Eye for an eye - part 2
All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Daniel hastily shook the remaining contents out of the bag, and grabbed for the second one. His fingers fumbled with the tie as he felt the ground beneath his feet begin to undulate.
"Hurry!" Sam's voice echoed off the walls.
The tie flew lose and Daniel turned the bag upside down in the bull's mouth, shaking the sand free for all he was worth. As the final few grains slid into the darkness, the undulations died away. Daniel heaved a sigh of relief, only to immediately leap backwards as a new sound echoed into the darkness. The statue was moving.
Eight pairs of eyes watched as the heavy golden bull slid slowly across the floor revealing another set of steps.
"The way will be made clear," Daniel said, his voice strained with the tension and adrenaline. He momentarily wished that he could tell Boland that his translation had been spot on. Well, with luck Boland would soon be part of the SGC and then he would be able to. Maybe he would even get the chance to bring the young man out to see this incredible building. In the meantime, there was still another level of security to deal with.
Behind Daniel, Makepeace flicked on his radio and reported the progress to SG7.
"We still have radio contact," Sam said quietly. "That's good."
Makepeace nodded and then turned to O'Neill. "We'll be standing by, Sir."
The final level. Daniel's heart was racing as he moved off the last step and cautiously entered the chamber in front of him. Behind him, so close he was almost in physical contact, was Jack. A mere step or two further back were Sam and Teal'c.
"It's incredible." Daniel breathed the words with awe as he surveyed the rich gold panelling that glistened all around him. He took a step forward and gasped as a beam of light shafted down from the ceiling to engulf him.
"Daniel!" Jack reached for him instinctively.
"I'm OK!" Daniel glanced up, blinking at the brightness. "It's just a light." He took a step sideways, relieved to find his words were accurate. The beam remained where it was as he moved into the darkness. "It's OK. There's supposed to be a light." To his left he heard O'Neill sigh, then he caught sight of the altar.
Well at least it looked like an altar. A solid gold table stood against one wall. Suspended above it by no obvious means was a golden eye, the symbol of Ra. Cautiously Daniel approached it, the translation he had spent hours checking and re-checking running through his mind. There had been so much of it, but he was sure only a small part of it was relevant. Glancing around the room again, he realised much of what he had translated was a description of this place - the meticulous attention to detail of the unknown race reproduced in scroll after scroll of fascinating, but essentially pointless information. The real key - the one that would get them into the armoury was probably no more than a few lines. He knew he had it in his mind. All he needed to do was apply it to this situation.
He looked around again, ignoring the fact that Jack and the others were watching him, waiting for him to do his stuff.
*The two eagles are a present for you.* He frowned. Something wasn't right. *When the shadows fall, the eye will live* *The two eagles are a present for you.* He moved to the walls, running his fingers over the glyphs. As he expected they were a narrative of a great victory that Ra had achieved in battle. Nothing to do eagles.
"Something wrong?" Jack joined Daniel as the scientist moved back to the table.
Daniel pulled at the bridge of his nose. He was missing something. Something obvious. "I was expecting eagles. Two eagles and..." He turned and looked back at the shaft of light. "Some sort of shadow." He shook his head, his gaze wandering back to the suspended eye. "Something's not right."
He chewed absently on his bottom lip. Turned again to look at the shaft of light. And then saw them. Two eagles engraved on the floor either side of the light. He smiled with relief. "There!" Well that solved at least half of the problem.
Jack spotted where Daniel was pointing. "Eagles. Now what?"
"The two eagles are a present for you," Daniel repeated the translation. "Their eyes reach to that which is beyond. Ride the eagles and you will see as they see." He took a deep breath. "We need to stand on the eagles' eyes." He took a step forward and then hesitated, looking around once again. "And when the shadows fall, the great eye will live."
"OK," Jack said slowly. "I still don't like the sound of this. Daniel, if you're not sure..."
"No. I'm sure about the eagles. It's just... No, I get it. The light is behind the eagles right. Sam, check this. If Jack and I stand on the eyes of these eagles, we'll throw shadows forward right to..."
"The eye of Ra," Sam completed the sentence. "When the shadows fall, the great eye will live."
"I still don't like this," Jack complained.
Daniel merely smiled. He had it now. It was in his grasp. The vast armoury of Ra would be theirs. "Trust me, Jack!"
For a long moment, Jack gazed at the intelligent blue eyes of his friend and then he nodded. "Let's ride the eagles."
He moved to the right hand side of the engraved pair. His eyes on Daniel, he stepped forward on to the eye of the bird. Just as Daniel had predicted, his shadow stretched across the floor and fell across the suspended eye. As Sam and Teal'c moved behind the light to ensure that their shadows did not get in the way, Daniel stepped up to the second eagle. "Ready?"
"Just do it!" Jack replied tensely.
Daniel stepped forward. In an instant his shadow appeared with Jack's in the centre of Ra's eye. And in the same instant two new beams of light arced out from the ceiling, illuminating the two men in brilliant white.
No! Daniel turned to voice his surprise to Jack. But as he did so he saw something explode from Ra's eye. Something that looked like a shower of stars. "Ja...ck!" Even as he screamed the warning, the missiles hit O'Neill. The colonel fell backwards, a shower of blood arcing into the air.
Daniel turned towards Jack just as a second flash of light exploded from the eye. A wave of intense heat crashed into the right side of his body, driving him to the floor. Pain! God! Intense pain. He struggled to lift his head and caught sight of his fatigues already stained red.
Jack! He couldn't see the colonel properly because Teal'c was leaning over him. He could see the blood though. It was spattered across the floor like a crazy painter had run riot with a brush full of red. Somebody was screaming for Makepeace. Jack!
"Daniel, keep still."
Sam? Fire scored across his chest at her touch. He groaned, but made himself focus. "Jack?"
No answer. He tried to reach for Sam's hand - to make her answer, but the movement sent fresh spears of agony through him. He bit back a scream. No, this was wasn't happening. This couldn't happen. He'd checked. Double checked.
"We're getting you out of here, Daniel. Just hold on. Please God, hold on."
He heard the catch in her voice, recognised the panic. Bad. That was bad. Sam never panicked. The pain was taking over now. Waiting to ambush him after the shock, it was now escaping from the numbness to torture him. Oh God. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be...
Voices. He could hear voices murmuring. Too far away to make out the words, but soothing in tone. He tried to turn his head towards the sounds, but was rewarded by intense pain stabbing along his neck. The softest of groans escaped his lips, followed immediately by the sound of his name.
"Daniel? Can you hear me? Daniel? It's Sam."
He heard another sound, a rough scrape like metal on concrete. A chair being pushed back. Then the sound of her voice again, calling across the infirmary.
"Janet! I think Daniel's waking up."
He tried to open his eyes. Bright light. God. Too bright. He flinched away, and groaned again as the movement triggered another spear of agony.
"Take it easy Daniel. I'll increase the morphine."
Janet's voice this time. He waited it out, his brain slowly beginning to filter sounds into words, words into facts. Cautiously he opened his eyes again. Sam was looking at him, her blue eyes smudged with dark circles, emotional anguish threatening to overflow them.
He forced his lips to move, the pain blunted by the morphine that was now creeping through his veins. "Hap.. end?"
Sam reached towards him, presumably taking his hand. He couldn't feel her touch. "One of Ra's booby-traps went off." The pain in her eyes deepened. "We were lucky to get you out alive. If it hadn't been for Colonel Makepeace and SG3..."
Janet's face swung into his field of vision, her expression one of kindly concern tinged with professional determination. "Daniel, I'll fill you in on all the details later OK? You're going to be fine. But for now it's important that you get as much rest as possible."
"Jack?" He forced the word out, fighting against the almost irresistible grip of unconsciousness.
As his eyelids fluttered closed he saw the look exchanged by the two women, then the darkness laid its claim.
He wasn't sure how long he spent drifting in and out of consciousness, sometimes waking to excruciating pain, sometimes to a morphine-induced numbness. This time though the waiting darkness had receded far enough for him to grab at some semblance of lucidity.
His eyes focused on the sleeping form of Sam Carter, looking less than comfortable curled up on an infirmary chair. He risked moving his head, discovered that he could do so without wanting to scream at the pain, and found himself eye to eye with Teal'c.
A smile stretched across Teal'c normally dour features. "Daniel Jackson. It is good to see you conscious." Teal'c reached for Sam, gently shaking the Major's shoulders. "Major, Daniel Jackson is awake. I will fetch Dr Frasier."
"Daniel?" Sam smiled, reaching towards him, her fingers gently brushing his cheek. "How are you doing?"
He considered briefly. He felt like somebody had taken a wire scouring pad to the right side of his body. But that wasn't important. There was something he needed to know. Something important. If only he could remember what it was.
A flash of red bouncing from one of the monitors onto the face of Sam's wristwatch brought the memory back. God! Jack!
Before he could attempt to verbalise the thought, Janet had arrived, greeting him with her usual cheerfulness, acting like he'd ended up in the infirmary deliberately to make her life busy. He put up with her fussing over him for a long minute before summoning up all the energy he could muster to demand, "Jack?"
The expression on Frasier's face clouded momentarily before she fixed her professional mask back in place. She reached for a thermometer and, as far as Daniel could tell, began to fiddle unnecessarily with the monitor by his bedside.
God. Why wouldn't they tell him? Was Jack dead?
He fixed his attention on Sam, desperately trying to make her understand that he needed to know. "Sam, p... please."
He saw her draw in breath, another exchange of looks with Janet. Presumably approval granted. "Jack's in a coma, Daniel. He... You were both hit by a barrage of tiny metal missiles - like... like grains of rice. Some of them lodged in his brain..."
A wave of dizziness washed over Daniel as he tried to make sense of Sam's words. Coma? An idea surfaced and he grabbed it desperately. "Operate?"
Sam shook her head, her expression one of intense sadness. "It's too dangerous to try and remove them, especially given the injuries they caused to the rest of his body. He's suffered severe trauma." Her hand reached for him again, touching some part of him that he couldn't feel. "You both have."
Daniel closed his eyes. This was all his fault. If he hadn't been so confident about the translation.
"Daniel, this is not your fault."
His eyes flew open again. How had she known that was what he was thinking? Even as he asked himself the question he dismissed it. It didn't matter. She was wrong. This was entirely his fault. He'd proposed this mission. He'd done the background work. It was his translation they had been relying on. *Trust me* He remembered snapping the words at Jack, demanding the older man's compliance. Well Jack had given him what he'd wanted, and in return, he'd condemned him to a living death.
"Daniel!" Sam's voice was urgent now. "Don't do this to yourself."
He looked into her eyes one more time, saw the sympathy buried beneath the pain. Sympathy - or was it pity? He couldn't bear it. Self-loathing washed over him and he closed his eyes, shutting out Sam. Shutting out the pain.
Shutting in his failure.
Sam sat through the briefing feeling lost and alone. Teal'c had refused to come, simply saying that he wished to stay at Colonel O'Neill's beside until he woke. Sam had been touched by the faith the Jaffa had in Jack's eventual recovery. For herself, she was too exhausted to look further than the end of this meeting.
She glanced down at the file in front of her and then looked across at Janet. She guessed the dark circles beneath the doctor's eyes were mirrored on her own. The news Janet was delivering to General Hammond wasn't good. Colonel O'Neill was still in a coma. While his body was recovering slowly from its other physical injuries - severe lacerations to his chest and upper legs that had resulted in extensive blood loss and more than one panic during emergency surgery - there was no sign of consciousness returning. It was still a case of wait and see.
General Hammond shook his head, and put the colonel's medical report back into the folder in front of him. "And what of Doctor Jackson?"
Sam didn't think it was possible, but Janet's expression managed to become even more sombre as she began her assessment.
"Not good, Sir. Physically he's making as good a recovery as can be expected. I'm still concerned that there might be nerve damage to his right hand and forearm, but again only time will tell. Emotionally though..." Janet paused, glanced down at her notes, and then continued. "He's slid into a severe depression. He blames himself for Colonel O'Neill's condition. And... I'm afraid that's something I can't treat him for with medication alone."
Hammond winced. "Are you suggesting Doctor Jackson needs psychological help?"
Janet nodded reluctantly. "Yes, Sir. And I did broach the subject with him as tactfully as possible..."
"And?" Hammond prompted.
"He didn't welcome the idea."
In other circumstances, Sam might have found Janet's brief summary of Daniel's response funny. However, the memory that went with the comment was anything but. Daniel had glared at Janet and then icily informed her that if Dr McKenzie came anywhere the hell near him he wouldn't be responsible for his actions. Janet's gentle suggestion that Daniel could talk to someone else had been greeted with the comment that actually he'd prefer it if everyone just kept the hell away from him. Sam could still feel the shock as Daniel's eyes fell on her and she realised that she was included in that *everyone*.
That had been yesterday morning. She hadn't been back to the infirmary since then other than to spend an hour sitting by Jack's bed, trying - and largely failing - to make small talk with the comatose colonel. Finally she had squeezed his hand and whispered, "Please wake up, Sir. Daniel needs you. We *all* need you."
Hammond calling her name snapped Sam back to the present.
"Major, you look tired. I'm sure nobody would notice if you hit your bunk for an hour or two."
"Thank you, Sir." Sam appreciated the General's concern, conscious of just how little sleep she'd been getting. "Fact is though, I find it easier to cope being busy."
Hammond nodded. "Well in that case, perhaps I could request a favour of you instead. Doctor Jackson's new protegee, one Jed Boland, arrived late last night. I'd appreciate it if you could show him around."
"And that, is pretty much that." Sam led Jed Boland back into the tiny room that was to be the young man's office. "So... do you need anything? Coffee? Daniel never works..." She stopped, a sudden lump in her throat. Damn it. Daniel should be showing this enthusiastic young man around the SGC - not her. Instead he was lying motionless in an infirmary bed, sinking into a depression so deep no one seemed able to reach him. Sam had rarely felt so powerless.
Sam rubbed her hand over her face, the action one of total weariness. "Sorry, I... Things have been a little tough here the past few days."
"Oh." Boland didn't seem to know what to say to that. His face coloured slightly. "Major Carter. I hope I'm not stepping out of line or anything. I mean all this security stuff, I'm not sure I've really got it sorted. But I was just wondering - where is Doctor Jackson?"
Sam considered for a moment and then pulled out the desk chair and indicated Boland should sit. She perched herself on the edge of the desk. "I guess I can tell you. You'll hear soon enough on the grapevine, security or not. Doctor Jackson is in the infirmary. He was wounded on a mission."
Boland paled. "Wounded?"
"It happens." She grimaced. "Mind you it seems to happen to Daniel more than most." The image of Daniel lying on the floor of the armoury, his clothes stained red with his blood flashed before her. Fiercely she pushed it away, concentrating on the here and now. "You worked with him on the translation over at Long Fields didn't you?"
Boland nodded. "I gather the place it was describing wasn't just some ancient Egyptian tomb? It was actually on some planet somewhere through the Stargate, right?"
Sam nodded. "We tried to break in. Something was wrong with the translation..."
"That's impossible," Boland interrupted. He flushed red. "Sorry Major. I didn't mean to sound so forceful. But I was there with Dr Jackson when he was translating the scrolls. There's no way it could be wrong."
Sam's eyes widened, surprised at his vehemence. But then, she thought, why should she be? It was obvious the young man idolised Daniel. And of course, Daniel had given him entrance into the SGC and all the wonders that it held. Wonders! She cursed inwardly. There was nothing wondrous about the fact that two of her friends were critically ill in the infirmary. She couldn't let his comments just pass by though. "You sound very certain about that."
Boland jerked his head up and down in an energetic affirmation. "I've never seen anyone work like Doctor Jackson. He was so thorough. I mean, he didn't just have me cross-check with two or three sources, I had to check every available source. And besides - he's a genius when it comes to this stuff."
Well, Sam thought, he's got you there. Nobody could ever question Daniel's academic abilities. So just how had he got it wrong on something this important? A prickling sensation began to creep along the back of her neck. That insistent nagging that told her something wasn't adding up. Before she could give it any further thought though, Boland spoke again.
"Major, would it be possible for me to see Doctor Jackson?"
A refusal flew to her lips, her automatic reaction being to protect Daniel from unwanted visitors. Hell, he didn't even want to see her. But then her mind kicked in over the emotion. If Daniel wouldn't respond to those who were closest to him perhaps, just perhaps, this relative stranger could reach him. Janet had once told her that counsellors would sometimes resort to throwing something new into the pot if it was the only way to effect change. Well Jed Boland was certainly a new ingredient. Of course the risk was that Daniel would tell the kid to get lost. But if he didn't...
"OK," Sam said. "But be warned. He's depressed. And he's still in a lot of pain." She slid off the desk and moved towards the door. "Oh yes and you should know his temper is... well, let's just say volcanic."
Boland's eyebrows raised.
Sam shrugged. "Suffice it to say, he doesn't often erupt - but when he does... well you don't want to be standing too close."
Jed Boland had rarely seen the inside of a doctor's office, let alone a military infirmary. And he had never even been witness to a minor road accident. Now he found himself looking at the aftermath of a goa'uld booby trap and trying not to appear shocked.
Daniel Jackson's boyish good looks were buried beneath a mask of pain. Dark shadows beneath his eyes gave him an almost skeletal appearance in the bright infirmary lights, and the right side of his face was scored with a dozen cuts. Boland tried to be scientific, telling himself that the injuries were superficial, and that in a couple of weeks the skin would heal and Daniel would look as good as new.
So far so good. Now if he could just avoid looking at Daniel's right arm and upper torso he would do fine. The quick glance he had given to the crazed pattern of stitched wounds that decorated the archaeologist had made him feel woozy, and he was more than a bit relieved that Daniel's right hand was swathed in bandages given the way the pattern intensified towards that direction.
"Dr Jackson?" Boland paused and then tried again, trying to sound less tentative. Dr Frasier had told him Daniel was awake, but the archaeologist gave no indication of being so. "Dr Jackson. It's Jed Boland."
Eyelids flickered and then slowly opened. Two dull, bloodshot eyes focused on him. He didn't know what to say next. Why on earth had he asked to come here? Jackson was staring at him as though he had two heads. Oh boy, he had to say something.
"How are you?"
Well - that was original.
There was a long silence as Jackson continued to scrutinise him. Boland resisted the urge to fidget, but he had the unpleasant feeling of being a specimen under a microscope. A specimen that was clearly not to the liking of the observer.
Finally Daniel spoke. "Just peachy."
*Peachy?* What sort of a response was that? Before Boland could think of a reply however, Daniel continued.
"What do you want?"
Oh-oh. Major Carter had told him Jackson was depressed, but unless he was very much mistaken that tone of voice carried a distinct undercurrent of annoyance. Annoyance and impatience. He blinked and then stammered. "I wanted to... well... see how you are, and... to let you know I'm here, and..."
"I'm fine. Now go away."
The eyes closed, sealing the dismissal.
Uncertainly Boland stood and looked at the pain-ridden face on the bed before him, desperately wanting to do something helpful but not knowing what. He fell back on his original intention of offering some expression of sympathy.
Daniel didn't even bother to open his eyes as he cut the young man off with a stinging retort. "Are you deaf as well as stupid? I said - go - the hell - away!"
Biting on his lip, Boland did a smart about turn and hurried from the infirmary.
Things were not going well for Janet Frasier. Her shower had refused to deliver anything other than icy water, Cassie had thrown a fit over some mislaid homework, and two of her nurses had called in sick.
Feeling irritable she set off to deal with morning rounds, starting with Colonel O'Neill, who had been moved to a small side room where visitors could come and go without disturbing the routine of the main infirmary. She smiled at Teal'c who politely excused himself while she carried out her examination.
As she checked Jack's vitals and ran through the usual routine, she chattered to him, telling him of her disastrous morning and filling him in on the gossip from the previous day. She firmly believed coma patients could often hear what was going on around them, but she would've given anything to have him reply to her crankiness with some of his own.
Squeezing his hand affectionately as she left, she headed for Daniel. Daniel! She ran her hand wearily through her hair at the thought of him. Over the past few days they had created quite a little routine. She would greet him with forced cheerfulness. Daniel would give her a sour look and grace her with a one word interrogation, 'Jack?'. She would then attempt to make the lack of progress on Jack's behalf sound positive and try to engage Daniel in further conversation. She'd failed miserably on both counts for longer than she cared to think about.
Now that Daniel was beginning to recover physically she was growing more and more concerned. It wouldn't be long before she would have no reason to keep him in the infirmary. But releasing him in his current mental state was not something she wanted to contemplate. She sighed - at least today she had a fresh topic of conversation.
Pushing open the door to the main infirmary she headed for Daniel's bed. Picking up his file, she glanced down at the overnight notes and then started in on him.
"I hear you were very rude to Jed Boland yesterday."
No response. Just a pair of dull blues eyes studying her face.
"He didn't deserve that, Daniel. You should be ashamed of yourself. It's one thing to turn that mouth of yours on someone like Maybourne, but Jed Boland? He was just trying to show how concerned he is about you..."
Daniel cut across her tirade. "How's Jack?"
Janet paused, noting sourly to herself that at least she'd forced two words out of him, instead of one. She deliberately ignored the question.
"Daniel you can't go on like this. You have to let us help you."
He simply stared past her, his expression neutral.
"Daniel, you're going to leave me no choice. If you won't let us help... if you won't start helping yourself, I'll have to call McKenzie."
That at least got his attention. His response though was the one she most feared.
He looked her straight in the eye, his voice quiet, but anger very much evident.
"The SGC doesn't own *me*, Doctor!. Call him and I'll quit!"
She tried to stare him out, but couldn't. Finally she looked away, angry with herself for allowing Daniel to win this round. Angry that in his current state he wasn't beyond manipulating past mistakes - her mistake - to suit his own needs. She wouldn't call McKenzie unless she absolutely had to and he knew it. She knew too, his threat wasn't a bluff. Trying not to let her own emotions show, she replaced Daniel's file. As she moved towards the door though, she heard his voice call after her.
She kept going as she replied. "No change."
For two days, Jed Boland wrestled with himself. Part of him was furious with Daniel. Angry at the way he'd been treated in the infirmary. Angry too that he'd given up everything he was familiar with to move to the SGC, only to find that, so far, it wasn't the dream assignment he'd imagined. On the other hand, he was devastated by Daniel's current condition. The physical injuries were bad enough, but he kept returning to his memories of Daniel at Long Fields - the intelligence of the man, the enthusiasm he'd generated. Jed was desperate to do something - anything - that would bring back the man he had hoped would become his friend as well as his mentor.
Yes, he decided. He had to do something. And he had to do it now before he changed his mind. Pushing back his chair, he hurried out of his office and down to the storeroom. Unfamiliar as he was with the filing system it took him a good forty minutes to find what he was looking for. He put the time to good use though, rehearsing over and over what he was going to say. Then, armed with what he needed, he headed to the infirmary.
Luck was with him. Dr Frasier was in her office and simply waved him towards Daniel's bedside. But, as the blue eyes fixed on him without a hint of welcome in them, his nerve almost failed. As a result it was Daniel that spoke first.
"I thought I told you..."
"Sorry Dr Jackson," Jed interrupted quickly. "I know what you told me. You said you were fine. But anyone with half a mind can see that you aren't." He saw Daniel open his mouth to reply and hastily continued. "Major Carter told me about the mission. That you think you made a mistake in the translation..."
A haunted expression crossed Daniel's face. His voice, however, was emotionless. "I did."
"That's crap!" Boland couldn't stop himself. "I was there remember. I saw the translation. You didn't make a mistake."
A different emotion flickered across Daniel's face. One Boland wasn't sure he recognised. "You're wrong. Now leave me alone."
Daniel turned away, physically cold-shouldering the young man. Boland flushed red in embarrassment, but almost instantly the adrenaline he'd already stirred up kicked in. If Jackson thought he could treat him like that *again* he had another thing coming.
"What happened?" he retorted sarcastically. "Doctor surgically remove your personality?"
Daniel turned back, his expression one of surprise. "Wh... what did you say?"
It momentarily crossed Boland's mind that he might be about to lose his job. Almost immediately though he reasoned he probably already knew too much to simply be tossed out on his ear. He returned Daniel's glare with one of his own. "You heard me. You know I gave up a perfectly decent university post to come here. To work with you."
"And?" Daniel's voice was listless again.
Suddenly Boland was thoroughly ticked off. "And? And stupid me! To think I was looking forward to working with you. You know Doctor Jackson, I respected you. I looked up to you. I didn't think you were the sort of guy to... to... take things lying down."
He cringed at the unintentional pun. Some linguist you are, he thought to himself. Trying to salvage the situation he added quietly, "I didn't think you were the sort of guy who'd just accept he'd made a mistake without at least checking over his work."
By now Daniel had closed his eyes again, his lips pursed in a tight line.
Boland still wasn't prepared to let it drop. "I brought the scrolls!"
Daniel's eyes flew open. The anger in them now very real. "Just where do you get off interfering in my life!"
Boland didn't know how to answer that one. Instead he laid the scrolls on the bed. "If you'd just look at them..."
Furious, Daniel somehow managed to push himself upright while at the same time grabbing awkwardly at the scrolls with his left hand. Glaring at Boland he hurled the scrolls to the floor. "Get out!" he shouted. "Get out! And take this garbage with you!"
Boland backed away, his nerve unable to withstand the hot blast of Daniel's temper. Across the room he could see Dr Frasier hurrying out of her office to see what all the commotion was about. He froze.
As Boland stood motionless, Daniel moved into total rage.
"I told you to get out!" With an unexpected surge of energy, Daniel swept his left arm across the top of his bedside cabinet, sending the array of items flying in Boland's direction. The young man jumped backwards as Daniel's water jug crashed at his feet, its lid flying off and its contents splashing up his legs and across the scrolls.
"Daniel!" Frasier's voice cut like ice across the room.
She arrived at Daniel's bed, her face like thunder. Glancing at Boland she nodded towards the door. "I think you'd better leave."
He didn't need telling twice. Without even looking at Daniel, he bolted for the sanctuary of his office.
Janet was in no mood to worry about her bedside manner. A small but firm hand on the centre of Daniel's chest elicited both a yelp of complaint and the desired effect of pushing him against his pillow. His face paled as the adrenaline rush vanished. Glancing down at the mess, he made what sounded like a half-hearted apology, "Sorry."
"It isn't me you need to apologise to Dr Jackson," Janet snapped. Although a genuine apology in my direction wouldn't go amiss, she added silently to herself. She was furious with him - for a grown, and supposedly intelligent man there were occasional moments when he could act like more like an out-of-control teenager. Injured or not there was no excuse for it. She picked up his left arm, automatically checking his pulse. Far too fast, she thought crossly. She hit a button on the monitor by his bed, and waited as the machine checked his blood pressure. Too high. Damn it.
She stepped neatly over the chaos on the floor and moved to the drug cabinet. Filling a hypodermic with cool efficiency, she was back at his side before he could blink.
"What's that?" Daniel asked weakly as she swabbed the inside of his arm.
"I don't need..."
"I'm the doctor, Doctor. You'll do as you're told."
She could see from his face that he realised he'd overstepped the mark. Good, she thought. Nobody ran riot in her infirmary. Not even Daniel Jackson. She shoved the needle into his arm, trying not to take enjoyment from his poorly disguised 'owww'.
His eyes finally managed to catch hers, his voice returning to its normal gentle cadence as he spoke. "Sorry." This time the contrition was genuine.
"So you should be." Her tone softened though as she looked down at his haggard features, her sympathy sneaking back into place as her temper cooled. She adjusted the pillow beneath him. "Daniel..."
"I know. I know. I need to get myself sorted. It's just..." He lifted his right hand towards his face, frowned at the heavy bandaging and lifted his left instead. He pinched at the bridge of his nose, eyes closed. When he opened them again, there was just a hint of fear in them. "You won't call McKenzie will you?"
She squeezed his left shoulder gently and shook her head. "No. Now get some rest. We can talk about this later." Her hand motioned towards the mess on the floor.
As Daniel succumbed to the medication, Janet leaned down and retrieved the scrolls. Placing them on his bedside table, she headed off in search of an orderly and a broom.
Daniel woke in the late afternoon to the quiet of the infirmary in its pre-dinner slack time. For a long time he simply gazed up at the ceiling recalling recent events, sifting through his reactions and, he could admit it now, over-reactions. Bit by bit he made a mental list of things he needed to do. First off, apologise to Boland - assuming it wasn't already too late and the linguist had quit the SGC in disgust. Oh yes, he had some serious bridge building to do there.
Second he wanted to see Jack. He moved his right shoulder and arm experimentally, and decided that they really didn't hurt that much. Then he peered at the IV attached to his left arm, remembering that that could well be responsible for why. He'd have to speak to Janet. Find out exactly how much pain medication he was on. See if she couldn't allow him to be mobile at least for a little while. He had a distant memory of her telling him something about physiotherapy - well getting out of bed had to count towards that didn't it? He smiled ruefully at the mottled pattern of neglected paintwork on the ceiling above his bed. For once, Janet might even be glad that he wanted to get out of bed.
Then there was Sam. He had an unpleasant memory of snapping spitefully at her too. And he hadn't missed the fact that she suddenly disappeared from sight after being a regular visitor to his bedside? He sighed. Another bridge to put back in place. Damn, he'd managed to get himself in a hell of a mess in a very short time.
OK Jackson, he told himself, time to admit you've been a jerk. He pushed himself upright against his pillows, intending to call a nurse. First he'd get someone to find Sam and ask her to call in on him - then he'd face Boland. Fumbling for his glasses, he realised that the infirmary was empty. A light in Janet's office meant he probably hadn't been totally deserted, but he could hardly ask the SGC's chief medical officer to run errands for him. Apart from which, after their last conversation he doubted very much if he was in a position to ask favours. Feeling somewhat frustrated, his eyes fell on the scrolls.
*If you'd just look at them.* Boland's voice repeated the words in his mind. Daniel licked his lips uncertainly. He really didn't want to look, didn't want to see what he knew he'd see - absolute proof of his guilt. Then again, he really didn't have anything else to do right now, and if he was serious about building bridges with Boland it was the least he could do. Reluctantly he picked up the first scroll, and began to glance over the glyphs.
A pang of guilt snatched at him as he saw the water damage. But before his thoughts could travel far down that route, his attention was caught by a smudge of black ink. Odd. Most of the glyphs were unaffected by the water, the scroll simply drying into patches of slightly darker brown but the ink itself being untouched, bonded into the very fabric over the years. But this glyph... Daniel held the scroll up to the light, his face scrunched up in confusion. This was impossible. The only way that could've happened was if the ink had been added at a much later date. And that was ridiculous.
He removed his glasses and peered closely at the glyph. It was a star-like symbol, three crossing lines with a small horizontal line radiating from the centre to the right. The symbol for 'e'. But, Daniel frowned as he gazed at the smudge, if the horizontal line was removed it would be the symbol for 'a'. And that would give this particular word a different meaning. A dozen questions battled for attention in his mind as he tried to make his brain register what his eyes were seeing. What was he saying here? That the symbol had been changed? When? Obviously since the scrolls were originally written? But how recently? Centuries ago? And why? Why would anyone change the meaning? More importantly - who would change the meaning? It didn't make any sense.
His eyes scanned down the scroll looking at how many times the two symbols were used, trying to figure out how different the translation would be if others were altered. And what if other characters had been tampered with? It would be just as simple to change the character for 'te' to 'to' - the whole meaning of the script could be seriously compromised with a few strokes of ink and a bit of imagination. Oh God! Realisation hit - he'd stumbled into the middle of some sort of age-old conspiracy. Maybe - just maybe - Ra's booby trap going off hadn't been his fault. What if another ancient race had laid a trap for anyone intending to use the scrolls? What if the real translation was carefully camouflaged beneath these changes? He squeezed his eyes shut, desperately trying to shake off the last vestiges of the sedative Janet had given him. If he was going to figure this out he was going to need help. Sam. And Jed Boland.
Looking towards Janet's door, he hollered her name. Chief medic or not, he needed some errands running.
It was more than he deserved and Daniel knew it. Sam had dismissed his apology as unnecessary, kissed his forehead in that sisterly manner of hers and hurried off to find Jed Boland. Much to Daniel's surprise Boland's response had been similar - fortunately with the exception of the kiss.
"It's OK," Boland had said. "I know what it's like to be hurt and down." Daniel had raised his eyebrows in question but Boland had fobbed him off. "Long story. I'll tell you some other time." The linguist had then listened in fascination as Daniel had told him about the smudged icon, and outlined his theory of it being the result of some ancient conspiracy - perhaps between rival races.
Now though both Sam and Jed were off in one of the labs running tests on the scrolls, while Daniel sat beside Jack. Having lived with his own injuries for the past few days, Daniel wasn't shocked at the sight of the colonel's stitched and bandaged body. The expressionless face was something else though. For the first time in his life, Daniel thought Jack looked old. Old and vulnerable.
Pulling awkwardly at the mobile IV Janet had attached him too, Daniel moved closer to the bed. "Hey, Jack. Been a while. Have you missed me?"
Not expecting or receiving a response Daniel glanced round the room, noting just how spartan it was. "They ought to get a TV in here," he commented. "VCR too. Perhaps some reruns of your favourite hockey games. Give you something interesting to listen to instead of me rambling on. Or Teal'c." Daniel smiled at the notion of Teal'c chattering idly. "Perhaps Janet would even slip some of your favourite beer into that IV line."
He rubbed his eyes, surprised at just how tired he felt simply walking from the infirmary to here. Better cut to the chase.
"Jack... I'm sorry. Sorry I got you into this mess." He sighed. The guilt was still there, even if the evidence was beginning to point away from him. He'd still pushed for this mission. Still felt he'd rail-roaded Jack into making a decision that he hadn't been happy with. Emotional blackmail, Daniel thought, remembering how he'd demanded that Jack trust him. Maybe if he'd just let Jack voice his uncertainty they would've taken the time to run over the details one more time. And then maybe the problem with the scrolls would've shown up. And maybe not, the more logical part of his brain chipped in. Jack had once told him he wasn't naturally pessimistic, he practiced coming up with the worst case scenario. Daniel had never considered his own optimism to be a character flaw though - and perhaps it wasn't. Balancing it out with a few of Jack's worst case lessons wouldn't go amiss though.
He realised he'd fallen silent. Apologies aside, it was time to bring Jack up to date. "Anyway we think the scrolls had been tampered with. Sam and Jed Boland - you met him once out at Long Fields - they're running a chemical analysis to see..." He stopped again. "I guess you wouldn't be interested in that much. I just wanted you to know..." What? What did he want Jack to know? That he hadn't screwed up after all? Well yes, but there was more to it than that. He summoned up his courage and went for it.
"I need you Jack. You're the nearest thing I've got to family. You, Sam, Teal'c. We all need you. So when you're ready, we're here waiting. Waiting for you to wake up." He paused and then reached out his hand and self-consciously squeezed Jack's shoulder.
He started as the door opened, but it was only Teal'c returning.
"He will be glad you are here, Daniel Jackson."
"Do you think so?" Daniel asked, his tone uncertain.
Teal'c nodded. "You are his friend, as am I. That knowledge will bring him back to us."
"You sound very certain of that," Daniel commented.
"I am," Teal'c replied simply, as he resumed his seat.
Daniel looked from Teal'c back to Jack. "I hope you're right," he whispered.
The next three days passed in a whirl of scientific and linguistic investigation. Sam was still in the labs trying to get a chemical analysis on the two inks. It was a difficult procedure given that she first had to figure a way to obtain a large enough sample of each ink without damaging a significant part of the translation.
Finding he was over his head when it came to chemistry, Boland had scurried back to Daniel. The two men were working through the remaining scrolls, painstakingly checking each glyph for tampering and then carefully uncovering the original text.
With Janet's approval, Daniel turned Jack's room into a makeshift office. He argued that Jack would appreciate having his team around him, and that the sounds of routine life going on would be beneficial. Janet hadn't objected, but did however insist that Daniel himself return to the infirmary every four hours to rest, while at the same time taking pity on him and releasing him from the mobile IV. As she'd handed him a large bottle of Tylenol she'd delivered a no-nonsense order to let her know if he was in pain.
He'd agreed meekly to her orders, knowing that she was still seriously concerned about his right hand. When she'd removed the heavy bandage, earlier that day, Daniel had been shocked. Janet had warned him she'd removed over fifty pieces of metal from his fingers, palm and wrist, but he still hadn't been prepared for the swollen and disfigured flesh. He'd accepted her reassurances that he would get full mobility back as long as he stuck with the physiotherapy exercises, but he'd been secretly relieved when she applied a fresh dressing and he didn't have to see the actual damage. Before he became too morbid though he reminded himself that it could have been far worse. He could've been killed or, like Jack, be lying in a coma.
Fortunately work was a good therapy from any dark thoughts. And working with Jed Boland doubly so. Daniel appreciated the sharp mind of his colleague and, although he was less willing to admit it, also the young man's tactful yet deternmined concern for his health. Even Janet admitted that Boland made an excellent mother hen, ensuring that Daniel rested at regular intervals.
Now though the two linguists were in full flow. Their animated discussion growing increasingly loud as they uncovered the latest glyph and launched into an excited debate.
"I'm telling you," Daniel said. "If you extrapolate from Tsikritsis' findings and take into account what we already know from the Phasitos disks..."
"Daniel," Boland interrupted. "I know you think Tsikritsis can do no wrong, but there are other scholars out there who have equally valid arguments and..."
A voice from across the room cut across their debate. "What does a guy have to do to get a little peace round here?"
Daniel turned, reaching as he did so for one of his text books. "Sorry Jack, we'll keep it... Jack! Oh my God! Jack! You're awake."
"Yah think! With all that racket?" Jack blinked at the three faces that were now grinning down at him.
"Welcome back, Colonel O'Neill," Teal'c said, his emotionless tone belied by the huge smile that lit up his face.
"Yes indeed. Welcome back, Sir." Caught up in the excitement of the moment, Jed Boland was also beaming from ear to ear.
Jack gave him a curious look. "Do I know you?"
Daniel was also grinning. "Long story, Jack. Teal'c, fetch Janet. Jed, Sam will want to be here." As the two men hurried away, Daniel continued to grin down at Jack. "We missed you. *I* missed you."
Jack drew in a long breath. "Glad to hear it." His eyes took in the strange combination of medical monitors, academic books and entertainment equipment. "Now, do you want to tell me what the hell is going on?"
Back in his own office the following day, Daniel figured it was just about time for Jed to start hinting that they'd done enough work when Sam barged in.
"You've got results?" Daniel asked recognising the excitement on Sam's face.
She nodded. " I've been doing some research on the web and came up with loads of useful contacts. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I was. I mean there's trade associations, hundreds of companies, and even an American Inkmaker Magazine. And that, as it turned out, was the best lead. I spoke to the editor and he put me in touch with a Dr March at MIT. What that guy doesn't know about ink isn't worth knowing."
"And?" Daniel asked impatiently.
"Right," Sam spread out the scroll. "As soon as I had the results of the spectral analyses I faxed them to him and he said you were right. The first ink - the main one - is definitely not water soluble once it's dried. It's a mixture of iron sulphate, tannin and some sort of plant material that he said would be a type of gum." Sam grinned. "He was really puzzled by that because it didn't have the usual characteristics of Arabic gum, which apparently was widely used in inks throughout history. Anyway I could hardly tell him that was because it originated from a tree several light years away."
"And..." Boland interjected, as impatient as Daniel. "The other ink - the water-soluble one?"
"Oh, yes," Sam said. "That was the really weird thing. He wasn't phased by its ingredients at all. In fact, he said you could walk into any art shop and buy exactly the same thing. Which..."
"...puts a big hole in my theory that it was used by a second ancient race." Daniel finished her sentence, frowning.
"And got me thinking too. So I used electron spin resonance to do a date check."
"Whoah, what? Electron spin?" Boland asked. "What happened to good old radio carbon?"
"Radio carbon only works on things that take carbon from the air," Sam explained. "Electron spin uses a magnetic field to measure the electrons trapped in your sample. And it works with really small samples, which is good seeing how I only had..."
"The date, Sam?" Daniel asked.
"Well, remember this method is pretty new and not as accurate as carbon dating..."
Daniel raised his eyebrows impatiently.
Smiling Sam put him out of his misery. "Dr March was right. This stuff is so new you could walk into an art shop and buy it."
"What?" Boland was incredulous. "You're surely not saying the scrolls were tampered with recently. Who on earth would want to do that?"
Daniel stared at Sam for a long moment before whispering in horror, "Caroline Mayers."
"Daniel?" Sam's voice was low and edged with worry. She moved to stand beside him, catching his left hand in hers as he pulled a set of car keys from his desk drawer. "You aren't seriously thinking..."
Daniel's blue eyes met hers, the anger in them making her flinch. "She has to know what she's done." His voice was tight.
"Yes, but not right now!" Sam protested.
He side-stepped her, reaching the door.
"You're in no fit state to drive," Jed Boland called after him, his face as worried as Sam's.
With a dismissive wave of his still bandaged hand Daniel simply called over his shoulder, "I'll be fine."
"Dr Jackson!" A dozen faces swung round to
greet him as he walked into the Long Field office. Daniel was only interested
in the reaction of one person though - but if he was hoping for a shocked expression
he was disappointed. Caroline Mayers merely looked mildly amused.
Almost immediately someone asked, "Geez, Doc. What happened to you? You look like you've been hit by a truck."
In his hurry, it had never occurred to Daniel that he still looked like a road accident victim. He shrugged off the concern, mumbling, "Yeh, something like that. I'm fine. At least I will be." He tore his gaze away from Caroline and pulled his wallet out his pocket, awkwardly fumbling for some money. "Look everyone. Coffee's on me, OK. And take your time."
He ignored both the puzzled looks and the tokens of gratitude, fixing his eyes back on the person he'd come to see. As she rose from her seat he took a step forward. "Not you, Caroline."
The puzzlement of the onlookers moved into downright curiosity, but within moments the room was vacant except for the two of them.
"A road accident, huh?" Caroline's voice was devoid of sympathy. "We wondered what had happened to you."
Daniel ignored the statement, moving to Caroline's desk. Reaching into his inside pocket he produced one of the scrolls. "Does this look familiar?" he asked.
She glanced at it and then at him. The recognition in her eyes immediately buried under defiance. "Should it?" She waved an arm around the room. "Seem to have seen a lot of scrolls of late."
His lips set in a tight line, Daniel reached forward, pulled the top drawer out of her desk and rummaged through its contents.
"What the hell are you doing?" Caroline demanded angrily.
"Looking for this!" Daniel grabbed the bottle of ink and slammed it down on the top of the desk.
Daniel hadn't really considered what response he would get, but he certainly wasn't expecting the one Caroline delivered. She laughed, gaily adding, "Took you long enough to find me out."
Daniel was stunned. "You aren't even going to deny it?"
"Deny it?" Caroline smiled at him. "Why should I? It was the perfect way to get back at you. Eye for an eye, Daniel. You embarrassed me. I embarrassed you." She looked at him, just a hint of uncertainty underlying her triumphant expression. "I trust you *were* suitably embarrassed when your translation turned out to be faulty."
Daniel simply stared at her open-mouthed, then something snapped inside him. His hands went to the buttons on his shirt, bandaged fingers fumbling with the thick cotton. "Embarrassed? You have no idea. You want to know what your little game did, Caroline. Take a good look." The last button came free and Daniel shucked off his shirt.
The smile on Caroline's face died as she saw the patchwork of lacerations, many still red and raw, the dark stitches adding a jagged ugliness to the display. "What are you talking about?" she demanded unsteadily. "I didn't do that to you."
"Yes, you did!" Daniel retorted, his words scorched with anger. "And you damn near killed somebody else in the process. That translation you messed with - it was for a real place. A very real place. And your clever little brush work? Meant it blew up in our faces."
"I..." Caroline was almost speechless. She watched as Daniel retrieved his shirt and pulled it back on. However, as the evidence of her handiwork disappeared from view, she moved into defence. "You can't blame me for..." She gestured towards his chest. "...that! How was I supposed to know? I didn't think..."
"That's the problem, Caroline," Daniel interrupted. "You didn't think." He looked at her with open disgust. "Just like before. You haven't changed a bit. You went for what would make you feel good and the hell with anyone else."
"That's not true!" Caroline protested, her face pale.
"You're off this team as of now," Daniel said coldly.
"No!" In a fraction of a second any vestige of triumph vanished - panic replacing it. The transformation was startling. "Daniel, please! I'm really sorry. You have to believe me. Yes, I was angry with you. But I only ever meant to pay back like with like. Please... I really need this job." She reached out to touch him, pulling back as he flinched away. "Daniel! Please don't kick me off this team. I've nowhere else to go. I'll do anything..."
Daniel merely raised his eyebrows, his voice like ice. "Don't tell me that with your talents you didn't land yourself a rich husband."
She swallowed hard at the insult, but then looked him in the eye. "It didn't work out. Please Daniel. I'm begging of you. If I lose this job... You have to believe me. This was my last hope of working in this field. My ex-husband has already made sure no one else will employ me."
Despite his anger, curiosity got the better of him. "What did you do, Caroline? Take advantage of him too?"
She didn't deny it. Instead she crumpled before his eyes. Sobs shook her shoulders, and her words squeezed past tear-caught breaths. "Please Daniel. I'm sorry. Truly. I had no idea. You can't believe I'd deliberately hurt you."
For a moment, the appeal in her eyes grabbed at something in Daniel. For a single breath he almost let himself get caught up in the naked display of emotion. But then the pain of distant memory flashed across his face. A memory he hadn't even admitted to Jack. A memory he hadn't even truly admitted to himself.
The words were on his lips before he could stop himself. "Why not, Caroline? You hurt me before. Or have you forgotten that while you were sleeping with me, you were also screwing my professor?"
Her face blanched, and she rocked back a step. "You knew!"
An indefinable emotion played over Daniel's face. He felt suddenly sick. Sick and bone weary. When he spoke, his voice was barely audible. "Not for certain. Until now."
For a long moment they stared at each - the truth hanging like a death between them. Then Daniel turned away. "You have fifteen minutes. If you're still here - security will escort you from the building."
As he reached the door a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse assailed his ears. A glass bottle shattered against the wall, inches from his head. Black ink splattered against his face. Without looking back, Daniel stepped into the hallway, closing the door quietly behind him.
Daniel stepped out of the Long Fields building and stood at the top of the stone steps leading back to the parking lot. The adrenaline that had carried him from the SGC and through his confrontation with Caroline vanished. As sunlight flashed bright into his eyes, the building in front of him seemed to do a bizarre loop the loop and for one sickening moment Daniel saw the ground rushing up towards him. A moan squeezed past his lips as he felt his legs buckle, then suddenly a pair of strong, black hands caught him under the arms.
"You are safe, Daniel Jackson."
As he was assisted gently to a sitting position, he caught a glimpse of Teal'c's face, his expression one of concern.
A female voice sounded close to his left. "Are you OK, Daniel? You look awful."
Sam. He turned to face her and nodded.
She smiled and reached for his cheek. "What's this on your face?" She peered at the blue-black substance that transferred to her fingers.
"Ink." Daniel felt too exhausted to explain, but he didn't need to.
"Caroline." Sam said the name with distaste.
He merely nodded. "You didn't need to follow me," he protested. "I said I'd be fine."
"Uh-huh," Sam replied with a cheeky smile. "I take it that wasn't you that Teal'c just stopped from going head first down the steps then."
Daniel had the grace to laugh at himself, admitting, "I guess you needed to follow me." He glanced at Teal'c. "Thanks."
"You are welcome," Teal'c said with a nod of his head.
"Is she gone?" Sam asked.
"Oh yes," Daniel said breathing the words with relief. "Well and truly gone."
Sam nodded her approval, and then added. "She deserves worse!"
"I know," Daniel replied simply. "But what else could I do? She really didn't intend physical harm - to me or Jack. Besides think of the security nightmare if I pressed charges. And since she isn't military, she can't be court-marshalled."
"I know," Sam answered. "But it just seems so damned unfair. You and Jack go through hell and all she has to face is losing her job."
"Oh I don't know," Daniel commented thoughtfully. "I think losing her job is a pretty good approximation of hell as far as Caroline is concerned."
"On Chulak she would be chained to a post in the marketplace until she repented of her evil act and agreed to make restitution," Teal'c commented matter of factly.
Sam raised an eyebrow at Daniel. "It's a thought..."
He smiled wryly. "Don't tempt me."
For a long moment, the trio sat on top of the steps, feeling the sun on their faces. Sam slipped an arm around Daniel's shoulders, waiting until the colour slowly began to ebb back into his skin before speaking again.
"Ready to go back?" she asked.
Daniel considered for a moment and then nodded. Yes, he was ready to go back. Back to the SGC. Back to his life.
Epilogue... two months later
Jack stifled a yawn as Daniel painstakingly went through the differences between the two translations. If he was honest with himself, it was a story he preferred not to dwell on. He still had two pieces of metal stuck in his skull, and though Dr Frasier had reassured him that their presence was totally benign he still felt uncomfortable with the idea. His feelings, however, didn't alter the fact that the mission to Ra's armoury hadn't been completed, and that as far as they knew the weapons were still there waiting for them.
"And so," Daniel wound up his talk, his eyes flickering briefly from General Hammond to Jack and back again. "If we decide to go back..."
"I don't think there's any question about that, Dr Jackson," General Hammond interrupted.
"But General Hammond. Sir!" Daniel protested. "If we don't go back those weapons could fall into the hands of the goa'uld. And..."
"Doctor Jackson, there is really no point in listing the reasons for returning," Hammond interrupted again, his voice firm. "The issue is already settled."
Jack smiled wryly, knowing that Daniel would have already been formulating reason number three for a return while his mouth was still vocalising reason one, and that he was entirely missing the point. Daniel's response though wasn't the surprised one he was expecting.
"Oh," Daniel said, his face colouring slightly. "Settled. Yes. Yes, of course it is." His tone was one of dejection.
Jack's amusement vanished instantly as he realised that Daniel wasn't missing the point because his mind was running a mile ahead of his mouth. The problem was rooted much deeper - rooted in a belief that his opinion no longer carried real weight.
Hammond, however, quickly resolved the issue. "With the correct translation, and knowing the lay of the land, I have every confidence that this mission will meet with success, Dr Jackson."
"You do?" Daniel blinked at him - the surprise Jack had anticipated finally surfacing.
Jack's smile returned as it suddenly occurred to him that he also knew something that Daniel didn't. "Daniel," he said voicing the thought without hesitation. "We trust you."
Daniel stared at him. His mouth opened as though to speak but no words came.
Hammond had already moved the meeting on, asking Carter for her opinion on the back up they would need. Jack watched as Daniel sat down and appeared to give undue attention to the papers in front of him. He could almost see the effect his words had had as Daniel let them filter through his defences. Finally Daniel looked at him again, those way too intelligent blue eyes scrutinising his face. With the briefest of smiles, Daniel mouthed the words, 'Thank you'.
Jack merely dipped his head Teal'c style and mouthed back, 'You're welcome.'
All eyes turned to General Hammond as he gathered up his papers. "SG1," he said. "You have a go!"
So there we were, standing on the ramp once again. The event horizon shimmering tantalising before us, and beyond it - the unknown. I never get over the thrill of it. But this time, I felt something else. Gratitude mostly. Grateful that I had this great bunch of people beside me. Jack, once again whole - well more than whole with those bits of metal stuck in him. But he was Jack again - muttering sarcastic comments beneath his breath. Sam, with her unswerving loyalty and concern, pretending not to hear but struggling not to laugh. Teal'c - standing like the rock that he is to my right - waiting for the moment when he could deliver one of his own jokes. It felt good. It felt right.
Caroline nearly took this from me.
No, I nearly let her take it from me.
Which brings me to the one thing that I'm most grateful for - I've learnt the value of *real* friends. Friends that trust me with their lives. And to whom, I gladly entrust mine.
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