Hanging By A Thread

Chapter 2

General Hammond greeted them as they descended the platform, the great sea of blue disappearing behind them. "Welcome back, SG1." He said. "How was your mission?"

Jack looked cockeyed at him. "Oh, you know," he said, stopping to stand casually in front of the general. "Lots of rocks. A cave-in. Near-death experiences. The usual. And more rocks. Painted rocks."

"Artifacts." Daniel announced behind him.

Jack glanced back. "I said that."

Sam rolled her eyes. "The mission was a success, sir. But Daniel should go to the infirmary. He rope-burned his hands."

General Hammond looked at the different faces of the team, eyes slightly narrowed as he assessed their appearances and their words. Satisfied that none of them were seriously injured (particularly Dr. Jackson), and by their casual return, that nothing had happened that was galactically threatening, he nodded. "Very well. We'll debrief in two hours." He said.

"Alright. Daniel, let's go." Jack turned and set his hand to Daniel's shoulder, pushing him ahead.

"I am capable of going to the infirmary by myself, you know." Daniel said.

"Yes, Daniel. You are capable of many things." Jack said sagely. "Which is why we are accompanying you."

"I don't understand."

Sam tipped her head. "Well–"

"You have a tendency to be distracted by a great many things, Daniel Jackson." Teal'c replied matter-of-factly. "Which prevents you from arriving at the infirmary as you originally intended."

General Hammond shook his head, chuckling to himself as the four teammates left the Gate Room.

Two hours later SG1 sat at the conference table, waiting for General Hammond. Daniel's hands were freshly bandaged, and he was carefully trying to hook his fingers into the handle of his coffee mug. Jack watched as he managed to succeed, then gingerly raised the mug, wincing, until he was able to take a sip.

"Would you like a straw?" Jack finally asked.

Daniel shook his head. "No, thank you." he said, lowering the cup with another wince. "I got it."

Jack nodded, looking up as the general opened his office door and came in. After Sam had reported on the samples she took and the possibility of the planet being a rich source of naquada, Daniel gave his report, finishing it with the request to return with an archaeology team. Jack watched in amusement as Daniel waited with baited breath, his eyes wide with anticipation, as General Hammond thought for a moment.

"How long until your hands are healed, according to Dr. Frasier?" he asked.

Daniel took a deep breath, getting ready to negotiate. "A week before I can do anything strenuous. But–"

"Then you have a go to return to the planet in ten days." General Hammond said.

Daniel paused mid protest, and blinked. "Really?"

General Hammond nodded. "You may use your time until then gathering your team and going over what information you already have." He turned to Sam. "You may spend the time putting together a team of your own to investigate the possible resources of the planet more thoroughly."

Sam nodded. "Thank you, sir."

"Alright." General Hammond sat back. "Dismissed."

It was late. Jack wandered down the hall, hands in his pockets, not really paying attention to where he was going. He had finished typing up his mission report and turned it in, and then found to his dismay that he had stayed later than intended and had missed the hockey game he had planned on watching. So he had gone to the cafeteria to comfort himself with a snack, preferably of the desert kind, only to find that it was closed down for the night. Suitably disappointed he had started walking, his feet moving of their own free will. Suddenly he realized they had stopped walking, waiting patiently in front of a door, having carried him to Daniel's office. The door was open, revealing a desk illuminated by a single lamp, its surface buried under mountains of books, reports, photos, sketches, notebooks, and handwritten notes. The owner of the office was hunched over several sketches and notes, a book lying open in front of him. Occasionally he glanced from the notes to the book and back again, muttering to himself and scribbling. Jack sauntered in with his hands in his pockets, using his Black Ops training to move silently. He moved up until he was directly behind Daniel, then leaned over his friend's shoulder.

"Whatcha doing?" he asked in Daniel's ear.

The archaeologist started with an exclamation of surprise, sending several papers flying across the desk. Daniel whipped around in his seat, his eyes huge behind his glasses. "Jack!"

"Daniel!" Jack said jovially. He tipped his chin at Daniel's notes. "Whatcha working on?" he asked.

Glancing at Jack with an upward roll of his eyes, Daniel gave a slight shake of his head, gearing into professor mode. "My notes on the ruins. It seems to be an odd mixture of Persian and Native American origin– specifically the Cliff Dwellers. I think that the building was a temple of sorts, a place of ceremony; which would make sense, since you found an underground burial chamber there–"

"Daniel, breath."

Daniel paused, inhaled, and continued. "What doesn't make sense is the fact that while they appear to have recorded their history on the walls, there is no explanation as to what happened to them, whether they've left or were taken over or died out. The pictures and records just end. Also, at the end– where their history just stops– there's an odd spot in the wall. It appears that they built this building out of the rock wall behind it and with stones, bricks, and mortar. In this spot it looks like one of the stones was pulled loose and put back in backwards, and there are inscriptions circling it. I haven't gotten around to translating them yet."

Jack waited a beat while Daniel caught his breath. "Is that all?" he asked.

"No, actually, their history is full of step-by-step instructions on how they farmed and planted according to the seasons–"

"Ah!" Jack held up a hand to ward off the next flow of words.

"But Jack, there's more."

"No there isn't!"

"Yes, there is."

"No there isn't!" Jack held up a warning finger, then fought back a grin, the corner of his mouth twitching, when a sparkle of amusement flickered in Daniel's eyes. The archaeologist covered it with a heavy sigh of exasperation. "How's your hands?"

"Itchy. They hurt. If I'm careful I can still hold a pen, although I've been typing my report by poking at the keys one at a time."

"Wanna take a break?"

Glancing at his watch, Daniel looked torn. "Cafeteria open?"

Jack rocked back on his heels. "No. Which is actually why I'm here." He leaned over between Daniel and the desk, reaching for the top right drawer.

"Jack? What are you doing?" Daniel asked, trapped between the colonel and his chair as Jack pulled the drawer open and started pawing through it.

"Aha!" Jack straightened, holding his fist high in triumph. "I knew I could count on you, Danny-boy!"

"Jack! Those are mine!"

"Daniel, you have two twelve packs of chocolate bars, a box of chocolate donuts, and an entire bag of chocolate walnut cookies in that drawer. I think you can spare a donut. And a cup of coffee."

Daniel sank back in his chair and shook his head. "Does it ever occur to you to ask?" he said as Jack headed for the coffee pot.

Jack paused mid-stride. He regarded Daniel for a moment, head tilted. "Daniel, may I please raid your office of treats?" he finally asked.

"Yes, you may."

"Thank you." Jack resumed his stride to the coffee pot. He located a stray mug, filled it to the brim, then took a heady sniff before drinking deeply. "Ahh." he exhaled contentedly. "Nothing better than coffee and donuts."

Daniel sighed.

The week went by much faster than Jack had expected. Probably because both of his scientists were flying around gathering their respective teams and equipment. At the end of the week they were practically floating, counting down the final seventy-two hours until the next trip to the planet.

Sitting in one of the chairs in the infirmary, on the morning of the trip, Jack watched Dr. Frasier removed the bandages from Daniel's hands, congratulating him on his excellent care of them. Jack thought that was unusual. The trip must have been really important to Daniel, Jack mused, to be so careful with his hands. Otherwise he would have thrown caution to the wind in classic Daniel Jackson style, which would have resulted in a lecture from Frasier and him doing 'nothing strenuous' for an additional week, possibly two. So, as it was, Jack was thoroughly impressed with Daniel's good behavior.

The archaeologist was fairly bouncing in his seat by the time Janet was done re-wrapping his hands in less cumbersome bandages.

"Wear gloves." She ordered sternly, though there was an affectionate undertone. "You don't want to get your hands dirty. I know you," she said in response to his look. "You'd get so much dirt caked on these bandages that it would work its way underneath and get in your burns."

Daniel sighed. "Okay. I'll wear gloves."

"Good." Frasier smiled. "Now get out of here."

In a shot Daniel was gone. Jack pushed himself out of his seat and nonchalantly began to make his way towards the door. "Don't worry," he said to Frasier. "I'll make sure he wears them."

Dr. Frasier smiled. "Thank you, Colonel."

The gateroom was thrumming with activity and sound, an obstacle course of scientific equipment and suited-up scientists and archaeologist. They shifted from one foot to the other, fumbling with their helmets, full of nervous excitement. Jack made his way through to his team's side. Teal'c was regarding Sam and Daniel with an odd, raised-eyebrow expression. Jack couldn't tell if he was amused or confused by their excited agitation.

"So," he said, glancing at the bright-eyed faces of his teammates. "You guys ready?"

Sam and Daniel both nodded enthusiastically. Teal'c merely tipped his head.

"Alright." Jack pulled his baseball cap onto his head. "Let's go."

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