Chrysalis 3: Force Majeure
J/D, Explicit, 10,800 words
Summary: In Jack’s eyes, the future is looking positive, but the universe has a nasty sense of humor.
Note 1: Quote #1 is from The Youngblood’s “Darkness, Darkness”. Quote #2 is from Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life.”
Note 2: Force Majeure – “A natural and unavoidable catastrophe that interrupts the expected course of events.”
Darkness, darkness, long and lonesome.
With the day that brings my happiness,
I have found the edge of silence.
Oh, I am in the depths of fear.
Now that I know what I’m without
you can’t just leave me.
Breathe into me and make me real.
Chapter One: Dreams
(Coincides with the time frame of Chrysalis 2)
Daniel had everything packed in two duffles and a backpack. He’d looked up SG-6 mission specs and it looked like things would be busy. He loved the idea. He needed ‘busy’. He thought he was finished until he spied the two thermos on the desk next to the cans of coffee. Rolling his eyes, he reopened his pack and stuff the thermos in, then put the coffee in one of the duffles. Yep. Done. Now to go see Sam before he took off. He’d already seen Teal’c.
When he walked into the infirmary and made his way to the back ward where Sam was, Daniel remembered what time it was and halted just when he came into view of her bed. “Damn,” he muttered, prepared to spin on his heel. He argued with himself, twice, before he went over to her bed cart and pulled a note pad out of his front pocket.
“Daniel?” she mumbled sleepily.
“Hey, sorry,” he said, looking sheepish. “I forgot what time it was.”
“That’s okay,” she said, pushing herself up. Daniel went to her side and touched the remote that raised the head of the bed. It went up enough for her to see him without straining her neck. “That’s good, thanks. Grab my water?”
“Sure,” he said, taking it from the side table and handing it over as he sat on the side of her bed. “Well, I’m gonna be going in …” He looked at his watch. “Twenty minutes. Well, sixteen. Four minutes to get to the gateroom.”
Sam looked at him unhappily. “Why?”
He didn’t need to ask what she meant. “Because it’s too hard to stay, Sam. He hasn’t been my friend for a long time and he barely tolerates my presence.”
“I don’t see it,” she said. “I see him talking to you, joking with you. It makes no sense to me.”
Daniel took a deep breath and got to his feet. He’d planned to stay longer but if she was gonna lay there and lie to herself, there really was no need to stay, and by that action, condone it. “Take care, Sam.”
“Daniel, wait,” she implored, looking upset.
“What?” he asked wearily.
“Maybe I’ve been blind, and I didn’t notice because I didn’t want to. I don’t want you to leave thinking that I believe you’re making all this up.”
“I don’t think that. But sometimes, we see our friends through rose-colored glasses or we just make excuses. I know. I get it. I did the same thing for a long time. But for the last eight months, I’ve only been reminded again and again why my decision to go to another team is the right one.” He lifted and dropped his arm in her direction. “I’ll let you know how I’m doing, okay?”
“Okay,” she said.
As he headed out, her pained face was imprinted on his brain.
He stood in the gateroom, taking a final look at a page in his notebook, reminding him who his new teammates were. SG-6 was a seven-man team. Now, an eight-man team. It was sort of like SG-11, which now had twelve members. His notation read:
“Doctor” Lieutenant Colonel Sonja Waterman, PhDs in Biologic Archaeology, Primate Anthropology, and Biology of Complex Systems
“Doctor” Major Anita Wallingford, PhDs in Theoretical Physics, Quantum Physics, and Computer Science
Captain David Forrester, Masters in Sociology, Anthropology, and Mathematics
Captain Linda Cornell, Master/Archaeology
Lieutenant Vanessa Portman, Master/Archaeology
Lieutenant William “Will” Singleton, Master/Security Systems Analysis
SGT Holly Travers, Master in Sociology/Psychology, and a blackbelt in Martial Arts.
He’d added the bit about martial arts as a sort of special note. It always helped knowing who was better able to defend him in case he needed it. It used to be …
Daniel shut off that thought and looked up as the wormhole connected. He had to squint. Even after all these years, it was always a bit bright. With his glasses on, it was brighter. He wasn’t wearing them today and had decided on the change the night before. He’d packed the glasses, but in his pocket were his spares of contact lenses, tucked into their plastic housing. Absently, he wondered why Sam hadn’t noticed he hadn’t had the glasses on. Probably just preoccupied.
He brushed a hand over his dark green camo bandana and looked down at the matching BDUs. He would never get used to wearing the jungle uniform. When had he last wore it? Didn’t matter. It was tropical where he was going and the uniform was SOP. AKA, Standard Operating Procedure. Adjusting the pack on his back, he looked up over his shoulder and into the control room. He was glad to see that General Hammond was there to see him off.
“You have a go, Doctor Jackson. Godspeed. And keep us apprised.”
“Thank you, sir,” Daniel called back, giving Hammond a thumbs-up, then he looked at the event horizon, hefted his duffles, and went up the ramp and through the gate.
P2C-701, or Waterworld, as Lieutenant Portman had coined it, was a world with a Caribbean feel to it. Surrounding the gate were hundreds of islands. The UAV, he’d read, had found no major land masses. Even if the foliage had covered the structures found, they would have known that intelligent beings had lived here because all islands were interconnected with floating bridges made out of a grey, porous material that looked like granite but was a lot lighter.
As for the buildings, each island held pentagon-shaped buildings constructed of rich blue stone resembling lapis lazuli but lacking the veins, including the main island where the gate was positioned. A UAV had also discovered where the stone had been mined: a quarry that was several islands south of the gate and from what they could tell, that island had been the largest one on the small planet. It was the size of a major Earth city.
A hundred feet before the gate was a five-sided colonnade surrounding an overgrown garden, but within that garden was an empty stone courtyard. Walkways led to the center of the courtyard where a large, rectangular block of blue stone sat. It might have been an altar.
What was more interesting to Daniel was that on nearly every building, glyphs were etched into the stone and filled in with a gold substance. The glyphs were most numerous on the colonnade and altar. SG-6’s notes hadn’t mentioned it, but Daniel knew the glyphs were identical to the Furling samples on the Heliopolis planet, only there was a lot more to study. The moment he’d said that to Major Wallingford, she’d assigned him as team linguist and pattern analyst.
He spent the majority of his first week going from building to building, making notes and taking a lot of video.
On the first day of work, he wrote:
The third objective was his own and the first two belonged to the team. The composition of the bridge material was of particular interest. It had no evidence of erosion against salt water. The same was said for the buildings. Both items could be of use to Earth. Sadly, that didn’t apply to the Furling language. But Daniel had made a note of all objectives, just to remind himself. He wasn’t there to do as he pleased, and he’d given himself an order: “Don’t get too deeply engrossed in your work.” Otherwise, he’d earn the same opinion that SG-11 had developed: Watch out for Jackson. He gets obsessed and he’ll forgo sleep and food if you don’t order him to eat and sleep.
Daniel wouldn’t call it obsession. He preferred the phrase, ‘deeply engrossed’. That had happened a lot before joining the SGC. After joining, no one, particularly O’Neill, would allow him that luxury. The last time he recalled getting close to doing it was when they had been on that planet with the Ziggurat. He’d been so fascinated with the logogram forms that he had forgotten he’d cracked the code. He’d snapped out of it when O’Neill had said, “Carter, break out the C4.”
There was a bit of good-natured teasing for the first two weeks and it was relaxing. This was something he wasn’t very familiar with. The good-natured bit. During lunch on the twenty-second day, Sergeant Travers—Holly—sat down next to him as he parked himself under a section of colonnade on the main island. She had a large plastic food storage container with the word “Glad” stamped in the lid.
“How you doing, Daniel?” she asked, peeling off the top.
Inside was the salad she tried to have every day, and Daniel thought it looked like a small produce section. Four people could have shared it easily. In his hand was an energy bar, and on his lap was his large field journal. He looked at her salad with amusement.
“Hey, Holly. I’m doin’ good. You?”
She brushed at her short brown hair after removing her cap. “It’s another warm one,” she said.
“Well it is the tropics.”
She laughed and dug into her salad. She was a pretty nice person, but unfortunately she had inherited deep, warm brown eyes that reminded him of Jack, so as a result, he rarely looked her in the eye. He hoped that sort of irrational stupidity would fade soon.
“Where’s Doctor Waterman?” he asked. “She back at the SGC or in Washington again?” The head of their team was always off on Earth somewhere.
“UC Berkeley,” Holly said, jogging her very arched brows.
“What in the world is she doing there?”
“Hunting down her next boss.”
“What?” he asked, surprised.
Holly looked aggrieved. “Oh, sorry. She’s retiring in three months. If the Air Force or whomever has their brains in the right place, they’ll give Wallingford the command, everyone will get a bump up, and I won’t be the low man on the totem pole anymore.”
“Technically that’s me,” Daniel grinned. “I’m the newbie.”
She goggled at him. “Are you insane?”
He stared, wondering if he’d somehow, someway, insulted her. “What?”
“You’re a GS-15, Daniel. The highest that goes.”
She let out a disbelieving huff of breath. “So. A maxed-out GS-15 is the equivalent of a Colonel, Daniel. Didn’t you know that? Technically, you should be running this team.”
He blinked at her, stunned. “If that’s accurate, and I’m not calling you a liar or anything, then why does everyone on the base treat me like I’m a sophomore in college who had to redo his semester?”
“They don’t!” she said, agog. “Are you serious?”
“For the last seven and a half years, Holly.” He frowned. “Technically, six. I’m surprised you don’t know that, base gossip being what it is.”
She snorted. “I don’t really hang around places that gossip and I tune out those that do. They bore me to tears. That said, I’m not surprised it’s happened to you. It’s the military.”
“You’re military,” he pointed out.
“Yeah,” she said, her mouth full, “but I’m not as hide-bound as a lot of people of higher rank. Have you ever noticed the lower ranks and NCOs treating you like crap?”
Daniel chewed slowly as he thought about. And she was right. “No,” he said wonderingly. “Actually, they haven’t.” He frowned. “Why didn’t I notice that before?”
“Maybe because you’re surrounded by officers. You and Teal’c are the civilians on your team and no NCOs.”
He jogged his brows, ceding the point, though he refrained from correcting her on the verb tense. He took out a map from the back of his journal and showed it to her. “I’m going here tomorrow,” he said, pointing. “Spend the day. There’s a structure in the foliage that I want to uncover. May have different aspects of the language on it.”
“Hmm. I’d love to join you. That stuff is fascinating. But I have to get in the water and do some sampling on the bridge between the second and third islands. The third being your island.”
“Fun. At least you’ll get cooled off.”
“Not in that damn wet suit,” she said, and laughed. They spent the rest of lunch discussing the water and whether or not they would get a boat sent through so they could check the islands in the distance. The UAV had revealed far less vegetation. Daniel wanted to know why. They weren’t far enough away to earn a difference in climate.
He spent the afternoon recording the back of a building on the second island to the south, making notes on the display of large text. It was laid out in what appeared to be paragraphs. Other structures had only single blocks of text. Some had relief images surrounded by text. He wondered if the one he was working on was a historic marker or monument. It reminded him of the inside walls of the Jefferson Memorial. The same large blocks of text.
When he retired for the night, Daniel was glad that the temperature had dropped. It was so much easier to sleep. He’d been nearly asleep when a draft of cold air rushed through the structure and he’d sleepily climbed into the sleeping bag. He fell into deep, dreamless sleep.
He was Carlin, and he felt odd, displaced. He was supposed to be somewhere else, doing something important. He stood before the gate, its shimmering pool of water reflecting over his face. Jonah was there, walking toward it. He turned …
The dream changed to the SGC, and Daniel was himself, but he still wore Carlin’s clothes. Jack was wearing a black t-shirt and green fatigue trousers. He was also barefoot. He walked to the event horizon, looked back at Daniel, then slapped the energy field with the back of his hand.
“Here it is. What are you waiting for?”
“What are you talking about? Where are your shoes?”
Jack looked down. “I’m going bareback today.”
“Barefoot,” Daniel corrected.
“What’s the difference?”
The scene dissolved into a replay of a love-making night. Jack had torn the condom after ripping the foil too hard. Daniel had been so horny that he’d told Jack it wasn’t important. “It’s okay.”
“Are you sure? This isn’t like going barefoot, ya know,” Jack had said with a grin. Daniel had started laughing right up to the point when Jack entered him. Then laughter was the furthest thing from his mind. The dream replayed this last bit in slow motion…
Daniel inhaled sharply and woke up, eyes unfocused, his head filled with lust and his body reflecting it. A light film of sweat cooled his hairline and temples. With a heavy sigh, he stared at the shadows over his head, breathing slowly while ignoring the erection that demanded relief.
Over the next few weeks, his dreams played similar past events, never once turning into nightmare territory by finishing with angry words and hateful looks. Each night, Daniel resisted the temptation to jerk off, not wanting the barest of sounds to travel to anyone else awake at that hour, but he finally relented during the third week of dreams.
He refused to touch himself because the sound that movement made was undeniably recognizable. He grabbed the bandana from the top of the duffle he used as a makeshift night stand and quickly wrapped it around the head of his cock. In his mind, the scene was still replaying the first time Jack had sucked him. He remembered the slow tease, and coming so hard he had pushed Jack away. He was always so sensitive after climaxing and any touch would set him to twitching and jumping as if he was being burned. Jack had not wanted to stop touching him, getting off on Daniel’s overactive nerves.
Lying there on the cot, he gripped the sides and imagined being sucked by an expert mouth. Part of him wanted to imagine it was Jack. Part of him wanted to imagine it was someone else. He didn’t search his mind for willing participants, just in case his mind turned traitorous and landed on someone he’d just as soon kill as have near his cock. Like Ba’al, for example. One time, he’d thought of him, and it had horrified him so badly that the erection he’d had died unhappy.
This time, he simply imagined lips, sucking, tongue rubbing, massaging, probing. Then the mouth took him inside, further and further, and the sucking became hard; the head bobbed up and down. Before he knew it, Daniel had wandered into dream territory and instead of being sucked, he was inside someone, holding their hips, thrusting faster and faster. It was raw, primitive, needful. He felt the body buck beneath him, heard the cry of orgasm and the tightening around his cock. Jack’s voice. He’d never been inside him and just the thought of it sent him over the edge.
He gripped the bed as his eyes flew open, staring hard at the blackness overhead while he tried so hard not to move as his seed squirted into the bandana and warm liquid covered the head of his cock, sticking it to his abdomen. He remained hard for a lot longer than he should have, but eventually, the erection relaxed and he cleaned himself up. It was as if his body had been demanding he get up in search for someone to fuck. With a long, slow exhalation, he laid an arm over his head and closed his eyes.
The next day, he was on the third island, hefting his machete. He could see a bit of blue about five yards away through the dense vegetation but the plants grew thick and were nearly as tough as green bamboo. After an hour, the foliage began to give way and his job became a lot easier.
It was a smaller island, maybe two-hundred yards across. After the path ended with hanging thread branches reminiscent of weeping willows, he came to a small clearing. The blue stonework wasn’t a pentagon in the traditional sense. It was five-sided, but it was a three-tiered obelisk six-feet high. Stationed around it were eight four-foot by six-inch marker stones with perfectly flat tops.
Each marker had hash mark combinations running vertically from ground to apex on the sides facing the obelisk. The marks were almost exactly like the ancient Gaelic language, Ogham, but grouped in completely different configurations. If he tried to read them aloud, it’d sound like gibberish. If he couldn’t find a key, he’d have no way of knowing what they said and he was sure it related to the purpose of the obelisk.
On the obelisk itself, the top tier was made of five sides that tapered to a point, and each side was etched in a leaf-blade design. It made him think that if the structure opened, it’d resemble a flower opening. Around the base of the top tier, there were Furling symbols in square ‘buttons’ an eighth of an inch high. A way to open it? A few more dotted one side of the second tier and the entirety formed a lop-sided triangle. If he tried to press them all at once, he’d have to use a pencil held in his mouth to get them all.
Was he seriously considering pressing them? He pulled a pencil out of his pack and tapped one of the buttons with the eraser end. It depressed with the sound of stone on stone and gratingly came back up. He looked for hints that would explain this obelisks’ function. The stone beneath his feet was sectioned in a pattern of diamonds, but it looked more decorative than purposeful and there were no glyph buttons.
He attempted combinations but one button would push down and the others would remain stationary. Finally, he placed all ten fingers on the buttons, having to stretch painfully with his pinkies, and with the pencil between his teeth, he used the eraser to push a top center button. All of the buttons depressed, but instead of stopping flush with the surface of the stonework, they sank further. Daniel stepped back, hoping he hadn’t screwed up, as he watched the top tier open the way he thought it would.
The buttons popped back up all at once and the five leaves opened in sync until they were flat against the second tier. In the center, a clear crystal leaf blade ‘arrowhead’ was revealed. Daniel started forward to take a closer look when the base of the crystal began to glow pink, then red. The edges of the buttons glowed the same color, then began to spin at separate speeds. A code? Or waiting for a code? Was it a countdown?
On the heels of that thought, he backed up and his heel caught on something. He looked down and found that the perimeter of the marker stones had been ringed by a two-inch high, two-inch thick border. He flung out his arms to keep from falling and something flashed white from the base of the top tier. It hit Daniel in the upper left shoulder, piercing his scapula.
Heat and searing pain spread through his upper body. He cried out and reached for his arm, but his hand hit the shaft of a very thin silver arrow. “Shit!” he hissed. A second after, a translucent blue light sprang from the ground all around the edge of the island and spread upward until it formed a dome. Daniel could easily see through it to find that all the other islands were doing the same thing. Except for the island with the gate. He could easily see through the forcefield.
Looking slightly down and to his right, he spotted Lieutenant Portman standing on the center of the bridge. She was pointing, talking, but he couldn’t hear her. At her feet, Holly was treading water in her scuba suit. They were trapped outside and would have to swim to the main island.
Portman touched her radio mic. “Daniel, can you hear me?”
Surprised, he nodded. The arrow had just missed the mic, but it was in the way and it hurt to unlatch it. “Yeah.”
“What is that in your shoulder?”
“An arrow,” he said slowly, grimacing.
“An arrow?” She lifted and dropped her hands in a ‘now what’ gesture.
Yeah, he could relate.
“Hang tight. We’ll … figure out something.” She squinted past him and frowned at the obelisk. “Goddammit. Did you do this?” She waved at the domes.
Still grimacing, he keyed the mic. “I’m pretty sure I did, yeah.” She gave him an annoyed look. He gestured at his shoulder and gritted through his teeth, “And I’m paying for it.”
“Well, look at it this way,” she said as she took off her boots. “At least it didn’t get you between the eyes.”
Daniel’s eyes widened in reaction and he ducked needlessly as he looked over his shoulder. Then his eyes found his pack, leaning against the base of the obelisk. He needed his first aid kit and that’s where it was. Did he dare go get it?
“Well. Shit,” he mumbled, hissing at the pain. What was that saying? In for a penny …
Chapter Two: The Obelisk
(an hour after the end of Chrysalis 2)
Daniel saw his former teammates arrive in the distance and his stomach and abdomen hurt. He longed to be with him … them.
“Christ, Jackson. You’re pathetic,” Daniel growled at himself.
To his surprise, Janet came through with a team of corpsmen and embarrassment colored his cheeks. He didn’t need all that. A second after that thought, he grimaced at his arrogance. What if someone else gets injured while they work out how to turn the forcefields off? Answer: Who the hell is gonna get injured? They’re already alerted to the obelisk. Daniel wondered if perhaps his injury was messing with his critical thinking. Yeah. It’s a sure bet.
“Daniel?” came Sam’s voice over the radio.
“Here,” he said.
Why did people ask stupid questions?
“We brought a couple of Zodiacs. We’ll be over in a few.”
Zodiacs? It took him a moment. Oh, right. Those air boats that SEALs use. Why the hell were they called … and then the answer came to him. It was a word used to make up the acronym of whatever they were really called.
He didn’t bother to reply to Sam since there wasn’t a need. In the meantime, he wondered what the other members of SG-6 were telling Jack. Wallingford was a nice woman, but she didn’t see the need for Daniel being on the team and considered his presence the result of favoritism. It had been the first time since college that he’d run into that attitude. His C.O., Doctor Waterman, had been okay with it but she was gone fifty percent of the time. Captain Forrester and Lieutenant Singleton didn’t mind his presence. They liked to talk shop about all the things Daniel had discovered and enjoyed arguing theories. Portman and Holly Travers were a lot friendlier and he hadn’t bothered to discover if some of that was personal interest. He’d grown used to that in college and at the institute. Although a lot of that interest had died once he’d earned a reputation as a fringe thinker.
Since Portman and Holly were here, there was no way to know what they would eventually think, but Daniel could guess that Portman was ready to blame the whole thing on him. Technically, she was right, but how the hell was he supposed to assume the obelisk had active defenses? He thought he’d found a worship center or some sort of time measuring platform.
He didn’t hear the boats approaching thanks to the forcefield, but he could see them. He rested on his knees and held his left elbow in his hand to keep the pressure off his shoulder. Gravity was a bitch. The pain was getting worse and the front and back of his t-shirt was drenched in drying, sticky blood. Oddly, the wound itself seemed to have stopped bleeding, which made no sense. And a second later, he realized it was due to the arrow displacement keeping him from bleeding. The moment it came out …
“Daniel, we’re almost there. Hang tight.”
Jack. He was steering the boat and Forrester was steering the second one with Janet and her medics. Seemed a bit too much in Daniel’s opinion. The only place to go was the bridge. On the other hand, they had plenty of room since the bridges were twelve feet wide and nearly eighty yards long. Exactly the length of all the other bridges. It was one of the things Daniel had intended to investigate because it was extremely odd. The islands were of different shapes and sizes and densities, but they were the same distance apart.
He’d wondered if the builders had done that on purpose somehow. Rebuilding or reshaping land masses was a tricky thing and it was never a permanent fixture. Time and nature would change it back to the way it was. Except here, it hadn’t happened. Were they monitoring the planet maybe? Was that why he was shot? For interfering? That made no sense. What possible harm could he have caused?
“Daniel,” Sam asked. He got up slowly and walked along the rough path. It was odder still to have such buildings but no fixed walkways except on the main island. He started to toe at the ground as he walked but stopped when a lance of pain shot through his upper body. He cussed heavily as he approached the bridge and Sam. She grinned sympathetically at him, reading his lips. “You okay?”
“Uh, sure,” he drawled. “Just fine. How’re you doing?” He winced as another pain shot through his shoulder.
“Sorry. So what did you do? Portman said this is your doing.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “I had no clue something bad would happen.” He pointed at the haphazard path he’d cleared to get to the obelisk. “Can you see it?”
She tried to stretch up, but it did no good. She couldn’t even step on the edge of the island to get a better look. “Sorry, no. What exactly did you do?”
“Pushed buttons. I didn’t know they were buttons but I found out when I pressed one. I started doing combinations and got nowhere. Then I pushed them all at the same time, and voila!” He gestured at his shoulder and the forcefield.
“Did you try pushing them again to see if it would turn this off?”
“Uh, no,” he said, as if she were suggesting something insane. “I had this arrow in my shoulder. I figured it was a message to keep away from the obelisk.”
Sam chewed at her lip. “Has it done anything else?” He shook his head. “This is gonna sound crazy, but why don’t you try pushing them again?”
He stared at her. “That would require me to use my left hand.”
“Daniel,” Jack began.
His tone sounded impatient. Daniel didn’t want to hear it, so he pointedly turned off his mic while he returned his gaze to Sam, then pointed to himself and made a finger walking gesture toward the obelisk. He would try to repeat his actions. She nodded, a tight smile on her face. It brought another ache to his abdomen, reminding him how much he missed her. Behind her, he caught Teal’c’s gaze and gave him a pained grin before he turned around headed back to the obelisk.
He slowly approached the insufferable display and crossed the raised circle. So far, so good. He let out a long, shaky sigh and picked up the pencil he’d dropped after being shot. The pain was bad, but he gritted his teeth and pushed all of the relevant buttons again. He damn near bit his pencil in two, and the tension in his neck traveled to his shoulder. He hissed and fell to a knee when the pain skyrocketed.
As he heard a hum, all he could see was white.
Long seconds passed and wracking nausea hit him, followed by the dull intensity of pain. Right. Arrow. Pain. Time had either slowed down or sped up. He couldn’t tell. After a minute, he felt hands on him and realized that Janet had been talking to him.
“—el? Daniel? Can you hear me?”
“Yeah,” he croaked, keeping his eyes squeezed shut. “Can you just shoot me now? Put me out of my misery?”
She snorted. “How about I shoot you with this?”
He felt a hot sting in his upper right arm and sucked air between his teeth.
“That hurt?” Janet asked, surprised.
“Everything does,” he said, and slurred the s in ‘does’ as the morphine or whatever it was hit his brain. It then occurred to him that pushing the buttons had brought the forcefield down and he looked up blurrily. “Wow. It worked.”
“Did you lose your glasses?” she asked him.
“No. Using contacts. Glasses are in my pack, just in case.” His speech was slow but the slurriness dropped off. His feet were slightly cold and he opened his eyes to find he was on the bridge and his boots were in the water. Wow. He really had been out of it. His right arm was squeezed and he found Janet taking his blood pressure. “How did I get out here?”
“We escorted you here,” she said, watching the meter with practiced ease. His pressure was a bit high but normal under the circumstances. She took his pulse. It too was high. Also normal. She took out her penlight and flicked it over his eyes. He recoiled from it, making a face. “Light sensitive.” She checked his color, watching his eyes the entire time. “You don’t remember coming over here?”
“No. I saw white, then black, after my arm flared.”
“I think it’s the arrow. It looks like trinium but we have to run tests after we get it removed.”
He looked down, frowning. “I looks like silver.”
She smiled. “This next bit isn’t going to be fun. We have to cut off the tip. It isn’t much, but it’ll tear up the hole if we pull it out the way it went in.”
He groaned, feeling helpless and stubborn and ornery. “Can’t you put me out first?”
She gave him a wan smile. “No, sorry. Corpsman?”
Daniel looked up over his left shoulder without thinking about it and another flare savaged his attention. “Fuck,” he ground out between clenched teeth.
“Stop moving, Daniel,” she said soothingly.
“I got that, thanks,” he whined.
“Hold still. We’re cutting off the end behind your shoulder,” she said as she put her hands around the front of the wound, bracing his body. “Now.”
“Sonofabitch!” he shouted, as he became dizzy and the nausea intensified. He leaned to the right, over the bridge, and threw up. “Shit,” he said softly.
“I’m sorry, but we had to get it out because it’s an alien metal,” she said and was holding him firmly while two others pressed cloths to the wound and wound a bandage around him. “Okay. C’mon. Let’s get you in the boat.”
“Where’m I going?” he asked numbly.
She gave him an amused frown. “Back to the SGC, Daniel. I can’t treat you here.”
“Oh,” he said, lamely. “Right.”
Daniel underwent minor surgery and woke up in one of the wards, the light level thankfully, blissfully low. His glasses were on the rolling table, close to his right hand, along with a covered plastic cup and straw. He grabbed it and sipped gratefully, noticing that his left arm was in a sling. He pushing the table away, threw the covers off, and sat up. Something snagged painfully on his inner right arm and he found an I.V. Shit. Was it precautionary or was he infected with something from the arrow? A nurse started to come in, saw him, and did an about-face and disappeared. Daniel smirked. Mom’s coming. Janet appeared ten seconds later, walking in a hurry.
“Get back in bed.”
“Why?” he drawled, not moving.
“Because you have an infection and I’m not letting you go back to the planet until it has cleared up.”
“Janet,” he sighed. “I’ve had infections before while on a dig. I can handle some pills.”
“You were infected with an alien pathogen, Doctor Jackson. Now behave or I’ll call Colonel O’Neill.”
Daniel frowned. “Don’t you mean Colonel Waterman?” She looked puzzled. Jeez. Did Janet not know he was permanently assigned? Why hadn’t Sam told—
“No, I mean Colonel O’Neill. He’s now in charge of the dig site until Doctor Waterman returns.”
“Oh,” Daniel said, disgusted. “That’s just fucking great.” He laid back on the gurney, thankful that it was in a reclining position. As Janet checked his vitals, she gave him a disappointed and sour expression as she tucked him under the covers. “Don’t start,” he told her.
“You apparently haven’t been in on the recent news.”
“What news?” he asked, grinding his back teeth.
“In eight weeks? I don’t think so.”
“The psychoanalyst is very good.”
Daniel blinked, stunned, and stared hard at her. “What do you mean, ‘psychoanalyst’?”
Janet’s mouth hung open a moment, then she shut it and adopted an understanding expression. “I thought you knew.”
“How the hell would I know? I’ve been offworld all that time.”
She sighed and changed her expression to one that was more genial. “General Hammond ordered him to get therapy. He’s been seeing a doctor three times a week. SG-1 was on stand-down until today.”
“Ah huh,” he said, his tone neutral. “How long do you think this purging will take?”
“For the antibiotic or whatever to kill the infection.”
“I’ll know over the next twelve hours. You know the drill, Daniel. This stuff takes time.”
He groaned and closed his eyes. “I don’t suppose—”
She bent down and hefted his pack onto the bed. “What do you need?”
“The two books, my tape recorder, and my journal.”
She handed him the books. Fiction novels. She set the bag back on the floor. “You can read, but you’re not doing any work.” When he shot her a mock-glare, she sent it right back. “Too bad. You need to conserve energy and heal.”
Daniel groaned again. “Can you amp up the morphine so I can sleep?” The look on her face was priceless. “Worth a try,” he said, sighing heavily. At least his shoulder didn’t hurt. In fact, he couldn’t feel it. He’d been given a block.
It took twenty-four hours for the infection to clear and Daniel had had no visitors during that time. He figured Sam and Teal’c were busy on the planet but when he was laying there the next day, waiting for Janet to come in and clear him, they showed up. Sam brought him cookies and Teal’c gave him a meditation stone.
Daniel grinned knowingly. “Thanks, Teal’c. Sam. Where have you guys been?”
Sam opened her mouth but Teal’c beat her to it.
“Prohibited from seeing you until we ourselves were cleared. Doctor Fraiser has had everyone tested.”
“Precautionary,” Sam told him when his eyes widened.
“Oh. So you guys checked out the obelisk?”
“Yes and no. Colonel O’Neill threw a great big tarp over it and ordered us to steer clear until we came back wearing protective gear.”
“I’ll assume that’ll include tack vests with Kevlar,” Daniel said dryly.
She grinned. “Yep.” Her expression turned inquisitive. “So what made you press those buttons? Aside from curiosity and a secret death wish.”
He smiled shyly. He really missed this. “I was kinda hoping for something to happen like it did on Heliopolis.”
She and Teal’c frowned. “What made you believe such a thing?” Teal’c asked.
He stared at them. “Didn’t you notice the writing all over those buildings? On the obelisk? Or those small standing stones around it?”
“Yeah, we noticed,” Sam said, exchanging looks with Teal’c.
“It’s Furling,” Daniel said, excitement creeping into his voice. “Whoever made that device on Heliopolis may have made the obelisk. I wanted to find out.” He grimaced. “I certainly did. I pushed the wrong buttons.” She and Teal’c looked back at him with blank faces. “Well think about it. I pushed buttons and it shot me. I’m pretty sure it was punishment for entering the wrong security code.”
“I don’t know, Daniel,” Sam said doubtfully.
“What gives you that impression?” Teal’c asked.
He shrugged, then winced, and grabbed at his arm. “Instinct.” He pursed his lips, thinking about it. “So … now what? I mean, I’m heading right back there after Janet clears me.”
“But your shoulder,” Sam said.
“Oh please,” he said, dismissing the injury. “I used to work with much worse.”
“When you were on digs on Earth. That place isn’t Earth.”
“I believe he should be allowed back there, Major Carter,” Teal’c said.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because I believe he is correct. He entered the wrong code. Somewhere nearby may be clues on how to open it properly.”
“I just have to read that Ogham dialect properly.”
“Owam?” Sam asked.
“Owum. There are hash marks in a pattern on the stones around the obelisk. It resembles an old Irish form of writing called Ogham. If I can figure out what it says, I’m hoping it’ll reveal what the obelisk is used for. That’ll make it easier to know what to look for when it comes to properly opening it.”
“Maybe,” she said thoughtfully.
“So how long are you guys assigned to the dig?”
“Until General Hammond decides there’s no immediate threat.”
“The threat was dealt with,” Daniel countered. He wanted Jack as far away from that dig as possible.
“But Hammond wants a more thorough analysis done of the other islands, so SG-6 had to halt their normal routine.”
“Great,” Daniel said sourly. “Doctor Wallingford will be livid.”
Sam looked a bit angry. “She doesn’t think much of you, from what I could gather, listening to her talk to Colonel O’Neill.”
Daniel snorted. “Peas in a pod.”
Sam shook her head, startled, and Teal’c looked just as surprised. “That’s not how it went, Daniel. He’s changed.”
“So Janet insisted. In eight weeks?” he said, disbelieving.
“Indeed,” Teal’c said, nodding. “It is quite a remarkable achievement.”
“Ah huh. Anyway, I’d like to get back there.”
Janet came in at that moment. “And you can do that, but you’re ordered to scale back your usual activity.”
Daniel lifted his sling-encased arm. “I don’t have a choice.”
Janet gave him a distrustful look. “I know you, Daniel. You’ll find a way to do more work despite your disability.”
He glowered at her, but it was fake. “Point taken,” he said, a glimmer of a smile on his lips. He looked at Sam and Teal’c. “Help me get the hell out of here?”
Chapter Three: The Well
“Nice to see you in one piece,” Jack said as he, Sam, and Teal’c exited the gate on ‘701. He looked Daniel over. “And clean.”
Daniel paused, quipping, “Who are you and what have you done with Colonel Jack O’Neill.” He wasn’t saying it nicely.
Jack pointedly ignored the gibe. “Let me get that,” he said, and took Daniel’s pack before he could resist.
“Jack,” Daniel began to protest, then internally slapped himself. “Colonel. I’m not an invalid. I can carry my own stuff.”
“Sure you can, or Fraiser wouldn’t have let you come back, never mind Hammond.” He still had his pack and was walking in the direction of the small building that served as Daniel’s quarters.
“Where are you going?” he asked, following, and intent on grabbing that damn pack.
“To put this with your stuff,” Jack said, looking over his shoulder with a frown. “You need to haul less around. You can put all your writing and recording stuff in your side pockets. Let your legs do the work.”
Daniel stopped walking and Sam almost ran into him. He let Jack get far enough ahead before he said to Sam and Teal’c, “You’re right. He’s changed.”
“Right,” Daniel said, and didn’t hide the sarcasm. “We’ll see how much.” He felt guilty, letting Sam and Teal’c see his distrust and anger, but he’d never really been good at subterfuge.
Jack checked in with Wallingford and Forrester, to see if the security perimeter had been established. They hadn’t liked it; said it was unnecessary. He secretly agreed, but until Waterman got back, he had his orders. “Secure that site.” Those were the orders Hammond had given him and Jack would see it done. However, he was a lot nicer about it than he would have been in the past. The sympathetic demeanor wasn’t forced or false. He could place the result at Doctor Carmichael’s feet. She’d gotten to some core issues and had made him see them differently.
Plus, he had had to do something about his behavior or go back into retirement, and this time, against his will. He might have even gotten a cut in his pension. He couldn’t afford that. Hammond hadn’t said as much but Jack could read between the lines. After thirty years, it was easy. Being forced into clearing things up in his head hadn’t been hard compared to what he now realized he could lose. The only issue now was to make sure that no one thought he was a pushover. Sure, get in touch with his feelings. Piece of … well, iron cake. But if anyone doubted his ability to get things done, they’d be in for one damn rude awakening.
Carter came toward him and reported that no other devices were found, but that the jungle on some of the islands was too thick to get through. Daniel had found his device by hacking away at the jungle until he found it. “The odds are likely that something else is being hidden, sir.”
Jack had to agree. “Okay. Let’s get …” His voice faded as he looked around. “Where’s Daniel?”
“He returned to the third island, O’Neill,” Teal’c told him.
Jack made a growling sound. “For cryin’ out loud.” He turned and headed for the lagoon where their Zodiacs were tied.
“Sir, where are you going?” Sam asked, worried.
“To get him the hell away from that goddamn device.”
Sam exchanged worried glances with Teal’c. “Sir, that’s not a good—”
Jack turned, then visibly calmed, lowering his voice. “Relax, Carter. I’m going to play nice. You two …” He waved a hand. “Keep an eye.”
As he got down into one of the boats, Teal’c told Sam, “’Keep an eye.’ Your world has strange expressions.”
She pursed her lips for a second. “Yep, it does.” She abruptly turned away. “Let’s go find that buffet that Portman told us about.”
Jack parked the Zodiac and climbed onto the island, bypassing the bridge. He hiked up the side and came out onto the level ground that surrounded the obelisk. He brushed the dirt from his calves as he walked forward, looking around. The tarp was still over the object, thank god.
“Daniel?” he called out.
“What?” Daniel said, standing up. He was behind the object.
“Reading these standing stones. Or trying to.” He looked back warily. “What’re you doin’?”
“I’ve come to take you back to the main island. No one’s hanging around this device until we have the proper uniforms. Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
“No but … I’m fine.” He looked around him. “Look. No alien tech to assault me.”
“That doesn’t mean there isn’t any,” Jack said, reaching him. “C’mon. Pack it up and let’s go.”
Daniel stared at him, anger climbing rapidly. “Excuse me, but you don’t have the authority to order me around anymore.”
“I never …” Jack began, but stopped. “I’m in charge for the time being so I do have the authority. We’re not staying here until we have the right protection.” He made a flourish with his arm and pointed back at the boat. “We’ll come back when we’re better prepared.”
Daniel took a few steps back. “Forget it.”
Jack stared at him and folded his arms over his P90. “Okay,” he drawled, taking in a deep breath as he recalled some of his lessons. “I know you want to keep studying this stuff, but Hammond has ordered us to stay away until we can protect ourselves. I’m not trying to force you to do anything.”
Daniel took another step back. He heard a faint crack and looked down. There were old flat surfacing stones under his feet. “Hello,” he said, completely forgetting about Jack, and ducked out of sight as he knelt down.
“Daniel?” Jack asked, startled. “Goddammit.” He went around the object to find Daniel on one knee, brushing at something. “I’m serious,” he said more gently. “We don’t know what other kind of traps or tech is around here.”
“No, and that’s why I’m trying to read this stuff,” Daniel said, holding a hand out at the standing stone in front of him. “See those hash marks?”
“Yeah,” Jack said, looking. “So?”
“They’re on all the stones surrounding this obelisk. I think that if I can decipher them, I can find out what this obelisk is used for. That will tell us what we have to look for.” He noticed Jack wasn’t buying it and his rational voice told him to play nice. “Just give a sec, okay?”
“Why didn’t you video tape it like all the other stuff?”
“I ran out of tape and my phone needs charging or I’d have used the camera.”
“You have a camera?”
“Uh, yeah,” Daniel said, as if it was common knowledge. “Anyway, I was planning on going back for more tape. In the meantime …” He held up his notebook and revealed a few pages with a charcoal rubbing of hash marks.
“Where’d you get the charcoal?”
“I made it.”
Jack blinked. “You did?”
“Yeah, it’s easy when you know how. It’s not pure charcoal but it was good enough.”
“Oy,” Jack said, taking a step back. Something else cracked, more audibly this time. He looked at the ground, startled. “What was that?”
“Paving stones, I think.”
“I’m sure,” Daniel said absently as he wiped away more jungle detritus. He found a grey stone darker than the bridge material. “Huh.”
“I’d been wondering why there weren’t any paved roads or walkways, given the construction of the rest of this place.”
Jack frowned slightly. “Yeah, I was wondering about that myself.”
“Well, this might be the answer,” Daniel said, and held up a broken piece of stone. “It’s not weather resistant like the rest of this architecture.” He waved the piece at the ground outside the obelisk and under their feet. “I’ll bet if we dug down, we’d find more bits and pieces.”
Jack nodded, and while most of his mind told him he didn’t really care, he ordered himself to try, not just for Daniel’s sake but for his own. Maybe there was something to be gained while having this conversation, both for his own good and his less than altruistic motives. He couldn’t really fake interest, but he could be genuine about listening. Baby steps.
“So … your point being?” he asked. Daniel looked up at him and frowned and Jack held up his partially gloved hands. “Not being sarcastic. I’m being sincere.” Daniel frowned at him in confusion and Jack had to admit that he liked the look. Catching Daniel flat-footed was always fun. When there was no harm in it. He turned and put out a foot, wiping the ground with his booted toe. “There’s a little bit of that stuff over here, too.” He took a step and froze when a louder crack shuddered under his foot. “Uh, Daniel?” he began.
“What?” Daniel began, but the word wasn’t finished when the ground gave way and Jack started to fall.
“Jack!” Daniel shouted, panicking, and started forward to grab his hand, but the ground broke up under his own feet and they both began to slide downward at an angle. “Oh shit!” he said, then screamed and cussed up a storm when a branch hit his injured shoulder. Leaves and twigs and bigger branches hit them on their way down, down, down. Then suddenly they were free of it … and falling in mid-air.
Daniel spotted turquoise-blue water below and he prayed it would be deep enough not to cause them to hit bottom and kill themselves. Then he began to panic as he realized he wouldn’t be able to swim with both arms.
“Point your feet!” Jack shouted, as he threw his arms up and pointed his toes as well as he could so that he’d hit the water with less surface tension, decreasing the chances of breaking something. Especially his neck.
Daniel did so, but shouted back, “Sling!” just before hitting the water. He sank perhaps thirty feet as his pain center was assaulted, radiating from his wound. He held his breath as he waited to bob back to the surface but his clothes were heavy and the combat boots were deadly. Jack had both arms at his disposal, so he could easily swim up to the surface, but Daniel didn’t. He tried but couldn’t move well with his arm tied to his side. He wasn’t just wearing a sling. The wrap was to keep upper body from pulling and twisting. That was in the toilet.
Then strong hands had a hold of him and Daniel kicked with all of his leg strength, trying to help. It seemed to take forever and they both sucked in much needed air when they broke the surface. Jack wasn’t quitting however, and he had a hold of Daniel’s right arm and shoulder as he got them to solid ground.
After dragging through green bushes along the edge, they found flat earth under an overhang of long vines. Daniel looked around, panting, and dropped onto his back, but his shoulder wasn’t having it and he rolling onto his right side. He looked up and around.
“Holy shit. This is a cenote.”
“A cenote?” Jack asked, quickly untying his boots.
“You know. Like the ones in the Yucatan Peninsula. Leftovers from when that meteor hit sixty-five million years ago and killed off the dinosaurs. Ancient Maya used them for worshipping and sacrifice. Now they just use them for healing and prayer.”
“Bit of a difference,” Jack said dryly.
“A bit,” Daniel agreed and couldn’t help the brief but genuine grin.
“What I’m more interested in is if these radios work,” Jack went on. “And if there’s a way out.” He keyed the mic. “This is O’Neill. Can anyone read? Over.” A crackling answer came back but it was garbled. “Say again? Over.”
“W… are ..ou?”
“Obelisk. Hole in the ground. Over.”
Daniel grimaced as he set his boots aside and tried to get out of his fatigue shirt but the sling prevented it. He spotted some large boulders in the sun and got up ungainly and walked over to sit on it. It shouldn’t take too long to dry out. “It’s warm,” he told Jack and pointed his nose at the expanse of rock beside him. “Come dry off.”
“I hope we’re not here that long,” Jack said as he walked over and set his boots down on the next boulder before sitting down next to Daniel. He unraveled his mic and took the radio out from his shirt pocket, then laid his shirt in the sun. Examining the radio, he sighed. “This is useless. We’re lucky we got any message out at all.”
Daniel snorted, looking around at the water. “Yeah, lucky.”
He waved a hand upward. “I’m gonna guess this is partly why the Furling left this place. Too unstable.”
“Furling?” Jack asked.
Daniel frowned. “I’m gonna guess that you didn’t ask questions and they didn’t supply unasked-for answers.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “No. I figured I’d read about it later.” He waved a hand to indicate their surroundings. “Figuring it all out isn’t my cup of tea.” He paused. “Although I did try it once,” he said, musing.
“When was that?” Daniel asked, surprised.
“When you were a glowy thing,” he said, waving his hand up and down at Daniel. “Maybourne tricked me into opening this device and it beamed us both to this moon.” He described the rest of that disastrous encounter by giving a thorough description of the puzzle plates.
Daniel blinked at him. “Jack … that’s amazing.” Jack gave him an unhappy look. “No, I mean it. That’s amazing.”
“Why? For a luddite like me?”
Daniel looked away. “You’re not a luddite. You just like to pretend you are. Case in point? You just used the word ‘luddite’ instead of moron, dumbass, dipshit, idiot, stupid—”
Daniel frowned at him. “I don’t see the point. How often do you get a chance to pretend to be a dumbass and yet outsmart someone and gloat?”
“Two words,” Jack said, holding up two fingers. “Robert Makepeace.”
Daniel nodded slightly and didn’t respond. It might have revealed a shake of anger in his voice. He remembered that incident. And the acting Jack had done that had driven a wedge between them for a while. But Daniel’s anger had included Thor, the Tollan, and Hammond, and then stubbornly re-included Jack because he should have figured out a way to tell him what was going on.
He closed his eyes, trying to let it go. Jack, seeing a psychoanalyst. He wasn’t the only one who needed to. He himself held a lot of anger and resentment and meditating with Teal’c wasn’t really taking care of it.
“Penny,” Jack said. He had turned around on the slab and had a handful of pebbles that he was casually tossing in the water.
Daniel frowned, disturbed that he hadn’t noticed that Jack had moved. He copied him, but without the pebbles. He was satisfied to simply watch the water. It was still recovering from the disturbance from above and the waves were barely noticeable as they rolled out of existence to become part of the still surface again.
He wondered how to respond to Jack’s non-question. He looked over to catch his former friend’s attention and found Jack returning his gaze with absolutely no hate and loathing in his eyes. Sam and Teal’c were right. But when you get brow-beat enough times, it’s hard not to expect to get hit. He had to hold judgment and wait and see. But maybe that wasn’t such a good idea right now. His shoulder hurt like a motherfucker and pain made people do and say stupid things.
“Got any aspirin?” he asked, trying out a grin. It faded quickly.
Jack winced. “They should get us out soon—” When Daniel gave him a look, he finished with, “—ish.”
Daniel smiled a little. “So.”
“Sam and Teal’c said you’ve been seeing a therapist.”
“A psychoanalyst,” Jack corrected. “Therapist sounds like I was going to a spa.”
Daniel could only move his lips to a half smile as the pain radiated upward and his head began to pound. “Can I ask …” Abruptly, he suddenly began to laugh. It was painful, but it wouldn’t stop. Jack’s scowl let him get control and he braced himself for the incoming earful. Therapy, my ass.
Jack got up, throwing pebbles angrily. He turned toward Daniel, intending to say something, but he shut his mouth and threw more pebbles instead. He did this a few times and each and every time, Daniel expected the tirade to start, and each and every time he’d been surprised when nothing happened. Finally, he said, “I’m sorry.”
“That was mean,” Jack said between clenched teeth.
“Yes, it was. And I’m sorry.” Saying it twice relaxed Jack’s shoulders and Daniel watched the anger disappear like the water from a hot stone. The analogy was apt since he was sitting on one. “You’ve changed,” he said, then grimaced and closed his eyes.
“Yeah, I have,” Jack said, frowning. “Why does that bother you?”
“It isn’t you,” he said, breath leaving him. When Jack asked him what was wrong, Daniel could only shake his head. Jack got up to examine his shoulder and found it was bleeding again, and much worse than it should have been.
“You’ve ripped the sub-sutures, I think.” Daniel said nothing, and kept his eyes shut while he went through a series of deep breathing that Teal’c had taught him would help with pain. It sort of worked, but all Daniel wanted to do was scream curses.
“It won’t be too much longer,” Jack told him, and he suddenly heard the sound of an engine. He stood up and shaded his eyes just as a UAV flew over. “See, what did I tell you?” he cried joyously. When he looked down, he found Daniel slumping sideways, unconscious, and caught him just before he fell into the water.
Chapter Four: Love Alive
Daniel woke up to find Jack sitting in the chair beside his bed. He was reading a magazine. He looked beautiful, Daniel thought, and knew the drugs he was on were pretty damn powerful if he was thinking crazy shit like that. But it was true, nonetheless.
“Hey,” he croaked.
Jack looked up sharply and got to his feet. “Hey!” He held up a finger. “Be right back.” Jack left the room and while he was gone, Daniel found that he was in a real hospital room. Holy shit.
Jack returned with Janet, who hurried over, a look of relief on her face. “Hey,” she said, looking into his eyes to study them. She pulled out a penlight and did the annoying flick. “How do you feel?”
“Groggy. Thirsty. And really hungry.”
“I’m not surprised. You’ve been out of it for forty-eight hours.”
He blinked and looked at Jack, who nodded. “What happened?” he asked slowly, then horror filled him as he reached over to touch his left arm. It was still there. He let out a sigh of terrorized relief.
“You were in surgery for half that,” Jack said.
Janet gave him a chiding look. “Hardly.”
“It felt like it.”
“What happened?” Daniel repeated, but he enunciated the vowels this time. It was like talking through molasses. “Water.” Janet held the cup for him while he swallowed. She took it away despite the fact that he wanted more. He would have whined about dehydration if he hadn’t had an I.V. in his arm.
“Your brachial artery had a tear,” Janet informed him. “It took a while to repair it. And whether you’ll recover the use of your arm will depend on the next few days.”
Daniel’s eyes widened. “What?” he asked, shocked.
“The fall did it,” Jack said, giving Daniel a grim smile. “So, not that lucky after all.”
“I guess not,” Daniel said softly. He said with equal softness, “My arm feels fine, Janet.”
Her brows went up and she pulled out a nerve tester pinwheel and took his left hand. She ran him through the standard sensitivity tests and when he passed, she breathed a sigh of relief. “I’d say you were lucky after all.” She patted his hand and said, “I’ll be back in a bit.”
Jack sat back down and leaned forward on his knees. “You scared the shit out of me. Please don’t do that again. My heart can only take so much.” Daniel’s mouth dropped open. He was speechless. It made Jack grin. “Yeah, I know, shocker, but it is what it is.”
“What does that mean?” Daniel asked, his mind unable to process.
Jack got to his feet and leaned over to brush Daniel’s hair from his forehead. He bent closer and whispered, “It means I love you.”
Daniel felt his eyes grow hot and a tear gathered in the outer corner of his right one and stuck in the lashes. He reached up and brushed it away with annoyance. He hated crying. It was something that made him feel weak. How old had he been when he’d learned that? His thoughts were straying so he tried to focus on the here and now.
Jack kept his gaze and continued to stroke his hair. He could tell when the man lost focus for a minute and wondered what he was thinking. For a moment, a bit of panic filled him.
“I love you, too,” Daniel whispered. “I tried not to. I tried to hate you. But I couldn’t, and it hurt, Jack. It really hurt.”
Jack’s eyes filled with equal emotion. “I know.” He added more slowly, “I’m sorry. And it won’t happen again. I won’t allow it.”
Daniel detected something in Jack’s face. Fear. “What’s wrong?”
Jack swallowed. “You know the last time I cried? I mean, really cried?”
Puzzled and concerned, he shook his head. “Charlie?” he guessed.
Jack shook his head and swallowed again. Hard. It was audible.
“It was twelve hours ago.”
“What?” Daniel asked in a small voice. “Why? What happened?” Daniel started to push up but froze when Jack said three other words.
“You almost died.”
“I … what?”
“Again.” Jack then spoke haltingly, cussing more than he normally did. His tone clearly displayed his panic. “It was bad. Your fucking heart stopped on the table. It took almost two goddamn minutes to get you back. When Fraiser came out to tell us you made it through, she told us what had almost happened.” He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I … went into the bathroom and … I had to hide my face, even though no one else was in there. I demanded that … whoever the fucking hell is running this … goddamn show stop … to stop fucking with your life … I just … I really … can’t … take another …” He took a deep breath, eyes still closed. “I need you to stop dying, you wonderfully stubborn, incautious, maddening shit.”
Daniel’s chest suddenly hurt, filled with the shock from Jack’s words. He hated the sadness and fear in that face and reached up to take Jack’s hand from his eyes. When Jack opened them, they were blurred with tears. Daniel croaked through his dry, raspy throat, “Who the hell are you and what have you done with Jack O’Neill?”
Jack remembered Daniel asking that same sarcastic question back when this whole catastrophe began. He reached up and brushed his cheek with the back of his fingers, earning a wide-eyed look.
“He’s right here in front of you,” Jack said softly. “Finally.”