Chapter 23

Daniel nodded gratefully at the general and left. Jack started to follow him, but Hammond called him back. "Leave him be, colonel."

"I can't believe . . . what I said to him . . . it was bad enough before, but knowing this now . . ."

"Hindsight is twenty-twenty," Hammond said. "Nothing can change what happened. I'm not exactly thrilled about my part in that affair knowing what I know now, but the fact is that's our problem, not his."

"Right," Jack said sourly. Hammond was right, however little he liked it. He returned to his seat and they all sat silently, looking not at each other but at the walls and the table. Jack writhed internally, remembering the moment when, knowingly, consciously, deliberately, he'd yanked the ground out from under Daniel's feet.

After several minutes of complete silence, Teal'c said, "If Colonel Simmons were to make negative remarks about DanielJackson in my presence, I do not know that I could control my reaction." He pursed his lips thoughtfully. "In fact I am certain that I would not wish to."

"Then you had better avoid him," Hammond said. "Though I doubt he'd approach you with anything."

"If he has any sense, he won't say anything to the three of us," Sam said.

"My concern is that he will say something to someone else with one of you present, but I think he has a sufficiently healthy respect for Teal'c's abilities, and a sufficiently exaggerated notion of his temper that he will probably avoid him." From the way Carter's nostrils flared, Jack could see that Hammond's words were only making her mood worse. The general rose. "Well, I have a meeting in half an hour, so I had better be going."

They all stood up and went out of the conference room. Teal'c nodded at them and headed towards the gym. Jack began to wonder where Carter was going because she stayed with him all the way as he headed back to his office. When they reached the hallway that led to his office, he glanced over at her. "What's up?"

"I wanted to talk to you," she said soberly, and he led her into the office and held the door for her.

"Do I need to shut it?" he asked, and she nodded. Jack walked over to his desk chair, but she was standing so stiffly that he was a little uncomfortable sitting down. "Carter, you want to –"

"What exactly did you say to him?" she asked abruptly.

If she'd turned around and punched him in the gut he couldn't have been more surprised. He took in a deep breath and took refuge in flippancy. "Carter, I thought I taught you better. When you jab a knife into someone, you're supposed to twist."

"Sir, this is hardly a moment for humor."

He swallowed his retort and searched for words. "Sit down," he said finally.

"Sir . . ."

"Sit down, Carter. Please."

She sat and that allowed him to sink into his chair. The very nature of her question made the situation feel enormously formal, and his early training had kicked in. He looked down at the top of the desk. "I'm sorry, sir, I know this can't be easy, but . . ."

"No, Carter, I understand that you want to know. I can even see that you really should know, but you can't expect me to view talking about it with pleasure." He regarded his hands unhappily. "It . . . it was bad enough before."

"Yeah, you said that earlier."

Jack bit his lip. "Well, you know, he came to the house. I don't know exactly what the three of you had in mind, but he –"

"Sir, I . . ." She looked vaguely embarrassed. "At that moment, I would have agreed with anything Daniel said, but we didn't . . . he went to see you on his own. That was just a . . . a payback, I guess." Jack let out a huffing sort of mirthless laugh. That was so like Daniel. "All we knew was that he came back to work the next day feeling about as warm as an iceberg. We didn't even know he'd seen you till later."

Jack sighed. That just made it worse, and Jack found himself wondering if Daniel realized that. "I . . . I knew the house was monitored. I saw Daniel and I knew I had to find a way to get him to leave, but Daniel knows me too well. Like he said, he sees through people too readily for comfort. He was thinking aloud, working his way through it, and I had to stop him. I had to shut him up before he talked us both into trouble."

"But what did you say?" Carter asked. "It's clear that it wasn't some vague pushing away, not after the way you two were acting just now."

Jack shook his head. "No, it wasn't vague. He was trying to come up with an explanation for my apparent descent into insanity. I had to convince him that I genuinely believed in what I had done, what I was doing." He scrubbed his hands in his hair. "I told him that the Pentagon wasn't serious about our goals, which were to attain technology whatever the costs. He said there were other things we could gain from people like the Tollans, and I . . ." He bit his lip. "I said that was stuff that interested people like him, not people like me."


"And then I told him that if people didn't want to share, we should just take." Jack looked away. "He didn't believe me, and said that if I really thought that, then he'd never really known me."

"How could you possibly convince him of that?" Carter asked. "He knows you far too well to buy that, I'd think."

"I metaphorically slammed him off his feet and didn't let him get up again," Jack said. "I . . ." He closed his eyes. "I casually insinuated that he was smart enough that he should have seen this tendency in my thinking. He didn't say anything, but he looked just enough off balance for me to . . ." He paused again. "I said, 'I guess you couldn't relate to me any more than I could to you.' He looked like I'd smashed him in the face."

"Is that what you were –"

Jack shook his head and she broke off. "No, it gets way worse than that. He asked about the friendship we'd been developing over the past several years . . . he let it trail off and I finished it for him. I said, 'Apparently not much of a foundation, there.'"

"God . . ." Carter breathed.

"He just left. He didn't say anything else, he just left. I had no idea what a sucker punch I'd given him. I knew it hurt, I knew it got him past the dangerous thinking, but I didn't know . . ."

"He's not twelve anymore, sir," Carter said, and Jack's eyes focused on her face. "He's not a troubled and lonely adolescent without any support."

"No, he's a terribly private and lonely man with very little support," Jack replied. "He'd just lost his wife, he'd spent months helping you try to get me back, and within weeks I betrayed everything the four of us have worked for, then told him that the whole friendship he'd built with me was based on a critical misunderstanding of my character."

Her shoulders slumped. "He didn't say anything about it. Not a word."

"Of course not. I was his closest friend, and if he'd been so completely mistaken in me, how could he trust you or Teal'c?" He shook his head. "I had no idea he'd ever . . . if I'd known, I would have found another way to handle things, I might have insisted that we tell him, regardless of what the Tollans and the Asgard wanted, I don't know. I would not have taken my friendship away so harshly."

"No wonder you babbled like a nut case when you came back."

"And no wonder Daniel felt the need to get a bit of his own back. I just wish . . . I wish I'd known. I wouldn't have . . . I hated doing it then, but now I wish I could take it back."

Carter shook her head and sighed. "I wish you could, too. But at least now I know where the land mines are."

"Yeah," Jack said.

"Have you and Daniel ever really talked about it, sir?"

"You heard us," Jack replied.

"That's all?" she exclaimed.

"You try bringing up emotion-laden crap with Daniel," Jack said. "Not to mention that I suck at talking about it myself. He doesn't want to hear it."

Carter was silent for a moment, then she sighed. "Just because he doesn't want to hear it doesn't mean it shouldn't be said." With that cheerful observation, she took herself off, leaving Jack alone with his unpleasant thoughts.

Jonny awoke muzzily from a very deep sleep. He felt leaden and soggy-brained, but he struggled upright. Race helped him get the cover on his cast so that he could shower. The hot water and steam revived him somewhat, and he felt almost human by the time he got out.

Race was straightening the bedroom when Jonny came out in his bathrobe. He seemed almost suspiciously chipper. "Up half the night?" Jonny asked and Race looked up.

"Just the last few hours," he said with an easy grin. "You know me, if I wake up past four, I don't easily go back to sleep. I'll nap later."

Jonny pulled his clothes out of the dresser and sat down on the bed. "So, what woke you?" he asked.

Race got that 'little white lie' look on his face and opened his mouth. "Well –"

Jonny broke in. "If it was me, just say it was," he said irritably.

The grin compressed. "Why? So you can beat yourself up over it?" Race asked sourly.

"Well, I can tell when you're not telling the truth, so lying to save my feelings doesn't work too well." Race grimaced and sighed, acknowledging the truth of that. Jonny shook his head. "Another nightmare?"

"You don't remember?" Race asked, sitting down and helping Jonny with his shoe. "I know you didn't wake up, but I thought you'd probably remember the dream."

Jonny shook his head. "So far as I can tell, I didn't dream. I feel like I slept too heavy."

"You certainly had enough of an adrenaline rush yesterday," Race remarked, and Jonny lowered his head, flushing at the memory. "How are you feeling about that today?"

Jonny shrugged. "Pretty stupid."

"That's not what I meant, sport."

Jonny made a face. "I'm a little freaked," he said with a bit more candor. "But I'll live. I want to get back to work."

"Homework," Race said gently, and Jonny grimaced. "As it happens, though, you were right. Dr. Jackson called. Colonel O'Neill has a few more questions about yesterday, so we have a meeting in about an hour." He glanced at the clock. "Breakfast should be here in five minutes."

"Are we going back to Daniel's office for me to do my homework?" Jonny asked.

"If you can keep from helping him out until you finish," Race replied with a mischievous glint in his eye.

Jonny stared at him, open-mouthed. "How'd you –"

"If you want to keep your extracurricular activities a secret, you should probably not write anything down."

Jonny rolled his eyes. "If I hadn't written it down, it would have defeated the purpose," he said.

"True." Race tousled his hair. "You're a good kid, Jonny. You know I love you, right?" Jonny blinked and nodded. Race looked down at the cast. "So, does it itch?"

"Don't ask!" Jonny said in a strangled voice as the question brought the annoying sensation back to the forefront of his mind. "It's enough to drive me crazy."

"Sorry!" Race said contritely. "I won't mention it again."

They ate breakfast, and then Jonny threw a ball for Bandit and fought with him for it until Race said it was time to go.

"So, do you miss your independence?" Race asked.

"What independence?" Jonny asked, confused. "If you mean do I miss being able to go outside anytime I want to, yes, I miss that."

"No, I knew you'd miss that. I mean, I know you missed me, and I know you're glad I'm here, but is there some part of you that enjoyed being on your own?"

Jonny shook his head. "Not right now," he said. "I might have if the situation was less serious, but with Dad and Hadji where they are and the NID after me . . ." He shuddered. "Besides, I really wasn't on my own. Jack and Daniel wouldn't leave me alone for five minutes together."

"Probably wise under the circumstances," Race said.

"I felt pretty hemmed in, actually," Jonny said. "I know there were moments when being alone would have been bad, but I'm not used to having my time that closely monitored."

"I know, but they had to have been worried about you. They seem to have done a pretty good job of looking out for you."

Jonny nodded as the got into the elevator. "They like me, and they don't expect kids to all act the same. I get so tired of grown ups who think there's something wrong with me because I like to work and don't sleep in as late as the adults around me will let me. None of them tells me that I'll be bored and to run along and play a game."

"I have a feeling that Dr. Jackson and Major Carter know exactly how frustrating that is," Race said, sounding amused. The elevator door opened and Bandit went trotting out the door and turned immediately towards Daniel's office. "I see he knows his way around," Race observed. As the little dog reached the door ahead of them and went in.

Jonny laughed. "He has a food bowl in there, and Dr. Jackson gives him treats."

Jack and Daniel were both already in Daniel's office. Daniel was on one knee, petting Bandit, and Jack had his arms crossed, watching. Jonny thought they both looked awful, like they hadn't slept or something. He glanced up at Race to see if he was worried, but he didn't seem to be.

"Good morning," Jack said with a grin. "How are you feeling?"

Jonny grinned right back. "Great!" Race gave him a look, and Jonny shrugged. "Okay." He went over to his chair and sat down, maneuvering his leg into place. "I slept really deep."

"I'm not surprised," Daniel said, getting to his feet. Bandit trotted over to Jonny and jumped up on his lap. "I'm glad you slept, though."

"Race said you had questions about what happened yesterday."

"Yes," Jack said "Tell us exactly what happened."

Jonny took a deep breath and told them, repeating what Simmons had said as exactly as possible. When he was done, Race's fists were clenched, and he was scowling, but Colonel O'Neill was actually smiling. "And that's it," Jonny said. "Race came and told me to go to my room."

"You said he had his hand on your crutches?" Jack asked.

"He took it off when Race showed up," Jonny said.

Jack exchanged an odd look with Daniel. "When exactly did he take hold of them again?"

"When I said I thought I should go." Jack nodded, looking satisfied. "He reached out and rested his hand on them and told me not to be in a hurry."

"I think we've got him," Daniel said. "Undue restraint, and he's a minor."

"Without so much as a babysitter present."

"What do you mean you've got him?" Race asked.

"I mean that we can get him pulled off this case," Jack said. "Maybe even disciplinary action. I've got to go report to Hammond." Jack walked over and tousled Jonny's hair. "I'm really sorry we didn't head him off."

"It wasn't that big a deal," Jonny said, a little surprised. He glanced around at all the adults, and they all seemed more serious than he would have expected. "What's going on?"

"I'm afraid Simmons' little games have affected us grown ups more than they did you, Jonny," Race said with a shrug. "If you don't mind, I'll leave you to get started on your homework and go talk to the general with Colonel O'Neill."

"Did he say or do something after I left?" Jonny asked, not at all reassured by Race's light tone.

"A few things," Jack said. "But I think we'll be able to pull his teeth fairly effectively with what you just told us."

Jonny shrugged. "I'm not sure what the point is. They'll just send someone new."

Jack grinned even more broadly. "Yes, but if they keep having to send someone new, they'll eventually run out of someones."

"There's an awful lot of someones," Jonny said.

Jack spread his arms, indicating both Race and Daniel. "Jonny, are you doubting our ingenuity?"

"No," Jonny said, but he kept to himself the thought that came to him. Sometimes the someones stopped because they succeeded. He might trust in Race's ingenuity, and SG-1's, but he didn't discount the ingenuity of men like Simmons either.

Jack wondered what Race wanted to talk to the general about, then it occurred to him that he might just want to be present for any discussion that regarded Jonny's welfare. They got into the elevator with several others, and Jack noticed that the SGC staff were gazing curiously at the stranger who was not in fatigues. Race seemed entirely unaware of the scrutiny, but Jack doubted he was.

Rodriguez ushered them into the general's office, but the general was in the briefing room with SG-3, preparing them for their next mission. They took seats and sat quietly for a few moments.

"So, how are you settling in?" Jack asked.

"Well enough," Race replied. "Thank you, by the way. You and Dr. Jackson took very good care of Jonny, and I appreciate it."

"He's a good kid," Jack said. "Though I did have to keep reminding people that he's a kid. He's got a very grown up way about him." Race nodded with an amused grin. "And of course, as hard and as often as I tried to remind everyone that he is a kid and deserves some time to goof around, Daniel reminded me that he isn't the kind of kid who won't enjoy working, and that he doesn't need too much time to brood." He snorted. "Between us, we seemed to manage okay."

Race nodded and sat back. They didn't say anything for several minutes, then Race cleared his throat. "So, you and Dr. Jackson both look kind of like you didn't get much rest. Was there any kind of a crisis last night?"

Jack quelled his own dismay and shook his head. "Nothing." He hadn't expected to be questioned about Daniel's obvious lack of sleep, or his own.

"You sure?" Race asked, leaning closer.

"Nothing, really," Jack said. Race raised an eyebrow and Jack amended the obvious falsehood. "Nothing to do with Jonny."

"Something to do with Simmons, though?"

Jack nodded. "Yeah, though more to do with keeping us from killing him next time we see him. I'm hoping to avoid that whole possibility with what we're here to tell Hammond."

"Did he do anything else, something I don't know about?"

Jack shook his head. "Just an extension of what you already know. He told the general more of what he has against the group of us. Or at least what he has against Daniel and I." Jack blinked thoughtfully. "I don't know if he said anything about you."

"Not much to say about me. My parents died in a nasty car accident, my uncle was an abusive man, I survived it, end of story."

Jack stared at the calm face of the man in front of him. "I swear to God, I think I'm the only emotionally healthy man on the planet. What did I do to get surrounded by stoics?"

"Are you surrounded by stoics?" Race asked. "I'm not stoic, I've dealt with this."

"Have you?" Race nodded. "Then why did you put it like that? 'End of story'?" Jack shook his head. "Not dealt with by a long shot, I'd say."

"You don't know me," Race exclaimed.

"I know a Jonny who knows you," Jack said. "Besides, I know someone . . . else . . . who says the same kind of thing all the time."

"Would that be Daniel Jackson?"

Jack raised his eyebrows. "That would be private."

Race opened his mouth and his eyes widened. After a second, he said, "Of course. I'm sorry, I shouldn't even have asked."

"No, you certainly shouldn't have," Jack replied, then he gave Race a mischievous look. "Swabby."

Race straightened his back. "Flyboy!" he replied in tones of mock affront.

"You got that right," Jack said.

"Seals are the best."

Jack had run into that particular attitude before, and he responded now as he had then. He began to do his best imitation of a seal's bark. Race stared at him in astonishment for a second, then held out his arms straight and began to clap them together. At that moment, the door opened from the briefing room and Hammond said, "Glad as I am to see you two gentlemen bonding, I think your behavior might be a little distracting to my meeting."

Jack whirled around and saw that the briefing room was empty. "What meeting?" he demanded, turning back to Hammond.

The general's eyes were twinkling. "Now, gentlemen, how can I help you?"

"We have more information about Jonny's encounter with Colonel Simmons, sir," Jack said. "Apparently he was constrained to stay and listen to him."

"Constrained?" Hammond repeated. "In what sense?"

"In the sense that Jonny's a polite boy and unless pressed a lot harder, he would do his best to behave appropriately," Race pointed out. "But more specifically, in the sense that Simmons grabbed his crutches when Jonny tried to leave," Race said.

"I thought that even Simmons' supervisors might find that exceeded his authority," Jack added.

Hammond nodded with a grim smile. "You're probably right. I'll bring it to their attention."

"Good," Jack said, and Race nodded decisively.

"So, how is –"

The door to the office slammed open suddenly revealing Daniel with Nyan close behind him. "I think Nyan's found something!" The Bedrosian archeologist stood behind Daniel looking uneasy and excited at the same time.

"What?" Race asked.

"Nyan?" Daniel said, turning to allow the other man to speak.

Jack could tell that Nyan would just as soon have allowed Daniel to take the spotlight, but he stepped forward anyway. "Well, I was going through the written materials SG-8 brought back from M(string), and I found some things that refer to Thoth."

"Really?" Hammond said.

Nyan nodded earnestly. "Knowing what was going on, I put a priority on that and sorted out everything that seemed relevant. And I seem to have found a listing of Stargate addresses that are to planets specifically identified as his. Four of them are in the database but not identified as Goa'uld worlds. They appear to have been added by Colonel O'Neill."

"And we haven't been to any of them yet!" Daniel said enthusiastically. "Sir, I think we should go."

"Do you mean SG-1?" Hammond asked.

"Well, Race is here for Jonny," Daniel said. "That's why we weren't involved in the search. We had to be around for Jonny. Now we can go out."

"What will going to a planet that belongs to Thoth tell you?" Race asked. "Do you think you'll find Benton or Hadji?"

"Clues, maybe," Daniel said, shaking his head. "And we might find one of them, or both. There's no knowing. This intelligence is very old."

"But it is unequivocal," Nyan said. "This planet –" He placed a sheet of paper on the desk. "This was supposed to be his seat. He had a great palace there and many people."

They were all silent, staring at the sheet of paper with the gate address. "That strikes me as a bad idea," Race said finally. "Going to his home base?"

Daniel shook his head. "Maybe not first, but the fact is, we have to take chances to find out where they are."

"I agree," Jack said. "We have to go, sir," he added to Hammond.

"I agree as well," Hammond said. "But not to the world Nyan has identified as Thoth's home base. Is there any detail on the other planets?"

"Yes sir," Nyan said, coming forward again and placing several more sheets of paper on the general's desk. They all leaned in. "These two are mining colonies, or were several centuries ago."

"Which means," Daniel said enthusiastically, "that they could easily be tapped out and abandoned, with the people left behind. We could potentially get a lot of information there."

"True," Hammond said, sounding amused. "And the third?"

"A pastoral planet," Nyan said. "From what these say, it seems that the crops grown there feed the miners and some of the more specialized items go to the palace."

"Now that sounds promising to me," Jack said. "Thoth probably doesn't visit any too often, but if they've still got contact, they might know where he is."

"True," Hammond said thoughtfully. "Is that where to you want to go first, colonel?"

"Actually, I want to consult Teal'c and see what he thinks."

"Good plan," Hammond said. "Dr. Jackson, let Major Carter know that we'll be having a briefing in an hour."

"Right," Daniel said, turning away, but then he froze and turned back. "I sent Jonny to work with Sam when Nyan came in."

"Should I tell him?"
"You won't be leaving till tomorrow," Hammond said. "At the earliest."

"I'll come with you," Race said. "He may need a bit of reassurance. He really doesn't like people going out into danger without him."

"I know that feeling," Jack said, glancing at Daniel, who affected not to hear him.

"Let's go, then," he said, leading the way out of the office. Jack hadn't realized just how much Daniel had chafed at his forced inaction, but it was clear he wanted to be out doing as much as possible.

Jack watched them leave then turned to Nyan. "Thanks for finding all this."

"Yes, it's an enormous help," General Hammond said. "Thank you."

"No thanks are necessary, general," Nyan said. "I wish merely to be of service. I wish I could do more."

"You do plenty," Hammond said, and Jack added his endorsement to the general's words before heading off to find Teal'c.