Broken Friends

Chapter 13

Sam was in her lab. With the irregular schedule of the complex under Cheyenne Mountain she was not quite sure about the time, but she was fairly certain of placing it somewhere in the midday range. On the centre table was a complicated setup of three computers and several external hard drives connected by a veritable bird nest of cables. At the hub of the technological maze was the data chip from PQX-830, connected to two of the computers with a dozen of different cables attached to every inch of it. The setup had been there for a couple of days already. It had been set up the day after they’d gotten back from the sandy planet, but it wasn’t until yesterday when Daniel had gotten out of the infirmary that she had been able to concentrate on figuring out how to access the information on the chip.

The first thing she’d had to figure out had been the interface. Being an alien piece of technology she couldn’t just plug the chip into the computer and download – as she had at length attempted to explain to Jack when he dropped by to check on her progress. It was definitely an advantage that she, and her fellow tech-geeks on the base, had plenty of experience in hacking their way into alien technology. In the youth of the Stargate program a dilemma like this one would have taken them weeks to figure out. Now it only took them a few hours of experimentally attaching their cables to different parts of the chip and running the results through their own especially coded programs, to have it finally yield some results in the form of comprehensible readouts on one of the computer screens.

Having opened the door to the information on the chip turned out to only be the first of Sam’s obstacles. The readout showed her that the storage capacity of the chip was only short of enormous, reminding Sam of a certain other alien repository of knowledge that they had only ever gotten a tiny glimpse of. She was sincerely glad no one would have to put their head into this well of knowledge for them to tap it, but the question still remained as to how they could extract and read the information.

The file-structure on the chip was unlike anything she’d ever seen, a maze equivalent of the tech on the table, and everything was written in a language completely alien to her. Might be of Earth origin, she thought, but to her it sadly made no difference. She needed someone to translate it before she could proceed with downloading the data. Not even one of the biggest hard-drives could hold it in its entirety and she didn’t want to risk separating pieces of information that might belong together.

With Daniel brought home by Jack under strict orders from Dr. Fraiser to do nothing but rest, Sam turned to the rest of the linguistics department for help. A dozen translators descended on her lab, swarming around the computers like a flock of chattering monkeys. The room was crowded to the breaking point, so after a stern admonition on the delicacy of the technological setup she left them to their work. It was time to get some rest anyways, and to see the sky for once. The habit of staying over on-base to get more work done was one she shared with her good friend Dr. Daniel Jackson.

Changed into her street-wear she ascended the two elevators to the surface and hopped on her motorcycle. She waved to the guards as she swept through the gates and drove towards the centre of Colorado Springs. An idea hit her. Maybe I should swing by Jack’s house and see how Daniel’s doing. She altered her course to the familiar route leading to Jack’s house and it wasn’t long until she pulled up and parked on the driveway beside his truck.

The well-known façade was slightly altered by a long ramp leading up the low steps towards the entrance. Sam couldn’t help but smile at the testament to Jack’s concern for his best friend.

Jack was in the kitchen when he heard the rapping on the door.

“Coming!” he shouted, hurriedly putting the knife down and wiping off his hands on the way to the door.

Upon opening the door he was surprised to see Sam standing outside, the motorcycle helmet under her arm and dressed in that leather biker outfit that he would deny to his final breath made her look incredibly sexy.

“Hi,” she said. “Can I come in?”

He stepped aside, closing the door after her.

“Sure. I was just fixing some dinner, want some?”

“I could do with some food.” Her reply was accompanied with a warm smile of the kind that after all these years still made his rebellious heart flutter every time he saw it. He ignored it. At least that part gets a bit easier with practice.

Placing her helmet by the door and unzipping her jacket Sam followed Jack into the kitchen, where he returned to his task of chopping vegetables. Following her nose Sam found a pot of stew on the stove into which she assumed the vegetables were headed.

“I must admit I’m a bit impressed, sir,” she teased as she stirred the simmering concoction and lifted the ladle to have a taste. “This is delicious.”

“What?” The tone of Jack’s voice assured her he wasn’t offended. “You didn’t think I could cook?”

“Well in lack of any evidence to the contrary…” She delivered the gibe with a wink, and was rewarded with a laugh. It was the real whole-hearted kind that, unlike his sardonic ‘Ha’, told her that in his opinion today was a good day.

“Can I help with anything?” she offered, partly to divert her own attention from his smiling lips. This should be getting easier by now.

”You could get the macaroni on boil,” Jack suggested.

Sam nodded. He didn’t need to give her any further instructions; after years of movie nights and other get-togethers she knew her way around his kitchen almost as well as her own. While she picked out a pot, filled it with water and placed it on the stove, she turned the conversation onto the original cause for her visit.

“So, how’s Daniel?”

“Good,” Jack replied. “He’s resting at the moment but he’ll be out for dinner.”

“Resting? I’m impressed.” The joke was full of the actual emotion, making Jack’s voice resound with humor as he explained.

“Well, I forced him to bed and he can’t really get up on his own yet, so all the books are out of reach. Plus I didn’t bring any work for him from the mountain, so whether he wants to or not all the things he could possibly do are more or less resting. Only straining thing available is his rehabilitation exercises and he needs me for those as well.” The corners of Jack’s lips curved with an evil smirk, contradicted by the warmth in his eyes. Sam laughed.

“Yeah, that’ll do it for a while at least. Let me know if you need any help when it doesn’t anymore.”

“Will do, Carter, will do.”

“Jack!” Daniel’s voice interrupted their scheming and Jack hurried out of the kitchen to see what the subject for that very scheming needed.

“Hey there, Danny. Did we wake you?” he asked as he pushed open the door to Daniel’s room.

Daniel was up on his elbows, the covers thrown back and quite obviously trying to get out of the bed. His brow was creased with lines of annoyance. Jack was almost proud to be one of the few people in the world to be able to distinguish them from anger, concentration and all the other million emotions that frequently made their mark there. The only other people he knew to have gotten that close to Daniel were the other two members of SG-1 – and Sha’re of course. And still he doesn’t seem to really understand how much we care for him. Jack mentally shook his head and stepped forward to help Daniel out of bed.

Daniel ducked his head and avoided Jack’s eyes as he let him practically lift him into the wheelchair. It pained Jack to see it, even if he understood. He knew Daniel was used to taking care of himself. It was one of the reasons he detested his far too frequent visits to the infirmary; having other people care for him just made him embarrassed. As much as Jack could relate to his feelings for Fraiser’s domain he couldn’t wrap his head around the embarrassed part.

Having gotten Daniel comfortably seated, Jack waited for what he knew was about to come. Here it comes…

“Sorry,” Daniel mumbled, his head still ducked down to hide the shade of red on his cheeks.

“Daniel…” Jack chided gently, kneeling down to catch those elusive sky blue orbs that were his eyes. “For the hundredth time, you don’t have to apologize. It’s not your fault that you’re hurt, and I do not mind taking care of you.”

Daniel sighed and tried to elude his eyes again, but his head couldn’t duck any further without molding into his chest. Lifting his head instead, he opted for a different plan of escape and changed the topic.

“Who’s we?”

“Huh?” The rapid transition threw Jack for a loop.

“You said ‘did we wake you’,” Daniel explained and continued in a joking tone, “Do we have a visitor or have you just finally lost your mind and gone multiple personalities on me? ‘Cause mind you, if this is turning into a special needs home I might decide to move out once I’m back on my feet.”

Jack decided to let him off the hook for now – there’ll always be next time – and took the bait.

“You never know. Could be I’ve just imagined Sam came over to have dinner with us. You better check she’s real, or you might have to start packing.”

Daniel’s relief couldn’t have been more obvious, his hunched shoulders relaxing as he straightened his back. Jack rose and ruffled his hair.

“Hands and feet inside the cart at all times. Enjoy the ride,” he said with carnival announcer joviality as he grabbed the handles on the wheelchair and rolled his friend out toward the dining room.

Parking Daniel at his place at the head of the table Jack returned to the kitchen where he found the meal almost done. While he’d been gone Sam had finished chopping the vegetables for him and added them to the stew. Turns out it’s good with team understanding in the home as well. The macaroni was also bubbling away in their pot, so there wasn’t anything left for him to do but set the table. He smiled his thanks to Sam, grabbed three plates and headed out to the dining room again. Sam followed him with the cutlery and glasses, finishing off the simple table setting. Jack signaled for her to take a seat as he returned for the food.

Letting Jack retake the hosting Sam sat down in the chair to Daniel’s right.

“How are you doing, Daniel?”

“Good, I’m good.”

The answer was what she’d expected and as always didn’t say much as to how he really felt. The man could be dying and he would still insist he was fine. Everyone in the SGC that even remotely knew him could tell you that much, even if only a few had actually been allowed close enough to be able to see though the façade. Sam counted herself to be one of the lucky few. Searching his face she consciously weighed the sincerity of his smile and the angles of the lines around his eyes, coming to the conclusion that he wasn’t altogether lying. He was tired and she knew he didn’t like being injured and dependant on others, but he was clearly still riding the optimistic wave from their success with the healing device.

Sam’s scrutinizing made Daniel uncomfortable. He knew what she was looking for and as much as her concern for him warmed his heart he couldn’t help but feel a little offended by the way none of his teammates ever seemed to trust his word concerning his health.

“How’s it going with the data chip?” he asked, hoping to distract her by taking up the subject of work. When it came to passion for work on the border of workaholism he and Sam had a lot in common, even if anyone who knew both of them could easily judge who was the worst. To his relief Sam took the bait.

“We finally found a setup that gives us access to the information. Technically it wasn’t so hard. As I suspected we just needed to find the parts of the chip that are the conductors. It’s amazing; the amount of data stored on it is huge, a veritable data base. It could quite possibly be a collection of knowledge on the level of the Ancient repository.”

“Oy, don’t mention that thing, Carter,” Jack groused as he came out from the kitchen with the steaming pot of stew in one hand and a serving bowl of macaroni in the other.

“Sorry, sir,” Sam atoned half-honestly. “We were just talking about the data chip from PQX-830 and how much information there seems to be on it. My point was just that it could very well be comparable to the Ancient repository.”

Jack gave an exaggerated flinch at the second mention of the repository.

“Aht! What did I just tell you?!”

But,” Sam intoned the word with reassurance. “No one will be needing to hold the information in their head, since we have already managed to rig up a connection to our computers. Transferring the data shouldn’t be a problem once we’ve translated some of it and gotten a grasp of the structure of the information.”

“Translated?” Daniel latched on to the keyword that marked where he should usually come into the equation. “Should I come in and take a look at it?” With the tone of his voice the question could just as well have been phrased ‘can I’ and directed to Jack. Since Daniel had posed it to Sam, Jack let her answer. He trusted completely that they were on the same page concerning the probability of that happening. She knew as well as he what Janet had said on the particular subject of Daniel working. ‘Don’t’ and ‘I don’t even want to see him on-base’ were a few of the words she’d used.

“I put the rest of the linguistics team on it right before I left,” Sam said, confirming she wasn’t about to go against the doctor’s orders. “You could have done it faster, Daniel, but I’m sure they’ll have some results for me when I come back to the base tomorrow. There’s no need for you to come in.”

For a split second Daniel’s face fell before his defensive walls went up with the silent bang of a false smile.

“Okay, yeah, it’s probably for the best since Janet told me to rest. Let me know if you change your mind.”

Sam locked her eyes into Jack’s. What was that about?

He gave her a curt shake of his head. Leave it. I’ll talk to him later.

They finished the meal with inconsequential conversation, keeping well off the subjects of work, PQX-830, and the archaeology and linguistics departments. In actuality it was Jack and Sam who did most of the talking while Daniel half-heartedly picked at his food and stared at the table. His mind was reeling with thoughts and fears, the same he’d had before Sam had healed him and now reawakened by what she had said. Finally he gave a yawn, exaggerating it a bit for effect.

“I’m tired,” he lied. “I think I’m going to go to bed.”

Jack immediately rose to assist him, inevitably reminding Daniel of his dependence on him. He gritted his teeth. Damn it. I hate this.

“Thanks for stopping by, Sam,” he said as he let Jack wheel him out from under the table.

Thankfully Jack didn’t speak as he helped him back in bed and piled up the pillows behind his back so he could half-sit in the bed. Daniel relished the silence and, when Jack went back out to Sam, the solitude.

Alone in the dimmed light from the lamp on the bedside table he lay staring at the ceiling. He had been doing a lot of that lately he realized. First the infirmary ceiling, with which he was already embarrassingly familiar, and now the one in his room. Should put something up there to look at. Maybe stars, he mused. The thought wasn’t very uplifting as it brought back all the uncertainties he had been trying to push away. Wonder if I’ll ever get out there again.

After the success with the healing device he had been convinced that the bleak future he’d conjured up in his infirmary bed had been derailed. He had assumed that Janet’s reserved prognosis was just one of those things doctors said, and that he was in fact going to be fine. His meeting with the physical therapist – Lieutenant Sandra Johnson – had however not quite gone the way he wanted. Since Sam hadn’t been able to heal him completely he had counted on a lot of hard work to get back on his feet and return to his place on SG-1, but he hadn’t been prepared for what Lieutenant Johnson would say. To his great dismay she had told him that he’d be wearing the back brace for at least six weeks, and that she still couldn’t promise his spine would be completely healed by the time it came off.

“There’s still a risk of dislocation of the vertebrae after removing the back brace,” she had said and followed up with another bit of dismaying information. “We’ll start out small and successively increase the intensity of the therapy. Based on the results of the first couple of weeks we’ll know more of what grade of improvement we can expect to achieve.”

“Huh?” Daniel had been listening attentively, but hearing those last words he thought he must have somehow missed something. “What do you mean ‘grade of improvement’?”

Lieutenant Johnson had looked surprised that he didn’t understand.

“As I’m sure Dr. Fraiser has explained there is no guarantee you will regain full functionality, even if we will of course be working towards that end.”

She had patted him on the shoulder and proceeded to the instructions for his first set of exercises, which he would be doing for the first couple of weeks. With the force of denial Daniel had soon forgotten about her worrying words. Until now.

Lying in his bed staring at the excruciatingly boring ceiling, with Sam’s words repeating in his head, his thoughts returned to the physical therapist and what she had said. Piecing her words together with Janet’s apprehension to actually tell him that he would be fine reawoke the fear from his mind. What if I don’t make it out there again? What if I’m stuck like this? How long is Jack gonna ‘not mind’ taking care of me? Since he was alone he finally let the tears he’d held back for so long fall.

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