"Wait... wait... wait." Rodney was looking back and forth incredulously, from Carson's worried expression to the tiny bundle of buff-colored fur on the infirmary bed. "That can't be right. You're saying Daniel's been turned into a monkey?"
"I think it's actually a tarsier," John said. He rubbed the back of his head, then thought about how monkeyish the gesture was and whipped his hand back down to his side. Actually, he knew it was a tarsier-he'd looked it up a minute ago on Carson's laptop, using the networked database they'd brought with them.
Rodney just looked at him like he'd lost his mind around the same time Daniel had shrunk a few feet and grown a tail. John shrugged.
"Carson." Rodney all but grabbed the doctor's sleeve. "This isn't true. Tell me this didn't happen. Daniel... Daniel really isn't small and fuzzy and eating raw hamburger with barely opposable thumbs."
Carson just shook his head, looking stricken. "I cannae explain it," he said, and the thickness of his accent spoke volumes to how spooked he was about the whole thing. "But it's true-I've checked... the, ah, tarsier's DNA against Dr. Jackson's records. Except for the obvious differences-"
"-Which are pretty damn obvious!" Rodney burst out.
"Rodney," Elizabeth said quellingly. "Carson is trying to explain."
"Right," Rodney said tightly. He ducked his head, glancing at the tarsier and then away. "Sorry. Please continue." He sounded really shaken, and John was beginning to feel kind of bad.
"Right," Carson said. "Well... As I was saying, except for the obvious differences which would account for Dr. Jackson's current... state... the DNA is an exact match." He gestured at the tarsier, who looked at them all blandly with its huge, orange eyes, and licked its hands. "This is Dr. Daniel Jackson."
"Dear god," Rodney said. He rubbed his hand over his face, then looked at Carson with eyes that were big and blue and nearly frantic. "But... you can fix him, right? You can put him back the way he was?"
Carson spread his hands helplessly. "I don't know," he said. "This just happened...what, half an hour ago?" He looked at John, who nodded. "At the moment I've got no bloody idea what happened to him, let alone how to fix it!"
If anything, Rodney's eyes got a little wider, and John had to shove aside a stab of jealousy before Rodney whirled on him. "Well, what did happen?" He demanded. "You were in one of the unexplored areas of the city, right? Did you, did you touch something? Trigger something? What did you do?"
"Hey." John's eyes narrowed a bit. "I didn't do anything." He took a breath. He'd already explained this before-to Elizabeth and Carson, but Rodney hadn't been called to the infirmary yet then, and so didn't know what had happened. "We found what looked like some kind of lab or something. There were lots of machines with all kinds of writing on them. In Ancient." He gestured at the tarsier with his chin. It had gone back to scooping up the last bits of the hamburger and nibbling at it with tiny, delicate bites. "Dr. Jackson was very eager to check it out. I told him to be careful, but he must've touched something while he was translating it."
Rodney pounced on that, like John figured he would. "He was translating? What did he translate? Did he say what it did?"
"No." Elizabeth shook her head, filling in for John. "Apparently Daniel got as far as the word 'transformation,' when he triggered the device."
"Yeah." John nodded solemnly. "There was this big flash of bright white light that kind of... enveloped him. And when it disappeared, there was the tarsier."
Rodney blinked at him. "Enveloped? Then, it's possible that Daniel could have been transported somewhere, right?" Rodney's expression was imploring, like he was begging John to agree, and there was just a little bit of guilt nudging into the jealousy, now. "Taken somewhere else and replaced with an imposter?"
Carson's voice was very gentle when he spoke. "It's very hard to fake DNA, Rodney."
"Yeah, for us!" Rodney whipped around to face him again. "But not for an Ancient!" He put the side of his hand to his mouth, staring at the tiny primate as if he could turn it back into Daniel by willpower alone. The tarsier looked up at him and blinked, then went back to cleaning its hands. "Maybe-maybe it's a trap, or something," Rodney said. "Or some kind of experiment-"
"Maybe it was a wish machine," John said. "Maybe he wanted to be a tarsier for awhile."
"What?" Rodney's eyes were so big they looked kind of like the Daniel-Tarsier, then he scowled. "Somehow I think 'getting zapped into a lower primate' wasn't all that high on his to-do list today." He turned to Elizabeth. "We've got to go back there, figure out what this machine did!"
Elizabeth raised her hand. "We do, you're absolutely right. But I can't have my people rushing back into that laboratory without knowing what they're doing, Rodney. I don't want to have anyone else turned into...a lower primate. Or anything else."
"I know what I'm doing!" Rodney insisted.
"What you're doing is freaking out," John said, and maybe that was partially the guilt, making him a little less than totally sympathetic, but it wasn't like Daniel was suffering, or anything. So he was small and fuzzy and eating hamburger on a bed. It kind of looked like fun. And John was privately certain he hadn't seen the archeologist so relaxed since they'd 'gated to the city. Even if Daniel wasn't technically an archeologist anymore, at the moment.
That earned him a quelling look from both Elizabeth and Carson, as well as pure venom from Rodney, but John didn't have time to defend himself before Colonel Jack O'Neill came stomping in, looking like he'd run all the way from the Jumper bay, which John was certain he had.
"Wing radioed me and said Jackson was injured," O'Neill said, going right for Carson. Carson backed up a step and John couldn't blame him at all. "Where is he? What happened?"
Carson glanced at the tarsier. "He wasn't... exactly injured, Colonel."
O'Neill's eyebrows shot up, then furrowed menacingly. "What do you mean, 'not exactly injured'? Where is he? I want to see him. Now!"
"Colonel," Elizabeth said, in her best calming-the-masses voice, "he's right here." She moved aside, giving an unobstructed view of the infirmary bed.
The tarsier turned its head right around on it's tiny body, staring back at O'Neill.
O'Neill gave the tarsier a long, steady look, then glowered at Elizabeth. "You're telling me Dr. Daniel Jackson is a monkey." He took a step towards her, exuding that dark-menace thing that John figured was a special talent of the truly tortured, and John was really glad to have no skill in, thank you very much. "Is this some kind of joke?"
"No joke." Rodney's back had stiffened as soon as O'Neill entered the room, but he wasn't being cowed by the Colonel's "I could break you in half" attitude and John was pretty happy about that. "Daniel apparently triggered something in a lab he and Sheppard's team found, and... and got turned into a tarsier."
O'Neill turned to face Rodney, his expression the deliberate calm of someone trying very hard not to go ballistic. "Then, turn him back."
"We're working on it," Elizabeth snapped, not at all cowed either, which was very cool. "It's been less than an hour, Jack. And whomever we send needs to be briefed-I don't want anyone else going in there unprepared."
O'Neill's jaw twitched. He glanced at the tarsier, and then looked away, a lot like Rodney had, which John thought was interesting, though it didn't do anything for the jealousy that was still at least two to one on the guilt. Then O'Neill looked at him, probably having finally figured out exactly who he could blame.
John prepared himself to be grabbed by the collar, probably shaken until his teeth rattled.
"How did this happen?" And O'Neill was right John's face, crowding him, using his greater height to intimidate, exactly the way John had figured. And, yeah, there was O'Neill's fist on his collar-
"Right," Rodney sneered, "go Neanderthal on the major. That'll help. Sheppard's meant to be psychic now, so he can predict everything that could possibly go wrong?"
Oh, wow, but that just warmed John's heart, lit it up like fireworks. He would have grinned, except for the very angry Air Force Colonel who was still looking at him like beating John to a pulp might just solve all his problems.
"Jack--!" Elizabeth grabbed O'Neill's arm, looking both exasperated and concerned, "No one's to blame for this, Jack!"
O'Neill ignored her, of course. "He's meant to protect his team!" he snarled over his shoulder, mostly at Rodney.
"I told him not to touch it!" John said, because his collar was getting a little uncomfortable around his neck, what with O'Neill's fist twisting it. "He said he wouldn't, and then he did anyway!"
"Jack." And now Elizabeth's vice was ice-covered stone, and John was more than a little pleased that she was so adamant about defending him, as well. "He's not responsible for this. Let him go."
The tarsier leapt off the bed, onto O'Neill's shoulder, then used its furry little arms to climb onto O'Neill's head.
O'Neill let go of John automatically, staggered back a step, reaching for the Daniel-Tarsier on his head. He had probably been going to yank it off him, maybe throw it across the room, but his hands had barely touched the buff-colored fur before O'Neill stopped.
The tarsier wasn't hurting him. It was just... clinging. With one hand clutching O'Neill's ear, the other one with a fistful of the colonel's grizzled hair. The tarsier blinked its big orange eyes, as it seemed to get more comfortable. Hell, John was sure the critter was smiling.
"Daniel?" O'Neill asked. He very gently brushed a few fingertips along the tarsier's back.
"Oh, yeah," Rodney said sarcastically, though it barely concealed the concern that still laced his voice. "I'd say that was Daniel."
O'Neill turned back to Carson, moving carefully now, obviously not wanting to dislodge the tarsier. All the fury had bleached out of his voice, replaced by quiet fear. John almost felt bad for him, but that hiked the guilt up a notch, so he pushed that aside, too. "Is he okay?"
Carson seemed to consider that seriously. "As far as I can tell, yes, he's just fine. We'll need Dr. Patel to examine him properly-she's our veterinary medicine specialist-but he seems perfectly healthy. He's been eating and drinking..."
"So, he's okay," O'Neill repeated, maybe as much to hear the words again as to see Carson's confirming nod. "He's not... pissed off by this, or anything. Freaked out."
"I think he's happy," John said, but O'Neill ignored him, and Elizabeth shot him a look and John shut up.
"We'll find out how to turn him back as soon as possible," Elizabeth said gently. "I'll call a meeting right now and form a team to go back to that room." She put her hand on O'Neill's arm. "I promise we'll get Daniel back."
O'Neill just nodded carefully. He was still stroking the tiny furry back. "I'll take care of him," he said, "until we can reverse this. I'll keep him with me."
"Of course," Elizabeth said, like what O'Neill said made any kind of sense. John thought he saw Rodney roll his eyes. And for some reason that made his heart light up again.
"Good," O'Neill said. He gently pried Daniel-Tarsier off his head, moving it to his shoulder. The tarsier settled there like it owned the place. Which, John figured, it probably did. Or at least its full-sized, less-hairy counterpart. With glasses.
"All right," Elizabeth said on an exhale. "Rodney," she looked at him. "I'm going to need you and the best members of your team for this in the briefing room." She turned to John. "I want you there too. Ten minutes. Go."
"Going." Rodney gave her a quick nod. He shot one last glance at the tarsier, and strode out.
John gave Elizabeth a nod as well, then followed Rodney, trotting until he was walking alongside him.
"He's going to be okay, Rodney," John said. "You know you'll figure out how to un-tarsier him."
Rodney glanced at him. "Your optimism is heartwarming, Major. I just wish it had any basis in reality."
"Rodney..." They had reached the transporter, and John slapped it open. It was empty, and he grabbed Rodney's arm, hauling him inside. As soon as they were both in he shut the doors, but blocked Rodney from hitting their destination.
"John!" Rodney sure looked angry. "We've got a briefing--!"
John hugged him. Rodney froze for a second, then hugged him back, wrapping his arms around John and holding on tight.
"I'm really scared," Rodney said quietly. "He's my best friend. What if I can't turn him back?"
"He's gonna be okay, Rodney," John said. And, yeah, the fact that Rodney had said 'best friend' and not 'lover' did all kinds of wonderful things to John's insides, though it did notch up the guilt some more. "It's just a machine. You'll figure it out. You'll turn him back." He pulled away enough so that he could look into Rodney's worried eyes. "And he's okay, right now. He's in a good place. I think-I think he's probably the most okay he's been since he's got here."
But Rodney was looking at him like John was nuts again. "He's a monkey. How can you say he's okay?"
"Tarsier," John corrected. "Look." He licked his lips. "When you were a kid-didn't you ever want to be, I don't know, a dog or something? Just, some animal who would be loved and petted and looked after no matter what? Like, as long as you were housebroken and didn't wreck the furniture you'd always be taken care of, you wouldn't have to do anything."
Rodney stared at him, but John could tell it was just because he was thinking about it, processing the idea. "We had a dog for awhile, when I was a kid," he said. "Sometimes I wished I were him, when my parents were fighting."
"Yeah." John nodded. "So... Daniel gets to be a tarsier for awhile. Taken care of. Loved. And he doesn't have to do anything."
Rodney blinked, but he looked just a little bit relieved. "Yes," he said finally. "I guess that would be all right."
"Sure it's all right." John smiled. "It's like-it's like a simian vacation."
Rodney even smiled a bit at that, and John's heart was like fireworks again.
But the smile was gone an instant later. "He's not a simian, John. He can't stay like this. We have to turn him back."
"And we will," John said seriously. "We will. I promise." He stepped back, reluctantly letting go. But they really had to get to the briefing.
And John knew they'd need him there as much, if not more, than anyone. Because he had the ATA gene, and he'd seen what had happened. They'd need his advice, to find out what he knew.
Not to mention that he'd spent a couple minutes checking out the machine himself, right after, with Daniel-Tarsier tucked safely into his jacket, and John was pretty sure he could turn Daniel back right away, if he had to.
He hoped he wouldn't have to, though. He hoped the science team would figure it out on their own, but that it would take awhile. At least overnight.
It wasn't that John wanted Daniel to stay forever as a tarsier. Far from it. But Daniel had been putting up with more crap than anybody for a long time now, and John figured it wouldn't hurt for him to spend a day or two just being loved and petted and looked after without having to do anything. Without having to really think, even, since tarsiers weren't exactly sentient. At least not the way humans were.
And if that meant that John got Rodney all to himself for a whole afternoon and night, maybe for a whole day afterwards, what was the harm in that? Nobody would get hurt. Daniel would never even know.
And Rodney deserved someone to love and pet and look after him, too, without having to do anything. Only, John really wanted Rodney to be sentient when he did it.