Title: The Definition of Damsel
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: Some things just had to be experienced to be believed. 2800 words.
Prompt: 24 Days of Ficmas, Day 17: For Ava. Prompt: Buffy Summers & Daniel Jackson, "Surprisingly, Daniel isn't the damsel in distress."
"So what was all that about, earlier, with Major Griff?" Daniel asked, waving a hand generally in the air as he curled the other around the cup of coffee.
Sam smirked, and paused before scooping up her next spoonful of blue jello to answer. "Oh, just settling a friendly argument about the definition of damsel," she said.
From what he'd glimpsed of the end of the sparring match before trudging off to the showers after his own workout, her dictionary had ruled triumphant: proactive etymology at work. Daniel smiled at the thought, and tilted his head curiously. "The word wasn't being used in reference to you, I trust."
The smile lines at the corners of her mouth deepened. "Not exactly."
"What do you mean, exactly?" Mitchell asked from the seat to Daniel's left, forehead furrowed. "I would've thought he'd know better by now. SG-2 gets called in on our missions more often than just about any of the others."
Vala leaned forward a little to proper her elbows on the table, exchanging an amused look with Sam before answering on her behalf. "Exactly," she said. "Which is why he said we should be named SG-Damsel; especially now that the Ori and Goa'uld are both gone. We've required rescue more than any other team in the history of the program, and not always at the hand of the current enemy."
Teal'c, seated next to Sam, frowned slightly at that. "Is not the definition of a damsel a young woman or maiden?" he asked cautiously. "Surely such a name is- at least partly inaccurate."
Daniel saluted him with his cup of coffee for his careful wording; strictly speaking, none of them qualified for the literal meaning of the term, but he doubted either Sam or Vala would take it well if Teal'c said that straight out- if only for form's sake. "Of course it is, Teal'c; but they're using it in the metaphoric meaning of the term, as in, 'damsel in distress'. It's a classic theme in Tau'ri art, literature, and film, especially prior to the mid-twentieth century; it refers to a person, usually a beautiful and helpless young woman, who is placed in a dire predicament by a villain or monster and requires rescue by another party, usually the dashing hero of the piece. It's a little- passé these days, but still popular."
"I see," Teal'c commented, eyebrows raised- his entire expression extremely nonplused, as if to say, 'in what galaxy could I ever be mistaken for such an individual?'
"So he was referring to all of us as damsels, not just you?" Mitchell clarified, looking at Sam.
"How many times have you lost your pants now?" she grinned at him, then took another bite of her jello.
Vala snickered, and Daniel obligingly stepped up to spread the wealth a little. "Not to mention the time Vala lost her memories; and the time Sam was phase-shifted into another universe; and the time Teal'c lost his symbiote..."
Mitchell snorted. "Naw, if anyone on this team is the damsel, it's you, Jackson."
Daniel rolled his eyes at him. "And what makes me more worthy of the term than any of the rest of you?" he asked.
"Do I even need to mention all the times you've been kidnapped? Or hijacked? Or killed? Or turned into something else? Even just on my watch, the tally's getting pretty long," he drawled, grinning mischievously at him.
Daniel huffed. Not that it wasn't true, but: "I do rescue myself at least as often as I require rescue, which is an important part of the archetype," he insisted.
"Yeah, yeah." Mitchell waved a hand at him. "How about I make a bet with you? Out of all our missions for the next month, the one who needs rescue the most buys all the rest of us dinner. Out. Wherever we decide we want to go."
Dinner for the entire team, especially when Teal'c was on planet, could get pretty pricey. Daniel narrowed his eyes at him, thinking. "And who decides what qualifies as 'needing rescue'?" he asked.
Sam bit her lip, eyes twinkling. "Why don't we ask Walter to mediate? It's not like he won't find out anyway, and we know he'll be impartial."
They all glanced at each other at that; Vala eager, Teal'c loftily above the whole issue as though certain he'd get someone else to pay for his dinner any way it fell out; Sam amused; Mitchell taunting; and Daniel himself reluctant- but kind of determined to prove himself, too. "Deal," he said.
Mitchell's grin widened. "One month," he said, rubbing his hands together. "Steak. Kobe beef, Jackson. I'm looking forward to it."
Daniel raised his chin. "We'll see," he said, crossing his arms over his chest.
Vala laughed. "This is going to be fun."
Three and a half weeks later, stranded on-world in England assisting in a secondary exploration of Merlin's treasure rooms, Daniel had to admit he might have been a little hasty taking Mitchell up on that bet.
So far, the entire team had been stranded up trees by unexpected predators on one planet; Teal'c had been conked over the head on another by villagers who maintained an unreasoning hatred of all Jaffa; Sam had fallen into an unexpected sunken room and sprained her ankle, and was later hijacked by a population expecting her to help them work abandoned Ori technology; Vala had run across one of her former trading partners who took an exception to her continued freedom; and Mitchell had three extra rescues to his credit, if they counted the fact that he'd been along with Sam for her hijacking. Of the other two times, one had been courtesy of the Lucian Alliance... and the other had involved, once again, the loss of his pants. Vala still hadn't stopped teasing him about it yet.
Daniel was already at three, too: each one collateral damage from his brief time as a Prior. And if he couldn't figure a way out of his current predicament, his count would move up to four. Even if he wasn't exactly the one who'd caused the problem. He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, and stared at the short blonde who'd unexpectedly triggered a new security system SG-1 hadn't run into during their previous visit.
He'd returned to the caves due to a nagging, lingering feeling that they'd missed something during the first visit- a feeling that had only cropped up since his timeshare experience with Merlin. The Ancients seemed rather fond of such subtle methods of revelation; and if Merlin had left a prompt of any kind behind, Daniel had figured there had to be a reason for it. The team had agreed, and Landry had lent them one of the newer exploration teams as backup. Like many teams, SG-23 were made up of three soldiers and a civilian expert- but in this case, the three soldiers were Army rather than Air Force, and the civilian expert was not a scientist. What she was, was young, Californian, and classified- an express appointee of the President. So far, Daniel wasn't much impressed.
"You're sure you didn't touch anything?" he asked her again, plaintively.
Buffy Summers spun idly in the air in the center of the newly discovered chamber, suspended within a blue-tinted force shield bubble. She was rotating along a diagonal from lower left to upper right, and looked distinctly greenish underneath the wash of color from the shield; she swallowed, then frowned and- wriggled, angling her body in a way that incidentally emphasized how very toned she was under her camouflage BDUs.
"For the umptieth time, no," she said, as her spin altered a little, approaching closer to horizontal- then arched her back, shifting the angle a final few degrees. "Whoo! There. I was starting to get seasick, and Ri would never let me live it down." She took a deep breath, and extended her arms, slowing her spin so she rotated completely only once every ten seconds or so, then smiled tightly at him as she finally met his eyes again. "No, I was just, you know, kind of curious about the glowy guy that popped up when I turned to look back the way we came in. So I took a step toward him, and poof, instant Buffy bubble. Gotta tell you, not what I had in mind."
Daniel could hear 'Ri', the other two members of SG-23, and the rest of SG-1 intermittently calling from the hall, interspersed with loud thudding sounds; one of the thick rock slabs this place tended to use as door seals had dropped to cut their chamber off from the others the instant Buffy's prison had snapped into place, and this time their radios weren't working. Nor were there any apparent puzzles to solve; just the force shield, with no visible emitter or other mechanism with which to disable it.
"Glowy guy?" he asked, frowning at the new detail in her explanation. "You didn't mention him before."
"I didn't?" she asked, innocently. "You mean you didn't see him? I did say I was curious, I'm sure I did; what did you think I was curious about?"
"If I knew that, would I have kept asking you what happened?" he sighed.
"Point." Buffy grinned at him in little flashes as she continued to spin. "He was old. All beard-y and robe-y, and lit up around the edges like a candle cup; I guess I thought it must have been that Merlin hologram you mentioned in your first report. And he said something I didn't really understand." She drew her eyebrows together in concentration, scrunching her nose up a little as she thought.
"Something...?" he prompted her, gesturing impatiently.
"Gimme a sec. It sounded like..." She hesitated, then repeated a string of what sounded like nonsense syllables with a vaguely Ancient accent.
"Excuse me?" he blurted, then sighed. "Could you repeat that again?"
"Ugh. Languages are so not my thing; I wish I had Dawnie here. No, scratch that; I'm never letting her anywhere within a hundred miles of this job." She furrowed her brow, then repeated the string of nonsense again- this time more slowly, and as he concentrated Daniel began picking actual words out of the mess of awkwardly pronounced syllables. Something to the effect of, "experimental subjects not allowed past this point unrestrained..."
"Experima-what?" she exclaimed, as he translated for her.
"Perhaps this would be a good time to tell me exactly what your classified role is on your team?" he asked her, raising his eyebrows.
"Delivering witty one-liners, and making these uniforms look good?" she quipped, with a wry smile. "No, seriously, you wouldn't believe me even if I was cleared to tell you, Dr. J. But, uh. I guess I can admit I'm not exactly standard-issue human?" Her brow furrowed at that, and her expression darkened. "Though if I find out the guys Whistler works for are the same guys as your Ancients...!" After that inexplicable statement, she tipped her head back to glare at the ceiling- inadvertently adjusting her spin angle again, so that now she went heels-over-head lengthwise instead of in a level circle. "Ooof!"
"Whistler...?" he couldn't help but prompt.
"Irritating little guy with bad fashion sense that appeared out of nowhere to tell me all about my destiny- twice now- before evaporating again. It's kind of his fault I'm here, actually. You know, with the Presidential order and Ri and Graham and all. But if I see him again after this, I really am going to rip out his ribcage and wear it as a hat!"
Daniel winced. He was starting to get dizzy, just watching her. He was going to have to have a serious conversation with her later about Ancient interference- it sounded as though she'd had some fascinating experiences, though he did wonder why he hadn't been informed of them before as the SGC's premier expert on the advanced race. For the moment, though, it had occurred to him that if there was no obvious physical means of turning off the field- perhaps the means necessary weren't physical, that time. The warning- if his translation of her garbled account was correct- had mentioned restraint. And as Merlin had been kind enough to leave him with a copy of the ATA gene...
He approached her cautiously, extending a slow hand toward her spinning form. When his fingertips touched the blue glow without any apparent interaction other than a slight tingling feeling, he extended his hand further- and this time, caught her wrist in a solid grip as she tipped upright once more.
His hand had easily penetrated the field, making contact with her firm, slightly sweaty flesh with no further ill effect. It didn't seem to be seizing him the way it had her, or trying to draw him in, confirming part of his theory. But it hadn't let her go yet, either- potentially confirming the rest of it. He took a breath, then reached cautiously into one of the pockets on his vest and withdrew a zip-tie restraint.
"Give me your other hand," he said, holding the tie up where she could see it.
"What, are you mental?" she gaped at him. "You're not going to tie me up! How could you possibly, I mean, I know I said the hologuy said unrestrained, but..."
"If it thinks you're an escaped experiment, and I'm a legitimate authority, then what can it hurt to try?" he informed her, reasonably.
"It? What 'it'? I don't trust anything whose brains I can't see, and not a lot of things that I can, either," she shuddered, craning her as though looking for something to hit. It was a good thing he still held her securely upright, or she would surely have altered her angle of spin yet again.
"That's- probably generally a good philosophy, actually," Daniel told her, "but in this case, unless you can see another way out? I think we ought to test the given parameters. If that warning's any indication of the kind of work this facility was involved in, it might be far older than Merlin's tenure- as far as we're aware, there hasn't been any active genetic work done on Earth human stock in thousands of years. I'd love to see what else is hidden down here."
She sighed, then finally held up her other hand with a martyred expression. "Okay, okay. But leave this out of your report, all right? I'm never going to hear the end of it from Ri and Graham as it is; they totally warned me about going anywhere alone with Dr. Damsel in Distress, and I've gone and experienced the distressage myself instead."
"Doctor...?" Daniel spluttered, then closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose again. "This is Mitchell's fault! He's tied with me, you know; and I haven't lost my pants since Vis Uban."
"Ooh. If you say so; though I bet that story's a whole lot more interesting when you tell the whole thing," she grinned, then wriggled her arm in his grasp. "Go on, then; tie me up, Dr. J."
He grumbled and fixed the zip-tie in place, tightly binding her wrists together- and two seconds later the field winked out, dropping her into a crouch on the ground.
"Well what do you know, it actually worked!" she said brightly, wobbling a little as she flexed her feet against the renewed push of gravity.
A moment after that the wall began to rumble back upward again- in two places, not just the lone entrance Buffy had discovered. Daniel had followed her into the single revealed chamber, just in time to be caught with her- but clearly, it was only an anteroom to a larger subterranean facility.
"Score!" Buffy said, bouncing slightly in place at the sight of the new corridor- dragging Daniel's hands up and down with hers as she moved.
"Uh... Buffy?" Lieutenant Finn said cautiously, stepping into the room with the rest of his team and SG-1 behind him.
Buffy went still at that- then turned to look up at Daniel and blushed a brilliant red. "Uh, I can explain?" she said, blinking wide green eyes in the lieutenant's direction.
"Oh, this I gotta hear," Mitchell smirked as he stepped into the room. "What happened, Daniel?"
Finn shook his head, then started to chuckle. "What it looks like, is that Buffy owes your doctor dinner," he said. "Seriously. Since when do you do damsel, Buffy?"
Daniel caught himself smiling at that thought, and abruptly felt very old.
"Since the twelfth of never?" she replied, tartly. "This totally wasn't my fault!"
Maybe he would leave some things out of the report to Landry. Because some things just had to be experienced to be believed.