Nefarious, part I by elfin
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Category: Jack/Daniel
Genres: Angst, Drama, Established Relationship, Hurt/Comfort
Rated: Adult
Warnings: None
Series: Nefarious
Summary: A new enemy means trauma for the team.

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Author's Chapter Notes:
Violence. Intense situation of psychological torture, a lot of hurt/comfort
They leapt through the gate onto the metal ramp of the SGC. Bullets and staff fire flew through the wormhole after them, barrelling into the stone wall below the window of the command centre.

Standing behind the reinforced glass of that window, Hammond yelled out his order. "Close the iris!"

The grating of metal against metal filled their ears, followed immediately by the sound of more bullets hitting the back of the iris. And one, single, sickening thud.

The wormhole disengaged, and Hammond was already running down the metal steps to the floor below.

Sighing his relief, Jack clambered to his feet, as Sam and Teal'c also straightened. "That was way too close," the colonel commented as Hammond ran through the slowly opening door of the gateroom. "General, can I say how great it is to see you...."

"Where's Dr Jackson?"

Jack spun, glancing behind. At Sam and Teal'c.

"Daniel!" His heart started to pound. "DANIEL!"

The other two members of SG1 looked about them. But Daniel wasn't there, wasn't anywhere.

"Oh, Jeez...."

Hammond looked up. "Dial the planet!" The gate started to turn, chevrons engaging. "Jack?"

But all Colonel O'Neill could do was shrug, face pale, whole body starting to shake. That terrible sound of... someone... hitting the iris was suddenly ringing in his ears.

With agonising slowness, the iris opened and the wormhole blew out into the room. Jack was the first through it. He ran and threw himself through it as if he could get back that much faster.

But even as he fell out on the other side, he knew.

The Goa'uld who had been attacking them were gone, ships, Jaffa and all. There was no sign of Daniel.

Again, the wormhole disengaged.

Jack turned, barely able to breathe as he looked at the shock on the faces of his two subordinates. He couldn't find the words.

But Sam could. Sam always could. "We left him behind," she whispered. "Oh God... you don't think...."

"Don't think, Major Don't.... Just dial."

Jack looked around him once more, swallowing hard. Thinking was definitely going to be bad. Maybe for the rest of his life.

three weeks on

"Jack... please." General Hammond looked up from the letter in his hand, eyes settling on his Colonel's back. What could he say? Janet had done a DNA check and it had matched Daniel's.

Jack stared down at the Stargate below, wishing his grief had manifested itself in some other way than this anger. Not that he hadn't cried. He had, in private, at night as he'd sat alone in the dark with the bottle of Scotch he'd bought Daniel only days before....

"Daniel's dead, Sir. It was my fault. I left him behind. I'm not leading another team through the gate or anywhere else. I don't want to."

"The Air Force accepts...." It was pointless. Perhaps if it had been a soldier out there, someone sworn into the military who'd pledged his life.... But it had been a civilian, their civilian. The man who'd made the stargate programme possible in the first place. Daniel's death had been senseless and meaningless. Everyone on the base knew that. "I'm sorry, Jack."

"I don't need sympathy!" Jack snapped. But his anger faded as quickly as it had come. "I just... I'm resigning. No arguments. I killed him, General. The best thing in my life...."

"Have you told Major Carter and Teal'c?"

Jack shook his head. He hadn't spoken to them since the memorial service two weeks ago. "Think you should?"

"I...." They were interrupted by the shrill ringing of the phone on the conference table.

Hammond picked it up. "This is General Hammond."

Jack continued to stare down into the gate room. Routine missions were only just starting to run again. The base had been rocked by Daniel's death. Lots of people had loved or respected him. Or both.

Jack had loved him. Daniel had loved Jack back. It had been the best thing he'd ever known. It was something he didn't know if he could live without. Resignation -- retirement -- whatever they wanted to call it, had been the first thing on his mind. Living with the guilt of first Charlie and then Daniel was more than he thought he'd be able to cope with.

Daniel had taught him to feel, to accept his grief, and get on with his life. Daniel had taken him to Sara's side and shown him that they could be friends. Daniel had made certain that he'd woken with a smug smile on his face each and every morning, even when they'd been apart.

Jack touched his fingertips to the glass. "Oh, Danny...." His sad whisper seemed loud to his own ears.

The General put the phone down slowly.

"Jack." There was something in his tone that made Jack turn around. "That was Major Davies in Washington. He says that Doctor MacKenie's called from the psychiatric hospital there. They've admitted someone he swears is Dr Jackson."

Jack took one look through the small glass rectangle in the door and felt everything at once.

He was flooded by a relief so intense that he thought it might drown him. His guilt shifted gears, from the terrible, stifling feelings that came with knowing he'd killed his lover, to the awful terror of what Daniel had suffered these last couple of weeks.

He felt the closeness of his other two team members, a subtle shivering driving through Teal'c and Sam crying silently.

Jack looked back through the glass at the man he loved with every atom of his soul.

Then he started shouting.

"What the HELL is he doing in a PADDED CELL?"

Doctor MacKenzie knew Colonel O'Neill of old, but he'd never seen him get quite this worked up in such a short space of time. "When he was first brought in, he tried to slit his wrists with the lenses of his glasses. When we took those from him, he tried the same with a staple he found of the floor of my office."

Jack stared. Suicidal? His Danny? No.....

"Get this door open!"

That was something that the doctor wouldn't argue with. He hadn't exactly expected the whole of the SGC to turn up on his doorstep.

Not only the three other members of SG1, but General Hammand and Doctor Janet Fraiser.

He took out his keys and opened the door.

Daniel was sitting with his back against the far wall of the padded room, knees pulled up under his chin, arms wrapped around them. He was rocking back and forth slightly, staring into nowhere.

Jack sat down carefully in front of him, gently settling his ass over Daniel's bare feet, pressing them into the padding on the floor.

"Colonel..." Sam murmured on behalf of Daniel. But Jack only smiled at her. This wasn't a new position for them.

Carefully, Jack touched his fingertips to Daniel's hair. "Danny?"

Slowly, blue eyes met Jack's deep hazel gaze. A sad, mad, insane smile touched Daniel's lips. Tears blurred those soulful eyes. And for a minute, Jack thought he might get a reaction. But the dull expression returned in a second and Jack's heart sank.

He watched as Daniel reached his covered hands to his face, tried to brush a lock of hair from his eye and scratch his nose. The long, tight sleeves of the straightjacket, which came down over his hands and fingers, prevented him from relieving the obviously annoying itch. He started to get obviously agitated, banging both hands down onto the padded floor in sheer frustration.

Jack felt something melt deep inside him. "Hey," he brushed the hair away for Daniel, and scratched his nose, smiling as Daniel turned his head to move Jack's fingers to the exact spot where he needed them.

Jack waited until his lover pulled back a little, then touched the tight sleeves. He turned to face the doctor, his expression hard. "What's this all about?"

MacKenzie was immediately on the defensive. "Once we'd taken everything else from him and put him in here, he tried to cut into the arteries in his wrists with his fingernails."

Jack winced. But he was here now and Daniel wasn't any further danger to himself or anyone else.


Immediately Sam was at his side. "Colonel?"

Digging into his jacket pocket, he handed her his wallet. "Go buy a pair of sweat pants in his size and a baggy sweater, something warm and two sizes too big." Jack didn't have to add the obvious -- 'something he could hide in if he feels the need'. They all knew Daniel well.

Fraiser was at MacKenzie's shoulder now. "What injuries does he have?"

A little annoyed at having his treatment questioned in every possible way, MacKenzie turned to her. "Physically? None, that we can see."

Jack pulled off his own boots and stretched his legs out, one either side of Daniel, hugging him with his thighs and feet.

"Danny, we're here now. We're gonna look after you. I'm sorry... I'm so sorry I left you behind." He saw tears blossom in Daniel's beautiful blue eyes and could felt his own tears pricking him. "I'm sorry," he repeated, not knowing what else to say. He moved his hands to the wide shoulders. Daniel had lost a lot of weight, the straightjacket clung to his body tightly, leaving nothing of his form to the imagination. He felt the bones under his hands now.

He wanted to pull the man into a hug and never, never let him go. He just wanted to take Daniel home and hold him close for the rest of his life. And if they ever went back through the gate, he was holding Daniel's hand each and every time and making sure that he went through first. Whatever their destination. Outbound or in.

He wasn't ever letting his beloved Daniel out of his sight again. Even if Daniel wanted nothing more to do with him.

A shudder of cold drove through him, but he wouldn't force the other man to do anything, and Daniel wasn't leaping into his arms. Jack was willing to spend his whole life apologising to his lover, if only Daniel could one day find it in his heart to forgive him, Jack would die waiting.

Slowly, as they sat, Daniel's head bowed, his forehead coming to rest against Jack's. And Jack's heart soared. The mere fact that his Danny wasn't yelling and backing away from him was a good sign, wasn't it? Obviously, the silence was worrying, but this was a start.

Fraiser had gone with MacKenzie to look over Daniel's records. Hammond was talking on the telephone with Major Davies to try to find out how the hell Daniel had arrived at the hospital. Teal'c was standing guard outside the room.

For a long time, Jack sat with Daniel in silence, just being there, having him back, was enough. He vaguely heard some commotion outside the door at one point, Teal'c getting shitty with someone. He let his friend deal with it. If the door opened, he would take it from there.

But everything went quiet for a time. Until the door did burst open and a nurse, a doctor and MacKenzie walked inside. Teal'c was behind them, ready for a fight. No one was getting near Daniel unless they could prove it was for his express benefit.

"What's up?" Jack asked quietly. He'd lifted his head slightly, and Daniel had naturally rested his own head on Jack's shoulder. It was another old position of theirs, like Jack sitting on Danny's bare feet to warm them up. The man had awful circulation below his ankles. Excellent circulation elsewhere, but.... He derailed that train of thought.

This was a position of comfort. When they'd been through hell. After Abydos, after Hathor, after all the traumatic things that happened to them, they would go home and just sit together. One of them might talk, or both, or they'd both remain silent. Whatever. Just being together was usually enough.

Teal'c was definitely bristling. "He has a large syringe and will not disclose what is in it. It is my belief that he intends to administer it to DanielJackson."

MacKenzie gestured madly. "Of course that's what he intends! It's Dr Jackson's medication."

The only drugs Jack agreed with were alcohol, nicotine and Tylonel. Everything else was negotiable unless someone was actually ill. There was nothing physically wrong with Daniel, Jack was sure of that. Maybe his beloved had been through hell, had been tortured... whatever else his captors had subjected him to. They could work through that. They had to.

But what he needed more than anything, Jack was certain, was to go home.

"What is that?" he nodded once at the wicked-looking needle in the nurse's hand.

"Like I said," MacKenzie tried again, "he has tried to commit suicide on several occasions. This is merely something that will keep him calm."

"Doped up, you mean." Jack spat his conclusion suddenly, gesturing at Daniel with a gentle tilt of his head. "Does he look overly excited to you at this moment? You come near him with that thing and I won't be responsible for Teal'c's actions."

Jack's words alone were enough to tell the Jaffa that this situation was bad. Teal'c moved around, obviously taking up a defensive position between Daniel and the nurse.

"You will cease and desist or I will be forced to hurt you."

The nurse took a visible step back. MacKenzie took a step forward. "Daniel Jackson is my patient, Colonel, he's my responsibility and I have prescribed a course of drugs."

Jack didn't look impressed. "Daniel Jackson is under my command, he is my responsibility and I'm telling you, he doesn't need drugs. He needs to get his head straight."

"Colonel, I won't let you...."

"Yes, you will." General Hammond strode confidently into the room with a sure air of command. "We're taking Dr Jackson out from under your care and placing him in the hands of Doctor Fraiser. We're getting him out of here as soon as we complete the paperwork. She doesn't believe this is the best environment for him and frankly, neither do I."

Jack stroked his hand over Daniel's hair. "Hear that, Danny? We're going home."

Sam crouched down beside Daniel and the Colonel. "I got what you wanted."

She put the soft, grey sweats and white woollen jumper down on to the floor. "They're getting your release papers signed, Daniel," she told him, but didn't get a response. Cautiously, she looked at Jack. "Sir?"

"Leave him to me, Carter. Thanks for the clothes." She nodded, and left him to help Daniel change into them.

Jack waited until Sam had left the room and pulled the door closed before he eased Daniel's head from his shoulder.

"Come on, Danny, let's get you out of this thing."

Leaning around the man he knew so well, Jack unfastened the straps at the back of the straightjacket, pulling it from Daniel's body, off one arm at a time. There were no visible injuries on the smooth, pale skin, although the weight loss was startlingly obvious.

Daniel immediately pulled away, backing up even though there was no where to go. He wrapped his arms around himself.

Jack grabbed the jumper Sam had bought in and found the neck hole. "Here you go, it's okay." He put the garment onto the crown of Daniel's head and it slipped on, way too big for him, which was what Jack knew he would need right now.

Once Jack had got Daniel's arms in the sleeves, he rolled them up a couple of times until they reached to mid-palm.

Looking down at his own hands, Daniel spread and stretched his fingers, cautiously reaching up to scratch his nose, smiling thankfully at Jack. Jack wasn't sure if he understood, but at least it was making him comfortable.

Trousers next. The pair the hospital had dressed Daniel in had an elasticated waist and were so thin they didn't leave much to the imagination. Daniel was a big boy, nothing to be ashamed of, but he didn't usually like to flash himself about, unless it was with Jack in private. And Jack didn't appreciate having what was for his eyes only on display for public scrutiny.

Reaching forward, he pulled at the waistband of the trousers and they came away, down over Daniel's legs.

Daniel quickly drew his knees up, covering himself.

"It's okay, Danny." Jack picked up the sweat pants and eased Daniel into them, finding one foot through the left leg and hoping he'd put them on the right way around. Daniel helpfully, gratefully, lifted his ass and pulled them up over his hips, stretching out his legs and wiggling his toes.

Jack watched him, feeling inordinately pleased with himself. Daniel was more animated now than he had been since they'd arrived here.

After a few moments, Daniel looked up and smiled a little. He said nothing, and his expression was unreadable. There was a lot happening in Daniel's mind. There always was, but Jack could usually figure out what it was without too much thought.

Now though, he had no idea what that incredible mind was doing.

He hated that. Throughout their life together, throughout the time they'd loved one another, knowing what Daniel was thinking had always been a comfort. Even in the literal depths of hell on Netu, having Daniel with him had been a blessing as well as a curse.

He knew that Daniel hated that Jack worried about him to the extent that he did. Maybe in the beginning, when he'd been impetuous and desperate to find Sha'rae, Jack had had reason to worry. But no longer. Daniel could look after himself, and however terrified he'd been in Sokar's Hell when his lover had been taken, Daniel had proved himself by finding the communicator and damn near saving their lives.

Leaning forward, Jack combed his fingers through Daniel's hair. It was growing out again, close now to the length it had been when they come back from Abydos. He'd had it cut one day after they'd rowed about Jack referring to him as 'cute'. It had always been a bone of contention between them and that afternoon it had just erupted, adding itself to a catalogue of things that had just blown up into a massive argument.

Daniel had disappeared for hours, and when he'd finally arrived home to his slightly panicked lover he'd had his hair chopped. If he'd been after a rise out of Jack, he'd absolutely got one during the make-up sex. And as for the hair cut, Jack had only mentioned it later, ruffling it as they'd lain in bed together afterwards, and telling him how sweet he looked.

"We'll get you outta here, Danny." 'And then whatever you want to tell me, whenever you want to tell me about it, I'll be here for you.' They'd never been great on talking. Jack had never been one to share anything, not even with Sara. It taken him months to get used to sharing his house, his bed and his life with someone else.

But neither of them had been particularly quick to share themselves. The sex had been mind-blowing from the start. Sometimes gentle, sometimes rough, but always laced with love that ran so deep it had the power to overwhelm them. But the talking thing, that was something that they both had to work at. Much easier to run and hide than to face the truth.

"I love you, Danny," he whispered. Daniel's only response was to blink back more tears and look away.

They had to get out of here, he needed to know what was going on in his lover's head and there was no way that Daniel was going to talk here.

As if she'd heard his mental plea, Sam pulled the door open and peered inside. "Sir? We're all set."

Daniel was fairly steady on his feet. Jack kept one arm around his waist, keeping him close, giving him someone to lean on. Daniel barely acknowledged him, didn't speak to him or to any of SG1. Jack wanted to put it down to them being blamed for leaving Daniel behind to be captured. But as much as he believed he was right, he didn't feel anger from his lover. Just... nothing. As if he didn't actually believe that any of this was real.

Outside in the parking lot, Hammond was waiting for them, with a convoy to escort them to the airport.

Not until Daniel saw the General did he react. He stopped. He stared. And only then did he start to look around him, directly at Sam and Teal'c. And then he turned and gazed up at Jack.

He moved so fast that Jack didn't stand a chance of stopping him. Breaking from the arm around him, he yanked up his left sleeve as he took a couple of fast strides forward and thrust his arm determinedly through the window of the nearest Lexus.

Amidst the cries and shouts, the glass shattered under the force, cutting into Daniel's hand and wrist as the shards exploded around his limb.

"Daniel!" Jack was at his side in a heartbeat, one hand on his back, the other cradling his arm, holding it still so that he didn't try to bring it back out through the broken glass. "Jeez, Danny...."

Despite the sudden panic around them, Daniel looked at Jack, pain driving up through his body. But the tears in his eyes were nothing to do with the cuts into his skin.

"Jack...?" His plaintive whisper touched his lover.

"Yeah, Danny." The potentially suicidal action forgotten for a moment, Jack stared at his lover, seeing recognition in those blue eyes for the first time since finding him again. "Yes, Daniel, it's me. I'm here, I'm not leaving you again."

"But you're... you're dead. I saw them kill you." Daniel's tears were cascading down his cheeks and despite the blood dripping from arm now shaking in his grip, Jack moved his arm around Daniel's waist and squeezed.

"I'm not dead, Danny. I'm here and I'm real, we all are." He glanced at Daniel's arm, wincing in empathy. The deep cuts had to be hurting, must be the reason for at least some of Daniel's desperate tears and the shudders shaking his too-thin frame.

A nurse pushed passed Jack, with MacKenzie in tow. "I told you!" he was shouting, angry and smug at the same time. "He's suicidal!"

But Jack wasn't paying any attention. Daniel's right arm had come up around Jack's neck and the colonel had an armful of sobbing Daniel Jackson.

"He must stay here and he must get his medication!" MacKenzie yelled at whoever would listen. Hammond might have agreed had he not watched the change in Daniel take place so very suddenly.

Jack held on, happy to let the nurse take care of Daniel's arm and to wrap his lover in a careful, enveloping embrace. Daniel winced with every shard of glass pulled from his wounds, but he refused to let go of Jack, even when they tried to get him to sit down in the back seat of the other car.

Yet in the end his legs wouldn't hold him.

With Daniel crying and shaking violently, Jack insisted as gently as possible that he sit down, having to release the near-hysterical man for a few seconds until he could climb in around the other side.

Taking his lover back into his arms, sliding his embrace around Daniel's waist, Jack kissed his hair and hushed him, not caring who saw, not caring who heard.

It took a while for the nurse to dress Daniel's arm. Fraiser was the one to administer a mild sedative, Hammond not trusting MacKenzie not to knock Daniel out.

After a few long minutes, Daniel calmed slightly, and MacKenzie's continuing tirade reached his ears.

He burrowed back into Jack's strength and protection, knowing he wasn't himself, knowing his mind and emotions were unbalanced and scared by that. But he couldn't stay here. He couldn't let go of Jack, of the belief that maybe -- just maybe -- he really was alive.

"Please take me home, Jack," he murmured when he felt he was able to string a sentence together.

Jack held him, let him try his best to climb into his clothes with him. "You've got it, Danny, I swear."

A few minutes later, the door behind Jack opened and the general dropped into the car just as Sam and Teal'c appeared next to the doorway in which Daniel was sitting.

"Jack...." There was something in the general's eyes but the colonel just ignored it for now. Daniel was what mattered here. He wasn't sure he still wanted his career anyway. "MacKenzie wants to keep Dr Jackson here."

"No, Sir." Jack kept his voice steady but the steely determination wasn't missed. "With all due respect, Daniel wants to go home and that's where I'm going to take him."

Hammond looked like he was considering that, but Jack knew how his boss felt about their only civilian team member. "All right, Colonel, but you keep him at your place, you look after him, and Dr Fraiser visits every day. If anything changes, if you think there's something physically or mentally wrong with him...."

Jack nodded. "Absolutely." His tone softened. "Thanks, Sir." He looked across at Sam and Teal'c and smiled, blinking sudden tears from his eyes.

They obviously didn't want to crowd Daniel, but they all managed to squeeze into the back of the Lexus for the journey to the airport. Practically sitting in Jack's lap, with Sam on the other side of him and Teal'c next to Jack, Daniel finally settled. His eyes closed, and his head lolled against Jack's shoulder.

"He is returned to us," Teal'c murmured softly, smiling at his two closest friends.

Sam touched the backs of her fingers to Daniel's cheek feeling him warm and alive under her touch. "Thank God," she whispered, more to herself than to any deity. "Thank you."

Janet's sedative got Daniel through the short flight and most of the journey home before he woke. The convoy included everyone who had been in Washington, but all Daniel knew was that he was in the passenger seat of Jack's jeep, and they were on their way home.

Luckily Jack hadn't had to explain to too many people why they didn't have to pick anything up from Daniel's apartment. Daniel had never really lived anywhere but at Jack's place.

Helping Daniel down out of the jeep, Jack felt his ward lean heavily against him as he led the way up the path to the front door. On the plane he'd been spoken at long and hard by Janet. She'd warned him of possible side effects, even though they didn't know what had happened yet, Daniel was obviously confused, obviously deeply distressed. But definitely not insane. And she doubted he was actually suicidal. "He's the most intelligent person I know," she'd told Jack, "he's trying to work something out, trying to figure out where he is at the very least. He just seems to be choosing the painful way of going about it."

Jack was to let Daniel do whatever he wanted for a couple of days and just to watch over him. If anything seemed to be medically wrong, he should call Janet immediately. Otherwise she would visit daily. If Daniel wanted to talk, Jack had to listen, otherwise, his role was to simply be there. Given that he would willingly lay down his life for Daniel, it was an easy request.

Leaving the front door open, Jack hesitated in the hallway. But Daniel was clearly still drowsy and so he made a decision and assisted his lover upstairs.

He knew his lounge and kitchen would quietly fill with their envoy. But he'd deal with them in a little while, reassure them and get them to go home. Whatever Daniel needed right now, Jack didn't think he would thank them for an outpouring of emotion.

What he did want, it seemed, was to sleep. As Jack lowered him gently to the bed, and dragged his shoes off, Daniel crawled under the duvet, settled across the centre of the low, kingsize bed, and went out like a light.

Jack crouched down by the mattress, just watching for a few minutes. He hadn't thought to ever see Daniel lying in their bed again. He felt like he'd been handed a precious, priceless gift, and no way on Earth was he going to screw up again.

The chattering from downstairs started to increase in volume. He rose, wincing as he knees cracked, and closed the door silently behind him as he left Daniel to sleep.

Hammond, Carter, Teal'c and Janet were standing in the lounge, Major Davies in the doorway.

"Fine, let all my heating out why don't you," Jack mumbled as he stepped passed the Major and faced his friends. "He's sleeping," he told them softly. "Didn't say a word, just passed out under my duvet."

Janet nodded approvingly. "The sedative I gave him was a little stronger than I told you," she admitted. "I think he's been deprived of sleep. Or at least, he's deprived himself of sleep. There's a list of instructions I have for you." Jack nodded, glancing at the others.

"I'll get back to the mountain." Hammond told Jack, stepping closer. "I won't open that letter until you've both had time," he murmured, and Jack couldn't help himself. He reached out, patted his boss on the shoulder only to be pulled into a bear hug a moment later. "Look after him, Colonel, take whatever time you need and double it."

Too close this one, closer in fact, over the line and way out on the other side. Three weeks of believing their beloved Daniel Jackson to be dead. Three weeks of blaming themselves for that. Jack might have left him behind, but it had been George who'd ordered the iris closed in Daniel's path. His resignation would have joined Jack's on a desk somewhere in the pentagon given another twenty-four hours.

Once the general released his colonel, Janet started to talk, ticking the points off on her fingers.

"Okay. Added to everything I told you on the plane, I'm leaving a stack of Tylonel and some mild sedatives. He's allergic to almost every other form of medication so be careful." Jack nodded. This wasn't anything he didn't already know. "That arm will be painful once he comes around -- so make sure he keeps up on the painkillers. Being in too much pain for too long will drain him. Like I said, I don't think he is suicidal, but watch him."

Oh yeah, like Jack was about to let Daniel out of his sight for a single....

Eyes widening, turning, he took the stairs three at a time and pushed open the bedroom door. Daniel was fast asleep, hadn't moved an inch by the looks of things. Jack wondered about a getting a baby monitor of some kind but thought better of it.

Closing the door more quietly than he'd opened it, Jack walked back down the stairs. "Sorry," he mumbled to his collected friends.

Janet patted his arm. "It's okay. I told you, in the car park he just seemed to be trying to convince himself that it was real." He'd had enough now, she could tell. "I'll come by tomorrow afternoon."

Major Davies offered Janet and Hammond a chauffeured lift back to the base and they gladly accepted.

That left Teal'c and Sam.

Jack looked from one to the other. "He's gonna be okay, kids, you have to believe that."

Sam shook her head. "I want to stay with him."

"No." Jack's refusal was gentle but firm. "He needs time."

"So you get to look after him?" She felt her fear and relief spiral into anger. "Why you? Who picked you to be his guardian?"

Jack sighed softly. "He did," he murmured.

But Sam was too lost in her own arguments. "What makes you think he'd want to be with you anyway?"

It took a moment, but Jack realised that she was jealous. He shook that thought. No -- not jealous. Concerned. Just concerned. Surely?

"He didn't exactly have a choice in coming here, I mean you didn't ask him! You couldn't! He wasn't exactly with it." Her fire was fading as quickly as it had been sparked. The apology was already in her eyes as she asked, "What makes you think he'd want to stay with you?"

"Because this is where he belongs," Teal'c spoke up quietly.

Sam looked at Teal'c with confusion. Jack looked at him with surprise.

"Why would you say that?" Sam managed first.

"Look around you. DanielJackson has belonged here for a long time."

To someone not oblivious to their surroundings it was obvious, Jack had to admit. Books, a couple of tribal masks hanging on the walls. And the fish tank, of course. After a couple of weeks of Daniel leaving him during their downtime to go feed his fish, Jack had decided that they had to move in too. That way he got a lot more naked Daniel wondering around his house.

Sam frowned. The last time she'd seen those fish they'd been in Daniel's apartment, going through his things after the first of his memorial services. They looked very at home on the purpose-built brick shelving.

"What are Daniel's fish doing...." She stared at Jack eyes wide. "He lives here?! You can't even let him live in his own apartment?"

Jack rolled his eyes and noticed a slight sigh from Teal'c -- Mr Patient.

"We live together, Sam!" he said pointedly.

She stared for a moment. "Oh." Another pause. "Oh! Oh my God...."

"Before you start, that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' thing is a real bastard. I'd resign before giving him up but neither of us are -- were -- ready to give up the Stargate." Jack was thankful for the little speech he'd had rehearsed for just this occasion. He wasn't thinking straight. He didn't want to be here, talking to them, he wanted to be upstairs watching over Daniel. The longer he spent away from him, the harder it became to believe Daniel was really up there, sleeping peacefully, and not dead on some unknown world.

"Since... since when?"

He heard the hurt in her voice and winced inwardly. But he didn't get a chance to answer her. A rare smile slid across Teal'c usually stoic face.

"After we arrived back from Bedrosia." He looked to Jack for confirmation and smiled wider when he got it. Jack could only remember him smiling once before. When he'd told them that Jaffa joke that had fallen so flat not even Daniel had laughed. "DanielJackson was upset that his refusal to give up the information your captors required caused you both harm."

Jack nodded. "Yes, he was." Oh yeah. Daniel had taken a long, long guilt trip after that one. A trip that he might never have returned from if Jack hadn't dragged him out, fed him beer and steaks at O'Malleys, (before they'd been banned from there) and finally let him talk it all out over expensive Scotch sitting on the floor of Jack's lounge.

Somehow, it had ended in a hug. And that had ended in a kiss. Which had ended with them tearing into one another like men starved. The declarations of love came in the small hours of the morning before the sunrise, each with the taste of the other man in his mouth.

Sam was still staring at him as he brought himself back to the present. That night wasn't a memory he'd allowed in to his mind for three weeks. Remembering it only made him more desperate to get back to Daniel's side, where he needed to be right now.

Teal'c, bless him, offered to accompany Sam home and back again the following morning. She still looked shocked, but Jack didn't have the strength to deal with it. He was more thankful than ever for Teal'c.

Locking the door behind them, Jack climbed his stairs slower this time, one at a time, calming his own racing heartbeat.

Daniel hadn't moved. Kicking his own shoes off, Jack moved around and lay on the edge of the bed, not touching Daniel, just listening to the sound of him breathing.


"Release the restraints. Leave him here with the bodies of his friends. Let him rot with them."

Rough touches.

Hands pushing at him, throwing him from the hated metal chair. Landing hard on all fours, body trembling. Looking around. Tears falling for Sam and Teal'c.

Balancing, reaching out one dancing hand to Jack's lifeless form, pushing fingers into the soft grey hair.

"Jack...." Sobbing now. Heart breaking. Fingers grasping the hair and head, sliding down to rest on the cooling neck.

"Nooooo...." Low moan pulled painfully from his throat, filling and choking on tears.

Movement. Dead eyes staring at him. Harsh words spoken in a rough voice, "Daniel. You killed us. You prick. How could you let me die? How could you. I loved you. Loved you!"

The scream died in his throat. He opened his eyes and glanced around the dark room. His heart was beating so loud he could feel it. His mouth was dry, his head ached and he felt vaguely sick. He needed water, but for the moment he lay still, trying to work out where he was.

So many times he'd had the same nightmare and woken to the harsh light of the padded room at the hospital. He'd assumed it was a hospital. On Earth. Although he didn't know how he'd come to be there.

Cautiously, he started to sit up. Putting his hand onto the mattress he tried to support his weight on his arm.

He dropped back to the bed as the pain shot through him.

"Danny?" Daniel dropped onto his back, startled. Jack was reaching out to him, touching his hair. "You okay?"

Accepting the touch, Daniel stared at him. "Where are we?"

"You know where we are, Danny. We're home." He let his fingers stroke over his lover's face, watching the confusion crease his expression. He wanted to reassure, but he remembered Janet's instruction to let Daniel talk, not to prompt him.

There were so many things he wanted to say. Top of list was 'I'm sorry I left you behind'. But the ramifications of saying it were more than he could face right now, and Daniel was too fragile to hear it.

Daniel struggled up until he was leaning back against the pillows and the headboard.

Pushing back against the board as if needing its stability to anchor him here, Daniel stared at the man next to him, now also sitting up, leaning on one arm with his legs tucked under him, waiting.

Daniel took one quick breath before blurting out, "they killed you in front of me."

Trying not to let the confusion show in his face, Jack moved his head, left to right and back again. "I'm here Danny, this is real."

But Daniel's expression crumpled. "No.... No! I saw you killed. You, and Sam and Teal'c... there in front of me."

Concerned now, almost able to see the hysteria building, Jack reached out, took Daniel's hand from his lap and squeezed it. "Do I feel real?"

A hesitation before, "Yes. But I touched you there too and you were real then and you were dead." A single tear escaped Daniel's eye. "They killed you, because of me."

Jack felt his heart thump once, heavily in his chest. "Danny...." Slowly, he shifted to kneel on the duvet and leaned forward, stroking light fingers over Daniel's cheek before touching his lips to his lovers'. Daniel froze in place. For a single second.

The spell broke and suddenly Jack found himself with his arms full of Daniel as the younger man tried to crawl under his clothes and into his skin with him.

Jack surrounded his lover with himself, gently dropping back against the headboard, pulling Daniel around with him into his lap.

He knew this position of old, had discovered this way of comforting his younger lover after the Replicator incident. They'd just come together again after their forced separation, and Jack had ordered Daniel to blow him up. Home at last after a traumatic couple of weeks, Jack had eventually managed to direct an angry and upset Daniel into his lap to make love to him slowly and lovingly.

Having his lover where he belonged was wonderful, but just holding him reminded Jack that he needed caring for right now more than he needed to be desired. "Danny..." he murmured between kisses, "'re... you're not...."

"Don't!" Daniel silenced him by pushing his tongue between Jack's lips.

Jack felt moisture on his face, realised it was Daniel's tears and wrapped his arms tight around the other man.

Kissing Daniel's mouth, drawing his tongue over the other's to withdraw and lick over his lover's trembling lips. "I love you so much," he murmured, soothing his hands down over the soft wool of Daniel's jumper and under it, to stroke up the taut back.

Edging closer, Daniel flattened himself to Jack's chest, pressing his urgency into Jack's uncertain cock.

Three weeks of thinking he'd lost this, believing Daniel was dead, missing the mere touch of his hand and embrace of his arms, Jack hadn't really thought about the sex.

Until now.

His body was more than willing, but Daniel had tapped into Jack's heart, and although he hated to admit it and often strenuously denied it, his emotions did now have a little control over his libido.


"Need you. Need this."

"Oh, I know Danny, I know." 'Janet's going to kill me.' He could feel Daniel's skilled lips and tongue caressing his throat, gently but with an edge of desperation. Not to want this as obviously as his lover would have been an insult to Daniel, Jack justified as he relaxed, let his usually ever-present desire for Daniel surge forward and fill his cock.

The last time they'd done this, Jack had believed in his ability to protect his team, to protect his lover, from anything out there. And then he'd lost Daniel and his life had fallen apart. Like it had after Charlie....

Suddenly, he wanted to grab Daniel, reassure himself that this was real. He understood how Daniel was feeling.

Curling his hand around the other man's neck, Jack held them together, deepening the kiss as he slipped his other hand passed the waistband of Daniel's sweatpants to stroke fingers over the swell of his tight buttocks.

He couldn't hold in his groan of pleasure as Danny's nimble fingers freed them both from the constriction of their clothes. The first collision of their erections pushed Jack's arousal up a couple of notches, and his breath caught as, with a bit of expert wiggling, Daniel freed himself from his pants.

Grabbing the base of his jumper, Daniel tugged it over his neck and launched it across the room. He leaned forward, capturing Jack's mouth, reaching back to grab the base of his lover's erection.

Jack had no idea what Daniel was up to until he impaled himself on Jack's hard cock.

"JESUS, DANNY!!!" Stars danced in front of Jack's eyes as he was squeezed hard by Danny's tight muscles.

"Jack... JackJackJack...."

'Hurt, did it, love?' Jack thought it but didn't say it. That was why Daniel had done it after all. There were other ways to prove they were still alive. He moved his hands along Daniel's sweat-beaded back, cradling him, taking his weight while he rode Jack. As they relaxed marginally, the pain eased and twinges of pleasure began to touch them.

"That's it Danny," he murmured softly, "easy there." He could feel a rough lubrication and cringed when he realised it was probably blood. Daniel had used him to inflict pain upon himself. It tore at Jack, and he swore that it wouldn't go that way, that this would be as good for both of them as it had always been.

He tucked his ass back into the pillows so that Daniel couldn't attempt to take all of him inside. And he moved slowly, settling them both into a gentle rhythm that belayed some of the passion but increased the intimacy.

He made this about both of them. Not just Daniel trying to convince himself that all this was real and that he wasn't insane. But something the two of them needed to convince themselves that they really hadn't lost one another.

He tucked his hand between them, trying to think through the haze of ecstasy in his mind. Wrapping one strong hand around Daniel's weeping cock, he massaged his lover, squeezing gently with every downstroke Daniel made, rubbing on each upstroke. Daniel's movements, restricted by Jack's position and becoming more desperate each time, were pushing them both to the edge of a definitely fatal drop.

When Daniel started to fall, he could only hope Jack would be there to catch him. Otherwise, he was dead. And that was just fine by him.

Jack lay awake, waiting. He knew it would come, knew Daniel was at his most vulnerable at these times. Arms wrapped around the young man curled into his side, Jack's fingers kept up a steady stroking through Daniel's silken hair until the words came.

"I thought you were dead."

Janet had said to just let it happen, not to push. But here, like this, no one knew Daniel better than Jack did. "Why?"

"They killed you, all of you, in front of me."

He'd said that before and Jack had been giving it some thought. Illusion? Mind games? Some new virtual world? Who were 'they'?

"I'm here, Danny. I'm alive. I'm not going anywhere."

"But I saw...." He sounded so tired now, like he just needed to sleep. Jack started a gentle massage of his back, designed to relax him but to keep him from falling asleep if at all possible. "I saw you killed."

"Why, Daniel? Why would they do that?"

Silence. And to his sorrow, Jack felt tears starting to fall to his chest. "I wouldn't tell them. They tried to make me tell them but I wouldn't. You told me not to, you ordered me not to...."

Before he could stop him, Daniel was out of his embrace and scooting across the mattress. "Danny...." But the young man had grabbed his sweat pants from the floor and was out of the bedroom door before Jack could stop him.

Jack threw on jeans and a sweater, grabbed the thick white jumper Sam had bought for Daniel the day before and went out after his traumatised lover.

It wasn't too difficult to find him.

In the past, when they'd argued, Daniel had retreated up to the look-out point where Jack kept his telescope. Back then, of course, Jack hadn't worried about him throwing himself off. The thought brushed through his mind and he dismissed it, despite what he'd seen and heard, he - like Janet - didn't believe Daniel was suicidal. Not now, not when there was at least a glimmer of hope that what he'd obviously believed to be reality actually wasn't true.

He was sitting up there now, curled pitifully on the floor in the far corner, cradling his bandaged arm, shivering in the night air.

Jack approached carefully, murmuring Daniel's name and a string of meaningless reassurances. Slowly, he crouched down next to the other man.

"Come on, Danny, you'll catch your death." Jack found the neck hole of the jumper and eased it over Daniel's head. Looking up through wide eyes filled with sparkling tears, Daniel awkwardly and painfully got his arms through the sleeves and pulled the long ends into his hands. Happy that they wouldn't freeze to death for a few minutes at least, Jack settled down next to him.

For a long time they just sat, Daniel watching the stars, Jack surreptitiously watching Daniel.

"They kept asking me for the iris codes," Daniel began quietly, suddenly. "I wouldn't tell them. They asked for addresses, to the Tolan homeworld, the Tok'ra bases...." Shaking his head, he lowered his forehead to his drawn-up knees. "They dragged Teal'c into the room where they had me, locked into this metal chair. They asked me again for the iris codes and when I wouldn't tell them they forced Teal'c to his knees and put the end of a staff weapon to his..." Daniel pointed vaguely at his stomach. "He told me not to tell them, but they were going to kill him and so I made something up." He sniffed and swallowed. "When they came back... they'd obviously tried to send something through. They didn't even ask me again, they just killed Teal'c, right there in front of me!"

Silent tears became hiccuping sobs. Jack felt like crying a little himself. But he didn't speak. He reached around and covered Daniel's hands with one of his own, hoping he would continue when he could.

"They... they left Teal'c just... lying there. I... tried to hold it together, tried to tell myself that he'd be okay, but he wasn't moving...." Another choking sob. "Then they brought Sam in. I remember her face... seeing me and seeing Teal'c.... There was no accusation, but... she was scared. When they started to ask me the same questions she told me not to tell them, that her... life wasn't worth the lives of everyone on Earth, of the members of the SGC. But they wanted the Tollan homeworld address this time and so I gave them another address. I gave them Hadante."

Jack's pride for his lover, his civilian team member, his best friend, swelled. Only Daniel could ever remember actual gate addresses so fluently. He could imagine Daniel's fear, his consuming guilt over Teal'c's death, his terror for Sam.... He felt sick just thinking about it and squeezed the cold hand beneath his.

"When they went to try the address, they took Sam. They were gone so long... I don't know but it felt like days. I got water and something that looked and tasted like oatmeal. I thought if I could keep my strength up...." His shoulders lurched and a harsh sound erupted from his throat. "I should have let myself die!" he cried suddenly, sobs tearing him apart.

It was all Jack could take. Turning, he wrapped his arms, as much of his body as he could, around his lover's quaking body. He pulled Daniel into him, tucking the bowed head under his chin and nuzzling the soft hair. "Ssh, baby.... So proud of you, love you so much...."

But Daniel was moving his head side to side against Jack's chest. "The... door opened... after ages... and they dropped," his voice caught, "...Sam's body in front of me! Oh, God... they'd killed her! Smashed her skull in... and her eyes... dead eyes just staring at me...."

Daniel shattered in his lover's arms. All Jack could do was hold him and hope he had the strength to collect up the pieces and put them back together when this was over.

For so long, only wrenching, bitter sobs came from Daniel's throat. His too-thin frame shook against Jack's enveloping body; Daniel shaking himself apart.

'Enough!' Jack's mind was screaming out, 'it's enough! please let that be all! he's been through too much, he can't cope! No more... please... no more.' But he knew there was more. Their beloved Daniel had believed himself to be the cause of Teal'c and Sam's deaths. And Jack's too... all he could recall was Daniel's conviction that his Jack was dead. There was more, and more would be so painful to hear.

Finally Daniel was still in Jack's arms. When he spoke again, his voice was nothing more than a nasal whisper which sounded like it was coming from far away.

"They... dragged you in.... right after they'd... killed Sam. You barely glanced at her or Teal'c. You looked at me, at nothing but me... and you said... 'Danny, whatever they want, don't give it to them.' I yelled at you, losing it, pointing out Sam and Teal'c like I really needed to, swearing at you, telling you they were dead and it was my fault, that if I didn't tell them, they would kill you. But... you just... you told me you were... proud of me. You told me not to tell them anything, not to put whole races of people in danger, that our lives weren't worth it. Then you made it an order. They asked me for the iris code... once more. I stared at you and you smiled, and shook your head... so calm, so... supportive." Something between a delayed sob and a bitter laugh left Daniel's lips. "I shook my head once and they fired the staff... took the back of your head off."

Jack swallowed down on his nausea. He rubbed Daniel's arm, minding the bandage, held him impossibly tighter against his own body. "I'm here, this is real. We're all fine, Danny, I promise you. Whatever they made you think, you didn't do anything wrong."

So many things were racing around his brain, but he was together enough to realise that whatever he said right now wouldn't help Daniel get over this. He just needed to be there, to speak without words.

"They... released me from the chair and I... I remember crawling over to you, touching you.... And then nothing. Until I woke up on a bed in that hospital and saw MacKenzie standing over me."

Silence fell between them as light began to streak the sky. Jack began, belatedly, to realise how cold he was. How cold Daniel must be. His lover had gone completely still in his arms, but he could feel his breathing evening out after the catharsis of his confession. In response, he loosened his grip on Daniel just a little, raising his head so that Daniel could lift his own. His face was red, almost raw. He could barely open his eyes. But still he looked at Jack who returned the steady regard.

"I love you, Daniel. What they did to you..." he shook his head uselessly. He wanted to apologise, maybe for the rest of his life, for breaking his own golden rule of never leaving anyone behind. But Daniel was drowning in his own guilt at the moment, the last thing he needed was Jack's adding to it, or to have to worry that Jack was going to pull away because of it. Daniel needed strength and stability.

"How about we go inside? Where it's warmer?"

A little nod was his answer, so Jack eased his ridged knees out of their lock, and helped Daniel to his feet. Descending the wooden ladder was a feat, but they managed that hurdle and Jack got them inside quickly. Settling Daniel on the couch, Jack worked to get a log fire going in the grate and by the time he'd finished, his lover was asleep, breathing deep and evenly.

Fetching the duvet from the bed upstairs, Jack tucked it over Daniel before padding through to the kitchen to put the kettle on and watched the sunrise.

Jack had never met anyone before who was as grouchy in the mornings as Daniel. Even when life was hunky-dory, and the only worries he had in the world were which books to take to the latest scheduled standard archaeology recon mission, he was known to bite heads off until after his third or forth coffee.

Therefore after only two hours' sleep Jack didn't want to risk a full frontal assault. He managed to get his drowsy lover into bed and sat with him until he fell back to sleep still curled under the duvet Jack hadn't dared tried to take from his vice-like grip. Only when Daniel was sleeping soundly again did Jack risk a stroke of his hair. Despite the bravado peeking through this morning, Daniel was still more fragile than Jack had ever known him to be.

He was a fighter. He's survived the death of his parents and the indignity of being shipped from foster home to foster home until they'd found someone who wanted him. He'd survived academia even though no one had believed a word he'd spoken or published, even his friends attended his lectures for some light relief and his girlfriend had ended their relationship after his hundredth public humiliation. He'd survived on a strange planet surrounded by hostile aliens and even more hostile soldiers. He'd survived his wife being taken by Apophis, raped and forced to bear his child, and then murdered by Teal'c to save Daniel's own life.

And he'd survived almost three years of sharing his life with an Air Force colonel who was over-protective, over-bearing and incredibly jealous of anyone who so much as looked at his lover.

An enemy had taken the best things in Daniel's life and turned them against him, used them to torture and brainwash him.

Anger didn't even begin to describe how Jack felt at that moment. But, like his guilt, Daniel didn't need that now either.

Finally, the digital clock next to the bed caught his attention and Jack went to grab a quick shower in the en suite off the guest room before digging out some clean clothes. He checked on Daniel once more and then went down to put on some fresh coffee in anticipation of a long stream of visitors.

Sam and Teal'c arrived together around eleven. As Jack opened the door he found himself with his arms full of Major Sam Carter in full apology mode. She'd had the night to think about the previous day's revelations. Although she maybe didn't approve of the colonel man-handling their Daniel, or doing to him all the things that had popped to mind in the small hours of the morning, she was at least glad that Daniel was loved.

They stood around in the kitchen nursing mugs of expensive brew that was just of Daniel's influences on Jack's life. Teal'c stood ramrod straight at the end of the breakfast bar, Sam leant on the surface and Jack slouched with his ass against the cupboards. Despite being in the presence of his best friends, Jack did feel like he was under the microscope.

"You look like shit, Sir," Sam told him eventually.

He glared at her over his mug but hesitated before answering seriously. "Didn't get a lot of sleep," he told her carefully.

Immediately she was ready to have his head off for abusing their already injured team mate. But at last minute she caught herself. "How is he?"

Another considered answer. "Shattered," he told them eventually. "Whoever took him really screwed with his mind." Jack sipped the hot, dark liquid. "They badgered him for the iris code and other gate addresses, and somehow, when he wouldn't give the information to them, they made him believe that he was responsible for them blowing our brains out. One by in, right in front of his eyes."

Sam paled. "How is that possible?"

"We have seen many devices that project a false image," Teal'c intoned. "The Goa'uld have such...."

Jack interrupted him with a wave of his hand. "No. He says he touched me as I lay there with the back of my head splattered all over the walls."

For a moment, 'how' and 'why' didn't matter. Sam tried to imagine how she would have felt had it been her. She got to her feet. "Sir, I need to see him."

"No," Jack leaned down over the work surface and reached out, caught her shoulder and squeezed it. "Let him sleep, Carter. He isn't strong enough at the moment to cope with our emotions as well as his own."

She stared at him, frankly amazed at his insight, but lowered herself back onto the stool.

"The aliens that took the SGC in a foothold situation had devices that made them look just like us," Teal'c brought the conversation back to the simple questions.

"True. But they had us imprisoned, had us there to make carbon copies of us."

"What about Harlan, the 'robot us's'?"

Jack shook his head. "He'd have known. What he said was pretty graphic." Sam was about to make another suggestion when they heard the shower start upstairs. "Excuse me one second." She watched Jack leave the kitchen and heard his footsteps on the stairs. Slightly frustrated, she glanced at Teal'c.

"O'Neill cares for DanielJackson very deeply," he told her steadily. "He could not be in safer hands."

"I know. He's always been so damned protective and possessive of him, I guess I should have seen this coming."

"Bedrosia was a long time ago," Teal'c pointed out. "Whatever difficulties that might have been presented to the team dynamic have already been sorted out without our being aware of it."


Jack pushed open the door to the en suite to step inside and admire the view. Through the steamed-up glass panels, Jack could make out his lover's beautiful form. Biting his bottom lip, thinking about Sam and Teal'c still downstairs, Jack decided that they could wait.

Stripping off quickly, he pulled open the door to the shower stall and stepped inside. Daniel almost fell through the glass with surprise but Jack caught him, turned him to rest his back against Jack's chest, and for few long moments just cuddled as they stood under the pelting water.

Reaching around to take the soap from Daniel's fingers, Jack stepped back slightly and lathering his hands, he dropped the bar into the dish and started to massage Daniel's shoulders.

He kept his touch firm but gentle, pressing into the knot of muscles above Daniel's shoulder blades. To feel his lover relax under his ministrations was the greatest reward. He moved up, pressing his thumbs in small circles into Daniel's neck, either side of his spine.

Daniel moaned softly, leaning back into his lover. Keeping his thumbs where they were, Jack pushed his fingers up into Daniel's dripping hair to stroke his scalp like he loved to be touched, usually when they were just chilling together in front of the TV.

His fingers touched something hard and cold that shouldn't have been there.

"What the hell...?"

Abandoning the slow, sensual massage, Jack pushed Daniel's hair out of the way to inspect whatever it was that he'd found.

"Jack...?" There was slight panic in the smooth voice, and Jack immediately cursed himself. He'd never been big on tact.

"It's okay, Danny, just bear with me a minute here."

Just to the right of the top of Daniel's spine was a disk, about an inch in diameter. He experimentally tugged at it, sliding his nails under the rim to try to pop it from Daniel's skin.

Daniel yelped in pain, pulling away. "Ow." His fingers flew to the spot of his head, touching the disk before Jack gently grabbed his fingers. He turned, the colour draining from his face. "Jack... what the hell is it?"

Jack shook his head. "I don't know. But it might be how they made you think we were dead."

Daniel tried to reach it again, "Get it out!"

"Okay, Danny, okay, calm down. Let's get you dressed and over to the infirmary."

Sam had to resist the urge to throw herself at Daniel when he appeared in the hallway with Jack in tow.

The moment he saw them he felt tears stinging his eyes. He thought he'd cried himself out through the dark hours of the morning, but to see Sam and Teal'c alive after just blurred memories of yesterday was too wonderful for words.

Stepping toward the kitchen, murmuring their names, he was finally taken into a fierce hug by Sam, and Teal'c's hand on his shoulder was nothing short of touching. Daniel's big blue eyes were impossible to resist at the best of times, but after facing the prospect of never seeing him again, it made them more poignant.

"Careful, kids," Jack warned gently, watching every nuance of Daniel's body language. When they eventually released him, Jack was there to settle him again.

"There's a... disk thing on the back of Daniel's head," Jack pointed to the same spot on his own head, "might be how they produced the illusion of us. I think it's well embedded so we need to get him to the infirmary, get a scan done and get Janet to take it out."

Sam had to have a look, of course. Daniel stilled for the examination, surprised when Jack reached out and took his hand.

Jack noticed his expression and remembered. "They know, Danny, I told them last night."

Daniel found he didn't have the strength or will to be anything but relieved. He curled his fingers around Jack's hand and when he'd had enough of being studied, he stepped forward, free arm going around himself.

"I'll drive us, Sir," Sam told them, but Jack shook his head.

"Follow us, but I'd like to have the jeep at the mountain, that way I can bring him home when he's ready." He noted Daniel's relief and knew he'd been right.

Jack kept his hand on Daniel's bare arm as the table moved into place inside the CAT scanner.

They'd kept this visit to the base as covert as they could. Everyone had been told that Dr Jackson had been found safe and well, but he'd made a lot of friends over the years he'd worked here and people were anxious to see him. Jack was convinced that Daniel wouldn't be able to cope with too many well-wishers right now.

Janet and Sam watched the CAT scan image build while Hammond hovered in the background and Teal'c stood guard at the doorway.

Jack knew Daniel hated these things. After he'd come back from the Alternate Reality the first time around, he'd told Jack everything, including the way he'd been treated upon his arrival at the base under the other Jack's command. Marched into the infirmary, forced onto the examination table, and drugged when he wouldn't co-operate.

His other self had really freaked Jack out. But at least, when it came to sacrificing himself to save Daniel and his reality, he'd come through. The only person they hadn't met in either alternative reality was Daniel himself. Late at nights, it worried Jack that his beloved archaeologist was dead in every other reality. It made him all the more precious in this one.

It took some time for the scan to complete, and when it did, it was obvious that Daniel was more than glad to be out. He sat up, aware of the 'skimpy' nature of the robe he wore. He was relived when Jack moved to stand behind him, leaning into him just a little so that the warmth of his sweater pressed against Daniel's back.

"Okay." Janet turned the monitor so that the two men could see the full scan. "There is one connector which seems to be fused to a single nerve stand at the top of your spinal cord." She watched Daniel reach back to touch the disk. "I can remove it," she reassured with a smile. "I can even do it under a local anaesthetic and you can go home in a couple of hours."

His stunning smile disarmed her. "Thank you."

"No problems." Glancing around at their visitors, she settled her eyes on Teal'c, Sam and the General. "You three, disappear. Colonel O'Neill will join you in the briefing room in a few minutes."

But Colonel O'Neill clearly had no intentions of leaving.

Prepping him in medical scrubs, Janet led Daniel through to one of the small, sterile operating theatres off the infirmary. She indicating that he should lie down on his front, watching in empathy as he attempted to make himself comfortable.

Jack eased a cover up over Daniel's back to cover up the sight of his glorious naked ass and the beautiful curve of his spine.

Also changing into medical scrubs, Jack pulled up a metal stool and sat beside the bed, sliding his hand under Daniel's.

When Janet left to prepare the anaesthetic, Jack leaned in and made a crack about knowing how to get comfortable in this position. It brought a smile to those full lips and that sexy mouth.

"Stay?" Daniel asked in a small voice.

"Of course. If it hurts, squeeze my hand. I'm more than willing to sacrifice a couple of small bones to the cause."

Another smile.

Raising her eyebrows at their unexpected guest, Janet strolled up to them and put a small dish on the metal tray beside the bed. Daniel's head was already turned to the right, toward Jack. Janet swept his hair away from the disk and captured it in a white cap. Then she carefully shaved around the spot.

"Okay, Daniel. I'm going to give you a local. It'll take about ten minutes to work. I just want you to relax, okay." She glanced at the colonel, determining to try to get rid of him at least once. "I'll call you once the procedure's completed."

Jack felt Daniel's grip on his hand immediately, and he stroked his thumb up over the hand that covered his.

"I'm staying, doctor."

"Jack, that would be breaking more rules and regulations than I can count on my fingers!"

"I don't care. No arguments." He wiggled a warning finger, taking it from Daniel's skin for just a moment. "And don't make it an order."

Janet glanced at their hands and shrugged. "If you faint, I'm not being to be held responsible for any injuries sustained while falling off the chair."

"I'm not going to faint." But he made a show of wincing and squeezing his eyes closed as she rubbed the shaved skin on the back of Daniel's head and punctured it with the tip of the needle. His pretence at least drew a smile from Daniel, which he caught when he forced open one eye to peek.

Leaning over, Janet flicked a couple of switches on two monitors and lifted the wires from where they were neatly stowed away. She reached between their hands to stick a cardiac monitor pad to Daniel's chest and slipped an oxygen and pulse monitor onto the end of his index finger.

Daniel had a lot of allergies, some of which, they were sure, they didn't know about yet. So Janet liked to keep a check on his vitals during the simplest of surgeries.

Turning down the volume on the monitors so that the sounds were obvious but not too annoying, she stepped away.

"Don't hold back on my part," she murmured to Jack as she passed him. She enjoyed the look on his face as his head snapped up. "Oh, please. If you two were any more together I'd be searching for the perfect wedding gift." She didn't give him chance to come back with a witty denial.

Jack caught Daniel's wide eyes and shrugged, smiling. "Can't get anything passed her." He kept watching, recognising the expression on Daniel's face. "Hey, it's okay."

"What about all the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' stuff?" he whispered in retaliation.

Jack leaned in closer. "I resigned."

"You did what?!" Daniel pushed himself up with his hands. The heart monitor went nuts and Janet was peering around into the room in a second. Jack glanced at her apologetically.

"You're supposed to keep him calm!" she accused sternly. "I'm warning you...."

Jack tried to look innocent as Daniel settled back. Janet decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and went back to preparing for the minor operation.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Daniel asked his lover more calmly.

"I haven't really had a chance," Jack reminded him. "I'll tell you everything later," he promised. "Nothing to worry about, Danny. I'm with you, whatever you want, wherever you want. We can talk about it later."

Daniel folded his fingers under Jack's hand and took a deep breath, relaxing his muscles. He could feel the patch at the top of his spine, cold and numb. To say he wasn't scared would have been a lie. But at least this way he could go home once the local had worn off. Back to their large bed and Jack's arms.

So Colonel O'Neill had resigned. Again. For now, that helped settle him.

By the time Janet came back, Daniel's heart had slowed to a sleep pace, his breathing even and easy. She smiled generously at Jack.

"Okay, Daniel. If you feel anything it all, it should just be discomfort. If you start to feel actual pain, you tell us immediately, okay? No male bravado."

"Promise," Daniel murmured in response.

"Good." Taking a narrow bladed scalpel, Janet started to cut into the back of Daniel's head.

Jack smoothed his hand over Daniel's hair, hooking his thumb under the thick mane and pushing it back away from the white patch of sterile dressing.

"Love you, Danny," he murmured softly.

Daniel had fallen asleep soon after Janet had covered the stitched incision with the dressing. He'd been moved carefully back into the main infirmary and reattached to the monitors there. Despite him not reacting thus far, Janet couldn't promise Daniel wasn't going to have an adverse reaction to the local. And despite her reassurances that the procedure wouldn't hurt him, by the tears forced eventually from his eyes Jack knew she hadn't been entirely truthful.

He'd done what he could to soothe his lover, but he'd been able to see what Janet was doing and it had looked like it would certainly hurt.

After a short while of sitting in the quiet, the klaxon sounded to signal off-world activation of the Stargate. Daniel was roused from his light sleep, clearly disturbed by the loud noise.

Again, Jack ran the palm of his hand over his lover's hair, leaning in to touch his lips to Daniel's temple. "Ssh, it's okay. Just the gate, someone coming home. Go back to sleep."

Their patient settled again, and a few minutes later there were more noises beyond the curtains drawn around them. Voices. Jack recognised Ferretti. Which meant the klaxon -- now silenced -- had probably been SG2 coming back from a mission.

Janet pulled them off to the other end of the infirmary and subjected them all to the usual post-mission examination. Jack pushed the disturbances to the back of his mind, letting his thoughts wonder.


Jack started when the curtain twitched and Ferretti poked his head inside. "Hi."

The other soldier didn't look twice at where Jack's hand lay beneath Daniel's. Team Leaders stayed with their people when they were hurt. It was an unspoken rule. Ferretti would never forget that Kawalski had been there for him, Jack had been there for Kawalski, and now for Dr Jackson.

"How's he doin'?" he asked quietly.

Jack tried to think of a suitable phrase to sum up Daniel's state right now and failed. "Dr Fraiser's just had to slice his neck open to yank out a piece of weird-ass technology that a bunch of scum-sucking aliens wired to his brain to make him believe he was killing us."

"Jesus, Colonel.... I'm sorry." He shook his head, voice low, genuinely shaken. "I heard he'd been found alive, and I was so relieved, you know?" Jack nodded. "Is he asleep?" Another nod. "Between you and me? It's too damn dangerous for people like him out there. He's... kinda precious, ya know? Unique."

Jack almost laughed. "Believe me, I know."

Ferretti jumped slightly when Janet slapped her hand on to his shoulder. "You're cleared and he shouldn't be being disturbed." She glanced at Jack. "Why don't you go get a coffee? Sam and Teal'c have been asking about you seeing as you didn't join them an earlier."


"He'll sleep for another hour at least. By then you'll be back and you can take him home."

Eyes roaming Daniel's peaceful features for a moment, Jack nodded. "I'll be back before you know it, Danny," he murmured softly.

Janet smiled her approval. "I'll keep an eye on him, don't worry."

The klaxon for gate activation sounded for the second time in less than half an hour.

"Incoming wormhole," was announced, followed by, "unauthorised gate activation. Tok'ra codes."

Jack swore, and changed his destination to join Hammond in the gate room. The General looked up. "Colonel," despite the feeling of impending doom, he smiled. "How's Doctor Jackson?"

"He's... sleeping, Sir. That thing was buried quite deep."

The general nodded, turning his attention to the wormhole that sprung out into the room. Jacob and another Tok'ra stepped onto the ramp. Or rather... ran out. Jacob was bouncing!

"George! You've found Daniel Jackson, right?"

The general's eyebrows rose an inch, and Jack was straight onto the defensive.

"Nice to see you too, Jacob," Hammond countered.

"Sorry!" Selmec came to the fore. "General Hammond, I apologise. This is Rig'or," he indicated the second Tok'ra who was slightly more restrained. "We heard about Daniel Jackson. We believe he may have knowledge of a new enemy, the Nefari."

Hammond held up a halting hand. "Daniel Jackson has been through a very traumatic time. He's currently on medical leave and not even on the base."

Rig'or stepped forward. "It is imperative that we speak to Doctor Jackson. This enemy has remained enshrouded in mystery until now, he has knowledge we desperately need."

Jack stepped forward. "Okay. Stop. Whatever Daniel knows or doesn't know, he isn't going to talk to you guys just like that. In fact, with your track record, I'm not sure I'd be happy to have him talking to you at all."

Hammond stretched one arm out to his side, palm back, calming his colonel with a simple gesture. "We're not even sure what Doctor Jackson remembers from his experience. He'll talk if and when he's ready."

Rig'or held out his fist and opened his hand, revealing the memory enhancing device they'd used to touch Jolinar's memories on their way to Netu. The same device that had later been used to torture them.

Jack shook his head. "Oh, no ya don't. You aren't going anywhere near Daniel with that thing."

Selmec glanced at the General. "I'm afraid I agree with Colonel O'Neill. Doctor Jackson isn't strong enough to have his mind messed with by alien technology." He frowned. "Why don't you come up to the briefing room and explain to me what's so important that you want to put one of my civilian officers through hell to get what you want?" He smiled a smile that was actually friendly, turning to Jack. "You were going to talk with Doctor Fraiser," he reminded him with a tiny raise of his eyebrows. "I can take care of this."

"Yes, Sir." Message received and understood. Time to take Daniel home.

At least they'd made it home.

Anaesthetic never sat well with Daniel.

As soon as Jack had pulled the jeep into the drive, Daniel had bolted for the door. Jack barely had time to get it unlocked and let Daniel run for the bathroom.

He threw up the little he'd had in his stomach, sipped at the water Jack had insisted he didn't gulp, before passing out on the cold tiled floor.

When he woke up a few hours later, he was lying on their bed, tucked under the thick duvet. A couple of candles were burning in holders around the room, a glass of water on the cabinet beside the bed. The dim glow was easy on the eyes and meant he didn't wake alone in darkness. Closing his eyes for a moment, Daniel took stock of his rebelling body. His pounding headache was easier, and his rolling stomach had settled.

He hoped he hadn't thrown up over Jack.

A couple of minutes later, the door opened a crack and a pair of dark eyes peered into the darkness.

"I'm awake," Daniel called quietly.

Jack stepped inside and closed the door behind him. A second or two later the bed dipped and Jack sat on the edge.

"How are you feeling?" He reached out to touch his lover's forehead. Daniel was at least cooler than he had been earlier.

Daniel put up with Jack's mother-henning as he usually did. "Better. I'm sorry about...."

"Don't worry about it. You get sick from anaesthetic, that's not your fault." He started a comforting caress over Daniel's hair. Even in the dim light of the candles, he could see the expression on the beautiful features. "What's wrong? You're thinking way too hard for someone who is supposed to be resting."

"Jack, when you said you resigned.... Did you mean it?"

Ah. "Yeah. The morning of the day we found you."


"Danny... I left you behind. It's my fault you were captured!"

Daniel pushed himself to sit up. "No, Jack! I was so far behind you all. I ran for the gate but suddenly the ground opened up under me and I fell. It felt like I fell forever. All I remember after that is coming to in a dark room."

Stroking down over Daniel's shoulder and arm. He waited to see if more was forthcoming, but Daniel either didn't remember any more, which Jack doubted, or wasn't ready to speak about the rest of it.

"I shouldn't have gone through without you. What was it I said to those damn cadets? 'Never leave one of your own behind.' And I left you. You, Danny. I am so sorry."

"It wasn't your fault!" Daniel's sad eyes watched his lover's face. "Please... I don't want to add to the guilt you carry with you."

Hugging his lover close, Jack held him, rocking him gently in a gesture meant to comfort himself more than Daniel.

For a time, they sat together, no words, no tears, just sitting quietly, acknowledging what had happened and what it meant to them.

Finally, Daniel shrugged his shoulders to escape Jack's firm embrace enough to be able to meet his lover's stormy gaze.

"I doubt General Hammond would have opened the envelope," he told Jack. "You can withdraw it."

Jack sighed softly. "I don't know if I want to, Danny. This was way too close, you know? I thought I'd lost you, thought I'd... killed you. Christ... when we went through, Hammond ordered the iris closed and there was this... sound. Someone hitting the iris. I thought... we thought it was you. It was your DNA, Danny."

Neither spoke again for a while. Soothing touches became heated caresses. Comforting words became passionate kisses. They made love slowly and tenderly, pledging themselves to one another in a silent agreement that whatever happened, they would remain together.

For now they had to come first. Everything else could wait.
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