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Never Leave Your Wingman Chapter 8/10

As his feet left the ground, Jack grabbed for his radio.  This was going to be tricky, not to mention he could still feel Daniel’s muscles quivering from the exertion.  Daniel’s strength had been fading before they left the ground—this would test his stamina like nothing else.



 “Carter, I’m coming up to meet you.”

 “Sir?”

 “Just keep an eye out below you.”

 “Yes, sir.”  She’d figure it out, he had no doubt.  

They burst free of the trees and Jack quickly spotted a helicopter hovering over what was probably the meadow they’d landed in—it was the only open spot around. 

 “We see you, sir. On our way.”

 “Roger that.”  Jack watched the helicopter bank and head in their direction.  Daniel’s wings were working hard to keep them airborne; he could hear his friend’s labored breathing over the sound of them beating the air.  C’mon, Carter. 

 The helicopter hovered directly overhead, far enough away that Daniel could still keep them airborne, but close enough that he was still fighting the air gusts.  Carter and Teal’c appeared at the open door and slowly began lowering the ladder.  When it was level with his head, Jack reached up and grabbed for it.  The wind tossed it back and forth but finally his fingers were able to latch on.  Daniel released him and he began climbing.

 He reached the door and was pulled inside, quickly turning back to watch for Daniel, who was still hovering several feet from the ladder.  His great golden wings beat in huge arcs, the feathers rippling as he fought the gusts of air.

 “Daniel, grab the ladder!” Carter shouted down to him. 

 Daniel continued to look up at them, making no move to take hold of the ladder.

 “Daniel!  Get your butt in here!” Jack shouted.  Daniel turned his gaze to Jack, the icy blue eyes blinking several times.  “We’re out of time, buddy—you gotta trust us!”

 Finally, Daniel reached for the ladder and began climbing, folding his wings close to his back. As he came level with the door, he allowed them to haul him into the helicopter, momentum carrying him to the opposite wall where he stayed, watching them warily.  The door slid shut and the helicopter accelerated as it sped off.  Jack pointed to a large box on the floor.  “Sit down and let Carter look at your wound.”

 Daniel silently complied, narrowing his eyes at her as she dug out a med kit and approached him. 

 “What happened, sir?” 

 “Someone in the ‘gateroom got a little trigger-happy.”

 “This is a bullet wound?” 

 

“Yeah.  The bullet actually fell out while we were waiting for you.”  Jack leaned in for a better look, surprised by what he was seeing. 

“This is already healing. Look, it’s almost closed up,” Carter pointed out.

“How is this possible?” Teal’c asked.

 “Beats me,” Jack replied, even though a crazy thought was forming in his head.  “Daniel, how are you feeling?”

 Daniel shifted his gaze to Jack.  “Better.”

 “Did you do this?  Is your body healing itself?”

 Daniel continued to stare at Jack, then shifted his eyes to break the connection.  “Yes.”

Jack shuddered.A bigger, stronger body.  Features meant to instill fear.  Wings.  The ability to heal oneself.

“This would indeed be a desirable ability in a warrior,” Teal’c stated, echoing Jack’s thoughts.  “The combination of these characteristics would make an army almost unstoppable.”

“You wish to… study us.  You want our abilities… for yourselves.”  It was the most Daniel had spoken since they’d flown the coop—or mountain, in this case.  But it was his choice of pronouns that bothered Jack the most.

 “What’s this ‘us’ and ‘our’?  You’re still one of us, Daniel,” Jack gestured between them, “no matter what they did to you.”

 Daniel frowned and let out a deep growl, his wings shuddering, causing Carter to pull back.  “I am… better… this way.” 

“I know you don’t really believe that, Daniel.”  Jack moved even closer and risked holding Daniel’s gaze.  “You asked me to help you—let us.  No one’s going to study you or do anything to you that you don’t want.”

 Daniel squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his fists to his forehead.  “Hard… to… focus.”

 That probably explained the halting speech; he must be fighting for every word. “I know,” Jack said soothingly.  “That’s why you need to let us help you.”

 Daniel lowered his hands and opened his eyes again.  He nodded his silent agreement.

 “Now let Carter finish treating your wound, then we’ll decide what to do.”

 Carter hesitated as Daniel turned back to her. 

 “Afraid of me?” he asked.

 She shook her head.  “Not of you, for you—I’m just worried about you.” She held up the antiseptic.  “May I?”

 Daniel nodded and she pressed an antiseptic-covered wipe to the wound.  He hissed as she continued to clean the area.

 “Try not to ruffle his feathers,” Jack told her.

 She paused, giving him a  'I can’t believe you just said that' look. 

 “You know what I mean.  Don’t make him angry; you won’t like him when he’s angry.”

 “I believe you refer to The Incredible Hulk,” Teal’c said.

 “You’re just a… walking cliché, Jack.” Daniel quipped, the corner of his mouth lifting minutely.  

 The knot in Jack’s stomach loosened.  “You made a joke.”  He could almost believe they were getting the old Daniel back.  Almost.

 “It… happens.”

 “All done,” Carter said, putting the med kit back in order. 

Daniel reached out and placed a pale gray hand on her arm.  “Thanks… Sam.”

 Carter flashed him a genuine smile and Jack knew she was as relieved as he was to hear Daniel sounding a bit like his old self.  He was well aware of his friend’s fluctuating behavior over the past few days, but he dared allow himself a tiny bit of hope that things would get back to normal. 

“Sir,” Carter said walking back to stand next to him.  “We’re safe for the moment, but the NID won’t give up easily.  What are we going to do about Daniel?”

 “The only thing we can do—take him back to gargoyle central.”

 Another growl rumbled through the air as Daniel watched them closely.

“Sorry.”  Jack kicked himself for antagonizing Daniel after they’d managed to get through to his human side. 

 “If we can’t reverse the DNA manipulation, he’ll be stuck there,” Carter pointed out. 

 “I know, but it’s his only chance; stay here and the NID will eventually get their claws on him.”

 Daniel sprang to his feet, anger flashing in his eyes, his wings partially extending. 

 “Take it easy,” Jack placated, “that’s not gonna happen.  We won’t let it.”

 Daniel huffed, folded his wings in, and began pacing in the small cabin of the helicopter. 

 “How do you propose to return Daniel Jackson through the Stargate?” Teal’c asked, keeping an eye on their pacing friend.

 “I’m open to suggestions.”

 “The entire SGC will be closely watched,” Teal’c stated as though Jack didn’t already know it.

 “Not to mention the extra NID on base,” Carter added.

 “Fly back… through the silo.”  Daniel had stopped pacing and stood with his arms crossed over his chest.  Jack recognized that stubborn look and stance, even on a gray, ridged face. 

 “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, Daniel.”  Number one, it would require some tricky coordination of personnel, and two, it would assume Daniel could control himself long enough to follow through.

 Daniel’s eyes were like blue fire.  “Don’t trust me.”

 He was reading Jack’s thoughts again, or maybe it was just a matter of how well he knew Jack.  He’d asked Daniel to trust them, now Daniel was asking for the same trust in return.  It was a tiny seed of doubt that was making Jack hesitate; he knew Daniel was still struggling with control.  What were the chances he’d just fly away when the time came?  Somehow, he felt their entire relationship hung on his answer.  It was time to put up or shut up.  

 “I trust you, Daniel; we all do.  We’ll do it your way.”  He wasn’t sure, but he could swear Daniel almost smiled. 

 ~oOo~

 Captain Anderson had flown them around, pretending they were still searching, while SG-1 had made their plans.  Carter had contacted Hammond, telling him they were still looking for Jack and Daniel, and had used the pre-arranged code word to let him know they’d actually found them.  They were well aware that the NID had to be listening to their transmissions. 

 They were currently headed for the south side of Cheyenne Mountain, where they planned to let Daniel out. 

 “I’ll give you my radio,” Jack told him.  “That way we can let you know when it’s time.”

 “Sir,” Carter interrupted.  “If you go back to the SGC, they’ll know we found Daniel.”

 “We can tell them he let me go and you found me.”  Sounded plausible to him.

 “Do you really think the NID will take your word for it?” she countered.  “They’ll want to debrief all three of us and we won’t be able to get the silo open or the ‘gate dialed.”

 Nuts.  She was right—as usual.  “So what do you want me to…” Jack trailed off as her plan became clear.  “Oh, don’t tell me—you want me to go with Daniel.”

 “It would be the best course of action to allow both you and Daniel Jackson to re-enter the SGC,” Teal’c stated with finality.

 “Won’t… drop you.”

Jack turned to Daniel who looked completely serious, but Jack could see the humor in his eyes.  “I think you’re enjoying this.”

“You’re a pilot… should be… a piece of cake.”

 “Yeah, I just don’t want to become a pancake.”

 A snort from Carter interrupted the exchange, just as Corporal Jenkins stepped into the cabin.  “Sir, we’re coming up on the drop location.”  Jack noticed his eyes shift to Daniel and back to him. 

 “Corporal, I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t use the word ‘drop’.” 

“Sorry, sir,” the airman replied nervously before disappearing back into the cockpit. 

 “It’s almost sunset,” Carter said, “so you should be able to hide until we contact you.”

 “All right, let’s get this over with.”  Jack wasn’t comfortable jumping without a parachute, but, truth be told, it was more than offset by the prospect of flying with Daniel.  Under different circumstances, he’d love nothing more than to glide on the air like a bird, without machines, powered only by Daniel’s wings.  His brief experience with it earlier had reinforced the age-old desire to fly; it was why he’d become a pilot. 

 He looked up to see Daniel watching him closely.  “Ready?” his friend asked.

 “Yep.  I hope you filed a flight plan for this trip.” 

 Daniel walked around to Jack’s back and wrapped his arms around his torso.  Jack laid his arms on top of Daniel’s, wrapping his fingers around the thick muscles. 

 “No plan,” Daniel said as they faced the door.  “Gonna wing it.”

 And then they were falling through the air.  Below, the last rays of the sun touched the tree tops, turning them golden.  Part way down, Daniel unfurled his wings and they rose again, catching a warm current of air and rising high enough for Jack to see the road leading up to the Mountain.  Then Daniel banked and descended towards the ground. 

Much too soon for Jack, they touched down.  His feet might be on the ground, but his soul was still in the sky.

~oOo~

 Jack shifted, trying to get comfortable sitting on a dead log.  It had been and hour and a half since they’d separated from Carter and Teal’c and they’d heard nothing yet.  He knew they would have to pacify the NID and then get Hammond up to speed on their plan.  He wasn’t nervous—yet.  He couldn’t say as much for Daniel.

 His friend was pacing, his agitation increasing with every step.  Jack could see him pretty well in the light of the almost-full moon. He was still shirtless, wearing only the scrub bottoms he’d made his escape in, his bare feet covered in the dust he stirred up with his pacing. 

 Jack was worried that if he kept it up, he’d lose the control he’d seemed to gain over the past day.  “Daniel.” 

 There was no response, no change in the stride of Daniel’s step.  And Jack could see the intensity of his expression as he mumbled to himself.

 Jack rose and cautiously approached him.  “Daniel—look at me.”

 Daniel glanced in his direction but kept pacing.  Jack moved even closer and reached out.  Daniel stopped and faced him, but moved out of reach.  

 “Don’t worry—they’ll call.”

 “Too long.”

 “No, it’s not.  They’ll make it happen—you wouldn’t doubt Carter and Teal’c, would you?”

 Daniel shook his head.  “No.  Yes.  Don’t… don’t know.”  He turned his gaze skyward and Jack slipped in and grabbed his arm.  Daniel snapped his gaze back to Jack, but didn’t pull away.

 “Don’t, Daniel.  Be patient. Trust me.  Trust us.”  The moonlight glinted off the blue eyes and Jack continued to hold their gaze, even though he knew he was taking a risk by doing so.  He had to show Daniel that he trusted him

 “Trying.”

 Jack smiled.  “You’re doin’ fine.”

 His radio crackled and Carter’s voice came through.  “Everything’s in place, sir.  Opening in five minutes.”

 Jack kept his hand on Daniel’s arm and reached up with the other to click his radio.  “Acknowledged.  We’ll be there.”

 The radio went silent and Jack continued to stand face to face with Daniel.  “Never doubt a Carter plan.” 

“Will… remember.” 

 “See that you do.  Now, let’s get up there,” Jack said pointing upwards.  “I’m looking forward to a little nighttime flying.”

 ~oOo~

 The silo was opening, but Jack didn’t look—his gaze was focused on the carpet of lights in the valley below that was the Springs.  He’d seen that view many times from a plane, but never like this—a full 360 degree view, unobstructed by walls and undisturbed by the drone of engines.  Instead, there was a warm breeze blowing across his face and the only sound was the soft tha-whoosh tha-whoosh of Daniel’s wings as they kept them airborne. 

 Daniel began began his descent and Jack reluctantly turned his head to watch as they entered the silo.  Lower and lower, until he could see the ‘gate below.  Finally they exited the silo into the cavern of the ‘gateroom.  Daniel immediately stopped, hovering just above the ‘gate. 

 Jack could see why—a dozen SFs were deployed around the room, all with weapons aimed in his direction.  He could feel Daniel’s muscles tense and Jack was worried he’d bolt again.

“Stand down!”  Hammond’s voice rang out over the loudspeaker and the SFs all lowered their weapons and moved back from the ‘gate to stand near the back wall.  

Daniel continued to hover as though undecided about whether to stay or go. 

“It was just a precaution, Doctor Jackson,” the general continued.  “We’re prepared to dial the ‘gate as soon as you’re ready.”

 On his left, the blast door opened, and Carter and Teal’c entered, followed by Doctor Fraiser, Doctor Lee, two scientists whose names he couldn’t remember, and SG-3.  They were kitted out and ready to go—even Lee had a stuffed pack on his back. 

Daniel finally lowered them to the floor at the base of the ramp, but didn’t immediately release Jack.  “I swear, Daniel, nothing’s gonna happen.”

 Several seconds ticked by before Daniel let go of him.  Jack stood face to face with him, hoping it would reassure his friend.  Teal’c stepped forward and handed Jack his pack.  He snagged it and began putting it on. 

 “Dial it up,” he called as he adjusted it. 

Carter joined them as the ‘gate began to turn. “I’ve got some clothes for you, Daniel.  You can change when we get to the planet.”

 “Thanks,” Daniel said even as he continued to scan the ‘gateroom.

“In a hurry, Carter?”

 “Let’s just say the NID will eventually figure out they’re on a wild goose chase and we don’t want to be here when they do.”

“Gotcha.”

 The ‘gate whooshed open and General Hammond’s voice rang out:  “Godspeed, people.”

 Jack gave him a quick salute and took  Daniel’s elbow.  “Ready?”

 Daniel gazed steadily back before nodding his agreement.  Jack tugged gently on his arm to get him moving and walked beside him all the way to the wormhole, where they stepped through together.

 ~oOo~

TBC



 

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