"Help! She's injured!" Daniel gasped out as soon as his body felt solid enough to speak.
He kept his crushing hold on Vala, not willing to let her go, not quite certain if it was real that they were actually safe. He blinked rapidly to try and adjust his vision to the different light. Seconds ago, he and Vala were surrounded by bright flames, the Prior about to strike them with the glowing orb of his staff. Then the blinding flash of an Asgard beam surrounded him. He grabbed Vala, and now they stood on the deck of an Earth vessel. They were brought from danger to safety in the blink of an eye.
"She needs medical attention." He said, repeating the demand in Russian. All he could make out was vague shapes of people surrounding him and Vala; there was not enough light to make out the insignia on their uniforms or distinctive features of their faces. But the smell of recycled air and the familiar sounds of a 304 class vessel brought Daniel a feeling of safety, the closest to home he could feel when thousands of light years from Earth.
As the crew members began to pull her away, Vala grasped his arm. "Daniel?" Daniel looked down at her pain filled face. When their eyes met, she asked "Adria?"
He shook his head. "I don't know." He wasn't certain what comfort he could give; he wasn't certain what comfort he should give. His mind was still reeling from the events of this surreal day. But the time for talking was over as gentle hands removed Vala's grip on him and eased the injured woman onto a gurney.
"Sir? Doctor Jackson? Are you injured, sir?"
Daniel finally realized that a medic had been speaking to him for several seconds. He waved the airman away. "No, I'm fine. Thank you. Take care of her."
He gave a weak smile to the airman, and with a hesitant glance to some other people in the doorway, she fell back and followed the medical team already wheeling Vala to the medical bay.
Daniel welcomed the momentary respite to gather his thoughts. The airman had spoken unaccented American English. He must be aboard the Odyssey. He wondered what had happened to the Korolev. Had Mitchell made it to the F-302 bay? He had spoken to Sam on the radio, so he knew she was safe, but what of Teal'c?
His answers were no further than a few steps away. So lost in his own thoughts, he had not registered that others were still in the room until a very familiar presence embraced him. "Daniel," Sam whispered in his ear.
"Hey, Sam," he softly responded, disbelief in how much comfort he was receiving from her simple hug. The tenseness he felt ever since ringing aboard the Ori ship began to melt away, and a weakness in his limbs arrived, the aftereffects of living on adrenalin for so long.
"Nice outfit, Jackson." He looked up from Sam's tousled head to see Mitchell watching with a weary grin. Teal'c and Bra'tac stood right behind him--Teal'c with an equally joyous smile, and Bra'tac looking happy, yet troubled. Daniel knew the feeling.
"Long story." Daniel sighed in response to Mitchell's weak teasing.
"I'll bet. When the Korolev exploded, I didn't think there was a hope, but Sam knew as soon as she saw the rings had been activated that you had gotten off that ship."
Daniel's relief at seeing his teammates faltered at hearing the news he feared. "It was destroyed? Any other survivors?"
"Six beamed over here before the destruction."
"Only six?" Daniel shook his head. So many gone. "What about your co-pilot?"
"Didn't make it to the cockpit before the hangar bay got hit, so...just me." Mitchell's eyes had a haunted look that Daniel empathized with all too well. "Rode out the flames, but I guess I blanked out for a bit."
"Are you okay?" Daniel raised his eyebrows.
"Yeah, sure." Mitchell shrugged.
"He was unconscious for over four hours, at least that's how long it was before I could raise him on the radio." Sam rolled her eyes at Mitchell's bravado. It had also not escaped Daniel's notice that she had been checking him for injuries while not quite releasing him from her embrace. He gave her a knowing smile, and she drew back, but not before giving his arm a final squeeze. "Are you all right?"
Daniel paused, finding that question surprisingly difficult to answer. He managed a subdued reply. "I will be." He shook himself away from morose thoughts. "Sam, you said you were trying to blow up one of the Ori ships. Did it work?"
Sam frowned and Bra'tac seemed to glower even more. Teal'c was the one who answered. "It did not. The Goa'uld explosive was insufficient."
"Didn't even make a dent." Mitchell grimaced. "That's when Bra'tac decided to go kamikaze and ram his ship into the Ori...with us in it." Mitchell's face was grim. "Gotta love these locator beacons."
Bra'tac sniffed. "It would have been an honorable death."
"I've got no problem with honorable death. I've got a problem with senseless death, Bra'tac. This way we can fight another day."
"Another day may be too late for Chulak."
Daniel had a feeling from this brief interchange that his teammates had as strange a day as him. At least he knew now it didn't matter the Korolev bomb never finished being set to go through the rings.
"Excuse me, sirs?" Daniel turned, the young airman medic had returned. "The doctor insists Dr. Jackson report to the medical bay."
Daniel grew alarmed. "Vala?"
"They're still working on her, sir. But I believe she's stable."
Daniel breathed a sigh of relief, as Sam spoke up. "The baby?"
Daniel blinked in puzzlement until he realized that as far as his teammates knew, Vala was still pregnant. Had so little time passed for so much to happen? He needed to give at least the bare bones explanation. "Oh, she's had the baby. The 'baby' is a girl who walks and talks and apparently takes after her 'father', at least based upon how quickly she was ready to order me killed."
Daniel couldn't prevent the bitterness that crept into his voice. He closed his eyes and let out a deep breath. He couldn't yet process what had happened a short time ago. Even though he knew Odyssey was moving beyond the speed of light, he could still almost feel evil's presence so close to him.
"Is she like a Prior?"
"Nooo. She's much worse than a Prior. She's Ori all wrapped up as Red Riding Hood and growing by the hour. Nanites have nothing on this kid's vitamins." Years spent around Jack O'Neill had honed Daniel's snarkier tendencies to the point that it was becoming an instinctual deflection for stress. Sometimes he recognized the same influence in Sam's and Teal'c's comments.
"This is indeed troubling news." Bra'tac's sulk seemed to have ended. "The Jaffa witnessed Gerak's power as a Prior, and you now say this child holds even more?"
Daniel shook his head. "I don't know exactly what kind of powers Adria has. But I know she has some. She partially healed Vala from the staff blast and..."
Daniel opened his mouth, then paused. "That one's probably a story for Vala."
"Sounds like you've had quite a day."
Daniel sighed at the understatement implicit in the comment. "Something like that." He gave a sympathetic smile. "Long day for all of us, huh?"
His teammates and Bra'tac gave ironic smiles, all of them with a sadness behind their gaze. Daniel thought back to his conversation with Jack so many months ago and the "pep" talk he had been subjected to at dinner, and how we'd always won before. Daniel never missed that old optimism more than now.
So lost in their joint commiseration, they had forgotten the existence of the young airman until she uncomfortably cleared her throat.
Daniel slumped in resignation. "Sorry. You said sick bay wants me?"
The airman gave him a grateful look for understanding. "Yes, sir. Colonel Emerson and the CMO insisted on a post mission check up."
Mitchell shrugged. "You were in enemy hands."
Daniel tilted his head in grudging acceptance.
Mitchell smiled, clearly wanting to shake off his team's despondency. "Besides it'll give you the chance to change out of that...outfit."
Daniel sighed; Mitchell would not let it go. "Short story, Vala thought this would blend better. Personally, I felt more comfortable in the robes." Daniel caught the exchange of looks and shook his head. "Don't ask."
He started to follow the airman, then remembered something he should do. He stopped and started unbuckling the armor from his arm. "Oh, Sam, you should take a look at this." He handed her the Ori stunner.
"What is it?" Sam's eyes lit up with the sparkle they always held when she discovered new technology. It was nice to see despite the galaxy turning upside down, some things still remained the same.
"The Ori version of a zat gun, apparently. No telling how many shots may be lethal, according to Vala. I know for certain it can knock people out...or at least it used to have that ability."
"Ye-yeah. Encounter with the Prior kinda short-circuited it, so I don't know if it can work at all anymore."
"You encountered a Prior of the Ori?" Teal'c raised his eyebrow.
Daniel winced. He really couldn't focus on those last few moments right now. "Long story."
"Indeed." Teal'c responded.
"Sir?" The medic remained at attention but she was clearly uncomfortable at the delay in following orders.
"Apparently duty calls." Daniel followed the airman back through the ship to the medical bay.
Daniel was morbidly amused by the fact that even on a spaceship in the middle of literally nowhere, post-mission protocol was the same, including a booster inoculation against the Ori's plague. The ship's sick bay even had an MRI machine through which all crew members underwent routine checks after the affair with Col. Caldwell of the Daedalus. Unfortunately, the thorough exams and tests also gave Daniel unwelcome time alone with his thoughts.
Too many things happened today. His last moments on the bridge of the Korolev kept racing through his head. The faces of the crewmen who had been killed before they could finish programming the bomb were seared into Daniel's memory. In his shock, he had not even asked if Chekov was one of the survivors. No matter the answer, too many good women and men had died today.
Then there were his way too fresh recollections of his time aboard the Ori ship. There was no place to escape the decompressing section but straight into the lion's maw when he ringed aboard. Followed by the worry about whether the noticeably not pregnant Vala was now foe instead of friend. And then, there was their foolhardy and desperate plan stopped by Vala's husband.
But all these memories were a mere distraction from what Daniel was truly avoiding. It was the girl that haunted him. Adria's cold order for his execution struck the marrow of his bones. He knew it as soon as their eyes met. The evil inside her was palpable, as it was when the Doci was possessed with the Ori fire of Celestis. Daniel knew in that moment she was more than a pawn, more than even perhaps Vala realized. She was Ori, personified in corporeal form.
This was worse than even Khalek. Khalek's powers made him dangerous, and he was essentially Anubis. Shifu's dream had taught him first-hand the evil and danger of the Goa'uld, and Anubis was the most powerful and worst of the lot. But Anubis and Khalek were minor leagues compared to the danger the Ori now represented.
Shifu. Remembering the dream put him in mind of his wife's son. What was Shifu doing now? How was he caught in this new battle? But for the intervention of Oma, what kind of person would Shar'e's child have become? Did Sha're realize what she had been asking Daniel to do in her final precious gift of the dream to her husband? Was her understanding of the legends of Kheb a way to seek salvation for the child? Whose decision was it to hide the infant there? Amaunet's, or Sha're's?
Thoughts of Sha're's dilemma brought him back again to the present. And to Vala. Vala knew the danger of Adria; she had explained it to Daniel. Yet, Vala had shouted "no" when she worried Daniel was about to shoot the child. Perhaps Adria was as much an influence on her mother as Vala hoped to be on her.
What was he going to do in that moment? Daniel had the chance to kill Adria before. Instead he merely stunned her and Tomin, hoping to contact Sam and escape. Then, when the Prior came, Daniel acted on instinct, yet he still did not fire. Thinking back now on the lost opportunity, he wondered if he should've pulled the trigger. Adria was the Ori's wild card, their way of getting around the detente established with the Ascendeds.
So distracted in his own thoughts, he barely noticed the nurse enter and take a final blood sample. The lieutenant gave a small smile and said: "It's good to know you made it, Dr. Jackson." before handing him some BDUs. Daniel gave a faint smile in gratitude as the man left, closing the curtain in a far corner of the medical bay to give him privacy to change.
Daniel started going through the automatic motions of changing, his mind still distracted by his thoughts. He faintly registered some movement outside the curtain. A gurney was being wheeled into another section of the medical bay. Peeking out, he saw Vala being moved to a bed, Teal'c nearby. He tried to hurry his movements, but apparently he was still suffering some after effects of shock because his hands fumbled more than usual.
"Are you my security escort now, Muscles?" Vala's voice sounded tired, but strong.
"I am here of my own accord to ensure you are well, Vala Mal Doran. Colonel Mitchell and Colonel Carter will arrive shortly. They were detained by Colonel Emerson. Your absence has been cause for concern."
"I was missed?"
Daniel could hear no response, but could almost picture Teal'c's expression, complete with raised eyebrow.
"Ah." Vala was quiet for only the time it took for Daniel to pull his t-shirt over his head. "Well, I'm happy to be back, even if it was to watch us lose spectacularly."
The use of "us" was not lost on Daniel, nor apparently on Teal'c based on his response.
"We have only lost this battle. There are many left to fight--a fact I have left Master Bra'tac to contemplate upon." Daniel was surprised by Teal'c's further candor.
Daniel leaned against the bed to pull off the bottom of the scrubs as the conversation continued.
"Teal'c, may I ask you something?"
"You just have."
"Yes," came Vala's dry response. "How long have you been with the Tau'ri?"
"We have fought side-by-side for approximately ten years now."
"Yes. But, you were a First Prime of a System Lord. What made them trust you?"
"I was branded shol'va for betraying the false god Apophis and helping O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, and Colonel Carter escape Chulak."
"They gave you the keys to their little Stargating club just because you saved their lives once?"
"Not all of them trusted me at first, and not all at once, but over time I earned their respect and their trust by being forthright with them: pledging my allegiance in both word and deed, and yes, in risking my life to save my teammates and their world. The Tau'ri judge on people's actions, and respect selfless gestures." There was a measured pause. "Such as you demonstrated in sabotaging the Chappa'ko and warning us of the Ori."
"Yes, I was quite heroic, wasn't I?" Daniel could almost hear Vala's preening as he finished buttoning his pants and reached for his boots. "Does that mean you trust me now?"
"Oh." Daniel could hear her disappointment.
"But it earns my respect."
A brighter "oh" from Vala was audible this time.
"Mine too." Finished dressing, Daniel pulled back the curtain and walked over.
"Daniel!" Vala seemed surprised to see him. "I didn't know you were there."
"I was aware." Teal'c intoned.
"Were you hurt?" Vala asked suspiciously.
Daniel shook his head. "Just the routine."
He gestured to her abdomen. "How about you?"
Vala smiled in a way that was more of a grimace. "Well, it was no healing device, but your doctors were very solicitous. And these pain killers are surprisingly effective."
Mitchell and Sam entered. Mitchell slapped Teal'c on the shoulder as he came in, announcing five hours until they'd be back in Earth's orbit. Daniel immediately noticed the small wince that came from Teal'c at the gesture, and so did Mitchell. "Sorry, brother. Forgot you were still a bit tender there."
"I am fine." Teal'c noticed Daniel's penetrating look. "It is a lengthy tale, Daniel Jackson."
Daniel grimaced. There was definitely a lot more that needed to be explained amongst his team in the near future. Mitchell meanwhile had given Teal'c a wider berth and perched on an empty cot next to Vala's.
Cameron spoke up again. "Sent a preliminary message back to Landry. He was happy to hear you're okay." He gave a pointed look to Vala. "Both of you."
Vala rolled her eyes. "Thanks to you. I figured we were done for when we met up with that Prior."
"We were lucky the ship on the planet had lowered its shields," said Sam.
Vala looked at Daniel. "You should have grabbed for Adria, not me."
Daniel couldn't believe she even thought that. It brought all his own thoughts to the surface, and he spoke openly. "No, I'm thinking I should have shot her when I had the chance."
"Daniel, you couldn't have killed a child," Sam admonished, but Daniel instantly corrected her.
"She's not a child. She's an Ori in the body of a human."
Mitchell leaned back on the bed slightly. "Isn't that cheating?"
Daniel's mind spun as his teammates discussed the issue that he had been brooding upon. He spoke out loud his confusion at the Ascended's rulebook.
Mitchell's response struck Daniel. "And, I don't think there really is one."
Exposing the galaxy to such evil, such a corruption of the enlightenment they purported to honor, was hard for Daniel to resolve in his mind. One thing he knew, the Ori were wrong, and something needed to be done.
A few minutes later, the doctor came around asking SG-1 to clear out because Vala needed rest. The rest of his team said their farewells, but Vala called Daniel back.
"Daniel, I can still reach Adria. She's my child too, corrupted though she may be." Vala's eyes flashed in determination.
Daniel softened his expression. "I hope so. But if you can't..."
Vala sighed, "Yeah."
Daniel watched Vala pick at her blanket. He decided to shift the subject slightly. "Vala, you almost got killed taking that blast that was meant for me..."
"Hmm. My goal was to push us both out of the way. Think that gown hampered my reflexes a bit."
"Even so, you stepped in the line of fire. You saved me."
Vala blinked. "So I did. I didn't really think about it before. It just seemed...natural at the time."
"Well, thank you."
"Hmm, well wanton adoration would not be refused..." They both smiled sadly at the weak teasing. "You're welcome." Vala looked away for a moment before arresting him with a penetrating look. "Daniel, why did you save me? Like I said, Adria would've been the smarter choice."
Daniel looked back at her with all earnestness. "No one gets left behind, Vala."
Vala opened her mouth and closed it a few times before responding. "Thank you."
Daniel nodded and turned to go.
"Hey, does this mean I'm part of the team now?"
Daniel raised his eyebrows and turned back. "The team?"
"Yeah, you know, go out, save the galaxy?"
"Yeah, we're doing a bangup job at that, aren't we?" Despite his almost automatic banter with Vala, he wasn't able to shake his brooding.
"Exactly why you need me around when you go offworld. I could be an asset, and not just for intelligence from my time with the Ori. As Colonel Mitchell pointed out, we need a new game plan. If that turns to playing down and dirty, I can certainly help there. I'm sure I still have connections." Vala fixed her eyes on him, all bravado and teasing gone. "Daniel, I need to help. You people are still the galaxy's best hope in defeating the Ori, and you and I know more than anyone how dangerous they are."
"I know, but..."
Vala was getting to know him too well. Where bragging and blackmail failed, an earnest plea would often succeed. Daniel closed his eyes and nodded. Vala grinned in triumph. "Whoa, wait," Daniel protested, "I'm not the final authority on this. You heard what Teal'c said. You have to earn the trust of the SGC."
"No cons, Vala."
"I'll be the paragon of virtue. Your best helper."
Daniel's eyes widened in alarm at the thought of Vala "helping" him in his office "That's...not necessary." He sighed. "I'll make you a deal. You stay on your best behavior when we get back, and I'll see what I can do. That means no attempts to sneak past security out of the mountain, no seducing airmen, male or female. And no sticky fingers for anything at Stargate Command."
"Well, when they just leave the stuff laying around..."
"In locked storage cabinets?"
"I just thought that was to keep the troops practicing ingenuity."
Daniel glared at her, and she huffed. "Okay, okay. I'll do it. I'll be good."
"And I'll be on the team?"
"I'll put in a good word. No guarantees."
"You won't regret this."
Daniel sighed. "Get well soon, Vala."
It was only after he was well out of her sight that he managed to smile slightly. Daniel's self-absorbed contemplation had made him lose track of the personal stake others had in this war. Vala's attachment to Adria was like his to Sha're when a demon possessed her. Unlike with Sha're, he did not believe Adria could be reached, but Vala's unconventional approach could be useful. As Mitchell pointed out, it was obvious the conventional ones were next to useless. If Vala made good on her promise, Daniel would have to start thinking up a way to convince Landry. Maybe he could borrow from some of Teal'c's speech. He had a feeling he'd need to use every weapon in his advocacy arsenal to convince the gruff general.
In the meantime, there was still a war to fight. Daniel couldn't dwell on his personal demons. The bigger problem was trying to find a way to defeat the Ori. They still hopefully had access to Merlin's library on Camelot. Daniel's search had been interrupted, but there was so much information in those books still untapped. Perhaps there would be a clue there to Merlin's weapon. Books, information always had been the best weapon in Daniel's arsena, perhaps this time would be no exception. If so, they could have a chance, and the losses suffered today would not be in vain. With a small spark of hope, Daniel hastened his steps to rejoin his team.
|Genres:||Angst, Character Study, Drama, Friendship, Hurt/Comfort, Missing Scene/Episode-Related, Team|
|Summary:||Daniel's reunion with SG-1 after the battle with the Ori, and his thoughts on what has happened. Episode Tag/MS for "Flesh and Blood" with preview spoilers for "Morpheus".|
Author's Chapter Notes:
Just a way to reconcile and fill in some of the character jumps seen in canon.