Spoilers: Rite of Passage, Between Two Fires
Pairing/Character: Daniel/Janet UST or friendship, Team
Summary: As a surprise storm rages off-world, SG-1 and Janet Fraiser hunker down in an old shack and prepare to engage an enemy that is slowly stalking towards them.
Word Count: 2503
A/N: Written for the 2008 Dan/Jan Ficathon for meg_tdj
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
It wasn't so much a race against time, but a race against nature.
Daniel kept his head low, his body rigid, as he and Jack bolted across the muddy terrain. The rain pelted the tarp that served as their umbrella, grinding and hissing as it threatened to overwhelm them. Already he could hear the fabric ripping above their heads.
Jack yelled something back, but his voice was lost amidst the howling wind. Whatever he had said, Daniel knew it couldn't be good. They couldn't see anything past the edges of the tarp, and with every gust of wind, they came closer to losing their thin veil of protection. Daniel winced as he began to feel the burning.
And then with a hollow echo, it was over.
They were inside.
Quickly, Jack and Daniel flung the tarp and tossed it in the corner of the darkened shack. Before the both of them had finished ripping off their jackets, Janet was by their side, medical kit in hand. She set up her flashlight and opened her kit.
"Well, that was fun," Jack muttered.
"How is it out there?" Sam asked from somewhere in the darkness.
"Oh, fantastic. A little rain. A little burning. And we still can't see a damn thing, including the Gate." Jack tapped at his watch. "At least we know these can take a licking."
"And keep on ticking," Daniel added, holding up his wrist. The watch snapped off. "Or not."
"You have burns all over your hands." Janet shook her head and reached into her bag. "You can't keep going out there."
Daniel resisted the urge to scratch his skin. He clenched his teeth and waited, watching as Janet withdrew a small box and started sprinkling the contents on both of their hands. It stung, but soon the pain cooled enough that Daniel felt his muscles start to unwind. With a sigh, he eased himself into one of the rickety chairs that had been left in the abandoned shack and stared at his boots. He thought he saw part of the sole on his left boot missing.
Which, at this point, could only make him laugh.
He saw Janet frown at him and step closer, while Jack gave him a quick, but intense look before he started into the darkness toward Sam and Teal'c.
"Carter, what's our situation?"
"Sir, we need to find new shelter. The rain is eating straight through the wood."
"Break out the Mylanta?" Jack asked.
"I do not believe the Mylanta would be useful, O'Neill."
"I know that." Jack disappeared into the darkness again. "So, give me options."
Sam began to rattle off some theories on why the acidity was so high on the planet, but Daniel wasn't listening this time. He shifted in the chair and peeked outside one of the dirty windows.
He knew they were still out there. He knew there were at least five of them, hopefully fighting each other, or hiding out, waiting for the storm to pass. But Daniel couldn't be certain. They could be right outside. They could have found a way to counter the rain.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
Daniel glanced back to Janet, catching a glimpse of her warm inviting smile, before he turned back to the window. Through the gritty glass, he saw snatches of color – muted grays, greens, and browns – blurred and smeared from the rain. Somewhere behind the battered woodland, he knew the bounty hunters were waiting.
"Sam feels terrible," Daniel said, keeping his gaze focused outside. "She really wanted to believe it was Narim."
"I know. We all did."
"We should have known it was a trap."
To his surprise, Janet had nothing to say to that.
It was true. After five years of regular Gate travel, they should have seen this coming. They should have known it wouldn't be this simple. A distress call, a request for Janet's medical assistance, a plea to reunite and reform an alliance – that just wasn't SG-1's luck.
"This isn't really about the Tollan," Janet said quietly.
He forced a small smile, wondering how she could always see through him. "No, I guess it's not."
Janet didn't press him any further, and he had no need to continue. Yet, he felt compelled to talk, to keep going, whether as a distraction or just to release some deep-seated burden.
"Lately, it seems every step forward we take, we end up five steps behind. For every accomplishment, there are a hundred other heartaches." He sighed. "Everything is undone."
He wondered where the excitement and the urge to discover had gone. He wondered if there was anything left.
He hated to feel this way. He hated how tired they all seemed. He hated the malaise that seemed to cling to everything and everyone. He just didn't know what to think anymore.
To Janet's credit, she didn't tell him everything would be just fine. She didn't tell him to snap out of it and move on. She didn't even agree with him. All she did was squeeze his shoulder and stand beside him, watching the bitter rain through the scuffed window glass.
They remained that way for the longest time, keeping watch as Sam and Teal'c attempted to patch the holes in the ceiling. Jack stood by one of the other windows, P-90 at the ready, his face deep in thought. And still, the rain continued to fall, chewing and gnawing at everything it touched.
Then, they heard the first explosion.
Daniel leapt out of his chair and withdrew his sidearm, holding his breath as he approached the side of the window. Janet took the other side, while behind him, he heard Teal'c's staff weapon power with a snap, and Sam and Jack ready their weapons.
Everything was quiet.
Another explosion ripped through the forest.
Daniel looked to Janet, who had her gun drawn and aimed at the window. Above them, the hissing moans continued as the rain quickly ate away the already rotting rooftop.
A third explosion shook the ground.
Daniel kept his body still. The pounding became more urgent and frenzied; the wind-driven rain blew sideways.
He couldn't help but wonder just how badly Nirrti wanted them, just what kind of bounty hunters she had hired to subdue them for ruining her plans with Cassie. He didn't even want to think of what she would do when she finally had them.
The fourth explosion rattled the shack. And then came the fifth.
This was it. Daniel swallowed hard and waited.
But then a sixth explosion shook the ground and brightened the sky, nearly causing them all to lose their footing.
Daniel jerked his head to look at Jack. He saw it in his eyes. They had only set five charges.
Jack immediately gave them the signal to get ready to fire.
The door burst open and the figure marched into the shack. All five of them opened fire on the bounty hunter, pelting him with a barrage of bullets and firepower. Nothing could be heard over the sound of the munitions and the rain and wind, with the deafening roar reaching its peak, while the dulled light from the outside quickly became enveloped in smoke and debris.
The attack was in vain. They stopped, realizing they were just wasting valuable firepower. Jack gave the signal to lower their weapons, though Teal'c gave one last staff blast for good measure.
When the smoke cleared, they were able to get a good look at their assailant.
"Dammit," Jack muttered and wiped his face.
The bounty hunter took off his helmet, and flashed them all a winning Aris Boch smile.
"I would have expected something with a little more fanfare," Aris said.
"The bullets weren't enough for you?" Jack asked.
Aris shrugged. "Applause would be nice."
"Oh, right," Daniel said. "We forgot with all the shooting."
Aris chuckled. "You missed me. I can see that sparkle in your eyes."
"Also known as rage," Janet muttered.
Aris laughed again. "You're the new one on the list. How does it feel to join the ranks of the inept? Don't answer that," he said without given them a chance to reply, "you'll only embarrass yourselves."
"I have to hand it to you," he continued as he began to unstrap something from his utility belt. "Those explosives were a nice touch. While I could have easily taken out the rest of the competition on my own, your assistance did speed up the process."
"So glad we could help," Jack grumbled.
"If I was feeling charitable, I might even give you a bit of the reward, but I doubt you'll be needing that."
"So, what did she offer you?" Sam asked.
Aris grew uncharacteristically quiet.
"Well?" Jack asked.
"Something I couldn't refuse," he said softly.
Daniel exchanged a knowing look with Sam. They had a good idea what Aris Boch had been offered and if that were true, there was no way he would have refused.
Teal'c glared at him, his face dark. "I had believed you to be one of honor."
"I love how you are all ready to assume I'm the bad guy here," Aris said, appearing insulted.
Daniel sighed. "It's our luck."
"Well, this isn't the SG-1 I remember." He looked down at the spheres he had detached from his belt and then started to toss one to each member of SG-1 as well as Janet. "I'm not sure you're even worth the reward from the Tok'ra."
Daniel stopped examining the sphere and looked up at Aris. "The Tok'ra sent you?"
"The Tok'ra paid me," he corrected. "Sailek sends his regards."
Jack shot a cautious look to Sam. "Carter?"
She nodded. "I recognize the name. He knows my dad."
Aris gave them all another smug smile. "I think an apology is in order?"
The five of them exchanged a set of weary looks. Daniel was the first to speak.
"We're sorry we had to see you again?" he asked.
"Oh, that's nice Doctor Jackson."
He smiled. "You're welcome."
"So, what's in the marbles?" Jack asked as he held up a small sphere.
"Personal protection shields of my own design," he said.
"It is more likely that you have stolen them," Teal'c said with a raise of his eyebrow.
"I'd like to say I acquired them and made a few personal modifications." He activated the one in his hand, and a soft purple sheen washed over his body before disappearing. "They last for one session."
"These should protect us through the rain and give us enough time to find the Stargate," Sam said, marveling at the sphere. Her eyes lit up. "Can I--?"
"No more freebies," he said. "That'll require some good credit and last time I checked, your money isn't very good in this galaxy."
Sam's eagerness deflated, but she didn't press the point. As much as Daniel understood her curiosity – he was interested in knowing what culture Aris Boch might have taken the technology from – he knew that they couldn't sit and waste time. He knew Sam and the others understood that as well.
He longed for a time when that wasn't the case.
"I do not believe we should linger," Teal'c said. The light from the broken door illuminated his face as he looked up to the ceiling. "This shelter will not hold for much longer."
"I think we're all in agreement," Jack said. He motioned for SG-1 to pack up and head out. "Let's go."
The five of them triggered the devices and followed Aris Boch out into the rain. While the storm has eased up, the rain continued to fall steadily. Only now, with the shield protecting him from the rain, he could see the planet in a different light.
The poisonous rain wasn't eating through the ground, the stone, or the wood the way it had the shack. In fact, Daniel thought that the planet welcomed the onslaught, fueled and invigorated by the acid, not unlike the Earth during a fresh rainstorm. The trees swayed and glistened from the driving rain, while the bushes below drank whatever water trickled down. The ground soaked up what it could, and left little puddles by the side of some stone roadways.
Someone had lived here once. He didn't know if it was an exploratory group who had built those now degrading shacks. He didn't know if someone had lived here prior. He didn't know if the rain was a natural occurrence or if it had been changed over time. But what he did know was that the plants and animals here thrived.
At some point, the planet had adapted.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Daniel turned to his side as Janet slid next to him. Sam and Aris Boch were ahead of them, with Jack and Teal'c taking up the rear. He fell into a comfortable stride with her and continued down the path.
"I was just thinking about this planet and how…peaceful it is despite the storm."
"We're lucky to get a glimpse of something not everyone could see."
He gave her a curious look. "In the middle of an acid storm."
Janet smiled. "I don't get to go through the Stargate often. I can only imagine what you get to see every week."
"I wish you could have had a better experience."
"I don't know. I think it turned out all right."
Daniel smiled. "It's amazing. Everywhere we go, we can see how life adapts. How we adapt. It's one of the constants. We've been doing it for as long as we've existed."
"You seem surprised."
"Maybe not surprised, but…" He shook his head. "It's just fascinating."
"I like to think of it as more than just fascinating. I think it really speaks to the power of hope." She reached over and touched his hand. "I think we're all hoping for a better tomorrow."
He glanced down at her hand and found himself squeezing it, holding onto her like she was one of his only lifelines.
Life, all life, pushed itself forward, adapting itself for survival. The winners survived and the losers did not. But somewhere in that pursuit to survive, he wondered if they were losing something even greater. He wondered if they were losing that sense of wonder, that spark of humanity, that hope for a better tomorrow that had always kept them ahead of the game.
He wondered if they would become lost to the dark.
Hope was what kept them fighting, even long after the novelty of Gate travel had warn off. Hope held them together even in their greatest moments of despair. Hope was what defined them.
Daniel knew that for his own life, his own sanity, he'd have to keep holding onto that hope while he kept adapting to the changes in his life. He couldn't let go or else he might lose himself.
He squeezed Janet's hand again and held her close. He had to keep hold. He didn't want to consider the consequences if and when the day finally came where he was to let go.