The terrain was rough and uneven, the footing difficult on the rocky mountainside. Peripherally he could see the ocean below him on his left, the Stargate flashing in the sunlight about a mile down the beach. He took a second to look down as the area before him evened out for a few steps, and saw Sam had almost reached the beach, with Teal'c just a few steps behind her. Jack was almost there, but Daniel still had a long way to go.
The growling from deep beneath finally stopped, and Daniel picked up his speed despite his exhaustion. They'd been on the move for nearly an hour, ever since the first, and strongest, quake had struck. They'd quickly abandoned their exploration of the ruins deep inside the island's jungle interior, packed up and made for home.
They'd had to traverse most of the island on the run, Sam cautioning them of a possibility of a tidal wave due to the severity of the quake. Jack had ordered Daniel to lose his pack to make it easier to move, but he had so much invaluable stuff inside, not to mention the video tape of the incredible alien writing he'd taken from the ruins. Invaluable because the earthquake had toppled much of the remaining walls, shattering them into pieces, and destroying the few remaining artifacts Daniel hadn't yet had time to completely unearth. And if a harbour wave did hit the island, as Sam feared, a lot of the information would be lost. Forever.
Of course whether or not a tsunami hit the island depended on so many factors � the main one being where the epicentre of the earthquake had been. If it had been out in the ocean, they could be in trouble. Then again, it could be nothing. But with the number of aftershocks occurring, Jack hadn't wanted to take a chance so he'd ordered them back to the 'gate as fast as possible.
Daniel half slid, half ran the last twenty feet and landed off balance in the deep sand. He pinwheeled his arms, his knees nearly giving out as he awkwardly ran several steps until he got his footing again. He heard a shout and saw that Jack had dropped back, running more slowly and waving at him frantically.
Daniel was exhausted.
He'd always thought he was in half-decent shape; having joined SG-1 several few months ago had increased his stamina and had hardened his body in ways he'd never imagined. And he'd worked hard at it, joining his teammates in the gym every day, wrestling with Teal'c, sparring with Jack, running with Sam. At least he had, up until Jack's injury eight weeks ago.
SG-1 had been placed on stand-down while Jack recuperated from his broken leg and internal injuries. Daniel's own concussion had laid him low for a few days, but he'd soon been back at work. And that was when he'd found himself so overwhelmed with translations and artifacts to examine, catalogue and theorize upon, that any spare time he'd had before, had become a thing of dreams.
"Damn it, Daniel. Move!" Daniel glanced up, startled out of staring at the bright, shifting sand as Jack loomed before him. Too out of breath to answer, Daniel tried putting on a burst of speed, but his legs simply wouldn't obey. His upper back was impossibly tight as he attempted to drag air into his heaving lungs. His stomach felt swollen and full of bile, ready to erupt at a moment's notice. A stitch in his side had him holding his hand over his hip to try and ease it's agony. He knew the only way it would go away was if he stopped and walked it off. Of course, that wasn't an option.
He could hear was his own gasping breaths, embarrassingly loud as his exhalations spit saliva down his chin. He was too out of breath to swallow his spit, and all he could do was occasionally raise a heavy hand to wipe his chin. Spots danced before his eyes and his brain couldn't seem to concentrate on anything except the thought of forcing one foot before the other.
How the hell had he allowed himself to get into such pitiful shape?
He felt Jack's hand pushing at him, and he allowed himself to be steered away from the water's edge, up the slight sandy incline and into where the grass grew through the sandy soil. Here the footing was a little easier thanks to the sparse growth, and he would have sighed in relief had he had the breath.
They ran for forever, Daniel's thoughts narrowed to simply staying on his feet and forcing one foot in front of the other while trying not to slow down. He was one huge mass of straining muscles being forced to do what they no longer could.
He looked up, noting that the Stargate seemed to be no closer, but that Sam and Teal'c were halfway to it. But looks were deceiving, and a second glance showed him they were just a few minutes' away.
Birds suddenly shot overhead and the local primates began shrieking in the jungle to his right. Having seen this four times already, Daniel primed himself for the quake.
This one wasn't so bad. A little grumble, a little shiver, and it quickly ended. At least this time he managed to keep his footing throughout.
"Sir, the water."
Despite the tinny sound of the radio, Daniel could hear the uneasiness in Sam's voice. He glanced to his left and realized the tide was going out. But the sand near the water's edge would be wet and hard, the footing much easier than up here. He took the few seconds to descend down the beach, Jack following behind him.
He splashed through the small pools left behind, careful of seaweed-covered rocks. Still, the going was much easier, the water-packed sand barely shifting beneath his boots. Now if only he could breathe a little more easily, run without that painful stitch in his side. Get more energy into his legs, his arms. But he hadn't realized he'd slowed his pace until Jack pushed at him again.
"Faster. Move faster."
"I'm trying." He managed to pant out the words as he glanced towards the still receding water. Fish were flopping on the exposed sandy floor, the water having retreated too quickly for them to follow along with it.
It took several seconds for his oxygen-starved brain to realize what was happening. Oh God, the water! He realized now why Sam had sounded worried.
Somehow he managed more speed. He could hear the faint, now-familiar sound of the Stargate being activated. Unable to tear his eyes away from the quickly growing sandbar, Daniel spotted a dark speck way out in the water.
"Shit, shit, shit." The blue flux of the Stargate still seemed impossibly far, the forms of Sam and Teal'c standing beside it, yelling at them to hurry. No longer caring about lack of oxygen or failing muscles, Daniel ran for his life, Jack pacing him on his right.
The speck grew larger and larger, the wave growing impossibly big. It raced for shore while the puny humans raced for another part of the universe. For a few seconds, Daniel didn't think they'd make it, but then he was stumbling up the steps and running through the Stargate just as the shadow of the huge wall of water loomed over them.
He came through the Stargate in a rush of air and water, wind and sound. He was choking and flying at the same time. Until he hit the opposite wall. Hard. And knew no more.
- - - - - -
He came to gasping and coughing. Despite the fact that he was soaking wet and freezing, he was surprised he'd survived. His body was stiff and sore, and heavy. Someone was holding him, their arms like bands of steel as they gently patted him on the back as he managed to get his breathing under control. Reluctantly, he opened his eyes.
The room was dim, but somehow it was slowly getting brighter. There was a low rumble right above him. He could see someone's BDU-covered legs right beside him, the knees sticking out of dark, murky water. He followed them up until he realized his head and shoulders were pillowed against someone's chest. The person's feet and boots disappeared beneath the water, as did his own legs. That was when he realized he was in the gateroom, and lying in nearly a foot of water. He tasted salt as he licked his lips.
His eyes burned as he blinked droplets of seawater out of them. His right side ached and his lungs still burned. He tried to roll sideways, the water cold against wet cloth and skin, and looked up to see Teal'c's concerned face peering down at him as his arms tightened their hold around him.
"We made it?" Daniel wheezed.
He could hear Jack cursing somewhere off to his right, and Sam's voice arguing with him. Daniel turned his head, too exhausted to try to move again. The gateroom was dark, the only light was coming from the windows of the control room and briefing room, slowly being revealed as the blast door continued to rise above him.
Still, he could make out that the iris was closed, and the Stargate disengaged. Daniel presumed the iris was what had saved them all from drowning. Had the water from the tsunami continued to pour through the open wormhole, it could have flooded this whole level in seconds.
And speaking of flooding, why wasn't the water receding?
"What's going on?" Daniel again attempted to sit up, but Teal'c placed a hand on his shoulder, keeping him down.
"We are waiting for the water to be cleared from the room before the safety protocols are disengaged."
It made sense. Maybe Sam had warned the SGC about the oncoming harbour wave and they'd shut everything down in here to try and prevent the water from spreading further into the base. Of course, this wouldn't have been necessary if Daniel had just been able to keep up with his team out there.
If only he hadn't been so tired. Maybe if he'd had an extra hour of sleep each night. If only he'd made the time to keep working out and hadn't let himself get so out of shape. If only Jack and Sam hadn't gotten hurt when they were spit them out through a second 'gate in Antartica. Could people lose their edge this fast?
"Doctor Jackson, can you hear me?"
Daniel jumped, startled at the loud voice coming through the speakers. He raised his head, trying to see who was calling him. This time Teal'c didn't hold him down, but pointed up at the window. From his vantage point, Daniel could only see the shadows of people reflected down into the light reflecting off the water. He assumed one of those was General Hammond's, and probably Janet Fraiser was there with him.
"I can hear you." He waved tiredly, wondering whether they could see him.
"Daniel, are you hurt?"
"No, I don't think so, Janet." To prove his point, he finally managed to sit up, and was surprised at how weak and shaky his body was. Teal'c guided him until he was leaning against the wall. His shoulder and ribs were bruised, testament to landing against the metal wall of the blast door. But he didn't think anything was broken as he rotated his shoulder around and tested his range of motion.
Something swam by his leg, and Daniel pitied the poor fish that had unwittingly come through with them.
"Teal'c, did Daniel lose consciousness?"
"I believe he had the breath knocked out of him, but if you are inquiring if he is suffering from a head injury, he did not hit his head."
"And that in itself is a miracle." Jack sloshed over to them, making small waves that rose up against Daniel's abdomen. He realized he was shivering, his overheated body having quickly cooled down in the chilly water. "Won't be long now. We have to wait until they find some containers big enough to hold all of this seawater. Don't want any chance of pumping it into the sewer systems and contaminating it if there's any kind of alien organisms in it."
"Daniel." He looked up at Janet when she called his name even though he couldn't see her. "Can you stand? You'll be more comfortable out of that water."
"Right." He moved his weight forward and curled his legs beneath him in order to stand up. To his surprise, both Teal'c and Jack took hold of his arms and hauled him upright. His legs, already weak and wobbly from his run, were suddenly cramping with cold as his full weight hit them. He took several steps, trying to ease the kinks, all the while moving closer towards the Stargate's metallic ramp.
Although his legs were stiff, the movement did help. He waded through the water and carefully felt for the first step. His booted foot came in contact with it and he stepped up, his thigh muscles complaining at the effort. He slowly climbed until he was out of the water, then wearily lowered himself onto the ramp. Sam came to sit beside him while Jack and Teal'c moved past him. Jack remained standing, preferring to lean against the railing.
Daniel looked up, seeing both the control room and the briefing room were full of people, most of whom were staring down at them. Hammond was in the center of the room, his back to them, talking with two technicians. Janet was by the window, watching them. Daniel waved. She smiled, and raised her hand, waving back. Even as he watched, Siler rushed in, spoke to Hammond, then rushed back out.
Hammond moved to the front and reached for the mic. "Hang in there, people. I'm told we'll have the doors open in about twenty minutes."
"Understood, sir." The ramp vibrated as Jack took a seat behind Daniel. His foot came to rest beside Daniel's thigh as he stretched his legs out.
"Remind me to requisition a raft and a few blankets for the gateroom when we get out of here."
Sam laughed. "I guess we could also ask for a St. Bernard, complete with a flask of whisky, in case a team comes in along with an avalanche."
Daniel leaned his head against the railing, listening to the two of them banter.
"Captain, we get an avalanche in here, I'll be requisitioning skis."
Their voices faded to a comforting drone as his mind wandered. The exertion, the cold and now the fading shock of their close call was beginning to take their toll. Add to that the long hours hunched over his desk with little sleep for days on end, and Daniel knew he would crash the moment he let himself relax. Hopefully General Hammond wasn't expecting a report today on his findings. Although he was looking forward to examining the tape he'd made, he didn't think there was anything that couldn't wait twenty-four hours. He thought longingly of his bed at home, which he hadn't seen for weeks. Literally. He'd ended up either sleeping on base or on the lumpy couch in the corner of his office. To be honest, he wished he could closet himself off from the world for a while and just ignore everyone, and sleep.
Which reminded him, where was his pack? He looked around the water-covered room and saw a piece of material sticking out of the water. Damn, his camera... would the salt water ruin it? He shifted his legs, planning on getting up and rescuing it, but the stiffness of his body decided him on staying put.
The damage was already done. If the camera was ruined, so be it. At this point, he was too tired to care. He put his head back down on the supporting strut of the ramp, closing his eyes.
"Hey, you okay?" Jack's hand was on his shoulder. "You hit the wall pretty hard."
Daniel nodded, feeling the cold of the metal rub against his cheek. "I'm just bruised. How about you guys?"
"Carter might have sprained her wrist, but I think we're all just pretty damned lucky nobody's broken anything."
Daniel nodded again, barely moving his head. Despite being cold and sore, he could probably fall asleep right here. He listened to his friends' breathing, dimly aware of more lights coming on behind his closed eyelids. The low hum in the room informed him they were emergency lights.
He wondered vaguely if the power in the gateroom had been turned off before they'd come through thanks to Sam or Teal'c's warning, or whether the impact from the water had damaged something. He thought maybe the electricity had been deliberately cut; he really didn't want to think of the fact that he was sitting on a piece of metal in foot-deep water with high-tension power lines running through the walls around him.
He shivered. He so wanted a hot bath, or a warm bed. Bed, he decided, since it was less trouble. Maybe Janet would take pity on him and just let him sleep and give him his physical tomorrow when he woke up. His mind began to drift and he felt his body slide against the metal railings as he allowed it to succumb into sleep. Tired. So tired.
It wasn't so much the hands that caught him as he tipped over that dragged him from the depths of his exhaustion, as it was the worry lacing the voices. He realized someone had been calling his name several times. Reluctantly he opened his eyes. Jack was holding him steady against his shoulder while Teal'c and Sam were leaning over him. He stared at a scrape on Sam's cheek and chin.
"Sorry." He pushed himself upright, forcing his sticky eyelids to stay open.
"You sure you didn't hit your head?" He felt Jack's fingers begin to poke his scalp and he pulled away irritably.
"I'm fine. I'm just tired." He grabbed onto the top of the rail and pulled himself upright, although Jack kept a hold of his arm. Trying to distract himself, he tried to see if the water had receded yet.
"This is more than just tired. You nearly passed out."
"I drifted off, I did not pass out. I'm cold, I'm tired and I just want a hot bath and my bed."
"Daniel, I think the Colonel's right." Sam placed a hand to his cheek and he noted her fingers were much colder than his skin. "You blacked out for a few seconds. You weren't responsive."
"I'm fine." Even as he looked at her worried face, he felt his eyelids start to shut despite himself. Until Jack spoke up and his words impacted on Daniel's numb brain.
"No, you're not fine. And you weren't fine out there. You almost got us killed." Jack's grip on his arm tightened warningly. "You gonna tell me what's going on?"
"Nothing's going on, Jack." Perversely, he tried to pull away but Jack kept his grip.
"Fine. Then tell me why you couldn't keep the hell up with us back there." Jack's voice was a tight whisper, making sure it wouldn't be picked up by the comm systems.
"So I'm having a bad day. I told you, I'm tired."
"I've seen you exhausted, injured, sick and drunk, Daniel, but I have never seen you so out of shape. I could bet you a silver dollar that Hammond could have beat you in a foot race today, and won, hands down. What the hell have you been doing with yourself all these weeks?"
Normally, when he wanted to, Daniel could hold his temper in check. But the cold and the lack of sleep had made him beyond irritable. "Doing my job, Jack. What do you think I've been doing? Spending the last five weeks sitting on a deck, fishing?"
Which was exactly what Jack had been doing, Daniel knew. He'd flown to his cabin in Minnesota to continue his convalescence, doing his physical therapy at a nearby clinic. So Jack had come back yesterday, fresh and rested, while Daniel had been working his butt off trying to keep up with a non-ending supply of work.
"Since you and Sam were on medical leave and SG-1 was on stand down, I performed the other part of my duties. Now, unless someone complained that my work wasn't up to standards, I think this conversation is over."
"Oh no, you don't. This is so not over. You're gonna have a lot to answer for and you're definitely not stepping through that wormhole until I'm bloody well assured that you're not a danger to the team."
Anger flowed through him, making his head pound but giving him a fresh source of energy. In one awkward, painful motion, Daniel pulled himself up until he was standing and descended into the water. His muscles had stiffened, his calves, thighs and hips were bands of agony as he began walking around the confines of the room in an effort to remain awake, and to get away from Jack.
"D'ya think that's a smart idea? You're standing in water and if the power comes on in any of that equipment..." Jack had turned on the ramp, following Daniel's movement. So much for getting away.
"And you think you're any safer where you are now if that should happen?" Daniel countered, waving at the metal ramp that sat in the center of all the water, grinding his teeth together in irritation.
"Oh, right." He heard someone knocking on the metal, the sound echoing strangely in the room. Probably Jack, he thought to himself, refusing to give his friend the satisfaction of looking. He turned around and moved to where Teal'c had dropped his pack. He picked it up, his back and thighs complaining, and took his camera out of the pack.
He returned to the ramp, walking around was just too painful and tiring to continue. With a barely stifled grunt, he sat at Sam's feet. He tried turning the camera on, but his hands were shaking so badly he could barely thumb the button. But despite several fumbling attempts, it wouldn't power up.
"The salt water might have corroded the battery." Sam held a hand out, and Daniel gratefully let her take the camera. "I can take this to my lab and see if I can salvage any of the film, if you'd like."
"Sure." The bit of energy he'd drummed up from his anger had left him, leaving him even more tired. He wrapped his arms around his chest and leaned forward against the railing again, suddenly feeling very cold. "Th... thanks." Sam's leg rested against his hip, a veritable hot spot compared to the rest of him.
"Water's going down pretty fast."
Jack's voice startled him and he realized he'd been on the verge of falling asleep despite the fact that he was now shivering non-stop. His eyes had closed and he hadn't even been aware of it. Maybe he could just stretch out on the ramp? But the thought of opening his eyes just to see if there was enough space for him between his teammates felt like an insurmountable undertaking, so he remaining huddled against the side.
"They should be able to open the doors as soon as they're clear."
Daniel wondered how much water was left before they could leave here. He managed to crack his eyelids open and simply rolled his eyes sideways towards the door to the left. There was water, but either his eyes weren't focusing properly, or else his brain wasn't able to make out the number of inches remaining.
He couldn't even remember how much there had been compared to now. He tried to recall how much of his body had been covered in water while he lay on the ground, but even that little bit of thinking seemed too hard a feat for him. He closed his eyes, wishing he were anywhere but here.
"...niel, talk to me."
He opened his eyes, again, and realized that this time he was stretched out on the ramp, with his teammates leaning over him once again.
"Hey, you with us now?"
Daniel licked his lips, his mouth feeling dry and pasty. He tried to swallow but there was no saliva. He nodded, then tried to raise his head in order to sit up.
"Oh no, you don't." A hand pressed down on his chest, keeping him flat on his back. "And don't tell me you nodded off. You took a swan dive right into the drink this time."
"...Sorry." God, he was so tired.
"Are you sure he didn't hit his head when he hit the wall?" Janet's voice echoed in the room and Daniel looked up over Jack's shoulder and into the control room. There she was, leaning forward and looking down on them. He wanted to wave to her again, reassure her and his friends that he was fine, but he really didn't think he was.
"Does your head hurt anywhere?" This time it was Sam who pressed against his scalp as he shook his head no. He had no energy to protest with, and let her feel for herself that he was fine.
"I'm just tired," Daniel repeated. She held up two fingers before his face and asked how many. As he answered, he realized his sight was blurry and reached up to adjust his glasses. But his fingers felt skin and not metallic frames. He quickly changed the movement to rubbing the bridge of his nose. The embarrassing thing was, he wasn't sure if he'd just now lost his glasses, or when he'd tumbled through the gate on the cusp of the tsunami.
"I don't think he hit his head," Sam called up to Janet, repeating what Teal'c had said to her... what, several hours ago? No, wait, they'd said twenty minutes. How long had they been here?
"Think you can sit up?" Jack's hands were beneath Daniel's shoulders even before he could answer, pulling him up. Before he could protest, he found himself being pulled close against Jack's body, with Teal'c moving in on the other side so he was sandwiched between the two. He could feel their body heat, despite all their sodden clothes, causing his shivering to escalate.
"It won't be long. Just a few more minutes. The water's nearly cleared the door." Jack's hand came around and pressed down on the back of his neck, urging Daniel to rest his face against Jack's chest. Daniel acquiesced, simply resting and trying his damndest to stay awake.
Or stay conscious, since he certainly didn't remember falling off the ramp and back into the water.
He floated then, half awake, half dreaming, sounds and sights and feelings all merging into one large convoluted mix. He was being lifted and wrapped in warm blankets, lights shining in his face. There were voices, some close, some fading, all familiar, amongst clangs and squeaks and scrapes. He saw walls moving, realized he was being wheeled out of an elevator without memory of being wheeled in. Recognized the infirmary, then blessed heat enveloped him as his wet clothes were removed and he was wrapped in warm, dry blankets.
- - - - - -
His bladder was about to burst. Now that he was awake, there was no way he was gonna get back to sleep without emptying it. Reluctantly he opened his eyes and looked around.
The lights were dim and it was quiet, with only the hum of machinery to keep him company. He had no idea how long he'd slept, but he still felt very tired and lethargic and wanted nothing more than to sleep for a few more hours. As he shifted his legs to turn onto his back, his thighs and lower back gave a painful twinge. The new position put even more pressure on his bladder, and the insistence grew more demanding.
With a groan, he tried to sit up. Moving his legs was difficult as they were stiff and tight. Moving right shoulder and his ribs was downright painful. He raised a hand to his arm and yelped when his fingers came down on bruised and tender skin and muscles.
"Doctor Jackson, are you in pain?"
He blinked up in surprise at a nurse who had suddenly appeared beside his bed.
"No, I'm fine, just a little stiff. I just need to go to the, ah, bathroom."
She smiled kindly at him. "Considering you've been sleeping for almost twelve hours, it's not a wonder. Well, you're a little tied down at the moment so let me see what I can do." She waved towards his hand and he noticed the IV taped to the back of it. She bent to pick something up from a shelf near the bed. "Here, you can use this." She handed him a plastic urinal and by the time she finished closing the privacy curtains, he'd already shoved it under the blankets and had begun to pee into it.
His face flushing in embarrassment, he handed her the container when he finished and settled back to sleep.
Twelve hours? It didn't feel that long. And where was everyone? Were they okay?
Daniel raised his head to ask the nurse but she'd disappeared from view. A little concerned, he lowered his head back onto the pillow and tried to remember what had happened.
Okay, the memory of the tsunami was pretty vivid enough. Stuck in a flooded gateroom - that bit was a little fuzzy in places. He did remember arguing with Jack while pacing through the water, then seeing Jack looking down at him with a strange, worried look on his face.
So that must mean Jack was fine. And so were Sam and Teal'c. Unless they were in the infirmary here with him? Maybe they were in the next beds, he hadn't even thought of looking and he didn't remember if he'd seen anyone else beside him.
With a muffled groan, he lifted his head off the pillow just high enough to check down both sides of the room, ignoring the pain the movement caused in his neck and shoulder. But no, the beds were all empty.
Good, then his friends were fine. He wished he could say the same about himself.
But there had been no bandages on his arm, which meant he wasn't seriously hurt, right? He moved his shoulder again, tensing slowly and gently, testing the injury. After a bit, he decided he was simply bruised. So why, then, were his legs and back so stiff and sore? Couldn't be from running. Could it?
Then again, he'd had so little sleep in the past weeks and he hadn't done much except sit and work that the possibility was there. That must be why he was so tired now.
Poor Janet. He'd been so out of it by the time she got to him, she hadn't believed Teal'c and Sam when they'd assured her he hadn't hit his head. He managed to stay awake long enough to answer her questions, at least he hoped he had. Honestly, he didn't remember going to sleep.
He yawned. Maybe he'd sleep a little more. He nudged the blanket up higher, up to his chin. Feeling cold was just a memory, but still, it had had him in its clutches for what had felt like forever. Comfortable now despite the slight throbbing in his shoulder and ribs, he yawned again, and relaxed.
- - - - - -
Jack restlessly tapped his fingers on top of the pile of folders he'd dropped on the tabletop. Impatiently, he checked his watch one more time and then turned to look past the star map and into Hammond's office. The man's head was still down and Jack could hear a faint murmur as the general continued with his telephone conversation.
Carter and Teal'c walked in and Jack coolly nodded at them as they took seats opposite him. Damn, he'd hoped to catch Hammond privately before the debriefing started, but Hammond had been busy and unavailable all morning long. But since Jack wasn't pleased with the rest of his team at the moment, maybe it was just as well. Because he wanted answers, and not just from Hammond. His whole team had to answer for what had happened to Daniel before this last mission.
They must have caught his mood because Carter glanced at Teal'c and then lowered her gaze to the folder containing their mission reports, which were sitting on the table before each of their seats. She fiddled with the ace bandage on her wrist and Jack realized she must feel as battered and bruised as he did from their rather violent entry into the gateroom yesterday. Her face was bruised and scratched, and he was sure her skin was just as mottled and bruised as his beneath her fatigues.
Teal'c appeared to have survived their return better than any of them, but by now Junior would have taken care of any tell-tale signs of discomfort.
Still, if things hadn't gotten so out of hand, maybe SG-1 could have made it back to base without half an ocean following them in.
Hammond looked up and caught Jack's eye. He nodded and Jack got the message - he'd be there with them shortly. Good.
He stared at the remainder of several weeks' accumulated worth of mission reports and analyses that he hadn't had time to touch before SG-1's last mission. On a hunch, he'd skimmed through them on arrival and now he'd been lugging around with him all morning long in his attempts to see Hammond. With Fraiser's words echoing through his mind, it hadn't taken him long before he'd realized exactly what had happened, and Jack was pissed that nobody else had noticed.
// "Daniel is suffering from exhaustion. I blame myself for not catching it before the mission and for that, I'm deeply sorry, Colonel." //
Exhaustion? Which had to mean Daniel had been running himself ragged while Jack had been off fishing and recuperating.
Why the hell hadn't anyone else noticed?
Not that Daniel wasn't blameless. He had done this to himself, but damnit, there were recourses that he could have taken to avoid this.
When General Hammond hung up the phone and stood up, Jack tensed and got to his feet, waiting for his commanding officer to take his seat at the head of the table. To his and everyone else's surprise, two others entered the room before the general had time to take sit.
Carter's voice held both surprise and pleasure as she grinned towards their fourth. Daniel smiled back and slowly and gingerly made his way to the empty seat Jack pulled back for him. He sat down with a deep hiss, and Jack took a good look at his friend as he also sat down and pulled himself closer to the table.
There were shadows and lines of fatigue still etched on his face, and a few bruises and scratches, not unlike himself and Carter. But the hours of sleep seemed to have done him some good, although Jack suspected it would take a few more days of bed rest before he was on his way to full recovery.
Jack berated himself for not noticing any of this yesterday. But it had been his second and very busy day back � after having undergone a thorough medical examination and then trying to catch up on several weeks' worth of paperwork, he also had had to get ready for their unexpected mission switch when SG-5 had been sent out for backup. Since SG-1 had been on base and SG-5's original mission had been a purely data-gathering one, Jack hadn't protested the early mission since it would give his people a chance to catch up with one another.
Fraiser stopped beside the general and handed him a folder. She waited, watching Daniel as Hammond opened it to reveal what Jack assumed was Daniel's medical report.
Daniel reached for the water jug in the center of the table. Seeing how Daniel's hands shook, Jack took the jug from him and poured water into an empty glass. "Went to the infirmary to see you this morning. You were sleeping."
"I seem to be doing a lot of that," Daniel replied with a wry smile. He picked up the glass Jack placed in front of him. "Thanks." He took a sip and glanced towards General Hammond, who was still reading his file.
"Went back a little later and you were in the shower. Third time Fraiser was with you, giving you an exam."
"Debbie told me you'd come around." Daniel smiled nervously. "I'm sorry I missed you."
The general finished and closed the folder. He put his hands together and looked at Daniel. "I'm glad to see you up and about, Doctor Jackson."
"Thank you, sir. I'm feeling pretty good."
"I've given Doctor Jackson a week's medical leave," Fraiser announced. "He's relieved of duty as of now, but he insisted on attending the debriefing." She looked pointedly at Jack. "I assume someone will make sure Daniel leaves the mountain and goes home as soon as this meeting is over?"
"I'll go even one better," Jack said, smiling first at Daniel, then at Fraiser. "With the general's permission, I'll break off early and take Daniel home with me." When Daniel took in a breath to interrupt, Jack raised his pointer finger straight up in the air. "I'm pretty sure there's nothing edible in your house since you've spent most of the past five weeks at the base. I can make sure you get a decent supper tonight and breakfast tomorrow, then I can pick up some groceries for you tomorrow when I drive you home."
Daniel stared at Jack, looking for a moment like a lost little boy. Then he nodded and his expression changed to what Jack could only interpret as shame when he averted his gaze and couldn't meet Jack's eyes anymore.
"You have my permission to leave early, Colonel. That is, if Doctor Fraiser agrees."
"Works for me, Colonel." Fraiser nodded at Hammond, then left the room.
"Thank you, sir. We'll head out as soon as we've finished here."
"Now, I've read your mission reports," Hammond began. "Captain, have you had any luck with extracting the information from Doctor Jackson's camera?"
"Yes, sir. I've managed to recover most of the tape. Some of it's been damaged but I'm confident I'll be able to salvage most of it."
"Good work. Then perhaps Doctor Jackson can have a look at it and see if there's anything of relevance to warrant a return trip�"
"No." Jack sat up straight, staring at his boss defiantly.
"Excuse me, Colonel?"
"No, sir. Daniel is not going to look at that tape. Daniel is going to rest, relax, unwind and take it easy for the next few days."
"Of course he is. I meant when he returns to duty." Hammond's voice held a tinge of impatience.
"With due respect, sir, I meant that when Daniel comes back to work, his workload is going to be reduced dramatically. I don't know why Daniel didn't requisition for help while I was away..." Jack glanced at Daniel, who was staring at Jack as if he'd lost his marbles, "but he's been given way too much to do and there's no way in heaven that he can do all of the work assigned to him and continue on as a member of a first-contact team."
"Colonel, I'm sure that Doctor Jackson would have�"
Jack pushed the fifteen folders he'd brought with him towards Hammond. "These are only part of what Daniel's worked on in the past weeks. I know you've read them, sir, but what you might not be aware of is the amount of time and effort it takes to do one of these analyses, let alone all fifteen of these." Jack glanced towards Daniel, who was suddenly finding his thumbnail very interesting. "I've seen Daniel work, sir. I know how meticulous these types of reports are, and I'm pretty sure a quarter of these would have been more than enough to keep any one person busy."
Hammond picked up the top folder and flipped through the typewritten pages. "Doctor Jackson, is this correct?"
"I'm sure Jack is exaggerating," Daniel said in a low voice, looking extremely uncomfortable.
"Indeed he is not." Teal'c reached over and took the next folder from Jack's pile and opened it. "I myself have also seen the tremendous amount of research and verification a translation of this type incurs." Teal'c looked across the table at Daniel. "I was not aware that you had this many assignments, DanielJackson. You could have called upon my knowledge, I would have been more than happy to provide you with aid."
"You were busy with your own work," Daniel answered, his voice still low.
"I am never too busy for my friends."
"Daniel, why didn't you tell us?" Carter leaned forward on the table. "I know I was away on vacation also, but I was here last week... you could have�"
"I did." Daniel looked up at Hammond. Despite his set jaw, Jack could see the hurt in his eyes. "I did ask for extra help, sir. My request went unanswered."
Hammond shook his head, his face softening at Daniel's words. "Son, I never received it. You should have followed through on it. I appreciate the hard work you've always given us, but working to the point of exhaustion when there's no reason for it simply isn't done. I'll tell you what. When you return to duty, we'll sit down and go over what your requirements are and we'll see about hiring new staff. This way you'll have time to think over if there are any associates you might like us to approach first."
Jack heard Daniel take in a shaky breath. "Thank you, sir. I appreciate it."
Hammond nodded, and returned Jack's folder back to him. As Jack placed it neatly onto the stack, Daniel spoke up again. "That film that Sam took from my camera." He glanced at Jack, then back at Hammond. "I really would like to work on it. I... I know I'm supposed to rest, but I could at least start a preliminary examination."
"Daniel�" Jack bit back a grin, knowing his protest was part of the fun of teasing Daniel, and that Daniel knew it.
"Jack. You know I'm going to be bored at home. I promise not to spend more than two hours a day on it and I'll get plenty of rest and exercise."
"You bet you will. We'll all be taking turns checking up on you." He glanced up at Carter and Teal'c, hoping for their confirmation. Carter was nodding emphatically and Teal'c had that eyebrow raised just a fraction higher than the other which meant that he was in agreement... or was that his expression for shock?
Hammond chuckled. "Well, if your keepers agree to keep tabs on you, I have no objection."
As the meeting turned back to discussing the aborted mission and whether there was merit in returning to the planet, Jack heaved a sigh of relief. At least Daniel would be getting some assistance with his workload. And Jack had been happy to hear that Daniel had at least made an attempt to get some help. So the blame hadn't been all of Daniel's or all of Hammond's � everyone had had a bit part in it and everyone was now aware of what had happened. Hopefully this would prevent such an incident from being repeated.
- - - - - -
Daniel tried to relax but he felt too ill at ease with Jack to loosen up enough to allow himself to do so. Added to that was whatever Janet had given him earlier for his aches and pains was starting to wear off. His shoulder was pretty sore right now, as was his side. The motion of the truck was soothing, though, so he kept his eyes closed and listened to the soft music playing on the CD.
He had no compunctions about blaming himself for almost getting his team killed by the tidal wave. He'd screwed up - first by going on a mission when he was in such piss poor health, and secondly, by having allowed that problem to happen in the first place.
Strange, though, how he'd somehow gotten so exhausted, that he'd felt there was no way out of his dilemma except to continue plodding on the way he had been. Janet had said it was a normal reaction, but still, his ears burned whenever he thought about how stupid he'd been. Obviously lack of sleep did weird things to common sense.
He and Jack had argued a bit when they'd gotten into the truck. Jack had reprimanded Daniel privately about not going to Hammond directly for help and Daniel had insisted that he had submitted the requisitions, in triplicate, no less, as required. He was pretty sure he hadn't dreamed that because he remembered talking to the clerk about the proper paperwork needed, and the old man had talked about the time he'd served in Egypt, and Daniel had reminisced for a short while with him.
He felt the truck turn, and turn again. He opened one eye and saw they were approaching Jack's home. Suddenly he wished he'd insisted on going home instead of coming here. He was uncomfortable with his friend and wasn't sure what more to say.
Jack turned into his driveway and stopped the vehicle's motor. Neither of them spoke as they opened their respective doors, although Jack was out of the cab and halfway to the house before Daniel managed to get one leg down while bracing himself on the door. His whole body had stiffened up, although he knew he'd feel better once he started moving. He shuffled painfully up the gravel driveway, looking everywhere except at the man standing in the doorway waiting for him, feeling Jack's gaze on him.
Daniel passed by Jack and stood at the top of the steps leading down into the living room, cringing inwardly at the thought of trying to make his way down them.
"You hungry? Want me to fix you something?"
Daniel shook his head no. Now that he was up, what he really wanted to do was lie down.
"Would you rather go to bed?"
"Actually, yes, if you don't mind?" Although the thought of a closed door between him and Jack was appealing right now, since his body had gotten a taste for sleep, it kept crying out for more.
"Okay." Jack stepped back and Daniel turned around. "Look, the spare bed isn't ready, so why don't you take my bed and I'll have the room set up by the time you're ready to go to sleep tonight."
"That's okay, I can just�"
"No, it's alright. Really." Jack smiled and inclined his head for Daniel to follow. He spoke over his shoulder. "I wasn't expecting guests; otherwise I'd have made the bed for you."
Jack walked into the sunny bedroom and pulled the curtains closed while Daniel leaned against the wall to toe off his shoes. "Make yourself at home. I'll wake you when supper's ready."
"Okay." Daniel began to gingerly ease his jacket over his injured arm while Jack walked out of the room.
"You need anything? You got your pills?"
Daniel fished the bottle of Tylenol 3 from his jacket pocket and held it up for Jack to see. "I'll just take one of these and�" He waved towards the unmade bed.
"Fine. Yell if you need me." Jack walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him.
Daniel threw his jacket on a nearby chair and shuffled into the bathroom. As he opened the pill bottle, he caught his reflection in the mirror. There were pale, dark shadows beneath his bloodshot eyes, and his eyelids were puffy. He barely recognized himself. There was a bruise on his right cheek and a scratch along the side of his neck.
He popped the pill into his mouth and turned the tap on. He bent down and drank straight from the streaming water, ignoring the pull and complaints from his legs and lower back. He used the bathroom and after loosening his belt and dropping his glasses beside the bed, he gingerly slid under the covers.
The room wasn't totally dark and Daniel lay there, looking around curiously. The bed was comfortable, but the room felt strange. He'd been in Jack's bedroom a few times, although he'd never seen it from this angle. He missed the spare bedroom, though. It had become a home away from home and he was comfortable in it.
He sighed and turned onto his side, careful of his bruises. He lay there, still feeling uncomfortable in his best friend's house, and thinking he'd never fall asleep here.
The next thing he knew, Jack was shaking him awake. "Supper's just about ready. You got ten minutes."
Daniel opened his eyes and looked at Jack, feeling like he'd just gone to sleep. The room was now dark, except for a small lit lamp beside the bed. He blinked, then accepted his glasses when Jack handed them to him. He shifted his legs and held back a wince - he'd stiffened considerably while he'd slept. It had been embarrassing enough in the infirmary; he thought it would be worse now that Jack would see what kind of sorry shape he really was in.
"Need help getting up?"
Daniel looked at Jack, trying to see if he was mocking him. But no, his friend's face was serious. And concerned. Daniel simply nodded and eased the blankets away from him. Then Jack was bending over and helping him up, pulling his legs over the edge of the bed.
"I remember how this feels. Wait till you get to be my age," he said with a smile.
"I don't need to wait, I feel like I'm twice as old as you. I can't believe I'm so sore." Daniel stood and gently flexed one leg, then the other. He took a careful step, then a second. And a third. Each one was painful, but each consecutive movement was a little easier than the previous.
"You can soak for a bit after supper. That'll help ease some of the stiffness."
"Thanks." Daniel shambled into the hallway and followed his nose into the kitchen. He sat at the table and as Jack began putting food onto plates, Daniel scrubbed his hands over his face. He couldn't believe he'd slept so deeply for... he glanced at the clock on the wall. Three hours.
"I ran a few errands while you slept." Jack opened the oven door and removed two baked potatoes, dropping one onto each plate. "I took the opportunity to get you groceries. I stocked up your fridge and pantry. Nothing fancy, just a few easy meals to get you by the next few days."
"You didn't have to�"
"Of course I didn't. But it was more than obvious you hadn't been home for a while. You had stuff growing in your fridge that would have even given Teal'c the shivers." Jack picked up the plates and brought them to the table. "Here you go." Jack placed a plate full of steak, baked potato and assorted vegetables before Daniel. Daniel stared at the huge meal before him, not even sure the last time he'd eaten this much in a day, let alone a sitting. He picked up his knife and fork and cut a piece of steak, speared it and put it into his mouth.
Flavours erupted on his tongue, his stomach suddenly growled and Daniel began chewing ecstatically. "This is good," he mumbled around another mouthful, chewing quickly and shovelling more food in.
"Yeah, not bad if I say so myself," Jack replied, eating just a tad more slowly than Daniel.
"You could give O'Malley's a run for their money." Daniel paused to take a sip of water, then dug in once again.
"Well, it's more like I made a run to O'Malley's."
Daniel stopped eating and stared at Jack, who was looking at him with eyebrows raised. Suddenly Daniel found it all so funny � and he began to laugh. The tension that had been with him since he'd left the infirmary drained away, and he relaxed at the knowledge that Jack had done all of this for him.
"Thank you," Daniel said. "For this, and for the groceries."
He knew the best thanks he could give Jack at this moment was to enjoy the rest of his meal. Which he did.
- - - - - -
The hot bath, combined with a full stomach and more of the painkillers, had left Daniel feeling sleepy and drained, but it had also helped ease a lot of the stiffness from his body. He'd gotten a good look at the bruises covering his shoulder and side, but what had surprised him was the collection of bruises over the rest of his body.
Dressed in a pair of clean sweats that Jack had brought back with him from Daniel's apartment, he went towards the back of the house, where he could hear the television. Jack was sprawled on the couch, his feet resting on the coffee table. He quickly straightened as Daniel came to join him.
Daniel nodded, then yawned. "Yeah. Thanks. Much." He managed to settle on the couch beside Jack without too much discomfort, then decided to stretch his legs before him rather than attempt to raise them onto the coffee table. He glanced towards the television where a commercial was playing.
"Maybe I should go home tonight," Daniel began tentatively. He'd been thinking about this during his soak in the tub. Jack had already done a lot for him today and Daniel didn't want him to go out of his way tomorrow morning before he reported for work.
"I promised Fraiser I'd get you two good meals and make sure you got some rest. You've had supper, so I still owe you breakfast."
"I don't want to put you to any more trouble, Jack. And besides, you need to work tomorrow."
"Tomorrow's Saturday, Danny."
Daniel frowned. Saturday? He could have sworn it was Tuesday, maybe Wednesday... Jack must have picked up on his confusion, because he began detailing out the week.
"I came back from leave on Wednesday. Thursday morning, we 'gated to that planet, did the beach thing... high tide, big wave, you remember that?"
Daniel nodded, quickly trying to align his mind with the days of the week.
"Then you slept through most of Thursday evening and night. That was yesterday. So today's Friday. And I don't go back to the mountain until Monday."
"So there's no hurry for me to..."
"Nope, you can sleep in as long as you want." Jack turned to the game show that had just started up now that the commercials were finished.
"And I'll drive you home whenever you want." Jack glanced at Daniel. "You can stay till Sunday, if you want."
"Oh." Daniel turned his gaze to the television. "Okay. Thanks."
They spent the next hour watching more game shows and trying to beat the contestants' answers. When those finished, Daniel settled himself more comfortably to watch the Friday night movie which was to follow. He remembered watching the opening credits, and then Jack was shaking him awake again.
He found himself lying on the couch, a blanket covering him, a pillow beneath his head. He blinked at Jack in confusion and turned his head towards the dark and silent television. "Well, this is embarrassing."
"Considering your snoring drowned out most of the movie, which was pretty good, by the way." Jack's grin belied his words.
Daniel rolled up rather than sat up, his shoulder and side seizing on him with the movement. He gently massaged the sore muscles, steeling himself for the walk to the bedroom. He waved away Jack's offered assistance and stood up with a groan.
"I'm beginning to think I'm gonna be stuck like this for the rest of my life," he complained as he followed Jack. Although he was still half asleep, he couldn't help noticing that Jack was also moving slowly, as if he were stiff and also in pain.
"Hey, are you okay?" Daniel stopped in the hallway just a few feet from the bedroom.
"Cause you're limping."
"No, I'm not."
"Jack, you were limping. Did you get injured when the water came through the wormhole?"
"I got banged up with I came through the wormhole. We all did. Carter sprained her wrist, remember?"
"Just a few bruises, thanks to you. Nothing like those you're probably sporting, though."
"Thanks to me?"
"Yeah. You broke my fall when we came through." Jack gently slapped Daniel's bicep and turned towards his own bedroom. "Night."
"Good night." Well, Daniel thought to himself. At least he'd earned a few of his bruises and had prevented Jack from accumulating a few of his own.
- - - - - -
He woke slowly this time, emerging from the depths of sleep enfolded in warmth and comfort. Even before he opened his eyes, he knew he was at Jack's. He could hear music playing faintly, and running water. He sniffed and yes, there was the faint aroma of coffee in the air.
Daniel stretched, slowly and carefully, and to his delight, his body responded with less pain and stiffness than it had yesterday. He debated whether he should get up, or sleep some more. He could easily go either way, and so for a while he just lay there, drowsing, comfortable and happy.
Eventually he snaked an arm out of beneath the blankets and checked the time. And blinked and looked at his watch again. 10 am? He'd slept another twelve hours.
Feeling much more himself than he had in a long time, Daniel got out of bed and joined Jack in the kitchen. Without a word, a cup of coffee was placed in his hands and he concentrated on sipping the hot brew. Jack was dressed and made small talk while Daniel answered in monosyllables, waiting for the caffeine to hit his bloodstream.
Soon after, a heap of pancakes and bacon followed. Daniel ate the meal with gusto, wondering how he had ever managed to carry out his work now that he was rested and clear-headed. He lifted his gaze from his plate and saw Jack watching him, a satisfied look on his face.
"You feel like going for a walk today?" Jack asked when Daniel sopped up the remaining syrup in his plate with the last of the pancake. "The exercise is probably the best cure for those aching muscles now that you've had some sleep."
"Yeah, fresh air would be nice." Daniel glanced outside and saw the sun was shining.
"Go take your shower and get dressed. I'll just clean up in here."
Thirty minutes later, they were slowly walking along the quiet suburban streets. Jack had been right, after a few minutes, Daniel's muscles warmed up and he wasn't nearly as stiff as he'd been when he'd gotten out of bed. And despite the tenderness in his shoulder and the chilly air outside, he felt normal. Himself again. And he wondered how the hell he'd let himself get so run down and exhausted in the first place.
"I feel a little weird about all of this," Daniel finally said as they stopped to admire the view from the top of a hill.
"About what?" Jack turned to look at Daniel, his hands shoved into his jacket pocket. It was cold enough that Daniel could see Jack's breath as he spoke.
"You must get the feeling that I can't take care of myself." Daniel copied Jack's stance and looked at his feet. He kicked at a few yellow leaves the wind had carried out onto the road. "I mean, you go away for a few weeks and when you come back, I'm a total wreck." He glanced at Jack before kicking the dirt beneath his feet.
"Well, now that you mention it, I have wondered how you managed to survive all those years by yourself." Jack moved closer and nudged Daniel with his shoulder. "We all make mistakes. Don't fret over it. It's over and done with � what you need to do now is concentrate on getting better."
"I am. Better, that is. I could go back to work tomorrow," he added hopefully, knowing he was going to be bored home alone during the coming week.
"Daniel." Jack's tone of voice left that idea high and dry.
"Right." Daniel inhaled deeply and looked back the way they'd come. They must have walked a good two miles, and he felt really good. "You won't forget the video tape in my camera tomorrow, right?"
"I'll have it sent the moment Carter's finished working on it."
"Good. Because I really need something to do with my time."
"I can think of a few things you can do. Like sleeping."
"Jack." Daniel winced at the whining sound that had come out of his mouth. "Contrary to yesterday, I don't plan on spending the next five working days sleeping."
Jack grinned. "You could'a fooled me." He turned on his heel and began walking back towards his house. "So, how you holding up?"
"I'm good. We could have gone further."
"Let's not push it the first day, okay?"
"Janet said I could start exercising as soon as I felt up to it. I think I'll hit the gym tomorrow."
Jack slowed and looked at Daniel seriously. "She also said not to push yourself."
"Just so you remember."
- - - - - - -
Despite Daniel's assurances that he was feeling stronger and more himself, he ended up falling asleep after lunch. He woke up a little disoriented and a lot embarrassed. Until he sat up and noticed Jack snoring in the Lazy-Boy beside him. Daniel grinned, and went into the kitchen to start supper.
The remainder of the weekend passed by pleasantly. At least Jack didn't seem to be coddling him, and he did his share of the chores when Sam and Teal'c showed up for lunch on Sunday.
He was sorry to leave Jack's company when evening came around, but at the same time, he was glad to be on his own. At home he could nap whenever he felt like it without feeling that Jack thought less of him because he still tired easily.
Jack came up to Daniel's apartment and stayed long enough to make sure Daniel wasn't lacking anything, then took his leave. Daniel puttered around a little, then decided to curl up in bed with a book.
He woke up the next morning with the book having fallen to the floor, his glasses askew on his face, leaving a tell-tale red mark along one cheek. He was glad that Jack hadn't been there to laugh at him.
He did hit the gym later that morning after his car was returned to him by an Airman, compliments of General Hammond, but didn't push himself during his first workout. He had definitely lost his form, but knew it wouldn't take more than a few weeks to get back into the shape he'd been in previously. Or at least in shape enough to go back out on missions with SG-1.
He took a short nap after lunch and logged onto his computer when he woke up. He spent several hours tracking down ex-colleagues over the internet, then making a synopsis of their strengths and skills. Finally, after much deliberation, he had six names to offer General Hammond. All of them would be an asset to the SGC, and more importantly, all were people Daniel trusted and knew he would get along with.
He printed the outline, then emailed it to both Jack and the general. Just as he was about to log off, he received an email from Sam with several dozen photos attacked, which she'd captured from the footage he'd taken on the planet. He happily lost himself in looking those over when his doorbell rang. He got up, distracted, and went to answer the door.
"Jack." Daniel stepped back as Jack made his way into his apartment, carrying what smelled like a armful of Chinese food. "What are you doing here and... isn't it early for supper?"
"Well," Jack said as he walked into Daniel's kitchen. "I know Carter sent you those pictures about four hours ago and I'm betting you've been looking them over since the moment you found 'em."
"Yeah, but..." Daniel watched as Jack removed the food containers from the large paper bag, then glanced at his watch. Surprised, he stepped into the kitchen to check the clock on the microwave oven. It matched his watch.
"It's after six?"
"Yep. I thought I'd just drop by and make sure you didn't break your promise."
"Um," Daniel mumbled as he grabbed two plates and a couple of beers and placed them on the table beside the steaming containers. "What promise would that be?"
"About not spending more than two hours a day on work."
"I didn't..." Then his words came back to him as he'd quickly spoken them in the briefing room, desperate then to get his hands on the film. "Yeah, I guess I did."
Jack pulled a chair out and waited for Daniel to sit, then handed him some chopsticks. His stomach growling in hunger, Daniel picked up a container of vegetables and spooned some onto his plate.
"You find anything interesting in those pictures? Figure out what the writing says yet?" Jack reached for some ribs.
"It's incredible. The writing is a totally alien language. I've never seen anything like it. There's not even any similarity to anything Earth-based." Daniel paused, waving his chopsticks before him as his enthusiasm increased.
"So you don't know what it says."
"It's alien writing, Jack. It could mean anything."
"Nursery rhymes maybe? Poetry. Advertisement for the local hooch shop?"
"Didn't I just say it wasn't Earth-based?"
"And discovered on an alien planet. Makes sense, in a weird kinda way." Jack grinned at him, and Daniel grinned back.
They finished filling their plates with food and began to eat. Halfway through the meal, Jack reached into his back pocket and took out several folded sheets of yellow papers.
"By the way, I went looking for this." He tossed the papers beside Daniel's plate.
Daniel put his chopsticks down and unfolded the sheets, recognizing the forms and recognizing his handwriting. "So I didn't dream this."
"Of course not." Jack stopped eating and looked at Daniel with a frown. "You weren't beginning to doubt yourself, were you?"
"I don't know. I might have begun to think that..." Daniel put the papers down and resumed eating.
Daniel looked up at Jack.
"I never for a second doubted you. You said you'd filled out the forms, so I knew you'd had. I just went looking for them." Jack picked up a piece of broccoli and put it in his mouth. "Guess where I found them?"
"Stapled to one of your reports. You filled 'em out, all right. You just didn't send 'em out. You must have picked the sheets up with your work and stapled, then filed, the whole thing away."
"Oh." Daniel took a few more bites, then said, "I wonder how much other stuff I might have misfiled. I think first thing I'll need to do when I get back is go over my work. You know," he said, waving his chopsticks at Jack, "I misplaced one of my reports depicting a theory on how Nefertiti's name was mentioned on a plaque discovered by SG-4 on a planet whose culture was definitely oriental, and not Egyptian. I wonder if maybe I did the same thing with that report." He noticed Jack was grinning at him. "What?"
"Nothing." Jack picked up the beef and broccoli and began digging the beef out of the plastic container, putting the meat onto his plate.
"You think it's funny that I lost a report?"
"Nah." Jack put the container down and ate the few slivers of beef. "I just like seeing that spark back in your eyes." He picked up his beer and drank down the last of it. "By the way, Hammond and I looked over your recommendations. That Rothman guy seems pretty promising. Being a decathlon champ and all."
"Robert's a geek, Jack. Just like me. You'll like him a lot."
"What about William Lee?"
"I don't know Bill all that well, although I've gone to a few of his seminars. But his work speaks for itself. So does Cameron Balinksy's. Actually, any one of them would be a great asset, Jack."
"That's good to hear. Hammond's already on the horn, trying to get all six."
"All sss... six?" Daniel put his chopsticks down and leaned forward. "You're kidding, me, right?"
"Nope. He's gonna offer all of them a job. Probably not all will accept, but he is willing on taking them all, should they decide to work for us."
"That's great." Daniel grinned. Not only from the relief that some of the work pressure would be taken from his shoulders, but that there would be others to discuss his work with, and that he'd be able to introduce his colleagues to the wonders that he'd seen over the past months.
And to be totally honest, to maybe hold his head up high when his contemporaries actually found out that his theories had been right, after all. He figured he had a right to be proud of himself, even if it was for only those few seconds when he'd see the light click in their eyes as they made the connection.
He was just sorry that Steven Raynor and Sarah Gardner weren't on his list, if only to see their expressions were the truth presented to them. But he and Steven�they'd never get along together here. As much as the SGC could use someone of Steven's talents, his personality was too self-centered to make a career of the top secret information he'd be dealing with. And Sarah... well, she was good at her work but she lacked the qualities needed to work here. Unlike Sam.
Daniel couldn't envisage Sarah in combat gear, stepping into the Stargate into hazards unknown. Hell, he couldn't even picture Sarah working deep in the bowels of the mountain � even if she never did get clearance to go offworld. She just wasn't the type.
"I'm just not sure how I'm gonna get around without bumping into all you scientist types. Bad enough with Carter's gang, but now I'll have to dodge all the geeks whenever I come to find you."
And that was when Daniel realized that Jack and Hammond had actually listened to him, and had taken his requests to heart. They hadn't tut-tutted his concerns aside with false promises. They had seen what needed to be done and had taken action, much more quickly than he even thought possible.
He knew the military could act when needed. He just never realized that he'd be considered something that required needing.
"You'll manage just fine," Daniel replied with a grin that hadn't yet faded.
"I better." Jack dumped a bit more rice into his plate. "I spent a lot of time breaking you in; I wouldn't want you to catch any bad habits."
"Breaking me in?" Daniel heard his voice rise half an octave. "Bad habits?" It rose yet again.
"Sure. You know SG-1 can't do without you now. That was all my doing."
Daniel snorted. "I haven't changed a whit in all the months I've been on your team."
"Oh yeah? Seems to me you've learned how to fire weapons." Jack busied himself with his rice, trying to catch some on his chopsticks. "You've become more aware of dangerous situations as they're happening, and hell, you've even learned how to follow orders." Jack glanced over at Daniel with what he took to be a teasing expression. "Sorta."
"And you think that by associating with my colleagues, I might regress to...?"
Jack smirked. "Wandering off without telling people where you've gone. Being afraid to hold a gun at an enemy, let alone firing it."
"Hey, I was never afraid to handle a weapon. I fired that staff weapon the first time like a pro."
"Yeah, that's right. Did us all proud when we went after Ra." Jack's smirk changed to a heartfelt smile, and his eyes crinkled at Daniel. "And you still do us proud, Daniel." Jack put his chopsticks down and winked. "Promise me you'll never let yourself get into this sort of position again. Because we're here to help. All of us. Just don't forget that."
"I won't." Daniel winked back. "Because you'll never let me."
Author's Comments: This is for Sallye. Forgive me yet? :-)
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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.