Daniel opened his eyes and screwed them shut again with a moan. He didn't need more than a flash view of the ceiling to recognize where he was. The concrete slabs and fluorescent lights of the infirmary were utterly too familiar. For a long while there with the royal treatment, he had really hoped this would be one of the few missions that didn't land him in here. I guess that was wishful thinking.
A light touch on his hand made him open his eyes again, this time just squinting against the bright light to see who had wanted is attention. Janet's smiling face came into focus – as much as it could without his glasses.
"Hi there, Dr Jackson. You're okay. You lost a fair amount of blood and cut your feet up terribly, but I think your injuries will heal nicely. When you're rested enough the General would like to see you. SG-1 has had their debriefing but Colonel O'Neill wants you to explain some things that they couldn't account for."
Seeing an opening to escape the infirmary Daniel immediately felt a lot better. He pushed himself upright in the bed, disregarding the pain in his side.
"I can go now. I don't need more rest."
Janet regarded him for a moment, scrutinizing every inch of his face. Over the past two years as his primary physician she had learned to not put too much trust in Daniel's own assessment of his medical state. He had a tendency to claim he was fine even when he clearly was not – either to put focus on things he deemed more important than his own survival or, as she suspected now, to simply get out of the infirmary.
"Okay," she finally said. "I'll call the General and tell him you're ready. Lieutenant Bauer will bring you up to the briefing room in a wheelchair." She halted his protest with an upheld hand. "I want you to stay off those feet for at least two days. After the debrief you will come back here and rest, and maybe I will release you to your on-base quarters later tonight. Understood?"
Daniel frowned but nodded. The learning curve over the past two years had been mutual, and one of the things he'd learned about his doctor was that it did not pay to argue with her on matters of health. If he didn't agree to her terms he might very well end up spending even longer in the infirmary, just for her to make a point about listening to the doctor's orders.
"The rest of the team has informed me what happened on P2X-850," Hammond began the debriefing, "but Colonel O'Neill said you might be able to explain the events further. Do you know why the natives tried to kill you, Dr Jackson? The colonel says they showed no hostility until this 'celebration'."
Daniel considered the question, and his words carefully. He was glad the general had decided to ask him, since he wasn't entirely sure any recount made by Jack in particular would do the people of Mixcoatco justice. It wasn't that he thought Jack would misrepresent the events or lie, but he simply didn't have the full understanding of the reasons for the natives' actions.
"I've thought about it, sir, and I think the whole thing was actually a religious misunderstanding. The people of P2X-850 are most likely descendants the Aztec of Earth, who did in fact practice human sacrifice."
"They were trying to sacrifice you – us – to one of those unpronounceable gods?" Jack interrupted him, slamming his hands into the table and leaning over it to nail him down with eyes that shot sparks of anger. "And you didn't think that was a bad idea?! Until it happened to the rest of us, of course!"
"I didn't realize it any sooner than you, Jack. I knew there was a possibility they had the same practices as the Aztec, but I never dreamed they would sacrifice a visitor – especially regarding what they called me…" Daniel blushed and despite his anger Jack couldn't help smiling. He noted the questioning looks around the room and didn't mind worsening Daniel's discomfort.
"They called him a king," he explained and watched with satisfaction as the shade on Daniel's cheeks deepened.
"So why did they try to kill you?" Hammond asked and received a grateful smile from the red archaeologist for redirecting the conversation.
"Most likely they thought I was the personification of one of their gods, Mixcoatl. The Aztec often sacrificed people who had taken on the persona of a god. They would also sacrifice enemy captives but I don't think that applies here. I believe they simply thought of it as an honor to be sacrificed and it never occurred to them that we wouldn't think so too."
"Well, they could have asked," Jack muttered, earning himself a scathing look from Daniel.
"Jack, no matter how bad – this was a misunderstanding. They weren't trying to deceive us or hide anything. We just didn't understand what they meant with a 'celebration'."
"That may be the case Dr Jackson," Hammond said, "but based on these events I have put P2X-850 on the red-list." Daniel opened his mouth to protest, but the general continued before he could voice his objections. "I know there are probably some significant cultural and historical things we could learn from these people but Colonel O'Neill says they had nothing significant from a tactical standpoint that would make it worth putting our people at risk. That's final, doctor."
Daniel made a face and glared at Jack, but held his tongue. No matter how interested he was in the Aztec descendants he understood the general's reasoning. There was no way to guarantee what had happened to them wouldn't happen with the next team sent there and Hammond would never put anyone under his command in harm's way unnecessarily. Then he remembered something that both made him agree with the general and turned his stomach.
"You're right, General." The look on Jack's face when he heard those words out of Daniel's mouth was one of unmitigated chock, and the same expression echoed in smaller degrees on the other three. He rolled his eyes. It's not that odd that I agree. "There is another reason to not return. I think they may practice cannibalism as well as human sacrifice."
"How do you know?" Sam asked, her voice laden with disgust. Daniel understood her. A part of him wished he hadn't figured it out.
"Cannibalism did occur among the Aztec on Earth, and the signs were there on P2X-850. The fires at the temple with the roasting spits – they were basically huge barbeques, and considering the only meat butchered at the temple would be human…" He left the implication hanging. "And then…there's the meat we ate at the welcome meal. It fits the description some people have made of human meat."
The room grew silent as they considered his words. Then Jack suddenly brightened with a smile of realization.
"I didn't eat it," he stated with relief. "I didn't eat any of the meat!"
Sam smiled as well.
"And nor I," Teal'c chimed in with a hint of relief in his steady voice.
Daniel looked from one teammate to the other and felt his gut take another sickening churn. For once he thought he should probably have followed Jack's lead. This time 'when in Rome' hadn't been such a good device to follow.
"Wait!" Jack burst out, interrupting Daniel's thoughts. "So…when you said you 'came to see the sacrifice and have a Jack-snack', you meant…"
A smile snuck its way onto Daniel's lips. He nodded and for a moment Jack just stared at him. Just as he seemed about to give Daniel a piece of his mind about the subject, the general rose to retire to his office. Taking his departure as a dismissal Daniel looked around for the nurse that had brought him up to the briefing room, but Lieutenant Bauer was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps she fled when the talk of cannibalism began. Unwilling to bother anyone else Daniel began wheeling himself towards the elevator. Suddenly he picked up speed and Jack's face appeared a little too close to his head.
"Let me give you a hand there, Danny-boy."
"Oh, thanks, Jack."
"I have to ask, though. We met this girl who said she 'aided you in your purification'. What did that entail?"
Jack's barely contained laughter exploded and echoed before them down the hall. Back in his office General Hammond smiled and relaxed in his chair. His premiere team may be one of a kind and quite unorthodox, but despite their differences they sure did take good care of each other.
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