They were a bunch of frightened people fighting back against the Goa'uld any way they could. The only chance to resolve the situation peacefully was to talk to them. And I can't do that from out of spear throwing range."
"Would it have been an acceptable risk if they'd killed you?" Sam wasn't giving up, but the merciless logic of the argument was obviously starting to sway her.
Daniel shook his head. "Haven't you heard what I've been saying? YES, it would still have been an acceptable risk if they'd killed me. There were twenty plus lives at stake- five of us and more than three times as many of them. At least half would have died if we'd tried to fight it out with guns and spears." He tried to shrug and winced. "It's my job. It's no different than you facing the risk of something blowing up in your face when you're fooling around with a naquadah generator or some other piece of alien tech!"
Their voices had risen quite a bit during the discussion. Sam looked past him and smiled faintly. "I think we'd better hold down the volume, we're disturbing the neighbors."
Daniel looked over to see Cameron, Lovett and Hughes all staring at him and Carter. "Oh." He looked back at Sam. "I'm shutting up now."
Sam grinned. "And how did the nearly bleeding to death in the briefing room fit with your master plan exactly? If you don't mind my asking?"
Some days, she really sounded like Jack. Daniel winced. "That was me screwing up. Again. Don't you have a particle accelerator to work on?"
She patted his arm. "Can I get you anything?"
"A brown paper bag for my head?" Daniel suggested, then more seriously. "No, thanks, Robert's bringing me some work."
The five days since they had sent Teal'c through the gate were an interminable torture for both Sam and Daniel. The flood of relief when Teal'c and Jack had opened the gate and radioed back to them had made them both giddy. Daniel seized Sam in a decidedly unmilitary hug and grinned at the general, who had worn a similar expression and said, "Well done, people."
Come to think of it, everyone in the gate room was smiling, and the grapevine was obviously still faster than gate travel since Daniel was sure he could hear a whoop going up in the corridor outside. A lot of people had been waiting for this, for a long time. Daniel thought of the refugees at the alpha site. They didn't know that the gate had been reopened; Hammond had decided to wait until they knew whether Teal'c had made it rather than get their hopes up in vain. "Permission to go tell the Edorans that they're going home, sir?"
Daniel smiled again as he watched the stream of former refugees run past Jack to be reunited with their loved ones, and Sam started to tell Jack about the rescue. He could still see signs of the damage done by the meteors. They must have worked like dogs to rebuild as much as they had in only three months. His attention was drawn back to his friend as Jack brushed Sam aside to go back and talk to Laira.
Sam watched him with concern and turned back to Daniel, "Is he all right?"
'Why are you asking me?' Daniel thought, and then realized why Jack's expression was so familiar. It reminded him piercingly of the enigmatic look Jack had worn on Abydos on seeing Daniel again, a meeting that neither of them had really expected would ever happen. Understanding dawned. "He's fine. I just don't think he was expecting to go home again."
The breeze carried Jack's voice back to them and Daniel saw Sam's eyes widen as Jack asked Laira to come back to Earth with him. 'Ow. Maybe, Ferretti should hold off on that welcome home party for a couple of weeks.' It was clear that Jack had not only given up hope but started to put down roots and build a new home. Daniel wished fervently that they could have reached him faster, rescued him when it would still have been an unmixed blessing even while he felt a trifle surprised and relieved to know that Jack had adapted rather than giving in to despair when he thought he was cut off from all he'd ever known.
In retrospect, Daniel wondered why he had found it surprising that Jack would resist despair. He had changed immeasurably from the tortured man Daniel had first known on Abydos. And he shouldn't have been surprised that Jack would begin to adapt to Edora either. None of them had simply spent those three months marking time- they had all changed during the long separation. No wonder things had been strained when they tried to fit their relationships back into the old patterns. They'd never had that welcome home party, he remembered. The mission to Tollana that started Jack's stint of undercover work had intervened.
"Thank heavens we're going home," Sam said as she joined Daniel in the plane. They looked forward to see the co-pilot handcuffing Harry Maybourne to a bench. "I think I'll pass the next time we're offered a Siberian vacation." She slumped tiredly onto a seat. "I'm just going to wait here until it's time to leave. " Jack and Teal'c had been trapped in conversation just outside the facility with Svetlana Markov and the new Russian commander of the base as Carter, Daniel and the co-pilot had escorted a subdued Harry Maybourne to the plane.
Daniel nodded. "No arguments from me. Besides, I think Teal'c may want the extra time to explain to Jack just why he thought the parachute jump was a bad idea."
Sam's mouth twitched. "Oh. Was he- difficult?"
"Let's just say Jack may need to apologize for pushing him out. Several times." Daniel returned the almost-smile with a quirk of his own lips.
Sam laughed. "A year ago he'd have had to do the same to you."
"Times change." Daniel hesitated. "Sam, did you ever happen to mention to Jack that I'd been skydiving?"
Sam blinked. "I don't think so. It never came up. Why?" She was starting to grin. "You don't mean to tell me he doesn't know? He must have been startled."
"I don't know." Daniel said. "I mean, I don't think I ever told him- like you said, things have been busy and it never came up. But surely Feretti or somebody would have said something?"
Sam shrugged, "Dunno. As busy as things have been, may be not. We should ask him."
Finally in the air, Daniel looked across the plane at his tired teammates, stretched out in poses of relaxation despite the dubious comfort of the utilitarian benches on the plane. Jack's attention was caught by the movement. "So, Daniel, you've been pretty quiet this trip."
Daniel smiled faintly back at his friend. "Just thinking. Did we ever tell you about all the stuff we did while you were away on Edora?"
He saw the shadow pass over Jack's face at the mention of the place, and then it was replaced by a slightly wary expression. But he replied easily enough, "No, did you have any fun?"
Daniel's smile widened. "Well, I don't know if you'd consider it fun. Teal'c got bitten by a snake- the normal kind, not the Goa'uld kind-" he hastened to add as Jack looked suddenly alarmed. "Sam scandalized the base," he had to duck as she mock-glared and chucked an MRE at him. "And I got arrested and went skydiving with Ferretti-" he watched Jack's brown eyes widen at the recitation and waited with amusement for Jack's reaction.
O'Neill seized the last item first. "Skydiving with Ferretti, eh?"
"Yeah." Daniel kept his expression nonchalant.
"Guess that's why you didn't freak at the jump onto the Russian base."
Daniel retorted in his laziest and most amiable tone, "Give me some credit, Jack, I didn't freak the first time either. Though if I'd had a crystal ball, I'd have invited Teal'c along. It would have made the jump in Siberia easier on him."
Teal'c commented drily. "I would not have accepted, Daniel Jackson. I do not find jumping from an airplane to be entertaining."
Jack shook his head and just for an instant, the old rapport was back. Daniel read his thought at naturally as breathing and knew Jack could see him doing it. 'Daniel, you never cease to amaze me.' Aloud, Jack said, "Aw, c'mon Teal'c. It's fun, really. We should try it again when we get home."
"I think not." The Jaffa seemed quite determined and Daniel saw Sam smothering a smile. It seemed that they had finally found something that intimidated Teal'c.
Jack gave up on the subject for the moment, but Daniel was sure Teal'c hadn't heard the last of this. "So what's this about a snake, a scandal, and for crissakes, being arrested? Seems like you have some stories to tell."
Sam and Daniel exchanged after-you looks, and Teal'c was the first to speak. "We encountered the snake on P5C-372, O'Neill, a most unpleasant world."
Daniel settled back to listen to Teal'c describing with understated humor their trek through the swamp. Sam was mouthing, "I'll get you for this," across the plane as she awaited her turn in the hot seat, but amusement in her eyes told him she wasn't really upset. After dealing with the base full of gruesomely dead Russians, they could all use some light relief. He might even tell the tale of his epic and embarrassing battle with the lawnmower to keep this mood intact.
Jack and Sam let out an involuntary crack of laughter as Teal'c described fishing Daniel and Captain Howard out of an unexpectedly deep mud hole in the swamp. Daniel smiled. They might still be figuring out how they fit together after all the pain and grief and stress they'd been through. But talking had to help. Talking he could do. "Don't forget to tell him about the s'mores, Teal'c." Daniel suggested.
Both of Jack's eyebrows went up as Teal'c nodded seriously. "It was only the s'mores that made the mission bearable."
Daniel didn't want to go back to the way things had been before Edora, even if he could. The weight of constant sorrow that he bore had eased a little. The confidence he had gained by exercising his skills with other teams could only make SG-1 stronger. He looked ahead at Maybourne, cut out of the communications net, staring back at them laughing together with something like envy. Together, they'd make it. Assuming Jack didn't tease him to death in the interim. Teal'c had turned the spotlight from his snake story back to Daniel and Jack was giving him a familiar look.
"Daniel, only you could be arrested for being *dead*!"
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