Janet Frasier had just put the finishing touches on Daniel's cast when Col. Jack O'Neill entered the infirmary, his eyes blazing. Taking in the protective stances of Carter and Teal'c around Daniel where he sat on the edge of the bed, and the watchful gaze of the SGC's formidable if dainty CMO, he quickly settled his features into some attempt at calm and shoved his hands deep into his pockets so he wouldn't reach out and strangle his archaeologist. His lips thinned as he heard the throaty whining that issued from behind closed curtains at the other end of the infirmary, and Jack nodded towards the two SFs who had entered the medical area on his heels, silently directing them to their positions.
"Well, well, the gang's all here I see," Jack quipped, noticing with pleasure Major Samantha Carter's slight stiffening as he approached the group. Teal'c, unruffled as always, merely put both hands behind his back and shifted to allow Jack access to the area directly in front of Daniel. Hitching up one leg, Jack half-sat on the bed opposite his friend's. "Daniel."
"Jack." He lifted hooded blue eyes to meet Jack's fierce stare.
"Nice little movie you recommended. The general especially liked it."
"Yeah, good dialogue, although the villain came across as a bit arch, don't you think?"
"Oh, I don't know," Daniel shifted uneasily, wincing as Janet adjusted a sling around his neck, "seemed pretty lifelike to me."
"Uh-huh." Jack let the silence stretch out.
"It was a clean break, colonel, no tendon or muscle damage," Janet Frasier's voice dropped into the awkward moment. "He'll need to be on light duty for a week or so, and then only routine off-world assignments for about four weeks until the cast comes off." Holding up one finger and waggling it in front of Daniel's face she added, "No running, jumping, or getting shot at for at least a month." She slipped off her gloves and took Daniel's face between her hands, one thumb pressing against his bruised cheek.
"It's not broken, just bruised," she assured him. "Well," she sighed, smiling in amusement at the stiff postures of the team members around her, "I guess I'll leave you all to it." One hand patted Daniel's knee before she swept down the aisle towards the dramatic groaning behind the curtains.
"Look, before you…"
"What the hell were you…"
"Sir, I'd just like to…"
Three voices stopped abruptly, and three pairs of eyes turned towards the only silent member of SG-1. Teal'c tilted his head and gazed impassively at the middle distance.
"Okay, what do you say we let the guy with 'colonel' on his uniform speak first," Jack snapped. Sam closed her mouth, but her body language let her commanding officer know that she still had a lot to say. Daniel let his chin drop down against his chest.
"Carter – good job on the recordings. Sound and picture, very nice, gave us everything we need to keep Kendrick quiet and far, far away from any government assignment for the rest of his miserable life." He shifted his gaze away from her startled face. "T? I assume you were in proximity in case our James Bond here needed backup?"
Eyebrows raised at O'Neill's analogy, Teal'c nodded. "Indeed."
"You're both dismissed. It's Saturday," he drawled the word out slowly. "See you Monday morning." He hopped from his perch on the bed. "Daniel, when Frasier releases you I'll drive you home."
"Ah…" Daniel's worried gaze flicked nervously between Sam and Teal'c.
"Sir, I could…"
"Oh, relax, Major," Jack turned, hands out to his sides. "You were right, I was wrong, I'm not going to hurt him…much."
Sam smiled. "Good enough." She put one hand on Daniel's arm and leaned towards him. "I told you it was crazy," she stage whispered before leading Teal'c out of the infirmary.
"Oh, yeah," Jack's eyes twinkled darkly.
A few minutes later Jack led Daniel down the hallway towards the base elevator. "Wait, Jack," Daniel lurched to a halt. "What about Fletcher?"
Jack reached back and patted his friend on his good arm. "Hammond is contacting Esposito to give him your recommendation. They're going to go slow, and Hammond will direct any questions to you or Rothman. Okay?"
Daniel nodded, relief washing through him and leaving him tired, very tired. Jack stepped back and grasped his friend across the shoulders.
"I'm okay," Daniel moved away from the touch and Jack dropped his arm.
Once in the elevator watching the lights blink steadily toward the surface, Jack turned. "Daniel. I meant what I said to Carter. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you."
"Me too, Jack."
O'Neill slid his eyes towards his friend's, but they were closed. "Hammond's called a meeting for Monday afternoon to discuss staffing."
"Am I invited?"
Jack flinched. "Ah, yeah, he's – we're – going to issue a formal apology."
"Good, that's good," Daniel murmured.
"Hey," Jack shifted to face the other man, leaning his left shoulder against the side of the car in a mirror-image of Daniel's pose and grasped his left arm above the elbow carefully to get his teammate's attention. "You know that was a stupid, reckless stunt, don't you?"
"Was it?" Daniel's eyes flew open. He knew they had to have this out, but wasn't willing for Jack to take the lead. "I was careful, I used your training, and I made sure I had back-up. I didn't do anything I didn't have to do."
Jack nodded reluctantly, allowing Daniel to continue.
"You admitted yourself that you weren't listening, so I knew I couldn't go to you for help. I acted to protect those for whom I'm responsible." Hesitating a moment, Daniel was relieved to notice that he did not have to struggle for control. "I learned that from you, Jack. I am learning. I hope you realize that I'm not the sneezy geek you need to rescue from himself any more. At least, I hope I'm not."
"I think that guy left with the girly hair," Jack smirked.
Daniel smiled briefly in response. "I've been through a lot this year, Jack. Now, I'm not promising to turn into a good little soldier…"
"…airman…" Jack corrected.
"…airman," Daniel acknowledged. "I'm still going to argue passionately for what I believe is right…"
"…wouldn't have it any other way…"
"…and I'll probably fight you on some of your more brainless decisions."
"Oh, 'more brainless' now," Jack mimicked.
Daniel ignored him. "But I promise never to put research before the team again. In any way." He searched Jack's dark eyes for the trust that he desperately needed.
The elevator door slid open at the surface, but neither man moved. Finally, Jack nodded and steadied his friend as they made their way down the tunnel towards the clear evening air. He believed him. The two stood under the first evening stars for a moment, each one listening to an inner voice.
Daniel remembered the sincerity in Teal'c's eyes at one of his darkest moments: "True strength is to see - in the moment of battle, in the timeless place between thought and action - to see the right thing to do and to be willing to risk everything – everything, Daniel Jackson – in order to do it."
Jack felt deep pride and remembered fighting down an exultant yell when he heard his friend's recorded words: "Perhaps you've mistaken me for one of your easily manipulated undergrads, Dr. Kendrick. I'm not. I'm Daniel Jackson, a member of SG-1, the frontline team that has been keeping your ass safe from the Goa'uld for the past four years. You don't scare me." He hoped he finally believed it.
Thank you all so much for reading and reviewing. For those of you who wanted the story to last longer, I am a firm believer that all good stories must come to an end. Sooner rather than later. For fans of Best Intentions, I am sorry, but this story begged to be written before I continued.
BTW, Stargate fans are awesome. Isn't it interesting that after 10 years of episodes and two movies we are still telling these characters' stories?