Sam sat by the fire watching the sparks fly. When she was little her Uncle Irving used to tell her stories about fire fairies, little creatures that were imprisoned in the wood that were set free when it burned. Of course now she knew they were tiny bits of wood carried up by the rising heat of the flames. But fire fairies were more fun.
She sighed and looked up at the myriad of stars dotting the sky. It was too bad telescopes weren't included in their equipment on a normal basis. Then again she was supposed to be on watch not stargazing.
She glanced at the sleeping men around her. Teal'c was off a bit, just at the edge of the firelight's reach. The colonel was over to her right curled up in his bedroll, just the tip of his hat visible and Daniel was off to her left.
There was a time just a few weeks ago when she'd thought she'd never see them again. When Raleigh and Trophsky had her convinced that she was the sole survivor. Those couple of days had been the worst she'd had…well since Jolinar had decided to do a little time-share in her head.
But they'd been wrong, thank God. They'd all made it through alive and relatively unscathed. For once the colonel had come off the worst, temporarily becoming a host. Temporarily being the operative word. If there hadn't have been a Tok'ra in Hathor's forces the tale would have ended quite differently. She and Daniel would most likely be dead and the colonel…the rustling of a sleeping bag caught her attention. She saw Daniel sit up and stretch then cross to her dropping to the ground beside her.
"Can't sleep?" she asked in a whisper.
"Nah." He shook his head. "I can finish your watch if you want."
"Thanks but…I'm not sleepy. I think all I did last week was sleep," she said referring to the week of downtime they'd been given upon their return to Earth. She'd met up with the guys a time or two but had spent most of it either catching up on the world or lazing on the couch watching TV.
They sat there in silence for a few minutes then he reached down and picked up her rifle, which was lying on the ground beside her.
"Daniel?" she asked surprised, her hand going to her sidearm. Had he heard something she hadn't? He ignored her and continued to study the weapon, squinting in the dim light. "Daniel?" She asked again, laying her hand on his arm.
"What? Ooh. Sorry. It's ok," he said, reassuring her that nothing was wrong. He handed her the rifle back.
"Did you hear something?" she questioned, relaxing a bit after seeing that Teal'c was not moving. The Jaffa would have alerted them had something been wrong.
"No. I…Sam, how hard is it to learn to shoot…that?" He made a motion towards the rifle in her hands.
Sam frowned. "It's not hard. You've used it before."
"Right. But…I want to learn HOW to use it. I mean put it on that fast forward setting and any idiot can spray bullets into the air but…can you teach me how to use it?" He asked seriously.
"Daniel…you don't have to. I mean between the colonel, Teal'c and I we can cover your six," she said, frowning. Where was this coming from? She remembered his protests about having to carry his sidearm. It had taken the colonel telling him either he went through the gate with the gun or he didn't go, to get him to take the training and qualify on the weapon.
"You couldn't…." he stopped abruptly and picked up a stick to stir the fire.
Sam stared, puzzled. When? Then it came to her. Their last scuffle with the Jaffa. When Teal'c had been nearly killed and they'd all been captured. She honestly didn't recall a lot of it but remembered enough to know they'd all been killed. Her hand reflexively rubbed her chest where she remembered getting shot by a staff weapon. She hadn't seen Daniel fall just Teal'c and then the Colonel. "Daniel…." She started. "They outnumbered us five to one. One more gun wouldn't have made a difference."
"You don't know that," he said quietly, sending a shower of sparks into the air. "I could have got the one that got you, or Jack and…"
"You saw it?" She asked. They'd never talked about their capture. She'd just assumed his memories were as vague as hers were.
He nodded. "I…I saw Jack fall, then you…Teal'c was last…They…. they said a sholva didn't deserve a 'dignified' death so…they started kicking him…over, and over…I knew you guys were dead and I waited for them to realize I wasn't and finish it off…but…they carried you away and I thought you all were dead and…then you showed up and were alive. But then…" He trailed off.
"Daniel…" She put her hand on his arm again. She knew how he felt. Likely just how she, Teal'c and the colonel had when they'd thought he'd been killed by Nem.
He angrily shook it off. "Sam even after Makepeace rescued us I was still useless."
"No you weren't."
"Yes I was. I couldn't help him any more than I could help you or Jack. I slowed them down and got some of them killed," he said bitterly.
"Daniel, you didn't get them killed, the Jaffa did that. They were doing their jobs. And one job of a soldier is to protect those that aren't."
"Sam, don't you see. I'm tired of being protected. I'm tired of being the weak link. I see how you guys always watch out for me. How Jack usually keeps himself or Teal'c at my side. When things turn bad I'm a weak spot. Any plan Jack makes has to consider keeping me out of the line of fire. I'm not a member of this team…I'm its mascot," he said sarcastically.
Sam started to protest then stopped and thought. He was right. They had been protecting Daniel. Not really much more than they protected each other but…they still did. She remembered her early training, how the other men had treated her. Most had seen her as a weakness, someone to be coddled and protected because she was female. How her CO had had to make special arrangements for her and the other female officers in the gulf.
She remembered thinking they saw her as a potential damsel in distress. How angry it had made her. It was the reason she had pushed herself, taking the extra self-defense classes, working harder to make herself less of a potential victim. It hadn't always worked but did seem to put her on more equal footing with her comrades. And that was what her friend wanted, what his pride demanded.
"Ok," she said, hoping she wasn't going to regret it.
"What?" he asked, surprised.
"I'll show you how to use this." She held up her MP-5.
"Just like that?" he asked surprised. "No 'We need the General's permission', 'Let me ask the Colonel,' 'Fill this out in triplicate,'?"
"Not right now," she smiled. "Although once I show you what to do you'll still have to qualify. And to do that the colonel will have sign off on it. And the general so you can start carrying one," she warned, not looking forward to telling them that Daniel had decided he needed to be better armed.
"I don't want to start lugging one around. It's time for me to know what to do if I have to," he said.
"Ok," she agreed. "As soon as we get back you and I will be spending some quality time on the firing range."
Daniel exited the elevator unconsciously rolling his right shoulder to massage the soreness out of it. Sam hadn't been kidding when she warned him he'd be sore. He just hoped it hadn't bruised. He'd have a hard time explaining it to Janet. Gee doc, I dislocated my shoulder because I wanted to learn how to kill people. That would go over real well.
He turned to see Jack walking towards him. He quickly lowered his hand. There was no reason to clue Jack in, at least not yet.
"Jack, what's up?" he asked.
"Nothing. I was just wondering where you've been disappearing to lately?" he asked casually, falling into step by his friend.
"Contrary to popular belief I don't live in my office. The General does let me out for a breath of fresh air every so often," he quipped, unlocking his office door.
He snapped on the light, hearing Jack follow him. Great. Just what he needed, a bored Jack. He purposefully pulled out an artifact hoping if he looked busy his friend would find someone else to bug. Maybe he'd go box with Teal'c or something. Then Daniel could slip out. Go home and take a nice relaxing shower. A small object skittered across the table to come to a stop next to the pottery statue he had his hand on.
"That'll help your shoulder," Jack said leaning against the desk. Daniel picked up the small tube of ointment. Ben Gay. He shot his friend a questioning look. "MP-5's kick like a mule if you're not used to them." Daniel felt a thread of betrayal surge through him. Damn it Sam, you promised. "And before you start blaming Carter she didn't say a word. She even bribed Lieutenant Padfield to keep it quiet."
"The next time the you two decide to plot something you should make sure I'm really asleep," Jack said with a smile.
Daniel sighed. He should have expected this. Jack had the ears of a bat when he wanted to. "How much did you hear?"
"Ooh…well…umm all of it. Daniel why didn't you just ask me? Why put Carter in the middle? I mean I was going to find out eventually."
Daniel ran his fingers through his hair still finding it odd for it to be short. "You going to make me stop?" he asked, not looking at Jack.
"That depends. You gonna tell me why?"
"You heard why."
"I heard the story you cooked up for Carter. What's your real reason?" Jack pushed.
"It doesn't matter."
"I think it does. What's the real reason Mister 'Why can't we try talking first' all of a sudden wants to turn into Rambo Daniel?"
"I got tired of your gun being bigger than mine," he said sarcastically.
"Daniel. Do I have to get Teal'c in here to make you talk? Or Fraiser's nurses…or maybe I'll post that picture of you on that planet where you got drunk and…."
"Damn it Jack. Do you really want to know why? Ok. I'll tell you. If I know what to do maybe the next time we come across some Jaffa Sam won't end up dead and you won't end up with a freaking snake in your head, OK!" he yelled throwing his hands in the air. If he hadn't have been so angry the sight of Jack O'Neill standing there with his mouth open would have been comical. "All I could do was watch," he continued more quietly. "I watched them carry you away. Then I just stood there and watched that bitch put that thing in you. Then after we got out all I could do was follow Sam then Makepeace around like some damn puppy. It's time I stopped being helpless."
Jack stared at his friend, seeing for the first time how much he'd changed. The geek who'd conned his way onto Abydos, who had the annoying habit of walking up to every alien he saw with arms wide was gone.
Somehow, sometime in the last two years that geek had faded away, metamorphasized into a man who was tired of being treated like the little brother.
His naiveté was gone, replaced by hard won experience. There was a look in his eyes now, the same look he'd seen in Carter's after Jolinar. Neither of them were the same people he'd met years ago. Time had taken its toll on all of them, and would likely continue to do so…until time ran out.
"Daniel, what Carter said was true. One more gun would not have made a difference," he said quietly.
"Next time it might," he countered softly.
"Ok," Jack acquiesced. His friend was right. They day may come when another gun might make the difference between them coming back in one piece…or not at all. And it was time for him to accept that. "Carter can finish teaching you. When you qualify I'll sign off on you checking out a rifle whenever you want one."
"Jack, I don't want to start carrying one. The pistol is fine. And don't think I don't trust you guys to watch my six. I do. I just think it's time I'm able to watch yours too," he said earnestly.
"I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have do it," Jack said. "Come on. Let's get out of here."