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Title: First Time A Soldier
Author name: Icarus
Author email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sub Category: Gen, mostly
Pairing: Jack, Daniel
Summary: It took Jack and the SGC years to convince Daniel to qualify on the Beretta. "I've become something I've never wanted to be."
DISCLAIMER: The characters and universe contained in this story are Copyright MGM, Showtime, Gekko, Double Secret. No infringement on their copyright is implied. Copyright © 2006 All rights reserved. This story may not be reproduced in whole or part without the author's explicit permission. Ask, guys. I'm easy to reach and usually generous.
Author notes: Written for greensilver's Jack/Daniel Ficathon for Sherrold who asked for post Sha're's death; first-time story and gets, er, something that interprets First Time very differently. Wilderness Guru helped with the qualification exam and theemdash leaped into the breach and worked like the dickens to help me add some SUBTEXT. Sherrold, I hope you like it even if it isn't what you had in mind.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~First Time A Soldier
Jack tipped his head, noncommittal, swiping at his nose. "Well, for starters, let's try it with the safety off." He showed Daniel the button.
"Oh." Daniel winced, eyes crinkling.
"And another little, teeny thing." Jack pressed his lips together as if suppressing a smile. "You could try looking at the target you're shooting at. Just a suggestion." He handed the weapon back to Daniel and folded his arms, face communicating nothing.
Daniel sighed. "I'm going to be accepted for SG-1 and then General Hammond is going to refuse to sign off on the paperwork because I can't qualify." He turned to Jack, already building up a full head of steam. "What does it matter? You need me out there. You need my language skills -- there isn't anyone else on the planet who can speak Ancient Egyptian -- you need my knowledge of the culture, the writing. No one here can so much as read a stop sign in Goa'uld."
"They have stop signs?" Jack interrupted, puzzled.
"No." Daniel blinked, startled for a moment, then he plowed ahead, "What does it matter if I can shoot as well as you or Kowalski when that's not going to be my job? I'm an archeologist, a cultural liaison, a--"
Jack held up a hand. "You're not gonna shoot as well as me, not on your first go around. But I'll settle for you being able to protect yourself out there. You don't have to qualify today." He smirked and rocked back on his heels. "I'll settle for tomorrow."
A light dawned in those bright blue eyes, flicking up to Jack's face. "You're requiring that I do this. Not Hammond. It's not standard for SG teams."
"We don't even have standards yet. But I'm your team leader. It's my ass if you get shot out there. More than that, it's my fault. Now," He nodded at the target, stepping forward to grip Daniel's hand, pointing it. His chest pressed to Daniel's back, one hand cupping Daniel's shoulder he guided his arm and said, "Pretend it's that high school bully who used beat you up for your lunch money."
"I was home schooled," Daniel complained, but he pulled the headgear on and took aim at the target. Jack stepped away. The loud pop was muffled and the gun jerked unexpectedly in his hand.
"That was better."
"Did I hit it?" Daniel pulled the headgear off again.
"No. But the gun actually fired this time, which is a noticeable improvement." Daniel rolled his eyes at Jack. "Look, Daniel, I know you can do this. I saw you take out a whole bunch of those big guys in the metal suits--"
"--whatever, with that stick thing--"
"--and you did great. You figured out how to fire it and you hit what you were aiming at on the first try. I was very impressed, in fact, pleased, given that they were going to shoot me." He patted Daniel's shoulder. "Now c'mon. Give it a go."
Daniel sighed and looked down at the nine millimeter Beretta in his hand as if were going to come to life and wriggle away. "My father didn't believe in guns. He would never understand this."
"Well, Stargate, space aliens, people with glowing eyes…." Jack made a vague gesture at the sky. "It's all a little weird if you ask me."
"Oh, he'd understand all that. I think he'd have stayed behind in Abydos just like me, in a heartbeat. In fact," Daniel gave a wry smile, "he's the only person I know who would have believed this stuff. And my research." Daniel looked up. "But he'd have refused to even touch a gun. I know him. He'd rather be shot."
"I'm glad you're not him then or we wouldn't be having this conversation." Jack rubbed his eyes like he had a headache. "I saw you, Daniel. You've already crossed this line. You took out a whole bunch of those metal guys."
"Jaffa," Daniel corrected him again absently. "A gun's different. The staff weapon was like … Moses pointing a stick at the Red Sea. You don't really expect it to work." He folded his lips and looked at the weapon in his hands. "I've been taught my whole life these will kill people."
"I'm not entirely sure those Jaffa are people exactly."
"They are, Jack. They're living, breathing, intelligent sentient beings."
Jack leaned against the concrete wall, tapping out a rhythm with his palms. He sighed. "I don't think I like your dad."
"Excuse me?" Daniel blinked, wide-eyed, and sounded a bit offended, but Jack ignored it.
"He sounds like the kind of guy who would have left those people -- Skaara -- as slaves and just 'studied the culture' as is." Jack wrinkled his nose and said sarcastically, "Keep it natural and pure, never mind what was goin' on. Maybe make a bunch of National Geographic films about the quaint custom of, oh, eviscerating folks alive and what it means in the god cult of Ra."
"Oh, right. Every time someone tries to understand another culture they're accused of moral relativism when in fact if we stopped to figure out what was going on, we could avert tragedy." Daniel held out the gun, handle-first for Jack to take it, just as he'd been taught. "That's what I'm here for. That's my purpose on the team. Not this."
Jack didn't accept the gun. His mouth made a firm hard line and he asked, "Would you have left them?"
"On Abydos." Jack's eyes narrowed at Daniel, his voice raising incrementally as he went on, "If there was one thing you could do to change everything, to get rid of Ra, would you have left them, all of them, as slaves?"
Daniel was silent a moment. Then said quietly, "No."
"See? I knew I liked you more than your dad."
He pushed the gun back towards Daniel. "Some things take firepower, Daniel. It's a fact of life and you've seen it in action. So stop wasting time. We have a mission in three days and you're going to qualify by then."
"You haven't won this, Jack," Daniel said, putting his headgear back on and leveling the gun at the target. He separated his feet, wriggling his hips in an attempt to get comfortable. His stance was all wrong, but first thing's first.
Jack slid on his sunglasses and slouched against the back wall, giving Daniel a tight, smug grin. "Yes, I have."
It was late and most of the SGC had cleared out.
The mechanism whirred as the last paper target fluttered forward. There were four holes in the black circles, one very good shot -- Daniel's first was always his best -- several in the white, and a couple of clean misses. He was good shooting from a prone position, and standing up, and he was brutal and fast at close range, unflinching. But for some reason kneeling and shooting around cover was a dead loss.
"I'm not gonna qualify, Jack." Daniel sat on the hard concrete floor and put his head in his hands. "The mission's tomorrow. I'll see … I'll see if I can figure out someone who can replace me … I just," he shook his head, "… no. There isn't anyone. I can't teach Goa'uld in a night any more than you can teach me how to shoot in three days. I have to go. Shau're--"
"Daniel, relax." Jack slid to floor next to him with a grunt. "You're good enough. It wasn't likely you were going to qualify anyway, I just had hopes. But even cops have a whole …" Jack drew a sudden blank on how long police training was, so he generalized. "… training period to do it."
Daniel was silent.
"I don't want to become you, Jack," he said finally, in a quiet voice, remembering to click the safety on his weapon as he set it on the ground next to him. Daniel never touched the gun if he didn't have to. "No offense."
"None taken." Jack picked up a stray shell and tossed at a dangling paper target. It hit easily, a glancing blow. "There are quite a few people who say there's one too many of me in the world as it is."
"Such as?" Daniel raised his eyebrows curiously.
"Most of my commanding officers," Jack admitted and nudged Daniel with an elbow, laughing.
Daniel grinned at him. "Yeah, I can see that."
Shell casings were scattered on the floor and Jack nodded at an airman, indicating that he should go, and got a grudging nod in return.
The exchange went completely unnoticed by the man at the third pit down, his glasses hidden behind yellow goggles. His SGC jacket was in a pile on the floor at his feet, his grubby pack leaned against the dividing wall between the bays. His boots still splattered with mud from their first mission.
Daniel paused only briefly in his firing to swear at his Beretta as it jammed.
"If you clean it, it'll jam less," Jack advised, approaching cautiously.
Daniel didn't say anything but switched out the clip and exchanged it for another one. He commenced firing again. Jack waited till he emptied the entire clip before moving any closer.
"So," he began with mock cheer. "I hear from Carter that you did the 'baby Goa'uld My Lai' back on the Jaffa home world. Shot up their little baby …" Jack struggled for a word. "… fishbowls."
Daniel didn't look up from reloading his weapon as he muttered into his chest, "They were going to take a host. Each and every one of them."
"Hey, they looked like bait to me," Jack agreed, raising his hands in surrender. "I don't have Carter's issues with it." He wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "But, ah, it's just a bit of a jump for one mission, don't you think? World peace, cultural liaison… shooting up fishbowls--?" Jack asked more softly, edging into Daniel's space and folding his arms, deliberately casual, "What's going on?"
Daniel gave him a slow stare as if Jack had asked an incredibly stupid question. Which indeed he had.
"We'll get her back, Daniel," Jack answered his silence with utter seriousness. "There's got to be a way to remove that thing, and we'll find it."
They stood silently in the empty gun range, the smell of cordite still hanging in the air. Daniel brushed some spent shell casings to the floor. They pinged off the concrete.
Jack said finally, "This is the last place I expected you to be."
"I still have to qualify." Daniel's voice was way too quiet.
"I can postpone that, you know." Daniel blinked over at Jack, not quite seeing him it seemed. Jack hit the button and the target rolled forward.
Just as he suspected, Daniel's shots were wild.
"Why don't we get a drink instead of wasting ammo? I think you need that a lot more than you need practice right now."
Daniel nodded and bent down to pick up his pack, his gun forgotten on the counter. Jack quickly stripped it, cleaned it, then handed it back reassembled to Daniel, who awkwardly holstered it. He was still not quite able to find his holster without looking.
"Daniel!" Jack snapped for a second time, voice echoing down the range. Finally the headgear came off.
"What?!" Daniel said, his voice loud from speaking over gunfire. He looked as irritated as if he'd just been interrupted in his office doing translations. Several soldiers glanced at them, then continued shooting.
"I have you signed up for your test! 0900 tomorrow. Bright and shiny," Jack grinned, swinging his arms. But Daniel was already shaking his head.
"Jack. I can't." The safety went on, an automatic gesture at this point, the gun as natural as a pen in Daniel's hand. "I have all the artifacts from P3X-937 to catalogue, plus the Goa'uld transmission we intercepted for the Tok'ra--"
"Ah, ah, ah!" Jack held up a finger. "It's been over a year. Everyone else has qualified, even the off-world scientists. You are the only one."
"Jack, that's because, in case you haven't noticed, I'm doing two jobs." Daniel's stance was stubborn. "I keep up with my training just like everyone else, I've demonstrated in no uncertain terms that I can handle it. At this point qualifying's academic."
"It's a requirement!"
"You made up the requirement!" Daniel lowered his voice to a more reasonable tone. "Jack, I need four research assistants for the Ancient artifact and data retrieval project alone. I have one. One, Jack. I trained somebody for our archives? He's off-world. A librarian. Because we need people that desperately."
"Daniel…." Jack began, but was interrupted by a flood of … Danielness. The two soldiers paused in their firing to watch the good doctor take a slice out of, yes, his commanding officer. Not that Daniel ever remembered.
"We're having trouble recruiting. We can't just reassign the best people; it's not like the military where you just request the best and brightest like filling out, oh," he waved a hand, "a purchase order." Daniel ran his hand through his hair in genuine frustration. "The military keeps blowing it, scaring them off. An archeologist sees 'top secret' and they think 'Los Alamos' in the best case, and 'my work will never see the light of day' in the worst. If the SGC would just would let me handle the recruitment I could hint at what we've got here without--"
"And hand you yet another job?" Jack interrupted and threw up his hands, turning in a circle. He put his hands on his hips. "Okay. You win. But you suck at delegating, Daniel."
"Give me some people to delegate to and, trust me, I'll develop the capacity."
The firing range was pitch dark, with only the red exit and emergency signs lit. Jack almost left, when he saw a hint of movement, a shifting of long legs on the floor. He pushed the door open and walked over to sit by Daniel, giving a complaining and overly loud grunt.
"You need a candle?" Jack asked. "I hear Teal'c has a few."
Daniel snorted, sounding a little hoarse. Jack saw him run a hand over his face.
"It's usually easier to hit the targets with the lights on, but, you know, in the kung-fu movies they practice blind-folded so…."
"I can't hit the broad side of the barn in the dark," Daniel said in a low voice.
"Yeah, we've tried that, haven't we?"
"A couple of times," Daniel nodded.
Jack leaned forward. "Look, I know how mad you are at Teal'c -- and you have every right to be -- but there wasn't much else he could do. He had to choose you or Shau're. You can't hold it against him that he chose his friend. You would've chosen differently, but you're the one he cares about."
There was a dangerous pause. "Is that what you think?"
"Yeah?" Jack said, questioning.
"Jack." Daniel sighed. "I'm just thinking."
"Good," Jack said cautiously, "thinking's good."
Daniel continued as if he hadn't heard Jack, his face clearer as Jack's eyes adjusted to the bad light. "I'm just thinking that everyone I've ever shot -- not every Goa'uld, not every Jaffa -- but every one, every person -- had someone they cared about as much as, as much as I -- as much as Shau're." He could barely say it and stared straight ahead. He swallowed. "Teal'c doesn't forget that. But I did. It stopped being real to me. They were aliens in funny suits."
Daniel made a helpless incomplete gesture, the anger tightening along his jaw. "I just couldn't understand why he was so … damned calm about it."
"T's calm about everything, you know that," Jack broke in.
"Shut up, Jack, this is important." Daniel said, rather rudely Jack thought. "He was calm about it because Shau're's death was the same as everyone else's. I thought that was a problem but I was wrong. It's not that he valued her less than he should have but that he values everyone equally. He never forgets that he's taking a life, and what that life's worth. Ever. But I had."
Jack banged the back of his head lightly against the wall, exhaling.
Without looking at Daniel, Jack folded his hands on his knees and said, "You haven't become me, Daniel."
"What?" Then Daniel seemed to remember. "Oh. No, you have your own moral code, good guys and bad guys. I know that."
Jack squinted at him in irritated confusion. "You don't think the Goa'uld are evil bastards?"
"Yes. No. I don't know," he said apologetically. "I can't … I can't oversimplify it like that any more." He explained, tipping his head along the wall towards Jack. "Shau're was a Goa'uld."
"She was a host. A hostage, a victim. Don't mix up who the bad guys are, Daniel, it'll only confuse you." Jack pointed at him emphatically. "You're the good guy. With the white hat and the revolver and everything."
"I'm really not so sure about that," Daniel said softly. "I've become something I've never wanted to be. If I could have killed Teal'c this week I think I would have, and given his code of honor I think he would have let me." Daniel's voice was dry with dark humor. "To expiate his guilt in my eyes. No matter what that would have done to me."
Jack grimaced and indicated Daniel with his chin. "And what about your code of honor?"
"I don't think I have one." Daniel spread his hands and dropped them. "Not for this."
Daniel shifted his legs and flung something, a spent shell casing, bit of paper, it was hard to tell. He settled back against the wall with a sigh.
"And yet," Jack added in a carefully controlled voice, his eyes narrowed, "I note that you've signed up for your qualification test."
There was a pause, a frozen silence. Daniel didn't move a muscle.
"Help me out here, Daniel." Jack leaned closer, staring at him intensely. "I'm confused."
Daniel took a breath and let it out, very carefully, equally controlled. "I'm staying, aren't I?"
Jack hoped that he didn't sound plaintive when he asked, "And you were going to do it without me?"
Daniel snorted as he answered, "I figured you'd notice."
At Daniel's request they cleared the firing range. Sam had complained, while Teal'c gave him a meaningful smile which could have meant anything but Jack thought he understood. The only person he'd wanted there was Jack and the private who handled the targets.
Daniel had tacked his jacket over the little window in the door. Just as a precaution, he said. Then with nervous hands he assembled the clips. The course was already laid out. He took a deep breath, blinking hard as he looked up. Jack waited for a nod that he was ready.
Jack set his stopwatch and, at Daniel's nod, announced, "Fire at your own pace!"
Daniel drew his Beretta and sprawled prone, the movement fluid and practiced. He fired ten steady bursts into the target area -- a dot at 35 feet -- ejected the clip, reloaded and moved forward to the next mark. Jack could see the adrenaline flush, his shallow breath as he holstered his weapon.
Daniel drew, and fired five bursts with his right hand, stance perfect, then switched, and fired five more with his left. He winced as the left-handed shots went wide.
The target was changed out again. Daniel moved to the barricade and reloaded.
He bumped the barricade but steadied his hand as he fired five shots from behind it, then switched more easily, scrambling around it as he fired with the left. Breathing heavily, hands shaking, Daniel took his next mark, ejected the clip and reloaded.
Daniel moved closer and fired ten fast bursts with his good hand, one-handed. Jack smiled. Those were some of his best shots so far.
Daniel took his next mark and paused. Edged closer.
He dropped to his knee and fired two-handed, ten shots. Reloaded.
Daniel paused, moved forward, and crouched behind the low barricade, firing from the right. Fired five with his left hand. Sweat beaded on his forehead.
Daniel stood at close range and emptied the clip into the target, teeth gritted, concentration intense. Then he stopped, and shut his eyes, appearing to finally breathe as his shoulders sagged, all but dropping the Beretta.
Jack collected the targets. He planned to add up these scores himself.
He smirked as he pulled down that last one. "You're always scary on the close range."
"That's how close I was to Ra when he killed me," Daniel said, sitting on the floor, his face damp with nervous sweat.
Jack paused with a blink, then continued marking his scores.
"So … uh … how'd I do?"
Daniel hovered. Jack brushed him away, saying out loud as he gazed at the ceiling, tapping his lips, "… hmm, carry the two … plus six … that would be…."
"They have calculators, Jack," Daniel said wryly.
Jack waved an impatient hand. Then at last, he heaved a sigh, covering the scores with his palm.
"Well, I did tell you -- long, long ago, I might add -- that you wouldn't match me, right?"
"I passed, didn't I?" Daniel's forehead crinkled with worry. "Oh, shit, that would suck if after all these years I'm not able to pass. You wouldn't take me off the team, would you? No, you'd have to, to set an example because otherwise it wouldn't be fair…."
"I mean I can always retake it, get some work done on base in the interim. I was a little slow on the barricade…."
"… but it shouldn't matter because what I've accomplished on these missions should far outweigh my abilities as--"
"Daniel. Can it."
He held up the scores. Which had Marksman circled in black magic marker.
Jack's eyes twinkled as Daniel's jaw dropped.
"I'm afraid that'll have to do for now, but if you really want to beat me you'll … hey! Hey!" Daniel scooped up a handful of spent shell casings and pelted Jack with them, stepping forward with another handful. Jack hunched protectively, laughing. "I'm your commanding officer, I can have you written up for this--!"
Then Daniel grabbed him in a big bear hug. Jack returned it with interest, squeezing his relieved friend tight. He mumbled in Daniel's ear, "Did you think for one second that you were anything less?" Jack held him out at arms-length, shaking his head with a snort of laughter. "You wouldn't have made it, Daniel. Not a chance. I knew after that first shot on Abydos that you'd be good."
Daniel just laughed and grinned. "Well, I think my bones have turned to Jell-o…."
Jack slung his arm around Daniel's shoulders. "Yeah, the test is harder than being shot at. At least when you miss, the Goa'uld aren't grading you." He tipped his head in the general direction of the door. "Miller time?"
He ruffled Daniel's hair, guiding him out of the range. He ripped Daniel's coat off the door, one-handed, tacks flying. "Can I tell Carter you flunked? Because it was so much fun when I had you going."
Daniel made a show of thinking about it, tipping his head. "Ummm … no."