Daniel leaned forward and rested his elbows on his desk while he rubbed at his temples. He looked to the clock and sighed as yet another forty minutes had passed by in pure futility.
He knew he could make sense of this translation, save for two very important factors that were holding him back. The first was that he had barely gone an hour at a time without an interruption of some sort - a request for a file or a random inquiry of another sort or a very bored Colonel needing a stimuli for his ADD. The second was that the headache he had been fighting all day had ratcheted up from annoying to near blinding over the course of the past hour.
"You need to get out more," a voice sounded from roughly the direction of his left shoulder.
He snorted and let his hands drop down to the desktop, shoulders still hunched as if they alone could shield him from the world around him. "Like you're one to talk. When's the last time you left your lab?" he asked, not bothering to look up or over.
"Twenty minutes ago," came the surprising answer. "I have biweekly use of a private meditation area scheduled, more for when it becomes too much. I also have a team that drags me out and would probably put me to bed each night if I didn't threaten to switch their private files to public if they tried."
Daniel reluctantly leaned back in his chair and finally turned to face his visitor. McKay looked healthy, a little tired but otherwise hale and all that. Whatever his team was doing was clearly working for him. "I used to have a team like that," he mused.
Now it was Rodney's turn to snort. "You still do, but they're too subtle about it. Why do you think they keep coming in to ask you questions? You really think Teal'c hasn't figured out a social dining norm yet? It's been how many years?"
If he thought about it, it really was obvious in its own way. He preferred not to think about it. Thinking made his head hurt. Hell, breathing made his head hurt at this point. Too much in it. Too much swirling around and not finding purchase. Too much crammed into too little.
"You need to let it out," Rodney told him. "You need to be you for a while, before the real you gets squashed down and disappears and goes boom."
Daniel frowned and neatly avoided the commentary by changing the subject. Rodney was there beside him, seemingly whole and real and with all the usual details, save for the way he faded ever so slightly at the edges and the way his already pale skin damn near glowed. "Are you here? Or just in my head?" he asked.
"Does it matter?" McKay asked with a wave of his hand. A trail of lights followed that Daniel wasn't entirely sure wasn't just part of the aura from what he was certain was a migraine at this point. "Both, by the way. I'm in your head but projecting a visual while blocking the audio and video feeds your little mountain loves so much so no one knows we're having this little chat."
"Aren't you just the little overachiever?" Daniel grumbled. That took a rather impressive amount of control actually, and he may have been the tiniest bit jealous that McKay seemingly did it with no problem whatsoever.
"Yes, I am," Rodney said with no shame at all. "And you should be at least at this level, if not higher by now," he chided. He rolled his eyes and pushed himself off of the desk he had been leaning up against. "You Ascended, like, hardcore, all the way, whatever. No magical machine or anything like that. Then you had an actual Ancient hijack your mind to play for a while, and then you had the freaky evil version do the same. Your brain should be wired to go by now, and yet you still hold it back and play pretend."
"I... can't," Daniel protested. It sounded weak even to himself.
"Why? Don't tell me they suppressed the abilities because I have both seen what you can do and can feel the potential in you. It's giving you those headaches and doing who knows what other kind of damage to you." Rodney paused, and actually looked concerned, which in and of itself was disturbing. "It hurting you. It's going to get worse if you don't take care of it."
"I can't," Daniel repeated, this time more forcefully. "I work in a military base, in an area full of people who would love to lock me up and dissect me the moment I even hint at being more than what they think I am. And before you suggest that I just run away, you have to know they will hunt me down, find whatever little hole I try to hide out in."
Rodney leaned forward now, face disturbingly close. "But you don't have to find a little hole, who have the whole goddamn universe to play in."
"And the moment I do that, the moment I disappear completely and show them what I'm capable of, they turn on my team, lock them up in suspicion of knowing and aiding and abetting, send someone after you and your team because you're the only other person they know of that's made it this far!" he seethed.
"Your team knows," Rodney said bluntly. "They don't know everything, but they suspect. Why do you think they keep checking up on you? They need to know what you are doing so they can cover for you when you slip."
Daniel knew he was glaring, but didn't care. "I don't slip."
"Everyone does," Rodney said with the same blasé tone from earlier. "I did. My team caught me. Gave me the flimsy cover story of meditating to give me an excuse to get away. Now, it helps that Teyla actually does this crap so she can tell me what to say to people when they ask, but, basically, I get a room with glitchy surveillance to do whatever I need to do for a couple of hours twice a week. Mix that in with Sheppard screwing with the recordings if I don't get to them first and Ronon convincing people he's sitting on his ass finding his inner violence too, and I get a pass."
"I..." Daniel started, but trailed off.
That was fine, because McKay could and would talk enough for the both of them. "If I were to peek outside right now, at least three of them would just happen to be in the immediate area and that's just because Teal'c is showing off for the new recruits. Hell, if you projected over to me for a change - which would help uncoil some of that suppressed power and help with your headache by the way - you would see the quiet little room with the pretty little pillows and a fire hazard of candles and would know, just know by the feel of their presence alone, that my three are damn near pacing outside my locked door as much as your own team is outside of yours."
Daniel looked to the door guiltily. It was open, barely, and even without the heightened senses he tried to hide he would have noticed the regular passing of certain shaped shadows, the simple pressure of presence the others exuded without ever being aware of it.
"Let them help," Rodney said, and it almost sounded like a plea. "Don't tell them everything because I doubt they could take it and I'm still not certain if Mitchell is a mole or just stupid at times, but tell them enough. Throw them a bone. They won't exactly step back to give you space, not if they're like my team, but they will make sure others do it and that's almost as good."
Daniel sighed. He hadn't wanted to involve his team, either past or present members, in any of this. It was stupid, yes, and he realized this. They were nosy and observant and intrusive and caring. They might not know exactly what was up, but they knew enough to be concerned. If he wasn't careful, they were just as likely to leak his secret out of ignorance as he was himself out of idiocy when he passed out and wasn't able to alter the inevitable full scan. At least this way there was a chance they would think it really was from his days with Oma and not his days as a Prior.
"I'll think about it," he relented, but he was already trying to figure out if they could schedule another trip to Jack's cabin as he was fairly certain that was the least surveilled location save for off world. Even off world there was a chance for a bug in their packs, full reports from either the natives when the follow-up team arrived or the newbie that "just happened" to be assigned to his own team.
Rodney smirked as though he could see right through him which, if he was honest with himself, he probably could. McKay had picked up on how to read people during his time with the Ascended, even if he pretended he couldn't and even if he still had all of the SGC and most of the Atlaneans convinced it was for only a few seconds. The fact neither one of them explained how time was meaningless when you were incorporeal was a telling truth to their opinion of certain aspects of their employers.
"You do that," Rodney said, same smirk still in place. He turned and began to fade as he added, "I've got to go set a rug on fire or else Teyla won't believe I was actually doing what I told her I was doing." An entirely unnecessary flash, and he was gone completely, leaving Daniel not-so-alone with his thoughts.
Daniel snorted a chuckle despite his best efforts not to at McKay's parting antics. It made his headache flare, but at least it was something real and not projected, so it had that going for it.
He tried to return to his work, but knew it was a lost cause, at least for now. His mind was unfocused, both from the possibilities and the damned pain. Instead, he started to lock down his files and computer and waited the precise four minutes and thirty-five seconds for another shadow to pass outside his door.
"Hey, Sam," he called, and watched the shadow stutter to a stop. "Want to get lunch?"
"It's almost five, Daniel," she sighed with no shame, not even trying to pretend she wasn't there. This time, she let him hear her footsteps as she approached the door.
"Dinner then," he shrugged when she poked her head into his office. "Grab Teal'c and Cameron and we can pretend it's a team thing."
"What about Vala?" Sam asked. She stepped fully into the room now, and openly looked around for reasons to either be concerned to or assuage her worries.
Daniel just pursed his lips at her and raised his eyebrows in a clear message of doubt. "Because she's not in the hallway hovering just outside the door?"
"I want pancakes!" Vala called from about two feet away from Sam.
Sam just shook her head. "It's time for dinner, not breakfast," she reminded her, though Daniel thought that such trivialities would not actually be a concern when it came to Vala.
Dark hair swished near the opening now, no longer trying to hide. "Those other ones then, the ones that are almost the same but Cameron says count as 'fru-fru' - craps?"
"Crepes," both Daniel and Sam corrected automatically.
There was a French restaurant about twenty minutes away that had decent enough food, and duck confit sounded like a decent meal option since he rarely got anything other than pizza if they went off base, even if he could materialize whatever he wanted whenever he wanted if he tried. Teal'c would eat just about anything if the portions were large enough for his appetite, and Cameron would mock the food while correcting Daniel's choice of wine. Sam was much like Teal'c and was willing to try it all, especially if there was a decent dessert at the end.
Plan decided, he pretended to pack up the last of his stuff even though it was already locked down in a way no one save for maybe Rodney could get to while Vala skipped off to round up the others, possibly literally. He made sure to text Jack a message asking about the cabin, and added a little extra to imply that the General himself might want to be present, or at least find time separately to figure out why his former team needed the place and space away from prying eyes. Even that tiny use of his abilities lessened the ache behind his eyes and he reluctantly admitted that maybe McKay was right about it all.
Not that he would ever tell him.
He was nowhere near that stupid.