Originally published in The Seventh Chevron 3, 2001
Mistakes in the Translation
"Not sure how much more of crap this I can take."
Doctor Janet Fraiser glanced over at Daniel Jackson as they approached the briefing room to prepare for this morning's mission. Sam had been mildly injured on the last mission and even though her slight wound was all but healed, Janet wanted to check her out one more time just to be safe. P3R-921 sounded like it would be a routine mission, if unique in one regard, but then, so had other missions that had turned out spectacularly to be anything but. She didn't like sending her people off into danger when they weren't at the top of their form. General Hammond might consider them his people and, technically speaking, they were, but she'd patched them up so many times she had a definitely proprietary interest. They were her patients, but they were also her friends.
Colonel O'Neill appeared to be in full rant, but then Jack O'Neill was good at sounding off ahead of time, and even during a crisis. Whether he planned it that way or not, such an action often proved to be a good tension-breaker. She grinned at Daniel, who had stopped walking to listen to Jack for a second. There had been tension between them on a recent mission as they'd struggled to find a way to save the Enkarans from the Gad-Meer ship. Jack had opted for a plan to destroy the alien ship that was terraforming the planet. That he'd made his call when Daniel was already on the ship and would surely die as a result had to eat away at him, all the more so because Daniel had managed to produce a rabbit out of a hat and save the day after all. He was good at things like that even if his unorthodox, unmilitary methods tended to drive Jack up the walls. Once O'Neill got over his anger--anger partly based on frustration over his inability to find a better solution and partly on the realization that he had taken action that, were it not for the miracle Daniel had created, would have killed his teammate and friend--he would be glad of what Daniel had done. Janet just wished they could find a way to talk it out before too much more time passed.
She couldn't really read Daniel's face now, and that was bad. Usually she could, even when he closed in on himself. Was he furious with Jack? Feeling betrayed? Looking at the end of a friendship that had probably saved the sanity of both men more than once? Still mourning the recent death of Robert Rothman? Damn it, but it was tough watching SG-1 go through contortions like these. There had been a time when Janet had looked at the team with a kind of envy for the depth of the family bond between them. When had that started to unravel? Was there any way to knot it up again?
"I mean, he just drives me nuts, campers," Jack plunged on. Something in Daniel's face shifted subtly. He came to a dead stop, and she stopped with him. A sudden queasiness took up residence in her stomach. Jack's rant could have been a humorous one, but there was no humor in the tone. She could feel no affection in his words, not one iota. "On and on, babbling about this and that--ruins and translations and that kind of thing, and none of it worth ten seconds of my time. Holier than thou morality, waaaaay too much science. God, I can't stand the guy."
Daniel froze into a statue. He might have been carved out of solid ice, the way coldness came off him in waves. For the first second, pain flashed vividly in his eyes, then he wiped the expression away. Even when he had been hurting the most over Sha're, Janet had seen more feeling in his face than this. But then, Sha're was dead, past being hurt. Daniel was still capable of it. This sounded like he was facing the death of everything he had left.
"Indeed, O'Neill, I share your feelings." Not Teal'c, too? Daniel's face hardened further, but the pain he had to be feeling had been sucked inside. "It is difficult to endure his presence."
Daniel gnawed on his bottom lip. Any harder and he'd draw blood. Janet started to put her hand on his arm but he made a minuscule gesture of denial and took half a step out of range. He didn't walk away, though. Maybe he couldn't. Maybe a horrified fascination kept him standing there immobile, listening to the end of a friendship, the end of a family.
Janet grimaced. This couldn't be what it sounded like. It had to be something else. Didn't it? But no, Jack had mentioned ruins and translations....
"Not so negative on the science, sir." That was Carter. Maybe she'd do something right. Janet had a lot of faith in her. Sam's next words put an end to that forlorn hope. "But I have to agree with you. It's just out of place. It's simply not fair to an SG team. I wish we could do something about it."
"I could talk to Hammond," O'Neill volunteered. "You know me. I'd be glad to get a chance to sound off. Not sure he'd listen to me, though. You know how he gets about his teams? But it just reaches a point where it's counterproductive, ya know? I swear, whenever I see the guy coming down the hall, I want to duck out of the way so he won't see me. He just makes my skin crawl."
Daniel flinched. Had it really been that bad with the Enkarans and the Gad-Meer? Janet hadn't believed the situation past repair. Maybe she had been blindly optimistic. Standing here listening to the death of SG-1, she realized she must have been. Jack had not forgiven Daniel for his actions there. Was that what this was all about? Would it be possible to convince Daniel that most of the reason for Jack's inability to forgive was because it would mean he'd have to forgive himself, and that was infinitely harder?
"How many useless missions will he have to screw up before somebody clues in?" Jack continued. "We've got the Asgards and the Tok'ra out there and our other allies. What kind of picture is this giving them, anyway?"
Daniel turned blindly to walk away. He wasn't seeing anything but his own inner hurt. Janet noticed General Hammond coming down the corridor toward them and knew that if the General got one look at Daniel's face it would all come out. Hastily, she raised her voice, "Good morning, General."
Silence fell inside the briefing room, and Daniel composed himself so quickly that Janet wouldn't have believed it if she hadn't seen it. Of course Daniel's face didn't usually wear that particular non-expression, but at least he wasn't a blazing mass of pain and betrayal. Hammond didn't appear to notice anything. "Good morning, Doctor Fraiser. Doctor Jackson."
"Uh...General." He was a couple of steps past Janet; he'd sound farther away. Would the others realize they'd been overheard? Daniel watched the General approach. When he was even with them, Daniel caught Janet's arm and shook his head.
She looked a question, then she nodded. She'd go to bat for him. As a doctor, Janet valued end results. A solution that saved two races of people, no matter how Daniel had contrived it, had to be the right thing. There were times when military protocols needed to be followed--and desperate times when the right answers and earnest intentions were all that could be allowed to matter. The Enkaran solution fell into the latter category. She was military, and she could understand where Jack O'Neill was coming from, all too well. Why was nothing ever easy? Why couldn't O'Neill see that? How much of it was the realization that he'd in essence tried to commit genocide, even if he'd been so fixed on saving the Enkarans that he hadn't seen that until after the fact? Was his reaction to Daniel simply so he wouldn't have to direct it toward himself?
But Daniel was right. Revealing themselves to be eavesdroppers wouldn't do any good--at least not right now. She would hold her peace, until after the mission. Then she would find a way to get O'Neill off to himself and force-feed him a few home truths. She was sure that Sam and Teal'c didn't feel the Colonel's resentment as strongly as Jack did. They would come around. She couldn't let this continue. It wasn't right.
She had never been prouder of Daniel Jackson than she was when he walked into the briefing room, head high, shoulders back, and acted as if everything were completely normal. She'd long known how strong Daniel was. He took everything life threw at him--and life had thrown him some of the nastiest stuff she'd ever seen--and endured it. Lived with it. Went on, when he had to want to go off in a corner and huddle up in a fetal position. When things were terrible, he did something about it, like joining the SGC in an attempt to rescue Sha're from the Goa'uld. Like going aboard the Gad-Meer ship and working out a solution with Lotan. Today, he strolled into the briefing room as if nothing were wrong and greeted the others the way he usually did. That lot of hypocrites responded as if everything were normal--well, almost normal. O'Neill had been a little stiff with Jackson since they had returned from P5S-381. That hadn't really improved much. But nothing in Jack's demeanor indicated that he was face to face with someone who 'made his skin crawl'. Janet had to struggle to control her own features. She wished she could think of a medical reason to tag along on the mission with them. But there was Sam, looking so healthy that it just wouldn't fly.
Janet took a quick look at her arm. The dressing was only a precaution; the wound had closed over nicely and, if she hadn't been ready to go through the Stargate, Janet would have dispensed with the covering entirely. She gave the okay for Sam to go on the mission. At least Carter hadn't been as condemning as Jack or Teal'c. Did she really think Daniel was out of place on missions? How could she? She and Daniel had been like siblings from the very beginning. A lot of people didn't realize how close they were, but Janet had seen Sam at Daniel's bedside when he was trapped in the body of the dying Machello, and there had been so much love and worry in Sam's voice as she'd claimed she couldn't lose him. That couldn't have just gone away. Daniel had done nothing to deserve this. He'd simply been Daniel, interjecting his brilliance, his ethics, and his stubborn unwillingness to yield to fate into every mission. It might not be the way the others worked, but it had always been the blending of their differences into a harmonious whole that made SG-1 such a peak team. Maybe lately they'd been pulled in different directions, but surely it couldn't end this way?
Hammond didn't notice anything wrong, or, if he did, he didn't admit it. He was a shrewd man and might choose to allow them to work out their differences on their own. He let them bat around the information they'd detected from the M.A.L.P. No evidence of present-day civilization, a collection of interesting ruins, and right in front of the Stargate, something that looked like a crashed spaceship. It was vine-encrusted and overgrown, but the sight of it had sent the powers that be salivating. Who knew what technology they could salvage from it?
General Hammond sent them off with a mild admonition. "Wrecked craft first, Doctor Jackson. Then the ruins."
"Yes, sir," Daniel conceded with such docility that O'Neill shot him a curious, sideways glance. Daniel didn't return it. Jack heaved an inaudible sigh and didn't push it. Maybe Daniel hadn't been easy around him lately, either. After all, Jack had taken action that might well have killed him, action that Jack had undertaken with the belief that it would kill him. Maybe the Colonel's overheard words today only put the icing on the cake.
Janet wished she could knock all their heads together.
*** ** ***
Daniel felt cold and sick as he landed on the ramp on P3R-921 and saw the looming wreckage of the alien spacecraft ahead of him. Off to the side were the ruins--Egyptian by the look of them, although they appeared out of place in a temperate, fertile climate. Trees not too different from oaks and elms grew nearby. Some of them that had been uprooted by the crash were stark, white silhouettes, now overgrown with vines and moss.
Ordinarily, the Egyptian-style ruins would have tempted Daniel and he would have advocated for a chance to study them even if it meant doing it on his own while the others investigated the spacecraft, but he couldn't do that now. He had to prove that he wasn't going to drown them in worthless babble, that he could follow orders. Things hadn't gone well lately--not since the others had gone off to Thor's infested ship on their own while he recovered from the emergency appendectomy. It wasn't that he could have helped it, but since then he'd almost been made to feel the outsider, ever since the moment he raced to the gate room to welcome them back to Earth and felt somehow on the outside. Maybe they were just too frustrated with the weeks of being locked out when they tried to dial home; they were bone-weary and smelly and exhausted, and the crisis wasn't even over. Had Jack resented Daniel's delay in giving the command to destroy the infested submarine? No, because that delay had given Thor time to arrive and save him and Teal'c. Daniel had been so overjoyed at their survival that he could only babble out a helpless attempt to explain what had happened. How long had it taken them, safe up there on Thor's ship, to remember to send down the word to him that they were okay?
Soon after that had come the encounter with the Eurondans. Daniel could look back and realize how crummy his timing had been; he'd felt what he had to say was vital, but Jack wouldn't listen, and Daniel had been driven by desperation to push it. Okay, so his timing made Jack look bad, but that harsh 'Shut up, Daniel' still stung. Jack had apologized for it; he'd been wrong, but so had Daniel in handling it the way he had. Was that the beginning of the end?
If so, the real end had been the Enkaran crisis. Why, why, why couldn't Jack see that Daniel was desperately trying to find that other solution? His way had worked. Maybe it wasn't the military way and maybe he'd pushed it waaaay too close to the wire, but the Enkarans and the Gad-Meer would both survive and the Enkarans were safe on their homeworld, where they had longed to be all along. What had he done wrong there? Made Jack look bad? Made him realize that the actual outcome of his solution, the destruction of the Gad-Meer gene stock, would have been the murder of an entire race? Maybe it was hard to conceive of them as real people, and Jack had bonded with the Enkarans. But still, a solution that allowed both races to survive had to be the right thing.
If I did the right thing, why do I feel so terrible now? Daniel stood on the ramp beside his teammates and wondered if this was the last mission they'd actually go on as a team. He stood as far from Jack as possible. 'He makes my skin crawl'. Daniel shuddered. God, I didn't think I'd done anything as unforgivable as that. Did he always feel that way? He couldn't. He didn't when I returned to Earth from the Beta site after the ships were destroyed in orbit. That had been the most heartfelt, emotion-filled moment he had shared with Jack O'Neill. He'd seen Jack's eyes warm to hope and then to joy as Hammond announced, "SG-1, there's someone here to see you." Jack hadn't hated him then. And Jack had been here for him so many times since then. When he'd been addicted to the sarcophagus, when Machello's Goa'uld killer infested him. When Sha're died--of course Daniel had pushed everyone away a little then. Maybe Jack had resented that.
Maybe Daniel had needed Jack and the others too many times and had worn out their sympathy. Maybe they just got fed up. His scholarly colleagues had. Doctor Jordan had. His own grandfather hadn't wanted him when his parents died. Maybe something about him just drove people to tire of him quickly. Maybe even Sha're would have tired of him, given the chance. It had happened too many times in the past for him to question it now, and besides, Doctor Fraiser had been there and heard every damning word along with him and hadn't even tried to convince him it had been a mistake. But how could it be a mistake? He did babble, and Jack had shown him more than once that he didn't want to hear it. Was he holier than thou? Is that what Jack thought when they'd had their conflict over the Eurondans? Is that what he believed had happened on P5S-381? Way too much science, too much interest in ruins and translations? Well, Jack had known that all along. Jack had put up with a lot from him over the years. But Jack was not a patient man. He'd finally reached his limits.
Now Daniel was alone again, the outsider again. He couldn't even conceptualize how much being a part of SG-1 had meant to him. Job and approval, friends and family, all in one neat package. Sha're had taught him how wonderful belonging had felt. When she had been ripped away from him, SG-1 had come along and convinced him Sha're's love for him hadn't been a fluke. He'd belonged again. He'd found the courage to risk it, to voice his opinions, to stand up for himself without fear of being scorned and shot down. When Jack shot him down, it was in the way that brothers did, not with the casual scorn of strangers.
At least, it had been until recently.
"Okay, campers, ship first," Jack said. "And that means you, Daniel."
Jack's brow creased and he cast a questioning stare at Daniel. "Just like that?"
"We'd better do it. Teal'c, have you ever seen a ship like that before?" He was going to be right on top of this mission. If it was his last one with SG-1, he would show them. He would do everything right. He wouldn't question orders, he'd shove aside his own interests for the good of the group. He'd be a tame, mindless grunt, obeying orders, never daring to question. If that was what Jack wanted he'd get it, with bells on. Daniel would be crisp and military and venture opinions only when asked. And he'd take all the risks that came along. If they thought he was expendable, he'd be expendable. Maybe, just maybe, one of them would actually miss the real Doctor Jackson.
"I have not," Teal'c replied. He exchanged a quick glance with O'Neill and one eyebrow soared. They looked puzzled at Daniel's tame acquiescence. Yeah, right, he thought scornfully. Scorn was so much easier than pain. They don't know they're busted. They don't know I heard every damning word.
"It's not Goa'uld?" Sam took a couple of steps toward the looming wreckage. While the ship was essentially in one piece, it was a twisted, battered piece. The stern, or the end Daniel would guess was the stern because of the bullet-shaped point at the other end, was the most intact, but there were holes in the hull further forward big enough for people to walk through five abreast.
"It is difficult to be certain, considering the state of destruction," Teal'c admitted. "But the shape matches no Goa'uld ship I have seen. That does not mean it was not piloted by Goa'uld, however, since they often acquire technology from other species."
"So, what do you think it is, some kind of shuttle?" Jack asked.
"It's bigger than our shuttles," Sam offered, her eyes measuring. "More than twice as big. I can't tell from the way it came down if it had landing gear or not; they would have buckled in the impact if it did. Maybe it had landing jets."
"It's pretty damn close to the gate," Jack offered. "Think that was deliberate?"
"You mean a plan to crash into the gate?" Sam countered. Daniel had wondered that himself, but the last thing Jack would want was speculation from him. He welcomed it from Sam unless she got too technical in her answers and then he shut down. Not a patient man, O'Neill. No point in offering theories when Jack's patience with him had run out.
He closed his mind to the presence of that row of interesting mastabas to the left of the gate and focused on the ship as an artifact. One of the things he'd had to learn once they started traveling through the gate was that archaeological ruins could be technological in nature. It wasn't that way on Earth, unless they happened to find a few Goa'uld artifacts--like the Stargate itself. But out here, this side of the gate, he'd more than once had to study technological ruins. That's what made him and Sam a good team; he knew the archaeological processes and she had a handle on the physics aspects. Then there was Teal'c, who often knew the artifacts they found from firsthand experience.
It should have been an ideal partnership--and it had been. Daniel missed the old days with such a fierce longing that it made his stomach churn. He wanted to wrap his arms around himself to stop his involuntary shiver, but he couldn't even do that. They'd notice.
"Why would the ship's pilot wish to crash into the gate, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked.
"To destroy it? Maybe it was an enemy craft, from another civilization on the planet or from a neighboring world. Destroy the gate and you strand whoever lived here on the planet."
"Unless they had ships, too," Daniel ventured involuntarily. He couldn't just turn his brain off.
Jack must have heard something in his voice that caught his attention because Daniel found himself dead center of an intense O'Neill scrutiny. It was hard to make his face bland and normal, and he didn't think he succeeded. Jack drew in his breath and let it out in a near-inaudible sigh. "Yeah, that could happen," he agreed. But his answer was too tentative to give Daniel one iota of reassurance.
"M.A.L.P. readings didn't reveal any traces of radiation," Sam admitted. "I think it's safe to check it out, sir, especially since we didn't pick up any evidence of current inhabitants in the vicinity of the gate."
"Let's just hope there are chunks we can break off and take home and use," Jack said cheerfully. Daniel hated that cheer for one second, then he realized how spurious it was. Jack had been like that since the Enkaran incident. Maybe it was easier for him to blame Daniel for what he'd nearly done than to blame himself.
Daniel didn't want to understand. Something inside him still curled up into a hard knot at the realization that Jack had given the order to send the naquada reactor up to the ship knowing he was condemning Daniel to death. He thought he had come to terms with that--Jack had simply run out of time and believed he had no other options. But now, standing here feeling like a fifth wheel, someone to be transferred away out of sight and out of mind as soon as possible, he discovered that he hadn't come to terms with it. Jack had ordered his death. Acceptable when the mission required it. Totally intolerable knowing Jack hated him. As a friend, he could accept that Jack had been between a rock and a hard place, and that he would hate what he had to do. But he made Jack's skin crawl. Could Jack have made that decision without much angst as a result? Not that Jack would hurt him deliberately--at least not physically--but....
Daniel pushed away his bitter thoughts and realized the others had started for the ship. When they noticed he wasn't following, they stopped to wait for him.
"You need an invitation here, Daniel?" Jack kidded. "I know those other ruins are pulling you, but we've gotta do this first. I'll try to get you some time with those temples after, if I can."
"Mastabas," Daniel corrected involuntarily and then bit his tongue. "I'm sorry. I'm coming," he said and plunged down the ramp so fast that he passed them before they realized it and led the way into the nearest gaping hole in the side of the ship.
"Don't touch anything," Jack called behind him.
"Smartass," Jack muttered. Warily, Daniel didn't turn. He didn't want to see the look on Jack's face.
The interior of the ship had retained some of its form; the bulkheads leaned at crazy angles but the passages were mostly intact. Sections of paneling erupted here and there and exposed wiring trailed down, mingled with the vines that had worked their way over and through the ship, creating a tangled obstacle course. Daniel ducked under a dangling hatch cover and found himself in a huge, vaguely circular central room that might have been the flight deck. One wall held instrument panels and screens. A couple of the screens had shattered, but the rest of them were intact, if covered by moss and set at odd, crooked angles. In the center of the room was a raised platform with a chair on it that was the right size for a human being to sit in. It vaguely reminded Daniel of Captain Kirk's chair in Star Trek, but the slumped skeleton who occupied it wasn't quite human. The general shape was humanoid but the whole skeletal system was longer and more delicate than standard human anatomy. "In here," he called.
The others crowded in after him. Sam's eyes went to the instrument panels and she raced over to investigate them. Jack looked around the room warily, checking out possible threat, and Teal'c moved slowly around the perimeter, his staff weapon in his hands.
"Who's your friend, Daniel?" Jack asked.
"You mean Captain Kirk?" That brought a wisp of a smile to Jack's mouth. He must have noticed the general shape of the control area was similar to the bridge of the Enterprise, too. "He's not human, I know that. Look at that skull. Too dolichocephalic for a human."
"What's dolly-whatever?" Daniel expected impatience on Jack's face, but he was good. None showed.
"Long-skulled," Daniel translated. "Sorry."
One eyebrow lifted at the apology but he didn't persist. "Teal'c," he called over his shoulder. "Do you know what race old Kirk here was?"
Teal'c was too used to unexpected pop culture references to be fazed by the 'Kirk'. "I believe he is of the race the Goa'uld call the Archinar. They were a spacefaring species the Goa'uld enslaved several hundred years ago."
"So you think this guy could have been in a space battle with a Goa'uld mothership?" asked Jack. Sam continued to explore the banks of instruments but she was listening, too.
"It is possible, O'Neill. I do not know of this world, but it is not the Archinar homeworld. The Goa'uld may have had more frequent contact, although apparently nothing recent, at least not through the Stargate."
No, the ramp had been pretty well overgrown. Daniel had noticed that right away. If Goa'uld came here, they didn't gate here. He didn't offer up that information, though. The others would have seen that as well as he did, and he was determined not to babble. No worthless information from Daniel Jackson today, thank you very much.
"Sir, I think I can get some of these instruments working," Sam cried. "Teal'c, if you would help me, I might even be able to pull up a ship's log."
"Great, if we can understand what it says." Jack gestured for Teal'c to join her.
Daniel paused to examine the skeleton. Most of its clothing had rotted away. Daniel wasn't a bone man but he'd be willing to bet the skeleton had been here at least fifty years and probably much longer. The advantage of technological archaeology was that it was sometimes possible to activate recording devices and get information directly from the horse's mouth, so to speak. An image of 'Captain Kirk' as he had been in life would be weird, but they might learn something useful.
"I understand the language of the Archinar," Teal'c offered. He joined Carter and they bent over a bank of instruments.
Jack strolled around the room, glancing at this and that. He wouldn't understand the technology any more than he understood the older form of archaeology, but he had a way of soaking up enough to make decent judgment calls--most of the time. He and Daniel had always clashed; they came at everything from such divergent perspectives. Usually they worked it out and were the better for it, but lately it had been harder. Maybe Jack's tolerance had finally run out.
Daniel studied the 'bridge'. It was safer than speculating about Jack. His eyes lifted to the ceiling just in time to see a long, probe-like tube slide out of a recess and take on the appearance of a weapon. It tracked around the room for a second and then pointed right at O'Neill. A light glowed at its tip.
"Jack!" Daniel lunged at him and knocked him to one side a second before a searing white laser beam dug a hole in the floor at the spot where O'Neill had stood a moment before. The laser realigned itself and started to aim at him again. "Lasers," Daniel gasped, winded from the impact. "Run!"
"Shut it down, Carter!" Jack bawled as he erupted to his feet. "Shut the damn thing--yeowch!" He leaped to one side, the sleeve of his jacket smoking from a near miss.
"Cover, everybody," he yelled while Teal'c calmly raised his staff weapon and blasted the laser device.
A second one appeared across the room, then a third. Carter pushed buttons frantically in an attempt to kill the defense program, but more appeared.
"Everybody out of here!" Jack yelled. He got off a shot at one of the lasers, but there were too many of them, crisscrossing the floor in a tightening pattern of death.
Daniel staggered backward to avoid one that wanted to take his head off and fell into a narrow passage he hadn't even noticed until now. No lasers followed him there.
"Sir, it's set for overload," Carter called, her voice raised to be heard over the ominous hum of lasers. "It's going to self-destruct. Run!"
"Daniel, get out of there," Jack bellowed. "We've gotta go back through the gate fast." He darted across the floor in a broken run that would have won him a job as running back on any football team, eluding the lasers. Daniel tried to pop out of his shelter, but two beams raced back and forth in front of him, sawing huge chunks out of the floor. He couldn't get out that way.
"I'll have to go this way," he called as he retreated. "Get out of here. Get back through the gate without me."
"No way," Jack shouted over the hum of lasers. "If this ship goes, it's gonna take out the gate and the DHD with it and strand you here."
"Go!" Daniel yelled. "You can figure it out. It won't destroy the gate. It didn't when you were trapped on Edora. I'll go to ground out here. Go!"
He turned his back on them and ran down the narrow passage before anyone could argue. Around him, the ship hummed with energy that crackled through the walls and built to overload. Even if he could get out this way, he couldn't hope to run far enough to survive the upcoming explosion.
"Daniel!" He heard sheer desperation in Jack's voice as O'Neill realized that, and a part of him reveled in it. Maybe Jack didn't hate him as completely as he'd claimed. Surely he wouldn't yell that way for someone who made his skin crawl.
The shrieking of lasers and the thrumming of power built around him. Maybe he couldn't get out after all. The passage twisted, doubled back. No, it couldn't. He had to get out.
And then he came around a bend in the corridor and stopped dead when he saw what lay before him.
** *** **
They staggered out of the vibrating wreckage and raced over to the DHD. "Dial us out of here, Carter," Jack yelled.
She spared one distressed glance at his face before she started punching in the symbols. Afterwards, she was sorry she had. If she hadn't seen that desolate expression on Jack's face at the thought of leaving Daniel behind, she wouldn't have to remember it. They had to go; when the ship blew, it would take the gate and DHD right along with it. Even if the gate was buried rather than destroyed, they couldn't hope to free it from this end--and they were too close to the wreckage to survive. General Hammond wouldn't know to try to use the particle accelerator to dig it out and come after them. He'd try to open the gate from that end once they were overdue and it wouldn't work. He'd never guess what had happened, and they were too close to the overloading ship to survive anyway, if they couldn't step through the gate and escape.
As the gate kawooshed open and they stumbled up the ramp, Jack already using the GDO, she realized that Daniel couldn't possibly get far enough away to survive the upcoming explosion.
The ship erupted as they reached the gate. The force of the blast tumbled them into the event horizon and chunks of deadly rubble chased them home through the wormhole. When they pitched out into the embarkation room, a few jagged pieces of wreckage came through after them. One of them hit Teal'c in the arm hard enough to make him cry out and another flew past and knocked an armed Marine flat on his back.
"Shut it down," Sam yelled. "Now."
The field popped out of existence--taking any remote hope Daniel had with it. He couldn't have made it out of the ship. He was...dead.
Sam glanced at O'Neill again. His face was terrible. She didn't think she'd ever seen an expression on his face like that before, unless it was the time they'd all been conditioned to believe Daniel had died in fire, the time Nem had snatched him. She was sure there was an even worse look on her own face. She'd activated the ship's power, accidentally triggered the self-destruct system. It must have been tied into every control; maybe the Archinar had designed it that way, to self-destruct if someone didn't activate it with a special code, to keep the Goa'uld from stealing it.
Jack bent over Teal'c. "How bad is it?" His voice was flat. He was talking entirely by rote.
"I believe I have sustained a fracture," Teal'c replied. His voice was as dead as the Colonel's.
Overhead, Hammond appeared in the control room. "SG-1, what went wrong? Where is Doctor Jackson?"
"Daniel...." Jack started, then his mouth closed tight over the explanation. His face went hard and emotionless.
"Daniel's dead, sir," Sam heard herself say. "The ship exploded. He...got separated from us and couldn't make it back to the gate."
The General's face tightened. "Dial it back."
Sam exchanged a quick glance with Teal'c. O'Neill was avoiding everyone's eyes. She and the Colonel moved the injured Jaffa down the ramp before the gate could activate.
Once they reached the safe range, no one moved. Hammond put in a call for Doctor Fraiser as the tech called off chevrons. Sam held her breath.
"General, the seventh chevron will not engage."
Sam had expected that. All of them had. But Jack's mouth tightened at the official confirmation. He busied himself over Teal'c's arm, every muscle in his body rigid.
Janet Fraiser burst into the gate room at a dead run, looked around and spotted Teal'c and the injured Marine. She must have decided the Marine was worse off because she went to him and directed one of her techs to examine Teal'c.
Sam shivered. It wasn't cold in the gate room, but she was cold inside. Daniel had been so...quiet, so restrained, on the planet. He hadn't been quite himself since P5S-381, but he hadn't been that bad until today. He'd saved the Colonel's life without a second's pause when the laser activated. Jack had to be remembering that now, remembering and imagining the force of the explosion--and hoping that Daniel's death had been instantaneous. The thought of him lying there, alive, injured, conscious, waiting for help that would never come, was unbearable. Yet she knew all three of them were thinking it. Even if they could eventually get the gate to open, it would be too late. They had abandoned Daniel; they could have done nothing else, but it didn't make her feel any better. Inevitability was cold comfort.
"Where's Daniel?" Janet asked Sam.
Janet's face darkened, but it wasn't entirely grief that motivated her. She said, "Dear God," under her breath, but when she looked up from the injured Marine, her eyes brimmed with anger, an anger that was directed not at fate--but at SG-1. Sam was too numb to do more than wonder at it. She didn't ask the obvious question.
Techs brought in a gurney, and the injured Marine was loaded onto it. He was conscious but there was blood on his chest. Janet said, "I have to go with this man, but I want to talk to all of you when I'm done." It wasn't a request. It was an order. She was furious. Sam blinked at her in astonishment.
Jack didn't even notice. He helped Teal'c to his feet, his hands gentle and careful and protective. Sam knew what he was doing. He had lost Daniel--and that hadn't really hit him yet, at least nowhere near as hard as it was going to hit him--and he was determined that he would never lose anyone ever again. Teal'c was here; Teal'c could be protected. Sam ached with misery and with a sympathy for the Colonel that she couldn't quite explain. He had needed Daniel in ways he couldn't really admit. Daniel was his brother, his ally, his conscience. They had a yin and yang thing going that Sam had never tried to define. Both were good men, but together they were better. They'd both had more than their share of painful losses and it had bonded them in ways she doubted either man fully understood. To lose Daniel in such a stupid, pointless way.... If only she had stopped to consider possible booby traps.... If only there had been more time....
"I'm sorry, sir," she said to O'Neill. "I activated the--"
"Shut up, Carter." It was a desperate cry. "I was in command. It's my responsibility."
"I should have suspected a potential booby trap," Teal'c offered. "I alone was familiar with the Archinar."
"None of that, SG-1," Hammond spoke from overhead. "It was an accident. No more."
"Sir." Jack planted his feet and lifted a tortured face to the control room. "You won't...stop trying to dial through?"
"No, Colonel. We won't. Take Teal'c to the infirmary now, though. We'll notify you if we get through."
Sam could tell from his expression that he didn't believe that they would, or that they had a hope in hell of finding Daniel alive, even if they did. But he would keep trying until he was certain there was no more hope.
She fell into step beside the Colonel and Teal'c and they headed for the infirmary.
** *** **
Janet was still angry, even more so now that the unbearable had happened. Daniel was dead. She had never dreamed such a thing could happen when she'd seen him go off with such grimly determined bravery on that final mission. She'd taken care of Murray, the injured Marine, grateful to find that, apart from a couple of broken ribs, the injuries were superficial. Teal'c's arm was a simple fracture and his symbiont would enable it to heal rapidly, once it was set and immobilized. SG-1's other injuries were not visible, except on their strained and unhappy faces. Maybe they hadn't been as fed up with Daniel as they claimed to be.
General Hammond hadn't summoned them away for a briefing. Tactful of the General. Teal'c dutifully stretched out on a bed--he was the only one of them who had never resisted her courses of treatment--and Jack and Sam simply sat in the corner of his room, side by side on chairs like unruly pupils summoned to the principal's office. Their faces were blank, but their eyes were anguished. A part of Janet wanted to be glad of that, to revel in their guilt, but she couldn't because Daniel was dead. She couldn't imagine any way for him to survive. If the impact had been fierce enough to destroy or at least to bury the gate on P3R-921, it was fierce enough to destroy the slightest chance of finding Daniel alive.
Daniel had gone on that mission feeling unwanted and miserable, isolated from the people who were supposed to be his closest friends. He had died that way, alone, as he had almost always been alone. Janet's heart ached for him. She remembered the desolation on his face as they stood outside the briefing room listening to Jack's condemning words, and suddenly it wasn't enough to see him sitting there looking as if someone had kicked the world out from under his feet.
"You should be satisfied." Don't, Janet. It won't help Daniel. It will only make things worse. In the background, she heard the report of an off-world gate activation but she ignored it. It couldn't possibly concern them. The gate on P3R-921 had failed to activate. It was either buried in rubble or destroyed. There were four other teams offworld. They'd come home to learn that Daniel was dead. Janet hoped they didn't have any wounded. She didn't think she could cope with anyone else today.
They raised stunned faces to stare at her. Utter blankness filled all three expressions. They didn't know they'd been overheard.
Sam's eyes filled with hurt and pain. "Janet?" she faltered.
"At least you're rid of him now. You won't have to listen to his babbling anymore. You won't have to duck out of the way when you see him coming, Colonel. You won't have to figure out a way to get him off the team. Do you have any idea how much you hurt him? How could you do that to him? You isolated him again, you cut him off from any hope, and then he died. I still remember the look on his face when he realized. I've got to live with that memory for the rest of my life, because I didn't take the time to try to make it right."
"What the hell are you talking about?" O'Neill yelled at her.
"I was there, Colonel. I heard every word. You can't deny it. The way you've treated him since the Enkaran incident, it didn't really even take hearing it spelled out. I think he already knew."
"Knew what?" he exploded. He was riding the edge. Janet could feel the fury that bubbled beneath the surface. Anger was a safer emotion than grief, safer than guilt.
She stood up to it. "How much you hated him."
Three mouths fell open in comical disbelief. Sam's eyes glimmered with unshed tears. "Hated Daniel?" she blurted. "We don't hate him. We couldn't. How could you even think such an unspeakable thing?" A tear slid unnoticed down her cheek.
"I heard you say it. And so did he."
"You could have heard no such thing, Doctor Fraiser." Teal'c pushed himself up to a sitting position. "For we have never spoken of our hatred for Daniel Jackson. Neither have we spoken openly of our love for him, but it exists, just as our grief exists. You are mistaken."
"Why are you doing this to us, Janet?" Sam demanded. "We've just lost Daniel. What's wrong with you?"
Jack didn't say anything. He was too tightly wound to risk speech. Janet saw his mouth tighten and knew he did it to keep it from trembling. They were acting the way she would have expected before she and Daniel overheard them talking, the one that had killed the life in Daniel's eyes.
"You said he babbled and that nothing he said was worth listening to, especially ruins and translations. You said he was holier than thou--and I heard you say something like that, Colonel, after the Eurondan mission. You said he drove you nuts. You said you couldn't stand him. You said he made your skin crawl. And he heard every single word."
Jack froze. "He...heard that?" he ventured in a voice that shook.
"We both did." She glared at him. "And now he's dead. And he died knowing exactly how much you hated him."
O'Neill opened his mouth but nothing emerged. He sputtered helplessly, his expression unreadable.
"Janet!" Sam jumped to her feet. "We weren't talking about Daniel."
"What? But we both heard...."
"We were talking about Doctor Havers, the new archaeologist, the one that they just brought in to replace Rothman." Sam's eyes were full of horror. "After the Gad-Meer thing, Havers cornered the Colonel and read him a lecture about genocide and all sorts of abominable things. He went on and on and on about military solutions that risk lives and how Daniel was worth twenty of the Colonel. I heard him. I talked to him afterwards but I don't think he understood; he's never been on a field mission and he doesn't understand that life isn't black and white, no matter how much we want it to be. The man's a good scientist but he's not exactly a good human being." She cast an hasty, apologetic glance in O'Neill's direction. "The Colonel was...pretty upset. I reported Havers to General Hammond. There's talk he might not be allowed to stay. He'd just come by the briefing room before the conversation you overheard and tried to lay down the law again about not ignoring the Egyptian ruins simply because we might get technology from the ship. We were sounding off about him." She ran down. "Daniel heard that--and he thought we meant him?"
"Both of us did." Janet's stomach tightened up into a knot. The Colonel looked like he'd been kicked hard. "So much has happened lately that it...wasn't impossible. I haven't had much to do with Doctor Havers. I didn't know he...." She drew a shaky breath. "I'm sorry. I had no right to say what I did. But if you'd seen Daniel's face...."
"He was acting most unlike himself on the mission," Teal'c ventured.
"I caught that, too." Sam shivered.
O'Neill was silent. His teeth worked at his bottom lip so hard it would start bleeding in a second. "He thought I... Ah, Jesus. Guy drove me nuts half the time, but I'd never...." He fell silent. Maybe he was remembering that he'd told Daniel to shut up on Euronda. Or the naquada bomb that might easily have killed him on P5S-381. "Damn it, Daniel," he groaned, and then he whirled away from them and hid his face in his hands, and his shoulders quivered. Janet had never seen the Colonel brought to such agony before. She had a sudden horrifying suspicion that maybe he had wept like this when his son died.
Every trace of color fled Sam's face, and Teal'c's jaw muscles went so tight his symbiont would never be able to compensate for the resultant headache. They didn't look at each other or Janet, and they didn't even dare to reach out to the Colonel. No matter what they had intended, Daniel had died with the belief that he was outcast and alone, and they would have to live with that fact for the rest of their lives.
Janet didn't even dare offer apologies. The grief went too deep for her to interrupt it, not when she'd been the one to trigger it. I'm sorry, Daniel, she thought miserably. I should have known it wasn't about you. Maybe you couldn't have realized it, but I should have known better.
The hesitance and doubt in that shocked voice stabbed through everyone in the room except O'Neill, who flinched as if he were hearing ghosts and hunched his shoulders higher in denial. It couldn't be real. It wasn't real. His breath caught in the middle of a hoarse sob and stilled and he waited, braced for disappointment.
Janet's eyes flew to the doorway. Impossibly, Daniel Jackson stood there with General Hammond at his shoulder. He was disheveled and the dirt that streaked his face mingled with blood from a cut at the hairline that he'd tried ineffectually to wipe away, but he was alive, on his feet, here. In spite of the overheard words he'd misinterpreted, his eyes lingered on Jack with a shocked horror that couldn't begin to mask his concern. It would have taken a lot more than what he'd heard to kill his own feelings.
Sam sucked in breath and gasped, "Daniel!" and Teal'c blurted, "Daniel Jackson," in wild astonishment.
O'Neill didn't raise his head from his hands, but his shoulders stilled. His head cocked, listening.
"It's okay, Jack." Daniel found the right words inside and offered them up as comfort and appeasement and forgiveness, all rolled into one. "It's okay."
That broken plea erased the last remnants of unhappiness and betrayal from Daniel's face as if they had never existed. "I'm all right, Jack," he said. "I'm alive."
O'Neill whirled. His eyes were reddened and full of agony, but the sight of Daniel erased half of it in the first instant. He stared for a long, breathless instant, then he lunged, just as he had done when the team came home from blowing the two ships out of orbit, and engulfed Daniel in a ferocious bearhug. He couldn't find a word to say, but the strength of that embrace said it all. Janet saw Daniel's face warm to startled realization and then light up like someone in the midst of a surprise birthday party when he thought everyone had forgotten. He was home, in more ways than one. His arms closed around Jack O'Neill and he hugged him back with all his strength.
General Hammond smiled benevolently as if to say, "Look what rabbit I just pulled out of a hat," then he turned and left SG-1 to their reunion.
"I wasn't talking about you," Jack gabbled against Daniel's shoulder. "Fraiser told us what you overheard. How could you even think we'd ever say that about you? I was talking about that ass Havers."
"I thought...after the Gad-Meer...after the Eurondans...."
"Damn it, Daniel!" O'Neill spat. He didn't let go, though. "That's just...just us. We're different. We don't always agree. But that doesn't mean I don't want you on my team. How could you ever...."
"I haven't been..." Daniel caught himself. He must have realized there would be time for talking later. "It's okay?" he asked. He had to know that, too, but after that miserable moment in the hall, Janet thought he was entitled to reassurance.
Jack gave him another fierce squeeze and then backed off enough to grab him by the shoulders. "You ever pull a number that humble--and stupid--again, I swear I will have to brain you. I don't know how you survived when we couldn't even get the gate to open to come back for you. God, we just left you there. Son of a bitch. You hurt?" He traced the contour of the cut on Daniel's forehead.
"I'm okay." Daniel batted his hand away, although he looked delighted that the Colonel had tried. He was positively glowing with joy. He'd made it home and discovered that it really was home, after all.
"Y'sure about that?"
Daniel nodded vehemently. "I'm positive, Jack."
O'Neill gave his shoulders a squeeze and finally let go, although he looked braced to grab again if Daniel should show the slightest inclination to go away. Sam slipped in and hugged Daniel tightly, and Teal'c gripped his arm with his good hand and inclined his head in welcome. SG-1 closed ranks so automatically that Janet nearly rebounded off the wall that encircled them. That was all right. They deserved their time together. She drew into the background and waited.
"So, will you tell me how the hell you survived?" Jack exploded.
Daniel grinned. "It was incredible, Jack. I couldn't believe it. I kept trying to get through these stupid corridors and they kept doubling back and I knew I was going to die." O'Neill flinched and raised a hand but lowered it again and nodded for Daniel to go on.
"Then I came into a room and there were rings. It was my only way out. I didn't know where it would take me but I ringed out of there right before the explosion."
"I never thought of that," Sam blurted in the background.
"Next thing I knew I was in a deserted Goa'uld ship," Daniel admitted. "It must have been in orbit and it was totally powered down. Only emergency lights. It felt...dead. The air was stale and I think it had been there for hundreds of years. There was a gate there."
"But that's not possible," Sam objected. "If there was a gate there, we should have bounced to it when we tried to dial back after the explosion, since the surface gate was destroyed or buried."
"You couldn't," Daniel replied. "I told you, everything was powered down. It wasn't operative at first. I had to work really hard to get it to operate, and I wasn't sure I could feed enough power into it to get me home, but I knew it was my only chance, so I had to risk it. I had to try to divert power from the rest of the ship, and...I'm not too good with that kind of thing. If I hadn't seen you working on getting gates to work on other worlds, Sam, I'd never have been able to do it. The second it would work, I just dialed home. I figured it was good for one gate activation, no more. I didn't have a GDO but General Hammond said they knew where the signal was coming from and they opened the iris because they hoped it was me. I barely made it through."
O'Neill made an involuntary gesture of alarm at the admission. Daniel recognized it. One more thing that helped to clear the air between them. "It's okay, I did make it."
"An abandoned Goa'uld mothership just sitting there in orbit?" Jack asked. "Do you think we can go back there? It'd be great to have one of our own. Thumb our noses at the Tok'ra with a honking big ship like that." He was the one who was babbling now, but then relief did that to a person.
"I don't think there's enough power there for the gate to operate another time," Daniel admitted. "We can try, but I don't think it'll work. If we could get to it, maybe we could restore power, or Sam and Teal'c could, but I don't think we can."
"Doesn't matter," O'Neill said. "Long as we've got our Danny back." He ruffled Daniel's hair affectionately. Then he took a deep breath and exploded. "How could you think for one second that I'd say anything like that about you, Jackson? If you ever pull a stunt like that again...." He trailed off. "And if you want to get on my case about that stupid bomb--god, that was like ripping out my own heart and guts to do it, but..."
"It's okay, Jack."
"If I ever have to do something like that again, I--" He cut himself off. "Huh? It's okay?"
"You did what you thought you had to do," Daniel said. "It was me or all those people on the planet. What else could you have done? I was down to the wire and I hadn't given you that alternative solution you wanted. I couldn't stop trying--and neither could you."
"You nearly made me kill you!" It was a desperate accusation, one that must have been building up in the Colonel since it happened. Janet wasn't sure when she'd last heard such a revealing statement from O'Neill.
Daniel opened his mouth to reply. He'd meant to say something hot and angry, Janet was sure of it. But he didn't. Instead, a startled realization trickled into his face, and he said instead, "Ah, Jack, don't. It's okay."
"It's okay? How can it be okay?"
Sam and Teal'c were like statues, frozen in place, holding their breath. Janet tried to make herself invisible.
"Well, uh..." Daniel blinked. He put up a hand and scrubbed absently on the drying blood on his face, and Jack followed the gesture the way he would have followed the movements of a poisonous snake about to strike and kill him. "I don't know," Daniel said lamely but no less sincerely. "It just is."
At that awkward absolution something that had been wound too tight loosened in O'Neill's face and his eyes glittered brightly but he didn't let new tears fall. Instead, he gazed at Daniel with an expression that looked purged and new--and whole, and he grabbed him again for another bone-rattling hug before he let go and stepped backward. He gave him a blazing smile, widened it to include the rest of SG-1, and then abruptly lost all color and sat down in a chair that Sam whipped smartly into place when she saw the reaction hit.
"I'm okay, Daniel," he said, and Daniel must have realized he meant it and understood the shattering of tension that could snap them all.
"Good," he said, and then his eyes lit with wicked mischief. "Because if Sam can figure out how to restore power in that ship by remote control, we can go back to the planet. Did you see all those mastabas there? I didn't even get to look at them."
"I don't even know what a mastaba is," O'Neill groaned. He held up his hands, palms forward. "Don't tell me. I don't want to know." But there was delight in his eyes.
"But Ja-ack...." He had that whine down perfectly. Janet blessed him for it.
"Let Fraiser clean up that cut," the Colonel snapped at him. "'bout time she did something useful around here."
Janet cast him and the rest of SG-1 an apologetic glance and stepped forward. "Right this way, Daniel. It's been far too long since I bandaged you. You're going to have to try harder."
"No, he's not," Jack said with sudden ferocity. Then he grinned like a wicked schoolboy. "Not if I have to tie him hand and foot before we go on another mission."
"But you didn't see those ruins, Jack," Daniel protested as Fraiser sat him down and began to clean the cut at his hairline. "I just know we could find out all sorts of great information from them. The more we learn about the Goa'uld the better off we'll be. And just think. If we could restart that mothership...."
Jack groaned and pretended to clap his hands over his ears, but he exchanged a satisfied, reassuring glance with Carter and Teal'c before he allowed himself the joy of egging Daniel on.