Deal with the Devil

I breathe a sigh of relief from the top of the ramp.

That was too close. Waaaaay too close for my liking. I close my eyes, taking a minute to assess just how close we came to selling our souls for some nifty drug and blueprints for a fancy generator. By the time I open them again Carter’s no longer standing in front of me giving me the evil eye. A side-ways glance to my left catches sight of her uniform as she marches toot sweet through the blast doors.

Well, she’s mightily pissed off; I may have some bridge building ahead of me.

I take a deep, calming breath. Enough to get some colour back in my cheeks and prepare to face the big man at the bottom of the ramp.

Oh, crap, looks like Carter’s mood’s contagious. George is looking livid.

“Briefing Room SG-1” Hammond says before exiting stage left.

What a crappy mission. There are days when I think things couldn’t get much worse, but I try not to think about those because fate, and when I say fate I mean Daniel, has a way of proving me wrong.

And speak of the devil. I get to the bottom of the ramp, my feet clanging against the sturdy metal as I do, only to discover Daniel loitering around the exit.

“You okay?” I ask him, my voice echoing in the silence of the empty gate room.

Daniel nods. He bounces on his heels for a second and quickly stuffs both hands in his pockets, preventing him from folding his arms across his chest. I can tell, purely by the look on Daniel’s face that he wants to talk to me about something.

I inwardly groan as I step into his personal space, all prepared for the verbal onslaught. Only, after a second of complete silence, I notice he’s being unusually hesitant at the moment, opening and closing his mouth like a fish out of water, unsure of, either what to say, or how to say it.

Daniel’s never had a problem speaking his mind. Any other day I might be concerned he was coming down with something, but not today. Today there’s something else going on, I see an uncertainty in his eyes that I haven’t seen in him for a long time. Could that POSSIBLY have something to do with me telling him to shut up like he’s a naughty schoolboy, in front of all and sundry? I’d bet my cable TV on it.

I sigh and simply stand, silent and expectant, until, with his self-confidence obviously at an all time low, Daniel’s gaze finally falls away from mine. Leaving me feeling so goddamn guilty that I’d done it to him again; destroyed his comfort zone and ripped his confidence right out from under him, only this time I don’t have the excuse of saving him from anyone. Even more confirmation that I should be feeling like the world’s biggest Jackass right now.

I clasp Daniel’s forearm with one warm hand. Allowing for a small smile that’s aimed squarely for the floor he lets me walk with him down the corridor.

“Jack?”

“Yeah” I say, a little eager.

Daniel shifts his gaze slightly, but doesn’t lift his head up. “I was just wondering what changed your mind.”

“How d’ya mean?” I keep it casual, fixing my gaze firmly ahead.

“Well, one moment you’re telling me to shut up,” Daniel shrugs, “the next you apologise and order me to do the opposite.” Daniel’s remark comes off rather flippant. Not the effect he was probably going for, but at least he’s talking to me.

I grimace, instinctively directing my gaze to my feet. I hate it when Daniel asks questions he knows I don’t want to answer. And this is definitely a subject I want to avoid.

***********************

George is standing where he thinks I can’t see him, observing us from his office before walking into the bullpen that is the briefing room. Not something he normally does, but on this occasion I guess he feels it’s prudent to know exactly what mood his people are in, and how much of what he is about to hear is going be fuelled more by emotion than plain facts.

Carter and Teal’c are already present and accounted for when I enter, quietly seating themselves on the right side of the room. Teal’c isn’t actually one for facial expressions so I can’t gauge his mood at the moment. Carter, however, is looking less than impressed. She had the same look on her face back in the dinning room on Euronda when I ordered her to get Daniel the hell out of my sight. That’s something George is sure not to let slide. From what I hear, Daniel was so high on his ethical horse that by the time he and Carter where talking to the General even she had washed her hands of him. I wish Carter hadn’t told me, but I guess hindsight can have its upside. For instance, at least now when the General rakes us both over the coals I’ll be ready for it.

Daniel walked to the briefing with me, but hasn’t said a word since my confession and second apology. I’ve always been a bull by the horns kind of guy and when Daniel asked me why exactly I went from verbal abuse to hand holding in a matter of minutes, I decided he deserved the truth. Of course truth hurts. And hurting Daniel is akin to slapping a puppy, but on this occasion I’d been unduly harsh, the evidence being the manner in which he reportedly spoke to Hammond. So, I admitted I was all for kicking his butt back through the wormhole and grounding him for the foreseeable future, until Alar opened his big mouth, referring to Teal’c as “different”.

My first move was to instinctively deflect the onslaught of Dr Daniel Jackson’s extended vocabulary. Only, after a couple of seconds wait for the abuse to begin, I opened my eyes. Daniel was still walking next me, this I saw as a positive sign, but the silence was new.

I take my usual seat and Daniel takes his next to me. Everything’s going okay so far, he appears to have accepted my mistake for what it was - a really dumb-ass mistake.

George is still watching; I figure I’ve only got another minute or so before all hell breaks loose and it comes out how I managed to alienate at least one member of my team and run roughshod over the other. I turn to Daniel to check if he’s okay and find him, not sitting ridged in his seat, notepad in hand ready to challenge the military’s core values and whoever else dare get in his path like I’d expect, but lying face down on the desk, arms folded to act as cushions. Not a pen or even a scrap of paper in sight

Stunned I look across the table at Carter and Teal’c and find them studiously avoiding eye contact with Daniel, each other and me.

I poke Daniel in the ribs just as George decides he’s done enough observing, and walks into the room to pass sentence.

Everyone except Daniel, who settles for simply raising his head, stands to attention.

“Okay SG-1,” The General says while taking his seat.

We all sit again and he lets us stew for a little longer, before clasping both hands, leaning forward as he asks the question. “What happened?”

“General,” I greet brightly. “How did the president take the news?” Figuring the best tactic is to act like this mission went just like any other, I force the upbeat tone into my voice.

“Not very well Colonel, as you might expect,” George puts me in my place and I know him well enough to keep my smart come backs to myself. “Which is why I need to know what happened and give him a very good reason as to why SG-1 failed to fulfill their standing orders?”

The General scans the table waiting to see who dare speak first. I avoid his gaze by focusing on inspecting an imagined spot on the table. Next to me, the young man that I took in all those years ago, when he had no one else to turn to, is still looking rather subdued. Carter is steadily holding a piercing gaze at the far wall and Teal’c is sitting just as impassive as ever.

“Doesn’t anyone have anything to say?” He tries again; amazed that no one is saying anything. “Dr Jackson, you had plenty to say earlier?”

As soon as his name is spoken Daniel bolts up, sitting as straight as a ruler. What surprises Hammond though, and me for that matter, is that he doesn’t try to defend himself. Instead Daniel looks to me for help.

Unable to refuse that look of shear panic I hem and haw over exactly where to start. “Sir, if I may, what happened is-“

“The Eurondans were not what they appeared to be.” Teal’c cuts in, giving me the trademark Jaffa head nod. I’m hoping that means I’ve been forgiven.

“How so?” George asks.

“They started the conflict sir. They poisoned the Atmosphere in an attempt to exterminate their enemy.” Carter injects with some enthusiasm.

When Carter doesn’t continue George looks fit to tear his hair out - if he had any, of course. I wonder if that’s the real reason behind the chrome dome; Colonel’s like me causing him to lose his hair much like Daniel's turning mine gray.

“The enemy, they referred to them as breeders – people who have no regard for genetic purity”. Daniel chimes in unexpectedly; more confident now someone else has opened up the floor.

Like a sensor I have installed in my brain; I can always tell when Daniel’s knack for detail (babbling) will do us more harm than good. The General is losing what is left of his patience. He needs to hear our reasoning - NOW.

“Essentially, Alar was nothing more than another Hitler.”

How’s that for blunt? The chill that descends after those immortal words can only be described as the second ice age.

Daniel continues talking. “If we had proceeded with the agreement to provide the…”

“Heavy water.” Sam supplies when Daniel struggles to remember.

“Right,” he smiles at her, “and the Eurondans used it to fight back against the, err, breeders, we would have been responsible for the deaths of thousands. It would be equivalent to mass murder.”

Daniel has this way about him when he talks. Not only his facial expressions, but also his whole body language seems to communicate how he feels about what he’s saying. On this occasion, shoulders hunched, face pinched, gaze unwilling to focus, he was disappointed in every single one of us.

Daniel knew about the Eurondan’s before he talked to Farrell, even though he didn’t have any evidence, he went with his gut feeling. But he went arse over tit about it by not even trying to explain it to us, just got all morally indignant.

Daniel went straight for the source, questioning Alar’s motives and expected Carter, Teal’c and me just to run with it. I think if he had clued in earlier to our true motives maybe it would have turned out differently. Suddenly realising, in the middle of our disagreement, that he’d been a fool to think this was purely a goodwill mission, and discovering his friends had let him continue to think that, made him feel like an idiot. Probably bringing home just how naïve he can be at times.

A glance in George’s direction proves how much power Daniel holds over people when he speaks. Generals in the Air Force are not often lost for words.

“Well, Dr Jackson, it seems you were correct to question their motives.” The General gives us all a grim look before continuing. “Colonel, when did you begin to suspect the Eurondans?”

I hear Daniel tut beside me and ignore it. I direct my full attention to George, who’s looking over my shoulder at the person next to me and I see his lips tighten. I’m betting that tut was accompanied by an eye roll. Daniel’s not in the General’s good books still, that much is clear, why is he pushing his luck?

“Well, we had just made a verbal agreement with Alar to provide Heavy water in exchange for technology and were returning to inform you sir. Alar walked us back to the DHD…” I pause to look at Teal’c, mouthing an apology. “Alar basically told me not to bring Teal’c back with me. Said he was different.” Then I mutter something that I SHOULD have kept to myself. “I had thought he was going to tell me not to bring Daniel back.” Now I want to kick myself, but some gracious individual with a forehead tattoo does it for me. I’ve unintentionally landed Daniel right in it.

“Why’s that?” George jumps on that like a lion catching it prey. Though I’m betting he isn’t so surprised, he knows something went off the other side of that wormhole, Daniel’s attitude had to have sprung from somewhere, after all.

“Daniel wasn’t exactly being polite to our hosts,” I cough and whisper at the same time.

Daniel’s only reaction to my statement is to sink as low as possible into the depths of his chair.

“Is that so?” George says menacingly, putting us both in the hot seat.

“Yeah, well since Daniel was the one causing trouble I couldn’t think of any reason why he’d want Teal’c to leave – except one.”

“I see.” George seems to let the topic drop for now, but I know him – this thing with Daniel not respecting authority isn’t over, not by a long shot.

I should have known not to send Daniel back to base after our first spat, only, I didn’t predict he’d take his issues with me out on everyone else. On the flip side of the coin though, the General is just as guilty of stringing him along as I am. George knew full well how Daniel would react to our true motives; otherwise he wouldn’t have waited till SG-1 had left the briefing room to talk to me about it.

“Carter had already left with one of the Eurondans to check out their Fusion Technology.” I continue with my story. “I ordered Daniel to find out as much as he could while Teal’c and I took a look around.”

“What did you find out?”

A sharp prod in his side has Daniel sitting up with a yelp. He turns a wounded look on me, as if saying; haven’t I hurt him enough for one day? before his gaze slides over and makes eye contact with the General, who, he now realises, is addressing him.

“I spoke to Farrell. At first she didn’t understand what I was asking, but if what Alar said was accurate then the war began over a generation ago, those people were fighting a war their parents, or even grandparents, started.” Daniel notices he’s currently receiving some peculiar looks. “Basically she didn’t have a clue why killing a person simply because they looked different was wrong.”

“They had thousands of people in stasis. We checked ‘em out.” I tap my pen on the table and sit back with an air of finality. “They were all the same.”

“Okay.” George agrees solemnly. “It appears we had a very close call.”

“Closer than you can imagine, sir.” I sigh loud enough for everyone to hear.

“I’d like a full report by morning.”

“What about the President?” Carter asks. It’s a good question. Our moral values and obligation won’t stand for squat once presented to the joint chiefs.

Hammond appears optimistic however and offers her a reassuring smile. “I’ll deal with the President, don’t worry.”

George surveys the room once again. Not much has changed in our personal stances towards each other. Carters still refusing to acknowledge me, Teal’c doesn’t seem to care one way or the other and Daniel remains quiet. But by the satisfied nod we receive I gather he believes we’ll work out our differences in our own time.

“Major Carter, Teal’c, you’re dismissed.” He says brightly.

I close my eyes, Daniel slouches even further if that’s at all possible. Teal’c looks concerned he’ll disappear under the table.

Now Carter, she hesitates and looks at me for the first time since the incident in the ‘gate room. I’m pleased, but don’t let it show. I shake my head grimly and silently indicate she should leave, whatever General Hammond has in mind for Daniel - and me - she isn’t going to help by disobeying a direct dismissal.

Teal’c bows his respect to me and leaves without a backward glance.

“My office” George says succinctly, pointing to his door, letting us follow at our own pace.

Patting Daniel on the arm I haul him up with me. Together we walk into the General’s office, closing the door behind me.

“Take a seat son.” Hammond offers a chair that Daniel takes reluctantly.

The way Daniel sits reminds me of a schoolboy who got caught doing something he shouldn’t and dragged to the principle’s office. Daniel’s never talked about his childhood, but I’m betting he hasn’t changed much in the intervening years.

At the moment, in Daniel’s world, I’m probably fulfilling the role of the evil social worker, who always hung around at the back the room silently observing, making notes and deciding which family to send him to next. This is why I take so much crap from him, and the same reason why he can make me so mad. Daniel’s not just someone I work with, he’s family and family are supposed to annoy the crap out of you.

“Dr Jackson,” George starts. “I’m concerned about your attitude towards, not only your teammates, but our potential allies.”

Daniel listens to the General’s words and refrains from comment. He has a perfect comeback, always does, and I’m sure had it been me talking to him right now he probably would have used it.

“To be honest I don’t know where to start, I’m so used to having these types of conversations with Colonel O’Neill.”

I suddenly find the door frame I’m leaning against very interesting and studiously try to avoid any eye contact. Daniel allows himself a smirk before turning back to face the General.

“I admit I’m disappointed to hear, despite our conversation earlier, that upon your return to the planet your attitude didn’t improve.”

HEL-LO. I didn’t hear anything about a talk, wonder if Carter knew and didn’t tell me or, more likely, if this was something the General had done off the record, being the good grandfather figure that he is, trying to avoid getting Daniel in trouble.

“This has been one of the very few instances where an advanced civilisation has been willing to share technology with us, and your actions could have cost us.”

Ooh, low blow. Even if it is true.

“That was the problem sir, as I TRIED to explain to Jack and Teal’c before,” I cringe and hide behind one hand, “The reason I wanted to go on this mission was to help these people, but the real reason we were sent was to help ourselves. To take advantage of them and their situation-”

“Dr Jackson,” George interrupts calmly. “The motive behind your misconduct does not excuse-”

“I know it’s important for us to learn as much as we can from other races, but we shouldn’t be doing that at the expense of those people. That makes us no different from the Goa’uld -”

“Daniel.” Hammond barks, he only has so much patience in reserve and Daniel is using every last bit.

“Sorry.” Daniel says quietly.

“I was going to say thank you.” George cuts to the quick.

“Wh – err - what?”

Err, Ditto!

George smiles when his thanks manage to render the SGC boy wonder speechless. “If it wasn’t for your impulsive attitude on this particular mission then it is very likely we would be neck deep in a war we had no right to be involved in.”

“Oh.” Daniel’s at a loss for words.

“You’re welcome.” George says. “But how about we work on a better method to express your views for next time? The bottom line is these people may have been the real thing, and you had no hard evidence to suggest otherwise.”

“Ok-ay.” Daniel agrees. Judging he’s way out of his depth here. He looks a little confused over what has just happened, and frankly I don’t blame him, so am I.

“You may go.” George shows him the door and Daniel wastes no time in taking it.

George tries – and fails - to curb his smile of triumph while watching Daniel bolt from the room.

I try – and fail – to follow in his footsteps.

“Not so fast Jack.”

Frozen in the open door way, I slowly turn back to face the General.

“There are a variety of ways in which you can deal with a personality like that.” George indicates the chair Daniel had previously occupied. “I suggest you apply at least one of them.”

Okay…NOT what I had been expecting. Was the General simply cutting me a break this time and conveniently forgetting about my role in the near signing of Earth’s contract with the devil? Maybe he’s saving the real punishment for later? I figure only time will tell, so I decide not to dwell on it.

I smile my thanks at George and beat it before he changes his mind.

“What are you loitering around for?” I say, catching up with Daniel standing to one side of the elevators.

I’ve got no doubt in my mind, given my lame reason for telling him to shut up earlier, getting him in trouble with the General AND for being a generic ass, Daniel’s going to be pissed with me. Yep, no way would Daniel even considering talking to me yet.

Daniel shrugs and offers no explanation. “Heading straight home?”

I don’t believe it. Just when you think you know a person. “Why are you even talking to me?”

Daniel visibly deflates as we enter the arriving elevator car together. He slumps against the wall, next to the buttons, and lazily presses the floor for the locker rooms, looking contrite.

“Hey,” I say gently. “I didn’t mean it like that.” I really didn’t, I had no idea Daniel thought I was still mad at him.

Daniel barely lifts his head in acknowledgment, instead choosing to glare at me over the rim of his glasses.

“I just…I…” When I stumble over my words I know I’m in trouble, coming to a decision I reach out and hit the elevator stop button. “I meant,” the elevator creaks and judders to a halt “if I were you; I wouldn’t be talking to me.”

Daniel doesn’t really react. “Huh.”

“Huh?” I mimic. “That’s all you’ve got to say?”

“I thought you were mad at me.”

“I thought you were mad at me.”

“I was, when you wouldn’t listen to me on Euronda, and again when I found out you only changed your mind because of something Alar said. But not anymore.”

He doesn’t sound all that happy with me. “You sure you’re not still holding a grudge?” My sarcasm is unappreciated and his emotionless glare makes that point very clear.

“Guess I’m much more understanding than you.” He says haughtily.

“Huh.” I contemplate that; he’s got a good point. If the shoe were on the other foot – in our case that has about a zero to one chance – I doubt I’d be so forgiving.

“That all you got to say?” Daniel mimics.

I’m amazed to learn that, for once, our little differences are not the root cause of our disagreement this time; they’ve made it possible to stick together. I’m starting to realise, no matter what happens to us, what we do to each other or where we go in the future, I’m never going to get rid of him. Whether we’re on opposite sides of the galaxy or sitting next to each other in the commissary, we’ll still be the best of friends.

I shake my head and smile brightly, leaning over Daniel’s shoulder to restart the elevator. “Glad we had this talk, Daniel.”

********************


“Are you going to talk to Sam?” Daniel asks me as he reaches to grab his civvies.

After our brief conversation on the elevator we jointly decided that today has been bad enough to warrant some serious drinking and gratuitous male bonding, though we didn’t say that last part out loud. In that spirit we both headed for the locker room.

“Do I need to?”

“Well, I maybe near sighted, but I definitely saw the look she gave you when you came through the wormhole.” Daniel starts to strip.

“You know what that was about?” I ask him cautiously, Carter didn’t bring it up in the debriefing and I doubt she’s had the chance to chat to Daniel since. I hope he drops it; I’ve just made peace with him and really don’t think I can cope with anything breaking that tonight.

Daniel sniffs deviously, pulling on a tan v-neck shirt. “Maybe”

“Carter tell you?”

“No,” Daniel sneers, “I don’t think Sam is exactly talking to me at the moment.”

“Oh, I get it.” I sit down to pull on my boots. “You’ve pissed her off and so you figure it’s easier to make me apologise to you than you apologise to her.”

“No, that’s not it at all.”

He can deny it all he wants. I know he was an absolute brat to her when I put him in her custody.

“So, what exactly did you say to piss her off?”

“It’s not so much what I said…” Daniel shakes his head and sits down next to me. “But anyway, we were talking about you…”

Oh Danny, when will you learn? I always get it out of you eventually, only takes one beer!

“Alar followed us to the Stargate, asked to come with us. Slimy bastard just wanted to save himself at the end of the day.”

“I take it you told him no.” Daniel draws his own conclusions.

“I warned him not to follow us, but…” I trail off.

“But you had a good idea he wasn’t going to listen, given the fact that if he stayed he probably wouldn’t survive anyway…” Daniel doesn’t seem all that bothered by Alar’s obvious fate. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

“I ordered the Iris closed.”

My second confession of the day - I feel like I should be going for a record. We sit together for a few minutes in silence.

“You did the right thing.” Daniel finally says lightly, standing up to reach for his bag.

“Daniel, don’t say that, it’s bad enough the General thinks I’m a bad influence – I don’t want it confirmed.”

Daniel chooses to completely ignore me. I can imagine he doesn’t want to touch THAT subject with a ten-foot pole.

“I knew what I was doing, and I know closing the Iris was the best course of action. Carter’s just going to have to accept that.” I continue. “Talking won’t change anything.”

“It might help.” Daniel waits for me to join him by the door.

“Daniel,” I sigh, heading out the door, past Daniel, and down the corridor. “I’m not a talking kind of guy.”

“You talk to me.”

Daniel is MOST infuriating at times. “That’s different, Carter’s military, she’s trained for these types of situations.”

Ooh no, no, no, I can see Daniel about to open his mouth to rebut that statement and I quickly shush him. “You know what I mean.”

Daniel pauses, mid-stride in the middle of the corridor. “So you only talk to me about stuff like this because you think I can’t handle it?”

Oh crap, how am I going to word this sensitively enough to tell Daniel the truth without hurting his feelings?

“Yes”

Jack, you’re an idiot.

“And no”

Daniel looks simultaneously hurt AND confused.

“Oh for cryin’ out loud”

Daniel laughs and starts walking again. “Jack I know what you’re trying - and failing - to say.”

“Little shit.” I state plainly. “You were winding me up.”

“Of course I was.”

I wait expectantly for Daniel to explain himself, but when all he does is blink, I suddenly know he doesn’t have too.

“I’ll talk to Carter tomorrow, alright?” I ask cantankerously.

“Hey, it’s nothing to do with me.” Daniel holds up both palms in surrender, walking on ahead to call for the elevator once again.

Daniel thinks he’s won this round and has a smirk on his face a mile wide, no doubt about it.

“You coming?” He heckles me from inside the elevator, his foot sticking out to stop the door from closing.

Laugh now Danny-boy, but I’m fit for a rematch. Stepping on to the elevator, I formulate my revenge…

“So Daniel” I say airily, “Up for something a little stronger than beer tonight?”

Daniel presses the button for NORAD and leans back against the wall, a cunning grin decorating his lips.

Round two has begun.

Fin.

 

 

 

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.