Broken Friends

Chapter 18

Daniel jotted a note on the printout in his hand. He was in Sam’s lab working on the translation of the data base, as he had been most of the time since he had been allowed back to work a week earlier.

When he had come in to the SGC for his second session of physical therapy with Lieutenant Johnson, Dr Fraiser had been waiting in the gym with her.

“I heard you’ve been doing some work,” she had said, and even though the remark hadn’t been particularly pointed it still made him feel like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Before he had time to begin defending himself she continued, “so I figured I should come down and see how you’re doing, and if it might be time to officially let you get back to work, at least in some extent.”

The therapy went better than the first time and after Janet had wrangled an honest response out of him regarding how he felt, she had allowed him to start working fifty percent. As condition she had made him promise to take it easy and ordered him a mandatory rest in the middle of the day, all packaged with a threat of sending him home again if he didn’t keep his promise. Consequently Daniel was doing his best to abide by the doctor’s orders, even if it often was difficult for him to tear himself away from his work.

His friends and teammates gladly pitched in to help, in particular Teal'c who had appointed himself as Daniel’s personal assistant. He could be found at his side as soon as the archaeologist entered the base, lending a hand whenever he needed it and then fading into the background until he was needed again. At the moment however he was not present in the lab; he and Sam had left a while ago to get themselves a bite to eat. Daniel had promised he would join them shortly, but engrossed in the translation he had lost track of time. He had felt on the verge of a real breakthrough all day, and he could finally almost make it out.

“Time for supper, ant-boy!”

Jack bounded into the lab, his chirpy exclamation ripping Daniel away from his concentration and banishing the breakthrough beyond his grasp again. As he ran the colonel’s declaration through his mind a slight frown appeared on his brow.

“Ant-boy?” he questioned suspiciously.

“Yup! You work like an ant,” Jack explained flippantly and gave him a grin. “But now it’s time to eat. Come on, let’s go!” Without waiting for Daniel’s permission he grabbed the handles on his wheelchair and pulled him out from under the table.

“Hey!” Daniel hurried to put down his pen and grab for the wheels, but Jack just carried on and wheeled him out into the corridor.

“I can do that myself,” Daniel objected indignantly and received an amused snort from behind his back.

“I know you can, Daniel, but now I’m doing it.”

Daniel sighed and resigned himself to being rolled down the gray halls, just feeling slightly embarrassed at the incapacitating notion. He comforted himself with that the base at least seemed to be abandoned so no one could witness his humiliation. On second thought, why is it abandoned? It wasn’t late at night, when the base would usually be less populated. His wristwatch put the time to be just after five o’clock in the afternoon, so the base should be teeming with activity.

“Where is everybody?” he vocalized his concern to Jack.

“I don’t know.”

Daniel could almost hear the shrug that followed the nonchalant answer, so typically Jack and still somehow ringing falsely. He tilted his head backwards so he could catch a glimpse of the colonel’s face. His expression was as carefree as his statement had been, but when he saw that Daniel was looking at him he studiously avoided meeting his gaze. The behavior only increased Daniel’s suspicion.

“What’s going on?” he asked, grabbing the wheels to halt their progress down the corridor.

Jack swatted at his hands and kept going while he explained away the unpopulated hallway with the same nonchalant tone of voice as before.

“Nothing is going on. Everyone except you probably just saw the reason in eating at regular hours and went to have dinner, like we are going to do.”

Daniel tried to get a hold of the wheels again, but it was hard to do without hurting himself on the spinning spokes. Reluctantly admitting defeat on that front he focused on contesting Jack’s odd explanation.

“You want me to believe that every single person on the base all of a sudden decided to have dinner at the same time? They don’t do that, you know.”

“Just because you don’t eat unless you’re told to, doesn’t mean other people don’t do it regularly – you know, the way people are meant to.”

“Yeah, but that people eat regularly doesn’t mean they all eat at the same time, Jack. There isn’t even enough room in the commissary for everyone who works here. The whole system is built around people eating at different times.”

Daniel silenced to see how his words would sit with the colonel, but Jack seemed to have no retort in store for his logic.

“By the way,” he added with a hint of a gibe in his voice. “Shouldn’t you be suspecting some kind of alien influence if everyone is suddenly doing the same thing at the same time?”

“Me? Why should I be the one to notice it? Maybe I’m under the influence as well…whooooo…” Jack finished the sentence with a – hardly – spooky noise. Daniel shook his head.

“Nah, if you were affected you’d be doing the same thing as everyone else; having dinner with the rest of the base and not fetching me like a bastardized version of a nanny.”

The image conjured up by Daniel’s simile made them both hush for a moment in consideration. Then a smile tugged on Jack’s lips and the wrinkles formed around Daniel’s eyes, and as on cue they both burst out laughing.

“I guess we’re both good then,” Jack huffed out between the bursts of laughter, “as long as you forget to eat and I come running to fetch you. And if the rest of them are taken over by alien forces, we’ll just have to save them. It’s not like it’s the first time.”

That made them laugh even harder, to the point where Jack had to stop and steady himself against the wall to not fall over. The sight of his friend leaning on the concrete wall to regain control over his humor-stricken legs made Daniel double over with another burst of laughter, and he was suddenly happy he was in a wheelchair so he didn’t have to deal with the trouble of staying on his feet.

At length Jack pulled himself together and resumed the journey towards the commissary, pushing the still chuckling Daniel in front of him.

When they came around the last corner Daniel saw that the lights were out in the commissary, the darkness inside turning the window panes in the doors dim and brooding. Everyone’s eating, huh? Daniel questioned in his mind, his jesting concern from before becoming more serious as he was rolled closer to the spookily abandoned dining room. Jack let him go a few meters from the door and circled around him to push it open.

Daniel hesitated, but quickly reprimanded himself. Don’t be silly, there’s nothing wrong. He shook off the superstitious conclusion jumps of his mind and steered himself into the room. The door closed behind his back with a flip, flip, flip as it gently rocked back and forth on its hinges. Jack disappeared into the compact darkness beyond, and Daniel assumed he had gone to find the light switch.

The seconds stretched out before him into the shadows, making his creepy sensors start to itch again. He was just about to call out for Jack, when…

“SURPRISE!!!”

The lights came on and a multi voiced explosion of cheering erupted, like the flash of lightning followed by the clash of thunder. The sudden sound hit Daniel like a shock wave, and for the second time in the distance from Sam’s lab he was glad to already be sitting down.

The event without delay placed itself into the short list of rare occasions in Daniel’s life that had left him completely speechless. A small, still cognizant, part of his mind observed the fact that his mouth was wide open, its round shape mirrored in the staring blue orbs that was his eyes, and probably lending him a distinct birdhouse resemblance. Sure enough, when Jack returned to his side he couldn’t help but comment on it.

“Close your mouth, Daniel, before a bird flies in there and builds a nest.”

Daniel slammed his mouth shut and threw a half furious half amused look his way.

“What is this?”

“A party! I thought the decorations kind of gave it away.” Jack faked a confused look around the room and Daniel followed his gaze to take in the astonishing sight in front of him.

It seemed the entire SGC had in fact found a way to squeeze themselves into the commissary for the occasion. The usually dull gray room had been decorated with balloons and streamers that at least lifted its spirit raising capabilities a bit. There was cake. Daniel spotted it on a table and knew it must have been Jack that had insisted that there should be. The table also held a plentitude of food that looked so delicious it must have been prepared anywhere but in the base kitchen. A minimal amount of alcoholic drink per person had been authorized by General Hammond, a privilege that he as well as everyone else took advantage of as soon as the cheering subsided and the mingling began.

It still perplexed Daniel a bit how much warmth the family of personnel at the SGC were able to show each other, despite their rather strict military protocol. Their ‘sir’s and ‘ma’am’s were as full of love and real respect as any first name basis institution he had ever worked at. And now they all seemed to have come together to celebrate him.

After his descension he had been told that he was the hero of most people around the base. The statement had stood in bright contrast to what his memories had told him when they returned. He had remembered being the scientist on the outside of the macho culture of an air force base, getting pranked and mocked for his more than a little social awkwardness. He even remembered Jack harassing him to no end about being a geek, even if the teasing had become more good natured as their friendship deepened.

Asking the rest of SG-1 about it he finally came to understand that the fact that he hadn’t known he was a hero before he ‘died’ said more about him than anyone else. Despite apparently having risked and even given his life for the people of SGC and millions unknown others, Daniel just never viewed himself that way. It didn’t matter how many times anyone told him he was a hero; it just didn’t fit in his image of himself.

When the holes in his memory filled out more Daniel had relived a few of the epic parties in SGC history. Most of them had been thrown in SG-1’s honor when they’d saved the world for the whatnot umpteenth time. He also remembered his embarrassment in each and every one of them; the very same embarrassment that now made his cheeks flame crimson red as the entire room applauded his entrance.

It was a relief, if only brief, when the complete focus on him eased up as the party got started. From the moment he entered the room to the thundering welcome, Daniel still found himself the constant centre of attention. At every turn there was someone who wanted to assure him of exactly how much he’d meant to them, inspired them and over all let him know how glad they were of having him back at the SGC. As heartwarming as it was, it was frankly equally overwhelming as well.

Unbeknownst to Daniel, a member of SG-1 was at his side at all times. They were watching over him to without delay notice when the attention was beginning to get too much. He didn’t become aware of their presence until Teal'c interjected himself between him and yet another eager felicitator. Daniel had tried his best to not let his smile falter, but it was becoming harder by the minute. Teal'c’s dark mountain of a body effectively imposed on the surroundings that disturbing the guest of honor would not be a wise decision at the moment, as he turned his concerned eyes to him.

“Do you wish to retire, DanielJackson?” he rumbled in his deep voice.

Daniel began to shake his head, but paused to actually consider. At his checkup only the day before Janet had been adamant about him not overexerting himself. He had thought it was just her usual doctory cautioning, but in the light of this evening he suspected she had actually been in on the planning of the party. His friends must have consulted her to make sure he could take the excitement. The thought was so touching it made the tears well up in his eyes as he nodded to his answer to Teal'c’s question.

Making eye contact with Jack and Sam across the room Teal'c grabbed Daniel’s chair and started weaving their way through the crowd. The connection between the members of SG-1 was their previously agreed signal to converge and facilitate Daniel’s exit, effectively acting as body guards who cleared a way and cut off anyone who intended to speak to him.

Well out of the commissary Jack took over from Teal'c, and after swinging by Sam’s office to pick up Daniel’s jacket he proceeded to bring the increasingly heavy-eyed archaeologist home.


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