Daniel stood a few feet from the Stargate and watched Jack and Sam as they spoke quietly, Loran next to Jack, his fingers entangled in Jack's shirt.
Twenty minutes ago Daniel had received word from Janet that both Sam, Jack and the boy were clear to leave, to return through the Stargate but that he was still infected. Figuring that Sam would refuse to go home if she knew he'd have to remain, he'd spent over ten minutes trying to convince Janet to help him with a small deception. It had been tough going, but when he'd pulled his trump card, telling her how he didn't mind a few days alone, that it would give him more time to study the building and the writings, well, she'd started to soften. And when he'd added slyly that hey, they were already at each other's throats and if Jack and Sam remained behind, well, he'd simply refuse to be responsible for the outcome, well, Janet had caved.
Of course, that still left General Hammond, but judging from the conversation Jack and Hammond had just completed, Janet had succeeded in winning the General over as well. And now - Jack and Sam were getting ready to go home.
He could hear Jack telling Loran about hockey and how he'd take him to a game the minute they got back and at Sam's laughter, and while Daniel pretended to scrutinize more wall writings, Jack said, "Hey, you're invited too, Carter."
Sam shook her head, saying, "No, thanks, sir. You can count me out of that one."
Jack rolled his eyes, glanced down at Loran and quipped, "Son, you'll soon discover that women simply do not know how to appreciate the sport of hockey."
Daniel closed his notebook then and joined the three and in an attempt to look and sound normal, he smiled and said, "Hey, I'm a guy and *I* don't appreciate the game." Then looking at Loran and winking, he added, "Now, an afternoon spent in a good museum, *that's* exciting."
Jack gave him an exaggerated roll of his eyes as he said, "Oh, pu-leeze, Daniel. And I wasn't going to invite you anyway. Been there, done that. Besides, you obviously prefer all this--" he waved his arm expansively, "to museums *or* hockey."
"But we'll wait for Daniel, won't we, Jack?" Loran pleaded.
Before Jack could answer, Daniel rolled *his* eyes and said, "Oh, yeah, you wait for me, Jack. You wait for me."
Missing the strange look Jack shot his way, Daniel let Sam give him a hug, then she stepped over to the DHD and started dialing up. Moments later the gate came alive and hefting up the few supplies that they hadn't already sent through and that Daniel wouldn't need, Jack gave Daniel a mock salute.
"See you in a few days, you glutton for punishment. And no, I don't think we *will* wait for you. Hockey is seriously calling me. Have fun and play nice."
With that, he, Sam and Loran stepped through the gate and Daniel was--alone.
Daniel stared at the gate for a few moments, then walked over to his cot and sat down. There had once been a time when Jack wouldn't have accepted the line about Daniel wanting to remain, and even if he had, he'd have tried to talk Daniel out of it. But this time--he never even questioned it. Typical behavior of late.
He rested his head in his hands and thought about the last four weeks--four weeks of pure torture while he watched Jack and Sam with Loran, behaving for all intents and purposes like a family. He'd covertly observed Jack and Sam at night, heads together as they talked quietly or during the day, playing cards with Loran; exploring their gilded prison or joking around; indulging in food fights or sharing Earth with Loran. And at times, the pain had been worse than anything he'd previously experienced.
The last four weeks had been so much like his life before joining the SGC that when they'd remembered to include him, he'd felt too much like an outsider, so he'd smile, shake his head, and pretend to write something of earth shattering importance in his journal.
And it hadn't skipped his notice that Jack and Sam were in love.
He truly understood that now and all the disclaimers in the world couldn't undo that fact. They might not be able to act on it, but it was there, shimmering between them and dousing any hopes *he'd* had that his friendship with Jack could go deeper.
Daniel stared at the room that held the pleasure device and the real reason he'd needed everyone to leave him alone.
The Light--the blessed Light. And all that it contained.
He had three days and he prayed it would be long enough to ensure that he'd never have to leave here again.
It felt good to be home even if right now, home was the SGC and not his house. His report was finished, he and Sam had been debriefed and arrangements for Loran had successfully been made. He'd be staying with Captain Willis and his wife for awhile which was very good, but Jack still planned on taking him to that hockey game.
Whistling happily off-key, Jack strolled down the corridor to Sam's office. When he arrived, he knocked and without waiting for an answer, strolled in to find Carter hunched over her computer. At his entrance, she glanced up and smiled.
"Sir? I figured you'd be on your way home by now."
"Nah. Not quite yet." He started toying with some artifact that would have looked at home in Daniel's office but was definitely out of place in Sam's. As he fiddled, he said, "I still can't believe Daniel stayed behind. Like four weeks wasn't enough?"
Sam swiveled around in her chair and nodded her agreement. "I know, I can't believe it either. Even for Daniel, that was--weird, you know?"
Chuckling, Jack said, "Yeah, *even* for Daniel."
For a few minutes they were silent, but the quiet was by no means companionable. Finally, Sam asked, "Sir? You wanted something?"
"Um? Oh, yeah. Well, we did a lot of talking about food back there, you know? Thought maybe--you and I could go get that dinner of our dreams. Whaddya say?"
Sam searched Jack's face and with a sigh, she made a decision. A decision she'd been toying with for weeks--hell, months--ever since Anise and her stupid machine disclosed feelings that Sam would have preferred be kept closely under wraps.
"Sir, we need to talk."
"Yes, Colonel. Talk, as in stringing a few sentences together?"
She glanced away for a moment, then added softly, "About what happened--about us. Our feelings."
Jack started to say something, but Sam held up a hand.
"No, let me. I've got to say this and I hope you understand."
Puzzled, Jack said dryly, "Why do I think I should be sitting down for this one, Major?"
Relaxing a bit, Sam allowed herself a small chuckle then quickly rolled out the chair next to her and patted the seat. "Maybe you're right, you'd better sit down. Before you fall--"
"Ha, ha. Very funny--" But he sat - and waited.
"Sir, I know that we found ourselves disclosing certain--feelings, but, well, haven't you been the least bit puzzled by what we experienced?"
He watched her face, animated now and looking as she so often did when tearing into a mystery. Not as excited as Daniel, but--
Jack thudded back to earth at a slight cough from Sam and belatedly asked, "Puzzled? What do you mean?"
Sam rubbed the back of her neck and wondered where the words were that she'd been rehearsing for weeks. Taking a deep breath, she plunged ahead.
"Sir, I'm not saying those feelings weren't, well, *real*, but can you honestly say that you're comfortable with them? That--God, I don't know how to say this--"
"That they're *complete*, Major?" Jack finished for her, his brown eyes darkening as he put his own feelings into words--finally.
Carter's head shot up and she found herself staring at him and nodding her head excitedly. "Exactly, Colonel, exactly. Complete. It's as if a small emotion had been--"
"Enlarged? Exaggerated?" Jack offered again, his own ideas having been given an outlet.
"Is it possible that we're making excuses here, Carter?"
"Do you think we are? Do you think we're trying to hide from something?"
Jack felt very uncomfortable suddenly. This was territory he'd been trying very hard to ignore--but damn it, Samantha Carter was a beautiful woman and since those feelings or emotions that Anise's machine had forced out into the open, he'd been very aware of her. But damn, it *hadn't* been in any *real* way. And certainly not in a deep, sexual way. Wasn't that what he'd been saying to himself for weeks now? Hell, he could watch her walk away from him and sigh in total appreciation, but not in lust or need--not the way he sighed when, say, Daniel walked away from him--
Umm, so what were they saying? Oh, yeah, emotions. His and Carter's. Okay, so if those feelings *weren't* real, what the hell had been going on between them for weeks? And where had all his anger come from, huh? Jack swiped a hand over his face and shook his head in disgust. He was, thanks to Sam, even more confused than before.
"Sir?" Sam put out her hand and rested it lightly on his. "Sir, I've been going with these feelings because they, well, they *did* seem to be *there* and it's not as if there hasn't been a kind of attraction--but I always thought the attraction was well within the limits of--you know, *normal*. But then Anise and to be honest, it hasn't--it hasn't *felt* right. Does that make any sense?"
"I'm following. Go on."
"I think, sir, that this is where you say that you feel the same way?"
"Oh? I must have missed that part in the script."
"Very funny, sir."
Jack stood and slid the chair back under the table, then stuffed both hands in his pockets. "So what's the answer? What were--*are*--we feeling?"
"Well, I just happen to have a theory on that very question, if you'd like to hear it?"
"I would have been seriously disappointed in you if you *hadn't* had at least *one* theory, Major. Shoot."
"I think--that if Daniel or Teal'c had been on the other side of that force field? We would have had the same feelings."
With an impish grin, Jack said, "What, are you saying I'm in love with Teal'c, Major Carter? 'Cause if you are, I gotta tell you, you're barking up the wrong tree. Trust me on that."
"I won't dignify that with an answer, sir. And I think you know *exactly* what I'm saying. SG-1 is very close, sir. We've been through a great deal together, or as you'd say, 'a whole lot of shit'. I don't think any of us would have been able to leave--another."
Jack thought about that and turned it over in his mind, thought back to Kawalsky on their fateful mission to Chulak, thought back to Kawalsky's simple refusal to leave Jack and the rest of the team behind--compared that to what he felt staring at Carter on the other side of that damn forcefield--
"So you're saying that if it had been, say, Daniel and Teal'c – that Anise's machine would have disclosed the same - feelings?"
"In a way, yes. I think Teal'c would have refused to leave Daniel – and vice versa."
Grinning slyly, he joked, "I just *knew* that under that cool Jaffa exterior there beat the heart of a sexual beast hot for Daniel and itching to get out."
"Sir, I don't think--"
"Carter? Chill. I get it."
"We could still have dinner ... with you buying, of course."
Daniel walked over to the machine, squatted down and opened it up. A moment later, the Light beckoned.
Daniel tore his gaze away long enough to glance back at the gate. He'd taped himself working and studying, then plugged it into the M.A.L.P. to play at appropriate intervals. He wasn't scheduled to give blood for 48 hours and he hoped that would be enough time. Daniel gave a brief thought to the idea that his plan wouldn't hold water, that maybe he wasn't thinking straight--but what awaited him in the Light, well, he *had* to believe in what he was doing because the alternative--well, hadn't he already stood on his balcony, ready to take that step?
Nodding, Daniel turned away from the gate and all it represented, fixed his eyes on the beautiful, welcoming Light and felt his body being pulled in--
There it was, that quiet buzzing and whoosh, softer than anything he'd experienced going through the gate--and in the blink of an eye--he was in the garden.
Sighing with relief, he pivoted and drank in the beauty of the paradise that had been delivered to him within the Light.
Swaying trees that sparkled in the bright sun, the strange and wonderful birds in rainbow colors winging from branch to branch, their song soothing and musical, and just ahead of him, the pathway of marble flagstones that would lead to the large bubbling fountain. But something - no - *someone* was missing--
"You came back."
Daniel whirled around at the sound of the familiar voice and smiled.
"I said I would. Never leaving again."
The man opposite held out his arms and Daniel Jackson moved into Jack O'Neill's warm embrace.
How could arms feel this good? Or soft warm lips against his temple? Daniel closed his eyes and drifted, content that for now this embrace was enough. "Gone too long--too long." Jack's gentle words, whispered in his ear, broke Daniel from the cradle of warmth he found in the older man's arms and he turned to meet needy lips. The embrace tightened as they kissed deeply, each taking turns with loving tongues and mouths.
Hearing Jack's small whimpers thrumming against the inside of his mouth followed by the feeling of Jack's hands as they traveled up his back, digging under his shirt, skimming lightly over his flesh gave Daniel a sense of belonging that he'd rarely experienced in his life.
This was breathing. This was living.
Daniel shivered with barely contained excitement as he attacked Jack's mouth again and he felt truly free. He was buried so deeply in Jack's mouth that he wouldn't have minded climbing in after his tongue, closing the door after him and staying forever, safe for all time.
"Don't leave, don't go away again, Danny--"
"Never Jack. I'm here to stay this time. I promise."
Jack took him down to the soft thick grass and with low laughter, they tumbled back to lie on their sides facing each other. Both stilled as eyes moved hungrily over the face opposite, lingering on moist lips, slightly parted.
"Clothes," Jack said with his version of a humorous leer.
"Yes," Daniel answered, his expression one of feigned innocence. "I do wear clothes. So do you, Jack."
"Off, Danny--take them *off*," Jack growled.
"Better you should do it," Daniel teased.
"Don't think I won't--" Jack immediately tore at Daniel's shirt and the buttons flew up to land with a light *kerplunk* on the flagstones and with an almost noiseless plop on the grass. He brushed the material back from Daniel's shoulders and as the shirt trapped strong arms, a predatory gleam entered Jack's devious brown eyes--
"Oh, no you don't, Jack. I need to touch you--"
"All in good time, Danny-boy, all in good time."
Daniel felt himself pushed back and then Jack was straddling him and he was laughing as he struggled against his prison of cotton while Jack flew small bombing raids on his mouth. Daniel teased by shaking his head back and forth and more often than not catching sloppy wet kisses on a cheek bone, ear, jaw or his nose. Fortunately Jack's hands were busy rubbing skin and exploring so Daniel could continue to try to avoid the kiss. Then he realized how stupid *that* was and lifted his head to capture Jack's mouth as it flew by. Their lips met again and to a breathy moan, Jack dived in.
As their passion spiraled out of control, Daniel thanked God for the miracle of the Light.
Jack unlocked his front door and pushed his way inside. He eschewed the lights and made his way to the kitchen where the only illumination was from the refrigerator as he opened it and took out a beer. He twisted off the cap, tossed the small metal top over his shoulder and after taking one long swig, he headed out into the living room.
Stretching out on his couch, Jack thought back to his conversation with Sam, a conversation that had continued over dinner--in the mess hall. Okay, not the meal he'd planned, but after admitting that they were both tired, among other things, it had seemed appropriate. And chipped beef on toast? Oh yeah, a great first meal after four weeks of rations. But he was letting his mind skirt the real issues by allowing his thoughts of food to hide where he really needed to go--mentally speaking.
And speaking of food--
Didn't he have some Mallomars in the kitchen? Yes, he was positive that he did. Jack got up, tore through a couple of cupboards and sure enough, found a package. Holding them up triumphantly, he gave out with a loud, 'OH, YEAH!' then headed back to the security of his sofa. Nothing beat Mallomars when a man had to think.
He settled back on the couch and dug in. Okay, so he was missing milk. He had beer, didn't he? Beer and Mallomars. Unbeatable. Not usually together, but hey.
Jack munched and thought, thought and munched. He thought he remembered Mallomars being--munchier. Oh well.
After downing four of the marshmallow treats, he contemplated his ceiling. A full moon was working artistic wonders on the damn thing and wouldn't you know it, Jack O'Neill was watching his ceiling to avoid real thought.
Daniel wouldn't have been surprised. Daniel would have...
Daniel. Didn't he like Mallomars too? Oh, wait, come to think of it, these were *his* Mallomars--Jack ate another one.
//Take that, Daniel Jackson. By the time you get back, I'll have eaten every God damned one of them. So there. //
Jack would have to replace this box at the PX. Daniel'd kill him otherwise, especially since you couldn't *get* Mallomars in town and Jack didn't doubt for a second that the PX stocked Mallomars specifically for a certain archeologist.
As he licked his fingers, Jack decided to run a small mental experiment based on everything he and Carter had discussed. First step in the O'Neill experiment: Trying to visualize Teal'c on the otherside of that force field.
Didn't work. Teal'c was a warrior and Jack would have been loathe to leave his friend, but...
Okay, so it *would* have been different for him if it had been Teal'c instead of Sam. A bit. Anise's little machine wouldn't have been able to trip him up so easily which meant, maybe, that Sam was wrong?
//You're not finished with the experiment yet, Jack me boyo.//
Oh shut up.
Okay, so he'd try again. Um, let's see--how 'bout good old George? Yeah, General Hammond. Lets put him on the other side.
Okay, definitely not the same as with Sam. Duh. But the idea of leaving his commanding officer *was* horrible.
So close--but no cigar. Jack ate another Mallomar.
All right, how about Doc Frasier? Yeah, let's put the Doc on the other side.
Oh, now this was *much* better. Almost the same feeling. Uh, oh. Hold up a minute.
//Jack, you are coming perilously close to being very politically incorrect.//
The vision of Janet Frasier on the other side of the force field popped apart and left Jack alone and with only one option left--Daniel.
The moment of truth. Blue eyes wide with worry--but for Jack, not himself.
"Get out, Jack, NOW. Go."
And Jack? Rooted to the spot. Unable to budge. A fear so great that it paralyzed him. Can't leave him. Can't. Leave. Him.
//You already did, my friend.//
Not the same, not the same.
//The same. Choices have to be made, Colonel.//
"And I can make them. *Have* made them."
With a start, Jack realized he'd spoken out loud. And he *had* made choices. So many choices. Leaving Daniel on Apophis' ship so long ago--
//He was dying, Jackie. And the choice wasn't *leaving* him. If he'd been on the other side of that force field, the choice would have been to *stay* and--die--with him.//
Because he, Jack O'Neill, had feelings for Daniel Jackson. Major feelings. Huge feelings. Gigantic feelings.
Oh, man, Anise would have *loved* that.
Jack looked down at the box of Mallomars in his hand. Four cookies left. Just four. Daniel would want them when he came back. Slowly Jack folded up the package, stood, then carried them back into the kitchen and put them away.
"Does it ever get dark here?"
Jack nuzzled behind Daniel's ear and murmured, "No. Eternal sun. Cool breeze, clouds that sometimes drift across the sky, but always--sun."
"I like that."
They were on their backs in the grass, legs and arms entwined and extremely sticky. Neither man could have cared less. With lips pressed against Daniel's neck, Jack murmured, "You know, there's a lake a few yards from here. Care to join me for a dip?"
"I could go for that, yeah."
Quickly disengaging himself from Daniel, Jack rose easily and reached a hand down. Daniel took it and as he stood, Jack bolted, yelling over his shoulder, "LAST ONE IN'S A ROTTEN EGG!"
What could Daniel do? He took off on a run.
As Daniel followed Jack, he was more than content to bring up the rear--so to speak--and he had absolutely no intention of catching up. The view was too spectacular.
They ran across the grass and as they broke through a stand of ash trees, Daniel caught his first glimpse of the lake, sparkling in the sun, pristine, cool and inviting. He watched delightedly as Jack dove in, surfaced, then began to swim strongly. When Daniel arrived at the shore, he stopped, happy to allow the water to lap gently at his toes while he observed Jack swim and cavort like a seal. When Jack was out about ten yards, he turned and waved, then yelled, "WHATCHA WAITING FOR, CHRISTMAS?"
Daniel shook his head and grinning, yelled back, "I'M HAPPY RIGHT WHERE I AM!"
Proving that the water wasn't too deep, even ten yards out, Jack stood and with hands on slick hips, yelled, "YOU GET THAT CUTE BUTT IN THIS WATER NOW, OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES!"
Undaunted, Daniel yelled back, "COME AND GET ME!"
Even from his spot on the shore, Daniel could see Jack's eyes narrow--he was in for it now. Oh yeah. Jack started back and Daniel waited until the older man stood, his knees visible--and *then* Daniel started running--and laughing. Jack stumbled out of the water and took off after him, muttering dire threats that involved tying Daniel to a bed so Jack could have his wicked way with him. Daniel would have to let him catch him. But in the meantime--Daniel ran laughing over soft grass, the breeze ruffling through his hair, the sun warm on his skin and he prayed for--forever.
The roof. Maybe some answers up there.
Jack got up and headed to his favorite spot and once settled, hand on his telescope, he stared out over the land. Eventually that wasn't enough and he looked to the sky, to the stars.
As he stared up, one question and only one--came to mind: Why had Daniel stayed behind on that planet? He had his recordings of everything, his notes, so why?
Daniel's action was especially puzzling since he hadn't been a loner for quite some time. Over the years, he'd begun to crave company, to enjoy the camaraderie of the team, of the SGC. He enjoyed his nights with Jack, flaked out on the sofa, watching some God-awful Jack-flick or hockey; he loved the times with Teal'c, on Chulac; the weekly poker game; he even enjoyed the few attempts Jack had made to teach him to fish. So why had he *chosen* to stay behind--alone--for no good, discernible reason?
Although, come to think of it--there'd been a whole lot more *aloneness* on Daniel's part lately, but still--there *had* to be a reason and Jack was betting that Doc Frasier would have the answer. Leaving the stars behind, Jack headed back down and to his phone. Two minutes later he was dialing Doctor Janet Frasier and ten seconds later, he was quizzing her.
"I want to know why he stayed, Doc."
The pause on the other end of the phone was too long.
<Colonel O'Neill, why should I know this?>
"He *had* to stay, didn't he?"
<You seem to have all the answers, Colonel>
"All right, but why would you allow him to stay *alone*?"
<He wanted to, Jack>
The slip into his first name told him he'd not asked the right questions--yet.
"He wanted to be alone?"
<So he said. Doctor Jackson stated that he wanted to have some quiet time, that you were getting on each others nerves.>
"Is it safe, Doc?" He'd obviously asked a question that was not only right, but based on the hesitancy in her voice, one she'd hadn't thought of herself.
<Why wouldn't it be?>
"He's still addicted, right? That's why he *had* to stay. So how can you know--"
<Would you have turned it back on if it were you?>
He thought about that and realized the answer was most definitely no. Why would he? But then he wasn't Daniel. And Daniel had almost killed himself.
"Check on him, Doc. Check on him now."
He didn't try to explain because evidently enough of his concern and fear transmitted itself to Janet and she agreed and with some degree of relief, he hung up.
Twenty minutes later, when she called back, his relief died.
A few feet from the edge of the lake, Daniel let Jack catch him. He allowed the soft tackle and Jack's body on his. Lips were touched to the back of his sweaty neck, but just as he closed his eyes in anticipation, he was being hoisted up over Jack's shoulder--fireman style and seconds later, to a truly wicked laugh from Jack, he was hurtling through space to land in the lake.
Sputtering and wiping water from his eyes, he stood to find Jack nearly bent over with laughter while at the same time trying to point with glee. He finally straightened and managed to say around his chuckles, "Told you: *consequences*." Daniel narrowed his eyes. Consequences, eh? Oh, he'd show him consequences all right. With a shrug of nonchalance, Daniel turned and dove--allowing his butt to aim for the stars. He wasn't the least bit surprised when Jack dove in and greedy hands grabbed at his ankles. But no, he wasn't going to let it be that easy, no sir. Daniel dropped his head and started swimming with purpose.
They raced, they dove, they grappled, they wrestled, they laughed, and eventually--Jack won, which meant that the real winner was Daniel--as planned.
As they treaded water, legs wrapped around each other, they kissed again, then went under, exchanged air and came back up, eyes locked and crinkled with mirth.
"Love you, Daniel Jackson."
"Love you, Jack O'Neill."
Jack panicked. It was as simple as that. At Janet's words that Daniel was not responding to their hails, in spite of the M.A.L.P. showing him seated on his cot and writing, Jack had felt the first real edge of fear. Unadulterated, undiluted fear. He'd shot a terse, "I'm on my way" into the phone, then had grabbed his jacket and headed out.
As he drove like a maniac, he tried to figure out how to handle the situation and--Daniel.
"Not too, I hope?"
Daniel turned his head to find himself staring into the pure liquid heat that radiated out from Jack's eyes. He felt himself shiver with the promise of those eyes as he answered softly, "Never too tired. Never."
Kisses rained down on him as Jack covered every square inch of his face before moving further down.
Daniel placed his hands on the side of Jack's face, his fingers moving through the short bristles. Jack suckled at his right nipple before moving to his navel and dipping in his tongue, titillating Daniel and causing him to arch up--
"Whoa, Danny boy, whoa. All in good time."
Then Jack's hands were pushing him back down again and that talented tongue resumed playing. Daniel relaxed, closed his eyes and let Jack have his way. It wasn't a hardship. At all.
"It's a tape," Sam observed in what was for her, a shocked voice.
"Major Carter, are you saying that Doctor Jackson taped this in a deliberate attempt to fool us?"
"I believe so, General." At his arched eyebrow, she hastened to add, "I don't know *why* he did it, but that *is* a tape. Maybe he just wanted privacy..." Sam's voice trailed off as the absurdity of her words hit home. "He's turned on that damn light, General. *That's* why the tape." Hammond turned to face Jack, his frown conveying his concern better than any words.
"Don't ask me how I know, Sir, I just do. Whatever drove him to climb out on his balcony, to even consider suicide--well, a serious underestimation on my part, sir. But it drove him to this."
Hammond gazed past Jack to Doctor Frasier. "Doctor?"
"It's possible, General. Barber may not have been trying to commit suicide when he dove into the gate. He may simply have needed to return so badly that he didn't think through the consequences of his actions. And it's true that Daniel experienced a greater exposure so his reaction could very well be more--pronounced."
Jack, his eyes fixed on the gate, said quietly, "General, I'd like to go back."
Hammond didn't bother to look at O'Neill as he answered. "Go. But take Doctor Frasier with you."
As Jack, Sam and Janet headed down the stairs, General Hammond added, "And this time, smash that damn thing, Colonel."
There was no surprise in going through the gate and finding no Daniel where the M.A.L.P. showed him to be. Nor was there any surprise at finding him sitting cross-legged in front of the light--and completely out of it.
Jack's anger was so intense that he strode over before anyone could react or stop him, opened the hidden drawer, took out his gun and fired five bullets into the thing.
The Light died.
Daniel was certain that he was about to explode. Jack's lips on his dick, the way the man's tongue was lavishing attention on said dick and damn, the soft noises of contentment Jack was making--oh, yeah, Daniel was going to explode and the world would never be the same.
"Jack, God, please..."
Jack lifted his head and grinned, then went back to his devilish task. Daniel began to squirm with the intensity of it, his hips bucking up and into Jack's mouth as the older man's hands skimmed up and down his thighs, Jack's thumbs rubbing deliciously and Daniel could feel his impending orgasm but--but--he *needed* to see Jack's face, needed--
A heart-wrenching jerk, a pull of his body, the feeling of takeoff from the highest peak of a roller-coaster ride and his entire body plummeted down into darkness... "NO!"
The cry was torn from Daniel's very soul and the three people standing over him cringed in pain at the terrible sound. Sam actually took two steps back, her hand flying to her mouth. Jack's legs went weak and he doubted that he'd ever heard such torment in a voice.
Daniel's litany went on and on as he shook his head back and forth. Janet dropped down into a squat before the archeologist, then reached out tentatively and placed her hand on his arm.
"Daniel? Can you hear me?"
Blue eyes stared back at her with a vacancy that sent chills racing up and down her spine. He was still saying "no", repeating it in the same deadly monotone so Janet tried again, raising her voice a bit more. "Daniel? It's Janet. Look at me, Daniel. Can you hear me?"
Daniel stopped in mid-"no", blinked, then blinked again. He shook his head in a motion similar to a dog with fleas, then in the blink of an eye, he was up and immediately falling back down, or at least he would have fallen if Jack hadn't caught him.
"Easy, Daniel, easy does it."
Jack slipped his arm around Daniel's waist and was about to help him down again when Daniel pushed away, stumbled back and with eyes ablaze, shouted, "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?"
Sam, keeping her voice soft, said, "Daniel, you were--you turned back on the device. We had to stop you before it could--you could--" Daniel whirled around and as his face flushed red and his eyes narrowed, he yelled even more loudly, "DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'VE DONE? HE'S WAITING FOR ME! FOR *ME*. I SWORE I'D NEVER LEAVE HIM AGAIN!"
Sam took another involuntary step back.This angry, yelling Daniel was so unbelievable that she found herself actually fearing her friend. Janet, ever the physician, took a tentative step forward and once again reached out to the anguished man. "Daniel, who are you talking about? There's no one else here but us. Just Major Carter, Colonel O'Neill and myself. And we're trying to help you--"
"HELP ME? *HELP* ME? DON'T MAKE ME LAUGH!"
With that he shoved past the doctor, almost knocking her into Sam and fell in front of the damaged controls, fingers reaching out.
This time the yell came from Jack as he jumped in front of Daniel mere seconds before the younger man would have burned his fingers on the still smoking device. As Daniel tumbled back, catching himself by bracing his palms on the ground behind him, his angry glare locked with Jack's.
"Get the fuck away from me and the Light. Now." Daniel's voice was suddenly icy cold, the words clipped out with deadly venom.
"I destroyed it, Daniel. Do you understand? It's destroyed. Gone. No more light. No. More. Fucking. Light."
Daniel shot up and was instantly in Jack's face, his finger poking at Jack's chest.
"You just couldn't stand it, could you? That I'd be happy too? You *had* to destroy that, right? YOU BASTARD!"
With each word, Daniel's finger jabbed, but Jack held his ground. He had absolutely no idea what the fuck Daniel was talking about. But he understood on some level that he mustn't give in to the impulse to take him in his arms and hold so tight that Daniel would *have* to, somehow, come back. Jack *knew that such a move now would serve only to further enrage his friend.
Keeping his voice low and calm, Jack said, "I don't know what you're talking about, Daniel. We're here to help you, not take anything away or keep you from some--something. The light would have killed you, Daniel. Do you understand?"
Daniel's laughter was eerie and chilling.
"Oh, yeah, right. Help me. Sure. How did I miss that? Isn't that what you always do, Jack? Stupid me. And killed me? Don't make me laugh. Oh, wait, you already did."
Jack bit back an angry retort, knowing that this wasn't Daniel speaking but an aberration caused by his addiction. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Janet preparing a hypodermic and he gave an inward sigh of relief.
Confident that Janet would soon have things well in hand, namely a sedated Daniel Jackson, Jack took Daniel's arm and tried to lead him away from the device. That was a big mistake. Really big.
Daniel, in a move that would have normally done Jack proud, took him down with a remarkably strong right cross to the jaw. Jack wheeled away, the back of his legs hitting the pedestal which then threw him forward, down and finally to his knees.
Janet moved quickly then, and as Daniel stood over a wobbly Jack, she plunged the hypo into his neck. Daniel stiffened and as she withdrew the needle, he turned, hand clasped to the spot on his neck.
"Why--" he stumbled and reached out, his face contorted into a terrible expression of pain and loss. He then fell forward and it took both Janet and Sam to catch him before he hit the ground.
"What are we looking at here, Doc?"
"Keep that ice pack in place, Colonel."
Jack deliberately pulled the item away from his jaw and dropped the pack to the ground, then repeated his question.
"What are we looking at?"
Janet's expression told Jack exactly what she thought of his childish move, but didn't stop her from answering.
"I'll know more when I get the results from the blood test. The few hours he spent with the device turned back on will probably mean at least another two weeks or so to now complete the withdrawal, but that's an educated guess. His dopamine levels will tell me more." She was seated beside Daniel's cot, her hand on his arm. She'd just finished taking his vitals and was relieved that they weren't much different from a few days earlier. That was a good sign. She glanced back up at Jack and added wryly, "Of course, the real educated guess is how we're going to deal with his withdrawal now that the device has been destroyed. Good move, Colonel."
"Janet, the colonel only shot and killed the power source to the light matrix. The device itself is alive and well."
Jack gave a little huffing sound as he rolled his eyes at his second and Sam couldn't resist adding, "And to think, it only took five bullets too."
"May I remind you that I'm your commanding officer?"
Looking not in the least chagrined, Carter said smartly, "Yes, sir!"
The lights had been dimmed and both Janet and Sam were finally asleep. Daniel was still out and Jack had pulled his cot next to his friend's and now sat, hand resting on Daniel's shoulder. The quiet of the pleasure palace worked on Jack like a salve as he regarded the sleeping man.
Daniel had slipped into a deep sleep about four hours earlier without ever regaining consciousness. As Jack watched the younger man sleep, he tried to understand what the hell had happened. Damn it, Daniel had seemed so normal while they'd all been stuck in this place and certainly no different from he or Sam. And yet, he must have been planning this--no, scratch that. He couldn't have known that his withdrawal would take longer, that he'd have to stay another couple of days. But he must have wanted to turn the device up, to power the matrix. He must have wanted it from the beginning. Even as he'd been weaned from the addiction, he'd wanted it.
No matter how hard Jack tried, he couldn't wrap his mind around that fact. He'd never wanted to turn it up or get the hologram going again. So why had it been different for Daniel? Could it somehow be tied in with the sarcophagus effect Daniel had dealt with on P3R-636, thanks to that bitch, Princess Shyla?
//Oh, ho, Jack. A little jealousy there?//
No. A *lot* of jealousy there. A Grand Canyon amount of jealously, thank you very much. Back to business. So, could that be what was happening here? Similar addictions, double the reactions? Like a drug addict who'd been clean and suddenly uses again, then quits?
God, he was getting a headache.
Jack rubbed his eyes with his left hand, too afraid to remove his right from Daniel. And why was that, could someone tell him? But he knew why. An unreasonable fear that if he lifted his hand--Daniel would disappear. Would--leave him.
It was time to start over. Daniel and the light matrix. A nice hologram, but nothing more. So what did Daniel see when he looked? Come to think of it, what had he seen when *he'd* gazed on the hologram? Um, like--nothing. Nothing specific anyway. Just nice lights and color, soothing, kinda like gazing into Daniel's eyes, in a way. Of course, there'd been a big difference, namely that when Jack gazed into the light (or more appropriately, Daniel's eyes) he'd received warmth and--and--love, in return. But damn it, the light hadn't *been* Daniel. Only Daniel could be Daniel. And even if those blue eyes of his couldn't gaze out at Jack with that same warmth and love, well, the real thing was better than some dumb old hologram any day of the week.
Which brought Jack right back to square one. What *did* Daniel see in the hologram? And who the hell was waiting for him? And why was it a *he*? And did Janet have any aspirin?
Jack glanced over at Sam and debated waking her up and asking her what *she* had seen in the light, and what the hell? Why not. But that meant removing his hand from Daniel, unless-- He reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple of coins, then tossed one at the sleeping woman. It hit her in the chin. She batted a mythical bug away, then groaned. He tossed the other coin, which hit her cheek. She brushed at it, then opened her eyes.
"Oh, you awake?" Jack asked, as if he hadn't just thrown money at her.
Sam sat up and with a puzzled frown, picked up the two coins: one quarter and a nickel. She stared at them as they rested innocently in her palm, then she gazed about her, eyes finally landing on Jack.
"You seem to have found some money, Major. Lucky you. And as long as you're up, maybe you could tell me something?"
Smirking, Sam pocketed the money, then said, "What, sir?"
"Carter, it was thirty cents, okay?"
She waited, her expression patient.
"Right. Well, What did you see when you looked at the hologram?"
"You woke me for *that*?"
"Me? Wake you? Please. And just answer the question, Major."
Sam rubbed at her face, then gave the question some thought. "I don't think I saw anything, exactly. It was more of--a feeling the lights gave me."
"Just--nice, you know?"
"Major, you're a genius and the best you can come up with is *nice*?"
"Well, in a word--yes." Then she cocked her head and asked, "What about you, Sir? What did *you* see?"
Trying to attain a level of nonchalance, Jack shrugged and said, "Oh, nothing much. Nothing at all really."
"Colonel?" Sam was using her bossy voice and Jack found himself bristling, and answering.
"All right, the light reminds me of--eyes. Looking into someone's eyes."
"Anyone in particular, Sir?"
His nonchalant attitude at near perfection, Jack shook his head and smiled wryly. And like a good soldier, he knew when he'd failed. Sam's gaze traveled from Jack, down to Jack's hand on Daniel's shoulder, then back up to Jack.
"Right, Sir. No one in particular. Understood. May I go back to sleep now?"
"You may, Major."
"You won't be throwing me anymore money?"
Jack huffed and Sam dropped back down, rolled over on her side, facing *away* from Jack and just when he thought she was asleep, he heard her say, "Next time, throw the big bucks, Sir."
Daniel opened his eyes and knew exactly where he was--and where he wasn't. The ache in his gut burned, but as he blinked up at the ceiling, he acknowledged the truth; he would not be going back--ever.
For a moment, the totality of his loss threatened to overwhelm him, but then a voice, *the* voice, staved off the insanity.
Daniel turned and found himself staring at Jack. The here and now Jack, not *his* Jack. But--Jack.
"Like it? Had it for over 45 years. A little worn around the edges, but overall, holding up well."
"I mean," Daniel pointed at the bruise on Jack's jaw, "that, you asshole."
"Ooh, you are cranky in the morning, aren't you? And what, you don't like my new jaw?"
"Yes, you devil, you did. And where *have* you been hiding that move, huh?"
Daniel turned his face away from his friend's and muttered, "Sorry, Jack."
"Hey, no problemo, buddy."
Slowly, and somewhat groggily, Daniel got up, swung his legs over the edge of the cot and swiped a hand over his face, then rubbed at his burning eyes. God, his mouth felt like cotton.
"Doc Frasier had to sedate you, Daniel."
"That explains my tongue and the furry green things growing on it."
"Ooh, let me see, let me see."
"You are so weird, Jack."
"Excuse me? I am a colonel in the United States Air Force, I am *not* weird."
"Speaking as a civilian, yes you are."
"A civilian under my command, Danny boy."
"And you're still weird."
"I get no respect."
Daniel decided to end the conversation by trying to stand. He rose shakily to his feet, swayed, but remained standing. He turned and spied the two other cots.
"Still here," he said in a shocked tone.
Jack looked over his shoulder and nodded. "Yep, still here and still asleep."
"Jack, neither one of them are still asleep. Some colonel you are."
At Daniel's surprising words, Janet opened her eyes as did Sam, who spoke first. "Sorry, Daniel. I guess, I mean--" she quickly sat up and ran a hand through her short hair as she gazed up at him. "I guess we just wanted to give you some--"
"Privacy," Janet finished for her.
Indicating Jack, Daniel asked, "Then how do you explain *him*?"
Smiling at her teammate's attempt at humor, given all that he'd experienced, Sam replied, "I never try, Daniel. You know that."
Janet rose and just before slipping into her doctor-knows-best mode, she added, "No one can explain Colonel O'Neill, Daniel. No one."
"Oh, man, see what I mean? I get no respect."
The banter gave the appearance that everything was normal, but no one was fooled. The haunted look was front and center, swimming in the blue depths of Daniel's eyes. But at least they were hitting a semblance of normality. Straightening her shoulders, Janet said crisply, "All right, Doctor Jackson, let me take a look at you this morning."
"Okay, so how is he?"
Janet rubbed the back of her neck and glanced back at Daniel, who was sitting on the floor, back against a wall, head in hands. Beside him, Sam sat, her hand on his knee.
"I'm worried about his blood pressure, Colonel. In the last few months, Daniel's had quite a few borderline--"
"Whoa, Doc. Borderline? Explain."
"Okay, basically, as a physician, if one of you has a reading of 140 over 90, I start getting concerned. But a reading of 160 over 90 and you don't jump."
"Daniel had several readings that came perilously close to getting him grounded. Now normally, in the mornings, an individual's pressure will be at its lowest and that's what I expected to find today, especially having been sedated. But what I got was a reading of 177 over 100. Not good, Colonel, not good at all."
"But, is it dangerous?"
"It certainly could be, yes. And again, when you consider that I took the reading almost immediately after he awoke *and* that he'd been sedated, yes, it's dangerous."
Jack stared at the floor and tried to get his mind around this new piece of information regarding his friend. But he needed--perspective.
"All right. So what were his readings during the last two weeks? And compared to Major Carter and myself?"
"For him, of late, about normal. Yours, Colonel, went from one-fifty over eighty to one-thirty over fifty-five. For a man your age and in your physical condition, one-thirty over fifty is fine. Sam's readings, on the other hand, rarely varied. She's almost always a fairly regular one twenty-five over forty-five."
"Gee, why am I not surprised? And am I understanding correctly that you don't think the addiction is responsible? That his few hours in front of that damn machine isn't the cause?"
"I'm sure it contributed, but no, that's only a small part of the problem here."
"Okay, so how much longer is he gonna have to stay? And what do we *do* about the pressure problem?"
"As I said before, as soon as I have his dopamine levels, I can answer question one, and as to the BP problem, I'm going to take more readings over the next forty-eight hours and based on what happens, I'll make adecision."
Jack gave a little wiggle of his head and arched his eyebrows.
"Medication, Jack. If the readings remain high, I'll place him on medication for immediacy. But then we'll have to find out *why*."
"And everything else? How is he, otherwise?"
"Underweight, exhausted, embarrassed, a bit angry--shall I go on?"
"No, thanks. I get it. So what can we do *now*, to help?"
"I don't know, Colonel. I just don't know."
Daniel lifted his head from his hands and the first thing he spotted was Jack, conferring with Janet. He groaned and put his head back down.
"Daniel? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Sam. Just dandy." Then a terrible thought struck him and he lifted his head again and stared at Carter.
"Tell me you, Jack and now Janet are okay? You didn't--I mean, because of me--"
"We're fine, Danny."
"You're lying. You're stuck now, right?"
"No, Doctor Jackson, we're not. Not the way you mean."
Daniel glanced up to find that he and Sam had been joined by Jack and Janet. Weren't they just the perfect foursome? He stomped down on his sick humor and asked, "So the device being back on isn't going to cause--isn't going to harm--"
"We'll be fine in a couple of days at the most," Janet responded, her voice holding as much conviction as possible.
Daniel dropped his head down and focusing on his hands, said, more to himself than to anyone else, "Well, that's something anyway."
This was not fun. Jack gazed around him and shook his head. Not fun at all. He was used to a studious Danny, mind puzzling over some strange writings on walls and how was it that *only* Daniel could read them anyway? So what if he spoke twenty-three languages? Jack spoke--three, if you counted pig Latin. And he counted it. And where was bustling Sam? The woman who would spend hours over some device, just before accidentally setting it off because it would turn out to be "the most destructive weapon known to man" and therefore Jack *couldn't* be allowed to bring it home to papa?
And how 'bout Teal'c? He should be standing guard over Daniel, one eyebrow raised theatrically after hearing one of Jack's lame jokes.
Okay, he did *have* Daniel and Sam. But Daniel was still seated on the floor, head in hands, and Sam was on her cot pretending to read when what she was really doing was peeking at Daniel over the rim of her book.
Jack looked up and found himself staring into the eyes of Doctor Frasier. Oh, yeah, he also had her in the Goaul'd pleasure palace. His own mama Hitler. He sighed and quickly rose to his feet.
"I have the results on Daniel's blood test, Colonel. He's going to need another week."
"Maybe two days, tops. And I've already brought General Hammond up to speed and took the liberty of requesting certain--items."
"Some of his," Janet shot a look at Daniel, "favorite foods, Colonel. And several cans of a dietary supplement that will help increase his appetite and provide the vitamins and minerals his body currently requires."
"I don't suppose you thought of pizza and beer for me?"
"I must have forgotten that, Colonel."
"Right." Then he really *looked* at Janet and suddenly, he not only knew that there was more, but that he would, most certainly, not like it.
"Okay, give it up, Doc."
"I suggested to General Hammond that Doctor MacKenzie should join us, Colonel." "Tell me good old George said no? Just tell me that, Doc."
"He's taking it under advisement."
"Well, let me just go help him decide and advise--*against* sending that shrink." He started to turn away, but Janet grabbed his arm.
"Colonel, Daniel needs help and Doctor Mackenzie--"
"Wouldn't know how to help Daniel if--" he stopped and took several deep breaths. No point in losing it now. Much better to save losing it for later.
"Janet, do we both agree that something is going on with our favorite archeologist?"
Nodding suspiciously, Janet said, "Yes."
"And do we both agree that our previous run-ins with Doctor Mackenzie haven't been exactly stellar? That in fact, he proved to be *no* help whatsoever in the whole Hathor thing? Let alone the Machello fun and games?"
"Jack, you're being--"
"Unfair? Untruthful? Janet, we both know what he thinks of the Gate, of what it can do to us, and this is the man *you* want helping Daniel? And may I remind you of how long it took Daniel to trust *you* again?"
Janet's face flushed, but she squared her shoulders and asked, "Do you have a better suggestion, *Colonel*?"
"Yes, I do, now that you ask. When you and Sam are free of," he waved his hand aimlessly about, "this whole thing, you two go home and *I* stay. *I* help Daniel."
"You're hardly trained--"
"Who knows him better?"
"I'm getting a crick in my neck talking to you, Colonel. I'll--take it under advisement."
"Cancel MacKenzie, Janet. Now."
She'd turned away but at Jack's words, she paused, nodded slowly, then walked over, picked up the BP cuff and headed over to Daniel.
"So how ya feeling?"
Daniel lifted his head and as Jack slid down beside him, he gave him a fairly bleak look.
"Well, not great, Jack. Not great at all."
"Yeah, well, that makes sense. But Doc Frasier will fix you up and pretty soon, everything will be back to normal."
"They're gonna be sending some of your favorite foods through shortly, that should cheer you up. You get lots of good stuff while Sam, Janet and I eat rations."
"Now *that* really makes me feel better. Thanks for the pep talk."
"My pleasure. I live to serve."
Daniel rested his head back and closed his eyes. "I suppose you think I'm a complete idiot now--oh, wait, been there, done that. I *am* a complete idiot."
"Don't be so hard on yourself, Daniel. You're not a *complete* idiot."
"Jack, do me a favor? Go away."
"Daniel? There's no where to go, you know?"
"It's a big place."
"Yeah and a place I now know from top to bottom. There. Is. No. Place.To. Go."
"Go away from *here* then."
"But I *like* here and I *like* cheering you up. I'm so good at it."
Jack mentally high-fived himself as Daniel's lips twitched.
"Yeah, cheering me up has always been your strong suit, Jack. Not."
The smile was almost there.
"Hey, I'm a great cheerer-upper. The best. They didn't make me a colonel for nothing, you know."
The smile was realized.
"Yes, they did."
"Oh, yeah, sure, you say that now, but just wait a week when my cheering up abilities have you rolling on the floor."
As quickly as it had come, the smile vanished and blue eyes shot open to stare at Jack.
"Janet said two days for you, her and Sam. Not a week."
"And they're going home in two days--but I'm staying with you, Danny-boy."
In one fluid motion, Daniel was on his feet, eyes blazing. "Oh no you're not, Jack. If someone has to stay and baby-sit, fine, send a medic or--or--*somebody*, but not you. NOT YOU."
Holding in his concern, Jack peered up at Daniel and just smiled.
In a much more calm tone, Daniel said, "No way, Jack. No way. This is not your job. Go home, take Loran to that hockey game, go fishing, but do *not* stay here."
"I'm staying, Daniel, and it *is* my job."
Eyes going steely blue, Daniel threw back, "Oh, yeah? So why wasn't it your job the first time around, huh? I can't turn the damn thing back on, you took care of that--permanently. So why the big need to stay *this* time, Jack? Tell me that."
"I made a mistake first go 'round, but not this time, okay? I should have stayed."
Jack was acutely aware of both Sam and Janet and he knew Janet was watching carefully. If he blew it, Daniel would be dealing with MacKenzie or someone else of his ilk. He *had* to get Daniel to accept him.
"Wrong. You shouldn't have stayed then and you don't need to stay now."
"Yes, I do, Daniel. Yes, I do." Then he rose slowly and looked Daniel square in the eye. "I'm staying because--I want to. Need to. You're my friend, Daniel and I'm going to be with you this time--all the way."
Something flickered in the depths of Daniel's eyes, then it was gone, but left in its stead was, acceptance. Jack breathed a sigh of relief and started to motion to Daniel to sit back down but Daniel shook his head.
"No, no, I'm--I need--a walk. I'm going to take a short walk."
"All right. And when you get back, Janet will take your blood pressure again which I just *know* thrills you no end. Damn kinky if you ask me."
"I didn't, Jack." Daniel turned away and started walking toward the hall that led to some of the bedrooms, but he paused and Jack just caught his faint, "Thank you, Jack."
"You're welcome, Daniel."
Daniel walked slowly down the hall and tried to sort through his feelings, both physical and mental. Physically, he felt like a truck load of shit. His head was pounding, his heart was beating double time, he'd love to upchuck and he craved sleep almost as much as he wanted--needed--the damn light. Needed--Jack. *His* Jack. Which brought him to his mental feelings. Gee whiz.
His steps slowed as he closed his eyes and tried to recapture the sun, the grass and Jack's arms--
The flood of memories nearly overwhelmed him and he swayed, reached out with one hand and braced himself against the wall. This was no good. Daniel tried to staunch the flow of memories because he knew that Jack was waiting for him, expecting him back and God damn it, that wasn't going to happen, was it? Jack was out *there*, maybe even now, searching for him, yet here Daniel stood with no way of ever returning.
The ache in his gut grew, as he pictured Jack's pain and confusion at suddenly having Daniel torn from his arms. Daniel faced the wall and in frustration, began to knock his head lightly against the cool tile. He knew tears were flowing and he couldn't stop them. All he wanted was to feel Jack's arms around him again, to see those dark eyes focused solely on him, to see the love, the affection, the--need.
Daniel froze momentarily, then lifted his head from the wall as cold fingers gripped his heart.
"OH, FUCK," his mind screamed. What was happening now was no different than with Shyla. Which meant that there was no garden, no lake--no Jack loving him. There was only his stupid, juvenile, pitying, pathetic, fucking need.
Could he never get anything right?
Like a rat caught in a trap, Daniel looked frantically about, spotted a dark alcove a few feet away, and hurried over. He sunk down as far into the darkness as he could, wrapped his arms around his knees and resting his head down, he hid.
Jack was pacing and throwing the occasional worried glance at the hall down which Daniel had disappeared. It had been over forty minutes and the only good thing about Daniel's continued absence was that the hall he'd chosen had no exit to the outside.
"I know, Carter. I know."
"Maybe I should go after him?"
"Carter, if Daniel isn't back in ten, *I'm* going after him and he won't like it when I find him."
"Don't worry, I won't kick his ass too hard or too far."
"Colonel, we both know you won't kick his ass at all."
"There's always a first time, Major."
Ten minutes later, Jack had taken all the waiting that he was going to. It was time to find his errant archaeologist.
Sam scrambled to her feet and with a nod from Janet, stepped to Jack's side.
Daniel's headache was worse. Maybe he should lie down?
"Any sign of him, Carter?"
"None. He can't have just disappeared, Sir."
Jack stood in the corridor shaking his head. Carter was right, Daniel couldn't have disappeared. Could he? Maybe they'd been missing something? Maybe there *was* someone else here--
No, that was ridiculous. Daniel was here, they'd just not spotted him yet. He flicked on his flashlight, this end of the hall being the darkest, and let it play along the wall and into the recesses of the corridor.
There--in the corner, fingers?
But Jack was moving quickly toward the alcove and the pale hand--
Jack put the flashlight down and reached in, placing his hands under Daniel's shoulders. He pulled gently, finally receiving some assistance from Sam, who'd dropped down beside him.
"I don't know, but he's--" Jack's voice trailed off as he maneuvered Daniel into his arms and rested two fingers against the younger man's carotid artery. With a sigh of relief, he said, "He's alive. Go get Janet. Please."
Nodding, Sam scrambled to her feet and took off on a run. As she disappeared around the corner, Jack ran a finger across Daniel's cheek, then down to his jaw. "Aw, Danny, what have you done?"
The three of them stood a few feet from where Daniel lay on his cot.
Jack, his eyes on the sleeping man, said, "So what happened?"
"His BP was 198 over 112, Jack. That means we're looking at what's called a hypertension urgency."
Okay, that was, what, the second time Janet had slipped and used his first name? Not good, which meant that this was very bad.
"I take it that one ninety-eight--"
"Is very bad, yes. I have to get his pressure down now. I've already ordered a drug called Captopril which should lower it appreciably. I'll follow it up with a relaxant to keep him calm and then we'll monitor and pray for the best."
"But what does it *mean*, Doc?"
Janet closed her eyes, sighed, then as she opened them and looked up at O'Neill, she said in a tired voice, "Colonel, we're dealing with hypertension with no discernible cause. When Daniel first started having abnormal readings, I ruled out any physical malady such as kidney disease. And let's face it, Colonel, other than Daniel's habit of working too long and too hard, and his allergies, he's the model of health. Which means that we're dealing with--"
Janet's gaze moved to Sam as she nodded. "I'd say so, Major. Stress complicated by the addiction."
With his eyes on Daniel, Jack said quietly, "Or the addiction complicated by stress--"
The pounding was gone and Daniel felt as though he were floating. It felt--nice. Maybe that meant--
He opened his eyes to see concerned brown ones staring back at him. A slow grin spread across Daniel's face as he whispered, "Jack."
"Hey, Danny, glad to see you back among the living."
Another face swam before Daniel's eyes and he squinted, then recognized--Sam. The smile faded.
He was in the palace, not the garden and the man seated beside him was Jack but not *his* Jack. He groaned slightly, then let his eyes slide shut.
"That's it, Daniel, go back to sleep."
The pat on his arm wasn't the touch he so desperately needed.
Voices. Whispering but close enough to hear.
"--it's working, his pressure is down to a manageable range."
"What happens now?"
"I continue to monitor him. When he wakes up, I need to ask him--"
Daniel shut them out and drifted away once again.
Daniel was awake, but kept his eyes closed. He was getting tired of waking up to concerned glances.
A hand brushed across his forehead, a heavy hand, calloused--definitely *not* Sam or Janet. Which meant--Jack. Daniel sighed heavily, turned his head, opened his eyes and asked the man once again seated next to him, "What did I do this time?"
Sensing that he'd better not ask how Daniel felt, Jack said honestly, "Nothing. You went for a walk and lost consciousness. Typical Doctor Jackson stuff."
Daniel frowned, trying to remember--
Then he did. Fuck.
"You were wrong, Jack," he said in a hopeless tone. "I am a *complete* idiot."
"I need to know how you were feeling before you--"
"Before I took my little nap in a dark corner?"
Janet nodded as she shrugged helplessly.
"I remember--a headache. It was driving me crazy." He held up a hand and addressed Jack, "Don't say it, Jack. I know, not a very long trip."
Jack held up both *his* hands as he shook his head. "Hey, I'm innocent.
I wasn't going to say a thing. But as long as *you* did--"
"Children?" Janet interrupted. "I'm not done yet."
Jack, looking appropriately chastised, backed off. Daniel's cheeks went dusky red.
"Daniel, did you feel any nausea? Dizziness?"
"Better. No headache. Feel kinda--nice, actually."
"Good, good. Your BP is down to 140 over 90 and while that's still high, it's a vast improvement." Janet rested her hand on his and said gently, "Why don't you go back to sleep and when you wake up, we'll try some soup?"
Daniel gazed at the faces around him and nodded. He felt like a recalcitrant child that everyone had to be careful around. He didn't like it. But he was still tired and another nap would at least keep him from seeing their expressions. Except--
"Why didn't any of this happen during the last two weeks?"
"We don't know, Daniel. It may simply be that this last bout with the--device--"
"I get it." He looked at each of them again and added, "Look, I'm--sorry. I--I'm--"
"It's okay, Danny," Sam soothed.
He didn't believe her for a second, but he nodded and closed his eyes. He couldn't afford to rock the boat any more this trip, no sir. Besides, now that he knew the truth, he owed them his cooperation.
The next forty-eight hours passed relatively event free. Daniel did everything he was ordered by Doctor Frasier to do; including eating, sleeping and taking a series of medications, among them: vitamins and a mild relaxant. By the time Janet's and Sam's blood showed normal dopamine levels, Daniel's blood pressure was down and holding fairly steady at 140 over 80. Still not good, but as Janet had discussed with Jack, the readings should improve as the addiction waned.
Daniel had been such a model patient over the last hours that Janet had given in completely and Jack would indeed remain behind. He'd become versed in taking and checking Daniel's blood pressure and in the simple task of, as Daniel so dryly put it, "blood letting." Now Janet and Sam stood before the gate, ready to go through, both wanting desperately to stay.
"--at least twice a day, Colonel--"
"Doc? I got it. Go. I'll be in touch."
Janet scowled, which on her looked pretty fierce. "Very humorous, Colonel. In touch. You'll be checking in with me no less than three times a day or so help me--"
"Doc? Trust me when I say that after years of fighting creatures that would put hair on *your* chest, you're still the last person I want to tangle with under any circumstances."
"I knew you'd risen to the rank of colonel for a very good reason, Sir."
The snort behind her caused her to turn and face Daniel who was dramatically rolling his eyes heavenward.
"And as for you, Doctor Jackson? So help me, if you so much as *think* about not doing as Jack instructs--"
Smiling angelically, Daniel said, "Now you *know* that I *always* do exactly what Jack tells me to do, Janet. Every, single time. Without question."
This time the snort came from Jack. And Sam.
Looking not the least bit abashed, Daniel waved a hand and said, "Yes, well. Like Jack said, 'go.'"
"On that note," Sam said with false cheer, "Doctor Frasier and I say farewell and see you both home and safe in a few days."
For a moment, all four stood awkwardly, staring at one another, but finally Sam began dialing home and minutes later, she and Janet stepped through the gate.
As the wormhole evaporated and they were alone, Jack turned to Daniel and waggling an eyebrow, said, "So, buddy, what say we check out that strip joint downtown?"
Eyes still on the gate, Daniel shook his head and said, "Nah, I'm thinking mud wrestling."
*Thump, thump, thump*
*Thump, thump, thump*
Daniel looked up from the book currently sitting on his chest and watched the ball bounce its way back to Jack--who immediately threw it at the wall again.
*Thump, thump, thump*
"Bored, are we?"
"Why do you say that?"
"Gee, I don't know, Jack. You're sitting on the floor and bouncing a red ball against the wall."
"Hey, there isn't that much to do, you know?"
"Jack, it's only been fifteen minutes since Sam and Janet left."
"Who knew I'd miss 'em so much?"
Daniel closed his eyes and let the book drop forward and close. "Jack, call. It would be so simple to send a nurse or airman or something. Just call, all right?"
"I'm staying, Daniel."
"Don't be an ass."
"Can you call your superior officer an ass?"
"As a civilian, yes."
Eyes still closed, Daniel added, "Although, you should know, *if* I were in the military, I'd still call you an ass."
"That's okay, Danny, I'd still *be* an ass."
Jack tossed the ball again and tried to figure out how to help his friend. What could he ask to get the ball rolling (no pun intended--exactly), to get Daniel to spill his guts?
As the ball thudded back to him, so did an idea.
"Hey, Danny, did I tell you what I saw in the light?"
Jack, in his attempt to sound as though he were simply making conversation, completely missed the tensing of Daniel's muscles and the way his jaw clenched.
"My guess would be--naked women on skates, playing hockey."
"No, *that's* what I see when you give me one your lectures."
"Well, don't you want to know what I saw?"
"Not really, Jack. That's between you and your priest."
"Oh, fer cryin' out loud." Jack jumped to his feet and strode to his cot. He sat down facing Daniel and gave his friend a shove. "Come on, you're dying to know. Ask me."
"I am not dying to know, Jack."
"Sure you are. You're a scientist. I'm surprised you didn't ask Sam and I. But now, here's your chance."
Daniel tilted back his head and cupped his mouth. "HEY, SAM, WHAT DID YOU SEE WHEN YOU LOOKED AT THE LIGHT?" After a moment, he shrugged. "Gee, guess she didn't hear me. Oh, well. Guess I'll never know."
"Uh, Daniel? Me." Jack thumped his chest. "Ask me now."
"But I don't *want* to know what *you* saw, Jack."
"Well, since you asked: I saw eyes."
"I didn't ask--" Daniel blinked open his eyes and stared at Jack.
"You saw *what*?"
"Eyes." Looking very superior, Jack changed position and rested his back against the wall. "I saw eyes."
"Oh, that was good, Daniel. *I see*. Yuck, yuck."
Daniel grimaced and went back to his book. Jack started tossing the ball into the air. After ten catches, he said offhandedly, "Blue eyes."
The book was slammed shut. Daniel swung his legs over the edge of the cot, then stood."I'm going for a walk."
Dropping the ball on the blanket, Jack jumped to his feet.
"What a good idea. Let's go."
"Alone. I'm going for a walk--alone."
"Oh, I don't think so, Danny. You remember the last time? I have strict orders. Where you go, I go."
"Fine," Daniel said tersely. "I'm gonna take a leak. Care to join me?"
Jack stepped to Daniel's side and said, "You know, you're supposed to be a whole lot more relaxed than this."
Daniel gave Jack an odd look, then said dryly, "I'm just gonna take a leak, not slit my wrists."
With that, he headed to one of the many ornate bathrooms.
Jack watched the rigid back walk away from him. Okay, that had *not*gone well.
Slit his wrists?
*Slit* his wrists?
Jack rubbed a hand over his face. God damn it to hell.
Daniel splashed water over his face, then grabbed one of the towels they'd put in the bathrooms and scrubbed viciously. When his face was dry, he stared at his reflection. He didn't look overly--good. Or healthy. His eyes looked sunken and surrounded by dark circles. His skin was--
Not going there. Just--not going there.
"You're the ass, Doctor Jackson," he said to the man staring back at him.
He'd wanted Jack so badly that it had become a physical ache. He'd wanted the world his mind had created, thanks to the pleasure palace, so deeply that he'd been willing to turn the light matrix back on and risk his life to be with that phantom Jack. All of which made him a fool. And a dangerous one at that.
And now he was stuck with Jack--the *real* Jack--for at least three more days, maybe more. Jack, the man who'd seen only Sam's eyes in the light.
Daniel turned away from the mirror and started back to the main room.
Jack was just popping the top off one of the cans of "goop" as Daniel called it, when he came back from the bathroom. Jack held it out and Daniel ignored it.
"Now, now, you know Mama Hitler will skin me alive if you don't drink this on schedule. Take it, Daniel."
Remembering the reflection that had stared back at him, Daniel turned around, took the can and downed it in one motion. When it was empty, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and dropped the can into the recycle storage container.
"Yeah, I am. Now this," and he held out a handful of pills.
Daniel looked at the capsules then at the empty can. Sighing dramatically, he took the pills, threw back his head and tossed them down. Swallowing, he gave a little shudder, then dropped onto the cot.
"Do I have permission to take a nap, O Fearless Leader?"
Daniel flipped him off before rolling over onto his side--away from Jack--and closing his eyes.
Jack stood over his sleeping friend and watched the gentle rise and fall of Daniel's chest. Day three and all was not well. He'd accomplished exactly--bupkis. Maybe Doc Frasier was right--maybe Daniel needed professional help. Someone a bit more removed from everything and who could listen and care for him--not that Jack didn't care--he cared too much.
Or maybe Daniel just needed someone to be forthright and honest and to stop pulling punches and start throwing them, verbally speaking. Could he do it? Could he get down and dirty with Daniel? Without--giving everything away?
No, he couldn't. But he was the best man for the job so if everything came out, so be it. When they went through the gate in a few more days, Daniel would receive a clean bill of physical and mental health from Frasier or his name wasn't Jack O'Neill.
Jack lifted up his dog tags, read them upside down, then with a wry grin, let them drop. Always a wise idea to double check one's facts. He returned to his cot, sat, and contented himself with watching Daniel sleep. He was pretty sure that by the end of their internment, he'd be an expert Danielwatcher.
The dream was reality and Daniel drifted in Jack's arms. Gentle words, soft caresses and sweet kisses enveloped him in their warm embrace. If he could just stay--
Jack stared at the ceiling. He knew day three was over, that it was early morning of day four. Earlier, Daniel had awakened only long enough to eat some soup, then he'd gone back to sleep and Jack had found himself almost glad. It allowed him more time to figure out how to deal, how to *be* forthright and honest.
And as long as he was going to be honest, maybe he should start with himself? Like, when had things gone south between he and Daniel, anyway? And when, exactly, had he fallen in love with Daniel? Oh, hey, that was good one. Let's spend some time with that question.
Okay, so when?
Jack rolled over on his side to face Daniel and as he watched the archeologist's face, easy and young in sleep, he tried to pinpoint the moment or the day, or the second or the hour, that it had happened.
And as his mind drifted, he realized that it *hadn't* happened in a moment or a second or an hour, but rather, had been a slow, *over time* process. He hadn't just awakened one morning and thought, "Hey, I love Daniel Jackson," no, it had probably started something like, "You know, this guy ain't so bad after all and maybe he'd like to go to a hockey game?"
Jack smiled and reached out a hand to Daniel. He brushed his palm over the soft, short hair, then down the stubbled cheek. Finally retreating, he let his eyes take their fill.
Daniel Jackson was a beautiful man, but then, Jack had noticed that right away, first time he'd set eyes on him. But he'd been mostly dead inside and Daniel's looks had registered on a part of his brain that simply catalogued and stored. But in the year after leaving Abydos, and once he and Sara had made the decision to divorce, he'd felt parts of himself come alive again.
He'd started looking around and amazingly enough, his mind had taken his first glance at Daniel Jackson out of storage. He'd held that vision up and knowing that it was unattainable, had simply let it be a guide.
Jack had enjoyed the next months on a purely physical level. Without the constraints of being in the military to hamper him, he no longer had to settle for top secret encounters. But every man he'd been with had been compared to a nerdy, geeky, allergy-ridden scientist. And while the months had been--fun, the men he'd been with had fallen short.
Then life took another turn and he found himself once again deep within Cheyenne Mountain and tossing a Kleenex box through the gate. And the box came back.
SG-1 had been created, he had Daniel back, but now it was Daniel with a wife and to make matters worse, he was on a mission to rescue her. Which again left Jack appreciating Daniel from that little compartment in his brain that simply acknowledged good looking men or women. Friendship could blossom, but any other feelings had to be nicely tucked away and pushed back as far as possible.
But time and propinquity worked against him, eroded all those nice, safe mental compartments. And thanks to that erosion, Daniel, the man that might enjoy hockey, became, over time, the man who might enjoy having Jack's mouth around his dick. Might enjoy waking up with Jack snoring beside him. Might enjoy eternity with Jack O'Neill.
"Could you, Danny boy?" Jack whispered into the dark. "Could you enjoy eternity with me?"
"Would you hold still? How am I supposed to do this if you keep wiggling?"
"You're doing it wrong, Jack."
"No, I'm not. Just stop *moving*."
Daniel huffed a bit, then turned his arm so that the inside faced up. "Geesh, Jack. How many times did Janet show you this?"
"Shut up. I'm pumping."
Daniel shut up.
A few seconds later, Jack nodded. "Not bad. 140 over 75. The doc will be pleased."
Jack patted Daniel on the top of his head, took off the stethoscope and unrolled the cuff, folded it up and put it back in the kit. Then he took out the paraphernalia for taking blood and smiled at Daniel's scrunched up face.
"You're starting to enjoy this way too much, Jack."
Grinning evilly, Jack said, "Yeah, I know." He then swabbed Daniel's skin, wrapped the rubbing tubing around his forearm, then commanded, "Make a fist." As Daniel did, Jack felt for the vein. When he found it, he took the syringe, inserted it just under the skin and undid the tubing. Blood began to fill the vial and when full, Jack pulled out the needle. He stuck a ball of cotton on the small prick and as Daniel bent his arm back, Jack popped the vial, capped it and placed it in the medical box along with the morning's medical report on Daniel.
"At least your blood is still red, Daniel."
"Such bedside manners."
Jack grinned, then walked to the M.A.L.P. to contact base. When Janet's face appeared, he said, "The latest is on its way, Doc. Daniel's BP was 140 over 75."
The screen wavered a bit, but Janet's voice came over loud and clear.
<That's good news, Colonel. As soon as I have the blood results, I'll let you know. And there's someone here who'd like to say hello>
Janet stepped away and Teal'c's face came into view.
<Colonel O'Neill, it is good to see you. How is DanielJackson?>
Daniel, at hearing Teal'c's voice, immediately stood and shouldered Jack aside. "*I'm* fine, Teal'c. How are things on Chulak?"
<They are fine as well, DanielJackson. I am sorry to hear that you must remain on P4X-347. You are improving?>
"Teal'c, I'm stuck here with Jack. Does that answer your question?"
One eyebrow rose as Teal'c answered.
Jack shouldered *his* way back into view and said indignantly, "Hey, *I'm* stuck here with Daniel."
<You are, Colonel O'Neill. My condolences to DanielJackson>
"Gee, it's been a pleasure talking with you, Teal'c. Tell me you have someplace to go now?"
<I have no place that I must be, O'Neill. I am at your disposal.>
"Yes, well, it's been nice talking with ya, Teal'c. O'Neill out."
Jack disconnected, harrumphed loudly, then said, "How 'bout a game of checkers?"
Blue eyes stared back at him and the expression on Daniel's face said that he hadn't been fooled.
"Why did you do that, Jack? You could have traded places with Teal'c."
"Excuse me, but haven't we had this discussion already? It's getting old, Daniel."
"God, but you're stubborn bastard."
Jack raised his eyebrow in a nice imitation of Teal'c. "Shame on you, Doctor Jackson. Such language."
"Fuck you, Jack."
"You're not going to get me mad, Daniel. We both know this isn't really you, so give it up."
"Not really me? I'm on a pink pill that keeps me calm, Jack. The withdrawal isn't affecting me now and we both know it. I repeat: Fuck you."
"Uh-oh, I get it. This is a new tactic, right? Get Jack so fed up that he leaves and lets Teal'c take his place? Pul-eeze. That is beneath you, Daniel."
Daniel's eyes narrowed dangerously and Jack gave a fleeting thought to the fact that maybe he'd just pushed a bit too hard.
"You know what, Jack? I'm going--outside."
Jack's jaw dropped. Daniel shoved his way past him and started for the way out. Without thinking, Jack reached out and grabbed Daniel's arm.
"Listen up, Mister. You're not going anywhere. Understood? And you're definitely *not* going outside."
"Don't be an ass. We both know that at this stage, a few minutes outside is tolerable. I'm going."
Daniel yanked his arm away and started walking. Jack let him get halfway, then said, "What did you see in the light, Daniel? And who is *he*?"
Slowly Daniel turned and faced Jack. The nerve at his temple was jumping and his jaw was clenched tight.
"What I saw or didn't see in that fucking light is none of your business, *Colonel O'Neill*."
"Wrong. It's very much my business. You're a member of SG-1 and anything that affects how you do your job, is my business."
"You know, I can take care of that rather easily and with only two words: I quit."
This time it was Jack's eyes that narrowed. He took the necessary steps to bring him face to face with his friend and in a voice hard as granite, said, "No you *won't* quit, Jackson. Is that clear?"
The tension between the two men could have lit a match. Angry energy flew between them, almost visible, crackling and shimmering.
"Consider it already done," Daniel challenged.
"Resignation refused. Denied. And what--or *who*--did you see in the motherfucking light?" The words were hissed out as Jack leaned in, his nose inches from Daniel's.
"I'm a civilian. You *can't* refuse my resignation. And it's--none--of--your--business."
"And *I* repeat--it is. Cough it up, Daniel."
Daniel turned but once again, Jack shot out his hand and grabbed Daniel's arm. Hard.
"You're NOT leaving. And that's an order and yes, I *am* your commanding officer and so help me God--"
Daniel pulled away as hard as Jack had gripped his arm. The strength behind the move nearly sent him flying but he recovered enough to spit out, "That's a laugh, Jack. My commanding officer? Not hardly."
"WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU SEE IN THE LIGHT?"
Anger now given an outlet by Jack's yelling, Daniel screamed back, "YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW, JACK!"
"I DO WANT TO KNOW--NOW GOD DAMN IT, TELL ME THE TRUTH!"
Daniel stepped back into Jack's space and repeated, his voice lower but urgent with warning, "You really *don't* want to know, Jack."
"I WANT THE TRUTH AND I'M ENTITLED TO IT!"
Angry that Jack wasn't listening, Daniel yelled back, "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!"
Spit from Daniel's mouth sprayed Jack's face, but he was rooted to the floor by Daniel's words. And his current expression--which was priceless.
Daniel's mouth was opening and closing like a carp and that little ridge of confusion that often appeared above the bridge of his nose was in full bloom. His hands were frozen in midair, eyes locked on Jack's.
Jack broke the shocked gaze by closing his eyes, breathing in deeply, then saying with a rueful grin, "So. Am I a better Tom Cruise or are you a better Jack Nicholson?"
Daniel closed his mouth, took two steps back and dropped his hands as he said, "We've seen that movie too many times."
"We need--Demi Moore."
"I'm not into threesomes, Danny."
"Actually--you are. You know the old saying, 'Me, myself and I'? Well, there you go. You, yourself and--um, I, no, you. Um, you, yourself and--"
"No, you. For me, it's me, myself and I."
"So for me, it's you, yourself and I?"
"That would be a twosome. And it's 'me, myself and I' for *both* of us. Threesome. Everyone."
"Does that tie in with the whole 'everyone is three people' concept?"
"Yeah. You're who other people think you are, you're who *you* think you are and you're who you really are."
"Me, myself and I."
"I really *need* to go outside, Jack. Please?"
Compromise, the military way more than anyone would ever admit. Daniel accepted it.
Nodding, he headed to the exit. As he got closer, his steps quickened until he was running, Jack right behind him. His speed wasn't an attempt to get away from Jack so much as the simple need and promise of the sun. He burst through the huge, ornate double doors, out into the courtyard, his bare feet pounding the concrete beneath. Then he hit the sand and his speed increased.
Jack had to really hustle to keep up with Daniel, but keep up he did. There was no way he was going to lose him out here.
For several minutes, they just ran, Daniel's bare feet and Jack's booted ones. Sand flew up behind them, waves crashed against rocks, and the tide kissed the shore--and still--Daniel ran, Jack right beside him.
Eventually Jack realized that if they ran too far, the trip back could be painful and life-threatening for Daniel. But he didn't want to stop Daniel because on some level, he understood that the man needed this. Which gave him only one choice--to take control of the run. And that meant--speeding up.
With a groan, Jack dug down deep and called up the necessary reserve to actually pull ahead of Daniel. When he was a couple of lengths in front, he simply cut over and turned their run. Daniel was so far gone that he never even noticed that their direction had changed and they were now headed back.Daniel's speed was slowing as his energy and strength waned.
Jack could see the palace, still quite a distance away. Daniel stumbled, caught himself and kept going. Jack was just about to stop their run when Daniel stumbled again, but this time--he went down, Jack beside him in an instant."Daniel?"
The younger man rolled onto his back, breaths coming harshly, eyes closed, sweat trickling down his face. Jack sat back and as he caught his own breath, he waited.
The anxiety was returning but the good news was that Daniel recognized it. Without opening his eyes, he asked, "How far are we from the palace?"
"Maybe ten minutes, walking distance."
"We should get going. I'm starting to feel--"
Jack scrambled up and held out a hand. Daniel took it and with a quick pull, Daniel was on his feet.
"Obviously I'm all for heading back, but out of curiosity, what are you starting to feel?"
"Um, anxiety. Anger."
They walked now, both too tired to run, but Daniel's steps were sluggish and his breathing uneven. Jack was getting worried. Halfway back, he slid his arm around Daniel's waist and nodded in satisfaction as Daniel leaned in and let Jack assist him.
By the time they'd reached the courtyard, Daniel was in bad shape. Somehow Jack had to get him inside, but just as he pulled the door open, Daniel stopped and gazed back over his shoulder. The sun was just beginning its descent, the lower edges meeting the horizon. Daniel reached out, as if to touch it, and said with so much pain, "I miss him so much--and the sun never sets, Jack. It never sets."
With those words, he turned from the setting sun and let Jack help him inside.
Jack got Daniel down on his cot, lifted his legs and maneuvered him into a prone position. As Daniel's eyelids flickered and finally closed, Jack took his wrist and got a pulse reading. He didn't like it. He turned to the kit and pulled out the cuff and stethoscope. As Daniel's breathing evened out, Jack wrapped the cuff around the upper arm and started pumping. A moment later, reading the results, he frowned. His decision to let Daniel go outside had been a bad one. Very bad. Jack walked to the M.A.L.P.
<Colonel, that reading is in line with what he did. By the time he wakes, I suspect that in taking another reading, you'll find it back within the desirable range.>
"Are you sure, Doc?"
<Yes. He's sleeping naturally and deeply, isn't he?>
<Then don't worry. However, if the next reading is high, let me know immediately.>
"Will do--and--thanks, Doc."
The screen went blank and Jack turned back to Daniel.
How many more days left?
Jack stared at his hands. He was a soldier, a pilot and now, he'd have to say--an explorer. He was no slouch in the intelligence arena either. If he really put his mind to this whole *light* dilemma, he *should* be able to figure it out. Right? Right.
On the other hand; The Nile wasn't just a river in Egypt.
Daniel saw a man in the light and it didn't take a genius to know that Daniel--loved--that man, whoever he was. It was also obvious that Daniel had seen *more* than a man. It seriously sounded as though Daniel had been--transported--by his addiction.
Transported to a place where the sun never set, where Daniel was--happy. The addiction, this *place*, had given Daniel something he didn't have in his life.
Jack got up and walked into the matrix room. For several minutes he stared at the pedestal and he hated it. The urge to destroy the damn thing was so close to the surface--Jack could almost taste it.
This *thing* had given Daniel what Jack couldn't. This fucking palace had given Daniel what he'd not been able to find in life.
With some surprise, Jack realized that he was crying.
When Jack got back to the main room, he found Daniel sitting up and looking about him in a somewhat dazed manner. He checked his watch and realized that he'd been in the matrix room for over three hours. Gee, and all without the aid of the light.
"Hey, you're awake."
"Yeah, yeah I am." Daniel ran a hand over his head, then he rubbed his eyes and Jack thought he looked like a small boy. A lost boy.
"I need to take your pressure again."
Without a word, Daniel held out his arm.
Jack took another reading and had to smile. Score one for Doc Frasier. Daniel's BP was one-forty over seventy.
"Not bad and considerably better than when I got you back here."
"Sorry about that, Jack. But thanks for letting me--for letting me go--outside."
"No problemo, Danny. But, well, we have to keep your pressure down, you know? So for the next few remaining days--well--"
"I know. Inside."
"Yeah. "Fraid so."
Jack could see that Daniel was about to say no, but that he immediately thought better of it. "Sure. Maybe some--soup?"
"Well, I was thinking--steak, but if you insist, then soup it is."
Ten minutes later they were sipping hot, thick vegetable soup from their military issue cups. Just before Daniel's was empty, Jack got out the pills and handed them over. Daniel took them, swallowed and then finished his soup.
"Man, I can't wait to get home. We're talking the biggest steak of all time, a huge baked potato, a large salad, Caesar, I think. Maybe some fresh steamed asparagus--"
"Yeah, I overheard you and Sam sharing your number one menu choices for your first night back."
There was something in Daniel's voice and Jack tried to figure out what it was, but he came up empty.
"I still can't believe she wanted a fruit salad. The woman has no sense of food."
"So what *did* you two have?"
"We ate at the commissary. Chipped beef on toast for me, fruit salad for Sam. Disgusting, eh?"
Daniel had that little confused frown again. Jack really *loved* that frown.
"Um, Jack? The commissary?"
"Yeah, well, we were tired, we'd been talking and that seemed the most--appropriate."
For some reason, Jack found himself wanting to explain.
"See, Sam and I, well--"
"Jack, you don't have to say anything. I know."
"Just--I know. And whatever you two decide, well, you know you can count on--me."
"Daniel, you're not making any sense. And there's nothing to decide--well, that's not true, we already--decided."
"Like I said, you can count on me. Mums the word."
Jack felt as though he were in the spin cycle of a washing machine. Familiar territory when talking with Daniel Jackson.
"Look, Daniel, things have been--confusing--for Carter and myself in the last weeks. But we straightened it out. We're fine. Best buds again."
Daniel sat up and stared at Jack. "Best *buds*?"
"Yeah, friends, teammates, brother and sister, yadda-yadda, you know?"
Bingo. There was that cute look again. Jack could spend his life trying to bring that look out in Daniel. He was pretty damn good at it, too.
"But--but," Daniel waved a hand about, then said, "Oh, hell, never mind."
"Okay. So, where do you want to go on our first night back home?"
"Home. Which is where I'm gonna stay for as long as General Hammond lets me."
Daniel lay back down and brought his hands up to clasp them behind his head. "And as far as food is concerned--I just want to sleep in my own bed. I'll worry about food later."
Jack mirrored Daniel's position and for a few minutes, both men simply stared up at the ceiling. Finally, Jack decided to try again, this time, as a friend.
"You know, I wish you'd tell me, Daniel. Just tell me, one friend to another."
Daniel didn't have to ask what Jack was talking about.
"Trust me, Jack. You don't want to know."
"I don't usually ask things that I don't want to know. But I'm betting I can guess most of it."
"Oh, I'm betting you can't," Daniel said knowingly.
"You saw a place. A pretty terrific place. And a man. Someone you--love. And you want to go back there because he's there. Because--you have a life there."
Ignoring Daniel's response, Jack mused almost to himself, "What I don't understand is why? I always thought you loved working with the SGC, with--SG1. And I'm not taking away from the fact that this has been a pretty crappy year. And I know I haven't been there for you and I regret that more than I can ever say. But damn it, Danny, I thought you loved gate travel. Loved what we're doing."
"This, from a linguist. Gee whiz."
For several minutes nothing was said by either man. Jack continued to sit and stare at Daniel, who continued to stare up at the ceiling.
Finally, Daniel said in a sad voice, "It's not your fault, Jack. None of it is your fault. I know that what I saw--wasn't real. And yes, for a while, I was confused, thought it *did* exist, that *he* existed, but then, well, I remembered, you know--Shyla.
"I realized that it was all in my mind. That per my norm, this particular idiot had screwed up and once again put everyone in danger. Well, it's over now and I'm okay."
Jack heard so many things in Daniel's voice, things that had been there for--possibly--years. Things that he, Jack, should have heard before. He got up and none too gently, shoved at Daniel's hip until the younger man moved over, allowing Jack to sit on the edge of the cot.
"Daniel Jackson isn't a screw-up. He's the smartest man I know and without him, the SGC would be useless. Without him, *I'd* be, God knows--what."
"Is that what you were thinking in those mines, Jack? Or when Hathor had complete run of the base? Or when Skaara was taken because I couldn't keep the gate buried? Or maybe when Skaara was taken instead of me?"
Good God. Jack had no idea how deep the rivers of guilt ran within Daniel Jackson. He was going to have to do something about it. Now.
As stunned as Jack was by the level of guilt in his friend, that surprise didn't stop a thought from knocking on his brain and gaining entrance.
Why did Daniel want to be in the *special* place with--a man--and not Sha're?
Wait--first things, first.
"Danny, that's a whole lot of guilt you're carrying around. And may I say--a whole lot of *misplaced* guilt? You were not responsible for what happened with Shyla. The sarcophagus corrupted you, stole your soul and your very humanity. That's what it *does*, Daniel. It would have happened to me, to Carter, to *anyone*."
"No, no it wouldn't, Jack. You would never have given in, never had climbed into that thing in the first place."
"Okay," Jack asked, his wheels turning, "So why did *you* get in the second time?"
Daniel's head lowered and his shoulders hunched over as he said, "I was trying to--humor--her. I figured once I got in, got out, I could get her to release you all. But--"
"But you didn't know that the sarcophagus could steal your soul, did you?"
Daniel shook his head in misery.
"I'd have done the same, Danny. The same. I'd have figured that by doing as she asked, I could get her to release my friends. And please, don't let's even talk about Hathor, the bitch. She's dead and there isn't a man of the SGC that didn't succumb. Hell, I ended up a Jaffa, fer cryin' out loud!"
"And Skaara nothing. You couldn't have known what would happen. Hell, *I'm* the colonel, remember? The fucking expert and off we all went. And later? Come on, Danny, the chances are that he would have been chosen anyway. You saw the way they moved through the crowd. Besides, if they *had* taken you--I don't think, well, things would have been very different."
"Better. Things would have been better."
"Okay, *now* you're really starting to tick me off, Doctor Jackson. Major ticking here."
Jack stood and started to pace. "Look, I admit, you're exasperating, you act before you think, and you rush in where angels fear to tread. You think you're always right when in reality, you're only right about 95% of the time. You've died *way* too many times for my comfort level and you have *got* to be getting close to that ninth life. You're *not* perfect and God knows we all know that. But neither are you responsible for every bad thing that's happened. You are, in fact, responsible for a good many good things like--"
"You're *he*, Jack. You're the reason--I had to go back, had to turn on the light matrix."
Jack stopped pacing and turned slowly, mouth agape.
Daniel looked at his friend and shrugged. "Hey, you asked."
Daniel rose easily and walked to the pedestal room, Jack following. When he was a few feet away from the device, he said, "I didn't see you right away, but the feelings of *being* in the light were--like feeling you. I started finding reasons to come in here, you know? Then one afternoon, I'm standing here and wham! I'm not here anymore. I'm in this garden and there--you were."
His voice broke a bit then and Jack found himself drawn closer. "You were smiling and that lopsided grin was for me and no one else. It went all the way, soul deep. And your eyes crinkled up and you said, 'I've been waiting for you, Danny boy.' Well, that did it. I moved into your arms and we held on tight, and then--we kissed.
"I knew that Sha're would be happy for me. For us. And kissing you wasn't like kissing her or anyone else. I never felt--swallowed--when Sha're and I kissed. And that isn't doing her an injustice, by the way. But kissing you was like being engulfed in a force that tore right through me and yet, left me intact after."
Jack didn't say a word, *couldn't* say a word. If he did, he was afraid he'd break the spell. But damn, he wanted to touch Daniel.
"When I was there, in that--paradise--I was someone else, Jack. I was me--yet not. Then I returned to the SGC, but I knew I'd be going back to the palace, and you--the other you-- said you'd wait for me so I wasn't worried.
"But once back in Colorado, well, you know, the addiction kicked in. But--on my balcony, you, the other you, and even the you-you, were so far away and I lost all hope, felt so--bereft. And then *you* were standing at the balcony door. You were talking and I couldn't explain, couldn't make you understand the last months, the loss I felt as we drifted further and further apart.
"I don't remember much else until coming back to life here. And I have no real excuse for what happened, for turning on--" he waved a hand at the pedestal, "this thing. Except, watching you with Sam and Loran and seeing what I could never have and we're talking a simple case of raging self-pity. I do remember thinking, after talking to Janet, that once you guys left it would be a simple matter to get it going. That in a couple of days, no one would be able to bring me back and I'd stay there with you, um, with the *other* you, forever."
Daniel paused, took a deep breath, then added, "So now you see why you need to accept my resignation, Jack."
There was so much going on inside Jack's head that he was having a hard time believing that anything was real. Because--because--Daniel loved him. *Him*.
Well, holy fuck.
This was kind of a coincidence, if one stopped to think about it. Which Jack was doing.
Daniel loved Jack and gee, Jack loved Daniel. Yep, hell of a coincidence.
Suddenly the marbles of thoughts cluttering up Jack's brain, settled. Like that little game where you jiggle and work the puzzle until you get all the little balls in their slots.
Bingo. We have a winnah!
Jack touched Daniel then. He moved closer, slid his arms around Daniel's waist, brought him into his chest and rested his chin on Daniel's shoulder. He felt Daniel stiffen, but before he could think too much about it and pull away, Jack said softly, "I think I can find that paradise of yours. The sun *does* set, however, but you get this warm, silky darkness and the stars are so bright in the heavens that you don't need the sun. I was there once, about twenty years ago. I remember the scent of tropical flowers and a moon that rose over the ocean and bathed the area in a glow that took my breath away."
As Jack whispered against Daniel's skin, he was pleased to note how Daniel slowly relaxed into him.
Maybe he'd have his chance after all.
Daniel listened and it was almost as if he were under the spell of the light again. He closed his eyes and pretended.
Encouraged by the complete surrender of the man in his arms, Jack continued to weave his spell.
"This paradise was on Taveuni, in the Fiji Islands. The grass was thick and soft and walking barefoot was like--heaven. The smell of it each morning waged war with the ocean and the exotic flowers for dominance. I remember wishing desperately that I had someone beside me, someone to share it all. And now--I do. Are you getting my point here, Danny?"
When Daniel didn't respond, Jack added, "I have a friend who lives there now. He has a home he calls Vale Cadra Ni Vula, which means 'House of the Rising Moon'. I think he'd let us have it for a couple of weeks. Not a hockey puck in sight, Daniel. Can we do this? Make that paradise of yours happen?" The words had been flowing on, around, over and through Daniel. He'd been absorbing them like a thirsty sponge, but in a surreal way, because he was still pretending--the words and Jack's arms *had* to be a part of his fantasy, of the light. But at Jack's last question, he glanced down, saw the arms around him, really *heard* Jack and realized--
"What, you don't like the idea of the two of us on an island getaway? Alone with long private beaches, balmy nights, sunny breezy days--"
"Could you tell me how we went from Daniel is crazy, full of guilt, addicted and about to destroy the most important friendship in his life, to the two of us on an island in Fiji?" Daniel's voice actually squeaked on the last couple of words.
Jack decided his mouth was way too close to Daniel's ear *not* to take a nibble, so he did. As Daniel jumped, he chuckled and answered, "Simple. Daniel isn't crazy. Yeah, he's full of guilt, but we can take care of that with years of one-on-one therapy. He *isn't* ruining an important friendship; he's actually moving it to a new level, one that *this* half of the friendship is all for, by the way. And don't you *want* to go to Taveuni with me?"
"I think--this isn't real. I think--I've done something to you, Jack. Somehow the addiction is spreading, it's contagious. And I really wish I had a tape machine because playing you back to Carter--well, she'd get a kick out of it."
"You know, if I didn't love you so much, I'd be insulted right now. I'd be wounded to the quick."
"But you're not."
"Nope. I'm on a euphoric high. I have everything I want within the circle of my arms--"
"There. That. Tape machine. Carter would be rolling on the floor."
"Let her roll. And what, you didn't think I could be a romantic fool? That only the other Jack could say sweet nothings?"
"Well, he was kinda romantic."
"He is me, I am he. We are one."
"That was deep, Jack. Very deep."
"Look, this is fun and all, but could we kiss now?"
Daniel turned in Jack's arms and pulled away, but only enough to really see Jack. "You want to kiss?"
"Is the Pope catholic?"
"You want to kiss *me*?"
"Hello? There's only *one* Daniel in my life, and he's you. You are he--"
Daniel decided to stop thinking, stop worrying and just kiss the man. It had the added perk of shutting Jack up.
Jack didn't know what to really expect when their lips touched, maybe perfection. The first kiss was more fun than that. First they tried to crawl inside each other, then between bouts of laughter and angle changing, they decided to go for tongue. Jack would later swear that Daniel had started it.
When they finally parted, bodies suddenly hot, breath coming in pants, Jack's eyes fixed on Daniel's swollen lips, they started to move into the main room. They made it to one of the cots, then had a small struggle for control. Jack won, but only because Daniel was the wiser.
As Jack stood over the dazed-looking Daniel, he bent and took his mouth again as Daniel's hands crept under Jack's tee shirt. Finally Daniel simply pulled Jack on top of him and fell back, laughing.
The laugh was young and knowing and wild, all of which drove Jack crazy with want. He attacked Daniel's mouth again even as his fingers were busy lowering the zipper on Daniel's pants. When he moved his kisses to Daniel's neck, the younger man said between harsh breaths, "The--M.A.L.P.--shouldn't we--you know, turn it, say, *around*? If we leave it--where it is--*don't ask and don't tell* will become show and tell--"
Jack pushed away, blinked, struggled for words, gave up and groaned. To Danny's laughter, he finally stood and with a healthy kick, shove and push, sent the damn thing to a corner, facing *away* from them.
"Satisfied now, Doctor Jackson?"
Jack started back, moving slowly, almost like a predator, narrowed eyes taking in Daniel's appearance. The unzipped BDU's, the belt open and the tease of white elastic. The bulge of interest that tented the fabric and his chest rising and falling rapidly. The flush creeping over his exposed skin and eyes--dark blue with need, lids at half mast, and finally Daniel's tongue, flicking out to swipe over the swollen bottom lip--
"Aw, God, Danny, what you do to me--"
"Get your ass over here and let me *show* you what I can do to you, Colonel O'Neill."
Jack grinned broadly and started to launch himself, but Daniel, anticipating Jack's intent, bolted upright, arms outstretched and yelled, "DON'T JUMP, GOD DAMN IT, THE COT WILL COLLAPSE!"
The command froze Jack mid-move and he windmilled to keep from falling as he skidded into the cot. Finally catching his balance, he glared down at his archeologist. "Geesh, you really know how to bust a mood wide open, dontcha?"
Daniel fell back laughing.
Jack looked heavenward and sighed, then said, "I can tell already. This is *not* going to be easy."
Jack watched his new bedmate (he was pretty certain that they *would* get to that point--eventually) and finally smiled. Damn, but it was good to hear and see Daniel like this: freely laughing, at ease and--really, really, really sexy.
Jack sat down on the other cot and waited. Happily.
After a couple more minutes, Daniel coughed and sputtered, but finally the laughter was down to sporadic chuckles which gave Jack the opening he needed.
"We're going to have fun, aren't we, Danny?"
"Yeah, I think we are, Jack. Years of fun."
"Is that a promise?"
Blue eyes met brown and Daniel held out his hand. Jack took it, they shook and Daniel said, "Yep." Then with a gentle pull, Daniel had Jack back on top of him.
Making love on a military cot was neither comfortable nor practical unless one was making love to oneself. It was also more of a challenge than either man felt up to, given their eagerness. So with an ingenuity typical of desperate, horny men, they piled the sleeping bags, blankets and jackets on the floor, then spent the next several minutes rolling around and getting naked. It was a surprisingly slow process because they kept getting sidetracked by kissing. But eventually, they *were* naked and blessedly skin-to-skin.
Sweaty and flushed, Daniel moved over Jack, sliding his body up and down, dropping heated kisses as he moved. Their cocks slid and bumped against each other as hands were kept busy exploring. For Daniel, the territory was familiar, thanks to the Light. But for Jack, well, dreams simply couldn't hold a candle to the real thing.
They both tried to draw it out, to last, but it was too much, this, their first time. When Daniel felt Jack's balls tighten, he gasped out, "Wait for me, Jack."
His impending orgasm didn't keep Jack from trying to answer. "Not--going anywhere--ever."
Quiet. So very quiet.
Daniel shifted a bit, causing Jack's head to slide from Daniel's shoulder and settle over his heart. He lifted his arm gently, unwilling to disturb Jack in any way, then rested his hand on Jack's head. Once comfortable again, he started looking around.
Odd. Nothing had changed. But--shouldn't it have? Shouldn't everything look different, like, maybe--brighter? He glanced back down at Jack and smiled. Well, Jack certainly looked good. And who knew he grinned in his sleep? And so far, not a single snore and *no* drooling--yet.
Daniel moved his hand down to Jack's neck and rested it there--right over a nice, red, hickey. Daniel grinned wider. Should he tell Jack that reality was *way* better than Daniel's addicted version? Nah, Jack's head was already two sizes too big for him. Suddenly Daniel barked out a quiet laugh.
Head. Too big for him. Ha-ha. And not to toot his own horn, but Daniel had handled a certain *head* just fine, thank you very much. Of course, the problem now was Daniel's celibacy record. Shot to hell. Unless one counted sex while under the influence of Goa'uld pleasure palaces. No, you couldn't really count that. Mental. All mental. So Daniel's record was kaput. Oh, too bad. Really. Too bad.
Someone really should give him a party. Daniel stroked his hand gently down Jack's back, then up again.
Jack was *on* Daniel. The *real* Jack. And could this man talk or what? Of course, Daniel doubted that he'd ever see that Fiji Island. He just *knew* they'd end up at some hockey camp.
"Oh, go ahead, Daniel. The ice won't bite. And you move like this and swing that stick--no, wait, not like that--"
Yep, hockey camp. Cold and probably painful. But Jack would be there and Daniel suspected that every time he fell, Jack would laugh uproariously--then pick him up and brush him off. Starting with his wet and icy ass. That would warm him up considerably.
And Jack wasn't in love with Sam. He was in love with--Daniel.
He probably shouldn't feel so good about that. After all, Sam was his friend. But damn, he did. Not good that Jack loved him *instead* of Sam, just that Jack loved him--period. Hey, if the man had to love someone, well, Daniel was extremely glad that he was the one Jack loved. He didn't get it, but he was glad just the same.
Daniel moved his hand down to gently cup Jack's right ass cheek, then closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
Someone was kissing him. Daniel cracked open one eye, then grinned. "Guess you're awake, eh?"
Jack was too busy to give a verbal answer.
"You know, we have--"
Jack's tongue lapped a line up Daniel's cheek.
At that, Jack stopped his ministrations and cocked his head. "Excuse me? *Ewwww*? I can lick your dick but not your face?"
At Daniel's nod, Jack said, "Well then, I think we have a definite problem. I sense," he wiggled his head, "licking inequities. Very serious problem in a new relationship, Daniel. Could literally destroy a new relationship."
Jack rose up over Daniel, flipped onto his back then rubbed his chin. "Oh, yeah, this is serious. You see, I feel if a man can lick his partner's dick or say, his righteous ass, he should be able to lick anything. Nothing should be off-limits let alone worthy of an *ewwww*. We'll need to negotiate this prior to any further lovemaking on our part."
Daniel had been listening to Jack's diatribe, one brow arched, a half smile on his lips. Now he pretended to give Jack's concerns a great deal of thought.
"Umm. Yes, I can see your point. There really shouldn't be any boundaries on licking. No taboos."
Daniel rose up on one arm to loom over Jack. He turned his head sideways, giving Jack his cheek. "Go for it, Flyboy. My cheek is your cheek. For you, I turn the other--" "So help me God, if you say it, I will never lick anything on you again."
Daniel swiped his tongue up Jack's cheek.
"136 over 75. I do believe we're about to make Janet a very happy person. Give me a few to send this and your blood sample through, then we can go back to--"
"Jack, you should know that I *love* playing checkers with you."
"You're not a bad player yourself, Danny boy. And when you king me? Oh, yeah."
"Actually," Daniel said as Jack got ready to dial up the DHD, "I have difficulty deciding which I prefer. You kinging me, or me kinging you. Tough call."
"I'm a fifty-fifty man, myself. I sure love kinging you, but like I said," he released the medical capsule through the wormhole and headed for the M.A.L.P., "being kinged by you ain't bad either."
"Uh, Jack? Whatcha doing?"
"Hello? Contacting Janet?"
"You might want to reconsider, Jack."
"And why would I want to do that? What, we don't want to give everyone the good news."
"Well, exactly which good news would that be, Jack? My blood pressure, your handsome and working dick or that you and I are *not* sitting around--reading?"
"Oh, Janet's seen my dick, Daniel."
"Well, she *and* the entire gateroom are about to see it again, flyboy."
Jack glanced down at himself and with a dopey grin, said, "Oopsy."
Laughing, Daniel reached out, grabbed up the shirt and BDU's that looked as though they were Jack's, balled them up and in a graceful arc, tossed them over to Jack. Still grinning like a fool, he caught them, quickly dressed, then set about contacting base.
<These are excellent readings, Colonel. Let's hope their indicative of the results we'll get back on this blood sample. Is he eating well?>
"Very much so, Doc. Exercising too. And lots of sleep."
Jack glanced past the M.A.L.P. at Daniel, who was currently mooning him. After a rather severe coughing fit, Jack managed to say, "In fact, Daniel's asleep right now, Doc."
<Good, good. Let's hope we can bring you two home tomorrow. I'll let you know as soon as I have the results.>
"Thanks, Doc. We'll check in later."
Jack tuned out and as he grabbed the hem of his shirt and started to pull it over his head, he mumbled, "Mooning? The guy moons me while I'm talking with Doc Frasier?"
Jack tripped up a bit as he tried to gracefully but quickly disengage himself from his pants and continued
to speak. "And talk about turning the other cheek?"
"Jack, shut up and get over here. Preferably naked."
"I'm working on it, I'm working on it. Keep your pants on, Jackson."
Daniel, a wicked grin on his face, stood up and started putting on his pants.
Jack, too busy kicking his own BDU's off, missed the fact that as he became *less* clothed, Daniel was now fully dressed. Finally free of the pants, Jack looked up triumphantly only to see his bedmate standing in *his* BDU's.
Jack gazed down at his naked self, then over to Daniel's most definitely *not* naked self. "We seem to be working at cross purposes here."
"Not at all, Jack. Didn't I promise Janet that I *always* do as you tell me to do?"
Uncertain where this would lead, Jack said suspiciously, "Uh-huh."
"Well, did you or did you not tell me just two minutes ago, to keep my pants on?"
"Doctor Jackson, this is your commanding officer speaking. If you're not one hundred percent naked in the next thirty seconds--"
Jack started moving toward Daniel, who started backing up as he tried to contain his laughter. Jack growled. Daniel narrowed his eyes. Jack quickened his stalking. Daniel--took off. Laughing.
"You are so dead, Jackson."
"YOU GOTTA CATCH ME FIRST, O'NEILL!"
Jack bolted after his archeologist.
Huffing and puffing, Jack skidded to a stop. On the floor in front of him--Daniel's shirt. He was in the main hall and ahead of him, two choices. He could go left or right. He heard the strange echo of a chuckle and smiled evilly. He chose the right.
Halfway down the corridor, he found Daniel's BDU's. Jack kept going. Slowly.
He came to another fork and on his left, an open door. On his right, a closed door. What captured Jack's attention was that lying on the floor in front of the closed door were Daniel's white boxers.
Jack cocked his head and listened.
Okay, the open door was too obvious. On the other hand, the boxers in front of the other room made *that* obvious, but Daniel would know that Jack would think it obvious. So Daniel might hide--
Okay, but Daniel would know that Jack would know so Daniel would slip into the *other* room. Except he'd know that Jack would know that too. So he'd hide--
God damn it.
He opened the door on his left and found a large double bed. In the other room, he found a king size bed. No archeologist in his right mind would chose a room with only a double bed when he could have a king.
AH-HA! King. King me. God, but Daniel was clever, but *not* as clever as one slightly-over-the-hill-and-enjoying-the-ride-back-down Air Force colonel. Jack kicked the door the rest of the way open and jumped inside, arms in martial arts defense mode, and yelled, "GOTCHA!"
Except--the room was empty. There was no one to *get*.
Eyes glittering dangerously, Jack whirled around and strode across the hall and into the other room--which was also empty.
Jack went through the motions of checking under the bed and in the closet. He then did the same in the other room, but the whole time, he knew it was a waste. Daniel had temporarily outsmarted him. Temporarily.
When Jack was done, he walked back out into the hall and considered his two choices: Go forward or go back. And that's when it hit him: Colonel Jack O'Neill was wandering the halls of a Goa'uld pleasure palace in his well-preserved birthday suit and he was wandering those halls looking for Doctor Daniel Jackson who by all the evidence, was wearing *his* rather impressive birthday suit. Pretty awesome, actually.
Jack held up his left hand and said out loud, "Daniel." Then he held up his right hand and said, "Jack. Daniel--Jack."
Right. Left. Left. Right.
Smiling, Jack walked slowly down the hall.
Five minutes later, still no Daniel. Jack had just about decided to retrace his path, just in case Daniel had doubled back on him, when he stopped dead.
Oh, God. What if Daniel had gone outside? "Nononono--"
Jack started running, heart in his throat, all fun gone. Damn it, how long had it been? Could Daniel have been outside all this time? Jack shot out into the main room, his anxiety level growing by leaps and bounds--
Jack skidded to a stop, breath coming harshly, sweat trickling down the side of his face.
"No, General Hammond. What took ya? I've been languishing here forever."
Languishing. Daniel had been *languishing*.
"DO YOU HAVE ANY FUCKING IDEA WHAT YOU JUST PUT ME THROUGH!?!"
Daniel, who'd been lying on his side, head propped up by his hand and wearing nothing but a wicked grin, now, at Jack's yelling, sat up, all humor wiped from his face. "Jack?"
"JESUS H. CHRIST, DANIEL!"
Suddenly the clock of time rewound and Daniel was back in Jack's bad graces and confused as to why. Resigned to that fact and that he was once again the resident screw-up, Daniel stood and asked almost tiredly, "Okay, what did I do now?"
Seeing how quickly Daniel went from a relaxed delectably naked man with mischief in his eyes to the guilt racked man of a few days ago, Jack closed his eyes and started counting naked Daniel's in an effort to calm down. A rustling sound made him open them again. Daniel was fumbling around in his stuff while at the same time clumsily pulling on another shirt. He finally got it on, then reached out and grabbed another pair of pants and boxers.
Just as Daniel was pulling up the boxers, Jack said, "No, don't. I'm sorry. I--you--I was scared, Danny. I was--scared."
At Jack's quiet plea, Daniel paused in his task of zipping up his fatigues and with curiosity tingeing his voice, asked, "Scared? Of what, Jack?"
"I thought--I thought you'd gone outside. We were, and everything was so, and maybe you wouldn't stop to think *because* everything was so," Jack waved a hand in the air, "you know, normal."
Daniel took off his glasses and started to clean them. As he swiped the bottom of his shirt across the lens, he said, "I must need new glasses, I don't think I heard you right."
"Um, Daniel? What does hearing me have to do with a new pair glasses?"
"If I can't see, I can't hear. That's why people yell at the blind."
Jack scratched the back of his head. Life with Daniel Jackson was going to be--interesting.
"Well, okay, let me say it all again. I was afraid that you'd gone--"
"Outside. I get that part."
"Aw, come on, Daniel. I'm naked here and feeling seven kinds of a fool. I was so frightened--"
"It's okay, Jack."
"No, it's not. You're still dressed, still--distant. And you're still not meeting my gaze."
"I need to shift gears, that's all. Need to go from major SG-1 screw-up to naked sex toy, you know? Give me a few. I'm quick."
Jack didn't miss the sarcasm or the anger. He was quick too. He was also at a distinct disadvantage here, in as much as he was naked and Daniel wasn't. Hard to have a meaningful conversation with someone when your cajones were dangling in the wind.
"Look, Daniel. I really don't want to get dressed, okay? But if this is going to get deep, I'll have to. Deep discussions and naked colonels don't really mix. But since you're *not* the resident SG-1 screw-up, I can't help but wonder what there really is to discuss. I yelled. I know. I was frightened, yes. And if loving you and living with you means that I can't yell anymore, well, okay. You're worth it. I'll hold it in and get an ulcer." Daniel was frowning. A deep frown. "You don't have to not yell."
"If you take my yelling as some kind of message that you're a screw-up, well, yeah, I do have to not yell. Although we've both screwed up in the past and will do so again, I won't yell or, or let the nerve in my temple pulse or clench my jaw or grind my teeth--if that makes you happy."
"You said loving me and living with me. You can't live with me, Jack. You know that."
Jack shook his head a bit, clearing it of the ringing in his ears. Conversations with Daniel always produced that ringing.
"You're right. I can't live with you, exactly. But we can trade off. You spend some nights with me, I spend some with you. We share pup tents when we go camping though. I insist on that. And when we're off-world? We share tents. But we make love *very* quietly. Which will be hard for you, I know, but you can do it."
A small grin started playing about Daniel's mouth as he said, "I'm sure I can, Jack. Especially if you keep your tongue shoved down my throat. That's a pretty effective method of stifling my natural inclination to yell bloody murder when I come."
"Works for me, Danny."
Giving Jack a sheepish look, Daniel said quietly, "I guess we just saw some of that Jackson guilt again, eh?"
"I'd say so, yeah." Jack moved quickly to Daniel's side. "But like I said, years of one-on-one therapy with yours truly will take care of that."
He reached out and rested the palm of his hand against Daniel's cheek. "Years and years, Daniel."
<You two interested in coming home?>
Jack looked at Daniel, who gazed back, blue eyes sparkling.
"Well, Doc, it's kinda nice here--"
<Yes, I'm sure it is, gentlemen. However, Doctor Jackson's dopamine levels are normal. Which means home, sweet home.>
"Well then, I guess we're coming home," Jack said, an answering twinkle in his eyes.
Jack gave the place one last look around, then glanced over at Daniel. "Ready?"
"Um, yeah, sort of. Almost."
"Well, maybe one last look--" Blue eyes traveled past Jack to the pedestal room.
"Ah, I see. Okay, one last look."
They walked over, Jack letting Daniel move slightly ahead of him.
For several minutes, Daniel stared at the base, then around the room. Jack felt a slight unease as he watched and finally said, "You're not leaving him behind, Daniel."
A few more minutes ticked by and finally Daniel added in a voice filled with awe, "We owe the Goa'uld, Jack. Big time."
Knowing that there was still a lot to talk about and figure out, that they both had a lot of worked ahead of them relationship wise, Jack still grinned, slipped his arm around Daniel's waist and nodded.
After all, now they'd be doing everything together.
Ahead of them, the wormhole sparkled its shimmery blue, fluid and alive. Daniel glanced down at his hand, fingers entwined with Jack's.
"Well, we probably shouldn't go through like this, Jack."
Jack chuckled, then pulled Daniel to him for a quick kiss. When they parted, both smiling, Jack said, "After you, Doctor Jackson."
"No, no, after you, Colonel O'Neill. Age before--"
Jack gave Daniel a little push and with a laugh, Daniel went through.
Just as he disappeared, Jack yelled, "HEY, WAIT FOR ME, DANIEL!"
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