If you've gotten this far, let me interject a note. I've had some people suggest a sequel. I wasn't planning one BUT if you are one of those who decide to give me feedback anyway and you would read one if I wrote it (and it was worth reading on its own merits), please let me know. Thanks!
P4T978 seemed inappropriately pleasant for Daniel's mood and mission. The gate sat on a low hill with a park like setting spreading out around it of open meadow sprinkled with white flowers and dotted with small glades of very large ferny plants. The meadows segued into forest on the slopes of foothills climbing to the encircling peaks. The gate was off to one side of the valley, close to the blue-green forest perimeter. There were a few other low hills, mounds really, which Daniel knew were more likely the remnants of former habitation than anything resulting from geological events. Small streams laced the landscape.
Looking to his left where there was no sign of humans or ruins, Daniel felt for just a brief moment as if he was about to see Julie Andrews and a bunch of kids in uniforms come running into sight singing "Edelweiss." He frequently had these strange connections when first encountering new worlds, which fortunately he had had the good sense never to share. He thought it was his brain trying to make him comfortable with something totally new.
In the other direction, there was no "Sound of Music." Instead there was the sound of a typical dig, although minus a large number of local workers, buzzing in some other language. A group of about 15 men and women was moving among the upended stones of the ruins, working the site under the direction of, God love him, Carl. A soldier with a rifle slung over his shoulder came forward and greeted Daniel. He could see that there were three other soldiers around the site, clearly standing sentry duty as well as another soldier on the far side of the gate watching the other end of the valley. "How's it going in terms of safety? I heard there was something fairly nasty here that's started making trouble." he asked.
"No worries sir. Murphy and I are SG-24," he gestured to the other man sitting nearby, "and our CO and Captain Cox both have plenty of experience with combat command. The whole unit's got more field experience than most of the SG teams," the man said with pride. Daniel knew that SG-24 was one of the units that specialized in the more dangerous situations. "All of us are former special ops. We've got SG-31 with us and they're good people when it comes to a dust up. We are on a red alert status now sir. The CO revised the threat assessment this morning. We had an incident during the night. These things, whatever they are, they're smarter than we initially thought and angrier about our presence." He gestured toward the camp between the dig and the gate. "The CO'd like you to check in with him before you go to work, sir."
Daniel found the CO, Colonel Tang, in the command hut. There were precious few pleasantries before the wiry, intense man got to the point. "It's part of my job to know what's going on with my team and I know that Captain Cox has got some powerfully negative feelings about you. When we were informed you were coming, I took that into consideration. I don't like to complicate dangerous situations. But Deeje is the best at what she does and your reputation archeologically says you're the best at what you do. Deeje has managed to keep that idiot from your staff from making a complete mess of things but I need her focused on our military situation. She knows that I expect personal feelings to have nothing to do with the job and now I want to make sure you do too."
Daniel appreciated everything being out in the open. "Colonel, the thing with Captain Cox is one sided. I don't return her ill will. You have nothing to worry about from me."
Tang said, "I'm her CO. I've seen her personnel file." He was watching Daniel's face and saw the tell tale sign he was looking for. "You came here looking for her, didn't you?" he asked.
Daniel wasn't really surprised. If he knew what DJ stood for, the similar names must have at least raised a flag. "There really is a good reason in terms of my responsibilities to the SGC but I can't deny that I was hoping to see her."
"This is a combat situation although we do have far superior weapons and there don't seem to be that many of them. Whatever the two of you have to work out, this isn't the place for it. I'll send you back through the gate in a heartbeat if you lose track of why you're here," Tang finished in no uncertain terms.
Daniel had a strong suspicion he'd be ushered through the gate in fairly short order because there was no way he was going to do what Tang requested. He went to the dig and ruined Carl's day. Deeje wasn't around as he half expected her to be but he felt as if she was there as Carl complained about her nonstop, an amateur according to Carl, interfering with his professional direction.
He was assigned to share the tent occupied by Carl and another archeologist. As he slumped on his field cot, tired and heartily sick of the sound of Carl's voice, still whining in the background, he was beginning to think that he might be able to keep Tang happy after all. He had learned that Deeje had taken a reconnaissance team out in the morning and was not expected back until dark. That should be fairly soon but it might be hard to get her one-to-one, especially if she didn't want him to.
There was some noise outside and he went to the tent flap to see a group of three soldiers entering the camp. The officer was clearly Deeje. She left her companions and went into the command hut to report and they joined a group at a campfire. With the equipment they had brought with them, the campfire was completely unnecessary but it was comforting and camps often had them. Daniel continued standing in the tent opening and ten minutes later Deeje reemerged. She went away from the campfire and toward the last tent in the encampment and he caught up with her, just as she reached it.
"Captain Cox, might I have a word with you," he said, keeping it professional for the sake of anyone who might be listening and, in any case, not at all sure how she would respond to him calling her anything more personal.
He was no more than two feet away from her and his heart ached to finally see her face up close, even if it was in the fading light that cast shadows and hid her expression from him. "I'm not going to be able to avoid it, am I Dr. Jackson," came the answer, her tone emotionless. "For obvious reasons, I don't really want to share our conversation with the rest of my unit. Let's take a walk."
They strolled away from the camp although they didn't leave the perimeter protected by sensors and watched by the sentries. She stopped just inside of it and turned to look at him. "When I was a kid, I waited for you to show up for a long time. I guess it used up all my patience so let's get this over with," she spat out. Out of earshot of others, she was making no efforts to mask her feelings.
"Dani," he didn't know where that came from but it was what seemed so right to call her all of a sudden, "I'm here to beg your forgiveness and to hopefully at least help you to understand what really happened. I don't expect you to love me as your father or want me in your life but it's really important to me that you at least know you were not abandoned. That I loved your mother and I love you. One of the biggest regrets of my entire life is that I didn't have you both in it."
She wasn't saying anything and he couldn't see her face well now at all, night having fully arrived. He continued, going on because he had no choice but feeling increasingly hopeless, "Your grandfather told me you didn't want to see me. I actually came to Tennessee once but they kept you from me. My letters to you came back unopened. Then later, I thought I talked to you on the phone and got letters from you but it was your cousin Carson's daughter who basically used the opportunity to tell me that she hated me. They were keeping the checks. I never knew you ran away, that you didn't have a happy home."
Still she remained silent. "Can you at least tell me whether you believe what I'm telling you about how we were sabotaged? Whether you really think I'm the kind of deadbeat father whose only involvement is court ordered child support?"
Finally she spoke. "General O'Neill told me all that. He told me what you've done." She couldn't keep a hint of a fond note out of her voice as she said, "He thinks you're an absolute saint by the way. He told me that he didn't know how you manage to combine sainthood with being a pain in the ass but that it was your greatest accomplishment. I respect him and, honestly, it fits with a lot of things that never made sense to me. So, no I don't believe you were a total deadbeat dad but that still leaves how you got my mother drunk and took advantage of her."
"How I did what?" Daniel asked, stunned.
"My granddaddy told me. You got her drunk or she would never have let you do it," Deeje said, sounding so sad.
"Your grandfather lied, Dani," Daniel said, forcefully. "It was completely mutual. There wasn't any alcohol in sight." He moderated his tone. "I think I know what happened to you, what Carson tried to do and what happened to you in Chicago. That's what I regret the most -- that I wasn't there to prevent that. It isn't in me to treat a woman like that, to take advantage of a woman. It didn't happen that way."
"You know what happened to me?" her voice rose dangerously. "There's no way you could really understand."
"Dani, you've investigated me. You know my parents, your grandparents, died when I was 8 and I grew up in foster homes. I'm not going to tell you the whole story now but believe me I have a definite basis for understanding. The important thing is that you realize that after what I had experienced there was no way I was going to take advantage of your mother, force her into anything," he stopped, his voice breaking.
"Studies show that a large percentage of abusers were abused themselves," she said truculently.
"My God, Dani. Doesn't everything else you now know about me count for anything? Doesn't the fact that your grandfather lied about other things lend support to what I'm telling you? He couldn't stand the thought that his little girl would sin according to his definition of things, would have sex outside of marriage, so he had to have an explanation that put the blame somewhere else." Daniel was pleading and he felt like he was up against a brick wall.
Suddenly Deeje hissed, "Get down" and pushed him to make the point. Lying prone on the ground, she spoke very softly into her COM link, "I think there's something out there. The moons came out from behind the clouds for just a second and I saw something at 6:00 to the Gate."
She started to move forward quickly, but low, deactivating the section of sensors and its capability to shock in the section in front of them. She shook he head at Daniel as he came after her. He kept coming and counted it as a sort of victory that she didn't turn the array back on until he had cleared. They had almost reached a fern grove and suddenly there were explosions at all the sentry points. Deeje spoke urgently into her COM link as they continued moving. Then volleys of some sort of silent projectiles whistled into the camp, probably shot as a burst rather than targeted as a few sprayed out in the general vicinity, a handful even falling around them. A horde came out of the night, pouring through the sensors. It overwhelmed their capability. Several of the nightmare creatures fell but their fellows just trod over them. Deeje and Daniel continued to move into the shelter of the grove. A voice on the COM link said, "We've got the big weapons but we have several wounded. We think we can open a way to the gate but we have to keep moving. They keep coming in larger and larger numbers."
She said, "We're on the other side of them. Jackson's with me. Can you hold them off long off long enough to get to you around the flank?"
The voice said, "You've got until we've got gate access, Deeje. I don't want to leave you behind but we've too many wounded. If you can't make it, hide and we'll come back in force for you."
She rolled back to Daniel. If you go around and come at the gate from the side there aren't as many there. They can probably cover you well enough for you to make it."
He didn't understand. "What about you?"
"I took one in the leg. It's already numb. I wouldn't be able to get far on my own and it'd slow you down too much to carry me."
"Do you honestly think I would leave you here wounded to try to hide somehow from the night of the seriously ferocious alien monsters, or whatever they are?" Daniel activated his own COM link. "This is Jackson. Deeje is wounded. We're going to go into hiding. We'll be looking forward to some help real soon."
She didn't thank him. She just got right to business while tying a bandana around her own wound. "They came from the end of the valley where the pass is. It's strange that they didn't surround us. Come from both up and down the valley. I'm thinking there's something on up the valley they don't like. I found a cave up there. I think while they're still distracted we should get into the forest and go up valley."
The forest was
150 yards from their current position. There were creatures in sight on
their other side still coming from the direction of the pass. The grass
was high. Daniel said "You can squirm, even though you can't walk,
She nodded and they began to proceed on their bellies through the grass. It was very slow because there was no easy way for Daniel to help her. Finally they made the forest and as soon as they were out of sight of the meadow, Daniel stood and pulled her up on her good leg. Her leg was seeping blood and he worried that they'd left a trail through the grass. He cut off the bottom half of his t-shirt and wound it over the bandage. Then he got her over his back in a fireman's carry. He had to stop and rest several times before they got to the cave. Despite his almost fanatical exercise routine, which had admittedly lapsed in the last month or so, she was a tall woman and heavy with solid muscle. At last they were in the shallow shelter and he could put her down the last time.
Her directions had gotten increasingly more difficult to follow and he could tell she was having trouble holding on to consciousness. "Let me take a look at your leg," he requested. He removed the bandana and saw an ugly wound. He had no medical supplies but she had a canteen at her hip with a small amount of water left in it. He inventoried what else they did have. They both had the standard field equipment all soldiers wore, his uniform and paraphernalia being like hers, just minus any indication of rank. He also had a clean bandana in his pocket along with a Swiss army knife, a package of Kleenex, and a roll of breath mints. She had her own Kleenex and Swiss army knife. "So," he said while he worked on her leg, trying to distract her, "you got my allergies? I mean you got Kleenex."
"No energy for idle talk. About to pass out. No fires, huh?"
"Deeje, I've been going into combat situations of sorts since you were a little girl. Give me some credit." He got no response for she had, in fact, passed out. She felt warm to the touch and there was no more water.
He took the canteen and walked a few feet from the cave, listening for the sound of one of the many streams, hoping they were near one. It was now the middle of the night but as if in answer to prayer, the clouds began to disappear and the moons shone bright again. His patience was rewarded and he discovered a tiny feeder stream close enough that he could still see the mouth of the cave. He braced himself against the cave wall and held her head in his lap through the night. She was warm but not burning up and he managed to stay fairly upbeat. Finally just before dawn, he dropped off to sleep.
When he woke, it was full day. She was sitting up next to him. "Good morning," she said, sounding friendly. "Did I hear something about breath mints last night? Maybe if we had a breath mint for breakfast, we could fool our stomachs a little." He pulled them out and doled one out to each of them. She shifted painfully and said, "I'm just going to imagine this is a nice biscuit with Virginia ham."
"How are you feeling," he asked, looking at her wan face intently. It was the first time he'd ever really seen it up close and in daylight.
"Not great but I think it's clean wound. So how long do you think it'll be before they come back?"
"I think the SGC takes care of its own, whoever they are. But we've got some added pull. Sam'll make sure Jack knows. He's a major big cheese now and here we have his best friend and the woman he loves. He'll be on it."
"He told you that?" she asked surprised.
"Yeah. He admitted that there's something between the two of you but he said he wasn't letting anything come of it given the regs."
She laughed. "Yeah, the sacred regs. Do you know half the women on some navy ships end up pregnant? But Jack O'Neill is going to follow the regs. I'm doing my best to wear him down. Does that weird you out?"
"Basically, yeah. You don't expect your best friends to get involved with your kids." He hesitated, then plunged ahead. "I don't want you to get your heart broken. There is no way anything will happen until he retires, if then. He's been emotionally unavailable since Charlie died. I think the chain of command thing may turn out to a convenient excuse and when he retires, he might find another."
"I think you're wrong. Let's talk about something else. What do you think of these beasts having weapons?"
Daniel laughed without any humor behind it, "Arming the animals. Wouldn't the Sierra Club love it. Either they're not animals or there's there something else there running them. I'm leaning toward the later. We didn't see any of them carrying weapons. Someone behind them was doing the shooting."
"I agree. You know, the logical thing for them would be to just tear the gate down, break the DHD, but I don't think they will. What do you think?"
"Is this a test Dani to see if I'm as smart as I'm reputed to be?" She laughed in spite of herself. "I saw mention in the field reports of previous campsites being found near the gate and previous excavations of the ruins. They didn't attack right away because they wanted us to bring lots of stuff though the gate and set up a camp. They've done a little minor harassment, even though it made us wary, to get us to bring more weapons here, more stuff, and to see what we'd do. Then when they figured they had about as much as they could reasonably harvest and we were still at a force level they could handle, they sent their animals in."
They stayed in their cave for three days. The breath mints were long gone and hunger was sharp but they had water and Deeje's wound did not get infected. And they talked. At first they spent hours on linguistics and archeology. She shared his enthusiasm for ideas and could get lost in them, just as he could, when she had the luxury to allow herself to do so. Sometimes it seemed like they were just two colleagues and then she would remember that she was supposed to hate him and make some cutting remark or get deliberately argumentative. She was even better at cussing in other languages than he and he took a sort of perverse fatherly pride in her when she leveled a few marvelously inventive diatribes of invectives at his head.
The second day, they talked about themselves, what they liked and what they didn't, what mattered to them. It turned out they both loved the television show "MacGyver." Deeje joked that with the two Swiss army knives they had between them, they should be able to build a Gate if they just put their minds to it and could find some duct tape. Deeje explained how Covenant House had gotten her off the streets immediately after the rape and helped her to find herself. She had been raised Baptist but an elderly nun, Sister Jean, had been the one who patiently, day after day, worked at getting through her barriers. Deeje's conversion and practice of Catholicism had been motivated by a desire to have something of the peace she saw in the nun. Daniel hoped she wasn't deluding herself with faith in something false like all the gods he had met in person with snakes in their bellies but he said nothing. Daniel told her something of his experiences in foster homes and the incident with Hathor and she realized that he did relate to her better than she had realized.
By the third day, the initial barriers had weakened and they started really talking about the problems between them. She persisted in calling him Dr. Jackson but allowed him to continue to call her Dani. It was clearly important to her that he believe that she was not responsible for the poem or the sex rumor. "When we get back, and I know we will, check out this guy, Dr. Lipscomb. I got a brainstorm and thought maybe they were inspired by someone who had the hots for Dr. Carter and was jealous of her relationship with you. Anyway, since everyone knows I hate you," she looked over at him and made a face. "Well I did and I'm not saying I don't still but you're making it hard for me. To get back to my point, people don't have any compunction telling me stuff they wouldn't want to get back to you or Carter. She really shut him down and in front of some other people. He's quite obnoxious and I'm sure he kept coming until she didn't have a choice. He's been saying stuff about her and you to anyone that would listen to him."
Daniel said, "If you tell me you didn't, that's good enough for me." She clearly appreciated his willingness to take her word for it and the atmosphere continued to grow more positive. Finally he had the courage to ask the question straight out. "Do you still believe I victimized your mother? Are you any closer to forgiving me?"
"Look, Dr. Jackson, you can't just turn on love or turn off hate. I made promises to my grandparents on their death beds about you," she said, not looking at him. They sat in silence. "But," she said, breaking the silence and startling him, "I have to tell a priest about it every damn time I go to confession, well that and the lusting in my heart stuff for Jack," she continued, overlooking Daniel's involuntary wince, "and it's getting stale. I don't think God's going to let me off this rock until I forgive you." She put out her hand. "I'm just offering forgiveness, not the whole daughter/father package you know."
He took it, saying nothing, his throat closing up with unshed tears. Two hours later, the COM link sprang to life. A respectable rescue force had arrived including a large, determined Jaffa warrior along with a general and the head of R&D, neither of whom had been in combat for years. They encountered no resistance at the gate, the entire contents of the encampment having vanished as if the Tauri had never paid a previous visit.
Daniel directed them to their hiding place. Most of SG-24 was in the party that arrived with a stretcher as were Jack, Sam, and Teal'c. There was a lot of hugging and general back slapping. He hugged Sam tightly but refrained from planting the deep kiss on her he wanted to. Their relationship was not ready for full public display. He gave Jack a hug while Deeje had to settle for a salute and manage her joy at seeing him so that it blended in with her general pleasure at being rescued. As he embraced Jack, Daniel whispered, "This is from ALL the Jacksons" and Jack gave him a quick squeeze that indicated he had the message and appreciated it.
Jack looked at Deeje and joked, "Good work soldier. I'm sure managing to keep this civilian alive took all your energy."
Deeje smiled, careful to keep it the right kind of smile. "Thank you sir." She gestured at Daniel, smiling, and said, "He actually has some aptitude for this sort of thing." Daniel gave her a friendly smile in return and felt amused, thinking of how half those in the little knot of people gathered around the stretcher had no idea of the strong currents of feelings swirling below the surface that couldn't be openly displayed.
Deeje wasn't done though. She grabbed Daniel's hand as the stretcher bearers began to carry her toward the gate. Her team mates were only mildly surprised. Sharing a foxhole did tend to settle issues. They were actually more surprised by her subsequent announcement to her team mates, even though they didn't pick up on what it signaled the way Jack, Sam, and Daniel did. Deeje said in a clear, carrying voice, "I decided something while I was lying around waiting for you people to get your asses organized to come and save us. I know it'll be a strain at first and fortunately you just called me Cox a lot of the time but I've decided to go by my real first name from now on. So no more Deeje. It's Dani spelled with an i."