Written by Yum@
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Jack O'Neill looked at his surroundings with mild distaste. The surface of the planet... reeked.
The rust colored stains of blood on the boulders, and the smouldering ruins, were nothing compared to the stench of fresh blood spilled on the damp grass. Smoke filled the sky, blocking out the brightness of the sun. It interfered with the scented breeze of once brightly colored blossoms that wafted by.
P6J811 smelled like death.
It had been a surprise to Jack when they had encountered the village. When they had found the probe untouched by the Stargate, they had assumed that the planet was deserted. The trail they had followed was worn, but long since unused, judging by the newly grown patches of grass on the bare ground. So when he smelled smoke, smelled the blood, it was a double shock.
"What happened here?"
Daniel Jackson's voice dropped to a hush, out of respect for the dead. He was rooted to the spot, standing behind the only remaining house within the remnants of the village. The scientist was too shocked to even push up his glasses, which were again sliding back down his nose.
"Stupidity," Jack said shortly, as he noted the bodies of two males a few feet away, both similarly dressed in gray tunics now mottled with blood and dirt. Both obviously from the same village, the two lay dead on the ground, their weapons still clutched in claw-like hands. Bodies lined up before them, far beyond where the eye could see. It was like a battlefield.
The walkie-talkie on Jack's belt crackled into life. Carter and Teal'c were on the other side of the forest, checking on the origin of the smoke that they had sighted after arriving through the Stargate.
"What is it, Carter?"
Jack grabbed the radio and flicked open the channel to respond. The colonel shook his head at Daniel, pointing to the ground sharply with his finger. He wanted the anthropologist to stay put. After the scenario in P3X797, he didn't want Daniel to leave his sight. When Teal'c had turned around, Daniel had been taken away by the Touched and Jack would be damned if he was going to let that happen here.
"No one is... left, sir." The captain's voice faltered over the words. Military training may have kept her functioning, but her humanity made the woman recoil at the horrors that were before her. "Looks like a small war happened here."
"Same here." Jack sighed. "Okay. Rendezvous back at the edge of the forest and we'll head back for the Stargate together."
"We're... leaving so soon, Jack?" Daniel asked faintly, still half hidden by the structure, unable to tear his eyes away from the sight of a small bonfire that was burning a few meters away. Even with his glasses on, Daniel couldn't see what was burning and, for a brief moment, he had thought it was a ceremonial torch to honor the dead. But then Jack followed his eyes to where the fire was burning and gave a disgusted snort. When Daniel took a harder look, he soon saw what Jack had known in an instant.
They were burning bodies.
Daniel felt his fingers slacken, letting go of the notebook he had whipped out the moment he felt the hard ground of a new planet under his feet. The small pad tumbled silently out of his fingers and dropped to the ground. Jack grabbed the young man by the arm and roughly turned him around.
"Come on. You shouldn't be seeing this, Jackson."
He pulled the scientist away, all the while cursing his team's luck for getting the good ones. Whatever had happened to boring planets with nothing but trees and weird looking bugs?
"There must be... some papers... or text... to explain why... how this could happen... " Daniel stuttered as he tugged his arm free from Jack's hand, bending down to pick up his notebook.
Straightening up, Daniel flipped the pages so he could start writing some observations when he saw the crinkled, stained leaves of paper. The lined sheets were now streaked with blood and dirt. Swallowing, Daniel ripped out the soiled pages and closed the book, depositing it within his fatigues' pocket.
"Does everything have to be some god damned textbook for you?" Jack snapped, irritated that Daniel wasn't immediately following after him. "We're not staying. This team is not going to just stand here and wait for the bloodbath to come to them!"
Jack saw no reason to stay there, when it was obvious that nothing was left. The colonel roughly tugged at the scientist, half dragging the stunned man out of the village and back into the forest. He muttered to himself in disgust about scientists having no common sense at all.
"We should find out what happened to them, Jack. I mean... this couldn't just be an act of war. There's no... signs of a victor." Daniel protested weakly. The young scientist pointed towards the distant bonfire that he had turned away from before. "That flame. Why burn the bodies? Who did it? There must have been some reason why they went to such... extremes."
He rubbed his hands absently on his pants, feeling the stickiness of the blood that had clung to the notebook before. It felt like the blood was painting his hands with red gloves, slowly growing out to cover his forearms and elbows, maybe spreading to-
Stop it. Daniel shook his head. You can't freak out like this at every mission. You have to learn to take care of yourself. Otherwise Jack's going to pull you off his team. The young man straightened up and tried to take steadier steps. He tried to ignore the faint lingering scent of blood and smoke from the village they had just left.
"Jack, we need to find out why they-" Daniel tried again.
"They fought each other," the colonel said gruffly, "like I said before... stupidity."
"How can you be so sure?" Daniel retorted before he could stop himself. "You're categorizing everyone with your own set of labels here, Jack!"
"Look. It's pretty obvious what occurred here." The colonel waved towards the bodies, all of whom were dressed in similar fashion. "We're not here filming a documentary. We're here to check the planet out and make sure there's no threat," Jack pointed out to Daniel.
"The cultural environment and development of arts is also a factor here," Daniel reminded Jack, "the general said-"
"I know what he said! He also told us to make sure we all get back in one piece, Dan..." Jack stopped. He had heard a twig snap just northwest of him. "Captain? Teal'c?"
Another twig snapped.
Jack cursed and yanked Daniel closer to him. The younger man, startled, didn't say anything, until Jack pulled out his sidearm and dropped it into Daniel's hands. Daniel cringed.
The colonel whipped around and looked Daniel straight in the eye.
"Look. I know you're not a soldier. Just a scientist who should be sitting back in the labs doing whatever it is that you guys do. But if you're going to be on my team, you have got to learn to watch your back and sometimes maybe ours. That means carrying this. Got it?"
Daniel looked stricken at the thought of needing to fire the weapon, but Jack growled and roughly shoved the pistol onto his palm.
"My team, my rules, Jackson," the colonel grated out. "You're my responsibility, but I don't want to think that I have to keep worrying about you on every mission. The rifle that you should have been using back in P3X797 was not there just for decoration!"
The young man took a step back as if he had been slapped.
"I told you. You don't have to worry about-"
"If you don't even know how to defend yourself, I will."
Reluctantly, as if the gun was an asp, Daniel gingerly picked it up with two fingers on the barrel. Jack rolled his eyes and pressed the cold metal harder into the man's palm. He pointed to a switch by Daniel's index finger.
"Safety on. You need to fire the gun, then it's safety off. Got it?" Jack asked in a steely voice as his eyes looked beyond Daniel, watching for anyone sneaking up behind them.
The gun felt heavy in Daniel's hands.
I just need to carry it. That's all. Otherwise, I'm off the team.
"Got it." Daniel carefully slid the gun, with its safety on, into the holster Jack gave him and strapped it on his upper thigh. The weight felt disturbingly close to his flesh. It felt like it was going to brand him with its metallic cylinders.
The colonel gave him a cursory once-over and was satisfied. As he motioned to Daniel to hurry up, he heard it again.
"Daniel," Jack hissed, turning around to pull Daniel into the safety of the brush. He had curled his fingers around the camouflage pattern of the cloth when the trees above... exploded.
Three men dressed in gray tunics similar to the ones found on the bodies leaped down from the treetops. They landed around the two men with exact precision. One blocking the path to the village, one blocking the path out of the forest, and one...
One next to Daniel with a blade to his throat.
"Daniel!" Jack started but the closest man, with a painted face, grunted in unfamiliar words and grabbed his arms. The colonel, not one to be pinned down, spun around and kicked the attacker in the stomach. The painted face contorted until the lines of color twisted around the skin, and the attacker fell to the ground clutching his stomach.
"Jack, wait-" Daniel was trying to talk to them. He had heard them. Their attackers were speaking to them in an ancient Samoan language. He heard them accuse-
The colonel saw Daniel's captor tensing his blade around his comrade's jugular vein and he stopped. The man towered over Daniel by at least a head, broad shoulders with dilated eyes shining out of a scarred face. He didn't speak at all, but the soft stroking of the blade tip on Daniel's throat conveyed all that Jack needed to know without making a sound.
"Shui nok." The man near the path leading to the forest pointed to Jack's rifle, which was pointed at them.
"Daniel?" Jack asked quietly.
"He... he wants you to drop your gun, Jack." Daniel's blue eyes were wide and expressive. He looked at the colonel fearfully as the older man complied without a second thought. Uh no. "I'm... I'm sorry, Jack." The tip of the knife dug deeper, warning Daniel to stop talking.
Jack shook his head.
I should have been more alert. What the hell was I thinking? Arguing with Jackson in the middle of a battlefield?
"You understand what they're saying?" Jack asked slowly, wincing as he felt a spear poke just below the small of his back. Slowly, he dropped his hands until they dangled just below his walkie-talkie. He could feel his fingertips just touching the dials.
Daniel just nodded, unable to speak. The large man barked something out at the two other men, who in turn yelled at Jack and Daniel.
The blade's pressure lessened and Daniel found himself able to speak.
"They... they saw... Teal'c." Daniel swallowed. "They... " His eyes widened as he translated the rest of what they were saying. "Jack, the villages... they... when our probe came through... They thought we were going to take them as... hosts like... like in their legends... Oh my God, Jack-"
"Daniel, keep quiet," Jack murmured as he noticed that the three were growing more and more agitated each time Daniel spoke.
"They think we're Goa'uld, Jack," Daniel said before turning his attention to the three. "Nhut chut ne ne Goa'uld! Ne ne! Klu ch-" He stopped when he felt the tip of the knife against his throat again. The blade pressed deeper and Daniel felt something warm trickling down his neck. When Jack cursed, he knew that the blade must have cut.
"Shut the hell up, Jackson! You trying to get us all killed?" The colonel hissed.
Daniel's eyes pleaded for Jack to understand, but the colonel's eyes were on the blade and the small stream of blood that was now dripping down to Daniel's collar. The colonel's jaw clenched with a painful cramp. Jack tensed his fingers and then abruptly turned his walkie-talkie's volume on to the highest level.
The high pitched squeal alarmed the three, who stepped back, frightened by the strange sound. Daniel, freed, staggered forward as Jack whirled around and struck the man blocking the village path right on the nose.
"Jackson! Get the hell out of here!" Jack bellowed. Dimly, he could hear Carter and Teal'c's voices from his radio demanding to know what was going on, but he was too... busy to reply at the moment. "Daniel!"
The scientist cried out a warning as he saw the two men move in on his friend. The colonel didn't have a chance, as one clubbed him down viciously with his stick. Jack fell to his knees and then felt a foot slammed into his ribs, sending him to the ground clutching his side. He looked up and, to his dismay, saw Daniel was running towards them to help. The tall one, after recovering, howled as he picked up his blade and lunged towards the scientist. Jack hollered a warning, grabbed his rifle and fired it into the air. The three attackers froze in fright as they saw sparks spit out of the strange black stick.
Daniel, using the chance, was able to reach the older man's side to help him up. "Jack, are you all right?" he asked anxiously, darting his eyes nervously from Jack to the three men.
"Oh... just... dandy." Jack grimaced, keeping one hand to his right side.
Daniel tried once more to plead with the men. To explain that they weren't Goa'uld, but it wasn't working.
"Goa'uld ne ne!" We're not Goa'uld.
"Theo ajer hujy Jaffa!" Lies, we saw the Jaffa with you.
"Jaffa ne ne. Jaffa goiu nerty chek!" He is no longer Jaffa. He now fights with us against the gods.
"Theo! Jaffa hfoin! Goa'uld hfion! Chek ney luiom bak!" Lies! Jaffa take. Goa'uld take! You will not take us for your deeds!
"Ne-" Daniel's voice trailed off as he stared at them in frustration. "Ne-"
"Daniel, tell them to back off. We got to get out of here." Jack hissed as he told himself to not pass out yet. 'Go home and then you can humiliate yourself by becoming a puddle on the floor. But... not... now.'
"Not now!" The colonel snapped as he felt his knees beginning to buckle. "Reality check here! They're not listening!"
Daniel nodded. He sharply told them to back away or they would use their... god's lightning on them. Looking at Jack's rifle, Daniel hoped it wouldn't have to come to that again. The three stepped away from them as Daniel, with an arm around Jack's waist, half supported the colonel towards the path leading to the Stargate.
One step. Two steps. Three. Almost there. Just past those trees.
Just past those trees.
Suddenly, Jack's knees folded and the colonel cursed as he felt himself slip out of Daniel's arm, which was wrapped around his waist.
The three, seeing the opportunity, lunged forward. The scarred one tackled Daniel mid-chest and the two of them flew a few feet, hitting the ground hard. The wind knocked out of him, Daniel lay there gasping as he watched black spots dancing with Jack and the other two. The colonel whipped up his rifle again, firing, and Daniel flinched as he heard the loud thunder coming from it. But this time, the attackers weren't afraid. They had seen the enemy falter, showing weakness, and that called up bravery that was enough to spur them on.
Jack fired the rifle again.
The other one howled with such fury, Daniel felt goosebumps on his arms. It was rage fully embodied.
The third gave a battle cry as he lunged at Jack with his blade and the two men locked in a tight embrace as they tumbled across the ground, each trying to gain advantage over the other. Daniel could hear Jack shouting as he struggled with the man.
Daniel tried to get up but the tall one just slammed into him again, blade out on to his chest this time. The young man desperately craned his neck, trying to see who was winning, but the bodies were twisting over each other so rapidly that they had become a blur.
Then, the two stilled.
"Jack?" Daniel called out faintly and the tall man didn't stop him as he called out to his comrade fearfully.
The two men separated, rolling away from each other.
After a long moment, the colonel got up slowly to his knees. The tall one stood up straighter, shocked as he got a clear view of a blade sunk in hilt deep into his comrade's chest. Veins bulged on his neck as the man screamed at Jack. The colonel, still dazed, was unable to stop the man from grabbing him by the throat.
"Jack!" Daniel sat up as he saw, to his horror, the colonel beginning to choke. "Ne Jaffa ckitl step! Stop it! We're not the enemy!" He staggered up to his feet and headed straight for the man's torso. It was like hitting rock. The man just slapped him away with one hand as the other tightened its deadly grip.
Daniel fell hard to the ground and landed on his side. Something pressed against his thigh painfully. It was Jack's gun.
"But if you're going to be on my team, you have got to learn to watch your back and sometimes maybe ours."
Pulling it out of the holster, Daniel shouted back another warning. The man barely gave him a glance.
"Safety on. You need to fire the gun, then its safety off. Got it?"
Safety... safety... where's the damn safety?
Trembling hands found the switch and Daniel turned the safety off.
"Ne kahde! Let him go!"
Just do what Jack did. Fire it into the air. Scare him off.
Daniel pointed the gun to the air and fired one shot.
The man froze. He turned his head finally to Daniel, who was still on the ground with wide eyes and shaky hands. The scarred man smirked at the sight and dismissed him as not being a threat. The man turned back to look at Jack, who was still feebly trying to pry the iron grip from his throat. With a grunt, he threw Jack down to the ground and pulled out his blade again. He crouched over the colonel and snarled.
"Step away from him." Daniel stammered as he moved the gun down to point right at him. "Thek!"
Back away from him. Please! Just turn around and leave!
"Yul Jaffa krew udbo." The man hissed as he swung his weapon down in a deadly downward arc.
No, no. Please! Stay away. Get away from him!
The gun jerked in Daniel's hands. He yelped as he felt it twitch, smoke coming out of the barrel. Daniel gaped at the tall native, who was looking down at his shoulder wound with a mixture of amazement and shock. Dazed, the scarred man looked back up to Daniel, who was on the ground trembling violently.
"St... step... away from him." Daniel's voice lost its sharpness, beginning to quake as he lost his resolve. The language he had interpreted before was lost to him. Daniel couldn't think of the words as he gawked at the stream of bright red blood trickling down from the man's wound. He could feel his hands shake now. His fingers felt like they were burning. "P... please."
The man roared. He was furious that this slight man could wound him. Him and his friend! Murderers, his eyes seemed to say. He focused on the man who had inflicted his pain.
"Daniel... " Jack gasped as he saw the blade now seeking a new victim. He struggled to get up but his chest seized painfully from banged up ribs. "Daniel... for God's sake... run... "
The scientist was rooted at the spot as the man stalked over, heedless of the gun. His hands were shaking so badly, that the gun fired again. Daniel cried out as he felt the recoil.
The man jerked as another bullet tore through his body. Daniel shuffled away as the man screamed once more and ran at him full force, and he found his back was against a tree.
"Stay away!" Daniel shouted as the man towered over him.
There was nowhere to run.
"Daniel!" Jack cried out.
The man stood over Daniel's legs, staring at the young man with shock. Daniel couldn't move, speak, or even scream when the man suddenly fell on top of him.
"Daniel!" The colonel tried to get up but everything felt like rubber.
Daniel sat there, his arms at his sides and his eyes wide with shock, the gun still clutched in his left hand. He shuddered and the gun slipped from his numb fingers. Daniel's eyes saw nothing though. All he could do was listen.
The man was still alive.
"Colonel!" Carter called out from the distance. Branches snapped, as she and Teal'c struggled through the underbrush to reach them.
"Daniel Jackson! O'Neill!"
"Over... " Jack wheezed as he tried to crawl over to where Daniel was. "Over here."
The captain didn't hear, but obviously she had heard the fire fight and was heading in the right direction.
"Daniel... " The colonel tried to see Daniel, but the native was on top of him. "Daniel, are you okay?"
Daniel didn't answer. All he could do was sit there with the body lying on top of him as the native struggled to breathe. Daniel could feel the blood dampening his own uniform until it clung to both of them. He could also smell the mixture of sweat and blood.
"Lureas." The man hissed. Daniel turned his head, stricken.
He shook his head. "I'm sorry. God, I'm sorry... I... " He couldn't find the words in order for the man to understand. Daniel saw that the native's eyes were directly on him. He could see his reflection on that man's eyes, distorted as the pupils dilated fully. Daniel found himself looking at his reflection, a small prisoner, in a pair of dying eyes. Like a moth to a flame, Daniel wasn't able to turn away from the image of himself in those eyes.
"Daniel?" Jack had heard the native speak but not Daniel. He forced himself to stagger to his feet, ignoring the wave of dizziness that threatened to force him back down, and drunkenly walk over to the two.
Feebly trying to push the man away, so Daniel could get free, Jack didn't expect him to suddenly grab Daniel by the shoulders. Daniel gasped as he felt the crushing grip. He pushed at the hands, eyes still caught in the gaze of a dying man.
"No... " The young man pushed, but couldn't get him to let go. Blood clung to his clothes, filling his nostrils with the scent of iron and death. Daniel made a distressed sound as he tried frantically to get free.
"Lureas!" Drawing on untapped strength with his last dying breath, the native removed his hands from Daniel's shoulders and grasped his throat.
"Daniel!" Jack saw the anthropologist pale as he beat his fists against the native. The colonel stumbled over and grabbed the native, trying to pull him off.
With a hard pull from Jack and a push from Daniel simultaneously, the man was pulled away. Daniel gasped as he felt air flowing freely down his throat now, and he could only watch as the man lay on the ground, twitching as the last of his strength ebbed away.
Jack came into view suddenly, shaking him gently. "Daniel?"
"Sir!" Carter burst into the clearing, her rifle swinging left and right aiming for any enemy who might still be lurking. Teal'c appeared to the left with the intention of circling them. The two newcomers relaxed when they saw that the only two standing were Jack and Daniel.
"We're fine," Jack said curtly. He turned his attention back to Daniel, who was trying to stand up. The scientist's face was white as a sheet. "Keep still, Daniel. Are you all right?"
"Sam... " Daniel's eyes were glued to the native. "Check... check on him... he was still breathing... " He swallowed as Carter went down on one knee and checked the man's pulse.
"Captain?" Jack kept his hands on Daniel's shoulders, but turned his head in Carter's direction. He relaxed slightly when the woman shook her head.
Oh God, no.
Under Jack's palms, shoulder muscles tensed, drawing Jack's attention back to the young man once more.
"Daniel?" Jack saw him bow his head. He shook the scientist gently once more. "You had no choice."
"Daniel?" Carter came over to the two men. Teal'c stood over them, staff weapon at hand, his eyes darting from the forest surroundings to the three on the ground. "What happened here?"
Daniel didn't look up as he whispered. "Stupidity."
The colonel looked at Daniel sharply. "Jackson." He turned back to Carter. "We were ambushed. I was down and Daniel shot him."
"Daniel?" The woman appeared shocked. Even Teal'c whipped his head back to Daniel. The young man flinched at the attention.
"He was going to kill Jack," Daniel mumbled.
"He had no choice!" The colonel was surprised to find himself rising so quickly to Daniel's defense. It was the only choice. Jack knew that, but why did he feel like he had to say something?
Carter recovered quickly enough to smile reassuringly at the young man. "You did what you had to do, Daniel."
"I know." The calm voice that came out of the young man was a surprise. Daniel shrugged his shoulders away from Jack's grip. "He... he was going to hurt Jack."
"You did what you had to, Daniel," Jack repeated what Carter said. He gave the area a quick scan. "Let's get out of here."
"Wait." Daniel stood up, leaning on the tree for support. "We should... I mean... what happened to these people... we have to record this."
"There may be more here, waiting to ambush us," Jack said more sharply than he had intended. He softened his tone when he saw Daniel stiffen. "We'll return with more people and try to find any survivors to explain. Okay?"
Daniel looked surprised that Jack had suggested even that. "Okay." He looked back at the clearing, absently wiping his hands on his pants. "Okay." Daniel turned to the way out of the clearing, then it struck to him that his glasses were gone. With a quick glance around, Daniel saw that they were by the native and he swallowed. Not bothering to pick them up, Daniel just silently turned back to face the forest.
"Carter." Jack felt tired all of the sudden. "Lead the way." He trailed behind the captain, with Teal'c guarding the rear. His eyes were glued to Daniel's retreating back. The team slowly made their way out of the forest and towards the Stargate.
Daniel stared at his locker blankly, barely registering the fact that he was supposed to head for the infirmary. As soon as they had arrived through the Stargate, Daniel remembered vaguely saying that he was going to change first and had walked away before Jack could say anything.
Shuddering, Daniel hunched over and rested his elbows on his knees. Over and over again, he told himself to breathe.
"Lureas!" Stop it. Just... stop it. You had to do what you had to do. Otherwise Jack... Like Jack said. I had no choice. There was no choice.
Stop it. Just... stop it. You had to do what you had to do. Otherwise Jack... Like Jack said. I had no choice. There was no choice.
Daniel sat up straighter and took a deep breath. He nearly choked as the lingering smell of blood reached him. Looking down, Daniel paled.
His fatigues were dotted with brown patches of dried blood, mixing with the browns and greens of the uniform. He had blood on him. Daniel turned his palms, so they were facing him. He had blood on his hands too.
He had to get it off.
Daniel forced himself to not tear the jacket off, frantically pulling at sleeves that refused to move. When he was freed from the uniform, he bunched it up into a ball and threw it in the basket labeled CONTAMINATED. There was always a basket for that due to the uncertainty of what an SG team might bring back.
And I brought back something I shouldn't have.
Looking away, Daniel headed for the sinks, turned the hot water on fully, and thrust his hands under the faucet. He yelped as the scalding liquid made contact with his flesh and he jerked his hands away. Daniel staggered back, staring at the reddened skin, relaxing when he realized that the damage was not visible.
Can't walk around with burnt hands. Everyone would know... Know what? That I killed someone? Or that I can't handle it like the rest of them?
Daniel didn't know the answer himself.
"Calm down." Daniel said to himself softly. "Can't start breaking apart in front of them. Don't give them a reason... " He swallowed.
Don't give them a reason to pull me off the team. I have to stay on the team.
With that in mind, Daniel went back to the sink and washed every bit of evidence off his hands, all the while reminding himself to breathe.
"Okay, let's see what the damage is," Fraiser said as she pulled on some surgical gloves with a quick snap. Jack fidgeted on top of the gurney, glowering at the doctor as she felt his ribs.
"Ow! God dammit!"
"Hmm... two ribs... need x-rays to be sure... internals sound good... "
"Does your stethoscope have to be so cold?" Jack complained, ignoring the amused smirks from Carter, who was seated a few feet away. "Where do you store those things? In a fridge?"
"Actually in an ice box... just for you, colonel," The doctor joked in a distracted voice as she continued her examination amidst the older man's grumbling.
"Where is Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c wanted to know. The Jaffa turned his head, frowning as he realized that the scientist was not nearby.
A medic passing by volunteered the information. "Oh, I just saw Doctor Jackson heading over to be checked out by Smith over there." She pointed to a curtained off area behind Jack. Fraiser excused herself to take a quick look. Moments later, she returned to continue her prodding.
"Is he okay?" Jack asked concerned, wincing as Fraiser poked at his throat and at the reddened skin.
"Mild concussion... a few scratches... he will be sore for a few days but otherwise he's okay. He said he was feeling dizzy and tired... gave him some aspirin... I see some bruising on your neck as well, Colonel O'Neill... "
Jack waved that off. "One got really up close and personal before-"
"I have to make my report, Jack." Daniel suddenly appeared in front of the colonel. "Are you all right?"
"He's fine," The doctor answered before Jack could open his mouth.
"Yeah... I'm fine." Jack glared at Janet, who took no notice as she prepared a needle. "Hey! What is that for... Ouch!" The man nearly jumped as she gave him the shot.
"Antibiotics," She said cheerfully as she motioned some nurses to come over, "and now off to x-ray."
"What? I told you, I feel fine! I-" The colonel's voice trailed off as he was lead away by no nonsense nurses.
Carter laughed as Teal'c raised an eyebrow at the sight. "So the colonel's going to be fine, Janet?"
"Sure." Fraiser grinned. "May feel a little sore and grumpy-"
"You mean he wasn't already?" Carter quipped and the two women laughed.
"I would recommend a few days rest so I'll just need to have someone take him home because we're going to give him some painkillers later and I don't want him to dr-"
"I'll take him home." Daniel's voice broke through. "I'm still staying over at his place until I can find somewhere."
"You sure Daniel?" Sam asked. She noted the dark circles on his face. "You don't look too good-"
"I'm fine," Daniel interrupted, smiling tightly as he continued, "Tired. It's been a... long day, right?"
Teal'c nodded solemnly. "This mission has been most... distressing."
"Really?" Fraiser suddenly noticed that Daniel was shivering slightly. "Cold, Daniel?"
"A little." The scientist admitted. "My jacket was... dirtied. I had to throw it away. I need... another pair of glasses, too. I lost mine back there. Is that okay?"
"We'll just have to take it out of your pay, Daniel," Sam teased. She sobered quickly when she realized that Daniel didn't return the smile. "Daniel?" Sam grew concerned when he looked up in a daze. "Daniel? Are you sure you're-"
"Tired," he said simply and then shrugged. "And we still have to make our report to General Hammond." Daniel sighed, making it sound like he was too tired to want to attend.
The captain patted him on the arm. "The report has to be made, Daniel. But it'll be quick."
"Go." Fraiser waved them off. "Your colonel's not going to be back for a while so you three might as well make your report. Daniel, you could pick him up afterwards."
Daniel nodded, wiped his hands on his trousers, turned around, and left without saying a word. Sam said goodbye, then she and Teal'c followed him out.
"Well, that will be all for now, people." General Hammond nodded as Carter finished up with her report. "Stand down for two days. We'll wait till the colonel's up to par before your next mission SG-1."
"Yes sir." Carter said. Teal'c nodded in agreement.
Daniel looked up wearily, his eyes almost like slits. He had found himself unable to keep his eyes open.
"Is everything okay?"
"Yes sir," he responded faintly. "I was wondering if... we would be able to return? We need to find out if there are any more... people over there and try to make them understand that we never meant any harm."
"We'll need to send another probe first before I can make that decision, Doctor Jackson." Hammond furrowed his brow as he studied the man. "Are you alright, doctor?"
"Y-yes." Daniel nodded as he forced himself to smile. "I guess... it's a bit of a shock, that's all."
"Ah... the shooting." The general said, not noticing that Daniel had flinched.
"You did it to save the colonel, Daniel." Sam spoke up, her eyes warm as she defended his actions.
"It was the only way, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c agreed.
"We're not blaming you for the incident, Doctor Jackson."
"Incident." Daniel repeated numbly.
"It was justifiable, Doctor Jackson. From what Captain Carter tells me, it saved a life. The colonel's and even possibly yours." General Hammond smiled briefly.
Daniel nodded mutely.
General Hammond continued. "Make good use of the two days. Get some rest. It's been a long day for you all."
With that the team minus their commanding officer was dismissed. One by one, they left their seats. The briefing room was now empty save for the general. After a few minutes, he looked up again at the room. General Hammond eyed thoughtfully at the seat Daniel had emptied, picking up the report he scanned it again.
"Damn," Hammond murmured as he realized what was bothering him.
The shooting was written in Daniel's report in one simple sentence. Hammond didn't even think that Daniel had realized it himself. It just read simply:
I killed him.
General Hammond rubbed his temples wearily as he picked up the phone to speak with Doctor Fraiser.
"I'm not taking any pills," Jack grumbled as a small bottle of painkillers was pressed into his hands, "I got beer that would do the same."
"And I've got a bed here in the infirmary that's perfect for bad patients like you, colonel," Fraiser pointed out just as stubbornly.
The two stared at each other in a battle of wills. Finally, Jack sighed like a long-suffering martyr and pocketed the bottle in his pants.
"Thrilled, colonel." The doctor rolled her eyes as she nodded to Daniel, who was entering the infirmary.
"Women tell me that all the time," Jack quipped. "Hey, Daniel. You're my ride?"
The young man nodded.
"How'd the debriefing go?"
"Okay." Daniel looked at Jack worriedly. "Is it okay for you to go home, Jack?"
"Doc can't wait to get rid of me." Jack got off the gurney and paused. The room did a merry spin before calming down. When he focused again, he saw the two of them looking at him with some concern.
"Let's go, Daniel." Jack draped a hand around Daniel's shoulder, to hide the fact that he needed the support to help keep him on his feet. Daniel must have sensed this because he didn't say anything, only stood up straighter so Jack could lean on him if necessary.
Sighing, the doctor must have suspected this. "Go home, colonel. I need my beds for those who are sick. Daniel, you get some rest too, okay?"
Nodding, Daniel walked slowly, helping Jack out of the infirmary. Fraiser frowned at the sight, but then one of the nurses came over to tell her that she had a call.
The lights came on, flooding the place with brightness. Jack sighed, trudged over to the couch and plopped himself down. He winced as that move aggravated his ribs. And his head was being to pound to the point of distraction.
"Are you all right, Jack?" Daniel asked quietly as he hung up his jacket. He had noticed how his friend's hand was protectively over his right side.
"Fine," Jack said when suddenly his stomach grumbled, "although I'm hungry."
"I can make a sandwich," Daniel offered, turning towards the kitchen. "You need to eat something anyway before taking that medication."
"Not taking any crummy pills," Jack grumbled as his stomach protested again. "Although a sandwich would be nice. You wouldn't mind?"
Daniel shrugged, wiping his hands on his sleeves. He looked at his hands for a minute and paused. Red spots floated before his eyes.
"Sit right there. Should only take a moment," Daniel simply said and entered the kitchen.
"You know if you don't want to be an anthropologist, you could always become a housewife, Daniel!" Jack joked as he leaned back into the couch. His smile faded when he realized that Daniel didn't respond to the gibe.
Sam looked up in surprise. "Daniel? I think he left already with the colonel. Teal'c saw them leave when he was heading back to his room." She paused in undoing her bootlaces. "Why?"
"Did you read Daniel's report?" Janet asked quietly, handing her the folder when Sam shook her head. "About the shooting?"
Quickly scanning the page, Carter's eyes widened as they rested on that one sentence. "Oh... I... " A guilty look crossed over her face. "Damn. I should have realized."
"So should I," The doctor interjected grimly. "He didn't even say anything about the shooting to me."
"Should I call the colonel?"
"Tried that, but all I got was the answering machine." Janet looked frustrated. "The colonel tends to leave it on during the night if he's asleep or planning to."
"We could page him. We have his beeper number."
"And say what?" The doctor looked at the woman seriously. "I think Daniel's taking it harder than we thought? Can you drag him back to the base and humiliate him in front of everyone?" Carter winced. The colonel was never known for his...tact. "I can see your point."
"I'll call them tomorrow morning and talk to Daniel myself." Fraiser didn't look too happy about waiting, but she knew trying now would only make Daniel feel worse.
Sam reluctantly agreed and made a mental note to be there when the doctor made that call.
A few moments later, seated around the dinner table, Jack was biting into his sandwich. He glanced back up at Daniel, who was tapping on his glass listlessly.
"No sumwitch for you?" Jack mumbled with his mouth full.
Daniel grinned slightly, understanding every word. He watched Jack take another huge bite, not bothering to swallow as he asked again.
"Mpgh ate pht or?"
"Yeah, I had something before, while you were in the infirmary, Jack." In truth, Daniel had spent the time in the locker room after the debriefing, staring at the walls. He had tried to join Sam and Teal'c at the cafeteria but the smell of hot food had made his stomach churn. Just looking at Jack's sandwich right now was making him feel nauseous.
Stop it. They're not making a big deal over this. Why should you?
The colonel nodded again. Swallowing, Jack cleared his throat. "You know... we never got to say anything before... " He didn't notice Daniel tensing up. "That mission... thank you... for backing me up, Daniel."
Daniel opened his mouth slightly.
"Nothing... um... you're welcome." The young man nervously looked away.
"You did good, Daniel." The colonel mumbled as he smiled.
"Good." Daniel repeated numbly.
"Yeah." Jack ate the last bit of the sandwich and sighed. "Damn, that hit the spot. I should have you do all the cooking on these missions, Daniel."
"Beats having to worry about me on every mission. Right, Jack?" Daniel joked weakly.
Jack looked at Daniel strangely. Uncomfortable under the scrutiny, Daniel pushed the bottle of painkillers over to Jack.
"Doctor Fraiser said two every six hours and I'm suppose to wake you up every four to check you."
"I'm fine," Jack grumbled. He eyed Daniel. "She said you had a mild concussion, too."
"A headache," Daniel said truthfully, "and I need to stay awake."
"Maybe I should stay-"
"I took a few aspirin just before, Jack. I'm fine."
"Are you sure? You look a little green around the gills-"
"I'm...fine," Daniel said in a tight voice, his eyes flashing for a moment. It took Jack by surprise. The young man recovered quickly enough. "I'm tired, Jack, but I'm fine."
"You're... fine," Jack repeated dubiously.
Daniel nodded. He smiled wanly and gave the bottle of pills another push. Jack groaned and shook his head.
"This... really sucks, Daniel." Jack shook two tablets out and swallowed them dry. Grimacing, Jack opened his mouth to show that the medicine was gone. "There! All gone!"
Daniel smiled again. Jack was acting like a child. "Okay, Jackie boy. Off to bed for you."
"Don't wanna," Jack shot back, "there's a game on."
Rolling his eyes, Daniel shook his head. "No, Doctor Fraiser said that you-"
"Needed some rest, I know. I know. I can do that on the couch!"
Jack got up and trudged over to the sofa, sitting down with his arms crossed. After a while, he eyed Daniel, who was still standing by the kitchen doorway. With a grunt, Jack scrounged around for the remote control and flicked the television on.
Sighing, Daniel gave up. "After the game then?"
"Yeah, yeah. You can even tuck me in, for crying out loud."
Smiling again, Daniel shrugged. "Whatever I can do to help, Jack."
The colonel looked at Daniel again strangely. "Daniel, are you feel-"
"I'll go clean up this mess," The young man said abruptly, turning around to go back into the kitchen. After a few seconds, Jack could hear the clink of dishes being washed.
Jack watched Daniel for a moment and sighed. For some reason, Jack had a bad feeling about this.
"Daniel, how was the debriefing?"
The kitchen was suddenly quiet.
"I told you... it was okay."
"What did you say to General Hammond?" Jack pressed.
"Exactly what happened on that mission, Jack." Daniel paused. "I shot him."
"It was self defense," the man reminded him.
"I'm thinking about talking to General Hammond." Jack paused. "About going back. Maybe we will find survivors, Daniel."
Daniel didn't respond.
Giving up, Jack contented himself to watching the game. He had tried to make conversation with Daniel, but it was hard to do so with the young man in the other room. After a while, he got up, bid Daniel good night and went to bed.
"Lureas." Daniel saw himself in the man's eyes, his face twisted into a murderous smirk. "Murderer." "No." Daniel tried to turn away from those eyes. But wherever he turned, they were there. "I tried to tell you. I was trying to warn you away, but-" The man came closer, his dead eyes still like mirrors. Daniel flung out his hands to ward him off. To his horror, they were covered with blood. "Lureas." "No!" Daniel choked as he watched the blood flow down his arms, up his elbows, covering his chest with its iron stench. He dropped to his knees. He couldn't scream. Nothing would come out. So all Daniel could do was watch as it crept up slowly to his throat, then his face. Soon it would cover his mouth and he would drown-
Daniel saw himself in the man's eyes, his face twisted into a murderous smirk.
"No." Daniel tried to turn away from those eyes. But wherever he turned, they were there. "I tried to tell you. I was trying to warn you away, but-"
The man came closer, his dead eyes still like mirrors. Daniel flung out his hands to ward him off. To his horror, they were covered with blood.
Daniel choked as he watched the blood flow down his arms, up his elbows, covering his chest with its iron stench. He dropped to his knees. He couldn't scream. Nothing would come out. So all Daniel could do was watch as it crept up slowly to his throat, then his face. Soon it would cover his mouth and he would drown-
"No!" Daniel sat up on the bed. He clutched his throat and gasped. When air came easily to him, Daniel then realized that it was only a dream.
He stared into the darkness of the guestroom, seeing the dark featureless shapes of his packed boxes, all ready for when he found a place to live. But for now, Daniel just wanted to find the first hole to hide in. He kicked the twisted blankets away and stumbled out of his bed. Perhaps if he freshened up, he would feel better and would be able to go back to sleep. With that hope, Daniel made his way to the bathroom carefully, trying not to wake Jack in the bedroom next door.
Fumbling around, Daniel found the light switch. He nearly jumped at the face he saw in the mirror. When he realized it was his own reflection, Daniel scolded himself.
You're jumping at your own shadow here! What is wrong with you?
Not wanting Jack to hear him, Daniel shut the door. He leaned against it and closed his eyes. No good. He could still hear him.
Daniel splashed water on his face. Cold droplets trickled down his cheeks as he gasped for air. His legs no longer able to hold him, Daniel knelt there, his arms outstretched to clutch the sink's edge.
"I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm okay." Daniel chanted as he squeezed his eyes tight. "Don't think about it. They're fine with it. I'm fine with it."
"No... " He clamped his hands over his ears.
"I didn't mean to... " Daniel whimpered as he shook his head fervently.
"Leave me alone... " The young man crammed his fist into his mouth, trying desperately to still the sobs that wanted to come out.
I have to back them up. I have to be strong. I can't be kicked out of this team. I have to be there. I have to find Sha'uri.' "Lureas."
Daniel stood up, frantically splashing more water on his face. Over and over again, he cupped the water and viciously slapped it onto his face until it felt like he was drowning. Pausing, Daniel gripped the edge of the sink tightly, his chest heaving.
Daniel dropped his head and stared blankly at the bottom of the sink where his fists were still submerged in hot water. The steam filled the bathroom, making it look very surreal, like a dream.
A dream. Maybe this is all a dream. I'll wake up and find that I never left Abydos. Sha'uri is still sleeping right there beside me and my hands aren't-
Daniel lifted his hands from the water. Trickles of moisture dribbled down the contours of his hands, dampening his sleeves until they darkened with-
Staining his sleeves.
Staining his... hands.
There was so much blood.
"So much." Daniel whispered. He stared at the streaks of red his hands were coated with. He flexed his hands and opened them up again. Still covered with blood. Didn't he wash them off when they had first got back? Didn't he get rid of the stains when he got rid of his jacket and pants in the infirmary?
There was still blood. He could smell it on his hands. His fingers still burned with the smell of gunpowder from the gun he had fired. The gun he used to... kill.
Desperately, Daniel pumped the liquid soap bottle that was on the sink, liberally coating his hands with the cleanser. Grabbing the first thing he could find, a scouring pad, Daniel began to wash his hands. He scrubbed at his palms, his fingers, knuckles, all the way up to his wrists. He stopped finally, rinsing them with the running hot water, not even feeling the heat scalding his skin.
Frantically, Daniel tried again. He began making choked sounds as he saw that he was unsuccessful. There was still blood. There was so much. It wasn't coming off. None of it was coming off.
"No... " Daniel moaned as he scrubbed furiously at the back of his hands. The gunshot echoed in his head, but still Daniel didn't stop washing, even to bring his hands up to block his ears.
So much blood.
So much... why won't it wash off? "Lureas." I'm not... not a murderer... I told him to stop... I told him to stop!
I'm not... not a murderer... I told him to stop... I told him to stop!
"Daniel! Open this door!"
Why won't this wash off? Why won't the smell go away?
"I'm going to break this door down, Daniel! Open it now!"
"I ASKED YOU TO STOP!" Daniel screamed, slamming hands down to the bottom of the sink, splashing the water and spilling it over. He dropped to his knees sobbing.
The door splintered and Jack broke through. He froze there at the sight of his friend huddled beneath the sink. There was water everywhere. Daniel had his knees drawn up to his chest, hands wrapped around himself as his whole body shook. He didn't seem to care that he was getting drenched.
"Daniel," Jack whispered as he leaned over and shut off the faucet. The older man knelt down beside him. "Daniel."
"I asked him to stop... " Daniel hiccuped as he began to rock himself. "He... I... he didn't under... understand... "
"Daniel." Jack didn't know what to say. "I... I didn't realize that you might not be... no... I should have realized... "
"I can't get it off my hands," Daniel whimpered. He made small distressed sounds as he tried to wipe his hands again on his shirt, becoming more and more upset when he saw that it didn't work.
Jack looked down at Daniel and sucked in a breath in when he saw his hands. Daniel's hands were bloodied, scratched from the rough scouring pad, the pads of the fingers raw and bleeding.
"Shit! Daniel, here. Get up... come on... we got to clean you up here."
Daniel stayed hunched over, shivering uncontrollably. Alarmed, Jack leaned in closer and tried to pull Daniel out from under the sink. Startled by the touch, Daniel's hands whipped out and pushed Jack away. The colonel grunted as the impact jarred his injuries. The sound brought Daniel back to awareness.
"Jack?" The young man blinked. He looked at the colonel confused. "What?"
Relieved that Daniel seemed to have recovered from whatever it was, Jack gripped the man's arms firmly and pulled him up. Daniel got up obediently at Jack's tug. He watched Jack detachedly he swore while searching for bandages and ointment. Jack pulled at his hands and Daniel looked down finally at the damage he wrought.
"God... " He cried out in a strangled voice, jerking away from Jack and stumbling to the toilet bowl. Tilting his head forward, Daniel emptied the meager contents of his stomach. Jack dropped down besides the young man, awkwardly rubbing his back in comforting circles.
"Take it easy... that's it... deep breaths, Daniel. Deep breaths."
Head down, Daniel drew in ragged breaths. The stink of his own vomit finally forced him to shuffle away from the toilet. Jack, sensing that Daniel was ready to stand up, straightened up and pulled Daniel by the arms. The young man stood up, swaying slightly.
"Sit." Jack pointed to the bathtub. Daniel meekly sat on the edge. He hissed when Jack probed at the wounds. "Hold still." Jack swore softly under his breath as he checked the scratches out. "Good. They've stopped bleeding." He began pouring iodine on the worst ones. Daniel yelped, jerking his hands back.
"Put them back out." Jack said sternly, his eyes narrowing.
Reluctantly, Daniel did so. Occasionally, he winced as Jack cleaned his hands up. Daniel tried to not look at the blood. Vaguely, he wondered how this had happened - turning to the sink, he saw the bloody scouring pad. Daniel ducked his head in shame. One bad dream and I go running for the bathroom. Suddenly, Daniel jumped as he felt the soft gauze being wrapped over his fingers and palms.
"Look, if you're that queasy about pain, you shouldn't have done such a wonderful job to your hands!" Jack snapped.
He regretted his words immediately when he saw Daniel cringe and turn away, too embarrassed to look Jack in the eye. The colonel resigned himself to finishing up. After a few minutes, Jack was done.
"Living room," the older man simply said, steering Daniel away from the mess, out of the door and setting him down carefully on the couch. Satisfied that Daniel was going to stay put; Jack went back into the bathroom. Daniel dimly heard splashing noises, indicating that Jack was mopping up the water on the tiled floor. He could hear the intake of breath as Jack's injured ribs bothered him.
A dark mood hung over Daniel.
Jack's injured and here I am freaking out in his house.
His shoulders slumped as he realized that this outburst would be the last straw.
That's it. I'm out. If Jack wasn't sick of me before, he will be now.
Another sob threatened to break through and Daniel couldn't move his aching fingers enough to clamp a hand over his mouth. So he slid sideways into the sofa's cushions and buried his head into the padded surface. He bit his lower lip hard as he tried to calm himself. An insistent hand pushed at his shoulders, easing him onto his back once more. Daniel refused to open his eyes. He didn't want see the disgust he would find in Jack's eyes. He kept his shut, fervently hoping that when he did open them, he really would find this all to be some terrible dream.
"Daniel, come on. Open your eyes." The older man kept shaking his shoulder. "I have to check to see if you're ok-"
"I'm fine!" Daniel snapped as his eyes flew open in a sudden burst of anger.
Jack pointed a finger towards the direction of the bathroom.
"That didn't look like fine to me, Jackson!" the older man snapped back.
Face red, Daniel ducked his head once more. Seeing this, Jack sighed.
I have really got to start thinking before I start talking, the colonel thought as he shook his head.
"Look, Daniel. That didn't come out right. I should have realized that this wouldn't be easy for you. That mission couldn't just be swept under the carpet so easily-"
"Why not?" Daniel broke in bitterly. "Why can't I handle this any better ? Like you guys?"
It struck Jack that the anthropologist was gauging his reactions against those of the rest of his teammates.
"Daniel, that's different. You're-"
"I'm not military." Sighing, Daniel shrugged away from Jack's hand once again, refusing the comfort of touch. "I know that. I know you're worried that I wouldn't be able to... back you up... "
"That's not true!" Jack protested.
Daniel blearily looked up.
"You don't think I see it? Putting me in the middle like some... some... invalid?"
"Sam in the front, Teal'c in the rear and you right next to me! Protecting me like I was helpless!" Daniel's face turned beet red as he recalled. "I'm beginning to wonder if I even have a useful role there. If you weren't feeling sorry for me and my need to find Sha'uri-"
"Wait a minute!" Jack got up to his feet. "Who's feeling sorry for who?" He glared at the man before him. "Sounds like you're doing enough of that for yourself!"
"Teal'c could help with Goa'uld information. Sam is the science wizard here. And you're the military leader of the group. What do I do?" Daniel laughed bitterly. "I read a bunch of rocks."
"Artifacts," Jack found himself automatically correcting the man in a reversal of roles. Daniel looked up in mild surprise. Shrugging, Jack grinned crookedly. "Now you got me doing it."
"Artifacts," he murmured, shaking his head, "Jack... I... killed someone today... "
"It was self defense."
"I know. But why do I still hear him?" Daniel sighed. "I... I can still smell the... it's everywhere, Jack. I can't wash it off... no matter how hard I try. I tried not to look, but I know it's there. And it won't come off!"
Daniel began rubbing his hands against his pants again. Jack grabbed the hands to still them before Daniel could further injure himself.
"Whoa... easy there." Jack sat back down and rubbed Daniel's back again as the man began to wheeze. "You're starting to hyperventilate-"
"I can't even think about it without this happening!" Daniel cried out, his breathing getting worse.
"Daniel... " Jack couldn't think of anything else to do but to just making useless motions along his spine, which was obviously not working. Jack was a colonel. Uptight military status quo had made him used to both taking orders and giving them. What did he know about comfort? Jack fought the urge to just bark an order to
Daniel telling him to get over it. He knew the young man would try, but that would only make things worse. But what could Jack do? He was a soldier-
"I am a soldier, Daniel," Jack said quietly. "The sights of hell are like paintings for me. I see it and look away to see something else."
"Why can't I do that?"
"Why would you want to?"
Stunned, Daniel glanced back at his friend, who, he saw, was dead serious.
"I know you're not... military," Jack continued, seeing Daniel flinch at the words, "but that doesn't make you an invalid... "
"Makes me the first hostage they see. God, Jack. I couldn't even get away from the Touched back then! I just stopped there like an idiot for them to grab me!" Daniel said bitterly.
"That couldn't be helped. We weren't all there to help-"
"Teal'c was there alone too. They didn't take him. Just me because they knew I wouldn't fire my weapon because I was scared. God!" Daniel dropped his head into his hands, not feeling the pain at all or the scratching of gauze against his cheeks. "And I come back here... everyone's telling me that I did good but I can't feel it! I feel like hiding in some goddamn closet. I... I feel so... so stupid! I look like an idiot!"
"It makes you human, Daniel."
The last sentence was spoken so softly, at first Daniel thought that he hadn't heard it correctly. He peeked from under his hands at Jack.
Jack sighed. "Yes, we're military. Teal'c is a Jaffa warrior. We see shit every day and come back home still acting the same. But that doesn't mean it doesn't... affect us."
Encouraged that Daniel was still listening, Jack went on talking.
"We check our humanity at the door... I mean, Stargate, Daniel. We have to... well, we need to. It's our way of surviving."
"I don't understand."
"We... we could die any day. Hell, I might get the big one tomorrow. How are we supposed to go through the 'Gate with that thought on our minds every day? Be upset at everything we see? It's impossible. We... we're trained to distance ourselves here, Daniel." Jack eyed Daniel, noting that he was nodding. "I run on automatic drive here... can't be running four wheel, adjusting for every bump and turn of the road. And that becomes... habit."
"Yeah... habit. We work instinctively to not let stuff like this touch us." Jack frowned as he leaned back on the couch. Daniel was watching him intently now and the colonel noted that his breathing had slowed down to a better pace. "I carry a gun too, Daniel. Remember? Doesn't make me very happy to use it though."
"I don't want you popping up on any staff weapon-armed serpent head, saying hi and then getting fired upon. I want you to be prepared, especially if we're not around in time to help you." The older man sighed as he ran a hand through his hair wearily. "Daniel, when you got grabbed by the Touched and I found out about it, I wasn't mad that you let yourself get captured." The colonel checked to see if Daniel was still listening before continuing. "Look, I was more mad at myself for letting that happen."
"You had no choice," Daniel said softly. He could still hear the unintelligible mumbling of his captors as he had lain there, too weak to move, too terrified to try.
"As you had no choice to defend yourself from that guy." Jack swore softly when he saw Daniel pale. "Daniel, I need to know that you'll be okay. Coming with us isn't any field trip. If I asked you to take a weapon, it's because I want you to protect yourself." Jack paused, remembering the helpless rage he had felt as Teal'c told him about losing Daniel, while he himself was too affected by the disease to do anything about it. "Especially if I can't be there."
Jack leaned forward to grasp both Daniel's shoulders, pulling him around until they were face to face. "But... that doesn't make me overjoyed when you do fire that thing."
"And I did," Daniel said, whisper soft.
"Yes Daniel... you did."
"And now I'm a useless wreck."
"No... now you're having a very human reaction." Jack watched the confusion returning to his friend's face. "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Doctor Jackson."
"Oh... " Daniel bit his lower lip. "I guess... that makes sense... I think... "
"Beats freaking out, doesn't it?" Jack teased lightly and was relieved that Daniel gave a nervous laugh. "It's perfectly normal, Daniel and very... very... human."
"So... I'm not out of the team?" Daniel asked shyly, lifting his head up just a bit, his eyes hidden within the locks of his hair.
Jack stared back in disbelief. "Is that what got your guts in a knot? You think I'm going to kick you out of this team because of something like that?"
"Your team... your rules... " Daniel lowered his head until his chin was almost touching his chest. "I wasn't exactly... behaving very... team like."
"Backing you up."
Jack snorted. "Oh? And what was that back on that mission? A turkey shoot?"
"Panicked man in the forest... stupidity." Daniel whispered.
"It wasn't stupidity. It was called saving my life." Smiling slightly, Jack patted the tensed shoulders under his hands. "And I don't think I really thanked you for that yet."
Daniel didn't respond to that. Jack sighed. This was a problem that wasn't going to be fixed with a few pretty words.
"You did what you had to do." Jack cocked his head, studying his friend. "And it's not really the first time you've carried a gun. Remember?"
Daniel nodded. "Abydos."
"Ra," Jack added flatly.
"That was different, Jack."
"No... it wasn't. You were defending yourself."
"That man was innocent!" Daniel burst out. "He... they... they thought we were Goa'uld! They said they saw Teal'c in the other village. They said that they would rather kill themselves then let the Goa'uld have them as hosts! They were defending themselves, too!"
Shit. Jack hadn't known that.
"I told the general that... he... "
"He blamed you for the shooting?" Jack asked sharply. The colonel was ready to call him up now, general be damned.
"No... but he should have... " Daniel's eyes were wide as he continued. "Jack... I'm a linguist... I understood what they were saying... I... I couldn't get them to understand! I should have made them understand! But I... I got scared!" Daniel threw up his hands and then winced as the wounds twinged. Daniel felt the urge to just curl up on the couch and hide. "He... he said it was a tragedy."
"And it was-"
"That isn't good enough!" Daniel burst out, starting to get upset again, "he filed it away and called it that but... but... "
"They won't come back." Jack finished it for him.
Daniel nodded sadly.
"I feel so... dirty... " Daniel looked down at his hands again. "All I could think of back then was that he was coming closer... he wouldn't stop... he was hurting you and... and... "
"You fired one shot first... into his arm... remember?" Jack murmured. "You gave him warning."
"I gave him provocation."
"We tried explaining before, Daniel. They were too consumed with hate... " Jack paused. "The general was right... it was a tragedy."
"And that's it?" the young man asked bitterly. "Everyone goes home and forgets about it?"
"We move on... and learn from it... " Jack stared at Daniel intently. "We do the military thing of putting it aside."
"It sounds so... cold." Daniel shivered.
"It is, isn't it?" Jack thought about it. "But years of training and combat makes us build that automatic shield, Daniel."
"I wish I had one."
"I wish you did, too... but only sometimes... "
Startled, Daniel glanced over to Jack. The colonel was staring ahead, lost in thought. After a few moments, the older man turned back to Daniel.
"You do have a role in our team... " Jack said slowly as if he was just realizing it himself. "You're there to remind us of our... humanity, Daniel."
Smiling sadly, Jack nodded. "You're right. We come back home and file it away, but you don't. You feel the mission. You remember their pain and that makes the mission less... trivial. You were right the first time... we need to find out why it happened... and make sure this doesn't happen again."
Daniel was silent as he digested this new piece of information.
"You have to remind us, Daniel. Of our purpose here. You gotta remind us of what is out there... . is not just a bunch of roc-"
Jack grinned. "Yeah."
"But... this... " Daniel waved towards the bathroom, his face flushed as he recalled his earlier actions. "Won't go away?"
"The day you feel nothing from something like this is the day I really do kick you off this team, Jackson," Jack said seriously. He didn't want to lose that... innocence? No... humanity, in his team. "Don't let any of this that happened... desensitize you."
"I don't want it to ever happen again, Jack." Daniel's eyes watered as he shivered. "I... want this... to go away."
"I wish I could do that for you, Daniel," Jack responded quietly. His eyes were just as sad as he watched his friend shudder with the memory.
"I... I kept thinking... that if I just hang in there... I'll... I'll find Sha'uri... " Daniel turned anguished eyes on his friend. "But this... I keep feeling like if I find her-"
"When you find her, Daniel," the colonel corrected him and Daniel smiled wanly at that.
"When I find her... " The young man sighed. "I'm afraid she's not going to... she won't recognize me, Jack."
Jack didn't know how to answer that.
"I wish I could close my eyes and forget this ever happened," Daniel whispered, "and pray it never happens again."
"Sometimes... there may not be a choice." Jack didn't want to lie to him.
"No... I guess not." Daniel sighed. He smiled, his eyes dark with memories, and Jack knew he was probably still hearing echoes of that mission in his head. "But it's not going to make me sleep any easier, Jack."
"Yeah... I know," Jack said softly, relaxing as he saw the shoulders in front of him straighten a bit. "And I'm sorry. I wish this doesn't have to be like this, but... I'm not going to make it sound pretty and put a bow on top of it. There will be those nights when you... remember but that's-"
"Human... I know."
"It is, Daniel. It is."
"Oh well." Daniel laughed awkwardly, the sound of it strange even to his own ears. "I wasn't planning on going back to sleep anyway tonight." He rubbed his eyes and Jack could see the dark circles underneath them.
Jack studied Daniel for a long moment and then he grinned all of the sudden. "Hang on. Be right back." He got up and shuffled over to the kitchen, one hand still cradling his side. Daniel winced sympathetically.
Moments later, Jack returned with a steaming cup. Daniel took the warm mug and took a cautious sniff. Wrinkling his nose, he looked up at Jack questioningly.
"Some tea... to help you sleep," Jack explained as he crossed his arms across his chest.
"Colonel Jack O'Neill... making tea?"
"Yeah? What of it? Drink." Jack waited expectantly.
Daniel did a mock salute before taking a sip. He made a face as he swallowed. Gagging, Daniel spluttered, "What... what's in it?"
"Oh... some black tea... a little water and some Jumm Wlker... " Jack trailed off into a mumble.
"What?" Daniel couldn't hear Jack.
"I said some Jmy Wak er."
"Johnny Walker, okay?" Jack glared at Daniel as the young man pushed the cup away from him in horror.
"Whiskey? You put whiskey in my tea?"
"It helps you sleep better," said Jack, defending his concoction.
"Yeah, but what will happen to me when I wake up?" Daniel glowered at Jack. "Is this payback for when I wouldn't let you have a beer earlier?"
Jack grinned evilly. "Maybe."
"Jack! Doctor Fraiser said you couldn't have any alcohol with those pain killers!"
"Well... so I'm not... but you can!" Jack pointed to the cup. "Drink. All of it."
The two men glared at each other. Finally, Daniel sighed, tilted the cup back and took another deep gulp. He coughed and made another face.
"There." Jack patted Daniel on the back. "Now you can go to sleep."
Daniel shook his head. "Don't wanna."
"Look, that's my line."
"I can't... " Daniel's voice trailed off as he silently pleaded to Jack.
"Daniel-" The colonel looked at Daniel seriously. "It'll be okay. Trust me."
The young man's voice dropped to a whisper. "I... I keep seeing him... "
Jack smiled sadly. "Unfortunately, Daniel, it's to be expected."
"How do you... "
The colonel turned his eyes toward his fireplace, in front of the couch. "I don't think about it."
"It's not that easy." Daniel mourned.
"No... but neither was pulling the trigger." Jack sighed. "Daniel, I just don't think about it... but that doesn't always work." He rubbed his face tiredly. "There's no rulebook for stuff like this."
"What am I going to do?" Daniel's voice cracked and it broke Jack's heart to hear the tremor in it.
Jack reached out and squeezed Daniel's forearm. "Let us help you deal with it."
"Help me?" The young man looked so lost, so small all of the sudden on the couch.
Jack nodded. Daniel hunched over, shoulders shaking. The older man paused, wondering what he could do. Giving up, Jack did the one thing that he knew had always calmed his son after a bad dream. He leaned forward and pulled Daniel closer, wrapping his arms awkwardly around the huddled man. Daniel stiffened at first but relaxed as he heard the colonel speak.
"Just let it go, Daniel. Let me worry about it for now. Let us take the burden. We'll wash it off your hands." Jack rubbed Daniel's back awkwardly.
The older man could feel the shoulders shake even more as Daniel finally allowed himself to release the knot in his throat. He could feel hot tears on his shirt as Daniel silently cried. Jack didn't say another word as he tightened his hold around the man. He just rested his chin on top of Daniel's hair and waited.
A sniffle a few seconds later told Jack that Daniel was done. He loosened his grip and let Daniel slip out. The young man rubbed his nose as he fought to regain some control.
"Finish your tea, Daniel," Jack said simply, keeping his voice soft. He kept one hand on Daniel's shoulder and squeezed, telling him that it was okay.
"Thank you." Daniel glanced shyly up to Jack. "For not thinking of me as an idiot because I reacted this way."
"Danny boy," The older man grinned. "You may be a geek... but you're not an idiot." Jack chuckled as he saw Daniel smile at that. "Come on. Get some sleep."
"You too." Daniel reminded him.
"I will." Jack made no move to head for his bedroom.
"Doctor Fraiser said-"
"I know what Doc said, Daniel. I'll go when I'm tired-"
"I take it all back. You're not our conscience, you're our mascot nag!" Jack grumbled, as he threw up his hands in mock disgust.
"Conscience?" Daniel echoed.
"Who else gets to remind us about what all of that out there is really about?"
Jack looked embarrassed all of a sudden, then mumbled about cleaning up and staggered back to the kitchen. Daniel watched with heavy eyes as Jack disappeared from his sight. He sank down deep into the recesses of the couch. Already, he could feel the alcohol numbing everything. He felt so tired. Daniel could feel the shivers that wouldn't go away before calming down, relaxing his muscles into lethargy. For the first time since the team had returned, Daniel couldn't hear that voice any more. Maybe if he just closed his eyes just for a second...
The colonel came back to the living room and paused. Daniel lay there, curled up against the armrest, eyes closed in alcohol-induced sleep. Jack smiled, resisting the urge to chuckle. Daniel looked like a little boy sleeping there, his glasses all crooked, hair all over his face.
Jack's smile faded. He wondered briefly how much of Daniel's soul had been lost today. He mourned silently for the loss.
"Sam in the front, Teal'c in the rear and you right next to me! Protecting me like I was helpless!" Not helpless, Jackson,
Not helpless, Jackson,Jack thought, just... very important to us. Jack surprised himself with that thought. Tilting his head, Jack gave it further consideration. It is true though. I see Carter going to the front even before I ask. Teal'c takes the rear before I even notice. It's not because we just want to protect Daniel. We need to have our conscience close by.
"Jiminy Cricket." Jack whispered, thinking back to a certain green cricket made conscience to a certain wooden boy. "Maybe we should get you a badge like in the cartoon, with Conscience stenciled on it. What do you say, Danny boy?"
Daniel just mumbled in his sleep, shifting position until his face was buried into the cushions. His glasses tumbled off his face, dropping silently to the floor.
Shaking his head, Jack grabbed the afghan from the back of the sofa and draped it over Daniel's body. He picked up the glasses and folded them, placing them neatly on the coffee table where Daniel could reach them. The young man mumbled again, reaching out instinctively to curl bandaged fingers over the edge of the soft material, before curling tighter within himself and whimpering.
Sensing a bad dream, Jack found himself placing a hand on Daniel's forehead and whispering reassurances until the young man sighed and stilled once more. Resigning himself to his task, Jack went to his bedroom and grabbed a few blankets. He settled down on the chair opposite the couch, putting his feet up on the coffee table. Jack winced as his ribs protested his new sleeping quarters. He looked back at Daniel again.
"I said there would be dreams, didn't I?" Jack murmured as he watched Daniel stir uneasily again, "Didn't say you have to go through them alone though."
As if he could hear him, Daniel sighed and shifted again. Jack rolled his eyes and readied himself for a long uncomfortable night.
"Night, Daniel." Jack whispered and settled back to guard Daniel's soul.
© May 19, 1999 The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
This was a tough fic to do. The serious subject here I do not take lightly and I hope the story was accurate in the psychological effects and if not, I blame creative license for coloring my words. =) Plus, I want to thank Graculus for beta-reading this toughie and for giving me those great suggestions. *insert big grin here!*.