A New Start
The android, Harlan, hovered nervously as his latest creations, robot doubles of Colonel Jack O'Neill, Dr. Daniel Jackson, and Captain Samantha Carter, stared in disbelief at their original bodies.
The robot Jack knelt down beside his likeness, his mind reluctant to acknowledge the significance of what he was seeing. He stood up, turned away, and left without a word.
Harlan's distress at Jack's departure was alleviated somewhat when Daniel calmly went over to the likeness of Jack and removed the covering from his mouth.
Jack opened his mouth, stretching his jaw muscles. He looked up in confusion.
“Uh...sort of,” Daniel smiled. Unsure of what to say, he left Jack and went over to his own likeness. He sat on the bed and reached for the gag.
“Here, let me get that.”
Dr. Daniel Jackson gazed up at himself. Blinking in confusion, he slowly sat up, unable to take his eyes off 'himself'.
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” his likeness smiled.
Daniel looked around warily, and his eyes widened at the vision of two Samantha Carters.
“Long story,” his double shrugged.
Jack turned to Harlan and demanded answers to what he was seeing. The robot's ensuing explanation of creating synthetic copies did not make him feel any better.
The Carters, however, found the concept and the reality incredible.
Jack listened to the two Daniels and the two Carters babbling in amazement. He shook his head and left the room. Someone else was missing, besides Teal'c.
Daniel looked up anxiously when Jack returned. He hurried over and asked, “Where's your, um, other?”
“He's with Harlan.”
“Is he okay?”
“Yeah. No problem,” Jack said dismissively.
Daniel nodded then said, “Isn't this technology amazing, Jack? Just look at us,” he said in wonderment, staring at his double and the two Carters.
“Yeah. Wonderful. Especially when it screws up your entire life,” Jack said grimly, looking back as the door opened and his double walked in.
Daniel winced at the wound on the other Jack's face.
“It's okay, Daniel,” Jack said quietly. “Harlan can fix it.”
Daniel nodded then smiled as the synthetic Carter and Daniel went over to their Jack. As it should be.
Jack also went over to his double and Daniel looked sympathetically at Teal'c. “It'll be better when yours shows up,” he said encouragingly.
“My thoughts exactly, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c intoned.
Daniel noticed that the two Jacks were engaged in heated conversation with Harlan and he took the opportunity to take his own double aside.
“How's, uh, your Jack?”
“Well, he's angry and he's depressed. What you'd expect under the circumstances.”
“Yeah, um, how are you?” Daniel inquired.
His double shrugged. “I'm not quite sure.” He looked away and when he turned back, his face brightened.
“Have you seen the library in this place?”
“No, no I haven't,” Daniel replied.
“It's incredible. Harlan says the resources on this station are limitless. Kind of like us,” he finished softly.
Daniel cocked his head and tried to fathom how he would feel if he were the one confined to this planet, this station, for eternity.
His double smiled briefly and said, “I hope you never find out.”
Daniel felt a flash of guilt at his selfish relief that he was the real Daniel Jackson.
“It's okay,” his double said assuredly. “I'd probably feel the same way.”
A disturbance drew their attention, and they watched in dismay as the robot Jack stormed out, followed in hot pursuit by Jack.
“They're both having a hard time with this,” Daniel said quietly.
“Yes, but yours can go home.”
Daniel felt another pang of guilt. He couldn't just leave. Not like this. Of them all, Jack would have the hardest time adjusting to his 'new' life.
“Jack's a soldier,” Daniel said carefully. “A warrior, if you will. Being confined here is going to drive him nuts. He might try to withdraw, shut himself off from the rest of you. He'll need your help.”
“I don't know if he'll let me,” his double responded wistfully, still looking at the door.
Daniel smiled. “Jack can try the patience of a saint. His pride can sometimes be his worst enemy. Help him. Watch his back. He won't like it and he might fight you every step of the way, but it'll be worth it in the end because you'll never have a truer friend than Jack O'Neill.”
His double turned and smiled in bemusement.
Daniel blushed and ducked his head. “Right. You already know all this.”
“It never hurts to have a second opinion,” his double smiled.
Both Daniels turned to see Jack enter the room. He gestured to the robot Daniel.
“Maybe you should, you know, go and talk to him,” he said motioning towards the door. “I think I kind of pissed him off.”
'You think?' the Daniels chimed.
“Don't do that!” Jack shuddered.
“Where is he?” Daniel’s double asked.
“Looking at the other...Teal'c.”
“What happened?” Daniel asked after his double left.
“The guy's got an attitude as big as a planet,” Jack griped.
Daniel snickered and bit his tongue.
“What are you smirking at?”
“Nothing,” Daniel said innocently. “Truth hurts, doesn't it?”
Jack glared and said, “Where the hell is Carter?'”
“She, uh, they have gone to look at some generator thingy. Apparently, it's beyond belief.'”
“Oh, crap. We're never going to get out of here,” Jack groaned.
Daniel found Jack staring at the body that wasn't finished transforming into Teal'c. He walked up and stood beside him.
“Harlan won't forget Junior this time.”
“It doesn't matter,” Jack muttered.
“It matters to Teal'c. He can't survive without his symbiote.”
“For crying out loud, Daniel. We're not real.”
“Yes, we are,” Daniel insisted.
“Open your eyes, damn it! Look at me,' Jack said, tapping his finger on the exposed circuitry of his face. “We're goddamn machines!”
Daniel stared unblinkingly and said, “I'm Dr. Daniel Jackson, husband to Sha're. You are Colonel Jack O'Neill, father to—”
“Don't say it, Daniel! Don't you fucking well say it!”
“Charlie. Your son's name is Charlie.”
“Damn you!” Jack seethed, grabbing Daniel by the collar and shoving him up against the glass.
“It hurts, doesn't it Jack?” Daniel said hurriedly. “It hurts because it's real. We're real. Maybe we don't bleed red. Maybe we can't even cry. But I sure as hell can feel, and Sha're's loss is an ache in my heart that will never go away.”
The rage in Jack's eyes diminished with every word and he loosened his grip.
“We've all lost something here, Jack. Sam's lost her father and brother. Teal'c's lost his wife and son. You and I, well, we've already lost our family.”
“We'll find Sha're,” Jack assured. “Uh, they'll fine Sha're. Crap, this is going to take some getting used to,” he said, scratching his head.
Daniel breathed a little easier and said, “We'll get through this like we always do, Jack. We're a team.”
“We can't go home,” Jack said dully.
“We are home,” Daniel said gently.
Jack looked up into the bright blue eyes and shook his head fondly.
“Same old Daniel.”
“Why change a good thing?” Daniel smiled. “Come on, let's go join the others.”
Harlan and his 'new family' watched SG-1 enter the event horizon and vanish.
“Well, they're gone,” Daniel stated.
Jack stared at the empty gate. “They'll never be gone,” he murmured.
Daniel bit his lip at the raw pain in his friend's voice.
“Why don't you let Harlan fix that,” he said, pointing to Jack's face.
“Why? Does it remind you of how different we are?” Jack asked coldly.
“No, because it looks painful,” Daniel countered.
Jack opened his mouth, but bit back his cynical response. There was a deep concern in Daniel's eyes that always stopped him in his tracks.
“Harlan, fix this for me will ya?”
“Certainly, certainly. Please, come this way,” Harlan burbled, happy to help, and deliriously happy to have company after 11,000 years of solitude.
Sam and Teal'c closed ranks around Daniel, emphasizing their presence, friendship and support.
Daniel smiled in gratitude and said, “This isn't going to be easy, is it?”
“Not on any of us,” Sam agreed.
“Indeed. Immortality was never a goal I aspired to,” Teal'c stated solemnly.
“Immortality,” Daniel whispered. He couldn't wrap his mind around the concept and he shook his head. Maybe I'll go nuts first.
“Have either of you seen Jack?” Daniel asked Sam and Teal'c.
“Not since this morning,” Sam replied, tinkering with another gadget.
“Nor have I, Daniel Jackson,” Teal'c said, handing the necessary tools to Sam.
Daniel glanced at his watch and estimated the time to their next energy 'boost'. Not a lot. With a renewed sense of purpose, Daniel began a systematic search of the facility. After three months he had a pretty good idea of Jack's 'hiding' spots. Unfortunately, Jack was in none of them. One place he hadn't checked was the room containing the stargate. That room was essentially off-limits until they buried the gate. Jack's orders. Daniel suddenly felt a chill.
“Damn you, Jack. You wouldn't,” he whispered.
Daniel rushed to the gateroom and almost smacked into Harlan.
“Harlan! Have you seen—”
“I couldn't stop him. I couldn't stop him. You people are so wilful,” Harlan whimpered.
Daniel grasped the robot's shoulders. “Harlan! Harlan, where's Jack?”
“He went through the gate. I told him he mustn't. He didn't listen to me. He never listens to me.”
“It's okay, Harlan. Did you see where he went?”
“Yes, yes, yes, I did. You'll go after him and bring him back, yes?”
“Yes, Harlan, I will. Hurry, dial me out!” he urged, pushing the robot towards the DHD.
Harlan bustled over and began dialling. Halfway through he hesitated and turned worried eyes to Daniel.
“You aren't trying to leave me, too?”
“No, Harlan. I promise. I just want to bring Jack home.”
“Yes! Home! Home is here, no?” he asked anxiously.
“Yes. Home is here...with you.”
Harlan beamed at the confirmation and Daniel smiled in spite of his urgency.
“Oh, yes, yes. You must hurry,' he said, punching in the remaining coordinates.
Daniel's memory accessed the sequence and he breathed a little easier as he recalled the destination; an uninhabited but arid planet. Definitely not a place where you'd want to retire. Crawling away to die, however? The wormhole engaged and he shook off his morbid thoughts. He turned to Harlan.
“I'll bring him back.”
Harlan nodded nervously then winced as Daniel jumped through the event horizon.
Daniel emerged through the other side of the wormhole with a grace and ease that belied his memories.
“Eat your heart out, Daniel Jackson,” he said indulgently.
He quickly took in his surroundings, but could see no sign of Jack. He couldn't be far.
“Jack!” he bellowed.
Jack heard the yell and stopped in his tracks.
“Damn it, Daniel,” he muttered. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Jack! I know you're here! I'm not leaving until you talk to me!”
“For crying out loud.” Jack scrubbed the back of his head furiously, weighing his options. With Daniel there were never any options. He sighed and yelled, “Over here!” He sat down on a large boulder and waited.
“I am so not looking forward to this,” he grumbled.
Presently, Daniel came into his line of vision.
Oh yeah, he's pissed. Join the club, Danny boy.
Daniel approached Jack warily, clamping down on his emotions. Jack was wound tight and one wrong word could blow the whole thing.
“Jack,” he said casually.
Daniel sat down beside him, their shoulders touching. He gazed around and said, “Not one of our nicest planets.”
“No, but not our worst.”
“No.” After a pause Daniel said, “Why here?”
Jack shrugged. “Fits my mood.”
Daniel nodded then said, “You know we're not supposed to use the gate? Your order as I recall.”
“No, Daniel. His order. The real Jack O'Neill.”
Daniel glanced sideways and saw the antagonism in his friend's face.
“There's only one Jack O'Neill as far as I'm concerned, and I'm looking at him.”
Jack looked away. Away from the love and compassion in those damn, blue eyes.
“Why do you want to die, Jack?”
After a long pause, Jack said, “Because I don't want to live.”
Jack braced himself for the inevitable tirade, but Daniel remained silent. Jack waited...and waited.
“Damn it, Daniel. I tried. I can't live like this.”
“Three months, Jack? Three months out of what? Immortality? Gee, why'd you wait so long?”
Jack laughed. He couldn't help it. Daniel always took him by surprise.
“Alright, granted it's not a lot of time in the great scheme of things. But...”
“But?” Daniel prompted.
“Look, Carter's got a million little doodads to play with. You can find a flake of paint fascinating and write a treatise attesting to that fact. And Teal'c...hell, I don't know what Teal'c does. He meditates a lot and hangs out with Carter. What do I do? I think about the life that was stolen from me and twiddle my thumbs. Damnit, there's nothing for me to do, okay?” Great, now I just sound petulant.
“Excuse me”' Jack said, his hackles rising.
“You're full of shit, Jack. You can't tell me that you don't have any interests. I've seen your books. I've seen your music and your art.”
“Where, Daniel? Because I sure as hell haven't seen anything for three fucking months.”
“They're in you, Jack. They're in all of us,” Daniel said earnestly.
“Crap, don't give me that philosophical bullshit.”
“Jack,” Daniel sighed . “We've been on our own for three months. Distinct and separate from the others. God, we've just started a new phase of our lives,” he explained eagerly. “We can start over. Do anything. Be anything we put our minds to. No more memos. No more six am briefings. No more macaroni and cheese that tastes like chicken,'”he smiled.
“That's another thing,” Jack said gruffly. “I like to eat. I like to drink beer. I like a good shit in the morning. We can't do any of that. Just what the hell am I supposed to do all day never mind eternity?”
“This isn't living; it's existing.”
“It's what you make it to be,” Daniel insisted.
“For crying out loud, don't you ever get tired of listening to yourself?”
“Okay. Tell me what you've always wanted to do if you had the time,”Daniel challenged.
“Fishing!” Jack shot back.
Just like I'm doing right now. “Besides that,” Daniel said patiently.
“I don't know. Woodwork, maybe. Carving, pottery, that sort of thing,” Jack grumbled, waving his hands around.
“Is it so surprising?”
“Um, well, no. I just never thought of you as the, you know, artsy type.”
“Artsy?” Jack said indignantly.
“I mean it in a good way,” Daniel said defensively.
Jack's glare softened and he shook his head. You're good, Danny, but I'm not worth it.
“Go home, Danny,” he said gently.
“Not without you.”
Jack turned and looked wearily into the steady, blue gaze.
“Daniel, I appreciate your concern. I really do, but I can't do it. I don't want to do it.”
“You have responsibilities, Jack. Whether you like it or not, you're still our team leader. Millennia won't change that.”
“I don't want it.”
“So you want to die instead? Take the easy way out,” Daniel said angrily.
“Yes.” Damn it, don't push me, Daniel.
“You bastard,” Daniel whispered after a stony silence. “What about us? You didn't even say goodbye. Do you have any idea what your death would do to us?”
“We're robots, damn it! Can't you get that through that thick circuitry of yours?”
“I'm Daniel Jackson!”
“Yeah, yeah, husband of Sha're. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Well I'm sure she'd be very impressed with your new stamina if you can even get the damn thing up.”
The cruel words were out before Jack could stop them. The shocked look of hurt and betrayal in Daniel's eyes hit Jack like a kick in the gut. He looked away, ashamed and thoroughly disgusted with himself. He felt Daniel get up and the sense of loss was palpable.
“Daniel, I'm sorry,” he said quickly.
Daniel ignored his apology and walked away.
Jack didn't know what to do. Go after him and apologize? Let him go, and have his best friend hate him for eternity? “Oh, crap,” he muttered, sinking to the ground and burying his head in his arms. After a moment, he sat up and stared at his hands. Whaddya know? We can cry.
Jack heard the Stargate engage and felt sick at heart.
“You idiot. You don't have a heart as you so eloquently showed. It's your damn energy reserves. Shouldn't be long now, thank God.”
He lowered his head and tried to forget.
Jack felt a familiar presence and looked up in alarm.
“Don't hog the rock.”
Jack shifted over and smiled sadly as Daniel settled in beside him.
“I thought you left. I heard the gate.”
“I sent a note through to Sam and Teal'c...and Harlan. Saying goodbye...from both of us.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I'm not leaving.”
“For crying out loud, Daniel. You can't stay.”
“Because you'll—” Jack stopped, the words caught in his throat.
“Die? What's the big deal, Jack? I'm not real, remember? I can't die. I'll just 'wind down'.” Daniel looked at his watch. “Shouldn't be long now. So, what do you want to talk about?”
Jack stared incredulously at the young man beside him. “You're nuts,” he accused. “Certifiable.”
Daniel shrugged. “It's very simple, Jack. We go home together or we die here together. It's your choice.”
Jack shook his head in disbelief. Over a year ago, this man, a virtual stranger, had sacrificed his life to save a bitter, worn-out Air Force colonel. Damned if he wasn't doing it again. He closed his eyes in revelation. Daniel wasn't a robot. He was a true 'I'll do anything I can to help you, I'll even die for you' friend. Just like he always had been. Jack opened his eyes and turned to face his friend. Warm, blue eyes looked back. Patient and understanding. Jack placed his hand behind Daniel's neck and squeezed gently.
“Let's go home.”
A New Understanding
Colonel Jack O'Neill flinched at the image of his double looking back at him through the MALP transmission.
“I'll never get used to that,” he winced.
He listened reluctantly to 'himself' explain the situation on P3X 729, but when the young Juna, Darian, entered the picture, his interest went up a notch. The kid definitely looks spooked.
“I'm sorry about the one called Daniel,” the young man said solemnly to Jack's 'other'.
What the hell does that mean? Jack thought, his eyebrow arching.
His robot double soon answered that question.
“Our Daniel is dead,” he said, his features drawn and his voice subdued.
The anguished gasp from Harlan sent shivers down Jack's spine. Thank God, mine's safe, he selfishly thought. Another thought nagged persistently. Is he? You don't know how the hell he is. You let him go off with SG-15...again. How many times has he been on other teams? Crap. It's as if SG-1 has become a threesome, for crying out loud.
Jack shook his head and focused on the screen. His double explained, in an annoying and arrogant fashion, the dire situation his team and Darian's people were in, no thanks to the real SG-1.
Crap, am I that obnoxious?
Although Jack didn't want to have anything to do with Harlan and his robots, he knew they had no choice but to gate to the planet. He himself had assured Darian that they would be safe from the Goa'uld after the 'servants of Heru'ur were ousted. Who would have known Chronos would show up? Out with one snakehead and in with another.
SG-1 emerged from the event horizon onto P3X 729 and within seconds, Jack found himself in the bizarre and humiliating situation of arguing with himself over who was better. Before he knew it, he was actually grappling with his double.
“Sirs. As much as I'd like to see how this plays out,” Major Samantha Carter inquired, simultaneously amused and disgusted by the macho display, “don't we have something more important to do?” Like a couple of peacocks.
There was no time for male bravado. SG-1 had to work fast while Chronos was still reeling from the shock of the discovery of the SG-1 robots, and the Juna were questioning the truth of Chronos's claim to be a god. Chagrined, the Jacks released their respective headlocks and glared at each other, the words 'later' etched in their eyes.
Jack watched his double in action and begrudgingly admitted that he was pretty damn good. But then he's me. Sort of.
During a brief respite, Jack resumed his observations of 'himself'.
The other Jack did not take kindly to the scrutiny.
"What are you looking at?" he sneered.
"Lose the attitude, pal," Jack warned.
"Or what? I'm stronger, remember?"
"Yeah, right. And faster and bet-ter," Jack mocked, throwing the robot's words back in his face. "And while we're at it," Jack said, glaring, "what the hell happened to Daniel?"
Jack couldn't miss the flinch from his double as his words hit home.
"I couldn't save him. He-he wouldn't let me," he said, looking away.
"Wouldn't let you?" Jack said, puzzled. "You mean you were there? You watched it happen?" he accused.
"Yes! We were all there."
"How could you just let it happen?" Jack roared.
"I don't know! You tell me!" his double spat. "It was Daniel, for crying out loud. Too many lives would've been lost. He...he wouldn't let me," he repeated helplessly, waving Jack off.
Jack stared, the words sinking into his heart and his gut. Just like Daniel. Crap, this is too weird.
Jack looked guiltily at the hunched shoulders and said, "I'm sorry."
"What, for being an ass?"
"Look, I'm trying to apologize," Jack explained. "I know how I'd feel if Daniel...if my Daniel...didn't make it. But then you already know that," he said softly, sitting down wearily.
His double turned to Jack. His face softened, and he said quietly, "Nem."
"Well, it doesn't get any easier," he sighed, sitting down also.
"No, it sure as hell doesn't," Jack agreed.
His double raised his eyebrows, an unspoken question in his eyes.
"He's come close way too many times," Jack said.
"He's a handful," the robot said sadly.
"Tell me about it," Jack said ruefully. "There was this one time where I left him behind," he said hesitantly, surprised at his own admission.
The look of compassion and understanding in the other's eyes spurred
Jack's confession. "He was hit by a staff blast watching our backs. His chest…his chest was all…" Jack waved his hand futilely, the nightmarish memory haunting him still.
"He made you leave him."
"Yeah," Jack whispered, his features clouded. "We were all supposed to die. We got out. We…I left him behind….to die alone."
"But he didn't die. What happened?"
"Damn kid dragged himself to a sarcophagus," Jack smiled fondly.
"Daniel's always been very resourceful," his double said wistfully. "I wish your Daniel was here."
"So do I." That's it, Daniel. The other teams can get their own damn genius.
"Why do you let him go with other teams?"
"His, uh, knowledge is rare. Everyone wants him," Jack said awkwardly.
"I can't imagine letting my Daniel go off like that. He can be frustrating as hell sometimes with all that 'meaning of life' stuff, but I sure as hell wanted him at my side."
"Yeah," Jack said softly, wondering what kind of a relationship had developed between their doubles.
"Did he find Sha're?"
"Yes, but he couldn't save her," Jack said grimly. "Ammonet tried to kill him with the ribbon device. Teal'c had to kill her or Daniel would've been dead."
A dark shadow passed over the robot's features. "At least mine didn't have to suffer that," he murmured.
"Yeah. Oh, hey, Skaara's free," Jack said, hoping to brighten his double's mood a little.
"Yeah," Jack smiled at the other man's look.
"Daniel did some fast talking with the Tollan and Klorel was removed."
"The Tollan helped you?"
"Well, they did owe us. Still stingy with sharing but they came through, thanks to Daniel."
"Skaara's really free of that damn snake?" his double asked hopefully.
"Yep, and as cocky as ever," Jack grinned.
"That's great news. Thanks for telling me."
Jack shrugged. "You deserve to know."
A strange smile appeared on the other's face.
"What?" Jack asked.
"I was just remembering something Daniel told me. Something that your Daniel had told him."
"Do I want to hear this?" Jack asked warily.
"Knowing you as I do, no."
"But," Jack prompted.
"But I think it may help, and I owe both Daniels a great deal."
Jack blew out his cheeks. "Okay, shoot."
"He said that you were a proud man; a man of action. He said we were both warriors and that being confined on Harlan's world was going to drive me nuts. He was afraid that I'd withdraw and shut myself off from my friends."
Jack shifted restlessly on his feet. He had tried to imagine himself in his double's place years ago and the picture wasn't pretty.
"He told my Daniel to be patient," he said softly, "and that no matter how bitter or how hateful I might become, he would never find a truer friend than Jack O'Neill."
God, Danny. You got that all backwards.
"He said, 'Help him. Watch his back. He won't like it and he may fight you every step of the way, but it'll be worth it in the end.'"
Jack swallowed hard and looked away. Jesus, Daniel. He looked back at his double and tried to ignore the pain in the alien brown eyes.
"When did he tell you this?"
The other smiled. "What you really want to know is what state did I get myself into that would cause Daniel to reveal something so personal?"
"No," Jack protested quickly. "I just—" Jack shut his mouth. He knew there was no point in lying to this Jack because as much as the idea irked him, this Jack knew him inside out.
"I was going to kill myself," he said quietly. "Gate to another planet and never come back."
"He went after you," Jack said.
"Yep. Found me and wouldn't leave. Said, 'We go home together or we die here together. It's your choice'."
Jack smiled. "He would have done it, too."
"Why do you think I came back? He could be a real pain in the ass, but Daniel Jackson was the truest friend I ever had. Watching him die was … well, let's just say that the best part of me died along with him."
Jack's heart ached in sympathy for his double's sorrow. He thought of his own life without Daniel, and he couldn't imagine it. He wouldn't imagine it.
"Anyhow, after Carter developed these power packs," he said, smacking his midriff, "we decided, as a team, to explore other worlds. Danny taught me and Carter how to speak and read Goa'uld and we—"
"Wait a minute," Jack interrupted. "You speak Goa'uld?"
"Don't you?" his other asked, surprised.
"Daniel didn't teach you?"
"No. Well, um, he tried but, you know," Jack explained weakly.
"Interesting," his double murmured.
Crap. The fake ones got along better than we do.
"Chinese checkers," the other Jack said, a twinkle in his eyes.
"Chinese checkers. Daniel loves it. Loved it," he said, the twinkle gone.
"I-I didn't know that."
Jack stared at the floor, finding it increasingly difficult to look at his robot self.
"Do you love him?"
Jack's head whipped up. "What the hell kind of question is that?" he snapped.
"I knew you'd say that," his double smirked.
Before Jack could respond, they were interrupted.
"Colonel, uh, Colonels," Sam amended, entering the room. "We're ready to move out."
"Thanks, Carter. We'll be right there," Jack said distractedly.
"Yes, sir," she replied and left the two colonels, a puzzled look on her face.
"Get him back, Colonel," his double said simply. "You belong together."
Jack watched himself leave and then rubbed his face wearily. "Crap, now I've got two Daniel Jacksons driving me nuts."
A subdued Jack, Teal'c and Carter came through the wormhole, each accompanied by a dead weight slung over their shoulders; their robot double.
Harlan, horrified at the sight of the bodies, quickly moved from one body to another vainly looking for signs of life.
"Colonel?" General Hammond inquired, hiding the alarm in his voice.
"Teal'c needs medical attention, sir," Jack said, quickly kneeling at the Jaffa's side and easing the burden off the injured man's shoulders.
"I'm on it," Dr. Janet Fraiser said briskly.
Jack stood and faced Hammond. "Chronos is dead, sir, and we have a mothership."
Jack turned to face the raw grief in Harlan's eyes. "I'm sorry. We couldn't bring Daniel's body back. They … they died bravely." He looked back at Hammond who was still trying to wrap his mind around the news that they had a mothership in their possession.
"When's Daniel due back, sir?"
"In three days, Colonel."
Jack nodded and watched Fraiser and her team leave with Teal'c. He looked back at the dead SG-1, his double's last words weighing heavily on his soul: 'Are we still so far from real to you?'
Not by a long shot, my friend.
Jack shivered and Hammond said quickly, "Colonel, you and your team report to the infirmary. I'll take care of things here. We'll debrief at 1100 hours."
"Yes, sir," Jack said. He looked at Harlan hovering amongst the bodies, clucking and whimpering. "I'm sorry," he repeated then hurried from the gateroom.
Jack paced nervously, breathing down Sgt. Davis's neck every few minutes, an act he had been performing for the last hour.
"No, sir. Not since you last asked me three minutes ago … sir," Davis said, wincing at his words and hoping his tone was at least respectful.
"Colonel, they're only overdue by ten minutes," Hammond explained calmly, rescuing the sergeant from Jack's icy glare.
"So far," Jack muttered, going back to his pacing. Daniel, so help me, if you've gotten yourself hurt or killed, I'm going to beat the living crap out of you.
Ten minutes later, an eternity to Jack and Sgt. Davis, the 'gate sprang to life.
"Off-world activation," Davis announced.
Jack stood, rooted to the spot. 'Do you love him?' Damn right I do. He's my best friend.
"Incoming traveller." Please, Dr. Jackson, let it be you.
"Come on, come on," Jack muttered under his breath.
"It's SG-15, sir," Davis reported jubilantly.
"Yes! Piece of cake, Sergeant," Jack said clapping him on "Told you there was nothing to worry about."
"Open the iris, son," Hammond ordered, smiling.
Jack hurried into the gateroom and waited anxiously behind the armed guards.
Finally, the members of SG-15, plus Daniel, emerged through the event horizon. Everyone looked healthy and intact.
"Jack?" Daniel said in surprise as he came down the ramp. "Is something up?"
"No," Jack said, taking Daniel's gear from him. "I just missed you," he said quietly so only Daniel could hear.
"Oh, come on, is it that big of a shock?"
"No, well, um, yes," Daniel said hesitantly.
"Look," Jack said flustered, "let's get something to eat after Fraiser checks you out, okay? You can tell me what you've been up to."
"Um.sure. Jack, did something happen while I was gone?" Daniel asked worriedly.
"Yeah, but everything's okay now, even Harlan."
"Harlan?" Daniel said, furrowing his brow. "You mean Harlan, as in?" and Daniel contorted his fingers into the robot's quirky salute.
"The one and only."
"Later, Danny. Let's get you checked out," Jack said, laying a hand on the younger man's shoulders and urging him towards the door.
Daniel allowed himself to be led out. Danny? Hell, Jack, I can't remember the last time you called me that.
Jack and Daniel carried their respective trays to a quiet corner of the commissary. As they ate, Daniel recounted his time with SG-15. Jack listened with an attentiveness that unnerved the archaeologist.
"Jack, what the hell happened while I was away? Why was Harlan here?" he demanded.
Jack closed his eyes and took a deep breath and Daniel was dismayed to detect a shudder run through the older man.
"Jack?" Daniel said, leaning forward towards his friend, concern in his eyes.
"It's just.not easy to talk about," Jack admitted, looking down at his hands.
"Is it … is it something to do with our doubles?" Daniel asked.
Jack raised his eyes and a shadow of pain darkened his face.
"They're dead," Daniel whispered.
"Yes," Jack confirmed, thankful for his young friend's intuitiveness.
"Oh, God. Poor Harlan," Daniel murmured. "What happened?"
Daniel listened in awe and horror as Jack explained recent events. It was obvious that Jack was still visibly upset and would be for some time.
"You-you watched yourself die?"
Jack smiled grimly. "Yeah. The power pack was drained, but it was like he just … let go." His team was dead. Why the hell would he want to go on?
"But surely Harlan can-"
"Daniel, there can't be two SG-1's gating to planets."
"I know, but—"
"Danny," Jack said, shaking his head.
"Alright," he conceded, "but what about Harlan? What's he going to do? They were his family, for God's sake. He must be heartbroken."
"He was," Jack replied, a sad smile on his face.
"Carter helped him reprogram himself. The last four years never happened."
Daniel's eyes widened. "He agreed?"
"It was his idea, Daniel. He said he couldn't go on without them."
Daniel sighed and reached for his coffee. He stared into the inky depths and said softly, "I know how he felt. You do too," he added, looking up at Jack.
Jack nodded as his own memories of losing family and friends assailed his mind.
"You, me, Carter and Teal'c; we're family. We have each other. Harlan didn't have any one to help him with his loss. It was the kindest thing to do."
"They deserve to be remembered," Daniel said solemnly.
"They will, Danny," Jack said earnestly. "We'll remember. The Juna will remember."
"I like Harlan," Daniel said simply. "Maybe we could check in on him sometime?"
"Sure. I don't think General Hammond would have a problem with that."
"How are Sam and Teal'c dealing with this? With their deaths."
"They're okay," Jack said. "Teal'c's killed Chronos, who was doing his damndest to kill Junior and Teal'c."
"Teal'c's injured? You didn't tell me that."
"He's fine. So's Junior. Carter was a little shaken, but she's okay too."
Right, she's a soldier. She doesn't have a choice. "And you?"
A flicker of pain flashed in the dark, brown eyes. "I learned that they were no different from us," Jack said simply. "They died doing what they believed in."
Daniel studied Jack's face carefully. Whatever had happened had clearly changed his friend's mind over the existence of their doubles. Selfishly, he thanked the gods for not making him a witness to his own execution. Regretfully, he wished he could have talked to his double. Caught up on 'old times' so to speak.
"I wonder what other planets they visited," Daniel mused, changing the mood. "Are we going to return to a planet we've never been to?"
"You tell us," Jack said.
"Daniel," Jack smiled patiently. "What do you do?"
The young archaeologist looked more confused than ever.
"I mean, what's your job? What do you do when we visit tombs and things?" Jack clarified.
Daniel looked strangely at Jack and then opened his eyes wide.
"Journals! I-he kept journals," he exclaimed.
"Lots and lots of journals," Jack amended. "We feel, and Hammond agrees, that you should be the one to look at them."
Daniel's exuberance faded to doubt and an uncomfortable feeling of voyeurism.
"Jack, he had a whole different life these last four years. His memories and experiences, they-re-they're his, not mine."
"Daniel, I really don't think he'd mind. Would you mind if your positions were reversed?"
"Well, no, but…" Daniel frowned, unsure of his feelings.
Jack stood up and asked, "More coffee?"
"Um, yes, please."
Jack went to refill their mugs while Daniel's conscience tried to come to grips with what Jack was proposing. The idea was unsettling but enormously intriguing.
What did they see? How did they function as a team? They spent 24 hours a day with each other for four years. My God, how did Jack and I get along?
Tell you what," Jack said, sitting down with the coffees. "Why don't you come over to my place tonight for some real food and we'll talk about it? See if we can put your mind at ease."
Daniel's face brightened at the prospect. "I'd like that, Jack. Thank you," he said, his tone betraying his surprise.
"Maybe we'll even have time for a few games."
"Jack, one chess game can take us hours, days, hell, even months," Daniel reminded him.
"Who said anything about chess? I'm talking about Chinese checkers."
"You do know how to play it, don't you?"
"Well, yes but—"
"Good, cause I don't have a clue," Jack grinned.
"God, I haven't played that in years," Daniel murmured. He looked suspiciously at Jack and asked, "How come we've never played before?"
"I never had it before."
"Why do you have it now?"
"I heard you liked it," Jack shrugged.
"Who told you? I've never told anyone," Daniel said, totally perplexed.
"A friend," Jack said enigmatically.
Daniel stared at his friend, sensed something private and promptly dropped his line of questioning.
"You'll love it, Jack. You might even win a game," he said cheekily.
"You're gonna eat those words, Jackson," Jack grinned. "Oh, and speaking of words," he said hesitantly, "maybe you could teach me some Goa'uld?"
"What?" Daniel exclaimed, almost spilling his coffee.
"Just a few words," he added hastily. "You know, every few days? Could come in handy."
"Are you feeling okay, Jack?"
"Daniel," Jack said, mock hurt in his voice.
"I mean, you are Jack, um. my Jack, right?"
"Yes, I'm your Jack and you're my Daniel," he said softly. Crap, does that sound sappy or what?
Daniel cocked his head as an overwhelming sense of goodwill enveloped him like a heavy, comforting blanket.
Smiling shyly, he raised his mug. "I'll drink to that."
Jack smiled and raised his own mug. "To all the Jack and Daniels in this world and every other reality."
Daniel took a sip then made a noise that sounded like a cross between a sneeze and a cough.
"Are you okay?" Jack asked worriedly, standing up, arms ready to administer the Heimlich manoeuvre.
"Jack, that was a Goa'uld toast," Daniel laughed.
"That was a language," Jack said incredulously, sitting down. "What the hell did it mean?"
"Well, the closest literal translation would be 'up your snorkel'."
Jack narrowed his eyes. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Damn right. You did say you wanted to learn Goa'uld?"
"Yeah, but today? We have to start today?"
A faint look of hurt resignation clouded Daniel's beaming features and Jack's heart clenched. Crap, you're doing it already. Pushing him away.
"Okay, but can we start with single words first?" Jack asked, desperate to get things back on track.
The look vanished from Daniel's face and his eyes brightened.
"Okay, the first word of the day is 'kree'."
"I know that one," Jack said eagerly. "Here, write it out for me," he said, pushing a napkin towards Daniel.
"You want to learn to speak, read, and write Goa'uld?"
"The whole nine yards. Think you can handle it?" Jack challenged.
"Well, my hair will probably be greyer than yours," he smiled, "but, yeah, I think I can handle it, and I know you can."
Jack smiled, shamefully pleased with Daniel's faith. "Thank you."
"It won't be easy," Jack warned.
"You never are," Daniel agreed.
"But it'll be worth it, right?" Jack asked worriedly.
Daniel thought of all the hours they'd have to spend together and smiled.
"Every penny," he said.
"Penny? You mean I have to pay for this? I thought you were my friend?"
"I am your friend, Jack," Daniel said patiently. "And because I'm your friend, I know you. So, for every week that you don't learn something new, you have to put five dollars in the kitty."
"Kitty? What kitty?"
"The kitty that's going to pay for our exorbitant, celebratory dinner when you're sufficiently fluent in Goa'uld to tell a system lord to 'shove it where the sun don't shine'."
Jack smiled at the thought and then shook his head. "Five bucks won't buy much of a dinner."
Daniel released a long insufferable sigh and raised his pen.
"Ready, fly-boy?" he challenged, his pen poised over the napkin.
"Bring it on, Professor."
A New Life
Dr. Daniel Jackson carefully returned the journals to his shelf. He had been reluctant to read the diaries left by his double, but he couldn't deny the usefulness or necessity of such an intrusion. Jack was right. They did have to know where the SG-1 robots had gone, not only for their own safety and peace of mind, but for the safety of other alien cultures.
Daniel sat back in his chair, his brow furrowed in thought. The journals had been informative, but something wasn't quite right. The feel was all wrong. The early journals Daniel could see writing himself. They were concise, if not overly descriptive, and interspersed with personal anecdotes of his friends. It was the later journals that concerned him, however. They were too clinical and impersonal. Daniel couldn't put his finger on it, but it was almost as if the robot Daniel was trying to protect himself, or someone else.
"Something's missing," Daniel murmured.
On a whim, he picked up the telephone and dialled.
"Hello, this is Dr. Jackson. I'm fine, thank you. Yes, I was wondering if I received all the cartons from P3X 989. Yes, I'll hold."
Daniel waited patiently and waved a hungry-looking Jack O'Neill into his office.
"I'm on hold," he explained, as Jack sat down and immediately picked up a fragile-looking artifact.
Daniel winced and turned away as Jack nonchalantly tossed the object back and forth between his hands.
Jack grinned and put it down, having achieved the desired reaction from his teammate.
"Yes, I'm still here. Really? Yes, I'd appreciate that. Thank you, thank you very much."
"What's up?" Jack asked.
"That was Storage and Records. Apparently, I didn't receive all the boxes from P3X 989."
"Uh, yeah," Daniel said hesitantly.
"I know. It's weird isn't it? I still get shivers thinking about ourselves out there...doing stuff," Jack said, waving his hands around.
Daniel absently picked up the figurine Jack had been playing with, turning it over in his hands. "They were very close," he said quietly.
"Close to what?" Jack asked, reaching for a shiny object.
"To each other," Daniel said, valiantly refraining from rescuing the obsidian carving from Jack's overzealous fingers.
"Well, why wouldn't they be? It's not as if they had anyone else, other than Harlan. Besides, we're close. I mean...all of us. You and me. Right?" he queried, placing the object down carefully.
"Yeah," Daniel smiled. "It's not like we have a lot of options either. 'Hi, I'm Daniel Jackson. I visit other planets for a living. What do you do?'"
"Are you saying you're tired of my company?" Jack asked, feigning hurt.
"Not at all. It's just that sometimes...you know," Daniel said, blushing.
"Believe me, I know. Change hands," Jack suggested helpfully. "That sometimes makes it...you know...different."
"Ah, yeah. Thanks for the advice, Jack."
"You know, we could always just say screw it and get ourselves a couple of hookers."
"I don't think so, Jack."
"Oh, come on, you're rich," Jack teased.
"Money's got nothing to do with it. It's the whole paying for sex thing," Daniel said, waving his hand. "I don't want to have to pay someone to love me." Daniel shrugged and ducked his head.
Jack's heart did an unexpected flutter, and he had the insane urge to tell Daniel that he loved him, and he'd even do it for free.
Daniel suddenly looked up and smiled, and damned if Jack's heart didn't jump again. Even more disturbing was the unexpected stirring of his cock.
"My glucose level must be down," Daniel said glibly. "You ready for lunch?"
"Uh, yeah. Don't you have to wait for that box to be delivered?" Crap. Your glucose level may be going down, but I definitely have something that's coming up.
"Oh, right. How could I forget?"
"Glucose?" Jack suggested, grateful that he didn't have to stand up at the moment.
Daniel snickered and grabbed a piece of paper. He jotted a few things down and passed it to Jack.
Jack looked at it and frowned. Hesitantly, he said, "We come in peace and where's the bathroom?"
The brilliant smile aimed in his direction melted Jack's heart and emboldened his libido. Oh crap, what the hell's going on with me?
"You keep this up, Jack, and I'm going to have to start putting money in the kitty," Daniel said, pleasure radiating off him in waves.
Jack smiled and shifted uncomfortably. If I keep this up, I'm going to die of embarrassment. "I have a good teacher," he said.
Daniel blushed in surprise and gratitude, and Jack breathed in deep. Oh, yeah. Definite hard-on. Not good. Not good at all.
"Excuse me, Dr. Jackson? I have the box you requested," an airman announced.
"Yes, thank you," Daniel said, launching himself from his seat. He quickly signed for the item and brought it back to his desk.
"I can go on my own," Jack said casually, "if you're anxious to check out the contents."
Daniel looked up from his delivery. Tempted as he was by the offer, he knew it would be rude to agree, but more than that, he didn't want to. He looked forward to his time with Jack. Even though he worked with the man, sometimes days and nights at a time, Daniel cherished the private times they had together. Their friendship had been pretty rocky this past year, but ever since the tragedy with their doubles, things had been going great. Daniel did not want to do anything to jeopardize that.
"Not at all. Come on, let's go. There's probably nothing there anyways," Daniel said dismissively.
"Well, just open the box and take a peek," Jack suggested. "Otherwise, your mind is going to be a million miles away."
"You like me for my mind?" Daniel teased.
"For crying out loud, just open the damn box," he groused. It's not your mind I'm thinking about right now, Daniel. Crap, I'm in big trouble here. Think about something else. Think about … think about … think about those incredibly long fingers undoing my belt. Shitshitshit.
"What?" Jack snapped a little too harshly.
"You look." Daniel frowned, unable to find the right words. "Are you okay?"
Jesus, don't give me that concerned look. Why the hell is this happening now?
"A bit of a gut ache," Jack winced, bending over and giving his unruly member a vicious squeeze. "Ouch! Shit! Okay. Ah, yes, that's better," he gasped, tears springing to his eyes.
"God, Jack," Daniel said, jumping to his feet.
"I'm all right, I'm all right," Jack said quickly, waving his hands. "It's passed."
"Maybe you have an ulcer?" Daniel suggested, reluctantly sitting down. "You should get it checked out."
"Trust me, Daniel. It's not an ulcer. So, come on, what's in the box?"
"Oh, um, let's see," Daniel said, peering inside the box. "Some drawings, a few carvings. Ooh, look at this."
Jack smiled indulgently as the young archaeologist oohed and aahed over his treasures.
"What, no books?"
"No," he said disappointed. I was so sure. "Oh, wow."
"What's that?" Jack asked, as Daniel pulled out a wooden box.
"It looks like a puzzle box," Daniel murmured, turning the object over in his hands. "And there's something in here," he added, shaking it gently.
"Hey, I always wanted to make one of those," Jack enthused.
"Really?" Daniel asked, blue eyes staring over the top of his glasses.
"Yeah. Carving, pottery, that sort of thing. I always wanted to do that."
"So, why haven't you?"
"No time," Jack shrugged.
"Right," Daniel murmured, forcing his attention back to the object in his hands. His eyes widened in astonishment. "I'll be damned," he whispered.
"What?" Jack asked, leaning forward.
Daniel looked at Jack and smiled. He handed the box to Jack and said, "Looks like you found the time."
Jack took the box and turned it over. He saw 'J. O'Neill' carved into the wood. He whistled in admiration.
"Damn, I'm good. So, do you know how to open it?" Jack asked, handing it back to Daniel.
"Well, I used to have one when I was a kid. I doubt very much if, hey, you made it. You open it," he smiled, thrusting the box towards Jack.
Jack studied the box thoughtfully. After a couple of failed attempts, he was rewarded with a soft thud. "Oh, joy. A book."
Jack smiled as Daniel greedily snatched up the book.
"What is it? A private diary or something?"
Daniel looked at a note attached to the cover of the book and furrowed his brow.
"What? What does it say?" Jack asked curiously.
"It, um, it says 'To Daniel Jackson, the original one'."
"Original one? I guess that means you."
"I guess," Daniel said absently. He opened the book and his eyes widened in shock. "My God," he whispered.
"This…this language. It's not real. At least, not all of it."
"You're not making any sense."
"Sorry. I mean, it's a made-up language. Sort of."
"You're losing me, Daniel," Jack griped.
Daniel blushed and explained," When I was a kid, I made up my own language."
"Now, why doesn't that surprise me?" Jack smiled.
"It's written in Abydonian, Mayan, and, um."
"Danielese?" Jack suggested.
Daniel smiled and nodded.
"So, can you read it?"
"Jack, I wrote it."
"Oh, right. Well?"
"Well, it's, um, you're right. A private diary," Daniel said, as his eyes widened in disbelief.
"What?" Jack demanded.
"What did you just read? Your eyebrows damn well just jumped off your head there."
"It's, um, private," Daniel said uncomfortably.
"For crying out loud, Daniel. Is it about me?"
"No," he said hurriedly. "It's, uh, about Teal'c."
"Teal'c? What about Teal'c?"
"I just picked a page at random, Jack. You're going to have to give me more time. I'm a little rusty with the, um, language."
Daniel flipped a few more pages and blushed to his toenails.
"Now what?" Jack demanded, feeling his wayward libido rising to the occasion again. Crap, has he always looked like that when he's embarrassed?
"This can wait," Daniel said, tossing the book back into the box and shoving the whole thing under his desk. "Come on, let's eat," he said, heading to the door.
"Okay, okay. Keep your pants on," Jack said, getting up stiffly. Argh. This can't be happening to me.
"Daniel? Oh, Danny?" Jack sing-songed.
"Huh? Oh, I'm sorry. Did you say something?"
"For crying out loud, I've had more stimulating conversations with my toenail clippings."
"You talk to your toenails?"
Jack glared and said, "It's that damn diary, isn't it? You've been acting weird, correction, weirder ever since you looked at it."
"Jack, I just glanced at it," Daniel said defensively.
"And now you can't stop thinking about it. You do remember that we're going off-world tomorrow?"
"I haven't forgotten," Daniel said testily.
"Good. I need you to be with me one hundred percent, Daniel. If your mind's on that damn diary-"
"It won't be," Daniel insisted.
"Okay," Jack acquiesced. "That's all I need to hear."
"Fine," Daniel muttered, poking at his meatloaf.
Sheesh. Touchy, Jack thought sulkily as he savagely attacked his potatoes.
"What?" he muttered, stabbing the fork into his mouth.
"How much do hookers cost?"
Jack choked and spit out his mouthful of potato.
"Christ, Daniel," he gasped.
"Sorry," Daniel snickered.
Jack wiped the tears from his eyes, took a long drink of water, and glared at his friend.
"You did that on purpose."
"Well, maybe," Daniel conceded, failing to hide a smile.
"Bastard," Jack said lightly. "Just for that I should make you eat these potatoes I spewed out."
"Don't be gross, Jack. Sam and Teal'c are coming this way," Daniel said in a hushed tone.
Jack leaned forward and whispered, "And your point is?"
"Hey, Sam, Teal'c," Daniel said after a quick warning look at Jack.
"Mind if we join you?" Sam asked.
"Of course not, Major. Pull up a stump," Jack said. "Want some potatoes? Ouch! You just kicked me," Jack accused, glaring at Daniel.
"And your point is?" Daniel challenged sweetly.
"Perhaps we should sit at another table, Major Carter," Teal'c suggested.
"Nonsense," Jack said. "We're a team. We eat together, work together, play together, and sleep together, um, sort of, sometimes. Well, you know what I mean," he explained awkwardly as three sets of eyes and raised eyebrows were directed his way.
"Eat your potatoes, Jack," Daniel said dryly.
"No thanks," Jack said, pushing his plate aside. "Gotta watch the waistline. Once on the lips, forever on the hips. Right, Carter?"
"Why are you asking me, sir?" Sam asked indignantly.
"I don't know. You're a woman. You know these things," he said helplessly.
"Are you saying Major Carter has a weight problem, O'Neill?" Teal'c inquired.
"Oh, boy," Daniel murmured, studiously concentrating on his plate.
"Yes, I'd like to hear the answer to that, Colonel."
"Oh, for crying out loud. It's just an expression, isn't it?"
"But why me? Why not Daniel?" she asked reasonably.
"Daniel's what?" she pressed. "Slim? Lean? Trim?"
"Ye-es," Jack said hesitantly.
"And I'm what? Fat? Pudgy? Sloppy?"
"Carter, damn it. You have a very nice, um, figure. Probably not an ounce of fat on you."
"Thank you, sir."
"You're welcome. Oh my, look at the time," Jack said, glancing at his watch. "Gotta run. Catch you kids later," he said, making a hasty retreat.
"Do you think I was a little hard on him?" Sam grinned.
"Nah, builds character," Daniel said. "Although, we all better be on our best behaviour tomorrow," he said, standing up. "I'm getting some more coffee. Can I get you guys anything?"
"No thanks, I'm fine," Sam said.
"As am I, Daniel Jackson."
Daniel nodded and went to refill his mug. As he stood in line waiting his turn, he observed Sam and Teal'c talking comfortably together, their heads almost touching. His thoughts returned to the diary and the brief snippet he had read. He had told Jack it had been about Teal'c, which was true. What he hadn't said was that Sam was also mentioned, and that the other Daniel had referred to them as lovers.
"Dr. Jackson, is there something wrong?"
"What? Oh, Siler. No, no, I was just thinking about something."
"Well, it's your turn," Sgt. Siler said, indicating the lack of bodies in front of Daniel.
"Sorry," he mumbled and quickly filled his mug.
SG-1 returned from their latest mission intact, apart from a few minor scrapes and bruises. Dr. Janet Fraiser systematically examined and then released, Sam, Teal'c, Jack, and lastly, Daniel.
Jack was just putting his boots on when Daniel entered the locker room.
"A-okay?" Jack asked.
"Fit as a fiddle," Daniel sighed, sinking down onto the bench next to Jack.
"You sure? You look, I don't know, kind of down," Jack said.
"I'm just tired. I feel like I could sleep for days."
"Go home," Jack ordered.
"I've still got my report -"
"That can wait. I'll talk to Hammond."
"Jack, I can-"
"I'll drive you myself," Jack threatened.
Daniel opened his mouth to protest and then snapped it shut.
"Okay, I'll go," he smiled. "Thanks."
Daniel kicked off his shoes and began fumbling with his buttons, his eyes half closed.
Jack stifled the urge to help him.
The young man looked up questioningly.
"Crap, you didn't get any sleep at all while we were off-world, did you?"
Daniel shrugged guiltily and averted his eyes.
"It's that damn diary, isn't it? You took it with you," he accused.
"I haven't looked at it since I first got it," Daniel protested. I just can't stop thinking about it and I'm afraid to read it.
"Okay," Jack conceded, "but let me know when you're ready. I'll take you home."
"Don't start with me, Daniel," Jack warned, his finger raised.
Daniel stared defiantly, smiled and said, "Yes, sir."
Jack raised his eyebrows, considered Daniel's military response and shook his head.
"Nah, doesn't sound right."
"I tried," Daniel shrugged.
Daniel watched Jack leave and once again reminded himself how lucky he was to have the veteran soldier as a friend. Jack genuinely cared about him, not just as a valued member of his team, but also as an individual. Daniel had often thought what he would do without Jack. It wasn't that he liked to think about such a scenario, but sometimes a situation would warrant it. Case in point, Edora. Jack had been lost for three months. Not lost per se, but he had been lost to Daniel, and that had scared the hell out of the young archaeologist. After losing Sha're, Daniel had grabbed onto Jack O'Neill like a lifeline. Life hadn't been kind to either of them and Daniel liked to think that their mutual needs had drawn them to each other. With Jack's unflagging help and determination, Daniel had found a home at the SGC, and a family with SG-1. The four years he'd been at the SGC had not been easy ones. All four members of SG-1 had been dealt severe emotional blows, but the Fates had been especially unkind to Daniel Jackson.
"Jesus, Jackson. Get a grip," Daniel admonished himself. Sinking into melancholy would only earn him a one-way ticket to the infirmary, or worse, MacKenzie. Why am I even thinking about these things? Jack and I are tight. Tighter than we've been for a long time. Is it the diary? Why am I afraid to read it? Sam and Teal'c were lovers. Okay, what's wrong with that? That's good, isn't it? That means Jack and Sam weren't, right? Maybe. Maybe Sam, the other Sam, boinked them all.
"Boinked?" Daniel choked aloud. "Crap, I've been hanging around Jack too long. God, Sam would kill me."
Muttering to himself, Daniel shed the last of his clothes and padded into the shower room. He set the water temperature to a nice hot/warm. He wanted a long shower. He had his own soap, but noticed Jack had left his in the stall. He looked down at his bar, which was much smaller than Jack's was. He smiled guiltily. Leaving his soap outside, safe and dry, he immersed himself in a nice long shower, using liberal amounts of Jack's soap.
The stall smelled like Jack and he found that oddly comforting. He felt safe. As the steam enveloped him, he felt another surge of melancholy. He missed Jack. The man had only been gone twenty minutes, but Daniel missed him. Daniel pondered this revelation as he soaped up his genitals. In fact, he realized with a start, he was spending an inordinate amount of time washing that particular region of his anatomy while thinking about Jack.
"Shit!" Daniel yelped and dropped the soap, his eyes fixed on his enormous and painful erection. Oh, God. What the hell is this? I'm thinking about Jack and this happens? Oh, shit. It must be something else. It's been a long time that's all. I just got carried away with the lather. And the stroking. Yeah, that's it. Whew, scared me for a second. God, what would Jack think? Wait a minute. Why is it still there? Why isn't it going down? And why am I thinking of Jack going down on me?
"Oh, God," Daniel moaned, as he pumped his penis furiously, squirting out his release.
"Shitshitshit," he moaned, sinking to the floor, the strong jets of water washing away his tears and his shame.
Daniel reached under his desk and pulled out the box from P3X 989. He removed the diary and the puzzle box and placed them on his desk. He caressed the soft grain of the wooden box and smiled wistfully. Did Jack make this for me? I mean, the other me. The other Jack. He placed the box down gently and picked up the diary. He stared at its cover, 'To Daniel Jackson, the original one'. He stuffed it into his jacket pocket. He'd read it at home. Not here . He glanced at the phone. He knew he should phone Jack. He was supposed to phone Jack. He reached out, his fingers hovering over the handset. He dropped his hand back to his side with a sigh. He couldn't face Jack. Not after his debasement in the shower.
The phone rang and he snatched it up before thinking. Damn. He hesitated slightly before answering.
"Oh, uh, Jack. Um-"
"Sounds like you spent too much time in the shower there, Danny. Shrivelled up the brain cells."
Daniel winced and said, "Sorry, I was thinking about something."
"This is a surprise," Jack said good-naturedly.
Daniel smiled in spite of his discomfort.
"Jack, you don't have to give me a ride."
"I want to. Stay there. I'll come and get you," Jack said and hung up the phone before another protest could be voiced.
Daniel slowly put the phone down. He sounded normal. That's a good thing. He doesn't know. Know what? That I'm in love with him. Am I? Is that what this is? Love? Lust? Curiosity? God, just don't think about it.
Shaking his head, Daniel sat down and began to work on his report. He had all night to think about the other.
"Now, you're not going to stay up all night and read that diary, are you?" Jack inquired.
Daniel looked up from unfastening his seatbelt. "Why would you -"
His query was cut off as Jack reached over and pulled the book out of Daniel's jacket pocket.
"Oh," he said sheepishly. "Just some of it," he confessed.
"The juicy bits?" Jack said with a lecherous lift of the eyebrow.
Daniel blushed and ducked his head, and Jack felt a distinct pang in his heart and in his groin. Damn, he's doing it to me again.
"Thanks for the lift, Jack," Daniel said, desperately wanting to invite the older man inside.
"No problem," Jack replied casually, desperately wanting Daniel to invite him inside.
"See you tomorrow?"
"I'll pick you up at six."
"Six?" Daniel said in alarm.
"Yeah. You're buying me breakfast," Jack said grinning.
Daniel smiled back. "I guess that's fair. See you at six. Thanks again, Jack," he said stepping out of the truck.
"Any time, Danny."
Jack's tone was almost beseeching and Daniel's stomach did a little flip-flop, a pleasant sensation in a queasy sort of way.
Jack waited until Daniel entered the building before driving away. He would've waited until Daniel's lights went on, but didn't think his friend would appreciate the gesture. Besides, he'd then feel compelled to sit there until the lights went out and he knew damn well that wouldn't be until Daniel finished reading that blasted diary. Jack had to admit, he was pretty damn curious about that diary himself. He drove home thinking about Daniel and their doubles, and what his double had confided on that fateful day; the words his Daniel had told the robot Daniel: 'You'll never find a truer friend than Jack O'Neill'. Jack smiled at the memory. Daniel always did underestimate himself and both Jacks knew that. Jack's vision blurred as he remembered his double's heartfelt words: 'Daniel Jackson was the truest friend I ever had. Watching him die…well, let's just say that the best part of me died along with him'.
Jack swiped at his eyes, clearing his vision. My Daniel's here. He's alive. He's well. I'm not going to lose him. My Daniel. Damn it, when did I get so possessive? Maybe losing him on way too many occasions does that to a person. Crap. Why am I getting all worked up? What am I afraid of? The stupid diary, that's what. It's obviously private. Very private. Oh, crap. Now Danny's going to find out about my sudden interest in Chinese checkers and learning Goa'uld. The Jack and Daniel doubles were close. Too close? I'm jealous of a damn robot, for crying out loud. No, they weren't robots. They were us. God, what if Daniel and Teal'c were lovers? Shit. I'm not making any sense.
Jack pulled off to the side of the road and cut his engine. He banged his head back against the headrest.
"Oh, crap. I know what this is. I'm in love. I'm in love with Daniel."
Daniel poured himself a large mug of coffee and sat down with the diary. He opened the book. His coffee went cold. He was mesmerized. No, he was in shock. Entranced. Thrilled. Scared shitless. There would be no sleeping tonight.
Daniel answered the door bleary-eyed.
Jack frowned. "You did it, didn't you? You stayed up all night reading that damn thing," he accused.
"Uh, no," Daniel said hesitantly. "Actually, it only took me a few hours to translate. I just…had trouble sleeping afterwards."
Jack cocked his head. Is he blushing?
"Is it something you want to," Jack waved his hands around, "you know, talk about?"
"Maybe sometime." I really can't talk about it now.
"Cool. No rush. So, are you hungry?"
"Starving," Daniel confessed.
"Come on, let's go."
"I'll just get my jacket. Back in a sec."
Jack waited for Daniel and together they walked to his truck.
"Denny's?" Jack suggested.
"Oh, come on, Jack. I'm not that cheap," Daniel exclaimed.
Jack laughed and clapped him on the shoulder, letting his hand rest there easily.
"I thought we could try that new place on the highway."
"The truck stop? Betty's Good Eats?" Jack asked in surprise.
"What can I say? The name intrigues me," Daniel smiled, thinking how good Jack's hand felt on his shoulder.
"You're on," Jack grinned, squeezing his shoulder before letting go. Oh, man. I'm definitely in love or something. Can't wipe this stupid grin off my face.
Jack squeezed his truck in between a couple of semis.
"A crowded parking lot's a good sign, right?" Daniel asked hesitantly.
"Guess we're about to find out."
The two men entered the crowded and surprisingly quiet eatery.
"I've got a nice little booth for you boys right this way," the hostess said breezily, walking down the aisle.
Jack and Daniel looked at each other and shrugged.
"After you," Jack said graciously.
They hurried after the hostess.
"Thank you," Daniel said, as he slipped gracefully into the booth.
"Thanks, uh, Betty?" Jack guessed.
"Heavens no," she blushed. "My name is Sheila. That's Betty behind the counter."
Both men turned and their eyes widened at the stunning woman captivating a group of enamoured truckers.
"My God, it's Rita Hayworth," Jack breathed.
"That's her husband over there," Sheila whispered, as she poured them some coffee.
"My God, it's Arnold Schwarzenegger," Daniel mimicked, smiling at the large, muscled behemoth. "Too bad, Jack."
Jack frowned and said, "Look at the menu, Daniel."
Sheila laughed and said, "I'll be back in a few minutes to take your order."
"She's not what I expected," Daniel said. "Betty, that is."
"Well, I kind of thought she'd be male, a good two hundred and fifty pounds, tattooed, and arm pit hair down to here."
"You really need to get out more, Daniel," Jack grimaced. "Whoa, look at the size of those meals," Jack whispered as a couple of steaming plates whisked by the table.
"Jack, you're drooling."
"I am not. Good choice, Danny," Jack said in admiration as another heaped plate whooshed by.
"I don't know," Daniel said doubtfully. "I think you might have to wheel me out. I wonder if they have kid's portions or senior's."
"Are you implying that you're the kid and I'm the senior?" Jack asked coolly.
"What? No," Daniel said defensively. "I'm an archaeologist, not a trucker. I can't eat all, damn, there must be ten pancakes on that plate," Daniel said in awe, his eyes following the plate to its recipient.
"That guy weighs less than Carter," Jack whispered. "Must have high metabolism."
"Made up your minds?" Sheila asked.
"Yes, I'll have the Lumberjack Special," Jack said enthusiastically.
Daniel's eyes darted to Jack's menu choice and they widened in horror.
"Should I make that two?" Sheila asked.
"God, no. Um, I'll just have-"
"You're not just having toast, Daniel," Jack warned.
"All right. All right. I'll, uh, have eggs Benedict, please with uh-fruit cup?" he asked appealingly, ignoring Jack's groan.
"Sure thing. Would you like your eggs soft?"
"Yes, please. Thank you."
"Fruit cup?" Jack said derisively after their waitress left.
"I figure I'll have to help you finish yours. Lumberjack Special? God, Janet would have a fit."
"I've always liked the name." Jack shrugged.
"Yeah, it's so, you know, rugged and outdoorsy. You can just smell the clean mountain air," Jack said, taking a deep breath.
"Squealing chainsaws. Trees crashing to their death," Daniel added.
Jack glared and Daniel laughed. Jack felt that little pleasant roiling in his gut again.
Daniel suddenly blushed and ducked his head.
"What?" Jack prodded.
Daniel looked up and smiled. "I was just thinking of you as a lumberjack. Like in the old days? I can actually see it, too. You do look good in plaid."
Now it was Jack's turn to blush. "Um, thank you. You, uh, look good in plaid, too."
Daniels eyebrows rose and Jack explained. "You know that blue and black one you sometimes wear? It's, uh, nice." Nice? He's freaking gorgeous in it.
"Oh, that one. Sam says it brings out the blue, um."
"In your eyes," Jack finished.
"Yeah," Daniel murmured, feeling his cheeks flush again.
"She's right," Jack said quietly.
Daniel stared, afraid of what he was seeing in the older man's eyes, and then afraid of only seeing what he hoped to see.
"Here you go, boys," Sheila said, placing down two large platters.
"That's a fruit cup?" Daniel asked in amazement at the colourful mound of fresh fruit.
"You should see our bowl," she laughed. "Enjoy. I'll be back with some more coffee."
Jack was staring in disbelief at his plate. "How's your fireman's carry, Daniel?"
"You don't have to eat it all," he grinned.
"Mr. Betty might not take it kindly if I don't finish it."
"Relax, you can take him with one hand tied behind your back," Daniel said dismissively.
Jack grinned, absurdly pleased with the young man's faith.
"Stop grinning and start eating," Daniel ordered. "This is going to take awhile," he said, tucking into his eggs Benedict.
"Next time let's just split a meal," Jack groaned, buckling up his seatbelt.
"I can't believe you ate the whole thing," Daniel said in awe.
"It tasted too damn good to waste," Jack said, undoing his belt and releasing the top button. "Ahh, much better," he sighed.
"Do you want me to drive?" Daniel asked in amusement.
"Nah, just give me a couple of minutes."
"You're not going to make it."
Jack rolled his head sideways to look at Daniel quizzically.
"You'll fall asleep in the briefing. I'll bet money on it," he smiled.
"Oh, crap. The briefing," Jack moaned, closing his eyes. "I just want to sleep for two days."
Daniel took the opportunity to study the man beside him and he liked what he saw. Truth is, he desired what he saw. Jack was extremely good-looking. Daniel had always known that on some level. But now, now he was beautiful, and the desire to touch was painful. Daniel's mind buzzed with passages from his double's diary. Jack and Daniel had become lovers, as did Sam and Teal'c. Their love had been real and genuine. There were no military taboos to contend with, only the memories of the real SG-1. They took those memories and built on them and found love. Could it happen to them? Not a hope in hell, Daniel thought glumly, hot tears filling his eyes. He turned away abruptly, blinking back the offending tears.
"Yeah?" he grunted, staring out the window.
Daniel's heart clenched as it always did when Jack's tone softened to genuine concern.
"Yeah. Must've had some pepper on my fingers or something," he murmured, wadding some tissue into his eyes.
Jack closed his eyes. Daniel was hurting, and when Daniel hurt, Jack hurt. He opened his eyes and resisted the urge to reach out and touch the distraught man.
"Okay," he sighed and started his truck. He knew what was bothering Daniel. It was the diary. Jack hadn't mentioned it during breakfast because there didn't seem to be a need; they'd been enjoying themselves. Not for the first time, Jack wished he had asked more questions of his double. He never thought robots could love. Hell, he never dreamt of it, but recent events had drastically altered that view. Harlan's tears had been real. His own double's sorrow at Daniel's death had been real. They had been soul mates. They had been what Jack secretly believed he and Daniel were. But lovers? Why the hell not? Jack thought. He glanced over at his young friend and felt such a longing to touch and to comfort him that it brought tears to his own eyes. Crap, maybe that's the problem. Maybe they were lovers and Danny's afraid. Afraid that it could happen to us, or maybe, to just one of us. Oh, shit. I was practically drooling over his damn, blue plaid shirt. What if I embarrassed or disgusted him? He didn't seem to mind. Damn it.
Jack pulled out into traffic. He was relieved to see Daniel settle back in his seat, his face composed and in control. Ten minutes later, Jack pulled over to the side of the road.
Daniel looked at Jack curiously.
"Daniel, I'm only going to mention this once," he said, glancing at his passenger. "If there's anything you need to talk about, anything in that diary or whatever, I'm here. Any time. Any place. If there's anything bothering you, I want to help. Okay?"
Daniel stared back and swallowed his fears. "Doing anything tonight?" he asked tentatively.
"I am now," Jack smiled, surprised, pleased, and scared to death of his friend's response.
Daniel paced back and forth in his kitchen. There was no real reason for him to be in the kitchen. Jack was bringing pizza, the beer was in the fridge, and the coffeemaker was just waiting to be turned on. Daniel wished he had turned down Jack's offer to pick up the pizza and had cooked something instead. At least it would help take his mind off the uneasy feeling of impending doom.
Don't be an ass. It's not you and Jack you'll be talking about. It's them. The other guys. Just because their lives diverged in a particular direction doesn't mean ours will. But then that's the problem, isn't it? You want what they had.
Daniel stopped his pacing.
"Do I? Is that what I really want or am I just curious? Forever seeking that elusive 'happily ever after'?" He looked down at his shirt, his blue plaid shirt.
"What the hell am I doing?" he snorted disgustedly. "I'm acting like a love-struck teenager."
Shaking his head, Daniel strode to his bedroom to change his shirt. His determined step was arrested by the doorbell.
Oh, God, it's Jack. He's early.
Daniel dove into his room, grabbed a sweater and hastily shrugged into it, effectively burying the blue plaid.
"Come on, Daniel! The pizza's getting cold!" Jack shouted through the door, knocking loudly for emphasis.
"Hey," Daniel said, opening the door. "Sorry, I was in the bathroom."
"No problem. Ready to eat now, or do you want to put these in the oven?"
Daniel frowned, seriously considering the question. Eat first, tell Jack, then throw up? Tell Jack, lose my appetite, and get nauseous from the smell of pizza, and then throw up? Daniel's stomach growled ominously thus settling the debate.
"Eat now," Jack grinned.
Daniel blushed and murmured, "Excuse me."
Their appetites sated, the two men leaned back in their respective chairs and waited. Jack waited for Daniel to bring up the subject of the diary. Daniel waited for the butterflies in his stomach to settle down.
"Aren't you a little warm in that?" Jack asked, motioning to Daniel's sweater and the distinctive sheen of sweat on his flushed face.
Daniel reddened even more and glanced down at his sweater.
"Take it off before you pass out," Jack suggested.
Knowing that his hesitation would only make matters worse, Daniel complied. He took his glasses off, reached down with both hands and yanked the sweater up and over his head.
Jack's eyes widened and his heart did its little loop-to-loop at the sight of the blue plaid shirt. Aw, jeez, Danny. You did that for me?
By the time the sweater was off, Daniel's face was a becoming shade of pink.
Aware of his friend's discomfiture, Jack's only comment was, "That must feel better."
Daniel smiled, thankful that he wasn't wearing his glasses so he couldn't see Jack's expression. He reached for his glasses, put them on and risked a furtive glance at Jack. He saw only his friend and the restless butterflies finally took flight.
"Would you like a liqueur with your coffee?" Daniel asked.
"Hey, now you're talking," Jack said approvingly. "A little sambucca?"
"In, or on the side?"
"Coming right up," Daniel smiled, pleased to make Jack happy, but also knowing damn well he was stalling.
Jack glanced quickly around while Daniel was in the kitchen. He couldn't see the diary anywhere. Don't push it. He'll bring it up when he's ready.
Daniel came back with their drinks and raised his eyebrow at the sight of Jack looking through one of his archaeology journals.
"It has lots of pictures," Jack said defensively. Privately he thought, Your name should be all over these damn things, Daniel. It's just not fucking fair.
"I'll remember that for Christmas," Daniel remarked, placing his coffee down on the table. "I'll be back in a sec."
Jack took a sip and felt the warmth of the coffee and liqueur down to his toes, but he knew a certain archaeologist was responsible for most of the warmth he was currently feeling. Maybe I should open a window.
His idle thoughts dissipated when Daniel returned, the infamous diary clutched in his hand.
Daniel sat down and smiled self-consciously.
"This would be a lot easier if you could read this," he said, indicating the book.
"Daniel, you don't have to tell me anything," Jack said graciously. "It wasn't addressed to me." But God knows what I'll do if you don't.
"Yes, Jack, I do. You have a right to know." And God help me, I need you to know because I can't handle this knowledge alone.
"Okay," Jack nodded, his stomach tightening in anticipation.
"Remember when I said something about Teal'c?"
"Remember? Your eyes damn near popped out of your head."
"Yes, well." he said flustered. "Okay, not counting Harlan, P3X 989 was inhabited by three men and one woman."
"You mean 'us'," Jack said helpfully.
"Uh, yes. Four, um, anatomically correct 'us' that possessed our knowledge and life experiences."
"O-kay," Jack said hesitantly.
"They lived together twenty-four hours a day, ostensibly forever."
"They got a little short-changed," Jack said bitterly.
"Yes, they did," Daniel agreed solemnly. "Anyway, they apparently had, um, urges that they, uh, acted upon," he explained, wishing this night was over.
"Urges?" Jack repeated. "You mean, as in," he asked, making a crude but effective gesture with his hands.
"But there was only one woman."
"And three men," Daniel reminded.
Jack's face paled. "Oh crap, we didn't all boink Carter, did we?" he asked, horrified.
Daniel laughed and he felt some of the tension ease, or maybe it was the sambucca. Whatever it was, it loosened his tongue.
"No, Jack. Sam's honour is…was intact. Let's just say that Teal'c 'got the girl'."
"Carter and Teal'c?" Jack's eyes widened at the thought. "Wow. Way to go, Junior." He reached for his drink and took a large swallow. "So, if Teal'c got Carter, that means that you and I got…bupkus?" he asked with a lift of his eyebrow.
"Ah, no," Daniel said, feeling all this tension rushing back. "We- we, um, we got each other." Okay, I said it. It's out. Here's where the shit hits the fan.
Jack's hand started to tremble and he placed his mug down forcefully.
Daniel flinched when he felt the thud of Jack's mug hit the table and he wanted to die. Oh, God, he's angry. What the hell was I thinking? Me and Jack? How could I be so stupid?
Jack clasped his hands together and said, "You're saying that we…the other Jack and Daniel…were lovers?"
Daniel nodded, unable and unwilling to look at Jack.
"Yes," he said, looking up. "They were lovers."
Jack swallowed hard. Tread carefully. Don't blow this. "That's…nice. I'm glad they were happy. I assume they were happy?"
Daniel cocked his head, his brow furrowed. "Yes, very. You're-you're not upset?"
"Why should I be?" Jack shrugged. "It's not like it was us." Goddamnit, that's not what I meant to say!
Something flickered in Daniel's bright blue eyes. "No," he said softly. "They weren't us."
"So, uh, when did all this happen?" Jack asked, desperate to keep Daniel talking as well as try to extricate his foot from his mouth.
"About six months after we left. It just kind of happened."
"One day it was Chinese checkers and the next." Jack waved his hand weakly.
Daniel's eyes flashed with hurt and anger.
"You knew?" he accused.
"No! No, Daniel. I swear to God," Jack said hastily. Crap, why can't I say anything right? Try telling him the truth, damnit. "All right, he told me you liked Chinese checkers, but he never said anything about the…other. At least, not in so many words," he added.
"What does that mean?"
Jack shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "He just said some things."
"What things?" Daniel pressed.
"For crying out loud, Daniel. Things. Stuff I already knew," he added quietly, looking down at his hands.
The silence in the room unnerved Jack, and he looked up.
Daniel's arms were wrapped tight around his chest. He was withdrawing. Jack was losing him.
"He-he said that you, I mean his Daniel, was the best friend he ever had and that when he died, the best part of him died with him."
Daniel's sorrowful blue eyes gazed thoughtfully at Jack, and the older man breathed a sigh of relief at the flicker of hope that now shone out of them.
"Like I said, nothing I didn't know already," Jack said softly.
Daniel flicked his eyes away from the dark emotion in Jack's eyes.
"He told me you liked Chinese checkers and that you taught him and Carter how to speak Goa'uld. I…I guess I wanted what he had." Jack could see the tension drain out of his young friend's posture, and he pressed on.
"Daniel," Jack said gently. "Are you afraid what happened between our doubles will happen between us?" Your friendship's more important to me than anything, Danny. If I have to cut the damn thing off I will. I'm not going to lose you. I can't. I won't.
"Danny?" he prodded even more gently.
Daniel finally looked at him, his eyes huge and shimmering, and Jack ached to hold him and comfort him.
"No, I'm afraid that it won't," Daniel whispered.
Time stood still for Jack. He heard a clock ticking somewhere. He felt the heavy hammering of his own heart and the blood rushing in his ears. The sight of tears slowly tracking down Daniel's cheeks jolted him to awareness. He was at Daniel's side in an instant, his arms encircling his friend.
Daniel couldn't move in the crushing embrace. His initial stiffness of surprise swiftly melted and he leaned heavily into the solid weight of his friend, his tears unashamedly running their course. When he felt the arms loosen slightly he brought his own arms up and hugged Jack tightly.
Jack shifted his arms to accommodate Daniel. The sensation of his best friend's arms going around him was the biggest high he had ever experienced in his life. He renewed his crushing grip as his own tears spilled over. He couldn't believe this was happening to him. He couldn't believe how much he wanted this. He felt as if he had just opened his eyes on a whole new life; a new life that was just him and Daniel. When the time felt right, Jack released his grip and sat back, giving his friend some breathing space.
Daniel sat up, sniffled and rubbed his eyes.
"You okay?" Jack asked softly, rubbing his hand gently up and down Daniel's arm.
Daniel looked into the warm, concerned eyes and said, "I'm scared to death."
"Of me?" Jack asked worriedly.
"You. Us. These…feelings I have."
Jack looked at his hand as it absently caressed the soft flannel shirt. He looked up into the wide blue eyes.
"Did you wear this for me?"
Daniel blushed and ducked his head. "I tried to change, but you were early."
Jack felt his eyes sting and he smiled. "I'm glad. I can't remember the last time someone did that for me."
Daniel looked up and smiled, his flushed cheeks warming Jack's heart.
"I'll be honest, Daniel," he said sitting back. "I'm scared, too. Ever since I heard the robot Daniel had been killed I've had this deathly fear of losing you. Even more than usual," he added quietly. "I guess it kind of opened my eyes. I look at you and I see the best friend I've always seen, but I also see the most desirable human being I've ever seen," he said, his face flushing. Jack reached out and placed the back of his fingers on Daniel's cheek. "I want you in my life, Daniel," he whispered. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He exhaled slowly and opened his eyes, eyes dark with desire. "I think I'm in love with you."
Daniel gently grasped the trembling fingers and brought them to his lips.
The soft, unexpected contact jolted through Jack's being like an electric shock. He stared enraptured as Daniel brought his hand down and held it against his own chest. Jack closed his eyes and felt Daniel's heartbeat reverberate through his hand, felt the warmth and love in the simple contact.
Daniel swallowed hard, feeling the warm press of Jack's hand on his chest. He closed his eyes. He wanted this so bad. He felt Jack's fingers cup the muscle of his breast and he shivered. His eyes flicked open to see Jack looking at him intently. Looking through him.
"Can I kiss you?" Jack asked hoarsely.
Daniel's heart raced and his mouth went dry. Oh, God, it's happening. He licked his lips and Jack took that as a 'yes'.
Jack leaned in, never taking his eyes off Daniel's. The young man's eyes were wide and dark with passion.
Daniel's nostrils flared slightly at the warm, spicy scent of aftershave. Nothing had ever smelt so good before. Jack's warm breath caressed his face. He closed his eyes.
Jack turned his head slightly, closed his eyes and tentatively brushed the flushed, moist lips. The contact was brief, but oh, so sweet.
Daniel reflexively clutched the hand against his chest as the most incredible sensation flooded his body. Jack had kissed him.
Jack felt the hand covering his tighten and he opened his eyes. Two huge blue eyes stared back. Eyes full of wonder, hope, fear, and joy. Daniel's eyes.
Daniel removed his glasses and set them aside, his gaze never once leaving Jack.
"God, Danny," Jack whispered, swallowing convulsively.
Daniel leaned forward, one slender hand wrapping around Jack's neck while the other still clutched possessively to his hand.
Jack shivered at the touch and closed his eyes as the incredibly soft lips claimed his own. A low moan escaped, causing his lips to part slightly. Immediately, a hot, probing tongue slipped in and he groaned in ecstasy, widening his mouth to take in more of the hot, pliable flesh. His free hand mirrored Daniel's and he pulled the young archaeologist in tight and ravished his mouth.
Daniel moaned in pleasure as Jack's tongue darted in and staked its claim. It was so much better than he had believed possible. So much better than he had dared to dream. Jack was kissing him, devouring him, and nothing had ever felt so good, or so right. He slipped his hand out of Jack's grasp and wrapped it around the older man's shoulders, drawing him in tight against his chest.
Jack eagerly reciprocated and crushed Daniel to his chest. They kissed long and they kissed hard.
They broke the kiss and held each other close, their chests heaving and their breath, hot, panting gasps on each other's neck. No words were spoken. No words could describe what had just happened. Finally, they released each other and sat back.
"Wow," Jack murmured, his flushed face reddening further.
Daniel blushed and ducked his head. "Yeah," he smiled.
"That was … that was…," Jack said, shaking his head.
"Wow?" Daniel smiled.
"Yeah," Jack sighed.
"Listen," Jack said, rubbing Daniel's arm. "I-uh, left something in my truck. I'll be back in minute," he said, punctuating his remark with a soft kiss.
Apprehensive blue eyes looked at him and he smiled knowingly. No way, Daniel. I am not running out on you.
"Make us some more coffee, okay?"
"Okay," Daniel whispered, the touch of Jack's mouth still tingling on his lips.
Daniel watched Jack leave and couldn't stop the twinge of fear that their lives had been inexorably changed again. Discovering a gateway to planets was one thing and a piece of cake compared to discovering you were in love with your best friend, your best friend of the same gender.
Jack took the stairs instead of the elevator. It gave his body something to do while his mind raced every which way. He had kissed Daniel. Kiss my ass. You damn near sucked his tonsils out. Jack had been imprisoned, tortured, and left for dead. All pretty minor stuff compared to this life-altering realization that he was in love with Daniel.
"Damn," he murmured, as a sudden wave of dizziness had him leaning against the wall.
Daniel brewed a fresh pot of coffee and then stepped out onto the balcony. The air was cool and he shivered, goosebumps rising on his arms. He saw Jack at his truck and he smiled. He knew damn well the soldier was the reason for his goosebumps.
Jack leaned back against his truck, enjoying the cool air. Inside, he was as warm as toast. It had been a long time since he felt that warm, fluttery sensation.
"Damn," he whispered, smiling and shaking his head. He really was in love.
He opened the door, reached for the package on the passenger seat and hesitated. He pulled back and checked his watch. Ten o'clock already? Oh, crap. Am I supposed to stay the night? Is that pushing things? Should I move my truck?
Daniel wrapped his arms around himself and shivered. Just watching Jack from a distance got his pulse racing. He had never kissed a man before, at least not in passion. He longed to do more with Jack, but he wasn't going to push. That they had even come this far astounded him. Not only had they actually kissed, but also things finally seemed to be going in Daniel's favour. Or, maybe not. Daniel's heart skipped a beat as he saw Jack get into his truck. He stared in disbelief. He's leaving. He's scared. He made a mistake and he's leaving. Daniel clenched the railing in denial, his knuckles whitening.
"No," he whispered. "Jack wouldn't do that." He abruptly turned, not willing to face the possibility that Jack would drive away.
Jack put his key into the ignition and then sat back in disgust.
"What the hell am I doing?" So what if someone sees my truck parked outside all night? It sure as hell won't be for the first time, and God willing, it won't be the last.
Jack looked up at Daniel's apartment, just in time to see the young man leave his balcony and return inside.
Jack snatched the package and ran.
Daniel returned to his kitchen and watched the coffee drip. He didn't leave. He didn't leave. He began to wash what few dishes they had used. It was a small distraction, but a distraction nonetheless.
Jack ran up the stairs two at a time; there wasn't time to wait for the elevator. He paused briefly outside Daniel's door. He needed to catch his breath and he needed to get his story straight.
For crying out loud, just tell him the truth.
Daniel heard the door open and that niggling little fear faded to the background. He felt, rather than saw, Jack enter the kitchen. He turned, and was not prepared for the sight of a worried and scared looking Jack.
"I-uh-I saw you on the balcony."
Daniel merely stared and Jack added, "From my truck. From inside my truck."
"I thought, you know, that you might have thought I was taking off, or something," Jack explained anxiously.
Daniel stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked down.
"Well, I won't lie and say the thought didn't cross my mind." He smiled self-consciously and looked up. "But then I remembered."
"The way you held me. The way you kissed me." Daniel blushed and looked down at the floor. He felt Jack draw near.
"You mean…like this?" Jack asked, wrapping his arms around Daniel and kissing long and deep.
"Yeah," Daniel gasped, "like that."
"No one in their right mind would want to leave this," Jack murmured, hugging Daniel close to his chest.
"So, what were you doing?" Daniel asked, soaking up Jack's love like a sponge.
"Being an ass."
"You didn't know if you were expected to stay the night and thought maybe you should move your truck, just in case?" Daniel guessed.
"For crying out loud, Daniel. Why do you ask me things when you already know the answer?" Jack groused.
"Because it drives you nuts."
"This has become your life's ambition, hasn't it?" Jack asked, as he pulled back to look Daniel in the eye.
"One of them," he conceded, his eyes twinkling.
Jack shook his head fondly, marvelling at this huge change in his life.
"So, what did you leave in your truck?" Daniel asked, reddening under Jack's adoring gaze.
"It's in the living-room. I'll go get it."
While Jack retrieved the package, Daniel poured their coffee.
"Here," Jack said, offering the box to Daniel.
"It's heavy," Daniel commented as he held it in his hands.
Daniel placed the box on the table, opened it and peered inside.
Jack watched with delight as Daniel's little smile of curiosity at the bag of marbles widened into a full-fledged grin as he opened the hinged box, revealing the Chinese checkerboard.
"It was with some of my double's things. According to Harlan, your double got mine to make it. Told him it would be a lot easier than making a chess set and that he might even win a game," Jack explained.
"Well, that proves we're different," Daniel said adamantly. "I would never say anything like that."
"Right, and what planet were you born on?"
Daniel laughed and traced the woodwork with his fingertips.
Jack felt a thrill of anticipation at what that must feel like.
"We have a set at my place. I thought we should have one here, too,"
Daniel looked up and smiled. "That's sweet."
"I wasn't going for sweet," Jack grumbled.
"Well, it's sweet anyways. Up for a game?"
Oh, I think I'm up for more than that. "Sure."
"Do you think they'd mind us using it?" Daniel asked seriously.
"Not at all. I think it's what they'd want. I know it's what I'd want. And if you say that's sweet I may have to hurt you," Jack threatened.
"You know you're cute when you're embarrassed," Daniel teased.
"For crying out loud! Just start the damn game."
"Should we make a wager?" Daniel asked.
"Such as?" Jack asked suspiciously.
"Well," Daniel said quietly as he placed his pieces on the board. "I was thinking that the loser could give the winner a full body massage … nude." He glanced up and smiled shyly, his cheeks coloring. "That way, no one loses."
Jack swallowed hard. "I'm in," he croaked.
Daniel dazzled him with a smile and Jack leaned over impulsively and kissed him softly on the lips. Oh, God, am I in.
"Um, best out of one?" Daniel suggested huskily as Jack pulled away.
"I forfeit," Jack said, standing up, his hand reaching for Daniel's.
"We haven't even started."
"What's your point?"
Daniel smiled and reached over, their fingers intertwining. Both men shivered as they experienced a tingling that set their blood on fire.
"I forfeit the next one," Daniel said thickly.
Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel, pulled him in close, and felt the hard erection against his own.
"Jesus, Danny," he moaned.
"Stay the night?" Daniel asked.
"I'll stay forever," Jack murmured, nuzzling the warm neck and inhaling the intoxicating scent of his soon-to-be lover.
Daniel pulled back and searched the well-loved brown eyes, captivated by the passion shining back at him.
"I mean it, Danny. If you'll have me," Jack whispered.
Daniel grasped Jack's hand and felt the strong, calloused fingers close possessively over his own. He smiled and tightened his grasp. Together, they turned and walked to Daniel's bedroom, and the start of their new life.
|Genres:||Angst, Drama, Friendship, Humor, Missing Scene/Episode-Related, Pre-Slash|
|Summary:||A trio of stories depicting the evolution of Jack and Danielís relationship.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
The first two stories are also listed under the general archive because they can be read as such, and initially, were meant as such (especially A New Start). The third is definitely pre-slash and if you're looking, you will see pre-slash in the first two