Shadows Fall

Morning calls, Darkness draws
Upon this day a Shadow Falls

-- Shadows Fall, The Coral

________________________________________________________________________

"If you're going to do it, do it now!"

Do it now. God, how can I do it?

I glance over at Teal'c, and he meets my eyes with more assurance and confidence than should be possible considering.

"Daniel Jackson has made his choice, O'Neill."

Just like that, huh, Teal'c? His choice. Only it wasn't his choice. It was mine--and I had made it. But Daniel, as always, didn't seem to let that small fact faze him.

"Yeah." I say it without believing it, and then, before I can even run through all the possible repercussions, my finger is pressing down on the trigger.

I looked up at the approaching ship, still holding the remote. And I knew I was never going to forgive him for this. I was never going to forgive myself.

"Sixty seconds to detonation." I recognized the tone of her voice. She would never forgive me either.

I tried to think of something I could say. Anything, really. But the ship stops moving and any possible words are lost.

"The ship has stopped, O'Neill," Teal'c tells me. I'm too shocked to point out, once more, that Teal'c is a master at stating the obvious.

"Daniel must have got through to them," Carter says through the radio.

Of course he did. He actually did it. Damn him, he did it.

There was still time, not much, but we've cut things far closer before. I reach for my radio and bring it up. "Daniel, if you can hear me, you've got thirty seconds.three zero, over." This is you last chance, Daniel. Please-- just this once, do as I say.

He doesn't answer. He never does when he's doing something he knows he shouldn't. It's a bad habit that's been harmless up until now.

Christ. Twenty seconds left. Twenty seconds before I'm responsible for the deaths of an entire alien race and the best person I've ever known. Damn it, Daniel. Use another life, land on your feet, get your ass down here, would you?

Who the hell does he think he is, anyway? He knows how important he is to the SGC--I've been sure to drill it into him from the start. I've told him he's too important to take stupid chances. And this.this is just suicide.

"Five." Carter's coolly professional voice begins to count down from her position at the 'gate. I know her well enough to know her heart is breaking.

"Four."

I close my eyes for an instant before forcing myself to watch. I did this, there was no backing out now. The very least I could do was watch.

"Three."

Daniel still hasn't materialized from nowhere. I run a hand jerkily through my hair as I realize he'll still be up there when that thing goes off. Trying to get Lotan to see reason with his last breath.

"Two."

He's really not getting out of this one. All those times--and it's this one that marks the end? Where's the justice in that?

"One!"

I don't breathe for a moment, I just silently watch and wait for my world to shatter in a hail of flames. Nothing happens. A heartbeat passes and the bomb is rocketing out and away from the ship, exploding in a glorious and completely ineffectual light show in the sky.

"What is going on?" Hedrazar looks panicked, frantic with the need to know what's happening. I could relate.

"The ship remains!"

It remains--oh god, it's still there. I know I'm not supposed to be quite this relieved about that.

But the relief doesn't last long and I can't afford for it to. I was going to kill him. That sanctimonious sonovabitch! When I get my hands on him.

"O'Neill, it would seem we need to find another way to help the Enkarians."

"I'm open to suggestions," I tell him vaguely, guiltily pulling my hands from the neck of the Daniel in my mind. "Perhaps Daniel Jackson has made a deal with Lotan?"

"He'd better have," I agree harshly. "Because right now, that's about the only thing that's going to save him from me." I stalk off towards the main tent, following in the wake of the distraught Hedrazar.

Teal'c is behind me, and I see Carter approaching from the 'gate--looking anxious but relieved.

I really did wish I could just be relieved about this too. Because it's damn hard to convince yourself to be angry that you're best friend didn't just explode--but that was these people's last chance. That, of course, only made me even angrier at the one person it seemed perfectly reasonable to be angry at. Daniel.

We're going to have a long--extremely long--talk about this. I don't know when he started thinking he was invincible, and immune from having to follow my orders--but it would stop now or he was grounded on Earth. Permanently.

Hedrazar is recovering her strength as we enter. She tilts her head up defiantly, unwilling to let us see her defeated even though she can see nothing at all.

"So, what shall we do now?" she asks.

I have absolutely nothing to tell her.

But, with impeccable timing as always, Daniel Jackson once again comes along to save the day. From the grin he's wearing when he and Lotan materialize in front of us, I just know he's fixed everything. We'll be getting a happy ending tonight--but its one hell of a price that we're going to pay for it. And Daniel has no idea what he's done.

"What is it?" Hedrazar demands.

"Its okay, don't.don't be afraid."

It's okay? How can he believe that?

I walk over to Daniel and Lotan, reminding myself screaming at him won't help the Enkarans. I feign casualness--which, luckily, I'm very good at.

"What's going on?" I ask. Daniel looks at me and quickly catches the translation--'what the hell are you doing?' I allow myself a small measure of satisfaction as his eyes flicker nervously away from mine.

He turns away from me, deciding to speak to the villagers instead. "Lotan would like to offer you a compromise."

"The ship has expended too many of the resources needed for the transformation process to begin on another planet."

Blah, blah, blah. Compromise? What's the compromise? Come on, Daniel. You just risked your life and the last of my sanity for this--I know you can do better.

"I require that you give up this world."

My eyes roll upwards at this. I know that grin, Daniel. You've got something up your sleeve--let's skip to it.

"How is that a compromise?" Eliam demands.

Daniel's grinning again. "We've found the original Enkaran home world."

Of course you have.

"What?" Hedrazar gasps.

"How?" Carter echoes.

"It was one of several million scanned by the ship before it settled on this one and it was rejected partly on the presence of intelligent life forms."

Right. And it's this easy, huh? "He's telling us this now?" I snap.

"Well, he didn't know and technically he's just a day and a half old so.give him a break."

A BREAK? Give him a BREAK? Oh, I'd love to break something alright.

"We will gladly accept this offer to return to the home of our ancestors."

"How do we get them there?" Carter asks.

"The Enkaran home world has no Stargate," Teal'c tells us. Again with the stating of the obvious.

We all look to Daniel and Lotan.

"Well, actually, I have this friend with a big spaceship who's willing to take them," Daniel tells us.

Of course he does.

"Is that possible?" Hedrazar asks.

"Yes, once you are safely to your home planet I will be reintegrated into the ships systems and the ship will be returned here to complete the transformation process."

"Does that have to happen? The part about you having to be reintegrated?"

Yes, Daniel. By all means--save the robot too.

"What other option is there?"

Just ask Daniel. He's good with options. LOVES finding other options.

"But you are Enkaran. You must stay with us," Hedrazar says.

"That is not contrary to my programming," Lotan says. The Enkarans just watch him blankly.

"Lotan says thank you, he'd like that very much," Daniel translates.

"Spread the word among the villages. We are going home!"

Daniel turns to look at me, and smiles brightly. I attempt to smile back. He still has no idea what he put me through.

"Daniel?" I say pleasantly. His smile fades in an instant. He caught the translation on that one too--'You are in so much trouble.' "A word?"

"Sure, Jack," he agrees uncertainly.

I grab his arm and push him outside before he can say any more. He doesn't say anything as I pull him a few feet away from the village, out of ear shot.

"Jack?"

I stop, and turn to glare at him. "What the hell was that?"

"Jack--"

"And, Daniel, I swear to god--one word about trying to give me options, just one word--"

"Jack, what's this about? Everything's worked out. The Enkarans get to go home, the Gadmeer will make a new one here--I thought you would be happy."

"Happy? You thought I would be happy? Daniel--I almost KILLED you today. Or has that slipped your mind?"

"You did what you had to, Jack," he tells me. "And I did the same."

"You did not have to get on that ship--" I growl at him. "You knew damn well what we were going to do. I ORDERED you to stay the hell off of it."

"And if I had listened, Jack? What then? Lotan would have found your bomb anyway--and that ship would have kept coming. It would probably be here by now, and everyone here would be dead."

"That isn't the point--" I snap. "Yes, it worked out, Daniel. And everyone's alive, but it just as easily could have went the other way."

"Everything we do involves chance, Jack. Every single action has consequences--we just have to keep on living and doing what we think is right. That's all I did--and I'm sorry if--"

"If what? If I got stuck with some of those consequences? You still don't have any idea, do you? How could you?--you've never been forced to kill one of your friends for the greater good."

"I'm not dead, Jack."

"That isn't the point either!"

Daniel is, hands down, the worst person to argue with--EVER. He can knock down any argument in ten seconds flat--even when he's the one that's wrong.

"I need to know I can depend on you, Daniel," I tell him, trying to calm my voice.

"You can--if anything, I would think that's what I've proven today."

"All you've proven today is that you'll disobey an order from me if the mood takes you, and that's dangerous, Daniel. For all of us."

"It would be far more dangerous if you had no one around to question you, Jack," he tells me calmly. "Sam can't do it--Teal'c doesn't. Sometimes you need someone around to show you another point of view."

"You didn't just show me another point of view, Daniel. You risked your life on the off chance you would get through to an artificial life form we knew nothing about."

"And I did it."

"But what doesn't seem to be getting through to you is that none of that matters. The end result is great--I'll give you that. It's the perfect solution, and I'm nothing short of ecstatic that you came up with it. Its how you did it, Daniel, that's got me worried."

"If I'd told you I wanted to return to the ship again you would have stopped me."

"Damn straight."

"And we'd be back to everyone being dead again. This wasn't easy for me either, Jack. I'm not particularly fond of going on ships set to explode-- but I needed to do all I could, I had to do something."

"You're the smartest person I know, Daniel--but I swear sometimes I can't remember why."

"You've gone against Hammond before, to do what you thought was right, Jack. This is no different."

Oh no. I don't like the direction this is going. I push my hand through my hair again. I'm not going to win this argument.

Which means, when there's a next time--and I have no doubts there will be-- this is going to happen all over again. Daniel will sacrifice himself just as easily all over again. And there might not be a Lotan to save the day next time around.

"Any way you look at it, Jack, this day would have ended in tragedy if I hadn't done exactly what I did. So tell me, how could it not have been right? My life is nothing when weighed against theirs."

That's where you're wrong, Daniel. But you'd never believe that.

"Jack." Daniel's looking in the direction of the village as he speaks. And I know what he's thinking as he watches a couple of kids run around and play. "There was nothing else I could have done."

"I know," I whisper. I did. He was right--and maybe that's what was making me so angry.

"I am sorry for what it did to you. I'll admit I hadn't thought of that. I guess I just trusted you to look out for the Enkarans in case I couldn't make a difference--and you did."

"And as you've pointed out--more than once--it wouldn't have done any good."

"You would have thought of something, Jack. I just thought of something first."

He smiles slightly at this, in that humble but not completely humble way of his.

I think he really believes that. I'd forgotten how much faith he had in me-- maybe that was the biggest mistake I made today. I didn't trust Daniel to be Daniel. But I couldn't afford to do that--not with so many lives depending on me. I may trust him with my life, but I couldn't make that choice for an entire race.

"You did the right thing," he tells me. "But I think that I did too."

We could hear Carter and Teal'c rounding up the Enkarans behind us, preparing them to be taken to the ship. We should go say goodbye to them, see this through to the end--but he doesn't move and neither do I.

"There was no easy answer today," he continues. "But it worked out--god, Jack, for once it worked out. We've helped people today. We don't get to do that very often."

"You do it all the time," I tell him softly. He talks, I shoot. Since the very beginning this is how it's been. Nothing has changed. I don't know why any of this has surprised me.

"So do you," he snaps, harsher than I expect to hear from him. "I can just guess all the thoughts running through your head, Jack--and you can just cut it out. Because you do just as much good as me if not more. You're a protector, and you've taken it on yourself to save the universe. You have to know I admire that--that I admire you."

He admires me? Only us. Only I could try to blow him up to have him turn around and tell me he admires me that very same day.

"Yeah, well, I may.sort of admire you too. But don't let it go to your head. I'm still mad as hell at you."

He grins at me in a way that has me thinking he doesn't believe that last part. "We should go say goodbye," he says, motioning to the last of the Enkarans.

Lotan, Hedrazar, Eliam, Nikka and a few others are still there.

"Yeah."

He starts off and I follow more slowly--still not quite sure how I had let Daniel talk me into forgiving him. He's saying goodbye to Lotan when I reach them, and Lotan heads back up to the ship, intending to bring up the last of the villagers in a few minutes.

I move to stand with my team, and we all wave goodbye as they disappear in the orange light. We're still standing there when the ship pushes through the atmosphere and into space. None of us speaking, none of us quite sure what to say.

"Chinese food?" I suggest.

Daniel nods, eyes still fixed on the sky. "I could go for some Chinese food."

I allow myself a small smile before following his gaze up to the clouds.

The End.