The First Ones
Jack frowned as he watched Daniel walk toward the door of their infirmary ward. “Hold up,” he said quietly. He approached and took Daniel by the arm as he stared down at his left leg. “What’s wrong? You’re limping.”
Doctor Fraiser had been writing a medical note about Daniel when she looked up in surprise. “Daniel? Do I have to run a series of x-rays?” She didn’t want to subject the teams to any more x-rays, CAT scans, or MRIs unless injuries required them. She’d replaced them all with sonograms, especially when checking for Goa’uld symbiotes. Far less radiation.
Daniel sighed and leaned against the doorway frame. “No. I’m bruised everywhere, especially my left hip because I fell on it a few times.” He knotted his brows together. “No, actually, it was both. And my back.” He sighed more heavily. “I need a jacuzzi and several days of muscle rest.”
Janet’s eyebrow went up as she smirked at him. “Okay, Doctor Jackson. But I will insist that you update me daily. Don’t make me come to you.” She then handed him two prescription slips. “Take them.” She eyed him significantly until he nodded acquiescence. She looked at Jack and handed him two slips as well. “You do the same, Colonel. No more stiff upper lip.”
Jack held up three fingers. “Scout’s honor,” he said.
“Which means nothing since you weren’t a boy scout, Colonel. And what I said to Daniel goes double for you. Report daily.”
“Until?” Jack asked.
“Next week. Everyone involved in this last mission has a mandatory seven days’ light duty starting now.”
Jack made a face but nodded. He turned to follow Daniel out of the infirmary. “Time to go home,” he said to the man’s back. “You okay to drive?”
Daniel wrinkled his nose. “Yeah, I’ll deal with it.”
“That kind of answer means you’re coming home with me.”
Daniel looked over his shoulder and waited for Jack to come alongside before continuing down the hall. He gave the man a knowing look. “Light duty doesn’t include athletic activity.”
“Jacuzzi,” Jack said. “I have one. You don’t.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “Why the hell do you think I mentioned needing one?” He didn’t speak again until they were at Jack’s. As he slid himself down into the Jacuzzi’s hot water, he groaned loudly.
“The guy speaks,” Jack quipped as he opened a can of Mountain Dew KickStart. “Sort of.” He took the pills Janet had prescribed. One for pain and one for muscle relaxation. Both were low dosage. He walked over to the edge of the jacuzzi and bent down. “Here.” He held out a towel. “Wipe your hand off so you can take your pills.”
Silently, Daniel obeyed and took the sports drink to down them. Jack took the can back as he joined Daniel into the tub. His worried gaze was squarely on Daniel’s discolored shoulders, arms, and neck. He’d gotten a good look at the rest of him when Daniel had undressed. He was black and blue everywhere.
“You’re gonna be in some serious pain tomorrow,” he said.
“I know that,” Daniel said, eyes closed as he tilted his head back over the edge of the tub.
Jack was quiet for a while as he too closed his eyes. The silence was bugging him but he wasn’t quite sure what to say. He just knew that Daniel had a lot to say but wasn’t quite sure how to start it off. On the other hand, Daniel might just be mourning the loss of his colleague. Rothman had been a pain in the ass and Jack hadn’t liked the man, but that didn’t mean he deserved getting snaked or shot to death. After about twenty minutes, Daniel surprised him by stating something completely out of the blue.
“Do you know what happened to my sidearm?” Jack widened his eyes. “I went to the dig with it. Standard issue protocol, regardless of the mission type. I didn’t want it with me, but the armory said I needed it.”
Jack frowned as he nodded, but then the expression turned into a scowl. “You mean you didn’t . . .” He grimaced. “No, of course, you didn’t.”
Daniel scowled back. “What’s that mean?”
Jack waved a hand dismissively. “Not scolding or deriding you, Daniel. I mean that with all that was going on, you didn’t get the—”
“Jack,” Daniel interrupted as he straightened and leaned forward slightly. “I was startled by the presence of an indigenous life form. An unas. I recognized it from Teal’c’s drawing from Cimmeria. After it disabled Loder, it body-slammed me before I even thought about using my M17. He was fast. It happened in less than five seconds. I was blindsided, knocked unconscious, then I woke up groggy, knew I was in deep shit, and had to figure out how to keep my ass alive. Maybe I should’ve been thinking about where my weapon was, but I wasn’t. I had my radio with me until I tried to use it and got that knocked out of my hand. The mic part, I mean. The radio unit was knocked off my belt when I was . . .” He frowned. “I think it was at the lake. Not sure. I was knocked off my ass a few times by the time I got to the damn cave. If I’m going to be reprimanded or have my pay docked, I’d like a head’s up.”
Jack stared at him. “Where’d you get that idea?” He then winced and held up a hand when Daniel opened his mouth to protest. “Sorry, but I didn’t think they’d hand you with that, civilian and all. So, here’s me telling you head’s up. If they go ahead with a reprimand, regardless of your situation, I’ll put in a formal protest. Maybe Hammond can head that off.”
“Just pisses me off that it would happen at all.”
“Those assholes in D.C. don’t like you, so they’ll throw any stupid thing that’ll stick.”
Daniel forced his neck muscles to relax and tilted his head back again. “Pierce is the one who warned me about my sidearm.”
“He did?” Jack asked, surprised.
Daniel nodded. “Yeah. I’m not sure why.”
“Look, most of the guys like you.”
“Griff doesn’t like anyone,” Jack said on a sigh.
“He likes Hammond,” Daniel said.
Jack tried not to smile and failed. “Everyone does.”
After another five minutes, Daniel sat up. He stared at his fingertips and sighed. “Okay, I’m now a prune.” He groaned as he hauled his ass out of the jacuzzi. “Time to eat something and go to bed.”
Jack reluctantly followed him out and shut off the jacuzzi. He’d clean it tomorrow. Following Daniel to the bedroom, he got a good look at the man’s backside. “Jesus Christ,” he said, and without thinking, ran his hand over Daniel’s left butt cheek. The man jumped. “Sorry!” Jack said. “You’re black and blue.”
“You try getting hauled over the countryside on that planet and escape bruise-free.”
After toweling off, heaviness swept over Daniel as he donned pajama bottoms from the bottom drawer of Jack’s dresser. “On second thought, I’ll eat in the morning.” He pulled back the covers and gingerly crawled in.
Jack slid in beside him and Daniel groaned when he put his arm around him. “Listen,” Jack said. “I’m sorry about Rothman.” Daniel went still and Jack thought he was growing angry. But when he pulled back enough to look in Daniel’s eyes, he found his eyes had watered a bit. “Hey,” Jack said soothingly and hugged him as carefully as he could. “I wish I hadn’t had to.” He felt Daniel’s hair brush against his own as he nodded.
Daniel sniffed. “I wish I’d never asked him to be a part of the SGC.”
“Don’t do that,” Jack said, pulling back again to make Daniel look at him. Daniel wouldn’t and Jack lifted his chin with a forefinger. “Don’t do that second-guessing thing. You’re punishing yourself for no reason.”
Daniel grimaced and went silent. “Right.”
Jack held him gently and closed his eyes. Then out of nowhere, Daniel said, “Made a new friend out of that fiasco of a mission.”
Jack snorted. “An unas. Not sure if I’d—”
“No, not Chaka. Can’t really call that a friendship anyway.”
Jack opened his eyes to look into Daniel’s. “Who? You already know all those guys.”
“Not Sergeant Coburn. He’s newly assigned. When Pierce warned me about getting a reprimand, Coburn told him that there are exceptions to that protocol and that mine qualified.”
“What’d Pierce say to that?” Jack asked tightly. “’Cause explaining regs to a superior is kind of a no-no, Daniel.”
“Pierce only told him that D.C. hates me, so they’ll ignore the exceptions.”
“And what makes you think you made a new friend based on that?” Jack asked.
Daniel sniffed a few times, clearing his nose of the clogs caused by unshed tears. “He told me he thought D.C. had its head up its ass and that any time I wanted to have a beer, he’d be glad to buy me one.”
Jack smirked. “Did you tell him you didn’t drink beer?”
“No. Just smiled and thanked him.” Jack didn’t comment. A slight smile crossed Daniel’s lips. He wanted to tease but didn’t have the energy. He suddenly asked, “Jealous?”
“Not yet,” Jack said and put a warning in his tone. “Don’t ever go there, Daniel.”
“Flirting with someone else.”
Daniel snorted. “Wasn’t thinking of it.” He then added, “But it’s nice to have a back-up.”
“You little . . .” Jack said and growled. “When you’re healed up, you’re in trouble.”
Daniel kissed him by his right eye. “I can’t wait.”
Daniel sat down on the bench in front of his locker, dressed and ready to go home. Jack was taking his time. Sam gave Daniel a worried look and Daniel just nodded and tipped his head toward the exit. The meaning was clear: I’ll get him sorted.
The team had just had a close call during a long meeting with Hammond and Major Davis from the Pentagon that was filled with a lot of pauses. Daniel hadn’t known about regulations regarding the use of deadly force and found out that Jack’s position didn’t authorize him to use deadly force when not under direct assault. Specifics were argued regarding the use of the naquadah generator as a bomb to blow up the Gadmeer ship.
The main sticking point for letting Jack and Sam off the hook was the truly ambiguous interpretations of existing regulations—none of which covered missions off-planet and the destruction of alien races. Under normal Earth-side circumstances, Daniel learned that Jack and Sam would have been court-martialed and imprisoned for five years. The shock had given him a giant hole in his gut for the last two hours, realizing just how bad Jack’s decision had been.
And the fact that Jack had ordered Sam to blow up the ship with Daniel on it.
Daniel couldn’t be mad at him for that. He’d known about the bomb. He’d chosen to return to the ship, to risk death just so he could figure out a way to get through to Lotan about the Enkaren. While he’d been sincere, worrying for the health and safety of both races, he’d used a fair amount of manipulation to get through to the constructed Enkaren. Given the Gadmeer was a peaceful race with morality and ethics installed, wouldn’t they object to mass murder as a by-product of their existence?
The result may have won the day but it didn’t assuage his guilt. “Do what you can to get a positive result” wasn’t in his code of ethics. He too, in his considered opinion, had crossed a line. But it was one he could live with. It was nowhere near the level of guilt that Jack now carried. Plus resentment.
The mission had gone from happiness and a bit of glory aimed at Jack to happiness and a bit of glory aimed at Daniel. He hadn’t been thinking in those terms. He’d thought only to find another solution to the ensuing slaughter of thousands of Enkaren. So had Jack. Their methods had been moral opposites. In the end, Daniel got the job done in a way that . . . pissed Jack off because it embarrassed him.
“I’m sorry,” Daniel said.
Jack finished dressing, staring at the inside of his locker but not really seeing it. He kept seeing the naquadah generator blowing up in the sky.
“Why?” Jack asked softly. “You’re the one who almost blew up. You’re not the one who . . .”
“I’m sorry that I didn’t give you another choice earlier than I did.”
“I’m not angry at you . . . really,” Jack said. “I wish I could be happy for the Enkaren. I’m relieved instead. But you and me . . . we sort of . . .”
Daniel raised his brows. “Sort of . . .? What? We weren’t at cross-purposes. I wasn’t disobeying an order. You asked me for another choice. I went to find one. I’m just sorry it took too long.”
Jack sighed and closed his eyes, nodding. “I know. I’m angrier at myself than anything.”
“Why?” Daniel asked.
“Because the panic I felt at trying to save the Enkaren seems to have burnt a hole in my thinking. No, scratch that. I didn’t think. I reacted.”
“It’s because of the weeks we spent with them. You grew a lot more attached to them.” Daniel paused. “It was actually a surprise. You rarely do that.”
“Maybe,” Jack said. He swept a hand at the door. “Let’s go home.”
“To?” Daniel asked, getting up. “Separate or yours?”
Jack made a face as they got to the door. “Separate. I need some time to process my stupidity.”
“Jack, it wasn’t stupid,” Daniel protested. “Desperation can mess with anyone’s head.”
“Not mine!” Jack spat. “I’ve years of experience handling it constructively. And this one time, I didn’t. I need time alone to process, Daniel.”
Daniel nodded as Jack put a hand on the door. “Call me if you want. I’ll be up for a little while before going to bed.”
Jack suddenly put his arm around Daniel and kissed him. Daniel kissed him back without ramping up the desire. This was a Wait For Me kiss, not a Wait Till We Get Home kiss. They broke it off together.
“Later then?” Daniel asked.
“Later,” Jack said, but he paused and grabbed Daniel’s arm. “Daniel.”
“Jack.” Daniel looked into intense eyes that held a myriad of emotions. He couldn’t have deciphered any of them. Sometimes he could read Jack like a book. Other times, he was a complete mystery.
“I’m proud of you.”
Jack then left the locker room and left Daniel standing there with his mouth open. A complete mystery indeed.