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Never Leave Your Wingman Chapter 10/10

At Jack’s insistence, Trestin took him to see Daniel. 



His friend was sitting on a large stone in what must have once been a garden.  Now it was just crumbling walls overgrown with vines. A small spring gurgled as it tumbled out of a spout in one wall, deep purple flowers forming a carpet near the water’s edge as it flowed out of the garden; a rare splash of color in this gray world.  Two large trees, looking like some kind of weeping willow, draped over one half of the small area. 

Jack approached quietly.  “Daniel?”

He turned at the sound of his name, then rose, folding his wings in close to his back.  “Hi, Jack.”

The words were friendly and light, but there was no smile to accompany them.  Jack turned to Trestin, who’d stayed at the entrance to the garden, and told him, “We’ll be fine—you don’t have to stay.”

 Trestin hesitated, glancing from Jack to Daniel, then turned and left, reluctantly taking Jack’s hint that he wanted to speak to Daniel alone.

“Nice place,” Jack said conversationally, buying some time as he decided what to say.

“Well, I’m sure it used to be,” Daniel replied glancing around. 

Jack walked over and sat on a stone across from where Daniel had been sitting. Daniel returned to the seat he’d vacated and focused his attention on Jack, staring at him with curiosity.   Silence was so out of character for his friend.

 Jack took a deep breath and plunged ahead.  “You seem to be fitting in pretty well here.”

“I’m learning.” 

“I, uh, watched you flying with Trestin the other day.  Looks like you’ve got the hang of it to me.”

“There are other things they’re teaching me as well.”

That’s what he was worried about. “What kinds of things?”

“How to control my urges and emotions and… other things.”

 

Jack took off his cap and ran a hand through his hair; this was more difficult than he’d expected. 

“That’s not what you really came to talk to me about, is it?”  Daniel continued to stare at him with those intense blue eyes, and Jack turned his head away.

“Carter thinks they’ve figured out how to reverse what they did to you,” Jack said.   When there was no reply, he risked looking at his friend. 

“That’s… good.”

“Good?  That’s all you have to say?”  Jack rose and paced a couple of steps before turning back. 

“What do you want me to say?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe that you’re happy that we might be able to fix this, get the ‘old’ Daniel back?”

“I haven’t gone anywhere, Jack.  I’m still here.”

Jack sat down, leaning forward to look straight into Daniel’s eyes.  “You’ve changed.  It’s not just the wings and the muscles and the gray skin.  I miss my friend—the one who got excited over a new discovery, who had a story for everything, who challenged me when he didn’t agree with my decisions.”

“I thought you didn’t like that person,” Daniel stated quietly.

“I know I haven’t always been easy to get along with, and I know I haven’t always taken your advice, but I need you to keep giving it to me, to be there to show me another option.  You’re the only one who can.”

“Are you saying I’m the only one who can put up with you?”

Jack blinked.  Daniel’s eyes shone with amusement, his lips curving slightly.  “Something like that.”  He huffed a laugh and then turned serious again.  “Look, Daniel, I need to know that we haven’t lost you completely.  After everything I’ve seen, I thought… well… maybe…”

“I’d decided to stay like this?”

Jack let out a breath.  “Yeah.”

Daniel was quiet for several seconds, and when he opened his mouth to speak, Jack braced himself to hear what he’d feared most. 

“To be honest, there is something about this that makes me feel… good.  Flying is amazing, but it’s more than that.  There’s a connection that we feel that can’t be explained, almost like we know each others' thoughts and understand each others' feelings.  The increased strength is unbelievable, but it’s something I’ve adjusted to.”

“Sounds like you’ve made your decision.”  Jack lowered his gaze to his hands. 

“Let me finish.  This has been an amazing experience, and yes, it’s very tempting to keep these abilities, but it’s not who I am.”

Jack’s head shot up.  Had he heard right? 

Daniel continued.  “That connection I feel with these people—it’s nowhere near the level of what I share with you and Sam and Teal’c.  I know we don’t always agree, but I also know that you wouldn’t argue with me if you didn’t care about what we were doing.  I like to think of us as balancing each other. I love my work, and I love the people I work with.  I wouldn’t trade it, or them, for anything.”

The tight knot of fear that had been twisting in Jack’s gut unwound and fell away, leaving him feeling like he could fly without wings.  “You’re really going to give this up?”

“I really am,” Daniel replied, his smile growing wider.

“It’s just… I thought…” Jack shook his head.  “Carter and Teal’c will be happy to hear that.”

“It’s the wings, isn’t it?” Daniel said, still smiling.

Oh, Daniel knew him so well.  “What’s it like?”

“Like nothing I’ve ever felt before.  To be able to soar through the air under your own power, like a bird—it’s simply amazing.” 

“I got a taste of it when we flew out of the silo, and that felt pretty amazing.”

“Would you like to go up again—take a longer flight?”

“You sure?”

“Very.”

“Thought you’d never ask.”

~oOo~

Jack gazed down on the village below, the houses and people looking like toys.  He’d seen things like this before, from the window of a jet, but this was different—oh, so different. 

The clouds parted, and an azure sky spread in every direction. Jack realized it was the first time he’d seen the sun shine on this planet.  Below, the forest was like a dark green carpet, and in the distance he could see the white-capped peaks of a mountain range.  Daniel banked and flapped his wings and they passed over the forest until they reached a lake.  “Hang on.”

Jack gripped Daniel’s arms as they dove towards the water, faster and faster.  His heart was racing as they came within a few feet of the surface and leveled out, skimming across the lake at breakneck speed.  Then Daniel pulled up and ascended to the clouds, flying in and out, the dampness settling on Jack’s face.  Two huge white birds swooped in beside them, matching them move for move in an aerial ballet before flying off.  It was truly incredible. 

Afterward, they glided, Daniel’s wings stretched to their full extent, catching the wind currents, gently lifting them up and down.  Finally, Daniel circled back to the village and brought them to a gentle landing in the garden.

“You’re pretty good at that,” Jack said. 

“I’ve had some good teachers.”

“And you’re still willing to give it up?”

“Yes, I still am.”

“You’re pretty amazing yourself, Doctor Jackson.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“Well, enjoy it, because if you tell anyone, I’ll deny it.”

“Is this where I’m supposed to challenge you?”

“Wouldn’t expect anything less, Bird Boy.”

~oOo~

The elders entered the meeting hall where the SGC personnel were waiting. 

“You have news for us?” Baronen asked.

“Carter.” Jack waved to her to take over.

“We think we can reverse the alterations that were made in your DNA.”  At their slightly confused looks, she rephrased it: “We can change you back to the way you were before Nirrti altered you.”

Shock filled the voices of the elders as they murmured among themselves. 

“This is indeed good news,” Baronen said.  “When will you be able to start?”

“First we need to test it.  We can’t be positive it will work until we try it on a person, so there is some risk.”

“I see.  We must decide who will—”

“I’ll do it.” 

Oh, this was so the old Daniel coming through. “Daniel, didn’t you hear Carter?  They’re not absolutely sure it’ll work.”

“I heard her and I still want to be the one to test it.”

“We are grateful for your offer,” Baronen said, “but we are responsible for the change you have undergone.  You should not have to take the risk.”

“It’s my choice.  I trust Sam—if she says it’ll work, it will.  And I’m more than ready,” Daniel added, glancing at Jack. 

“Very well, we will bow to your wishes.”

“Daniel—”

“My choice, Jack.”

Jack sighed.  “Yes, it is.”

~oOo~

“I’ll be monitoring him the entire time,” Janet assured Jack as he watched Daniel being strapped to the table, wings folded underneath him.  ‘For his own safety,’ Trestin had told him.  He appreciated Janet’s attempt to assuage his fears, but the knot was back in his gut, coiling tighter and tighter. Beside him, Trestin, Baronen, and the rest of the elders stood watching.

Carter and Lee stood on one side of the table, checking the equipment for the tenth time.  Carter glanced up and Jack nodded for her to proceed. 

The small, oval-shaped machine at the end of the curved stand was swung into place directly over Daniel’s head, which held several leads connected to Janet’s monitoring equipment. He turned his head towards Jack and gave a single nod.  Jack nodded back and Daniel turned his head back and closed his eyes.

There was a faint hum, and then tendrils of blue light oozed from the oval machine, slowly enveloping Daniel’s entire head.  His muscles twitched, and then he moaned.  Suddenly, he arched his back, wings straining to push him off the table, but he was held fast.  A short, sharp cry of pain rang through the room before Daniel went limp.  Janet was at his side, checking the monitors but not touching him.  Finally the lights retracted and the hum subsided.  Janet went to work examining Daniel, who opened his eyes and looked around. 

“How are you feeling?” she asked Daniel.

“Headache,” he replied, squinting his eyes. 

Jack stepped to the table and quickly began releasing the restraints while Carter left Lee to read the monitors and moved to Daniel’s other side. 

“Was it successful?” Baronen asked, coming to stand next to Jack. 

“We won’t know for a while, yet,” Carter explained.  “If he’s going to change, we should see signs in the next few hours.”

“Can I get up?” Daniel asked. 

“Janet?”  Jack waited for her approval.

“His vitals all look good, so it should be fine.  But I want you staying inside where I can keep an eye on you, Daniel.”

“Just like being in the infirmary,” Daniel groused. 

“At least there aren’t any bedpans,” Jack whispered.

“That can be arranged,” Janet said as Jack helped Daniel off the table. 

“Not helping, Jack.” 

~oOo~

In the long hours that followed, Daniel began to change. 

Gradually, the gray tone faded, becoming more like Daniel’s normal color.  By the next day, the ridges on his chin and nose line began to recede, and they knew that the treatment had been successful.

Baronen and his people were excited by the news and began making preparations to undergo the procedure.  Jack was surprised to learn that some of them had been ‘altered’ for almost fifty years.  It turned out Trestin wasn’t too many years younger than Teal’c; they weren’t kidding when they said their lifespan was extended, and again he was amazed at what Daniel had given up. 

“Why would they want to change after so many years?” he’d asked Daniel.

“They want to return to their homeworld and the life they knew before Nirrti interfered,” Daniel had replied quietly.  “All of these ‘advantages’ aren’t worth the price of being separated from their home and families.” 

It’s what Daniel had been trying to tell him all along. 

All that remained was the problem of going through the ‘gate.  Carter’s theory was that with their DNA altered, Daniel and the other un-gargoyles would be able to pass through it safely. 

The only things that had yet to show signs of change were Daniel’s wings.  Janet was concerned, but Daniel reminded her that it had taken several days for them to fully develop and would probably take as long for them to go away.

“Janet, I’m feeling fine.  Can’t I go outside for some fresh air?”  Daniel’s tone bordered on whiney, but Jack couldn’t blame him—he’d been cooped up in the cave for two days under Janet’s constant scrutiny.

“I’d feel better if you waited until you were completely back to normal before going out.”

“Jack can keep an eye on me; there’s something I want to show him anyway.”

“I don’t know…”

 “C’mon, Doc.  I’ll bring him back right away if I notice any unusual behavior.”

Janet shook her head, smiling.  “All right, you win.  But stay close to the village, understood?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Daniel agreed.

“Thanks, Doc.”

~oOo~

“So, what’s so important that you’d risk Fraiser’s wrath?”

“You’ll see.”

“Cryptic.  Not gonna tell me, huh?”

Daniel was quiet as he led the way back to the garden and Jack wondered if some part of him was still thinking like a gargoyle.  

Arriving in the overgrown garden, Daniel turned to face Jack. 

“Okay, gonna tell me what this is about?”

“I wanted to repay you for sticking with me through all of this.  I know it wasn’t easy.”

“That’s what friends are for.”

Daniel smiled and nodded, and Jack felt the rift he’d been trying to fix start to close.  “So, just how are you planning to repay me?”

“By showing you a place where the fish grow so big you can hardly lift them?”  Daniel’s smile broadened.  “And there’s only one way to get there,” he added, fully extending his wings. 

“Sweet.”  Jack reached out and stroked one of the golden brown feathers.  “Just as long as they don’t disappear in mid-flight.”

“Have a little faith, Jack.”

“Oh, I do, Daniel.  I do.”

 END 



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