The Forgiving Ceremonyby JoaG
The spring in Daniel and Carter's steps were nearly as lively as that of their guide. Jack could barely hold back a grin, watching as his team enthusiastically investigated the treasure trove the people of this planet had dug up, along with their recently discovered Stargate. Several of their hosts were vying for attention, but the one who seemed the most knowledgeable, was Tegan. Then again, the man spoke faster than any of them, faster than even Daniel, so half the time nobody else could get a word in edgewise.
"Any of this stuff look familiar?" Jack glanced sidelong at Teal'c, who simply trailed the over-excited group without a word. He'd stopped listening to their tour guide; Tegan was simply too full of himself and Jack didn't need any more hot air in the unventilated warehouse.
Teal'c's eyes flitted to a few of the objects laid out in museum-style order. "Several are archaic; they give me uncomfortable reminders of my childhood. Many others I have never before encountered, although I believe from their appearance they are also... relics."
Jack slowed and allowed the two delegates assigned to keep him company to pass him. He picked up a small, metallic device from the table, shaped almost like a hand-held razor. It had been catalogued; a piece of paper tagged to the item with details of where it had been found, with what other items and speculation as to what it was for. As to its function, nothing had yet been indicated.
"So, recognize this?" He held it up before his face and turned it around, examining it from all sides. It was long and very thick, his fingers barely wrapping around it. It also had a slight bulbous tip at one end. It was smooth and the metal quickly warmed at his touch.
"Indeed. It is a sexual aid."
"It's a what?" Recoiling, Jack dropped the item back onto the table, watching with disgust as it rolled several inches before stopping when it came to a rest against another item.
"Its function is to replace the male sexual organ when in the process of—"
"You mean it's a dildo?" He rubbed his fingers against his pant leg, debating whether to spit in his palm to clean his hand further. Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow and Jack glared at him. "You couldn't have told me that before I touched it, could you?"
Moving on, trying to ignore the feel of the smoothness and thickness of the item he'd wrapped his fingers around, Jack hurried to catch up with their hosts.
"—And of course, this is a weapon of incredible power and was used only by the reigning gods of the time." Tegan was holding a somewhat bedraggled ribbon device that was missing one of its finger caps, letting the bits dangle from his palm. In the center, the cracked crystal indicated it was broken beyond repair.
"Didn't I just see the..." Jack leaned closer to Teal'c and waggled his index finger in the air, indicating the missing cap, then turned towards the endless pieces of what he considered junk, laid out on the tables... "Over there? I think it was labelled as a thimble," he whispered conspiringly.
"The texts I translated indicate these ancient gods punished their subjects with these." Tegan began shoving his fingertips into the finger caps and then held the ribbon device out, aiming it towards Daniel and Carter in a threatening manner. For a split second, Jack half expected the guy's eyes to glow and his voice to lower in tenor and assume the distinct Goa'uld timbre. Then the man laughed and slipped the weapon from his hand. "I guess it won't work because the crystal's cracked. What I'd give to see one of these in action."
Jack rolled his eyes, thinking he'd rather never see one of those babies ever again. The group moved on and he stopped to eye several small pieces of metal sitting together in a small tray. Even as he glanced at Teal'c for confirmation, the Jaffa nodded. It was Naquadah.
Lots of the stuff accumulated from the dig, on display here, seemed to be shattered bits of metal or power crystals. He followed slowly, taking the time to prod a piece here, roll a few wires there. He picked up a cracked tip of a staff weapon, comparing it quickly with Teal'c's functioning one. He put it down and rubbed soot from his fingers.
Several groups had been invited to tour the warehouse today, and they were all being led to the center of the room, where some sort of camera crew and photographers had set up their equipment. By the time their group reached the team of media personnel, Tegan was in full lecture mode. Carter was looking a little bored and Jack threaded his way between the delegates and went to stand next to her.
She leaned close to him and spoke softly. "Other than the Stargate, I don't think these people have discovered anything of value."
"Ya think?" Jack rubbed at a bit of black soot between his fingers.
"Actually, sir, I think they've actually dug up a dump site." Carter picked up a small piece of broken metal. "This is part of the energy core of a zat gun. I've recognized bits and pieces of not only zats and staff weapons, but also what looks like part of the anti-gravity controls of a tel'tak."
"And I have observed many objects which were obsolete even when I was a child." Teal'c had also pitched his voice so it wouldn't interfere with Tegan's monologue.
"I don't think these people know what they've got here. They're not as technologically advanced as we are and there's no way they can figure out what most of this stuff is." Carter picked up a small piece of something that looked like a bit of fossilized sponge. "Hell, I don't think I could figure out what most of this stuff was for. It's mostly junk."
"I believe MajorCarter is correct. The excavation site is merely a refuse pile, utilized by the ruling Goa'uld millennia ago."
Jack couldn't help but grin. "You think Daniel's caught onto that already?" He couldn't get Daniel's attention because he had his back to him; from where Jack stood, Daniel seemed to be extremely interested in Tegan's speech. There was a huge blackboard set up before the crowd filled with odd symbols, with English words written beneath most of the glyphs. A table, set aside next to the blackboard as a place of honour, held a single small, metallic device.
"This could be the most exciting and ground breaking event that has ever happened on our world since the invention of the wheel." Tegan continued, pacing back and forth before the blackboard, evidently enjoying the attention and blatantly showing off. His good looks and tufts of wavy, blond hair made him look like a model, and by the way he was acting, he was obviously conscious of it. He laughed softly and turned to look at SG-1. "Okay, maybe the discovery of the Stargate may have to compete with that honour." He nodded at Jack and stepped closer, smiling brightly. A blinding light went off and Jack blinked away the residual aura caused by the photographer's flash. Jack had forgotten about the reporter and that he was supposed to give a short interview later.
"Of course we won't know the exact significance of the Stargate until we've had the occasion to explore the possibilities your people have described." Tegan turned back to the blackboard and the small device on the table beside him, dismissing Jack.
Staring into space, Tegan softened his voice, working on the dramatic. "Who would have thought, up until several months ago, that an ancient city existed beneath the city of Vaza?" Tegan's voice had slowed for the reporter's benefit, his tone suddenly deliberately melodic. "A simple merchant, attempting to enlarge his cellar, accidentally broke through into the realms of our ancestors. So many wonders we have found below our city have yet to be fully explored. Except for this." He moved to pose before the blackboard, next to the small table with the device. He stood there, preening, as the photographers snapped several more pictures.
"The thought of an energy source so compact, the likes of which we've never seen before, brings possibilities we could never have before imagined. And we were extremely fortunate that we have a means of understanding how it works." He waved to the blackboard. "I have spent countless hours working on deciphering the language found on the casing of the energy source, teasing the secrets from the depths of this lost treasure. I now know how the device works and I will shortly turn it on and give a demonstration.
"I'm also pleased to announce that I've been appointed Main Executive of the construction of this energy source. Four million bendels have been placed at my disposal for research—" Tegan stopped a moment, allowing the words to sink in. There were a few murmurs of appreciation within the crowd. "—And I foresee that by the end of the year, we will be able to mass produce the energy source. I predict one in every household by the end of the decade." He picked up the device and cradled it in his hands, smiling into the camera as the room exploded in applause.
"I have no idea, sir." She was staring at the small contraption with an intensity Jack usually gave Daniel once they were alone in their bed. "If it's an energy source, it's nothing like a ZPM. It doesn't look Asgard," she mumbled to herself. "Or Tollan. It doesn't even look Goa'uld."
"The writing he is attempting to translate is not Goa'uld," Teal'c supplied. "I would have thought perhaps an antiquated dialect, but it is not even remotely similar."
"So, in other words, neither of you know where that thing might be from?"
Carter shook her head and Teal'c remained silent, confirming Jack's assumption. Suddenly their mission took on a whole new meaning; if this thing was what Tegan had said it was, Jack's team might be bargaining for the device's plans in the next couple of hours.
There was movement next to him and Daniel, who'd been quietly staring at the blackboard during Tegan's speech, picked up a piece of chalk and began crossing out the English, eliciting a sense of déjà vu from Jack.
"Hey, what are you doing?"
Working industriously, Daniel continued crossing out words, replacing them without hesitation. He quickly glanced at Tegan, who was staring at Daniel in confusion.
"I'm sorry, I realized you've made a few errors in you translations here, and here, that have led you to make false assumptions." He continued making more changes, stopping a moment to read back what he'd changed, then going on to correct another word. "I don't think it's an energy source, at least, not the way you've interpreted this—"
"Our instruments show that it is thousands of years old and it has only lost approximately twelve percent of its initial charge." Tegan, bristling at Daniel's intrusion, had put the device back on the table and moved in to attempt to block him from finishing.
"Twelve percent?" Daniel paused, chalk held loosely in his hand as he looked at Tegan, slack jawed. "Then it must be older than I thought." He turned back to the board and pointed at a line of text he'd corrected. "See, it says it would 'hold back the wicked for all eternity'. I can see where you thought this read—"
Seeing how the delegates were all shifting nervously and how Tegan was beginning to clench his fists in anger, Jack cleared his throat. The noise caught Daniel's attention and he looked at him, startled. Jack attempted to make a 'what the hell do you think you're doing' motion with his eyes and eyebrows. Daniel stared at him for a moment, looked at the chalk in his hand and then back at the blackboard, then quickly put the chalk down and dusted his hands together.
He stepped away from the blackboard and rejoined Jack. The cameras were following Daniel; everyone, it seemed, was ignoring Tegan.
"It's not a battery?" Jack asked as Daniel looked everywhere but at the cameras.
"So, what is it?"
Daniel pressed his lips together a moment, then turned to look directly at Tegan, who was still staring at Daniel angrily. "It's a bomb."
"He's right." The scientist, whose name Jack couldn't remember, looked shaken as he straightened. "It is a bomb. And from the energy readings I'm getting, I'd say it's active and live." He turned to look at SG-1, who'd stayed in the sidelines once the pandemonium had eased. The warehouse was empty of people except for a handful of scientists, Tegan and the head of the excavation, Doctor Tramir. "I have no idea how powerful it is, but if it's as old as you say, I'd guess it could be extremely unstable."
"Sir..." Carter glanced at him and Jack nodded permission. She stepped forward and waved at the thingamajig the scientist was holding in his hand. "Judging from those readings, I'd guess that the bomb is powerful enough to destroy the city."
Everyone went quiet. Even Tegan, who'd done nothing but glare at Daniel the whole time once his department head had told him to shut up after Daniel's delivery of the bad news, looked pale, but his voice was steady when he spoke. "Can we dismantle it?"
"I would not advise doing so." Teal'c, hands clasped behind his back, had stood at parade rest the whole time, watching everything with a keen eye. "The Goa'uld who left this device would have insured it could not be tampered with."
"Indeed, O'Neill. It is only sheer luck that the device was severed without detonation from the entrance to the excavation site during the earthquake that buried it. I would recommend destroying the bomb immediately. As stated, it may have now become unstable and could detonate without warning."
"Peachy," Jack said to the people who were staring at them wide-eyed. "Got any suggestions?" he asked, not really expecting an answer.
"Thank you for meeting with me, Doctor Jackson."
Feeling a little self-conscious, Daniel gave Tegan a small smile and entered the cluttered office. The past several hours had been difficult, talking with the heads of State in deciding whether to study or diffuse the piece of equipment they'd thought to be a life-saving device and which was actually a very powerful bomb, powerful enough, in fact, to level most of the city of Vaza.
Taking a seat on the old, battered couch when invited to do so, Daniel looked around curiously. There were artifacts cluttering the room and curiously, he felt he'd be at ease here, if not for the rumpled looking man who sat next to him.
"I'm sorry things didn't turn out the way you expected them to," Daniel began, only to grow quiet when Tegan waved Daniel's apology aside.
"Of course I'm disappointed." Tegan opened a dusty decorative box sitting on the coffee table before them. Inside was a small, round bottle slightly less than half filled with a golden liquid and two small crystal glasses on a thin stem. "Not only was my career made and I was looking at more money I never even dreamed of before, I was finally held in esteem by my peers." Carefully removing the two glasses from the box, Tegan wiped them down with a soft cloth.
"I realize that, and maybe if I—"
"No, please, allow me to say this." Tegan finished with the glasses, put the cloth down and removed the bottle from the box. "Thanks to you, I have now been made the laughing stock of the country. My job is forfeit and my name, I'm afraid, will be uttered with a curse for the next fifty years." With a flourish, Tegan splashed a small amount into both glasses.
"I was made a fool on national television." Tegan picked up the glass and handed it to Daniel.
Feeling extremely uncomfortable, Daniel took the glass and held it between numb fingers. The scent of alcohol was strong.
"But, thanks to your intervention, a disaster today was averted." Holding his glass high, Tegan clinked it gently against Daniel's and took a sip. "You saved our lives, Doctor Jackson. You saved my city. For that, I shouldn't hold a grudge."
Sighing deeply, Daniel brought the glass to his lips and took a tentative sip. It tasted similar to fine scotch, exploding on his tongue, smooth going down and very potent by the way it left a trail from his tongue to his stomach. He licked his lips, thinking immediately that Jack would enjoy this liquor.
"Believe me, Tegan, I wish that thing had been a simple battery instead of a bomb. Teal'c thinks it was left behind as a booby trap for the conquering Goa'uld, but it must have been disconnected due to the earthquake and remained buried there, undisturbed, over all these centuries." He took another sip, allowing the liquid to sit on his tongue before swallowing. Immediately he felt his face begin to flush and his stomach burned as the alcohol hit his bloodstream. He looked at the glass, wondering if it was 100 proof. "What'll happen to you now?"
"Oh, I have plenty of work to keep me busy for a while, cataloguing and trying to identify the artifacts we found at the dig site. Although I'm afraid they've taken away my position as the head of State Archaeology and—"
"I'm sorry." Daniel winced, remembering how his own fall from academia had hurt. He quickly took another sip of liquor, wishing it would burn out the memory instead of burning his throat.
"Oh, don't be. I understand what you did wasn't meant to be spiteful. And if it weren't for you and your team, well, I wouldn't even be here at the moment." He laughed dryly. "None of us would be. At least this way I still have the hope that when proper attention is given to the Stargate, maybe I'll have a chance to join the research teams and find a way reclaim my reputation."
Tegan hadn't taken more than a sip but he suddenly tossed his drink back in one quick gulp. His fair skin reddened as he swallowed and his eyes teared, but he placed the glass down and splashed a little more into it, then offered to top Daniel's drink but Daniel shook his head. Daniel's ears were whining and his lips were numb just from the few sips he'd partaken.
Contemplating the remains of his drink, Daniel swirled the liquid around in the glass. "There are incredible things to see out there, through the Stargate." His tongue felt thick and he thought he might be slurring his words slightly. He leaned forward, getting closer to Tegan. "And don't take this the wrong way, but some of the things you'll encounter on other planets may just fill in the gaps as to what those artifacts you found are."
When Tegan simply stared at him uncomprehendingly, Daniel motioned magnanimously with his glass. "What you found, out there, on the dig? It's just a junk pile. Discards. There's nothing useful in there because it's not about how your people lived, it's about how the false god of the time lived." Daniel took another sip and then was surprised to see that he'd finished his drink. He put the glass down carefully because his fingers felt numb and clumsy.
The look Tegan gave him spurred Daniel to keep talking. "The Goa'uld lived here at one time, but since your Stargate was buried, they never returned and you've been safe. Now that you've unearthed it, you need to start taking precautions. You need to find ways to defend yourself from them. We need allies, here, and out there. We can help you, give you advice, show you where to start looking, and hopefully your people will join us in the fight against these oppressors.
"And by looking for ways to defeat the Goa'uld, you definitely will encounter wondrous things, things that will help your people, make your world a safer and better place to live."
Tegan finished his drink and stood, swaying slightly, hands splayed against the table. "Well, I invited you here to share spirits to reveal I had no hard feelings even though you've not only made me the laughing stock of the planet and played hero by helping to destroy the bomb before one of us inadvertently set it off, but now you're telling me my work is worthless?" He sat down abruptly and pulled the bottle towards him. "You know the way out, Doctor Jackson."
Shocked, Daniel sat there numbly for a moment before reaching out again. "Tegan, would you rather I not have said anything and allowed you to waste the next few years of your life trying to put pieces of broken weapons together when I could show you the weapon itself in its pristine form?"
Stopping with the bottle poised over his glass, Tegan suddenly shook his head and lowered the bottle back to the table. "No, you're right. I'm sorry. I think—" He blinked and laughed softly. "I think the ibthan is getting to my head. I'll think over what you said."
Daniel nodded, and the whole room spun with the motion. He stood slowly, allowing his body to get used to the sensation of seeming to be walking on air. "I'll... um... just let myself out."
He turned and aimed for the door, hoping he could make it out without bumping into the wall.
Everyone seemed a little uncomfortable now that all the goodbyes had been said. Jack glanced once again at the entrance to the living quarters, wondering what was taking Daniel so long. He'd been uneasy at allowing Daniel to go with Tegan, but Doctor Tramir had said Tegan had expressed wanting to do some sort of forgiveness ceremony so Jack had let him go.
He took a deep breath and let it out noisily. This had been one of the oddest missions - they'd come here with the prospects of obtaining a new ally, and that had been cemented with Daniel's declaration of the relic they'd found being a bomb and its subsequent destruction through the wormhole's backlash.
The door to the building opened and Daniel stepped out. "About time," Jack mumbled under his breath. He turned to Doctor Tramir and nodded. "We'll be in touch." Jack started moving to intercept Daniel, his team following behind him.
Even before he reached the intersecting path that would take them to the Stargate, Jack noted Daniel was walking oddly. It took him a moment to recognize the particular gait of someone who'd had too much to drink and knew it, and was taking care not to show it.
"Hi, Jack!" Daniel's greeting was loud and heartfelt as he swayed to a stop next to him. A strong smell of alcohol came from Daniel's breath as he grinned sloppily at him. His eyes were red rimmed and glazed but they shone brightly as he looked at Jack.
"You're drunk." Jack's tone of voice was deliberately derisive, although he smiled inwardly. He didn't often get to see Daniel like this and he always enjoyed teasing him because a drunk Daniel was so easy to goad. He ignored Carter's answering grin and tried to look stern as he started towards the Stargate.
"Um..." Daniel had to take several ungainly steps to try and catch up. "Yeah, I am." He said it with a sense of finality, as if daring Jack to make something of it.
"You were gone for fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes, Daniel." Jack deliberately picked up the pace a little, watching Daniel struggle to walk a straight line. "Tell me how the hell you managed to get yourself pickled in that short a time?"
"Fifteen?" Daniel sniffed, then rubbed his nose with his sleeve and managed to knock his glasses askew. He slowed down, trying to place the arm of the glasses back over his ear and kept missing. "Wow. It was good stuff," he slurred. With a sigh, Jack stopped walking, took the glasses from Daniel and adjusted them while Daniel kept making faces at him. Once done, Daniel smiled at him sloppily. "Really good stuff, Jack."
Jack ignored Carter's softly spoken "I'll bet," and tried to get Daniel moving again.
Daniel turned to face Sam, almost tripping on his feet in doing so. "I wanna get some of that liquor for Jack for his birthday." He turned to Jack, moving quickly and losing his balance again, forcing Jack to grab his arm to steady him. "You're gonna like it a lot. It's really..." The smile suddenly disappeared and his face fell. "But I wanted it to be a surprise. It's not a surprise anymore."
Jack tugged on Daniel's arm, forcing him to walk forward. "That's okay, Danny. I can act surprised when you give it to me."
"Really?" The smile was back and Daniel looked adoringly at Jack as he staggered. "You called me Danny." He stopped walking and leaned in against Jack, lost his balance and Jack had no choice but to grab him and hold him close against his chest even as Teal'c gripped his other arm to help hold him up. "I love it when you call me Danny."
Whatever Daniel had imbibed seemed to be affecting him more and more every minute. Jack glanced up at the Stargate looming ahead of them in the park. Thank goodness, they were almost there. He pushed Daniel away from him and waited until Daniel got his balance, as unsteady as it was.
"Just how much hooch did you drink?" Jack asked when Daniel stumbled sideways and caught himself before he fell.
"Not lots." With words slurring more than before, Daniel stopped walking again and raised his right hand. Squinting at his fingers, he tried to bring thumb and index fingers together. After several tries, he finally showed a space of about a quarter inch between his digits. "It was good stuff." He swayed alarmingly and staggered backwards for several steps.
"Whoa, there." Jack took Daniel's arm and pulled him close as Daniel laughed drunkenly. "Carter, dial us up."
"Sir." Carter looked at Jack over her shoulder as she hurried to the DHD. "If he really drank that little and it's affecting him this much, he could be in danger of alcohol poisoning." Carter punched in Earth's address and looked back the way they had come as she activated the Stargate. "I think we need to make sure he wasn't deliberately poisoned."
Daniel had suddenly grown quiet, staring at his feet and swaying back and forth like a young tree in a strong wind.
"Go talk to Tramir and Tegan, see if you can get a sample of the booze for Fraiser. Teal'c, you go with her. Me, I'll just get Dannyboy here home." Upon hearing his name, Daniel looked blearily at Jack. It was obvious he was having trouble focusing and Jack simply took his arm, wrapped it around his shoulder and began moving Daniel forward. Together they stepped into the wormhole.
They made it down the ramp before Daniel's legs gave out. Actually, with the dead weight Jack was now holding in his arms as Daniel slowly crumpled, it looked like he'd passed out on his feet. He eased him down the rest of the way while Walter called for medical attention.
"Colonel? What happened to Doctor Jackson and where's the rest of your team?"
Jack straightened, looking down at Daniel's unconscious form. "Drunk, sir, or at least that's all I hope this is. Carter and Teal'c went back for samples of whatever it was he drank."
"This isn't like Doctor Jackson. He doesn't usually imbibe, especially on missions."
"No, sir." Jack stepped aside, making room as Fraiser and a nurse hurried to examine Daniel. "From what I understand, it was a very small amount and obviously extremely potent."
"Daniel, Daniel can you hear me?" Fraiser asked, pinching the skin on the webbing between Daniel's fingers when he didn't respond. "Daniel, can you wake up for me?"
Unable to stop himself, Jack took a step towards Daniel, half-intending to give Fraiser a hand in trying to wake him up. "He wasn't this bad off ten minutes ago. He just got more and more plastered as we went along." He was shocked at seeing the bluish tinge around Daniel's lips.
"I need him on the gurney. Now!" People moved aside Fraiser's order was obeyed. Conversation came to a still as medical staff lifted Daniel onto the gurney. To Jack's horror, she pulled out a laryngoscope and began to intubate him. "His breathing is compromised," she explained as she followed with an endotracheal tube. "What happened out there, Colonel?"
"He got drunk," Jack explained helplessly. He winced at the scathing look Fraiser gave him and turned helplessly to Hammond. "He went with one of the scientists... they shared some kind of ceremony... I didn't... he was only gone fifteen minutes!" he yelled as Fraiser ordered her patient to the infirmary.
"Go get yourself checked out." Hammond stared at the doorway where Daniel and the medical team had just hurried through. "I'll advise you when Teal'c and Major Carter return."
Jack stepped into the infirmary just as a nurse finished taking blood samples from Daniel. They'd already set up an IV and he was hooked up to a heart monitor and a ventilator. Jack was approaching the bed when an alarm went off.
"He's seizing. Get me 2 mg Ativan." Jack stood frozen watching helplessly as Fraiser and a nurse, as one, turned Daniel onto his side while another injected the medicine into Daniel's IV. By the time Jack ran to the bed, Daniel had stopped shaking and was positioned flat on his back again.
"Doc?" Jack took in Daniel's slack, sweaty face and limp body. His eyes were partly open but it was obvious he wasn't seeing anything. Jack couldn't seem to be able to catch his breath and for a moment he thought he was going to pass out. He tensed his muscles, forcing his blood pressure up and immediately the feeling subsided enough that he could pay attention to Fraiser's words.
"I don't know, Colonel. He's in a coma and he's stopped breathing." She checked the readouts from the monitors and wrote them in a chart. "Did he fall? Did he hit his head?"
"No," Jack said hurriedly. "No, he didn't fall. At least not when he was with me."
She nodded distractedly. "I'm going to order a CT scan to rule out a head injury."
One of the nurses, who'd pricked Daniel's finger and had taken a sample of blood in a portable glucose monitor, nodded. "Sugar is 30."
"Give him an amp of D50W."
As the nurse injected a large syringe of liquid into Daniel's IV, Fraiser took a moment to breathe deeply and look at Jack. "His blood sugar is very low, we're adding dextrose... sugar water... to help bring the level back to normal. We're running tests for blood alcohol level, electrolytes and a drug screen. His body temperature is low and he'll become hypothermic if it keeps dropping." She spoke quickly, not looking at Jack, but going over the numbers once again. "We've pumping him with fluids to rehydrate him but until the tests come back, my hands are tied. Do you know exactly what he drank?" She spared him a quick glance as a nurse arrived with blankets, then gave Daniel her full attention again, helping spread the blankets over him.
"Um, no. Carter's gonna try and bring back a sample, but... I don't know. He wasn't gone that long. Fifteen minutes, max."
"Then he must have been drugged. If we can get his blood sugar and electrolytes back to normal, we may be able to avoid brain damage."
There was a feeling of tightness in his throat. Jack tried to swallow but his mouth was dry and he couldn't manage to bring enough spit to wet his mouth. "Doc... I..."
She stopped, hand poised over the clipboard, and looked at Jack with understanding. "Colonel, I'm sorry. I'm doing all I can at the moment. I'll know more when the workup comes back. In the meantime, I think you're up for a post-mission exam." She nodded behind him and Jack saw Warner waiting for him. He nodded and reluctantly went to join the doctor.
His body numb, his brain in a loop over the words brain damage that Fraiser had uttered, Jack endured the examination in silence. His attention was riveted on Daniel and the activity around his bed. Warner seemed to sense his mood and only spoke to ask him pertinent questions. He'd just been given a clean bill of health when Carter came rushing into the infirmary, followed by Teal'c and Hammond. Jack grabbed his jacket and hurried to meet them, his heart pounding as he prayed they had good news. When they all stopped close to Daniel's bed, Carter's face dropped when she realized how badly off Daniel was.
She gave Jack a look that was part horror, part sympathy. "I have a sample." She hurriedly handed Fraiser a vial with less than a quarter ounce of amber liquid. "According to Doctor Tramir, this is the normal amount for the ceremony."
"He drank only this much?" Fraiser exclaimed as she held the vial up to the light. She shook her head and gave it over to one of the nurses with orders to run various tests on it.
"There's another thing; Doctor Tramir said that the alcohol used for these ceremonies is very rare, and it's usually handed down from generation to generation. According to the bottle found in Tegan's apartment, he suspects it was at least two hundred years old. And the older it is, the more potent it is. He said this one was extremely rare and very potent so a normal dose would have been half of what I just gave you."
"Was found passed out in his apartment, sir. He was rushed to the hospital. We found the bottle and two dirty glasses on his table."
"If that stuff's so strong, why would anyone deliberately drink it?"
"From what I understand, sir, that's the whole point. By getting drunk that fast, the participants show they're willing to be totally vulnerable before one another. And Doctor Tramir doesn't think he deliberately tried to poison Daniel. The ceremony is so seldom performed, Tegan probably didn't realize he was using more than was safe to consume."
"How is he, doctor?" Hammond had moved closer to the bed and stood with his hand nearly touching Daniel's.
"He suffered a seizure due to severely low blood glucose levels but the D50W is taking care of that. He's unresponsive and his breathing is severely impaired. I'm waiting for the toxicology reports and blood—" Fraiser broke off when a nurse hurried over and handed her some sheets of paper. Fraiser flipped through them quickly, then sighed.
"His alcohol content is .41 – he's suffering from acute alcohol poisoning. There's nothing more to be done but monitor him and wait. I'm sorry."
"Colonel, debriefing will be in one hour, once Major Carter and Teal'c have been cleared."
"Yes, sir," Jack replied, his throat threatening to close up. He coughed softly and pulled a chair close to the bed. He'd sit here and wait, try and gather his thoughts until the time for the meeting. To his surprise, Fraiser put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "With luck, he should wake up in six to eight hours."
Keeping his eyes on Daniel, Jack spoke softly. "You said something earlier about..."
"Brain damage." When Fraiser didn't go on, Jack looked up at her. She was watching Daniel.
She winced and spoke softly. "Respiratory arrest, low blood sugar, either or both can cause brain damage, sir. I won't know until he wakes up."
"Okay." Leaning forward, he rested is forearms against his thighs. He wanted to reach out and take Daniel's hand but suddenly he wasn't able to move. He threaded his fingers together and squeezed, until the pain helped him focus. With a shaking hand, he placed an index finger along the back of Daniel's chilled hand. "Good stuff, you said, huh?" Jack whispered to Daniel when Fraiser moved away from the bed. "Next time, stick to a cheap bottle of wine, willya?"
He hated waiting. He always had. One thing about this job was that he'd learned patience, but it didn't mean he had to like it. Jack checked his watch again. Seven hours, going on eight, and they were into the wee hours of the morning.
The only good thing about the time he'd spent here was seeing the signs as Daniel slowly improved. He'd been taken off the vent two and a half hours ago and was responsive to stimuli, except that he didn't seem to want to wake up. Not that Jack blamed him because he didn't envy him the hangover he was sure to have.
He just wished Daniel would wake up once and for all so that Jack could head on off to bed, assured that Daniel was going to be fine. But Fraiser's mention of brain damage had him constantly worrying about that and all he wanted right now was for Daniel to give Fraiser all the right answers to her pestering questions, perform the neurological tests and let Daniel, and thus Jack, get some rest.
He hadn't realized he'd dozed off until the sound of retching brought him jerking upright on the chair. Daniel was on his side, his back to Jack, and was dry heaving in what looked to be a painful manner. A nurse was holding an emesis basin to his mouth but nothing was coming out. Jack stood up and leaned over Daniel, trying to see if he could help but the retching stopped.
The nurse wiped a line of drool hanging from Daniel's mouth with a tissue and placed the emesis basin on the bed, next to Daniel. "Can you watch him? I'll be right back."
Nodding, Jack hurried around the bed. Daniel didn't seem to be quite awake yet. His eyes were partly open and he was staring at nothing. "Daniel?" Jack crouched by the bed, moving into Daniel's line of sight. There was no reaction. "Hey, you awake yet?" He pushed aside a damp strand of hair that was sticking at an odd angle, smoothing it down against Daniel's temple.
Jack waited a moment, then was forced to stand and move aside as the nurse returned. She injected something into his IV, then with a damp cloth, gently wiped the sheen of sweat from Daniel's face and neck. After a moment, his eyelids drifted nearly shut.
"I've given him some Zofran for the nausea. His BAL is almost normal, Colonel. He should be waking up soon." She folded the cloth carefully and placed it on the roll away table. "His latest blood work has come up close to normal limits." She smiled down at Daniel as she pulled a blanket up over his shoulders. "He's going to have quite the headache when he wakes—"
Daniel's reaction to her touch was immediate. Yelling and thrashing, he shoved her aside while trying to get off the bed. Even as Jack threw himself over Daniel to prevent him from getting up, he was filled with memories of Daniel in the throes of sarcophagus withdrawal, fighting everyone in his fevered desire to escape them all.
"Daniel, stop it. Daniel, it's me, it's Jack. It's okay, hold still." Struggling to keep Daniel on the bed, Jack gasped out encouragement, trying to reach Daniel with his words while the nurse called for help. Daniel's gaze flitted over Jack as he searched desperately for a way to escape him.
Fraiser came running and the nurse filled the doc in even as she tried to help Jack hold him down.
"Daniel, it's okay. You're safe. I've got you. You're safe." Jack kept repeating the words, trying to catch Daniel's eye as he bucked and thrashed beneath him. Finally Daniel met Jack's eyes. For a moment, Jack thought he had him, the body beneath him stilled, but his gaze shifted again and the struggle began again.
Then another nurse was there beside him, injecting something into Daniel's IV. Within seconds, Daniel's muscles began to grow limp. But still Daniel fought, crying out wordlessly in his attempt to escape. Finally the drug kicked in and Daniel relaxed. Jack could feel him struggling for breath and he slowly eased most of his weight off Daniel's chest. Still partly lying on top of him, he reached a hand and turned Daniel's head so he was looking straight at Jack.
There was no recognition in his eyes.
"Daniel." His voice soft and tender this time, Jack was relieved when Daniel slowly focused on him. Jack forced a smile. "Hey, you with me now?"
Emotions flitted over Daniel's face. Confusion, recognition, more confusion and finally pain. His jaw worked as he tried to speak Jack's name and he reached a hand out to him. Without hesitation, Jack wrapped his fingers around Daniel's as he slid all the way off him and sat on the edge of the bed, reaching up to cup Daniel's cheek with his other hand.
"Shhh, quiet. It's okay. I'm here."
"Colonel, I have to—"
"Yeah, right." He let go of Daniel's cheek and leaned back, allowing Fraiser easier access to Daniel, but kept hold of Daniel's hand. From the grip Daniel had on him, he probably wouldn't be able to let go even if he wanted to.
Leaning over, Fraiser shone a penlight into Daniel's eyes. "Daniel, can you tell me how you're feeling?" Daniel's eyes moved to Fraiser and his gaze just seemed to fall past her face before he corrected and focused on her again. "You're feeling a little woozy, aren't you? It's okay, it's normal to feel that way from the sedative I've given you."
She held the penlight before Daniel's eyes. "I want you to follow this with your eyes only." She moved the penlight from side to side. Daniel seemed to follow her directive at first, but when she brought the penlight back in the other direction, Daniel's eyes kept on moving until they found Jack.
"Can you tell me your birthday? Daniel? Can you tell me what day your birthday is on?"
Instead of answering, Daniel's gaze seemed to get more unfocused. His eyelids began to droop and his hold on Jack's hand was growing weaker.
"Okay, we'll try this again after you've slept the sedative off." She patted Daniel's hand and stepped back.
Jack cupped Daniel's hand between the both of his. "Go to sleep. I'm right here." Jack watched as Daniel made a token effort to keep his eyes open but they slid closed and stayed that way. After a moment, he put Daniel's hand down and got off the bed.
He opened his mouth to ask what had happened but Fraiser simply shook her head. "I'm hoping it's simply a side effect from the alcohol poisoning."
"Maybe the hangover?" Jack made a face and Fraiser shrugged.
"Maybe. We'll see how he reacts when he wakes up again. A couple more hours, sir," she answered again before he could ask. "You may as well go get some sleep. Come back in three hours."
"I'm fine here." He reached for the chair and rolled it closer but Fraiser put a hand on his arm.
"You saw how the sedative affected him. He's going to sleep, Colonel. Probably for more than three hours. I could just as easily say come back in five but on the off chance Daniel does wake up combative again, I'm assuming you'd want to be here."
"Do you mind if I..." Jack waved a hand at the bed next to Daniel's.
"You'd get better rest in a bunk, sir," Fraiser answered guardedly as Jack sat on the bed and began unlacing his boots.
"Maybe, but I'll sleep better knowing I can see him." He finished removing his footwear and lay down on his side, facing Daniel. Confident that he'd wake up if anything happened, Jack closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift off to sleep.
"Do we have to go through this again?" Eyes half closed against the brilliance of the infirmary lights, Daniel glared at Janet through red-rimmed eyes. Obviously the doc was inured to hangover-induced bad-tempered archaeologists and calmly repeated the question.
"Name and date of birth."
"Daniel Jackson and it's January 8, 1964. How can I forget, you guys had a party for me just a few weeks ago."
Jack exchange a look with Fraiser, who tapped a finger against her lips. Even though Daniel hadn't been looking at them, he obviously caught the exchange.
"What?" The tone was laced with impatience and pain. Jack hoped the Tylenol Fraiser had given him for his headache kicked in soon because Daniel, in this mood, was a pain in the ass.
"What month is this?" Fraiser's voice continued to be calm and soothing in counterpoint to Daniel's snark.
"And when is your birthday again?"
"January. Eighth." His tone was acerbic and insulting. The only times Jack had heard Daniel speak in this way was to people who actually deserved it.
"Daniel." The reprimand was for Fraiser's benefit. Jack hadn't missed the smudges of fatigue beneath her eyes and he knew she hadn't napped during the time he had.
"Your birthday's in the middle of summer, not winter." Jack couldn't help but feel pity for Daniel's suffering when he turned to stare at him. Forehead pinched with pain, Daniel raised a finger to rub at a spot above his right eyebrow.
"Of course it is. We wouldn't have had a BBQ in your backyard in the middle of a snowstorm."
"You said your birthday was in January, Daniel." Fraiser smiled gently at him as she crossed her arms and pulled the clipboard she was holding close to her chest.
"No, I didn't." He lowered his hand and let it drop loosely into his lap.
"Yes, you did."
"Jack, I know what I said. My birthday's in July. July 8. And today we're the..." Daniel closed his eyes and it was obvious he was having trouble making the mental calculations. "The twenty-fourth."
"Twenty-fifth. But then you slept through a good portion of a day." Jack couldn't help grinning, which increased the glower on Daniel's face.
"And nobody's taken the time to fill me in as to why I've got the headache from hell and why my stomach feels like someone poured acid into it. Not to mention why my whole body feels like I've been tackled by a platoon of Jaffa."
"Daniel." Fraiser walked to the foot of the bed and put the clipboard back onto its hook. "What's the last thing you remember?"
Daniel's blush and quick side-glance towards Jack made it clear to Jack exactly what Daniel remembered. Hot sex the night before the mission, if he wasn't mistaken.
"Mission? Offworld?" Jack supplied, trying to prompt him.
Jack saw the moment Daniel's memory hit him from the way his eyes widened. "Um, yeah." He wiped the space between lip and nostrils with his index finger. "There was a collection of artifacts... um, it was a junk heap, actually. And a bomb. There was a bomb. And then the ceremony and... oh shit." He sighed, moaning softly and closed his eyes. A slight tinge of red began to spread from the back of Daniel's neck and covered his throat and cheeks.
"Got yourself good and plastered and—"
"You had acute alcohol poisoning, Daniel," Fraiser interrupted. "You suffered respiratory arrest and a seizure. You were very lucky that your team brought you home when they did."
"Easy for you to say," Daniel growled. He closed his eyes and turned his back on them.
Checking his watch, Jack calculated he had time for a shower and breakfast before heading to his office to start on his paperwork. He walked away from the bed, Fraiser accompanying him part of the way.
"I'll have him out of here in time for your briefing with General Hammond this afternoon. He should be feeling a bit better by then."
Jack turned and looked dubiously back at Daniel, who had the covers pulled up over his head. "I'm releasing him long enough so he can attend the mission debrief, then he's to go straight home and rest for the next couple of days. And no," Fraiser said before Jack could open his mouth, "he doesn't need a keeper. He will be tired; that's to be expected after what he's gone through." She winked at him as she headed back to her office. "But I'm sure he wouldn't mind the company if you took a day off to stay with him, spoil him a little?"
"Yeah, I may just do that. Thanks, doc."
Stretching, Jack made his way to the showers, already planning to do the paperwork the moment he got back to his office.
Jack stifled a yawn and buried his nose in his coffee mug. The only people missing were Daniel and the General, who was visible through the glass, sitting in his office, talking on the phone. Carter sent him a sympathetic glance when Jack yawned again and he ignored her. He was just starting to worry about Daniel when he heard footsteps on the metal steps. He turned and glanced to the right, and soon Daniel's head, then the rest of his body, appeared as he made his way up the stairs.
Walking slowly, his head held at a slight angle which indicated that his headache wasn't totally gone, Daniel sank into a chair opposite Carter.
"Where're your glasses?" Jack asked after a moment.
"Huh?" Daniel squinted at him in confusion. The redness and puffiness was gone from his face but he still looked haggard.
"Glasses?" Jack motioned towards his own face, causing Daniel to raise a hand, index finger pressing against the bridge of his nose in an automatic move to adjust his nonexistent glasses. He shrugged after a moment, then brought his attention to Jack's coffee mug.
"Want some?" Carter was reaching for the carafe before them even before Daniel's tentative nod.
Daniel pulled the steaming cup towards him, ignoring the proffered creamer and added only sugar. Jack raised an eyebrow when Daniel grabbed a pencil on the table him and began stirring his coffee with it. Everyone watched, mesmerized, as Daniel dropped the pencil onto the tray and took a sip of coffee. When he made a face, Jack silently grabbed the creamer and added a dab of cream to the dark coffee.
"Thank you for joining us, Doctor Jackson." Hammond went directly to his chair and sat. "This meeting will be short; I understand you are still recovering and are understandably not feeling quite yourself."
Daniel remained silent, staring into his coffee and taking a quick sip.
"I would like to hear your version of what transpired on P3L 375. Your team has already debriefed me but I'm interested in hearing what actually happened to cause the state you were in when you returned home."
"You mean how did I manage to get so drunk I nearly died?" Daniel sighed, still staring into the coffee cup. "I guess you could say it's because I insulted Tegan." He paused, sat back in the chair and closed his eyes. In that very moment, Daniel looked exhausted and Jack hoped this meeting would be quick, like the General promised. "It was a simple error in translation," Daniel began slowly. "Easily made and understandable. The dialect used was imprecise and by changing it to the more formal variation, I was—"
"Daniel fixed the guy's translation in twenty seconds flat," Jack interrupted, trying to keep things short. Hammond nodded with an amused smile. "Let's just say Tegan wasn't pleased."
"It was a junk pile. They were so proud of what they'd found, but it was useless junk." Daniel laughed, a quick self-depreciating chuckle. "You know, when we find a dig here on Earth that has even a fraction of the quantity of artifacts they found over there, archaeologists are ecstatic. Because another civilization's leavings end up telling us so much about them, their day-to-day lives, how they lived, what they ate... But this... it wasn't even about the people, it was about a Goa'uld who fought a war and who left a booby trap to—"
Daniel didn't continue, simply buried his nose in his coffee cup and contemplated the cooling liquid for long minutes.
Startled, Daniel looked up and squinted at the general.
"Is there anything else you wish to add?"
"Tegan made a simple error in his translation. It was something anyone could have done. The dialect Tegan used was inexact and—"
With a pang of anxiety at Daniel's repeating the earlier explanation, Jack quickly cut in. "Yeah, Daniel, we got that already." He was rewarded with a look of hurt and disappointment. Jack wasn't sure exactly what had just happened, but from Daniel's hangdog look before he dropped his head to his chest, he knew he'd upset him.
"And what about the situation where you became... ill?"
"Daniel?" Jack prompted when Daniel didn't look up from staring at his thighs. Daniel's head popped up, eliciting a wince as he looked around again in bewilderment.
Thankfully Hammond appeared sympathetic. "Can you tell us anything relevant about the ceremony that made you ill?"
"Um... not really, sir. It's mostly a blur. I just remember Tegan being upset and he took out a bottle and some drinking glasses. I couldn't even tell you what we talked about. I just remember... impressions, feelings... I think we left on amicable terms, though." He turned to look at Jack in a way that made Jack think he was looking for corroboration.
"You must have, considering the ceremony was all about forgiving." That seemed to appease Daniel, who gave him an uncertain smile.
"Very well. Thank you." Hammond stood, sending Jack and Carter scrambling to their feet. "Seeing as Doctor Jackson is on medical leave for the next three days, I'm taking SG-1 off the active roster until he's cleared for offworld travel. Have a good evening."
Hammond turned and left the room.
As everyone shuffled papers and gathered their notes, Jack noted Daniel wasn't doing much more than just sitting there staring into space. He nudged Daniel with his finger, then indicated the door with a tilt to his head when Daniel raised his eyes to him. "Ready to go?"
Looking like the last thing Daniel wanted to do was stand, Daniel nodded. He stood slowly and began moving towards the exit.
Jack turned to Carter and Teal'c. "Daniel and I are gonna get something to eat before hitting the road." Jack had made a mental inventory earlier and realized he had nothing in the house that he could use for a quick meal. Fraiser would probably have his hide if all he could give Daniel tonight was junk food or stale crackers and cheese. "You guys wanna join us?"
"Jack, I'm not hungry—"
"I will join you, O'Neill. It is past time for the midday meal."
"I hope they still have meatloaf. Today is Tuesday, right? Meatloaf Tuesday?" Jack didn't miss the look of pity Carter gave Daniel. He wasn't sure if it was because Jack had ignored Daniel's protest or because she was feeling empathy for Daniel. Sure, his stomach and head were probably still giving him trouble but he needed to eat something. Then Jack would hightail them out of here the moment they finished eating and get Daniel to bed.
Trailing behind them like a pouting child as they entered the commissary, Daniel picked up a tray and chose a sandwich and a bottle of water. Jack went to the counter and ordered two of the meatloaf with a side dish of chicken soup, and picked up two brownies for dessert. He paid for the food and brought one of the trays over to the table where Daniel was already waiting for them.
He hadn't touched his sandwich yet, so Jack pulled the tray away and plopped his own laden tray before Daniel. He tossed the sandwich into the garbage as he went back for his supper.
Daniel hadn't said a word; he just sat there staring at the meatloaf.
"Eat." Jack picked up a spoon and dug into his soup.
Moving like every motion was an effort, Daniel took his fork and cut off a bite of brownie. He chewed listlessly, his eyes half closed, looking like he could drop off to sleep any moment.
When he took a second bite of brownie, Jack pulled the dessert out of reach and watched as Daniel never batted an eye. He just went on and ate some meatloaf instead.
"Try the soup. It's not bad."
With a fork full of mashed potatoes halfway to his mouth, Daniel stopped and actually looked at his tray. He ate the potatoes, exchanged fork for spoon, and started in on the soup.
Dinner was mostly quiet. Carter and Teal'c began discussing the makeup of the bomb, trying to rationalize whether it had been Goa'uld in origin. He allowed their conversation to float over him, keeping an eye on Daniel, who, although was slowly finishing the food in front of him, looked like he was eating mostly by rote and wasn't tasting much of anything.
"I have to go finish up a few things before I leave." Carter dropped her spoon into the empty Jell-O dish and pushed her chair away from the table. "Daniel, I'll see you in a couple of days."
It seemed to take a moment for Carter's words to register, but Daniel looked up and gave her a lopsided smile.
"I, too, have some tasks to attend to." Teal'c nodded to them both and stood. "Rest well, DanielJackson."
"Thanks. Night guys." Daniel dropped his fork onto the tray and wiped his mouth with a paper napkin.
Without a word, Daniel got up from the table and headed out of the commissary. They stood waiting for the elevator in silence, Daniel leaning heavily against the wall.
"Tired?" Jack asked when Daniel substituted the wall inside the elevator for the wall in the corridor.
"That's an understatement." Daniel reached out and hit 19 before Jack could get them to 25 and the locker rooms.
"Aren't we heading home?"
"I need to sort out a few things in my office."
"You're on medical leave; you're not expected to work."
"I just have a few projects I need to make sure get to the right people. It'll just take a minute to check my desk." Daniel leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes.
"Daniel, they did fine without you while you were sick, I'm sure they can figure it out—" The elevator doors opened and Daniel stepped out. Onto the 19th floor.
"Hey. It would help if you actually went to your office." Amused, Jack held the door open so that Daniel could come back inside, and pressed 18.
"That's where I'm headed for, Jack," Daniel said over his shoulder as he continued walking.
"You'd get there a helluva lot faster if you were actually on the right floor."
Daniel stopped and looked around in confusion. Jack motioned for him to come back, but it was only when Daniel stopped to look at the numbers on one of the doors that he realized his mistake. He came back, a perplexed look on his face.
True to his word, it only took Daniel a minute to go through the papers on his desk. Jack had just enough time to call the infirmary and inquire about Daniel's glasses. Once Daniel was satisfied, he followed Jack out to their lockers and they headed outside.
As they signed out, the guard on duty handed Daniel his glasses. He took them and looked at them as if someone had just handed him the world's biggest puzzle. He frowned as he put them on.
"You left them in the infirmary. Fraiser had someone bring them here for you."
The ride home was quiet. Jack understood Daniel wasn't feeling well and other than a quick squeeze on the bicep as they got into the Avalanche, he let Daniel alone. It wasn't until they'd stopped at a red light that Jack noticed that Daniel was trembling. "Hey, you okay?"
A horrible thought crossed Jack's mind. "You're not gonna be sick or anything, are you?" Already he was looking for a place to detour the truck and get Daniel outside before he puked on the upholstery.
"No." The word was spoken curtly.
"You sure?" The light turned green and Jack stepped on the gas. They were only five minutes from home. He debated trying to go straight for the house or stopping and letting Daniel get some air.
"I'm sure. I'm not nauseated, I'm just tired."
"Okay. But if you think you're gonna upchuck, give me a warning so I can pull over."
Once home, Daniel headed straight for the bedroom. Jack followed him in and pulled back the covers while Daniel changed into his sweats. He sat on the side of the bed once Daniel was under the covers. Leaning over, he kissed him gently on the lips. "You need anything?" he asked, gazing into lacklustre blue eyes.
Daniel shook his head, turned onto his side and pulled the blankets up. Jack sighed as he got up off the bed and decided to head for the grocery store.
It was long past suppertime when Jack heard the water running in the shower. He waited several minutes before putting aside the magazine he'd been reading and headed for the kitchen. Daniel's plate had been kept warm in the oven so he pulled it out, got a bottle of water from the fridge and placed both on the table.
A minute later Daniel entered the kitchen, rubbing a towel through his hair. He was wearing an old pair of jeans and half-buttoned, plaid shirt.
"I kept you some supper." Jack pulled the chair back, inviting Daniel to sit. Blinking at Jack, Daniel stared first at the plate, then at the chair, before shuffling over. He tossed the towel on the back of the chair as he sat.
"Shirt's on backwards."
"No, it's not."
Jack took hold of the edge of the shirt and flipped it over for proof. "Daniel, the label's sticking out in the back." Jack tugged on said label, then let his hands slide down Daniel's shoulders and arms, reaching for the few buttons that were fastened. Slowly he undid the buttons and eased the shirt off Daniel, who simply shrugged each arm out, not missing a bite of supper by shifting the fork to his left hand, then back to his right. With a sigh, Jack pulled the sleeves right side out and tossed it over Daniel's bare back.
Still eating, Daniel slipped back into the shirt, buttoning it up with one hand while the other continued lethargically scooping mashed potatoes and chicken into his mouth. Jack picked up his magazine, sat opposite Daniel and tried to focus on the text before him. Instead his gaze kept coming back up to Daniel's face, which seemed lost in thought.
"How's the hangover?"
"Yeah, more or less. I'm just tired." With still half his meal uneaten, Daniel pushed the plate away, stood and left the kitchen.
"Where you going?"
"To take a shower."
"You just took one." Jack dropped the magazine and hurried after Daniel. "Maybe you should go back to bed, or come downstairs with me and we'll watch some television."
"I want to take a show—"
"How about you leave that for morning." Moving quickly, Jack snagged Daniel's arm, pulling him gently from the bathroom and led him downstairs to the den. "Let's see if we can find something worthwhile watching. I think the Discovery Channel has something that was in the news recently..."
They settled on the couch, Jack working the remote while Daniel pulled his legs up onto the cushions. The movement forced him to lean slightly into Jack, who immediately put an arm around Daniel and held him close. Daniel relaxed, squirmed a bit to get comfortable as he plastered himself more comfortably alongside Jack and rested his head against Jack's ribs.
Jack found the channel he'd been looking for, then stuck the remote between the couch cushions for easy access later. He wasn't five minutes into the show when he realized that Daniel was snoring softly. With an indulgent smile, he reached for the afghan and covered them both with it as best as he could without jostling Daniel. His pores still exuded a faint smell of alcohol; probably the reason he'd wanted to take another shower.
He spent nearly two hours channel searching, jumping from one show to a movie to a sports recap until Daniel's weight began to be unbearable. Shaking Daniel gently, he leaned over and whispered in his ear. "Be more comfy in bed. Coming?"
Blinking in confusion, Daniel sat up and rubbed his face tiredly. Nodding and without saying a word, he stood and went upstairs. Jack turned the television off, took a moment to stretch before following, and made the rounds of locking up the house before heading for the bathroom.
He hadn't thought twice about it until he walked into the bathroom and was hit with a face full of steam. He turned towards the shower where he could see Daniel through the clear plastic doors. He'd have turned away when a splash of colour caught his eye.
Pulling the doors open, Jack stared at Daniel, fully dressed, standing in the shower, shampooing his hair.
"Jack?" He squinted at Jack through the streaming water, washing away the suds.
Moving a hand into the shower and waving it at Daniel's body, Jack asked with a sarcastic tone, "Clothes?"
Daniel looked at Jack in confusion, then down at himself. The small furrows of bewilderment deepened into a frown.
Pushing back thoughts about Fraiser's earlier comments about possible brain damage, Jack motioned with his fingers. "Come on, strip and hand them to me." It took several minutes before Daniel was able to peel the sodden clothes off him and for Jack to wring enough water out of them that they didn't drip while he trudged back downstairs to throw them into the dryer. By the time he was done, Daniel was out of the shower and getting dressed again.
"I thought you were going to bed?"
"Bed? No. We've got an 11 o'clock meeting, Jack, or have you forgotten?" This time Daniel had put the shirt on properl, it was the one blue and one white sock on his feet that caught Jack's attention.
A pang of fear suddenly wrapped itself around Jack's heart. Something was off and had been since Daniel had woken up from the coma, but he'd attributed it to Daniel simply not feeling well. "Daniel, that meeting was scheduled this morning. You're on sick leave for the next three days, remember?"
Thrusting the ends of his shirt into his pants, Daniel moved past Jack and headed for the door. Hurrying to catch up, Jack grabbed Daniel's arm just as he went to unlock the front door. "Where do you think you're going?"
"I told you, to the mountain."
"It's the middle of the night." Jack slapped his hand on the glass next to the door to emphasize his point. The look of irritation faded from Daniel's face as bewilderment set in. He turned to Jack, eyebrows pressed close together amidst a furrow of lines on his forehead.
"C'mon, you said you were tired. Let's go to bed." He placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder and felt him sway slightly towards him. With a short nod, Daniel turned and headed back towards the bedroom, leaving Jack to quickly finish locking up. When he reached the bedroom, Daniel was already in bed, his pants and shirt uncharacteristically left in a crumpled heap next to the bed. A quick glance showed that Daniel was already asleep. He changed quickly into his sweats and slid under the covers, spooning behind Daniel. He put his arm around Daniel as he leaned back against Jack with a soft sigh, enjoying the feel of bare skin against his fingers.
Jack snuggled closer until his nose was resting against Daniel's neck. He could smell the shampoo and soap Daniel had used. The strands of hair resting against Jack's forehead were still wet. Slowly, though, the scent of alcohol began to tease Jack's nose.
If Daniel was still acting oddly come morning, Jack decided he'd bring him to the infirmary. Fraiser had said that Daniel would most likely experience fatigue from the severe poisoning, but there had been no mention of his behaviour being this... odd.
With endless possibilities of things too horrible to actually put into words going through his head, Jack knew there would be little sleep for him that night.
Despite spending half the night tossing and turning and worrying, Jack was up at the crack of dawn. Daniel didn't move when Jack left their bed, and he spent the next four hours pacing the living room, sipping coffee, his stomach too tied up in knots to even think about eating. Several times he'd picked up the phone, about to call the infirmary, and each time he decided to wait until Daniel woke up and take it from there.
Daniel finally stumbled into the kitchen around ten. Still sporting the blue and white socks, wearing an old, faded pair of jeans and nothing else, Daniel walked up to the coffee pot and poured himself a coffee without even answering Jack's "Good morning." He had a bad case of bedhead, made worse by the fact that he'd gone to sleep with wet hair. His eyes seemed clear this morning, with no sign of redness, made more visible because he hadn't put his glasses on. Daniel took a sip of coffee and opened up the newspaper that Jack had brought in but hadn't had the concentration to read yet.
Jack got cream from the fridge and pushed the sugar bowl towards Daniel, who ignored the usual trimmings and continued looking through the paper and sipping his coffee.
"Morning." Squinting, Daniel turned the page of the newspaper, skimming quickly.
"How're you feeling?"
Daniel mumbled something that sounded like "Fine."
Daniel didn't answer, instead he turned the next page of the newspaper, and then the next, and the next.
"No, unless you normally get a paper written in Mandarin." With an angry flip, Daniel folded the paper and shoved it away.
Jack glanced at the paper, whose headlines were clearly English.
"Okay, get dressed. We're going to the mountain."
Concern spread over Daniel's features. "Something happen?" He stood slowly, searching Jack's face.
"You could say that. Go put a shirt on and get your glasses. We'll get something to eat there."
The moment Daniel left the room, Jack reached for the phone and called the infirmary.
"I'm bringing Daniel in," Jack said without preamble when Fraiser came on the line.
"Colonel? What happened?" "Something's not right. Daniel's not quite himself and it's probably best... hold on," he said quickly when Daniel walked into the kitchen, shrugging into a jacket. "Daniel, shirt..."
Daniel looked down at his bare torso and turned around wordlessly.
"Like now. He was about to leave the house without putting a shirt on. And reading the newspaper and thinking it's in Chinese. His mind's... I dunno... scrambled."
"Okay. You're doing the right thing by bringing him in. Physically, though, how's he doing?"
"He looks better than he did yesterday, but he just got up so I'm guessing he's okay."
Daniel entered the kitchen again, still bare chested, but this time he'd changed his jeans for a pair of beige pants. "Look, I gotta go. We'll be there in thirty." He hung up and motioned for Daniel to follow him. Without a word, Jack went to the bedroom, picked up the shirt from where Daniel had dropped it on the floor the previous night and handed it to him. While Daniel put it on, Jack found a pair of loafers and put them in front of Daniel's feet, picked up Daniel's discarded jacket from the rumpled bed, and then his glasses from the bedside table. Once he was sure Daniel was properly dressed, he escorted him out to the truck.
Daniel couldn't help but sneak looks at Jack during the drive back to Cheyenne Mountain, trying to figure out what was bothering him. Jack's face was closed, which meant he had something on his mind. His lips were pressed together, another sign which meant that whatever it was, he wasn't ready to talk about it yet. Then again, that had never stopped Daniel before.
"Are you going to tell me what's going on?" Daniel finally asked when Jack turned south onto highway 115.
"I'm not sure. Fraiser said something about needing more tests."
"Bernice called?" Daniel frowned. "I don't remember hearing the phone." He'd known Jack had been talking to someone earlier, but had figured he'd been the one calling.
The look Jack gave him was odd. "No, 'Doctor' Fraiser wanted me to check in with her this morning."
"Did she say what the tests were for?" He'd had enough of the infirmary to last him a while and even though his stomach had finally settled and his head was still somewhat fuzzy, he was feeling tired and would have preferred spending the day just hanging around and not doing anything except reading and napping. Preferably with Jack. And not in the infirmary.
"No, not really. Just that she wanted to follow up on a few things."
Closing his eyes, Daniel let the motion of the truck soothe him. He knew when Jack turned onto Norad road when he slowed. He drifted, his body swaying loosely with the turns as they continued towards Cheyenne Mountain.
His stomach grumbled loudly as they got out of the truck. He smiled apologetically when Jack glanced his way, eyebrow cocked and a slight smile on his face. "Could we go get something to eat first?" For the first time in what felt a long time, Daniel was actually hungry.
"Yeah, sure. I'll let Fraiser know we'll be a little late. I could eat also."
Daniel picked up the pen to sign in while Jack called the infirmary. As a matter of habit, he perused the signatures above his own, then stopped in mid-registration when he spotted a familiar signature. "Jack..." He pointed to the handwriting he hadn't seen in over a year, except when he came across old notes written by his dead colleague. "Robert's—"
"Ignore it," Jack said quickly. "Must be someone's idea of a joke."
Slowly Daniel continued signing his name, then quickly checked the rest of the list. There, two lines above Robert Rothman's was Kawalski's. He spotted several other dead personnel and stood, jaw clenched together at the morbidity of the whole scenario.
Before he could say anything, Jack grabbed his sleeve and pulled. "Let it go," he said softly. Without a word, Daniel followed, making a mental note to speak to General Hammond about it before they left.
"Waffles," Daniel said, already tasting the breakfast of choice as they stepped into the elevator. "I want waffles for breakfast." He pressed the button for 22, then pressed it again repeatedly when it didn't light up.
"It'll be more like brunch, y'know." Jack slipped a key card into a slot and this time the button lit up. Surprised, Daniel leaned forward to examine the slot. This was new.
It didn't take Daniel long to gather his breakfast and pay for it. He began eating the moment he sat, not bothering to wait for Jack. He'd only eaten a few spoonfuls of Froot Loops when Jack joined him. Again with that odd look on his face, Jack pulled Daniel's bowl away from him and substituted it with a plate of waffles. "Thought you'd enjoy this more than cereal."
"Cereal? I didn't order cereal." He glanced at Jack's half-empty bowl of Froot Loops, shrugged, and dug into his waffles.
"Here, you forgot your change." Jack dropped several bills next to Daniel's tray.
"I didn't need change. I gave the cashier exact change." Daniel grabbed the bills, intending to return them, as there'd obviously been a mistake.
Jack quickly placed a hand over Daniel's, preventing him from standing. "No, she was pretty sure you'd given her too much." Jack squeezed Daniel's hand quickly. "It happens to the best of us."
Turning around, Daniel looked towards the cashier, but she was busy with a customer. "You're sure?" He could have sworn he'd given over the right amount of cash.
"Positive. The change is yours." Jack seemed adamant as he looked at Daniel, loosening his hold.
"Okay." Daniel dropped the bills next to his plate and returned to his breakfast. "Are Sam and Teal'c going to undergo these tests, too?"
"Not sure. I think, maybe, Fraiser cleared them already."
"What are they for? You never said—"
Jack grimaced as he stared at his bowl of cereal. "You know me and medical jargon. I'm almost as bad with it as the stuff Carter spouts."
Daniel had barely eaten half his meal but his stomach suddenly spasmed. He burped softly and put his knife and fork down, acknowledging that if he ate more, he'd most likely regret it in a short while. Instead he sipped his coffee, which seemed to taste... off... more bitter than normal. Still, caffeine was caffeine and he depended on it to clear the last of the cobwebs from is head.
"Ready to go?"
"Sure." Finishing the last of the coffee in a gulp, Daniel put the cup down and stood. He led the way out, turning right at the first intersection.
There was a hint of impatience in Jack's voice, causing Daniel to turn in confusion.
"Elevators are this way."
"No, they're over here." He knew the way by heart, he hadn't had to follow the coloured lines painted on the cement floor for years. Without waiting for Jack, he started walking, only to come up to the area leading to the Isolation rooms. "I..." He looked back the way they'd come, then stared at the medical section in confusion.
"C'mon, Fraiser's waiting for us." Jack slapped Daniel on the back and turned around. Puzzled, Daniel couldn't help but try to look around, unsure of where he'd gotten confused and taken the wrong turn. Then he realized Jack was holding the elevator door open for him and he jogged the last few yards. He leaned against the wall; okay, maybe he wasn't as recovered as he thought he was. His legs were trembling from the short sprint.
"Uh huh." He stepped out of the elevator and this time allowed Jack to take the lead, still a little unnerved about that wrong turn.
Janet was waiting for them when they entered the infirmary. She walked up to them, giving Daniel a quick smile and nodding at Jack. "Okay, Daniel, we've got you scheduled for an MRI as soon as we get more blood samples. If you'll go with Deborah, she'll take care of that."
"An MRI, Bernice? I thought I got cleared when I came back from the last mission." He didn't miss the odd look Janet gave Jack. She quickly schooled her features as she turned to him.
"We're not looking signs of Goa'uld, Daniel. I just want to make sure there aren't any lasting side effects to the poisoning—"
"I feel fine, Bernice. I'm tired, but you said that was normal. I don't see why—"
"It's just a precaution. I wanted to wait a few days for you to recover and then run some baseline comparisons." Her eyes strayed behind him and he turned to see Janet's nurse waiting. "I'll make sure the technician is waiting for you for the MRI. Don't worry, the tests shouldn't take too long."
Sighing audibly, Daniel turned to follow Deborah. If Janet said the tests wouldn't take long, chances were he'd be spending the day here.
Jack looked up from the report he'd been trying to read for the past hour. "Teal'c."
"GeneralHammond informed me that DanielJackson is not well. Is there anything I may do to assist?"
"No." Jack pushed away from the computer and leaned his elbows on his desk. "Unless you want to sit here and keep me company while Fraiser finished up her tests." He hadn't expected Teal'c to take his words literally, but Teal'c did just that. He sat opposite Jack.
"Do you know how long these tests will transpire?"
"Fraiser kicked me out of the infirmary over three hours ago. I'm hoping she'll call soon." He glanced at his phone but it remained silent. Out of nervousness, he picked it up and put the receiver to his ear. Yep, there was a dial tone.
"What exactly is DanielJackson's illness?"
Pursing his lips, Jack wasn't sure if he was going to be able to say the words. "Brain damage," he finally said, his voice cracking. "He's... forgetting stuff. Getting lost, disoriented. Confused."
"He was extremely ill. Perhaps it is just a lingering after effect—"
"Yeah, that's what I was telling myself, but it's getting worse. And Fraiser did say there could have been brain damage."
"But would not the symptoms have emerged earlier?" Teal'c leaned closer to the desk. "Would not DoctorFraiser have noticed signs before releasing him from the infirmary?"
"There were... we... I... just thought..." He jumped when the phone rang; the shrillness seeming to reverberate against the walls. He made a grab for the receiver.
Jack's heart jumped into his throat at the sound of Fraiser's voice.
"We've concluded the tests. If you're free, could you come down to the infirmary?"
"Yeah, sure, we're on our way." He glanced at Teal'c, who inclined his head in agreement. "How's... how's Daniel?"
"He's resting comfortably, sir. Actually, he's fast asleep. The tests took a lot out of him."
"We'll be there in five minutes." He stood and hung up the phone, then hurried out of his office, almost running in his haste to get to the infirmary.
They were directed to one of the small labs in the back of the infirmary. General Hammond was already there, talking with Fraiser.
"Colonel. Teal'c." Hammond nodded at both, then turned his attention back to Fraiser, who took a deep breath before beginning to talk.
"Daniel has appears to have experienced some sort of brain damage. It's affected his..."
The blood suddenly rushed into Jack's ears, the whooshing sound cancelling out Fraiser's voice as the verdict was finally spoken out loud. He tried to force himself to listen, but she was simply describing the symptoms Jack himself had observed.
"So this is all due to his being in a coma due to the alcohol poisoning?" Hammond finally asked when Fraiser paused.
"Well, sir, normally I'd say yes. But my team stabilized Daniel quickly and from my experience and the fact that he was showing minimal signs of confusion which could be attested to a hangover—"
"But?" Jack prompted, impatient at the carrot she'd suddenly pulled out of her medical bag and was waving in front of him.
"We've found something in his blood that we can't identify." She took a deep breath, and continued. "It's concentrated in his liver, leading me to believe it came from the alcohol itself. I'm suspecting it's an element native to the planet, something that Daniel may be allergic to. General, if it's possible, I'd need blood samples from several of the natives, including the one who gave Daniel the drink."
"Tegan," Jack growled. This was all that man's fault. If he hadn't been so preoccupied about his career and this forgiveness thing which, to Jack's mind, was ridiculous because all it would end up doing was create guilt in the forgivee in order to assuage the forgiver—
"If what I suspect is correct, and the blood samples will prove it, Tegan's people have a natural immunity to whatever is in that alcohol and I may – and I don't want you to get your hopes up –" she looked pointedly at Jack, "but I'm hopeful the samples will help me synthesize a cure."
"General?" Jack immediately turned to Hammond, his breath coming fast and shallow in his need to go now and get the samples.
"SG-2 is on duty; I'll have them obtain the samples you need."
"Thank you, sir," both Jack and Fraiser replied in unison. Relieved and frustrated simultaneously, Jack wanted to be doing something to help Daniel while at the same time he was just as glad to remain here on Earth to keep an eye on him.
Hammond left and Jack followed more slowly. He let Teal'c precede him, then he turned back, palm balanced on the door jamb as he stuck his head back inside. "Does Daniel have to stay here or can he go home?"
"He's not aware of the problems he's experiencing, sir. But I think it—" Fraiser broke off when one of the nurses brushed past Jack, giving him an apologetic smile. "Doctor Jackson's awake and he's asking for Colonel O'Neill."
Immediately Jack was off, hurrying to the main ward without waiting for Fraiser. Daniel was sitting up, looking for all the world healthy and impatient to leave. He looked pointedly at the IV affixed to his hand before giving Fraiser a scathing look as she came up to the bed. "You said I wasn't sick."
"I told you we were going to flush your system to clear the last of the toxins out of your body, remember?"
Daniel's slight frown indicated that he didn't remember. "So, am I flushed yet?"
The IV bag was nearly empty, and Fraiser nodded. "Yeah, I guess we could say so." She removed his IV with practiced ease. "Although I'd ask that you stay on base for a couple of days."
Daniel's head whipped around towards Fraiser, eyes narrowed and chin jutting out. "You said I wasn't sick. I don't see why I have to stay here on base. You gave me a couple days sick leave and now you won't even let me go home and enjoy them?"
Jack placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder to try and calm him and was surprised to feel so much tension in his muscles.
"No, you're not sick, but we did find something which we can't quite identify in your blood and just as a precaution, I'd think it best if you stayed close by so I can keep an eye on you."
"I'm not staying here."
"I can give you a private room—"
"How about I sign us into a VIP room?" Jack said quickly as Daniel's jaw clenched. "I'm guessing you want him supervised, so I can hang around, share the room..." He squeezed Daniel's shoulder as the taut muscles relaxed slightly.
"That would be acceptable, sir."
"Good." Jack patted Daniel's shoulder and moved away from the bed. "I'll get the paperwork done and come back to get you."
"No. Come meet me in my office." Daniel slowly slid off the bed, as if he were testing his sea legs. "I want to get a few things—" He put a hand up to forestall Fraiser's objection. "—Just to give my in tray a quick check and to get something to read."
"No work, Daniel."
"I'm not going to work, I'm just going to make sure the work gets to those who can work," he said in a huff. Walking slowly at first and then picking up speed, Daniel led the way out of the infirmary.
"Make sure you get something to eat before you go to bed," Fraiser called after them.
Jack was reluctant to let Daniel out of his sight. He figured he'd accompany Daniel to his office and then get the room signed out for him.
"Bernice has been acting kind of funny, don't you think?" Daniel gave Jack a sidelong glance as Jack stuck his key card into the security slot and punched 18.
"Not more so than normal," Jack said noncommittally. He took the lead when the elevator doors opened, bringing them to Daniel's office. He remained in the doorway while Daniel went straight to his desk and began sorting out the paperwork. When he was sure Daniel was engrossed in the work, he left the room. The first airman he came across, he stopped.
"Stay with Doctor Jackson until I get back. If he leaves his office, let me know, and don't let him out of your sight." Ignoring the man's startled expression, Jack hurried off to get their digs for the night.
When he returned to Daniel's office, the airman was standing uncomfortably next to the open door. "Dismissed," Jack said curtly as he passed him by. Then before the airman could move off, he thanked him, receiving yet another startled look from him.
Daniel was still in his office, which just a few minutes before had been an orderly mess, which was its usual appearance. Now it resembled the aftermath of a storm. Books had been pulled off the shelves, littering the floor. There were piles of books on his desk and chair, thrown haphazardly. Mumbling to himself, Daniel was going through those books which hadn't yet made it to the floor.
"Someone's been going through my stuff. I can't find three of my books, and I had a magazine here the other day on a new find in Egypt, and that's gone, too." He stopped pacing and looked at Jack, breathing heavily. Even with the nervous energy he was expending, Daniel looked tired. Somewhere within the thirty minutes that Jack had been away, Daniel had gone from looking fairly rested and healthy to downright dishevelled and sweaty. Okay, Jack normally liked dishevelled and sweaty, but usually after they'd romped in bed.
He entered the room and picked up the closest book. Its title was too much of a mouthful for him to event attempt to say it out loud. "Most likely one of your people came to borrow them while you were on sick leave."
"And my magazine?"
"Well, were there pictures in the magazine?" Jack tossed the book aside and picked up the next one. This one wasn't even written in English.
Daniel rolled his eyes. "No, Jack, there were no pictures of naked women in the magazine." He turned back to the bookshelves.
"Maybe you already brought it home?" He placed the book aside and picked up a third one, revealing a glossy magazine with a feature of Egypt advertised on the cover. Folding the magazine, he stuck it up one of his sleeves, out of sight.
"You done here? I ordered supper be sent to the VIP room and if we don't hurry, it'll get there before us."
"But my books—"
"Will still be here when Fraiser clears you for work. And most likely the ones that were borrowed will have been returned by then. C'mon."
The anger and distress Daniel had been displaying suddenly disappeared. He gave Jack a smile and walked out of his office without a backwards glance. Jack made a mental note to leave a message with Daniel's department to have someone put the office back to order.
While Daniel inspected the plates of lasagna and salad that had been brought to the VIP room, Jack dropped the magazine that he'd hidden on a table next to the bed. Then he took a seat opposite Daniel at the small table and despite the fact that his stomach felt like it was tied up in knots, pretended to have an appetite.
Like before, Daniel ate with gusto but by the time he'd finished half his meal, his energy began to wane. Leaning chin on half-folded hand, Daniel stared down at his congealing plate of pasta.
"Why don't you go lie down? I saw a magazine on the table next to the bed. Get some rest? Relax?"
Daniel rolled his eyes towards Jack, not bothering to turn his head. With a heartfelt sigh, Daniel slid the chair back and stood, weaving slightly as he walked the few feet to the bed. He sat wearily and planted a foot on the bed to untie his laces. Jack shoved their dirty dishes aside and wiped his mouth with a paper napkin. He made a quick trip to the bathroom and when he came out, Daniel was already in bed, propped up against the wall, reading the magazine Jack had secreted in.
"What'cha reading?" Jack asked as he sat on the opposite side of the bed.
"An article about a new tomb they found in the Valley of the Kings," Daniel said, not taking his eyes off the page.
Jack waited a moment, waiting to see if Daniel would say more about the magazine suddenly appearing here in the VIP room, but Daniel remained silent. Slowly he got undressed and slid under the covers next to Daniel. He pushed the pillow against the wooden headboard, regretting not bringing anything to read for himself.
Then Daniel yawned, closed the magazine, and tossed it onto the table next to the bed. "Night, Jack," he said, reaching to turn off the lamp.
"Night." Jack waited a moment, glancing up at the security camera on the wall, and ensuring that it wasn't operational, he slid down beneath the covers once he'd turned the light off on his side of the bed. Immediately Daniel turned towards him and wrapped an arm around Jack's chest, pulling him close. Out of habit, arms and legs meshed until Daniel sighed happily against Jack's neck. This really wasn't the place to snuggle but he felt that Daniel needed the comfort. Heck, he needed the comfort.
"It was here and now it's gone. Who else would have taken it but you?" Daniel was literally looming over Carter, who looked uncomfortable at the situation Jack had just walked into.
"I didn't take your laptop, Daniel," Carter said with more than a hint of frustration, but refusing to back down.
Great. He left Daniel alone for all of fifteen minutes with Carter while he took a shower, and he returned to this? Before Jack could interrupt, Daniel pushed Carter roughly on the shoulder, causing her to stumble against the table.
"Daniel." Immediately Jack was there in Daniel's face. "The laptop's at home. Carter hasn't touched it." He saw Carter straighten and rub her shoulder out of the corner of his eye, then Jack gave Daniel all of his attention when he turned on him.
"What the hell are you talking about? I had it here just a little while ago before Same came in. I was reading an article about the discovery of a tomb in Egypt on the internet."
Jack stuck his pointer finger against Daniel's chest and pushed. "You didn't read it on the internet, you read the article from that magazine." He shifted the finger and pointed towards the table where Daniel had left it the previous night.
Daniel followed his finger with his eyes, then returned his gaze to Jack's face. "I never saw that magazine before." He pushed past Jack, striding quickly towards Sam, who immediately lowered her hand. She flexed her fingers, ready to defend herself. "What did you do with my computer?"
"I... it was infected with a virus, Daniel. I was going to run a virus scan through it," Sam said quickly, obviously lying to him. "If you need access to a computer, though, you can always use the one in my lab—"
"A... a virus?" The anger that had filled Daniel earlier was suddenly gone. He smiled brightly at Carter. "Thanks, Sam. There are a few things I'd like to look up and—"
"Maybe later. Fraiser wanted to check you out this morning, remember?"
"Again? But I feel fine."
"Yeah, but unfortunately she says otherwise."
Jack gave Carter a meaningful glance and she nodded. He was terrified what Fraiser would say about this unexpected outburst. Carter followed them out, staying a few steps behind them as Daniel remained uncharacteristically silent.
"Sir, I'm afraid if Daniel shows tendencies of aggression, we may have to restrict his care to a facility where people are able to deal with—"
"You're not talking loonie bin, are you?" Jack fixed her with a stare, which she met head on.
"We may not have a choice, sir. He's getting progressively worse and I'm not equipped to handle his... affliction."
Jack turned to Carter, hoping for help from her but she stood staring at Daniel, who was dozing on the bed. She must have sensed Jack's gaze on her because she looked up and looked away uncomfortably.
"What about the blood samples—"
"It's still too early to tell. I'm still running tests and—"
"He's been doing that a lot."
"Doing what?" Fraiser turned to look at Daniel. "Sleeping? He's still recovering from the alcohol poisoning, I wouldn't be overly concerned—"
"But it could still be a symptom of whatever's in his blood..." Carter bit her lip as she looked away from Daniel and down at the floor.
"It's possible." Fraiser shrugged. "I won't rule out the possibility but it's not something that's worrisome right—"
"Jack!" Daniel bolted up in bed, one leg swinging down onto the floor, looking around in bewilderment.
"Right here." Jack hurried to the bed and Daniel turned his head towards him. Then Jack froze. There was something about Daniel's gaze that looked off.
"I can't see. Jack, I can't see."
Fraiser, despite her size, reached Daniel's bed before Jack. She reached for his chin, her penlight in her hand, when Daniel flinched at her touch.
"It's just me. Let me look."
Daniel turned his head, trying to hone in on her voice, thwarting her attempts to examine him.
"Hold still." Jack sat next to Daniel on the bed, pressing against him, allowing Daniel to lean back against him. Fraiser cupped his chin with one hand to hold him steady.
"Any other symptoms? Headache? Dizziness? Nausea?"
"No." There was a hint of panic in Daniel's voice which Jack rarely heard. He rubbed Daniel's shoulder when he felt a slight tremor go through him. He took a shaky breath. "The pressure's gone, though."
"Pressure?" What pressure?" Fraiser stopped examining Daniel's eyes and looked at him. "Daniel, what pressure?"
"I don't now... It wasn't pain, Janet. It just felt like my head was caught in a vice that wouldn't let go. It's..." He shook his head, dislodging Fraiser's fingers. "It's gone now."
Fraiser leaned forward, looking close into Daniel's right eye when his breath hitched.
"Jan... Janet." His head slowly slid forward and his body went completely lax. Jack tightened his hold, preventing Daniel from falling off the bed while both Carter and Fraiser eased him onto his back. They stood back out of the way as Fraiser and her people began examining him.
"I don't know," Fraiser finally said as she stepped away from the bed. "He's unconscious but his vitals are strong. I need to..."
"Run tests. Yeah, I know."
Jack and Carter stood in silence until Carter cleared her throat. "He called her Janet."
"Daniel. He called her Janet. He's been calling her Bernice now for a while and..." She exhaled loudly. "I'm sorry, I'm probably just grabbing at straws... I think I'll go see if I can do anything to help."
Jack was envious when Carter left the infirmary. He felt helpless knowing there was nothing he could do to help Daniel. Even keeping him company was out of the question if he was unconscious. He turned and left; he could at least inform General Hammond, and then Teal'c, of the latest happenings.
He woke up to darkness once again. Lying there on his side, he listened, assessing the situation. At first there was total silence, until the muffled clunk of a door far away heralded the sound of footsteps. The people walked past, their conversation muted by what Daniel assumed were walls, and maybe a door to this room.
Then he heard a soft rustle of clothing and the creak of a chair as someone shifted their weight.
"Jack?" He raised his head, squinting in the direction of the sound.
At first he'd assumed he was blind, as the first time he'd woken up. But now he could see there was a very dim light behind him, putting most of the room in shadows. He sat up slowly, Jack supporting him as he did so. "What happened?"
"Hold on, let me let someone know you're awake." Jack leaned over and Daniel assumed he was pressing the call button. He leaned back into his chair and cupped Daniel's cheek. "How're you feeling? You need anything?"
Daniel curled his fingers around Jack's hand, forcing a smile to try and assuage some of the worry reflected in Jack's face. "Water?"
"You got it." Jack dropped his hand and popped up off the chair, hurrying to the table where the lamp was. Daniel squeezed his eyes shut tightly, hoping that it was just the dimness of the room that made it hard to see and not really his eyesight.
He reached out for the glass of water when Jack held brought it close. As his fingers wrapped around the glass, Jack froze.
"You can see?" His voice shook with shock. Daniel was so taken aback that he stared up into Jack's face just as the door opened. "Doc, he can see."
The light from the hallway flooded the room with light, blinding him. Immediately he let go of the glass of water, raising both hands to cover his eyes.
"I'm sorry." Fraiser gently tugged at his fingers and he reluctantly lowered his hands. Blinking through flashes of light on his retina, Daniel squinted, then forced his eyes open at her request.
"Can you see my finger?"
He nodded after a moment, seeing first a blob hovering before his face which slowly coalesced into a slim digit.
"Good. Your pupils are dilated and you're extremely photosensitive at the moment, but it seems to be improving."
"What happened to my eyes? I don't remember..."
"It's apparently a side effect from an alien compound found in the alcohol you drank on your last mission. The inhabitants have become immune to it over the centuries; unfortunately for you, they forgot that little detail when you got sick. It was only after I got blood samples and found that the compound was easily metabolized by them that SG-1 went back and began asking questions.
The sensitivity to light should begin to improve as your body flushes out the last of the toxins caused by the breakdown of the compound—"
"A couple of days, four at the most, I think, at the rate you're going now. Actually, maybe by tomorrow I can let you go home, as long as you keep the shades down and keep out of bright light until your eyes adjust."
"Believe me, Janet, that won't be difficult." Daniel wiped a tear that had leaked from his right eye and was running down his cheek. Jack was still holding the water, and Daniel reached a hand out.
"Oh." Jack quickly gave him the glass. "Sorry."
Drinking slowly, Daniel felt the water hit the bottom of an empty stomach, which immediately began to growl. "Um..." Loudly. "I think I'm hungry."
There was a soft laugh from Janet. "I'll see what I can do about that. Colonel, should I have something brought up for you also?"
Jack looked a little shell shocked as he nodded. "Please."
Once Janet pulled the curtain to shield the bed from the light in the hallway as she left the room, Jack leaned forward, brushing his fingers along Daniel's cheek where tears had continued to trickle down his face.
"It doesn't hurt," Daniel said at the anxious expression on Jack's face. "It's almost like the flash of a camera, only a hundred times worse."
"Sounds like it's painful."
"No, really, it's not." He smiled as Jack leaned forward and he drew a finger along Jack's jaw, confident that Jack wouldn't be so touchy here if there were any chance of surveillance. He could feel the bristles of day-old beard beneath his finger. "You look tired."
"You look like shit."
"Gee, thanks. You really know how to compliment a guy."
Smiling, and with some of the strain leaving Jack's face, he gave Daniel's cheek a final swipe with his thumb and sat back. Daniel looked around and spotted a magazine beside his bed. He picked it up and held it at varying angles, trying to see the cover. His fingers brushed over the corner edge of the mailing label, which was starting to peel back.
"Oh, I was looking forward to reading this," he said when he recognized the picture on the cover. He sighed heavily, realizing it might be a while before he could do anything like reading. Or working on the computer. Or watching television.
"I could..." Jack waved towards the magazine. "That is, if you'd like me to."
"Yes, please." Daniel enthusiastically handed the magazine over to Jack just as the door opened again with their lunches.
Thirty minutes later, stomach full and feeling a little sleepy, Daniel lay happily on his side, listening to Jack's voice as he read to him from the far end of the room, close to the lamp. The article Jack was reading seemed repetitious, as if Daniel had already read it, but in a dream or drunken stupor. Aside from that niggling familiarity, though, he was enjoying listening to Jack, along with his occasional commentaries and questions, which Daniel answered half-drowsily.
"Hey, you sleepin'?" Jack asked when he'd read for several minutes without commenting on anything.
"No. And don't stop."
"Okay, just checking. I didn't want to put you to sleep or anything."
"Oh, I'd let you read me bedtime stories anytime, but you have much better ways of lulling me to sleep." Daniel waggled his eyebrows at Jack, who laughed softly.
"Then I'll do my best to entertain you when we get you out of here." He cleared his throat suggestively before picking up where he'd left off.
"Bernice? I never called Janet... did I?"
Jack nodded enthusiastically, then pointed towards the bedroom with his beer bottle. "But the best part was you in the shower, with your clothes on. You were on your way to bed. Next thing I know, you're showering and getting ready to go back to the mountain. In the middle of the night."
Daniel was looking at Jack with a dumbfounded look. Unable to help himself, Jack stood and went over to Daniel, then kissed him fully on the mouth. It didn't totally wipe away of the look of confusion but brought a slight smile to the corner of Daniel's lips. "What was that for?"
"No reason." Jack dropped onto the couch next to Daniel and put his feet up on the coffee table. Even with the drawn drapes, there was plenty of light seeping through to make the room fairly cozy.
"You know, I'm almost afraid to ask what else I did or said?"
"Other than trashing your office and—"
"Don't worry. I got someone to pick up after you. Your filing system might be off for a while but at least nothing got broke."
Daniel dropped his head onto his chin. Jack reached up and ran his fingers through the hair on top of his head. "Don't worry about it."
"How can I not? I don't know if I insulted anyone or—"
"Nah, you were pretty much with me most of the time. I—"
"I didn't say anything to you that I need to apologize for, do I?"
Jack took a long swallow of beer, then stared into space, pretending to be thinking. Until Daniel swatted him on the arm.
"Not recently, no," Jack replied with a grin. He pulled Daniel close in a one-armed hug, then gave him a loud, wet smack on the cheek.
"Willya cut that out?" Daniel pushed Jack back in mock anger, wiping his cheek with his upper arm.
"What?" Jack put on an innocent look. "Don't you like my kisses anymore?"
"Not those kinds. But I'll tell you what I would like. Be right back." Daniel stood and jogged up the stairs, heading for their bedroom. A moment later, he returned with a magazine in his hands. He flipped through several pages until he found what he was looking for, then handed it to Jack.
"This is all archaeological stuff," Jack said after skimming the page.
"Yeah." With a satisfied smile, Daniel slid onto the sofa, then lay his head and shoulders on Jack's lap. "So go ahead. Read to me."
Jack spread his hands and looked down at Daniel. "Um... why? You can see well enough now to read yourself."
"Ahhh, but if I read, I don't get to hear your voice. I found out yesterday that I love to listen to you read to me. And it's getting close to bedtime and this is relaxing. So..." Daniel grabbed Jack's hand holding the magazine and pushed it under his nose. "Read."
A little surprised and a little self-conscious, Jack focused on the article. He began reading, stumbling slightly on a few of the terms which Daniel corrected. With his other hand, he began threading his fingers through Daniel's hair, eliciting a sigh of pleasure from him. With each sentence, he grew more comfortable, until he was reading without hesitation.
At one point, he glanced down at the happily drowsing man. He'd finish reading the article, then take Daniel into the bedroom and show him his preferred way of lulling him to sleep. He grinned to himself as he finished the article.
To devra and DebA, as always, hugs and kisses. And hugs and pompoms for Becky, who answered all my questions without batting an eyelash :).
Many thanks to Jmas, for trusting in me and publishing this story in her E-zine 'Ancients Gate XIII - Men Like Us'
If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link: