The Best Policy
Written for icarusancalion, answering her J/D ficathon request for an offworld mission and an ethical dilemma that affects Daniel but not Jack.
"We can't put this in our reports," Daniel said.
Jack didn't even look back at him. "Sure we can. I can type, you can type faster, we sit down in front of that box-looking thing with the keyboard and next thing you know, it's in the report."
"You know what I mean." The locals came down this path often enough that it was easy to follow, but it was narrow, too narrow for two men to walk abreast. They'd done some bushwhacking day before last, and Daniel still had scratches on his hands from that; digging your way through this kind of underbrush was no fun. So if he wanted to make Jack focus on him, he thought, he was probably going to have to grab hold of him and make him stop.
He wasn't there yet, though. Quite. "Jack, this is obviously a culturally important site for these people. We can't come rampaging in here and, and, and take something that belongs to them just because we think it might be neat Ancient technology!"
"Did I say I'd decided we should take anything? You know me better than that, Daniel." Jack sounded tired more than anything, Daniel thought. Well, fair enough; Daniel was tired too. They'd been having these conversations more and more recently, it seemed, and Daniel couldn't decide if it was because Jack had grown more impatient or because Daniel was less willing to back down these days or whether it was the sex changing things somehow. He hadn't thought that would happen, but maybe he'd been wrong. It did happen, occasionally.
He wasn't entirely sure that he did know Jack better than that, these days. Euronda still smarted, a little, though he'd worked hard at getting over it.
"I've got the entire inscription recorded," he said. "I'll do the translation myself, and if I think it's going to be worth it to go back in there and take a closer look I'll say so."
"Since when was that your call?" Jack brushed a low-hanging branch out of his way, and Daniel had to duck fast to keep from being smacked in the face.
"Jack--" Yeah, it was time for grabbing. Daniel picked up the pace enough to get ahold of Jack's shoulder. "Jack, stop. Wait a minute. That's not what I meant."
Jack stopped readily enough, and turned around to face him, but his face was hard, his shoulders braced for argument. "That's not what you meant. Then what did you mean?"
"I meant..." He wasn't sure, actually. "I just don't think we need a follow-up team crawling all over this place if there's nothing here. You heard Petra. It's an honor that they let us go to the table at all. And I'd rather not force more people on them so soon if it isn't necessary. It's..." Daniel shook his head a bit, trying to dislodge the right word. "Impolite."
"Impolite." Jack was giving him the you-are-freaking-nuts look. "Yes, because our mission in life is to spread proper etiquette across the galaxy."
Daniel let his head drop, frustrated. "Jack. I'm not planning to hide anything. Just... write that I'm working on the translation, which is true, and if it turns out that we should take another look we'll go back, which is also true. But... these are nice people. Just for once, can we not bother them any more than we have to?"
"Quote the Asgard part to me again, won't you?"
The table itself had been white, metallic, cold even in the sun that had filled the clearing, and the inscription winding around it had been entirely in Ancient. Daniel had been able to pick out a few words, but not enough to make any real sense of it. Behind it, though, there was a stone pillar, and the inscription on that was Asgard. Hand-carved, which was strange--Daniel's first thought was that maybe it had actually been put up by the ancestors of the current human inhabitants, though if so, they'd forgotten how to read the language since then. But definitely Asgard. "Aged life-giver," he quoted, "old for young, seven for one, again to run. It's a religious artifact, Jack. I can show you a church with a painting of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, too, but that doesn't mean you can bring someone back to life with the organ."
"Well, let me summarize," Jack said, ticking points off on his fingers. "We have a thing covered in Ancient writing. We have an Asgard inscription talking about life-giving. We have some really charming fairy tales about the table raising people from the dead. And while Carter was unable to accompany us to the special boys-only location, and believe me, I've considered teaching her to cross-dress, she assures us that there are a number of truly interesting energy readings even back in the village. And you know what? Each of those facts is going in my report, because the point of writing the goddamned things is to report what we found."
"I'm not asking you to lie--"
"Sure you are."
"--and even if I were," Daniel continued, on a tear now, "it's not like you haven't done it before. You lied about using the bomb on Abydos."
"Forgive me if I think protecting a bunch of innocent people from being blown up is a little different from preserving the sanctity of some people's relationship with their gods, who were, by the way, aliens."
"You lie about me," Daniel said, and oh, that had probably been a bad idea. But no one made him lose control like Jack did. No one ever had.
"I don't lie. I omit--"
"--which is exactly what I'm asking you to do--"
"--and disappointed as I know you'll be to hear this, I don't think the secret of defending Earth against the Goa'uld is located in your ass, Daniel."
It wasn't that Daniel didn't understand Jack's point. It was just that he was wrong. "And it may not be located here either. Just give me... a week. A week is not going to make any difference!"
"It's the principle of the thing," Jack said, with that maddeningly superior air, his familiar I-am-speaking-a-truth-of-the-universe-and-thus-ending-this-conversation tone, as he turned away to start down the narrow path again.
Daniel stared after him as he walked away, then threw his hands up in the air in frustration and stomped after him. "The principle of the thing?" he said to the back of Jack's head. "What principle? The Jack Gets To Pick And Choose Principle?"
"Thought you were the only person who got to have one of those, didn't you?" Jack didn't turn around, or even slow down, shoving branches out of his way with more force than was strictly necessary. "They're my lines, and I'm drawing them. Feel free to draw yours however the hell you please, so long as you don't get my planet blown up making your point."
"I lie for you every day, now," Daniel said, a frustrated last-ditch effort that was less about the table and the report than it should have been. "Because you ask me to."
"When I ask you to lie for me," Jack said, stopped dead with a thorny branch held almost delicately between thumb and forefinger, "you'll know. Because I'll say so, out loud and real clearly, just like I'm going to tell Hammond I'm recommending a thorough follow-up survey on this place ASAP. You go ahead and disagree, and we'll see what happens."
He moved forward again, releasing the branch carefully, so that it wouldn't spring back. After a moment, Daniel followed after, turning sideways to slip through the narrowest gap between thorns. He didn't speak again until they came out of the underbrush onto the road, where he would tell Petra things that were not, quite, lies.
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