D is for Daniel—and Danger (of course)

This story was written for Gen Fic Day, especially for Jack Alpha-Bit Soup.

 

“Sergeant, I'm gone. I'll be in Colorado by noon so you know where to find me.”

“Yes, sir,” the sergeant answered.

“My cell phone is on me if you need to contact me before I get to the airport. Call me if you get any new information. After that, get hold of Colonel Carter.”

“Yes, sir.”

General O'Neill juggled his jacket and his briefcase. “And sergeant? Let's see if we can keep the paperwork to a minimum until I get back, okay?”

“I'll do my best, sir. Good luck.”

0~0~0

 

“Carter?” Jack waved at his former second-in-command and he strode across the runway.

“Good to see you, sir,” she said as she buried the salute and fell into step beside him. “Good flight?” She covered her ears at the roaring of the fighter jet behind her.

“No better way to travel.” he shouted. Despite the seriousness of the situation he grinned. In step, they cleared the tarmac and entered the terminal. As quickly as he could, he dispensed the necessary protocols.

“Nothing yet?” he asked as he and Carter exited the building.

“No, sir. They're waiting for you at the SGC and you'll get a full briefing there.”

“Are you coming with me on this trip to Oz?” He looked at the black eye and the hint of bandage he could see coming out from the cuff of her jacket, knowing the answer before he asked.

“Yes, sir, I am. Teal'c and Vala are with Bra'tac—we're trying to get a message to them but they're not due to check in for another two days. Colonel Mitchell can't go back because--”

“He's not part of the original team. Got it. Have you got a sit rep with you?”

“In the car, sir. You can read it on the way in—but you're not going to like it.”

“There's a surprise, Carter.”

0~0~0

“You sure about this, Jack?”

Jack adjusted the straps on his pack, wondering when that had stopped being second nature. “Of course I'm sure.” He looked up to see the general giving him the once over. “Don't let the snow on the roof fool you, Hank. I've still got what it takes.”

“I know,” Hank said. “I wish I was going with you.”

Jack clapped him on the shoulder. “Yep, I remember that feeling. What does the MALP show us?”

“We know they're there, probably waiting at the edge of the clearing, but the area in front of the 'gate is clear for the moment.”

“And when we get there?” Jack shifted his pack again and patted the P90 resting on his chest.

“I don't know, Jack.“ Hank stared at the open wormhole. “You've got SG14 and Colonel Carter if you think firepower is what you want, but you're going to have to play it by ear.”

“Yeah, that's what I figured.”

He spared a glance for Mitchell who stood leaning against his crutches, talking to Carter. He nodded to the leader of SG14 and they began the walk up the ramp. With a last wave over his shoulder he said, “Keep the light on for us, Hank.”

“Twelve hours, Jack,” Landry called after him. “No more.”

0~0~0

The 'gate deposited them on the Stargate platform at the bottom of which stood a delegation of three, none of whom had been there five minutes ago, all of whom had weapons at the ready.

“Carter?” Jack physically restrained himself from raising his weapon, pressing his right arm into his body.

“Your call, sir. But you know what they're offering. And what you have to do.”

Jack heard a voice call him:“O Nell.”

“'O Nell.' That's me, huh? I gather I'm the guest of honor.” Reluctantly, he passed his weapon to Carter. He could see that her knuckles were white as she gripped her own weapon. “You are so right, Carter. I'm not going to like this one little bit.”

“Twelve hours, sir.”

“Start the clock, colonel. You guys keep the 'gate clear and get ready to dial us home.” He left Carter and SG14 standing on the dais and walked off with the welcoming committee.

0~0~0

“Hey? How ya doin'?” Jack knelt beside a body sprawled face down on a small pallet. A groan allowed him to release a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. “Pissed off the natives, didcha?” he asked as he rolled the body carefully on to its back.

“Go away, Jack.”

“Now what kind of a greeting is that? I come all the way from my cushy desk job in Washington to save your sorry ass, and this is the thanks I get.” A grunt was his only response. Jack began running his hands carefully over Daniel's body. He was a mess. His face, especially his left cheek, was black and blue. He was cradling his left arm on his chest, and his teeshirt was crusted with blood. As difficult as it was, Jack tried to ignore the blood and look for the wounds. “Come on. Stay with me, Daniel, and tell me where you're hurt.”

“Ow!” As Jack pressed on the left arm, Daniel threw up his right, trying to push Jack away.

“Ow?” Jack continued to probe. “That's not very useful. 'Ow' you've got a sliver in you finger, 'ow' you need a bandage, an ice pack, and an Aspirin, or 'ow' you have serious internal injuries?”

“Ow, I think I broke my arm—and your poking at it doesn't help.”

“Crabby, are we?” He saw that the arm from the wrist to the elbow was indeed swollen. It didn't look to be out of alignment and there were no bones sticking out, so hopefully, it was only a deep bruise or a fracture.

“What are you doing here?” Daniel asked.

“Didn't I just say that I came all the way from Washington to save your--”

“No. I mean what are you doing here?”

“Oh. Me. Well, the Mick... Mick Jagons--”

“Miktagons,” Daniel corrected.

“Them. They weren't too happy with the second string team so they asked for the original and best. I guess we have a reputation in the galaxy—well, I have a reputation since they asked for me personally. At least I think 'O Nell' is me.”

“'O Nell.'” Daniel shifted and sucked air in through clenched teeth as Jack's fingers pulled up his teeshirt. “Oh, goody.”

“Now, stay still while I check you over.” Jack moved his hands as gently as possible over Daniel. The blood was old, at least a day, and came from small cuts and abrasions. He couldn't see any open wounds except the cut on Daniel's head which bleed sluggishly. “We'll ought to have business cards printed or something.”

“What?” Daniel flinched as Jack's hands skimmed over his chest. “Business cards?”

“Business cards, you know, with information on it.”

“Saying what?” Daniel asked as he struggled to stay still.

“General Jack O'Neill—famed leader of SG1. Colonel Samantha Carter—best damned 2IC in the Air Force. Doctor Daniel Jackson—archaeologist, linguist, and universal whipping boy. And Teal'c—straight-man and all around good guy.” Jack breathed another sigh of relief when his cursory examination turned up relatively minor injuries. “You know, we need to get Teal'c a title. It ruins the rhythm otherwise: General O'Neill, Colonel Carter, Daniel Jackson, Teal'c—see ruins the rhythm.” He continued his appraisal of Daniel as he talked. “Accept no substitutes. Ask for the original and best. Coming soon to a planet near you.”

“I don't think you can fit all that on a business card,” Daniel hissed.

“Maybe a flier,” Jack amended. “Is a billboard too much?” He sat back on his haunches and stared at Daniel who had his right hand clenched in a fist. The man looked dirty, exhausted, and in pain. “What else?”

“The arm's pretty sore, but not broken.” Daniel didn't pretend to misunderstand. “Ribs, I think. Bruised, maybe cracked. But you know that too.”

“And?”

“Twisted my ankle when I fell.”

“And?”

“Cuts and bruises. Nothing else.”

“No concussion?”

“Headache. Don't think it's a concussion.”

Jack sighed. He looked around their cell, taking stock of their situation and their supplies. That job took him all of two minutes. The hut was barely big enough for the two of them to stretch out, eight foot square at best. There were no windows, although the wall slatting allowed cracks of light to filter in. The doorway, oddly enough, stood open with a guard on either side of it. In one corner sat a bucket of water and a cup, in the other corner a bucket for waste. They'd taken Daniel's boots, his jacket, his pack and left him barefoot, in pants and a teeshirt, with only a thin blanket to cover himself. They'd taken Jack's pack as well--the one with the MREs and medical supplies--along with his jacket and his boots. Then they'd thrown him in the hut with Daniel.

“So, you want to tell me what happened?”

“That wouldn't be my first choice, no,” Daniel said. He lay with his good arm flung over his face.

Jack blinked in surprise. Daniel didn't want to talk? That never happened--unless he was so hurt that couldn't—or he was gagged. “I wish I had something to give you for the pain but all the supplies are in my pack. They even emptied my--”

“It's not that bad, Jack.” Daniel pulled his arm down and opened his eyes. “It's not the injuries. I've had worse than this.” He attempted to pull himself up on one elbow, swearing as he did.

“What do you think you're doing?” Jack asked as he helped Daniel sit up.

“If I'm going to tell you what happened, I want to be able to look you in the eye while I do it.” He struggled to push himself so that his back was against the wall. Sweat broke out on his face and his hands shook.

“We can wait for this until you're--”

“I screwed up, Jack.” Daniel said shortly. “I know you need to know what happened but I don't think you're going to like it.”

“I already don't like it.” Jack said. Coming in and finding Daniel roughed up meant he didn't like it. Not being able to walk out the door and go back to the 'gate meant he didn't like it. The only thing he did like was that they were both in one piece—for the moment, at least. He sat down where he could see Daniel and keep an eye on the doorway. “Do we need to worry about?” He gestured to the two guards.

“No, they don't understand us, and I'm not going to tell you anything they don't already know since they had front row seats.”

Trying to keep the anger from his voice Jack asked, “Were they the ones who roughed you up?”

“Maybe. They could have been. It doesn't matter.”

Jack bit back a reply and waited for Daniel to continue, but having started, he seemed reluctant to talk. “I don't know what you could have done that was so bad, but whatever it is, you're going to have to tell me sooner or later.”

“Are Sam and Mitchell okay?” Daniel asked. “I saw them being taken to the 'gate but I didn't think to ask if they--”

“They're fine. Sam's got a helluva black eye, and Mitchell's on crutches. Both of them look much better than you.” Jack assured him. “Now quit stalling and tell me what happened.”

Daniel sighed and leaned his head against the wall. “Do you want the long version or the short version?”

“Daniel,” Jack warned.

“Okay, fine. I took a swing at the Miktagalish.” The words came out in a rush.

“The Miktagal—the head honcho? You? What the hell for?” The thought that Daniel, diplomat extraordinaire, would punch someone--in the middle of a negotiation--was unheard of. There had to be a good reason. “What did he do that pissed you off?”

“I...nothing. I misinterpreted the welcoming ceremony of the Miktagons. I thought they were actually going to hurt Mitchell and I tried to stop it. I mean they raised their staffs and--” Daniel ducked his head. “By the time I'd figured it out, I'd started a free-for-all. Once I struck the Miktagalish, his guards jumped in, and the next thing I knew, I was at the bottom of the steps and Sam and Mitchell were on their way back to the 'gate. I heard the Miktagalish say your name so I yelled at Sam that they needed to get you here.”

“And leave Mitchell behind?”

“Yeah. He seemed to make them mad, I'm not sure why, exactly.”

“You actually took a punch at--”

“Right in the face. Gave him a bloody nose.”

Jack didn't say anything else. He settled himself against the wall beside Daniel, remembering a time—a long ago time--when Daniel would never have raised a hand or a weapon to anyone. The passing of the years had changed many things. One thing it hadn't changed was Daniel's guilt. He turned to Daniel who was sitting with his eyes closed. “What do we do now?”

“I'm not sure,”Daniel said. “I don't know how to fix this.”

“Well, in less than 12 hours, it won't need fixing because we've got help on the way. We'll wait for Carter to--”

Daniel opened his eyes and leaned forward, grabbing Jack's arm, “No, we can't let that happen. This is my fault, not the Miktagons. We can't do any more damage here. We have to find some way to--”

“Whoa! Slow down, Daniel, before you screw up something else.” He saw the look of hurt pass over Daniel's face as Daniel let go. “I didn't mean it that way. Look, stop blaming yourself for this. You can't be right all the time. God, I'm always amazed at how well you get through to people. This time you made a mistake—a miscalculation--and you stepped in to save a teammate. Nobody's going to fault you for that. Least of all me. Now relax.” With his arm, he pushed Daniel back against the wall.

The guards, alerted by the raised voices, turned towards them. “Don't mind us,” Jack said, waving his fingers at them. “Just two old friends having a little disagreement.” He smiled and waited until the guards returned to their posts.

“So, let me ask the age-old question,” Jack said once things were quiet. “What do we have and what do we need?”

“What we have,” Daniel answered, “is us. What we need is a way out of here—without anyone else getting hurt.”

“Good, Daniel, now you're thinking,” Jack said sarcastically. “Let's work on the first part of that equation. Why us?”

“What?”

“Why us, Daniel? Why you and me? Carter and Mitchell get sent packing and you and I end up here. So what's so special about the two of us—beyond the obvious, of course?” Jack gave him a cocky grin.

Daniel ignored Jack's bravado. “Well, I'm here because I tried to hit somebody I wasn't supposed to.”

“Okay, what about me?”

“You?”

“As much as I'm enjoying my little vacation, what with the fabulous view, peachy décor and all, why did the Mikel...Micky... why did they call for me?” Jack crossed his arms and waited.

“Because you used to be on SG1.” Daniel made it more of question than a statement.

“So, they did ask for SG1—but not the new SG1, the old SG1. What do we have that they want?”

“Um...you.”

“Why, Daniel?” Jack asked in exasperation.

Daniel put a finger up and closed his eyes. “Okay, let me think about this. In the mission briefing it says that the Miktagons use the Stargate, on a limited basis, to trade with other worlds, mostly for foodstuffs, household good, cloth—luxury items, things they don't make here.”

“Makes sense,” Jack said. “Go on.”

“Well, they must have heard about us from someone they trade with. The request for contact came to us from an SG team working on another planet—I...can't think of the designation, but it's a planet the Miktagons trade with.”

“That must have been awhile ago, otherwise the SG team would have given them Mitchell's name as the leader of SG1.”

“Yeah, you're right. The request came more than a year ago—just about the time you took over the SGC--but because it was a low priority mission, we shelved it until now. In terms of resources, they don't have much that we can use. It's mineral poor although the culture looks--”

“Daniel.”

“Um..sorry. The only reason SG1 took the mission at all was because we were specially requested. But I'm beginning to think it wasn't us they wanted; it was you.”

A noise outside the door interrupted their speculations. The guards stepped inside the opening and came to attention.

“Looks like we've got company.” Jack stood up.

“Help me up.” Daniel reached out his good hand.

“Stay put, Daniel.”

“No, if I need to translate or negotiate, I need to do it on my feet. These people value ritual and decorum—and I've already messed that up once today.”

Reluctantly, Jack pulled Daniel to his feet, keeping a hand under his elbow. “I don't suppose now would be the time to make a break for it, huh?”

Daniel watched the doorway intently. “Stand up straight, and be respectful.”

“After what they did to you, I don't think respect--”

“Jack, you were the one who pointed out that we're alive for a reason. Let's see if we can find out what it is—and keep it that way.”

Jack kept a steadying hand on Daniel and listened as words he didn't understand came rapidly, urgently out of Daniel's mouth. The Miktagalish himself had come with his guards—Jack had to hide the smirk he felt seeing the swollen nose--and his answers to Daniel were short and angry, even Jack could hear that. Eventually, the Miktagalish raised a hand to silence Daniel and then stared at Jack. “O Nell,” he said and pointed to the door. The guards pushed Daniel out of the way, standing one on each side of Jack. Daniel stumbled back a few feet.

“Daniel?”

“I'm not...I'm not sure. I've told him that you're the chieftain of SG1.”

“Chieftain?”

“It's the closest equivalent I can find. I think that's what I told him.”

“You think?” Jack asked in alarm.

“I'm pretty sure. He wants you to go with him.”

“Yeah, I got that part. What for?”

“I don't know. We didn't get that far before I--” Daniel cleared his throat. “He wants you to go to their 'meeting place.' That's where they brought us when we first arrived. I think I should come with you to translate--”

The guards stepped forward and crossed their weapons in front of Daniel.

Daniel limped back a couple of steps, away from the weapons. “Then again, maybe not.”

“I guess I'm going alone,” Jack said as he started for the door, the guards watching him closely.

“It's something ceremonial,” Daniel said. “Be care--”

Jack heard the “umph” and turned in time to see Daniel crumple. The guards closed ranks to keep him from going to Daniel who lay gasping on the floor.

“What the hell did you do that for?”

He didn't get an answer.

0~0~0

“Jack?” He felt a damp cloth pass over his face. “Jack? Come on. Wake up for me.” Jack batted away the cloth and opened his eyes to see Daniel sitting beside him.

“You look like shit.” he said in rough voice. His face burned and his body ached. He was getting too old for this stuff. Despite the fact that he'd told Daniel that they were part of the first string team, he didn't feel it at the moment. He felt old—and damn sore.

“Yeah, well, you don't look all that great yourself.” Daniel passed him a bottle of water. “What happened?”

Jack took the bottle and drank half of it before he realized what it was. He held out in front of him. “Where did we get this?”

“They threw you in here, and then threw in our packs—minus anything that could be used as a weapon. Yes, I checked. We do, however, have some medical supplies.” Daniel held out a blister pack of Tylenol. “Take those, and then tell me what happened.”

Jack swallowed the pills, rinsing them down with the remaining water. “You can see what happened.” Jack raised his hand to his face. “And if I look like I feel, I must look pretty bad.” His cheek felt swollen and raw. His forehead burned—a cut no doubt, which would explain the terrible headache as well. He fingers traveled to his forehead until Daniel's hand pulled his down.

“Don't touch,” Daniel ordered. “I need to clean it out. You're probably going to need a few stitches when we get home. I was just about to tape it up for you but I don't have any scissors to cut the tape. The other side doesn't look quite so bad but it's definitely going to bruise.” Daniel pulled Jack's hand away from the cut. After he was done cleaning it, he shifted over to the wall until he was leaning against it. With a grunt he pulled up his legs until he could rest his head on his knees.

“Daniel? You okay? What did they do to you when I left?” He pulled himself up on his hands and knees and crawled over to where Daniel had propped himself up. “I heard you go down but they wouldn't let me--”

“I'm fine, Jack,” came the muffled voice.

Despite his concern, Jack wanted to make a smart remark about the fact that Daniel was always fine—and had been “fine” for more than ten years, death notwithstanding—but he knelt quietly and let Daniel come to terms with whatever it was he was dealing with. No doubt he'd hit the proverbial wall, what with his injuries and the stress, and needed some time to regroup. At the moment, Jack felt the same way. They were both bruised and battered but no closer to being free. Jack thought he'd done the right things, made all the right moves, yet here he was back in his cell. Maybe, after a couple of years behind a desk, he'd lost his touch. Still, they'd been given their supplies so maybe things were looking up. He hoped Daniel could keep it together long enough for them to figure out what to do next.

He grasped Daniel's shoulder and gave it a shake. “You okay?”

When Daniel finally looked up, Jack was surprised at what he saw. Daniel had tears running down his face—and he was laughing.”

Maybe the stain was finally too much for him after all. “Daniel? Care to share?”

“Sorry, Jack. Sorry. I'm just...” He broke off while he sucked in a deep breath, grabbing his ribcage as he did so.

“Shit, Daniel, take it easy.” Jack moved to sit beside Daniel in much the same position he'd been in on his arrival. Puzzled, he listened to Daniel's quiet laughter—interspersed with little huffs of pain--until the sound died down. “Better now?”

“Yeah, better,” Daniel said with a deep sigh. “It's just.... Here we are, ten years later, and we're getting in to the same shit we always did.”

“What pills did you pop out of that med kit?” Jack wanted to glare at Daniel but his facial muscles wouldn't cooperate.

Daniel was offended. “Tylenol, same as I gave you.”

“Right,” Jack said, not entirely convinced. He waved for Daniel to continue. “So the laughing?”

“I guess I'm getting sentimental in my old age.”

“Ah, yes, that makes perfectly good sense.” Irritated, Jack shook his head.

“I mean, you've gone to Washington, I've changed team leaders, and added a team member. We're both older, wiser, more experienced, yet here we are—the two of us—on some backwater planet trying to figure out how to get home. You have to admit, there's a certain poetic justice in that.”

“How hard did the guy hit you the second time?” Jack asked, leaning his head against the back wall. He said it without rancor. Daniel was right; it was like the “old days.” He just wished there wasn't quite so much emphasis on the “old.”

“He hit me hard enough that I shouldn't be laughing,” Daniel answered. “My ribs hurt.”

They sat together in silence for a few minutes. Finally Daniel said, “So what happened when they took you out—other than the fact that they beat you up?”

“That's what happened,” Jack said. “I came, I saw, I got beat up. Same old, same old.”

“That's really not very helpful—and it's usually me that gets beat up.”

Jack looked over at him. “You did get beat up.”

“Good point,” Daniel said. “So?”

“An open-handed blow to each side of the face,” Jack wiped away a line of blood trickling down from his eye, “and then we bowed to each other. The Mick guy said something I didn't understand. I said something I hope he didn't understand. Then they knocked me out and brought me here.”

“You didn't antagonize them--fight back?”

“It didn't seem like a good idea at the time. From what you said, I thought the blows might be part of the ritual.”

“You actually listened to me?” Daniel asked.

“Only when I absolutely have to, Daniel.” Daniel chuckled, and Jack, with a snort of his own, grabbed another bottle of water and leaned back against the wall until they were shoulder to shoulder.

“You know, I miss this,” Jack said, twirling the water bottle around in his hands.

“What, having people beat you up?” Daniel asked.

Jack shrugged his shoulders. “No, I miss going through the 'gate.”

“Ah.” Daniel nodded his agreement. “I could arrange to get captured again so that you'd have to come rescue me.”

Jack choked on the water. He looked over to see Daniel with a small smile on his face. “Do you think we could make it a planet with a beach next time, someplace a little warmer than this?”

“I'll see what I can do.”

“Maybe sometime in February? I could handle a couple of days in February.”

“I'll put it on the calender.”

“With Uma Thurman look-a-likes? That would be worth getting beaten up for.”

“We're not taking Sam, then?”

“God, don't let Carter hear you say that.” Jack drank the water down and tossed the empty bottle in the corner. He pulled his knees up so that he could rest his elbows on top of them and frowned. “That should have done it, shouldn't it. We did the fake fight, I bowed, he bowed, we should be on our way home. It doesn't look to me like we're on our way home. So what went wrong?”

“What?”

“Why aren't we outta here?”

“I don't know,” Daniel said, serious now. “I thought that would do it too.”

“How long was I out?” Jack asked.

“An hour, maybe two. And you were gone about an hour before they brought you back.” Daniel sounded frustrated. “The sun's starting to set so you've been here maybe--”

“Yeah, I don't know how long either, but you're right; we're running out of time. Once they let us go, it's an hour's march back to the 'gate.”

“If they let us go,” Daniel corrected. “And if we had our boots it's an hour. Like this, I don't know.” Daniel didn't mention the sprained ankle.

“If, Daniel? Where's you're sense of eternal optimism?”

“It left when you got here,” Daniel said in exasperation. “You know, you could go to the 'gate and let Sam know--”

“Don't even think it, Daniel.”

“Right. Yeah. Sorry.” Daniel tapped his fingers on the ground. “Maybe if I can talk to the Miktagalish again, now that you've completed the ritual--”

“I'm not sure that's--” Jack put up his hand. “Something's happening.” He stood and brushed the dirt off his pants before helping Daniel to his feet. Going as close to the door as he could without letting the guards see him, he looked out. “We've got troop movement, here, Daniel. I think they're getting a squad together.

“Now what?” Daniel muttered.

“If these idiots take a swing at us again, I'm swinging back,” Jack said, “and we'll wait for Carter to come pick up the pieces.”

“Not idiots, Jack, just people with customs that differ from ours.”

“What, a handshake or a kiss on the cheek isn't good enough? I'm not sure what slugging people proves. This was supposed to be a trade agreement, not WWF wrestling.”

“I'm sensing a little role reversal here,” Daniel said with a chuckle.

“I said I'd rather slug 'em.”

“Yes, but you're willing to try diplomacy first.”

Jack thought about it for a minute and then lifted his eyebrows in surprise. “Yeah, I suppose you're right. The geeky archaeologist comes out swinging and the soldier turns the other cheek—painfully.”

“Change is always difficult. Adopting new ideas is always difficult--”

“No, I mean literally. My cheek--this damn thing hurts.” Jack wriggled his jaw back and forth.

“So some things change and some things stay the same, then.”

“If you mean we'll both be making a trip to the infirmary, then yeah, some things stay the same. It'll be just like old times.”

“Sorry. God, sorry.” Daniel said. “If I'd know what they were going to do--”

“You'd have done the same thing—the right thing.” Jack insisted. “Don't be sorry, Daniel. That's what the team is for. However this turns out, it's been fun.”

Daniel laughed and then sobered. “What happens when we go out that door?” The noise outside indicated a large group of people assembling. It looked like the Miktagalish was assembling an armed company.

“Nothing. It's obviously our escort back to the 'gate. We smile and bow. I don't say anything—or hit anybody. You don't say anything—or hit anybody, as hard as that might be. And we go home.”

“You sure?” Daniel asked.

The two guards came through the door, pointing at each of them in turn. “Da Nell. O Nell.”

“Nope, definitely not sure,” Jack answered, “but it looks as if we're about to find out.”

~0~0~0~

Jack shifted so that he could get a fistful of Daniel's shirt to steady him. The Miktagalish traveling behind them in a chair held up by six of his personal servants kept them moving steadily down the path to the 'gate. They were flanked on either side by tribesmen who didn't let them stray from the path. They weren't made to run, but they weren't allowed to stop either. Had they been uninjured, the trip would have been no more than a brisk hike. As it was, they were both sweating and out of breath.

“Part of the ritual, you think?” Jack asked Daniel who looked ready to collapse beside him. Their feet were cut and bloody from stones littering the path, but Daniel, coping with cracked ribs and a sprained ankle was about at the end of his tolerance.

“Personally, I think he's just pissed at us,” Daniel panted. “He hasn't stopped glaring at us since we started.”

“Maybe we haven't been very good guests,” Jack suggested. Daniel huffed a at that and then gasped as he twisted his sore ankle again on the uneven ground.

“You okay?”

“Um...no, don't think so,” Daniel whispered.

“A little farther, Daniel. Hang on.”

“Sure, I can do that,” Daniel said through gritted teeth.

“Hang on,” Jack repeated. He slowed their walk as much as he could, unsure what would happen if he stopped altogether. So far, they'd been poked and prodded if they tried to stop, but not struck. Jack wanted to keep it that way.

“Take a look up ahead. Here comes the cavalry.” Carter and SG14 were making time towards them.

“Stop them, Jack,” Daniel said. “We've come this far, we have to go the rest of the way. We can't let this end in bloodshed.” Without waiting for Jack to respond, he turned to speak to the Miktagons who'd spotted the strangers as well. Jack heard his name, “O Nell,” and the words “SG1”as Daniel gestured wildly. Jack tightened his grip on Daniel's shirt to keep him from taking a header in the dirt.

“Carter,” he shouted. “Stand down.”

The Miktagalish sounded angry. He waved his hand, gesturing his troops to continue.

“General O'Neill? Daniel? Are you alright?”

“So far, Carter, and we'd like to stay that way, so stand down. Don't do anything aggressive.”

The Miktagons had come to a stop and raised their weapons. Carter and the members of SG14 did the same: It was a face off.

“Carter, believe me, we're fine. But you need to put the weapons down and let us walk to the 'gate.”

“Why, sir?”

“Really, Sam,” Daniel said, “we're a little the worse for wear, but we need to get to the 'gate under our own power—with our escort. We think it's part of their ritual that we...prove ourselves as warriors.”

“You think that's what it is?” Jack asked.

“How the hell do I know?” Daniel muttered under his breath.

Slowly, Carter lowered her weapon and signaled SG14 to do the same.

“Now turn around and walk ahead of us to the 'gate,” Jack said. “We'll be right behind you.”

“I don't like this, sir,” Carter said as she turned.

“I'm not crazy about it either,” Jack agreed, “but unless we want to shoot our way out of here, this is the way it has to be.”

~0~0~0~

“How are the feet?” Jack asked Daniel who was sitting up in the next bed.

“They itch like crazy.” Daniel shifted his feet on the sheets pulling them up and then pushing them back.

“Yeah, mine too,” Jack said. He ran his fingers over the edge of the blanket. “My aide called while you were in x-ray. He said my desk is covered in paperwork.”

“Yeah, I imagine. If you're a general, there's a lot of paperwork.” Daniel poured a glass of water from the pitcher on his tray.

“Yeah, a lot. Carter came in for a few minutes while you were asleep.”

“Sorry I missed her.” Daniel cleared his throat. “Teal'c stopped by while you were in a meeting with General Landry.”

“Yeah, it's good Teal'c's back. That's good.” Jack laced his fingers together and slipped them behind his head. “I think he was worried about us.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Probably mad that he missed the fun.”

“Fun, Jack. I wouldn't call this fun.” Daniel shifted his arm in the sling.

“I don't mean the injuries, Daniel, I mean the--” Jack waved his hands back and forth between  them. A raised eyebrow was his only answer. He sighed. “So do you think my diplomatic skills could get me a job on SG1?”

“Why, are you firing me?”

“No, Daniel, I'm not firing you. Yet.”

“Put in your application,” Daniel said icily. “I'll put in a good word for you with some people I know.”

“Hey, I got presents when we left,” Jack insisted. “I didn't see you getting any presents.”

“You got a primitive cloak made out of feathers and fur.”

“Yeah,” Jack said. “Why is that, by the way?”

Daniel took a deep breath before admitting, “I think it's a cloak given to visiting chieftains.”

“Me? I thought I was a diplomat.”

“From the look of things, you got to be both.”

“Cool.” Jack said. “Very cool. And I'm a feathers and fur kind of guy.”

“Of course you are,” Daniel muttered. He plucked at the blanket again. “Look, Jack, I'm sorry. I really screwed up. I've got a translation team working on the language. We'll go back when they've--”

“No we won't. I told Landry to block the address.”

“What happened wasn't their fault. It's simply a different culture.”

“I didn't say it was. It wasn't our fault, either,” Jack told him. “When we've got a better handle on the language, or when we can meet them again on neutral territory, we'll reconsider. In the meantime, it's off the list.”

When Daniel didn't argue, Jack knew thought maybe he'd made his point.

“I'm too old for this anymore,” Daniel said as he pulled the covers up to his chin.

Jack was surprised to hear his own thoughts come out of Daniel. “Well,” he said lamely, “you're only as young as you feel.”

When there was no answer, Jack looked over to the man in the next bed who was glaring at him.

“What did you do before you wrote greeting cards for Hallmark?”

“I'm just saying, Daniel, that in a few weeks you'll be ready to go out there again. Give it time.”

“But you're not,” Daniel said, “going out there again, I mean.”

Jack thought about it for a minute. It had been fun in its own way to get back into the field. It was challenging, exciting, different each time. “No,” he said and sighed. “I don't think I'm cut out for a career in diplomacy, even though I can do it if I have to.” He looked at Daniel who was watching him with such understanding. “Just like you're not cut out for a career in the military, even though you can do it if you have to.”

“True enough,” Daniel said quietly.

Jack pushed back the covers on his bed and swung his legs over the side. “So, what do you say we give Lam the slip and head down to the cafeteria?”

“Why, they don't give generals Jello at the Penatagon?”

“Yeah, but I need to get out of here. I don't do well in captivity. Let's go negotiate for pie.”

Daniel snorted. “Negotiate? Can't you just order them to give you pie, oh great chieftain?”

“Not nearly as much fun. Come on,” Jack urged. “I'm takin' you with me. Let's bust out of here.”

Daniel considered it. “We'll need Sam and Teal'c to push the wheelchairs.”

“'S what I told you before, Daniel. SG1, the first-string team—Jack O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, Samantha Carter, and Teal'c—the original and best.”

“Right,” Daniel agreed. “Accept only the genuine article. Just don't let me punch anybody during the negotiations, okay?”

“Don't worry, Daniel. I'll protect you from yourself—like I've always done. You can count on me to be the voice of reason.”

Daniel shook his head and laughed.

finis!

 

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