"I'm going back to Galia with Jayven."
The words played over and over in Jack's head as the elevator crawled its way down to Sub Level 28. This broken record thing in his mind was becoming a habit, one that was really starting to annoy Jack. He wasn't surprised that it was Daniel who had finally driven him over the edge into insanity, but he was still having trouble with the manner in which it had happened.
However, at that precise moment, the thoughts that were trying to make themselves heard over the endless cycle of Daniel's last words to him, were wondering what kind of a mess Daniel had managed to get himself into this time. Why had he let Daniel go off to Galia without him? Daniel always got into trouble when he went on assignment with other teams. Well, Jack had to admit Daniel got into trouble fairly regularly on missions with SG-1, too, but at least on those occasions Jack was there to get him out of it, or even just share in it with him. Now, he was stuck in an excrutiatingly slow elevator, wondering what might be happening on another planet.
The elevator finally stopped and Jack practically ran out of its opening doors. He burst into the briefing room, barely noticing General Hammond and Admiral Dant, and made straight for Major Kovachek, who rose from his seat in alarm at Jack's entrance.
"What the hell is going on, Kovachek?" Jack demanded, stabbing a finger in the Major's face. "I entrust my archaeologist to you, and you manage to lose him in less than 24 hours!"
Kovachek didn't get a chance to respond, since General Hammons interrupted with a sharp reprimand. "Colonel O'Neill!"
Jack snapped back into an at ease position and muttered, "Sorry, sir."
"I understand your frustration, Colonel," Hammond continued, his tone still stern, "but I would appreciate no further outbursts. I suggest you change into uniform, collect the rest of your team and report back here in a few minutes."
Jack glanced down at the jeans, t-shirt and leather jacket he was wearing, then raised his head to meet the General's gaze again.
"Yes, sir," he replied, and turned to leave the room.
Fifteen minutes later, Jack was back, this time in uniform and with Carter and Teal'c in tow. He had met Carter coming out of the locker room; she had obviously made the sensible choice to get ready before she reported to General Hammond, and had offered to go and find Teal'c while Jack got changed. Now, they presented a calm, professional and united front as they entered the briefing room and took their seats. Jack kept his expression carefully neutral, fighting the urge to shoot glares at Kovachek, since he knew he was on thin ice with the General after his earlier display.
Hammond waited until they were all settled, then turned to Kovachek. "Major?"
With a slightly nervous glance in Jack's direction, Kovachek gave his report.
"We arrived on Galia early evening local time. Dr Jackson made all the introductions and we were assigned quarters at the Exploration Centre. Then we were invited to join Admiral Dant, Chancellor Glarris and some others for dinner. Commander Ravell and Officer Penthar departed for their homes shortly after we arrived, but Jayven Melawei stayed with us the whole time and attended the dinner. Afterwards, my team and I decided to retire for the night, but Jayven asked Dr Jackson if he wanted to see some of the city. I arranged with Dr Jackson that we'd meet up this morning; Jayven was to join us as well, but neither of them turned up. Admiral Dant sent someone to Jayven's home, but it looks like he never made it back there. Nobody's seen or heard from either of them since they left the Exploration Centre last night."
Admiral Dant spoke up for the first time. "We've got investigators out in the city trying to track their movements, and the Galaya are convening to try their own methods of location." He looked at Jack. "Please be assured that we are devoting all our resources to finding them. However, we would be more than willing for you and your team to come back with us and aid in the search."
Jack opened his mouth to say the Galians would be hard pressed to stop him, but General Hammond cut him off before he could even formulate the first word.
"Thank you, Admiral," Hammond said, throwing a look at Jack that told him in no uncertain terms that the General wouldn't tolerate any attitude from him. "We appreciate your openness and spirit of co-operation."
Jack had an awful lot he wanted to say, but decided he was better off keeping his mouth shut, since he wasn't sure he'd be able to control his temper. Instead, he looked across at Carter, hoping she'd understand and ask some of the questions to which he wanted answers. Evidently, her entirely human telepathic skills were primed, since she nodded almost imperceptibly before turning to Admiral Dant and leaning forwards on her forearms.
"Have you any idea what might have happened to them? We still know very little about your world, so it would help if you could outline some possibilities for us."
At the look of confusion on the Admiral's face, she continued, "What I mean is, are there any usual explanations when people go missing on Galia - such as traffic accidents, targeted muggings, random street violence.?" Carter trailed off as the Admiral's expression shifted from confusion to outright horror.
"Major!" he exclaimed in the ensuing silence. "I would never presume to suggest that we live in a perfect society on Galia, but the idea that two people would be unable to walk the streets of our capital city in safety is preposterous, especially if one of them is Galayan."
Jack's control finally snapped. "For crying out loud, Admiral, if they were perfectly safe, they wouldn't have disappeared! And if this kind of thing never happens on Galia, there can't be that many possibilities."
Instead of getting angrier, Dant suddenly looked distinctly uncomfortable, and Jack knew he'd hit upon something. He just wasn't sure he was going to like what the Admiral was going to say.
"There are people on Galia who have always been against the Galayan Portal research and, in recent weeks, we have had some trouble with protesters opposing the Exploration Units. The most likely explanation we've come up with for the disappearance of Daniel Jackson and Jayven Melawei is that they've fallen victim to some kind of political attack against the policy of exploration."
Jack hid his face in his hands and spoke through his fingers, his tone low but steely.
"If you knew there were people out there who posed a threat, why did you let Jayven take Daniel roaming around the city in the middle of the night?"
Dant cleared his throat. "We had no idea they were organised enough to pose this kind of threat and, besides, up until know, all the protests have been relatively small and entirely peaceful. Galia is not a violent world, Colonel O'Neill, and I still find it very difficult to believe any of our citizens would be capable of intentionally harming one of the Galaya or an honoured guest from another planet."
Jack lowered his hands again and laid them flat on the table. He was fast losing his patience and was eager to take action.
"Okay, enough talking," he said. "With your permission, General, I'd like to get my team ready for a return to Galia."
"Very well," Hammond agreed, his face grim. "Dismissed."
Daniel woke slowly. His head felt like it was wrapped in cotton wool and his limbs felt overlarge and incredibly heavy. He fought to remember what had happened. He had come back to Galia with SG-11 at General Hammond's request. At the time, he hadn't been sure if he wanted to go; on the one hand, he was eager to learn more about Galian society, but he had also wanted an opportunity to talk things out with Jack. However, he hadn't been given the choice, since Hammond thought it would be better to send someone already familiar with the key players, in order to help Major Kovachek set up further negotiations.
After a formal dinner, Jayven had offered to show Daniel the city, and he had welcomed the opportunity to spend more time with his new friend. He found it difficult to believe he had only known Jayven for three days; the depth of their connection made it seem as if they had been intimate for years, and Daniel very much enjoyed the easy familiarity of Jayven's company.
They had left the Exploration Centre with the intention of heading for a favourite nightspot of Jayven's, predominantly frequented by the Galaya. Jayven had led Daniel to where a line of what looked like taxis waited outside the building. They had climbed in, Jayven had told the driver the destination, and the vehicle had moved off. Within a few moments, some kind of gas had started to pour into the back where they were sitting, and everything had rapidly faded to black.
Once he had pieced together all he could remember, Daniel moved onto the next challenge, namely opening his eyes. This proved more difficult than usual, in that his eyelids seemed to be glued shut but, after a few moment, Daniel managed to prize them open slightly and focus on his surroundings. The first thing he saw was Jayven. The alien was lying on his back on some kind of table, with wide straps securing his chest and thighs.
It was then that Daniel realised he was similarly restrained on another table a couple of feet away from his friend. He was about to say Jayven's name when the alien's mental voice silenced him.
:Just lie still, Daniel. If we do not announce that we are awake, perhaps we will have a few moments alone to talk.:
:I'm afraid you underestimate me, Mr Melawei.:
A new voice insinuated itself into Daniel's mind, though he got the impression somehow that he wasn't actually meant to hear it. The voice was soft, but not in the least bit pleasant; it flowed like a creeping mist across his mind, leaving a sick feeling of corruption behind it.
Jayven spoke out loud. "Take my hand, Daniel."
In a situation where he had no idea of the dangers, and no information with which to gain any kind of advantage, Daniel knew he would have to trust Jayven to lead him through whatever plan the Galaya had formulated. Without a second thought, he reached out and grasped Jayven's hand where it stretched towards him. The instant contact was made, Daniel felt the warm blanket of Jayven's mental presence surround him in an almost physical shell.
:Focus on me: came the gentle instruction. :Focus inwards to where your spirit and mine are as one within us. Feed all your strength into that point of connection and he will not be able to separate us.:
Again, Daniel did as he was told, without thinking about it, without questioning how he was doing it or what exactly was going on. There were a couple of seconds of silence as they concentrated on strengthening their bond, then the other voice spoke again, this time out loud.
"Very impressive, Mr Melawei. I see the rumours of your extraordinary connection with Dr Jackson were not exaggerated." The voice sounded pleasantly surprised, and Daniel found himself wondering if demonstrating their strength was such a good thing. "I had thought my informant must be mistaken, but now I see I owe her an apology."
A figure moved into Daniel's field of vision. It was a Galayan man, and he stood between the two tables, looking down at his captives. His silver hair was longer than Jayven's and tied neatly into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. His features were patrician and his silver eyes shone with a malevolence that matched his supercilious expression.
Jayven met his gaze steadily, the inequality of their respective positions seemingly not fazing him in the slightest.
"Larson," he stated calmly. "I might have guessed you'd be behind this."
At the same time as he heard these words spoken out loud, Daniel also heard Jayven speaking in his mind.
:This is Avris Larson. He's influential in the Research and Investigation Consortium, but I've long suspected he's also involved in a rogue faction of the Galaya, whose views on the use of our powers do not agree with the current policies.:
Larson gripped the joined arms at the wrists and pulled them apart, breaking the physical connection between Jayven and Daniel, though Daniel felt no change in the mental shields around him. Larson kept hold of their wrists, his grip uncomfortably strong, and he seemed to be concentrating hard on something. Daniel felt Jayven's mental presence tense up, and he redoubled his own efforts to maintain their connection. After a few moments, Larson let out a sharp breath and released his hold on his captives.
"I was hoping to be able to study your bond from within," he said, his tone still contemplative rather than angry, "but it exceeds my expectations and you have managed somehow to deny me access to your minds." He turned on his heel and moved out of Daniel's line of sight. "No matter. I'll just have to conduct my research in a slightly more crude fashion. It makes no difference to me, though the two of you may regret your lack of co-operation before too long."
Daniel didn't hear Larson issuing any kind of instructions, but suddenly two more Galaya appeared next to the tables. One of them pressed a small device to the side of Jayven's neck, there was a hissing noise and Jayven immediately went limp. Daniel figured they must consider him less of a threat, since they did not do the same thing to him, instead simply unstrapping him from the table and lifting him to his feet, supported between them. He was still feeling the aftereffects of the gas, so he wasn't in a position to resist them. However, there was nothing wrong with his mouth, and he took the opportunity to face up to Larson.
"I don't know what it is you want from us, but we're not going to give it to you. And the people on my planet won't let you get away with kidnapping me."
Larson just smiled. "No-one knows what has happened to you, Dr Jackson, and no-one knows where you are. I don't believe anyone even suspects my interest in you and your little friend here, so I doubt very much that your colleagues from Earth are going to come rushing to your rescue any time soon. As for giving me what I want, I think you'll find I'll gain your co-operation one way or another. Even the strongest of minds can be broken, given enough time."
With that, he stepped aside to allow his underlings to manhandle Daniel out of the room. As he was dragged down a corridor towards a set of doors, Daniel realised this was the second time he'd been in this position in the last three days. He wasn't surprised when the doors opened to reveal a cell. Half the room was divided off by a row of metal bars that stretched between the walls, with a padlocked gate in the middle. Daniel was deposited on the other side, and gate was securely locked behind him.
In the half of the room that contained the exit, there was some kind of large metal container standing up against the wall. Daniel wondered what it was for, and had a sinking feeling he was about to find out. He was proved right when the two Galaya returned, wheeling Jayven on a gurney between them. One of them crossed to the container and opened it, then rejoined his companion to lift Jayven from the gurney, manoeuvre him over to the container and position him inside. One of them pressed a switch on the outside and some kind of forcefield sprang up that held Jayven in place, upright and not touching any of the sides of the container. The alien who had been supporting Jayven up until then, now stepped back, and the other one sealed the container door. Without even a single glance in Daniel's direction, the turned and left the room.
Daniel immediately tested the bars, but they were extremely solid, and positioned far too close together for him to be able to squeeze between them. He called out to Jayven, first with his voice and then with his mind, but received no response.
His current options exhausted, Daniel moved to the corner of his cell and sat down wearily on the floor. All he could do now was hope that Larson's confidence was ill-founded and that Jack would figure out a way to find him.
The remaining three members of SG-1, accompanied by Major Kovachek and Admiral Dant, arrived back on Galia to find Mikar, Katra and Chancellor Glarris awaiting them.
Mikar went straight to Jack and grasped his upper arm, fixing him with an emotion-filled stare. "Colonel. I'm sorry the circumstances that bring you back to my planet are not better."
Jack gave him a tight smile. "Once we find Daniel and Jayven, circumstances will be just fine. And call me Jack." Mikar nodded his understanding. "So, what's the plan?"
Katra snapped to attention and reported, "The investigators have found no information out in the city. No-one saw them leave the Centre and no-one has reported seeing them anywhere else. It's a big city, though, and they haven't been looking long."
Chancellor Glarris stepped forward at this point. "They may yet turn up some information," she admitted, "but I believe we have a better way of locating Jayven and Dr Jackson." The way she said 'we' suggested to Jack that she mean the Galaya as opposed to the Galians, and he caught superiority in her tone that hinted at some interesting societal attitudes. Now was not the time to analyse the Galian class system, though.
"What can we do?" Jack asked.
"I have an idea which may improve our chances," Chancellor Glarris told him. "It would require you and your team to come with me to the Consortium Headquarters."
Jack took a moment to consider their options. He wasn't overly inclined to trust the locating of Daniel to the Galaya, but he had to admit it seemed like their best bet. His own first instinct was to head out into the city and tear it apart building by building, but he managed to quash that impulse in favour of more constructive action.
He turned to Major Kovachek. "Okay, here's what we'll do. Kovachek, you stay here and liaise with the Galian investigators in the city. See what you can find out about who might have wanted to harm Jayven or Daniel. Carter and Teal'c will come with me to see the Consortium." Looking back at Mikar, he offered, "Would you come with us? I'd welcome a familiar face on this trip."
Mikar smiled back at him. "I do believe the Galaya are our best hope for finding our friends. I will go with you." He laid a hand on Katra's shoulder. "Coming, Kat?"
She nodded, and they all followed Chancellor Glarris through the corridors to the main entrance of the Exploration Centre. A large vehicle awaited them outside, and they all piled in, Chancellor Glarris joining the driver in the front, while the five humans sat together in the back.
As the journey began, silence reigned among the passengers. Jack assumed that, like him, Carter and Teal'c were thinking about the difficulties that faced them trying to find Daniel on an alien planet that rivalled Earth in its level of advancement. Of course, Jack's thoughts had the added edge that he still had not had the chance to tell Daniel how he felt. If he'd believed in that kind of thing, Jack would have said it seemed as if fate was against them; as soon as he'd figured out what he wanted to say to Daniel, the younger man had been snatched away from him. Jack refused to think negatively, though; he was determined that they would find Daniel - and Jayven - and that he would get the opportunity to apologise to both of them for his behaviour of the past few days. What happened after that would be up to Daniel, and Jack decided there and then that he would accept whatever choice Daniel made, without argument. He at least owed his friend that.
Then, the silence was broken, and Jack's attention wrested away from his internal monologue.
"Is it always like this?" Mikar asked, his tone weary.
Jack looked up at him in concern. "Like what?"
Mikar met his gaze, his eyes troubled. "In the last four days, I've watched my mentor die, had to fight an army of clones that looked just like him, and now my best friend is missing. Nothing like that ever happened before we went through the Portal."
Jack sighed and looked down at his hands. He'd been worried that the events of the past few days were taking their toll on Mikar, and had wondered when the dam was going to break. He hoped he'd be able to find some words of comfort for the young man, even though he was having difficulty keeping his own emotions in check.
"You've have a rough start," he agreed, "and I won't try to tell you that using the Stargate is all fun and games. We've had more than our fair share of disasters and heartbreaks because of it. But you have to think about the bigger picture. With all that's going on out there," - he gestured expansively towards the sky - "you can't hide your head in the sand and pretend it doesn't exist. Besides, there's been good stuff, too. We've seen things out in the galaxy that the other people on our planet haven't even dreamed about, and we've helped countless people free themselves from slavery and oppression. Some of the things we've had to do have been damned unsavoury, I'll admit, and some of the experiences we've had I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, but in the grand scheme of things, I think we're coming out ahead, and that's got to count for something."
Jack broke off when he noticed Carter was staring at him. "What?" he demanded.
"You - you sound like Daniel," she murmured.
Jack paused for a second, and then smiled. "Well, maybe I do at that. I guess he's been rubbing off on me all these years, after all." Then he turned back to Mikar, his expression serious again. "Don't give up on Jayven yet, either. Wherever he is, we have to assume he's got Daniel with him and, if there's one person I know who has a talent for getting out of trouble, it's Daniel. And you've seen what they can do together - they'll keep each other safe until we find them, don't you worry about that. And I'll tell you something else - I never had the pleasure of meeting Hiran Krand, but I know he'd be proud of the way you've handled yourself through all of this. He taught you well, and you've honoured his memory with every action you've taken since he died."
Jack saw Mikar's eyes fill at his words, and the thought Daniel would have been proud of him, if he'd been there to hear him. Jack just hoped he'd get the chance to tell him about it.
The rest of the short trip passed in renewed silence, though it felt to Jack as if at least some of the previous malaise had lifted. Carter and Teal'c both threw him glances of respectful admiration after his little pep talk, and Mikar sat with his arm thrown across Katra's shoulders, both seemingly drawing strength from the contact.
It wasn't long before the vehicle slowed and drew to a halt outside another building. Where the Galian Exploration Centre was low and flat, built for practicality, the Galayan Research and Investigation Consortium headquarters was tall and almost gravity-defying, with slender spinarets extending out from a graceful central construct. Jack didn't have much time to admire the architecture, though, since Chancellor Glarris ushered them inside and quickly led them through into a hall off the main foyer.
There, on a large mat, they found a group of six Galaya, all sitting in a circle with their hands linked. As Chancellor Glarris approached them, they all broke contact and opened their eyes. One rose to his feet and bowed before Glarris.
"High Chancellor, we have so far had no success in locating Jayven. Either we are not strong enough, or he is somehow shielded from us."
"Do not worry," she reassured him. "I have brought Dr Jackson's friends and would like to try an experiment." She turned to Jack. "The others have been trying to seek out Jayven's spirit by reaching out with the combined strength of their minds. This is a difficult task at best, and we have been hindered by the fact that none of us have ever shared a close bond with Jayven. However, Jayven's description of the connection he formed with Dr Jackson made me think that your friend may have some latent telepathic ability, or at least that his mind must be exceptionally open to mental communication."
"Exceptional is certainly a word I'd use to describe Daniel's mind," Jack commented.
"I thought perhaps that someone close to Dr Jackson might be able to reach him if they were to allow us to link with them and use our powers through them," Glarris explained. "Which of the three of you has the strongest bond with him?"
"That would be me," Jack stated immediately, even though he had absolutely no idea what he might be letting himself in for. Chancellor Glarris gestured for him to join the circle on the floor, but Teal'c's voice stopped him.
"O'Neill," the big man said, "are you certain you are the best choice in this instance?"
Jack looked over at his team members and saw that Carter's face was troubled as well.
"Okay, what's the problem, kids?" he asked. "Carter, spit it out."
"Well, sir," she replied, obviously somewhat uncomfortable. "You've not exactly been open to the idea of telepathy so far. I just think maybe I."
"Look, Carter," Jack cut her off, unwilling to spend valuable time arguing the point, "I appreciate your concerns, but where Daniel's safety is at stake, I'm prepared to be open to anything. And while I know the two of you have a lot in common, I've known him the longest, and I've spent the most time with him outside of work. You may not be aware of this, but Daniel and I have done our fair share of 'bonding' over the last few years."
Jack just hoped that the warped natured of the their bonding over the last few days wouldn't interfere with the chances of this exercise succeeding.
"Yes, sir," Carter acknowledged, backing down immediately in the face of Jack's determination.
He looked across at Teal'c, and the Jaffa bowed his head in acquiescence too. Jack turned away from them and made his way over to the mat. Chancellor Glarris inserted herself into the circle and gestured for him to seat himself in the centre.
"Please remove your jacket, Colonel," she requested.
Confused, Jack murmured, "Uh, sure," and complied.
"As you know, we form links through touch," the Chancellor explained, "and those links are stronger if the physical contact is maintained. To put it bluntly, since there are seven of us, we will need access to more of your skin than just your hands."
Jack's immediate impulse was to stop this whole thing before it went any further, but he quashed it and thought of Daniel instead. He was prepared to do anything to find him, and having a load of aliens pawing at him wasn't really too much to ask if it would help him to achieve that aim. He forced himself to relax.
"Okay," he said, taking a deep breath. "What do you need me to do?"
"Close your eyes and try to clear your mind."
Jack did as instructed, casting his mind back to when he'd been trapped in Teal'c's body and had been forced to learn the art of kel'no'reem in order to survive. He felt himself relax further, and wasn't even distracted too much when he felt numerous hands take hold of his arms. Chancellor Glarris spoke again, but this time it was as if her words came from inside his own head.
:Focus on Daniel. Turn all your thoughts to him. Picture him in your mind, and try to think of things that bring you close to him.:
Jack didn't find it difficult to picture Daniel, but he was surprised by the clarity of the image that came into his mind. He saw Daniel in his Abydonian robes, saying goodbye to the people who had become his family, after Apophis had stolen Sha're. Jack felt his throat constrict at the memory and experienced the same wave of admiration he had felt at the time, watching Daniel speak to the young Abydonians who had obviously held him in such high regard.
The image changed, shifting through Daniel rising out of the sea on Oannes after they'd thought he was dead, Daniel walking through the crowd in the gate room and into Jack's arms after they'd left him mortally wounded on Apophis' ship, Daniel lying on the floor of a tent saying his last farewell to Sha're after Teal'c was forced to kill her, Daniel shouting at Jack not to shoot the Unas who had kidnapped him. Eventually, the picture in his mind came to rest on Daniel as he had been three days before, just after Jayven had kissed him. He had turned to face Jack, his lips slightly parted, his expression a mixture of shock and incredible desire, which Jack had thought at the time was for Jayven. Now, though, as he stared into the eyes of the memory - Daniel, Jack saw that the desire was directed at him, and he was suddenly filled with a huge surge of joy at the revelation.
:Good: the voice of Chancellor Glarris approved. :Now send that energy outwards. Call to him from within your love.:
A small corner of Jack's mind spoke up at that, pointing out that the Galaya now knew about his feelings for Daniel, but the rest shouted down that small voice and forced his whole concentration onto the task at hand.
Jack felt the presence of all the Galaya in his mind, bolstering his thoughts and holding up his focus as they were now holding up his body. He took the energy they offered, focused it into once single thought, and then, hoping against hope that this whole thing wasn't a momentous waste of time, he called out with his mind.
Daniel was really starting to find his predicament rather tedious. He had now been stuck in his cell for two hours, and nobody had come to either torture or question him. It wasn't that he liked being interrogated, of course, but it was a bit difficult to gain any kind of upper hand when there was no-one around with whom he could talk. He was also getting rather worried about Jayven. He had been completely cut off from the alien since his incarceration in the strange metal container, which either meant Jayven was still unconscious or that something was preventing him from communicating with his mind. Neither of those scenarios was very good, but Daniel was beginning to think that the latter was the more likely of the two, and that worried him even more.
He had figured out that the container acted as some kind of sensory deprivation tank, which at first he hadn't considered to be a danger to a Galaya. The way Daniel saw it, the removal of the five physical senses from someone who possessed extra mental senses would have far less effect than on a normal human. Then he had thought about how Jayven's mental powers were tied directly to touch and sight, and wondered if a sensory deprivation tank might be the worst kind of torture a Galaya could suffer. The fact that their captor, a Galaya himself, had subjected Jayven to it supported this theory.
Simple solitude, without the now familiar presence of Jayven at the edge of his mind, was starting to get to Daniel, so he couldn't imagine what Jayven must be going through by now.
As he was sitting there, contemplating the mental state of his newest friend and hoping that whatever damage had been done to him would be reversible when - and not if - they got out of the mess they were in, Daniel felt the first inklings of an outside presence in his mind. He sat up straight from where he had been slumped against the wall.
:Jayven?: he sent tentatively.
The response was entirely unexpected.
:Daniel?: Jack's voice sounded clearly in his head, accompanied by a wave of tremendous affection and concern.
:J-Jack? Wh-wha?: Daniel's usual eloquence completely deserted him as he wondered if he was actually losing his mind after all.
:Daniel, I love you.: The voice was strong and certain, and full of conviction.
Confusion reigned in Daniel's thoughts, not in the least diminished by this declaration.
:Jack? Where. um, how.?:
:I love you, Daniel.: The words emblazoned themselves across his mind, burning into his consciousness with their intensity.
:I - I don't understand.:
The words came again, refusing to be discouraged by their uncertain reception.
:I love you.:
The natural response to that statement finally asserted itself.
:I love you, too.:
Daniel could have sworn he 'heard' a sigh of relief in his head, and suddenly Jack was all business.
:Good. Now, where are you?:
Daniel was still several steps behind, trying to figure out precisely how Jack off all people was speaking to him telepathically.
:Jack. how. I mean, what's. I don't understand.:
:I'll explain later, Daniel. Tell me where you are so I can come get you, then we can talk to your heart's content.:
Forcing himself to ignore the complete insanity of the situation, Daniel tried to formulate a helpful response.
:I don't know where we are, Jack. We got gassed in the taxi and woke up somewhere strapped to tables. The guy who's got us is called Avris Larson, he's a top level Galayan politician, but Jayven thinks he's also the head of what's essentially the Galayan version of the NID. I don't know what exactly he wants, but he's locked Jayven in some kind of sensory deprivation tank, and I'm stuck in a cell next to it. Ummm. it's been eight hours since we left the Exploration Centre and I've been awake for two and a half. Obviously, I don't know how long it was between when we arrived here and when I woke up, so that probably won't help much, but.:
:It's okay, Daniel: Jack interrupted him soothingly. :You've given me plenty to go on. They're telling me you ought to try and make contact with Jayven and help him somehow or he's going to be in trouble. Do what you can, and hang in there. We'll see what we can figure out and then come find you.:
:Okay: Daniel replied, then paused for a moment before adding :It's - it's good to hear your voice, Jack.:
:You too, Daniel: came the response. :You did good, and we'll be there before you know it. I love you.:
Then, as suddenly as he'd arrived, Jack was gone from his mind, and Daniel was alone again. The sense of loss was so intense, he had trouble breathing for a moment. Then, he remembered what Jack had said and turned his attention to his new task - helping Jayven.
Sam watched the Galayan ritual with interest, mixed with more than a little anxiety. She still wasn't convinced Colonel O'Neill should have been the one to participate; his adamance had surprised her, especially considering what her father had said in the briefing two days before. However, her superior officer had spoken, and she didn't have a good enough reason to argue with him, so now she stood on the sidelines with Teal'c, Mikar and Katra, as the Galaya tried to find Daniel.
The concentration evident on the Colonel's face demonstrated his dedication to the exercise, though, so Sam decided her immediate reaction against him doing it may have been unfair. It wasn't as if she was exactly a touchy-feely kind of person herself.
Sam was watching Colonel O'Neill quite carefully, so she noticed immediately when his expression suddenly relaxed into a beatific smile. She hoped that was as good a sign as it appeared, hating the fact that she had no idea what was going on. It wasn't long after that, though, that the Galaya released their hold on the Colonel's arms and the whole group opened their eyes.
Colonel O'Neill got stiffly to his feet and moved over to the spectators, his smile still intact, although he looked exhausted.
"Daniel's okay and he's got Jayven with him," the Colonel reported, laying all their worst fears to rest immediately.
"You spoke to him?" Sam couldn't keep the surprise out of her tone, but luckily the Colonel didn't take offence at the implication.
"Yeah, Carter - shocked the hell out of me, too," he agreed. "But, unless I've just had the most vivid dream I've ever experienced, I did indeed speak to Daniel." He turned to Mikar and continued, "He said they'd been taken by some guy called Avris Larson, but he doesn't know where they are."
Before Mikar could respond, Chancellor Glarris spoke up from behind them. "If I had not heard it myself, I would not have believed it. Avris has been a member of the Consortium almost as long as I have. The very idea that he would do something like this is very disturbing to me. I cannot understand how this could have happened without us knowing anything of the threat."
"With all due respect, Chancellor," Colonel O'Neill said, "we can sort out how this happened later. Right now, we need to figure out where this Larson guy is holding Daniel and Jayven so we can get them back before he decides to up the ante."
Another voice entered the discussion. "I can tell you where they are."
Sam saw a Galayan woman she recognised from their first trip to Galia come forwards. It was difficult to tell with the Galaya, but this one seemed younger than the others they had met.
Chancellor Glarris spun round to face her. "How do you know this, Shanya?" she demanded, her silver eyes flashing.
The newcomer hung her head in shame. "It was I who reported to Avris what Jayven had said about his bond with Dr Jackson. He seemed very interested, and asked me many questions about the Tau'ri and what they had accomplished together, and I told him of Dr Jackson's return with the new team from Earth." Then she raised her head and looked Chancellor Glarris straight in the eye, her manner repentant but no longer nervous. "If I had had any idea of Avris' intentions, I would never have aided him."
Sam could see Colonel O'Neill chafing at the lack of progress, and Sam herself was beginning to lose patience, but Chancellor Glarris finally made a move towards positive action.
"Tell us where we may find them, Shanya. It will go a long way towards restoring our faith in you. We will discuss your actions once Jayven and Dr Jackson are safe."
Daniel sat cross-legged in the centre of his cell with his hands resting on his knees and his eyes closed. He had never initiated mental contact with Jayven before, only responded, and he wasn't sure quite how to go about it, but he knew he had to try if he was to save the sanity of his friend. He tried to clear his mind, a difficult task considering his current circumstances and recent conversation with Jack. The declarations of love had come as somewhat of a surprise, to say the least, but he would have to wait for a better opportunity to figure out how he felt about that. Right now, Jayven had to be his first priority.
Focusing his mind, Daniel tried to send his thoughts out in the direction of the sensory deprivation tank.
:Jayven? Can you hear me?: There was no response. He tried again.
:Jayven, I'm right here. You have to work with me so I can get you out of there.:
A wave of fear washed over Daniel, and he realised he had managed to at least make contact with Jayven's mind, if not actually get through to him. He ignored the despair that welled up in response to Jayven's emotions, and tried to keep his mental voice calm.
:Jayven, focus on me. Join with my mind and use my senses to centre yourself.:
At last, he felt the familiar sense of Jayven's thoughts connecting with his own, and a tentative voice reached out to him.
:I'm here, Jayven: he replied immediately. :I'm sorry I left you alone in there so long. I didn't know I could reach you. Now, listen to me. Use my eyes like you did in Ephraz' lab - if you can unlock the door to my cell, I can get you out of that tank.:
There was a brief pause, then Jayven's voice sounded in Daniel's head again, this time much stronger and more confident.
:I'll try, Daniel. If you take hold of the lock, it'll be easier for me to manipulate it.:
Daniel got up and moved quickly to the gate in the middle of the bars. Grabbing the lock, he placed both hands around it and peered into the keyhole for good measure. After a few moments, he heard a loud click and the padlock fell open in his hands.
With a muted exclamation of "Yes!" Daniel wrenched open the gate and rushed across to the tank. He pulled the front open, revealing Jayven still suspended inside. Remembering which control the guard had used, Daniel deactivated the forcefield and then had to move fast to catch Jayven as the alien fell forward with a cry, almost on top of him. Jayven's arms came up around his back and he clung to Daniel, his whole body trembling. Daniel returned the embrace, holding Jayven tightly and murmuring reassurances at the same time.
"It's okay, Jayven, I'm here. Take whatever strength you need from me."
After a few moments, Jayven stopped shaking, released his hold and leaned back slightly to meet Daniel's gaze.
"Thank you," he said, his voice full of gratitude and relief. "I don't know how much longer I would have lasted in there. How did you reach me?"
"I'm not sure," Daniel admitted. "Do you think you're strong enough to make an attempt on the other door? The cavalry should be on their way, but it certainly wouldn't do any harm for us to escape on our own."
"Cavalry?" Jayven was confused. Briefly, Daniel outlined his communication with Jack, and watched as Jayven's face brightened.
"How did you plan to open this door?" he asked, when Daniel had finished.
"I made sure to get a good look at the outside when we were brought in, so I've got a clear image of the mechanism in my mind," Daniel told him. "I figured we could to the memory telekinesis thing again."
Jayven nodded his approval of the plan, and pulled Daniel down to sit on the floor, just as they had done in another cell three days before. He reached out and cupped Daniel's cheek with one hand, then closed his eyes. Daniel followed suit, putting a picture of the outside of the door clearly in the front of his mind. Within moments, he heard the door controls click, and the door slid open.
Pushing himself wearily to his feet, Daniel turned to give Jayven a hand, but froze at the sound of Larson's voice coming from behind him.
"Very impressive again, my young friends," their captor said.
Daniel spun round to see the Galayan man applauding lazily from where he lounged in the doorway. "I must say I never expected you to achieve so much. You must both be exhausted after so much exertion, which will make it a great deal easier for me now to gain control of those exceptional minds of yours."
As Larson moved into the cell, Daniel positioned himself directly in front of Jayven, shielding him from whatever Larson was planning to do. It was true that both his mental and physical reserves were depleted, though, and he knew Jayven must be in even worse shape than he, so he didn't hold out much hope that they could withstand Larson for long.
Larson advanced slowly, a smile of contempt twisting his lips at Daniel's show of resistance. He reached out to grab hold of Daniel's arms but, just before contact was made, there was the sound of a zat blast from the corridor and Larson suddenly toppled forwards, an expression of total shock crossing his face before he hit the ground.
Daniel stared at the now unconscious Galaya in complete confusion, then looked up to see that Jack had taken his place in the doorway.
"You guys about ready to go home now?" Jack asked lightly, though Daniel could see the relief shining out of his eyes.
Daniel resisted the temptation to launch himself into Jack's arms, instead contenting himself with a grateful smile in Jack's direction before turning and offering Jayven a hand. By the time he had pulled an unsteady Jayven to his feet, Jack had been joined in the doorway by Mikar, who looked equally pleased to see the two captives alive and well. Daniel gladly passed the job of supporting Jayven onto Mikar, and followed Jack out into the hallway.
"How did you find us so fast?" he wanted to know, but Jack wasn't about to assuage his curiosity.
"There'll be plenty of time for explanations later, Dannyboy," he said, the look in his eyes promising more than simply the tale of how they'd been located. "Right now, I just want to get out of here. Any objections?"
"Not at all," Daniel replied, deciding he could wait a while longer to hear all the details. "Lead on, MacDuff."
Teal'c was very satisfied with how the day had turned out. Not only had they retrieved Daniel Jackson and Jayven Melawei from the rogue Galayan agent, but it seemed the conflict between O'Neill and Daniel Jackson had also somehow been resolved in the process. Teal'c had noticed that they sat very close together on the journey back to the Galian Exploration Centre and had remained side by side throughout the long farewells in the Portal Chamber. O'Neill had positioned himself next to Daniel Jackson back in the SGC briefing room and stolen several glances at the younger man during the debriefing. Now, he was hovering close by as Dr Fraiser completed her post-mission examination of Daniel Jackson.
Teal'c got the impression that the two men would be spending some much needed time together in the near future, and was not surprised by O'Neill's immediate statement as soon as Dr Fraiser released Daniel Jackson from the infirmary.
"Come on, Daniel. I'm not sure you're fit to drive. I'll take you home." O'Neill turned to Teal'c. "We'll see you in a few days, T."
"You will indeed, O'Neill," Teal'c replied with a satisfied smile as his two friends headed towards the elevators together. He was certain that O'Neill and Daniel Jackson would enjoy their downtime, and it pleased him to see them happy in one another's company once again.
Daniel quickly discovered that when Jack said home, he meant his house and not Daniel's apartment. The journey passed in silence, but the tension that had existed between them had gone. The silence was that of two friends comfortable enough in each other's presence not to need words. Daniel enjoyed the peace, knowing that the talking would come later.
When they reached the house, Daniel followed Jack inside, then headed down into the living room while Jack went to the kitchen. Daniel crossed the room and sat down in the armchair in the far corner, remembering the first time he had set foot in this house. When Jack emerged from the kitchen with two beer bottles, the similarities with that occasion struck Daniel even more forcefully. However, he expected that the subject of the imminent heart to heart would be somewhat different this time, since that first night back from Abydos, the conversation had been dominated by talk of Sha're and Sara. As Jack handed him one of the bottles, Daniel contemplated how much had changed over the course of the last five years, and yet here they were again, sitting in Jack's living room, drinking beer just like before.
Daniel took a swig of the cold liquid. "So."
"Yeah." Jack fiddled with the label on his bottle. "Look, I'm sorry about."
"I know," Daniel interrupted. There was a slight pause before he continued, "Jayven and I never."
"I know." Now Jack looked up and smiled. "So."
"Yeah," Daniel replied with an answering smile. Who needed the Galaya when they'd developed a telepathy all their own?
Jack's expression shifted slightly and suddenly he was looking at Daniel with naked desire in his eyes and a suggestive hint to his smile. When he next spoke, his voice was low and husky.
"What are you doing sitting way over there?"
Daniel didn't need any encouragement to take the hint. He rose immediately and joined Jack on the couch, abandoning his beer bottle to the coffee table on the way. He turned slightly and met Jack's gaze, but Jack was the first to speak.
"You know I love you, right?" Jack sounded uncertain, which made Daniel laugh.
"I believe you may have mentioned it once or twice earlier today," he teased. Then he realised that Jack was waiting for him to make the first move, obviously wary of repeating the incident on Galia.
Daniel had no such qualms about taking the upper hand. He leaned forwards, grabbed Jack and pulled him into a searing kiss. It seemed to take Jack a moment to get over the surprise, but then suddenly his hands were in Daniel's hair and he was returning the kiss full force. By the time they broke apart, Daniel was breathing heavily and his whole body felt warm.
Jack quirked one eyebrow at him, and asked, "So, *am* I a better kisser than the alien?"
"Hmmm." Daniel replied, putting on his thoughtful expression. "I'm not sure yet." Then he grinned and added, "Let's try again, and I'll let you know."
|Series:||The Galian Alliance|
|Summary:||A new threat poses problems for both the alliance and our heroes' efforts to sort things out between them.|
Author's Chapter Notes: