Summary: Jason thwarts an attempt on Jack’s life.
Note: Jason’s teammates are finally introduced. They’re viewed negatively at first because they’re overprotective of their leader.
SPECIAL NOTE: There is no sex in this chapter. Sorry.
It had been a few weeks after Jason’s birthday when SG-1 and 2 had completed their first joint mission, returning parched and hungry. The mission had been the first for them, going out as an eight-man team instead of four.
“I’m more inclined to send out two teams for initial recon to new destinations,” Hammond had told them in the briefing. “The reason is because I’m tired of a four-man team not having enough firepower when they get into a nasty situation. Conflict with the Goa’uld is heating up and we can no longer toss a coin on what kind of planet you will arrive onto.”
The planet had reminded Daniel of Abydos, absent its people, but its temperature had steadily climbed past a hundred twenty degrees, to it had to be cut short after only two hours.
“Major Carter,” Hammond addressed. “Is it possible to return to the planet at a later time?”
“Maybe by ship, sir,” Sam told him. “My readings couldn’t detect any mineral signatures past one kilometer and even if we’d been able to tolerate the heat, the equipment would have eventually failed.”
“And us,” Jack added.
Hammond looked at the dried sweat and tired faces. “You hadn’t been gone two hours.”
“When I went through the gate, sir, my readout read one hundred forty-three degrees. It climbed forty-three degrees in two hours. We arrived in one hundred degree heat.”
“And nowhere near enough water and salt,” Jason said. “Frankly, sir, I’d hang a Do Not Disturb sign on this planet and move on.”
“Concur,” Jack nodded.
“Okay. Major, you and your team report to the infirmary for the standard checks. Dismissed.”
“Yes, sir,” Jason said as his team got to their feet.
“SG-1, I need a word in private.”
Jason’s brow went up as he exited the room, looking over his shoulder worriedly. Jack and Daniel gave him a shrug.
“I’ll catch up later,” Daniel called to him.
“Done deal,” Jason said.
Jack, Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c exchanged looks as they followed Hammond into the smaller room. Jack stood, Daniel sat, and Sam took the seat next to him while Teal’c remained standing right behind her. Hammond sat down behind his desk and folded his hands. He didn’t have a stern expression, which was what the team expected. Instead, he looked puzzled, but pleased.
“What’s up, General?” Jack asked.
“Normally, I don’t involve myself in the interpersonal relationships of team members. There are, however, times where strife requires stepping in.” He paused and sighed, then looked at his hands before looking specifically at Jack and Daniel. “Unfortunately, I failed to do that with you two.” He looked at Jack and Daniel. “I should have stepped in before, when I noticed there was something seriously wrong with your friendship, affecting your working relationship, but I kept putting it off, hoping you would work it out. Two years went by, and I was getting ready to intervene, but then came the renovations and the Tok’ra spy mission. Over the last five months, however, things have changed for the better. Would either of you like to explain what happened and how it’s no longer an issue?”
Daniel looked up at Jack. “You wanna take this?”
Jack made a face. “Chicken,” he said.
Daniel smirked. “You’re the leader, Jack.”
“Thanks,” Jack replied sarcastically. He looked at Hammond. “Honestly, sir. I’m not really in a position to explain my actions over the last two and a half years.”
“Why not?” Hammond asked.
“Because …” Jack paused and looked at Sam and Teal’c. “We should have a chance to talk about this, but I’m wondering if it’s time to … you know.”
Sam shrugged and Teal’c just looked stoic. “We’ll back you, no matter what,” she said.
“This sounds ominous,” Hammond said.
“Not intentional, sir,” Jack said. He started to talk, but then he choked up and he couldn’t figure out what to say.
Daniel’s mouth twitched, and he took over. “Sir,” he said to Hammond. “Jack and I were having philosophical differences. You know how I feel about the military-centric mission statement.”
Hammond nodded. “I’m aware. And I’ve told you before, Doctor Jackson—”
“Forgive me, sir,” Daniel interrupted. “I apologize, but I’ve come to realize that you’re right. So’s Jack.” Hammond’s brows went up. Daniel grinned wryly. “I know. And I still believe we have to balance our goals, and I’m not about to stop lobbying for a scientific approach, but …” He looked up at Jack, amused at his look of surprise. “We’ve hashed things out and there’s no longer a problem.”
“Just like that,” Hammond stated, dubious.
“More or less,” Jack said, and Daniel nodded. “It wasn’t easy. We had a near knock-down drag-out over it.”
“I hope that didn’t involve a physical altercation,” Hammond frowned.
“No, sir,” Daniel said. “Just a lot of shouting.”
“Screaming, actually,” Jack said, his expression bland. Daniel snorted.
“So that’s it?” Hammond asked.
“That’s it,” Daniel and Jack said together.
Hammond gave them another puzzled frown as he studied the two men. “I’m very sorry, gentlemen, but I’m not buying it.”
Daniel and Jack stared at him, then each other. “Um,” Jack began. “Why not?”
“’Just like that’” Hammond repeated. “Neither of you are people who will give up your firmly-held positions. You’re very stubborn, to a fault. To tell me that you simply mended fences by having a shouting match doesn’t add up.”
“If I may,” Teal’c said. “Major Coburn was a big influence.”
Hammond raised his brows. So did Daniel and Jack, but their eyes widened with alarm while Sam just looked mildly surprised.
“Explain,” Hammond said.
“You are aware that Major Coburn and Daniel Jackson are close friends?” Teal’c asked.
Hammond nodded. “Obviously, Teal’c. He helped Doctor Jackson through his recovery. As an aside, I have to say that I was rather surprised, Doctor Jackson. I’ve never seen you develop friendships with other team members outside of the archaeological field.”
“He actually initiated the friendship,” Daniel said. “We became friends after that mission to Kheb. He was … just worried about me, after seeing what happened with Oma DeSala.”
“What do you mean?” Hammond asked, even more puzzled.
“He …” Daniel gave Jack an apologetic look. “At first, it was just as a friendly shoulder. He noticed how … we weren’t getting along.” He gestured between himself and Jack. “And he made the effort to get to know me. He has some the same interests, in science. And frankly, we just clicked.”
“Very well,” Hammond said, surprised, but accepting. “How did his friendship help?”
“Five months ago …” Daniel began, his mind rapidly trying to construct the proper scenario. “Jack saw us at a Mexican restaurant. He saw me laughing.”
Hammond blinked. “Laughing?”
“Be honest, sir,” Daniel said. “How often have you seen me laugh? Not smile. Laugh.” Hammond’s brows went up. “I’m serious. None of us ever have a chance to go out and have fun and let our hair down, so to speak. And for me, I’ve sort of had to pull back, emotionally. Jason helped me come back out of my shell. Jack saw me laughing and …”
“Something clicked in my head,” Jack finished. “I couldn’t remember ever seeing him laugh like that.”
“Jason told a joke, was teasing.” Daniel shrugged. “I was relaxed. I laughed.”
“And I went to see Daniel the next day. We had a big fight.”
“Big shouting match. I let loose on him. I wanted to know why he’d distanced himself and cut off our friendship.”
“And?” Hammond asked Jack.
When Jack didn’t answer, Sam said, “If I may, also. It had to do with that Zatarc machine a year ago. Colonel O’Neill started distancing himself from most of us, except for Teal’c.”
“Again, why?” Hammond asked Jack.
“I set off that machine, made it focus on the wrong thing, and get things all screwed up around here. I thought the answer was to cut myself off.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “I told him it wasn’t. It was the opposite. To be more open and honest. And Jason came over during the shouting match and turned into a diplomat.”
“And after that, we just … moved forward. It’s been working out well since then.”
“You two agree?” Hammond asked Sam and Teal’c.
“Yes, sir,” Sam said, with Teal’c nodding.
“Very well,” Hammond said.
Jack cleared his throat. “And if I may, working with SG-2 is a great idea. Major Coburn and his people are a good fit.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said, nodding.
“I agree, sir,” Sam said, nodding.
Hammond nodded back. “I’ll keep that in mind. Mind you, your first joint mission didn’t exactly work out, but that was due to the planet, not your people.”
“Very true, sir,” Jack said.
“We’ll find another mission,” Hammond said, standing. “For now, report to the infirmary for the standard checks. And gentlemen, I’m glad things have worked out. Make sure it stays that way.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack and Daniel echoed.
In the elevator by themselves, the four members of SG-1 breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then their current reality came crashing down around their ears.
“Oh crap,” Jack said with disgust. “Reports. I’m gonna be here all night.”
“Translations,” Daniel said in the same tone. “Me, too.”
“Naquada recalibration,” Sam said, sighing. “It’s pissing me off.”
Teal’c just raised an eyebrow. His teammates looked at him, accusingly. “Do not transfer your disappointment to my shoulders. I am not in charge of major departments nor the Second-in-Command of the base. While we are on base, my only tasks are those I have set myself. Such as creating the self-defense classes using the Chulakian forms of what Major Coburn has referred to as Martial Arts.”
Daniel sighed. “I missed my last two classes.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said. “Perhaps you will have time tomorrow.”
“If you wish to improve your skills, Daniel Jackson—”
“Teal’c, I know,” Daniel said, holding up a hand to stop the nag. “Jason’s already told me. And everything depends on me finishing my own work.”
“You and I will need some time away from it by then,” Jack said. “T, we’ll both be there.”
“Hey!” Sam said, annoyed.
Jack grinned at her. “Sorry, Carter. You, too.”
She mumbled under her breath.
“What was that?” Jack asked.
“Nothing you need to hear, sir. Unfortunately.”
Jack opened his mouth, but Daniel gently backhanded him across the stomach. “Never mind, Jack. Pick your battles. You won’t win this one.”
Jack mumbled under his breath.
A Timely Eavesdropping
In the locker room, Jason was changing into gym shorts and tee, listening to his 2IC, Captain Alex Wagner, and his security-slash-history-slash-munitions man, Lieutenant Al Kaufman, trade some of the weirder rumors back and forth. Meanwhile, Staff Sergeant Connor McCaffrey was staying out of it. Like Jason, he found gossip disgusting. They weren’t doing anything wrong, but it was now getting a little out of hand. Like the weird rumor about Teal’c’s late night excursions to the mess hall for chocolate cake raids.
The moment he heard Hammond’s name, however, Jason had to put his foot down. “Okay, guys, enough gossip. Don’t diss the CO, even out of earshot. If you have to make fun, wait till you get home. No doing that around personnel.”
“Sorry, sir,” they both said. Alex Wagner was already dressed and getting ready to leave when he added, “If you need anything, Major, you know where I am,” and he threw him a single-fingered salute that Jason sometimes thought should have been the middle one.
“Yeah, I know, and whatever you do, don’t make me look bad. See you at 0900 for the briefing.”
“After SG-1’s, I know. Jeez, Major, you’re worse than a girlfriend sometimes,” Wagner snorted as he left. Jason stared after the vacant spot left by Alex, thinking that over, then dismissed it with a smirk as he looked over at McCaffrey, his tracker and amateur language specialist, who suddenly looked busy.
“Do I sound like a girlfriend?” he asked, squinting at both his teammates, daring them to say yes.
Getting ready to leave, Connor looked amused. “In a word, yes.” Kaufman smiled in agreement.
“This is what I get for caring about you ingrates,” Jason growled as he finishing tying his sneakers. “I’m not bailing either one of you out ever again.” He could hear his men snickering as they left the room and it put a grin on his face. They knew he wasn’t serious.
After locking up his things, Jason left for the base’s gym to get his light workout in before going home. It was just after 7 p.m., and this late, he’d normally spend only a half hour on the weights, but tonight, unfortunately, he had time. Daniel was holed up in his office for the evening, working on some translation that was pissing him off, and Jack was in his own office, grumbling at having to catch up on the paperwork he’d been trying to ignore.
Jason went straight for his assigned gym locker to grab his weight belt and tape up his hands. After securing the former, he began to tape up the left hand when he heard voices, their direction indicating that the owners were coming from the exercise room. He recognized them, having been introduced that morning on Level 11 to SG-22, and prided himself on his ability to accurately remember voices. A little thing he had in common with Daniel.
Jason paid little heed when their voices moved to the far side of the locker room. Focusing on making a fist as he wound the tape, he thought about the workout routine he’d use. After his right hand was done, he slipped on his fingerless gloves. When the tone and level of the voices suddenly dropped, sounding secretive, conspiratorial, the hairs on the back of Jason’s neck rose.
His first instinct, self-drilled into him throughout his career, was to ignore the alarm. There were plenty of times and reasons to speak in hushed voices. Being gay, for example. But as the seconds passed, the warning increased. He also prided himself on his intuition and never ignored it.
How many members of SG-22 were in here? All of them? Regardless, they didn’t know he was there and he needed to find out what they were saying without getting caught doing it. But just in case they came down his locker aisle, pulled out the iPod he’d bought and plugged in the ear phones. He put one in his ear and the other he left dangling. He tucked the device in his weight belt. He adjusted his gloves as he walked down the row, and just then, one of the voices rose a little louder than the others, the tone commanding.
Major Hank Rogers. Something had him ticked off and he was getting it out with garbage talk. As he approached the end of the locker row, Jason froze. What had just come out of Rogers’ mouth was in no way garbage talk.
“You listen to me, Bradley,” Rogers said. “O’Neill is a fag. He’s putting it to that pussy Jackson under everyone’s nose. You can just see it, looking at the two of them.”
“Major, it’s not a good idea to piss on the base 2IC,” a man answered. Jason recognized that voice. It belonged to Sergeant Cecil Bradley. He sounded as if he was trying to calm Rogers down and it wasn’t working.
“Sergeant, they’re not worth respecting. I heard a lot about this place and it’s full of bleeding hearts and faggot-lovers. They put a dyke on SG-1, so I rest my case.”
“Sir, she was engaged from what I hear–” another man said in a whisper. Jason couldn’t identify the voice that way, dammit. Either Lieutenant Clark or Lieutenant Stokes.
“And she left his ass at the altar and equally left him to rot on some planet,” Rogers spat. “A good, strong man, who didn’t take second billing to no bitch. He gave her everything and she shit on him. She’s a fucking dyke.”
“Just because she doesn’t have a boyfriend, sir—” Bradley began.
“You listen to me, all of you,” and Rogers went on and on, ticking off points that held no truth, never mind ventured near anything like rationality. But then, bigotry was like that. People afraid of their own shadow needed someone to hate, and it all stemmed from being afraid as a baby. When you’re in fear for your safety, you tended to grow up hating a lot of people, and when they came across something they didn’t understand, it became an immediate scapegoat. As Rogers spoke his lies, the others tried to counter-argue and were shut down. They didn’t try again, and Jason could imagine seeing them shrink from the man. It made him sick.
He made a mental note to report this behavior to Jack and find out what the hell had happened to let a guy like this on the base in the first place. He considered going to the weight room, letting them see him, but even with the iPod on, they might want to pick a fight. Jason could take out two, but then the others could get in some serious damage. After all’s said and done, what would be the point? He returned to his locker, deciding weight training could wait. He needed to slip out of there immediately without being seen. Come back later with Teal’c? That was a plan. But that thought died when the next words out of Rogers’ mouth made his blood run cold.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for payback. He has to be fragged.”
A gasp from his team members, then Bradley objecting again. “Payback? I thought this was about … I mean, you can’t be serious!”
“You don’t even know how serious I am, Bradley!” Rogers howled. He abruptly lowered his voice. “This fucker has to die.”
“No! O’Neill’s a decent man. I don’t believe those rumors, and you’ll only get yourself—”
There was the tell-tale sound of a punch, paired with a loud grunt and a gasp for air. Jason knew what had happened without having to see it. Rogers had hit the man to shut him up. “You wanna find out what it’s like to get fucked in the ass?” Rogers threatened.
“Hypocrite!” Bradley croaked and there was the sound of a scuffle and Bradley cried out again. “NO!”
“No what? Rape’s not a faggot move, you stupid shit. Unless you’re a fag, too?”
“But you don’t know him, do you?” asked Lieutenant Clark.
“You said payback,” said Stokes.
To Jason, it seemed as if they were trying to distract him from hurting Bradley. In his experience, it meant that Rogers was a rapist. They knew it and had to defuse the situation.
“It just so happens I do know him from a long time ago. Bastard robbed me of a promotion. It’s time he earned payback.”
Jason might be imagining it but it sounded like a lie. It didn’t matter. He wanted Jack dead. He began to explain his plan about sabotaging Jack’s truck; that he had access to some explosives. It made Jason’s blood freeze. How the fuck did this guy get his hands on explosives? How’d he even pass the psych eval? He obviously wasn’t stable. He also wasn’t just a threat to Jack. He was a threat to Daniel, Sam, and … well, hell. If you got right down to it, the bastard was a threat to Stargate Command, the service, and the planet.
When Rogers began to outline how he’d sabotage his truck, Jason’s anger began to flame. He wished his cellphone had a way to record audio. He needed proof to take to Security. And then … what would happen? He’d be called in. Then regs and protocol would be observed. He might even be let go because Jason couldn’t record this conversation. Yes, he was leader of SG-2, and that gave him clout, but regs were regs. You didn’t go accusing an officer of something nefarious without proof.
As he listened, Rogers’ sabotage would be later that night, rigged so that when Jack drove home, the bomb would go off. If it didn’t kill him right off, the explosion would likely roll the vehicle, so Rogers planned to follow, just in case, and finish the job if he had to.
Jason wanted to kill him then and there, but he had to get rid of him legally. Which meant letting him go through with his plan and to pretend he hadn’t heard. Grimacing, hating that he couldn’t just take the traitorous bastard out, Jason slipped out the main door. As he walked, he removed his gloves and ripped the tape off his hands, depositing the latter in the nearest waste container. After he’d gone half the length of the short corridor, he turned around and headed back, putting both earphones in, and turning on some Led Zeppelin. He kept the volume low.
He purposely made a lot of noise as he brushed through the double swinging doors. Banging his locker door open, he grabbed the roll of tape and began to re-wrap his left hand as if he’d just shown up. Besides, wanted protection over his knuckles, just in case. By the end of the night, if it came down to it, he’d kill this sonofabitch.
As he began to tape his other hand, his peripheral vision told him that the members of SG-22 had rounded the end of the locker row. Jason glanced up but ignored them as he bobbed his head to the music and continued to tape the other hand. He frowned and took out an earbud, donning a professional expression. Rogers’ gaze fell upon the iPod and the earbud in Jason’s left hand.
“You gentlemen need something?” Jason asked, taking out the other ear piece, shutting off the iPod, and putting the earphones and device on the shelf in his locker. He pulled out the belt as he waited for a response.
Rogers and his teammates stopped about six feet away. Jason automatically gauged distances in his head and it seemed to him they were closing in, so he wouldn’t have room to fight. Little did they know, apparently, that you don’t need that much room to put someone down. “Sorry,” Rogers said. “I didn’t know anyone else was in here.”
Jason took the two seconds he needed to permanently sear their images in his mind. He was good with voices, less so with faces, so he needed to make sure their descriptions were spot-on. Rogers was maybe six-two, light brown hair, hazel eyes. Reddish marks on his face, as if he was suffering from alcoholism. Two others were around six feet tall, and the third was maybe five-ten. Dark hair and eyes for two of them. One’s eyes were set too close together. The shortest man had blond hair and blue eyes. Average-looking. Slight. Bradley, Jason guessed. He’d be the one Rogers picked on because he’d see him as weak: the perfect victim for bullying. He was also wincing, a hitch in his side, as if he’d pulled a stomach muscle. Or been hit.
“Just got here,” Jason told him tersely, letting Rogers know in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t there to waste time talking.
“Major Coburn, right?” Rogers asked.
“That’s me,” Jason said, putting on his gloves. When no one added the obvious, he did it for them. “Leader of SG-2.” He peered hard at Rogers, pretending he’d only just recognized him. “Rogers. SG-22. Haven’t been here long. Saw you on Level 11 this morning.” He nodded to the others. “And Bradley, Stokes, and Clark. You folks get yourselves sorted? Quarters, uniforms, keycards?” His questions were designed to put Rogers off his game.
“Yes, thanks. And you have a good memory. But we never spoke.” It was like an accusation.
Jason finished putting on the belt, then grabbed his iPod, earphones, and cellphone, and shut his locker. “I never said we did.” He started to move past, but the man put a hand on his arm. He didn’t grab, but it was an invasion of space anyway. Jason looked down at the hand, then eyed Rogers until he let go.
His manner was bizarre, even considering the planning of a murder. He was taking umbrage where no offense existed and that told Jason everything else he needed to know. He lifted his chin and arched a brow. His expression was bland, but his tone was not. “Stand down, Rogers.”
“Despite your rank, you’re a newbie here, so let me give you a piece of advice.” He made sure that he could ditch the belt in half a second.
“You got some nerv—” Rogers began.
“I’m not going to ask where your defensive attitude is coming from because it’s highly probable you’ve had a bad day or maybe dinner hasn’t agreed with you. Either way, I don’t care. What I care about is this attempt at dominance, and I’m only going to tell you this once: That shit doesn’t play well at this command. Now. Once more: Stand down. Do you understand?” He didn’t take his eyes off him. It would’ve been a mistake. Rogers was the type of man who’d blitz attack because he couldn’t take someone on face-to-face. Especially someone like Jason. The moment Jason would turn his back, Rogers would attack because he was that weak.
Stokes suddenly said, “Sir. I’ve heard he has six black belts. Maybe we do this another time?”
“Four,” Jason corrected. “On my way to two more.” He gave them a wintery smile. “I can demonstrate during a class tomorrow if you gentlemen would like sign up.”
Rogers sneered. “Whatever.” He didn’t say anything else. Jason watched the man and his teammates walk back the way they’d come and disappear out of the gym. Bradley was the last to leave and he cast a look back over his shoulder. It was almost a plea for help.
“Don’t worry, Bradley,” Jason murmured to himself. “I’ll get you reassigned if you behave yourself.” He opened his phone and grimaced at the fact that he didn’t have any bars. “Fuck.” He put the belt back in the locker and locked up, then left the gym.
Thwarting a Terrorist
Jason made his way to Level 16 Security to check in with one person in particular.
“Hey, Major, what’re you doing here so late?” asked Carmichael, the tall female Sergeant on duty. Jason had liked the woman the moment he’d met her. She presented herself well. Her long blond hair was always up, braided tightly, and the rest of her appearance was always sharp and no-nonsense. She was gorgeous, which is why she refused to wear makeup, and her bearing made her strong. She’d spotted his weights for him on occasion as they’d worked out together in the weight room. She could also perform a roundhouse kick that could level buildings.
“It’s not that late, Cari,” he said with a grin. “I was going to lift weights but something’s come up. Have those security cameras in the parking level been fixed yet? The ones for the first row?”
She checked her material assignment roster. “Tomorrow, sir. We won’t get the new kits in until tomorrow.”
Jason didn’t bother to hide his anger. “Fuck. That shit needs to be done now. Will you please see to it that it gets done?”
“What’s going on?” Cari asked. She sensed something was wrong. Smart woman.
Jason chastised himself for being evasive. Security had to know, but he also needed help to get proof. Sighing, he said, “I need a camcorder and I won’t ask Daniel. He can’t be involved.” Professionally, he couldn’t. He was a civilian.
“Involved in what, sir?” she asked, becoming serious.
“I have credible information that Colonel O’Neill’s truck is going to fitted with a bomb, but I need proof before I can officially make an alert case.”
Carmichael’s eyes grew wide in disbelief. “What? Where’d you learn this?” She grabbed her report log clipboard.
He placed his hand over the clipboard. “It might have just been grandstanding, Sergeant, from a disgruntled individual. Who is obviously mentally unstable. So I need proof, as I said.”
“Even so, sir, you know the rules. You have to report anything untoward, so it can be logged in.”
“I just did,” he said, enunciating the words, and giving her a smile.
“Then let go of my clipboard,” she said, enunciating back.”
“Oh, right.” He grinned. “Make a note that I’m going to find proof so that it’ll be legit when I bring in these people.”
“People?” she asked, pausing her pen. “You find a Cell? We need to call the Penta—”
“No, it’s a few guys.”
“Oh.” She resumed writing.
“Camera? Camcorder? Something. Any ideas?”
Carmichael thought about it, then her face brightened. “A girlfriend in Research, Amanda, is one of Dr. Jackson’s assistants and she has an extra camera. It’s not in use at the moment since she’s on vacation. I can leave a note for her that we’ve borrowed it for security purposes.”
“I need it now, Cari.”
“We go get it now, Major.”
“You said ‘we’.”
She stood, reminding him that she was his height—another thing that made her unique in his eyes. “You’ll need a member of Security with you.”
“Understood, but you can’t leave your post. Where’s Lieutenant Pederson?”
“Fixing a securecam in science lab 4, sir. One of Major Carter’s people accidentally broke it.” Jason snorted and nodded while Carmichael grinned. Just then, Pederson entered and greeted Jason warmly. “Oh, speak of the devil,” she said.
Pederson eyed her, but he grinned. “Major Coburn. How nice of you to grace us with your presence,” he said jovially, sticking his big paw out to shake Jason’s hand. Pederson was a bear of a man, and five inches taller. He packed away a great deal of muscle. Jason thought he fit his Northern European heritage rather well as he shook his hand.
“Adam. I need to borrow Sergeant Carmichael. Think you can handle things by yourself for a while?”
“Whoa, whoa, for what? Why do you need to borrow my only support staff?” He gave Cari a wink and she grinned at him and threw him a salute.
“I overheard someone planning to sabotage Colonel O’Neill’s truck, so I need a camcorder to catch the perps. Cari knows where to get a camera and insists she come along as an official member of security.”
Pederson’s eyes went wide as he realized Jason was serious. “What? This needs to be report—” he began, going to grab the phone on the wall. Jason went over and stopped him.
“No, Pederson. Not yet. I need proof. Otherwise, it’s just hearsay bullshit. My word will only go so far and you know it. I need Cari for backup, so Security will be on the job.”
“Let’s go through the check list protocol. One. Are you certain you couldn’t have mis-heard?”
“I didn’t mis-hear.”
“Who did you hear?”
Cari had her clipboard and her pen paused. “I hadn’t gotten to that part yet, sir, because he wouldn’t tell me.”
“Jason, you need to report. If it comes to nothing, it’s no big deal. If it happens again, and this person is named, then steps get taken. If this person is indeed intending to commit a felony, then we need his name down.”
Jason sighed. “SG-22. All of them.” He listed their names and Cari wrote them down.
“Jesus,” Pederson muttered.
“Okay,” Pederson said. “And I agree, Carmichael. You need to go with him.” He went to a wire-mesh cage on the wall and opened it, taking down three IDF radios. “Tune to channel 24. I’ll monitor from this end. The standard range is thirty miles, even through concrete and steel, so there shouldn’t be any reason you can’t reach me. Plus, they’re equipped with a broadwave emergency lockdown signal.”
Jason raised a brow. “That’s new.”
“Let’s hope they don’t have jammers.”
Pederson raised a brow. “Let’s hope. But that would mean they’re far more organized and planned this out ahead of time.”
“His teammates didn’t, but Rogers did. He bullied them into helping him. And he got into this command somehow and I wouldn’t put it past a certain senator who hates us. People like that tend to know criminal elements.”
“Where’d you work that out?” Cari asked, exchanging her clipboard for a radio.
“Experience,” Jason said, studying her. “Honestly, Cari. Do you really think someone like Kinsey colors inside the lines?”
“Odd metaphor,” Cari smirked.
“Your security clearance give you access to all mission reports?” he asked.
She sighed. “No.” Pederson shook his head.
“Well, trust me. If you’d read some of the ones that happened on this planet, you’d know what I’m talking about. And let me just say that that General who came in here to replace Hammond for that short time was one such element in Kinsey’s sphere of influence. Rogers is probably another. And that’s the end of this discussion before I violate anything.”
Both Security members raised their brows, but they didn’t continue to ask questions. “Okay,” Pederson said. “Remember, channel 24. Turn them on the second you get to the parking level.”
“Gotcha,” Jason said, and by habit, he started to clip the radio to his uniform … and realized he hadn’t changed. “Shit. I need to stop at the locker room, Cari.”
“Okay. You want me to grab the camera and meet you there?”
“No, because the science lab is on 19 and it’s on the way down to the lockers on 25. Just meet me back at the elevator on 19 after you’ve grabbed the camera. I won’t be too long.”
“Done,” she said.
Jason said to Pederson. “Monitor the other cameras on the garage level in case they pick up anything. If it turns out we need help, you’ll need to notify the rest of the Security Forces, and, very likely, the infirmary.”
Pederson’s gaze narrowed. “No offense, sir, but maybe I should–”
Jason held up his hand and cut him off. “Cari knows where the camcorder is and I’m not risking more time to come back here, grab you, and wait for a replacement. We have to catch them in the act.”
Pederson groaned. “I knew those cameras should’ve been done immediately.”
“Right?” Jason said, as if that was obvious. Because it was.
“Do you expect something bad to happen, Major?” Pederson asked as they started to leave.
“I’m hoping to catch a group of terrorists, Lieutenant. It’s a safe bet something bad will happen. Hopefully, it won’t on me or Cari. I wish I had a sidearm.”
“Sorry, Major. Keep your ears on,” Pederson said, waving the radio.
Jason nodded and he and Cari ran for the elevator two hallways away. After she stepped out onto 19, he went to change back into his uniform. He still kept his phone with him, despite the radio. Clipping it to his tack vest, he headed back to meet Cari. Thankfully, she was waiting for him. And a little out of breath. On the way up to Level 11, Cari grimaced.
“Should’ve bent the rules and gotten you a sidearm, sir. We’ve only got mine.”
“There isn’t a legit reason to give me one because there’s no emergency, as yet.”
“I really don’t like you unarmed. Plus, there’s no telling what else they’ll have with them if they also have access to a car bomb.” She ground her teeth. “That’s a terrorist’s weapon, sir. We should’ve told—”
“Yes, but after 9/11, exactly how much overkill did the military and the government go into?” Jason asked. “Yes, this kinda qualifies, but we need to make sure of this threat. If it turns into nothing and I’ve wasted time and resources?”
Cari grimaced angrily. “They’d demote you and send you to Siberia.”
“Hammond might not allow that, but I might lose my team. I can’t risk that. And it’s protocol, anyway, Cari.” She nodded. “Uh, by the way, given what we’re doing, and that we’re friends, go ahead and use Jason. We’re not in front of other personnel. Jack, Daniel, and our respective teammates notwithstanding.”
He grinned. She grinned. But inwardly, their nerves were jouncing.
Meanwhile, Jack & Daniel Have No Clue
Jack knocked on Daniel’s office door and entered when he heard Daniel’s invite. He sat down in the chair next to Daniel’s desk, tipped his head back and closed his eyes. “I really hate paperwork,” he said wearily as he scrubbed his face with his hands. He raised his head then, blinked several times, then got up and stood behind Daniel as his lover peered at his computer screen.
He bent down, cheek nearly touching Daniel’s and grinned when he saw his lover’s face twitch. “Anything new?” he asked softly.
“No,” Daniel said in a tone that made his frustration obvious. He sighed and nudged Jack to back off but he didn’t budge. “I can’t concentrate with you standing there like that.” He started to turn his head but Jack’s lips were too temptingly close to his own. Jack looked down, at his mouth, and leaned in just a bit.
“Are you nuts?” Daniel asked softly, not moving.
“Obviously,” Jack replied.
“Stop doing that.”
“You don’t want me to kiss you?”
“Yes. But you didn’t lock the door.”
“So no kiss.”
“What if I did it anyway?” Jack asked and moved so close that his lips were an eyelash away. “It’ll only take a second.”
Daniel opened his mouth. It was so tempting. Jesus. All he had to do was tip his head back. That’s all he had to do. His cock twitched, and he groaned. “You’re a pain in the ass,” he whispered.
“No, I’m not,” Jack told him, an evil grin forming.
“That’s not what I meant.”
“But it’s what I meant.”
“You have a one-track mind.”
“And you love me anyway.”
“Yes, I do, and I need to have my head examined.”
Jack grinned as if he had a secret, and Daniel couldn’t stop grinning back. “So…”
“I’m going up to the mess hall. Wanna come?”
Daniel stared at him, amazed at Jack’s ability to toss innuendo into everything. And he refused to smile about it. Barely. “I’ll assume you mean to eat.”
Jack’s expression turned wicked. “I was actually thinking of lots of slow, deep movements.”
“I hate you,” Daniel groaned.
“Daniel,” Jack whispered, parting his lips.
Daniel inhaled and whispered back, “You bastard.”
Jack kissed him. It was swift, with a tease of tongue. He suddenly stood up. “Hey, where’s Jason?”
“Fuck!” Daniel growled, and he picked up a binder and started hitting Jack with it.
Jack started laughing, grabbing the binder. “Come on. Let’s go get something to eat.”
“Can I start with your kidneys?” Daniel growled.
He sat down with a bowl of cut strawberries and a pint of milk while Jack opted only for coke. Jack grinned at the dish. “I see the red. Don’t know what’s up with the white.”
Daniel ignored him. “Why’d you want to come here if all you wanted was a soda?” he asked as he poured a little milk over the strawberries. “There’s a machine in the Officer’s Lounge.”
“I needed a change of scenery, Daniel, and so did you.”
Daniel jogged his eyebrows in agreement. “I guess.” Spooning a few cut strawberries and milk into his mouth, Daniel asked, “Have you seen Jason?”
“No, but he wouldn’t leave without letting us know so he’s around somewhere, probably in the gym.”
“I called his office about fifteen minutes before you showed up, but he wasn’t there, so you’re probably right.”
Jack stole a strawberry and popped it into his mouth. “We can go join him,” he suggested.
“Good idea,” Daniel said. “I need to beat the shit out of something since you’ve wound me up.”
“Sorry,” Jack said, appropriately contrite. “It wasn’t fair. We’re not getting out of here tonight.”
Daniel sighed. “You have reports to do, I have a translation. Business as usual.”
“I didn’t sign on for this,” Jack groused as he stole another berry.
“You did, you just hate paperwork.”
“And you like paperwork?”
“Nope. But it doesn’t bother me as much as you. I’m used to doing it. Or rather, I used to be. What you’re doing is child’s play compared to applying for a research grant.”
Jack snorted. “Point taken.” He stole another strawberry and slowly sucked it into his mouth.
“Stop it,” Daniel said, pulling his dish out of reach. “And go get your own berries.”
Jack sighed. “Can we find a closet somewhere?”
Their conversation wasn’t loud enough to carry but it didn’t matter considering that there weren’t a lot of people around to hear.
“No,” Daniel drawled, sighing. “Unless you wanna visit in my quarters and have Security throw a fit.”
“There are way too many cameras on this base,” Jack grumped.
“And we’re glad when something bad happens,” Daniel said around more strawberries.
“Finish that. Then let’s go harass Jason,” Jack told him, looking delighted at the prospect.
“Don’t even go there, either.”
“What,” Daniel mimicked. “What you’re thinking.”
“I’m not thinking that.”
“Not thinking what?”
Sighing, Jack said, “I can’t help it. I get all worked up when he works out.”
Daniel grinned and ate the last of the strawberries and followed it with the milk. “Let’s go, Jack. And behave yourself.”
Jack didn’t answer and Daniel shot him a warning look. “Jack.”
The Dangerous Foil
In the gym, there was no Jason. Both men frowned. “What the hell is the matter with him? Not telling us what he’s doing?” Jack asked as they left.
“We could go find his teammates, if they’re still here.”
“Maybe,” Jack said, twisting his mouth, thinking. “He might be visiting Security.”
Daniel raised a brow. “Why?”
“He has a friend there. Didn’t you know that?” Jack asked, surprised, as they got into the elevator.
“Oh, Cari?” Daniel asked. “Yeah, I knew that. I just don’t know why he’d be visiting. Besides, I thought … Oh.” He remembered that Security has the keys to the armory. Sometimes Jason went there to run inventory. “Never mind.”
Pederson turned in his chair, then shot out of it to stand at attention when Jack walked in, followed by Daniel.
“At ease, Pederson. Have you seen Major Coburn?”
Pederson looked them over, slightly alarmed. “There a problem, sir?”
“No,” Daniel said, casually. “We needed a break. Thought to join him in the gym. Is he in the armory?”
“Oh,” Pederson said, relaxing. “No, sirs. He took Sergeant Carmichael with him to investigate a possible vandalism threat on Garage Level A.”
“Vandalism?” Jack asked.
Pederson nodded. “He heard something but doesn’t want to raise the alarm if it doesn’t pan out. So Cari’s gone with him as a member of Security. Protocol.”
“They have their radios?” Jack asked.
“Yes, sir. Also protocol.”
“How long have they been gone?” Daniel asked.
“No more than ten minutes. They’ve probably just gotten to the garage level. You know how long it takes to get out of here.”
Jack grunted, looking at the security monitors set up in the enormous garage level that led out of the mountain. He frowned. “Lieutenant, why’s there a blacked-out screen for the first row?”
“Broken camera, sir. I asked for a new one, put in a rush order. Haven’t gotten it yet.”
Jack growled. “This is bullshit,” he said, looking at the other cameras.
“Yes, sir, it is.”
“Where were they going?”
Pederson winced. “Where the blacked-out camera is.”
“There,” Daniel pointed. “They’re leaving the elevator.”
Onscreen, Jason and Cari were setting off. Jack frowned and looked at Pederson. “Why isn’t he armed?”
Pederson winced. “Pro—”
Jack held up a hand. “So help me, Pederson. If you say protocol …”
“I didn’t write it!” Pederson said, holding up both hands. “It’s my duty to follow it. If we start bending the rules, one day it’ll bite us on the ass. Sir.”
“And one day, it’ll save someone’s ass,” Jack growled back. “When a threat is investigated, arming yourself is authorized.”
“That’s not in the regs, sir.”
“No, it’s in my regs,” Jack said.
Meanwhile, Daniel followed Jason’s progress from one camera to another. “Why was he going to the section where we parked?” he asked Pederson.
Pederson sighed. “He said he heard someone threaten to place a bomb under your truck, Colonel.”
“What?” Jack and Daniel said in stereo. “That’s a terror threat!”
“Yes, sir,” Pederson said, startled. “But if he raised the alarm and it didn’t pan out, you know what our over-zealous superiors would’ve done. So it’s protocol to investigate first or heads roll.”
“And he’s going up there to check under my truck?” Jack asked, raising his voice. “He can’t be that fucking stupid.”
“No, sir,” Pederson said. “He’s going up there to hopefully catch the bastards planting it on film. Then he’d have concrete proof.”
“And if those assholes are armed?” Daniel asked.
“Fuck,” Jack said, grabbing two radios. “Daniel, let’s go. Pederson, call Hammond on my authority.”
Jason and Cari got there just in time to hide behind a concrete column several yards away, with the zoom feature on.
“We should get closer,” Cari whispered in his ear.
“Carefully,” Jason said. Two more columns, and they were no more than thirty feet from Jack’s truck. There was a clear line of sight at a ninety-degree angle, and Rogers was on his back while Stokes handed him a compact object. Rogers stuck it somewhere under the engine. Jason tapped Cari’s arm and they put in their earplugs. Cari then activated the button on her IDF for the terror threat lockdown. The resulting squelch set off all stationed bullhorns in the garage. Jason set the camera down by the concrete column and they approached SG-22. Cari had her sidearm trained on the men.
“Security! Stand to, gentlemen!”
The action happened fast. Rogers was armed and went for his gun. Jason attacked swiftly, kicking it out of his hand. In the next blur, Clark was down, then Bradley and Stokes. All four men were groaning, half-aware, and Carmichael didn’t see one of them draw a gun. Stokes.
“Major Coburn, get down!” Jason dove behind another car as Stokes fired and Cari shot the gun out of his hand. “Clear, I think.”
“You think?” Jason asked, coming out from behind the hiding spot.
Then Cari caught movement from Rogers as he threw something at Jason while his back was turned. “Down!” It was too late as she fired. The knife was thrown, but Rogers wouldn’t be pulling any other stunts. Cari radioed her fellow Security and called for medics. Just when she started toward Jason, she was tackled from behind by a dazed Clark, who was also armed. Their weapons went off between them, killing him, and wounding her. Stokes was on his feet, lifting his arm and pointing the gun he held, but Carmichael aimed and fired before her vision went blurry and her stomach heaved. She looked down and found out why. Her stomach was bleeding badly.
Jason grimaced, and tried to get to her, but the pain in his back prevented him from walking. She was only six feet away. He could crawl maybe and … no. No, he couldn’t. And what the hell was that rushing sound?
Almost to the Garage level, Jack and Daniel heard the cacophony of the emergency klaxon call through the elevator shaft. “Pederson, you get that?” Jack radioed.
“SFs on the way, as well as medical.”
“Medical?” Daniel asked, but not on the radio. “Oh shit!”
The elevator opened, and they bolted toward the sound of shots being fired but got there after the action was over. Jack had a bad feeling that worsened the moment he saw and recognized Jason’s prone body. “Check him!” he yelled, but Daniel was already running.
Letting Daniel see to Jason, Jack took Carmichael’s handcuffs and secured the only man from SG-22 who remained alive. Sergeant Cecil Bradley. He was semi-conscious, with a nasty boot-sized bruise forming on the side of his face. Jack shook his head grimly. Jason’s foot had connected with the cheek, not the jaw, or he’d have broken the man’s neck. Grabbing Carmichael’s radio, he called in.
“Pederson, I’m on site. We need more than one medical team to the parking garage immediately. Six down, including Carmichael and Coburn.”
“How serious, Colonel?” came Janet’s voice, cutting in.
“Carmichael has a thru-and-thru to the side of her stomach. Might have gotten a kidney. Don’t know about Major Coburn yet. Bradley has a probable concussion, but no apparent internal injuries. There are three others, but they’re dead.”
“Roger that, Colonel,” Janet replied.
“Janet!” Daniel radioed, dropping all protocol decorum. His voice was deadly calm as he tried not to panic. “Jason’s got a knife in the back. He’s alive, but unconscious.”
His words sent chill ran down Jack’s spine as he ran over to join him. Jason lay partially on his stomach and there was blood pooling around the knife in his back. The blade wasn’t completely buried, but there was no telling how long the damn thing was. Jack saw, however, why Daniel was panicked. The blood was black.
“Look at the color, Jack.” Jack’s face became grim as they both tried to staunch the flow of dark blood around the blade, neither one attempting to remove it. Liver, Jack thought. Shit. Daniel’s face was a sheet of white and probably matched his own.
“Doc!” Jack called on the radio.
“Almost there, Colonel.”
But it took five minutes that felt like five years. Then there were echoing footfalls and gurney wheels rushing across the concrete. Janet saw to Jason while her Corpsmen saw to Carmichael and Bradley. Securing their patients didn’t take long and they were transported down with alacrity. The bodies of the dead men would be seen to by additional teams. A bomb disposal team was sent for and the SFs were forced to evacuate the garage and lock it down for twenty-four hours.
A Talk With A Homophobe
Daniel put on his game face and for the next several hours nothing seemed real for him until Jason came out of surgery. Bradley had made things worse during that waiting time by turning the situation around and placing the blame on Jason and Carmichael. It was worrying because those who didn’t know Jason and Carmichael might believe some of the poison that escaped the traitor’s mouth. It looked very bad.
In the waiting area outside of the OR, Daniel sat with Jack, Sam, Teal’c, and Jason’s teammates, with a few of Carmichael’s fellow SF’s standing nearby. None of them would leave until the surgeries were over. Daniel rubbed his tired eyes, sitting cold and stoned-faced, trying to prepare himself for the worst. Old self-esteem issues cropped up to combine with fatalism; he knew he was in shock, but it didn’t stop him from expecting bad news. Shit like this always ended in bad news.
Jack rubbed his shoulder, not saying anything, but Daniel knew that Jack could tell what was on his mind. At that moment, Hammond came down the hall and gestured Jack to follow him into Janet’s office.
Once inside, Hammond shut the door and took a good look at Jack. “How long has it been since you had any sleep?”
“I’m not tired, sir.”
“One look tells me otherwise, Jack.”
Sighing, Jack said, “Right. I’m not leaving till I find out what Jason’s condition is.”
Hammond gave Jack another long look. “I won’t discourage you or anyone in this command from making close friendships, but you have to step back a moment during the crisis so that Sergeant Bradley’s accusations can be dealt with.”
Jack ground his jaw. “Understood, sir.”
“Now, according to that… Sergeant… he and his team found Major Coburn planting a bomb on your vehicle.”
“You and I both know he’s lying, sir.”
“And you’d be correct, Colonel. I’ve launched a full investigation to get to the heart of the matter.”
“Sir, we know the truth.”
“At present, we don’t know anything, Jack. Major Coburn and Sergeant Carmichael are the only other witnesses and we’ll have to wait until they’re able to give their statements before anything can be corroborated. The investigation team will, in the meantime, go over all other available evidence.”
“Right now, sir, the only evidence is Lieutenant Pederson’s log. It shows what Carmichael wrote down.”
“Only that they were investigating a possible vandalism threat, Jack, not what the nature of that vandalism was.”
“Sir, I don’t believe for an instant that Major Jason Coburn was planting a bomb on my truck. Carmichael’s presence, as a member of the security detail, was clearly an indication that they were there to catch someone doing something illegal and that something was planting a bomb.”
“Bradley’s statement says otherwise.”
“Which you know is wrong, sir.”
“My personal feelings agree with you, Colonel, but I can’t go by them. I have to follow procedure.”
Jack sighed. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. It was Lieutenant Pederson.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, General. Colonel.”
“What is it, Lieutenant,” Hammond asked.
“Sir, I’ve checked the log and there’s no recovery of the camera.”
Hammond stared at him in confusion. “What camera?” Hammond asked.
“Sonofabitch!” Jack said, hitting his forehead with the heel of his hand.
“Sorry, sir, but I forgot.”
“Major Coburn said he wanted to film what was going on for evidence,” Pederson said.
“Where’d he put it, Lieutenant?” Jack asked.
“I have no idea. Carmichael borrowed one from a friend in the science division. Security cameras for that row are out of order and I think that’s what the perps were using against us. Major Coburn said he overheard someone plotting to take out Colonel O’Neill. He wanted to film them in the act. He and Carmichael took two radios and headed for the surface. He wanted to make sure he got proof before Cari … er, Carmichael sounded the Security alarm. Which she did. So, in my opinion, they found proof. The fact that Bradley is saying otherwise, and there’s an investigation, says to me that the camera hasn’t been recovered.”
“Did Major Coburn say who the perpetrators were?” Hammond asked.
“SG-22. But he wouldn’t make the accusation official until he had proof.”
“Smart man,” Hammond said.
“We need that camera,” Jack said. “I’ll need to go up top to search for it.”
“Can’t go up until it’s been cleared, Colonel,” Hammond said.
“Then have the EOD boys look for it,” Jack suggested.
Hammond nodded. “Pederson, pass along the message. I’ll need your written report and statement from you later.”
“Sir, if it helps, I can vouch for Sergeant Carmichael and Major Coburn.”
“Do so in a separate statement, Lieutenant. Make the call.”
“Yes, sir.” He handed Hammond a stack of papers. “As for the report and statement, it’s already done.”
“Thank you, airman.”
“Have you heard anything yet on Sergeant Carmichael or Major Coburn?”
“No word yet, Lieutenant,” Jack answered. “Find that damn camera.”
“Yes, sir.” The man left. The minute that camera was found, Jack planned on shoving a copy of the film down Bradley’s throat.
It took a few more hours of waiting, with a nurse popping out every once in a while to update that things were progressing well. Finally, Janet and Warner emerged, removing their masks, and looking quite tired. Everyone sitting was on their feet except Daniel. Janet looked down at him, noting the redness.
“Doc?” Jack asked.
“He’ll be fine,” she told him. “He’s not out of the woods but he’s stable. The knife nicked his liver. With rest and rehab, he’ll make a full recovery in a month or so.”
“And Cari?” Daniel asked as Jack helped him to his feet.
“Sergeant Carmichael got the worst end of it and she’ll need longer rehabilitation. The bullet perforated her lower intestine and we had to repair a lot of damage. Neither will be in any shape to give their statements for at least forty-eight hours, so I order all of you get some sleep.”
“Goes for you both as well, Doctor,” Jack said. “I’ll tell Hammond.”
If it weren’t for Jason being surrounded by medical personnel over the next ten hours, Daniel would have snuck his way into ICU to be with him, but Janet and Hammond were right. He needed sleep. Trouble was, he didn’t know if he could. In his quarters, he sat on the edge of his bunk, staring at nothing, and absently noted Jack’s presence as he entered and closed the door. He walked tiredly over to the stiff figure of his lover and sat down next to him. Daniel didn’t bother to look up; he stared at his hands hanging limply between his knees and Jack recognized the body language.
“He’ll be fine.” Daniel nodded, as if expected to. “Did you hear me?”
“C’mere,” Jack said, and Daniel collapsed into him, turning his face to Jack’s chest, his lips brushing Jack’s dog tags. He inhaled deeply but said nothing.
“I feel numb.”
“I’ll have a fit later. They find the camera yet?”
“I don’t know.”
“Go get some sleep,” Daniel said, pulling away. “Thanks for the hug though.”
“Okay, but come get me. Or I’ll come get you.”
He left and Daniel found a tiny smile because what Jack said made no sense. Or … did he. Maybe they just needed some slee …
Janet knocked on Daniel’s door and waited. A moment later, Daniel opened the door, sleepy-eyed, but the moment he saw Janet, his heart started to hammer.
“He’s out of ICU, so you can go see him.”
“Is he awake?”
“Isn’t that bad?”
“No. He lost a lot of blood. Even with the transfusions, it’ll take time. He’s basically sleeping off the repair work his body is doing. He’s in rem sleep though, not just unconscious, so relax. He’ll wake up in a few hours.”
Jack found Daniel in Jason’s recovery room, sitting in a chair by the bed, snoozing. He grinned sadly, then tapped him on the arm. “Daniel.”
“Hmm?” Then Daniel sat up straight, alarmed. “What?”
“Shh,” Jack said. He held up the camera. “Let’s go show this to Hammond.”
Daniel got up, wobbled, then got his bearings and followed Jack out of the infirmary. In the elevator, he asked, “You look at it yet?”
“No. Not yet.”
“Because I’m afraid of what I’ll do. I need people around.”
Jack got on the phone in the elevator. “Sir. I have the camera. Could you meet us in Carter’s lab? She’s got the bigger viewscreen that takes this sort of recording.” He nodded. “Yes, sir.” He hung up and pressed the Level 19 button.
“Sam’s?” Daniel asked. “Jack, the briefing room—”
“Is public,” Jack said, clenching his jaw. “I don’t want anyone but us, Hammond, Carter, and Teal’c to see this first.”
“Why? Security will need—”
“Yes, but I want us to see it first.”
He had been looking away from Daniel, staring straight ahead, but now he turned his gaze to him. Daniel saw the raw emotion there. “What’re you afraid of seeing?” he asked quietly.
“Everything,” Jack answered just as quietly. “But that isn’t the point. I’ll tell you when we get there.”
Knocking on her lab door, they found Sam tinkering with something and she suddenly threw a silver somethingorother across the room.
Jack and Daniel came to a halt.
She whipped her head around, eyes wide, then sagged. “Sorry, sir. I’m pissed off. I’m trying to fight off the urge to go beat the shit out of someone.”
“Bradley?” Daniel guessed.
“Keeping busy in the meantime?” Jack asked.
“Trying,” she answered, sitting up straighter as he walked over. “How’re you two doing?”
“About as you’d expect,” Daniel said darkly.
She nodded, then her eyes widened when she saw what Jack was holding. “Is that?”
“Yeah. Listen, can you make a quick copy of this recording?” he asked, ejecting it from the camcorder.
“Oh,” Daniel said. “That’s why Sam’s lab and not the briefing room.” Jack nodded.
“Where do I copy it?” Sam asked, taking the flash card.
“Your computer, and then make several backups.”
“Why? Are you afraid this will get tampered with?”
“Those men got on this base with help, Carter. A senator. Maybe Kinsey. Or someone with his mindset that hates my guts. We need to make sure whoever did that doesn’t get a hold of the only copy of the incriminating evidence. After you make the copies, we’ll play back the record. The investigations team should be here soon to clear Jason and Carmichael.”
“Has Hammond seen the film?”
“No. He’s on his way here.”
“Crap,” she said.
“You need more time?” he asked.
“No, no.” She pulled up a few windows on the computer, then inserted the card into a slot on a computer peripheral. She pulled up a few windows and began to copy. “We can play it back while it’s copying,” she said, and pulled up the software to hide the copying windows.
“Where’s Te—” Jack began, but the Jaffa just walked in. “Where were you?”
“Infirmary. Trying to devise a way to get Sergeant Bradley to talk.”
Hammond entered. “Okay, Colonel. What’ve we got?”
“Let’s find out,” Jack said. “Carter.”
Sam clicked ‘play’. The camera wobbled as it caught four men by Jack’s truck. Jason’s voice said, “We are watching members of SG-22 by the vehicle of Colonel Jack O’Neill.”
When the object was placed under Jack’s truck, Jason and Carmichael revealed themselves and Cari set off the alarm system for a lockdown. According to the SF, Jason had set it down on the ground by a concrete pillar. What it captured next were the lower halves of the bodies of everyone involved. It caught Jason’s moves, and gunfire. It showed Jason moving to the left and a glint of metal whizzing by.
Jack and Daniel blanched at Jason’s wincing face as the knife pierced his back and he slumped to the ground. Just barely in view, Carmichael was heard dispatching the others before she was taken down.
Silence filled the room as Janet’s team showed up, then left, then more Security showed up, then left. Sam forwarded the rest of the recording, including the fast-moving MOD and then nothing but empty garage.
“That appears to be all of it, sir,” she said as the recording ended. She handed the digital card to Hammond. He nodded, still in shock, like everyone else, and left the room.
“These men were extremely stupid,” Jack said, chewing at his lip. “I mean. All of them gathering around my truck. Might as well have had a neon sign that said ‘Criminal Activity Here’.” He turned to say something to Daniel, but he was gone. “Where’d Daniel go?” he asked Teal’c.
“He left the lab right after Major Coburn was knifed.”
“He wouldn’t do something stupid, would he?” he asked the two. When they stared back, unable to say No, he grimaced and ran out of the lab with Sam and Teal’c on his heels.
Daniel wanted to do several things to Bradley to make him talk. He may want to inflict some pain, but torture wasn’t his way. Besides, a person will say anything, do anything, just to make the pain stop. No, he had to do things his way. He was supposedly good with words. Supposedly good with diplomacy. And for some reason, he could get almost anyone to talk to him. However, normal communication wasn’t going to be easy. Daniel had a feeling that this guy was spewing accusations, including the homophobic kind, because he was scared. Most particularly, he was ashamed. He also knew that Bradley wouldn’t confess to him. So, time to play head games.
He nodded to the SFs on duty outside Bradley’s room. “May I see him?” he asked. “I’d like to get a statement.” He held up his pocket-sized tape recorder, but he made sure Bradley couldn’t see it. The man’s private room didn’t have a door.
“Sorry, Doctor Jackson,” one of them said.
Daniel caught Bradley’s gaze and raised his brows. At the same time, he put his hands behind his back and pushed ‘play’ on the recorder. “You mind?” he asked Bradley.
The man eyed him. “Let him in,” Bradley said from his bed.
“We have to search you,” one of the SFs said.
“Okay.” They did so, and once finished, they nodded that he was cleared. “Listen,” Daniel said, lowering his voice slightly, but not enough so Bradley couldn’t hear. He did it to make the SFs think he needed their help. “Could you guys step in as witnesses, just to make sure he can’t say I threatened him?”
“Sure thing,” one SF said.
Daniel walked in after they flanked the threshold from the inside. He stopped at the bed’s midpoint. From Bradley’s hips on up to his head, there were guard rails, and his wrist was handcuffed to the right one. The bed’s head was also raised so that he reclined at a forty-five degree angle.
“How’s your head?” Daniel asked, keeping his tone calm.
“Your boyfriend kicks hard.”
Daniel smiled. “Yeah, he does. I’d tell you I was sorry, but you and your friends tried to kill him.”
Bradley raised his brows. “You don’t … you’re not denying it.”
“Boyfriend,” Bradley said, saying it as if it was something that soiled his mouth.
Daniel leaned in a little. “Why bring orientation into your accusations? Isn’t that enough?”
Bradley ground his jaw. “You’re a fag. He’s a fag. Needs to be said. Question is, why aren’t you denying it?”
“No point,” Daniel said with a shrug, and he leaned toward him again and said in a loud, conspiratorial whisper, “I’m surprised it took you guys this long.”
“Fuck you talking about?”
“Bradley,” Daniel said, as if the man was thick. “The entire base is gay. Didn’t you know that?” He didn’t look to see if the SFs were smiling, but Bradley did. His expression didn’t reveal anything. “So yeah,” Daniel went on. “I’ve lots of boyfriends. So does Jack. So does Jason. We all share.” At Bradley’s scowl, he said, “What? We get bored.”
“Yeah, go ahead, make fun. Doesn’t erase the fact that—”
“Fact?” Daniel said, cutting him off. “Fact?” He rolled his eyes. “Find another word.”
“Doesn’t erase what you are,” Bradley side-stepped.
“Oh,” Daniel said, pushing out his bottom lip a little to imitate a pouting child. “Oh damn. You can’t even admit it to yourself. I’m so sorry. Denial must be killing you.”
“What the fuck are you ta—”
“The fact I’m referring to is what happened this morning in the locker room.” He waited a beat as Bradley scowled at him. “You remember.”
“Remember what?” Bradley snapped.
Daniel sighed, glanced at the SFs, then leaned in again. “I saw you.”
“Saw … what?” His scowl turned into a puzzled version.
“You were watching my ass. I’d just come out of the shower and was heading to my locker. Remember? You were quite obviously, and stupidly, looking at my ass.” He waited another beat as Bradley sputtered. “I’m kinda flattered, to be honest, but you’re not my type. And here’s a healthy piece of advice so pay attention …”
Bradley finally managed to spit out, “I am not a fag, you disgusting piece of—”
“Bradley!” Daniel said, diverting his intended slur. “Listen!” He lowered his voice. “If you want to indulge your voyeurism kink, you’re gonna have to be a bit more circumspect.” This time, Daniel looked at the SFs. They tried to look like they weren’t amused, but their eyes gave them away.
“You sonofabitch,” Bradley said thought gritted teeth, then to the SFs, he said, “He’s lying! Don’t listen to him!”
Daniel lifted his chin. “No, you listen, Sergeant. I know what it’s like to be bullied. You go along to get along, just so you don’t get beaten down. But to cast suspicion on an innocent party? That’s just low. How can you lash out like that and think yourself honorable?”
“I’m not lashing out!” Bradley exclaimed. “Your fuck buddy and his whore—”
“Oh my god!” Daniel exclaimed, cutting him off. “Would you make up your mind!”
Bradley blinked. “What?”
“His whore? You’ve accused Jason of being gay, as if that’s a crime. Point is, how can he have a whore if he’s gay?”
“Fine, not a whore. But they trapped—”
“No!” Daniel called out, drawing out the word. “We have you guys on video tape. Jason and Cari were filming you.” He glanced at the SFs, who looked just a bit startled and Daniel nodded to them. “General Hammond’s got the evidence right now.” He turned back to Bradley. “So. Let’s start again. Without all the name-calling. Why didn’t you come to us?”
“You don’t understand,” Bradley said quietly.
“Jack would,” Daniel said. “Hammond would. Don’t you know how many times the two of them have had people trying to screw them over? There’s a list. Seriously. A list. Assholes don’t succeed because they’re stupid. Plus, we have friends in high places, too, and half of them aren’t even on this planet.” Bradley didn’t say anything. Daniel added, “We can get you sent offworld, you know.”
“That’s enough, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond said.
He was standing the doorway and Daniel berated himself for having turned his peripheral vision out of the lateral sight line. How long had he been standing there?
“Just trying to help, sir.” He clicked off his tape recorder and slid it in his pocket. He’d play it for Jason and Jack later.
“I understand. But we’ll take it from here.”
“Yes, sir.” He was happy with what he’d managed to do. All that mattered was that the SFs had been there, listening to him make fun of the accusations that had come pouring out this bastard’s mouth. He’d properly diffused the situation, and they’d spread the word. The end result being that Bradley’s word didn’t mean shit. The only problem Daniel could see going forward was that the people who wanted to believe the gossip would continue to do so. All because society had been brainwashed to believe that being gay was something to fear.
Jason’s Team Has A Problem
Daniel changed into his civilian clothes and drove out of the mountain, heading for Jason’s apartment. He used his key and assembled some ‘hospital’ clothes, including underwear. Just some t-shirts and shorts to wear while being stuck in bed. Also in the bag was a nicer t-shirt and his favorite jeans. He didn’t bring Jason normal shoes. He stopped off at the local shoe store and grabbed him some slip-on fabric loafers, designed for lounging around the house. They were barely a step up from being slippers.
When he returned to the infirmary wing where Jason was recovering, he went over to Sam and Teal’c while they sat in the waiting room. She had a laptop in front of her and Teal’c was reading. Sitting on the other side of the room, as if they were somehow separated from those others who cared about Jason, were the man’s teammates. Daniel frowned, a little puzzled, and dropped the duffle by the door. Along with the clothes, it also contained books he’d grabbed off his bookshelf, plus the one by his bed. Something called Cult Thinking.
“How’s Jason?” he asked, and noted how one of Jason’s teammates, his 2IC, Captain Alex Wagner, was frowning at the duffle bag. What was that about?
“Awake,” Sam said. “The Colonel and General Hammond are in there with him.”
“Right,” Daniel said, and looked over at the other members of SG-2. “How’re you guys doing?”
“We’re a mess,” said Sergeant Connor McCaffrey.
Daniel nodded, giving them a sympathetic and pained smile, but then it changed to puzzlement because Alex was scrutinizing him, and the look wasn’t cordial. Alex was your basic Teutonic type, with blond hair and angular facial features. His eyes were brown instead of blue, and he had a bow-curved upper lip that was almost chiseled, and it let a person know what he was feeling. Daniel read disapproval in the thin line.
“What is it?” he asked the man.
“That’s Jason’s duffle bag,” Alex said.
Daniel frowned. The duffle was black, not green, and it had travel stickers on it that had the names of planets, not Earth cities. One of them, however, said ‘Atlantis’. With these particular tags, it was easy to tell who it belonged to. “Yeah, it is. Why? What’s the matter?”
“You have a key to his apartment,” Alex said, and it sounded like an accusation, not a mere observation.
“And?” Daniel asked.
Daniel frowned at him, then spoke slowly, as if the information he was giving him were something any idiot would know. “Because he’s my Best Friend, Alex.”
“I thought that was Colonel O’Neill,” Alex stated, his voice getting a bit edgier.
Sam and Teal’c stopped what they were doing and leveled their gazes on Alex like laser sights. Daniel would have found that description amusing were it not for the reason. Things were not back to normal. Or what passed for normal anyway. And not as far as SG-2 was concerned.
Sergeant Connor McCaffrey laid a hand on Alex’s arm, silently asking his Second-in-Command to calm down but the Captain shrugged it off. Connor gave him a scowl. He was fully Irish, and had the Celtic strain from Northern Scotland instead of an Ionic strain from western Europe: reddish-brown hair, very fair skin, and green eyes that had a distinct ring of brown around them. He didn’t have freckles, but Daniel would lay a bet they’d been there when he was a kid and would sort of show up when his face was tanned. If it tanned.
“Captain,” he began but Alex ignored him.
Daniel had hoped that Connor would have calmed Alex down, but he push. He let Alex behave like an idiot. Daniel, on the other hand, was in no mood for coddling behavior. “Haven’t you ever had two best friends, Alex?” he asked, keeping his tone civil.
“Maybe,” Alex replied evasively.
“Maybe,” Daniel repeated, sarcastically. To his surprise, he was growing angry. He had to tamp down on it or managing this problem would backfire. Except, what came out of his mouth was …
“Well, maybe you want to back off. Maybe there’s absolutely zero reason for you to be judging Jason’s friendships.” Daniel then purposely walked over to the man and crossed his arms. Alex got to his feet.
“Daniel, what’re you doing?” Sam asked as she and Teal’c got to their feet.
Connor and Lieutenant Al Kaufman also got to their feet.
“Communicating ineffectually,” Daniel said sarcastically. To Alex, he said, “Why are you making a big deal out of it?”
“Maybe we should discuss this with Major Coburn,” Alex suggested.
“Discuss what exactly?” Daniel asked. Alex didn’t reply. He seemed to thinking over his next words. At least, that’s what he hoped he was doing. “The fact that I have a key? Or the fact that you’re taking what Bradley said out on anyone Jason cares about?”
“No, I’m not,” Alex denied.
“Then why is there a problem?”
“There isn’t,” Alex said. “It’s just …” Alex was literally startled when Al Kaufman laid a hand on his shoulder. The dark-haired man cocked an eyebrow.
“You might wanna take a deep breath,” he advised.
Daniel noticed the squeeze of his fingers on Alex’s shoulder. A warning. Maybe Al was telling Alex he wasn’t going to win the argument. The man had wavy, dark brown hair with lighter brown eyes. His skin was pale but there was an underlying tan that was waiting for more sun. Except the pale skin said he wasn’t a sun lover. Al’s Jewish heritage said he should have been—in Daniel’s anthro-tinged opinion. Coming from an arid region, his ancestors should have been darker complexioned. And they weren’t. It told Daniel that he was from the European strain of Jews.
Jason had once told him that Al, the guy usually in charge of security as well as combat tactics, had been assigned to SG-2 because Jason liked his binary mind. He saw patterns in everything. Useful when helping Connor with an attempt at deciphering a code. It came in handy, and was a tool they found useful more often than Jason would have thought.
Despite the tension at the moment, Daniel rather liked Jason’s teammates. He just didn’t like Alex’s attitude at the moment. Understandably, he didn’t like the rumors that Bradley had spread about Daniel and Jason. Neither did Daniel, but possibly not for the same reason. The fact that the rumor was true was beside the point. What was pertinent, to Daniel, was that the rumor was being used as a slur, and it pissed him off. He knew it made Jack just as angry, but the man was more used to the auto-reflex of denial and to go along with the sneers and jeers. Daniel couldn’t wait for the fucking laws to change. Sooner or later, they would. But would they still be at the SGC if they openly declared they were bisexual? Or in Jason’s case, gay?
His thoughts were interrupted when Jason’s infirmary door opened and Jack and Hammond exited. “He wants to see you,” Jack told him as Hammond disappeared with several papers in hand.
“He give his statement?” Daniel asked.
“Yep. All stuff’s settled,” Jack said happily.
“Not quite,” Daniel said, his tone made of steel.
Jack arched a brow. “What’s up?”
“Daniel?” Jason called. “Get in here!”
Daniel gave Jack one of those looks that said, ‘Just a sec’. “Hang on, Jace,” Daniel called back. He turned to Jason’s teammates and gestured that they follow him in the room. As they filed in, Daniel came last, and he paused in the doorway. Jason was giving him that “What the hell?” face. Daniel grabbed the door handle and said, “You need to have a talk with your boys. I’ll wait out here.”
“What?” Jason asked.
Daniel shut the door and was momentarily smug when he heard Jason say, “Okay, what the fuck is going on?”
“Daniel?” Jack asked.
“It seems that Alex doesn’t like that I have Jason’s keys. That I can freely come and go in his apartment. He particularly hated that I brought Jason a duffle filled with clothes and stuff to keep him occupied while he’s stuck here.”
Jack frowned, and it wasn’t one that said he was confused. It said, Is it time to get pissed off at someone and kick their head in? “So … what?” he asked. “Are you saying he hates that Jason has a best friend?”
“Apparently,” Daniel said, “I think it’s possessiveness. I hope Jason gives him a boot in the ass.”
Jack grunted and said nothing.
“Not to mention the fact,” Daniel went on, “that they’re all allowing themselves to be upset over that rumor Bradley is spreading about me and Jason.” He curled his upper lip in disgust. “You know what that means?” Jack’s expression became a mirror image.
“What?” Sam asked.
“He’s making our relationship into a negative, as if it’s perverted or a crime.” Daniel suddenly started to lose his temper, but he kept his voice low so it wouldn’t carry. “Fucking homophobic people around here, man. I am so goddamn sick of this DADT and other horseshit! When the fuck are they going to accept …” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Still closed, he said, “I need to go hit something.” He crossed his arms instead and leaned against the wall next to Jack. His hands curled into fists and it felt as if he’d deck the next person who made a nasty comment about Jason.
“Daniel?” Jack said.
“Jason doesn’t know about the other shit Bradley’s been saying. I didn’t have time to tell him.”
“Crap,” Daniel said, looking at the closed door to Jason’s room. “He’s gonna be pissed.”
After Jason asked his question, he waited. His teammates said nothing. So, it was time for a process of elimination. First, they were worried. Not a problem there. Second, they were overprotective. Not a problem there, either. So what the hell was the problem?
“What’s going on?” he prompted. “Why’re you upset?”
“We’re not upset, exactly,” Connor said, eyeing Alex. “It’s the Captain. He and Daniel got into it.”
“What for?” Jason asked, scowling.
“Over Bradley’s accusations,” Al said.
“So? That’s cleared up and … wait. Accusations. Plural. Hammond never said anything and neither did O’Neill. So what else is there?”
When it was clear that Alex wasn’t going to explain, Connor sighed with exasperation. “You know that Rogers and Bradley and the others were … spreading rumors?”
Jason frowned. “About Daniel and O’Neill, yes. That’s part of what I said in my report. So? So what? I heard all about his trying to lay blame on me and Carmichael. That’s sorted out.”
“Bradley’s in a room down another hall,” Al said. “Has a concussion.”
Jason grunted. “Good. And?”
“And he’s been spreading lies about you and Doctor Jackson,” Connor said.
Jason frowned, the impact of what they were saying finally seeping into his fogged brain. Bradley was spreading the truth, and it wasn’t a big deal to Jason because no one was going to believe … He looked at his teammates and their worried expressions. But Alex was far more than worried. “I see.” He stared at the ceiling. Bradley’s ‘accusation’ was turning a non-situation into a threatening accusation: being gay was ‘bad’ and as such, considered a fucking ‘crime’. Which in Jason’s mind meant the military was violating the constitution by ignoring the First Amendment. You shall not make laws based on religious views.
But more to the point, his teammates seemed to be concerned about Jason’s reputation. But were they more than that? They’d never had the opportunity to discuss being gay or straight or bi or anything else. He had no idea if they felt being gay meant you got ostracized. Or if it meant you deserved to go to hell. Or, at worst, you deserved to die.
So again, what were they worried about? That they’d lose their commander if anyone took the rumor seriously? Or if they didn’t want their commander to be their commander.
Of all the things to consider, Jason would have chosen the first option. But. Daniel had given him a look. Which meant what? Were they afraid he was gay? Afraid for his life or his career or that he should burn in hell? Which was stupid because there was no such thing.
So now they had to have the talk and ignore DADT: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Jason hated that reg. It forced men to lie. To dishonor themselves. Those who demanded strict adherence to DADT were therefore untrustworthy to a point—depending on the person. Hammond, for example. He was trustworthy, but only to a point, and Jason hated that Hammond too was forced into that position. So. It was one of two options, and either way, he had to lie. Well, not lie. He would neither confirm nor deny. Which was the cheater’s version of a lie. Another dishonor. What he had to discover right now which way his men were going to be: one said to give them a bit of trust and hoped they earned it. The other was to issue transfer requests for these men he thought he could trust.
Jason studied his people. McCaffrey looked worried. Al looked guilty. And Alex looked … belligerent. And accusatory. Fuck. “Okay,” he said. “So. Time for the talk.”
“It’s not a big—” Alex began.
“Shut. Up.” Jason said it simply, stoically, and raised his voice just a tiny bit. They way you would when you needed to talk over someone as you interrupted them. The response was a mutinous look from his 2IC. Not argumentative. Mutinous. Jason narrowed his eyes. “Do you want to be busted down to Second Lieutenant, Captain Wagner?”
Alex blanched. “What? No, sir!”
“Then get that treasonous look off your face. Or I start yelling what needs to be private.” One thing Jason had made clear a long time ago was that whatever strife was had between team members, they would keep it in-house. Now he was threatening to violate that agreement, which meant he was fucking serious.
Alex mutely nodded, looking aggrieved and properly chastised. It was plain that he didn’t like it, but the mutinous look was off his face.
“Now. I have a question,” Jason went on, keeping his tone no-nonsense but mild in volume. “Do I need to tell you boys whether or not I’m gay, and if I’m fucking Doctor Daniel Jackson?” The blatant, in-your-face question startled his teammates, which is what he wanted. Jason waited a few heartbeats, then said, “Or, do I need to tell you that I’m straight and fucking a bunch of whores in Nevada?”
Again, they were startled. To Jason, that second question was less of a shock. Or rather, it had less impact. He was saddened to see it on the faces of the men he trusted to have his back. “I don’t want an answer,” he told them. He waited, watching them for two seconds, before saying, “I need an answer.”
“No matter how our answer is phrased?” Connor asked.
Jason nodded. “I don’t care what you say. I want you to be honest with me.”
“Then, no,” Connor said, raising his chin. “I don’t want or need you to answer either question. You’re my commander and my friend. We have a bond. I watch your back, you watch mine. We have our opinions, we have our own minds. But we keep each other safe. So, with that out of the way, who you love, or fuck, is none of my business, just as it’s none of yours about my relationship with my wife. What I don’t like is Bradley trying to get you into trouble.”
Jason nodded, giving him a tight smile. “Appreciated.” He looked at Al and Alex and waited.
Al twisted his mouth in thought as he looked at the floor. “I agree with Connor. I have a religion which says being gay is a sin.” He rolled his eyes. “But every single Jew and Christian leader ignores every other so-called abomination because they’re antiquated and obsolete. So it should be with being gay. To use it as an excuse to hate is offensive to me.” He paused, then looked Jason in the eye. “I don’t like DADT. It’s a dishonorable thing to force people to lie because of that outdated bullshit. And …” He frowned. “If you are gay …” He shrugged. “No need for me to be a dick about it. I don’t care. However, I’m wondering if it’s something we should know in order to protect you.”
Jason stared at them both, and his worry about their faith in him made him feel ashamed. But when someone found out that someone else was gay, normally upstanding men and women could turn into monsters. The shame didn’t last long because his worry was justified. “Appreciated,” he repeated to Al. Now, it was Alex’s turn. He seemed to dig his heels in, metaphorically speaking. His jaw was stubborn. “Okay, Alex. Captain Wagner. Are you going to have my back, or will you turn on me? And get that look of outrage off your face right now. I know that family of yours taught you a lot of bad thinking, and you never bought into any of it. But there are still some knee-jerk reactions. So, are you going to conquer them or acquiesce?”
“I won’t turn on you,” Alex said after a silent minute. He kept grinding his jaw. “But … can we drop the ranks?”
“For fuck’s sake, Jason,” Alex said quietly. “If you’re gay, why the fuck didn’t you tell us so that when some dumbfuck comes along to threaten you, we can easily and quickly make sure you’re safe?”
“By cowtowing to the weak-minded who’ll believe anything anyone says the moment ‘gay’ or ‘fag’ is in the rumor?” Jason asked, sarcastically.
“We have no fucking choice, and you know it. My sister’s girlfriend got booted because she turned down the wrong guy and he went around telling people she was a lesbian. Hearsay gets people canned. It ain’t fair, but that’s the world we work and live in. So, if you’re gay, fucking tell us.”
“Jason, don’t say a word,” Connor said. To Alex, he went on and said, “He doesn’t have to.” He scowling at him ferociously. “For the same reason you don’t have to tell him who you’re fucking.”
“Are you into golden showers?” Al asked, abruptly shocking everyone by the suddenness. “Have a penchant for BDSM? Like to get spanked?”
“Exactly,” Connor said, nodding a thank you at Al. “Alex, we don’t need to know each other’s personal business. Period.”
Alex frowned back. It was clear to Jason that he’d started to get angry, but then that umbrage had cooled the moment Al made his point. Now the frown denoted thoughtfulness. “Okay. I see what you’re saying.” He gave Jason a pleading look, however. “But, fuck. I can’t get it out of my head that you should’ve told us. If you are, I mean. I think we need to have all the info we need in order to … have each other’s backs.” He glanced at Connor and Al and cleared his throat before turning back to Jason. “For example, if one of us decided to smoke some pot, we’d have to tell you, wouldn’t we? Just to make sure our asses were covered and you wouldn’t be hit with a shock?”
Jason considered the question, but shook his head. “No.”
“Alex, I don’t give a shit what any of you do recreationally. What I give a shit about is if you have an addiction and you need help. Then you need to come clean and let me get you help. But Alex, you’re acting as if being gay is the same thing as smoking pot. It’s not. You can’t love a plant. It’s a thing. Do you see the difference?”
“Yeah,” Alex said, sighing.
“Now, that said. I have problems with any drug that’s addictive, including prescription pain killers. Addiction causes problems because they compromise you. One, physically. Two, you can be blackmailed. That also said, being gay can be used against you if you’re afraid of being kicked out of the service. But that threat won’t work on me. And that’s all I’m going to say on that.”
The group was quiet for a very long half-minute.
“Now. Let’s talk about Daniel.” His teammates raised their eyebrows. “Daniel and I have a close friendship. Been that way since Kheb. He also has a close friendship with Colonel O’Neill, and I’m coming to know him well, too. Does having a close friendship mean we’re all sleeping together?” To his relief, and slight guilt, his teammates snorted with incredulity. “So. We good?” He received nods. “Okay. Now, send my boyfriends in here.” That made them laugh. It made him, however, sad.
“Heads up,” Jack said as Jason’s team emerged from his hospital room. They seemed … relieved. Alex walked over to Daniel as Al and Connor kept going down the hall.
“I’m sorry, Daniel. I didn’t mean any disrespect. Neither did Al and Connor. We were just upset about his attack.” He nodded to Jack, then hurried off to join his teammates.
Daniel chewed at his lip. “Well, at least Jason wasn’t yelling.” Jack snorted as the both of them entered the infirmary room.
Jason was feeling a bit of pain as Daniel and Jack walked in, and as they surrounded him, he wanted very much to grab their hands and absorb their strength. He held out his hands and watched their amused expressions as they took his hands. He closed his eyes and sighed.
“What’re you doing?” Jack asked.
“Absorbing energy,” Jason said, keeping his eyes closed. “Eastern philosophy calls it Chi. Teal’c calls it manwa.”
“He does?” Jack asked, surprised.
“Yep. Now wait.”
The two men looked at each other as their lover breathed deeply for about thirty seconds. He opened his eyes as well as his hands. “Okay, you can let go, in case someone comes in and screams about fags and other fucking horseshit.”
“Hmm,” Jack said. “How’d the talk with your boys go?”
“Everything’s copasetic,” Jason said, with a roll of his eyes. “I swear, sometimes …”
“How’d it actually go?” Daniel asked. Jason raised his brows. “I mean, how’d the talk go?”
Jason sighed. “I explained that being gay didn’t mean shit. And I don’t owe them an answer. They said it’s not a big deal if I am gay. I accepted that answer and now we’re okay.”
“Just like that?” Daniel asked.
“Just like that.”
“Seriously?” Jack added.
Jason grimaced and nodded. “You’re in pain,” Daniel said.
“I just pushed the pain button.”
Daniel nodded. “I sent them in here first because Alex seemed to be offended by the accusation, and it really pisses me off that it’s called an accusation.”
“I know. Alex tends to shoot from the hip. React first, think later. He doesn’t really have a phobic bone in his body and he’s like the others who’re fairly decent guys. It’s that phobic shit drilled into him and he needs a lot of repeated education to deprogram that crap. I’ll handle him.”
“Well, he apologized at least,” Daniel told him.
“Now all you need to worry about is healing,” Daniel said. He leaned over, brushing Jason’s hair out of his eyes, using it as an excuse to touch his face. He blinked slowly and Jason blinked back. It was a thing they’d developed to silently say I love you. Jack wasn’t into doing it. Yet.
“Would it be too much if I said I love you right now?” Daniel whispered.
“No. Because I love you back, both of you,” Jason whispered in return, then coughed and winced in pain. “Shit.” Jack handed Daniel the water cup filled with ice chips and Daniel gave Jason a few. “Dammit. I was hungry, but now my stomach has taken a backseat. I need Janet to increase the morphine.”
“You’ll be asleep all the time,” Jack warned.
“I don’t care. Sleep heals.”
“Okay. I’ll go get—”
“No, wait till I’m finished with this current crap?”
“Okay,” Daniel said, and without prompting, took Jason’s hand again.
Jason gave him an appreciative smile, but it soon faded. “Jack, about Rogers.”
“Yeah?” Jack asked, frowning a bit. “There’s—”
“Wait a sec before you go on. I saw his name on your clipboard when they were checking in on Level 11 this morning. There was something about him I did not like but I let it go, telling myself I was probably being resistant. You know how we get about newbies. Whoever sent him here used whatever it was that prick had against you as a means to an end. I don’t know what it is but it’s bad. We need to tighten up security and triple-check the psych evals. Hell, I’d just as soon have the FBI send us a profiler but those guys operate on rotation, so that won’t work.”
Daniel snorted, but Jack was absently nodding. “I’ve pissed off a lot of people in my time in the service. I saw his name on the roster and it pissed me off. He was given a waiver to be here.”
“A waiver?” Daniel asked.
“I knew that rat bastard knew people,” Jason seethed.
“He must’ve sucked off the right people,” Jack said.
“Jack,” Daniel said, eyes wide.
“What? Oh, sorry, Daniel. Paid off the right people.”
“I didn’t mind what you said,” Daniel told him. “I was just surprised, that’s all.”
Jack simply jogged his brows in acceptance. “Anyway, I was planning on keeping tabs on the asshole. Not necessary anymore.”
“So what happened between you two?” Jason asked.
“He’s a self-hating homophobe,” Jack said. Their eyes widened. “Yeah. We had a covert mission several years ago. He came on to me. I rejected him. He had a hissy fit and threatened me. Said sooner or later I would get my payback. I told him …” Jack paused. “I wasn’t very nice.”
Daniel snorted and looked at Jason. “That’s Jack-Speak for ‘I was a total dick’.”
“You know me so well,” Jack said sarcastically.
“What’d you say?” Jason asked.
“Told him to go kill himself.”
Daniel’s mouth dropped open. “I didn’t see that coming.”
“I can imagine saying the same thing,” Jason nodded.
Daniel turned to him. “Jason.”
“What?” Jason asked. “The man’s a liability to anyone in the field. That reaction to getting dumped means he’d be like that to perceived and imagined slights. He’d get people killed. Better to kill himself off first. A man like that wouldn’t quit the service. He’d be forced out.” He gave Jack a look. “Didn’t end there, did it?”
“Nope. I said that after he threw a punch and I put him on his ass, embarrassing him in front of a few of the locals. When we finally went out on the Op, he didn’t do what I told him to do and as a result that put our lives in danger and one man died. I wrote him up and he was reprimanded and sent somewhere. Before he left, he threatened me and I said … what I said.”
Jack paused, taking a sip of Jason’s water, then put his hands in his pockets and stared down at the bed.
“Anyway, I called Major Davis, as our Pentagon Liaison, to find out who sent that shithead here but he couldn’t dig up anything. Whoever sent Rogers and that team here faked the psych evals, I’m sure of it. What that means is that yours truly gets to screen all newbie files from now on. Won’t that be fun.”
“We need a thoroughly vetted psychologist,” Jason said soberly.
“Maybe you can help Jack out with the screening?” Daniel suggested.
As Jason grunted, Jack looked confused. “Why Jason?”
“Because he’s studying psychology.”
“Trying for a Masters, actually, and it’s taking forever. But I don’t want the job, Daniel. Jack doesn’t either.”
“I don’t?” Jack asked, smirking.
“No, you don’t. But you’ll be good at it. For when you have time.” He grinned. “If you need help, however, just ask.”
“I plan to,” Jack answered through a grin.
“One more problem, Jack.”
“Rogers knew things. Which meant he was informed, whether by sources here or from visitors.”
“I figured. But it also could have been Kinsey using his nifty imagination. The bastard thinks he knows everything after a few visits.”
“True.” Jason then added, “Jack, Bradley did try to defend you but his fear made him do stupid things.”
“Aiding in the commission of a terrorist act isn’t a ‘stupid thing’, Jason.”
“I went to see him,” Daniel said, having waited long enough.
Jack and Jason stared at him. “Why?” Jason asked.
At the same time, Jack said, “What?”
Daniel couldn’t help but grin as he pulled out the tape recorder. “And I thought you two would enjoy hearing what happened. In essence, and in front of two SFs, I diffused his bullshit.”
After the tape was played, Jack and Jason burst out laughing. When they calmed down, Jack gave Daniel an admiring look. “Remind me to bring you along the next time we have alien visitors making themselves a pain in the ass.”
“Oh no,” Daniel said, putting up his hands. “No. Uh-uh. I am not a diplomat. I will lose my temper.”
“No you won’t,” Jason said, rolling his eyes. “You say that only because you abhor the idea of it. But whenever you’re face-to-face with problematic aliens, you can’t help yourself. You have to try to fix whatever’s wrong.”
Daniel growled. “I hate it when you’re right.”
“I know,” Jason said, then squeezed his eyes shut as the deep pain returned. “Fuck.” It was suddenly apparent that a sheen of sweat had appeared on his brow.
“Want me to get Janet?” Daniel asked.
“Do it,” Jack said, eyes widening as he looked at Jason’s monitor. His temperature had risen to 100.
“Oh shit,” Daniel said, leaving the room.
“What?” Jason asked, because he couldn’t see the monitor.
“You’re going back into surgery. Or getting a huge dose of penicillin. You temp’s spiked, Jason. It’s 100 degrees.”
“Oh no,” Jason moaned. “Goddammit. I hate antibiotics. They’re seriously going … ruin … fuck.” Another lancing pain hit him. “Jack,” he said as he depressed the pain button again. It wouldn’t help. Once depressed, he had to wait thirty minutes.
Janet came rushing in, with Daniel right behind. He and Jack moved to the far corner of the room as a nurse came in. Janet pushed Jason onto his right side when his blood pressure started to rise. It went down. “Dammit. I’ll be right back.”
“Where’re you going?” Jack asked, following her out of the room.
“I need Doctor Warner’s assistance and the OR prepped,” she said, going through double doors that said Medical Personnel Only.
Jack stopped. “Oh shit.”
At the end of that short corridor, Hammond appeared. “Colonel?” he asked.
Jack turned. “Sir,” he said, walking over to stand before Jason’s room.
“Jason’s going back into surgery. Infection.”
“Damn,” Hammond said. He made a mental note that Jack used Major Coburn’s first name. It was a positive that his people cared about each other.
“Exactly,” Jack said. Daniel came out of the room and held the door open while the nurse had Jason’s bed unhooked and angled for exit. Soon, two corpsmen arrived to help the nurse take Jason out of the room and roll his bed to surgery.
“I know this is rotten timing,” Hammond said, “but the NID are here. They need to see the recording and get your statement in person.”
“Can I shoot them instead?”
Hammond smirked. “My office in thirty minutes.”
“Crap,” Daniel said, watching Hammond leave.
“Right?” Jack wasn’t in any mood to talk to the NID. “Cross your fingers.”
“I’m not worried. He’ll be okay. Liver damage sometimes does this. No, cross your fingers that I don’t lose my temper with the NID.”
Sam and Teal’c came out of the waiting room, as did Jason’s teammates. They were quickly updated, and another round of waiting was implemented for the next four hours. In the meantime, Jack went to the Briefing Room, and with a tremendous amount of restraint, made it through the NID’s questioning. He hurried back to the waiting room soon after.
Janet came in after two in the afternoon. “He’ll be fine. But he needs to be in the ICU for a few days, to make sure things stabilize.”
“What happened?” Jack asked.
“Internal bleeding near the hepatic portal vein. Foreign matter. Small metal pieces from that damn knife. I’ll be honest and say it got a bit worrisome for a bit, but he’s past the danger zone. We’ll keep him in the ICU to make sure. After he’s released from there, he’ll have to be transferred to the main hospital.”
“Because there’s a major trauma center there,” Jack said. “Just in case.”
She made a face. “Yeah. Sorry about that, but yes. Once he’s in the clear, it’ll be about six or seven weeks for light PT, then a few months of full PT while he gets his muscles back to form.” She paused, looking at SG-2. “It means you guys are going to be without a commander for about four months. Be prepared for General Hammond to assign you someone in the interim.” She gave them a sympathetic smile, then said, “That’s all I’ve got. You guys need to go home and get some rest. Nothing you can do for him by losing sleep.”
“But …” Daniel began. “What if he takes a down-turn and none of us are here …”
“Hovering outside of ICU won’t make a difference, Daniel. But. I think I can optimistically say that there won’t be a problem. It’s a risk, my saying that, but I’ll take it just this once. So go home. Get some rest. The General will say the same thing if you stay, and then he’ll make it an order.” She looked at her watch. “I gotta go.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Jack said before she nodded and left.
Sam watched Jack’s and Daniel’s faces. She’d never seen them look so worried. Automatically, she put herself in their place. What would she do? She thought of her Dad and what she’d done for him. She thought of Cassie. She found Teal’c studying her and looked a bit embarrassed, though she couldn’t say why. “What?”
“You appear as if you are, as you humans call it, in deep thought. Do you not think Doctor Fraiser was correct in being optimistic?”
“No, no,” Sam shaking her head. “That’s not it. I was putting myself in their place.” She pointed her chin at Jack and Daniel. “All the lengths I’ve gone to in order to help the people I care about.”
Teal’c nodded. “I wish there was something I could do, but there is not.”
Sam chewed at her lip. “Maybe I can.”
“How so?” Teal’c asked.
Sam looked over at Jack and Daniel, who were speaking in hushed tones. “Sir?” she asked, getting up. She made a point to look at Jason’s teammates, so as to include them in her idea. Hopeful idea.
“Carter?” Jack asked tiredly.
“Sir, I’d like to see if I can help Jason.”
Daniel immediately knew what she was thinking. “You want to use the Healing Device?”
She nodded. “But what’s the latest protocol on using it? The last time I used it was two years ago, and then the thing went to Area 51 for study, then came back. Then it was locked up with more dangerous weapons and—”
“It’s okay, Carter,” Jack said, raising his hand to stop her. “All we need is Hammond’s authorization as well as Doctor Fraiser’s. If she gives the go-ahead, he will.”
“Where’d she go?” Daniel asked no one in particular as he turned around and went in the direction Janet headed off to.
“Daniel, hold up,” Jack called to him. He went to the small nurses station and spoke to the woman filling out paperwork. “Hey, could you page Doc Fraiser for me?”
“She’s in recovery,” the nurse said.
“And?” Jack drawled.
The nurse blinked and picked up the phone, then punched a few numbers. “This is Lieutenant Turner at the C-wing recovery ward. Colonel O’Neill needs to speak with Doctor Fraiser.” She listened to a bit, nodding absently. She held up an index finger at Jack as she waited. “Yes, ma’am.” She handed the phone over to him.
“Doc, can you authorize Carter to use the healing device on Major Coburn?”
“He’s really not in danger, Colonel.”
“Can you be one hundred percent sure? If you like, I can guarantee that SG-2 will be needed soon and a temporary commander—”
“Mission priority is acceptable as a reason for early discharge, but … oh, hell with it. Yes, call the General. I authorize the use. No, on second thought, I’ll call him. Saves time. When he agrees, I’ll send someone to get the device from lockup and Major Carter can come to the ICU. All of you meet me there but you’ll have to wait in the hall.”
“Thanks, Doc.” After he hung up, he gave Sam a nod. “Let’s get to the ICU.”
The ICU held only three rooms and two were empty. From the hallway outside, a visitor could look through a long window, but it only showed a nurses station. Beyond that were the enclosed rooms. Thankfully, the walls were widely windowed, so at least you could see your loved one from a distance.
Jack and Daniel weren’t allowed in, much to their dismay. Sam had to don surgical gown and mask, which made them worry even more, but it made it all the more apparent that Jason could use the help. From what they could tell, he was unconscious, and he didn’t need help breathing. He was like he had been before, except there were two units of blood in IVs.
Both men stood at the window, arms folded, not crossed. A self-hugging mechanism that was more often seen on Daniel than Jack. Teal’c made note of it. When the healing device was delivered by Security, Sam took it and went into Jason’s room. Janet lifted Jason’s surgical gown to expose his upper abdomen and Sam aimed the device at the tiny incision under his left pectoral muscle. She closed her eyes, focusing on pushing energy from herself and into him. The device lit up with its customary yellow-orange glow, reflecting onto his skin.
Janet’s attention went back and forth between the two monitors and Jason himself, looking for any distress or change in the readouts. There was no outward sign that the healing device was working until the tiny scar began to shrink and disappear. Janet chewed at her lip and let Sam continue for a couple of minutes before she stopped her. She drew a vial of blood from Jason’s IV and handed it to a nurse, who labelled it and disappeared to a lab station on the other side of the ICU block. Both women looked at each other and waited for several seconds, hoping nothing adverse would happen. Finally, they exited the room and Sam got rid of her protective gear. Coming out to the hallway, they looked puzzled and Jack and Daniel weren’t comforted by it.
“What?” Jack asked.
“His scar healed up, but there wasn’t a change in his vitals,” Janet said.
“I could feel the energy going into him,” Sam said. “I know it did something. I just don’t know what.”
“I sent a blood sample for analysis,” Janet continued. “There’s a lot of technical stuff that the Colonel will probably interrupt, so let’s leave it as ‘I’m hopeful it did some good.’” She smirked at him.
“You have my sympathies,” Daniel said dryly.
Jack rolled his eyes. “Okay, okay. So …?”
“Go home,” Janet said flatly. “Seriously. Go home. It’ll take twenty-four hours for the test to come back.” She jogged her brows, indicating they follow her order, and crossed her arm and waited. When the group reluctantly did what she said, she shook her head and went back inside.
In the locker room, Daniel gave Sam a hug. “Thanks seems inadequate, but thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” she said, smiling at him. “I did feel something so I’m sure he’ll be okay tomorrow. I don’t know how okay, but better.”
“Thanks, Carter, I owe you one,” Jack said.
“No you don’t, sir. He’s my friend, too.” She pursed her lips. “Though not to the same extent as—”
“Yeah, okay, we’re not going there,” Jack said, eyes widening as he looked around. Deliberately, and making his voice a teensy bit louder, he said, “You can stop teasing me about those dumbass rumors.”
Sam made a face. “Sorry, sir. But seriously, you don’t owe me.”
Jack nodded and sighed as he opened his locker. “For once, I’m not arguing with Fraiser. I really do need to go home and sleep.”
“Ditto,” Daniel said. He turned to Sam. “How’re you feeling after doing that? Was it as draining as before?” Sam nodded, looking sheepish. “It’s okay to feel that, you know.”
“I know. Stoicism is a habit that’s hard to break.”
“Most of the time, stoicism is inappropriate.” Turning back to his locker, he shook his head. “I’d really like to kick Plato and Socrates smack square in the balls.”
“Why’s that?” Jack asked.
“Because they’re the ones who framed stoicism.”
Danie couldn’t help himself. He just had to add something else from the era. “FYI, the word platonic comes from Plato.”
“How did that come about, Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c asked.
“Well, it’s both interesting and apropos that you’ve asked that, Teal’c.”
“Oh boy,” Jack said.
“Shut up,” Daniel said quickly, before moving on. “Platonic used to mean the sexual love between two people of the same sex.”
“It did?” Jack asked, and Daniel’s teammates stopped what they were doing out of surprise.
“Yep,” Daniel nodded. “But the Church of Rome, during the 14th Century, declared that Plato was against god, so the definition now had to mean non-sexual.”
“That’s stupid,” Sam said, frowning.
“I concur,” Teal’c said.
“Yeah, well,” Jack said, waving an aery hand. “Being gay or bisexual has been seen as anathema ever since the fall of Rome.”
Daniel stared at him, surprised.
“What?” Jack asked.
“Now I have something new to tell Jason when he wakes up.”
“What’s that?” Jack asked, narrowing his eyes. “Daniel,” he warned. “Don’t make a fuss.”
“Too late,” Daniel grinned. “Jack O’Neill actually said something historical.”
“You’re sleeping in your own room,” Jack quipped as he left the locker room.
Sam looked at a shocked Daniel. “Was he serious?”
Daniel twisted his mouth thoughtfully. “Doesn’t matter. Two can play at that game.” He shut his locker door and left.
Sam snorted and shook her head. “That’s not gonna last long.”
Teal’c smirked. “Indeed. I remember Drey’auc saying something similar.”
Sam raised a brow. “Teal’c is sharing a domestic memory?” she teased. “Wonders never cease.”
Teal’c gave her a dirty smile. It was one that no one but Sam ever saw. “I could share a recent one with O’Neill and Daniel Jackson.”
Sam’s eyes widened. “You’re threatening me?”
“Okay, buddy. You get to sleep alone tonight, too.” She smirked at him as she walked past and left.
Teal’c sighed and shut his locker. “Indeed.”