Just the fact that Sam used his first name told the colonel something extraordinarily dangerous was on her mind. She rushed into his office, where he had once more been ordered by the general in the hoped that it might result on a report actually handed in on time. Sam’s hurried entry flung the door open so fast that it bounced against the wall with a loud bang. Her face was flustered, as if she’d run at full tilt to get to him. Her breath came in short ragged gasps and for a moment after shouting his name no other words followed. Then they all came at once, rushing out like gusts of water through a broken dam.
“Daniel! In…in the gym…on the climbing wall…no safety rope. Won’t come down, won’t let anyone near him.”
Jack was on his feet the moment she mentioned Daniel’s name, and out the door before she had finished. He rushed through the corridors as she must have done a moment before, the still panting Major at his heels.
Storming into the gym he immediately spotted the cause for his rush. Daniel was clinging to the handholds at the top of the climbing wall, just as Sam had told him, without a safety rope. At the base of the wall stood a large group of base personnel around a pile of mattresses. Must have collected every mat in the gym, he noted with approval. A few of the bystanders wore safety harnesses, obviously having geared up for climbing but none of them approaching the wall.
“What’s going on here?” Jack demanded, pushing his way to through the crowd. “Why isn’t anyone up there bringing him down?”
“Sir…” The woman who had chosen to risk speaking was a young and slender lieutenant, and one of the ones prepped for climbing. “We tried,” she said, “but he wouldn’t let us near him. Every time we got close he did something dangerous like throwing himself in a breakneck bid for a new handhold. We had to give up for fear we would drive him to hurting himself. That’s when Major Carter said she would fetch you, sir.”
Jack forced himself to calm down. Taking a deep breath he gave the lieutenant an apologetic half smile.
“Good decision. I’ll get him down.”
He turned to look up at Daniel at the top of the climbing wall. At the moment his friend was dangling from one hand, dancing some kind of jig with his feet in the air.
“Daniel!” he called.
The archaeologist placed his feet on a couple of holds and held his hand up as if to shadow his eyes as he gazed down.
“Hi, Jack!” he shouted and waved his free hand.
“Time to come down, Daniel.”
Daniel wagged his head and grinned from ear to ear.
“Nah, I’m having fun!”
“Daniel, get down here!” Jack clarified the order by demonstratively pointing to the floor in front of him.
Daniel shook his head again and laughed in a somewhat maniacal way that almost scared Jack more than his friend’s position.
“Nope! Off duty, I don’t have to follow your orders.”
“I’m still your superior,” Jack tried, but with no more success in convincing him.
“That’s always been a matter of definition,” was the response from up on the wall. Daniel let out another laugh and leapt to a new handhold almost on the edge of what seemed humanly possible, still staying at the very top of the climbing wall. The move sent a chill of icy fear through Jack’s veins.
“Daniel!” he roared, but just received another maniacal giggle from the archaeologist now dangling from one hand again. He was obviously not going to get him down by reasoning.
Jack grabbed a harness from the closest rack and hurriedly strapped it on. As soon as he’d secured the straps he threw himself up onto the wall, clipping the safety rope onto the harness on the fly and shouting to anyone to grab his rope. The closest bystanders scrambled to identify and secure the rope but Jack ignored the commotion and heaved himself higher.
Daniel saw him coming and quickly leaped farther away, out of Jack’s reach and onto the very top of the artificial rock construction. Jack kept going. At least he’s got nowhere more to go now. How wrong he was. As Jack heaved himself over the edge of the climbing wall, Daniel climbed up onto the railing surrounding the little platform up there. With a few balancing steps he took off and launched himself into the air.
With a feeling of déjà-vu that made his gut sink as if a black hole had just appeared at the pit of his stomach, Jack saw him sail over the cliff edge. This time however Daniel didn’t fall to a disastrous injury. Instead he against all odds got a hold of a metal beam in the roof and swinging like a monkey he hoisted himself up onto it. Sitting astride the beam he turned his face back to Jack.
“You can’t catch me,” he called in a sing-song voice. The carefree grin on his face reminded Jack of another time that Daniel had acted completely out of character; when he’d been addicted to a Goa’uld sarcophagus. Alien influence, that’s the only thing that could explain it, Jack thought bitterly. And I have a good idea who the culprit is. She is so gonna pay for this. But first I have to get him down. Changing his tactics back to reason Jack called back to his friend in the rafters, hoping to jog Daniel’s sympathetic side.
“Daniel, you’re right, I can’t catch you. Now please come down. You’re making me worried.”
Daniel regarded him for a moment. Then he scrunched up his face in a disappointed frown and shrugged his shoulders.
“Yeah, yeah, kill-joy,” he muttered as he lowered himself off the roof beam and began swinging from his hands. “Catch me?”
Jack’s heart almost stopped as he watched Daniel let go of the beam and hurl himself straight out into thin air like a circus artist from a trapeze. Without another thought, but with quite a few inarticulate prayers that someone below did indeed have a hold on his rope, Jack leapt off the platform. He slammed into Daniel, grabbing a tight hold of his clothes. For another moment they both fell handless, before a sharp tug stopped their descent and almost ripped Daniel from his arms.
They were lowered the last few meters onto the pile of mattresses, and as soon as they touched the ground Daniel tried to wriggle out of Jack’s grip.
“Oh no, you’re staying right here,” Jack muttered and renewed his hold. Daniel fought back with ferocity, forcing Jack to resort to grips he normally reserved for enemies. Flipping them both over he pinned Daniel to the floor, using his greater body weight to hold him down. Daniel struggled, flinging his head back to contact with Jack’s face. Jack grabbed his wrists, and whispering an apology in his ear he twisted his friend’s arms behind his back until he gave a pained yelp and stilled. His black-ops moves having at last immobilized the struggling archaeologist, Jack stilled enough to speak to the crowd standing around.
“Get Fraiser!” he barked, his order making a couple of privates race out of the room at a sprint.
Janet was doing inventory when the winded soldiers rushed into the infirmary. Upon hearing their message she grabbed her med kit and joined them in a mad dash back to the gym, her concern-spurred legs setting an even quicker pace than with which they had arrived.
Daniel and Jack were still on the floor; Daniel futilely bucking against Jack’s painful grip. The colonel lifted his head as the crowd parted to let Janet through.
“Fraiser,” he wheezed, out of breath from the effort and emotional pain of having to restrain Daniel. “You have to give him something. He won’t calm down.”
Janet opened her bag and readied a needle with a sedative.
“Hold him still.”
Jack took an even harder hold on Daniel, the grip making the archaeologist squeak and Jack’s heart pinch with guilt. Janet hurried to inject the medication and after a few more moments Daniel stopped struggling.
Daniel slowly drifted towards consciousness. Unfortunately the awareness came with feeling, specifically the feeling of having been hit by a truck. His head hurt, his arms hurt, his shoulders hurt… Concluding the checklist he simply decided that everything hurt.
“Oh,” he moaned and tried to lift his hand to his aching head, but found himself unable to move it. Prying his eyes open he squinted against the fluorescent lights of the infirmary, and quickly deduced that he was restrained in a bed.
“Hello?” he called. “Anybody there?”
Jack’s face appeared at the side of the bed, his hair looking frazzled and sporting a black eye.
“Hey there, Danny.”
“Hi. What happened?” Daniel tried to make his question encompass their entire situation, restraints and shiner alike.
“You lived up to your nickname, space monkey. Climbing without a safety rope and all over the rafters, what were you thinking? Especially with your fear of heights!”
“I don’t know…” Daniel tried to remember. “I was bored, I think... I wanted a kick to make me feel better. I remembered the feeling back on PQX-830 right before I fell, and I knew I needed to do something dangerous, like climbing. The height just made it even more trilling….” Daniel trailed off as he thought through the events resurfacing in his memory. “I’m sorry, Jack. I…I don’t know why I did that.”
“Oh, I have an idea.” Jack’s voice dripped with sarcastic bitterness. “What’s the usual reason for uncharacteristic behavior in this place?! Alien influence, that’s what. Remember any alien having any ‘influence’ on you lately?”
Daniel followed his line of thought, easily landing on the only possible answer.
“Pembi-Keran? You think she did this?”
“Who else?!” Jack exclaimed. “It fits. I said I wanted you to be ‘running, jumping and throwing yourself into danger’-fine. As soon as we got home you went running. I didn’t think it was entirely weird at the time, particularly when I thought it over after you left. It made sense after you were stuck in that chair for all that time. Then you dragged me off to go bungee jumping, and I started thinking; this ain’t right. And now you wanted to do something dangerous…” Daniel nodded at the indisputable logic of Jack’s conclusions. He was even a bit impressed that Jack had added it all together, apparently before anyone else.
“And I think I know why,” Jack added as a slightly embarrassed afterthought.
“She…ehm…kind of came on to me, and I turned her down. I think I might have pissed her of.”
Daniel tried his best to hide a smile, filing the information away for later harassment and keeping his mind on the matter at hand.
“So you think she messed up your wish to get back at you?”
Jack nodded affirmatively. At that moment a young man in the anonymous green BDU’s of the SGC stormed into the infirmary. He stopped right inside the door, looking around with distress. His eyes fell on Jack and he snapped to a sharp but hasty salute.“Sir! Major Carter…” The young man seemed at a loss for words to express his errand.