"How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?"
Daniel sighed heavily. "One... but the light bulb has to want to change."
Jack deflated. "Oh, heard that one, have you?"
Rather than coming up with another lame joke, Jack fumbled for Daniel's sweat-dampened forehead, swearing softly when it became evident the archaeologist wasn't improving. Moving his hand to his friend's wrist, Jack was certain Daniel's temperature had dropped again and his pulse had gotten faster and weaker.
"They'll find us," Daniel whispered softly, looking up at Jack with pain-glazed but determined eyes.
"Yeah," Jack agreed, throat working as he looked away. "Carter and Teal'c are probably out there right now, figuring out how to dig us out."
"And Mitchell and Vala, too." When the general cringed, Daniel added, "They're good people, Jack."
"I know that. What, you think I'd let you out here with them if they weren't?" He was only partly joking, of course, since he knew nothing would keep Daniel from exploring the galaxy he'd opened up all those years ago. Heck, not even dying stopped the guy.
It wasn't going to stop him now, either...
"I miss having you out here with us. They're good people, but..." Daniel attempted to shrug, and was sharply reminded what a bad idea that was by his dislocated left shoulder.
"But?" Jack prompted, shifting his own position to relieve the pressure on his numbing backside. Once he was settled into a slightly-less-uncomfortable spot against the room's only still-standing wall, he pulled Daniel back into his arms. The movement probably jostled the younger man's injuries, but there was no complaint.
Cradling a wounded Daniel to his chest and waiting for Carter and Teal'c (and Mitchell and Vala) to come to their rescue felt distressingly familiar.
Jack glanced over at Myrdonn Tah-tsel, his and Daniel's guide for the trip. When the ancient temple unexpectedly began its collapse, Tah-tsel and Daniel were struck by a falling pillar. Fortunately, the bulk of the stone had fallen on Tah-tsel, whose tough exoskeleton had protected her from severe damage, but the mass was still sufficient to keep her pinned to the floor. The Myrmidian was able to help Jack move the pillar enough to free Daniel, but since the power supply for her portable translator had been damaged, Tah-tsel had shut the device off to save its energy. With her so silent, Jack had nearly forgotten she was there.
"What is it?" Jack replied.
Tah-tsel's mandibles clacked, and a synthetic voice emerged from the device fastened to her carapace. "The collapse of this structure will not have gone unnoticed by my people. I am certain that Fithia will have been notified, and will be sending engineers to assist us."
Jack smiled faintly and nodded. The insectoid Myrmidians had creeped him out at first—not that he'd allowed himself to express his discomfort outwardly—but over the course of his diplomatic visit, the giant bugs in general (and Tah-tsel in particular) had grown on him. Despite their creepy faces and powerful bodies, they were an astonishingly gentle and highly intellectual race, and their genetic caste system ensured each Myrmidian was highly suited to her particular field. Most importantly, they liked and respected Daniel, which made them good people in Jack's book.
"You hear that, Daniel? You're going to get to see mermaid engineers at work."
"Can't wait," the archaeologist replied. The fact that he didn't correct Jack's deliberate mangling of "Myrmidian" was a worrisome indicator of his present level of pain and/or consciousness.
"So... how many archaeologists does it take to change a light bulb?"
"One... to pick up the phone and get Siler to do it?"
"Ha! No, it takes three. One to change it and two to argue over the age and origin of the old one."
Daniel chuckled softly, wincing only a little. Jack was pretty sure Daniel had internal injuries he wouldn't admit to until he was safely under the care of a medical professional. He didn't want to worry Jack, he guessed, since Jack himself would have done the same had their situation been reversed. So why did either of them even bother?
"They make me laugh."
"Mitchell and Vala. Mitchell's Southern-hospitality routine and Vala's..."
"X-rated Lolita?" Jack supplied.
"Something like that... They make me laugh. On the inside, usually, but a laugh's a laugh."
"Ah, but a big ol' belly laugh is good for you. Works the lungs, improves the circulation. Laughter is the best medicine, ya know."
"Well, if it will get me out of a few visits with Doctor Lam..."
Jack smiled. "See? You'll have to give it a try sometime. Bust out, like Teal'c did after the Jaffa nose-dripping joke he told that time."
Tah-tsel spoke up again. "My people have a saying, 'One who enjoys, endures.' It was originally meant to remind workers and soldiers to be content with their assigned functions, but it took on new meaning after we drove the Goa'uld from our world. Now it is much as your 'best medicine' expression, and we take pride in fulfilling our roles."
Jack tried to imagine a Myrmidian laughing, but gave up on that bizarre mental image. "So, do you guys—er, gals—tell jokes?"
"Yes, but I believe the humor would be, as you say, 'lost in translation.'"
Recalling Teal'c's Jaffa nose-dripping joke again, Jack conceded the point. "Hey, Danny, how many MPs does it take to change a light bulb?" Daniel shook his head. "None! It turned itself in."
"That was terrible, Jack."
"Yeah, yeah. How many jarheads does it take to change a light bulb? Five! One to hold the bulb, the other four to turn the ladder."
Daniel groaned. "That was worse."
Jack shrugged. "I'm determined to make you laugh."
"Jack... I have broken ribs and... well, let's just say that laughing is not something I want to be doing right now."
Falling silent, Jack soon found himself listening to Daniel's strained breathing, and the old familiar feeling of helplessness washed over him. After spending the last few years doing all his worrying from behind a desk, Jack had almost forgotten how hard it was to try to be strong for an injured teammate in the field. On the wrong side of the Stargate from medical help, with a few tons of rubble between them and the 'Gate itself...
"Any minute now," Jack muttered.
To his utter surprise, his radio crackled, squawked, and finally let forth the very welcome voice of certain blond-haired lieutenant colonel. "General, Daniel, do you read?"
"Loud and clear, Carter. I hope you kids brought some heavy-duty moving equipment."
"Yes, sir, we're here with a Myrmarr worker crew, and they're already shifting the largest pieces out of the way. How are you and Daniel?"
"Oh, I'm peachy, but Daniel tried to catch a big honkin' pillar all by himself. Thankfully, Tah-tsel was there to help, but she's not going anywhere 'til someone takes it off her hands... er, claws."
There was a pause, as though Carter was speaking to the people around her. Most likely, she'd picked up on what Jack didn't say about Daniel's condition, and was relaying it to a medical team. "Understood, sir. We should have all three of you free in just a few minutes."
"Looking forward to it." Releasing the radio, Jack gently nudged Daniel. "What'd I tell ya? I must be psychic or something."
"Or something," Daniel agreed with a smile.
"Yeah, yeah." Unable to resist, Jack hugged the younger man briefly, careful not to jostle him. "You know, even though the three of you turned my hair gray—especially you—" he added, earning himself an eye-roll "—you made me laugh, too. I don't get to laugh enough in D.C., and I miss that."
"We miss you. God, Jack, having you in Hammond's old office was far enough away, but now that you're all the way across the country..."
He trailed off, but Jack had already gotten the message. "So... you're saying I should come up with more excuses to visit?"
"That'd be a start," Daniel agreed.
Chunks of masonry clattered, and moments later, a familiar face was peering through the newly-created gap. "They're here!" Mitchell called out, then stepped away.
Vala took his place, and the angle of her head suggested she was standing on the tips of her toes to look in. "Oh, there they are! You boys look awfully cozy... are we interrupting anything? If so, I'll stay here to supervise... Cameron and Muscles can come back later."
"Vala!" came Mitchell's outraged cry, and the dark-haired woman disappeared from view.
Jack chuckled. "Yeah, they're all right."
"Told you." Daniel sighed and laid his head back on Jack's shoulder. "The rest of what I said holds true, too. Heck, with NORAD moving out of the top of the mountain, you could move your office into General Wheatley's space, and have room for plenty of staff, too. Just beam to your old office whenever you have to be in D.C. for something."
"That's... not a bad idea. I'll run that by Vidrine and the Chief of Staff when I get back. They'll think I'm nuts, but if I tell 'em it's your idea, they'll be all over it."
"They will not."
"Do not force me to separate you from one another," Teal'c warned. He wasn't visible from where Jack was sitting, but he obviously wasn't far away.
An arthropodal foreleg hooked through the hole in the wall, curling almost delicately around the stone slab blocking the way out. The limb flexed, then the heavy stone shifted, easily being hauled out of the way by a massive worker-caste Myrmidian.
As soon as the entrance was clear, Carter and Doctor Lam were dashing into the room, with Teal'c, Mitchell, and Vala following only slightly more slowly. Daniel grudgingly let the dour doc do her thing, then he was carefully shifted off Jack and onto the stretcher Teal'c had carried into the room. Lam then took a moment to check Jack over before allowing Carter to help him stand, and even offered to check up on Tah-tsel, despite having only limited knowledge of Myrmidian physiology.
Finally, they were loaded up and ready to go, with Teal'c and Mitchell taking stretcher-bearing duties. Vala and Sam jockeyed for position at the left side of the stretcher, but a single look from Lam had them grudgingly stepping aside and allowing the slightly-more-than-pint-sized Napoleonic power-monger access to her patient. Jack, of course, took the right side.
By the time they reached the 'Gate, Tah-tsel had been freed and had caught up with the group from the SGC, and a small delegation of other thinker-caste Myrmidians were waiting to see Daniel off with wishes for a speedy recovery.
As Vala dialed, Daniel snagged Jack's sleeve and motioned for him to lean down. "One," he said simply.
"One what?" Jack asked, confused.
"How many psychics does it take to change a light bulb?"
A grin spread across Jack's face as the wormhole burst open. Yeah, Daniel was going to be just fine.