Broken Friends

Chapter 23

The general met them in the gate-room, as was his way when a team returned.

“How did it go, SG-1?”

“Good, sir. Well…sort of good.”

“Sort of, Colonel?”

“It was short but sweet, sir. Nice place, nice people. Turns out it was the people from PQX-830. But they won’t talk to us again unless we bring Daniel. His tape must have made quite an impression.”

For some reason Jack didn’t even understand himself he didn’t mention the alien woman’s cryptic talk about their fate-deciding role to play. After all, he didn’t really believe in all that “read-it-in-the-stars” mumbo jumbo. On the other hand there was something about the way she had spoken that grated at his nerves. She had known things, things she couldn’t possibly know. He just hoped Hammond, and Fraiser, would agree to letting Daniel go – and that it wouldn’t turn out to be a mistake by everything blowing up in their faces for the millionth time.

Hammond set the debrief for half an hour later and sent the team to the showers. Then he headed for the infirmary to speak with his CMO. He knew she would most likely not be very happy about the aliens’ request.

Janet was at her desk catching up on some journaling when the general stepped into her office with a knock on the door.

“Come in,” she said and rose to greet him. “What can I do for you, sir?”

“SG-1 is back. I need you to join the debriefing. No one is injured,” he quickly added and the worry that had begun to make its way to her eyes retreated again, leaving only curiosity behind. Could there be some medical issue with the planet or its inhabitants?

Next the general headed for the briefing room, where he knew he would find Daniel. The archaeologist had been planted there ever since SG-1 embarked on their mission without him. Alternating between staring out the big windows at the Stargate and listlessly working on the translation of the data base from PQX-830, he had anxiously awaited the return of his friends. Now that they were back, all in one piece, he would subsequently be waiting to join the debriefing. Even if he wasn't invited there would be on keeping him out, Hammond thought with a smirk as he stepped into the briefing room and spotted the man already sitting at the table.

“Dr. Jackson.”

Daniel's head snapped up from the documents spread out over the table in front of him. Over the few hours since SG-1 departed through the ‘gate he had already transformed the oblong briefing table into another replica of his own mess of a desk.

“Gather your things, son,” Hammond said with a hint of amusement. “SG-1 is debriefing in fifteen minutes and we’ll be needing both the table and you for it.”

“Did they find something, sir?” Daniel couldn't help but ask as he raked up his papers into a pile that would have given any organized person nightmares.

“I'll let them tell you,” the general replied with a nod to the team entering behind him. When they all were seated, including Dr Fraiser, he took the word.

“Go ahead, colonel, what did you find?”

“It was a desert planet, kind of like the sand-pit.” Everyone nodded – they recognized the none to loving nickname Jack had given PQX-830. “But this one had some water at least. There was a pond right by the gate. We made contact with the people, or one of them. Not human but friendly. She said they were the people who left the data chip and that souvenir in the underground room, for people to be able to find them. They did call for us too, but they wouldn't go into why until...” He glanced between the general and Daniel.

“What? Until what?” Daniel was almost literally on the edge of his seat.

“They wanted us to go fetch you,” Jack responded, and both he and Hammond knew what it meant that the words had been spoken out loud. The kid ain't gonna give up until he's allowed to go.

To their surprise Daniel didn't immediately break into a flood of arguments for him to answer the alien's invitation. Instead he seemed to deflate, his eager eyes diverting from Jack's face to the table where his hands were suddenly writhing together franticly. The room fell silent as everyone in it completely failed to come to grasp with this uncharacteristic behavior. Finally Janet was the first to chance at the course of Daniel's thoughts. She turned to Jack.

“Colonel,” she said. It wasn’t often she spoke as the air force officer she was, but now she did. “What is your threat assessment?”

“None, doc.” Jack would have liked to leave it that simply put but he knew she needed good reasons to set aside the risk of letting a severely injured person out into the field.

“Back at the sand-pit,” he elaborated, “Daniel said there were no signs of Goa'uld influence in their culture and that the people there probably had always been independent from them. The woman on the planet also assured us that they did in fact have some powerful ways to defend themselves against any and all threats.” He left out the part where she had specifically likened her own people to the Nox, even though it was a large part in why he trusted her. It would just sound to crazy to claim she knew about it without him telling her. “The place seemed calm enough and she was friendly and welcoming. And after all, they sent for us remember?! Because they wanted to meet us – including Daniel.”

While Jack spoke Daniel didn't dare to lift his eyes, in fear that his hope would lift with them. Janet's question had ignited a tiny spark, since it meant that she was even considering allowing him to go, but he didn't want to give it any more fuel in case he was just going to get disappointed again. His friends didn't have any such qualms however as both Sam and Teal’c chimed in to Jack's account.

“I agree with the colonel,” Sam said and added, “The path to the village is paved too so mobility shouldn't be a problem.”

“I too concur with O'Neill's assessment, doctor. DanielJackson will be safe, and I shall assure that it is so.”

Janet resisted giving in immediately and considered the facts and assurances put before her by SG-1. Her eyes rested on Daniel who was still stubbornly keeping his eyes fixed on his hands.

“Okay,” she said at last. “I will allow him to go. But,” she interrupted the building celebration, “if anything, anything at all makes you think that the situation is in any way what so ever is changing I want you all to haul out of there double-time.” As always when her patient's welfare was in the forefront of her mind, Janet seemed to forget that it wasn't in fact she who was the commander of the base.

The general somewhat futilely nodded his agreement. How did I end up I charge of this unruly bunch? Luckily he trusted his CMO and seldom went against her in medical matters.

“Dr Jackson, you have permission to go,” he confirmed and turned to meet Daniel's eyes, big and round as two blue saucers. In the background he glimpsed the grins of the rest of SG-1 and decided to address them as well before they were completely overcome by their joy. “Colonel, you heard Dr Fraiser. Watch your backs and get yourselves home without delay if there is even a hint of a threat.”

He knew he could trust Jack to follow this specific order, no matter how he sometimes struggled with the concept of obedience. The man's loyalty to his friends would not allow anything else, in particular when it came to Daniel Jackson. For better or worse, he'll do anything in his power to get him home safely.

“You embark at 0900 hours tomorrow. Get some rest people.”

Janet homed in on Daniel’s overjoyed eyes as well, and the glow radiating from his face made her unable to resist smiling. Determined to make sure he stayed safe, she reined in her automatic smile.

“Be careful out there. No heroics,” she warned him. Daniel nodded earnestly, but Janet knew all his good intentions to follow her orders could come to nothing in an instant. It was just the way he was; unable to resist helping even if it cost him everything. Always prepared to sacrifice himself, why can’t he see his friends aren’t as prepared for it? Especially when we’ve already thought we’d lost him so many times before. With another, more forced, smile she let him go on his way and turned to Jack instead.

“Colonel.” Just like the General I’ll have to put my faith in him to keep Daniel in line. Unfortunately we all know how well that’s usually goes… “Keep him safe,” she simply said. The three words were imbued with everything she and Jack both knew of Daniel. They both turned to consider him as he excitedly wheeled his way towards the elevator, no doubt heading for his office to prepare for the mission. Jack nodded. Message received. Keep him safe – even from himself if necessary.

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