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Never Leave Your Wingman Chapter 9/10

There was no welcoming committee when they reached the other side, which was fine with Jack.  He was more than a little nervous about bringing Daniel back here in his ‘condition.’  It was a fear he was trying to deny—that Daniel now had more in common with these people than he did with his own.



SG-2 was already spread out, checking the area around the ‘gate.  The sky was still gray and overcast and he wondered if it was ever sunny here. 

 Jack let go of Daniel’s arm and watched as he took a couple of steps, lifting his chin and sniffing the air. 

 “They could really use some air fresheners around here,” Jack commented as he descended the steps.  Daniel followed without comment, still sniffing.  And then he turned his eyes to the sky.

 Jack was at his side again in an instant.  “Stay with us, Daniel.” 

He brought his gaze down to Jack, his blue eyes almost luminescent in the gloom.  Jack’s gut clenched; he was beginning to think this was a bad idea. 

Daniel didn’t say anything, just gave him a single nod and headed for the path. Jack moved up beside him, determined to stick close to Daniel the entire time.  Just in case. 

 They walked two abreast down the overgrown path, the eerie silence grating on Jack’s nerves.  He occasionally glanced upwards, half expecting the flying gargoyle-people to drop out of the sky.  He was almost relieved when they reached the ruins.  And there, waiting for them, was Trestin. 

 “You have returned.”

 The group came to a halt, all except Daniel, who took two steps towards the other man before Jack stuck his arm across his chest, blocking his movement.   “Hang on, Daniel.”

If the blue eyes had held lasers, Jack would be dead.  The muscles in Daniel’s neck flexed as he held his anger in check.  Jack wondered how long that would last.  “Let… me… go.”  The voice was so low and cold, Jack hardly recognized it.

“It would be best to do as he asks,” Trestin said. “He will come to no harm.”

 Jack looked across at Daniel, disheartened to see his eyes were distant and unfamiliar.  They were losing him.  The urge to bundle him off somewhere—anywhere but here—was almost overwhelming.  But what would that accomplish?  It wouldn’t change him back to the way he was, wouldn’t give Jack his talkative, pain-in-the-neck friend back.  And Daniel would hate him for it.  No, if they had any chance of ‘fixing’ him, it was here.  And if they couldn’t, Jack knew deep down that this would be the best place for Daniel.  These people would understand him and help him cope; he was one of them, no matter how much Jack tried to deny it.  And he had no right to take that away from him.

Jack lowered his arm.  “Don’t forget us, Daniel.”

Daniel tilted his head as he stared at Jack, but didn’t speak.  The ‘old’ Daniel would have talked his ear off, which showed him just how far gone his friend was.  Shimmering blue eyes held his until Jack felt a release of tension, as though Daniel was telling him he understood.  The connection was broken as he launched himself into the air, wings spreading wide as he soared upward.  Three winged people swooped in and surrounded Daniel and after a few seconds of mid-air dance, flew off with him ensconced between them.

 “They will take good care of him,” Trestin assured him. 

 “They’d better.” 

 Trestin ignored the threat.  “You have come to help us?”

 Carter stepped forward.  “Yes.  We’d like to examine whatever you used on Daniel to see if we can reverse what was done.”

 Trestin looked over the group of scientists and soldiers before answering.  “That will be acceptable.  Please come with me.”  He turned and headed down the path towards the village and cave. 

 “Let’s move, people,” Jack ordered, falling in behind him.  He glanced at the sky again but there was no sign of Daniel.  Another gloomy thought wormed its way into his mind: even if they figured out how to reverse what had been done, would Daniel still want it?

 ~oOo~

 Jack scuffed at a rock embedded in the dirt as he stood outside the cave.  Carter and her scientists had been working on the strange technology for two days and had yet to figure out how it worked. 

 Jack’s first look at the thing that had altered his friend had made him wince.  The machine itself was small, situated at the end of a curved stand that hung over a flat, person-sized slab with attached restraints.  They’d brought Daniel here, while the rest of them were under the gargoyles’ spell, and transformed him. 

 They’d met with the elders, even been invited to eat with them, but not once had Jack seen Daniel during that time.  When he asked about his friend, he’d been told Daniel was being ‘educated.’  Maybe ‘indoctrinated’ would be a better word.  Jack feared that what was really going on was that Daniel was learning to become part of this society.  He tried to keep an open mind, but he’d never really been good at that. 

“Sir.”  Carter interrupted his thoughts, waiting for him to acknowledge her.

 “Carter—what’ve you got?”

 “Progress,” she said smiling.  “We’ve figured out how it works; now all we need to do is see if we can reverse the process.  Bill’s working on it now.”

He felt a heavy weight lift from his shoulders. “That’s great.  How soon before you can try it?”

 “I don’t know, sir.  There are some very fine filaments that—”

 “Aht!  Just keep me posted, okay?”

 His shortness didn’t dampen her smile one iota.  “Yes, sir.”  She headed back into the cave, leaving Jack smiling.  

 ~oOo~

 Jack sat at the long wooden table, picking at a piece of bread.  Across from him, Carter and Lee were jabbering away about the DNA machine. 

 “They are most optimistic about the probability of returning Daniel Jackson to his natural state,” Teal’c said from his place on Jack’s left. 

 “Yeah, I heard.”

 “You do not seem to share their enthusiasm.  Do you believe their efforts will be unsuccessful?”

 “No, I’m sure Carter and Lee will get it figured out.  ‘Best minds in the galaxy’ and all that.”

Teal’c was silent for a moment.  “You fear that Daniel Jackson wishes to remain as he is.”

 “Ever thought about becoming a shrink, T?”

 Teal’c’s eyebrow rose to the position it usually took when he was confused by the Tau’ri’s colloquialisms.  He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the entrance of several of the winged people.  Walking in the center of the group was Daniel. 

 All heads turned in their direction and Jack rose from his seat, the food in his stomach solidifying into a stone in his gut.  “Daniel?”

 “Jack.”  Daniel looked straight at him, his face neutral. 

 “It’s good to see you, buddy.  How ya doin’?”

 “I’m fine.”  He looked around the table at the SGC personnel.  “How is everyone?”

 The stone became somewhat lighter as Jack listened to the almost normal speech coming from his friend.  “You wanna sit?  Have something to eat?”

 “Sure.”  Daniel walked over and took the seat on Jack’s right while the rest of the winged group took seats at the end of the table. 

 “Hey, Daniel,” Carter said, smiling as she reached over and placed her hand on top of his. 

 Daniel’s lips curved into a slight smile and Jack noticed he didn’t pull away from her touch.  “Sam.”

 “Good to see you, Daniel,” Bill Lee said.

 Daniel nodded to him.  “You, too, Bill.”

 “We are pleased you could join us, Daniel Jackson.”

“Me, too, Teal’c.” 

 The table settled into uncomfortable silence.  Daniel reached over and grabbed a piece of fruit and took a bite, his eyes focused on the table. 

 “Carter and Bill have been working on the alien machine,” Jack said, pulling off a piece of his bread and popping it in his mouth.  “They think they’ve figured out how it works.”

 Daniel looked up, glancing at each of them.  “That’s… that’s good.”

 Jack didn’t know how to read that.  Daniel’s response wasn’t very enthusiastic; was he not happy with the news?  Or was he still having trouble controlling himself?  The gargoyles' attempt to ‘educate’ him had obviously helped him to some extent or he wouldn’t be sitting here talking to them.

 “We’re hoping it won’t take long for us to be able to reverse your condition,” Carter said with a hopeful look on her face. 

 Jack didn’t miss the slight flinch Daniel made when she said ‘condition.’  He had a feeling the easy part would be figuring out the machine; the hard part would be getting Daniel to use it.

 Trestin rose from the table.  “Daniel, it is time to go.”

 “Go?  Go where?” Jack asked.  The man had just gotten here. 

 “We will continue his training while your people work on the machine.”

 “You know, he’s one of the smartest people around; I think it’d be hard to find something to teach him that he doesn’t already know.”  He turned to find Daniel looking at him, eyebrows raised in surprise.  Jack hadn’t expected that reaction—did Daniel really not know what Jack really thought of him?  They definitely had a lot to work on in that department once Daniel was back to normal.

 “He is very intelligent, which is what has enabled him to control himself so well so soon.  There is more we can teach him, however.”  Trestin held out his hand to Daniel.  “Come, Daniel.”

Daniel was still watching Jack, his eyes searching as if trying to look into Jack’s very soul.  Trestin made a second request and Daniel rose, eyes still on Jack until he joined the man at the head of the table.  Several other gargoyle people rose and escorted Daniel from the room.

 “Carter, you sure you can reverse the whammy they put on Daniel and change him back?”

 “Well, we’re pretty sure.  We still have a few—”

 “Good.  See if you can speed it up, okay?”

 “Yes, sir.”

 ~oOo~

 The check-in with Hammond had been unnecessary, but it gave Jack something to do.  Teal’c walked stoically beside him as they made their way back to the village.  Even though Teal’c said nothing, Jack knew he was bored from inactivity.  Hammond had told them they were free to return to the SGC at any time—he’d gained the support of the President and sent the NID packing—but Jack had no intention of leaving until this situation was resolved.  And if Jack was staying, so was Teal’c

 As they passed the ruins, a shadow passed over them.  Jack looked up and spotted two winged people soaring above them.  One followed the other as they climbed, dove, and glided through twists and turns in a mesmerizing dance.  It wasn’t until they drifted closer to the ground that Jack realized it was Trestin and Daniel.

 He stood silently watching the aerial display, all the while his deep-seated fear that they’d already lost Daniel intensifying.  They’d rarely spent any time with Daniel in the five days they’d been here.  He came for an occasional meal and been whisked away as soon as he finished.  He spoke politely, but was never talkative, so unlike the old Daniel who would have been full of information he was anxious to impart.  They hadn’t seen any of the wild behavior they’d witnessed on Earth, but any thoughts that Daniel was returning to normal had been dispelled by the events that took place in the evenings.

 Baronen had warned them to stay inside after dark for their own safety.  On their first night—and every night since—a chorus of howls had filled the air.  It went on sporadically for several hours before finally dying down.  Unable to resist satisfying his curiosity, Jack had slipped out on the second night, and from his hiding place, observed the gathering of winged gargoyles.  Totally nude, they faced off in pairs, grunting and growling as they wrestled each other, sometimes on the ground and other times lifting into the air to continue their battle. They reminded him of the Greek figures on some of the pots in Daniel’s lab. At some unseen signal they stopped and all of them took to the air, their howls echoing as they disappeared from sight.

 Jack waited and, just about the time he decided to leave, he heard and saw them return.  Most landed empty-handed, but two carried the carcasses of fresh prey.  The animals were placed on the ground and, after another round of howling, the hunters attacked their meal, dividing it up and passing it among them. 

It shouldn’t have bothered Jack—he was a hunter himself—but there was something much more primal about this, and there, with blood-stained hands, was Daniel. 

 Jack had slipped quietly back to the village, reluctant to share the details with his teammates, simply telling them it was a hunting ritual. They understood it had been much more.

Now, days later, Jack was finding it difficult to believe they’d leave here with Daniel in their company. 

 “O’Neill.”

 At Teal’c’s call, Jack stirred from his musings to see Carter waiting at the entrance to the cave.  Her expression appeared neutral, but he knew her well enough to see her restrained excitement. 

 “News?” he asked nonchalantly, as he reached her side.

 She glanced around at the handful of villagers going about their daily routines before turning her attention to him.  “We think so.  I’ll show you,” she said turning back to the tunnel. 

She offered no other info as they passed through the empty meeting hall and entered the side room that held the alien machine.  The other scientists were busy tinkering but stopped and looked up when they entered.

 “Okay, what’ve you got?” he asked.

 “We’re pretty sure we’ve figured out how to reverse the process,” Carter replied.

 “Pretty sure?”

 “As sure as we can be without actually trying it on someone.”

 Ah, the catch.  They needed a guinea pig.  “So—what?  You think we should bring all the elders together and ask for a volunteer?”

“There’s really no other option.  At some point we’re just going to have to see if it works on one of them, but we’re fairly confident it will.”

 Pretty sure, fairly confident—he didn’t know what he’d expected.  Of course they’d have to try it on someone.  But if Carter was right—and she almost always was— they could change Daniel back to the way he was. That left only one question to be answered.

 “Before we go to the elders, I wanna tell Daniel.”

 Carter nodded her head in understanding. 

 “Do you wish me to accompany you?” Teal’c asked.

 “No, I’d rather go alone.  But thanks, anyway.”

 Teal’c dipped his head in acceptance.

 ~oOo~

TBC



 

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