"...tell you, Daniel! I can't believe you were so incredibly irresponsible..."
"Well, what's the verdict?" Jack came around the end of the curtain, interrupting Janet's tirade. He stopped short, smile vanishing, his gaze flicking from Dr. Fraser to Daniel and back again. The doctor looked annoyed - but then in Jack's experience she often did - and Daniel, still pale from the pain that had sent him to the infirmary, looked peeved. No. Past peeved. Pissy. "What? It's just an ulcer right?"
"No, Colonel, it's not," Janet snapped before Daniel could speak. Folding her arms over her clipboard, she turned. "It's a condition called Gastro Esophageal Reflux. In short, an excess of acid is fountaining up from Daniel's stomach into his esophagus. Over time it's eaten into the flesh creating a lesion, and now, when acid fountains up, it splashes into an open wound."
Jack winced, one hand clutching at the shirt over his stomach. Acid in an open wound certainly explained the way Daniel had been reacting when he'd found him pacing up and down the corridor outside his office. "Sounds like fun. But you can cure it, right?"
"We can control it."
"Couple of tums?"
"Something a little stronger and Daniel will have to watch what he eats."
"That'll be tricky since Daniel literally doesn't watch what he eats. He ate a bug on P7X 99D - landed in his soup while he was going over his notes and he scooped it up and ate it. Carter won a ten spot off me. It was a big bug," he explained as Janet's eyebrows rose. "Lots of legs. Very crunchy."
"This isn't about bugs," Daniel snapped.
"No kidding." Jack crossed to the bed and clapped one hand down on Daniel's gown covered shoulder, his fingers tightening in the only supportive embrace he could manage under the circumstances - where 'under the circumstances' could be defined as under a security camera and the eagle eye of Janet Fraser. "Look Daniel, whatever it's about, you're going to do exactly what Doc Fraser says because you can't go through another attack like the one that put you in here." Turning to Janet, he added, "He was punching walls."
"I saw his knuckles."
"She wants me to give up coffee, Jack."
"And then again, it's not like the walls feel it."
"Doctor, have you ever been around Daniel when he hasn't had his coffee? I have and it's... well, let's just say he's scary and, given a choice, I'd rather face a dozen Jaffa armed only with a squeegee."
"A squeegee?" The doctor's brows reached for her hairline.
"Some kid tried to wash my windows on the way to work but that's not the point." He took a deep breath and rearranged his face into his most sincere expression. "The point is: Daniel without coffee is not a happy camper. And when Daniel's not a happy camper the rest of the team suffers. Hell, the whole universe suffers." One hand rose to thump his chest. "I suffer. I don't suffer well."
"Or quietly," Daniel muttered.
Janet snorted. "Your suffering is not my problem, Colonel. Daniel's is. And even if he was willing to put up with the pain, if this isn't brought under control the damage to his esophagus will get worse and he'll eventually have to have reconstructive surgery. If he doesn't bleed to death internally first."
"Eventually. If." Daniel tried a smile but let it fade when it bounced off Janet's formidable it's-for-your-own-good shielding.
"I'm going to start you on Ranitidine to lower your acid production but it's not a cure. And before you say anything, Colonel..." She raised a hand as Jack opened his mouth. "...neither are those purple pills being flogged on television and over the internet. If the Ranitidine doesn't work I have another three or four medications I can try but he has to watch what he puts in his mouth. Small portions and no coffee until he's been pain free for a week." Turning on one heel she left the cubicle, shaking her head.
"Eventually? If?" Jack turned an enquiring eyebrow in Daniel's direction. "That was the best argument you could come up with?"
"Excuse me for being a little distracted. I'd just received some life altering news." Slipping off the end of the bed, he reached for his pants.
"I'm just saying that it was a pretty weak attempt from a guy who's negotiated peace treaties with half a dozen alien races."
Daniel shot Jack a tight smile as he pulled his work pants up over his hips. "Not without coffee I haven't."
"Good point." Hands in his pockets, Jack rocked back on his heels. "Just so you know, you'll be going through the gate unarmed for a while."
"And it begins."
"Are you sure you're up to this, Dr. Jackson?"
Daniel stopped jumping forward and back through the visuals the MALP had shot of PCX 788, and turned just enough to frown down the briefing table at General Hammond. "Why wouldn't I be?"
The general laid his hand flat on the folder in front of him. "I have here a report from Dr. Fraser and..."
"General, I'm fine. It's just a little heartburn and she gave me pills. Also..." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a blister pack of tablets. "...these super antacids that fizz in your stomach. I've got it covered."
"As I understand it, Dr. Jackson, it's more than a little heartburn and the pain can be quite formidable."
Daniel twisted around and shot an accusatory look at Jack who raised both hands. "Hey, it wasn't me. I never said a thing."
"There are dents in the corridor on level 21," the general announced dryly. "So unless you've taken a dislike to our walls..." He let his voice trail off, clearly waiting for Daniel to explain.
"All right, it can be a bit painful but that was before these." Daniel waved the blister pack and then used it to point at the monitor. "More importantly, PCX 788 shows signs of a technological civilization and that figure in the bushes looks very much like an Unas. Now, since every time we've had any kind of human interaction with the Unas things have gone less than smoothly, and since I'm pretty much the entire Unas cultural studies department, that means I have to go through the gate."
Hammond sighed, looking distinctly unhappy. "Colonel O'Neill, what's your take on this?"
"Well, sir, Daniel is our Unas specialist." Jack leaned past Daniel and peered at the monitor. "And that does look like one of his scaly buddies skulking in the underbrush."
"So you believe Dr. Jackson's condition won't endanger the mission?"
"I believe that Daniel's our best bet not to get our butts kicked by an Unas or three. Or six."
"Thank you, Jack."
"I also believe," Jack continued, ignoring the man beside him and maintaining eye contact with the general, "that, given his condition, we should head home at the first sign of trouble. I don't want him distracted by his gut if the bad guys drop in."
"And the bad guys would be...?" the general wondered.
Jack shrugged. "Jaffa. Goa'uld. Girl Scouts. Does it really matter, sir?"
One corner of the general's mouth twisted up into something approximating a smile. Or half a smile, at least. "I suppose not."
"And we have a bigger problem than Daniel's stomach. Doc Fraser's taken him off coffee. Completely. Cold turkey."
Hammond looked more than a little embarrassed by his outburst but Jack nodded. "Prayer is always an option, sir."
"Is this true DanielJackson?"
Becoming more than just a little annoyed - and Teal'c's distinctly nervous expression was not helping his mood -- Daniel rolled his eyes. "Yes, it's true but it's also taken care of." Shoving his chair away from the briefing table, he rummaged in his pockets pulling out a small screwdriver, a pencil stub, a pen cap, a rusty key, a piece of quartz, one cotton glove, a small tangle of thin copper wire, seventy-three cents, and finally half a roll of square lozenges. "Caffeine," he said, holding them up. "Janet says they'll tide me over until she lifts the coffee restriction."
Forearms planted on the table, Sam leaned forward and frowned. "When did she give them to you, Daniel?"
"This morning, on my way out of the infirmary." He returned her frown. With interest. Why?"
"They're half gone."
She glanced down at her watch. "And it's only 10:47. You're not supposed to have more than four of those things a day. "I've taken them myself when I've been working late on a project and the label is quite specific about the safe quantity.. Each lozenge contains the equivalent caffeine of two cups of coffee. If you've had six in two hours that's like having twelve cups of coffee in the same amount of time..."
"Carter." Jack rolled his eyes toward the man beside him. "It's Daniel."
"Point taken, sir. But regardless of his usual intake, these don't metabolize quite the same way."
"Look, I took enough to bring me up to speed and then I stopped. I needed to finish translating that plinth before SG-9 goes back to P7P 2R4, there's the continuing Goa'uld dialects project, I'm weeks behind cataloguing new artifacts, and I wanted to look in on that shattered tablet in the clean room before the briefing."
"You do remember you have a staff, Dr. Jackson?"
The general opened his mouth to elaborate, visibly decided there wasn't much point, and closed it again.
"And speaking of Daniel's staff; that brings us back to him being the entire Unas department and well..." Jack paused and nodded toward the monitor. "...that. Frankly sir, he's more coherent and less..." A quick glance over at Daniel and a reconsideration of the next word. "...extreme than I would have expected under the circumstances so I'd have to say those caffeine things are working. As long as they keep working, I see no reason why he can't. Keep working that is."
"I got it, Colonel. Dr. Jackson?"
"And if I'd asked first thing this morning, what would you have told me?"
The other three members of SG-1 turned to shoot personal variations of 'he's got you there, Daniel' at their archeologist/linguist/Unas specialist.
Daniel waved the blister pack around the table and muttered. "I'm fine now."
"Uh huh." The general's tone suggested the jury was still out on that. "Major Carter?"
"Sir, the MALP did register some interesting energy readings."
"If we refuse to confront our fears and face danger, we will never win the war against the Goa'uld."
"There's nothing that says these Unas will be dangerous," Daniel protested, frowning slightly.
Teal'c glanced down at the packet of caffeine pills. "I was not speaking of the Unas, DanielJackson."
The locker room door closed behind Teal'c with a faintly ominous click. The following silence was anticipatory and didn't last long.
"We need to talk." Jack said the words to the inside of his locker but since there was now only one other person in the room there was little room for misunderstandings.
"Daniel, you don't show pain. You're..." He turned, looking the other man up and down as though he could find the word written on his clothes. "...stoic."
Daniel sighed and shrugged into his shirt. "No, I'm usually distracted. Most times I've been injured there's been half a dozen or so other things to think about." Glancing up from his buttons, he smiled tightly. "Like, oh, the end of the world."
"You listed half a dozen things you had to do to the General at the briefing. They weren't enough to distract you this morning."
"I listed three. What's your point?"
Jack closed his eyes and counted to five. Answering Daniel's mood with one of his own would only accelerate the situation into a shouting match. Shouting matches were not a bad thing necessarily - they cleared the air and often spilled over into incredible make-up sex - but, right now, they didn't have the time to shout, they didn't have the privacy to fuck, and they did have things they needed to talk about. Then he opened his eyes to see Daniel wearing his 'I dare you to make something of this' expression and his resolve to play nice fled. "My point," he growled, "is that I'm worried about you!"
"You think I'll jeopardize the mission."
"Don't tell me what I think! I'm not worried about the mission - you've got the fizzy pills, you've got the caffeine, and you're not going more than twenty feet from the gate or I'll have Teal'c haul your ass back through the event horizon so fast it'll make your nose bleed! I'm worried about you!" Pivoting on one heel, he slammed his locker shut. The sound cleared his head a little. Taking a deep breath, he turned again and managed to sound fairly calm as he said, "If this has gotten to the hole in the esophagus level it must have been going on for some time. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I thought it was heartburn - not something I needed to bother you about." Daniel held up a hand to forestall Jack's next comment. "I swear that this morning was the first wall punching incident. It's never been that bad before. If you hadn't shown up when you did, I would have taken myself to the infirmary."
"Maybe not right away, but eventually... when I'd cleared my desk." His brow creased. "And maybe after I'd dealt with that dialects problem because there's few things worse than a misplaced glottal stop in a weapons negotiation and SG-9 are leaving in three days. And that tablet isn't going to put itself together..." Glancing up from buckling his belt, his frown deepened as he met Jack's gaze. "I'd have told you about it."
"Well that depends on..."
"On whether I could tell the difference between screams of passion and screams of pain?"
"I don't scream - I verbalize loudly. And I didn't scream this morning, I..."
"You punched walls. Stop avoiding the question. If I hadn't shown up, when were you planning to tell me?"
"About the time you told me about the last set of tests Janet did on your knees."
"I told you..."
"You said they were fine."
Jack frowned at Daniel's tone. "You went into my file," he said slowly as Daniel folded his arms. "You had no right to do that, Daniel. No right! The pain is under control and Doc Fraser cleared me for duty and... and you didn't go into my file did you?"
"No. So, when were you planning to tell me about your knees?"
They stared at each other for a long moment then Jack sighed. "We really need to work on this talking thing." He ran his hand back through his hair and dragged his cap on. "Too god-damned much testosterone in this relationship."
Daniel's turn to snort but he smiled when he did it. "Ya think?"
"Hey, my line." Before Daniel could respond, Jack caught his gaze and held it. "Seriously, Daniel, as your... friend... " He hoped the emphasis was enough because he couldn't bring himself to say the word lover on SGC property. "... I want to know if you're in pain but as your CO I need to know. If you'd told me earlier, we might have stopped it before it got to the acid in an open wound point."
Daniel's eyes narrowed and Jack, braced to cut any argument off short, found himself floundering when all the other man said was, "You're right."
"Yeah. But don't get used to it."
Sam raised an eyebrow as she met Teal'c in the hall.
"Approximately seven minutes," he told her quietly.
"Think that's enough time?"
"I think that is all the time they can be allowed. You must ready yourself for the mission."
Ready herself? Sam grinned. "And it's always so hard to decide what to wear on these things."
Brows up, Teal'c folded his arms over his fatigues. "If I may suggest - green has become the new black."
Her grin broadened into a full smile. "Green?"
"So say the women of The View."
"Green it is then. Thank you." Some day, she'd examine why Teal'c's gentle teasing made her feel so disproportionately giddy. Some day. When they weren't constantly being thrown into the kind of life or death situations that made her question her emotional responses. Oh, who the hell was she kidding; she might just as well accept a life of unresolved sexual tension and buy shares in Duracell.
"Has something upset you, MajorCarter?"
"What? No! Sorry. Teal'c do you really think giving them a few minutes alone before we go through the gate does any good?"
There were no security cameras in the locker rooms and as long as the colonel and Daniel had a reason to be in there together, there were no rumors.
The Jaffa shrugged, a minimalist movement easy to miss. "Does having a few moments to speak alone together do them any good? There is no way of knowing. But I see that in spite of the best efforts of the universe we are, all four, still alive. I think that if it is not broken, we should not fix it."
"I get it. It's like a pre-game ritual now. Like always putting your left sock on first."
He nodded. "That is how it is done."
"How what is done?"
"The left sock is always first."
As Sam opened her mouth to explain, she saw the corners of Teal'c's eyes crinkle slightly and shook her head instead. "I'll just go and suit up now."
The crinkles deepened. "An excellent idea."
Cradling his P-90, Jack stood at the edge of the gate platform and swept a narrowed gaze over the ubiquitous clearing and his team. The clearing was surrounded by the ubiquitous trees and his team had spread out to scout the immediate area. "Whoever they are, they use this gate." He nodded toward the uniformly short grass. "Clipped."
"Cropped, sir," Sam sighed. She scrapped the bottom of one boot against the grass. "Watch where you walk."
Daniel dropped carefully to one knee over by the DHD. "Looks like deer," he said, picking up a brown pellet about the size of a marble. "Or really big rabbits."
"Daniel, put that down!"
"It's just herbivore shit, Jack." He dropped the pellet back where he found it, wiped his fingers on his pants, and stood. "DHD looks fine."
"MALP checks out. Telemetry's reading the four of us, nothing else in the immediate area. Readings indicate nothing that resembles a technological signature."
"I see no signs that anything but DanielJackson's really big rabbits have been near this gate for some time. The Unas has not been sent through as a messenger of a Goa'uld."
"Or not a recent messenger, at least." Jack swept another slow gaze around the edges of the clearing and finally relaxed his grip on his weapon. "All right, Daniel. Bait your trap."
"It isn't a trap," Daniel sighed as he dropped his pack and pulled a rolled piece of canvass out of the top section. "It's a way to entice the Unas to come close enough for me to have a few words."
"Because you only know a few words?"
Daniel paused on his way to the tree line and turned just far enough to look Jack in the face. His declaration, in Unas, was short and to the point.
"See, just exactly what I meant." Jack grinned. "Hardly any words at all."
"Sometimes it only takes a couple, Jack."
Carter snorted as Daniel continued toward the trees. "Care to guess what those words were, Major?"
Her smile broadened as she knelt to open the sample case. "No, sir."
"Glad to hear it. What about you, Teal'c?"
Just on the edge of his vision, the Jaffa shifted so that he could watch the opposite side of the gate. "I do not believe I would need to guess, O'Neill."
An offer of food was the traditional way to make contact with more primitive cultures. Until agriculture caught on, hand-to-mouth was the optimum description for hunter/gatherer societies. Power bars were perhaps not the traditional offering but, since it had worked before, Daniel decided not to mess with success.
He laid out six power bars on the small tarp, half unwrapped the first and laid it back down open end pointing away from him, then half unwrapped the sixth and laid it down facing the opposite direction. As the smell of honey and whatever else was in the bars - organic at Janet's insistence - wafted up into the air, he backed about a meter and a half away, checked the ground for shit, and sat, legs crossed, facing the tarp.
Specifically, facing the area of the surrounding woods where the fuzzy image of the Unas had been caught. Specifically far enough away from the tarp that he couldn't reach it easily. Specifically on enough of an angle so that if Jack had to shoot - and he'd damned well better have switched to the dart gun - he'd have a clear shot from the gate platform.
Nothing left to do but wait.
"Hey, Daniel! Best guess on how long this is going to take?"
Daniel fought the urge to flip Jack off and just barely won the battle. "Why? Do you have a pressing engagement earthside?"
"Yankees are playing the Red Sox at eight but mostly I was just asking because I'm your CO and your team leader..." Volume and sarcasm levels rose together. "...and the information might possibly have some bearing on me deciding what the hell the rest of us are going to do!"
"Right. Sorry." He dug a new roll of caffeine lozenges out of his pack, separated one with his thumbnail and flicked it up into his mouth. The damn things gave a fast hit but they wore off quickly. "Give me an hour of quiet then I'll reassess."
"Deal. T-man, you think you can be quiet for an hour?"
Since the only answer seemed to be a half smothered snicker from Sam, Daniel had to figure that Teal'c's response had been non-verbal. Grinning, he rested his hands on his thighs and scanned the underbrush for any indication that the Unas picked up by the MALP was still hanging around. It was, he knew, entirely possible that said Unas was sitting ten feet away in the underbrush observing him. Given how well they were camouflaged in this type of terrain and how long they could sit motionless, predator patient, he could only hope he'd intrigued it enough to bring it out of hiding. If it was even there.
Ten minutes in, he leaned forward, slowly lifted the unwrapped power bar off the tarp, and took as small a bite as was possible and still be obvious, chewing with what he hoped was the kind of enjoyment an Unas would recognize. He swallowed, grunted out the Unas word for 'good' and laid the power bar back down. Ten minutes later, he preformed whole act again. And ten minutes after that.
Something skittered through the underbrush - something far too small to be an Unas - and a couple of dozen birds sang a couple of dozen different songs. Daniel disregarded the skittering and winced at the birdsongs. One at a time, they might have been musical. Simultaneously, they were discordant noise.
Nine minutes in, a tiny brown and white bird with yellow wing flashes, landed at the edge of the tarp and stared at him with bright black eyes. When he reached for the bar a moment later, it bounced back then flew up to glare at him from a low branch.
He twisted around and scowled at Jack sitting on the edge of the gate platform. "I got nothing." Well, nothing except a persistent pressure in his gut. Standing, he gestured toward the edge of the woods. "I'm just going to step behind this tree."
"Why?" There were days... "Why do you think?"
"How's your stomach?"
"My stomach is fine!" It hurt but no more than it had and Daniel figured that was the question actually being asked. "But," he added as Jack indicated he should continue. "I'm thinking I might take a crap." Rolling his eyes, he dug a handful of tissues out of his pack, tossing the caffeine lozenges toward the tarp to get them out of his way. Ever since the incident on PY7 88K, he did not wipe his ass with the local fauna. "I hope that information helps with your decision making."
Jack turned his head forty five degrees to the left and bellowed, "Teal'c!"
"I don't need an escort!" Daniel protested as the Jaffa set down a piece of equipment, left Sam's side and started across the clearing. "I've been staring into these trees for an hour and there is nothing in there. Nada. Zilch. Zip."
"You willing to bet your life on that?"
"Yes, damn it!" He did not need Teal'c watching him - or more specifically watching over him while he strained to empty his colon.
Jack stared at him for a long moment, then raised a hand.
Teal'c stopped about ten feet from the trees. "I will wait here."
"Fine!" Pivoting on one heel, Daniel stomped into the underbrush and began unbuckling his belt.
"I think it's time he had another one of those magic lozenges," the colonel muttered as Sam set the sample case down on the edge of the gate platform.
She glanced toward the woods. "It's possible that he's having a little trouble, sir." When a raised eyebrow suggested she continue, she smacked herself mentally for opening her mouth. "It just that Daniel usually drinks a lot of coffee and caffeine is a laxative and the lozenges, because there's no actual liquid involved don't cause the body to respond in the same way. Add that to the somewhat binding effect of the antacids Janet has him on and... You really didn't want to know all that did you sir?"
"No, Carter. I didn't."
"Kind of kills the romance doesn't it." As he turned slowly to face her, she felt the blood rise up in her face until her cheeks burned. "Oh God. Did I say that out loud?" She read the answer off his expression and wondered why there was never an incoming wormhole around when she really needed to throw herself into one. "I'm so sorry, sir, I..."
He raised a hand, cutting her off. "We will never speak of this again."
"It's just I..."
Daniel was not having a good day. First the pain, then Janet cutting him off, then a total lack of any Unas indication, now this. Maybe if he was at home in his own bathroom with a copy of National Geographic and all the time in the world, he'd be able to get somewhere but here and now. Nothing.
Maybe he should just give up and... What was that? It wasn't a sound... it was an absence of sound. The birds had stopped singing. He started to rise out of his crouch and froze as the bushes directly in front of him rustled and a familiar horned face appeared amid the leaves. It took a moment for the Unas to notice him and when it did, its reaction was not the reaction Daniel had expected.
Kind of a high-pitched girly scream too.
The scream catapulted Jack off the edge of the gate platform and across the clearing, the P-90 in position by the second step, his finger on the trigger, and his 2IC on his six. When he reached the edge of the woods, he plunged through underbrush Teal'c had already trampled and rocked to a halt at the sight of the big guy loaming over a girl - looked ten or eleven - who was sitting on the ground with an Unas head in her lap. She looked terrified.
"I did nothing O'Neill. The child was on the ground when I arrived."
"I... uh, I may have inadvertently flashed her," Daniel admitted, his cheeks crimson as he buckled his belt.
"Great, traumatized for life," Jack muttered as he slowly moved forward and dropped to one knee. They were just lucky she wasn't a few years older or there'd be yet another alien he had to beat off Daniel with a stick. And a full frontal was certainly more of an invitation than the usual eyelash batting. "Hey." He stretched out his hand. "Are you all right?"
Wide brown eyes turned from Teal'c to him. "I'm not scared."
"Of course you aren't. I'm Jack."
"Carli." She swiped a hand under her nose and Jack ratcheted her age down a year or so. "Are you raiders?"
"No," he began but before he could continue, Daniel stepped forward and knelt on her other side.
"We're peaceful explorers. We came through the Stargate. The chaapa'ai. I'm sorry if I startled you."
Carli turned toward Daniel and stared at him for a long moment. "I saw your..."
"Yeah. Sorry about that too."
"You were having a... You were..." She gulped in a lungful of air and buried her face in what Jack now saw was actually a rubber Unas mask.
Daniel shot a panicked look over her shaking shoulders at Jack.
Jack snickered but before he could explain that she wasn't crying, Carli lifted her head, pointed at Daniel and howled with laughter. He couldn't blame her - what could be funnier at her age than stumbling over an adult taking a dump?
"Is the child all right, O'Neill?"
He straightened, grinning at Daniel's indignant reaction, and turned to Teal'c. "Do archeologists shit in the woods?"
Teal'c glanced over at the archeologist in question and shrugged. "Apparently not."
"...but I'll be ten next moon and that'll mean I gotta wait a whole year until the next Ancients' Festival and that's not fair." Cali chewed and swallowed another bite of power bar and glanced up at Jack. "Is it?"
"Not at all."
"No, it isn't. So I borrowed Kendred's mask so I could get my first stone. Festival's over tomorrow, isn't it? It's not like I had a lot of time." Another chew. Another swallow. "These are good. Don't tell that I ate it, 'kay? During festival, if you're old enough for a stone, you're not supposed to eat in the day time."
Jack laid his hand on his heart and from her expression Daniel realized she understood the broad meaning if not the specifics of the gesture. "I won't say a word."
"So, Cali..." Daniel hid a sigh as she snickered. "...what exactly do you celebrate at this Ancients' Festival."
The girl shrugged. "Old stuff."
"What kind of old stuff?"
She rolled her eyes, set the remains of the power bar on the edge of the gate platform and stood, hands clasped in front of her stomach.. "In the Ancient Days there was lots of hardship. Raiders sometimes came and took people away through the Ancients' Ring. Orlas..." She waved the mask. "...and people killed each other. Then raiders stopped coming. Then the people drove the Orlas away into the mountains." A wave behind the gate at the rising foothills of an impressive mountain range. "Then there was not so much hardship. Then there was none. The Ancients' Festival helps us to remember that there used to be hardship so we don't stop being glad there was none." Recitation finished, she beamed around the half-circle of watching adults. "I won first place at the speeching contest this year."
"That's a great speech," Daniel told her. "Do the Orlas ever come out of the mountains?"
"No." Carli looked at him like he was a total idiot - but at least she wasn't laughing so he figured it was an improvement. "No one's seen an Orlas for years and years and years and years. My Bahpa says they've been stinked nearly forever."
"Extinct," Jack translated, grinning.
"But the masks are part of the festival?" Daniel prodded.
Her sigh suggested she was going to say this once and that was it. "You wear the mask to get the stone so the Orlas think you're a Orlas 'cept they don't exist no more."
"Did you need me to explain that, Dr. Jackson?" Jack wondered, rocking back on his heels, hands in his pockets.
Daniel shot him an exasperated glare, not at all surprised that Jack spoke ten year old. "No. Thanks. I got it." Directed his attention back to the girl. "Thank you, Cali. Can you excuse us for a minute?"
"Sure." She tossed the mask down onto the gate platform and picked up the powerbar. "I gotta find a good stone anyways."
"The MALP probably picked up Kendred or one of his friends wearing a mask, not an actual Unas at all," Daniel murmured as SG-1 moved away from the girl.
Jack snorted. "Ya think?"
"I have never heard the beasts referred to as an Orlas before," Teal'c pointed out.
"In a couple of thousand years, language drifts. Or maybe they had an early leader with a speech impediment and that's how he pronounced it and it stuck. There's a hundred possible reasons for the difference but that's not important. Jack..." He turned to face the other man, sketching his excitement in the air. "...this festival is a terrific example of how history becomes folklore and it's only on for one more day."
"Let me guess. You want to go to the festival?"
"This would be the perfect time to discover which Goa'uld brought them here and abandoned them. Not to mention the Unas..."
Daniel shrugged. "You say potato."
"Most of the time. Carter?"
Sam glanced over at Carli, currently trying to chip one of the huge base blocks out of the gate platform. "The people here have obviously achieved a level of technology that allows them to mold rubber into intricate, mass-produced masks."
"Not to mention that Carli's shoes look remarkably like Nike's," Jack added.
"Not to mention," she nodded. "It wouldn't hurt to see what else they've developed."
"Both DanielJackson and Major Carter make excellent arguments for remaining."
"And you don't really care either way?"
"I do not."
The path they were following emerged suddenly from under the trees and SG-1 found themselves standing at the edge of Percalis, the town nearest the stargate. It looked like...
"Canmore. It's a town up in the Rockies about two hours from Calgary," Jack went on as his team gazed at him blankly. "Calgary, Alberta? Canada? Oh for crying out loud. You know for intergalactic heroes, you guys have got to get out more."
"Wrong hemisphere," Daniel muttered, chewing on a hangnail by his thumb. "We end up someplace that looks like Thebes then I'm your man."
"I have heard of Canada," Teal'c announced. "It is large, cold, mostly empty, and the people are considered to be polite."
"Much like Minnesota," Jack agreed watching Cali bound up to a cluster of people on what was obviously a fairground. "Only without the lutefisk. Let's pick it up before she gets into too much trouble."
"Trouble?" Carter wondered as they headed down the hill.
"She's been gone for at least four hours." He gestured at the group of adults surrounding the child. "From the looks of things, mom and dad recently checked in with the parents of the friend she was supposed to be with, found out she wasn't there, knew damned well where she'd gone and were about to head up the mountain to haul her ass home."
Daniel's eyebrows made an appearance over the edge of his glasses. "You can tell all that from here?"
"She's being alternately yelled at and hugged so they know she was gone. They're not frantic so they haven't known it for long. They're lined up with the path and two of them are wearing packs. Some things are universal."
Jack almost heard the gears engage as the other two, the two who had never been parents, got it. A few moments later, he grinned as Daniel shifted enough to the left to bump their shoulders together as they walked. Charlie was the subtext to any reference he ever made to parenting and even though he'd come to the point where he could remember the joy of being a father without being overwhelmed by guilt, he appreciated the other man's silent support. To a point...
"Daniel, is there a reason you're trying to knock me over?"
"Sorry. It's just... I mean..." He pointed. "That dunk tank..."
The backdrop had been painted to resemble the Stargate and a teenage boy, encouraged by crowd around his own age, whacked a crude replica of the DHD with a rubber mallet while a man wearing flowing robes sat suspended over a clear container of water. Every few whacks, a bulb lit on one of the gate's painted chevrons. When the seventh lit, the seat tipped, dumping the man in the robe into the water. The crowd cheered.
"There is no way, no possible way, he could come up with a valid gate address by... by..."
"Whacking?" Jack snickered when his 2IC seemed at a loss for words. "I don't think they're trying for an actual address there, Carter. Probably pick a random seven every turn. I wonder if the guy in the seat was supposed to be Goa'uld?"
"One of the raiders at least," Daniel offered still frowning toward the fairground, fingers of his right hand drumming against his thigh. "Do the seats on that ride look like gliders to you?"
"Yes. Head's up, people; company's coming."
First Cali's family, all talking at once. Her mother and her father accompanied by her Bahma and her Bahpa - looked like the locals practised group marriage Daniel realized and shot Jack a look that suggested he not comment. Now was not the time for a smutty version of 'Who's on First'. Kendred, of the borrowed mask, turned out to be about thirteen and one of half a dozen siblings. Half a dozen and a half all told; Cali's Bahma had another on the way.
Then members of the local government, on the fairground for the Ancients' Festival, arrived also all talking at once. They pushed the family aside and crowded close only to be supplanted in turn by the local member of the regional government, dragged out of one of the tents and away from judging homebrew. He held a glass of dark liquid and his expression suggested that any problems with aliens arriving through the Ancients' Gate could be solved by them all sitting down to a beer. Jack bonded with him almost instantly.
Meanwhile, up at the gate, three large, long-eared herbivores froze as a clawed hand reached out of the underbrush and picked up a forgotten and nearly full package of square lozenges.
"I think it's clear from this that the tech level's about equivalent to ours in the late sixties early seventies." Sam set a plastic box about six inches by four down on the table in the living room of the suite SG-1 had been given after an afternoon of being swarmed by local politicians all insisting that the aliens would have to spend the night.
Daniel stared at it blankly, realized neither Jack nor Teal'c had anymore idea than he did and finally asked. "What is it?"
Sam grinned and ran her thumb nail along a nearly invisible seam, popping off the front of the case. She turned one of the two exposed dials. From out of a tiny speaker came a blare of music and an insistent voice suggesting that Shannie's was the place to buy karbansa.
Jack grinned as well. "Transistor radio."
She nodded and turned it off, sitting back down on one of the uncomfortable vinyl covered chairs. "Essentially."
"If they have a planet wide communication network, it may not be safe for us to remain." Standing by the window, darker than usual against the background of pale pink flowered drapes, Teal'c frowned down at the box. "It has been my experience that governments do not welcome the presence of aliens."
"He has a point, Carter."
"Yes, sir, except that radio waves are less than reliable due to the same solar radiation that kept us from detecting them when we sent through the MALP. As near as I can tell with the equipment I have, their sun pumps out a supplementary radiation on the same wavelength as the To'kra's cloaking device."
"You're saying that this planet's sun acts like a cloaking device?"
"Yes sir. In fact, I just said exactly that. And," she continued before Jack could comment, "that same wavelength makes radio waves unreliable outside very localized parameters such as the area around the Stargate just after a wormhole forms."
"Which means..." Daniel took up the briefing. "...phone calls, or the planetary land line equivalent have been made and the proper authorities have been informed and will be on the way but, thanks to the national holiday celebrating the Ancients' Festival, we have anywhere from twenty-four to forty-eight hours before they arrive. Plenty of time for the diplomatic party to make it through gate and relieve us."
"Just can't understand why we're not allowed to do the diplomatic thing anymore," Jack muttered picking up the radio. Sam visibly resisted the urge to take it from him. He turned it on, got either a burst of static or some remarkably bad music, and asked as he turned it off again, "Are we in any danger if we stay?"
"They have a militia but no standing army," Teal'c said from his position at the window. "Their weapons are primitive."
"Small population base, whole world to spread out in - once the raiders stopped coming, they had no enemies and no reason to make enemies of each other," Daniel expanded on Teal'c's observation.
Jack snorted. "Oh there are always reasons to make enemies."
Daniel bit back a sarcastic 'you should know', recognizing, even through his caffeine headache that it would be uncalled for. Accurate enough perhaps, but a little mean. Dragging his pack across the green on green patterned carpet he rummaged for his lozenges and settled for a terse: "Granted. But with an entire planet at your disposal, it's easier just to walk away. And most of the time that seems to have happened," he added conscientiously as he dug through the outside pockets. "Bottom line, these people don't tend to pick violence as their first option."
"And they were remarkably lucky to get have half a dozen innovative thinkers in a single generation. It pushed their technology level ahead without the impetus of war." Sam's eyes were gleaming. "Their industrial revolution happened essentially overnight."
"And speaking of overnight..." Jack dropped his feet down off the already scuffed low table he'd been using a footstool. "...do we stay?"
"We are in no danger, O'Neill."
"And given the effect of the solar radiation, I'd like to take more readings after the sun sets."
With his head almost all the way into his pack, Daniel's raised his voice enough to be heard.. "You'd have to drag me away from the sort of people who, at a festival to remember the hard times, set up a Goa'uld in a dunk tank."
"Yeah, but since we'd also have to drag you away from the sort of people who think the only good visitor through the Stargate is a visitor covered in barbeque sauce," Jack muttered, "that's not exactly a recommendation. What," he added sharply as Daniel dumped a spare pair of socks out onto the floor, "are you looking for?"
"I opened a new pack of caffeine pills up by the gate." He dropped his journal by the socks and continued to rummage. "I can't find them."
"Were they your last pack, DanielJackson?"
Had it been any other man, Daniel would have thought that Teal'c's feet were shuffling nervously, dragging the high nap of the carpet first one way and then the other. Given that it was Teal'c, there had to be some other explanation. "No." He tapped the end of the unopened package against the top of his pack. "I have one more."
"Will they be enough?"
On the other hand, given the tone of Teal'c's voice, maybe shuffling nervously wasn't so far off. And it wasn't just Teal'c. Sam was gripping the arms of her chair so tightly, her knuckles were white. Jack was wearing what Daniel liked to call his, "Don't mind me, I'm just threat assessing." face. It was the face he wore when he wanted the assessee to know he was on the job. Right at the moment, it was Jack's face that was really starting to piss Daniel off.
"I am not going to suddenly go insane and start doing whatever it is you think I'm going to start doing!" he snapped. "As I am perfectly capable of maintaining my equilibrium in the face of charging Jaffa, I'd like to think that I can do the same in the face of ... or the lack of face of... or the not having a cup of... Damn it, I'm fine!" Ripping a caffeine lozenge free, he popped it into his mouth and tried to pretend he wasn't fully aware he was, perhaps, just a little on edge. Why was it that the lack of a stimulant was making him so jumpy?
The others stared at him for a moment longer, perhaps wondering the same thing.
Finally, Jack nodded and stood. "All right then. We'll stay the night and head back to the gate tomorrow morning in time to meet the new guys coming in. Take your sidearms but leave everything else in the room - have you all got your keys?"
It a moment for Daniel to find the plastic triangle with the key attached - in his own defense, BDU's had one hell of a lot of pockets. He held it up as Sam and Teal'c were putting theirs away.
"Good. Enjoy yourself but be careful about the wining and dining; we don't need a repeat of P97-KKY."
Sam flushed red as she started for the door. "We got the naquada, sir."
"MajorCarter made a great impression on the council," Teal'c reminded them.
"I wouldn't even begin to consider arguing with that, T-man." Jack waved the two of them out the door and waited for Daniel. "You sure you're okay?"
He could feel the caffeine dilating blood vessels and returning him to somewhere in the vicinity of his regularly scheduled programming. "I'm good. Really." The decorating in the hall was the opposite of the room - orange carpet, green print walls. Watching Jack lock the door, he wondered if every free culture went through a shag rug and paisley phase. Missing it might just be the only bright side of being suppressed by the Goa'uld.
"So," he said as they walked down the hall, "we trust these people enough to lock our packs and large weapons into a room that reminds me of a Motel Six I stayed in once outside of Cleveland..."
"Alone?" Jack asked, one eyebrow cocked.
"None of your business."
"Ah." There was a distinctly expectant tone to Jack's voice. "Not alone."
"Okay, once again..." Daniel shot a look down the hall toward Sam and Teal'c who'd slowed and seemed to be listening and then past them to their 'escorts' waiting by the elevator. "...I am not going to tell you lurid stories of my not particularly wild youth..."
"So it's a lurid story."
"And second, that's not the point. The point is; I'm noticing that we trust these people enough to leave our gear behind under dubious security but not enough to come unarmed to a party."
"Mixed messages," Jack agreed equably. "That's what's wrong with the world."
"So let me see if I got this right..." Leaning against the fence surrounding a herd of placid quadrupeds who continued to chew their cud completely unconcerned by the noisy party filling the fairgrounds, Davin, Cali's father, stared up at Teal'c and emphasized each point he made with a cylinder of herbs wrapped in thin paper. "You were one of the people like the raiders but then you met that lot..."
"SG-1 of the Tauri," Teal'c added helpfully.
"... and now you're not a raider any more."
"That is essentially correct."
"So what did they offer you to make you give up raiding?"
"From slavery to false gods."
"Quite the offer," Davin murmured appreciatively then bent his head and lit the cylinder, filling his lungs with pungent smoke.
It was, Teal'c realized, much like the cigarettes that were killing the people of earth - only the herb was different. It reminded him of the smoke that rose to wreathe the domes of the temples back on Chulak and he was, for just a moment, strangely homesick.
Still holding his breath, Davin waved the unlit end of the cylinder in Teal'c's direction. "Share?" he croaked on a further inhale.
"Thank you." The taste of the smoke reminded him of something besides the temples of false gods. Something that involved bright colors and loud music... He frowned as the memory slipped away and he inhaled the smoke again to see if it would help. It did not. Although, upon reflection, the absence of the memory did not particularly bother him.
Sam was having trouble finding someone to talk science with; everyone seemed to be having far too good a time at the festival's final celebration and, other than a distinct 'the more the merrier' feeling, none of the locals appeared to care that they were being visited by actual aliens. As she crossed the fairground, they offered food - the lizard on a stick turned out to be remarkably tasty -- and drinks - one held a small pink umbrella -- and companionship - with rather explicit explanations of just what that companionship involved -- but no one seemed interested in filling her in on the society's technological achievements.
Cautiously sipping a pale green liquid that tasted like pineapple juice and vodka, she stood on the outside edge of a noisy circle of dancing people and suddenly smiled. She was at party. Where did geeks go at a party? She stepped back, further away from the lights and laughter and began to circle the grounds.
She found them at last sitting around a compact fire. One of them had hung a kettle over the flames and built a steam generated contraption just for the sake of building it. Two others were involved in a heated discussion concerning rates of velocity. Three others passed a flask back and forth that Sam knew would contain a liquid with a higher alcohol content than anything else at the party. There was always at least one chemist in these kinds of groups and chemists understood the point behind triple distilling.
As she came into the light, conversations ceased and all eyes turned toward her.
"Hi." She smiled. "I'm one of the aliens. Please save me from another conversation that starts with the phrase 'our two peoples'."
"How about a conversation that wonders about the phase speed of radiant energy traveling a 100 quint within a rectangular guide of 3 quier."
"Well, we'd have to discuss comparative measurements since I don't know what either a quint or a quier is but it would depend on the free-space wave length of the radiation."
And just like that, she was in.
And she was right about the contents of the flask.
"Now this you'll find to have a stronger flavor up front but with an almost nutty aftertaste." Member of Council Jindrek Kens handed Jack another glass half-filled with liquid that looked richly red in the firelight. He leaned a little closer and dropped his voice to slurred murmur. "Now a good judge has no favorites but me, I have to say, in a pinch, I'd pinch this."
Jack swirled the liquid around in the glass, stared into it for an appreciative moment then took a long swallow. "Nutty," he agreed licking amber foam off his upper lip.
"But better than this?" Council Kens tapped the edge of a previous glass that still held an inch or so of darker liquid.
"To be sure, I'd have to..."
"Try it again. Of course!" The councilor pushed Jack's glass closer and lifted his own. "To our two peoples!"
"Our two peoples!" As the glasses clinked, Jack had to admit he was getting the hang of this diplomacy shit. And a good thing he was only helping to judge the homebrew - a few of the entered beers had quite the kick. Or would have quite the kick were he actually drinking them instead of just tasting. Diplomatically.
Startled, Daniel jumped then turned and looked down at the short, round, elderly woman who'd suddenly appeared by his left elbow.
"...our Cali says you're having a bit of trouble in the evacuation department."
Unfortunately, Daniel's brain caught up to his surprise one word late. "Evacuation?"
"She says she saw you straining to dump."
"Oh my God..."
The old woman seemed to find an unholy amount of amusement in his reaction. After the wheezy laughter died down a bit, she patted his arm with a dimpled hand. "Not the only thing she says she saw either."
His cheeks had gone past scarlet and settle somewhere around cheap Vegas neon. "I didn't mean..."
"Not supposing for a moment you did. You can just count your lucky kremlacs that it was Cali not Serenla you were dangling your dingle at. Our Serenla'd be on you like flies on flop. In fact..." She frowned thoughtfully, the wrinkles of her face accordion pleating into new patterns. "...given the way our Cali's been talking, you might want to keep an eye out for Serenla anyway. But..." Her hand tightened. "...you're a full grown, good looking man and I'm sure I don't need to be warning you about inappropriate behavior with teenagers. That's not what I wanted to talk to you about. It's the other."
"The other?" Daniel asked weakly. He scanned the celebrating crowd wondering how many girls he needed to watch out for and where the hell was Jack?
"Your evacuation problem. Here."
Right. His evacuation problem. As reported by Cali to her grandmother and apparently the rest of her extended family. He stared at the small square package the old woman shoved into his hand.
"You eat that, all of it mind, and you get yourself over by the facilities 'cause when it hits, you're going to want to be somewhere you can drop your drawers."
It gave slightly under the pressure of his fingers and smelled faintly, and not unpleasantly, of lemon and licorice. "I don't..."
"That's right." Grey curls bobbed as she nodded agreement, the movement doing double duty by keeping the beat of the vaguely polka-like music blaring out over the fair's sound system. "You don't. And you need to. Can't enjoy a party when you're all bunged up. I've seen you, here it is the last night of the Ancients' Festival, a night for celebration and you're not eating, not drinking. Spending your time listening to old men telling boring lies."
"That's not why..." How long had she been watching him? "It's just... I'm interested in your folktales, in your culture."
"Celebrating is culture. Food and drink is culture."
"Well, yes, but..."
"Afraid we'll poison you."
"No. Of course not. It's just... I have a stomach thing."
"Tied to the other?"
Since it was long past time to suggest his digestive system was none of her business, Daniel sighed. "Sort of. If I eat or drink the wrong things, it... well, it hurts." And then, because they were even further past the whole maintaining his machismo thing, he added, "A lot."
"Ah. I know of what you speak." Still holding his arm with one hand, she rummaged about in her clothes with the other and pulled out a corked glass bottle. "This'll help. My boy Davin, Cali's Bahpa makes it. It's herbal." Round black eyes twinkled up at him. "With a little bit of alcohol, mind, to hold the herbs in place. Practically medicinal. Soothing. I'm telling you, if your stomach's giving you grief, this'll teach it whose boss."
The bottle was a little warm from her body heat and heavier than it looked. "I can't..."
"Sure you can. I've got more and I hate to see a good looking man suffer. Now you go and do as you're told." She shifted her grip, turned him about 45 degrees, and gave him a shove. "Facilities at the far end of the arena likely'll have the least number of people."
Unable to think of a single coherent thing to say, Daniel settled for the universal way of dealing with embarrassing advice. "Thank you."
"Don't be thanking me, I'm doing it for our two peoples. Settle your stomach down and you can start learning about our culture with a smile on your face."
Making his way toward the far end of the arena, Daniel had to admit that sounded like a good idea.
The square tasted like it smelled. Although the lemon flavor was stronger, the licorice lingered. Five minutes passed. Nothing. Apparently it didn't work on...
His stomach made a noise that sounded frighteningly like an incoming wormhole.
"To freedom!" Davin inhaled deeply and passed the burning herb to Teal'c.
"Freedom!" Teal'c pinched the cylinder between thumb and forefinger and sucked in a lungful of smoke. His symbiote stirred languidly when he finally exhaled.
"Quite the lung power," Davin murmured approvingly.
Teal'c nodded. "Dude."
"It is a Tauri word that means I agree. It also means friend and hello and, if used loudly enough, asks the listener just what he thinks he is doing. Young Tauri males can have entire conversations consisting only of this word."
Davin nodded, took another drag and passed the herb back. "Good word."
"Indeed." Leaning back on his elbows, Teal'c smiled as the smoke drifted out of his nose.
"You're kind of scary when you do that, dude."
The smile broadened.
"No no no no no. No. The whole planet is cloaked 'cause the sun is the cloaking devish and the sun is always there."
"Not at night."
Sam removed Patoric's hand off her leg and sighed. "Is still there. Just not here." She gestured randomly up at the stars. "Is there."
"Other side of the..." The word was gone. Still there were lots of other words. "...of the here."
Patoric frowned, took a swallow from the circling flask, and passed it to her. "Wouldn't other side be there?" He pointed. "Through there."
"Right. Sure. Through there." She saluted him with the flask and passed it on in turn.
"Have sex with me."
An arm went around Sam's shoulders from the other side and a voice slurred by her ear. "Don't like men?"
She turned to come nose to nose with a middle-aged woman who Sam seemed to remember was some kind of engineer. "Like men fine. Just..."
"Just not him. No offense," she added to Patoric. He grinned and had another drink. "Very fond of men," she continued a little sadly. "Jush no time to be fond. Or is a bad time. You know?"
"I know." It seemed for a moment that all the nodding was leading toward collapse but Sam's new friend managed to pull it together and stand, dragging Sam up onto her feet. "Sister, have I got shomething for you."
"Our two peebles!"
Jack crashed his mug into the councilor's. "PEEBLES! Both of them!"
They were drinking the fourth place beer. It hadn't won anything and they didn't want the person who'd brewed it to feel bad.
Daniel felt good. Great. Twelve pounds lighter. Maybe fifteen. He headed back toward the merry making with a spring in his step and his digital recorder in hand.
It wasn't hard to get people to talk. Although it wasn't always easy to understand them.
"...like this Dr. Jackshun... It's like thish, our written hishtory starts about fourteen hundred yearn ago though mostly it consi... constis... is made up of the journals of one man and you're looking a little peaked... Have some fried roran."
"...five hunerade years ago a shscholar name of Jerin Korsh, he gathered all the old tales in... well, inna library. My bahpa was a liberarianan... an. Has anyone fed you? Have a nobin fritter."
"... and so they sharted up the Festival of the Ancients to tie us to our pasht... but not tie like with ropes but with you know, history and the weight of where we came from 'cause sweet mother of dop, things were changin' so fast. Hey. You're platesh empty. Can't have that. Gotta do right by visitorsh. Have a piece of this pie. One of my wives made it."
Nor was it easy to avoid the constant offers of food and drink. During the Ancients' Festival the adults fasted from sunrise to sunset, modern hunger linking them back to the hard times just after the Goa'uld brought them this world. After sunset, and particularly on this, the last night, they made up for lost time. Daniel found that the only way to keep from drinking an astounding amount of alcohol was to keep eating. As long as he had something in his mouth, the locals seemed happy.
About halfway through his third serving of nobin fritters, he began to feel the familiar burn just under his sternum. Not good. While his companions argued over the truth of a particularly lurid folktale, Daniel slipped the bottle Cali's grandmother had given him out of his pocket, worked the cork free and took a tentative sip -- his year on Abydos had taught him that herbal remedies, as a general rule, tasted like mastid piss. The liquid was at body temperature and tasted vaguely herbal - where vaguely could be defined as almost pleasant. Surprised, he took a larger swallow. He could feel gentle warm moving from the back of his mouth, down his throat, and spreading as it reached his stomach. After a moment, he could only feel the warmth. The reflux burn was gone.
"Ish there a prublum, Dr. Jashshun?"
"No, everything's fine." He took another swallow just to be on the safe side and slipped the bottle back in his pocket. A little while later, when faced with a bowl of spicy squash dip, he took another drink. And a little while after that, as a local newspaper reporter and her wife bracketed him each holding what looked like giant butter tarts, he took another.
And later another.
"See, they don't call it a elevator, they call it a lift. 'Cause it liftsh." Daniel frowned at Jack. "Lifts," he repeated, carefully pronouncing the sibilants. "And it lowers.. Why don't they call it a lower, then?"
Jack belched and looked pleased at the way the sound echoed in the confined space of the motel's lift. "Beats me."
"Call it a lift in England. Call things the way they see things in England. And Scotland. And maybe Wales but you never can tell with Wales. Save the Wales!"
"I believe you. I just like the word."
"How come no one ever call it a lower. Lowers a good word. Great word. Germanic root. Lower Egypt."
"Right." He draped an arm over Daniel's shoulders and yanked him close. "Somewhere..." His free hand sketched a huge lopsided circle in the air. "...somewhere, someone calls it a lower. It's a fuckin' big universe."
"What about fucking?"
"Damned right!" Frowning, he bounced up and down a couple of times. "Are we moving?"
"We gotta press buttons. Did you press buttons? Cause I didn't press buttons. I like buttons." Daniel groped for Jack's fly as Jack leaned forward and very, very carefully pressed every button on the panel.
"You have been drinking. Drinking, I tell you!"
"Nope. Not me. No drinking. Lots of eating. Lots and lots and lots of eating. Food is culture. Okay, drinking fruit juice and water and maybe something that was sort of like coffee maybe but not.. And not culture neither. Either. Or. Don't tell Janet."
"Two many words. You're drunk."
"Your pants are undone!" He smiled in triumph as the doors opened on the second floor. "And I am not drunk. You're drunk."
"I had a beer."
"Lemme smell your breath."
Jack snorted but turned his face to Daniel's. "Can't count beer on bre... Cheating," he gasped a moment later. "Used your tongue."
Right hand clutching a fistful of Jack's shirt, Daniel leaned back far enough for Jack to see his leer. "Gonna use my tongue all over your body!"
"No." Jack's head dropped forward as he tried to focus below his waist where Daniel's hand disappeared through his open fly. "You're holding my dick."
"I am?" He squeezed and laughed as Jack groaned. "Come on this is our floor. Although it's not our floor really. It's just the floor we're on. The room is on. Our room. Is on this floor. Here. Down the hall." Maintaining his grip on warm flesh, he backed up. Jack's cock emerged from his trousers half-hard already, its length wrapped in Daniel's hand. Daniel tugged.
Jack groaned again. "Can't get out of the elevator..."
"Whatever. Can't leave with you holding my dick."
Jack tapped one finger against the side of his nose. "You are not supposed to ask. Only, you know, not just you."
"Oh." Daniel leaned back a little and glanced up and down the hall. "This is our floor. No one else on the floor. Jush ush."
"That's what I said. You gotta move your feet, Jack. Left. Right. Left. Right."
"We're marching?" Jack looked down and snickered. "Dicks on parade."
By the time they got to their door, Jack was bucking his hips forward with every step, working his cock against Daniel's hand. He fumbled his key free and thrust it at the lock, his brain repeating 'get into the room' 'get into the room' over and over as Daniel's clever fingers worked at his belt. "Little help!"
"Am helping. You're wearing too many clothings. Cloths. Fabric."
The key slipped into the lock just as Daniel's hand, the hand not gripping Jack's cock, slipped down over the curve of Jack's bare ass. Turning the key was reflex, as was grabbing his pants before they slipped down around his ankles as he stumbled forward into the room. The lights came on automatically as he crossed the threshold. Cheap hotel room. Cheap alien hotel room. Alien...
Daniel took advantage of his open mouth by sticking his tongue into it and Jack, drowning in wet, carnal kisses, forgot just what exactly he'd been going to say. Loosing his grip on his pants, he shuffled backwards, pushed by the heat and pressure of Daniel's body, until the backs of his knees hit something solid and he suddenly sat down, his mouth separating from Daniel's with a hysterical sound.
"Mouth far... JESUS!" The orange plastic chair was cold against bare skin. He bounced up but Daniel grabbed a fistful of his shirt in both hands and shoved him back.
"I like buttons."
Buttons flew all over the room. Jack started to giggle as one pinged off a lamp shade then giggled harder at the look on Daniel's face as one last button defiantly continued to hold Jack's shirt together.
"Poop?" Jack couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed so hard. Then, between an inhale and an exhale, the laughter changed to something between a howl and a moan and tight wet heat engulfed his cock. He gripped the wood veneer arms of the chair as strong fingers dug into the cheeks of his ass and dragged him out to the very edge. Nothing but air under his balls. Air under his balls and Daniel's tongue driving him insane and Daniel's fingers pushing into his body and he was so relaxed with the beer and the kissing and the hand and the mouth....
"Oh God yes..."
He closed his eyes for a second and when he opened them again, Teal'c was standing looking down at him. Teal'c who seemed to have Carter wrapped around him like a... front pack?
Jack pushed at Daniel's head but Daniel wasn't being distracted from the task at hand, that being the devouring of Jack's dick. So Jack, with his pants around his ankles and his balls hanging off the edge of an orange plastic chair and Daniel's mouth on his cock and Daniel's fingers in his ass stared up at Teal'c and frowned and said, "Why is Carter buzzing?"
In answer, Carter leaned back, her legs wrapped around Teal'c's waist until she was hanging nearly upside down off the big guy's body. In one hand she held a pink plastic penis, nearly the same colour as her flushed cheeks, and she seemed to be in some kind of belt contraption that held an equally garish pink piece of plastic against her crotch.
"I got the best prezzie," she giggled.
Teal'c smiled enigmatically, grabbing her by the front of the shirt and hauling her upright.
Jack noticed that none of Carter's buttons went flying and he would have been a bit annoyed about that except Daniel chose that moment to quirk a finger so he howled instead and as Daniel murmured something about folklore, the vibration pushed him over the edge.
Teal'c nodded. "Dude."
By the time his brain re-engaged his 2IC and the Jaffa had vanished into one of the suite's two bedrooms. He stared down the length of his torso at Daniel who had nudged his limp dick aside was sucking hieroglyphs into the inner flesh of his thigh. That meant something. Teal'c. Carter. Bedroom. Right.
Daniel blinked at him.
"Two bedrooms." He held up the equivalent number of fingers. Then he counted again and folded one down. "Them. And us. Bedroom."
"Ya sure, you betcha."
It took them a while to figure out his pants and then a while longer for Daniel to take off his so Jack wouldn't feel underdressed but then they were moving toward the bedroom, Daniel bumping his erection against Jack's ass with every step.
"Hey, my assa su your assa, just on the bad. Bard. Bed. Too old for any more fucking on a coffee table." He paused at the open bedroom door, head cocked toward the closed. "What the hell are they doing in there?"
He could feel Daniel's frown. He could also feel the head of Daniel's cock slip between the cheeks of his ass.
"Maybe When Harry Met Sally's on pay-for-view," Daniel murmured nudging him toward the bed.
Thin pillow gripped in both hands, Daniel buried his screaming head and wondered what the hell they put in stomach medicine on this world. The last time he'd had a hangover this bad, Janet had convinced him that Crème de Menthe over ice cream was a good idea.
The mattress jerked under him as a heavy body flung itself out of the bed and movement jiggled a couple more brain cells online. His head wasn't screaming. Well, his head was screaming but the actual sound was a siren.
Somehow, he managed to find the floor with his feet and by the time he was standing, Jack had already got his pants on and was dragging his t-shirt down off one of the wall sconces. Except it was Daniel's t-shirt because the shirt Daniel was pulling over his head was a full size too small.
"Right." With a vague memory of his underwear being used as a hat, he dragged them on commando, stuffed his bare feet into his boots, yanked the laces tight and pounded out of the room after Jack.
"I hear them."
The window in the common room of the suite overlooked the fairgrounds. Weapons in hand, Jack and Teal'c hit opposite sides of the window at about the same time as Daniel careened off Sam charging out of the other room.
"Bra's on inside out," he grunted, grabbing the doorframe and somehow keeping them both on their feet.
"Bite me." She scrambled into her t-shirt - also inside out - and headed for the window as Daniel remembered that Sam with a hangover could be more terrifying than any over-wrought system lord.
By the time Daniel joined the rest of the team, they could see half a dozen figures staggering from the hotel to the fairgrounds.
"What the hell is happening?" Jack snarled.
"Let me find out for you, sir." Bloodshot eyes rolling, Sam threw open the window, leaned out and bellowed, "Hey! What the hell is happening?"
The closest of the staggering figures turned, and putting his hands around his mouth like a megaphone, yelled back, "Orlas!" Then he took a moment to throw up.
"Carter!" Jack grabbed the waistband of Sam's pants and pulled her back into the room. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Getting you the answers, sir." Her lip curled. "Just like always. It's Orlas."
"Yeah, I heard that."
Sam shot Jack a look that suggested her work here was done and dropped to one knee to do up her boots as Daniel fumbled the last of his caffeine lozenges out of his pack and sucked one into his mouth.
"An Orlas is the same as an Unas, Jack." He crunched, swallowed, and unwrapped a second lozenge.
"I know that, Daniel. Now share."
Daniel's fingers tightened around the package. "These are all I have left."
Jack winced as he shrugged into his vest. "Daniel, I have the hangover to end all hangovers and I need a coffee before I face a bunch of Unas who should be extinct. Pass them out!"
Sam finished swallowing a mouthful of aspirin and, with both hands slapping on gear, took the lozenge off his fingers like a piece of the Host.
"Caffeine of Christ," he muttered crossing to Jack whose lips seemed slightly swollen and whose eyebrows looked like they'd been licked in the wrong direction. Jack took his lozenge without comment. Teal'c declined.
"I am feeling fine, DanielJackson and do not require stimulants."
"Times like these..." Daniel shoved the one remaining lozenge in his pocket and picked up his sidearm. "...I almost hate you."
The Jaffa inclined his head imperiously. "I understand."
"Let's go people!"
"They're juvenile males. Both of them."
"Yeah." Daniel peered around the section of fence SG-1 was using for cover. "Their facial horns have only just emerged."
Squinting into the early morning light, Jack watched the pair of Unas - Orlas... whatever - jumping up and down on one of the fake gliders they'd pulled from the ride. One of them - and they were almost impossible to tell apart - ripped a hunk of twisted metal off the wreck underfoot and raised it over his head, screaming out... something really painful. "I may shoot them just for that," Jack muttered, wincing. It wasn't so much a hangover as over and over and over. "What did he say, Daniel?"
"That'll teach you, motherfucker!" When the rest of the team turned to stare at him, Daniel shrugged, carefully. "I'm paraphrasing but that's the gist of it."
"Just the gist, ma'am."
"Just thinking out loud. They seem to be ignoring the locals." Drumming his fingers against the stock of his weapon, Jack nodded toward the clump of men and women peering about the edge of the dunk tank. Almost as though they'd been waiting for him to point it out, the Unas leapt off the destroyed glider and charged toward the tank. "Or not. Warning shot in front of the one on the left, Carter. Two in the dirt, just to be safe."
Carter muttered a pained, "Yes, sir," as Daniel yelled, "No, Jack!"
"Why the hell not?" he demanded as screaming locals scattered, a raised hand holding Carter back. His glare suggested no one mention that his hand was shaking.
"First, they're not going after the people! They're going after the fake gate!"
Which they were. One launched himself off the top of the dunk tank and onto the painted circle where he clung and kicked. The other attacked a lower part of the curve.
"You fire that thing and my head will explode."
Since Jack wasn't too sure about his own head, he lowered his weapon. "Those two don't look particularly extinct."
"When the Goa'uld stopped coming here the Unas probably retreated up into the mountains. It would be easy enough to for them to hide..." Daniel paused to swallow convulsively four or five times. "...these people almost never go past the Stargate."
"You stay on your side, I stay on mine," Carter offered, blood-shot eyes squinted nearly shut.
"Our arrival may have drawn these two down out of the mountains," Teal'c observed. "They are young and the young seldom combine curiosity with caution."
Jack snorted as the fake Stargate began to sway under the double assault. "Well, they're certainly not cautious. What are they doing?"
"The Unas were slaves as well, remember." Daniel shifted a little so that he was crouched in Teal'c's shadow. "I think...." He belched, spat, and continued. "...they're attacking the symbols of the Goa'uld, destroying the representation of their oppressors."
Right about then, with a shriek of nails pulling free, the fake stargate began to topple. The Unas still on the ground, danced back, ducking a chunk of wood spat out of the collapsing structure. The Unas hanging from the gate tried to swing free, turned a summersault and fell.
Yelling. Crashing. Shrieking. And, ultimately, splashing.
"And that's a big seven point nine from the Russian judge," Jack muttered as the Unas out of the tank howled with laughter and shouted something at the Unas in the tank. "Daniel?"
He turned, eyebrows raised.
Daniel sighed. "Rough translation."
"The gist again?"
"More or less. He..." Daniel pointed. "...is taunting him..." The indicating finger moved. "...because he's in the water."
"Makes sense," Jack allowed. In the same situation he'd indulge in a little taunting himself. "So what are you..." The crack of over-stressed timbers interrupted and a second later, the tank shattered. His bladder gave an unpleasant twinge at the sight of all the rushing water. He sighed as the wet Unas jumped the dry Unas and they rolled around in the mud, "I'm drawing the line at Unas mud wrestling. Daniel, get out there and... Are you going to barf?"
"I'm thinking about it."
"Well, hold that thought; you've got work to do. Get out there and talk nice."
"Wait DanielJackson." Teal'c's arm was a pretty impassible barrier on a good day. Today, Jack doubted Daniel could figure out how to crawl under it. "These Unas do not behave as other Unas we have encountered."
"Well they're certainly livelier," Jack admitted. Unas One jumped up, leapt over the counter at a concession stand, and began throwing... something. Looked a bit like ducks on a stick. Stuffed, fluffy, yellow ducks on a stick. Unas Two picked up handfuls of mud and returned fire, arm movements jerky and staccato. After the fourth or fifth handful, he caught sight of the sun glinting on the mirror outside the funhouse and bounded over toward it. Unas One shrieked and bounded after him. Something about their actions looked familiar but the echoes of that shriek bouncing about against the inside of his skull made it hard to think.
He waved a hand at a group of locals creeping around the nearest corner of the arena. "It's okay! We're on it!"
They looked relieved, waved back, and disappeared.
"They look like they're on something."
"They probably feel much like we do, Major."
"Not them, sir. The Unas."
Jack whirled to face his 2IC, finger alongside his nose. "That's it, Carter! They're juiced, high, tanked, feeling no pain."
"How nice for them," Daniel muttered. "This planet does grow some powerful herbage."
Teal'c nodded. "I concur."
"Wouldn't the Unas know enough to stay away from that sort of stuff?"
"Carter, Carter, Carter..." Jack sighed as Unas One caught up with Unas Two and sat on his head. "Teenagers don't stay away from that sort of stuff. They seek it out. Kids that age..." He nodded toward the fairgrounds and wished he hadn't. "...are always willing to try new... Daniel."
"First, did you know your eyes look like two balls of very lean bacon?"
"Please don't mention food at a time like this."
"And second, didn't you say you'd misplaced a nearly full package of caffeine lozenges?"
"Any chance you could have left them up by the gate?"
"No, I... They might have..." Daniel ran both hands back through his hair - or would have had he not been holding his sidearm in one of them. "OW! And crap. I must've lost it when I was packing up the tarp and the power bars."
"Caffeinated teenage Unas." Jack snickered as Unas Two flipped Unas One upside down. "Say that three times fast. And then," he added before Daniel could respond, "get your ass out there and talk nice before they add assault to property damage."
Daniel opened his mouth to protest, closed it, and shrugged. Still carefully. "I have no idea what to say to them," he sighed as he holstered his weapon.
"Try the usual. Peaceful explorers, yadda, yadda, could you please stop destroying other people's property, yadda yadda, sorry we drugged you, hope it hasn't caused permanent damage, would you like some warm milk. Yadda."
"You know what yadda means in Unas, Jack?"
"Nope. Don't know, don't care. Get moving before they find the dart game."
Hands held well away from his body, Daniel walked slowly out into the fairgrounds.
"Should we move closer, sir?"
"Nah. We're fine here. We don't want to spook 'em." Jack watched Daniel walk, brow furrowed. "Is herbage even a word?"
"I really don't care, sir."
Walking carefully so that his heels hit the ground with the least amount of force and would therefore cause the least amount of brain damage, Daniel approached the two Unas. They hadn't noticed him yet but since they were intent on a tug of war with a stuffed - Deer? Moose? Jackalop?-animal, that wasn't surprising. Unas weren't generally fast on their feet but then Unas weren't generally flying high on enough caffeine to fuel the morning rush at Starbucks so he stopped a little further away than he would have under other circumstances.
They still hadn't noticed him.
He called out a greeting, hoping that their language hadn't drifted into a whole new dialect.
Wishing she'd picked up the dart gun instead of her P90, Sam took aim at the nearer of the two Unas. They were just kids and she hoped Daniel could arrange things so that she didn't have to pull the trigger.
"I can't hear what he's saying," the colonel protested as Daniel stopped and spread his hands.
She sighed. "Does it matter, sir? You can't understand him anyway."
"You're a little snippy when you're hungover, Carter."
"You say that every time it happens, sir. Daniel doesn't look so good..."
"Glanced in a mirror this morning?"
She wanted to shoot him the kind of withering glance that would cause him to doubt his manhood for the next six or seven months but she doubted she'd regained enough muscle control in her face.
They were watching him now, eyes narrowed, each holding half of the disputed toy, the air between them full of settling stuffing. Daniel knew that what he said next would be crucial. He opened his mouth.
The staff weapon blast that had convinced Jack to leave him propped by the door of Klorel's control room hadn't hurt this much. Hell, the staff weapon blast Ra had killed him with hadn't hurt this much.
Acid in an open wound.
Acid eating through the soft, unprotected tissue of his esophagus.
Acid eating him away from the inside out.
Between one heart beat and the next his stomach had distended to press against his shirt. He clutched at his chest and pulled the fabric away - the pressure of Jack's t-shirt against his skin almost more than he could bear.
A sudden noise forced him to focus through watering eyes. The Unas were standing no more than an arm's length away, shifting their weight from foot to foot. Up close, one of them had something that looked like bright pink cotton candy wrapped around his tusks and both of them had stomachs distended to rival Daniel's. They'd probably eaten every leftover piece of junk food they could find on the fairgrounds.
One of them growled out a question but Daniel lost most of the actual words in the heavy panting he was having to do to keep from screaming in pain.
"They are awfully close, O'Neill."
"This is Daniel you're talking about Teal'c. Everyone wants to get close to him. Give him a chance."
God, the pressure. He couldn't stand the pressure. It was just too...
All at once the pain peaked and the pressure changed slightly. A familiar change. A familiar pressure. Daniel barely managed to get one hand to his glasses before he jack-knifed forward and everything left in his stomach ripped past damaged tissue and exploded out of his mouth. And nose. And again.
Dimly, he heard an Unas roar. No, not roar. Hurl. And not an Unas. Both Unas.
"Looks like they've found some common ground," Jack muttered heading for Daniel. "Carter, get the dart guns from the room. Teal'c, you're with me."
"What do you plan to do, O'Neill?"
He had no idea. Fortunately, right at that moment, a small, round, elderly woman trotted out from behind one of the exhibition barns also heading for Daniel and the two Unas. "I plan on keep the civilians out of danger."
"She is much closer than we are."
"Yes, she is."
"She will be there first."
"You're not helping, Teal'c." He raised his voice, ignoring the way it made his head pound because that was why he got the big bucks. "Ma'am! Return to your hiding place!"
"She is ignoring you."
"Really not helping."
It hurt to breathe because breathing moved his chest and movement sent jagged flashes of pain out from under his sternum - it was like being stabbed over and over with a serrated blade wielded with more force than precision. Another, less painful time, he'd be bothered that he could make that kind of comparison. And when had he fallen to his knees?
The voice sounded vaguely familiar. He managed to get his head around enough to see Cali's grandmother peering at him with concern. "Go..." A moment of panting. "...back."
"Don't be ridiculous. Do you have the bottle I gave you yesterday?"
The bottle? Right. The bottle with the stomach medicine. "Drank it."
Her eyes widened. "All of it? I'm amazed you were able to stand let alone walk all the way out here to be sick. Well..." She rummaged about in voluminous skirts. "...fortunately, I have more."
He had to warn her. Somehow, he drew in enough breath for a full sentence. "Not kids in Orlas masks!"
"Of course they aren't. Drink up. Two mouthfuls, no more."
Warm glass against his lips. A familiar taste. He could feel the liquid slid down his throat, move toward his stomach leaving blessed, miraculous lines of relief behind.
Another voice. Also one he recognized. He cranked his head around in the other direction and nearly snickered at the halo effect the sunlight was creating. The man was no saint. "Jack."
"This isn't just a hangover is it? This is a stomach... attack... thing."
"Yes." Daniel straightened carefully but local medicine seemed to have dealt with the worse of the pain. In comparison to how he felt mere moments early, feeling like he had a red hot coal tucked in under the bottom edge of his sternum was nothing much. "Yes, this is a stomach thing." His stomach lurched at the smell of sun-warmed vomit. "And it is also a hangover thing. It's two, two, two things in..."
"Sorry." He squinted past Jack at Teal'c. "Where's Sam?"
"I sent her for the dart gun."
"Oh shit! The Unas." To his surprise, he heard Jack laugh as he whirled around to deal with the two teenagers...
...only to find they were being dealt with.
"That's it. Two swallows only. Poor thing, come down out of the mountains at long last and what happens? You eat something that disagrees with you." Carli's grandmother was supporting one of the young Unas' shoulders as he drank from the magic bottle. The other was sitting back on his heels, mirroring Daniel's position, both hands clasped over his stomach, his expression showing relief and embarrassment and trepidation equally mixed.
A familiar hand thrust itself into Daniel's field of vision. He grabbed it and allowed Jack to pull him to his feet. "I need to let them know they're amongst friends."
Jack snickered and his grip tightened just for a moment before he let go. "I think grandma's got it under control."
"Sir! I've got the dart..."
"Not needed, Carter!" Jack snapped as both Unas scrambled backwards.
Daniel stepped forward and began a comforting monologue. Or as comforting as possible given the aggressive constants of the language but it wasn't until a sudden pulse of resurgent pain nearly drove him back to his knees that the crisis was averted. Misery truly did love company.
Behind the high pitched buzz of Carli's grandmother's scolding, he heard Jack sigh.
"Just can't understand why we're not allowed to do the diplomatic thing anymore..."
"And shortly after that, SG-9 showed up and our government started talking with their government and yadda." Jack flashed General Hammond his best get-out-of-jail-free smile. "Did you know that yadda means something rude in Unas?"
The general sighed. "No, Colonel, I did not. Nor do I care."
"Of course not." He cleared his throat while editing a few more details out of his preliminary mission report. "The boys of SG-9 were more than a little impressed that Daniel managed to open a dialogue between historical enemies by instigating a mutual tossing of cookies. Apparently there aren't many cultures who consider vomiting an act of friendship."
The silence extended just long enough to be a warning. "I assume Dr. Jackson will be needed to help negotiate the peace treaty when these teenage Unas bring their leaders out of the mountains?"
"Yes, sir." Warning received and understood.
"He'll have recovered by then?"
"Will it matter, sir? I mean, to Daniel?"
"No." The general tapped a finger against the edge of the table and visibly came to a decision. "It's becoming clear that we need to expand our Unas cultural studies department."
"Couldn't hurt, sir." Whether Daniel would be willing to let it go, well, that would be another matter entirely.
"And Major Carter?"
"Not really interested in Unas culture."
"Sorry." Jack scrubbed at both eyes with heels of his hands. "Little punchy. Not a lot of sleep last night. Rigors of field work; you know how it is."
"Yes." Had the general's tone been any drier, it would have ignited. "And I'm sure the rigor of field work explains why your shirt has no buttons."
Jack pulled his button free shirt closed over Daniel's t-shirt and slouched a little lower in his chair. "Major Carter and Teal'c stayed behind to talk the diplomacy boys through the whole solar radiation shielding phenomenon. Not," he acknowledged, "that Teal'c will be doing much talking." A vague memory of Teal'c's mouth forming the word "Dude." rose out of alcohol shrouded depths and was hurriedly reburied. "Although Teal'c did say something about investigating herbal remedies."
"Apparently he has hidden depths. Anyway, if the cloaking effect covers the entire planet, Major Carter feels this might be the perfect place for us to put a beta site. There's plenty of room; she figures that Carli's people are using at most a quarter of the available planetary real estate."
"Carli's people? That would be the Polansians?"
"They'll always be Carli's people to me." That got the first small smile since he'd stumbled unshaven and stinking through the gate, half-supporting Daniel's not inconsiderable weight. Jack relaxed a little. "Carter was talking about setting up a full field lab to test the effect."
"You know, Carter, sir. She's all for scientific testing." Jack banished the vision of a pink plastic butterfly strapped to the front of Carter's BDU's. "With your permission, of course, sir."
One eyebrow rose. "Of course. And with the permission of the Polansians."
"They seem like fairly agreeable people."
"Our two peebles!"
"Also, the Goa'uld tend to use the Unas in their mines so there's a chance of naquada in the mountains. Now that the Unas and Carli's people are about to start talking..." Jack spread his hands and let the sentence trail off into possibilities.
"Potential allies, a solar powered cloaking device, and a possible naquada mine." Hammond nodded slowly. "I look forward to reading your full report but I think I can safely say, well done, Colonel."
"Thank you, sir."
"However..." Jack figured that was a qualifier he'd better deal with himself. "... unorthodox our methods, SG-1 comes through. As usual."
"And I'd be happier about that," the general snorted, "had Dr. Jackson not been taken immediately to the infirmary."
"That's pretty much as usual sir."
Jack could hear Janet the moment he opened the infirmary door.
"...tell you, Daniel! I can't believe you were so incredibly irresponsible..."
Taking one step back out into the hall, he let the door swing closed.
"Been there, done that, got the Unas puke on my boots." He pivoted on one heel and headed back up the hall toward the mess and the biggest cup of coffee he could get his hands on. Daniel had his full and complete sympathy both for the pain he'd gone through already that morning and for what ol' Doc Fraser was about to put him through but this was where it had all started...
...which made it as good a place as any for it to end.
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