Chapter 4 - Solo lamentoso
General Hammond was still in the Control Room having a discussion with Sergeant Davis when the klaxon sounded. He was surprised by the unscheduled 'Gate activation - uneasy when S.G.-1's code showed up on the monitor so soon after embarkation - downright concerned when Dr. Jackson stepped through the event horizon, limping and alone. He called for medical assistance to the 'Gate Room and hurried down to intercept him.
"What happened, Dr. Jackson? Are you all right?" he asked.
"Ah, I missed my footing - twisted my ankle. Just Danny being a klutz again," he replied wryly.
There was a hint of self-mockery, bitterness, in his voice. George scanned the young man's face for further clues, and noticed the faint red blotch on his right cheek, almost faded now, but still pink enough to betray the contact. He noted the absence of Daniel's habitual 'I'm fine' response with deep misgivings. There was definitely more to this than met the eye.
General Hammond, like Major Carter and Teal'c, had been aware the growing animosity between his 2IC and Dr. Jackson for some months now. Looking back, the warmth had begun fading from the friendship a year ago and more - much more, now he came to think about it. It had been very slow, almost imperceptible in the beginning, like the first sands falling from the top bulb of an hourglass - and the sand half gone before you noticed the level was going down.
Colonel O'Neill had always been noted for his abrasive tongue, but that was more than counterbalanced by his sterling leadership qualities, his willingness to go the extra mile, and his proud boast never to leave one of 'his kids' behind. If you were in his command, you were serving under the best. The job was stressful enough, God knew, so it was hardly surprising if O'Neill was a bit short with one of his team now and again. Trouble was, that one was almost invariably Dr. Jackson these days. Usually, things had improved enough later on for General Hammond to believe - to hope - that the little lapses were just temporary phenomena.
However, seeing the strain behind Daniel's eyes which was not entirely due to pain, George mentally berated himself for not pursuing the matter earlier - for allowing himself to be fobbed off by the inevitable 'I'm fine' and hoping for the best that he was. Clearly, right now, Dr. Jackson wasn't fine. Well, he'd better see what he could do to improve things now - the sooner the better, before things got out of hand.
"Well now, you go along to the infirmary and get fixed up, son, and then I'd like a word with you in my office - at your convenience," Hammond smiled fondly.
"Thank you, General," Daniel replied as the medics. appeared. "I - ah - I was just going to ask if you could spare me a few minutes - erm, in private."
That sounded a little ominous, George thought, but maybe Daniel just wanted to off-load. Whatever was bothering him, the general would do his best to accommodate him and smooth his path, and if that meant grasping the nettle that was Jack O'Neill, well so be it.
In the infirmary, Daniel sat in silence as Nurse Madekane strapped up his ankle. He was quite glad Dr. Fraiser was on a break. He was feeling emotionally drained in the aftermath of the argument and he really didn't feel like going into details about his little accident right now. Just wanted to think. Then see George.
Leaning on a crutch, he hobbled to his own office. He sat down and looked around. The room was full of memories - photographs, artefacts, journals - the detritus of five years of wandering around the universe. And of the year previous - the year he'd spent on Abydos - with Sha'uri. Few people had gained so much - or suffered so much as he had. He'd almost lost count of the number of times he'd died.
The first time, he'd taken the staff weapon blast meant for Jack - who'd wanted to die anyway. Should have let him, Daniel thought bleakly. What then? There was the bomb. Ra would probably have sent it through the 'Gate, and Daniel and Sha'uri would have remained on Abydos. As slaves of Ra. But better that than as a host to Ammonet, surely. Or maybe his future - their future - would have unfolded quite differently. Who knew?
Five years of his life were visible here, in this room. Interesting years, exhilarating years. When Sha'uri died, he'd been ready to give up this gypsy-like existence - been ready to walk away. He'd said his sole purpose in venturing through the Stargate had been to find his wife. At the time he'd believed it. Didn't believe Jack when he'd told him he'd miss the excitement, all the new cultures he'd get to explore, the living history - that it was the kind of stuff he couldn't walk away from. But he did - and found that Jack had been right. Couldn't live without it.
Had Jack regretted his return? He'd looked pleased to see him when he'd walked into the 'Gate Room, back in fatigues again. Almost as pleased as he'd looked when he'd discovered that Daniel hadn't died on Klorel's ship when it blew up. 'Spacemonkey, yeah!'
The one whom he'd once regarded as his best friend had struck him - not so very hard - had tried to pull the punch at the last moment. Maybe it was his own fault after all. Not in looking for a better way - no, never that - but in his way of putting it across. Pedantic? Patronizing? Just plain pissy? Whatever. Something was wrong. Very wrong. Jack had said they'd fix it. When he was hanging on the outside of his balcony, one step away from oblivion. Jack had talked him back then. Saved his life that time. So the slate was clean. Jack didn't owe him anything.
Looking back, that was the last moment of real closeness between them. Did that mean it had all been a lie? Had Jack befriended him in a spirit of obligation? When you save a man's life, that life belongs to you. Now Jack's life was his own again. No need to assume the appearance of friendship. 'Apparently not much of a foundation there, huh?' Jack had said when he'd temporarily retired to hunt down Maybourne's gang of thieves. Maybe he'd really meant it, and the bit about the house being bugged was the untruth.
Daniel suddenly felt cold inside. Empty. It was all slipping away - the 'family' - his family for the last five years. He was back to being the outsider he'd always known himself to be - before he joined S.G.-1 and started living the comfortable lie. Time passed unnoticed as he sat at his desk, eyes unfocussed, mind far away in another place, another time...
Chapter 5 - Andante arioso
A knock on his door jerked Daniel from his melancholy reverie. He waited a while before he responded, wondering if the visitor might be Jack. Didn't really feel up to seeing Jack right now. The knock came again. It was a quiet knock, a respectful knock, an 'I-hope-I'm-not-disturbing-you' kind of knock. Couldn't be Jack, then...
It was General Hammond. This was almost unprecedented - Mohammed coming to the mountain. No, that wasn't right. He was already in the mountain.
"Oh, I'm sorry, General," Daniel apologized, hastily pulling himself to his feet. "Guess I kind of lost track of time. You wanted to see me earlier?"
"Please, Doctor, sit right down," Hammond said, pulling up a chair and seating himself.
"Now, Daniel," George went on, "what seems to be the trouble. I can see things aren't as they should be between you and Colonel O'Neill right now..."
"Oh." Daniel gave a mirthless little laugh.
"Care to tell me about it, son?"
"I guess there isn't much to tell, General... George. I just don't seem to able to make much of a contribution any more - I'm like so much dead wood."
"I'm sorry you feel that way, son, and I'm sure you're wrong about it. Don't underestimate your importance here. Your contribution to Stargate Command has been incalculable. Why, without you, it wouldn't even exist."
"Oh, someone would have worked it outer sooner or later if I hadn't. It was just a matter of time."
"Time we didn't have, Daniel. You know that."
"Well, maybe... The thing is, I'm not necessary now. I just feel that I'm being carried by the rest of the team. These days, I don't seem to be doing anything that any S.F. couldn't do just as well."
George looked S.G.-1's archaeologist with concern. Daniel was doing his best to play things down, was laying no blame. And maybe it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. That didn't mean O'Neill had to be abusive - or to send an injured man home unattended. He changed tack.
"So what exactly happened to cause your injury?"
"I told you. I missed my footing - wasn't looking where I was going."
"Well, if you say so, son," George said suspiciously.
"Yes, really. Ask any of the others," Daniel said earnestly. "They'll tell you - Danny just fucked up again. Oh, sorry, George - that just sort of slipped out."
George laughed. Only an academic could apologize for bad language on a miliary base!
"That's O.K., son, don't worry about it."
But it wasn't O.K., was it? It was out of character - argued an inner turmoil. And what he'd said argued a dangerously low self-esteem, too. Daniel was worrying about something and wouldn't talk about it - perhaps didn't feel it was important enough - he was important enough - for a two star general to bother with. Well, if he wouldn't tell George, someone else maybe?
"Would you like me to arrange a session with Dr. MacKenzie?" he asked and instantly knew he'd said the wrong thing.
"or another therapist...?"
"No! No... thank you, sir. I don't think that would be necessary. I only lost my footing, not my sanity. Again."
Damn, George thought - put my foot right in it there... Must be catching. Back to 'sir' are we?
"I'm sorry, Daniel, I didn't mean to suggest"
"No - no, of course you didn't," Daniel replied, his voice flat and emotionless now.
"So what did you wish to see me about?" Hammond said, unwilling to make matters worse by trying to take Daniel somewhere he plainly didn't want to go right now.
"I'd like you to transfer me to another S.G. team, sir, as of now - S.G.-7 or S.G.-9 possibly - somewhere where my expertise might be of some use."
George breathed a small sigh of relief. At least he wasn't talking about resigning...
"Or if that's not possible," Daniel went on, "then I'll have to tender my resignation."
Chapter 6 - Maestoso
Colonel O'Neill, I'd like a word with you in my office. Now. General Hammond said sternly as soon as the rest of S.G.-1 returned from their mission to P4X-111.
"Now, General? As in?"
Major Carter and Teal'c looked at General Hammond's stony face and exchanged significant glances as they came down the ramp.
"We'll debrief on your mission in one hour, Major, Teal'c."
O'Neill followed General Hammond into his office and quietly shut the door. He didn't need to be a genius to know what was coming, or that he wasn't going to enjoy it. General Hammond sat down behind his desk but didn't invite him to sit down. A bad sign. He looked into Hammond's flinty eyes.
"So - Daniel came running home to tell tales to sir? I'd have thought better of him than that."
"And I would have thought better of you, Colonel. To set the records straight, Dr. Jackson came limping home and has not uttered one word to your disparagement. He didn't need to. I've got eyes in my head, and I'm no more stupid than you are.
O'Neill lowered his head.
"I... um... I didn't mean to hit him, sir. We were having an argument, and just for a second, I I guess I - lost it - a little..."
Hammond said nothing, waiting for O'Neill to continue. A thick heavy silence hung in the office.
"The man disobeyed a direct order, sir."
"And what order was that, Colonel?"
"I told him not to go wandering off to the temple as soon as he set foot on the planet, sir. I won't have anyone compromising the safety of my team."
"So what threats did you think your team faced on P4X-111?"
O'Neill looked a little uncomfortable at that question.
"Well, you know how it is, General, there's always a chance of something lurking out of sight of the MA.L.P. or the U.A.V."
"And the temple was how far from the 'Gate...?"
Standing rigidly to attention and staring straight ahead so as not to meet his General's eyes, Colonel O'Neill took a deep breath before replying.
"About a hundred yards, Sir."
"Don't you think your threat assessment was a little too rigorous, Colonel O'Neill?"
"Just doing my job, sir," O'Neill replied expressionlessly.
"Dr. Jackson also has a job to do, and very little time in which to do it. Do you think it's at all possible that he might have viewed your 'direct order' as, shall we say, obstructive?"
"I - er - couldn't say, sir."
"Oh, I think you could, Colonel. Right now, I have one archaeologist under my command whose self-esteem is currently close to rock bottom. When I was talking to Dr. Jackson a few hours ago, what he said was 'Danny just fucked up again.' "
O'Neill's eyebrow shot up in surprise at that.
"I am inclined to think that someone fucked up, and it wasn't Dr. Jackson. Would you care to comment on that assessment, Colonel O'Neill?"
"Sir! No sir."
"I am now going to have to find a replacement for Dr. Jackson on S.G.-1"
Hammond noted the shocked look on O'Neill's face as the colonel momentarily looked him directly in the eye.
"and I don't want that replacement hounding out the same way you did with Dr. Rothman."
O'Neill gasped as if he'd been punched in the solar plexus - déjà vu, Jack - déjà vu...
"B-but, Daniel won't really resign, General..." he stammered.
"No. Actually, he's asked for a transfer, Colonel. As of today, he is no longer under your command."
O'Neill stared at Hammond slack-jawed, letting the silence flow back into the room for long moments. Finally, the fragments of his thoughts coalesced.
"This is all just a misunderstanding, sir. I'll go talk to him - get it straightened out..."
"I don't think that would be a good idea right now. In any case, I sent him home in a staff car an hour ago. He's on a week's medical leave. Dismissed, Colonel."
As if on automatic pilot, Colonel O'Neill saluted smartly and marched out of the room.
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