May I just ask?
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Tag to The Other Side
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Shut up, Daniel. Ask questions, Daniel. Sheesh! A little bit of consistency would be nice. This whole mission was a fiasco, and he was convinced he wasn't being given the full story by anyone, including Jack.
Daniel rubbed the fingers of his left hand over the back of his right as he headed down the corridors of the bunker deep beneath the surface of Euronda, looking for a potential candidate to 'question'. For a moment back at the DHD, Jack's touch had been like a branding iron, feverishly hot against Daniel's own ice-cold flesh. Polar opposites. He sighed - that pretty much summed up everything about himself and Jack, from the way they approached a problem to their taste in recreational pursuits. And yet, opposites did attract, otherwise why else would he find himself seeking out Jack's company in his downtime? Daniel shook his head and rubbed his fingers down the back of his pants as though to remove unwanted residue. This wasn't the time and place to ponder his complex relationship with Jack. He had orders to follow - orders that sat far more comfortably on his shoulders than 'Shut up, Daniel'.
Okay, his new task was to ask questions. Lots of questions. He could do that. Everything about this place set his teeth on edge, from the calm acceptance that war was the only solution to the planet's turmoiled history to the yeast-based gloop he'd been served for lunch. Asking questions was definitely going to be therapeutic, even if what he suspected was true and he unearthed answers that were less palatable than the local diet.
He turned a corner and came face-to-face with Farrell, Alar's second-in-command. Perfect! Well, maybe not perfect, judging from the suspicious look she gave him before she shuttered her emotions beneath that calm smile of hers. Guess he hadn't exactly earned himself a place in her favour with his recent outbursts. He had to start with someone though, and Farrell was definitely preferable to the tall, young man she was talking too. Daniel had already been on the receiving end of some icy looks from him in their earlier encounters.
"Farrell," Daniel said, both in greeting and to indicate he wished to speak with her.
She finished her conversation with the young man, who bowed slightly before moving across the room to one of the workstations, then she inclined her head towards Daniel, her refined features now well-schooled into a neutral expression. "Doctor?"
"Okay." He moved towards her, smiling shyly, suddenly uncertain how to begin. He settled for mutual ground. "I thought as long as we're going to be allies, we should get to know a little bit more about our new enemy." She nodded, and he continued, choosing his words with care. "Well you call them the enemy. Understandably they are 'your enemy', but they must have a name." She stared at him blankly, and he slid into teaching mode, pointing to himself, "For example, I'm American. My grandfather was Dutch " He tilted his head, hoping she understood what he was trying to ask.
She nodded. "Sometimes we call them breeders."
"It's how they reproduce - indiscriminately, without thought for genetic purity."
"Really." Daniel felt a rush of horror at her words. Memories of his high school history classes flooded back. Genetic purity. A world war. And, more recently, tales of atrocities in the name of ethnic cleansing. Oh God! Surely he was misunderstanding her words? The question was out of his mouth before he could stop it. "So basically they come in all shapes and sizes?"
She was watching him closely now. Her face, with its blue eyes and frame of blonde hair, was calm, but there was a hint of something darker in the way her smile had frozen into place. An eyebrow twitched in reaction to his obvious surprise. "Yes."
"And colours." It wasn't really a question because he already knew the answer.
The word fell from his lips like a stone plummeting through a river, down through brown-stained water to settle in the slimy, grasping mud of the riverbed. Cold nausea rippled across Daniel as he maintained tight control of his features. Letting Farrell see how repellent her words were wasn't the way to go. He needed to see Jack. Now. Somehow he forced himself to smile politely.
"That's really " Oh God! What could he say? He felt his smile tighten. Saw worried concern flicker into Farrell's eyes. He forced out the most neutral word he could summon past his distaste. "Interesting."
Farrell's eyes narrowed, and she glanced towards the door as though seeking someone. A premonition of danger skittered across Daniel's shoulders.
"You know I should be " He took a step towards the doorway. "Jack will be "
The sound of an explosion - muffled and distant cut off his words. Farrell glanced nervously to her right and then held his gaze.
"If I were you, Doctor Jackson, I wouldn't wander the corridors alone."
Daniel flinched inwardly, uncertain if the subtle threat in her tone was real or imaginary. Every nerve was now screaming at him to get back to Jack as soon as he could. "I'll be fine."
She moved towards him. "I really think it would be better if you stayed here."
He side-stepped her hand as she reached for him. "Thank you, but I umm I have to go now." Before she could protest further, he was out the door, the skin at the back of his neck prickling as he imagined her ice blue eyes boring into his skull.
Damn! He was lost. Daniel pulled to a halt in the corridor and tried to get his bearings. He'd been sure he'd done a left, then a right. Now though, he'd turned into a part of the underground complex he didn't recognise. The dimly lit corridor stretched before him, its roughly plastered walls interspersed with closed doors that were making his nose itch with curiosity. His need to return to Jack and tell him what he'd discovered was still keen, but he couldn't help but be tempted by the opportunity to do a little 'innocent' snooping. After all, you could learn a lot about a culture from what they kept in storage. And snooping was just another form of asking questions. Jack had told him to ask questions - lots of questions.
Checking the corridor in both directions for witnesses, he tried the first door handle. It was locked. As was the second and the third. The fourth, however, turned at his touch, but before he could push the door open, a male voice sounded behind him.
"Doctor Jackson? Can I help you?"
He spun round and found the young man who had been with Farrell watching him from the far end of the corridor.
"Ummm, I was just " Daniel suddenly came up with a name. "It's Jael, isn't it?"
The man's blue eyes narrowed as he approached. "Quite a memory you have."
Daniel shrugged modestly, aware that Jael's attention had slid past him to the door he'd been about to open. "I was just ummm curious about your storage facilities." He gestured towards the door, adopting a pose he hoped indicated his nosiness had just been the fruit of a passing whim and that he really didn't care one way or the other if he saw what was behind the door.
"Look, I ummm I think I'm lost. Maybe you could point me "
Jael pulled to a halt in front of Daniel. "Farrell told me of your curiosity." His words were totally devoid of warmth; his eyes drilled into Daniel with barely veiled hostility.
Before Daniel could make any reply, the impact of another bomb reverberated through the corridor. Both men glanced upwards as the ceiling shook violently, then showered them with dust. Daniel sneezed violently, muttering, "That was close. Perhaps we'd better get out of here." He turned to head down the corridor.
Jael, however, grabbed his arm, pulling him to a stop. "Seems to me you've been asking too many questions, Doctor."
"What?" Daniel's eyes fixed on the beefy hand gripping his forearm, then shifted to hold Jael's gaze defiantly. "I'm just gathering information for my team - getting to know our new allies a little better."
"That's not what it looks like." Jael's fingers dug deeper as Daniel tried to pull away. "Seems to me you're the team troublemaker. Figure maybe I'd be doing everyone a favour if your body was found under a pile of rubble."
Daniel's breath escaped him in a rush as he was abruptly swung round, his own body weight used against him to ensure he slammed violently, back first, into the opposite wall. He barely had time to suck air into his abused lungs before Jael was on him, his fists contacting hard and fast with Daniel's stomach. One, two, three. Daniel crumpled to the floor under the onslaught, the fingers of his right hand fumbling for his gun as he tried to rise above the agony flaring across his abdomen.
"Here, let me help," Jael sneered.
A hand folded into the shoulder of Daniel's jacket and he was flipped onto his back, one of Jael's knees jabbing into the soft flesh just below his ribcage, pinning him to the ground as effectively as if Jael had thrust a stake through him. He groaned as Jael pressed what felt like his entire bodyweight into flesh that was already screaming in protest. Jael, however, seemed unaware of just how much agony his current position was inflicting, because the action was merely a precursor to him settling on Daniel's chest with a triumphant sneer. Daniel bucked his hips in desperation as he felt Jael's hands fold over his own, fighting him for possession of the gun. A back-handed slap that snapped Daniel's head to the left ended the struggle. As he turned his head back to face Jael, the cold metal of his gun barrel pressed against his forehead.
He swallowed hard, struggling to breathe with Jael's weight on his chest. "Killing me won't stop the truth coming out," he grunted, the pain in his stomach forcing him to speak through gritted teeth.
"Why not?" Jael sneered. "It's worked with others of your kind."
"Others? What others?" Daniel desperately tried to shut out the fact there was nothing but six inches of cold metal between his brain and a bullet, knowing he was going to need all his powers of concentration to stand the remotest chance of talking himself out of the situation. At least he was still asking questions. Jack should be proud of him.
"Others like you. Scum that think we should end this war and attempt to reach a compromise with the Breeders. I saw your face when you were talking to Farrell," Jael said, clearly enjoying his position of power. "You think we're wrong to try and eliminate the Breeders - that we should accept them for what they are, don't you?"
"They're all human, just like you. Just like me."
"No! That's a lie. Is that why you came here? To spread more lies? To undermine us?"
"Jael, listen to me. These 'others' "
"Shut up!" Jael studied Daniel's gun for a moment and then flipped off the safety catch, his face both triumphant and malicious. "You're weak and pathetic. Even your weapons are unsophisticated. I could kill you right now, and you can't do a thing to stop me. And do you think anyone would grieve if I did? I saw the way O'Neill looked at you. He knows the truth already - but he doesn't want to hear it. He would most likely be grateful to me for silencing you."
"No! He wouldn't." Daniel's heart was hammering. Oh God! Was this how it was going to end? A bullet in his skull delivered by a misguided youth who thought he had right on his side? He could feel his knife, snug in its sheath, digging into his left buttock. Cautiously he arched his back, hoping to create enough space between his body and the floor to allow him to get his hand beneath him.
A second slap put an end to that plan. Almost immediately the sound of another bomb reached him, and yet more dust and debris fell from the ceiling a few yards up the corridor. Jael glanced round, fear vying with bloodlust for control of his face. Bloodlust won. He gave Daniel a cold smile as he removed the gun from its current task of drilling a hole in Daniel's forehead, flipped the safety back on and tossed the weapon nonchalantly to one side, well out of Daniel's reach.
"Why go for crude when I can make it appear you were the victim of the Breeders themselves?" He leaned forward and wrapped his hands around Daniel's throat. "The loss of a team-mate should be all it takes to convince O'Neill of the justice of our cause, don't you think? Any last words, Doctor Jackson?"
Daniel struggled to breathe as Jael's fingers began to tighten around his neck. "Tell Jack... to ask his own questions next time."
Desperately Daniel tried to buck Jael off again, but it was useless. Jael's body was over two hundred pounds of solid muscle, and the man knew how to use it to pin Daniel down. The bulk of his weight was holding Daniel's hips to the ground, while his knees effectively pinioned Daniel's arms. The pain in his abdomen was still gnawing at his strength, and he knew none of the black ops tricks Jack had shown him was going to get him out of this situation.
Darkness began to tinge Daniel's vision. The pressure of Jael's fingers on his windpipe was becoming unbearable, and the crushing weight on his chest was pushing him over the edge from constrained fear into outright panic. He would've laughed at the academic part of his mind calmly commenting that the finger-shaped bruises on his dead body might clue Jack into the fact he'd discovered something the Eurondans wanted to keep quiet, if he hadn't been simultaneously observing that being choked to death meant you couldn't scream for help.
They're all the same. Every damn one of them.
The words replayed in Jack's mind as he hurried through the Eurondan bunker. God, how could he have been so dense? He shot Teal'c a quick look, suddenly aware of the colour of his skin. It was something that never normally registered with him, just as he rarely noted Daniel wore glasses or that Carter was a blonde. Teal'c was just Teal'c. What the hell difference did it make what he looked like on the outside?
Right now, Teal'c's exterior was as passive as ever, but the twitch of muscle along his jaw indicated he had understood the implication of their finding. Jack's own jaw tightened at the thought of what they were caught up in. It was the worst kind of nightmare - one that had stained Earth with its particular brand of evil far too often from Nazi Germany to more recent atrocities in Africa and Eastern Europe. Jack felt a wave of repulsion at the stupidity of it all. And worse, guilt made its unwelcome presence known. If he'd listened to Daniel's concerns earlier If he'd just pushed beneath Alar's willingness to share technology
He dismissed the thought hurriedly. He couldn't undo what was done. And besides, he'd been under pressure to make sure that this mission was successful, at least as far as Senator Kinsey defined success. He'd seen Hammond ploughing through the mission reports from the past six months, trying to make a case for keeping the Stargate programme running.
'Dollars and dimes, Jack. That's the bottom line. If we don't deliver soon '
'We saved their asses!'
"I know. I know. But they want hard assets. Weapons. Defense shields. I don't know how long I can keep the wolves at bay.'
"Oh, well they do have a point."
"Well personally I'd value their collective backsides at around, oh I don't know, a couple of dollars at most. I'm just surprised they seem to agree."
And then along came Alar with his promise of technology in exchange for heavy water. It had all seemed too good to be true. And it was.
The beam of blue-white energy seemed to come from nowhere. Jael's expression abruptly changed from sick, murderous enjoyment to shock, then to pain. His eyes rolled back in his head as the energy danced across his shoulders, then he toppled to the right.
Daniel sucked in a tortured breath. His mind unable to comprehend what had happened, he simply reacted to the stimulus of his body, his right hand going to his throat to soothe his bruised skin, eyes staring up at the ceiling as his ability to focus slowly returned. Suddenly realising Jael's weight was no longer holding him down, he scrambled onto all fours, still gasping for air. His gaze fixed on the unconscious body of his attacker, and he swallowed painfully at the sight of Jael's hands, still clawed from their attempt to crush the life out of him.
"Doctor Jackson? Are you all right?" A pair of booted feet appeared in his vision, and his head jerked up as his gun was suddenly thrust beneath his nose, offered handle first. He blinked hard and focused on the concerned face of a young Eurondan woman.
"Ummm thank you." He found his voice and reached out to take the weapon, grimacing at the way his hands were shaking. He holstered the gun and then struggled painfully to his feet, grateful for the woman's hand at his elbow steadying him.
"You should get out of here," she said, studying his face with concern. She glanced towards Jael. "The stun effect lasts only a minute or two."
"Why did you ?" Daniel's brain was finally catching up with events.
"Not everyone agrees with the philosophy of those in power, Doctor Jackson. Now " She nodded down the corridor. "Please go, before Jael wakes."
"B.. but.." Daniel began to protest, wanting to know more. A low moan from Jael cut him off.
"Go!" The woman urged.
Daniel didn't need telling again. He shot her a grateful look and hurried down the corridor. A few twists and turns of the corridor later he virtually collided with Jack and Teal'c, the news of what he'd discovered exploding off his tongue.
"Close the iris!"
Jack stared down the ramp, aware that everyone was staring back. What the hell had he just done? Carter's eyes were on him, disbelief clouding her face. He turned towards her wanting to spit the accusation that was so obviously on the tip of her tongue right back at her. Yes Carter, I just killed a man! That's what I do. Read my file. Black ops. Dirty and dangerous. Never ask questions. Just follow orders and deliver the goods.
He pulled his gaze away from her, re-focused on Hammond. He knew what question was coming and fielded it with a monotonic reply. No, he hadn't got any technology from the Eurondans. Behind Hammond Daniel was watching him, a confused expression on his face. Get with it, genius-boy! Yes, the splat on the back of the iris was Alar. And yes, I knew what I was doing. Judge and executioner. Wonder which of your Egyptian gods I resemble now?
Hammond's voice cut through his dark thoughts. "Debrief in one hour."
Right. He could do that. The words were already forming in his mind. 'I was just following our standing orders, Sir. Until I realised we were trading with the devil.' Fuck. Fuck. Fuck! Jack scrubbed a hand through his hair and headed down the ramp. Teal'c and Daniel both moved to one side as though opening a pathway for him.
"Jack " Daniel's voice was low.
Oh no. No way was he ready to start a debate with Daniel. He walked past quickly, pretending he hadn't heard, but not believing for a moment Daniel would let him get away with such an obvious tactic. The archaeologist could be more tenacious than a terrier, and Jack had seen the way Daniel's gaze had flickered back and forth from the iris to his face, his blue eyes suddenly widening as the truth filtered through. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Daniel hurriedly step forward, clearly determined to catch up with him.
"Not now, Daniel," he hissed.
To Jack's surprise, Daniel pulled to an abrupt halt. The uncharacteristic behaviour made Jack risk a glance backwards, just to be sure he wasn't imagining things, that Daniel Jackson was, for once in his life, backing off from a verbal confrontation. Yes, it was true. Daniel was standing behind him, a pained look on his face and his arms folded across his abdomen. Jack felt a quick rush of bitter triumph, then dismissed all further thoughts of his team from his mind and headed towards the infirmary, determined to get through the essentials of SGC protocol as quickly as possible. He wanted - no, he needed to go home.
Daniel trailed behind Teal'c towards the infirmary, conscious of the discomfort in his abdomen. He couldn't quite pin down what it was - a kind of heaviness, not exactly indigestion and yet He rubbed a hand across his stomach and round over his left hip. Something definitely wasn't right. He'd been aware of a dull pain where Jael had laid into him with his fists, but while he'd been on an adrenaline high it had really only snapped at him when he moved too quickly or twisted his upper body. Now, though, it was nagging away at him, scouring what sympathy he felt towards Jack and making him actually look forward to the post-mission exam. Hopefully Janet would give him some Tylenol or antacid or something.
"Are you unwell, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c voice was low and concerned behind him.
He glanced over his shoulder. "I'm fine, Teal'c, just a little It's nothing."
He caught a twitch of Teal'c's eyebrow that meant the Jaffa was probably less than convinced. The hoarseness of his voice certainly hadn't helped to support his statement, but he didn't want to volunteer any further information. Right now he wanted to be alone with his thoughts. He still couldn't quite bring himself to believe what he'd witnessed back in the Gateroom.
He sighed inwardly, the thought of the upcoming debriefing weighing heavily on him. Oh God. He wasn't looking forward to that. And if Jack's face was anything to go by Speaking of which, he pushed open the infirmary door and spotted Jack sitting on one of the beds looking as though he would cheerfully bite the next person who approached him. Fine, Daniel thought. Let Jack work out his temper on the infirmary staff; he'd been on the receiving end of the O'Neill rollercoaster quite enough for one day.
"Doctor Jackson?" One of the infirmary's junior nurses approached him. "Please come this way."
Daniel nodded his head in acknowledgement, frowning slightly as she led him to the bed next to Jack's. Great. He could really feel the dark mood radiating off Jack from here. Still, Jack was apparently going to ignore him, along with everyone else in the room. He eased himself into a sitting position onto the edge of the bed, wincing at the sharp pain that flared through his gut. Maybe if he straightened his back and leaned forward ahh, yes, that felt better. Okay, fine. Now, he'd just keep his head down, do what he had to do and, please God, get somebody to give him some Tylenol.
"Owww!" Jack complained unnecessarily loud as the nurse began to draw blood from his arm.
"If you'd held still " The nurse began.
"Oh yeah," Jack interrupted. He shot a dark look at Daniel, then muttered something to the nurse that Daniel didn't quite catch except for the words 'shut up'.
Resentment flared afresh. Daniel was tired, hurt and confused, and words came spilling out of his mouth before he could stop them. "Jack, if you still have a problem "
"A problem?" Jack's eyebrows raised and his tone dripped with sarcasm. "Why on earth would I have any problems, Daniel? Life is sweet, don't you think? I was simply commenting to this nurse here that I was learning a lot about 'put up and shut up' lately."
Daniel favoured Jack with a sharp look. "Right."
"Something you apparently know nothing about," Jack muttered.
Daniel closed his eyes wearily. "Don't."
"Don't?" Jack's voice was taunting. "Don't what, Daniel?"
"Nothing." Daniel mumbled the word, determined not to rise to Jack's provocation.
"Well, well," Jack continued mercilessly. "The great Doctor Jackson has finally run of out words." He paused, apparently expecting a response, but getting nothing but silence. "What's the matter, Daniel? I thought you liked a good debate."
Irritation flashing into anger, Daniel twisted to face him. The action immediately sparked off fresh pain, making his reply more contemptuous than he'd intended. "Debate? With you?"
"Yes, with me."
Daniel snorted at the idea. "You couldn't follow a thread of conversation long enough!"
Jack matched Daniel's fire with his own. "Well, maybe if I didn't have you whining in my ear on every goddamn mission until I can't think straight..."
"Exactly!" Daniel threw back.
"What the hell does that mean?"
"If you listened to me just once in a while "
"I listen to you all the while, Daniel!"
"Really." Daniel retorted angrily. "I'm surprised you can hear me above the sound of bodies hitting the iris."
Silence swallowed the infirmary.
Jack's face turned to granite, his eyes narrowed to dark slits. When he spoke, his words were carefully measured, each one coiled with barbed wire. "That apology on Euronda? I take it back. This time I really mean it - shut up, Daniel, or so help me "
"Or so help you what?" Daniel interrupted, glaring at Jack. "You'll use your fists instead of your brain, as usual?"
Jack opened his mouth to retort, but then abruptly swallowed the words. Dark emotion flickered over his face.
Daniel pushed himself off the bed, wanting nothing more than to be somewhere else. He held Jack's gaze for a long moment and then shook his head, weariness washing over him. He sucked in a deep breath and took two steps towards the infirmary door.
"Daniel!" Jack's tone was a mixture of command and appeal.
For a moment Daniel almost froze in place, but then he determinedly straightened his back and kept walking, throwing his parting words over his shoulder.
"Screw you, Jack."
Not thinking about where he was going, Daniel's feet led him to the locker-room, the routine of infirmary, shower, de-briefing and home deeply ingrained into his subconscious after four years of missions. He fumbled for his locker key, thrust it into the lock, and then grabbed the lapels of his jacket, intending to take the garment off. As he pulled his shoulders back, fresh pain flared across his midriff. He groaned loudly and sank onto the nearest bench, folding his arms over his stomach and rocking gently back and forward until the agony eased back. Shit! If he couldn't get his jacket off without yelping He really shouldn't have walked out of the infirmary. He was feeling distinctly rough. The muscle or ligament or whatever the hell it was he'd damaged during his run in with Jael was definitely getting worse, and now it seemed that damn yeast he'd been served at lunch was battling with his digestive system and making him feel nauseous. In fact, he was aching all over - an unpleasant feverish ache where hot seemed cold.
He scrubbed a hand through his hair and grimaced at the dirt and grit as he made up his mind what to do. He really didn't want to return to the infirmary right now, not while there was a chance Jack would still be there to snark at him. And since he was here he might as well shower. Yes, that sounded good. Perhaps a long soak under some hot water would make him feel better. His pushed himself to his feet, rummaged in his locker for a bottle of shampoo and a towel, and then stripped off, this time with a great deal more caution.
Whoa! He peered down at the bruises on his belly as he removed his tee-shirt. No wonder he was getting sorer. Jael really had laid into him. Okay - shower and then back to the infirmary before Janet got wind of his absence and sent one of her nurses to kick his ass.
Jack felt totally numb as he reached the locker room. Could this day get any worse? He scrubbed a hand through his hair, feeling Eurondan grit on his scalp. It was as though the planet was trying to make itself a part of him, as though, in some way, he'd become infected by their madness. A shiver ran down his spine. 'They're all the same. Every damn one of them.'
Well, the 'damned' bit was right. Damned by his hand. His actions.
He didn't want to think about it. Not without the comfort of a stiff drink, anyway. He moved to his locker, and his eyes fell on the untidy pile of clothes on the bench. Oh terrific. Another run in with Daniel was just what he needed to make the day complete. Just where did that guy get off playing Jiminy Cricket to his Pinocchio? What he needed was a good fly swatter so the next time Daniel asked one of his damn questions he could - Jack shook his head at his own thoughts. Being mad at Daniel was both the easy option and downright unfair, and he knew it.
Wearily he stripped off his clothes, tossed a towel over his shoulder, and headed for the shower cubicles. The mirror along the wall caught his reflection. Grey hair. Lined face. He sucked in his stomach self-consciously even though he could name a dozen marines decades younger than he was who would gladly trade for his six-pack. Crap! When had he grown so old and world-weary? Why the hell hadn't he resisted when they came to talk him out of retirement?
The sound of running water was louder now, and the air was fragrant with sandalwood. The wet floor in front of the first cubicle told Jack where Daniel was. Damn! That meant he had to walk past Daniel. He sucked in a breath. Fine. He'd act nonchalant. Pretend that scene in the infirmary had never happened. With luck Daniel would have his back to the him anyway, and if he didn't, well, a quick 'Daniel' to acknowledge he was there should suffice, and then he could dive into the safety of his own shower. Daniel was smart; he'd be gone by the time Jack came out.
One, two, three four steps put Jack parallel to the first shower cubicle. He turned his head, ready to deliver his line and froze.
Crap! Daniel was slumped in the corner of the stall, his knees pulled to his chest and his pale face contorted with pain, eyes squeezed shut. His breath was coming in short agonised gasps.
"Daniel!" Jack dived into the cubicle, shutting off the water with his left hand and then dropping to Daniel's side. A pair of frightened blue eyes jerked open and swivelled towards him. Daniel's left hand groped for his arm, clasping on to him with a vice-like grip.
"Okay, speak to me buddy," Jack commanded gently. "What happened?"
Daniel's lips moved, but no words formed. Jack's gaze swept him from head to toe, then he reached out gently, laying his hand against Daniel's cheek. Daniel was hot, but Jack couldn't tell if that was because he was sick or simply from the temperature of the shower. Clearly giving up on trying to communicate, Daniel tilted his head against the wall and groaned, his right arm tightening around his stomach. The action caught Jack's attention.
"Daniel? Is this where it hurts?" He reached out, gently moved Daniel's arm from its protective circle, and caught sight of the bruises. "Shit!"
Jack glanced around the cubicle, trying to figure out what to do. From the look of agony on Daniel's face, trying to move him wasn't going to go down too well. Jack needed to get help - fast. He stood up, leaned out of the cubicle and snatched Daniel's towel from the hook on the partition.
"Daniel, can you hear me?" he asked as he wrapped the towel around the younger man's shoulders. "I'm going to get help, okay?" A low moan was the only response he got. "Okay," he repeated as much for his own comfort as for Daniel's. "I'll be right back."
With that he turned and ran from the locker room. Out in the corridor his towel-clad body earned him astonished looks from two passing airmen. He abruptly halted his race to the nearest phone as he spotted them.
"Get Doctor Fraiser! Now! Tell her there's a medical emergency in the locker room!"
Not surprisingly, the briefing was going badly. Jack was sitting opposite the vacant seat that should've been filled by Daniel. Beside him he could feel contained rage radiating off Teal'c. Across the table Carter was refusing to meet his gaze, and he could tell from the way she was tapping her pencil against the wooden surface that she was itching to get back to the infirmary. Not that there was likely to be any news from there for a while.
Jack winced inwardly as Hammond once again speared him with an intense gaze.
"So, Colonel, you have no idea how Doctor Jackson came to return through the 'gate with a potentially life-threatening injury?"
A ruptured spleen. Jack still couldn't come to terms with Fraiser's diagnosis, despite the fact she'd had Daniel prepped for emergency surgery faster than he could blink. How the hell could Daniel have a ruptured spleen? He'd been fine on Euronda.
"Colonel?" Hammond prompted.
"Yes, Sir. I mean, no, Sir. I have no idea how Daniel was injured."
"You didn't notice anything amiss at any time?"
This time Jack's wince was physical. Damn it. There must've been some evidence that Daniel was hurt. How the hell could he have missed it? He shook his head, racking his brain as he replayed the last couple of hours of the mission over in his mind. Okay, they'd been together at the DHD when he'd grabbed Daniel's hand to stop him dialling home. Daniel had been perfectly fine then. Confused by the abrupt change in direction, yes. But physically, fine. So the injury must've occurred after that. But when? Daniel had seemed okay when they met up again. A bit breathless, maybe, but that wasn't unusual for Daniel when he had news to impart.
After that they'd headed to the command centre. He'd come up with his plan to get back at Alar for tricking him into shooting down a manned aircraft while Daniel had started talking with Carter. He glanced over at the major.
"Did you know Daniel was hurt?" he asked.
She met his gaze for the briefest of moments, then looked away, shaking her head. "No. He seemed fine in the command room. When you were in that flight chair, a couple of Eurondan security guards pulled weapons on us and Daniel helped take them out."
"Right." Jack nodded. He hadn't exactly been aware of what had been going on, but he'd seen at least one Eurondan on the floor and noticed Daniel waving a gun in the face of another. So, Daniel couldn't have been hurt then, could he? And right after that, they'd hightailed it back through the 'gate.
Carter glanced towards Teal'c. "Did you notice anything?"
Teal'c's face was expressionless as he spoke. "I noticed Daniel Jackson appeared to be in some discomfort on our return, but when I enquired of his health he informed me he was fine."
Hammond immediately jumped on the information. "When was this Teal'c?"
"In the Gateroom. As we were following O'Neill on our way to the infirmary."
Jack pulled a wry face as Teal'c's gaze swivelled in his direction. The memory of Daniel lurching forward as though to catch up with him in the Gateroom came back at Jack like a sapling whipping across his face. Daniel had pulled to an abrupt halt, a pained expression on his face. And he'd assumed it was because he'd made it clear he wasn't about to engage in a debate. The truth slammed into Jack like a speeding truck. It wasn't emotional hurt that had clouded Daniel's face, it was physical pain.
Oh God! How could he have been so stupid as to not have seen it, to have not realised. Jack winced as he ran through the scene in the infirmary. No wonder Daniel had risen to his baiting hard and fast. Nothing like a little bit of internal bleeding to make a guy cranky. Guilt lined up for a turn at slapping Jack. Daniel had been hurt and in need of medical attention, and Jack's snarkiness had driven him from the infirmary.
He suddenly realised Hammond was speaking.
"So none of you witnessed any event that would've resulted in Doctor Jackson's injury?"
Carter shook her head. "No, Sir."
"I did not."
Jack closed his eyes as he spoke. "I sent him to ask questions, Sir." He opened his eyes and found Hammond studying him closely. "He was alone for, I don't know, thirty minutes. Maybe longer. Whatever happened, it must've occurred during that time."
"I see." The general leaned back in his chair. "Then we will have to wait until Doctor Jackson is well enough to shed some light on the mystery. Dismissed."
Jack sat alone in his office. He knew Carter and Teal'c were waiting in the infirmary for news of Daniel, knew too that one or both of them would phone as soon as they heard anything.
Guilt sat on his shoulders like a crow, digging its talons into his skin and shrouding him with its black wings. How many people had died because of his actions today? Alar for sure. Oh yes, Jack could defend himself by pointing to the warning he'd given the man not to follow him through the 'Gate, but he knew the truth. He'd seen the way Alar had looked at him. Had known with cold certainty that his warning would go unheeded.
'Close the iris.'
Odd wording for a death sentence. At least as a method of execution it was painless. Better than dying on the poisoned surface of your planet.
And who appointed you judge and jury? whispered the crow. Alar may have been guilty of racial crimes. But what of Farrell and all the others who died today? Did they all agree with him? Or were they simply following orders? Too frightened or too stupid to ask questions, to challenge the status quo, to dare to ask if their leaders, their own parents even, were mistaken. And now they'd never have a chance. Jack O'Neill had chosen to play God. Shame the SGC didn't have a prime directive like on Star Trek. How much easier it would be if one was forbidden from interfering.
The crow shifted its weight, its claws making fresh indentations on his shoulder. Tiny red beads of blood formed beneath its feet. No, it whispered in his ear. You may have escaped Eurondan blood on your hands that way, but what of the Breeders? Would your inaction not make you as guilty of their deaths as your action did with their enemy?
To act. To not act. There was no simple path. But still, he knew what he'd done was reprehensible. And not only that, but Daniel was lying on an operating table. Somehow Jack just knew that was his fault too.
The strident ring of his phone jerked him from his dark thoughts.
"Sir?" Carter's voice sounded tired but relieved. "Janet's just come out of surgery. She's says Daniel's going to be fine. They're taking him through to recovery."
Daniel was going to be fine. The crow's beady eye blinked, its gaze cruel. Kind of depends on your definition of fine, doesn't it? Fine without a spleen is kind of different to fine with all his organs in the right place, don't you think? The questions were rhetorical. Okay so Daniel could function happily without his spleen just as he could without his appendix, but Jack was pretty damn sure he would've been better off without either operation featuring in his medical file.
"Sir?" Carter sounded worried. "Did you hear what I said?"
"Yes. Thank you." He put the receiver down.
Daniel was going to be fine.
Good. That meant he could get the hell out of here.
"Hey." Sam breathed the word with soft relief as Daniel stirred. "Welcome back."
"Sam?" His voice was rough, and Sam found herself swallowing in empathy at the thought of the tubing that had no doubt been forced down his throat to assist his breathing during surgery.
"Yeah, it's me." She reached forward and folded her fingers around his hand, squeezing reassuringly. "You scared us for a while. Colonel O'Neill aged about ten years in as many minutes."
Daniel closed his eyes again. Sam was just settling back into her chair, assuming he'd drifted back to sleep, when he opened them again and peered at her with a face wrinkled with confusion. "Why am I " He winced, the effort of speaking clearly taking its toll.
"You came back from Euronda with a damaged spleen. Janet thinks it ruptured while you were in the shower. Fortunately Colonel O'Neill found you before " Sam sucked in a breath at the thought of what might have happened. "Well, he found you, Janet operated and you're going to be fine."
Sam nodded. She hesitated for a moment, her unease at appearing to interrogate Daniel the moment he woke battling with her curiosity. In addition to the bruises on his abdomen, the skin of Daniel's neck was displaying patches of yellow, blue and purple. Janet had been reluctant to engage in speculation concerning the cause of Daniel's injuries - she had been about to go off duty when she got the call and her main concern, once she was sure Daniel was out of immediate danger, had been to get home to Cassie. Speculation, she informed Sam, could wait until the morning. Well, it was gone midnight so it was officially morning in Sam's book and her need to ask questions won out.
"Daniel, we've all been wondering what happened to you. General Hammond gave us a hard time and " Shit! She hadn't meant to mention that part. Besides, a couple of disapproving looks didn't exactly amount to a hard time, although she was sure the general had had words with the colonel after she and Teal'c had left the briefing room.
Daniel's eyes were closed again.
Guilt stole over Sam and she cupped his cheek in her hand. He felt hot to her touch; the antibiotics Janet had given him hadn't done their job yet. "I'm sorry. It doesn't matter right now "
"Jael." Daniel whispered the name.
"What?" Sam pulled her hand away.
"His name was Jael and he " Daniel hitched in a breath. "Apparently I asked too many questions."
Sam's quick mind was already putting two and two together. "You got beaten up for asking questions?"
Daniel nodded, his right hand moved to his throat, his fingers rubbing at the bruises. "He got a bit physical."
Anger sparked in Sam at the implication behind Daniel's words. Damn the Eurondans and their technology. This mission had nearly cost the SGC more than she was willing to pay. She choked her emotions down, leaning forward to plant a small kiss on Daniel's forehead. "I'm glad you're still here to ask questions, Daniel."
She wasn't sure if he heard her. His eyelids had already slid closed, and she watched as sleep reclaimed him from her. As his breathing evened and the pained lines vanished from his forehead, she stood up. The colonel needed to know what she'd just discovered. Hopefully he didn't ascribe to a philosophy of shooting the messenger.
"Airman O'Neill!" The instructor was nose to nose with Jack, his face red with anger. "Please explain to the rest of your group why this mission was totally fucked up!"
Jack swallowed nervously. Six weeks into training and he no longer flinched when somebody bawled into his face, but his exterior control belied the fact his stomach was churning.
"Well, O'Neill? We're waiting for your words of wisdom."
"I just thought "
"Exactly!" The instructor whirled away from him. "You began thinking, didn't you O'Neill? Instead of following orders you were having a little conversation with yourself, right?"
Foolishly, Jack nodded. The instructor was immediately back in his face. "We don't pay you to think, O'Neill. We pay you to follow orders. Tell me, what happens if you stop to ask fucking questions in the middle of a battle?"
This time Jack kept quiet, the shame of the disastrous training mission making his face burn. He knew it was his fault. He'd pulled the team back, questioned his orders and as a result got them all killed.
The instructor wasn't going to let him off the hook. He took a deep breath and hollered the answer to his own question into Jack's ear. "We all get fucking killed, right, O'Neill!"
"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir."
"Sorry?" The instructor spat the word into his face. "Sorry doesn't cut it out there, boy! The only thing that cuts it is following orders. To the letter." A finger drilled into Jack's chest. "So keep your fucking questions to yourself!"
Jack woke with a start, his hand flying to his chest, the dream so real he could feel bruised skin. Damn it. He hadn't relived that dressing down in a long time. He rolled onto his back, his pillow damp and hot beneath his head. That particular instructor had been little more than an overgrown bully with too much authority and not enough compassion. He'd had a point about asking questions, though. But Jack also knew that life was rarely black and white. There were times when asking questions was inappropriate, like during that particular exercise, and times when it took a brave man to stand up for what was right and ask what nobody else wanted to know. And damnit - Euronda was one of those times when he'd called it the wrong way, when he'd allowed his desire to deliver a result override his moral duty to dig a little before committing himself to a course of action. After all, a good number of years had rolled past since he was raw recruit. He was a colonel - it was his job to ask questions so he could act on the best available information. A job he'd delegated to Daniel.
The memory of Carter's phone call slapped him around the face again, and his brain spun off on another cycle of shoulds and coulds. He should've foreseen the potential danger. He could've sent Teal'c with Daniel - except of course he'd already seen Alar's reaction to the Jaffa and he'd known deep down Teal'c's presence would hinder Daniel's questioning. Okay, so he should've gone with Daniel. Damn it. Another bad judgement to add to all the others.
He sighed heavily, flipped his pillow over in search of a cool spot, and tried once more to sleep. The clock on his bedside table blinked balefully at him. Two-thirty in the morning. He'd barely slept for an hour despite diving beneath the bedclothes at an unusually early hour. If he could just stop thinking!
Two-thirty-five. He flipped onto his back again, one hand snaking out to snag the phone. He punched numbers, barked his name and was through to the infirmary in seconds. The duty nurse, full of quiet efficiency, informed him that Daniel was doing 'as well as could be expected' and pointedly wished him a good night's sleep. Yeah right. Like that was going to happen. He replaced the receiver, slid from his bed and headed towards his living room. His television was unlikely to provide much in the way of distraction from his thoughts, but anything - even a re-run of McGyver - had to be preferable to another couple of hours of demon wrestling.
An insistent ringing sound had Jack fumbling for the remote control. He hit mute, then peered uncertainly at the TV screen as the baseball action continued together with the annoying ring. He rubbed sleep from his eyes, stretched his back to ease the knots that had formed thanks to falling asleep on the sofa, and then eyed the mute button sourly. Why the hell hadn't that sound stopped?
Duh! His gaze spun towards his front door and the shadowy figure behind the frosted glass panelling. His thumb hit the text button on the remote. Seven-thirty? Who the hell was ringing his doorbell this early in the morning? He pushed himself to his feet, groaning softly as his body protested. Sleeping on the sofa was definitely a young man's game. He shuffled towards the door, aware that the beer he'd drunk earlier was stretching his bladder painfully, and that he really needed a shower. So help him, if it was Jehovah's Witnesses
"Teal'c!" Jack blinked into the early morning sunlight.
"I have breakfast," Teal'c announced, holding out a large brown sack bulging with food.
"Really." Jack wondered if he was still asleep. Since when did Teal'c turn up on his doorstep with breakfast?
"May I come in, O'Neill?"
"Oh. Yeah. Sure." Jack stood to one side and gestured Teal'c in.
Teal'c headed straight for the kitchen, depositing the bag on the table and spreading its contents out with relish. "Free range eggs, bacon, tomatoes, wild mushrooms harvested from the mountain this morning "
"You went mushroom picking?"
"Yes." Teal'c barely paused in his list making. "Pancakes, maple syrup and "
"Ummm, Teal'c. I don't mean to sound ungrateful but exactly what are you doing here?"
"I am making breakfast," Teal'c replied, as straightforward as ever. He produced the final item from the bag with a flourish. "Fruit loops."
"Great," Jack said, without enthusiasm. Making breakfast his ass. If Teal'c was planning some kind of buddy-buddy, warrior-to-warrior conversation about the events on Euronda he was going to be sadly disappointed. Teal'c wasn't, however, giving away any hints of an ulterior motive as he moved around the kitchen, fetching a bowl from the pantry, milk from the refrigerator and a spoon from the cutlery drawer.
"Sit. Eat," he commanded, placing a brimming bowl of cereal on the table in front of Jack.
"You're not joining me?" Jack asked, too weary to offer any argument about his need for food at this time of the morning.
Teal'c turned a contemptuous eye on the cereal. "I do not share your human passion for sugar-rich foods despite Daniel Jackson's attempts to convince me of the nutritional value of chocolate."
Jack's appetite all but vanished at the mention of Daniel. "Did you see Carter before you left the mountain?"
"So I'm guessing she told you about her conversation with Daniel last night."
"And that's why you're here, right?"
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "I am here to cook breakfast, O'Neill. Now eat."
"Right." Jack peered at the multi-coloured cereal and then gestured towards the bathroom. "I just need to pee first."
He hurried to the bathroom and set about relieving the pressure in his bladder. His thoughts, however, were still on the unexpected presence of Teal'c in his kitchen. He knew his team-mate could be sneaky - Teal'c had, for example, quickly caught onto the nuances of the English language and his continued literal interpretation of speech was frequently an avoidance tactic. All this 'I am here to cook breakfast' nonsense simply wasn't going to wash.
His immediate physical needs dealt with, Jack headed back to the kitchen, which was now full of mouth-watering aromas. He sat obediently at the table and somewhat reluctantly scooped fruit loops into his mouth. The explosion of flavour on his tongue woke his appetite. Since his last meal had consisted of three bottles of beer and the meal before that had been a greyish slop that looked more suitable for hanging wallpaper than digesting, he wasn't that surprised.
"So " he said, speaking between mouthfuls. "Carter didn't send you over here to get me to talk?"
"To talk about what, O'Neill?"
"You know " Jack shrugged trying not to appear like a man who had lost a night's sleep tossing and turning. "Just stuff."
"Stuff." Teal'c sounded the word out as though it was new to him. "No, Major Carter did not send me here to talk about stuff." He turned back to the stove and began to pile food from the frying pan onto a plate.
Jack's eyes widened as Teal'c put the plate in front of him. Everything was cooked to perfection - the bacon was just the right degree of crispiness, the eggs were exactly the way he liked them and the aroma of the buttery mushrooms was totally distracting. He swallowed the last of his cereal, then forked up a slice of golden brown mushroom cap, put it in his mouth and sighed with pleasure. "Teal'c marry me!"
"I am already married, O'Neill," Teal'c took a seat opposite Jack and began to tuck in to his own breakfast.
Jack let that comment slide, his mind now fully occupied on filling his stomach. For several minutes the two men ate in companionable silence. When their plates were finally empty, Teal'c gathered them up and put them in the dishwasher.
Jack leaned back in his chair, patted his belly and eyed Teal'c curiously. He just knew the big guy had something else planned and he'd be damned if he was going to make it too easy for him. "So what now?"
Teal'c eyed him gravely. "Now I will return to the SGC."
"Oh." Jack hadn't been expecting that reply. "Just like that."
"Just like what?"
"You just came over and cook me breakfast and now you're going again."
"Yes. I have done what I set out to do."
"Which was?" Jack prompted, still convinced there had to be a deeper motive.
"Which was to cook breakfast."
Jack shook his head. "We both know that's not true."
Teal'c eyed him severely. "I know no such thing." He rose to his feet and slipped on his jacket and hat. "Goodbye, O'Neill."
Damnit! Jack found himself sitting alone at the kitchen table, staring into his coffee mug. For a long moment he was too stunned to react, then he scrambled to his feet and hurried to the front door. Teal'c was already reversing the car out of the driveway.
"Teal'c!" Jack shouted, suddenly conscious he was wearing nothing but a pair of blue boxers and that his elderly neighbour was eyeing him curiously from behind her fence. "Teal'c. Come back here and talk to me!"
Teal'c didn't so much as look in his direction. The car pulled to a halt on the road, a slight clunk indicated a gear change, and then Teal'c drove away.
"God damn it!" Jack muttered loudly.
"Really, Colonel O'Neill," his neighbour complained. "No matter what tiff you two boys have had, such language is hardly called for."
"My apologies, Mrs Whittleham," Jack forced the apology between gritted teeth.
She smiled approvingly. "If you have something on your mind, my dear, perhaps I could offer a listening ear?"
Jack somehow managed a polite smile. "Thank you. That's a very kind offer. Perhaps later."
He hurried back into the house, contemplating ways to exact a revenge on his recalcitrant team-mate.
The following morning Jack was again woken by the insistent ringing of his doorbell. Someone was apparently determined to ruin his plans to hide out alone at his house during SG-1's downtime. After Teal'c had left him yesterday, he'd spent a suitably morose day circling round and round the argument in his head until he was exhausted. He hadn't even checked in on Daniel, preferring to avoid speaking with anyone from the SGC. He didn't want to risk hearing unspoken accusation in the voice of a relative stranger. Besides, he knew Fraiser would contact him soon enough if Daniel's condition was anything other than satisfactory.
Carter, however, had interpreted his lack of communication to be a lack of concern and had phoned to pointedly update him on Daniel's progress. In the immediate aftermath of surgery Daniel was, as Jack had expected, spending most of his time asleep. Jack's comment that this was an activity Daniel could manage perfectly well on his own had not placated Carter, who clearly felt he was somehow neglecting his duty in not sitting by Daniel's bedside watching the archaeologist snore. Well, that was her problem, and if she was dumb enough to come over to have it out with him
"Teal'c!" Jack opened the door, unaccountably pleased to see the Jaffa while simultaneously eyeing the sports bag he was carrying with suspicion. "Breakfast?"
"No." Teal'c offered no explanation as he moved past Jack.
"Right. Well, come on in." Jack pointedly closed the door and followed Teal'c into the living room.
Teal'c deposited the sports bag on the nearest chair and unzipped it with relish. "Today we will exercise," he announced, producing a pair of boxing gloves from the bag and tossing them to Jack.
"You want to spar?" Jack asked in astonishment. "It's eight o'clock in the morning."
"Do you have other plans, O'Neill?" As Jack shook his head Teal'c's lips curled in anticipation. "Then yes, I wish to spar."
They went to Jack's basement, pushed the home gym equipment to one side and then, gloves and helmets in place, began to circle one another warily. Sparring had been the last thing on Jack's mind when he woke, but he suddenly found himself enjoying the chance to focus on something other than the fiasco of the Eurondan mission. His gaze held Teal'c's as he moved. He knew the other man's weaknesses and strengths, but that didn't make the result of a bout with him a foregone conclusion. What Teal'c had in speed and strength, Jack could make up for in agility.
Like that! Jack leaned to his right as Teal'c's left fist shot out and whistled through the space where Jack's head had been a split second before. One. Two. Jack's gloved hands contacted with Teal'c ribs, the punches pulled, but the points scored. They backed away from each other again.
Ten minutes later they were both dripping with sweat.
"Punch bag?" Jack asked, walking to the side wall and picking up a hand-held punch bag. He slid his arms through the straps and held it up. "You hit, I'll hold."
"Very well." Teal'c agreed readily enough. Their workouts frequently involved this kind of training.
Jack braced himself as Teal'c let lose a volley of punches. Holding the bag certainly wasn't an easy option when 250lbs of Jaffa was giving it hell. Soon though his mind began to wander.
"Did you see Daniel this morning?"
"I did." Teal'c emphasised each word with a punch.
Jack waited, expecting more detail. Teal'c however merely continued to hit the bag. "So how's he doing?"
"As well as can be expected."
"You know, a little more detail would be nice," Jack complained.
"For how long do you intend to avoid him, O'Neill?"
"I'm not avoiding him!" Jack hoisted the bag slightly higher and braced himself for a renewed volley.
Teal'c however straightened up and held out his hand for the bag. "Your turn."
Jack didn't argue. He waited until Teal'c had the bag braced and then let rip at it. Avoiding Daniel? Left jab. Right jab. Why would he do that? Just because Daniel had been hurt on the mission - hurt following orders Jack should've thought twice about giving. Left. Right. Left. Was that how it had happened? Quick, sharp blows to Daniel's abdomen? Sparring was one of Daniel's least favourite pastimes. He'd probably been too busy trying to talk himself out of trouble to see the fists coming. Right. Left. Right. A single blow in the right place was all it would take to damage a spleen, and judging by the bruising Daniel had, he'd suffered more than that.
"You could not have foreseen what would happen, O'Neill."
"What?" Jack's head jerked up in response to Teal'c's comment.
"Daniel Jackson was doing his job. What happened to him was not entirely your fault."
"Not entirely." Jack breathed out the implicit accusation before ducking his head down again. "I should've asked the questions," he said, pounding into the bag.
'Jack, shouldn't we ask them what they want the heavy water for?'
'I don't think so, Daniel.'
Right punch. Left punch. Focus on the bag. Yeah, focus on the job in hand just like he had on Euronda. His job was to protect Earth and the Eurondans were willing to hand him the means to do that on a plate. He didn't need to see the way Carter was salivating to realise the technology they were offering was valuable. It should've been easy.
'Carter, our standing orders - what are they?'
'To seek new allies and procure technologies to aid in the defence against the goa'uld.'
'And have we carried out those orders?'
Left punch. Right punch. Simple, right?
'You don't give a damn about what happens to them. You want their technology and you're taking advantage of the situation.'
'Yes. I am, Daniel! They're getting something they want. We're getting everything we want. And I don't have a problem with that!'
Jack swore as he laid into the bag with everything he had. He was definitely going to talk to Hammond about that Prime Directive thing. But then, sometimes the end did justify the means. Crap, if anyone knew that Jack did. He'd been on enough black ops missions. He knew about the bigger picture So Daniel was worried about the fate of the Eurondan's enemy. Well, that was all well and good, but Jack was more concerned about the billion or so people on planet Earth who were going to be pretty damned defenceless when Apophis turned up with a fleet of goa'uld motherships. What good was Daniel's morality going to do them then?
'Any more questions, Daniel?'
Daniel hadn't even flinched as he turned towards Alar. 'Yes, I'd like to know more about your enemy'
'Daniel, shut up.' Jack had made sure he asked the final question. 'Is that clear enough?'
Jack threw his entire weight behind the volley of punches. Caught off-guard, Teal'c staggered backwards, landing hard on his backside. Jack glared down at him, breathing heavily, then suddenly realised where he was and what he was doing.
"Crap!" He held out a gloved hand to help Teal'c back to his feet. "Sorry."
"There is no need to apologise." Teal'c retrieved the bag. "I should have remained on my guard."
Jack closed his eyes, Teal'c's words biting into him. He pulled in a long breath. "You know what, Teal'c. I should've done that too."
As Teal'c tilted his head in question, Jack pulled off his gloves and helmet.
"I need to see Daniel."
If there was one thing Jack would happily admit, it was that he wasn't good at doing 'that feeling stuff'. So when he arrived at the infirmary, poked his head through the doorway and spotted that Daniel looked to be sleeping he very nearly managed to use it as an excuse to hightail it to his office and pretend he'd never been there. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Fraiser spotted him before he could make good his escape.
"Colonel O'Neill!" She called his name across the infirmary. "Good to see you." Her eyebrows raised and she shot a pointed glance in Daniel's direction. "Doctor Jackson has been complaining he's bored. You're just the distraction he needs."
"Really?" Jack tried to sound casual as he slid the rest of his body around the infirmary door. The hundred-decibel level of the conversation had had the effect Janet no doubt intended. Daniel was rubbing at his eyes with one hand, the other one groping for his glasses.
"Hey." Jack sidled up to Daniel's bed feeling self-conscious. He casually slid a bag of cookies onto the bedside table. "Chocolate and walnut. I heard you liked them."
Daniel gave a brief smile. "Sam bought them for me, huh?"
"I relieved her of them on the way here," Jack admitted sheepishly. "But I would've bought them if I'd well, you know Besides the cookie shop is on her route in, whereas I'd have to go right across town and "
"You're welcome." Jack pulled up a chair and sat down, steepling his fingers. He studied Daniel for a long moment, taking in his pale features and the tell-tale tension of post-surgery pain. He knew from past experience that pain medication came usually came in the form of shots for the first day or two, but the empty paper cup sitting on the bedside table suggested Daniel had already switched to oral doses. He really hoped the archaeologist wasn't trying to play down his physical discomfort in an attempt to get an early discharge. "So "
"So " Daniel replied.
"How you doing?"
Daniel winced. "Oh, you know. I got to pee in a bottle this morning."
"Great. That's good."
Jack rubbed at the scar in his eyebrow with the knuckle of his index finger. Odd how that always itched when he was at a loss for words. He grimaced, blew out a breath, and looked at Daniel who was watching him expectantly. "So "
Daniel raised his eyebrows and sucked in his lips, the strange flinching grimace presumably meant to be one of encouragement.
Jack went for it. "Daniel, I just wanted to say about you being hurt. If what I did led up to what happened, I'm sorry."
Daniel's lips moved into to thoughtful pursing, and he nodded his head slightly.
Jack waited, expecting him to say something. The silence between them grew uncomfortable, so he babbled on hurriedly. "I should've been thinking I mean, I should've known your safety was compromised, and when I told you to go ask questions, I should've or rather, I shouldn't have told you to go, that is. At least, not on your own."
"Jack, I was just doing my job."
"Yes," Jack elongated the word. "But "
"And I don't need a babysitter."
Jack couldn't resist raising his eyebrows at that comment.
Daniel looked ruefully at the IV still taped to the back of his hand thanks to Janet's insistence on a course of antibiotics. "Okay, maybe on this occasion..."
"It wasn't exactly a good situation "
Daniel shook his head. "I should've had my guard up."
"You weren't the only one," Jack replied, shooting Daniel a sharp look. Odd, hadn't he heard that phrase already today? He dismissed the thought as irrelevant. Daniel was looking at him again, his expression thoughtful. "What?"
"Ummm " Daniel licked his lips nervously. "You know, I have a lot of questions about what happened."
Crap! Jack felt his stomach lurch. It wasn't that he didn't want to clear the air with Daniel, it was just that right at this moment he still hadn't really figured out his own culpability. Or maybe it was just that he didn't want to face it yet. Either way, the thought of a barrage of questions from Daniel was something he definitely didn't think he could handle. Guilt snapped at him. If he'd handled things differently, chances were Daniel wouldn't be lying in an infirmary bed minus a body part. The least he could do was talk to him, right?
Jack sighed inwardly, braced himself and managed to vocalise a non-committal, "Really."
"Yeah." Daniel's brow furrowed in thought. "Mind you, right now, I think there's really only one question I need an answer to."
Jack braced himself and met Daniel's gaze head on. "Okay. Shoot."
"Well " Daniel studied Jack's face for a long moment. He licked his lips, opened his mouth as though to speak, then closed it again.
"Daniel?" The anticipation of the question was just about killing Jack, and despite his best efforts he knew he was wincing.
Something indefinable flickered across Daniel's face, then his left hand reached out and snagged the bag from the bedside table. He opened it, breathed in the aroma appreciatively, then held it out to Jack. "Do you want a cookie?"
Jack blinked in surprise. "That's the question?" he asked warily.
Again the ghost of an expression raced across Daniel's features before it was shuttered away and he nodded, withdrawing the bag to pull one of the cookies out for himself. He took a large bite, leaned back on his pillows, closed his eyes and sighed with contentment. "Mmmm, chocolate," he mumbled with barely contained ecstasy.
"Daniel Jackson, you know this relationship you have with candy is downright pornographic," Jack complained, savouring the relief of being temporarily let off the hook as much as the sight of Daniel enjoying his food.
"So you don't want one then?" Daniel asked, holding the bag just out of Jack's reach.
"What kind of question is that?" Jack protested grabbing for the bag. "Of course I want one."
"Don't get cranky. I was just asking."
Jack smiled as he finally got his hands on a cookie. "Whatever you do,
Daniel, don't ever stop asking questions"
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