Chapter 11 - in which Arcadia is revisited
When Friday came, Jack was beginning to feel that maybe it wasn't a bad idea to be going back to Arcadia. He'd woken up feeling nauseous the last couple of mornings and he'd thrown up again this time. Maybe it was the Tok'ra effect or maybe it was something he'd eaten? He didn't think it could be anything to do with the Arcadian treatment, but maybe they could provide a quick fix anyway. It was getting to be annoying.
This time, as there was no known danger, Janet Fraiser came with. She enjoyed being allowed out on to alien planets. It didn't happen often as Standard Operating Procedure meant she was always kept well away from potential combat zones. With her knowledge and expertise she was far too valuable to risk, but Arcadia was as safe as it got.
A M.A.L.P. was sent through first nevertheless and no threat was perceived.
"I warn you Janet," Sam said, "when we step through, the first thing that's going to happen is that we'll be knocked out. It seems harmless enough though, and we didn't have any after effects."
As she finished speaking, Demris's face appeared in front of the camera.
"Demris!" Sam exclaimed, "we're just coming to see you again and we're bringing Janet. She's our Chief Medical Off... er, our Chief Healer."
"We will be happy to see you again and Janet also. Fjörl's folc haff been and ye can come through the stone ring yesundlich, but ye must not bring weapons. If ye do, then ye will be sent to sleep again."
"Safely," Daniel put in for the benefit of the others, "and thank you, Demris. We will come very soon."
Jack put up only token resistence to being separated from his beloved P90. The rest of the team pointed out that they'd been weaponless throughout their previous visit without any problems, and there was nothing in Demris's demeanor to suggest that anything untoward had happened in the meantime.
When S.G.-1 plus Doctor Fraiser appeared through the Stargate fifteen minutes later, Demris was waiting for them with two of the quaint little horse-drawn carriages. She, Jack and Daniel traveled in the first. Sam, Teal'c and Janet followed on behind.
"How art thou, Jack?" Demris asked shortly after they set off.
"Fine, thank you - very good," Jack smiled, "well, except for a little nausea..."
"You didn't say anything, Jack."
"Oh, well, like I'm going to come into the base saying, 'Hey, everybody, I threw up this morning!' Jeez..."
"Ah, thou hast the sickness. It is normal and will not last long."
"You might have warned me."
"It does not always happen."
Sensing a grouching session in the offing, Daniel changed tack. "So, what did Fjörl's folc say about our visit - our coming?"
"Tripp and Edda came two days after ye left. We told them of your coming. Tripp said, 'We did not think they - that is, ye - would find Arcadia so soon.' He said the Tau'ri are a warlike folc, so we told them that ye came with good will. Then they went away. Eight days later, Eldred came with Keane and Yates. They fixt the stone ring so that the four of you and one other may come through without being sent to sleep. No others may come thus. Thor has told Eldred that some of your folc are not yetreyowa."
"Yetreyowa...? Er... trustworthy? No, they're not," Daniel confirmed with a wry look at his companion, "but Jack found them out. The stolen things were given back and the bad men are in jail - carsern."
"Then all is well!" Demris smiled.
"Ah, no, not really," Daniel sighed. "There are others like them."
Demris' smile faded into gentle sorrow.
On their arrival at the Megaron in Mantinea, there was a short meeting with Athnasia, the Arcadian Minister of Health, who welcomed them all, and especially Janet, in very friendly terms. Demris was to be her guide, and to answer such questions on medical matters as she was able. Demris then took Jack and Janet off to the Kirios Kliniki. Sam joined them to keep Janet company, and Teal'c also went along in hopes of renewing his acquaintance with Zephra.
At the Kliniki, Jack was taken to see Arrelambros, the surgeon, for want of a better title, who had repaired the damage to his system. The others accompanied Demris to one of the medical labs. Janet was most intrigued by the high level of medical sophistication achieved by the Arcadians. Much of it, she felt, was way over her head. After half an hour or so, they were joined by Arrelambros.
"Iatsos Janet," he began, "thou art Jack's healer, yes?"
"I'm his doctor, yes. Is there a problem?"
"There is a problema, yes, but I think it can be mended. Jack has been unwell, I think, with - um - with an 'ios'?"
It didn't take long, even without Daniel, for Janet to register this as a virus, and told Arrelambros about the Attaneek armbands.
"Ah. We have knowledge of this. All will be well. Although some frem of the ios will stay, it will be to the good."
With that, Arrelambros returned to his patient, leaving Janet wondering what she could have missed. Her equipment had found no residual trace of the virus, which confirmed her earlier opinion that Arcadia was many years ahead of Earth in medical technology.
Meanwhile, Daniel had taken himself off to find Ilarion. The Culture Minister was not difficult to track down and was pleased to see his visitor.
"How art thou, Daniel," he smiled, " and how is thy yemacca?"
"I'm fine, thank you, and Jack is not my yemacca." "Ah. Forgive my forgetfulness. It is sad that ye may not be handfasted."
"Yes, it is I-I mean..." Daniel tailed off, embarrassed at what he'd just admitted, and quickly changed the subject. "How are you... two?"
"We three," Ilarion beamed. "Eleni has quickened. I cannot feel her yet, but last night, Verenos is sure he felt her move. We are so hwetted!"
"Excited? So I see," Daniel smiled at the tall man who was beaming his delight. "Ahm, I'm very happy for you both - er, all three of you."
"I thank thee greatly. I will pass on thy goodwill to Verenos. But thou didst not come to hear baby talk," Ilarion grinned.
"Um, well, it's not something I know much about," Daniel said a little wistfully, "but it's nice to see how happy you are. Actually, I was hoping to learn more about your history and culture - kooltoora - while I'm here."
"So thou camst to me!" Ilarion chuckled, remembering their first meeting. "Where wouldst thou wish to begin...?"
"Well, I'd like to record - er - take notes - um - yeeman... No that's not right. Look, let me show you."
Ilarion looked puzzled when Daniel produced a tape recorder, and was positively amazed when Daniel demonstrated it to him.
"The Tau'ri are many years ahead of Arcadia," he said, marveling at the little gadget.
"In some ways," Daniel agreed, "but not, I think, where it really matters."
Chapter 12 - in which Jack finds he needs the wind beneath his wings
When the rest of the team returned to the Megaron, Jack was back in the wickerwork wheelchair and looking pissed off. Arrelambros was not entirely satisfied with the repairs he'd made, and wished to keep Jack under his observation for a few days.
"What's up, Jack? Don't want to miss the weekend hockey?" Daniel teased.
"Damn, I'd forgotten about that. Thanks for reminding me!" Jack responded, sounding less than grateful. "No, we're scheduled for a mission on Monday..."
"To P4X-649," Sam put in. "
...So Hammond is not gonna be pleased. I'd sign myself outta here, but our mini-Napoleon here won't let me," Jack finished with a scowl. He hated inactivity.
"Well, it can be rescheduled, or another team can take it," Janet pointed out. "It's much more important that you are fully fit, Colonel."
"It's going to be a while then, because we have the Echidnas to transplant"
"Whatever. And that's going to take a coupla weeks at least."
Jack was also pissed off because he'd been given a list things not to eat or drink which Daniel would have to translate, but the one at the top was 'BEOR', and he didn't need a translation for that! On the plus side, Demris, having vetoed Janet's offer of stematil, had given him a remedy for combating the nausea, should he be troubled by it again.
As it turned out, events took S.G.-1 to Siberia instead. There had been a major cock-up with the other Stargate, which the Russians had dredged up from the ocean floor after the destruction of Thor's Beliskner. This resulted in their Stargate scientist, Doctor Markova, turning to the S.G.C. for assistance in shutting down the Russian 'Gate which remained open long after the usual 38 minutes had elapsed.
There was no option but to take a hand since the open 'Gate prevented the S.G.C. 'Gate from being used. Jack, all keyed up to transplant his pet Echidnas, just hoped he wouldn't still feel nauseous during the flight. He was a para, for crying out loud.
He'd eaten a couple of Demris's little round flat 'healstarns' that morning, which had taken the edge off the nausea, and at least he hadn't thrown up, which was a plus. It didn't stop him being grouchy though...
"Is he always like this?" Doctor Markova asked.
"Actually, this is quite charming," Sam replied waggishly, unable to bite back a smile.
The cargo bay doors opened just then for the parachute drop on to Siberian snow, so there was no time for a snarky response.
Jack had been occupied in watching his acrophobic linguist with some concern. Ever since he'd been told that the only way down was by parachute, Daniel had been looking a delicate shade of green, as if the nausea had jumped hosts during the flight. Now, he was about to make his very first jump with absolutely no training whatsoever. He was in awe of the man's courage that he would go through with it.
Teal'c was likewise unprepared, but he lacked Daniel's fear of heights, and as a warrior, he'd faced worse challenges. Jack felt confident that his Jaffa training would carry him through safely. So long as he pulled the cord, he'd be okay. Sam led the way to show how it was done, then Teal'c was given a helping shove out of the cargo bay door. Daniel next...
As Daniel jumped, Jack offered up a silent prayer to the God he no longer believed in, that his belov that his friend - wouldn't break anything on landing. He breathed a sigh of relief on seeing Daniel's parachute billow open beneath him as he himself glided gracefully from the 'plane.
The journey down to the snowfield through the icy air seemed to take forever. Alone in the white cocoon of snow below and clouds above, Jack's mind filled with chaotic thoughts about Daniel - how he'd feel if Daniel landed badly - experienced paras could come to grief - no, not Danny, please not Danny - living without Daniel in his life - impossible - he suddenly realized that he needed him like he needed air - he'd known he was close to Daniel - was fond of him - but love?
His mind went back to Arcadia. Athnasia had felt it, Demris too. Was that where that word had come from? Beloved? - Hathor called him that - no - it was "Our Beloved", not my beloved. He found himself acknowledging at last that he'd loved Daniel for a very long time...
And suddenly the snow was rushing towards him and his mind recovered its focus on the mission.
It was a wet evening in late June when S.G.-1 touched down at Peterson after successfully shutting down the Russian 'Gate. The heavy rain made it feel unseasonably chilly but after Siberia, it seemed positively balmy. As it was Friday, and S.G.-12 had already begun the removal of the Enkarans to P5S-381, Hammond suggested that S.G.-1 take the weekend off to recover. With two long flights, it had been an exhausting few days.
As they left the briefing room, Robert Rothman cornered Daniel to put a copy of his latest notes in Daniel's hand.
"Thought this might interest you, Daniel. Your theory about the goa'uld originating on P3X-888 is looking promising. We've been there all this week and we've found some interesting fossil remains. Why don't you ask Hammond if you can join us for a while."
"Thanks, Robert, I'd like to. I rarely get to follow up on our missions which, as you might imagine, is very frustrating. Maybe I should ask for a transfer," Daniel smiled.
"Don't you dare," Jack growled as he passed the two scientists. "We need you in S.G.-1 and don't you forget it."
"Hmph, like you needed me on Euronda, Jack?" Daniel said snarkily, then relented. "Ah, sorry. Guess I'm a little tired. It would be nice to take our preliminary work a step further, though."
When Monday came, Daniel requested permission to join S.G.-11. He made a good case, and Hammond was inclined to indulge the man. Jack was not happy. Wearing a brooding smile, he cornered the animated archaeologist as he was gearing up with the rest of the team.
"What are you doing, Daniel? We need you in S.G.-1."
"Aw, come on, Jack, you don't really need me. There are no linguistic problems, and nothing that requires my other skills, so don't rain on my parade. Please."
"You're not seriously going to put in for a transfer - are you?" Jack asked tentatively.
"No Jack. Why should I do that?"
"Because you're frustrated about having to leave your piles of rocks unturned?"
"Well... yes I am. Doesn't mean I'd abandon S.G.-1 though. Like you said once, I'd miss the excitement," Daniel grinned.
"So, how long are you going to leave us for, Daniel," he asked gruffly.
"I don't know. Say, why don't you call me when you've got all the Enkarans moved? I'll come to the celebratory shindig."
"There's going to be a shindig?" Jack asked, perking up a little.
"Bound to be."
"So there needs to be somebody there to keep you off the alcohol..."
Chapter 13 - in which friendship fractures
In the event, Daniel needed S.G.-1 before S.G.-1 needed him. Jack was mentally kicking himself for letting Daniel go off on his own without proper protection. He should have known that where Daniel went, trouble was sure to follow. Teal'c saw the drawn look on his face and correctly surmised its cause.
"It is not your fault, O'Neill," he said gravely.
"I shoulda made sure he had someone looking out for him," Jack said bitterly.
"I do not think Daniel Jackson would have approved of an escort of marines. Nor does he need it."
"No, he needs locking up. For his own protection," he added noting the incredulously raised eyebrow.
"The guy has a death wish," Jack growled as he stepped out of the wormhole a beat behind the Jaffa.
The whole mission had ended up very messily with four fatalities including Daniel's colleague, Robert Rothman. Daniel, still elated from his successful communication with Chaka, the unas, plunged abruptly into grief-stricken anguish and guilt when Sam gently filled him in on what had happened since he was abducted. He didn't say anything, just became very quiet and withdrawn, striding ahead as if he couldn't wait to shake the dust of the planet off his boots.
"Hey, don't take on blame that doesn't belong to ya," Jack snapped as they marched grimly back to the Stargate. "It's my fault. I never shoulda let the geek come with on this mission."
"Geek?!" Daniel said sharply, stopping and turning back to face O'Neill, "And no, you shouldn't, Jack. Doctor Rothman was a good man... a good friend..."
He set off again at the double, adding in a quiet, forlorn voice as he went, "...my friend."
During their debriefing, Jack showed a cold aloofness while Daniel sat with head down, eyes unfocussed, and his arms wrapped around himself. Sam had noticed that he'd been doing that a lot more recently, and grieved for her 'little brother'. She glanced at Teal'c, who gave her an understanding look. They were both worried about their teammates.
After the debriefing, Daniel rose abruptly and left the room.
"Should I go after him, sir?" Sam asked her C.O.
"Ah... No. I think he wants to be left alone, don't you?"
"M-maybe," she responded, thinking that as soon as she got home, she was going to call him, just to make sure. If he didn't want to talk Well, fine, she supposed, but at least she'd give him the opportunity.
"How are you feeling, sir?"
"Not now, Carter," O'Neill said brusquely, "When I want pop. psych. 101, I'll be sure to let you know."
And then he was gone. Teal'c rested a large hand on her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze.
When he got home, Jack's first thought was to reach for a beer - and then a few more. He opened the 'fridge door, then remembered his instructions and slammed it shut again. Didn't want Doc Fraiser on his case if it really did affect his treatment. He went into the living room and dropped on to the couch. He didn't fancy watching television - felt too distracted to concentrate on anything.
The events of the day kept playing before his eyes - Rothman's glowing eyes just before he shot him - Daniel stalking off and leaving him, just when he needed him. Yes, if Daniel hadn't left him in the first place - hadn't joined S.G.-11, maybe Rothman would still be alive right now, he thought angrily. But that was Daniel all over - following his own agenda, and never mind that Jack needed him...
Needed him? That feeling... Again? Where had it come from? He didn't need Daniel at all, he thought angrily. If he wanted to join another team, fine. Let him go. He didn't fucking care. He was a well-adjusted divorcé and ex-father, accustomed to managing on his own, thank you very much. He didn't need anyone. Jackson could get out of his life altogether. For good.
What the fuck...?
He found his eyes filling up as a sudden sense of desolation flooded over him, threatening to overwhelm him. He felt like he was teetering on the edge of a deep dark hole from which inky black hands were reaching up to drag him down into the depths. Shit. He hadn't felt like this since Charlie died.
He shuddered and tried to shake off the mood. What was happening to him? He couldn't afford this kind of self-indulgence. He had to get a grip - retake control - or more good people could die.
He was relieved to find that an early night and a sunny morning had improved his mood substantially. Then he realized he wasn't feeling nauseous which lifted his spirits even more. He could busy himself with overseeing the Enkaran move to their new home world. It was taking longer than anticipated, but was a very rewarding mission - so nice to have one's efforts appreciated for a change. Those Enkarans were so grateful and the Tau'ri were lauded as heroes and saviors. Then it all went to hell in a hand cart.
The arrival of a ship bearing the last remnants of the Gadmeer civilization created a dilemma of nightmare proportions. Jack, caught between a rock and a hard place, made decisions he was not proud of in retrospect, and his actions nearly resulted in the death of his be Best friend. That it all ended well was nothing short of a miracle. So was the fact that Daniel hadn't shot him on sight afterwards.
Initially, Daniel was just happy and relieved at the outcome. It was only later that the big freeze set in again. Jack looked around for him after the debriefing to apologize and try to explain somehow, though he had no idea why he'd behaved as he had. Panic, maybe?
Daniel was not in his office, nor the commissary, nor was he taking a shower. On checking with security on the surface, he found that, in the manner of Elvis Presley, Doctor Jackson had left the Mountain. Damn!
Jack hastily showered and changed, then drove to Mainland Street. He parked next to Daniel's car in the lot, then with some trepidation went to take the bull by the horns. He rang the bell, twice. No response. Not that Jack could blame him. He rang again, then hammered on the door.
"Come on, Daniel! I know you're in there!" he yelled, then jumped a mile as someone laid a hand on his shoulder.
The guy had to duck to avoid Jack's reflex punch.
"What? Just come to finish off what you started with the Gadmeer, Jack?" Daniel asked drily.
"Ye-no! I thought you were inside," he said, stating the obvious.
"Well, I'm not," Daniel replied, following suit. "I just went to Aurora's for a take-out."
He unlocked his door, pushed past Jack and went inside.
Chapter 14 - a little heart-to-heart
"Gonna invite me in?" Jack asked from the doorway.
"Do I have a choice?"
"Look, I just came to apologize. Now I can do this outside on the landing..."
Daniel grimaced but stood aside to allow his unwelcome guest to enter, then headed for the kitchen to serve up his dinner. Jack followed him.
"No, I'm not sharing, Jack. You can get your own," Daniel said callously.
Jack sighed. The tantalizing smells of duck in hoi-sin sauce and fried beef with ginger and spring onions reminded him that it was a long time since he'd last eaten. He realized that he was extremely hungry. But first things first.
"Daniel, I am really, really sorry about this afternoon. I don't know what I was thinking."
"You were thinking? And still you tried to blow me up?"
"Hey, it was your choi Sorry. Didn't come to apportion blame, which is all mine, by the way. I really don't know what got into me."
"Well, it was a little out of character," Daniel conceded, carrying his plate through into the dining room.
"It was totally out of character," Jack said, sounding mystified.
He followed Daniel, fiddling with a teaspoon that had somehow found its way into his hands.
"Hammond told me to find another way. I disobeyed that order. I told you to give me another choice, and then I went blindly ahead, like I had no other option. Now the Enkarans are down one naquadah reactor which is entirely my fault. If I'd just waited a little while longer - if I'd just trusted you"
"Yes, that would've been a nice change, Jack," Daniel sniped.
"Okay, make it easy for me, why don't you! I'm trying to say I'm sorry here."
"Yes, I understand that part," Daniel said, loading rice on to his chopsticks.
Next, he conveyed a succulent piece of duck to his mouth and chewed on it thoughtfully while Jack looked on, salivating.
"Remember the first time we met the Arcadians, and we went to Mantinea in those funny little buggy things?" Daniel asked at last.
"Yes," Jack replied a little warily.
"Demris said something about our friendship needing healing, and that we should talk. Maybe now would be a good time?"
"Oh, I'm not sure that's such a good idea."
"Why not? What are you afraid of?"
Losing you, Jack almost replied. He inhaled sharply.
"What? Are you all right?"
"Yes. No. I don't know."
"Then why don't you try trusting me - really trusting me, Jack?"
"Because... I might say something that will screw things up irrevocably."
"Like when you said there wasn't much of a foundation to our friendship? Which, by the way, hurt me deeply."
"Anything else you'd like to get off your chest," Jack asked with barely disguised exasperation, "so I can do the whole 'Sacramentum Paenitentiae' and get it all over with in one go?"
Daniel laughed. "You don't sound all that penitent to me."
"Hey, I'm here, aren't I?"
"Mm..." Daniel mused. "Doesn't the sacrament require giving satisfaction to the offendee before you get absolution?"
"I thought you didn't go for any of that religious stuff?"
"I don't. Neither to you - much. I just want you to give me the satisfaction of trusting me. Or maybe our friendship doesn't have much of a foundation after all?"
"We do still have a friendship... don't we?" Jack asked, suddenly looking worried.
"Always," Daniel replied softly. "Now spill. What set you off on the whole Duke Nukem thing?"
"Guilt, I guess. I screwed up taking the Enkarans to that world and telling them it was safe."
"But you didn't screw up, Jack. A, it wasn't down to you alone and B, when we found the world, it was safe. There was no way you could either have known about the Gadmeer or done anything about it at that time. So what else was going through your mind?"
"I... don't know."
"I think you do."
"All right, I'm afraid of losing you," Jack said quickly and quietly as if hoping not to be heard, and dropping his head so as not to see Daniel's reaction. He went on sombrely, "maybe that fear - that you were going to get yourself killed eventually, and leave me... well... the suspense just got to me, I guess. Best to get it over with... Or something. Shit, I don't know."
Daniel had paused, chopsticks halfway to his mouth and blinked several times. Then he took a deep breath.
"Do you love me, Jack?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Because I want to know?" Daniel said impatiently.
Jack's mouth remained stubbornly closed.
"All right. Yes. A little... I think... Happy now?" Jack asked, apparently taking an interest in a corner of the ceiling.
"Deliriously," Daniel said calmly, but his eyes were sparkling as swiped the last piece of duck through the sauce. "Open."
"Wha?" Jack asked, turning his attention back to Daniel and finding his mouth suddenly full of Aurora's succulent duck.
"And if we're still in a confessional mood, I love you too."
"Mwoo goo?" Jack mumbled through the duck.
"Yes, Jack, I do."
"'Ruly, magly, deekly'?"
"All the way."
"Then why the fuck didn't you say something sooner?"
"Because I wasn't sure enough about where I stood with you. Over the last few months, you seemed to be trying to drive me away."
Jack thought about it, swiping the teaspoon through the rice and gravy and helping himself.
"Maybe I was - subconsciously. I mean, I had to lie to you when I was going after Maybourne's crew. It was an order. You know that now. Afterwards... well, I felt like I'd betrayed you. Kind of. Betrayed our friendship anyway. I think in my own twisted kind of way, I was trying to protect you when I pushed you away after that. If we didn't have the close friendship, I couldn't hurt you any more."
Daniel gave a mirthless laugh. "And that just hurt me all the more."
"Oh God, I'm sorry, Daniel. That was the last thing I wanted to do. And I was hurting too because you were accepting it and retreating from me. When you asked to be transferred to S.G.-11, I really thought that was it. I was going to lose you for good."
"Never, Jack. Not in this lifetime anyway," Daniel smiled fondly, laying his free hand on Jack's.
"So what made you bring it up now?"
"The 'love'... stuff," Jack said awkwardly.
Daniel laughed. "It was the Arcadians - well, Demris actually. She thought we were married, or at least lovers. Ilarion and Verenos, too."
"Oh yeah. I remember that," Jack said cringing. "Now you mention it, Athnasia thought we were more than just good friends too. Perceptive lot, aren't they?"
"They're empaths, remember? They sense emotions. Guess ours must have been shining out like beacons."
Jack grimaced. "Thank God we don't have empaths in the S.G.C. That would blow a mountain-sized hole through 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' wouldn't it?"
"That might not be such a bad thing," Daniel mused. "So what are we going to do now?"
"Well," Jack replied, sliding his hand out from under Daniel's, "I'm going to go get something to eat. I'm starving!"