- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
“Are you alright, sir?” Carter asked as Daniel and Teal’c emerged into the gate room.
Jack cleared his throat, firmly pushing down on the need to check on Daniel. He was feeling more and more like a mother hen and he didn’t like it. Nor did he have the faintest idea where the inclination was coming from. They had been going through the gate for months after all, and the man had proven himself to be more than capable. Still…
“I’m fine, Captain,” he assured, ignoring the queasiness that seemed to be his off-and-on companion of late. Janet had run a battery of tests on him after he had admitted to the occasional bouts of nausea during a post-mission medical when she had asked for other symptoms upon spotting a strange rash across his body. They had been on stand down for two weeks, but when there had been no sign to point to a cause she had grudgingly cleared him for duty. He was healthy as a horse according to the tests and he wasn’t about to look a gifted one in the mouth, so to speak, so he had jumped at the chance to get out there again. There was a galaxy to explore, after all, and they still had to find Skaara and Sha’re.
The seventh chevron locked and the gate opened. Jack nodded to Daniel, then Teal’c before glancing up to the control room.
Hammond leaned down and activated the mic. “God speed, SG-1.”
A smile flitted across Jack’s lips as he saluted the general. Turning to face the gate, he squared his shoulders. “Move out.” He watched as the others preceded him up the ramp, then disappeared through the event horizon. His breath caught as Daniel’s frame vanished and he hurried after his team. He did not like being separated, even if it was for only a nanosecond.
On the other side of the gate, he sought out Daniel first, needing to make sure he was where he was supposed to be. Next, he checked on Carter and Teal’c, already scanning the perimeter. “Anything?”
“Nothing, sir,” Carter replied, her eyes on a doohickey that would tell her if there were any indications of energy nearby.
“O’Neill,” Teal’c intoned a few paces to their right. “It appears as though someone has been here quite recently.”
“Yep,” Daniel agreed. “Look,” he pointed to a kind of pedestal just left of center from the gate. “There’s evidence of an offering having been there.”
Oh joy, Jack thought as he rolled his eyes. Not only a population to contend with but people who apparently worshiped the Goa’uld. He just hoped they would be friendly, this time. Feeling a headache coming on he pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose.
“Jack?” Daniel asked softly.
Shaking his head, he murmured, “I’m fine, Daniel.” Heaving a sigh, he motioned for Teal’c to take point. “Let’s see if we can find the good folks of P93-47X, shall we?”
They had been walking for about three hours before Jack called them to halt at a spot that looked like it had been used as a camp. “Snack time, kids.”
Daniel rolled his eyes, but Jack caught the grin the man was trying to hide. “You want your raisins now, Jack, or your goldfish?”
Carter laughed, though she quickly turned it into a cough when Jack shot her a look. “Sorry, sir.”
“I don’t care,” Jack said, still eyeing Carter, “as long as I can have my juice box.” He grinned at the expression on her face. “Relax, Carter,” he admonished gently.
A glance at Teal’c showed that the Jaffa was confused by something. “What?”
“Are goldfish not considered pets on your planet, O’Neill? Why would you wish to eat them?”
“Oh boy,” Daniel murmured.
Jack blinked stupidly a few times before turning to Daniel with a pleading look. “Daniel?”
Clearing his throat, Daniel gestured for Teal’c to sit next to him as he began to explain. “You’re right. Goldfish are most often pets that people keep. However, in this case, I was referring to a snack that’s a particular favorite among American children. You’re familiar with crackers, right?”
At Teal’c’s nod, he continued, “Right. So goldfish, in this case, are tiny cheese flavored crackers that are roughly shaped to look like goldfish, mainly to appeal to younger children.”
Jack tuned the rest of the explanation out, content to split his focus between watching Daniel, actually having a bite to eat, and keeping an eye and ear out for trouble. Jack reached for his radio a split second before it crackled to life. He had always had the uncanny ability to pick up his phone just before it would ring, so he didn’t think much of it. He vaguely noted Carter giving him an odd look, but he brushed it off.
“SG-1, report,” came Hammond’s voice.
“We’ve found signs of civilization, sir,” Jack started.
“Hostile or friendly?”
“No idea, sir. We haven’t actually found said civilization yet, just signs of it.” He really hoped they would be friendly. He remembered only too well the last planet they had visited where they had worshiped the Goa’uld. The natives had not taken kindly to them dropping in mid-offering and they had barely made it out with their skins intact.
“General Hammond, sir?” Daniel cut in. “From what we’ve been able to ascertain so far, it appears the people live far from the gate. Maybe even a few days worth of travel.”
When the general hummed thoughtfully, Jack couldn’t help but smile at Daniel. “Sir, I believe what Daniel’s trying to say is, permission to boldly go and seek out new civilizations.”
Daniel stuck his tongue out at him which only made Jack’s grin widen.
“Permission granted, SG-1. We will dial in every four hours for a report. Hammond out.”
“Alright, campers, let’s hit the road. We’ve got some exploring to do,” Jack said jovially as he gathered his pack. “Teal’c, you take point, Carter, on our six.”
They continued on their way, walking for hours without any indication of life aside from the occasional animal and of course the well-trodden path they were following. When the sun began to set Jack ordered them to set up camp in a clearing that had clearly been used as such. It made Jack wonder just how far from the gate these people lived for them to have so many camps and resting areas on their path.
“Probably two or three days,” Daniel murmured as if in answer to Jack’s unspoken question. At Jack’s startled look, the other man grinned and shrugged.
Opening his mouth to speak, Jack snapped it shut, shaking his head instead. There was no point in asking how the man knew that’s what he’d been thinking. Daniel had the uncanny ability to anticipate what Jack might say. That hadn’t always been the case, of course, but he had certainly gotten better at it lately and Jack had no idea what that meant. He had never encountered that with anyone before, but then that was Daniel for you. Always the surprise.
Once both tents were pitched – Teal’c and Carter sharing one, and he and Daniel the other – they set about their various tasks. Securing the perimeter, gathering wood, cooking food. One of these days Jack swore he was going to hunt for game instead of dealing with MREs. He’d never particularly liked them, but these days he hated them; they were what they had though so he would deal.
As they were gathered for their meal, Daniel and Teal’c began to speculate on the kind of people they would meet. Mostly it was Daniel doing the talking and Teal’c answering his questions. Jack sniffed his MRE – spaghetti with meat sauce, yum – and wrinkled his nose in disgust. He could smell the chemicals used and his stomach wasn’t happy with it.
“And you’re sure you’ve never been to this world before, Teal’c?” Daniel asked again, before holding up his hand and shifting his attention. “You sure you’re okay, Jack?”
When he looked up, it was to find the others all looking at him in various states of worry. Huffing his annoyance, he waved their concern off. “You know I hate these things,” he said, jabbing his spaghetti with his fork. “Just making me a little queasy, is all.”
Glancing at his own plate, Daniel frowned, then held it out to him. “I’d be happy to trade you if you think you can handle chicken and rice better.”
Giving his friend a small smile, he shook his head. “Nah, thanks though. Doubt it’ll matter much.” He resolutely shoved a bite in his mouth and gave his team a pointed look. “See?” he said around a mouthful. “’m Fine!”
“Sure, Jack,” Daniel said in that quiet way that meant he was humoring him. Still, he let it drop for which Jack was grateful.
After everyone was done eating they took shifts to sleep. It galled Jack to be out in the field and attempt sleep at all, the need to look after his team prompting him to want to take the watch on his own, but he knew better than to even try. He needed his rest just as much as the rest of them did, and he trusted every single one of them, so why was he feeling this way? He had no answer for that so he simply did what he did best: he ignored the impulse and went to his tent, leaving Teal’c to take first watch.
Daniel followed after him and the fact that the man fell asleep quickly settled Jack in some way and he was soon out as well. He woke just enough to register Teal’c coming in to wake Daniel for his turn before succumbing to sleep once more.
After a while, Jack became aware of what sounded like drumming – loud drumming, at that – very close by. Screwing his eyes shut tight he tried to ignore it but the rhythmic sound was too insistent. It was as if they were just outside the tent. He could also hear the fire crackling and Daniel talking with Teal’c, something about something he couldn’t be bothered to really pay attention to other than it had to do with the Jaffa’s old position as First Prime.
A part of him was wondering why he wasn’t on alert – if anything, that incessant drumming should have worried him, but it didn’t. It just annoyed him. He figured that if it was a cause for alarm Daniel or Teal’c would have woken him. Grumbling, he pushed up to a half-seated position and grouched, “Damn it, Daniel, could you keep it down? Some of us are trying to sleep here. Your little pow wow with Teal’c can wait.”
The voices ceased abruptly but the drumming continued, though the cadence changed slightly. Jack also thought he could discern three different sets which struck him as odd.
“Sorry, Jack, I didn’t think we were being that loud. Go back to sleep,” Daniel apologized quietly.
Jack settled back down, pulling his blanket over his face in an attempt to block out any noise. The drums slowed pace again, though he could still make out three different ones.
The talking didn’t resume and he heard Teal’c go into his tent with a “Good night, Daniel Jackson,” leaving Daniel alone by the fire.
It took Jack three minutes – he counted! – before he cracked. Throwing off his blanket he crawled out of the tent and walked over to Daniel, glowering. “Okay. Out with it.”
Daniel looked up at him in confusion. “Out with what?”
Arms akimbo, Jack grumbled, “The drums. Where are they? I’m sick of hearing you play those damned drums!”
Mouth agape, Daniel blinked stupidly a couple of times before pushing his glasses up and clearing his throat. “What drums?” he asked so quietly Jack wanted to scream.
He waved irritably around the encampment. “Those drums, Daniel. The ones that have been going for the past fifteen minutes or so!”
“Er, Jack? I don’t have any drums, and I don’t hear any, either.” Daniel paused, frowning in that way he had, muttering under his breath, “Drums? Drums… how could-”
“Yes, Daniel. Drums. Ba-da-bum, ba-da-bum, ba-da-bum. Drums!”
Eyes widening, Daniel studied his face. “Jack… are you hearing our heartbeats?”
Jack froze, wanting to deny it but as Daniel spoke he could hear one set of drums speed up. “I-”
Daniel’s face brightened in wonder. “You are! How is that possible? How long have you been able to-?”
Grasping the man by the shoulders, Jack gave him a rough shake. “Hey, stop that! There’s no way I’m hearing anyone’s heartbeat. It’s not possible, at least not like this.” Even as he was speaking, he could hear all but one set of drums recede into the background. The one that he still heard seemed to come into sharper focus as it sped up. Jack could also smell Daniel’s… everything. His sweat, the coffee he’d had earlier, he could even smell the chicken and rice he’d had for dinner, and something he had no name for but was simply Daniel – it was more than a little overwhelming. Not least because it made Jack positively ache with longing for Daniel in a way he had never before experienced with anyone.
Despite the darkness, Jack could clearly see every speck of green and gray in the other man’s eyes as they gazed up at him. What was happening to him? He knew he should let go of Daniel but he felt trapped, unable to move. “Daniel?” he croaked, some of the panic that was bubbling up bleeding out of him with just that one word.
“Take a deep breath for me,” Daniel said calmly, maneuvering them until they were seated on a log by the fire. “In – out – in – out. That’s it, Jack.”
It took Jack a few minutes to regain control of himself again and by the time he was done all his senses were back to normal. The drumming had stopped, the scent of Daniel still drew him but it was manageable, and his eyes had adjusted to the flickering light of the fire once more.
“Daniel, what the hell is going on here?”
Keeping his hand on Jack’s arm – something that Jack chose to ignore because he was sure that if he dwelled on it inappropriate things would happen – Daniel spoke with a calm he envied him. “I don’t know, Jack. I mean, I have a theory, but…”
“But, what?” He narrowed his eyes at Daniel, who sighed and scrubbed his face.
“But it’s speculation at best and it’s based on a theory a friend of mine had back in college. The same kind of crazy theory as mine was, except no aliens, but now I’m thinking maybe yes on the aliens?” he babbled, eyes flickering back and forth as he watched Jack’s face closely.
“You mean the kind of theory you proved to be true? That kind of theory?” Jack couldn’t quite keep the snark from his voice because he really wasn’t sure he could deal with any more weird than his life already consisted of.
Taking a deep breath, Daniel sat up straighter and nodded to himself. “Yes, Jack. I think we need to go back to the SGC.”
Jack considered that for a moment, then groaned. “Yeah, we’d better,” he agreed, scratching the back of his neck – he scowled when he felt the rash there basically bloom under his fingertips. “This is going to be a debrief to remember,” he muttered darkly. He could already see the bloodletting Fraiser would insist on once she got wind of what had transpired here.
“No point in waking the others up until it’s time to break camp. I’m wide awake now, so you might as well go get some more sleep while you can.” Jack sighed, rubbing his eyes in frustration.
Daniel brushed him off. “No way I’m leaving you on your own right now, especially not if what I think is true.”
“And what do you think, Daniel?” Jack asked somewhat acerbically.
He shook his head. “Uh uh. I need more information first.”
Of course, he did, Jack mused, frustrated. “Fine. Ask your questions, then.” He knew the man would be bubbling over with them and sure enough…
“Alright. Do you think your queasiness could be related to the hearing thing?”
Jack frowned, fighting the urge to dismiss it outright.
“How long has your food smelled off to you?”
Jack huffed, running his fingers through his hair. “Not just food that does it,” he admitted reluctantly. “And it isn’t always bad.”
He was glad for the darkness as it hid most of the flush creeping up his cheeks. “Meaning that some things – some people – smell… too much. Like, I could smell what you had for dinner earlier and the coffee you had, too.” With a huff, he added under his breath, “Among other things.” He still hadn’t quite shaken the yearning from a little bit ago but he wasn’t about to act on it. He couldn’t, not with regulations as they stood and while Daniel wasn’t military he was part of his command in such a way Jack wasn’t sure where things stood. He wasn’t about to risk a reprimand or even court martial at any rate.
“Hmm,” was all the other man said as he stared into the fire for a moment.
Jack tried to remain patient, he really did, but he couldn’t quite keep his irritation from showing. “Hmm, what?”
“Oh… Nothing, nothing,” Daniel said distractedly. “How’s your rash?”
Blinking at the seeming nonsequitur he answered automatically, “Driving me kind of crazy at the moment.”
All of a sudden, Daniel scrambled into their tent. Jack could hear him rummaging in his pack before he reemerged holding his notebook and pen. Neither man spoke for long moments as it was obvious to Jack that Daniel was taking down notes – copious amounts of notes. He tried to read over the man’s shoulder but that only resulted in Daniel shifting away from him as he scribbled on.
Every now and then Daniel would look up and ask another question, most of which Jack didn’t really have good answers to. At least, he didn’t think so but apparently, they all meant something to Daniel because he would simply nod and return to his writing. The only break from that monotony was the SGC radioing in for an update where he informed them they would be headed home at daybreak.
Dawn had barely broken when Jack woke Teal’c and Carter with the scent of coffee wafting in the air. He was pretty sure they had worked their way through all their coffee rations over the course of the night, but he found he didn’t care as long as he would have some answers soon. Daniel had promised to fill them all in after he had spoken to Doc Fraiser, though Jack wasn’t entirely sure why.
As soon as Carter was seated beside Teal’c, Jack cleared his throat. “Chow down, kids. Soon as we’re done eating we’re going home.”
Carter gave him a startled look. “Yes, sir, but… why? Has something happened back on base?”
Jack’s lips twitched. “No Carter, not that I’m aware.” He waved a hand to Daniel, indicating the man pick up explanations while he refilled both his and Daniel’s cups before passing a cup of coffee to Carter who took it gratefully. Teal’c refused the offer, but then he usually did. Jack wasn’t at all sure how it was possible but the Jaffa was not keen on the beverage.
While Daniel explained in broad terms what was going on, there was a meal swap going on between the four of them. Carter gave Jack her peanut butter in exchange for his grape jelly while Teal’c and Daniel traded their pop tarts – brown sugar for Daniel with the strawberry going to the Jaffa. It made Jack smile as he took a bite of his chocolate pastry. Times like this always made him feel more connected with his team for some reason. More like family.
It didn’t take them long to finish breakfast, break up camp, and hit the road back to the gate. This time, they didn’t pause to have a snack as they had done the day before, instead choosing to get home as quickly as possible. Jack was all for it. The sooner they were home, the sooner Daniel would hopefully give him some answer because he really didn’t like not knowing. The entire walk back had him feeling on edge and the rash that had been on his neck the night before had spread to some uncomfortable places. If he was lucky then with answers would also come solutions to that particular problem.
General Hammond was waiting for them at the bottom of the ramp, his eyes flickering over Jack’s team. “Colonel, what happened? I thought you were going to be gone for at least a couple of days.” Narrowing his eyes when he got a closer look at Jack, the general added, “Does it have anything to do with…” he trailed off, waving vaguely at Jack.
He nodded, stifling the urge to scratch. “Yes sir, it would. With your permission?”
The general nodded, frowning. “Get yourselves in Doctor Fraiser’s care, people. We’ll debrief in an hour.”
Daniel stepped up to them, clearing his throat. “Actually, General… After we,” he gestured to Carter and Teal’c before continuing, “get cleared, I’d like to have a little time to check on something. I think it’s important, sir.”
General Hammond tilted his head slightly, considering. “Very well. Two hours. If that isn’t enough, Dr. Jackson, you can bring what you have to the table and we’ll go from there.”
“Yes, sir, thank you.” Taking Jack by the elbow, Daniel guided him out of the gate room. “C’mon, Jack.”
He groaned, closing his eyes briefly while he allowed himself to be lead by his friend. Jack could hear Carter and Teal’c following them. He really wasn’t looking forward to being poked and prodded again.
Jack was a little surprised when Daniel intercepted the doctor as she rushed toward them. He dutifully hopped up onto the bed, allowing the nurse to start checking his vitals while he kept an eye on Daniel and Fraiser. They were on the other side of the infirmary talking in hushed, if urgent, tones and he wasn’t entirely sure which of the two was winning the argument.
“Fine,” he heard Fraiser say, though she immediately lowered her voice again, pointing Daniel toward the bed next to Jack.
Daniel seemed relieved as he and Fraiser walked back toward them. Fraiser directed one of her nurses to take care of Daniel while she herself turned her attention to Jack, who felt the sudden urge to go hide. The doctor looked alarmingly cross, which never boded well for him.
Fraiser took a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment before giving him an apologetic smile. “Daniel tells me you’ve had some sort of… episode last night.”
“Episode?” Jack’s eyes widened before snapping to his friend in a glare, feeling a little betrayed. “Daniel!”
“What, Jack? What would you call it?” Daniel gazed calmly at him, letting the nurse fuss over him as she took a sample of his blood.
Frustrated, Jack ran a hand through his hair. “Well, not that!”
Holding up her hands in appeasement, Fraiser cleared her throat. “Colonel, if you could tell me in your own words what happened?” She checked his chart, nodded, then took his chin between her fingers and thumb and gently turned his head this way and that, peering at his skin as she probed it lightly. She tutted and shook her head. “How far does this go?”
Jack squirmed, glowering. “Far.”
“Sir.” Fraiser sounded exasperated.
Heaving a sigh, Jack relented. “All the way down my back and,” he blushed, gesturing toward his crotch.
As before, Jack was subjected to a battery of tests as well as a barrage of questions. The rest of his team was cleared within half an hour, leaving Jack alone in his suffering. He couldn’t begin to imagine what Daniel had to check, or where, but he hoped the man would be successful because this was getting to be more annoying by the second.
Fraiser allowed Jack to attend the debrief, though he could tell that she wasn’t happy about it. Jack guessed that Daniel had a hand in it, even if he couldn’t see how. Still, he was glad to be out of the infirmary for the time being.
His team was already there when he and Fraiser entered the room and the general joined them as they were about to take their seats. “At ease, people,” Hammond intoned. Gesturing to Daniel who was sitting next to Jack, the general added, “Dr. Jackson, I trust that you have something to share with us that’ll enlighten us as to what’s going on with Colonel O’Neill?”
Shuffling a stack of papers, Daniel nodded. “Yes, sir, I think I do. It’s still all theory, mind. I’d need to contact a friend of mine to be sure, but since he isn’t read in…”
“What have you got, doctor?”
Everyone’s attention firmly on Daniel, he cleared his throat. “Well, sir. Remember several weeks ago when everyone… changed?”
Jack shifted in his seat uncomfortably, only partially due to the rash. “I think we’d all as soon forget, Daniel,” he muttered darkly.
“That’s the thing, Jack,” Daniel said, glancing at him. “I don’t think we can. I think something more happened to us aside from the whole neanderthal-like changes.”
“Like what?” Fraiser was leaning forward, looking both concerned and curious. “We’ve determined that the virus was eradicated from our bodies after the doses were administered. Everyone reverted back to normal and as far as we’ve been able to determine there was nothing left behind.”
“What if it wasn’t a matter of leaving something behind?” Daniel clasped his hands as he locked gazes with Janet. “What if, by contracting that virus, something that was already there emerged instead?”
The doctor sat back in shock, blinking. “You mean it… activated something in our genes? But if that’s true then how come the colonel’s the only one showing symptoms to this extreme? And what, exactly, activated?”
Shaking his head, Daniel sighed and pushed his glasses back in place. “I don’t know. Like I told Jack on the planet, back in college a friend of mine had a theory. A way-out-there theory, much like my own regarding Egypt and our history. My friend theorized that once upon a time-”
“In a galaxy far far away,” Jack muttered under his breath, earning him a glare from his friend.
“As I was saying, he theorized that… how do I put it… well, there was more than one evolution of man running around the planet.”
“What do you mean?” Carter asked, looking intrigued.
Clearing his throat, he shrugged. “Supposedly, there were men with enhanced senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, the works. They were the protectors, tended to live in tribes, and they always came in pairs to balance them out. The other of the pairing also had enhancements, but I can’t remember what those were and I wasn’t able to find out in the time I had, sorry. I’m hoping my friend’ll have some more answers on that front.
“General, I’d like to contact him, see if he’s gotten anywhere with his work. The last I could find of him was a mention of a paper of his that he refuted, but I get the sense there’s more to it than what I could get my hands on.”
The general stared down at his clasped hands, apparently giving Daniel’s request serious thought. Finally, he looked up, frowning. “What do you think you can gain from contacting him?”
“Well, sir, I’m hoping he can verify whether he was right.”
“About what?” Jack asked. “What were they called?”
“Oh.” Daniel blinked, giving him a sheepish smile. “Sorry. Well, if I’m right, then he’ll confirm that you’re a Sentinel, Jack, and I believe the counterpart was a Guide but I’m pretty sure that isn’t what you are.”
“If you’re right,” Jack grumbled, not at all happy with what he had heard.
“Right.” Daniel nodded, then turned his attention to the general again. “Sir, I’d like permission to read him in. Provided of course I feel his theory is sound, but if it is… I think we’ll need him. If I’m right, then what’s happening with Jack will happen again and we need to be prepared. What little I remember from what he and I discussed in college, well… a Sentinel without a Guide, or one who simply isn’t trained to use his senses… Let’s just say that things tend to go pear-shaped and I think we can all agree that that happens enough around here without adding that into the mix.”
General Hammond held up a hand to stop the flow of words from Daniel. “Son, I’ll start the process of vetting your friend – what did you say his name was? You call him, get what information you can without bringing up the SGC and if he checks out and it turns out that he can be of help…”
“Thank you, sir. Oh, and his name is Sandburg. Blair Sandburg.”
“Very well. I expect an update as soon as possible. Jack, you are to remain on base and under Doctor Fraiser’s supervision until further notice. Dismissed.”
Stifling a groan, Jack managed a crisp, “Yes, sir,” as he got to his feet. He shared a long-suffering look with Daniel who clasped him on the shoulder in commiseration and Jack was very firmly not thinking about how soothing his touch was. Or how much he wanted to lean into the other man.
“Don’t worry, Jack,” Daniel murmured. “We’ll find some answers for you. I’m gonna go call Blair now, see what I can figure out. I’ll stop by the infirmary afterward, okay?”
He gave his friend a grateful smile and nodded.
“Coming, Colonel?” Janet had stepped up to them and gave him an expectant look.
“Yeah, sure, you betcha,” he said with a sigh.
Teal’c fell into step with Jack as he walked out of the briefing room. “I shall accompany you, O’Neill.”
“Thanks, buddy.” After a beat, he added, “Don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of Sentinels?”
Teal’c shook his head, his hands clasped behind his back as they walked. “I have not.”
“Damn.” He wasn’t sure what to make of what Daniel had said in the briefing, or how it made him feel to even think about possibly being another evolution of man. It was just too weird to him and that was saying something considering what he did for a living.
When they arrived at the infirmary, Jack hopped onto his bed and frowned at Janet. “Hey, Doc? Has anyone else had any symptoms like mine?”
Janet’s lips puckered and her brow wrinkled as she thought for a moment. She had picked up a chart and held it to her chest. “Without breaching doctor/patient confidentiality, I can say that there’ve been a few cases of a minor rash, headaches, and nausea going around, but nothing to the extent that you say you’ve experienced. And nothing that can’t be explained away by several other factors.”
“Well that’s a big help,” he groused.
“Sorry, Colonel, but I really don’t have very much to go on as of yet. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check on some of your tests.”
She left them alone and Jack laid back on the bed, folding his arms behind his head as he scowled up at the ceiling. “I really hate being stuck in here.”
“Of that I am aware.” Teal’c pulled up a chair and slowly raised his hand. When Jack glanced down his eyes widened and Teal’c lips twitched in amusement – which was Jaffa for an outright grin as far as Jack could tell. “I have come prepared,” Teal’c intoned, holding up the deck of cards.
“Nice!” Scrambling into a seated position, Jack pulled the little rolling table into position and motioned for Teal’c to shuffle the deck, something Jack had taught him a while ago and which Teal’c seemed to be very adept at.
Arching a brow, Teal’c asked, “Five Card Draw or Texas Hold-Em?”
Jack shook his head, holding up his hands to ward off the Jaffa. “Ohhh no. I’m done playing poker with you, Mr. Ultimate-poker-face. Let’s leave that for when it’s team night… or better yet when Makepeace wants to set up another poker night.” Rubbing his hands together, he grinned, adding on a whisper, “He won’t see you coming and SG-3 could do with a good hustle.”
Teal’c raised both brows, then nodded sagely. “As you say. What then shall we play?”
Making grabby-hands, Jack hummed under his breath. “I’m thinking Slap Jack. You remember which is the Jack, right?”
“Okay, so we both get a stack of cards. We each put a card down in turn, as quickly as possible and then when the Jack shows, you slap it. The first one that does gets the pile. Winner is the one with all the cards in the end.”
How long they played, Jack didn’t know as he was trying to ignore the ticking of the clock. Not as easy a feat as it used to be as the second-hand seemed to grow louder by the, well, second. So did the various noises coming from the machine around the infirmary and what Jack guessed was beyond the walls as well.
After a while, each slap of the cards on the table made him wince until suddenly when a Jack turned up, Teal’c slapped him instead of the cards. “Ow! What the hell was that for?” he rubbed his arm, glowering at his friend.
Teal’c merely gave him as serene a look as ever. “You appeared to be experiencing auditory difficulties, O’Neill. I merely wished to serve as a distraction.”
“Yeah, well, not so hard next time, okay?” He was torn between being peeved and thankful because while the slap had hurt, his hearing was back to normal again.
They played for a while longer when Daniel appeared in the doorway, looking a little winded and a lot excited. “Jack! Oh, hey, Teal’c.” When their friend started to get up, Daniel waved him back in his seat. “No, stay, it’s good you’re here, actually. I’ve already talked to Sam, and she’s getting ready as we speak.”
Frowning, Jack tilted his head, trying to make some sense from the babbling. “Ready for what, Daniel?”
He grinned. “A road trip. The general’s already given us a green light and is letting Fraiser know now, I believe.” He glanced toward her office and smiled, nodding as he spotted her on the phone.
“Road trip? To where? And why?”
“To Washington. State, that is. We’re going to meet Blair in a place called Cascade? Yeah, Cascade. When I talked to him earlier he couldn’t really discuss matters over the phone but what little we could figure out, he does know more about…” he waved a hand vaguely at Jack. “Whatever it is that’s going on with you. I talked to Hammond, convinced him it would be best if you came along in case Blair can help, and he’s pushing the vetting process through as quickly as possible in case we need to read him in. Walter’s getting copies of the non-disclosure agreement ready for me.”
“So… road trip.”
“Think you’re up for it?” Placing a hand on Jack’s shoulder, Daniel studied him carefully.
And really, what was up with the fact that every time he and Daniel were in contact, everything in Jack seemed to just… calm down? That was one thing that Jack had yet to mention to anybody. Even being near the man seemed to settle him to a degree which was just plain odd. Sure, they had always been close friends – well, once they’d gotten over the initial hurdles when they had first met at any rate, but he squarely put that down to his mental state after Charlie’s death – but this was something else entirely and he had no idea what to make of it. Come to think of it, being around Carter lately felt different, too. It was both calming and just this side of wrong, yet proprietary. Definitely strange.
Clearing his throat, Jack nodded. “Sure, if it means getting some answers, I’m all for it.”
Just then, Fraiser walked into the room looking a little thunderous. “Colonel, I’ve been told by General Hammond to release you to Dr. Jackson’s care for the time being, despite my better judgment. If you have another episode like you had off planet, I expect to hear about it. I wish I could give you something to help with your rash, but we’ve already exhausted every means we have and even a cortisone shot hasn’t worked, so I suggest you wear something that won’t further aggravate your skin. Also, try to stay away from possible stressors like perfume, etc.”
She narrowed her eyes slightly and nodded. “Yes, well… I expect you to report to the infirmary first thing upon your return, are we clear?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Jack knew better than to disagree with her when she got like this.
Heaving a sigh, Fraiser nodded again. “Good luck, Colonel,” she said softly before returning to her office.
“Teal’c, why don’t you go change into something more suitable for the trip?” suggested Daniel. “Jack and I will meet you and Sam by the elevator in half an hour.”
Teal’c stood, clasping his hands behind his back and dipped his head slightly.
As the man headed toward the door, Jack called after him, “Don’t forget a hat!”
Jack pushed the little table away from the bed with a sigh. He still wasn’t sure how he felt about it all, but he hoped that Daniel was right. If only so that they could get some answers and maybe if he was really lucky, a solution to his… problems. Hopping off the bed he waited for Daniel to fall into place beside him and then headed out of the infirmary. “So, you think this Blair guy really knows something?”
Daniel was silent for a beat. “Yeah, I think so. The more I’ve thought about back in college, the more certain I am that we’re on the right track.” Shooting Jack a furtive glance, he smiled sadly. “I realize this may not be what you want to hear, but I really think you might be one of those Sentinels, Jack.”
“Why?” Daniel repeated, sounding surprised. “What do you mean, why?”
“I mean, why do you think that this whole Sentinel thing is even a… thing? And that I’m one? Far as I know – hell, as far as anyone knows – there was only ever the Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens, right?”
Daniel shook his head with a slight smile. “Actually, there have been many, many different species, all variations of the Homo genus. Erectus, heidelbergensis, rhodesiensis, to name a few. There are also some we don’t have names for yet, all part of the same genus. Who’s to say what evolved back then.”
“Yeah, but wouldn’t there have been some sign of it? I mean, if they were as much a part of life as you made it sounds, then shouldn’t it be part of our histories?”
Daniel shrugged. “A lot got lost in time, Jack, that’s what makes archaeology so fascinating to me because there are so many signs out there, but we’ve lost so much that we can no longer discern what it all means. Discovering that again, learning all there is to know about us as a species, it’s-” he floundered for a moment, then continued, “it’s meaning of life stuff. At least, it is to me.”
Jack made a non-committal noise and they didn’t speak again until after they had both changed into civilian clothes and had met up with the others, each of them lost in thought.
“Sir, General Hammond has a plane waiting for us to take us to Cascade. Whenever we’re ready,” Carter trailed off, her eyes searching out Jack’s as if trying to gauge how he was doing. She tilted her head slightly and frowned briefly before schooling her expression again.
Jack wondered what that was about but he wasn’t quite up for calling her out at the moment, so instead he clapped his hands together and faked enthusiasm. “Let’s go, campers! Time to meet the wizard and all that jazz.”
Daniel huffed, rolling his eyes, and Teal’c’s lips twitched in amusement. On the way to Cascade, Daniel filled them in on who Blair Sandburg was, at least as far as the kid he remembered from college. “We shared a dorm room at Chicago University and had several classes together. Blair was an anthropology student, so there was a lot of overlap. I remember him being very laid back, probably a result of dealing with his rather… eccentric mother, I guess. Anyway, Blair was always very laid back, but also incredibly driven and excited about his work.
“There were times when we would spend hours going over books, and discussing things we had found that hinted at our theories. He was absolutely convinced that Sentinels and Guides were real, that somehow they been diminished to the point of extinction, though he felt they were still out there.” Daniel waved a hand toward the little window next to him.
“We never found evidence to substantiate his theory, but then we didn’t for mine, either and we all know how that turned out. We mostly lost touch after we finished our undergraduate courses. He was going to go to a dig for the summer, and then do his graduate in Washington where he had gotten a scholarship, while I finished my graduate at Chicago.
“We’d still email every now and then, share what we had discovered if anything, but it wasn’t much. We could both commiserate with the other because no one else in our fields believed as we did. We were both mocked and basically cast out, though I think Blair was able to hang on for longer than I did, considering that he actually published that paper.”
“But he refuted it in the end, didn’t he?” Carter asked.
Daniel nodded. “Yes, which is what bothers me, actually. The Blair I knew would never have even written that paper let alone published it if he didn’t fully, one hundred percent, believe in it. So for him to then take it all back…”
“Is this unusual, Daniel Jackson?”
Daniel focused on Teal’c and nodded again. “Very. He basically put a huge black mark on his record for doing it. His reputation is now completely shot in the anthropology and archaeology circles. Hell, in academia.”
“Heck of a way to shoot yourself in the foot,” Jack muttered.
“Exactly! That’s not like Blair at all.”
“Perhaps when we meet, he can shed some light on the matter,” Teal’c mused.
Running a hand through his hair, Daniel sighed. “I certainly hope so. I remember all too well how it feels to have that happen and I hate that Blair is now going through it, too. He doesn’t deserve it. He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known, always there to lend a hand if you needed help. Didn’t matter if you were his friend or a stranger.”
“Sounds like a good man,” Jack murmured, glancing at Daniel and wondering whether the two had ever been more than just roommates and friends.
The pilot announced they were getting ready to land and the group fell quiet as they buckled up. It wasn’t long before the plane touched the ground and they were able to disembark. The second the door of the plane opened, Jack tensed, suddenly wishing that he had gone first. Instead, he watched with increasing nerves as Carter, then Teal’c, followed by Daniel made their way down the steps to the tarmac.
He hurried after them, feeling steadily more on edge though for the life of him he couldn’t figure out why. He could see no threat, nothing suspicious in any way, shape, or form, and yet…
Jack’s head whipped around to focus on the sound, eyes narrowed and body automatically moving to ensure he was between Daniel and the two men who were approaching. He really wished he knew why he was on high alert all of a sudden.
Suddenly, when the two men were about ten feet away from his team, the taller man pushed the smaller guy behind him and started to growl. Growl! Tall, dark, and menacing appeared to crouch slightly, as if ready to pounce. It made Jack think of a jaguar, though why that popped into his brain he wasn’t sure.
His own hackles up, Jack put his arm in front of Daniel to prevent him from getting closer, eyes intent on the now apparent threat ahead.
“Blair? What’s going on?” Daniel asked, placing a hand on Jack’s arm. It helped him a little, but not much.
“Oh man, Daniel, I’m so sorry. Jim, will you cut it out? It’s just Daniel. I swear, man, if you don’t settle down-”
Jim, a.k.a. tall, dark, and menacing continued to growl, his stance unchanged despite Blair’s attempts to calm him.
Blair wrapped his arms around the man from behind and began to murmur. Jack thought he could just hear him say, “Jim, focus on my voice. My heart beat. Breathe with me. Come on. There is no threat here, I promise. You knew they were coming. No one is encroaching on your territory, they aren’t here to hurt me or to take me away from you. Come on, Jim. In. Out. In. Out.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Jack watched the rest of his team. Daniel was still slightly behind him, his hand still resting on Jack’s arm. Carter stood next to him, clearly ready to come to his defense if needed. Teal’c stood on Carter’s other side, looking as stoic as ever though Jack knew that if this Jim were to make a move, Teal’c would be there to intercept him in a flash.
It was also very obvious to Jack that none of them could hear what Blair was saying, which in turn had Jack cursing under his breath. What the hell was going on? Focusing on Jim again, Jack took a measured breath and actually had to work to keep his voice steady and easygoing, which surprised him enough that he relaxed his stance, arm dropping to his side – Daniel’s hand trailing down and brushing Jack’s hand before falling away.
“Look, Jim, is it? We’re not here to hurt you or Blair. All we want to do is talk. Think you can dial it down a little so we can get the pleasantries over with and move this party to a more secure location?”
Jim blinked, suddenly straightening as he tilted his head, eyes lasered on Jack with a look Jack couldn’t describe. “Do I know you?” Jim’s voice was rough, the growl from before still resonating a little in it.
“Er, I doubt it. Colonel Jack O’Neill,” he said, pointing to himself, then indicated the rest of his team. “This is Daniel Jackson, Captain Samantha Carter, and,” he hesitated briefly, “Murray.”
Teal’c raised an eyebrow and shot him a look that Jack took to mean the Jaffa was questioning his intelligence.
Blair waved from his spot behind Jim. “Hi guys, sorry about the less than warm welcome. I’m Blair Sandburg, and this lug is Jim Ellison.” He punched the big guy in the arm when he let out another low grumble. “Cut it out.”
Still eyeing the big guy wearily, Jack addressed Blair. “I’d say nice to meet you, but…” He shrugged, then continued. “Anywho, now that we’ve got that out of the way. Is there somewhere we can talk? Somewhere secure?”
Blair frowned, glancing at Daniel who smiled reassuringly and said, “It’s important, Blair. Trust me.”
Heaving a sigh, Blair nodded and ran his fingers through his long curls. “Yeah, okay. We can go to the loft.”
“The loft?” Jack asked incredulously.
Blair gave him a small smile. “Yeah, top floor, no neighbors, and we have a white sound system in place. Think that’ll do?”
Jack sighed. “I guess. Lead on, McDuff.”
Blair and Daniel both shot him bemused looks, but it was Blair who said, “Yeah, no one’s going to be doing any fighting to the death here today, thanks.”
Daniel chuckled, patting Jack on the shoulder. “That quote? It’s a misquote from MacBeth. It’s actually ‘lay on, MacDuff’, meaning ‘go on, MacDuff, let us fight to the death’.”
Jack’s eyes widened slightly and he cleared his throat, feeling abashed. “Yeah, no. Definitely no fighting to the death today.”
He heard Carter’s stifled chuckle behind him as they made to follow the two from Cascade. Jim kept shooting him confused glances over his shoulder as they walked toward the SUV.
Blair grinned. “Since we knew you were coming, we borrowed this from one of Jim’s buddies at work. His truck wouldn’t have had enough room and my car… well, the less said about what happened to that, the better.”
Part of Jack wanted to ask, but he figured that the big guy had only barely managed to keep from losing it and he didn’t want to risk setting him off again, so he just shook his head and followed Daniel into the car.