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Cleo the Muse [dot] net - Air Apparent

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Air Apparent
Rating: All Ages
Genre: Gen, Drama, Friendship, Humor
Warnings: None
Timeline: Classic Team
Summary: A new planet has both Sam and Daniel eager to explore, but is it as harmless as it seems?
Series: None
Notes: Written for this quarter's one_prompt challenge "Breathe". I borrowed Nirrti's gene splicer to merge three different plot bunnies into a single 'fic. Heh.

Air Apparent

"Breathe, Daniel," Jack teased.

Mouth agape, Daniel waved toward the crumbling village in the valley below the Stargate.  "Jack!  This is... this is incredible!  The architecture is unlike anything seen on Earth, which could mean that whoever lived here may not have been human, or maybe they were from Earth but their culture diverged at some point and was allowed to flourish without Goa'uld influence.  Or maybe—"

"Like I said... breathe, Daniel."

The archaeologist inhaled sharply then exhaled explosively, arm dropping to his side.  It never ceased to annoy him when his team leader acted so blasé about the many marvels SG-1 encountered in their travels through the galaxy.  With almost every new discovery, they were re-writing human history or filling in lost chapters of that history.  And he knew Sam had to be annoyed with the indifference, too, what with the way some of her discoveries were challenging convention in the physical sciences!

"MALP telemetry indicated a potential source of naquadah to the west, sir," Sam reported.  Of course, Daniel sighed to himself, even if she was frustrated with her commanding officer's lack of enthusiasm, she was much too professional a soldier to ever show it.  "It could be a sizeable mineral deposit."

"Yeah, or it could be a Goa'uld booby trap.  Don't get your hopes up too much."

Sam nodded, and Daniel's shoulders slumped.  Of course, this had been Sam's mission from the start—the strength of the naquadah readings had prompted a UAV fly-over, and it was only because Daniel had been present in the control room at the time that the village ruins had been noticed at all.  He'd brought them up in the pre-mission briefing, of course, but General Hammond had focused most of his questions on the mineral potential and what it meant for Sam's experiments with the generator prototype she'd constructed with the help of their Orbanian allies.

"Okay, Carter, you and Teal'c head west and do your rock-gathering thing.  If I don't let Daniel do his rock-gathering thing, he'll spend all afternoon whining."

Daniel's mouth fell open.  "I do not whine!"

Jack ignored him.  "Check-ins every half-hour, rendezvous back here in four."

"Yes, sir," Sam acknowledged, flashing Daniel a quick smile.  Teal'c inclined his head in Jack's direction, slung Sam's sample case over his shoulder, and followed her toward the rocky cliff giving off the naquadah readings.

"Thanks, Jack," Daniel finally managed, glad his expertise hadn't been shoved aside in favor of the military objective.

"It was nothin'," the colonel waved dismissively.  "Okay, stick close, don't touch anything, and try to remember to inhale and exhale every now and then."

Daniel rolled his eyes, but gamely followed Jack down the hill.  It was a fairly steep slope, which made footing tricky, but emerging roots from the surrounding trees created a sort of natural staircase.  The undergrowth was abundant and high, and small animals and birds scattered through the trees and grass ahead of the two men.

The ground leveled out and Daniel quickened his pace, anxious to get into the village proper and begin filming the ruins for further study back at the SGC.  He scowled when Jack threw out an arm, blocking Daniel from passing.

"Aht!  You stay right here until I finish checking it out," Jack admonished, waggling a reproachful finger at him.  "For all you know there could be a family of bears using this place as a den."

"Jack!" Daniel protested.

"Daniel!" he replied in kind.  "It won't hurt you to wait a few more minutes, and it might hurt you if you don't wait.  Just chill... I'll be back in a moment."

Rolling his eyes, Daniel widened his stance and crossed his arms over his chest.  "Okay, I'm waiting.  Go."

"You'll stay right here?"

"Right here."

Jack eyed him suspiciously.  "You sure?"

"Jack, just go already!"

"Right."  Turning around and bringing his weapon up to a more-ready position, Jack strode off into the ruins.

*    *    *

Returning from his brief recon, Jack was surprised to find Daniel sitting Indian-style in the grass, his field journal open in his lap.  Surprise gave way to amusement when Jack realized the linguist was sitting in the same spot he'd been standing in when Jack left, having obviously interpreted Jack's order to stay "right here" literally.

"Well, well, you can follow orders."

Daniel's head whipped up and he narrowed his eyes.  "Nothing ate you.  I assume there wasn't a family of bears living in there?"

He was getting far too good at the snarky remarks, Jack thought, inwardly chortling over the evidence of his influence on the younger man.  "No, but I did find Goldilocks sleeping in their beds."

"Cute, Jack.  So is it safe or not?"

"It appears to be safe."

"Thank you."  Closing his journal and tucking it beneath his left arm, Daniel took his digital camcorder out of his pack and rose to his feet.  The pack was then slung over his left shoulder, and he set off for the ruins without a glance backward.

Shaking his head, Jack followed, trying to decide if Daniel was going to end up dropping the still-open pack before or after its contents spilled out.  Just as he was about to set off after the absent-minded archaeologist, his radio crackled to life.

"Well hello there, Carter," he replied cheerfully to her hail.  "Find any interesting rocks?"

The major's grin was audible.  "Yes, sir, we have.  Teal'c and I have located what appears to be a vein of raw naquadah ore, and he's attempting to collect a sample.  Based on some of the other samples we've taken, we may also be looking at a possible source of diamonds, too."

"Diamonds, ya say?  You out here jewelry-shopping, major?"

"Industrial-grade diamonds, sir."

"Ah.  Well, Daniel's just hit the ruins, so I won't be getting anything out of him for a while except some 'amazings', a number of 'fascinatings', and probably a few dozen really big words I don't know."

"Yes, sir," Carter agreed, amused.  "I'm sure he'll explain it to you in small words if you asked him nicely, sir."

Jokes?  From Carter?  "Must be some really great samples," Jack remarked drily.

"Yes, sir!"

He chuckled, shaking his head.  "Sweet.  Keep me posted."

Carter acknowledged the reminder and signed off, leaving Jack muttering under his breath about insubordinate seconds.  Recalling he had a perpetually-insubordinate archaeologist to find, he took two steps toward the ruins before his radio crackled again.

"Uh, Jack?"

The hair rose on the back of his neck.  "Daniel?"

"Where are you?"

"On my way to your location.  What's wrong?"

"Oh, nothing, really... um, walk quietly and don't make any sudden movements, okay?"

"Daniel..."

Daniel let out a soft huff of exasperation.  "There's a skunk sitting on my pack.  It's black and brown instead of black and white, but it otherwise looks like a skunk, and I'd really hate to find out if it smells like one."

"Gotcha.  Slow and quiet, this is me."

"Sir?  Teal'c and I can turn back if you need us."

"Negative, Carter, it's just a skunk... we'll be fine."

"Yes, sir."

Cautiously, Jack peered around the half-crumpled wall of the first structure, but there was no sign of Daniel or the skunk.  Spotting the large building with the off-centered roof the anthropologist had oohed and aahed over during the briefing, the colonel decided that Daniel had likely started his work there, and made straight for it.

Jack was unable to resist laughing when he peered through the arched doorway to discover his fearless friend plastered against the back wall while a small furry creature sniffed at the pack lying near the center of the room.  The critter hissed at the noise, and Daniel shot Jack a glare which only made the colonel laugh even harder.

"That's a ferret, Daniel, that's not a skunk!"

"Yes, it is!"

"No, it isn't."

"Is."

"Isn't."

"Is!"  Realizing he was shouting, Daniel dropped back to a loud whisper.  "Not every kind of skunk has stripes, you know."

"Yeah, I know, some are spotted."  He pointed at the long-bodied little animal, standing on its hind legs and hissing like a cat at the two men.  "That thing doesn't even look like one of those!  It's a weasel or a mink or something, but it's not a skunk."

Daniel unpeeled himself a little from the wall.  "I'm not so sure, Jack.  When Sam's check-in came over the radio, it lifted its tail like it was going to spray me.  I turned the volume down and it went back to investigating my pack."

"Lifted its tail?  It turned its back on you?"

"No, it just curved its whole body around in an arch, sorta like cats do.  Head and hindquarters both in pretty much the same direction, and why am I arguing with you when we should be getting out of here?"

"Why didn't you get out of here before?"

"Because it was between me and the door and I wasn't sure how it'd react."

Jack waved his hand around the enclosure.  "There's a whole lot of wall there, Daniel.  I got in here just fine."  Daniel simply glared at him.  "We can scoot out of here the same way I came in, and leave Fungo there."

"Fungo?"

"The ferret," Jack replied, waving his hand dismissively.  Daniel might get his kicks from giving long-winded explanations, but Jack preferred to be a man of few words.  Besides, it would take way too long to enlighten his culturally-deprived anthropologist about a comic strip starring a psychotic Siamese cat, a naive dog, and ferret named Fungo.

"Skunk."

"Alleged skunk."

"Jack..."

"Moving, right."  Just as he spoke, the ferret/skunk decided it was finished inspecting Daniel's pack.  Dropping to the floor, it skittered out of the building.  Jack watched it leave in disbelief, then shook his head.  "Okay, problem solved, then."

*    *    *

Daniel panned the camera carefully over the faded murals, keeping up a running narration about what he was seeing through the viewfinder.  Since most of the roof was still intact and there were no windows, it was very dim inside the structure, requiring him to use his left hand to hold a flashlight.

"Son of a bitch!" Jack exclaimed suddenly from somewhere outside.  The next sound was that of gunfire, and Daniel quickly dropped his tools and drew his sidearm.  Heart racing, he flattened himself against the wall next to the door, and peered out to see what his friend was facing.

The ground, apparently.  Jack was on his knees, which was something his "little ACL problem" ensured he never did unless injured or forced to kneel before a false god.  Daniel looked around, but saw neither Jaffa nor Goa'uld.  In fact, he didn't see anyone but Jack.

"Jack?"

A second later, Daniel was also on his knees, retching and vainly attempting to protect his nasal passages from further abuse.  It wasn't working well, and he found himself panting heavily in a desperate bid to take in air without choking, even as his throat burned like he'd swallowed live embers.

If it was this bad where he was, what was it like at ground zero?

"Jack?" he croaked. 

"Dan'l?"

"Y'okay?"

"'M skunked."

Daniel looked up, but his eyes were watering too badly to see anything but a greenish blur.  "Wh’re izzit?"

"Got 'way... left its smell."

"Yeah."

Spots were dancing at the corners of Daniel's eyes, and each breath seemed to take more effort than the last.  Fumbling for his radio, he managed to hit the switch.  "Sssam?"

There was a long pause, then a startlingly loud crackle of static.  "Daniel?  You don't... are you okay?  Where's the Colonel?"

"Skunked," Jack answered.  "Really, really bad.  Can't see."

"Can't breathe," Daniel added, feeling light-headed.  "Gonna pass out, k?"  The darkness that had been teasing at the edges of his vision washed over him, drowning out the alarmed cries of his teammates.

He woke to cool air washing over his face, and the familiar scent of antiseptic.  Steady beeps and hushed voices confirmed that he was in the infirmary, and for once, he was content to simply lie there and enjoy being able to breathe without difficulty.  His throat, nose, eyes, and sinuses still burned a little, but it was nothing compared to the agony he'd been in when he lost consciousness.

Daniel's eyes flew open, and his breath caught.  What about Jack?

Janet Fraiser was suddenly there, pushing him back down on the bed with an ease that suggested Daniel's own strength was depleted.  "Calm down, Daniel, take it easy," she ordered, left hand splayed across his chest in a manner simultaneously comforting and restraining.  "There you go: deep breaths."

"J'ck?" he managed, voice raw and muffled by the oxygen mask.

"In better shape than you, actually.  You had an allergic reaction to the skunk's spray, and your throat became so enflamed we nearly had to perform a tracheotomy."

"Ow," Daniel murmured, lifting his head slightly to allow the doc to remove the mask and replace it with a nasal cannula.

"As it was, we had you intubated for two days until the swelling went down.  You've been back for three days," she added, preempting his next question.

"An' Jack?"

"Suffered irritation to his mucus tissues, primarily in his nose, mouth, and eyes, but nothing major."

"Nothing major, ha!" protested a welcome and familiar voice.  "I was pepper-sprayed by Pepe Le Pew."

Daniel cracked his eyes open, wincing at the light, but managed to find Jack settling down in the chair next to his bed.  The skin around the older man's eyes was red and puffy, and the whites were blood-shot.  "You look terrible," he mumbled.

"You don't look much better, buddy."

He rolled his eyes.  "Thanks, Jack.  Sam and Teal'c?"

"Rescued us with the help of a hazmat team, then went back to El Planeto Stinko with a bunch of science geeks."

He wasn't even going to touch the mangled pseudo-Spanish, let alone the "science geek" comment.  "Um... okay, why?"

"Why?  Well, the Pentagon is pretty pleased with you and Carter right now.  Carter and Teal'c apparently hit a naquadah mother-lode, and there's talking of turning your little furry friend's butt into a biological weapon."

Daniel sighed.  "You're the one who discovered the skunk's, uh, defenses."

"Ah, but you found him first, so he's your discovery."

"She, according to our biologists," Janet interrupted, hugging her clipboard to her chest.  "From what Doctor Bowman says, you got a little too close to the skunk's den and kits, Colonel."

"That little stinker," Jack quipped.  "Well, I guess it's a good thing I didn't kill it—her—then."

Daniel's lips curved.  "Jack, Jack, Jack... what have I told you about provoking the natives?"




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