Chapter 23 - in which three pick up the pieces
Sam and Daniel with a full view of the accident watched in horror. Time seemed to shift into slo-mo as the action unfolded. Then the S.U.V., now missing one headlight, shot past them without stopping, and time righted itself again.
"Bastard!" Daniel swore.
The trucker had pulled off the road a little way past the bridge and was climbing out of his cab as Sam pulled in behind him.
"There's a flashlight in the glove box," she said as Daniel threw open his door.
"Ya know, I can do without this sorta thing," the trucker growled as the three joined him. "Stupid fuckers! Er, beggin' yer pardon ma'am!"
"Don't mention it," Sam said, pulling out her Beretta.
"I don't wanna know, do I?" the trucker said with a new note of respect as the four of them ran across the road and slithered down the bank to where the kidnappers' car had settled askew, half in and half out of the river.
An eerie silence hung over the scene, broken only by the gentle sound of flowing water.
The car had hit the pillar of the bridge about its midpoint on the driver's side. It was now shaped like a banana and much narrower than it should be on that side. It didn't look good for the driver or the guy sitting behind him.
Teal'c and Daniel managed to wrench the rear door off between them while the trucker struggled with the front passenger door. Sam, waist-deep in water, reached through the broken windshield and removed the keys from the ignition.
The front passenger was slumped forward over the dashboard, but was well enough to groan. The airbag had probably saved his life. She tried to inch her way around the front of the vehicle when her foot failed find anything solid below it.
"Better get a move on, guys," Sam said.
"What? It's not going to blow up is it?" Daniel asked, aghast.
"No Daniel, that's what happens in the movies, but the car's settled on a ledge, and I've no idea how deep the water is beyond it. If the car shifts, it could sink..."
"Well, I don't think this guy's getting out of this door in a hurry," the trucker grunted. "I've some tools in my truck and I'll call the authorities."
"Thanks," Sam said, "and I'll call my... boss."
She paddled back to the bank and passed the flashlight to Daniel, on her way back to her car. Hammond received the news with some concern though pleased to know Jack was, apparently, safe now. He would send a helicopter to fetch him back to Peterson with transport there to bring him to the S.G.C.
Meanwhile Teal'c was checking on Jack and the other guy in the back of the car whom Jack knew as 'Frank'. That one had a head wound that was bleeding heavily. He'd clearly been thrown against the doorpost and was unconscious. Jack turned pained eyes towards the rescuers.
"Took your time getting here," he griped.
"What is your status, O'Neill?"
"Think my left leg's busted... 'm a little... dizzy... nauseous... bruised... Feel kinda like I've... just been in a... car wreck... But otherwise okay. I think. Glad to see you, by the way really... glad to...see you..."
"I'll go find something to splint your leg with, then we'll see about getting you out," Daniel said.
"Daniel..." came a faint breathy voice.
"Just don't let... Carter near me with a... splint. Brings back... bad memories."
"Have no fear, O'Neill. I will do it," Teal'c rumbled. "Does the other man still live?"
Jack managed to feel for a pulse. It was there, but very weak.
"Yeah, but... not for long... 'less he gets treatment... pretty soon."
By the time the fire-truck, an ambulance and the police arrived, 'Arni' and the driver were dead, the trucker had gone on his way and Jack, along with Daniel, were on their way back to Colorado Springs.
"I know time is money," Sam had said to the trucker, "so if you want to get on your way, I don't see any problem. We saw the whole thing, and we know there was nothing you could have done."
"Well, if you're sure, thank you, ma'am. I take it we don't mention the other guy?" he said, circling his index finger upwards."
"Right," Sam agreed with an encouraging smile. Then, wet and muddy, she and Teal'c stayed behind to do what they could while waiting for the authorities.
Talk was pretty much out of the question during the flight, and there was little opportunity for private discussion on the drive to Cheyenne Mountain.
"I know this is a bad a very bad time for this," Daniel muttered in Jack's ear, while the medic was busy at the further end of the ambulance, "but we need to make some decisions, and fairly soon."
"I want it."
"I said, I want it," Jack growled in a low voice tinged with pain. "I definitely want it."
"Yeah, that. Why, what else did you think I meant?"
"Uh, never mind. And I'm glad, Jack - really glad."
"Good. That's... that's good," Jack sighed. He was coming down from the earlier adrenalin rush and feeling chilly despite the tinfoil wrappings.
"And you're certain? I don't want you deciding on the fly, or - or just going along with it because you think you ought to."
"No, Daniel, I mean it. I didn't really know how I felt... before but... Nothing like... nearly losing something... to appreciate its value."
"Yeah. They had me all lined to be... a lab. rat."
"Bastards! Fucking bastards!" Daniel exclaimed, feeling a sudden urge to protect.
"Just hope the crash hasn't... done any damage. To the... you know."
"So I guess we'll be going to... Arcadia after all. They're probably... the only people we know with the... necessary expertise."
"Huh! I never thought I'd ever hear you admit that, Jack."
"Hey, I may play dumb now and again. Doesn't mean I'm... stupid."
"So what's your degree in exactly?"
"Psychology?" Daniel laughed. "You?"
"Yes... What's so funny?"
"Explains a lot," Daniel replied cryptically.
"Well, this is getting old," Jack said glumly as he was wheeled into the infirmary for what seemed like one time too many.
He was grey-faced and perspiring now. Doctor Fraiser was waiting for them. Hammond had called her in to preclude any unwanted questions or explanations.
"Okay, let's get you cleaned up and scanned," she said with all the cheerfulness of someone who'd been awakened in the early hours of a Saturday morning. She looked at the clip board. "No pain meds. yet"
"No, and I don't want any," Jack said, in obvious pain.
"Excuse me?" Janet said sharply.
"I don't want... this... to be a junkie before it's even born. Or whatever."
Daniel explained, "We thought that probably our best course of action would be to go to Arcadia as soon as possible and let them"
"Sort out the whole damn' mess since they caused it," Jack growled, wincing, "and, no offence, Doc., but their way of... 'fixing' things beats several weeks of walking in a... cast."
"Well, as your physician"
"Look, Teal'c splinted it... pretty good - under the circumstances"
"And you have a long journey once you get through 'Gate, so quit playing the hero - sir. You will at least have a light cast put on before you leave."
General Hammond walked in as the recalcitrant patient was being wheeled off for treatment.
"Good to have you both back," he smiled, standing aside to let the gurney through.
"It's good to be back, General," Daniel said for both of them, "and thank you for coming in. There are a few things we need to discuss."
"I believe we do, Doctor Jackson. We'll go down to my office."
Chapter 24 - in which Daniel goes off alone
"Take a seat, Doctor," General Hammond invited.
Now that it came down to it, Daniel felt a little awkward about making executive decisions that would affect both their lives. For himself, he didn't care where he was so long as Jack was there too. Whether Jack would feel the same... Ah well, best bite the bullet now.
"I take it you're still planning to go to Arcadia?" Hammond asked by way of an opener.
Daniel nodded. "We may be only a nine day's wonder for the media, though I wouldn't put money on it, but after the kidnaping, I don't think either of us is going to feel safe unless and until the N.I.D. is shut down, and even then, who knows what other 'authority' might take an interest? So..., I think our best option - possibly the only viable option - is to make Arcadia our base, assuming the Arcadians are amenable. Given that they're responsible for - as Jack says - 'the whole damn' mess', I don't think they'll oppose it," Daniel said with a tight smile.
General Hammond looked a little confused. "Make Arcadia your base?" he asked. "How long for?"
"I don't know that I can put a time limit on it, General."
"But surely, when it's seen that Colonel O'Neill isn't"
"What? You think Jack's going to Arcadia for a termination?"
"No, General. For one thing, they don't do terminations. Ever."
"Not even when they've made a mistake?" Hammond asked, concern moving up to consternation.
"Well first, we'd have to convince them that they have made a mistake..."
"You mean they'd think he'd want to be... er... in that state?"
"Actually, sir - probably. I omitted to mention in my reports that two of the councillors are married. To each other. One of them's in the same - um - state. And, er , they're both male..."
"And you didn't mention this...?"
"Because, at the time, I didn't deem it to be particularly relevant to a military authority with homophobic tendencies."
There was a long pregnant pause.
"Do I take it Jack's resigning - again?" Hammond sighed.
"Well that would be up to you, sir, but I was hoping it wouldn't be necessary. I thought we could, maybe, live on Arcadia and - um - come into work as normal from there."
"What, commute across the galaxy?" Hammond asked, then threw back his head and laughed soundly. "Only you, Doctor Jackson, only you..."
Daniel joined in the laughter, a little late and somewhat muted.
"It could work," he insisted. "What problem could there be?"
"Well, the cost for one thing."
"Oh. I hadn't thought of that," Daniel admitted, a little crestfallen. "Maybe Sam could adapt a naquadah generator? Wouldn't that reduce the costs substantially?"
Hammond thought about it.
"I'll discuss that with Major Carter," he said at last. "She seems to be quite conversant with the technology since that girl from Orban showed her how."
"That's the one. The main problem would be getting our hands on enough naquadah though."
"Maybe the Furlings could help with that somehow or other. If we're living there, we're almost certain to meet them sooner or later."
"Well, I wouldn't put too much hope on any help from them. Our 'allies' tend to be a little backward in coming forward when it comes to assistance."
Daniel reined in an exasperated exclamation.
"Don't you think that maybe it's because we mostly bug them to provide us with weapons? Our government tends to be choosy about what military information we give to our 'allies' here on Earth, but we're more forthcoming with other sorts of aid. Maybe the Furlings will be too."
"I hope you'll hold me excused if I don't hold my breath on that one. Next, even supposing this idea works, what would happen if everyone wanted to live off-world?"
"With respect sir, I don't think we'd be setting that much of a precedent. I mean, how many people here would want to be in Jack's shoes right now? These are special circumstances..."
"I'll admit you have a point there."
"And we can't really bring a baby back to Earth unless we can guarantee that the N.I.D. won't get wind of it and try something. Nor can we expect Janet to - to - to adopt it. Cassie was a different case entirely."
"You really think this would work?"
"I don't see why not. And if we handle the Furlings carefully, it could have untold benefits for Earth too. "
"Hm, well I'll give your request all due consideration. For now, I suggest you get some sleep."
"Um, there's just one other thing," Daniel began tentatively. "It concerns ah, it concerns that... that 'Don't ask, don't tell' thing"
"Well, I'm not asking, and you have absolutely no need to tell," Hammond said with a chuckle.
"Oh. Oh, I see. And you're... you're okay with that, sir?"
"So long as it doesn't affect your work - or the rest of S.G.-1? Do they know?"
"I joined the dots for them while we were following the kidnappers. Sam's fine and I think Teal'c probably picked up on it before we did," Daniel said, a little ruefully. "I'm glad you understand, because we're planning to marry once we're settled there and I hope you'll come for the ceremony?"
"I'll look forward to it, Doctor Jackson."
The following day, which was Sunday, Daniel took himself to Arcadia to lay the ground for their return. Jack was asleep when he looked in on him in the infirmary, and he felt he'd probably get on better without him on this mission. Jack wasn't going to be pleased when he found that Daniel had skipped off on his own, but he'd just have to cross that bridge when he came to it...
His first port of call was the little clinic headed by Demris and Zephra. Demris met him halfway, called by the 'Gate activation. After such greetings as politeness required, Daniel asked for an audience with Leandros. Demris knew the Archisimboulos would be occupied for the morning with Eldred and Edda, but would try to arrange a meeting for the afternoon.
"I feel thou art laden with cares, yet when last we met, you were full of joy. What burthenst thee?"
"Ah, well... Jack is - um - with child..."
"But that is good! Ye must be so happy!" Demris exclaimed, pleasure lighting her face.
"Well, not 'no' exactly... It's complicated - um... unarnfeald. Our world is - is tintreylich - our laws are - are - not good, not fair, ahm... unyemeed - for folc who are seen as different - elelendich. No man has ever been with child there. So Jack was kidnaped - er, bad men - montheeofen - took him away."
"Oh no!" Demris said, horrified. "What will they do to him?"
"Oh, he's safe now, but injured - hurt."
"And thou wantst healing for Jack?"
"Yes, an ye will it. Jack is worried about the child too - that it might be hurt."
"We can do that. You do not need the lairf of Leandros."
"Ah, there is more. Because it is no longer safe for us on Earth, we wish to live here - to make Arcadia our home."
"I know you keep the number of your folc the same, but without the child, there would be no danger to us."
"And we have put you in danger?"
"Yes," Daniel said gently and went on to explain the misunderstanding as they walked to the kliniki.
Chapter 25 - in which Jack is not best pleased
It was late evening when Daniel reappeared through the Stargate looking quietly satisfied with himself. Jack, on the other hand, was wearing a thunderous scowl. He was on crutches at the bottom of the ramp awaiting the absconder.
"Where the fuck have you been?" Jack growled in a low voice as Daniel reached him. "As if I didn't know!"
"Nice to see you, too. Feeling a little better?" Daniel responded, maintaining a carefully affable exterior.
"...'m fine," Jack said, taken a little off guard. "Well?!"
"Not now, Jack. And not here," Daniel said, still smiling and with a significant look at the nearest S.F. "Can you make it up to my office?"
Jack ground his teeth in frustration. He'd been confined to bed for most of the day with plenty of empty hours in which to build up a fair head of steam once he'd discovered Daniel was missing.
"I am not totally incapacitated, ya know - physically or mentally."
Daniel raised a quizzical eyebrow. "No? Then let's go," he said.
Daniel kept to Jack's speed on the way but neither said anything more. One was wearing a tight smile that wasn't really a smile, and the other a look of barely concealed animosity. As they reached the elevator, a couple of S.F.s were just leaving it.
"Looks like trouble brewing," said one to his companion as they walked away.
"Again," agreed the other.
The overheard exchange did nothing to improve the atmosphere in the elevator as the pair traveled up Level 18.
"You deliberately left me behind," Jack snarled as soon as they reached Daniel's office.
"And that would be precisely why..." Daniel replied grimly.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Exactly what you think it means."
"You didn't trust me!"
"Oh, I trust you, Jack. I trust you to fuck up all my attempts to arrive at a diplomatic solution t'-t'-t'- to - Hell! - to anything! Shoot first and find out what's going on afterwards. It's always your way - always!"
"Daniel, I wasn't in my right mind back then!"
"You mean you've got a right mind?"
"Then why don't you use it occasionally?! I work my ass off - constantly - trying to get us the best possible result and what thanks to I get? 'Where the fuck have you been?', 'Shut up, Daniel!', 'Next time Daniel gets the urge to help someone, shoot him', 'Step aside, Daniel!','Plant Boy...!'"
"Hey, you know I wasn't in my right mind then!"
"You don't seem to be in your right mind most of the time, do you?!"
"That's not fair, Daniel,"
"No, it isn't, but then, neither are you."
"I've been - God alone knows why - trying to work out some sort of a future for us. Us, Jack. As in to-geth-er. And you're acting out because, just for once, I was doing it my way."
"But how can we work on it 'to-geth-er' if you go off and do things solo? Tell me that!"
"Well isn't that just fucking typical? Like I said - shoot first and ask questions afterwards. You've just shot me down in flames without even bothering to find out what I've done. And then you have the nerve to accuse me of being lacking in trust! Trust works both ways, Jack. Without it, we have nothing..."
There was a long, almost breathless, silence.
"Yeah, you're right," Jack sighed at last.
"Don't sound so surprised, Daniel. I'm not saying I'm entirely in the wrong, but - you're right about the trust thing."
"Well... good. That's good."
"Soooo. What have you done?"
"Um, well, it isn't a hundred per cent certain yet. General Hammond still has to agree, which probably means pulling a few strings"
"Daniel... Cut to the chase. Not getting any younger here."
"We're going to live on Arcadia."
"Live? As in...?"
"Move. Relocate. Emigrate."
"Something like that."
"How long for?"
Daniel shrugged. "I don't know. Long term, I guess."
"Yes, Jack, we can. We'd live in Tegea, the town about three klicks from the 'Gate so we'll be close enough to come in to work on foot even if we don't have transport."
"Whu-wait a minute. Back up a little. Did you say, come in to work? As in the S.G.C.?"
"Ah, yes Jack."
"As in commute? As in across the galaxy?!"
"Mm. Yes. Is that a problem?"
Jack choked back laughter.
"Well, there's the cost, for one thing. We'd have Kinsey up our asses like a rat up a drainpipe."
"Pretty much what General Hammond said - well, not about Kinsey, and thank you so much for that image!"
"So it's a total non-starter then."
"Oh, I don't think so. You see, Jack, when I arrived on Arcadia and asked for an audience with Leandros, he was already entertaining Eldred, who's kind of a Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Fjörlingas, along with Tripp, Edda and Linnet"
"You've met them?"
"Yes. When Alekos - er, the Spell Theyn - sent word that I wanted to see Leandros, they decided to stick around and meet their first Tau'ri from Gaia-Matrikos. Which was kind of scary. I felt like I was some prize bull there for inspection at first, but that was before I met them."
"Don't tell me - they're small and furry?"
"Er, no. Quite the opposite, actually." Daniel screwed up his face as he conjured up a mental image of these members of the advanced race. "They're not quite as tall as the Arcadians and they have very fine white-blonde hair - and their skin is kind of piebald in different shades of, well, flesh-color, I guess. Oh, and they wear loose, silky, pyjama-style clothes in light, bright colors. And they're quiet-spoken and charming."
"Well, they sat in on my meeting with Leandros, and - and..." Daniel drew a deep breath, "and I asked them if they had any spare naquadah - purely for peaceful purposes... They said yes."
Jack gaped in disbelief for a few moments, then exclaimed, "Way to go, Danny!"
"Um, thanks. That's about it really. If anyone up where the air is really rarefied vetoes the idea, then I guess we'd have to resign - or maybe work in an advisory capacity. The Arcadians work on a barter system, so I think we'd get by. You're pretty good with your hands"
"So are you," Jack chipped in with a lecherous smile.
"Just be serious, would you. We'll have plenty of time for that later. I meant you're good at carpentry and such like and I'm What?" Daniel asked as shadow crossed Jack's face.
"We can't live on Arcadia indefinitely," Jack replied looking aghast.
"W-Why not?" Daniel said, wondering what he'd overlooked.
"Oh for goodness' sake!" Daniel exclaimed in exasperation, "I'll get Sam to rig you up a solar-powered D.V.D. player and Teal'c will record the matches for you. That do?"
"Anything else while you're at it?" Daniel asked with heavy sarcasm.
Chapter 26 - in which three are suspicious
The following day, Daniel had planned to report to Hammond first thing about his successful visit to Arcadia but was forestalled by a summons to an unscheduled briefing. All four team members arrived before General Hammond and no one had a clue about what had come up. Hammond arrived carrying a tape player.
"We have ourselves a situation," he began. "Early this morning at approximately 0400 hours, the base switchboard received the following call."
He pressed the play button. At first, the team thought it was merely a hoax call as the caller rambled on at length about assorted conspiracies and cover-ups. Finally, he got to the point - the Stargate - and demanded a meeting with Colonel O'Neill, alone, at the New Clover Leaf restaurant in Billings, Montana.
"I want to know who this man is. I want to know how he got his information and I want to know who he's been talking to. You leave in half an hour," Hammond announced.
"What? No!" Daniel leapt to his feet and leaned across the table towards the general.
"Doctor Jackson?" Hammond said, taken aback by the forceful protest.
"It's a set-up. It has to be! 'None of these compare to your secret - Colonel'?"
"Well, it's hardly a secret now, son," Hammond pointed out.
"Precisely! .You can't let him take that risk, General."
"If he lives in Montana, maybe the news hasn't reached him yet," Sam suggested. "It does seem strange that he asked for Colonel O'Neill by name though."
"And wishes to meet with him alone," .Teal'c added in sepulchral tones.
"Oh come on, how many mother hens do we need in the S.G.C.?" Jack exclaimed. "You're taking over my role! This guy is plainly several chevrons short of a Stargate. I'll go and check it out, sir. No one will see me in the back of the van, so no problem."
"With respect, sir, I don't think Janet will allow it until either the Arcadians have fixed your leg or you have a full cast put on it - if then..."
"I have a suggestion to make," Daniel said as both senior officers showed signs of incipient apoplexy. "Why not send S.G.-12? Major Vaughan looks a lot like Jack."
"They have a mission to Alaris - the one that was rescheduled so they could supervise the resettlement of the Enkarans while S.G.-1 was tied up in Arcadia and Siberia," Hammond responded in blighting tones.
"Um, we still can't get a lock on Alaris, sir, so maybe it's a good thing the mission was postponed." Sam said. "We can't get a lock on P4X-595 or P4X-671 either. The Tok'ra are working on it. They have operatives stranded on those and other worlds. They think the problem is centered on P4X-639."
"Hey, weren't we supposed to go there?" Jack asked.
"Indeed we were, O'Neill, but you were undergoing treatment on Arcadia at the time," Teal'c concurred.
Daniel gave a soundless whistle.
"Er, Jake?" Jack asked Sam.
"Safe. Selmak's overseeing the investigation. He says there seems to be a kind of subspace bubble enclosing a number of worlds. Fortunately, we're just on the outside of it."
"Oh. Well in that case, I'll summon Major Vaughan right now and get him prepped to go to Billings. Dismissed people."
Daniel raised a finger.
"Ah, could I have a brief word, sir?"
"So long as it is brief."
"Oh, ah, well then - the Arcadians will let Jack and me live there - met the Furlings - they'll let us have enough naquadah for a reactor to power our 'Gate."
Hammond, who had just stood up, sat down again, amazement writ large across his plump features.
"Kind of breath-taking isn't he, sir," Jack said with hint of vicarious pride.
"Damn' right he is," Hammond agreed.
"Um, sorry... Sir, with your permission," Daniel went on, "We'd like to go back to Arcadia as soon as possible so Arrelambros can check there hasn't been any damage as a result of the car wreck and hopefully repair Jack's leg."
"You may as well take a couple of days," Hammond. "You have nothing scheduled until Wednesday's test flight of the X-301, assuming Jack's leg is healed, that is."
Sam, following Teal'c out of the briefing room, turned back.
"Sirs, I could be Teal'c's co-pilot," she said brightly.
"Hey, you know how much I'm looking forward to that, Carter!"
"Well, with respect, it would be more logical for me to do it. I have more experience of flying fighters than you have. Sir."
"She's right, Jack," Hammond chuckled, knowing how much Jacob's daughter loved being airborne. "Very well, Major, I'll authorize the substitution."
"Speed freak," Jack muttered.
On their return to Arcadia, Jack and Daniel made the round of informal 'state visits'. For once, Jack accepted the offer of a wheelchair with some gratitude, and made an appointment to see Arrelambros the following morning, Tuesday.
Daniel was a little disappointed to find Ilarion and Verenos out of town, but figured that their robust cheerfulness might be a bit of a strain on Jack's temper at that moment. He was still in some pain from his broken leg, so Daniel accompanied him to the Kirios Kliniki this time.
Jack was in a surprisingly forbearing mood, making no attempt to break any necks or crack any skulls. Daniel still felt as if he were walking on egg-shells though or perhaps walking around the rim of an apparently dormant volcano was more apt. A placid Jack was kind of scary.
"She is fine, Jack, though she feels a little shaken," the healer smiled. "I think, as thou art a beorn, she is used to a bit of that."
"She?" Jack asked calmly.
"Thou didst not know?"
Daniel inwardly winced.
"Actually, I didn't know I was... with child..." Jack said with a bright, brittle smile.
Arrelambros looked genuinely surprised.
"But thou gavest thy"
"Was there any reason you chose a girl?" Daniel asked, butting in before the volcano ceased to be dormant.
"Athnasia hath said that Jack mourns a lost son. He fears that it might happen again."
Jack nodded and sighed, a stricken look on his face. Daniel wrapped his arms around him and held him close.
"But I hear that you are going to live in Tegea," Arrelambros smiled, "so she will surely outlive ye both."
"How's Jack's leg?" Daniel asked, noticing that the temporary cast had been removed.
"It is well," the physician replied then turned to Jack, "but thou must rest it today. A little walking is fine and do not put too much strain on it for a day or two after that. Then it will be... what is thy word? Okay."
Daniel rolled his eyes at yet more evidence of Jack's corrupting influence on local languages.