Eyes of Blue by Nancy Richardson
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Category: General
Genres: Angst, Drama, Friendship, Hurt/Comfort, Smarm, Team
Rated: Teen
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: Daniel sees more than he bargained for on a routine mission.

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Story Notes:
This story was first published in Foundations 7 by Pyramids Press. Many thanks to Jmas for the beta and to Yum@ for the Foundations series.
Eyes of Blue

Colonel Jack O’Neill stood up, stretched and smiled. It was a pleasant change to be on a planet where hostile Jaffa weren’t hiding under every rock. He removed his hat, scrubbed his hair and indulged in a jaw-cracking yawn. It was also damn boring.

Jack glanced at his watch then squinted up at the sun. There were still several hours of daylight left which translated to several hours of boredom, unless you were Doctor Daniel Jackson. He smiled at the thought of his recently de-ascended friend and teammate. Daniel’s return was a miracle and he, for one, would not begrudge Daniel his time in the dirt, up to a point, of course.

Jack pulled out his binoculars and set his sights on the excavation site a quarter mile away. He could see Major Samantha Carter on her hands and knees, presumably talking to Daniel on the lower level of the site.

“Save your breath, Carter; he’s in another world,” Jack murmured.

As if she heard his thoughts, Sam stood up, brushed her knees then began walking towards the campsite, leaving Daniel to his passion.

“Good move,” Jack murmured, lowering his binoculars.

“It appears Daniel Jackson is very pleased with this planet, O’Neill.”

Jack looked sideways at his alien teammate.

“What’s not to like, Teal’c? Sun, heat, rocks, sand, walls with incomprehensible scratches, and to top it all off, bits of pottery. Shards, I believe, is the correct term. Why, it’s a veritable treasure trove of delights,” Jack exclaimed, spreading his arms wide.

“Are you unwell, O’Neill?” Teal’c asked.

“Never been better, T, thanks for asking,” Jack replied, adjusting his sunglasses.

Teal’c raised an eyebrow then bowed his head.

“Indeed, Daniel Jackson is back where he belongs.”

“Amen to that,” Jack murmured.

The two men stood silent, immersed in their own thoughts of their friend and the joyous impact of his return. Daniel’s ascension had left large holes in both their lives. Teal’c had lost one of his closest friends and a brother-in-arms. Jack had lost his best friend and the passion to continue the battle with the Goa’uld. Without Daniel at his side, Jack felt adrift as though his life held little purpose. General Hammond had seen the signs and did his best to get Jack back on track, but Daniel’s absence left a void in Jack’s heart that could not be filled by anyone or anything. Until Ba’al. Torture at the hands of the sadistic system lord brought Daniel back to his side and back into his life. Jack finally understood he would never be alone. Daniel was out there watching over him. Watching his back; watching all their backs. He would never stop longing for a flesh and blood Daniel, but he could continue the battle with a renewed sense of vigor and purpose, knowing his friend was out there doing the same. It was the least he could do for the man who sacrificed his life to save his team and a planet of strangers.

“Colonel, are you all right?” Sam asked, her brow creased in concern.

“Just thinking about the meaning of life, Carter,” Jack said, rousing from his thoughts. “Coffee?”

“Uh, yes. Thank you, sir.”

Sam glanced at Teal’c. “Daniel?” she whispered.

“Indeed,” Teal’c replied.

“Life as it should be,” she replied with a wink.

“How’s our boy?” Jack asked, handing Sam a mug of coffee.

“Happy as a clam, sir,” Sam smiled.

“Are clams generally happy, Major Carter?” Teal’c asked.

“I’ve never really thought about it, Teal’c, but I think it’s got something to do with digging in the sand,” she replied.

“Then Daniel Jackson must be a very merry mollusk, indeed,” Teal’c intoned.

“Yeah, well, I guess that’s going to make me the big, bad clam-digger,” Jack said.

“Sir, we’re not leaving yet, are we?” Sam asked, clearly concerned for Daniel’s sake.

“No, but you know Daniel. Give him an inch, he’ll take a mile, and you know what I mean, T,” Jack said, forestalling any Jaffa queries. “But, because I’m a nice guy, I’ll give him another hour,” he conceded. “So, while I take a leisurely stroll to deliver the news, you two can start breaking camp.”

“Yes, sir.”


*******

“Daniel, start packing. I want to get back to the Stargate before it gets dark.”

“Jack, we’re only an hour from the Stargate, and we’ve got at least six hours before the sun sets,” Daniel said, looking up from his excavation. “What’s the rush?”

“Daniel, I know you,” Jack sighed. “We’ll be down to sixty-five minutes of daylight and you’ll say ‘I just need a few more minutes, Jack’.”

“I don’t talk like that,” Daniel said indignantly.

“Like what?”

“Whiney. You whined,” Daniel accused.

“And your point is?” Jack asked innocently.

“I don’t whine,” Daniel insisted, wincing at the plaintiveness in his voice.

“I rest my case,” Jack replied.

Daniel lowered his head, brushed a dirt-streaked hand across his forehead then looked up, blue eyes beseeching.

“I’ve almost finished this layer, Jack,” he said. “One more hour, tops.”

“You can have two,” Jack said. Where the hell did that come from?

Daniel beamed, relishing his unexpected windfall.

Hell, Danny, don’t do that.

“Thank you, Jack. I won’t be late, I promise.”

“All right, four, but that’s final,” Jack said.

“Four?” Daniel said, perplexed.

“Crap, how do I let you talk me into these things?” Jack muttered, as he walked away shaking his head.

“I’ll keep in touch!” Daniel called, still beaming.

“You do that!” Jack replied, yelling over his shoulder. Oy. How do I tell Carter and Teal’c?

********

“I thought I told you guys to start breaking camp,” Jack said, frowning at his teammates.

“We thought you might like something to eat first, sir,” Major Samantha Carter explained, glancing at Teal’c.

Jack scanned the campsite, noticing the absence of any signs of meal preparation. He looked askance at his second and Teal’c, his eyes narrowing at the humor in the latter’s dark orbs.

“Carter, you’re a worse liar than Daniel,” Jack accused. “Teal’c, what’s the story?”

“Major Carter and I did not believe Daniel Jackson would return after one hour, O’Neill. To break camp early did not seem prudent.”

“Okay, forgetting the fact that it was an order,” Jack said, emphasizing the last word, “why didn’t you guys think Daniel would return in an hour?”

In response, Teal’c raised an eyebrow, and Sam cocked her head.

“All right, so he wanted a little more time,” Jack huffed. “You know how it is. Sometimes it’s hard to say no to him,” he said, gazing in Daniel’s direction. “Hell, we just got him back,” he murmured, his voice fading.

“How much time did he ask for, sir?” Sam inquired.

“An hour,” Jack replied.

“That’s perfect, sir. That’s what you were going to give him.”

“Right,” Jack muttered.

Sam’s inquisitive gaze flicked to Teal’c.

“How much time did you give Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c asked.

“Four hours,” Jack mumbled.

“Four?” Sam cried incredulously, too shocked to even laugh at the absurdity.

“He beamed at me, Carter,” Jack exclaimed. “What the hell was I supposed to do?”

“He beamed at you, sir?” Sam asked, her lips quivering as she fought to contain her mirth.

“Yes, Major. He gave me ‘the look’; that freaking look when his eyes light up and his face gets all boyish. You know the one,” Jack said, flustered.

“Indeed, that look has served Daniel Jackson well,” Teal’c stated.

“Damn it, Carter, let it out before you bust a gut,” Jack growled.

“Thank you, sir,” Sam said, doubling over in laughter.

“For crying out loud,” Jack muttered in mock disgust, turning away to hide his own smile.

**********

“O’Neill, I believe Daniel Jackson is attempting to get your attention,” Teal’c said, his voice light.

“What?” Jack said, turning in the direction of the excavation to see Daniel jumping up and down, waving his hands. “What the hell?” he murmured, turning to his radio. “Daniel, use your radio.”

Daniel stopped jumping and swiveled his head in every direction looking for the source of Jack’s voice.

“Follow the sound of my voice, Daniel,” Jack said patiently. “I swear to God, if your head wasn’t attached to your shoulders …”

SG-1 watched in bemusement as the figure in the distance spotted his quarry, bent down to retrieve it, then stood up and waved it triumphantly.

“Daniel, use the damn radio!” Jack repeated.

“Oh, uh, hi, Jack. I came out and saw you all standing around.”

“And you decided to dance for us?”

“Uh, no, I was trying to get your attention,” Daniel replied calmly.

“Daniel, for God’s sake,” Jack grumbled, scrubbing his fingers through his hair.

“Jack, maybe you’re not getting enough to eat,” Daniel’s voice crackled over the airwaves.

Sam choked down a guffaw, earning a glare from her CO.

“Daniel, what would you like?” Jack sighed.

There was a pause and then Daniel’s voice: “You’re mad at me, aren’t you?”

Jack’s chin dropped to his chest in resignation.

“Daniel, stay where you are, I’m coming over,” he muttered. “As for you two,” he said, looking at Sam and Teal’c, “when I come back, I expect a hot, tasty meal to be waiting for me.”

“Of course, Colonel,” Sam replied, her twinkling eyes betraying her seriousness.

“As you wish, O’Neill,” Teal’c said, bowing his head slightly.

“Major Carter, are you all right?” Teal’c asked, after Jack was safely out of earshot.

“Oh, God, Teal’c,” Sam gasped, crumpling to the ground and laughing, tears streaming down her face.

Teal’c’s eyebrow rose further. “Indeed, it appears you are fine.”

***************

“Hi, Jack,” Daniel greeted, smiling a little hesitantly as Jack strode up to him.

The hesitant smile went straight to Jack’s heart. He reached out and clapped Daniel on the shoulder.

“What’s got you so excited you forget how to use a radio?” he asked lightly.

Daniel smiled and blushed at the same time, and Jack knew that if Daniel ever beamed and blushed at the same time, he would be putty in his hands.

“It’s amazing, Jack. Sam and Teal’c have got to see it, too,” Daniel said, bubbling with enthusiasm. “Come on,” he said, tugging Jack’s sleeve.

“I’m coming, I’m coming. Just a second,” Jack said, fingering his radio. “Carter, do you copy?”

“Copy, sir,” Sam replied briskly.

“Daniel’s got something he wants us all to see. You and Teal’c come on over.”

“Yes, sir. On our way. Carter out.”

“And make sure you’ve wiped the tears off your face,” Jack muttered.

“Tears?” Daniel said, his enthusiasm waning.

“No big deal; Teal’c told a joke,” Jack said in explanation.

“Ah,” Daniel said, then his eyes widened in surprise. “You mean she laughed?”

“Our Carter’s a sick, sick woman,” Jack said, shaking his head. “So, are you going to show me this amazing thing or not?”

“Right this way,” Daniel said, motioning Jack to follow. “Oh, um, it may be a tight squeeze,” he warned.

“Of course it will,” Jack muttered.

***********

Jack followed Daniel down the rope ladder to the lower excavation. He looked around balefully at the nondescript walls, his eyes adjusting to the diminished light.

“Not that I doubt you or anything,” he said, “but this looks pretty much like any other dig site.” Boring.

“It’s down there,” Daniel explained, pointing to a very small opening in a roughhewn wall.

Jack walked over, crouched, and peered into the opening. “Right,” he said, looking over his shoulder to give Daniel a dubious look. He had long ago given up on Daniel asking for permission, but he still expected to be kept informed. “You went in there on your own without telling me?”

“I used the flashlight to peek in and it, uh, seemed safe,” Daniel explained lamely.

“You also didn’t have your radio anywhere near you,” Jack accused, standing up.

Daniel ducked his head. “Um, apparently not,” he agreed.

“Daniel, what if you got stuck in there, or the damn thing fell on your head?”

Daniel could not come up with a satisfactory answer. Instead, he batted his eyelashes and looked suitably chagrined.

Jack reined in his anger and worry. God only knew what he got up to during his ascension. Daniel was Daniel and there was no changing the habits of a lifetime. The best Jack could hope to achieve was a little cautious restraint on Daniel’s part

“Give me your flashlight,” Jack said. “You do still have that, don’t you?”

“Yes, Jack,” Daniel sighed, dutifully handing over his flashlight.

Jack took the light and shone it into the tunnel. It looked solid, fairly smooth, and definitely narrow.

“Okay, we’ll wait for Carter and Teal’c before we venture down Alice’s hole,” Jack declared.

“You’ll be amazed, Jack,” Daniel said, crouching beside him.

“For your sake, I’d better be,” Jack replied good-naturedly. “So, what can you tell me about this place?” he asked, looking around at the assorted jumble of debris.

“Well, it’s only conjecture at this point,” Daniel mused, “but I think there’s enough evidence to say three civilizations once occupied this planet.”

“You can tell that from this … evidence,” Jack inquired dubiously.

“There’s a lot here, Jack. There are two languages that I know of: Egyptian and Babylonian, judging by the inscriptions on these two levels,” Daniel explained, motioning to their current location and the one twenty feet above their heads.

“Courtesy of the Goa’uld?” Jack queried.

“I haven’t seen any reference to a god, but I’ve barely scratched the surface,” Daniel said, “um, not that I’m asking for more time.”

“No, of course not,” Jack drawled. “So what’s the third?”

“I have no idea,” Daniel admitted, as he smiled and nodded towards the opening.

“Right,” Jack said. “Tell me we don’t have to crawl thirty feet down a rabbit hole.”

“It’s only about twenty feet,” Daniel replied.

“That makes me feel so much better,” Jack muttered.

“Colonel? Daniel?”

Jack and Daniel looked up to see Sam and Teal’c looking down at them.

“Welcome to Danny’s World!” Jack called. “Stay up there and keep watch while Daniel shows me what he found.”

“Yes, sir,” Sam replied.

“Okay, Daniel, you’re on,” Jack said.

“Follow me,” Daniel said excitedly, turning on his flashlight.

Jack watched with wary resignation as Daniel got down on his stomach and wormed his way into the opening.

“Oy,” Jack muttered as he felt his knees protest even before he got down on his stomach. “Just don’t kick me in the face,” he grumbled as he flattened himself on the ground.

*********

“I thought you said it got wider,” Jack groused as he squeezed in beside Daniel. “I feel like a freaking sardine.”

“I guess this isn’t a good time to tell you I’m gay, huh?” Daniel murmured. He could feel Jack’s glare and he bit his lip to stifle a chuckle.

“Did I mention I had beans last night?” Jack replied. “Three helpings.”

“Okay, you win,” Daniel declared.

“I always do,” Jack said smugly.

“Prepare yourself,” Daniel whispered, bathing the small room in light. “I think somebody started excavating and then stopped there,” he said, lingering on a spot. “There’s only a small section exposed, but if I’m right, there’s a whole lot more behind there,” he added, moving the beam along the wall.

Jack squinted, trying to see what the hell his teammate was going on about.

“You see it?” Daniel asked.

“If you mean that, how shall I say, small wall carving, then yeah, I see it.”

“Pictograph,” Daniel corrected.

“Daniel,” Jack said, feeling a little testy.

“Keep watching,” Daniel whispered.

Jack sighed inwardly as Daniel turned off the flashlight, plunging them into darkness.

“Daniel?”

“It doesn’t seem to work unless you turn the light off,” Daniel explained.

“Why on Earth would you have turned the light off in the first place?” Jack demanded.

“I wanted to experience complete darkness,” Daniel answered reasonably.

“Why do I bother?” Jack sighed.

“You should get out more, Jack.”

Jack glared at Daniel then realized he was wasting his time as he couldn’t see a damn thing. Instead, he reached out blindly and unerringly cuffed Daniel on the side of the head.

“Ouch,” Daniel said, chuckling at the same time.

As the seconds slowly ticked by, Jack became increasingly impatient.

“Daniel, as much fun as this is, when the hell—whoa, I didn’t know there were so many shades of blue.”

“Keep watching,” Daniel said, barely suppressing a grin.

Jack watched as the vibrant blues vanished, and within seconds a rainbow of colours and shapes appeared.

“Holy crap,” Jack whispered in awe.

“I told you it was amazing,” Daniel said reverently.

The wall emitted enough light for Jack to see Daniel clearly. The pleasure in his friend’s eyes at Jack’s reaction sent a rush of warmth through the older man. He smiled and nudged Daniel’s shoulder.

“I don’t know what the hell you found, but you’re right, it is amazing.”

Daniel grinned and looked back at the wall. “I don’t know if it’s artificial or alive,” he whispered.

“Alive?” Jack said in alarm.

“Yes. You know, like the phosphorescent creatures in the sea back home. They emit light when … whoa, that’s different,” Daniel frowned.

“What?” Jack asked, a sudden feeling of unease prickling the back of his neck.

“The figures on the left,” Daniel murmured. “The red and gold ones.”

Jack looked and shook his head. “I see purple and green, and they’re trees.”

“Really?” Daniel said, looking at Jack in astonishment.

“Yeah. Why, what do you see?” Jack asked.

Daniel looked back at the red and gold figures locked in either a life and death struggle, or a perverted scene of procreation.

“Um, two people fighting … I think,” he frowned.

Jack squinted at the oddly coloured trees. Trees. No doubt about it.

“Jack, do you see the blue animal to the right, the last figure? It looks like a cat with wings.”

“Yeah, I see it,” Jack said, although he thought it looked more like a brown teddy bear wearing a giant yellow bow tie. “It’s licking its paw.”

“Um, no, it’s tearing the head off a rabbit or something,” Daniel corrected. “Don’t you see the blood?”

Jack looked back and saw a cute teddy bear licking its paw. His gut tingled.

“Daniel, how long were you down here before you called me?”

“Not long,” Daniel replied, twisting to look at his watch. “Just a few … two hours?” he murmured in surprise.

“Shit,” Jack muttered, as unpleasant memories of a Goa’uld pleasure palace raced through his mind. “Daniel, we’re getting out of here now,” he ordered.

“But, Jack—”

“Now, Daniel! Don’t you remember that damn light on Loran’s planet?”

“Whose planet?” Daniel frowned.

“Never mind, but trust me, you didn’t enjoy it.”

“Jack, I just lost a bit of time,” Daniel murmured, looking back at the wall.

“Stop looking at that thing and get the hell out!” Jack snapped, grabbing Daniel’s forearm.

“All right, but you’ll have to back out first,” Daniel said, stung by Jack’s sudden harshness.

Jack wriggled backwards, his arms outstretched, ready to grab Daniel’s ankles and forcibly pull him out if necessary, but the younger man’s feet dutifully followed so Jack concentrated on getting himself out. Once he cleared his head from the hole he scrambled to his feet and anxiously waited for Daniel’s feet to appear.

“Sir, is there something wrong?” Sam asked, peering down.

“I don’t know, Carter, but you and Teal’c are giving this thing a pass,” Jack replied, his eyes on the opening.

Jack saw the heels of Daniel’s boots, and he reached down and pulled.

“Thanks,” Daniel said, as he got to his feet, dusting himself off. “So, what’s got you all riled up? I may have lost track of time a bit, but … Jack, why are you looking at me like that?” he asked warily.

“Daniel, how do you feel?” Jack asked.

“Fine. A little bit of a head rush, maybe, but otherwise, fine. Why?” Daniel asked with a worried frown.

“Maybe it’s just the light down here,” Jack murmured, glancing at their surroundings.

“Jack, what’s wrong?”

Jack looked into the familiar eyes that now looked alien, and he shuddered involuntarily.

“Daniel, your eyes are green,” Jack said.

“Green?” Daniel said, automatically bringing a hand up to touch his eyes.

“Yeah, come on,” Jack said, grasping Daniel’s arm. “We’d better get you back.”

“Jack, I don’t know what to say. I really do feel fine,” Daniel reiterated.

“That’s good. Now, go,” Jack said, gesturing to the ladder.

Daniel hesitated then scrambled up the ladder.

“Daniel, what’s the …” Sam’s voice trailed off.

“They’re green, aren’t they?” Daniel sighed.

“Indeed, Daniel Jackson. Your eyes are extremely green,” Teal’c observed.

“Colonel?” Sam queried as Jack gained the top.

“What colour are my eyes, Major?” Jack asked.

“Dark brown, sir, but—”

“I don’t know, Carter,” Jack muttered as he gently grasped Daniel’s chin and studied his face. “Emerald City,” he murmured.

“That’s impossible,” Sam said. “Eyes don’t just change colour.”

“Carter, we’re on another planet. We fight alien creatures that use humans as hosts and real live pieces of Lego that chew metal. Never mind the fact that a few months ago, Daniel was a glowy white cloud. I think a little eye colour change is not an impossibility.”

“Of course, sir,” Sam said, chagrined. “I just meant—”

“O’Neill.”

Teal’c’s soft but urgent summons got Jack’s immediate attention. He looked at Daniel who was rubbing his eyes then looking at his fingers.

“This isn’t right,” Daniel murmured to himself, rubbing his eyes again as if he was trying to get something out. “I can’t be seeing this.”

“Daniel, I don’t think you should be—”

“Don’t … don’t touch me,” Daniel gasped, warding off Jack’s hand.

Jack glanced at Sam and Teal’c. His wordless message received, they closed ranks around their teammate.

“Daniel, let me see,” Jack said gently.

“Jack?” Daniel said, sounding both surprised and afraid.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“Something’s wrong,” Daniel said, closing his eyes and shaking his head.

“Daniel, let me—”

“No!” Daniel shouted, clawing at his eyes and staggering backwards.

“Daniel!” Jack cried, lunging for his friend and grabbing his arms. Daniel’s strength surprised and alarmed him. “Teal’c, hold him!” Jack ordered.

“Daniel Jackson, you must be still!” Teal’c boomed, as he succeeded in prying the younger man’s hands loose and pinning his arms to his side.

“No, please!” Daniel pleaded.

“Daniel, we don’t want to hurt you,” Jack gasped, struggling to hold Daniel’s head still to check his eyes. “Carter, do we have anything we can sedate him with?”

“Back at camp, sir.”

“Damnit. Okay, Carter, you’ll have to zat him. Teal’c, when I say ‘now’, let him go.”

“Understood, O’Neill.”

“Carter?”

“I’m ready, Colonel,” Sam said grimly, the zat steady in her hand.

“Sorry, Daniel,” Jack murmured. “Now!” he shouted, releasing Daniel and jumping back.

Daniel cried out as he was enveloped in the paralyzing energy of the weapon. He fell to the ground, writhing as the current crackled through him.

Sam lowered her weapon, silently apologizing to Daniel as she did so.
.
Jack knelt beside Daniel and gently pried the unconscious man’s eyes open.

“Daniel Jackson’s eyes do not appear to be as green,” Teal’c observed, leaning over Jack’s shoulder.

“He’s right, sir. They look bluer,” Sam said.

“Right now I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” Jack said, “but we’re not taking any chances. Sorry, buddy,” he said, as he began to bind Daniel’s wrists.

“Colonel?” Sam queried.

“O’Neill, you believe Daniel Jackson to be possessed by an alien presence?” Teal’c asked.

“All I know is when eyes flash and change colour, it can’t be good,” Jack said, grimacing as he tightened the restraints. “Let’s get him home.”

****************
General Hammond grabbed the intercom as soon as SG-1 came through the wormhole. “Medical emergency in the Gateroom!” he ordered. “Colonel, what happened to Dr. Jackson?” Hammond demanded, looking from the unconscious man draped over Teal’c’s shoulder to his second in command.

“Daniel may be compromised, sir,” Jack said. “His eyes turned green and then he flipped out and tried to claw his eyes out,” he explained, wincing at the memory.

“O’Neill, Daniel Jackson is awakening,” Teal’c announced.

“Crap. Okay, put him down, Teal’c,” Jack said.

Teal’c carefully placed Daniel on the ground.

“Daniel, can you hear me?” Jack asked, placing his palm on the side of Daniel’s face.

“Jack?” Daniel whispered, his eyes still closed.

“Right here,” Jack said, relief flooding through him

“I cant … I can’t move my arms,” Daniel frowned.

“Yeah, sorry about that. We had to tie your hands. You went, uh, a little nuts,” Jack explained.

Daniel’s frown deepened. “What?”

“Open your eyes, Daniel,” Jack coaxed, gently patting his friend’s cheek.

Daniel’s eyes fluttered open.

“Yes,” Jack whispered as puzzled blue eyes looked up at him. “Carter, help me untie him,” he said, glancing at Sam.

Daniel suddenly stiffened as hands tugged at his restraints. “No!” he yelled, wrenching from the contact.

“Daniel, stop struggling,” Jack said, automatically reaching for his friend.

“O’Neill,” Teal’c said urgently. “Daniel Jackson’s eyes.”

“What? Shit,” Jack hissed, flinching at the alien green eyes.

“Colonel, what in Sam Hill is going on?” Hammond demanded.

“General, I wish I knew,” Jack muttered. “Daniel, take it easy,” he said as the younger man strained against his bonds.

“Stay away from me,” Daniel moaned.

“Daniel, the colonel’s only trying to help you,” Sam soothed.

“Keep him away!” Daniel screamed, sending shivers through everyone in the room, but none more so than Jack.

“All right, all right, I’ll back off,” Jack soothed, his heart pounding as he stepped back. “Just … just relax.”

“Won’t … won’t let you—”. Daniel’s words were cut off as his back arched and he collapsed.

“Where the hell is Fraiser?” Jack yelled.

************

“Colonel O’Neill, you can’t remember anything unusual in Dr. Jackson’s behavior?” Hammond inquired.

“I’ve wracked my brain, General, and I can’t think of anything out of the ordinary. Daniel was Daniel,” Jack said helplessly.

“I concur, General Hammond. Daniel Jackson’s behavior on the planet was not unusual,” Teal’c stated.

“I didn’t notice anything, either, sir,” Sam said. “Daniel seemed very excited with the excavation and happy. It wasn’t until he and the colonel emerged from the site that we noticed anything peculiar.”

“His eyes,” Hammond said.

“Yes, sir,” Sam agreed. “Even then he still seemed like Daniel, but then he …”

“Went nuts,” Jack said.

“Colonel, you said Dr. Jackson had been down in that room for at least two hours before he asked you to join him,” Hammond reiterated.

“Yeah, and it surprised the hell out of him,” Jack said.

“Anything could have happened in those two hours,” Hammond said.

“It was very cramped in there, General. There wasn’t room to do much of anything except look,” Jack explained.

“Could Dr. Jackson have touched the wall, Colonel?” Hammond asked.

“Not while I was there, but this is Daniel we’re talking about,” Jack sighed. “General, we’re going to have to go back and look at that wall.”

“Dr. Jackson is under quarantine and, because we have no idea what we’re dealing with, all three of you are confined to the base until further notice,” Hammond said.

“Doc checked us out. We’re clear,” Jack protested.

“And let’s hope you stay that way, Colonel, but don’t forget you were the only other person to see that wall. If Dr. Jackson was, for lack of a better description, infected visually, you could very well be susceptible to the same condition,” Hammond explained.

Jack sighed and slumped in his chair.


******

“Dr. Fraiser?” Hammond inquired, his tone clearly intimating he wanted answers.

“I can’t explain it, sir,” Janet said. “There are no signs of infiltration. Not even a scratch, other than self-inflicted,” she said grimly. “Physically, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong.”

“His eyes are green and he’s in a coma,” Jack said.

“He’s in a deep sleep,” Janet corrected. “And, yes, his eyes are green.”

“Is this like the time with Shifu?” Hammond asked.

“There are similarities, sir, but Daniel’s brain scan is quite different,” Janet said. “The right hemisphere of the brain is showing an abnormally high level of activity.”

“Meaning?” Jack prompted.

‘Meaning, Colonel, that Daniel’s dreams are probably not very relaxing,” Janet said.

Jack looked through the observation window at Daniel, feeling every twitch and tremor from his friend like a stab to the heart.

“Can you help him?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Janet admitted. “I can alter his hormone levels and maybe alleviate some of his symptoms, but I could do more harm than good. If there is an alien presence in Daniel, I can’t predict how it will react.”

“If?” Jack said incredulously. “Doc, his eyes are green.”

“I’m well aware of that Colonel O’Neill,” Janet sighed, “but until we understand what happened to Dr. Jackson our options are limited.

“You mean, until you figure out what the hell’s wrong, Daniel’s options are limited,” Jack snapped, his eyes still on Daniel’s trembling form.

“Colonel O’Neill, a word?” Hammond said quietly.

Jack straightened his shoulders and inhaled deeply. He recognized the general’s tone. It wasn’t one of reprimand which he richly deserved, but one of friendship, and right now, Jack would find a reprimand easier to handle. He turned away from the window.

“Sorry, Doc,” Jack said meeting Janet’s gaze. “I know Daniel’s in the best hands.”

Janet nodded, accepting his apology. “Any change, I’ll let you know.”

“Thanks,” Jack replied, following the general out of the room.


*****

“May I ask where we’re going, sir?” Jack asked when Hammond showed no sign of stopping or talking.

“My office for a drink.”

“A drink, sir?”

“Maybe two,” Hammond replied.

Crap, it’s going to be worse than I thought.

*******

Janet dabbed the sheen of sweat off Daniel’s forehead as his body vibrated with small tremors. She lifted his eyelids gently, frowning at the green irises.

“I wish you could talk to me, Daniel. I don’t know how to help you.”

****

“Sit down, Jack,” Hammond said amiably, but with authority as he closed his office door.

Jack sat down and watched Hammond pull out a half bottle of Scotch, two glasses and then pour a generous amount into each.

“To Dr. Jackson’s health,” Hammond said, handing Jack his glass.

“To Daniel,” Jack replied, toasting his glass and taking a sip.

“Dr. Jackson is the most resilient man I know, son. He’ll come back to us,” Hammond said kindly.

“This never should have happened,” Jack said quietly, enjoying the slow burn of the alcohol in his stomach. “If I hadn’t given him the extra time he wouldn’t—”

“Jack, this is not your fault.”

“I shouldn’t have left him alone, General,” Jack said, meeting Hammond’s compassionate blue eyes.

“You, of all people, know it’s impossible to watch anyone 24/7,” Hammond replied. “Especially, Dr. Jackson,” he added with a smile.

“With all due respect, sir, I don’t think you appreciate the seriousness of Daniel’s condition,” Jack said tightly. “We can’t just assume he’ll snap out of it.”

“No one is assuming anything, Colonel. I am not making light of Dr. Jackson’s condition, nor would I ever,” Hammond said evenly.

“I know that, sir,” Jack sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“Jack, I know how hard it is to see one of your own down, especially one who is your best friend. Worse, a friend, who until recently, you thought was lost to you forever.”

“We just got him back and now this,” Jack lamented. “Why, Daniel, sir? Why is it always Daniel? Hell, you should have seen him on that planet. He was happy as a pig in shit.”

“The pigs I’ve known have always preferred mud, but I get your point,” Hammond smiled, topping up their glasses.

*************

“You couldn’t have known, Colonel. No one could,” Janet soothed.

Janet knew it was small comfort, but as a healer and a friend, she repeated the well-worn phrase: “It’s not your fault.”

Jack looked down at her, looking as weary as she felt, and she braced herself for the familiar rejoinder.

“Everything that happens under my command is my responsibility.”

“Colonel, I know you feel responsible for Daniel’s condition. I know you feel angry and frustrated, but please, you have to believe me when I say your guilt is not helping Daniel. Whatever nightmare he’s trapped in,” she said quietly, looking back at the closed door, ‘he’s going to need all of our strength and support to bring him back, especially you, Colonel.”

“Me?” Jack cried incredulously. “I’m the one he screams at and tries to get away from.”

“We don’t know what he really sees, Colonel,” Janet said, sympathizing with the older man.

“I think the words, ‘Jack … please … don’t’, tell the story, Doc,” Jack said grimly. “I can’t even be in the same room with him.”

“Well, you can see him now,” Janet said.

“What?” Jack asked, startled.

“I said you can go and sit with Daniel.”

“You mean it?” Jack asked, his eyes lighting up.

“Yes, Colonel, I mean it.”

“But what if … what if he wakes up?”

“I’ve given Daniel enough sedative to knock him out for several hours. Spend some time with him, sir. I think you both need it,” Janet said kindly.

Jack suddenly looked unsure of himself. For two days he’d been trying to see Daniel and now that he had permission he couldn’t seem to make his feet move.

“I guess a few minutes wouldn’t hurt,” he said.

“I’ll be in my office, Colonel.”

“Thanks, Doc.”

Jack waited a few minutes before entering Daniel’s room. There was no reason to delay and he gave himself a mental shake. He opened the door, slipped in, and quietly shut the door behind him. He was alone, except for Daniel. The eerie silence of a quiet Daniel was punctuated by the steady hum of medical equipment. Jack was uncomfortably familiar with a Daniel Jackson hooked up to tubes and machinery. He listened to the unnatural slowness of Daniel’s heartbeat.

He’s alive. That’s what’s important. Danny’s alive.

Jack approached the bed, his eyes unwavering from the pale face on the pillow.

“Hey, Daniel,” Jack said softly, his voice cracking.

A sudden movement under the closed eyelids caused Jack to stiffen. He stepped back, afraid Daniel would wake up, see him and scream, but common sense prevailed as he realized it was only REM sleep he was witnessing.

“Scared me for a second there, buddy,” Jack said, moving close to the bed. He looked down at his friend and felt tears well in his eyes.

“What the hell happened back there, Daniel?” Jack asked softly.

Daniel’s face was turned towards him, a face marred by scratches; he bruising around his eyes a vivid reminder of his attempt to claw them out.

Jack stretched his arm out, his fingertips lightly grazing Daniel’s cheek. The skin was warm, soft and smooth. The nurse must have just shaved him. Jack let his fingers rest lightly on his friend’s neck, feeling the strong, steady pulse throb through his fingers. Taking a deep breath, he brushed Daniel’s hair before sitting down and pulling the chair close to the bed.

Jack’s eyes tracked from the pale face, down to the exposed arm and the long, slim fingers which twitched slightly. He glanced back up to Daniel’s face and saw the restless movement under the closed lids. Looking back down, he firmly clasped the warm hand within his own.

Jack smiled as the restless fingers stilled under his own, and he squeezed slightly.

“You know I’d never hurt you, Daniel. I’d rather cut out my own heart,” Jack whispered.

********


Daniel was exhausted. The alien presence was too strong; too tenacious. He was losing the fight. It insinuated itself into his waking dreams. It created his nightmares. It wanted out. They wanted out. Parasitic creatures, no better than the Goa’uld, trapped for God knew how long in an ancient wall on an ancient, dead planet. And he let them out. Daniel Jackson. Peaceful explorer, diplomat, archaeologist, linguist, patsy. Hitch a ride with Daniel Jackson and see the universe. He’s so flaky, who would notice?

Daniel frowned. Were they gone? Was he dead? No, he was alive, but the voices were gone. But he wasn’t alone. There was a presence; a welcome presence. Jack. Jack was here. Jack would help him. No, he had to be strong. They would use him to destroy his friend. Steal his body and then his mind. Over my dead body.

“No, you can’t have him.”

The barely whispered words jolted Jack from his own thoughts. “Daniel?”

“Die first,” Daniel mumbled.

“Jesus, Daniel, what’s going on in there?” Jack asked, horrified at the words and scared by the tears slipping out from under Daniel’s eyelids. He ran to Fraiser’s office.

“Doc, I think Daniel’s coming awake.”

“He can’t be. I gave him enough to knock him out for hours,” Janet said, rushing past Jack to reach her patient. “Damn it,” she said, as Daniel showed definite signs of waking up.

“Help me hold him, Colonel,” she ordered. “Nurse!”

Jack’s mouth was grim as he leaned heavily on his friend.

“Doc, is he—”

“Leave … me … alone!” Daniel’s face contorted in anger as he ground out the words.

Jack jumped back like he’d been burned.

“What the hell’s the matter with him?” he mumbled, bumping into the nurse answering Janet’s summons.

“Colonel, I think you should leave,” Janet said in a low voice that was more order than request.

Jack backed out of the room, still stunned by the vehemence in Daniel’s usually gentle, melodic voice.

“Daniel, calm down,” Janet soothed. “I’ll have to give you another sedative if you don’t relax. I’d rather not do that. Can you understand me?” she asked, looking at the alarming EKG readout.

Daniel’s struggles against the restraints lessened. He arched his back in one final assault against his bonds then collapsed, panting for breath.

“Daniel, you’re safe. No one’s going to hurt you,” Janet said.

Daniel shook his head at the absurdity of her statement. How could she know? How could anyone know? The intruders in his head had backed off, frightened or confused by his outburst. But they would be back very soon.

“Janet?” Daniel whispered.

“Yes! Yes, Daniel it’s me. Oh, thank God, you’re still with us,” Janet said in relief.

“Not for long,” Daniel panted.

“What do you mean?” Janet asked in alarm.

“You have to keep him away.”

“Who, Daniel?”

“Jack. Don’t let him near me,” Daniel gasped.

“I won’t, Daniel. I promise.”

“Knock me out,” Daniel whispered.

“I’ve given you more than I wanted to already,” Janet frowned. “You should be asleep. Close your eyes and try to relax, Daniel.”

Daniel glanced around the room, nodded then closed his eyes, preventing Janet from seeing the progressive green of his irises.


**************

“Dr. Fraiser has cleared SG-1 for duty,” Hammond announced.

“Yes! Permission to go back to that damn hole,” Jack said.

“Permission granted, but under no circumstances are you or anyone else to come into physical contact with that wall. Full containment gear at all times. Understood?”

“Loud and clear, sir,” Jack replied.

“General Hammond, if Daniel did come in contact with the wall, a scraping could be invaluable,” Sam said.

“Not this time, Major. Dr. Jackson’s vitals are stable, and he does not appear to be in any immediate danger. If his condition deteriorates I will consider your request.”

“Stable,” Jack muttered. “Trying to rip out your eyes is not stable.”

“You know what I mean, Colonel,” Hammond said patiently.

“Sorry, sir.”

“I know how important Daniel Jackson is to all of you. He’s important to me, too,” Hammond said.

“Of course, sir,” Jack said.

A knock on the door had all eyes moving in that direction and riveted on the young airman who entered.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, General Hammond, but Dr. Fraiser needs to speak with you on line six,” he reported.

“Thank you, Airman,” Hammond replied.

The three members of SG-1 looked apprehensively at each other, their eyes mirroring a shared concern: Daniel. Janet Fraiser would not interrupt a debriefing unless it was important.

Hammond picked up the phone. “Dr. Fraiser.”

Jack was torn between staring at his fingers or Hammond’s expression. His fingers won out. The general was too good a poker player to reveal his emotions. However, Jack didn’t miss a single word of the short, one-sided conversation.

“Yes. I see. I understand. Thank you, Doctor. Please keep me apprised.”

“Daniel, sir?” Jack queried once Hammond hung up the phone.

“I’m afraid Dr. Jackson is in a coma again. He went into cardiac arrest twenty minutes ago,” Hammond reported grimly.

“Oh, God,” Sam murmured.

“General, about that wall,” Jack said, holding his emotions in check.

“No physical contact,” Hammond replied, authorizing Jack’s request.

***********

“Sir, we don’t have a choice.”

Jack looked from his second to the narrow opening leading to the pictographs which might or might not hold the key to Daniel’s condition.

“Crap,” he muttered. He knew Carter was right. There was no way he could negotiate the small space encased in a Hazmat suit. Teal’c was out of the question even without a suit. Carter also had the best chance of maneuvering in the enclosed space containing the wall.

Jack handed Sam the small crate containing the energy recorder and vials for samples.

“Be careful, Carter, and keep in touch,” he said.

“I will, sir,” she said, taking the box and positioning it into the tunnel ahead of her. She quickly got down onto her stomach and inched her way into the tunnel, using the box as leverage to hasten her progress.

Jack looked at Teal’c and shrugged. “Nothing to do but wait.”

Teal’c nodded but made no move to sit.

Jack wandered around the excavated site. He could not help but remember how excited and happy Daniel had looked when he’s granted him those fateful hours. Hang in there, Daniel. We’ll bring you back. Just … hang in there.

**************

General Hammond followed Dr. Fraiser into the isolation room, pursing his lips at the sight before him.

“Are the restraints absolutely necessary, Doctor?” he asked, frowning at Daniel’s confinement.

“I’m afraid they are, General, for Daniel’s sake. There’s no telling when he’ll return to consciousness, and we can’t risk another episode like the last time,” Janet explained. “I thought he was asleep. When I glanced at the monitor he already had the paddles in his hands. Thank God the setting was low. He gave himself a nasty shock, but it could have been much worse.”

“You think Dr. Jackson was acting under his own volition and not this alien presence?” Hammond asked.

“I’m sure of it. Daniel was trying to tell me something, but I wasn’t listening. He was desperate, but not suicidal, General,” Janet explained.

“I’m not sure I understand, Doctor.”

Janet looked into the general’s tired blue eyes. “I’d like to show you something, sir.”

*************

“Colonel, do you copy?”

“Copy that, Carter. What’s your status?” Jack inquired.

“You’re right, sir. There’s not a lot of room in here,” Sam replied. “I’m going to take the EM readings.”

“Roger that. Give me a commentary, Carter.”

“Give me a minute, sir,” she requested.

Jack looked at Teal’c and began pacing. He hated waiting and envied Teal’c’s ability to remain motionless.

“Come on, Carter,” he muttered.

“I’m ready, Colonel,” Sam’s voice announced.

“Yes,” Jack said, punching the air. “I told you to be patient,” he directed to Teal’c.

Teal’c raised an eyebrow in response.

“I’m not getting any readings in the immediate vicinity, Colonel.”

“Carter, what do you see on the wall?” Jack asked.

“Pictographs, sir. Just like in Daniel’s video. I’m moving in a little closer to see if the readings change.”

Jack and Teal’c looked at each other as a few soft grunts came over the airwaves.

“Carter, you okay?”

“Colonel, how did you and Daniel ever fit in here?”

“You don’t want to know, Carter,” Jack said, smiling.

“Yes, sir,” but Jack and Teal’c could hear the humor in her voice.

“Still no energy signatures, Colonel.”

“Turn off the flashlight, Carter and brace yourself,” Jack ordered.

“Turning it off. Sir, what exactly am I supposed to be—oh my God,” she said in awe.

Jack smiled at the sound of her reaction. “Videotapes just don’t do it justice, do they?”

“Not by a long shot. No wonder Daniel lost two hours. These colours are incredible,” Sam enthused.

“Carter, the energy readings?” Jack reminded.

“Oh, right. Turning it on now. There’s definitely something here, Colonel,” she reported excitedly.

“Okay, take some samples of the surrounding soil and the wall. Then get the hell out of there,” Jack ordered.

“I’ll need both hands, sir, but I’ll keep the frequency open,” she replied.

“Roger that.”

“There’s something alien in there, Teal’c,” Jack said, “and it got into Daniel.”

“You, too, were exposed, O’Neill.”

“Not for two goddamn hours,” Jack muttered, “and dollars to doughnuts, Daniel probably had his hands all over that wall.”

“Indeed,” Teal’c agreed, the Tau’ri euphemism unfamiliar, but the sentiment clear.

*******

Hammond studied the pictures of Daniel’s irises on the computer screen: blue, blue-green, green, blue.

“The first one is Daniel’s natural colour,” Janet explained. “This next one is after SG-1 brought him home. All three of them reported Daniel’s eyes to be a clear, bright green.”

“That’s more of a blue-green,” Hammond said.

“Yes, Daniel had to be zatted for his own safety.”

“And you think that altered his eye colour?” Hammond inquired.

“At first, I thought maybe SG-1 had exaggerated the colours, but after we got him into the infirmary they changed to this: bright green,” she said, indicating the third picture. “He became extremely agitated, and I had to sedate him.”

Hammond looked back at the pictures with new eyes. There was a story on the screen. He pointed to the last pictures: blue. “That was after Dr. Jackson tried to electrocute himself.”

“Yes, sir. Whatever has invaded Dr. Jackson is definitely affected by electro-stimulation,” Janet said. “General, there’s something I’d like to try.”

Hammond looked at her warily. “Are you suggesting—?”

“I’d like to try shock therapy on Daniel,” Janet said, answering the general’s unfinished question.

Hammond grimaced at the term and the barbaric images popping into his mind.

“With controlled and repetitive treatment, we might be able to drive out whatever’s invaded Daniel,” Janet explained.

“Drive it out where, Doctor? Into someone else? We have no idea what we’re dealing with here,” Hammond said.

“Which is why I will be the only one in the room, General. The sessions will be monitored and videotaped, of course. If there’s any sign that I’ll become affected by the treatment, it will be terminated immediately. Please, sir, I think this is the only way we can help Daniel. I’m also sure this is what he’d want,” Janet entreated.

“How are Dr. Jackson’s eyes now?” Hammond asked.

“They’re getting progressively greener. His REM activity is also increasing,” Janet replied.

Hammond looked over at the monitor and the patient depicted on the screen. Daniel was unconscious, but he was sweating, flinching, and straining at his bonds.

“It’s trying to take control,” Hammond said quietly.

“Yes, sir. I don’t know how long Daniel can fight it.”

Hammond walked back to the observation window and shook his head.

“I never thought we’d see him again after the Kelowna debacle,” he said quietly.

“I know how you feel, sir. The last time Daniel was in this room …” Janet’s voice trailed off. There was no need for words. No one who had been in that room would ever forget the sight of the radiation-ravaged archaeologist. Ever.

“Do what you have to do to help Dr. Jackson beat this thing.”

“Yes, sir.”

**************

Jack entered Sam’s lab for the umpteenth time that day to see her and Teal’c staring at a computer monitor and videotapes.

“Anything?”

“We’re trying, sir,” Sam sighed, “but these symbols are meaningless to us. We need Daniel.”

“Fraiser’s got other plans for Daniel,” Jack said angrily

“Colonel, that isn’t fair,” Sam said.

“Doctor Fraiser would not intentionally harm Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c stated.

“Under other circumstances, what she’s doing would be considered torture,” Jack said.

“I did not say I was happy with it, O’Neill.”

“Electric shock therapy,” Jack muttered. “Damn it,” he said, slamming his fist on the desk.

He looked at his teammates and saw the same anger and concern reflected in their eyes. He also saw their exhaustion.

“Come on, let’s take a break. That’s an order,” he added, turning off the monitor.

*************

Janet braced herself as she increased the voltage. “I’m sorry, Daniel,” she whispered.

Daniel stiffened and his back arched violently as electricity surged through his body. His hands clenched convulsively, the tendons standing out on his arms as he strained against the cuffs holding him to the table.

“Janet,” he gasped, his voice muffled by the rubber guard in his mouth.

“Daniel?” Janet said, leaning over and placing her hand on the side of his sweat-sheened face.

Daniel looked at her and tried to focus blue-green eyes. “Again…quick,” he gasped, his teeth biting into the rubber.

“Daniel, your pulse is dangerously—”

“Please!” he pleaded. “They don’t like it.”

“They?” Janet murmured, creasing her brow.

“Hurry,” Daniel rasped.

Janet set her jaw and sent another powerful surge through her patient and friend.

Daniel’s ensuing cry tore at Janet’s heart, shattering her resolve. This was torture.

“No more, Daniel,” she said, shutting down the equipment and removing the electrodes from his body.

Daniel collapsed on the bed, his breathing harsh and quick.

Janet grasped the mouth guard.

“Open your mouth, Daniel,” she urged gently.

Daniel’s eyes opened, and Janet’s eyes widened in response; his eyes were a glorious blue

“Daniel,” she whispered, her vision blurring as she removed the mouth guard.

“Thank you,” Daniel panted.

Janet shook her head. How could he thank her for inflicting such pain?

“I’m sorry I put you through that,” Daniel apologized.

“Put me through?” Janet said incredulously.

“I had to convince them I’d rather die than be their host,” Daniel continued.

“Host?” Janet inquired, studiously avoiding the ‘I’d rather die’ statement.

“They were trying to escape,” Daniel said, closing his eyes wearily. “They were imprisoned on P6K 7M2.”

“Are they still here?” Janet asked.

“Yes, but you’re in no danger. They can’t leave me.”

“Can’t leave you? Daniel, I don’t like the sound of that,” Janet said, frowning.

“I mean they can’t jump from host to host. They’re not strong enough. They also can’t leave me until I return to the planet,” Daniel explained.

“Daniel, if you’re up to it, I think we should talk to General Hammond and Colonel O’Neill.”

“Not Jack,” Daniel said, shaking his head

“But you said they can’t jump from host to host,” Janet said, confused.

“Jack was there with me. They sensed him. I won’t take that risk.”

“That’s why you were so adamant the colonel stay away from you,” Janet said thoughtfully.

“I don’t remember what I said,” Daniel said, a worried frown creasing his brow. “It was hard to maintain control.”

“I can’t imagine,” Janet said. “I’ll call the general, but first, let’s get you into a more comfortable bed.”

Janet assisted Daniel back to his bed. He was very weak and Janet wondered how long he could keep his invaders at bay. She couldn’t imagine having to go through another session of shock treatments.

“Try to get some rest,” Janet said, patting his arm gently.

“Aren’t you going to restrain me?” Daniel asked.

“Do you want me to?” Janet inquired.

“Uh, no.”

“Then don’t complain,” she smiled. “I think you’ve made your position clear to them, Daniel, and I don’t want to use the restraints if I don’t have to.”

“Janet,” Daniel said, grasping her wrist.

“What is it?” she asked, placing her hand over his.

“If they try to control me, you know what to do,” he said, his clear blue eyes brooking no argument.

“I won’t let them destroy you, Daniel,” Janet vowed.

“Whatever it takes,” Daniel said, squeezing her wrist.

“Whatever it takes,” Janet whispered.

“Thank you,” Daniel murmured, releasing her arm and closing his eyes.

Please, don’t thank me, Janet thought as she placed Daniel’s arm at his side and tucked him in.

*********

“They? Who the hell are they?” Jack demanded.

“I don’t know, Colonel,” Janet said with an exasperated sigh. “He said they were prisoners, but I don’t think Daniel really knows what they are.”

“Shouldn’t your tests have shown something? His body’s been invaded for crying out loud. Something has to register on—”

“Colonel, this is alien—”

“Technology. I get it. Bottom line, you don’t know a damn thing other than if his eyes are green then things aren’t good.”

“Colonel O’Neill, that will be enough,” Hammond said.

“It’s all right, General. The colonel has a point. I don’t know a damn thing,” Janet admitted.

“Doc, I’m sorry,” Jack muttered. “I know you’re doing everything you can, and you did get them, or whatever they are, to back off.”

“I did what Daniel needed me to do,” Janet said, her bright eyes betraying the emotional cost to herself. “Teal’c is with him now. He knows what to do if it becomes necessary.”

Jack winced at the implication. He glanced at Hammond; the general looked like he was ready to rip heads off.

“This situation is intolerable,” Hammond declared. “If Dr. Jackson says he needs to go back to that planet then that is our number one priority. Colonel, prepare SG-1 and SG-3 to return Dr. Jackson immediately.

“Yes, sir,” Jack said, rising from the table.

“Colonel, you do understand you can’t accompany Daniel,” Janet said. “He was quite adamant about your safety.”

Jack looked down at her. “If they jump into me, I can be zatted just as easily as Daniel,” he said quietly, his whole body radiating the message: I am not staying behind.

Janet glanced at Hammond.

“I will have a word with Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said.

**********

“Dr. Jackson, how are you feeling?” Hammond asked, his blue eyes soft and caring.

Daniel looked into the warm eyes and smiled.

“Like crap,” he admitted ruefully.

Hammond smiled. “Thank you for your honesty, son. Preparations are under way to take you back to P6K as soon as we can.”

“Thank you, sir. I know I’m asking a lot,” Daniel said.

“You’re asking me to trust you, Dr. Jackson. That’s a ‘no-brainer’ as Colonel O’Neill would say,” he added with a twinkle in his eye.

Daniel smiled and felt a suffusion of warmth at the words.

“Speaking of Colonel O’Neill,” Hammond said.

“I can’t have him near me, General. I explained that to Janet.”

“Is your life in danger, son, by the colonel’s presence?” Hammond asked gently.

“No, but his may be,” Daniel replied.

“What do you base this on?” Hammond inquired.

Daniel’s averted eyes answered the general’s question.

“You know the colonel better than anyone, Dr. Jackson. These last few days have been pure hell for all of us, but especially him. Colonel O’Neill’s exposure to that wall, and whatever it contained, was brief compared to yours. Do you honestly think he’s in any more danger than anyone else, and even if he was, shouldn’t that be his choice?” Hammond asked.

Daniel’s silence touched the older man deeply.

“Talk to him, son,” he said quietly. “We will take precautions. It’s not an order. I’m asking as a friend.”

“Give me a minute, okay?” Daniel whispered.

“Of course,” Hammond said, patting Daniel’s leg. “You’re doing the right thing.”

********

“Daniel, are you awake?”

Janet held her breath as Daniel opened his eyes. She breathed out in relief at the familiar blue. Even though Daniel had been apparently free of the alien influence, she couldn’t shake the image of the unnatural green eyes that had greeted her over the past few days.

“Colonel O’Neill is here to see you,” she informed him.

“Is he mad?” Daniel asked, blinking tiredly.

“You scared him,” Janet replied with a sad smile.

“That mad,” Daniel sighed, closing his eyes.

“Mad enough to bring you coffee and a doughnut,” Jack said, entering the room.

Daniel’s eyes snapped open.

“Jack?”

“Daniel,” Jack drawled.

“I’ll leave you two alone. Call me if you need anything,” Janet said to Daniel as she left the room.

Daniel looked back at Jack.

“Hey.”

“Hey, yourself.”

Daniel licked his lips, looking longingly at the coffee and doughnut still in Jack’s hands.

Jack put the bag down, pulled the lid off the coffee and passed it to Daniel.

“Thank you,” Daniel sighed, inhaling the rich aroma before taking a healthy swallow.

“The doughnut’s just a glazed,” Jack apologized, placing it beside Daniel. “I didn’t know if you could stomach anything more.”

“This is great, thank you. I feel like I haven’t eaten in days. Do you want some?” Daniel asked before taking a bite.

“Had mine,” Jack said, waving his hand, “and you haven’t eaten anything in days. Nothing solid, anyway.”

“Right,” Daniel nodded. “Well, here goes,” he said, and devoured both the coffee and doughnut in quick succession. He licked his fingers, acutely aware of his friend’s brooding silence.

Daniel fidgeted uncomfortably as the silence stretched out. “This is one of those ‘you don’t know whether to love me or hate me’ scenarios, isn’t it?” he sighed.

Daniel was rewarded with a small smile as warm brown eyes looked at him, and he relaxed a little.

“I wish it was that simple,” Jack said.

Daniel swallowed, his tension coming back full force.

“I’m sorry if I caused you concern,” Daniel said quietly.

“If?” Jack said incredulously, his eyes wide. “For crying out loud, Daniel. You went ballistic every time I went near you.”

“Jack, I didn’t know what the hell was happening. I was scared.”

“And I wasn’t?” Jack cried.

“I’m sorry,” Daniel reiterated. “I should have been able to handle it better.”

“No, no, I’m the one who’s sorry. Cut yourself some slack, Daniel,” Jack sighed. “I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at them,” he said, waving his fingers in the air, “but if you tell me they were scared and desperate and that’s why they possessed you, then I will be mad at you.”

“They were desperate, but they weren’t scared,” Daniel said. “At least not until later.”

“Care to elaborate?” Jack asked.

Daniel rubbed absently at his temples as he tried to organize his thoughts.

“Can you still feel them? Hear them?” Jack asked gently.

Daniel heard the guilt and worry in his friend’s voice, and he looked up.

“A little. It’s kind of like a headache just waiting in the wings. They haven’t really come forward since, well … the treatment.”

“Treatment, yeah,” Jack said sourly.

“Janet did what I needed her to do,” Daniel said defensively.

“I know, I know. I don’t have to like it, do I?”

“I sure as hell didn’t,” Daniel said dryly.

Jack smiled. “Good, because I don’t need any masochists on my team, thank you very much. So, do you know what they are?”

“They call themselves Wopi,” Daniel said. “This particular bunch,” he said, tapping his head, “are outcasts. Banished from the general population because of treachery, murder—”

“Murder?” Jack frowned.

“Not murder in our sense, but murder nonetheless,” Daniel explained.

“They were imprisoned in that wall, weren’t they?” Jack asked.

“Yes. For eternity,” Daniel said, shivering slightly. “Whoever broke into that chamber and dismantled the wall provided them with an opportunity to escape. Or so they thought,” he added. “If the host’s mind can’t contain them … well …”

Jack stood up and paced the room, Daniel’s unspoken words screaming in his mind: They drive the host insane then die with him.

“I don’t know how many have escaped over the centuries, but someone recognized them for what they were and buried them again,” Daniel continued.

“Until you came along,” Jack said.

Daniel shrugged. There wasn’t much he could say to that.

“Correction, until we came along,” Jack amended. “You’re not to blame for this, Daniel.”

“It’s rather moot, isn’t it?” Daniel asked.

Jack sat down, leaned forward and clasped his hands together.

“What did they do to you?” he asked quietly, his eyes downcast.

“Showed me things,” Daniel said carefully. “Things they could do. Who they could hurt. Who I could hurt. Things nightmares are made of,” he whispered.

Jack looked up, understanding on his face. “That’s why you saw things I couldn’t see on that wall; they were already in you. They manipulated what you saw.”

“They also saw you, through me,” Daniel explained. “After we got outside they started.” Daniel closed his eyes at the memories. “God, it was so vivid and brutal,” he whispered. “I-I was afraid I’d act out what I was seeing.”

“Hell, Daniel,” Jack murmured, sympathizing with his friend.

“That’s why I told Janet not to let you near me. I couldn’t risk attacking you, or them attacking you.”

“Me?” Jack queried.

Daniel nodded. “We were together in the chamber. They sensed you and that you were important to me.”

Jack glanced away as he was wont to do whenever Daniel said something a little too personal. Nevertheless, he smiled inwardly at the pleasant tingle in his gut which his friend’s declaration invoked.

“I’m sorry I gave you the wrong impression,” Daniel said.

“You kind of had a lot on your mind,” Jack said, looking back. “No pun intended,” he winced.

“Unfortunately, I still do,” Daniel said ruefully.

“Yeah,” Jack said, uncomfortable with the knowledge and the inability to help. “So why didn’t they jump into me like they did you? Was it a time thing?”

“I think it’s because you hadn’t touched them,” Daniel said, averting his eyes.

“Can’t help yourself, can you?” Jack asked affectionately.

Daniel looked at Jack and smiled at the warmth in his friend’s eyes.

“Well, if it’s any consolation, if I’d seen those colours much longer, I’d have had my hands all over that damn wall, too,” Jack said.

“Thanks,” Daniel said, appreciating the sentiment. “It seems that by touching the wall I somehow absorbed some of them … or something,” he frowned.

“Yeah, that eye colour thing was a dead giveaway,” Jack said. “What’s with these hosts and eyes anyways?”

“Maybe it’s a defense mechanism. Kind of a ‘look at me, I’m possessed so you’d better leave me alone or obey me’, thing.” Daniel explained.

“Actually, it was a rhetorical question,” Jack smiled, “but that works for me.”

Daniel smiled then winced, pressing the heel of his hand into his eyes.

“Daniel?” Jack queried, his senses on full alert. “Daniel, look at me,” he ordered.

“Jack,” Daniel gasped. “Help me.”

Jack leapt up and grabbed Daniel’s hands, tearing them away from his face.

“Crap,” he muttered as blue-green eyes looked out at him.

Janet had warned him of this eventuality. Without hesitation, and with grim determination, Jack pulled out his weapon and zatted his friend.

Daniel convulsed and collapsed on the bed.

“Daniel?” Jack murmured, leaning over and parting Daniel’s eyelids. He was rewarded with a peek of beautiful blue irises. “Yes,” he whispered to himself, quickly checking Daniel’s pulse.

“Jack?” Daniel murmured.

“Right here,” Jack said, his hands cradling Daniel’s face. “You okay?”

“Oh, yeah,” Daniel muttered. “Love that stuff.”

Jack smiled, but it failed to reach his eyes.

“I take it not everyone’s pleased about going back to the planet,” he guessed.

“There’s one in every crowd,” Daniel said, grasping Jack’s hand to ground himself. “Jack, I need to go back now.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Jack promised.

**********

“Carter, if there’s any trouble, you and Daniel get the hell out,” Jack ordered, turning her around to check the seams on her suit.

“Yes, sir,” Sam replied.

Jack looked over at Daniel who was talking quietly to Teal’c. How he could be so calm when all those aliens were rattling around in his head, Jack would never know. The Wopi, as Daniel referred to them, were incomprehensible to Jack. They were violent invaders who violated his friend, and that was unforgivable. Jack had enough trouble accepting Ma’chello, and that was only because everything turned out well in the end. Also, Ma’chello had devoted his life to fighting the Goa’uld so they did owe him a debt of gratitude as Daniel kept insisting, but these bastards? Not a snowball’s chance in hell.

Jack looked down at the narrow tunnel and scowled. He had considered blasting a larger hole so he could accompany Daniel, but they couldn’t risk uncovering any more nasty surprises. What they could do, and would do, was seal the entrance, plant as many warnings as they could, then wipe the Stargate address from the computer’s memory.

“This place is giving me the creeps,” Jack muttered.

“You’re not alone, sir,” Sam replied.

“You know what you have to do,” Jack said quietly, his eyes dark.

“Yes, Colonel,” she replied, the unspoken possibility of zatting Daniel heavy on both their minds.

Jack didn’t know how many times the human body could be zatted before resulting in permanent damage, but he had the unpleasant notion that the NID knew, and the even more unpleasant notion that Daniel was damn close.

Daniel felt his skin prickle, and he turned to see Jack and Sam watching him.

“Are we ready?” Daniel asked, walking towards them, Teal’c at his side.

“Once I stick my head into this thing,” Sam replied, grimacing at the helmet.

“Daniel, how can you be sure they’re all going to be out of you?” Jack asked. “You said you’d feel them, but you didn’t know they were even in you until they let you know.”

Daniel shifted uncomfortably and mumbled, “That’s why Sam will have to shoot me.”

“What?” Jack and Sam cried in unison.

“That’s the only way to be sure,” Daniel said, sounding apologetic.

“And you didn’t think to mention this earlier?” Jack demanded.

“What good would it have done,” Daniel shrugged.

“Well, for one, it’s a hell of a thing to spring on Carter. Hey, Sam, shoot me for good luck,” Jack drawled sarcastically.

“I wouldn’t have said it quite like that,” Daniel protested.

“I know,” Jack sighed, reining in his anger and frustration. He wasn’t even mad at Daniel. Not really. But he sure as hell was pissed with the Wopi. “You don’t look surprised,” he added, regarding Teal’c suspiciously.

“Daniel Jackson informed me of this course of action moments ago, O’Neill,” Teal’c replied.

“Jack, can we just get this over with?” Daniel said.

Jack knew he was being selfish, averse to letting Daniel out of his sight. He held Daniel’s gaze and nodded.

“You ready, Carter?” he asked, his eyes still locked on Daniel’s.

“Yes, sir,” she replied, placing the helmet on her head.

“Okay, let’s do it,” Jack ordered, directing his gaze to Sam., “and I want a continuous report, Major.”

“Understood.”

“And watch your back. Both of you,” Jack added.

“We will,” Sam replied, nodding in the bulky headgear then awkwardly getting down on her stomach and wriggling into the narrow passageway.

“Okay, you’re on,” Jack said to Daniel after Sam’s boots cleared the entrance.

“Be careful, Daniel Jackson.”

“I will, Teal’c,” Daniel said, smiling at his teammate.

Daniel turned to Jack, his eyes unreadable in the dim light. “Wait for me,” he said quietly.

A vivid image flashed in Jack’s mind: Daniel in Abydonian robes, carrying the lifeless body of his future wife. This was followed by a thousand other shared experiences. His eyes softened and he reached out, his fingers gently grazing Daniel’s cheek. He smiled, dropped his hand to Daniel’s shoulder and squeezed.

Daniel clasped the hand on his shoulder and returned the squeeze. He nodded, dropped to his knees and scurried into the tunnel.

Teal’c took up position next to Jack, and the two men stood vigil, awaiting the return of their teammates.

*****

“Colonel, do you copy?”

“Copy that, Carter. What’s your situation?” Jack asked.

“I don’t mind admitting I’ll be glad when Daniel gets here. This place is a little unnerving, sir,” Sam reported.

“He should be popping out any time now, Major,” Jack said.

“Here he comes now, sir.”

Jack looked at Teal’s with a ‘here we go’ expression. Both men hated being on the outside, but Hammond had forbidden any contact with the alien environment unless properly clothed. Jack’s insistence if the aliens were going to jump him, they would have already done so, had fallen on deaf ears.

“Jack?”

“Daniel, you okay?” Jack asked.

“I’m fine, Jack. There’s an energy here I didn’t feel before. It’s, um, kind of stimulating.”

Jack smiled. He could visualize Daniel’s little frown and innate curiosity about something new.

“Keep it in your pants, Daniel.”

“Jack!” Daniel cried, causing Jack to wince and Sam to giggle.

“Okay, kids, playtime’s over. Daniel, what happens now?” Jack asked.

“I don’t really know, but I’m pretty sure I need to touch the wall,” Daniel replied.

“Of course you do,” Jack muttered to himself. “With or without the colours?”

“I’ll try it without,” Daniel said. “The colours were only a lure. Same as the pictures. A game. Nothing more.”

Jack heard the disappointment in his friend’s voice, and he fought back his anger with the Wopi.

“Screw the pictures, Daniel, but we’ll remember the colours together, okay?”

“I’d like that, Jack,” Daniel said softly after a short pause.

“Me, too,” Jack said. “Now do what you have to do so we can go home.”

“Okay.”

Jack looked at Teal’c. “This is it,” he murmured.

A series of squawks and apologies had Jack and Teal’c looking at each other in bemusement.

“Carter?”

“I think Daniel and I just got engaged, sir,” Sam replied dryly.

“Understood, Major,” Jack grinned.

“Daniel’s at the wall now, sir,” Sam reported. “He’s reaching out. He’s touching … oh, my God …”

“Carter, what’s happening?” Jack demanded, his fingers white-knuckling the radio.

“I don’t know, sir. His arm … it’s glowing. His face … he looks in pain. It’s all happening so fast, I don’t know if, wait … he’s smiling. Colonel, he says he’s okay,” she enthused.

“Is he still touching the wall?” Jack asked. “Carter, talk to me,” he insisted, unnerved by the silence.

The unmistakable sound of a zat firing and making contact had Jack yanking his head back from the radio.

“Carter!” he bellowed.

“I just shot Daniel, sir. He told me to,” she said breathlessly. “To make sure.”

Jack looked grimly at Teal’c. “I guess it’s still going according to plan.”

“Indeed, but I do not like this waiting, O’Neill,” Teal’c growled.

“I hear ya.”

“Colonel, Daniel’s coming around. He looks a little wobbly, but he’s okay, I think,” she added.

“Talk to me, Major,” Jack repeated, as the silence stretched out.

“They’re gone, Jack,” Daniel gasped. “All of them.”

“Yes!” Jack mouthed, high-fiving Teal’c with limited success. “Not that I’m doubting you or anything, Daniel, but you’re sure, right?”

“Well, I could get Sam to zat me again.”

“Get your asses back here, pronto,” Jack ordered with a grin.

“On our way, sir,” Sam replied.

******************

SG-1 watched in subdued silence as teams sent by Hammond to bury the Wopi performed their task.

Good riddance, Jack thought darkly.

“Condemned for eternity,” Daniel murmured.

Jack’s jaw twitched as he heard the remorse in Daniel’s quiet voice. He hadn’t wanted Daniel to return to the planet for this very reason: his humanity.

“They were condemned eons ago, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c said.

“None of this is your doing, Daniel,” Sam added.

“I know,” Daniel sighed. “I just …”

“Just nothing!” Jack snapped, “And if you’re feeling sorry for those bastards then maybe you better think about another line of work!”

“Sir!” Sam said, alarmed by the vehemence in Jack’s voice.

“What’s it going to be, Daniel?” Jack demanded.

Daniel stared at Jack in stunned silence.

“Screw it,” Jack growled, storming off before he said anything else he’d regret.

“Colonel, where are you going?”

“See that he stays out of trouble,” Jack called over his shoulder. “If you have to, shoot him.”

“Daniel, the colonel didn’t mean that,” Sam said quickly.

“I will speak to O’Neill, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c said.

“No, no, no,” Daniel said, lightly touching Teal’c’s forearm, his eyes on Jack’s retreating back. “I’ll talk to him.”

“Daniel, I don’t think this is a good time,” Sam cautioned.

“No, Sam, it has to be now,” Daniel said. “I’ll see you guys later,” he mumbled absently as he left to find Jack.

************

“Damn it to hell,” Jack muttered as he sat on the ground with a heavy thud. His sudden anger with Daniel surprised and frightened him. He should be celebrating with his teammate, not berating him and threatening to throw him off the team. “Crap,” he murmured, leaning over and burying his head in his arms.

“Jack?”

The soft, hesitant voice brought bitter tears to Jack’s eyes. He swallowed hard and forced them back. Not now, Daniel.

Daniel regarded the hunched brooding figure for only a moment before deciding on his actions. He sat down next to his friend, close, but not touching.

For crying out loud, Daniel, you’re playing with fire.

“I’m sorry for what you went through,” Daniel said gently.

“Yeah, well sorry doesn’t cut it,” Jack sighed, his head still cradled in his arms.

Daniel’s heart clenched at the desolation in Jack’s voice. His mind struggled with words of comfort and explanation, but failed to come up with anything worth voicing.

Good answer, Danny, Jack thought.

After a few moments of strained silence, Jack spoke up. “Do you have any idea why I’m so pissed off?”

Daniel looked down at the bowed head.

“You mean besides the usual?”

Jack snorted, then lifted his head and sat back, staring into the distance. “I never thought I’d see you again.”

“I’m right here,” Daniel said carefully.

“Are you sorry you came back?”

Daniel looked puzzled then asked, “Are you talking about ascension?”

“Yeah.”

“Jack, I chose to ascend because I thought I could do more out there,” Daniel said, gesturing to the sky. “I thought I’d understand more, make a difference, but the rules … well, you know me and regulations,” he added.

“So you came back because you didn’t want to play by Oma’s rules,” Jack said.

“No, I came back because I couldn’t stand by and do nothing while people I loved and cared about suffered,” Daniel corrected.

Jack turned and looked directly into solemn blue eyes. “If Oma and the Others had allowed you to interfere, would you be here now?”

Daniel held Jack’s gaze and answered with his heart.

“I honestly don’t know.”

Jack nodded and looked away. It wasn’t the answer he wanted, but he appreciated the honesty.

“But I do know that if I’d stayed with Oma, I would have visited you so many times you’d have gone nuts.”

Jack smiled and looked back at Daniel. “Missed me that much?”

“Yes, Jack,” Daniel replied softly and without hesitation. “I missed you that much.”

“When you were dying, I wanted to tell you what you meant to me,” Jack said slowly, looking back at the horizon, “but I couldn’t.”

“I knew, Jack,” Daniel said gently.

“I couldn’t say the words because … because it was too late, and they seemed so inadequate.”

“Unlike ‘I’ve grown to admire you … a bit … I think,” Daniel said, amusement in his voice.

“You know me and feelings,” Jack sighed. “Bottom line: I can’t go through that again.”

Jack continued to stare into the distance while Daniel watched him carefully.

“What do you want to tell me, Jack?” Daniel asked softly.

Jack removed his sunglasses and looked directly at Daniel.

“You’re my best friend, and I love you.”

“I love you, too, Jack. That’s why I came back.”

Jack had trouble keeping Daniel’s gaze. He blinked and looked away.

“You know Carter’s still mad at you for visiting me and Teal’c and not her.”

“Sam’s lucky she didn’t see me,” Daniel replied gravely.

Jack nodded in understanding. He and Teal’c had been at death’s door before Daniel allowed himself to be seen and no doubt caused Oma and the Others much consternation at his ‘breaking the rules’.

“Of course, just because you didn’t see me didn’t mean I wasn’t there,” Daniel said casually, brushing dirt off his pants.

Jack remembered the sudden breeze in the SGC hallway so long ago and the feeling that it was Daniel. He’d smiled then, and he smiled now.

“I was right; that was you,” Jack said.

“Pretty good for a first try,” Daniel said smugly.

“There were other times?” Jack asked, his eyebrows arching.

Daniel smiled and ducked his head.

“You spied on us?” Jack queried, the thought clearly unsettling.

“Well, it wasn’t like I watched you in the shower or anything,” Daniel explained. “Besides, I’d seen you naked enough times as it was.”

Jack smiled then frowned. “Cut it out, I’m supposed to be mad at you.”

Daniel grinned, but his smile faded quickly. Jack was right; he was avoiding the issue.

“I know I try your patience, Jack,” he said quietly. “Even Oma Desala had a hard time putting up with me. That says a lot about you.”

“Thick between the ears?” Jack grumbled.

“No,” Daniel said slowly, glancing sideways at Jack. “You’re the truest friend I’ve ever had.”

Jack looked into clear, serious blue eyes and shook his head. Daniel had it all backwards, but he cherished the sentiment just the same.

“So that’s why you like to drive me nuts?” he asked, nudging Daniel’s shoulder.

“No, but it’s why you let me. It’s why you’re still here. Why we’re still here,” Daniel explained, gesturing to them both.

“Crap, Feretti was right,” Jack sighed, adjusting his sunglasses. “We are like an old married couple.”

Daniel smiled. “Something like that. Jack, I can’t explain why I do the things I do. Half the time I don’t think, I just react.”

“Only half the time?” Jack asked incredulously, peering over the rim of his glasses.

“That’s beside the point,” Daniel said, waving a dismissive hand. “The point is …”

Jack looked at Daniel, his eyebrows raised. “Yes? The point is?” he prompted.

Daniel shook his head in frustration. “The point is: I don’t know why the hell you put up with me,” he sighed.

“Clearly, you’re my cross to bear,” Jack replied.

“You’re not exactly the easiest guy to live with, either,” Daniel pointed out.

“At least I don’t go around throwing myself at every alien we encounter and saying, ‘Take me, I’m yours,’” Jack said bitterly, getting to his feet.

“I see we’re getting back on track,” Daniel mused, looking at the empty spot where Jack used to be. “Okay,” he said, scrambling to his feet, “let’s talk about it.”

“About what?” Jack grumbled.

“You know damn well what. The Wopi,” Daniel replied. “You bit my head off back there because I—”

“Because you felt sorry for the bastards that put me through hell!” Jack supplied vehemently.

“I don’t feel sorry for them per se,” Daniel began, “I just—”

“You always care more about the ‘other guys’ and it’s to hell with the rest of us,” Jack interjected, his voice rising. “Sometimes I wonder if you hate the Goa’uld as much as you say you do. Hell, given enough time you, Apophis, and Ammonet may have gotten a nice little ménage a trois going ….” Shit.

Jack bit his tongue, but the damning words were out before he could stop them. He turned away in shame from the look of shock, hurt, and disbelief on Daniel’s face.

“Daniel, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that,” he said, turning around quickly. “That was a stupid and ignorant thing to say. My only excuse, besides being an insensitive bastard, is that you scare the hell out of me.”

“I know you didn’t mean what you said so we’ll just forget it happened, okay?” Daniel requested.

I don’t think so, Daniel. That was a record low, even for me.

“Okay?” Daniel repeated.

Jack held his hand up in a helpless gesture and shook his head.

“If it’s any consolation, Jack, I can hate, and I do hate,” Daniel said, his words soft.

Especially me at the moment, Jack thought dully. “It’s not a consolation, Daniel. You shouldn’t have to hate. You deserve better. But I don’t blame you if you hate me right now.”

“Jack, listen to me,” Daniel said gently. “I understand why you’re angry. You’re afraid of losing me again. That’s a nice feeling, knowing you care.”

Daniel was right. Jack was deathly afraid of losing him again. It was a debilitating and sobering thought.

“But I can’t stop being who I am,” Daniel said.

“I don’t want you to, Daniel. I’m just an arrogant, selfish bastard who feels like crap right now.”

Daniel smiled sadly and stepped up close to his friend.

“Jack, what the Wopi did to me and to you is unforgivable, and contrary to appearances, I do not feel sorry for them. They raped my mind and they enjoyed doing it. They showed me things nightmares are made of. I haven’t forgiven them, and I won’t. You have to believe that. Maybe being locked up made them worse, I don’t know, but they were imprisoned for a reason. If I showed any compassion, it wasn’t for them, but for the unsettling fact there is such a thing as ‘banished for eternity’.”

“It is kind of creepy,” Jack conceded, looking away to hide the effect Daniel’s words were having on him.

“So, we’re okay?” Daniel asked.

Jack took off his glasses to better see the welcome blue eyes of his friend, a friend he didn’t deserve.

“Yeah, we’re okay,” he said, his voice tight with emotion.

Daniel smiled then cleared his throat.

“So, being the old married couple that we are, is this where we go home and have make up sex?”

Jack laughed and clapped Daniel on the shoulder.

“We’d better get back before Carter and Teal’c send SG-3 to save you from me.”

“That’s a ‘no’ then?” Daniel asked, crestfallen.

“Will you settle for dinner?” Jack offered.

“Thought you’d never ask,” Daniel said impishly. “Come on, let’s go,” he said, tugging Jack’s sleeve.

“God help me,” Jack muttered as he followed his friend.

Daniel turned and dazzled Jack with a smile and eyes as blue as the sky.

“Why do I have the feeling I just lost this fight?” Jack mumbled to himself.

“Jack, you’re babbling.”

“I don’t babble, and if I did, can you blame me?”

“We can discuss your mental state over dinner,” Daniel said.

“That should be rich,” Jack replied dryly.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Daniel asked.

“Never mind. Can we just settle for, ‘you watch my back, I’ll watch yours’?” Jack suggested, draping his arm around the younger man’s shoulders.

“Works for me. Um, you did say ‘watch’ not ‘wash’, right?” Daniel asked, glancing curiously at Jack.

“Don’t start,” Jack warned.

Daniel snickered and patted Jack on the back.

“We do good work,” he said firmly.

“Yes, we do,” Jack agreed, squeezing Daniel’s shoulder affectionately, “but I’m gonna ask Hammond for a raise.”

“You get paid for this?” Daniel asked in mock amazement.

“Have you been saving this all up for a year?” Jack scowled.

“You’ll find out,” Daniel chuckled.

Jack laughed and swatted Daniel on the head.

“I’ll look forward to it,” he said, and he meant every word.
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