...But it's hard to guess
How one thing on another
Works an influence.
And lit briefly by one another's light
Think the way we go is right.
From "One Another's Light", by Brian Patten
The storm was still raging, pounding the ground into a deep brown mush. Jack shook his head as he pulled back into the rocky shelter, sending drops flying like small, wet missiles. Not a picture-postcard day on P37-528, but that was good, considering a horde of very big guys with very big guns was after his team. By now, SG-1's tracks had been washed away. The storm was good. Very good.
Except...Jack wasn't all that fond of caves.
And they'd had to abandon most of their supplies when the natives attacked.
And the Stargate was at least five clicks away.
And -- despite Jack's fiercest intentions, despite all his strategic know-how, despite how desperately he willed the universe to listen, damn it, listen! -- one of the very big guys had aimed his very big gun at Daniel, and damn it, NO! not missed.
Jack took one last look at the world outside the cave, took a deep breath, shifted his P-90, and made his way back, back, back, until he saw the flickering lantern light that told him he'd found his team. Pulling off his gloves, he sank down in the spot that gave him the best possible views of his teammates, the tunnel leading to the entrance, and the one branching off to whatever lay beyond their makeshift camp. He took another breath. "You know what I miss most when we're off world?" he asked.
"I've never really thought about it," Sam said absently, not looking up even briefly from the bandage she was adjusting around Daniel's leg. She frowned, tightened the blood-soaked fabric, patted it gently, and nodded. Daniel breathed out raggedly, bandana askew, a fine sheen of sweat coating his face. "TV, beer, and hockey," he said, his voice a little too thin, a little too tight. "Mexican food from the El Phoenix Room. Your couch. That's too easy."
'Wrong," Jack said. "And to think they call you a genius." He rotated his shoulders, stiff from the long run, the tension, the fear. His shirt was plastered to his back, cold and clammy. His nose was starting to run. That didn't block out the damp cave smell, though, or the cloying perfume of the weird-ass flowers he'd trampled trying to get his team to safety. And it didn't block out the smell of Daniel's blood.
Jack felt a hell of a lot more buried than he did when he was twenty-eight levels below ground.
"Wrong? I'm wrong?" Daniel sounded surprised, as though he didn't think it was possible.
Did I ever feel like that? Jack wondered, leaning his head back along the craggy wall, and then -- whoosh! -- he was eighteen, racing down some dark back road in the '68 Camaro he'd sweet-talked his cousin Patrick into loaning him, so strong and so full of himself and so damn sure. He could feel the accelerator hit the floor, the soft May night rushing by...
"Jack...?" Daniel croaked.
And the Camaro squealed to a stop, throwing Jack and his sopping BDUs into a cave a zillion light years away from Minnesota and certainty and starry skies you could explore with only a telescope, instead of a P-90 and sense of dread. He blinked a couple of times, shook himself, took a deep breath. "Toilets," he said.
"Sir...?" Sam asked from across the rocky room, where she was rummaging in their lone surviving pack for something or other. Her voice echoed.
"I don't think so," Daniel said. He grimaced, obviously in pain, but went on as though explaining were just another autonomic function for him. "I mean, I can see where they," he gestured to a series of depressions in the cave wall, close to the floor, "look like urinals. But I'm pretty sure they're just--"
"No, no," Jack said emphatically. "Toilets. That's what I miss."
"Um, Sir...?" Sam repeated.
"Oh, well," Daniel said. He slumped back a little against the wall and closed his eyes, deflated now that he had nothing to argue. "That's good. Because, you know, it would be better to think we weren't holed up in a public bathroom. Especially if --"
"I mean, let's face it, at my age squatting over a hole is the ground is no fun," Jack interrupted, in case Daniel was going to point out that they might be stuck, or that he might be dying again sometime soon. "Not that it was ever high on my list of entertaining pastimes. So there's that. Plus, latrines are smelly. And sometimes, you just want to hunker down with a magazine and--"
"Sir...?" Sam said, this time more insistently. "Too much information. Way, way, too much information."
"Come on, Sam," Daniel said, opening his eyes and even leaning forward a bit. Either the painkillers were kicking in, or Daniel was able to compartmentalize far better than Jack had realized. "We've been sharing camps with Jack for years. You can't pretend we don't know his, uh, digestive habits.That we don't know all of each other's, you know, habits. And pretty intimately, at that."
"We can't avoid knowing," Sam said, still rooting through their one pack, though she must have gone through it thoroughly at least three times by now, Jack thought. "We don't have to discuss them."
"What is it you have no need to discuss?" Teal'c asked, materializing from the gloom-shrouded passage at the far side of the cave. He nodded at Jack. "I have gone back as far as possible, O'Neill. The path appears to lead to the outside, but it is not wide enough for any creature larger than a young child to navigate."
Jack nodded. Fresh air, then, but no other way out. On the plus side, though, no surprise attacks by the incomprehensible, incomprehensibly hostile natives, or by predatory animals looking to super-size to a meal of tasty Tau'ri McNuggets.
A small fire, carefully tended, would probably be okay.
He got up to gather some debris for a fire, watching as Teal'c and Sam exchanged looks that clearly said, "How's Daniel?" and "Not good." Daniel sank back again, almost boneless. His eyes were closed, his breathing a little forced. "We were talking about toilets, Teal'c," Daniel rasped out. "And Jack's bathroom habits."
"I see," Teal'c said, settling himself by Daniel.
Daniel opened one eye. "Really?" he and Jack said at the same time.
"Men," Sam muttered, taking up a place on Daniel's other side. She felt his head. He batted her hand away.
"Oh, like women don't have things they talk about," Jack said, using his cap to shovel up what appeared to be some old animal droppings.
"Like knitting, Sir?" Sam asked sweetly.
"No! Like...woman stuff. You know."
Daniel let out what under better circumstances might have been a laugh. "You can't even say it!"
"Whatever. Period? Menstruation? Tampon?"
"Daniel, cut it out! Men don't talk about that stuff," Jack huffed, bringing a last armful of debris back to the site he'd selected for their fire.
Sam snorted. Daniel squinted. "So...I'm a guy if we're talking about crapping or farting, but I'm not if I talk about a woman's reproductive cycle?"
"I don't know what you are, ever," Jack said, giving Daniel a quick grin. Daniel managed to smile back.
"You talk about farting?" Sam asked faintly.
"The Tau'ri have many strange rules about conversation," Teal'c said. "As well as many strange inhibitions regarding the natural functions of their bodies."
"Not the Tau'ri, Teal'c," Daniel said. He melted down the wall again, scrunching his eyes shut. Maybe the pain meds hadn't kicked in, Jack thought. Maybe they didn't even have the pack with the pain meds. Damn.
"We're just a small -- tiny, really -- sample of the Tau'ri," Daniel began again. "We're of a specific place and time, and from relatively similar backgrounds and cultures. The earth's a big place." He was restless, almost vibrating. Jack hoped that was the thrill of debate, but thought it was more likely the first sign of a ratcheting fever. "And even within a small community, concepts like 'modesty' have different meanings to different people in different situations. The SGC has different rules than a college dorm, for instance."
Jack signaled to Teal'c, who inclined his head. "I should know better than to bring up even the simplest concept around Carter or you, Daniel," Jack said.
"Yes," Teal'c said, positioning himself so that he was both supporting and warming Daniel. "You should."
"Was that true on Abydos, as well?" Sam asked, fussing with Daniel's bandage again, and finally replacing it with a fresh one. "That concepts meant different things to different people?"
"Well," Daniel said, shifting and grimacing slightly, "communal living has certain standards everyone has to agree on for the good of the group." He gritted his teeth, took a deep breath, and continued. "And of course the, uh, weather there affected everybody in pretty much the same way. It had...it had a fairly consistent influence on the language and the customs and...well, everything."
"I'll bet you missed toilets there, am I right?" Jack asked. Sam rolled her eyes. Jack looked over his mound of twigs and sticks and droppings, checked the circle of dusty stones he'd built up around it, and finally held his lighter to the pile. He watched Daniel carefully in the resulting glow. Daniel was clearly shivering now, or maybe it was just more obvious in the firelight. Catching Sam's eye, Jack gestured to Daniel, and then to the pack. She raised her eyebrows, but then nodded.
Daniel opened his eyes at the sound of Sam scrabbling in the pack again. "That wasn't one of the main things, actually," he said to Jack. "Being on digs, especially in Egypt, I was used to doing without toilets, showers, things like that." He looked up at Sam, who had returned with a syringe. She held it up, and he shook his head. When she didn't back down, he sighed, and reluctantly nodded. "It was other stuff that hit me, the things I hadn't thought about when I...when I first decided to stay." He made a face as Sam slid the needle into his arm, but kept looking at Jack. "Not being able to get new glasses, or to fix the ones I had. Not being able to get another pen, or, or a pad of paper. Coffee, of course." He gave Jack a little smile. "Kleenex."
Jack nodded and smiled back.
"Did you ever regret deciding to stay?" Sam asked, after prodding Daniel to swallow what Jack guessed were their only antibiotic pills, and the last of their water.
"I've never made a decision I didn't question a little, at some point," Daniel said, relaxing against the wall again. Teal'c spread their one thermal blanket around Daniel, who didn't seem to notice. "At times. Even if, over all, I was happy."
Sam stared. "I...okay, that wasn't what I was expecting you to say."
"I suppose not," Daniel said. He opened his eyes briefly, though Jack thought he wasn't focusing. "You don't second guess much, I'm guessing."
"Why do you say that, Daniel Jackson?"
"She's a...uh...a scientist," Daniel managed to get out. He sank more comfortably against Teal'c. "Most of the time science and math are about finding answers. If X equals six, it's not 1023, and you can prove that. And once you do, you can go on to another question."
"Simplistic, I know," Daniel said. His words were starting to slur a bit, but his brain was clearly still whirring away, which Jack found comforting. "That's just a general approach. Still, social sciences are...um...different. A lot of social science comes down to personal interpretation, and there are always...uh...new interpretations. New information. New ideas. You always know your answer isn't precise, and possibly isn't even right." He gestured around the cave with the sloppy movements of a man who's recently been shot up with a painkiller. "You look at a hole in the ground and you guess. It could have held funeral ashes or meat; it could have been a dog dish or a planter..."
"Or a toilet," Jack said. The fire was burning well now, not too high, not too smoky. Jack motioned to Teal'c to move Daniel a little closer to the flames, while he busied himself laying out some of their clothes to dry.
"It's like a translation," Daniel said. He was on a roll, no longer really listening to them, Jack knew. Painkillers could do that. "Words don't always translate exactly. Some concepts don't trans...translate at all. Privacy, for instance, is unknown in some cultures. Which affects how you look at their artifacts." He opened his eyes and flashed a smile at Jack. "Or their toilet habits."
Okay, so not so whacked out on morphine, after all. Good to know, if they had to beat a hasty retreat.
"I see," Sam said.
"When he says toilet it's just peachy," Jack groused. He motioned to Sam -- Check the situation outside -- and she nodded, moved carefully away from Daniel's lax body, and took off.
"A warrior would then seem to best fit with the scientists," Teal'c said. "A warrior must determine the best strategy for obtaining his objective, and then act, without wavering or questioning."
But a leader has to know his people and what they need; to change strategies based on new intel or conditions. To constantly reassess, Jack thought. Because a wrong decision means...
Daniel shifted and stifled a groan.
I'm too freaking old for this, Jack thought. "Yeah, well, you can have your philosophical discussions," he said forcing himself to settle into a relaxed-looking position by the fire. "Me, I'm just looking forward to getting back home and communing with the eternal truths of existence: pizza, beer, and my bathroom. And I gotta say, I'm not going to miss this place one bit."
"You know what I miss most when we're on Earth?" Daniel asked dreamily.
"Now, see, a normal person wouldn't find anything to miss on the good ol' Earth," Jack said, watching Daniel carefully. "I mean, Earth's got it all, am I right?" Daniel's color was better, and his breathing had evened. The new bandage was still mostly dry. Okay.
"When you are on Earth, you miss being off world, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked.
"I miss the certainty," Daniel said. His eyelids fluttered.
"Excuse me?" Sam said, returning to the group. She nodded at Jack -- All clear -- and he nodded back.
"When we're..." Daniel gestured, animated for a moment, and then slumped back. Sam sank down next to him and patted his hand. "Everything seems a lot more black and white," Daniel went on. "Good, evil. Shoot, shoot back. Everything is very in the moment, you know?"
"I was not aware you find life on Earth more complicated than life off world," Teal'c said gravely.
"It's not...not that," Daniel said, struggling with his tongue. "It's just -- I know this is big stuff, what we do off world. But most of the time, when we're in it, we don't have time to think about it."
"And you miss that, when we're home?" Sam asked.
"I w...worry," Daniel said. "What if we had the experience, but missed the meaning?"
"How much morphine did you give him, Carter?" Jack hissed.
"I'm not stoned," Daniel said with some dignity. "It wasn't a full syringe, just the emergency back-up one. I saw it. But it's okay; I'm not that hurt. I mean, I'm not hurt that badly. I'm just kind of sleepy. And a little achy. And, you know, morphine makes me ramble a little."
"More than usual," Daniel amended. "But I'll be okay. I can walk. But it was good hanging out here for a little while. Resting. Talking about toilets and stuff. It's been a good distraction. A good command dez...deses...decision."
"Well, gee, thanks," Jack said, but he was thinking, Really. Thank you.
And Daniel smiled at him, as though he'd heard what Jack was thinking, as well as what he'd said. As if Daniel thought Jack was doing fine. And, well...Daniel was a genius, after all. Jack felt the accelerator under his foot again, just for a minute, and the spring breeze in his hair, and he grinned at Daniel, and wondered how Daniel would feel about a road trip through Minnesota. You could rent a '68 Camaro, probably, if you were willing to fork out some serious bucks.
"Shelter from the storm was most welcome," Teal'c agreed. "I believe, however, that the intensity of the storm has slackened."
"I agree," Sam said. "And there were no signs of any hostiles near the cave. Sir, if we left now, we might be able to get back to the Gate before dawn."
"We'll wait," Jack said.He rolled his shoulders and tried to stretch out his back muscles. Pretending to be relaxed was hard on the body. "We'll have better visibility just before dawn, and I think we're going to need it. And Daniel will be in better shape to travel after some rest. So for now -- we stay put."
"So...you want us to dig a latrine, Sir?" Sam asked.
Jack sighed theatrically.
"You don't think that's the meaning of...of...everything, do you?" Daniel asked anxiously, enunciating carefully. "That everything is just about...crap?"
Jack wanted to say something about the hokey-pokey, but decided against it. "No, I don't think it's all about crap, Daniel," he said gently. "And I don't think we've missed the meaning."
"I agree," Teal'c said. "We could not have missed the meaning of our experiences, Daniel Jackson, for we had you with us, to make sure we did not."
"We shall not cease from the exploration," Daniel said.
"No," Teal'c said. "Indeed we shall not."
"Though it might be nice to explore, say, Maui, for a change," Jack said.
"And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and to know the place for the first time," Daniel went on.
"Damn lot of work to get nowhere," Jack said.
"Um, Eliot, right?" Sam asked.
Daniel frowned. "No," he said. "I'm pretty sure I'm Daniel." He looked at Jack. "Though it's...um...you know, that first time we saw the Gate light up -- who'd have ever thought...?"
"That some day you'd be spouting poetry in a cave on another planet?" Jack asked. "Yeah, that would have been a tough one to call."
"It's hard to tell how one thing on another works an influence," Daniel slurred.
"It's a poem," Daniel said. "Poem is a funny word, isn't it?"
"Carter?" Jack said.
"It wasn't a full syringe, Sir," Sam said. "But earlier, when you were scouting the perimeter and I was bandaging Daniel's leg? I wasn't sure we had any morphine, so I gave him a couple of...uh...pills."
"The ones Fraiser gave you for your, uh...?"
"Daniel, you are so stoned," Jack said fondly.
"I'm feeling no pain," Daniel agreed. "But I can't feel my mouth, either. Or my brain."
"Well, that could be good," Jack said.
"Not feeling my brain? Or not feeling that I'm not the...uh...feeling the...um...Jack?"
"I forgot what we were talking about."
"It doesn't matter," Jack said.
"The past may not repeat itself," Daniel said, "but it does rhyme. Twark Main said that."
"I'll bet it was hard for him," Jack said.
Sam frowned. "Does that mean--?"
Jack raised his hand and cut her off. "Daniel? You may now change the subject."
"Presto-change-o!" Daniel announced. "Like alchemy. Which is like...everything. No, it's like us."
"Okay, you lost me," Sam said, pulling the blanket a little more tightly around him.
"How people influence each other. Change each other. It's like alchemy," Daniel said earnestly, his head now lolling on Teal'c's shoulder.
"Oh. I see. Like...you make something more than it was before. You turn lead into gold," Sam said with a smile. She checked Daniel's bandage, felt his head, and nodded.
"Well, maybe not," Daniel said, frowning.
"Maybe yes," Jack said. "Maybe a big yes." He bent to check their gear, which was drying nicely. He could feel Sam watching him, assessing, about to correct him, but this was one bit of science he knew better than she did. He'd seen the proof. Hell, he was the proof.
"Everything," Daniel said solemnly, "is very complicated."
"Not everything," Jack said.
"Quantum physics," Sam said, and Jack wasn't sure if she was arguing or agreeing with him.
"Freedom," Teal'c said.
Friendship, Jack thought. Responsibility. Duty. Honor. "Toilets," he said.
Daniel nodded so hard his glasses fell off. "You win."
"Well, that's never happened before," Sam said with a small grin. "Daniel conceding an argument. Much less to you, Sir."
"The world is so full of a number of things," Daniel said, "I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "Though I do not believe this situation truly conforms to the parameters of the bet."
"Whatever Daniel's on, I want a supply of it put in -- wait," Jack said. "What bet? You two have a bet about how much Daniel and I argue?"
"Of course not, Sir," Sam said. "The whole base is in on it."
"Daniel and I don't argue that much," Jack said firmly.
"Jack," Daniel said, staring at his hands as though he'd just discovered them, "we argue more than that much. Like, to the zillionth degree more."
"I would worry if you didn't," Sam agreed.
Daniel looked up. "That's why he does it," he whispered loudly to Sam.
"Is not," Jack said.
"Is too," Daniel said.
"Is," Daniel said. "Is, is, is, is -- ooh!"
"What?" Jack demanded, scooting forward to check that no part of Daniel's body was gushing blood.
" 'Is' is a funny word," Daniel said. "It sounds like the...oh, that's it!" He nodded briskly, gathered himself as if to stand, and then collapsed back against Teal'c and Sam. He looked at them briefly, as though not quite sure what they were doing there, and then shook his head and looked at Jack. "The natives. The ones with the guns? They're not coming after us anymore." He shook his head again. "Nope, not coming."
"Um...what?" Jack asked.
"I just figured it out," Daniel said.
"How can you be so sure, Daniel Jackson?"
"They're nature worshippers," Daniel said. "Remember? We knew that 'cause of what we got back from the MALP. Their gods use nature to um, you know, communicate with them."
"So...they talk to the animals?" Jack asked.
"No, it's more like the um, the weather talks. To them. So when we came through the Stargate, and we hiked to the village, and it started getting overcast, they thought we were bad. Not good. So--"
"They attacked us," Sam said. "Chased us. Because of...because of the weather?"
Daniel nodded vigorously, his bandana perilously close to flying into the fire.
"They shot you because it got cloudy?' Jack demanded. "What the hell would they have done if there'd been a hurricane?"
"Um, made me a king, I think," Daniel said, chewing his lower lip. "Or maybe sacrificed me. I'm not really up on nature religions. But see, that's why they stopped chasing us. Because when they shot me, that's when it started pouring. Remember?"
"Yes, Daniel," Sam said softly. "We remember."
"We're still wet," Jack said, but also softly.
"Well," Daniel said. "I heard them. What they were yelling. When we were running, and they were yelling. I heard what they said. I just didn't understand it until now."
"Now?" Sam repeated.
Jack gave her a look, but then shrugged. "No offense, Daniel, but you're pretty out of it."
"No," Daniel said, shaking his head again. His bandana finally gave up the fight and fluttered to the ground. "Ow, I shouldn't do that," Daniel said, holding his head still with both hands. "But it's okay, I'm sure. See, ever since we got here I've been listening to the sounds they made. Running them in my head, like, like a tape. And the words didn't make any sense, but then Jack started talking about toilets, and that was it."
"Daniel...?" Sam asked, and went to feel his head again. Jack just stared.
"When Jack was talking," Daniel said slowly, trying to get the words out clearly, "I remembered. It's not always what's being said. It's how it's being said. Tone conveys meaning. Emph...emphasis conveys intent. And then, then it was all clear. You see?"
"No," Sam and Teal'c said together.
Daniel frowned. "I'm not expa...explaining this right. It's -- they were saying, at first, that we were bad. But then, when it was raining, it wasn't us, we weren't what was bad. It was the situation that was bad. Chasing us was bad. So they stopped, and they won't come back after us." He yawned hugely and resettled himself with his head on Sam's shoulder. "It's simple, really. Like...like finding X. No, it's like translating a...no, that's not right, either. It's like...it's like friendship," he said."Or responsibility, or honor, or duty. Or...or..."
"Toilets," Sam said, with Teal'c only a beat behind her. They were both smiling at Daniel, and Jack knew, knew, that they were all going to get home okay. His kids were going to be okay.
"Now you've got it," Jack said.
"Yeah," Daniel said sleepily. "They do." He nudged Sam. "Hey! Jack and I just agreed on something. You guys owe me ten bucks."
"Twenty," Teal'c said. "I believe we owe you twenty."
More, Jack thought. Much, much more.