The 'I' Inside
Blue skies, warm sun, inviting beach and apparently no indigenous life, why did it somehow seem too good to be true? Jack settled his P-90 under his arm and looked up at the cliffs. The sun was setting, the reflected light making the gate appear bronze. He looked down at the beach and sighed. The place reminded him a little of Nem's planet. He half expected to see the creature walking towards them demanding to know why they had returned.
Bored and unsettled, he walked towards the cave entrance ducking his head to enter. Once his eyes had adjusted he could see Daniel kneeling in front of the smooth surface of the cave brushing gently.
"Anything?" he asked, his voice echoing in the space.
Daniel's attention remained on his brushing. "I can see the outlines of figures," he murmured. "The light's not good, but these markings are certainly not natural." He shifted slightly.
"But nothing that's gonna tell us about the Goa'uld or how to defeat them?"
Daniel sighed. "Highly unlikely," he said expressionlessly.
Jack nodded. "Just checking. Carter and Teal'c are due to report in fifteen minutes. Unless I hear anything to the contrary we'll be ready to go when they return."
He waited for some acknowledgement but Daniel resolutely maintained his gentle brushing. Jack sighed and left the cave. Unless things changed dramatically he feared that Daniel would be asking for a transfer or leaving the SGC. Relations between the two of them hadn't been too good of late. They'd publicly argued and privately bickered. He could sense the younger man's slow withdrawal, both from himself and the rest of the team. The fiasco over Osiris hadn't helped any. He'd been livid to find that Carter, Dr Frasier and Daniel had tried to handle things unaided. Daniel had been equally snappy, very hung over from the ribbon device, about his actions with the mobile phone. They'd apologised to each other but not really cleared the air.
Jack was unsure what he should do. He missed Daniel in his life. Coming over for evenings, sharing a beer, or wine in Daniel's case, playing chess, jibing at each other's tastes in food, clothes, TV, art, films... anything. Just hanging together, two completely different men finding an unlikely but comfortable friendship.
He knew when it had gone wrong, after Martouf's death and Anise and her damn zartacs. He gave another sigh. He'd dropped Daniel in favour of a brief flirtation with Carter. Beautiful woman, good 2IC, brilliant scientist and professional soldier. It hadn't worked, neither of them quite seeming to have enough commitment to ignore the regs and make a go of it. So it had fizzled out, but not before his friendship with Daniel had also withered through neglect.
He tried to get it back, but Daniel was stiff and unforgiving. The easy nature of their former friendship had disappeared, and he was suddenly very aware of Daniel, far too aware.
Jack was neither stupid nor lacking insight. He was also very able at standing back and talking an objective look at himself. He'd done that some months after his attempts to get back into Daniel's favour and hadn't liked what he'd seen. If Daniel had been a woman it would have been acceptable, but because Daniel was undeniably male, it was both unacceptable and deeply mortifying. He'd fallen in love with his male, civilian teammate. The shock had made him reject Daniel even more and start chasing women. He'd had a couple of brief flings with a few nurses but they hadn't lasted longer than a few weeks each, and now he was back to missing Daniel's company.
Carter's voice jolted him from his thoughts.
"Nothing to report, sir. Over."
"Okay, Carter. Return to the gate. Over and out."
He dropped his hand from the radio and checked his watch. Daniel could have an hour longer then they were leaving. He sat down on a rock and watched the calm water. He could smell salt so he was assuming he was beside a sea, but its stillness surprised him. He half expected a gull to fly past, but so far they had seen little evidence of either animal or bird life. He strolled towards the water's edge, rubbing at the sand with his boot. The light shimmering from the partially buried object dazzled him, and he squinted down at his boot with curiosity. He appeared to have uncovered part of a metallic object. He bent down and touched the surface, it was warm and felt almost alive. Startled and faintly alarmed he began to withdraw his hand but as he did so he felt tingling start from his finger and travel up his palm. He jerked back his hand, felt an intense shooting pain and collapsed. His last conscious thought, incongruous amusement that he and not Daniel should have touched something he shouldn't have.
He woke to the far too familiar sounds of monitors. Blinking slowly he looked around the place aware of stiffness and discomfort. As his eyes focused he noted the chair next to his bed and the evidence of recent use. A newspaper folded on the seat, and a used coffee mug nearby. He brought his arm up to his nose to scratch at an irritating itch and felt shocked at the effort it took him to co-ordinate. He cleared his throat, thought of trying to shout until caution had him fumbling for the call button. Within minutes a nurse had checked his room, seen he was awake and called out that she was fetching Dr Fraiser.
Janet was with him and checking his vitals within seconds. He cleared his throat again.
"What happened?" he asked huskily, his voice apparently as weary as his body.
"You collapsed on mission," she said briefly, her fingers on his pulse, her eyes watching her timepiece. "Major Carter found you on her return."
Jack frowned. "I don't remember, any idea why?"
Janet shook her head. "Daniel said you'd been fine when you last checked up on him." She dropped his wrist and smiled down at him. "You've been unconscious for twenty four hours but I can't find a thing wrong with you."
Jack nodded and heaved himself up on his elbow, resisting the impulse to groan as he did so. "It was a peaceful, normal, boring even, mission as far as I recall." He frowned. "Where was I?"
"On the beach apparently."
Jack nodded. "I can't remember doing anything out of the ordinary." He thought briefly for a second, checking that he was not attached to any monitors or drips. "Am I free to go?"
Janet shook her head. "I think you know the answer to that, sir. I want to keep you under observation for another twelve hours at least, and even after that you'll need to be on base until I'm happy that you're not going to have another episode."
Jack groaned and sank back into the bed. "In that case I'll go back to sleep," he grumbled.
Janet patted his arm. "You do that," she said briskly.
Jack closed his eyes in disgust as he sought to understand just why he felt so exhausted, and slowly slipped into a dreamless sleep.
The next time he woke, Janet gave him a thorough check up, pronounced her self satisfied and left him with strict instructions to drink. His team arrived within minutes of her departure, all looking suitably relieved. He sat up, the fatigue of the previous day absent from his movements. "One of you better have my BDU's tucked under your arm," he growled.
"Good to see you too, Jack," Daniel smiled ducking his head as Jack looked at him suspiciously. "Janet has given us permission to take you off her hands and to the commissary." He dropped a uniform onto the bed and glanced at Sam and Teal'c. "We've also been given strict instructions not to let you out of sight, so I'm afraid you'll have the honour of our company for some time."
Jack sighed. "Great," he sat up and glared at them. "Give a guy some privacy then,"
Sam grinned. "Glad to see you're back to your normal happy self, sir," she said cheerfully before leaving.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow, bowed slightly and left. Daniel stood there looking at him before nodding and disappearing out of the room. Jack got slowly out of the bed, did a few stretches, poked his head out of the curtains and saw Daniel leaning against the door of the infirmary, arms folded, brows drawn in thought. He smiled, aware of how comfortable he found his presence, and headed for the showers.
The warm water rejuvenated him, and by the time he was shaved and dressed he felt very hungry and surprisingly energetic. He tapped Daniel on the shoulder amused at the start of surprise he was unable to hide, and headed for the elevators. Daniel caught up with him and looked him over carefully.
"You're looking good," he observed mildly.
"I feel great," Jack answered, surprised.
Daniel nodded, smiling a little. "Sam will be relieved. We've been worried sick about you, Jack. None of us could understand what could have happened. When Sam told me I was still working in the cave." He sighed.
Jack slapped him on the back. "I'm fine, Danny," he said cheerful. "I could eat a horse though." He was surprised by the thoughtful look Daniel gave him before he nodded and smiled.
"We'll gather Sam and Teal'c on the way," he said. "General Hammond gave us permission to 'Jack sit' rather than have you escorted everywhere by SF's, unless you'd prefer otherwise." He gave a small grin at Jack's snort. "Janet says we can't take you off base for a few more days." He sobered. "We've had enough experience with peculiarities to be alert to anything I hope."
"Peculiarities?" Jack echoed.
Daniel nodded as he pressed the button for Sam's floor and leant back against the wall. Jack watched him carefully, aware of the tiredness in his eyes. "You don't look too good yourself," he said after a few moments silence. "Have you been sleeping?" he caught Daniel's shrug and answered himself. "Stupid question."
They exited the elevator and found Teal'c standing in Sam's lab apparently waiting for her to finish. "I need food, and quickly, Carter," Jack yelled. Sam appeared from behind a shelf looking startled.
"Sir?" she said doubtfully, putting down her clipboard. "Great, Teal'c was escorting me there anyway." She yawned, looked apologetic and joined them.
The commissary was busy, but they found a table, chose their food and settled to eat. Jack was intent on filling his stomach and concentrated on his meal, only occasionally listening in to his teammate's conversation. They seemed content to allow him to eat his fill, and were musing over the next possible mission, a planet not on the Abydos cartouche and hopefully free of Goa'uld influence. He sat back once he'd finished and contemplated the artificial brightness stoically. "I feel restless," he announced suddenly. Silence greeted his remark until Daniel cleared his throat.
"And how would that be different from usual, Jack?"
Jack looked at him blankly before grinning. "Nothing," he said brightly. "Just thought I'd let you know I was back to normal." He looked round at his team and grinned again. "So, who's baby sitting me first?"
Daniel sighed. "I drew the short straw on that one."
Sam sniggered looking innocent when her CO glanced her way. "We're all looking forward to it," she assured him.
Jack snorted. "No need to gild the lily, Carter. I'm well aware I can't just be let loose, and I'm glad I haven't got SF's escorting me everywhere, but I'm warning you all, I really need to get outside pretty soon." He glanced at the bright lights. "How the hell do you cope living here, Teal'c?"
Teal'c looked surprised at the question. "Apophis was not known for a generosity of spirit, O'Neill," he said mildly. "The Jaffa quarters were small, cramped and utilitarian. I am used to such things."
Jack nodded, standing up abruptly. "I need to do something physical, Daniel. Will you join me in the gym?"
Daniel thought for a few seconds before nodding. "For half an hour, Jack, then I've got work waiting, maybe Teal'c could join you after that?"
"It would be my pleasure," Teal'c replied.
The gym session relieved much of the restlessness. He lifted weights with Daniel, and sparred with Teal'c, before returning to Daniel's office. He took papers to read and surprised himself by finding the hours spent drinking coffee, reading, talking, and occasionally to Daniel's mild amusement and barely contained anxiety, exploring the contents of Daniel's shelves, both relaxing and rewarding. He was mildly irritated by his recall to Janet's office, but suffered the check up with good humour.
Janet stood and snapped his file shut. "You're in perfect health, and surprisingly good temper, sir," she said with a smile.
Jack nodded. "So, when am I clear of surveillance?"
Janet frowned. "That is up to General Hammond. I can only give him my findings. I'll give him a call." She turned away and spoke in the phone for a few minutes. "He'd like to see you now, Colonel."
General Hammond indicated the chair and watched him as he sat down.
"Good to see you, Jack." He looked down at the paper in front of him. "Your team have written their reports and quite honestly none of us can understand the nature of your collapse."
Jack remained silent as the general contemplated his fingers.
"I can't just let you loose, Jack. Experience has taught us all never to take anything for granted or at face value."
Jack nodded. "I understand, sir." He shifted in the chair. "It's just I feel great and restless." He sighed.
General Hammond nodded. "Understandable, Jack, however for the next forty eight hours you will remain on base under observation. Maybe you could even get your paperwork up to date. I know it would be appreciated by my PA."
"Yes, sir," Jack acknowledged. He waited for his dismissal, saluted and left for his office and the joy of paperwork.
He felt the constant observation keenly, but stifling the urge to grouse, sublimated his frustration into physical activity and writing pointed addenda to his paperwork. He continued to haunt Daniel and Sam's respective offices, pleased that neither of them appeared disturbed by his presence, and continued to get beaten by Teal'c when sparring.
Eventually the surveillance ended, and without any evidence to the contrary, his collapse had to be taken as 'one of those things' although Jack knew that he would be closely monitored for some time. General Hammond had authorised another check of the planet by SG-3 who had come up empty handed. Relieved, but full of questions himself, Jack headed for home, stopping en route for beer and other essentials.
Next morning he found himself collapsed on the bed with no real memory of getting there, or of undressing. He showered and shaved methodically, dressed and set off in his jeep for the base. The subtle signs of fall distracted him, and he parked near an open space, content to view the trees and map the colour change. A sense of peace enveloped him and it took him some time to get moving in the direction of the base.
Signed in, he headed for the infirmary, suffered his check up with good grace and headed for Daniel's office. Daniel had his head down in a book, his coffee cup clutched to his chest and his glasses slipping forward toward the tip of his nose. Jack leaned in and pushed them back up, gaining a startled look from Daniel as he did so.
"Hi," he said, heading for the coffee machine and the comfort of good quality ground coffee.
Daniel cleared his throat, slowly marking his place and shutting his book. "Hello," he said cautiously.
Jack sauntered over to the spare chair and sat down. "Whatcha doing?" he asked cheerfully.
Daniel shot him a look he interpreted with ease as 'what do you care', and frowned at his hands. "Looking over text on the Polynesians," he said slowly.
Jack raised his eyebrows, "Oh," he said intelligently. "Why?"
Daniel let a small smile slip. "SG-9 has a diplomatic situation they want some help with."
Jack nodded, leaning back and savouring the coffee. He looked around the cluttered room and felt comfortable. He couldn't say why, perhaps it was all the reminders of Daniel and his interests.
"Can I help you with anything, Jack?"
Daniel looked slightly perturbed. Jack shook his head. "Wanted good coffee and company, so I came here," he said cheerfully. "I'll bug Carter next and check in on Teal'c then I'll get down to work." He took another cautious sip of the over hot beverage. "I think I'll wander over the base, check on the levels, can't remember when I last did that."
Daniel nodded returning to his book. Jack watched him while he drank his coffee.
"Want to come over for a meal tonight, catch a game?" he asked impulsively.
Daniel's eyebrows shot up his face and his mouth dropped open. He stuttered slightly before appearing to gather his composure. "Why are you asking me now?" he enquired.
Jack smiled ruefully. Daniel's straightforward nature was occasionally difficult to deal with. He didn't lack social graces, he could be as charming as the next man, but he tended to see and deal with things head on. Here and now Jack would have preferred a stuttered acceptance and silent thoughts. He shrugged. "We seemed to have drifted apart, Daniel and I'm not sure I like it, so I thought we could do a bit of male bonding."
Daniel smiled slightly. "I agree," he glanced at Jack and back to his book then appeared to come to a decision. "Yes, I'd like that."
"Good." Jack got up, washed his mug in the small sink and went to the door. "See you later, Daniel."
Carter's lab was busy; he could see her at her computer muttering to herself. A lab assistant was in the middle of some experiment and a soldier was transferring packages from a cart to a lab table. She nodded as he entered, tapped a key and sat back to look at him.
"Everything okay, sir?"
Jack nodded. "Just checking the troops, Carter."
She smiled and gestured round the room. "Working hard, sir."
He nodded towards her work. "Anything I should know about?"
She shook her head. "Ongoing problem, sir. I'll get it fixed." She straightened in the chair. "When are we due to go out again?"
Jack shrugged. "I'm seeing the general at twelve hundred hours, so I'll know more then."
She nodded, waiting for him to say more. He grinned, took another look round the lab and left.
Teal'c was in his room in the process of kel'no'reem. Jack sank to the floor, surprised that his knee didn't twinge and waited quietly. His eyes skimmed over the bare detail of Teal'c accommodation. A bed, normal fixtures and fitting, and a wardrobe, after that the room looked nothing like the typical soldier's quarters. The candles were an obvious difference as were the cushions scattered throughout. Somehow Teal'c had imposed his personality and his culture on the space, and Jack felt as comfortable as in Daniel's office. He relaxed waiting for Teal'c to notice him.
"O'Neill, " Teal'c rumbled.
Jack nodded. "How you doing, Teal'c?"
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "I am doing well," he replied impassively. "Should it not be my responsibility to enquire the same of you?"
Jack grinned. "Beat you too it, and I'm fine."
Teal'c inclined his head. "I am glad."
Jack stood up and stretched. Hopefully General Hammond will give us a go for a few days time." He bounced onto his feet. "I'm going to look round the base, want to come?"
Teal'c inclined his head. "That would seem both informative and acceptable."
They toured the base from top to bottom and returned in time for Jack to meet with the General. He seemed both surprised and amused at Jack's enthusiasm, and gave tentative agreement for SG-1 to plan for their next mission. Jack went to spread the good news to his troops and retired to his office to do battle with the slowly diminishing pile of paper, and worse, the hundreds of unread and yet to be deleted emails glowering at him from his in box. Jack knew he had to be modern, he knew that the computer was a servant and not a master, he knew that it was in the long term both useful and convenient, but he could not learn to love his computer as he should. He'd finally attended the 'Computers, friends not enemies' course that General Hammond had insisted he needed but came away unconvinced. He shuddered at a lengthy document apparently summarising the advantages and disadvantages of one virus checker from another, wondered why the hell it had been posted to him, and deleted it with relief.
By the end of the afternoon he had cleared both his tray and his in box and sat back feeling good. The restlessness that had afflicted him previously returned with a vengeance and he made tracks for Teal'c's rooms and a spell in the gym. Teal'c joined him without comment.
Before he left base he checked in on Daniel, unsurprised to find him sprawled over his desk muttering to himself, and confirmed their meeting. Receiving a distracted nod, he left, certain he'd need to ring Daniel to remind him. At home he collapsed, the sudden lack of energy leaving him feeling like a punctured balloon. He crawled to his sofa and fell into a deep dreamless sleep. He woke the following morning with a blanket over him and a badly cricked neck. A note on the coffee table caught his eye.
I came, I saw, I left. You really need your beauty sleep, Jack! Don't worry; I had work to do at home. Hope you feel rested in the morning. Daniel.
Jack sighed; pleased that Daniel had come and used the key he had asked him to keep following his stay on his return from Abydos, but irritated that he had fallen asleep. He did his ablutions and left for the base feeling remarkably refreshed.
Turning into Daniel's office he found him contemplating the ceiling, tapping a pencil against his lips. He turned and smiled at Jack. Jack felt a warm glow of love and affection as he watched his friend, covering himself by heading for the ubiquitous coffee and helping himself. "Thinking?" he asked casually.
Daniel smiled. "I was wondering how Mulder got his pencils to stick in the ceiling?" he said inconsequentially.
Jack choked on his coffee and looked enquiring. Daniel shrugged and eyed the ceiling.
"You watch the X files," he said incredulously.
Daniel raised an eyebrow. "Yes, I happen to enjoy it most of the time." He paused. "Irritates the hell out of me, no resolution, but I like the two leads."
Jack shook his head. "Drives me nuts." He shuddered. "What else do you watch that's not on the discovery or history channels."
Daniel grinned. "Star Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape, now that's a weird show. I don't know, Jack. Why, do you think I'm totally unaware of popular culture?"
Jack decided he wasn't too sure what he thought about Daniel other than he was one damn handsome man and for some reason that fact was obliterating any other thoughts. He shifted in his chair and tried to concentrate. "Sorry about last night," he finally offered.
Daniel grinned. "No problem, I'm glad the thought of my company was so invigorating."
"It wasn't like that," Jack said hurriedly before realising that Daniel was teasing him. He relaxed; it had been a long time since Daniel had felt comfortable enough to tease and he knew he'd missed it. He couldn't be happy about an unexplained collapse, but he was sure delighted that somehow it had assisted in the slow thawing of the chilly side of Daniel he'd been dealing with for some months. He grinned back.
PX3 222 was as different from their last mission as you could get. It was cold, bare, sparse and unwelcoming. Jack had to keep reminding himself that they had a reason to be there, the usual damn reason. Raw naquadah. He sighed, bone weary with the constant need to feed the ever demanding stores of NID and its R&D departments. This time he'd demand that they kept some back for Carter to fiddle around with. He was as conscious of her frustration with her lack of time and opportunity to work on the devices and equipment that SGC continued to bring back, as he was with Daniel's desire to stay and explore.
He peered into the gloom and waved them forward. Silently, without their usual chatter, they walked through scrubland towards the area of interest. Once there, Sam had Teal'c and Daniel assisting her in gathering samples while Jack kept a look out. A faint thrum of worry gathered in Jack's bones. He wasn't sure what he was sensing but he felt disturbed. He looked back at his team. "Something's up," he said shortly. "I want you packed and ready to leave within five minutes."
He sensed Sam looking at him, but she said nothing. He kept his eye on the horizon as they packed and then hustled them forward. They went silently, Jack's obvious discomfort infecting them, and hurried towards the gate. They were about half a mile from it when all hell broke loose. A wailing sound that set Jack's teeth on edge sounded behind them. He quickened the pace and looked back but saw nothing. Teal'c swung his staff weapon in the direction of the sound and stopped.
"My symbiote is extremely disturbed, O'Neill." Teal'c said quietly, his grip on his weapon tight and tense.
Jack nodded. "Keep going fast," he ordered, and they broke into a run. The sound increased in volume and intensity until all they could hear was it and the pounding of their hearts. The stargate and safety loomed on the horizon and they increased their speed, but as they did so the chase seemed to be getting nearer. Daniel's face was a grimace of pain, while Sam's white face and staring eyes reflected Jack's sense of doom.
"Drop your packs and run," he shouted, glancing behind him at the unidentifiable menace they could all feel. Unencumbered they made greater speed, the stargate getting larger until they were within a hundred yards of it. As if sensing their intending escape the noise got louder if possible and Jack smelt the scent of despair, loathing, malice and death. He resisted the urge to turn while Daniel, their fastest runner, headed towards the DHD. He had the wormhole open in seconds and screamed at them "to run, damn it." Jack pushed himself forward, saw Sam and Daniel run through, gave Teal'c a push and turned at the last moment as he entered the hole. A disembodied claw raked towards him, slobbering jaws opened to crush him and the smell of decay and putrefaction made him gag. He stumbled though and fainted.
He came to with the rest of his team on the ramp, bruised, battered and exhausted. General Hammond's concerned face loomed before him. "Colonel O'Neill, what happened?" he asked. Jack shook his head and shuddered. Relieved when Daniel made an attempt to answer.
"We couldn't really see them, sir, the noise was in your head, playing on your nerves," he gasped, before closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. "If Jack hadn't felt uncomfortable and ordered us to leave we'd be dead that's for sure." He shuddered. "It was all in your mind but yet not in your mind."
Jack nodded trying to catch his breath. "I caught a glance of one of them, sir." He shivered. "A face from your nightmares - but Daniel may well be right, no real substance to them."
Sam sat up, her face beginning to regain some kind of colour. "I don't think I've ever been so scared," she said shivering violently.
Janet Fraiser burst into the room and headed straight for her. She felt her skin, looked round at the rest of them. "You're in shock," she said bluntly. "I want you in the infirmary and resting, now." She looked at Teal'c." That includes you, Teal'c, now go."
Jack picked himself up and meekly followed the petite woman to his least favourite place in the SGC.
That night he found himself wandering round his house, touching pictures and surfing memories. He sat clutching a picture of Charlie, Sara and himself, tracing the images of his dead child and divorced wife gently. Sara had let him know about her remarriage and after some weeks of shock and anger he'd become accustomed to the knowledge that she was no longer his. He guessed he'd always love her; they had shared so much in their years together, the best being Charlie. He closed his eyes and let the grief and love he felt for his dead son wash over him.
About half an hour later he felt surprisingly refreshed and with a sudden yearning to visit Charlie's grave. Without a second thought he threw on his jacket, grabbed his keys and set out to the cemetery. He found Charlie's grave more by luck than judgement in the darkness, kneeling by it for what seemed like an eternity until he stood and silently returned to his jeep. The restlessness that had become so much part of him of late filled him and pushed him towards the mountains where he sat in the dark and waited for sunrise to fill the sky with slow moving tendrils of orange, red and yellow. Exhausted beyond measure, he stumbled to his SUV and drove home and to bed.
Frantic knocking and then calls woke him. He stumbled out of bed into the arms of a very concerned Daniel. "Jack, what's wrong?" he asked his voice tight and worried.
Jack blinked, gently removing Daniel's arms and sat on his sofa. "Nothing," he answered slowly, stifling a yawn. "I was out late and didn't get to sleep until this morning."
Daniel looked at him silently before nodding. "General Hammond postponed our debriefing until this afternoon." He raised his eyebrows. "He knew you hadn't signed in and I offered to go and check up on you. You'll have to see Janet but he's okay about it." He grimaced. "I think yesterday affected all of us more than we realised. Sam and I had trouble sleeping."
Jack blinked letting Daniel's voice flow over him as he slowly got his thoughts together. He didn't think yesterday had anything to do with his actions last night. He nodded. "I'm heading for the shower," he said wearily. "Put the coffee on will you and I'll be with you in ten."
He shuffled off to shower and dress automatically. He found Daniel sitting by the dining room table his hands clasped round his coffee mug gazing out of the window. He got up and passed Jack a hot mug and sat back down tipping back his head and swallowing the hot liquid. Jack found himself distracted by the lines of Daniel's throat, his strong handsome profile, his long elegant fingers, and had a sudden desire to lean forward and kiss the exposed skin. He clutched his mug tighter and closed his eyes in panic. He wanted to be friends with Daniel, not lovers. Somewhere inside he felt a derisive laugh. Daniel set down his mug and stretched, standing slowly and heading for the windows leading to the deck. He was silent for a while as Jack watched and finished his drink. He turned to Jack and smiled gently.
"I like gardens," he said quietly. "I occasionally think about filling my balcony with flowers until I realise how much watering they would require and the likelihood of them dying off through neglect." He glanced at Jack and smiled. "I'm sure Sam would give me advice and come up with some neat device to keep the flowers watered in a regulated manner."
Jack smiled automatically, unsettled by his brief urge. He stood up and fumbled for his keys. Daniel turned from the window took his mug into the kitchen, washed it and left it on the drainer. Jack relaxed slightly, amused by the contrast of Daniel's neatness in certain areas and his tendency to chaos in his working life. "Come back for a meal tonight, Daniel?" he asked impulsively wondering a split second later if he was totally stupid or just going insane.
Daniel smiled and shook his head. "I'll take a rain check, Jack I'm pretty exhausted." His smile broadened. "Last invite you were fast asleep so maybe I'll give you a few days to really recover."
Jack grinned. "Next time fix a meal and wake me up," he said cheerfully, both disappointed yet relieved by Daniel's refusal.
"You wish," Daniel snorted as he left.
General Hammond accepted his apology with a nod and went straight into the debriefing. From the little information they had, it was decided to lock the address out of the computer system. Their next assignment was discussed and set for twenty-four hours time dependent as usual on receiving adequate information from either the MALP or the UAV.
Jack checked his mail and his in box, and then went up to the firing range to get in some practice. He checked through the books and couldn't find Daniel's signature in the last three months, and felt irritated that Daniel hadn't kept up on his promise to practise regularly.
He shot with deadly efficiency before spending time throwing his knife at a tree stump, finishing in time to accompany Daniel and Sam to the commissary. They appeared to be involve in a fairly deep argument of sorts, he sat back and let them play, occasionally grunting as he was asked to support one side or the other. Sam was as usual vibrant with energy, forceful, quick and decisive. Daniel was slower to respond, thinking deeply in-between each point but once started, like a volcano, unstoppable. Teal'c joined them someway through the meal and proceeded to ignore the discussion around him. His meal finished, Jack took time to study his two scientists. They were similar in many ways, dedicated, highly intelligent, passionate and committed. Sam worked with hard facts and scientific evidence. Daniel with theories, history, fables, little hard evidence, all of it subject to interpretation. Sam experimented, Daniel explored, both problem solved but so differently it was an occasional fascination to watch the two so separate often opposing mind sets working together to solve something. The discussion finally wound down, a truce agreed and his two scientists relaxed into their meals.
His restlessness returned by the end of the day. He sparred with Teal'c, ate again in the commissary and to his inner shock, heard himself accepting an invite to join Teal'c in kel'no'reem. Once seated, Teal'c expressed his pleasure.
"You have appeared more restless than usual, O'Neill." Teal'c explained. "Meditation would allow you to reach your inner self."
Jack felt like complaining that he had no desire to communicate with anything except his inner child, but Teal'c natural gravity and his quietly expressed pleasure at his presence kept him quiet. He tried not to fidget as Teal'c slipped into kel'no'reem and wondered whether contemplating his navel might assist the process when he felt something stir in his mind. He couldn't say how he knew but he realised that he wasn't alone. Laughter filled his mind and a gentle sensation that felt like something was stroking him.
'I have been with you since you collapsed, Jack' The 'voice' whispered making him tremble. It soothed him again and told him to relax. No, he said angrily, get out of me get out! His panic was again soothed and he felt himself become sleepy. No! he cried, but it was too late.
He woke to hear 'himself' talking quietly with Teal'c. He sounded like himself, well it was using his vocal cords, and he spoke like he always did. He and Teal'c were discussing Goa'uld tactics and Jaffa culture. Teal'c's face shone in the candlelight his feature showing more animation than usual. Finally he stopped and bowed deeply.
"It has been a pleasure. O'Neill. Daniel Jackson and I have often talked and I have thought that your contribution would have been very interesting at times."
Jack stood up smoothly despite the fact that he had sat cross-legged for at least two hours.
"Glad to oblige, Teal'c," his occupier said cheerfully. "The meditation allowed me to think of some of the questions I've been wanting to ask." He stretched. "Mind you, Teal'c, you could do with more padding in the cushions."
Teal'c inclined his head. "It will be seen to, O'Neill."
Jack's head nodded and he turned and left Teal'c room, headed for the surface, signed out and drove away. The lock on his mind loosened. "Bastard," he hissed. "I'm taking you back to the SGC and getting myself checked over." He attempted to stop the car but his foot wouldn't cooperate.
'Stop fighting me' it ordered. 'We'll get back home and I'll explain exactly what you are and are not going to do.'
Jack fought violently but to no effect. Imprisoned in his own body he walked into his house and collapsed on the sofa. The bonds containing his body and mind relaxed a little, and with trembling hands he headed for the fridge and a bottle of beer. He took a long cool drink before returning to the sofa. "You can't be a Goa'uld, Teal'c or Carter would have detected you," he ground out. "So what in hell's name are you?"
'You do not need to talk out loud,' the being said a little primly. 'I am communicating directly with your mind.'
Jack snarled. "I need to talk out loud, I think better that way." He felt a mental shrug from the being and a mild snicker. "What do you call yourself?" he demanded.
The being hummed. 'Call me J' it said cheerfully.'
Jack groaned and drank a little more. "When are you getting out of me?" he demanded wondering at the lack of panic he felt. He had never seen himself as the type of person who sat and talked coherently with body snatching aliens. Now if Daniel had been the one so chosen he'd already be making notes with the bastard. A sound like a giggle echoed round his brain.
'I like, Daniel' J said. 'You like Daniel as well, Jack. In fact you like Daniel very much don't you?'
Jack blushed and clenched his fists. "Shut the fuck up," he snarled.
J's voice was teasing. 'I like Sam, she has a very interesting mind, and Teal'c, he is such a fascinating man. You have a wonderful team, Jack and they all think very highly of you. Are you aware of that?'
"You can read their minds can you?" Jack said sourly.
J laughed. 'I don't need to Jack. You are such fascinating people. So fragile and easily hurt and lacking awareness outside of yourself, but so interesting. I struggled to understand you Jack until I began to see what others thought of you. They seemed to admire you far more than you did yourself. Once I had learned of Sara and Charlie I began to understand your pain. Emotions are new to me but I have learnt much in the short time I have been with you.' It stopped talking for a second then began with some determination in its voice. 'I also saved you and your team on that last mission, Jack. It was I who sensed the 'others' and alerted you. I don't think you would have made it otherwise.'
Jack was silent; he had to acknowledge that the sense of fear he felt had been almost psychic. What had Daniel said afterwards, something about psychic remnants? How would Daniel have known that?
'He is quite sensitive to such things,' J said quietly. 'I think that is what makes him such a good communicator. He feels how people are reacting.'
"How would you know that?" Jack said scornfully. "Have you ever seen Daniel in action?"
J laughed 'I have your memories, Jack. It might surprise you just how many memories you have of Daniel.'
Jack took a deep breath and remained silent, convinced despite his anger that J was still controlling him and keeping him calm. J continued regardless.
'I want to assure you Jack that I am not here to harm you or your people. I just want to learn and experience before I continue in my search to find others like me. I will stay with you for a while longer, but be assured the secrets of your Stargate are safe with me.'
"You don't originate from where I found you" Jack said curiously.
J laughed. 'I hitchhiked there with my last host. A lower ranking Goa'uld who arrived to harvest the few people who lived there.'
Jack was interested despite himself. "They emptied the planet?" he said scornfully.
J somehow nodded his head. 'The planet was sparsely populated, more a dumping ground of a few thousand people. The Jaffa rounded them up, took them through the gate and left. I however could not wait to leave the Goa'uld, and I most certainly made no attempt to talk with it. The human host was too tired old and servile to be of any interest so I waited and left.' It hummed. 'We will sleep now. Jack. You can tell no one of my presence and I will not hinder you in anyway but I will stay with you until I am ready'
"What are you?" Jack asked unsteadily for the second time.
J went quiet. 'I am not sure, Jack. Perhaps I am not even 'alive'.' It was silent. 'I enjoy acquiring knowledge, another reason why I like your scientists. But I think my origins are lost to me.'
Jack sensed a deep feeling of sadness as he made his way to his bedroom and succumbed to sleep.
Memories of J did not resurface until sometime into the next mission. The natives of Latria appeared to be friendly with a technology equivalent to late nineteenth, early twentieth century at home, or so Daniel informed them. They saw no evidence of Goa'uld presence and much that appeared slightly familiar. Daniel was curious, as ever, gently probing their host for histories and information about their ancestors. Jack hardly listened, already having given up on the mission as achieving any of their primary objectives, but prepared to let Sam and Daniel play for a while longer. Sam had been fascinated by their light source. They didn't have electricity instead using crystals that emitted light when vibrated. They used the crystals everywhere in the streets, houses and civic centres. Everything else was horse powered or steam driven.
"Wonder when they'll get round to finding another power source," Daniel murmured to Sam as their visit progressed. "If they're anything like us they'll harness the atom and find nuclear power and it will all go down the toilet."
Jack smiled as Sam took Daniel's negativity personally, finding the ding-dong of accusation and counter accusation soothing and familiar. Teal'c cast their scientists a curious glance then proceeded to ignore them as they continued their tour round the 'hot spots' of Latria. They exchanged pleasantries with a few other natives, all men, but spoke at length with no one but Talik whose role appeared to be somewhat akin to a governor.
As they sat with their host, a tall, bearded man, about Jack's height dressed in pants and top that would not look too out of place back home, he began to get his first feelings of unease. Daniel was asking about their religion and getting very little despite his gentle probing. Talik stalled him, sending minions out for drinks and food for them.
He felt Daniel withdraw a little and was suddenly aware of Teal'c's tension. Eyes narrowing in concern he tried to analyse what was wrong as he half listened to Daniel and Talik's conversation.
"We worship the crystal givers," Talik eventually replied looking faintly hunted. Jack had every sympathy for his expression. When Daniel wanted to know he was gently ruthless in his inquisition.
Sam looked up bewildered. "You don't mine for them?" she asked curiously.
Talik shook his head. "The crystal givers give them to us in return for goods."
"Who or what are the crystal givers?" Daniel asked.
Talik shook his head. "We do not discuss them with outsiders, " he said repressively. "Please wait, I will chase up the food." He nodded at them and strode from the room.
'Get out of here, Jack'
He heard J's voice in his head and was shocked that he had managed to forget it, although he had a feeling that was due to design and convenience on his hitchhikers part. "Why?" he growled ignoring the cocked eyebrow from Daniel.
'They will give you to the 'crystal givers' and believe me you won't want to meet them. Talik is in fear of them. They need the power source and to answer Daniel and Sam's questions they do want alternatives, but the crystal givers seem to get wind of their efforts and destroy them.' J's voice went silent. 'He's coming back, Jack and he's had your drinks doped. He thinks that sacrificing you will please the 'crystal givers' and reduce their next quota demand.'
Jack stood up as he listened calling to his team. "We're out of here," he told them firmly. Daniel looked curious. "Call it gut feeling, Daniel but I'm not at all comfortable with these crystal givers and want out." He looked over his team. Teal'c radiated strong approval, Carter bewilderment and Daniel concern. He raised his finger as Daniel started to speak. "This isn't open for negotiation, Daniel. We're out of here."
Daniel shut his mouth and shrugged. Slipping his backpack on he followed Jack to the doorway.
"I'd quite like to take a few crystals back with us, sir,"
Jack looked at her. "If you can grab some fine, Carter, but I'm not going looking for them." He grabbed his P-90 and walked out the door and into Talik. The man looked at him strangely.
"Where are you going, Colonel?" he asked.
"Got to go now," Jack said easily. "Things to do, places to see, food to eat, cabbages to grow, you know the drill." Talik looked confused as well he might thought Jack grimly. J was begging him to go. "It's been an experience meeting you, goodbye." He headed for the exit hoping he could remember how to get back to the gate.
"But we haven't finished talking," Talik said quickly. "Dr Jackson asked about our beliefs, I was about to tell him more."
Nice try thought Jack, but no cigar. "Another time maybe," he said dismissively. "Now we really have to go."
"No," Talik cried. "Stay. I planned to show you other things," he looked at Sam. "Major Carter would be very interested."
"Sorry," Jack said emotionlessly. He felt his team gather behind him, unsettled by Talik's obvious panic. As they headed out of the building Talik's control slipped. "Guards," he shouted. "Stop them."
Jack waved his team forward taking point, Teal'c at the rear with Carter and Daniel tucked in between. The streets seemed deserted but behind them they could hear the sound of raised voices. They hugged the buildings and ran, the fury of sound behind them urging them to greater speed. As they headed out of the city, Sam jumped at a glowing globe and wrestled it off its stand before running to join them. Jack noted and disapproved; he saw Daniel do his usual dash to the DHD and waited, eyes fixed before him. The Stargate came to life as the first of their pursuers came into sight. He raised his rifle watched his team go through and gave a heart felt 'thank you' to his passenger as he left the planet.
Daniel was waiting for him as they left the debriefing and silently escorted him to his office. Jack sat at his desk and waited as Daniel paced before him, his eyes lowered, head bent. He stopped walking, sat in a chair and fixed Jack with a searching glance.
"How did you know they were going to do something?" he asked quietly.
Jack shrugged. "Intuition," he said after a second's thought.
Daniel nodded. "You seem to be developing a sixth sense, Jack," he said neutrally. "First PX3 222, now our last one." He stared down at his hands. "It's very useful and I in no way wish to dismiss it but it seems to have started after you collapsed."
Jack nodded, silently trying to fight J as it took over. "You may well be right, Daniel," J agreed smoothly. Jack screamed at it as Daniel paused in thought. J ignored him waiting for Daniel to respond.
"What do you think caused it?" Daniel asked curiously.
J shrugged Jack's shoulders. "You know me, Daniel. I'm a meat and potatoes kind of guy, I don't have much truck with psychic intuition but I've always had a respect for 'vibes'." Daniel nodded slowly and J continued. "Perhaps I banged my head and 'hey presto' I'm more open to feeling them."
Daniel smiled slowly shaking his head. "Fascinating theory there, Jack," he said slyly giving him one of his rare grins. "Whatever it is, I'm thankful for it as long as you don't feel in anyway different."
J snorted. "When I start believing your fairy tales you need to start worrying."
Daniel smiled again and stood up from the chair. "I await that event with trepidation," he said obviously amused. Jack grinned back and for a moment everything felt alright with the world until he realised that J had just lied to Daniel and he was no nearer to getting rid of his unwanted passenger.
He sat back in his chair and kicked the table angrily. 'Bastard', he whispered in his mind at the presence. 'Get out of me.'
'Didn't you just thank me for saving your life?' J asked quietly. 'You can't have it both ways, Jack.'
'You're probably the reason we're on these damn missions.' Jack laid his head on his hands and groaned. 'Get out of me, please.'
'You want me to take over Daniel, or perhaps Sam or even Teal'c?' J asked impassively.
'No, damn it.' Jack snarled fighting an urge to shout out loud.
A small sigh came from the presence. 'I won't harm you, Jack. I just want to learn about you and your people.'
"You okay, Jack?"
Daniel's voice shocked him into full alertness. "Fine," he said placatingly.
Daniel looked at him curiously. "You looked as if you were arguing with yourself there, Jack"
Jack grimaced. He knew if he said anything J would take over. "Just thinking." He looked up at the amused expression on Daniel's face. "What, a guy can't think?"
Daniel smiled. "Of course a guy can think," he said smoothly, heading for the door. He placed his hand on the handle and looked back. "Never expected you to admit to it though."
He had gone before Jack thought of a suitable reply. A small smile slipped out as he considered their conversation. He wanted J out of him, no doubts on that, but he had to admit that since it had been on board his and Daniel's friendship looked more solid than it had done for months. Wearily he rubbed his hand over his hair and ignored the smugness in J's voice as it repeated its mantra. 'I'm not here to harm you, Jack, in fact I might just be helping you.'
Third time lucky he repeated to himself as he stood by the gate waiting for his tardy archaeologist. Sam was checking her backpack, while Teal'c stood impassively, staff weapon by his side. Daniel ran into the gate room and with an apologetic grimace stood behind Sam as the gate fired up.
He was remembering that look clearly as four hours later; wish certainly unfulfilled, the four of them were manacled to a wall while three men in front of them discussed their fate. Or he assumed they were discussing their fate, as he couldn't understand a word while Daniel, who had understood had been gagged for talking too much and remonstrating with them. J had whispered that he thought they were discussing a sacrifice, but he only recognised a few words. Jack was still smarting at their capture, lured by apparent friendliness into following their hosts into a damn trap, J's cry of warning too late to fling themselves away from the cage that rapidly dropped over them and the gas that filled the room they were currently hanging in.
He'd yelled until he was hoarse, but they ignored him. He froze as they stood by Sam, reaching out to touch her, inspecting her like she was a horse. One pressed his hand to her head and shook his head. Jack braced himself as they moved towards him, kicking out as they touched him, stilling instantly as the tall man placed him hand on his head. He couldn't explain the sensation, but it was as if he drifted from his body and looked down on it from afar, returning with a jolt as the man withdrew his hand. J gave an almost human gasp of surprise. 'What,' snarled Jack.
'They can sense me!' J sounded frightened and somehow young and insecure.
Jack sighed noting absently that the men never went near Teal'c. All three huddled round Daniel who stilled and closed his eyes as the tall man touched his forehead. He kept his eyes shut even after the man withdrew his hands, removed the gag and released him from the manacles.
"Daniel," Sam cried as he shuddered from head to toe as he was pushed out of the room. "Daniel," she repeated quietly as he was dragged from the room. She looked at Jack. "What the hell was that about, sir? Did you feel," she hesitated for a second. "Did you feel anything when he touched you?"
"Dislocated," Jack said quietly. "Sort of floating above myself."
Sam glanced at him strangely before nodding slowly. "Something like that," she acknowledged.
"They were looking for something," Teal'c added. "I believe the tall man to be a priest."
"We need to get out of here," Jack muttered. He concentrated on J. 'You keep telling me you're here to learn and help, how about some practical contribution?'
J sighed. 'I can only use your body, Jack. I doubt that I can do anything that you aren't perfectly capable of doing alone.'
"Great," Jack muttered, shaking his head at Sam's look of enquiry. He tested the manacles before closing his eyes, taking a very deep breath and preparing for a great deal of pain. "Shit," he said a moment later, the pain in his dislocated thumb making him feel faint. "Fuck and damn, I forgot how damn painful it was going to be." He smiled at Sam's concerned gaze. "Nothing to worry about, Carter. Done it before, many times."
Sam nodded, testing her manacles. Jack swore a little more under his breath and reached very gently for his wrist, feeling the metal bracelet over. He swore again as he knocked his thumb and a bolt of pain shot up his arm, but persevered until he found a smooth depression, pressed and released his hand with muttered thanks. He strode over to Sam and repeated the process before doing the same for Teal'c.
'I can dampen the pain for you,' J said, as Sam asked. "Can I wrap your hand, sir? They've taken our weapons but left the backpacks so I can use the medikit."
Jack nodded holding out his hands as she swiftly bound his thumb into position. He nodded his thanks watching Teal'c as he checked out the door and slowly opened it.
"Pretty low security," he murmured as he followed Teal'c into the poorly lit hallway. "So which way?"
Teal'c pointed at the floor. "They've dragged something this way, O'Neill."
Jack peered at the faint scuffmarks and marvelled afresh at Teal'c's ability. He waved them forward wishing fervently for a weapon of some kind. They travelled for a hundred yards before the corridor split. Teal'c studied the floor and pointed to the left. A few yards on they came upon a flight of stone steps and Teal'c moved up them. At the top he stopped, looked out, then waved them forward. Jack followed blinking as they came out into a corridor lit by flaming torches. He could hear voices ahead.
'I can sense something evil,' J whispered.
Teal'c halted. "I can sense something unnatural ahead," he whispered.
Jack glanced at Sam who shook her head. He looked back at Teal'c and shrugged. "What's the betting Daniel is in there?" He pointed forward and they slowly headed down the corridor. Teal'c stopped and pointed ahead raising two fingers. Jack nodded, checked with Sam and grabbed at a torch, pulling it from its bracket. He moved forward heading towards the two men as if he had a right to be there. Ignoring the sharply worded question, he continued his approach, coming to stand in front of them. The two men had their swords raised cutting off his entrance to the door.
"Gonna let me through?" he asked.
The smaller of the two men spat something in his direction and leaned forward. Jack sensed Teal'c closing in to his right and spoke again to distract them. "Just come to rescue my friend," he said cheerfully thrusting the torch in the man's face and grabbing at the smaller man's sword arm while Teal'c and Sam jumped the other man. His thumb gave him hell as he battled with the man but eventually the two were knocked out and bundled to the side.
"We get Daniel and go," he said quickly. "If you see our weapons, grab them and make for the gate." He waited for their nods, reached for the door and slowly pushed it open. The tall man had his back to him as he stood in front of a malevolent looking stone idol, his hands raised in supplication. Daniel, his wrist and ankles bound to a stone table, his chest bare and covered with painted symbols, was breathing quickly. His panicked breath noisy in the unnatural stillness of the small room. The two other men stood at his head, their eyes fixed on the tall man. Jack pointed to the priest, then at the two men and mimed cutting their throats. He pointed back to the priest and moved towards him.
'He's linked with the presence,' J said quickly. 'Kill him or knock him out and it will be distracted long enough for you to grab Daniel and run like hell.'
Jack moved silently forwards, grabbed the priest, and knocked his feet out from under him, banging his head into the floor until he stooped struggling. He looked up to see Sam pulling a dazed Daniel to his feet as Teal'c gathered their weapons together. He stepped over the still bodies of Daniel's captors and moved to Daniel's side squeezing his shoulder. "Okay, big guy?" he asked gently.
Daniel blinked giving him and Sam a small smile. "Been better," he said slowly turning towards the idol and shuddering. "We've got to get out of here, Jack. They were going to sacrifice me to that thing, and I'm not sure that it isn't somehow alive and very evil."
'We need to go now,' J yelled in panic. 'Get out Jack, it's been called up and no one's controlling it.'
Jack grabbed Daniel's arm and hauled him towards the door. "We're out of here. Carter, lead the way - I'll give Daniel a hand." He put his arm round Daniel's chest ignoring his protests and hauled him forward.
Their journey continued in near silence, the lumbering, malevolent presence real to all of them. Jack found himself looking round a couple of times as they left the underground complex and ran for their lives over a small hill and to the safety of the stargate. Daniel had recovered sufficiently to run on his own, and Jack felt a very inappropriate twinge of disappointment as the bare flesh slipped from his grasp, countering it with an increase in speed. Daniel stumbled towards the DHD before realising he hadn't got his GDO and stood back for Sam to press in the symbols. As the wormhole exploded forth, they saw flashes in the sky and heard a loud rumble.
"Jump," Jack screamed at them, waited until they were all through and ran forward. He ended up collapsed over Daniel on the ramp, noting absently that Daniel had lost his glasses as well as his tee shirt and jacket. He held out his hand to Daniel and pulled him to his feet, repeating the process for Sam and waited to get his breath back.
"Colonel," General Hammond's disembodied voice floated from the speaker. "This is getting to be a habit. Infirmary and then debrief."
Jack waved an arm in acknowledgement and headed for the dubious delights awaiting him.
The debriefing was short, resulting in General Hammond giving them five days of down time apparently concerned about the mental welfare of his premier team. Jack checked in with every member of his team. Teal'c was planning to visit his son, Sam to play with her Indian motorbike as well as take a trip to her brother's, and Daniel was just going to rest up and relax. Jack snorted at the last piece of information. They all however agreed to go out for a meal before they split and headed for a Mexican restaurant at Daniel's recommendation.
The meal was good, relaxing them all. By unanimous consent they kept away from work and the trials of the past few weeks, discussing a variety of topics and concluding that they needed to do this kind of thing more often.
Jack dropped Daniel off at his apartment, and headed for home. He collapsed on the couch with a beer and turned on the TV, contemplating what he was going to do with his time.
'I want to explore your world,' J told him suddenly.
Jack grunted. "You get to see more of other worlds than mine," he said out loud. "Sorry to disappoint, but I've got a job to do, and taking you on vacation is not part of it." He shifted on the couch. "You can leave anytime you know."
J remained silent for a while as Jack absorbed himself in the hockey game. 'Have I caused you any harm, Jack,' he asked suddenly.
Jack stilled. "No," he said grudgingly. "But I don't like you being in me. I can't control you and it frightens me." He glowered at the TV. "That's the only reason I'm not running around screaming, your control."
J sighed. 'I will leave soon, Jack. I have learnt much from you in these past weeks. Your earth is fascinating even if I have seen so little of it. The picture I see of it and the memories you hold in your mind have convinced me of its worth.' It stopped and went silent for a second. 'Take me fishing, Jack. I would like to experience that.'
Jack sighed. "No!"
J snorted with impatience, took over control, walked to the telephone and rang Daniel. 'What are you doing' Jack demanded internally. J ignored him.
"Daniel, want to go fishing?" it asked.
'No, get out of me leave me alone. Don't involve Daniel' Jack screamed.
"Come on, you need a break. Bring some books and mosquito repellent and relax." J countered Daniel's slow refusal.
Jack waited breathlessly as Daniel remained silent until a slight sigh could be heard.
"I think I'm going to regret this, but okay, Jack. Just this once."
"Great," J said enthusiastically. "I'll pick you up in the morning, early. Be ready."
J replaced the receiver and punched the air. "Hooked him," it said gleefully
'What the fuck do you think you're doing' Jack yelled in panic.
J giggled, the sound incongruous in the highly charged atmosphere. 'I'm setting you up, Jack O'Neill,' it said cheerfully. 'Remember, I've shared your mind, your thoughts and your desires, Jack. You know what you'd like to do, I'm offering you the opportunity.'
'I don't want it,' Jack said furiously.
'Fool yourself, Jack O'Neill, don't try to fool me,' J said dismissively, dropping back on the couch and surfing through the TV channels. 'I'm staying in charge for now, so relax, lay back and cool it. Nothing you can do or say will change anything, accept it.' J lay back and ignored Jack as he screamed abuse, until tired and more than apprehensive, he stopped, shut down and slept.
He woke at six, J still firmly in charge. Packed up his car and headed for Daniel's apartments having phoned and woken a very bad tempered archaeologist on the way over. Daniel slouched down yawning his head off and slumped in the passenger seat. He reached into his backpack, undid a thermos flask, poured a shot of coffee in the cup lid and drank nosily. Ignoring Jack's grin, he settled back in the seat and waved his hand.
"Drive," he said faintly. "But don't talk to me for an hour or so, I need more rest."
Jack laughed, put the vehicle into gear and drove for over an hour before realising that he and not J was in control. He considered turning back but the thought of a few days with Daniel, fishing, seemed too good to be missed and he carried on driving. They drove throughout the day and into the night arriving at his cabin in the dark and stumbling around until they found lanterns and had a fire going in the large grate. Exhausted, they snacked on potato chips, too tired to make supper. Giving Daniel the bed, Jack sank into a deep sleep on the battered but comfortable couch.
The next morning was bright and clear. Jack hummed as he sorted out his fishing rods, aware of Daniel puttering around the cabin, coffee mug firmly clenched in his hand. "Going to fish?" he asked cheerfully.
Daniel smiled and shook his head. "Going for a walk then I'll join you and read." He stretched, revealing and yawned. "Need to wake up, and it looks beautiful out there."
Jack nodded, mildly disappointed. "See you later," he acknowledged and walked down to the jetty, sat in his chair, arranged the cooler and snacks near to hand, and relaxed. Soon he felt better, relaxed in mind and spirit as the peace of the place crept over him. Even the awareness of the other did little to ruffle his demeanour.
'This is beautiful,' J said approvingly.
Jack gave a mental nod and kept quiet.
'Thank you,' J added a little later.
"What for?" Jack asked out loud.
J did something that felt like a shrug. 'For letting me relax with you, feel what you feel and see what you see without a fight.' He went silent for a minute. 'I am aware that I have invaded you, Jack, and for that I apologise unreservedly.'
Jack waited for it to continue. 'I can remember few hosts before you, which leads me to believe that I am a very young. The Goa'uld I mentioned was more by accident than design and before that I think I was with in a sea with beings much like your dolphins but I can remember little before that.'
Jack shrugged his attention returning to his fishing rod. "So when are you getting out of me?" he asked his attention drifting towards the float.
'Soon,' J whispered, and went silent.
The day went peaceably and comfortably. Daniel meandered down to the jetty, sat next to him and chatted briefly before burrowing himself in a book. At dusk, they barbecued, and drank beer on the deck and chatted into the night before heading to their separate beds. Jack woke happier that he could remember being in ages, showered, dressed and made breakfast whistling cheerfully, albeit untunefully as he did so. Daniel turned out looking refreshed and ate his breakfast with gusto before again setting off for a walk.
The next day went the same way; and Jack could not remember the last time he had felt so at peace with himself and the world in general. Even J kept quiet and did not intrude. That evening as they moved in doors they both headed for the couch. Jack sat down, and leant his head back, turning to look at Daniel similarly relaxed next to him. Without thinking of the consequences, he leaned forward took Daniel's head in his hands and kissed him gently on the lips. Daniel's eyes opened wide then briefly closed but he said nothing. Jack reached forward, removed his glasses and kissed him again deepening the kiss as he felt Daniel's lips open under him and began to return the pressure. Impatient to touch, he pulled Daniel towards him and folded him in his arms, maintaining his lip lock. Daniel's hands slowly snaked round Jack's and for a few long minutes they kissed and cuddled. Jack sat back a little, held Daniel's face in his and said.
"You are so beautiful, Daniel." He kissed him again and sat back, the shock at what he had done only just catching up with him.
Daniel blushed and nibbled at his bottom lip. "Er, thank you, Jack," he said uncertainly, his eyes flicking up to watch Jack's face. "What brought that on? Not that I'm complaining or anything, but up to recently I wasn't even sure that you liked me much."
Jack felt J take over as he tried to retreat and pretend that it was all a mistake.
"I brought it on, Daniel Jackson," J said gently, his speech patterns suddenly obviously different from Jack's.
Daniel's head shot up and he watched Jack with alarmed, worried eyes.
"Don't worry, Daniel," J said quietly. "Jack has done nothing against his will, I pushed him to bring you along, but everything else has been because he wanted it. He loves you, you know. That is the reason for your estrangement. He loves you and until recently he just couldn't admit it to himself and certainly not to you."
Daniel blinked. "Who are you?" he asked slowly. "And just where is my Jack? You better not have harmed him!"
Jack felt a rush of adrenalin at the worried and possessive note in Daniel's voice and fought J's control to say. "I'm here, Danny, it just keeps taking control and..." He was cut off as J wrestled back control.
"He's all there, Daniel," J assured him. "I won't allow him to take back command until we have spoken together."
Daniel stared at Jack, his lips compressed. "I want to talk to Jack," he said stubbornly. "Unless I'm sure that Jack is okay, I'm calling the SGC, now."
J released his hold on Jack who blinked and frowned, rubbing his head with a trembling hand. "It's me," he said quietly. "He's told you the truth, Daniel. I've had him on board since I collapsed but he wouldn't let me tell anyone." He sighed rubbing along his neck. "He's only once taken control and spoken to you, every other time it's been me." He took a deep breath. "It was me who kissed you, and he's right, I do, er, um, I am very fond of you, Danny." He looked up quickly into Daniel's concerned gaze.
Daniel's frown relaxed slightly and he smiled briefly. "I love you too, Jack," he said a slight tremble in his voice. "But at this moment in time I'm more concerned about getting rid of your passenger and I'm wondering if I ought to contact General Hammond."
"I won't let you, Daniel," J said solemnly. "Jack won't want to fight you, and I have grown to care for you very much myself, but I will not allow myself or Jack to be taken by your NID and experimented on."
Daniel's eyes grew wide and he nodded. "I don't want that either," he said slowly. "I don't want Simmons getting his hands on Jack," he thought for a second. "How can I trust you?"
J sighed. "I haven't harmed, Jack. I wouldn't harm him. Jack will tell you himself that I have saved you twice already."
Jack blinked. "He saved us from the planet with the possible psychic thingies. It was him that told me to get us out of there."
Daniel nodded slowly. "PX3 222," he murmured.
"Whatever," Jack said impatiently. "Then he also told me to get us away from Talik and the crystal givers." He sighed. "I don't want him in me, but I have to say that he has never caused me any harm or made me do anything that I have vehemently opposed."
Daniel nodded. "Can I talk to him again?" he asked.
Jack made a face as J took over. "I am here, Daniel," J said gently.
Daniel nodded. "Jack can hear everything, can't he?" J nodded. "Ask Jack if he would like me to talk to him and he give me you answers or that I talk directly to you."
J gave Jack control. "Talk to him, Danny," Jack said wearily. "I'll just sit and listen."
He metaphorically sat back and let Daniel's gentle voice wash over him as he probed J's mind and tried to discover where exactly he had come from. Jack sighed. He'd been too angry and irritated to ask the same questions, but he should have done. There again, Daniel wasn't the one with a hitchhiker and therefore it was a little easier for him. The conversation went on, and he became drowsy and finally he slept.
"Jack is asleep, Daniel," J said quietly.
Daniel smiled. "Good," he said quietly. "I want you to come into me, J. Jack has had bad experiences with things like this." He stopped. "Actually all of us have had bad experiences or varied experiences, but Jack is a man of action not words and he becomes frustrated and angry when he cannot do anything to alter his circumstances."
J nodded. "I understand, Daniel. I'm curious, are you doing this because you love him or for knowledge?"
Daniel smiled wryly. "Both, J, " he acknowledged, " and to be honest I am very grateful that somehow you brought Jack and I together, but seriously I think that I can better deal with you than Jack can, and Jack will fight through hell to do the best for me or any of his team."
J smiled. "Can I kiss you as me, Daniel, before I transfer?"
Daniel looked at him quizzically. "Why?" he asked, suspicion in his voice.
J smiled. "Because I too have fallen a little in love with you," he said gently.
Daniel blushed and laughed quietly. "I'm not sure that I believe you, J, but go ahead."
J reached for Daniel's chin and leant forward. He kissed at Daniel's lips like Jack had, and explored Daniel's mouth. He felt all the sensations and savoured the experience, placing it in his memories along with everything else he had learnt and felt. He wanted more, and grabbed Daniel's arms and pulled him tightly as he continued his exploration, stroking Daniel's face and hair as he did so. "It feels so good," he whispered as he moved his lips to Daniel's ear. "I want to have a body of my own and feel all this sensation for myself." He kissed his way along Daniel's neck and back towards his lips. "Jack is right, according to all I have learnt, you are beautiful, Daniel."
Daniel groaned, pushing back from J's arms. "You bullshit as well as Jack," he panted. "J, you've got to stop, please. I'm not sure how or even if Jack and I will do anything about our feelings, but I can't do anything with you, it wouldn't be right."
"I understand," J said quietly, leaning forward to kiss Daniel's lips again. "One more kiss, dear Daniel and then I will transfer." He reached forward again drowning in the sensation of Daniel's lips before gathering his will and slipping from Jack into Daniel.
The change was immediate. Daniel's brain sparked with ideas and theories, buzzing with questions and hypotheses. His brain felt totally different from Jack's. Jack's was organised and sharp. Clever, able and fast, but far less chaotic and busy than Daniel's. J dived in and wriggled in delight. 'You creatures are fascinating, Daniel,' he said exuberantly, chasing after a fleeting memory and catching it. He watched the memory unfold and felt suddenly sad. 'I'm sorry,' he said quietly. 'Forgive me, Daniel' He felt Daniel take a deep breath.
"It's okay," Daniel murmured. "I lived through Machello and I'll live through more I'm sure."
J stroked Daniel with invisible hands soothing him and asking forgiveness with his shadowy touch. 'I must apologise to Jack and assure him that I will leave you all as soon as possible,' he whispered.
Daniel sighed. "He's not going to be very happy."
Jack was absolutely furious when he woke. "Are you out of your mind, Daniel?" he snapped as he marched around the deck. "Wasn't it bad enough that I was compromised. What the hell did you think you were doing?"
"He thought to help you, Jack," J said gently.
Jack stiffened. "I don't want to fucking hear you," he snarled. "Give me Daniel."
"Don't you Jack me," Jack shouted. "You damn idiot, why can't you leave things alone?"
"I wanted to help," Daniel said quietly. "I wanted to share your burden, Jack."
Jack stopped marching and glared at him. "When I want your damn help I'll ask for it," he snapped.
Daniel lifted his chin and watched him pace for a moment before answering. "You wouldn't Jack, you never ask for help, you know that."
"I do," Jack snapped.
Daniel sighed. "You do not, Jack. Take it from me, you NEVER ask for help. Please listen to me. I have given J another mind to explore and a promise to leave us as soon as he is able. I have the advantage over you in that I was pre warned and prepared and I freely chose to have him." He stopped for a second and shook his head. "We now have the advantage of sharing the problem and perhaps we can consult with Teal'c and Sam."
Jack snarled in frustration. "I didn't want you to take any risks," he shouted. " I didn't want you involved or touched by this. I wanted you protected from all of this!"
Daniel was silent for a moment before reaching forward and touching Jack's arm. Jack stopped his pacing, surprised by the unusual gesture. "Jack," Daniel said slowly. "I love you and I am grateful that you want to protect me, and Sam and Teal'c, but you must realise that we are all grown up. We can be included in decisions and face hardship, hell we do it all the time."
Jack sighed. "I know that, Daniel."
Daniel pursued him. "I trust you, Jack. I trust you to make the right decisions for me and for J and for the programme." He leant forward and lightly stroked Jack's arm. "Please, Jack. We need to get J home, but in the mean time I want to learn as much as I can from him. It may well benefit us all in the long run."
Jack sighed again and sat down wearily. "You'll be the death of me, Danny," he said shaking his head.
They decided to return home and after considerable discussion, to confer with both Sam and Teal'c and General Hammond. Jack watched Daniel throughout the long journey. When he wasn't talking to him, he was gesturing and silently communicating with his passenger. As he twitched and jerked around, Jack realised that for all his complaints about Daniel's verbosity, he was essentially a quiet and composed man. He could talk and lecture at the drop of a hat, but he seldom if ever talked for the sake of talking, and neither did he show the restlessness that was currently distracting him.
At journey's end, Jack hauled Daniel into his house, set him up in the spare room and promptly fell asleep. He woke the next morning to the smell of coffee and the sound of Daniel talking to himself. Wandering bleary eyed into the kitchen, he watched the one sided conversation with increasing amusement, as Daniel, high on caffeine, walked constantly around the ground floor, his hands gesticulating furiously. Recognising signs of imminent exhaustion, he hauled him towards a seat, kissed him gently and placed a plate of pancakes in front of him. Daniel blinked and smiled.
"Eat," Jack demanded sternly "and shut up while you do."
Daniel blinked again, but his mouth concentrated entirely on the food and drink and apart from watching and smiling at Jack from time to time, he seemed content to take a break from his almost ceaseless perambulation of before.
"How much sleep have you had?" Jack demanded.
Daniel blinked slowly and appeared to be calculating. "Four hours," he said softly, shaking his head as Jack opened his mouth to speak. "It's so damn exciting, Jack, and J has promised that he will leave at the first opportunity presented so I don't know how much time we have."
Jack glowered at him. "We are talking to General Hammond this morning," he ordered. "I'm phoning now while you sit here, stay quiet and eat up." He ignored the "Yes, Dad." and headed for the phone giving General Hammond enough detail to cancel a meeting and agree to see them at eleven hundred hours. He next rang Sam; unsurprised to track her down deep in the labs despite having a days leave left and asked her to attend. Teal'c however was not due back until the next day.
Showered and dressed, they got to the SGC and headed for the debriefing room. Sam joined them along the way obviously curious about the premature ending of their holiday.
Her expression became more fascinated and curious as first Jack, then a mixture of J and Daniel, took turns to explain.
"Do you know anything about physics?" she asked J, ignoring Jack's groan.
J shook Daniel's head. "I have not gained information in that area, Samantha," he said apologetically.
Sam nodded. "What do you think you are?" she asked. "Are you a construct or a being?"
J was silent leaving the question to Daniel. Daniel shook his head. "J's never thought about himself in those terms, Sam," he said quietly. "He can't answer you and I think the question frightens him."
Sam blinked. "I'm sorry J," she offered. "I meant no insult."
Daniel answered again. "He knows that, Sam." He gave a quick grin. "He's studied us all while he was in Jack and seems to have a remarkably accurate understanding about what drives all of us." He looked towards the General. "He promised both Jack and me that he would leave, sir. He wanted to offer us something in exchange but other than his impression of other times, he says he has nothing of worth."
General Hammond nodded. "He saved my team, at least twice, I'll accept that as payment." He frowned. "I am very unhappy about this incursion into the SGC without our knowledge and very worried about the implications for future safety." He stared hard at Jack. "Can you assure me that this J does not propose a security risk?"
Jack sighed. "No, sir, not with absolute confidence." He held up his hand at Daniel's cry of denial. "I'm almost certain, sir. J has always been more concerned in humanity and in the planet's beauty than in anything to do with the SGC." He frowned momentarily. "He saved most of his curiosity for those people I am closest to."
Daniel shifted restlessly. "I've only known him for a day, sir, and he's impressed me with his sincerity and willingness to learn."
Jack and General Hammond exchanged thoughtful glances. "That may be so, Dr Jackson, however, I will feel more relaxed when you are 'alone' and someone we trust has the responsibility for J." He looked round the table. "Who do you recommend?"
"Thor," Jack said. "I'm sure our favourite grey buddy will know what to do with him."
General Hammond looked at Jack. "And how do you propose we contact him?"
"The Red Planet, you know, the one we tried to build a rocket on, Carter," Jack appealed to Sam.
"K'Tau," Daniel added.
"Okay, we'll use the Hall of the Asgards again. Worked last time."
"You think they'll know about J?" General Hammond inquired.
Daniel consulted with his passenger and J took over. "From what Daniel's shown me they seem the most likely to know," he agreed. "Anyway, I'd be fascinated to meet them."
General Hammond nodded. "That's a go then. Major Carter, I'd like you to accompany Colonel O'Neill and Dr Jackson." He looked at Daniel. "I hope very much you return alone, Dr Jackson, and I think we need to have a long chat after this has all been resolved."
Daniel bit his lip and nodded. "Yes, sir," he said quietly.
Jack glanced at the General and received a small shake of the head. He sighed and waited for their dismissal staying behind to talk alone. General Hammond indicated the chair before him and waited for Jack to sit down. "What Dr Jackson did was remarkably stupid," Jack," he said wearily. "I encourage your teammate's curiosity and desire for knowledge, but if I had any hair at all it would be totally grey by now."
Jack gave a snort of sympathy. "Mine was brown when I first met him."
General Hammons gave a brief smile. "We need to keep this very low key, that's why I held the meeting in private. We do not need to give NID or any other of our detractors further ammunition. Please get it through to Dr Jackson that his life and sanity is no less important than anyone else's."
Jack nodded, but felt compelled to defend Daniel's actions. "He felt that if he offered voluntarily it would be less traumatic all round."
General Hammond sighed. "I understand his actions, I even applaud them, Jack, but that young man has to think through the consequences a little more." He gave a small smile. "I can't believe that you accepted it without question."
Jack smiled ruefully. "I went ballistic," he agreed.
General Hammond nodded. "If the Asgard cannot find a way of removing J, then I'm afraid I will have to restrict Dr Jackson to base and keep him under guard." He sighed. "I'm taking a risk letting it through the Stargate, but since it appears to have done that three times already, I have decided the risk is acceptable." He motioned Jack towards the door "Join your team and resolve this issue, Colonel, and make Dr Jackson well aware that I am not at all happy with him."
Jack joined Daniel and Sam in the kit room, ignoring the questioning look Daniel sent him. By the time they arrived in the embarkation room, the planet's co-ordinates had been dialled and the MALP was being sent through. After a brief wait, the technician confirmed that the exit appeared safe, General Hammond gave the go ahead, and Jack gestured his team forward.
The gate was monitored, but the team were recognised and made welcome. Following food and brief discussion, they had permission to seek an audience with the Asgard
Mindful of General Hammond's comments, Jack watched impatiently as Daniel talked to the Asgard, although he suspected that it was J who was leading the conversation. After what seemed like hours, Daniel left the circle and moved towards them, his face solemn.
"And so?" Jack pushed him for an explanation.
"We're to go to the gate, dial home and expect a visitor almost immediately," Daniel said distractedly. "J spoke to them in their own language an I have no idea what they talked about." He fell silent for a moment and nodded his head. "J assures me that it was not done to exclude me, but for pragmatic reasons." He smiled briefly. "Apparently English is a limited language for expression."
"Doesn't seem to hold you or Carter up when you're droning through those pre mission details," Jack retorted. He felt Sam's glare and heard Daniel's sigh. "Come on, let's thank our hosts and skip on back home."
The leave taking took a little longer than he'd anticipated, and by the time they arrived home, one of the Asgard was ready and waiting. He glanced at General Hammond who looked less than delighted, and waited for the bad news.
"Greetings," the small biped said gravely. "I have come to take Dr Jackson to our home planet. We will assist the being referred to as 'J' in leaving him and will then return Dr Jackson." He or she bowed and extended its hand to the gate.
"How about I come with him?" Jack asked. "Could say goodbye to J and check out my old buddy, Thor at the same time."
The Asgard glanced at him, its expression indiscernible. "That will not be convenient or necessary," it said distantly and moved towards the Stargate,
Jack grimaced and drew Daniel aside. "See if you can check out where Thor is," he muttered, "and try and check out what's got this one's pants in a twist."
Daniel gave a slight smile and nodded. He turned towards the Stargate then stopped and touched Jack on the shoulder looking carefully at him. Jack nodded, aware that J was saying his farewell. "Sweet dreams, buddy," he murmured quietly.
Daniel smiled, "Fulfil yours, Jack," J said in Daniel's voice, grinned and followed the Asgard through the Stargate.
Jack sighed, turning towards General Hammond. "Should soon be sorted out, sir.
General Hammond nodded. "Next time get back on time, Colonel. I think we've been spoiled by Thor, but this Asgard was neither friendly nor communicative and we'd been standing in silence for nearly ten minutes before you graced us with your presence." He turned sharply and left the gateroom.
Jack winced and glanced at Sam before heading for his office, frustrated that he was not involved in the process. Despite his anger at J, he still felt a somewhat proprietary interest in the creature. It may have hitched a ride uninvited, but even he had to admit that it had done nothing to hurt him. He shook his head, General Hammond was correct; Daniel was far too quick to trust, despite all the evidence to the contrary. He sat back and thought about the old Daniel and the more recent Daniel, and decided that despite the outwards appearance, the naive, curious and innocent Daniel of five years ago was still present in the more assertive, confident and capable man of the present. He knew that he preferred the later Daniel, possibly his inner self suggested, because he didn't just want to protect this Daniel. This Daniel would fight and fight dirty to do what he knew was right, and would not take shit from any man. He frowned; he was being unfair to the younger Daniel. Daniel of now was competent, able and too damn sexy for his own good, and that was the real difference, however much he might want to shy away from it. The younger Daniel he felt almost fatherly towards, the Daniel of now aroused no such fatherly feelings, and the ones he did arouse were not appropriate here and now. Jack glanced at the ubiquitous reports, groaned, and got down to some serious pen pushing.
It was almost twenty-four hours later when the alarm heralded Daniel's return to the SGC. Along with Sam and the recently returned Teal'c, Jack was there to greet him, and followed the tired looking man up to the debriefing room. Daniel headed for the coffee pot, filled his mug and held it tightly in his hands. He gave a brief smile to Jack, but otherwise appeared to be totally absorbed with his inner thoughts. The arrival of General Hammond shook him out of his contemplation and he sat up still nursing his coffee.
"Dr Jackson?" General Hammond asked expectantly.
Daniel clutched his mug tighter and took a deep breath. "From what I have managed to gather, sir, we may have just harboured a product of an alien race that even the Asgard seem uncertain about." He bit his lip and drank deeply from his mug before setting it aside. "J was/is a probe. He/it was designed to seek out information and transmit that information at regular intervals to his makers. His original program was designed to infiltrate conscious beings, absorb their knowledge and depart without them even being aware of the invasion." He took a deep breath and glanced at Jack.
Jack narrowed his eyes and waited.
"J was never given conscious thought. He was just a tool designed with deadly efficiency to spy for his makers. From what the Asgard can discover it was his chance encounter with a world of Aquatic beings, possibly akin to our dolphins that changed him." He tapped at the side of his mug, took a sip and continued. "They think the beings became aware of him, and being an apparently peaceful and certainly powerful race, decided to alter his programming and make him self aware. That's certainly the first time that J can consciously remember anything. He thinks that once they had changed him they made him depart and he was left to wait for his next host." Daniel halted looking around the table at his silent audience, his gaze resting on Jack. "I was very unclear regarding his history prior to invading you, Jack, but J did mention that his previous victim was a Goa'uld, and that he was unable to interact with the host as it had retreated into madness, and the Goa'uld itself was unable to sense him." He smiled briefly. "I got a little lost in the explanation at this point, but the Asgard seemed to think that the dolphin types had installed some kind of moral compass, and that J began to 'feel' and try to understand the world of his hosts and how he was affecting them." He shook his head and smiled grimly. "We can only be thankful that who or whatever the aquatic aliens were, they seem to have created a curious, inquisitive but essentially na´ve entity who wants to live out its life in its own body." He took a deep breath and looked round the room. "I left the Asgard's discussing cloning techniques after having made the suggestion that they contact Harlan." He smiled. "J sees himself a male and human, which is quite flattering but most important to us, the Asgard have destroyed J's connection to his makers and he can no longer transmits information either voluntarily or involuntarily."
Jack looked over towards General Hammond who had looked increasingly disturbed by Daniel's report. "Can the Asgard give us any assurance that yours or Colonel O'Neill's knowledge has not been divulged to these aliens?"
Daniel shook his head. "No. J is certain that he has not voluntarily given away anything he learned but neither he nor the Asgard seem sure about the frequency of his automatic transmissions."
General Hammond frowned. "Can they give us any guarantees that such 'probes' can be discovered and dismantled?"
Daniel shook his head again.
"Have they any idea where J originated?" Sam asked her curiosity getting the better of her. "And these water beings, can't we ask them for help?"
Daniel shook his head. "The Asgard don't know, and J has no reference point. The Asgard are still heavily involved in the war with the Replicators, and were apparently in two minds about responding to our call in the first place, Sam. Basically, J's or his maker's threat has been neutralised, and one of their scientist is curious enough to assist J gain a body, but otherwise they have no further interest in him or us at present." He shrugged. "I'm not certain that you'll agree with me, sir, but I don't think we have sufficient information to judge whether J's makers are hostile or just curious, and doing what we do when we send out our space probes."
"We can't assume anything, Dr Jackson," General Hammond said sharply. "We must judge this as a potential threat to our security and act accordingly." He sighed. "This is no one's fault and something that I've always feared. In as sense we've had a foothold situation in these past few weeks." He looked at Jack. "I need a full report of your first dealings with this J from the moment you became aware of him, Colonel. Dr Jackson, I want a full report on your interaction with the Asgard. Major Carter, I want you to get as much information from the Asgard on this probes' make up and to investigate whether we can detect it any way. Do contact the Tollan or the Tok'ra if you think they may be able to help us. Teal'c, any rumours and information or suggestions that you have will be appreciated."
Teal'c inclined his head.
"Right, unless you have anything to add, Colonel, I think we're finished here." General Hammond got to his feet and added. "I'd like to see you in my office in ten minutes, Dr Jackson." He waited for Daniel's startled nod, gave Jack a brief smile of complicity and departed.
Jack watched Daniel gaze after him curiously, managing to keep his face neutral as Daniel turned towards him with a question on his face. "I'd give yourself a wash and have some more coffee first," he suggested. "When you've finished with General Hammond, I'd like you to come and assist me with my report. I feel I deserve all the help I can get with writing it."
Daniel nodded silently and left the room yawning. Teal'c watched him go before turning to Jack. "Is there something I should know, O'Neill?" he asked.
Jack shrugged. "Got a couple of hours?"
Teal'c nodded slowly. "Of course, O'Neill."
Sam laughed. "Daniel's been, well Daniel and got both the Colonel and General Hammond somewhat irate." she grinned at the frown on Jack's face. "Come on, sir. It was obvious he did something that annoyed and frightened you in equal measures."
Jack relaxed and nodded. "Daniel thought he'd relieve the old man of his hitchhiker and just invite it on over to play," he informed Teal'c succinctly.
Teal'c eyebrows rose as he absorbed the information. "Indeed," he said slowly.
"Yes indeedy." Jack ignored Sam's smirk nodded at Teal'c and left to do battle with his computer.
Some hours and a truce later, he had his report neatly printed. He emailed a copy to Daniel, Sam and Teal'c, although he had a strong suspicion that the Jaffa considered the computer a work of the devil, and got ready to leave. He'd checked earlier on Daniel, and found him somewhat subdued but industrious. They'd arranged to meet up back at his for a beer and a chat and as they'd shared cars they needed to leave together. Arriving at Daniel's office, he found him staring intently at the screen, his brow furrowed in thought. Jack leaned across, checking it wasn't the report. He saved whatever it was, and pulled Daniel from his chair. Daniel blinked, but obediently followed him to the lockers, changed and walked out of the mountain in silence.
The silence continued in the car, and Jack changed his mind and headed for the mountains with his oblivious passenger. He parked at a viewing point and got out the car, smiling as a few seconds later Daniel followed him.
He could hear the confusion and worry in Daniel's voice. Smiling he beckoned him forward and sat down on the wall built to provide a barrier to the steep drop below them, patting a space next to him. After a moments hesitation Daniel joined him, and they looked down on the varied colours before them in silence.
"What's eating you?" he finally asked.
Daniel shook himself and glanced at him. "You mean other than the reaming I got from General Hammond?"
Jack laughed. "It was no more than you deserved."
Daniel glared at him. "Yeah, right, Jack." He sighed. "J shared something with me that wasn't really his to share." He glanced at Jack quickly and looked down again.
Jack took a deep breath and wandered what exactly J had decided to impart to Daniel. He had dreamed about Daniel, and those dreams had varied from the very sweet to the rather NC-17 rated, and if J had felt like down loading them he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to look Daniel in the eye again. He cleared his throat. "Care to enlighten me?" he asked carefully.
Daniel gave a brief laugh. "Shall we just say that I've never been more embarrassed in my whole life," he replied.
Jack shuddered, oh shit!
"And can I just say that the embarrassment was due to the fact that the kind of responses it generated were not the sort of thing you want to have in the company of anyone but your lover."
Jack took a deep breath and began to relax. Lover, oh boy. "That's good?" he asked somewhat hesitantly. "We're good?"
Daniel laughed. "Good, Jack? Well I suppose good could cover part of it." He reached for Jack's hand and held it tight. "J should never has shown me what he did, that was private, but he sought to show me how much you cared for me. He knew how much I cared for you, so in a sense he saw it as reciprocal."
Jack smiled and rubbed his finger up Daniel's hand. "So are we going back to mine and putting those 'ideas' into practice?" He felt Daniel shiver and watched with sly amusement as Daniel flushed a deep red.
Daniel swallowed noisily and took a shaky breath. "I'd certainly like to work towards them," he said quietly.
Jack smiled again, and ran his free hand along Daniel's thigh towards his denim-covered groin. Daniel watched wide-eyed, taking a couple of deep breaths as the hand skimmed along his crotch and moved back down to his thigh. He felt a deep sense of connection and love with Daniel and a spine tingling surge of lust that almost overwhelmed him. "I'm not sure I can wait," he said teasingly.
Daniel swallowed and gave him a narrow almost assessing look. "I'm too old, too staid and too used to my creature comforts to want to make out in your car, Jack, so wait we will."
"Too old, too staid?" Jack said disbelievingly. "Come off it, Daniel. Too chicken maybe, but don't give me that other shit."
Daniel smiled, a wide guileless smile that lit up Jack's soul. "Take me home and woo me, Jack," he said sweetly. The glint in his eyes a sexy contrast to the limpid innocence of his expression.
Jack hugged him briefly and hands still linked, walked back to his car. He squeezed Daniel's hand before letting go. Trust me to need an alien probe before I could connect with him, Jack thought as he aimed the car towards home. Trust me to find possibly the only alien who fancied himself as a matchmaker. He laughed, earning a questioning look from Daniel. "Just thinking of getting some champagne to toast J," he answered.
Daniel grinned and grabbed his hand, placing a kiss in the centre before settling back in his seat. Jack put his foot on the accelerator and drove.
|Genres:||Action/Adventure, Character Study, First Time, Hurt/Comfort|
|Summary:||Jack picks up an unwanted hitchhiker, but despite the complications and the fear, somehow manages to open up to Daniel.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
Yes, I borrowed the title, but not the story, from Alan Dean Foster's book. This just flowed, and remained in Jack's POV all the way through. I'm pretty happy with this one. Sarah and David did their stuff and quercus, the Americaniser, made sure there were no overt Briticisms hanging around. April 02