Broken Friends

Chapter 17

Sam got delayed at the SGC for several days, running different system diagnostics and assisting the research and technology departments in their ongoing projects. It seemed like everyone on the base who could make use of her input was trying to take advantage of her being somewhat voluntarily grounded from ‘gate-travel.

It wasn’t until the weekend that she finally decided to just bring the translations of the data base over to Daniel in the morning instead of even attempting to go to the SGC first. That way she wouldn’t get delayed and could just spend the day with him and Jack, and at last make some head way on the work she was most interested in getting done instead of all the needs and shoulds of the SGC.

It was just after eight AM on Sunday morning when she knocked on their front door. Jack let her in with a yawn that swallowed up his welcome in a figurative black hole of his open mouth.

“How is he today?” Sam asked while she pulled the door closed behind her. Jack rubbed at his eyes and unsuccessfully attempted to prevent another yawn from escaping when he opened his mouth to answer her.

’He’ is just fine.” Daniel’s voice came from the hallway and somewhat to Jack’s relief interrupted his failing attempts at speech. He sounded more than a little annoyed at being referred to in third person. “You don’t have to talk about me like I’m not here, you know.”

Sam turned and smiled appeasement.

“Sorry, Daniel. I didn’t know you were up. How are you?”

Her apology didn’t do much to deter his irritation, even if the edge in his voice dulled just a smidgen as he repeated his state of health.

“I said I’m fine.”

“Have you slept well?”

“Yes, I can’t complain.”

“Good, good. So you’re well-rested? Not tired?”

“No…why?” Sam’s questions were beginning to make Daniel suspicious, especially since her smile was becoming increasingly conspiratorial.

“Just checking so I won’t be making Janet too angry.”

“Why would you be making Fraiser angry,” Jack cut in, joining Daniel in the suspicious club despite his previous membership in the masters of yawning. Sam’s smile became a wide grin.

“I brought Daniel some work,” she admitted, and added an apologetic shrug in Jack’s direction before she turned back to Daniel to explain. “If you’re up for it I would like you to take a look at the translations the linguistics department made for me. They couldn’t agree – on quite a few things – so I just need you to tip the scale on which version I should use when I start downloading and decoding the data.”

Daniel’s bad mood disappeared in a flash. He shone like a kid on Christmas who had just witnessed the real actual Santa Claus climb down the chimney into his living room with every single thing he had wished for in his magic bag.

“I hope you brought the original text as well,” he said after a long moment of simply smiling from ear to ear, “or I won’t be able to see which translation is the better one.”

“I did.” Sam was rather pleased that she had thought of checking that the original text was all there as well as the linguistics department’s two rivaling translations.

Daniel rewarded her with a satisfied nod as he motioned for her to bring the papers into the dining room and help him spread them out on the table. Knowing his limitations when it came to linguistics, Jack put himself on coffee-duty. They were both bright and alert now but if he knew his two geeks right there would be a need for caffeine before they were done.

Sam on the other hand didn’t think her little task for Daniel would take too long. The flock of linguists had after all already done the actual translation work and all Daniel would need to do was pick the best one. Jack shook his head and put the pot on; he was sure he would turn out to be right in the end.

Less than half an hour later it had been proven that he was. Daniel had read the translations thoroughly, two times even. The second time he had sent Sam to fetch a red pen from his desk. That had been the judgment day of the linguistics department’s work. After the third read-through there was more red than anything else on the papers, and before those first thirty minutes were up Daniel threw the last wad of it onto the mess on the table with an infuriated sigh.

“This is complete crap!”

His outcry made both Jack and Sam jump, and Jack almost spilled the two cups of coffee he was bringing from the kitchen all over himself.

“Hey, calm down there genius,” he said while he tried to regain his balance and keep the hot beverages in their cups.

“Sorry, Jack.” Daniel’s apology was at best half-hearted, his focus still fixed on the offending papers.

“Now, what’s wrong…?” Jack asked, pulling up short as he took in the scene before him. If the walls had been concrete and his vitrine a metal file cabinet he would have bought that they were in Daniel’s lab instead of his dining room. There was not an inch of the table not covered with papers, none of them in neat piles but all jumbled together like a stack of cards in Go Fish. It looked like a danish explosion of red and white with all the scribbled notes Daniel had jotted all over the linguists’ hard work.

“So, I’m guessing the translations weren’t any good?” Jack ventured.

“No. Sometimes I wonder what they are all doing at the SGC. Makes me fear for my life if I’d ever have to rely on them getting a translation right to save me.”

Daniel’s complaining made Jack laugh, earning him an angry look.

“What? It’s funny, ‘cause it’s true,” Jack defended.

Daniel considered Jack’s point, and then a smile burst onto his lips.

“I guess it kind of is. But still, having them do this was a complete waste of time,” he added to Sam. “You should have let me do it from the beginning.”

“Janet said no work and I did kind of assume we have an entire linguistics department for a reason, Daniel.” Sam’s voice carried a hint of admonishment. “I thought if they did most of the work you would get more rest, like you needed.”

“Well, now I’m just going to have to do it anyway aren’t I?”

Daniel didn’t sound very unhappy about the prospect of diving into the task of translating a whole new alien language. Jack and Sam shared a look over his head. We’re going to have our hands full with making sure he doesn’t overdo it.

Daniel dug himself into the work with a vengeance, like an addict getting a hold of his drug of choice. Jack and Sam were turned into his errand boy and girl, and he sent them to fetch book after book from the shelves in his room to add to the clutter on the dining table. When he got stuck and said he needed a few volumes from his office as well, Jack decided it was time for lunch.

“Or actually overdue,” he added as he spotted the time well past two o’clock. “After we eat Sam can go fetch you what you need from the base.”

“Good. And can you get me a white board as well? It would make it easier than with the notepads.” He held the pad in his hand up as example, and the even for him unusually chaotic scribbles made his point well beyond a doubt.

They ate in the living room, Jack and Sam deliberately munching their microwave pizza slowly to draw out Daniel’s break, and afterwards Sam headed over to the SGC to fetch a long list of books for him. Jack – with a combination of wrangling, insisting and straight out threatening to withhold him the work – got Daniel to lie down and rest while she was gone.

Daniel had done a lot of thinking since he got back from PQX-830, stuck in his bed staring at the roof. A lot of thinking and a lot of remembering. Ever since he came to Earth from Vis Uban he had been puzzled at the fact that it was easier for him to remember the scientific things than the personal ones. His first memory had been Sha’re of course, but after that nothing had come for a long time. The multitude of languages he spoke had come back though, even the Ancient that he must have learnt while he was ascended, as well as every single Stargate address he had ever dialed.

Facing the people who claimed to be his friends, unable to actually remember their time together, had been torment. At first it hadn’t bothered him; he hadn’t even known if he really believed them. Nonetheless, as soon as they began telling him about his life, it was an undeniable fact that they knew him better than he knew himself. It had been a relief when he began to remember.

After breaking his back he didn’t have much else to do than consider the recollection of his life before ascension. The only other alternative to occupy his mind was to dwell on his currently miserable situation. He began sifting through the memories that had returned so far, and in the process more surfaced to fill in the gaps in his memory. He often returned to her – Sha’re. Even though her image in his mind would forever be connected to the greatest pain he had ever felt, it was also the source of the greatest joy his heart could even begin to comprehend.

When Jack ordered him to bed while waiting for Sam to return with his books he laid back and conjured up the memory once more, painting Sha’re’s face on the ceiling with invisible paint. Maybe that’s what I should put up there, instead of the stars; even if it is just a different but equally unattainable dream. Closing his eyes he could still feel her lying next to him. It had been six years, and a stint in complete amnesia, but he could in memory still return to their tent in the abydonian desert. He could still for a moment recall her waking him up with a tender kiss and his heart ached with the inseparable blend of joy and sorrow.

Eventually and inevitably the sorrow became unbearable, and he turned to more light-hearted memories. Uncountable movie nights with the team, parties that lifted the spirits of SGC, silly snippets of conversations had around the campfire on a hundred different planets, groundbreaking discoveries of cultures long lost on Earth refound light-years away out among the stars of the Milky Way. That last one was another mix of emotions, the joy of discovery jaded by the fact that he could not share his finds with anyone outside of the SGC. At least I’m back to making discoveries. He smiled to himself and drifted back into the memories.

The sound of the front door opening announced Sam’s return, and Daniel practically bounced out of both bed and memories. Fueled by his excitement he transferred himself to his wheelchair without any help.

“You’re too slow!” he taunted Jack as he wheeled past him to return to the dining room.

Daniel worked until Jack tore the papers away from him by force to usher him to bed. The next morning he was back at it before Jack had even managed to get the breakfast started. Sam had gone home over nights, knowing she had to make an appearance at Cheyenne Mountain in the morning. She called at around noon to check in and Daniel assured her that he was all set to figure out the translation, even if it might take him a while to decipher the language.

It was three days later and almost midnight, when the phone rang in Sam’s office. She had been working on reviewing an idea for a development of the naquada generator and had fallen asleep on her desk. The sharp ring pulled her from a fuzzy dream of an infinite power source, and she was still barely awake when she picked up the receiver.

The voice on the other end belonged to Daniel, and chirpily blurted out his errand before she even managed to say ‘hi’.

“I’m done! I figured it out!”

The words took a moment to process in Sam’s slowly awakening brain.

“The translation?” she finally asked.

“Yeah, what else?! Come over and I’ll show you.”

It wasn’t until Sam was on her way that she reflected on the hour, and the fact that Daniel was still up and working. Consequently her first order of business on arriving at Jack’s house was to raise the question of sleep with him and Jack.

“I tried,” Jack said with a shrug as he retook his seat in the sofa, whereto he had chosen to retreat when his nagging had proven to have no effect on Daniel.

With an amused shake of her head Sam joined Daniel in the dining room. The room had morphed even further into a copy of Daniel’s lab since she was there last, the papers and books now spilling off the table onto the chairs and floor. The only organized area visible was the white board that stood propped up against the wall. The file names from the alien data base were written up in columns with Daniel’s translations pedagogically following alongside. The grin that broke across Sam’s face when she spotted the board perfectly matched the one Daniel had worn when she gave him the assignment a few days ago.

“Where did the linguistics team go wrong?” she asked as she took a closer look, snapping up a pen to begin grouping the files in appropriate sections for the transfer to the hard drives.

“They assumed it was a derivate of an earth language,” Daniel explained. “It’s that kind of assumptions that makes for inadequate translations. When dealing with a previously unknown language one has to put all preconceptions aside. If you assume anything it will just stop you from seeing what is really there, since you’ll only see what you expect to see. Of course one must apply some logic language construction theory to be able to make any sense of it at all but initially it is more a matter of going in blind and see what you find.”

“And what did you find?” Sam inquired curiously, being as always a gratifying recipient for the exposition of Daniel’s finds. Even if their subjects of expertise were utterly divided they had always been united in the excited geekdom of science.

“It does have links to Turkish and Hindi,” Daniel continued, “but unlike the linguistics department assumed it is not a derivate. In fact, this language more likely predates those languages and could be at least a partial source for both of them.”

“But you’ve got the language figured out?”

“Well, sort of. The fact that its written form is completely alien makes it harder to decipher, but I think I have at least figured out the words you brought me. I’m going to have to work more on it though to actually be able to read whatever information is in the data base. Deciphering a few words is very different from understanding the entire language structure. I’ll get right on it if you just give me something to work with.”

“Not until tomorrow, Danny-boy!” Jack’s voice sailed in from the living room. “Or maybe the day after that.”

Daniel made a grimace, but nodded conceding when Sam gave him a look that enforced Jack’s message of ‘Time for some rest’. Stifling a yawn he steered himself towards his room. I guess I do need some sleep.

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