Colonel Jack O’Neill emerged from the shimmering event horizon in less than stately grace, largely due to the crumbling steps directly beneath the planet’s Stargate.
“For crying out loud, what the hell do we use MALP’s and UAV’s for anyhow?” he grumbled, as he windmilled his arms to regain his balance. Despite his pre-occupation in staying upright, he instinctively shot out a supporting arm, catching Doctor Daniel Jackson hard across the chest.
“Oomph,” Daniel grunted as he was effectively halted by the restraining arm. “Jack, what the hell are you—” Daniel’s accusing tone was silenced as he got a good look at his surroundings. “Oh,” he said sheepishly. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Jack said easily. “Now, you better stand back,” he warned.
Daniel hurried alongside Jack just as Teal’c gracefully emerged from the wormhole, followed by Major Samantha Carter who, fortunately, was rescued from tumbling down the decrepit steps by the solid bulk of the Jaffa.
“Sorry, Teal’c,” she said apologetically, “and thanks.”
“There is no need, Major Carter, and I was glad to be of assistance,” Teal’c stated sombrely.
The members of SG-1 stood shoulder to shoulder and did a quick visual scan of their bleak surroundings.
“Well, kids, looks like P5X 233 hasn’t had any visitors for quite some time,” Jack commented dryly. “Tell me again, Carter, why we’re here?”
“Because SG-2 and SG-15 came down with the flu, sir,” Sam replied with a barely suppressed smile.
“Right, and when you need a team in a pinch,” Jack drawled.
“SG-1 is sure to be a cinch,” Daniel sing-songed absently. “Uh, sorry,” he mumbled, ducking his head in response to Jack’s subdued glare.
Sam and Teal’c exchanged bemused glances to which Jack exclaimed, “Anyone else feeling poetic today?”
“Not me, Colonel,” Sam responded quickly, shaking her head.
“Nor I, O’Neill,” Teal’c confirmed.
“Daniel?” Jack asked, arching his eyebrows.
“No, no, I think I’m quite finished now, Jack,” he replied impishly.
“Good,” Jack growled. “Let’s keep it that way. Okay, heads down, everybody,” he advised as he carefully negotiated the steps down to the barren ground.
The landscape was desolate to say the least. The chalky, grey earth they trod upon had the consistency of starch, crunching under their weight and sticking to their boots.
At least it’s not kicking up a lot of dust, Daniel mused as he gazed around, toeing experimentally at the dirt.
Jack and Teal’c scouted the perimeter and deemed the immediate vicinity safe.
“Sorry, Daniel,” Jack said sincerely, as he and Teal’c approached him, “but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot here to interest an archaeologist.”
“Well, at least I’m not sneezing,” Daniel replied amiably.
“The DHD’s in good shape, Colonel,” Sam announced, coming up to the three men.
“That’s good because I don’t think I’d like to be stuck here. There doesn’t appear to be any signs of snakeheads, recent or otherwise,” Jack observed, scanning the horizon.
“Indeed, O’Neill. I do not believe the Goa’uld would deem this planet useful,” Teal’c informed.
“Not unless they’re into mass production of kitty litter,” Jack muttered, kicking at the grey soil.
Daniel smiled at Teal’c’s raised eyebrow and explained the term to the puzzled Jaffa.
Teal’c raised his eyebrow further. “Humans keep these creatures and their...toilets...in their dwellings with them?”
“Hell, yes,” Jack replied. “They make great pets. You remember Schrodinger? Cats aren’t like dogs of course, but they’re okay except when they track the damn litter all over the place. You never had pets on Chulak?”
The impassive expression on Teal’c’s face invited Sam into the conversation.
“Pets, Teal’c. Dogs, cats, birds…,”
“Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters…,” Daniel offered.
“Or, fish, turtles, snakes.” Jack supplied, with a shrug.
“For what purpose?” Teal’c asked.
“For what purpose?” Jack said incredulously. “For company. For something to play with. For crying out loud, Teal’c, stop looking at me like I just grew another head,” he said irritably.
“Jack, it’s all right,” Daniel placated. “I’ll explain when we get home. Okay, Teal’c?”
“I will look forward to that, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c said, bowing his head in gratitude.
“Okay, campers,” Jack said, relieved to change the conversation, “Carter, you and Teal’c go that way; Daniel and I will go this way. The UAV showed what may have been a quarry a couple of miles from here. Angle to the right and we should both meet up at roughly the same location.”
“Yes, sir,” Carter responded, setting out immediately with Teal’c.
Jack watched his teammates leave then turned an accusing look at Daniel.
“What are you grinning at?”
“Snakes, Jack?” Daniel snickered. “You hate snakes. Now, more than ever.”
“It just popped out, okay? Slimy little bastards,” he muttered.
“They’re not slimy, Jack. In fact—,”
Daniel immediately shut his mouth when Jack held up a warning finger.
“Shut up, Daniel. I know,” Daniel said good-naturedly.
“Come on, let’s find that quarry,” Jack said, cuffing Daniel lightly on the back of the head.
“Witness if you will,” Daniel said teasingly, employing one of Jack’s catch-phrases as they approached the quarry.
“Rocks, rocks, and more rocks,” Jack finished dismally.
“Well, we can’t let this go to waste,” Daniel said brightly, pulling out his video camera.
“Fill your boots,” Jack commented dryly as he began to wander through the quarry, his eyes and ears alert to any danger. After a few moments, Daniel’s voice garnered his attention.
Jack turned to see Daniel holding a chunk of rock in his hand.
“What’d you do, find a rock?” Jack smirked, as he strode up to the archaeologist.
“Very amusing, Jack. Look at this,” he said eagerly, holding his find out to the older man.
Jack took the stone and turned it over in his hands. He squinted at vague markings on the surface. He looked up into expectant blue eyes.
“Squiggles?” he guessed.
“Exactly,” Daniel exclaimed, his eyes shining with excitement.
Jeez, Danny, you really have to get out more.
Jack looked back at the rock and frowned. “So, you’re saying what, this is a language?”
“I don’t know. Maybe,” Daniel answered, “but at the very least, it’s a sign of civilization. These marks aren’t accidental, Jack. They’ve been purposely etched into the rock,” he enthused.
“And you know this because?”
Daniel blinked owlishly and said, “Because it’s what I do?”
“Ah, right. What was I thinking?” Jack drawled. “So, anymore signs of civilization?” he asked, handing the stone back to the younger man.
“Actually, yes,” Daniel smiled as he began rooting around in the rubble.
Guess I was wrong, Jack mused, secretly pleased that Daniel had found something to interest him. Their missions of late had been heavy on fighting and mere survival. While Daniel’s presence had been necessary and valued in each and every instance, Jack knew that Daniel’s unique abilities had not been called upon for some time.
“Jack, can you give me a hand with this?”
Jack shook his head at his young teammate who was struggling with a particularly large and stubborn rock.
“Ease up, Daniel, you’ll rupture something,” he chastised as he knelt down to help.
“There’s something down there,” Daniel said, pointing towards a small gap. “See how the dirt’s trickling down?”
“Yeah, and it must be deep; I can feel the cold from here. Damn, this stuff is abrasive,” Jack grumbled, as he scowled at the scratch on his hand.
“Are you bleeding?” Daniel asked worriedly.
“Nah, it’s just a scrape,” Jack assured, renewing his hold on the boulder.
After a brief struggle, the two men managed to manoeuvre the stone out of its niche.
“Whoa,” Jack whistled, looking over Daniel’s shoulder. “Is that what I think it is?”
Daniel extended one long, slender hand into the opening and carefully extricated the oblong object. He peered at it closely. “It’s definitely bone.”
“Humanoid?” Jack queried, looking over his shoulder instinctively.
Daniel pulled out his flashlight and shone it into the opening. “You tell me,” he said.
Jack hunched over and peered into the opening. He grimaced at the numerous empty eye sockets staring up at him, and stood up sharply. “Okay,” he said, “graveyard? Catastrophic calamity? Murder? Isolated incident?”
“I don’t know, Jack, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a quarry. See those rock piles in the distance?”
“I noticed them,” Jack said.
“I’d bet a month’s pay that they’re all part of the same structure, or structures,” Daniel explained.
“You’re saying this used to be a city?” Jack guessed, taking the bone from Daniel’s hand.
“It’s possible. The proximity to the Stargate is appropriate,” Daniel said reasonably. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a lot more to see underground,” he added, shining his light into the dark hole.
“Not this trip, Daniel,” Jack said, oddly mesmerized by the bone in his hand.
Something in the older man’s voice caused Daniel to turn and look at him. Jack was staring at the bone, his knuckles whitening.
“Jack?” he called tentatively. Daniel frowned at Jack’s distracted look. “Jack!” he repeated, a little more forcefully.
“What?” Jack replied irritably.
“I should bag that,” Daniel said neutrally, gesturing to the object in Jack’s hand.
Jack looked down at his hand, surprised to see his fingers firmly clasped around the bone. He scowled and opened his hand. “Sure, take it.”
Daniel took the bone and furrowed his brow at the smudge of pink on its grey surface.
“Jack, how’s your hand?” he asked carefully.
Jack automatically opened his hand and blinked in surprise at the small trickle of blood.
“I thought you said it was just a scrape?” Daniel said.
“It was. I must’ve nicked it on your damn bone,” Jack grumbled, wiping his hand on his pants. He looked around, a confused but wary look on his face.
“What’s wrong, Jack?”
“I don’t know. Something,” he murmured. He grasped his radio. “Carter, Teal’c, do you read me?”
“We read you, Colonel. Have you found the quarry?” Carter asked.
“Yeah, although Daniel thinks it might have been a city,” Jack answered, gazing into the distance.
“We should be at your position in ten minutes, Colonel.”
“No. You and Teal’c head back to the Stargate. We’ll meet you there.”
“Colonel?” Sam queried.
“That’s an order, Major,” Jack said tersely.
“We’re leaving?” Daniel asked in surprise.
“Yeah, let’s go.”
“But, we haven’t exactly explored the planet,” Daniel objected, looking down regretfully at the hidden chamber.
“Daniel, do you have to argue every time I make a decision?” Jack demanded.
Daniel looked up, startled by Jack’s tone. “I’m not arguing, Jack. I just—,”
“Just shut up, Daniel!” Jack said angrily.
Stunned by his friend’s sudden vehemence, Daniel fumbled with his pack, averting his hurt look from Jack’s eyes.
Jack sighed and wiped a dust-covered hand across his forehead. Shit, when did it get so hot? He looked guiltily at Daniel. Crap, what the hell got into me?
“Sorry,” Jack muttered. “I didn’t mean to be so short.”
“It’s okay, Jack,” Daniel said lightly.
“No, Daniel, it’s not okay.” Jack said as he rubbed his right temple in an attempt to alleviate the dull throb that suddenly appeared.
“Jack, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just don’t feel so shit hot. Must be getting that damn flu,” he said irritably.
“Actually, Jack, you don’t look so good, and you’re sweating an awful lot.”
“Are you saying it’s not hot here?” Jack asked, rubbing absently at the scratch on his hand.
“No. In fact, it’s rather cool,” Daniel stated, concern filling his blue eyes.
“Jack? Jack, come on, you’re scaring me,” Daniel said worriedly.
Jack gazed at Daniel. Daniel’s lips were moving, but no sound came out. The ringing in Jack’s ears intensified, and he knew he was going to pass out. Double crap. With that final thought, Jack’s knees buckled and he pitched forward.
“Jack!” Daniel yelled, as he leapt forward to catch the collapsing man. Staggering under the older man’s sudden weight, they both went down hard. Daniel almost managed to avert the pile of rocks. He received a minor nick on his upper arm, but a large, jagged stone caught Jack on the hand, leaving a small, but deep cut where the scratch used to be.
“Jack,” Daniel grunted as he rolled the unresponsive man off his body. He scrambled to his knees and grasped his radio.
“Sam! Teal’c! I need help!” he yelled into the radio.
“Daniel Jackson, are you under attack?” Teal’c’s voice asked urgently.
“No, Teal’c, but something’s wrong with Jack. He’s passed out.”
“We’re on our way, Daniel,” Sam advised.
Daniel could tell by the sound of her voice that they were already running.
Daniel knelt beside his friend and slapped his cheek a couple of times. “Jack? Jack, come on, don't do this to me,” he murmured. “Wake up and tell me to shut up.”
Jack groaned and opened his eyes groggily. “Shit, what hit me?”
“You passed out,” Daniel explained, relieved to see Jack awake. “I tried to catch you, but you kind of took me by surprise.”
Jack nodded and mumbled, “Crap, I feel sick,” he mumbled as he tried to sit up.
“Take it easy,” Daniel soothed, pressing firmly on Jack’s chest to keep him down. “Sam and Teal’c will be here any minute and we’ll get you home.”
Jack lay back with a groan. “Hand hurts.”
“Yeah, you’ve got quite a cut,” Daniel explained as he searched for his first-aid kit. “I’ll take care of it.” Daniel checked Jack’s hand and frowned at the way the dirt clung to the wound. He quickly cleaned and bandaged it as best he could.
“Danny?” Jack said, as his hand searched weakly for Daniel.
Surprise and alarmed by Jack’s tone, Daniel caught Jack’s hand in a strong grip. “I’m here, Jack,” he said, tears unexpectedly pricking his eyes.
“Didn’t mean...to yell...” Jack’s voice drifted, and his head lolled to the side.
“Damn it, Jack, stay with me!” Daniel ordered. He leaned down, relieved to hear and feel Jack’s steady, albeit erratic, heartbeat. He looked up and saw Sam and Teal’c in the near distance. Thank God.
“We’ll get you home, Jack,” Daniel promised, as he soaked a cloth and gently patted his friend’s brow.
Blaring klaxons alerted General Hammond to ‘incoming travellers’, and he was in the control room within seconds.
“It’s SG-1, sir,” Sgt. Davis announced.
“Open the iris,” Hammond ordered calmly. You’re much too early, SG-1. What is it this time?
Teal’c was the first through, an unconscious O’Neill in his arms. “O’Neill requires assistance,” he boomed as he lowered his teammate gently to the ramp.
Hammond snatched up the phone. “Code red medical emergency to the gateroom, now!” he ordered. “Repeat. Medical emergency to the gateroom!”
By the time Hammond entered the gateroom, Carter and Daniel had also arrived and were kneeling at Jack’s side.
“Major Carter, what happened?” Hammond requested.
“I don’t know sir—,”
“He was with me, General,” Daniel interrupted, standing up and reluctantly taking his eyes off Jack. “He started feeling sick and passed out. Twice. We found the quarry, although I don’t think it’s a quarry,” he added absently. “Anyhow, there were skeletons buried there. I picked up one of the bones, and I think Jack scratched his hand on it. I don’t know if it’s related, but I brought back a sample.”
“Very well, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond said calmly. “SG-1, we’ll debrief in two hours. In the meantime, I want you all in the infirmary and checked out, now.”
“Yes, sir,” Carter said briskly.
General Hammond placed a strong, supporting hand on Daniel’s shoulder. “He’ll be fine, son. The flu bug probably finally caught up to him.”
Daniel nodded doubtfully, swallowing the bile in his throat. Why do I have a bad feeling about this?
“He’s coming to, sir,” Carter announced excitedly.
Daniel looked anxiously at Jack and saw his eyes flutter.
“Teal’c?” Jack asked dazedly.
“Why are you so tall?”
“You are on the floor, O’Neill,” Teal’c explained.
“Oh.” Jack closed his eyes, seemingly to reflect on this information. Opening them again, he asked, “Do I have a good reason to be on the floor?”
Daniel squatted beside his friend. “Jack, you passed out on P5X 233. Don’t you remember?” he asked worriedly, as he moved aside to allow Dr. Janet Fraiser access to her patient.
Jack screwed his eyes shut and concentrated. “I remember...a bunch of rocks...and bones…and how damn hot it was.” He opened his eyes and looked at Daniel. “That the place?”
“That’s the one,” Daniel agreed, “only it wasn’t hot; it was just you.”
“Hey, when you’re hot, you’re hot,” Jack replied glibly. “Hey, come on, Daniel. I’ll be fine,” he assured, laying a weak hand on his friend’s arm. “Probably just a flu bug, right Doc?”
“You’re probably right, Colonel, but we’ll run all the standard tests just to make sure. I need room, people,” she said, raising her voice.
The worried teammates obediently moved back as one.
“SG-1, the infirmary?” Hammond gently reminded the trio.
“Yes, sir,” Sam replied, “we’re on our way.”
“The members of SG-1 passed their medicals with flying colours, General, Colonel O’Neill included,” Dr. Fraiser reported. “Daniel has a small nick on his arm which has already closed up. As far as the colonel goes, with the exception of some residual headaches, and the cut on his hand, which required a couple of stitches, I can’t find anything physically wrong with him, at least nothing to warrant confining him to base.”
“I take it, Doctor, Colonel O’Neill is not volunteering to remain on base?”
“No, sir,” Janet confirmed with a knowing smile.
“I see. However, you’re not quite sure he should be on his own, are you Doctor?’ Hammond drawled.
“No, sir. I’ve asked him a few times to describe what he remembers, and each time seems to take him just a little bit longer to recall.”
“That must be making him a little irritable,” Hammond said thoughtfully.
“To say the least, sir,” Janet agreed. “It could just be fatigue, but I’d like someone to keep an eye on him.”
“Do you have anyone in mind?” Hammond inquired, a knowing glint in his eyes.
Janet smiled. “Daniel is hovering around the colonel like a mother hen.”
“A little bit of role reversal,” Hammond mused. “It could be a good lesson for both of them. Has Dr. Jackson remembered any new details?”
“Not really. He just says that Colonel O’Neill shouldn’t be on his own in case he has a relapse. I agree with him, General.”
“As do I, Doctor. Very well, I’ll tell Dr. Jackson myself that he is to accompany Colonel O’Neill home and to stay with him. I’ll put SG-1 on stand down for the next few days. We’ll see how things develop.”
“What about the colonel, sir? Would you like to tell him, or shall I?”
“I’ll take on that dubious honour, Doctor,” Hammond smiled. “I’ll give him the choice of staying on base or having a roommate for the next few days.”
“Thank you, sir,” Janet said, relieved this was one fight she could avoid.
“I don’t need a babysitter, General,” Jack said in exasperation, glancing suspiciously at Daniel.
“This is not open for discussion, Colonel. If you insist on going home then I insist that you not be alone,” Hammond responded.
“But why Daniel? Why not Teal’c?” Jack argued.
The sudden flash of hurt in Daniel’s eyes effectively stopped Jack’s tirade.
Crap. “Daniel, I didn’t mean it like that,” Jack said lamely.
“It’s okay,” Daniel said softly. “I’m sure Teal’c would be more than happy to get off base for a few days. I’ll go and ask him,” he added as he headed to the door.
“Daniel, stay here,” Jack said.
Daniel hesitated at the door. He turned and looked questioningly at Jack.
Jack sighed. “Daniel, I’d be grateful if you’d stay with me. Besides, I’m used to having you around the house. It’ll be like old times,” he added with a quick smile.
“Well, if you’re sure,” Daniel said uncertainly.
“Hey, I insist. Now, if that’s all, sir,” Jack said, as he turned back to the general, “I believe I have a few things to collect.”
“You’re dismissed, Colonel.”
Daniel and General Hammond watched Jack leave the room, small smiles tugging at their mouths. Daniel turned blue, twinkling eyes to Hammond. “Like taking candy from a baby.”
“Magic, son. Pure magic,” Hammond said with admiration, as he clapped Daniel on the back. “The colonel didn’t have a chance. Take care of our boy, Doctor.”
“I’ll do my best, sir.”
“I have no doubts about that. Check in regularly with Dr. Fraiser.”
“I will, General. Thank you.”
Daniel left the general’s office and went in search of his ‘charge’. The door to Jack’s quarters was ajar; Daniel looked in. Jack was standing in the middle of the room, a sweater in his hand, staring off into space.
“Jack?” Daniel called softly.
Startled, Jack whirled and looked blankly at Daniel. Just as the hairs started to stand up on the back of Daniel’s neck, Jack spoke.
“Danny boy, where’ve ye been?” he asked with a light Irish brogue. “A couple more things and we’re outta here,” he said cheerily.
Daniel exhaled slowly. Damn it, Jack. Don’t scare me like that. “You’re sure you wouldn’t rather stay here?”
“Positive.” Seeing the concern in his friend’s eyes, Jack said, “I’m fine, Daniel. Really. I just get these headaches and Doc’s given me enough pills to keep an elephant down for weeks.” Seeing the scepticism in Daniel’s eyes, Jack said, “I promise I’ll let you bring me back if they get worse, okay?”
“Okay, but don’t try to hide anything from me,” Daniel said seriously.
“Moi?” Jack said in mock horror.
Daniel smiled, but something didn’t feel quite right. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he felt he might need a little back up.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” he said. “I promised Sam I’d drop off my notes on P3X 421. I’ll just do that and come back for you,” he said moving towards the door.
“I’ll come with you,” Jack said.
“No, no, it’s okay. I’ll only be a minute,” Daniel said hurriedly.
“Well, I’m done here. I’ve already said goodbye to Teal’c. I haven’t seen Carter, yet.”
“Sure...okay...that’ll be fine,” Daniel said hesitantly.
“Let’s go then. Come on, Daniel, snap out of it,” Jack said, giving him a friendly smack on the back of the head. “You’re acting weird.”
I’m acting weird?
“Hey, Sam,” Daniel called as he walked into her office.
“Hi Daniel, Colonel. All ready to go, sir?”
“Yes, Major. Thank you for asking,” Jack replied, bouncing jauntily on his toes.
Sam smiled uncertainly. If she didn’t know better, she would have thought the colonel had just leered at her.
“Uh, Sam. I’ve got the papers you wanted,” Daniel said, interrupting her thoughts.
“Yes, the ones on P3X 412,” he said, winking in what he hoped was a conspiratorial manner.
“I thought you said P3X 421?” Jack remarked casually.
“Er-yes. I did. That’s what I meant, P3X 421.” You pick a fine time to start listening to me, Jack.
“You need to get more sleep there, Danny boy,” Jack said lightly.
“Thanks, Daniel. I’ll look at them first thing tomorrow,” Sam replied, playing along but not sure what it was all about.
“The good stuff starts on page seven,” Daniel said helpfully.
“I can hardly wait,” she enthused.
“Can we go now, Doctor Jackson?” Jack inquired.
“Uh-sure,” Daniel agreed, startled by the unexpected nomenclature. “Bye, Sam,” he said as Jack practically dragged him to the door.
“Stay out of trouble, you two,” Sam called. Puzzled, she looked down at the papers in her hand and flipped to page seven. At the bottom of the page, in a hurried scrawl, were the words ‘phone me at Jack’s tomorrow morning’. Before she could decipher the curious message, General Hammond paged her.
Several hours later, Sam was back in her office. She picked up the discarded papers from Daniel. She hadn’t asked Daniel for the report and the scribble on page seven appeared to be the only message. She re-read it, thought of the colonel’s curious behaviour, and an unexpected shiver ran up her spine. She phoned Janet.
“Janet, it’s me. Have you done any more tests on Colonel O’Neill?”
Janet picked up the phone on the second ring. Her eyes widened in alarm as she listened to the message. “I’ll be right there,” she said quickly.
Seconds after hanging up the phone, it rang again. Damn. Thinking that it might be the lab calling back, she picked it up.
“Yes?” she said briskly.
“It’s me again. Do you—”
“Sam, meet me in my lab, right away,” Janet said hurriedly and slammed the phone down.
“Cheryl, what is it?” Janet asked the technician as she rushed into the lab.
“Dr. Fraiser, we re-analyzed Colonel O’Neill’s blood samples as you requested. We found something that wasn’t there the first time. Take a look at this,” she said, vacating her seat in front of the microscope.
Janet peered into the microscope and brought the image into focus.
“Oh, my God,” she whispered. The sample in front of her contained several ciliated microbes. “You’re sure this sample hasn’t been tampered with?”
“Absolutely, Doctor. Whatever those things are, they weren’t in yesterday’s slides. I took the liberty of checking the rest of SG-1’s samples, and they’re all perfectly normal.”
“A dormancy period of some type?” Janet mumbled to herself.
The door opened, and Sam hurried in. “Janet, do you have something?” she asked quickly.
“Look at this,” Janet said.
Sam peered into the microscope. “What are they?” she asked in a hushed tone.
“I don’t know, but more importantly, what are they doing?” Janet added.
“This must be what’s causing the colonel’s illness,” Sam said, “but where did they come from? Daniel and the colonel were the only ones to sustain any type of injury, but Daniel’s fine. Wait, Daniel said he had trouble cleaning the colonel’s cut because the dirt was clinging to the wound,” Sam remembered.
“Has anyone analyzed the geological samples or the bone yet?” Janet asked.
“If not, they will right now,” Sam promised as she hurried down to the geosciences lab.
Janet looked at the slide once more then phoned General Hammond.
“Major Carter, Doctor Fraiser, what have you found out?” General Hammond asked as the two women sat down.
“Those soil samples that Daniel and the colonel collected are literally alive, sir,” Carter reported.
“The same organisms that have appeared in Colonel O’Neill’s blood samples are thriving in the soil samples,” Dr. Fraiser added. “I’m conducting an in vivo experiment with rats to see if we can determine the physiological effects of the organisms in living tissue. I hope to have some answers soon.”
“Phone Colonel O’Neill and get him and Dr. Jackson back here right away,” Hammond ordered.
Jack’s eyes shot open. A disturbing wave of disorientation shuddered through him like a cold breeze; that age-old feeling of waking up and not knowing where you were. His last mission had not gone smoothly, but it didn’t warrant this unease. Years of training kept him still as death as his senses took stock of his surroundings. Something wasn’t right. He felt a vague sense of familiarity, but it was overshadowed by the certainty that this was not his house, or the house of anyone he knew. His eyes slowly scanned the room, verifying that he was alone. Cautiously, he slipped out of bed and swiftly dressed, aware on some level that even his clothes seemed strange. He padded silently to the window and peered outside. One vehicle was parked in the driveway, and it wasn’t his. A small throbbing behind his left eye caused him to squeeze his eyes shut. He opened them and once again surveyed the exterior of the house. Mouth grim, he stepped back, rubbing at his left temple. He’d made a lot of enemies over the years, some even in his own backyard. He checked his arms for signs of recent puncture wounds. It wouldn’t have been the first time he’d been drugged. But this was different. He knew this wasn’t his house. Then why the hell do you recognize some things? Jack pushed the niggling thought back to where it belonged. He would deal with that later. A sudden pricking at the back of his neck caused him to freeze. He wasn’t alone.
Daniel twitched in his sleep, then jerked awake. Damn, must’ve fallen asleep on the couch again.
“Who the hell are you?” a low voice growled.
Startled, Daniel twisted around and saw Jack standing a few feet away.
“What?” he mumbled in confusion as he reached for his glasses.
“Ow!” Daniel yelped, as a blinding pain hit his left hand. Daniel clutched the throbbing hand to his chest and stared at it in disbelief. Jack had kicked him.
“Jesus, Jack. What the hell’s the matter with you? I think you broke my fingers,” Daniel gritted between his teeth as he cradled his hand.
“Keep your hands where I can see them,” a cold voice ordered.
A creeping fear crawled up Daniel’s neck as he slowly looked up at Jack. Oh shit. That’s not my Jack. Swallowing hard, Daniel explained, “I, uh, I was just reaching for my glasses.”
Daniel flinched as Jack stepped forward, but he simply retrieved Daniel’s glasses and handed them to him. Daniel took them hesitantly. “Thank you,” he said uncertainly and put them on. He stole a quick glance at his injured hand and estimated he had at least two broken fingers.
“I’ll ask you once more. Who are you?” Jack asked quietly.
Daniel looked up at the dark, alien eyes boring into his own. “I’m Daniel Jackson,” he said softly. “Dr. Daniel Jackson.”
The name obviously meant nothing to Jack, and Daniel’s mind aced. Please, let this just be a temporary lapse.
“Where are we?” Jack asked, his gaze even more intense.
“This...this is your house, Jack.”
“My name is Colonel O’Neill. Understood?”
“Yes, Colonel O’Neill,” Daniel said slowly. At least he knows who he is.
“This is not my house,” Jack said, menace in his voice.
“Look around you, Jack—,” Daniel’s head whipped back as the stinging backhand came out of nowhere. Goddamnit, Jack. That hurt.
Taking a few steadying breaths, Daniel tried again. “I’m sorry...Colonel O’Neill. But this is your house. You must recognize something,” Daniel asked, trying to keep the fear out of his voice.
To his credit, Jack did sweep the room with his eyes even though he had already checked it out before Daniel awakened. As in the bedroom, he did recognize a few things, but he chose to ignore them.
“Look-look at your mail or your wallet...Colonel,” Daniel said desperately.
“Why are you here?” Jack inquired, ignoring the suggestion.
Daniel licked his suddenly dry lips. “I-I spent the night. We’re friends. We work together. You had a slight injury on our last mission,” Daniel said, pointing at Jack’s bandaged hand. “I brought you home, and I guess I fell asleep on your couch.”
Jack looked down at his hand and rubbed the bandage absently. He looked up and fixed Daniel with a cold stare. “You’re not military,” he stated derisively.
“No, no I’m not. I’m a civilian assigned to the U.S. Air Force, to the Stargate...project,” Daniel’s voice trailed off. He doesn’t know what the hell I’m talking about.
Daniel suddenly found himself slammed up against a wall, Jack’s forearm pressed up hard under his chin, viciously holding him in place.
“I don’t like games, Doctor,” Jack hissed. “Especially not from mealy-mouthed civilians.” Grasping Daniel’s injured hand, he squeezed it slowly and cruelly. Daniel cried out in pain, gasping for breath.
“Now, what the fuck is going on? Tell me, or I’ll break every fucking finger you’ve got.” Punctuating his threat with a slow and vicious jerk, Daniel groaned hoarsely as a finger snapped. The pain was incredible, but it paled in comparison to the terror he felt. The ringing in his ears intensified, and he felt himself blacking out. Abruptly, the pressure from his throat was gone, and Daniel fell to the floor, his ears still ringing. No, not my ears, the phone. The phone! Sam!
Focusing pain-filled eyes on his tormentor, Daniel waited breathlessly.
Jack stared at the phone. Each ring seemed to drill into Jack’s brain, but he refused to pick it up. Four rings later, the answering machine picked up.
‘Yo, this is Jack. Leave a message, and I might get back to you. Ciao.’
The friendly, familiar words of his friend warmed Daniel. The man in front of him however, made his blood run cold.
Jack stared suspiciously at the machine. It was his voice. He looked even more suspiciously at Daniel. Daniel found himself trying to blend with the floor.
‘Colonel, this is Dr. Fraiser.’
Not Sam, Daniel thought in surprise.
‘There’s been a mix-up with your blood samples. I’m very sorry, but I’m going to need a fresh sample so we can run more tests. Could you please have Daniel bring you in as soon as possible? Thank you, and again, I’m sorry about the inconvenience.”
Janet hung up the phone, a worried frown creasing her brow.
“Janet?” Sam asked anxiously.
“It’s 7 am, Sam. One of them should have picked up the phone.”
“I can call Daniel’s cell. Maybe they’ve gone for breakfast?” Sam said hopefully as she picked up the phone.
“Maybe,” Janet said sceptically, “but then we have to see the General.”
“Who was that?” Jack asked tonelessly.
“Dr. Janet Fraiser. She’s the chief medical officer at Cheyenne Mountain,” Daniel explained.
“What tests is she talking about?”
“I-I don’t know,” Daniel answered truthfully. “Routine blood tests I’d imagine.”
“You’re a fucking doctor, aren’t you?” Jack snarled. “Now, what tests?” he repeated, advancing slowly towards Daniel, who was just as slowly standing up.
“I’m not that kind of doctor. I’m a doctor of archaeology.”
“Archaeology?” Jack spat. “Why the hell would I be working with an archaeologist?” he asked derisively.
Oh boy. “Well-um-,” Daniel didn’t know whether to be glad or afraid when his cell phone began ringing.
“Um-that would be my phone,” he explained apologetically, pointing towards his jacket.
Jack retrieved the phone; the caller ID said ‘private’. Thrusting it towards Daniel, he said roughly, “Answer it, and don’t be stupid.”
Daniel took the phone. “Hello?”
“Daniel! Are you okay?” Sam asked quickly.
“Hi, Sam. No, I won’t be in today,” he answered casually.
“Is the colonel with you? Are you at the colonel’s?”
“Yes. Yes, we’ll be in tomorrow,” Daniel said lightly.
“We’re coming over, Daniel,” Sam said urgently.
“Great. I’ll look forward to it. See you tomorrow then. Bye.” Daniel put the phone down, biting his bottom lip nervously.
“Uh-that was Sam, um, Major Carter. There’s a meeting tomorrow with General Hammond. We’re expected to be there.” Do any of these names mean anything to you?
“Hammond,” Jack said to himself. The name seemed familiar but he couldn’t place it. “What happened to West?”
West? God, he doesn’t know even what year it is. “General West retired shortly after the...uh...Stargate...was opened.”
“That’s the second time you’ve said ‘stargate’. What the hell is that?” Jack demanded.
Daniel unconsciously shrank back from the intense stare, and his hand throbbed interminably. Shit, how do I explain this?
“Well, it’s, um, it’s a top-secret project that we work on.” Oh, this is going real well. The Stargate is a large portal, or, uh, doorway discovered several years ago in Egypt. The U.S. Air Force acquired it. I was hired to help them...open it. We use it to jump or travel from one Stargate to another.” God, what am I thinking? He’s not buying any of this.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Jack growled menacingly.
Oh, to hell with it. “We use it to travel to different planets,” Daniel said in a rush. “You must remember something,” he said desperately.
Daniel barely had time to blink before he was flat on his back, with Jack’s knee firmly lodged in his solar plexus. His injured hand thumped painfully against the floor, and he clenched his eyes tight as the pain raced up his arm. He really wished he’d just pass out. Instead, he opened his eyes to an enraged colonel.
“No more fucking games, asshole,” Jack hissed, practically spitting in his face. “If you don’t tell me who you are, and where I am, you are going to be breathing out of a tube for the rest of your worthless life. Now talk!” Jack emphasized his last words by slamming his fist into Daniel’s broken hand.
Daniel screamed hoarsely and twisted violently in a desperate attempt to protect his hand from further abuse.
Jack stood up, allowing Daniel to curl into a protective ball. As he stepped back to deliver a kick into Daniel’s kidney, a sudden stab of pain pierced his head, just behind the eyes. He cried out, grasped his head and doubled over in agony.
Despite his own pain, Jack’s cry penetrated Daniel’s mental haze. Uncurling, he looked through pain-filled eyes at his tormentor. “Jack?” he said weakly.
Jack looked up, agony and desperation evident in his eyes and face.
Daniel’s own eyes widened. Did he see recognition? “Jack,” he repeated, awkwardly getting to his feet and stumbling over to his stricken friend. Reaching out, he placed his good hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Jack?”
Jack gasped and said, “Danny?” before his eyes rolled upwards, and he collapsed, taking Daniel with him.
Oh shit,Daniel thought just before he hit the ground. He managed to keep his injured hand in the air, but the jarring impact of his body hitting the floor reverberated up through his hand, bringing tears to his eyes. “Damn it,” he muttered as he got his breathing under control, a difficult task considering he was under an unconscious Jack.
“Jack,” Daniel gasped as he painfully rolled him off. “This is not something I want to get used to. Jack, come on. Wake up.” Jack had recognized him just before he passed out, and Daniel was desperate to see that look again. Jack however, was unresponsive to Daniel’s pleas. Daniel grabbed his phone and clumsily dialled Sam. She answered on the first ring.
“Sam, it’s me. Jack needs help. He’s passed out again. He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t remem—”
“Daniel, get out of there!” Sam said, cutting Daniel off.
“What?” Daniel said in shock. “I can’t leave him, Sam. He’s sick.”
“Daniel, he’s dangerous. There’s an alien organism inside him and it’s affecting his mind,” she explained hurriedly. “It’ll make him violent. Please, get out! We’re on our way.”
The frantic tone in Sam’s voice unnerved Daniel but he was adamant. “I won’t leave him,” he said firmly. “He needs help.”
“What I need,” a low voice drawled, “are answers.”
Daniel whirled to face a thoroughly awake Jack O’Neill.
“Should’ve left when you had the chance, Doctor.”
Daniel backed away from the slowly advancing threat, Sam’s urgent voice audible in the background.
“Daniel! Daniel, are you okay? Is it the colonel? Daniel, answer me!”
Daniel stared numbly as Jack took the phone from his nerveless fingers.
“Dr. Jackson can’t come to the phone right now. He’s…incapacitated,” Jack said with a mirthless smile. He opened his hand and dropped the phone onto the floor. He slowly crushed it under his heel.
Daniel’s face blanched as the phone cracked under the heavy heel. The sound reminded him of his fingers breaking. His stomach heaved and he twisted around. He barely got two steps before he gagged and threw up on Jack’s rug.
Daniel’s mind whirled frantically as he gazed in horror at the mess he’d just made. Thanking God that he hadn’t eaten much the night before he took a few deep breaths to steady the queasiness in his stomach and the interminable throbbing in his hand. He tried not to flinch when booted feet entered his field of vision. He was afraid of Jack, and he found that fact more nauseating than any puddle of vomit.
Jack stood silent and motionless which did nothing to assuage Daniel’s feeling of unease. Why is he just standing there? I wish he’d say something. Anything’s better than this damn silence.
“Do that again, Doctor, and you’ll be licking it up,” Jack obliged.
Or maybe not, Daniel thought with sick dread.
“What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?”
The teasing tone in Jack’s voice put Daniel’s already frayed nerves on high alert. This was definitely not his Jack. This wasn’t even Colonel Jack O’Neill from the first Abydos mission days.
“I’m not…feeling so great,” Daniel finally said, figuring he’d better say something.
“I don’t know. I bet you feel pretty good,” Jack drawled, brushing his hand lightly along the nape of Daniel’s neck.
Daniel shivered, his heart skipped a beat, and his stomach spasmed.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to find out how good,” Jack cooed silkily, his rough hand lingering on Daniel’s neck. “On your feet,” he demanded, as he suddenly stepped back.
Daniel quickly staggered to his feet.
“So, you can obey,” Jack remarked in a mocking tone.
Daniel instinctively looked at Jack and wished he hadn’t. He didn’t recognize anything of his friend in the black eyes that leered back.
“You said we’re friends,” Jack said casually, slowly inching back into Daniel’s personal space.
“Ye-es,” Daniel replied warily, taking an unconscious step backwards.
“Close friends?” Jack whispered, his breath hot on Daniel’s face.
“I-I don’t know what you mean,” Daniel stammered. Oh God, Jack. Where are you?
“Are you a virgin, Doctor?” Jack whispered predatorily.
“I was married,” Daniel said firmly.
“That’s not what I asked,” Jack said, cupping the side of Daniel’s face, “but like I said, we don’t have time. I know your friends are on their way. Let’s go,” he said, punctuating his order with a cruel grasp of Daniel’s arm.
“They’re your friends, too. We just want to help—” Daniel sucked in a breath as Jack wrenched his arm up behind his back.
“You want two broken hands, Jackson?”
“No,” Daniel said through clenched teeth.
“No, what?” Jack prompted with a vicious twist.
“No…Colonel,” Daniel gasped.
“Good boy,” Jack said, releasing Daniel’s arm and pushing him towards the door. He kept a firm grip on his prisoner as he quickly checked outside for any unwelcome visitors.
“Is that your car?” Jack asked.
“Give me your keys.”
Daniel reached into his pocket for his keys, surprised at the steadiness of his hand. Now, if he could only get his heart to stop hammering wildly. He handed the keys to Jack.
Jack took the keys and hustled Daniel to the car. He unlocked the passenger side door. “Get in,” he ordered.
Daniel ducked into the car, covering his hand protectively. “Do up your belt,” Jack commanded before slamming the door shut.
Daniel was still trying to get his belt done up after Jack got in the car and drove off. The belt kept jamming before he could stretch it far enough to lock. He began to sweat. Finally, it clicked into place, and he sat back with an audible sigh.
Jack glanced over at the pale, dishevelled figure beside him and felt a disquieting pang of what? Pity? Remorse? He shook his head and looked back at the road, constantly watching for unwelcome attention.
Daniel looked around uneasily. The scenery seemed to pass in a blur, but something was disquietingly familiar. He frowned and bit his lip.
“What?” Jack asked.
The sudden query caused Daniel to jump and he looked at Jack. The older man was looking back at him with detached interest which Daniel felt was a hell of a lot better than the looks he was getting back at the house.
“I was…I was just wondering where we were going,” Daniel replied.
“My house, not that it’s any business of yours,” Jack answered, looking back at the road.
Daniel sat up warily in his seat. “Your house?”
Dark eyes swivelled sideways and their cold, alien quality sent chills up Daniel’s spine.
“You look scared, Doctor. Hiding something from me?”
“No, no, it’s just that we…we were at your house,” Daniel explained hesitantly.
Again, the fist came from nowhere, and Daniel’s head impacted painfully with the side window.
“You don’t listen, do you?” Jack growled.
Daniel gingerly rubbed his right temple and then his left cheek. He’d be hard-pressed to say which hurt the most.
“I’m going to check on my wife and kid, and then we’re going to see General West,” Jack informed him.
“Sara and Charlie?” Daniel said carefully, his ears still ringing from the impact.
“Unless there’s another wife and kid I don’t know about,” Jack said flippantly.
Daniel bit his lip and leaned back. I’m a dead man, he thought as he closed his eyes.
“You’re looking a little green there, Jackson. Afraid I’m going to unravel what little charade you’ve got going?”
“Damn it, why won’t you believe me?” Daniel asked quietly, his eyes still closed.
Jack glanced sideways, faintly disturbed by the genuine despair in the young man’s voice. He had no memory of this man, but he clearly remembered him saying he wasn’t going to leave when he had the chance because, he, Jack, needed him. This is no time to get soft, O’Neill. Jack directed his attention back to the road. They drove in silence.
“You’re afraid,” a soft voice remarked.
Jack stiffened but remained silent.
Daniel sat up cautiously, his eyes on Jack. “You really can’t remember and it scares you. You like to be in control. You need to be in control. You don’t even recognize your own city, do you?” Daniel asked gently. Emboldened by the fact that a fist didn’t lash out at him, Daniel delved in a little further.
“Look in the mirror, Jack...Colonel,” he added hastily. “Look at yourself. Your eyes; your hair. Do you even know what year this is?” God, do I have a death wish?
Jack abruptly turned the wheel and pulled into a parking lot. “Get out of the car,” he demanded.
With a feeling of dread, Daniel got out of the car, and silently chastised himself. Couldn’t keep your big mouth shut could you, Jackson? Surprisingly, Jack had no immediate plans to inflict more punishment. Instead, Daniel watched in awe as Jack hot-wired a car.
“Just how many of these have you done?” Daniel asked, genuinely interested.
“Get in,” Jack muttered.
Daniel opened the door, but hesitated as a police car came slowly around from the back of the building. The urge to run for help was acute, but the image of Jack falling in a hail of bullets caused him to obediently get into the car.
Jack followed suit, well aware of the police cruiser. What are you hiding, Jackson that you don’t even want the cops to know about?
“We’re too late,” Sam said dejectedly, as she surveyed the colonel’s living room and the soiled carpet. Thank God there’s no blood.
“We were too late once O’Neill took the phone from Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c stated, as he picked up the shattered piece of equipment.
“I know, damn it,” she sighed. “They must be in Daniel’s car. I’ll call General Hammond.”
The city may have changed, but Jack drove unerringly to his former home. However, one look told him it was not the house he remembered. He watched with dark, narrowed eyes as a woman and two small children came out of the house.
Daniel watched with increasing trepidation as Jack’s facial muscles twitched, and his knuckles whitened as his fingers gripped the steering wheel.
“Where are they?” Jack whispered in an ominous voice.
Damned if he did, damned if he didn’t, Daniel answered. “Sara…left you. You got a divorce three years ago. I’m sorry.”
“She wouldn’t do that,” Jack said slowly, clenching the wheel tighter. “Not to me, and definitely not to Charlie.”
Daniel braced for the inevitable backhand, but to his surprise Jack remained eerily still. He risked a sideways glance but the older man’s face was inscrutable.
Jack rubbed his left temple, eyeing the car reflected in his side mirror; the card that had been shadowing him. You’re good, lady, but I’m better. He pulled away from the curb.
They drove for miles in silence, stopping only once to change cars again, and Daniel’s hope of imminent rescue dwindled as they drove further into the lonely countryside.
“What have you found, Doctor?” Hammond asked, motioning Dr. Fraiser to take a seat.
“We isolated some of the alien cells from the colonel’s blood which we then injected into rats. Their levels of serotonin and cortisol altered dramatically resulting in severe displays of aggression,” she explained.
“How severe, Doctor?”
“They attacked their cage mates viciously, both physically and sexually, General. But along with the increased hormone levels, their body core temperature also increased sharply, resulting in eventual loss of consciousness. However, the effect was short-lived,” she added. “They regained consciousness soon after, and the cycle repeated itself.”
“The Colonel is not a lab rat, Doctor,” Hammond declared, disturbed by Janet’s information.
“Of course not, General, but judging from Major Carter’s conversation with Daniel, we suspect that Colonel O’Neill has become violent. Sir, it’s imperative that we find Colonel O’Neill and Dr. Jackson, before it’s too late.”
The image of an enraged Colonel O’Neill attacking the easy-going and personable Dr. Jackson was morally repugnant and Hammond banished it from his mind.
“I agree, Doctor, and I have everyone out looking that I can possibly spare. Major Carter and Teal’c are on their way to Colonel O’Neill’s former house. If he’s lost recent memory he may still think that’s where he lives.”
“Yes, General.” But will it be in time? Janet thought.
“Now that we know what’s in the Colonel, Doctor, how do we get them out?”
“Right now, our best bet seems to be with temperature manipulation. However, I have the botanists and geologists working around the clock testing the specimens brought back by SG-1. I’m hoping there’s a synergistic relationship between the organism in the colonel’s blood and the flora on the planet. It’s not uncommon for a cause and a cure to co-exist within close proximity to each other,” she said hopefully.
“Do we even know if these organisms are indigenous to the planet?” Hammond inquired.
“No, General, we don’t know for sure,” Janet replied. “They may have been introduced by another species.”
“Very well, Doctor,” Hammond said. “I won’t keep you any longer, and I’ll pray that you find something soon. “
Janet nodded and turned to leave, but the shrill ring of Hammond’s direct line stopped her.
“Hammond,” the general said as he picked up the phone.
Janet watched as the general’s expression registered hope and she held her breath in anticipation.
“Excellent, Major,” Hammond said. “Don’t lose them.” He hung up the phone and looked at Janet.
“Colonel O’Neill did go to his old house, but I’m guessing he didn’t like what he saw. He’s just driven off with Dr. Jackson. Major Carter and Teal’c are following.”
“Thank God,” Janet breathed out.
“Major Carter, I do not see their vehicle,” Teal’c announced.
Oh God, no. Please don’t let me have lost them.
“They must be around the next bend, Teal’c. I’m sure I took the right turn.”
“Perhaps they have changed vehicles again,” Teal’c suggested.
“No, we wouldn’t have missed that,” she said dismissively.
“Perhaps the speeding ticket?” Teal’c offered.
Damn, damn, damn. That stupid ticket. Five minutes. Five lousy minutes. Sam bit her lip as they rounded the corner. The endless straight stretch of highway before them was empty.
“Damn it!” Sam swore loudly as she slapped the steering wheel in frustration. She pulled over and stopped. “We have to go back and take the other road.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c agreed neutrally.
Jack began to sweat, and his head ached interminably. He turned on the air conditioning.
Daniel, on the other hand, was shivering. It had been cold to begin with, but now his teeth were chattering, and the throbbing in his hand intensified. He held his hand close to his chest in a vain attempt to ease the pain.
“Don’t bother, it’s only going to get worse,” Jack said simply.
Daniel looked up sharply. “Why-why would you say that?” he asked, a sudden chill enveloping him that had nothing to do with the air conditioning.
Jack turned a slow, feral grin in his direction. “Come on, you’re a bright guy.
The pain in Daniel’s hand increased dramatically at the inherent threat in Jack’s casual words. He looked around nervously.
“There’s no escape, Jackson.”
Daniel sighed and leaned back, the picture of defeat. The low chuckle from the driver’s side angered Daniel.
The hell there isn’t, Daniel thought. The seatbelt doesn’t work, remember?
Daniel bided his time. He had noticed the sweat trickling down Jack’s face. The headache couldn’t be far behind. He just hoped Jack didn’t pass out and kill them both in the meantime. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Jack rub his forehead. It’s now or never, he thought as he flung himself out the door, oblivious to their speed.
Jack’s hand lashed out, but Daniel’s quickness and momentum left only a ragged piece of torn shirt in his hand. With a growl of rage, he slammed on the brakes.
Daniel landed painfully on the asphalt and rolled to a sitting position, mildly surprised that he hadn’t broken his neck. He looked wildly around trying to see another motorist on the road. Nothing. Breathing hard, he lurched to his feet, wincing at the new pains he’d just inflicted on himself. The sudden screech of brakes drove all thought of discomfort from his mind as he limped into the nearby forest. Daniel knew his only chance to come out this alive was if Jack decided to play cat-and-mouse. He knew Jack was warming up to another blackout. He needed time. He needed time for Sam and Teal’c to find him. They would find him. He refused to think otherwise.
Jack watched from the car as Daniel stumbled into the woods. He smiled. Hunting the prey was often more satisfying than the capture.
“That’s one for you, Dr. Jackson, and that’s the only one you’ll get,” he acknowledged. He shifted the car into gear and drove forward half a mile and then pulled over and parked. Just another abandoned stolen car, or a mushroom picker. The skid marks on the road were unfortunate, but the highway was riddled with them. Hardly worth a second glance.
“Hide while you can, Doctor,” Jack murmured as he rubbed at his mother of a headache. Should be cooler in the woods, he thought as he glided swiftly in to the trees.
Daniel had paused long enough to observe Jack drive up the road and stop. The sight of the car disappearing up the road was hypnotic. Thinking his captor had abandoned him almost made Daniel giddy with relief, but then the thought of Jack, ‘his’ Jack, sick and out there alone, crushed any sense of euphoria. As Daniel watched, his feelings warring with each other, the car abruptly pulled over and stopped. The driver side door opened and Daniel unconsciously shrank back into the gloom. He watched with increasing alarm and dread as Jack slowly stepped out of the car and stretched. Bitter tears stung his eyes as Jack casually strolled into the trees. The hunt was on.
“Damn it, damn it, damn it,” Daniel breathed raggedly, as he stumbled yet again, twisting his already damaged ankle. “Okay, think Daniel, think. Think like Jack. The Special Ops Jack.” Daniel gave a rueful snort. “Not a hope in hell.” Daniel knew without a doubt that Jack would find him. He just prayed that Sam and Teal’c would find him first. Although how they were going to do that, he didn’t have a clue.
“Okay, stay close to the road and then run out like hell if you hear a car. No, bad plan. Who’s going to stop for some crazy lurching out of the woods? Besides me, of course.” Daniel stifled a giggle that caught in his throat. He took a few deep breaths. He had to calm his nerves. Facing a Goa’uld was a piece of cake compared to seeing the cold indifference and cruelty in Jack’s eyes. That image would haunt him for a long time, assuming he survived Jack’s next wrath of anger. Daniel sighed and chose the only viable option he had. Clutching a heavy stick to his chest, he hunkered down in some dense bush and waited. He used his precious remaining minutes to steady his breathing. God, what I wouldn’t give to have a zat with me right now.
What started as sport for Jack was fast losing its appeal. He was hot and his head was pounding. Worse, Jackson’s words throbbed as a steady accompanying beat: ‘Sara left you. Sara left you.’ Jack shook his head in angry denial. He consoled himself with the knowledge that soon he would be pounding some answers out of Jackson. You’ve got guts, kid, I’ll give you that.
Every twig that snapped and leaf that rustled caused Daniel’s heart to speed up. Maybe I should just stand up and get it over with, he thought fatalistically. No way. No way in hell am I giving up. Sorry, Jack. I don’t want to hurt you, but I’ll be damned if I’m going down without a fight.
Daniel’s nerve ends tingled. He knew Jack was close. Damn close. Another twig snapped, and Daniel clenched his stick tightly.
“I know you’re there, Dr. Jackson,” a familiar voice mocked. “You’ve left drops of blood everywhere. You’re sloppy, Jackson. No way in hell you’d ever be on one of my teams.”
Pompous bastard, Daniel thought as he gripped his weapon tighter.
Jack cocked his head and used all his senses to home in on his prey. He smiled. “You know, Jackson, what often looks like the best place to hide is generally the most obvious.”
Shit, he’s not even raising his voice. He’s got me. Daniel had barely finished his panicked thought when his sanctuary was breached by a grinning Jack O’Neill.
“Boo!” Jack barked.
Daniel yelped in surprise and fear, and automatically thrust out with his stick.
Jack staggered back and clutched the left side of his face.
Daniel swung the stick as hard as he could at Jack’s head, but he couldn’t get the momentum he needed with just one hand.
Jack’s hand shot out and wrenched the stick from Daniel’s grasp.
Daniel, half crouched, looked into the murderous black eyes before him and knew he was a dead man.
Jack savagely yanked Daniel from his refuge and drove his fist into his face.
Daniel staggered back and fell hard. He grunted in pain as Jack’s boot swiftly connected with his stomach. He struggled for breath as nausea assailed him. Jack hauled him roughly to his feet.
“You are so dead,” Jack seethed, as his hands slowly wrapped around Daniel’s throat.
Daniel instinctively threw his hands up to break the hold. To his utter amazement, Jack fell back but he quickly realized it had nothing to do with him.
Jack clutched his head and an agonized moan escaped his lips before he pitched forward.
Oh, God, not again, Daniel thought as he tried in vain to avoid another collision. He grunted in pain at the impact but was grateful that his injured hand escaped further abuse. Once again, he rolled Jack off and struggled to his feet. “What the hell do I do now?” he panted.
Running was out of the question. Frantically, Daniel searched Jack’s clothing for weapons. There was no gun, but he did find a knife which he quickly pocketed. He removed his belt and tried to bind Jack’s hands with it. However, he couldn’t get any leverage with his broken hand, and tears of frustration blurred his vision.
“Son of a bitch,” he muttered.
Daniel had no choice. He had to make for the road. He took a few stumbling steps and then crashed to the ground, Jack’s body covering his own.
“Where do you think you’re going? We have some unfinished business, you and I,” Jack hissed in his ear as he tugged at Daniel’s pants. “You must be eager,” he taunted. “You’ve already taken off your belt.”
Daniel’s mind went numb at the realization that Jack was going to rape him. Fingers fumbling with his fly prompted him into action. With a sudden, vicious twist, fuelled by terror, Daniel was on his back and he had Jack’s knife in his hand.
Jack stared, cocked his head, and calmly asked, “Are you going to kill me, Daniel?”
Instantly, Daniel’s mind flashed back to the storeroom when he had held a gun on Jack in his sarcophagus-induced paranoia. The momentary lapse was all that was necessary for the knife to end up in Jack’s hand, the blade pressed painfully against Daniel’s throat.
“Jack, please,” Daniel pleaded.
“Yes, beg for it,” Jack cooed as he drew the knife down Daniel’s chest, slicing through the thin fabric of his shirt. Beadlets of blood welled to the surface where the skin was nicked. Jack leaned down and licked at the warm fluid.
“Jack, no,” Daniel gasped, writhing under the onslaught. “This isn’t you.”
Jack suddenly flipped Daniel over onto his stomach and pressed his erection eagerly into the prone man.
“No!” Daniel screamed, his mind going white with panic.
“There’s the car!” Sam said excitedly as she spotted the vehicle up the road.
“Stop here!” Teal’c said suddenly.
“What?” Sam asked, glancing quickly at Teal’c.
“Now, Major Carter!” Teal’c demanded.
Sam braked hard and brought the car to a screeching halt. She turned to Teal’c for an explanation but he was already out the door and sprinting back up the road.
“Teal’c, what is it?” she shouted as she rushed up to where he was crouching on the road.
“This blood is fresh,” he observed.
“Blood? Oh, God. Daniel?” she guessed.
Teal’c cocked his head, his keen hearing attuned to every sound. He stood up and brought out his zat gun.
“This way, Major Carter. We must hurry,” he whispered urgently.
Daniel twisted violently onto his back, but his efforts only excited Jack further.
“Enough!” Jack panted, plunging his knife into Daniel’s damaged hand, pinning it and the man to the ground.
Daniel screamed and arched up into Jack.
“That’s better,” Jack oozed as he fumbled with his own zipper.
Daniel made one last desperate plea. “What about Charlie and Sara?” he croaked.
Jack froze as if pole-axed. Charlie and Sara. What the hell? He’d completely forgotten about them. He lost control. Colonel Jack O’Neill did not lose control.
“Don’t you want to know what happened to them?” Daniel gasped, desperately trying to control his nausea at how he was feeling and what he was saying. A hand fisted in his hair and wrenched his head back. He stared into the eyes of a madman. The former hint of intelligence in Jack’s dark eyes was replaced with cold fury and Daniel felt his heart rate increase dramatically.
“You fucking bastard,” Jack seethed. You’ve been playing me all along.” He brutally hauled Daniel to his feet.
An anguished cry was Daniel’s only response as his impaled hand was ripped from the ground.
“O’Neill!” Teal’c’s voice thundered.
Jack whirled, clutching Daniel with him.
Daniel’s head spun sickeningly and then his breathing choked as Jack’s forearm pressed painfully into this throat.
“Forgive me, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c said solemnly, as he fired point-blank at Daniel’s chest.
Jack and Daniel both jerked spasmodically as the electrical impulses from the zat encased their bodies and rendered them unconscious.
Sam ran over to Daniel. “Oh, God, Daniel,” she whispered as she inventoried his injuries and gingerly separated him from Jack. The brutality and implied violence in front of her blurred her vision. Her face was grim as she quickly zipped up Daniel’s fly. From the corner of her eye, she noticed Teal’c doing the same with the colonel. She felt sick but there was no time for that. She set her jaw and removed the knife from Daniel’s hand. She did what she could to staunch the wound while Teal’c immobilized the colonel. This is so wrong, she thought as she felt her eyes sting. Blinking rapidly, she cleared her eyes just in time to see Daniel stir.
“Daniel?” she said.
Daniel moaned and opened his eyes. Large, blue eyes looked back at him. Not dark eyes filled with hate and malevolence, but eyes filled with concern and love. Friend’s eyes.
“You’re beautiful,” Daniel rasped.
Sam made a sound between a laugh and a sob as she placed her hand affectionately on the side of Daniel’s face, carefully avoiding his many injuries.
Daniel’s gaze turned to the large figure looming behind Sam.
“Yes, Daniel Jackson?”
“I thought I told you never to do that again,” Daniel said wearily.
Teal’c eyebrow rose, and Daniel smiled faintly.
“Glad you didn’t listen. Thank you,” Daniel said sincerely.
“You are welcome, Daniel Jackson.”
“Jack?” Daniel asked cautiously as he weakly sat up.
“O’Neill is secure. He cannot harm you, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c assured.
Daniel looked at his unconscious tormentor, hands and feet tightly bound. He thought the sight would be a relief but it only angered and saddened him. “It’s not his fault,” he said firmly.
“It’s for the colonel’s safety as well as our own, Daniel,” Sam said carefully. “He’s very sick. We have to get him back to Janet as soon as we can.”
“Can you walk, Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c inquired, as he easily hefted Jack’s prone body over his shoulder.
“I can make it,” Daniel rasped, as Sam helped him to his feet, and together they followed Teal’c out of the forest.
“Well, the good news is you don’t have any nerve damage,” Dr. Janet Fraiser informed Daniel.
“And the bad news?” Daniel asked, his eyebrows raised.
“You have a nasty cut on your hand and four broken fingers, but we should be able to start you on physiotherapy in a few days. You’re still running a bit of a fever so I want to get that under control before we begin anything.
“I’ve had worse,” Daniel said indifferently.
“I’m not finished,” Janet remarked patiently. “You also have a sprained ankle, three cracked ribs, and numerous bruises and abrasions.”
“Sounds better and better,” Daniel muttered as he unconsciously cradled his injured hand.
Janet eyed her patient critically. She took a deep breath and said, “Daniel, you’re going to have to talk about what happened between you and the colonel.”
“Is that an order?” Daniel snapped, his eyes flashing defiantly. He immediately regretted his harsh rejoinder and apologized. “I’m sorry, Janet,” he said, waving his good hand. “It’s-it’s hard to even think about, God, never mind talk about,” he explained.
“I know that, Daniel,” Janet said kindly, “and please, believe me, I don’t want to push you, but it will help.”
Easy for you to say. Daniel rubbed his bandaged hand and said, “How about if I write down what I can remember?” What I can remember? God, I remember everything.
“That’ll be fine, Daniel,” Janet agreed. For starters.
Daniel nodded and then asked what he really wanted to know. “How’s Jack?”
“Colonel O’Neill is being kept in isolation and under sedation until we can perfect a treatment for his condition.”
“Is he getting worse?” Daniel asked anxiously.
“He’s not good, Daniel,” Janet replied honestly.
“But he will get better,” Daniel insisted. “I mean, he won’t…he won’t stay like this, will he?”
“We’re doing everything we can, Daniel. That’s all I can say at this time,” Janet said apologetically.
“Can I see him?” Daniel asked.
“Of course,” Janet smiled, relieved that Daniel wanted to see his friend, “but don’t stay too long. I have him in Isolation Room Two.” She stood up and went to a closet. “Here,” she said, holding out a parka, “you better wear this. The organisms’ growth is significantly curtailed by cold temperatures.”
Daniel wordlessly accepted the parka and shrugged into it. He nodded his thanks and left Janet’s office.
Daniel entered the isolation room, oblivious to the medical personnel, monitors, bells and whistles. He only had eyes for Jack. The pallid but serene features of his friend drew him like a moth to the flame.
Daniel stood and stared down at his friend, teammate, and former abuser.
He’s sleeping, that’s all. He’s just sleeping. Any time he’ll wake up and say, ‘Hey, Daniel. Why are you so tall?’
Daniel’s eyes wandered down to Jack’s hands, lying limp and still on the covers. He stared at the broken, bruised skin on the knuckles of the right hand, and his stomach turned over. Jack’s hand had been damaged by impacting several times with Daniel’s own body. Jack’s fingers twitched, and Daniel jerked back, bumping into a nurse.
“I-I’m sorry,” he stammered.
“No harm done, Dr. Jackson,” the nurse replied pleasantly, carrying on with her duties.
Daniel closed his eyes and sought to bring his breathing under control. He was afraid; afraid of the man on the bed; afraid that his Jack would never come back. If he didn’t, then Daniel’s most recent memories of Jack would haunt him night and day for the rest of his life. Daniel gave himself a mental shake and forced himself back to the occupied bed. He sat down and placed his hand on Jack’s forearm, shivering at the coldness.
“Hey, Jack. It’s me,” he said, smiling self-consciously. “I know you hate the cold, but it’s going to make you better. I’d hold your hand, but my fever would probably melt you,” he chuckled softly. “Anyway, I thought I’d just sit with you for a bit, if that’s okay. Don’t worry, I’ll be quiet,” he added, smiling sadly.
“Dr. Jackson? Daniel, it’s time to go,” Janet said, gently shaking the sleeping man to awareness.
“What?” Daniel said groggily.
“Come on, fevers and cold rooms don’t go together.”
Daniel sat up and saw with surprise that his hand was firmly grasped in Jack’s. He didn’t remember doing that. Had Jack woken up?
“Jack?” he said softly, squeezing the older man’s hand.
“Please, Daniel,” Janet said more firmly, removing his hand from Jack’s. “There’s been no change in the colonel but we’re going to start a course of treatment very soon. We’re getting some encouraging results from the lab,” she explained as she led him away from the bed.
“Really? That’s good,” Daniel said, reluctantly removing his gaze from Jack. “What kind of results?”
“It appears that there are a number of life forms on P5X 233 but—,”
“Jack got sick from the bones I uncovered,” Daniel said guiltily.
“No, Daniel. The colonel became ill as soon as his blood came in contact with the dirt.”
“The dirt? But, I was cut too,” Daniel said. “Nothing happened to me.”
Nothing but a few cuts, bruises, broken bones, and nightmares, Janet thought grimly. “Yes, but your cut was clean,” she said instead. “You gave us the idea, Daniel,” she smiled.
Daniel thought of the clean, dry rocks and of the sticky clay-like texture of the dirt. He had cut his arm on the sharp edge of a rock, just like Jack. However, unlike Jack, his cut had been unmarred by the dirt.
“The organisms in the dirt are dormant,” Janet added, “until Colonel’s O’Neill’s blood came in contact with them and they, well, mutated as far as we can tell. It’s beyond anything we’ve ever seen. The mutated cells infiltrate the central nervous system, basically causing the brain to short-circuit.”
Daniel stood in the doorway, and looked back at Jack. “That would explain the blackouts and memory loss,” he murmured.
“Yes, and the stimulation of the baser primal emotions,” Janet explained.
Daniel shivered and again unconsciously covered his hand.
Janet noticed the movement and swallowed her anger. She wasn’t angry with Colonel O’Neill; he was just as much a victim, if not more. She was angry at the injustice and at herself for not catching the problem in the beginning.
“So, what you’re saying is that whole planet is a death trap for humans,” Daniel said, mentally processing her information.
“And Goa’uld,” Janet said. “The human host would be destroyed.”
“No wonder it looked like no one had visited that planet for a long time,” Daniel speculated. He shivered at the memory of the skeletons. Had the inhabitants massacred themselves? He looked at Janet. “We need to destroy their Stargate,” he said passionately, his eyes bright and alert. “Who knows how many other life forms may have died.”
“General Hammond is looking into that right now, Daniel,” Janet assured. “Sam can fill you in on all the details. Right now, I need to attend to the colonel.”
Daniel’s eyes widened in dismay. “Oh, God. I’m sorry. I—,”
“Daniel, don’t apologize,” she interjected. “I wanted to tell you this.”
Daniel visibly relaxed. “When…when will you know something?”
“I honestly don’t know, but I promise you’ll be the first I call,” she said, patting his arm.
“Thank you,” Daniel said and then looked back at Jack. “I’ll just be a few seconds,” he said as he returned to the bed.
Janet watched as Daniel gently grasped the colonel’s hand. She didn’t know what silent message was being relayed, but she knew without a doubt that Daniel’s strength of character would see both he and Jack through this latest crisis.
True to his word, Daniel wrote down everything he remembered. The fact it was in Abydonian gave him some sense of privacy and just a smidgeon of guilt. But the facts were one thing. How he interpreted those facts was quite another. Uppermost in his mind was the fact both he and Jack were victims, especially Jack. What this was going to do to Jack’s rock hard psyche and self-control plagued the younger man’s mind.
The jangling of the telephone startled Daniel, and he bit back a curse as he grabbed the offending instrument before another jarring ring could shatter his already frayed nerves.
“Hello,” he said sharply. His eyes widened as he listened. “Yes, yes, I’ll be there. I’m on my way,” he said excitedly. As he was about to put the phone down, he quickly brought it up again. “Thanks, Janet,” he add hastily before banging it onto the receiver.
Daniel forced himself to stay reasonably close to the speed limit as he drove impatiently through the evening traffic. Janet had assured him Jack was fine so there was no need to risk his life or anyone else’s just to get there a little sooner.
“Why didn’t I stay on base?” he grumbled as he hit yet another red light. He hadn’t wanted to leave Jack, but he couldn’t bear the looks of pity and curiosity directed his way. Word had spread throughout the SGC as it inevitably did. He just prayed that the more sordid details of his ordeal remained with a select few
Daniel burst into the infirmary, his face flushed with exertion.
Janet stopped Daniel a few feet from the door. Her serious expression caused his stomach to lurch, and his face blanched. Janet quickly reassured the agitated archaeologist.
“The colonel’s doing fine, Daniel,” she whispered. “He’s sleeping right now. Let’s go into my office for a minute.”
Daniel followed her, glancing over to verify that Jack was indeed asleep in the far bed.
“The treatment worked?” Daniel asked, after she closed the door.
“Better than I dared hope,” Janet replied. “We had to put him on life support as we subjected him to extreme cold, but it seems to have done the trick. All the organisms that shouldn’t be in his system are now gone. Not just dormant but destroyed. His hormone levels are back to normal, and we’ll monitor him closely to ensure they stay that way. In short, Daniel, he’s alert and healthy.”
Daniel looked intently at Janet, trying to understand what she wasn’t saying. Her overly bright demeanour faltered, and then he saw the pity in her eyes.
“He doesn’t remember,” Daniel said hollowly.
“I’m sorry, Daniel,” she corroborated. “He doesn’t appear to remember anything that happened on P5X 233, or afterwards.”
“Well, that’s convenient, isn’t it?” he mumbled bitterly, wrapping his arms around his middle.
Janet chose to ignore the acid comment. “Daniel, sit down, please.”
Daniel shook his head and paced. “No, no, I think I’d rather stand.”
“Daniel, the colonel’s memory will likely return,” she reassured. “His body’s gone through a very traumatic experience. You have to give him some time.”
Daniel stared at Janet in disbelief. “His body? What the hell about mine?” Surprised and embarrassed by his anger, Daniel shook his head and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “No, no, this is good. If he doesn’t remember, that’s good,” he said. “He doesn’t have to know.”
“Daniel, you can’t keep something like this from Colonel O’Neill,” Janet explained patiently.
“Yes, I can. We can,” Daniel insisted. “We can just pretend it never happened.”
“No, Daniel. You won’t be doing him, or yourself, any favours by concealing the truth,” Janet insisted.
“What are you going to tell him, Janet,” Daniel asked hotly. “‘You’re looking chipper today, Colonel. Oh, by the way, did you know that you beat the shit out of Daniel? Oh, did I mention that you also tried to rape and kill him? Here, have some Jell-O.’”
Janet’s icy glare brought Daniel’s tirade to a quick end, and he looked away ashamed. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he mumbled, waving his good hand in the air.
Janet quickly reigned in her own emotion. “I know you are, Daniel,” she said sincerely, “but the colonel deserves to know the truth, for both your sakes.”
“I know,” Daniel said softly, “but not just yet, okay? Let’s...give him some time and see if he remembers on his own.”
“Daniel,” Janet said uncertainly.
“Please, just for a little while,” Daniel pressed.
““I don’t like it. It goes against my better judgement,” she sighed, “but, okay, just for a little while.”
Daniel smiled in relief. “Thank you. I’ll-I’ll come back later, after he wakes up.”
“I’ll call you myself.”
Daniel nodded his thanks and left Janet’s office, casting one last furtive glance at Jack before leaving the infirmary.
Daniel stretched out on his bunk, too exhausted to sleep. He had tried to do some work, but a steady stream of interruptions had hampered his concentration. He knew Sam was only trying to help, and he appreciated it, but he needed time alone. He sighed and closed his eyes only to open them again as images of Jack’s brutal attacks assailed his mind.
“God, this isn’t going to work,” he groaned, as he sat up stiffly. He rubbed the back of his neck wearily and then got gingerly out of bed. “Well, if I can’t stop thinking about you, Jack, I may as well sit with you,” he decided.
Jack slowly fought his way back to consciousness and forced his eyes to open. Blurry images coalesced into the familiar surroundings of the infirmary.
Crap, now what?
Jack closed his eyes again in a vain attempt to try to remember what the hell had happened, but his mind was blank. Feeling like he went fifteen rounds with Teal’c without padding didn’t help.
The soft familiar whisper drew Jack back to awareness. He rolled his head sideways and met the anxious blue eyes of Daniel. Jack frowned. He may have felt like he went fifteen rounds but damn it, Daniel looked like he’d gone fifteen rounds, and lost big time.
“What the hell happened to you?” Jack croaked.
“I, uh, fell,” Daniel replied hesitantly, ducking his head.
“Off which mountain?”
Daniel glanced up and smiled uncomfortably. He looked away. Lies were never easy for him. Lying to Jack was damn near impossible.
“I fell down the steps on P5X 233 when we gated through. They were pretty, uh, decrepit,” Daniel explained.
Jack closed his eyes and mumbled, “Sorry.”
“For what?” Daniel asked, looking at him strangely.
“Should’ve caught you,” Jack mumbled, his eyes still closed.
“It’s not your fault,” Daniel said hoarsely, closing his own eyes. He couldn’t look at Jack and perpetuate the lie at the same time.
“How bad?” Jack asked quietly.
“You’ve got —,”
“No,” Jack said, waving his hand towards Daniel. “Not me, you. How badly are you hurt?”
“I’m fine, Jack.”
“For crying out loud, Daniel. You look like you’ve been used as a punching bag,” he rasped.
“Okay,” Daniel conceded, “I’ve got a few bruises, cuts, some broken fingers, and a couple of cracked ribs,” he informed in a monotone, his vision fixed on the floor.
Jack’s eyes widened. “Must’ve been some set of stairs,” he said dryly. “Guess you’ve had worse though.”
“That’s what I said to Janet,” Daniel replied, looking up with a self-deprecating laugh.
Daniel found Jack’s assessing gaze unsettling, and he looked back at the floor.
“Daniel, look at me.”
Damn it, just let it go, Jack.
Daniel glanced up sideways at Jack who had propped himself up on one elbow.
“No, I mean, look at me,” Jack repeated. “Turn around so I can see you.”
Obediently, Daniel turned and he could feel himself flush under the older man’s scrutiny.
“Why are you lying?” Jack asked.
The words were not delivered in a hurtful tone or even a resentful one, but they hurt just the same. Daniel didn’t respond. He didn’t know what to say.
“Look, you didn’t get those bruises from falling down a few steps,” Jack pressed. “I’ve been in a lot of fights, and I know what fists can do. Someone did that to you.”
“I forgot to duck,” Daniel shrugged, looking away.
“Pissed off one of the locals?” Jack chided gently, concerned and confused by his friend’s discomfort.
“Something like that,” Daniel mumbled.
“Well, Colonel, it’s good to see you awake,” Janet said breezily as she came into the room.
Daniel stood up quickly. Thank God. “You probably want to check Jack out so I’ll just leave you two alone,” Daniel said accommodatingly. “I, uh, have a lot of work to do. General Hammond’s waiting for my report on P5X—”
“Daniel,” Jack interrupted.
Daniel stopped and stared at the older man.
“We’ll talk later,” Jack said gravely.
Daniel didn’t know if that was a promise or a threat. Either way he was going to avoid it as best he could.
“Sure, Jack. I’ll see you later.”
Jack and Janet watched Daniel leave, his limp obvious in spite of his attempts to hide it. Janet forced a smile to her lips and turned to Jack.
“Now, Colonel, how are you feeling?” she asked.
“What happened to Daniel?” Jack asked, ignoring her question.
“I want to talk about you, Colonel,” she said briskly.
“I’m fine, now what —”
“You’re not fine, Colonel O’Neill. Now, what do you remember?” she asked as she busied herself with checking his vitals.
Jack lay back with a resigned sigh and closed his eyes. He rubbed his temples as he tried to remember.
“I remember the briefing for 233. I remember walking up the ramp to the Stargate. I was in front; Daniel was right behind me, followed by Teal’c and Carter. That’s it. No, wait,” he said, furrowing his brow. “I remember coming through the other side and almost taking a header down the steps.”
Janet looked up quickly from her ministrations. Her patient remembered more than he did earlier.
“That’s good, Colonel. Anything else?”
“Uh, let’s see,” he muttered, trying to remember. “I came through the ‘gate,” he reiterated slowly, “and almost took a header. The steps. The steps were in bad shape.” Do I remember that, or am I just remembering what Daniel said?
“Colonel?” Janet prodded.
“Hmm, what?” he asked in confusion.
“The steps. You remember the steps on P5X 233.”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, they were falling apart. I almost fell. Daniel would’ve fallen if I hadn’t—,” he stopped suddenly, his look grim.
“Colonel?” Janet asked warily.
“That’s all I remember,” Jack said resolutely. Damn it, he is lying.
Janet pursed her lips but refrained from saying anything. Daniel, I don’t think your plan is going to work.
“Daniel, you have to talk to the colonel. It’s been days.”
“What do I say, Sam?” Daniel sighed wearily.
“The truth,” she said matter-of-factly. “He has the right to know.”
He’s still not well,” Daniel said lamely. “He’s not ready.”
“That’s bull, Daniel, and you know it. He knows we’re lying. God, I can barely look at him. The colonel may act clueless at times, but we both know how intuitive he really is. Besides, “she added fondly, “he can read you like a book.”
Daniel coloured slightly and looked away.
“How long do you think you can avoid him, Daniel?” Sam asked gently.
“I don’t know what to say to him. How do I tell him what he did? What he was forced to do,” he corrected. “How can I?” he asked despondently.
“Oh, Daniel, I’m not saying it’ll be easy,” Sam said, her heart aching for her friend. “We’ll all help you, if you’ll let us.”
Daniel looked into her honest, caring face and nodded. “I know you will. I will talk to him…soon. I promise.”
“Don’t wait too long,” Sam advised.
“Can I leave now?” Jack asked irritably.
“Yes, Colonel,” Janet said in resignation, “but I insist that you stay on base for a couple more days.”
“You just want easy access to my blood,” Jack grumbled, as he rubbed his latest puncture site.
“It does make my job easier,” Janet smiled.
“So, how’s Daniel?” Jack asked casually, as he rolled down his sleeve.
“He’s doing well. I’m going to start him on physio tomorrow.”
“That must’ve been quite a fall he took,” Jack said casually.
Janet sighed. “Colonel, if you have any questions, I suggest you take them up with him.”
“How the hell can I ask him?” Jack groused. “I haven’t seen him in three days. He hasn’t come to see me. Hell, even Carter and Teal’c are tiptoeing around.”
“Well, you’re released as of now,” Janet confirmed.
“Thank you,” Jack said, striding towards the door.
“Colonel,” Janet called, stopping Jack in the doorway. “Tread softly,” she suggested.
Jack looked curiously at Janet but nodded. Daniel, what the hell did you do?
Janet considered phoning Daniel to advise him, or more appropriately, warn him that Colonel O’Neill was ‘on the loose’.
“No, Daniel,” she said to herself. “I’m sorry, but this is for your own good.”
Daniel’s head jerked up from his book, and his eyes widened in shock.
“Jack, you’re out.”
“Yeah, how ‘bout that,” Jack remarked, as he sauntered over to the startled archaeologist.
“I, uh, I’m sorry I didn’t come to see you,” Daniel said, standing up slowly.
“How’s the hand?” Jack asked.
“It’s…better,” Daniel said, wrapping his good hand around the injured one protectively.
Jack frowned at the odd behaviour of his friend. If he didn’t know better, he’d think Daniel was afraid of him. He shoved his hands into his pockets and cocked his head.
“Why did you lie to me?”
“What?” Daniel’s heart raced, and he could feel the colour drain from his face.
“You didn’t fall down the steps on P5X 233. I stopped you. I remember that,” Jack said sombrely.
“Uh, yes, the first time,” Daniel answered hurriedly.
“The first time?” Jack queried, an edge of uncertainty to his voice.
“Yes. Yes, you did prevent me from falling down the steps the first time, and I’m grateful,” he said, taking advantage of Jack’s confusion. “But we went back after bringing you home and well, you weren’t around and I, uh, forgot about them,” he shrugged.
“Oh,” Jack said thoughtfully. “I didn’t know you went back. I haven’t seen the report.” He rubbed the back of his neck, frowned and tried a different tact. “So, you gonna tell me who punched you?”
“Daniel, there you are. I’ve been waiting for you,” Sam said huffily as she entered his office.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Colonel,” she said upon seeing her superior. “I didn’t know you’d been released. It’s good to see you, sir.”
“Thank you, Carter,” Jack said with a hint of suspicion in his voice. You protecting him, too?
“Daniel promised to help me with this virtual reality model I’ve been working on, and this is the only chance I’ll have to work on it for awhile,” she explained.
“Sam, I’m sorry,” Daniel said. “I got carried away with these translations, and I completely forgot. We better get started.” Daniel turned to Jack.
“You don’t mind, Jack, do you? We can, uh, talk later.”
“Sure, you two go ahead,” Jack muttered. “I’m sure I’ll find something to do.”
“Okay, well I’ll, uh, see you later,” Daniel said, hurrying to the door.
“Goodbye, sir,” Sam said smartly.
“Major,” Jack said with a nod.
Once outside and away from Jack, Daniel stopped and sagged against the wall.
“Thanks, Sam. I owe you one.”
“Yes, you do, Daniel,” she replied, veiled disappointment in her voice.
Daniel winced at her tone. “So, why did you do it? I thought you wanted me to talk to Jack.”
“I did, and I do,” she said in frustration. “Janet told me that Colonel O’Neill had been released, and I knew he’d make a bee-line to your door. I just…didn’t want you to be taken unawares,” she explained awkwardly. “Not after what you’ve just been through.”
A shadow of pain crossed Daniel’s face, and Sam looked away guiltily. She knew Daniel didn’t need her reminding him of what happened.
“I will talk to him, and I’ll do it today,” Daniel said resolutely.
“We’re all here for you, Daniel,” she reminded him, placing her hand on his arm.
“I’m counting on it,” Daniel replied, glancing back towards his office. “So, should I come to your office and make it look good?” he asked impishly.
“I’ll put on the coffee,” Sam smiled, leading the way.
Daniel stood outside the closed door for several minutes before finally knocking.
Daniel opened the door and entered the dark, candle-lit room.
“Daniel Jackson. I am pleased to see you,” Teal’c said warmly.
Daniel smiled and sat down cross-legged.
Teal’c watched his young friend intently.
“I hope I’m not—”
“Your presence is never an intrusion, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c interrupted politely.
Daniel relaxed and said, “I thought that, maybe, if I sat here for awhile, my head would kind of clear itself,” he explained, waving his hand around his head.
“Close your eyes, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c intoned hypnotically.
Daniel obediently closed his eyes and centered his breathing.
Jack woke with a strangled cry, his breathing harsh and ragged. It was the dream again. The same damn dream. Chasing someone, or some thing. Black rage and blinding headaches.
He drew his legs up and hunched over his knees. This dream was different. This time he caught his elusive quarry. “No, God no,” he murmured, as he rubbed his temples. He could still feel his fingers as they grabbed his victim’s clothes, swung him around, and threw him roughly to the ground. And, God help him, it was Daniel.
“No,” Jack repeated, “damn it, no.” He shook his head in denial and tired to obliterate the images. He knew Daniel had been lying, but this? “Jesus, it was me,” he murmured. “I did it. I did that to him.”
Jack staggered out of bed and picked up the phone. He dialled rapidly. “Answer, damn it.” He looked at his watch. It was only three in the afternoon.
“Fraiser,” Janet said briskly.
“Doc, you have to tell me what happened to Daniel,” Jack demanded.
“Colonel O’Neill,” she said patiently. “I told you—”
“I remember, damn it. Or, at least I think I do,” Jack said uncertainly. “It was me, wasn’t it?”
Jack knew by the immediate silence that he was correct, and his stomach lurched. He closed his eyes, the blood pounded in his head, and his heart hammered wildly. Oh, God.
“Colonel, meet me in my office right away,” Janet said.
Daniel paused in the doorway as his phone rang. He hesitated then went back to his desk and picked up the phone.
“Daniel Jackson,” he said.
“Daniel, where have you been?” Janet asked abruptly.
“I was in Teal’c’s quarters. Why? Oh, God, has something happened to Jack?”
“He remembers, Daniel. I think he remembers everything,” Janet replied.
“Oh, God, I was just going to talk to him,” Daniel breathed quietly. “Where is he?”
“He was pretty upset. He insisted on going home.”
“He left the mountain? You let him?” Daniel asked incredulously.
“I didn’t think staying here was the best thing for him. General Hammond agreed. I had an airman drive him home about twenty minutes ago.”
“Okay, okay,” Daniel said, his mind whirling. “I’m on my way.”
Daniel hung up the phone and rubbed the back of his neck wearily. “God, Jack, I’m sorry. I didn’t want it to happen this way.” Why the hell did I think keeping him in the dark was a good thing?
Jack managed to make it to his bathroom before retching violently. Dr. Fraiser had shown him Daniel’s medical file, and between that and his own emerging memories, he had a pretty gruesome picture of Daniel’s ordeal at his hands. As the painful heaves subsided, Jack collapsed on the cold, tile floor and rested his head in his hands. He didn’t want to believe it. He had to get away from the SGC and from everyone who knew. How could he have done those things? God, no wonder Daniel had been avoiding him. He probably couldn’t bear to be in the same building with him, never mind the same room. .
“God, Danny, I’m so sorry,” he murmured.
Jack got shakily to his feet, anxious to rinse the bitter bile out of his mouth. He drank some water, washed his face and hands, and then stared at the traitor in the mirror.
Daniel turned off the car’s engine. Now that he was here, at Jack’s house, his resolve to face the older man was weakening. He put himself in Jack’s position and knew he had no choice. He had to help Jack; he had to help his friend. He quickly got out of his car.
Daniel knocked on the door and wasn’t surprised to receive no answer. He could hear music in the house so he knew Jack was inside. He reached out and tried the handle, dismayed that it actually opened. Jack was not one to be lax in his personal security, not when he was thinking straight. Daniel took a couple of steadying breaths and let himself inside.
“Jack?” he called, barely hearing the words himself.
The sound of running water drew Daniel to the kitchen. He paused in the doorway. Jack was hunched over the kitchen sink. It was obvious that Jack didn’t know he was there. Daniel frowned and then made his presence known.
Jack whirled in surprise. “Jesus, Daniel! Don’t sneak up on me like that!” The words were out of his mouth before his brain even registered the fact that Daniel was actually in his kitchen. His brain however, didn’t miss the flinch or fleeting look of trepidation in the younger man’s face. Jack’s fists unclenched and hung listless at his sides.
“Daniel,” he murmured sadly.
Daniel looked from the soulful dark eyes down to the hand which was bleeding freely onto the floor.
“Jack, your hand,” he said with concern. “I’ll get some bandages.”
“Daniel, no,” Jack called after the retreating archaeologist. “I’m fine. Don’t go in…there,” his voice trailed off. “Damn it,” he whispered.
Daniel rushed into the bathroom and gazed transfixed at the mayhem within. The mirror over the sink was shattered and streaked with blood.
“Ah, Jack,” he said sadly, knowing exactly what had happened. “Damn it, I should have talked to you.”
Pushing aside his guilt, Daniel quickly gathered up some bandages and peroxide and returned to the kitchen. He looked at the hunched shoulders of his friend and wondered how he could have ever blamed Jack for what had happened after P5X 233.
“Here, let me do that,” Daniel said, carefully taking Jack’s hand and giving it a thorough once over.
Jack complied, too stunned to do otherwise. Crap, Daniel. How can you even stand to be near me?
“I don’t think you’ll need stitches, but we won’t be able to hide this from Janet,” Daniel said conversationally as he applied the antiseptic to Jack’s hand.
“Daniel, you can’t do this,” Jack said quietly. “Your hand’s all…busted up.”
Daniel glanced briefly at Jack and saw the grief and remorse in the dark eyes.
“Between us we’ve got two good hands,” Daniel replied with a quick smile. “Here, I’ll show you.”
Jack swallowed hard but followed Daniel’s instructions. Soon, his hand was neatly bandaged, and all traces of blood were wiped clean. Jack stared mutely into the sink and began to tremble.
“It’s okay, Jack,” Daniel said gently.
Jack shook his head and sank to the floor. He was going to lose it. He wrapped his arms around his knees and lowered his head. He tried in vain to hold his emotions in check but they were too much. The small tremors soon gave way to definite shakes, and a tortured, muffled sob escaped his throat.
Daniel stood, torn between leaving Jack to his privacy, or facing his demons with him. He really had no choice. He sank down beside Jack and placed his hand firmly on the shuddering back.
Jack felt Daniel’s hand, warm and heavy on his back. The comfort and understanding it conveyed brought fresh tears to his eyes.
I owe you this, Jack, Daniel thought as he tentatively rubbed his hand up and down his friend’s back. Gratified that Jack didn’t shy away from the comfort, Daniel continued the soothing motion and felt his own tears sting as the older man leaned into the touch.
“We’re going to be okay, Jack,” Daniel murmured. “We’ll get through this,” he promised.
Jack allowed himself just a few moments of comfort then he sat up, rubbing his face on his sleeve.
Daniel sat back also and wrapped his arms around his knees. He chewed on his bottom lip as Jack hunched over again, but then he smiled when he felt Jack’s shoulder press tightly against his own. They sat that way for a long time.
“I like your kitchen, Jack,” Daniel finally said, nudging the older man’s shoulder, “but do you think maybe we could move into the living room?”
Jack snickered and sat back with a sigh, his eyes still closed.
“I’m so goddamned sorry, Daniel,” he whispered.
“Hey, it’s not that bad of a kitchen,” Daniel explained. “It’s just that my butt’s getting sore.”
Jack rolled his head sideways and stared into the compassionate blue eyes.
“You know that’s not what I meant,” Jack gently chided.
Daniel returned the smile and nodded. “I know what you meant, Jack, and I’m telling you it wasn’t your fault.”
Jack sighed. He really wanted to believe that, but he wasn’t ready to forgive himself so easily. He turned his head away.
“Was I responsible for my actions after I got addicted to the sarcophagus?” Daniel asked.
“It’s not the same,” Jack muttered.
“I was infected by an alien device. You were infected by an alien organism. Where’s the difference, Jack?”
“It just is,” Jack insisted wearily, really not wanting this conversation.
“Why, because I’m a civilian and you’re a U.S. Air Force colonel? I’m supposed to be helpless and gullible while you’re the hard-assed seasoned soldier who’s always in control?”
“Yes, damn it,” Jack growled.
“Well, excuse me for saying this, but that’s a load of crap, and you know it,” Daniel countered.
“Damn it, Daniel,” Jack said, looking at his friend. “You’re a member of my team. I’m supposed to protect you, at any cost to myself.”
“No, Jack,” Daniel said firmly, “we protect each other. Why do you think I didn’t leave you when I had the chance?”
“You had a chance to get away, and you didn’t take it?” Jack asked in dismay.
“You were sick, Jack. Very sick and nothing was going to make me leave you.”
The conviction in Daniel’s voice went straight to Jack’s heart, and he felt his eyes sting
“God, Daniel. How the hell can you ever trust me again?” he asked hoarsely.
“That’s simple, Jack. I never stopped trusting you.”
Jack gazed into the earnest blue eyes and shook his head. “Man,” he said, looking away squeezing the bridge of his nose, “did we just have a Hallmark moment?”
Daniel laughed, “Yeah, I guess we did.”
“It’s kinda nice,” Jack sighed.
“You’re right about the kitchen,” Jack admitted, looking around. “It’s alright to a point.”
“I’m right about a lot of things,” Daniel teased.
Jack glanced sideways at his friend and said, “That too.”
“Come on,” Daniel said, standing up, “I’ll make some coffee. You should go and lie down.”
“Is that an order?” Jack asked.
“I can make it one,” Daniel said, holding his good hand out to Jack.
Jack gazed at the offered hand and smiled. “No, I’ll go peacefully,” he said, grasping his friend’s hand firmly.
Jack stretched out on his couch and listened to the sounds of Daniel puttering in the kitchen. He couldn’t believe how good it felt just to lie there and listen to his friend. His friend. Jack had never had a friend like Daniel Jackson. Sometimes, it felt like an enormous responsibility, but Jack knew he’d rather die than lose that connection. Daniel was special. Jack knew that almost immediately, but he didn’t admit it to himself until that first mission to Abydos where Daniel had surpassed all his expectations in courage, intelligence and fortitude. Daniel was a force unto himself and Jack felt ed to be in the young man’s inner circle. He closed his eyes and tried to picture his friend. Unfortunately, the image he came up with was covered in cuts and bruises and pleading for his life.
“Crap,” Jack muttered, sitting up and massaging his forehead.
“You’re supposed to be resting,” a gentle but insistent voice proclaimed.
“My mind has other ideas,” Jack mumbled.
“Maybe this will help.”
Jack looked up and his eyes widened in surprise at the glass in front of him.
“What’s that?” he asked suspiciously.
“Just a little scotch. Thought it might help you relax,” Daniel explained.
Jack shook his head. “I really don’t think that’s a good idea, Daniel.” God, what if I get drunk and attack you?
“I watered it down and besides, it’s the only one you’ll get.”
Jack’s eyebrow arched and he said, “You’re getting pretty bossy, you know that?”
“I’m learning,” Daniel smiled. “Now, drink up.”
Jack took the drink and sniffed it appreciatively. He took a sip and smiled in approval. “Smooth,” he complimented.
“Thank you,” Daniel said and sat down.
Jack sat back deep in the couch and tried not to look at the bruises and cuts on his friend’s face.
“They’re superficial, Jack. They’ll go away,” Daniel said gently.
“You’re wrong, Daniel,” Jack muttered. “They’ll never go away. All I have to do is close my eyes.”
Daniel frowned and chewed his bottom lip. He needed to assuage Jack’s guilt, but he didn’t know where or how to begin. “I’m sorry you had to find out this way. It’s not what I wanted,” he finally said.
Jack glanced at Daniel and asked, “When were you going to tell me? Or, were you going to tell me?” he asked sadly.
Daniel looked into the soulful brown eyes and saw the all too familiar pain and guilt that was threatening to consume his friend.
“Believe it or not, I was just on my way to talk to you when Janet found me,” Daniel said. “I’m sorry it took this long. At first, I thought it was good you didn’t remember. You’d never have to know, and I would never have to talk about it,” he admitted with a tight smile.
“But then.” Jack prompted.
“But then,” Daniel continued, “I thought, ‘Damn you. How could you not remember? How could you…do that and not remember?’”
“No worries there,” Jack smiled grimly, the haunted look still in his eyes.
“And then, I didn’t know how the hell to tell you,” Daniel confessed. “Jack, I don’t blame you. Please believe me. I want you to forgive yourself. I need you to forgive yourself,” he insisted.
“Jack shook his head. “I can’t do that, Daniel. Not just like that.”
Daniel’s blue eyes shone with a shared pain and understanding. “I know,” he acknowledged sadly. “Sometimes it takes a while,” he said, staring down at his hands, “but please try.”
Jack frowned and studied the subdued figure seated across from him. Oh, crap.
“You still haven’t, have you?” Jack asked.
Daniel looked up guiltily. His look was all the answer Jack needed.
“Damn it, Daniel, what happened on Shyla’s planet was not your fault. How the hell do you expect me to forgive myself for what I did to you when you can’t even forgive yourself for what that bitch did to you?”
“It’s not the same, Jack. I willingly went into the sarcophagus,” Daniel exclaimed. “She didn’t force me.”
“You jumped through hoops, Daniel. You thought you were helping us, and you did, damn it.”
Daniel stood up and wrapped his arms around himself. “I want to believe that, but —,”
“No buts,” Jack interrupted. “There’s no way you could’ve known what the sarcophagus was going to do to you. Not until it was too late and just how the hell did you suddenly become the heavy? You’re supposed to be consoling me, remember?”
Daniel flashed a grin and resumed his seat. “Sorry, I get carried away sometimes.”
“Ya think?” Jack quipped, sipping his drink.
“How’s your hand?” Daniel inquired, changing the subject.
“Throbbing like a son-of-a-bitch,” Jack replied, checking his hand, “but it’s okay. It was a stupid thing to do. How’s yours?”
Daniel held up his hand and tentatively flexed his fingers. “Janet wants to start me on physio tomorrow.”
“Ouch,” Jack winced in sympathy. He watched the careful way Daniel moved his hand and his body. “I busted you up pretty good, didn’t I?”
“Coffee should be ready,” Daniel remarked, standing up.
Daniel looked at Jack and saw the grim, almost desperate determination in the dark eyes.
“I’d rather just forget it ever happened, Jack,” he uttered quietly.
“I’d like nothing better too, but we both know that’s not going to happen,” Jack said sadly.
“I know,” Daniel replied softly.
“Besides, isn’t that why you came over? To talk about it?”
Daniel looked into the solemn eyes of his friend and nodded. “I’ll get the coffee first,” he said and returned to the kitchen.
Jack drank the last of his whiskey and wished it could burn away the pain in his soul like it burned in his gut. He stood up and walked to the centre of the room. This is where it began. This is where he savaged his best friend. He looked at the couch, and he saw Daniel asleep. A stranger in a strange house. He closed his eyes, and he remembered. Jack was trembling by the time Daniel returned.
Jack stiffened and waved his hand. “I’ve just been…remembering,” he said hoarsely.
Daniel merely nodded and carefully set the mugs of coffee down as his own mind insisted on replaying recent events.
“Did I rape you?”
The tortured whisper was barely audible, but it pierced Daniel’s mind like a thunderclap.
“No, Jack,” he replied firmly and without hesitation. “You didn’t rape me.”
“But I tried,” Jack persisted. He turned dark, guilt-ridden eyes to Daniel. “I remember asking you if you were a virgin. I remember the feel of your skin under my hand,” he said in self-loathing. “I tried, didn’t I?”
“You tried…later,” Daniel admitted hollowly. God, he doesn’t remember being in the woods.
“Jesus, Daniel,” Jack murmured, sinking to the chair and covering his face with his hands. “Please tell me that’s when I got this,” he said roughly, fingering the bandage on his face.
“No, that happened…in the woods.”
Jack visibly tensed, and Daniel hesitated before continuing. Maybe Jack did know more than he was letting on, or maybe he hoped it was remnants of his fevered imagination. No such luck, Jack, Daniel thought sadly.
“You startled me,” Daniel continued. “I’m sorry, I almost took your eye out,” he explained apologetically.
“You’re sorry?” Jack said incredulously. “Christ, Daniel, you should’ve knocked my fucking head off.”
“Well, I did try,” Daniel said with small smile, “if it’s any consolation.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Jack smiled grimly, rubbing the back of his neck wearily.
“Jack, I think I should take you back to the base,” Daniel suggested quietly.
“I haven’t remembered everything, have I?” Jack asked dully.
“No, and I don’t know what Janet has told you, but I didn’t exactly tell her everything,” Daniel confessed.
Jack looked up and gazed steadily at Daniel. “Maybe you should tell me,” he said. “Can you?”
Daniel swallowed hard. Could he? Could he tell Jack everything? Could he dredge up all that hurt and horror for the both of them? Jack’s eyes pleaded for help and Daniel felt himself nodding.
“I’ll tell you everything,” he vowed.
Jack closed his eyes in gratitude and then opened one eye sceptically. “In English?”
Daniel laughed. A genuine, honest-to-God laugh that warmed Jack’s soul and reminded him of happier times.
“In English,” Daniel promised, his eyes still laughing.
“Okay,” Jack smiled. He looked down at his coffee and swirled its contents thoughtfully. “Maybe you should call the base. Let them know we’re coming.”
“Why?” Daniel inquired, a puzzled frown on his face.
Jack looked up and shrugged. “Just in case, you know, I snap…or something.”
“You’re not going to snap,” Daniel said firmly. “There’s no trace of the alien organisms in you. You’re clean, Jack.”
“I’d just feel better knowing we’re expected,” Jack pressed. “I’ll do it if you-.”
“No, no, I’ll do it,” Daniel acquiesced, “but I’m doing it for you, not for me. I want you to understand that,” he said gravely.
“I do, Daniel, and I can’t tell you what that means to me,” Jack said, equally grave.
“Okay,” Daniel said, accepting Jack’s understanding. “I’ll tell them we’ll be there in an hour.” And I’ll also get someone to fix your damn mirror. You don’t need that to come home to.
“That’s fine,” Jack agreed.
While Daniel made the call, Jack went into the kitchen to refill their coffee mugs. He tried to immerse himself in the simple task, but his mind wouldn’t allow it. Nightmare images granted him no respite. He couldn’t believe five days ago, in this very house, he broke Daniel’s fingers and terrorized him. Hurting Daniel was such an abhorrent and alien concept to Jack. He would rather die than hurt Daniel.
“Crap,” Jack muttered, putting the pot down to still his shaking hand. He’d faced System Lords, madmen, and torturers, but they paled in comparison to facing the truth of what he’d done to his friend, and the horrific realization of what he was capable of doing.
“It wasn’t you,” a familiar voice proclaimed.
Jack turned to see Daniel standing in the doorway.
“Jack,” he said, entering the kitchen, “when Sha’re held the ribbon device on me I knew it was Ammonet. I also knew Sha’re was trapped in her own body and fighting to help me. It was no different with you. I knew you were in there, trapped and just as helpless as Sha’re. You fought as hard as you could and sometimes…sometimes I think you won.”
Jack looked at him oddly and Daniel shrugged. “It’s hard to explain, but there were times when I thought you regained control. I’d say things and, well…”
“I wouldn’t hurt you although you expected it,” Jack offered dully.
“Something like that,” Daniel agreed softly. “But the important thing is, you never gave up. Just like Sha’re.”
It was small consolation, but Jack accepted the gift in the spirit it was given. “Thank you,” he said solemnly.
The drive back to Cheyenne Mountain was quiet. Both men wrestled with memories of their last time together in a vehicle. Jack stared out the window and absently rubbed the newest cut on his hand.
Daniel noticed the movement out of the corner of his eye and stiffened defensively. He clenched the wheel tighter, thankful that Jack was oblivious to his reaction. He’s fine. He’s fine. It’s not happening again. Daniel knew he had to get a grip on his own fears if he was to be of any help to Jack.
Soon they were outside city limits and in the solitude of the countryside.
“Stop the car,” Jack said suddenly.
“What?” Daniel said in surprise.
“I’m going to be sick,” Jack said through clenched teeth.
Daniel swerved to the side of the road, and Jack was out the door before the car had come to a complete stop.
Shitshitshit, Daniel thought as his friend’s retching reached his ears. God, if only I’d talked to him sooner I could have prevented this. Damn it. He let the engine idle to give his friend some privacy. When Jack straightened up, Daniel turned off the ignition and got out of the car. He retrieved a bottle of water from the trunk, thankful that he had heeded Jack’s insistence on equipping his car with a survival kit.
Jack leaned back against the car and rubbed at the ever-present headache. He was aware of Daniel standing beside him, but he couldn’t look at him. Not after what he’d just remembered.
“Here,” Daniel said nudging Jack’s arm with the bottle.
Jack glanced down at the water and nodded. He reached for it with his good hand, but frowned in puzzlement when Daniel didn’t let go. His eyes automatically flicked up, and he was stunned to see tears in Daniel’s eyes.
“How can I help?” Daniel whispered.
Jack stared into the earnest blue eyes and marvelled at the wonder that was Daniel Jackson. God, Daniel, you’re here, aren’t you? With his own eyes suspiciously bright, Jack smiled and said, “You could let go of
the friggin’ bottle.”
“I could,” Daniel replied, the corners of his eyes crinkling in amusement.
“Or,” Jack said, his voice solemn, “you could tell me this whole thing’s a goddamn nightmare, and it never happened.”
Daniel smiled sadly and released the bottle.
“Didn’t think so,” Jack said, fisting his hand around the bottle.
Daniel crossed his arms and also leaned against the car. After a couple of minutes, his eyes focused on nothing in particular, he asked, “What did you remember?”
A shadow of pain darkened Jack’s features. He took a drink of water, cleansing the foul taste out of his mouth. “I remembered the woods,” he finally said.
Daniel nodded and looked down at the ground. He didn’t need Jack to tell him the rest, but he knew Jack needed to say it. Knew he needed to voice the horror if he was ever to accept it.
“What else?” Daniel asked, granting permission.
Jack glanced sideways at Daniel to ensure he was reading his friend correctly. Understanding blue eyes turned in his direction. Jack drank some more water and then handed the bottle to Daniel.
Daniel accepted the bottle and drank the remainder of the water. He tipped the bottle over, and both men watched the last few drops plop onto the dry earth, sending up little puffs of dirt.
“I remember wanting you,” Jack said, his voice heavy with disgust. “The fact that I really didn’t know who you were meant nothing. I wanted you, and I wanted to hurt you in the process.”
“Do you remember what I said?” Daniel asked. “About Charlie and Sara?”
Jack nodded and rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah. God, I hated you. I wanted to kill you slowly and fuck you hard at the same time.”
“Jack,” Daniel murmured helplessly.
“Jesus, Daniel, I had you pinned to the ground like a fucking bug.” He leaned over as a wave of nausea washed over him.
Daniel, controlling his own nausea, said, “It’s just a memory now, Jack. It’s not even yours, not really.”
“You don’t know that, Daniel,” Jack said wearily.
“Yes, I do, Jack because I know you,” Daniel answered vehemently.
“Damn it, Daniel, you don’t know what I’m capable of.”
“Maybe not,” Daniel conceded, “but I know what you’re not capable of,” he said passionately.
Jack looked into the impassioned blue eyes, and he could almost believe what his young friend was saying. Almost.
“We should go,” Jack said dismissively, as he turned around and opened the passenger door.
Daniel sighed and knew he had lost this battle. I’m very patient, Jack, he thought as he got into the car.
Daniel squeezed the tension ball gently, wincing as his fingers protested the motion. He bit his bottom lip and applied a little more pressure. Jolts of pain shot through his hand and radiated up his arm, but it was not enough. He clenched harder and stifled a cry, but he couldn’t make it go away. He couldn’t banish the look on Jack’s face from his mind; the look of utter despair and self-loathing.
Daniel had known it was going to be hard, if not impossible, to alleviate Jack’s guilt over what had transpired while he was under the alien influence of P5X 233. As promised, he had told Jack everything, but there was very little the older man hadn’t remembered already. Jack had vainly held onto the slim chance that the more lurid images to haunt his mind had been figments of an alien-induced fever. Daniel’s painful honesty, however, had ripped that desperate hope from Jack forever. And, as he was wont to do, Daniel had argued passionately, vigorously, and relentlessly for Jack’s soul, but Jack was looking for no easy way outs. He had attacked Daniel and very likely would have sodomized and killed him had he been given the chance. Daniel had tried to embellish the moments where he believed Jack had regained some control over his actions. But in his eagerness to vindicate his friend, he had pushed the older man a little too far. In desperation, Jack had retaliated by grabbing the unsuspecting archaeologist, shaking him hard and yelling at him to shut up.
Daniel squeezed the ball until hot tears stung his eyes, but it was no use. He couldn’t erase the aching pain that had settled in his heart since he saw Jack’s face drain of colour. The horror he saw in Jack’s eyes as the older man realized his hands were twisted in Daniel’s jacket. Worse, the anguish in those dark eyes when Daniel had brought his hands up to defend himself. An instinctive reaction to the debilitating fear that Jack was sick again and was going to hurt him.
“Daniel? Daniel!” Sam called sharply.
Daniel looked up, his eyes raw with pain.
“Let me have that,” Sam said gently, gesturing to the ball clasped in Daniel’s hand.
Daniel glanced down at his hand and slowly uncurled his fingers, sucking in a breath as the pain washed over him.
“I don’t think this is what Janet had in mind, Daniel,” Sam chastised softly.
“I screwed up, Sam,” Daniel whispered, staring at his hand. “I pushed him. I just couldn’t stop myself. I couldn’t shut the fuck up,” he said bitterly.
“Daniel, what are you talking about?” Sam inquired, her eyes filled with concern.
“He surprised me,” Daniel muttered. “He scared me, and I tried to get away. God, how could I have been so stupid?” he said bitterly.
“The colonel?” Sam said worriedly. “Did he hurt you?”
“No, damn it, he didn’t hurt me,” Daniel said angrily, looking up, his eyes flashing. “I hurt him. I knew I was pushing, but I kept right on doing it, just like always,” he laughed mirthlessly.
“Daniel, slow down and tell me what happened,” Sam requested gently.
“General Hammond, you wanted to see me?” Jack asked, standing rather stiffly.
“Relax, Colonel. Have a seat,” Hammond encouraged.
Jack sat down and folded his hands in his lap.
“Colonel, I think it’s time that SG-1 went back on active duty. Dr. Jackson is making excellent progress with his therapy, and we’ve found a couple of promising but benign planets for exploration.”
“General, I don't think Daniel's ready-,”
“Dr. Jackson is more than ready, Colonel,” Hammond interrupted. “Frankly, Jack, it's you I'm concerned about, not Dr. Jackson,” he added gently.
“Which is exactly why SG-1 should remain on stand down, sir. Or, Carter can lead the team. Right now, I'm a liability,” Jack confessed.
“You misunderstand me, Jack. My concern is not about your suitability to command. My concern is about this unreasonable fear of yours that you're unfit to command,” Hammond explained clearly, his blue eyes bright with concern.
Jack fidgeted in his chair, clearly uncomfortable with his CO's assessing gaze.
“I shouldn't be around Daniel, sir,” Jack admitted softly.
“Is there something I should know about, Colonel?” Hammond asked quietly.
Jack stood up and began to pace. “Daniel and I talked about what happened. Well, he talked; I listened,” he amended with a quick smile. “Anyway, I didn't like what he was saying and I, uh, attacked him.”
“You attacked Doctor Jackson?” Hammond said incredulously.
“Yes, sir. I don't...I don't think I'm cured.”
“I see,” Hammond commented, his hands clasped tightly in front of him. “Jack, sit down, you're making me dizzy.”
“Sorry, sir,” Jack said, resuming his seat.
“I wasn't there, Colonel, but I like to think I'm fairly astute when it comes to the people under my command, particularly the members of SG-1.”
“Of course, General,” Jack agreed, the need to fidget returning.
“Having said that, and knowing Dr. Jackson and yourself as I do, is there anything you'd like to clarify, Colonel?” Hammond asked kindly.
Jack looked into the intelligent blue eyes. Damn you, George. He rubbed the back of his neck and nodded. “I may have been a bit vague, sir,” he acquiesced with an effort.
“Go on,” Hammond offered, suppressing a triumphant smile.
Jack sighed and said, “Daniel kept insisting I did nothing wrong. That it was the alien organisms that made me act that way. Well, you know how Daniel can get, sir when he believes that he's right.”
“Like a dog with a bone,” Hammond chuckled.
“A very meaty bone,” Jack added. “I didn't want to hear reason. I didn't want to be absolved, but Daniel wouldn't let it drop. I...I grabbed him and I yelled at him,” he said, his voice full of disgust.
Hammond considered Jack's admission and knew where this was going. “What was Dr. Jackson's reaction, Colonel?”
“He, uh, he looked scared, sir, and he tried to get away,” Jack replied hollowly.
“Understandable,” Hammond nodded. “What happened next?”
“I don't really remember,” Jack said honestly. “When I realized what I'd done, I let him go. I think...I think I said I was sorry and then got the hell out of there.”
“When did this happen?”
“A few days ago,” Jack replied, flinching inwardly.
“And I'm just hearing about this now?” Hammond asked coolly.
Jack smiled guiltily and glanced down at his hands.
“Surely you didn't think that Dr. Jackson was going to file a report?” Hammond asked in disbelief.
“He would've been within his rights,” Jack said.
“Yes, he would have,” Hammond agreed gravely, “but this is Daniel Jackson we're talking about.”
“Daniel doesn't always know what's good for him,” Jack pointed out.
“Has Dr. Jackson talked to you since this incident?”
“I've been...unavailable,” Jack claimed awkwardly.
“I think I've heard enough, Colonel,” Hammond said, shaking his head. “Have you and your team report to the briefing room at 1400 hours. Dismissed.”
Jack watched the older man open one of the many folders on his desk, effectively ignoring his presence. “Yes, sir,” he acquiesced quietly.
Jack closed his eyes and steeled himself for his second's concern. “Major,” he said, turning to face an agitated Sam.
“Sir, I'm worried about Daniel,” she said carefully, trying to judge the colonel's mood.
“He went through hell, Carter.”
“What I mean, sir, is I think he needs to...get out,” she said vaguely, pointing upwards.
“Relax, Carter. SG-1 is to report to the briefing room at 1400 hours. I've already informed Daniel.”
“We're going off-world?” Sam asked, her eyes shining with delight.
“Looks that way, Major. The general is tired of seeing us lolling around the SGC. Now, was there anything else?” Jack inquired.
“No, sir. I'll see you at the briefing,” she said, and continued on her way down the hall, smiling.
Jack watched her go and frowned. Maybe I should've phoned Daniel instead of e-mailing.
Daniel read the curt message in his inbox, 'SG-1 is ordered to report to the briefing room at 1400 hours'. “Well, it's a start,” he sighed.
Daniel knew Jack wasn't mad at him, but it didn't make the growing distance between them any easier to bear. He, better than anyone, knew what Jack was feeling. He, better than anyone, also knew you couldn't push Jack into a corner and come out unscathed. The sudden end to SG-1's stand down probably meant that General Hammond had had enough. Daniel smiled at the thought. He didn't particularly like military authority, but he had nothing but respect and admiration for General Hammond and a deep, personal affection.
“Thank you, General,” he murmured, a smile lighting his face.
Daniel slumped on the bench in the locker room. He really didn't feel like going for a hike, but Teal'c rarely asked him to do something and he hated to disappoint him. Fresh air might be me good. Maybe Teal'c can help me get through to Jack. Daniel hadn't managed to get a single moment alone with Jack since their altercation. At least Jack wasn't avoiding him anymore, but he always made sure someone else was around. Daniel smiled sadly. Must be driving you nuts, Jack. All that manipulating. Daniel sighed and reached for his boots. He’d just have to be more patient than usual and wait until Jack was ready.
“Colonel, it’s been two weeks. I can’t keep testing you over and over again,” Janet said in exasperation. “My budget can’t handle it.”
“Damn it, Doc, what if, whatever those things were, come back?” Jack argued.
“They’re not going to,” Janet said with ill-disguised patience. “They’re gone, Colonel. You’re clean.”
“They’re alien, for crying out loud. What if-,”
“Colonel O’Neill, I have patients who are really sick and need me. If you get the flu, come back and see me. Otherwise, please leave my infirmary or I will have you escorted out,” she said emphatically.
Jack stared down at the challenging brown eyes and threw his hands up in surrender. “Fine, I’ll go,” he said, leaving the infirmary. Sheesh, touchy or what?
Jack wasn’t surprised to see Teal’c in the hallway. Annoyed, but not surprised. Both Carter and Teal'c had been looking at him with concern ever since P5X 233. At first, Jack thought they were in their 'protect Daniel' mode, but later, much later he admitted to himself with chagrin, he realized that their concern was also directed towards him. Nevertheless, he didn't want anyone's concern or understanding. He deserved to wallow in self-pity, thank you very much.
“O'Neill, why do you persist in seeking blame,” Teal'c asked solemnly.
“I'm not seeking it, Teal'c,” Jack replied wearily, “it's right there, plain and simple, black and white, larger than life,” he muttered.
“SG-1 has not been through the Stargate as a team since we returned from P5X 233.”
“That's not true,” Jack denied. “What about P5R 213?”
“Daniel Jackson and Major Carter remained at the Stargate while you and I reconnoitred,” Teal'c responded placidly.
“Well, what about P7T 5—”
“Daniel Jackson and I remained at the Stargate while you and Major Carter reconnoitred,” Teal'c interrupted pointedly.
Jack sighed and said, “Look, Daniel doesn't need me around him, okay. I don't want to crowd him.”
“Has Daniel Jackson requested this of you?” Teal'c pressed.
“Daniel doesn't know what's good for him,” Jack replied.
“If you do not desist with this folly you will drive Daniel Jackson away.”
“What?” Jack said in surprise.
“Do you wish Daniel Jackson to leave SG-1?” Teal'c asked calmly.
“No! Of course not. What the hell kind of question is that for crying out loud? Jesus, Teal'c.”
“If you cannot forgive yourself, Daniel Jackson will blame himself. You know this to be true, O'Neill,” Teal'c added for emphasis.
Jack opened his mouth to object, but he closed it firmly. He knew Teal'c was right. Jack sighed and leaned against the wall.
“Teal'c, I look at him and all I can see is me hurting him. The bruises may be gone, but I still see them plain as day. When I hear his voice, I hear him trying to reason with me, and then I hear his screams.”
“And you deal with this by avoiding Daniel Jackson thereby hurting him further,” Teal'c stated with disapproval.
“Don't hold your punches, Teal'c.”
“Pummelling you would aid neither you nor Daniel Jackson,” Teal'c replied blandly.
“No, but it might make you feel better.”
“Indeed,” Teal'c acknowledged with a hint of a smile.
Jack shivered involuntarily. He did not want to ever be on the receiving end of the man's wrath.
“Do you know where Daniel Jackson is now?” Teal'c asked.
“Crap, I don't know,” Jack shrugged. “He's probably in his office, up close and personal with some dusty old book.”
“On the contrary, he is in the locker room suiting up for a return to P5X 233.”
“What?” Jack exclaimed in disbelief.
“General Hammond did not inform you?”
“No, he goddamn well didn't,” Jack said hotly.
“Interesting,” Teal'c mused. “General Hammond is sending a Haz-mat team to check out the burial chamber you and Daniel Jackson discovered. Daniel Jackson requested permission to accompany them, and the general agreed,” Teal'c informed helpfully.
“Over my dead body,” Jack grumbled angrily, storming down the hall.
“Teal'c, what happened?” Sam asked, coming around the corner. “I just saw the colonel, and he didn't seem too happy.”
“Indeed, he is not, Major Carter,” Teal'c said solemnly, his hands clasped behind his back. “Follow me please,” he requested enigmatically.
“Daniel, are you nuts?” Jack raved as he bore down on the unsuspecting archaeologist. “What the hell are you thinking?”
Daniel looked down at the boots he was lacing and then looked up bewildered. “Wrong colour?” he asked, furrowing his brow.
“What?” Jack asked, frowning.
“What?” Daniel countered, puzzled even further.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“My boots,” Daniel answered.
“What about your friggin' boots?” Jack exclaimed, waving his hands around.
“I don't know. You brought it up,” Daniel challenged.
“I did not.”
“You did too.”
“Argh,” Jack grumbled and rubbed his head furiously. “Okay,” he said, taking a calming breath, “let's start at the beginning. Why in God's name do you want to go back to P5X 233?”
“What?” Daniel frowned.
“Don't go all innocent on me. You know damn well what I'm talking about,” Jack retorted.
“Jack, I don't,” Daniel said, shaking his head. “Honest.”
“Then what are you getting dressed for?”
“Well, I can hardly roam the base naked, Jack,” Daniel said reasonably.
“You only wear those boots when we go off-world,” Jack challenged.
“Or, if I go hiking,” Daniel countered.
“Yes. Teal'c and I are going for a hike. Would you like to come?” Daniel invited.
“Teal'c and—oh, for crying out loud,” Jack muttered as he slumped down on the bench next to Daniel. “He told me you were going back to the damn planet with a Haz-Mat team to look at the burial chamber.”
“Teal'c,” Jack spat.
“Teal'c said that?” Daniel asked, his eyes wide in surprise.
“Not only that, but he told me you were here suiting up for the mission,” Jack groused.
Dawning comprehension shone in Daniel's eyes, and he grinned. “He set you up.”
“Goddamn him,” Jack muttered, shaking his head.
“It's about time,” Daniel said quietly.
“What?” Jack snapped, irritated that he'd been duped.
“That's the first time you've yelled at me since, well, since we talked,” Daniel said carefully.
Jack looked at Daniel and suddenly realized that they were alone, in a confined space, he had been ranting, and Daniel was sitting there smiling.
“Welcome back, Jack,” Daniel said softly, his eyes warm.
Jack laughed ruefully and flushed with understanding. “Crap, I've been an ass again, haven't I?”
“Yes,” Daniel answered sincerely.
Jack smiled. “Hell, Danny, I can always trust you to be honest with me.”
“Yes, you can, Jack,” Daniel said seriously, “and I hope you can be honest with me.”
Jack gazed at the sincerity in the blue eyes and nodded. “You want to know why I've been avoiding you.”
“I can guess, but I'd like to hear it from you,” Daniel replied quietly.
Jack looked down at the floor and clasped his hands together. He cleared his throat and said softly, “I'm still having nightmares about what happened. In my dreams I see the pain in your eyes...and the fear. God knows, I've seen you in pain more times than I care to remember, and I've seen fear, not for yourself, but for others. But I've never seen you afraid of me,” Jack confessed quietly. “I know on some level that wasn't me that hurt you, but when I close my eyes I see the fear and the wariness in yours. I don't—,” Jack bit his lip and closed his eyes. “I don't ever want to see that look for real. I can't—,”
“Jack, look at me,” Daniel said gently.
Jack shook his head. “Daniel, you can't just—,”
“Look at me,” Daniel said sharply.
Jack looked, more out of surprise at Daniel's tone than anything else.
“What do you see?” Daniel asked, his blue eyes bright and hard.
“I see...I see one pissed-off archaeologist,” Jack answered.
“Good, there's nothing wrong with your perception. Come with me,” Daniel said, standing up and walking into the washroom.
“If you've got Teal'c and Carter in there, I'm not coming,” Jack called.
“It's just you and me,” Daniel answered, glancing over his shoulder.
Jack blew out a breath and stood up. He entered the washroom and saw Daniel standing at one of the sinks.
“Over here,” Daniel said, motioning to his side. “Closer,” he ordered as Jack stopped at the neighbouring sink.
Jack rolled his eyes but stood shoulder to shoulder with Daniel. He tensed in surprise when Daniel's arm went around his shoulder, but he relaxed when it showed no intention of leaving.
“Now, what do you see?” Daniel asked, nodding towards the mirror.
Jack stared into the mirror. He saw two men; two men and a lot of memories. He swallowed the lump in his throat. He couldn't speak.
“Do you know what I see?” Daniel asked gently, squeezing the shoulder under his hand.
“One honkin' old jackass?” the older man guessed hoarsely.
“Besides that,” Daniel snickered.
Jack shook his head slightly, and Daniel smiled.
“I see the past, the present, and the future. You've changed my life, Jack and I can't imagine you not in it,” Daniel explained softly. “We've seen each other at our best and our worst.”
“But we always come out stronger,” Jack whispered.
“Exactly,” Daniel agreed, “we watch each other's backs.” Daniel smiled brightly as he saw and felt Jack's arms settle on his shoulders.
“I think Hammond's looking for a team to check out a planet showing signs of recent mining activity. It's a five day mission, minimum,” Jack said warily, watching Daniel’s reflection in the mirror.
“Sounds like a job for SG-1,” Daniel said thoughtfully.
“That's what I was thinking,” Jack corroborated. “Of course, that means I can't let you go hiking.”
“Why not?” Daniel asked, frowning.
“Because you'll probably twist your ankle or something, and there's no way I'm carrying you for five days,” Jack said reasonably.
“Oh, please, when was the last time I twisted my ankle?” Daniel demanded defensively.
Jack raised an eyebrow, stepped back and looked pointedly at Daniel's foot.
“That doesn't count,” Daniel exclaimed, blushing slightly, “and besides, it was your fault,” he chided.
“My fault?” Jack said indignantly. “I'm not the one who decided to play Superman and jump out of a moving car.”
“Well, if you hadn't been driving like a maniac—,”
“Hey, hey, let's not forget that alien virus thing,” Jack interrupted.
“Oh, sure, now you blame the virus,” Daniel grumbled.
“It's like music to the ears, isn't it Teal'c?” Sam murmured, as she crouched outside the washroom, her teammates’ voices rising in volume.
“Indeed, Major Carter, I believe O'Neill and Daniel Jackson are making up for lost time.”
“Did you hear something?” Daniel asked, looking behind him.
“I thought I heard voices,” Daniel said, looking out towards the locker room.
Jack cocked his head and listened. “Carter! Teal'c! Get your asses in here!” he ordered.
A slightly embarrassed Sam and a stoic Teal'c entered the washroom.
“Are you in need of assistance, O'Neill?” Teal'c inquired politely.
“For crying out loud, no, I'm not in need of assistance,” Jack groused. “Well, no, that's not exactly true,” he amended thoughtfully, “but Daniel here,” he said, clapping the young man on the back, “came through like always. It's okay to grin, Carter,” he added.
“Actually, sir, I was thinking more of crying,” she said, sniffling audibly.
“That's allowed too, Major.”
“Does this mean that SG-1 is back, O'Neill?” Teal'c inquired.
Jack looked at the solemn dark eyes. “Yes, Teal'c it does, and thank you.”
Teal'c inclined his head in acknowledgement and smiled with self-satisfaction.
“So, kids, hiking is out, we've got plans to make,” Jack said, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “Daniel, pick a place for lunch. My treat.”
“Any place I want?” Daniel queried.
“Any place,” Jack confirmed magnanimously. “Sushi, vegan, whatever.” Crap, what am I saying?
Daniel frowned deeply, scratching his chin absently. “O'Malley's, I think,” he said thoughtfully. “Yes, definitely O’Malley’s.”
Jack, Sam, and Teal'c looked at their young teammate with incredulity.
“You're kidding, right?” Jack asked, unable to believe his good fortune.
“Not at all,” Daniel declared. “I think it's about time SG-1 put in a return appearance. Besides, I didn't get to have my game of pool with Sam,” he said, grinning at her.
“Okay, O'Malley's it is,” Jack stated enthusiastically. He glanced at his watch. “Let's meet up top in thirty minutes. Does that suit everybody?”
Mutual assents greeted Jack's question.
“I really think I should get out of here,” Sam said, grimacing at the wall of urinals.
“You're one of us, Carter,” Jack smiled.
“Not quite, sir. I'll see you in half an hour,” she said, backing out the door.
“I will accompany you, Major Carter,” Teal'c said, taking his leave as well.
Jack and Daniel watched their teammates leave, acutely aware of each other's presence and of the silence.
“So,” Jack said, shoving his hands into his pockets. “The future, huh?” he commented, nodding towards their reflection in the mirror.
Daniel flashed a quick smile. “Do you like it?”
“Works for me,” Jack replied.
“Good,” Daniel said solemnly.
Jack removed his right hand and scratched his neck nervously. “Daniel, it's going to take me awhile to...get over all this,” he said hesitatingly.
“I know, Jack. We're both going to need time, but we don't have to do it alone,” Daniel said sincerely.
Jack looked at the earnest face of his friend and nodded reassuringly. “We won't,” he vowed.
Daniel smiled and then bit his bottom lip. “I want to apologize in advance in case I react badly to a situation. You know, if you surprise me or something.”
“Don't sweat it, Daniel. You've got every right to be uncomfortable around me,” Jack conceded quietly.
“No, I'm not uncomfortable around you, Jack,” he said quickly. “God, you have to stop thinking that. What I meant was, if you sneak up on me I might not take it well.”
“I'll keep that in mind,” Jack said thoughtfully, fingering the small scar on his face.
“We'll be okay, Jack,” Daniel said firmly, his blue eyes bright with conviction.
Jack smiled and affectionately patted the side of Daniel's face, inwardly doing cartwheels that his friend didn't even flinch. “I know we will. We've got a future to explore, right? Now, take those damn boots off.”
Daniel grinned and headed for the locker room. He stopped and turned, and Jack almost walked into him.
“Did you know O'Malley's serves lobster now?” Daniel inquired.
“No,” Jack replied, narrowing his eyes.
“They do. Did I mention how hungry I am?”
“Did you know that you're due for your physical evaluation?” Jack countered.
“What? Already?” Daniel scowled.
“Time flies,” Jack smirked, draping his arm around his friend's shoulders.
“Sadist,” Daniel muttered.
“Space Monkey,” Jack grinned.
Daniel smiled in spite of his best efforts to look grim.
“I draw the line at two though,” Jack stated.
“Two what?” Daniel asked warily. Knockouts? Broken ribs? Black eyes?
“Lobsters,” Jack said. “Three, if you really, really want it,” he corrected.
“Okay, four, but that’s it,” Jack insisted, squeezing Daniel's shoulder.
Daniel felt a warm rush and ducked his head. Jack was back.
|Genres:||Angst, Drama, Friendship, Hurt/Comfort|
|Summary:||Jack suffers a minor accident off-world that has consequences for Daniel.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
This story first appeared in Foundation 3 (May 21, 2003) by Pyramids Press. Many thanks to Anna for the opportunity to submit, and to Jmas for her wonderful beta skills.