Category: Pre-Slash, Mini-Angels, Action/Adventure, Humor, Drama, H/C, Smarm
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: 1 - sometime before Fire and Water
Written: October 4,6-8,12,15, 2004
Summary: A member of SG-1 is taken over by an alien influence; craziness ensues.
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) This fic was spawned by readers who answered an email I sent out, looking for an idea as a solution to another fic. The responses were so good that I had to put them to use. This fic is the result. Thanks to the following readers for taking the time to submit their ideas: Claudia, Linda, Kat, Peggy, K, Heidi
2) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Drdjlover, Sue, QuinGem, Linda, Brenda, Claudia!
“Anyone have any idea what this place is?” Jack asked his team as his
eyes wandered around the room, looking for any indicators of something
SG-1 was exploring PQ4-555, a planet with a warm climate. steady breeze, tangerine-colored sky, and terrain that was flat for miles on end.
As they roamed the planet, they had found a group of buildings made of stone and another unidentifiable element. A couple looked to be dwellings, long since abandoned. Another had machinery in it, reminiscent of the kinds of things found on a farm.
In the center of the buildings, however, was a strange, oddly-shaped structure. While the others were square or rectangular, this one was triangular, shaped like a pyramid, except for the top portion of the triangle which had an octagonally-shaped second floor. Inside, SG-1 discovered drawings and symbols on the walls, and several vertical panels, evenly placed every twenty feet. The panels had colored buttons on them, some showing a steady light while others blinked at varying rates.
“No, Sir, not a clue, but these panels appear to be operational. I don't know what they're controlling, though. They might be some kind of energy conductors or maybe even some type of an environmental control,” Sam stated and then knelt down to get a better look at the bottom of the panel she was currently examining.
Daniel noted, “These symbols aren't like anything I've ever seen before, but the drawings are definitely Egyptian, Middle Kingdom, I think, which is actually rare. I mean, look at the expressions on the figures. See the eyes - they're sunken, tired looking. Geez, Jack, there are even bags under the eyes.” Daniel moved to another portion of the wall. “And see this woman?” He extended his hand to the drawing. “Her hair is longer, over the shoulders and curled. Yes, this has to be Middle Kingdom.”
Jack rolled his eyes, and asked, “But what is this place?”
“I have no idea,” Daniel admitted, turning and slowly studying every corner of the place.
“DanielJackson, could it be a tomb of some type?”
“In the middle of a town? I don't think so, Teal'c. That would be, uh, very odd, but the drawings do depict aspects of daily life. I mean, this one over here, of the man eating at the table with the abundance of food and drink. That's something that was done in private tombs if the, uh, deceased wanted more ... protection I guess, in case the caregiver of the tomb failed in his duties.” He sighed. “That's more Old Kingdom, though, and everything else here is indicative of the Middle Kingdom period.”
“I don't care if it's the Magic Kingdom, I'd just like to know what this place is for sure,” Jack bellowed sarcastically.
“I'm just trying to help.”
“And you always do,” Jack retorted with his own edgy flair, tapping on his MP-5 as he walked around the building.
“Sir, I'd like to study these panels awhile. The lights appear to be flashing in a specific pattern. They might be the key to whatever happens here.”
“And I need to take some pictures of these symbols. They're not Egyptian. I don't understand why the drawings are Egyptian when the writings are ... whatever they are.”
“Fine, fine,” Jack said. “Teal'c, let's check the outside some more, and let the children play.”
The Colonel smiled, and warned, “Careful what you touch, Daniel.”
“Right,” the young man drawled, shaking his head.
As he moved towards the exit, Jack saw an object on the floor. He laughed and picked it up. It was a ball, bright orange, with more symbols written on it.
“Hey, maybe it's a playground,” he laughed, squeezing the rubber ball. “Daniel, catch.”
Daniel turned quickly, but moved to his right, letting the ball go by him. He watched as it bounced off the wall, and rolled to the other end of the room.
“Hey!” Jack objected.
“You said to be careful about what I touched.”
“It was a BALL, Daniel! You're no fun.”
“I have work to do, Jack. Why don't you go outside and ... play?” Daniel asked, smirking, and then turned back to study the drawings.
Jack looked at Teal'c and shrugged, saying, “There's one in every bunch. Come on, Teal'c.”
“Okay, Kids, time to go.”
“But, Sir, I'm still trying to figure out the significance in the spacing of these panels. It's so exact; I'm sure it ties in to the panel's function.”
“But, Jack, I'm not done with this. I still have more photos to take, and I need to study the figures to verify the era.”
Sam and Daniel had objected to Jack's orders at the same time, meaning Jack heard prattling from both scientists and didn't really make out what either of them had said.
“It's time to go. We'll talk to Hammond about scheduling a return mission.”
Grumbling, the two scientists packed up their supplies and returned with their teammates to the Stargate which was located five miles to the north of the unusual grouping of buildings. During the entire trek to the Gate, Sam and Daniel raced in conversation with their various theories.
~I have a headache,~ Jack thought as he walked.
“Airman Benson, you are going to keep doing this until you get it right.”
“But, Sir, I ...”
Jack scowled at the new recruit, one of fifteen he was training over the next ten days while the rest of his team were temporarily assigned to other duties.
Daniel was on an extended dig with SG-11, one of the newer teams, which was dedicated to archaeological tasks and studies. He wasn't scheduled to return until the last day of Jack's training.
Sam was on special duty to the Air Force Academy for five days, ostensibly to lecture on astrophysics, but her real goal was to survey and assess potential new recruits for the SGC. Upon her return, she was scheduled to assist her CO with the next phase of training, centering on the applications of physical science to military science.
Teal'c, meanwhile, was accompanying SG-3 on their missions. He, too, would be part of the training for the last three days, concentrating on alternative battle techniques and hand-to-hand combat.
Jack had a long agenda of things to cover during the training sessions, but today was going more slowly than he had anticipated. It was day three of the training.
The Airman cringed. He didn't understand the importance of the task being assigned. He was sure there must be some hidden secret to it: perhaps a poison was involved? Or maybe a truth serum? There had to be something; otherwise, his task was nonsensical. He'd already done it four times, and each time, the very intimidating 2IC of the SGC had raked him over the coals for doing it wrong.
Benson sighed and attempted it again.
~Maybe he uses seven cups. This is insane.~
“All right, Recruit. Let's see if you cut the mustard yet.”
Nervously, the Airman stood by the coffeemaker and waited as Jack sipped the coffee.
“YOU CALL THIS COFFEE? WHAT KIND OF MORON ARE YOU? I TOLD YOU, IT HAD TO BE EXACTLY AS DOCTOR JACKSON WOULD HAVE HIS COFFEE! SIT DOWN, AIRMAN!”
Jack had spit the coffee out and then yelled at the Airman who was standing only two inches from his face. The scared newcomer welcomed the order to sit down, and hurried as quickly as he could to his assigned seat.
Jack faced the six recruits in the current session.
“DISCIPLINE, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IS IMPORTANT. EXACTNESS IS IMPORTANT. YOU WERE GIVEN DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS, AND NOT ONE OF YOU HAS FULFILLED YOUR ASSIGNMENT.”
“Sir, excuse me,” Airman Tanya Graves spoke up, “but what does making coffee have to do with our duties in the Air Force?”
Jack's face contorted, and as he stood in front of them, he began to turn red with rage.
“THIS ISN'T ABOUT JUST MAKING COFFEE. NO EXCUSES, AIRMAN. IF YOU CAN'T FULFILL YOUR OBLIGATIONS, I'LL BE GLAD TO HAVE YOU REASSIGNED TO SOMETHING THAT REQUIRES LESS BRAINPOWER ... PERHAPS SOMEWHERE IN THE ANTARCTIC!”
They gulped, risking looks at each other.
More calmly, Jack repeated the assignment.
“One last chance: I want this coffee to be EXACTLY how Doctor Jackson has his. EXACTLY! If that's too difficult for you, start packing your bags.” He paced back and forth five times, then stopped, and stood with his arms behind his back and legs spread apart slightly. “You have twenty minutes, TWENTY minutes to discuss this little problem. When I return, I expect results.”
Jack exited, and the new recruits breathed a sigh of temporary relief.
“O'Neill is crazy,” Benson said.
“He can't be. He's Hammond's second. He's supposed to be the best man on the base,” Graves replied.
“Well, you know what they say, sometimes the crazier you are, the better fighter you are. If this is any indication, O'Neill is one crazy son-of-a ...”
“Norton, careful, security cameras,” Graves reminded.
Airman Timothy Norton stared at the camera and nodded, then said, “So, any ideas?”
“I have one. I need to make a phone call.”
Airman Sheila Winters stood and went to the phone. As they listened, the other five stared at each other in disbelief at what Sheila was doing. When she hung up the phone, they all stared at her.
“Why did you do that?”
“Well, Colonel O'Neill keeps saying he wants the coffee to be exactly how Doctor Jackson has his coffee, not how he makes it.”
“Terminology,” Benson said, almost to himself.
Sheila shrugged and said, “It's worth a shot, and if Carleton hurries, we might just make it.”
“Too bad they don't deliver,” Graves commented. “Or maybe they do ... to Doctor Jackson.”
The group snickered, and then Sheila added, “At least it was on Carleton's way into the Mountain.”
“Amen,” Norton said softly.
At the end of the twenty minutes, Jack walked back into the training room.
“Okay, let's have it.”
Sheila stood, picked up the cup of coffee that Airman Carleton had handed her not more than two minutes earlier, and handed it to Jack, who sniffed it, stared at her, and then took a sip ... and then another ... and finally drank the coffee.
“Five stars, Winters.”
Benson shook his head.
“Sir, I don't understand.”
“Starbuck's, Benson; they make the only coffee that is coffee, at least according to Doctor Jackson. Well done, Winters. You can take the afternoon off. Go ... have some fun.”
“Go. Your next class is tomorrow at 0900. Until then, your time is yours.”
“Uh, thank you, Sir,” she said, looking back at her classmates, and then deciding to flee while the fleeing was good.
“As for you so-called airmen, report to Sergeant Trujillo at the track. Dismissed.”
Jack turned and exited.
“He is insane,” Benson said, standing.
“Or maybe he was just testing our surveillance skills. I mean, Winters was rewarded, and all because she had remembered overhearing a conversation between Captain Carter and Major Ferretti about Doctor Jackson's coffee addiction. Besides, Doctor Jackson’s addiction to Starbuck's coffee is well known around the base; just ask anyone.”
“Yeah, but it doesn't make sense, Tanya. There are other ways to test our observation and surveillance skills that will be more useful in the field. I mean, how is knowing Doctor Jackson’s favorite brand of coffee going to help us on the other side of the Stargate?”
She shrugged, and the group headed for the track, still at a loss about the purpose of the entire coffee exercise.
Two days later, Jack was waiting for the next session of the training to begin. He wore his short-sleeve black shirt, dog tags hanging out, and without the usual BDU jacket. Checking his watch, he noted they still had four minutes before the session was scheduled to start. He stood in the corridor, making notes on a clipboard. As he wrote, the voices of two airmen filtered through.
Tanya Graves said, “It was the cutest thing, Ken. There we were at the petting zoo and my nephew starts imitating a monkey. He has long arms, too; it was just so cute.”
~Monkey? Hmm.~ Jack continued making his notes, but stopped, suddenly unable to think about anything but what he had overheard. ~Danny acts like a monkey sometimes. He'd kill me if he heard me saying that, but it's true. He has those long arms, and he sure does like the dirt. Hmm. Monkeys. Dirt. Dig. Daniel's digging right now while I'm here with these wannabees. Why did I let Daniel go off world without SG-1?~
As soon as the clock hit eleven, Jack entered the training area and began barking out the drill for the day.
“Okay, Children, time to get some physical exercise. Topside. Five minutes. No detours. MOVE!”
Quickly, the recruits headed for the elevators, but Jack trailed after them, shouting out, “FREEZE!”
The four recruits stopped and turned.
“That would be too easy. The shaft. Now!”
“Shaft?” Graves asked.
Airman Ken Latali said, “But, Colonel, we're twenty-four floors below the surface.”
“And you only have,” Jack checked his watch, “four minutes left. Better hurry, or you'll be late.”
With a quick look at one another, the four opened the shaft and began the long climb to the top. With a smirk on his face, Jack whistled as he walked calmly to the elevator, and began the ride up.
Topside, he waited by the shaft access until the recruits appeared. They were breathing hard and two of the four were sweating. Jack smiled as he checked his watch.
“Good thing this wasn't an officially timed event. Follow me.”
The four recruits stumbled after Jack as he set a brisk pace to an area three-quarters of a mile from the Mountain’s access shaft. It was in an open meadow area and was one of the few spots that had more dirt than trees and brush.
“Time for your next task. No one leaves here until everyone has successfully completed the assignment, and that assignment is to do the Daniel Jackson. Now!”
The recruits stared at Jack, totally clueless. They stood around, finally staring at each other. Finally, Graves asked, “Uh, Sir, what is the ... Daniel Jackson?”
“Excuse me WHAT?”
“Sir. Excuse me, Sir.”
“Much better. Get to work!”
“Doing what ... Sir?” Latali asked.
Jack smiled and moved back a few feet.
“What does Daniel Jackson do, Airman?”
“Do? He, uh ... uh ...”
“Connors, perhaps you'd like to answer that,” Jack addressed another one of the male recruits.
Hesitantly, Connors snapped to attention and answered, “Sir, with apologies, Sir, I regret to inform you I do not know what, or who, Daniel Jackson is ... Sir.”
Jack grunted, and his face tightened. ~How can he not know who Danny is? He must walk around with his head in the clouds. Washout! His days are numbered ... as in zero, but first, I'll just have some fun. Make him work extra hard for the rest of the training, then it'll be bye-bye baby.~
“Give me twenty.” Seeing the Airman still staring questioningly at him, Jack ordered, “NOW, AIRMAN!”
Immediately, the man dropped to the ground and did twenty fast-paced pushups.
“Now, let's try this again,” Jack said. “What does Daniel Jackson do here?”
“He's ... the head of archaeology and anthropology, Sir,” Graves answered.
“And what do geeky scientists with those specialties do, Airman?” Silence loomed. “THEY DIG!” With his hands behind his back, Jack walked a circle around the four recruits and barked out his orders. “YOU WILL DIG, DIG LIKE MONKEYS, UNTIL YOU FIND AN ARTIFACT. I DON'T CARE WHAT ARTIFACT. PERSONALLY, I HATE ARTIFACTS, BUT DANIEL JACKSON *LOVES* THEM. YOU ARE TO FIND AN ARTIFACT THAT WE WILL LEAVE FOR DOCTOR JACKSON TO STUDY WHEN HE RETURNS. NOW ... DIG!”
“Um, Colonel, Sir,” Latali gulped. “We don't have any tools.”
Jack walked up into the man's personal space and quipped, “Do monkeys have tools, Airman?”
“Then I suggest you use what you do have,” Jack said, looking downward at the Airman's hands. “Not as big as Daniel's, but ...”
Jack moved off.
“He was talking about hands, wasn't he?” Latali whispered to Connors.
“Don't ask me.”
“I SAID DIG!” Jack yelled, and then watched with satisfaction as the four recruits started digging into the ground using nothing but their hands.
“Artifacts,” Connors groaned an hour later. “What are we going to find here?”
“No idea, but if I were you, I'd keep digging,” Latali responded.
“Sir, here, Sir,” Graves called out, holding up her find and praying that it would meet with approval.
“Nice, Graves. You're dismissed. Make sure you leave that on Doctor Jackson's desk before going to your next assignment.”
“Yes, Colonel O'Neill.”
Graves smiled at her classmates a bit smugly and hurried away from the area as fast as she could, afraid Jack would call her back for some reason.
After another forty minutes, the other two also found items Jack approved as artifacts, and then he dismissed them with the same orders as he had given Graves.
“What's your problem, Latali?”
“Dirt, Sir. There's nothing but ... dirt.”
“You're doing a bad Daniel Jackson. He always finds something. DIG!”
“Sir,” Latali approached Jack an hour later. He was covered from head to toe in dirt, and his uniform was filthy. He was physically exhausted from his efforts. “This is all I could find.”
“Excellent. Put that on Doctor Jackson's desk. You did great, Latali. There may be hope for you yet. Yours was the best find. Dismissed.”
Latali walked off, totally stunned. He looked in his hand at his artifact: a simple one-inch rock.
~It's just a little rock. Rocks aren't artifacts ... are they?~
The next day, the entire class of fifteen recruits were gathered for fitness training in the rec room. They were lined up in three rows of five, all in the at-ease position, feet spread, hands held behind them.
“This morning's session focuses on your physical and mental fitness. When you go through the Stargate, IF you go through the Stargate, you'll find situations you've never even imagined before. You must be prepared at all times for ALL scenarios. There is always an 'OR' and, trust me, Murphy's Law applies.”
Jack stood front and center before the recruits in his green BDUs. He stared at the fifteen for three minutes without saying a word, just observing their reactions. He saw the fidgeting, the nervous looks, their rapid swallows, and the light sheen of sweat that was breaking on the foreheads.
“Scary, isn't it?” he finally asked. “On missions, you will frequently have to learn to ... shut up. Your lives and the lives of your team may hinge on your ability to not say or do a thing. There will be times when the frustrating, aggravating, and boring scientist on your team will take charge, and believe me, when he or she does, you'll wish you had never joined the program and were back on Earth watching The Simpsons on TV.”
Several of those in the room risked looks at each other as Jack continued his comments.
“Today's scenario is this. Those in the first row will be designated 'annoying villagers'; those in the second row will be designated 'SG-Babies'; and those in the last row will be designated 'no-good snakeheads'. Front row, step forward.”
The five, including Graves and Benson, stepped forward. Jack handed each information about their village and culture.
“Read this, then destroy it. Move to Section A,” Jack nodded, motioning to the rear of the room that had a banner marking the spot. “Second row, step forward.”
Again they did as told, but Jack said simply, “You're the SG team assigned to investigate a new planet. You find a village populated by the first team. Your job is open negotiations with them. You must win their trust, and quickly because on your heels are the bad guys. Latali, you are the SG-Babies leader. Pittman, you'll be the alien hero who joined the team. You don't say much; just stare and nod a lot. Connors, you're the annoying geek. It's up to you to save the day and annoy your team leader to the brink of insanity. You other two,” Jack addressed the remaining members of the second row, “You can just ... prattle on about stuff no one understands unless their last name is Einstein. Here, cue cards,” Jack handed them excerpts from a scientific journal he'd found in Sam's lab. “Move to Section B and gear up.”
After they were out of the way, Jack called out, “Third row, step forward.” When Norton and the others were assembled, he instructed, “You're the ghastly snakes. You want hosts, especially the geeky peacemaker. Oh, and Emerson, if I were you, I'd look lost and like you were about to meet some dire fate. Geeky scientists have a thing for damsels in distress. Your goal as the snakeheads is to try and absorb all the villagers as hosts and kill the SG-Babies. Move to Section Three and prepare your plan of attack.”
Jack sauntered over to a table and sat on the edge. He picked up a clipboard that listed the names of all the recruits and had space for him to make notations on their performance.
Having allowed enough prep time, Jack ordered the exercise to commence.
“No, no, no! Connors, you can't obey orders like that.” Jack looked off to the side, shaking his head. “When your team leader tells you to can it, you keep right at him. Try it again.”
“Oh, for crying out loud. Connors, do you even have a brain? You're calling Latali by his rank. That's a no-no.”
“You ... want me to call him ... Latali ... Sir?”
“Latali? Why would you do that? Connors, pay attention. You're the geek. You call your team leader by his first name.” Jack returned to his desk, mumbling “Some recruits these are” as he walked.
“STOP!” Jack banged the clipboard on the table. “Connors, what are you doing now?”
Nervously, the man looked around and finally answered, “Well, Sir, Latali, I mean, Ken told me to ... 'can it' so I kept arguing with him just like you told me to, Colonel.”
“I saw that, Connors, but what about what *just* happened?”
“I'm not sure, Sir.”
“Connors, didn't you see the pretty little damsel over there being held captive?”
“Yes, Sir, and I radioed for backup so we could attempt a rescue ...”
“Attempt? Backup? What kind of geek are you? It's your duty as the annoying geek to make sure you try and rescue her ... personally, without regard to the safety and welfare of you or your team. Got that?”
“We're going to stay here all day, all night, if necessary until you get this right, and let me remind you that we have four other scenarios to play out before we move on to the next item on the agenda.”
As the midnight hour came and went, the ragged new recruits were totally at their wit's end.
“Here, watch this.”
Jack put on a recording of a post-mission briefing. It was one where Daniel had been especially persnickety with Jack, defending the rights of local inhabitants. The briefing had gone on for ninety minutes, but Jack played only twenty minutes of it.
“Get the idea?”
“Doctor Jackson ... does that ... all the time?” Graves asked.
“What ... that?” Jack looked at the screen. “That was nothing.”
“And, uh, you ... let him ...do that ... to you, Colonel ... Sir?” Latali inquired.
“Let? Like I have a choice?”
“I can't believe he's in the program,” Emerson sneered.
“ATTENTION!” The entire group of recruits stood. “Emerson, front and center.”
“Yes ... Sir.”
Jack handed her a piece of paper, and then rattled off a list of ten planet designations.
“While classified, the missions on these planets are available for your review. Airman, you are to review each and every mission, and pay close attention to how Doctor Jackson behaves in each and every one.”
Jack stared into the recruit's eyes. It was one of his most intense, intimidating glares.
“Daniel Jackson makes you look like ... toilet tissue. Study. Learn, Airman, while you're still in the Air Force. You'll be giving this class a detailed report at 0800 tomorrow morning. Be thorough, Airman, or you'll be out.”
Jack left the room suddenly, leaving the men and women totally bewildered.
“0800? I won't get any sleep,” Emerson whined.
“That's what you get for challenging Doctor Jackson's place in the SGC.”
“I don't get it, John. The Colonel's been belittling Jackson's contributions all day, and now this?”
Sheila Winters laughed. She looked at the others and asked, “Don't you guys do your homework? O'Neill and Jackson are close.”
“I didn't say it makes sense, but the scuttlebutt says Jackson got on the team because of O'Neill, and that the Colonel is very protective of him. I heard he threatens the COs of any team Jackson goes out on without him.”
“Threatens?” Connors asked.
“Big time threatens. Guys, if I were you, I'd study up on SG-1.”
“I thought SG-1 was supposed to be the best,” Latali added with a confused look on his face.
“They are,” Winters responded. “I don't know what the Colonel is trying to accomplish, but I'm willing to believe there's a point to this, just like there was with the coffee business.”
“I still don't understand that,” Graves said.
“Observation; know your team; never assume; and maybe more importantly, listen. Everyone made a big assumption, about how Doctor Jackson *makes* his coffee, but the Colonel had said nothing about making it. Excuse me, guys. Long day. I'm getting some sleep while I have a chance.”
“Crazy, just crazy,” Connors mumbled as he, too, left the room. ~Just how close are Doctor Jackson and Colonel O’Neill?~
The next day, Emerson made her report, detailing the missions.
“And what, Airman, did you learn from all of this?”
“That Doctor Jackson knows his stuff, Sir; that on at least four of these missions, he was directly responsible for saving the lives of his teammates; on three others, he not only saved the team, but the lives of local inhabitants; and on the other three, though not directly involved in the outcome, he provided knowledge and history that proved valuable to the team leader in making sure SG-1's mission was a success.”
Jack nodded, and said quietly, “Geeks can be annoying; they can also save your life, as, I hope, you've just learned.” Jack looked down at the schedule. “You have hand-to-hand training in ten minutes, and we'll meet again tomorrow at 0630. Get a good night's sleep. You'll need it. Dismissed.”
The trainees left to attend another part of their training. Sam would be conducting the rest of the sessions that day, something even the science-haters were now looking forward to.
“Morning,” Jack said as he walked in to the rec room where the fifteen recruits were. It was the eighth day of their training. They'd had courses with Sam, and one session with Teal'c with whom they'd meet again later, if all went well ... and every single one of them were all hoping all went well. “Today, we're going to review essentials: what is and what isn't essential. Pittman, front and center.”
Airman Pittman went to the head of the room where Jack stood. There was a blackboard there, and he was instructed to write down whatever the new recruits suggested were “essential” for any mission.
One by one, they went around the room, the airmen talking about weapons, MRIs, protective gear, and similar items.
“Tsk, Tsk. Yes, these items are important, but there's something even more important.” All around the rec room, there were large pieces of cloth covering up something. The recruits had wondered what was behind the coverings, but none had dared to ask. Now, Jack yanked on the cloths, letting them drop to the floor. The group gasped. All around the rec room were color photographs of Daniel Jackson. “This is the most essential element to any mission. Study it well. If you're lucky, you'll get one of your own, although it'll never be as good as this one. Take five minutes to study these photos, and then Emerson will make a new list.”
“Study?” Graves asked Mike Richards quietly.
“What does he want us to say?” Mike asked as softly as possible.
Winters answered, “Well, from a strictly observational point of view, I'd say cute! Great eyes. Hmm, love that shaggy hair. Oh my; just give me one minute to run my fingers through it and ...”
“Sheila!” Graves warned.
“Well, what do you think he wants us to say?”
Graves looked at the photos which she believed were printed off the computer and answered, “From a totally observational point of view, I'd say ... tight butt, beautiful smile ...”
“You girls are too much,” Connors said.
“Well, what are you going to say when it's your turn?” Graves asked.
Connors looked at the photo and thought for a few moments; then answered, “Sexy.” They all laughed. He added, “But don't tell my boyfriend; he might get jealous.” Connors made a girlish move with his commentary, waving his right hand with a bit of a flair and batting his eyelashes. More laughter ensued and Connors added, “Well, if I didn't know better about O'Neill, I'd say he's after Jackson.”
“Don't tell him that,” John said. “He's liable to kill you.”
“And I'd watch what you joke about around here. Uh, you were joking, weren't you, Connors?”
The man laughed, and said with a smirk, “Of course not. C'mon, what do you think?”
“Well, to be honest, I think I just want this insane training to end. I'm afraid to see what's next!”
“I wonder what he has planned for us during the next session,” Mike Richards asked as he and three other recruits sipped on coffee and snacks during a break in the mess.
“I don't know,” Pittman answered, “but I'm not sure about this.”
“About what?” Sheila asked.
“This training. I know O'Neill's reputation, but,” he paused, looking around at the gathered personnel in the room, and then whispering his next comments, “I think he's lost his mind. I have a hard time believing this is standard training. I'm thinking about making a report to General Hammond.”
“General Hammond? I don't think that's a good idea,” Sheila commented.
“Well, for one thing, chain of command. If you have a concern, I'm not sure the head of the entire facility is the one to go to.”
“He's O'Neill's boss,” Richards argued.
“I'm not sure it matters,” Benson sighed. “I've ... heard some of the others say they had already complained. I think Hammond knows already.”
“And he hasn't done anything?” Richards asked, sitting back in a frustrated demeanor. “I can't believe that.”
“Mike, you have a right to complain, if you want to. I agree this is unorthodox, but I don't know about you guys, but I'm actually learning something.”
“Yeah, the color of Doctor Jackson's eyes,” Pittman teased.
“Hey, look at the clock. We'd better get going or O'Neill have our hides,” Benson commented, ending the discussion as the four raced to the next training session.
“This will be great fun, and a nice way to celebrate your hopeful new status as personnel assigned to the SGC. One more day, and I may just decide to let you stay ... maybe!”
“Sir, I'm not sure this is ... allowed ... is it?” Pittman asked.
“Are you arguing with your commanding officer?”
The group of six recruits took off down the corridors of the SGC. Teal'c watched, surprised. He saw Jack and approached him.
“O'Neill, is this acceptable behavior?”
“Sure, it is. Here, try it, big guy.”
“I do not understand the purpose.”
Jack took a reluctant Teal'c aside and prepared him.
“Indeed ... not,” the Jaffa said, removing the items from his feet and watching Jack skate off.
“COLONEL O'NEILL, WHAT THE BLAZES IS GOING ON HERE?” Hammond shouted, having just seen the recruits skating down the halls of the SGC.
“Manual dexterity tests, Sir. Feet have to be in tip-top shape, General, and these floors are the perfect surface for inline skating. Excuse me, Sir,” Jack said, skating by his CO, “I have to catch up with the kiddies.”
“Kiddies? Jack, we need to have a talk.”
“Later, Sir!” Jack said, rounding the corner and disappearing from Hammond's sight.
Hammond looked after his 2IC, completely at a loss for words.
~I'm afraid we're going to have to have a serious talk soon, Jack. Too many complaints, and this unusual activity of yours has me worried.~ He sighed. ~I wish this other business weren't taking up so much of my time; watch your step, Colonel.~
“All right, you're almost at the end of your training, and then we'll see who really passes muster around here. We'll be reviewing communication protocols this morning, and then reconvene in the gate room at 1400 for a special event.”
“What is that, Sir?” Winters asked.
“Essentials, Airman; essentials,” Jack said with a smile.
“Late. He's always late,” Jack groaned, but finally an incoming alert was received. It was SG-11. “About time.”
“Teal'c, do you know what he's doing?” Sam asked the Jaffa from the corner of the control room.
“As DanielJackson would say, I have no idea. I have observed ColonelO'Neill since my return. He is acting strangely.”
“Yeah, I've heard some stories. General Hammond said he was actually skating down the hallways.”
“That is correct, CaptainCarter. O'Neill attempted to get me to ... have fun, too.”
“Fun? Geez, where was I?”
“I believe you were meeting with SG-7 to review data about ...”
“Oh, yeah, I remember.”
The kawoosh of the event horizon splashed vividly in the gate room, and moments later, SG-11 walked through.
“Where the heck is Daniel?” Jack barked at Major Hampton, the leader of SG-11.
“If you let him touch anything, I'll ...”
“Jack, gawd,” Daniel said, having walked through the Stargate just in time to hear the short exchange.
Daniel looked at Jack with a scrunched face, almost squinting. He bowed his head just slightly, and asked, “What did you say? Jack, I'm not military, and I ...”
“Daniel, pay attention.”
Daniel kept staring at Jack in total confusion, even missing the fact that Jack had actually gone to attention-status himself. He had thought Jack was barking at him to stand at attention, something Daniel never did and never planned on doing.
“Uh, Doctor Jackson,” Hampton said softly, nudging him on the arm and looking out over the gate room.
Daniel's heart skipped a few beats. The fifteen new recruits were lined up, all at attention, and all saluting -- and staring right at him.
“Jack, what's going on?”
As Daniel looked around, he saw now that even the Marines were at attention. After all, Jack didn't tell just the trainees to salute, but everyone present. Even SG-11 had snapped to, except for Hampton.
“Major,” Jack warned. “I said attention.”
Daniel watched the man he'd just been digging in holes with suddenly salute him.
“Okay, uh, well ...”
“Daniel ... their arms are getting tired.”
“Oh ... uh, Jack, have you lost your mind?”
Daniel looked around, and with an apologetic look on his face, he hesitantly raised his right arm, and saluted, allowing the others to release their salutes.
“Jack, what the heck is going on?”
“Welcome home, Daniel! You have gifts.”
“Your office, Daniel. Ten minutes.” Jack turned to face the recruits. “Recruits, dismissed!”
Daniel didn't move. He saw the looks of the recruits, some of which didn't look very friendly, although others seemed almost a little too friendly. The contradiction confused the archaeologist even more.
~Why are they looking at me like that?~
“I don't know, Tanya. I think the Colonel was right. His eyes are cerulean,” Sheila commented, not taking her eyes off of Daniel.
“No, crystal,” Tanya responded, also gazing at the archaeologist.
“Oh, gawd,” Daniel said, hurrying out of the gate room, trying desperately to ignore everyone.
“Daniel, wait up,” Sam called out.
“Guys, what is going on?” Daniel said to his two teammates as they approached him.
“We have no idea. The Colonel's been acting ... oddly. You wouldn't believe the stories I've heard.”
“I need to go to my office and see what Jack's done there. Does the General know about any of this?”
Sam answered, “Some of it, but he was called to Washington and was away until a few days ago, and there's some ... something going on now that's required most of his attention. I don't think he's going to be too happy, though, when he finds out everything that's happened.”
Daniel shook his head, then suggested they meet in an hour after he'd had a chance to check out his office and do the obligatory post-mission exam. SG-11's briefing wasn't scheduled for four hours so he had some time.
Daniel walked into his office, dropping his pack onto the floor. He ambled slowly around the room, totally disbelieving of what he saw.
Lost deep in his thoughts, Daniel jumped upon hearing Jack's voice. He turned and shook his head.
“Wha...what ... Jack, what is this?”
“Let me give you the grand tour. Over here, taped to the shelves, are the essays on the benefits of having a geeky pain in the butt on your team. On this wall, are the essentials; well, the best part of the essentials. Emerson likes your mouth. See, she's circled it, but Hanson preferred your eyebrows. He said they were deep and thick, and he liked that.” Jack scowled. “Not sure why. Not sure I like that, but ...” He moved to another area of the room, “And this is your new wallpaper. Graves made it. It has one-hundred and one reasons why a geek is your friend. And right here. Daniel, look ... on the desk. These are your artifacts, offerings from the new recruits.”
Daniel stared at the desk. It was an odd assortment of twigs, rocks, a toy kazoo, one key, and what Daniel hoped was a store-bought bone buried by a dog. He looked up at Jack and saw a huge smile on the man's face.
“Jack, it's going to be okay. Let's go see Janet.”
“Don't you like your presents?” Jack said, his expression changing from elation to a crestfallen frown.
“I, uh, love them. They're great, but listen to me. Something's very wrong, and we need to find out what.”
“I missed you, Danny.”
Daniel suddenly found himself pulled into a warm hug. The young man wasn't good with physical endearments, and while he was getting used to Jack's pats on the shoulder and touches on the arm, and even to their close proximity during their late night chats under the stars, the full-out hug had taken him by surprise. Awkwardly, he patted Jack on the back.
“Um, well, I missed you, too, but let's go see Janet,” he said anxiously.
Jack's smile returned, and the two walked out and headed for the infirmary.
“Did you like the salutes, Danny?” Jack asked in an almost childlike tone.
“Yes, Jack. They did it very well.”
Daniel was worried about upsetting his friend. He had no idea what could be the cause of the strange behavior, but Jack was glued close to his side and appeared to be in awe of every word Daniel spoke.
“I thought you'd like that. Great class. They passed.”
“Daniel Jackson: the Basics.”
Daniel felt an embarrassed flush appear on his cheeks. He felt very uncomfortable with all of Jack's praise and attentions, but at the same time, somewhere down deep inside his soul, he was being fed an emotional nourishment that he had long needed. He knew there had to be a reason for Jack's odd behavior, but still, for one very brief second, he let the compliments sink in, and for that second, he felt very, very good.
“I don't know why you are making such a fuss,” Jack whined.
“Sir,” Sam attempted to respond, “you've been doing some very unusual things over the past week.”
“How would you know? You weren't even here.”
“Actually, Colonel, I've been back for several days.”
“Well ... stop hiding.”
“Jack, just stay here with Janet, and we'll be back later.”
“Daniel, where are you going?”
“I'll be back. It's okay. You stay here.”
“Better not be another ten days,” Jack complained.
“Just ... I'll be back,” Daniel answered nervously. As he walked away from the bed, he said, “Janet, if you find anything, let us know right away.”
Jack's teammates then left the infirmary and headed for Daniel's office.
“You guys are not going to believe this,” Daniel warned as he led his teammates into his newly redecorated office.
Seeing the papers, photos, and 'artifacts', Sam and Teal'c were stunned into silence.
“Daniel, I've heard stories, but I think we need a first-hand report from the recruits.”
“Sam, I don't want them talking; I mean spreading rumors about Jack. Something's very wrong here.”
“I know, so let's pick just one and see what they have to say.” Sam reviewed the essays and selected one she felt would be appropriate. “I think she'd be good. She writes like an observer.”
“I recognize the name; saw her nametag. In the gate room, she was talking with one of the other female recruits about my ...” Daniel saw Sam's expectant look. He sighed, and finally said, “eyes.”
“They were talking about your eyes?”
“Cerulean versus crystal.”
“Cerulean,” Sam answered with a smile, teasing her friend. “I'm going to track her down. I'll be right back.”
“Teal'c, what have you heard?”
“O'Neill overheard three of the recruits criticizing scientists. He ordered them to clean your office.”
Daniel looked around.
“Gawd, it is cleaner.” He walked to a shelf and ran his finger along the dust-free surface. “A lot cleaner.”
“One of the recruits while cleaning your office made coffee. O'Neill walked in as Airman Hanson was sitting in your chair, feet up on your desk, using your coffee mug.”
Daniel closed his eyes. Sheepishly, not really sure he wanted to know the answer, he faced Teal'c and asked, “What did he do?”
The Airman was required to do twenty pushups, ten sit-ups, and five jumping jacks. He was then made to stand at attention in the corner for one hour. When that time expired, he had to write on the blackboard, 'I will never again use Doctor Jackson's office for personal use' one-hundred times.
“Oh gawd,” Daniel moaned.
“There is more.”
“No,” Daniel raised his hand and vehemently shook his head. “Please, no more.”
There was more, however, and when Sheila Winters joined SG-1, she gave them a mouthful about what had been going on. She left out nothing, after having been assured by Sam that it was vital that she cooperate.
When they were done, Sam dismissed the Airman, but on her way out, she stopped and turned around.
“Captain Carter, permission to speak freely, openly even about Doctor Jackson?”
“Um,” Sam looked at Daniel for permission.
“How much worse can it get, Sam? Sure, go ahead,” he said to the new recruit.
Winters nodded and smiled and looked at Daniel. She spoke sincerely and calmly.
“Doctor Jackson, I don't know you, but I do want to say, I hope I get to know you in the future. I'd very much like to work with you, in fact. From what we've studied, you're an awesome human being, and something we should all aspire to be. I know what we've been through seems unusual, and I'm sure it's not the normal training. In fact, I'm kind of glad to know that something else might be the cause of Colonel O'Neill's behavior, but ... in the end, studying you, has made me, has made all of us, better prepared to go through the Stargate. That's all I wanted to say. Goodnight.”
“I'm so embarrassed.”
Sam smiled and said, “That was nice.”
“And her words are true, DanielJackson.”
“Guys, let's, uh, concentrate on Jack.”
Sam and Teal'c exchanged a look, knowing that compliments weren't something Daniel was used to.
“Okay,” Sam leaned forward holding several papers in her hand that were full of notes. “From what Winters said, the Colonel's behavior changed about day four of their training. Up until then, what they did was routine. So, why the change?”
“More importantly,” Daniel interjected, “what caused it?”
“And why does DanielJackson figure so prominently in O'Neill's actions?”
Sam sighed and looked at her watch.
“Daniel, you have your briefing with SG-11 in ninety minutes, right?” Daniel nodded. “Okay, let's go see if Janet has turned up anything, and then after the briefing, we'll meet with General Hammond.”
“Janet, please tell me you've found something,” Daniel asked with desperation in his voice as they entered the SGC.
“Danny, you came back,” Jack said enthusiastically, sitting up from his hospital bed.
“Whoa, there, Colonel. Lay down. I'm still doing tests.”
“Don't 'but Doc' me or I'll give you something in your butt that you won't like.”
Jack growled, but did as ordered.
Janet shook her head and walked over to the three SG-1 teammates.
“Follow me,” she instructed. “I'm still taking more samples, but I already took a tissue swab and drew some blood. He's been drugged.”
“Drugged?” Daniel asked, surprised.
“Well, there's a foreign substance, one I don't recognize, in his system. See here,” Janet pointed to an image on her computer, “this is it. It's latched on to his red blood cells, but I don't know why, and I don't really know what it is or where it came from.”
“Well, could it be something he ate or drank?” Sam asked.
Janet sighed, “Maybe, but I don't think so. There's a small rash on the palm of his hand. That's where this picture is from. See the accumulation of these ... whatever they are? They are centered here, and I think they've just ... drifted into his system.”
“So ... it was ... absorbed through his skin?” Daniel asked.
“I think so.”
“Is it an Earth virus?” Teal'c asked.
“Again, I don't recognize it. I don't think so. I think whatever this is must be from contact with another world. The Colonel hasn't been off-world that I know of since SG-1's last mission. Have any of you exhibited any symptoms similar to what the Colonel has?”
“I've resisted the temptation to put DanielJackson's picture on the wall of my room,” Teal'c said stoically.
Sam hid her laugh and said, “And I haven't saluted him lately, either.“
“Oh gawd,” Daniel moaned again, laying his head on his hands against the table.
“I'm sorry, Daniel, but it is pretty funny, if you think about it.”
“Yeah, a real riot.”
Janet smiled at Daniel's distress, but then returned her focus to her patient.
“Okay, so what happened on the planet? What did the Colonel do that none of the rest of you did?”
Teal'c reported, “O'Neill and I conducted a detailed search of the area. He talked a lot about ... twins.” Teal'c ignored the funny look he got and added, “He did not touch anything that I am aware of.”
“Well, I was pretty focused on the panels. He didn't touch those.”
“The ball?” Daniel asked suddenly.
“What ball?” Janet asked.
“Jack was fine on PQ4-555 the entire time, right?”
“I think so. I mean, I didn't notice any shrines being built or anything,” Sam teased again.
“Thanks, Sam,” Daniel smirked.
Suddenly, one of the nurses shouted out.
“Doctor Fraiser! Hurry!”
Alarmed, Janet ran to Jack's bedside.
“I don't know. I just looked over, and he was like this.”
“Colonel? Colonel, do you hear me?”
“Janet?” Sam asked.
Daniel folded his arms across his chest, fear consuming him. The frustration and embarrassment of the situation no longer worried him; now, all he cared about was his friend, currently lying unconscious on the hospital bed.
“He has a steady heartbeat, but his pulse is slow.”
“Doctor, he's ... smiling.”
“Colonel? COLONEL O'NEILL?” There was no response. “Kelly, do the labs, full spectrum ... stat.”
Janet turned to the worried teammates.
“He's in a coma, of sorts. Daniel, what were you saying about ... a ball?”
“Well, on the planet, Jack was fine, but the only thing I remember him coming into contact with that we didn't was that funny ball.”
“Oh, I remember. He threw it to you,” Sam responded.
“And I ... let it hit the wall. I never touched it, Sam.”
“Could this ball cause the virus to occur days later? O'Neill was himself for several days after the mission,” Teal'c commented.
Janet explained, “Many viruses and illnesses have an incubation period. Maybe it's the same with the ball. The rash could be the point of transmission. I need that ball, Sam.”
“Let's go see General Hammond. Daniel, is there anything that SG-11 found that's crucial right?”
“They don't need me to give their report, if that's what you mean.”
“That's exactly what I meant,” she replied.
Sam smiled and nodded, and the three went to Hammond's office to fill him in on the details.
“And Doctor Fraiser believes this ball accounts for Colonel O'Neill's erratic behavior?”
“She thinks so, but she can't be sure without examining it.”
“You know, Captain, I have a stack of complaints and reports about Colonel O'Neill's behavior; there are some serious concerns raised in them. He's is on the verge of court-martial.” Hammond looked at the two with an incredulous look on his face. He picked up one of the complaints and held it in front of them. “Do you know what this is? Colonel O'Neill wanted to washout Airman Connors based on one fact, and one fact alone.”
Sam and Daniel looked at each other, almost afraid to ask, but finally, Sam asked, “What fact, Sir?”
“He didn't know who you were, Doctor Jackson.”
Daniel didn't even know how to respond. It seemed so surreal, but finally, he responded, “General, this isn't Jack. Whatever's happened, it's ... it's not Jack. He's in a coma, General. This isn't him ... going nuts. You have to know that.”
Hammond hesitated, then said, “I understand, Doctor Jackson. In part, I take responsibility for the extent of the situation. I’ve been too distracted with other obligations over the past two weeks to respond to concerns when they were expressed early on. We need to get to the bottom of this, and fast, before it gets even more out of hand.”
“Out of hand, General?” Sam asked.
“The rumor mill, Captain. We have several representatives of the Pentagon coming next week; I'd like to have my 2IC back to his old self by then.”
Sam and Daniel exchanged a look, but Teal'c said calmly, “O'Neill is not at fault for his behavior. He is a great warrior.”
Hammond nodded; they'd find a way to combat the rumor mill or anything else that popped up. He reaffirmed his decision silently, and then said, “That he is, Teal'c. SG-1, you have a go, but I want you in full protective gear. I want that ball treated as hostile and contagious. Is that understood?”
“I don't see it,” Daniel said.
“Me, either,” Sam added. “Daniel, it bounced over here. I remember that.”
“I don't, but I know it hit here,” he pointed at the wall behind where he was currently standing, “and was rolling that way,” he pointed just to the right of where Sam was standing.
Teal'c entered the strange building and stated, “I have not been able to find the ball or anything else like it.”
“Well, we need to go back. This is bizarre. It couldn't have just disappeared.”
“How is he?” Daniel asked.
Janet sighed and looked at her patient.
“He's the same, but I don't understand his smile. It's a coma, but ... I don't know; there's something ... different. Where's the ball?”
“We couldn't find it,” Sam said.
“We searched the town thoroughly. There was no ball there.”
“I don't know what to do,” Janet sighed.
Suddenly, Daniel's face lit up.
“Daniel?” Sam asked, seeing the young man's demeanor change.
“Jack's a big kid.”
“And ... Teal'c, when Sam and I were packing up our gear, what were you and Jack doing?”
“I was outside the building, standing guard.”
“And the Colonel?” Sam asked.
“I believe he was inside with you, CaptainCarter.”
“He brought it back.” Daniel headed for the door. He stopped, turned back to face the others again, then said, “I'll be back.”
“Daniel? Daniel?” Sam asked, watching him hurry down the corridors. She shrugged and looked over at the Colonel. “I wonder what he's thinking about.”
“Okay, Jack. If you brought it back, where would you put it?” Daniel asked. He stood in Jack's office and turned in a three-hundred sixty degree circle, doing a quick overview. “Think, Jackson. He's a big kid. He loves to play. Where would he put it so that it's out of sight, but easily acces...sible. The desk!”
He went to the desk, but it was locked.
“Oh great, Jack. Since when do you follow protocol?”
He called the infirmary and asked for Sam.
“Sam, ask Janet if she has Jack's keys.”
“Hold on ... no, she doesn't.”
“Okay, well, then, uh, I need a ... little favor. Can you come to Jack's office?”
“On my way,” Sam said.
“You know I could get court-martialed for this.”
“Sorry, Sam, but I'm sure he has it in here.”
It only took the blonde Captain a few seconds to unhinge the lock. At Daniel's astonished look, she smiled and shrugged.
“Something tells me you've done that before.”
“That's why you called me.”
Daniel laughed and then opened the drawers.
“Sam, here it is.”
“Don't touch it, Daniel. I'm calling for protective gear.”
Hammond entered the infirmary.
“Any progress, Doctor Fraiser?”
“Yes, I've identified the same element I found in the Colonel's bloodstream on this ball,” she pointed to the object as it sat in a protective glass housing.
“Doctor Jackson, have you been able to translate any of the symbols?”
He sighed, then answered, “I think it says, 'don't touch' which isn't much help at this point.”
“What's Colonel O'Neill's condition?”
“Unchanged,” Janet responded. “Steady heart beat, slow pulse. I'm feeding him through IVs, making sure he gets the necessary fluids, but he's still in some kind of coma.”
Hammond looked at his 2IC, his eyebrows raising in question.
“Is he ... smiling?”
“Janet,” Sam said, “it's a bigger smile. He's practically grinning.”
Janet walked over and studied the medical machinery. She checked his vital signs.
“The only change is ... his pulse is ... I can barely get a pulse, but everything else is fine. I don't like this.”
It was 3 a.m., and Hammond had ordered SG-1 and Janet to take a break for a few hours to get some much-needed sleep, but Daniel took his place by Jack's bedside. It was becoming a habit for the two men. Whenever Daniel had been injured, Jack had sat with him.
~You're the first person I see when I open my eyes. I have to admit, Jack, that ... it's been comforting. Jack, I'm ... I'm scared. I don't think I can handle another loss. I've come to ... I mean we're friends, and ... wake up, Jack.~
“Please, wake up,” he said out loud. Daniel looked around and saw that he was truly alone with his friend. Leaning forward and speaking extremely softly, he added, “I ... need you to wake up. Don't leave me, Jack.”
After several minutes, Daniel went over to where the ball was and stared at the symbols.
“Don't touch. That I get, but what else do you say?” He walked to the other side. “Touch. Don't touch. Game? Sleep ... Game of ... JANET!”
Daniel ran to the phone and dialed the VIP room that Janet was staying in.
“Janet, I've got it.”
“I'll be right down.”
“Sleep ... yes ... oh gawd, is it that simple?”
Five minutes later, Janet hurried into the infirmary.
“What did you find out?” she asked.
“Janet, it's a ... a sleeping ball. It's like a game, actually. Each one of these symbols is like a ... game piece. This is sleep. This is jump. This is, uh, sing. This one is cry.”
“Daniel, how does this help us?”
“This one is idol.”
Daniel shrugged and smiled shyly.
“Jack picked up the ball and looked at me.”
“You ... became his idol? Is that what you're saying?”
“I think so. Maybe the game is meant to be played slowly, naturally, and that's why nothing happened for a few days, or ... maybe it's just our physiology.”
“That might make sense, but how do we reverse it?”
“I ... have no idea.”
Daniel plopped down onto a chair and stared at the ball.
“I'm sorry, Janet. I shouldn't have woken you up. I just got so excited.”
“Don't apologize. There aren't any instructions on the ball? Start? End?”
“I wwww...” Daniel sat up as if stung by a bee. “Wait, wait, wait.” Excitedly, he stood and walked around the casing, staring intently at the ball. “I need to see the other side.”
Janet put on her gloves and reached in carefully to turn the ball over. She moved it slowly.
“Gawd, yes. Janet, he needs to touch it again, to press this part,” Daniel pointed to a small section.
“Game over,” he said. “It's so simple.”
“It's risky, Daniel.”
“No, I'm sure of this, Janet.”
Janet put on regular gloves, then opened the casing and removed the ball. She carried it over to Jack and followed Daniel's instructions about how to place it in his hand.
“Janet, use his finger to press that little section there. Harder. Okay, you can put it away.”
“There's no change, Daniel,” she said.
“No, we need to give it time. It took Jack three days to start the game. It may take him three days to end it.”
“I hope he has that long.”
“Daniel, what were you doing in here anyway? General Hammond ordered us to get some rest.”
“I ... was. I was just resting here.”
“Why don't you go lay down?”
“No, I want to stay.” He looked at Janet. “He's my friend, Janet. I need to stay, for a while.”
Janet left to return to the VIP suite. She was certain that when she came down to begin her shift in a few hours that Daniel would still be there.
She was right.
“His pulse is increasing, and the rash is almost completely gone now,” Janet said to Hammond and SG-1 as they stood vigil at Jack's bedside.
“It was the conduit, the rash I mean.”
“Daniel, it's been three days,” Sam said.
Daniel nodded and said, “He'll wake up soon.” ~He has to. Come on, Jack. Wake up.~
Daniel smiled. It was dinnertime at the Mountain, and the infirmary was free of personnel with the exception of one nurse who was tending to another patient.
Daniel stood up from his chair and looked down at his waking friend.
“Hey, what, uh, what am I doing here?”
Daniel smiled and replied, “It's a long story, but a funny one.”
“Love a ... funny story. My head feels like it's been run over by a truck.”
“No, just a ball.”
“Daniel, you look tired.”
“Me? I'm fine.”
Jack smiled, then closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
“I had to stare down Norton and Benson today. You know, I don't even remember half of what I did.”
“If I were you, Jack, I wouldn't want to remember.”
Jack laughed and took a sip of beer. He and Daniel were on Daniel's balcony, enjoying the night air.
“A Daniel Jackson shrine,” Jack quipped, looking at his friend. “Not such a bad thing, is it?”
“It was embarrassing, Jack. You made them dig like monkeys. Monkeys? I don't understand that one at all.”
Jack laughed and shook his head. He wasn't really sure himself why he would have done such a thing, but there was something about the association of Daniel and monkeys that made him chuckle.
A few minutes later, Daniel asked, “Jack, when you were unconscious, do you remember anything? I mean, was it ... like a dream or ...?” Daniel shrugged, not sure what word to use. “Or ... well, do you remember?”
“Not sure. Why?”
“You were smiling ... a lot.”
“You looked ... happy. I was, well everyone was actually, wondering what you were thinking or ... dreaming about.”
“Mmm,” Jack said, taking a drink of his beer.
“So you don't remember.”
Jack shrugged, and Daniel started to tell him about something else that had happened. Jack listened, watching his friend talk.
~Don't think I'm gonna tell you that all I remember is ... you. Not sure where I was. It was like I was in a void, floating, and all I around me I heard your voice, talking to me. It was non-stop prattling. Don't remember a word you said, but I remember your voice, and every now and then, I saw your face. The expression was like the one you get when you watch the Stargate open. You're still so awed by it. Smiling, huh? Not about to tell you that your prattling made me smile. I'd never hear the end of it.~
“Jack, are you listening to me?”
“Just like I always do, Daniel.”
“Right. Well, next time you follow orders.”
“Gawd, Jack, you weren't listening.”
“Okay, you caught me. I was ... thinking. Gave myself a headache. What were you saying?”
If Jack hadn't looked so innocent, Daniel might have been angry, but he felt too good about having his friend back, safe and sound.
“I was just saying that the next time you tell me not to touch anything that you should follow your own advice. I can't believe you actually brought it back.”
“Fraiser thinks I was infected the moment I picked it up the first time. I probably hit that start button without knowing it. Danny, I remember leaving the planet and the next couple of days, but ... I swear, I don't remember going back and picking up the ball.”
“So it was part of the game.”
“Not much of a game if you don't even know you're playing,” Jack sighed.
“And it wouldn't have been a problem if you hadn't touched it in the first place.”
“Yes, Doctor Jackson,” Jack said with a smile. “Danny, I didn't really make them salute you ... did I?”
“You saluted me, Jack.”
“You did, in the gate room.”
“Well, don't get used to it.”
“Don't worry. I won't.”
There was something in Daniel's tone and expression that bothered the older man.
“Daniel, I'm proud to salute you.” Daniel looked over, in shock. “I know you don't like the military, but honor, respect, trust, that's a big deal to me, and there are very few people I give all three of those traits to. You're one of them.”
Daniel nodded, looking away to try and curtail his spiraling emotions.
“Waking up. I was a little worried for a while.”
Jack grinned at Daniel. They'd come a long way from that first mission to Abydos, and he had to admit, he'd found a very special man to be his best friend.
“How about a game of chess?”
“No, I don't think so, not when I have a friend like you in my corner.” Daniel smiled, and the two shared a warm look. “You're a good man, Daniel Jackson.”
“So are you, Jack; so are you.”
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