Determined (by Sherri)

Summary:
Category:  Stargate SG-1
Genre:  Sci-Fi
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  39,000


The mission to planet PBX-5 something or another, was supposed to be simple and straight forward. The goal was to scout out the area and identify a structure hidden on the planet. However it didn’t quite turn out the way they had planned, and Colonel Jack O’Neill, SG-1’s leader, wasn’t surprised. By now, he was used to the unexpected.

Their mission deteriorated as soon as he and his team had stepped through the gate. Well, maybe not exactly after stepping out of the gate, but soon after. As usual, they sent out the M.A.L.P. to check the readings on the planet, and there was nothing out of the ordinary to alert them to trouble.

So by the time walked out on the other side of the wormhole, Jack was feeling fairly confident with this mission. Shoot, he had been able to land feet first when the wormhole spit him out. How often did that happen? Not enough in his books. Nothing like walking into thru the stargate on earth, and somewhere in transport something happens to thrust him out like a shot put. And often times that meant landing face first in the dirt, and that happened only after a long tumble down the hard stone steps.

As Jack walked steadily down the stone steps, he watched as Daniel Jackson, his team’s foremost and only archaeologist, stood at the base of the stone steps readjusting his glasses. For awhile now, Jack had been trying to convince Daniel to invest in a sturdier pair of glasses, or at least a pair of contacts. He couldn’t count the amount of times that those glasses had been twisted, broken or mangled. Jack shrugged his shoulders, then scanned the area, turning his attention to his second in command on the team, whose gun was up and ready to face any unknown forces.

The major, his second in command, was an air force member like himself, but the main distinction was that she was female. Ok, so women could be an asset to the air force, but to be honest, back in the first briefing when the teams were being formed, he had not been very happy about being told she was on his team. It galled him. But it was after the first mission to Abydos she had proven herself.

A few steps away from the stargate, standing next to the DHD device the fourth member of their team stood alert, watching for any possible trouble. If having a geek and a scientist wasn’t enough, he figured that having an alien on his team would round out this group of odd-balls. It was while trying to rescue the people of Abydos that Jack and his team came across Teal’c, Apophis’s first prime. If someone had told him that this Jaffa would be the one who would save their lives by breaking them out of prison, he would not have believed them. But it happened. And now this Jaffa, known as Teal’c, was an integral part of the team. He renounced Apophis as his god and willingly fought and worked alongside the SG-1 team. To be honest, there was one thing about Teal’c that took Jack awhile to get used to and that was that damn snake that had permanent residence in Teal’c stomach. Junior as Jack often referred to it. But time had proven Teal’c to be a valuable team member and friend.

This was his team, and he was proud of them. They were his family.

Back at Stargate Command, they had sat in briefings studying the images and discussing whether visiting the planet would be a viable option. The image obtained from a flyover by the UAV showed that the majority of the planet was flat and barren. However, not far from the gate, in a sand dune, there was some sort of unidentifiable structure. It was enough to get Daniel excited. Carter of course seconded the excitement and Jack had sat in the meeting, rolling his eyes. While his team had waited in eager anticipation, waiting for the general’s go, Jack already knew the answer. Hammond would declare the planet viable for a mission.

Yep, he was right and now here they were on this barren planet of sand, standing in front of the stargate, their initial sweep of the area completed. At least there were no trees, Jack thought belatedly. Off in the distance they could see miniature dust devils dancing across the horizon.

Carter had just finished walking around the area in front of the stargate, studying the scientific instrument that she held in her hand. “Sir, there are no life forms, just as the M.A.L.P. indicated.”

Colonel O’Neill nodded, as he motioned towards the DHD device. “Check it out Carter,” he ordered.

“It’s in good condition, sir, just a little dusty,” she called out after a quick examination of the device.

“Good,” Jack turned and motioned for Teal’c to take point. “Carter you’re next, followed by Daniel and I’ll cover our six.”

In the blink of an eye it happened.

Similar to the dust devils they had observed from across the landscape, new ones suddenly sprung up from the ground around them. What triggered this anomaly, no one knew. But without warning they were a part of it. The sand rose up from the ground, swirling and twisting as it encircled Teal’c and wrapped him in a blanket of thick sand. Jack was yelling out for him to pull back when he realized that he could no longer see the Jaffa. He knew immediately they were in trouble when he watched the sand roll towards him and his team, like a fog bank, engulfing them completely in a whirl wind of tiny grains of sand.

Feeling the sand swirling around his body, he could also feel the particles of sand digging into his skin and every open spot on his body. He had to do something, and fast. Jack dug into his vest pockets and pulled out his neck cloth, then wrapped it around his nose and mouth. He hoped that everyone else had already followed through, as procedure dictated. Hurriedly, he slipped on his goggles, and momentarily felt a moment of relief in not having to squint through the sand. Jack looked up to see that Teal’c and Carter had followed through, both attired as he was. Daniel however, was having trouble.

“Teal’c! Get back to the gate,” he yelled over the dusty sand. Then as he walked towards Daniel, he shouted out again, hoping to be heard over the roar. “Carter, start dialing home, NOW.”

In one long stride, Jack was standing beside Daniel, adjusting the man’s goggles while snatching the neck cloth from the man’s vest, tying it around his face. When the archaeologist started sneezing in quick succession of another, Jack realized that Daniel had already inhaled more than enough sand. They needed to get off this planet and fast. A sniggle of worry developed when he heard a heavy cough spring up from Daniel, the dust must be settling in his chest.

Damn.

Jack looked up to see what was taking Major Carter so long to dial up the device. Carter, who had started the dialing was now hunched over the dialing pad, sneezing. She tried to finish the dialing sequence, her hands snaking towards the device, but the sneezing kept her from finishing.

Double damn.

With his hand hooked onto Daniel’s vest, Jack dragged the man along with him as he strode over to the DHD, while at the same time he scanned the area for Teal’c. The sand storm lifted slightly, enough for him to see the big Jaffa hunched over, standing near the gate, his arms clutched around his stomach. Obviously junior was having just as much trouble with this sand storm as the rest of them.

Things weren’t looking good, Jack realized as he released his hold on Daniel. “Stand right here,” he yelled over the rising sound of the sand as it danced heavily around them. Then pushing aside Carter, who was still leaning against the DHD, sneezing, he finished the sequence of codes and was about to punch in the last code when he felt a tickle in his nose. Without warning, he sneezed. Again and again, the sneezes followed one another in quick succession. Desperate to get off this planet, Jack forced himself to punch in the last code and then thrust his body forward so that it pressed the glowing orange device, activating the gate. The whoosh of the gate opening let him know he had succeeded. Somewhere, somehow in between sneezes, he punched in the GDO code then fell to the ground, alternating between sneezing and coughing

Jack’s head was aching and his nose was itching terribly, and then on top of that he could barely stop sneezing. But he had to get his team home, no questions about it. Rubbing his nose, he yelled out hoping he was heard above the dull roar of the sand storm.

“Go! Go! Go!” Jack hollered, his eyes falling on Daniel and Carter who didn’t move.

Jack scrambled to his feet, and grabbed Daniel’s and Carter’s vest. Pushing them in front of him, he looked around to see Teal’c, struggling to stand, his arm still around his mid-rift.

“Teal’c!” Jack yelled as he pulled his two counterparts to the stone steps of the Stargate. After making sure they made it up the steps, he turned around to help Teal’c when he felt his own body willfully reject his attempts to move. Without warning, he felt his feet slip out from beneath him, as he landed with a thump to the stone steps below him. It was then that the headache that had been dormant behind his eyes came forth with blinding intensity. Jack cradled his head and moaned in pain.

Then he felt a hand on his shoulder.

Teal’c.

From somewhere deep inside him, Jack found a source of energy that propelled him up from his rocky seat as he grabbed hold of Teal’c’s arm, a source of stability. Then together, warrior to warrior, they stepped through the shimmering blue horizon towards home.

What happened next was a whirlwind of activity. He and Teal’c had come through the wormhole just before it had disengaged and found themselves under the capable hands of the medic team. Dr. Frasier wasn’t there, which meant she was either with the rest of his team or on an emergency elsewhere.

There was so much activity, and with him still sneezing things weren’t making a lot of sense. Somehow he found himself laying on his back on the gurney, how he got there he didn’t remember. To be honest, he wasn’t feeling too good at the moment and the chance to lean his head back and rest was welcoming. With his goggles removed, his eyes felt like sandpaper every time he tried looking around. So he did the next best thing, he closed his eyes. Just as bad was the grittiness in his mouth, the sand he had collected while talking on the planet. He tried to spit it out, but the medics next to him resisted his efforts to sit up. Instead, he lay on the gurney listening to the sounds around him, while trying to ignore the sand castles his tongue was making inside his mouth. One good thing though. The blinding pain he had experienced before entering the gate was gone.

Now he was in the infirmary feeling much better and ready to leave. It felt like they had been there for hours, the usual gamut of tests were run. At some point, someone had given him a rinse for his eyes, and after a few washes the grittiness was gone. Thank God. A cup of mouthwash had helped rid him of the disgusting grit that had been floating around in his mouth, although here and there, where he moved his tongue, he could feel a few stragglers.

From a break in the curtain, Jack could see that Dr. Frasier was still with Daniel. She had been hovering over him for the past thirty minutes, concerned with the sneezing the younger man was still experiencing. Personally, Jack was happy that she was over there. He had just received an all clear from the medic in front of him and he was desperate to get out of the there before being caught by Frasier. He knew that was there was no way on earth she would have let him go, while knowing that there were tests outstanding waiting for review. But at the moment, he was more than willing to take advantage of the medic’s inexperience.

Quietly he slipped on his black t-shirt back and re-buckled his pants, then stood up next to the bed. He pushed aside the curtain and looked around the room. Four beds away, occupying a bed next to Daniel, was Carter talking to the doctor who at that precise moment was drawing blood from the archaeologist’s arm. Jack pushed the curtain open further. There was Teal’c obediently lying on his bed. Jack grinned. Sitting back on the bed, he hurriedly tied the laces on his boots, and then stealthily slipped out the back door of the infirmary, into the hallway.

Home free!

Jack picked up the pace. He was just rounding the corner, when he heard a loud clatter in the hallway in front of him. Without warning, he walked straight into disaster. Mops and brooms were scattered all over the floor and he was walking too fast to stop.

THUD!

His right foot had stepped inadvertently on a mop handle, and it twisted him around, throwing him unwillingly to the floor. A string of expletives spilled out of his mouth as he landed unceremoniously on his butt. As he struggled to his feet, kicking the renegade mop handle out of his way, he heard a noise above him. Looking up, Jack saw a red-faced airman hovering against the wall.

“Airman, what the hell,” he asked, glaring at the airman while sweeping the area with his hands. “Are these things doing on the floor?”

At times the Colonel’s hard-ass attitude could cause a non-combat person to tremble, but this was a military man and he still trembled. He tried to pick up a mop, but it slipped out of his hands. The airman’s hands were shaking so much that he couldn’t concentrate enough to come up with a reply.

“Uh, the uh, they uh…” the airman stuttered.

“They uh what?” Colonel O’Neill bellowed, glaring at the hapless airman.

The airman pressed his back against the wall and swallowed hard before answering, “I’m sorry, sir; they fell before I could catch them.”

“Fine, just get them cleaned up,” O’Neill demanded.

“Yes sir,” he answered, but he didn’t move.

Jack closed his eyes as he ran his hands through his hair, sending the strands every direction other than straight. “Get it done now airman,” Jack less harshly. “I don’t want anyone else tripping over these, causing a potentially serious injury.”

This time the airman saluted. “Yes sir.” Then he bent down and started cleaning up the mops and brooms that had fallen across the length of the hallway.

Turning away from the mess, Jack could feel a slight ache in his ankle as he hobbled away from the scene. There was no way on earth he was going back to the infirmary, even to get his ankle checked out.

“Colonel.”

Jack recognized that voice and audibly groaned.

Dr. Frasier.

He made a face as he pivoted around to face her. Now what on earth was she doing here?

“Looking for you,” she replied.

He had spoken aloud. “Damn.”

“Colonel,” stated Dr. Frasier. She pointed to her ankle then motioned towards the clinic. “You know procedure sir. We need to get your ankle checked out.”

“It’s fine, doc. Really it’s fine.”

She didn’t say a word, just crossed her arms and stared at the Colonel. “I wasn’t finished with you anyway, and I think you knew that.”

“Damn mops,” O’Neill muttered under his breath. “I almost made it.”

“I heard that,” Frasier said with a grin.

The silent figure behind the duo didn’t say a word as he watched the colonel and doctor walk away. I heard that to, the airman thought silently, mortified by what had just happened. This had happened on a busy walkway and he knew there had been people around to watch the Colonel dress him down, people who looked at him with pity he was sure. He didn’t like it one bit, no sir he didn’t. And did the Colonel apologize? Of course not! The airman continued to mutter under his breath about the unfair treatment that had been directed towards him as he silently cleaned up the mess.

*****

Days had passed since the incident on PBX-5 whatever, and the subsequent fall Jack had taken in the hallway. Of course the result was that whenever Jack came across that particular airman he would mutter “Mop Boy” to no one but himself. As for the consequences of his unauthorized pre-release from the infirmary, he had been forced to endure another round of tests. He had a feeling that this was Dr. Frasier’s revenge on him for ignoring procedure, taking advantage of a medic’s inexperience. While he was undergoing tests, his team was released from the infirmary, including Daniel to Jack’s surprise. On their way out, they came past his bed offering words of sympathy, but he could see straight thru them. Sympathy intermingled with laughter and smiles were not genuine, he told them with a snort.

Just as he had expected his tests came out clean, which was no surprise to Jack. Other than the grit in his mouth he felt fine, not even his ankle gave him trouble. Finally after the doc had prodded and thoroughly checked out his ankle, which included an X-ray, Dr. Frasier declared that he was fine. Well, maybe not in those exact words, but that was the gist of it. The worst that had happened, she had said, was that he had a slight twist, but it wasn’t something that required an overnight stay in the infirmary. Needless to say, when he left the infirmary, slinging his fatigue shirt over his shoulder he was feeling a little too gleeful. That probably explained his actions that followed later that afternoon.

The idea sprang up when he entered the locker room and discovered a magazine peeking out from beneath the lockers. He bent down to retrieve it and glanced at the cover. Jack was about to tuck it back where he found it, when he smiled. An idea was forming. Sticking the magazine in the back of his pants, he pulled on his fatigue shirt, allowing the tail to hang loosely over it. A mission briefing was to occur in less than an hour so he didn’t have too much time to prepare. He left the locker room and sauntered down the hallway, hoping that the major was still in her lab. She was.

“Carter,” Jack called out as he entered into the lab, his eyes landing on a machine next to where the major was working. The mechanism had flashing doo-dads on it that mesmerized him, lights flashing various vibrant colors. He paused and stared at it, his hand snaking forward.

“Don’t touch that…sir” Carter exclaimed, adding the sir as an afterthought. “That is what SG-11 brought back from their mission. We are still trying to figure out the configurations, and we’d rather not start pushing buttons before we are prepared.”

Jack raised his hands as he made a detour around the fascinating object, and just watched it.

Carter cleared her throat, “Sir?”

“What?” Jack was startled for a moment as he looked over at Carter, then shook his head when he remembered the reason for being down there. “Oh yes,” he rubbed the side of his face, “I was wondering if you have the reports ready for the debriefing with General Hammond.”

“The reports, sir? Yes,” she said pointing to the folders on the edge of the table, “they’re right there.”

Jack walked over to the folders, fiddling with the top one. “If you don’t mind, I’ll take them up to the briefing room for you,” he said, gathering the folders in his arms.

Carter looked at him suspiciously. “Why do you want the folders, sir?”

“No reason, just thought I’d help you out,” he answered with a slight shrug. “Do you mind?” Taking her silence as a no, he threw a quick wave her way and disappeared out of the lab.

“That was weird,” Carter said to herself. Then she turned back to look at the figures she had been working on before being interrupted.

Whistling a tune down the hallway, Jack ducked into his office and shut the door, dropping the folders on the desk. He opened the top folder, looking briefly at the contents, then reached behind him and pulled the magazine from its hiding place. Flipping thru the pages, he found one he wanted and ripped it out. He then slipped it behind a page of columns of reporting numbers. Finished, Jack slammed the folder shut.

Double checking to make sure that the doctored folder was on top, he grabbed the stack and left his office, just making it in time to the briefing. Nodding at the General, then at Teal’c and Daniel he sank down in his seat, setting the folders down on the table in front of him.

“Where’s Carter?” General Hammond asked as he glanced at his second in command. Something was going on, but he couldn’t quite figure out what. O’Neill sat at the table, a look of innocence on the colonel’s face as he tapped his fingers in a rhythm on the table. Before he could make mention of it, Carter stepped into the room.

“Sorry I’m late sir,” Carter apologized as she approached the table. “I was looking for the folders, when I remembered that the Colonel had them.”

“Colonel?” Hammond inquired.

“What? Oh yes, the folder’s,” Jack answered distractedly. Slipping the first one across the table to Daniel, he continued around the table until everyone in the room had one, then settled back in the chair and waited for the action to begin.

They had made it halfway through the introduction of the briefing when the door opened to present Dr. Frasier.

General Hammond nodded at the petite doctor, and motioned her to the table. “Dr. Frasier, glad you could make it.”

“Sorry I’m late sir, there was a small medical emergency in the infirmary.”

“Is everything ok?”

“Oh yes, sir,” Frasier answered as she pulled out a chair next to Daniel, “Everything’s under control.”

Jack turned his attention towards Carter’s who continued her monologue, never even noticing the folder Daniel slid over for the doctor to share with him.

“Now if you turn to following page, you’ll see the data on the tests that we ran on the samples we extracted from the planet. I had just enough time to gather some of the sand into a container before…”

“Oh my God!”

Carter jumped.

She turned around in time to see Daniel fumbling with his folder, slamming it shut. Dr. Frasier sat next to him, her face crimson. What was going on? She continued to look around the table to see what she was missing, when she caught the look on the Colonel’s face. He looked flabbergasted and was trying to reach across the table to get Daniel’s folder. Meanwhile, Teal’c sat next to O’Neill, observing the proceedings with an equally perplexed look on his face.

“Colonel? Daniel?” Carter asked obviously confused as to what was going on.

Daniel grabbed the folder from O’Neill’s outstretched hands and pulled it closer to his body, then looked over at the General with a flustered look on his face. “Um, General, I uh, need to be excused for a moment.”

Hammond shook his head, “I don’t think so Dr. Jackson. I need to know what is going on here, and why Dr. Frasier is sitting at the table in shock.”

All eyes turned to Frasier, who sat there not moving, just staring down at the table. “Dr. Jackson?”

“Um, Sir, “Jack interjected, as he pushed away from the table his eyes were still on Daniel and the folder. “Perhaps Daniel should be excused.”

“Colonel O’Neill, I think not. Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said as he turned his attention away from his second in command. Something was going on here and he was determined to find out what. “Would you please hand me your folder.”

Jack quickly stood up. “General, sir,” he cleared his throat, “I’m not sure if that is a good idea. If you don’t mind sir, I’ll take the folder and examine the contents.”

“I do mind Colonel,” he answered sternly. “You may sit down now.”

Jack paused, hesitating between obeying and arguing.

“Sit down,” Hammond repeated, this time with more force in his voice.

Jack let out a sigh and sank into his seat, burying his head in his hands. He didn’t want to know the General’s reaction to what was within that folder.

Teal’c and Carter exchanged looks, still at a complete loss as to what was happening.

Hesitantly Dr. Jackson approached Hammond, handing the folder to the general before stepping away. He looked over at Dr. Frasier and blushed, then quickly looked down to the ground waiting for what was sure to be an explosion.

General Hammond sat straight up in his chair, and then motioned for Dr. Jackson to return to his seat. He watched as Dr. Jackson sat back down, and waited a moment before setting the folder on the table. He glanced around the room, studying everyone’s reactions. Teal’c and Carter still looked puzzled and obviously were out of the loop on this one, while O’Neill sat at the table, his face still buried in his hands. On the other side of the table, Dr. Frasier and Dr. Jackson both sat nervously, fidgeting, neither one willing to raise their eyes. Fortunately now Dr. Frasier’s normal color had finally returned to her face.

Sighing to himself, Hammond opened the folder then slowly began flipping through the pages uncertain with what he was going to find. There was the report that Carter had just finished telling them about, and just as he flipped the page he came to face with a full frontal image of a nude woman direct from the pages of Playboy. Now he wasn’t a subscriber of the popular magazine amongst his men, but he still could recognize the tell-tale symbols of the Playboy emblem on the page. He let out another sigh, and then slowly shut the folder. There was no need to figure out who was at fault here, Hammond realized. All it took was one look at his second in command to figure out the answer to that one.

“Colonel.”

Jack raised his head and looked over the general. “Yes sir?”

“I need to see you immediately following the briefing.”

“Yes sir,” he answered with resignation in his voice. He dropped his head back onto his arms, the battle lost to keep his head upright.

Hammond turned to Carter, “Continue with your discussion Major Carter.”

Carter paused a moment, taking that opportunity to look at her team members, then shrugged her shoulders and continued.

To be honest, no one really heard what Carter was saying, each lost in their thoughts. Daniel was mortified that he had flipped over the page to see that naked woman, in that pose. To him, what made it the situation worse was that Dr. Frasier was there to see it. While Daniel groused on that, on the other side of the table Jack was beginning to have some serious regrets. He tried to guess what the general was going to do to him, and each situation wasn’t good.

At the head of the table, Hammond sat zoned out trying to think of a way to handle this. O’Neill was a special officer in his eyes, a bit of a handful, but a good officer despite that. So intent in his thoughts, he never realized he was scowling until it was pointed out to him.

“Sir?” Carter asked hesitantly. She had been talking for the last fifteen minutes and could tell that no one was listening to her, except perhaps Teal’c. Whatever it was that had been in the folder must have been something pretty big to reduce her team members into their current state. And now the General sat in his chair scowling at her. What had she done?

General Hammond sat up in his chair to attention, realizing he had no idea what Carter had been talking about for last fifteen minutes. Clearing his throat, he apologized. “I’m sorry Dr. Carter. If you don’t mind, we’ll call a halt to this briefing and continue it at a later time. There is something I must attend to first.” He pushed away from the table and stood, facing the SG-1 team and Dr. Frasier. “Everyone’s dismissed, except Colonel O’Neill. In my office please.”

Jack lifted his head and silently groaned. He was almost hoping that he would escape the call into the “principals” office. Ignoring Carter and Teal’c’s questioning looks, he waited until everyone left, then slowly stood up and went into General Hammond’s office.

“Sir?”

Hammond looked up and motioned towards the door. “Close the door Colonel.”

This was going to be bad, Jack thought as he shut the door. Returning to stand in front of the General, he stood in an “at ease” stance while waiting for the general to speak.

“Colonel, what do you think you were doing?”

“Sir?”

“This material is obviously inappropriate for a mission briefing, yet you knowingly planted it there in Dr. Jackson’s folder,” the General said as he pulled the fateful folder out, opening it in front of the colonel.

Jack couldn’t look at the picture. He knew what he had stuck there, and had relived it over and over since Dr. Jackson and Dr. Frasier’s reaction. “I didn’t know that Daniel was going to share his folder with Dr. Frasier,” Jack mumbled.

“What did you say Colonel?”

The general was glaring at him, and it was making Jack extremely uncomfortable. Any hopes of getting out of this easily were fading away. Hammond looked mad, really mad. “I’m sorry sir for my indiscretion,” Jack said, donning his strictly military voice. “I shouldn’t have put that picture in Dr. Jackson’s folder, sir.”

“No Colonel you shouldn’t have,” Hammond said. He shut the folder closed with a quick snap and tossed it on the edge of his desk. “I’ve been trying to think of a punishment that would be suitable for the infraction,” Hammond replied, clasping his hands in front of him. He looked O’Neill directly in the eye. “I decided that being as you want to act as one of the enlisted men, that I should give you a job that an enlisted man would be given if they did a similar trick.”

Jack felt his stomach tighten. “Sir?”

“At 0600 hours tomorrow morning, Colonel Jack O’Neill, you are to report to First Lieutenant Airman Martin Boggs in the men’s latrine.”

“What?!” Jack gasped out.

Hammond looked at his second in command. “Do you have a problem with that Colonel?”

“The latrines, sir?” Jack sputtered. “That’s… that’s…” He stopped his sputtering and looked at the General. “What will the men think when they see a Colonel in the latrines cleaning, sir?”

Hammond looked directly at the Colonel as he answered him. “Then they will know that a Colonel has no special favors of rank when it comes to punishment. If you want to act like an enlisted man, then the punishment should fit.”

Jack stood there unwilling, unable to move. Latrine duty? Cleaning the latrines was a sick and disgusting job, one that he hadn’t had to do in years. Shoot, he couldn’t remember the last time he had the duty. And usually the men who were in charge of latrine duty were sick bastards, insisting that each and every speck of tile be cleaned, with a toothbrush. He was soooo not looking forward to this.

“You’re dismissed Colonel.”

O’Neill jerked his head up, the look of misery evident on his face. With a resigned sigh he saluted, “Yes sir, thank you sir.” Then turned and opened the door behind him, leaving the office without another word.

Jack didn’t stop until he was in his office, the door closed, before letting his feelings known. He leaned over and swept his hands across his desk, knocking everything off with one swipe. Breathing heavily, he glanced at the clock, which lay tilted on its side on the floor. The blinking LED light indicated that it was 1900 hours. He was tired, exhausted and peeved and all he wanted at the moment was to go home.

Unwilling to spend the night on base, he wanted as far away from this underground prison as possible. So without a backward glance at the mess on the floor, he left his office and headed for the men’s locker room. As he was changing into his civilian clothing he could hear muted laughter just outside of the door. Quickly lacing the ties on his boots he pushed the door open to see two airmen talking outside the door. Both airmen stopped talking and saluted when the subject of their conversation appeared in front of them.

“Uh hi, sir,” stuttered one of the airman.

Jack looked at him. He seemed familiar, then remembered this one the one he had labeled mop boy. His patience was short, evident by his reply. “Uh, hi sir? Can you not talk without inserting the uh in every sentence?” Jack growled. He was cranky and knowing that these two airmen had been talking about him, an officer to boot, it riled him up.

“Uh, er… yes sir.”

Jack threw a sloppy salute back to them then fluttered his hands in an effort to brush them aside. He stalked past them to the elevator, never seeing the look of hate one of the airmen threw his way.

*****

The next morning allowed Colonel O’Neill to discover that latrine duty had been as terrible as he had been expecting, if not worse. What compounded to the problem were the stares and snickers thrown his way the airman who entered the area. Oh no, they didn’t do it to his face because all it took was one bark from him before they’d scurry away. Hours later he was finally relieved of the duty, and as it was the rest of the day he could smell the cleaner on his hands. No matter how many times during the day that he washed his hands he couldn’t get rid of the smell.

Thus the rest of his day had been spent in his office, cleaning up the mess he had created from the day before and avoiding people. He had taken time at one point to go to lunch, but left without eating. Back in his office, he spent the rest of the afternoon collecting the paperwork that was strewn across the floor, and putting the loose papers back into the appropriate folders.

Once everything was in its proper place, he sat down at his desk and rested his head in his hands. There was one thing he still needed to do and he had put it off long enough. He had to go see Daniel and Dr. Frasier, both people he had been avoiding since the incident of yesterday, and apologize.

Pushing away from the desk he pulled his door open and looked down the hallway trying to decide where to go first. He was still in the midst of indecision when Carter appeared.

“Carter!”

“Sir,” Carter replied as she looked over at the Colonel. The man looked terrible, dark circles under his tired eyes, his hair was a mess caused by his habit of continuously running his fingers through his hair. “How are you doing?”

“Peachy,” he replied with a sigh. He leaned up against the wall and closed his eyes before speaking again. “Have you seen Daniel around?”

“Daniel? Yes sir, he’s down in his office.” Carter watched the Colonel’s face twitch, obviously lost in thought. “I’ll walk with you if you are headed that way, sir.”

“What? Oh yes, okay,” Jack replied distractedly.

Together they walked down the hallway to Daniel’s office, chatting some about an upcoming mission when before they knew it, they were standing in front of Daniel’s door.

Jack reached out to open the door when it suddenly flew open, and the object of his visit appeared.

“Daniel!” Jack exclaimed.

“Jack,” he nodded when he noticed who was with the colonel. “Sam.”

Sam smiled. “Daniel.”

“Daniel,” Jack started then stopped, unsure of how to start. Instead he traced a pattern with his forefinger on his thumb.

Daniel crossed his arms in front of him, waiting for Jack to speak.

Unable to find a way around it, Jack dropped his hands and went straight to the point. “Daniel, the picture in your folder yesterday,” he said, pausing. “It was intended to be a joke.”

The younger man stood there, his arms still crossed in front of him trying to figure out how far to take this. But having already heard of his punishment, he shrugged his shoulders and uncrossed his arms. “I know,” Daniel replied with a slight smile.

“You do?” Jack said with a surprised look.

“Yeah,” he replied, “it’s just with Janet sitting there next to me I didn’t have a chance to hide it. She got embarrassed and then I got embarrassed and well, you know the rest.”

“So you’re not upset?”

“Jack, I’m not upset,” Daniel replied as he pushed his glasses up on his nose, “although I do expect you to make it up to us.”

“Make it up to us? And who is us?”

“To the team, and oh yeah, Dr. Frasier,” Daniel replied with a look of innocence. “Because it wasn’t fair that you had Carter and Teal’c out of the loop, they had no idea what was going on until they heard about your latrine duty.” At that Daniel blushed, unwilling admitting that he knew of the Colonel’s punishment. He actually felt bad for his friend.

Jack blanched. “You know about that?”

“Jack, everyone knows about it. People can’t help but hear things.”

Jack scowled.

“Let it go Jack,” Daniel suggested, fearful of the good mood that the Colonel had appeared with would go away.

“Let it go?”

“Shoot Jack,” Daniel argued, “at least you didn’t have to have Janet sitting next to you looking at… at… that picture!”

Jack thought for a moment then grinned, and then just as quickly choked back the grin. “Shoot,” he said, reminded of the doctor’s role in the briefing. “That reminds me, I need to see Dr. Frasier about that.”

“Oh, if you are going to see Janet, see if she’s interested in joining us over at your place this evening, your treat.”

“My treat?”

Carter tapped the Colonel on the shoulder. “I agree with Daniel. You treat us to pizza tonight, and we’ll forget about what happened yesterday.”

“And today,” Jack grumbled.

“And today,” Daniel echoed.

Jack started backing away from Carter and Daniel, “I’m going to go see Dr. Frasier, if one of you would find Teal’c and tell him what is going. I’ll go find out if Janet wants to join us.”

*****

It had been a long day for Jack O’Neill, especially since the day at started at 0600 hours in the latrines, cleaning them. He wasn’t sure just how clean they were considering the airman who was in charge of him became backed away from him, after the first few yells that Jack threw towards him. Beyond that the day had gone well, he realized, pulling his cell phone out of a pocket in his leather jacket. Apologies had been made all around, and in turn he was to provide the meal of the night, pizza. Personally all he wanted to do was go on home and collapse into bed, but a deal was a deal and he couldn’t get out of it. Stifling a yawn, he pressed speed dial to the number to Mac’s Pizza Parlor and placed his order with the kid on the other end. As he disconnected the call, he was returning his cell phone to his pocket when he passed by “mop boy” who appeared to be leaving the base also. Jack realized that he didn’t even know the airman’s name. All he did was refer to him as “mop boy”, but the he had to have a name. He was just about to call out to him when Daniel appeared.

“Pizza’s ordered, Jack?”

“Just did it Daniel,” he answered patting the pocket on his jacket. “Two large pineapple pizza specials.”

Daniel gasped. “You didn’t. Jack! You know I, no we, can’t stand pineapple on our pizza!”

Jack couldn’t help but laugh, just at Daniel’s reaction. “Don’t worry, Daniel. The one large pineapple pizza is for me. I ordered the other pizza’s how you guys like them.”

“Did you order from Mac’s?”

“Yep, they have the best pizza in town,” Jack answered as he pivoted around towards the doors. “And I need to leave now if I’m going to go get the pizza’s on time.”

Punching the button for the elevator, the doors quickly opened and Jack stepped in. No one followed him in and there was no one on the elevator with him. He leaned his head up against the wall and closed his eyes. All too soon, the elevator landed on the surface level, and Jack checked out.

On his way over to his parking spot, Jack wrinkled his nose at the bird droppings that covered the top of his truck, used apparently as target practice. It needed a good washing, one of these days, he thought as he slipped into his truck and brought it roaring to life. Feeling the tension in his shoulders, he felt the need to work out his shoulder muscles, rolling his shoulders and stretching his arms against the steering wheels. The windows were down and he was enjoying the fresh air, when halfway down the mountain a smell intermingled with the fresh mountain air caught his attention.

He sniffed.

Brake fluid.

Jack quickly glanced down at the lighted panel and next to the speedometer he saw a red light announcing a problem. Damn. The brake light was on, and this was one item on his truck that he couldn’t ignore, especially when it endangered not only his life, but others around him.

Slowly he pulled his truck over to a wide spot alongside the road, and turned off the ignition. He snagged the inside latch for his hood, pulling it to release the hood. Pushing the door open, he stepped out and walked around to the front of his truck, lifting the hood and let it rest on the teetering pole that held it upright. Jack peered down in the engine area. After fiddling with a few objects, he finally admitted that there was nothing he could do, especially after he dropped to his knees and saw a puddle of liquid forming under the engine area.

Jack yanked the hood off the pole, dropping the thin rod in place before letting the hood slam shut. With his back rested against the side of his truck he let out a sigh, and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. He began punching in numbers when the roar of a vehicle coming down the mountain caught his attention. Could they help him? He stepped away from the truck and tried to flag down the oncoming motorist, but whoever it was flew past him, spraying up the loose gravel from the side of the road. Jack couldn’t help but shake his head. The guy looked military and usually their own kind helped one another, but this guy looked in too big a hurry to stop and help.

Speed dialing his auto club, he had a wrecker dispatched to pick up his truck when he remembered the pizza’s he was supposed to pick up. A quick glance at his watch showed that it was past time for the pizzas to be ready, but he was no where near the place. With cell phone still in hand, he punched another speed dial number and sighed with relief when he heard Daniel on the other end.

Jack was sitting on his truck’s tailgate when Daniel arrived, his car slowing to a stop, idling while he waited for Jack to get in.

“Thanks Daniel,” Jack said with a sigh, resting his head against the headrest. “What a way to end the day.”

“No problem, to Mac’s then?”

Talk was minimal in the car while Daniel drove, each man lost in his own thoughts. Less than twenty minutes later Daniel pulled up to the pizza parlor, dropping Jack off at the front door while he pulled away to find parking and wait in the car.

The first thing that Jack noticed as he walked into the pizza parlor was the loud music and the multitude of children who were running to and fro across the lobby. There was one person in front of him at the pick up line, so Jack was forced to wait patiently. The aroma of fresh pizza aroused the hunger within Jack, causing his stomach to growl. The older woman in front of him turned and stared at him. He gave an embarrassed half-smile. “I’m hungry.”

Finally it was his turn. Jack leaned against the counter, resting his elbow on the hard surface. “I’m here to pick up an order of pizzas for Jack O’Neill,” he told the boy behind the counter. The kid, who looked to be barely in his teens, turned away to check on his order. Running his hand through his hair Jack waited, when the kid suddenly appeared empty handed.

“I’m sorry sir,” the kid said, “I can’t find your order. Are you sure you called this store?”

Jack stared at him. “Yes I’m sure. This is Mac’s Pizza isn’t it?”

“It is, sir, but some people call MacMin’s Italian eatery by accident.”

“I didn’t call MacMin’s,” Jack said evenly. “I called here.”

“Well, let me check one more time, but I know it isn’t here,” the kid said as he turned away.

It had already been a long day, and now he was getting increasingly irritated with the kid questioning his sanity. He yanked out the cell phone out of his pocket and checked his dialed calls then hit the send button. The phone rang twice behind the counter before the kid who was helping him came running up to the front to answer it.

“Mac’s Pizza Parlor, can I help you?”

“Yes, I was wondering if my pizza is ready,” Jack asked, irritation barely under control.

“What’s your last name sir?”

“O’Neill.”

“Let me go check…” the kid’s voice faded as he turned to face the man at the counter. The boy hung up the phone and looked over at Jack who still had the phone up to his ear, shaking it towards him. “Uh sir, if you wait a moment, let me go get the manager.”

Jack nodded then stepped away from the counter. The place was busy and line behind him was growing, the people getting agitated in having to wait to pick up their own orders.

“Sir?”

Jack turned to see the kid had returned. “Yes?”

“One of our drivers already delivered to your house.”

“To my house?” Jack asked incredulously.

“Uh yes sir,” the kid answered. “We keep a file of everyone’s address on file, and one of our drivers already delivered yours, thinking that you meant to ask for delivery being as your order was here beyond pickup time.”

Jack shook his head. “I was delayed. Next time…” He stopped, ready to say something else, but instead shook his head. He was tired and didn’t feel like making a scene in here, just for a couple of pizzas. “Forget it.”

“Sorry for the mix up sir,” the kid said as he turned to snag a bag of hot, fresh bread sticks from the counter behind him. “Please take these for the trouble.”

Jack said nothing as he took the offered breadsticks, waving away the apologies. He was starving and exhausted, and really wishing now that the team bonding session was another night.

Daniel, his hands tapping to music on the steering wheel, looked up in time to see Jack opening the car door. Empty handed. Well almost empty handed, he was carrying a bag but it obviously wasn’t the pizza. He turned down his music as Jack slipped into the car. “Jack! Where’s the pizza?”

Slipping on the safety belt, Jack leaned back and tore open the bag, offering Daniel a breadstick from the bag. “This is our consolation. They already delivered the pizza to my house.”

“To your house?”

Nodding Jack rubbed his forehead. “They made a mistake and delivered it.”

“Oh.”

Nothing more was said as Daniel put the car into gear and headed to Jack’s place. As they drove up into the driveway, the two of them saw the stack of pizzas sitting by the door, a taped note on top fluttering in the breeze.

Untangling his legs out of Daniel’s car, Jack stalked over to his front porch and ripped off the note. “Sorry for the delay in delivering your pizza’s, the order is on the house.”

“No charge, Jack?”

“Nope,” the older man answered as he unlocked the door, pushing the front door open. He turned and was going to get the pizzas, but stepped aside when he saw that Daniel had them. A sound out in the driveway caused him to crane his head around Daniel to see. Carter had just pulled up and from what he could see, she had Teal’c with him. Good, the gang was here. Jack waved as he walked into the house, leading the way into the kitchen by flipping on the hall, living room and kitchen lights for navigation.

Immediately Jack went to work clearing off a space on the counter for the pizzas. Once finished, he turned to the refrigerator and began pulling out beer bottles while Daniel set the cartons down on the table.

“Hi guys!” Sam chirped as she entered into the kitchen, setting down a bag of chips on the table. Nodding towards Jack she asked, “Where’s your truck?”

“Brake trouble coming down Cheyenne Mountain. Daniel here had to give me a lift home,” he replied, giving a nod of greeting towards Teal’c.

“Oh wait,” Sam exclaimed, “That must have been your truck that the wrecker was in the process of towing off.”

Jack nodded. “Good, glad to know that it’s on the way to the shop,” he answered as he reached behind her to grab a stack of napkins from the counter.

Sam was rummaging through his cupboards, looking for clean plates while Daniel collected silverware from the drawer.

“Daniel, I’ve told you before,” Jack said, as he made a face at the forks the younger man put on the table. “This is pizza. We don’t need anything, just our fingers.”

Daniel shrugged, “I like to use a fork.”

“As do I, O’Neill,” Teal’c replied.

“You’ve ruined the man,” Jack complained, directing his comment towards Daniel.

Starved, Jack pulled the lid off the top pizza and looked down at the pizza in puzzlement. It was his, but it had mushrooms on it. When he had placed his order the kid had told him that they had been out of mushrooms. Plucking a pineapple from the cheese, he popped it into his mouth. “Oh yes, this is good. And this time they put extra pineapples on it.”

Sam groaned. “Jack, that is disgusting. Pineapple is not supposed to be on a pizza.”

“I agree with Sam here,” Daniel said as he watched Jack pick up a slice, and take a bite into the pizza. “What else do you have on there besides pineapple, Jack?”

“Olives, green peppers, beef, mushrooms, and this is,” Jack said, as he lifted it with his finger, “fresh tomato.”

“Ugh.”

“I concur with you Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c stated.

“You guys just don’t know the makings of a good pizza,” Jack protested.

Daniel snorted as he opened the other two pizza boxes, one being a meat mixture and the second a vegetarian mix. Neither had mushroom, for which Daniel was happy to note. Of all the vegetables, eating a fungus wasn’t something he enjoyed eating.

Sam was sliding a piece on to her plate when she realized that Janet wasn’t there. “Where’s Janet, sir?”

Quickly swallowing his bite, Jack took a swallow of beer before answering. “She said she already had plans for tonight.”

The four continued to eat their pizza in silence, drinking their beers and munching on chips. The pizzas were nearly obliterated even Jack’s pineapple pizza was almost gone, three slices remaining.

“My goodness Jack,” Daniel commented as he glanced over at the nearly empty box. “You were hungry.”

Jack shrugged his shoulders. “I didn’t eat much for lunch today.”

“O’Neill smelled of bathroom cleaner when he entered into the dinning hall and left without eating,” Teal’c stated solemnly.

Daniel snorted.

Sam snickered.

Jack glared.

Sam, quickly composing herself, moved away from the table and threw her trash into the trash can. Moving over to where she had laid her purse, she pulled out two movies from the large bag. “I have movies if anyone is interested in watching,” she announced.

“Let me find out what you brought before I give an answer to that,” Jack replied. Glancing up at Sam, he couldn’t help but notice the devilish twinkle in her eyes before he turned away to put up the pizzas. He combined the pizza into one box then strode over to the refrigerator, tucking it away onto a shelf.

“I have Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and…” Before Sam could say another word, Daniel started waving his hands. “Oh! Oh! I haven’t seen that one in a long time!”

“And…?” Jack prompted from the kitchen.

“And this one is Shakespeare in Love.”

“WHAT kind of choices are those?” Jack grumbled from the kitchen.

Sam studied the back of one of the DVD’s, “Shakespeare in Love is a movie that Janet lent me, but we can watch Indiana Jones. I haven’t seen that one in awhile. What do you think Teal’c?”

“I choose Temple of Doom.”

Jack groaned.

“Um, Jack,” Daniel called out to him. “Remember this is our night. You get to watch what we want to watch tonight.”

Opening his mouth to speak, Jack thought better of it and quickly closed it. “Beer anyone?” he asked hovering near the refrigerator.

After bringing beers out for everyone Jack found a spot on the couch. He plopped down, then spread his long legs out in front of him and rested his arm on the armrest next to him. Grabbing a pillow from behind him, he rested it on his lap and waited for the movie to start.

The lights dimmed, thanks to Daniel’s thinking, and in no time they were involved in the film, Daniel making comments through out on the archaeologist facts and fiction within it.

Midway through the movie Jack began to feel nauseous and his stomach wasn’t feeling quite right, small cramps tightening up within it. He clenched his fists, closing his eyes, wishing for it to go away and after a few minutes it did, but left him hot and sweaty. There were beads of sweat forming on his forehead, leaving him yearning to turn up the air or turn on the fan. Opening his eyes, he fought the urge to follow through when he saw how Sam was wrapped in a blanket and Daniel had one tossed over his lap. Apparently this heat wave was for him alone. The rest of the movie passed by in a blur for Jack, his comments becoming noticeably less and less, until when the movie ended and lights were turned up his team discovered he was asleep.

“Should we wake him?” Daniel whispered.

Sam stared at O’Neill, uncertain with what they should do. “No, I think we should just let him sleep. We ought to go.” She glanced over at Teal’c, “Are you ready Teal’c?”

“I am ready.”

The three of them quietly moved through the house, picking up their belongings, Sam popping the movie disk out of the player. Leaving the kitchen in a somewhat clean state, they quietly walked through the living room, past the sleeping man, and went out of the house, locking the door behind them.

*****

Jack woke up with a start. Disoriented, he glanced around the room trying to place where he was when it finally dawned on him that he was in his living room, on the couch. Everyone was gone, and a quick glance at the clock on the wall showed that they would have been gone for hours. Leaning his head against the back of the couch, he wondered what woke him up when a sudden, painful cramp rolled through his stomach.

He couldn’t help but cry out.

“Ow!”

Just as quickly as it started it departed, the sharp, stabbing pains gone. Jack rested his hand on his stomach, rubbing while kneading it, hoping that whatever it was causing his discomfort was gone. Slowly he pushed himself up from the couch and walked into the kitchen to pour a glass of water, when another spasm unexpectedly ripped through his body.

“Argh!”

He clutched his mid section and hunched over. He had his one hand tapping against the wall rhythmically in pain, when Jack realized that heading to the kitchen wasn’t the direction he needed to go. Changing course, he stumbled across the living room and carefully climbed the few steps to his hallway. With one hand on his stomach and the other on the wall, he supported himself down to the hall bathroom.

It was a vile feeling.

He wanted to throw up.

But he also desperately needed the toilet.

The only way he could do both at the same time, was to go into the bathroom and sit on the toilet, allowing nature to take its course. The cramps were coming in greater numbers, rolling and crashing in his body. Jack pulled the trash can in front of him, recognizing the signs. The bile was building in his stomach, and was erupting into something he couldn’t control. Suddenly, without warning, he had barely enough time to aim his mouth over the trash can, as the food spilled out of him. Finally, the retching stopped and he was left with an overwhelming feeling of weakness. His throat was sore from the path the acid had taken through his body.

He moaned.

What on earth was happening? Other than the trip to the Sand planet, they hadn’t done anything to warrant an illness. Jack grabbed a towel from the rack next to him and wiped his face with it, white at the same time wishing he could get rid of the putrid taste in his mouth.

For how long he sat in the bathroom he didn’t know, but eventually the urge to throw up was gone as was the diarrhea, at least for now. Shakily he washed his hands, splashing cool water onto his face and on the top of his head, feeling the heat drift away. It took some effort, but he reached into his cabinet and brought down the mouthwash, rinsing his mouth out. A quick glance at his watch showed that he had another three hours before he had to report to duty.

Jack flipped the light off in the bathroom, and slowly walked to his bedroom. He shed his clothing, leaving them where they lay in a pile next to the door, then flopped his boxer clad body onto the bed. The last thing he remembered was pulling the sheet up over his body before sleep overtook him.

*****

The next morning came way too soon for Jack. The loud buzzing next to his ear woke him from the deep sleep that he had fallen into. He slapped the annoying buzzer off, and leaned over to squint at the time. It didn’t feel like he had slept any. He had awakened one other time during the night, with the same results. Diarrhea and vomiting, and he had literally collapsed into bed less than an hour ago.

Quickly he showered and dressed, rinsing his mouth out several times. Slightly unsteady on his feet, he attributed it to the lack of food and went directly into the kitchen. He was hoping it was just a twenty-four hour bug that he had caught. Opening the refrigerator door, he scanned the contents when his eyes flickered to the pizza box from the night before. That looked good, he thought as he pulled it out and plucked out a slice, setting the box on the counter.

He was just biting into the pizza when he heard the dinging of the doorbell. Carrying the pizza with him to the front door, he unlocked the door and swung it open.

“Daniel?”

“Good morning Jack,” Daniel replied, looking at the pizza in Jack’s hand. “You’re eating that for breakfast?”

Raising an eyebrow, Jack looked at the younger man in front of him, “What’s wrong with that?”

Daniel made a face, “Nothing I guess, but at least it’s not your pineapple mix. Anyway, are you ready?”

“Ready?” Jack asked in puzzlement.

“Your truck is in the shop, remember?”

Opening his mouth, then quickly shutting it Jack realized he had forgotten. Good thing Daniel hadn’t. “Yeah, I did forget. Let me grab my jacket,” Jack replied as Daniel turned and headed back to the car. Grabbing his jacket from the back of the chair, he returned to the kitchen to grab the pizza carton to take with him to the base.

In time they arrived at the base, time that would have been cut short if Daniel hadn’t spent his time talking, Jack realized. The man couldn’t drive without using hand motions, and using hand motions meant that they tended to weave all over the road. But to compensate for that Daniel would slow down. When they began driving up the mountain Jack had finally insisted on his friend keeping his eyes on the road and not worry about discussing their upcoming mission.

After changing out of their civilian clothing and Jack had stowed away his pizza, the two headed into the briefing room to discuss the next planet they were to be visiting. Carter and Teal’c were already there. Carter was setting up the projector to present the scientific research that she and her science team had organized. She looked up when she saw Daniel and O’Neill enter the room.

“Good morning sir, did you sleep well?”

“I did, until I realized I was sleeping on the couch,” O’Neill replied as he sat heavily down into his chair.

The Colonel didn’t look all that great, dark shadows took up residence under his eyes, but who was she to argue. “Oh well sir, you were asleep when we left. We weren’t sure if we should wake you or not.”

“We did not,” added Teal’c.

O’Neill gave a half smile. “Thanks.”

Just then Hammond entered the room, getting Carter started on the briefing. Nearly two hours later, the SG1 team was dismissed, told to get ready for their next mission at 0700 hours the following morning.

After the briefing, Jack went directly to his office to work on details for the mission, while the rest of his team went their separate directions to plan. Settling down at his desk, Jack was soon lost in his paperwork and planning when his growling stomach reminded him of his lack of food for the day. That is, other than the small slice of pizza he had this morning. He hadn’t been bothered by any other stomach problems, so he reasoned that whatever it was that struck him down last night definitely must have been a twenty-four hour bug. He was feeling pretty darn good despite an uncustomary weakness. But he attributed that due to his lack of food.

He glanced at his watch and was surprised to see that it was just after one. He was just as surprised to realize that no one from his team had come by to see about lunch, they must have been just as busy. It was as he was walking to the mess hall that he remembered the pizza he had brought in, stashed in Dr. Frasier’s office. Ah ha! That would taste better than whatever was being served today in the cafeteria. He changed directions and entered the back door of the infirmary, going directly to the refrigerator housing his pizza.

Pulling out the box from the bottom shelf he couldn’t help but notice that a few slices were missing. Now normally that he wouldn’t care, but the ones that were taken were his favorite pineapple slices. He was left with one, and for that he wasn’t happy. Taking the box with him, he accidentally bumped into the doctor as he left.

“Ah, Dr. Frasier,” Jack said as he looked down at the petite woman.

“Colonel,” she acknowledged. She noticed the box O’Neill was carrying out of her infirmary. “Oh, I hope you don’t mind sir, but I helped myself to some of your pizza. You had one of my favorites, the pineapple pizza.”

Startled, Jack looked down at the doctor. “You like pineapple?” He grinned. “You have good taste, doc,” he said, slipping out a slice and biting into it.

Aha, so there was someone else who appreciated the savory content of the pineapple pizza, Jack thought to himself. Back in his office, and continued to work while finishing off the leftover pizza. By the time he finished off the last slice of pizza, he was so full that he didn’t even want to pluck up the remaining pieces of pineapples and mushrooms that had fallen to the bottom of the container. Setting the box aside, he continued to steadily work.

It was late afternoon Jack finally came up for air, a twinge in his back reminding him that he needed to get away from his desk and walk around to loosen his tension. Stretch his muscles. A glance at the clock said it was 1600 hours. Definitely time for a break, he realized, as he yawned, deciding that he would go to the gym and work out for awhile.

There wasn’t anyone in the gym when Jack arrived, but he didn’t have a problem with that. It would be easier to get to the weights that he needed without having to wait. Pulling out a dumb-bell, he selected the right weight and was in the midst of lifting when a spasm of pain went across his mid-section. He nearly dropped the weights in hand.

Ow.

He recognized that pain.

He wanted to ignore it, hoping that it would go away, so he lifted the dumb bell and went through one round of repetition. But again the pain struck, this time leaving him breathless and clutching the dumb bell tightly in pain. Whatever it was that he had caught last night apparently wasn’t through with him. Carefully Jack walked over to the rack of weights and set the dumb bell back onto the shelf. Returning to the bench he sat down, cradling his head in his hand and waited for the inevitable. For how long he sat there, he didn’t know but whatever it was that was plaguing him just minutes before seemed to be gone. Knowing that he couldn’t sit on the bench all day like this, he finally stood to his feet and took a deep breath.

The cramps didn’t return until he was almost to the door. Jack’s hands were reaching towards the door handle, ready to open the door when the debilitating spasms returned. Fighting the urge to throw up, he equally fought against the pain inside that was threatening to send him teetering to the floor. Jack was barely standing, his body bent over at the waist, when the door swung open.

“O’Neill!”

Jack could hear Teal’c but right now he was in so much pain that to look up and acknowledge the man at that moment was impossible. Instead, he groaned.

“Do you need assistance, O’Neill?” the big man asked as he approached the man who was in obvious pain.

Jack shook his head. He was determined to fight whatever this was that was plaguing him, while trying to keep his stomach settled and keep the bile from rising up. Swallowing hard Jack kept one hand clenched against his mid-section and used the other hand to hang onto the door frame, to pull his body upright. But somewhere in between standing up and moving he had a feeling of vertigo, as he began to tilt towards the floor. Jack felt Teal’c grab hold of him and hold him steady and upright.

“Thanks T,” Jack mumbled.

“I will take you to Dr. Frasier,” Teal’c stated.

Jack shook his head. “No need for that, Teal’c, just take me back to quarters and I’ll be fine.”

If another cramping hadn’t sent his body into a tailspin again, Jack had a feeling that Teal’c would have listened to him. Instead Teal’c had to watch him try to fight off this latest round of cramps, which left him shaking.

“I will take you to Dr. Frasier,” Teal’c once more said, this time with firmness.

Unwillingly accepting defeat Jack nodded without protest. He would be better off at the infirmary finding out what was wrong with him, than collapsing somewhere in the hallway, having half the base watching him. Teal’c’s firm hold on him kept him from falling over.

“Is it hot in here to you, Teal’c?”

“It is not, O’Neill.” Teal’c took a moment to look down at O’Neill, and noticed that the older man’s face was covered in a fine sheen of sweat. He could feel the rising temperature in O’Neill’s body as it translated to his hand.

By the time they reached the infirmary Jack had only one other round of cramps, but by then a debilitating weakness set in. It was only with the help of Teal’c, along with the last of his own energy that propelled Jack into the infirmary. He sighed with relief and collapsed onto the closest empty bed. As he lay curled up on his side, his eyes closed, he again felt the nausea build. With his eyes still closed, Jack reached up and wiped a layer of sweat from his face, wondering why they had the heat up so high when he heard a cry. It was a pitiful cry and it came from the bed next to him. Jack squinted and looked at the person in the bed next to him.

Dr. Frasier.

What was she doing here?

His eyes widened as he observed her. She was shivering on the bed, despite a thin blanket that covered her, and looked absolutely terrible from what Jack saw. Dark circles were under her eyes and her skin looked dreadfully pale against the whiteness of the sheets.

“You look terrible,” he said softly.

She opened her eyes to look over at the Colonel, “Thanks, Colonel. You don’t look too good yourself.” Briefly she closed her eyes then reopened them to look at O’Neill. “What are you doing here?”

“Not feeling too good at the moment. I was in the gym working out when my stomach started giving me trouble, going topsy-turvy on me,” he explained, watching the doctor’s eyes widen. “Teal’c saw me, and insisted that I come to the infirmary.”

Dr. Frasier carefully turned to her side so that she was facing O’Neill. “Let me guess, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramping?” she questioned as she watched her medical team inject an IV into the Colonel’s arm.

“Well,” Jack started to speak when he felt another wave of pain run through his body, the starting of the cramps again. Unable to finish his sentence, he nodded but couldn’t keep a grimace off his face as he clutched his fists tight, pounding them on the bed. Talking was impossible.

Instead Jack closed his eyes and tried to will the pain away. Unfortunately the nausea that had been building up within him was threatening to overtake him, even his best efforts to keep it down was turning into a losing battle.

Janet watched as the colonel’s eyes grew wide and instinctively knew what was going on. Hoarsely yelling for one of the nurses, she directed her to put a basin next to the colonel.

Just in time.

Abruptly O’Neill sat up on the bed. He barely had enough time to grab the basin from the nurse, before he bent over and threw up.

Finished, Jack sat back up and tried to get rid of the remnants that floated in his mouth, while the acid lingered and nearly caused him to gag again. He grabbed the sheet from the bed, wiping his mouth off and wished he could get rid of the acidic taste. With his energy spent from the effort, he fell limply on the bed. The churning in his stomach continued and Jack knew from experience that just throwing up wasn’t going to be enough, he had to go find the latrine and fast.

Keeping his eyes averted from the used basin, he carefully pushed it aside as he sat up and dropped his feet to the floor. Jack felt the tug of the IV line in his arm, and swiftly pulled out the wiring that had him connected to the fluids. He could hear Frasier’s protests, but knowing that she wasn’t in any better shape than he, he ignored her. Wobbling as he stood, he pushed away the nurse who tried to get him to lie back down on the bed.

“Leave me alone,” he growled, shooting a glare at the unfortunate person.

As he made his way away from the bed and nurse, he wondered how he was going to make it to the latrine, when he felt a firm grip on his arm.

Teal’c.

“I will help you, O’Neill.”

“Thanks,” he mumbled, leaning heavily against his friend.

Teal’c nodded slightly and held onto O’Neill firmly, refusing to let him slip from his grasp. Together they walked down the hallway to the latrines. Once there, he watched as the colonel pushed him aside and motioned with his hands that he didn’t need to follow him in.

Teal’c didn’t follow, but remained outside the latrines for Colonel O’Neill to finish.

Nearly thirty minutes later Jack emerged, his stomach empty but his body weak and tired. He was hot and feverish and just wanted to change into something clean, but Teal’c had other ideas.

“Do you not think you should see the doctor?”

“No, Teal’c, I don’t,” Jack replied tiredly. “I’m feeling better.”

“You do not look better,” Teal’c replied after a quick look at his friend’s face. Dark shadows remained and O’Neill’s face looked extremely pale.

“Listen Teal’c, I just need to take a cold shower and wash this crap off my body,” Jack answered abruptly. Then he sighed as he leaned his back against the wall, resting his head on the hard surface. “Just let me change into some clean clothing, and I’ll see the doc later, ok?” Jack answered. “In fact,” he suggested, “why don’t you go back down to the infirmary and see how Dr. Frasier is doing?”

Teal’c took one more look at O’Neill then nodded towards the man. “I will do as you suggest, O’Neill.”

Relieved that Teal’c didn’t press the issue any further, he waited until the Jaffa was out of sight before gathering the strength to leave. He was so tired and what Teal’c didn’t know is that he had stood against the wall, needing it for support to keep him upright. Taking a deep breath, Jack quickly scanned the corridors then left before any one appeared, heading straight for the locker room. A cold shower was in order, something to fight off this burning heat that was raging within his body and then a bed. Sleep is what he craved the most, sleep.

*****

“Has anyone seen Colonel O’Neill this morning?” General Hammond asked as he looked around the control room. Another quick glance at his watch indicated that the Colonel was five minutes late to the mission scheduled to leave at 0700. The SG-1 team was geared up and ready for their mission, however their CO was missing. Hammond was not happy, not happy at all.

Carter who was directing Siler with the gate address looked over at Daniel who looked at her. “No sir, I haven’t seen him today,” she replied. She had been so busy that she hadn’t noticed O’Neill’s absence, but now that it was pointed out she was surprised. Usually he was the first one packed and ready to go.

Teal’c, who had been standing silently next to Carter, spoke up. “O’Neill has been ill.”

“What?” Carter swung her head around to Teal’c, as Hammond and Daniel did the same. “What happened?”

“I found Colonel O’Neill last night bent over in pain at the gym. I took him to Dr. Frasier who was ill herself,” Teal’c answered. He looked at General Hammond and his team members while he continued, “O’Neill became sick while in the infirmary, where he expelled contents from his stomach before insisting on going to the latrine. It was after a visit to the latrine that O’Neill left.”

“Left?” General Hammond questioned, his hands resting on his hips. “Where did he go, Teal’c?”

Teal’c replied calmly, “O’Neill said he was going to shower and change, and he said he was going to go back to the infirmary. He sent me back to check on Dr. Frasier.”

“What do you mean, check on Dr. Frasier?” Daniel asked in puzzlement.

“Dr. Frasier was ill herself. She sent me to O’Neill’s office to retrieve a pizza box and bring it to her lab for tests.”

Hammond did not look happy with this news, evident in the tone of his voice. “Why did no one tell me of this?”

“Perhaps no one thought of it, General Hammond,” Teal’c replied.

Flabbergasted that his second in command was ill along with his Chief Medical Officer, he demanded answers and he wanted them now. “This morning’s mission is postponed until further notice. You all are dismissed and on stand down while I get to the bottom of this,” Hammond ordered, as he stalked from the control room to go to his office.

Carter and Daniel turned away from the window, glancing towards the stairs where the General had ascended. As one, they turned to face Teal’c.

“Teal’c, what happened?”

“I do not know, Carter,” the man answered solemnly. “I do know that Dr. Frasier and Colonel O’Neill are sick with the same illness.”

“How is she doing?”

“She is better,” Teal’c replied. Looking at the two of them carefully, he asked, “Should we not go find O’Neill?”

“Yes, we need to find Jack,” Daniel replied as he took a step towards the stairs. “Where do you think he is?”

Carter shrugged her shoulders. “He wasn’t in the infirmary when we did our pre-mission physicals, so I suggest that we start out checking out his office, then maybe the VIP rooms. If he had been in one of the barracks, we would have heard about it from some of the men.”

Together the three, Daniel, Carter and Teal’c left the control room in search of their missing commander. It was unlike him to miss a mission off world unless he was ill. And he must have been feeling really bad to have not shown up this morning.

Their first stop was O’Neill’s office. Opening the door, Daniel saw no evidence that the Colonel had been in there that morning. In the corner, a cot looked untouched while on Jack’s desk sat a half-drunk cup of coffee, the contents that by now had turned to a dark sludge. “He’s not here,” Daniel commented as he picked up the coffee cup and took a whiff of the coffee. “Phew,” he made a face, “it doesn’t look like he’s been in here for some time.”

Carter sighed. “Then we need to check out the VIP rooms; chances are he is there,” she said, worry lacing her words.

“Do you think he would have gone home?” Daniel asked.

“No,” Carter replied with a shake of her head. “Not before a mission. He usually likes to stay on base and work out any last minute details of the mission.”

The three stopped before the door of the one of the VIP rooms and paused, unsure of the next action they should take. If the Colonel was in there he wouldn’t appreciate being woken up, but considering he had missed the morning mission and Hammond was upset, they had no choice. They had to go in. Carter took the lead and pushed the door open, walking into the room, followed closely by Teal’c and Daniel. Though the room was dark they could barely make out a shape on the bed. Teal’c reached over to the wall and flipped on the lights as Daniel and Carter approached the bed. It was the colonel, and he was asleep.

Cautiously Carter tapped on O’Neill’s shoulder. “Colonel?”

Abruptly O’Neill woke up from his sleep and sat up, his hair going every which way. If Carter and Daniel not taken a step back from the bed, they would have been struck by his errant fist. Disoriented and confused it took a moment for him to realize where he was.

“What do you want?” he growled, his voice heavy with sleep.

“Colonel, sir,” Carter started. She couldn’t help but grimace as she looked at her commanding officer closely. O’Neill obviously didn’t have a good night. If he looked tired the day before he looked exhausted now, dark circles creating violet shadows beneath his eyes and even in the light he looked pale. “Colonel, you didn’t show up for our mission at 0700 this morning, sir.”

Bleary eyed the Colonel rubbed his eyes as he looked up at Carter. “I what?” he asked, dropping his head as he rubbed his hand across it. A headache was blossoming and what Carter had just said had thoroughly confused him. He hadn’t had much sleep during the night, most of it spent running to the latrine. When he wasn’t in the latrine the time was spent shaking beneath the covers from the chill, or throwing them off from the heat. Even now, it felt as though he had just lain down. Eyes feeling like they had grit in them, he peered at the Major. “What time is it?”

Carter glanced at her watch. “It is 0730.”

The time sunk in. “Oh my God,” Jack exclaimed, shock evident on his face.

He struggled to free his feet, restrained by the sheet that was twisted around them, desperate to get out of his sweat drenched clothing, and get ready for the mission. To be honest, compared to have he had been feeling during the night and early morning hours as to now, he was doing great. But to be completely honest, he still felt terrible. The cramps were definitely gone, but in its place was extreme sleepiness and weakness. Remembering that his team was still in the room with him, he looked up to see them looking at him with concern.

“O’Neill, I believe you should remain in bed,” Teal’c suggested, his stoic voice lending a touch of concern.

“I’m fine,” Jack answered as he waved away any concerns. As he stood to his feet, his body had other ideas. He tried to stand but with no nourishment or fluids entering his body for the last sixteen hours he ended up wobbling, unsteady on his feet. While his hands shook, Jack could feel the shakiness spreading to the rest of his body. It was apparent to the others that he was still feeling the effects of his illness with the way he had to use the wall for support.

Daniel spoke up. “Jack, I agree with Teal’c, you ought to remain in bed.”

Jack disagreed with a shake of his head. “I have a mission to get ready for, and we need to go as scheduled. If you kids would leave me now,” Jack said waving them away, “I’ll meet you in the gate room.”

Carter shook her head. “That’s a no sir. General Hammond postponed the mission until further notice.” She turned to Teal’c and tapped him on the arm, “Teal’c, why don’t you go inform Hammond that we found Colonel O’Neill.”

Teal’c nodded, his eyes resting briefly on Colonel O’Neill before leaving the room.

After Teal’c closed the door behind him, Carter started in again. “Look at you sir,” she said motioning to her CO. “You’re weak and still tired, sir. Why you can’t even move without groaning.” She shook her head as she studied the Colonel. “Plus you have dark shadows under your eyes and to be honest, it looks like you could collapse at any moment.” As Carter argued her point, Daniel nodded in agreement beside her.

Jack knew they were right but he didn’t want to admit that he was weak, and that Carter nailed it on the head. He was exhausted. It was completely out of character of him to give up, but to be honest at that moment, he wasn’t sure how far he’d make it without collapsing. If that happened then he would really be in trouble, shipped immediately off to the infirmary. Perhaps staying in the room was a good idea, sleeping off the ill effects of whatever had affected him.

He shrugged his shoulders then nodded. “Back to bed I go,” he said relenting to their insistence. He sank back down on the bed, and curled up his legs. Jack rested his head on the pillow, and he had to admit he felt better lying down.

“Do you need anything, Jack?” Daniel asked, glancing around the room.

You can leave, Jack said to himself, but instead shook his head and closed his eyes, hoping that they’d leave on their own soon. But they didn’t. They remained, huddled in the corner talking between each other, sending occasional glances his way.

Carter approached the bed, looking down at the resting man. “We think you need to see Dr. Frasier.”

Jack opened his eyes and stared at the major, then shook his head. “Nope, I’m in bed. She can come see me.”

“Ok,” Daniel agreed with a grin as he looked at Carter.

Quickly Jack lost his smile, when he realized what he had said. “Damn, I walked into that one didn’t I?” he questioned watching the two of them grin. He sighed then looked down at his clothing. “At least leave me alone for a few minutes so I can change into something clean and doesn’t stink,” he said with resignation.

Carter hesitated then nodded. She walked over to the door, followed by Daniel who paused a moment.

“Jack, do you need any help?”

Jack looked up. He had swung his legs over to the edge of the bed, and was briefly resting his head in his hands. Then he sighed, and nodded as he motioned across the room. ”If you don’t mind, could hand me that change of clothing I left over there?”

Daniel wasn’t expecting that. Jack must have been feeling poorly to need help, but he was more than happy to assist his friend. Walking across the room, he retrieved Jack’s clean clothing, setting it on the bed next to him, patting the man on the shoulder as he departed.

Watching the door close behind Daniel, Jack sighed. His team had good intentions, but sometimes acted like a flock of mother hens. He rubbed his forehead again for a moment then slowly began removing his shirt, replacing it with a clean black one. Tossing the dirty one in the corner, he slowly stood to his feet, albeit a little unsteady, but with his hand resting against the wall he was able to change his pants. With a quick flick of his wrist, the pants landed in the same area as the shirt. Finished, he sank heavily onto his bed and laid back down, pulling his feet back on the bed, tucking them under the sheet, then rested his head on the pillow. He closed his eyes and could feel himself drifting away.

Outside the room Daniel and Carter hovered near the door, concern regarding their commander evident on their faces as they discussed who was going to get the doctor.

“Carter, Daniel.”

It was Dr. Frasier, heading in their direction. Teal’c was right behind her carrying a medical kit and supplies.

“How is he doing?”

“Not very good, Janet,” Daniel answered quickly. He pointed towards the room and quickly explained their presence outside the door.

“Then he should be changed by now,” the doctor commented as she pushed the door open.

The object of her concern was lying still on the bed, a light blanket covering the Colonel’s feet as he sought much needed sleep. However sleep was something that could come later, Dr Frasier knew, because first she needed to check him out. Taking him to the infirmary wasn’t out of the question but first she’d see how he was doing before here she made that decision.

“Colonel?” the doctor asked, touching his arm lightly.

He wasn’t quite asleep, so the touch was merely a whisper on his skin. Opening his eyes he saw Dr. Frasier standing next to the bed, concern written all over her face. “Doc, how are you feeling?” he asked tiredly.

“I should be asking that of you, sir,” she replied looking him over. “But I’m doing much better thank you. Much needed sleep and fluids did the trick. You, on the other hand, don’t look to be in very good shape.” Motioning to Teal’c, she reached into her medical kit and pulled out a thermometer. She slipped it in between the Colonel’s lips before he had a chance to protest, feeling his forehead with the back of her hand before pulling away. “You’re still warm sir,” she stated. “Did you have any more diarrhea last night?”

Embarrassed at his bodily functions being brought to light the Colonel shrugged his shoulders. “Some,” he replied around the thermometer.

“Well sir,” she said a minute later as she pulled the thermometer out of his mouth, “you have a low-grade fever, but that I expect will go away by afternoon.” She continued her examination of the Colonel, with Teal’c holding silent guard beside her while Daniel and Carter stood discretely in the back of the room, waiting for the diagnosis. Reaching into her supplies, she pulled forth an IV and rigged a spot on the wall for it to hang. She heard the colonel groan and had a ready answer for him. “You know it would be easier if you came into the infirmary if you don’t want me to do this here.”

Jack sighed. The doctor knew his answer to that as he acknowledged the intrusion of the IV line in his arm, watching as she expertly inserted it. He was tired of being prodded and poked, and all he wanted was to be left alone, but first he had to know why he was sick. “So what happened to me,” he asked, “to us?”

Dr. Frasier was tucking her supplies back into her kit, handing it to Teal’c before answering. “It was the mushrooms.”

“Excuse me?”

“The mushrooms on your pizza contained a mushroom toxin that contained gastrointestinal irritants. It creates nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and intense abdominal pain. Fortunately the type of mushrooms that were on your pizza was of the less severe strain, or else we may have been experiencing hallucinations and then there was a threat of either one of us slipping into a coma.”

“The mushrooms, Janet?” Carter asked. “We didn’t have any mushrooms on our pizza.”

Dr. Frasier nodded. “That’s what Teal’c told me.”

Carter paused. “Wait a second, you had mushrooms on your pizza,” she stated looking at O’Neill, “Were you sick that night, the night we had pizza and movies at your house?”

Jack nodded.

“Oh my goodness, sir,” Carter exploded, distress evident in her voice and her gestures. “You were sick and we didn’t know, you didn’t let us know! We could have stayed.” She paced in the room, before looking back over at O’Neill. “I knew we should have woken you up, but we just attributed it to you being tired.”

“I was tired, Carter,” Jack replied with a shrug, then reluctantly continued, “But to be honest, it was during the movie when I wasn’t feeling too good. I was feeling nauseous, but then I fell asleep. It wasn’t until much later, long after you guys were gone that the worst spell hit.” Jack shifted on the bed struggling to find a comfortable position, uneasily watching the doctor and her needle. “Are you going to stick me with that?”

Dr. Frasier nodded without saying a word, injecting the needle into the Colonel’s bare flesh.

“Ouch!”

Daniel ignoring the Colonel’s cry of pain was determined to get more information. “Ok, let me get this straight. You were sick the night before and you didn’t even tell me when I picked you up?” The look of hurt and confusion was evident on his face as he looked down at Jack.

“For crying out loud, Daniel,” Jack cried out, “you’re not my keeper. By morning I was feeling better.”

“But still, you could have let us know.”

“Let you know that I spent half the night crapping in the toilet?” Jack shot back. “I don’t think so.”

“Daniel, Colonel,” interjected Dr. Frasier, “stop arguing. And Colonel, sir, you need to rest.” Before the man on the bed could protest, she added, “Doctor’s orders.” She slipped the syringe from the needle back into the medical kit, and then turned back towards the Colonel, pulling up the sheet and light blanket over him. She turned to the others in the room and ordered them out.

“Colonel O’Neill needs rest, and at this point I don’t think any of you in this room is going to help him with that. I’ll check back on him later and I expect that by this afternoon, with plenty of sleep and liquids, he should be feeing better.” She opened the door and escorted the SG1 team to the hallway. “Providing he is feeling better, he may still need to gain strength for another day. I’m going to go give my report to General Hammond now.” After a quick nod to the three of them, she took the medical kit from Teal’c then departed down the hallway.

“Well, I guess we have downtime until tomorrow, at least,” Carter declared, glancing at the closed door. “If I can’t sit with the colonel, then I guess I’ll go to the lab. There are a few projects that I can work on,” she said as she walked down the corridor.

Daniel walked alongside Carter and nodded in agreement, leaving Teal’c behind.

Teal’c watched the two team members disappear down the hallway, but he remained outside O’Neill’s door. He paused a moment, then entered the room. At one point, while standing over O’Neill, the ill man turned in his sleep and briefly opened his eyes, before closing them again. Unwilling to leave, Teal’c remained, taking the time to kel-no-reem.

Hours later Jack awakened to silence. Earlier he had sensed the presence of Teal’c, but he had quickly fallen into a deep sleep due to some sort of drug Frasier had injected into him. Opening his eyes he could see that he was alone in the room. He squinted at his watch, trying to see the time, but the room was so dark he couldn’t see a blasted thing. Reaching over, he flipped on the lamp while tucking the IV out of his way and studied his watch. 1500. He had slept straight for eight hours.

Whatever medley of medicines the doctor had given him must have worked. He felt no nausea and the haunting reminders of his abdominal cramps were gone. In its place was an empty stomach that been emptied out more times than he could count in the last day or so. He was hungry.

Jack flipped the covers off, kicking his feet free. It wasn’t until he stood up that he realized just how weak he was, lack of food was the cause and he was determined to take care of that. Ripping the IV line from his arm, he left it hanging as it was and went over to pull on his boots. Finished he walked over to the door, flinging it open only to find Teal’c standing on the outside.

“O’Neill.”

Jack took a step back. “Teal’c,” he questioned as he looked up and down the hallway. “What are you doing here?”

“I was waiting for you, O’Neill.”

“Waiting…?” Jack started then stopped. “Oh, never mind. I’m hungry,” he said as he took a step towards the mess hall. “Are you coming with me?”

“I am.”

Together the two men walked, one unsteady and the other there for support.

*****

The gate room was active, the chevron’s glowing as each coordinate was slowly being locked into place. Down on the gate floor the SG1 team was standing ready to go, their supplies and gear packed on their backs. Colonel O’Neill had been cleared for duty the day before, but General Hammond had insisted on one more day of downtime to make sure that any residue effects were gone from the Colonel’s system. That, plus it had allowed O’Neill more time to go over his plans for the mission and re-evaluate what he had worked on the days before.

Hammond, having just given the team an all-clear to enter the worm hole, watched the four members of SG-1 from his eagle eye view up in the control room. O’Neill was obviously filled with nervous energy, eager to get off-world. Being stuck on base an extra day, when there was a mission planned, was difficult for his second in command, but the general had been emphatic about it. Now as he watched the team below he began to wonder if perhaps he should hold off on this mission indefinitely. There was some niggling of worry bothering him. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt like this mission was not going to be a good one. Even if he wanted to call it off, what was the reason? There was no good reason. So instead he stood in the control room and watched the activity below. Teal’c had entered into the wormhole first, followed by Daniel and Carter who were chatting as they walked up the gangway towards the star gate. O’Neill brought up the rear, turning to throw a salute at the General, before stepping into the shimmering blue horizon.

The worm hole closed with a snap and silence pervaded the area, despite the noise that clattered from the control room. The general stood another moment then turned away.

*****

“Ok Daniel,” Jack called out as he stepped through the gate, a little unsteady from being spit out from the wormhole, but relieved to be on his feet. “Where are we headed?”

Studying the notes in front of him, Daniel looked up and then glanced around the area, pointing in a direction east of where they stood. “I think if we head in this direction, we’ll reach the settlement that the UAV had spotted.”

Jack sighed. It was going to be a long four days on this planet he realized as he waved his hand towards Teal’c. “Teal’c, you take point, and I’ll take our six.”

He settled in behind his team members taking the opportunity to observe the planet as they walked, while at the same time keeping his guard up. From their preliminary study, there were no life forms on the planet. However, he quickly noticed a loud, disturbing squawking that seemed to echo in the air around them.

“What is that?”

“I don’t know, sir,” Carter replied looking up and around her. “It sounds like a bird.”

Jack grimaced. The sound was painful and grinding on his nerves, and they hadn’t even made it out of the area of the stargate. From the MALP readings they knew that the stargate was surrounded by a thick forest of trees, but nothing about birds.

The noise was loud, louder than just a few birds the team realized. Fascinated, they watched as a few birds swooped across the sky, landing in the trees that the SG-1 team was about to enter. They were huge black birds, the wingspan larger than the birds they had on their planet. Their beaks were yellowish in color, and were long and sharp, that is they looked sharp from their point of view. O’Neill and his team slowly entered into the thick forest of trees, the leaves providing a perfect canopy against the sun’s glaring heat. There weren’t any clouds in the sky, so when they had initially entered the forest it had sounded like rain was falling.

Splat.

Jack looked down at his feet, realizing that a large bird dropping had just missed the toe of his boots. Hold on a second. That wasn’t rain they were hearing, but rather the multitude of droppings from these strange birds.

“Hey Teal’c,” O’Neill toggled his radio on to his teammate, “What do you say we pick up the pace a bit?” Dodging another bird dropping, he watched as his team mates suddenly realized what was happening.

With the pace picked up, it wasn’t long before they left the raining forest of bird droppings and broke into the clearing. A clear blue-green sky took over where the thick canopy of trees left off.

“Yes!” O’Neill cheered as he cleared the trees.

Daniel turned towards Jack. A movement caught his attention, as he watched in fascination when a large bird flew out of the trees and headed directly towards Jack. “Jack! Look out!” he shouted as he watched the bird reach down with its bright orange claws, snagging the cap off his commander’s head before flying back into the forest.

“What the hell was that?” O’Neill shouted as he clasped his hatless head with his hands and fell to the ground. “It took my cap!” Glaring at Daniel and Carter, he motioned his hand towards the direction of the ‘gate. “I didn’t see these flying creatures on the MALP nor the UAV.”

“Uh sir,” Carter stuttered for a moment. “Actually, we did see something in the images but thought they were just specks on the lenses.”

“Specks?” O’Neill questioned incredulously as he peered up in the sky. Another bird dived towards them. Everyone automatically ducked, covering their heads. “Those are specks?” he asked as he crouched on the ground.

“I’m sorry sir,” Carter apologized, as she carefully lifted her head. “My evaluation team and I truly thought they were specks, they never flew close enough to our cameras for us to be able to distinguish them as anything else.”

“You’re buying me another hat, Major,” the colonel grumbled under his breath. Cautiously standing to his feet he scanned the air for another creature. “Teal’c,” he called out, “Take our six and I’ll take point for awhile.”

“Certainly, O’Neill,” the man said as he stood and watched the sky, on alert for these strange winged creatures.

O’Neill took point, ever ready for the birds, but they seemed to have disappeared, probably happy with the treat they stole from his head. The buildings that they had come in search of were within sight. He slowed down and waited for the rest of his team to catch up with him and pointed out his findings. Needlessly he reminded them of the importance of casing out the place before any exploring was to be started.

A quick search of the perimeter showed nothing, just as the search within the complex revealed nothing. No presence of humans or Go’auld’s. One thing they did have to report was the large nests found all over the area. Empty at the moment, but huge nests were apparent.

O’Neill reached up to remove his hat when he remembered it wasn’t there. He sighed as he ran his hands through his hair and began barking out orders. “Ok guys, we’re setting up camp here. Get the tents set up and then Carter, Daniel you guys can go exploring.”

Quickly the camp was set up on the outside perimeter of the town. Once the job was completed, Teal’c was sent with Carter while O’Neill followed along with Daniel, not at all interested with what was here, but knowing he was there to keep the younger man safe.

After a few false starts, after finding nothing of interest in some of the smaller buildings, they finally headed to one of the larger buildings on the complex. It was a strange building, large and circular.

Taking point, Jack pushed the door open and shined his light and then keeping his gun up in anticipation of trouble, he walked inside the structure. The beam from his flashlight bounced off the walls. There was nothing in the room, absolutely nothing. Just their luck, they had stumbled upon an empty building. Again.

Lowering his guard, Jack watched as Daniel entered the building, his face lit up with anticipation of finding something of value and interest in the room. But all too soon the look of excitement was exchanged for one of disappointment. The walls were bare and the room was empty, in fact, whatever the building was for in the past they left no signs of habitation ever occurring there. Their lights shone on the ceiling, showing a large circular pattern that was a lighter shade than the other parts of the roof.

Jack shook his head as he stood in the middle of the room, his flashlight bouncing around the room. “Come on, Daniel,” called out, as he struck the beam on the young man. “There’s nothing here.”

“Not yet, Jack,” he protested as he scoured the walls, looking for some sort of clue as to what the building was used for. “There has to be something here.”

Jack paused and waved his hands towards the walls. “Daniel, there’s nothing on these walls. How can your staring at the walls make something appear?”

“Well, I thought that by scraping some of this substance off the walls I’d be able to find something,” he explained. Finally he shrugged his shoulders, stuffing the tools he had out for examining the walls into his bag. “There is some sort of strange goop splattering the walls in here.”

“Goop?” Jack questioned, his eyebrows lifting at Daniel’s choice of words. For a man who knew a slew of languages goop was the word he chose? Curious to know what brought such a word from the man’s mouth, Jack walked over to where Daniel stood, looking at the spot where Daniel pointed and shined his own light on it.

“It’s this white, sticky substance that is splattered all over the walls.”

A thought came to mind as O’Neill studied the splatters, scratching his neck as he looked at it. “You know, those look suspiciously like bird droppings.”

“Bird droppings?”

“Yup.”

“Come on Jack, how could…”

Jack interrupted him. “You’re right, come on. We’ve wasted enough time in here.” He toggled the button on his radio. “Carter, Teal’c, you finding anything?”

“Colonel!” Carter exclaimed, her voice obviously thick with excitement. “Yes we did sir. It’s amazing!”

“What’s your location, Carter?”

“We are three buildings to the west of where we set up camp.”

“Stay put,” O’Neill responded as he looked over at Daniel. “Come on, we’ll go see what sort of fascinating things Carter and Teal’c have found.”

Unwillingly Daniel followed Jack out of the empty chamber, Daniel looking over his shoulder one more time wondering what they had overlooked. Following along, Daniel continued to look at each of the buildings, peering into each one as they walked past them, but they were empty like every other structure they had entered. Finally they approached the building that Carter and Teal’c were in, and stepped inside.

As they walked into the room they were overwhelmed by the tall ceilings and largeness of the room. However, it wasn’t empty. Instead it had towering columns with a width of two feet, positioned in three foot intervals all throughout the room.

Walking over to one of the columns, Jack stood and looked up at it, noticing a platform that was positioned at the top of each of them. “Carter?” he called out.

“Colonel,” she answered, “We’re back here.”

Jack stepped aside, peering around the column to see the Major’s blonde head in the back of the room. He motioned to Daniel who was studying the room, his movie camera out documenting the scene. As Jack approached Carter he could see she and Teal’c studying some sort of pattern on the floor. “What’s this?” he asked needlessly.

“I’m not sure Colonel,” she answered. “But Teal’c has been able to decipher some of the writings here.” Looking around for Daniel, she waved him to where she stood and pointed to the floor. “Daniel, they are talking about some sort of creature,” she explained, “but we’re not sure what the significance is.”

Daniel moved around to where Carter stood, the camera in one hand recording while he read the alien inscription. “It looks like, they are talking about the winged creatures, which I think are those birds we came across earlier,” Daniel said looking up at Jack. He quickly glanced back down to finish his translation. “Anyway, the winged creatures are holy and this is a sanctuary for them.”

Snorting, Jack interrupted Daniel. “Holy creatures? They are only a bunch of annoying birds.”

“Hold on a second, Jack,” Daniel said. He pushed aside some of the dirt, then paused and looked up at the columns that surrounded them, his eyes focusing on the platforms above. Then he pointed his finger towards the top of the columns. “This building here is what we would call a bird aviary. The nests up there were apparently where the birds would nest and raise their young.”

“A what?” Jack questioned. Thinking of his unprotected head, he involuntarily ducked then peered up above him, suspicious of a renegade bird waiting to leave its dirty job on the top of his head.

It was at this point that Teal’c spoke. “I have heard tales, when under Apophis rule, of a world that was dedicated to the winged creatures. The people of the planet raised the creatures until the creatures took over and forced them to leave.”

“Damn,” O’Neill replied. “Ok folks, let’s get out of here. Daniel,” he yelled, noticing that the man had wandered to the far side of the building. “We’re leaving.”

“Not yet, Jack,” he pleaded, “I want to document more of this room.”

“Now, Daniel,” O’Neill replied. “It is getting late, and we need to get back to camp get some rest for tomorrow. We’ll be here a three more days, so you’ll have plenty of time to record the bird’s home.” He waited until Daniel joined them, before leading the way out of the building and back to camp.

At camp, they ate their rations and then were each given their times for watch, O’Neill taking the one closest to dusk. One by one they slipped into their tents, bringing silence to the camp. But as darkness fell, the night noises arose.

Daniel had been given first watch and now sat on a log near the fire, reviewing his work from the day, when the noises in the night began to bother him. They seemed to swell up out of the darkness. These birds, they hadn’t heard when exploring the city, were now chirping. Well, Daniel realized, chirping wasn’t a good word for it. Squawking was the more appropriate terminology for that sound. And now that he was aware of the sound he couldn’t get any work done. The noise was annoying and downright distracting.

It took awhile, but finally Daniel was able to ignore some of the sounds and started finishing up his writings from the day, when something suddenly came swooping down out of the sky. He ducked and threw himself forward, his papers and writing utensils scattered, falling with him to the ground. Slowly he lifted his head, and saw that the large golden moon cast enough light to allow him to see the frame of a bird, a large bird. Hesitant, Daniel slowly stood to his feet and began to walk around the camp, his eyes focused on the sky and that one bird, when the sound of a second bird came swooping past him, landing where he had been sitting moments before. Then it flew off. In the profile of the bird, Daniel could see that it had stolen several of his pens in its beak. Then without warning, the creature disappeared. Unfortunately, the loud annoying squawking continued. It wasn’t close, but loud enough to keep him on high alert the rest of his watch.

Carter had awakened not long ago, the night noises pulling her from her sleep. A glance at her watch showed that she had less than two hours of sleep. Deciding that she would relieve Daniel from his watch, she had only tapped the man on his shoulder, when he jumped to his feet as though he had been stung. Puzzled, she watched as he let out several deep breaths. “What’s going on?”

“It’s those birds,” he whispered, his eyes darting around. “They are everywhere, don’t you hear them?”

Carter looked around her. “I did hear something when I woke up,” she admitted, “but what is it?”

“So you can hear them, the birds,” he replied wringing his hands together. “Two dived at me, stealing my pens. Shoot,” he said, as he involuntarily ducked at a flickering shadow from the fire. “I’m going to bed so I’ll see you in the morning.” He grabbed his papers then stalked across the camp, quickly crawling into his tent, zipping it closed.

Carter watched the back of Daniel as he walked away, before turning to stir up the fire in front of her. Settling down on the same log that Daniel had been on, she kept her gun close by as she watched the area. The noises she had been hearing earlier were becoming more prevalent now that she was awake. There was a painful squawking sound that seemed to have taken up residence throughout the trees that surrounded the area. It was an annoying sound, one that eventually grated on her nerves.

She stood to her feet and began to walk the perimeter of camp, keeping an eye out for anything strange and unusual. As she walked she felt rather than heard one of the birds of the night dive down upon her. Carter ducked and threw up her gun in defense, then watched as it landed on top of Teal’c’s tent and began to squawk. Another flew down and did the same to her tent, making such a racket that she was sure that it could be heard all the way to earth. Racing over to the tents, she held out her gun and tried to run them off, but to no avail. If anything, more and more of them seemed to come out of the night sky, dropping down upon Daniel and the Colonel’s tents, their noises screaming in the air.

It wasn’t long before Jack unzipped his tent, sticking his head out just as a bird let loose its excretions, landing on the unsuspecting man’s head. “Damnit,” he cursed as he pulled his head back into the tent and wiped the disgusting mixture off his head. Pouring out some water, he quickly scrubbed his head free of the poop before crawling out of his tent.

By the time Jack exited his tent he saw that Teal’c was out of his, his staff weapon being used as a weapon to fight off the winged creatures. From what O’Neill could see, the camp was infested by these birds.

Carter, seeing her commander was up and awake yelled out to him. “Sir, I don’t know what’s happening, but they just suddenly came and invaded the camp.”

“Where’s Daniel?” he called out, noticing that he was short one team member.

“He’s in his tent,” she replied, ducking out of reach of a bird. “He heard them on his watch, and said that there were two that came swooping down on him.”

Jack walked over to Daniel’s tent, shooing away the two that were perched on the top the tent and unzipped the flapping. “Daniel, get up and get out here!”

“It’s those birds, isn’t it?” Daniel asked resignedly.

Jack sighed as he felt a bird peck at his rear end. “It is; we need to get out of here, some where those birds can’t reach us,” he said, swatting at the bird behind him. “Such as that building you and I came across.”

He let go of the tent flapping, and turned around to see Teal’c, in distress. The big Jaffa was having a terrible time with the birds. The creatures seemed to be fascinated with the emblem on the man’s forehead, and were determined to peck and break it free. Teal’c, his staff weapon firing and scorching a few of the birds only brought more into the fray. Scrambling to his feet, Jack fired his weapon into the air, hitting a few of the birds while scaring away the others that were taunting the man.

“Colonel,” called out Carter. “That worked, for now at least.”

Jack looked over at the Major, her blonde hair covered in a thick layer of bird goop, her hat on the ground. He couldn’t help but smile until he saw the illuminated in the moonlight, a flock of birds returning. Damn it.

“We’ve gotta get out of here,” he shouted, his eye on the sky, as he moved towards the building he and Daniel had discovered. He turned to make sure his team was following him, and went racing to the building. He kicked the door open with his foot and waited for the others to arrive. Carter… Teal’c… Daniel… they all made it. He slammed the door shut, and leaned over, gasping for air.

When enough oxygen had finally re-entered his lungs, O’Neill stood up and took the chance to look around him. His team was here and they were safe, even as inside they could hear the penetrating sound of the birds from the outside.

“Daniel,” he yelled over the noise, “what the hell is going on?”

Daniel, having recovered from the run to the shelter stood in the middle of the room, as far away from the door as possible and shook his head. “Jack, I don’t know. That I never expected. I thought birds slept at night!” He scanned the interior of the room with his flashlight, the beam interchanging with the rest of the team’s lights as they bounced off the walls.

Teal’c stood silently, his hand rubbing his forehead. “They are strange, these winged creatures.”

“You okay, T?” O’Neill asked, remembering that attack the birds launched on his friend.

“I am, O’Neill,” he replied as he took up stance near the door.

Glancing at his watch, O’Neill noted that they still had four hours before sunrise, and he was tired. He had little sleep caused by the annoying night noises and was cranky. A yawn escaped as he rested his back against the wall and slowly slid down it, until he was resting on the floor. A glancing light landed on Daniel and Jack couldn’t help but notice his untied boots, “Daniel, tie up your shoe laces, you’re going to trip over them.” Then stifling another yawn, he closed his eyes a moment then shined his flashlight towards the Jaffa. “Teal’c, start your watch and wake me up in two,” he said as his eyes drifted closed, his head resting against the wall.

Carter watched her CO drift to sleep and walked over to where Daniel had bent down, tying up his laces. “Daniel, what do you think caused them to attack us?”

He stood up as he shook his head. “I don’t know, but my guess is they don’t want us here. Which must be,” he said throwing his hands up in the air, “why we don’t find anything of significance here. Apparently the people of this world took everything with them when they left this world.”

“Did you find anything in your look around the complex yesterday?” Daniel asked, his flashlight beaming on her and her on him.

“No, out of all the buildings we went into, the aviary was the only place we found any writings of any sort.”

“It’s strange though,” Daniel commented, “that they wouldn’t leave any sort of warning for future visitors to the planet.”

Carter nodded. “I agree, which means we are missing something somewhere.” She paused a moment as she continued to rove around the room, her light barely reached the rounded corners of the room. “What was this room used for?”

“When Jack and I checked out the room we didn’t find anything of significance,” he answered as he walked towards one of the walls. “The only thing of interest, were these splatters on the wall which Jack thought was bird droppings.”

“He was right,” Carter stated.

“He was?”

“Yes, I’m not sure what the birds were doing in here, considering there was no point of entry other than the door, but these are bird droppings.” She replied studying the spots.

Daniel sighed as he looked at the walls. “Then we are missing something some where. The building that you went into and the one I went into were the largest in this area, which is why I just knew they had some sort of significance.”

“So you think we are missing something?”

“Yes.” He glanced over towards the doorway where Teal’c was standing guard while Jack slept. Daniel walked over to the wall, shining his flashlight on them as Carter followed suite, and did the same.

For nearly an hour the two of them went inch by inch over the wall, until Carter called out to Daniel. “Daniel, I think I found something.”

“Where?”

“This knob, it looks to be a part of the wall, yet it’s distinctive because of the shadows around the edges.”

Daniel came over to where she was standing and studied the object for a moment and pushed it, forgetting Jack’s warnings of touching things. It made a clicking sound, then nothing.

The two of them, Daniel and Carter, stared at the wall wondering what they had missed when they heard their CO’s voice across the room.

“What the hell is this?”

They turned to see that O’Neill was awake and on his feet, staring up at the ceiling with Teal’c. The roof had opened, allowing them to see outside. Darkness had changed places with a lighter shade due to the pre-arrival of dawn, while the last remnants of the moonlight streamed into the room. They were standing, staring up at the ceiling when a whirring noise echoed in the room. It was coming from the floor below them.

Jack jumped back, leaning against the wall, the gun in his hands while he was on high alert, watching as Carter and Daniel quickly walked over to where he and Teal’c stood. The center of the floor began to open expanding until it stopped about three feet from the edge. Curiosity kept them rooted in place, as a platform arose from down below, and a projection appeared, a hologram of sorts.

A man of a different descent appeared, his garb typical of the 14th century American, stood on the platform and motioned with his hands, speaking in a dialect that Daniel could barely understand. In the background of the hologram, the sky was filled with birds that were swarming above the man. He had fear on his face as he spoke, ducking down at times avoiding a stray bird that came towards him.

Daniel translated the best he could, stumbling on the unfamiliar words. “The birds we raised from young hatchings, hatchlings,” Daniel said correcting himself. “They were our survival, our food on this land. So we raised them from the young and populated our world with food, but the world wasn’t big enough for all of them. They grew and grew until we could no longer control nor eat enough of them. One day they came upon our town and invaded it, stealing our young children and carrying them away, only for us to find the bones buried by the chappai. Slowly our people began to move, removing the items of our ancestors and setting up home on a different world, a place where we were welcomed and safe from these flying animals. But before we left, I was appointed to make this message for any travelers who happened our way and wondered what happened to the inhabitants of the planet. We are gone. We have given the planet back to the world of birds. A warning to future visitors, do not stay.”

Daniel stepped back as the hologram disappeared and the platform sunk back down beneath the floor, the floor slipping back into place. The ceiling above them however remained open, allowing the team to see that the sky was lit with the morning dawn.

“Well, that was interesting,” Jack stated as he adjusted his pack. “From the sounds of it, we need to get off this planet. The sooner the better,” he announced, surprised not to be getting objections. He studied his team. Daniel still looked edgy from his encounter from the birds and Carter was still covered in the bird goop, emitting off a strange smell. And Teal’c, well, he looked uncomfortable. As for himself, he hated to see what he looked like. “First, we need check out our camp and see what we can salvage.”

Teal’c took point as he stepped outside, the staff weapon armed and ready to fire when needed. Carter came out next, followed by Daniel who cautiously exited the building. Finally O’Neill made it out and took a moment to look up in the sky, relieved not to see any of the birds. However, they could easily hear the birds. Their squawking easily carried across the breeze to where they stood in this uninhabited town.

SG1 returned to camp, surprised, yet not surprised to see that most of their belongings had been picked over. The tents were completely destroyed, the tattered material flapping in the slight breeze that filtered through the camp. Long gone was the fire, but evidence displayed that a few of their rations had been dropped into the once roaring fire, left to nothing edible but ash. Finally, having salvaged hardly anything of value, other than their canteens and their packs, they packed up their tattered remains.

No urgings were necessary from O’Neill when it was time to leave the camp and the city of birds. They followed the path they had used when entering the city, taking them back to the stargate. Remembering their first encounter with the birds, O’Neill paused a moment, as he glanced ahead to the trees they were about to enter. “Everyone watch out, this is where we first encountered those specks.” Catching a glare from Carter, O’Neill grinned. “Birds, I mean birds.”

Everyone was eager to get off of the planet so there were no verbal urges needed for anyone to pick up the pace. Teal’c took point, while Daniel and O’Neill brought up the rear. The forest was closing in on them and they had to get through it before they could make it back home. From the city they had faintly heard the squawking of the birds from this vicinity, but the closer they approached the trees the louder it became.

Daniel faltered in his steps, holding back until Jack caught up with him. “Is there not a better way to get to the stargate without going through these trees?”

“Good question Daniel,” Jack answered as he continued to walk. “You viewed the images brought back from the planet on the UAV. Did you see any place around the stargate that wasn’t surrounded by trees?”

“No.”

Jack shifted his gun into his hand, alert for trouble. “Then we have to go through the trees to get to the stargate,” he replied with a sigh.

“But do we have to go through this particular batch of trees?”

For a moment there, it almost sounded as though Daniel was whining. Again Jack sighed. “Daniel, the birds inhabit this planet. Depending on when these people left the planet, chances are the birds had a chance to migrate to all areas here. This is their place,” he said, ducking. “Bird, duck.”

“Duck?” Daniel asked, puzzled at Jack’s statement.

Jack didn’t say anything other than push Daniel to the ground as he went down himself. “Duck, such as look out there is a bird coming,” he growled.

“Oh,” Daniel replied sheepishly. He looked up to see that the bird had flown off towards the city, away from them.

“Carter, Teal’c,” Jack asked, calling out to them through his radio, “You guys okay?”

“We are. Colonel,” Carter replied, “We haven’t seen any birds, but we definitely hear them sir.”

“We’re on your six. Daniel and I just encountered a renegade,” O’Neill answered back. “Keep an eye for them, and wait for us to catch up with you.”

“Ok Col…” just then the sound of a staff weapon firing and rapid gunfire cut off the transmission between them.

Loudly muttering an expletive, Jack pushed Daniel and told him to run. They caught up with the rest of the team members within minutes to find them surrounded by birds. Firing his weapon up in the air, a few of the birds scattered, mainly the ones who were attacking Teal’c.

Jumping over some fallen tree’s, Jack made it over to Teal’c who was hunched over on the ground trying to protect his head. “I’ve got you, Teal’c,” Jack said, as helped his friend to his feet. “Just stay with me.” Jack took point and continued to lead the team through the woods, only to be attacked a few more times. But just as quickly as the birds appeared, the consistent rapid gunfire and firing of the staff weapon chased them away.

It was with great relief when the Stargate was within view, their exit from the forest inevitable and welcome. Slowly Teal’c walked over to the base of the Stargate, his eyes on the skies while his hands remained tightly clasped on his staff weapon. He was just relieved to know that the birds were no longer taunting or bothering him.

“Carter, start dialing up,” O’Neill demanded as he looked at his team. They were lucky this time, being able to make it off this planet without any serious injuries. Glancing down at Daniel’s feet, Jack couldn’t help but shake his head. “Daniel, your boots are untied.”

The kawoosh of the stargate caught everyone’s attention, while Daniel looked down at the loose laces that were flopping on the ground. A glance behind him at the birds, and then the opened wormhole instantly made him forget Jack’s statement, eager to get off this planet.

Carter called out, “I sent the code, sir!”

“Let’s go!” O’Neill replied stepping up on the stone steps, then stepping into the shimmering blue horizon. Daniel stepped in behind, followed by Teal’c and then Carter.

*****

There were no teams due in for hours, Hammond realized as he sat in his office listening to the chevrons locking into place. He took the stairs down to the control room and stood next to Siler, watching the glowing chevrons wondering who it could be.

“Close the iris,” he demanded while watching the SF teams run into the gate room, setting up their stance of defense. Their guns drawn, it had to be a scary site to walk into when coming in from the other side. He had never experienced it, but Colonel O’Neill and a few of his other teams had complained about it. However, once he explained the purpose they would usually back off with understanding. Hammond and the home base never knew who it was who was attempting to gain access, and if a team was arriving earlier than planned they had to make sure it was one of their own teams, and not some one who had stolen a code.

A few moments later the code for SG-1 went flashing across the screen. Hammond gave the order and the iris was opened.

The first one to enter exit the worm hole was O’Neill, followed closely by Daniel. Quickly the rest of the team returned to earth. As the worm hole was disengaging, Hammond watched as Daniel tripped, and stumbled into O’Neill.

*****

Coming into the gate room and having a team of SF’s pointing their guns at him and his team wasn’t something that Jack normally enjoyed. But understanding the threat the gate posed to earth, and after Hammond explained it, he accepted the sight. Well, he accepted it as part of his job, but he still didn’t like it.

A movement from the ranks of men caught Jack’s attention as he walked down the ramp, and he looked into the eyes of one of the SF when he felt Daniel trip into him. Jack fell and felt a sharp burning sensation go through his chest as Daniel fall into him, pushing his body onto the metal ramp.

Hammond, who had just ordered for the SF men to stand down, looked down at the confusion in the gate room with puzzlement. What on earth was going on? He watched the proceedings as the Carter and Teal’c reached down to help untangle the two fallen members of SG-1.

Teal’c helped Daniel to his feet, taking note of the loose shoelaces from the younger man’s boot. After making sure that the archaeologist was ok, he turned to see if O’Neill needed assistance. Sprawled faced down on the ramp, O’Neill had not moved. It was this stillness in the man’s body that concerned Teal’c as he bent down to check on his friend.

“Colonel O’Neill,” Teal’c asked. “Are you well?”

There was no answer.

Teal’c looked up at Carter who was talking with Daniel, just realizing that the Colonel had not stood up. Concerned, she knelt down next to Teal’c, and with the Jaffa’s help, pulled the Colonel over onto his back, expecting the man to make a smart-ass comment about falling.

She gasped.

There was blood.

Everywhere.

And it was spilling directly from Colonel O’Neill. The blood had saturated his clothing and was dripping down onto the gate room below, and the man was unconscious. “Oh my God,” Carter cried out, her hands fluttering on the man’s body seeking for the source of the injury. “Get a medic in here!” she screamed, pressing her hands against O’Neill’s chest.

Daniel looked down at the activities in disbelief, not fully understanding what was happening when he realized that Hammond was yelling at them from the control room.

“What the hell is going on down there?”

Shock was evident on Daniel’s face when he finally realized what was going on. Looking up at the General, he numbly answered. “Jack’s been shot.”

Hammond’s frustration turned to shock then speechlessness.

Racing out of the control room, Hammond went directly into the gate room, pushing his way past his men and trying to understand the confusion that was occurring in that location. Yelling at the commander of the SF team to put his men into a lockdown room, he hurried over to the activity on the ramp in front of the stargate. The medics had just arrived and were in the process of loading Colonel O’Neill onto the gurney. But Hammond saw enough to have him worried. His second in command was covered in blood, his shirt had been stripped away to show the ugly intrusion the bullet had made into O’Neill’s chest on his left side. Hammond looked away, sick at what he was seeing. What made it even worse was the knowledge that this shooting had happened here on earth, in the gate room by friendly fire. Damn it, the general cursed. He was going to get to the bottom of this. Turning aside, he saw the rest of the SG-1 team standing on the ramp, their gear still in their possession, standing numbly at the proceedings. Carter was standing listlessly on the ramp, her hands covered in O’Neill’s blood.

“Major Carter,” Hammond said as he addressed the woman before him. “Go ahead and get cleaned up.”

Carter looked up, her face showing the disbelief of what had just occurred and shook her head. “Sir, what happened? What happened to him?”

Hammond recognized the signs of shock and each of the people standing before him were experiencing it. “Carter, Teal’c and Daniel, I’m ordering the three of you to go get cleaned up and change before returning to the infirmary.” Seeing that Carter was about to protest, he held up his hand. “That’s an order, major.”

Carter nodded.

General Hammond watched as the three remaining members silently left the gate room, while he remained behind. His eyes rested on the pool of blood that collected on the floor in front of him. He was going to find out who shot O’Neill if he had to turn the base upside down to do it.

*****

He was hot.

That was the first thing Jack noticed as he slowly awakened from his induced fog, but what he didn’t understand was why he was surrounded by machines that were beeping at him. He struggled to open his eyes, but it was just so hard. He moved slightly, but a blinding pain seared through his chest.

He must have groaned because he felt someone hold onto his hand, while other hands touched and explored his body. Jack wanted to talk, but while his lips moved it took too much effort to create any words to say. Instead he relaxed and fell back into the welcoming darkness.

*****

“Major, can you tell me about what happened?”

Carter, along with Teal’c and Daniel, were sitting in the briefing room. They had showered and changed, and had already spent long hours in the infirmary until Hammond demanded they have a debriefing.

Rubbing her hands together, Sam tried to make sense of what she remembered, as she stepped into the gate room. “Sir, I really don’t know what happened,” she replied. “We were leaving the planet early due to a bird infestation and the last thing I remember after stepping through the gate was walking into the gate room with the SF surrounding us.” Rubbing her forehead, she wracked her head for something she must have missed. “I stepped through right behind Teal’c, and within seconds chaos ensued.”

“Thank you, Major,” Hammond replied. He then turned his attention towards Daniel.

Daniel sat at the desk, focused on the paper in front of him, not moving. He was thinking of the last thing Jack had told him, and that was to tie his shoe laces. He didn’t. Now look at where Jack was now. It was his fault that Jack was injured. His fault, and by just sitting here he couldn’t figure out how to make it better. In fact, why did it happen at all?

“How could this happen?” Daniel suddenly blurted out.

“What do you mean?”

“We have this highly secure base, and yet Jack gets shot by one of our own men, and no one can find him. How can this happen?”

The general sighed and shook his head. “I don’t understand that myself, Dr. Jackson. From what has been thus far been reported to me, the base was going through the process of shift change when the call was made for security in the gateroom.” Hammond sighed. “There were more men in there than there should have been, and in the confusion after the shooting, someone may have been able to slip away.”

“But still, General,” Daniel replied with vehemence, standing up to make his point. He waved his hands in the air, and then pointed down towards the stargate. “Someone ought to know something about what happened down there!”

“I agree, Dr. Jackson, and that is why we are fully involved with internal affairs, to thoroughly investigate this situation.” General Hammond rested his forearms on the table. “Would you please sit down now, doctor?”

Daniel, his attention elsewhere was staring out the glass, towards the stargate, the images of the day playing back in his head.

“Dr. Jackson?”

“What? Oh yes,” he answered distractedly, cutting his eyes away from the stargate and looking towards the General. “What did you ask?”

“Sit down please,” Hammond repeated.

This time Daniel followed through, and sank down in the chair, resting his head in his hands that were propped up on the table.

“Dr. Jackson, what can you tell me about what happened down there,” Hammond asked, studying the young man. He couldn’t help but notice how fidgety Daniel had become, unwilling or unable to look up at anyone. Still Daniel wouldn’t answer. “Son?”

Lifting his head, Daniel finally spoke. “We were leaving the planet because of those stupid birds,” he said. “Before we left, Jack told me to tie my shoe laces.” At this point, Daniel paused. “Oh my God! What if I was the one that caused Jack to be injured? I fell over my shoelaces and fell into him!”

“Hold on a second here,” Hammond replied. “This is not your fault. Whoever it was intended on killing O’Neill, and all you did was fall into the colonel. If anything, you may have saved his life.”

“But…”

“But nothing,” Hammond replied sternly. “You fell into him, and from what Dr. Frasier has reported, if the bullet had struck just millimeters to the right we’d be preparing for a funeral at the moment.” He shook his head as he looked over at the distraught archaeologist. He softened his voice. “Daniel, as I just said, you may have saved the colonel’s life by falling into him when you did.”

“What?” Suddenly Daniel couldn’t sit still any longer. “Sir,” Daniel queried, his hands fidgeting in front of him, “may I be excused?”

Hammond nodded his way, knowing that Daniel was going to be of no help at the moment, and instead turned his attention towards Teal’c. “Teal’c what can you tell me of the situation?”

Daniel grabbed his paperwork and nearly ran out of the conference room, as Teal’c began to speak.

“General Hammond, I believe it is one of our men who shot the Colonel. I observed the Colonel looking at a distraction to his left, and I am certain that he was looking at someone just before he was shot.”

“Teal’c,” Hammond exclaimed, his voice tinged with excitement. “Can you identify this man?”

“I can not General Hammond,” Teal’c replied solemnly, “however I believe that Colonel O’Neill can identify the man.”

Hammond’s excitement dissipated and shook his head with regret. “And at the moment he’s in no condition to talk. As we speak, Internal Affairs is doing interviews with each of the SF men who were assigned to the duty and so far nothing has been uncovered.” It had been a long day and from what he had gleaned from the team it wasn’t going to get any easier. There were no easy answers and no reason why his colonel was shot on his own home world, in, Hammond thought, my base. And it was that very thing that was causing Hammond to get hot under his collar, even now in the briefing room. “Ok, Carter, Teal’c, thank you for your report. Make sure all the details are provided. We’ll have a briefing regarding your latest mission at a later time, but until then please go ahead and write up the reports.”

“Yes sir,” Carter replied. Her head ached trying to understand what was going on, but none of it was making sense. The colonel hadn’t had any problems on base, he hadn’t mentioned anyone after him, so what was going on. Who was after the Colonel?

She got up from her seat and followed Teal’c out into the hall, and wordlessly walked alongside him as they took the long hallway to the infirmary.

*****

“Jack?”

There was a nagging voice that wouldn’t go away, much like a fly swarming over a sugar cube, Jack thought as he tried to push it away. His hands were heavy and didn’t make too much of an impression, because the voice was back, insisting on being acknowledged. He was comfortable where he was, it was warm and dark and he knew the moment he left this place was going to be followed by sharp pains throughout his body. He’d rather not venture there again.

“Jack!”

There it was again. Would whoever it was just go away and leave him alone!

“I’m not going away Jack,” the voice answered back.

That’s strange, Jack thought. Did I speak? He recognized the voice but at the moment he was just so tired. Tired, he mumbled, let me sleep.

“Jack, you need to wake up,” the voice insisted.

Oh for crying out loud! Jack grumbled to himself, the voice was insistent, whoever it was he realized. He felt someone’s hand on his own, squeezing it. The voice continued to talk, which meant Jack found it hard to retreat back to the warm place he had been. He moved slightly and could feel the tubes that were running into his body move with him. With nothing on beneath the sheet that covered him, too much movement was probably not a good thing. He moved again, and this time a groan escaped as he felt an area on his body that was spiking heat and pain.

“Come on, Jack,” the voice spoke, “open your eyes. For me, Jack.”

Who was me? Jack wondered. I guess the only way for me to find out would be to open my eyes, he thought. It took a magnitude of willpower to do it, considering sleep was beckoning at him from the edge of his consciousness. Briefly he opened his eyes, but immediately a flash of light blinded him. He groaned as he tried to move away from the light. The voice was still there encouraging him to open his eyes, so for the voice he would. Once more, he struggled to open his eyes and this time he succeeded, even though he squinted at the glare. The voice called out for someone to turn out the lights, and the glare was instantly reduced to a soft glow. Ahhhh, that was better. This time he looked at the voice and smiled.

Daniel.

“Hey…” Jack tried to whisper. Tubes were blocking his passageway, causing speech to be impossible. But he wanted to talk, he was awake, he wanted to know what he was doing here. Jack formed the words, but nothing came out. “Wha…”

“Oh my God, Jack,” Daniel cried out. “You’re awake.” Grabbing the call button on the side of the bed, he punched the “call nurse” button as he leaned towards Jack. “You can’t talk right now, Jack. Dr. Frasier had to put a tube down your throat to help you breathe. Just sit there, someone will be here.”

Again Jack tried to speak. “Wha…”

“What happened?” Daniel asked. “You were shot Jack.” He shook his head as he stared down at his friend. Jack wasn’t looking too good, but considering how he had looked when he had been brought into the infirmary he was doing a heck of a lot better.

“Daniel?”

It was Dr. Frasier. “How is he doing?”

“He just woke up,” Daniel replied, keeping his eyes on Jack.

“Colonel, how are you doing?” she questioned, not really expecting an answer as she checked his vital signs.

Jack tried to reply, but he was reminded that with the tube down his throat it was impossible.

Dr. Frasier noticed this and smiled. “If you work with me Colonel, we’ll get this tube out so you can talk. Sound good?” She watched as he nodded. “Ok, on the count of three I want you to breathe out.”

On three, Jack breathed out and could feel the slippery tube being pulled out from his throat. He couldn’t help but cough, relieved to have the slimy tube out of his throat.

“Better Colonel?”

Jack nodded. He closed his eyes, resting them as he felt the doctor fiddle with the bandage on his chest. Remembering, but not quite remembering the details of what put him in the hospital bed, he breathed in deep, but then began coughing.

“Take it easy, Colonel,” Dr. Frasier suggested, watching as O’Neill fought to regain his breath. “Let me put on this oxygen mask, and then I want you to breathe deeply,” she said, adjusting an oxygen mask in her hand, ready to place it over the Colonel’s mouth.

Jack shook his head.

“You need it colonel, until your lungs become strong enough

“What happened?” he whispered hoarsely, holding Dr. Frasier at bay.

“You were shot,” Frasier answered. “Do you remember what happened?”

Jack closed his eyes then shook his head.

Impatient, Daniel stood to his feet and looked down at Jack. “Jack, do you know who shot you?”

The man in bed remained still, no answer forthcoming. Frasier looked over at Daniel, noting the concern on the man’s face. “He’s asleep. That’s why he’s not answering,” she explained as she attached the breathing mask on the Colonel’s face, before she motioned for Daniel to follow her. Standing near the foot of the colonel’s bed, she continued, “Let him rest. This has been a rough time for him, and once he recovers from surgery I’m sure he will remember.”

Daniel nodded, his eyes darting back and forth between Janet and Jack.

“You need to get some rest, Daniel.”

“I will, but not yet,” Daniel replied as he moved away, pulling a chair over to the Colonel’s bed. He settled into it as he looked up at the doctor. “I’ll be fine, Janet. I’ll watch him.”

Janet knew that the only way that she would be able to get Daniel away was to order him to, but she was not ready yet to make that drastic of a move. He was fine for now, exercising whatever demons were haunting him. She nodded, then moved away to check on her other patients.

*****

General Hammond sat at his desk, staring at his phone in frustration. The internal investigation was going no where, the SF men having been interrogated and their weapons examined. No one who was stationed to be in the room had fired their gun which meant that it had to have been someone who was not a member of the SF who had joined the ranks. No one had any answers as to who it was or why it happened. The headache that had begun the day before was blossoming and had no promises for ending soon. He had his head in his hands when he heard a knock on the door.

“Come in,” he ordered as he removed his hands, sitting straighter in his chair.

Major Carter entered into the office, a video tape in her hand and a tired look on her face. Hammond knew that Carter had been working hard on this case, trying to find the trigger man who had shot O’Neill. In fact all the SG-1 team members had been hard at work, but no one was any closer to the truth than the day that the Colonel had been shot. “May I help you?”

“Sir, I was going over the surveillance video from the gate room and wasn’t able to find out who was there who shouldn’t have been,” she replied. Running her hands through her hair, she paced for a moment then stopped in front of Hammond’s desk. “However, I found something that substantiates Teal’c’s claim that the Colonel may know or saw who shot him,” she said, holding up the cassette tape.

Hammond nodded, and motioned for her to go into the adjacent room, where he followed her. He watched as she slid the tape into the machine, then stood back and hit play. Black and white mages flickered on the screen, starting with his order of sending the men into the gate room. The order to open the iris was given, and Hammond saw the shimmering wormhole become accessible.

“This, sir,” Carter said, pointing to the screen with her finger. “is where Colonel O’Neill comes out of the wormhole, and just as he exits, he looks down at the SF men surrounding the gate room. But there is something,” she points, tapping to the edge of the screen, “something over here that catches his attention.” The tape continued to play, showing O’Neill looking off to his left. “He saw something, someone, because it is right after that when Daniel trips over his shoe lace and falls into Colonel O’Neill. If you notice on the tape, sir, the Colonel is still looking to his left when Daniel falls into him. Unfortunately, due to the location of the camera I can’t see his reaction to what ever it is that he has seen.” The rest of the tape played out, but neither Carter nor Hammond watched the drama unfold.

“So, Major,” Hammond asked. “You corroborate with Teal’c the statement that there is a chance that Colonel O’Neill knows who shot him?”

“I do sir, either that or saw something that would point us in the right direction,” Carter replied.

*****

Jack was so tired.

But he could hear the voice of his team standing around him, talking. The words were indistinguishable, but the low tone of their voices prevented him from falling back into the dark chasm of sleep.

He sighed.

“Colonel!”

He must have made a noise, eliciting the cry from Major Carter. Shifting on his bed, he couldn’t help but grimace at the searing heat from his chest that kept his body trapped in pain.

“Come on Jack, open your eyes,” pleaded Daniel.

Why not, Jack thought. Maybe then they would leave him alone.

Slowly he opened his eyes, catching the sight of Daniel and Carter standing to the right of the bed, and Teal’c on the other. “Hey there,” he slurred.

Daniel grimaced. Obviously his friend was doped up on drugs, either that or extremely sleepy. “How are you doing?”

“Peachy,” he replied, closing his eyes.

“Wait a second, Jack,” Daniel said, impatient to find answers. “We want to ask you a question.”

Jack sighed, his body already seeking the comfort of sleep. “What?” he whispered.

“Do you know who shot you?”

Jack said nothing. What had happened on that day? They had just returned from the planet of the birds, and he had just exited the wormhole. There had been something that had caught his attention to the left and he had turned to see what it was, and then that is when he saw him.

“Jack,” Daniel queried eagerly, “you do remember don’t you? Who shot you Jack?”

“Mop boy,” he mumbled, his eyes landing on each of his team members. “It was mop boy.”

Daniel straightened up and looked over at his other team members, “Mop boy?”

“Colonel, who is mop boy?” Carter asked, the name, or nickname not making any sense. She looked around for the doctor, wondering how many drugs that Colonel O’Neill had in his system.

The colonel swallowed hard, closing his eyes and still seeing the boy, his gun trained on him as he exited the gate. At that moment Jack knew that the kid had no intentions on putting his gun down, despite the order just seconds before to stand down. There was something in his eyes, something that alerted Jack to danger. But before he could do or say anything, the shot was fired in the same instance that Daniel fell into him.

Jack opened his eyes and looked over at Daniel. “You saved my life.”

“I, what?” stuttered Daniel.

“He was aiming for me,” the colonel grunted as he moved on the bed, “and he would have got me if you hadn’t pushed me aside.” Jack paused a moment, grimacing at the slicing pain that started in his chest then went rolling through the rest of his body as he tried to move. “I might not be here right now,” he added solemnly. “He was aiming for a kill.”

“Who was aiming for you, Jack, who was it?”

Again Jack sighed, his eyes closing from the sleep he so desperately needed. So many answers they wanted, so few he had to give. “Mop boy…” Then he shook his head, “No more questions, please,” he said, his head lolling against his pillow. “Let me sleep.”

At this point Dr. Frasier appeared, approaching the bed. “The colonel is right, he needs to sleep.” She walked over to his side, and studying the monitors and then rested her hand on his forehead. “He’s still running a low grade fever, so he needs all the rest he can get to fight the infection that is still in him.”

The remainder of the SG1 team moved away from the bed, but stood to the side and talked amongst them selves.

“Who is this mop boy to whom Colonel O’Neill refers to?” queried Teal’c.

Carter shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. Is it someone who mops the floors?”

Daniel also looked as clueless as the others, and was about to say something when Dr. Frasier approached.

“So was he able to identify the person who shot him?”

“Mop boy,” Daniel said, throwing his hands up as he said it.

“Mop boy? Who’s that?”

“That’s what we would like to know,” replied Carter, who took a moment to look over at the colonel who was now asleep. “But that’s all he said, and at this point I’m not really sure how much of it he really knows.”

Frasier studied the group a moment then pursed her lips. “You know, that name that the colonel mentioned sounds familiar. I seem to recall passing him an airman in the hall one day, and Colonel O’Neill referring to him as “mop boy”.”

“Really, Janet?” Carter exclaimed. “Do you think you could identify him?”

The doctor shook her head. “No, I definitely couldn’t. We had just passed a group of men, and the colonel just mumbled the name under his breath.”

“So then we can ascertain that it is someone with whom Colonel O’Neill has come into contact with in the past,” Teal’c noted with pleasure.

“It is, but who is it?” Carter replied with frustration. “The only thing we have to go on is a name, “Mop Boy” and to me, that isn’t much of a name!” She shook her head, and then let out a sigh. “We’ll have to report this to the General.” Turning to face Frasier, she motioned her hands towards the colonel. “Janet, the instant he wakes up again, let one of us know.”

Dr. Frasier nodded, understanding the frustration that the team in front of her was experiencing. She herself was equally frustrated, and having recently treated the General with migraines, she knew that this experience was wearing down on him also. “I’ll do that Major.”

Turning away, the doctor heard the team leave the area as she focused her attention on the man in the bed before her. The colonel had fought hard, and fortunately, as she had stated before he was a lucky man. If he hadn’t moved when he was did at that instant, they would have been looking for a murderer. Just the thought sent a shiver down the doctor’s back as she gazed down on the sleeping colonel.

*****

It was just under a week after the shooting, and the Colonel was still in the infirmary overcoming the effects of the gunshot and surgery. For the second time in one day, Major Samantha Carter found herself standing in the general’s office. Earlier she had presented evidence to the General that had been swiftly ignored as being implausible thinking that a rogue Go’auld team had followed them from the planet. She had to admit, she didn’t think it was true but she was grasping at straws looking for evidence, a clue as to what happened. But this time she had evidence for the General, and from the looks of her commander he needed some good news at the moment. She knew that the stress from the Colonel’s shooting was affecting everyone, but it was obviously causing mental anguish on the man in front of her. From what she had gathered, he was under pressure to find the man who shot Colonel O’Neill, and he put undue pressure upon himself considering it occurred on his base. She cleared her throat. “General?”

Hammond sighed as he lifted his head from his hands, looking up at the blonde headed major standing before him. “Yes, major?”

Carter paused a moment, taking in the pale features of the General. “Are you okay, sir?”

“I’ll be fine once we solve this problem,” Hammond replied dejectedly, then realizing the depressing tone of his voice he sat up, giving his attention to the major. “What do you have to report?”

“Sir, I was studying the report that the internal investigation did on our men, and there is one story here that doesn’t ring true. I mean,” she held up her hands, expecting the General to speak, “it’s what he’s not saying that bothers me.”

“What do you mean, Carter?” He was loosing patience, fast.

“This statement by Lieutenant Thompson doesn’t ring true. He’s says everything right in the interview, but as I watched the video of him without the sound, he looked scared sir. He was scared of something, or someone.”

Hammond rubbed his head viciously trying to rub away the growing headache. “So why didn’t internal affairs discover this? It seems like they are trained to discover inconsistencies like this.”

“I don’t know sir,” Carter replied with resignation. “But I would advise that we speak to this Lieutenant as soon as possible.”

“Thank you, Major,” Hammond said, reaching for the phone. “I’ll see that he is brought to my office immediately.” Then motioning for the chair in front of him, he continued. “No need to leave, Major; you may remain.”

Carter, who was standing next to the door paused, then returned. “Oh what, oh yes sir. Thank you, sir.” She sat as the General made his call.

*****

“NO!”

Jack gasped as he abruptly sat up on the bed, sweat pouring down his face while his body shook as the images of the nightmare faded from memory. Slapping his hand against his forehead, he left it there as he rubbed his face. The dream wouldn’t go away. It seemed like each time he closed his eyes, he would see the airman, the look of absolute hate on his face as he shot at him. The rifle, the flare of the bullet exiting the gun, everything was etched in his memory. As he sat upright, he felt his heart beat slowing down. The sound of footsteps scurrying next to his bedside nearly made him groan. Could he not ever wake up on his own without someone hovering around him?

“Colonel?”

That was Dr. Frasier. This was probably the third time he had had this dream, and the third time that she was the one who was sent over to him. He shook his head. “I’m fine doc.”

“No you’re not, sir,” she answered as she picked up his wrist. “Your pulse is racing and you are still shaking.”

“No I’m not.”

“Yes you are, sir. Do you have any chest pain or do you feel nausea?”

“No,” Jack replied, “but I do have to go pee.”

Frasier smiled. “A typical symptom.”

“Whatever,” Jack replied as he began to feel the discomforts in his bladder. “Say, when can I leave? Go home, rest there instead of here?”

“Colonel, you were shot almost a week ago, and from these nightmares that you are experiencing, I’m not sure you need to be going anywhere,” she replied as she checked the Colonel’s vitals.

“Really, Doc, I’m fine,” Jack whined, desperate to be released from this prison called in the infirmary.

“I’ll tell you what, Colonel,” Dr. Frasier replied as she sternly looked down at him. “Providing you get a good night’s sleep tonight, I’ll let you go home tomorrow.”

“Really?” Jack answered incredulously.

She needed the bed and the room, and was more than eager to get this cranky officer out of her infirmary.

“Hey Doc,” Jack said, interrupting the doctor’s thoughts. “I still gotta go. “Do I have to use the pan, or can I actually go down to the latrine and take care of business?”

Dr. Frasier sighed. Each day it was the same drill, the same question. “Colonel, you’ll go nowhere. If you have such a desire to use a regular toilet, you can use the one next to my office.”

Jack nearly jumped out of the bed in his eagerness to go to the toilet, and was just as happy to be wearing scrubs and not the typical gown that exposed his backside to all as he left his bed for the toilet.

“I expect you back in bed, Colonel, as soon as you finish,” Dr. Frasier called out. She received an impatient wave of a hand as a response. “Officers,” she muttered as she moved to her other duties.

Jack, barefooted, scurried to the back of the infirmary to where Dr. Frasier’s office was located, and slipped into toilet. Quickly finishing his business, it was as he was washing his hands, that he heard the door open and looked up expecting to see Dr. Frasier.

It wasn’t.

“You’re a hard one to kill.”

It was “mop boy” and for some reason Jack had a feeling that is not what the airman wanted to hear at the moment. Dropping the paper towel he had used into the waste basket, Jack slowly turned to face the airman. Jack cleared his throat as he held up his hands in a non-threatening manner. “What do you want?”

“I want you dead,” the airman replied. A gun was in his hand and was pointed directly at the colonel who was now inching his way over to the door. “Don’t move, colonel, or I will shoot you again with out a second thought.”

Jack paused. Damn, he had no gun and he had nothing to defend himself. He bit the inside of his lip as he tried to find some sort of reasoning tactic to try with the man before him. “Look, I don’t know why you want to kill me, but surely we can talk about this.”

“Shut up!”

Jack grimaced.

A noise at the door alerted both men to an incoming visitor. Jack looked at it as a delivery, but quickly lost that notion when he felt the airman’s arms wrap around his neck.

“Don’t make a move, Colonel,” the voice whispered in his ear.

“Colonel O’Neill,” called out a voice. “Are you ok in there? Dr. Frasier is wondering what is keeping you. Do you need any help?”

Jack grunted unable to make another sound with his airways being severely blocked.

“Sir?” The door handle turned as Jack wrestled his hands up to the arm that held him in place.

“Tell her to go away,” the airman whispered in O’Neill’s ear. He pressed the gun up against the Colonel’s forehead for emphasis and slightly loosening his hold on the man’s neck.

“I’m fine, nurse,” Jack called out, his voice gravely from its restricted air passage. “I’ll be out in a minute.” The door handle stopped moving as she let it go. Both men heard her walk away, but the pressure on Jack’s neck increased.

“Listen to me, O’Neill, this isn’t over by a long shot,” the airman said. “I’ll get you when you are least expecting it, and not in a place like this.” Releasing his hold on O’Neill, he allowed the Colonel to gasp for breath before bringing the pistol down on the man’s head, watching as O’Neill crumpled to the floor, falling in a heap. Anger went through airman’s veins, the feeling of ice cold blood as he thought as the times that he had to suffer the indignation of being called mop boy by this man. He trained his gun on the man below him, before holstering it. Then he carefully opened the door, and when no one was looking slipped out of the bathroom and slunk out the back door of the infirmary.

*****

Hammond and Carter were still waiting for the arrival of Lieutenant Thompson when an airman appeared at the door.

“General Hammond, sir,” the man announced at attention.

“Yes, airman?”

“We are unable to find Lieutenant Thompson, sir. He checked in this morning and should be on base, but no one can locate him at the moment.”

Hammond scowled unintentionally at the airman before dismissing him. “Now we have a problem. We must locate this Lieutenant Thompson immediately and see what he can shed on this situation.” Moving away from his desk, he stood up and began to pace the office when the phone rang. “Hammond here.” The man listened intently to the conversation on the other side and began barking out orders, and then slammed down the phone. “We have a situation in the infirmary invovling Colonel O’Neill.”

“What?!?” Carter exclaimed as she stood to her feet. “What happened?”

Hammond shook his head as he moved out of the office, “I don’t know, Major, but you can join me and we’ll go find out.”

The two of them, General Hammond and Major Carter hurried along the corridor when they were joined by Teal’c and Daniel.

“Hey guys, I was just on my way to the infirmary to check on Jack,” Daniel said noticing belatedly the look on the General and Carter’s faces. “Um, what’s going on?”

Distracted, Carter glanced over at Daniel. “We don’t know, but the General received a call from the infirmary regarding a situation that involved Colonel O’Neill.”

“Is Jack okay, does any one know,” Daniel asked, running his hands abstractedly through his hair.

“We don’t know, Daniel,” Carter replied with an edge as she glanced at the archaeologist. “That’s why we are going to the infirmary to find out.”

“Oh, yeah,” Daniel replied, regretting asking the question in the first place. Quietly he walked alongside Teal’c wondering just what was going on, but not daring to ask another question.

Together the four some entered the infirmary, with the General leading the way over to the Colonel’s bed. O’Neill lay on the bed, his eyes half closed with his hand resting against the side of his head.

Dr. Frasier appeared at the bedside, addressing the General. “There you are, sir. Colonel O’Neill had a situation earlier and refuses to say anything about what happened.”

“What was the situation, if I may ask?” queried the General.

“Colonel O’Neill had gone to the toilet, to the one next to my office in the back. He was gone for a long time, longer than necessary,” Dr. Frasier said as she turned to study the man resting on the bed. “Earlier I had sent my nurse to check on him, but he told her would be out momentarily. Ten minutes later I realized that he was still not in his bed, and I thought he had snuck out the back door. But, I checked the toilet first,” she said as she shook her head. “I nearly bypassed it, but the Colonel’s lucky I checked there first. I found him passed out on the floor.”

“Colonel,” gasped Carter, scanning the face of the colonel. “Are you okay?”

O’Neill nodded then quickly wished he didn’t. He had a splitting headache and was unwilling to take anything for the pain. Fearing that any admittance to pain would keep him in the clutches of Dr. Frasier and her crew any longer, he kept silent. But from the looks of his team mates, the General and Dr. Frasier, he wasn’t fooling anyone.

“Doctor, how is he?” Hammond asked after a quick glance at the Colonel.

“He had a blunt trauma to the back of his head, but he claims he hit his head on the door when he fell. But sir,” Frasier said, emphasizing her words. “I don’t believe him. The type of injury he has is similar to one where he is hit with a blunt object, such as,” she paused, “a gun.”

Hammond had a feeling there had to be more to this story than what was being told. Colonel O’Neill had a look on his face, one that he recognized immediately, that he was hiding something. What it was he wasn’t sure, but he was going to get to the bottom of it right now.

“Colonel, do you wish to share with us what went on in there, unless,” he paused for effect. “You wish to admit that you had a fainting spell, at which point I’m sure the doctor would find cause to keep you in here longer.”

The look on the Colonel’s face was well worth the threat, Carter realized as she watched her commanding officer fight with the emotions. Finally the idea of staying in the infirmary longer must have been what broke him down to share what happened.

“He was here,” O’Neill answered reluctantly.

“Who was here, Colonel?”

O’Neill sighed and rubbed his head before looking up at the General. “Mop boy, sir.”

“Mop boy?” The General looked at his second in command incredulously. “You mean he was here and threatened you?” Hammond shook his head. He couldn’t believe it. The man they were looking for was still on base, threatening the colonel, and they were no closer to finding him than the day the incident occurred.

O’Neill nodded his head, unaware that his hand was clutching his neck.

“Colonel, I need to know what happened, everything.”

“Hammond, sir, “Jack started hesitantly, “There’s not much to tell. I went to take a leak, and when I was washing my hands, he appeared.” Shaking his head, he continued, “I never even heard the door open, but there he was. He put me in a neck hold and whispered in my ear, telling me…” Jack paused then stopped, fingering the edges of his blanket.

“Telling you what?” Daniel asked, just as eager as the others to hear what Jack had to say.

Jack looked up, unwilling to involve his team with this airman’s vengeance. “He just said that I was a hard one to kill,” he replied pausing, relieving the moment in the bathroom. Clearing his throat, he continued, “Then the nurse came to the door and rather than involve her, I told her to go away. A few minutes later,” Jack said leaving out details purposely, “he hit me over the head and left. That’s the last I knew until I woke up here in bed,” then sheepishly admitted, “with a terrible headache.” Jack watched as Dr. Frasier appeared with medication in hand but he waved her away. “I don’t need anything, doc.”

“General, sir,” Carter interjected as she looked at her commander. “Do you think that Lieutenant Thompson is the one we need to be looking for?”

“Lieutenant Thompson?” questioned Jack. He sat up in his bed, grimacing slightly at the pain that radiated through his head. Out of his peripheral vision he could see Dr. Frasier motioning to someone behind her, and nearly groaned out loud.

Carter turned to look at her CO and nodded. “Yes sir, we believe he may know more about the situation than he is letting on.” She looked over at Daniel and Teal’c, before adding, “He may be the killer.”

The pounding headache wouldn’t go away, and this latest news really caused the hammers in his head to work overtime. Jack closed his eyes a moment and clutched his head, unaware of Dr. Frasier who slipped over to his IV line and inserted a pain medication. He felt the slight tug on the line in his arm and looked up to see the doctor pulling out the needle. “Doc,” he whined.

Frasier raised her eyebrows as she looked down at O’Neill. “Are you whining Colonel?”

O’Neill shook his head and glared at the doctor before turning to look at Carter. “So Major, do we have a picture of this Lieutenant?”

“Yes sir,” Carter replied distractedly, her thoughts lost in the situation and this latest attempt on the Colonel’s life. “I need to go back to my office and get the file.”

Hammond looked over at Carter. “Do it now, Major.”

“Yes sir.”

Leaving the infirmary Carter headed directly to her office, her mind only on the file and the possible missing link to this incident. Unaware of her surroundings, she plowed into an airman who was quickly walking down the corridor in the opposite direction. Loosing her balance, she fell to the floor expecting a helping hand from the airman who ran into her. She looked up to see the corridor empty. How rude, she muttered under her breath as she slowly stood to her feet. Once at her office she pushed open the door, suddenly aware of something not being right. First of all, the lights were on. She distinctively remembered turning them off before going to see the general. Pausing, she looked around the room to see if there was anything out of place. She didn’t notice anything. Then remembering her mission, she dug through the folders and located Lieutenant Thompson’s file in the stack sticking it under her arm. This time, she flipped off the lights and closed the door behind her, locking the office.

As Carter walked along the corridor, she opened the file to refresh her memory when she gasped. The picture was missing. What? It was there earlier, she knew it had been. Leaning up against the wall, she studied the page where the picture had been attached and discovered that there was glue residue, and a torn piece of paper, photo paper on it. The picture was gone.

“Damn!” she cried out, ignoring the shocked looks around her.

Carter slapped the folder close, and ran back to her office. She heard the phone ringing inside, but by the time she had unlocked the door, it stopped. Grabbing the laptop off her desk, she slammed the door behind her, again locking it.

When she returned to the infirmary, she found that General Hammond had already left. “Where’s the General?” Carter asked, as she walked over to O’Neill’s bed.

Daniel sitting next to the bed in a chair waved his hand towards the door. “He had to go take care of something.” Noticing Carter’s look, Daniel shrugged. “Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention,” he said sheepishly.

“Dr. Frasier pulled the general aside, Carter,” O’Neill replied sleepily from the bed. “We were just discussing a promise she had made to me earlier today.”

“Promise?”

“Yes Major, she promised that if I got a good night’s sleep this evening, then I’d be able to go home tomorrow.”

“Ahhh,” replied Carter. She had a feeling that the doctor was already having second thoughts regarding that, in light of the colonel’s recent attack. However, convincing O’Neill of that was going to be rather hard. She smiled.

“What are you smiling about?” O’Neill asked observing the smile that spread across Carter’s face.

“What? Oh nothing sir,” she replied, quickly losing the smile but the twinkle remained in her eyes. “I have the file here of Lieutenant Thompson, however it appears as though someone made it to my office and removed the picture before I could show it to you.”

Daniel sat up, his posture at attention. “Someone took his picture? Do you think Thompson did it?” He glanced over at Jack before turning his attention to Sam. “The General received a call while down here and was told they are still having trouble locating Thompson. Later this evening, if he has still not turned up they are going to do a level by level search for the Lieutenant.”

“If you do not have a picture of this Lieutenant Thompson,” Teal’c queried, “then how will we know that Lieutenant Thompson is the person we are seeking?”

At this point, Carter slid the laptop from her arms, setting it on O’Neill’s tray and began typing. “We’re not sure if Thompson is the man that we are looking for, but we just need to make sure. Even though the picture is gone from the hard copy,” Carter explained as her fingers continued to type across the keyboard, studying the screen in front of her. “We still have records of the personnel on the computer. Wait a moment,” she said, pressing in a few more keys, and then pressed the enter key. The file of Lieutenant Thompson appeared on the screen. “Here it is sir,” she said, flipping the computer around so it faced O’Neill.

Jack glanced at the image then shook his head. “It’s not him.”

“What?” Carter was startled, she was so sure they had found their man, but the Colonel with just a passing glance shot that down. “Are you sure sir? Look at it carefully.”

“Listen Carter, I just saw the man that we are looking for, less than an hour ago in the toilet,” he replied emphatically. “Don’t you think that I would know who we are looking for, what he looks like?”

Carter dropped her head. “I’m sorry, sir. It’s just that I was just so sure this was him, that I didn’t give room for the possibility that it wasn’t him. ”

“It isn’t,” Jack replied, leaning his head against the pillow. His head was no longer aching but instead an unsettling feeling of extreme exhaustion was overtaking him. Fighting back a yawn, he closed his eyes for a moment.

Carter shook her head, and then glanced over at Daniel who stood at the foot of O’Neill’s bed. “I don’t know what to do now,” she replied with resignation. “I have a feeling that Lieutenant Thompson is mixed up in this some how, but I’m not sure. There has to be a reason why his picture was ripped out of his folder.”

“Major Carter, does the infirmary keep track of the tape in and out of this area?” questioned Teal’c.

“Yes Teal’c, they do.”

“Then Major Carter, would it perhaps be wise to study the tapes and see who entered and exited the infirmary during the time that Colonel O’Neill was attacked? And check the tape for who entered your office while you were gone.”

Daniel looked up and stared at Teal’c, then looked over at Sam. “Sam?”

That was a good idea, Carter thought to herself. Why didn’t she think of it? She smiled as she looked at Teal’c. “Great idea Teal’c,” she replied with more enthusiasm in her voice. “I’ll need to go check with security.”

“I will join you, Major Carter,” replied Teal’c, taking the computer from the tray in front of O’Neill.

O’Neill was fast asleep, evident by his even breathing and his relaxed face, the stress lines gone. Daniel looked over at Carter and Teal’c. “I’ll stay here a little longer,” he replied, relaxing his back against the chair. “I need to think some, and for now my office isn’t where I want to be.”

Carter and Teal’c nodded, departing, leaving Daniel lost in his thoughts next to the Colonel, waiting and watching.

*****

Sleep was fleeting for Jack, who awakened some time in the middle of the night. The familiar flushed feeling as he fought off the last vestiges of a nightmare, slid away as he opened his eyes and studied the room around him. No one was around to witness this latest episode. Relieved he wiped the sweat off his forehead, and tried to steady his breathing as he leaned back against the pillow.

Every time he closed his eyes, it was the same dream, over and over and over again. Drugs didn’t do anything to help him, if anything made him drowsy and unable to concentrate. But every time he closed his eyes, he was replayed the images in his mind of what happened. It always started with the birds, and ended with the image of the airman’s face etched in his memory. But what really haunted his dreams, was the look in the airman’s eyes as he shot him. He knew what he was doing, and each and every time Jack woke up it was watching the bullet fly through the air, and feeling the searing pain as it burrowed itself into his chest. Then he’d wake up in a sweat. Each time it was the same, and it never changed.

Silently Jack lay on the bed, his eyes closed yet hearing all the sounds of the infirmary play around him. Finally he drifted off to sleep, awakening only when he felt someone lifting his wrist.

“Good morning, Colonel,” greeted Dr. Frasier. Dropping the colonel’s wrist, she made a notation in her chart before continuing. “How are you doing this morning?”

“Ready to go home,” Jack stated, his eyes boring into the doctor’s.

Dr. Frasier laughed, setting aside the chart as she walked closer to O’Neill. “Lean forward Colonel, let me check out your bandages.” After doing a quick scan and examination, she deemed it clear of infection. Stepping aside, she studied the Colonel, wondering if she could keep him in a day longer. He looked refreshed, but her nurses reported that he did awaken once during the night, even though he did fall back to sleep. Then considering he was asleep when she approached, she figured that she would give him a chance. “Colonel, I’ll let you go home today as promised,” she said watching as his eyes lit up, “but on one condition.” She watched O’Neill’s facial expression change to one of suspicion. “I want you to stay there, go nowhere. You are still healing and you don’t need to do any unnecessary moving around. The stitches you have will come out in a few days.” Then she added, “I’ll give you the option of either coming in, or I come out to your house and check your progress.”

Jack didn’t care, he was going home!

“Colonel?”

“What? Oh, yeah you can come out to the house,” he replied, realizing she was waiting on an answer as he flipped back the covers on the bed.

“Not yet, sir. I still need to check your stats and give you an all clear.”

This time Jack did groan. “Come on, doc. Let me get dressed in something,” he fingered the scrubs he wore, “other than this outfit. I want to feel normal again, and not a resident in this place,” he said, waving his hands as a general motion to the room around him.

Frasier sighed. After a week of Colonel O’Neill, she and her staff were more than ready to get rid of him. As a friend, he was a great person, but as a patient he was incorrigible. She threw up her hands, shaking her head as she spoke. “You win this time, Colonel. Get dressed and I expect you to be sitting on this bed in 30 minutes.”

“Then I can go home?”

“Yes Colonel, then you can go home.”

Looking around him, the Colonel stated the obvious. “Where’s my clothing?”

Dr. Frasier who was walking away, paused a moment then returned. “Oh yes, I forgot.”

Jack frowned. “Forgot what?”

“Dr. Jackson said he was going to bring your things to you from your locker,” the doctor replied, hiding a smile from the petulant look on the colonel’s face.

“Someone call my name?”

“Daniel!” Jack exclaimed, his excitement at seeing Dr. Jackson evident. He raised his eyebrows as he looked at the archaeologist, trying to determine if he had his clothing or not. “Did you bring my clothes?”

Distracted, Daniel glanced over at Janet then back at Jack. “What, oh yeah. I brought it in while you were asleep,” then motioning to the floor, “I put them on the floor, out of the way.”

Eyes wide, Jack slipped to his side, curling up and looked down on the floor. Yep, there they were. Slipping off the bed, he picked them up then looked expectantly at the two people standing next to his bed. “If you excuse me now,” he announced, “I plan on getting dressed.”

The doctor smiled slightly as she motioned for Daniel to move as she snagged the wall curtain, and encircled the Colonel’s bed, allowing O’Neill some privacy as he changed. Quietly the two spoke making plans for the Colonel’s soon release, when the object of their conversation pushed the curtain away from the bed, and stood next to them.

“Ok Doc, I’m ready. Where do I sign?”

Again, Frasier shook her head. This man was just hopeless. Once given an okay to leave, she knew that he would badger her consistently until he was released. Giving Daniel instructions on the time to pick up the Colonel, she turned her attention to the aggravating man before her.

Just over an hour later, Colonel O’Neill was given the all clear. Snatching his fatigue shirt, he slung it over his shoulder and was met at the elevators by Major Carter who had been in the middle of work, when she had been informed of his release.

“Carter.”

“Colonel, sir,” she replied, panting slightly out of breath. “You’re a hard one to catch up with.” Watching as the elevator doors opened, she followed the Colonel into the elevator and stood in the open doorway, holding a laptop. “This here has all the personnel files of the airman who were on base at the time of the shooting,” she explained, as she handed the computer to the Colonel. “Hammond wants you to look over the files, and see if there are any of the faces that are familiar to you.” Stepping aside, she held the elevator door a moment longer. “The instant you find something, give either the general or I a call sir.”

Jack took it from her, and nodded as he slipped the notebook under his arm. “Thank you Major.” He watched as she stepped out of the way of the doors, allowing them to close and effectively cut all communication between the two.

He rested his head against the elevator’s walls relieved to have nothing but silence surrounding him. Days in the infirmary had meant that he was surrounded by noise, beeping machines and the constant chatter of people entering the infirmary. But now, it was quiet. The doors opened and he smiled, he made it to the top without any visitors on the ride with him. Seeing Daniel standing at the end of the corridor, he waved and joined his friend who escorted him to the outside, and to his car. He slipped into Daniel’s car and rested his head against the headrest, realizing how little exercise he had received in the previous days. Jack’s energy was spent from the little amount of walking he did, and as his head hit the back of the seat he fell asleep.

They arrived at Jack’s home in record time, Daniel concentrating on his driving while sneaking some glances to make sure that Jack was okay. Pulling into the driveway, he put the car into park then tapped Jack on the shoulder.

“We’re here, Jack.”

Jack jerked awake, his eyes bleary from the sleep as he recognized his surroundings. A yawn escaped as he rubbed his eyes, opening the car door while forgetting the laptop at his feet as he exited the vehicle. Daniel saw it, and reached over to pluck it from the floor before getting out of the car, slamming the door shut. Then he went up the steps, catching up with Jack who at that moment was fumbling with his keys.

It took a moment, but Jack finally found the right key. Unlocking the door, he pushed it open for Daniel to enter. Another yawn escaped sending him teetering on his feet, bumping up against the wall as he carefully made his way down into his living room. He plopped down on the couch, and pulled his feet up on the cushions, trying to stifle another yawn. It took only a minute or two, before Jack relaxed enough to close his eyes. Within moments he was asleep.

Hours later Jack reawakened to the smell of fresh coffee escaping from the kitchen. “Daniel,” he called out.

“I’m right here, Jack,” Daniel replied, stepping out of the kitchen, allowing the recently awakened man to see him. “I just made some coffee, do you want some?”

Sitting up, Jack rolled his shoulders feeling the tension slide away then stretched his arms in front of him. He stood to his feet, and walked into the kitchen, puttering over to the cabinet and pulling out a mug. “Smells good,” stated Jack, pouring the dark liquid into his cup. He took a sip and grimaced. “What is in here?”

“Oh, it has a touch of amaretto in it.”

“Flavored coffee, Daniel?” Jack questioned taking another sip, noting this time the distinctive flavor of amaretto.

“Yes, I like my coffee with some flavor, and while you were asleep I thought I’d try a different brew,” he answered with a hurt tone. “Do you not like it?”

“It’ll do,” Jack replied, carrying his mug back into the living room, setting it down on the table in front of the couch. Noticing the laptop on the table, he pulled it over to him and opened it, plugging in the necessary information to get it up and running. His stomach growled reminding him of his increasing hunger.

“You hungry?” Daniel asked. He was standing in the doorway and could hear the grumbling of Jack’s stomach from where he stood. “I could order Chinese if you want.”

“That sounds good,” Jack replied, leaning his back against the couch. “There’s a menu on the refrigerator door to a restaurant close by.”

Turning his attention back to the laptop, he could hear Daniel placing the order just as the screen popped up with the file containing the personnel files. Clicking on the first one, he scanned the photo then clicked the button for the next file. His thoughts lost in his work, he vaguely remembered seeing Daniel leaving, but continued to work, scanning the files. He was just opening another in a multitude of files, when the doorbell rang. Jack slowly stood to his feet, glancing at the screen as he did so.

That was him.

That was mop boy.

The doorbell continued to ring, and Jack frustrated with the noise took one more glance at the picture, taking note to call the general and Carter the details. Daniel’s hands must be full for him to be ringing the doorbell insistently, Jack thought as he swung the door open.

*****

Major Carter had been on base all night, steadily reviewing the security tape footage from the infirmary and her office. While Teal’c was with her, they had reviewed the security tape to her office and had discovered that someone had indeed been in her office, and had ripped out the picture of Lieutenant Thompson. Unfortunately they were never able to see the airman’s face, considering the person kept their face averted from the camera. It was in the early morning hours that someone from the security department had finally provided the security tape footage to the infirmary. Then some time during the morning, she had been alerted to the Colonel’s release from the infirmary, so she had left briefly to pass off the colonel’s laptop to him, directing him to go over the personnel files. But now she was back in her office, the lights off as she studied the images.

She gasped.

There he was.

Stopping the tape, she rewound the section then viewed it again, this time watching it with an intuitive eye. There, on the tape, it showed an airman, his face averted to the camera as he walked into the infirmary. He walked past all the beds, making no contact with anyone in the room until he passed by the Colonel’s empty bed, where he paused and looked at it, then made a quick glance around the room apparently looking for O’Neill.

Parched, Carter fumbled with the water next to her, but her eyes never left the screen as she took a swallow of water, mesmerized with the drama unfolding before her.

The man on the tape moved away from the Colonel’s bed and then showed him walking nonchalantly over to where Dr. Frasier and a few medical staff were located. She could tell that he hovered near them, apparently gathering information. At some point the airman discreetly moved away. He moved in the direction of the toilet and did something that Carter wasn’t expecting. He briefly looked up in the camera then held out his hand and sprayed the camera lens with a black substance.

The screen turned blank.

Carter leaned back in her chair, her mouth open at what was captured on the tape. She took note of the time on the tape, then picked up a second tape on the table and popped it into the VCR. Fast forwarding the cassette to the time she had written down, she watched the scenes from the hallway on the back door of the infirmary, when she clapped her hands. “There you are!” she exclaimed with excitement. She had her man, but now she had to find out who he was, she realized as she slipped out the second tape and put in the first one. Carter rewound the tape and hit play until the scene arrived where the airman was walking away from the nurses towards the second camera. There she hit pause and watched each scene in extremely slow motion until she captured the image she was seeking.

The shooter.

There he was.

Carter flung the remote to the table beside her and leaned forward, studying the image before her. He looked familiar. She wracked her brain trying to remember where she had seen him, when it hit with sudden realization. He’s the one who had run into her in the hallway yesterday. He had to have been the one who had entered her office, but why? She wondered as she pulled the tape from the VCR.

Carter tapped the tape in her hand, and knew that she had to report this to the general immediately, but first wanted to run it past diagnostics and see if they could scan the picture into the database and run a match on it. On her way, she ran into Teal’c who was exiting the elevator.

“Major Carter,” Teal’c greeted solemnly, walking with her down the hallway. “We have made progress; we have found Lieutenant Thompson.”

“You did? Where was he?”

“He is dead.”

Carter stopped and stared at Teal’c. “He’s dead?”

“Indeed, Major Carter. We found him in a closet several levels below. He died of strangulation, and we found this in his pocket.” Teal’c handed Carter a photo.

It was the missing photograph from the file of the lieutenant. Carter sighed. The pieces were slowly fitting together, but she didn’t know in what order they were fitting. She held up the tape in her hand. “I found something on the security tape. I believe we have our man, but first I need to run a scan and compare it to the images in our database.”

Teal’c looked surprised, his eyebrow lifting at the Major’s declaration. “I will get General Hammond and direct him to you.”

“Thanks, Teal’c,” Carter called out, already on her way to the computer lab. This was an emergency.

*****

Jack flung the door open, about to growl at Daniel when the words died on his lips.

It wasn’t Daniel.

Mop Boy.

It took a split instant for Jack to register who it was, and in that instant he felt his body being shoved away from the door, to the wall behind him. He slammed hard into it, feeling the edges of a picture frame dig into his back. Unsteady on his feet, he fought the feeling of vertigo as he struggled with the man in front of him. He succeeded in pushing the intruder away, and threw a punch into the airman’s abdomen, noting with pleasure when the man grunted.

Remembering his gun, Jack made a move towards the living room when he fell to the ground, his legs captured by the airman who threw him to the ground, his knees cracking on the hardwood below. Jack kicked free, all the while aware of the growing pain in his chest. He wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the stitches had broken, but he didn’t dare glance down lest he loose the slight upper hand he held. On his hands and knees he stumbled down the steps, then crawled over to the couch and was just reaching for his gun, when the airman caught up with him and kicked him in his side. Jack rolled with the punch, groaning as the pain blossomed before his eyes. By the time he opened his eyes the gun was gone from the table. He looked up to see his pistol in the hands of the airman, pointed at him.

Jack slowly stood to his feet, his hands clutching his side while his eyes glanced at the open computer, catching the name of the airman before him.

Buford Marshall.

“Well, Buford,” drawled Jack. “What can I do for you?”

“About time you learned my name,” the man snarled as he watched the man in front of him, taking note of the way O’Neill grimaced as he moved. “I told you at the infirmary that I was going to get you,” Buford replied venomously. There was a sound outside, a car door closing. In a split instance, without warning, Buford reached forward and grasped O’Neill in a strong neck hold.

Jack gasped for breath, remembering the last time he was in the hold and wondering why he had let his guard down. He heard a noise at the front door and turned his face towards the area. Jack then watched as Daniel entered the house, looking with puzzlement at the opened door, and the picture frame lying broken on the floor.

“Hey Jack…” Daniel called out unaware of the drama that was playing out in the room to his left. He was turning, his arms full with Chinese food, when with no warning he fell to the ground with a thud. The Chinese food spilled out on the floor around him.

“Damn you!” yelled Jack, his ears ringing from his close proximity to the gun.

Jack struggled with the gunman, when a sudden sharp blinding pain to the back of his head sent him spiraling into darkness. The gunman released his hold on him, allowing his hostage to sink limply on to the floor into oblivion.

*****

He woke up with a start.

For a moment, Jack didn’t know what happened but he did have enough clarity to know that things weren’t looking too good. When he moved, he quickly found out that his arms were tied behind his back. He wiggled his wrists, trying to determine the strength of the bonds. Obviously he wasn’t going anywhere.

As Jack glanced around him, he could feel the full blown fury of a headache, one that was adding to his nausea and dizziness. His face felt wet, and a glance on the cushion around him identified it as blood. There was a growing feeling of nausea in the pit of his stomach, and he had trouble fighting the familiar acidic feeling inch its way up through his body. Without warning it was in his mouth, and it was all Jack could do to keep it off him. He bent his body over, and watched with disgust as it spilled out on the floor below him. Over and over he retched, until nothing more would come up. Jack gasped for breath, at the same time wishing he had something to wash away the acidic taste in his mouth. The retching had done nothing for his headache, which continued to pound away.

He heard a noise in the kitchen, and wondered for a moment who was roaming around in there. Whoever it was, they were opening the refrigerator door. Jack could hear the clinking of beer bottles hitting one another. Momentarily stunned from the head blow, he was truly at a loss as to who it was as he continued to struggle with the rope binding his wrists together. It was during his struggle that he felt a vibration in his pocket.

His cell phone.

Finagling his arms to his side, he squirmed around on the cushions as he dug his fingers into his pocket, pulling forth the vibrating phone. A sound of something dropping in the kitchen caused him to fumble with the phone, almost dropping it from his fingertips. Jack sat quietly a moment, waiting and wondering if someone was going to appear. It niggled in the back of his mind, he knew who it was, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember.

The sounds continued in the other room, and listening intently Jack could pinpoint the location of the individual, which was no where close to the living room where he currently sat. Jack took the opportunity to flip his cell phone open, which had now stopped vibrating, and with his fingertips skimming the top of the keys, he counted over and selected a number. Without hesitation he punched the speed dial number. Bumping his knee against the table in front of him, the screen saver on his computer kicked off showing the file of an airman on the screen. It was then that Jack remembered the situation he was in. A few details were hazy, but pieces were slowly fitting together. Aware of his inability to put the phone up to his ear, Jack heard the voice on the other end and called out to the person in the kitchen.

“Hey Buford, whattya say about cutting me loose here?”

There was a noise in the kitchen, the sound of someone falling into a chair when a man suddenly appeared, a half drunk beer bottle in his hand. He snarled. “What happened to mop boy, or did you get tired of it Colonel?” Buford weaved his way into the living room, plopping down on a chair and stared at O’Neill. Pulling the gun free from the front of his pants, he waved it towards the colonel. “You know, you really insulted me calling me mop boy, and in front of all my buddies and all.”

Jack shook his head. “I never called you mop boy in front of anyone, that’s why it’s been so hard tracking you down,” he replied sighing. “No one on base knows who mop boy is.”

“You’re right about that; now that Thompson is dead no one knows,” he said, his lip curling as he remembered the look on the Lieutenant’s face when he caught him. It was absolute fear and Buford didn’t hesitate a moment to kill him. The lieutenant was threatening to tell what he knew, which to be honest wasn’t much, but he still couldn’t let that happen. So he had to die. As for him planting the picture on the lieutenant, he just wanted to lead people to think that it was Thompson who was the shooter.

That was news to Jack. He knew that they had been looking for Thompson, thinking that he may have known something regarding the killer. Apparently he did, but now it was too late. This man was apparently psychotic and he was puzzled how Buford was able to make it to the Cheyenne mountain complex with such behavior.

“So, how did you end up on Cheyenne Mountain, in Stargate command?”

The edges of Buford’s lips curled upward into a wicked smile. “I know the tricks of the trade,” he bragged. “My dad is a psychiatrist, and I know all the sort of questions available and how to answer them. Getting in was a cinch; I just made sure my dad doctored my files so that no one knew my past history.” He took a swig of beer and nodded. “I almost think he was happy to get rid of me, and was willing to do anything. And you know,” he continued with a sneer, “I would have made it up into the ranks if it hadn’t been for you.”

“Me? What did I do?” Jack asked. His hands were cramping and holding onto the open cell phone was creating a strain on his wrists. Dropping the phone to the cushions, he flexed out his fingers as he studied the airman in front of him. Buford was obviously agitated and with him drinking the beer, it was with growing dread that Jack realized that it didn’t help the situation any. It only made him more dangerous and unpredictable.

“You?” snarled the airman, his face turning several shades of red. “You, Colonel O’Neill, embarrassed me and made me look like a fool!”

Jack couldn’t help but utter his frustration. “Listen Buford, I don’t know what the hell you are talking about. I’ve done nothing to you.”

“Like hell! You yelled at me,” he replied greatly agitated.

“What? I yelled at you airman?” Jack looked at Buford with an incredulous look on his face. “How on earth did you make it through training if you don’t like being yelled at?”

Buford tossed his head and took a swig from the beer bottle before answering. “They aren’t around to tell.”

Jack sat still. This man was a killer, and apparently had a history of it. He would have no qualms about doing it again. Look at what he did with Thompson, and without a second thought what he did to Daniel. Which reminded him, how was Daniel? Jack hadn’t heard anything from the foyer, so he hoped it was a good sign, but without looking he wasn’t sure. His mind was going around in all sorts of directions, trying to figure out a way to get out of this apparent no win situation. Moving on the cushion, Jack couldn’t help but grimace. His head was throbbing he recognized the signs of a concussion after this second blow. “So why now?” he asked, turning back to the conversation.

“You’re a hard one to kill,” Buford replied. He fingered the edge of the open bottle, pointing it at the colonel. “You probably don’t know it, but I cut a line to your brake line and really expected to see you crashed at the bottom of the hill when I left base, but instead saw that you had pulled off on the shoulder. I knew that you had discovered the problem,” he said with a shake of the head. “Pity you didn’t wait until you were almost down the mountain before discovering the problem, or else we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.”

Jack didn’t smile. So that is who had driven past him without stopping that day. He thought it had been odd, but hadn’t bothered to dwell on it. But now, it shed a different light on the situation. “So you cut my brake line,” he stated matter-of-factly.

The airman took another swallow of beer and put it between his legs, swapping the gun from his left hand to his right. “I did, and I also delivered the pizza to your house that night.”

“The mushrooms,” Jack stated with growing recognition.

“Yeah, bet you didn’t know I worked part time as a driver at Mac’s Pizza Parlor, did you? Of course, thanks to you and your complaining, I lost my job,” he replied with disgust. “But the mushrooms were special, just for your pizza. A while back, a friend of mine discovered some good mushrooms called Autumns Skullcap and told me about them. But when I went back out to the mountains, I obviously picked the wrong kind,” he replied with a sigh. “You got the Jack O’ Lantern, instead.” The man laughed. “Ironic.”

“About like you didn’t know that the pizza parlor didn’t have any mushrooms when I called in,” Jack retorted.

“Yeah, I noticed that when I picked up your pizza,” he replied, scratching the side of his head with the gun.

BEEP!

Buford jumped, his gun aimed at O’Neill. “What the hell is that?”

Jack knew, and he sat on the couch fumbling with the cell phone, his fingers barely reaching the small item. It slipped out of his fingertips, but he nearly had it in his fingers once again when he felt something smack him across the face. The pain was immense, a sharp stinging sensation that spread across his face. The phone was gone.

Blinking rapidly, Jack looked up to see Buford standing above him with the beer bottle, the broken pieces scattered on the couch around him, a result of its contact with his cheekbone. He felt numb. Jack grimaced and looked at Buford, the movement creating shooting stars to explode in his head. In the man’s right hand was Jack’s cell phone.

Buford waved it in the air. “So what do we have here? Are you trying to call someone?” In the middle of his tangent, the cell phone vibrated in his hand. Surprised, the airman glanced down at the number and shook his head. “Cheyenne Mountain,” he stated. The more he thought about it the angrier he became. He needed an outlet, and he wasn’t ready yet to take the man down in front of him. He still wanted to play with the colonel, mess with him, hurt him and then kill him. With the cell phone at his disposal, he threw it against the wall.

Jack watched as the phone struck the wall, shattering on impact, the pieces flying across the room. His face twitched.

A groan from the foyer brought both men’s attention to the area. Buford looked towards the foyer, the look of hate on his face as he glanced at the movement on the floor. It was then that Jack felt a shiver of fear race through his body.

Jack’s energy was expended, but when he saw Buford move towards the foyer with the gun raised, pointed at Daniel, Jack knew he didn’t have much time to waste. The man was a killer and without a doubt would kill Daniel without a second thought. Launching himself from the couch, Jack flew over the coffee table and crashed into Buford, watching distractedly as the gun went flying from the younger man’s grasp. With his hands tied around his back, Jack couldn’t do much. Struggling in his bonds, he head butted the man hoping to dislodge him from his stance, and ended up succeeding. Unfortunately, Jack was off balanced and ended up falling on top of Buford. He slowly raised himself up, shaking off the headache that was searing behind his eyes, to find that he was looking straight at Buford’s balled fist. He tried to dodge, and would have succeeded if he hadn’t fallen against the chair which impeded his move. The fist struck him across the face and he went down, falling awkwardly on his elbows.

Jack rolled over and felt sense of doom as he looked up into the dark, crazy eyes of Buford standing above him with a broken beer bottle. The man bent down and swung the edge of the bottle towards O’Neill, succeeded in creating a gash across his right arm. Jack couldn’t stop the cry of pain that bellowed out. The pain was enormous and threatened to overwhelm him, but he was determined to fight back the darkness that was beginning to swarm in on him.

Curling up, he pulled his legs in and then thrust them out, knocking the man to his feet but Buford kept a firm hold on his broken beer bottle, trying to stab the colonel again. But Jack was not going to have any of that. Pushing away from Buford, he felt his back bump up against the bottom step and watched in growing horror as Buford got to his feet, something in his hand.

The gun, he found the gun.

The man’s anger was obvious by the loud roar that came from his throat, as raised the gun, pointing it directly at Jack’s head.

Jack flinched.

Buford’s finger pulled back the trigger, as Jack fought the darkness that was closing in on him. Suddenly everything went dark inside his head, and he fell to his side.

Struggling to fight the dark chasm that had encroached on him, Jack could hear the sound of gunfire echoing in the room. Belatedly, he looked up in time to see the life fade out of Buford’s eyes. The man landed with a thud onto the floor, his life giving blood spilling at Jack’s feet. Unable to speak, Jack lay on the floor in stunned silence, unsure of what happened when he felt a touch on his shoulder.

“Colonel? Colonel O’Neill?”

Jack lifted his head slightly. There was Carter’s face, and just over her shoulder Teal’c.

“Colonel, where are you hurt?”

He said nothing.

Shocked, and unable to move or speak, he could feel hands helping him to his feet. There were the distant exclamations of shock and disbelief as he was helped over to the couch. Jack glanced down to the floor, and stared at the body, the growing puddle of blood that formed around it. Feeling the back of his legs hit the couch, someone gently guided him to sit down on the cushions as they continued to speak soothingly to him. He didn’t understand what was going on. He should be able to handle this. Shoot, he had experienced too many shootings and killings to let this bother him.

He closed his eyes and heard the ripping of fabric as the air hit his shoulder. He sucked in, the pain was intense. There must have been some broken stitches because he thought he heard Dr. Frasier barking out orders. Briefly he opened his eyes to see the doctor standing above him, concern etched in her face as she studied him. “I’m fine doc,” he mumbled, then passed out.

“Carter, do we have the ambulance outside ready for transport?” Dr. Frasier asked. The colonel’s blood pressure was dropping dangerously low and she needed him back in the infirmary stat.

“Yes ma’am. Daniel’s already been loaded and taken back to the base,” she replied, wiping the sweat from her brow. “He was awake and was complaining of his shoulder hurting.”

“That’s not surprising, considering the bullet ricocheted off his scapula. He’s lucky he didn’t break it or his clavicle; however, he will be out of duty for several weeks.”

Carter looked down at the Colonel, who had now passed out under the doctor ministrations of him. “How’s the colonel?”

“He’s doing well, considering everything he has been through.” Frasier sighed as she moved aside for the medics to lift the injured man on the stretcher. “He definitely has a concussion, evident from the blow on his head, this one coming one day after his previous injury. And he has a stabbing wound on his arm.” She slipped her rubber gloves off and motioned to the medics that she would join them. “Then we have his previous gunshot wound that I stitched up, the stitches are now loose, so I’m definitely going to have to put new ones in.”

Carter followed the doctor to the foyer where she glanced down at the Chinese food spilt on the floor, the noodles and rice well mashed down into the flooring from everyone’s foot steps. ”Daniel said that he went out to pick up dinner, and when he returned he saw the door open. He pushed it open, called out to Jack and that was the last he knew.”

Dr. Frasier shook her head. “This is not what the Colonel needed. He’s out of the infirmary one day, and look what happens.”

Carter glanced at the doctor, sensing her friend’s guilt in letting the colonel go home. “Janet, you know that he had to go home at some point.”

“Yes, but, Sam, I could have waited until you had finished your research, and come up with an identity.”

The Major laughed.

“Why are you laughing?”

“I’m not sure how you would have convinced the colonel that he had to stay in the infirmary another day.” Sam replied. Then she became serious. “Janet, this man was crazy. He could have taken O’Neill out anywhere. He proved it by entering into your infirmary.”

Janet shook her head. “I agree, but still…”

“Janet, don’t dwell on it. The colonel wouldn’t want you trying to second guess yourself. He’s fine, and he’s going to make it, isn’t it?”

Janet looked up at her friend and smiled, then nodded. “He is.” Adapting her role as doctor once more, she continued. “I was initially worried about the colonel’s dizziness and weakness, but in light of the information that he hasn’t had any nourishment since leaving the base I understand his symptoms now.” Waving to the medics outside the door, she patted Sam on the shoulder. “The colonel will ok. We got here in time.”

“That’s right, Janet,” Sam emphasized, “we got here in time.”

Turning from the open door, Carter looked out into the living room where the drama had played out. Back on base, when she and the General had identified the shooter, it had taken little time to send a search team out on the base to locate him. Unfortunately by the time they discovered his identity he had already left the base. From the sign out records on the surface, he had left not long after Colonel O’Neill and Daniel had signed out, which meant that there was a possibility that he was following the Colonel. They had no proof, but considering his history thus far and the recent murder, all the signs pointed to that possibility. The man had to have known that Thompson would have been discovered eventually, and that information alone made the man they were hunting even more dangerous.

She and Teal’c had immediately informed the General of what they had discovered, and with his permission they were going to the Colonel’s house, to assess the situation. Carter had been in the car with Teal’c, and had repeatedly tried calling the Colonel on his home phone, but there never was an answer. The phone rang and rang. So then she tried reaching him on his cell phone, but that phone rang with no answer. It was after she hung up and dialed the general, that she heard a beep on the line. Caller ID identified the caller as Colonel O’Neill. Quickly apprising the general of the situation, she switched calls and answered the line.

But no one was there.

She held onto the phone for a moment, pressing the phone against her ear, when she realized that if she listened closely she could hear a conversation in the background. Identifying one of the voices as O’Neill’s, her eyes grew huge as she slowly came to an understanding the situation the colonel was in.

Carter clutched the phone, her only touch with the Colonel and tapped her hands impatiently against the steering wheel. Traffic was horrible, an accident had occurred at the base of the mountain and had snarled traffic both coming up and down the mountain. They had been inching along for way too long, when she thrust the phone at Teal’c advising him to listen to the conversation.

Shifting her car into gear, she was ready to ease her car into oncoming lane when she saw a convoy of army vehicles come careening down the mountain, their lights on demanding immediate attention. She slipped her car in behind them, knowing instinctively where they were headed.

They were nearing O’Neill’s house when the call suddenly ended, cutting all connection from the colonel in that instant. By the time Carter and Teal’c exited the car and walked up to the colonel’s house, the SF men had surrounded the house and were quickly assessing the scene. At some point the SF men determined that it was time to enter into the house, and with the teams massed at the front door and the back, they entered. They broke down the door, just in time to see Buford Marshall stand before the Colonel and pull the trigger.

From what Carter understood later, the SF had shot Buford, sending the bullet meant for the colonel, into the ceiling above.

A sound behind her startled her out of her reverie, turning to see Teal’c standing next to her.

“General Hammond is on the phone; he wishes to speak with you.”

She nodded and took the phone from him, appreciating his presence. Then she turned and related the events to the general.

*****

There was a knock on the door. Daniel looked up from where he sat, comfortable in his chair watching the activity around him. Sam, who had picked up Thai food on her way over, was in his kitchen taking the food out of the cardboard containers, per his request. Then there was Teal’c who was sitting on the couch, the remote in hand as he flipped through every channel available, which Daniel belatedly thought was a good thing that he didn’t get satellite or cable. It limited channel options. Teal’c had a bad habit, similar to O’Neill’s of allowing the person in the room with them to become interested in a program, and then he’d switch it. He couldn’t count the number of times that O’Neill would sit in that very chair and flip the stations, bored with most of them.

This time the doorbell rang. A clatter in the kitchen alerted him that Sam hadn’t heard the door, and Teal’c was too mesmerized in watching the television. With a groan, Daniel pushed himself from the chair and protecting his arm, still in a sling, he went over to open the door.

It was Jack.

Jack stood in the doorway, a big grin on his face as he waved a video in his hand. “Evening, Daniel,” he greeted as he glanced down at the younger man. “How’s the shoulder?”

“Oh, it’s doing pretty good,” Daniel replied as he stepped aside, allowing Jack inside. “I’m having some PT to get some of the stiffness out and get the mobility I once had.”

Sam called out from the kitchen. “Food is ready. Is the Colonel here yet?” she asked, as she peered around the corner. “Oh, there you are, sir.”

Jack waved his hand towards her in greeting, catching a glimpse of Teal’c planted in front of the television. “Finding anything, Teal’c?”

“I am not, O’Neill,” the Jaffa stated with what sounded like disgust. “There are no stations for which to find anything.”

Daniel shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t watch television much.”

“So I’ve noticed,” Jack replied matter-of-factly. Tossing the movie to the couch, he joined his friends at the table and rubbed his hands together when he saw the meal of the evening. “Looking good.”

“It is, sir,” Sam replied as she piled her plate of food, making room to add a few egg rolls to the side before finding a place on the couch.

The rest of the team loaded their plates with the hot, steaming food and then joined Sam in the living room, finding a spot front of the television. It didn’t take long for them to finish off their meal, Teal’c and Jack going back for seconds when Daniel picked up the video from the couch.

“What’s this, Jack?”

Jack looked over from the table and grinned, a devilish twinkle in his eye. “Oh, that’s a movie by Alfred Hitchcock, called “The Birds”.” Catching a look from the major, his grin widened. Apparently she had seen the movie. “Have you ever seen it?”

“Actually Jack, no I haven’t,” Daniel replied, turning the case over in his hand, looking for the summary of the movie.

“It’s an excellent movie, one of the best by this filmmaker,” Jack replied. He brought his plate over to the couch, setting it on the table in front of him, then reached over and plucked the video from Daniel’s hand.

“Ok, so…” Daniel paused, waiting for Jack to continue. When he didn’t, he finished his own sentence. “So what is the movie about?”

“Birds, and how they,” Jack paused a moment looking for the right word, “integrated themselves into a community.”

Sam snorted.

Jack shot her a glare, daring her to say something. Wisely, she remained quiet, ducking her head as she stood up to remove the empty dishes.

“Sounds good, Jack, pop it in.”

Jack smiled broadly as he stood to his feet, and fiddled with the VCR controls before pushing in the video. “Carter, you coming?”

“Yes sir,” she replied from the kitchen, “Go ahead and start it, I’ll be there in a minute.”

After depositing the trash into the garbage can, she went through the living room, dimming the lights before finding a spot in the living room to sit.

The movie played out with the sound of the birds echoed in the room. The credits were playing when Jack reached over to flip on the lights. Daniel sat in his chair unmoving, his face covered, while Teal’c sat in his seat immobilized, frozen to his chair. The look of horror on his face was evident, his eye twitching as he recalled his last encounter with the birds of the planet.

Jack felt a little guilty. He glanced over at Sam who had fallen asleep during the movie. Obviously it didn’t bother her, he grunted. Standing up, Jack tapped Teal’c on the shoulder and instantly found himself lying face down on the floor, his arm twisted tightly behind him. It took Teal’c a moment to realize where he was, and what he was doing. When he did, he was mortified.

“O’Neill,” he exclaimed, horrified with what he had done to his friend. He let go of O’Neill’s arm and helped the man up from the floor. “I am sorry.”

Jack waved off the apologies. His arm free from the Jaffa’s grasp, he rubbed it self-consciously, making note never to mess with him. A quick glance at Daniel showed that he was moving now, albeit stiffly.

Hesitantly, Jack smiled. That disappeared when he caught the glare Daniel threw at him. At the time it seemed like a good idea, but to be honest when the birds started swarming he wanted to switch the tape off, already regretting his decision for the movie. He hadn’t seen it in awhile, and didn’t think it would bring back so many memories after their visit to the planet of birds.

“Not funny, Jack.”

Jack grimaced, his eye twitching at the sound of anger in his friend’s voice. “Listen, Daniel,” he started.

“I agree with Daniel,” Teal’c interrupted, “Colonel O’Neill, that was not a good movie.”

Jack smiled, but after Teal’c’s comment it faded. Chewing the inside of his mouth, he grimaced slightly.

After a quick glance at his team, Jack had a feeling that he was going to be paying for this for a very long time.

***The End***

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