JD-DIVAS: STARGATE SG-1 JACK & DANIEL SLASH FICTION
BY PHOENIX E

VARIEGATED GREY  BY PHOENIX E

Part Two


Slash:  Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: R.
Category: First Time, Angst.  Drama.  Episode Tag.
Season/Spoilers: Season 3.  A Major re-telling of 'Shades of Grey'.
Synopsis: Shades of Grey from the perspective of one of the members of SG-1 who was left in the dark.
Warnings: None
Length:  560   Kb  I haven't been able to track down an original Part 0 for this one (it's old!)  but it was written some time in early 2001.  I think.

 

'Shades of Grey' from another perspective.

I left.

It was easy, actually.  I just got up, and walked away.  Remembered my jacket, even.  It's brand new, after all.  I wasn't up to shopping for another one.  Not like I'd ever be seeing it again, if I left it behind.

There's a strange, anti-climactic calm around moments like this. No clashing cymbals or rousing fanfares, no rockets exploding in space.  Just cold, quiet emptiness.  It's only been a few short minutes since I left him, and the sterile serenity of nothingness still surrounds me.  

Like an old, familiar friend.

I know this place.  I've been here many times.  Each time I come here it's just that much easier to keep on going even though all this sucking void wants is to hold you fast within it and absorb you into narcoleptic oblivion.  It gets just that much easier to walk through a world whirling around you in slow motion with the sound off.  To take each step through thickening confusion, still going forward without thought or direction.

Or giving a shit why you're even moving.

I walked out of his house and he didn't stop me.  Not that I was  expecting him to.  I mean, why would he?  What did he care if I left?  Bring me an ion canon, Daniel, and we'll talk.

I'll see what I can do.

I'm sitting in my car, behind the wheel, staring through the windshield, seeing nothing, and I don't remember how I got here.  I remember every distinct, appalling second of getting up, walking away from him, and reaching his door, but nothing of what I did on the other side.  Somehow, I got from there to here.  I presume I walked.  I think it's a fairly safe assumption.  I also should be doing something else right now.  I'm pretty sure there's more to life than sitting here in my car staring at nothing.  Staring at his house.

Reasonably sure, anyway.

I know I can't stay here.  But I don't know where to go.  Trying to figure that one out is a hideous leap my mind just can't make right now.  Too much, too much all at once.  One step at a time.  Finish leaving, first.  Then we'll worry about where we're going.

I'm holding something in my hand.  Keys.  Keys. I know what these are.  I even know what they're for.  Okay, this is good.  This is progress.  Something to focus on.

The key is in the ignition.  Motor running.  I even have my seatbelt on.  Look at me, Jack, I'm a goddamned genius!  It's only taken Mister Sweet and Nice three hours to figure out how to turn his car on.  Maybe not quite that long, but close enough for the way it feels.

Whoop de doo, I've managed to get it in gear.  Someone call the media. Doctor Daniel Jackson discovers the secret to forward motion. For all the good it's going to do him.

'Cause he sure 'n hell can't go back again.  And that's all he wants to do right now.

I drive.  It's something to do.  Nothing I'm seeing going past my mobile glass and steel bubble is making any sense, but it pretty much agrees with what's happening inside it as well, so I guess you could say for once, I'm in harmony with the world.  Hey, that's a nice change.  Finally, I've found sense in senselessness.  Achieved oneness in foolishness.  Company in confusion.  One of the gang, at last.

What do you know, I'm finally fitting in.  I've arrived.

And Jack said I'd never amount to anything.  Shows you what he knows.

I have to pull over, because I'm not that far gone I don't know I can't drive while I'm shaking like this.  I might not care if I drive off the side of a mountain but I don't want to take the chance of taking anyone with me.  They might have someone who cares about them.  Someone to go home to.

The pain of the thrust finally hits me, splitting me end to end.  I hug myself and hold on tight, to keep the  sundered sections from getting away from me. I've got to keep it together, keep myself from falling apart all over the passenger compartment, because there's no one else here to pick up the pieces.  No one to reassemble me if I let myself get scattered.

Not any more.

You're on your own, here, Doctor J.  Nothing new, you've done it before.   You can do it again.

I can do this, I can do this. I'm not going under, here.  No how, no way. Not gonna happen I just need something, something to focus on.

You never cease to amaze me with all your talents.

That a fact, Jack? That a lie too, Jack?  How many other lies did you tell me, Jack? Was all of it a lie?  Everything you ever said to me?  Everything you ever were?

How many lies, Jack?  Your friend?  The only one you trusted?  The one who thought he knew you the best?  Mister Sweet and Nice?   Lies?  All lies?

Then, no, I guess you could no more relate to me than I could to you.

My FRIEND, Danny.

Not much of a foundation there.

You won't leave me, will you, Danny?

You're a bright guy.  You must have sensed SOME of this.

Where ya been, Danny?  I missed you lots.  Lots and lots.

What do you want?

I thought I'd never see you again.

No, to the feelings

I gotta get this out, and you're the only one I can trust.  Only one I DO trust.

You must have sensed SOME of this.

I can't get his voice out of my head.  It's the last thing I want to hear right now, but it won't go away.  HE won't go away.  Dammit dammit dammit, Jack!  When will you ever be satisfied?  Destroying everything you are wasn't enough for you?  Annihilating everything I believed about you  - still not doing it for you?  You've achieved your objective.  Strike successful, Ground Zero.  Completely blasted, here.  Even the Goa'uld didn't do as good a job as you've just done.  Good job, colonel, sir. Damned fine job.  No more worries about objections from honest archaeologists.

Now, at least have the decency to go away and let me die in peace.

No better than a Goa'uld.

But Jack hates the Goa'uld.

I'd rather be a thief and alive than honest and dead.

Hates the Goa'uld.  Hates thieves.

You STOLE that knowledge!

The Goa'uld are thieves.  They steal everything they possess.  Their knowledge, technology, the very bodies they inhabit.  Steal them.  Thieves.  Lousy, stinking thieves.  Jack hates thieves.  Hates 'em.  Hates the Goa'uld.

And now he wants to become a thief in order to defeat them?  If you can't beat them, join them?  Skaara wouldn't buy that for one second.  He's free now, because of Jack.  Jack doesn't like thieves.  Or liars.

If people like the Tollan don't want to share then we should just take.

That's not what you said to Hammond when he told us we were going to lie to the Salish and cheat them out of their trinium.  Pretend to be their friends, wait till they moved on and then take what we wanted while they weren't looking. Against their wishes.  Hell with what they wanted.  They had it, we needed it.  End justifies the means.  Whatever it took for the sake of Earth, no matter how rotten, dirty, low or underhanded.

Yeah, I remember, Jack.  You were really up for that idea.  Eager to go with the program.  All the way for Earth's interests.

I wasn't there when Hammond gave you the good news.  Mister Sweet and Nice had already been sent out of the room.  Get the he pesky conscience out of the way by having him keep the victim conveniently out from underfoot and ignorant as well.

I wasn't there, but I heard plenty about it later.  Jack had LOTS to say about how he felt.  Lots.  He said it to me.  Once the smoke had cleared and we'd managed to convince the 'spirits' not to give us the thanks we deserved for what we had been planning to do to the Salish, Jack made sure I got the full story.  Loudly. At great length.

The Salish knew a man of honour when they saw one.  So did 'Mother Reetu'.  She only watched Jack for a couple of weeks and that was enough for her.  Enough for her to know he WAS a man of high principles and integrity and she could trust him.

Nor was her faith misplaced, nor her evaluation incorrect.

She'd only known him from afar for a short time.  I've known him up close and personal for three years.  Longer, if you count from the first time we met.

Teal'c - Teal'c had less time or cause than 'Mother', even.  Teal'c turned his staff weapon on his own men, turned his back on everything he knew, abandoned his life, his wife, his son, saved our lives and threw in his lot with us.  Made his decision to do all of this in a split second on the strength of a single appeal from one man.

Jack.

We have no choice but to take whatever steps we need to get what we need.

I heard him say that yesterday. Say much more of the same thing today.  Say we should take from the Tollan.  Like he'd tried to on Tollana.

But, if he really believed that, he's already had a shot at getting technology from the Tollan.  A way better shot then we had yesterday.

Maybourne and the NID wanted to take Omac and his people into 'protective custody'.  God, don't you just love euphemisms?  'Protect' them.  For the rest of their lives. Hold them against their will and suck them dry of everything they knew.

Once again, all for the good of Earth.  Doesn't matter if it stinks to high heaven.  This is war.  Desperate times call for desperate measures?

And when the Goa'uld wipe us out because we have nothing with which to defend ourselves, I'm sure we'll all feel GREAT about ourselves and our high moral standards.

i heard Jack say that yesterday as well.  Bullshit!  It's total, utter bullshit!  We play by those rules, we're no BETTER than the Goa'uld.  Jack knew that when he refused to let Maybourne take the Tollan.  Jack hates Maybourne and the NID and everything they stand for.  He hates all of it with a passion.  If I hadn't been able do the actual 'dirty work' for him, he would have thrown his career away, gone to jail, even, to keep Maybourne from getting his hands on the Tollan.

He fought like a bastard to keep our friend Teal'c out of his hands when he was infected with that insect retrovirus.  Jack hates Maybourne's guts.

This is the same man who now is expecting me to believe he's decided to play by the same rules as Maybourne, the Goa'uld and everything he holds in the utmost contempt.  And always has.

Always has.  ALWAYS has.

I'm - I'm missing something.  What did Jack say to me back there?

You're a bright guy, surely you must have sensed some of this.

There was never anything to sense.  Never.  Never, ever the slightest indication he ever felt this way.  Nothing in any of his previous words or actions even hinting he believed any of this with the fervour he was professing today.

Nothing.

But he sure was going out of his way to sell it.  To make me believe it.  To make ME believe it.  Me?

Why?  What possible reason could he have had for needing ME to believe he was indeed this scummy, ruthless thief?  In order to break my oh so sweet and nice heart?

What for?  Why? Why did he need to convince ME he was a completely different man from the one I thought I knew? Why go to such lengths? If he'd had enough of hanging around with Drippy the Geek, why not just say so - just say, we're no longer friends, I don't want to see you anymore?  That would have been enough. I don't need to be hit on the head with an ion cannon.  Why take it further, claim we never WERE?  Why negate everything so unequivocally?  

Why?

If all he was interested in was telling me to fuck off and die and get out of his life, why not do it at the door? Dust me off cleanly and send me packing?  Easiest thing in the world.  Why even let me in?

Why go through that whole conversation?  Why say all those things if it was just me he was trying to convince?

'Cause it wasn't just me, was it?  That conversation wasn't for my benefit at all.  Someone else needed to hear it, needed to be convinced he'd truly turned to the dark side.  What better way to demonstrate his sincerity than by putting the boots to Mister Sweet and Nice?

You lousy, stinking son of a bitch, you did it to me again, you rat bastard!

How long have I been gone?  I glance at my watch, which tells me nothing because I haven't got a clue what time it was when I left.  I've got an idea.  It's crazy, it's probably out in left field, but if what I'm thinking is right, I should be able to confirm it very soon.

I'm firing up the engine again, turning the car around, and heading back to Jack's place, hoping to see what I need to see.

I approach his street, but don't make the turn.  Just keep on going.  i don't want to take the chance I'll be recognized if I drive past his house.

There's a black staff car parked in front of the house.  Air Force plates.  A couple of uniformed types sitting inside.  Another man in uniform standing at the door.

Jack's got a visitor.  No way I could see who it was, but it definitely wasn't the mailman.  Someone with a fair amount of clout from the car, the goons and the stuff decorating the front of his uniform.

Right, right. I was right!  I drive away, feeling exhilaration and something else swelling in my chest.  Jack's got company.  He's switched teams, playing with the big boys now.  Out in the cold, all on his own.

I'm not mad at Jack anymore.  I'm scared.

 


Home was as good a place to be as any. Quiet.  Private.  Coffee.

All things I need right now.

So here I am.  Sitting drinking my third cup of coffee. Staring at the phone.  Needing to talk to someone about everything I know, now, but not knowing who to trust.

I'm in over my head, here.  I know it.  I'm a linguist cum archaeologist cum peaceful explorer, not James Bond.  We're firmly in the realm of the cloak and dagger stuff, and up to this point in my life my curriculum vitae comes up woefully short in the espionage department.

I haven't got a clue what to do now.   Or who to trust.

I'm completely out of my element when it comes to trying to figure out the rules of THIS game.  They - whoever they are, presumably the 'they' Jack is going undercover to - whatever he'd doing all of this for - anyway, they  must have been watching Jack.  Saw me arrive.  Had the place bugged.  Heard every word we said.  Never even occurred to me at the time.  Why the hell would it have?  Having to think this way now is making me sick to my stomach.

My FRIEND is out there, all on his own, putting his life on the line, doing his duty.  No doubt in my mind that's exactly what Jack is doing.  Everything is making perfect sense, now.  Every single thing that's happened has been toward one single end.

Getting the bad guys to accept Jack into their ranks.  It's been a seamless chain of events, from start to finish.  Pull the job, make the noise, get the boot, sell the act with the assist of an unsuspecting extra, the bad guys take the bait, then off we go.

It all went down like a charm. Thanks to a little help from Mister Sweet and Nice.

God, it must have KILLED Jack to say those things to me!  All the more reason for me to be careful.  He never would have, never COULD have if what he was doing wasn't DAMNED important.  More important than anything.

Saving the world, kind of important.

I wish I could tell him I've never been prouder to be his friend.

But I can't.  i can't tell him a damned thing.  Can't tell anyone.  This whole thing only worked because whoever these scumbags were, they believed what Jack said to me.  What he was prepared to do to me is what convinced them.  My reaction is what did it.

I act any differently now it's very possible it could place his life at risk.

So I have to go on like I believe Jack is scum.  That I bought every word he said, and I'm still buying it. I have to make everyone believe it.

And I have no choice but to let Jack go on thinking I believe it as well.

I'm dreading this, but it's time to make a start.  The general is expecting me to call him back, to let him know how Jack is.

For the first time in my life I'd better put honest on the back burner or someone I care about very much could end up dead.

 


 

Another Monday morning.

God, if only it was true.  If only this was just another, typical, business as usual Monday morning at the good 'ole SGC.  I'm standing here with Sam and Teal'c.  Waiting for the general. Waiting to find out what's up next for SG-1.  I can almost pretend none of this has happened.  It really is a regular Monday morning, and Jack is going to be coming to join us, any second now. Swaggering down that hall, eyes sparkling, grin as defiant as his 'do', making with some wise-ass remark about his watch still being on 'gate' time.  Filling the room with his casually charismatic presence, walking up to me, throwing his arms around me in greeting as he constantly does, while he thumps me on the back and teases me with some comment like 'Daniel!  I see you managed to find your way to the mountain all by yourself again.'

I know it's not going to happen but that doesn't stop me from...stop me from...

Reality really sucks.  This sucks.  I can't believe how much I miss him.   I'm not the only one.  We're all miserable.  Sam and Teal'c haven't said a word since we got here.  None of us have.  We're just standing here, awkwardly occupying space next to each other, visibly uncomfortable with ourselves and each other.

The members of SG-1 being ill at ease with each other has got to be some kind of first.  After everything we've been through together, we can't think of one thing to say.  Can't seem to find the familiar, unspoken sense of unity we effortlessly flow into whenever we are together and four vastly disparate and distinct individuals become that magic, unique synergy that is SG-1.

If ever we needed proof 'chemistry' only happens as a result of a specific combination of necessary elements, we have it right here.  We're not four.  We're three. The formula is incomplete.  Can't make it happen without all the ingredients. Something's missing.

Someone's missing.

This place is foreign and unfriendly to me today.  I feel like more of an intruder in the SGC then I did the first time I walked in here.  I haven't done much else this weekend except think.  Done a whole lot of thinking.  Mulling the whole thing over, coming to some conclusions.  Most of which have alarmed me considerably and are not helping to make me feel at all comfortable in a place I've grown somewhat accustomed to.  For all it was stranger to me than Abydos, even, when I first got here.

My growing sense of paranoia has everything to do with some conclusions I've come to while speculating on exactly WHAT it is Jack has gotten himself mixed up in. What has he gone undercover to try and uncover.

Going with the current technological theme of relevant events the only thing making sense is that happy little band of techno-bandits somewhere out there in the universe.  This has something to do with them. They have to be what Jack is after.

When they escaped, we sort of dismissed them.  It was embarrassing they had gotten away, but realistically, what harm could they do?  They were trapped out there, right?  Cut off from home and from whatever support they might have enjoyed for their nasty little covert activities.  The SGC had control of both Stargates, so, with the way back slammed and bolted the best they could hope for was to be hapless refugees alone out there in the big, cold, friendless universe.  Sheer survival would be their biggest concern.  A HUGE concern.  I've been out there.  I know what I'm talking about.

Sure, it's a bit of a blot on the record they were out there, unaccounted for, but all on their own they couldn't do much damage.  No need to worry about them. Keep our eyes peeled for four ratty looking Earth guys knocking about and looking slightly dispossessed.  Good luck to you, guys, you're going to need it.

But what if the off-world set up was more organized than we'd figured?  If they'd planned for this contingency?  What if the whole thing was much bigger than the four guys we found?   And had been going on for a long time? Way before we got wind of it and shut it down.  Or so we thought.

What if we didn't bust the thing up at all?  What if all us taking the second gate away from them did was slow them down a little, force them to alter their method of operations, but not stop them?  What if those four guys had a place to go off-world, had a whole bunch of OTHER friends, and the whole happy gang of off colour Merry Men are still out there looting the universe, completely free of any restraint?

If this is the case, rather than shutting them down we may actually have done them a favour.  Handed them total license to do as they pleased without having to worry about getting caught.  Or needing to hide their activities, to camouflage their gate every time they used it.  No longer needing to worry about trying to coordinate their usage of their gate with ours.

Which brings me to my next point of concern.  The only way the 'switch and gate' gambit could have worked BEFORE is if there was someone here in the SGC working for them.  Feeding them the scheduled activations of the gate.  Mission details.  Telling them where to find what they were stealing based on what we found out there. Erasing energy signatures from computer back-up logs.

Yeah, they had to have had someone on the inside.  A someone who's still here.  Still feeding them information and working with them in some capacity with regards to helping them to decide where they go, what they go after and what they do with it after they get it.  I admit this is all theoretical, I have no actual proof any of this is happening  but seeing as how there had to have been someone doing this BEFORE we found out about the misuse of the second gate and I haven't heard about anyone being suddenly found out and clapped in irons for being a spy…   But even if they had found them and made them 'disappear' without a fuss - there's still someone here at the SGC doing the covert operative thing.

There has to be.

What's more, it has to be someone fairly high up in the pecking order. Someone who has access to sensitive mission information.  As well as knowing the command codes.  For fooling around with the computer.  Altering backup logs, that sort of thing.  Like when someone tried to hide the energy signature Sam went looking for, confirming the whole 'second gate' hypothesis in the first place.

Somehow I don't think someone  using 'Joe the Janitor' as his cover would be of much use to them.  It has to be someone close to the top of the heap. Someone with the access, the ability and the opportunity.  Someone I know.  Someone I might trust.

"For what purpose were we summoned?"  Teal'c's deep, sombre voice sounds suddenly, bringing me out of my troubled thoughts and back to the remaining members of my family.

"My guess is we're getting our fourth," I reply, trying to sound cheerful and encouraging.  We have to keep the ole team spirits up. This used to be Jack's job.  I guess I'll be taking over for him until...

Oh my god.  I never thought.  It still hasn't sunk in. Not really. Jack has 'retired.'  That means 'gone for good.'  Never coming back.  I know that probably isn't really the case, hopefully isn't really the case -   he'll be back.  Once this is all cleared up and the bad guys are caught. He'll be back.  If he makes it through, okay.  But he will.  Of COURSE he will.  He's Jack.  He'll do the job. He'll be back.

He'll be back.

But... I'm the only one who knows that and I can't let on - I can't act like I'm expecting him to come back.  I can't behave like I know this whole 'retirement...thing...is just an act.  I have to make it look like I think he's gone for good. Just like everyone else.  And I have to learn to live with what that means for SG-1.  Just like Sam and Teal'c.

 Jack, I hope for your sake I can pull this off.

"Who do you think it'll be?" Sam asks me a little apprehensively, as she tries to go for an unconcerned and casual 'Jackian' slump against the railing.

I'm not the only one trying not to let on they're way more affected by this than they can afford to be.

'Oh, we'll probably get someone like Ferretti, and you'll get command," I try to reassure her.

As far as I am concerned, that's exactly what should happen.  Sam can do the job and she's earned the right to command SG-1.  She'd be the last one to say this about herself, but she's bright, she's capable and she has a very keen analytical mind.  Cracker jack, when it comes to tactics.  I'd have no qualms about putting my fate in her hands, and I don't think I'd be getting any arguments from Teal'c about it either.

I can see from the look on her face she doesn't share my confidence in her abilities, but then that's hardly a surprise.  Nor is her response.

"Ooooh, I don't know about that, they'll probably go with someone higher than major."

She's probably right, come to think of it.  Since when does anything that's done in the military have ANYTHING to do with what SHOULD happen?  What makes sense?

Or what's just - right?

I'm trying to quell a reactionary burst of anger when I hear footfalls on the spiral stairwell behind us.

Peachy.  Show time.

Sam jumps nervously to attention as the general walks up to us.  Followed by the last person I was expecting to see.

My heart plummets all the way down to the centre of the earth.

THIS...can't be happening.  Of all the people George could have picked - why - why him?

"As you were," the general addresses us in a firm, but not unkind tone.  There is no way to make this a pleasant experience for any of us.  No way to make it any less horrible or awkward then it already is.  We hate what's about to happen, he knows it, and he's doing his best to make a distasteful, but unavoidable event as palatable as possible for those who are about to get fed something they're not gonna like.

I wish I felt as charitable.  But I don't.  Mister Sweet and Nice has just about had it up to here with being made to swallow stuff he doesn't want to.

THIS has nothing to do with Jack.  THIS is about not wanting the time all of us have to be without him to be any worse than it already has to be.

Hammond can't help but notice we've taken in the identity of our new 'fourth' with some degree of trepidation.  He doesn't have to, he's the boss, he can tell us 'this is the way it is, like it or lump it', but he also cares how we feel, so he's continuing onward in his best 'break it to them gently' voice.

"Since SG-1 is considered the flagship unit, it falls on me to assure that you have the strongest possible leadership.  Therefore, I'm reassigning the most senior officer we have in the field as your new commanding officer.  Colonel Makepeace will be joining SG-1 immediately.  I hope you'll make him feel welcome."

I'm sure that makes sense from your point of view, George, but it doesn't from mine.  Sam can do the job.  We know her, we trust her. We want HER.

Okay, make that me.  My determination to have my wishes considered only grows as I look into the cold, unfriendly eyes of the alternative.

"Um, Sir - ah - I - I don't want to seem out of line, here, ah...but since I'm a civilian here, I'm probably the only one who can say this…"

Oh yes I do.  I want to be WAY out of line.  I want to jump up and down and hold my breath until I turn blue. I'm NOT happy here!

To his credit Hammond can see this, and he's kind enough to allow me the dignity of at least VOICING my objections.  Again, I know he doesn't HAVE to.  I can tell from his expression this isn't an argument I'm going to win, but he'll let me talk anyway.

"Spit it out, Doctor," he says to me in a very tolerant voice.

"Well, no offense, ah, but doesn't Major CARTER deserve to take charge of SG-1?

Makepeace is giving me a look that could freeze molten lava. It's starting to occur to me I might be making a significant tactical error here, ticking off the new 'fearless leader' before he's even had a chance to step up to the plate.  I've gotten kinder glances from System Lords.

But it's a funny thing with me and puffed up assholes who give me attitude. Who think they can push me around because they're so much bigger than me.  It makes me just a little bit...crazy.  Brings out that reckless streak in me which I'm sure is a major contributing factor to the preponderance of grey in Jack's hair.

I've normally got a very strong survival instinct but jerks like Makepeace just bring out the worst in me.

"Major Carter has an exemplary record on the team, as recognized by her recent promotion to major. But major is a far cry from colonel."

Hammond is still trying to be the peacemaker, still trying to make the pill a little less bitter to swallow.

I HATE pills.

"I understand, General," Sam pipes up suddenly, casting me a slightly admonishing sidewise glance.  She's embarrassed, wants me to shut up. Doesn't want to make waves.  As usual.

Sorry, Sam, I'm not ready to come out of the water, yet.

"I'm sorry, I DON'T.  What- what difference does it make what TITLE she has, the - the point is the - "

I'm just starting to get a good head of steam up when she cuts me off at the knees.

"It's all right, Daniel. Really."  She's had enough. If she could get away with wrestling me to the ground and stuffing a dirty sock in my mouth to shut me up she'd do it.  But not in front of the general, huh, Sam?

Or the new boss.

Oh, happy day.  I'll be paying for this later.  In more ways than one.  Way to go, Daniel, all shooting your mouth off has done is give George more grief over this than he needed, made Sam want to take you out back and pound the snot out of you for drawing attention to her, and announced yourself as SG-1's chief smart mouth and troublemaker to Colonel 'By the Book Chief Anal Asshole Sir Jar Head.'

I'd say the day is getting off to a fantastic start.

The general has done what he had to and without further ado, he dismisses us and leaves.  Makepeace's expression tells me just how good a first impression I've made on him as he steps forward to give us the requisite pep talk.

This man is going to put a bullet right between my eyes the first chance he gets.  He couldn't hate my guts any more if I were wearing a dress. Oh boy. I'm going to be seriously dead if I don't make up for some lost ground, here.

"I'm proud to join you folks. I hope you can learn to trust MY command as much as you did Colonel O'Neill's."

He may have meant that last bit for all of us, but he aimed it right at me.  Nor did I miss the emphasis.  Yes Sir, you are the boss, Sir. Got it.  Got it good.  He's also reminded me I'm supposed to be mad at Jack.  Shit.  Mad at Jack.  Can't forget that.

 I hate this shit but I'd better lie through my teeth.  At this point, resistance is just plain stupid.  I want to live long enough to see Jack get his team back and wipe that smug look of,  'I am GOD, you WILL do what I say' right off Colonel Asshole's face.

Preferably with his fist.

"I'm sure we will," Sam says with resigned correctness. "Sir."

Good Soldier Sam.

That's right, Sam, suck up your disappointment and suck up to the new boss.  Smart thing to do.  I'm about to do the same thing.  Got no choice.  Gotta get the asshole off my back and stick it to Jack at the same time. All for the glory of the SGC.

I'm really, really sorry about this, Jack.  This is just about the scummiest thing I've ever done, but it's the desperate times, desperate measures thing.  Something I'm sure you can relate to. What I'm about to say will make it look like - look like I've tossed you out with the trash.  Like I'm sorry I ever knew you.  The way it's supposed to look.

I know it has to be done, but still, I just wish I didn't hate myself quite so much as I do at the moment.

"I never really trusted Jack's command but, uh...I'm open."

I can't actually manage to make eye contact while I'm saying it, but he buys it.  Oh yeah, that came out as just the right combination of sniveling toady and vindictive reaction to betrayal.  Petty and pandering, all in one.  That was good.  Doctor Jackson's sour grapes opinion of his former team leader and best friend will be all over the SGC by lunchtime.

Maybe I should consider a career on the stage.

I wish I was dead.

Makepeace sneers at me with a mixture of triumph and contempt.  He thinks he's scared me into submission.  Thinks I'm not even worth bothering with.

Good.  Just what I was going for.

"That's good.  Then I'll see you at our first briefing."

One more withering look at me and then he swaggers away.  Colonel Tough Guy.  Top of the food chain.  Look at me, folks, I'm the boss of SG-1.

Biggest jerk on the block.  I hope you trip over your ego and break your neck.

God, I HATE the military.

Teal'c has barely moved or made a sound during this entire, sordid episode.  He doesn't look at either us of as he abruptly turns and glides silently away, wrapped in his stately mantle of Jaffa inscrutability.  So much class in that exit it doesn't even bear comparison.

I look to Sam, and see she's seething.  Whether it's because of what I said before, or what I've just said now, but she's damned unhappy with me and she doesn't hold back showing me.  I feel like I've lost another friend.

Possibly two.  Whatever Teal'c has made of what has just happened, he's choosing not to share right now.

However, it's clear I've slipped more than a few points in Sam's estimation.  She hurls a disgusted look at me and then leaves me too.

Leaves me standing by myself and feeling even more alone.

 


This is a nightmare.

I'm hiding in my office until the last possible minute before I absolutely HAVE to go out there and go to the briefing.  I just can't deal with what I'm seeing on the faces of everyone I've seen today.

The strange, revolting combination of pity and scorn.  I'm the guy who was the best friend of Jack O'Neill.  You know, ex-colonel, good guy, action hero, and saviour of the Earth Jack O'Neill.  The THIEF.  The blot on the escutcheon of the proud and mighty SGC.

Oh, THAT Jack O'Neill.

How soon they forget.  Jack O'Neill is a name no one mentions.  Most of them are ashamed to admit they even knew him, never mind own up to having once admired him.  After everything he's done for Earth, how many lives he's saved - a lot of them the same people now walking past me trying not to look me in the eye - this is the thanks he gets.

A bunch of people walking around trying to distance themselves from him, his memory, his very existence and anyone who had anything to do with him.

And I'm the guy who was closest to him.  The guy who more than anyone should have seen this coming.  Maybe I did.  Maybe I knew more than I'm saying.  Maybe I was in on it, even, just was smart enough not to get caught.

Oh, no one's saying anything.  Nothing like that.  But they're thinking it.  I can see it in their eyes as their glances slide by me as quickly as they do.

It warms me to the bottom of my soul, so it does.

Lets not even get into the ones who are resenting the shit out of me for still being here while he isn't, when I've got no business being here in the first place.  And never did.

I'm probably overreacting but I can't help it.  Sam was so angry with me.  It hurts to even consider it, but I can't help thinking Sam is falling into that camp.  Rapidly.

 Makepeace owns the concession.

I don't think I fully appreciated just how many people here still resent my presence.  Resent my 'special' status, the perceived preferential treatment I've received as a member of SG-1.  Under Jack's protection.

I'm not afraid to call it the way it was.  Jack has a lot of clout around here. Had.  Had a lot of clout.  His acceptance of me went a long way to clearing most of the obstacles to me being here and becoming a functioning part of this place.  It wasn't easy.  Plenty of people were less than thrilled with the idea of having a wide-eyed, slack-jawed, longhaired civilian wandering around.  With his ideals and less than kind opinions of their ways of doing business. Not to mention his big mouth and propensity for expressing himself at every politically incorrect opportunity.

But for Jack I wouldn't be here right now.  If Hammond had had his way, I'd be sitting in a back room somewhere, going blind going over things other people were bringing back through that gate.  I wasn't exactly George's favourite person when I came 'home'. He was at the top of the list of a whole bunch of folks not exactly doing the welcoming with open arms thing when Danny came marching home.  No fatted calf was killed for this particular prodigal archaeologist.

I'll never know for sure exactly what Jack did to get me on SG-1.  He's never said, and I doubt he ever will.  But he went in there fighting and didn't come out until he got what I wanted.  The first of many, many times he's gone to bat for me.

I owe Jack a lot more than I can ever tell him.  I've never fully realized it until this very moment.  Just as I never realized how much I've come to rely on the comforting, constant buffer of his influence and approval between me and the 'reality' of the SGC.

I meant what I said before.  About him being my hero.  Now I have to be one for him.

Going through that door and walking the military gauntlet on the other side scares the piss out of me.  I'm not ashamed to admit it, but for Jack's sake, I have to do it.  I have to face those hard cases and disapproving faces, and I have to keep going no matter who gives me whatever kind of grief they're going to.

I'm going to get on with it, keep it together, and do everything I need to do to hold the fort at this end.  Jack needs to have a team to come back to.  He'll have one.  Whatever it takes.

However, I'm not stopping there.  A spy is hiding behind one of those faces.  I'm suddenly of a mind to engage in a little cloak and dagger activity myself.

I'm startled by the sound of my door opening.  Makepeace barges in without so much as a 'by your leave', slams the door behind him and then stands there for a second, glowering at me.

Oh, I guess being the leader of SG-1 means you don't have to knock.

"Something I can do for you, Colonel?"  I inquire as blandly as possible.

He scowls at me and stomps around my desk, coming to a stop directly in front of me.  A burly hand fists itself in my T-shirt. I find myself coming up out of my chair with alarming alacrity, all the more disconcerting in that I've exerted no energy or inclination toward arriving on my feet.  I end up suspended nose to nose with him, loosely dangling from the hand wrapped in my shirt.

He scornfully scrutinizes me for an uncomfortable interval.  I'm trying to keep my expression neutral, my breathing even, and most importantly am attempting to resist an almost irresistible impulse to reach up and….tweak his nose.

Which probably wouldn't be wise.  I get out of this alive I've seriously got to get my head examined.

"People like you make me sick," he says finally.  "Big mouth, big talk, think you own the world.  You've got some nerve walking around here dressed like that.  You don't deserve to wear that uniform."

"So I've been told," I reply calmly.  Just - just one 'beep'.  Just one.  What could it hurt?

"You think you're funny, don't you?"  he continues, his tone becoming lower, more menacing. "You think you're pretty smart, too.  Well, I don't like comedians.  Wise-asses.   Know-it-alls.  Don't like any of 'em.  But what I don't like MOST of all - I don't like CIVILIANS."

"So you're saying this isn't the beginning of a beautiful friendship?"

His eyes narrow slightly; the side of his face pulls up in a tight, leering half-smile.

"You don't like me much, do you, Jackson?"

"Can I refuse to answer that on the grounds I'm partial to my face the way it is?"

He's making all the right menacing moves, but he's coming across as being very controlled. No way he's going to hit me.  He's not that stupid.  He just wants to make me THINK he's going to hit me.

He snorts in my face.  "You've got guts.  And a mouth to match.  O'Neill might have put up with your bull, but all attitude is going to get you on MY team is a lot of trouble."

I've just about had enough of the grandstanding.  I get the point.  He's big, he's tough and he can bench press me over his head.

Big deal.  I know how to spell ignoramus.  Pronounce it, too.

"If you wouldn't mind, Colonel, would you please let me go, give me the speech and get out of my face?  I've got a briefing to go in about five minutes and I'd like to get my notes together, if it's all the same to you."

He slams me back down in my chair so abruptly the breath is pushed out of my chest.  "You want the speech?" he hisses as he leans over me.  I can only stare dumbly back up at him as he angrily continues.  "You want the speech, Doctor Jackson? I'll give it to you.  I'll give it to you all right!"

I'm still saying nothing, blinking stupidly up at him he continues to hurl words at me.  His face is turning an alarming shade of red.  I'm wondering if I haven't seriously overestimated his intelligence.

"I don't know what O'Neill saw in you, but it must have been something to waste so much time on you.  He cut you a hell of a lot of slack.  I don't get it.  I just don't get it."

No.  You wouldn't.  Not in a million years.  I'd be wasting my time and yours trying to explain it to you.  Not that I feel particularly compelled to, or that it would even be worth the effort.

"Well, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm not Jack O'Neill."

Don't have to tell me once.

"Whatever little deal you and he had going, that's all over now.  I'm the leader of SG-1 and nobody on my team gets a free ride. Especially dead-weight, wise-assed civilians.  I don't care how 'smart' you are, brains don't cut any ice with me."

So I see.

"I'm putting you on notice, Doctor Jackson.  "You are going to do things my way, and you're going to do them the way I say.  You're going to get with the program and pull your weight out there or so help me I'll bounce you off MY team so fast your head will spin.  I'm gonna boot that sorry civilian ass of yours until your performance in the field is up to MY standards.  No member of my team gets cut any slack or places another in danger 'cause they don't know their ass from the business end of their weapon.  You hearing me, DOC?"

"I'm not deaf."  I don't scare easy, either.

He stares down at me, breathing heavily.  "The flagship team of the SGC.  A civilian geek, an alien turncoat and a woman.  O'Neill was the only one of you worth a damn and look where it got him.  Jesus."

Well, THAT was interesting.  Very interesting.  I mentally file his last comment away for further consideration.  I think we're just about done with the 'new alpha male establishes dominance' scene.  I figure he's peed on me enough.

Looks like I figured right.  Makepeace is calming down, regaining his composure.  He affixes me with a final, piercing look before he moves away from me, bound for the door.

"Get moving," he grunts as he approaches the exit.  "Get your butt down to that briefing.  And don't forget..."

He opens the door, then pauses.  Turning back he flashes a contemptuous smile at me.   "I'll be watching every move you make.  We understand each other?"

"Don't worry, Colonel, I've got your number," I sneer right back at him.

Okay, so it's not too smart.  I was going to try and play Mister Co-operative with the King of the Jar Heads, but you know what?  He just went and made me mad.  I think it's just about time to stop letting Neanderthals like him push me around.  Having Jack to fall back on was comforting, but it's suddenly occurring to me that in running interference for me, maybe he hasn't been doing me any favours.  I might not be anyone's first choice for soldier of the month, but I haven't exactly been standing around here for the last three years with my finger up my ass, either.  I've paid my stinking dues.  I've done my stinking share.  More than pulled my weight and fuck you, Colonel Makepeace, Sir.  With no due respect.

Get ME bounced off your team, will you? YOUR team?  I don't think so!  Threaten me? Well, we'll just see about that. See about a whole lot of other things, while we're at it.  Maybe it's time to see just how much clout the geek really has around here.

Bring it on, you brain-dead, no-necked, arrogant, puke-faced -

I'm so mad I can't even think.  He snorts at me one last time and leaves, pulling the door closed behind him.  I fumble with the papers on my desk, trying to bring myself back under control.

We understand each other.  Only too well.  This is war.  And the battle lines have just been drawn.

Watch yourself, Colonel.  I'm not a soldier, but I know how to fight.  What's more, I fight dirty.  And I fight to win.

 


 

P7B-489.  Planetary survey.  A walk in the park.  Literally, from the looks of the place and the telemetry from the UAV.

Makepeace is less than impressed.  To put it mildly.

Not to put too fine a point on it, he's hopping mad.  He had his eye on P5X-281.  First contact situation.  Right down SG-1's usual alley. Imagine his surprise when Hammond decided to give SG-11 the nod for it and fobbed this 'milk run' off on us.

SG-1 is going to be spending an invigorating afternoon collecting soil samples instead of rushing intrepidly forward into action and adventure.  Makepeace is so disappointed he's almost in tears.  He's the envy of the SGC.  Getting the nod for the top spot on the number one team, he's been so hot to go out there and start becoming the stuff of legends he's been all but creaming his BDUs.  And here he is, passed over for his first shot at greatness. I could almost find it in my heart to feel sorry for him right now.

"Jackson!  Get the lead out and take point.  I said, MOVE IT, Mister!"

Almost.

"No, no, let the GENIUS carry it.    He could use some exercise from the looks of him.  Getting a little flabby there, Doc?  O'Neill's been taking it easy on you, letting you get soft.  We'll take care of that, no problem. We'll have you whipped into shape in no time.  You'll pull your weight and then some.  Take that one - AND that one.  Come on, pick it up and get out front.  NOW."

Who am I kidding?  I hope he chokes on it.

Teal'c steps forward and puts a restraining hand on my shoulder.

"I will take point, DanielJackson," he says quietly, as he takes one of the packs from me.  I can't help but notice it's the heaviest one.

I also can't help but notice it seems I still have at least ONE friend on SG-1.

Makepeace looks less than impressed by what Teal'c has said and done.  His displeasure is more than evident on his face as he bears down on us.

"Beg pardon?" he barks at Teal'c.  "I thought I heard myself give an ORDER.  Not a suggestion.  An order. I can understand HIM not getting it," he continues with a disdainful toss of his head at me, "but I was under the impression YOU were familiar with the concept.  Perhaps I was misinformed."

"You were not." Teal'c has drawn himself up to his full height, shoulders squarely set, the immovable object personified.  His chiseled in stone expression is equally unforgiving.  "The order was ill-conceived.  It would result in a disposition of the team members contrary to our accustomed field practices and would furthermore be utilizing your manpower resources in an inefficient fashion. This is understandable.  You are as yet unaware of our standard field procedures, strengths or the customary way in which Colonel O'Neill deploys us.  You will learn.  We will be happy to instruct you."

Inclining his head respectfully, Teal'c begins to turn and walk away from the gate. "I will take point," he says smoothly.

"Stop right where you are, Mister," Makepeace barks at him.  "I didn't ask for your opinion, I gave an order.  Jackson takes point.  You get our six.  Give him back the pack and bring up the rear.  That's an order."

Teal'c has stopped walking, but he doesn't turn back.  "It is not the way we do business."

I can see Sam out of the corner of my eye.  She's getting just as worried as I am. I don't know what's rattling us more, the unsettling anachronism of the colloquial phrase Teal'c has just used, or the deep, low, clearly dangerous tone it was delivered in.

The sun is shining but there's no mistaking the storm warnings all around us.

"I don't care what you USED to do," Makepeace fires back at him.  "Now I'm here, I'm the leader and you'll do things MY way."

Teal'c finally turns, a mildly troubled expression on his face.  "That is impractical.  I do not understand your reasoning.  You have been granted the leadership of a fully tested and proven field unit which has functioned smoothly as a highly effective, efficient sum of its constituent parts.  We have been together for three years.  We have learned the capabilities of each member of this team and evolved our procedures through experience and battle trial.  I do not understand why you would wish to 'mess with success.'  This is the sign of a poor leader.  Colonel O'Neill would not do this.  He understands the necessity of flexibility on the part of the leader, as well as those being led.  He would not summarily reject proven methods in an unjustified attempt to impose his will.  Colonel O’Neill recognizes a true leader may only lead where others are willing, and indeed able, to follow.”

Makepeace flushes, a cruel smirk on his face as he strides up to Teal'c and faces him down, practically nose to nose.  I have a hard time catching what he's saying to our friend because the words are delivered quickly, in breathless, biting snatches almost too low to carry far beyond the hearing of the man to whom they are being directed.

"You've got a HELL of a lot of nerve holding up O'Neill to me, you yellow-bellied, back-stabbing bastard!  After the way the three of you turned on him?  Turned him in? Talking to me about teamwork?  What the FUCK do you know about it?  I've SEEN the way SG-1 operates!  Turns tail and runs at the first sign of trouble, ratting to the aliens and saving your own asses instead of backing up your CO.  Jack should have gotten a fucking MEDAL for what he did and what did he get instead? Turfed out on his ass. Thanks to you!"

He's not done ranting, but I don’t bother listening to the rest of it.  I've heard quite enough.  More than enough.

My my, Colonel Makepeace, What an INTERESTING attitude you have.  Downright fascinating.  Fascinating enough to definitely warrant further investigation.  Later.  But first, we've got to get through this situation we have here and the rest of this mission.

"It's all right, Teal'c," I say loudly.  "He's right.  He's the boss.  We have to do what he says."

Makepeace stops raving, he and Teal'c both turn to watch me as I walk up to them.  One pair of eyes considerably kinder than the other.

I know what Teal'c's trying to do, and I appreciate the effort, as well as the thought behind it.  However, we can afford to concede this particular battle.  Teal'c doesn't need to shield me from any consequences of this command decision.  It isn't like we're about to sally forth into a nest of Jaffa.  We're going to take a walk in a nice forest and pick up some dirt, rocks and flowers.  I'm not about to get my head shot off if I stick it out there in front.

Besides, even if I was, keeping my hat in one piece isn't worth risking my friend going up on charges trying to protect it.

I'll take point.  Enough, already.

I reach Teal'c's side, put my hand on his arm and start to take the pack from him.  At first, he won't let go.

"It's okay, Teal'c," I say firmly as I tug on the strap once more. "Let's just get the job, done, 'kay?"

His dark eyes spark briefly with understanding as he lets go of the burden he was trying to spare me.  I smile at him, shoulder it, and then set out through the trees.

"Hey, the civilian is smarter than he looks!"  Makepeace laughs.  "Come on, people, let's get moving."

Buddy, you just bought yourself a pile of trouble.  Jackson style.

 


It's been a fairly pleasant afternoon, considering the way it started. We're mostly after botanical samples this trip out.  We might not have been doing so hot in alien technology retrieval but some of the alien flora specimens various SG teams have been bringing back lately have caused a fair amount of excitement in the medical and biosciences departments.  Nice to know not everything we find out here isn't considered to be a waste of time if it can't be used to blow things up with.

I'm picking flowers, Sam is bagging and labeling the samples, Teal'c has gone a little ahead to scout around and see if there is anything further of interest, and Makepeace?  Well, the good colonel is skulking about making no attempt to disguise just how disgusted he is with being reduced to supervising a bunch of daisy pickers.

Sure ain't the sort of duty you saw yourself pulling when you took the job, huh, Colonel?  Bet you're saying to yourself right now, 'what's up with this, Jack O'Neill didn't have to pick no freaking daisies!'

No, he didn't.  But, as you reminded us earlier, you're no Jack O'Neill.  Not in your wildest dreams.

Still, I have to admit he has a point other than the one on top of his head.  This isn't the sort of mission SG-1 usually gets assigned.  Especially as I know we really SHOULD have gotten the first contact mission. SG-11's anthropologist has only just been transferred to the project.  He's only been through the gate twice - has never been in a first contact situation before.  I've got no doubt he can handle it. Robinson is a bright guy, very personable, but still, it's a little bit of a load to throw on his shoulders when SG-1 was available and the mission itself was the perfect bone to fling to the new leader of the flagship team.  Who was obviously eager to get out in the field with his shiny new command and do the SGC proud.

Which has to make me wonder why Hammond didn't throw it to him.

The general is no idiot.  He knows how damaging Jack's disgrace has been to the morale of the SGC - and to the morale of SG-1 in particular.  He also knows the people under his command.  You would think his first priority would be to try to put the whole business aside as quickly as possible by doing everything he could to ensure the 'new' SG-1 was up and running as smoothly as possible.

Ticking off its new commander on its very first outing doesn't strike me as the best way of accomplishing this.  In fact, this mission doesn't seem to have anything to do with promoting the new SG-1 at all.  It's almost as Hammond knows he doesn't HAVE to worry about whether or not the team is going to be able to make the transition quickly because he knows this change in leadership is only temporary.  As if he is more interested in keeping US busy doing something innocuous and SAFE than he is in keeping Makepeace happy. Makepeace isn't his primary concern, here.  We are.

He's keeping us out of harm's way.  He has to let us go out there - it would look suspicious if SG-1 were indefinitely stood down for no good reason.  Almost as suspicious as it would have looked if he hadn't replaced Jack immediately.  Which he did. With the only person he logically could, and have it look 'right'.  He had no choice. He had to give us a new 'leader' and then he had to give us a mission.   Business as usual.  Life goes on. That's the way it has to look.

But what he DOESN'T have to do is give us a mission that will place us in any sort of danger.  God, this is Jack's doing!  I can hear him now. 'General, I'll do it, but only if you promise me you'll take care of my team while I'm gone.  You send them out there somewhere where they can get shot at without me and I guarantee you I won't be a happy man when I get back.'

Yeah, I can hear him all right.  That's exactly what he would say.  Exactly what he would have done.

You don't have to worry about us, Jack.  George is looking out for us.  You - you just worry about yourself.  Take care of yourself.  We'll be fine.

I realize this is all just speculation.  Still, I'm willing to lay money SG-1 isn't going to be doing anything but daisy picking until Jack comes home. And seeing as how having us do THAT for any length of time would eventually be suspicious in itself, it can only mean Jack isn't planning on being away for very long.

God, I hope I'm right.

He's already made contact.  What happens next? Obviously, he has to go where the action is.  Which I would presume is - this side of the gate.  Another reason why it's looking more and more as if Hammond is in on the whole thing.  The only way Jack can get through the gate is if the general lets him.  Guess if I'm looking for confirmation I'm on the right track with all of this, Jack coming back to the SGC looking for a ticket to the other side will be it.

A burst of excited chatter from the branches overhead draws my attention.  This particular forest seems to be rife with a primate species extremely curious about us and our activities.  They've remained pretty well hidden in the overhead foliage and we haven't been able to get a good look at them, but they've been watching us the whole time we've been here.  I'm not too concerned.  They haven't made any aggressive moves and don't seem to be dangerous, just curious.  They're spooking Makepeace, though.  He's pacing restively, fiddling with his gun, looking up at the trees and scowling a lot.

The macho jerk had better not start shooting at them.

Makepeace must have clued in I was watching him, because his head suddenly swivels around until his unfriendly eyes fix on me.  "What are you looking at?"  he snaps at me.

"An omadhaun, sir," I reply sweetly.  Behind me, I can hear Sam stifling a giggle, which proves she's got much more extensive knowledge of English vocabulary than our fearless leader.

Much more.  I'm impressed.  That wasn't exactly a commonly used euphemism for 'idiot.'

The omadhaun in question is staring at me with a slightly perplexed expression, suspicious I've just pulled one over on him yet again but not knowing for sure.  I've been doing this to him all afternoon.  Throwing hundred dollar words at his thirty dollar capacity to comprehend them and watching with great amusement and no small amount of smug satisfaction as he demonstrates his continuing inability to make change.

Or the slightest bit of sense out of a single thing I'm saying.

The best part is there isn't a damned thing he can do about it.  I'm not being discernibly insubordinate, argumentative or confrontational, I'm speaking English, and answering promptly and properly when spoken to.  Sam understands me.  So does Teal'c.  He, however - doesn't.  But he can't get me to stop unless he ADMITS he doesn't.

Somehow, I just don't think he's going to do that.  Hasn't so far, anyway. Wouldn't do for the leader of SG-1 to admit an ALIEN knows more English than he does.

Wasn't kidding when I said I fight dirty.  By the time I get done with Makepeace he won't even know what day it is.

This is the most fun I've had in a long time.  Sam's getting quite a kick out of the show as well.  When we first set out she was so uptight and stuck in 'good soldier' mode I thought she was going to hurt herself.  In many ways her version of this nightmare has to be the hardest of all to deal with.  As dedicated as we both are to SG-1, neither Teal'c or I have as much of a personal investment in the actual military as Sam does.  It's literally - her life.  She's very committed to doing her duty. To being part of the program.  Not just the Stargate program.

Sometimes her need to be seen as 'the good soldier' conflicts with circumstantial ambiguities.  Sometimes the 'best' thing to do isn't always what the guy in charge is telling you to do.  Sometimes what you know is more 'right' than what he thinks is the right way to go.  Unfortunately her training and conditioning don't support her confidence in her own instincts and abilities during moments when thinking outside the 'regs' is required. Moreover, the concept of challenging authority is almost anathema to her.

I'm working on her.

She's no happier with the situation than the rest of us are, but she'd never dream of letting it show.  No way the 2IC of SG-1 can 'act out' or speak up, but she's finding it harder and harder to deny her vicarious enjoyment of MY covert insubordination.

I decide to up the ante.  I'll have her in stitches before the day is over.  She'll kill me later, but it's worth it, seeing her smile.

""Excoriate qwerty pleonasm imbroglio, wouldn't you say, Sam?"

It's pure gibberish.  Doesn't mean a thing, but I affix her with an earnest expression and utter the nonsense sentence in a deeply serious voice, as if I am asking her an actual question.  She bites her lip and ducks her head, fighting the smile waging its own battle to be allowed to spread all over her face.  Makepeace peers at the pair of us darkly as she wrestles with the part of herself wanting to cut loose and tell the good soldier to go take a perambulation.

Finally she looks askew at me, a decided glint in her eyes, and says, "Gormless, but not inchoate."  She punctuates her profound obscurity with an authoritative nod of her head.

YES!  Way to go, SAM!

Makepeace can't take it anymore.  "Wrap it up, you two," he growls as he begins to move away from us.  "It's time to start heading back.  As soon as I round up the Jaffa we're moving out."

Sam watches him walk away and waits until he's disappeared behind a tree before whipping around and punching me soundly on the arm.

"Honestly!" she scolds me with a stern look on her face and a smile in her voice.  "You're worse than the colonel!"

We each see the sharp pang of loss we both suddenly feel reflected in the face of the other as we realize the 'colonel' she is referring to is not the man who was just standing here.

 


"Don't!  I yell at the man taking aim at the little primate scurrying across the clearing.  "Don't SHOOT IT!"

Makepeace jumps at the sound and jerks the barrel of his weapon up.  He utters a colourful expletive as he tries to regain his composure and reacquire the target, but he doesn't quite have enough time.  I'm gratified to see the monkey make it to the base of the nearest tree, and he's up it and out of harm's way before Makepeace can blow his furry little ass to smithereens.

Still carrying the pack he managed to snatch right out from under our noses.

Oops.

The gutsy little furball scared the crap out of both of us.  We'd just finished stowing all the samples and collecting paraphernalia away when we heard Makepeace and Teal'c coming back.  We turned our attention away from the packs, I swear it was just a second, and next thing we know this screeching mass of hair was dropping down on us from directly overhead.

Didn't land on us or attack us.  Wasn't interested in us at all.  Apparently it wanted what we thought was interesting enough to spend so much time mucking about with.  It grabbed one of the packs and now it's up there in the trees.

The monkey, and the pack.

I'm wondering which one, though, as I'm running to the base of the tree, peering up the trunk, trying to see what I can see.

"What the hell did it get?"  Makepeace demands as he reaches Sam's side.  'Damned thieving little bastard," he curses. "Why the hell did you yell like that and spoil my aim?  Coulda stopped the little fucker on the ground."

"Is that the way you advocate dealing with all thieves, Colonel?"  I can't help but snap at him as I keep trying to make out what I'm seeing at the top of the tree.  "Shoot them on the spot?"

He doesn't say anything. I wasn't expecting him to.  Sam is quick to fill in the more than pregnant pause.

"It got all the samples, sir."

If course it did. Nuts.

Makepeace takes off his cap and throws it to the ground in a vehement gesture of total disgust.  "I don't BELIEVE this!"  he storms.  "I don't FUCKING believe this.  What else can go wrong?"

Sam is still trying to salvage the situation.  From what I'm seeing, I might be able to help.

"We can gather more samples, sir," she ventures.

"We don't have TIME, Major," Makepeace thunders back at her.  "It took you all damned afternoon to get the lot the GENIUS over there let get……treed. We’re due to report back at 1730 hours.  How do you propose to do the work of an afternoon in less than an hour - which is about how long it's going to take us to get back to the gate!"

"Don't yell at her!"  I yell at him.  "It's not her fault.  Besides, it might not be as bad as it seems."

Teal'c has joined me and glances up where I'm pointing.  He sees it.  Can barely make it out in the shifting shadows of the waving leaves and boughs overhead, but there it is, tightly wedged in a fork between two branches. The little monkey is frantically tugging at it, trying to make it come loose, but it's not budging.

"DanielJackson is correct," my tall friend announces as he turns to look at Makepeace.  "It will be possible to retrieve the samples.  I will do so immediately."

He hands me his staff weapon and is preparing to hoist himself up into the tree when Makepeace announces he has other ideas.

"No," he shakes his head as he begins to walk toward us, a slightly frowning Sam in his wake. "Not you.   Him."

Him.  Ah, that would be - me.

Sam and Teal'c voice their protests about the same time. Teal'c, because he really does think it's HIS job to shimmy up the tree, and Sam because, well, she knows about my 'problem' with heights.

She might know about it, but there's something she DOESN'T know, and neither does Makepeace. It's true I've got a bit of a problem with heights.  I don't much care for them.  But then, any SANE individual with an ounce of self-preservation probably doesn’t either.  When faced with a narrow plank and a yawning expanse I'm not the happiest camper in the world, but not to the extent I freeze up with fear if I'm higher off the ground than I can survive if I should happen to fall down.  As I don't enjoy the thought of falling great distances and impacting with unpleasant velocity on unforgiving surfaces I don't care to be anywhere where there is a potential for this to occur, but I can still function if I have to be.

However, this 'problem' definitely does not apply when I'm up a tree.

Jack was a lot closer to the truth than he realized when he put a five letter word starting with 'S' in front of another word starting with 'M' and then addressed me by the rather embarrassing combination in the middle of a crowd of people stuffed into the gateroom.

I still haven't managed to put that one behind me.

I spent a great deal of my childhood up a tree, which is one of the reasons why I also spent a great portion of it stuck with the nickname 'Monkey.'

I LIKE trees.  On the ground I might trip over my bootlace and drop my ammo clip trying to get it in the damned pistol but put me in a tree I'm as graceful as a gazelle.

There's definitely something wrong with that last analogy but I'm going to have to leave it.

My teammates are still trying to intercede on my behalf in an effort to spare me the ordeal of the ascent but Makepeace is having none of it.

"I want you two to report to the infirmary and get your hearing checked as soon as we get back," he says as he eyes both of them sternly.  "There must be something wrong with it - you keep questioning everything I say.  And what I say - is this: the Spacemonkey goes.  It's his fault the stuff is up there in the first place and besides, it'll give him a chance to catch up with his relatives."

Where does he get off calling me Spacemonkey?  He had NO RIGHT to call me that.  That - that's special.  Jack called me that.  Jack is the only one who gets to call me by that name.  By any nickname.

Okay, so I make out it bugs me when people tease me about it when really…….  Never mind, never mind, Makepeace shouldn't have called me that. Just…. shouldn't have.  Now I DEFINITELY have to climb this tree.  If only to redeem the name my nemesis has just sullied.

I can feel Teal'c tense beside me, preparing to debate the issue further, perhaps to the detriment of Makepeace's face.  I let him know he should back off and let me handle it - it's under control - by giving his sleeve a short, sharp tug.

Teal'c and I have a number of - signals - like that.  As do we all with each other.  They've evolved over time as a matter of course and of necessity.  We've been in situations where you can't communicate any other way.  Can't talk to or look at each other even.  So we've learned ways to get the message across without letting anyone else know what we're doing.

He gets it.  I feel him relax.  He doesn't know what I'm up to, but I've just told him I'm okay so he trusts I can handle it, despite what he's seeing.

What I've been doing during my teammates' protestations is laying on the 'Danny in distress' act with a trowel.  All the non-verbal body language stuff Jack teases me about, which he says tells the world 'DANIEL'S NOT HAPPY' in big neon letters.  I'm duckin' the head, workin' the face, blinking and hugging myself for all I'm worth.  Makepeace is totally buying it, too.  He looks happier than I've seen him all day.  So damned pleased with himself he's practically glowing.

Doesn't have a clue he's got me exactly where I want him.

"You heard me, Spacemonkey," he sneers the epithet at me again. Oh!  SO going to make you EAT that word! "Get your ass up there and get that pack.  And DON'T come down without it.  I'm not going back empty-handed on my first time out through the gate with you goofs."

"Okay." I can't resist putting a little quaver in my voice.  It's easy, actually.  It's really laughter I'm having a very hard time suppressing.

In a few short minutes one of us is going to be looking like a monkey's uncle and it isn't going to be me.

Teal'c laces his fingers together to give me a leg up. I grab the first branch I can reach, rest against his strong support for a brief second, and give Makepeace my parting shot.

"Don't go away.  I'll be right back.  I see any representatives of YOUR family tree I'll tell them you say, 'hi'."

One powerful upward thrust from the force of nature beneath my foot and I'm flying.

I'm halfway up the tree in less time than it's taken me to realize I feel like I'm ten again.  Which actually isn't a time in my life with a lot of happy memories, except involving moments like this one.

It started out as a way to escape.  I was scrawny, shy, strange and way too smart, all of which is a dangerous thing to be if you're ten.  And, as I didn't care for being picked on, which I constantly was, I evolved a few coping strategies.  Most of which involved me being somewhere where trouble wasn't.  Or couldn't find me.

The thing with trees started as one of those strategies.  One of my most successful ones, actually.  When trouble came calling I made tracks for where no one could touch me.  I was reckless, fearless and went higher, farther and further than any of them. Up high I was home free.

After a while, I just liked being there.  Not just the climbing part, but finding a comfortable niche and staying there. Sometimes for hours at a time, enveloped in cool, green, living serenity.  I was never afraid.  Never scared I would fall, never scared of anything.  I felt like I was accepted.  Protected, even.

I thought I'd lost that state of grace when I grew up and had to leave my green refuge behind.  Thought it was gone forever.

Then I met a man named Jack O'Neill.

Wonder how Jack would feel being compared to a tree.  No.  Way too easy.  Not going there.  Well, maybe a little.  We'll see.

I drag my mind back to what I'm doing.  I have a show to put on, after all.

I'm acutely aware I'm being watched from below.  It has to be obvious to everyone by now I'm anything but at a disadvantage up here.  Definitely not hugging the trunk in quivering terror as expected.  Even though I'm still just straight climbing.  Rapidly ascending without flourishes or frills.

I've decided it will be more impressive to save the fancy stuff for the descent.

Any worries I may have had about getting into a custody battle with the temporary owner of the prize we both are seeking have been allayed.  As soon as he saw me coming the little monkey chittered warningly at me for a few seconds, but then he scampered away.  Obviously doesn't want it badly enough to fight me for it.

I've finally made it to the object in question.  Only about three-quarters of the way up the tree, but still an impressive distance off the ground.  I'm glad the pack got stuck where it did.  The branches are already reaching the point where they'd have no problem supporting the weight of a ten year old boy, but expecting them to bear my current mass would be a little unrealistic.  I have to remember even though I feel like a boy again, I'm a much bigger one, now.

A fact which is going to be working to my considerable advantage on the way down.  'Cause I'm bigger, now, in more ways than one.  Longer reach, for starters.  More mass means more momentum potential.  Something Sam should be able to appreciate.  This is going to be fun.  Did I mention when it came to hanging around in trees I tended to get a bit reckless?

Look out below!

But first I have to get the damned pack loose.  The sucker is really wedged in tight.  I'm using the time it's taking to fight the thing free to mentally map out the route I'm going to be taking going down.  I paid attention on the way up, where all the branches were - spatial relationships, distances between the intervals.  I couldn't have asked for a better tree for what I have in mind.  It's a nice, big, mature deciduous beauty with lots of strong, sprawling, conveniently spaced branches, a thorough supporting network without a lot of younger, immature foliage complicating things.

It wouldn't do to get hung up on something in mid swing.  Would completely ruin the effect.

"Got it!"  I yell down to the others.  I slip it on, settle the weight evenly on my shoulders and back, make sure it's going to stay put, before leaning back to yell once more.

"Next stop, ground floor!!"

Then I plant my feet firmly on the limb beneath me, gauge the distance I have to cover to the next branch and launch myself into empty air.

"DANIEL!"  I hear Sam shriek below as my hands connect with the firm support awaiting them.  I swing, sight and drop once more without a second's hesitation.

I never had a bicycle when I was a kid so I can't say this is like never forgetting how to ride one.  This is more like as natural as breathing, even after all these years, and way more fun. I can't resist letting a wild, exhilarated whoop escape me as I plummet toward the ground, my seemingly erratic, pendulous downward motion barely mitigated by the tenuous contacts I'm making with the intervening branches.  I'm having WAY too much fun, and it's going to be over far too soon.

Right about….now, actually.  I'm only about fifteen feet off the ground, now, so I figure it's about time for the razzle dazzle finish.

I hunker down on the bough I've just landed on.  Directly ahead of me is exactly what I need.  The branch is perfectly positioned over the 'landing site' and is just far enough away to afford me enough clearance to give the last swing out and down the right amount of 'oomph' the proper 'dismount' requires.

I've got enough of the 'showman' in me to want to really give them their money's worth.

With a slight twinge of regret for the eventual end of the adventure I leap to the waiting branch, clutch it firmly, give my body an emphatic swing and let go. I ride unerringly down the path of motion I’ve created to describe a clean arc all the way to the ground.

Landing neatly and deliberately dramatically in the midst of my fellows.  I flash them all a rakish grin, make a small flourish with my arms and go, "Tah DAH!"

Eat shit and die, Makepeace.

"Daniel!"  Sam says breathlessly.  She staring at me wide-eyed, mouth slightly agape, noticeably flushed.  She's speechless, her face plainly overtaken with an expression of frank admiration that's startling her as much as it is me.

This is a side of me you've never seen before, huh, Sam?  Never quite pictured me as the 'Errol Flynn' type?   Well, that's me, I'm just FULL of surprises.

She still too overwhelmed for words as I shrug the pack from my shoulders.  She reaches blindly out and takes it from me as I grin at her and say, "Here you go. Spacemonkey to the rescue."

I can hear Teal'c laughing behind me even though he isn't making a sound.  You just have to know how to listen.

That leaves Makepeace.  Who's stunned mackerel impression would be making Jack run for his rod and reel.  Bingo.  Gotcha, jerk face.

"Was my performance satisfactory, sir?"  I inquire mildly of my commanding officer.

He sputters unintelligibly for several seconds.  About the length of time it apparently takes him to work out he's been suckered.  Well and truly.

A grudging grin finally makes an appearance.  He shakes his head as he looks me up and down.

"It'll do," he concedes finally.  "It'll do."

We continue to look at each other for a minute.  Something's happening here, not something I honestly was expecting, but I'll take it.

The day is mine; we both know it, and what's more, it looks as if he's actually enough of a man to admit it.

Finally he confirms my suspicions and gives me a slight indication he might not be the total asshole I've previously taken him for.

"There might be hope for you after all," he growls somewhat self-consciously and turns away.  "Okay, show's over, lets get moving.  You - " he nods at Teal'c.  "Get your ass up front, there and take Tarzan, here, with you.  What's everyone standing around for, show's over, move it out!"

Teal'c drops his massive hand on my shoulder as we move past Sam and Makepeace.  A gentle squeeze conveys his vast, unspoken approval.

It was a rocky start, Jack, but your team's still hanging together until you come home.

 

Back to Part One  /  On to Part Three

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Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate Productions, Sci Fi Channel, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. These stories are for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. These stories may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author. Copyright on images remains with the above named rightsholders.
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