Jmas Fan Fiction

Chapter 2: Season of Jeopardy

~*~

'T is but a part we see, and not a whole.

 ~ Alexander Pope

~*~

 

Where the hell were they?

‘You’re four freaking hours overdue here, Roger, and my patience died with our robot doubles on Juna so you better get your ass back here with my archaeologist…like right now.’

Jack knew he was getting on Hammond’s nerves, not to mention wearing a hole in his carpet, but dammit they were late. He had just finished packing Daniel’s - the robot Daniel’s - head up in a box for God’s sake.

Jack ached all over, his head hurt, his own nerves were totally shot, and he had never wanted Daniel to go off with SG5 in the first damn place…

So where the hell were they?

Needing something to direct his nervous energy toward, Jack briefly considered going to check on Teal’c again, but years of hard won experience had taught him the inevitability of Fraiser sedating him if he got anywhere near the infirmary in his current state. Dodging the doc was decidedly the better part of valor in this case; there was no question in his mind.

Hammond was quiet; Jack knew his commander was worried too so he had, with extreme and almost painful effort, resisted the impulse to say, “Told you so.”

Daniel would be so proud. Daniel damn well better get back here and get started being proud of me soon, because if that gate doesn’t activate PDQ, I’m liable to blow my entire long and semi-distinguished career in the time it would take me to say those three little words.’

Dialing out to P2X498 had repeatedly resulted in a failure to lock, and none of the so-called experts had any idea why. As a result, the frustration was so thick in the control room Jack doubted it could be cut with one of Carter’s lasers. They needed to see Daniel, needed to know he was still in one piece and not cut apart like that damn robot.

It was hard not to think about the dream Daniel kept having, the one about dying and Oma Desala ascending him away from everyone and everything he knew and cared about. After the first one, Jack had made Daniel promise to tell him if it happened again. Four times in one week was definitely five times too many.

‘Can’t happen, not going to happen - not a chance in hell. What we just went through proves how much we need him; hell, what we’re going through right now proves it. None of us is guaranteed forever, but dammit, Daniel belongs here. It’s basic math - we need him and he needs us…now and for a long time to come. We can’t lose Daniel, it just can’t happen.’

What Jack really needed was a drink, but there was no way he was leaving the briefing room to go track something down - even though he could think of a dozen places off the top of his head - so he settled for coffee instead. The carafe was full; Davis, Jack thought, sending a somewhat apologetic thank you down the stairs to the man in the control room. Pouring a mug full and drinking deeply, Jack felt the bitter liquid burn its way down to his stomach in a close approximation of what he would rather be drinking and waited for the caffeine rush to hit. He suddenly understood the restorative and comforting powers of Daniel’s favorite drink. He would have to ask Daniel sometime if this was part of what he saw in it.

‘I will ask him. He will be back. We haven’t come all this way just to lose it all now.’

 

~*~

 

“Sit down, Daniel. Stay, Daniel. What am I, a dog?”

Beside him, Lieutenant Collins grinned with a singular lack of sympathy. He and Collins were considered walking wounded, not allowed to help out as the others worked, but Daniel was practically bouncing on his toes with nervous energy just the same or, more accurately, nervous dread. Jack was so going to kill him… or Roger Coburn…or maybe both of them…

Even though it was not exactly their fault; it was no one’s fault.

Not really.

Hurricanes happened - it was an inevitable fact of nature and just because the MALP readings failed to pick up on the little atmospheric anomaly… and the area around the gate flooded far too fast for them to try and dial out… and the gate fell over when the ground around it became too waterlogged to support it….

‘It’s not our fault. Right?’

Right…

And Jack was so not going to be having a cow when they finally did go through looking like something the cat, or in this case the shark, had dragged home either.

Right…

They were so dead.

It was bad enough they had fallen victim to the atmospheric troubles; the rockslide had left them all scratched, bruised, and filthy. All of them looked pretty awful, and unfortunately there was no way to make them look any better since their packs had gone the way of the floodwater.

Even before everything had gone so completely wrong Daniel had been having trouble sleeping and, as Roger had pointed out to him more than once in the past several hours, he looked like it, too…

On top of everything else, as if they needed anything else, Daniel was reasonably sure he was catching a cold.

Yep, they were so completely dead.

It had taken the others the better part of the day to get the gate upright again and Sergeant Mosley was finally ready to test the DHD. If it failed they would be in big…bigger…trouble. Daniel had no doubt SGC had been trying to dial them up regularly since they missed their return time, but there was no way to tell how long it would be before they would try again.

They were majorly dead.

‘Just shoot me now…’

There was always a chance Daniel had not lost touch with what Roger referred to as his “geonghund eages”. He and Roger had found unexpected common ground in Roger’s knowledge of what he called his mother tongue; Daniel’s formidable vocabulary had surprised and pleased them both as they confounded and irritated the rest of SG5 by speaking the obscure dialect. Daniel was not entirely sure what Roger was talking about - or maybe he was - but Roger had strongly suggested, in the interest of Daniel’s self-preservation and on behalf of all of SG5, that Daniel find it fast and have it firmly locked in place before they stepped through the gate.

He was working on it.

‘Uh oh, the DHD is functioning. I’d better work fast…’

 

~*~

 

“He still at it?”

Davis nodded shortly in return, probably not trusting himself to speak.

Sam sighed in frustration; the colonel was really upset.

He had said - frequently quite loudly - all along that letting Daniel go anywhere without SG1 was a mistake - and so far he was batting two-for-two. Not only had SG1 gotten called to Juna to help their robot doubles, and been caught up in a battle with Kronos, but they had found the Daniel robot’s detached head during the clean up. To make a bad situation even worse, they had returned to the SGC specifically to be there when Daniel returned only to find he was still beyond their reach.

Sam along with Sergeants Davis and Siler had tried every trick they knew. Whatever the problem, it was on the planet side of the gate. All they could do was wait.

‘And the flaw in that plan is - we all suck at waiting…’

It had been over twelve hours now…

Sam had to admit, at least to herself, it was more than a little tempting to join the colonel in his pacing, but she also knew herself well enough to know that once she started she would be as unable to stop as the colonel was. Sergeant Davis had taken coffee up to the briefing room just a few minutes before, confirming Sam’s certainty that the colonel was “still at it”. At least he had finally taken it upstairs, the sergeant had been getting nervous - and making the chronically unflappable Sergeant Davis nervous took a lot of doing.

A sudden click-whine broke the silence that had lingered over every part of the complex for hours, the sound seeming impossibly loud in the unnaturally silent control room, and bringing both Sam and Davis out of their seats.

Someone was dialing in…

Before the third chevron engaged, the colonel and General Hammond were standing anxiously behind them as they all waited tensely for the IDC code to appear.

There were two other teams off-world at the moment. While neither of them was due back, the possibility still existed it could be one of those and not SG5. It was impossible not to hope, though, to need to hope…

Five…

Six….

Seven…

Davis unnecessarily, but soberly announced the incoming wormhole even as it billowed out toward them. No order had been given to close the iris, just in case, but it would have to be soon.

Long seconds passed, no iris code.

“Come on, come on…”

The colonel might as well have been sitting on Davis’ shoulder waiting for the IDC display. His attention was so totally fixed on the screen he jumped back nearly two feet when the signal finally popped up.

“It’s SG5!”

Sergeant Davis might as well have saved his breath.

Both her commanding officers piled out of the control room in record time - the colonel just barely remembering protocol in time to impatiently allow the general to precede him. She figured they stood a good chance of beating the SF’s to the gate room. Sam quickly transferred her station to Harriman and headed down the stairs herself.

‘I wouldn’t miss this for anything.’

Sam swallowed hard as she walked. She was torn between the hope that all was well and that this was a story they would share for years to come, and the thought…

Daniel had to be okay…

That Daniel could not be okay was completely unacceptable.

She just hoped he had a good excuse ready.

 

~*~

 

‘I’m so dead, I’m so dead, I’m so dead…’

Jack O’Neill was going to take one look at Daniel, turn around then cheerfully and efficiently kill him; Roger just knew it.

‘Maybe it’ll be quick…’

Roger had tried; Jack had to know he’d tried. ‘Taking care of Daniel Jackson’ was such a massive oxymoron as to be completely laughable. The guy was nobody’s pushover.

‘Not to mention he’s stubborn. Obstinate. Focused… ‘

Roger supposed it had not been all that bad. Not really. Daniel had eaten well enough, while they had food accessible to eat, once he had appealed to the errant archaeologist using the ‘preservation of my limbs in the face of pissed off colonels’ argument. After they had bonded over Roger’s native tongue, Daniel actually loosened up and cooperated.

Sort of.

The archaeologist definitely had not slept much though - hell, anyone looking at the man could see it in his eyes and Roger was sure anyone named Jack O’Neill was going to see it …probably way before they ever exited the wormhole.

Daniel had been great throughout the numerous crises they had faced on the planet, and had totally come through like the champ Roger already knew the man was when they had been forced to head for higher ground. Daniel had gotten himself pretty badly banged up pushing Roger out of harm’s way during the rockslide - something Roger still needed to thank the man for - but had still helped dig Collins out with every bit as much energy as the rest of them despite his own injuries. They were as sure nothing was broken as they could be in the circumstances, but Daniel had some major bruising on his back and left shoulder that was giving him trouble…no matter how much he tried to deny it.

‘Major bruising. Oh geez, that’s what Jack is going to do to me…’

As they exited the wormhole, Roger looked over at Daniel and had to bite down on a grin. Daniel had found his geonghund eages.

‘I just may live through the next ten minutes after all.‘

 

~*~

 

George knew he was not the only one counting soaking wet uniforms as they emerged from the event horizon.

Collins, Rodriquez, Mosley…

Then nothing.

There was a long silence during which George could hear the man beside him drawing a deep breath to start shouting - then they heard the sound of more feet on the ramp.

Coburn and Daniel stepped out together.

All were present and accounted for now, but they looked like….

“You boys look like shit…” George’s oh-so calm and collected colonel offered to the first three members of SG5 as they passed. They were all muddy, soaked to the skin, and Collins was limping heavily as they saluted the officers with tired grins before moving into the corridor toward the infirmary.

Looking past them, George caught Major Coburn stifling a grin at Daniel who looked…

Like hell, but he also looked as if butter would have trouble melting in his mouth. Actually, he looked an awful lot like George’s granddaughters on Grandpa’s payday.

It was all he could do not to laugh out loud. That look had been missing from Daniel’s face for too many long months, at least since the last time he ‘really, really had to get a closer look’. Well before they had found his grandfather and Daniel had lost the last member of his family, something that seemed to knock the remaining spark right out of him. There had been a few short-lived appearances since that occasion, but not nearly enough for George’s comfort.

Or for the colonel’s it seemed - who was trying very hard to maintain his stern and detached façade. But Jack’s eyes told George a vastly different story. After over eight hours of letting his fears get the better of him, fed by visions of sending a close facsimile of his friend’s head home in a box - literally, Jack was just drinking in the sight of their boy.

Daniel was soaked through and every bit as dirty as all the others. He was scraped and, George was willing to wager bruised under his tattered uniform. He had very noticeably missed too much sleep in the past week as well - but Daniel was alive, moving under his own steam, and there was no apparent bleeding. Better still, he was home.

Maybe now Jack could…

“You’re late.”

George had to admire the casual way Jack made it sound as if Daniel had only missed a scarcely important briefing.

“Yeah…” Daniel drawled. “Sorry about that. We were a little, uh…”

“Detained?” Coburn offered promptly.

Daniel’s mouth quirked a little as he nodded a distracted thanks. “Yeah, detained. Good word.”

Jack’s eyebrow was doing a credible Teal’c imitation. “Detained as in…?”

“Held up, missed the boat…”

The colonel’s gaze took in their sodden uniforms and hair. “That much is obvious.”

The quirk got a little bigger. “I, uh, yeah, I guess it is…”

Jack looked over at Coburn with a guarded smile. “You look a little rough there too, Sparky.”

The relief in Coburn’s eyes was palpable and George made a mental note to have a long chat with Jack about terrorizing the junior officers on general principle.

“Yes, sir. It’s been a rough few days, sir. I’d like to compliment you on your choice of civilians, sir. “ Coburn paused for a breath, then turned somber. “We wouldn’t have made it without him, Colonel. “

What could have sounded like judicious and remarkably well executed brown-nosing to a more suspicious commander was so obviously sincere it caused Jack to look dotingly at the civilian in question.

“He was a good boy then? Played well with others?”

Coburn did grin then, one hand fondly patting Daniel on the shoulder. “Played very well, sir, but I’m afraid we lost his toys.”

Meaning their packs, George assumed. All the work Daniel had done while he was gone, George knew the loss had to hurt - but Daniel seemed okay about it. Aside from a slightly annoyed look at the major and colonel who were clearly only barely refraining from patting him on the head, Daniel looked quite philosophical, and George was very pleased to see it was nowhere close to the defeatist variety of philosophical they would have seen from him even a month prior.

This was a man who had stared death in the face once again and won. Notes and videotapes could be replaced; life could not. What Daniel had gone through was one hell of a bad way to be reminded of that singular fact, but at that moment George could only be glad Daniel - as well as the rest of them - had relearned it.

Jack saw it too, George noted, and had the good grace to let it go with nothing more than a sympathetic smile, noted but unremarked.

Almost.

“Well, we‘ll just have to get him some new ones, won’t we?”

Coburn nodded solemnly. “Yes, sir. That we will…”

Jack reached out to shake Coburn’s hand, a simple gesture soldier to soldier that held many depths of meaning, then turned to put an arm across Daniel’s shoulders. None of them missed the flinch of sudden pain in the archaeologist’s eyes, but they managed to control their own reactions to it pretty well, George thought.

Major Carter joined them with relief in her eyes and a bright welcoming smile for Daniel as they headed down the ramp and toward the door. Still almost possessively hanging onto Daniel, albeit far more gently this time, Jack looked back over his shoulder at Coburn.

“You know it’s coming out of your pay, right?”

Coburn missed a step but recovered quickly. “Yes, sir…”

“Some things are irreplaceable.”

“Yes, sir, that they are.”

No one needed to explain they were no longer referring to Daniel’s lost research.

 

~*~

 

SG5 were a mess, literally.

Janet had sent the ambulatory ones for hot showers and clean clothes after their initial check up, but kept Collins, sending him off for x-rays of his badly swollen foot. She was almost certain nothing was broken, but as always she wanted to be positive.

She was already prepping an exam table when their wayward archaeologist showed up under the watchful eyes of his usual contingent of mother hens plus a new one. Major Coburn had so unmistakably been converted it was nearly laughable.

“Guys, I really don’t need to…”

The colonel and the major both assured Daniel he did “need to”, even as they entered the infirmary. Janet didn’t have to guess what Daniel had been trying to convince his sitters of - Daniel hated coming to the infirmary, especially when he had something to hide from her. If Daniel came in conscious, she could usually gauge his condition by the volume and number of his protests.

At first glance Daniel looked better than Janet had expected him to - all she could see were the cuts and contusions on his face and hands. Rodriquez and the others had filled her in on everything that had happened on the planet - including the rockslide.

It seemed Daniel had performed to type, saved Major Coburn’s life, and gotten hurt himself in the process. Once again, their favorite civilian had impressed another group of hardened soldiers with his courage, tenacity and level-headedness - as he always did with anyone who bothered to look beyond the PhD’s, the sharp intelligence, the glasses, and the stereotype. The newest members of the Daniel Jackson fan club had already filled Janet in on what she would find on his back, and even if they had not enthusiastically, but ever so considerately, ratted him out for not sleeping enough, Janet could spot it with one look.

She directed Coburn to the showers and hardened her heart against Daniel’s pleading gaze - with puppy-dog eyes no less - to be allowed to do the same. Janet traded a grin with Sam, but stood firm. She needed to look him over first and told him as much just before she shooed everyone out of the cubicle and closed the curtain.

The colonel refused to leave, and he had a look on his face Janet knew too well, the one that told her he was the rock that would not be rolling on command this time. Knowing what all of them had been through since and because Daniel left, she allowed it.

No sooner were Daniel’s jacket and shirts off than he sneezed loudly, indicating to Janet that some of the bleariness in his face and eyes was probably more than the obvious lack of sleep or even his allergies. The colonel had been filling the silence with a running dialogue of their experiences on Juna, sans mention of android body parts, when he abruptly stopped.

The colonel was behind Daniel, seeing the damage before Janet did. His glowering displeasure was more than enough to send her to the other side of the bed in a hurry.

Stark, blotchy bruising covered Daniel’s back, traveling across and down from his shoulder blades to disappear below his beltline. There was one particularly dark spot above his kidneys she knew immediately she would want x-rays of, but all in all she was sure what they were seeing was more a testament to what could have been - and from what Janet had heard, it could have been so much worse - than an indication of serious damage.

The colonel’s eyes were full of unasked questions, his expression now one so full of sympathetic pain it made Janet wonder once again just how broken the link between the two of them really was.

Then the colonel smiled tightly and broke the moment with a bad joke about ducks that had Daniel wincing in exhausted befuddlement, and Janet realized this was not something new between them at all. It was something old, something sorely missed, and something she had not realized was missing until that very moment.

 

~*~

 

There were voices nearby…

“Jack?”

“Daniel?”

Teal’c emerged from kel’no’reem feeling greatly healed and far more at peace about his robot brother’s sacrifice to avenge their father than he had been on Juna. The hatred that had driven him so long was gone now, replaced by a slight emptiness where once had abided the weight it had placed upon him. Yet another of his ghosts rested more peacefully this night. It was enough.

Hearing the soft voices again, Teal’c looked around him. He was somewhat surprised to see O’Neill sitting in a chair between his bed and that of Daniel Jackson. Teal’c was concerned at first that harm had come to their friend while he was away from them, but the quiet conversation between his two friends set his mind at ease.

“Jack…”

“No, Daniel.”

Teal’c needed no translation to understand Daniel Jackson was complaining tiredly about his confinement; it was his habitual behavior when feeling unfairly retained by Doctor Fraiser. O’Neill was good naturedly communicating that he had no intention of arguing Daniel Jackson’s case with the good doctor, no doubt fearing for his own comfort and well-being the next time he should fall under her care. Upon reflection, Teal’c found he could heartily agree with his commander in that regard.

“But, Jack…”

“No, Daniel...”

The two continued bantering softly until Daniel Jackson finally succumbed to sleep. It was apparent to Teal’c the younger man was in great need of rest and he had no doubt Doctor Fraiser had applied her medications to assure he received it. Surprisingly, O’Neill gave every indication he planned to stay, extricating a pillow and blanket from somewhere beneath their beds.

Despite his strong curiosity, Teal’c had no desire to disturb the moment. Where once the scene before him had been a common, such moments had been far too rare of late.

They had been greatly missed.

A few more hours of kel’no’reem would replenish Teal’c’s strength, the presence of his friends would replenish his soul, and the peace of the moment would replenish his hope that all would indeed be well again.

It truly was enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3: Season of Enemies and Friends

~*~

The heart of another is a dark forest,

always, no matter how close it has been to one's own.

 

~ Willa Cather

~*~

 

 

‘Another fine mess…’

Enlisted to act as an interstellar moving service for the Tok’ra, SG1 was definitely there. Blow up a star to save their allied asses from Apophis, irritating but not a huge problem. Good neighbor policy and all that bull.

Like all good plans this one had possessed built in flaws from the outset, acceptable risk being what it was, but none of their pre-mission assessment scenarios had included towing Apophis way, way past halfway across the galaxy with them.

Or the replicators, nope, no forgetting those.

Or Teal’c switching sides thanks to a sarcophagus and Big A’s handy-dandy brainwashing spiel.

Seeing Teal’c as he was now made Jack glad he had not known the man way back when - because he had never wanted anything as much as he wanted to punch the Jaffa in his supercilious nose right now. Except maybe out of the cell they had been locked in for hours.

‘Yeah, out would be good. Definitely number two on the SG1 galactic hit parade…’

Looking around, Jack noticed Carter had finally gone to sleep on her dad’s lap; Jacob was doing whatever it was Tok’ra did to rest; and Daniel…

Daniel was having a whole lot of trouble getting comfortable on the cold tile floor.

Jack knew the younger man still had a few leftover bruises from his adventure with SG5, which probably were not helping matters a bit, but Jack had a feeling there was more behind Daniel’s current restlessness than simple physical discomfort.

Tapping Daniel on the shoulder, Jack raised an eyebrow in offer, he didn’t have to specify what…Daniel would know the offer for what it was. The other man sighed deeply then shifted up and around to lean against the wall next to Jack, scrubbing a hand over his face as he shrugged his shoulders.

“I dunno…” he started, then faltered as he gathered his thoughts. “That whole… Jaffa revenge thing bothers me. Makes me wonder…”

Okay, Jack could see where Daniel was going…

Teal’c had undeniably crossed way over the line on the ‘vengeance is mine’ highway lately - and if they did manage to get him back, Jack fully intended to have a very long and detailed conversation with the big guy about the good of the many as it applied to SG1.

While waiting for Carter and her dad to fix the hatak’s broken hyperdrive earlier in the day they had gotten very bored…okay, a lot bored. Interspersed between the impromptu hacky-sack and baseball a la dead false god’s scepters and paper balls, Daniel had told Jack about the conversation he and Teal’c had back on Vorash.

In Jack’s opinion, it had been pretty damn harsh of Teal’c to compare his situation with Shan’auc to Daniel’s with Sha’re. They all knew Daniel never had a lot of time for the Goa’uld, Apophis in particular, but even after everything that had happened, and admittedly a few close calls, Daniel was still the guy Jack remembered offering gentle words of comfort to Apophis’ dying host.

Murder - even of supercilious Goa’ulds who had taken away everything that mattered in his life - was so not Daniel’s style, as much as he might fear it could be. Jack could not imagine a place or time or circumstance where Daniel would let hate so completely override his inborn need to do the right thing…not even hate of Apophis. Daniel was hardly an angel, and he would be first in line to admit it, but he was no devil either.

The situations were not the same at all. For one thing, Daniel was not Jaffa - raised from birth to carry grudges to the grave and as far beyond it as possible. Hell, Jack knew what darkside Teal’c was like firsthand, he’d been along for the ride when Teal’c had gone loose cannon over Tanith. Even after five years of serving together, he still had a lot of trouble coming to terms with the fact that when push came to shove, Teal’c’s Jaffa-ness could potentially take precedence over everything - and everyone - else when it came to going dark side.

The Teal’c who had blindly pursued the Goa’uld who’d killed the love of his life like the hounds of Jaffa hell was not even close to the same Teal’c who had forged a years-long friendship with Daniel - a man who had every reason in the world to hate him. Theirs was a friendship based on mutual respect - forged and kept only by the strength and honor of the two men involved despite the many stumbling blocks fate seemed to regularly place before them.

“Not a chance, Daniel…” Jack assured his friend, nudging the other man’s shoulder with his own to make Daniel look up at him. Once solid eye contact was achieved, Jack gave him his sternest ‘Jack knows best’ look. “Not a chance in hell.”

Daniel just looked at him, so obviously wanting to believe… knowing Jack knew better than anyone what he was talking about when it came to the internal workings of Daniel Jackson. After long seconds, Daniel finally nodded abruptly and looked away, perhaps not totally convinced, but clearly willing to let the deep moral issues go for the time being.

Jack scooted over a little and offered his shoulder. With a small, only slightly embarrassed smile, Daniel nodded acceptance. Both of them had noticed the fact they were a lot more physically at ease with one another than before - and in the early days they had been pretty damn touchy-feely. It was just a comfortable part of who they were, then and now. They had lost it for a while, had become locked away inside themselves for a whole lot of reasons that seemed so irrelevant now, and let it fall by the wayside…

But it was definitely back in a big way now. Jack had no problem with it, and neither did Daniel - Jack was confident of that fact in a way only he could ever be.

Spending time in Daniel’s head, and giving his friend access to his own, had probably pushed things along, but Jack liked to think they would have gotten their deep friendship back on their own in the end. Jack wondered if perhaps he was deceiving himself, wondered if there was an alternate reality out there where they never found it again. Someplace where they never noticed it was gone or even tried to get it back until it was too damn late. Someplace where they finally just ran out of time, never got it back or even missed it until the chance to fix things was gone forever in some weird, unimaginable scenario like Daniel’s dream.

Jack wanted to believe - Klorel or no Klorel - they would have seen what was happening before things got to the point of no return and stopped it before it was too late.

So he did.

Not that it mattered in the long run. They had it now, and as bad as their present situation seemed to be, Jack had a feeling things were going to work out…

 

~*~

 

‘Oh, this isn’t good…’

Jack was going to kill him - totally, completely, utterly kill him.

He had trusted Jacob to keep Daniel out of trouble and what had he done? Gotten them captured by Apophis himself. While it was true Daniel was the one who had suggested they get more supplies, and a first-aid kit for Teal’c, from the mothership’s storeroom, Jacob was the one who approved it. His okay, his responsibility.

The only good thing, if one less impossible odd could be called ‘good’, was there were no Jaffa around, which could only mean Jack and Sam were keeping them busy elsewhere. Or the replicators were. Either way, Apophis was the guy with the gun at the moment, and they had no options open that Jacob could see.

Then he glanced at Daniel.

And glanced again.

Jacob had known the young scientist long enough to really, really hate when he got that fatalistic ‘kiss my ass, you posturing fool’ look in his eye, the one that generally pissed off all comers, especially those of the snake persuasion. It was no wonder Jack’s hair seemed grayer every time Jacob saw him. Whatever Daniel was about to do, Jacob was sure he was not going to be fond of it and, he was willing to bet, neither was Jack.

If they managed to live long enough to tell him about it.

Daniel drew in a deep breath and shot a quick glance at Jacob, visibly willing the other man to understand he had a plan - clearly expecting Jacob to get with the program - then he started talking….

In Goa’uld.

‘Holy…Hapshut…I knew that boy had a mouth on him, but…damn, he’s using words that would make Selmak blush.’

‘Would not…’

‘Shh, I want to hear this.’

‘Did he call Apophis a…?’

‘He did.’

‘Thought so.’

‘Can a Goa’uld even do that?’

‘Not in my experience.’

‘You would know.’

‘Funny, Jacob…’

It was crazy. Without a doubt one of the dumbest, most foolhardy, dangerous, and possibly even fatal, tactics Jacob had ever seen - but damned if it wasn’t working.

Apophis always had been exceptionally quick-tempered even by Goa’uld standards, and under Daniel’s verbal onslaught he was getting angrier and redder by the second. If this went on much longer, his skin color would match the exact shade of his kitschy suit.

Jacob watched in bemused fascination as Daniel slowly edged away from him, drawing Apophis’ enraged attention along with him.

‘A little more, just a little more…’

With a curse Jacob was ninety-nine percent sure was anatomically impossible for any of the known species, Apophis lunged for Daniel - activating his ribbon device and sending Daniel to his knees in a flash of completely mindless rage. As pissed as the Goa’uld was at that moment, Jacob knew Daniel would almost certainly be dead within seconds if he did not do something to prevent it.

‘I need, I need….’

Spotting Kronos’ scepter lying near his throne amidst a pile of yellow wads of paper, Jacob grabbed it and aimed a line drive right at the back of Apophis’ naquada-plated head. He momentarily allowed himself to enjoy a rush of images - mostly involving three tiered bleachers and bouncing Apophis heads - as the pissed off Goa’uld went down like a rock.

Not surprisingly, so did Daniel.

The kid seemed mostly shaken, but Jacob knew from personal experience Daniel had the mother of all headaches, one that would not be going away any time soon. Too rushed for finesse, Jacob grabbed Daniel up, threw an arm around his shoulder, then hauled ass for the docking bay.

With his head down and his eyes closed tight against the pain, Daniel muttered something about ‘getting used to it’ as Jacob steered them out into the corridor. There was no time now to pursue it, but Jacob made a note to ask him later what he meant…and where he had learned to curse so creatively in Goa’uld.

‘Maybe he can give us some lessons…’ Jacob mused.

‘Maybe those Abydonians aren’t as quiet as they seem.’ Selmak speculated, with an edge of concerned amusement.

Jacob grinned to himself as they ran, tightening his hold on Daniel’s waist as the younger man faltered briefly. ‘Maybe not…’

 

~*~

 

Problem one, they had Teal’c back, but the colonel had been forced to shoot him to accomplish it. Problem two, unfortunately, the replicators had jumped the mothership into hyperspace before they could escape in the tel’tak.

Blessing and curse time.

Sam knew they would be back in their own galaxy very quickly at the speed they were now traveling, a definite good thing. The real quandary was that they could not allow the replicators to run loose in their own galactic backyard. As tempting as it was to let the hated things wreak havoc on Apophis’ home base, Sam knew the replicators would not stop there. At the rate the mechanical pests multiplied it would be only matter of months before they swarmed outward, eventually reaching Earth. Having dealt with them twice too often, Sam was not at all confident they could come up with enough stupid ideas to stop them before they overran Earth and who knew how many other populated, technologically advanced planets in the system.

So they were going to recycle the same stupid idea they had used before and try to burn the replicators up in Delmac’s atmosphere. Their immediate goal was to blow the ha’tak’s power crystals as soon as the ship dropped out of hyperspace. They would only have a few minutes afterward to haul their asses back to the tel’tak and launch before the bigger ship entered the planet’s atmosphere. It was going to be very close, and the replicators were not going to be at all pleased with them when all hell broke loose.

Daniel seemed a little shaky to Sam. While this was his first up close and personal view of a mass of replicators, she was sure that was not the problem. Daniel looked entirely too comfortable holding a P90, necessity being the greatest of all educators - and five years had taught their scientist well. He was doing what any one of them would do, guarding their six and keeping his eyes open - and doing it very competently indeed.

At the moment though, he appeared unusually pale and his brow was creased in an expression that was far too familiar to her as one that said ‘Daniel is in pain’. Now that she was looking for it she saw a patch of multihued pink on his forehead with what looked like a flush of blood blisters all around it, like a.…like a hand device - and God knew there had been far too many occasions to see the effects of those on Daniel over the years.

‘What the hell did he and Dad get into while we were separated?’

They’d both acted like everything was fine when she and the colonel had brought Teal’c back to the ha’tak and locked him in the hold. Daniel hadn’t mentioned a thing when the colonel asked him to come along. They had been so rushed… she just missed seeing it before. Damn it, Daniel should know better than to….

Daniel looked up then, maybe sensing her scrutiny, and Sam raised an eyebrow at him in question and concern. In return she received the half-smile and headshake familiarity told her translated into ‘long story, I’m fine, we’ll talk later’.

‘You’ve got that right, Daniel. We are definitely going to talk.’

Sam nodded in return, agreeing to keep quiet only because they were way past the point of being able to do anything about it. Then she shifted back around to watch the replicators pulsating around the engines, helpfully facilitating their return home. As she did she noticed the colonel glancing back at Daniel too, saw his eyebrows rise in surprised recognition. He had seen everything for himself now, and identified the marks for what they were.

‘You are so busted now, Mr. Oz. ‘

Before the colonel could say anything, the peripheral shift of deceleration rippled over them. As they all prepared to do what had to be done, Sam saw the colonel asking with a look of his own if Daniel was up for the task. A sure nod answered him as Daniel set his shoulders and gripped his weapon tight against him.

Ready or not, it was time.

 

~*~

 

Jack was pleased - but as always slightly disturbed - to see Daniel handling their retreat like a pro. Very damn well, in fact.

The Lego wannabes were pretty intimidating at the best of times, Jack had revisited his last experience with them in enough nightmares to prove it, and these were far more aggressive and a damn sight scarier than the ones they had encountered on Thor’s ship and the Russian sub. One of them had already drawn blood from Daniel’s shoulder, and Jack was fairly sure another had clipped Carter on the leg.

It seemed the more they shot the more kept coming. There was no freaking end to the things…

‘Dammit…’

As they reached the docking bay doors, Jack wished to hell he had a grenade with him. They needed to buy time to get on board the tel’tak and get the hell out of there, and the last thing they needed was an alien hitchhiker… Teal’c was acting alien enough as it was.

By virtue of their established rhythm of retreat, Daniel ended up taking their six. As Jack helped him into the ship he got a good look at the other man’s eyes and forehead. Jack growled to himself but had no time for further reaction. Jacob definitely had a lot of explaining to do, but it would have to wait. Jack sealed the hatch and announced they were good to go. They all held on tensely as the Tok’ra got the ship off the deck and aimed it at the rapidly - too damn rapidly - closing bay doors.

And then they were out of the ship with inches to spare.

A piece of cake.

A walk in the park.

A….

Hell, they had been damn lucky.

Both Carter and Daniel looked a little shaky, but Carter’s nod told Jack she was okay and she had Daniel covered. With a nod of acknowledgment and gratitude, Jack headed for the hold.

Like it or not, he needed to look in on Teal’c, needed to know for himself which version was with them now. As soon as the door opened, Jack could see exactly which one it was. The scorn in Teal’c’s eyes and the completely uncharacteristic sneer on his face showed Jack a stranger who made him doubt, if only for a few seconds, that he had ever really known the man sitting before him at all.

Mister Pessimism - aka Jacob - was less than hopeful any of them would ever see the man they had known again, but hell, this was Teal’c. Whatever else was going on in the Jaffa’s sarcophagus scattered brain, Jack had to believe the man they had come to know and trust was still in there somewhere behind the contemptuous dark eyes glaring at him now.

There was nothing he could say to Teal’c at that moment the Jaffa would believe anyway so Jack returned forward, locking the hold with a wince of pain at the necessity.

Carter had managed to get Daniel to lie down in the corner. They were just talking quietly, but Jack knew his second well enough to know she would be checking Daniel out on the sly - pupils, reflexes, all the stuff that would tell her if he was hitting on all cylinders or not.

Speaking of which….

Coming up behind the pilot’s seat, Jack was just in time to see the fireworks as the mothership entered Delmac’s atmosphere. As much as Jack wanted to believe Apophis had gone down with the ship - their ship - the snaky bastard had fooled them way too many times before. They had learned the hard way that Apophis had a nasty habit of not dying when he was supposed to so Jack decided to reserve judgment until he saw the presumably dead false god’s rotting corpse with his very own eyes - and even then he would almost certainly still doubt it.

As Jack watched what he hoped was the end of a Goa’uld era, Jacob aimed the ship for deep space and kicked in the hyperdrive. Vorash was gone, and Jack was unsure whether Jacob would head straight for Earth or some other Tok’ra base. Not that it mattered in the long run, just so it got them as far away from where they were as fast as possible.

Dropping into the seat beside Jacob, Jack glanced back to where Carter was just lying down next to Daniel.

‘Good work there, Major. You both need the rest and I need….’

“So, Jacob. What the hell did you and Daniel get into while we were gone?”

The look Jacob shot toward Jack was equal parts guilt and admiration.

“It was beautiful, Jack. You should have seen Danny…”

‘Danny?’

As Jacob launched into a full-scale soliloquy on Daniel’s extensive Goa’uld vocabulary and his underlying courage, Jack had to smile. As mad as he was that the two of them had come so dangerously close to Apophis - and that Daniel had gotten hurt perfecting his talents at snake-baiting - Jacob’s open admiration was pretty cool. Daniel had earned himself another supporter. Not that Jack thought Jacob had exactly disliked Daniel before, quite the contrary - especially after Naetu - it just seemed that now he was a definite fan.

They would have a lot of work ahead of them once they got home. Jack had a bad feeling getting Teal’c back, if it were possible at all, was going to be a long, hard, and unavoidably painful road. Jack had a feeling they would all be forced to face some personal demons they would all prefer to remain buried before they either got Teal’c back - or lost him forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

part 3

 

 

 

 

 

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