A Dish Best Served Cold

Author: Orrymain and special guest co-author, Claudia!
Category: Slash, Angst, H/C (Jack whumping this time), Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel  .... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  4 (late)
Spoilers:  None
Size:  136kb
Written:  April 19-24, May 3,6,15, 2004
Summary:  Is Jack suffering a string of bad luck or is someone after revenge?  Daniel knows the answer.  Does Jack?
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) We had so much fun we decided to do it again ... and again.  Thanks to Claudia, my always beta, and now sometimes co-author!  She makes it so much fun to write some of these fics!
2) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
3) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
4) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my past fic, “A Matter of Choice”
5) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Drdjlover, QuinGem!

A Dish Best Served Cold
by Orrymain and Claudia

Daniel put the triangular shaped device SG-1 had brought back from PR9-221 back on the shelf.  It had been a long week and was about to get longer.  Jack was refusing to accept the obvious.  He was being a tyrant.

~Didn't we just go through this last year?  Gawd, that man can be impossible.~  For a moment, Daniel considered working late.  ~No, I love the bear, even when he's more grizzly than teddy.~

Daniel took the elevator up to the parking level.  Jack had left two hours earlier to run a few errands.

~Stubborn mule.  You should have gone straight home, but oh nooooo, you have to be Mister Rough and Tumble.~

Daniel sighed.  He was shaking his head back and forth as the elevator doors opened and he headed for the check-out area.

“Have plans for tonight, Doctor Jackson?”

“I was considering the possibility of becoming a hermit.”

Tracey O'Connor laughed.  “A hermit?  Somehow, I can't picture you with a long beard, tattered and torn clothes, living in a cave somewhere.”

“You forget, Tracey.  I am an archaeologist.  We love ... dirt.”  Daniel smiled sweetly at the female Airman.  “How about you?”

“Dinner with my boyfriend.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“Well, yes and no.  He's got that flu bug going around, and he's being a real sourpuss.”

Daniel laughed with empathy as he spoke, “Now that I can identify with.  Good luck, and have a good night.”

“Good night, Doctor Jackson.”

Daniel took out his keys.  “Sourpuss,” he mumbled under his breath.  ~That's Jack all right.  Being a hermit may just be a safer bet than going to the house.~

Soon, Daniel was headed for Jack's country-style home.  Actually, it was their country-style home.  Jack had been working hard to convince Daniel of this, and the younger man was at last beginning to think of it as 'their' home.  He spent most of his time there, and now even he was beginning to refer to his apartment as “the apartment.”

Daniel smiled.  ~Gawd, I love him for giving me this feeling.  Please don't let me mess it up.~

Leaving his thoughts of home and love, Daniel snapped back to reality.  ~He just doesn't take care of himself well enough.~  Thus, Daniel made one stop at a drug store near their home, just to make sure they'd have everything they needed that night.

~Let's see.  Cough medicine, both drops and liquid.  Vapor Rub.  Aspirin.  Orange juice.  Crushed ice.  Lube.~  Daniel grinned.   ~That should do it.~

At the last minute, he diverted to Baskin Robbins and picked up a half-gallon each of Jack's three favorite flavors, Gold Medal Ribbon (a mixture of chocolate and vanilla with caramel), Nutty Coconut (coconut ice cream with roasted almonds, buttered pecans and walnut pieces), and the newest addition to the list, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (vanilla with chunks of chocolate chip cookie dough).

~What can I say?  He loves ice cream, and he has some fun uses for the cookie dough one.~  Daniel stopped as he stood by the door of this car. ~But he's so grizzly this week.~  He looked back at the store.  ~But still ... that cookie dough ... I just love it when he ... oh gawd.~

Daniel hurried back into the store and bought another gallon of the treat, adding a gallon of Very Berry Strawberry (strawberry ice cream with real strawberry pieces mixed in) as well.

“Having a party?” the clerk asked.

Daniel grinned.  “I hope so.”

Ten minutes later, Daniel pulled into the driveway.  ~Okay, Jack, where are you?~

The truck was conspicuously missing.  Daniel went inside and put the ice cream away.  He looked around, and became a bit concerned.  There wasn't any trace that Jack had been home at all.  The mail hadn't been brought in, nor had the messages on the answering machine been played.

~I bet he stopped by Lou's.~  Lou Ferretti had mentioned getting a new part for his MonsterMobile, the oversized truck he had been working on for years.  Daniel viewed it as a toy, and Jack loved to play with it.

The archaeologist went upstairs to change his clothes, putting on the navy blue sweats that Jack loved so much.  ~It'll make him happy.  Gawd, blue is just a color.  Then again, he isn't so bad in his dress blues either!~

Daniel smiled and went downstairs.  He decided to read a book as he waited for Jack to come home.  Lying on the sofa, he made himself comfortable as he began to read the large novel he had pulled from one of Jack's shelves.  He'd never read it, and had only seen the movie when Jack had insisted they watch it one night, but now, he wanted to escape into a different world, so Daniel had selected “Gone With the Wind.”

====

“Mmmm.”  Daniel's eyes fluttered open.  “Huh?  Jack?”

Slowly, he lifted up his head.  It was completely dark out now.  He had made a lot of progress with the Margaret Mitchell novel he had started hours earlier, but had finally dozed off.  He soon became aware the house was dark, and then, he shot up off the couch.

“JACK?”  Daniel ran upstairs, switching on the lights as he moved through the house.  He went back to the living room, desperately looking around for some sign of his lover.

He glanced at the clock -- 9 p.m.  ~Where are you?~  Daniel went out front.  No truck.  He was worried big time now.

The young man hurried back into the house and located his cell phone.  He dialed Jack's number.  He heard the ring in the closet.  “OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!”

Daniel confirmed it.  Jack had left his cell phone in his brown leather jacket in the closet.  The older man hated cell phones, and Daniel was always having to remind him that the cell phones had their advantages.

Daniel tried to calm himself.  He closed his eyes and concentrated.  **Jack?  Can you hear me?  Jack?**  It had been a long shot.  Their non-verbal communication was the strongest when they were together, though it was beginning to branch out, allowing them to communicate over larger distances.  Neither knew why they had this near-telepathic ability to share their thoughts, but they did, and at the moment, Daniel wished he could hear Jack's thoughts.

“Okay, think.  Where did Jack have to go?”

Daniel ran down the list.  His lover had the flu, but was in severe denial, which accounted for the grizzly bear attitude.  He was supposed to stop by the drug store to pick up all the items Daniel had also purchased earlier.  He was also supposed to drop by the post office to mail a package to Catherine and Ernest Littlefield who were celebrating a wedding anniversary the following week.

Finally, Jack was to pick up his uniform from the cleaners.  They hadn't wanted to use the base cleaners for this cleaning because of the condition of the uniform, or rather because of the type of stains on it.

~Gawd, that was ... fun.~

For a moment, Daniel forgot he was in the middle of a panic situation, but the respite didn't last long.  Quickly, he got into his car and thought about where to start looking for his lover first.

~I'll check the cleaners and work backwards.~

As he approached the strip mall that housed the cleaners, he saw Jack's truck parked outside.  His heart was pounding as he leaped out of his car and raced over to it.  There was no sign of Jack or the uniform he'd been picking up.

“Jack!” Daniel called out his lover's name a few times as he looked over the parking lot.

Not getting any response, he began to scout the area, but he found nothing.  Satisfied Jack wasn't there, Daniel crossed the road to check out the small park there.  He'd been searching the park for about five minutes when he called out again.

“Jack?”  He sighed at the lack of response, but then he decided to try a different tactic.  **Jack, are you here?**

**Danny?**

**Jack!  Where are you?**

**Don't know, can't see.**

Fear gripped Daniel's heart.  He breathed deeply to try and calm himself.  ~Now is not the time to panic, Jackson.  He'll be okay.  Just stay calm and find him.~

**Keep talking to me Jack.  Tell me what happened.**
 
**Mugged.  Three men.  Didn't get a good look.**

Daniel followed the direction in which his lover's thoughts seemed to be coming from until he saw the crumpled form.  Jack was blindfolded and gagged, his wrists also bound tightly together behind his back.

“Jack!”  Racing over, Daniel fell to his knees.   With trembling fingers, he loosened the blindfold and removed the gag.  He pulled out his key ring and used his pen knife to cut the ropes binding Jack's wrists.

“Gawd, Jack, are you okay?  Please tell me you're okay.”

Daniel caressed his lover's face and body, checking for injuries.  Apart from a large bruise on his left side and a gash on his forehead, Jack seemed to be unharmed.  He wouldn't feel reassured until the older man had been checked over by Janet, though.

As the feeling began to seep back into his arms, Jack felt his shivering lover and pulled the young man into his arms.

“It's okay, Love.  I promise, I'm fine -- just cold and a little dented, that's all.”

“We need to get you checked out by Janet.”

“No, we don't.  I promise you, Danny, I'm okay.  I just need to rest for a couple of days, and that's as much this idiot flu as anything.  Please, just take me home.”

Daniel looked into the pleading chocolate brown eyes he adored so much and felt his resistance crumble.

“Okay, but so help me if I find out you're holding out on me, Jack ...”

“I'm not, Love.  Help me up.”

Daniel managed to get Jack to his feet, and then with Jack's arm across the younger man's shoulders, the two staggered back across the road to their cars.

“Give me the keys to the truck, Jack.  There is no way I'm letting you drive yourself home.”

“Bossy linguist.”

“Stubborn Colonel.”

“Love you, Angel.”

“Love you, too, my Silver Fox.”

They reached the truck, and Daniel helped Jack in.

“Danny, maybe we should leave the truck.  Your car is definitely more valuable.”

“We'll get it tomorrow.  Besides, mine has three times the security on it as yours.”

“I have an alarm.”

“I know.  I made you get it, remember?”

Jack smiled.  “Okay, first thing in the morning though, or ... how about calling Carter?”

“Maybe ... if you behave when we get home!”

====

Jack coughed from his prolonged exposure to the night air.  He felt lousy, but it wasn't from the attack.  It was the flu that was making him grouchy.

“I feel like that commercial, and I need the something achy touchy feely ...”

Daniel's laughter interrupted the complaining man.  “I don't think that's how it goes, Babe, but I have a surprise.  Be right back.”

Two minutes later, Daniel returned with a large bowl full of ice cream.  Jack perked up until he saw the concoction.  “What's this?”

“It's the O'Neill special blend, all of your favorites mixed together.  Try it.  You'll like it.”

“Geez, I've created a monster with these TV jingles.”

Daniel smiled.  “Just try it.”

Cautiously, Jack took a bite.  He grinned.  “My genius!”

“Okay, Sam's on her way over so I can get my car.  Jack, you promise you'll be okay?”

“Danny, you're only going to be gone for what -- twenty minutes?”

“Just about.”

“I'll be fine.  I'll be ... snuggling with the blend here.”

Daniel placed a kiss on Jack's cheek and then started to exit.  Turning he asked, “Jack, did you recognize any of the men?”

“I only got a look at one of them.  Big guy about six feet, six inches, probably weighed around two hundred eighty pounds.  He had long hair, even longer than that shag you used to have, and he had a tattoo of a bat on his left arm.  Saw that when I ripped his shirt to pieces.”

“A bat?”

Jack shrugged.  “Better than a snake, I suppose.”

Just then there was a knock on the door.  “That'll be Sam.  I'll be right back.”

“Hi, Sam.”

“Daniel, how is he?”

“I'm fine, Carter.  It's this wretched flu,” Jack bellowed from the other room.  Daniel rolled his eyes.

“Give me a minute, Sam, and then we can go.”

Daniel went and said a quick goodbye to Jack, making sure his lover had everything he could possibly need, including the phone.

“I'll be back soon, Love.”

“I really am fine, Angel.”

Daniel nodded and kissed Jack goodbye, then kissed him goodbye again, and again, and again until Jack reluctantly reminded him that Sam was waiting.  At the sight of Daniel blushing, Jack pulled him back for another kiss, then pushed him away.

“Temptress begone.”

“Did you just call me a temptress, Jack?”

Jack grinned mischievously as he spoke, “I don't know the male equivalent, so yes.”

“You're just lucky Sam's waiting, Jack.  Paybacks.”

====

Sam parked beside Daniel's car and put her hand over his.  On the way to the cleaners, they'd been talking about various SGC gossip, but she'd sensed an underlying tension in her friend.

“Are you okay, Daniel?”

“I'm fine.”  She looked at him with increased concern.  “I will be fine.  It was just a shock, that's all.  With all that we face off-world, it's too easy to forget that sometimes Earth can be just as dangerous.”

“I know.”  Sam squeezed his hand, then released it so he could climb out of the car.  “Call me if you or the Colonel need anything, Daniel.”

“I will.  Thanks Sam.”

====

“Thank you, General.  I can work on my research here and make sure Jack takes the medications Janet sent over this morning.”

“Tell the Colonel to follow Doctor Fraiser's orders.  We have several personnel out this week with that virus.”

“I will.”

Daniel hung up the phone and went to check on his lover.  He smiled seeing Jack asleep, finally.  He'd had a restless night, but Janet had sent over some antibiotics and since taking a dose, Jack had seemed to breathe easier and now, apparently, felt good enough to sleep peacefully.

~I wish this hadn't happened to you, but it could have been so much worse.  What if I hadn't found you?  Gawd, you could have been out there all night ... and it's so cold out right now.  At least you finally played it smart and gave them your money.  Jack?  Your life is worth far more than any amount of money you carry.  Thank you for not fighting them over sixty dollars.  I know you battled them early on, but once you saw you were outnumbered, you remembered, didn't you?  That I need you.  I love you so much, so very much.~

The young man smiled sweetly as he watched his true love.  He walked over and sat down next to Jack.  Gently, he ran his fingers through the short strands of Jack's hair.

“Thank you for remembering.”

====

Daniel was just on the verge of making a breakthrough with a particularly difficult line of his translation when a loud bellow from upstairs interrupted his train of thought.
 
~Maybe I should ask Janet for some Valium -- slip it in some hot chocolate, keep him doped up to the eyeballs and wait for the flu to pass.~  Daniel trudged up the stairs for what felt like the millionth time that afternoon.  ~Working at the SGC is sounding pretty attractive at the moment, Jack.  Maybe I can find a mission that needs some archaeological expertise.~

“Okay, Jack ...”  Daniel's frustration at all of Jack's interruptions melted away as he saw the pathetic expression on his lover's face.  With his nose red and his hair sticking up every which way, he looked very much like a sick child.

“My throat hurts, my nose is all stuffed up, and I'm bored,” Jack whined, his eyes pleading with his lover.  “Keep me company for a while.”

“What about reading your,” Daniel snorted at the idea alone, “book?”

Jack glared at Daniel's derision of his reading material.  “I'm tired of reading.  I have a headache.”  He brightened as a thought occurred to him.  He gave Daniel his most beseeching look.  “Read to me, Danny ... pleeeeease.”

Daniel looked at the worn book in his lover's hand and rolled his eyes, and yet, his heart was melting in two.  Jack needed him, and that would never get old.  Frustrating maybe, but never old.

“Okay, Jack.”

Daniel couldn't help but laugh at the smug expression that immediately crossed Jack's face.  Nor could he deny that seeing Jack's face brighten and the way his lover eagerly patted the spot beside him made Daniel feel good.  He might not be getting much work done with Jack sick, and his lover's constant demands might be annoying, but it was nice to be needed.

He lay down on the bed and in a reversal of their usual positions Jack lay his head on Daniel's chest listening as Daniel read to him of James Bigglesworth, commonly known as Biggles, and his first adventures as a WWI Air Force pilot in “The Camels Are Coming.”

====

It had been three weeks since the mugging.  Jack appeared to be over the hump with the flu, and the mugging injury had healed within a few days.  They'd had breakfast, and Daniel was already downstairs ready to leave for the Mountain when Jack walked  into the living room.

“Danny, I ...”

“Oh gawd, you should be outlawed when you wear your dress blues.”  Daniel practically leaped into Jack's arms.  “You have no idea what seeing you in uniform like this does to me.”

“Oh, yes, I do.  It's why we have a cleaning bill for something the military thinks they are paying for.”  Jack grinned, adding, “and I wouldn't have it any other way.”

They kissed, this one lingering.  Daniel tried to get inside Jack, his mouth overpowering his lover's as their tongues united, pleasing both of them.

“What time do you think you'll be home?”

“Early evening.  The meeting in Denver is going to be so boring, Danny.  I hate this stuff.”

“I know, but they need you.”

Daniel played with Jack's collar, then straightened it, moving his hands to make sure his lover was in proper shape to meet with Air Force higher ups.

“You have your cell phone?”

“Right here,” Jack patted his right pocket.

“Call me.”

“I will.  Don't you get into trouble.”

“Me?” Daniel smiled innocently.

“Hey, I know how you and Carter play when I'm away.”

“We don't play, Jack.”

“Do, too.”

“Nope.  Not starting that.  We have to go.”

“Sometimes, Daniel you are no fun at all.”

The two laughed and went on their respective ways for the day.

====

Jack sat back in his chair.  He'd given his presentation, made it clear what he thought the Air Force should be doing to bolster recruitment, and was now thinking about the reaction he'd get from his lover when he got home wearing his dress blues.

~Almost worth sitting through these boring meetings for that, Danny.~

Suddenly, he realized that perhaps imagining making love with Daniel in a meeting with two and three star Generals was not the most sensible thing he could do.  One part of his anatomy was rising to the occasion a little too early.

~Goa'ulds.  Kinsey.  Whale-hunters.  Hathor.   Yep, that did it.  Okay, O'Neill, concentrate on the meeting.~

====

“Sam, let's try alternating light and dark, and see if that makes any difference.”

“Good idea,” Sam agreed as she dimmed the lights.

The two were studying a small star-shaped object found on a desolate world by SG-2 the previous week.  The object occasionally glowed and emitted small energy spikes, but that's all they knew about it.  At the moment, they were trying to see if the object reacted to different situations.

They watched as the item remained unchanged in its protective housing as Sam dimmed and undimmed the lights several times.  Sam was a bit tired and feeling a tad silly so the final time she turned the lights off, she sneaked up behind Daniel and said, “Boo.”  He had been so focused on the alien “whatever” that he jumped.

“Sam!”

“Sorry,” she said with a chuckle.  “That didn't do anything.  How about sounds?  Maybe we should try channeling in different noises.”

“Can't hurt.”

The two set up a transmitter and piped into the container various tones and sounds, from the high-pitched inaudible sound that dogs react to, to a church bell to a pen tapping on a table.

“Try talking to it,” Daniel suggested, so she did, but still no reaction.

“Daniel, sing to it.”

“I don't think so.”

“Oh, come on.  Maybe it'll react to a male voice, and maybe the tonal qualities of harmony will ...”

“Sam, I can't sing.”

“Yes, you can.  Sing.”

He shrugged.  “Gawd ...”

“Sing, Daniel,” Sam insisted.  “It's for science.”

“That's a stretch!”  Sam giggled, but held the microphone up to Daniel's mouth.  He sighed, and then, “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream ...”

Sam broke into hysterics, and then Daniel did, too.  At the same time, both said, “Remember Urgo?”  Their laughter continued.

“Blue Jell-O never tasted so good.”

“I thought I was going to gain fifty pounds,” Sam chuckled.

“Do you know what Urgo made me do?”

“What?” Sam asked.

“Make a house with toothpicks.”

“Seriously?”

“Gawd, Sam, it was horrible, but he kept that suggestion in my mind.  I couldn't help myself.”

Sam laughed.  “I used to make all kinds of things with toothpicks.  It's amazing what you can do with a flat surface, a bit of glue, and a few packages of toothpicks.  I wonder if we could build a Stargate?”

“Sam?” Daniel watched in wonder as Sam pulled out a few boxes of toothpicks.

“Okay, so I still indulge myself sometimes.  Come on.  Help me.”

Daniel moved towards the lab table hesitantly, but soon, Sam's enthusiasm got the better of him, and by the end of the day, they had built a miniature Stargate using toothpicks, buttons, string, and colored markers.

“You know, Jack is going to be incorrigible tonight.”

“Why, or do I want to ask?”

“This morning, he told me that we, you and I, shouldn't spend our day playing.”

Sam giggled.  “I guess we did ... play, didn't we?”

“Oh, gawd.  See you tomorrow, Sam,” Daniel said, still laughing as he exited her lab.

“It's not bad, though,” Sam said, admiring their handiwork.

====

Jack whistled as he used the remote to unlock his truck.  Once inside, he whipped out the cell phone to call his lover.

“Hello.”

“Hello to you, too.”

“Still wearing your dress blues?”

“I plan on letting someone special rip them off me.”

“Sounds like a fun plan.”  Both men were grinning in anticipation.  “Where are you?”

“Just leaving the hotel, so another hour.  You?”

“In the bathtub.”  Daniel grinned wider.  “Soaking in warm, soothing water.”  He  paused.  “With bubbles rubbing against ...”

“Daniel?”

“Yes?”

“Behave.  I'm on my way.”

“Drive safe, Jack.  The bubbles aren't going anywhere.”

Jack acknowledged his lover's concern and then hung up the phone and began his drive home.  He whistled again as he drove onto the highway.

~Soon, Angel, and I'll tickle your bubbles while you ruin my uniform -- again.~

Forty-five minutes later, Jack was almost home.  He turned onto a road with  a steep downward winding slope.  ~Oops, picking up a bit too much speed here.~  Jack pressed on the brakes.

“What the ...” Jack's whistling ceased as he realized he had no brakes.

“Oh crap,” he tried switching gears in the truck, but he was going too fast.

Then Jack's worst nightmare happened.  Three children were crossing the street.  He had no choice.  He veered off to the right, smashing into a tree.

====

Daniel had put on his sweats and gone downstairs to prepare dinner.  ~Something that can stay on warm for hours.~  He was anticipating ripping off those dress blues long before they ate dinner, and got so lost in his thoughts that he burned the food.  Groaning, he emptied it into the trash and seeing the garbage was full, headed outside to put the bag into the garbage can.

Still thinking about Jack's dress blues, Daniel tripped over the hose he'd apparently forgotten to roll up the day before, landing on the wet lawn, the garbage emptying over him.  He swore in Abydonian, cleaned up the mess, and went back inside to take a shower, now that he was effectively a dirty, smelly mess.

As he dreamed more about his lover's soon-to-happen arrival home, something got his attention.  ~Why is it people always call when I'm in the shower?~  Reluctantly, he exited as quickly as he could, grabbing a towel to wrap around him as he ran to the phone by the nightstand.

“Hel... oh crap!” Daniel exclaimed as the phone fell to the ground.  He bent down to pick it up.  “I'm sorry.  Hello.”

“Is this Doctor Daniel Jackson?”

“Um, yes.  Who's calling?”

“This is Sergeant Morgan of the Colorado Springs Police Department.  Your name was listed in the emergency call section of a ... excuse me ... Colonel John J. O'Neill.”

Daniel's heart sank.  That's how Jack was listed on his Air Force ID card, and that meant something had happened to his lover.

“Jack?  What's happened to Jack?”

“He's been in a car accident.  The ambulance just left and is transporting him to Memorial Hospital.”

Daniel closed his eyes, the towel dropping to the ground.  He sat down on the bed, listening as the officer gave him the basics of what had happened.  When he was done, Daniel thanked him.  Stopping only to call Janet, Daniel dressed and rushed to the hospital.

====

“I'm sorry, Sir.  The doctor has ordered family only.”

“But ... you don't understand.  He doesn't ... uh, he doesn't have family, except ... I mean.  Gawd, I'm his best friend.”

“I understand, but ...”

“NO, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND.”  Daniel was angry at being prevented from seeing his lover.  He took a calming breath.  “Please, he's my best friend.  I have his power of attorney.  You have to let me see him.”

“I'll let Doctor Simpkis know you're here.  That's all I can do.”

~FREAKIN' RULES.  I AM HIS FAMILY.  IT'S NOT FAIR!~

Daniel paced wildly around the emergency area.  He didn't even know how badly Jack was hurt, though “family only” made it seem bad.

“I am his family,” he said softly, despair filling his body.  ~Maybe I should tell them?  But why?  Stupid laws.  They wouldn't recognize me as his family anyway.~

Uncharacteristically, Daniel slammed his fist against the hospital wall, anguish filling him.

====

“Sam?”  Daniel was using the public telephone in the hospital.

“Daniel, what's wrong?”  Sam could hear the anxiety in her friend's voice.

“It's Jack.  I'm at Memorial.  He ... he was in an accident.”

Daniel gave Sam some more specifics about the accident, and she immediately said, “I'm on my way, Daniel.  Have you called Janet?”

“Yes, but no one else.”

“I'll call the General.  See you soon, Daniel.”

Daniel hung up the phone and went back to his seat.  He sat with his hands clasped together, rubbing them against each other nervously.  He looked up and down the corridors anxiously, each sound drawing his attention.  His breathing began to hitch.

~Gawd, I can't stand this!~

Unable to sit still, Daniel stood and began to pace back and forth rapidly over a span of just seven feet.

~Please, Jack.  You have to be all right.  I can't live without you.~

“Daniel!”  Daniel looked up to see Janet running towards him.  “How is he?”

“I don't know.  They won't tell me anything or let me see him.”

Daniel's eyes were bright with unshed tears, and Janet couldn't stop herself from giving him a quick hug.

“I'll see what I can find out.”

“Janet, I have to see him.”

“I'll be out as soon as I can.”

She headed towards the nurse's station, leaving Daniel to resume his pacing.

~This is so unfair.  You can't take Jack away from me, I need him.~

Finally, he spotted Janet coming towards him.

“Janet?”

“Relax, Daniel.  He's okay.  He has a couple of fractured ribs and a concussion.  It could have been much worse.”

Daniel wiped away the tears of relief that were beginning to trickle down his cheeks.  He was in a public place, and no one, including Janet, knew the truth about his relationship with Jack.

“Can I see him now?”

Janet nodded and led him towards a private room.

“I've taken over the case.  We'll get him transferred to the Mountain ASAP.”

Daniel nodded just as he entered the room and saw his injured lover.  He had never been so grateful to see Jack in his life.  He just wished that he was alone so that he could kiss Jack like he wanted to.  ~Soon ... when Janet leaves.~  Since Janet was hovering behind him, he settled in the chair beside the bed and took hold of Jack's hand.

“Hey, Jack.”  **I love you so much.**
 
**Danny.  Love the sound of your voice.  You sound upset though.  Why are you upset?  Don't be upset, Angel.**

Struggling to open his eyes, Jack slowly became aware that he'd been run over by a truck -- ~at least, that's how I feel.~

More important to Jack than his misery and pain, was Daniel's well being, and right now Jack knew he needed to reassure his soulmate.

“Da...Danny?”

“Jack?  It's okay.  You were in a car accident - got up close and personal with a tree.  Janet's here, and she says you're going to be fine.”

Daniel reassured Jack at the same time warning his dazed lover that they weren't alone.

“That's right, Colonel.  Just try and get some rest for now.”  Janet gave Daniel's shoulder a reassuring squeeze.  “I'll be back in a minute, Daniel, I just want to check his chart and verify a few things with Doctor Simpkis.”

Daniel nodded and watched her leave.  As soon as the door closed behind Janet, the words tumbled out of Daniel's mouth.  He was better at saying their words of endearment first now, but it still was difficult for him at times.

“Love you, Jack.  Love you so much,” he whispered, caressing Jack's cheek.

“Love ... you ... too.”  Daniel could see Jack fighting to stay awake.

“Sleep, Love.  I'll be here.  I'm not leaving you.”

Jack gave him a sleepy grin and fell asleep almost immediately.

====

“Daniel.”  Sam poked her head in the door, pleased to get a welcoming smile from Daniel which meant the Colonel couldn't be too badly hurt. She came quietly into the room.  “How is he?”

“Fractured ribs, concussion, a few cuts and bruises.  He'll be okay.” Daniel gave her another weak smile.

“It really hasn't been his month, has it?”  She gave Daniel's shoulder a reassuring squeeze.  “I called General Hammond.  He's going to check with Janet later to find out how Colonel O'Neill is doing.”

“Thanks, Sam.”

====

“You'll have to leave now.”

“I am not leaving.”

Daniel had been arguing with a nurse for twenty minutes about the end of visiting hours.  Janet had thought it best to wait until the following day to have Jack transported to the SGC, so Daniel was left dealing with regular hospital rules.

“I'm afraid I'll have to call Security if ...”

“Fine.  I'll go.”  ~But I'm coming back.~

Daniel looked over at Jack.  He was sound asleep, and had been most of the night, but still, Daniel didn't feel like he could leave him.  He saw the nurse waiting, so he gave Jack another look, grabbed his coat, and stormed out of the hospital room.  He walked straight to the elevator.

~This is ridiculous.  He's my lover.  He needs me.  Stupid laws.  Visiting hours.  Whose bright idea was it to put a time on when a person can visit another person anyway?~

For fifteen minutes, Daniel ranted silently as he walked the hospital parking lot, answered a call of nature, and finally had a cup of coffee from a vending machine in the emergency room.  Then, he took the stairs back up to the fourth floor.

Taking a deep breath, he cracked the door open just an inch or so.  Jack's room was the fifth one down from the nurse's station.  He had to time his moves carefully so as to not be seen.  He caught a glimpse of the nurse he had now dubbed the dictator.  When she disappeared into a room on the other end of the long hallway, Daniel made his move, successfully sliding into Jack's room undetected.

He walked over to the bed and leaned over, placing a kiss on Jack's lips. Daniel smiled when Jack whispered, “Danny.  Love Danny,” though he was clearly still asleep.  The young man ran his hands through the silver-gray hair of his living silver fox.

“I love you so much.  You scared me, but it's okay now.”

Daniel took hold of Jack's hand, prepared to spend the night in the spot where he sat.

Throughout the long evening, he listened keenly for sounds outside Jack's door, successfully ducking out of sight, just making it to the bathroom area, during two “room invasions” by the nursing staff.  He was tired, but he wouldn't leave his soulmate, and he couldn't risk falling asleep.

Daniel returned to his spot on the bed, once again taking Jack's hand in his.

====

~Mmm.  Think a truck hit me.  No, I hit a tree.  Is the tree still on me?~
Jack struggled to wake up.  He was in that in between state, where dreams were fading and reality was coming into being.

~Ribs ... ouch, they hurt.  Tree must be on me still.  Need help.~

Finally, Jack's eyes opened.  He blinked a couple of times, and then smiled.  Softly, he said, “That's no tree.  That's my Danny blanket.”

Jack winced.  ~Sorry, Love, but this ... ew ... hurts.~  “Danny?  Daniel?” ~Oh, Angel.  You were probably awake all night.  Ouch.  Forgive me.  I do love you.~  “FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, DANIEL, WAKE UP!”

“Wha...what?”

“I love you, Angel, but ... please get off of me.”

“Oh, gawd.  Jack, I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.”  Daniel jumped off the bed, actually taking a few steps back.  Apparently, he had finally been so tired that he just leaned over and fell asleep ... on his Jack pillow.  “I'm sorry.  I ... gawd, I'm sorry.   Does it hurt?  I'm sorry, Jack.”

“Daniel?  Stop.”

“But ...”

Daniel was on the verge of hyperventilating.

“Danny, please.  Come here, Angel.”  It hurt, but suddenly, pain meant nothing to Jack.  He extended out his hand.  “I need you.”

Guilt about to overtake him, Daniel moved slowly forward, letting Jack take hold of his hand.

“Come here.  I need a kiss.”

Daniel obliged.  “Jack, I'm so ...”

“So sexy and beautiful, and I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“Then do me a favor?”

“What?”

“Go home, take a shower, and eat a good, solid breakfast.  Then come back here, and treat me like a king.”

Daniel chuckled for a minute.  “I don't want to leave you.”

“Just long enough to get a breather.  I know you, Danny.  You've been here all night, haven't you?  Look at you, all scruffy and stubbly.  Sexy.  I can't afford you to be that sexy right now.”

“Jack,” Daniel droned slightly in embarrassment.

“Eat.  Bacon and eggs.  Promise me.”

“Jack, you don't know ... I mean, how hard it was to get in here.”

“What do you mean?”

Daniel looked down.  He had a pained expression that Jack recognized.  It was the look of disbelieving horror whenever someone had given the two a hard time about their relationship.  It didn't happen in the Springs because of their game of hiding in plain sight, but on trips, they were themselves, and sometimes, that came at a price.

Jack squeezed his hand.  “What happened?”

“Family,” he answered softly.

“I don't get it.”

“I'm not family.  They wouldn't let me in, Jack.  I'm not family.”

“To blazes you're not.  You ARE my family, Daniel, and you know that.”

“Maybe, but ... Jack, legally, even with the power of attorney, they wouldn't let me in.  Gawd, it's so not fair.”

Doctor's orders or not, Jack sat up and took Daniel in his arms.

“Listen to me, Daniel.  I don't care what anyone says, you and I are family, and that's all there is to it.  I hate that we have to deal with this crap, but you have to know the truth, Love, inside.”  Jack rubbed his lover's back in gentle motions.

“I do know, but now that I'm here, I hate to leave in case they ... make an issue of it again.”

“Didn't you say Fraiser was here last night?”  Jack had to admit that he didn't really remember much, but he saw Daniel nod.  “Okay then.  The Doc is on the case now, Danny.  They have to do what she says, so it's not an issue anymore.”

“This time.”

“We can talk about this more ... later, after you get some real food in you.”
 
“Okay.  Only because I need to change.  That one nurse is a real barracuda.  If she catches me here, she might eat me alive.”

“No, she won't.  I'm the only one who gets to eat you.”

“Gawd, Jack.”

“Am I wrong?”

“No.  Stop,” Daniel said, getting nervous he was about to react in a way that would only get him in a lot of trouble.  “I'll be back in an hour.”

“Two hours.  No accidents, Danny.  I love you.”

“I love you, too.  Be back soon,” Daniel said, and then he kissed his partner and walked out of the hospital.  Seeing the dictatorial nurse, Daniel just smiled, whistling as he walked by her and entered the elevator.  

====

Daniel finished his shower and had to admit he did feel better.  Of course, he'd feel even happier when he was back at the hospital with Jack.  He was just fixing breakfast when the phone rang.

~What if it's the hospital?  What if something's wrong with Jack?  Get a grip, Jackson, and answer the phone.~

Trying to stop his hand from shaking, Daniel picked up the phone, “Hello?”

“Doctor Jackson?”

“Yes.”

“This is Detective Sergeant McAllister from the Colorado Springs Police Department.”  Daniel walked a few steps towards the stairs and sagged against the wall, relief filling him.  ~It's not the hospital.  Jack's okay.~

“The hospital tells us we won't be able to speak to Mister ...”

“Colonel,” Daniel corrected automatically.

“Oh, sorry, Colonel O'Neill until later today.  We were wondering if you could answer a few questions for us in the meantime.”

“Ah, I guess.  What do you want to know?”

“What were the Colonel's movements yesterday?”

“He had an Air Force meeting in Denver.  Um, what's going on?  What do Jack's activities yesterday have to do with his accident?”

“The mechanic that took the Colonel's truck notified us earlier this morning that he suspected the brakes on the truck had been deliberately cut.  We sent an investigator to review it ourselves, and confirmed it.”

Still leaning against the wall, Daniel slid down to the floor.  ~This can't be real.  It doesn't make sense.~

“Do you know of anyone who holds a grudge against the Colonel?”

~Apophis and every other Goa'uld we've come across, not to mention a large assortment of politicians and military goons.~

Daniel tried to think of anyone who'd do this.  There was the NID, but even though they didn't like Jack, it seemed unlikely that they'd want him dead, and this certainly wasn't their MO.

“I'm sorry, but no, I can't think of anyone.”

The Sergeant asked Daniel a few more questions, and then ended the call.  Daniel stared blankly at the fish tank on the opposite side of the room.

~Gawd, this isn't something from your Special Ops days is it, Jack?  The police haven't got a hope of finding anything.  Actually, the Air Force probably doesn't want the police snooping around in your private life.~

Daniel picked up the phone again and dialed the Mountain.  Within minutes, he'd informed General Hammond of what the police had found.  He was pleased to hear the concern and outrage in Hammond's voice.  Daniel knew that the General had a soft spot for Jack, despite the Colonel's somewhat irreverent attitude.

“Doctor Jackson, I'll be handing this matter over to some of our people.”

“I figured the Air Force would probably want to handle it, considering Jack's, uh, history.”

“Please refer the local authorities to contact the Air Force if they have any further questions on Colonel O'Neill's activities.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“How's he doing?”

“Better.  I'm going to go check on him in a bit.”

“Doctor, is there anything you didn't tell the police that you want to tell me?”

Daniel hesitated just a moment.  “General, you know Jack's past.  We've ... I mean he's ruffled some feathers.  It could be anyone.”

====

“Hey, Beautiful,” Jack said with a groggy voice as he saw his lover enter his hospital room.  He also instantly saw that Daniel had a distraught look.  “Danny, what's wrong?”

The young man walked to his soulmate, leaning over for a kiss.  “Jack, the police say your brakes were tampered with.  The brake line was cut. The fluid leaked out until there was nothing left.”

“Someone tried to kill me?”

Daniel nodded.  Jack reached out with his left hand, and Daniel took hold.

“Prints?”

“I don't know yet.  I called General Hammond.  I think the Air Force is going to take over the investigation.”

“That would make sense.”

“Jack?”

“What, Love?”

“You were mugged.  Do you think ...”

“Nah.  It's just a string of bad luck.  The mugging was a month ago, and if they wanted to kill me, they could have -- easily.”

Daniel sighed.  “I guess you're right.”

====

Jack was sitting up in his hospital bed looking distastefully at the food he'd been given.  Daniel sat beside him trying to suppress a grin.  He knew what hospital food was like.  It almost made MREs look good.  And he had to admit that Jack's lunch looked particularly unattractive.

“What the heck is this supposed to be anyway?” Jack grumbled.

Daniel picked up the menu and read it -- “Lemon chicken, roasted vegetables and chocolate mousse.”

He leaned over and looked at the chicken which seemed to be lying in some sort of congealed yellow jelly.

“I think it might be advisable to leave the chicken if you want to get out of here today.  The vegetables look okay.”

Jack shot his lover and incredulous look.  “They look like they've been steamed to death.”

Daniel laughed.  “Maybe the chocolate mousse is okay.”

With a great deal of suspicion, Jack lifted the lid off the cup containing the dessert, and they both examined it carefully.

“It doesn't look too bad,” Daniel said optimistically.

Gingerly, Jack took a mouthful.  He immediately screwed up his face and reached for water.  Daniel couldn't help laughing, and Jack's scowling only made him laugh even harder.

“That is the most disgusting thing I have ever eaten.  How do they expect people to get better when they try to poison them with this stuff?”

At that moment, Janet came in, and Jack seized his opportunity to pounce.

“Doc, you have to get me out of here.  Look what they're trying to poison me with.”

He gestured towards his lunch tray.  Janet looked and wrinkled her nose involuntarily.  Daniel chuckled.

“Relax, Colonel, I'm prepared to release you as long as you have someone around to look after you.  Otherwise, you'll have to be transferred to the SGC infirmary.”

Two sets of eyes looked pleadingly at Daniel who sighed dramatically.

“The things I do for friendship,”  **and back rubs**  He shook his head and managed to look self-sacrificing.

“Thanks.  You're a pal.”  Jack grinned.

**I better be more than a pal, Jack.**
 
**You know you are, Angel, and one back rub coming up, along with other parts of me, just as soon as possible.**
 
Shoving his unattractive lunch to one side, Jack started to climb out of bed.

“Whoa, Colonel, not so fast.  It's going to take some time to get all the paperwork processed, and you're going to need help getting dressed.”

“Daniel will help me.”

Daniel nodded.  “What's a guy to do?  He's desperate, Janet.”

She sighed.  “Okay, I'll be back when the paperwork is ready.”

====

“I can do it, Danny!”

Jack batted Daniel's hands away from the sock lying beside him on the bed.

“Fine.  Go ahead.”

Daniel stood back and watched as Jack picked up the sock and attempted to put it on.

~Okay, O'Neill, you do not need Daniel to dress you.  You've only got fractured ribs.~

A minute later, he found himself gasping for breath, his sock only covering his toes.  He knew he was being dumb, and he should just let Daniel do it for him, but his hatred of being an invalid was currently riding roughshod over his common sense.  He bent over for another try.

“COLONEL O'NEILL!”

Janet Fraiser's stern voice had him wincing and sitting up again in an instant, trying to look innocent.

**You could've warned me, Danny.**

**But you didn't want my help, Love.**

**Grrrr.**

Daniel sniggered and watched Janet stalk over to stand in front of Jack.
“Colonel, if you are not going to allow Daniel to help you with basic needs like putting on shoes and socks, I am going to transfer you to the SGC infirmary.”  She narrowed her eyes and leaned in for the kill.  “And if I have to do that, Colonel, I might just decide to do a very thorough examination of you while I have you there.  Think about it.”

Jack looked past the doctor and glared at his chuckling lover.  **Laugh it up, Dannyboy.  Sooner or later, she'll have you in her sights and a big needle with your name on it.**

**Yadda, yadda.**

**And quit stealing my lines.**

Jack noticed Janet was still glaring at him.  “I'll be good.”

She snorted in disbelief and turned to Daniel.  “If he refuses to let you help him Daniel, call me, and I'll have him in the infirmary before you can say 'Air Force'.”

Daniel rubbed his hands together in mock glee and then started laughing when he saw what was coming in the direction of their room.

**What's so funny, Danny.**

Daniel smirked.  **You'll see.**

“All right, Colonel.  I'm releasing you into Daniel's capable care,” Janet said, trying to hold back a grin when Jack cast Daniel a suspicious glance.  “Ah, here we are.”

Jack saw her look at the doorway and followed her gaze.  Being pushed into the room by an orderly was a wheelchair.

“Oh, for crying out loud.  I don't need a wheelchair.  I'm perfectly capable of walking.”

Jack could have sworn Janet was smirking as she told him, “Hospital policy, Colonel.”

“Now, be a good boy, Jack,” Daniel teased.

**You are so going to get yours, Danny.**

**Uh uh.  Remember what Janet said about the infirmary.**

**You wouldn't.**

**I might.  Depends how good you are.**

**Paybacks, Danny.  Paybacks.**

Grumbling and complaining incessantly, Jack sat in the wheelchair and allowed Daniel to wheel him down to the hospital entrance.

====

“Jack, don't you think you'd better open some of this mail that's been piling up?”

Daniel walked into the living room where Jack was lying on the sofa watching television.  During the older man's recovery, Daniel hadn't worried much about the mail, the result being days worth of mail not even looked at.  Jack looked at Daniel pathetically.

“I'm wounded.  Open them for me?”

Jack did his best to mimic his lover's patented puppy dog look, causing the young man to laugh at the ridiculous, but effective, expression.

“I didn't realize your fingers and eyes were sore, Jack.  Maybe you'd better switch off the TV.”

“TV is different.”

Jack instinctively buried the remote control between the cushions, out of Daniel's easy reach.

“I saw that.”  Jack put his hand over the spot where he had buried the remote, causing Daniel to laugh once again.  “Ah, I see.  Jack logic.  Okay, but I'm only going to open them while you're sick.  When you get better, you can sort out your own mail.”

Jack grinned.  “Thanks, Danny.  You're the best.”

“Tell me the next time we ... you know,” Daniel said, disappearing into the hallway that led to the study where the mail was stacked in a heap on the desk.

He didn't mind going through Jack's mail.  He loved the trust Jack had given him with that years earlier, giving the young man a sense of belonging.  It was a gift Jack had given him even before they had become lovers, and Daniel cherished it.

He began opening the stack of mail.  There were a couple of bills, junk mail, some magazines, and flyers for the local council election.  Then he came across a letter that made his heart freeze.  He opened it thinking it was just another charity request.

“Jack,
I thought the dumb act was exaggerated, but maybe it wasn't.  Right now I'm wondering how you even made Colonel.  Do you even know that someone is after you?  Maybe its time to up the stakes.  Better watch your back.”
 
After surreptitiously checking that Jack was still happily watching television, Daniel returned to the study and examined the letter further.  There were no identifying marks on the letter, it was typewritten so there was no handwriting, and according to the envelope, it had been mailed in Colorado Springs.

He searched through the remaining letters and found another two that looked the same.  With shaking hands, he opened them.

“Jack,
Thought you and Loverboy would've split by now.  Maybe I should give him a taste of the real thing, show him what a real man is like.  Better watch him closely.”

Daniel frowned.   Whoever was writing these letters knew about him and Jack and knew they'd been lovers for some time.  ~Maybe it's the NID.  No, not their style.~  He opened the last letter.

“Jack Buddy,
Time to bring our games to a close.  Kiss Loverboy goodbye because the next car trip you take will be to the morgue.”

~You'll have to go through me first, and I'll kill you before I let you get to Jack.~

Daniel wondered if he should turn the letters over to the people investigating the sabotage of Jack's car.  The first one anyway, the others had to be kept secret unless Jack wanted to retire.

~Can't hurt.  I don't think it'll tell them anything, but it's worth a shot.~
 
Shredding the last two letters so that Jack wouldn't see them, Daniel put the first in his briefcase to take to work the following day.  As he went to join Jack on the sofa he tried to think of who might be after his lover.

====

“Are you going to be okay?”

“Daniel, I'm not a child, in spite of what you may think.”

Daniel looked at his lover, chocolate spread around his lips, a yo-yo in his right hand, and his breakfast tray which had the word “Smile” printed out in Froot Loops.  “Right,” Daniel said with a drawl.

Jack pretended to look hurt, but Daniel out-stared him.  “Okay, okay, but I will be fine.  You go translate and play with your thingamajigs, but no saving the world without me!”

The young man smiled.  “I'll be home early.”

“Sure you will.  You've been babysitting me for four days.  You can't wait to go play with your toys.”

“This is the only 'toy' I want to play with,” Daniel said, kissing his lover and cupping his groin.

“Whoa, Dannyboy.  You keep doing that, and you are not going to the Mountain.”

“You sure you're going to be okay?”

“Get out of here.”  Daniel smiled, kissed Jack one more time and headed for the door.  “Danny?”  Daniel turned.   “I love you.”

“I love you, too, and if you're good today, I'll bring home a surprise tonight.”

====

Sliding his security card through the machine, Daniel could hear the phone in his office ringing.  He quietly swore as he rushed to get inside, dropping the books he had just picked up in the archives before even going to his office.

“Hello.”

“Hello, yourself.”

“Jaaaack!  I dropped my books and almost tripped over my own feet to answer the phone.”

“That's because you knew it'd be me.”

Daniel laughed.  He had to admit Jack was right.  “Are you okay?”

“Peachy.  Cold, though.  I miss my blanket.”

“I'm sure you have plenty of other blankets at home.”

“Lots, but none like my favorite.  It's so soft and warm; clings to me like it's getting under my skin.  Only one blanket like that in the entire universe, and now it's gone.”

“I'm sure it'll come back soon.”

“That's the goal.”

“Jack, I have to get to work.”

“Bye, Daniel.”

“Bye, Jack.”

====

“O'Neill.”

“Jack?  How are you feeling?”

“Still cold from missing my blanket.”

“Well, that's why I'm calling.”

“Yeah?  Found it somewhere?”

“Maybe, but that's not why I'm calling.”

“Okay, why are you calling, Daniel?”

“Well, I was wondering if you've seen my pillow?  You see, my head hurts and I've discovered that the only thing that makes me feel better is if I can relax on my favorite pillow.  It's silly, but something about it makes me ... smile.”

“Favorite things are like that.  I'll bet your pillow is used to you.  It has a nice dent right where your head goes.”

“Hmm.  Not sure about that, but it does get a bit sticky sometimes.  Wet, too, but it's always comfortable, and it makes a sound I love.”

“What sound is that?”

“It beats.  It's strong and steady.  Somehow, I know there will always be a tomorrow, as long as my pillow beats.  I wonder if it's ... beating okay now.  I've been a little worried about it.”

“Nothing to worry about, Dannyboy.  You look after my blanket, and I'll tend to your pillow.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

“Bye, Jack.”

“Bye, Daniel.”

====

“Daniel Jackson.”

“I thought you always answered 'hello'?”

“I like variety.   Haven't you heard it's the spice of life, Jack?”

“I like my spice in human form.”

“You do?”

“Spicy and tasty after being heated and stewed.  SUCKulent.”

Daniel rolled his eyes. “Do you EVER think about anything other than ...spice?”

“Of course.”

“And that would be?”

“Biology.”

“Jack?”

“Biology of ... humans.”

“You've been watching 'Star Trek' again, haven't you?”

“I've got you so hooked, Daniel.  You're recognizing dialogue now.”

“Jack, I have work to do.”

“Work is good.  You can do more ... work tonight.”

“ALL the work,” Daniel said, unable to stop himself from smiling.

“You'll have to do it with care and precision.”

“And I know you're work ethic, Jack.  You won't believe I'm, uh, working unless I ... work up a sweat.”

“Sweat is good.”

“Work is good.”

“Work is very good.  Slow and steady.”

“Hmmm.  I think the real key is THRUSTING with power in order to meet the objective, POUNDING the equipment with vigor until the mark is achieved.  Repeated over and over again, the crevice being filled  after long, deep hits.  In and out, as long as it takes.  In and out, until it reaches the undeniable ... climax.”

“Daniel?”

“Jack.”

“When do you get off work so we can begin your other ... work?”

“Sorry, Jack.  Have to go.  Bye.”

====

~This house is too big.  Never thought of it as big, but without Danny it's ... big and empty.  Maybe I'll watch a video.  Nah, it's no fun without Danny.~

Jack grumbled as he tried to go back to sleep, but he felt cold.  ~Sap.  I'm a sap.  I WANT MY DANNY!  I know.  I'll call him.~

“Hello.”

“Hi, Daniel,” Jack's voice was cheery, until he heard the sigh at the other end of the phone.  “What?”

“Jack, you just called twenty minutes ago.  I have to get some work done today.”

“I know some ...work ... you can do.”

“Jack, watch 'The Simpsons' or something.”

“No fun.  I'm bored, Daniel.”

Daniel shook his head.  “I have to go now, Jack.  I'm sure you'll be able to think of something to do.  Goodbye, Jack.”  Daniel clicked off the phone.

Feeling totally bored and lonely, Jack stuck his pillow over his head, trying to drown out the silence of the empty house.

====

Daniel sat at his desk trying to translate the writings on an urn that SG-6 had brought back.

~Jack's fine.  He's just bored.  The sooner you finish this, the sooner you can go home and snuggle with your Jack pillow.  Now concentrate, Jackson!~

“Okay, that glyph means ... seasonal, harvest ...”  Daniel stared at the urn as he imagined making love with Jack in the middle of a corn field. ~Okay, get your mind out of your pants, Daniel.  Um, make that out of Jack's pants.~

He shook his head and focused his attention back on the relic.  He managed to translate another few sentences before he found himself wondering what Jack was doing.  With a resigned sigh, he picked up the phone.

“Hello?”  The voice on the other end of the phone sounded so woebegone that Daniel had to fight the impulse to dash out of his office and head for home without even saying another word.

“Jack, that's the saddest sounding hello I've ever heard.”

“Danny!”  The change in Jack's voice made Daniel smile.  He still couldn't quite believe that he had the ability to make Jack so happy. “Have you finished work?  Are you coming home, now?  Can we have pizza?  How about we ...”  Jack's excitement warmed Daniel's heart, as question after question about their evening plans spewed from the older man's mouth.

Daniel reluctantly answered his lover.  “I'm afraid not.  I just wanted to check on you and make sure you were doing okay.”

“Lonely, very lonely.”  Jack was doing his best to sound pathetic.  “And I'm still bored!”

Daniel laughed.  “Have you tried sleeping like the doctor ordered?”

“I'm not tired.  I think I need some exercise.”

“Me, too.  Better finish this work, then maybe we can exercise together.”

“Or you could play hookey, and we could exercise now.”

“You're the 2IC of the SGC, Jack.  Should you really be encouraging employees to play hookey?”

“Most employees no, but you?  Yes!  Definitely.  Hey, I order you to play hookey!”

Daniel laughed.  “Okay.  I'll obey that order as well as I obey most of your orders.”

“Daniel!”

“See you later, Jack.”

“Goodbye ... Spoilsport,” Jack pouted over the phone.

Daniel hung up the phone longing to be at home with his lover.  ~Maybe I should play hookey.  Gawd, Jack really is a bad influence on me.~  He shook his head and made another attempt to translate the glyphs in front of him.

====

“Hold your horses.  I'm coming,” Jack shouted.  ~At least, I wish I was coming, because that would mean ... whoa, O'Neill, stop it right there.  Save it for the Energizer Bunny.~

Jack hobbled down the stairs to the ringing doorbell.  Opening it, he saw the delivery man holding a dozen roses and a box of chocolates.  He smiled.  ~I know who this is from.~  He signed for the surprise.

The recovering Colonel headed for the couch in the living room, smelling the roses.  ~That was nice, Danny.~  Sitting down, he opened the box of chocolates.  ~Which to devour first?~  Making his choice, Jack bit into the delight, and then he decided to have a beer.

As he opened the refrigerator, he wondered why his tongue was tingling.  ~That's what comes from going too long without beer.  Tongue starts tingling with anticipation.~  He took one and was about to close the door when he thought again.  ~What Janet doesn't know won't hurt her.~  Jack smiled, taking out two beers for good measure.  

He settled himself back on the sofa and ate a few more chocolates as he sipped his beer.  He looked at the clock, wondering how much longer it would be until Daniel came home.

~Crap, time for Janet's happy pills.~  He trudged up to the bathroom and swallowed the prescription medicine.  ~Bed or sofa?~  He decided on the sofa and was halfway down the stairs when he felt his throat start to constrict.  ~Geez, Janet, what was in those pills?~

Focused on trying to breathe, he forgot he was standing on the stairs until he took a step forward and felt himself falling before the world went dark.

====

“Doctor Jackson, can you help me with this research?” Kelly Amberson was struggling to find out more history about a potential connection between a device recently found by SG-7 and the Mayan culture.

“Sure, Kelly.  What's the problem?”

Daniel was glad he had made sufficient progress on the urn to be able to give his full attention to Kelly.  For an hour, Daniel assisted her as best he could, working on finding the missing piece of the puzzle.  He knew the answer was out there, waiting to be found, and was quickly swept up in the process of investigation.

There was little more satisfying than binding an artifact found on another planet with part of Earth history.  But as he worked, he kept getting a feeling that he should be home, even though Jack had called him off and on all day long and was fine.

~I think I just miss him.  It's those sad brown eyes.  He hates being sick.  He was up late last night, too.~

“Oh, look.  Do you think this could be it?” Kelly asked as she located a key passage in the database she was using for her study.

“Could be.  Let's try this.”  Daniel typed in a different search, varying the information slightly.  He was getting caught up in the adventure, but then his heart took over.  ~If you were sick, you'd want him home.  You'd tell him you were fine, but you'd want him there.~

Daniel smiled.  He looked at his watch.  “Kelly, tell you what.  You've made great progress on this today.  Let it sit.  Mull it over.  You might think of some other possibilities, too.  Go home.”

“Home?”

“Yeah.  Sometimes it's good to leave a little early.  Go home, spend some time with your family, and tomorrow, come back to this.  Start here.  I think the answer is related to this.”

“Okay.  Thank you, Doctor Jackson.”

Cheerfully, Daniel rose and headed back to his office.  Within fifteen minutes, he was in his car and headed for the safe haven of his lover.

====

Daniel walked into the house, and went straight into the living room expecting to see Jack stretched out on the sofa.  He smiled at the sight of the beer on the table.  ~Jack, you know better, but gawd, I love you.~

But then his smiled faded when he noticed the flowers and the few candy treats left in the one-pound box.  ~Who sent you flowers and candy?~

“Jack?”  When there was no answer, Daniel realized that Jack was probably lying down upstairs in their bedroom.  He moved to the stairs and immediately saw Jack's crumpled form about half-way down the staircase.

“Jack!”

Daniel raced up, gently turning his lover over.  Daniel assumed Jack had fallen.  Apparently, he had reached out for the railing, grabbing hold of it as he tumbled.  As Daniel found him, Jack was facing the railing, his body hunched into a crumpled ball against the protective rails.

Daniel cradled Jack's head in his lap.  A trickle of blood was running down Jack's forehead.  ~Gawd, Jack, not again.  Please be okay. Please.~  “Jack, wake up, Babe.  I need you.  Please wake up.”

Jack groaned softly, and his eyelids started to flutter.  ~What the heck?  Where am I?  What ... not comfortable.  Voice.  Love that voice.~

“Jack.  Come on, Babe.  Open your eyes for me.  Please, Jack.”

“Dan...Danny?  Sick ... gonna ... throw ...”

Jack couldn't finish his sentence.  He threw up all over himself, the stairs, and Daniel, but there was something more that concerned the young man.  Jack's pulse was unusually rapid, and he had looked a tad foamy around the lips.  Jack sputtered out what had happened, and how he had felt prior to blacking out.

“Jack, relax.  Don't move.”

Daniel was glad he hadn't yet taken off his jacket.  He reached inside, taking out his cell phone, and called Janet, describing Jack's symptoms to her as best he could.

“That doesn't sound flu related to me Daniel.  It sounds more like some type of poison.  Can you bring him to the infirmary, or do you want me to call an ambulance for you?”

“I'll bring him in now.  See you at the Mountain.”

====

“Janet?”  Daniel was full of concern.  The pit of his stomach was churning.  Something was very wrong.

“Daniel, Jack was poisoned.  There were high levels of Aconitum napellus ...”  She saw the blank look he gave her so she explained, “Wolfsbane, in his stomach.  If you hadn't found him when you did ...”  Janet reached forward.  Daniel looked like he was going to pass out.

“It's okay, Daniel.  You got there in time.  Very little was absorbed into his bloodstream.  We've given him Activated Charcol which should absorb most of it from his stomach, and I've given him a shot of atropine to prevent his heart slowing down.  We need to keep him for at least the next twenty-four hours to make sure that it's passed through his system, but from what I see at the moment, he should make a complete recovery.”

~Gawd, what if I hadn't left early?~  “I want to see him.”

“As if I could keep you away?”  Janet smiled.  “Go on.  Have you eaten?”  Daniel shook his head.  “I'll have Casey make a run to the commissary and pick you up something, okay?”  Daniel nodded.  “Daniel, he's going to be just fine.”  Another nod.  The young man was visibly shaken.  “Go sit with the Colonel.”

Janet watched as the young man walked over to the bed.  ~Those two certainly are close.  It's a good thing Daniel has a key to the Colonel's house.~

====

Janet had waited until she felt that Daniel was more at ease before asking more questions.  Casey had brought him a bowl of soup and a sandwich, and Daniel had nibbled at it ... until Jack woke up and made Daniel finish it right in front of his eyes.

“Do I always have to mother hen you, Daniel?” Jack had asked his worried lover.

“Yes, so you can't die,” had come the very soft reply.

Since they were in the infirmary, they hadn't been able to say or do much, but their eyes talked, and they had their non-verbal communication.

**I was scared, Jack.**

**Me, too.  What the heck happened?**

**You passed out.**

**This dang flu.  I forgot to eat before I took Janet's happy pills.  I did have those chocolates, though.  By the way, thanks for the those.  They were delicious. And the flowers?  So sweet of you, Danny.  Thank you.**

Daniel considered telling Jack the truth, but he wanted him to focus on getting well, so he kept silent, letting Jack continue to think he had passed out from being weakened and not eating food before taking the pills.

It was almost midnight when Janet motioned for Daniel to come over to her office area at the end of the general infirmary.  He checked Jack, making sure he was sleeping soundly, and then walked to his friend.

Janet spoke very softly. “Daniel, we need to find out what poisoned him for sure.”

“Chocolates.”

“You mentioned that the Colonel told you he had eaten several, and the tests would seem to support that.  Daniel, I need you to bring me whatever is left.”

Daniel nodded.  “If he wakes up ...”

“I'll tell him you'll be right back.”

“Thanks.”

Daniel headed for the elevator, bumping into Sam who was headed for the infirmary.  “Sam?”

“Daniel, why didn't you call me?”

“I'm sorry.  How'd you find out?”

“I called Janet's house, and Cassie told me the Colonel had been hurt, so then I called Janet.”

“Sam, can you come with me?  I think I need your help.”

“Sure.”

As Daniel drove to Jack's house, he explained what had happened more fully.  When they arrived, Sam suggested they handle the “gifts” carefully.

“Do you have plastic bag?”

Daniel pulled out a garbage bag.  “Will this do?”

“Yes.  How about some plastic gloves?”

Daniel walked into the kitchen and pulled out a pair of plastic gloves.  He wasn't even sure why they had them.  ~We never use these.~

Putting the gloves on, Sam then put the flowers and their wrappings into the bag.  She asked for a second plastic container and put the candy in it.  As they headed out, Sam said, “We need to have someone dust for prints around the door.  It's a long shot, but we should cover all the bases.”

“Okay.”

====

Daniel was sitting at Jack's bedside working on some translations.  Even though Janet was fairly certain that the wolfsbane was out of Jack's system now, she wanted to keep him in for another twenty-four hours just to be on the safe side.  Fortunately, Jack was sleeping most of the time and so he wasn't putting up much of a protest.

Daniel closed his eyes and listened to the steady beep of the heart monitor.  It wasn't as good as listening to the actual beat of Jack's heart, but it was still reassuring.

“Daniel.”

Sam crept in quietly so as not to wake her CO.  She beckoned him towards Janet's office.  Janet motioned the two to sit.

“What did you find out?”  Janet already had her suspicions based on her own tests, but verification from another source was always good.

“It was definitely the chocolates.  Each one contained tiny amounts of the poison,” Sam told her friends.

“Whoever did this knew what they were doing,” Janet said gravely.  “Aconitum napellus can be very potent, but its not a common poison.  The only reason it occurred to me to look for it was because I'd been doing some research on it, comparing it to the weeds that SG-6 brought back from PXA-783.”

“Then the intention was definitely to kill?” Sam looked at the petite doctor who nodded.

“Yes.  There is no antidote for it.  If Daniel had been any later, too much of the poison would have been absorbed into the blood stream, and there would have been nothing we could do.”

Daniel grew pale.  “Gawd, if I hadn't decided to leave early...”  Daniel couldn't even bear to finish his sentence.

“I'm going back to my lab and start looking for anything that will tell us who did this.  They are not going to get away with it.”  Sam squeezed Daniel's shoulder and left.

“Daniel, he will be okay,” Janet reassured the pale archaeologist.  “I know it's terrifying to find someone like that.  It's just a blessing that the Colonel had the flu.  If you hadn't been looking after him ...”

She trailed off, aware that line of thought wasn't particularly helpful at the moment.  “Look, at this point, it's the flu affecting him more than anything.  This strain is particularly nasty.  It comes, and it goes.  It's taking people weeks, even months to get it completely out of their systems.  I promise you, Jack will be fine.”

“Janet, please don't tell Jack he was poisoned.  Not yet.  Let him get over the flu first.  You know him.  He needs looking after, and if he thinks someone's after him like this, he'll ...  he'll push us all away trying to keep us safe.”

Janet hesitated and looked at Daniel's pleading eyes.  “Okay, Daniel.  But as soon as he's over this flu bug, I'm going to have to tell him.  I just can't keep something like this from him permanently.”

“I understand, but let me tell him, Janet.  Please.”

====

By the next day Jack was clearly feeling better.  He was awake more, and although he was still battling the flu, he was feeling well enough to grumble and complain, nagging Janet to release him.

“Come on, Doc, let me go home.  Daniel can ... babysit.”  Seeing he wasn't getting anywhere, Jack tried something he rarely did -- he begged, using an uncharacteristic and very drawn out “pleeeeeeease!”

Janet looked at Daniel.  “Are you sure you want to look after him, Daniel?  I can keep him here until he recovers a bit more from the flu. And,” Janet looked at Jack, the threat in her eyes, “If he keeps up his complaining, I'll just sedate him using a very big needle.”

Jack turned his soulful brown eyes on his lover.  **Take me home, Danny.**

Daniel decided that Jack was definitely feeling well enough to be teased.

“You know, Janet, that's not a bad idea.  I can go back to working in my office, come down here every now and then ...”  He started laughing at the look of indignation on Jack's face.

**I'll get you for that, Space Monkey.**

**Careful, my beautiful Silver Fox, you wouldn't want me to leave you here with Janet, would you?**

**You wouldn't do that.**  Jack sat back looking smugly at Daniel.

“He can stay here, Janet.  I'm off to do some work.  See you later, Jack.”  Daniel turned and began walking out of the infirmary.
 
**You're bluffing, Love.**

**Am I, Jack?**  Daniel had reached the doorway and turned to give Jack a cheerful wave before stepping into the corridor.

**Danny!  Okay, okay, you win.  Please take me home.  I'm cold.  I need my Danny blanket.**

Laughing, Daniel came back into the infirmary.  “I guess I'm just a sucker for punishment, Janet.  I'll take him home and look after him.”

The petite doctor shook her head at the antics of the two men.  She wasn't really sure what had transpired, but apparently, something had, judging from the looks on their faces.

“This is half of our first contact team?  Earth is doomed,” she teased as she went to prepare for Jack's release.

====

“Daniel,” Sam entered the house quickly, not even pausing to say hello, “I found a thumbprint on the edge of the plastic wrap that the flowers came in.”

“And?”

“It belongs to someone named Gene Foster.  I ran him through the computer, and he's some second rate con man from what I can see.   He's been in prison most of his life.”

“Why would he want to poison Jack?”

“Maybe it wasn't.  I'm betting someone hired him.”

“I wonder if he was one of the three men who mugged Jack.”

“We need to turn this over to the police, Daniel.”

“What good would it do if he's just a ... middle man?”

Sam sighed.  “Oh, I found out something else.  The delivery company the Colonel said brought the flowers and candy?”

“Yeah?”

“They have no record of any deliveries made here, plus, they reported a theft two weeks ago.”

“So?”

 “One van and one uniform.  That's all that was taken.”

“This was definitely planned,” Daniel acknowledged reluctantly, knowing that meant someone was truly out to kill the man who was his heart.

His body ached with his new-found knowledge, not that he hadn't expected it, but to have it confirmed, made his muscles constrict and throat dry.  Daniel looked up towards the bedroom where his lover was resting, concern for Jack's well-being at the front of his mind.

“I still think we need to have this Gene Foster arrested, Daniel.”

“Not yet.  He's not the one after Jack.  We need to find him ourselves, or find a connection between him and someone else.”

Sam wasn't really convinced, but she had more information to pass on.  She held out a piece of paper to show Daniel.

“Okay, well, look at this.  I did some looking around, and found some photos of him on the internet.  He has one of those webcams, and sometimes, he's taken photos with ... friends,” she spoke a bit tentatively.  “I found these on a couple of ... adult sites.”

Sam noticed Daniel's expression change.  For a second, she thought she saw a glimpse of recognition.

“Do you know this man?”

~It can't be.  He wouldn't do this to Jack.  Me, maybe, but Jack?~

Daniel remained silent as he stared at the shocking photos of Gene and someone he had hoped never to see again.

“Daniel?”

~I guess he would.  He's crazy.  Whatever sense of reality he had once is long gone, but why now?  Why wouldn't he have come after Jack when we saw him?  I don't understand that, but ... oh gawd, the letters.~

Sam saw Daniel deep in thought.  She repeated her call, “Daniel?  What are you thinking?”

“It makes sense now.  The letters.”

“What do you mean?”

“Um, that letter I told you about, the one Jack received while he was in the hospital.”  Sam nodded.  “There were two others, but I, uh, shredded them.”

“Why?  Daniel, they could have had fingerprints or ...”

“They were incriminating, but now that I think about it, the things they said make total sense.  I have to find him.  I have to take care of this.”

“We need to call the General and get help.”

“No,” Daniel spoke emphatically. “Sam, Jack's been mugged, suffering a concussion.  He fractured his ribs when the brake line on the truck was purposely severed, and now, he's been poisoned.  And ... gawd, he's still not over the flu.  He thought he was, but his fever was up again and ... it's just not going away.  Janet's worried that it might turn into pneumonia.  I have to take care of this myself.  The police won't be able to handle it.  Trust me, I know.  I really need you to cover for me.”

“I don't think that's a good idea.”

“Sam, you have to ... please!”

Their conversation was interrupted by a phone call.

“Hello.”

“Jack O'Neill, please.”

“He's not available.”

“Doctor Jackson?”

Daniel hesitated.  “Yes.”

“We've met, a few years ago in Phoenix.  Jack's old buddies, remember?”

~Wish I could forget.~  “Yes, I remember.  Which one are you?”

“Colonel Larry Hampton.”

~Interesting timing.~  “Yes, I remember.”  ~And you're a bit late if you're calling for the reason I think you are.~

“Listen, Doctor Jackson, it's very important I speak with Jack.”

“I'm sorry, that's not possible right now.  Can I take a message?”

Hampton hesitated.   “Mike Sorelli.  Do you remember him?”

Daniel shut his eyes.  He'd rather remember Hathor -- almost.  He had desperately tried to forget the man, and had done a fairly good job of it until Sam had held out the porn photo a minute earlier.

“What about him?”

“Doc, he's had some ... problems, as I ... think you're aware.  We, Johnny, you know John Mendolson, and I tried to help him, but he got very delusional.  We actually had him committed to a local institution.”

“You mean a sanitarium?”

Hampton sighed loudly.  “He's nuts, Doctor Jackson.  The problem is that Mike hasn't improved, and then, a couple months ago, he ... escaped.”

Daniel's heart stopped.  For a brief moment, he had hoped he was wrong about the letters, that maybe it wasn't Sorelli.

“Escaped?”

“Listen, we should have called earlier, but we were sure he was hiding out with some guys he had met a while back.  Or Mike had always wanted to go to Tahiti, and we figured that's where he went, but ...”

“BUT WHAT?”

“But the institution just handed over some of his things.  There was a notebook, and it's full of ... unpleasant things.”

“Like what?”

“Like methods of torture.  He kept writing this line from a Star Trek movie we all saw years ago -- 'revenge is a dish best served cold' -- and the thing is, underneath it he wrote, 'revenge will be mine, JO.'  If we had known earlier, we would have called.”

“I'm afraid you're a little late.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean he's already tried to kill Jack.”

“Doctor ...”

“Thank you for calling with the information, but please don't call again.”

Daniel hung up the phone and turned to Sam.

“Sam, I need you to do something for me.”

“What?”

“It might not be easy.”  Sam waited for Daniel to explain.  “Can you somehow get the General to give SG-1 the week off?  I mean, he knows I'm here, but I need you and Teal'c.  I think Teal'c needs to be here.  We can tell Jack I'm working late on translations.  He knows I'm behind right now, and Teal'c is here to ... I don't know, keep him company during the day since I need to be at the Mountain.”

“You're really worried about him, aren't you?”

Daniel nodded.  “Sam, that phone call.  Someone ... someone is after Jack, and I know who it is.  Sam, please trust me.”

“Daniel, you have to promise that you'll call me if you need help.”

“I'm calling you now, Sam.”

She nodded.  “Okay, I'll think of something, and explain to Teal'c.  He'll love to torment the Colonel for a while.”

“Thanks, Sam.”

====

Daniel reviewed the facts that his private team of investigators had established.  Over the last few days, they decided to let Teal'c in on the truth.  The Jaffa wasn't happy with Daniel's decision to go after Mike Sorelli on his own, but he cared deeply for Jack O'Neill as well and understood that if Jack knew the truth, he'd be uncooperative.

Still, Daniel was the only one who knew the complete truth.  He hadn't told his friends what had really happened with Mike in Phoenix, saying only that he had met Mike once, and he was an old buddy of Jack's.  Both Sam and Teal'c figured there was more to the story, but knew Daniel wasn't going to reveal it, at least not right now.

Looking at his notes, Daniel went over what had happened.  The mugging, the cut brake line, and the poisoning.  All had happened after Mike's escape from the mental institution in Phoenix, and Sorelli had made threats in papers and notes that had been given to Larry Hampton.

Daniel thought back to his last meeting with the deranged man.  He shuddered at the memory.

//Flashback//
“Maybe we are forever,” Daniel said softly, hope in his voice that just maybe he had finally found something he wouldn't lose, a love that would go on and on with time.  He was seated on the grass in a park waiting for Jack to return from a quick errand.  It was nighttime.

“Not forever, Danny Boy, but a half hour ought to do it.”

Daniel's eyes opened wide, but before he could move, Mike had his hand over Daniel's mouth, and he was straddling the younger man.

“Bud sure has it bad for you, and no one was straighter than Bud.  I just gotta know what a geek like you can do to someone like Bud to turn him.  Of course, I certainly can't miss your attributes.”

Daniel struggled to break free, but Mike's hold was strong.

“Don't fight me, Doc.  You'll lose ... big time.”

But Daniel wouldn't lay still, and Mike hadn't planned very well.  Mike still had one hand trying to prevent Daniel from yelling, and the other hand was trying to keep Daniel's torso from moving.  Daniel decided to play along.  He stopped squirming.

“Better.  You'll like it, Doc.  That Steve fellow couldn't offer you squat.  And Bud?  Heck, he never could match anything I had.  He just got lucky.”

As soon as Mike eased up, sure that Daniel wasn't resisting, the younger man made his move, shoving the Italian off of him, and quickly standing.  Daniel started to run, but Mike chased him down, pushing Daniel onto the grass, belly first.

“Fine.  Play it that way,” Daniel felt his hands being tied behind his back.  Mike was going to rape him, confident Jack would never know who did the deed..

“He'll kill you,” Daniel spoke seriously.

“Nah, he'd have to find me first.  Of course, he'd have to know it was me.  I'll kill him, Danny Boy.  Don't think I won't.  I'm not like Jackie Boy.  I haven't changed, not one bit.  You open your mouth to do anything but make me feel good, and I'll kill him, slowly ... and you'll never find the body.”

Daniel started to protest, but then he realized that the man about to accost him was crazy.  His eyes were dark, unfocused.

“Gawd, you're out of your mind.”

“The only thing I'm out of is ... is a good time, and  you're about to provide it, aren't you, Danny Boy?”

Mike unbuttoned Daniel's pants and unzipped them.  Daniel closed his eyes.  He wanted to fight, but he didn't know how.

“So let's see what you have to offer ... Danny ... Boy.”

Mike never saw the fist that landed in his face.  The next thing he knew, he was flat on the ground, Jack's fists pounding on him.

“Jack!  Don't!” Daniel shouted, continuing his pleas until his lover finally did let up the attack.

“Do you know why you're not dead, Mike?”

“You're weak, Bud.”

“Thank the heavens for that.  But you listen to me, and you had better hear me.  You see, Daniel's good graces only work once.  He's standing there, and that is the only reason you aren't dead.  I won't give him that memory.”

“Yeah, little Danny can't handle reality.”

Jack tightened his grip, causing Mike to squirm, trying unsuccessfully to raise his hands to Jack's forearm that held him captive.

“I'll make an exception, Mike.  I'll break your neck right here and now.”

“Then do it.”

Jack's arms pressed against Mike's throat.  The man gasped, struggling for air.

“Jack, please don't.”

“See, he likes me.”

“You're sick,” Daniel accused the Italian, “He'll kill you.  You moron, he'll kill you.”

Mike continued his taunting words, just as Jack continued with his promise to kill Mike.  Daniel begged Jack to walk away, finally convincing him.

“You're a disgrace, Mike.  I don't care what you think, but listen to me.  You're gonna live ... tonight ... but I swear on everything holy, that if you ever ... EVER ... touch Daniel again ... if you ever look at him again, I will tear your heart out.  You hear me, Mike?  That man is my reason for living.  He's my conscience.  You hurt that in any way ... and they'll never find you.  You'll be my personal Jimmy Hoffa.  I'll grind you up, and bury you in cement.”

“You talk big, Jack.”

“Truth ... I speak the truth.”

Mike let out an arrogant laugh that disturbed Jack, but he glanced at his lover, and as much as he wanted to make Mike disappear, the fear in Daniel's eyes couldn't be denied.

Finally, Jack tossed Mike out of his reach and quickly closed the gap between he and Daniel, taking the young man in his arms.  Mike laughed at the embrace.

“I'll kill you, Mike.”

“Sure you will, Bud ... sure, you will.”

“Jack, let's go.”
//End of Flashback//

~He's crazy, totally crazy.  Gawd, if Jack finds out, he will kill him, and then what?  No, I can't let that happen.  I have to protect Jack.  Okay, so I know Mike is a crazy man.  He wants Jack dead.  He's here.  He's ... he has to be watching.  A bug?~

Casually, Daniel went outside to the backyard.  He called Sam on his cell phone, speaking softly and keeping his facial expressions light.

“Sam, if he's bugging us, can you track him?”

“Maybe, but it might be easier to try and lure him in.”

“Bait?”

“Yes.”

“Sam, Jack can't know.  You don't know this man.  He's ... he's strong, and he's dangerous.”

“Stronger than a Jaffa with a zat gun?”

“Not that strong ... I hope.”

The two devised a plan.  If the house was bugged, Mike wouldn't show, knowing Jack had visitors.  They'd have to make it appear that the babysitting was over, and it would need to be believable.

“Sam,” Daniel added.  “I don't think it should be here.  I mean, the neighbors ...”

“How about the cabin?”

“Yes, but how do we do that without alerting Jack?”

“Deception.  Daniel, Sorelli only has to think the Colonel is at the cabin.  He doesn't really have to be there.”

“We can't leave him alone.”

“How about Ferretti?”

“The MonsterMobile.  That'll work.  Lou and Jack could talk about that thing for a week and still have more to say.  Good idea, Sam.”

====

“Lou, don't let him out of the house.  Janet insisted he stay inside.”

“Anything you say, Doc.”

“No driving the MonsterMobile today, Jack.”

“Daniel, I'm not a child.”

“That's debatable.  I have to go.  Please behave, Jack.”

Lou gave Daniel a covert wink.  The Major had been told only that it was important for Jack to stay inside, doctor's orders.  He'd eagerly agreed to keep Jack company while Daniel had to work on an urgent project.  He was a bit confused as to why Sam had picked him up and dropped him off at Jack's.  He had been a bit railroaded in that respect.  But again, she had asked him to just go along, indicating there was a reason for the unusual routine, and if all went well, they might be able to tell him later.

Daniel went downstairs and picked up the phone.  It was the first step in their plan.  As scheduled, he called Sam.

“Sam, can you feed my fish for a couple of days?”

“Um, sure, Daniel, why?”

“Jack and I are going to the cabin for a few days.  He's been through so much.  I think the peace and quiet will do him so good.”

“Are you sure he should make the drive?   That's a long trip.”

“Oh, no, we're just going to the cabin in the mountains ...”

Daniel continued, subtly working in the location of the cabin and other prearranged details in the hopes of luring Mike Sorelli after them.  If they were right, the house was bugged, and Mike would be anxious to seize an easy opportunity to get Jack and Daniel alone, away from the population of the town.

“Do you want me to leave the lights on?”

“Yeah.  There have been a few burglaries in the neighborhood lately.  Oh, here he comes.  We're taking my car, of course.  Thanks, Sam.”

Daniel ended their call as planned.  He walked over to the gun cabinet and unlocked it.  Sighing, he pulled out one of Jack's pistols and also took a dagger Jack kept there.  Grabbing some bullets, Daniel checked out the equipment, relocked the cabinet, and headed for the car.  They were banking on one piece of luck -- hoping Mike wasn't watching the house at that precise moment and wouldn't see that Daniel was alone when he left.

====

Daniel made his way to the Colorado cabin where he met up with Sam and Teal'c who had gone to the area well in advance, parking their vehicle off the main road, well out of view.

“This is dangerous, Daniel.  Are you sure ...”

“Sam, I have to protect Jack.”

“Cannot O'Neill take care of himself?”

“Right now, no, and you have to trust me on this.  Mike Sorelli is ... he's not well, Teal'c.  Jack and I met him a few years ago.  He ... has a score to settle.  We have to get him now before he has a chance to get to Jack again.”

Teal'c nodded.

“Okay.  Teal'c and I will take our positions outside.”

“Sam, you can't let him see you.”

“Don't worry, we won't. You be careful.”

“You, too.”

Daniel went about making it look like Jack was at the cabin.  He lit a fire, and placed a pillowy body in the bed.  And then he waited.

====

Daniel had fallen asleep on the sofa.  It was in the middle of the night.  Suddenly, he heard a noise.  He opened his eyes to see Mike Sorelli looming over him.  He flashed back to Arizona, panic filling him.  Quickly, he scurried off the sofa, surprised when the man let him.

Sorelli laughed an evil release.

“I should have known this was a set up.  It was a bit too easy.  Jack's not here, is he?”

“Leave him alone.”

“No can do.  You see, Jack's the cause of all my worries.  Do you know where I've been for the past two years?”

Daniel didn't want to answer the question, his face tight and his eyes looking away from Sorelli briefly.

“Yeah, I see you do.  Jack went and spilled his guts to Larry and Johnny.  Johnny?  He fled.  He didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore.  Larry?  He kept trying to get me to go to counseling.  Me? Counseling?  I lost my friends, my career, everything ... because of that ... It's all Bud's fault, and it's time for him to pay, starting with you.”

“I'm not here alone.”

Mike laughed.  “You mean that little thing outside?  Cute little blonde.  Pity.”

Daniel grew concerned.  “What did you do to her?”

“I thought you had it bad for Jack.”

“She's a friend.”

“Not much of a challenge, though.”

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER?”

“I put her to sleep.”

Daniel wasn't sure what that meant, but he knew he had to remain calm and focus on the man in front of him.  He was too dangerous to try and handle with his mind thinking about other things, be it concern for Jack or Sam.

====

Outside the cabin, Teal'c tended to Sam.  He had spotted Mike moving towards his teammate too late to warn her.  Fortunately, Sam was only  knocked out briefly, and was already beginning to come to when Teal'c knelt down to check on her.

Suddenly, they heard gunfire from inside the cabin.

“Daniel!”  She grabbed hold of the Jaffa's hand.  “Teal'c, you have to go check on him.”

He nodded and moved silently towards the cabin.

====

Daniel was making sure he kept a good three feet between Mike and himself.

“Look, Mike.  You have to know that sooner or later, you're going to get caught.”

“You forget, Doc.  I'm Special Ops trained.  I know how to avoid capture.  I did better on that score than Jackie boy.  They never captured me in Iraq.”

“You say that like it makes you better than Jack.”

Mike laughed proudly.  “It does.”

“You're wrong.  You don't even know what happened when Jack was captured, do you?”

“He got caught, and that's all I need to know.”

“He survived, too.  Something tells me you wouldn't have been able to handle a day in one of those prisons, let alone weeks like Jack did.”

Mike didn't like being challenged.  “THE POINT IS HE GOT CAUGHT.  HE WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH.”

“He's the best.”

Daniel hadn't raised his voice.  He had made his words a statement of fact, his eyes focused, his tone commanding and confident.

Mike's eyes narrowed, and Daniel cursed himself, wondering if perhaps it had been a bad idea to have antagonized the man.

~On the other hand, maybe I can make him lose his cool; goad him into making a stupid move.~

“It must really annoy you that Jack has everything, and you have nothing.  That's what this is really all about.  Jack's superior skills to yours, his career and the respect that goes with it, and his personal life is happier than yours.  I can vouch for that personally.  The truth is, you're jealous of Jack.”

“I'm not jealous of Bud.”

“No?  He's a Colonel who has a great job that's so classified you wouldn't get within ten feet of it.  And when you came onto me in Arizona, I turned you down flat.  In fact, Jack almost killed you for ... for what you did.  Jack wins again.  Gawd, it's not even close to being a contest.”

“Don't flatter yourself, Doc.  I don't want you.”

Daniel looked down at Mike's groin and smirked.  “No?  A certain part of your anatomy says different.”
 
Mike glared at him then gave a dangerous, perverted smile.

“You're right, Doc.  I think it's time I finished what I started in Arizona.”

“You can try, but you won't have any luck.”

Daniel hoped he sounded more confident than he felt.  With an evil grin, Mike pulled out a gun.  Daniel laughed.

“I see.  Not man enough to take me without a gun.  No, you weren't in Arizona either.”

Daniel wondered how he could make it to the couch where he'd placed Jack's gun under one of the cushions.  To his amazement, his baiting seemed to have worked.  Mike was shoving the gun down the back of his jeans.

“I could take you with my eyes closed,” Mike boasted as he moved forward.

Grateful for all the training Jack had forced him to do after the NID mess, Daniel was waiting for Mike's move.  He ducked as he moved to his right while at the same time, sticking his foot out.  Intent only on reaching Daniel, Mike didn't notice Daniel's foot and stumbled, giving Daniel just enough time to reach the gun.

~You were right, Jack.  Sometimes, you just can't beat the cliche move.~

By the time Mike had regained his balance, Daniel had Jack's gun trained on him.

“Don't move, Mike,” Daniel said, pulling out his phone to dial the police.

“Well, well, well.  The lamb has some bite after all,” Mike smirked, “but I think it's all for show.”

Mike charged Daniel who surprised him by firing the gun.  The crazed man fell back, allowing Daniel to scoot backwards.  Mike reached his hand to his side and saw the blood.  He laughed.  “You actually grazed me.  I'm so impressed, except you look pale, Doc.  Do it again.”

“I WILL pull the trigger.”

Mike challenged Daniel.  “No, you won't.  I have places to go.  Later, Doc.  We have a date, just as soon I set Bud straight.”

Mike turned around and walked towards the door.  Daniel cocked the trigger back.

“Don't make me kill you, Mike.”

“You'll have to shoot me in the back, Doc.  Murder.  Cold blooded murder.  So go ahead.  Murder me.”

Daniel closed his eyes for just a second and when he opened them, Mike was gone.

~Oh gawd.  What if he goes after Jack?  JACK?  GAWD, NO!~

Daniel ran out of the cabin.  He made a three hundred sixty degree turn looking for Mike Sorelli.  Then he caught sight of a motorcycle zipping through the trees.

~Gawd, Jack would murder him just for that alone.~

Daniel saw the cycle transition from the woods to the gravel road that led to the cabin.  He was about to get into his car when he saw Sam coming from the back of the cabin.  He ran to her, seeing that she seemed a little dazed, her hand reaching out to hold on to the side of the wooden structure.

“Sam, are you all right?”

“I'm fine, just a little dizzy.  Where's Teal'c?  I thought he was coming back this way?”

“I don't know.”  Daniel looked around anxiously.  “Sam, Sorelli took off.  I have to follow him.  See if you can find Teal'c.”

“Daniel,” Sam called out as she watched him run back towards his car, but he didn't stop, and Sam had to watch helplessly as her friend, one of the gentlest people she'd ever known, chased  a madman.

A minute later, Teal'c emerged from the woods, near the spot where Mike had appeared on the motorcycle.

“Major Carter, where is DanielJackson?”

“He took off after Sorelli.  Are you okay?”

“I am fine.  I thought I had him closed in, but he was able to get by me.  I am sorry.”

“We need to try and find Daniel.  Let's go.”

====

Daniel didn't like the speed he was traveling at, but he was worried about Jack.  Mike was angry and knowing people would be hunting for him, Daniel feared the crazed man would make the decision to get Jack while he could.  The archaeologist tried to invade Mike's mind.  He'd figured that if the deranged man believed Daniel and his friends were at the cabin, then Jack would be alone at the house and would go there, after him.

~I have to catch him, and I have to convince him Jack is somewhere else.  Yes, the Mountain.  Remember, Jackson.  Catch Mike.  Tell him Jack is at the Mountain.  Be convincing.  Jack's life may depend on that.~

Mike hadn't counted on Daniel being such a skilled driver.  Then, he realized Daniel was driving a very expensive sports car.

~Man, that thing could roll right over me.  I wonder if he knows that?  Of course, he does.  He's just a wuss, that's all.  No guts.~

As he approached a park, Mike was so lost in his mental chiding of Daniel that he didn't see the block of wood that had apparently fallen off a truck.  His motorcycle bucked, and Mike was thrown off, the cycle skidding along the road for several yards.  Fortunately for him, however, he landed on the grass.

Undaunted, Sorelli stood just as Daniel drove up and began to run through the park.  There wasn't a road through the recreational area, so Daniel got out of his car and followed Mike on foot, grateful he was a fast runner when he wanted to be, and right now, he desperately wanted to be fast.

Daniel marveled at Mike's ability to continue his escape, considering the gunshot wound and fall he had just taken.  Daniel was closing in on his adversary, but as they approached a building, Mike made another strange move.  He suddenly stopped his run, turning to face Daniel.

“Hold it right there, Doc.  I'll kill you.  I will.”

Mike pointed his gun at Daniel who stood trying to catch his breath after coming to a halt.  His chest heaving in and out dramatically from the run, Daniel gasped his words.

“You'll never get away with it.  You know Jack.  He'll hunt you down and kill you.  No one will find the body.”

“Jack will be dead.  I'll take care of him just as soon as I take care of you.”

“You can't get to Jack.  He's ... under guard at Cheyenne Mountain,”  Daniel lied, hoping Mike would buy it, and apparently, the deranged man did.

“You think that place could keep me out?  No one is going to keep me from killing Jack.  Not now.”

“You need help, Mike, serious help.”

The man laughed.  “Don't psychoanalyze me.”

The gun shook in his hand, his body weakening slightly at last.  Seeing this, Daniel slowly moved forward, keeping his voice steady and trying to sound as reassuring as possible.

“We can get you help.  You're not alone.  You have people who care about you.”

“Now there you're wrong.”

“Larry cares about you.  He tried, remember?  Remember how he tried to get you to accept help?  That was because he cared.  Those old military bonds.  They're strong.  You said so yourself.”

“Back off.”

Daniel continued a slow walk forward, trying for a peaceful resolution while at the same time realizing he didn't have Jack's gun on him.  He wasn't even sure now if he left it in his car or if it was still at the cabin.

Mike glanced behind him.  The brick building appeared vacant and locked.  He had nowhere to go but forward.

“Medication will make things clearer.  Give it a chance, Mike,” Daniel pleaded.

“I'm going to pull this trigger.”

“No one wins, Mike.  It doesn't have to be like this.  There's hope.”

“You're so full of it.  And now ... you're dead.”

Daniel saw the man was about to pull the trigger.  He dove forward just as the gun fired, the bullet grazing his left arm.  He had no time to react to the injury as he fought for the gun.  The struggle was intense, the two rolling around on the grass, fighting for control.

At one point, Daniel and Mike locked eyes.  Daniel saw the surprise, even shock, in Mike's eyes at Daniel's strength.

~Thank Heaven for all that Special Ops stuff Jack taught me.~

It seemed Daniel was grateful for that more and more, even for Jack having insisted that the young man start working out with weights and other equipment.  He wasn't that lean geek anymore, his body firmer, the muscles built up tremendously.  It was all because of, and at the insistence of, Jack.

Finally, Daniel took hold of the gun.  Mike laughed at the turn of events, teasing Daniel.

“You could never do it.  We already proved that.  I'm going to kill your lover ... NOW!  And I'm going to do it on his own turf.  I'll show him who is best.  The Air Force ... what a joke.”

No longer with the building to his back, Mike pushed Daniel away and ran.  Daniel followed, gun in hand, and his heart racing faster than it ever had before.  The chase continued through the park and finally into the parking lot where various vehicles were parked.  Unable to catch him, Daniel watched as Mike pushed a middle-aged woman away from her car and sped off, almost hitting another pedestrian as he turned the corner.

Daniel mumbled repeatedly as he went to the woman's aide.

“Are you all right, Ma'am?”

“That man stole my car.”

“Yes, I know.”  The woman looked fine, so Daniel stood.  Realizing his cell phone was in his car, Daniel searched the area for a phone, finally spotting one several yards away.  He ran and placed his call.

“Sam?”

“Daniel, where are you?  We've been searching everywhere.”

“Park.  Sam, Mike just stole a car.  It was a,” Daniel paused, panting as he tried to calm himself, “Honda Civic, gray, license 'Gray Mare' and,” he paused again, “I think he's going after Jack.  He thinks he's at the Mountain.”

“Daniel, Sorelli would be crazy to go there.”

“Sam, he IS crazy.  He's not rational at all.  Sam, please.  Make sure Lou is still with Jack.  I have to go.”

Daniel hung up.  As quickly as he could, he ran back through the park to the point where this latest skirmish had begun.  He got into his car and sped off towards Cheyenne Mountain, Mike's gun in his pocket.

====
 
Jack was listening to Lou with half an ear.  He knew Daniel was up to something.  He could feel his Daniel radar going off and was certain his life partner was in trouble.

“Lou, could you get me the phone.  I need to make a call.”
 
“Sure.”  Lou passed his friend the phone and then decided to give Jack some privacy.  “I'll go make some coffee.”

“Thanks.”  Jack began dialing Daniel's cell phone.

Daniel recognized the number before he answered his phone.  He waited, desperately trying to calm himself.  He couldn't let Jack know anything was wrong, not yet.  He anxiously pressed the button connecting to the call.

“Jack, are you okay?”

“Hello to you, too, Love.  I'm lonely.  Whatcha' up to?”

Jack heard the infinitesimal pause before Daniel answered.

“I thought Lou was with you.”

Jack's concern increased.  Daniel was controlling it, but there was an edge to his voice that sounded like panic.

“He is, but he's not you.  I'm cold without my favorite blanket to keep me warm.”

“I'll be home soon, Jack.  I have to go now.  I love you.”

Jack smiled at the affection he could hear in Daniel's voice.  He ached for his lover.  He checked that Lou was nowhere in sight.

“Love you too, Angel.  Be careful.”  Jack was still worried.

“Always.”

After hanging up the phone, Jack heard a cell phone ring, and Lou talking as he came back up the stairs.

“Promise.  You know us.  We can talk about the MonsterMobile for hours.”

Lou came into the bedroom and grinned at Jack.

“No problem.  Later.”  Lou hung up, smiling a bit quirkishly, and gestured to the phone.  “Women.”

“Carolyn want you home yet?” Jack teased.  He noticed Lou hesitate slightly before answering.

“Nah, you get to enjoy my company for a bit longer,” Lou joked until he recognized Jack's Colonel-like stare.  “What?”

Jack's brain was working overtime.  Daniel had hesitated, now Lou.  Then, things clicked, and he picked up the phone again.  He dialed Sam's lab, but there was no answer.  He tried her cell phone, shaking his head at Lou as he pressed the appropriate buttons.

“Geez, I'm being babysat.  Daniel put you up to this, didn't he?”  Lou's embarrassed look was confirmation.

“Daniel?”

~That's Carter!~ Jack fought to keep control of his temper, and his jealousy at the fact that his 2IC was expecting a call from his lover.

“Carter?  What in Netu is going on?  Where is Daniel?  What the blazes is he up to?  I want the truth, and I want it now!”  Jack hadn't paused even for a breath as he rattled off his questions.

Sam cringed at the deadly tone in her CO's voice and was thankful that he was only on the other end of a telephone, not standing in front of her.

“Ah, does the name Mike Sorelli mean anything to you, Sir?”

Jack sat up as he felt an icy pit form in his gut.  “BLAST IT, CARTER!  WHERE IS DANIEL?  DON'T LET HIM NEAR THAT PSYCHOPATH!”

Jack remembered all too vividly Daniel's near rape at the hands of a man he'd used to call his friend.

~If that S.O.B. so much as touches Danny, I'll kill him, and nothing Daniel says will stop me.~

Then he remembered a conversation that he'd had with Larry about Mike, and a warning he'd given his friend.

//Flashback//
“Mike was always on the fringe, Jack.  He's always done things a bit ... outside the loop.”

“Larry, I will kill him if he ever comes near Daniel again.  He's only alive now because Daniel was there, and there is no one on the face of this Earth more full of compassion than My Danny.”

“Your Danny?”

“My Danny.  I'm telling you this because you may be Mike's only chance.  The only fool is the man who never allows fear.  Well, Larry, I'm full of fear, fear that Mike is going to come after Daniel, just to spite me.”

Jack moved closer to Larry and spoke softly but extremely firmly.  “I won't let him hurt Daniel, and that's what you have to understand.  If you want Mike to live, you and Johnny need to watch him, try to get him some help.  If he comes after Danny, you'll never find the body.”

“Geez, Jack, you're serious.”

“You're dead right.”

“You consider the possibility Mike might come after you?”

“I feel sorry for him if he does.”

“Why?”

“Because Daniel will kill him if he does.”

“The geek?  Jack, you just said ...”

“I know what I said, but that's the problem, you don't know Daniel.  The three of you think you have him pegged as what, Larry -- some intellectual, cultural geek freak with long hair?  Some cute wimp?  A boy toy?  I meant what I said, he's saved your life, Larry.  It is classified.  Daniel Jackson is a hero, and he is the bravest man I know.  You underestimate him.  Let me tell you something, there have been a lot of ... people who have done the same thing.  Most of them are dead now.”

“You make him sound like the Green Hornet, a masked crusader.”

“Yeah, that's My Danny, cultural expert by day, super hero by night,” Jack mused before getting serious again.

“I love him, Larry.  I don't want him to live with death that I cause, nor do I want him to kill ... but he has killed, Larry, and if someone hurts me, he'll kill again.”

Larry was stunned by Jack's revelation and words about Daniel's capabilities.  As he finished his drink, Jack acknowledged the bond that existed between he and his three buddies.  “You guys were there for me more times than I can count.  War buddies, that bond ... it's real, Larry.  We both know that.”

Then, Jack gave Larry a warning.  It was the only thing he could do to try and protect them.

“The point is this.  Thank you for saving my life ... to you, Johnny, and Mike.  Now, I'm trying to save yours.  You're my past.  Daniel is my present, and my future.  There's no divided loyalty, Larry.  I don't want to see Mike destroy himself, but I'll do what I have to do.  Do you understand?”

Larry stood and nodded, and reached out to shake Jack's hand.  “I get it, Jack.  I'll talk to Johnny.  We'll try to help him.”

The two spoke their good-byes, and Jack exited the restaurant bar to return to his lover.
//End of Flashback//

~Geez, Danny.  He cut the brakes on my car, didn't he?  He came after me, and now you've gone after him.~

Jack glared at Lou for his part in this as he continued his conversation with his 2IC.  “Carter, tell me where Daniel is, and tell me now!”

“Sorelli is headed for the Mountain, Colonel.  I think that's where Daniel is going, but ... I'm not sure.”

“So help me, Carter ...” Jack clicked off the phone.  “Okay, Lou, tell me what you know while I get dressed.”

“Jack, I don't think that's the idea.”

“The idea, Ferretti, was for you to keep me tucked away, out of sight, right?  Well, my ... Daniel is out there, going after some lunatic, and I'll be darned if I'm just going to sit here.  Tell me what you know!”

Lou told Jack the little they knew, and then they headed for the Mountain.  As they drove in Lou's truck, Jack called his 2IC again.

“Now, Carter.  Listen to me.  I want to know all the details.  ALL OF THEM, MAJOR.  Talk.”

Sam gulped, and then told her CO everything she knew about what had happened and how Daniel had wanted to handle it on his own.

Jack was angry at, and afraid for, the man he loved.  ~Stubborn, pig-headed, beautiful IDIOT!~

Jack called the Mountain, warning them about Sorelli's arrival.  He then called Larry Hampton for a first-hand account of what had transpired over the last few years with Mike.

Jack dialed Daniel's cell phone, but this time, there was no answer, only the voice mail system.

~I'm going to kill him, ravish him, and then kill him again.~

====

Daniel reached the Cheyenne Mountain Complex just in time to see Mike knock out the Airman guarding the external gate, taking his weapon.  He wondered where the other Airman was and hoped that Mike hadn't killed him.  He kept his eyes on Mike as the man headed for the SGC entrance.  Parking his car and making sure that he had Mike's gun with him this time, he got out and ran after the deranged man.

“Mike!  Give it up, you'll never get in there.  They'll kill you,” Daniel shouted.

At the same time, they both heard the noise of men running, weapons being readied.  Daniel knew it was the Marines.  They would have seen the activity at the entrance gate.

As Marines came pouring out, Mike abruptly changed direction and headed for the top of the mountain.  As he began to run after Mike, Daniel caught a glimpse of the Marines following close behind.

====

Lou looked at Jack's taut features and wondered what on Earth had possessed the man's teammates to think that the Special Ops trained Colonel would tolerate being left out of the loop on something like this.

~You better be okay, Doc, because I don't think Jack is going to forgive any of us if you're not.~

After breaking every speed record in the book, they arrived at Cheyenne Mountain.  Ignoring the pain of his injuries, Jack leapt out of the truck and looked at the extra Marines now guarding the entrance.  One of them answered his unspoken question.

“Pike's Peak.”

“Gun.”  It was a demand, and the Marine knew it.  He handed over his weapon, and Jack took off, Lou at his side.

====

“Give it up, Mike,” Daniel pleaded as Mike came to a dead top, waving the gun wildly around him.

The crazed man stood at the top of the mountain that was Pike's Peak. He looked around, his nervousness finally seeping through.  He didn't know this area.  He had let his arrogance take him into unfamiliar territory.

“You can't leave here.  You know that.”

“You mean the old cliche, Doc?  I'm surrounded.”

Daniel looked around him, seeing a plethora of Airmen and Marines, all with powerful weapons aimed at the man still holding a weapon of his own.  And then he saw Jack running up on the area.  Daniel had to end this now.  He was afraid of Mike shooting Jack from where the madman stood.

“Yes.  I guess you could say that.”

Mike laughed, aiming the gun he had stolen from the Airman he had knocked out earlier, at Daniel's chest.  Daniel continued to move towards him.  It was a near replay of their earlier exchange.

“Are you just stupid or what?”

“I want you to get help.”

Mike seemed stunned.  It was almost as if a part of him from years ago finally shone through.

~This guy is for real.  No one does what he's doing.  I've got a gun aimed at him.  I already shot him once.  What is he after?~

“DANIEL!”

Daniel briefly glanced over shoulder, shouting, “JACK, STAY BACK!”

“PUT THE GUN DOWN, MIKE, OR ...”  Jack was continuing to move towards Daniel, his goal obvious:  to get Daniel out of the way and blow Mike's head off.

“JACK, PLEASE.  STAY THERE.  LET ME HANDLE THIS.”

“DANIEL!”  **NO WAY IN NETU.  GET YOUR BUTT DOWN HERE.**

“JACK!”  **YOU HAVE TO STAY BACK.  HE'LL KILL YOU.**

**THE FRIGGIN' GUN IS AIMED AT YOU.**

**JACK, SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO ME.  PLEASE!**

Daniel saw Jack biting his tongue, his head shaking from side to side in anger.  But he had stopped.  Still, Daniel saw Jack's finger -- on the trigger and ready to fire ... as were the Marines.  He sighed, and turned his attention back to Mike.

“Mike, give us a chance to help.  You have friends.  Larry will help you.  You won't be alone.”

Daniel wanted to say that he and Jack would help, too, but he knew that wouldn't happen.  Jack wanted Mike dead, and after today, he'd never let Daniel go near the man.

“Larry is your friend.  Let him show you that he still is.”

Mike, seeing clearly for the first time in years, knew a truth that Daniel was trying hard to skirt around.

“I'm a crazy man.  I've done things you can't even imagine.  Help?  They're going to lock me away and throw away the key.”

“Then you have nothing to lose by letting them try, do you?”  Daniel's voice remained as calm and steady as he could make it.  “We'll help.  I'll ... I'll help.”  ~Gawd, Jack, don't kill me.  I have to do this.~

And then Mike had another clear moment.  “You mean that?”

“Yes, of course, I do.  Look, put down the gun.  Come with me over there,” Daniel pointed to where the Marines and now a medical team were standing by.  “I have the best physician on the planet.  She'll ... help.  She'll check you out and make sure you get the right treatment.  Trust me.”

The gun still aimed at Daniel, Mike stared at the archaeologist.

“Jack said you were special.  Who would have thought he'd fall ...” the man stopped, almost as if he knew that if he continued to speak, Jack's secret would be revealed.  He repeated, “Who would have thought he'd fall into a friendship with a bunch of geeks?”

He slowly retracted the gun to his side, and for a moment, Daniel thought maybe the nightmare would end without further bloodshed.

“I believe you, Doc.  Call me crazy, but I believe you.”

“Good, then let me ...” Daniel started to move forward again, very slowly.

“There's only one problem.  I can't be helped.  I AM crazy!”  In an instant, Mike raised the gun to his temple and fired.

“Oh, gawd!”

As he watched in horror, the man fell to the ground, already dead from his self-inflicted wound.  Daniel was frozen in place, unable to move.

In a flash, the Marines moved forward and Jack was at Daniel's side, only briefly looking at what had been the brain of Mike Sorelli, now splattered over the top of Pike's Peak.

“Danny, are you okay?”  Jack placed his hand on Daniel's left shoulder. Daniel nodded, staring at the corpse.  “You are in so much trouble.”

Daniel looked at Jack.  “You're supposed to be in bed.”

“Yeah, well ...” Jack looked around.  “I'll consider your proposition later, after I strangle your sweet neck.  Then, Jack saw the blood.  ”Daniel, you're hurt.”

He had actually forgotten his own injury.  Daniel looked at the flesh wound and sighed.

“I forgot.  It doesn't hurt, Jack.”

“Did I say you're in trouble?”

Jack's eyes spoke loudly.  Daniel wasn't looking forward to the next several hours.

Just then, General Hammond approached, wanting answers.  And not long after that, Janet hurried to them, eager to check out her two favorite patients.  She immediately noticed Daniel's wound and started to tend to it.

The night was only beginning as the couple endured a long debriefing, one that couldn't start until Sam and Teal'c finally arrived at the Mountain a bit later.

When the meeting convened, Jack explained Mike's history, revealing his stay at the institution and his escape.  He mentioned Mike's jealousy of Jack's career, and that the dead man had blamed Jack for his commitment to the mental facility after Jack had warned their friends about Mike's behavior.  Somehow, Jack managed to keep Daniel's involvement in the entire affair to a minimum.

He subtly maneuvered Daniel into agreeing that he had intercepted a message for Jack and had arranged to meet Mike at a cabin retreat to do another of his peaceful interventions as he so often did off-world.  In the process, he had convinced Sam and Teal'c into helping out, thus explaining their presence in the event.

Several hours later, there were still loose ends to be tied up such as dealing with the local police who had to be involved, considering the stolen car and the two men Mike had hired to assist in his murder plans, but the worst part was over.

“Thanks, you guys, for helping.”

“As it turned out, we didn't do much,” Sam said, “but I'm glad you're okay.”

“Me, too.  I'm ... tired.  I'm going to go get Jack and go home.”

“Would you like some assistance, DanielJackson?”

“No, Teal'c.  Thanks.  I can handle him ... until he kills me.”

“He will not kill you.  He will just threaten.”

Daniel smiled.  “Don't know what I'd do if he didn't threaten that at least once a month.  Goodnight.”

Daniel walked over to where Jack was talking with the General.

“He must have hired those men, General.”

“Until they are found, Colonel, it might be a good idea if you continued to be cautious.”

“Of course.  You ready to go?” Jack asked as he saw Daniel approach.

“Yeah.”

The two said their good-byes and headed for home.

====
 
It was a silent trip home in the Silver Fox.  Janet had given Daniel some painkillers so Jack was driving, having promised Janet he wouldn't take any detours along the way.  Both men were exhausted and wanted nothing more than to be with each other, forget about the outside world, and just take their strength from each other.

Jack parked the car in its usual spot in the driveway, and by unspoken agreement, they went straight upstairs to their bedroom, stripped and climbed into bed.  Despite their exhaustion, they needed to reassure each other that they were both safe, alive and together.

They snuggled for a long time, just holding and touching each other, making private inventories of each other's body, verifying that the other was all present and accounted for.  They kissed and kissed again, until they fell asleep in each other's arms.

In the wee hours of the morning, Daniel awoke from a nightmare, one in which instead of killing himself, Mike had killed Jack.  The older man reassured his lover that he was alive and well, and to prove it, they made love, softly, carefully, since both now had wounds to recover from.  Then, they lay in each others arms, in their usual positions.

“I can't believe you did that.  You know you're in for a long lecture about all of this?  You should have left it to me.”

“You were the one he was after, Jack.  And just like you protect me, I protect you.”

“He had a gun on you.”

Jack's voice broke as he tried to banish the image that was currently haunting him.  Daniel sat up a little and looked into his lover's eyes.

“I'm sorry, Jack, but I'm okay.  He didn't use the gun on me.  He heard me.  He just ... disagreed on his alternatives.”

“Maybe ... but you are still getting that lecture, Danny.”

Daniel smiled and kissed the older man who was his other half.  “I know.”  He lay back down listening to Jack's heartbeat.  ~Your lectures only mean you love me.  Even if we argue, it'll just make me love you more.~

Soon, they were peacefully asleep, knowing each was safe in the protective hold of the other.

====

The two were woken up the next morning by the phone ringing.

“O'Neill.”

“I didn't wake you, did I, Colonel?”

“Uh, no, General, of course not.”  Jack scooted out from under Daniel who slapped him in response.

**He can't see us, Jack.**

**Shut up, Daniel.**

Daniel gave his lover a look of warning, then turned onto his left side, pulling the covers up over his head.  Jack noticed he pulled them tight.

~Oops, bad move on my part.~

“Jack, it looks like you don't need to worry about those men Mike Sorelli hired.”

“That's good to know.  Why?”

“The police just contacted me.  They found the place Sorelli had been staying in, some cheap flea-bag motel on the outskirts of town.  They found evidence, some notes in a binder, phone numbers and the like, linking Sorelli to two men the police found murdered in the last couple of days.  The men fit the descriptions you gave of one of the muggers and the delivery man.  Ballistics tests show that the bullets removed from the dead men's bodies came from Sorelli's gun.”

“They're sure?”

“Looks pretty solid.  It's over, Jack.  And  one more thing, Colonel.  Please remind Doctor Jackson that if something like this ever happens again, I would like to be informed of it.”

“Yes, Sir.  Thanks for calling.”

Jack hung up the phone and looked at the sheet covering his lover.

“Aren't you even curious?”

Silence loomed.  “I'm sorry, Danny.  I ... panicked.  I don't want you to shut up.  I love your voice.  It's soft and melodic.  It's the best sound in the entire world.”

“Just world?”

Jack grinned.  ~Got him.~  “Universe.”

Daniel rolled over.  “I'll think about it.  Tell me about the call.”

“Think about it?”  Jack saw the glare.  “Okay, geez, you're hard.”

“Not yet.  We'll see.”

Jack suddenly decided to be straightforward.  He saw an early morning round of tender lovin' coming their way if he didn't blow it.  ~Actually, blowing it could be a great lead-in.~

“Jack?  Are you going to tell me or not?”

“Sorry.  It was Hammond.  They've found those men Mike hired.  It's over, Danny.”

Suddenly being angry, for real or in jest, wasn't very important.  Daniel moved over to resume his normal position, having an urgent need to hear Jack's beating heart.

“Gawd, Jack.  They came so close.”

“I know, but I'm okay.  We're both okay.”  Jack stroked Daniel's back, reassuring the younger man.  He grinned.  “By the way, I don't think General Hammond appreciated being kept in the dark any more than I did.”

“Oh, gawd.”  Daniel buried his face in Jack's chest.  ~Lecture time.  Torture.  Sheer torture.  Gawd, I love him.~

“Now, Daniel.  In the first place, you know better than to try and go out on your own like that.  We're a team.  We sink or swim together, especially when a deranged psychopath desires your beautiful body, which is all mine, by the way.  In the second ...”

Daniel listened dutifully as Jack lectured him for eighteen minutes.

~Poor Jack.  Expending all that energy, and I'm here just listening to the music of his heartbeat.  It's a strong heart.  I love it.  And I love this.~  Daniel kissed Jack's chest.  Then he kissed it some more.

“Hey, I'm trying to lecture here.”

“Oh, go right ahead, Love.”

“In the twenty-fifth place, you know you can never get away with ... oh gawd ... I mean, you ... yes, Danny ... love you so much ... geez, what you do to me!”

Jack's lecture was engulfed much as his shaft had just been by one eager archaeologist, his last coherent thought for a while being, ~Oh well, he never listens to me anyway.~

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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