- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
Jack rubbed his shoulder gingerly, trying to keep his discomfort from being too obvious to Fraiser. His tussle with Carter had taken more of a toll on him than he wanted to admit, and he didn’t need to have Fraiser start fussing over him more than she already had. She had enough to deal with already. First Johnson going bonkers and attacking Teal’c, then Makepeace becoming aggressive and needing to be restrained as well, only to have the two remaining members of SG-3 get into it and tossing each other out of the observation room and into the gate room. Neither man had survived that drop.
He watched the tiny doctor move around Carter, helping her team restrain her to the bed. “This pretty much the same as Johnson and Makepeace have?” he asked, rolling his shoulders.
Fraiser walked around to him, nodding. “I’d say so. Them and the rest of the members of his team. This is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. Come on, take a look,” she said, leading him to the isolation units that Stargate Command had converted from the old DefCon living quarters from when the structure had been a missile silo.
With one last glance toward Carter’s still struggling form, he followed. He hoped that whatever was wrong with Carter – and the others, Jack added a little belatedly, even to himself – Janet would be able to figure it out and fix it. He still had no idea what had possessed Carter to attack him like that.
Stopping at one of the iso rooms, Janet opened the observation panel and gestured Jack forward to see for himself. The sight of a Neanderthal-like Johnson had Jack taking an involuntary step back. What the hell was going on with his people?
Behind him, Janet spoke. “Notice the swelling of the brow ridge? Some are even starting to develop new follicle growth.”
“Any idea what’s causing it?” Jack stared at the marine, transfixed.
Janet shook her head, sighing. “Wish I knew. I got calls in to every specialist in the service, but I have one hand tied behind my back because of the ‘need to know’ classification of the Stargate project.”
Yeah, Jack supposed that wouldn’t exactly help matters. Janet closed the hatch and walked off. “And it’s spreading,” she added. “I’ve never seen a behavioral disorder like this. All the victims are acting like animals.”
More like throwbacks, Jack thought as they looked in on Makepeace flinging himself at the walls. Frowning, Jack glanced at Janet. “You think Carter has the same thing?” He was really hoping she was wrong because judging by the look of both Makepeace and Johnson, that would mean Carter would be getting a hell of a lot worse before too long.
Janet nodded. “Her behavior fits. All the victims are behaving like primitives.” She paused, crossing her arms over her chest as she started walking back to the infirmary. “Most female low-level primates tend to choose their sexual partners according to who would give them the strongest offspring. The leaders of a pack, or a tribe are usually the prime choice. You should be flattered,” she added with a cheeky grin.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Jack suppressed a smile. “Oh yeah, I’m honored.” He walked Janet back to the infirmary before heading off to check on things at Operations. He was starting to feel a little edgy about this whole thing. People didn’t just revert back to the stone age like this, after all, and far as he could tell it was spreading without hope of them being able to figure out a cure. “SitRep, Walter.”
The Master Sergeant gave him a report, but in all honesty, Jack was tuning him out. He knew he should pay closer attention, but he kept getting distracted. His body was feeling ten kinds of weird, and there was an annoying buzzing in his ear, almost like a radio fading in and out. Walter finished his report, clearing his throat lightly which caught Jack’s attention. “Right. Thanks.”
Jack could have sworn the other man huffed under his breath and was only barely refraining from rolling his eyes at him, despite the nonchalant, “No problem, sir,” he threw Jack’s way before resuming his duties.
Pulling at the neck of his shirt to look at his shoulder, Jack was just wondering whether he should have had Janet do a more thorough check on him after all when Daniel approached him. “Jack! There you are. I got on the internet to do a little research on Australopithecus-” Daniel’s voice trailed off as he looked up from his papers and added, “Whoa, what happened to you?”
Jack glanced down at his shoulder briefly and tugged his shirt back into place, trying to ignore the sudden urge of defensiveness that welled up in him. It wasn’t exactly her fault, after all. “Oh, I got into a wrestling match with Carter.” There, that was blasé enough, wasn’t it?
Daniel blinked at him, looking flummoxed. “Why?” he asked as he pushed his glasses back up.
Shrugging, Jack stamped on the edginess rising in him as hard as he could. “Oh, I guess she’s got whatever Johnson’s got. I had to drag her off to the infirmary.” Fraiser would figure this out.
Looking thoroughly confused, Daniel tilted his head. “What? Did she start a fight with you just like Johnson did with Teal’c?”
Jack snorted despite himself. “No, err, she tried to seduce me,” he murmured. Well, she had! Sort of. In a club-’em’-over-the-head kind of way. A tiny nagging voice in the back of his head reminded him that he hadn’t exactly minded so much. Or rather, the idea of Carter wanting him. She was a beautiful woman, after all, and Jack was just a man. But he would never take advantage of anyone like that. Besides, as her superior officer, any relationship between them was off-limits anyway. That’s why he had stopped her, or so he continued to remind himself.
Daniel shifted slightly, giving him an odd sort of look that Jack didn’t quite know what to do with. “Oh. You poor man.”
Was that sarcasm? From Daniel? Jack was mildly impressed. “No, it wasn’t like that,” Jack corrected the man. “She was like a wild animal. She was nuts.”
Daniel’s demeanor changed instantly, and something in Jack paid very close attention all of a sudden. “Well, is she alright? I should go see her.”
“Why?” he demanded, trying to clear his head from the haze that was descending on him. His nostrils flared a little. Daniel’s scent was wrong, somehow, but why? How?
Daniel was perplexed. “What do you mean, ‘why’? Because I care about her.”
Daniel started to move away, but Jack grabbed his lapels, suddenly feeling unaccountably angry toward his friend. A small part of him tried to stop himself, but the overwhelming need to protect Carter, to claim her – and that had Jack so stunned he nearly lost control of himself right there – washed over him. “Care about her? What does that mean?” he managed to get out, holding on by the barest thread.
Scowling, Daniel tried to pull away but Jack’s hold on him was firm. “It means I care about her. She’s my friend! Now let go!” Daniel tugged again.
“She’s not yours to care about,” Jack ground out. She was his to protect, not anyone else’s. His!
Daniel froze, wide-eyed and Jack could smell the shock and fear as well as hear them in his friend’s voice. “What are you talking about?”
Jack was losing it, he could feel it but he was helpless to stop it. “I’m talking about Samantha, you just stay away from her, okay?” He needed for Daniel to agree, for him to stay away from Carter. He needed to stop him from posing a threat to her, though what little rationale he had left couldn’t explain why he suddenly viewed his long-time friend as a threat to anyone, let alone their team mate.
“Okay. Okay, Jack,” Daniel cajoled. “I think you should come with me to the infirmary, okay? Just let go of me, and-” he paused, trying to slip out of Jack’s grasp. He managed to loosen Jack’s hold on the jacket but Jack merely grabbed Daniel’s arm in a vice instead. “Let go of my arm!” Daniel cried out in alarm.
Infirmary. No! Carter was there. He had to keep Daniel away from Carter. Eliminate the threat. He had to eliminate the threat to what was his. Jack could feel his fist clench, his arm lift, then propel toward Daniel. Felt it connect with his friend’s face. He watched in horror as Daniel dropped, but instead of the shock pulling him out of whatever was going on with him, seeing Daniel start to get up made Jack see red and he lost all thought.
Confused. Jack was confused. Couldn’t think. Sedated. He’d been sedated. Something. There was something else. Why couldn’t he think?! Slowly, he turned his head, squinting. Too bright. Small room. Cell. Why? Shifting, his body protested. God, but he hurt. So much noise. People talking. Screaming. Pounding.
Door opened. More light. Too bright! Jack clenched his eyes shut, instinctively retreating from it. Voices. Someone was speaking. To him. Light lessened. Jack strained to focus.
“-private room just became semi-private.” Janet. That was Janet. Jack struggled, missing something. “We’ve used the brigs, we’ve used the temp quarters, some of the storage rooms.”
Inhale. Too many scents. Too many people. Peering through half-shut eyes, he grunted as Janet turned to leave. “Doc.” Stay. Help him. Must stay. “Doc?”
Relief. “D’you say something, Colonel?” Janet crouched in front of him.
Jack tried to ask for help. For more painkillers. Anything, but the words would not come. It took everything he had to ground out, “Give more.”
“What? Give more what?”
Everything hurt. Why couldn’t she understand? He needed help. “Give!” he grunted, frustration mounting as he thrust his arm at her.
Janet frowned. “An injection? You mean more sedative?” She shook her head even as Jack nodded. “You’ve already had more than the maximum safe dosage, Colonel, twice as much as anyone else because you’ve been more violent.”
Jack thrust his arm forward again. He needed something. Needed to think. To not hurt. “Give,” he grunted demandingly.
She shook her head again. “No. It’s not safe.”
Please, doc. He tried to say it. Tried to force the words out, but nothing came, mouth working soundlessly until he gave up and grunted. “Give! Give!”
“Why are you so insistent?”
Closing his eyes, Jack tried. He tried so hard to think. To speak. He felt trapped. Helpless. Opening his eyes again, he met her gaze pleadingly. With a sigh, she got to her feet, talking briefly to someone. Jack was too far gone to know who. Just a man in white. Jack watched Janet closely, following her every move as she accepted something from the man and came back to Jack. Watched intently as she uncapped the syringe and administered the sedative.
Relief rushed instantly in its wake, forceful enough to nearly knock Jack on his ass. Whimpering, he closed his eyes again. Everything dulled. The light was less harsh, the noises less abrasive. The scents not quite so overwhelming. The pain receded, and so did the haze, though not very far.
Jack was barely aware of Janet’s muttered, “Must have been in a lot of pain,” as she got to her feet. He knew she was watching him. That he was safe for the moment.
Hearing her start to leave again caught his attention, snapping him out of his stupor. Shifting, he grunted loudly. “Doc!” He had to stop her. Had to talk to her.
Janet whirled around. “Colonel O’Neill?”
With two L’s, Jack tried to say; he tried to put up three fingers like always, but he got nothing. His body still would not cooperate. Instead, he nodded. “Me.”
Janet squatted in front of him again, smiling. “So you are still in there somewhere.”
Yes! Yes, he was here. Jack struggled to form the words but brain-to-mouth was still not working right. His thoughts were becoming a little clearer, though. Grunting seemed to work. “Dream? Dream?” Had he really tried to kill Daniel? Raging like some wild animal? He couldn’t… he wouldn’t!
“I’m afraid not, Colonel. It’s very real.” She stared at him for a moment.
Oh, God. How badly had he hurt his friend? Why had he attacked Daniel again? Carter. Something to do with Carter.
“This is very interesting. Enough sedative must knock back the primitive mind.” She shifted forward, catching his attention again. “Colonel, listen to me. I am not going to be able to keep you at this level for very long; it’s too dangerous. It could cause permanent brain damage.”
Yeah, because I’m functioning so well now, Jack thought, but still the words wouldn’t come. This was incredibly frustrating. Information. He needed intel. “What? What is it?” Please understand, he begged silently.
“It’s a parasitic virus. All we can tell is it seems to mess with body chemicals. All of them. Testosterone levels skyrocket thus the aggressive behavior. It’s histaminolitic which means it breaks down histamine, we wh-”
Histamine? Allergies? Like Daniel? “Experiment on me,” he urged, thrusting his arm forward again.
Janet frowned, shaking her head. “Experiment on you? I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”
How could he make her understand that he trusted her? That if anyone had to be the first, it should be him. He felt certain that there was something to the whole histamine thing. The answers had to lie along the lines of the medication Daniel took. A long shot, maybe, but what else did they have? Slowly, Jack lifted his hand, his gaze locked with hers as he gently touched her cheek. “Use. Me.”
They were at a standstill for so long, Jack could feel the haze slowly creeping back on him. Please, he thought, please do this. Finally, Janet covered his hand with hers and gave a light squeeze, closing her eyes briefly in capitulation.
After putting an IV in his arm, she left, and Jack was alone again – excepting his unknown companion – with nothing to do but attempt to hold onto his sanity. How long he sat in his cell, Jack had no way of knowing. All he knew for certain was that little by little, everything became a little louder, a little brighter, and a lot smellier. A rhythmic, wet thump-thump came from the top bunk, letting Jack know his cell-mate was still here, but asleep as he made no other noise.
Teal’c opened the door to his cell and entered, looking as solemn as ever. “O’Neill.”
Blinking slowly, Jack grunted, “Teal’c.” He tried to say more, to make a joke but he was starting to lose what little grasp he had reclaimed.
Teal’c sat down on the bed next to him. “I am afraid I lost Daniel Jackson on the dark side of the planet. I am sorry.”
Jack wanted to reassure his friend. To let him know everything would be okay and they would find Daniel, but he couldn’t. Not only because right at this moment, nothing was okay and no one would be going anywhere, but the words still refused to come to his lips.
The door opened again, causing Jack to flinch at the flare of light Janet brought with her.
“Colonel O’Neill, I think I might have something.”
Jack squinted up at her, trying to focus on the blur that was the syringe in her hand. Grabbing a chair, Janet took a seat opposite Jack, smiling reassuringly at him. He hoped she had figured out a cure because he wasn’t certain how much longer he could maintain even a modicum of sanity. He could feel it slipping away with every second.
“I was examining the blood sample that Mr. Teal’c brought me, then it hit me. There was very little histamine in it.”
Jack tilted his head in confusion. Histamine again.
“If the people on that planet are human as you claim, they have to have histamine in their blood,” she explained patiently.
“How does that help us?”
Thank you, Teal’c, Jack thought.
Janet shifted her attention to Teal’c. “Well, as I said before the virus is histaminolitic, it feeds on histamine. The Untouched have no histamine in their bodies, so the organism couldn’t survive in them.”
Like allergies! Jack tried to speak, but again, all he got for his efforts was him feeling his mouth work and no sound coming out.
Teal’c frowned. “I do not understand. It is the Untouched that become the Touched. If they have none of this substance of which you speak why then do some of them change?”
Jack groaned under his breath. He thought he knew what Janet was driving at and wanted to get on to the part where she gave him a shot and fixed him up.
Janet half-smiled at Teal’c. “Because only some of them have this low histamine level, which means there’s probably a-a naturally occurring antihistamine in their diets. The ones who don’t eat it eventually contract the organism.” She shifted her attention back to Jack who was watching her intently. “Which is what gave me the idea. I checked the files. Both Dr. Jackson and I have acute rhinitis caused by severe allergies.”
Jack glanced at Teal’s, certain the man wouldn’t understand. Sure enough…
Jack wanted to smile at that but didn’t. Couldn’t, even if he had tried. Janet grinned, then. “I take strong antihistamines every day, so did Dr. Jackson. I have no histamines in my body for the microbe to feed on. Just like the Untouched, the organism starves in my body.”
Shifting forward, Jack tried to get Janet’s attention. Tried to tell her to just give him the medication and be done so they could go find Daniel.
“Does this mean you have a cure?” Teal’c asked.
That edgy feeling started creeping up on Jack again, and the haze seemed to be getting worse. He needed help now.
Janet nodded, though her face fell slightly. “We have to try mega doses of chlorpheniramine maleate on someone to see if it works.”
Finally! Jack thrust his arm toward her, grunting, “Me.” Hurry up! Please. He was so tired of fighting against whatever this was that was happening to him.
She gave him a rueful smile. “I thought you might say that.”
Well, of course, he would. It was his job to protect his people. His risk to take.
“Now,” Janet continued, “the dose required to completely clear the body of histamine for a long enough time could be harmful. Are you sure?”
She gave him a penetrating look that really made Jack wish he could speak. For crying out loud, he thought. Yes, he was sure. He nodded, and Janet got up and injected the drugs into his IV line.
“Now all we can do is wait,” she said quietly.
Jack’s world seemed to tilt on its axis again as the drugs hit his system hard. He had just enough awareness left to marvel at Janet’s addition of more knock-out drugs before succumbing to them and everything went black.
Gasping, Jack shot up, hitting his head on the upper bunk in the process. “Ow! Damnit, who put that there?” he grouched, rubbing his head as he gingerly moved and got to his feet. It took him a minute to remember what had happened – well, most of it at any rate. There were still a few areas where he was a bit fuzzy, but it wasn’t worth worrying about now. He did remember Teal’c stopping by to tell him about Daniel, which made Jack’s stomach lurch with unease. He had to find Daniel so he could apologize and ask his friend’s forgiveness. He had been so far out of line, the line hadn’t even been in sight anymore and his… condition really wasn’t enough of an excuse. Not that he had one other than that.
Glancing over the edge of the bed, Jack’s eyes widened. “Huh.” Apparently, his cellmate had been none other than the general himself. A quick check told him that the man appeared to be well enough, if bundled up in a straightjacket and knocked out cold. It was odd to see his commanding officer in this state, especially with the swollen brow ridge. “That look does not become you, sir,” he muttered under his breath. “Hell, it doesn’t become anybody,” he amended.
Giving himself a once-over as well, he rolled his shoulders. Still a little stiff from his tussle with Carter. He pushed his worry for her firmly aside. The drugs had worked, Jack was fine again so she would be, too. Everyone would be back to normal as soon as he could inform Janet of its success. To that end, he walked over to the door and started banging on it. “Teal’c! Doc! Open the door! Teal’c!”
Jack was certain that Teal’c would remain close under the circumstances and he was proven right when the other man opened the observation panel and raised an eyebrow at Jack in query. “Colonel O’Neill?”
Grinning, Jack did his best Ricki Ricardo impression, “Oh Lucy, I’m hoooome,” which only caused Teal’c to tilt his head and look at him like Jack had lost all his marbles. Come to think of it, maybe he had.
“I am not Lucy.”
Oh, for- Jack thought, scowling. “I know that. It was a reference to an old TV- never mind, just open the door!” He really should have known better than to try to make pop-culture references to the resident alien, especially now.
Inclining his head, Teal’c murmured, “I will summon the doctor.”
“No, no, c’mon,” Jack wheedled, really not wanting to remain locked up for any longer than he absolutely had to. “I’m fine, back to being myself,” he promised. “Just open up.”
Teal’c gave him that stoic look – then again when wasn’t he wearing that stoic look – and shook his head. “I cannot be certain you are back to being yourself. You referred to me as ‘Lucy’.”
Rolling his eyes, Jack heaved a sigh of impatience. “Oh for crying out loud, would you just open the door?”
Oddly enough, that seemed to appease the man, as he opened the door and let Jack slip out before locking it again. And wasn’t that a strange and disturbing thought to have to lock one’s superior officer up. Especially one you actually liked. Mentally giving himself a shake, he nodded at his friend. “This stuff works. Let’s find doc.”
The minute they found Janet, Jack sorely regretted it because she immediately began to run a battery of tests on him. He hated being poked and prodded, but he sucked it up because everyone depended on this. He didn’t have to be friendly about it, however, especially not when she started waving that blasted penlight of hers in his eyes. “Oh come on, doc. Give a guy a break, would ya? That thing is evil,” he groused as he ineffectively batted at her hand.
Janet ignored his protests as always, continuing her examination. “And you’re sure you’re completely back to normal? No more headaches, soreness, bouts of aggression?” Her lips twitched at that last, her eyes flickering up to meet his briefly as she wrote copious notes on her clipboard.
Jack huffed. “I don’t know doc, maybe if you keep poking at me and waving that damned lightsaber in my face I might yet have some aggression to burn,” he quipped, which made her grin.
“So back to normal, then,” she retorted glibly.
“Yup. Everything’s five-by-five.”
“Are you certain, O’Neill? You did refer to me as ‘Lucy’ earlier,” Teal’c helpfully reminded him, which earned him a patented Jack-glower.
Janet chuckled, quickly covering it by coughing softly. “I think he’s just fine, Teal’c.”
Jack pointed at Janet, though he looked at Teal’c. “See! She gets it.”
Teal’c, who stood at the foot of the examination bed with his hands clasped behind his back merely inclined his head.
Huffing, Jack shook his head. “You know something. We’re going to have to start educating you on pop-culture soon, I think. What do you say, doc?”
Janet’s lips twitched with amusement, her gaze firmly on her clipboard as she continued to scribble notations. “That might be the smart thing to do. Wouldn’t want any further misunderstandings, after all.”
Jack grinned widely at Teal’c who blinked and raised one eyebrow in response, leaving Jack to wonder just how high the other man could arch the damn thing. For someone who showed as little emotion as Teal’c ever did, the man sure had one hell of an expressive face.
“Well, Colonel,” Janet said with a hum of approval, “I’m willing to give you a clean bill of health if your bloodwork comes back okay.”
“Sweet!” Jack crooned, clapping his hands together. “So now what?”
Putting the clipboard down beside Jack, she folded her arms. “Now we wait for your blood work to come back and if that shows the organism is completely gone, we start administering the drugs to everyone. I’ll place a call for more of the drugs, just in case. I think it’d be smart to stock up, considering.”
“Agreed. So how long before we can head through the gate and go look for Daniel?”
Janet frowned, glancing at the clock. “Provided everything goes as hoped for, I’d say no less than five hours from now.” At his groan, she added apologetically, “And that’s only on my end of things. We’ll have to see what the general will have to say once he’s back on his feet again. Sorry, Colonel, but that’s the best I can do.”
Heaving a sigh, Jack hopped to his feet. “It’s okay, doc. I get it. Don’t like it, but I get it. You need me or Teal’c for anything?”
Shaking her head, she smiled. “You’re free to go, Colonel. Mr. Teal’c.”
Jack placed his hand on Janet’s shoulder. He waited for her to look up at him before murmuring, “Thanks, doc.”
She nodded, smiling gently. “You’re welcome. Now shoo, off with you. I have a whole lot of people that need my attention more than you do, so…” She waved them off, and Jack offered her a casual two-fingered salute before sauntering out of the infirmary with Teal’c in tow.
“What shall we do while we wait for the results, O’Neill?”
Jack’s stomach growled in answer. “Mess hall first. God knows when the last time I ate anything was.”
Teal’c nodded and followed him, his hands clasped behind his back and appearing lost in thought. “I do not know that there is anyone left to serve the food, O’Neill.”
Rubbing his hands together, Jack grinned. “Sweet! All you can eat buffet, coming up,” he quipped. When they got to the cafeteria, the place was empty and a complete disaster area. Tables overthrown, chairs tossed every which way. Glass and plate shards littered the floor, as well as a good portion of the food that had been out. Jack puffed his cheeks and let his breath out slowly. “Wow.” Arms akimbo, he took a moment to absorb what he was seeing before sighing ruefully. “Right. Let’s find something to eat first and then I guess we start cleaning this mess up. What do you say, Teal’c?”
All told, it took them a good two hours to get the cafeteria even close to looking like it should, but Jack figured that they could leave the rest for someone else to do. Putting the broom away, Jack turned to Teal’c. “Enough of this. Why don’t we check in with Fraiser before getting things ready for the mission?”
Teal’c arched a brow. “Should we not wait for General Hammond to recover?”
Shaking his head, Jack huffed. “Do you really think the general would say ‘no’? This is a rescue mission, T.”
Teal’c face clouded briefly. Inclining his head, he muttered, “Indeed.”
Jack thought his friend sounding a little lost. Stepping up to the big guy, he clasped Teal’c’s upper arm. “Look, Teal’c. It wasn’t your fault, okay? Daniel is… Daniel. We’ll get him back.”
A small smile – at least Jack thought it was a smile – flitted over Teal’c lips as he inclined his head again. “Indeed we will.”
When they arrived in the infirmary, Jack could tell there had been a major change. The few people still standing were tired, but smiling. Including Janet who came over to them as soon as she realized they were there. “Ah, Colonel! Glad you’re here. I just got the results back from your bloodwork and it looks like you’re in the clear. I’ll want to do some more testing at a later date to see if there’s any chance of reoccurance or a better way to handle this if there’s another break out, but…” she took a deep breath and her smile widened. “For now, I think we’re going to be okay.”
Shoving his hands into his pockets, Jack allowed a small smile of his own to play on his lips. “You don’t say. Good. So everyone’ll be back to normal soon?”
Her face clouded a little. “For the most part, yes,” she hedged.
Raising an eyebrow at her, Jack prompted, “Meaning?”
One of her nurses handed her a clipboard, which she accepted with a quiet, “Thanks,” reading it over quickly before turning her attention back to Jack. “Meaning that there were a couple of people who I am unable to give those drugs to for various reasons, and we’re still trying to determine a viable alternative. We’ve moved them into isolation rooms for now. Also, there were a few cases where there were adverse reactions to the drugs, so we’re keeping those patients under close observation. The virus did get knocked back with them, however, so they’re good on that front.”
Jack bit the inside of his cheek, frowning. It didn’t sit well that even one of his people would still be dealing with that stupid virus. “What about General Hammond?”
Janet’s face cleared up. “The general’s going to be fine, sir. He was one of the first to receive the cure and is already making his recovery.”
“And Carter?” Jack asked casually.
“She’ll be alright, though she’ll be on light duty for a while to ensure she doesn’t pop her stitches,” she warned.
Jack’s eyes widened in alarm. “Stitches?”
Janet nodded. “Yes. Her cellmate attacked her and managed to stab her in the abdomen. Lucky for Sam, she missed the organs and she should heal up quickly.”
“That is good to hear,” Teal’c stated.
Janet nodded again. “She was very lucky. Now, unless there’s anything I can do for the two of you, I’d best be getting back to my patients.”
“Actually, yeah, there was one thing, doc. We’re going to need to figure out a way to get Daniel back. Teal’c says the Touched have him. So I was thinking-”
Eyes widening in understanding, Janet nodded quickly. “That it would be a good idea to have a way of taking the Touched out of the equation. We should be able to use the drugs effectively for them, as well. We could prepare tranquilizer darts? Take them down from a safe distance?”
Jack grinned. “That’s what I was thinking. Might not be a bad idea to show the Untouched that their Heelk’sha are nothing more than a disease. Hammond said they wanted to do the whole cultural thing, after all.”
Teal’c inclined his head. “That seems a wise precaution to me as well.”
Jack shrugged. “Figure it can’t hurt to have someone owe us a favor out there.” Like for when – if – they ever found Sha’re or Skaara, for example, Jack thought.
“Alright, Colonel. I’ll have my staff prepare the darts,” Janet said. “If that is all?”
“Sure. Thanks, doc. C’mon, Teal’c,” Jack said, clapping his friend on the shoulder. They had work to do, after all. Jack was already going over the list of things they would need for a rescue mission. It took them a while to gather enough darts, tranquilizer guns, and night vision goggles and various other necessities and get them all set and ready to go in the ready room. Mostly, because they had to go to different ammunition rooms, and also due to the fact that Jack insisted on going over every single weapon. When Teal’c remarked on it, all Jack could say was, “With everyone going whacko, I want to make sure none of these were compromised in the process.” A valid point in Jack’s opinion, considering the state of two of the rooms they’d gone to.
Jack had just cleaned and sighted the last tranq-gun when the intercom chimed. “Colonel O’Neill to the infirmary.”
Sharing a look with Teal’c, both men took care to put everything in its place before making their way back to the infirmary again. When they got there, one of the nurses pointed toward one of the beds.
“General Hammond, sir,” Jack said amicably. “Glad to see you looking more like yourself.”
Hammond huffed a laugh, shaking his head slightly in a bemused fashion. “Thank you, Colonel. It’s good to feel like myself again. Get me up to speed on what’s been going on,” he ordered.
Jack was as succinct as he ever was with his reports, Teal’c filling in any gaps he had. In the end, Hammond let his gaze drift thoughtfully over the room before turning his attention back to Jack. “Thank you, Colonel. Teal’c. Now, I am willing to authorize three teams to go after Dr. Jackson and bring him home. If the drugs work for the Touched as well as they have here, you are hereby authorized to see if a trade agreement with the people of the Land of Light is viable.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Hammond nodded. “And after you come back, we are going to have to take a hard look at procedure for gate travel, Colonel.”
“Yes, sir. Understood.”
“You have a go as soon as you can assemble your teams. Dismissed.”
Jack saluted and Teal’c gave an almost-bow to the general before heading out to find Carter. He wasn’t sure about her joining the search, but she was team and they owed her a heads up at the very least. Plus, Jack really needed to see for himself that she was okay. If he were at all honest with himself, he was rather surprised that he had managed to hold off this long on checking in on her.
They found her in one of the recovery rooms, looking a little the worse for wear as she ate a cup of blue jello. Jack chortled softly, shaking his head. Carter and her blue jello. “How ya feeling, Carter?”
Carter shifted guiltily, spoon frozen in her mouth. When she finally put the thing down on her tray, she cleared her throat. “Colonel. It’s good to see you, sir. I’m doing alright. Little sore, but I’ll manage.”
“Glad to hear it. When is Fraiser letting you out of her evil clutches?”
“I heard that!” came Janet’s voice from behind a curtained off bed.
Jack winced slightly. He just knew he was going to be paying for that remark by virtue of some extra large needles come his next medical.
He could hear Janet talking quietly to whoever was on the other side of the screen before coming over to Carter’s bed. Jack watched Janet closely and was relieved to see her eyes dancing with mirth. “As for Sam’s release, she’s cleared for light duty as of…” Janet paused to read Carter’s chart, then nodded. “Right now.”
“Thanks, Janet,” Carter murmured.
Janet clasped Carter’s hand briefly as she smiled at her. “Not a problem. Just you mind those stitches, Captain. I don’t want to see you back here until they are ready to come out.”
Carter smirked. “Yes, ma’am.”
“On that note,” Jack interjected. “Hammond’s cleared us to go search for Daniel.”
Carter’s head whipped around. “Daniel? Why? What happened?”
Teal’c explained what had happened and Jack briefly considered telling her about him attacking Daniel, but in the end, he decided it was need to know. He thought that conversation was best had between him and Daniel and let him decide whether to tell the others – or rather, how.
Carter flung the covers off her and made to get up. “I’m coming with you.”
“Sam,” Janet warned. “Light duty means exactly that. Light duty. I can’t let you go out into the field.”
“Janet! Please, I have to go. This is Daniel,” Carter argued.
Crossing her arms, Janet shook her head firmly. “No.”
“Aww come on, doc,” Jack found himself saying. “This’ll be a milk run, basically.”
Janet arched a dubious brow at him. “A milk run,” she stated flatly. “The same ‘milk run’ that my people have been preparing tranq darts for?”
Stuffing his hands into his pockets, he nodded. “Yep.” He realized it was a longshot at best, but he understood Carter’s desire to be on this particular mission. Daniel was team and that meant something.
Janet stared at them with determination. Before she could say anything, however, Teal’c chimed in. “I believe that Captain Carter will be quite safe, doctor Fraiser. We will be going with two other teams and we will have the advantage over the Untouched. Captain Carter will not come to any harm.”
Carter seemed pleased by the stoic man’s words and the three of them turned their attention to Janet, who threw her hands up and sighed. “Fine. Go. But for this mission only,” she warned. “As soon as you’ve found Daniel, you’ll be reporting here for a full medical and if I find so much as a single popped stitch!”
Grinning, Carter slid gingerly out of bed. Jack frowned slightly. “You sure you’re up for this, Carter?”
Carter glowered at him and all but hissed, “Yes, sir.”
Jack got the message loud and clear: do not make the doctor change her mind. “Right. Well, in that case, go suit up. We’re leaving as soon as I can get the teams together.”
Softening slightly, Janet met Jack’s gaze. “Good luck out there, Colonel. Bring Daniel home safe.”
“We will, doc. Just keep a candle burning, we’ll be back before you know it,” Jack promised.
Nearly an hour after Carter had been sprung from the infirmary, Jack finally had enough people to head out on their mission. They were in the gate room, waiting for the gate to finish dialing and Janet had come to see them off. “The guns are loaded with tranquilizer darts filled with chlorpheniramine; now, a direct hit on a Touched man or woman should knock them out long enough in order to starve the disease,” she reminded them.
Jack nodded, his thoughts more on Daniel than on Janet, who quietly added, “Good luck,” before walking off to the side and out of everyone’s way.
“Thanks, doc.” Jack clipped his gun to his vest and took a measured breath.
Carter stood next to him, looking worried. “So we’re going to try and tranq all the Touched?” she asked, sounding a little confused.
Jack shook his head. “Just the ones that get in the way of us finding Daniel.” It’d be madness to go after every single one of them, and that would definitely turn this mission into something other than the milk run he had promised Fraiser. “Leave the rest for the Untouched.” They would have to learn to deal with them anyway, might as well start right off the bat, he figured.
“You think he’s still alive?” Carter asked quietly, her gaze fixed on him as Jack looked up.
Did he? The gate activated, allowing him to shift his focus and cover his own concerns for their friend. Yes. He had to believe Daniel was still alive. After all, hadn’t they both lived through worse already and made it through to the other end? Maybe not without a few scars along the way, but they had made it. Taking a steadying breath, he murmured, “Let’s find out,” and led the way through the gate.
Once on the other side of the gate, it didn’t take the teams very long to locate the camp of the Touched, and thus Daniel. Jack gawked at the sight of Daniel in his Neanderthal-like glory, pawing at the girl Melosha. Well, that was… new. It made Jack incredibly uneasy for some reason, but he brushed it off as worry for his friend and knowing how Daniel would feel afterward, considering he was still very much in love with Sha’re.
And that was something else Jack would prefer not to ponder over right that second, so he pushed all thoughts to the side as best he could and focused on what he could immediately work with. With a few gestures, everyone was in position and they began their attack. As he had suspected, it was easy enough to overcome the Touched. Every last one of them went down like a rock once they were hit with the darts. All the better in Jack’s opinion.
In the end, only Daniel and Melosha were left standing. Jack was hesitant to shoot Daniel and apparently, Carter was of like mind as she stepped forward, reaching into her vest. “Just let me give him an injection.”
Before she could take two steps, however, both Daniel and Melosha jumped to attack her. Several shots were fired in response and they went down hard, Jack thanking whatever deities he could think of that they had merely been tranquilizers, not actual bullets. Still, he couldn’t help checking to make sure Daniel at least was alright, heaving a sigh of relief when he found a pulse.
“Alright, let’s go see the Untouched. Show them they have nothing to fear from their… curse. Teal’c, you take Daniel, we’ll leave the others here for now,” Jack ordered, getting to his feet. He watched as Teal’c kneeled down and gently lifted Daniel, maneuvering him until he was slung across his shoulders. Jack felt unsettled by the sight, both uneasy and relieved at once at having Daniel there. He wasn’t sure what to make of it, so in his usual fashion he pushed it all aside as best he could and gestured for Teal’c to move ahead of him. Carter took up point automatically, and the others flanked them on either side which left Jack taking up the rear.
Once they made it to the building they had been taken to the first time, they shifted, leaving most of the group to stand guard outside. Carter, Teal’c, and Jack headed inside with Daniel. As soon as they stepped into the hall, High Councilor Tuplo and his court got to their feet. “What are you doing?” demanded Tuplo.
“You must not bring the Touched among us!” Leedora cried out. “Leave, now.”
Stifling the urge to roll his eyes, he took a steadying breath and gazed evenly at Tuplo. “Just… hear us out, please.”
“We found a cure. And we can bring back Melosha,” Carter interjected.
“And your father,” Teal’c chimed in, his eyes on Leedora.
That seemed to bring her up short and she and Tuplo shared a long glance before he reluctantly nodded. “Very well. We will hear you. Take him,” he gestured to Daniel, “ to the isolation circle.”
Teal’c gave his trademark half-nod and walked over to the circle, Jack following close behind. He wasn’t sure why, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he had to be as close to Daniel as possible. It was almost imperative that he do so, which was odd. With a slight shake of his head, he brushed it off as residual paranoia and the fact that he and Daniel still had an uncomfortable talk coming. So rather than join Daniel in the isolation circle, Jack settled for taking the seat closest to it, leaving the rest of his team to find theirs.
Carter ended up next to him, while Teal’s opted to sit beside her once he had made Daniel as comfortable as he could. With some effort, Jack tore his gaze away from the still unconscious Daniel. He wryly thought that the man had seen better days, but then he was certain he hadn’t looked much better than that himself while he had been… under the influence, so to speak.
Jack let the conversation around him go on, only voicing his opinion when absolutely necessary. He had no real patience for these folks. They were too set in their ways and refused to believe a word they said. Carter seemed determined to keep trying and Jack listened as she – again – tried to explain what had happened to them and how they had overcome it.
“If you are not Gods, then how did you destroy the curse?” Tuplo asked, still sounding disbelieving.
Jack waved his hand dismissively. How long had they been here already, anyway? “As we’ve been saying, Tuplo, it’s not a curse, it’s a disease.”
“A sickness,” Carter added.
“Jack?” Daniel’s voice sounded rough, but it was music to Jack’s ears.
Everyone turned to look at Daniel. Jack in stark relief to see him struggle to sit up and looking bleary eyed around him, while the Untouched gaped in shock. Getting to his feet, Jack grinned. “There’s our boy.”
“Where are we?” Daniel asked groggily.
Teal’c handed him his glasses. “We are on the Light side of P3x-797.”
Frowning, Daniel took his glasses and mumbled, “I thought we were gonna give it a better name?”
Jack’s lips twitched. That was his Daniel alright. The thought gave him pause, wondering where that had come from. Taking a quick, steadying breath, he turned to Carter and said in as chipper a voice as he could manage, “He’s fine, he’s normal.”
Carter grinned, nodding. Leedora’s head seemed to swivel between Daniel and Carter, her face still displaying her shock. “Explain,” she said weakly.
Carter shifted on her feet. “We know how to… lift the curse.” She gave an apologetic half-shrug at Jack.
Well, Jack supposed that if that was what it took for them to accept it, then he would just have to deal with that.
Tuplo stammered, “But… how? If you are not Gods…” He trailed off, seemingly too stunned to finish his sentence.
Sighing, Jack counted silently to three, then offered, “Come with us, we’ll show you.” If Daniel was up and running again, surely the Touched they had tranqed would be, too. Then they would have to believe them, wouldn’t they?
The Untouched agreed numbly. Jack moved over to Daniel. “You okay?” he asked quietly as he helped Daniel to his feet.
“Err, yeah… At least, I think?” Daniel sounded unsure of himself as he took a wobbly step forward, nearly falling off the platform the circle of isolation was on. “Okay, maybe not quite yet,” he muttered, scowling slightly.
Jack’s lips twitched, but he managed to keep his amusement and worry from his voice, he thought. “C’mon, let’s go.” Slipping a hand around Daniel’s back, he was gratified when Daniel placed his arm around Jack’s shoulder, allowing him to help him walk.
Teal’c stayed close by but seemed content to let them handle things, which Jack appreciated. He definitely felt better having Daniel closer and knowing it was him he leaned on than when Teal’c had carried the man earlier – and he so wasn’t going to look too closely into that right that second.
By the time they made it back to the woods where the Land of the Dark began, Daniel had regained his equilibrium enough to be able to walk on his own. Jack was both pleased at the improvement in his friend as well as a little bereft at the loss of contact.
They waited at the edge of the forest, watching as the silhouettes emerged from the shadows into people. Jack shifted his stance automatically so that Daniel was behind him, arm brushing against his. A small part of Jack wondered why he was feeling the need to protect Daniel, to put himself between the man and the crowd of bewildered people approaching. They didn’t exactly pose an actual threat anymore, but he couldn’t seem to help it.
“Jack?” Daniel murmured so only Jack could hear.
Shaking his head slightly, Jack cleared his throat but remained in position. Surprisingly, Daniel didn’t move or object further. Maybe Jack hadn’t quite shaken the whole neanderthal thing off yet, after all, he mused as he kept a weather-eye on the crowd. A smile tugged at his lips as he watched Leedora run toward an older man who only barely managed to catch her as she leapt into his arms. Tuplo, too, soon found himself with an armful of daughter as Melosha buried her face against his chest and sobbed.
Sharing a quick glance with Carter, Jack sighed in relief. It looked as though the drugs had helped the Touched, which meant that Hammond might just get a trade deal out of this mess – though Jack wasn’t entirely certain what they’d be trading for but he would cross that bridge later.
Tuplo approached with Melosha tucked at his side. “My Lord,” he murmured, voice hoarse with emotion. “You have performed a miracle. The Land of Light is forever in your debt; you will always be welcome here.”
Jack inclined his head, a smile tugging at his lips. “Think nothing of it. Happy to help. We’d be willing to work out a trade agreement with your people for the medicine to cure the Touched.”
Tuplo’s eyes widened and he bowed slightly. “We would be most grateful, my Lord. Whatever would please you in turn for such a great gift we would certainly give-”
Jack cleared his throat, waving off any further flowery promises from the man. “I’ll have my people call your people. For now, I would like to head home, check in on the kids.”
Daniel huffed a laugh behind him, but Jack ignored him.
“Whenever it pleases you, my Lord. As I said, your people will always find welcome here.”
“Thanks. Alright, campers, let’s head home.” Jack met his team’s eyes and nodded firmly. Carter was looking a little pale, causing him to frown. Yeah, he had better get her back to base and under Janet’s tender mercies or else he was sure he would be facing the big needles for every check up from here to the next millennium.
After an all too lengthy farewell, they finally made their way to the gate, every step closer bringing him a heightened sense of relief he couldn’t explain. Daniel stuck close to him which seemed to help a little, but he wasn’t truly settled until the last chevron lit up and the gate whooshed open. Home. He really, really needed to be home.