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When in Rome

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Chapter 1 || "Misunderstandings" || Jack's POV

 

This was supposed to be an easy trip through the gate.

Jack supposes that he should stop thinking that, ever, because it simply seems to jinx whatever mission they are on. He shifts, and looks from Carter to Teal’c in exasperation, resisting the urge to lift a hand to his forehead. “What do you mean, you don’t know where he is?”

They exchange a glance, neither one looking particularly eager to explain, but Sam looks back to him after a moment and does so anyway. “Sir, Daniel said he wanted to go meet with some of his contacts in the city one more time before we left. He promised he’d be back in plenty of time to return to the Gate.”

Jack makes a show of checking his watch, which shows that they are already overdue to be making their way back to the Stargate to return to Earth. Sam winces a little, but says nothing.

The Osparians had been friendly and welcoming to SG-1, and for once only seemed a little bit off from Earth’s own stage of development, rather than extremely primitive or far advanced. Carter was enthusiastic about some of their technology, which they seemed willing to share, and even thought they might have some advancements the Osparians didn’t to share in return. Daniel had been over the moon about being able to study another population of humans who seemed to have evolved free of Goa’uld influence but in similar parallel to their own. The first few days Jack and Teal’c had shadowed their teammates as they went about their respective explorations, but when there had been no sign of any sort of danger, they’d relaxed their guard. Teal’c and Sam had no reason to be uneasy about letting Daniel run a last-minute errand or two.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have that feeling in his gut. The feeling that says that something has happened to Daniel – again.

“It is not unusual for Daniel Jackson to get distracted.” That from Teal’c, but when Jack looks up to meet his dark gaze, he can tell that the Jaffa doesn’t feel right about this either.

“Indeed,” he responds dryly, drumming his fingers on the wood of the open door frame as he looks out into the city. “I assume you’ve already tried him on the radio?” He addresses this to Sam, looking back into the house where she is perched on the edge of a table, pack ready and waiting for departure at her feet.

“He left his on the charger here, sir. We didn’t notice until we tried to contact him.”

Of course he did. Apparently, danger isn’t the only reason to insist that Daniel follow the buddy system, since the good Doctor can’t be bothered to remember even the most basic protocols when he’s absorbed in some puzzle or another. He files that away for future trips. “Fine. Captain, go ahead to the Stargate and send a message through that we’ll be delayed. No reason to have them panicking about an overdue team if it takes hours to track him down. Teal’c, stay here in case he comes back – and keep ahold of him this time if he does. I’ll go start talking to the contacts I know he was visiting the most.” Checking the battery on his own radio, he’s already absently making a mental list of the places that he’d traipsed around following their archeologist to the first couple of days out, and he almost runs into the figure raising their hand tentatively to knock on the outside of the open door.

“Callo,” he says in surprise, not expecting to see their Osparian guide and translator. The team had said farewell to the slim, diffident young man earlier that day when they took their last breakfast at the small restaurant down the street that had been serving them two or three meals a day since their arrival. He hadn’t expected to see him again, though of course, he thought they’d be gone by now.

“Colonel O’Neill.” The guide’s tone of voice is already alerting Jack to the fact that this isn’t just a last-minute farewell, even as he lifts his gaze from Callo to several very official-looking people standing in the street behind their friend. Two of the men there appear to be part of the city’s police force, which they call the Legion, which as far as Jack has been able to tell is a mix of police force and military. The third is dressed in the clothes of Ospar’s diplomatic elite, which is not a good sign. “I am glad you have not yet departed. These people need to speak to you.”

Daniel, Jack thinks, even as Callo continues, in an undertone but a voice much closer to what they have been accustomed to hearing from him the past few days as he quickly became their friend: “It’s about Daniel, Jack.” Jack can hear Sam and Teal’c coming to attention behind him and appreciates that they move to flank him without being overtly threatening.

“Ah – actually, about that, we haven’t seen him and we’re running a little late. I don’t suppose you know where he is?”

The well-dressed man takes a step forward and says something in the clipped, harsh language they had quickly discovered about half of the planet’s inhabitants seemed to speak. It was the official language of Ospar, they’d been told, and many of the city’s highest and lowest ranking citizens spoken only that. Many of the middle working class, on the other hand, seemed to speak both the native language and one close enough to Earth English that the team had not needed translators to get by. When they did need to speak to those who spoke only the native tongue, Callo had been their official liaison. Jack’s eyes automatically track to him for assistance now.

“Ambassador Syhrac wishes to know if you are in charge of Doctor Jackson.”

Jack hesitates over the wording, exchanging a look with Sam, who shrugs. There have been several times since their arrival when there seems to be some subtext in the Ospari culture that they feel they’re missing, strange interpersonal interactions, but when nothing problematic had come of them, they’d decided to ignore it. He’s starting to get the feeling maybe they shouldn’t have. “I am the ranking officer, the leader of this team, so…yeah. I guess so.”

Callo turns to translate Jack’s response and listen quietly to the diplomat’s instructions, which seem rather lengthy. With only a little hesitation he turns back to Jack with a little shrug, looking apologetic but not particularly worried. “Ambassador Syhrac says you must come with him to retrieve Doctor Jackson. There has been an…incident…and he will be released only into your custody. He is unharmed!” His voice raises a notch in alarm when Jack’s hand inches towards his gun and Teal’c shifts his grip on his staff weapon, raising a hand to forestall any action on their part. “He is unharmed, Jack, and he will stay that way, I can promise you that, as long as everyone just remains calm. It is just our way, that he will only be released to you. All will be explained at the Legion headquarters. You’ll have to come unarmed.”

He holds Jack’s gaze in earnest, and Jack has to make a decision. He turns to his team; Sam is clearly worried and Teal’c’s face is as impenetrable as ever. Still, if the Ospari people had meant them any harm, their guards have been down for long enough they wouldn’t have waited until now. “You guys go back to the Stargate and report to the General. I’ll go sort out Daniel.” He doesn’t roll his eyes, but it’s a close thing. He can’t imagine what sort of trouble Daniel could have gotten into here, but he’s imagining Danny touching something he shouldn’t, or speaking to someone’s wife without their permission or some other minor offense that they stumble into all the time. “Give us…,” he ponders how long the paperwork and bureaucracy of even minor incidents can take in their military, and gives a ballpark, “five hours to join you at the Stargate.”

“Sir, I can report to the General. Maybe Teal’c should go with you.” Sam glances at the two stoic and very armed men flanking the impatient-looking diplomat, but Callo is shaking his head even before she finishes.

“That’s not a good idea, Sam. I’m sorry. They will only speak to Jack about Daniel.” Something flickers across his face, an expression Jack can’t read at all. “I really do promise they will both be returned to you uninjured.” Jack notices this time he uses the word “uninjured” instead of “unharmed” and suspects it means something, but he can’t even begin to comprehend what that something might be. Sam opens her mouth to argue and Jack cuts her off with a single hand motion.

“Go, Captain. We’re already overdue, don’t keep Hammond waiting.” He hands off his pack and rifle to Teal’c, and unstraps the pistol from his thigh to hand over to Sam. Glancing at his watch, he says again, “Daniel and I will see you in five hours.”

 


 

The walk to the Legion headquarters doesn’t take long, and Jack finds himself standing in a very plain room that doesn’t feel military at all, though the woman who rises from the desk in front of him couldn’t be anything except a military officer from her dress to her bearing. She nods at the two guards and Callo, clearly a dismissal, though the diplomat takes up a place at the side of the desk.

“Callo stays,” Jack objects, reaching out to stop the young man before he can follow the guards out the door.

“There’s no need for a translator, Colonel O’Neill. I speak the second tongue quite fluently.” The commander says, and one of the guards reaches to pull Callo away from Jack, but his patience is wearing quite thin with the whole charade.

“He’s not staying to translate. He’s staying because I trust him.” The glare he aims at the guard reaching for his guide has made greater men hesitate and this one is no different, shrinking back away from Jack. “Now, somebody better tell me where Doctor Jackson is, and soon. What is going on here?”

After a tense moment, the woman nods her men to the door and allows the guide to stay, and Jack draws him forward to stand beside him. Language may not be a barrier here, but he is not convinced culture isn’t going to be. Callo is at least familiar with them and their ways, from many hours this week spent mostly with Daniel and Jack. The door closes, leaving them in wary silence as Jack and the woman regard each other. “My name is Commander Lita. The Ambassador says you are responsible for Doctor Jackson.”

“Yes, we’ve determined that already. Is someone going to tell me what in the blazes is going on, or am I going to have to guess?” He drawls the words but folds his arms across his chest in irritation for lack of any other real way to express his displeasure.

The Commander gestures him to the chairs in front of her desk, and he lowers himself into one with rather ill grace, while Callo beside him perches gently on the front edge of the other. The Ambassador doesn’t sit, though the Commander returns to her seat on the far side of the desk. “A few hours ago, your Doctor Jackson was involved in an altercation with one of our citizens. It appears he attacked the man in his shop, and some other visitors called the guard. He was apprehended and brought here. It’s a relatively minor charge, so once reparation is made, he can be released into your custody.”

Jack leaned forward, incredulous. “You’re tellin’ me…that you think Daniel attacked someone? My Daniel?”

“Yes, Colonel, he did. There is no doubt, there were several witnesses.”

“Not a chance,” he is aware his voice is cold, his eyes flickering from the Commander to the Ambassador. “Daniel would never. Now, I demand you let him go so we can return home. Even you said it was a minor charge, what’s the big deal?”

The Ambassador leans in and says something to the Commander he can’t understand, but it doesn’t sound friendly and the look he aims at Jack isn’t friendly either. Callo doesn’t translate it, but reaches out and lays a quiet hand on Jack’s arm, keeping him in his chair with a pleading look, and addresses the Commander himself. “Commander Lita, Colonel O’Neill is rightfully distressed at being kept from Doctor Jackson, but there is no need to be hasty in that regard, I’m sure he will follow our protocol when he understands it. Perhaps you can tell us exactly what happened? The Earth culture is not the same as ours, perhaps this is truly a misunderstanding.”

Lita doesn’t look at the Ambassador or Callo, staring instead at Jack. After a long moment, she leans back in her chair, pulling up a piece of paper and skimming it before she speaks again. “It seems that Doctor Jackson was visiting a rare bookseller, and while he was there the proprietor of the shop had cause to discipline of their workers. He interfered, attacking the bookseller. It is a relatively minor offense, but according to our law, he cannot be released until he is reprimanded. If you have not come to take responsibility for the reprimand, then one of the reparation officers will take care of it, and he will still be released to you.”

That feeling that something isn’t right just keeps getting stronger, and he leans forward. “What is this reprimand you keep talking about? It sounds like he was protecting someone – surely that isn’t illegal here. I do not think we could have misjudged your world so badly.” The Legion commander is scowling at him now, but before he can say anything else, Callo jumps up and puts himself between them, speaking rapidly in the Ospari native tongue with lots of hand gestures and glances back worriedly at Jack. Jack steps away from the chair and waits, while they go back and forth for several moments. The Ambassador gets involved, clearly arguing against Callo at times, and he decides then that he doesn’t like the man. He’ll remember his name when he gets to Earth, and hopefully, they can request that he not be involved in further diplomatic relationships between Earth and Ospar.

If there are further relationships between Earth and Ospar.

Damn it, where is Daniel? What has he gotten himself into this time?

Finally, Callo turns away from the desk, drawing Jack over towards the corner of the room. Jack opens his mouth to blast angry protestations, but the guide cuts him off. “Wait, Jack, just…” he looks back towards the desk and sighs. “We don’t have a lot of time. The Commander is not a patient woman, but she has agreed that I can explain some things to you. If I can find the words.” He tries to smile, but it’s more of a grimace, and he adds, “Please don’t interrupt, if you can, it will be easier if you allow me to explain fully.”

Jack nods, stiffly. Callo rubs a hand over his face and bites his lip. It occurs to Jack that he reminds him a lot of Daniel; perhaps that’s why it was so easy for him to befriend the team. “What Daniel interrupted was not unusual here on Ospar. The worker was not being injured, merely disciplined. It is our way of life, Jack. Our society believes in immediate, physical corrections for all but the most serious misdeeds. Every Osparian answers in this way to their superiors – workers to their supervisors, individuals to the heads of their families, citizens to the Legion. I am surprised you went your whole visit without realizing – if I had known it was not the same on Earth, I would have explained it to your team, and you would not be in this position. I am sorry. I can see how Daniel would have thought he was protecting the worker – but attacking that man was a crime, and they are not willing to forgive it just because he did not know. Their only concession for Daniel being a foreign entity is allowing you to take responsibility for his reparation, as you have agreed you are responsible for him.”

“Callo,” Jack interrupts, and he keeps his voice very low, but he can feel the anger thrumming underneath his skin. “Are you telling me that these people are expecting me to beat Daniel, for a misunderstanding?”

“No, Jack, it’s not a beating. A beating is senseless violence. Reparation here is…just punishment. Discipline. A simple payment for offenses committed. There is no lasting injury.” He’s eyeing Jack, and it’s clear he knows he is not making himself understood. “I do not know your word for it. A beating is…fists, kicking and hitting, yes? All over? Meant to cause injury.” He pauses, and Jack is speechless now but manages a nod. “Reparation is…metered. Purposeful. Usually administered only to the buttocks, perhaps the hands or thighs. I cannot say it does not cause…pain…but it does not cause injury. It is administered with impartiality or even care. Surely there is an equivalent in your society?”

“They want me to spank Daniel?” This doesn’t seem real, and he’s aware his voice is rising. “Over a misunderstanding.”

“Yes, a spanking. That is not a term we use outside of the family unit, but it is correct,” Callo seems momentarily thrilled to have communicated this theory successfully, but then he takes another look at Jack’s face and sobers quickly, talking quite fast. “And it’s not a misunderstanding, Jack, he did attack that man. You and I know he meant well, but quite apart from any actual attacking which is very much against our laws, it is very illegal here to interfere in the reprimand of those under another’s care. That in and of itself would have been a crime that carried a reparation sentence. I am very sorry that I did not explain this, that I did not realize, and I take some responsibility for Daniel’s circumstances. I feel terrible, Jack, truly, but you can’t tell me that you don’t expect people on Earth to follow your laws, even if they are unaware of them. You can’t tell me that there are not still consequences for breaking laws on accident?”

Jack shakes his head, leaning in towards Callo and lowering his voice to keep his words away from the Ambassador and the Commander. “I hear you. I do. But I won’t do it. It’s not our way, Daniel had no way of knowing. If they will not release Daniel I will return to the Stargate and come back with reinforcements – we will not allow a citizen of Earth to be held prisoner for such a reason.”

“Jack.” Callo grabs both of his arms, physically keeping him from storming to the door. “If you do not do it, someone else will fulfill Daniel’s reparation before you can get to the Stargate and back. Surely, if it is going to happen regardless, it would be better if you, who care for him, are the one to…spank…him? I cannot speak for Daniel, Jack, but even for me for whom this is commonplace…I’d rather have such a punishment carried out by someone I know and trust than a stranger.”

“They’ll risk an alliance with Earth, over this?” He doesn’t pull away from the young man, who responds with a gentle but knowing look, reminding Jack again of Daniel.

“I think we both know that if no real injury is offered to Daniel, and he is returned promptly, your government won’t turn away from trade and exchange of information and technology for what is the normal legal response to a crime here.”

Jack’s head hurts, but he knows that their guide is probably right. “Shouldn’t diplomatic immunity apply here?” he complains as a last try and just gets a confused look from Callo.

“Diplomatic immunity? I do not understand, Jack.”

“Nevermind.” He sighs, wiping a palm down his face, and rakes a hand through his hair. “I guess I don’t have a choice, do I?”

“I’m sorry, Jack, truly, but I don’t see any other way. I do not wish any harm on any of you, or the loss of your friendship. If I could think of a way out of this, I promise I would have told you. But if you refuse, or stall, they are going to let someone else do it, and I really don’t think either of you wants that either.”

He looks guilty, almost devastated, and Jack reaches out and gently pats the young man on the shoulder. Daniel, you’ve landed us in hot water this time. “Not your fault, kid.” He mutters and turns back to the Osparians across the room. “Let’s get this over with. But I want it to be clear I’m doing this under protest, and my government will be hearing about it.”