A/N: "The Bridge" takes place between the Season 3 episodes "Maternal Instinct" and "The Crystal Skull." I wanted to emphasize the changes that have overcome Daniel at this time in his life, and to write a fic where the character is neither a whiny child nor a stumbling incompetent. Daniel has never struck me as either.
"Briefing in fifteen, Danie…." Damn. He wished this was the first time he'd stumbled on this scene, but it was becoming all too frequent if you asked him. When Jack turned the corner into Daniel's office at 08:00 he expected a droopy-eyed archaeologist guzzling his fourth cup of coffee of the morning, not a head-on-desk, out-like-a-light teammate who obviously hadn't even left his office since the night before. Walking into the cluttered space, Jack glanced around at the piles of reports and boxes of rocks and doodads all demanding the attention of one Daniel Jackson, genius, raging workaholic, and member of SG-1. "Weight of the world" boy. He flipped over one of the tags attached to a cat-cow-pig thing. P4J-993. SG-7. Reports with notes attached from General Hammond's office filled with letters like ASAP. Notes from some of the other researchers on the base, "Daniel, can't quite make this out, maybe you could give it a try." "Dr. Jackson, this negotiation is crucial and I'd like your thoughts…" Right. Translations while you wait. And everyone seemed to be waiting for him.
Jack rubbed one hand across his face. "For crying out loud, Daniel, doesn't anybody else on your staff have a freaking clue?"
"Jack?" Daniel's head snapped up, his usually piercing blue eyes bleary with sleep.
"Daniel." It was more of a sigh. "You do know we're scheduled to go off-world at 14:30 today, right? Off-world, as in, danger, tattooed guys with bad attitudes, possibly alien princesses to avoid?"
"What?" Daniel pushed both palms against his eyes and rubbed, eventually trailing his fingers up to sweep through his hair. It was getting long, again. No time to deal with it, just like food, sleep, life. Not much of that anyway. He squinted at his watch and sat back in his chair heavily. "Crap."
"'Crap' doesn't begin to describe it, Danny-boy."
It was Daniel's turn to sigh. "I thought if I could just finish a few of these translations last night, I could focus better on today's mission."
Commanding officer of SG-1, SIC of Stargate Command, and friend Col. Jack O'Neill settled one hip on Daniel's desk, pushing papers and artifacts out of the way before crossing his arms over his chest. "This can't keep happening, Daniel."
"I know, Jack."
"We're a field team."
"You don't have to keep reminding me."
"Third night in a row."
"I know! Wait, what?" Daniel grabbed his glasses from the desk next to him and pushed them onto his face, blinking up at Jack with a frown. "How did you know?"
"Commanding officer, Danny-boy, all knowing, all seeing, like that glowy-squid like-chick we met last week." He waved one hand in the air to describe his eerie supernatural abilities before finally pointing one finger at the security camera on the wall above the door.
"You've been watching me?" Daniel didn't know whether to feel creeped out or…really creeped out.
"Yes, Daniel," Jack sniped, "I spend all of my free time on base watching you on video. Teal'c and me. With popcorn."
Standing, Jack reached for the cat-cow-pig thing and turned it over and over in his hands, purposefully avoiding Daniel's anxious expression. "I get reports, Daniel. Reports from Frasier on the fitness of my team, and reports from the security desk on my team's movements. For instance," he checked the underside of the figure to see if there was a rubber stopper so that little alien kids could get their coins out, "did you know that Carter checked out at 19:20 last night, came back at 19:40, and then left again at 19:52? Wonder what gizmo she'd forgotten to turn off in her lab," he asked himself. "You, however," no stopper, which made sense as he couldn't find any slot for putting coins in the thing on the top, "haven't set foot off this base since you came in on Thursday at 06:10." He finally looked up and held the younger man's attention with his own fierce stare. "Today is Tuesday."
Daniel pursed his lips and blew out a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Jack, but," he looked around at the accumulation of artifacts, piles of photos of off-world inscriptions, and then to his computer screen where he could see another 42 emails in his inbox, "there just doesn't seem to be enough time. And please put that down," he muttered as an afterthought.
"Daniel, do you really think you're in any shape to go off-world this afternoon?" When the archaeologist's mouth opened in automatic response, Jack held up one finger. "Ah! Be honest – are you going to be alert, able to watch out for yourself and the other members of your team?" He stressed the last word to try to get Daniel to realize how important his position was.
"After the briefing I'll have time to catch a nap," he suddenly became aware of the feel of his stale BDUs, "and a shower." He put every effort into appearing awake and alert in the face of his utterly unconvinced commander. "Jack, I'm fine."
"Oh, don't even start," the colonel smirked. He launched the cat-cow-pig into the air over the desk and watched Daniel's sluggish reaction, throwing himself forward to try to catch the delicate figure before it smashed to pieces. Jack snatched it out of the air about three inches from the desk and six inches from Daniel's outstretched fingers. Leaning down to fix his dark gaze onto his teammate's stunned blue one, Jack whispered. "And if that had been Carter?"
Daniel blinked, trying to deny to Jack, and to himself, that it had been a fair test. "I probably couldn't catch Sam…"
"Daniel," Jack's growl was menacing.
"Okay, okay, I get it," he scooted his chair back to put some distance between himself and Jack's disturbing example, his arms tightly wound around his chest in a familiar pose. "You can't count on me. It's not like it's a new concept."
Jack's moan of frustration seemed to propel him from Daniel's desk to pace around the limited floor space available. "Daniel – you're stressed, trying to do too much. You've got to learn how to say 'no.'"
"To what?" Daniel's gesture took in all of the files and artifacts packed on every surface of the room. "To General Hammond's request for help with the language of the Hunvrai negotiations before the meeting tomorrow? Or should I ignore Major Fletcher's mission to the refugees of M4S-599, and the strange relics that they keep giving him? Dammit, Jack, it's not like I'm staying up late surfing the internet or watching old movies! This is important."
Col. Jack O'Neill stopped, hearing the edge of desperation in his young friend's voice. He doubted if Dr. Daniel Jackson had ever had any time for the kinds of leisure pursuits that kept the average guy busy at night. Two doctorates and a Masters degree before the age of twenty-five. Definitely nothing average about that. But Jack would bet his entire library of Simpson's tapes that nothing in all of Daniel's education had prepared the SGC's resident cultural geek for the kinds of responsibilities he'd gathered over the last four years.
"I know it's important, Daniel, but every new culture, every new language, can't be all your responsibility. You've got to prioritize, set up some kind of 'Archaeological Triage" with all of this stuff." Jack gestured widely at the large room that did not contain one surface that wasn't overflowing with artifacts and paperwork. "What about your staff? That Rothman guy you keep telling me is the next best thing to sliced bread?"
"He is good, Jack, so are Kandihir, and Frinnelli, and Anders, but…" Daniel took his responsibilities to his staff as seriously as Jack did his to his team. He suddenly clamped his mouth shut and lowered his head, knowing that Jack would misunderstand if he tried to explain.
"But, what?" It didn't take a genius to know that Daniel was holding back, and O'Neill prided himself on his own advanced degree: he had a doctorate in stubborn, pig-headed archaeologist, even though he didn't have a framed certificate to prove it. "But, what, Daniel? But they're not good enough? Not as good as you?"
"No!" The contradiction was spontaneous, filled with all of the exhaustion and frustration that had been building up for months. Stop, he told himself, closing his eyes firmly, you don't understand. It isn't what I meant at all.
Jack narrowed his eyes. Huh. He hadn't expected this from Daniel. "Look, Dr. Jackson," his careful pronunciation of the name made the archaeologist flinch, "I don't care what you know, or how smart you are, as long as you're a member of SG-1, your readiness to get into the field to fulfill our current mission objective has got to be your highest priority." He punctuated his statement with one jabbing finger, his anger evident in every word and motion.
"It is," Daniel's murmured response was almost inaudible, "but I can't just…"
"Apparently not," Jack shot back, satisfied to see Daniel's head snap up, his gaze sharpening. Maybe he was getting through that dense brain matter of his, but the leader of SG-1 couldn't be sure. Verbal agreement with Jack's orders wasn't Daniel's problem; it was actually following through and carrying them out the way Jack intended where the young man tended to stray off the reservation. "You're scrubbed for this mission, Daniel," he finally announced.
Jack's statement brought Daniel to his feet in one swift movement, his desk chair rolling off behind him until it hit the wall with a thud. "What? You can't do that!"
"I can and I have," O'Neill crossed his arms, presenting a solid wall of decisive colonel to Daniel's disbelieving eyes. "I'll grab one of Reynolds' marines to be our fourth on this one, they're always ready," he snorted. Born ready, according to their CO.
"But, Jack! The UAV showed ruins of what looks like a temple structure..." he grabbed at the first argument he could think of to change Jack's mind.
"Maybe you should have thought of that before you decided to ignore me when I told you to make sure you eat and sleep properly before a mission!" Jack hoped this was the first and last time he'd have to go this far to make Daniel understand his own limitations.
He couldn't believe this was happening. It couldn't be happening. SG-1 was the only thing he had left now, didn't Jack realize that? "Jack," Daniel tried to steady his voice, "please. It will never happen again."
"Damn right it won't," Jack agreed gruffly. "In fact, after the briefing, which you are not attending," he held up one hand in front of his teammate's face, "I plan to talk to Hammond to make sure of that fact." The colonel steeled himself against the lost expression in Daniel's eyes. Tough love time, Jack, he muttered to himself. He'll thank you later when he's alive. "SG-1 is due back 48 hours from debarkation time. Until then I'm ordering you off the base, and before you ask, no, you can't take any work home with you."
"No arguments, Daniel, I'll see you in two days. Don't make me send a couple of SFs in here to escort you out."
Daniel stood perfectly still as Jack slammed his office door behind him. Maybe he was still asleep and it was all a dream. Jack couldn't have just described himself, Sam, Teal'c and one of Reynolds' marines as SG-1, could he? What did that make him? Insignificant, his inner doubts whispered. Even with three years of off-world missions to show for himself, Daniel knew he'd never manage to rise in the eyes of the military beyond his academic niche. He'd seen the smirks and heard the thinly veiled insults; those and his own criticisms of the Air Force mindset told him that the gulf between academia and the military was a wide one – perhaps one that he'd never successfully bridge. Especially now that he'd been removed from SG-1.
He knew he'd screwed up; he should have left the translations until after they'd returned from P7R-434, but he also knew that something else would have turned up by then to put him farther behind. Daniel crossed his arms and let his gaze travel over all of the files and requests for help that were scattered throughout his office. No. He didn't think of himself as smarter than Robert Rothman and the rest of the cultural support staff. He shook his head abruptly. But as their advisor – he refused to think of himself as more than a colleague with more experience, he was younger than most of them, and couldn't be their 'commander' as the military looked at things – he had a responsibility to his people. They were all amazingly bright, and their progress along the learning curve was remarkable, but it was still a learning curve, and he would always be ahead. Not because of anything inherent in himself, but because he'd been about it longer. An entire year living on Abydos among an alien culture. Another year at the SGC as the sole cultural consultant. Field experience that many of them would never have - if they were lucky. He couldn't refuse to help out when they asked.
Daniel rubbed his eyes again – they felt hot and dry from staring at brightly lit screens and trying to focus on tiny figures and drawings. Jack thought it was his pride that kept him from resting, that much was obvious from his reactions to Daniel's hesitant remarks about his staff. He didn't know that every time he closed his eyes he saw the innocent face of Sha're's son surrounded by ribbons of glowing light. The image was burned into his mind, and came with a flood of emotion – relief that the boy was safe, guilt that he couldn't be the one to protect him, and a deeper guilt at his relief that he wouldn't be reminded day after day that this child was not his. And then the 'what-ifs' surfaced, one after another. What if this had been his son? What if Sha're hadn't died to save him? What if he had been strong enough to win her back, or at least man enough to keep her from being abducted in the first place? He blinked rapidly, not sure if he had any tears left after the events of the past few months. She was gone. The child was gone. And Ska'ara – Ska'ara was back with his people – it was the only thought that kept Daniel from absolute despair. Maybe Jack was right to replace him. Maybe it was time to let go of SG-1 and step back among his colleagues into his academic niche. He turned, grabbed his coat from the closet and switched off the lights before carefully locking his office door.