Strain

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  7 - April 2-3, 2004
Spoilers:  Death Knell
Size:  47kb, short story
Written:  December 18-21,27,30-31, 2007, January 4,9-11, 2008
Summary:  When the super soldiers attack the Alpha Site, Sam fights for her life. Then it's up to Jack and Daniel to not only rescue their friend, but try to salvage the alliance between the Tok'ra, Jaffa, and Tau'ri.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) 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.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Wolf Moldy, Tammy, Jo, Caro, Claudia, Lissa, Tonya, Linda!

Strain
by Orrymain

“Can you believe him?” an irritated Jack exclaimed, continuing to glare at the back of Colonel Reynolds as the man followed Jack's instructions to search in another area, as far from SG-1 as possible.

The SGC personnel were on the Alpha Site looking for their missing teammate.  An hour earlier, they'd gotten word that the base was being evacuated due to an attack by Goa'uld ships.  At the time of the early morning attack, Sam and her father, Jacob, had been working on a prototype for a device to battle Anubis' drones, or 'super soldiers' as they'd been dubbed.

From the moment the teams had come through the Stargate, the destruction of the Alpha Site had been evident.  Fires were burning amid the rubble of the destroyed buildings, and the Stargate itself had been toppled and was lying on the ground, having forced the rescue teams to literally fall into a kawoosh-made foxhole and then climb out on a ladder.  It hadn't taken SG-1 long to work out that much of the destruction was probably due to self-destruct mechanisms that were built into the SG bases.

SG-3, commanded by Reynolds, had followed the flagship team to the Alpha Site to aid in the search.  As the two team leaders waited for their teams to get into place, Reynolds had made the mistake of asking who could have survived the destruction they'd already seen.

Jack was still seething and continued to glare at Reynolds' back even as he searched for Sam and Jacob.

“He should have stayed back at Area 51, if that's his attitude,” Jack spoke, his ire still evident.

Partly out of habit and partially to ensure that he had the privacy he wanted to respond to his lover freely, Daniel glanced back, checking to see that Teal'c was still a few feet behind them.  All three men had their eyes peeled for survivors.

“Don't you think you're being a little hard on him?” Daniel asked his lover, wanting to give Reynolds the benefit of the doubt, although he did agree it had been a very stupid question to have asked.

“Daniel, we don't give up on our people, and we don't make assumptions.”

“I know, but the Alpha Site was completely destroyed and ...”

“And someone had to give the order and engage the self-destruct.  Carter's one of the few people here who could do that.  She got out.”

“I'm sure she did,” Daniel replied confidently.  “But ... don't take your anger out on Colonel Reynolds.”

“I'll take my anger out on ...”  Jack paused.  “Anger?”

“Jack, you're worried about Sam.  Okay, Colonel Reynolds should have thought before asking the question.  He won't make that mistake again.”

“If he does, he'll be back at Nellis, even if I have to personally kick his butt and carry him there myself.”

Daniel sighed, realizing that now was not the best time to persuade his lover that Reynolds should be given a break.  Temporarily giving up on talk, the teammates continued their search for Sam or any other survivors.

====

A bit later, after having been informed by Jack that at least one of the super soldiers might have been on the planet when the base was destroyed, SG-3 found twelve survivors, though neither Sam nor Jacob were among them.

“She's here, Jack,” Daniel reassured his lover, aching to be able to enfold Jack in a comforting hug.  Instead, he settled for giving the older man, who was crouched on his haunches, examining the ground, a reassuring look.  “I know it.”

Throughout his military career, and Daniel suspected long before that as well, Jack had lived by one golden rule: never leave anyone behind.  The fact that SG-1 was a family just made the potential loss of a teammate even harder to bear.

Despite the colonel's expressionless face, Daniel knew all too well the self-doubts that were running through his lover's mind as he wondered if he'd failed to ensure that there had been adequate security at the off-world base.  Daniel wasn't the only one who often felt guilty about things that weren't actually his fault.  Though he covered it well, the tough-as-nails colonel often took things too much to heart as well.

“Yeah, I know, but she's probably alone,” Jack commented softly to Daniel, throwing a cursory look back to ensure they were far enough way from Teal'c so that he wouldn't overhear.  ~He doesn't need to hear me being, crap, sentimental about Carter.~

“She can handle it.”

“Daniel, we already found the armor of one of those drones.  We don't know how to beat those guys yet,” Jack stated as he stood up.

“Yeah, but we're working on it,” Daniel spoke in a somewhat upbeat tone.  ~This isn't your fault, Jack.~

Jack walked closer to his Love and asked, “How come you're being so positive about this?”

Daniel's blue eyes bore into Jack's brown ones as he answered, “Because she's our friend, and we need her.”

There was a moment when the two lovers just stared at each other, absorbing the truth of the statement.

“You're right,” Jack stated, determinedly pulling himself together.  “Okay, we need to report in to Hammond and make sure the injured are taken care of.”  He looked off to the right and saw the Jaffa.  “Teal'c, let's go.”

====

While SG-11 and SG-21 helped SG-3 to right the Stargate and look after the survivors, the three members of SG-1 continued their search, finally stumbling upon Jacob, whose leg was trapped beneath a fallen tree.

The Tok'ra handed the colonel the weapon that he and Sam had been working on, telling him that there were still a few shots left in it and that Sam had a fully charged power unit with her.  Unfortunately, Jacob didn't know where his daughter was, or even if she was still alive.

“Reynolds,” Jack called out over the radio.

“Yes, Sir.”

“We found Jacob; he's alive, but he can't walk.  We'll need a stretcher.”

“What's your location?”

With help on the way, Teal'c continued to search the perimeter of the immediate area, while Jack and Daniel stayed with Jacob.  With the man's injuries tended to as best they could be, the couple stood and walked away for a moment.

“Danny, I want you to go back to the SGC with Jacob,” Jack stated as he clutched his P-90.

“No,” Daniel objected.

“That's an order.”

“Jack, first of all, need I remind you, I *don't* do orders,” Daniel said with raised eyebrows.  “I want to help find Sam, and ... we don't know how many of the super soldiers might still be on this planet.  You need me.”

“I always need you, but Jacob might remember something that will help us.  I want you there to help him remember.”

“You want me off the planet.”

“Daniel ...”

“Jack, I'll do this under protest, and the only reason I'll do it is because, if you're this worried, I don't want you being distracted, worrying about me.”

“Just as long as you do it,” Jack responded as he turned and kneeled down by Jacob once again.

**I'll do it, Jack, but not because you're ordering me,** came Daniel's snarky reply.  ~And when we are all back on Earth, Sam included, we're going to revisit this issue.~

Jack ignored the silent challenge as he sat with Jacob, waiting for help to arrive.

====

“Doctor Jackson, I'm surprised you didn't stay out on the search,” General Hammond stated as he looked up towards Daniel, who stood partway up on the ramp.

Jacob had just informed the major general that he and Sam had been in the forest being chased by a drone when the base's self-destruct had gone off.  He reminded his old friend, and Daniel, who was also looking down at him on the stretcher, that the drone's armor was impervious to energy weapons and that regular firearms were useless in defending against the powerful fighters.  The drones that had been killed at the Alpha Site had been done in by kinetic energy.

“They can't ignore physics,” Jacob had stated before being taken to the infirmary.

After ordering Sergeant Siler to prepare a specialized UAV to help in the search for Sam, Hammond looked up at Daniel and once again expressed his surprise that Daniel had returned to Earth while a teammate was still missing.

“Uh, yes, Sir, me, too, frankly,” Daniel stammered, wishing he hadn't been confronted about his return.  Regrouping, he continued, “But Jack thought I might be able to learn something from Jacob that will help us to find Sam.”  Inwardly, he sighed, ~And he's worried there might be more than one of those drones on the planet and that I'd get killed.  Of course, it didn't seem to occur to him that if something happens to him, I have no life.  Stubborn colonel.~

Hammond nodded, but inwardly thought it was odd.  It just wasn't like any member of SG-1 to leave a teammate in need, or to separate without due cause.  Nevertheless, he didn't have time to think about it at the moment.

As the head of the SGC walked away, Daniel glanced back at the Stargate for a moment before walking away and thinking, ~Sometimes, Jack, you take this worrying thing too far.  Okay, I know.  We don't have a way to kill the drones yet; at least, not for sure.  The Goa'uld we can kill; the Replicators we can blow up; but the super soldiers, they're still a little tougher.~  He sighed as he rounded one of the corridor corners.  ~I don't like it, Babe, but I guess I understand it.  Maybe Jacob really will know something that will help us.  Maybe.~

====

Less than thirty minutes later, Hammond met with Major Green, one of the survivors, who had just been released from the infirmary.

Green reported that the Stargate had been hit by an al-kesh bomber, after which drones had landed in scout ships.  Realizing the enemy couldn't be stopped and that there was sensitive material on the site, the base commander, Colonel Reilly, had ordered the self-destruct.  Giving them just one minute to evacuate to safety, he had valiantly stayed with the device to ensure the attackers wouldn't have a chance to disarm it.  Ultimately, Reilly had sacrificed his life for the protection of Earth.

====

As soon as he was feeling better, a weary Jacob gave Daniel his perspective on what had happened at the Alpha Site.  With the attack underway, he and Sam had worked feverishly to download the weapon design into the matrix crystal and wipe the computer memory, not wanting the information to fall into the hands of the enemy.  When one of the super soldiers entered the lab, he'd shot it, and the drone had fallen down.  Unfortunately, the drone had recovered quickly.  After Jacob had fired again and the drone fell once more, the father and daughter had taken the opportunity to flee, but the drone was soon on their tail.

Sam's father explained, “The Stargate was hit; we couldn't get out; so we ran for the hills. The drone followed us.  If Sam is still alive, it's still after her.”

“Maybe it's just hiding, waiting for a chance to go back through the Gate,” the archaeologist suggested hopefully, wishing he could believe that.

“Out of all the rooms on that base, why did it come to that lab?  And why did it chase us as opposed to anyone else?”

“You think it knew about the prototype?”

“I think that was the whole reason for the attack,” Jacob opined.  “Somehow Anubis knows we may have the only weapon in the galaxy capable of stopping his soldiers.”

“And Sam has the design.”

“That thing won't stop until it finds her.”

“Jack and Teal'c are still searching.  They'll find her,” Daniel spoke in an attempt to comfort the man.

Jacob simply stared up at the ceiling.  Selmak was still healing his injuries, but he was tired.  Moreover, his human self was extremely worried about his daughter.

“I'll ... check back with you later,” Daniel stated, standing and trying to offer a reassuring smile before leaving the infirmary.  As he walked, he thought, ~Okay, that's information we need to know, but I still think I should be with you, Jack.  There's nothing I can do here right now but worry.~

====

On the planet, Jack was fighting a couple of battles, and they weren't the physical kind, either.  The most obvious was the search for his second, but there was also his internal battle.

~Okay, maybe, only maybe, I shouldn't have sent you back,~ the colonel thought as his eyes swept a panoramic view of the area he was walking in.  ~You're as able as I am to survive out here, but I make no apologies for loving you and wanting to protect you.~

Jack knelt down to check the brush, looking for signs that Sam might have come in the direction that he and Teal'c were walking.  There was nothing definite yet, but his intuition was telling him that eastward was the way to go.

Standing again, the colonel moved onward while thinking, ~These friggin' super soldiers are gonna be hard to beat if this weapon doesn't work.~  He sighed, realizing the truth of the matter.  His husband was an expert on survival, and he was trained in a variety of covert skills.  Daniel had just as good of a chance at defeating the drones as the colonel did.  ~I admit it.  I overreacted, wanting to keep you safe because I need you, Danny.  Crap, don't make an issue over this.  Cut me some slack this time.~

As he continued hunting for the blonde major, Jack hoped that he and his lover wouldn't fight over his misguided order.  When he got home, he just wanted to hold Daniel close, not fight.  Still, he knew he wouldn't be able to blame the younger man if he did choose to call him on the issue, but he was hoping for understanding and forgiveness.

~Danny has mountains of forgiveness in him; thank goodness, or I'd be one crisply cooked colonel.~

====

While Jack and Teal'c continued their search, a political battle was brewing at the SGC between the members of the alliance that had been forged between the Tau'ri, the Tok'ra, and the Jaffa in the fight against the Goa'uld.  M'zel, the leader of the Jaffa survivors, and Delek, the Tok'ra representative, were facing off on a number of issues, causing emotions to heighten.  Hoping to put a cap on the explosive rift, Hammond called Daniel to his office to inform him about what had been happening.

“So, the Tok'ra had an operative in Olokun's camp?” Daniel asked, referring to one of the Goa'uld System Lords currently being overrun by Anubis' drones.

“Until Jacob confronted Delek a little while ago, the Tok'ra denied having such an operative,” Hammond answered from behind his desk where he was seated.

“But they did?”

“Delek admitted it.”  Hammond took a breath and expounded, “Apparently, the Jaffa were hoping this Tok'ra would either assassinate Olokun or at least offer the Jaffa a chance to join the rebellion.  Unfortunately, the Tok'ra thought that was too risky.”

“They were afraid the Jaffa wouldn't defect and would expose the operative,” Daniel surmised, his head bowed slightly as he stood with his arms folded across his chest.  “We didn't know about the, uh, spy, either.”

“No,” the general answered, shaking his head.  “Delek made it pretty clear that the Tok'ra don't really trust us.”

“Well, I know they've always been unhappy that we use alien technologies that they think are too advanced for us.  I mean, uh, that goes back a long time -- the X-301, the ...”

“The list is long, Doctor, and I can't say he's wrong.  Our agreement to full disclosure for joint operations has always been based on ...”

“Convenience,” Daniel completed.  “We tell them what we want, when we want, and they do the same, but ... that's the standard in ... politics.”

“That may be, but it sounds like it's coming to a head.  This alliance is on shaky ground.”

“Well, what about Jacob?  He's always been able to get the Tok'ra High Council to see reason.  Selmak is one of their oldest and wisest, something Jacob likes to remind Jack about often, and which drives Jack a bit ... crazy, though that's neither here nor there at the moment.”  The archaeologist drew a deep breath and asked, “Can't Jacob help?”

“Shortly before I called you in, Jacob informed me that his loyalties are in doubt with the Tok'ra.”

“You're kidding?” Daniel asked incredulously, his eyes widening as he lowered his hands to rest on his hips.

“I wish I were, but Delek says the High Council believes Jacob has more influence on Selmak than they'd like and that Selmak is closer to us than the Tok'ra want,” Hammond relayed.

“Because of Sam?” Daniel asked, though he didn't wait for an answer, since that was an obvious 'yes'.  Quickly, he added, “But I don't think anyone believes Selmak, or Jacob for that matter, would betray the Tok'ra, in any way, not even to us.”

“The truth of the matter is, Doctor Jackson, that both Jacob and Selmak are upset by the news.  Their position on the Council is in jeopardy, but I did manage to convince them to help us try and put the cork in this powder keg that's ready to explode,” Hammond stated.

“How?”

“He's meeting with M'zel right now.  It's my hope that he'll be able to get through to him; convince him to stick with our alliance.”

“Do you think he'll succeed?”

“It depends on how you look at it, Doctor Jackson,” Jacob said as he entered his friend's office.

“Jacob,” Hammond acknowledged.

Daniel nodded as Sam's father walked over to stand next to him as he spoke.

“M'zel agrees the alliance has made us all stronger.  I think he was actually touched to learn that the tretonin that allows so many Jaffa to live free from the larval Goa'uld was developed by the sacrifice of millions of Tok'ra, including Egeria.”

“The Tok'ra Queen,” Daniel acknowledged.

“He understands that for the first time, the Tok'ra, Jaffa, and Tau'ri have fought side by side, and that it *has* made a difference,” Jacob continued.

“That would be the good way of looking at it,” Daniel assumed.

With a slight bob of his head, Jacob affirmed the assumption and then added, “M'zel is very observant, and he's been watching what's gone on here lately.  He's aware that my place in the High Council is tentative at best.”

“I'm sure you'll be able to correct the misconceptions when you meet with the Council,” Daniel stated confidently.

“That's going to take some time,” Jacob responded.  Looking at Hammond, he stated, “I did my best.”

“Do you think he'll be willing to continue with the alliance?” the general asked.

“I don't know.  If I were speaking for the entire Council, I think he would, but he's hesitant because he knows I'm on the outs right now.”

“I'm sure it's only temporary,” Daniel tried to assure.  “Selmak's been one of their strongest leaders for a long, *long* time.”

Jacob bowed his head and when he spoke, it was Selmak's deep voice that responded, “Thank you for your confidence, Doctor Jackson.  I wish that it were that simple, but I think it will be a long time before my place on the Council is as strong as it once was.  General Hammond,” the symbiote spoke, facing the bald-headed man, “I regret that I cannot be of much help to you right now; maybe in time.”

“Selmak, this command has confidence in your ability to get the Tok'ra to understand the strength of this alliance.”

“I hope that trust is not misplaced,” Selmak spoke.  Jacob's head bowed again, and then Jacob added, “Selmak's feeling a little down.”

“That's understandable,” Daniel stated quietly.  More strongly, he asserted, “General, we have to get M'zel and Delek together and convince them to continue the alliance.”

With a nod, Hammond stated, “Jacob, ask M'zel and Delek to meet us in the briefing room in thirty minutes.”

“I should be helping in the search for Sam,” Jacob said, repeating his desire that he'd made a bit earlier to Hammond.

“I need you here, Jacob.  Please,” Hammond pleaded, knowing that Jacob was feeling as despondent as Selmak was over their sudden loss of place within the Tok'ra High Council.

Jacob nodded and left Hammond's office.

As he exchanged a look with Daniel, Hammond stated, “I have a phone call to make.”

Daniel started to leave, but the other man called out to him.

“Doctor Jackson, pull out all the stops to keep this alliance intact.”

“I'm not sure if they'll listen to me, but I'll do my best, Sir,” the archaeologist said as he walked out the door.

~Son, I have the utmost confidence in you,~ Hammond thought, now grateful that his second-in-command had sent the archaeologist back to the SGC with Jacob.  No one was better at mediating a dispute, or convincing the opposition to at least meet halfway, than Daniel was.  ~Let's just hope they'll listen to you.~

====

The meeting wasn't going well, the war of words heating up as Delek stated sternly, “We have been fighting the Goa'uld for thousands of years.  You have no right to question our methods.”

“That's because you were alone for thousands of years.  You have allies now,” Daniel stated.

“And what good has it done us?  In the few short years we have known the Tau'ri, your tendency to provoke direct confrontation with the Goa'uld has resulted in the deaths of more Tok'ra than in the previous hundred years combined.”

“I hate to admit it George, but he's got a point,” Jacob interjected.  “When a human or a Jaffa dies in battle, more are born to take their place.  The same can't be said for the Tok'ra.”

The meeting ended unexpectedly when the klaxons blared, and SG-1's IDC was received.  Quickly, Hammond, Daniel, and Jacob went to the gate room.  A medical team stood nearby.

For what seemed like an eternity, the major general and the archaeologist waited. Finally, Jack, Teal'c, and the rest of the SGC personnel hurried through the event horizon.

“We need a medic!” Jack called out, relieved to see the medical team was already in the gate room.

“Sam?” Daniel called out as he hurried up the ramp and saw the blonde major lying unconscious on a stretcher.  “Jack?”

“Carter's fine.  She's just exhausted,” the colonel reported, watching as the medical staff transported Sam out of the gate room and towards the infirmary.

“Colonel?”

“The weapon worked, Sir,” Jack announced, holding it up.  “We killed the drone.”

Hammond ordered, “Doctor Jackson, I want to resume our negotiations in ten minutes.”  Looking at Jack, he instructed, “Colonel, Teal'c, get yourselves checked out in the infirmary, and keep me advised on Colonel Carter's status.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged as the bald-headed man turned and walked away, with Teal'c following as he headed for the medical floor.  “What negotiations?” he asked his lover.

“Big headache.  The Jaffa and the Tok'ra aren't happy with each other right now, and neither group is happy with us.  It's not looking good.  Jack, about Sam ...”

“From what I could see, a few scratches, some bruises, and minor contusions.  The main thing is exhaustion.  That drone kept her running all day.  She said she fell asleep once, for a few minutes.  She ...”

“What?”

“She lost it out there after the drone was killed; got a little emotional.”

“Understandable, considering the circumstances.  I mean, uh, the self-destruct, not knowing if Jacob was alive or not, fighting for her life.”

“Yeah, no argument.”

“I'd better get back to the meeting.”

Jack nodded, but then walked forward until he was very close to his soulmate, so that his words would be quiet and not overheard.

“Danny, about that order ...”

“I understand, Jack.”

“I was wrong,” the colonel confessed.

“You okay?” Daniel asked.

Jack smiled, knowing his lover had just let him off the hook, and responded, “Yeah; just a little tired.  It's been a long ...”

“... long ...” Daniel spoke in unison with the other man.

“Lonnnnng day,” Jack completed.  “I'll check in with you later.”

“Okay.”

Daniel watched his lover walk away.  He felt immense relief that Jack was safe, and Sam, too.  It had been another close call.  He just prayed that the disintegration of the Tau'ri/Tok'ra/Jaffa alliance would be another close call and that it didn't just collapse.

====

When the allies reconvened, Delek announced that the Tok'ra were pulling out of the alliance, well aware that the Tau'ri would continue to insist on full disclosure, something they couldn't agree to.  M'zel then shocked Hammond and Daniel by announcing the Jaffa were leaving, too, explaining that some of his people felt they had traded one master for another.

Angry, Daniel responded, “I'm sorry, this is nuts!  My friend almost died out there so we could get a weapon capable of stopping Anubis' soldiers, and now we're finally in a position where we can really make a difference, and you wanna walk away?”

“I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson,” Delek spoke.

“This is how it must be,” M'zel added.

Daniel realized the decision had been made, so he said nothing further for the rest of the meeting, which only lasted for another few minutes.

====

Upset, the archaeologist stewed about the Tok'ra and Jaffa defection from the alliance in his office.

“Hey,” Jack called out as he entered his lover's office.  “I heard the alliance is a bust.”

“They're just walking away, Jack.  We bust our butts for them, to help them, and they just ... walk away,” Daniel stated angrily.

“Why don't we call it a day?  I think if we hurry, we can buy a pizza before they close.”

“I need to finish this report.”

“Daniel ...”

“Jack, the truth is I'm too angry to do anything but write this report, and Hammond wants it first thing in the morning.  Why don't you go home and take care of the girls?  I think I'll put in an appearance at the house of walls,” the archaeologist spoke about the home he'd just purchased as an investment, replacing the apartment he'd 'lived' at for many years.

“Daniel, you're not mad ... at me, for ...”

“No, Jack, I told you that's okay.  I'm just ... all these years, we've worked so hard, fought with everything we've had; people died, on all sides, so that we could reach the point where victory was ... well, where we could win; and, now, I just don't know.  We need each other.”  Daniel shook his head rapidly and groaned, “The Tok'ra are practically going into hiding, and I'm not sure what kind of contact we'll have with the Jaffa.  I think having Teal'c here gives us a link that won't be broken, but ...”

“Daniel, let's go home.”

“I told you, Jack.  I have to get this report done.”

Jack walked to his lover and pulled him up out of his chair while saying, “Tomorrow.”

“Hammond ...”

“Danny, I can count the number of times over the years that you've said 'Hammond' and not 'General Hammond'.  You're angry; you're tired; and you're frustrated.  You're also concerned about Carter, even though you already know she's fine.”

“She's asleep.  Janet says she might not wake up until tomorrow.”

“She needs her rest, and so do you.  A few hours away might give us all some perspective,” Jack pointed out.  “Tell you what.  Six hours, starting now.  We get that pizza, play with the girls, and sleep.  No talk of super soldiers, other worlds, Jaffa, Tok'ra, or snakes of any kind, not until we get up in the morning.  Six hours minimum.  Then you can come back here and get all angry again, if you want.”

“You're nuts, O'Neill.”

“Chock full of 'em,” Jack said with a smile, happy when his husband gave him a tiny smile in reply.

The lovers then headed home, sticking to their agreement not to discuss the day's events, not even for a second.
 
====

“How are you feeling?” Daniel asked the next day as he stood looking down at the exhausted major as she rested on her bed in the infirmary.

“Tired,” Sam answered, pushing the breakfast tray away from her bed.

“You did good, Sam,” the man stated quietly, surprised when Sam looked away from him.  “Sam, is something wrong?”

“I'm not sure I'm cut out for this, Daniel,” the blonde confided.  “I always thought I could keep up with ...”  She paused and then hesitantly looked over at her friend.  “I thought I could do anything anyone else could do, but I gave up.  In the end, I was just going to let him kill me.”

“Don't you think it's possible you're not remembering correctly?  I mean, uh, the way I heard it, you gave it all you had; you won.”

“Only because the colonel and Teal'c showed up, and then I ... I wasn't very military like.”

Daniel sat down on the edge of the major's bed and gently spoke, “Sam.  Had it been any of us, we couldn't have defeated the drone alone.  It was the weapon, and it worked; and it worked because you and Jacob made it work.  You survived as well as anyone could have, and you're alive.  I happen to think that's a pretty good thing.”

Sam stared at her friend despondently and then turned her head to face away from him while saying, “I'm tired, Daniel.”

“Okay,” Daniel acknowledged.  He stood up and then he surprised Sam by leaning over and kissing her on the cheek, causing her to face him once again.  “Shedding a few tears after almost dying just means you're human; it's not a sign of weakness, military or not.”  He paused and then smiled as he pronounced, “You're gonna be fine, Sam.”

As he walked away, Daniel couldn't help but compare Sam's mood with how'd she'd been after the Tok'ra symbiote, Jolinar, had sacrificed herself for Sam.  He surmised it was the same feeling of failure that was resulting in the woman's depressed demeanor now, especially since his military friend always struggled extra hard to keep her emotions to herself, specifically anything that would cause her to cry.  That had been the case when Cassandra Fraiser had first come to Earth as a young girl and almost died.  Sam had cried then and apologized for it, until Daniel had asserted that tears were nothing to be ashamed of.

~We need you to realize that you were fighting for your life, Sam.  Gawd, if you only knew how many times Jack and I have broken down once we've gotten home, away from everyone else.  It's okay to feel.  Now, how do we get you to realize that?~

As he continued on with his day, Daniel puzzled over the answer to his question. He was certain the answer was there; he just had to figure out what it was.

====

“Jack, you need to talk to her,” Daniel put forth when he saw his lover shortly before the end of their duty shift early that evening.  ~You're the answer.  You're what this is about,~ he thought, having reached the conclusion that it was Jack's expectations of Sam that the blonde was concerned about.

“She'd better not cry again.”

“What's wrong with crying?” the younger man asked, daring his lover to say anything negative about the emotional act.  “We've both cried; okay, maybe not as overtly while still technically in the field, but we've both done it.  Sam was under a lot of strain.  She was emotionally and physically exhausted.”

“Daniel, I'm not the one being hard on her; she is.”

“I know, and that's why *you* need to talk to her,” the younger man asserted strongly.

Jack groaned.  He hated anything emotional.  Heart-to-heart conversations just weren't his thing, except when they were with the man he was currently talking with.  Being personal with his second-in-command was difficult.  Teal'c would have been easier because they had the brothers-in-arms bond, warriors united in the great fight of the moment, whatever it might be.  He would have utilized some form of tough love with the Jaffa, challenging him at his core.

~Hey, that'll work.  Carter doesn't want special treatment; she just wants to be one of the boys,~ Jack thought with a smile.

“Jack, why are you smiling like that?”

“I figured out a plan,” Jack answered.  “I'll be back.”

Daniel watched his husband walk out of his office on the eighteenth floor of the SGC.  He was curious about the smile and what Jack had been thinking, especially since he was well aware of the colonel's difficulty with words when it came to sensitive issues.

~Well, whatever you thought of, I sure hope it works.~

====

Sam was sitting up in a chair next to her bed in the infirmary.  She'd sat up a bit straighter when her CO had entered, but now she was more at ease, Jack having gotten to the point of his visit almost immediately.  While physically relaxed, the blonde was on guard mentally, believing her breakdown at the end of her harrowing experience at the Alpha Site was inappropriate for an officer in the Air Force.

“Carter, listen to me,” Jack urged a bit cautiously as he stood at the foot of the bed, facing the major.  “From the day we met, you've been trying to be like me, trying to live up to some image that you think I am, that you believe you have to be in order to prove your worth on SG-1.”  In a self-effacing manner, he disregarded his military prowess by saying, “I'm just a crusty old colonel with bad knees.  Stop trying to measure up to what you *think* people expect you to be, and just be yourself.”

“I understand what you're saying, Sir; it's just ...”

“I'm not much, Carter.  My jacket is about as tall as Hammond's chair, and that's not from glowing reports of my perfect behavior.”  Jack walked a few steps closer and said, “The day is going to come when SG-1 will be yours to command.  If you try to mimic me, or anyone else, you'll fail.  A team has to respect their leader; they have to know that he, or she, is their own person.  We're different people, Carter.  My leadership style works for me because I'm me.  It can't work for you, because you're you; just like I couldn't lead with your style; well, I could, because I'm me, and I'm ... me.”  Seeing Sam chuckle lightly at his elongated, overly wordy sentence, he urged, “Just be yourself.”

“I feel like I was weak out there, Sir, letting go like that.”

“Sam, you almost died,” the colonel excused, purposely using the woman's given name.

“And how many times have you, or Daniel, or Teal'c been in a perilous situation over the last several years?  You haven't cried, Sir.  Maybe I'm not fit for command,” Sam spoke, twisting around in her chair so as to face away from her commanding officer.

“Then get out,” Jack said coldly.

Shocked, Sam turned back around and stared at the colonel.

“If you really believe that crap you just expounded, then put in for a transfer, and get the heck off my team,” Jack stated sternly, his best stare of intimidation on his face.  Then he softened and said more gently, “If I didn't think you were the best, you wouldn't be on SG-1.  Hammond may have ordered you to go on that Abydos mission, but after that, the call was mine.”  He paused, giving the major time to absorb what he'd just said.  He nodded, just to affirm what he'd just said. “Maybe it's time for you to believe in yourself, as much as the rest of us believe in you.”  Smiling, he added, “You're not getting any more time off for this, so stop goldbricking.  I'll be expecting your report at 1100.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam acknowledged with a hint of a smile.

Jack nodded, turned, and headed for the door.

“And ...”  Sam paused, waiting for the man to turn around.  “Thank you, Sir, for everything.”

Smiling encouragingly, Jack nodded his acknowledgement and then left the room. He stopped at a phone located at the end of one of the corridors and dialed Janet's office, knowing she was still on duty for another twenty minutes.

“Doc, I know you probably want Carter to rest up for a few more days, but, trust me, it's the wrong thing for her right now.”

“Colonel, her physical injuries are minor, but ...” the physician began.

“It's that 'but' I'm referring to.  Carter's doubting herself.  If you let her wallow in it, she's gonna sink like an anchor.  Keep her on light duty, but you have to clear her to play with her doohickeys and write her report.”

Janet replied that she'd take Jack's comments into consideration, but that she couldn't promise anything until after she checked on Sam before leaving for home.  Jack hung up, confident that the doctor would see things his way.  She was, after all, Sam's best friend, which meant she also knew what was best for the distressed major.

====

“How'd it go?”

“She'll be okay,” Jack opined.  “Passed Shanahan in the hallway,” he said, adding, “He had a big bouquet of red roses with him.”

“She's serious about him,” Daniel noted.  “Jack, did you talk to Jacob before he left?”

“No, but Hammond says Jacob promised he'd do his best to keep us in the same ballpark,” Jack responded.

“As angry as I was last night when the talks broke down, and thank you, by the way, for that six-hour moratorium.  I needed it, to get my perspective back; but, uh, anyway, I really can't blame either side for going off on their own.”

“I can't believe you're saying that,” Jack spoke in surprise.

Daniel raised his hand in front of his face, his index finger extended, and closed his eyes for a second or two before elaborating, “Just think about it for a minute, and put yourself in their places.  Jack, the Jaffa Nation is finally on the verge of really being free for the first time in their history.  They've lived their entire existence as slaves to the Goa'uld.  Now, they just want to find out who they are and what it means to, well, *be* the Jaffa Nation.”

“Daniel, we're not talking women's lib here.”

“No, we're not.  We're talking about an entire race making their own decisions and choosing their own destiny for the very first time.  When you think about it, it's really not that different from the United States breaking away from England.”

“We never taxed the Jaffa,” Jack groused.

“No, but we've been asking them to play by our rules for a long time.”  Daniel sighed, “They have a right to stake out their liberty in their own way.”

“The fight isn't over.”

“I know that; so do they,” Daniel replied.  Folding his arms across his chest, the archaeologist spoke, “M'zel said that the Jaffa are still learning what it means to be free and that, in order to learn about freedom, they had to have their own bases, train their own leaders, and build their own communities.  I wasn't happy when he made that little speech, but now that I've thought about it, I realize he's right. The Jaffa want to be our equals, Jack.  They don't want to rely on the Tok'ra or us.  I don't see how we can criticize them for doing the same thing that we've built this country on.”

“I suppose you're on the Tok'ra's side, too,” Jack said a bit testily.

“Whether or not I agree with their decision to pull out of the alliance, I have to try and see it from their point of view.”

“Which is?”

“Which is,” Daniel sighed.

“Well?”

“Which is that their numbers are shrinking, and they're used to doing things a certain way.”

“On their own, not sharing information,” Jack stated.

“They've always worked by infiltration; that's been their strength and their success,” the archaeologist noted.

“And if we hadn't shown up, they'd still be battling the Goa'uld.  I'll bank odds that Apophis and all the other System Lords we've managed to rid the universe of would still be alive, if we weren't in the middle of this little snake fricassee.”

“Maybe,” Daniel agreed.  “Look, I'm as frustrated as you are at all the secrets the Tok'ra have kept over the years.  They haven't been the easiest allies to work with, but they have been on our side.  Things are different now, though.  Jack, the Tok'ra are probably going to die out over the next generation.  I'm not so sure we have a right to tell them they're wrong for wanting to fight this war their own way.”

Jack let out a groan and shook his head, saying, “I'm not as good as you are, Daniel.  All I see are two allies, turning and running with their tails between their legs.”

“I felt the same way at first.”

“They picked a heck of a time to bail, when we're trying to defeat those super soldier creeps.”

“They're not ... bailing; they're just ... relocating,” Daniel rationalized.

“Without leaving a forwarding address.”

“They aren't disappearing, Jack.”

“Well, it's done,” Jack said, lightly banging his fists against the edge of his lover's worktable.

Daniel sensed his lover was frustrated.  He smiled, an idea having just popped into his head.

“Jack, I have a suggestion.”

“What?”

“Ten hours.”

“Ten?” Jack questioned.  Seeing his lover's smile, he knew he was thinking back to the night before and the moratorium on discussing or even thinking about anything SGC- related.  “Mine was six hours.”

“Yes, but that was pizza, the girls, and sleep.”

“So?”

With a smug grin, Daniel approached his soulmate, whispering, “I was thinking Chinese, the girls, and lots of ... you know.  I mean, we slept last night.”

Jack grinned and replied, “You're on.”

“Or maybe under,” Daniel said, walking out of his office.

The lovers headed home, happy to have survived another crisis, even though not all of it had ended the way they'd wanted it to.  Still, Sam was alive, and though she was feeling down, they knew she'd be back to her normal self within a day or two.

In the meantime, the lovers would enjoy their nation of two as only they could do, together and grateful for their love and their happy home in Colorado Springs.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
Feedback Welcome - click here to email the author


Web Site Hit Counter
Best Buy Online Coupon