To absent friends
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Category: Episode tag, h/cSeries: Number six in Scribe's Shower Scene Series
Season/spoilers: Season 4 - The First Ones
Summary: How does Daniel cope with the news of Robert Rothman's death?
"Did you know he had a wife?" Sick and tired of trailing five yards behind O'Neill, Daniel threw the words at Jack's back with more vehemence than was necessary.
Jack pulled to an abrupt halt and turned to look at him. "A wife?"
"That surprises you, huh?" Daniel couldn't keep his sour mood out of his voice as he drew level with the colonel.
"Well, it's just that..." Jack hesitated.
As Daniel raised his eyebrows in irritation at Jack's response, he couldn't help but notice how exhausted his team-mate looked. A grey pallor marred the older man's lean face, and dark shadows were smeared beneath lifeless brown eyes. Ordinarily Jack's appearance would have sparked concern in Daniel. Right now, though, after two days of being held captive by an adolescent Unas, bruises and grazes in more places than he really cared to think about, not to mention this interminable slog back to the Stargate in clothes that had dried to a cardboard-like stiffness, Daniel had reached the point where he wasn't sure he gave a damn about how Jack felt.
His own weariness washed over him as he watched Jack clearly trying to change his perception of Robert Rothman, and he felt his irritation notch up a whole degree. Jack had shot Robert. The refrain had been dancing through his head ever since Jack's confession. Jack had shot Robert. He still couldn't believe it, certainly didn't want to think about it, just wanted to get back to the Stargate and then to the sanctuary of his apartment. So why the hell had he just brought up the subject of Robert's wife?
Jack frowned and pursed his lips before starting to repeat himself. "Well it's just that... well, Rothman himself said he didn't really get on with people."
Daniel tensed at the words. If he hadn't been so damn tired he would have treated Jack to a personal impression of a pissed off Unas. Of course there was the more pertinent issue of Teal'c holding a zat gun at the ready. Despite Daniel's reassurances that he hadn't been infected by a goa'uld, that in fact the Unas had saved him from exactly that fate, Teal'c had made a point of keeping him within zatting range and Daniel was under no illusions the Jaffa would hesitate to use it. He did after all have the unpleasant memory of previously being on the receiving end of a Teal'c zat. No, physically jumping all over Jack was definitely not a good idea, tired or not.
Still, the snarl in his voice as he responded to Jack came pretty close to a Unas impression and felt pretty damn satisfying. "You may have thought he wasn't worth passing the time of day with, but back there... " Daniel waved one hand in the general direction of the Stargate. "...Robert has people who care about him."
"I didn't say he hadn't," Jack replied with more than a hint of annoyance. "Didn't mean to suggest..." He blew out a breath. "A wife? I just never thought..."
Daniel cut him off with a downward slash of his hand, wincing as the action jarred sore muscles along his shoulder and down his back. The pain merely inflamed his anger further.
"You know what, Jack? That's the problem. You never think." Blue eyes blazed from a face darkened by dust, grime and blood. "You just take one quick look and then shove people into your neat, tidy categories. Robert Rothman. Geeky scientist. Score zero for interest."
Emotional hurt raced across Jack's features and for the briefest of moments Daniel knew he was being unreasonable, that it wasn't Jack's fault Robert had swallowed a goddamn goa'uld and come a hair-breadth from gunning down the team. Almost immediately though he stamped down on any semblance of compassion. Robert was dead, and right now, he didn't want to be logical, didn't want to be understanding. He wanted to jump up and down and scream and rage at how damned unfair it all was, and...
"No!" He cut Jack off again. "Did you ever - just once - take the time to get to know Robert?"
The weariness and hurt in Jack's eyes suddenly flashed into anger, and Daniel realised too late he wasn't the only one who needed to rant. A pained gasp escaped him as he found himself nose to nose with Jack, an index finger poking him hard in the chest, much too hard for comfort.
"Do you think I enjoyed shooting him, Daniel?"
Daniel involuntarily retreated a step as Jack's finger drilled into his sternum, setting off a whole new set of pain messages from abused nerve endings. Out of the corner of one eye he could see Sam moving in to intervene, her face distressed.
Jack's voice was overly loud, the anger raw and hard. "Do you?!"
Daniel took another step, still trying to escape. He felt something catch at his heel, stumbled back, and then totally lost his balance as Jack's finger jabbed into him again. Arms flailing, he hit the ground hard, a grunt of pain escaping his lips as the tender skin on his back screeched in protest at the impact.
For a moment, Jack towered over him, his face livid. Then abruptly his anger vanished, replaced almost instantly by guilt. "Oh shit!" He held out a hand. "Sorry."
Still lying on his back, conscious he had just added to his catalogue of bruises, Daniel stared at the hand for a long moment. Jack shot Robert. Those fingers had curled around the trigger of an MP-5 and gunned down Robert Rothman.
Jack thrust his hand closer, impatience creeping into his voice. "Don't make me beg."
Sam was hovering behind the colonel now, her eyes wide with appeal, silently pleading with Daniel to acquiesce. Reluctantly he held out his right hand, only to hiss in pain as Jack grasped him around the wrist and pulled him to his feet.
"Shit, Jack!" Daniel hopped up and down, waving his arm in the air. "Rope burn."
"Oh God." Colour flushed Jack's face. "I wasn't..."
"Thinking?" Daniel snapped, tucking his hand under his armpit as he scorched Jack with a glare.
He ducked his head and pushed his way past Jack, determined not to allow the other man an opportunity to apologise. Sam's hand caught his arm as he passed, but he irritably wheeled away, shrugging her off and ignoring the softly spoken appeal as she spoke his name.
Two down, one to go. Striding in the direction of the 'gate as quickly as he could manage, he stormed past Teal'c.
"If you're going to zat me, just get on with it."
Teal'c returned his hot gaze with coolness. "Zatting you would serve no purpose, Daniel Jackson. Should an opportunity arise I would, however, be happy to bang your head together with that of O'Neill."
Daniel almost stopped in his tracks, surprised by the un-Teal'c-like terminology. Bang their heads together? That family sitcom Teal'c had recently taken to watching must be rubbing off on him.
The Jaffa had chosen his words well, though. Daniel gave a rueful grimace as it occurred to him that, yes, he was acting like a bad-tempered teenager who needed a sharp clip round the ear to bring him to his senses. He shook his head wearily. He didn't have the energy to do anything about it right now. Hell, he didn't even want to think anymore. He just wanted to get home. Ducking his head back down he concentrated on placing one foot in front of the other, shutting out everything but the thought of reaching the Stargate as quickly as his abused body would allow.
Trouble was clearly brewing behind the curtain in the infirmary. Jack had already been given the all-clear on his post-mission exam and now he was lurking as unobtrusively as possible in the hope he could round up Daniel and do a bit of fence-mending. Not that he felt he needed to do all the work on this one. Daniel had been way out of line with his comments.
Right now, though, Fraiser was checking Daniel over. Jack had been hoping the exam would be a routine confirmation of what Daniel had been protesting loud and clear ever since he walked in the door. Namely that he was fine apart from a few scrapes, bruises and a matching set of ugly-looking rope burns. That hope was now fading. Janet had already subjected Daniel to one MRI just to be sure he hadn't picked up any unwanted visitors while swimming. From the snippets of conversation escaping through the cotton drapes, Jack was getting the distinct impression she was just one step short of running a second MRI to make sure it was shock and fatigue that was responsible for Daniel's current belligerence and not the blow to the head he'd received when the Unas snatched him.
With a sudden swish of material, Jack found himself directly in Janet's line of sight. Uh-oh, from the expression on her fact this was definitely not the place to be.
"Colonel O'Neill!" Her voice was strident as it carried across the infirmary. "Perhaps you can talk some sense into Doctor Jackson."
Jack winced and sidled over to the bed. He was greeted by a very sullen look from Daniel, who was sitting bare-chested on the exam bed, his arms folded defensively across his body.
"There a problem here?" he asked, hoping he sounded more casual than he felt with two pairs of eyes boring into him.
"Doctor Fraiser..." Daniel managed to make her name sound like something he'd prefer to scrape off the bottom of his shoe. "...is refusing to discharge me."
"Doctor Jackson," Fraiser retaliated with equal disgust. "Requires rest, fluids and food with a positive nutritional value. Plus, I insist on twenty-four hours observation."
Rest, fluids and food - that sounded okay. As far as Jack was concerned Daniel could easily find all three outside the infirmary. Like at his house, where he might also get a chance to ease the tension that had sprung up between the two of them. "Janet..."
He barely managed to get her name out before she cut him off.
"No, Colonel. That scratch on Daniel's face was made by a Unas. I have no way of telling what infection may have entered his blood stream as a result of it. Not to mention the fact he went swimming in some primordial soup. Twenty-four hours. I insist."
Oh. Okay, that was a different story. The last thing Jack wanted was for Daniel's ordeal to be compounded by some nasty bug wreaking havoc in his body. He re-directed his attention, but this time he didn't even get as far as a name.
Daniel's jaw was set at a determined angle, blue eyes flashing dangerously. "Somebody has to break the news to Robert's wife." He tilted his head to one side and raised his eyebrows, pinning Jack with a look that somehow managed to be accusing, demanding and pleading all at once. "Since I'm the nearest thing Robert had to a friend in this place, I should be the one to tell her. I need to go. Now!"
"Daniel," Jack began, ignoring the pointed dig about Rothman's lack of friends. "You're in no fit state..."
The angle of Daniel's jaw raised ominously. "This isn't about me, Jack. This is about a woman whose husband has been shot and killed. She shouldn't hear about it from some stranger in a military uniform."
Jack winced at the harshness of Daniel's words. "Look, I understand how you feel. And I agree with you," he said quickly. "But... Janet's right. About the risk of infection and about you needing to rest."
"I don't need to rest!" Daniel snapped.
Across the bed, Janet gave Jack a pointed look. Yeah, yeah. He got the picture. Daniel's emotional state was telegraphing his need for sleep loud and clear.
"Twenty-four hours, Daniel," he said, softly. "Just to be on the safe side. Then you can go and see Rothman's wife."
"Widow," Daniel corrected sourly. "Robert's widow."
Exasperated, a sharp retort escaped Jack. "Rothman wasn't the only one killed out there, Daniel. For your information, Hawkins had a wife and two teenage sons. And Loder's girlfriend isn't going to be exactly thrilled with the news."
His words didn't have the effect he had been hoping for. Instead of appearing abashed, Daniel simply turned an angry look at him.
"I'm sure the military will take care of their own."
That did it. Jack felt his temper flare. Daniel may have had a rough time being dragged around on the end of a tether by a Unas and very nearly offered up as dish of the day, but it hadn't exactly been a ball trying to rescue him. A little gratitude would have been nice. But no! Apparently all Daniel was willing to serve up was some out-moded crap about the civilian-military divide. So much for fence building.
"Twenty-four hours, Daniel. You move your butt out of that bed before then, and I'll kick it so damn hard you won't be able to sit down for a month." Daniel opened his mouth, but Jack didn't give him a chance to speak. "Janet, if he's difficult, sedate him." From the fish impression Daniel was now doing he was apparently still determined to have the last word. Jack was damned if he was going to let him. "And if he's still difficult, use restraints!"
With that, Jack stalked out of the infirmary.
Use restraints?! Daniel glared at the disappearing back of Jack O'Neill. As the infirmary door swung shut he turned his gaze on Janet. "Well..." he said, his tone scathing. "That was unnecessary."
In response, Janet merely raised her eyebrows. "So I take it you are going to co-operate?"
"Do I have a choice?" Daniel asked belligerently.
"As you like to remind us, Doctor Jackson, you're a civilian. You can walk out of here anytime you like."
Daniel held her gaze for a moment, realising from her icy tone he hadn't just managed to tick off Jack. He could almost hear Janet's unspoken thought that he needn't bother coming back if he did. The idea sobered him, but he still wasn't ready to be apologetic. He ran his right hand through his hair and grimaced at the dirt and grime. His request came out as a terse snarl. "Can I at least take a shower?"
Janet's brown eyes regarded him coolly. Daniel pulled in a breath and reined in his temper. Okay, he learnt a few military principles hanging out with Jack, and one was there were times to stand and fight and times to retreat so you could fight another day. Right now scenario two was definitely looking like the best course of action. He adopted what he hoped was a contrite look and rephrased his question, carefully schooling the irritation out of his tone. "Please may I take a shower?"
The sham worked. Janet's icy demeanour thawed a degree. "You know where the towels are." She moved to the end of his bed, scribbled something on his chart and then looked up at him. "Don't think batting your eyelashes is the way to get round me, Doctor Jackson. The only reason you are not on the receiving of a sponge bath is that I appreciate you're upset about Robert. Is that clear?"
Daniel's sense of triumph vanished. He winced at her tone, feeling like a kid caught with his hand in the candy jar. "Yes, doctor."
He tried a shy smile and earned himself a look from Janet that easily translated as, 'Do you really think I'm going to fall for that?'.
Her voice drilled into him as neatly as Jack's finger had back on the planet. "Bring this truculent attitude into my infirmary again and I won't be so lenient."
"I understand." Realising he really had lost this particular engagement, he clamped down on the urge to offer his opinion on the infirmary's hospitality.
"I'm glad to hear it." Janet set the chart back in place and fixed him with a firm look. "Fifteen minutes in the shower, not a minute longer."
God! Did she think he was a child? Daniel forced himself to smile sweetly. "Fifteen minutes. Thank you, doctor."
He was on his feet and heading for the shower before she could get in any more volleys.
Use restraints? Jack was mortified at his own words. The image of Daniel's rope-burned wrists floated in his mind, clear evidence of the nightmare time the archaeologist had experienced as a prize catch for a teenage monster who didn't have the option of joy-riding in the neighbours' cars to prove his virility.
As he reached his office Jack slumped into his chair. Good one, O'Neill. Daniel's exhausted, shocked and grieving and you stomp all over him with your size nines and make wise cracks about having him restrained.
He sighed and ran a weary hand through his hair. Perhaps Daniel was right. He really didn't think before he opened his mouth.
So now what? Okay, point one. Daniel was under the impression he didn't value Robert Rothman in any way. Okay, so Daniel had a point in that he hadn't gone out of his way to make friends with the guy. Rothman was a scientist, for crying out loud. But that didn't mean he didn't value him as a person. And it sure as hell didn't mean he wouldn't be waking up in a cold sweat in future nights, seeing Rothman's eyes glaze over as the bullets did their savage work.
Point two. He'd let his own tiredness and stress do a pretty good job of giving Daniel the impression he didn't care much about him either. Okay so Daniel had been pushing things, but he understood why. The guy had been through a hell of a lot over recent months, never mind this little escapade with the Unas, which was enough on its own to drive any one with less strength of character than Daniel head first into a nervous breakdown. Of course Daniel, with his bizarre archaeological brain, had seemed to think the whole Unas affair was a gift from heaven, a unique opportunity to spend time up, close and personal with a primitive lifeform, but it didn't alter the fact he must've been scared out of his skin for hours and then his rescue was accompanied by the news of Rothman's death. Robert Rothman, the guy Daniel had personally recruited to the SGC, taken personal responsibility for, and was now, no doubt, feeling as guilty as hell about losing. Shit. Shit. Shit.
Jack sighed. He needed a plan, someway to put right what had gone wrong. He almost laughed out loud at his own thoughts. Right. That was easy. All he needed to do was rewind time and stop Daniel, Rothman and SG-11 going to that goddamn planet.
Okay, so he couldn't put those things right. But there was still scope for damage limitation.
As the door of the shower room closed behind him, Daniel gave a sigh of relief. Fighting with Jack was one thing, getting on the wrong side of Janet Fraiser was an entirely different ballgame. Glad to still be in one piece, he stepped into the nearest of the two infirmary shower cubicles and stripped off his boxers, the only item of clothing he was wearing. The uniform he'd worn on his return from P3X-888 was probably little more than a pile of ash now. One of the nurses had taken an unusual delight in bagging it for incineration although Daniel hadn't quite figured out why.
A powerful jet of water exploded into the cubicle as he cranked the tap to full, testing the temperature with his left hand until it reached a suitable temperature. He hissed slightly as the hot water stung the raw skin around his wrist, but moments later any discomfit was forgotten as he stepped under the full flow and felt it begin to wash away the layer of sweat and dirt that had clung so tenaciously to his skin.
In his hurry to escape Janet, Daniel hadn't stopped to think about soap. Fortunately the infirmary showers were fitted with dispensers, but as he helped himself to a generous handful of the all-in-one body wash, shampoo and conditioner, he wrinkled his nose in disgust at its antiseptic smell. Still, it was better than the sour, earthy aroma of Unas that seemed to have leeched into every single pore, not to mention the metallic stench of the goa'uld blood his new friend had seen fit to daub all over his face.
He set to with vigour, working up a rich lather as he massaged the soap into his aching body, wincing now again as the antiseptic did its work on the numerous scrapes and grazes that decorated his back, knees and elbows. He took a second helping of gel and worked it into his hair, his long fingers loosening the matted grime that had found a way beneath his bandanna during his ill-advised swim. He should really have stayed out...
A sudden memory snatched him. God, what was that in the water? It was coming towards him, sending fingers of fear skittering up his spine as it carved a sinuous path through the murky water. Snake?! Turn. Run. No - the Unas. There, waiting on the bank for him. He was trapped. Turn back, flee! God, it was still coming at him. Got to get out of the water. Clothes so heavy... stumbling, struggling, hands bound and useless... No!
Daniel ducked his head and squeezed his eyes shut as the goa'uld launched itself from the lake and flew towards him, squealing its triumph at finding a host. A strangled cry ripped from his throat. No! God, no! It was going to get him, consume him, possess him... His hands flew up, warding it off as he stumbled backwards only to find his retreat blocked by something cold and hard that slammed into his back, knocking the breath from him.
What the hell?
His eyes flew open in panic and focused on... hot water gushing from a showerhead? He blinked slowly, his breathing coming in ragged gasps, his hands held up in front of him as though still bound. Fighting with the desire to run, he cautiously lowered them and turned his head to find the cold against his back was a tiled wall. He was in the shower - in the infirmary. He was safe!
Daniel sucked in a breath and swallowed hard, nausea rising in his throat. Slowly he turned his back to the flow of water and leaned his forehead against the smooth white surface, reassured by its solid reality.
God. A flashback. He'd had them after other missions, but he hadn't crossed his mind that he might suffer after this one. He pressed his forehead harder against the wall and drew in another long breath, aware he was trembling. His arms folded around his chest as he felt suddenly cold despite the steam and the warm water splashing against his legs. Oh shit! He'd thought he was coping well, but here was brutal evidence he was in fact far more stressed than he believed.
Okay, Daniel. Get a grip! With effort he straightened up and stepped back under the full flow of the shower letting its powerful spray drive the soapy filth from his skin and the tension from his shoulders and back. He needed to think about something other than the Unas and the goa'uld and living on his nerves...
The scummy soap circled around his feet before spiralling down the drain, bringing back a different memory, not any less painful but a whole lot safer.
It was still early, but the sun was already beating down on the camp. He'd met up with Robert at the makeshift bathroom - a table with a couple of plastic bowls and a cracked mirror. Rothman had already been on site for three weeks and was looking forward to heading back to civilisation for a long weekend break.
"You know what I really miss?" Robert asked as he squeezed toothpaste onto his brush.
"Um... other than your wife, you mean?" Daniel countered as he tried to get the soap to lather in the cold water. He didn't know why he did this every morning. The water clearly wasn't going to allow him to ever wash properly. What he really want was a decent...
"Showers," Robert had replied emphatically, as though reading Daniel's mind. "Unlimited supplies of hot water, soap that lathers properly, and ..." He turned his head and grinned at Daniel. "My wife."
The comment had surprised Daniel. It was rare for Robert to talk about anything other than work. Jack had been right. Robert hadn't been good with people. He didn't see the point of small talk, wasn't interested in the details of other people's lives, and thought an hour spent watching sport was an hour wasted. Mind you, Daniel was inclined to agree with him on the last point. Usually, though, Robert never talked about himself, rarely let anyone into his private life.
Daniel had been invited to Robert's wedding, though. That was where he'd met Delia, the high school teacher who had somehow managed to carve herself out a place in Robert's life and who loved him for who he was. Until then, Robert had always been perfectly happy with his own company, and not through some self-defence mechanism whereby he pretended he was happy on his own. No, the truth was, with the exception of Delia, Robert had much preferred fossils to living beings.
If Daniel was being really honest with himself, while he would still call Robert a friend, he had to admit it was a different kind of friendship. Perhaps one many others wouldn't understand, wouldn't even given such a label too. He could imagine what the other SGC archaeologists would say about Robert - that he was a valued colleague, someone with whom they could enjoy a spirited intellectual debate. But a friend? No.
Perhaps he was fooling himself using the term. After all, his relationship with Robert didn't come anywhere close to the kind of friendship he had with Jack. It lacked that spark, that bond, whatever it was that somehow made Jack O'Neill so important in his life despite, at times, being one of the most irritating people on the face of the earth.
The thought of Jack bought a rush of guilt. The angry words he'd spitefully used to offload his own hurt played back in mind. How could he have accused Jack of not bothering to get to know Robert, knowing that it cut both ways? Robert had never tried to get to know anyone, either at the SGC or at the university. Worse, Robert's opinion of Jack O'Neill was something Daniel would only have repeated under pain of death.
Jack had shot Robert. The phrase bounced into his thoughts again, but Daniel's anger had somehow been washed away with the smell and the grime of the P3X-888. Oh, God. What had he done? Given Jack a hard time over it, when it was clear the colonel already felt bad enough about what he had been forced to do. Daniel felt sick again, but this time for knowing he'd taken out his rage with the goa'uld for making Robert yet another casualty and his frustration at having been the one who introduced Robert to the SGC, on the nearest and easiest target - Jack. Shit. Shit. Shit.
He reached out and turned off the water. Drying himself hurriedly, he wrapped the towel around his hips and headed back into the infirmary. To his dismay, Janet was nowhere to be seen. Not knowing what else to do, Daniel scribbled her a quick note. After all, he if informed her of his plans, then it wouldn't really count as going AWOL, would it? Having metaphorically covered his backside, it occurred to him it would be wise to do so physically too. Since his uniform had no doubt gone up in a puff of smoke by now, he snatched a pair of medical scrubs from the nearest closet, quickly dressed and then headed out the door.
They met in the corridor.
"Was just coming..."
They started the sentence together and both pulled to a halt on the same word. Daniel pinched at the bridge of his nose, eyebrows raised in confusion as Jack stared at him.
"You first?" he suggested, his tone hopeful.
Jack frowned. "Exactly what was it you didn't understand about staying in the infirmary?"
Daniel licked his lips. "I... ummm... needed to see you."
Ahhh? Daniel peered at Jack trying to decipher some clue as to exactly which 'ahhh' that was. He raised his eyebrows again, this time in question. "You said you were...?"
"Yes. Yes, I was. Only you were..."
A pair of female security officers turned into the corridor. Daniel felt himself colour as they approached, clearly enjoying the sight of him still damp from the shower and dressed in scrubs.
"Jack, could we... maybe..."
"Mine is nearer."
Jack shook his head in bemusement as he looked at Daniel. For a guy who was the wrong side of thirty-five, he could sometimes manage to do a passable impression of a teenager. Despite the fact there was a perfectly usable chair in front of him, Daniel had, for some reason, perched himself on the edge of his desk. Dressed in overly large scrubs, his damp hair sticking up in spikes, and studying his bare toes as though there was nothing more interesting in the world, he was definitely going all out for the 'don't be mad at me' line of body language.
"So..." Jack began, causing Daniel to jerk his head up and peer at him as though he had suddenly arrived in the office, instead of having just taken part in the awkward 'shall we have coffee, oh I'm all out, must go shopping, just how much time can we waste not talking about anything important?' discussion. "I... err.. spoke to General Hammond."
Whatever reserves of energy, anger-induced adrenaline and sheer bloody-mindedness Daniel had been running on, the tank had obviously just hit empty. He blinked slowly, and looked at Jack with a blank expression.
"Short guy, bald head, more stars than anyone else on the base," Jack couldn't resist the tease, despite being somewhat concerned at the effort it was costing Daniel to follow, or rather not follow, the conversation. "And he said it was fine..."
"Fine?" Daniel echoed, before Jack could finish his sentence.
"Yes. Fine for you to go see Delia Rothman." Jack had secretly been hoping for a show of gratitude. He didn't get one.
Daniel frowned, pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head as though trying to clear water from his ears. When he looked back at Jack, he'd somehow managed to push the fatigue away again. "I'm sorry, but... why did you go to see Hammond about it?"
Jack picked up a piece of broken pot from Daniel's desk and began to toss it casually up and down.
"Well I figured... seeing how you were so determined... somebody had better convince Hammond to make your visit official." Jack glanced at Daniel, caught sight of his pained expression, and hurriedly put the pot shard down. "You did know it had to be done through official channels, right? That just taking off to see Delia Rothman could've landed you in hot water?"
"Actually, I never really... thought about it." Daniel held Jack's gaze for a long moment, his admission a raw reminder of their spat on the planet. "Ummm... thanks." He slid off the desk, his feet slapping softly against the floor. "Guess I'd better get going then."
Jack watched as Daniel shuffled uncertainly towards the door. Oh boy. This was definitely one archaeologist who was no longer firing on all cylinders.
"Do you know what day of the week it is?"
"What?" Daniel turned towards him, his face confused.
Jack shrugged. "It's not a trick question. Do you know what day of the week it is?"
Daniel's forehead wrinkled with concentration. "Tuesday?"
"Close," Jack said matter-of-factly. "Let me give you a clue. Tomorrow is Thursday."
Jack nodded. "And that's when you're going to see Delia Rothman." He raised a finger to cut off Daniel's protest. "Ah-ah! Trust me, Daniel. You need sleep."
Despite the raised finger, Daniel still tried. "But..."
Jack was ready for him. "You won't be doing Delia Rothman any favours going to see her when you can hardly string two words together. Think about it. You'll feel, and look, a hell of a lot better tomorrow."
"I guess." Daniel's tone was reluctant, but the look of relief on his face gave him away.
Daniel turned towards the door and then back again, his expression clouded. "Ummm... Jack?"
"About what I said on the planet. About you and Robert..."
Jack shrugged. "Hey, you were stressed... tired ... hurt..."
"And out of line," Daniel added.
"And out of line," Jack agreed casually.
"Definitely out of line," Daniel offered.
"Actually so far out of line, you're lucky I didn't kick your butt right there and then."
"Well you did knock me on my butt," Daniel said with just a hint of complaint
"Ahhh..." Jack grimaced. "I did, didn't I." He shot Daniel an apologetic look. "Listen, when you get out of the infirmary tomorrow and after you've... I was just.. well, I was wondering..."
Daniel raised his eyebrows in question.
Jack pulled in a breath and went for it. "Well, I've got this bottle of ten-year-old malt whiskey that's needed a reason to be opened. Want to drink a few toasts at my place?"
"Toasts? To what?"
"Maybe to the friends we've lost. People we cared about. People like Charlie Kawalski and Robert Rothman..."
Daniel nodded slowly, his blue eyes carrying a depth of meaning as they held Jack's gaze. "Maybe to the friends we haven't lost too, huh?"
Jack smiled. "Yeah. To those too."
He crossed the room, slipped an arm casually around Daniel's shoulders and steered his exhausted team-mate out of the office. "Now... I happen to know there's a certain doctor who would very much like to have you in bed."
A ripple of amusement quivered through Daniel's shoulders, and for a moment Jack was at a loss as to why.
"Don't think I'm quite up to that," Daniel managed to say, apparently trying to control a bout of what could only be described as schoolboy giggles.
Jack shook his head as he finally caught the joke. "Doctor Jackson! You definitely need sleep."
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