Cut To The Quick
Written by Joana Dey
"This isn't like Jack," Daniel commented. He poured himself another cup of coffee and settled into the chair behind his desk. "There's something wrong here."
Almost by unspoken agreement he, Carter and Teal'c had made a beeline to his office after Jack had left the base for his "early retirement".
"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the Colonel steal the device." Carter still looked dazed. She moved a pile of books off the only other chair in the office and absent-mindedly piled them on the edge of Daniel's desk before sinking down into it.
"I couldn't believe my ears when he started spouting off at the Tollan before ordering us out of there. After all the work I did for--"
"Colonel O'Neill is not behaving in a rational manner." Teal'c was standing by the door in his usual straight-backed position. Even he had a slight look of bafflement on his face.
"That's certainly an understatement, Teal'c." Daniel pulled a sheet of paper towards him and dug a pen out of his desk drawer. Taking a gulp of his coffee, he continued, "Okay, did anybody observe anything strange before our meeting with the Tollan? You know, I can't believe how he screwed that up. I told him it was a lost cause from the beginning but--"
"He was perfectly normal right up until he started acting weird on Tollana," Sam interrupted.
"I do not agree, Major Carter."
Two heads turned to him in surprise.
"Excuse me?" Behind his glasses, Daniel's blue eyes were bewildered. He scribbled something on the paper in front of him. "You noticed something different, Teal'c?"
"Colonel O'Neill seemed to be preoccupied before we went through the Stargate. He has also been less...exuberant these past seven days."
"You've got to be kidding," Daniel said.
"No, Daniel Jackson. I am quite serious."
"I didn't mean...never mind. I didn't see anything," he added, almost to himself. He made a few more strokes on the paper.
Carter laughed softly. "Daniel, you were busy all week preparing for the meeting with the Tollans. You wouldn't have noticed if a bomb had gone off outside your door."
"I..." He shut his mouth. Sam was right. He had been kind of preoccupied. Still, he hated to think something could have been bothering Jack to such an extent that Teal'c had realized and he hadn't.
His face must have betrayed his feelings because Sam smiled gently at him and said, "Don't feel bad, Daniel, I didn't notice anything either."
Daniel just looked at her.
She tried again. "So, what do you have written down so far?"
"Nothing? Let me see." She grabbed for the paper and grinned when she saw what was on it. "Daniel? Why on earth are you drawing pictures of pyramids?"
"Give it back." He quickly snatched it out of her hand.
"Ouch. Daniel!" She shook her hand slightly, looking down at her palm with a grimace.
"Have you injured yourself, Major Carter?" Teal'c stepped closer.
"Nothing. It's nothing, Teal'c, just a paper cut. Daniel, do you have any kleenex?"
"Yeah. Sorry, Sam." He moved things around on his desk until he'd unearthed a mashed box of tissues from under the books Sam had set there earlier.
"That's okay, Daniel, I've certainly had worse injuries in my life." She folded the kleenex in her palm and made a fist.
"So what happens now?" Daniel asked. "I mean, are we going to get someone to take Jack's place or what? Do you think they'll let him come back if he apologizes..." he let his words trail off as Sam started shaking her head.
"The Colonel got off lightly, Daniel. He could have been court-martialed and instead they let him retire." She sighed at the unsatisfied look on Daniel's down-turned face. "It's a military thing, okay?"
"Not really." He raised his head and looked from Carter to Teal'c and back again. "I think we should go talk to him. There's something that's just not right about this, and I think if we talked to him--"
"I don't think we should all go," Carter broke in. "I think it should just be one of us."
"We're a team. I think we should go together," Daniel persisted.
"I do not believe O'Neill would say anything if we were all there. It should be only one of us."
"Thank you, Teal'c," Daniel muttered.
"You are welcome, Daniel Jackson." He raised an eyebrow at the look he received from Daniel in reply.
"So who's going to go?" asked Daniel.
Carter began to busily examine her palm, depositing a bloody wad of tissue on the desk top in front of Daniel. Keeping her eyes from meeting Daniel's she pulled several more tissues from the box and "re-bandaged" her cut.
"I think you should go, Sam, " Daniel began.
"Not me," she protested quickly.
"But you're military, he'll talk to you," said Daniel. Sam shook her head.
"Okay, Teal'c, how about you?"
"No?" Carter repeated. "Just, 'no'?"
"I do not feel Colonel O'Neill would confide in me."
Sam and Daniel looked at him and then turned to each other.
"You're a man. He'll talk to you."
"You said it's a military thing. You need to go."
"That's exactly why I can't. He's my Commanding Officer."
"He's retired, Sam. He's not commanding anything anymore."
"Well, he likes you best. You go."
"He does not, he... This is really stupid. Fine, I'll go. Tomorrow." Daniel glared at them both. "Just what am I supposed to say to him?"
"I don't know. I'm sure you'll come up with something," Sam said reassuringly, as she got up and headed for the door.
"Don't leave your bloody kleenex on my desk, Sam. Teal'c..."
"You are a linguist, Daniel Jackson." He opened the door, letting Carter precede him into the hallway. "Speaking is what you do. You are the master of words in many languages."
Teal'c firmly shut the door.
"Yeah, but Jack-speak isn't one of them."