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Category: Episode tag, angst
Series: Number 15 in Scribe's Shower Scene Series
Season/spoilers: Chain Reaction - season 4
Warnings: Violence and nudity
Summary: After the events of Chain Reaction, someone sends Jack a message
"There's a message coming your way, Colonel O'Neill."
"Who is this?" Jack snapped into his mobile phone while unlocking his car. He was running late and the last thing he needed was hassle from some salesperson with a gimmick.
"Just look for the message, colonel."
Something about the toneless nature of the voice brought Jack up sharp, his suspicious nature suddenly aroused.
"Who is this? What message?"
The phone went dead.
Jack stared at it for a long moment, trying to make sense of the call. As it rang again he hit 'accept', snarling his name. This time, though, the voice was familiar.
"Hello, Daniel. Yes I know I'm late. Thank you so much for calling to point that out."
He clicked the phone off again and turned his attention back to his car, trying to shrug off the uneasy feeling that had just taken up residence between his shoulder blades. Instinctively his eyes did a quick sweep of the wide sidewalks and tree-lined road. Nothing looked out of place, except for his neighbour's cat, which was clearly waiting for him to leave so it could attack his trash can.
Jack sighed. He had been far too jumpy since discovering the NID's nasty little plot to rid the SGC of General Hammond. It really was time to let himself relax and enjoy the fact he'd won that particular game of chess. He climbed into his car, and within minutes the mystery call was forgotten as his thoughts turned to the imminent mission with his newly reunited team. A Babylonian culture and one overly enthusiastic archaeologist awaited him. Exactly why was it he hadn't retired?
The post-mission ritual got Sam every time. It wasn't that she particularly wanted to be 'one of the boys'. It was just the colonel, Daniel and Teal'c invariably hit the showers together, taking with them the good-natured bantering that so often went with the relief of making it home in one piece against the odds. She, on the other hand, ended up killing time while waiting for them to vacate the shower room.
Not that she wanted to shower with them, of course. Oh, no. Unlike a significant proportion of the female population at the SGC, Sam didn't spend her life ogling her team-mates or going to extraordinary lengths to 'accidentally' bump into them. In fact there were times when she saw distinctly too much of them. She secretly believed an hour or two with an early-morning, pre-caffeine, unwashed Daniel would do much to lower the pulse rates of certain individuals, particularly her new lab assistant who seemed incapable of stringing together a coherent sentence whenever Daniel was present. Of course trying to suggest that missions weren't a wondrous experience simply fell on deaf ears.
Still today she was enjoying the familiar routine. A brief taste of what it would be like to not be part of SG-1 had been more than enough for her.
As the three men headed into the shower room leaving her in the corridor in mid-sentence - again - she decided this was definitely a time for looking on the bright side of things. For a start the guys would be busy cleaning off the mud from P3X-298 for at least thirty minutes. Time she could put to very good use letting the rest of the SGC know the real reason for why the men in her team were not only covered in filthy black grime, they smelt strongly of cat litter.
Struggling to keep herself from smiling, Sam headed towards the commissary, acknowledging various co-workers as she went. The armed soldier who hurried past her, head down and face veiled by a peaked cap barely made an impression on her. There was something odd about the gun he was carrying but the detail skittered from her mind as the fragrant smell of hot food and boisterous conversation spilled from the door ahead of her.
Jack's sense of bonhomie was fading fast. His uniform was totally ruined. The olive green was barely visible beneath a layer of dried and cracked mud. And worse - the stuff seemed to have gotten into various places beneath his uniform where mud, dried or otherwise, really had no right to go. The only good thing was he could no longer smell the pungent stench of cat, although judging from the way everyone had given SG-1 a wide berth as they headed through the corridors, the smell hadn't lessened any.
As he wrestled with the zipper on his jacket, he directed his conversation at Daniel, who apparently wasn't having the same problems in removing his clothes. "You do know Carter will be telling everyone what happened?"
"I hope so," Daniel retorted, kicking his pants under the bench, and tugging his tee-shirt over his head.
"You hope so?" Jack favoured Daniel with a sour look, knowing what was coming next.
"Yes, Jack." Daniel returned Jack's look with one of his own. "I think her version of events just might be slightly less biased than yours."
"What you mean, Daniel..." Jack managed to make Daniel's name sound like something he'd just scraped off his shoe or, perhaps more aptly, off his uniform. "Is that her version won't lay the blame where it obviously belongs."
Daniel sighed and appealed to his other team-mate. "Teal'c, did I or did I not tell Jack I didn't think his idea was a good way?"
"That's not the point," Jack interrupted before Teal'c could reply. "You knew what was going to happen and you didn't stop me."
Daniel shook his head in good-natured exasperation. "Look at me, Jack. I'm covered in filth and smell like a cat's backside! How can you possibly stand there and say I didn't try to stop you."
"Don't want to hear it, Daniel." Jack finally managed to extricate himself from his boxers without losing three layers of skin or, more importantly, any vital parts of his anatomy. He snatched up his towel and shower gel and headed to the cubicles determined to get the best shower - the middle one of the three on the right of the shower room.
Once there, he cranked the water to full, hoping to drown out the indignant monologue Daniel had now launched into. No such luck. Daniel's voice followed him through the archway and took up residence in the cubicle next door, growing louder to compensate for the rush of water. Jack sighed. Great - of all the people to share the showers with he had to pick a guy who spent his formative years learning how to throw his voice by lecturing to six people sitting in the rear of an auditorium.
A third shower - this one the far cubicle in the opposite row of stalls - sprang into life. Teal'c, as usual, had slipped past as silent as a panther. Jack grimaced at the cat analogy - the shower water was bringing the dry mud back to life and with it the over-powering stench of... what the hell was that anyway? Civet?
He poured himself a generous portion of gel, sniffing appreciatively at the earthy aroma of sandalwood and musk, and began to work it into the mud-stiffened mat that currently passed for his hair. Despite the monologue from next door, the distinctive squeal of the locker-room door opening reached his ears.
"Carter, if that's you we're not done yet!"
The door clicked shut and Jack smiled to himself as he began to wash the worst of the mud from his body. This was one shower he was going to enjoy. After all, Carter had somehow managed to avoid the mud. She could damn well wait.
"So... despite your inability to score one over Caled, I really think we ought to consider going back."
Daniel's monologue stopped - first because he needed to draw breath and second because he was rinsing the disgusting filth from his hair and really didn't want to get a mouthful as it cascaded down his face.
Finally satisfied he was clean - well, above the neck any - Daniel pushed his hair back from his forehead and reached for another helping of his mint and tea tree shower gel. The muscles between his shoulder blades quivered - the unmistakable feeling that he was being watched suddenly over-powering. Relaxed and in a good-humour despite Jack's taunting, Daniel turned, a snarky comment about Jack's voyeuristic tendencies on the tip of his tongue.
Oh God! His eyes widened in panic at the sight of a masked man aiming a double-barrelled gun at his chest. His mouth opened to shout an alarm, but all that came out was a grunt of pain as something slammed into his solar plexus. He staggered back as the air cracked with a second shot and something hard smashed into his ribs just below his heart, driving his breath from him as cold tiles slammed against his naked back. Agonising pain flared as a third impact drove into his vulnerable flesh. Red - vivid, scarlet red - coloured his vision as his knees gave way and he slid inelegantly down the wall.
Jack hit the ground with the sound of the first gun shot, his instincts honed by years of playing reluctant target. The acrid smell of weapons fire penetrated the mixed aromas of sandalwood, mint and lemon as two more shots sounded in rapid succession. He counted to five before he risked sticking his head far enough out the cubicle to see what was going on. There was a blur of khaki as a hooded figure disappeared through the archway joining the cubicles to the changing area.
"Daniel! Teal'c! Everyone okay?" A forward roll carried him across the open space between the rows of showers and into the cubicle opposite.
"I am unhurt." Teal'c's head appeared around the adjoining wall. Almost immediately he stepped out of the cubicle and headed for the archway, clearly intent on giving pursuit. Jack's gaze swept over the naked, and obviously uninjured, Jaffa.
From the archway, Teal'c gave the all-clear sign and then headed out into communal area. Jack was on his feet in an instant.
"Daniel?!" He took two strides and pulled up short, his stomach doing a crazy flip-flop as he caught sight of the archaeologist.
Daniel was slumped in the corner of the shower cubicle, his right fist clutched to his chest. Globs of dark red fluid were splattered across his pale skin. As Jack called his name, his head jerked up - eyes wide, his breath coming in short pain-filled gasps.
Jack stared at him in horror, his military mind already assessing the damage. Three bullets, all to the chest. Nobody survived three bullets to the chest fired at point blank range. He swung away, denying his own thoughts. "Teal'c! Daniel's down. Get Fraiser! Now! And put the base on alert. I want that bastard..."
Daniel's voice drew his attention back. "Jack..."
"Take it easy, Daniel. You're going to be fine. You hear me!" The lie fell from Jack's lips with practised ease, while his mind recoiled at the truth.
Oh God, there was so much blood, swirling in gory pools towards the drain. Why? Why would anybody gun Daniel down in such a cold-blooded and callous way? Focus - he had to focus. Got to stop the bleeding.
Angrily Jack swiped at the soap suds that were running down his face, obscuring his vision. Towels. He needed towels.
Spinning round he saw the one Daniel had brought in hanging over the cubicle door. He snatched it, then sank to his knees by Daniel's side.
"Okay, big guy. Let me take a look." Carefully he reached out and folded his hand around Daniel's fist, then gently eased the clenched fingers away from Daniel's body.
A strange scent assaulted his nose - pungent, chemical. Jack blinked as he stared at Daniel's chest. Three gun shots. He'd heard three gun shots. This couldn't be...
He lifted his blood-stained fingers to his nose and sniffed. What the hell?
Paint! It was paint. Scarcely daring to believe his own eyes, Jack reached out and swiped away the crimson gore that covered Daniel chest. Daniel groaned at his touch, but sure enough, beneath the 'blood' Daniel's chest was as whole as his own. Jack rocked back on his heels, stunned.
"Daniel, you haven't shot."
"W...what...?" Daniel turned pain-filled blue eyes towards him.
Jack swallowed, still trying to comprehend what had happened. "You haven't been shot - well not with live ammunition anyway." He held his fingers up in front of Daniel's face. "It's paint. You've been shot with goddamn paintballs." As relief surged through him, his temper flared. "What kind of fucking joker..."
"Not shot?" Daniel stared down at his chest, his expression disbelieving. Slowly he pressed the palm of his hand against his sternum, letting out a grunt of pain. "Hurts like hell."
"Would do," Jack replied, his mind still whirling as military information spilled from his lips. "Point blank range. Gun may have been rigged for high velocity. You'll have some pretty stunning bruises. May even have cracked a rib."
"Not shot." A semi-hysterical laugh escaped Daniel's lips. He held his hand up, peering at the fake blood in disbelief. Abruptly what little colour was in his face drained away. His hand dropped listlessly to his side. "Think I'm going to be..."
Jack winced as Daniel rolled to his right and threw up. Not knowing how else to help, he wrapped the towel around Daniel's shoulders and waited it out. When Daniel finally straightened up again, groaning loudly, he gently laid one hand against the younger man's cheek. As he suspected, Daniel's skin was cold, the nausea-induced sweat chilling him.
"Let's get you out of here, huh? Get you somewhere warm and dry." He climbed to his feet and held out a hand to Daniel. The archaeologist stared at it uncomprehending. Jack shook his head sympathetically. Time for a more direct approach apparently.
"Okay, Daniel, time to move."
He bent his knees, slid one arm under Daniel's armpits and hauled him to his feet. Another towel, this one snagged from his own cubicle, joined the other one around Daniel's shoulders as they made their way to the communal changing area. Once there, Jack somehow managed to get Daniel seated and then set to work briskly drying the water from his shoulders, back and arms. Anger swelled at the sight of three rapidly forming bruises centred neatly around Daniel's heart and he set to towelling Daniel's hair so vigorously Daniel gave a yelp of protest.
The door into the corridor burst open and Jack spun round only to see, with relief, it was Janet and her team. With quick concise sentences, the anger still barely contained, he filled her in on the details.
Janet nodded briskly and quickly took charge of Daniel, her voice low and calm as she questioned him and checked him over. He swore as she carefully pressed the swollen, angry red skin where the paintballs had impacted.
"Do you think you can walk?" she finally asked. "I'd like to get a chest X-ray as soon as possible."
Daniel nodded and began to climb to his feet while Janet dismissed her team and the awaiting gurney. As he took two steps towards the door, his right arm wrapped protectively across his bruised chest, Janet shot Jack a look of barely restrained amusement. "Errr... Doctor Jackson..." He hesitated, turning his head to look back at her. "We have time for you to put some clothes on."
Colour crept back into Daniel's ashen face. "R...right. Good idea."
Janet smiled and headed towards Daniel's open locker, retrieving some clean underwear before turning towards Jack. "I don't see what you find so amusing, colonel."
"What? Oh... crap!" Jack suddenly realised he'd been displaying everything to the medical team for the past few minutes. Running his hand through his partially washed hair, he considered diving back into the shower, but instantly rejected the thought in favour of leading the manhunt. His decision must've shown on his face because Daniel almost immediately waved towards the door.
"Go, Jack. I'll be fine."
Before Jack could respond, the locker room door opened again and Teal'c hurried into the room, his face even more sombre than usual.
"O'Neill. I failed to apprehend Daniel Jackson's attacker." His gaze fell on Daniel, surprise registering at the sight of the archaeologist. "Daniel Jackson?! Are you not shot?"
Daniel straightened up, his underwear finally in place. He pulled a pained face. "Apparently not. But I feel like I've been kicked in the chest by mastage."
"Paint balls." Jack spat the word in response to Teal'c's unspoken question. He threw some underwear in his direction, wondering whether Hammond's report on the incident would mention a naked Jaffa had been seen rampaging through the base following the attack. "Is the base locked down?"
"It is." Teal'c pulled on the boxers, his eyes not moving from Daniel. "If this was an example of Tau'ri humour, it was not funny."
"You're telling me," Daniel complained as he struggled into his pants.
Jack zipped up his own pants and snatched a clean shirt from his locker. He glanced over at Daniel. "You sure you're going to be okay?"
Janet beat Daniel to the reply. "He's going to be fine, colonel."
Daniel shrugged, his expression long-suffering. "I'm going to be fine," he repeated wearily as he allowed Janet to guide him towards the door.
That Daniel hadn't protested a visit to the infirmary told Jack all too clearly just how much pain he was in. Damn it! He felt his temper rise again.
"Teal'c. You ready?" Teal'c inclined his head and Jack nodded in acknowledgement. "Let's find the bastard."
Nobody. They found nobody. Whoever had attacked Daniel had somehow managed to disappear from the SGC like a shadow. Or worse, they'd disappeared inside the SGC. Jack had pored over the security tapes and gate logs, and as far as he could tell no unauthorised personnel had entered or left the SGC. The security camera outside the locker room had recorded a uniformed, hooded figure of a size and build that could be any one of a hundred or more members of personnel. None of the other cameras had picked up anything of use - again the corridors were so busy the attacker could've been just about anyone.
Angrily Jack pulled onto his driveway and turned off his car's engine. Frustrated almost to exploding point he blew out a long breath, trying not to think about Daniel wired up to cardiac monitor in the infirmary. Fraiser had promised him it was just a precaution, that the chest X-ray had been clear and besides, she'd dosed Daniel with enough heavy-duty painkillers to not want to let him out of her sight.
The latter was just as well because Daniel had been seething at Jack's suggestion he should go off world for a while.
"I want you safe, Daniel!"
"Safe from what? From whom?"
"I don't know! And right now I don't care."
Daniel had made an irritated sound. "Well that's logical!"
"Since when has logic had anything to do with."
"Since I got shot in the shower by an idiot with a paint gun!"
They'd stared at each other, knowing the conversation made no sense, but neither of them wanting to admit the truth that the incident had scared the shit out of them both for different reasons. Fortunately that was the point at which Janet had intervened by stabbing Daniel in the thigh with a hypodermic full of painkillers. Daniel had had the last word though, pinning Jack with a belligerent stare and telling him no way was he going into hiding.
"I haven't hidden from the boogie man since I was four years old, Jack. I sure as hell don't intend to start over now!"
The shrill ring of his mobile jerked Jack from his dark thoughts.
"Did you get the message, colonel?"
Jack felt a shiver down his back at the malevolence in the voice on the other end of the line. "Who the hell is this?"
The caller ignored the question. "Perhaps I should spell it out for you. Listen carefully. You have information, colonel. You and your friend Harry. If that information *ever* comes to light the next message will be of a more *permanent* nature. Do you understand?"
Memory flashed into Jack's mind like a searing heat. 'I'll have Jackson removed from the programme permanently.'
"You bastard! One of these days..."
"I see you do."
The line went dead.
Jack stared at the phone for a long moment. Further up the driveway the neighbour's cat stretched leisurely on top of the trash can, then jumped elegantly to the ground before stalking away. Slowly and with great restraint Jack got out of his car, walked to the trash can and then gave vent to his frustration.
It was a good five minutes before he gave up beating the crap out of the metal can. Breathing heavily he headed into his house. It was dark and cool inside, and as he turned on the lights, his gaze fell on his chessboard. The pieces were still in position from the previous game, one in which he had actually beaten Daniel. The white king sat alone and isolated in one corner, two black rooks and a knight having created an inescapable trap.
As he walked past, heading for the kitchen and a long, cold beer Jack's index finger brushed against the white crown and the piece tumbled over and rolled off the table, clattering against the wooden floor as it bounced once, twice, three times before coming to rest.
"Checkmate," Jack whispered softly.
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