Well, this story was accepted into a fanzine, so I couldn't post it for a whole year as part of the agreement and such. It's a completely ovehauled version of an old story that I think I had here a loooong time ago--which sucked then. But since it was taken for a zine, I hope it's better now, lol. Even if you read the original version, I hope you'll review to let me know. Here's chapter one. Can't wait to hear from ya'll! Thanks so much!
"Good luck, SG-1. You leave tomorrow morning at 0900. Dismissed."
"Thank you, sir," Jack O'Neill nodded absently, his full attention not on his commanding officer at the moment. General Hammond then closed his folder containing the preliminary M.A.L.P. information from P2X-297, signaling the end of the briefing, and stood to leave.
Once Hammond was gone Jack didn't move right away, but sat looking around the table at his team. Across from him Daniel and Teal'c were standing to go, and beside him Carter was about to before he discretely tugged on her sleeve. At his beckoning she leaned closer.
"Sir?" she asked quietly, seeming to sense his need to keep whatever he was going to say from the other two.
"What's up with Daniel?" Jack asked.
Carter sighed and glanced over at Daniel, who was making a beeline for the door–just like he had after every briefing, de-briefing or survey mission for the past week.
It had been that way ever since Jack had rejoined the team after supposedly "quitting", when in fact he was only taking part in an under-cover plot to expose a rogue faction of the NID that was stealing alien technology. He'd informed them all that he hadn't had a choice in not telling them about it; the Asgard had insisted he be the only one involved. All understood but Daniel still seemed to have a bit of a problem.
"I'm not sure, sir, but what happened did kind of shake us pretty bad. I can't say I blame him, but…"
"Crap," Jack winced, standing before Daniel could get out of sight and calling out to him. "Hey Daniel, wanna come over to my house later? Pizza and hockey?"
Daniel didn't turn, only raised a hand to wave the older man off. "I'm busy." And then he was out the door and gone.
"He really has been busy, sir; SG-4 brought back several artifacts from P8X-296 a few days ago," Carter said from beside him, her voice reassuring in tone. "Last I heard, he was having some trouble translating the inscriptions on them."
Jack sighed. "Yeah…right. Thanks Carter." But that doesn't make me feel any better.
The next morning in the locker room when SG-1 was gathering their gear, Daniel tried to keep to himself, but was forced to look over at Sam when she came up beside him and refused to move. He sighed.
"What is it, Sam?"
She pointedly watched Jack go before turning to him again. "Daniel, when are you going to give him a break?"
Daniel blinked once or twice before registering what she meant. Then he sighed again. "Sam, do we have to talk about this now?"
"He was doing his duty, Daniel. He didn't have a choice."
"Yes, he did. That was way too dangerous for him to just…just take on on his own. He wasn't ordered to do it, was he? He could have chosen not to. Or he could have at least left us a note or something before stepping through that gate leaving us thinking we'd never see him again…Did he even think about what would have happened if he'd never come back? We would still think he betrayed us. I would still think…" But he trailed off there and lowered his eyes. I would still think Jack had never thought of me as a friend. I would still think we'd never had the trust I thought we did…
"What?" Sam asked, concern in her voice now.
"He didn't like it any more than we did."
Daniel looked away. "I know…Look, Sam, I can't just go back to normal like it never happened. I just…I need more time to sort this out, okay?"
Sam sighed. "All right. But you really should talk to him; the sooner the better." And with that line of advice, she left, with Teal'c trailing behind her.
"Where's Daniel?" Jack asked when he turned to see Carter and Teal'c stride into the gate room.
"He's coming, sir," Carter informed him. "And sir…"
"Colonel…you really should talk to him."
Jack crossed his arms. "He doesn't want to talk to me, Carter. We've been through this–numerous times." Though she was right, of course. He still wasn't even sure exactly what was still eating at Daniel.
"With all due respect, sir, neither of you is ever going to say anything meaningful to one another again if one of you doesn't start it. If you're both waiting for the other, it won't happen."
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed.
"Since when did you become an expert on complicated friendships?" Jack retorted, even though he agreed with them.
"Since we met you and Daniel, sir."
Ouch. Okay, that one hit home.
It was obvious that Carter read him, and saw that she was about to pounce on it. Jack opened his own mouth to ward her off when the door behind them opened again to admit the team's fourth. The Stargate burst open as well.
"'Morning, Daniel. Nice of you to join us." Not quite the warm welcome Jack felt he should have given, but falling back on sarcasm had always been his defense mechanism.
When Daniel looked at him but said nothing, Jack shrugged. "Okay. Let's move out," he said, before heading toward the 'Gate. Carter and Teal'c followed, with Daniel trailing behind them in back. Jack sighed to himself before stepping through the event horizon. Carter's right, Daniel. I'm going to do something about it, too.
The Stargate on P2X-297 stood on a grassy shelf in the side of a small tree-covered mountain, and the M.A.L.P. hadn't been able to tilt down to look below. All it had seen was similar mountains in the distance and to either side, and what appeared to be a good-sized valley in between them. Therefore, Daniel was the first to point out the primitive village that sat back from base of the mountain a little less than a mile away. Small mud-brick, thatched-roof houses spread out in rows from a central square, like the spokes of a wagon wheel, and one much larger building sat near the edge of the square. It wasn't unlike many villages they'd encountered in the past.
"Sweet," Jack said, looking down. "Okay, Daniel, you're with me; we'll start down. Teal'c, stay here with Carter for a few minutes and help her get her stuff set up so she can get her mineral or soil samples or whatever she wants later, then come down and meets us before we go into the village."
Daniel didn't complain. Most of the past week or so when SG-1 had needed to split up Jack had him with Sam, and he'd been grateful for it. But now Jack was changing tactics, and even though Daniel wasn't sure why, he didn't protest. He knew that once Jack O'Neill made up his mind, he wasn't changing it unless he had a darn good reason, and one member of his team being uncomfortable about something probably wasn't one.
Sam had bent over her pack which she had set on the ground, searching for her sampling equipment, but looked up on hearing Jack's announcement. Her eyes locked with Daniel's, and her expression reminded him of everything she'd said in the locker room. He sighed inwardly.
"So, Daniel, think we'll be able to talk to these people?" Jack asked, trying to make conversation as he and Daniel carefully made their way down the steep incline.
Daniel answered from behind him. "I don't know. We're not there yet. I don't know if they speak English or not, and if they don't it depends on what they do speak."
"Ah. Right. I knew that."
Another few moments of walking and uncomfortable silence later, Jack spoke again. "So…Carter seems to think we need to…talk."
Jack stopped abruptly and turned, almost making the younger man collide with him. As it was Daniel had to take hold of the nearest tree for a moment to keep himself from toppling down the incline. "Daniel, there is no later. You've been too busy back at the base to spare me a moment. Why do you think we started down ahead of them?"
Daniel stared at him for a moment, mouth slightly open. Finally he sputtered out a response. "But…I…I forgave you. I get it…"
"Then why are you still being so elusive? Yes, I apologized, the three of you understood, forgave me…I thought that was it, but apparently not." Daniel's habit of keeping things locked away and not talking about them could get annoying at times. Well, this time it was about to end right here, right now.
Daniel's lips pressed into a thin line. So much had gone wrong in his life in the past several months. He'd lost his wife, Jack had been missing for three months, trapped on a planet with a buried Stargate, and now this misunderstanding, and in that moment every bit of it showed on his face.
When he spoke again it was quietly. "We don't have time for this now, Jack."
Jack sighed. "I didn't think so. Be that way then." Now aggravated, he turned on his heel and continued down the hill, leaving Daniel to follow. He'd tried. He'd done what Carter had suggested; he'd tried to straighten out what was wrong, but as usual Daniel wouldn't talk. He should have known.
A minute or so later Jack caught sight of a small branch on a tree ahead, in his way. Not refraining from being his snarky self, instead of ducking it or swerving around it, he pushed it out of his way and then let it snap back toward the unwary scientist behind him. He didn't bother to glance back, suddenly too annoyed to care.
When he heard a pained shout and a thump behind him, however, his perspective suddenly changed.
Jack barely had time to turn before Daniel toppled into his legs, knocking him down and sending them both rolling painfully down the steep incline. His arm banged painfully into a tree on the way down, but thankfully he remained relatively uninjured until they came tumbling to a stop in a tangle of arms and legs at the bottom of the hill.
Okay, so maybe that wasn't such a good idea.
Jack pulled himself away from Daniel and then, on his knees, turned back to his friend. "Daniel, you okay?" The only answer he got was a moan.
Daniel was still on the ground, with one hand clamped cautiously to the side of his neck. Jack sucked in a breath and scooted closer, a pang of worry tightening his chest. He reached out and gently shook Daniel's arm. "Daniel, you with me? Come on buddy, talk to me."
Daniel's eyes flickered opened and he sat up tentatively, grimacing. He let his hand drop, and that was when Jack saw the small white thorns protruding from the side of his neck. He started to bring his hand back where it had been but Jack caught his wrist.
"Oh no you don't. Let me take a look at that."
Daniel sighed and sat silently while the colonel examined him. Three of the short, thin, hollow white thorns had been imbedded in the side of his neck, thankfully missing anything important. There was only a bit of blood at the points of entry; nothing to alarmed about.
Jack still winced for him, however. "Yikes, where did those come from?"
Daniel frowned. "Those, Jack, came from the tree branch you so graciously sent flying into my face."
Uh oh. O'Neill grimaced again. "Crap, I'm sorry, Daniel. That was pretty stupid of me…"
Daniel answered by rolling his eyes. He quickly stopped and winced, however, leaving Jack curious.
"What? Yeah, I'm fine."
Jack shrugged. Still mentally kicking himself, he unclipped his pack from his back and swung it to the ground, then opened it and commenced searching for his first aid kit. After digging it out he pushed the backpack out of his way and set the medical kit beside him.
"Okay, just sit still and I'll see what I can do about this. Granted, I'm not as good as Fraiser–or Carter even, for that matter–but you're stuck with me right now."
Daniel only nodded, and waited while Jack reached up to pull the first thorn out. "Yow! Jack, that hurts!" he yelped.
"Sorry! I'm doin' the best I can here, Daniel," Jack replied, setting the thorn down.
It was then that they heard heavy, hurried footsteps coming from above them, and glanced up to see Carter and Teal'c slip-sliding down the slope toward them.
"Sir!" Carter called. "We heard something. What happened; are you two all right?"
Jack winced to himself and flexed his sore left hand, the one that had hit the tree on the way down. "We're fine, Carter, just took a little tumble down the hill. Daniel picked up a couple of weird thorns though."
The major stumbled to a stop beside them, and Teal'c barely had time to stop to avoid bowling over her.
"Thorns, sir?" Carter asked, kneeling down beside him to get a closer look at Daniel's neck. She frowned a bit when she saw the two small holes where two of them had been, and the one obtrusive piece of plant that still remained. "Ouch…that had to hurt."
"No, not that much, really."
Teal'c went over beside Carter. "Are you all right, Daniel Jackson?"
"Yeah, Teal'c, I'm fi–ow! Jack, do you have to pull them out while I'm trying to talk?"
Jack shrugged and picked up a sealed cleansing wipe, tore open the package and swiped it carefully over the wounds a few times, which was all that was needed. When he was done with that, he wasn't quite sure what to do, and it seemed that Carter noticed; she stepped in and put just a small bandage over the closely-grouped wounds.
"Thanks, Sam," Daniel said as he stood a moment later.
"Hey, what about me?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, thank you. Can we move on now?"
"Hold on, Daniel," Carter said. "Where did those thorns come from?"
"A tree branch."
Daniel nodded. "Yeah, positive; why?"
Carter sighed and shook her head. "Never mind. If they're from a tree and not a low-growing plant then you should be fine." Curiously she took one of the thorns from Jack and looked at it. "Yeah…no dirt, really. That considerably lowers the risk of infection…"
"Infection? Sam, they barely went in a quarter of an inch; I'm fine."
She nodded. "You should be, yes, but just be careful, all right?"
Confused, Jack interrupted. "Right, okay…so you're saying he'll be fine; we can go on, or no?"
Carter nodded. "I think we can go on, sir, unless Daniel wants to go back to the SGC…"
"Uh, no thank you," Daniel said quickly. Carter just smiled at him knowingly.
"But it's the colonel's decision, Daniel."
Jack sighed. "Yeah, yeah, whatever. I don't have a problem with going on as long as Daniel feels all right. You do, don't you?"
"Yes, Jack, I'm fine…"
"All right then….Carter, you and Teal'c done up there?"
Teal'c nodded. "We are indeed."
"Good. I guess we go on then."
At that, Daniel immediately swiveled in the direction of the village and started walking again. A few seconds later Jack shook his head, hauled his pack onto his back again and followed, Carter and Teal'c behind him.
No sooner had SG-1 established contact with the natives, and the villagers had understood what Daniel was, than he had gratefully left with a couple of the younger men to see the ruins that lay about half a mile outside the village. He left Jack to make friends with the village patriarch, Nasik.
Sam had gone off with a few more of the men, she having expressed interest in the plant life in the woods around the village. Some of it was rather odd, after all, such as those thorn trees….Not that he was interested himself. He'd had his encounter with one of those trees, deemed it unpleasant, and filed it away. Let Sam have her fun with her plants; Jack had sent Teal'c with her, too, so there was no reason to worry about any of that. The people of the village at the bottom of the hill on P2X-297 were friendly, and thankfully not too fearful of the visitors from afar. Also they did, in fact, speak English, which was what had enabled the team to separate in order to cover more ground.
Now, as Daniel picked his way through the long-abandoned, half-destroyed city in which he was in his element, he let the wall of resistance he had put up against Jack the past several days weaken long enough to silently thank him for not trying to insist that they stay together or keeping him from coming here. It was all fascinating. It was the ruins of an Ancient city, which made sense as it was one of the 'Gate addresses Jack had put into the SGC's computer when the knowledge from the Ancients' repository had been stuffed into his brain almost a year before.
The only downside to all of this, Daniel thought wryly, was that he had a headache, making it hard to work. It had begun just after his trip down the side of the hill, and had persisted and worsened since then. He'd tried searching out the Tylenol from his pack, but so far it hadn't helped. Now his neck was stiff and hurt too, particularly on the left side where the thorns had pierced his flesh. Turning his head was becoming increasingly difficult, as it caused the pain to spike. For some reason, it also seemed as if moving his shoulders was more painful, too…
But no, that couldn't be. It only seemed that way because of the headache. It would go away in a few hours, and he would be fine.
Sam took another deep breath of fresh air, grateful she wasn't stuck back in the village doing nothing but talking. She would much rather be out here, and so far the villagers escorting her and Teal'c through their lands had proven to be more than sufficient guides. Already they had seen and taken samples from several types of plants that had no direct parallel on earth. There was the short red cactus-like plant, and the taller trees with the sticky vines…and then there were the trees with small white thorns in them, but they had yet to encounter any more of them.
Perhaps they only grew on inclines or needed a bit higher altitude, like the almost-mountain SG-1 had almost-tumbled down to get to the village. The entire town was in a large valley, several miles across. Now their little party was coming to one of the sides, and the leader of the group slowed.
"We will not go much farther," he announced. "When we reach the base of the incline we will turn back."
"Why?" Sam asked curiously.
"Is there not anything of interest in the mountains?" Teal'c added.
The man turned to them and shook his head. "No, there is not. We do not go there; we stay in the valley."
Sam nodded. "Oh, well, if that's all you have to show us…"
"It is," he assured her, starting a wide turn back toward the village.
"Thank you for bringing us out here. I've got some really interesting samples already that I'm sure the scientists on my world will appreciate."
"You are most welcome. The gods have seen you fit to come here, so we are happy to oblige you and offer our friendship," their guide answered. Then, smiling, he turned ahead once more to lead them toward the village.
Sam blinked. "Uh…yeah. Thanks." She glanced at Teal'c in confusion as they walked, and spoke softly. "Have you seen any evidence that there was once a Goa'uld here?"
Teal'c frowned. "I have not; perhaps they have their own gods."
"Yeah, I guess so…" She was about to make another comment, but trailed off when her attention was diverted by a bush-skirted tree nearby. "Hey, Teal'c, don't the thorns on that tree look like the ones Daniel ran into?" she asked, pointing to it.
"Indeed they do."
"Okay, tell Kesen to hold up a minute; I want some fresh samples of those."
Teal'c nodded. "I will."
"Thanks." Without any more hesitation Sam broke away from the group and headed for the thorn tree a few yards away. Behind her she heard Teal'c call to Kesen.
"What are you doing, Major Carter?" Kesen inquired. There was a note of something more urgent than curiosity in his voice that Sam couldn't quite put a finger on.
"I'd like to get some samples from this tree over here; do you mind?" she asked, glancing at him.
"Uhm, well, I…"
Sam started trying to push her way through the bushes around the base of the tree, but they proved too dense and she didn't have a machete. "Hey, Teal'c, Kesen, could you give me a hand over here? Anybody have a brush knife?"
"You should not--I mean, I do not have one…" Kesen answered, backing away. "Please, Major Carter; Nasik instructed us to have you back before the sun set. We must go now."
"Yeah, fine. We can go in a minute, just help me get to this tree first. It'll only take a minute." Teal'c had come over to her now and was pushing at the bushes to move enough of them out of her way so she could pass, but it was obvious he was going to need more help with the heavy brush.
Kesen, however, didn't seem willing. The other villagers didn't either. All of them were steadily moving away from them and the tree.
"Kesen is right; we should go back now," one of them said.
Sam sighed in frustration and looked back at them again, a red light going off in her mind. "Please? I just need a little help here; I'm not asking much"
"We cannot," Kesen answered in a nervous voice. "Come, Major Carter. We must return to the village…"
Sam exchanged a helpless glance with Teal'c, who raised an eyebrow and motioned for her to come. Sighing again, she made her way back with him to the villagers and they continued on.
"What was that about?" she complained.
"I am not sure," Teal'c answered, frowning.
"Well, I'm not either, but I do know that I don't like this."
"Perhaps he was merely showing concern for your safety," Teal'c suggested.
Sam frowned. "Would he really have been so insistent if he was only worried I might stick myself, though? I mean, he looked a lot more scared for himself than he did concerned for me. There has to be something else. Something fishy's going on here…"
There went the eyebrow again. "I have not observed any fish in the vicinity, Major Carter."
"What? No. Never mind…"