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Fanfiction: Screwed Up

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S4 Scorched Earth
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Daniel/Team friendship.  Sam/Jack UST. 
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.  Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

Screwed Up


It was one of those debriefings that made him question whether he still had a good grasp on reality; long lost alien civilisations, robot messengers, naquadah bombs – and while he was still getting his head around that particular piece of information, a happy ending for the Enakarans and the Gadmeer. General Hammond had sat through more briefings like the one he was suffering through than he cared to admit over the past few years of the Stargate programme. He figured he’d sit through a few more before he finally took retirement and he would bet his bottom dollar that they would all involve the team sitting around the table: SG1.

The premier team were considered something of a living legend already within the walls of the SGC. Hammond was under no pretence that the four were hero-worshipped by all levels of his command; that there were whispers that they had that special something that allowed them to survive; something magical that created miracles that saved the world again and again. Their bond as a team was envied; everyone wanted to be one of them. He might not consider SG1 in such fantastical terms but he had always believed that they were Earth’s best hope against the Goa’uld.

He’d risked their bond and the trust between them when he’d sent their leader Colonel Jack O’Neill on an undercover mission alone. It seemed to have worked out in the end; the rogue teams had been brought down and SG1 had found their rhythm again. Or so he had believed. Looking around the table he wondered if he had simply been fooling himself because something was definitely amiss.

He focused on Jack first; the military man was quiet and unusually still. He had provided a succinct report. He sat back in his chair with his hands folded over his stomach; his brown eyes remained firmly fixed to the gleaming table top as the man across the table from him continued the mission debriefing.

Hammond’s eyes slid across from Jack to the still talking Daniel Jackson. The archaeologist was leaning over the table, expanding on his report as he provided the details of his discussions with the robot. Yet Hammond noted that there was a lack of animation to his gestures and just as Jack’s eyes remained fixed on the table, Daniel’s blue eyes darted everywhere but Jack or his other team-mates, Samantha Carter and Teal’c.

Both the Air Force Major and the Jaffa also seemed subdued; Sam had a downcast expression and he noticed she avoided looking at Daniel and at the Colonel. Teal’c stared resolutely ahead and he wore a familiar stoic impassivity.

Hammond’s attention suddenly caught on Daniel’s report and he frowned, wrenching his gaze back to the archaeologist. ‘Excuse me, Doctor Jackson, but did I just hear you were on the ship when the naquadah bomb was triggered?’

For the first time since they’d entered the briefing room, Daniel’s gaze shot to Jack. The Colonel didn’t look at him although he grimaced.

‘Uh, yes.’ Daniel confirmed. He looked at Hammond almost apologetically. ‘I, uh, was on the ship without Jack’s permission, it was just that, well, I just felt it was worth trying to convince Lotan until the last possible moment. I figured I would be able to beam off the ship before the bomb, uh, actually, exploded.’ His fingers mimed an explosion before falling restlessly to smooth over the folder in front of him.

‘I see.’ Hammond glanced over at Jack. If he was putting the facts together correctly the archaeologist had acted without the Colonel’s permission to be on the ship and the Colonel had triggered the bomb knowing that his team-mate was on the ship. It wasn’t exactly a sterling example of team-work. ‘Colonel, do you have anything to add?’

Jack finally looked up. His face was almost as expressionless as Teal’c’s. ‘No, sir.’

Hammond held his gaze for a long moment. He turned away to look at the others. ‘Do either of you have anything, Major Carter? Teal’c?’

‘No, sir.’ Sam’s voice was barely a whisper.

Teal’c inclined his head in Hammond’s direction, the light catching the gold brand on his forehead. ‘I do not.’

He wasn’t going to get anywhere with all of them in the room, Hammond determined. ‘Then you’re dismissed SG1.’ He said curtly. ‘I expect your reports by eleven-hundred tomorrow.’ His gaze moved sharply back to Jack who had stood up with the rest of the team at the dismissal. ‘My office, Colonel.’ He caught the looks of concern that were exchanged but Hammond was already moving. He turned back at the doorway; the Colonel was still standing by the table, his eyes pinned on its surface. ‘Colonel.’ Hammond prompted.

Jack tapped the table as though he’d come to a decision and without looking at the rest of his team, complied with the order.

Hammond shut the door behind Jack and made his way to his chair. ‘Take a seat, Jack.’

Jack sat down, resting his forearms along the arms of the chair. His gaze remained solidly fixed ahead.

Hammond leaned over the surface of his desk, clasping his hands on the smooth surface and pinned Jack with a relentless gaze of his own. ‘What the hell happened out there?’ He demanded.

A muscle worked in Jack’s jaw and he stayed silent. The thought that the other man wasn’t going to answer the question drifted across Hammond’s mind just as the first crack in Jack’s demeanour showed; the barest flicker in the depths of the brown eyes.

‘I screwed up.’ Jack replied finally.

There was a frank honesty both to the words and to the brief look the Colonel shot him before he lowered his gaze that gained Hammond’s respect even though his heart sank at the admission.

‘You want to explain yourself, Colonel?’ Hammond asked with a sigh.

‘I felt the ship was a threat, sir.’ Jack stated, shifting position in the chair. ‘Nothing that I’d heard indicated that the robot was changing his mind. I believed the bomb was our only way of saving the Enkarans. Daniel…Daniel knew that.’

Hammond sighed heavily. ‘Colonel, I know I didn’t leave you many options when I refused to authorise a full military strike and frankly, while I applaud the ingenuity that led you to think of turning the reactor into a bomb, it wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I said you should find another way.’

Jack pressed his lips together briefly. ‘I know that, sir.’ He admitted. ‘Daniel protested; so did Carter.’ His eyes met the General’s again determinedly. ‘You should know, sir, that she altered the reactor only because I gave her a direct order and she still tried to talk me out of it.’

‘You made that clear in your previous report, Colonel.’ Hammond noted briefly, although during the briefing Jack had simply noted he’d ordered the Major to make the changes.

‘Right.’ Jack looked down again.

‘So Doctor Jackson pursued a diplomatic solution on his own while you put in place this military plan with the bomb.’ Hammond continued.

‘I didn’t seriously believe he would be able to get anywhere with the robot.’ Jack looked back up at the General. ‘And when he brought it to the village it didn’t say anything to change my opinion, sir.’ He tapped the chair restlessly before he clasped his hands together to prevent himself from fidgeting. ‘I tried to stop Daniel going but he went anyway.’

The archaeologist had been on the ship without Jack’s permission, Hammond remembered Daniel’s words. ‘But the fact that he was on the ship didn’t cause you to abandon your strategy.’ Hammond stated quietly.

‘Carter had made it clear that the timing and the position of the ship had to be exact in order for the bomb to have any chance of success.’ Jack explained. ‘The ship was in position; we were out of time if we were to try and eliminate the threat to the Enkarans.’ He shrugged; a guard slammed down over his eyes again.

There was a pregnant pause.

‘It couldn’t have been an easy decision for you, son.’ Hammond said gently, breaking the silence.

Jack pressed his lips together tightly but he didn’t speak.

Hammond sat back and regarded his officer intently. ‘I don’t know what to do here, Colonel.’ He admitted seriously. ‘While Doctor Jackson isn’t completely faultless in that he acted without your permission, your action could have led to the death of a valued member not only of your own team but of this command. If this had turned out any other way, you could have been looking at a court martial.’ He stabbed a finger at the younger man across his desk. ‘And I know you know that.’

The Colonel stiffened.

‘The fact is, Colonel, this may still have major repercussions for you and your team.’ Hammond continued. ‘What I’ve heard today is not the sterling example of teamwork that I’ve come to expect from SG1, nor the standard of leadership that I’ve come to expect from you.’

Jack flinched visibly, a dark flush suffusing his cheeks.

Hammond wet his lips. ‘Further, I believe you allowed your personal relationship with the Enkarans to cloud your judgement.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Jack acknowledged, his eyes flickering back to the General’s.

‘So for the record I agree with your assessment.’ Hammond stated. ‘You screwed up.’ He waited for the blunt assessment to sink in. ‘Fix it.’ He held the Colonel’s surprised eyes for a beat. ‘Dismissed.’ He turned his attention to the report on his desk and didn’t look up as Jack hesitated by the door.

‘General.’

Hammond glanced across the room with more understanding in his pale blue eyes than he realised. ‘It’s not me you need to apologise to, son.’

Jack nodded in agreement. He gestured at the door. ‘I should…’

The General nodded in agreement. Jack stepped out and closed the door behind him. Hammond looked at the closed door for a long while. Hammond had risked the trust between them once but he had also learned his lesson – he wouldn’t do it again. He only hoped Jack could fix what he had screwed up; that SG1 could get past the event with minimal impact. He hoped that they did have that unshakeable bond everyone else admired so much or they were all in deep trouble – SG1 and Earth.

o-O-o

‘Daniel!’

The archaeologist sighed and turned around to face the woman running to catch up with him.

Sam stopped beside him, breathless. ‘You’re leaving?’

‘It’s been a long day.’ Daniel replied evenly, punching the call button for the elevator. ‘I thought I’d go home.’

Surprise flickered through her eyes – he usually stayed on base and worked late regardless. He was dismayed to see a determined resolution settle in the blue depths. ‘I’ll walk with you to your car.’ Sam offered. She thrust her hands in the pockets of her blue pants and rocked back on her heels.

‘Actually, Sam, I’d prefer it if you didn’t.’ Daniel said bluntly. He really didn’t want to talk with her or have to listen to her try and defend Jack and what had happened.

‘Oh.’

He tried to ignore the hurt that flickered over her delicate features but he found himself guiltily responding to it almost immediately. ‘Look, Sam,’ he began.

‘No, it’s OK.’ Sam hurried out, raising a hand in supplication. ‘You don’t need to explain. I understand.’

‘No,’ Daniel sighed, nudging his glasses up his nose, ‘I don’t think you do.’

They looked at each other in an unusual uncomfortable silence. The arrival of the elevator broke the tension.

Sam shuffled nervously and took a deep breath. ‘I’m sorry.’

They both knew the apology wasn’t for delaying him. The doors began to slide shut and Daniel jumped forward to put his hand in the space. Sam used the opportunity to take a step back; she turned to leave.

‘Sam.’ Daniel stopped her from leaving before he was conscious of making the decision. He jerked his head at the empty elevator compartment. ‘Walk with me?’

Sam hesitated but she changed direction. He shifted to let her brush by him and get into the elevator with him. Daniel let the doors slide shut behind her. He pushed the button to go the surface. He glanced across at her. She stood just beside him but the half a foot of space separating them seemed like a chasm. Sam’s back was ramrod straight; military parade ground perfect as befitted her status as a Major in the USAF. Her face was set but it still gave away her emotions as clearly as though she had spoken.

‘It wasn’t your fault.’ Daniel said finally.

She sighed heavily and turned to him, her guilt written clearly across her face. ‘I built the bomb, Daniel, and I confirmed the ship’s position so the Colonel would trigger it at the right time.’ She bit her lip and looked away from him.

‘You were under orders.’ Daniel allowed generously.

‘You could have died.’ Sam blurted out. Her blue eyes shone with remorse. ‘It’s just…when I built the bomb, there didn’t seem to be any other way. I didn’t even know you were trying again with Lotan until the Colonel radioed me to tell me you’d transported to the ship.’

But she had known he was on the ship when she had confirmed the position, Daniel realised. He hadn’t been certain before and her quiet words had him rubbing his chest, trying hard not to feel betrayed. She’d had orders and a mission, he reminded himself. He’d been the one to put himself in danger by going back to the ship. He’d known when he did it that Jack would still trigger the bomb. Jack was…Jack. But Sam…he’d expected more of Sam. Hurt swamped him.

‘I’m so sorry, Daniel.’ Sam reached out and touched his arm briefly before her hand fell away.

Daniel shrugged awkwardly. ‘It doesn’t matter.’ He muttered, sticking his hands in his pockets and desperately looking at the floor indicator, hoping they’d reach the surface so he could end the conversation.

‘I should have done…something.’ Sam admitted. She rolled her shoulders as though trying to lessen the tension in them.

‘Why didn’t you?’ Daniel asked bluntly. ‘I mean, it’s not like you’ve always followed orders in the past and I know you agreed with me.’

‘I didn’t like the idea of destroying the Gadmeer anymore than you did, Daniel, but I didn’t see what else we could do to help the Enkarans. If you hadn’t gotten through to Lotan, the bomb…the bomb was their only hope.’ She concluded miserably.

‘So you would have done what Jack did and pressed the trigger?’ Daniel asked sharply, his gaze snapping to her.

Sam sighed heavily. ‘Honestly, I don’t know.’

Daniel grimaced. ‘Well, at least, you’re honest.’

‘Daniel…’ Sam flinched at the caustic tone.

The elevator came to a stop and the doors slid open. Both of them looked into the corridor.

‘Well, this is me.’ His tone gave away his desire for her not to follow him further. He made to move out and Sam stopped him, grabbing his arm lightly. He looked pointedly at her hand and she dropped it with a sigh.

She met his gaze determinedly. ‘I am sorry, Daniel.’

He shook his head. ‘It’s just…it’s just it would have been nice if you guys had trusted me more.’

Sam flushed at the remark. ‘This wasn’t about trusting you, you have to know that.’

‘Sure.’

‘Daniel…’

Daniel shrugged away her protest and stepped into the corridor. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, Sam.’ He removed his hand and the doors slid shut on Sam’s upset face.

He paused for a moment, staring at the closed elevator doors. A flash of guilt had him rubbing his forehead nervously. What happened hadn’t been Sam’s fault and he shouldn’t have taken it out on her, he mused with resignation. He debated whether to go back into the mountain and talk with her but his feet were already turning toward the security desk. It would wait until tomorrow, he decided as he signed out.

Besides, he told himself wryly, it wasn’t really Sam he needed to talk to. He and Jack should probably discuss what had happened although he couldn’t see Jack wanting to talk. A few minutes later, he was in his car and driving away from the mountain but he wasn’t going home. There was somewhere else he had to go first.

o-O-o

Jack tugged on the laces of his boots and tightened them, yanking them until the fastenings were almost cutting into his foot. He winced and loosened them a little before he tied off the knot. His feet hit the floor of the empty locker room with a thud and he leaned forwards, elbows on his knees, hands clasped together. He had changed out of his uniform and into civvies – khakis teamed with an old sweater – fully intending to head home. His CO’s words rang in his ears though.

Fix it.’

Like it was that easy. Jack snorted and sighed. He stared at his locker. Of course it would have been better not to have screwed up in the first place; better not to have ended up with Daniel on a ship he’d been about to blow up. He rubbed a hand over his face as though he could wipe away the tiredness and the guilt; hell, the entire events of the day apart from the eventual result.

Where had it gone so badly wrong?

I believe you allowed your personal relationship with the Enkarans to cloud your judgement.’

Hammond had been right, Jack acknowledged inwardly. He’d gotten too involved with the Enkarans. He liked them as people; admired their tenacity, their sense of community. They were decent folk with similar values to his own; he had understood their desire not to leave a single Enkaran behind. Hedrezar, their leader, had reminded him of the grandmother who had pretty much raised him; strong, confident and devoted to her family. He had enjoyed the company of the Enkarans and had been honoured, if slightly embarrassed, that they would have chosen to name the first child born on the planet after him. He was going to miss them.

Helping them find a new home, settling them onto the planet had been one of the most satisfying missions of his time in the programme. It helped balance all the other times when he and his team were in trouble, fighting for their lives; fighting for Earth…the losses they had suffered. The idea of losing the Enkarans too…it had been too much.

The Enkarans had depended on the SGC to help them find a new home. When the Gadmeer ship had started destroying the planet, they had looked to him and SG1 to help them. How could Jack stand by and watch them be slaughtered just because some freeze dried aliens who weren’t even alive figured they wanted the same planet?

He couldn’t.

Jack had felt their eyes on him as the ship had gotten closer; as Carter confirmed the ship was in position. He couldn’t risk the Enkarans because of one man even if that one man was Daniel. He dropped his head into his hands again.

Damn it.

He sighed and shoved his hands roughly through his hair, sending the grey strands awry. Despite Daniel’s confession that it had been his own idea to be on the ship when Jack had triggered the bomb, Jack figured the younger man was probably pissed with him. He had every right to be. He’d be pissed if his CO had decided to go ahead and bomb his position.

His brown eyes narrowed. Jack knew something was going on with Daniel; something more than the recent loss of Daniel’s friend Robert Rothman. The other man had requested a lone mission a month earlier, claiming SG1 didn’t need him to assist with the Enkaran resettlement and that he needed to do something that was Daniel – whatever that meant. The mission had apparently gone very well until Daniel had been captured by an Unas. SG1 had taken the rescue mission and that had worked out OK; they had recovered Daniel but they had lost Rothman. Jack knew Daniel had taken the loss hard. He sighed. Really he could have chosen a more perfect time to screw up with Daniel and he knew he needed to follow his CO’s advice and fix it.

The locker room door opened and Jack shifted out of his introspection, rising to grab his leather jacket. He hoped he could ignore whoever stepped through the door.

‘O’Neill.’

Teal’c’s deep rumble destroyed that hope but he wasn’t too bothered and his muscles relaxed a little. He didn’t expect Teal’c would want to spend time brooding over the events of the day. The Jaffa had a remarkable ability not to dwell. ‘Teal’c.’

‘You are heading home.’ Teal’c came to stand beside him. He had evidently come from the gym because he was dressed in sweats and a vest which was soaked with sweat. The exposed muscles of his arms gleamed with it as though it had been a strenuous workout. He clasped his hands behind his back and regarded Jack thoughtfully.

Jack nodded at him even though Teal’c had been making an observation not asked a question. ‘Good workout?’

‘Indeed.’ Teal’c said dismissively. ‘O’Neill, I have been perplexed since our return from the planet.’

‘What about?’ Jack asked strapping on his watch and reaching back into his locker for his wallet.

‘Did we not save the Enkarans?’ Teal’c asked seriously.

Jack glanced at the Jaffa and had the sinking sensation that perhaps he had been wrong; maybe the Jaffa had been brooding after all. ‘Yes.’ He answered shortly, hoping his succinct answer would deter further questions. It didn’t.

‘Will the Gadmeer civilisation not be reborn?’ Teal’c continued smoothly.

‘It will.’ Jack replied evenly. He slammed his locker shut and turned to face the dark-skinned Jaffa fully. ‘What’s this about, Teal’c?’

‘I do not understand.’ Teal’c replied. ‘The mission was successful yet you act as though it failed.’

Jack shoved his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket and wondered how he explained it to his friend. ‘Sometimes, Teal’c, how you get the result is as important as the actual result.’ He shrugged. ‘Sometimes the ends don’t justify the means.’

Teal’c’s eyebrow rose. ‘You believe your strategy with the naquadah bomb was ill advised.’

‘Not entirely.’ Jack sat down heavily.

Teal’c sat beside him on the locker bench. He waited patiently for Jack to continue.

‘I shouldn’t have closed Daniel down when he protested that first time. I should have suggested he go back and continue trying to build a rapport with the robot. I know Daniel. I know he’s good at that kind of stuff.’ Jack rubbed his chin as he stared at his locker door with its familiar dents and scratches; it gave him something to focus on. ‘I’m not saying I shouldn’t have had Carter set the bomb up as a contingency but…’ he winced, ‘Daniel and I should have been working together not against each other.’

‘I see.’ Teal’c said quietly.

‘It should never have come to the point where I had to trigger a bomb with Daniel still on the ship.’ Jack admitted quietly, not looking at his friend.

‘You no longer believe that Daniel Jackson made his choice when he transported to the alien vessel?’ There was a hint of surprise in Teal’c’s otherwise even-toned question.

‘I’m not sure I ever believed it, Teal’c.’ Jack took a moment to realise that the tight feeling in his gut had loosened with his confession.

‘Daniel Jackson was aware of our plan.’ Teal’c shifted on the bench beside him and Jack could see he was struggling to reconcile his own beliefs with Jack’s.

‘He wasn’t aware of all of the constraints and you don’t think there was even a small part of Daniel which believed that I wouldn’t blow up the ship if he was on it?’ Jack questioned lightly.

Teal’c was silent.

Jack examined his hands intently. ‘I’m supposed to keep my team safe, Teal’c; not push the button that kills them.’

‘If you had not triggered the bomb and Daniel Jackson had been unsuccessful, it is most likely that the Enkarans would have been killed.’ Teal’c pointed out.

‘I know that too.’ Jack sighed again and got to his feet. He patted Teal’c’s shoulder as he made for the door.

‘You are going to speak to Daniel Jackson.’ Teal’c surmised.

Jack stopped with his hand on the door handle. ‘Yeah.’

‘Perhaps you should also speak with Major Carter.’ Teal’c rose from the bench. ‘I observed her on her way to her lab. She seemed…distressed.’ He met Jack’s worried gaze. ‘I believe she shares similar concerns regarding our mission.’

Jack tried to ignore the way his heart jumped with worry. He knew Sam hadn’t liked what he’d ordered her to do. She had said as much to him; had told him she wished she could talk him out of it. He almost wished she had really tried because as much as he hated to admit it he wasn’t certain he would have been able to say no to her – which was another worry altogether. And maybe she had known that too because she hadn’t pushed it. But he had known she hated that he’d pressed the button on a bomb that she had built and almost killed Daniel. It had been evident in her body language once they’d got the situation resolved; it had been evident in the way she had avoided looking at him since their return from the planet.

He gave a sharp nod and left Teal’c. He paused for a moment in the corridor. He wanted to ignore what Teal’c said; wanted to ignore the order to fix his screw-up. He wanted to go home, watch The Simpsons and curl up with a beer – his perennial answer to a bad day. He had been the one who screwed up, Jack reminded himself. His team deserved better.

It only took him a few minutes to make his way to Sam’s lab. He figured she was doing what she did when she had a bad day and burying herself in work. Jack paused in the doorway and watched Sam unnoticed for a long moment. He congratulated himself on knowing her; Sam was at her computer, seemingly immersed in the figures that filled the screen. He rapped lightly on the doorframe and walked in.

Sam glanced over her shoulder. ‘Sir.’ She made to get up and Jack waved her back into her seat.

‘What’re ya doing?’ He asked. His eyes swept over her. She was the picture of professionalism; her uniform neat, her posture perfect. She seemed totally calm and collected if you ignored the redness around her eyes and the faint trail of tear tracks that she hadn’t quite wiped away. She’d been crying even if she had tried to remove the evidence. His heart seized and he pushed his hands in his pockets to lessen the temptation to grab hold and hug the life out of her.

‘Just reviewing some of the recent gate diagnostics.’ Sam informed him crisply. She hovered, twisted in her seat; her body language screaming her desire to get back to what she had been doing. ‘On your way home, sir?’

‘I was thinking about it.’ Jack said. He leaned back against the central workbench.

There was an awkward silence.

Jack searched for inspiration before he decided there really wasn’t an easy way to bring up everything. He cleared his throat noisily. ‘Look, Carter, about today…’

Sam stiffened and she jerked her blue eyes back to the glowing computer monitor.

He sighed at her resolute profile. ‘I honestly thought we needed the bomb, Carter.’

‘I know, sir.’ Sam murmured quietly. Her fingers twisted together in her lap giving away her unease.

‘You built it, Carter, but that’s all you did.’ Jack stressed. He shuffled as her gaze moved back to his. ‘I was the one who decided to use it.’

Sam’s lips twisted. ‘Isn’t that just semantics, sir?’

‘No.’ Jack said, holding her gaze firmly. ‘It’s not.’

She registered his sincerity but looked away again. ‘I didn’t just build the bomb; I had to tell you when the ship was in position.’

Her voice was so low he barely heard her. ‘OK so,’ he began slowly.

‘Even though Daniel was on board.’ Sam continued.

Her words were like a punch in the gut. It took a moment for him to regain his breath. He’d told her Daniel was on the ship, he realised, but he’d also given her a mission. She was too good an officer to fail at the latter; too good a friend not to feel horrendously guilty at the former. He’d put her right in the middle of his decision; right in the middle of his screw-up. He raised a hand to his forehead. ‘Carter…’

‘I know I shouldn’t let it affect me like this.’ Sam hurried out.

Her statement made him wince at the idea that she thought she had to defend her perfectly normal reaction to him. ‘Carter…’ he tried to interrupt.

‘It’s just…’

‘Sam.’

She stopped at the unusual use of her first name and looked at him quizzically.

Jack sighed heavily. ‘Carter. This is still all on me. You were following my order and I was the one who decided to go ahead and push the button, ah!’ He raised a finger to prevent her interrupting. ‘The decision was mine. All me.’ He waved at her. ‘All the way.’

Sam smiled sadly. ‘I don’t think Daniel sees it that way, sir.’

‘I’m sure Daniel doesn’t blame you.’ Jack assured her.

‘I talked with him, sir.’ Sam said.

‘Oh.’ Jack sighed. He wondered exactly what Daniel had said that had put so much hurt in her eyes and he felt a stirring of anger, first at the archaeologist and then at himself. ‘Well, he will.’ He gestured back at the door. ‘I’m on my way to see him. I’ll make sure he knows.’

She nodded hesitantly.

Jack had a feeling she really needed to hear it from Daniel before she would believe it. He pushed off the workbench. ‘You OK?’

She nodded again. ‘Yes, sir.’

He knew it was a lie but he let her get away with it. He pointed at the screen. ‘Don’t work too hard.’

She smiled again at his evident concern and their eyes caught. Too many emotions swirled to the surface. Jack felt his breath catch in his throat. It would be so easy to ignore the rules and reach out, take her in his arms, comfort her. He took a step back. She lowered her gaze, her cheeks flushed as though she’d read his intentions.

‘See you tomorrow.’ He said softly.

‘Yes, sir.’ Her eyes flickered back to him; open and vulnerable.

Jack left before he was tempted into staying. He really needed to talk with Daniel.

o-O-o

Of all the places Jack had thought of looking for Daniel, the star gazing observation deck on his own roof was the last on the list. In fact, Jack considered as he clambered off his ladder, he wasn’t even sure his roof was on the list. But apparently, he needed to amend his list because the archaeologist was definitely there, sprawled over the old chair Jack had installed.

‘Daniel.’

There was no response. Jack took another couple of steps towards the chair and gazed down at the sleeping man. He sighed. Daniel’s head was slumped against the back cushion; his eyes tightly shut behind his glasses which were askew. His glance took in the beers by Daniel’s left foot.

Jack reached over and snagged one. He stretched out by the side of the chair. He knocked the top off the bottle and took a long slug.

Daniel suddenly started, coming wide awake.

‘Daniel.’ Jack greeted him dryly.

‘Jack.’ Daniel adjusted his glasses and sat up cautiously.

Jack picked up the second full bottle and took the top off. He handed it to Daniel who took it with a grimace.

‘Thanks.’ Daniel took a hesitant sip and glanced over at Jack, taking in the tiredness that was evident in the tight white lines on the older man’s face; the shadowed look in his brown eyes and wished he could ignore it. ‘You’re late.’

Jack took another gulp of his beer. ‘I went by your apartment.’

‘Oh.’ Daniel blinked and rubbed the rim of the bottle with his thumb.

Jack motioned at Daniel with his bottle. ‘Why are you here?’

‘Probably for the same reason you went by my apartment.’ Daniel admitted.

The two men stared at each other.

Daniel lowered himself to the roof and rested against the chair. ‘I’ve been thinking…’

Jack fought against the urge to make light of the statement.

‘…about taking some leave.’ Daniel concluded quietly.

The beginnings of panic stirred in Jack’s gut. ‘Leave?’ He queried calmly.

‘Yeah.’ Daniel nodded.

Jack’s eyes narrowed on him. ‘What are we talking about here? A week’s vacation?’

‘Actually, I was thinking of something a little longer.’ Daniel met his eyes. ‘Maybe a year.’

‘A year.’ Jack took a sip of his beer to wash away the sudden dryness. ‘Daniel, about today…’

‘This isn’t about today.’ Daniel jumped in hurriedly. ‘I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Well, since, Sha’re really.’

‘We need you.’ Jack replied simply.

‘No.’ Daniel shook his head with a sad smile. ‘You don’t.’

‘Daniel, if the fiasco today proved anything, it was that we need you.’ Jack looked at the bottle, examining it intently as though it would offer up answers. He gave a small grimace and took another sip of his beer as he gathered his thoughts. He hadn’t really thought about what he was going to say to Daniel; hadn’t tried to think about it at all. He took a deep breath. ‘You did good today.’

Whatever Daniel had anticipated Jack would say, obviously praise had never crossed his mind. Daniel stared at him in shock. Jack was almost tempted to smile. He covered by taking another gulp of his beer.

‘You shouldn’t look so surprised,’ Jack said, lowering the bottle, ‘you saved the lives of the Enkarans and ensured the survival of the Gadmeer. You did good.’

Daniel looked down at his beer. ‘Wow. That’s,’ he struggled for another appropriate description, ‘wow.’ He concluded. His gaze strayed back to Jack.

‘Of course, you shouldn’t have gone to talk to the robot without telling me.’ Jack kept his eyes on his beer.

‘Jack…’ Daniel immediately reacted.

‘But then I should have listened to you when we got back to the planet.’ Jack continued, talking over Daniel’s protest.

Daniel stopped and stared at him again.

‘That should have been the plan all along; for you to go talk to the robot.’ Jack allowed with a sigh. ‘The bomb…the bomb should have been plan B.’ That was where he had truly screwed up. He hadn’t deployed his team to their best advantage. He hadn’t really taken their input so much as decided on a plan and forced them to follow his lead. That had been the root cause for all that had followed. He finally looked over at his friend. Daniel looked shell-shocked. Jack couldn’t blame him. He guessed he’d given Daniel enough cause during the mission to feel like that. ‘You not talking?’

‘I don’t know what to say.’ Daniel admitted.

‘That’s got to be a first.’ Jack let the smirk drift across his lips before he lifted the bottle for another drink.

‘I thought you’d be mad at me.’ Daniel said finally. He’d figured Jack would be happy to have him off the team given his mutinous behaviour. ‘For going back to the ship when you were planning to blow it up.’

Jack lowered his beer bottle. ‘Oh I’m mad with you about that.’

‘Oh.’ Daniel hastily took a gulp of his own beer.

‘You put me in the position of having to choose, Daniel.’ Jack pointed out. He was supposed to keep Daniel safe and instead he’d had to choose to kill him. It had been one of the hardest decisions of his military career.

‘I knew you wouldn’t choose me.’ Daniel said with a humourless smile.

‘No matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t choose you, Daniel. You know that.’ Jack pulled a face. ‘I had to consider the Enkarans. I just didn’t trust that the robot would get it.’

‘You’ve never liked robots.’

‘No, I don’t.’ Jack admitted frankly. ‘Daniel, you look at a robot and you see, I don’t know, a person, I guess. I look at a robot and I see,’ he waved his beer bottle at him, ‘a robot.’

‘You still could have given me more time.’ Daniel retorted.

‘There was no more time.’ Jack shot back. ‘The bomb had to be detonated as soon as the ship was in position or we would have lost the opportunity to take it out. If you’d told me what you were doing, I could have told you that before you went to talk to Lotan.’

They fell silent again. Both took refuge in their drinks.

Daniel sighed eventually and set his beer aside. ‘I meant what I said, Jack. I knew you would trigger the bomb. I mean, I hoped that you wouldn’t but I knew and I did, uh, think that I could get off the ship before it exploded.’ He ducked his head. ‘I guess I didn’t think, really think, I mean, about how you would feel about having to make the decision.’

‘Not just me.’ Jack stabbed a finger at him. ‘How do you think Carter would have felt if you’d died on that ship? You don’t think she would have been upset about if you’d died at the hands of a bomb she made? She feels bad enough just about what might have happened.’ He saw the archaeologist flush.

‘I don’t blame Sam.’ Daniel muttered.

‘Maybe you should tell her that.’ Jack said pointedly. ‘She seems to think you do.’

‘I’ll talk to her.’ Daniel promised. His gaze moved back to Jack. ‘So, about what I said before, about taking some leave?’

Jack tipped the bottle back and drank down the rest of the beer. ‘You still want to do that?’

Daniel sighed and shrugged. He wasn’t as certain as he had been when he’d first stepped onto the roof but there was a part of him nagging him to get away. ‘Maybe.’

‘Give it another month, Daniel.’ Jack advised. ‘If, after that, you still want to take some time…’ his lips twisted, ‘we’ll talk about it.’

‘Right.’ Daniel’s lips twisted. A month. He guessed he could do another month. He looked around the roof. ‘I should probably go.’

Jack got to his feet as the younger man stood up. ‘Daniel…’

‘We’re OK, Jack.’ Daniel said. He held Jack’s gaze or a beat before he turned and left.

Jack sat down in the chair. He could hear Daniel’s car moving away and he felt some of his tension drain away. He massaged the back of his neck, trying to loosen the knots there. He gazed into the starry night. Somewhere in the universe the Enkarans were being delivered to their homeworld; the Gadmeer were being reborn. It was something to take comfort in as he acknowledged his mistakes. He and Daniel would be OK. They had weathered worse. Daniel and Sam would make up; neither could stay mad with the other for long. Maybe he hadn’t quite fixed what he had screwed up but it would mend.

fin.


 

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