"Jack, when did you become a bullying, hard-nosed, short-sighted ass?" Hammond asked bluntly.
Stunned, Jack stared at the general. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me. Doctor Jackson's skills and knowledge have time and again proven to be priceless to SG-1 and the SGC. Everyone here on this base, hell, on the entire planet owe their lives to him, not to mention the lives he's saved on other worlds due to his tremendous courage and abilities. He's sacrificed his life on more than one occasion for the sake of others, the most recent of which being when he suffered a long, agonizing death after saving millions of Kelownan lives."
Jack closed his eyes for a moment at the memory of seeing his friend ravaged by radiation poisoning. "I know that, sir."
"Then why in God's name do you treat him with such disdain?"
Ashamed, Jack didn't reply. He didn't have an answer or an excuse. He'd been regretting the words he'd spoken to Daniel on P7Y-359 ever since they left his mouth, knowing that Daniel hadn't deserved them. He had absolutely no idea why he'd said those things. They'd just come pouring out of his mouth, the anger and frustration taking control of him. He had seen the expression of pain on the younger man's face, but he had never guessed that Daniel would leave SG-1 because of what he said. Daniel always forgave him. Even when Jack had been undercover to smoke out Maybourne and had said those horrible things to the archeologist, Daniel had eventually forgiven him. But apparently not this time. Why had he been so awful to Daniel? Why had he said those things?
"Sir, I have no excuse for the way I treated Daniel," Jack said finally. "What I said to him was inexcusable. I'd like to go apologize to him, tell him that I didn't mean the things I said."
"I would suggest that you go do that, Colonel. I would also suggest that, in the future, you keep in mind that it is primarily because of Doctor Jackson's particular skills, knowledge and insights that he is such an asset to this program."
"Yes, sir." Jack rose to his feet and left the briefing room, trying to come up with the words that would repair the damage he'd done . . . and save his friendship with Daniel.
Daniel was sitting at his desk, his aching head resting in his hands. He'd also begun to feel an uncomfortable tightness in his chest, sort of like he felt before coming down with a particularly nasty case of the flu.
"Great, just great," the archeologist muttered. "On top of everything else, I'm getting sick, too. Things just keep getting better and better."
Just then, there was a knock on the door. Daniel gave a silent sigh, knowing that it was one of three people. He raised his head. "Come in."
The door slid aside to reveal Sam. "Hey."
She came in all the way. Slowly, she approached the desk.
"I guess you heard the news," Daniel said, rubbing a hand over his eyes.
"Yeah. Daniel, about what the colonel said. He—"
"Don't, Sam," Daniel interrupted. "Don't make excuses for him."
"I have no intension of making excuses for him. What he said was inexcusable. To be honest, I can't understand why he said those things."
"I understand it. Sam, this isn't the first time that he's let me know he is not happy with my opinions or the way I do things, and it's not the first time that he's made it clear that I'm supposed to do only what he tells me to. I've known right from the start, from the day I met him, that he is a military man, first, last and always, and that he has little patience for anyone with the label of 'scientist'. He's come to respect you and your opinions because you are also a soldier. I don't have that advantage."
"Daniel, the colonel respects you."
"Does he? I don't think he does, at least not anymore. As the years have passed, he developed nothing but impatience for the things I had to say. It got really bad before I ascended, so bad that—" He broke off, taking a deep breath. "It got to the point where he rarely listened to me anymore, and the few times that he did, more than half the time he wasn't willing to follow my advice, and the rest of the time he acted like he was pissed off because he didn't have another alternative. After I came back, I really thought it was going to be different, and, for a while, it seemed to be. But after what just happened, I can see that it's going right back to how it was before. It's never going to change. So what's the point in me staying on SG-1? I'm obviously no longer of any use to him."
"Daniel, that is simply not true," Sam stated, more than a little upset. "You are so important to us and to SG-1. We missed you every day when you were gone for that year. Jonas did a good job, as good a job as he could, but he wasn't you. He couldn't give us everything that you do. I am positive that if he or anyone else had been with us instead of you when that situation with the Enkarans and the Gadmeer came up, things wouldn't have turned out as well as they did. Either the colonel would have blown up the Gadmeer's ship, destroying an entire race of people, or he'd have failed, and the Enkarans would have died. It was because of your ability to talk with people and your refusal to give up that both civilizations were saved. And that's just one example."
"Yeah, well, that's also an example of how Jack feels about me. He had no faith in me or in my ability to find another solution to the problem. And when I did find one, he never said anything to me afterwards. No pat on the back, no 'good job, Daniel,' nothing. He was too busy being mad that I'd defied him, that I'd gone against his wishes and went to the Gadmeer ship to reason with Lotan. If it had been you or Teal'c who had come up with a solution to the problem, he'd have had nothing but praise for you, because you're warriors, because you're a part of that little club I am forever banned from." Daniel turned away, hiding the bitter tears that had come unbidden to his eyes.
Sam stared at Daniel, shocked and appalled at the deep bitterness she'd heard in his voice and seen on his face. She realized that this was something that had been building in the archeologist for a long, long time.
"Daniel, I can't speak for the colonel, but I have to believe that he does value your skills. There are so many times that we've gotten out of a tough situation because of your abilities. We all owe our lives to you. If it wasn't for you, Earth would probably have been destroyed by Apophis when he came in his ships. It was also you who thought of how to stop that asteroid from hitting the planet. You are a whole lot more than just an archeologist and linguist. The fact that you're not a soldier hasn't prevented you from pulling our butts out of the fire more that once. In fact, you not being a soldier has been a great advantage to the team. Your nonmilitary status gives you the ability to see things in a way that the rest of us can't, and it allows you to do things that I can't."
"Yeah, like pissing Jack off royally without getting put on report or being court-martialed for insubordination," Daniel said without humor. "I have a real talent for that, definitely one of the things I do best."
Sam ignored the biting sarcasm in the archeologist's last sentence. "And why is it that the colonel never has put you on report? He could, you know. You may be a civilian, but you're still working for the military, and you're still under his command. Whenever you disobey his orders on a mission, he could formally reprimand you. If he wanted to, he could have you grounded. He could even recommend that you be thrown out of the SGC. Yet the colonel has never done anything like that. In fact, in the debriefings and in his reports, he always omits or, at the very least, skims over the times that you go against his orders. Why is that?"
Daniel shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe he just didn't want to lose his whipping boy."
Sam's mouth dropped open. "Daniel, you can't possibly believe that!"
Daniel sighed and rubbed his forehead. The headache had spread, growing increasingly difficult to ignore, and the tightness in his chest was getting really uncomfortable, making it a little hard to breathe. "I don't know what I believe, Sam, but I do know that I can't be a part of SG-1 anymore. As a child and a teenager I got really good at recognizing when I wasn't wanted. It took me a whole lot longer this time, but I finally realized today that I'm not wanted on SG-1, at least not by Jack. I won't stay where I'm not wanted, and I can no longer stay in a situation where a man I used to think was my friend shows me nothing but disrespect and contempt." Daniel's voice wavered on the last sentence. He got up quickly and moved away across the room, hugging himself, again fighting his tears.
Sam's chest tightened with emotion. Damn Jack and his callous words! Didn't he realize how much he had been hurting Daniel? She got up and crossed the room to her best friend's side.
"Daniel, please talk to the colonel. I know that he doesn't think of you the way that you believe he does. He cares about you, and he's still your friend."
"Is he? I really don't think he is," he said, his voice catching. "Please, Sam. I . . . I need to be alone right now."
Sam blinked back the wetness in her eyes. "Okay. We're still heading off to P5C-801 in the morning. Will we see you when we get back?"
The archeologist shook his head. "I'm taking tomorrow off. In fact, I've been thinking that this would be a good time to go away for a few days. It might be best if I'm not here for the next week or so. By the time I get back, you'll have a replacement for me on the team, Jack will be happier, and I can get busy doing the job that I'm being paid to do, the job that I'm actually good at."
Sam hesitated, then abruptly pulled Daniel into a tight hug. The feeling of her arms around him, nearly shattered his control. He squeezed his eyes shut and swallowed the lump that was choking him, returning her hug with equal intensity.
"Thank you for being my friend, Sam," he whispered unsteadily.
"I'll always be your friend, Daniel, no matter what," she told him, losing her battle with her tears. She pulled away and left before he could see them, feeling a crack a mile wide open in her heart.
Jack slowly approached Daniel's office, still not knowing what he was going to say. He'd never been good at words, and he was even worse at apologies. Oh, he could say 'I'm sorry' if he really tried hard enough. He'd spoken those words more than once to Daniel. But 'I'm sorry' wasn't going to be enough this time, not nearly enough.
As the colonel drew close to Daniel's office, he heard the voice of his second in command from inside. Apparently, the major had come to try talking the archeologist into returning to SG-1. Though he knew he really shouldn't, Jack took up a position to the right of the door and listened in on the conversation.
"Daniel, I can't speak for the colonel, but I have to believe that he does value your skills," Sam was saying. "There are so many times that we've gotten out of a tough situation because of your abilities. We all owe our lives to you."
'More than once,' Jack thought to himself. 'None of us would be here if it wasn't for Daniel. He may not be military, but when the going gets tough, he is a good soldier. He's become a pretty good shot, too.' He turned his attention back to what Carter was saying.
"You are a whole lot more than just an archeologist and linguist. The fact that you're not a soldier hasn't prevented you from pulling our butts out of the fire more that once. In fact, you not being a soldier has been a great advantage to the team. Your nonmilitary status gives you the ability to see things in a way that the rest of us can't, and it allows you to do things that I can't."
"Yeah, like pissing Jack off royally without getting put on report or being court-martialed for insubordination," Daniel said. "I have a real talent for that, definitely one of the things I do best."
Jack smiled faintly. 'You got that right, Danny Boy. You're a champ at it.'
"And why is it that the colonel never has put you on report?" Sam asked.
As the major was talking about the fact that Jack had never filed a reprimand against Daniel, the colonel thought about what she was saying. She was right. He had the authority to write formal reprimands in Daniel's record, ground him, even get him fired. But he never took any official action, no matter how many times Daniel defied his orders. Why? Because, even though Daniel could be a royal pain in the butt, he was also a loyal friend and a valuable member of SG-1. Having Daniel on his team was worth all the trouble, all the headaches, all the grief that went with having a mule-headed, opinionated, overly curious, disobedient, way-too-brilliant-for-his-own-good civilian whose desire to do the right thing all the time could be damned inconvenient in situations where tough choices had to be made. He'd never filed a reprimand against Daniel because it was something he hadn't wanted to do.
Jack was pulled from his thoughts by Daniel's answer to Sam's question about why Jack had never formally reprimanded him.
"I don't know. Maybe he just didn't want to lose his whipping boy."
Jack felt pain spear though his chest at those words. 'Ah, God, Danny. Please don't say you really think that.' Daniel's next words sent Jack's heart plummeting into his shoes.
"I don't know what I believe, Sam, but I do know that I can't be a part of SG-1 anymore. As a child and a teenager, I got really good at recognizing when I wasn't wanted. It took me a whole lot longer this time, but I finally realized today that I'm not wanted on SG-1, at least not by Jack. I won't stay where I'm not wanted, and I can no longer stay in a situation where a man I used to think was my friend shows me nothing but disrespect and contempt."
The archeologist's last sentence made Jack feel as if someone had taken a crowbar to his chest. He closed his eyes, cursing himself for causing this. He now realized how much every derogatory remark, every show of disrespect that Jack had aimed at Daniel had hurt the younger man. 'Used to think was my friend.' Those words hurt Jack most of all. Did Daniel really believe that Jack was no longer his friend?
Jack's attention snapped back to the conversation.
". . . know that he doesn't think of you the way that you believe he does. He cares about you, and he's still your friend," Sam was saying.
Daniel answered in a voice so full of anguish that it tore Jack up inside. "Is he? I really don't think he is."
'Oh, Daniel. I am your friend. Please don't believe that's gone,' the colonel begged silently.
Hearing Daniel say that he wanted to be alone, Jack moved away from the door. He leaned back against the wall a few feet away.
'Well, Jack old boy, you really screwed up this time. Your best friend is in there thinking that you're not his friend anymore and believes that you have zero respect for him. So, what are you going to do to fix this? You'd better be prepared to do some serious butt kissing. Better hope the knees can take it.'
Just then, Sam came out, shutting the door behind her. She spied Jack almost immediately. The anger that darkened her face – which Jack also noted was wet with tears – clued him in on the fact that she'd quite happily inflict some serious bodily harm upon his person if it wouldn't get her thrown in the brig and court-martialed. She marched up to him.
"Permission to speak freely, sir," she said stiffly, standing at attention.
'Uh oh. So, are you going to be a man and let her say her peace or will you hide behind the eagles on your uniform?' The colonel decided that, since he deserved a tongue-lashing, he might as well let the major have a go at him. He signed wearily. "Yeah, go ahead, Carter. Hit me with both barrels."
Permission given, Sam did what she had never before even considered doing with a superior officer. She let him have it, right between the eyes. "Sometimes, you can be a real son of a bitch," she snapped venomously.
Jack drew back as if she'd punched him, stunned by her words. Not that he hadn't been called that before. Daniel had said the same thing once. But Jack had never expected to hear his second in command say it, especially not with that level of animosity. "Wow. So, why don't you stop beating around the bush and tell me what you really think of me?"
Sam drew a step closer. "Did you ever stop to think about how much you were hurting Daniel every time you belittled him, or insulted him, or made him feel like his opinions didn't count for anything? If I'd been in Daniel's shoes on some of those occasions, I'd either have decked you or left SG-1. But Daniel just stood and took it. He let you verbally beat him up, then he picked himself up off the ground and carried on, forgiving you every time, every single time. I don't think there are more than a handful of men on this planet who would take that kind of abuse from someone who is supposed to be his friend without striking back. Well, now, he's finally had enough. You finally broke the camel's back, not to mention Daniel's heart. We've lost him. He'll no longer be out there with us to offer his wisdom, or his insights, or his incredible knowledge. He won't be there to help us when we need him, to put us back on the path of morality when we let our military shortsightedness lead us into doing something we have no right to do. When we need a voice to speak for us, there won't be one. When we need someone to find the answer to an impossible riddle, there will be no one to turn to." Her voice began to shake. "And when we need someone to be our heart, and our soul, and the voice of our conscience, we'll find nothing but silence." She gave him a look that would have sent a bull elephant running for cover. "I really hope you're happy with yourself, sir." Then she spun on her heels and strode away, nearly running.
Jack watched her leave, feeling like he'd just been kicked in the groin. He also felt like he was intimately related to a snake's underbelly. He deserved every one of Sam's words. Jack found himself thinking about the past years with Daniel, remembering all the times that he'd let his temper get the best of him and verbally struck out at his friend. Yes, it was true that the archeologist could try his patience like no one else, that the differences in Daniel's viewpoints and his stubborn insistence on doing things the way he thought they should be done often rubbed Jack the wrong way, but he was also someone you could truly count upon when things turned ugly, a man who would risk everything to save his teammates. He deserved to be treated with respect and honor, not denigrated, insulted and yelled at. More than that, he was a true friend, someone who had always been there for Jack, no matter what.
Jack had spent a long, lonely year without Daniel. During that year he'd really come to realize how important his friend's presence in his life had been. Without Daniel there at his side, it was like there was a gapping hole in his existence, a void that could not be filled. When they got Daniel back, Jack had felt whole again. Yet he'd just ruined it all with his stupid temper and big mouth. If he didn't do something, he was going to lose Daniel again.
Before he had a chance to do anything, he spied Teal'c coming toward him, and, for the first time since Teal'c betrayed Apophis, Jack actually feared that the Jaffa would strike him. Judging by the look on the man's face, he was more than a little angry, and it didn't take a genius to figure out who the subject of that anger was.
Teal'c came to a halt before Jack. "O'Neill," he almost growled. "I would wish to speak with you regarding Daniel Jackson."
"Go right ahead, Teal'c. Carter just finished verbally drawing and quartering me. You might as well finish the job. All I ask is that you don't break any bones."
The Jaffa stared at him as if thinking it over. "I do not intend to physically harm you, O'Neill. If I did, you would now be in the infirmary with multiple broken bones. I was driven to great anger on P7Y-359, and it took all of my training as a Jaffa not to let it control me."
"Thank God for that good old Jaffa training," Jack muttered.
"I have just spoken with Major Carter, who is extremely distressed by this matter, as am I. She told me some of what Daniel Jackson stated to her. I must now ask permission to speak openly to you."
Jack braced himself and gave a nod of consent.
"Daniel Jackson is a great warrior and scholar who has suffered much in our fight against the Goa'uld, more than almost any other individual on this world. He has displayed unfailing strength and courage and has proven himself to be of unequaled value in many regards. If he was a Jaffa, with a Jaffa's training and physical strength, he would very likely become a First Prime. There is only one thing that would prevent him from doing so, and it is the very thing that makes him a greater man than any Jaffa I have ever known, with the possible exception of Master Bra'tac. That thing is the strength of his principles and his commitment to doing what he knows to be right. I have never known such a man as he."
"Neither have I, Teal'c," Jack said quietly.
The Jaffa stared at him. "Yet your words and actions do not pay tribute to Daniel Jackson's many valuable skills and qualities. When I was First Prime of Apophis, I would never have disrespected a man under my command as you have disrespected Daniel Jackson, even one who had committed a grievous error. I often praised the Jaffa under my command if they performed with exceptional ability, yet I have rarely heard you give Daniel Jackson words of praise when you were in his presence." He straightened to his full height, his gaze piercing through the colonel. "Your conduct has been without honor."
Jack almost winced at Teal'c last sentence. That was about the worst insult the Jaffa could speak. "I know, Teal'c," he admitted in a tired voice.
The Jaffa stared at him a while longer. "Then you must seek to redeem yourself in the eyes of Daniel Jackson, for, if you do not, I can no longer be under your command." With those final words, Teal'c turned on his heels and walked back the way he came.
Jack rubbed his hands wearily over his face. Then, straightening his shoulders and swallowing his pride, he knocked on the door of Daniel's office.