Season: post-Seven; before Season Eight
Category: Drama, Friendship (Pre-ship if so inclined)
Spoilers: Lost City
Summary: Even the simplest deceptions still lead back to the truth.
A/N: For sela21k's challenge: A Very Bad Hair Day. Unbetaed at this time, so any mistakes I take full responsibility for.
Disclaimer: Stargate, Stargate SG-1 and all of its characters, titles, names, and back-story are the property of MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions, SciFi Channel, and Showtime/Viacom. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be printed anywhere without the sole permission of the author. Realize this is for entertainment purposes only; no financial gain or profit has been gained from this fiction. This story is not meant to be an infringement on the rights of the above-mentioned establishments
"Dammit," she muttered.
Daniel slowed his pace as he approached Doctor Weir's office. When he reached the doorway, he poked his head inside and caught a frantic Elizabeth fumble through her desk drawer. Quietly, he leaned against the door, hands in his pocket, and watched, waiting for her to take notice.
She didn't take long.
"Doctor Jackson," she said, the surprise lifting her voice. Elizabeth immediately reached for her hair, attempting to flatten it.
"Hello," he said. "I just wanted to check in with you before the delegation arrived."
She let out a nervous laugh. "I hope they don't mind my appearance." She tried to comb her fingers through her unruly curls, stopping suddenly as she eyed Daniel more closely. "I see I'm not the only one having a bad hair day."
Daniel rolled his eyes upward, trying to catch a glimpse of his hairline. He touched his messy hair. "Sometimes the water pressure in this place is terrible." He forced a smile. "Your tax dollars at work."
"Or not." She shook her head. "That might explain the hair, but it doesn't explain everything else."
Daniel crossed his arms and frowned. "What?"
"My styling products. My jewelry. My watch." She moved from behind the desk to stand in front of him. "Both my suite and my office have been ransacked."
Daniel felt his forehead knotting as he considered what she'd said. "It could be a practical joke."
"One that I don't appreciate."
"I don't think the Tungunga will mind."
She hesitated and for a second Daniel thought she wouldn't buy his explanation. But then she sighed, attempting one last time to flatten her frizzy hair. "I hope so," she finally said.
"You'll do fine," Daniel assured her. He waved her to the door. "Let's go meet Nbuuru."
The Stargate whooshed to life; Elizabeth felt her heart flutter. No matter how many times she witnessed the wormhole as it flooded the space inside the Stargate, rippling and waving like standing water, she found herself breathless. It was remarkable, unreal. She couldn't believe that she was a part of it all.
Daniel stood by her side, staring straight ahead, serene and calm, but she didn't miss the little smirk on his face. She knew that her wonder and awe amused him or maybe brought him back to the days where it was all new and wondrous.
She would have to ask him sometime.
There was a fluctuation in the Gate. She stood a little taller. Elizabeth wore her best smile as the delegates of the Tungunga walked down the ramp.
She found herself jump despite herself. It wasn't the Tungunga's simple clothes or humble appearance that startled her. It wasn't even their lack of adornment or plain colors that struck her.
It was the unruly hair that sprouted like weeds from the tops of their heads.
Elizabeth shot a wary look over to Daniel. He was still smirking, though now more subdued. She was certain she caught a twinkle in his eyes before it all but vanished as he bowed low to the two delegates.
She turned away from him and filed away her shock, bowing to the Tungunga alongside him. "Welcome," Elizabeth said, returning to her previous position. "It is an honor to meet you."
"The honor is ours," said Nbuuru. His eyes glistened as he evaluated the two of them. "The fates smile upon us today."
Elizabeth assumed that was good so she nodded in agreement. "That they do." She glanced to Daniel who in turn waved his arms towards the exit. "Shall we sit and discuss the terms of our agreement?"
"Over a meal, of course," Daniel added.
Nbuuru smiled proudly. "I accept your offer. Let us dine and be merry."
Daniel had never met two men that could be so merry. Or hungry. He glanced over at the now-empty side of the briefing room table and mentally counted the half-eaten cookies, the crackers and crumbs and tidbits of cheese that littered the chairs and tabletop.
He grabbed a cookie. He thought it went well. Though how well he wouldn't know until Elizabeth started speaking to him again.
Since the delegates had retired to their home world, Elizabeth had remained at the head of the briefing room table, reviewing her notes. She hadn't uttered a single word since he'd rejoined her after having escorted the Tungunga back to the Stargate. Now, he'd just have to be patient.
Patience never was one of his best virtues.
He cleared his throat and bit into the cookie. She didn't move. Daniel slowly walked his fingers toward the tray and considered sliding the plate of cookies down toward her, but he never had the chance. A soft knocking at the door to the briefing room caused them both to abandon their projects.
"Doctor Weir, I wanted to inform…" Sam's voice trailed off as she stared at both of their heads.
"Hi, Sam. Hi, Teal'c," Daniel said, offering them both an uneasy smile.
"Has there been a problem in our absence?" Teal'c asked, the confusion evident as he studied the two of them.
"You might say that." Elizabeth glared at Daniel. "What do you have to report?"
Daniel eyed Sam closely, trying to search for any sign that she might have finally found something that could help Jack. But his hope waned when he saw the pain and frustration hidden deep within her eyes.
"The Tok'ra still don't have any leads on any technology that can help Colonel O'Neill," she said.
"Nor do the Jaffa," Teal'c added.
Elizabeth bit her lip and then nodded. "You've done all you can for now. I suggest the two of you get some rest."
Daniel could tell they weren't happy. None of them were. But they were doing their best considering the circumstances.
Plus he knew none of them would ever give up.
"Yes, ma'am," Sam said. She passed an apologetic shrug to Daniel.
He sighed and said nothing. He knew she understood.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some business to take care of." Elizabeth rose and headed for the door. "Doctor Jackson, my office."
Sam winced. "Trouble?"
Daniel tossed the cookie onto the table. "Oh, yeah." He pushed back his chair and headed toward Elizabeth's office. Before he entered, he waved vaguely to the remains on the tabletop. "Uh, help yourself."
He left Sam, Teal'c, and the cookies behind to join Elizabeth in her office. He still found it jarring – the lack of military commendations, the small feminine touches, the cultural trinkets – but he had grown to accept the changes. Elizabeth wasn't the enemy. She was just one of the parts of a larger mechanism that was beyond their control.
"Take a seat," she told him.
He wanted to say that he'd rather stand, but something told him that wouldn't be the best option at this juncture.
Daniel lowered himself into one of the spare seats and folded his hands.
Elizabeth stood in front of her desk, her arms crossed and her gaze hard. "Would you mind explaining yourself?"
Daniel smiled sweetly and batted his eyelashes. That only caused her frown to deepen.
He sighed. "The Tungunga have strict rules regarding comportment and appearance. Essentially, they're a chiefdom, and historically – at least here on Earth – chiefdoms operate within a set of rules and observances that include reciprocity."
"I've negotiated several treaties here on Earth between state governments and warring chiefdoms."
That would be polite speak for get to the point. Daniel got it. "The Tungunga feel that meticulous care of one's physical appearance is a sign of vanity. If a leader is so absorbed in their own looks, then they can't have their own people's interests at heart. It's a time management thing."
"So," she began, starting to pace in front of her desk, "you're telling me that you broke into my office and my personal suite, stole half of my belongings, and then lied to me just so that I would be prepared for this delegation."
Daniel stopped, thought about her summary, and then nodded. "That's about right."
"Doctor, it does not matter to me how long you've been a part of this program," she said. "You will not undermine my authority."
"I tend to see it more as helping," he said.
"Helping?" She laughed, but there was no mirth in her voice. "You snuck around and tried to deceive me instead of briefing me on the necessities of the meeting face-to-face. Did you think I wouldn't notice?" She paused and cocked her head, regarding him thoughtfully. "Or were you just looking to get caught?"
Daniel said nothing. Elizabeth eased herself into the seat next to him.
"I know that this adjustment has been hard on you and the rest of SG-1," she said, softening her tone. "You'd prefer to have General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill here. But I can assure you that I'm not trying to replace them."
Daniel knew it. Sam and Teal'c knew it as well. But having that knowledge didn't seem to make it any easier.
"You have to trust me and have the confidence in me to do this job."
"Just like you need to have confidence in yourself," he said, arching his eyebrows.
Elizabeth leaned back and frowned at him. "You don't think I can do this job."
"Oh, I know you can do it," he said. "You just—"
"Get too caught up in the details," she finished for him.
Daniel forced an awkward smile. But to his surprise, Elizabeth didn't try to refute him or come up with any kind of answer to try to satisfy him. Instead, she moved closer and grabbed his hand, squeezing it gently. He found himself squeezing back.
"Thank you," she said.
"No. Thank you."
And he meant it.
They stared at each other for moment. He wasn't sure what had just happened, but there had been a change. There was a perceptible shift, even if just a small one, and it left him unsettled, but not in a bad way. In fact, he felt better, more refreshed, which in turn gave him enough hope to keep pushing to help Jack.
"Good," she said suddenly, breaking him out of his daze. Elizabeth slipped her hand out of his and headed back to her desk. "I'd say we're even. But no more deceptions."
"No," he said. "No more."
"And I want my personal items back."
He glanced at her wayward hair. "But it's…you."
Elizabeth arched an eyebrow. "I can send out a memo that a certain Doctor Jackson loves to covet women's jewelry."
The smile vanished from his face. "You wouldn't."
However, the smile remained in full force on hers. And despite himself, Daniel couldn't help but join in.
"You don't want to tempt me," she said, eyes shining.
Daniel chuckled and shut the door. No, he decided he didn't want to tempt her. Or maybe he did. But that was for another time and another place.
He moved over to the table where Sam and Teal'c were waiting for him.
"And?" Sam asked.
"It's going to be okay," he said, and for the first time since they'd lost Jack, he truly meant it. "Everything's going to be okay."