Daniel turned his head and cracked open an eye. He immediately closed it again. This was not good. It had become a rule for him that any time he opened his eyes and he was tied up, it meant the situation was bad. Of course, he'd yet to try it with Jack.
He pulled at his restraints, and sighed heavily. Okay, tied up was probably not the right wording. He was chained. To a wall. And judging by the coldness of his skin ... he was naked. He opened one eye again and looked down.
Why do bad guys do that again? Oh, yeah, Jack had explained it in great detail once. It was a psychological thing. Take a man's clothes and you supposedly shamed him and made him feel vulnerable. Daniel didn't know about shame or vulnerability, but damn it, he was cold.
He supposed if this had happened last year, he might indeed have felt shame and a definite vulnerability, but he'd had a year of Jack worshipping his body, and loving it into oblivion on a fairly regular basis, so shame was out. And vulnerable? Hell, no. SG-1 was probably looking for him now. He had no doubts about their ability to find him, just as he'd find any one of them if lost, taken, or chained to a wall.
Okay, he fervently hoped that by the time Jack, Carter and Teal'c found him, he'd no longer be naked. After all, there was shame, and then there was plain old embarrassment, and he'd be very embarrassed if Carter and Teal'c found him like this.
He wondered if he were still on Roban's world. God, he hoped so. It would make it so much easier for him to be found. No begging General Hammond for more soldiers, or asking the Tok'ra for help and being turned down.
Daniel figured he ought to try the shackles that were around his wrists, just in case they were loose. He tugged, winced and nodded. Definitely not loose, and definitely painful as were the ones on his ankles, now that he'd thought about it. And naturally, he was spread-eagled.
He tried to wiggle, but he was really stretched out. Which also hurt, by the way. Just in case anyone cared, he thought.
Maybe it was time to get his mind off of his naked, chained, and spread-eagled self by counting ...Jacks.
Jacks jumping Daniels.
Get his mind off the cold and the pain, and the fact that the more he looked at the small room that held him, the more disconcerted he became.
Right. Jack jumping Daniel. Need to concentrate on that instead of the table against the other wall that seemed to be full of some rather odd paraphernalia. The door to his cell creaked open and a shaft of bright light hit the dirty floor. Daniel followed the arrow of brightness until it was blocked by a dark and imposing figure.
"Hello, Daniel Jackson. That is your name, yes?"
The voice was smooth, deep, and oddly gentle. Daniel wasn't fooled for a moment. He kept his mouth shut.
The figure came in and stood before him. Daniel had to look up a good six inches or better to see the man's face. Oh, yeah, this was part of the psychology too. Tower over a guy, a naked guy chained to a wall, and make him feel small. Sure, sure, got it. But come on, Daniel had been towered over by the best, like Teal'c. This guy didn't have a chance.
"I know you are Daniel Jackson. Doctor Daniel Jackson. You are quite valued by the Tau'ri, and hated by the Goa'uld."
Brown eyes raked over Daniel and he sighed inwardly. Thanks to Hathor, he was very familiar with the look.
"You Tau'ri are smaller than we Tretons. But you are quite perfect. The female, Major Carter, was too skinny and not of my liking. The Jaffa? I spit on him."
The man demonstrated by spitting harshly. "And your leader? O'Neill?" He waved a dismissive hand. "While handsome, he is, like myself, a warrior; tough and seasoned. He would bring me no pleasure."
The man touched Daniel's bottom lip and Daniel managed not to bite the finger off as his captor said, "But you, you will bring me much satisfaction, Daniel. I even enjoy saying your name. Dan-yel. Truly a beautiful name."
Questions were bubbling up inside of him, but Daniel stomped down on his natural curiosity. He continued to stare impassively at the large man in front of him, his chin slightly raised with as much defiance as his position allowed.
The man smiled. "You are brave too, aren't you, Dan-yel?" He drew out the last syllable of Daniel's name again, his grin widening. "You do not yet realize that you are my property and that no help will come for you. The skinny woman is alive, but blind. The Jaffa is also alive, but not for long. His symbiote is dead. And Colonel O'Neill? He was a warrior to his last breath. A breath I am proud to say I took from his body. It was good to defeat such a man in front of my soldiers. I stand even taller now.
"As for the Xonians, their homes have been destroyed and they have scattered. Roban, their leader, is dead, killed by my second, Corest. No, Dan-yel, there is no hope for you. No one to rescue you. The Xonians will not use the 'Gate, and the Jaffa is too ill and too near death to try it.
Major Carter will not be well enough for many weeks, I fear. Not that it will do her any good. I understand from my spies that her mind is gone."
Daniel had heard nothing after the words, "his last breath".
His vision darkened, the man in front of him swaying and growing smaller and smaller as the vision of Jack filled Daniel's mind.
The man in front of him would die. It was that simple. No matter what happened, no matter how long it took, Daniel would see this man dead by his hand.
"So you see, Daniel, you are mine, to do with as I please. And I please very much. I will enjoy taking you, having you. I will enjoy breaking you, and then bending you to my will. I understand it may take time, but I am a patient man and time is all that I have."
The first flare of hope since hearing "his last breath" burst forth in Daniel. His chance would come with time. Time to fool the man before him.
Time to appear to break and bend. Yes, he also had time now. And when the man in front of him was dead, so too would Daniel die. And again, by his own hand.
The man stepped in close, his body just brushing Daniel's naked skin, his breath floating across Daniel's face. He stretched out his own arms, hands pressing against Daniel's. He had to bend at the knees to bring their bodies into alignment, his lips to Daniel's.
"Do you wish to know my name, Daniel?"
For the first time, Daniel spoke. "Oh, I know it, all right, it's Death, for that is how you will end." Even for him, Daniel thought that sounded overly dramatic and more like bad fiction than reality, but truth was truth, and the man in front of him was a walking dead whatever.
He was also an angry man. Daniel tried not to flinch as the man's eyes narrowed and he said through gritted teeth, "So it will be a battle of wills? I fear one of us is at a disadvantage, Daniel."
He lowered his head and took Daniel's mouth in a punishing kiss. His tongue forced Daniel's mouth opened enough that he was able to invade it, but Daniel had his own ideas about how this move should end. He bit down, hard.
The garbled scream echoed in the small cell and his assailant pushed away from Daniel, his hand going immediately to his mouth. After a moment of stunned silence, the man removed his hand and stared at the blood that covered the skin. His eyes glittered darkly as he slowly moved forward again. The blood-covered hand reached for Daniel, who had nowhere to go.
Fingers found his throat, and squeezed.
It didn't take long before Daniel was shaking with the need to breathe, jerking against both the man, and the metal that held him. Daniel's eyes bulged as he gasped for any air he could pull in, and the man squeezed harder. Daniel's struggles grew slower and slower as lack of air took its toll.
Goranz gave one final squeeze, and Daniel's struggles stopped altogether.
Jack really hated waking up like this. It was just so danged annoying. The whole, "Who am I? Where am I? What happened?" shtick was boring after so many years of refining it. Although, at least this time he could see.
Which reminded him....
"Carter? Teal'c? Daniel?"
"Here, sir," came Carter's raspy reply.
"I am beside you, O'Neill," came Teal'c's stronger answer.
"Daniel?" Jack got shakily to his feet and really looked around him.
He was in a cage. And next to him, Teal'c, and next to Teal'c's cage, Carter. But no Daniel; no fourth cage.
Okay, now this he really hated.
"We are alone, O'Neill. DanielJackson is not here," Teal'c observed, his tone saying that this was definitely not a good thing.
Jack nodded his understanding and immediately wrapped his fingers around the bars of the cage and shook them. Nothing happened. Scratching the back of his head, he said, "I can't believe I just did that."
"It would appear to have been a useless gesture, O'Neill," Teal'c said dryly.
Ignoring his friend, Jack asked, "All right, what's the last thing anyone remembers? Carter? Teal'c?"
"Sharing water with the Xonians. It was really good water," Carter offered.
"Right, right. The Xonians. What kind of name is that, anyway? Spelled, according to Daniel, with an 'X', but pronounced 'Chonians'? I mean, come on, I've heard some weird names before, but...."
His voice trailed off because he was seeing Daniel explaining the name to him just a scant -- he checked his watch -- five hours ago. Five hours.
That was all.
"It's only been five hours, kids. Five hours since meeting up with the Xonians. We couldn't have been out very long, right?"
Carter and Teal'c looked at each other through the bars. They knew exactly what Jack was saying. How bad could things have gotten for their archaeologist in such a short time?
Depression hit them at the same time, thanks to past experience telling them that in a short time, things could get very bad for Daniel.
Suddenly the sound of gunfire could be heard, the noise bringing Carter and Teal'c to their feet.
"It's coming from above, O'Neill. We appear to be in a cellar."
Jack squinted in an effort to see beyond the cages, and finally nodded as he spotted the supplies stacked almost to the ceiling. Before he could make a comment, the shooting not only escalated, but drew considerably closer.
"Not our weapons," Carter observed as she stared up at the ceiling, which was shaking.
"Rifles, as carried by the Xonians," Jack added thoughtfully.
The Xonians were humans encountered by SG-1 on PY3-8U9. Their development, to date, seemed to put them in Earth's 1700's in clothing, weapons and technology. They were a friendly people, quick to share and give aid, equally quick to laugh. They'd taken to the members of SG-1 immediately, especially Daniel. Thanks to his experiences 'gating all over the galaxy, Daniel had grown more cautious when approaching new worlds, but for some reason, he'd instantly trusted and liked the Xonians, and they'd responded in kind.
The room shook again, and now the gunfire seemed directly overhead. Loud yells and stomping feet told SG-1 that whatever was going on, it was going on just above them. As quickly as the shooting had started, it ended.
"All I can say is," Jack said in the ensuing silence, "I hope we won."
"I'll add my vote to yours, sir," Carter said, her wide blue eyes now fixed on a set of stairs that led down to the room that housed their cages. "Can you see a door at the end of those stairs, Teal'c?"
"I am afraid not, Major Carter."
The sound of a door opening caused Jack to say cheerily, "Well, we may not be able to see it, but it's there. I suggest, just in case we lost, that we start looking around for anything we can use as a weapon. Carter, how are your teeth feeling today?"
Flashing a grin at her commanding officer, she said, "I can still bite with the best of them, sir."
"Well, get ready. Teal'c?"
"I need only get within an arm's reach, O'Neill."
All three watched the stairs, and a moment later, Roban, the Xonian leader, charged down, rifle at the ready. He was followed by seven other Xonians, all dirty and wearing blood-encrusted clothing.
"COLONEL O'NEILL? ARE YOU DOWN HERE?"
"Roban, over here," Jack said, trusting that Daniel's feelings for the Xonians were right.
Roban swung his torch toward Jack's voice and spotted the cages in the corner. His face creased into a huge smile as he continued down.
"Thank the Lord Kemur that you are alive," he said as he drew near. "We were not certain we would be in time."
Jack watched as a ring of keys was handed over to Roban, who then began the process of finding the one that would release SG-1. As key after key was used and discarded, Jack asked, his voice hopeful, "Were you able to find Daniel? Is he with you?"
Roban was about to turn another key in the lock that held Jack prisoner, but at Jack's words, his hand froze. Without looking up, he said in a voice sad and full of regret, "We could not save Daniel, Colonel O'Neill."
Jack O'Neill heard the words and something strange happened; his knees buckled.
"...we had no warning, Colonel. They were upon us in seconds, the gas pellets exploding at our feet. For us, the GLT gas is merely disorientating, but all of you went down immediately. The Tretons thundered in on horseback, plucked all of you up and rode off."
Jack was nodding as Roban talked, but his eyes were searching the bodies that littered the ground. Roban had said that they had failed to save Daniel, which left Jack looking at every single body that even remotely resembled his archaeologist.
His mind refusing to accept Daniel's death, Jack had picked himself up from the floor of his cage just as Roban found the right key. SG-1 had been released and, once upstairs, had witnessed firsthand the remains of the battle between the Xonians and the Tretons.
"It did not take us long to get to our own horses, but the Tretons separated, Colonel. Half rode west, the others east. We could see Teal'c, so we too went west. We rode hard on their heels for hours until a small contingency of Tretons fell back to waylay us. Our need to find and rescue our new friends gave us the impetus to defeat them and continue on to this place."
Roban lowered his head in shame as he added softly, "I realize now that Daniel was with Goranz. It would seem clear that he was the reason for the attack."
Jack stopped his search. Slowly he turned to face the Xonian leader. "Did I just hear you correctly, Roban? You're saying that Daniel is alive, but in the hands of the Tretons?" he asked carefully.
"I," he looked at his men, then at Carter and Teal'c, then said, "I, yes, Colonel, of course Daniel is alive. I can only assume that the Tretons had been observing us from a distance. Goranz is known for his ... appetites, Colonel. But please understand, we have never seen a Treton this far east of their border."
"Is that supposed to reassure me, Roban? Because it's failing. And just what do you mean, 'Goranz is known for his appetites'?"
Roban looked away from Jack's steady and almost threatening gaze. "He is drawn to -- beautiful -- men. He must have seen--"
"Daniel?" Jack asked, his heart plummeting.
Roban nodded miserably. "We chose incorrectly, Colonel. We assumed all of you would be together."
With eyes closed, Jack drew on an inner strength, thought of what Daniel would expect of him, then said, "It's all right, Roban. We understand. You couldn't have known."
Teal'c stepped forward. "Where would this Goranz have taken DanielJackson?"
"By now, he has crossed the border. He is untouchable. There is nothing we can do."
Carter drew herself up to her full five foot, nine inches and said, with steel in her voice, "Excuse me, Roban? The man invades your territory, hurts your people, captures your guests, and now, just because he's on the other side of some border, he's untouchable?"
"It is our treaty. We dare not--"
Jack, face pale and body shaking, broke in. "YOU dare not? The treaty has been broken and the man has Daniel. Is that how you wish to leave it?"
Roban looked helplessly at his men, then back at Jack. "They are superior in numbers...."
"Look around you, Roban," Carter said as she made a sweeping gesture with her hand. "You kicked major ass here in order to save us. There are twenty of you and at least double that number of Tretons dead on the ground."
As he and his men gazed stupidly around them, Roban's eyes widened at the truth of Carter's statement. Finally he said, "I -- we -- simply knew we had to help you."
"And now we need your assistance in the rescue of DanielJackson," Teal'c said simply, before adding somberly, "As he would do for you."
Roban gazed about him once again, then straightened his shoulders and said, "Cort, take the wounded home. Bandero, you and the others will follow me. We shall lead SG-1 to Daniel."
Cort nodded his agreement, but seemed unhappy with the fact that he would not be able to accompany his leader. Bandero, on the other hand, smiled hugely. While SG-1 watched, open mouthed, Bandero and several others began to move among the dead and gathering weapons and ammunition. Roban smiled and addressed Jack. "If you will come with me, we will take what supplies we need from this Treton stronghold."
Jack held up one hand as he said, "Hold up, Roban. While I admit that what you've accomplished today was nothing short of a miracle, I think we could use some assistance. I need to get back to the 'Gate so that I can contact our people and request help."
Roban worried his bottom lip, then nodded and said," We will take the horses of the fallen Tretons as additional mounts, which will save time."
Jack nodded, waved a hand at Teal'c and Carter, and all three followed Roban back into the building that had held them prisoner only a short time ago. As they descended, Jack said, "Carter? 'You kicked major ass'?"
"Well, they did, sir."
"Major Carter is correct, O'Neill. The Xonians did in fact, kick major ass. I have confidence that with their aid and help from General Hammond, we shall be victorious in securing DanielJackson's release."
Jack could only nod because the question in his mind was not that they would rescue him, but would it be in time? Jack clenched his fists, then forced himself to relax. Daniel would do what it took to stay alive, knowing that SG-1 would come after him, that Jack would come after him, just as Daniel would come after Jack. That thought would have to be enough to keep Jack going.
The pounding behind his eyes, combined with a raw, burning pain in his throat, left him breathless. He lifted his head and tried to open his eyes, but the throbbing in his head was too much. He waited until it subsided to a dull roar before trying again.
"You are awake," a disembodied voice said. "You have my apologies, Daniel. You brought my anger to the fore, but trust me, it will not happen again."
A hand cupped his chin and lifted. He blinked up at the man and rasped out groggily, "Wha' did... you ...call me?"
Still cupping Daniel's chin, Goranz answered suspiciously, "Daniel."
"Dan-iel," he whispered painfully, rolling the name around on his tongue as if it were completely foreign to him. His head was tilted right, then left.
"Do you not remember why you are here, Daniel?"
Trying to swallow, he said, "Have -- I -- d-done something wr-rong?"
A small smile crept over the stern features of the man holding him.
"Wrong, Daniel? Yes, you have done something very wrong and I have had to punish you, a task I deplore. Do you know who I am?"
Daniel shook his head. "I am sorry, but -- no-o."
"I am your master and you are my most prized possession."
"Yes. I value you more than anything I own. If you are very good, I will have you released, bathed and fed. Would that make you happy?"
Daniel nodded slowly as he licked his parched lips.
"Very good. But I will need proof that you can, once again, be my well-behaved slave. Kiss me, my love."
Daniel lifted his head higher and closed his eyes. Goranz bent his and touched eager lips to the rough chapped lips of Daniel Jackson. Daniel's tongue slipped out and begged a tentative entrance. Smiling, Goranz parted his lips.
The kiss was radically different from the last as Goranz enjoyed his slave's attempt to please him. While his tongue was still tender in spite of the salve, he could still enjoy what Daniel was giving so easily. He made no move to possess, preferring to simply stand and enjoy. Finally he pulled away and looked hard into the blue eyes of his captive. He saw only confusion and, perhaps, a need to please.
"Very good, Daniel. I will send someone shortly. Be patient and you will be rewarded."
Daniel nodded slowly and licked his lips again. Goranz groaned, but turned away and walked out.
When the cell door closed, Daniel dropped his head tiredly to his chest.
Goranz watched his prisoner, a small smile playing over his face.
"Is it possible, Mondo?" he asked of his cholon. "Could he have--"
"Forgotten who he is? Yes, my Lord, I believe so. From what you have told me, he was without the necessary amount of oxygen required for a human, and for a period long enough to do this, I would guess. But what you are seeing may be temporary, my Lord. You would do well to take advantage."
"I intend to, Mondo. I intend to. But could he be fooling us?"
"I witnessed his defiance, my Lord, and his hatred. I do not believe anyone capable of such deception upon waking from what he has experienced.
What did his eyes tell you?"
"They hid nothing, Mondo. He was confused, in pain, and clearly uncertain of his place. But would such a man as Daniel Jackson believe so easily and quickly that he'd done wrong?"
"You learned much of the Tau'ri from the Goa'uld on Oranthia, my Lord.
Even more of this particular man. What do you think?"
Goranz smiled. "Now you see why you are the wisest of men, Mondo? Why I keep you close? You ask me. You play the game well, my friend."
Mondo nodded, his own smile in place.
Goranz turned back to the cell door window. "I did indeed learn much from the filthy Goa'uld. Enough to know that trade with them is impossible. My visit to Oranthia via Boch's ship almost cured me of any desire to leave my home world, but what the trip did accomplish, was to let me know that I had to have Daniel Jackson. Chronos and Aris Boch were quite forthcoming in their discussions of the good doctor."
Mondo reached out and placed a warning hand on his leader's arm. "You can not trust Boch, my Lord."
"This I know. He will work for the Goa'uld, but would betray them, and me, for the right price. I'm just fortunate that he did not have the opportunity on Oranthia."
Goranz stared at the young man chained to the wall in the cell. His eye roamed over the pale skin, took in the slender hands, the rivulets of blood that ran down the nicely muscled arms. He noted with satisfaction the broad chest, narrow waist and slender hips.
"Mine," he said quietly. He turned away and said, "We will leave him for five more hours. If he shows no signs of defiance, of testing his restraints, release him. Make sure his wounds are tended to, and that he's bathed and well fed. Then have him brought to me. Is that clear?"
"It shall be done, my Lord."
Goranz walked away, his mind and body already anticipating what was to come.
The man stared down at the city from atop his horse, eyes taking in every weapon, guard, entrance and exit. Goranz' city was well fortified and guarded, but even so, a mere roll in the hay for the man. His job was to know his quarry. In this case, it had also been imperative to know his quarry's captor too. Especially since he, Aris Boch, was the reason Daniel Jackson was a prisoner in the first place. He and his big mouth.
Boch turned his mount away and rode into the woods that surrounded the Treton city of Korith. If Daniel Jackson was down there, and he was, then SG-1 would be on their way, and it didn't take a genius to know that Aris could free Daniel Jackson a whole lot easier with SG-1 than without them.
"Hello, Sam," Jacob Carter said with an enigmatic smile.
General Hammond reappeared via the M.A.L.P. as he said, "I'm sending Ferretti and his team in to help, along with SG-11, Colonel."
Jack nodded. "Thank you, sir. And Jacob, good to see you. Sorry that whatever you needed from us this time will have to wait. We're a bit busy, if you know what I mean?"
"Actually, Jack," Jacob said as his face reappeared, "I simply dropped by for a visit with Sam. However, if you'd accept my help this time?"
"Just dropped by, Jacob?" Jack asked with a skeptical grin before adding, "We'd love to have you along for the ride, wouldn't we, kids?" He turned to Teal'c and Carter for confirmation, then back to the screen as he waved a hand and said, "Come on down."
"Give us a few, Jack, and I'll be right behind Ferretti and the others."
"No problemo, we're still getting -- accustomed -- to our method of travel," Jack said with another look back at the huge horses standing a few feet away and munching on grass.
Jacob nodded and was replaced by Hammond, who said, "Bring him back, Colonel. Bring him back."
"That's my intention, sir."
Teal'c looked up at the horse. Unconcerned, the animal gazed back at him.
"O'Neill, I do not believe this is going to work. This creature does not like me."
Jack was giving his horse the evil eye and without looking at Teal'c, said, "Just climb up, big guy. Just climb up."
Roban and his men, with SG-1 sharing saddles, had ridden tirelessly back to the 'Gate, which, according to Roban, was on their way to the Treton border. Now they were packing more supplies and readying all the horses that had been brought for the SG teams. Only problem was, the horses of Roban's world were big. Really big.
Teal'c had been eyeing his mount warily for several minutes, while Sam stared up at hers wondering what a fall from this two-story hoofer would be like.
The 'Gate came alive, and Jack, after giving his mount a pat on the cheek, walked over to welcome their newest arrivals. SG-2 as led by Ferretti, and SG-11, led by Colonel Martin, were quiet and serious until they got a look at their mounts.
"Shit, Colonel, we're supposed to ride those?" Ferretti asked. "Where's the elevator?" he added with quirked eyebrow.
"Gee, Ferretti, I'm sure Teal'c would enjoy giving you a hand up," Jack said as he walked over to where Jacob stood. He extended a hand and said, "'Bout damn time, Jacob."
Pulling out several zats, Jacob responded with a grim smile, "I thought we could use a few of these."
Jack raised a hand and a zat flew through the air. He caught it. "Good thinking. Carter?"
Sam raised a hand as she said, "Hi, Dad."
Jacob tossed her a gun and as she, too, caught it easily, said, "Looking good, Sam." He stared at the horses, then added, "Nice to know that all the years of 'gating to new worlds hasn't robbed you of your climbing abilities."
Leading a horse by the reins, Roban came alongside Jacob. "I am Roban, leader of the Xonians. It is an honor to have a Tok'ra among us. Please accept my own mount." He handed the reins over to Jacob, who looked quizzically up at his daughter.
Sam shrugged. "You're special, Dad," she said with a quirky smile.
Roban grinned as Jacob was given a leg or two up. As Jacob settled, Roban said, "Many families ago, my people supplied a host for the Tok'ra. Onat...."
He got no further as Jacob snapped his fingers and said, "Melona."
"Yes, yes," Roban said delightedly. "Onat blended with Melona." His delight faded as he added, "Both were lost in the Great Arntouch Wars."
Jack had been listening to the exchange, but his mind and body were egging him on, urging him to hurry this up, to get going and find Daniel. Now he glanced over at Teal'c, who still had not mounted his horse. "Teal'c? The Great Arntouch Wars?"
"I have heard of them. A battle for the planet Arntouch. The people fought the Goa'uld and received help from the Tok'ra. They defeated the Goa'uld. The shame was so great that the Goa'uld wiped their failure from history."
He ducked his head as he added, "I learned of it from Bray'tac."
Jacob bowed his head and when he looked back up, he was Selmac. "The battle represents a milestone in our history because it was the first time the Tok'ra engaged the Goa'uld following their separation. Melona and Onat were, separately, great leaders and warriors, but together, they were unstoppable. Their knowledge made the defeat of the Goa'uld possible. But it was also Onat's heart that, in the end, destroyed both."
Selmac gave way to Jacob once again, as Roban nodded sadly. "This is true. One of the captured Goa'uld was in pain and Onat insisted that he be treated fairly. That insistence cost Onat his life."
Struggling, but stubbornly refusing any assistance, Jack mounted his horse, and once the animal calmed, said, "This is a great history lesson, gang, but Daniel's out there somewhere, and trust me, he isn't having any fun. Can we get this show on the road?"
Another horse was brought to Roban and he quickly mounted. Teal'c watched, then gripped the pommel, put his foot in the thick Xonian stirrup and, with a deep breath, swung himself over and on. The horse was skittish and backed up several paces until Roban took the halter and comforted it with soft-spoken words whispered in its ear. The horse calmed and bowed its head.
Looking very regal, Teal'c, with one brow arched, said, "I believe we are ready, O'Neill."
"He has not so much as twitched, my Lord."
Mondo nodded, then peered through the small window. Daniel's head was down, his hands hanging loosely from the manacles. The blood had long since dried, showing that the man had made no attempts at freedom. Mondo turned back to the soldier and said, "Open the door."
The soldier complied and Mondo walked into the cell and over to Daniel Jackson. He placed a finger under the chin and tilted up. Pale blue eyes, glazed over with pain, gazed back at him. Mondo stood, finger on Daniel's chin, eyes boring into those of his Lord's captive. Nothing flickered in their beautiful depths. Nothing.
He tilted the head first right, then left, much as Goranz had done. "You are a beautiful specimen, Doctor Jackson," he murmured. "My Lord has excellent taste. With a bath, and some food, you will brighten his evening. In fact, you will brighten many evenings."
Mondo looked over his shoulder, and reassured that he was alone, turned his attention back to the chained man. Starting with Daniel's hands, he felt each finger, the palms, then past the manacles to the arms. He allowed his fingers to run lightly over the smooth, almost flawless skin to broad shoulders. He paused before massaging what he knew must be aching muscles. Still no reaction.
He moved his hands to Daniel's badly bruised neck and explored the skin and muscles, then gently forward to the indentation on either side of Daniel's Adam's apple. He lowered his head and gently kissed the mottled skin on the left side, moving his mouth until he found the pulse point. He lingered there, enjoying the sensation. Tretons had no pulse, but Mondo had studied human physiology in his efforts to discover weaknesses in the Xonians. Their beating hearts, and the spots on the body where it could be felt, had always fascinated him. He was surprised to discover the heat that the pulse of this man generated within his own body.
It was a freak of creation by their Lord God, Andwar, that Tretons looked so similar to humans, and could mate with them, but not create offspring.
They had the same important body parts, but a penis on a male Treton had only one purpose; to bring pleasure. In that regard, Mondo considered the Tretons far superior to humans. They also had no burning need to bring other Tretons to birth. When their numbers lowered, the process was simple and required only one Treton to accomplish. It was only the incubation period that kept the Tretons from overrunning the world with their offspring.
Mondo sniffed at the pulse spot and his eyes drifted closed. Even after hours in the cold cell, the scent of this human was pleasing to Mondo. It stirred his blood to fire. He moved his attention to Daniel's face. With the fingers of one hand, he traced over the forehead, down the nose, then followed the strong cheekbones to the chin he'd seen lift so defiantly. He almost wished to see that flame of resistance again. His delight came from the conquering, while Goranz could take it or leave it. His Lord yearned only for a beautiful body to pleasure him when he desired it. Mondo preferred the fight of wills that breaking a man, a strong man, could deliver.
He allowed his finger to remain on Daniel's lower lip, thick and welcoming, even chapped and bloodied as it was. So much beauty in one human, so much perfection. Mondo finally moved his hands down to Daniel's chest, marveling again at the smoothness of the skin, and the muscles that told him that for all of this man's learning, he was a soldier as well. His hands continued to travel, skirting over Daniel's abdomen, and for the first time, receiving a response in quivering muscles. No tension, simply a reaction to Mondo's invasion. Smiling, Mondo moved down, following the arrow of dark, reddish brown hair to his ultimate goal.
Mondo had been aware of Daniel's eyes watching him, uncertain, but permissive. Now they widened as Mondo squeezed. Daniel winced, then Mondo watched in delight as the beautiful face was transformed by pain. Mondo let go and dropped to his knees. Daniel was panting now, his eyes shut tight against the pain. Placing his hands on each thigh, thumbs rubbing the inner skin, he waited. When Daniel's breathing normalized, he slid his hands around until they could rest on the human's ass cheeks. He fondled them, squeezing, rubbing, and enjoying the irony of soft, pliable skin with the hardness of firm buttocks. Perfection.
He thought of going further, of invading the man with his fist, but that would be hard to hide from his Lord. Besides, he'd done enough to prove that Daniel Jackson was no longer fighting and that he was truly unaware of who he was. Almost sadly, Mondo stood.
Two men marched in and Mondo instructed them in their duties before, with a final glance at the prisoner, he left in a swirl of robes.
Roban held up a hand and the riders stopped, two of them with more difficulty than the others. Teal'c found his horse refusing to yield until one of Roban's men placed his mount in front of the animal. Jack found himself in a similar position, but managed to rein in the horse himself and ask, "What is it, Roban?"
"We are about to break the treaty, Colonel. When we cross this stream, we will have crossed onto Treton land. The going will be rougher as their land is hilly and rocky. We must be vigilant. They will not expect us, but we could easily run into bands of soldiers looking for food."
Jack looked at his watch and cringed. It had been well over fifteen hours since Daniel had been taken. Given travel time to Goranz' stronghold, that meant eight hours with the man. Eight fucking hours. He closed his eyes and counted to ten. It was imperative that he remain cool and clear-headed, for Daniel's sake.
As a new couple, it was inevitable that they'd talk about the dangers of their job, of their fears that one would be hurt, captured, snaked, or, God forbid, killed, but this scenario, this one had never crossed their minds with regard to each other. Carter, yes, but Daniel? Never.
Roban had made it clear why Goranz had taken Daniel, and Jack was still having difficulty getting his mind wrapped around the idea. This wasn't the kind of thing that happened at home, it wasn't the kind of danger they were used to facing. It felt strange racing against the clock, not so much to actually save Daniel's life, as to save, what? His honor? Jack almost laughed at that, but the laugh would have been distinctly unfunny. Jack knew exactly what they were racing to save, namely Daniel's soul. He would fight, he would stay alive, he would believe and know that Jack would find him, but in the staying alive, what would he lose? Even now, after all these years, there was a vulnerability and innocence to Daniel that Jack valued and needed. Daniel was his compass and strength. To see even a small part of the light that was his friend and lover diminished would kill Jack.
The others had started to cross the stream. Jack followed, urging his horse on. He thought it odd that with all SG-1 had seen over the years, all the incredible technology, they should be riding to Daniel's rescue on horseback.
The two guards unlocked the manacles that bound the man's wrists and ankles. They caught him as he collapsed, and with his arms on their shoulders, they half-carried him out of the cell and upstairs.
He was remarkably light and slender for the two Tretons, and they carried him easily. Once upstairs, they moved through the dark halls of their Lord's home until they came to a large set of double doors. Pushing their way in, they walked to where two Treton females stood. Both women were taller by two and three inches, respectively, than the captive human. They took him from the two guards, who then left.
"He is small, is he not?"
"But his skin, Anja, look at his skin. And his eyes. I have never seen eyes the color of our sky. It is a wonder."
The woman called Anja placed her rough brown hand against Daniel's. The difference was startling. The Tretons were dark skinned from years and years of toiling in the sun. Their hair was uniformly jet black, their eyes ranging from coal black to a dark silver. Anja ran her fingers up the arm. "Look at the hair, Maig. It is so light here," she stroked the back of Daniel's hand, "yet so dark on his forearm."
"I know. Feel this," Anja said with a gasp, her fingers buried in pubic hair.
Maig touched the springy hair and giggled. Neither Treton men, nor women, had hair at the groin. "It feels good, Anja. And it curls!" Her fingers played with the hair, and drawn almost against her will, she touched Daniel's head. "Oooh, Anja, so soft, so very soft."
Anja moved her hand to Daniel's head as well and her face creased into a smile. "Like my Pujam, soft and silky." She fingered some of her own hair and frowned. Treton hair was very coarse and straight.
Maig laughed and said, "Like your Pujam, this Dan-yel will also be a pet.
Perhaps when our Lord Goranz tires of him, he will give him to us?"
Anja snorted in disbelief. "No, we will not be so lucky. He will go to Mondo."
"We shall see, Anja, we shall see. Come, let's get him bathed, dressed and fed."
"I wonder," Maig mused. "Does he talk? Can he speak?"
"Of course." Anja cupped Daniel's chin. "Dan-yel, say something."
Blue eyes blinked and slowly Daniel's head turned. "Thirsty...."
"He's thirsty," Maig said. "And his voice, it's so--"
"I know. Different."
"Dan-yel, say something else," Anja commanded.
Lips moved with difficulty and Daniel said, "Water, please?"
"Yes, lower," Anja agreed. "Lovely to listen to, isn't it?"
Maig nodded even as she picked up a goblet and rested it against Daniel's chapped lips. "Drink, Dan-yel, then we shall bathe and feed you."
Daniel drank greedily, the water dribbling down his chin, neck and chest. Laughing lightly, Maig shook her head. "Don't do that tonight, Dan-yel. Goranz would not be pleased. Anja, get the bath ready quickly. And we will need the jammo salve too, for his wrists and ankles."
Five minutes later, both women were lowering Daniel into steaming hot, scented, soapy water. They both caught his sigh of relief as the water soothed his aching muscles. Anja touched his forehead as she said, "Rest now, Dan-yel. We will do all the work. You might be a slave, but you are an important slave. Our Lord Goranz has not had a pet in quite some time. You may find your life very enjoyable."
She pushed him back and nodded as he rested his head on the edge of the huge tub. She and Maig began to wash every inch of his body. A task they thoroughly enjoyed.
They marveled at his feet and long, slender fingers. They giggled like schoolgirls as they shampooed his hair and, with devilish grins, washed his groin area. Through it all, he merely watched through half-lidded eyes, his mouth slack. Finally, as they helped him rise from the bath water, he asked, puzzled, "Why do you call me Dan-yel?"
Maig, looking up from where she was drying his legs, said, "Because that is your name. Do you not remember?"
Daniel shook his head and frowned. Maig shared a glance with Anja, who simply shrugged. "Perhaps Goranz went too far?"
Maig nodded. "Mondo said he was without breath for some time."
Anja stood and gently caressed Daniel's cheek. "It is a shame. I would have liked to meet the real Dan-yel."
"I suspect not, Anja. The Tau'ri are even worse than the Xonians. They are stupid."
Anja gazed over her shoulder and, satisfied that they were still alone, said, "I think not. I have heard our Lord Goranz talking with Mondo. This one unlocked the key to the Circle of Ibbes. Not even our own could master it."
Maig's eyes widened as she said tersely, "Shush, Anja! That is blasphemy!"
"But true. Why else would our Lord desire this human above all others?"
"You mean besides his beauty?" Maig observed dryly.
Together they moved Daniel to a bench and sat him down, all the while still talking.
"Is it not strange that one so different from us can be so pleasing to the eye?" Anja said as she reached for a comb and ran it through Daniel's damp hair.
"Is not a garden pleasing? A beautiful summer day? That is what he is like for me," Maig commented as she began to treat Daniel's wrists and ankles.
"I suppose you are right."
Once the raw skin had been treated and bandaged, the two women knelt in front of Daniel. Maig picked something up from the table next to her and working together, they slipped his legs into what turned out to be a pair of soft-skinned cream colored leggings. The two thin straps per leg were then clasped to a matching, but much thinner strip they tied around Daniel's waist.
The leggings were only long enough to cover Daniel's calves, leaving his thighs bare. Maig then picked up a white garment and dropped it over Daniel's head. It slid into place as his arms were pulled through the short sleeves. The covering was then belted with a cord. The material just covered Daniel's genitals and ass.
Both women stepped back to survey their work. Nodding, Anja reached for a gold-colored collar, which was then fastened around Daniel's neck. As Anja locked the clasp into place, Daniel winced.
"I know it is tight and, with your bruised neck, must be painful, but that is how Goranz prefers it. You will get used to it, Dan-yel."
Swallowing hard and wincing again, Daniel rasped out, "Why... so tight?"
Anja patted his shoulder. "As I said, it is as our Lord wishes. Soon it will be a part of you. Simply remember that in the first few days, you must take short shallow breaths, and when you eat or drink, eat in small bites and smaller swallows."
Maig fingered the solid gold collar almost jealously. "This is a truly beautiful collar, Dan-yel. Once on, only our Lord Goranz can remove it. The craftsmanship is truly a work of art. It denotes you as very special. It is an honor he has bestowed only once before. "
Daniel simply blinked at her. She shook her head and said, "Come Anja, we must feed him and get him to our Lord. We have little time left."
Their pace had slowed and it was driving Jack crazy. The part of him that belonged to Daniel wanted to spur his horse to a frenzied gallop, to ride into Goranz' whatever, find Daniel, then pull him onto his horse. The part of him that wasn't a colonel in the United States Air Force wanted nothing more than to kill Goranz in the most painful manner imaginable.
He supposed he should kill Goranz first, then pull Daniel onto his horse. He further supposed that he should kill Goranz with his bare hands, which meant he'd have to get off the horse first, which meant that pulling Daniel up would be moot. It kind of took the edge off of the whole "Jack rescues his Daniel" scenario running through his mind. Jack wisely decided that sharing said scenario with Daniel might not be a good idea. No, not good at all, unless he wanted to sleep on the couch for weeks on end.
Jack shook his head. He was losing it big time. "Hang on, Daniel. Just -- hang on," he whispered on the wind.
Aris Boch watched the group of Xonians make their careful way over the Treton land. He spotted several SGC soldiers, O'Neill and Teal'c, and yes, there was Captain, no, Major, Carter. Another man was riding alongside Carter, but Boch didn't recognize him. He wasn't wearing the leather breeches or white shirts of the Xonians, nor the uniform of the SGC. Aris focused his binoculars on the man and his eyes narrowed in speculation. A Tok'ra? And if he had to guess, he'd say the man was Jacob Carter, aka Selmac.
Well, well, weren't they a mighty band of rescuers. Seemed they'd hardly need him. Except that of course, they did. Just as he needed their strength and numbers.
Where in the Skorta had he developed this conscience? All right, his big mouth had alerted Goranz to the wonders that were Daniel Jackson, but still.
Aris focused the glasses on Major Carter. A beautiful woman, no doubt. Hard, capable, smart, supremely smart, and a warrior. All that in a package that could make a man's mouth water. And yet, it had been the quiet archaeologist that had kept his attention almost two years ago. A fact that still puzzled him. No, that wasn't correct. It had been Doctor Jackson that had puzzled him. He'd been hearing about SG-1 for so long that he'd felt as if he'd known them personally. O'Neill, a sarcastic, strong, intelligent, clever pain in the mikda. Teal'c, loyal, dangerous, almost dogmatic in his efforts to be free and to find freedom for his people. Major Carter, with an intelligence he couldn't even begin to fathom, and a beauty to match. He'd known all there was to know about each of them.
Aris barked out a laugh. Jackson had completely fooled him. He'd been expecting some dusty, stooped-shouldered scientist with glasses, and instead had found a dusty, innocence-personified god with glasses.
"Damn you, Jackson. Damn your blue eyes, and that never-ending spark of curiosity in them. And damn that look that said you didn't seem in the least surprised that you were only worth a day's rations."
It wouldn't be long before Daniel's rescuers would make it to his location. He'd better get ready.
"It is time, Anja."
Anja nodded and ran a hand over Daniel's hair. "I wish we could keep him," she said softly. "We could pet him and enjoy him. I would dearly love to see this," she fondled his lax penis, "grow. For as short as he is, his pleasure is as large as any Treton's. Can you imagine this inside of you, Maig?"
With her eyes closed, Maig said harshly, "Stop now, Anja. Come, we must take him to our Lord Goranz."
The two women helped Daniel to his feet. With one on each side of him, they marched out and down the long dark hall to Goranz's chamber. Anja knocked and, at a loud "Enter!" she pushed open the door to usher Daniel inside.
Bowing, but retaining one hand on Daniel's arm, she said, "My Lord Goranz, we have brought your new slave. We have taken care of his wounds, and he has been bathed and fed."
Goranz rose from his seat by the large fireplace and stood before them. His eyes raked over Daniel, and a slow smile spread across his harsh features. He circled the younger man and lifted the barely-there garment to view Daniel's ass.
"Beautiful," he murmured. He stroked it, enjoying the silkiness of the now warm skin. He would take great joy in possessing that ass later.
As he smoothed his hand over the left cheek, he pondered the strange anatomy of humans, especially the fact that male humans could not be entered the same way as females. Staring at Daniel's firm round ass cheeks, he could envision his large dark hands separating them, his thumbs rubbing the flesh even as he positioned himself at the man's opening. The first thrust inside would be the best as the slender youthful body beneath him would jerk in pain and shock. But the later thrusts would gain in speed and strength as he pounded into the man , his fingers bruising the pale flesh.
He would possess Daniel Jackson, fill him with his pleasure and hammer at his body. He would watch the handsome face as the pain wound its way through his entire frame, and then he would pull all the way out before thrusting back in, with all of his strength, to bury himself to the hilt. Goranz would then hold position as his pleasure grew greater within Daniel's body, bringing a pain and pleasure that the human would never have experienced in his life.
Goranz blinked and the soft material dropped from his fingers. He rubbed the sweat from his face and walked back to face his new slave.
"Go. Leave us," he said in a voice hoarse with lust.
The two women backed out, closing the door behind them.
Left alone, Goranz smiled at his slave and new pet. For the first time, he noticed the collar. His grin widened as he stroked the shiny metal. "How does it feel, Daniel?"
"Tight," Daniel said with difficulty.
"Of course, my pet, but it will add a new dimension to our -- physical -- activities of later. Allow me to show you."
Goranz moved close, his large hand sliding under the white garment, his fingers closing around Daniel's pleasure. He pumped languidly as he dropped his head down and captured the lush lips.
This time the kiss was real, but as Daniel strained up, the wide collar constricted, making it hard to breathe again. Goranz smiled into the kiss as the organ in his hand started to swell, thanks to the automatic reaction the collar was inciting. Abruptly, Goranz let go and stepped back. Daniel almost fell forward and the Treton leader caught him. He held him as the human attempted to get his breath back.
"See, pet? It will come in very handy later. Come, let us sit before the fire. I would wish you to taste some Tretonian wine."
Goranz led him to the fireplace and sat him down on the cushions that had been spread out in preparation for this moment.
Goranz didn't sit immediately, choosing instead to watch the firelight play over his pet. He was so acquiescent, so pure. His eyes seemed darker by firelight, but still puzzled and uncertain. The innocence that radiated from him almost blinded Goranz and he faltered for a moment. Even at his most defiant, that innocence had been present.
A loud pounding on his door interrupted his visual enjoyment of Daniel, and looking up angrily, he yelled out, "ENTER!"
A man stepped in and, with eyes downcast, said, "My Lord? I would not disturb you, but there is a serious problem."
There had to be a true emergency for the Captain of his Guards to interrupt him now. Goranz nodded. "Post a guard outside my quarters, Mishfa, and let's go. Daniel, I will return. Until then, rest. You will need your energy."
Goranz walked out, Mishfa following. In the hall, another man hurried over to take his position in front of the door. With a nod of satisfaction, Goranz headed for the Great Hall.
As he entered and took his place at the head of the Great Table, Mondo rose.
"My Lord, the Muranos are angered by your taking of the human, Daniel Jackson. They say he has been to Ringold. They are demanding that you release him before our God brings his wrath down on us."
The Muranos were the religious priests of the Tretons, and while Goranz was the leader, his leadership depended on the good will of the Muranos. Drumming his fingers on the Great Table, he said, "It is not possible for a human to enter Ringold, let alone return. Surely these foolish priests know this?"
"They have the words of Chronos, my Lord. But even if those words are a lie, they fear the wrath of the Goa'uld, should they discover that we have Daniel Jackson."
Goranz snorted his opinion of that.
"My Lord, you must meet with them. They wish to test Daniel Jackson, to determine if he has, indeed, been to the Beyond."
"It would be the wise course of action, my Lord."
"Let me think on this."
Daniel waited ten minutes. When Goranz did not return, he let his mask of amnesia drop, a mask that for all of twenty minutes had been real, and he slowly stood to check out his surroundings. A weapon. He needed a weapon. Daniel looked desperately about for anything to help him, and found only one possibility.
On the low table next to the cushions sat a bowl of fruit and on top of the fruit, a paring knife. Not the best weapon under the circumstances, but Daniel was never one to worry about gift horses and stinky mouths.
He moved to the table and caught a glimpse of himself in the large mirror to the right of the large fireplace, and he almost tripped. God, this was embarrassing. On the other hand, on the 'Daniel Jackson embarrassment meter', the outfit probably ranked a minus two.
Everything leading up to this moment took spots one through ten.
As he picked up the knife, he found himself puzzling over the entire situation. First he'd been Hathor's beloved, then Shyla took a turn, and now this? What, did he have some sort of sign over his head advertising, "For a Good Time, Take Doctor J"?
And did anyone else think it odd that Jack had managed to avoid Daniel's so-called charms for four fucking years, or that Sam thought he was a cute nerdy brother? And what about Teal'c? The Jaffa warrior thought he simply needed looking after. As for the rest of the base, he was simply the absent-minded professor, arms full of books and research material, tripping over his own feet.
So what was up with everyone beyond Earth's boundaries?
He started to tuck the knife into a pocket - and remembered he had no pockets. He shrugged and moved toward the door, but in swallowing nervously, he remembered the collar. On the off chance that Anja and Maig had been full of beetle dung, Daniel tried to remove the damn thing.
Anja and Maig were not full of beetle dung, damn it.
Daniel couldn't even feel where the thing parted. Okay, fine, so Siler didn't have enough on his plate and was probably bored out of his skull. This would thrill him to no end. On the other hand, Siler was on Earth, and Daniel - wasn't. Which meant that he needed something to cover himself up, to hide the fact that he was Goranz' special whatever.
He walked over to a large cupboard and opened it.
Ah, ha. Just what he needed. An odd looking cloak with strange symbols and a hood. Big too, and he hoped, warm. Swinging it over his shoulders he nodded in satisfaction. The hood had two wide strips that stuck together at the neck, thus effectively hiding the collar. He was as ready as he'd ever be.
Moving cautiously to the door, he tried to decide how best to get the guard in here and him out there. On the tall table sat a large decorative bowl. It looked nice and heavy. Daniel hefted it in his hand and nodded. Very heavy. He moved to the other side of the door, bowl in hand.
Okay, he thought, this is it. He took a deep breath and yelled like a strangled goose. He winced, but didn't have time to do anything else as the door was thrown open and the guard rushed in.
How Daniel did it, he'd never be able to say, but somehow, in spite of the pain and stiffness, he managed to swing the bowl. It connected with the side of the guard's head and the man went down like a stone.
Momentarily surprised that it had worked, Daniel found that he couldn't move. Blinking rapidly, he stared down at the huge Treton.
"Well, what do you know," he muttered as he massaged his shoulder.
Seeing the man's gun motivated Daniel to get a move on. He dropped the bowl, winced, and with great effort, picked up the weapon. He walked carefully out into the hall. It was empty.
Daniel closed his eyes for a moment as he tried to call up all the directions and halls he'd been taken down earlier.
He turned left.
Moving with stealth, he followed the halls until he found the courtyard he'd been certain he'd seen when he'd first arrived. A courtyard with what appeared to be a side gate out. Making certain that it was empty, he crossed the yard to the gate. He'd known it would be locked, and it was, but what really surprised him was the complete absence of any guard.
The lock was as he'd prayed, namely antique. Daniel took the paring knife and, in a few seconds, had the lock hanging loose in his hand. This was a skill he'd yet to share with Jack. Wouldn't want to give the man a complex.
Opening the gate carefully, Daniel peered left, then right, then scooted out, pulled the gate shut, and hurried down what could only be an alley of sorts.
It was almost sunset and Daniel kept to the shadows, ducking out of sight if he heard anything that sounded like people. Time became meaningless as he cleared the city and took for the woods. All he knew was that he was free.
The nice thing about hanging from a wall for five hours was that a man had time to think. In Daniel's case, he'd come to the conclusion that Goranz had been lying. Jack was alive, and so were Sam and Teal'c. Daniel believed, with every fiber of his being, that if Jack were no longer breathing, he would know it. Not to mention the small fact that no way in hell would Goranz have ever been able to take down Colonel Jonathan 'Jack' O'Neill.
And Sam? Blind and out of her mind? Not hardly. In Daniel's humble opinion, she was the strongest member of SG-1.
With the sun sending out ribbons of orange, deep red and purple throughout the darkening sky, Daniel set about the task of finding Jack and his friends. Or getting into a better position to be found.
Goranz sat listening to his priests. He'd finally permitted Mondo to allow the six Moranos into his Great Hall, and now they sat around the Great Table speaking rapidly and with fervor. The Treton leader could clearly see that bucking his priests on this matter would cause more trouble than he could handle. He slapped his hand down, the echo of it filling the room.
"ENOUGH!" he yelled.
The priests stopped and stared, open-mouthed.
"You may take my pet and test him to your hearts content." His expression hardened as he added in a firm voice, "For precisely one day. Then you will return him to me and no more will be said of this matter. Is that clear?"
Janx, Morano Supreme, stood majestically. "My Lord Goranz, it may well take us--"
"Janx, if you can not confirm this so-called journey to Ringold in one day, you are not fit to wear the robes of a Morano, let alone Morano Supreme."
Janx flushed a dull red and promptly sat down as he said, "As you wish, my Lord. One day."
Hiding his satisfaction, Goranz nodded. "Good. Mondo will have him delivered to your temple within the hour."
The priests stood and filed out. Once they were gone, Goranz sighed, then stood. "Come, Mondo, my friend. I have made a promise, and you must keep it for me. I am not looking forward to this night."
"My Lord, you made the correct decision. The Moranos will be solidly in your court now."
Together they made their way back to Goranz's quarters, not pausing until they approached his door, conspicuous by the absence of any guards.
"My Lord," the man said, staring at the empty hall, "I do not understand--"
Goranz threw open the door, took one look at the fallen guard, then bellowed, "FIND HIM NOW!"
Mondo needed no such encouragement. Within minutes, he had soldiers searching every room, dark corner, and possible hiding place. If Daniel was not found, he was fully prepared to move the search outside, and eventually, to the town.
"Well, well, if it isn't Colonel O'Neill and his ragtag band of Merry Stargaters."
Jack reined in his horse, Roban and the others following suit. Arm resting on the pommel, Jack shook his head. "Aris Boch. Fancy meeting you here."
Aris nodded at Sam, then Teal'c as he said, "You seem to be shy one member, O'Neill."
Before Jack could answer, Roban jumped from his horse and strode over to Aris. "Boch, my friend, you know our new compatriots?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. You could say that we ran . into each other. a while back. You keep good company, buddy."
With studied nonchalance, Jack dismounted and thanked whomever that he hadn't fallen flat on his face. As he stared at the bounty hunter, he said, "You'd better not have had anything to do with Goranz getting his hands on Daniel, Boch. I'd hate to have to end your illustrious career, not to mention your life."
Holding his arms out to his side, Aris said, "I'm hurt, O'Neill. I'm here to help you. I know where Doctor Jackson is being held and I can get you to him."
Jack's eyes glittered dangerously as he said softly, "And just what do you want in exchange for that help, Boch?"
For a moment, the ever-present smirk faded as he answered, "Nothing, O'Neill. This one is free." Then the smirk reasserted itself as he added, "Hey, remember, the Doc is only worth a day's rations."
A silent understanding passed between the two men and Jack nodded slowly. "Right. A day's rations. Fine, mount up and let's go."
Relieved, Aris swung onto his horse. Once settled, and with reins in hand, he said, "You're traveling with the Tok'ra, now, O'Neill?"
Without looking back, Jack said, "That's Colonel to you, Boch. And Jacob, this is Aris Boch, the Steve McQueen of the bounty hunter set. Boch, this is Jacob Carter, and yes, he and Major Carter are related."
Daniel wondered how much longer he'd be able to walk. Not that it mattered, he wasn't about to stop. But still, the thought of how long kept his mind going. At least the pain was gone. He was simply numb now. The cold that had accompanied the setting sun was more than even the huge cape could handle. At least the hood helped keep his face and ears protected. Trouble was, the more he walked, the more he needed to breathe, and the more he needed to breathe, the more he panted. The more he panted, the tighter the collar seemed to get.
Daniel kept walking.
The band of rescuers rode silently through the dark night. Overhead, the two moons of Mifka shone brightly down on the troop, its silvery glow appreciated now, but Jack knew that later they'd pray for cloud cover. They crested a hill and Roban raised a hand. The small band stopped and several dismounted as Jack moved to Roban's left side. "What is it?" he asked.
"We are but five miles from Goranz' citadel, Colonel. We must move cautiously as we descend into his valley."
"Understood. Let's go."
Aris swung his mount around and effectively blocked the forward movement of the others. He held up his hand and said, "Here's where I come in, guys. There's a hidden entrance on the east side of the Citadel. It's large enough for the horses and very close to Goranz' quarters. With the Xonians providing the appropriate cover, we should be able to ride in and take Jackson."
Jack glanced over at Roban, who shrugged and said, "I know of no hidden entrance, O'Neill. But Aris has been trading with the Tretons and I trust him."
Ferretti rode up alongside Jack and said, "How is it you trust the man who trades with your enemy?"
Roban looked at Boch and smiled, then said simply, "He trades for us."
Jack gave Aris an 'Oh really' look, then said, "Changing our stripes, are we, Boch?"
"Do you want Daniel back or not?" Aris asked quietly.
"It would appear that we must trust him, O'Neill," Teal'c offered.
Staring hard at the bounty hunter, Jack nodded. "Seems so. All right, Boch, lead on."
The path that led to the so-called hidden entrance to Goranz' citadel included a dry riverbed that ran behind the town. The bed was bordered by high edges and the path down was rocky, rough and dangerous. For the SGC soldiers, riding horses that were not even remotely like any on Earth, the going was especially difficult. Halfway down, one member of SG-2 took a bad tumble and ended up face down at the bottom of the riverbed. Fortunately, he suffered only a bruised body and ego. The Xonians helped get him back on his horse, and from then on, the pace slowed to avoid any further spills.
Once they'd reached the riverbed, the group silently picked their way over rocks and holes, all too aware of their nearness to the town above them. The closer the riverbed crept to the town, the more commotion the riders picked up. They could hear the pounding hoofs of horses and, through the trees, could see torch lights flickering in rapid movement. All prayed they weren't the reason, but when they continued unmolested, they had to assume something else was going on.
Jack followed directly behind Roban, trusting his mount to keep him safe as his mind tried not to imagine what Daniel might be going through. He also found himself dealing with an anger that actually scared him. The idea of anyone touching Daniel, let alone in places that only he was allowed to touch, brought a weird kind of madness to him. He realized he was reacting in a possessive manner that was unacceptable, one that would probably make Daniel angry enough to spit nails. Which explained why Jack was scared. His anger was something pretty fierce, but Daniel's? Holy Hannah.
This whole 'possession' thing was new to Jack, and he doubted that Daniel would feel good about it. On the other hand, maybe Daniel felt the same about Jack? Just the thought of such reciprocation sent a ribbon of warmth through his body. Daniel feeling possessive about him? That would be--nice. Very nice. So maybe Daniel wouldn't be quite as angry with Jack's possessiveness as Jack believed? Maybe he'd feel the same warmth?
Okay, so dual jealousy and possessiveness. Jack and Daniel all the way. No one touched Jack, and no one touched Daniel. Ever.
Jack stared up at the night sky, grateful that the clouds had shown up to blanket the moon's brightness. He also found himself praying that all that had been done to Daniel so far -- was touching. Just -- touching.
He had no choice, he had to rest. Daniel looked around, spotted a large rock, moved over to it, and promptly sat. It was too dark to see anything clearly and, without his glasses, everything looked the same anyway. Besides, moving his head hurt too much. He tried to swallow, and winced in pain. Maybe it was a good thing that he didn't have anything to drink. Oops, shouldn't have said the 'D' word. It only reminded him of how thirsty he was. And of course, thinking of cold water also served to remind him of how cold he was. Not that the constant shivering wasn't a pretty good clue.
Daniel had absolutely no idea which direction he was going, but he did know that the two suns had been behind him during his forced journey to Goranz' citadel, and that meant on this planet, he needed to keep the moon in front of him. Which had been just dandy two hours ago. There'd been a full moon, but now, now the clouds had covered up the dang thing and Daniel was probably lost.
Lost? Well, of course he was lost, moon or not.
At that precise moment, the clouds moved and the moon was free to shine for Daniel. He glanced up, hissed out in pain, then smiled. Looked as though he was still on track after all. God bless the dumb luck of archaeologists on strange planets.
With the moon beaming overhead, Daniel was motivated to keep moving. He rose unsteadily, and started walking again.
Roban had just lifted a hand to signal that all should stop, when above them, the clouds drifted away, leaving the moon in all its glory. Jack figured this was not a good thing; he figured wrong.
The moon highlighted the large gate a few feet in front of Roban. Jack bit back the urge to whistle in awe.
Roban dismounted and walked back to five of his men. He whispered quickly, and a few moments later the five broke away and followed a fork in the riverbed that led to the left. Roban then rode back to Jack.
"They will provide us with the distraction we will need to ride in. I believe that now, our good friend, Aris, should lead."
Boch urged his mount ahead and quickly came abreast of Roban. He nodded as Roban said, "When we hear the gunfire, we follow Aris."
Jack may have wished for someone else to lead them to Daniel, but he suspected that Boch was the best man. Unless he was leading them all into a trap, in which case, he was a dead man.
The rescue team waited for the sounds that would move them forward.
"We've torn the town apart, my Lord, but have yet to find him."
Goranz turned from the balcony overlooking his domain and regarded Mondo through narrowed slits. "Take two of the Shosha and comb the outlying areas. Find him, Mondo, or suffer the consequences."
Mondo canted his head and backed out, closing the door quietly behind him.
Hurrying down the hall, he was stopped by the sound of gunfire. Frowning at the noise that shouldn't have been, he hurried down the steps and into the courtyard, where pandemonium reigned.
Soldiers were running wildly about, scrambling up to the parapets as gunfire erupted from outside the huge gates. As one of the Shosha leaders ran by, Mondo grabbed his arm.
"What is happening?" he yelled out.
"We are being attacked, my Lord Mondo!"
Mondo stared at the gates, then turned and ran back inside. His job was to protect Goranz.
"THAT'S IT!" Aris yelled as he spurred his horse forward.
The others followed at a breakneck pace as they rode up the incline toward the archway that would lead them to Daniel.
Twenty-five horses thundered through the arch and into the back courtyard, and four guards fell before the zats wielded by SG-1. Aris waved Jack toward a set of double doors large enough for horse and rider to pass through. Jack in turn indicated that Teal'c, Ferretti and Jacob should follow. Everyone else took up defensive positions around the courtyard while Aris quickly dismounted, ran to the gates, and unlocked them. After he'd mounted again, all five rode through and into the Citadel itself.
"My Lord, I believe the Xonians are attacking," Mondo said as he burst into Goranz' quarters. "We must move you to--"
"Impossible, they would never break the treaty!"
"Evidently they would, My Lord," Mondo said as he took his Lord's arm and tried to lead him out and to the safety of his dungeon stronghold. "We must hurry."
Goranz pulled his arm away and whirled on his First. "Do you believe the Xonians could possibly defeat us? Breach my Citadel? I think not, Mondo. We will remain here, and when the Xonians lay dead, you will take the Shosha teams and find Daniel, is that clear?"
"My Lord--" Mondo started to plead.
Mondo bowed his head. "As you wish, my Lord."
They rode through wide halls, ducking when necessary, Aris leading them wildly. Jack couldn't believe that he was actually riding this huge mount through what was basically a castle, and that they fit. He really shouldn't have been surprised, he thought crazily. Hadn't he seen the Tretons? Okay, they'd all been dead, but still, they'd been huge. Big guys, big honking castles with big honking halls, gates, and doorways.
Worked for him.
They rounded another corner and he watched in amazement as Aris aimed his zat at the large locks on the double doors. He fired and the locks melted away. Jack felt his skin tingle in anticipation of who he prayed was on the other side.
All five rode in, heads ducked low.
Daniel blinked in confusion. It couldn't be. No way. Just -- no way. He took a few faltering steps, reached out and slowly touched it.
Well, I'll be damned, he thought. It's the 'Gate.
He'd managed to find the Stargate.
Okay, no Jack, but hey, he'd take what he could get. He almost ran to the DHD, then froze. No GDO.
"Damn," he said out loud.
Looking around, he sighed heavily.
'So what now, Smarty Pants?'
"Now, I sit, wait, and freeze."
Daniel looked at the stone steps versus the grass that surrounded the DHD. He chose the soft grassy mound. With his back against the dialing device, he waited. If Jack, Teal'c and Sam were alive, they'd have to come here eventually, so he'd wait. Drawing the cloak tighter around himself, and grateful for the bit of protection the DHD offered against the wind, he closed his eyes.
Mondo was about to walk out when the doors were forced open. Shielding himself from flying debris, he stumbled back several steps. After the briefest of moments, he gathered himself together and stood in front of his leader, drawing out his weapon as he did so. With eyes widening in shock, both he and Goranz watched as five men on horseback rode in and surrounded them.
"Well, well, Goranz, old buddy," Aris Boch said with an evil grin. "How ya been?"
Mondo spoke for his leader. "Boch, you're making a big mistake." His eyes took in the other four before coming to rest on Aris. "You can not afford to make an enemy of my Lord Goranz."
"Too late, Mondo, dontcha think? Now, where is Daniel Jackson?"
Jack was restraining his natural tendencies to shoot first and ask questions later, especially since in this case, that would most definitely not get him any closer to Daniel, but he wondered if near strangulation would hurt? His fingers were itching to wrap themselves around the Treton leader's throat. He urged his horse closer to the two men, his zat aimed directly at Goranz. "You should listen to Boch. We Tau'ri don't take kindly to having our people kidnapped. Where. Is. Daniel?"
Mondo turned his attention to the silver-haired man and said, "Daniel Jackson has--"
He got no further as Goranz pushed him aside and said with a sneer, "Daniel is dead." He raised his right hand, palm facing Jack, and added with evident satisfaction, "I took his life with this hand. Stole his last breath for daring to defy me. But," he said with an evil gleam in his eyes, "he was very satisfactory and gave me much pleasure before I had to still him forever. So you see, you've come for nothing and you will never make it out of here alive, that I promise you."
Jack saw red.
He didn't know how much time had passed, but eventually Jack became aware that Teal'c was holding him, his arms wrapped around his chest. He blinked, then looked around him.
Mondo was being held in a tight grip by an angry-looking Aris Boch, Jacob was standing a few inches away from Jack, and Jack could swear the man was talking, but he couldn't hear a word he was saying. Ferretti, face pale, stood next to Boch, and on the ground, hand at his throat, sat Goranz.
Damn, he was still alive, Jack thought.
Teal'c spoke sharply in his ear. "O'Neill, we must leave now. The others can not hold out indefinitely. If we are to--"
As if he hadn't heard, Jack's brown eyes met Boch's. "Is there someplace else he," he indicated Goranz, "could have Daniel?"
Boch frowned and asked, "You think he was lying?"
Mondo struggled to speak and Aris let up enough to allow the man more breath. "He did not lie. I saw him do it. I disposed of the body. My Lord does not have much patience, and Daniel Jackson proved to be more than my Lord was willing to put up with for a few nights of pleasure."
Jack saw red again, but Teal'c held him fast.
Jacob stepped into Jack's line of vision. "Jack, we must go now. Sam and the others are holding our path clear, but as Teal'c mentioned, they won't be able to do it indefinitely."
His voice was too damn reasonable, as was his argument. Jack closed his eyes and ordered Colonel Jack O'Neill to the forefront. He had a job to do and people to get safely home. The fact that Daniel would not be one of them simply meant that he'd deal with that later. Alone.
"Let go, Teal'c," he said quietly.
Teal'c, hearing the calmness behind the words, did as he was asked.
"What do you suggest we do with them?" Jack asked of Boch, as he indicated Goranz and Mondo.
"They will only hamper us, O'Neill," Boch answered, even as he brought his weapon up and struck Mondo on the side of the head. With a sigh, he let the man drop bonelessly to the floor.
As Mondo's lax body hit the ground, his weapon fell from an inner pocket, and before anyone could move, Goranz had it in his hand and was turning it on Jack.
Several things happened next. Aris tried to right his own weapon, but knew instinctively he wouldn't be in time. Jacob reached for his, as did Ferretti, but they both knew it wasn't going to be fast enough to save Jack. Teal'c was hampered by the fact that Jack was in front of him, standing between him and Goranz, making it difficult for him to get his weapon up.
Jack made it simple for him. He wheeled left, grabbed the staff weapon from Teal'c's hand, brought it up in a move that would make any Jaffa proud, and fired.
With nothing left of his head, Goranz' body fell back with a thud.
Jack handed the weapon back to Teal'c and said with a steely and eerie calm, "We should go now."
All five rode out the way they'd ridden in. Along the way, they encountered several Treton soldiers and left them all dead in their wake. When they hit the courtyard, Sam shot a relieved glance at her father, then noticed who was missing. She blinked harshly, looked at Jack's pale face, and with the others, turned her horse around and charged through the archway, Jack, Teal'c, Jacob, Boch, and Ferretti close behind.
As they rode out and back into the riverbed, they left a confused Treton town behind them.
After an hour of hard riding with no Tretons following, Roban called a halt to their journey. The horses were tired and needed food and water, and the people riding them needed the same.
Sam jumped down and immediately walked over to her father. She looked at him with the obvious question in her eyes. He shook his head, telling her what she'd known when they'd ridden into the courtyard without Daniel. She turned quickly away, not wanting her father to see the tears she felt threaten. He pulled her to him, wrapped his arms around her, and with one hand cupping the back of her head, whispered brokenly, "We've come too far to hide our emotions now, Sam."
She took refuge in his embrace, closed her eyes, and allowed the tears to fall.
Teal'c watched for a moment, and satisfied that Major Carter did not need him, he turned to O'Neill. Jack's haunted dark eyes met his, and Teal'c knew he could offer nothing more than his support and friendship. He took a protective step closer.
"Roban," Jack asked, "how far to the 'Gate?"
"If we go as we came, another three hours, but since we no longer need to be cautious, I will lead us back via a shortcut and you shall see the 'Gate in half the time, O'Neill," he said, his voice quiet and subdued.
Jack nodded his understanding, then said, "It is not your fault, Roban. It is not your fault."
Startled by Jack's words, Roban could only blink in confusion. Teal'c placed a hand on his shoulder and said, "O'Neill is correct, Roban. You and the Xonians are not to blame. You did all that was possible, and more. We are grateful."
Aris watched the exchange and marveled at O'Neill's self control. He suspected that the man would be vastly different once he'd discharged his duties and ensured that his teams were back home. Aris closed his eyes and tried to remember the Daniel Jackson he'd met on PJ6-877, but all he could see was a dead Daniel, a lifeless Daniel, those questioning blue eyes blank and unseeing, yet accusing in their absence of life.
Well, fricda, he thought angrily. This whole business of doing good was for the birds, period. And emotions were useless, even dangerous.
After a little under an hour, it was with great sadness and a sense of failure that the rescue team that hadn't, mounted up and headed for the 'Gate.
Riding behind Roban, Jack tried to envision a life without Daniel, and found that he couldn't. Which answered the other question that bounced back and forth in his brain; what could he do once he got back without Daniel? So now he knew. And it didn't matter one bit that Daniel would have been pissed as hell if he knew what Jack was contemplating.
The two suns of PY3-8U9 were on the rise as the 'Gate came into view. The tired riders felt little at the sight. Aris had chosen to continue his journey with them, considering that his trading days with the Tretons were over. He wasn't really worried, as it was apparent that in spite of their failure to rescue Daniel, negotiations would continue between the Xonians and the Tau'ri. That would provide the Xonians all they'd need in the way of medicines and agricultural aids. The Tau'ri would, in turn, have access to the naquada-rich caves that had brought SG-1 here in the first place. The Xonians would also have protection from the Tretons, although Aris doubted that would be needed now. The Xonians had proven once and for all that they were a formidable force, and he suspected that the Tretons would tread carefully in the future.
As they closed in on the 'Gate, Boch wondered why he had no desire to place himself back in the service of the Goa'uld. He'd already decided that being the good guy was not his way, and yet, for some ridiculous reason, he felt the decision would have disappointed Daniel.
Damn the man. Even dead he was exerting whatever it was he exerted.
With a start, he realized that they'd stopped. He glanced ahead and found Roban talking to O'Neill and pointing at the 'Gate. He took out his glasses, set the distance, and spotted the object that had Roban's attention. A Murano priest at the 'Gate. How was it possible? He urged his horse to O'Neill's side in time to hear Roban say, "It does not look like one of my people, O'Neill."
"It's not," Aris said grimly. "It's a Murano priest. I can tell by the insignia on the cloak. It may be a trap."
"There's no way the Tretons could have gotten here before us," Jack said. "No fucking way. Could there be another explanation?"
"The Muranos are the religious leaders of the Tretons and even Goranz would not have gone against them, O'Neill. If one of them is at the Stargate, it's not a good thing."
Roban nodded his agreement of Boch's assessment. "I'm afraid that my friend speaks the truth."
Jack got his binoculars out of his pack and trained them on the lone figure seated next to the DHD. He zoomed in but could see nothing that would clue him in, and yet, there was something familiar....
The binoculars dropped suddenly from his hand, and to the shock and amazement of the others, Jack was riding at top speed for the 'Gate.
As Jack rode hell-bent for leather, the others had no choice but to follow, albeit at a more cautious pace.
The sound of hoof beats roused Daniel, who'd been close to drifting off again. He squinted up at the sky and the two rising suns, then coughed as the collar made another attempt to choke the life out of him. How the hell do people think up these things, anyway? He fingered the damn thing, then remembered what had brought him out of his near stupor. Hoof beats. He used the DHD to help him stand, then turned toward the sound.
The sight that greeted him beat chocolate walnut cookies.
Jack, the Lone Ranger (and did that make Daniel Tonto?), was riding toward him.
Daniel gave a little shake of his head. No, he'd need to rework that. Okay, so how 'bout Roy Rogers and Dale Evans? No, they were definitely out, although, if he could talk Jack into being Dale -- but probably not. How 'bout Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Yeah, that worked.
Except one of them was most definitely not on a horse, let alone one the size of Texas.
It was official. Daniel had floated around the bend and was about to go over the falls. He was cuckoo. But no matter, because Jack was almost at the 'Gate, and thus, almost at Daniel's side. And damn, did he look good on horseback or what? Sexy as hell too.
Like the cowboys of old, Jack pulled back on the reins when he was a few feet from the DHD and the horse reared back and skidded to a dusty halt. Daniel's eyes widened in worry when it became apparent that Jack was going to dismount like the cowboys of old. On Earth, no problem, but Jack was on the top of equine equivalent of Mount Vesuvius and the drop could seriously impair Jack and his legs.
"Jack, don't jump -- your knees...."
Jack jumped down, winced as the jolt hit him all the way back to his molars, but then he was walking (and trying to hide the limp) forward, his eyes gleaming.
"You just had to ruin the moment and mention the knees, didn't you?"
Hiding his tired smile, Daniel said innocently, "Moment? Was there about to be a 'moment'?"
"Damn right there was. And one for the record books. I was going to sweep you up in my arms and plant one on you. But now? Cold day in hell, Danny boy. Cold day in hell."
The words might have had more of an impact if Jack hadn't been grinning his thousand megawatt smile, the one that said, "Damn it, you're alive and I love you to death, you turd." Daniel loved that smile.
"And what the hell are you wearing, Daniel?" Jack asked as he moved closer.
Daniel looked down at himself, and since Jack could see only the cloak, he said the first thing that came into his head. "What? This? Picked it up at a flea market. Not my style, but hey, when in Rome."
Voice soft and gentle, Jack said as he fingered the material, "Ritzy. And black and gold suits you, Daniel. But I think I prefer you in sweaters and tight fitting jeans."
Daniel smiled as the suns sent the last of the pre-dawn scurrying away.
Jack reached up and tenderly pushed the hood from Daniel's head. In the now bright sunlight, he searched his love's face. Daniel tried to look away, but Jack's gaze held him in its grip of worry, care and love. He frowned as Jack's eyes lowered and the older man spotted the collar.
"Now, Jack, don't go all--"
"How do I get it off?" Jack demanded, all gentleness gone.
The arrival of the rest of the group did nothing to stop Jack's relentless gaze. Even as the others were dismounting and Sam was saying what had become her traditional response to finding him alive instead of dead, namely, "Daniel", he found himself unable not to answer Jack's query.
"I've tried, Jack, believe me, I've tried. But I think it's going to have to wait until we get home. I think," he lowered his head a bit, "it's supposed to open only for -- Goranz. He's the--"
"I know who he is, Daniel. And let's hope he's not needed to get that thing off your neck, 'cause it'd be pretty hard to do from Hell."
Daniel had no opportunity to respond, as he and Jack were quickly surrounded by Sam, Teal'c, Jacob, Ferretti, the rest of the SG teams and Roban and his men. As he was bombarded by questions, he thought he could make out the figure of Aris Boch standing several feet away. Uncertain, he blinked in the sunlight as Boch waved, grinned, and saluted. O-kay, it was Boch.
"Uhm, Jack?" He indicated Aris with a nod of his head.
Jack waved the man over, and when the bounty hunter was standing next to Daniel, he said, "We couldn't have -- not -- rescued you without Boch. He led us to a back way into Goranz' stronghold. If you'd been considerate enough to wait, we'd have been able to actually, you know, rescue you."
"Gee, sorry, Jack. Next time I'll remember to plant roots and wait for the 'Great Rescue'. Mea culpa."
"Boys?" Aris interrupted. "I hate to get in between you two, but I'd appreciate hearing the 'thank you, Boch' before I'm old and gray."
Jack and Daniel continued to stare stubbornly at each other as they said, "Thank you, Boch."
Aris held a hand over his heart and said, "Gee, I feel all tingly inside."
"Shut up, Boch," both men said.
"Ah, now you've gone and ruined a perfect moment."
Sam shoved Aris aside and walked up to Daniel. She placed a hand on his arm and said, "You okay, Daniel?"
Her question brought everyone back to the reason for being where they were.
"I'm fine, just--"
"Let me guess; you're just fine?"
"Shut up, Jack. And I am fine, if you don't count spending half the night walking and the other half trying to sleep with a DHD as a pillow. Oh, and my new signature neckwear is really nifty and we all know that breathing is highly overrated."
"Hasn't stopped you from talking, I noticed," Jack said fondly.
"I may actually be the only person in the universe, galaxy, whatever, who doesn't need oxygen to talk."
"Oxygen or not, I think you need to sit down and let me take a look at you, all right?" Sam asked, genuine concern in both her eyes and voice.
"It's not necessary, Sam, I'm really fine, just tired. And hungry. Oh, and cold. A hot shower would be nice right about now."
That was all Jack needed to hear. He turned to Roban. "We're going to take Daniel home, but a team will return, I promise, Roban. The negotiations will proceed, as planned."
Roban bowed slightly and said, "I understand, O'Neill. We are most grateful that Daniel Jackson is alive. We will await your return." His gaze drifted to the collar, then to Aris, who gave a slight shake of his head before saying, "O'Neill, you won't be able to remove that."
Daniel's hand immediately went to the collar as Jack said, "Trust me, we'll get it off."
Roban shook his head. "As I understand it, that is set so that only Goranz can remove it. I believe it has something to do with his precise body heat, and only his hand can open it once it has been placed around the neck of a human."
"That doesn't sound good," Daniel said with more ease than he felt.
"No, I wouldn't think so, since Goranz is dead. Which means, at the very least, no more body heat," Boch noted unnecessarily.
Jack took an oddly sweet and protective step closer to Daniel as he said, "I find it hard to believe that we won't be able to remove that once we're home." He turned to Sam for confirmation. "Carter? Tell me I'm right, just tell me that between you and Siler, it can be removed?"
Sam had already moved up to stand at Daniel's right, and at Jack's words, she reached up and touched the circlet around Daniel's neck. She frowned as she ran her finger several inches over its smooth surface. "I can feel a definite warmth emanating from it, and I'm pretty certain the heat can't be coming from Daniel."
"I beg to differ, Major Carter," Boch interrupted. "It is, in fact, Daniel's body heat you're now registering. The collar reacts to everything the wearer does. It has a very -- specific purpose, I'm afraid."
"Which is unimportant," Daniel quickly added with a sharp glance at Boch.
"I doubt that, Daniel," Sam said. "Everything this thing can do is important if we're to be successful at getting it from around your neck."
Daniel lowered his head and said, "Autoerotic asphyxia."
The silence that followed his words was enough to strengthen his current wish that a hole would open up and swallow him whole.
"You know, a moment ago, I was actually regretting killing that bastard, but now, now I'm back to being politically incorrect and happy as a clam," Jack said, his gaze fixed on Daniel.
"You're always politically incorrect, Jack," Daniel said, his eyes meeting Jack's.
For just the briefest of moments, they were alone, their eyes telegraphing more than either could ever have put into words. Jack finally broke the spell. "Yeah, well, I prefer to think that I'm the politically right thinking guy, Danny," he said softly. "You know, different drummer and all that? Only I'm the only one playing on key."
"I'm really loving these secretive, full-of-hidden-meaning conversations you two are always having, but maybe we should let Sam get back to trying to figure out how to de-accessorize Danny," Jacob offered somewhat pointedly.
"Right, sorry. Carter?" Jack bowed slightly in deference to his 2IC.
"It would probably be helpful to know more about the physiology of the Tretons. And why did you make a point of saying humans?"
Boch shrugged. "Tretons do not have a heart. As I understand it, Goranz had a previous human 'pet' and created the collar to be activated by the man's heartbeat."
Sam turned her attention back to Daniel as she asked, "All right, so you're saying that only Goranz can remove it, but that it's reacting to Daniel right now? To what, the pulse at his neck?"
Boch shrugged helplessly.
"And if there's no pulse, no heartbeat?"
Boch looked at Daniel, then at Sam. "Then in all likelihood, it would--"
"Open," Roban interjected. "I have seen this happen but, until this moment, had forgotten."
"Now would be a good time to share, Roban," Jack said.
"It was several years ago and before the treaty. Treton raiding parties would cross the river, strike at our outlying farms, and steal food and supplies. But in this instance, they took the son of one our priests. Apparently they sold him to Goranz. Months later, the young man was found wandering the forests on this side of the river. He was near death, wore a similar collar, and had been horribly abused."
Roban paused, and with an apologetic glance at Daniel, went on. "He died less than ten hours later, and following his last breath, the collar simply popped open."
Daniel gave an odd shake of his head as he said, "You know, I could learn to like this collar, especially if the alternative is to stop the whole heart-pulse thing. I'm kind of fond of my heart beating and all, you know?"
"Actually, if we can't get it open through normal methods, well, I think we can stop the 'pulse thing', Daniel," Sam mused. "All we have to do is fool it into thinking that your heart is no longer beating, and thus, no pulse."
"Gee, now why didn't I think of that?" Jack said dryly.
"Because you were busy leading that tuneful band of different drummers?" Daniel offered helpfully before asking Sam, "And how do you make an inanimate object think that I have no pulse, by the way?"
"I don't quite have that part yet, Daniel, but don't worry--"
"Who's worried?" Jack quipped. "Didn't I start this whole thing by telling everyone present that I have every confidence in you and Siler? Well, sure I did."
"Perhaps now would be a good time--"
"Teal'c, you took the words right out of my mouth. Carter, dial her up and let's get home so you and Siler can figure out how to stop Daniel's pulse without stopping his pulse."
Carter moved toward the DHD and had her hand on the first symbol when Jack added as an afterthought, "You have gotten that far in your plan, right, Carter? That we don't actually stop Daniel's heart?"
The wormhole burst out from the 'Gate and Roban placed a hand on Daniel's arm. "We will miss you, Daniel. I pray that Major Carter is successful in removing the collar. The Xonians will carry the burden of our failure for some time."
"Roban, there was no failure," Jack hastened to assure the Xonian leader. "You rescued us against great odds--"
Daniel interrupted at that point by adding, "For which you have my eternal gratitude. And we will be back."
Roban searched the earnest blue eyes before him, and seeing only truth and sincerity, he nodded in relief. "Thank you, my friends."
"Why does everyone keep forgetting to thank me?" Aris Boch asked, his hand clasped dramatically over his heart. "Aren't I the one who led you all to Daniel?" he asked hopefully.
"That would be an incorrect statement," Teal'c interjected. "You led us to where DanielJackson was not."
"But I led you to where Daniel Jackson should have been and once was. Not my fault he escaped."
"No," Ferretti offered, "but if it had been your fault that he'd escaped, then Doctor J would have a reason for thanking you."
"I would have to agree with that statement, Boch," Jacob added.
"But you have to admit, we did look good riding into that courtyard," Ferretti said with a grin.
Daniel rolled his eyes. "Aris, thank you for giving them the joy of making like the Magnificent Seven."
"I believe that should be the Magnificent--" Teal'c started counting heads while Ferretti hummed the theme from the movie.
Jack gave a quick look at Daniel, noted the exhaustion now clearly evident, and knew the younger man was pretty close to the edge. Time to take control of the situation.
"All right, kids, it's time to go home," Jack said as he gently took Daniel's arm. "Roban, it's been fun, and Aris, we'll have to get together again real soon. I'll have my people call your people."
Daniel closed his eyes, reminded himself that he was tolerant, and promptly said, "Jack, shut up."
Jack stepped through the 'Gate first, his arm around Daniel's waist in anticipation of the younger man's energy waning once he was home. He congratulated his anticipatory urges as Daniel's legs gave way the minute they hit the ramp.
"I've got you, don't worry," he said as he glanced up at the control room and added, "Medical to the 'Gate!"
"Cancel that," Daniel immediately said. "I don't need a doctor and I'm perfectly capable of walking."
"So I should let go?" Jack asked as he moved them down the ramp and out of the way of the rest of SG-1, Jacob Carter, and SG- 2 and 11.
"I didn't say you had to let go, I just said I could walk."
"Tough guy," Jack snorted.
"Oh, for crying out loud," Daniel said as he pushed Jack's hand away and scooted further back on the infirmary bed. Sam and Siler had just left, after trying unsuccessfully to cut the collar off, and Daniel and Jack were awaiting Janet. But Jack was being unusually attentive and it was driving Daniel crazy. "Stop hovering, for God's sake!"
Jack pulled away, surprised by the tone, so unlike Daniel. He turned and grabbed a nearby chair, then straddled it. "Sorry, Danny. Just thought you might--"
"I don't. Look, Jack, I walked for miles, so yeah, I'm a little shaky on my feet, okay? This collar is driving me whacko, but I'm not hurt -- or -- anything. Get it?"
"I got it," Jack said, holding up a hand in surrender. "Forgive me for caring, Mister Macho Geek."
Daniel frowned. "Macho geek? Is that possible? Isn't it a lot like--"
"Danny, what can I say? You're my big, bad, macho geek."
Before Daniel could come up with the appropriate response, Janet walked in and over to the bed. "Colonel, perhaps you'd like to step outside for a few moments while I examine my patient?"
The words were polite, the tone, an order. Jack gave a dramatic sigh and pushed himself up. "Don't you get tired of saying those exact words, Doc?"
"Now, Colonel, you know very well that sometimes I say, 'Doctor Jackson, perhaps you'd like to step outside for a few moments while I examine my patient'."
"She's got you there, Jack," Daniel observed helpfully.
"Sometimes," Janet went on, "I say, 'General, perhaps--"
"I'm going now, if anyone cares," Jack said.
"We don't," Janet and Daniel said together.
Jack made a little swinging motion with his index finger and said, "Right, so I'll be, you know, right out there."
"Bye, Colonel," Janet said as she started to take Daniel's pulse.
Once he was certain that Jack was out of hearing range, Daniel said, "Janet, could you get me something to wear? Maybe a pair of scrubs?"
Janet was noting his pulse rate on the chart when Daniel spoke. She stopped writing and glanced up. "Scrubs? Daniel, I'm sure the Colonel would be happy to go to your locker and get you whatever you need."
"I'd rather not ask him because then he'll wonder why and then I'd have to show him why, and I'd rather not do that, because then he'll get all, you know, and I'm always borrowing a pair of scrubs--"
Daniel sputtered to a stop. Slowly he separated the folds of the cloak. "I really don't want him seeing everything, if you know what I mean?"
Janet wasn't in the least bit prepared and her shocked gasp brought a flush of red to Daniel's cheeks.
"Oh. I see. Yes. Well. Uhm. Well." She turned around, got the attention of one of her nurses, and said, "Jenna, would you get Doctor Jackson a pair of scrubs?" At the woman's nod, she added, "Thank you." Turning back to Daniel, she said brusquely, "Okay, so where are you hurt?"
"Since when do you actually ask?"
"Since you're wearing ... that," she waved her hand in a circle that encompassed his outfit, "whatever that is. And I suspect this will be easier for both of us if you just up and tell me."
Daniel couldn't argue with logic like that. Janet must know him better than he'd ever suspected. He shrugged and said, "I'm not really injured. Throat's sore, but until this thing," he pointed at his neck, "is gone, there isn't much you can do other than giving me a couple of aspirin." He pushed up the sleeves of the cloak and held out his arms. "Although, you might want to look at my wrists," he added.
Putting on her very best 'I'm all business and nothing but' face, she strode over to one of the cabinets, took out the necessary items, placed them on a tray, set the tray on one of the rolling tables, and pushed it all over to the bed. Without another word, she went to work.
In spite of his honesty, okay, semi honesty, with Janet, he'd still been poked and prodded and he was one thoroughly disgruntled man by the time she allowed Jack back.
Janet Frasier simply could not be trusted, Daniel decided as he rubbed his right ass cheek and wondered why the hell he always ended up with a huge needle being inserted into his butt. What was up with that, anyway? Since when did being kidnapped and walking for miles constitute sufficient reason for a shot in the butt? He rubbed his nose absently and swallowed without thinking. His gasp of pain, thanks to the damn collar, brought Jack's attention back to him. The older man turned away from Jacob and said, "Daniel?"
"Don't get smart with me, Daniel."
Daniel scrunched up his face, then said, "And how would I go about not getting smart with you? I have an IQ of--"
"Daniel? You're getting smart with me."
Deciding to change the subject, Daniel asked innocently, "So, Jacob, how are things with the Tok'ra?"
"Just fine, and thank you for asking."
"Things going well, then?"
"Very." Jacob grinned, gave a little shake of his head and, deciding to play along, asked conversationally, "How are things with you, Daniel?"
"Oh, you know, same ol', same ol'. 'Gate to a planet, get kidnapped, go for a long cold walk, end up with a large needle inserted in my ass--"
"Colonel, I think we've done it." Sam's voice interrupted as she, Siler and Teal'c entered the Infirmary. Teal'c was pushing a cart with something that was obviously an electronic device sitting on top.
"I have no doubt of that, Carter," Jack said as he moved closer to Daniel. "And you're timing is great, we're getting pretty bored here. We were about to share brownie recipes."
"I love brownies," Siler offered in his usual no-nonsense voice. He plugged the device into a nearby socket and, at Jack's look, added, "I'm shutting up, sir."
Hiding his grin, Jack turned to Sam. "So how does this thing work, and what the hell is it?"
"It's an oscillator, sir," Sam answered as she made several adjustments.
"An oscillator?" Jack asked, one eyebrow rising.
"You know, Jack," Daniel said, "a device for producing alternating current, as in a radio-frequency or audio-frequency generator?" He promptly stuck out his tongue.
"I know what an oscillator is, Mister Smarty Pants, and what, you once discovered an ancient oscillator on a dig or something?"
"The Ancient Egyptians had one in every home," Daniel responded easily.
"Natch. So," Jack addressed Sam again, "what is this supposed to do?"
"Well, Siler and I have McGyvered it to act as a kind of giant white noise generator. If this works, it will filter out all sounds, including Daniel's heartbeat, and the collar will simply open up and fall off."
"Wouldn't any white noise generator have been enough?" Daniel asked, eyeing the elaborate machine with some trepidation.
"We don't think so, Daniel," Sam said as she attached two wires to the machine. "We have no idea what it's going to take, and this allows us to vary the intensity, not to mention spreading the effect."
Jack stepped in front of Daniel. "Excuse me? Vary the effect? Spread the intensity? Carter, I gotta tell ya, I'm not feeling my usual reassurance here."
"Sir, it can't hurt him."
"Sam? Him is right here," Daniel said pointedly.
"Sorry, Daniel. But it can't harm you. We're talking a method of blocking the sound of your heartbeat and that's it."
Daniel eyed the machine, then Sam. "What if it's the vibration of my pulse and not the sound of my heart beating? Or a combination?"
Siler, Sam and Teal'c said, "Vibration? Combination?"
Daniel looked worried as he said, "Ye-es, vibration. You know, thump-thump?"
"Yeah, Carter, what he said," Jack said as if he'd been about to ask the same thing, which he hadn't.
Carter looked at the machine, then at Daniel's collar. "It should work whether the collar is reacting to the vibration of your pulse, or sound of your heartbeat."
"Your confidence is underwhelming, Carter," Jack noted dryly.
Daniel fingered the collar absently, and Teal'c, seeing the gesture, said, "Perhaps we should proceed?"
Before Sam could do just that, Janet re-entered the Infirmary, closely followed by General Hammond.
"How's our boy doing?"
"If Carter's idea works, sir," Jack answered, "he'll be doing great."
"Doctor Frasier, do you see a problem with any of this?" The General indicated the machine.
"Sam has already explained it and, as I understand it, Daniel won't feel anything, sir."
Sam nodded her agreement as she attached two wires to the gold circlet. "Janet is correct, sir. Daniel won't even feel a buzz, and this thing should pop off almost immediately." Then addressing Daniel, she asked, "You ready?"
Daniel gazed around the room and experienced a fleeting wish that only he and Carter, and perhaps Siler, were present but, knowing that wasn't about to happen, he nodded his assent. Siler, with a look at Sam, flipped a small black switch while she adjusted a dial upwards.
With the exception of Jack, who was watching Daniel, everyone in the room had their eyes fixed on the largest gauge in the middle of the machine. A vibrating black needle began to edge its way up in increments of fifty. When the needle hit one hundred and fifty, the collar tightened radically and Daniel's hands flew to his neck as his breathing was almost completely cut off.
"CARTER, STOP!" Jack yelled out as his arms wrapped around the struggling Daniel.
Siler beat Sam to the controls and seconds later, Daniel let out a relieved gasp as the collar loosened. "Shit," he hissed out, "it's like this thing is alive."
Eyes dark with anger, Jack snapped out, "Pop off, Carter? POP OFF?"
"I'm sorry, sir, I don't know what went wrong, this should have worked...."
Her voice trailed off as she moved toward Daniel. "It should have worked," she said almost to herself. "Daniel, describe exactly what you felt as we increased the power."
"Other than my own anxiety, nothing, at least nothing until you hit one-fifty. Then," he paused as he tried to remember exactly what he'd felt, then added, "I think it warmed up, Sam. The collar seemed to warm up just moments before it tightened."
Trying to stomp down on his panic, Jack asked in an irritated voice, "Why can't we just use a fucking laser and cut this damn thing off?"
"Sir, as we discovered when we tried to cut if off earlier, whatever this is made of, it's incredibly strong. A laser wouldn't even scratch it."
Daniel was staring at the machine, his mind trying to put together everything Roban had said, along with what Goranz had intended the collar to do to the wearer. Suddenly he snapped his fingers. "I've got an idea." He looked over at Janet and added, "You just need to put me out."
Jacob took a step toward his daughter as he said, "Put you out? Why?" Then his eyes widened as he said, "Of course!"
Jack looked at Siler, who looked at Teal'c, who shrugged. "I do not understand either, O'Neill."
"I know I don't understand, Colonel, so for once, you're not alone," Hammond added.
"Well, thank God. I hate it when Brainiac here gets ahead of me."
"Which is most of the time, Jack," Daniel added.
"Well, he's ahead of me this time too, sir," Sam said. "Why does Janet have to put Daniel out and, more importantly, Dad, how did you figure it out?"
Jacob glanced over at Daniel, who was looking distinctly uncomfortable, then back to his daughter. "Sam, that thing is designed to react to increases, or," his voice faltered and Daniel took up where Jacob left off.
"Or anxiety, which will be translated by the collar as the beginning of an -- autoerotic response. That machine will work, all right, but unless I'm out for the count, it'll probably kill me first, so Janet--"
"Needs to put you under," Sam said in a flash of understanding.
Jack curled his fingers into fists as he realized exactly what Daniel was saying. Damn, he was glad he'd killed Goranz. Very glad.
Daniel was stretched out on top of the bed, eyes closed, and breathing as easily as possible with a weird assed alien collar around his neck. Janet pulled the needle out of the IV and stepped back as Jack watched the blue scrubs rise and fall with each breath. His gaze traveled down to Daniel's bandaged wrists before moving back up to his face, so peaceful in its drug-induced state. Hammond stood opposite, his gaze on his second-in-command.
Janet looked at Sam and said quietly, "He's under."
Taking a deep breath, Sam said, "All right, let's try this again."
Jack was seated on a stool next to the bed, and with Janet monitoring Daniel's vitals and the others creating a protective circle around the bed, Siler turned on the machine and Sam slowly began to turn up the power.
When it hit one-fifty, everyone held their collective breaths. When nothing happened to either Daniel or the collar, Sam gave Siler a nod and he turned it up.
What happened next was almost anti-climatic. When the needle hit two-fifty, there was a slight popping sound -- and the collar fell off.
Breaths were released as Siler turned off the machine and Janet gently pulled the wide collar out from under Daniel. With a look full of disgust, she handed it over to Siler before turning back to Daniel, her intent being to gently probe the sleeping man's neck. What she saw stopped her.
"Janet?" Jack asked as he caught her expression. He didn't need to wait for her answer, thanks to his own gaze following hers.
Bruising caused by fingers; large, strong fingers.
Jack had the ridiculous urge to quote Richard Dreyfus in Jaws. "This was no boating accident." He refrained.
Once Daniel had awakened, collarless, all required reports had been written and filed and the debriefing completed. SG-8 would follow up with the Xonians, and the collar was placed in the hands of Sam's department. Hammond placed SG-1 on stand down for the next five days, so both Carters left the mountain for a three day visit with Sam's brother, while Teal'c was content to spend time in contemplation and watching reruns of Babylon 5, a new addiction, courtesy of Daniel.
After changing into his street clothes, receiving a bottle of antibiotics and a spray for his throat, Daniel was finally taken home by his ever-faithful companion; his silent, brooding, ever-faithful companion.
Daniel certainly didn't feel like talking, and it was evident that Jack was into the silent thing himself. As they drove through Colorado Springs, Daniel found himself experiencing some real discomfort, as in mental discomfort. While he didn't want to talk yet, didn't want to puzzle out the whys, Jack's silence was starting to bother him. Hell, Jack's body language was starting to bother him. Daniel gazed out his window and tried to pinpoint the moment that Jack's mood had switched to anger.
Okay, he'd awakened to a nice warm, fuzzy feeling, and to being collarless. Jack had been sitting by his side, playing with a bedpan, which was normal Jack behavior. Daniel remembered hoping the bedpan was clean. When he'd cleared his throat, Jack had looked up, noted his wakeful state, and said, "Ready to go home?"
That was it, just 'ready to go home'. Of course, going home hadn't been as easy as he'd hoped, what with reports to write and the debriefing, but the five hours that elapsed between his waking and leaving the mountain had shown him a Jack growing quieter and angrier with each passing moment.
Knowing Jack's contrary mind, the man was probably angry at Daniel for escaping before Jack could ride in and rescue him. No, that was unfair and petty. And it wasn't as though getting kidnapped had been Daniel's fault, right? Right.
Not his fault.
Well, the good news was that this time, no one else had been hurt and no worlds nearly destroyed because of him. That had to mean something, right?
Always a plus in his book.
Jack pulled into his driveway and turned off the engine. Daniel opened his door and climbed out, then followed Jack up to the porch. He waited patiently while Jack unlocked the door, then preceded him into the house. The older man went over to the thermostat and turned it on, took off his jacket, walked to the phone, picked it up, and dialed a two digit speed-dial number. When a voice answered at the other end, he said, "Yes, I'd like to place an order for delivery."
Daniel took off his jacket, and while Jack ordered Chinese, he picked up Jack's and hung both in the closet. His throat was dry, thanks to the spray, so he wandered into the kitchen and made himself a tall glass of ice water. He pulled out a chair at the table and sat down. After the first two swallows, he felt better, the cooling liquid working with the analgesic spray to dull the pain even more. He heard Jack moving through the house and into the bedroom and Daniel suddenly had the need, the burning desire, to leave and head for his apartment. He didn't want to deal with Jack and his anger, and he didn't want to deal with his own guilt, fault, whatever. What he wanted to do was crawl into bed, pull the covers over his head, and stay there for a couple of days.
What he really wanted to do was crawl inside of Jack.
One of the benefits of his relationship with Jack had been comfort, as given and taken by both men, and something Daniel had been without for most of his life. Through every bad moment in his life, Daniel had dealt with the aftermath by himself. Sure, in the last five years, he'd had SG-1, but ultimately, when he'd gone home at the end of the day, he'd been alone. But now, with the tender man that was Jack, there was so much warmth in knowing that when something awakened him in the middle of the night, Jack would be there. All he had to do was roll over and reach out, and he'd be surrounded by all things Jack.
He needed that tonight, God how he needed that, and he wasn't ashamed to admit it. But--
Daniel spun the glass around before taking another sip. Yep, going home was a real possibility, except even being with Jack and his anger was better than being without Jack.
Daniel continued to sit alone in the kitchen.
Jack pulled on his faded blue jeans, an old gray sweatshirt, and wearing only warm socks on his feet, he padded back down the hall and down into the living room. He got his credit card from his wallet and set it on the table near the door in anticipation of the arrival of their dinner. His anger hadn't abated, and had, in fact, grown since coming home. He'd confronted Janet after Daniel had gone to the locker room to change, ordered her to tell him everything about Daniel's condition, and Janet, seeing the fear in Jack's eyes, had assured him that Daniel was all right, that nothing had happened. Then Daniel had come back wearing a v-necked sweater and Jack had found himself staring at the bruises around his neck.
Something had happened, even if it hadn't registered with Janet, but what fueled Jack's anger was that Daniel hadn't told him. And he'd certainly failed to disclose the circumstances surrounding the bruises. Bruises so deep and defined that Jack figured Daniel had come close to death.
But Jack was afraid to ask. Afraid to hear the words he very much didn't want to hear. He needed time -- and privacy. Jack decided to go up to the deck on the roof.
Daniel was wrong. It wasn't better than being alone. He was still seated in the kitchen, still by himself, and it was wrong, all wrong. The doubts were creeping in and Daniel didn't want them, didn't want to blame himself, didn't want to face what he knew was the truth. He pushed himself away from the table, carried the glass to the sink, rinsed it out and left it in the drainer. He walked into the living room and, grateful that Jack wasn't there, took his jacket from the closet and slipped it on. He called a local taxi company, gave the address and, after hanging up, went outside to wait.
From his seat on the deck, Jack heard the front door open, and a moment later Daniel came into view. His hands were stuffed into his pockets, the collar of his jacket turned up against the cold weather. He walked down the driveway and stood on the sidewalk. Jack leaned forward and watched as Daniel simply stood quietly, occasionally glancing up at the sky. Jack closed his eyes for a moment and willed his anger away, but it didn't work.
Daniel should have told him.
He should have told him.
Daniel stared up at the sky and thought it would probably snow later. Within the warmth of his pockets, his hands fisted. The cab company had said fifteen minutes and that was fine. The crystal clear air provided the broom his cobwebbed brain needed. He inhaled sharply, and immediately winced in pain. Bad move.
It wasn't his fault.
Okay, that said again, Daniel frowned. How well did he know Jack O'Neill? Damn well. Better than anyone alive or dead, he'd wager. And the Jack O'Neill he knew wouldn't blame him for what happened. No way, no how. So his anger must be about -- something else? Jack wasn't mad at Daniel because what happened hadn't been Daniel's fault.
Now that was something he could buy into. So, what now?
"So now you go back inside, idiot. You're freezing."
Good plan, and Daniel had long since learned that he should never argue with himself.
He was about to head back when a yellow cab turned the corner onto Jack's street.
Jack spotted the cab but thought nothing of it until it pulled alongside the curb in front of his house. It didn't take a Jackson or a Carter to figure out that it was for Daniel, that Daniel was leaving. Jack jumped up and started for the ladder, but the cab pulled away. He turned back to the rail and his knees nearly gave way when he noted that Daniel was still on the sidewalk. Jack expelled the breath he hadn't known he'd been holding, and his fingers clutched at the railing.
When the cab stopped, Daniel made a motion with his hand indicating that the man should roll down his window. When it was down, Daniel leaned over and said, "I'm sorry, but we won't need a cab after all. Here's a ten, and thank you."
The driver took the money, touched the tip of his hat, and pulled away. Daniel watched him drive off down the street before slowly turning and facing Jack's home. He glanced up at the sky, but his gaze was caught by Jack -- standing at the railing of his rooftop deck.
Their eyes met, and locked. Daniel said the only thing that came to his mind.
"It wasn't my fault."
In spite of the fact that Jack couldn't have heard him, the older man was moving, and moving fast. In just moments, Jack was striding down the driveway to finally stand in front of him.
"Did I just read your lips correctly? Did you just say that it wasn't your fault?"
Daniel nodded dumbly.
"You think, that I think, that it was your fault?" Jack asked, incredulity coloring his voice.
"No, but I can't -- I did, but then I didn't, but I can't figure out where all this sudden anger of yours is coming from, and I started to think too much, which led me to feel too much and you know I tend to think I'm to blame for everything under the sun, and there I was in the kitchen, alone, and thinking and--"
"Yeah, too much, so I decided to hit the road--"
"Jack," Jack finished for him, his mouth twitching at the corners.
"Uhm, yeah," Daniel finished lamely, his own mouth twitching.
Jack's gaze dropped to Daniel's neck and he slowly reached out to let one finger trace the dark bruises that Goranz' hands had made. "This," he finally said, "this is why I'm -- was -- angry. You didn't tell me, Danny. You didn't tell me."
Looking thoroughly confused and shocked, Daniel brought his own hand up, but didn't actually make contact with his skin. "Tell you? Tell you what? You thought I'd get kidnapped, slung over a fucking horse the size of China, and not get a few bruises?"
Jack stepped in close and let his thumb smooth lightly over one of the larger prints as he answered, "He did this, Daniel. I can see his fingerprints, and he did it. This happened before -- before the collar."
Jack stumbled over the words as his mind ran ahead of him and provided fast moving pictures of the hows and whys of the bruising. "Why didn't you tell me that he -- and you said that you were fine, that nothing happened, but these," he ran his thumb over the bruising again, "tell a different story."
For a moment, Daniel was completely lost. He had no idea what Jack was talking about, but then, like Newton and falling apples, he got it.
"Oh, for--I don't fucking believe you." Daniel stepped back, sighed heavily, and said, "Okay, so you're chained to a wall--"
"You were chained to a wall?"
"Jack, aren't we always?"
"No. I can honestly say--"
"Jack, go with me on this. Now where are you?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "I'm chained to a wall, but don't you dare tell me I'm spread-eagled."
"Okay, I won't tell you that. Now, while you're chained to a wall and not spread-eagled, this really big guy shows up and tries to stick his tongue down your throat, and we're talking really big tongue, you know? So what do you do?"
"You're chained, Jack. And we're talking immobility here, okay?"
"Right, so I bite his fucking tongue off."
Daniel touched his nose. "Bingo. And naturally this ticks the really big guy off, and he in turn, gets a little rough and decides to teach you a lesson."
"By choking the hell out of me-you?"
"Bingo again. You're on a roll. And since you were chained to this wall, well, you know how helpless you felt when all you could do was bite his fucking tongue."
"He seemed to be able to talk just fine, Daniel."
"Well, like I said, he had a really," Daniel stretched out his hands, "big tongue. We're talking gross, you know? And they have this stuff, the stuff Boch was stealing - sorry, trading - for the Xonians, and by the way, we really need to get some of that stuff, because let me tell you--"
"Doesn't your throat hurt?" Jack asked, his ulterior motive not very ulterior.
Never one to fall for Jack's ulterior motives unless they revolved around bed and sex, Daniel said, "Is that your way of asking me to shut up?"
"Only if your throat hurts -- and you fall for it," Jack said as he took Daniel's arm. "What say we go inside? Sit in front of a roaring fire, eat our Chinese, talk, grope, and generally make like couch potatoes?"
Letting Jack guide him toward the house, Daniel said, "A woman's diamond necklace, a man's free cow and an unlimited supply of milk."
Walking up the driveway, Jack said, "I'm supposed to know what you just said, aren't I?"
"Yes. But let me translate. I just said, 'Why, Jack, you romantic devil, you.'"
Jack opened the front door, and as he followed Daniel inside, he said, "You saw that on some old tomb, didn't you?"
"All the best sayings, Jack."
"Love you, Deej."
"Did you order me Moo-shoo Pork?"
"Love you too, O'Neill."
Smiling, Jack closed the door.
Who needs rescuing?
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