Someone was having a nightmare.
Not an unusual occurrence for SG-1; all of them tended towards nightmares. Between Goa'uld possessions, dead and missing family members, near-death (and full-death) experiences, and the occasional End of the World, there was more than enough material to produce sleepless nights. So they never let the fire go out at night when they were camping off-planet, and they always kept the coffee warm.
With the half of her mind that wasn't on watch, systematically and carefully surveying the perimeter for anything threatening, Sam tried to figure out who the nightmare belonged to without looking at the tents. It was a macabre sort of game, but it helped keep sanity intact in the middle of the night. She still wasn't sure what was worse -- living through her own nightmares, or listening helplessly to her teammates'.
It wasn't Teal'c, probably. One of the blessings of Kelno'reem was a lack of nightmares, which was probably why Teal'c was such a big fan of the practice. That left the Colonel and Daniel. Whoever it was was moving around; she could hear the sound of a sleeping bag against a tent wall. Still could be either one of them... Nope. There was a mutter, and a groan. The Colonel didn't tend to talk in his sleep, thanks to all those years of Black Ops, so.....
Daniel. Damn it.
Sam let her head drop, took a deep breath, and went to check on the coffee. Hopefully, Daniel would wake on his own in about two minutes, then come stumbling out of his tent, bleary-eyed and pale and needing a fix. Hopefully... because if he didn't wake up soon, he'd start shouting in his sleep instead, and the Colonel would wake up, then spend the rest of the night talking Daniel down. Teal'c would come out to share Sam's watch so she wouldn't be sitting up alone listening to the Colonel talking Daniel down, and nobody would get any sleep.
Sam winced at the bitter edge to her thoughts; it wasn't as if she hadn't had her share of 'wake up screaming' nights, and it was usually Daniel who spent hours talking *her* down. She just... wished it would all go away. Wished Daniel could get through the night without running from all those damn demons. Wished all of them could sleep in peace just once. Hadn't they earned that, if nothing else?
The abrupt change in Daniel's breathing snapped her out of the unexpected bout of self-pity; she shook herself and administered a stern mental dressing down as Daniel stumbled out of his tent.
He was still fumbling with his glasses as he walked over to the fire, and Sam had to grin in spite of her dark thoughts. Daniel always looked so young when he'd just woken up, his clothes rumpled from sleep and his hair standing on end, his eyes not focusing on much of anything even after he got his glasses settled in place. She poured a mug of coffee and handed it to him without a word as he settled down a few feet from her.
He took a sip with the air of a man who had no idea where coffee had materialized from, and was too grateful for its presence to stop and ponder the question. His brain clicked on a second later, and he looked up with a tired smile. "Sorry. Thanks, Sam."
"You're welcome." She returned the smile, and asked quietly, as she would never ask the Colonel, "Bad one?"
He shrugged. "Same as always."
Which, with Daniel, could mean anything from simply reliving Sha're's kidnapping, to having her accuse him of failing her, to watching Teal'c kill Amonet again. In slow motion. The worst one, the one where Daniel killed Sha're himself, generally went straight to the screaming portion of the evening.
Sam sighed and poured herself a mug of coffee, wondering when she'd gotten to know her teammates' nightmares as well as her own.
"Sam?" Daniel was looking at her, the exhausted lines of his face creasing a bit more with concern. "What's wrong?"
Damn it, damn it, damn it. She hadn't meant to sigh out loud, hadn't meant to let her thoughts show on her face; Daniel worried as much as the Colonel. "Nothing's wrong, Daniel," she told him, trying to muster another smile. "Just... thinking."
"Ah yes." He nodded sagely, taking another swig of coffee. "Thinking. What people do at three in the morning when they're not working or having nightmares."
That startled a giggle out of her, which she usually hated. Rough tough serious scientist majors did *not* giggle. But it was Daniel and the sound made him smile, so she didn't worry too much about it.
"I suppose so." She lifted her mug in a mock toast. "Want to stay up and brood with me? See if we can solve any questions of the universe before the Colonel wakes up and tells us to keep it the hell down, people are trying to sleep?"
"Now there's a question of the universe," Daniel said thoughtfully, but with a glint of mischief in his eyes. "Why do you always call him that?"
Sam blinked, confused. "Call who what?"
"Jack. Why do you always call him the Colonel?" He leaned forward, the glint more pronounced. But he also had that expression that meant his curiosity had gotten on the trail of something and wasn't going to let go until it was satisfied. "Seriously, Sam. I don't think I've ever heard you use Jack's first name. You call him 'sir' or Colonel when you're talking to him, Colonel O'Neill or the Colonel when you're talking about him. Why don't you ever call him Jack?"
"Because he's my commanding officer," Sam started to give the obvious answer, wondering if Daniel had just not been paying attention all these years.
But Daniel shook his head, cutting her off. "Nope. Not buying it. We've known each other for almost three years, saved each others' lives more time than I can count. Or really want to," he added with a grimace. "We spend close to every waking moment together. So why are you two still sticking to the Colonel/Carter routine, especially when we're off-planet or off-base and no one cares."
She actually had to stop and think about it. Daniel had a point; she knew for a fact most of Ferretti's guys on SG-2 called him Ferretti or Lou when they were off-duty, and god knew military protocol went out the window when SG-7 was in the middle of an experiment. They called their CO lots of things at Hour 49 of testing, and almost none of them involved his rank. His parentage and personal habits, yes; his rank, no.
"Still..." she said slowly, thinking out loud, "it *is* because we're military. And *because* we spend so much time together, I think. The lines would get blurred, and in the middle of a situation, we can't afford that. He gives an order, I obey it; that'd be harder if it was Jack in command instead of the Colonel. Which might explain why you have such a hard time following orders." She nailed Daniel with a glare and had the pleasure of watching him squirm slightly.
"But I think we also do it just to keep in the habit," she continued after a moment, letting him off the hook. "Otherwise, I'd probably forget and call him Jack in the middle of a briefing, which General Hammond wouldn't be too thrilled with."
She grinned suddenly. "Or I'd forget and call him something a lot worse."
Daniel choked on his coffee, then started snickering, chagrin forgotten. "You're right, it probably is a good thing. I've seen your face at some of those meetings; if you actually came out and called him a jerk, he might get a little, um, cranky."
"Exactly." She started laughing, too; imagining the look on the Colonel's face if she ever did just that had helped her keep a hold on her temper more than once in the face of her superior's relentless Attitude Problem. Not that she didn't appreciate his attitude problem sometimes, but it could be so damn annoying the rest of the time....
"Okay, my question of the universe." She set down her mug and leaned forward over her crossed legs. "How did you know Simmons had a... a crush on me? Last year?"
Daniel raised his eyebrows at her over the rim of his mug. "As if he doesn't still?"
His eyes were laughing at her now. "Oh, come on. The entire base knew about that, except maybe Jack. And that's just because Jack doesn't really want to know, so he doesn't pay attention unless he has to."
"Neither do you," Sam pointed out.
"I pay attention!" Daniel defended himself, gesturing with his mug as punctuation. "Lt. Teague in SG-5 is chasing Ferretti this month after she gave up on Major Pulaski last month, Quintero on SG-7 is hanging out in the infirmary after-hours to try to get Lt. Clark to go out with him, and half the technical staff has a thing for you."
What? "Oh, thanks a lot, Daniel!" she nearly shouted, before remembering sleeping Colonels and meditating Jaffa. The rest came out as a low hiss. "Now I'm not going to be able to work with any of the tech department with a straight face ever again."
"Don't mention it." He was snickering into his coffee again, this time at her expense; she let it pass only because she was so relieved to see the last of the post-nightmare strain fade from his face.
They sipped their coffee in silence for a while, staring into the spitting flames of the low fire. The half of Sam's brain that was still supposed to be on watch did the job, surveying the trees and the bushes in the circle of light, listening for the trip wires and proximity alarms outside of it. The other half listened to the wind passing between the leaves, Daniel's steady breathing next to her, and the rustle of the Colonel's tent as he turned over in his sleep. All the little sounds that got lost in the busy murmurs of life on Earth.
"Okay, next question," Daniel said abruptly. "How come I always get first watch?"
"Huh?" Sam blinked at him; she found herself doing that around Daniel a lot. His brain just came out of left field some days. Most days.
"Every time we've been off-planet for about the last two years," Daniel persisted. "You and Jack and Teal'c trade off the two mid-watches, but I always get first watch. And last watch once in a while, probably so I won't notice the first watch thing, but I do notice it. So, why?"
Damn. He *had* noticed. Well, she'd told the Colonel he was going to figure it out someday; no point in lying about it now. Even if the Colonel was going to kill her when he woke up. "You always get first watch because it's the only way the Colonel can make sure you get a full night's sleep."
"What?" It was his turn to blink. "Jack? He doesn't worry *that* much about me sleeping. Does he?"
And her turn to snicker at him. "Oh, come on, Daniel. Do you really think he turns up in your office at 0100 because he just happened to be around and decided to kill time by harassing you?"
She had to admit that Janet's nurses were right; Daniel did look cute when he was confused. "No. Well, yes. Mostly. He yells about the coffee and all, but I thought it was just to torture me."
"Well, yes, it is, but not *just* to torture you. He's a big mother hen" -- and if you ever repeat that to him I'll shoot you myself, I swear -- "and you drive him crazy. You never sleep, and when you do, you only get a few hours before the nightmares wake you up. So he makes sure -- *we* make sure -- that when you do manage to really sleep, it's not broken up by watches."
And why had she just told him all that? Three in the morning was a dangerous time to talk to Daniel; how did she always manage to forget that? He was dumbfounded, and she could *see* him adding up incidents in his head; distraction seemed to be the best tactic.
"My question next." Another cup of coffee and to hell with the caffeine; she obviously needed all the help she could get tonight. This morning. Whatever. "What was everyone laughing about when the General and I came into the Gate Room this morning? What did I miss that you couldn't tell me in front of him?"
"Oh, that." Good, he was derailed, although something in those deceptively innocent blue eyes suggested that the whole 'sleep' issue was going to come up again. Well, the Colonel could handle it; it had been his idea. "It seems SG-11 took a new guy out with them this morning, and they left while Jack and Teal'c and I were in the control room. And it was his first time through the Gate, so... they Yellow Bricked him."
Sam felt her eyes go very wide. "Oh, no...."
"Oh, yes." Daniel rocked forward over his knees, obviously enjoying himself, although he somehow kept his face completely straight, his delivery making the story even funnier. "And they outdid themselves this time. Not only did they lay down the tarp with the Yellow Brick Road from the door to the Gate, they passed out balloons to everyone on duty. And a few bribes."
The picture kept getting clearer. She clutched her mug more tightly, torn between horror and delight. "Oh, *no*...."
"Siler met them at the door, took a gulp of helium and very sincerely advised Airman Sykes to 'follow the Yellow Brick Road'. Sykes got about five steps in, then Garcias took a gulp and did the same thing. 'Follow the Yellow Brick Road', helium and all."
"Oh my god." The horror kept growing, but delight was winning out.
"Then Harriman got into the act from the Control Room -- 'Follow the Yellow Brick Road.' Did you know Munchkin voices sound even funnier over the PA system?" Daniel was having a hard time holding that straight face now. "Then, of course, the rest of SG-11 and everyone else on duty grabbed their balloons and started singing in chorus."
Sam put her mug down and buried her face in her hands, trying to keep the hated giggles inside.
Daniel had given up; his expression as he leaned forward was pure glee. "Jack almost fell over, he was laughing so hard, and Teal'c eyebrow was up so high it nearly touched his tattoo. I thought his face was going to freeze that way."
"And just what were you doing?" Sam managed to gasp out.
His smile widened, spread over his entire face, chased the shadows from his eyes and into oblivion. "I was conducting the singing. By the way, SG-11 asked me to tell you thanks for distracting the General long enough."
That did it. Sam collapsed, burying her fist in her mouth to keep her laughter from disturbing the Colonel and Teal'c. "Oh, that is *so* unfair!" she managed to complain after a long and painful moment of breathlessness.
Daniel was still laughing. "To Sykes? What's not fair, they do it to everyone. Albeit usually without the singing, but still...."
"Not fair to me! I missed it!"
"Don't worry about it." Daniel grinned. "SG-11 used their camcorder to tape it, then hid the tape with Siler until the Christmas party. It's far enough away that they think General Hammond won't care by then."
If anyone had decided to attack their camp, that would have been a very good time. Fortunately for Sam's rank and Colonel O'Neill's temper, the night stayed quiet, broken only by two sets of helpless giggles.
Five minutes of hilarity later, Sam wiped her eyes and tried to stay steady enough to pour more coffee for herself and Daniel. It wasn't easy when random spurts of laughter kept trying to work their way up from her chest. Daniel was having the same problem, judging from the way he almost dumped coffee down the front of his shirt.
"Holy Hannah..." she finally sighed as the last of the spasms subsided. "Some days, I really feel sorry for General Hammond, having to command all of us."
"*Every* day," Daniel agreed, wincing at the very thought. "You don't have to be crazy to work for the SGC--"
"--But it helps," Sam completed the ancient cliche -- and unofficial base motto -- with him.
"But you said 'us'," Daniel pointed out. "You're not us; you're sane."
"Oh really?" Sam lifted her eyebrows at him in a conscious imitation of the Colonel. Attitude problems were useful, sometimes. "Sorry, Daniel, I think I lost my last grip on sanity about the time we met an ancient Norse god and he looked like an escapee from the Roswell crash."
"Ah. Yes. That was sort of... challenging."
A snort seemed to be all the answer that particular massive understatement required.
They lapsed back into silence and Sam abruptly remembered she was supposed to be on watch. With a murmured, "Be right back" to Daniel, she got up and walked the perimeter, putting extra concentration into the job as penance for her inattention. Nothing moved, for which she was deeply grateful; it would be humiliating to break SG-1's perfect 'no permanent deaths' record because the officer on watch had been giggling too hard to see any danger. Yet another reason not to talk to Daniel at three in the morning -- he was too damn distracting.
In all kinds of ways. The flames flickered against his face, grown quiet and pensive again, shadows and light alternating across his cheeks and eyes as Sam settled down opposite him. The worry lines and nightmare-tensions were still gone, she noted with satisfaction as she took her mug back up and rested her chin on her knees, wrapping her arms around them. All that was left was the calm reflection that Daniel only showed at this early/late hour. The rest of the time, he was in motion, either physically or mentally, trying to do everything his agile intellect demanded at once. As if he was constantly racing some kind of internal stopwatch.
It was fun to watch him then, fun to challenge herself to follow him down the looping, twisting obstacle course of his mind. But she liked this quiet Daniel, who could sit in comfortable, companionable silence for hours, just as much. No one was safer than this Daniel; dark and irrational three-in-the-morning worries and fears were made weaker just by his steady presence.
"I think I have another question," the object of her drifting thoughts said quietly, leaning over to pour yet another cup of coffee. Sam narrowed her eyes, but didn't make an issue of it; it wasn't as if she really expected him to sleep much more tonight anyway. Any more than she would.
"Shoot," she said instead, mentally bracing herself. For all his calm, Daniel was as prone to those dark and irrational thoughts as anyone. And more than some.
Daniel stared in his coffee, as if the answers to those questions of the universe were buried in its depths. "Something happened when I was leaving my office this morning. I had all my stuff, I'd paid attention during the briefing, I had the books I was pretty sure I was going to need... and I made it halfway to the Gate Room before I realized I was missing something."
"What?" Sam encouraged gently when he stopped again.
"Well, that's the thing," he answered after another pause. "I couldn't figure it out. I thought I had everything, but I was walking down the corridor feeling.... naked. It just kept nagging at me, all the way, until I had to go back to my office and see what I'd forgotten."
"And did you?"
"Yeah, I did. I forgot my gun, Sam. Sidearm," he corrected himself with a grimace. "I was walking through the SGC feeling naked because I forgot my sidearm."
She was missing something, she knew it. Naked because he didn't have.... Oh. Right. Daniel. "Oh."
Daniel smiled over his mug at her; a rueful, twisted kind of smile. "Yeah. Oh. So, I kicked myself, and I went to the armory and got my pistol, and I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass when I was leaving. Fatigues, combat boots, short hair, Kevlar vest, weapon...."
He stopped, sighed. When he spoke again, his voice was still quiet, almost young. And terribly old. "When did I turn into a soldier, Sam?"
"I know I'm not a soldier by your standards or Jack's," he rushed on, before she could say anything. "I know that. But... I used to be an archaeologist. A pacifist. A geek who didn't know how to hold a gun, much less what it felt like to fire it. To kill someone with it."
Daniel shook his head, staring grimly into the fire, coffee mug dangling forgotten from one hand. "When did I turn into this guy who feels wrong when he's not in fatigues? Feels naked when he's not carrying a gun, for God's sake?"
He was truly upset; she could tell by the way his eyebrows were furrowed, how he leaned over, hunched around himself and his coffee. So she took a couple seconds to steady her voice before she said anything.
"I don't know, Daniel," she finally answered, reaching forward just enough to lay her hand on his. He turned it over to grasp hers, not hard, but firmly. Like a lifeline. "I didn't know you before you went through the gate on that first mission. But I remember seeing you on Abydos that first time... and you didn't look like a geek then."
He actually grinned, tiredly. "Geeks don't have cancer tans and terminal windburn."
She smiled back, then sobered. "I was actually... thinking something kind of similar a couple days ago. And tonight, before you woke up."
He cocked his head slightly, Daniel for 'oh really?', which gave her the courage to keep going. She wasn't in the habit of talking about things like feelings, not even to her teammates. But at three in the morning, Daniel wouldn't judge her. He'd just listen.
"I got a call from one of my old friends in college last weekend," she said slowly; it was harder than she'd expected to actually articulate her thoughts. "We were on the phone for, I don't know, about an hour. She was talking about her job, her research at JPL, her husband, her kids' Little League game.... I knew all of these things about her by the end of the call, but I hadn't been able to tell her anything about myself. Oh, I could tell her about Cassandra's soccer game, but I couldn't tell her how we'd met Cassie, or what she is to me besides my friend's daughter. I told her about going to that hockey game with you and Teal'c and Jack, but I couldn't tell her why we're friends, why that game, the downtime together, meant so much to us. I couldn't tell her anything important. Nothing at all."
She lifted her eyes from the fire to meet Daniel's and found them as she'd expected -- warm, patient and sympathetic. The words came in a rush now, as if some faucet had been turned on. "You want to know when your life changed, Daniel. I want to know when mine became classified. My friends, my family, my work, even my father! Everything I care about, everything I spend time on... How did it all start living under the mountain and through the Stargate?
"I just... I'd like to know."
Daniel waited, as if to see if she was going to say anything else, but she'd run out of words as abruptly as she'd found them. His thumb ran idly over the back of her fingers, and she didn't pull away as protocol dictated. She just stared down at their joined hands so she wouldn't have to look at anything else.
"I guess the real question," he said at last, "is whether we'd change it. Go back, take the Gate out of our lives, and keep being what we were before we ever stepped through it. Go back to being a geek, back to being unclassified."
"Would you do it?" Sam looked up again, studying his face in the flickering firelight. "Would you hit the reset button, go back to where you were? What you were?"
He thought about it, his eyes narrowed in concentration, then slowly shook his head. "No. I wouldn't go back. No matter what happened, or who I became.... It's more than I was. My world -- our world -- got bigger when we went through the Gate, and we had to grow to match. To go back would make us... smaller again."
Sam nodded slowly, biting the inside of her lip. "Yeah. I guess it would. So I guess I wouldn't go back either."
They sat in silence for a long, long time, hands entwined, staring into the fires. Then Sam observed, quite seriously, "But Daniel? We have *got* to get lives."
They were still sitting close together, still chuckling, when Teal'c emerged from his tent to take last watch and, with elevated eyebrow and great dignity, shooed them to their tents.
Sam woke to alien sunlight of just the wrong shade in her eyes, and the sound of the Colonel being his usual obnoxious morning self. Daniel had been wrong; it wasn't during meetings that she had to grit her teeth and remind herself that the Colonel was the Colonel. It was at dawn on other planets when she'd give good money and *both* oak leaves to tell him to shut up and let everyone else wake up as grouchy as they wanted.
"Come on, campers, rise and shine," he caroled loudly, with the smug edge that said yes, he did know how irritating he was, and yes, he did know he could get away with it because he had eagles on his shoulders and no one else did. His foot hit the side of Sam's tent and she gave in to the inevitable, grumbling silently as she extricated herself from her sleeping bag and crawled out the front of her tent, blinking in the light and shivering from the early morning chill. Teal'c was already out, of course, kneeling next to the fire and carefully building it up; Sam picked up her boots and settled gratefully next to the warmth.
Daniel resisted the getting-up process more strenuously, as usual; the Colonel knelt down in front of his tent and angeled the flap to let more light onto Daniel's face. She could just see Daniel as he winced and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to roll over. "Come on, Jack, just five more minutes," he beseeched with the whining flair of a ten-year-old who didn't want to go to school.
He should have known by now that that only encouraged the Colonel. "Sorry, Danny-boy, it's daylight in the swamp, time to get up and start looking for some more cool toys to take back through the Gate. Up and at 'em, boots and saddles, coffee's ready, let's go!"
She looked up from lacing her boots. "Yes, Daniel?"
"If I asked you to shoot Jack, would you do it?"
The Colonel straightened and gave her the raised eyebrow and it was all she could do to keep a straight face. "Sorry, Daniel, he's my commanding officer. General Hammond would demote me."
"He'd understand. Teal'c?" Actively begging now.
Teal'c didn't look up from the fire, but he had that expression that suggested he was massively amused with everyone, even if he refused to show it. "I regret I cannot assist you, Daniel Jackson. Colonel O'Neill is in command."
"That's right," the Colonel exulted, bouncing up and down on his toes and rubbing his hands together. "I'm in command. And that means it's time to get up!"
Daniel finally emerged, moaning and groaning the whole way, and Sam gave him a sympathetic smile as he staggered over to her. "I thought you said Jack wanted me to get more sleep," he complained under his breath.
She shrugged. "He does. But he also likes to torture you, remember?"
"Great." Daniel rolled his eyes and emptied the last of the pot into his mug, then gazed at it with worried eyes. "We go home today, right?"
Sam grinned and toasted him with her own steaming cup. "Right. There's more coffee back at base."
"Coffee?" The Colonel perked up at the magic word and bounded over to grab the pot from them, glaring at it when a shake showed it was indeed empty. "You guys did leave some for me, didn't you? There's some left in someone's pack, right?"
Sam and Daniel's eyes met. In one of those moments of perfect, total understanding usually reserved for around the campfire at three in the morning, both of them lifted their mugs and emptied them, then turned identical innocent smiles up towards the Colonel. "Sorry, sir. All out."
His shouts of agony somehow made the morning so much easier to face.
I came up with the concept of Yellow-Bricking as I was leaving work, and wound up riding down the elevator with my corporation's CEO while grinning like a lunatic. He didn't know why, but he was entertained nonetheless.