I'm not a soldier. People who don't know me might think I'm just a woolly headed liberal idealist. Maybe I am, but I'm also not stupid. Jack knows that, or he wouldn't have me on his team. Yes, I lack the military mindset. When it comes to alternatives, theirs seem to lie between P-90s or Claymores. With me, the choices are talking _or_ fighting. I'll always prefer the non-violent option. However, having spent too much of my life passing through foster homes with assorted foster brothers and sisters, I learnt early on that sometimes talking is not an option. Sometimes you have to fight.
This was one of those times. I, of all people, knew that we _had_ to win. We had to destroy not one, but two goa'uld mother ships hell- bent on destroying my world. If any of us lost our lives in the endeavour, it was a small price to pay. The cost of failure would have been infinitely greater.
We'd already lost the first battle - the battle against one arrogant, pompous, ass of a senator. I mean, how many seemingly impossible things did we have to bring back through the 'Gate - which is itself an impossibility in most people's minds - before they start taking us seriously?! So we had no option but to go it alone, just the four of us. Mountains don't come much higher to climb, nor the terrain more precipitous...
The discovery that I couldn't dial home, followed by the realization that we'd 'gated, not to a world but to a ship - Klorel's ship - which was now in hyperspace, left us stunned. No chance of the arrival of several beefy squads of heavily armed marines coming through the 'gate to arrest us, then. We were really on our own.
Another downer followed not long afterwards as we looked through the force-field 'window' into what should have been deep space. Sam had calculated that the journey to Earth would take at least a year, so we'd plenty of time to find a way to sabotage Apophis's plans. Or so we thought. Seeing the Earth-Moon system so very close shook us to the core.
I think the lowest point was waking up in a holding cell, blind, and with the excruciating feeling that my skull was two sizes too small for my brain. Then that sense of being enveloped in a suffocating black cloud slammed into the sudden overwhelming conviction that we'd failed. My world and all who lived there would shortly meet the same fate as the alternate one I'd left so recently. It had all been for nothing!
Well, maybe not entirely. The C4 would make a dent in Apophis's campaign of attack, but still... Billions of unsuspecting people were going about their ordinary everyday business right now, unaware that the remainder of their lives could be measured in mere hours. I felt crushed under the weight of that knowledge. Still, if I was blind, at least I wouldn't have to _watch_ it all again.
Where Jack found the strength from to hold us all together right then, I've no idea. He was no better off than the rest of us, yet he managed to keep the positive attitude going. His apparent optimism seemed justified as the blindness wore off. The unexpected appearance of Master Bra'tac raised our spirits still further despite his scathing criticism of our activities.
Cautiously, he led us up to Klorel's pel'tak, two decks above. He and Jack, like two warlords, vied with each other in their fighting skills by taking out Jaffa guards along the way. It was almost like a game to them. Outside the pel'tak, Bra'tac took command. Ordering us to wait, he entered with his 'wing' of Jaffa to take over control, banking on his position with Klorel. Whatever he'd had in mind seemed to have failed dismally. Jack led the rest of the team to the rescue, leaving me on guard outside.
At the sounds of the fire-fight, more Jaffa came running. I shot the leading pair without compunction. Actually, I think my mind had switched to automaton mode by then. I called a warning over my shoulder to Jack. When I looked back into the corridor, a third Jaffa appeared. I fired at him with two guns, aiming neither properly. He calmly targeted his staff weapon on me.
Still firing wildly, I saw the flaming bolt of energy fly towards me as if in slow motion - felt its power as it carried me through the air - smelt the reek of charring cloth and burning flesh, my flesh - felt the searing pain through my shoulder, down my left arm and across my chest. Minutes later it seemed, my spine collided with a bulkhead, knocking my breath out of my body. I think I passed out momentarily, but came to in time to lever myself on to one elbow and make the bastard pay.
By the time Jack appeared, I'd managed to sit up. I was leaning against the bulkhead for support and feeling utterly exhausted. He tried to pull me to my feet - was determined not to leave me behind. Such was his personal code but I knew I was done for. They had to blow Apophis's ship as well. To me, that was the only thing that mattered now. I'd only slow the team down and I already despaired of getting out alive. I saw the agonized look in his eyes as his scruples warred with practicalities. He knew I was right. After a long moment, he caressed my cheek roughly.
"I love you, Daniel," he murmured. Then he was gone.
Whoa?! It felt like I'd just been slammed against the bulkhead again. That look... that touch... that— that _declaration!_ It was something he shouldn't have said— probably wouldn't have said in any other circumstance. But— what, _exactly_, did he mean? Was it just a _very_ close friendship - or something deeper, stronger. I _had_ to know...
My brain began working again. I hadn't given up when Sha're had been shot, but that was different. Although I hadn't had any say in the matter, she _was_ my wife and therefore my responsibility. I don't take such responsibilities lightly. I already had faith in Jack, even then - faith that he could put his personal feelings aside and find a solution that didn't require the sacrifice of thousands of innocent lives. In hope, I took her up to Ra's sar—
Sarcophagus! Klorel had a sarcophagus on his ship. I _did_ have a choice. Die. Or live. I still might not live much longer but, borrowing from Jack's cliché collection, 'while there's life, there's hope.'
A surge of adrenalin powered through my system, taking the edge off the pain and giving me a surprising last blast of energy. I dragged myself back into the pel'tak and the sarcophagus. With that energy almost spent, I managed to haul myself sufficiently upright to lean over the edge of the sarcophagus - and fell in.
Slowly, with an almost malevolent rumbling, the lid slid closed trapping me inside. Surprisingly, it wasn't dark. An eerie pale lavender-blue glow emanated from the floor of my tomb. The sarcophagus filled rapidly with a cloyingly sweet vapour which had spicy undertones. I felt lightheaded, as if I were drifting in a warm, comforting cloud. In that passive, pain-free state, I fell to contemplating my destiny.
/// Were I not so dedicated to the conquest of knowledge, I would never have uncovered the 'Gate on Abydos, and Sha're and Skaara would still have control of their own bodies. All would be well with them and I would be... unsatisfied.
_But_, if I hadn't re-opened the 'Gate, I wouldn't have found my way into that alternate universe and learned what lay in store for Earth. My curiosity alone gave those billions of people one single, slim chance of survival...
Dream on, Jackson! What arrogance! What insufferable arrogance! To think myself so important in the grand scheme of things! Apophis would have moved on and done the same thing to Abydos. We were all doomed anyway. It's this sarcophagus. It does things to your mind.\
With that, the sarcophagus opened its doors, as if keen to be rid of its uninvited and ungrateful 'guest'. The miraculousness of it is awesome, nevertheless. Still a little intoxicated, I felt on top of the world - like a god.
I climbed out and checked the timer on the C4. One minute and fifteen seconds. I sprinted to the 'Gate room like an Olympic athlete, or so it seemed. There, the fuzziness that can cloud the memory under pressure rapidly cleared. The co-ordinates of the beta site burned like neon lights before my eyes. I hit the glyphs for P3X-984, activated the 'Gate, and dived to freedom.
I was still feeling euphoric as I casually strolled down the ramp into the S.G.C. I was so proud of my achievements as I explained to the General how I'd managed to escape from the jaws of death, then—
"Where's the rest of S.G.-1?" he interrupted sharply.
Icy-fingered foreboding gripped my heart and squeezed. Word had come through to the Beta site - or Alpha site in this reality - that the goa'uld threat had been aborted, and somehow, I'd kind of expected the rest of the team to be here already. For a long moment, my breath stalled. Last seen, they were on one of the ships currently floating down to Earth like so much metallic confetti. No! The one who'd given me the impetus to survive _couldn't_ be... dead! Then hope returned. I told General Hammond that we'd seen death gliders on board the mother-ships, and added that they were all resourceful enough to—
The General was ahead of me and already on the 'phone to Houston before I'd finished speaking. The wait for news from the much maligned Shuttle was killing. Finally, we had confirmation that Endeavor had them in sight, so I headed for the showers and the customary post-mission medical check. My adrenalin, endorphin and androgen levels were all a little high, but that was only to be expected. Otherwise, I was fine. After that, I went in search of coffee and something to eat. It would be a long while before they came home, and I was ravenous. Coming back from the dead can do that to you.
Our reunion in the 'Gate room was quite something. The looks of delight on the team's faces when I made my way through the crowd was heartwarming to say the least. Jack looked me in the face with the widest grin I've ever seen, then he threw his arms around me, buried his face in my neck and hugged me half to death.
Whoa! Whatever happened to 'Don't ask, don't tell,' Jack?
"Spacemonkey... Yeah!" he smiled, as he pulled back. (Where _does_ he get these off-the-wall expressions from?)
Fortunately, no one seemed to mind amid all the congratulations. Everyone was hugging everyone else. After all, it's not every day you get to save the world, so I guess some degree of latitude is allowed.
That was the beginning of a major party. Rather surprisingly, the commissary staff had taken advantage of the lull before the rest of S.G.-1 returned to base, and pulled out all the stops. Someone had even dug out the Christmas bunting along with plastic holly and mistletoe. We entered the commissary to the sound of champagne corks popping. General Hammond was looking positively smug.
"I reckoned that the Appropriations Committee owes us this," I heard him say to Jack, "not that this little shindig will register against our seven-point-four billion dollar budget."
"Oh, I don't know, Sir. I think the good senator would notice if you used one paper clip that wasn't officially accounted for."
The General laughed.
"You could well be right there," he chuckled, then called for a toast to the brave men and woman of the S.G.-1. team.
Nobody mentioned courts-martial.
"You're quiet, Daniel," said a voice in my ear a couple of hours later.
"I'm... fine, Sam," I replied. "Just run out of steam a little, I guess. You?"
She gave me an affectionate smile in return and nodded.
"Actually, I'm 'people-watching'," I added.
"Thinking how good it is that they're all still alive?" she asked softly.
I just smiled. Mostly, I'd been watching Jack, and sometimes I found him watching me. We had to talk.
"Drive you home, Daniel?" Jack asked.
I suppose he'd noted my slightly glassy-eyed look and figured I wasn't safe to drive. And he was?
"Yeah, I guess. It's not like I'm _not_ used to living dangerously..."
"Tell you what, why don't we stop off at your place? Got something I want to talk to you about," I said, hardly slurring my words at all.
"Oh?" he said, looking a little shifty.
"Yeah, only I don't think here's a good place— If you get my drift?"
He chewed his bottom lip thoughtfully, then shot me a speculative look as if contemplating whether or not he could persuade me that I'd imagined it. Uh-uh. When you're in extremis, little things like a declaration of love tend to grab your attention. Hell, without it, I wouldn't be here now.
I watched a series of expressions chase each other across his face as he scanned mine. Guess he knows me well enough now to realize that I wasn't about to give up on this until I'd got to the bottom of it - whatever 'it' was. He sighed and capitulated.
"Okay. My place it is then."
"Fancy a beer, Daniel?" he asked as I went into the living room and flopped on to a couch.
"Trying to get me drunk, Jack?" I chuckled.
"Well perhaps it's not such a good idea," he conceded. "Mind if I have one?"
"Dutch courage? Displacement activity?"
Silence settled over the room as Jack sat down opposite me.
"So, Daniel..." "So, Jack..." we began together, and laughed.
"Um, what was all that about?" I asked.
"All what, Daniel?" Jack countered with a pathetic attempt at ingenuousness.
"You said you love me."
"Ah... You noticed...?"
"Not something I was likely to miss, Jack."
"Well... you know how it is..."
"Not until you tell me."
"Listen, I wouldn't've said anything at all if I hadn't thought... you know—?"
"I got that, Jack. So?"
"I.... I just don't know— I... care about you. A lot. You saved my life back on Abydos when you never even knew me. And I was a bit of a bastard to you."
I raised my eyebrows at that admission.
"O.K., a _lot_ of a bastard to you. Yet you made me live... Means a lot to me. Guess I just wanted to let you know I - appreciated it."
"So just gratitude then?" I asked sceptically.
Silence seeped back between us. Jack was chewing his bottom lip again, sign of inner conflict.
"Look, Daniel, I _can't_ say any more, I really can't," he said as though with a great effort.
"Why not? Can't put the genie back in the bottle, Jack."
"Well - for one thing, you're married," he stalled.
"Yes, I am, and in my way I do love Sha're - and I want her back. How could I not? And if— _when_ we find her, I will do my best to make her happy."
"I know that. Isn't that a good enough reason for bringing this discussion to an end now?"
I thought about it.
"No. I want to know why you said what you said... 'I love you, Daniel.' Not 'Thank you, Daniel', or 'Sorry about this, Daniel', or even 'It's been nice knowing you, Daniel'. You said—"
"I _know_ what I said, Goddammit, Daniel!" he barked. "And God alone knows what made me say it, given that you can be a colossal pain in the butt at times - like now!"
"So you didn't mean it, then?"
"Of course I meant it! —Oh... stop trying to tie me in knots with words!"
He was resting his elbows on his knees and dropped his head into his hands then.
"Oh, this just sucks," he muttered then looked up at me. "So what are you going to do now? Out me?"
"God, _no_, Jack!" I exclaimed.
I slid off the couch and knelt in front of him, looking him in the eye.
"Penny not dropped yet?" I asked.
I leaned in and caressed his lips lightly with my own. Not a kiss as such, just a gentle touch.
"Give you a clue?"
I sat back on my heels to see his reaction.
"Daniel...?" he breathed, jaw hanging slightly open and looking like I'd just hit freeze-frame.
I waited a while, then wondering if he'd had a seizure or something, waved a hand in front of his face. He blinked.
"What did you do that for?" he asked bemused.
"Oh come on, Jack! Wasn't that a big enough clue? Need another?"
He looked at me speculatively, then...
"Maybe," he said.
So I leaned in and kissed him properly. Just a kiss - no tongues, but lingering and sweet. He responded in kind. As we separated, his breath caught on a faint sob and he pulled me into a fierce hug.
"Ah, Jack," I wheezed, "breathing would be nice here..."
"Oh, sorry," he grunted, reluctantly letting me go.
The light caught the track of a tear down one cheek.
"Your eyes are leaking, Jack," I laughed, and found mine were doing the same.
"We can't take this any further, you know," he said after a while, once we'd both pulled ourselves together.
"Well, maybe not right now," I conceded.
"Why not? _ ...Why not?!_ I'm surprised you even have to ask!"
"Well I wasn't thinking of wearing a pink T-shirt round the S.G.C. and putting an 'I love Jack' sticker in the front windshield of my car!"
"Oh. I thought you meant..."
"Well, that too."
"Hm, Sha're..." I went on, considering. "Not all societies have the same social mores, you know."
"No, true. We don't give away our daughters to the first passing stranger—"
"Exactly! Don't get me wrong, I do love her. As wives go, I couldn't have asked for a better, and I _will_ continue as her husband when we get her back."
Jack didn't look very happy.
"That sounds kinda... cold-blooded... somehow - like you're just fulfilling a duty," he frowned.
"No! We were very close, much closer than most husbands and wives on Abydos. It wasn't a marriage in name only if that's what you think. Was yours?"
I was getting cramp, kneeling on the floor, and moved back on to the couch before I said more.
"Women on Abydos don't have the same status as American women. They're not usually ill-treated as such, but they're regarded somewhere between pets and chattels. And the men follow the system of 'women for babies, men for pleasure'. I kind of set a precedent by being monogamous. I had that precept beaten into me when I was in my teens, and I guess it kind of stuck. I've never done casual anyway."
"What? Back up a bit. You had it _beaten_ into you...?"
"Oh. Oh yes... I had the pleasure of a pair of deeply god-fearing foster parents for a few months - the Kleins. He was a lay preacher. I was about thirteen or fourteen at the time and one day he caught me entertaining Rosy Palm and her five daughters. I think he thought he'd suddenly discovered a Son of Satan. He and Mrs. Klein spent the next few months 'teaching me what was Right'. Everything that wasn't 'Right' was 'Wrong', as in evil, bad, wicked, burn-in-Hell-for-ever-and-ever-Amen Wrong."
"Oh yeah. That was the last nail in the coffin of any belief in a righteous god that I might've had."
"Explains a lot."
"Yeah. The brainwashing held all the way to University. Who knows, maybe they did me a favour. Without the distractions, I focussed all my energy on my books and my studies. It wasn't till I got to University that I broke through the programming and began to realize that I didn't have to pretend to be attracted only to the opposite sex any more. Until I joined the S.G.C. at least," I sighed. "Anyway, Sha're won't make anything of it if we... you know. _But_ I won't take that step without her knowledge and acceptance."
"So we find Sha're."
"We find Sha're," I affirmed.
"And until then... we wait?"
"This is going to be hellish hard."
"No more than it was before," I replied. "Nothing's changed - except that now you know I love you too. We have hope for the future. Isn't that enough for now?"
"No. No it isn't! Suppose I lose you? Like I thought I'd lost you today?"
His voice faded into a whisper and he seemed to zone out. His face was wearing a faraway look that segued into the same expression it had when I last saw him on board Klorel's ship - like he was still back there. Or maybe he'd gone back farther still... To Charlie? I moved across to the other couch.
"Jack!" I said with gentle force, shaking him a little.
"Wh-what?!" he asked, abruptly looking my way and focussing again.
"It'll be okay, Jack, you'll see. And you were the one who said we couldn't take this any further _ever_" I laughed, "But one day we will. Till then, I wouldn't object to the occasional hug or kiss now and again!"
"Right! C'm'ere, Spacemonkey!"
|Summary:||Minutes from death, Daniel finds a reason to live and a new avenue to explore.|